News of the ‘great victory at Waterloo’ reaches Belfast
Major The Honourable H Percy arrived late on the night on Wednesday, June 21, 1815 at London with the earliest dispatch from Field Marshall the Duke of Wellington, KG, to Earl Bathurst, His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for the War Department on the Battle of Waterloo which had been fought on Sunday, June 18, 1815.
Dated the day of the battle, the letter to Earl Bathurst read: “My Lord – Bonaparte having collected the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th Corps of the French army and the Imperial Guards, and nearly all the cavalry on the Sambre, and between that river and the Meuse, between the 10th and 14th of the month, advanced on the 15th and attacked the Prussian posts. . . at daylight in the morning.
“I did not hear of these events till the evening of the 15th, and I immediately ordered the troops to prepare to march; and afterwards to march to the left, as soon as I had intelligence from other quarters to prove that the enemy’s movement upon Charleroi was the real attack.
REPULSED IN THE STEADIEST MANNER
“The enemy drove the Prussian posts from Sambre on that day; and General Zieten, who commanded the corps which had been at Charleroi, retired upon Fleurus; and Marshal Prince Blucher concentrated the Prussian army upon Sambref, holding the villages in front of his position at St Amand and Ligny.
“The enemy continued his march along the road from Charleroi towards Bruxelles, and on the same evening, the 15th, attacked a brigade of the army of the Netherlands, under the Prince de Weimar, posted in Frasne, and forced it back to the farmhouse on the same road, called Les Quatre Bras.
“We maintained our position also, and completely defeated and repulsed all the enemy’s attempts to get possession of it. The enemy repeatedly attacked us with a large body of infantry and cavalry, supported by a numerous and powerful artillery; he made several charges with the cavalry upon our infantry, but all were repulsed in the steadiest manner.
“In this affair His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange, the Duke of Brunswick, and Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Pieton, and Major-General Sir James Kempt, and Sir Denis Pack, who were engage from the commencement of the enemy’s attack highly distinguished themselves, as well as Lieutenant-General Charles Baron Alten, Major-General Sir C Halket, Lieutenant-General Cooke and Major-Generals Maitland and Bvag, as they successively arrived. The troops of the 5th Division, and those of the Brunswick Corps, were long and severely engaged, and conducted themselves with the utmost gallantry. I must particularly mention the 28th, 42nd, 79th and 92nd Regiments, and the battalion of Hanoverians.
“Our loss was great, as your Lordship will perceive by the inclosed [sic] return, and I have particularly to regret His Serene Highness the Duke of Brunswick, who fell, fighting gallantly, at the head of his troops.
Although Marshall Blucher had maintained his position at Samberf, he still found himself “much weakened” by the severity of the battle in which he was engaged, noted the Duke of Wellington in his dispatch to Earl Bathurst, and as the 4th Corps had not arrived, he determined to fall back and concentrate his army upon Wavre, “and he marched in the night after the action was over”.
Wellington continued his dispatch from Waterloo: “This movement rendered necessary a corresponding one on my part; and I retired from the farm of Les Quatre Bras upon Genappe, and thence upon Waterloo the next morning, the 17th at ten o’clock.
“The enemy made no effort to pursue Marshall Blucher. On the contrary, a patrol which I sent to Samberf in the morning, found all quiet, and the the enemy’s videttes fell back as the patrol advanced. Neither did he attempt to molest our march to the rear, although made in the middle of the day, excepting by following, with a large body of cavalry, brought from his right, the cavalry under the Earl of Uxbridge.
“The gave Lord Uxbridge an opportunity of charging them with the 1st Life Guards, upon their debouche from the village of Genappe, upon which occasion his Lordship has declared himself to be well satisfied with that regiment.”
TAKING UP POSITIONS
The Duke of Wellington then took up position in front of Waterloo.
He detailed: “The position which I took in front of Waterloo, crossed the high roads from Charlero and Nivelle, and had its right thrown back to a ravine near Merke Braine, which was occupied; and its left extended to a height above the hamlet Ter la Have, which was likewise occupied. In front of the right centre, and near the Nivelle road, we occupied the house and garden of Hougoumont, which covered the return of that flank; and in front of the left centre, we occupied the farm of La Haye Sainte. By our left we communicated with Marshal Prince Blucher, at Wavre. . . the Marshal had promised me, that in case we should be attacked, he would support me with one or more corps, as might be necessary.
“The enemy collected his army, with the exception of the 3rd Corps, which had been sent to observe Marshal Blucher, on a range of heights in our front, in the course of the night of the 17th, and yesterday morning; and at about ten o’clock he commenced a furious attack upon our post at Hougoumont.
“I had occupied that post with a detachment from General Byng’s brigade of Guards, which was in position in its rear; and it was for some time under the command of Lieutenant-General Macdonel, and afterwards of Colonel Hume; and I am happy to add, that it was maintained throughout the day with the utmost gallantry by those brave troops, notwithstanding the repeated efforts of large bodies of the enemy to obtain possession of it.”
HEAVY CANNONADE UPON THE LINE
Wellington continued his dispatch: “This attack upon the right of our centre was accompanied by a very heavy cannonade upon our whole line, which was designed to support the repeated attacks of cavalry and infantry occasionally mixed, but sometimes separate, which were made upon it. In one of these the enemy carried the farm house of La Haye Sainte, as the detachment of the light battalion of the legion which occupied it had expended all its ammunition, and the enemy occupied the only communication there was with them.
