2nd Battalion 69th (South Lincolnshire) Foot during the Waterloo Campaign
By Martin Aaron
The 2nd Battalion 69th (South Lincolnshire) Foot was another inexperienced battalion having no Peninsula experience. In all British battalions it was normal for there to be a small number of men, perhaps a dozen or so, who had joined the ranks underage – that is, under 18. However, in the 2nd Battalion 69th Foot the number was 159, nearly 30% of the other ranks. Thus, even amongst those men who had served since 1811 there were many who had not yet reached their twentieth birthday.
The average length of service amongst the Privates was only 3½ years,
less than any other British regiment at
At Quatre Bras the battalion was caught still trying to form square by the French curraisiers, with disastrous results. That the battalion was not entirely in square was, at the time, blamed on the Prince of Orange who, it was said, had overruled an order to form square. This was the version of events accepted as fact as soon as the battle was over, letters written in the days immediately following the battle making reference to it. Recent works, however, have set out to absorb the Prince of any wrongdoing. Interestingly, Captain Pigot of the 69th wrote a letter to Silborne in 1844 making no mention of the Prince and stating instead that it was with the regiment’s Captain Lindsey that fault lay.
Perhaps no scapegoat should be sought – the height of the crops seems to have been the crucial factor, the rye being so tall that the French cavalry were not spotted by the infantrymen until nearly upon them and disaster for the 69th ensued. Help came in the arrival of the British Guards without whom,
The experience of the men in the 69th (South Lincolnshire) Foot at Quatre Bras was undoubtedly a horrific one – youngsters stumbling through the rye in terror whilst the big cavalrymen in armour hunted them down, slashing downwards with their sabres. However, a study of the casualty lists shows that the “annihilation of the 69th at Quatre Bras” is one of many myths surrounding the battle. The total of men listed as killed outright on the 16th June is 27.
A similar number would later die of wounds and maybe three times that number were wounded, many so severely - with hands and arms hacked off – that they would be discharged from the army. But this would still amount to a total of less than 150, thus, even allowing for the many absentees and rear echelon men, 300 rank and file would still be left standing in square on the 18th. The percentage of casualties – 41% - is not much worse than the 30th (38%) and 33rd (39%) of this Brigade and not as severe as other Regiments at Waterloo whose casualties are rarely mentioned in histories of the battle.
During the day both squares panicked and fled, though at different times and both later resumed their positions. Coming under cavalry attack, the light infantry (and nearby artillerymen) ran back up the slope to escape the French horsemen, crawling on their hands and knees into the squares for shelter; sometimes their own squares and sometimes into the squares of Hanoverian or KGL regiments.
The square of the 30th/73rd stood its ground well but the square of the 33rd and 69th gave way under the cavalry attacks. Morris of the 73rd later wrote,
The 2nd Battalion, 69th Foot consisted, approximately, of 57% English (Lincolnshire and Essex being the two most common counties of origin), 35% Irish and 7% Scottish.
In 1816 the Battalion ceased to exist, being part of the general reduction of the army. Many of the men were discharged in consequence of their wounds and others were transferred to other Regiments – the 1st, 41st, 44th, and 48th Foot being the most common destinations. The remainder were transferred into the 1st Battalion and saw service in India.
Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Morice (KIA)
Lieutenant-Colonel Morice was killed at Waterloo having received four musket ball wounds. Command fell to Major Muttlebury who later received a CB and, in 1817 was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel. He was married, in Bath, in 1828 and died in 1854.
Ensign Macready of the 30th described meeting Captain Watson the day after Quatre Bras stating he was “dreadfully chagrined” at losing their Colour and “devoutedly damned the Prince of Orange.”
Where possible officers have been placed within the companies in which they served. It is not clear, however, in which companies the following officers served:
Nominal strength - 54 Casualties – 12 (22%)
Armoury Serjeant Isaac Pierson was amongst the oldest men in the Battalion, aged 47. He had served in the Nottingham Fencibles between 1795 and 1803 before transferring into the 69th. He was discharged in 1816 on reduction of the battalion.
