The superb Waterloo Campaign Lord Saltoun’s Light Company Hougoumont Orchard Defender’s Waterloo Medal 1815 awarded to Guardsman Thomas Morris, 3rd Battalion, 1st Foot Guards - the Grenadier Guards. Morris came from Llanon, Carmarthenshire, Wales, and saw service between December 1808 and November 1829, being for a relatively short period elevated to Corporal. A member of Captain and Lieutenant Colonel Lord Saltoun’s Light Company he fought during the disastrous Walcheren Campaign in 1809, before going on to fight during the Peninsular War in Spain and Southern France. However it was during the Waterloo Campaign that he found himself in the thick of the fighting. Engaged at Quatre Bras on 16th June, on the morning of the 18th June Lord Saltoun’s Light Company found itself involved in the defence of the orchard at Hougoumont where it fought with distinction through to 3 pm, by which time it was exhausted and only a third strength, and was then sent back to the main body of the 1st Guards Brigade. As such it then has the added distinction of becoming involved in the repulse of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard towards the end of the battle. This was the climactic confrontation with the famed Grenadiers of Napoleon's Imperial Guard. Marshal Ney led the assault which began with a French artillery barrage. Wellington ordered his men to lie down on the reverse slope to reduce casualties. Some of the 1st Guards even managed to snatch some sleep as the shot whistled overhead. At 1930hrs the advance began. There were 6,000 Grenadiers, seasoned veterans, moving in two massive columns on a frontage of 70 men shoulder to shoulder. One column was heading towards the 1st Guards who numbered around 1,000. They lay out of sight but could hear the sound of thousands of marching feet and roars of 'Vive l'Empereur'. When they were 40 paces away, Wellington shouted 'Now Maitland. Now's your time!' When the Guards sprang to their feet they were in four ranks. The front rank opened fire, killing 300 Frenchmen. The other ranks repeated this, combined with a barrage of grapeshot from the artillery, the Imperial Guard wavered and tried to fall back. Then Lord Saltoun led a charge of the 1st Guards which routed their French counterparts. The 'invincible' Imperial Guard was routed. The cry went up throughout the French army that the Guard were retreating. The whole of the British force swept forward and drove the enemy back across the valley and up the opposite slope. Cavalry and infantry, tired as they were pursued them off the field of battle.
Morris survived Waterloo, and was then garrisoned at Paris as part of the Army of Occupation later that year.
Waterloo Medal 1815, fitted with original steel clip and possible replacement split-ring suspension; (THOMAS MORRIS, 3RD. BATT. GRENAD. GUARDS.)
Condition: very light polishing and light contact wear, Good Very Fine or better.
Thomas Morris was born on 16th October 1788 in Llanon, Carmarthenshire, Wales, and having worked as a labourer, was aged 18 when he then enlisted into the British Army at Merthyr on 15th December 1808, joining as a Guardsman the 1st Foot Guards - the Grenadier Guards, he was posted to the 3rd Battalion.
Posted to Captain and Lieutenant Colonel Lord Saltoun’s Light Company in the 3rd Battalion, Morris subsequently saw service with the 3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards during the disastrous Walcheren Campaign in 1809, before going on to fight during the Peninsular War in Spain and Southern France. During the Peninsular campaign, his battalion formed part of the 1st Guards Brigade under Major General Howard, which brigade consisted of the 1st and 3rd Battalion 1st Guards and the composite battalion of Coldstream and 3rd Guards. He does not however appear to have fought in any of the major actions, or else he never opted to claim the Military General Service Medal when it was belatedly issued.
Morris was then present as part of Lord Saltoun’s Light Company in the 3rd Battalion, 1st Foot Guards during the Waterloo campaign in 1815, when still a part of the 1st Guards Brigade.
During the campaign, the Guards were organised in two brigades in the 1st Division. The 1st Brigade was made up of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 1st Guards, and the 2nd Brigade consisted of Coldstreamers and Scots Guards. Major-General Peregrine Maitland commanded the 1st Guards Brigade whose strength was: 2/1st Guards, 29 officers and 752 men, and 3/1st Guards, 29 officers and 818 men.
It was on the evening of the Duchess of Richmond's ball, 15th June, that Wellington discovered that Napoleon had 'humbugged' him. The army had to be mobilised that night so nobody had much sleep. The Guards were camped at Enghien and received the order at 0130 hrs. They marched out at 0400 and were force-marched all day in hot weather. At 1700hrs on 16th June 1815, as the 1st Guards arrived at Quatre Bras they were thrown in to the battle and drove the French back out of a thick wood. They suffered heavy casualties. The two 1st Guards battalions lost 3 officers, killed and 43 other ranks. Wounded: 10 officers and 491 other ranks.
