Friday, 8 January 2016

Week One Balaclava Jack

John Palin 1828-1901

Every once in a while I come across something about someone in the tree that takes my breath away.  This is definitely one of those people that I wish I could go back in time and ask him a gazillion questions.

John Palin was born in Malpas, Cheshire in 1828 to Thomas Palin and Eleanor Moile and baptised Feb 11 1829.  His father’s occupation at the time of his baptizing was glazier (plumber).  A brother Thomas was born in 1830, then sister Eleanor Jane in 1832 and finally another sister, Anne Elizabeth was born in 1834.  All the children were baptised in Malpas.

Pretty humble beginnings for a man who experienced what many only read about.
 At some point in time the family had moved to Lancashire because we find that John has signed up for the 4th Light Dragoons in 1848 in Manchester.

I will be quite honest with you my knowledge of history is not that vast, but our John Palin experienced two of the world’s most famous events and lived to talk about each one!!!

Shall I give a hint on the first event??

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.

That’s right, our John Palin was one of the noble 600 in the “Charge of the Light Brigade”.  The first stanza above is from the poem by Lord Alfred Tennyson.  Below is the rest of the poem.

Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
    Rode the six hundred.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
    Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
    Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made,
Honour the Light Brigade,
    Noble six hundred.

Charge of the Light Brigade by Richard Caton Woodville, Jr.,  (found on Wikipedia

Our John Palin make it back to England after the Crimean war was over and I’m sure he felt at loose ends.  His official discharge was in 1861.  England was not in a great state with so many people out of work, so John then went to the USA which in its own civil war and yup, you guessed it, he enlisted in the Calvary Corps.  He saw action for about 3 months and then was taken prisoner in what was reputed to be one of the worst prisons ever, Libby Prison in Richmond Virginia.  According to Wikipedia, this prison “gained an infamous reputation for the overcrowded and harsh conditions under which officer prisoners from the Union Army were kept. Prisoners suffered from disease, malnutrition and a high mortality rate.”  The civil war ended in 1865 and John went back home.

I cannot find his marriage to his first wife Ann.  I don’t know if he married before he went off to war or when he came back.  I do know that Ann died in 1884 and John remarried a Sarah Isabella Hewitt nee Dusart.  She too was a widow.  According to the 1871, 1881 and 1891 census John was a cab driver.  In the 1891 census he was retired his occupation given was army pensioner.  John died in 1901 in Altrincham, Cheshire.

It has been said that John would give talks about the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade and even recite Tennyson’s poem.  In 1899 a journalist had a chance to meet up with John and asked him about his experiences.  I have transcribed the article taken from Cheshire Notes and Queries 1899 and copying it here for you all to enjoy.  By the time you finish reading the article, I am sure you will all agree, John Palin was a most interesting man!

By T Colley 1899   Cheshire Notes and Queries

In the ancient and rapidly changing town of Altrincham, Cheshire, resides one of the now few remaining Balaclava heroes, Mr. John Palin, who was formerly in the 4th (Queen's Own) Light 
Dragoons (now Hussars), that famous old corps raised originally in 1685 as " Princess Anne of Denmark's Dragoons," and that fought against Dundee, Mar, Soult, Ney, and Akbar Khan, before to the battle honours " Dettirigen," ," Talavera," "Albuhera," “Salamanca," "Vittoria," "Toulouse," "Peninsula," "Afghanistan," " Ghuznce" were added" Alma" "Balaclava," “ Inkerman," “Sebastopol." 

