1815: The Affair of a Second


George Thomas Keppel, Earl of Albemarle, describes a moment during the Battle of Waterloo:

We halted and formed square in the middle of the plain. As we were performing this movement, a bugler of the 51st, who had been out with skirmishers, and had mistaken our square for his own, exclaimed, “Here I am again, safe enough.” The words were scarcely out of his mouth, when a round shot took off his head and spattered the whole battalion with his brains, the colors and the ensigns in charge of them coming in for an extra share. One of them, Charles Fraser, a fine gentleman in speech and manner, raised a laugh by drawling out, “How extremely disgusting!” A second shot carried off six of the men’s bayonets, a third broke the breast-bone of a lance Sergeant (Robinson), whose piteous. cries were anything but encouraging to his youthful comrades. The soldier’s belief that “every bullet has its billet,” was strengthened by another shot striking Ensign Cooper, the shortest man in the regiment, and in the very centre of the square. The casualties were the affair of a second. (Fifty Years of My Life, 1877)

Image: A cannon ball (round shot) fired at Waterloo; about 42,000 were fired during the battle. (source)

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