The next day, 17th June, the allies retained control of Quatre Bras but Blucher's Prussians had been hit hard at Ligny and forced to withdraw. The following day was spent withdrawing to Mont St Jean. There was a cavalry battle at Genappe but the Foot Guards were not involved. The heavy rain started at midday and continued through the night. The Light Companies of both Guards Brigades, under Lord Saltoun, were ordered to secure the Chateau of Hougoumont while the rest of the Guards took up positions behind Hougoumont.
Around 6 p.m. on the evening of 17 June, as the last remnants of the army arrived into Wellington’s chosen position in front of Mont St. Jean after its retreat from Quatre Bras, General Cooke, commanding the 1st Division, consisting of the four Guards battalions, was ordered to send the light companies from each of these battalions to occupy the chateau and its environs and prepare it for defence. On arrival at the complex at about 7 p.m. the four companies of Guards under the overall command of Colonel Macdonell, found a few French infantry and cavalry investigating the complex, most likely with a view to plunder rather than occupancy, and were easily chased off. The farmer had already fled but the Guards did find the gardener, one Guillaume van Cutsem, although his subsequent claims to have remained during much of the battle and survived unscathed appear doubtful.
The two light companies of the 2nd Brigade under Lieutenant Colonel James Macdonell occupied the farm complex and walled garden and the light companies of the 1st Brigade under Lord Saltoun occupied the orchard and wood.
Low firing steps were prepared of stone or wood to allow the defenders to raise themselves over the six foot high wall to fire whilst being able to step down into cover when vulnerable as they reloaded, loopholes were gouged out of the wall which further increased the density of fire and stockpiles of ammunition were arranged in the gardener’s house. The southern gate was barricaded internally with heavy logs and any handy farm implements and other paraphernalia; the north gate was left free to allow access for reinforcements and re-supply, for ease of communication with the troops on the ridge behind and almost certainly as an escape route if things should go wrong.
On the morning of the 18 June, the Prince of Orange decided to reinforce the Hougoumont area before the fighting commenced. Count Kielmansegge supplied the 1st company of the Hanoverian Field Jagers (sharpshooters) of one hundred men and one hundred rifle armed men from each of the Luneburg and Grubenhagen Hanoverian battalions, these three hundred men were all pushed into the orchard. With such a sizeable reinforcement, Saltoun was ordered to return to the ridge with his two light companies. On route, Saltoun met Wellington who was not aware of his withdrawal and ordered him to halt where he was, however hearing nothing further, he eventually continued to rejoin his brigade.
Wellington proceeded to inspect the defences of Hougoumont, ordering the light company of the Coldstream and 3rd Guards to the west of the farm covering the haystack and lane; and ordering the Nassau and Hanoverian troops into the wood. At 9 a.m. the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Nassau Regiment commanded by Major Büsgen, totalling 800 men in six companies, had been ordered from the extreme left wing of the army over to Hougoumont. It took some time to march across the face of the whole army and on arrival just after 10 a.m. Büsgen placed three companies, totalling four hundred men, in the orchard and three companies within the farm complex, which he found empty but prepared for defence, the light companies of the Coldstream and 3rd Guards having previously moved into the western lane area. The Grenadier company of the Nassau battalion occupied the gardener’s house and guarded the south gate, planting their colour defiantly on the rooftop, the other two companies lined the garden wall. Part of the light company of the Coldstream Guards continued to hold the buildings of the lower courtyard and defended the north gate.
And so, as the first cannon bellowed out the commencement of the battle at around half past eleven, Napoleon’s very first action was to order his brother, Lieutenant General Prince Jerome to take the complex with his 6th Infantry Division totalling just over five and a half thousand men. It was apparently intended as a diversion, but this was soon to be no mere feint. Whether on his own decision or following orders from Napoleon is unclear, but the attack was continued with great vigour. Jerome has been much criticised by history as the scapegoat for his decision to press the attacks, but it should be noted that his superior, General Reille, although he later claimed that he ordered him to desist in the attacks, did not stop him, in fact he actually fed the rest of his troops into the later assaults.
This first attack commenced with a cloud of French skirmishers driving into the wood, supported by the formed infantry of Bauduin’s Brigade and flanked by Pire’s cavalry to the west, which slowly forced the Nassau and Hanoverian troops back, until finally pushing them out of the wood into the orchard and then pursuing them through the orchard to the hollow way on its northern boundary. At this point, some of the three Nassau companies appear to have routed and left the field.
