1. The 'Waterloo Industry' and Its Creations.
2. Quality of Napoleon's Guard in 1815.
3. Guard vs Brits, Germans and Dutch.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - French Deserter and French Adjutant.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - Wellington's Response.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - Guard's Advance.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - The Guard "bend under artillery fire like corn smitten by the wind."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - The British and Nassauers Fell Back in "Frightful Confusion".
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - The Dutch Counter-Attacked; La Garde Recule !
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - British Guard Vs French Middle Guard - "A Lengthy Exchange of Musketry."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - The British Guard Flew In Disorder Up the Slope As Fast As They Came Down. Garde Anglaise Recule !
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - The French Guard Finally "Bent Under The Numbers".
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - Cambronne's Old Guard Defeated By Germans.
4. Guard vs Prussians
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - Old Guard Took the Village In Bayonet Point.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - Young Guard Suffered 80 % Casualties in Street Fighting
5. The French Army Disintegrated.
btns. - battalions
FRENCH . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ALLIES
MdE - Maréchal d'Empire . . . . . . . FM - Field Marshal
GdD - Général de Division . . . . . . GL, LG - General-Lieutenant, Lieutenant General
GdB - Général de Brigade . . . . . . . GM, MG - General-Major, Major General
Col. - Colonel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Col., Kol., Ob. - Colonel (British), Kolonel (Dutch-Belgian), Oberst (Prussian)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lt-Col., Lt-Kol., Ob.-Lt. - Lieutenant-Colonel, Lieutenant-Kolonel, Oberst-Leutenant
Mjr. - Major . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Mjr. - Major
CdB. - Chef de Bataillon
CdE. - Chef de Escadron
Cpt. - Capitaine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cpt., Kpt. - Captain, Kapitan
Ltn. - Lieutenant . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ltn. - Lieutenant
The 'Waterloo Industry' and Its Creations.
The Battle of Waterloo, fought on June 18th 1815 and was Napoleon's last battle.
(The battlefield is in present day Belgium, 7.5 miles of Brussels.) The battle raged for several hours.
In the late afternoon, with Wellington's centre exposed by the French taking La Haye Sainte,
Napoleon committed his last reserve, the Imperial Guard.
The so-called thin red line (British troops wore red jackets) was not so thin and not so red.
Wellington's troops between Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte (where the French Guard
attacked) were "deployed initially in column of companies, most at 1/4 distance" (- Mark Adkin).
During battle some of them were formed in lines 4-ranks deep. It was a restricted area and
the "thin red line" (2-ranks deep) was far too long for that.
The fear of French cuirassiers was such that Ensign Macready wrote "no power on Earth could have formed a line of any kind of us but
that of a line 4 deep." (In all probability Alten's and Picton's infantry were also
formed on 4-ranks.) At Waterloo the French used columns of various size, but their lines were
alwayz only 3-ranks deep.
to either break or stop the Allies.
Quality of Napoleon's Guard in 1815.
In 1815 Napoleon's Guard was a fine fighting machine although not as good as
their predecessors in 1804-1812 who felt invincible after the glorious victories at
Austerlitz, Jena, Friedland, Wagram and Borodino. The veterans who marched
to Waterloo knew well the taste of defeat, some survived the horrors of retreat from Russia,
flights before Cossacks, defeats at Viazma, Berezina, Leipzig, Kulm, Dennewitz, La Rothiere
and Paris. They also witnessed Allies' entry to Paris, capitulation and abdication of
Napoleon. Soem veterans were ex-POWs who spent years in Russian, British or Spanish
captivity. They could be angry but without the air of invincibility.
There was less trust between the Guard and their commanders; Friant, Ney and others abandoned their beloved Emperor a year ago, this had shaken their faith in their leaders. There had been even defections among the officers of Middle and Young Guard whom Napoleon couldn't replace. The stalwart Elba Battalion looked down on everybody. Their chant "it was us who brought him back" closed the mouths of all contenders. The Elba Battalion felt a scorn for the troopers of Royal Corps who served for the King Louis XVIII. The old camaraderie of the Guard was replaced by suspicion.
Only the 1er Grenadiers and 1er Chasseurs were filled with men with 12 years' service and with
the Elba Battalion. They were the oldest of the old, the sine pari (without equal).
