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  • Writer's pictureStephen Callaghan

A Soldier's Wife buried in Shinrone, County Offaly

Tucked away in St. Mary’s Church of Ireland Church and graveyard in Shinrone, County Offaly are many interesting eighteenth and nineteenth century tombs and memorials. On a visit a number of years ago one of these memorials caught my eye. The headstone was erected by Sergeant McAuley, to his wife Catherine (transcription below). Her epitaph paints a picture of a dedicated soldier’s wife who followed her husband on campaign during the Napoleonic Wars. While the contribution of women during the Great War, Easter Rising and War of Independence has only recently started to gain the attention it deserves, what about women like Catherine McAuley? This post attempts to expand on what Catherine’s role in the Peninsular War.

This stone was erected by

Sergt J. Mc.AULEY

late of her Majesty’s 48th Regt of Foot

in memory of his beloved Wife

Catherine Crawford

Native of this Town She accompanied

her Husband throughout the entire

Peninsula war not less remarkable for

her fidelity & courage than for the unremt

ting kindness with which She attended

the sick & wounded during the whole of

that campaign. She died the 12th April 1841

Aged 57 years.

After a Protracted & severe illness which

She bore with Christian fortitude.

May she rest in peace Amen

From the information on her headstone we can establish Catherine was born in Shinrone, King’s County (Offaly) around 1784. Other than this basic information we know very little about her. Its likely Catherine wasn’t John’s first wife. There is a London marriage record for a Sergeant John McAuley of the 48th Regiment of Foot in March 1805. He married a Sarah Smith. If this is the same John, and the information on the headstone about Catherine is not embellished, and she did follow John throughout the entire campaign, we can assume Sarah died, and John married Catherine before 1808.

At the time, soldiers required the permission of their commanding officer to get married, and not all soldiers got permission. Soldier’s wives were essentially taken on as part of the strength of the regiment and they would be given various roles, such as cooking, laundry and sowing. They would have also been subject to army life and discipline. They lived in the barracks with their families and followed the regiment on campaign.

Looking more closely at John we can establish where Catherine would have been and what battles she might have treated wounded from. John was a sergeant in the 48th Regiment of Foot and enlisted on 23 June 1800. While no service records survive, Sergeant McAuley’s service in the Peninsular War would have entitled him to a Military General Service Medal (MGSM), however this was a retrospective award established in 1847 and veteran’s had to be alive to claim it. Sergeant McAuley is not on the roll for this medal, so we can establish he was dead by 1847. As the MGSM is fitted with battle clasps the recipient was present at this makes it a little more difficult to pin down the battles Sergeant McAuley was actually at.

The 48th Regiment of Foot were heavily engaged during the Peninsular War. They were present at the Battle of Vimeiro (21 August 1808), Second Battle of Porto (12 May 1809), Retreat to Corunna and Vigo (16 January 1809), Battle of Talavera (28 June 1809), Battle of Busaco (27 September 1810), Battle of Albuera (16 May 1811), Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo (8 January 1812), Siege of Badajoz (16 March-6 April 1812), Battle of Salamanca (22 June 1812), Battle of Vittoria (21 June 1813), Battle of the Pyrenees (25 July – 2 August 1813), Battle of Nivelle (10 November 1813), Battle of Orthez (27 February 1814) and Battle of Toulouse (10 April 1814).

The 48th Regiment were not present at the Battle of Waterloo and after the Peninsular War the regiment served in Ireland and from 1817 the regiment serviced in New South Wales, Australia. It’s likely that John and Catherine settled in Ireland. There is a pension record for a John McAuley of the 48th Foot who lived in Dublin and was admitted as an out-pensioner of the Royal Hospital Chelsea on 2 July 1825. This is likely our man. He died on 21 July 1845.

While we have only established minor details of Catherine’s story, hers is not the only one. She is one many women who went on campaign during the Peninsular War and deserves recognition just as much as the soldiers who fought the battles.

Catherine's grave in Shinrone.

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