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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

A cautionary tale

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A cautionary tale

Postby jf42 » January 21st, 2017, 3:39 pm

From the Siege of Dunkirk, 1793

The fate of Lieutenant Latham of the 53d deserves to be noticed as a warning to young officers. He was on the advanced picquet, which was protected by a small entrenchment, three feet in height. He was strictly enjoined not to show his men, as the enemy's sharpshooters were all around, picking off every man who appeared. But in his eagerness to observe the motions of the enemy, he looked over the low parapet, forgetting a cocked hat half a foot higher than his head. An enemy took such a correct aim at the hat, that he sent his ball through Mr Latham's forehead, and killed him on the spot.

Colonel David Stewart Sketches of the Highlanders, I , Military Annals, p.419
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Re: A cautionary tale

Postby Josh&Historyland » January 21st, 2017, 5:33 pm

Dead shots those cocked hats.
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Re: A cautionary tale

Postby PaulD » January 21st, 2017, 6:19 pm

Dunkirk was obviously an unlucky place to be in 1793 - Porter's History of the Corps of Royal Engineers tells of the death of Colonel Moncrief or Moncrieff, the Chief Engineer and Quarter Master General during the siege, based on a report in the Gentleman's Magazine:

"The uniform of the British Engineers is so like that of the French troops, that our officers, to enable their own men to distinguish them, wear a white handkerchief tied round the arm. Colonel Moncrieff who had neglected this precaution, though frequently reminded of it, was taken for a French democrat by the Austrians, in whose hands he was found by Colonel St. Leger and several officers of the Guards, wounded and stripped. It is generally believed that his death was occasioned by this mistake, for it is not certain that he fell by the enemy." (Vol 1 p 219)

The official reports, correspondence and the usual memoirs make no mention of this possible example of "friendly fire" and only refer to him being shot through the head with a grapeshot.
Last edited by PaulD on January 22nd, 2017, 8:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A cautionary tale

Postby Digby » January 21st, 2017, 6:46 pm

Gee, that's the first time I have read of snipers in horse and musket days.

The enemy (French?) must have been very close to take an aimed shot at such a small target with a musket.

Did the french ever use any rifles?
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