Almost 30 % of the I/1er Grenadiers were veterans of 20-25 campaigns, one third was awarded
for bravery and averaged 35-years of age.
French Guard vs Brits, Germans and Dutch.
What had happened at Waterloo was this. At 10am, before the battle began, GdD Friant formed all regiments of Middle and Old Guard in two columns on regimental front. One column stood on the left side of the paved road, and the other column was on the right side. They remained in that position until afternoon when the Middle Guard marched against the British, Dutch and German troops and the Old and Young Guard faced the Prussians. As mentioned above, the advancing force consisted of 7 btns. formed in squares and marching in echelons. These battalions were formed in squares. A single horse battery advanced with the Guard. The battery was divided into four sections, 2 guns each, and positioned between the squares.
French deserter and French adjutant.
The Guard "bend under artillery fire like corn smitten by the wind."
The British, Brunswickers and Nassauers
The Dutch Counter-Attacked:
The British prefer not to dwell on the fact that it was a Dutch unit which broke the
leading echelon of Imperial Guard. In majority of their books you don't find a beep
about it. But if they do describe this action this is with a strong portion of jealousy
"the Dutch-Belgians were merely chasing an already defeated battalion".
Chasse (ext.link) bitterely complained to Lord Hill because the Dutch and Belgian troops' exploits
were omitted in his report. This protest resulted in Hill writing of their conduct to
"A Lengthy Exchange of Musketry":
Against 1.000 chasseurs Maitland had 1,500 men:
Near the ridge the chasseurs were shattered by canister fire from Bolton's and Ramsay's
batteries that took them in the flank.
General Michel fell fatally wounded and the decimated chasseurs halted. Maitland's guardsmen
stood up and delivered volley at close range.
The chasseurs deployed from square to line to answer fire with fire. The exchange of musket fire was
quite long. The French say about approx. 10 minutes, and Griffith in 'Forward into Battle' on
p 26. says about "a lengthy exchange of musketry."
This is truly amazing that the outnumbered and heavily outgunned chasseurs held their ground for a quite long time.
The artillery and musket fire took heavy toll on the chasseurs and they began wavering.
Seeing this Wellington ordered Maitland to charge.
Here is another invention of British authors; Wellington denied saying "Now Maitland!"
or "Up Guards and at them!" So it was not a volley, cheer and charge after Wellington's "Up Guards and at them !", instead
it was a lengthy exchange of musket fire, with the French being outnumbered and outgunned.
The British Guard Flew In Disorder Up the Slope
The French Guard Finally "Bent Under the Numbers."
Meanwhile Adam's 2,000-3,000 men moved against the chasseurs and grenadiers who instead of fleeing, hang around still ready to fight. The British 52nd Foot was so anxious that they mistook the (British) 23rd Light Dragoons of Dornberg's Brigade for the enemy and fired. It resulted in disorder and hesitation among some of Wellington's troops. But it had little effect on the final outcome of battle. The French "bent under the numbers" and fell back. They fled to the rear where stood 4 btns. as a reserve: II/3e Grenadiers, II/2e Grenadiers, II/2e Chasseurs and Cambronne with II/1er Chasseurs. Despite being attacked by British cavalry, German infantry from Hougoumont, and surrounded and shelled with grapeshot the II/3e Grenadiers was never broken. When they reached La Belle Alliance their regular square had shrunk to a tiny triangle with ranks of 2-deep. Then their commander gave order to fire a final volley and to break up into small battle-groups. They made their way to the rear and joined the slowly retreating and in excellent order 1er Grenadiers.
When two battalions of Detmers' brigade struggled with the Guard in the orchard at La HHaye Sainte, the four remaining battalions were waiting with their advance. This probably lasted until the British 52nd Foot neared the farm. The British soldiers took the Dutch-Belgians for French troops. Five of six Detmers; battalions wore blue jackets. Leeke of 52nd wrote: "... we distinctly saw on our left, 300 or 400 yards up the British position and on the Hougoumont side of La Haye Sainte, four battalions in column, apparently French, standing with ordered arms. According to all accounts they were too far down the British position to be Dutch-Belgians; they certainly were not English. It was thought they were French, and part of Donzelot's division ... The 52nd was then, as before, quite alone, and had these four battalions of Donzelot's division come down upon our left flank with a regular British charge, they would possibly have prevented the rout of the French army from becoming so complete as it was." Leeke was confused about the four battalions: "What should keep them there, 400 yards or more from the British position ... " According to Erwin Muilwijk "... to identify them as being French battalions leisurely waiting, while the 52nd Foot presented its left flank to them is a far-fetched idea, most likely based on the fact that Leeke, as so many others, was (in later years still) unaware of the advance of Detmers.
