Waterloo, The day after the Battle.

Story

[This eye witness account by an Englishman appeared in the United Service Magazine in 1829.]

On Monday morning, June 19th, I hastened to the field of battle:
I was compelled to go through the forest de Soignes, for the road was
so completely choked up as to be impassable ; and I had not proceeded
far, before I stumbled over the dead body of a Frenchman, which was
lying on its face amongst the grass. The corpse was so frightfully
disfigured, and so smeared with mud and gore, that I felt horror-
struck ; but when, on advancing a little farther, I saw hundreds, and in
less than an hour, thousands of slain, I found my pity for individuals
merge in the general mass, and that the more I saw the less I felt ; so
true it is, that habit reconciles every thing.

The dead required no help ; but thousands of wounded, who could
not help themselves, were in want of every thing ; their features, swol-
len by the sun and rain, looked livid and bloated. One poor fellow
had a ghastly wound across his lower lip, which gaped wide, and
showed his teeth and gums, as though a second and unnatural mouth
had opened below his first. Another, quite blind from a gash across
bis eyes, sat upright, gasping for breath, and murmuring, "De l'eau !
de l'eau !" The anxiety for water was indeed most distressing. The
German "Vaser! Vaser!" and the French “De l'eau ! De l'eau!"
still seem sounding in my ears. I am convinced that hundreds must
have perished from thirst alone, and they bad no hope of assistance,
for even humane persons were afraid of approaching the scene of blood,
lest they should be taken in requisition to bury the dead ; almost
every person who came near, being pressed into that most disgusting
and painful service.

This general burying was truly horrible : large square holes were
dug about six feet deep, and thirty or fofty fine young fellows stripped
to their skins were thrown into each, pell mell, and then covered over
in so slovenly a manner, that sometimes a hand or foot peeped through
the earth. One of these holes was preparing as I passed, and the fol-
lowers of the army were stripping the bodies before throwing them into
it, whilst some Russian Jews were assisting in the spoliation of the
dead, by chiseling out their teeth ! an operation which they performed
with the most brutal indifference. The clinking hammers of these
wretches jarred horribly upon my ears, and mingled strangely with the
occasional report of pistols, which seemed echoing each other at stated
intervals, from different corners of the field. I could not divine the
meaning of these shots, till I was informed, that they proceeded from
the Belgians, who were killing the wounded horses. Hundreds of
these fine creatures were, indeed, galloping over the plain, kicking and
plunging, apparently mad with pain, whilst the poor wounded wretches
who saw them coming, and could not get out of their way, shrieked in
agony, and tried to shrink back to escape from them, but in vain.

Soon after, I saw an immense horse (one of the Scotch Greys) dash
towards a Colonel of the Imperial Guard, who had had his leg shattered;
the horse was frightfully wounded, and part of a broken lance
still rankled in one of its wounds. It rushed snorting and plunging
past the Frenchman, and I shall never forget his piercing cry as it
approached. I flew instantly to the spot, but ere I reached it the man
was dead ; for, though I do not think the horse had touched him, the
terror he felt had been too much for his exhausted frame.

Sickened with the immense heaps of slain, which spread in all direc-
tions as far as the eye could reach, I was preparing to return, when as
I was striding over the dead and dying, and meditating on the horrors
of war, my attention was attracted by a young Frenchman, who was
lying on his back, apparently at the last gasp. There was something
in his countenance which interested me. and I fancied, though I knew
not when, or where, that I had seen him before. Some open letters
were lying around, and one was yet grasped in his band as though he
had been reading it to the last moment. My eye fell upon the words
" Mon cher fils," in a female hand, and I felt interested for the fate
of so affectionate a son.

When I left home in the morning, I had put a flask of brandy and
some biscuit into my pocket, in the hope that I might be usefid to the
wounded, but when I gazed on the countless multitude which strewed
the field, I felt discouraged from attempting to relieve them. Chance
had now directed my attention to one individual, and I was resolved to
try to save his life. His thigh was broken, and he was badly wounded
on the left wrist, but the vital parts were untouched, and his exhaustion
seemed to arise principally from loss of blood.

I poured a few drops of brandy into his mouth, and crumbling my
biscuit contrived to make him swallow a small particle. The effects
of the dose were soon visible; his eyes half opened, and a faint tinge of
colour spread over his cheek. I administered a little more, and it re-
vived him so much that he tried to sit upright. I raised him, and con-
triving to place him in such a manner, as to support him against the
dead body of a horse, I put the flask and biscuit by his side, and de-
parted in order to procure assistance to remove him.

I recollected that a short time before, I had seen a smoke issuing
from a deep ditch, and that my olfactory nerves had been saluted by s
savoury smell as I passed. Guided by these indications, I retraced
my steps to the spot, and found some Scotch soldiers sheltered by a
hedge, very agreeably employed in cooking a quantity of beefsteaks
over a wood fire, in a French cuirass ! ! I was exceedingly diverted
at this novel kind of frying-pan, which served also as a dish ; and after
begging permission to dip a biscuit in their gravy for the benefit of my
patient, I told my tale, and was gratified by the eagerness which they
manifested to assist me; one ran to catch a horse with a soft Hussar
saddle, (there were hundreds galloping over the field,) and the rest
went with me to the youth, whom we found surprisingly recovered,
though he was still unable to speak. The horse was brought, and as
we raised the young Frenchman to put him upon it, his vest opened,
and his " Utrel " fell out. This is a little book which every French
soldier is obliged to carry, and which contains an account of his name,
age, pay, accoutrements, and services. I picked it up, and offered it
to my patient — but the young man murmured the name of " Annette,"
and fainted.

" Annette !" the name thrilled through every nerve. I hastily open-
ed the livret, and found that it was indeed Louis Tissand whom I had
saved ! The rest is soon told. Louis reached Brussels in safely, and
even Madame's selfishness gave way to rapture on recovering her son.
As to Annette — but why perplex myself to describe her feelings? If
my readers have ever loved, they may conceive them. Louis soon re-
covered ; indeed with such a nurse he could not fail to get well. When
I next visited Brussels, I found Annette surrounded by three or four
smiling cherubs, to whom I was presented as le bon Anglais, who pre-
served the life of their papa.