Tag Archives: Battle of Waterloo

“Such a desperate action” – two stories from the battlefield

Print of the Battle of Waterloo (1816) [MS 351/6 A4170/5]

There was widespread rejoicing at news of the Battle of Waterloo – the anniversary of which is today – and the conclusion of the war: this was an occasion equivalent to VE or VJ Day at the end of the Second World War. Wellington was lauded as a victor and hero and esteemed as both one of Europe’s leading generals and as its saviour. Heroic depictions of the military exploits appeared, such as the example below representing the death of Lieutenant Colonel Miller of the Guards at the Battle of Waterloo in  J.A. Atkinson’s Incidents of British bravery during the late campaigns on the continent… (Ackermann, London, 1817).

Death of Lieutenant Colonel Miller of the Guards at Waterloo [MS351/6 A4170/2 no 6]

Yet Wellington understood, as he recorded in his official despatch to Lord Bathurst of 19 June 1815, how victory on the battlefield often came at the cost of the loss of many lives: “Your Lordship will observe that such a desperate action could not be fought, and such advantages could not be gained, without great loss; and I am sorry to add that ours has been immense.”

Extracts from the correspondence of two soldiers held in the Special Collections provides an eloquent picture of the realities of life on the front line during the struggle for supremacy in Portugal in 1811 and on the Western Front in the First World War.

Engraving by Bartolomeo Pinelli of the campaign in Portugal, 1810-11

Lieutenant Colonel John Gurwood (1790-1845), who was the editor of  Wellington’s Dispatches, served under the Duke in the Peninsula from 1810. He was wounded at Sabugal, 3 April 1811, and distinguished himself leading the forlorn hopes at the storming of Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo. As a lieutenant of the 52nd Regiment of Foot in 1811, he describes in a letter to his mother of 16 March 1811 the intensity of the action by the British and allied army in expelling the French forces from Portugal during the course of March:

“We have been fighting for the last 4 days. The French retired … on the 6th at one in the morning… On the 11th we drove them through Pombal… On the plain of Redeinha [Redinha] we had 3 off[icer]s and 22 killed and wounded… On the 14th as soon as the fog cleared off… we got into one of the hottest affairs imaginable. We lost 1 officer killed, 3 cap[ains] wounded and a number killed and wounded… On the 15th were at it again…” [MS 321/5]

A career soldier, Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Dudley Samuel, DSO, had served with the Midlands Mounted Rifles in the Boer war. He was appointed a Second Lieutenant in the Third Volunteer Battalion, City of London (Royal Fusiliers) Regiment in December 1902 and served with the London Regiment throughout the First World War, eventually being appointed as commander of the 40th (Jewish) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers in 1918. Dudley Samuel was wounded four times during his service and received mention in despatches. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1917.

Major Frederick Dudley Samuel [MS336 A2097/1]

Major Frederick Dudley Samuel [MS336 A2097/1]

Dudley Samuel was involved in the Battle of Loos (25 September – 8 October 1915). The Artois-Loos Offensive aimed to break through the German Front in Artois. Whilst the British had some initial success north of Loos on the first day, a pause in the attack allowed the German army time to call in reinforcements for the Second position and the British suffered heavy casualties here on 26 September.

On 27 September he wrote to his wife Dorothy that they have come out from the Battle “as usual much depleted” with heavy losses and many killed.

“The Garhwal Brigade was heroic, it is the only word, it has been practically wiped out… Everyone stood to arms at 3.30am Saturday… At about 4.45 the guns started. At 5.50 we exploded an enormous mine the earth shook, a very muffled roar and it looked as if a whole trench went 300 feet in the air, then dense volumes of smoke were released everywhere and the German guns started on us and the Brigade advanced to the attack… Very few of the attackees came back, and I’m afraid all are killed or wounded. Three battalions are practically wiped out…

For us personally it is a great tragedy, so many friends in the Leicesters and Native Regiments gone… Our losses are over fifty, but we can’t tell yet. We of course are fortunate….” [MS336 A2097/5/2]

Part of an envelope, with the mark of the field censor, for a letter from Dudley Samuel to his wife [Ms 336 A2097/8/2/331]

The Battle of Waterloo and the Duke of Wellington were well remembered and received many marks of recognition during the 19th century: a previous blog looks at the battle and the Duke remembered. The Special Collections contains much other material reflecting different aspects of warfare from literary reflections to the service of VADs at the University War Hospital in the First World War.

Look out for further blogs, or why not visit the Archives and Manuscripts to find out more.

In the company of Wellington

On St Patrick’s day we mark the anniversary of the arrival of the Wellington Archive at Southampton in 1983. Since then, the Special Collections has acquired a wide range of material that relates to this archive and we take the opportunity to explore some of these.

Part of Wellington Archive

Part of Wellington Archive

The Wellington Archive [MS61] represents the political, military and official papers of Wellington, so collections that provide a more personal perspective on the Duke are always of interest. Christopher Collins entered Wellington’s service in 1824 and worked as his confidential servant for the remainder of the Duke’s life. Amongst the papers in this collection [MS69] are notes and letters from the Duke issuing instructions about ordering straps with buckles and boots, arrangements for mending razors, for preparations for his room at Walmer Castle and the cleaning and maintenance of uniforms.