“The enemy repeatedly charged our infantry with his cavalry charged our infantry with his cavalry, but these attacks were uniformly unsuccessful, and they afforded opportunities to our cavalry to charge, in one of these Lord E Somerset’s brigade, consisting of the Life Guards, Royal Horse Guards, and 1st Guards, highly distinguished themselves, as did that of Major-General Sir William Ponsonby, having taken many prisoners and an Eagle.
The attacks were repeated until about seven o’clock that evening when “the enemy made a desperate effort” with the cavalry and infantry, supported by the fire of the artillery, “to force our left centre near the farm of La Haye Sainte”, which “after a severe contest” was defeated. The Duke of Wellington continued: “And having observed that the troops retired from this attack in great confusion, and that the march of General Bulow’s corps by Euscherment upon Planchenorte and Le Belle Alliance, had begun to take effect; and as I could perceive the fire of his cannon, and as Marshal Prince Blucher had joined in person with a corps of his army to left of our line by Obain, I determined to attack the enemy, and immediately advanced the whole line of infantry, supported by the cavalry and artillery.
Wellington concluded: “The attack in every point; the enemy was forced from his position on the heights, and fled in the utmost confusion, leaving behind him, as far as I could judge, one hundred and fifty pieces of cannon, with their ammunition, which fell into our hands. I continued pursuit till long after dark, and then discontinued it only on account of the fatigue of our troops, who had engaged during twelve hours, and because I found myself on the same road with Marshal Blucher who assured me of his attention to follow the enemy throughout the night; and he has sent me word this morning that he had taken sixty pieces of cannon belonging to the Imperial Guard and several carriages, baggage, &c belonging to Bonaparte in Genappe.”
‘THE BLOODY FIELD OF WATERLOO’
In the News Letter edition published on Tuesday, July 18, the paper carried an interesting poem dedicated to the memory of titled of Captain Blackwood of the 69th Foot, “who fell gallantly leading his company against the enemy, on the 18th of June, at the battle of Waterloo”. Robert Temple Blackwood was the son of The Honourable Hans Blackwood, 3rd Baronet of Dufferin and Clandeboye.
The poem read as follows:
An Elegy on The Death of Captain Blackwood, 69th Foot
O! Would the loftier tone had bless’d my lyre,
To sound the actions of the great that bled -
O! Would each string could breathe Promethean fire,
To light again the spirit of the dead!
But ah! It may not be – tho deeply felt,
In vain my theme that feeling would impart -
In vain we strive, when passion bids us melt,
To bare the soul, or copy from the heart!
Lamented Blackwood! Sadly bright in mine
The actions live that mem’ry still shall save;
Thy sun – fair promise of noble line -
Untimely set – but set in glory’s grave!
Yes! Whilst the big bright tears of friendship flow,
The bosom feels an awful rapture swell -
Dejected sorrow weeps the hero low,
But fame, triumphant, pictures how he fell!
She tells how many a splendid wreath was won -
How brightly flash’d thy blade in glory’s ray -
What deeds in honour’s cause were nobly done,
Where Lusitanian laurels strewed the way!
And thou, Iberia! On her trumpet rose
The blast which pealed thy ransom to the world!
She paus’d, and dropped a ar at Badajas,
O’er which a cloud, from blood-quench’d ruins, curl’d!
She paus’d – for there, upon her sanguine shrine,
His first libation gallantly was shed -
Amid the cannon’s boom and springing mine,
Struck in the storming charge, the valiant bled!
Again she bore her way sublimely on,
Still planting stars along the vaulted blue;
For each translucent act she planted one -
Heroic youth! The brightest glow’d for you!
Nor stay’d her swift career, but urged the flight
Tow’rds where, afar, a burning halo shone -
Ant there, reposing her wings of light,
She mark’d the fatal, favour’d spot, her own.
That glowing halo beam’d on valour’s head,
And far around the rays of glory threw -
O! Twas the artillery flash, intensely shed,
That lit the bloody field of Waterloo!
Wrapped in a tenfold depth of clouded shade,
The sun refused the sanguinary fray -
Slow through the hazy vault he seem’d to wade,
And weep the glorious horrors of the day!
But weak my hand to strike the battle tone -
O! Words of flame, alone, the tale might tell!
My swelling heart can dwell on this alone -
The hero bravely fought – and nobly fell!
We mourn the hopes that promise render’d dear -
The rose bud ruffled, or the lily broke!
Sublimer sorrows mingles in the tear,
When winged lightning scathes the mountain oak!
Then, let not pity do the soldier wrong,
When silent fancy wanders to his tomb -
For know! His spirit soars on triumph’s song!
The wreath he left shall ever bloom!
The poem had been written by poet who called themselves Eustace on July 15, 1815 which was the pen name of one William Read who was born in 1795.
Read was a lieutenant colonel of the Royal North Down Rifles, and evidently an acquaintance of Alaric Alexander Watts, who published his poetry in the Literary Souvenir. D J O’Donoghue writing in Poets of Ireland remarked of Read: “Read was a clever and rather well-known young poet in 1820, and used to write frequently for Literary Gazette, etc. over signature of ‘Eustace’.”
His most noted poem, Rouge et Noir, was written against the evils of gambling in circa 1821.
One of his other notable poems was The Hill of Caves, in two Cantos which was written in 1818.
According to a death notice from the Newry Telegraph in January 1866 he died at Nice, France on December 26, 1865.