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James Littlewood (c. 1780-1839), Corporal, 7th Dragoon Guards

According to his military service record, James Littlewood was born in the parish of Mulabrac (now Mullaghbrack) in County Armagh, Ireland. He was about sixteen years' old and a weaver when he enlisted with the 7th Dragoon Guards in Armagh on 26 Mar 1796.

The regiment's headquarters frequently moved location: initially south through Ireland, then north through England to Edinburgh, eventually returning to Ireland. Over the 25 years following his enlistment, the regiment followed this anticlockwise circuit three times. The "Historical Record of the Seventh or Princess Royal's Regiment of Dragoon Guards", by Richard, Cannon, published in 1839, provides a detailed description on pages 57-65 of the events during his service.

While stationed in Birmingham he met Elizabeth Bickerton from Wolverhampton and they were married on 25 Jan 1803. As was typical of the time, Elizabeth must have travelled with the regiment because they had three children baptised in Newcastle (Mary Ann in May 1804), Sandwich, Kent (William in February 1812) and Preston (Robert in April 1820). They may have had other children during the years 1806-1809 and 1814-1818 while the regiment was in Ireland but no records have been found yet or perhaps Elizabeth did not travel there.

Some 14 years and 3 months after enlisting, James was promoted from Private to Corporal on 1 Jul 1810.

Following the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the British Army was reduced in size. On 20 Aug 1821 the 7th Dragoon Guards was reduced to six troops and as a consequence James was discharged after 25 years and 7 months of service. His service record described him as "...five feet eight inches in height, fair hair, grey eyes, fair complexion...".

James and Elizabeth went to live in her home town of Wolverhampton where they had two more children: Elizabeth (about January 1823 but died August 1830) and Harriet (about August 1827).

James died on 29 Sep 1839 of "dropsy" (edema).

On 27 Dec 1840 Elizabeth married for a second time: to a widower named William Chadwick. He was a stonemason and had fathered eleven children by his first wife. Unfortunately he died in August 1844.

On 1 Apr 1852 Elizabeth married for a third time: to another widower, named William Holding. She died on 8 Nov 1855 due to "disease of the heart (10 years) and dropsy".

Historical Record of the Seventh or Princess Royal's Regiment of Dragoon Guards, by Richard, Cannon, published in 1839
Historical Record of the Seventh or Princess Royal's Regiment of Dragoon Guards, by Richard, Cannon, published in 1839

Transcription of pp 57-65:

The head quarters were removed in March, 1796, to Longford; and in November following Sir Ralph Abercromby was removed to the Scots Greys, and was succeeded in the colonelcy of the PRINCESS ROYAL'S DRAGOON GUARDS by Lieut. General Sir William Medows, K.B., from the seventy-third foot.

In the summer of 1797 the regiment was encamped on the Cuirragh of Kildare, with five other regiments of cavalry; and in October, when the camp broke up, the head quarters proceeded to Tullamore. The establishment having been augmented to nine troops of seventy men each, a second lieutenant-colonel was added to its effectives.

The war with France assumed a character which called forth strenuous exertions on the part of the British government and people; the dangerous doctrines of republicanism gained ground, and many persons, particularly in Ireland, became infected with republican principles. Public as well as private subscriptions were made towards defraying the expenses of war; and the PRINCESS ROYAL'S DRAGOON GUARDS evinced their loyalty and their abhorrence of republican principles by a donation of 420[£?] for that purpose, which sum was accepted as a token of their fidelity and attachment to His Majesty's person and government. The regiment was in Major-General Wilford's brigade: Colonel Edward Dunne was appointed to act as brigadier-general, but remained in command of the corps.

The passions of the misguided Irish peasantry had, in the meantime, been so wrought upon by designing men, that in May, 1798, they broke out into open rebellion; and during the continuance of the unnatural warfare which followed, the SEVENTH DRAGOON GUARDS performed much painful and harassing duty; they were frequently detached in small parties and had occasional rencounters with the bands of insurgents which prowled about the country.

A squadron of the regiment, commanded by Captains Head and Davies, was employed […eggan]; and a body of rebels, in an attack upon that town on the 17th of June, having been repulsed by the Northumberland fencibles, took refuge in a bog, when Captain Head, dismounting every second man, pursued the insurgents into the bog on foot, and killed and took prisoners a considerable number.

