SAPPERS AND MINERS, ROYAL, formerly the name given to the non-commissioned officers and privates of the corps of Royal Engineers. The men and officers are now collectively termed the lloyal Engineers, but in specifying any individual private he is termed sapper— of the — company of Royal Engineers. They are employed in building and repairing permanent fortifications, in raising field redoubts and batteries, in making gabions and fascines, in digging trenches [Sir], and executing galleries of mince during sieges, and also in forming bridges of rafts, boats, and pontoons.
The troops belonging to the department of the engineers were first embodied at the termination of tho war between Great Britain and her American colonies, and they then received the designation of Royal Military Artificers. The duke of Richmond, who was at that time master-general of the ordnance, formed them into independent com panies, and caused them to be stationed chiefly at Portsmouth, Ply mouth, Chatham, Dover, and Gibraltar. In the year 1807 the Military Artificers constituted a corps of 32 companies, each consist ing of 120 men ; and a sub-lieutenant was attached to each company, which was placed under any senior captain of engineers who might happen to be where the company WU stationed. But the want of a proper organisation, and of officers permanently attached to the troops, gradually brought on a relaxation of discipline and a neglect of the particular duties for which the men were intended; it is even said that when detachments were to be drawn from the companies for any intended expedition, the engineer officers who selected the men sent only those who were the least efficient, and that consequently, during the first years of the war against the French in Spain, the service suffered much from the Inexperience of the troops of this class.
After the failure of the attack on Badajoz, in 1811, it was proposed to select some companies from the corps of Royal Military Artificers, and to form them into a body expressly for the purpose of execnting field-works; and In the following year this proposal was carried into effect. Lieutenant-General Mann, who was made inspector-general of fortifications, obtained permission to have the name of the whole corps changed into that of Royal Sappers and Miners ; and lord Mulgrave then formed at Chatham the institution at which the men have ever since been regularly instructed in all the duties connected with military engineering. The junior officers of engineers were at
the same time appointed to act as the regimental officers of the com panies. This institution has been from the first (April, ]812) under the direction of Colonel, now General, Sir Charles l'asley, K.C.B., an eminent officer, who as an engineer had previously distinguished himself in the service of hls country.
A detachment, consisting of 300 men, was sent, in 1813, to perform the duty of sappers and miners at the siege of St. Sabastian, where they rendered essential service. In 1814 a brigade of engineers was attached to every division of the army ; each brigade consisted of a company of sappers and miners, with horses and carriages sufficient to convey the tools necessary for the work of 500 men ; and five com panies of sappers and miners served with the pontoon .train, which consisted of SO pontoons, with the forges, waggons, &c. The whole cores was under the orders of a brigade-major of engineers.
}rem 1812 to the peace in 1814, the corps of sappers and miners amounted to 2861 men ; and during the hostilities in 1815, it consisted of 2421 men, At present it consists of 36 companies, and 4337 men, exclusive of officers; and, besides the regular course of instruction in sapping, mining, making gabions, fascines, &c., the men are taught the most elementary principles of fortification, the manner of drawing plans and sections of buildings, and, to a certain extent, the art of land surveying. Several of the companies are employed in the colonies in the exercise of their professional duties; and of those which remain in this country, some are engaged under the officers of engineers in the mechanical operations connected with the ordnance survey of Great Britain and Ireland which is being carried on by the war depart ment; parties of the corps also regularly attend the Royal Academy at Woolwich and the Military College at Sandhurst, where they assist to execute, for the instruction of the gentlemen-cadets, the several works connected with the practice of field-fortification. It ought to be mentioned that the troops of the corps have invariably, in whatever part of the world they have been employed, conducted themselves as intelligent men and steady soldiers.