One of the reasons that I love dealing in rare books and ephemera, is the diversity. The many backwaters of knowledge that they lead you into. Part of the joy of being a generalist, is that you have to get to grips with many topics, and learn them quickly. Yesterday, I was aware that after the battle of Waterloo, the British stayed in France for a short time. Today, I am familiar with the formation of the 5th Brigade of the 3rd Division of the Anglo-Allied Army in Flanders. Useful stuff, I am sure you will agree.
What initially seemed to be a reasonably interesting letter from the Occupying Army of 1816, found on the wall of a French café (and haggled over in my inexcusably bad French, with a poor Madame, who didn’t even have the letter on sale), has left me spending hours looking at the structure of the army, and into some of the personalities of the time.
Poor Sir James Willoughby Gordon (one of the three officers copied into the letter. All things army, must of course be written in triplicate). Despite his rank and obvious skills, he was so “inordinately vain and self opinionated” that he was universally unpopular. Having been sent to the Peninsula to act as Wellington’s quartermaster, he was so arrogant and rude, that he was sent back to England almost immediately. He lived out his days as the Quartermaster General to the Royal Artillery at Horse Guards.
Poor Lt. Col. Marlay, (This letter was his copy). He lost his father to the army, he served in America during the war of Independence, and was captured at the Battle of Saratoga. Our Marlay served with distinction at Waterloo, and was made a Companion of Bath (C.B.)
Poor General Sir George Murray, who instigated the letter. He had been sent across to Canada at the same time that Napoleon was exiled. When the call for his return came, he dashed back across the Atlantic, but too late to take part in the Battle of Waterloo, much to his Chagrin. By the time of this letter, he was Chief of Staff to the Army of Occupation. He shouldn’t worry too much though. It seems that half of Australia (including the city of Perth) was named in his honour.
Lt. Col Gold (the letter writer himself) seems a much more down to earth character. He came with an excellent pedigree, his father having been with General Wolfe in Quebec, and dying in the battle of Bunker Hill. Gold served under Earl Cornwallis at the defeat of Tippoo Sahib’s army in India, and took part in the capture of Pondicherry. He was the author of “Oriental Drawings sketched between the years 1791 and 1798″ a sought after item in its own right.
At Waterloo, Gold commanded the artillery of the 2nd Division under Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton. He was mentioned in dispatches by General Wood, and was appointed a Companion of Bath. In 1816, he commanded the Royal Artillery at the Headquarters of the Allied Army of Occupation, and from time to time, the whole force of British Artillery in that Army until its return from France. Eventually he became a full Colonel. He died in 1841, leaving three sons, who became a Lieutenant-Colonel, a Captain, and a Lieutenant-General (the last commanding the 65th Regiment in New Zealand).
So much useful information, and all coming my way because Marcia chose a particularly quaint café for us to have our afternoon refreshments in. By the way. I also discovered that a Landaulet was a cut down carriage – a truncated Landau.