Date added: 1 Jul 2015
Excerpts from “Contributions to a family history of the Freiherren von Uslar Gleichen, by Edmund Freiherr von Uslar-Gleichen, Hannover 1888”
Johann Ludwig Ferdinand von Uslar, b. 08.05.1801, joined the King’s German Legion in November 1814, when it was stationed in the Netherlands. Not yet 14 years old, he received his commission on 30 May 1814 as Sergeant in the 4th Line Battalion, with which he fought in the campaign of the following year and then at the Battle of Waterloo, having been confirmed the very day before the battle.
An episode from that memorable 18th June is described by Sergeant Ferdinand von Uslar in his own words:
“On the day of the Battle of Waterloo, I found myself as a very youthful sergeant with the Rifle Company of the 4th Line Battalion.
During the battle we left the position assigned to us in the second line of the right flank of the battle formation, and advanced towards Hougoumont Castle to support the troops which had for quite some time been fighting in that area.
Near the castle, at a point where a group of three trees marked the battlefield, we had to sustain several violent cavalry attacks and then suffered severe losses from an enemy battery which had moved up against us to about 400 paces as well as rifle fire from the hedge around the Castle.
After Captain von Holle of the 1st and Captain Diedel of the 3rd Line Battalion had been shot dead and our own battalion commander, Captain Heise, fatally wounded along with many others, our fourth captain, Beurmann of the 2nd Line Battalion, also took a ricochet to the head which left him briefly unconscious.
It was vital to extricate ourselves from this critical situation; and Lieutenant Dehnel of the 3rd Line Battalion, stepping in front of the column with raised sabre, gave us the impetus, shouting: “Forwards!”
Led by him, all the remaining officers, Sergeant Heise of the 1st , Lieutenants Dawson and Lowson of the 2nd, von Sode and Sergeant von Rönne of the 3rd and von Lasperg and yours truly from the 4th Line Battalion of the German Legion, followed by our brave riflemen, charged with our bayonets the French infantry positioned behind the hedges around the garden of the castle and drove them both from this hedge and a second one behind it.
The French receiving reinforcements, we were forced to fall back to the first hedge, and the fight then moved back and forth until we finally regained the second hedge, and this time held it. Throughout these engagements I was on the furthest left flank of our line.
At the point where the second hedge met at right angles the hedge bordering the eastern side of the castle garden, there was a narrow opening leading out onto the field between the two hostile armies. To gain a clearer view, I stepped though this opening, but just at this moment encountered a French officer riding right along the hedge.
I was still little more than a boy and did feel – in all honesty – some surprise. But without stopping to think, I grasped the horse’s reins with all my strength, and had this powerfully built horseman resisted, I would likely have fared badly. But our company’s corporal on the left flank, Rohlfs, who had followed close behind me into the opening in the hedge, came to my help, enabling us to take the officer captive.
After descending from his horse, our prisoner surrendered to me a full purse, his watch and other valuables, all of which I gave to the corporal, instructing him to return half the money to the officer. While I was still wondering what to do with our prisoner and the horse, Captain Beurmann, now somewhat recovered from his concussion, came up to me, saying: “My dear little rifleman” – as my comrades used jokingly to call me – “the horse is really too big for you, leave the animal to me.”
Persuaded by my liking for this fine old officer and not a little folly, I agreed; and thus, apart from a certain rather doubtful and muted sense of victory, the extraordinary deed of capturing an enemy officer from his horse left the “little rifleman” with nothing but the modest role of onlooker as Captain Beurmann sent back the horse and prisoner under escort and the corporal pocketed the purse and watch.”
Ferdinand then took part in the march into Paris before returning to his fatherland, where the Legion was disbanded. He received the Waterloo Medal among many other distinctions.