I've just finished reading The Making of a Rifles Officer. The Life and Letters of Colonel George Miller CB FRS (1786-1843) by Elizabeth Laidlaw (Burngrange Press, 2019). Although there is relatively little on the Peninsular and other campaigns this is full of interest with much revealing material about the life of an ambitious intelligent officer in an elite regiment. I'm not going to review it - Bob Burnham has an excellent review which can be read here
(or just google it if the link doesn't work). But I thought that I'd post one passage that I enjoyed, and which shows that handling volunteers from the militia was not always straightforward. It is 1805, and Miller has been in the army about eight months when he was detached on recruiting duty and then charged with escorting a body of recruits, even though they were destined for another regiment. He told his brother:
‘They behaved in a most rascally manner all last night, dancing, drumming, fifing and singing the whole night. They get three guineas of their bounty at the receiving station, wh[ich] will make it a pretty business for the officers having charge of them to march them to quarters. A soldier should never have more than sixpence at once. If he has a shilling, he has a great deal more than he can manage.’ (2ndLt George Miller to his brother John, Dereham, 23 April 1805, Making of a Rifles Officerp 112)
Miller was charged with escorting a large body volunteers from the Shropshire Militia to the 82ndRegiment – for which he received no extra pay and which he thought a bit much as they weren’t going to his regiment.
‘I believe that I have already mentioned to you what rascally, drunken animals these Shropshire men are. Their money is now gone, however, so that they are now tolerably sober. It is a favourite amusement among them to kick each other’s shins till the blood co[mes] through their stockings. I have at present forty-four men particularly under my charge, for whom I act as paymaster and commissary. I had also to provide meat and bread for the whole of them but, now that ninety-three of them are gone, my trouble is much lessened.’ (2ndLt George Miller to his brother John, Dereham, 3 May 1805, Making of a Rifles Officerp 113)
This was not the worst of it, for the recruits subsequently mutinied:
‘In my last letter l believe that l proceeded as far Dereham, where we remained with the men until the 6thinst in the most uncomfortable situation you can well suppose. I then sent my party home by Norwich, only retaining a sergeant to assist us. As Colonel Tufnell and myself could not get away before eleven o’clock, we marched the men off at six in the morning under the command of an officer of the 5th, quite a young lad, with orders to march to Thetford which is twenty-two miles from Dereham. At eleven o’clock we followed them in the Colonel’s gig and arrived at Watton, a small village ten miles from Dereham, about twelve, where we found the men and the officer, who to our great surprise informed us that they refused to march farther. The Colonel immediately fell them in, and did everything in his power to induce them to march, but all to no purpose. Every man of them refused to go except one. I need not observe that during all this time they behaved in the most rascally manner, one of them had the goodness to call the Colonel a liar to his face and say that he would be d….d if he marched for him or any man ilk. The Colonel then went off to Thetford, twelve miles distant, in order to raise the Volunteers and march every one of them prisoners. When he arrived there, the gentlemen volunteers were perfectly surprised, and asked him five or six times if there was any danger. At length they found that they could not go before next morning. He therefore bid them goodnight, saying “Gentlemen, you need not have been the least afraid. They have not even got a bayonet with them.”
‘During the time of his absence you may well suppose that I was in a very uneasy situation. However, with the assistance of a brace of pistols and a good whacking sword, I was determined to be abused by none of them. They collected round the room where I was, and even had the impudence to come in, four or five of them at once, without rapping at the door or using any ceremony whatever. At last Lord [p 116] Bradford, their old Colonel, accidentally came up and by means of drink, flattery and otherwise at length got them to march. At this very place I am told that, on their way to Norwich, one of them knocked down an officer. Their officers, it is said, are ever afraid of them. We were not to be frightened in this manner, however. Next day I marched them from Thetford to Bury St Edmunds where Colonel Tufnell, having gone before, had a party under arms to receive them. We then picked those we thought the worst of them out of the ranks and held a court martial next morning but, as they ought to have been flogged from the one end to the other, we punished none of them but the one of them who gave the Colonel the lie. I was a member of this court martial and was sworn for the first time according to the present regulations. Thus ended my transactions with these gentry.’ (1stLt George Miller to his brother John, Woodbridge, 11 May 1805, Making of a Rifles Officerp 115-16) (Fortuitously Miller was promoted to 1stLieutenant by seniority on 8 May, just as he was undertaking this task).