Battle of Waterloo Bicentennial

18 June 2015 marks the bicentennial of the Battle of Waterloo. Two Wisharts (Andrew and George) were actively involved in the campaign and we have provided as much detail as we know about both men below.

As night fell on 17 June 1815, Private Andrew Wishart, 1st Battalion, 71st Regiment of Light Infantry (Captain J. F. Pidgeon’s Company) found himself bivouacked with his unit in position, and drenched by the rain, which fell heavily throughout the night.

The following morning his battalion stood in open column, and in this situation was exposed for some time to a heavy fire of artillery, but moved a short distance to avoid casualties. The line was formed and about two o’clock the Highlanders, with the rest of the brigade, advanced and met the French who were also in position, upon which point they charged, and instantly overthrew them.

The retreating enemy found themselves subjected to heavy fire, but the alignment having been completely deranged by the impetuosity of the advance, Colonel Reynell, with his usual coolness, proceeded to restore order, and had just completed the dressing of the line when the French cavalry was seen advancing. Square was instantly formed, and the 71st, with the rest of the brigade, sustained a charge from 3 regiments of French cavalry.

Despite the ferocity of the cavalry charge the British Infantry held fast, and after a destructive loss, the French were forced to retire.

At this moment a piper played up the 71st quick march, followed with the charge.

Major-General Adams, who was with the regiment exclaimed,

Well done, Seventy-first; you are all lions together, and as for you, piper, you are an honour to your country.

Forward, my lads, and give them the charge in style, as I know and see you can do.

About seven o’clock in the evening the left wing of the battalion was attacked by a column of the Imperial Young Guard, which had been kept in reserve during the day. It was allowed to approach fairly close without being fired upon, upon which time the regiments, throwing in a close and well-directed fire, prevented its deployment, and it retired in confusion.

The enemy having now exhausted all its efforts, the British, in their turn, advanced. The Seventy-first, in the first instance, suffered much from the fire of some guns that enfiladed its front; these were soon silenced, and the battalion was able to safely move forward. In this advance the light brigade captured several guns. Night closed in fast, and the corps rested after this lengthened and sanguinary encounter, the pursuit of the discomfited enemy being committed to the Prussians, under Marshal Blucher, who had arrived on the field of battle in time to decide the defeat of the French.

The battalion lost 16 officers and 171 men killed and wounded during the day. Following the battle the 71st joined the Army of Occupation in Paris.

Also serving in the campaign was George Wishart, a forty-one year old labourer from Dunfermline who was a gunner in the 3rd Battalion, Royal Horse & Foot Artillery (Major Brome’s Company.) George had enlisted in the military aged 16 on 4 June 1790 and was likely a veteran of a number of campaigns by the time he reached Waterloo. His unit formed part of the artillery in the 4th Infantry Division and consisted of five 9-pounder cannons and one 5.5″ howitzer. George may not have served on the battlefield on 18 June (his unit were based at Hal guarding the right flank of the army), but was almost certainly in action five days later when his battery was involved in the capitulation of Cambrai.

George was discharged from the military on 16 March 1816 and returned to Dunfermline, where he died in 1837.

This article has been partly based on Henry John Thoroton Hildyard’s Historical record of the 71st regiment Highland light infantry