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Sgt. Ewart's capture of French Colours & Standard

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Sgt. Ewart's capture of French Colours & Standard

Postby FBC-Elvas, Portugal » October 8th, 2016, 2:09 pm

From Waterside to Waterloo. If you're in Edinburgh between November and February when this production will be shown, you might want to see "the heroic tale of Sergeant Charles Ewart's daring feat to capture the Colours and the Standard of The 45 Regime of Napoleon's Army at the Battle of Waterloo 1815" in Edinburgh castle.
https://www.historicenvironment.scot/vi ... fe00ebff14

Owen Davis, a direct descendant of Ensign Charles Ewart of the Scots Greys, has written about the “Most Illustrious Grey”.
http://waterloo200.org/themes/soldiers/ ... ious-grey/

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Re: Sgt. Ewart's capture of French Colours & Standard

Postby unclearthur » October 14th, 2016, 9:29 pm

There's an alternative view of Sergeant Ewart's Eagle in Paul Dawson's book 'Charge The Guns: Wellington's Cavalry at Waterloo'
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Re: Sgt. Ewart's capture of French Colours & Standard

Postby Josh&Historyland » October 14th, 2016, 10:37 pm

Was wondering about that. What about that theory anyway?
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Re: Sgt. Ewart's capture of French Colours & Standard

Postby unclearthur » October 15th, 2016, 9:16 am

I'm not sure, and being a non-historian with no desire (or time) to hunt down primary sources I'll have to be content to sit on the fence. I suppose that like a lot of similar events there are so many agendas to consider, spread over such a long period, we'll probably never know all the facts.

At least new theories keep the discussion boards busy! :D
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Re: Sgt. Ewart's capture of French Colours & Standard

Postby jf42 » October 16th, 2016, 11:34 am

I am not sure what authority we should look for when consulting
http://waterloo200.org/themes/soldiers/ ... ious-grey/ but it's unfortunate that the researcher and author, Owen Davis, ("a direct descendant of Ensign Charles Ewart of the Scots Greys") didn't examine his sources more carefully when writing his essay (Here we go again...).

The narrative of Ewart's early career with which Mr Davis begins, citing "an incident in the winter of 1793-94", is in fact quite clearly an anecdote from the catastrophic events of January 1795, when the British and German contingent under Count Walmoden abandoned the defense of the Netherlands after, as Ewart's first biographer, James Paterson, puts it "The disastrous battle of Nimguen" [Nijmegen]. (We are never far from the word "disastrous" in descriptions of this campaign- nor from mispelled Dutch place names).

Nijmegen had in fact been abandoned , after a brief defence, two months earlier, in November 1794, but the reference clearly shows that Davis' placing Ewart's rescue of the infant from the arms of its dead mother in the previous winter to be mistaken.

Mr Davis might also have considered the identification in Paterson's 1871 account of the child's father as a 'Sergeant in the 60th regiment', given that the 60th Royal Americans did not serve in Europe at that time (although some battalions did briefly rotate through the Channel Islands in the mid-1790s). In fact, this must be a typo. In his newspaper article of October 1841 in the Ayr Observer(see below) Paterson identifies the soldier as a sergeant in the 80th Regiment ( a 'young' corps commanded by Henry Paget, the future Lord Uxbridge) which suffered notable losses during this campaign as a result of sickness and exposure.

It is an inconvenient fact that the bulk of the British cavalry had been withdrawn from the Rhine-Waal position the previous autumn to cover the army's line of withdrawal to Germany. However, a heavy cavalry brigade was part of Lord Cathcart's command subsequently sent to cover the northern flank of the retreat, which included the 80th as part of Cathcart's 6th Brigade. Whether the 2nd Dragoons were part of that column I haven't been able to ascertain.

Secondly, Davis' placing the battle where Ewart was briefly taken prisoner "four months after Ewart’s discovery of the little babe...during the ill fated Flanders campaign"," is plainly incorrect.
https://archive.org/stream/autobiograph ... arch/ewart

It is equally odd that Owen Davis should state that he had found it "difficult to find accounts which confirm where this [the capture] happened, which makes it problematic to pinpoint the battle or area in Flanders where it took place, " since his extensive research included Paterson's biographical note from 1871 which refers clearly to the battle of Fleurus (June 1794).

Davis, on the other hand came to the conclusion, for reasons he does not explain, that the picaresque adventure of Ewart's brief capture and escape took place at the battle of Tourcoing which took place a month or so before Fleurus, although there is no reference, for instance, in Cannon's 'Historical Record of The Royal Regiment of Scots Dragoons [etc]' [ https://archive.org/stream/cihm_48381#p ... h/flanders ]to the regiment having to disperse at the end of that battle to escape enemy envelopment, the French having been "chased from the field with loss of many men and thirteen pieces of cannon."

