95th Rifles, Captain Cameron Retreat to Corunna 1809
During the retreat to Corunna in 1808 the British Army endured fearful conditions including Hypothermeia and starvation. The 95th Rifles acted as the rearguard with this sculpture depicting Captain Cameron.
‘Captain Alexander Cameron’
95th Rifle Regiment
Alexander Cameron has been described by Kincaid, author of ‘The Rifle Brigade and Random Shots’, as “an undaunted soldier, a skilful leader whom all soldiers love to follow”.
His career with the 95th began in remarkable style when in 1800 he recruited and led a band of 150-200 Highlanders south to Horsham in Sussex to the sound of bagpipes, forming a highland company in the new Experimental Corps of Riflemen (95th Rifles). At Horsham, Cameron formally transferred to the 95th from the (92nd) Gordon Highlanders and after induction was sent to Spain where he saw his first action at Ferrol on the 25th August.
In 1801 he volunteered for service in Egypt and was wounded at Alexandria and returned to England. In 1808 the 1st Battalion, 95th Rifles was sent with Sir John Moore’s army to Portugal in support of the Spanish. Cameron commanded number 6 Company during the campaign and retreat to Corunna. At Cacabelos the Rear Guard, consisting of 1/95th and the 15th Hussars faced up to over 1000 French Voltiguers. A vigorous action took place during which the British cavalry, Moore and his Staff were forced to make a hasty retreat leaving the 95th to stand alone and unaided. After hours of hard fighting and with the Battalion’s advanced wing withdrawn, the enemy commander, General Colbert was shot by a British marksman lying on his back, the Baker rifle supported with its barrel between the soldiers crossed ankles. The French, who had suffered badly, lost heart and drew back allowing the 95th to withdraw through Villa Franco and resume their Rear Guard duties.
In a desperate state, after enduring the appalling conditions crossing the Austral Mountains and a short distance from Corunna, the Rear Guard were asked by Moore to make a stand. The enemy, close behind attacked in vast numbers and the 95th led by Lieutenant Colonel Beckwith counter charged, pushing into the mass of French artillery capturing 7 Officers and 156 men. Accounts of the action estimate that around 3,000 French were killed and the British lost over 800. Captain Cameron survived.
In later years Cameron was to earn glory on the battlefield, and receive medals for Egypt, a Gold Medal for Cuidad Rodrigo (Assault and Capture), and at Badajoz (Assault and Capture) when 1/95th was to suffer 23 officers and 292 non-commissioned officers and riflemen casualties, killed and wounded. Medals for Salamanca, Vimera, Corunna, Busaco, Fuentes d’Onor, Vittoria and Waterloo. He also received the order of St Anne Russia and the Sultans Medal for Egypt. During combat he was severely wounded at Vittoria, and again when in command of 1/95 at Waterloo.
Major General Sir Alexander Cameron KCB died on the 20th July 1850 in Inverness-shire, after a lifetime of distinguished service to the nation. At the time of his death he was Colonel of the 74th (Highlanders) Regiment.
“Captain Alexander Cameron at Corunna” is part of the 200th Bicentenary Sculptures of The Rifle Brigade and is an authentic Ballantynes of Walkerburn collector’s sculpture.
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