‘Now the Scots Greys, charge!’, Lieutenant-Colonel James Inglis Hamilton


I would like to dedicate this article to John Divall, who believed in me

This article has been amended to add a large second section that was accidentally omitted. Our apologies to the author.

The story of James Anderson, later James Inglis Hamilton, is a genuine story of rags to riches. Despite being born into a working class family, young Hamilton quickly rose up the social ladder to join the lower Scottish aristocracy. This is the story of the little Glaswegian boy who was destined to die a horrific and dramatic death at the hands of the French whilst leading one of Scotland’s most iconic regiments.[1]

Two days after the battle of Waterloo the hills of Mont-St-Jean were filled with the dead, dying and wounded of the Anglo-Dutch, Prussian and French armies. Medical officers and soldiers worked through the fields searching for the wounded amongst the fallen. The ultimate indignity for both corpses and wounded saw them indiscriminately robbed and stripped by the local peasantry, their adversaries and in some cases their allies. Ironically some of these same Belgian peasants were roped into clearing the battle debris, forced to simply throw the dead into the nearest ditch or one of the mass graves which were then hastily covered over. Like some violent nightmare, horrific echoes of the glorious cavalry charges a few days before were played out as amongst the carnage horses, riderless and mad with pain, galloped frantically across the fields, trampling the dead and wounded under foot. The musket duels between the Redcoats and Frenchmen were replaced by the occasional shot from a peasant putting a injured horse out of its misery. The cottages leading away from La Belle Alliance were crammed with wounded French. Ensign Charles Mudie of the 3/1st Regiment of Foot or Royal Scots, who was brave enough to enter one of these makeshift field hospitals, described the scene;

“Several cottages on the road were crammed with their wounded and dying whom it was almost impossible to come near, their wounds already emitting an unwholesome smell.” (Adkin, 2001, The Waterloo Companion, p.323).

Napoleon’s cuirassiers seem to have been hardest hit, as they were left in great heaps between the British and French lines. Many of their distinctive cuirasses were turned into improvised saucepans. This act of almost surreal normality sharply contrasted with the carnage that lay about the field. As men of all sides were relegated to an indistinguishable collection of limbs, broken by battle and no longer able to follow their colours, it was unsurprising that the broken body of Lieutenant-Colonel James Inglis Hamilton of the 2nd Royal North British Dragoons, also known as the Scots Greys, lay undiscovered until three days after the battle.

The Greys were one of the prestigious Dragoon regiments which had served with the Duke of Marlborough’s victorious army during the War of the Spanish Succession. However, like so many of his fallen comrades, Hamilton’s corpse had been looted, his rings, gold pocket-watch and sword were missing and all that remained to identify him was his scabbard and red officer’s sash. This small collection of possessions was preserved and sent to Hamilton’s brother, Lieutenant John Anderson, residing in Glasgow. It is hard to imagine the sadness with which these items were received by John Anderson, who would himself die within the year from the wounds he had received at the battle of Salamanca in 1812. Such was the dramatic and somewhat sad end to Hamilton’s life. Although it is perhaps fitting that the small boy raised amidst the battlefields of America would end his life so dramatically on a battlefield in Flanders.


Hamilton was born on the 4th July 1777 in a British camp near Tayantroga[2], America, where his father, Private William Anderson of the 21st (Royal North British) Fusiliers, was serving with Lieutenant-General Burgoyne’s ill fated army, campaigning against a rebel American army under Major-General Horatio Gates.

The campaign turned into a disaster on the 7 October 1777 when Burgoyne was defeated at Bemis Heights and forced to surrender due to dwindling supplies which he had scant chance of replenishing with nearly 200 miles between the British and their supply base at Montreal. Gates initially offered favourable terms, allowing the British to return to Britain unmolested on condition that Burgoyne and his army would not serve on American soil for the rest of the conflict. However, the American Congress rejected Gates’ terms so the British and Germans were taken to prison camps in the south. Burgoyne’s once mighty army, commanded by veterans of Wolfe’s victorious forces at Quebec, now became the Convention Army and would sit out the rest of the American War of Independence as prisoners of war in Virginia.

