200-Year-Old Skeleton Found: Battle At Waterloo ‘Unknown’ Soldier Finally ID’d

After three painstaking years, archeologists have identified the skeletal remains of a man who died two centuries ago at the Battle of Waterloo — thanks to a few lucky clues. Scientists believe the 200-year-old skeleton is the unknown solider who perished near the Lion’s Mound in 1815. The bones represent the first intact specimen ever discovered from the historic bloody skirmish, according to the Sun Times.

Historian and former member of the Royal Navy, Gareth Glover, 54, is credited with “cracking” the case of the soldier’s identity using a mix of artifacts found buried with the hunchback soldier from 200 years ago, historical records and timing, according to Daily Mail. Glover and a team of scientists and researchers believe the remains are of Friedrich Brandt, a 23-year-old soldier who served with the King’s German Legion of George III at the time of his death.

Dominique Bosquet, the man credited with finding the fossilized remains, works for the Belgian government. In June of 2012 while digging in a field just south of Brussels, the skeleton was found along with some relics thought to belong to Brandt: 20 French and German coins, a metal spoon and a chunk of wood bearing the initials “CB.”

At the time the skeleton was found, the items didn’t reveal much in the way of the skeleton’s identity, let alone, its 200-year-old age. However, Bosquet found a ball from a musket at rest in the area of his ribs. It is likely what killed the fallen soldier. Bosquet used scientific dating and the uniform to determine an age range of 20-29. And just when the team was about to give up on the unknown find’s identity, they got a break.

Glover used a combination of things to assist with the identification of the centuries-old skeleton. Unlike King Richard III, who finally got a proper burial 530 years later, Brandt didn’t have any living blood relatives on record for DNA comparison. Richard III’s remains were found the same year as the Waterloo solider.

Bosque studied the remains thoroughly and noted that the skeleton was deformed with a hunch. He said by today’s military standards, such a person wouldn’t be allowed to fight.

“He suffered from a curvature of the spine which meant he probably would have been rejected from any modern army in the world.”

However, Glover was able to track the corpse to troop formations that fought on that fateful day 200 years ago. He said Brandt was Hanoverian-trained and likely fought with the British to help liberate portions of the homeland that had come under control by Napoleon Bonaparte.

Glover used the wooden piece and records to help with the identify. According to documents, only two soldiers in the unit had the initials “CB” in their name. He ruled out one because he hadn’t fought, which left the other the likely person whose 200-year-old skeleton was found; the initial “F” likely faded with time. Glover also used payroll records and the coins found at the site; the money was likely one week’s pay.

The skeleton found in near undisturbed condition is rare due to the manner in which bones and dead bodies were viewed during those times, according to Glover.

“Bone was considered a great fertilizer in the 1830s and 40s, so companies would raid former Napoleonic battlefields to collect the bodies of fallen soldiers and horses which would then be ground down and sold on to farmers.

“Dead bodies weren’t thought of in the same way back then. Unless you were very wealthy, you were thrown in a mass grave and people didn’t think much of it.

“It did eventually stop in the 1860s after a Yorkshire newspaper ran a campaign criticizing farmers, highlighting that they were throwing the bodies of their relatives on the fields.”

Bosque and his team believe Brandt was single because no spouse came forward to make a widow’s claim for his military pension.

An unknown solider no more, the 200-year-old skeleton will be featured in an upcoming exhibition in May 2015.

[Photo by: Canada Journal]