Private Joseph PARKS, a potter by trade, enlisted in the 38th (1st Staffordshire) Regiment of Infantry in January 1807 and served for 8 years before being shot at the Battle of Bayonne.
He active service would have broadly encompassed the whole of the Peninsula War. He is unlikely to have been involved in the capture of Montevideo (Uruguay) and the attack on Buenos Aires in late 1807 in which his regimented were involved.
Joseph may have first seen action in the Peninsula War at the Battle of Rolica and the Battle of Vimeiro in August 1808 and the retreat to Corunna in June 1809. The 1st Battalion also saw action in the Walcheren Campaign in autumn 1809 during which many Allied soldiers contracted fatal 'Walcheren Fever'. The regiment returned to Spain in 1812 and took part in the Battle of Salamanca in July 1812, the siege of Burgos in September 1812, the Battle of Vitoria in June 1813 and the siege of San Sebastian in September 1813, before pursuing the French Army into France where they fought in the Battle of Nivelle in November 1813, the Battle of the Nive in December 1813 and the Battle of Orthez in February 1814. During many of these engagements Joseph would have been fighting alongside John GARNER of the 1st Foot Guards (and my 4x Great Grandfather). For example at the Battle of Vitoria both the 3rd/1st and 1st/38th were in the same Brigade under Major General Hay, but they both marched across Spain and into France as part of the same army. The final engagement of the Peninsula campaign was the Battle of Bayonne.
The Battle of Bayonne was the last major engagement of the Peninsula War, after the Allied forces had finally evicted the French from Spain. Tragically, this battle was initiated by a completely unnecessary attack from a besieged French force, whose commander, General Pierre Thouvenot, had already received official news of Napoleon's abdication, yet petulantly decided - against all logic - to attack the Allied forces under the Duke of Wellington. Despite him knowing that the war was already lost, his action caused more than 1,700 pointless casualties, half of them French.
The French attacked at night and made good progress eliminating the piqcuets of 3rd Foot Guards and Coldstream Regiment. The French advance was halted by a heroic defence of a house in St Etienne by Captain Forster and a handful of men from the 38th Regiment. The French were unable to dislodge Forster and the 38th and the attack stalled. Allied reinforcements counter-attacked and the French retreated to their citadel. It is entirely possible that Joseph was in that house in St Etienne and received his wound during its defence.
His wound was sufficiently bad to lead to the amputation of his left arm at the shoulder. Soon after, he was posted to the Isle of Wight for assessment, and then to the York Depot from where he was officially discharged from the Regiment in January the following year.1
Joseph became a Chelsea Pensioner, but only accrued pensionable service up until 10 days after the Battle of Bayonne; presumably the time it took to evacuate him to the Isle of Wight.
After returning to Hanley, he married Charlotte LEES, the daughter of a brickmaker. Only two of their children's baptisms can be found: Jane in 1821 and John in 1825 who were baptized at the non-conformist Bethesda Chapel in Hanley. We know that there other children from the 1841 census, although a large gap in births between 1825 and 1833 suggests that Charlotte had died. There is no record of Joseph remarrying, so the paternity of the younger children is not known.
In 1841 Joseph was living in Hanley and described as a labourer. Charlotte was not with Joseph, but there were 7 younger members of the family. At first glance there would all appear to be his children, however without baptismal records that can't be confirmed. The eldest Eliza, aged 24, would have been born around, or shortly after, Joseph's wedding to Charlotte.
In 1842, Joseph's daughter Emma married Isaac WESTON. At this time Joseph was described as an engineer, that is, he likely operated a steam engine.
In 1851, Joseph was living with his son Joseph on Upper High Street, Hanley. He was described as a Chelsea Pensioner, while his son was a potter.
Joseph died in 1854. His age was given as 66, which was consistent with his age always being reported as being 3 years older than his true age; perhaps, initially, to conceal the fact that he was only 15 years old when he enlisted and, later, to avoid complications with his pension which would have been reduced by three years service (as minors should not have accrued pensionable service) or might even have been stopped completely.