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The nearest run thing you ever saw: the Battle of Waterloo

An account of the battle

Typescript transcript of an eyewitness account of the Battle of Waterloo by Charles William Short, an officer in the Coldstream GuardsTypescript transcript of an eyewitness account of the Battle of WaterlooIn this transcript of a letter sent by Charles William Short, an officer in the Coldstream Guards, to his mother a few days after the battle, the vicissitudes and experiences of the soldiers and officers who fought at the battle are relayed.

Short initially describes the night before the battle, where hungry, wet and in open ground, ‘we had only one fire and you cannot conceive the state we were in’. However some solace is found when ‘soon after daylight (18th June) the Commissary sent up with the greatest difficulty some gin and we found an old cask full of wet rye leaves [loaves?] which we breakfasted upon. Everybody was in high spirits.’

After being forced back into the wood in the grounds of Château Hougoumont by a French attack, Short is uncomplimentary about the Belgian light troops he had been stationed with, who were quick to leave the battlefield to carry their wounded out, thus leaving the ‘chief of the work … for our men.’

He describes how his fellow officers were severely injured by cannon-balls with many losing limbs and how, when the farm house was set on fire, ‘several wounded men were roasted to death’. In the same battle, when the gates of the Château were shut on French troops who had stormed the compound, those French left inside were all killed, bar a young drummer boy.

This fierce battle which ‘kept up all day’ is remembered as one of the defining actions of the Battle of Waterloo and an annual commemoration of the Coldstream Guards’ brave action at Hougoumont is still celebrated.

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