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Thomas Plunket (died in 1851 or 1852) was an Irish soldier in the British army 95th Rifles regiment. He served throughout the Peninsular War and later in the Hundred Days campaign of 1815.

He is remembered for a feat at the Battle of Cacabelos during Moore's retreat to Corunna in 1809. Here Plunket shot the French Général de Brigade Auguste-Marie-François Colbert at a range of around 600 metres using a Baker rifle.[1][2]

Plunket had run forward to make this shot. Before returning to his own lines he reloaded and shot down a trumpet-major who had rushed to the aid of the fallen general, which showed that the first shot had not been a fluke; the deaths were sufficient to throw the pending French attack into disarray.[1] The shots were at a sufficiently long distance to impress others in the 95th Rifles, whose marksmanship (with the Baker rifle) was far better than the ordinary British soldiers who were armed with a Brown Bess musket and only trained to shoot into a body of men at 50 metres with volley fire.[3]

Later life

After the war, Plunket was discharged from the 95th after recovering from the head wound he received at the Battle of Waterloo. Awarded a pension of 6d a day, he soon enlisted back into the army in a line regiment. The regiment was being inspected by his former commanding officer, General Sir Thomas Sydney Beckwith when the general recognised Plunket and inquired into what had happened to him. He was invited to the officers mess that night and the next day was promoted to corporal, and soon also had his pension raised to one shilling a day with Beckwith's influence.[4] He later renounced his pension in exchange for four years' pay and land in Canada, but he returned to England after a year, considering the land unsuitable.

Plunket died at Colchester in 1851 or 1852. Several retired officers in the town heard about the death and recognized his name; as a result, they took up a collection for his widow and paid for his funeral.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Hadaway, Stuart. Rifleman Thomas Plunkett: 'A Pattern for the Battalion.'
  2. Costello, Edward - 'Rifleman Costello' ISBN 1-84677-000-9 First published in 1841 entitled "The Adventures of a Soldier". Costello served with Plunkett and can both cite personally witnessed experiences and the legend he already was at the time.
  3. The Weapons Collection: Technical Notes - Introduction, REME Museum of Technology. See paragraph six in the section "Development of the lock"
  4. Holmes, Richard (2001). Redcoat: The British Soldier in the Age of Horse and Musket Page 416, Harper and Collins
  5. Hadaway, Stuart. Rifleman Thomas Plunkett: 'A Pattern for the Battalion'. Published by the Napoleon Series. October 2000.

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