Corporals Bell, Dunleavy and Sweeney were all from Fermanagh. Bell and Sweeney were 27 years old whilst Francis Dunleavy was 24. Wounded at Quatre Bras by a musketball in the chest, Corporal Dunleavy was not tended until 19th June, during which time he stated he had been vomiting a great quantity of blood. He was then subjected to substantial bleeding by the surgeons, 42 ounces being removed from him before 29th June, and 92 ounces over the following six weeks. He was also given saline purgatives and kept on a strict milk diet. It is testament to the resiliance of the man that he survived all this and was sent back to England on 31st August “declaring himself quite as well as ever he had been in his life.”
Private John Stokes was amongst the youngest man in the Company aged only 17. He was from Kidderminster in Worcestershire and had enlisted in 1813. He would go on to serve a total of 23 years, being discharged in 1836.
Private Benjamin Byford was another 17 year old. He was wounded in the left foot and discharged shortly after the battle. He had served only two years but this was his second wound having already been a casualty at Bergen-op Zoom.
Nominal strength - 56 Casualties – 18 (32%)
Private Thomas Harrison was born in Kingscliff, Northants. He enlisted in the 76th Foot in 1797 but the following year was assigned to the Royal Staff Corps with whom he served until 1803. In 1811 he re-enlisted into the 69th Foot and was discharged in 1816 upon reduction of the battalion.
Private John Phillips, from Kingstead, Northampton, was wounded in the left shoulder by a musket ball at Waterloo. He was subsequently discharged the following year, aged 23.
Of the men who lost their lives, Private Alexander Snell was from Woodbridge, Lincolnshire. He was killed at Waterloo. Private Alexander Clinton died of his wounds in July. He was 19 years old.
Nominal strength - 61 Casualties – 35 (57%)
Captain Cuyler was the son of a General. He was promoted to Major in 1817 and transferred to the 38th (1st Staffordshire) Foot in 1822. He died in 1862.
Private Patrick Ford was born in Aughalagher, Fermanagh. He was wounded at Quatre Bras and was still recovering from his wounds in the General Hospital at Brussels at the end of September. He must have recovered not long afterwards as, in December, he was Court Martialled at Ostend for stopping and attacking a chaise and was sentenced to receive 1000 lashes. He was discharged in 1816 still aged only 22.
Private Thomas Murray, a weaver from Armagh, received a musket ball in his left thigh. He was invalided to England and recovered from his wound well enough to continue in service but in 1822, at age 30, recurrance of problems with the wound finally caused his discharge.
Private John Prothero was wounded in both shoulders at Quatre Bras,
sabre slashes being a likely supposition. He was born in the
Private John Whitehead, from Knutsford, Cheshire, was initially listed as missing and was presumed killed. He had, however, been taken prisoner at Quatre Bras and returned to the regiment on the 26th September.
Nominal strength - 61 Casualties – 34 (57%)
Corporal Peter Kehoe was born in Kilkenny and had enlisted in the Regiment in July 1813. he died of his wounds on 2nd August and is listed on the returns of deaths as a Serjeant, so presumably he was promoted whilst dying in hospital, a quite common practise.
Corporal Varlow had served 4 years in the Regiment and was still only 19 years old.
Private Thomas Garner was born in Exton, Rutlandshire in 1782. At Quatre Bras he was wounded in the hip and leg and was discharged in consequence of these wounds in 1816.
Private Timothy Ogle, a Sheffield man, was shot in the leg at Quatre Bras and then, presumably was ridden over by cavalry, as he received four sabre cuts to his back. He survived these wounds and was later transferred into the 80th (Staffordshire Volunteers) Foot with whom he served a further 14 years.
Private John Nelson (probably Neilson) was from Carlscrona in Sweden. He had enlisted in the Regiment in 1814 aged 26. At Quatre Bras he was wounded in the leg, was still in the General Hospital at the end of September, and was subsequently discharged in October 1816.
Private Robert Ellis, a wheelwright from Forfar, was killed at Quatre Bras. He had enlisted in 1811 but deserted between 26th March and 28th May 1812. His Waterloo prize money was given to his widow, Elizabeth.
No. 5 Company (Jenmour’s)
Nominal strength - 42 Casualties – 15 (38%)
Three of the men killed - Barton, Burton and Senty - were from Norfolk. Private Carter was from Surrey and who died of his wounds on 16th July. Private Holeyhan was from Tipperary and was the only man in the 69th to be killed on the 17th June.
