Thomas Jackson’s autobiography provides a colourful account of his experiences as a militiaman, Coldstreamer, and Chelsea pensioner.
Son of a Walsall bucklemaker, Jackson joined the Staffordshire Militia aged 17 and spent a decade on home service, much of it passed at Windsor Castle and Weymouth guarding King George III. As a sergeant in the Coldstream Guards, he served in Sir Thomas Graham’s 1813-14 campaign in the Netherlands and was wounded and captured during the storming of Bergen-op-Zoom. Jackson provides a harrowing account of this failed assault, the ensuing amputation of his right leg, and his subsequent year-long convalescence. While many military memoirs end with news of peace or discharge, Jackson also chronicles his post-war life as a Chelsea pensioner and war amputee, describing his struggles raising a family amidst economic turmoil and cholera outbreaks.
Jackson provides a fresh and often critical perspective on service in the ranks. Embittered by the loss of his leg, he laments the plight of army veterans, doomed by an ungrateful nation to lives of ‘pinching poverty’. His memoir also does not shrink from graphically describing the horrors of combat. Indeed, Neil Ramsey, author of a recent comprehensive study of military memoirs, wrote that Jackson’s story deserved ‘far wider attention as one of the most harrowing accounts of war’s miseries to be written in the nineteenth century’.
Yet despite the clear merits of his testimony, Jackson’s Narrative has never been reissued since its initial publication. Enhanced with additional research and commentary by historian Eamonn O’Keeffe, this new edition makes Jackson’s lively and invaluable autobiography publicly available for the first time in 170 years.
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