The outstanding Peninsula War Medal with 11 clasps to Private S. Burney, 2nd Battalion, 83rd County of Dublin Regiment of Foot, who was present in all 10 of the actions for which his regiment received a Battle Honour during the War from 1808 to 1814.
Military General Service Medal 1793-1814, 11 Clasps: Talavera, Busaco, Fuentes D'Onor, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Orthes, Toulouse; (S. BURNEY, 83RD FOOT.)
Condition: Small edge bruise at 4 o'clock hence Good Very Fine.
Salomon Burney, a labourer from the parish of Tume, in or near the town of Toome, County Wexford, Ireland, enlisted into the 2nd Battalion, 83rd County of Dublin Regiment of Foot, as a Private on 10th March 1808, and served continuously in the Peninsula War through to 6th December 1814 when he was discharged from Captain Renwick's Company, in consequence of a fractured leg.
During his service in the Peninsula War, Burney had been present in all ten engagements for which his Regiment received Battle Honours.
The 2nd Battalion, 83rd Foot was one of those battalions rapidly scrambled together to make a show of force after Lieutenant General Sir John Moore's army had been evacuated from Corunna in January of 1809, and it would show an ability to survive well in excess of many other more favoured units. It landed at Lisbon on 5th April 1809 as part of the force under Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Wellesley which landed in Portugal to continue the fighting against the french invaders. In May 1809 the Battalion found itself as part of the Seventh Brigade under the command of Major General Alan Cameron along with the 2/9th Foot, 5/60th Rifles, and the 2/10th Portuguese Line Regiment, in reality this was a third brigade of Major General Rowland Hill's Division, not yet so designated but acting that way in the field. The short campaign mounted to eject Marshal Nicholas Soult's Corp from Oporto and out by northern Portugal did not involve Cameron's men in any action other than to struggle along attempting to get accustomed to the way that their new Commander-in-Chief waged war. They were soon on their way back towards the Tagus Valley and a concentration on Abrantes as the enemy up north departs only to find themselves re-organised and placed, still with Cameron, in the 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, where they had been joined by the 1/61st Foot, but the Brigade had lost in the meantime the 2/9th Foot and the 2/10th Portuguese Line Regiment. By the end of June 1809 they were entering Spain, and were in fact marching deep into that country to join with a large Spanish force under Captain General Gregorio Cuesta that was being sent to contest the occupation of Madrid.This march took them to Talavera, and the relative inexperience of the Battalion can been understood by the number of men lost on the march, over 300 having fallen out due to the difficulties of the march.
On 25th July 1809 the Battalion was in position on the alberche in front of Talavera, and whilst the loss of the 300 or more men may suggest that those remaining were the best and hardiest of the soldiers in the Battalion, it was probably a difficult fact to bear when going into their first action in close contact to Wellesley's elite 1st Division. Three days later, the army had retired onto a position behind and the north of Talavera in order to accept battle with King Joseph Bonaparte's army. There had already been some skittish action with the enemy and on the 28th July the Battalion found itself together with the 1st Division on a patch of bare ground, almost flat and with the only protection being a stream, the Portina, separating them from an enemy which largely ignored the Spanish allies in order to concentrate its efforts on the British contingent. It was the height of summer, and with no shade the day quickly became hot, with Cameron's men subject to some early fire from cannon however it was not until 3 o'clock with the sun now beating down mercilessly and after having stood to arms for a long period of time that finally enemy infantry was observed to be assembling in front. The 1st Division held its fire as the French columns came on through the smoke haze, then as the range lessened volley fire slowed the the french down until the survivors turned and ran. The Guards Brigade and King's German Legion followed the retreating French and caused more havoc however Cameron held his Brigade back, reforming it, and as such was ready when a fresh attack occurred from a new column of French infantry. Unfortunately Cameron's Brigade now unprotected due to the unchecked advance of the Guards and KGL was pushed back and leaving Major General John Mackenzie's Brigade of the 3rd Division to plug the hole in the firing line and push the French back. During the struggle with the French troops, the 83rd Foot lost heavily, its commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel William Gordon was killed, together with three Lieutenants and 38 men, with a further three Captains, five Lieutenants, five Ensigns and 202 men wounded, 28 more were taken prisoner. The Battle may have been won in the end, but the 83rd Foot lost 53% of its strength.
