These objects illustrate the technology of warfare in 1815 and the violence of the battle. Musketballs show us where and how battles took place. A soldier at Waterloo, like James Callum, would be familiar with them.

Objects help us reconstruct relationships between people: gifts, trades, conflicts all leave traces. The bulk of musket ball manufacture would have happened in Britain but the magazines and field train could produce them on site. The musket balls uncovered in the killing ground at Hougoumont show us the ferocity of the battle. French musket balls (approx 21g and 16.65mm) differ in size to Allied musket balls (approx 30g and 17.7mm) which allows us to map their concentrations and therefore the shape of the battle.

Reenactors with Brown Bess muskets
Waterloo Uncovered's finds archive

Finds Collection



These musket balls, discovered on the battlefield, can give us new insight into the battle, as well as demonstrating the devastating impact of war on those fighting in it.
French Musket Ball


A complete French musket ball
French musket balls were smaller and lighter, made to fit the .69 calibre of the Charleville musket. This musket ball was found in the demolition rubble of the barn in the courtyard of Hougoumont. We can look at concentrations of musket balls to work out the dynamics of the battle.
Allied Musket Ball


A complete Allied musket ball
Allied musket balls were made for the India Pattern musket, affectionately known as the Brown Bess. The calibre was .75 in but the ball was smaller at .693 in. This was found in the area of the barn at Hougoumont. The difference in size between allied and French ammunition allows us to map the nature of the battle.
Lead Waste


A flattened musket ball which has been fired
Lead waste would normally have been collected to melt and cast again. We know that soldiers were provided with ready made musket balls but that there were resources available to produce more in the field.
Impacted French Musket Ball


A flattened French musket ball which has been fired
This impacted French musket ball was found in the killing ground to the south of Hougoumont. We reflected on the way these small artefacts represent the individual interactions during the battle.
Impacted Allied Musket Ball


A flattened Allied musket ball which has been fired, with flecks of red in the metal
The red flecks in this impacted musket ball are brick dust, indicating that it hit a wall. It was found in the killing ground to the south of Hougoumont.
French Musket Ball


A complete French musket ball
French musket balls were smaller and lighter, made to fit the .69 calibre of the Charleville musket. This musket ball was found in the demolition rubble of the barn in the courtyard of Hougoumont. We can look at concentrations of musket balls to work out the dynamics of the battle.
Allied Musket Ball


A complete Allied musket ball
Allied musket balls were made for the India Pattern musket, affectionately known as the Brown Bess. The calibre was .75 in but the ball was smaller at .693 in. This was found in the area of the barn at Hougoumont. The difference in size between allied and French ammunition allows us to map the nature of the battle.
Lead Waste


Lead waste from the production of musket balls
Lead waste would normally have been collected to melt and cast again. We know that soldiers were provided with ready made musket balls but that there were resources available to produce more in the field.
Impacted French Musket Ball


A flattened French musket ball which has been fired
This impacted French musket ball was found in the killing ground to the south of Hougoumont. We reflected on the way these small artefacts represent the individual interactions during the battle.
Impacted Allied Musket Ball


A flattened Allied musket ball which has been fired, with flecks of red in the metal
The red flecks in this impacted musket ball are brick dust, indicating that it hit a wall. It was found in the killing ground to the south of Hougoumont.
“Musket balls are common finds at Waterloo - using these finds, Waterloo Uncovered has been able to identify the dynamics of the battle around Hougoumont. The musket and musket balls are tools which connect us to the people who made and used them. The equipment here shows us the processes that were used”
Nicola, Gary and Charlie, Finds Programme participant
“Musket balls are common finds at Waterloo - using these finds, Waterloo Uncovered has been able to identify the dynamics of the battle around Hougoumont. The musket and musket balls are tools which connect us to the people who made and used them. The equipment here shows us the processes that were used”
Nicola, Gary and Charlie, Finds Programme participant
An area of hougoumont known as the Killing Zone
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Musket Ball Distribution



The mapped distribution of musket balls on the Waterloo battlefield shows the paths travelled by combatants - and can reveal previously unknown conflicts...
A map showing the distribution of French and Allied musket balls around Hougoumont, with Allied balls in red and French balls in blue
A map of the distribution of French and Allied musket balls at Hougoumont, from our 2015 and 2016 excavations
A map showing the distribution of French and Allied musket balls around Hougoumont, with Allied balls in red and French balls in blue
A map of the distribution of French and Allied musket balls at Hougoumont, from our 2015 and 2016 excavations

Amongst our discoveries at Hougoumont were a number of objects that show the French presence in the Killing Zone (the open strip of land outside the south wall of the garden that French troops had to cross under heavy Allied fire), including numerous French musket balls, a stud from a French uniform and several late 18th century French coins.