Private Joseph Dale was from Stone in Staffs and had enlisted in 1814. In March 1816 he was allowed on furlough – a visit home – and took the opportunity to desert.
Eight men in this Company - Privates Brown, Enos, Farrell, Geddes, Haradine, Peacock, Rareby and Searles – were aged under 20.
Nominal strength - 51 Casualties – 18 (35%)
Captain Hobhouse was absent from the company, serving instead as Orderly officer to Sir Colin Halkett, in which role he was killed.
Private William Baxter, from Little Burstead, Essex, was killed at Quatre Bras. His credit balance of 12s 1¼d was left to Private Richard Baker of this company. Private Baker was illiterate and signed for the money with a cross.
Private Thomas Brinton, from Cromer, Nofolk, was one of the youngest men at Waterloo, not only in the 69th but in the entire British Army. He had enlisted in February 1815 still aged only 15.
Private James Cunningham received wounds to his hands and head at Quatre Bras. From Donaghmore, Down, he had enlisted in 1813. He was discharged in May 1816, aged 22, in consequence of his wounds. Another James Cunningham, a Corporal in No. 8 Company, was also from Donaghmore. He was killed at Quatre Bras.
The men killed in this Company were:
Nominal strength - 52 Casualties – 28 (54%)
The military career of Private Luke McGinnis was a short one. He enlisted on the 24th January 1813, was wounded in the hip by a musketball at Waterloo and was discharged, still aged only 19.
Private Timothy Mulcahy was maimed by the cut of a French cavalry sabre at Quatre Bras. From Tipperary, he had enlisted in 1812 aged 15. He was short, only 5’3”, and illiterate. He was discharged in October 1816 in consequence of the sabre wound, the medical examiner describing an “extensive scar on the scalp and over right eye which is greatly impaired.”
Four of the men in this Company had been in the army for only a matter of months – Privates Warnes and Gallant had enlisted in only February 1815, whilst Privates Burgess and Cobb were even more green, having joined in March.
Five men lost their lives in this Company – Serjeant Samuel Anderson and Private Sharp Preston ad Henry Wright killed in action at Quatre Bras and Serjeant Samuel Lovatt and Private Joseph Sutton dying of wounds.
Nominal strength - 55 Casualties – 23 (42%)
Drummer Richard Chambers was born in Dublin and enlisted in 1806 aged 19. He was discharged 1827 aged 40 and settled at Sudbury where he died in 1845. An obituary in the local paperstated
Private William Moodie was amongst the men cut down at Quatre Bras and received a severe wound to his left hand, perhaps fending off the slash of a French cavalry sabre, and was discharged in 1816, still aged only 21.
Of the 23 casualties Corporals James Cunningham and William Mentin and Privates Thomas Berry, James Clare and Samuel Horton were all killed in action at Quatre Bras. Private Thomas Cooper and John Goodeson died of their wounds in hospital.
Nominal strength - 49 Casualties – 15 (31%)
Captain Cotter later settled in Canada where he served as a Colonel in the militia. He died in 1869.
Serjeant Daniel Polson, from Glasgow, joined the Regiment in 1813 and within a year had risen to Serjeant. He had served in the Holland campaign of 1814 and seen action at Antwerp and Bergen-op Zoom. In 1824 he transferred to the 44th (East Essex) Foot and served with that regiment in the East Indies, fighting in the Burmese wars. He was twice reduced to Private in his long career but on both occasions was soon restored to Serjeant and was discharged in 1837 (due to a cataract of his left eye) as Drum Major, his discharge papers describing him as “a man of very good character”.
Drummer Stephen Gooby was captured at Quatre Bras but returned from being a prisoner of war in the peacetime of September.
Private Thomas Wood was from Stanford, Essex. He was wounded in the thigh at Waterloo but continued to serve in the Regiment until being discharged in 1827 aged 37. He served 7 months as a Serjeant, 3½ years as a Corporal and 10 years as a Private (with which rank he was discharged). In 1862 he became a Chelsea Pensioner.
Even by the youthful standards of this battalion, No. 9 Company was particularly young.
