Skeleton of a 23 years old soldier who died in the battle of Waterloo. 1815. The bullet which killed him is still visible in his chest.

12:54 PM

Buried under just 15 inches of soil, the position of the skeleton suggests the young man died where he fell and was hastily covered with a thin layer of dirt, probably by his comrades.

The victorious armies cleared the battlefield of their dead, and the defeated French were eventually buried on site in mass graves. It’s the first time in a century that a body from the Napoleonic wars has been found on a Belgian battlefield, and this one is almost entirely undisturbed.

His uniform has rotted away but his leather epaulets survived. Archaeologists are hoping they will be able to identify the soldier’s regiment from the epaulets, and possibly from the spoon if it’s army-issue. If they can discover his regiment, they’ll probably be able to find his name on the combatant records. The initial analysis of the bones indicates that he was around 20 years old, 5’1″ tall and had abrasion grooves on his molars from tearing opening gunpowder tubules with his teeth.

One particularly poignant artifact was a musket ball found inside the soldier’s ribcage. This is probably the smoking gun, as it were: he took a bullet to the chest, then either retreated or was carried by comrades 100 yards or so behind the front line. The location of his burial was 100 meters (109 yards) behind the British front line, close to the Duke of Wellington’s army infirmary. It’s highly unlikely that a French soldier would have fallen in this position.

After a painstaking process historians identified the man as Friedrich Brandt, 23, a Hanoverian hunchback who trained in the East Sussex resort of Bexhill-on-Sea. Brandt, a member of George III’s German Legion, was killed by Napoleon’s forces.

An estimated 50,000 died at Waterloo with a proportion of the dead burnt and then buried in mass graves. Other bodies were sold commercially as fertiliser or their teeth were sold as dentures.

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