Thomas Plunket

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Thomas Plunkett
Newtown, Wexford, Ireland
Colchester, England
AllegianceFlag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Service/branchFlag of the British Army.svg  British Army
Years of service1805-1817,
Unit 95th Rifles 41st (Welch) Regiment of Foot
Battles/wars Anglo-Spanish War (1796–1808)

Peninsular War

War of the Seventh Coalition

Thomas Plunket (1785–1839) was an Irish soldier in the British Army's 95th Rifles regiment. He served throughout the Peninsular War and later in the Waterloo Campaign of 1815. He is remembered for killing a French general during the Peninsular War with an extremely long range rifle shot, then killing the general's aide-de-camp, who had gone to his side to render aid, with another.

Ireland Island in north-west Europe, 20th largest in world, politically divided into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (a part of the UK)

Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the second-largest island of the British Isles, the third-largest in Europe, and the twentieth-largest on Earth.

British Army land warfare branch of the British Armed Forces of the United Kingdom

The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of British Armed Forces. As of 2018, the British Army comprises just over 81,500 trained regular (full-time) personnel and just over 27,000 trained reserve (part-time) personnel.

Peninsular War War by Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom against the French Empire (1807–1814)

The Peninsular War (1807–1814) was a military conflict between Napoleon's empire and Bourbon Spain, for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The war began when the French and Spanish armies invaded and occupied Portugal in 1807, and escalated in 1808 when France turned on Spain, previously its ally. The war on the peninsula lasted until the Sixth Coalition defeated Napoleon in 1814, and is regarded as one of the first wars of national liberation, significant for the emergence of large-scale guerrilla warfare.


Early life and Army Career

Thomas Plunket was born in 1785 in Newtown, Wexford, Ireland. He joined the 95th Rifles in May 1805. In 1807, he took part in the British invasions of the River Plate (1806-1807). During the 2nd Battle of Buenos Aires, the 95th Rifles were heavily engaged in street-fighting during which Plunket killed around 20 Spanish troops while shooting from a rooftop with others from his unit. They retreated when Spanish artillery bombarded their position with grapeshot. Plunket also shot a Spanish officer who was waving a white handkerchief (with the possible intention of requesting a truce), resulting in further Spanish artillery bombardment which brought about the British surrender. [1]

British invasions of the River Plate invasion

The British invasions of the River Plate were a series of unsuccessful British attempts to seize control of areas in the Spanish colonial Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata that were located around the Río de la Plata in South America — in present-day Argentina and Uruguay. The invasions took place between 1806 and 1807, as part of the Napoleonic Wars, when Spain was an ally of Napoleonic France.

Grapeshot type of ammunition shooting mutliple small balls

In artillery, grapeshot is a projectile that is not one solid element, but a geometric arrangement of round shot packed tightly into a canvas bag and separated from the gunpowder charge by a metal disk of full bore diameter. It was used both in land and naval warfare. When assembled, the shot resembled a cluster of grapes, hence the name. On firing, the balls spread out from the muzzle, giving an effect similar to a giant shotgun.

Plunket is mainly remembered for a feat at the Battle of Cacabelos during Moore's retreat to Corunna in 1809. Plunket ran forward about 90 metres (100 yd) lay prone in the snow, and shot the French Général de Brigade Auguste-Marie-François Colbert with his Baker rifle. [2] [3] Before returning to his own lines he reloaded and shot down Colbert's aide-de-camp, Latour-Maubourg, who had rushed to the aid of the fallen general, which showed that the first shot had not been a fluke. Plunket only just made it back to his own lines ahead of a charge by a dozen French cavalry troopers, but the death of the two officers was sufficient to throw the following French attack into disarray. [3] [2] [4] The shots were "from a range that seemed extraordinary to the" men of the 95th Rifles, [5] who were trained to shoot targets with a Baker Rifle at 180 metres (200 yd) and whose marksmanship was far better than the ordinary British soldiers who were armed with a Brown Bess musket and only trained to shoot into a body of men at 50 metres (55 yd) with volley fire. [2] [3] [6]

The Battle of Cacabelos was a minor battle of the Peninsular War that took place on 3 January 1809, at the bridge just outside the village of Cacabelos, Province of León, Spain, as British forces under Sir John Moore's British making its retreat to A Coruña. In the ensuing engagement with French Marshal Nicolas Soult's advance guard, British units were overwhelmed and forced to mount a hurried withdrawal across the bridge. Ultimately, however, the French forces failed to press their advance further due to heavy losses including the death of French Brigadier General Auguste François-Marie de Colbert-Chabanais. The resulting delay allowed Moore's forces to continue their retreat while keeping their forces largely intact.

