Waterloo 1815, Lieutenant George Doherty, K.H., 13th Regiment of Light Dragoons, who was wounded in the head at Waterloo and had his life saved when, in his rush to get ready for the charge, put his pocket watch in his breast pocket, which would then stop a musket ball heading to his heart, he was a Peninsular Veteran who had defeated in single combat the French Officer in command of the charge against the 13th at Orthes.
“The 13th remained there until the Crisis, when they again moved up the position, and on nearly arriving at the top, a large Column of the Enemy’s Infantry was observed to the left of their Line, and immediately I was struck by a Grape Shot in the stomach, and instantly afterwards by a musket ball through my head, I have no recollection of what occurred subsequently, but I have always heard that on the Regiment arriving at the top of the position, the Enemy gave way, and the rout became general.” – the Recollections of Lieut Doherty at Waterloo.
Naming of this medal appears to be entirely contemporary and has provenance dating back to 1887, it has been neatly erased & then attractively engraved between the impressed stars. “**Lieutenant G. Doherty. 13th Reg. Light. Dragoons**”
Provenance: This medal was first sold alongside his Father’s original medal group by Gregg in 1887, being described as engraved naming, they were both bought by Whitaker and sold in the sale of his collection during 1908, this medal was last seen with Spink in March 1974, having been split from his father’s medal since 1908.
There were three Doherty Officers at the battle with the regiment, Lieutenant George Doherty, his brother Captain Joseph Doherty & their Father, Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Doherty, in command of the 13th Light Dragoons.
At the actual battle Lt Col Doherty was lying ill at Brussels with a most severe attack of West Indian fever and ague, he managed to return for the operations of 16th & 17th June to earn the medal still.
The Doherty family was a ‘good old Irish family which has done good service to its country, both in the army and on the judicial bench. In the two great wars in which Great Britain played a leading part during the 19th Century, the 13th Regt of Lt Dgns has been commanded by a Doherty; and three generations of this family have been closely associated with this same regt.” – Waterloo Roll Call refers.
George Doherty had been a Lieutenant in the 13th Light Dragoons since 18th September 1806.
The Waterloo Roll Call mentions the following anecdote:
“Was severely wounded in the head by a ball which was stopped and flattened by the interposition of his watch. He had taken out his watch to remark the time, when the regt was ordered to advance; and not being able to return it, he put it into the breast of his jacket, and thus providentially his life was saved.” this is also mentioned in the Historical Record of the Regiment.
The following is the letter written by George Doherty, during 1834, shortly before his death, to Major General Siborne the official ‘Historian’ of Waterloo who was collecting recollections from officers:
“MAJOR D. DOHERTY, 27th REGIMENT.
Lieutenant 13th Light Dragoons.
Dublin 19, Stephen's Green North, Nov. 14th, 1834.
Operations of the 13th Light Dragoons on the 18th of June, 1815, at the Battle of Waterloo.
On the morning of the 18th June, 1815, the 13th Light Dragoons being in Brigade with the 7th and 15th Hussars, and under the command of Sir Colquhoun Grant, moved up to their post in the position, being thus situated on the immediate left of the Nivelles road, and in support of the Chateau de Hougoumont.
Previous to the attack on Hougoumont the 13th Dragoons were ordered to cross the Nivelles road, and take post on a rising ground on the extreme right of the position, to which post also the 51st Regiment were
ordered. The 13th Dragoons were soon afterwards ordered back to their original post, when the Action commenced.
From this time until I suppose about one or two o'clock they remained under a heavy fire of Artillery, when the 13th were again ordered across the road, and remained in the hollow for about an hour. They were then for the first time called upon to act, and re-crossing the road moved up to the crest of the position, and formed in line, opposed to a line of French Heavy Dragoons, which were immediately charged and routed. On returning after the charge the Regiment re-formed in rear of the Columns of Infantry, and again moved half way up towards the top of the positions, when a large column of French Cavalry appeared in front of our left Squadron, which they immediately charged in the most gallant manner, commanded by Captain Gregory, and checked their advanced, and they were subsequently obliged to retire, I suppose from seeing the force of cavalry at hand to support the left Squadron.
On arriving at the crest of the position the 13th were again opposed to the Enemy’s Cavalry, and forced them back, and afterwards retired under the brow of the position, where they remained for a short time.
The 13th again moved and retook a brigade of guns that had been momentarily taken by the enemy, and after driving back the Enemy’s Cavary the Regiment again retired to their former position.
It was at this point that Lieutenant Colonel Dalrymple of the 15h Hussars lost his leg, and the same cannon shot that struck him also passed through the body of Sir C. Grant’s Horse. The officers of the 13th and 15th were almost all assembled together and talking to Sir C. Grant, when the ball bounded from the top of the hill and came into the midst of them.
Not long after this the 13th were again called upon, and on advancing in line up the position, Lord Anglesey and Lord Hill were observed by the Regiment, the latter with his hat off, cheering them forward, and on reaching the crest of the position, the centre Squadron of the 13th, commanded by the Late Major Doherty (His brother), found itself opposed to a strong Column or Square of Infantry.