These were hard times for Hamilton’s parents, who had to endure difficult conditions which culminated in a series of marches through freak snow storms in January 1779 as they arrived in Virginia. According to Peter Mackenzie, a journalist who met Hamilton’s sisters Ann and Jean in the 1830s, William must have been educated since he could read and write, and Mackenzie considered William’s letters to be “well-written”.[3] His discussions with Hamilton’s sisters revealed a strong marital bond between William and his wife Anna who remained close to each other and their young family in the face of this turmoil. William also appeared to be popular amongst the officers and men of his regiment; he was a capable soldier rising to the rank of Sergeant-Major despite the affliction of an injury sustained in the campaign.

The family’s imprisonment was to last until September 1783 when peace was concluded between Britain and America. This was followed by peace with America’s allies, France, Spain and the Dutch Republic, which allowed William Anderson and the Convention army to return home to Britain. On his return to Scotland William was honourably discharged from the army, on account of his injury. William decided to settle his family in his home town of Glasgow where he purchased a house opposite the Saracen’s Head Tavern (at the time this was one of the most famous Glaswegian hotels). It was here that Hamilton’s life would change forever.

It was not long after the war had concluded, with the family settled into civilian life, that William’s commanding officer Major-General James Inglis Hamilton [the General], was riding into Glasgow on business. As he passed the Saracen’s Head Tavern he spotted his old sergeant outside his house playing with his children. During their years of confinement in Virginia the General had got to know William and his family well. The General drew his carriage up in front of his old comrade’s home and reintroduced himself to William, Anna and the children.

This would be the first of many visits by the General, who on one of the occasions took Hamilton back to his estate at Murdostoun where he introduced the boy to his beautiful sister, Christina Hamilton. Christina was a spinster, a self-imposed situation after the man she loved died and she vowed in her terrible grief never to love another.

Over time the brother and sister grew so attached to the young family that they agreed to pay for both the boys’ and girls’ education, on condition that they behave themselves and listen to their mother and father. As the General spent more time with the family he formed a particular attachment to Hamilton who was described as possessing a keen mind. This was attested to by one of Hamilton’s friends who described him as one of the best students in the school. The General was so pleased with Hamilton’s studiousness, he rewarded him with a pony and funded riding lessons. The little boy became so confident with handling the animal that he would leave Glasgow every Saturday and ride the seventeen miles to visit the General and his sister at Murdostoun Castle before returning home for school on Monday morning.

In 1793, as storm clouds gathered over Europe, the General gave Hamilton the opportunity of a lifetime – a commission in the 2nd Royal North British Dragoons. On the 22nd May, William received a letter from the General. Mackenzie, who had the original letter, provides an account:

Murdestoun[sic], 20th May, 1793.

Major-General Hamilton [The General] has to acquaint Mr. Anderson that he received, on Sunday night, a card from Lord Amherst, acquainting him that the King has been pleased to appoint Jamie [Hamilton] a Cornet in the Royal North British Dragoons. At the same time, his Lordship called him James Hamilton. How this has happened he cannot say, as the General has received no explanation; but can assure Mr Anderson that he gave in his name, when in London, to the Secretary at War, James Anderson. He likewise gave in his name, on Watson’s return from Glasgow, “My godson, James Anderson,” since which he has heard little until last night, but has written to London this day.

If the nomination is given in, and past recal [sic] [recall], the General hopes that Mr. Anderson will agree to it, as it must be of such advantage to the young man. Besides, he has to acquaint Mr. Anderson that he always intended to leave Jamie something handsome at his death, on condition that he bore his name; and will condescend to say, if agreed to, that the annual rent, in money, bonds, or stock, shall exceed the rents of Murdestoun [sic] when the General’s father changed his name from Hamilton to Inglis, by virtue of the testator’s will.

The General wishes that Mr. Anderson will observe that this is every day done both in North and South Britain, and was the constant practice among the ancients. On these considerations, and seeing it will save a thousand pounds, and enable him to assist Willie and John [Hamilton’s brothers], which it is the General’s purpose to do, he hopes that Mr. Anderson will cheerfully acquiesce. (Quoted in Mackenzie, 1865, Reminiscences of Glasgow and the West of Scotland, p.570-71).

Whilst this was a great achievement for his son and fully supported by his family, a letter written soon after by Hamilton’s father gives some indication of how he felt about the loss of his son.

