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thewideeyedowl
13-03-2014, 4:28 PM
What would have happened to battlefield casualties during the Napoleonic Wars, 1793-1815?

There was war in Europe for over 20 years following the French Revolution - first, the French Wars and later the Wars precipitated by the Emperor Napoleon. What would have happened to the casualties when they were wounded on the battlefield?

I imagine that there would have been some sort of field hospital where the wounded could be treated. Perhaps a local barn would have been requisitioned? And what medical personnel would have been there - surgeons (qualified doctors who happened also to be soldiers)? Orderlies (soldiers who were roped in to help)? And how would the wounded have been taken to a field hospital - possibly on a waggon from the Royal Waggon Train, which was the corps responsible for moving supplies around? Would the wounded have jolted along in agony over the rough ground? And when it came to 'treatment', what operations could be done other than amputations? (And all without anaesthetic, remember. It doesn't bear thinking about.)

Last autumn I was lucky enough to acquire a copy of the The Times newspaper for 22 June 1815, which prints the Duke of Wellington's despatch from Waterloo. See here: http://www.british-genealogy.com/forums/showthread.php/79955-WATERLOO-The-Times-Thurs-June-22nd-1815. It lists the names of the officers who were killed and wounded. There are about 70 names in the list of wounded: five men had an arm amputated, two had a leg amputated; another two were "dangerously" [critically?] wounded, about 36 "severely" wounded, and about ten "slightly" wounded. There is no further information. And that's just the officers. There must have been many many more soldiers who were wounded. What would have happened to them?

I am very curious.

Owl

gasser
14-03-2014, 1:42 PM
Hi Owl,
Although I'm not answering your question in the main , I did stumble upon this site and thought it might be of interest,
plus there is contact information as well ........http://www.britisharmyresearchnapoleonicwars.co.uk/
The owner of the site is a keen researcher of the napoleonic wars and to quote her ' it is the men, who were the ordinary soldiers, the Sergeants, Drummers/Buglers, Corporals and Privates, that are of special interest to me and make up the main part of my research. Who were they, where did they come from and what happened to them once they joined the army?
Gail

thewideeyedowl
14-03-2014, 4:25 PM
Hi Gail - thank you

In fact, I came across that informative website last week when trying to find out how a service pension would have been paid in those days, http://www.british-genealogy.com/forums/showthread.php/81476-How-would-a-post-1818-pension-have-been-paid. The Forum came up with the answer :smile:. I am scratching around everywhere for info about so many things that relate to this period, and it looks as if I will soon have enough to post about how to research it . But not quite yet...

Working on the theory that the Waggoners had carts ("waggons") used to transport supplies and, presumably, capable of carrying men, I've been rummaging around for info on them. Well, the first Waggoners seem to have been rather an unsavoury bunch. See here: http://waggoners.co.uk/wbsitepages/hist/rwc.htm. The Waggoners of those days have evolved - via the Army Service Corps and Royal Corps of Transport - into the Royal Logistics Corps. The RLC has a museum at Deepcut, and the museum has an informative website. From there I have learnt that during WW1, they had a General Service Wagon which could be, to quote: "...equipped to be used as an ambulance, transporting the dead and wounded soldiers back to the field hospitals." There is a picture of this wagon in an interesting piece about the Battles of Fromelles in July 1916, which you can find here: http://www.rlcmuseum.co.uk/docs/exhibitions_50_957901452.pdf. You have to scroll down quite a way.

Well, I am now guessing that the same sort of thing would have happened a hundred years earlier. But if anyone can come up with other theories, please post about them.

Owl

gasser
14-03-2014, 5:39 PM
This looks an interesting site.....www.napoleonguide.com/medical_evacuation.htm
Not studied it in depth but will look properly later and also your links from your last post.
Cheers for now, Gail

thewideeyedowl
14-03-2014, 7:09 PM
Brilliant - thank you :smile5:.

It sounds even worse than I thought it might have been - those poor wounded lying amidst the dead bodies, and with the real threat of having their throats cut by scavengers after the battle was over. Dreadful, dreadful.