The 29th July 1809 the day after the Battle of Talavera, would see the Battalions survivor's proceed to endure no rest for the next seven weeks. On that day they were involved in the burial of bodies, which had to be done quickly due to the heat, and if not possible to be buried the bodies were piled up and burned, it was also involved in scavenging for food from the dead in order to supplement the shortage of rations.
The French at this stage had two Corps under Marshals Soult and Ney making progress down country to threaten the recently appointed Lord Wellington's line of communication which forced Wellington to retreat from the scene of Talavera, leaving many wounded soldiers in the hospital at Talavera and at other places on the line of march which traced the route to the south of the River Tagus. The country through which the 83rd marched was rocky and barren. At Trixillo they came to a short stop to allow stragglers to catch up and for more hospitals to be established for those who could not go further. Though still in the high country close to the Sierras the march ahead was down hill into the Guardiana watershed. Unfortunately once down by the river the battalions soon had men picking up fever and its spread rapidly amongst the men, and is only after the hot season had subsided that the men began to recover. The 2/83rd presumably had a number of men waiting to fill its ranks from the 300 men left behind on the march out, but this would not be until the entire army had crossed back into Portugal at the end of the year.
With the start of 1810 the 2/83rd Foot was found to be one of those relatively untested '2nd Battalions' which regularly was sent out of the field going down to Lisbon for restoration. During this period Marshal Massena was steadily assembling a French force in order to begin a campaign with the intention of occupying Portugal. By the end of July 1810 the armies were facing off against each other across the frontier hill countryside and with the enemy vanguard already through the Coa Valley. For the 2/83rd Foot this meant a long wait until a battalion came up from Cadiz to take their place at Lisbon, then on the 12th September they were marching directly up to the chosen battle-site on a long ridge near to the convent at Busaco. The Battalion managed to bring to the line just enough men, replacements for all those lost the previous year still having not been completely made up, and found themselves under the command of Major General Thomas Picton, being brigaded alongside the 2/5th Foot, and 3 companies of the 5/60th Rifles along with the Headquarters of that battalion of rifle sharpshooters, all commanded by Major General Stafford Lightburne.
On the 27th September 1810 the two armies fought the battle of Busaco, which for the 2/83rd was a much more gentle affair than that at Talavera, not being used to any great degree and suffering only one officer and 4 men wounded. believed to have all been part of the Battalion's light company who would have been out skirmishing close to the enemy. As such the Battalion was in good strength when it was moved into the lines at Torres Vedras on 1st November 1810.
The winter of 1810 saw the 2/83rd become accustomed to life with the 3rd Division, Lightburne however had decided to depart early being replaced by Major General Charles Coleville as Brigadier, who will have them in hand when Massena finally gave up his ambitions on Portugal. During the late autumn while ensconced in the 'Lines' this brigade became significantly enlarged by the introduction of the 94th Foot from Cadiz and further still in March 1811 by the addition of 2/88th which had been released from garrison duty in Lisbon. The spring of 1811 saw the advance in the wake of the enemy evacuation to the frontier, and involved brief contacts with the enemy rearguard for the 2/83rd as they passed through the several defendable villages and river crossings, these encounters only occasionally came to serious blows. Throughout the whole retirement back to the Agueda and the Spanish / Portuguese border these little combats would cost the 2/83rd only four men wounded and one gone missing, a few other fell by the wayside as part of the normal attrition.
On 1st May 1811 the 2/83rd found itself on the field at Fuente d'Onoro, and was involved in the first day of the Battle of Fuente d''Onoro on 3rd May as part of the 3rd Division positioned behind the village itself where the serious fighting would occur. the 2/83rd found itself at the sharp end fighting for the village itself, the Light Company being especially involved in the street fighting, however by the end of the first day only nine men were wounded and three missing. Fighting continued on the second day and into the third day, and it was this last day, by which time the village was a pile of smoking ruins that the 2/83rd suffering its serious casualties, with one officer killed and one wounded, five men killed and 28 wounded.
