Category Archives: Napoleonics

A town during the Peninsular War

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Over the last month or so I’ve been busy making a number of buildings from Florian Richter and Peter Dennis’s wonderful book European Buildings: 28mm paper models for 18th & 19th century wargames.

You simply cut these buildings out of the book, and then fold and glue them together. I did add some  inner strengthening with heavy card to make them more sturdy, but otherwise my models are straight from the book.

Today I set them all out on my wargames table, along with some existing scratch-built buildings (top centre) and a few commercial models (top left).

You can click on the above picture (and also all the other pics in this posting) if you want to see these models in more detail.

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Here’s the main street, with a walled house and stables on the left, and a church with some porticoed houses on the right. The walled house is designed for a northern European setting, but I think works perfectly well for the Peninsular War.

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The town has a beautiful chateau, which I’ve given a walled garden. In front you can again see the walled house (left), and the same building on the right made up as a free-standing inn.

You can also see both the paper churches in this picture – the Spansh-style one in the foreground, and the more northern European church in the background.

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I particularly like the watermill. It again is probably more suitable for northern Europe, but fits well here too.

On the other side of the street are a range of various houses, some with arched porches. By glueing on different doors and windows, you can make various versions of the same building, as you can see with the two porticoed houses.

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These buildings have of course been specifically designed by Florian and Peter to accompany the Paperboys range of paper model soldiers, like these 18th century British infantry. But I wanted to see what they would look like with 28mm metal figures, so …

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… here comes a battalion of Front Rank Portuguese infantry marching into town.

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Whilst the figures are a slightly bigger scale than the buildings, they look fine together.

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The Portuguese deploy into line in a field behind a 3-storey balconied house. Again, the slight difference in scales looks fine.

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Meanwhile, a section of Portuguese Cacadores takes on white-coated French infantry in the town square.

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Hmm, I think I know these two chaps standing in the gateway of a walled house.

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The sound of rumbling wheels and jingling harnesses echo from the walls of the narrow street, as British artillery trundle through the town.

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A French staff officer gallops past a row of houses to deliver important messages.

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A French officer rides up the driveway of the local chateau.

So, as you can see from the above photos, these buildings will work perfectly well for wargaming with both 2D paper soldiers and fully-rounded 28mm figures.

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Filed under Front Rank, Napoleonics, Paperboys, Terrain, Uncategorized

Napoleon – Tinder profile vs reality

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Have you ever happened to pick up a miniature you painted many years ago, but which you’ve hardly taken any notice of since, and examined it afresh? That happened to me today when I was clearing a wall-shelf in preparation for some house repairs we’ve got coming up. As I was moving a group of rather dusty figures off the shelf, this 28mm model of Napoleon drew my attention.

A handwritten note underneath the base informs me that I painted this figure (made by Wargames Foundry, if I recall correctly) fifteen years ago. Since then, I’ve walked past the shelf where it sits numerous times every day. But only today have I actually picked the figure up again and studied it carefully through new eyes.

Speaking of eyes, back in those days painting eyes was probably my biggest problem area. I mean, jeepers, creepers, look at those peepers! He’s like something out of Thunderbirds! Nowadays I only hint at eyes with a wash of a darker shade, rather than trying to paint them in detail.

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The figure is based on the famous painting of ‘Napoleon Crossing the Alps’ by the French artist Jacques-Louis David.

This painting is a strongly idealised view of the real crossing that Napoleon and his army made across the Alps through the Great St. Bernard Pass in May 1800. In reality Napoleon made the crossing a few days after the troops, led by a local guide and mounted on a mule. However, as this painting was first and foremost propaganda, Bonaparte asked David to portray him mounted calmly on a fiery steed.

Sort of a Tinder profile vs reality!

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A quirky Netflix doco on Napoleonic reenacting

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On the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, thousands of enthusiasts reenact the epic clash. But there can only be one Napoleon.

I’ve just finished watching a quirky documentary on Netflix. Being Napoleon is a feature length documentary that follows the stories of several historical war reenactors as they prepare for Waterloo 2015.

