As evening approached on June 18, 1815, the Allied forces were repelling the attack of the French Imperial Garde in the center and the Prussian forces had arrived from the east.

The Prussians attack Plancenoit by German painter Adolph Northen (1828-1876)

The arrival of the Prussians was timely indeed.  The Prussians took the hamlet of Plancenoit and soon, the French forces were fleeing in disarray, leaving equipment and wounded behind in their haste. 

Napoleon at Waterloo
by Charles de Steuben, (1788-1856)

Meeting of Wellington and Blücher
detail of mural in Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) 
by Irish Artist Daniel Maclise (1806-1870), completed 1858

Late in the evening after the battle, Blücher and Wellington met at the inn La Belle Alliance and shook hands. In a great ironic twist, the two victorious generals spoke in the language of their enemy – the only language they both knew was French, though Blücher supposedly only knew a few words:  “Mon Dieu, quelle affaire!”

Royal Gallery, Palace of Westminster, London

They decided Wellington’s troops should rest up, bury the dead, and then come toward France. The Prussians, relatively fresh, would pursue the French army.The two victorious generals met and agreed the Prussians woould continue to pursue the French troops south toward France. The Allied troops would bury the dead, treat the wounded, rest up and catch up soon. Neither man probably realized that for the most part, Napoleon was finished and they would be taking over Paris in weeks.

Prussians Capture Napoleon’s Carriage

In the evening of the 18th, Prussian troops captured Napoleon’s carriage which he had to abandon and flee on horseback. Later the carriage was displayed in London where it was a famous attraction; it later was part of Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, but was destroyed in a fire there in 1925.

Thomas Rowlandson’s 1816 version of the display at Bullock’s Museum

Though the battle had been won and the Prussian troops were chasing the remnants of Napoleon’s armies south toward France, more battles were expected in the coming days.
Perhaps no one would have predicted it was, for all practical purposes, over – or would be in a couple of weeks. There was resistance and further fighting, but it was minimal, on a Napoleonic scale, that is.

Wellington crosses the battlefield

The Duke of Wellington rode through the carnage back to his headquarters in the village of Waterloo where he would write his despatch to Lord Bathurst in London declaring victory. Later the Duke of Wellington said,  “I hope to God I have fought my last battle…I am wretched even at the moment of victory, and I always say that next to a battle lost, the greatest misery is a battle gained.”

Waterloo by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 – 1851)

This painting by Turner was created after he toured the battlefield and sketched the scene. It emphasizes the tragedy of so many deaths, so many lost forever. It was the first battle in which Napoleon faced Wellington, and for both men, indeed their last military battle. The Battle of Waterloo left 9,500 dead; 32,000 wounded.

Battle of Waterloo by Irish painter William Sadler II (1782-1839)

The Morning After the Battle by John Heaviside Clark
On the battlefield, there were tens of thousands of dead and dying men and horses. Thieves crept among the bodies, robbing them of anything valuable.  Parties of soldiers collected the wounded and took them to field hospitals. The dead were buried, sometimes in mass graves. The army surgeons were exhausted having spent the battle  and the night tending the injured.

Fitzroy Somerset, later 1st Baron Raglan, by William Salter

One of Wellington’s ADCs, Fitzroy Somerset (1788-1855), had his right arm amputated.  Before they carried off the arm, he demanded to have the ring his wife (one of the Duke’s nieces) had given him removed from the lost hand. He learned to write with his left hand and was a secretary to Wellington for many years. He was named 1st Baron Raglan in 1852 and led the British Army in the Crimean War. He died before the Allied victory at Sevastopol was complete, partly of depression over criticism of his conduct of the war.

General Henry Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey, 1815
by artist Peter Edward Stroehling (1768-1826)

Another famous Waterloo amputation was Paget’s leg.  Henry Paget, Earl of Uxbridge (soon to be Marquess of Anglesey), commanded the cavalry at Waterloo. He was seated on his horse talking to Wellington near the conclusion of the battle when his leg was shattered by a cannon shot. He said, “By God, sir, I’ve lost my leg.  The Duke said, “By God, sir, so you have!” 

Surgical Saw and bloodied glove from Waterloo

Surgical Instruments

Artificial leg of Marquess of Anglesey
Waterloo Teeth 

for more relics from Waterloo 200, click here

One of the gruesome aspects was the collection of the teeth. It was done after every battle in those days, as the teeth were valuable and much better than most false teeth – for many years, dentists advertised Waterloo Teeth.

