East Lothian men at Waterloo (II)
A page to mark the Bi-centenary of The Battle of Waterloo and to record the service of East Lothian men at Waterloo.
On the 8th May 2015, the world celebrated the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe. It was on 18th June 1815, near Waterloo in present-day Belgium (but then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands) that the Battle of Waterloo took place, bringing an end to Napoleon Bonaparte’s reign as Emperor of France.
The first of our Waterloo pages featured some enlisted men that served with the 1st Foot Guards (renamed the Grenadier Guards as a result of the battle). We decided to use our resources (such as the sequence of published East Lothian monumental inscriptions, the Haddingtonshire Courier, and works in our reference collection) to broaden the scope of our knowledge. A further online source corroborated and extended what we had discovered.
It turns out that East Lothian was rather well represented in the officer corps of the Army at Waterloo. Many of the landed and upper-class families of East Lothian had a long tradition of military service. This is reflected by officers serving in the infantry, cavalry and artillery who demonstrate some East Lothian connection – by residence, by birth or by near descent. Some of their stories follow. Inveresk (then in Midlothian) is particularly well represented:
Captain Robert Vernor of the Scots Greys was a Musselburgh man. An ancestor had served as Town Clerk in the previous century and the family plot in Inveresk kirkyard records:
Major Robert Vernor, late of the Scots Greys, in which distinguished corps he served upwards of thirty years. Died 10th August 1827,aged 64 years.
Which means Robert was 52 at the time of the battle! The Greys had a torrid time of it. They were reduced to an understrength troop by the end of the day. Robert was himself wounded, by the same shot that that killed his horse (it carried on to wound him in the shoulder). He commanded the squadron that included Sergeant Ewart who, during a charge, seized and carried away a French Eagle standard. After the battle Ewart was promoted Ensign. His successor as sergeant was John Dickson, who lived to the age of ninety (then last survivor of the Scots Greys’ veterans). John was born in Paisley and retired to Crail, in Fife, but was also known to have had close family connections to East Lothian – relatives (perhaps descendants?) were tenants of the earls of Wemyss & March.
Also buried at Inveresk were Lieutenant John Home (died April 13, 1849 at the age of 72), Deputy Assistant Commissary General James Paterson (died on Christmas Day 1854, aged 73 years), and Major William Norman Ramsay, who died during the battle.
John Home was the Paymaster of the 42nd Royal Highlanders (much better known as the Black Watch) between the years 1795 and 1820. He served with his regiment wherever they were sent and accumulated a host of awards. He had the Sultan’s gold medal for Egypt (serving under the Scots’ general Abercrombie in 1801) and the Peninsular war medal with seven clasps: Corunna, Salamanca, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, Orthes, and Toulouse). As a footnote, the same memorial in Inveresk Kirkyard also reveals that the Black Watch really was a family regiment. John married Joan Stirling whose brother James Stirling was a captain in the Black Watch (who, after a brief but not inglorious military career, departed this life 20th January 1818, aged 25 years and three months) but who does not appear to have served at Waterloo. The Stirling siblings’ father was also in the regiment in the same period. He was Major General James Stirling of Eskbank. His memorial sums up a distinguished career:
Sacred to the memory of Major-General James Stirling, Lieutenant-Governor of Cork, and for forty-two years an officer in the 42d Royal Highlanders. With a wing of that national corps he annihilated the French Invincibles in Egypt, and took their standard with his own hand. He commanded that regiment through the Peninsular war, and after twenty-seven years of foreign service he retired in 1813 into private life, where, cultivating the virtues which adorn the Christian character, he died, full of years and honours, at his villa of Eskbank, 12th December 1834. His remains, borne hither by his veteran companions in arms, are here interred.
James Paterson served in the Commissary Department – the essential ‘providers’ of the fighting forces being responsible for the supply (of food, fuel, forage and accommodation) and logistics of the army in the field. James had trained as a cooper in Musselburgh but during his military service he went to Egypt, the Peninsula, and Waterloo. In quiet moments he puzzled away at the possibility of devising a machine that would be capable of ‘knitting’ nets for fishing. When he retired from the army his plans were advanced enough to begin experimenting. The result was the first practical net-loom. It is likely he had secured the means to fund the experiments during his military work – the commissary department had a certain reputation! He took a patent on his new loom and built a successful business at Bridge Street, Musselburgh. In 1849 J & W Stuart acquired both the business and the patent rights and built upon James’ success: the business continues to the present day.
Major William Norman Ramsay was one of the most promising artillery officers of the period. By the time of Waterloo he was in command of his own troop, having served already in the Peninsular wars. At Waterloo, Ramsay’s guns, H Troop Royal Horse Artillery, were heavily involved and Ramsay died on the field. He was first buried where he fell but his men later disinterred his body and repatriated it to Inveresk (a memorial remained on the battlefield) where he is buried under a substantial monument (illustrated above). His father, Captain David Ramsay RN, mourned the loss of three serving sons in the space of just eight months: David junior and John, both lieutenants in the Royal Navy, died on service in July and May, respectively. One of Captain David’s appointments was to Leith where he was in charge of organising the local Press-gang, of ill-repute.
At Tusculum, his retirement villa in Musselburgh, Colonel Thomas Macniven, late of the 42nd Highlanders the Black Watch, died on 21 December 1877. He had spent his retirement painting but as a youth had served with his regiment at the Battle of Toulouse. Ensign Macniven was amongst the wounded at that battle, so missing Waterloo later in the year. Also of the 42nd, Captain Donald Macdonald, who was wounded during the battle, died at Musselburgh, 1865.