There were five men aged 19 – Nathanial Groves, Jeremiah Halgate, John Harrod, James Ledwick, William McLeod - eight men aged 18 - James Bray, Edward Edwards, John Hewitt, Benjamin Horsford, Edward Lewis, James McGrath, Martin Smith, Mark Stovill - and three17-year-olds - James Hoey, William Landford and William Malpus.
Nominal strength - 59 Casualties – 24 (41%)
Captain Barlow was 24 years old in 1815. At Quatre Bras he, along with many other men, threw himself to the ground to avoid the charging French cavalry and, although he escaped their sabres in this way was badly trampled by the horses’ hooves. Later on the 16th a witness (Colonel Hall) reported seeing him,
Private Thomas Lyon was the newest recruit to the Battalion and had stood in its ranks for little over two months, having enlisted on April 5th 1815. Private Nathanial was another newcomer, having enlisted in February 1815. Both men were wounded in the battle.
Private John Mitchell had previously served in the Royal Artillery from 1798-1802. He enlisted in the 69th in 1812 and at Quatre Bras he was taken prisoner. He returned, wounded, upon the capitulation of the French army and was promoted to Corporal for his troubles.
This Company suffered 8 fatalities – Privates Richard Hammond, Thomas Johnson, John Jones, John Kelly and John Robb were killed at Quatre Bras, Privates James Gordon and William Watkins at Waterloo, and Private Benjamin Booth died of wounds.
Of these eight 5 were English, 2 were Scottish and 1 was Irish.
National Archives WO12 - The Pay Muster Rolls
The complete listing of the British combatants at Quatre Bras and Waterloo has been taken from the regimental muster rolls which are held as part of the National Archive at Kew. The keeping of the musters was the responsibility of the Regimental Paymaster and consisted of quarterly accounts of payments made to each soldier. The muster in which the battle fell covered from March 25th to June 25th although earlier and later rolls have also been consulted. Of particular use and interest is a supplementary roll drawn up after the battle, listing all Waterloo men to be credited with an additional two years’ service. This was done as a form of reward, a soldier’s rate of pay and date of retirement depending on the number of years served. Thus, Waterloo soldiers were given two “free” years. Though the purpose of the muster rolls was a matter of accounting they can often offer up much additional information useful to historians of the campaign;
Within my book the individual Companies (and Troops in cavalry regiments) are listed completely for the first time. This information is also drawn from the muster rolls in which each man is listed primarily by rank and then by alphabetical order with the company/troop number listed in the first column on the page.
The Musters provide details of only the other ranks – from Private up to Serjeant Major, no officer information is included. However, each company’s quarterly payments were signed for by the commanding officer which can show which officer commanded which company (and sometimes which officers were appointed to the command of companies following the casualties of battle).
National Archives WO25 – Lists of Non-effectives
In conjunction with the Pay Musters, the other important series of documents in the compilation of this work has been the regimental lists of non-effectives numbered at Kew as WO25. Compiled on a monthly and quarterly basis, they list all men within the battalion whom, for whatever reason, were no longer with the regiment. Of obvious interest to this project are the long lists of men killed in action and died of wounds, often omitted from the medal roll (see below). However, the lists also include men transferred to other battalions or units, men who deserted or died of natural causes and men invalided back to England being wounded. Furthermore, each man is listed with his company name or number, his place of birth, his occupation when enlisted, how he became non-effective and date, and sometimes details of next of kin, and entitlement to previous prize money e.g. “Peninsula”, “Chesapeake”.
There are occasional amendments made to correct errors – in was not uncommon for men to be listed as killed only for them to re-appear from the dead, returning Lazarus-like from either the hospital in Brussels from where their death had been reported erroneously, or, commonly in September 1815, from captivity as a prisoner of war. Conversely, many men last seen lying wounded by a roadside at Quatre Bras or vanishing into the gunsmoke at Waterloo were never seen again, their deaths not being recorded officially (“Not seen since 18th June – presumed dead”) until as late as January 1816.