 Wounded arriving in Brussels; 
Excerpt from Sir Walter Scott’s  Poem The Field of Waterloo
The wounded shew’d their mangled plight
In token of the unfinish’d fight,
And from each anguish-laden wain
The blood-drops laid the dust like rain!
Many of the wounded were carried in carts (aka wains) into Brussels where thousands were nursed in makeshift hospitals and homes. Some of these men were luckier than those carried directly into field hospitals, as in the open air they were much less exposed to infection than in the crowded piles of dying in the hospitals.

After meeting with Blücher, the Duke returned to the village of Waterloo and wrote his despatches to Lord Bathurst and the Prince Regent. When the despatches were ready, on June 19, Wellington asked Major Henry Percy, either (according to which account you believe) the only unwounded ADC or the least-wounded of the eight ADCs Wellington had on June 18, to take the despatches and the captured Eagle standards and flags to London. 

Jacket worm by Henry Percy when on the battlefield and delivering the despatch to London

Percy got a chaise to the port of Ostend and embarked on the brig HMS Peruvian.  Some accounts tell of the becalmed ship and the completion of the voyage by rowing – the Captain James White RN and Percy, with several other sailors, taking the oars themselves.  From their landing at Broadstairs, Kent, about 3 pm on June 21, Percy hurried to London, changing horses at Canterbury, Sittingbourne, and Rochester.  At first he could not find Lord Bathurst or Prime Minister Lord Liverpool.  But with the French Eagles of the 45th and 105th sticking out of the windows of the carriage, they soon attracted a crowd, following them and cheering.

A French Eagle as on the top of the battle flags

Eventually he found the officials  and together they carried the news and the Eagles to #14 (or #16 in some accounts)  St. James’s Square, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Boehm who were hosting a grand party for the Prince Regent and his brother the Duke of York, C-in-C of the Army.

The Boehm residence, St. James Square, today the East India United Service Club 

According to most accounts, the excited crowds following Percy’s mad dash around London were heard by those at the party. When the disheveled Percy, still in blood-stained uniform, came inside and laid the Eagles at the Regent’s feet, the Prince immediately promoted him to Colonel Percy. The Prince Regent withdrew to read the despatches and returned in tears at the carnage, but elated at the victory.

An artist’s version of Presenting the Eagles; actually there were only two

As the party dispersed without the planned dancing or supper, Mrs. Boehm was said to have observed that it would have been much better to have waited until after the party to present the despatches.  No one else agreed of course.  Mr. Boehm later died bankrupt.  Mrs. Boehm lived out her life in a Grace and Favor apartment at Hampton Court.

Major Henry Percy (1785-1825)

Major, now Colonel Percy, retired in 1821, and became a member of the House of Commons in 1823; however, he died only a year later, age 40.

Nathan Rothschild (1777-1836)

Among the many legends that have grown around the Battle of Waterloo, perhaps none is more controversial and even inflammatory than the story of the Rothschild fortune – or lack of it.  Some versions say that banker Nathan Rothschild, who had been providing gold to the British government through his network of relatives in banking houses on the continent, learned about the Waterloo victory before anyone else in London and made a killing in stocks and/or bonds by buying low when hopes were dim and selling high when victory had been secured.  Various versions of the story have him gaining the knowledge from his company spies at the exiled entourage of Louis XVIII, another that he communicated with the continent by carrier pigeon. Many other researchers claim all such stories are bunk, inspired by jealousy and anti-Semitism, even fueled by Nazi propaganda during WWII.  A careful study of the variable rates in British markets of the immediate period around Waterloo would prove no one made a killing in stocks, consols, or bonds of any kind, many conclude.

Whatever the arguments, the Rothschild brothers had long proved their ability to handle financial matters on behalf of business, government and their own interests.  Perhaps no special circumstances are needed to account for their wealth.

Chelsea Pensioners by Sir David Wilkie

A happier story is the arrival of the Waterloo despatch at Chelsea Hospital where copies were read by retired soldiers. This famous painting, commissioned from artist David Wilkie by the Duke of Wellington, completed in 1822, hangs in Apsley House.

An excerpt from the Waterloo Despatch in Wellington’s hand
From The Morning Post, 22 June, 1915

To read the official publication of the Despatch in the London Gazette, click here.

Re-enactment of despatch delivery. 2015
For an account of the reenactment of the delivery of the Wellington despatch, click here.


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