Participants worked to produce creative responses to their own and their Napoleonic counterpoints experience. They also worked to return women to the narrative of Waterloo by researching their lives. Here you will find the stories of just a few extraordinary women whose lives and sacrifices have been overlooked for too long, bought back to life by our Hidden Histories: Women of Waterloo participants.

Ellen Duggan

Born: Around 1795, Ireland

Died: 1869, Liverpool, England

Ellen was described as a “female military veteran”. We don’t know her maiden name, but Ellen was born in Southern Ireland. Her first husband, Thomas Shannon, was a colour sergeant in the 95th regiment. She went with them to Torres Vedras, Badajoz, Salamanca, Ciudad Rodrigo and finally Waterloo. She told stories of her experiences; “all she had gone through by flood and field and the hair-breadth escapes in the imminent deadly breach. She was never wounded, but was once taken prisoner along with another soldier’s wife, but they were not detained long, when they were restored to their own regiment.” 

Ellen was described as “a mild, steady, inoffensive woman, of good address and manners” and “an exemplary and practical Catholic”. She returned with her husband, who obtained a “miserable pension.” She later lived in Dublin and Liverpool, upon her second marriage to William Duggan. We know she was married to William by 1851 from the Census of that year. She was around 74 when she died.

Mary Sutherland

Born: 1776, Woolwich, England

Died: 1874, Melrose, Scotland

We don’t know Mrs Mary Sutherland’s maiden name, but know she was the daughter of a soldier. Research suggests she met Quartermaster Sutherland of the Royal Horse Artillery in 1795, at the age of 19. A Mary Simms is recorded as marrying Angus Sutherland, with whom she had seven children, in Plumstead, Greenwich in 1803. We found two possible baptisms of John in 1804 and William in 1806. Mary accompanied her husband through the Peninsula and was at Waterloo when he and their two sons fought. They survived, but the youngest son was captured by the French. He went on to become Trumpet-Major in the Ayr Yeomanry Cavalry. Quartermaster Sutherland died around 1817 and their eldest son died a few years later.

Mary invested the profit from the sale of property left by her husband in a “bubble concern” and made a considerable loss. She then moved in with her son Angus, an auctioneer, in Melrose, Scotland. Mrs Sutherland is said to have enjoyed talking to visitors about her experiences which “she had a fresher recollection than of those that had occurred within the last thirty years.” According to the register of deaths, Mary died on August 26th at 10pm and her son was present.

Mary A Ashworth

Born: 1795, London, England

Died: 1877, Rhode Island, USA

Mary was born Mary Ann Swadlin in London. She married Archibald Campbell, “first trumpeter to the rocket brigade Royal Artillery”, who took part in the Battle of Leipzig. Mary went through the whole campaign and her eldest son, John, was born in a farmhouse in the Waterloo plain a month before the battle. She left “her quarters as the battle commenced, made a mistake, took the wrong road, and with her infant in her arms, was under fire of the French for a time, but escaped unhurt, and made the best of her way to Brussels.” 

Archibald died in 1830 and Mary remarried to Zachariah Ashworth, a shoemaker, who died in 1855. They both signed the register with an X on their marriage, indicating they did not write. Mary moved to America when Zachariah died, and at the end of her life she lived with her eldest daughter, Mary Ann Brownson. She died in Providence, Rhode Island, surrounded by her family.

Catherine Ross

Born: 1785, Limerick, Ireland, 

Died: 1888, Walsall, England

Catherine Ross married a soldier in the ranks, against her family's wishes. She then followed him to India, China, and Malta to name but a few. In June 1815 they were quartered in Brussels. Her husband was reported missing after the Battle of Waterloo, and on the third day she marched 12 miles to the battlefield to look for him. By the time she arrived he had already been carried to the hospital and had his wounds dressed. He had sustained a cut to the face from the sabre of a French Officer and a bullet lodged in his ankle. 

Catherine was given the title ‘The Waterloo Woman’ on account of being at the Battle of Waterloo and accompanying her husband and the army all through the Peninsular War. After his recovery they were stationed in Manchester and then London, followed by Walsall. He was held a grand review with the Duke of Wellington and Catherine also attended. It was said she could recite a poem on Waterloo, word for word. Because of her commitment to the Army and her husband, the Guardians said she was owed more than a paupers funeral. The Observer opened a small fund to provide for her burial, in which it received £3 and 14s . Her coffin was covered with the Union Jack until the funeral.

Mary Jones

Born: Around 1787, Unknown

Died: Unknown

Mary Jones was well known in London as a vagrant, a chronic alcoholic and a serial offender of petty offences. She appeared before magistrates for a variety of petty crimes at least 18 times between 1822 and 1826 alone. She was recognisable due to a large sabre scar across her face.

Mary claimed to have followed her husband to Europe when he enlisted in the 7th Light Dragoons in 1813, where she disguised herself as a male in order to enlist, going by the name ‘Tom’. At Waterloo, her husband was killed and knocked off his horse, and Mary claims to have immediately jumped onto his horse and rushed to the aid of an officer named Captain Lance, who later granted her a lifetime pension of 1 shilling and 9 pence in gratitude. 

Over Mary’s many run ins with the law, her story changed frequently and considerably, including the regiments her and her husbands served in and her role in saving Captain Lance - though the scars across her face did indicate that she had seen combat at one time. Her changing story, erratic behaviour and alcoholism may have been the result of what we would today recognise as PTSD. 

*Mary went by many names, including Ann Jones, Eliza Parker, Louisa Spragg, Jane Wilkinson, and most famously, “Waterloo Tom”. It is unknown which was her real name.


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