The Peninsular War (1807–1814) was a military conflict between the empire of Napoleon and the allied powers of Spain, Portugal and Great Britain for control of the Iberian Peninsular during the Napoleonic Wars. The war effectively started when French and Spanish armies invaded and occupied Portugal in 1807. It escalated the following year when France attacked Spain, its former ally. The war on the peninsula lasted until the "Sixth Coalition" defeated Napoleon in 1814.
Benjamin Rodgers was born in 1784 in the Staveley area and initially worked in one of the local coal mines.
He joined the ranks of the Derbyshire Volunteers before enlisting in the 5th Heavy Dragoon Guards (also known as the Princess Charlotte of Wales’s Dragoons) on 11 July 1809. The 5th Dragoons were a cavalry regiment in the British Army, and Benjamin fought with this unit in the Peninsular War. He continued his service with the regiment until 25 June 1815, when he was transferred to the 5th Royal Veteran Battalion, due to being unfit for service. He was eventually discharged from the army on 25 May 1816 (the Royal Veteran Battalion, stationed at the Tower of London in 1816, was disbanded in June that year). The Veteran Battalions were intended as a home for soldiers who were no longer fit for regular duties.
After his discharge from the army, it seems that Benjamin once again took up mining and worked for the Butterley Company for some 28 years, residing in the area around Somercotes, Alfreton and Swanwick. After this, at around the age of 55 years, he returned to Staveley, which is where he lived at the time of the 1841 census return and up to his death in 1871.
It is not possible to ascertain exactly how long Benjamin may have lived in the area, or the exact details of where he lived. His obituary was published in the Sheffield Independent Newspaper on 22 July 1871, which included a reference to the village of Somercotes. A transcript of the article follows: "PENINSULAR VETERAN – Died at Staveley. July 14th in the 88th year of his age, Benjamin Rodgers, a pensioner, who served through the Peninsular war in the 5th Heavy Dragoon Guards (or Green Horse as they were called). He was born in March, 1784, and his first service was in the Derbyshire Volunteers from which he volunteered into the 5th Dragoons in 1806 and fought in all the battles his regiment were engaged in (being wounded several times and having two horses shot from under him) until the battle of Borrussa, where he was taken prisoner along with 400 or 500 cavalry and was confined in Valenciennes (South France). Although discharged with a pension, he, along with others, did not receive his medal, colours etc., until 1848, and only about two years ago received a portion of back pay, due whilst he was imprisoned. His memory was remarkable to the last. He believed he was the last of his regiment who served in that war. After his discharge, he betook himself to coal mining, and worked for the Butterley Works, Somercoates, Alfreton and Swanwick, and lastly about thirty years for R. Burrows Esq., Staveley. He was steady and industrious, and had a rather numerous family, but only leaves two sons, one daughter, fifteen grandchildren and nineteen great grandchildren."
The year he joined the 5th Dragoons is different in the newspaper report to that given in official records (1806 instead of 1809).
PHOTO: Military General Service Medal (1793-1814) with 3 clasps for Salamanca, Vittoria, Toulouse (Courtesy of DNW Auction House)
Above is a photograph of Benjamin’s actual service medal. The medal was last sold at auction by Dix Noonan Web of London on 11-12 December 2013 and sold for £1500.
Benjamin was buried on 11 July 1871 in the churchyard at Staveley, Derbyshire.