Rifle of General Sir Thomas Picton
An early 19th Century Irish flintlock Rifle, by George Turner of Dublin, with walnut stock and contemporaneous inscribed silver plate “Sir Thomas Picton”, possibly Military Issue. (1)
Note: Sir Thomas Picton (1758-1815) was a career soldier renowned for his severity, courage and foul temper. As governor of Trinidad from 1797 to 1803 he sought, with the aid of a tiny garrison, to impose order on the anarchic population. He was soon able to report that “perfect tranquillity prevailed throughout the colony”, but his excessive use of imprisonment, cruel punishments and the death penalty resulted in his being recalled and put on trial in London. The proceedings were followed avidly by the British public and although he was eventually exonerated his reputation remained blighted.
Picton served in the disastrous occupation of Flushing and in the Peninsular War, where he commanded Wellington’s 3rd Division with such determination that it was nicknamed “the fighting division”. He fought with distinction at the assaults on Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz, despite suffering from sickness and wounds. At the battle of Waterloo he commanded the 5th Division and was in the act of rallying his troops to repel a massive French infantry charge when he was struck on the temple by a musket ball and killed.
Picton was the most senior officer killed at Waterloo and is the only Welshman buried in St Paul’s Cathedral. A stern disciplinarian and sometimes too impetuous in the field, he was also an intelligent and effective commander; Wellington famously said of him: “I found him a rough foul-mouthed devil as ever lived – but no man could do better in different services I charged him with.”