Saturday, 20 September 2014

Another Real Hussarette

One of the more enjoyable aspects of taking part in our West Country Waterloo Project is the excuse it has given me to re-read Waterloo books already in my collection and also seek out others which are either newer, or fascinatingly, very old.  Among the latter I received earlier this year helpful notifications from Amazon that I could cheaply download the eye witness accounts penned by Captain Mercer of the RHA and "A Voice from Waterloo" by Sergeant Major Edward Cotton. Since  my boyhood introduction to Napoleonic warfare these have been names to conjure with but never read except in extract from secondary sources.

For this blog I'm focusing on a telling sentence that once again shows we who are fascinated by a beautiful woman in fabulous military costume are not just pandering to flights of testosterone driven fantasy!

Edward Cotton, apart from being a participant during the battle in a British hussar regiment, spent much of his later life as a "tour guide" to the battlefield and his "Voice from Waterloo", although often a rather jingoistic and colourful account, is laced with an air of authenticity due to his anecdotes from veterans whom he met there. It is a recommended read by me for its terrific atmosphere and detail if not necessarily for its coherency of narrative.

Here is the relevant paragraph at 22% of the way through the book (who needs page numbers when you can change the font size? :-) )  The action bit is above La Haye Sainte probably about 2pm.

Readers may recall my previous account of a-real-hussarette and like that one this too poses questions which can't be answered. Was it her own uniform, or borrowed? What did it look like? Why was she in the army at all in 1815 and particularly taking part in a charge so near the English line that she got shot.  For those not familiar here are some pictures relating to the Hanoverian monument taken on my trip in June.
The Hanoverian monument itself

The view looking due West from the monument towards the Lion Mound -
effectively along the British crest line just in front of  the "elm tree crossroads"

From the monument it is a very short distance to La Haye Sainte
These photos show that our lady hussar was shot dead in the heart of the British/KGL position and proves her bravery, along with the thousands of other French persons who died striving to wrest Mont St Jean from the Allied grasp. So warlike Hussarettes is no longer just a fantasy.

All my studies aimed at recreating the 300 metres round LHS on the tabletop next year do not show any French Hussar Regiments in this vicinity. So I conclude she was either an aide/mistress of a senior French officer (see for example my original post about Madame Leberton lady-hussars-anyone), or merely a field wife who borrowed any uniform to join the ranks because she could not bear the thought of her (possibly cuirassier) husband dying and leaving her alone. There is a risk of letting it get to you as it sort of sums up the Napoleonic cause on that fateful day - immense bravery in the face of incredibly difficult odds. Despite all the busy traffic a visit to Waterloo can be very emotive. 

Any comments very welcome.

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