Three Cheers For Sir Astley Cooper

Here’s a sample from a book I found for a dollar called “The Oxford Book of Military Anecdotes.” I was actually looking for another interesting anecdote, but every time I do that, I find another one. This one is by someone named Captain Gronow — probably a British soldier.

“After the Battle of Waterloo, all the wounded horses of [the Emperor Naploleon’s] Household Brigade of cavalry were sold by auction. Sir Astley Cooper attended the sale and bought twelve which he considered so severely hurt as to require the greatest care and attention in order to effect a cure.

“Having had them conveyed, under the care of six grooms, to his park in the country, the great surgeon followed, and with the assistance of his servants, commenced extracting bullets and grapeshot from the bodies and limbs of the suffering animals.

“In a very short time after the operations had been performed, Sir Astley let them run loose in the park; and one morning, to his great delight, he saw the noble animals form in line, charge and then retreat, and afterwards gallop about, appearing greatly contented with the lot that had befallen them.

“These manoeuvres were repeated generally every morning, to his great satisfaction and amusement.”

It kind of reminds me of a passage in Kurt Vonnegut’s brilliant book “Slaughterhouse Five,” a book which deserves an entry of its own. In the passage I’m thinking of, Vonnegut describes how wonderful it would look if you made a movie of an aerial bombing raid and ran it backwards.

Great buildings would rise from piles of rubble as if by magic. People and animals wounded and maimed would miraculously be made whole. The dead would get up and walk around as if nothing had happened. I’ll hunt up the passage and post it for you.

Besides editing stories for, I work at a stable with some truly beautiful horses and when I think of the noble steeds Sir Astley saved from the glue factory forming up and charging just for fun, it makes a delightful picture.