As well as providing (fairly!) definitive numbers of dead for each
regiment, the documents also include rare information on officers. Officers
killed are listed on a separate page and instead of the personal information
of the other ranks the record lists only their marital status and how
many children they had (to be taken into account for a compensatory
payment to the next of kin). Traditionally, the personal effects
of an officer killed in the field were auctioned off amongst his brother
high prices paid for trivial items – and the sum raised then
forwarded to the next of kin. W025 documents contain inventories
of such auctions and offer an insight into the eclectic baggage of
an officer on campaign, items including “large writing table” “one
National Archives WO100 - The
Within his despatches to the Duke of York, written within days of the battle, Wellington included the following plea “I would beg leave to suggest to your Royal Highness the expediency of giving the non-commissioned officers and soldiers engaged in the Battle of Waterloo, a Medal.” Thus, Waterloo was to become the first battle in British history for which all ranks were rewarded with a decoration. In addition, as mentioned above, all men were credited with having served an extra two years service, which affected their rates of pay, dates of discharge and pensions.
Unsurprisingly, this riled the many thousands of Peninsula veterans
who were not at
By July 1815, a medal for all ranks had been approved and the Royal Mint settled on a design of victory on one side, with the head of the Prince Regent on the other. The rank, name and regiment of each soldier were to be impressed around the rim. Originally it was intended to be made of bronze but subsequently silver was chosen. In August, each Waterloo regiment was ordered to submit a list of their Waterloo men in order that production of their medals could begin.
The interpretation of this order by each Regimental Adjutant varied greatly; the easiest way for the task to be carried out was to submit a list compiled from the pay musters –that is, the NCOs and drummers, then the Privates, all listed alphabetically. The officers were also listed, in order of seniority. Other Regiments submitted a list broken down into companies, sometimes placing the officers within the companies with which they had served. Others did the same but placed men and officers within the company in which they were serving at the time the list was drawn up (in August or September).
One regiment – the 1st KGL Hussars, presumably unable to believe that the common rank and file were really intended to receive the same medal as gentlemen, submitted a list of only its officers. A few regiments included all its dead on the roll, some only the dead officers, and others none. The 52nd included its dead but in a separate list. Some Adjutants gave additional information - “wounded on 16th”, “since deserted” “died of wounds 23rd July”. Such irregularity was not surprising. With no precedents to follow, the regimental offices were unsure as to what was required of them and much correspondence exists between anxious Adjutants and the Royal Mint and War Office. Paymasters, by nature sticklers for following correct procedure, added their own letters of concern as to the exact meaning of the two extra years service - from when should it be counted, to whom should it be granted and so on.
It had been the Duke of Wellington’s intention that only those units who had seen combat should receive the medal yet this wish was not complied with. The entire reserve force at Hal, who saw no combat, were issued with the medal, an act which was of lasting annoyance to the Duke. In addition some regiments felt it right not to include men absent from the action – whether left in the rear or sick – whilst others included everyone on the campaign at the time. The list submitted by the Adjutant of the 18th Hussars was uniquely detailed in this matter and is of particular interest to this project.
Of 496 men and officers listed on the medal roll 60 are noted to have been either non-combatants or absent. The various reasons given for their absence include:
These 60 men comprise 12% of the total awarded medals. Whether this is representative of other regiments or not cannot be ascertained – it appears doubtful that other regiments included many absent men - but it certainly shows that possession of a Waterloo medal did not always mean a man had actually fought at the battle.
Two units were omitted from the medal roll having incurred the displeasure of the Duke by their conduct in the campaign.
From March 1816 regiments began receiving their quota of medals packed
inside individual presentation boxes with a red and blue ribbon by
which it was attached to the chest.
In addition, many men who were entitled did not receive a medal, either through an error at the Mint or having been omitted from the Adjutant’s original roll. Claims regarding such cases (or misspellings) were still arriving at the Royal Mint in the 1830s. The National Archive holds document WO100, this thick ledger being a compilation of all the lists of Waterloo men submitted by the various regimental Adjutants from which the original 37,000 medals were struck. With all of the omissions and discrepancies listed above it can be seen that this list of names is a very incomplete, uneven and inconclusive document.
National Archives W0 97 - Discharge Documents
The many thousands of documents recording soldiers’ discharges from the army are kept at Kew on microfilm in the WO97 series (also available on a searchable online database). These documents provide a mass of information on individual soldiers: place of birth, enlistment details (date, place, age, profession), details of service, and a description of the soldier’s age and appearance (eye and hair colour, height, complexion) on discharge. It also remarks on the man’s conduct throughout his career, ranging from “a most infamous character” to “exemplary”. There are details of any pension awarded and, occasionally, details of where the man planned to live upon discharge (a travelling allowance was sometimes awarded to see a man and any family to their destination).