Even before the battle had begun the fate of the French commander had been sealed, Marshal Auguste Marmont, who had been an observer of this attempt by the so called Army of Portugal to return to its 'own ground' had in his pocket Napoleon's order for that General to take over from the old victor of some nay battles in the European theatre. Retiring back on Cuidad Rodrigo Marmont spent some time reshaping his new army ready for yet another attack on the enemy now sat about the hinterland to the west of Agueda, to give himself better odds he was able to call to assistance from other parts of the French occupying forces and, by September began to feel out the position. Coleville's Brigade had by now shed the 2/88th and in return had received the 77th Foot. By now they were in position in front of Fuente Guinaldo in extended bivouac camps centred on El Boden.
On 15th September 1811 the enemy began to advance, principally in the form of cavalry with artillery and some infantry for support in the rear. On 25th September at El Boden, Coleville's Brigade is attacked by waves of enemy cavalry although the units are so split up that only the 2/5th and 77th are directly in their path, while they are being threatened the other half of the brigade 2/83rd and 94th are forewarned sufficiently to be able to strike camp and head towards a confluence while all the time retreating. With the friendly light cavalry taking most of the attention to two parts are able to come together travelling in close column but being regularly plied with horse artillery fire each time the enemy was given the opportunity to get close. It appears that all of the casualties of the 2/83rd would be inflicted in this way, 5 men falling back injured and made prisoner, 5 more killed, and 14 wounded but able to continue to march off to the safety of units of heavy cavalry which, once alerted came up from the rear.
After the combat at El Boden, the 2/83rd found that whilst possessing some hardened infantrymen, it was very difficult to hold up numbers against attrition and only occasional contacts with the enemy. During the next three months of the winter the Battalion would acquire as many as 50 further men, mostly returning convalescents. As a regular part now of the 'Fighting 3rd' the brigade, no longer under Coleville who had been been transferred elsewhere, would get up to and over the Agueda in company with large numbers sent to put Cuidad Rodrigo under siege. On a freezing cold New Years daytime 2/83rd and the 94th were used to dig trenches and build gun batteries and occasionally to stand guard against sorties. Having assisted in the sapping towards the enemy defences, by the 19th January the day of the assault on Cuidad Rodrigo, the 2/83rd will have the task of remaining in the forward trenches to lay down as much protective musketry as they can whilst others assault the breaches, though the Battalion's light company is involved in the assault. During this day the 2/83rd lost one man killed and 4 injured.
Two months later the 'fighting Divisions' were r-assembled away down south in the Guadiana basin all set to take on the same exercise before Badajoz, but this turned out to be a much more serious affair. Once the major siege work was under way there is an understanding that the outwork of Fort Picurina must be subdued, and on the night of 24th to 25th March 1812, volunteers were called upon and Captain Henry Powys of the 2/83rd lead a number of his men, about 65 in total, along with others from different units to take this strongpoint. The volunteers of the 2/83rd although held briefly in reserve are quickly called upon to launch an attack as part of a salient where the defences are damaged. They went in against stiff opposition gained their objective but only when 63% of the attackers had been brought down themselves. Powys and an Ensign were both mortally wounded and 41 men from the 2/83rd were killed.
By the 25th March 1812 the Governor and garrison at Badajoz are intent on putting up a desperate defence once the breaches are declared manageable by the siege engineers, however by the night of the 6th April and as a result of some daring reconnaissance by men of the 45th Foot it is hoped that a secondary assault can be mounted successfully to escalade the castle walls while others are doing the work in the breaches and elsewhere. Picton volunteers his 3rd Division and so it is that when the call came the 2/83rd will be thrown into the fighting once the defenders have been fully committed. As a part of a 'third wave' 2/83rd was led by Major Carr and crosswise the Rivillas river by a narrow ford coming onto the castle walls where scaling ladders had been raised and fought over by the 1st Brigade, both Picton and Kempt had been injured, Champlemonde's Portuguese Brigade had been driven off, but once there were three brigades to feed the ladders this it seemed was just too much for the defenders. Picton came back and more ladders were found to give his men the numbers to command the ramparts, then, once steadied, they were thrown into the fighting again. In this assault the 2/83rd lost heavily, Captain Fry, one Ensign and 22 men killed, with 46 wounded including 5 Lieutenants, an Ensign and a Volunteer. The survivors would have been involved in the sacking of the town.