Over 6,000 reenactors gather for the 200th anniversary of the epic Battle of Waterloo, from humble foot-soldiers through to officers and even the great Marshal Ney (who is unfortunately less adept at horsemanship than the original).

But the real battle is taking place elsewhere, as two contenders vie for the vital role of being Napoleon. Frenchman Frank Samson, uniform-maker extraordinaire, takes on American Mark Schneider as to who will be Emperor on the day. By the way, my son and I saw the latter in action ten years earlier when we took part in the 2005 Waterloo!

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There was only one Napoleon in 1815, so there can be only one Napoleon in 2015. But the Belgians are in charge, and unrest is growing in the ranks.

There’s also an outstanding prison sentence to be served, an unpaid bill for parking to which Empress Josephine has something to say, and a motley group of elderly Grenadier reenactors gamely trekking Napoleon’s route from where he landed after his escape from Elba in 1815.

The movie concludes with some amazing footage of the Waterloo event, especially the last stand of the Guard.

As to which of the two contenders ends up being Napoleon, you’ll just have to watch.

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Doodling with Napoleonic figures

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In a wargaming version of mindless doodling, I recently frittered away an hour or so arranging some of my 28mm Napoleonic figures onto my small wargaming table.

My Napoleonic armies haven’t seen the light of day for a number of years now. So on an impulse, I just decided to set them out for fun in a static set-up.

The figures are arranged to depict a vaguely Peninsular War skirmish. Though I’m not actually sure if all the troops shown here really fought in the Peninsular War – I just pulled out the units that were the easiest to reach in my cupboard!

This is only a fraction of my Napoleonic armies, but you can only fit so many 28mm figures on a 4’x4′ board!

The buildings, by the way are all scratch-built. The trees are cheap Chinese architectural/ model railway decorations. The roads and rivers are by an Australian company called Miniature World Makers. Figures are mainly Front Rank and Perry Miniatures, but with some other makes thrown in.

So, for your enjoyment and edification, may I present the results of my doodling (you can click on each picture to take a closer look).

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‘Sharp Practice’ game report – Fondler’s Colonel

British infantry in town

“With his ‘extensive’ Militia (sorry, Miwitia) background, Colonel Grabbe-Ghoullies felt it should be he, not that guttersnipe Captain Fondler and his Rifles (sorry, Fondwer and his Wifles), who should be the one to rescue (sorry, wescue) the beautiful spy, the Marquesa de Una Paloma Blanca (and no doubt weap whatever wewards were on offer).” 

Back in May 2009, the now-defunct Kapiti Fusiliers website published the following game report of our first game of the Too Fat Lardies’ Sharp Practice rules for skirmish battles in the age of black powder. As this was our first game with these rules, we got a few things wrong. But overall the rules worked, and a story emerged from the chaos.

I thought it was such a fun game report, that it’s worth re-publishing here for your entertainment.

The scenario we played was Fondler’s Colonel from the The Compleat Fondler scenario book, also by the Too Fat Lardies. Captain Richard Fondler, of course, is a take-off of that well-known mullet-wearing 95th Rifles officer, Richard Sharpe.

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The premise of the game is that the British are to pick up a Spanish spy, the Marquesa de Una Paloma Blanca, who is currently under the care of Abbott Costello at a local monastery. At the same time, they are to deliver a cart-load of gold to a Spanish guerilla chieftain, El Cascanueces. Meanwhile, Colonel Daniel Laroux of the French Imperial Intelligence Service is setting a dastardly trap to capture his hated nemesis, Captain Richard Fondler.

Before you continue reading this game report, you might like to scroll to the bottom of this page to read the scenario notes leading up to this battle. Spoiler alert: if you intend to play this scenario, be aware that there are some spoilers contained in the scenario notes.

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(above) Colonel Grabbe-Ghoullies, the new commander of the South-East Essex, leads the column to rescue the Marquesa.

