What the Gordons did ... the Lead-Up.
Sergeant Robertson in his Journal says:
On the 26th of January 1815, we marched to Cork again with the intention
of embarking for Scotland but, owing to certain circumstances
we were detained until the 1st of May when, instead of
embarking for our native country, we were ordered off to
Belgium again to take up our quarters in the tented field.
We weighed anchor on the 3rd and on the 8th landed at
Ostend and disembarked next day. We halted here and got
three days' rations served out which we managed to get cooked.
In the evening we embarked on board the boats
on the canal and proceeded to Ghent, where we arrived on
the iith at daybreak.
It happened to be the weekly market day when we landed,
and none of us ever saw such a sight before. The day was
beautiful, and the people were coming in boats from all
directions to the centre of the city, which caused great stir
and bustle; and to add to the effect of the scene, we were
disembarked at the large market-place.
If the novelty of what we saw made an impression on our minds, the Belgians
were no less surprised at our strange appearance as, I believe,
none of them had ever seen any clad in the Highland garb
We were all regularly billeted upon the inhabitants
without distinction, and were civilly used by them. In a
few days we were joined by the Royal Scots, 42nd, and 79th,
and were pleased at meeting with so many Scotchmen, more
especially those brave fellows with whom we had fought side
by side in Egypt and Denmark, at Corunna, Pontes, and
Vittoria; among the Pyrenees, at Bayonne and Toulouse:
" Brothers in arms, but rivals in renown."
We remained in Ghent till the 28th of the month, without
the occurrence of anything worthy of notice, when we marched
to Brussels, where the Duke of Wellington had his head-quarters,
and were put in divisions under the command of
Sir Thomas Picton, Sir James Kempt, and Sir Denis Pack.
When we came to Alast, half way between Ghent and
Brussels, we found the Duke de Berri commanding a body
of French troops that adhered to the Bourbon cause. Almost
all the officers had served in the French army in Spain, and
some of them had been in Egypt.
The latter upon seeing the Highland regiments, immediately came running to meet
us, and asked very kindly " If they had not seen us before ?
When we answered in the affirmative, they went and told the
Duke, who expressed his happiness to have such supporters
to aid the cause of his house.
On our arrival at Brussels we were billeted throughout
the city The 28th, 32nd, 34th, 95th, and two battalions of
the Hanoverian militia joined us here, which were paraded
in brigade every second day.
While here we had a grand
review, which was attended by all the resident Belgian and
English nobility. Recruiting for the Belgian army was going
on with great activity, and hundreds daily marched to the
different depots. They were mostly all good-looking young
fellows and had a very soldier-like appearance.
We were now served with four days' bread, and supplied with camp
kettles, bill hooks and everything necessary for a campaign,
which according to all accounts was fast approaching.
The inhabitants, like those of Ghent, were very civil and kind to
us, and we in turn were the same to them. We were kept
in a state of alarm for some days from reports that appeared
in the Belgian papers to the effect that the French troops
were moving on to the frontiers.
In order to avoid being taken unawares, the orderly
sergeants were desired to take a list of the men's quarters,
with the names of the streets, and the numbers of the houses.
It was also arranged that every company and regiment should
be billeted in the same or the adjacent streets to prevent
confusion if called out at a moment's warning.
On the evening of the 15th of June, the sergeants on
duty were all in the orderly room till ten o'clock at night;
and no orders having been issued, we went home to our quarters.
I had newly lain down in bed when the bugle
sounded the alarm, the drums beat to arms, bagpipes played
and all was in commotion, thus stunning the drowsy ear of
night by all kinds of martial music sounding in every street.
Upon hearing this, sergeants and corporals ran to the quarters
of their respective parties to turn them out. I went to the
quarter-master for bread and four days' allowance was given
out of the store, which was soon distributed among the men,
every one getting his share and speedily falling into rank.
So regular and orderly was the affair gone about, that we
were ready to march in half an hour after the first sound of
Colonel Cameron had that day been invested with the
Order of the Bath by the title of Sir John Cameron of
Fassifearn and was present at a splendid ball given by the
Duchess of Richmond, daughter of the seventh Duke of
Gordon who was brother to the Marquis of Huntly.
She had invited some sergeants of the 92nd to show the company
especially the Belgians, the Highland reel and sword dance,
which they did.
When the alarm sounded, the Duke of
Wellington was quickly at our head and we commenced our
march at daybreak, leaving the city by the Lamour gates,
followed by the inhabitants to whom we gave three farewell cheers.
When we had got a few miles from Brussels we entered
a wood, the trees of which were remarkably tall, and although
the road was very wide it was wet and soft, as the sun did not
strike upon it to make it dry.
During our march we had
several times to diverge to the right and left, to avoid the bad
parts of the road. When we had got a good way into the
wood we met a number of waggons conveying Prussian
soldiers who had been wounded the day before, who told us
that the French were driving all before them, and that we
were greatly needed.
As we were too apt to entertain bad
opinions, we suspected treachery on the part of the foreigners,
and that we should have to retreat; for we did not credit
much what the Prussians told us of the affair.
We continued our route until we came to the skirt of the
wood, into which we were marched, and ordered to lie down
and rest ourselves for two hours, but not to kindle any fires,
and on no account to move out of our places.
We lay down and slept for some time, when the Duke of Wellington and
his staff rode by, which made us move, but we were not
called upon to march. While lying here we were joined by a
great many Hanoverians and Brunswickers, all of whom were
formed up in the wood.
When we emerged into open ground, we found ourselves at the village of Waterloo.
About eleven o'clock we fell in and marched on.
The day was oppressively warm and the road very dusty.
We moved on slowly till we reached the village of Geneppe,
where the inhabitants had large tubs filled with water standing
at the doors, ready for us, of which we stood in great need.
They told us that a French patrole had been there that
morning. We had hardly got out of the town when we heard
the sound of cannon at no great distance which proceeded
from the place where the conflict was going on between the
French and the Belgians.
The sound had a stimulating
effect upon us; for so eager were we to enter the field of action,
that we felt as fresh as if we had newly started. In fact we
were all anxious to assist the poor Belgians, who were but
young soldiers, and consequently little experienced in military
" was now the word that ran through all
the ranks; but the Colonel had more discretion, and would
not allow us to run, lest we should exhaust ourselves before the time.
He issued peremptory orders that every man should
keep his rank as if on parade, and not march above three
miles an hour. The firing seemed to be coming nearer as we
approached a farm and public-house, called Quatre Bras
Researched & Compiled by Way-Mark.