A Fine Collection of Napoleonic Medals and Artefacts

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Date of Auction: 25th March 2015

Sold for £1,000

Estimate: £1,200 - £1,500

Waterloo 1815 (Lieut. & Adjutant Henry Duperier, 18th Hussars) renamed in old engraved large capitals, replacement silver loop and straight bar suspension, with silver buckle on good original ribbon, some edge and surface bruising, otherwise nearly very fine £1200-1500

Footnote

Ex D.N.W., December 2005, when sold as part of a family group.

Henry Duperier was born in about 1772 and was commissioned from the ranks as a Cornet in the 10th Light Dragoons on 15 January 1807, becoming Lieutenant on 29 September 1808. He was appointed to the 18th Light Dragoons on 7 October 1813 when Colonel Murray of the 18th thought that there was a need for a strong adjutant to restore the regiment to a fighting unit, after criticism from Wellington about their conduct at Vittoria.

Duperier served in the Peninsula with the 10th Light Dragoons from November 1808 to January 1809, and was present at Sahagun, Benevente, and the Corunna campaign. He was with the 18th Light Dragoons in the Peninsula from August 1813 to April 1814, and was present at Nivelle, Nive, Orthes, Croix d’Orade and Toulouse. In September 1813 Duperier was with the regiment in the Spanish town of Olite when he was violently attacked and one of the commissary’s men shot by some of the townspeople. His commanding officer threatened to fire the town and fine the mayor if the perpetrators were not given up. The mayor apparently diffused the difficult situation and the regiment continued its advance following up the French army into the Pyrenees and then on in to France.

Duperier was promoted Lieutenant and Adjutant in February 1814 and served in that capacity in the Waterloo campaign, the regiment being part of Major-General Sir Hussey Vivian’s 6th Brigade. He was the only officer in the regiment to be wounded at the battle of Waterloo.

A day after the great battle, Duperier wrote a letter to Major Hughes, 18th Hussars, who was quartered at the depot at Lewes:

‘.... Although, dear Major, that I begin in a way as if I intend to make a long letter of this, if I intend to finish it, it must be a short one, for I am in a great pain, caused by a ball which I received in my head, charging a French battalion with about 40 of our men. It would have killed an Englishman, having passed through my skull head, opened the skull and out the other side. When I say it would have killed an Englishman it is because he has brains, but you know that I have none. On the sixteenth instant we marched from our respective quarters, and made with all speed for Enghein and Charleroi, but the French was too quick for us, and before we arrived, had driven the Belgic troops as far as Nivelles; we had a little skirmishing with their cavalry, but nought came on, and we was forced to remain on the spot until 2 o’clock on the 17th, when they began like fury at us, being determined to pass between us and the Prussians.

We fought bravely; all the cavalry that we could muster was flying about deploying here, forming columns there, but all in vain, for Lord Wellington received information from General Blücher that Bony with ten thousand of his best cavalry had forced his centre, and consequently forced him after a loss of 14 thousand men to retreat precipitately a great way.

When we got the news I leave you to judge of the consternation of the whole camp, who expected to see the Prussians every moment, in motion and begin but to decamp, &c., flow in all directions, and by degrees nothing did remain but the cavalry, who being of course obliged to cover the retreat. Indeed major, I wished you there, it was done in that majestic way which indeed do great honour to the commander; it was like playing at shake here and there, a battalion gone at last nothing before us.

For about three hours the French apparently made no movements, but they being covered by a thick wood we could not see over. In an instant the cavalry fell on us in all sides besides artillery, the rascals began to shout at a fine rate, and fell on us at all corners. It began at the same moment that we went three paces about a most tremendous shower of rain, the hardest that I ever experienced, with loud claps of thunder accompanied with the French artillery, who began sending the shells very heavily among us at that moment; we lost only one man. We covered the retreat during the shower, who endured almost half an hour. Then the 10th took it, we was cut off from the main road, and map in hand, we ran round by roads at full trot, took up guides behind a hussar, and at small intervals the word came from the [general?] ‘trot on’ the guns playing on our side, and the shouts of the Frenchies very loud.