With his ‘extensive’ Militia (sorry, Miwitia) background, Grabbe-Ghoullies feels he should be the one to rescue the beautiful spy (and no doubt reap whatever rewards are on offer), not Fondler and his Rifles (sorry, Fondwer and his Wifles). No low-born guttersnipe who has become an officer out of the ranks (sorry, wanks) will outshine him. So he orders Fondler’s Rifles to a lowly wagon-guard role. The scenario rules state that the Rifles can’t do anything major until they are either fired upon or the redcoats suffer three or more casualties.

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(above) French voltiguers under the command of Caporal-Bugler Petain (don’t ask – I just didn’t have enough ordinary French NCO figures, so used a bugler instead!) open fire on the British column from their eyrie amongst the rocky outcrops.

Lieutenant Harry Cost peels his company of redcoats away from the column to chase off these pesky skirmishers.

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(above) Oh dear, the skirmishers score a kill on Lieutenant Cost’s company. Captain Fondler and Sergeant Paisley of the Rifles look on helplessly, still being under Grabbe-Ghoullies’ orders to stay out of the fight and guard the wagon.

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(above) Caporal-Bugler Petain’s cornet catches the sunlight, making a perfect target for the redcoats. A bullet flies right down the cornet’s tube, badly wounding the caporal-bugler. His voltiguers obviously don’t think too much of him, because he is left lying in the hot sun for the remainder of the game, instead of being carried to the rear.

Shortly after, Sergeant Ducrot, another French NCO, runs up the hill to take over command (not in this picture yet), so no major damage is done (other than to poor Petain and his cornet, of course).

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(above) Harry Cost’s men blaze away furiously, while Fondler grits his teeth and wishes they would just get up there into the outcrops and weed those Crapauds out – or send in the Rifles to do the job. Even his wagon has been taken away from him now.

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(above) Grabbe-Ghoullies finally gets his column moving – or inching- along the road, taking the gold cart with him, ordering Fondler to deal with the skirmishers at last.

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(above) But hark, what is this? Do you hear the sound of drums coming from up the side road?

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(above) Four companies of French infantry, lead by the Colonel Visage de Vache, hasten towards the battle. They were supposed to close the trap after the British passed the intersection, but their attack is launched prematurely and they march steadily towards the intersection before the British get there. Meanwhile, Sergeant Ducrot and his voltiguers continue peppering the British from the rocky outcrops.

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(above) Colonel Visage de Vache proudly leads his column out. The grenadier company takes the lead.

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(above) “Hop to it, mes amis, form line, and let’s give zese Ros Bifs some French dressing!” roars Colonel Visage de Vache to his men. The four companies swing into line with well-drilled precision.

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(above) Colonel Grabbe-Ghoullies looks around wildly. A Fwench line in fwont of him, skirmishers to his left … maybe he should’ve stayed in the compfowtable miwiltia officers mess back in Bwighty.

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(above) A pall of smoke drifts between the two formations, as the British column is decimated by the disciplined fire from the French line. The British companies suffer so much shock that after two volleys they begin to lose their bottle, and the game ends with a British surrender.

Oddly, it wasn’t till after I took the above photo that I noticed that Grabbe-Ghoullies, who had supposedly been badly wounded in front of his men by the French volleys, had not been wounded at all, but merely scarpered into cover (those sneaky British players!).


And so, what was the outcome?

Grabbe-Ghoullies, only his dignity harmed, will be captured by Colonel Visage de Vache. No beautiful Marquesa to entertain tonight, only a few wats in a locked woom behind the Fwench lines.

In the monastery, Colonel Daniel Laroux jumps up and down in frustration (then promptly falls over as he forgets he is tottering round on high heels). His carefully-laid plan to dress up as the Marquesa de Una Paloma Blanca (who is safely closeted miles away in a prison cell) and so ensnare Fondler to finally get his revenge for the false teeth his arch-nemesis had smashed in an earlier encounter, has been foiled by the over-efficiency of the line infantry officers. “One day, Capitaine Dick Fondler … one day I’ll get you!”