Glasgow 11th July, 1793.

Parted with son James, half-past seven o’clock, at Larkhall. He was then aged sixteen years and seven days. I walked to Hamilton[The General] that night with a heart full of grief.

(Signed) W. A.

(Quoted in Mackenzie, 1865, Reminiscences of Glasgow and the West of Scotland, p.572).

The General’s acts of generosity were to continue, as he decided to adopt Hamilton and make him his heir, leaving him his entire estate and property on condition that Hamilton behaved himself and proved to be an Officer and a Gentleman. Soon after this disclosure Hamilton left for London to join his regiment. Upon his arrival he was presented to King George III who complimented him on his appearance and revealed his intention to promote the General to Lieutenant-General. Unfortunately Hamilton’s arrival in London was too late for him to join the majority of his regiment which had left for Flanders to serve with the Duke of York on what would become the disastrous Flanders Campaign of 1793-1794.

Little is known of how Hamilton spent his time while waiting for the return of his regiment. Evidence shows that he rose quickly through the ranks to become a lieutenant on 4th October 1793, captain on the 15th April 1794 and then major on the 17th February 1803. Sadly it was in 1803 that Hamilton suffered a severe blow when his adoptive father, the General, died at his home in Murdostoun Castle. Shortly before his death the General had sent for Hamilton as he wished to have the young man by his side. When the General died Hamilton was at his deathbed. A grief stricken Hamilton wrote a letter to his brother John, an Ensign in the 38th (1st Staffordshire) Regiment of Foot, which gives an idea of his feelings towards his adopted father.

Murdestoun [sic], 27th July, 1803.

My Dear Brother,—The General has closed his eyes for ever. He died this afternoon at four o’clock. My heart throbs with the most painful sensations at this moment, and I am not in a fit state for writing.

I now know misfortune for the first time, and your loss, as well as my own, with many others, is not to be calculated. This melancholy event, however, was to be expected; indeed I am surprised, from what I know of his sufferings, that he lived so long. Although I cannot receive consolation at present, still I am willing, if possible, to afford it to others. Be not too much afflicted, and trust in Providence. We have lost our only friend; but his thoughts were occupied for the last years of his life only with my welfare, and consequently with yours and my dear sisters. I hope my circumstances will be such as to be of service both to you and them. My study shall be to imitate the virtues of a man equalled by few, and whose sentiments were far above those of mankind in general.

I shall soon write to you again ; meantime, believe me, ever your most affectionate,


(Quoted in Mackenzie, 1865, Reminiscences of Glasgow and the West of Scotland, p.577).


This letter clearly illustrates the close bond between Hamilton and the General, which is evidenced in many of Hamilton’s letters, in which his writing eloquently demonstrates an almost poetic flare such as in this exert from a letter dated the 5th August 1803:


MY DEAR BROTHER, — The remains of our beloved benefactor were interred in the church of Shotts on Tuesday afternoon, and, with a beating heart, and sensations of grief which I cannot describe, I paid the last duty, and laid his head in the grave. Nothing has been wanting (to my knowledge) on this melancholy occasion. (Quoted in Mackenzie, 1865, Reminiscences of Glasgow and the West of Scotland, p.578).


Later that day the General’s will was read, the estate at Murdostoun was bequeathed to Hamilton however there was a small problem, there was a second will regarding the moveable property which had not been signed by the General so Hamilton received the estate but not its contents. Hamilton spoke to Christina to ask whether she would be happy to sign over the contents of the estate, her unconditional response was, “My darling, all this is yours.” Not long after the General’s death Christina died leaving Hamilton as the sole inhabitant of Murdostoun Castle.


He did not sit idly on his new found fortune choosing instead to give unselfishly to his adopted father’s servants and his family, for whom he bought a house in Glasgow providing his mother, father and two sisters with an annual income of £500 and a further £300 a year for his brother John. On the death of his parents Hamilton continued to provide the full £500 to his sisters. Hamilton’s generosity in today’s money would have amounted to some £57,000 per annum.


