Sergeant Charles Ewart

Charles Ewart was born in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire in 1769, and enlisted in the Scots Greys at the age of 20. He was a tall strong man, around 6 foot, and a skilled swordsman. He was a fencing master in the regiment. He is immortalised in the Scots Greys who wear the Eagle badge in memory of the sergeant's capture of the French Eagle of the 45th Regiment de Ligne at Waterloo on 18 June 1815. During the famous charge of the Union Brigade he was about to kill a French Officer but a young cornet of the Greys offered to take the Frenchman prisoner instead. On the way out of the battle the Frenchman treacherously seized the officer's pistol and shot him. Ewart saw what had happened and charged towards the man in anger. The French officer pleaded for his life but Ewart was in no mood to show mercy, and killed him. He then found that the Standard of the 45th was nearby so he managed to capture it after a fight with the bearer who tried to bayonet him in the groin. He then fended off a thrust from a French Lancer and killed him by pushing his sword through the man's chin and up through his head. It is this moment that is captured in the painting above, by Richard Ansdell. Another infantryman attacked him but was killed with a head cut. He was then ordered to take the Eagle to the rear, which he did and carried it back to Brussels after the battle.

According to the contemporary historian, James Paterson, Ewart served with the regiment at the battle of Willems in 1794, and the following year, when the army was retreating through Holland he rescued a baby who was at its dead mother's breast. He found a wet nurse to feed the child and managed to track down the father who was a soldier in the 60th Regiment. In later life this soldier came to Ewart to thank him for reuniting him with his son, and offered him a sum of money. Ewart refused the money so the man had a silver watch engraved and gave it to him as a token of his gratitude. In the Regimental Museum there are items associated with Charles Ewart; his sword and medal, and a watch which was purchased by Ewart in Paris after the battle of Waterloo. Also a silver snuffbox inscribed 'From Henry Brown to his friend Mr Ewart, an offering to valour' It was given to him in 1827. Perhaps the historian made an error and Henry Brown was the father of the baby rescued by Ewart.

He was hailed as a great hero in Scotland and in 1816 attended a dinner in his honour at Leith where Sir Walter Scott proposed a toast to him and invited him to speak. He begged to be excused saying that he 'would rather fight the battle of Waterloo over again than face so large an assemblage.' He was rewarded by the army with a commission as an ensign in the 5th Veterans Battalion but it was disbanded in 1821. He retired and lived in Salford on the full pay as an ensign, spending his final years at Davyhulme near Manchester. He died on 23 May 1846 and was buried in the New Jerusalem Chapel graveyard in Salford. He was 77 years old. The grave was paved over and forgotten but uncovered in the 1930s. He was re-buried by the regiment on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle in 1938. A nearby pub is named after him 'The Ensign Ewart'.

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by Stephen Luscombe