Importantly it also tells us why soldiers were discharged. Only a minority were discharged for completing their length of service, the great majority being discharged on medical grounds. The most common reason given was rheumatism, testament to years of sleeping rough in wet conditions, with the less specific catch-all “worn out” in second place. Other common causes were asthma and pulmonary complaints.
Unfortunately, discharge papers exist for only a small percentage of men at Waterloo. The reasons for this are numerous – the record may have been lost, the man may have deserted – but by far the most common explanation is simply that the man did not live to be discharged. This is particularly pertinent to the unfortunate men who survived Waterloo only for their regiment to be subsequently posted overseas to some tropical death-trap rife with disease – namely the 92nd in the West Indies in 1819, the 73rd in Ceylon, and the 69th in India.
In accordance with normal practise, a victory fund was established paying each man a sum of prize money for his part in the battle. Payments were made to the next of kin of men killed in action. The amount paid was fixed according to rank with the amounts subject to variation, it is not clear why – possibly on the basis of length of service – a Private was awarded around £2-10-0, a Serjeant between £18 and £20, a Lieutenant around £35, while the next of kin of a Captain killed in action could receive over £400. The National Archive holds four record books of (often illegible) correspondence regarding the payment of prize money to claimants. Much of the correspondence is taken up by claimants who were ineligible for the money having no connection with the campaign, hundreds of people it seems trying their luck by fraudulently claiming their son/brother/friend was at Waterloo and asking for the money on their behalf! The record books contain over a hundred brusque dismissals of such claims… “…The Regiment you mention in your letter, the 43rd, was not at Waterloo…”……
The “Nominal Strength” given here for each unit is comprised of all men listed as “Waterloo men” on pay musters (and checked against the Supplementary roll and Medal roll), as well as all casualties listed on the WO25 series. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of such names have until now gone undocumented. As mentioned above and discussed in more depth later, this gives a total relevant only to Quatre Bras on the 16th June. The starting strength on the 18th for units involved in Quatre Bras would therefore be much diminished – in some cases by as much as half.
Also as mentioned above, a proportion of all
The offical records tell us only which men belonged to which Company or Troop but, unless supported by futher evidence (e.g. eye-witness accounts), no attempt has been made to assert where these units stood in relation to each other during the fighting.
Public Record Office: WO12/7779 2nd Battalion/69 Foot 1815-1816 Pay musters
Public Record Office WO97 series Royal Hospital Chelsea: Soldiers Service Documents
Public Record Office WO25/1986 2nd Battalion/69 Foot 1815-1816. Casualty return
Guthrie, George James. Commentaries on the Surgery of The War In
Leeke, William. The History of Lord Seaton´s Regiment, at the Battle of Waterloo. Hatchard, 1866. p. 13
Siborne, William. History of The
 The “Nominal Strength” given here for each unit is comprised of all men listed as “Waterloo men” on pay musters (and checked against the Supplementary roll and Medal roll), as well as all casualties listed on the WO25 series.
44 killed , 24 died of wounds, 161 wounded. Captains Hobhouse and Curzon, both killed on staff duty, not included in these figures.
Letter to Silborne from Rudyard of the Royal Artillery.
 KIA = Killed in Action or Died of Wounds
 WIA = Wounded in Action
Guthrie - Commentary on the Surgery of the War in
Absent from Regiment, serving instead as Orderly Officer to Sir Colin Halkett, in which role he was killed.
 Sudbury Post 3 September 1845
Captain Curzon was not with his company, serving instead as a Deputy Assistant Adjutant General, in which role he was killed.
 Leeke, William. The History of Lord Seaton´s Regiment, at the Battle of Waterloo. Hatchard, 1866. P.13
 Including over 7000 men of the KGL and nearly 2000 British troops in reserve at Hal.
 In the 73rd Foot, for example, James Ely and Richard McLaughlin both ran away from the battle. The former was included on the Adjutant’s medal roll whilst the latter was not.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: October 2007
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