MERZOUGA -OCTOBER 01: Tourist group on Camels in Merzouga desert, In Merzouga, Morocco October 1. 2013.

10 Incredible Survival Stories From The 19th Century

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8. Robert Jeffrey

Desert Island

Robert Jeffrey was a British seaman who was pressed into service on a Royal Navy sloop called the Recruit commanded by Captain Lake during the Napoleonic Wars. Impressment was a form of conscription practiced by the Royal Navy at the time, so naturally, Jeffrey was resistant to serving on the Recruit.

Jeffrey was caught stealing beer from the ship’s store. As punishment, Captain Lake decided to maroon Jeffrey on a desert island without any supplies. When Lake’s superiors found out what had happened, they ordered him to go back and retrieve the stranded seaman. Upon returning to the island, they found no trace of him and assumed he was dead. An inquiry was held, and Captain Lake was dismissed from his post.

Jeffrey, in fact, had managed to survive by eating limpets and drinking rainwater. After nine days and some unsuccessful attempts to flag down passing ships, Jeffrey was rescued by an American ship. The ship took him back to Massachusetts, where he lived for a number of years. Only later did the British Government find out that Jeffrey was still alive.

7. Dr. William Brydon

William Brydon

In 1839, British soldiers occupied Kabul in an effort to prop up a friendly ruler and prevent Afghanistan from allying with Russia. However, after just two years of occupation, they lost control of the city and were forced to retreat. A group of 4,500 soldiers and 12,000 civilians left Kabul for India on a journey that was difficult and dangerous. Not did only did the group move slowly, but temperatures dropped below freezing, and they came under attack from Ghilzai warriors, as well as the forces of Muhammad Akbar, an Afghan warlord.

After only five days of retreat, 12,000 had been massacred, and the British army was totally surrounded. One of the last left alive was Dr. William Brydon, an army surgeon who was part of a group of about a dozen trying to make it to Jalalabad. Riding a wounded pony, Brydon was able to fend off attacks from pursuing Ghilzai swordsmen, despite losing his own sword, until he was close enough to Jalalabad to be spotted by sentries, who came to his aid.

Of the entire column that left Kabul, Dr. Brydon is the only person known to have survived.

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