Note from Wellington to Collins sending instructions for preparing his room at Walmer Castle, 1838 [MS69/2/15]

Note from Wellington to Collins sending instructions for preparing his room at Walmer Castle, 13 September 1839 [MS69/2/15]: “have some fire in my room; some hot water for tea; and some boiling sea water for my feet”.

Collins kept a notebook listing the Duke’s diamonds, ceremonial collars, field marshal batons and coronation staves, 1842 [MS69/2/1] and amongst the objects in the collection are the blue ribbon of the Order of the Fleece and the red ribbon of the Order of the Bath which belonged to Wellington [MS69/4/11-12].

Red ribbon of the Order of the Bath [MS69/4/11]

Red ribbon of the Order of the Bath [MS69/4/11]

Collins also kept notes on Wellington’s health [MS69/2/3] and the collection includes a number of recipes, such as one for “onion porage” to cure “spasms of the chest and stomach”, 1850, below.

Recipe for "onion porage" [MS69/4/19]

Recipe for “onion porage” [MS69/4/19]

Three letters from Wellington to William Holmes, Tory Whip, in December 1838 [MS272/1 A9231/-3], likewise deal with the Duke’s health and in particular reports in the Morning Post about this. The Duke complained in a letter of 22 December 1838: “If people would only allow me to die and be damned I should not care what the Morning Post thinks proper to publish. But every devil who wants anything writes to enquire how I am.”

A small series of correspondence of Wellington, and Deputy Commissary General William Booth, which is a more recent acquisition, provide some insight into the management of Wellington’s estates at Waterloo, 1832-52 [MS414].

Illustration of the Duke of Wellington [MS351 A4170/9]

Illustration of the Duke of Wellington [MS351 A4170/9]

A number of military archive collections, including some of officers who served with Wellington, now join company with the Wellington Archive at Southampton. Papers of Sir John Malcolm, 1801-16, [MS308] provide important evidence for Wellington in India, at a formative stage of his career, in comparatively informal and personal correspondence with a friend and political colleague; it includes Wellington’s letters written in the field throughout the Assaye campaign. MS321 is composed of seven volumes of guardbooks of correspondence and papers of Lieutenant Colonel John Gurwood, who was editor of Wellington’s General Orders and Dispatches. The collection relates to Gurwood’s military career as well as his editorial work.

Letter from Gurwood to his mother in which he reports he led the "forlorn hope" at Ciudad Rodrigo, 20 January 1812 [MS321/7]

Letter from Gurwood to his mother in which he reports he led the “forlorn hope” at Ciudad Rodrigo, 20 January 1812 [MS321/7]

Sir Robert Hugh Kennedy served as Commissary General of the forces commanded by Wellington in the Iberian Peninsula, with Sir John Bisset serving in Kennedy’s stead in 1812, and their collection of letter books, accounts and other papers cover the period 1793-1830 [MS271], providing evidence of the work of this department during military campaigns over this period. An order book of the general orders of Sir Edward Barnes, Adjutant General of the army in Europe, 10 May 1815 – 18 January 1816, covers the period of the battle of Waterloo and the allied occupation of France [MS289]. And the diary of George Eastlake, recording a visit to northern Spain with Admiral Sir Thomas Byam Martin in September 1813 to discover Wellington’s requirements for naval assistance, provides details of Wellington’s headquarters at Lesaca as well as the army camp at Bidassoa [MS213].

A journal sent by General Francisco Copons y Navia to the Duke of Wellington details the operations undertaken by the Spanish First Army for the period 2-20 June 1813 in relation to those of General Sir John Murray. Murray had landed with a British force at Salou in Catalonia on 3 June and laid siege to Tarragona [MS253].

"Journal du blocure de la place de Barcelonne" [MS360/1]

‘Journal du blocure de la place de Barcelonne’ [MS360/1]

Formerly part of a larger series of documents, Special Collections holds two booklets, signed by F.Mongeur, the Commissaire Ordonnateur for Barcelona, at Perpignan on 3 June 1814, that relate to the administration of Barcelona in 1814. The first, the ‘Journal du blocure de la place de Barcelonne’ has a daily record from 1 February to 3 June 1814 of the French forces [MS360/1]. The succeeding document in the series is a general report, in French, on the administration of the siege of Barcelona by the armée d’Aragon et de Catalogne, between 1 January and 28 May 1814, which gives details of the period of the evacuation of the place, as well as of the food and consumption of foodstuffs and expenditure on supplies during this period. There is a detailed analysis of the composition of the forces, the different corps of troops, companies and detachments making up the garrison at Barcelona [MS360/2].

Signature of Daniel O'Connell, 1815 [MS64/17/2]

Signature of Daniel O’Connell, 1815 [MS64/17/2]

Material relating to politics in the Wellington Archive is paralleled by that within a number of significant other collections at Southampton. The archive of the Parnell family, Barons Congleton [MS64] which contains extensive material relating to Irish politics. Amongst the papers of Sir John Parnell, second Baronet, is material for the Union of Ireland and Great Britain, whilst the papers of the first Baron Congleton include material about Roman Catholic emancipation.

