James Twiss, like so many men who later fought in the campaigns of the early 19th century was initially a part of the Militia, which
along with the Fencibles formed a fertile recruiting ground for the army.
Twiss was originally with the Cheshire Militia and was a ‘founder’ member when this unit was ‘mobilized’ in the Spring of 1803..
County Palatine of Chester (to wit):-
At a General Meeting of the Deputy Lieutenants of the said County Palatine held in the City of Chester on Saturday the nineteenth
day of March 1803, the Lord Lieutenant being absent.
Present : - Roger Barnston, Charles Henchman, John Fielden, Edward O. Wrench, Thomas Crews Dod (all Esq. Depty. Lieutenants)
A copy of His Majesty’s Warrant for drawing out and embodying the Militia of this county and a letter from the Lord Lieutenant of
the said county dated the 14th inst. desiring the Deputy Lieutenants at their General Meeting to give directions for putting His
Majesty’s commands into immediate execution having been read to this meeting:-
It is ordered that all the men enrolled or who may be enrolled into the Militia for the said county do assemble at the Castle of
Chester in the county of Chester on Monday the 4th day of April next at nine of the clock in the morning for the purpose of being
embodied for actual service and that notice be given in Chester and in one of the Manchester (sic.) and of the Liverpool
newspapers and on the south door of the respective churches and chapels within the said county palatine for all the men inrolled
(sic.) in the said Miltia to attend at the time and place aforesaid and that precepts signed by any three or more of the Deputy
Lieutenants present at this meeting be sent to the several High Constables and other principal officers of the several Hundreds
and Subdivisions within the said county palatine requiring them to direct the several petty Constables of the townships, wards and
places within their respective Hundreds and subdivisions to give immediate notice to all the men inrolled for the said respective
townships, wards and places to appear at the time and place aforesaid and that such of the men inrolled as shall refuse or neglect
to appear will be deemed deserters and apprehended and prosecuted accordingly and it is ordered that a sufficient number of
forms of warrants and notices as aforesaid be immediately printed and forwarded to the High Constables in the said County
(signed) C. Henchman, Depy. Lieut.
The first muster of the Royal Cheshire Militia is present at the National Archives (from which the above is transcribed) and under
its Colonel, Lord Grey, it is duly raised at Chester Castle in April 1803. Twiss is a Private soldier in this unit, which is back paid to
the 12th of March 1803, and is in a company under command of Captain Lynch S. Cotton.
19th of May 1803 - The Cheshire Milita are ordered south to take up Garrison duty at Yarmouth, four companies (293 men)
making the journey.
1st July 1803 – The now strengthened Cheshire Militia (10 companies) is ordered from Yarmouth to Colchester. The Regiment are
stationed at Abberton Camp.
24th July 1803 – Twiss is shown as ‘employed’ at the muster on this date. His company is commanded by Lt. Henry Cooper as
Captain Cotton has been on attachment at Chester since the posting south, Cotton rejoins before the end of the August 1803
24th August 1803 – Twiss is shown as ‘Employed at Colchester’.
24th November 1803 – The Regiment have moved to Chelmsford Barracks by this date.
2nd January 1804 – Twiss, along with a handful of other men of the Cheshire Militia, transfers to the Royal West Middlesex Militia
who are at that time based at Ospringe. He joins the company under command of Captain David Erskine.
May 1804 – The West Middlesex Militia move to barracks at Margate.
June 1804 – The West Middlesex Militia move to barracks at Dover.
November 1804 – The West Middlesex Militia move to barracks at Harwich.
March 1805 – The West Middlesex Militia move to barracks at Hull.
June 1805 – The West Middlesex Militia move to barracks at Bristol.
5th to 8th August 1806 – Unit travels from Bristol to Plymouth, under orders issued on the 22nd of July 1806.
5th to 19th October 1808 – West Middlesex Militia travel in 3 columns (400, 300 & 297 men respectively) in 12 day marches from
Plymouth to Portsmouth, under orders dated 29th September 1808.
3rd April 1809 – Whilst stationed at Silver Hill Barracks, Portsmouth, James Twiss volunteers for service with the 57th Foot. He is
among a large amount of recruits for the regular infantry, the 12th, 35th, 37th,45th, 73rd, 77th and 95th also gaining men of the
6th April 1809 – Twiss is at Southampton, joining the ‘A’ Depot with which unit he is present until the 13th of April.
14th April 1809 – Private Twiss is on board the Phoenix Transport from Southampton to Jersey, where he joins the 2nd Battalion
of the 57th Foot. He is in the 7th Company under Captain Schovel. He is paid £5 5s as a bounty for transferring, a large amount
of men also joining from the East Kent, East Middlesex & East York Militia.
