Napoleonic Wars Forum

The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Age of enlistment & age of fighting

For all discussions relating to the Peninsular War of 1808-14.

Age of enlistment & age of fighting

Postby devils own » July 10th, 2017, 5:52 am

Good morning
Can anybody tell me what the real age of enlistment was for soldiers ? I've heard 15, 16, 18. Plus what was the age a young lad was allowed to fight in a battle.
in my family I have found a gt uncle who was enlisted on the 22nd nov 1832, as a boy, & that same date one year later as a private. I then found out the 22nd was his birthday.
so the question is for lads aged 16/17, was the attestation on the date of their birthday?

Paul
devils own
New Member
 
Posts: 14
Joined: October 30th, 2015, 6:52 pm

Re: Age of enlistment & age of fighting

Postby jf42 » July 10th, 2017, 12:43 pm

Paul, until someone with more detailed knowledge of this question chips in, there are a couple of things to consider.

The first point to bear in mind is that practice or custom changed over the years, soldiers' details becoming more standardised and more accurately recorded as the C19th century proceeded, although the terms 'standard' and 'accurate' should be regarded as relative. Even in the civil censuses taken from 1851 onwards, ages were frequently rounded off and approximate. The peculiar aspects of military service complicated military records further.

I ought also to point out that a question relating to 1832 is well out of the date range of this forum. It sits in that interesting period between Waterloo and the start of Victoria's reign, which is accepted as falling within the remit if our sister forum Victorian Wars at http://www.victorianwars.com/index.php and you may well receive an interesting and detailed answer to your question from one of the many knowledgable members there. There have been numerous discussions about the status of 'boys' and young soldiers
e.g-
Recruitment: minimum age, qualifications etc.
http://www.victorianwars.com/viewtopic.php?f=82&t=1185

Briefly, from a NWF point of view, it's hard to find reference to a standard minimum recruiting age at the end of the 18th century. Not surprisingly, the parameters lie somewhere between 16 and 18 with a minimum height of 5'6" for young men over 18 and 5'5" for younger recruits who are not full grown.

In a period when centralised control of the 'internal economy' of regiments remained an aspiration, the question seems to have been left to the discretion of the regimental staff. It seems that recruiters would take any well set-up young man who either was of an adquequate height or looked like he would grow into an adequate height. Add to that the fact that recruits would lie about their age if necessary and recruiters would ask no questions, particularly as recruits became harder to find. All of which means that finding an accurate record of a soldier's age is not an easy process.

The fact that your forbear was recorded as a boy in one year -under 18 or under 17 as it might have been- and a private soldier the next, obviously indicates there was notional age marked down for him. I take it you don't have note of a specific age or date of birth.

The circumstances of his enlistment as 'Boy' on the strength would seem to be open to speculation. It might suggest he was a son of a serving soldier; many were being trained up as a drummer or musician. The date of 22nd November simply marks the transition from one status to another. As far as his being allowed to fight in a battle, It's important to remember the status of 'Boy' had little to to do with sentimentality regarding the state of childhood, bearing in mind what we know about child labour and children's responsibility under the law. Simply speaking, if a youth was deemed capable of carrying his kit and withstanding the rigours of campaigning then he was ready to go on active service as an infantryman.
User avatar
jf42
Senior Veteran Member
 
Posts: 1239
Joined: June 23rd, 2011, 10:17 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Age of enlistment & age of fighting

Postby devils own » July 10th, 2017, 5:55 pm

Cheers for that!
To be honest I used 1833 as an example of a son as you said.
John Carberry snr joined the 47th at hilsea attestation 24th feb 1812. Born 1796. But didn't join the 2/47th in Spain till 12 Feb 1813.
He fought at Vitoria & was wounded we believe in the battle, was out of action & in hospital till September then sick in the rear until Feb 1814 when in April 1814 was at the siege of Bayonne. After the disbanding of the 2/47 in Oct 1814 joined the 40th foot on may 13th & fought at Waterloo. He then served in Paris, Glasgow, Ireland then Tasmania & finally India at Bombay where he died on the 23rd of April 1835. his son joined 22nd Nov 1832 as a said until 1849 as a Sgt in the 40th. His daughter married the armourer Sgt of the 40th foot My 4th Great grandfather.
Question is really I have a document of a muster book in 1816 which states he enlisted on the 1st jan 1809 at 13yrs, but attestation was 24th Feb. 1812.Their no mention in the musters before 1812 of the 47th
In Feb last year Soldier magazine did an article on my family who have served from1778 until me, which is over 200 years without a generation break. I was a Reg, but I'm now a Sgt in the RFCA.
My cousin is writing up the family with an interest for the National Army Museum |& a Book. The birth of John Carberry is unknown, 13 is young, but then again is 16. So the research goes on, but I must say this forum as been helpful in my research of my family.
Paul
devils own
New Member
 
Posts: 14
Joined: October 30th, 2015, 6:52 pm

Re: Age of enlistment & age of fighting

Postby jf42 » July 10th, 2017, 9:07 pm

Well, as long as you know what you're about. Good luck.
User avatar
jf42
Senior Veteran Member
 
Posts: 1239
Joined: June 23rd, 2011, 10:17 am
Location: United Kingdom


Return to Peninsular War 1808-14

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Baidu [Spider] and 1 guest

cron