El Cascanueces, however, is pleased. He had thrown in his lot with Laroux. But with the British surrender, he has got his gold without having to risk anything at all.

Abbott Costello sleeps blissfully on, happily drugged with several bottles of cheap French plonk provided by the beautiful (but rather hairy and with big hands, now that he comes to think of it) “Marquessa de Una Paloma Blanca”. He remains totally unaware of all that has happened today.

Meanwhile, Captain Fondler and Sergeant Paisley beat a hasty retreat to the British lines. Fondler will have to report to Wellington that he has lost the gold and not rescued the Marquesa. But the two riflemen are sure to march together again one day soon, and retrieve Fondler’s honour.

OK, probably not the best of games for the British players, but that wasn’t so much their fault as that of the game-master (er … me) who let the French fusilier battalions come into the battle far too soon, and thus prevented the latter stages of the scenario from playing out. However, it was our first time, so lesson learned!

 


 

FONDLER'S COLONEL

Scenario Notes

Based almost entirely on the scenario Fondler’s Colonel in The Compleat Fondler scenario book by the Too Fat Lardies.

Compleat-Fondler

“I see, Captain Fondwer, that you and your men weah the uniform of the Wifles. Is there a weason why you do not wish to be a pawt of my wegiment?”

Whatever Captain Richard Fondler had expected of the newly appointed colonel of the 1st Battalion of the South-East Essex, Sir Henry Grabbe-Goullies was not it. After three years fighting in Portugal the British Army had weeded out most of the stuffed-shirts amongst its commanders; they either learnt to fight or had been replaced. But the Army must’ve missed Sir Henry.

“No, sir.” Fondler fixed his eyes on an imaginary mark some six inches above the colonel’s head. “I am proud to command the light company of the South-East Essex, but I and my men are also proud to be riflemen, and we continue to wear this uniform as a mark of that.”

The colonel paused, his knuckles turning white as he fought to control his anger. “I must say, Captain, that I disappwove of your attire and, sir, of your wifles. Why, you’ve even got some Portugwese with your wiflemen! I am a fiwm bewiever in discipwine. My expewiences in the Miwitia have taught me that a unit that has dissipwine fights well. Your wiflemen and Portugwese do not have dissipwine!”

Sir Henry paused to wipe the spittle from his chin. “It is my intention to wemove your wifles and weplace them with muskets so that your men may line up with the west and fight as men!”

The colonel paused and stared at the rifleman before him. He had heard much of Captain Fondler, and none of it he liked. Now he could see that the rifleman was fighting to control his anger, confirming Sir Henry’s suspicions that Fondler would not be a good man in battle, would not have the clear head and cold heart needed for command; traits that Sir Henry had, he was sure, in abundance. He stroked his moustaches and allowed his lip to curl into what was both a sneer and a smile of victory. Order would be maintained.

CRASH! The door did not so much open as erupt, and a large man with a mop of unruly red hair wearing the uniform of a major of engineers flooded into the room. “Top o’ the mornin’ to you!” the newcomer bellowed.

Major Michael O’Stereotype was well known to Fondler; as well as being a major of engineers, he was one of Sir Arthur Wellesley’s exploring officers, roaming through the Peninsula in an attempt to discover information that would harm the Corsican Tyrant and assist the cause of His Britannic Majesty King George.

“Tis a fine day to be meeting yourself, Colonel.” The big man had turned to address Sir Henry. “I am havin’ your orders from Sir Arthur with me here, to be sure. Gather round this map and I’ll tell all.”

Sir Henry was aghast. He had been told to expect the major, and knew that the man was one of Sir Arthur’s most trusted confidants. It seemed clear, however, that the army in the Peninsula had lost all sense of discipline and propriety. First a guttersnipe who had been promoted to a captain, and now this bog-trotting buffoon!

The buffoon spoke, and Sir Henry had the distinct feeling that Sir Arthur’s orders were being conveyed to Captain Fondler rather than himself.