At last we overtook the infantry who had taken position and the French popped at them. But they had gone as far as intended, and stood their ground. We bivouacked in a little wood, and had such a night as we had on the entering of France, nothing to eat, nor drink, nor so much as water. We remained very quiet on the morning of the 18th till half past eleven, when it was reported that the Prussians had received a reinforcement of thirty thousand men, and was advancing, would be with us by two o’clock. We then began to show fight, and pushed forward in all direction. We manoeuvred a good deal before the enemy, and the guns on both sides was tremendous, a little rain now and then but nothing to hurt. At three an express came from the Prussians to say they would be up in an hour, but the roads were so bad that it was past that time, they took a position very quick, and began opening a good fire of artillery, but the French stood them well, did not appear the least checked by it, and in a moment opened a good fire on that column and continued so till a second column of Prussians made its appearance between us, and their first, they was forced to give a way a little on which the whole of the army give three cheers.

Now for the best. Very few of us being in the affairs of cabinet, all the light cavalry and hussars were withdrawn and put for very few minutes under a hill considerably on our right and entirely under the position of our army, living, as we wise conjecturers generally do, our left flank open. Don’t be alarmed, major, it was to make place for five thousand of Prussian cavalry, who was coming for one thing, and the next, as I conjectured, and I find I was right, to come on step by steps on the firing infantry, that is the Belgian troops, which I saw of my own eyes, officers behind them leathering away (as the drover did the cattle in Spain) to make them smell the gunpowder. We then took more ground to the right in a column of half squadron and brought up a movement of echelon [by] our right shoulder and formed line close to our infantry close to their heels, and then almost nose to nose with the French. It might be about eight, with the smoke and the view we could not see one another. There we stood smoking a cigar, both commanders in chat waiting very politely for one another to get the head ache with the smoke, and for persons not much in the habit of smoking it is very disagreeable. I am one of them, but to pass the time away I done like the Belgian officers, every one that faced about I laid my sword across his shoulders, and told him that if he did not go back I would run him through, and that had the desired effect, for they all stood it. I must at this critical period inform you that Lord Uxbridge got a ball in his leg which fractured the bone so much that he was forced to leave us, but he done it so well that nobody saw it. I suspected it by his slow pace and his shaking hand with General Vivian.

I must inform you that when Bonaparte found that he was so close pushed he ably returned the shots of the Prussians and put all his force on us with himself at the head of his men promising the whole town of Brussels to plunder if they stood. After a long contest as I have said before of perhaps half an hour altogether, but at entire close quarters about ten minutes, Lord Wellington brought some red coated fellows from where I do not know, I could just see them through the cloud of smoke who charged, we shouted and the whole of the French army give away that very instant the very finest I ever beheld. We charged, and of course overtook them, in an instant we fell on the cavalry who resisted but feebly; and in running, tumbled over their own infantry.

From that we came on the artillery who was not better treated by the Irish lads in attentions. There was perhaps three 18th Hussars on a regiment of infantry of the French nothing but
‘Vive le Roi’, but it was too late; besides our men do not understand French, so they cut a way all through till we came to the body of reserve, when we was saluted with a volley at the length of two swords. We tacked about, and had some fun in coming back, but unfortunately the Prussian not coming so soon as it was expected owing to the badness of the road, too late by about ten minutes we found in coming back, some ones that had rallied and was to us great a [danger?] me for one, who got a ball, and poor Hesse a broken arm, Machell’s horse killed under him, Rowlls’s likewise, Lieutenant Monin could not come up he was taken with an attack of the rheumatism, Mr Coote was in the rear with provision, and Lieutenant Gordon, with baggage, Lieutenant Dunkin gone to Ostend with Captain Ellis. My grey mare was shot in the first beginning of the action. You will excuse the irregularity of this, the stooping is too much. I must close. I will write when I get better. I remain, dear major, your most humble servant,

H. Duperier’.

Lieutenant Duperier was placed on Half Pay in November 1821. He died in Cornwall on 15 December 1846, aged 74 years, and is buried in St Mylor Churchyard, Falmouth. The following report of his death appeared in a local newspaper:

‘At Penaluna Cottage, Mylor, on Tuesday last, Lieut. Duperier, of the 18th Hussars, aged 75 years, This worthy and highly respected veteran was 60 years attached to the British army, during which period he was engaged in fifty-one battles and skirmishes, and was one of the heroes of Waterloo, where he was severely wounded. The incidents connected with Mr. Duperier’s career would form an interesting biography, which would be rendered the more valuable by his having been Lieutenant and Adjutant of the 10th Hussars at the period when George the Fourth then Prince Regent, was the Colonel of that Regiment.’