Our veteran was born in I828 at Malpas, Cheshire, and when a youth saw with pride and delight the muster at Oswestry of the now extinct North Salopian Yeomanry Cavalry.  Coming to Manchester as a young man of 20, in 1848, Mr. Palin was captivated by the sight of the cavalry recruiting sergeants, and determined to enlist. First he fancied the uniform of the Dragoon Guards, but changed his mind, and took the Queen's shilling in the old 4th Light Dragoons. The regiment had in 1842 returned home; its original colour of uniform scarlet, with green facings, was changed to blue, faced with scarlet; the blue overalls were edged with double scarlet stripes; around the waist was it Lancer girdle or “pass" of red and yellow, the khurtka had pointed cuffs, epaulettes, and shoulder scales ; the broad topped shako bore a Maltese cross in front, and was secured with lines of yellow cord, with olive encircling it twice; then the plume was of white horse-hair, those of the officers made from ostrich feathers, and costing some £20. The undress cap had a mushroom button and a round peak, The shabracques were rounded; the officers had a broad edging of scarlet and gold lace; the front bore V.R. and a crown, the binder part the monogram of  “Q.O.", encircled by sprays of laurel; the flounces were black, and the bridles had crossed face straps, and a brass crescent. The standards were carried as kettle drum banners, according to light cavalry rule; they also were dark blue, bearing in rich gold embroidery the regimental device, "V.R." below a crown and at that period eight battle honours. The arms were Muntz sabre and smooth bore capped muzzle loading carbine (borne in a short bucket fixed below the offside wallet on mounted parades and swiveled to a loop of the pouch belt for dismounted drill). 
Mr. Palin soon mastered the sword and carbine exercises, and passed the riding school. The fourth was sent to Dublin; there the overall stripes were changed to yellow, much to the delight of the troopers, as the muddy streets frequently obliged them to have them renewed a deduction of 4s. for a new pair of scarlet stripes from their scanty pay by the Quarter master's accounts having been hitherto a usual occurrence. The Queen's Own returned to England and lay at Birmingham during the summer and autumn of 1852.  One wet evening in November a mud splashed orderly rode to the cavalry barracks with sabretasches on.  Our veteran guessed marching orders had come, and in a short time the regiment was mustered, and ordered to prepare for route marching to London.  Trooper Palin being commanded by his Troop Sergeant Major to ride No. 32, a vicious horse.  By this time he had become so expert that once being timed by his captain he turned out completely equipped in marching order in 20 minutes.  He had also broken in a peevish grey mare to being ridden in the ranks, and to stand the carbine being laid between her ears and fired. The rain fell in torrents during the march, and at the halting place No. 32 broke loose in the stable and kicked a door to pieces.  During the funeral of the late Commander in Chief, Field Master the Duke of Wellington, the 4th was on duty in street parties, wearing review order without plumes. Mr. Palin was posted at the junction of a side street near Constitution Hill tor several hours. He had taken the precaution before leaving quarters to slip a packet of sandwiches into his shako and a bottle of ale into a wallet, and when unobserved by his officers he took hasty surreptitious bites and sips.

In the sad and stately pageant which on that cold 18th of November slowly marched from the Horse Guards to St. Paul's were squadrons from four cavalry corps, two years afterwards to be, like the 4th Light Dragoons, engaged in the bloody combat at Balaclava – 8th Hussars, 13th Light Dragoons, 17th Lancers, and the historic Scots Greys. Our old neighbour relates how, as the late Duke's favourite brown charger (carrying in the stirrups the jack-boots reversed) was led past Apsley House he whinnied most piteously. 
During the summer of 1853 the Queen's Own was at Chobham Camp, and from its members being dapper men fraternising with the Royal Horse Guards the corps got the nickname of "the little Blues." 

When the Crimean expedition was despatched in 1854 the 4th Light Dragoons embarked en bloc at Devonport on July 18th, numbering 20 officers, 299 non-commissioned officers and men, in six troops, under Colonel Lord G. A. Paget as chief, and Major Halkett second in command. After an interesting voyage and a delightful sail through the Dardanelles, the 4th landed at Gallipoli, and encamped at Varna. Some non-commissioned officers and men died of cholera. 

The allied fleet departed for the Crimea on September 7th, and on the 19th the forces were landed on Russian soil near the Balganak River. The Queen's Own was not engaged in the first skirmish, and left kits, valise, and sabretasches on board its transport. Next day it was in reserve with a battalion of the Rifle Brigade during the Battle of Alma. Mr. Palin, like many other Crimean veterans, severely blames Field Marshall Lord Raglan for not making a cavalry raid after his victory into Sebastpool, its ramparts being then only three feet high, the guns without carriages, the batteries wanting embrasures, and the garrison consisting merely of a few sailors armed with boarding pikes and flintlock pistols, dismounted Cossacks.  Nothing, he says, could have prevented the allies from entering. The 4th Light Dragoons, with the other regiments of the Heavy and Light Brigades of General Lord Lucan's Cavalry Division were employed in conveying the wounded to the shore, reconnoitering, etc.  Mr. Palin with a party raided a kutor or farmstead amid vineyards, seized several arabas or carts laden with bags of flour, and brought the farmer handcuffed to headquarters on suspicion of having been a spy. The charge being proved, he was shot.  The Light Brigade had in the field discarded stocks and epaulettes.   The kits when landed were found to have been broken into by the sailors of the transport, and many articles stolen. 