“You’ll loike this, Dick, it’s a cracker! One of our main agents in Spain is the beautiful aristocratic Marquesa de Una Paloma Blanca, the wife of the suitably absent Marques who happens to be many thousands of miles away in South America, and is probably impotent anyway. Now, the Marquesa has, through her incredible beauty, sophistication and not entirely appropriate behaviour for a married woman, penetrated the French intelligence network headed by Colonel Laroux of the Imperial Guard, a truly evil man whose sadism knows no bounds – oh, I forget Dick, you and he have already met.”

Fondler looked grim. He and Laroux had indeed met, and on several occasions the rifleman had been instrumental in foiling Laroux’s dastardly plans. In an act of revenge that he now felt he may come to regret, he had smashed the Frenchman’s false teeth.

“Well, the Marquesa has been unmasked,” the big Irishman continued. “It seems that she was caught whilst getting her hands on a list of French spies in Lisbon and only just escaped with her life. In a desperate act the Marquesa made contact with one of Spain’s most notable guerrilla leaders, El Cascanueces. He is escorting her to the Monastery of Madre de Deus, where Abbott Costello, one of our agents, will protect her until we can arrive.

“The monastery is two days from here. Dick, I need you to deliver a consignment of gold and powder to El Cascanueces. I fear that he is an untrustworthy ally, little more than a bandit in fact, and we need a gift to ensure he fulfils his part of the deal. Ten thousand guineas in gold should do that.” He looked across the map at the two faces, grinned and reached towards the colonel’s brandy decanter. “Now, let’s drink to your success, Dick!”

The colonel spoke first. “Hold with that bottle, sir! You pwopose, Major, to send Captain Fondwer to undertake a mission of such import?”

“I do, Colonel, and what is more, I know that he will not let me down.”

Sir Henry spluttered in amazement. “You, Major, may be pwepared to leave matters such as this in Fondwer’s hands. I am not. I can see now that life on campaign has been too fwee and easy these past years, and that a lack of discipwine permeates nearly all stwata of our army. Order must pwevail!”

The engineer’s expression had changed, his drink now forgotten. “Colonel, I will not release the consignment of gold and powder to any man other than Captain Fondler. These are my orders from Sir Arthur himself.”

In the ensuing silence Fondler could almost hear Sir Henry’s brain at work, his discomfort and anger as clear as Fondler’s had been earlier in the conversation. Then the colonel spoke.

“Vewy well. Captain Fondwer and his wiflemen may escort the gold, but it is my intention to lead this wescue mission, and fwom that you may not divewt me, Major. The Captain may guard your pwecious wagon. I think, however, that you will find that it is my wedcoats and their muskets who do the gweatest service.”

The colonel turned to the rifleman. “Captain Fondwer, be weady to march at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning.” Then, secure in the knowledge that he had out-manoeuvred both the captain and the major, he dismissed them from his presence.

O’Stereotype and Fondler walked together across the main square. “Mary, Mother of God,” the Irishman blasphemed, “you’ve got your work cut out with that eejit, so you do. You take care, Dick. Laroux has his men combing the mountains looking for the Marquesa. I can only pray that you get to her in time. Between you and me vital information is haemorrhaging out of Lisbon all the time and things look bleak for old Nosey. The sooner we get a list of Laroux’s agents the better things will be.”

Fondler’s face was troubled. “Aye Mick. If we fail we shall die at the hands of Laroux. If we succeed Sir Henry will claim a victory for the musket and we shall lose our rifles and, most likely, our green jackets too.”

British big men

Collated cards

 

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Napoleon’s dinosaur-mounted carabiniers?

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Stumbled across this book in the Young Adults section of our the local library today.  Could be … interesting …

Can’t be any less intriguing than another book about Waterloo I recently got from the same library, The Sage of Waterloo, describing the famous battle from a rabbit’s point of view!

Anyway, I will report once I’ve read  Battlesaurus: Rampage at Waterloo.