Cambronne's Old Guard Defeated By Germans.
German version of what happened.
There is much talk on what really was said by
His alleged response was later immortalized by Victor Hugo in his writings,
while the words 'La Garde meurt, elle ne se rend pas !' is inscribed on his tomb at Nantes."
But according to Mark Adkin "Cambronne was very much the rough spoken, hard as nails
ex-ranker - a soldier's soldier. For this reason perhaps 'Merde !' is the more likely
in the circumstances, the modern English equivalent being 'F*** off !' (- Adkin)
On map: Allies' offensive: Cambronne is taken prisoner.
Map: The Second Stage of Waterloo, Napoleon against two armies:
the shrinking German-British-Netherland to his front and the Prussian army on his flank.
French Guard vs Prussians.
On picture: Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher (1742-1819), commander-in-chief of the Prussian army.
If the Prussians had fallen back on their communication lines after Ligny,
Wellington would almost certainly have had have fallen back on his, which ultimately meant
reatreat to the channel coast with a view to re-embarking a la Dunkirk.
The object of offering battle at Waterloo was to hold Napoleon until the Prussians arrived.
[In the classic British version of Waterloo the Prussians arrived just in time to mop up the
battlefield. Of course the British did everything by themselves. Oh please, spare me yet
another repetition of such inflated ego.]
The spire of Plancenoit's church became a marker for Blucher's advance and the scene of
"the bitterest fighting of the entire battle... The fighting in Plancenoit was of a
particularly merciless nature. The hatred between French
and Prussians was intense... The Prussian advance/assault on this village was the single
biggest factor that cost the French a victory at Waterloo. The absolute necessity for the
Emperor to commit all of VI Corps, which was his first reserve, to the extreme eastern flank
at the outset of the battle. Napoleon's force available for attacking his main enemy was instantly
reduced by over 10.000 men. This meant that for the main battle, which had yet to begin in
earnest, Napoleon had less men than Wellington... If Plancenoit was lost, the battle was lost,
if the battle was lost, so was the campaign and with it the Emperor's throne.... When the
French finally took La Haye Sainte ... it opened up a small window of opportunity
[for Napoleon] ... Ney saw it and demanded infantry to exploit it. They were not
forthcoming, primarily because of the situation in Plancenoit....
Prussian artillery arrived on the battlefield. "The wounded, as we came rushing on, set up a dreadful crying, and holding up their hands entreated us, some in French and some in English, not to crush their already mangled bodies beneath our wheels. It was a terrible sight to see those faces with the mark of death upon them, rising from the ground and the arms outstretched towards us." (- Kpt. von Reuter) He noticed that the Prussian infantry was in excellent spirit and greeted the heavy cannons with cheers. At 4 pm part of Bulow's corps was nonetheless ready to fall upon Napoleon's exposed flank. Bulow sent 2 battalions to link up with Wellington and protect his exposed flank. The Fus/18th and Fus/3rd Silesian Landwehr marched toward Frichermont, Smohain and Papelotte.
Plancenoit (see photo by Mark Adkin) was a big village with a cobblestone street, a church built of stone and a walled cemetary. All inhabitants fled their houses yesterday. Plancenoit was defended by Mouton count of Lobau's (ext.link) VI Army Corps of two infantry divisions. Simmer's 19th Division (4.100 men in 9 btns. and one battery) was in the village. North of Plancenoit stood GdD Jeanin's 20th Division (3.300 men in 6 btns. and one battrey). Charges by Domon's and Subervie's lancers and chasseurs slowed down the Prussian advance. One of the lancer regiment was led by Col. Surd who previous day after the combat at Gennappe had one arm amputated but insisted on maintaining command of his unit. The cavalry charges were followed by a skirmish battle between the French and Prussian infantry. GdD Mouton's VI Army Corps was outnumbered by the Prussians and to prevent outflanking his right wing Mouton began retreating. Prussian cannonballs began falling not far from Napoleon, some hit La Belle Alliance filled with wounded French soldiers. Napoleon turned his telescope in the direction the shots came from.