From the 7th April 1812, with Picton out of action due to wounds and Lieutenant Colonel Wallace of the 88th made temporary Division Commander, the 77th Foot is sent down to Lisbon, with the 1/5th replacing it. The offensive is begun shortly thereafter, with a march into the plains beyond the Agueda and up to the Tormes river where, having subdued the small by tenacious garrisons of the bridge forts at Salamanca, they find that Marmont and his Army of Portugal manoeuvre against them in long parallel sweeps each trying for the advantage of ground until in late July, the dice is cast, Major General Edward Packenham has picked up the Division which is very much out on the right flank of the army after a long curving march around its rear, 2/83rd was still very much depleted at this stage.
By 22nd July both Marmont and Wellington are watching each other, there has already been a swift tactical move on the French side to take up advantage offered as they closed on the long gentle hills which rise out of an otherwise flat plain to the south of Salamanca, the Great and the Lesser Arapiles. Packenham's men are nowhere near this movement being rather busy themselves in that flank march well to the rear, and by 3pm the Division is at rest but still in its columns out of sight of all by their own Light cavalry screen which on this day is a Portuguese Brigade led by Major General Benjamin D'Urban. Within half an hour a lone horseman is seen rapidly approaching from where the main force should be, it was Wellington himself. Campbell put the column in motion directly ahead and reformed on the march across a broad open expanse towards the enemy whose dust cloud was eventually seen over the back of a flat topped hill. It initially appeared that this was going to be a Division on Division fight, the 2/83rd are to the left of a forth column of lines of advance and as the distance to travel is at least two miles they will only see others on each flank converging on this hill to their front. D'Urban's cavalry out to the right upon approaching the enemy became screened by clumps of trees through which only the swirling dust could be seen. General Thomiere's French Division had begun by now to come across the end of Packenham's fast approaching lines so that when discovered by the flanking cavalry of the Portuguese it was only a matter of driving them back onto the 3rd Division who had opened their columns into full lines and all crashed into each other at once on the hill slopes. Thrown into disorder by the cavalry troopers the enemy infantry were just able to organise their rear battalions and actually push out a host of skirmishers to combat the upcoming lines. Campbell's Brigade once D'Urban had loosed his sabres were now in third line so very little action came their way. For 2/83rd it would be a matter of getting to the top of the rise, perhaps receiving some musketry from the skirmishers and a few cannon balls. Thomieres was mortally wounded, his artillery overrun and captured, and his Division melted away nothing more than scattered fugitives. It is doubtful whether Campbell's men got into any more action for a very long time, there would have been bodies to strip and search for valuables, prisoners to collect together and some way, a mile to the left further heavy fighting was to be observed. The 2/83rd suffered three officers wounded, with two men killed and 30 or more wounded.
After the battle of Arapiles. and with such fragile numbers after both Badajoz, and Salamanca, it is surprising and speaks well of the 2/83rd that they were still allowed to remain in the line and were not sent back, and as such were sent with Major General Henry Clinton's force northwards. Marching in the direction of Madrid they soon occupy that city. Wellington then lost no time in bringing up the rest of the Army to join with Clinton and then proceeds to Burgos, a fight which does not involve the 3rd Division as they are left to form a defensive ring around Madrid, with Packenham being replaced by Coleville towards the end of October. Major General von Alten has the corps for a while but in turn handed over to Hill as he came up from the long march via the Tagus valley, and even when this branch of the Army moves completely away from Madrid to combat the threat from King Joseph and Marshal Soult, the 3rd Division was still left out. The story of the retirement to the old Arapiles battleground performed in foul weather followed by a miserable retreat onto the line of the Agueda reduced numbers in all battalions, some far worse than others, the 2/83rd is believed to have come through this averagely.