On that memorable morning October 25th, the Light Brigade, paraded early, and from a hillside enviously witnessed the magnificent stand of the 93rd in their "thin red line,' and how Scarlett's Heavy Brigade rolled up and scattered the masses of Russian cavalry. The Colonel of the 4th suggested dismissing for breakfast, but when a Russian battery opened fire, one shot flying high, the order to retire was given, when another ball passed between Lord George Paget and the medical officer and went through the chest of a troop horse in the rear rank.  The rider was about to take the saddle off his dead nag, but the Colonel shouted “Hang that! Look out for yourself, man" 
Scarcely had the Light Brigade taken up a fresh alignment when Captain Nolan; A.D.C., galloped up with General Airey's note which was so fatally misinterpreted. The Brigade went into the North Valley 673 strong, the 4th rode in the second line on the right and slightly in the rear of Lord Cardigan's 11th Hussars, and flanked on the right by the 8th (three troops). Mr. Palin graphically describes how Captain Nolan piloted the first line down the valley, his scarlet cap and 15th Hussar uniform making him conspicuous, and he was one of the first to be shot, his faithful Arab charger bearing the erect, rigid corpse back to the allied lines.  Cardigan, after charging among the Russian gunners, prominent by his red whiskers, Hussar uniform, and chestnut charger, passed the 4th on his return for the succour of the Heavy Brigade. 

Upon nearing the guns one of the captains cheered on the 4th with a "Tally-ho!"  The hitherto even line broke into knots of furious horsemen fighting hand to hand with the Russian artillerymen.  
Our veteran says that the troopers' swords were turned by the thick brown overcoats and flat caps of the enemy, and points were made at throat and face. Here a brace of revolvers per cavalryman would have been invaluable.  Some of the officers used theirs with deadly effect, there being no time to unsling carbines.  One young cornet returned his sabre, coolly dismounted, and attempted, single handed, to detach a brass cannon from its limber or harness when the artillerymen were trying to drag it away. For this the Colonel both blamed and admired him. Then after driving in retreat a dense mass of Muscovite horse in rear of the battery, the Light Brigade, shattered, but not subdued, made its way back through the same deadly fire, in small bodies, by twos and threes, or man by man, wounded and unwounded, on horseback and on foot, riderless charger and dismounted trooper, to the crest of the Causeway Heights on which the sad muster roll was called off. 

All that was left of them, 
Left of six hundred

The 20 minutes action had dwindled a compact and well-appointed force to a mounted strength of  195.  Out of the 12 officers (1colonel, 1 major, 4 captains 2 lieutenants and 4 cornets) who charged with the 4th Major Halkett and Lieut. Spark were killed, also 32 non-commissioned officers and troopers; Captains Brown and Hutton were severely wounded ( the latter’s charger had 11 wounds), while 22 non-commissioned officers and men were wounded. ·As Lord G. Paget, one of the few unscathed, rode slowly and sadly back to the point where the scattered corps were reforming he feared that the 13th and 17th Light Dragoons had been utterly destroyed, but was reassured when he saw the fluttering bloody banneroles of the 17th’s stacked lances on the hillcrest, where the scarcely answered muster rolls were called. Then came the final parting of many a trooper from his four footed comrade, as many horses were so badly injured that they had to be shot by the farriers. Several riderless steeds were assembled by the "feed call.  The unwounded or able officers brought round to the men bottles of wine and boxes of cigars. It is noteworthy to mention that Mr. Palin was the last mounted man of the Light Brigade who came back " from the mouth of hell," and as his grey mare slowly struggled up the ridge to join the broken remnants of the Light Brigade he called out to the Sergt.-major of his regiment, who had folded up and pocketed the roll, "Stay, Sergt. Major, there's Brown corning on foot, and Rogers as well, but his nag has fallen.”  Our old neighbour states that his rolled cloak, which was buckled the wallets, was riddled with bullet holes, and these balls had passed through his flat water calabash slung beneath his right arm. The broken saddles were cut up and the woodwork burnt. The shattered wreck of the five corps which had composed the scanty ranks of Lord Cardigan Brigade, not more numerous in all than a single strong regiment, were formed into a squadron which was nicknamed the "Piebald," from the various colours of its mounts. At Inkerman it was posted in Rank of the 33rd Foot, and supporting the French cavalry of General Bosquet, Lord George Paget was in command at first, as Lord Cardigan had overslept himself on board his luxuriously fitted yacht. The squadron had five killed and five wounded in the battle. 