The French continued to make an assault on the garden but were mown down by the heavy fire from the wall each time they attempted to cross the thirty yards of the killing ground between the wood and the garden wall. Some survived to reach the relative safety of the wall and desperately tried to wrench the muskets from the defenders as they poked them through the loopholes to fire, often gashing their hands on their bayonets. Others sought the aid of colleagues to raise them up and over the wall, only to receive a musket ball at point blank range or a sharp stab from a bayonet, but none crossed the wall alive. Even their commander Bauduin was killed in the fierce fighting in the wood.
Some brave individuals attempted to force the southern gate, a few of whom may apparently have succeeded; and as the Nassau troops were never in the northern courtyard it may have been at this moment that poor Lieutenant Diederich von Wilder of the Nassau Grenadiers was chased by a Frenchman towards the farmer’s house. As he grasped the door to enter, the Frenchman struck a blow with his axe that severed his hand completely. These few Frenchmen were however quickly shot or bayoneted by Sergeant Buchsieb and his men and the door re-barricaded. Following this close call the battalion’s standard was removed from the rooftop and Buchsieb was ordered to take the colours to safety behind the ridge. At the Hollow Way, the remaining Hanoverian troops were reinforced by Saltoun’s two Guard light companies which had been sent forward again. Together they drove the now disordered French out of the orchard, pushing them back into the wood and then proceeded to set up a defensive line at the hedge line on the edge of the orchard. During their advance the French had also suffered severely from well directed cannon fire from the ridge behind Hougoumont, and particularly after Sir Augustus Frazer had directed Major Bull’s battery of 5½ inch howitzers to throw shrapnel shells into the woods, which the gunners did with great skill causing very heavy losses.
Prince Jerome was not so easily thwarted, however, and he immediately ordered his 2nd Brigade commanded by Soye to join a second assault on Hougoumont. This time Bauduin’s Brigade would attack to the west, supported again by Pire’s cavalry, whilst Soye moved through the wood to renew the attack on the orchard and garden wall.
The light company of the 3rd Guards and part of the Coldstream light infantry totalling around one hundred and fifty men were now outside the farm complex on the western side and were to bear the brunt of this assault, being driven slowly back along the western face of Hougoumont. Arriving near the north gate, the Guards looked to retreat into the northern courtyard, but the leading elements of 1st Legere Regiment were hot on their heels. Sergeant Ralph Fraser armed only with a pike fought with Colonel Cubiѐres, commander of 1st Legere, dragging him from his horse, when the sergeant leapt onto the horse and rode through the north gate; Colonel Cubiѐres was wounded, but survived.
Private Matthew Clay, of the 3rd Guards is an important eye witness to the fight for Hougoumont. He was only twenty years old and new to war when he found himself fighting only feet away from the French outside Hougoumont, whilst the north gates were fought over. The advanced elements of 1st Legere reached the gates finding them apparently closed, but it appears that the cross beam had not been put in place properly; at their head was a giant of a man, Sous Lieutenant Legros, known as L’Enfonceur, or ‘the smasher’. He seized a pioneer’s axe and swinging it against the panels of the gate, forced his way into the farmyard. A large number of French infantry followed him into the courtyard through the narrow gap, forcing the defenders to engage in a desperate hand to hand combat, whilst others retired to the relative safety of the surrounding buildings and commenced firing on the assailants from the windows and doorways. The fall of Hougoumont was resting on a knife edge when Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Macdonell ran forward, gathered a small group of officers and men to him. Together they fought their way to the gate and with the aid of Corporal James Graham, pushed the gate closed, despite the continued efforts of more French infantry to enter. The gates were secured and barricaded, Macdonell eventually securing the gates properly by dropping the great crossbar into place. All of the French infantry who had entered the courtyard were killed, including Legros.
The present threat to the farm eased as the French infantry retired slowly to the south in the face of a determined counter attack ordered by Major General Byng who had sent three companies of the Coldstream Guards , led by Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Woodford, down from the ridge and driving the French troops slowly back down the western lane into the wood. The reinforcement then filed into the farm complex via the small west door and greatly boosted the number of defenders within. Woodford was actually senior to Macdonell, but he generously agreed for Macdonell to retain the command and they fought the battle together for the remainder of the day. Now all but two companies of the Coldstream Guards, which remained upon the ridge with the colours, were engaged in the defence of Hougoumont. Most of these much needed reinforcements were positioned along the east wall of the garden where they could support the infantry defending the orchard, but some also relieved part of the Nassau Grenadiers in the defence of the gardener’s house, these then joined their colleagues lining the south wall of the garden. This also allowed the north gate to be reopened for re-supply and to allow the walking wounded to retire, it was also the opportunity for Private Matthew Clay and his colleague, who had been trapped outside, to enter the relative safety of the farm complex, where he was soon put to work defending the chateau itself.