Letter from Daniel O'Connell to Sir Henry Parnell, 13 June 1815 [MS64/17/2]

Letter from Daniel O’Connell to Sir Henry Parnell, 13 June 1815, relating to Catholic emancipation [MS64/17/2]

The Broadlands Archives [MS62] also contain much on British and Irish politics in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as well as papers of two nineteenth-century Prime Ministers in the form of Lords Palmerston and Melbourne. A collection of correspondence between John Wilson Croker and Palmerston for the period 1810-56 [MS273] includes much on political, military and official business. Papers of Wellington’s elder brother, Richard, Marquis Wellesley, include material relating to his tenure as ambassador in Spain, 1809, and as Foreign Secretary, 1809-12 [MS63].

Letter from Simon Bolivar to Lord Wellesley, 22 January 1811 [MS63/9/7]

Letter from Simon Bolivar to Lord Wellesley, 22 January 1811 [MS63/9/7]

Since its arrival in 1983, which also heralded the development of the Archives and Manuscripts as a service, the Wellington Archive has acted as an irresistible draw to other collections to join its company.

To find out more about Wellington, or research that has drawn on the collections held at Southampton, why not join us at this year’s Wellington Congress. Registration is open until the end of March.

Waterloo in the public imagination

It was on this date in 1815 that the first Duke of Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte faced each other on the battlefield for the first and only time.

Hougoumont, Waterloo [MS 351/6 A4170/7/4]

Hougoumont, Waterloo [MS 351/6 A4170/7/4]

The battle was to exert a powerful influence on the public imagination and commemorations and celebrations ranged from the worthy, such as providing support for those wounded or the families of those killed at the battle, to the frivolous, such as souvenir engravings and maps.

Waterloo subscription, 1815 [MS 61 WP1/487/10]

Waterloo subscription: a printed list of subscribers for the
families of soldiers killed and for soldiers wounded at the battle of Waterloo, 21 September 1815 [MS 61 WP1/487/10]

However, what proved particularly popular with the general public were exhibitions of paintings and artefacts connected with the battle. Fascination in Napoleon Bonaparte became even more intense and he was to feature in a number of exhibitions around London: an estimated 10,000 people daily visited a display of his battlefield carriage.

The Waterloo Museum, which was opened in November 1815, was based at 97 Pall Mall, London, in the former Star and Garter Tavern. It was one of a number of establishments set up to meet the insatiable public demand for Waterloo related memorabilia. Staffed by retired soldiers or those ‘gallant young men who were actually deprived of their limbs in that ever-memorable conflict’, this created a sense of authenticity for the Museum and its collection.

The Museum housed an assortment of armour and weaponry and other military items collected from the battlefield, together with paintings, objects and mementoes of the Bonaparte family.

Catalogue of the Waterloo Museum

Catalogue of the Waterloo Museum
(London, 1816) [Rare Books DC241 CAT]

The first room entered was the armoury, which had walls covered with cuirasses, helmets and caps, swords, guns and bayonets all collected from the battlefield. This included the armour in which Napoleon encased his heavy horse to protect it against sword cuts or musket fire. There were two trumpets, one described as so battered that it bore little resemblance to its original shape.

The Grand Saloon housed items belonging to the Bonaparte family together with paintings and other objects. These included a hat and coat worn by Napoleon in Elba, detailed in the catalogue below.

Items in the Grand Saloon of the Wellington Museum

Items in the Grand Saloon of the Wellington Museum

Amongst the paintings was the huge 15 feet by 6 feet Portrait of Napoleon in his coronation robes by Robert Lefévre (1755–1830) produced in 1811 and the 33 inch by 26 inch The Battle of Waterloo by the Flemish artist Constantine Coene(1780–1841). Depicting the battle at dusk, Coene shows Wellington pointing to a distant spot where the smoke of the Prussian cannon is rising in the horizon. He is dressed in a plain manner, unlike the pomp and imperial glory of Napoleon’s coronation robes. At the rear of the army are wounded soldiers and the widow of an artillery man is shown lamenting over her husband.

The Waterloo Museum was one of a number of such institutions that satisfied a general fascination with the battle. When Messrs. Boydell of St James’ Street in London arranged an exhibition of art that included a portrait of Napoleon they were able to charge one shilling admittance, a considerable sum for many workers at that period.

In 1819, Wellington received an account of the enthusiastic reception received by a panorama of the battle created by E.Maaskamp on display in Brussels. [MS 61 WP1/618/19]

Other more formal annual events arose out of a wish to mark the battle, the Waterloo banquet hosted by the Duke of Wellington at Apsley House being one of these. And Apsley House continues to host a Waterloo weekend of events every year.

Remembering Wellington and Waterloo

Waterloo Road, Southampton

Waterloo Road, Southampton

In the aftermath of the battle of Waterloo, both the first Duke of Wellington and the battle were to receive many marks of public recognition. Streets, buildings and public places were named after them. The Percy Histories, published in 1823, identified in London 14 places named after Wellington and 10 sites named after Waterloo. When the first portion of what is now called Regent Street was built in 1815-16, it was called Waterloo Place. One of the new bridges built over the Thames between 1813-19 became Waterloo Bridge. London Waterloo Station was opened  in 1848 by London and South Western Rail as Waterloo Bridge Station.