One troop of the regiment served under General Lake in the attack on the rebel strong-hold on Vinegar-hill on the 21st of June; it formed part of the column under Lieut.-General Sir David Dundas, and contributed to the overthrow of the rebel army: Captain Dunne, who commanded the troop, was wounded.

On the 29th of June the detachments were called in, and the regiment was ordered to assemble at Tullamore. The rebels having assembled in considerable numbers in the county of Kildare and seized on the town of Rathangan, two squadrons of the SEVENTH DRAGOON GUARDS were ordered from Tullamore under the command of Colonel the Hon. Stephen Mahon, with directions to dislodge them. The two squadrons entered the lower part of the town without molestation; but on arriving near the centre, the streets were found barricaded with trees, cars, and other articles, and a severe fire was opened from the windows of the houses; at the same time Cornet MALONE, of the regiment, riding a spirited horse, was carried over the barricade and taken prisoner. Colonel Mahon withdrew his squadrons from the streets with the loss of three men and three horses killed; Captain Tomkins, one serjeant, six rank and file, and eleven horses, wounded. Having surrounded the town, two field-pieces were brought forward, and opening their fire, the rebels were dislodged, when the troops made a second attack, and several hundreds of the insurgents were cut down: in the confusion Cornet MALONE effected his escape. This officer's adventure is rather singular: the instant he was taken prisoner by the insurgents he was ordered for execution; but one of the rebel captains (who had been butler to the cornet's father) procured a respite for a few hours; and in the confusion of the attack which followed, he escaped. The rebel captain was not so fortunate; he was taken, marched a prisoner by the regiment to Tullamore, where he was tried by a court-martial, and received sentence of death, which was commuted, at the earnest request of Cornet Malone, to transportation.

On the 12th of July a detachment of the SEVENTH DRAGOON GUARDS, and another of the city of Limerick militia, under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Gough, attacked a large body of rebels, and, after a sharp contest, put them to flight, and captured their camp with many horses and black cattle.

Soon afterwards the rebellion was finally suppressed; and the conduct of the SEVENTH DRAGOON GUARDS during the whole of its continuance, and their exertions in preserving tranquillity in the district more immediately entrusted to their charge, was such as to call forth the unqualified approbation of the lord lieutenant of Ireland, the Marquis Cornwallis.

The regiment remained in Ireland until the summer of 1799, when it proceeded to England, and was placed on the English establishment on the 24th of August; its head-quarters were established at Worcester; and an order was received for the horses' tails to be docked; short-skirted coatées were also directed to be substituted for the long coats previously worn.

In the beginning of 1800 the establishment was augmented to ten troops, and the total numbers to 850, officers and men.

The regiment was reviewed at Worcester by Major-General Wilford in April, 1800. In May the head quarters proceeded to Gloucester; in June to Bristol; back to Worcester in October; and in February, 1801, they were again established at Bristol. In April they were once more removed to Worcester; in May to Rumford; and on the 25th of that month the regiment had the honour of being inspected at Forest-end by His Royal Highness the Duke of York.

After the inspection the regiment marched to Canterbury; and, a treaty of peace having been concluded with the French republic at Amiens, the establishment was reduced, in May, 1802, to sixty-five non-commissioned officers and private men per troop. In June a further reduction of two troops took place; and the head-quarters were removed to Birmingham.

The first consul of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, having violated the conditions of the treaty 1802 of Amiens, the war was resumed in 1803, when the dismounted men were ordered to be mounted as quickly as possible: one serjeant and ten men were added to each troop; and three additional captains released the field-officers from the charge of troops. In July the regiment proceeded to Hertford, where eighty men and eighty horses were added to its establishment; and after its arrival at Bury St. Edmund's, in September, two troops were added.

In the following spring the regiment marched northwards, and arrived at Newcastle-on-Tyne in May; it proceeded to Edinburgh in the following year, where it arrived in May, and the headquarters were established at Piershill barracks.

Early in 1806 the regiment marched to Port Patrick, where it embarked for Ireland; on its arrival, its head-quarters were stationed at Dundalk; in February, 1807, they were removed to Clonmel, and in August following to Dublin.

The regiment left Dublin in the summer of 1808, and the head-quarters were established at Limerick; in the autumn it proceeded to Cork, and during the winter to Mallow, but returned in February, 1809, to Limerick, from whence it marched during the following summer to Dublin, and embarked for England. After landing, the head-quarters proceeded to Manchester; and during the summer of 1810 they were removed to Birmingham.

