French cuirassiers breastplate from the Battle of Waterloo, 1815.
French cuirassiers breastplate from the Battle of Waterloo, 1815.
Battle of Waterloo & Bullet-Proof Cuirassier Breast Plates
Waterloo Spam: The French Connection
Although I focus on British swords of the 19th century, I try to include other swords, weapons, and armour that I think are cool and often have some connection to Britain and its empire and its wars. I would be remiss if I only spammed you with British militaria today, so I will present you with a few images from the sales catalog for “The Charles Bremner Hogg Jackson Collection”. Jackson was an avid collector who left his collection to the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. A large portion of the collection–French militaria from the First Empire–was considered beyond the scope of the Smithsonian and it was therefore sold via auction in 1996. Below are a few interesting pieces from the catalog.
Above: A silver hilted sword of honour together with documents including a Brevet of Honor granting the sword, dated 4 Nivose An 8, signed Bonaparte and citing Jacques Grognet, Captain of Grenadiers of the 51st Demi Brigade.
Above: Non-Regulation General Officer of Cuirassiers Helmet
Above: Deluxe Cavalry Officer’s Sabre of the Imperial Guard
Above, from top to bottom: Deluxe Light Cavalry Officer’s Sabre, Model An XI Lancers/Chasseurs Sabre, Model An XI Light Cavalry Sabre a la Chasseur, Model An XI Light Cavalry Sabre, Model An XI Light Cavalry Sabre.
Some British swords of the Napoleonic period and of the type used at the Battle of Waterloo. From left to right: Pattern 1796 Light Cavalry style sword with pipe back blade, possibly for an infantry officer, c.1814-1821; Pattern 1796 Light Cavalry Officer’s Sword; Pattern 1803 Infantry Officer’s Sword for an officer of a flank company, light infantry officer, or rifle officer; Pattern 1796 Infantry Officer’s Sword.
Oldest Survivors of Waterloo: Chelsea Pensioners, 1880
A photo taken at the Royal Hospital Chelsea in 1880 shows five of the last surviving Chelsea Pensioners to play a role at the Battle of Waterloo.
The 135 year-old photo, unearthed at the Royal Hospital and now on display at Windsor Castle, is annotated with the names of the veterans and details of their involvement in the campaign. These details have enabled archivists at the Royal Hospital to discover more about the lives of these last surviving soldiers, in the 200th anniversary year of the battle.
Included in the photo (and at 95 the eldest at the time of the photo) is Private John McKay, who took part in the historic battle aged 20 as part of the 42nd Regiment of Foot, which he had joined at just 15. Private McKay would continue to serve with the 42nd where he was promoted to corporal in 1829 and medically discharged in 1837. Having served for over 26 years in the British Army, he moved to Royal Hospital Chelsea as a Chelsea Pensioner in 1877.
Other Chelsea Pensioners in the photo are Robert Norton of the 54th Regt (aged 90), Naish Hannay of the 7th Hussars (88), Benjamin Bumstead of the 73rd Regt (82) and Samson Webb of the 3rd Foot Guards (82).
The Royal Hospital contains several artefacts from the Battle of 1815, including two howitzers and two cannons captured during the campaign, pictured [above]. It also has several pieces of Battle of Waterloo art, including a painting of the battle by 19th century artist George Jones.
–Royal Hospital Chelsea, home to the Chelsea Pensioners (the name of the care home for retired British Army soldiers)
In the 18th and 19th century dentures were made from a variety of materials; ivory, bone, animal teeth, ceramics, and others. However the best dentures were those constructed from genuine second hand human teeth. Such dentures were rare and expensive as there was a very limited supply of teeth available to construct them. A lucky dentist might be able to acquire the teeth of an executed criminal, granted the criminal not have bad teeth. Body snatchers were also a common source. While body snatching was often done to provide cadavers for medical schools, corpses could also be unearthed by snatchers for their teeth. War was particularly profitable time for dentists, who would often hang around battlefields so that they could yank the teeth of fallen soldiers after the fighting had ended. Such a practice was especially common during the Napoleonic Wars as large battles of the war such as Austerlitz, Jena, and Leipzig resulted in fields strewn with tens of thousands of corpses. The Battle of Waterloo was most notorious for teeth scavengers. Located in Belgium, Waterloo was the crossroads of Europe, not far from France, the Netherlands, England, and Germany. Thus there was an opportunity for dentists and denture makers from many nations to converge upon the battlefield in order to scavenge teeth. In addition, being the last major battle of the Napoleonic Wars, it was the last chance for dentists to score an easy source of second hand teeth before peace broke out and once again constrained the second hand teeth market. The pickings were very rich as the carnage of Waterloo would result in the deaths of over 50,000 men. As a result, dentures constructed from soldiers teeth, regardless of which battlefield they originated from were often called “Waterloo Teeth”. The practice of scavenging battlefields for teeth would continue to a lesser extent during the Crimean War and American Civil War.
With fullered blade double-edged at the spear point and etched ‘J.J. Runkel, Sohlingen’ along the back at the forte, the forte along each side etched with martial trophies, crowned ‘GR’ cypher and ‘TP Hankin Royal Greys’, the etching retaining traces of original gilding, regulation steel hilt of ladder pattern pierced with symmetrical foliage, faceted rounded pommel and back-piece in one, and ribbed leather-covered grip (worn) bound with twisted silver wire, in original steel scabbard with two split-rings for suspension (hilt and scabbard with some light pitting). 86.9 cm blade.
Thomas Pate Hankin entered the Army in 1795 and served with the 2nd Dragoons (The Scots Greys) throughout his career. He took part in the famous charge at Waterloo where he was severely wounded in the knee. He was knighted by the Prince Regent in 1816 and promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the regiment in 1821. He subsequently died in 1825
An account from 1848 of an encounter between a French and a British officer which allegedly occurred at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Whether it happened or not, it is at least an interesting view from 1848 of something that seemed plausible then.
Hougoumont Farm, archaeology, Waterloo Uncovered & bayonet fighting
Hougoumont Farm at the Battle of Waterloo battlefield is legendary. It is being archaeologically investigated by the team from Waterloo Uncovered:
Matt Easton visited the site, saw some old friends, learned more about the site and spoke a bit about bayonet combat. It was super windy, so apologies for the sound quality!
Waterloo Uncovered – Archaeology at the battlefield of Waterloo
Waterloo Uncovered is an amazing project bringing together archaeologists and military veterans, to explore, discover and preserve more about the battlefield of Waterloo and what happened there in 1815.