13th July 1811 – Having volunteered for service with the 1st Battalion of the 57th (at that time in the Peninsula, having landed in
July 1809 and having been greviously mauled at the battle of Albuera on the 16th of May 1811), Twiss and a large draft of the
2/57th embark on this date on the Transport ‘Osborne’ with 3 Captains, 5 Lieutenants and an Ensign. The transport arrives in
Lisbon on the 3rd of August.
3rd August 1811 – Draft from the 2nd Battalion joins the 1st Battalion in Portugal . Twiss is in the 2nd Company under Captain
September 1811 – Twiss is moved to the 1st Company under command of Captain McGibbons.
From here I turn to the History of the 57th Foot..
The campaign of 1811 had marked the turn of the war and made Portugal secure. The next two years were to witness the
expulsion of the French from Spain.
During the autumn of 1811 the regiment was usually in reserve, and had not shared in Hill’s success at Arroyo dos Molinos.
Service in the covering army during the siege of Badajoz was only a little more exciting. When Wellington began the march which
ended in the victory of Salamanca on July 2nd, Hill was employed in his old duty of containing the French at Estremadura. When
Hill stormed Almaraz in May, the 2nd Brigade, now commanded by Colonel John Byng, was left behind at Almendralejo. But the
brigade was present when Hill lay entrenched at Albuera from June 21st till July 2nd, expecting in vain an attack by the enemy on
that field of victory. During the following two months Hill gradually pushed back the French under Drouet, who at the end of
August evacuated Estremadura. There was much manoeuvring before this was accomplished, and the 57th was at Llerena on July
14th, Fuente del Maestre on July 25th, Merida on July 28th, and Fuente del Maestre again on August 25th.
Early in September, when Wellington begun his march to Burgos, Hill was called up to hold Madrid. During the greater part of
October the 57th was at Aranjuez. But the advance of Soult from the south, and the ill-success of the siege of Burgos, compelled
Wellington to concentrate his whole army and make a general retreat. Hill crossed the Sierra Guadarrama unmolested, and on
November 8th joined Wellington at Salamanca. A week later began three days of retreat in biting cold and rain to Rodrigo. "We
were sorely pressed by the enemy; all dreary and desolate, marching and fighting all day, tired and hungry but not desponding."
The army then went into winter quarters, and Byng’s brigade was sent across Sierra de Gata to the valley of the Tagus, where the
57th was stationed at Ceclavin.
The close of the campaign had somewhat dimmed the victory of Salamanca. But it was in appearance only, and it was with just
confidence that Wellington, as he re-entered Spain on May 22nd, 1813, rose in his stirrups and waving his hand cried out:
"Farewell! Portugal." He was at last generalissimo of the Spanish forces, and had under his own command 70,000 well trained
British and Portuguese. The great army moved in three columns, Graham on the left and Hill on the right, the latter marching from
Salamanca by Valladolid and Burgos. Before this advance the French under Joseph Bonaparte and Jourdan fell back, with the allies
in close pursuit. By June 15th the whole army was united across the Ebro and on the 21st bought the French to action at Vittoria.
To Hill, whose only British troops were the 2nd Division, was entrusted the duty of turning the enemy’s left. "We were gaining
ground along the side of the mountain, when we were met with a biting fire, and the battle here remained stationary for some
time; then, passing the Zadora, we won the village of Subijana de Alava and maintained our ground in spite of all opposition." This
was about one o’clock. Wellington meanwhile was driving in the centre, and Graham on the left after a stubborn resistance had got
across the road to Bayonne. The pressure on both flanks forced the French to fall back, at first in good order, but when the only
open road, which led over to the mountains to Pamplona, was blocked, the retreat turned to a disorderly rout. At nightfall Joseph
and his army were in full flight, leaving all their artillery, stores and plunder in the hands of the victors.
Byng’s brigade pursed the French till dark, and bivouacked for the night at Albuzastion. The victory was so complete that the
French could make no further stand in Spain. Whilst Graham marched to besiege San Sebastian, Hill went to invest Pamplona.
Thence on June 27th Byng was ordered to proceed by the route along which the enemy had retired towards France, believed to be
at Roncesvalles. On July 14th he was in possession of the pass, and threw forward the 57th to hold Val Carlos in a gorge four
miles on the French side.
On the news of Vittoria Napolean had sent Soult to take command and reform the scattered French army. On July 25th Soult
advanced to the attack at Roncesvalles. The 57th fell back from Val Carlos, whilst the light companies of the brigade under Major
Ackland of the 57th made a gallant defence on a rocky eminence, only retiring when the French sharpshooters were amongst them
and the retreat was secure. On the following two days the whole of the British advanced troops had to retire to a position near
Sauroren four miles from Pamplona.