During the hardships of that rigorous winter of 1854-55 the light cavalry were kept at the front on outpost and patrol duty.   Many of the horses died from insufficient food; they even ate each other's manes and tails, and their riders were, when supplies came, often fighting for a handful of grain, green coffee berries, or a wisp of hay. 

One bitterly bleak morning Mr. Palin and some of his mates were preparing a pot of Irish stew. A scrap of meat had been purchased for 4s., four onions for 1s, some potatoes had been stolen, and a savoury warm meal was eagerly anticipated when orders came for the light cavalry to march to a fresh position. With muttered curses the famished troopers remounted. Our old Cestrian snatched up the camp kettle and placed it in his nose-bag.  Riding past one of the officers to join the ranks the latter remarked, "You have something that smells very good, Palin; I think that I must dine with you today." "Thank you, sir; but we cannot afford the honour of your company; our dinner has already cost us over 5s and we may never eat it."  Presently the ragged cohort was halted on the edge of a commanding slope, and ordered to dismount and stand at ease.   One Dragoon dug a trench with his sword.  This was stuffed with compressed bay, and roofed with pieces of iron bands. A blazing fire was soon kindled, and the stew warmed up and dispatched. The camp of the 71st and 74th Highland Light Infantry was near to that of the “Piebald squadron," and the pipers were often roundly cursed by the weary troopers as " ere the morning star" they strutted out and blew the reveille" Johnny Cope."  One of the old privileges of the Royal Scots Greys was that of selecting grey troop horses for remounts from any cavalry corps encamped with it. The 4th in 1855, having been increased to eight troops of 60 men each, the chief of the Greys came round the lines of "Paget's Irregular Horse" choosing nags.  When passing Trooper Palin, who was currying his hardy mare, the trooper said, “Beg pardon, sir; but have you such a mount as this in the Greys?"'
 "No, thank goodness”
"Nor such a man as I?"  
"No, I should be ashamed if we had such scarecrows."
To the delight his own commanding officer, Palin retorted "Then you must have a rubbishy lot!"  
The Heavy Dragoon walked away indignant, but the officer of the 4th returned shortly to his own lines and gave our veteran a crown to drink the health of the" Queen's Own with.

The Light Brigade was augmented by the 10th Hussars and 12th Lancers, and frequently skirmished with the Cossacks, and performed much valuable orderly and picket duty during the assault upon Sebastopol, for which the seven regiments were granted the 4th Crimea honours.   “Paget's Irregular Horse" during the campaign received as reinforcements seven officers, 345 N.C.O.’s and men, making a total of 27 officers, 644 N.C.O.'s and men. Of this aggregate 3 officers and 123 N.C.O.'s and men left their bones to moulder in a foreign land, being slain or dying from wounds or disease, and 11 officers and 73 N.C.O.'s and were invalided home.
The Queen's Own returned to England 1856, and was reviewed by Her Majesty. Many of the tales of warm clothing, etc., sent out to the Crimea by generous and pitying hearts at home never reached the camp.  A package of black trousers was brought back and distributed among the ragged troopers of the 4th, and for these the quartermaster debited each man 8s.  On the matter being brought before the Chief the quartermaster was reprimanded and his charge cancelled; still be entered 4d. to every man for foot straps. The uniform of the Queen's Own was now changed; the tunic with scarlet facings and five rows of yellow braid, with caps and drops, took the place of the khurtka, half leather overalls displaced cloth, and a French style of truncated shako, with straight peak and white plume, was adopted, secured round the neck. Palin brown bridles were supplied.  