It should be added, however, that the 'Historical Record' makes no reference to Fleurus at all. This is possibly because none of the Duke of York's troops, some distance to the north west, were involved in that battle.

The truth is that both these anecdotes have the ring of, if not apocrypha, then a degree of journalistic enhancement. Paterson's account was the result of a lunchtime session at the Monument Inn at Kilmarnock in 1841, which was then written up in his paper, the Ayr Observer and reworked for Paterson's own Autobiographical Remininscences published in 1871.

The chapter on Ewart contains an account of his exploits at Waterloo,
[https://archive.org/stream/autobiographica00pategoog#page/n222/mode/2up/search/ewart] but it cannot compete with Ewart's own words written a month or so after the battle:

“It was in the first charge I took the eagle from the enemy: he and I had a hard contest for it; he made a thrust at my groin, I parried it off and cut him down through the head. After this a lancer came at me; I threw the lance off by my right side, and cut him through the chin and upward through the teeth.

Next, a foot-soldier fired at me and charged me with his bayonet, which I also had the good luck to parry, and then I cut him down through the head; thus ended the contest.

As I was about to follow my regiment, the general [General Ponsonby] said,’My brave fellow, take that to the rear; you have done enough till you get quit of it’. which I was obliged to do, but with great reluctance.

I retired to a height, and stood there for upwards of an hour, which gave a general view of the field, but I cannot express the horrors I beheld. The bodies of my brave comrades were lying so thick upon the field that it was scarcely possible to pass, and horses innumerable. I took the eagle into Brussels amid the acclamations of thousands of spectators who saw it."


As primary account as you can get. As to its veracity, I shall bow out of at this point.
Last edited by jf42 on October 17th, 2016, 11:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sgt. Ewart's capture of French Colours & Standard

Postby Josh&Historyland » October 16th, 2016, 3:14 pm

I for one am certain Ewart did the thing. A trumpeter laid his hand on the colour as the 2nd hit the 45th but both he and his horse were shot an instant later and the flag I suppose smuggled to the rear.

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Re: Sgt. Ewart's capture of French Colours & Standard

Postby jf42 » October 16th, 2016, 5:04 pm

I have nae doott he took the eagle of the 45th but what is the deal with the presence of a lancer with d'Erlon's infantry?
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Re: Sgt. Ewart's capture of French Colours & Standard

Postby Josh&Historyland » October 16th, 2016, 5:41 pm

I've never been able to answer that myself.
At the moment my best guess is, & this is the one I chose to use in my posts about the Greys:

Ewart condensed his account, it sounds like it happened all at once but it is possible that there is more time in between combats than it appears. It is also my belief that the eagle was captured at least halfway down the slope, Corp Dickson has a story about covering Ewart's back & suggests it happened as the French were in flight. That being said its logical to my mind that he was directed to the rear while officers were trying to regain control. Or indeed it's possible he took it forwards a little before turning back. Ewart speaks of being unhappy about doing this and lingering for an unspecified time.
It's a stretch but therefore plausible that the lancer is one of the counter attacking 1st light cavalry division. And the latter French infantryman is a straggler.

Option 2.
Ewart gilded the lilly a bit. Adding a cuirassier or lancer to a Waterloo story adds infinitely to its appeal.
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Re: Sgt. Ewart's capture of French Colours & Standard

Postby PaulD » October 17th, 2016, 9:43 am

jf42 wrote:It is an inconvenient fact that the bulk of the British cavalry had been withdrawn from the Rhine-Waal position the previous autumn to cover the army's line of withdrawal to Germany. However, a heavy cavalry brigade was part of Lord Cathcart's command subsequently sent to cover the northern flank of the retreat, which included the 80th as part of Cathcart's 6th Brigade. Whether the 2nd Dragoons were part of that column I haven't been able to ascertain.


Two articles in the JSAHR confirm that the cavalry brigade with Cathcart's troops in the retreat was made up of the Greys, Bays and Inniskillings, commanded by David Dundas ("The Campaign in Flanders of 1793-1795: Journal of Lieutenant Charles Stewart, 28th Foot" ed Lt.-Col. R.M. Grazebrook, Vol XXIX p. 15 and "Gleanings from the Cathcart MSS." ed C.T. Atkinson, Vol XXIX p.153)
So the anecdote about the sergeant in the 80th may be true....
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Re: Sgt. Ewart's capture of French Colours & Standard

Postby jf42 » October 17th, 2016, 11:18 am

Thanks, Paul. I was hoping you might throw some light on the subject. How satisfying that the scenario might have a resonable basis in fact.

I should have thought of consulting my notes on the Gleanings from Cathcart but I wasn't interested in the Groningen phase when I consulted the article and the library was closing, so it turns out I would have been none the wiser. Time to go back and finish the job!
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