Hamilton’s kindness and loyalty to his family are testament to his strength of character, traits we may assume were mirrored in his flourishing military career, which saw him promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel on the 16th June 1807 and followed by his promotion on the 4th June 1814 to the rank of Brevet-Colonel. Hamilton would however have little opportunity to see active service in this new role, as peace was signed between the Coalition and France so his military duties were predominantly peacetime service, including a review in Hyde Park which took place on the 20th June. Some of the guests in attendance were the Prince Regent, Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm III, Tsar Alexander and the Duke of Wellington, and as the Colonel of the regiment Hamilton would most likely have taken part. Domestic changes were also taking place as in 1814 Hamilton married Mary Clerke or Payne[1] and the pair settled down together in Bristol where his regiment was stationed.


For Hamilton domestic and peace time bliss was to be short lived, as the 26th February 1815 was to witness Napoleon’s escape from his prison on Elba and within a month of his return to Paris, he had reinstated himself Emperor of the French. When the news reached the Coalition’s members, the assembled statesmen immediately declared Napoleon an outlaw and set about preparing their armies for what they hoped would be the last time. Britain quickly assembled an expeditionary force to meet the threat from the Continent. Hamilton and the Scots Greys were to be part of this force and were ordered forthwith to Gravesend before departing again to Ostend, Flanders, to join the Anglo-Dutch forces under the Duke of Wellington. Wellington’s army with the aid the Prussian army under Generalfeldmarschall von Blücher, readied themselves to slay “The Ogre” Napoleon.


Whilst Hamilton was waiting to depart for the Continent he wrote a letter to his sister Jean which gives an interesting view into his mindset before the upcoming campaign;


Gravesend, 15th April, 1815.


DEAR SISTERS, —I received orders nine days since, at Bristol, to proceed with the regiment, and to embark for foreign service at this place. The whole of the six troops destined for the Continent are now on board the transports near this place, and I shall go on board myself in less than an hour. We shall disembark at Ostend. I have been so much hurried by so sudden an order, and having had a great deal to do, that I could not write to you sooner ; nor have I time to say any more at present than to send you my most affectionate good wishes for you health, and Ann’s, to whom I beg you will remember me in the kindest manner. I will write to you when I arrive at Ostend, which I hope to do in two days at most.


   I have enclosed a draft on Messrs. Drummond’s for £500, which have the goodness to acknowledge, addressing your letter to the care of Messrs. Greenwood, Cox & Co., Army Agents, Craig’s Court, Charing Cross, London.

     Believe me, ever affectionately yours,


(Quoted in Mackenzie, 1865, Reminiscences of Glasgow and the West of Scotland, p.583-84).

Hamilton’s poignant use of “Farewell” may imply he understood the enormity and significance of the task ahead. Mackenzie describes the word as being written in a “…bold, and dashing hand,….” perhaps Hamilton was uncertain if he would ever return to Britain. Somewhat prophetically this was the last letter that Hamilton’s sisters received from their beloved brother.

Soon after his arrival at Ostend in April 1815, Hamilton and the Scots Greys were sent inland where they were billeted near Ghent alongside the 1st (Royal) Regiment of Dragoons and the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons. These regiments were grouped together into the 2nd British Cavalry Brigade, known as the Union Brigade under the command of Major-General Hon. Sir William Ponsonby. The newly formed Union Brigade remained in Ghent awaiting orders. These did not arrive until the 16th June, when the Union Brigade were ordered to march on to Quatre Bras, this being prompted by the events of the 15th June when Napoleon, with his usual overwhelming speed, unleashed his Armée du Nord on Belgium. Blücher responded by hurrying his men forward to concentrate around the village of Ligny, whilst Wellington attempted to converge on the crossings at Quatre Bras. This set the scene for the battles of Quarte Bras and Ligny on the 16th June. Napoleon focused his main thrust on the Prussians whilst Marshal Ney was sent to clear the Anglo-Dutch from the crossings. Hamilton and his regiment were called forward to provide support. After marching fifty miles they reached the battlefield, frustratingly the Greys were too late to influence the course of events.

