Clash of nations: Battle of Waterloo

11:58 AM

On the morning the sun shone most gloriously. June 18 1815 saw 180,000 men, 60,000 horses and 500 pieces of artillery crammed into 2½ sq miles of Belgian countryside. In the nine frantic hours that followed, a quarter-century of central European warfare was brought to a close, leaving more than 44,000 dead, dying and wounded on the field. The world turned upside down.

The battle began around 11am. Napoleon was at his station, near the inn of La Belle Alliance, with view of the entire battlefield. Initially he was on foot, pacing backwards and forwards, issuing orders. His adversary Wellington had stationed himself on a ridge to the rear of La Haye Sainte farmhouse. Plainly attired, he calmly contemplated the scene. 

It started with an attack by a division of the French 2nd Corps, led by Jerome Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon, on Hougoumont farmhouse and gardens, held by a 1,500-strong Allied force and standing between the two armies. If taken it would have uncovered the British flank and given the French an advantage over the whole line. Though hugely outnumbered, light companies from Gen Byng’s brigade of Guards and the Dutch Nassau Regiment defended their position fiercely. In this location the English were outnumbered, with just 1,500 troops to the French 5,000, but their position behind the walls of the farm gave them an advantage. When 40 French soldiers finally managed to break through the doors, the English quickly shut them in, and killed all but one, an 11-year-old drummer boy. 

It was late afternoon when the Prussian army began arriving at Napoleon’s right flank and rear. Napoleon knew time and numbers were now against him and so made one more push, with his trusted Imperial Guard. But under Wellington’s direction it was repulsed, with the feared Imperial Guard, veterans of Napoleon's many campaigns in Europe, fleeing in terror. The collapse of the Imperial Guard quickly spread panic through the French ranks and many turned and fled. Wellington and Blücher met beside La Belle Alliance where the Duke agreed that his exhausted troops be spared the pursuit of Napoleon and the French, entrusting it to the fresher Prussians. Finally Wellington's army launched a general advance, aided by the Prussian attack from the east, which led to a panicked French retreat. 

Now, 200 years after the battle the artifacts are bringing the battle to life:

The breastplate of cuirassier Antoine Fraveau, struck and killed by a canonball. June, 1815, serving Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo. He was struck full in the chest by a cannonball. It smashed through his breastplate armour – known as a cuirass – straight through his body and out of the other side. For a split second he may well have seen the shot hurtling towards him but he had no time to react. Mercifully, his death would have been instantaneous. Napoleon had 4,500 heavy cavalry at Waterloo, all carrying a carbine or short musket and a long straight sword for stabbing. British cavalrymen, armed only with swords, were nervous of them, until they worked out how to get in close, where the cuirassier had no room to stab, and then smash him off his horse with a punch in the face.

The Saw and Glove Used to Amputate the Duke of Uxbridge's Leg. He was hit by cannon-fire during the battle of Waterloo his leg had to be amputated. The glove is still stained with this blood. Amputation, without anesthetic, was often the only hope for soldiers who suffered badly damaged bones. It could prevent disease setting in and in many cases resulted in a rapid recovery. The wounded soldier had a leather tourniquet tied about eight centimetres (three inches) above the place where the cutting would be done.

A knife was then used to slice down to the bone, arteries pinned out of the way and then the surgeon would begin his work with the bone saw. The arteries were then sewn up and linen bandages were applied. The medical equipment used by Napoleonic surgeons was not impressive and each carried, usually in a travelling box, knives, saws, scalpels, tourniquets and forceps, with strops to sharpen the instruments. He also carried dressings, sutures and needles, and crude drugs, many of which were ineffective.

Uxbridge remained composed throughout the operation, which took place at a farmhouse, and once remarked that he did not think the saw was very sharp! It is said that some years later Uxbridge later revisited the place with two of his sons, found the table on which the operation had taken place, and ate dinner off it.

The captured eagles of Waterloo. There is no Napoleonic symbol more famous than that of the Imperial Eagles carried into battle by the French Army. Symbols of their Emperor’s grandeur, they were at the heart of each French regiment’s pride. During the six years of conflict in the Iberian peninsula, the British Army only succeeded in taking three eagles in battle.At Waterloo they took two in five minutes.

These boots were owned by the Duke of Wellington who popularised medium-length leather boots as they were practical for both the battlefield and the ballroom. These boots were the precursor to the modern 'welly.

Captain George Holmes died after being shot in the spine. His widow wanted a souvenir of her husband's death so arranged to have his body boiled, the damaged vertebra removed, varnished and set with silver. She also kept the bullet that killed him

Napoleon's bicorne hat and coat found after the battle with other his clothes.

This field trumpet sounded the crucial charge of the Household Cavalry at the Battle of Waterloo. At 2.00pm, the left of the Allied defensive position on the ridge of Mont St Jean was under severe attack from the 16,000-strong Infantry Corps of Count D’Erlon. It was a close fight but the French were beginning to break through the Allied line.

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3 komentarze

  1. Do you want more information about artifacts, images, etc... and the Battle of Waterloo? Then don´t miss this book image: "Seventy images for hundred days". A book that contents images and History about the event. Perhaps the only permanent exhibition you can find a year after the bicentenary.

  2. Thanks for the blog post buddy! Keep them coming...
    Dentist in Waterloo, ON

  3. Tourniquet is a very important medical device for home and outdoor. It is used for stop blood flow. But before using the device you have to know how to tie a tourniquet.