By 29th November 1812 the 2/83rd was located behind the Agueda around Cuidad Rodrigo, and for some time Wellington had been under pressure from the Horse Guards to send home his depleted 2nd's and even those single's and 1st'Battalions that looked weak in numbers, and he countered this by joining several of these units by pairs into Provisionals. The 2/83rd however remained independent and went into winter quarters up in the Portuguese frontier hill country and tried to replenish numbers from the returning convalescents. With the numbers having been brought back up to strength by April 1813.
26th April 1813 found the 2/83rd cantoned in Portugal, encouraging transfers, and rather successfully procuring a large draft of men from their home depot, for which they received praise from Wellington. As such the Army went on the offensive, Wellington with the largest numbers ever under his command set off north to sweep King Joseph and all his men out of Spain for good. by the 25th May the Battalion was on the march out of Portugal, the 3rd Division having added the 2/87th to its ranks, and Picton returned leaving Coleville to take command of the 2nd Brigade. The French decided to turn about and make a stand on the banks of the Zadorra before Vittoria. The 3rd Division, which was nominally subservient to Lieutenant General Earl Dalhousie's 7th Division was delayed whilst waiting for the latter corps to appear at their appointed position in the tactics of the day. Picton, never one to suffer an indignity lightly set his 'fighting villains' loose across the river to crash into the enemy at a crucial time and place, Coleville's Brigade having crossed the river at a ford well upstream could see that with speed they might get into the rear of the enemy fighting line. General Darmagnac on the French side was best able to contest this area by also getting along at speed into the village of Margarita where a defence wold hold up this dangerous advance. The french got there first to put up a staunch resistance until more men could fill in the gaps, Colville's men fighting hard and particularly their 'new' battalion 2/87th, are forced to take to the ground suffering as all must who mount the attack in the street fighting. I was in this part of the action that the 2/83rd did their bit for the day. Major Widdrington leading and suffering a mortal wound for his courage, Captain Venables also falling severely wounded, dying 9 months later, two Lieutenants and another 18 men being killed, and two Lieutenants and 50 men being wounded, before the enemy were routed leaving a vast treasure train behind. On the 22nd June the 2/83rd was part of the march into the Batan hills in search of General Clausel with the 3rd Division coming to a halt close to the blockaded fortress city of Pamplona where they rested for some time. The state of rest continued giving the battalion sufficient opportunity to life numbers, and by September there had been another change to the top, Picton stepping down, unwell, Colville being gazetted to take the Division in October passing on 2nd Brigade to Colonel Keane who held onto it till the end of the war. By the time that 3rd Division does get some fighting to do again it will be at the Nivelle crossings in mid-November and this with sure figures available although inflated by the insertion of all of their supernumeraries, in this case for 2/83rd perhaps as many as 30 of these non-combatants on the paymaster's lists.
The 10th November 1813 found the 2/83rd involved in the Nivelle crossings, Keane's Brigade than are in a central position for the attack which has to confront several earthworks, redoubts, positional batteries and even a great abatis thrown across their path before the Bridge of Amotz which is their final objective. 2/83rd have a supporting role as it turns out, the three other battalions catching most of the casualties in their struggle to master a stern defence by General Conroux's Division, that General being killed in the event. The 2/83rd suffered seven men killed, and 3 Lieutenants, 1 Ensign and 36 men wounded before the river crossing was won at Amotz, the official history will record that it was the Light Division that took the glory on this day however study will indicate that it was Keane's Brigade that broke the back of the French resistance on the Nivelle.
After the crossing of the Nivelle, once again the 3rd Division would find not much work when the army came up to the Nive and had several disjointed combats with Soult's men in front of Bayonne in December, the troops were involved in a good deal of tactical manoeuvring on the rear in very wet conditions which continue in forcing the whole army to go into whatever quarters they are lucky enough to find. By Christmas Day Picton will have returned, and all units remained under cover until the frosts harden the ground enough to move on again.