The Wellington Arms, Southampton

The Wellington Arms, Southampton

Pubs and inns also were given Wellington’s name, including the hastily renamed Hotel Wellington on the battlefield of Waterloo in 1815, and pubs today continue this tradition. Couples in the nineteenth century chose to name their boys Arthur Wellesley in honour of the Duke, just as children were named after Winston Churchill in a wave of patriotic pride in the aftermath of the Second World War.

Fêted as the “saviour of Europe”, Wellington received not only honours and funds granted to him by Parliament to purchase an estate, but was the subject of numerous paintings, statues and monuments, such as the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner in London.

Headed notepaper containing a depiction of the Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, London [MS61 WP2/150/61]

Headed notepaper containing a depiction of the Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, London [MS61 WP2/150/61]

Wellington appeared in many caricatures — up to 5% of the collection at the British Museum, London — 300 paintings and drawings and 180 published engravings. He also appeared on a range of merchandise, everything from tea sets to snuff boxes.  His achievements, usually in the military field, were recorded in other commemorative items, such as the Wellington Alphabet sent to him in 1836.  Starting with Assaye, the Alphabet concludes with the lines:

“W for Wellington and Waterloo! / What boundless praise to that great name is due / Which there subdu’d the proud and stubborn heart / Of that ambitious tyrant Bonaparte, / The peace of Europe thus accomplished / And left no field unwon for X Y Z.”

The Wellington Alphabet, sent to the Duke in 1836 [MS61 WP2/43/90]

The Wellington Alphabet [MS61 WP2/43/90]

While his military image was to be tarnished in his lifetime by periods of unpopularity with the general public, there was a great outpouring of grief at his death in 1852.  Wellington was rediscovered as a great national hero by the early Victorian public and was accorded a state funeral on a lavish scale attended by massive crowds. For a period he was again elevated to the status he had enjoyed in 1815. The Times wrote in his obituary that “He was the very type and model of the Englishman”, whilst Queen Victoria declared him “the GREATEST man this country ever produced”.

The interest in the funeral was great. The funeral issues of The Illustrated London News of 20 and 27 November 1852 sold two million copies. There was hardly enough room for those attending the funeral and the whole of the funeral procession route was thronged with people.  Shops along the Strand rented out their shopfront, roofs or upper stories. For those who were not able to attend there were memorial services held in churches around Great Britain and at 3pm bells began tolling in every parish church across the country.

Duke of Wellington funeral procession from Apsley House, London

Funeral procession of the Duke of Wellington from Apsley House, London: The Illustrated London News

The outpouring of grief, the discussions on Wellington’s greatness and symbolism as a national hero, that surrounded his death and funeral represented the mythologising of the Duke. Ode on the death of the Duke of Wellington by the Poet Laureate, Tennyson, which appeared two days before the funeral, commemorated Wellington as the “greatest Englishman”, “as great on land” as Nelson was a commander at sea and the “foremost captain of his time”. The first edition of 10,000 copies of this were sold at one shilling a piece and sold out very quickly. Other commemorative works produced in this period were to cast Wellington in similar heroic terms – for Thomas Carlyle he was a “Godlike man”.

Funeral procession of the Duke of Wellington, Somerset House

Funeral procession of the Duke of Wellington on the Strand: The Illustrated London News

Whether the names of Wellington and Waterloo resonate in the same way in the twenty first century, their legacy is still very much in evidence today in the towns and cities of the UK and further afield.

If you wanted to discover more about Wellington and Waterloo remembered, why not join the (MOOC) Massive Open Online course relating to Wellington and Waterloo, led by Karen Robson from Special Collections and Professor  Chris Woolgar from Humanities.  To sign up go to: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/wellington-and-waterloo

Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, London

Wellington and Waterloo events – June 2017

Wellington and Waterloo MOOC
Starting on 5 June 2017 there will be a re-run of the free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on the Duke of Wellington and the battle of Waterloo.

Over three weeks, the course will cover events from the French Revolution to the decisive battle that finally defeated Napoleon, the significance of the conflict, the ways in which it changed Europe forever and how the battle and its heroes have been commemorated.

Chris Woolgar and Karen Robson will use the Wellington Archive at the University of Southampton to provide an insight into these momentous events from the early nineteenth century.

For further details and to sign up please visit:
https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/wellington-and-waterloo


Wellington and Waterloo revisited – Special Event
In conjunction with the MOOC, the Special Collections will be holding a Special Event on Saturday 17 June. This will feature a private view of the exhibition Wellington and Waterloo in the Special Collections Exhibition Gallery, a lecture on the Waterloo Despatch, followed by tea and dancing with the Duke of Wellington’s Dancers.

To register and for joining instructions please visit:
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wellington-and-waterloo-revisited-tickets-33522712335

This event it open to everyone. We would be delighted if you could join us!


Wellington and Waterloo exhibition
Special Collections Gallery

The Battle of Waterloo, fought on Sunday 18 June 1815, between allied forces and the French forces commanded by Napoleon, brought to a close more than two decades of conflict. Drawing heavily on the Wellington Archive at the University, this exhibition captures the final act of these wars from the perspective of the Duke of Wellington. It considers the diplomatic background to the military campaign of 1815, the battle itself, its aftermath and the occupation of France and the commemoration of both Wellington and Waterloo. It includes descriptions of the battle in the official reports of Wellington’s commanders, and a poignant letter from Wellington to Lord Aberdeen informing him of the death of his brother Sir Alexander Gordon, one of Wellington’s aides-de-camp. Amongst the items relating to the commemoration of Waterloo and Wellington are the catalogue of the Waterloo Museum, an establishment opened in the immediate aftermath of the battle, exhibiting memorabilia, and a nautilus shell, engraved by C.H.Wood, dating from the 1850s, which contains an image of Wellington on one side and St George on the other.