Moving away from Inveresk to the south-west corner of East Lothian, Lieutenant George Home Falconar of Woodcot (now Woodcote Park) and the Scots Greys was also at the battle. Placed at first with the regiment’s baggage train left at Brussels his name appears on the muster roll taken after the battle as the only surviving officer in the (late) Captain Barnard’s Troop. He died at home during 1820.
The kirkyard of Dunbar holds the burying place of the Andersons of Winterfield. Two sons of the family served at Waterloo. Robert Anderson, the elder, was a captain in the 91st Foot (Argyllshire Highlanders). He survived to command his regiment, being promoted lieutenant colonel in 1831. His younger brother William Cochrane Anderson served with the Royal Artillery. He was a lieutenant in Bolton’s Brigade; towards the end of the battle Bolton was killed and his successor badly wounded but on the direct orders of Wellington the battery fired a salvo of grape and canister into the advancing Imperial Guard – Napoleon’s last gambit – which did terrible execution amongst their devoted ranks. William survived and advanced to the rank of Major-general; he died at Edinburgh on 30 August 1865 and his body was afforded a military escort to the train that took the party to Dunbar. On the 200th anniversary of the battle the Royal Artillery marked the occasion with a service and wreath-laying at the graveside.
Others recorded are:
Captain William Frederick Brown(e), of the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons, severely wounded (reputedly 14 times) at the battle but survived. He left the army in 1819 to retire to Cross Street, North Berwick (his wife, Margaret, was from East Lothian). As a founding member of North Berwick Golf Club, he lived out his life on the links (often accompanied by old comrades such as Sir David Baird). He died in the burgh on 10 March 1842 at the age of 56.
The 18 year old Alexander Hay of Nunraw, Cornet, 16thLight Dragoons who fell gloriously in the memorable Battle of Waterloo. His family’s main lands were in Berwickshire, but his title reflects their East Lothian roots and possessions.
Lt Colonel Hon Sir Alexander William Gordon, of the 3rd Foot Guards, killed during the battle. It was told that when Wellington was roused from sleep by Dr. Hume early on the morning after Waterloo and told that Gordon had died from the effect of his wounds, he burst into tears. Alexander’s mother was Charlotte Baird of Newbyth (north of East Linton). Gordon’s cousin, the 20 year old David Baird, was an Ensign in the 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Regiment of Foot Guards. He was badly wounded, a musket-ball passing through his body to lodge in his neck. David survived to inherit a baronetcy from his famous uncle General Sir David Baird, and retired to Newbyth. He established himself in golfing circles, both on the national scene and at North Berwick in particular. However, he died after breaking a leg while fox-hunting in 1852.
His uncle, the first Sir David Baird established his military career with the army in India. In 1801 he commanded the Indian Forces assigned to assist General Abercromby in Egypt. Then he served at Copenhagen and was second-in-command to Sir John Moore in Spain. His arm was shattered during the Battle of Corunna just after he had taken command British Forces engaged (Moore had been fatally wounded). The wound ended his active career and he died in 1829. The third man to command at Corunna was another Scot with East Lothian connections: General John Hope (later Lord Niddry and then 4th Earl of Hopetoun). John took a commission in the 10th Light Dragoons in 1784 but had become a Deputy Adjutant-general with the Anglo-Russian forces in the Netherlands by 1799. In 1810 he was sent to join the army in Egypt. He was in Spain in 1809, initially third in command but as senior surviving officer after Moore & Baird fell he concluded the battle and oversaw the evacuation of the army. Aboard ship waiting to receive the retreating British was one Lieutenant Basil Hall: his sister features later in the war.
Returning to John Hope, after administrative appointments, he commanded the First Division in Wellington’s army in the south of France. James Miller notes that:
The close of the campaign was marked by one unfortunate event. In a sortie which the French made from Bayonne, the picquets of the British were driven in, and General Sir John Hope (afterwards Earl of Hopetoun) was made prisoner.
As earl of Hopetoun he inherited land in East Lothian (although the family’s seat was in West Lothian. In 1824 a monument was built on Byres Hill in his memory. The inscription reads:
This monument was erected to the memory of the Great and Good John, Fourth Earl of Hopetoun by his affectionate and grateful tenantry in East Lothian. MDCCCXXIV
Another general officer with Wellington in Spain and France had strong East Lothian links. The 9th earl of Dalhousie, General George Ramsay had served in the Americas, Europe and Egypt before taking command of Wellington’s 7th Division. General George was well known in East Lothian and married Christian Broun of Colstoun. He later served in Canada, where his service is well-remembered.
Charles Cadell, a son of John Cadell of Cockenzie & Tranent, was a captain in the 28th Foot and, by the end of the day of Waterloo, found himself in command of the battalion after all his superior officers had been killed or wounded. He afterwards published a Narrative of the Campaigns of the 28th Regiment since their return from Egypt. Charles died around 1866 in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel on the retired list.
This short account is by no means exhaustive. It highlights just a few of the men of and connected to East Lothian that served at the Battle of Waterloo. More remain to be discovered and other men with ancient East Lothian surnames (albeit having more distant actual connections to county) were also at the battle: Hepburns, Keiths, Elphinstones & Dalrymples among them.
It has been much easier to trace the career of well-connected officers rather than rank and file: for every officer there would have been many ordinary soldiers. Their tales are mostly missing, probably beyond recall. But we would be delighted to hear if your East Lothian ancestor was at Waterloo or served in the army and navy at that time. If you have a family story to tell, or a name to point us in the right direction, we would love to add such details to our account. So please, contact us.