Soult's every shrinking army is forced off eastward across the foothills of the French Pyrenees during February, Keane's Brigade Light Companies on the 24th of that month are sent across the Gave d'Oloron by a difficult ford near Sauveterre to gain a foothold on its right bank.Once over the river there was stone path leading up to a gap in a stone wall, the Light company of 1/5th in the lead, when a whole battalion of the enemy emerged at a charge from behind the wall. Pressed back down the path and even into the river over 30% of the light infantry were either killed or wounded, take prisoner, or, for some small number swept away by the freezing waters of the river, the 2/83rd lost some 10 men killed this day. Three days later Soult drew up his army at a strong defensive line of hills with to his right Orthez,
On the 27th February 1814 the 3rd Division having crossed the Gave de Pau between Cauneille and Lahonton by more tricky fords once again being frozen stiff by the icy currents, had arrived to take up positions leading them along high ridges, one for each of the British Brigades and Power's Portuguese following up in Keane's rear. Not only were these ridges separated by low lying heavy wet ground but upon approaching the enemy firing lines each column head was confronted by an arc of well placed lines. It must be observed that this fight was the exact opposite to all of those early defensive arrays set down by Wellington and eulogised by military historians as the typical line versus column confrontation. Keane's men were faced by General Darmagnac's Division whose first line of defence contained an artillery battery and the usual swarm of voltiguers spread out in the lower ground backing onto the Lafaurie Knoll. Picton had sent up every Light company available, perhaps nice of them in front of Keane's Brigade, these were enough to overpower the enemy skirmishers but then when it came down to the serious fighting both sides, using their battalion companies became bogged down in a duel which simply went on and on with the attackers either being picked off or going to ground with occasional flurries of activity for no less than two hours. Unlike the early day of line versus column the French remained safely ensconced along their lines that followed a road from Dax to Orthes and no doubt was sufficiently sunken to give that feeling of security, which often prevents a side with an advantage from leaving its safe harbour to complete the job. A stalemate was arrived at until Wellington, having noted that others had come to a halt for roughly the same reasons was forced to adopt a second assault, this time with new troops added, and, using some of the heavy ground not previously seen as negotiable was able to put in a better co-ordinated, less isolated push. Packenham, in the role of a senior staff officer this day led on Major General Brisbane's Brigade of 3rd Division on a broad front which broke into the previously solid defensive line, this, about a mile to the right of Keane's men. It was only when this flank threat became obvious to Darmagnac's mean that Keane was able to make any headway at all, but, once this flank began to roll up they went on to exact some punishment on their tormentors. Quite rapidly the setback for the enemy evolved into a retreat off the main position and inevitably, when pursued became a rout. The 2/83rd had 2 Majors, 1 Captain, 2 Lieutenants, 2 Ensigns and 47 men wounded, with just five killed.
After the battle the army took up ground thus fortified and re-established a new 'line', Wellington decided for a short halt to enable others of his force to journey to Bordeaux a large important city which had just indicated its desire to change sides. For the 3rd Division however all that this would mean was that for 12 days they would prepare foe the next marching session. By 19th March they had been on the move long enough to have contacted a large rearguard close to Vic-Biggore a few miles short of the Ardour river. A sharp combat took place there and, when this resistance had been overcome it was only to get as far as the Tarbes road that day. A number of Divisions on both sides had manoeuvred against each other all day as either contestant sought to trap or evade the other, it does seem that the 3rd Division troops in being closest suffered as many as 250 casualties in this but, not a word as to who those men might be.
On 10th April 1814 on the Garonne at Toulouse Picton mounted a full scale attack on the French across the Royal Canal and it was Brisbane's Brigade that was sacrificed there, Keane's men only catching stray shots as they stood in support of an assault which was never going anywhere, the 2/83rd lost one man only wounded and finished their war with a little over 450 men fit and able, marching off all the way to the Biscay coast to be embarked for other shores and other adventures.
As we already know Burney was discharged on 6th December 1814 from Captain Renwick's Company, in consequence of a fractured leg, presumably incurred shortly after his return home. Assistant Surgeon John Glasco reported that the injury did not result from vice or misconduct, and that he was never subject to court martial. It is probable that Burney must have returned to Ireland after his discharge, however the 1851 Census has him living with his wife Julia and five adult daughters at 29 King Street, Ashton Under Lyne, Lancashire. The next known recording for Burney was in 1861 when he became an In Pensioner, presumably at Kilmainham on 1st April 1861, but he had reverted to an Out Pensioner by 1st December of either 1861 or 1862.