The royalist officer in charge of the defences outside Pasto had chosen his position well. Two companies of veteran Spanish skirmishers screened the main line. The field then narrowed into a bottleneck ravine, leading to an open maize field. Beyond was a ditch with a breastwork of tree trunks defended by six hundred Pastusos armed with an assortment of muskets, axes, sling shots and clubs. Their flanks were impassable. To one side was a marsh. To the other stood a copse of trees climbing the slopes of the four thousand metre Galeras Volcano. The indigenous troops were confident of victory. Their opponents had been involved in a running fight all morning and had no option but to attack the position head on.
One thousand patriots fought at the battle of Genoy. One hundred were British volunteers. Amongst them was a remarkable young Englishman, Richard Longville Vowell. Born on the 24 July 1795 in Saint James, Bath, Vowell had enjoyed all the benefits of an upper class Georgian upbringing. The eldest son of a 49 year-old retired British Army major and former MP and the great-great-grandson of Gustavus Hamilton, the Viscount Boyne, Vowell had inherited £2,000 from an unnamed relative whilst an Oxford undergraduate and promptly set off to South America on the adventure of a lifetime. Joining Colonel Donald MacDonald\'s 1st Venezuelan Lancers as a lieutenant, he left Portsmouth on The Two Friends on 31 July 1817.
Unlike the vast majority of those who volunteered, Vowell was able to see beyond the prejudices of his age. A keen student of Humboldt\'s writings on South America, he was interested in everything he surveyed on his travels, from the electric eels of the Orinoco, which he soon learnt not to handle, to the Indigenous tribes of Venezuela\'s vast open plains.
After several close shaves in Los Llanos, including an extraordinary escape through enemy lines in early 1818, Vowell travelled to the newly liberated Santafé de Bogotá and later took part in a campaign against the Pastusos of southern New Granada. The following year, when his unit was sent to the Ecuadorian port of Guayaquil, Vowell\'s adventures took a new turn when he joined Lord Thomas Cochrane\'s Chilean Navy.
Following several years patrolling the Pacific coast, Vowell finally returned to England in the spring of 1830. He had been away from his homeland for over twelve years. His memoirs and two semi-autobiographical novels set in South America were published shortly afterwards. Public interest in the continent had long since faded, however, and the books sold poorly. Undaunted, at the age of forty two, Vowell decided to set off on one final adventure.
Eight months later, he arrived in Australia and found work as a constable and clerk at the Number 2 Prison Stockade near Cox\'s River. Two years after his appointment, he was accused of accepting a bribe to alter the sentence of two inmates from twelve to nine months. Rather than passively awaiting his punishment, Vowell fled the stockade, taking four convicts and four privates of the 4th King\'s Own Regiment with him. Travelling down the Murrumbidgee River, the fugitives survived on the proceeds of a series of robberies, before their eventual capture in August 1832. An \'emaciated\', broken-toothed Vowell was hauled before the magistrates, convicted of theft and sentenced to death. This was commuted to life at Norfolk Island and later reduced to seven years imprisonment. Vowell was released in his late forties and remained in Australia for the rest of his days. It is tempting to imagine this great adventurer wiling away his twilight years by looking back at his extraordinary life. He had travelled on three continents, fought in numerous engagements by both land and sea, been decorated for valour and imprisoned for fraud, desertion and robbery. Richard Longville Vowell died in 1870 at the age of 76 in Bruk Bul, Victoria.