The exhibition runs from 5 – 23 June during which time the gallery is open weekdays, 10am to 4pm.

For further details visit:
http://www.southampton.ac.uk/archives/news/events/2017/06/05-waterloo-exhibition.page

Napoleon’s empire comes to an end

April 1814 saw the end game of the French Empire under Napoleon Bonaparte, with the abdication of the Emperor and the final military conflicts at Toulouse, Bayonne and Barcelona.

After meeting with his military commanders on 4 April, who urged Napoleon to abdicate, he did so on 6 April. The allies then were faced with the question of what to do with him. They concluded that he needed to be deposed and sent into exile as they feared that any attempt to overthrow him would risk civil war.  As Lord Liverpool, the British Prime Minister noted ‘any peace with Buonaparte will only be a state of preparation for renewed hostilities’. Signed by the allies on 11 April 1814, the Treaty of Fontainebleau set out the conditions of Napoleon’s abdication. In return for his abdication as Emperor of the French, Napoleon was granted the title of Emperor, given the sovereignty of the island of Elba, off the coast of Italy, and granted an annual pension of 2 million francs from the French government.

Cartoon, ‘The journey of a modern hero, to the island of Elba’, by J. Phillips.

Cartoon, ‘The journey of a modern hero, to the island of Elba’, by J. Phillips.

This cartoon, by J. Phillips, was published in May 1814, and shows the disgraced emperor riding backwards on a donkey, a typical pose of humiliation, with his sword broken. The poem makes much of the immorality and consequences of his ambition.

Napoleon: A throne is only made of wood and cover’d with velvet

Donkey: The greatest events in human life is turn’d to a puff

Saddlebags: Materials for the history of my life and exploits. A bagful of Mathematical books for my study on ELBA.

The Journey of a modern Hero, to the Island of ELBA

Farewell my brave soldiers, my eagles adieu; Stung with my ambition, o’er the world ye flew; But deeds of disaster so sad to rehearse, I have lived — fatal truth for to know the reverse. From Moscow. from Lipsic; the case it is clear I was sent back to France with a flea in my ear. A lesson to mortals, regarding my fall; He grasps at a shadow; by grasping at all. My course it is finish’d my race it is run, My career it is ended just where it begun. The Empire of France no more it is mine, Because I can’t keep it I freely resign.

Lithograph of after the battle of Toulouse [MS 351/6 A4170/2]

Lithograph of after the battle of Toulouse [MS 351/6 A4170/2]

Whist the details of the abdication of Napoleon were being finalised in Paris, in the South of France and northern Spain the war continued. News had started to filter through of the defeat of Napoleon at Arcis-sur-Aube and that the House of Bourbon had been proclaimed at Paris, but until these reports were confirmed neither Marshal Soult, the commander of the French forces, nor Wellington as commander of the allied army, could think of suspending their operations. Thus on Easter Sunday, 10 April 1814, the allied forces attacked Soult’s forces holding Toulouse. Although there were subsequent actions at Bayonne on the 14th and Barcelona on the 16th, Toulouse marked the last major battle between the main allied and French armies before the final end of the war. The battle of Toulouse was to inflict heavy losses on the allied forces, with around 4,500 killed. The French retained control of the northern part of the Heights of Calvinet, but recognising that his position as untenable, and concerned that enemy cavalry was moving to cut him off, Soult decided to retreat to Carcassonne and left the city of Toulouse on the 11 April. Jubilant inhabitants invited Wellington to enter the city the following day, where he received news of the abdication of Napoleon that afternoon.

Wellington and Napoleon never faced each other on the battlefield throughout the years of the Napoleonic wars. This was to change in 1815, when they met for the first and only time at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June.

La Chateau et la Ferme d’Hougoumont

La Chateau et la Ferme d’Hougoumont, Waterloo [MS 351/6 A4170/7/4]

A MOOC on the Duke of Wellington and the battle of Waterloo, drawing on the Wellington archive at Southampton, and led by Karen Robson, Head of Archives, and Professor Chris Woolgar of the School of Humanities, will be given a re-run from 5 June 2017. Further details of this three week course will be available shortly.

In conjunction with this MOOC, the Special Collections will be mounting an exhibition in its Special Collections Gallery, 5-23 June, and there will be a Special Event on Saturday 17 June.  This will feature a private view of the exhibition, a lecture on the Waterloo Despatch, followed by tea and dancing with the Duke of Wellington’s Dancers.  For further details and to book for the event please go to: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wellington-and-waterloo-revisited-tickets-33522712335

We hope that you can join us on 17 June.