Mr. Palin procured his discharge from the 4th, which in 1861 became the present Hussar regiment.  At this period the American Civil War broke out, and the heaving portents of the times induced our veteran to visit the United States, and in 1862 he crossed the Atlantic employed on Inman steamer.  The Federal Government was now making every effort to crush the Confederates. The vast armies were recruited by conscription and by enlisting immigrants.  In 1864 the bounty offered at Castle Gardens, New York was 600 dollars.  Many of the corps resembling in their personnel foot band or body guard of James V.-

Adventurers they from far who roved 
To live by battle which they loved, 
There the Italian's clouded face 
The swarthy Spaniard's there you trace; 
Their rolls showed French and German name, 
And restless Ireland's exiles came. 

All brave in arms- 
In camps licentious, wild, and bold; 
In pillage fierce and uncontrolled.

These recruits were uniformed in the Federal blue (the original picturesque variety worn at the outbreak of the war being now mostly abandoned), taught to load and fire point blank, and then sent to the front.  The 25th Regiment of New York Volunteer Cavalry then in General Phil. Sheridan’s army of Virginia, was being recruited, but did not take part in the battle of Waynesboro'. 
In 1864 Mr. Palin again enlisted in a cavalry corps.  This consisted of 12 troops, each with an establishment of 91 all ranks – one captain, one first lieutenant, one 2nd lieutenant, one orderly sergeant, one quartermaster sergeant, one commissariat sergeant, four sergeants, seven corporals, one bugler, one sadler, and 72 privates. The arms were swords with black belts and knots, and a light breech loading' carbine (only 41b. weight) called the “Burnside."  The uniform was dark blue jacket, light blue overalls, yellow pipings and welt kept with black waterproof cover;  the N.C.O.'s had cheverons on: both arms, the seniors being surmounted by a fess.  Mr. Palin found all old comrade of the 4th Light Dragoons in the ranks.  Our veteran’s skill, courage, experience and natural aptitude soon caused his promotion in Troop L to senior sergeant.  He took part in several raids and skirmishes about the Chenany River and the Shenandoah Valley, and in an encounter at Madison Court House he was captured by the Confederates, and spent two months in Libby prison.  
Here his bon hommie and tact gained him the goodwill of his custodians, first volunteering when whitewashers for the wall were required, then being granted a pass to visit the neighbouring town.  He transacted many errands and commissions for his fellow-captives and guards who allowed him plenty of food etc.; in fact, upon being exchanged in 1865 his wife and friends were surprised to find him hearty and in funds, having heard dreadful stories respecting the sad condition of the Federal prisoners at Andersonville, etc.  When Sergeant Palin rejoined his regiment he learned on that very day of his being taken prisoner he had been promoted to sergeant major, but the vacancy had been obliged to be filled immediately, so the warrant had been given to another.  Shortly afterwards the 25th Regiment New York V.C. was “mustered out of the Federal service” as the war ended.  An illustrated Military Register of the Troop, given to each man on its disbandment, states among casualties, etc., 21 out of the 72 privates had deserted.  After working for some time in the Navy Yard, New York, our hardy campaigner became a gentleman’s coachman, and his many wanderings by land and sea brought him to Altrincham about l876, where until 1893 he faithfully and with universal respect followed the occupation of a cabdriver, until meeting with an accident he was laid up, and afterwards relinquished employment. 

The United States Government has granted him a war pension, and the Patriotic Fund, subscribed some few years ago, has also disbursed him a share. At church and at gatherings our veteran wears his Crimean War medal with four clasps-" Alma," "Balaclava," " Inkerman,” and Sebastopol” - suspended by its white and yellow ribbon, together with the Turkish decoration, with green and crimson ribbon, while at parades, route marching, or passing through of Yeomanry or Volunteers he is always an interested and admiring spectator, his criticisms always being mingled with praise.  Before he lost his teeth he was a favourite reciter at local entertainments of Tennyson's “Charge of the Light Brigade" and similar poems, and twenty years ago, in the fine uniform of the D.L.O.Y.C., upon a platform he was a thrilling elocutionist. 
On Jubilee Day, 1897, he was one of that band that saluted the Queen.  Although, as might be expected, the advance of old age and the many vicissitudes of his hard life are visible in ex-Sergeant Palin's form and features, he is ever most interesting company, and possesses a fund of anecdote dealing with the historic past.

You can see images and more about John Palin here.

*** UPDATE**

Just found John's first marriage to Maria Annie Hook in Norfolk.

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