Ob. von Hiller with one column of infantry found themselves under fire from French snipers stationed in the houses of Plancenoit. The French had brought canons and howitzers into the streets "where close range blasts of canister would blow away oppositions as a gale does autumn leaves." The Prussians however pressed forward and reached the center of the village where the church and cemetery were located. (ext.link) They met Young Guard led by Duhesme "the incorrigible looter, the crude, brutal general who had been disissed from his post in Spain for involvement in torture". Within 30 min. of fighting the Prussians were obliged to retreat all the way back to open country. Blucher was furious, he mounted his horse and rode to the fleeing troops where he met their colonel. Blücher was in no afraid of Napoleon. He was a tough, stuborn old sod who refused to give in, when many others would have rolled over. Two years earlier, in 1813, Blücher defeated the French at Katzbach and defeated Napoleon in 1814 at La Rothiere.
Blücher ordered Bülow's corps to attack, and uttered these remarkable words:
"We must give air to the English army." Up until now Wellington was on the back foot and
would have been beaten without Blucher's army. Wellington said: "Give me Blücher or give
me night" and this is enough to see clearly that he was actually saying "I'm about to get my
Map of battle at Plancenoit.
The Young Guard Suffered 80 % Casualties
The French Army Disintegrated.
With Their Characteristic Bull-Dog Obstinacy and Drums Beating.
The Prussians emerged from the burning remains of village at which point the
French army disintegrated. Darkness began to fall and the number of fugitives rapidly
increased. Some were fleeing toward positions where stood Napoleon's last reserve,
three btns. of Old Guard and part of Emperor's baggage.
Near Genappe the two squares of Old Guard came together and were formed in long columns by sections. The Prussians watchfully followed them without much bothering. The French fugitives were pursued mainly by the Prussian light cavalry. General Gneissenau placed himself at the head of Prussian advance guard and urged his exhausted soldiers all night long. Immediately after Napoleon left Le Caillou the Prussians arrived and set fire to the farm and its adjacent barns, burning alive all wounded Frenchmen who had been brought into these buildings. Mjr. Keller of Prussian 15th Infantry took possesion of Napoleon's sword, medals, hat and purse of diamonds. Near Rossomme Ltn. Jackson of Wellington's staff saw a large group of Prussian infantrymen bayoneting wounded French soldiers to death. He was genuinely afraid that they were going to kill him. Napoleon's surgeon Dr. Larrey was struck down by Prussian uhlan. The uhlan robbed him, tied his hands behind his back, and brought his bleeding Frenchman to the Prussians.
Wellington and Blucher decided that the Prussians alone would continue the pursuit. This decision is usually explained by citing the exhausted condition of Wellington's infantry, but Blucher's were surely no less tired. More likely the choice reflected the plodding management and slowness of movement that characterized British troops.
On June 19, 1815 Wellington wrote to Bathurst on the actions of Prussian Army on Napoleon’s right flank and during pursuit after battle describing them as the "most decisive."
Blücher suggested to Wellington that they call it the Battle of La Belle Alliance, but Wellington had other plans. He raced back to his headquarters and wrote his famous dispatch, explaining just how he had won the Battle of Waterloo.
and Z. Olszewski
Sources and Links.
Lachouque - "The Anatomy of Glory: Napoleon and his Guard"
Adkin - "The Waterloo Companion"
Hofschroer - "1815, The Waterloo Campaign: The German Victory"
Muilwijk - "The 3rd Netherland Division at the Battle of Waterloo." publ. in First Empire, UK, 2005
Houssaye - "1815 Waterloo".
De Bas/De Wommersom - "La Campagne de 1815 aux Pays Bas"
Siborne - "History of the Waterloo Campaign"
Chesney - " Waterloo Lectures"
The contribution of the Netherlands Army in Waterloo Campaign >>
Battle of Paris 1814
Napoleon, His Army and Enemies.