Waterloo & MS 300: Peninsular War papers of S.G.P. Ward

Last year’s celebrations for the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo saw many commemorative events to mark the famous Allied victory of 18th June 1815. Conferences, lectures and new publications continued the historical debate on the history and significance of the Peninsular War. Waterloo has exerted a powerful influence on the public imagination for over 200 years – many contemporaries visited the battlefield as tourists, recording their experiences in works of art and literature. Souvenir engravings and maps, and exhibitions of paintings and artefacts relating to the battle, were popular at the time:

Chateau of Hougoumont

‘An entrance to the Chateau of Hougoumont: “It was here that the great battle of the 18th began…. the house was set fire to… and all the wounded perished in the flames.”’

The Barn at La Haye Sainte

‘The Barn at La Haye Sainte: “It was in this extensive building that more than 500 hundred limbs were amputated – what hospital of contemporary establishment can vie with it.”’

MS 300 A4011/16/2: sketches by Robert Hills of the ‘important scenes of action about the plains of Waterloo’, c. July 1815, published in The Illustrated London News, December 1945

These sketches are part of a series drawn by Robert Hills a few weeks after the battle. Note the slightly sensational captions which he has added to the scenes!

The Hill sketches were published in the Christmas 1945 edition of The Illustrated London News. A copy can be found in MS 300, the Peninsular War papers of Stephen George Peregrine Ward, military historian. These were donated to the University of Southampton along with his notable Peninsular War library. It is no coincidence that there was renewed interest in the study of the Napoleonic Wars in the post-WWII era: Mr Ward had served in Western Command during the Second World War, during which time he was introduced to the administrative problems of running a general staff and to the Murray papers in the National Library of Scotland. This, together with the acquisition of many of the Peninsular War items from the library of Sir Charles Oman, c. 1946, was the genesis of Ward’s work on the Peninsula, leading to his Oxford B.Litt. thesis, published as Wellington’s headquarters: a study of the administrative problems in the Peninsula, 1809-1814 (Oxford, 1957) and Wellington, (London, 1963).

Sir George Murray

Sir George Murray

MS 300 A4011/15/8ix: an engraving of Rt. Hon. Gen. Sir George Murray G.C.B., F.R.S., painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence, engraved by H.Meyer, published by Fisher, Son & Co., (London 1831)

We have recently catalogued an additional deposit of S.G.P. Ward’s papers held in the Special Collections at the University of Southampton. MS 300 A4011 includes a copy of his B.Litt. thesis and a number of his publications, articles and lectures. Ward was working on a biography of Major General Sir George Murray, Wellington’s Quartermaster General in the Peninsula. The work remained unfinished at his death, but Ward’s typescript draft – which includes complete chapters – as well as many of his research notes, form a valuable resource for historians. An acknowledged expert, Ward wrote the Oxford D.N.B. entry for Sir George Murray – which is current today.

Another useful part of this collection is the large number of photographic prints of portraits and paintings – both of Murray and his family, as well as of generals and military figures of different nationalities – from the Napoleonic period.

Ward acquired original manuscript material as well as copies and transcripts of archive sources relating to the Peninsular War. An unusual example is the Commissariat papers of Henry Whitmarsh c. 1812-14, (MS 351/7 A4237). These shed light on the logistical problems involved in moving large numbers of cattle between army depots in the Iberian Peninsula – essential for the maintenance of Wellington’s army. We learn that Henry had expected promotion, but was disappointed, and he complains that many gentlemen were obliged to return to England for their promotion.

In ‘Notes by Brigadier General Pack respecting Almeida’ (MS 351/9 A4242) we read a first-hand account of Brigadier General Sir Denis Pack’s experiences in the Peninsula in April and May 1811. The notes were enclosed in a letter to a friend dated 22 May 1811 and both are full of interesting detail. Pack’s Portuguese brigade, under the orders of Major General Campbell, was to support the blockade of the French garrison at Almeida: “On the 3rd [May] about 2 o’clock a.m. I received orders to relieve all the picquets of [Campbell’s] division with my brigade to which, with the addition of an English battalion (the Queen’s 400 strong) and 2 guns, I was informed the blockade was intrusted under my direction. A more distressingly anxious command I never had – Massena’s first attack on Lord Wellington’s lines (distant about 5 miles) commenced at 10 o’clock that day. The garrison almost immediately became emboldened, stronger picquets than usual were sent out from it; frequent skirmishes ensued and signals were distinctly made by rockets, guns, and lights, which were answered by the enemy’s army or from Ciudad Rodrigo.” When the French garrison escaped, Pack and his picquets pursued them all the way to the bridge over the River Aguedo at Barba de Puerco. General Campbell and his men arrived “most critically at the moment [the enemy] was making good his retreat across the Agueda – ten minutes sooner would have placed him in safety – ten minutes later, and his destruction would have been inevitable; as it was in killed, wounded, drowned and prisoners I should imagine he lost nearly half his men.”

To find out more, why not visit the Archives and Manuscripts to view the manuscript collections.

“Napoleon’s Farewell” by Lord Byron

The Special Collections holds a manuscript copy, in the hand of Jane Austen, of Lord Byron’s poem “Napoleon’s Farewell”, c.1815: a dramatic monologue in three stanzas in the character of Bonaparte.

Byron’s poem, likely written on 25 July, was first published in The Examiner on 30 July 1815 and subsequently appeared in his Poems (1816) where it formed part of a group of poems “From the French” which ranged between condemning Napoleon and praising his bravery.

