Object Title

Short Light Cavalry Carbine (Paget Carbine)

Development

Henry William Paget was born in London in 1768, the first son of Henry Bayly 1st Earl of Uxbridge. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary Wars in 1792, he raised a regiment of volunteers and was given the temporary rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. In 1794, Paget commanded the regiment - as the 80th Foot - at the Flanders campaign. The following year Paget was made Lieutenant-Colonel of the 16th (Queen's) Light Dragoons and was promoted to Colonel later the same year. By 1801 he had transferred regiments to the 7th Light Dragoons, as Colonel, and was promoted to Major-General in 1802, and Lieutenant-General in 1806. He participated in the Peninsular campaign under Sir John Moore, but his famous liaison with Lady Charlotte Wellesley, sister-in-law of Arthur Wellesley (the future Duke of Wellington), resulted in his Peninsular campaign being cut short.

After Moore's death at Corunna, Paget found it impossible to serve under Wellington, and the only war service he saw between 1809-1815 was the ill-fated Walcheren expedition. By 1815 a resentful Wellington appointed him cavalry commander in Belgium, which was extended to the whole of the allied cavalry and horse artillery on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo. During the battle he led a spectacular charge of the heavy cavalry.

Towards the end of the battle Paget was struck in the right leg with grape shot. Famous anecdotes of the time state that after being hit Paget turned to Wellington and said 'By God, sir, I've lost my leg!' To which Wellington declared 'By God, sir, so you have!'

In a letter to his beloved Charlotte, Paget wrote of his injury and why he had his leg subsequently amputated:

'Dearest Charlotte, Be bold, prepare for misfortune, I have lost my right leg. A miracle might have saved it, but for the sake of you and my dear children, I have taken the better chance at preserving my life, God bless you all.'

Despite his injury at Waterloo, Henry Paget lived until old age and died in 1854, aged 85.

This short carbine with a barrel length of 16 in was radically smaller in length to its contemporaries: the Eliott Carbine and the 1796 Heavy Dragoon Carbine. It is thought that perhaps the Eliott was considered too long for cavalry duties therefore a shorter-barrelled weapon was developed.

There is no solid evidence that Paget was involved with the design of this carbine. The year of its introduction is still unclear. A date of 1800 has been suggested, when Paget was Colonel of the 16th Light Dragoons. This theory is supported by one such carbine within the collection at the Royal Armouries: a Paget Carbine, with a folding stock, that is marked to the 16th (Queen's) Light Dragoons. However, the date more commonly associated with the carbines introduction is 1805, with it only being produced in a limited number before 1812.

Use and Effect

The Paget Carbine's short barrel made it an ideal weapon for piquet duty, rather than volley fire. Contemporary reports from the early 19th century complained that:

'This little pop-gun of a carbine was so inferior to that of the French that the enemy often dismounted and shot at our dragoons at a distance which rendered our short carbines almost useless.'-Jonathan Leech of the 95th Rifles.

Due to its 16 in barrel, the Paget would not be able to compete with the likes of the Eliott Carbine if a long-range shot was needed. It was said to have had issues with longer range accuracy, due to its size, and was therefore more useful for battle at close quarters. This argument is supported by the fact that certain Paget Carbines were produced in the 1830s with 18 in barrels.

An experiment carried out at the Havant Rifle and Pistol Club set out to test the Paget against its contemporary carbines. The test was carried out at a distance of 20 yards. The conclusions were:

'At the close ranges at which Napoleonic cavalry would have engaged the enemy, it is not likely that the issue of a carbine with a longer barrel would have led to much improvement in kill rate….Most of the criticisms of the Paget appear to have been early in its service life, perhaps with troopers eventually accepting the carbine and indeed maybe appreciating the advantages of this short, handy weapon…the Paget is a handy little carbine and in the hands of a skilled shooter can shoot consistent groups.' (B. Chisnall and G. Davies, British Cavalry Carbines & Pistols of the Napoleonic Era).

Most Paget Carbines are found with the New Land style stepped and bolted lock, either with the earlier 5.25 in or the 4.5 in lockplate, both of which were shared with the New Land 'Paget' Light Dragoon Pistol. Some can be found with the New Land carbine lock, which has a flat bevelled-edge lockplate measuring 5.5 in. The India Pattern pistol lock can also be found on certain examples of this carbine. Locks can also be found with the bolt officially ground off, or with the channel filled, or with the step but with no evidence of a bolt. The most common type of lock is the stepped bolted lock with reinforced cock and raised pan.

The raised pan, which was fitted to most of the Paget Carbines, provided a type of waterproofing system for the priming powder. With a standard flat pan, water on the fence at the rear of the pan could seep into the priming powder, rendering it quite useless. Found on many sporting weapons of the time, the raised pan, taking a 'U' shaped form, lifted the powder out of the way of moisture. This moisture was diverted via draining channels, located at either side of the raised pan.

The Paget Carbine shared the same style of swivel ramrod as the Baker Cavalry rifle, located beneath the barrel. This would have been a great help when trying to load on horseback. The Paget also had a backward curving 5.5 in iron sling-bar and is located before the sidenail.

By 1815, it is likely that most British and Allied hussar and light cavalry regiments would have been issued with this carbine. However contemporary accounts of its use at Waterloo are scarce. It is possible to associate Paget Carbines to various regiments, due to their regimental markings: for example carbines have been found which once belonged to the 2nd Light Dragoons of the King's German Legion, the 15th (King's) Light Dragoons (Hussars), and the 13th Light Dragoons. All these regiments took part in the Battle of Waterloo, and although accounts of the weapon in action are rare, it is highly likely that these carbines featured heavily on the field that day.

Statistics

Barrel length 40.64 cm (16 in)
Calibre 16.5 mm (0.65 in)
Country of manufacture Britain
Date entered service About 1800-1808
Loading Muzzle-loading
Overall length 78.1 cm (30.75 in)
Weight 2.28 kg (5 lbs)

Author

Lisa Traynor