On the 17th June Wellington received news that Napoleon had defeated the Prussians forcing them to withdraw back to the village of Wavre. Concerned to protect his now exposed flank, Wellington took decisive action and ordered a withdrawal to Mont-St-Jean, situated just before the village of Waterloo. To cover the Allied army’s retreat Wellington ordered the Earl of Uxbridge to organise a cavalry screen which included Hamilton and the Greys. Hamilton and his men formed up in support behind the Light Cavalry with such order and discipline that it was remarked that they appeared on parade rather than the battlefield. The cavalry including the Union Brigade continued to screen the infantry in good order. Marshal Ney who commanded the Corps opposing Wellington’s Anglo-Dutch army made no move to hinder Wellington’s withdrawal.

Napoleon was equally slow to respond not issuing any orders until 11am, when he finally reacted by sending the 1st, 3rd and 5th cavalry divisions from Ligny under the command of Barons Jacquinot, Domon and Subervie respectively, to hound Wellington’s army. The French were too late as the Allied infantry had taken advantage of the brief respite to withdraw. The French cavalry further delayed until 2pm before finally attempting to force the British cavalry back. Jacquinot’s Lanciers led the way and quickly engaged the British left and centre cavalry pickets. As the French pushed menacingly towards the main Allied cavalry Uxbridge’s Royal Horse Artillery batteries unleashed a hail of shot before Uxbridge gave orders for his brigades to withdraw. As the guns opened up so did the clouds, and Hamilton and his men were forced to pass through the town of Genappe amidst a deluge of rain. The Greys continued their withdrawal until just north of the settlement, there they came upon a small rise where the rest of the Union Brigade were forming up, alongside the Household Brigade to stand defiantly before the French.

As the French Lanciers started to emerge from Genappe, Uxbridge ordered a squadron of the 7th (Queen’s Own) Hussars to intercept them. Whilst the 7th held the French back the rest of the cavalry regiments started to disengage northwards by squadrons, to join the rest of the army. Uxbridge later wrote of the withdrawal saying:

The Royals, Inniskillings, and Greys manoeuvred beautifully, retiring by alternate squadrons, and skirmished in the very best style; (Quoted in Marquess of Anglesey, 1963, One-Leg The Life and Letters of Henry William Paget First Marquess of Anglesey, p.132).

High praise indeed for Hamilton and the handling of his regiment. Although the French remained an ever present threat, the British continued to retire in good order and reached Mont-St-Jean with relatively few casualties. As Hamilton’s regiment arrived late it is likely that he, like his men did not have the opportunity to select a billet for the night and would have been forced to take up residence in any shelter he could find. A Lieutenant Archibald James Hamilton of the Scots Greys, acting ADC to Sir Ponsonby recounts how the Greys passed the night.

It continued to rain and thunder during the whole of the night : being hungry and cold, and wet through to the skin, we passed a most wretched night : the ground upon which we lay was a fallow upon which it was impossible to lie : we therefore obtained some straw at the farm house : we found there also some wood with which we made a fire, although from the rain it was difficult to keep it burning . . . .

“In spite of the rain we slept pretty soundly, lying at our horses’ heads, they being formed in line, and linked together, but we were repeatedly awoke during the night, by their taking fright at the lighting and thunder,…(Quoted in Almack, 1908, The History of the Second Dragoons “Royal Scots Greys”, p.62).

As the morning of the 18th dawned the sky remained grey and leaden with clouds but thankfully the rain had ceased. At around eleven o’clock, having received his orders earlier in day, Hamilton drew up his regiment in the centre of the Anglo-Dutch line behind Lieutenant-General Sir Picton’s 5th British Infantry Division.

Within half an hour the guns of the Grand Battery opened up a tremendous barrage on Wellington’s position. This provided cover for the French to mount an assault against Hougoumont on the Allied right flank. Soon the French opened up on the Anglo-Dutch left where the Greys were stationed. At one o’clock with Wellington’s focus on the engagement at Hougoumont, the Emperor sent forward the Comte d’Erlon’s 1st Corps to move up the eastern side of the Brussels Road with orders to break the centre of Wellington’s line. As the French pressed on up the slope they were raked by artillery fire but their resolve held as they trudged on to the drum and a cry of, “En avant! En avant! Vive l’Empereur!”

As d’Erlon’s men crested the ridge they drove back Major-General Bijlandt’s already depleted Dutch-Belgian brigade thereby creating a dangerous gap between Major-General Pack and Kempt’s brigades the two generals only just managed to hold the French at bay by a couple of expertly timed volleys followed swiftly by a bayonet charge, but the French carried by their own momentum sought to drive a wedge between Pack and Kempt. At this crucial point in the battle it seemed that Napoleon held all the cards, as a possible break through at this point in the battle could have allowed the French to finish off the Allied army.