Extract from Byron's poem "Napoleon's Farewell" in the hand of Jane Austen, c.1815 (MS 8)

Extract from Byron’s poem “Napoleon’s Farewell” in the hand of Jane Austen, c.1815 (MS 8)

For Byron, Napoleon was the epitome of the Romantic hero, the persecuted, lonely, and flawed genius and it is believed he considered Napoleon a foil for his own complex personality.  Jane Austen shared a fascination with Napoleon and even contemplated writing his history. In the spring of 1816 Byron left England in a cloud of scandal and debt, never to return. As he journeyed to Switzerland he visited the field of Waterloo as a tourist. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Byron saw the outcome of the battle as a tragedy rather than a victory and it was to have a significant influence on the third canto of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage.

Austen’s version of “Napoleon’s Farewell”, which differs from Byron’s original, seems to have been written from memory, and was produced in 1815 or 1816 while she was writing Persuasion.  References to contemporary literature in Persuasion include those to the poetry of Byron.

Some changes are small, for example, she switches “name” and “fame” at the ends of the second and fourth lines.  Interestingly, in Byron’s original, Napoleon bids farewell to the land where, not the “bloom”, as penned by Austen, but the “gloom” of his glory rose.

The third stanza contains the most differences.  Napoleon asks to be remembered again in France when “Liberty” – rather than victory – rallies and he does not “vanquish the foes” but rather “baffle[s] the hosts” that surround them.  The most significant difference is the third line from the end:  the line in Byron’s original is “And yet may thy heart leap awake to my voice”.

1.
Farewell to the land, where the bloom of my glory
Arose, & o’ershadowed the Earth with her fame
She abandons me now, but the page of her story
The brightest or blackest is filled with my name.
I have warred with a world which vanquish’d me only
When the meteor of conquest allured me too far,
I have coped with the Nations which dread me thus lonely
The last single captive, to millions in war.

2.
Farewell to thee France! When thy Diadem crown’d me
I made thee the gem & the wonder of Earth,
Thy weakness decrees I should leave as I found thee
Decayed in thy glory and sunk in thy worth.
O! for the veteran hearts which were wasted
In strife with the storm, when their battles were won,
Then the Eagle whose gaze in that moment was blasted
Had still soared with eyes fix’d on Victory’s sun

3.
Farewell to thee France! But when victory rallies
Once more in thy regions, remember me then;
The violet grows in the depth of thy valleys,
Tho wither’d – thy tears will unfold it again.
Once more I may vanquish the foes that surround us,
Once more shall they heartless awake to my voice.
There are links that must break in the chain that has bound us,
Then turn thee and call on the chief of thy choice.

[MS 8 AO174]

Commemorating Samuel Whitbread, 1758-1815

In this week’s blog post Professor Emma Clery of the Faculty of English discusses an unsung hero of the war with Napoleon.

‘I deny the insane proposition that peace is more dangerous than war’: Commemorating Samuel Whitbread, 1758-1815
In all the buzz surrounding the bicentenary of the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, no mention has been made of the existence of a peace movement in Britain during the long years of war with France. For several years I’ve been exploring the context of the great anti-war poem Eighteen Hundred and Eleven by Anna Letitia Barbauld, a writer well-known in her day. Before I began this research, I confess I wondered what the objection to the war could be, other than moral opposition to all warfare. Napoleon was generally seen by the British as a tyrant with an insatiable appetite for conquest, who must be resisted, right?

WP1/464/29 Copy of a letter from Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, to William Wellesley-Pole, concerning Mr. Whitbread’s attack on him in Parliament in connection with Napoleon being declared an outlaw, 5 May 1815

WP1/464/29 Copy of a letter from Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington, to William Wellesley-Pole, concerning Mr. Whitbread’s attack on him in Parliament in connection with Napoleon being declared an outlaw, 5 May 1815

But no. There was organised opposition to the war, and a lot of the leadership came from well-educated, prosperous and socially respectable Dissenters, many of them Unitarians like Barbauld. Their arguments were moral and religious, but also pragmatic, economic and political. They judged that Napoleon’s desire for war with Britain had been exaggerated, and condemned the unwillingness of government to listen to diplomatic approaches from France and her allies. They pointed out that ministers and officials were profiting from the war, and had an interest in prolonging it. At various points in the period 1793 to 1815 they saw opportunities for an honourable negotiated peace with Napoleon and launched nation-wide petition campaigns to put pressure on the war establishment. The peace of Amiens, which lasted for 18 months from 1802-1803, had been very popular. In the years 1808 and 1812 in particular, there seemed to be an opening for new peace negotiations.

During the war years the Whig party, the official opposition in Parliament, was lacking in direction and effectiveness. Their policy on the war wavered. Their long-standing leader Charles James Fox favoured peace, but he only gained power briefly during a coalition government immediately before his death in 1806, and no progress was made. His successors, Lord Holland and Earl Grey, gradually came round to luke-warm backing for the war. The anti-war cause was instead taken up in the House of Commons by radical Whigs, first among them Samuel Whitbread. He was brother-in-law to Grey, but came from a non-aristocratic background. He was the son of a wealthy brewer, and was never allowed to forget these lowly origins in trade by political opponents and by satirists.