It had previously been believed that the French soldiers’ journey through the killing zone towards the garden wall was largely a futile one, resulting in some of the bloodiest fighting of the battle, but little advancement. However, the concentration of French and Allied musket shot discovered within the garden, much of which appears to have been fired at close range, indicates that a number of French soldiers were in fact successful in scaling the wall and gaining entry to the garden.

“We have been finding grapeshot – a kind of iron artillery shot, that is smaller than a golf ball, but fired in groups in bags or tins like a giant shot gun shell, and very effective against infantry. Now these have been found scattered across the Killing Zone where we have evidence for really heavy fighting, and given their location our initial interpretation is that these are French artillery fire directed against the wall. This cannon might have been deployed to rake the wall with shot and push back the defenders to support the infantry attack. It looks increasingly likely that the French got over the wall at this point, possibly after the wall was cleared by cannon shot.”
Professor Tony Pollard
“We have been finding grapeshot – a kind of iron artillery shot, that is smaller than a golf ball, but fired in groups in bags or tins like a giant shot gun shell, and very effective against infantry. Now these have been found scattered across the Killing Zone where we have evidence for really heavy fighting, and given their location our initial interpretation is that these are French artillery fire directed against the wall. This cannon might have been deployed to rake the wall with shot and push back the defenders to support the infantry attack. It looks increasingly likely that the French got over the wall at this point, possibly after the wall was cleared by cannon shot.”
Professor Tony Pollard

In 2019, we began excavating at Mont-Saint-Jean, Wellington’s Allied field hospital, and have discovered several Allied Brown Bess infantry musket balls and smaller calibre French musket balls in the orchard. Mont-Saint-Jean lay 600m behind Allied lines, and therefore was thought to have largely avoided French attack – in theory, we should not have found so many musket balls here, as the immediate area did not see major fighting, according to almost all accounts of the battle.

But the discovery of several fired musket balls, both British and French, as well as a large cannonball, contradicts what we expected to find. The French musket balls discovered are most likely carbine shot, indicating the presence of cavalry carrying short barrelled muskets in the vicinity of the field hospital. All this shows that Mont-Saint-Jean was far more involved in the fighting than we thought, and possibly subjected to a previously unknown cavalry charge.

One of the limb bones discovered at Mont-Saint-Jean
One of the limb bones discovered at Mont-Saint-Jean

Musket Ball Injuries



Musket balls, although not as large as cannon balls or howitzer shells, could still do considerable amounts of damage on the battlefield. At Waterloo alone over 500 limbs needed to be amputated at the Allied field hospital of Mont-Saint-Jean due to life-threatening injuries.

In 2019, Waterloo Uncovered discovered a pit of amputated limbs; a poignant reminder of the human cost of battle, made even more meaningful as it was discovered by veterans, many of whom had been injured or lost limbs themselves as a result of war.

Amputations would have occurred without anaesthetic, and the patient often would have fainted from the pain and the sight of their own limb being removed. But for the majority of soldiers, amputation was their preferred method of treatment – infections were rife on the battlefield, and if a wound became infected, gangrene would lead to a slow and painful death.

Half a musket ball removed from a limb bone
A musketball removed from an amputated limb found at Mont-Saint-Jean

In 2019, Waterloo Uncovered discovered a pit of amputated limbs; a poignant reminder of the human cost of battle, made even more meaningful as it was discovered by veterans, many of whom had been injured or lost limbs themselves as a result of war.

Amputations would have occurred without anaesthetic, and the patient often would have fainted from the pain and the sight of their own limb being removed. But for the majority of soldiers, amputation was their preferred method of treatment – infections were rife on the battlefield, and if a wound became infected, gangrene would lead to a slow and painful death.

Half a musket ball removed from a limb bone
A musketball removed from an amputated limb found at Mont-Saint-Jean


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