Wellington had come in haste from San Sebastian to the post of danger. The British position in a rugged, mountainous country
was difficult, and there were two days of stubborn fighting, "bludgeon work" as Wellington styled it, known in history as the
Battles of the Pyrenees. On July 28th the French attacking with astonishing valour at Sauroren drove in a Portuguese brigade and
pressed hard on Ross’s British brigade. Wellington sent forward Byng’s brigade and two regiments of the 4th Division, who
charging from the higher ground at the double rolled the enemy backward in disorder. The 6th Division was not less sharply
engaged elsewhere, and the losses on either side were heavy.
On the 29th not a shot was fired. Both armies were reinforced, and on the 30th Soult thought by a change of position to relieve
San Sebastian. But Wellington saw an opportunity for attack. General Inglis, whom Napier styles "one of those veterans who
purchase every step of promotion with their blood," with a small force broke two French regiments and drove them down the
valley on their main body in confusion. Byng’s brigade was again hurled from the heights against Sauroren, carried the village by
assault and made fourteen hundred prisoners. In another quarter a second French division was similarly routed, and the loss to
the enemy that day was enormous.
Next morning Soult was in full retreat. Byng’s brigade was foremost in the pursuit. There was a convoy a little ahead at Elizondo.
At wellington’s bidding the light companies threw aside their packs, dashed forward at top speed, drove the French guard over the
Bidassoa and captured the whole convoy. For three days the brigade was stationed at Maya, and then went back to its old post at
Roncesvalles, where it spent three months guarding the pass.
Soult , when driven out of Spain, entrenched himself across the border on the Nivelle. But it was not till November that Wellington
began his invasion of France. On the 7th Hill moved down from Roncesvalles, and on the morning of the 10th after a long night
march attacked the French left under d’Erlon. Byng’s brigade, with Ashworth’s Portuguese, was engaged in the assault of the
redoubts above Espelette. For the 57th it was the hardest fighting of all their recent battles. Major Ackland was killed at the head
of the light companies, and one other officer-Lieutenant Knox- and 5 men were also amongst the slain. Colonel Macdonald, 2
captains, 2 lieutenants and 50 men were wounded. The victory in other quarters was no less complete and Soult fell back to
another entrenched camp before Bayonne.
On December 8th the British army advanced once more. Byng’s brigade crossed the Nive near Cambo, wading over by a deep
ford with their arms linked together, and in the evening halted at the village of Vieux Moguerre. The left wing of the army was still
on the other side of the river and had a sharp encounter with the French on the 10th, but it was not till December 13th that Hill’s
force was seriously engaged. Byng’s brigade was then on the extreme right, the 57th being one of the three regiments posted in
the valley between Moguerre and St. Pierre, where there front was covered by a large mill-pond. The Nive was swollen with rain,
and Hill’s force of less then 14,000 men had to withstand unsupported more than twice that number. The fight was fiercest round
St. Pierre, and the position seemed almost desperate when Colonel Cameron of the 92nd led his regiment down the road with
colours flying and music playing. "At this sight the British Skirmishers on the flanks, suddenly changing from retreat to attack,
rushed forward and drove those of the enemy back on each side." Lieutenant Aubin of the 57th, who was in command of the light
company of his regiment, was thanked by Cameron on the field for his share in this exploit.
Cameron’s courage at a critical moment had saved the situation and chimed in with success in other quarters. Hill now withdrew
the 57th to strengthen his centre. But the danger was over, and when Wellington arrived with reinforcements he was able to take
the offensive. Byng’s brigade was then ordered to capture a ridge above the mill-pond. Seizing the colour of the 31st from the
hands of the disconcerted subaltern, Byng galloped up the hill at the head of the 31st, 66th and 57th, and taking the enemy in
flank drove a vastly superior force from its position and planted the colour on the summit for Wellington and Hill to see. The
French kept playing on the ridge with an immensity of grape, shell and round-shot, but our men held their own and drove the
enemy still further back with heavy loss. As trophies of victory the 57th won two pieces of artillery.
The English losses at Nive-or St. Pierre-were 1500, those of the French at least twice as great. In the 57th 3 officers-Lieutenant
Sankey, and Ensigns Johnson and Pode-were killed, and Lieutenant Myers mortally wounded. Three other officers were wounded,
whilst of the men 7 were killed and 113 wounded.
In the battle of the Nive the 57th was commanded by Captain and Brevet-Major Marke. At Christmas it was still at Vieux
Moguerre, having lost more then a third of its numbers since the campaign began.
In February 1814 Hill resumed his advance, and on the 14th dislodged the French from Helette, after a short skirmish. The 57th
was left at Helette to guard the road to St. Jean Pied de Port, and a few days later was sent down to receive its new clothing at St.
Jean de Luz. Consequently it was not present at the battle of Orthes on February 27th, though it arrived in time to take part in
the pursuit and in the combat at Aire on March 2nd.
