Research Subjects: Eyewitness Accounts

In The Bivouac Close To The Gates Of Paris, July 8, 1815

A Letter from James Arnott Howard to Charles Henry Howard, His Brother

By J Allan Howard
Ontario, Canada

Below is a copy of a letter written to my great great grandfather, from his brother fighting with the British army. A portion is missing. I have only seen a photocopy of the newspaper article.

The letter was written four years before Charles Henry came to Canada. Published in "The Empire, Toronto," 28 April 1888, as follows:

Note: The division of this text in paragraphs is done by the Napoleon Series Editor in order to make the text more readable.

Relics of Waterloo

The subjoined is an extract from a letter written by a brother of CH Howard, of St. Julian's, Georgina. The letter with the cap and sword worn by Lieutenant Howard at Waterloo, with other relics, came into the possession, recently of the Howard family, who thought it might be interesting to the readers of The Empire:

In the Bivouac Close to the Gates of Paris, July 8, 1815

We have been so actively engaged that we have not had even time to write, supposing that we could procure utensils, which was impossible. Most likely my name by this time appeared in the Gazette among the wounded on the 16th ; this, I am happy to say, was but slight. It would be ridiculous to think of entering into any detail of the business of that day at all events, for the newspapers have given such a correct account of everything, but on the evening of the 16th June, while in our bivouac, and not far from the village of Quatre Bras, we heard the most terrible thundering of cannon and our division was but in motion. This foretold sport. True enough in about two hours after that, six o'clock, the balls were buzzing about our ears in the most delightful manner.

All the lights were formed on the left--the battalions for skirmishing. Upon the whole we got off very well, some seven or eight men wounded, until near dark in the evening when I got a clink on the outside of my left thigh which knocked me down and obliged me to quit the field. This was 9 o'clock. Although very seriously bruised, finding nothing more than a little flesh disconcerted I got the blood washed off and joined my company the same night in advance of the whole. We kept our ground in the morning. Four picquets commenced a little skirmishing but our position they would not attempt to wrest from us. We were now relieved, and went to join our regiments, but I am very sorry to add I found they had suffered most severely — three officers killed and seven wounded, and about 100 men, and my poor friend Farlong was one of the number wounded, and dangerously. He sent for me repeatedly, but no one could find me, being too far in advance. He said he must die and therefore sent his watch to me. In the morning I went to see if I could find him, but they had sent him to Brussels. I therefore could not see the poor fellow, but I have heard from several people, who say that they think he will do well. The ball entered his right side, and remaining either in his lungs or shoulder blade; it never can be extracted.

On the 17th June we retired in the best possible order to the heights of Mount St. Jean or Waterloo. Here we took up our good and never-to-be-forgotten position and fought our battle. Our regiment was placed on the first hill of our position, where we could see the French Buffers maneuver before us. I rather think they would have attacked us the same evening, but we saluted them so prettily when they made their appearance on the hill opposite the next morning, the 18th, and my birthday, the French began their movements by daylight, we, of course, being ordered by the noble Wellington to move accordingly. About ten o'clock the sport began by an attack on our right, but here they were repulsed with immense loss. This they repeated several times and as often failed, they then tried the left and were very warmly received, and did not gain much ground. Our brigade and regiment was in the center and during some time was exposed to nothing more than cannon shot, but which frequently milled us.

Towards the latter part of the day the enemy made a most desperate and furious attack on our center, here we had our share of bloody work. I never shall forget the scene and the carnage. Really the French cavalry, who behaved admirably, charged so repeatedly and so ................... wounded officers to the rear and much less men. Just at this moment was pointed out to me the meaning of being warmly engaged. Our brigade and a brigade of guards were the only soldiers that we could see, and we were so ........that I thought that things were going badly, and we made up our minds to send all our colors to the rear, still determined to stay while we had a man left. There we were ..... could just maintain our ground, when to our delight came up lots of reinforcements. Indeed Lord Wellington had been with us in very hot fire. I said that we should be immediately supported. Just at this moment he brought up all the cavalry, artillery and infantry from the reserve and advanced. The French gave way in every quarter, and in fact were so panic struck that they could not form them again. Our brigade halted, having had a sufficiency, for the general and every field-officer, but two, of the brigade, were either killed or wounded, and the whole strength reduced to about 300 out of 1500. The 73rd regiment was commanded by a young lieutenant. Things were so bad that I was acting brigade-major for some time, but Captain Harty, of the Light company being only slightly wounded, he took it and I did the adjutants' duty. When telling the men off after the action there were only 72 men on the parade, 15 officers having been lost 4 killed and 10 wounded, together with 1500 men. In the two days we had in casualties 24 officers and 250 men.

I have often expressed a wish to see a general engagement. I have and am perfectly satisfied. I should never have forgiven myself if I had not been in this action of the 18th in consequence of my wound. Thank God I am safe, I had a very narrow escape that day, a bullet passed through my cap and must have been within the eighth of an inch of my head. I intend bringing the cap to England. I can scarcely fancy myself alive and writing to you after what I have seen. We may almost say England conquered France in one battle and entered her capital. Now for the most melancholy part of my tale. So great was the confusion and so certain were they in Brussels that the battle was lost, that they fled to Antwerp in thousands; the consequence was that our barrage which had been sent there for safety was plundered and destroyed, they say by Belgic troops, but so it was in our regiment. We had not a second shirt or blanket to cover us from very wet weather.Think of a man being wet and dry in the same clothes for ten days; no halting days. We had but one halting day between Brussels and Paris, and, therefore we had no time to write or change our linen.

We took position of the Heights of Montmartre on the 5th of July and Paris the 6th. Montmartre is a tremendous place, and from that you have the most magnificent view of Paris, perhaps, that ever was seen anywhere. To-day the Parisians have hoisted the white flag, but not in any way unanimously. We have guns planted in every street to give them a brush if they attempt to stir. It's a great shame they did not march us through Paris. I certainly think the French account of the battle is very good. Excuse all things... writing on the ground... driven mad with the business in my department.


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