Who was Charles O'Neil/O'Neal? Regimental Descriptive WO25 show there were two Charles O'Neils in the 28th, one who enlisted 10th June 1798 being discharged to pension 1st December 1806 and the second who enlisted 5th May 1811 for unlimited service, neither of these men would have been an actor as the author claims in the Battle of Barrosa 5th March 1811, this is further supported by the Muster Roll for the Battalion, which had no Charles O'Neil listed.
At the Battle of Waterloo Charles O'Neal was on the Muster for the Depot at Albany Barracks, being shown as Recruiting in Armagh, which would explain why he doesn't feature on the Waterloo Medal Roll and, although the memoirs were published in 1851 he made no application for the Military General Service Medal.
Pleased to hear any observations as to the validity of his recollections
Having read many memoirs, letters, and diaries. I have found diary entries the most reliable, followed by letters written shortly after the events. Memoirs are hit or miss. The longer they were written after the event, the less reliable they were.
An old joke. . . what is the difference between a fairy tale and a war story? A fairy tale begins with Once upon a time. A war story begins with There I was. . . 😀
Hi Jim I cannot be certain that Wray was there as you say, but I would add a note of caution on official returns, they are not always as accurate as we assume. I have come across numerous accounts of the records being returned to regiments as incorrect and presumably many went through without detection.
Interesting, how wonderfully appropriate that Bernard Cornwell wrote the introduction to the Spellmount edition. Perhaps I shall file my copy under fiction. All the best.
His memoirs have been viewed with suspicion for years, probably cobbling together stories he had heard whilst serving, but not actually there himself. In the National Archives it appears that O'Neal eventually settle in North America, so he is most likely the author, but he was not present at half of what he claimed.
Here are some comments I found online by D Ellis
I did my BA thesis on the 28th Foot at Waterloo and it is clear after studying the muster and medal rolls that Charles O'Neill who claims authorship of this book never served at the battle of Waterloo with the 28th under that name. Much of the book consists of generic "remembrances" in a vague narrative style that probably made use of available publications at the time/after. I believe that the real Charles O'Neill was a member of the 28th - and who was Irish - but not a Waterloo veteran and died while serving with the regiment sometime after the Napoleonic Wars ended. The 28th was a fine regiment and served well - Charles Cadell wrote a good book. There are so very many good books in this genre - I'd look elsewhere if I was you.
He has published a full article which can be read here online free at present - https://www.jstor.org/stable/44230960?seq=1