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9th Light Dragoons

9th Light Dragoons

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Published by Nebukadnezza
John Cunningham's service in the 9th Light Dragoons 1797-1814
John Cunningham's service in the 9th Light Dragoons 1797-1814

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Published by: Nebukadnezza on Dec 20, 2011
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10/04/2013

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John Cunningham
of the
 9
th
Light Dragoons
1797-1814
A Soldier of the King
“Worn out by his service”
 
 
John Cunningham was born in 1775 in the parish of Aughnamullen, County Monaghan. Aged 22 and
describing his trade as “weaver”,
he enlisted as a Private in the 9
th
Light Dragoons, a regularRegiment of the army in Ireland with which he served for nearly 18 years. He left them in 1814 atthe age of 40 with a pension, when he was described by Colonel Charles Morland, his commandingofficer,
as being “of 
good character having been nearly worn out with service
!That service coincided firstly with a rebellion in Ireland in which his Regiment, the 9
th
Dragoons,was fully engaged; that was within months of his enlistment. Then, after the short-lived Peace of Amiens, the Napoleonic War with France re-ignited and the Regiment left Ireland where they hadbeen stationed for 86 years. After helping to defend the south coast of England from a Frenchinvasion, which in the end was prevented by the Royal Navy, the Regiment became part of two ill-fated expeditions; one was in South America which took a year, and then one in Holland. Afterrecovering from that, they
 joined Wellington’s army fighting the French in Portugal and Spain
fortwo years. Finally in July 1814 as the war was ending, the 9
th
Dragoons returned home to Irelandwhere John retired and went back to Aughnamullen to be a farmer.[A pencil note on
John’s
Discharge Papers mentions a three year
break in service
: the reason isunexplained, but it was then not unusual in long service contracts where a soldier was in his homecountry for him to request to be released for a period, sometimes on half-pay
 – 
 
John’s break 
coincided with the Peace of Amiens. When he rejoined his Regiment they were already in England.]
John Cunningham’s Regiment consisted of about 1,100 cavalrymen divided into 10 “Troops” at full
strength. The military operations in which they were engaged in the course of his service aresummarised below. Since, unsurprisingly, his name is not mentioned, we have no information aboutthe specific role he played at any stage. However, the demanding nature of their work and its hazardsare abundantly clear from the extracts of the 9
th
 
Dragoon’s War Diaries and
from other sourceswhich are listed at the end, together with his
commanding officer’s
written comment on this 40-year-ol
d’s discharge papers that he
had been
“worn out” by his service in the army.
 
The Irish rebellion of 1798
 
The 1798 Irish Rebellion
 
:
 
"Charge of the 5th Dragoon Guards on the insurgents
 –
 
a recreant yeoman having deserted to them in uniform is being cut down
"
 –
by William Sadler
 
The rebellion took place in
the year following John Cunningham’s enlistment in the 9
th
LightDragoons in Ireland: it was his baptism of fire. The 9
th
, then consisting of nine Troops (around 1000men), became fully engaged in putting down the rebellion in the south-east of Ireland between Mayand July of 1798.
The Regiment’s headquarters w
as at Carlow with the Troops spread throughoutLeinster, and we know that
John was in Captain Campbell’s Troop
although neither names arementioned in the summary of the 9
th
’s
military actions, locations and casualties quoted below. Inaddition, Irish rebel accounts also mention actions by unspecified cavalry near Ferns in Wexford on27 May and at Arklow in Wicklow on 9 June.
Night 23/24 May
Capt Beevor's Troop was attacked at Kilcullen in Kildare. Quartermaster King &8 men killed.
24 May
Capt Erskine's Troop engaged at Ballymore Eustace, Wicklow. Capt Erskine & 9 menkilled. Cornet Love & 20 men fought action against 3-400 rebels near Stratford, west Wicklow.'Several men wounded'.
25 May
Regiment
’s
HQ at Carlow (CO - Lt Col Mahon) attacked by 3000 rebels (Irish account says1000). 2 men killed, 10 wounded.
5 June
Capt Wilkins' Troop with a Royal Irish Squadron, helped to hold the town of New Ross inWexford against major rebel assaults. 4 men killed, Capt Wilkins & 10 men wounded. Rebel recordsquote British garrison numbered 2000 and lost 200 while rebels had 2000 killed.
18 & 19 June
Four Troops engaged rebels at Castle Comer in north Kilkenny driving them out of the
town and fought an action at Kilcomney Hill on the following day. On these two days “the Regt lost
 
many men and horses”.
[This is the only operation for which the Regiment has described its casualtyfigures like this. It suggests its losses were very severe.]
21 June
Capt Martin with two Troops was part of a force which attacked 15,000 rebels in their mainstronghold on Vinegar Hill near Enniscorthy in Wexford. 3 men killed, 11 men wounded.
23 & 24 June
Lieut Higgins and a party from the Regiment with some Yeomanry engaged rebels atLeighlin in Carlow on the 23rd, and Major Donaldson's Squadron fought a sharp action nearSharkhill(?) on the following day. Losses on both days were 3 men killed, 11 wounded.
Operations in South America 1806-07
John Cunningham rejoined his Regiment in September 1804 in England where they remained until1806 when their numbers were increased to ten Troops, giving the 9
th
a total strength of 1,100 men.They then became part of an ill-fated force which was ordered to recapture the city of Buenos Aires(Argentina). They sailed (
dismounted
) in November, but due to the vagaries of weather andshipping did not land at Montevideo (Uruguay) until 3
rd
February having been at sea for nearly threemonths.After receiving reinforcements from South Africa, the British force, including the 9
th
Dragoons whowere still without horses as were much of the cavalry, crossed the mouth of the River Plate on 28
th
 June to make a landing at Ensenada, fifty miles south-east of Buenos Aires. They were sufferingheavy losses from the swamp fever that was rife in the Delta region and, despite much of the cavalryhaving to fight on foot, they succeeded in entering the city on 5
th
July.

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