The cheering cry of their old General, Lord Hill, “At them, my old friends, the 13th,” was quite sufficient, and instantly the centre Squadron dashed into them, and completely upset them, dispersed them, and with the assistance of the rest of the Regiment nearly annihilated them.
This slaughter continued until a regiment of Polish on our left, and a Regiment of Cuirassiers in our front came to their assistance, which obliged the 13th to retire, and which they only did at the last moment, and then retreated in rear of two squares of infantry, one of which was composed of the German Legion, and as Sir C. Grant’s horse was wounded, he was obliged to enter the square for safety.
The Cuirassiers and Lancers suffered severely from the fire of the Infantry, and as soon as the 13th Dragoons were again reformed, and finding the enemy’s cavalry so much broken from the fire of the infantry, then again advanced and pursued and cut down the Enemy’s Cavalry as far as they could prudently follow, when they again retired under cover of the position.
The 13th remained there until the Crisis, when they again moved up the position, and on nearly arriving at the top, a large Column of the Enemy’s Infantry was observed to the left of their Line, and immediately I was struck by a Grape Shot in the stomach, and instantly afterwards by a musket ball through my head, I have no recollection of what occurred subsequently, but I have always heard that on the Regiment arriving at the top of the position, the Enemy gave way, and the rout became general.
G. Doherty, Major 27th Regt, Late of the 13th Lt Dragoons
N.B. – The 13th Dragoons went into action on the morning of the 18th June 1815, with three complete squadrons, and I have been informed that at the close of it they could only muster one weak one.
The Historical Record of the Thirteenth Regiment of Light Dragoons by John W. Parker records more of his exploits:
P61+62, the Battle of Orthes:
“After several other movements, the Thirteenth Light Dragoons were engaged in forcing the French position at Orthes, on the 27th of February 1814. The right and centre of the army assembled opposite the village of Orthes, and the Thirteenth Dragoons, forming part of the body of troops destined to turn and attack the enemy’s right, assembled near the junction of the Gave de Pau with the Gave d’Oleron. The village of St. Boes was carried; but the nature of the ground required a change to be made in the plan of the action. The narrow passage behind the village was opened, a body of troops, including the Thirteenth, pushed through, and spread a front beyond and the French Army was forced back with loss. Lieutenant Robert Nesbit was severely wounded; two men and two horses were killed, and six horses wounded, on this occasion.
In a charge on the enemy’s cavalry, which was gallantly met and repulsed by the Thirteenth, a personal recontre took place between Lieutenant Doherty and the French Officer who led it; the latter was cut down, and surrendered. Many of the enemy were sabred, and captured by the Regiment.
The Commanding Officer of the regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Doherty, received a gold clasp, inscribed with the word “Orthes” to be attached to the riband to which his Vittoria medal was suspended.”
“The Thirteenth shared with their old comrades of the “ragged brigade,” the Gallant Fourteenth, in the advance duties of the army, which brought them repeatedly into collision with the enemy.
On the 22nd of March, as three troops of the 13th Light Dragoons commanded by Lt Col Patrick Doherty, with Major Boyse, Captain Macalister, Lieutenants Doherty, Drought and Lawrence, and Brigade Major Dunbar, approached St. Gaudens, four squadrons of French Cavalry were discovered drawn up in front of the town. Undismayed by the superior number of the enemy, the 13th advanced to the charge, and such was the adrour and determined bravery with which they rushed upon their numerous opponents, that the French Horsemen were overthorn at the first shock, and they galloped in disorder through the streets; but they rallied at the other side of the town, and prepared to resist the few British troopers whose audacity they were desirous to punish.
The 13th, supported by the 3rd Dragoons Guards, dashed through the town, and rushing sword in hand upon the French Squadrons, broke them in an instant, and pursued them for two miles, cutting many down, and taking above a hundred prisoners, and sixty horses. The ground was covered with cavalry equipment, arms, and dead and wounded men and horses.
The conduct of the 13th was highly commended in Major General Fane’s report of the action; the Officers and soldiers were also thanked in orders by Lieut General Sir Rowland Hill, and the signal gallantry evinced by Captain James Macalister, who commanded the advanced on this occasion, was rewarded with the rank of Major in the army.
The 13th nobly upheld on this occasion, their well earned fame as bold horsemen and dextrous swordsmen; and by their promptitude in rushing to the attack, showed that they possess the true spirit of good cavalry, adding another to the many proofs they had already been given of the insufficiency of the mere preponderance of superior numbers to resist the shock of a determined charge.”
He was after the battle invested as a Knight of the Guelphic Order, K.H. and attained the rank of Major and served with the 27th Regiment, he died at Dublin in December 1835.
His brother was also wounded in the battle and died shortly afterwards at Bangalore on 12th June 1819.
His father the gallant old veteran Colonel Patrick Doherty would sadly outlive them both when he died at Bath on 20th January 1837, he had earned the Small Army Gold Medal for Vittoria & Orthes, the Waterloo Medal, Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1816, followed by a Knight Commander of the Guelphic Order.