Tuesday, May 26, 2015

JOHN JACKSON: Waterloo - My Family

We are delighted to welcome John Jackson back to the blog today with another gem from his past.

Yet Another Ancestor – we all have them. This year it’s the two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and my great-great-grandfather was there.

Henry Dumaresq was then a twenty three year old Major in Wellington's Army. He joined the Army as an Ensign in Portugal in 1807 and served without a break, rising through the ranks and finishing up as Major and ADC to General Byng of the 2nd. Brigade of Guards. He fought at all the major battles in the Peninsula and in France.

Henry had no fortune behind him. His father had served in the Army for twenty years in Canada. He returned to England, married and settled down, running the militia in Worcester for some years before dying of liver cancer.

Because of his service in the Army, the War Office offered to educate Henry and his brothers and they all went into the Army as “Ensigns, without purchase”. Henry went into the 9th. Foot, now the Norfolk Regiment.

Henry was also at the Duchess of Richmond's Ball, on the eve of the battle. The news of Napoleon's advance over the border reached Wellington at the ball late at night. He borrowed a map from his host, and decided then and there that he would stop him at Waterloo.

The officers famously all left the ball and returned to their duties. Henry would have been inordinately busy as ADC to a brigade commander.

He was involved with the defence of Hougoumont, a large farmhouse which spent a long time being assaulted by the pick of Napoleon's troops. He took a musket ball through the lungs, but stayed on his horse long enough to deliver a despatch to Wellington. The musket ball was never removed and led to his premature death twenty three years later

Castle of Hougoumont

Dumaresq is a Jersey name, and Henry was the only Jerseyman recorded as being at the Battle.

Georgette Heyer wrote of both the ball and battle in her impeccable historical romances, An Infamous Army, and The Spanish Bride. (two of my personal favourites of any books)

After the battle, Henry made a remarkable recovery, all be it with the ball still in him. One of his sisters, Elizabeth, married General Ralph Darling who went out to Mauritius, and thence to New South Wales, as Governor. He took Henry with him as his Military secretary. Darling's name is perpetuated in New South Wales, with Darling Harbour in Sydney and the Murray-Darling River complex. The Dumaresq River separates Queensland from New South Wales.

Henry Dumaresq

In June 1827 Henry returned to England and married Sophia, daughter of Augustus, Earl of Lanesborough. They went back to Australia and bought land in the Hunter Valley and ran sheep. (Now, if only they had made wine!) This was never a success, and Henry's physical condition worsened. He eventually died and is buried at Muswellbrook. The local town, Armidale, is now called Armidale Dumaresq after him.

They had three sons and four daughters. There are still Dumaresqs in Australia, mostly in Victoria and Tasmania. I've met some of them over the years. One of them, Martin, still farms on the family farm in Tasmania, on one of the oldest farms there. They still have the convicts’ quarters on the farm, now unoccupied.

The Duchess of Richmond's Ball was revived some years ago and is held in Brussels under the auspices of the British Embassy. It is VERY posh and raises substantial funds for charity. This year's Ball is completely sold out, and the waiting list closed.

Thank you, John. A fascinating look into the history of your family.

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Unknown said...

What an interesting delve into your family history, John. The connection is certainly something to be very proud of.

Unknown said...

Lovely insight into history John!! lx

Jane Jackson said...

A fascinating account of your ancestor, John.

Anonymous said...

Really fascinating. Gabrielle

Gail Mallin said...

How lovely to know so much about your family, John!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

What a great history! Thanks for sharing this fascinating look at your ancestor, John.

Just Another Bloke (John Jackson) said...

If everything goes to plan, Henry and Sophie's story would be part of the third book. (eeek!)