Everyone has heard of Nelson and Wellington, but Whitbread is an unsung hero of the war with France. There’s been no proper assessment of this prominent figure on the British political scene since Dean Rapp’s 1970 PhD thesis was published as a book in 1987. I stumbled upon Whitbread’s speeches and activities almost by accident, and it struck me that there was something truly heroic about his dauntless championing of a variety of apparently lost causes, but especially his consistent support for the cause of negotiated peace. There is also something poignant about his death less than three weeks after Waterloo. I didn’t want this anniversary to pass without suggesting a couple of avenues for re-evaluation.

Although Whitbread represented a significant and influential tranche of public opinion at the time, he was marginalised by political opponents and even by members of his own party, and his predictions of disaster were mocked in the Loyalist press. This kind of belittling treatment has continued to the present day, with supposedly objective reference sources like Charles Arnold-Baker’s The Companion to British History and the article by D.R. Fisher on Whitbread in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography in fact launching bizarre personal attacks on him. This rubbishing of Whitbread goes hand in hand with an uncritical acceptance that the war against Napoleon was unavoidable and British victory was inevitable.

But the trend among the best new histories of Britain’s war against Napoleon, for instance works by Charles Esdaile and Rory Muir, is to take a more nuanced and questioning approach. It’s not unusual to be told nowadays that the British war effort appeared to be doomed up to 1811, or even until early 1813. Although Whitbread’s nay-saying hasn’t yet been given its due, it’s surely only a matter of time before a revisionist account of diplomatic relations backs some of his arguments. The memorable words, ‘I deny the insane proposition that peace is more dangerous than war,’ can be found in an impassioned but closely-argued speech which he delivered in the Commons on the 29th February 1808, criticising the rejection by the Tory government of peace overtures from Russia and Austria. The speech take up 50 columns in printed version records of parliamentary debates, and can be accessed online at
http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1808/feb/29/mediation-of-russia-and-austria.

Another point arises from Roger Knight’s recent Britain Against Napoleon: The Organization of Victory 1793-1815. The title may seem teleological, as if victory was a foregone conclusion. But actually the conclusions are far more circumspect. Knight goes so far as to argue that possibly the greatest advantage Britain enjoyed seemed to be a weakness: its parliamentary system of government. Napoleon could impose his will without opposition, but, Knight says, ‘while Napoleon had the advantages of continuity and speed of decision, he eventually lost a sense of reality’ (p. 464). The logical consequence of Knight’s argument is that the energetic radical wing of the Whig opposition, the Mountain led by Samuel Whitbread, inadvertently helped in this process of honing the government into a mean and lean fighting machine. By this token even the most hawkish can join in celebrating Whitbread’s contribution.

Whitbread welcomed both the short-lived end of hostilities in 1814, and the victory at Waterloo the following year. But on the 17th June 1815, the day before the battle was fought, he stated in the Commons that, ‘Neither the events of victory or defeat could alter the principle of the war, and his opposition remained unchanged upon that subject’. His view remained that the millions of casualties and the terrible sufferings of soldiers and civilians in the Napoleonic war had been avoidable. On the 5th of July 1815 he committed suicide, aged 57. Speculation about the motive has focused on signs that he was suffering from a mental disturbance at the time, possibly relating to financial difficulties. But there is no doubt that the displays of nationalist triumphalism must have deepened his sense of despair. He would have shared the feeling that Anna Letitia Barbauld described when writing to a friend after the bloodbath at Talavera, Spain, in 1810, from which Wellington emerged as victor:

…I do not know how to rejoice at this victory, splendid as it is, over Buonaparte, when I consider the horrible waste of life, the mass of misery, which such gigantic combats must occasion.

E.J. Clery, University of Southampton

Further Reading:

J.E. Cookson, The Friends of Peace: Anti-War Liberalism in England 1793-1815 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

Roger Fulford, Samuel Whitbread, 1764-1815: A Study in Opposition (London, Macmillan, 1967).

William McCarthy, Anna Letitia Barbauld: Voice of the Enlightenment (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008).

Dean Rapp, Samuel Whitbread (1764-1815): A Social and Political Study (New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1987.

The road to Waterloo: Week 18 (22 – 28 June 2015)

The road from Waterloo: Napoleon abdicates
Following his defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon chose to return to Paris on the afternoon of 21 June, instead of remaining on the battlefield with his shattered army.

4 days from Waterloo

On his return he found that he was no longer supported by either the legislature or the people.  The following day, 22 June, he abdicated in favour of his son Napoleon II, who was four years old.  The newly established Provisional Government proclaimed this fact to the French nation and the world and sent ministers to the Allied Powers to treat for peace.

The Battle of Waterloo has achieved status in the English language and is an idiom for a decisive and final contest.  However, affairs were not quite so clear cut in the days following the battle.  On 24 June, Wellington wrote to Prince Frederick of the Netherlands requesting that he take no notice of the news of Bonaparte’s abdication. [MS 61 Wellington Papers 1/471/29]

Both Wellington and Blucher feared Napoleon’s actions may be a trick – or at the very least they did not satisfy the requirements set out by the Allies in the treaty of 25th March.  Consequently they chose not to discontinue operations until they had achieved their aim of placing Napoleon “in a situation in which he will no longer have it in his power to disturb the peace of the world”. [MS 61 Wellington Papers 1/471/31]