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"Napoleonic Wars: Women at Waterloo" Topic

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580 hits since 7 Sep 2017
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP07 Sep 2017 12:26 p.m. PST

"No one knew who the woman was, but she lay on the field of Waterloo and even in death remained beautiful. Volunteer Charles Smith of the 95th Rifles found her body, as he helped to bury the dead after the battle. All he could tell was that she was French and must have gone into the thick of the action to have reached the spot where she died. Everything else about her remained a mystery.

She was not the only woman to fall at Waterloo on June 18, 1815, for British troops found two dead Frenchwomen during a lull in the fighting. ‘I saw one of them, wrote Captain Henry Ross-Lewin of the 32nd Regiment of Foot. She was dressed in a nankeen jacket and trousers, and had been killed by a ball which had passed through her head.

The female participants at Waterloo form one of the great, untold stories of the epic battle. Nobody knows how many Frenchwomen followed their husbands and lovers to, and beyond death, but their presence on the battlefield was by no means unusual. Marshal André Masséna's mistress had been constantly at his side when he invaded Portugal in 1810-inadequately but delightfully disguised in a dragoon's uniform as one of his aides-de-camp. Unfortunately for the French army, her presence had distracted Masséna, antagonized his subordinates and delayed his army's march. What a mistake I made in taking a woman to war with me! he had admitted afterward. But Masséna's mistress was only one of many women who accompanied their menfolk to war during the Napoleonic Era, and had not proved to be such a burden at all.

Each French regiment had women authorized to accompany it on campaign. Designated cantinières or vivandières, they wore clothes of at least partly military design. Their official function within the regiment was to sell tobacco and refreshments such as cognac from their carts and care for the wounded. In the latter role, some inevitably ventured into harm's way and became casualties. Marie Tête-du-bois, the cantinière of the 1st Grenadiers of the Guard, was cut in two by a cannonball at Waterloo.

The British did not have cantinières as such, but they did have camp followers who often found their way onto the battlefield. Many soldiers were married, but only six or sometimes four in each company were permitted to take their wives with them on active service. Once the regiments landed in the theater of war, they soon accumulated a bevy of unofficial camp followers…"
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Glencairn08 Sep 2017 8:25 a.m. PST

The Spanish campaign is full of accounts of women on or near a battlefield, and in seiges. In the British Army, if a womaan's husband was k i a., there was a ready supply of prospective candidates to take his place

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP08 Sep 2017 11:47 a.m. PST

You are right my friend.


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