Research by Clive Barnes
Veteran of Waterloo
The returning soldier was a common theme in early 19C literature. This illustration is taken from an 1803 collection by Whatcombe-born poet William Holloway.
James Jacob was the third son of carpenter John Jacob (b 1746). His father appears to have trained only James’s elder brother John as a carpenter; and James was described as working as a labourer before he joined the army and as a collarmaker, harness maker and army pensioner afterwards.
James enlisted in the army in 1811, when he was twenty. The cavalry regiment he joined, the 7th Light Dragoons, also known as The Queens Hussars, was possibly then stationed near Weymouth. It was a cavalry regiment which had been fighting with Wellington in Spain. The continental war against Napoleon had been raging for seven years and James may well have joined up for patriotic reasons. He may also have felt that he had few prospects if he stayed at home. The army offered regular pay and rations.
The 7th Light Dragoons sailed for Spain from Portsmouth in 1813. They endured a long march from north eastern Spain into France and, crossing the Pyrenees in the winter, they suffered severe hardship. They joined battle with the French, first at Orthes in February 1814 and then at Toulouse in April.
They returned to England that summer and were used in March of the following year to keep order during the Corn Law riots in London. Later that month, the regiment embarked from Dover for Belgium, and on the 18 June 1815 took a prominent part in the battle of Waterloo. James was wounded in the left shoulder, was sent back to England, and was convalescing in hospital at Colchester in May 1816.
He was invalided out of the army in 1817 as an “out-pensioner” of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. He received nine pence a day, paid every quarter in advance. He joined a large number of veterans of the armed forces who returned to their homes after the Napoleonic wars. In 1828, it is said there were over 85,000 such men in the United Kingdom.
On returning to Milton Abbas, James married Rachel Vacher in 1819. They had one child, a daughter, Jenny in 1820. Rachel was described as a former button maker in the 1851 census and died the following year, followed by James in 1856. Jenny married twice. She remained in Milton Abbas, and was living with her second husband, Joseph Vacher, at the Lower Lodge when she died in 1889.