A Coruña City and municipality in Galicia, Spain

A Coruña is a city and municipality of Galicia, Spain. It is the second most populated city in the autonomous community and seventeenth overall in the country. The city is the provincial capital of the province of the same name, having also served as political capital of the Kingdom of Galicia from the 16th to the 19th centuries, and as a regional administrative centre between 1833 and 1982, before being replaced by Santiago de Compostela.

The Baker rifle was a flintlock rifle used by the rifle regiments of the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars. It was the first standard-issue, British-made rifle accepted by the British armed forces.

Later life

In 1817, Plunket was discharged from the 95th after recovering from the head wound he received at the Battle of Waterloo. Awarded a pension of 6d a day, he soon enlisted back into the army in a line regiment, 41st Foot. [1] The regiment was being inspected by his former commanding officer, General Sir Thomas Sydney Beckwith when the general recognised Plunket and inquired into what had happened to him. He was invited to the officers mess that night and the next day was promoted to corporal, and soon also had his pension raised to one shilling a day with Beckwith's influence. [7] He later renounced his pension in exchange for four years' pay and land in Canada, but he returned to England after a year, considering the land unsuitable.

Battle of Waterloo Battle of the Napoleonic Wars in which Napoleon was defeated

The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday, 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in Belgium, part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands at the time. A French army under the command of Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by two of the armies of the Seventh Coalition: an army consisting of units from Britain, Ireland, the German Legion, the Netherlands, Hanover, Brunswick and Nassau, under the command of the Duke of Wellington, referred to by many authors as the Anglo-allied army, and a Prussian army under the command of Field Marshal Blücher. The battle marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

Penny (British pre-decimal coin) British pre-decimal coin worth 1/240th of a pound sterling

The pre-decimal penny (1d) was a coin worth 1/240 of a pound sterling. Its symbol was d, from the Roman denarius. It was a continuation of the earlier English penny, and in Scotland it had the same monetary value as one pre-1707 Scottish shilling. The penny was originally minted in silver, but from the late 18th century it was minted in copper, and then after 1860 in bronze.

The 41st (Welch) Regiment of Foot was an infantry regiment of the British Army, raised in 1719. Under the Childers Reforms it amalgamated with the 69th Regiment of Foot to form the Welch Regiment in 1881.

Plunket and his wife returned to the United Kingdom and, nearly destitute, made a small living as itinerant traders. Plunket died suddenly at Colchester in 1839. Several retired officers in the town heard about the death and recognized his name; as a result, they took up a collection for his widow and paid for his funeral and gravestone. [2] [1]

Colchester town in Essex, United Kingdom

Colchester is a historic market town and the largest settlement within the borough of Colchester in the county of Essex. Colchester was the first Roman-founded city in Britain, and Colchester lays claim to be regarded as Britain's oldest recorded town. It was for a time the capital of Roman Britain, and is a member of the Most Ancient European Towns Network.

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  1. 1 2 3 Glover, David. "Thomas Plunkett: A Pattern for the Battalion". 2nd Bn. 95th Rifles, Battle Re-enactment and Living History Society. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Hadaway, Stuart. Rifleman Thomas Plunkett: 'A Pattern for the Battalion.'
  3. 1 2 3 Costello, Edward (1852). The adventures of a soldier; or, Memoirs of Edward Costello, narratives of ... p.  12.
  4. Oman, Charles (1902). A History of the Peninsular War: 1807–1809. 1. Oxford. p.  569. OCLC   1539767.
  5. "He was shot by Tom Plunket, a noted character in the 95th from a range that seemed extraordinary to the riflemen of that day" ( Oman 1902 , p. 569)
  6. "The Weapons Collection: Technical Notes - Introduction". REME Museum of Technology. Archived from the original on 28 August 2008.. See paragraph six in the section "Development of the lock"
  7. Holmes, Richard (2001). Redcoat: The British Soldier in the Age of Horse and Musket Page 416, Harper and Collins

Further reading