Yet thanks to the quick thinking of Uxbridge this pivotal episode in the day was turned back in Wellington’s favour. As Uxbridge rode up to the centre of the battlefield he saw what was unfolding and reacted quickly, ordering the two heavy brigades to form into line and prepare to charge the French. When Uxbridge’s orders reached Hamilton he and his men rode forward into the rear of the 92nd Regiment of Foot. Before them Baron de Marcognet’s 3rd Infantry Division advanced menacingly towards the British line. There seems to be some confusion at this point in the battle, since Uxbridge’s orders were, ‘The Royals and Inniskillings will charge, the Greys support.’ It is possible that when the orders reached Hamilton he may have interpreted their meaning to suggest that the best way to support the Royals and Inniskillings was to clear Marcognet’s column from their flank thereby relieving the pressure on the 92nd. Lieutenant (later Major) R. Winchester of the 92nd offers some insight into the pressure on the regiment:

…Major-General Sir Denis Pack calling out at the same time, “92nd, everything has given way on your right and left and you must charge this column,” (Quoted in Siborne, 2009, The Waterloo Letters, p.366).

Hamilton’s advance almost certainly relieved the 92nd and on a larger scale potentially saved Pack’s Brigade from almost certain destruction. This is attested to by Lieutenant C. Wyndham an officer of the Greys who later wrote to William Siborne saying:

I cannot allow we supported the other two regiments [The Royals and Inniskillings], ….there was plenty of work, whichever way it was cut out for everybody. (Quoted in Siborne, 2009, The Waterloo Letters, p.84).

Without the Grey’s charge Marcognet could have displaced Pack’s men and secured a strong position on the Mont-St-Jean from where theoretically he could have fended off any counter attack by the Union Brigade until fresh French reserves could have arrived namely Jacquinot’s 1st Cavalry Division which was already moving up in support.

The next moments proved decisive, the Greys’ attack halted Marcognet’s division. According to Corporal Dickson of the Scots Greys, Hamilton lead the attack, waving his sabre above his head, and crying, ‘Now the Scots Greys, charge!’ (Quoted in Summerville, 2007, Who Was Who at Waterloo, p.190). and with that the Greys advanced at little more than a trot passing through the 92nd whereupon both sides gave the shout, ‘Scotland forever!’ before crashing into the French column. The Greys drove deep into the French formation, whereupon we lose any record of Hamilton until he reappears later as the Greys sped across the gentle slopes and neared what appears to be the Grand Battery, it was here Dickson claims he heard Hamilton sound the rousing call, ‘Charge! Charge the guns!’ (Ibid).

Such was the sour moment when victory turned to defeat. Hamilton and his troopers trot had turned into a wild charge across the valley in pursuit of d’Erlon’s broken and retreating Corps. The Greys formation started to break up as individuals veered off from the main body to deal with small bands of fleeing French infantry. Napoleon’s vengeance was swift and bloody. He sent forward both Baron Travers and Farine’s cuirassiers Brigades to deal with the Union Brigade from the front. And for his final coup de grâce Napoleon unleashed what is arguably one of the most fearsome contingents of his army present at Waterloo – Jacquinot’s 1st Cavalry Division which included the 3rd Châsseurs à Cheval and two Lancier regiments. This division was one of the cavalry formations who had harried the Anglo-Dutch Army during the withdrawal from Quatre Bras. Jacquinot’s 1st Cavalry Division was about to face the very brigades who had hindered them the day before and made their pursuit of Wellington’s army unsuccessful.

By this point the Greys had reached the French guns where they slashed out wildly at the gunners, with their horses blown the Greys had overreached themselves by closing on the Grand Battery. Seizing the moment Jacquinot led his cavalrymen against the scattered Greys, Lieutenant C. Wyndham who had been wounded in the initial encounter with the French remained on his horse possibly mid-way down the slope watching as the action unfolded. He observed:

Crawford tells me after this they [the Greys] went up the high ground and took the guns, somewhere about twenty, and sabred the gunners and drivers, but could not bring away the guns. The lancers of the French, in open column, came close by me, and were evidently going in pursuit of our wounded and dismounted men, but did not attack the small main body of our regiment. (Quoted in Siborne, 2009, The Waterloo Letters, p.84).