Although there were significant intervals between some of the major attacks, the defenders were given no opportunity to relax, for French skirmishers never ceased firing upon any perceivable movement, making the archway between the southern courtyard and the formal garden particularly dangerous. Although the farm was largely hidden from view from the south by the wood, it was clearly in the view of the artillery attached to Pire’s cavalry to the west on the Nivelles road and was regularly fired upon with solid iron cannon balls in an attempt to breach the walls. A number did smash through the walls or roofs, but luckily for the defenders many of the smaller calibre rounds bounced off the solid masonry, the walls withstanding much of the heavy battering.
A third major attack was launched by Jerome just before one p.m. which was now sent to probe the south east side of the orchard. The obvious danger of this attack, was that the capture of the hollow way would both isolate Hougoumont from the main ridge and allow the French to fire into the formal garden from the rear hedge (there was no wall here) and probably force the defenders to abandon the garden, increasing the isolation and vulnerability of the defenders of the farm complex.
This attack was made by Foy’s Division from Reille’s Corps, led by Gautier’s Brigade and proceeded through and alongside the eastern edge of the orchard, driving Saltoun and the Hanoverians back slowly. In the nick of time two companies of the 3rd Foot Guards commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Francis Home were sent to reinforce Saltoun and together, with the support of fire from the Coldstream Guards lining the eastern wall of the garden, the French were once again expelled from the orchard with heavy losses.
Following such intense fighting, concern was now raised over the dwindling ammunition supplies, as most of that previously stockpiled had now been issued. Ensign Berkeley Drummond, Adjutant of the 2nd Battalion 3rd Foot Guards, informed Captain Horace Seymour, Aide de Camp to Lord Uxbridge, that there was a great need for musket ammunition. Seymour rode back and soon discovered a private of the Wagon Train in charge of an ammunition cart. Without hesitation, despite the heavy musketry fire from French skirmishers in the lane, the private hastily drove his wagon forward and successfully delivered the vital ammunition.
The French then dragged a howitzer forward which began to shell the buildings of Hougoumont from a position in the north east corner of the wood. Saltoun realised that this new threat was very serious and sought to silence it. He attempted to advance into the woods with most of his available force, but soon realised that he was heavily outnumbered and was forced to retire with loss and actually fell back as far as the hollow way. Saltoun’s light infantry companies were now badly depleted and so completely exhausted that they were relieved around 2 p.m. by three more companies of 3rd Foot Guards under Colonel Francis Hepburn who then assumed command of the orchard for the remainder of the day.
Having played a most significant roll in the defence of Hougoumont, and despite the fact that Lord Saltoun’s Light Company were completely exhausted and severely depleted with only a third of their strength from the morning. they then found themselves posted back to the main body of the 1st Guards Brigade, and in time to participate in another legendary aspect of the Battle of Waterloo, when involved in the repulse of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard towards the end of the battle.
This was the climactic confrontation with the famed Grenadiers of Napoleon's Imperial Guard. Marshal Ney led the assault which began with a French artillery barrage. Wellington ordered his men to lie down on the reverse slope to reduce casualties. Some of the 1st Guards even managed to snatch some sleep as the shot whistled overhead. At 1930hrs the advance began. There were 6,000 Grenadiers, seasoned veterans, moving in two massive columns on a frontage of 70 men shoulder to shoulder.
One column was heading towards the 1st Guards who numbered around 1,000. They lay out of sight but could hear the sound of thousands of marching feet and roars of 'Vive l'Empereur'. When they were 40 paces away, Wellington shouted 'Now Maitland. Now's your time!' When the Guards sprang to their feet they were in four ranks. The front rank opened fire, killing 300 Frenchmen. The other ranks repeated this, combined with a barrage of grapeshot from the artillery, the Imperial Guard wavered and tried to fall back. Then Lord Saltoun led a charge of the 1st Guards which routed their French counterparts. The 'invincible' Imperial Guard was routed. The cry went up throughout the French army that the Guard were retreating. The whole of the British force swept forward and drove the enemy back across the valley and up the opposite slope. Cavalry and infantry, tired as they were pursued them off the field of battle. The casualty figures for the 1st Guards Brigade on the 18th June were, 4 officers and 131 other ranks killed, 11 officers and 346 other ranks wounded.
Morris survived Waterloo, and was then garrisoned at Paris as part of the Army of Occupation later that year. Having served some 8 years and 48 days as a Guardsman, he was promoted to Corporal and served in that rank for the next 2 years and 81 days before reverting to Guardsman again and continuing to serve for the next 9 years and 253 days before being discharged to pension on 11th November 1829. He was then paid his marching money to return home from London to Carmarthen, a distance of 208 miles. Having latterly gone on to reside in Cardiff, he die on 18th March 1865.