At least, the top brass knew things had to be improved, though this was not at the top of the list of priorities; and I have to admire the ingenuity of the improvised stretchers.

Thank heavens we live in the 21st century.

Owl

gasser
14-03-2014, 9:26 PM
Thank heavens we live in the 21st century.

You're not wrong there! It was pretty grim back then to say the least....history is a fascinating subject, we can all romanticise on living in the past, it's only when you read things like that when you begin to appreciate life as we know it!
Gail

Monty Stubble
18-04-2014, 7:35 AM
The most comprehensive book on the subject is by Michael Crumplin and is called "Men of Steel", a fascinating if harrowing read.

thewideeyedowl
18-04-2014, 1:16 PM
Hi Monty...and welcome to the Forum,

Thank you very much indeed for posting details about Michael Crumplin's book 'Men of Steel'. As the author is a retired surgeon and medical historian, he will really know his subject. Longing to read it and have just spent the last quarter of an hour or so trying to find a copy online at an affordable price - unfortunately, new start at about 75 and second hand at about 38 (!). So it is obviously greatly sought-after by those in the know but, alas, outside my budget. I might try to get it on inter-library loan.

My interest in the the subject was sparked when I discovered that a gt x 3 grandfather in the IoW line had been in the Royal Wagon Train. The fascinating thing about family history is that you never know where it will take you next.

Again, many thanks for your help.

Owl

Monty Stubble
19-04-2014, 7:19 AM
Another book you might try, and a bit more affordable ( I bought my copy second hand in Hay on Wye) is "For Fear Of Pain, British Surgery1790-1850" by Peter Stanley.

There is a big chapter on military surgery in there.

Monty Stubble
19-04-2014, 10:58 AM
Hi Monty...and welcome to the Forum,

Thank you very much indeed for posting details about Michael Crumplin's book 'Men of Steel'. As the author is a retired surgeon and medical historian, he will really know his subject. Longing to read it and have just spent the last quarter of an hour or so trying to find a copy online at an affordable price - unfortunately, new start at about 75 and second hand at about 38 (!). So it is obviously greatly sought-after by those in the know but, alas, outside my budget. I might try to get it on inter-library loan.

My interest in the the subject was sparked when I discovered that a gt x 3 grandfather in the IoW line had been in the Royal Wagon Train. The fascinating thing about family history is that you never know where it will take you next.

Again, many thanks for your help.

Owl

Just remembered, the Thackeray medical museum in Leeds. Had some paperback copies about a month ago. Don't know how much though.

thewideeyedowl
02-05-2014, 3:15 PM
I have just come across this confirmation that waggons used by the Royal Waggon Train doubled as makeshift ambulances during these wars. This is from a brief account of the retreat by Sir John Moore that ended in the Battle of Corunna (1809):

"...waggons provided from local resources broke down and the hired drivers deserted with their teams. Other waggons were too wide or inappropriate for the narrow roads. Additional horses had to be harnessed to pull these waggons thus reducing the overall number of supply waggons. The sprung waggons were used as ambulances with two men lying or eight men sitting."

I am grateful for the link that eventually got me there that was posted in a reply to the thread on the King's German Legion. I then found, via the wayback facility on http://www.web.archive.org, a further link to an old site on The Waggoners (who eventually morphed into the Army Service Corps). So this means that men in two of the different lines I am researching were doing the same job a hundred years apart.

One of the wonders of family history research is that you can never guess where the next lead is coming from!

Owl

begaar
03-05-2014, 5:50 AM
RE: Michael Crumplin's book 'Men of Steel'.

Hi Owl Greetings from Aussie Land

here is a link to WorldCat that will give you where you can get that book on loan from a Library.
Just type in an area that is close to you in the UK.
I put England in and got heaps of libraries. I put this in the find box Men of Steel by Michael Crumplin.

https://www.worldcat.org/

Hope you are able to find one close to you

Regards
Wayne