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Who chose the moniker for the 'Battle of Waterloo' in 1815?

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It was 204 years ago - on Sunday, 18 June 1815 - that some 55,000 soldiers were either killed, wounded or missing in action from both sides during the Battle of Waterloo in then Netherlands, present-day Belgium where l'armée française dite Armée du Nord under the command of Emperor Napoléon I (1769 - 1821) was defeated by an Anglo-army coalition under the command of the Duke of Wellington (1769 - 1852) combined with a Prussian army under the command of Field Marshal Blücher (1742 - 1819). It's a fact that Napoléon never set foot in the village of Waterloo and that three of the five key offensives took place five kilometers south, in Braine-l'Alleud and the other two were in Plancenoit, one of which overlapped with Waterloo's territory. Although the French initially called it "Battle of Mont Saint-Jean" after the Braine-l'Alleud plateau where the allies were positioned and that the Prussians chose to name it "Battle of La Belle Alliance" after a farm in Plancenoit where Wellington and Blücher reportedly met, the stark reality is that the moniker for the 'Battle of Waterloo' was set by it victor, the Duke of Wellington when he wrote his official report from his Waterloo headquarters. It is worth noting that the battlefield's chief memorial is a statue of a lion that was built on the on the orders of King William I of the Netherlands in 1820 and completed on 25 September 1826. The memorial is located on a 40-metre high artificial hill located in Braine-l'Alleud at the spot where the Prince of Orange was wounded on 18 June 1815.

Depicted in the photograph is a white marble headstone that was erected by John Quinn in memory of his father, James Quinn of the 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot, a veteran of the Battle of Waterloo. Quinn had enlisted in one of the two regiments named after the Irish town of Enniskillen (now part of Northern Ireland) and utilized 'Inniskilling' as part of their name - the spelling at the time the regiments were raised. Largely recruited in Ireland, the 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot consisted of some 747 officers and men and were the only Irish infantry regiment to be present at Waterloo. Most of the ordinary soldiers were Roman Catholics and a considerable number were Irish speaking. The average height appeared to be about 5 foot 5 inches. At Waterloo, on 18 June 1815, the Regiment held the centre of the Allied line against Napoléon. While Wellington later said, "They (the 27th) saved the centre of my line at Waterloo", Napoléon commented "That regiment with the castles on their caps is composed of the most obstinate mules I ever saw; they don't known when they are beaten". Later that evening, roll call was taken and the result was devastating. Of the 747 officers and men who marched onto the battlefield that morning, 64% (486) were either killed or wounded. Only two other British regiments had similar casualties - the Cameronians and the Gordon Highlanders. James Quinn was one of those soldiers who survived the battle and later emigrated to Prince Edward Island, Canada. He died at his home on Georgetown Road in the town of Georgetown on 25 May 1873 and was buried at the nearby St. James Roman Catholic Cemetery. Although his headstone indicates that he died at 82 years of age, it is also reported that he was 87 at time of death - meaning James Quinn was born sometime between 1786 and 1791.

On this day, 18 June 2022, we commemorate the 207th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and mark nearly 196 years since the completion of the Waterloo battlefield monument in present-day Belgium.

André M. Levesque

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