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"More about Captain Mercer and G Troop" Topic

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©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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4th Cuirassier13 Apr 2018 1:54 a.m. PST

For decades it was believed that the black and white head and shoulders portrait was the only image that existed of Mercer. Now here he is, painted by a fellow artillery officer in 1828. He looks quite a dandy!

britishbulldog13 Apr 2018 5:15 a.m. PST

Hi 4th C,
Thanks for the posting of this site. Very interesting articles.

Personal logo ColCampbell Supporting Member of TMP13 Apr 2018 5:49 a.m. PST

Here's the link to the actual portrait of Mercer.


4th Cuirassier13 Apr 2018 5:57 a.m. PST

It doesn't strike one as a skilled likeness, does it?!

I have read his Journal and while the Waterloo action is a handful of pages out of the whole few hundred, the other material is also valuable. His descriptions of places, billets and and recounted conversations are so detailed that it's clear this really was a contemporaneous account. It's rather charming that he found Belgium so exotic and fascinating.

His observations on how a horse battery was run are interesting and he also gives a lengthy analysis of the pros and cons of the rumoured alternative defensive position at Hal, which he rode over to visit.

I searched Google Earth a while back for places like "Strytem" but even changing the spelling to "Strijtem" I didn't find the place he stayed in, as the website has managed to do:


dibble Supporting Member of TMP13 Apr 2018 12:12 p.m. PST

There is a sepia portrait of Mercer in his descendants possession. It was on Antiques Roadshow in 2008.

I have pictures of his sword which were provided to me by the BBC after a lot of pleading. Unfortunately, I didn't ask for a still photo of the portrait which, IIRC, was a very detailed and fine picture of the man in post-war finery.

You can just see the bottom left corner of the portrait in this picture of his sword.


Paul :)

Brechtel19815 Apr 2018 7:06 a.m. PST

Mercer's Journal is an invaluable resource for the workings of an RHA troop.

Mercer also comes across as a very competent troops commander who knew how to take care of his men and horses.

From Mercer, pages 90-91:

'Soon after our arrival at Strytem, an officer of the commissariat was attached to the troop, for the purpose of feeding us and our animals. His first care was to secure a sufficient number of country wagons, with their drivers and horses, intending to keep them together ready for a move. The farmers, finding this a grievance, besieged me, personally and through Mynheer Evenpoel, to allow them to remain home until wanted. This Mr Coates (who, by the way, was an experienced and excellent commissary) strongly opposed, foretelling the consequences but too truly; however, I yielded, upon a solemn promise of M l'Adjoint that they should be held ready to move at a moment's notice. Having committed this folly, I was well punished for it by the anxiety I experienced at every report of a move; and at last when the hour did come, they were called and found wanting, and poor Mr Coates had to mount and hunt them up, when they thought to have been loaded and on the road. This was a lesson to me.'

[It's too bad that Mr Coates' undoubtedly pointed remarks both at Captain Mercer and the civilians concerned are not recorded here].

'Another misery I endured was the constant apprehension of falling under the Duke's displeasure for systematic plundering of the farmers by our people, which I could not well check without risk of incurring the same on another score-ie, for not doing it! This is enigmatical; let me explain. Our allowance of forage, though sufficient to keep our horses in pretty good condition when idle, was not sufficient when they were hard worked; nor was it sufficient at any time to put on them that load of flesh, and give them that rotundity of form which Peninsular practice had established as the beau ideal of a horse entering on a campaign, the maxim being-'the more flesh a horse carries, the more he has to lose, and the longer he will be able to beat privation.' To keep up this, therefore, it was necessary to borrow from the farmers; and at this time of the year the superb crops of the trefe offered themselves most opportunely. The practice was general amongst cavalry and artillery, so that all the horses were equally in good case; and it would have been a most dangerous proceeding, by abstaining from it, to let your horses appear thinner than those of your neighbor. The quick eye of the Duke would have seen the difference, asked no questions, attended to no justification, but condemned the unfortunate victim of samples as unworthy of the command he held, and perhaps sent him from the army. We therefore, like others, plundered the farmers' fields; with this difference, however, that we did it in a regular manner, and without waste-whereas many of the cavalry regiments destroyed nearly as much as they carried away, by trampling about the fields. The dread of this being reported kept me continually in hot water, for my farmers (who, under the reign of the Prussians, would never have dared utter a complaint), hearing how strictly plundering was forbidden by the Duke, soon became exceedingly troublesome with their threats of reporting me. How we escaped it is difficult to say, but certainly we continued helping ourselves; and latterly St Cyr, and some other farmers, getting more docile, would themselves mark out where we were to cut. Our neighbor at the chateau farm (Walsdragen) was the most troublesome. The Duke was not partial to our corps, which made it still more fortunate for me that these people never put their threats into execution…'

There is a footnote to this last section, stating that 'A report was sent to Brussels, but it never reached the Duke, for the simple people went in the first instance to Sir G Wood [commander of the army's artillery], and there is was strangled.'

Mercer did what was necessary to ensure his troop horses were properly fed and cared for and it should be noted that good commanders did what was necessary to feed their horses and troops. There is a difference between foraging and requisition on the one hand, and looting and pillaging on the other. That fact is often overlooked.

attilathepun47 Inactive Member15 Apr 2018 9:26 a.m. PST


That's a very interesting quotation--thanks.

Brechtel19815 Apr 2018 11:06 a.m. PST

You're welcome.

4th Cuirassier16 Apr 2018 12:28 a.m. PST

@ Brechtel

Prussian plundering prolonged the 1815 hostilities. Wellington's army paid for what it needed and advanced to Paris little opposed; the Prussians pillaged the countryside in a spirit of revenge, even though Prussia was not at war with France, and as a result continued to fight and to take casualties.

There was I think an acute lack of political judgment at the top of the Prussian army, which – as Hussey points out – felt entitled as early as 1815 to tell the government to mind its Ps and Qs in respect of the army's opinions.

Brechtel19816 Apr 2018 2:34 a.m. PST

Blucher also encouraged looting as long as it was not in Prussia. He also ordered his engineers to blow up the Pont d'Iena in Paris. They either bungled it or had enough self-respect and professionalism not to do it.

The Belgians thought the Prussians were worse than the Cossacks had been the year before.

4th Cuirassier18 Apr 2018 12:46 a.m. PST

Yep. The Prussians were still fighting in September because they had to – any town they approached expected to be pillaged and wrecked, so if it could be defended, it was. Wellington's army was usually able to negotiate a surrender.

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