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The oldest item in my bookshelf – an 1854 map of Waterloo

map bookThe other day I pulled a book out of my bookshelf, and noticed a scruffy little green cover peering at me from the shadows at the back of the shelf. I reached in and pulled it out, and was overjoyed to see that I had at last re-found my long-lost antique map of Waterloo, the oldest print item I own.

Quite a few years ago, some British friends of my mother-in-law visited New Zealand. They knew of my interest in military history, so presented me with this lovely bound map of Waterloo. I placed it on my bookshelf, where it eventually fell behind some other books. For years I’d thought I had somehow lost the map.

So it was with great pleasure this Waterloo bicentenary year to find it again!

a_IMG_3696At the time I was presented with this map, I knew little about it, other than it was by a Sergeant-Major Edward Cotton, and published in 1854. But finding it again has spurred me into a doing some research on the internet.

According to family historian Gordon Childs:

Sergeant Major Edward COTTON was born on Isle of Wight around 1792 and served at Waterloo in the ranks of the 7th Hussars which was part of General Grant’s brigade – the 5th British Cavalry Brigade. Fortunately, Edward Cotton survived the carnage of the battle on that fateful day of 18 June 1815, in which there were over 50,000 casualties of the some 150,000 troops engaged, to become a local hero.

He particularly distinguished himself by saving fellow hussar Gilmoure as he lay trapped under his wounded horse in front of the main battle line. Cotton could see the French cuirassiers coming on again and, knowing that they rarely spared a foe outside of the protection of the infantry squares, he sprang from his horse and rushed to extricate Gilmoure and to bring him back to safety as the army of French horsemen came up to Wellington’s line.

After leaving the army, Cotton lived at Mont St Jean village (where the battle was centred) where he soon gained a reputation as a fine battlefield guide. In 1845, the Naval and Military Gazette described him as an intelligent, active and good looking man of fifty-three and the very cut as a Hussar. From the many fellow Waterloo veterans who visited the battlefield, Cotton built up a formidable knowledge of the battle and published a book called ‘A Voice from Waterloo’. His collection of memorabilia occupied a building at the base of the Lion Mound, but has now been dispersed.

“I sincerely hope,” wrote veteran, Lieutenant-General Sir Hussey Vivian, to Cotton in 1839, “that occupation which you have undertaken, you will derive the means of passing the remainder of your days in competence and comfort; and thus heap the rewards of your intelligence, on a field where you had proved your courage.”

Edward Cotton died on 24 June 1849. He had been ill for some time but had soldiered on and, only two days before his death, he had shown an English family around the battlefield. He was buried in the gardens of Hougoumont, and rested there until the 18 August 1890 when he was disinterred for reburial at Evere Cemetery in the north-east suburbs of Brussels.

Handy pocket-sized maps like this one would have been carried by his visitors to the battlefield. This particular edition was printed a few years after his death, and was drawn from his 1846 book  ‘A Voice from Waterloo’. I wonder if a 19th century visitor carried my actual map in his or her hands as they tramped over the battlefield.

a_IMG_3996Opening the green linen cover with its gold-embossed title, you first come to a small overview map of the Belgian countryside over which the Waterloo campaign took place.

It is a bit confusing, though, that this map places north at the bottom of the page instead of the more usual top.

a_IMG_3695The main page unfolds to display a beautiful hand-tinted map of the field of Waterloo as it was towards sunset. The Allies are shown in red, Prussians in yellow, and the French in blue.

Extensive information is provided in the keys on each side, which link to the exact location for each brigade and military group, including Napoleon’s positions and places where certain officers were killed. For the modern reader, following the Roman numerals is quite onerous, however!

An inset table gives the number of men and guns available to each side. A narrative also recreates the final hours of the battle.

Again, north is at the bottom.

a_IMG_3697Here’s a close-up of central area of the battlefield. Click on the picture to expand it to a size where you can see the amazing detail and the sheer beauty of this wonderful old map.

I’m really pleased to be re-united with this treasure. I’m thinking I might place it in a box-frame to preserve it, and to give it some more prominence than being stuffed down the back of my bookshelf!

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