Orders, Decorations and Medals (22 June 1999)
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Date of Auction: 22nd June 1999
Sold for £2,200
Estimate: £1,800 - £2,200
Waterloo 1815 (Lieut. J. Mill, 1st Batt. 40th Reg. Foot) fitted with contemporary silver clip and silver bar suspension, some marks to the obverse, otherwise very fine, the reverse better £1800-2200
FootnoteSold with a slim volume titled ‘Major Mill’s Services. 40th Regt.’, comprising ‘Extracts from the papers of the late Major James Mill, h.p. 40th Regt., selected by his son, Capt. W. Macdonald Mill, late 6th Regt.’, giving details of his service in Ireland, the Peninsula, New Orleans and at Waterloo; approx. 62 pp, half leather with marbled boards, circa 1870.
The following obituary notice appeared in the Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle on Saturday, May 15, 1847: ‘At Southsea, on the 7th inst., James Mill, Esq., late of the 40th Regiment, and Major B.A.L. [British Auxiliary Legion, raised for service in the Carlist Wars]. He served in most of the actions in the Peninsula War, and was very severely wounded at Waterloo.’
Two passages from the accompanying book are worthy of notice, the first concerning the dramatic bayonet action fought by the British 4th Division in the Pyrenees on 28 July 1813: ‘A day of glory for the 40th regiment ! Neither the French nor the English ever exceeded them in cool and determined bravery. The 40th, with about 400 Spaniards, were in occupation of the hill already described in front of our position, and within musket shot of the French antagonistic to us. Early in the day the whole of the French army were observed in motion; and there were seen compact bodies of them ascending on the left of our ridge of defence, and the battle soon after commenced in earnest.
About 12 o’clock, a considerable force numbering about 5000 in the integral, but which consisted of two separate columns of attack some distance apart so as to co-operate in support, were observed in a straight march towards us from diverse points. The 1st column, about 2500, was somewhat in advance of the other, moved up with the utmost gallantry, and undeterred by the well-directed missiles from the hill, still preserving their steady form, and that solidity which, as it would have seemed, nothing could shake or discompose. The Spaniards, at the moment the French got half up the ascent, coolly ran away, leaving us, the 40th, about 420 strong to our fate. All attempts to rally them ineffectual. They were gone in a moment. We were drawn up, eight companies in a line, a little retired from the first brow of the hill, and were prepared for them.
When the French had gained the brow of the hill, at the command and with a threatening shout of vehement as prolonged, our battalion singly fell upon them with the bayonet, and shivering the compact order, swept them from, and to some distance down the descent. Our men were hardly to be restrained from following too far; and they reluctantly obeyed the orders and monitions of their officers to return to the hill, where we, as expeditiously as possible, again formed up our companies, and awaited tranquilly any renewed attack. The second column, 2500 strong, at once followed, and ascended up precisely in the same formation, steadiness and spirit as the first column did, and it was also driven down the hill in like manner.
As in the former instance, our men pursued the enemy too far, and the lapse of time having enabled the first column to reform its ranks and original condition, it was advancing a second time; but when it reached half way up the hill, and within twenty-five yards of us, we again charged them through fire and smoke, and bayonetted all who stood in our way.’
The second passage relates, rather more poignantly, to the battle of Waterloo: ‘The enemy, indeed, fought with a resolution and persistency that appeared desperate, and in saying thus much it would be difficult to over extol or estimate the conduct of our men, or too highly eulogise their untiring constancy and unshaken courage on receiving wounds of a mortal kind, or such terrible injuries as could not but carry into their minds a sense of helplessness and of despair.
For instance, a grenadier of our company, whose face, as it seemed to me, had been cleft asunder, and so slashed by a sabre-cut, that it rested partially upon his shoulder, I beheld walk with a firm step without any assistance from off the ground. I knew the man well, and it was a shocking spectacle, and I do not remember any incident throughout this day, or any former one, that affected me so powerfully as this sight.’