In August of this year six troops of the SEVENTH DRAGOON GUARDS were directed to be held in readiness for foreign service; but the order was subsequently cancelled, and the regiment had no opportunity of distinguishing itself during the war.

In the summer of 1812 the regiment was encamped near Sutton Coldfield. In this year the cocked hats were replaced by helmets, and the breeches and long boots by cloth pantaloons and short boots.

In 1813 the regiment marched to Scotland, where it remained twelve months.
On the 20th of November, 1813, His Royal Highness the Prince Regent appointed Lieut.- General Richard Rich Wilford colonel of the SEVENTH DRAGOON GUARDS, in succession to Sir William Medows, deceased.

In May, 1814, the regiment again proceeded to Ireland, and was stationed at Dundalk, &c., where it was inspected by Major-General Coghlan, who issued a brigade order on the occasion, from which the following is an extract: —
" Major-General Coghlan has great pleasure in expressing to Colonel Latham the very high opinion he formed of the three troops of the Seventh Dragoon Guards stationed at Dundalk, and of the troop at Monaghan, when he inspected them on the 24th and 26th of May.
The major-general requests that Colonel Latham will accept his thanks, and will inform Lieut.-Colonel Dunne, Major Bunbury, and the officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates, that he highly approves of their appearance and conduct in the field, and that he has much satisfaction in observing the correctness and celerity with which the field movements were performed."

The war having been terminated by the overthrow of the power of Bonaparte and the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty to the throne of France, the establishment of the regiment was considerably reduced.

In May, 1815, the regiment was inspected by Major General Burnett, who was pleased to issue the following brigade order: —
“Major General Burnett has every reason to be […] the troops of the SEVENTH OR PRINCESS ROYAL'S REGIMENT OF DRAGOON GUARDS, which he lately inspected at Dundalk, Belturbet, and Monaghan. The major-general particularly remarked the uniform appearance both of the officers and men, and the good condition of the horses. The interior of the regiment appears to be extremely well conducted, and is very creditable to Lieut.-Colonel Dunne."

In August of the same year the regiment proceeded to Dublin, where it was inspected by Major- General O'Loghlin, who expressed great satisfaction at the general good appearance of the corps.

In April, 1816, the regiment proceeded to Clonmel, and the following brigade order was issued after the half-yearly inspection made on the 2d of October: —
" Major-General Doyle was much satisfied with the clean, steady, and soldier-like appearance of the SEVENTH DRAGOON GUARDS at the inspection in the field this day. The good condition of the horses, the precision and celerity with which the several movements were performed, and the excellent system of interior economy is highly creditable to Lieut.-Colonel Dunne, who appears to be ably supported by the officers under his command.
Major-General Doyle is happy to observe the same good system and regularity maintained in the SEVENTH DRAGOON GUARDS, which he had the satisfaction to notice at the last half-yearly inspection. The cleanly and soldier-like appearance of the men, and the fine condition of the horses, reflects much credit on Lieut.-Colonel Dunne and the regiment at large."

This year the establishment was further reduced to 493 men and 333 horses.

The regiment continued in Ireland until the summer of 1818: previous to its embarkation for England it was inspected by Major-General Doyle, who issued the following order on the subject: —
" The appearance of the SEVENTH DRAGOON GUARDS at the half-yearly inspection this day does infinite credit to Lieut.-Colonel Dunne. The movements in the field were performed with great precision; the charges in squadrons and in line were compact and rapid: and the horses were in excellent condition. The interior economy of the regiment is extremely good."

The regiment embarked at Waterford on the 20th and 22d of July, and landed at Biddeford two days afterwards. The head-quarters were subsequently established at Exeter.

In September, 1819, the regiment commenced its march for Carlisle; but on arriving at Barnsley, the route for Carlisle was countermanded, and the regiment was ordered to proceed to Preston in Lancashire, where it arrived on the 1st of October. In December, 1819, the clothing was altered from short coatées to long coats, with lace across the breast; the helmet with bear-skin crest was also introduced; and the colour of the pantaloons changed from blue-grey to dark grey.

In the spring of 1820 the regiment marched for Scotland, and arrived at Piershill barracks near Edinburgh on the 1st of May. After remaining in Scotland twelve months the regiment returned to England, and was stationed at Nottingham and its vicinity; and on the 20th of August, 1821, the establishment was reduced to six troops — each troop consisting of three officers, one serjeant-major, two serjeants, three corporals, one trumpeter, one farrier, forty-seven private men, and forty-two horses.

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