A fortnight later, on March 18th, Hill was smartly engaged with the French rearguard at Vic-en-Bigorre. Captain H. M’Laine of the
57th, in command of the Light Companies of Byng’s brigade, was posted that evening to guard the road from Conchez. About
four o’clock it was reported that the French were approaching.
"Captain M’Laine ordered the light companies to check the advance of the enemy, who, on finding themselves opposed by infantry,
halted, and after maintaining a brisk fire for a short time retired to some distance for the night. On this occasion Lieutenant Aubin,
commanding the 57th light company, was severely wounded."
At Tarbes next day there was a more serious engagement, after which Soult fell back rapidly on Toulouse. Wellington advanced
cautiously, and it was only on March 27th that he arrived before the city. On March 30th Hill was sent across the Garonne some
distance above Toulouse to attempt to turn Soult’s left, but the difficulties of the ground delayed his movements and he had to
fall back to his old position. Wellington then decided to turn the other flank by a crossing below the river, whilst Hill was to menace
the French at St. Cyprien. As a consequence Hill’s troops had a comparatively unimportant share in the victory of April 10th,
though they crossed the Garonne and forced the first line of the enemy’s entrenchment’s. Four days previously Napolean had
abdicated, and the war was really over before the battle of Toulouse was fought.
In the Peninsular War the two Middlesex regiments had won no less than nine battle Honours. The 57th "Albuhera," "Peninsular,"
"Vittoria," "Pyrenees," "Nivelle" and "Nive" ; the 77th "Cuidad Rodrigo," "Badajoz," and "Peninsular." The 57th had also been
present at Bussaco and Toulouse, but its share in those battles was deemed not to justify the grant of honours.
Plainly Twiss was not present at either the Battles at Nive or Nivelle and a glance at the medal roll for the 57th shows that this was
The musters from the period show the following occurrences that relate to Twiss:-
24th June 1812 – Sick in quarters at muster.
24th September & 24th November 1812 – Duty at muster.
3rd to 25th February 1813 – Sick in Regimental Hospital.
July to September 1813 – Duty
24th December 1813 – Sick in Quarters at muster.
2nd to 18th January 1814 – Sick in Regimental Hospital.
25th January 1814 – On Duty at muster.
In the summer of 1814, the war with the United States, which had broken out over American objection to the British Orders in
Council, still dragged on, though its reason had vanished with the conclusion of the peace in Europe. Early in May the 57th was
marched down to Bordeaux and after a month’s rest embarked for Canada, where they spent ten months without taking part in
The musters show that the unit was at Brockville during the period, the transports taking them from Bordeaux to Quebec,
embarking on the 5th of June and disembarking at the following dates:-
Ocean 670 (14th August), Xenophan (6th September), Hound 623 (29th August), Fairfield (29th August) & Gratitude 528 (6th
In December 1814 peace was made with America, and on the escape of Napoleon from Elba the majority of the troops were
ordered to return from Canada.
23rd-26th Match 1815 – Twiss is sick in Regimental Hospital.
16th June 1815 – The 57th embark on ships in Quebec, bound for England. The following ships are used:-
Emerald 260 (arriving at Ostend, 9th August 1815), Nautilus 406 (arriving at Ostend, 8th August 1815), Ocean 480 (Transferred
troops at sea on the 14th of July to the Lavinia, that ship arriving at Ostend on the 9th of August 1815).
The 57th only reached Spithead in August, too late to share in the campaign of Waterloo. But without disembarking it was at
once sent to Ostend, whence it marched to Paris. In France the regiment remained as part of the Army of Occupation for rather
over three years, being stationed for the greater part of the time at Valenciennes. The Lieutenant-Colonel at this time was William
Collis Spring, who had served with the regiment since 1795 and commanded the 2nd battalion from 1811 to 1814. The 2nd
battalion was disbanded in December 1815, all the effectives having been transferred to the senior battalion three months before.
25th-26th April 1816 – Twiss is sick in Regimental Hospital.
20th May 1816 – Twiss is sent to England and paid to the 27th of May, on which date he is discharged from the Army having
completed his 7 years of service from volunteering from the Militia. As he served a Limited period of engagement, he was not
entitled to a pension and as such his papers were destroyed by the Chelsea Hospital some time after their transfer to that
establishment in 1899.
WO 13/314 – Cheshire Militia Paylists (1803)
WO 13/1542-1547 – West Middlesex Militia Paylists (1803-1809)
WO 12/6707-8 – Musters 2nd/57th (1809-11)
WO 12/6644-6 – Musters 1st/57th (1811-16)
WO 100 – Medal roll for the Military General Service medal (57th Foot, Non-pensioners).
|James Twiss – MGS, 57th Foot