This account seems to suggest that Jacquinot did not immediately charge the Greys flank. Instead his division decided to take a slightly longer route around and behind the Union Brigade picking off the wounded and stragglers before closing in on the main body of the regiment where Hamilton must have been. Lieutenant Archibald Hamilton describes what could possibly be one of the last recorded sightings of Hamilton:

The General, [Ponsonby] his aide-de-camp and I, got however about thirty of them [Union Dragoons] collected together, in the hope of reassembling all who remained of those who had come on : for a great many, particularly of the officers, had remained with the prisoners : when Colonel of the —— Dragoons came past us at full gallop, with about twenty men of his regiment following him : in a second all the men which we had collected set off in the same direction. (Quoted in Almack, 1908, The History of the Second Dragoons “Royal Scots Greys”, p.64).

It was possible that soon after this incident Hamilton lost both his arms, It is difficult to discover who could have been responsible, but the likeliest candidate was either a Châsseur à Cheval or perhaps a Lancier. Whether caught up in the heat of battle or driven by a determination to charge the enemy Hamilton defied his horrendous wounds gathered the reins into his teeth and was seen riding, headlong, armless and bleeding to death into the Grand Battery where he was most likely shot through the heart.

So ended the life of James Inglis Hamilton a man of great intelligence, bravery and horsemanship. Like all good cavalry commanders he led by example and always from the front. His early life in America although filled with hardship did nothing to dampen the good natured generosity which he extended to all those around him. His wife erected a memorial to his memory at Kirk O’Shotts, near Glasgow.




The sentiment expressed shows the affection and love felt between a husband and wife. His loss would also have been felt keenly by his regiment, his men and his family. The Waterloo campaign was the first time that Hamilton had led his regiment on active duty and he appears to have performed that duty admirably throughout the campaign. Leading his regiment through Marcognet’s column arguably saved the 92nd and led to the capture of a score of prisoners. His reaction to this situation was fast and decisive two of the best attributes of a cavalryman. Hamilton was clearly a brave man who, despite his injuries remained with his regiment, even to the very end.

Researcher and Author Owen Davis



Adkin, M. (2001) ‘The Waterloo Companion’, London, Aurum Press.

Grant, C. (1972) ‘Royal Scots Greys’, Reading, Osprey Publishing.

Wootten, G. (1992) ‘Waterloo 1815 The Birth of Modern Europe’, Oxford, Osprey Publishing.

Gordon, I. (2010) ‘Bloodline The Origins & Development of the Regular Formations of the British Army’, Barnsley, Pen & Sword Military.

The Marquess of Anglesey F.S.A (1961) ‘One-Leg The Life and Letters of Henry William Paget First Marquess of Anglesey K.G.’, Oxford, The Reprint Society Ltd. 

Summerville, C. (2007) ‘Who Was Who at Waterloo A Biography of the Battle’, Gosport, Pearson Education Ltd 2007.

Regan, G. (2006) ‘Battles that Changed History’, London, Carlton Books Ltd.


Google Books (1817) Estimates and Accounts: Army; Navy; Civil List; Pensions; &c., available from http://books.google.co.uk/books?ei=56pMUabvMqm-0QXqvYCICQ&id=8C5bAAAAQAAJ&dq=Accounts+Army%3B+Navy%3B+Civil+Lists%3B+Pensions+%26+c&ots=ajiO3aNoFk&jtp=1#v=onepage&q&f=false

Internet Archive (1908) The History of Second Dragoons “Royal Scots Greys”, available from http://archive.org/stream/historyofsecondd00almarich#page/n115/mode/2up



Google Books (1904) ‘The Waterloo Roll Call’, available from http://archive.org/stream/waterloorollcall00daltuoft#page/58/mode/2up/s

[1] Mackenzie and Charles Dalton in his Waterloo Roll Call name Hamilton’s wife as Clerke but the Estimates and Accounts Army; Navy; Civil Lists; Pensions &c name her as Mary Inglis Payne this has led to confusion over her maiden name.