Social media has given life to a number of interesting debates in recent years. There was of course the “dress” debate from 2015 after some users saw it as blue and black, while others saw it as gold and white. A similar discourse occurred in 2017 over the color of a pair of shoes. In both those cases it was about lighting of the objects in question.
On Tuesday however, everyone pretty much saw the same thing in a video that was posted online – it was a cuirass or breast plate that had been worn by a 23-year-old cuirassier François-Antoine Fauveau, who was struck and killed by a cannonball in June 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo. The cuirass, with a huge hole through both the front and back plates, is now in the collection of the Musée de l’Armée in Paris, with other items from the Napoleonic era.
The debate swirled not from the image, but rather after Twitter user @TheFigen captioned an 18-second video showing the cuirass, “Armor of a soldier wounded by a cannonball at the battle of Waterloo in 1815.”
The social media service noted the response the caption received, posting, “A heated debate is underway on the meaning of the word ‘wounded’ after footage of an armor with a cannonball hole goes viral.”
The video, which was originally posted by Interesting Channel (@InteresChannel) has been seen more than 2.7 million times.
As noted by Twitter, many users mocked the use of the word “wounded,” while a few shared memes that also poked fun:
Fortunately, at least a few users weighed in to share some knowledge of the battle.
“Looks like the poor devil was hit by a 6 pound cannonball at close to point-blank range. Late in the afternoon the French cavalry made a series of pointless chargers at British squares behind the ridge at Waterloo. There were light 6 pd guns set up between the squares…,” explained @AndrewHarbison1.
Still others on social media have since shared similarly horrific and/or fascinating objects recovered from various battlefields:
Appreciation For History?
What is also notable is that this particular cuirass has been the subject of debate on social media and forums in the past, as various users have joked that it was “just a flesh wound” and “I’ll take it this was his last breastplate,” while another offered the somewhat grim observation, “must have been a mess to take him out of it!”
In addition to showing an utter lack of appreciation for history, it showed too that there has been little respect for the young man who died at a young age two centuries ago in the service of his nation.
The blog “Museum of Artifacts” does shed some light into François-Antoine Fauveau:
He suffered a mortal wound when a cannon ball pierced his gleaming breast plate. A recent recruit, Fauveau’s height of 1.79 metres gave him the ideal stature for a heavy cavalry regiment. These, after all, were intended to be big men on big horses, riding down the enemy by the weight of their charge. The young man’s service papers also record that he had a “long, freckled face with a large forehead, blue eyes, hooked nose, and a small mouth”. Family legend has it that when his call-up papers arrived, François-Antoine was on the point of getting married, so his brother joined up, and died, in his place. Yet whoever was wearing it on 18 June 1815, this cuirass serves to emphasise the brutality of Napoleonic warfare at a most personal level.