Napoleon's Guard at Waterloo.
June 1815.
Wellington ordered Chasse to bring 3 of his battalions into frontline at once.
Chasse called "Storm pace !" and threw forward Detmers' brigade,
"which flung the French [Middle Guard] back beyond the slope
- where they were picked up by Cambronne's chasseurs [of Old Guard]"
- H. Lachoque
Detmers' brigade was among the first Wellington's troops
who started the pursuit, "perhaps 10 to 15 minutes before
the general advance was ordered by Wellington."
- First Empire" # 86

1. The 'Waterloo Industry'.
2. Napoleon's Guard in 1815.
3. The Guard vs Wellington's troops.
- - - - French deserter and Wellington's preparations. >
- - - - Guard's advance. >
- - - - The Guard broke through Allies first line. >
- - - - Chasse's counterattack. La Garde Recule ! >
- - - - Confusing fighting. >
- - - - The Guard "bent under the numbers". >
- - - - "F*** off !" >
4. The Guard vs Blucher's troops.
- - - - The Old Guard took the village in bayonet point. >
- - - - The level of slaughter in Plancenoit even surpassed Hougoumont. >
5. "Herr Gott, Dich loben wir".
6. Napoleon's second abdication and the Guard. "We have no more Emperor ..."

Majority of the Waterloo-books were written for particular market
and are likely to continue to do well in that very specific market
with myths, lies and tall tales.

The 'Waterloo Industry'.
Tall Tales, Myths.

The Battle of Waterloo, fought on June 18th 1815, 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.

Although there are many books on Waterloo only few are worth your money: Mark Adkin's "The Waterloo Companion", Peter Hofschroer's "1815, The Waterloo Campaign", Alessandro Barbero's "The Battle" and Commandant Henri Lachoque's. Many authors inflate the number of battalions of French Guard that attacked Wellington's positions. They want you think as if the entire Guard fell right on the handfull of British soldiers formed in the famous "thin red line." Aside from some fuzzy math, they present the defeat of the Middle Guard as the achievement of British troops and so winning the entire campaign. (The same people believe that Cpt. Mercer was solely responsible for keeping the Brunswickers in line. Mercer also gave the impression that the regiment of horse grenadiers of Old Guard had been practically annihilated while charging his battery. It reminds me another invention, that the French 45e Ligne was an elite formation. This was invented by English enthusiasts to enhance the value of the captured Eagle.)
These prolific authors are highly opinionated and severaly critical of anyone who came in contact with the British troops. They take 80 % off the performance score of anyone not having had the good sense to have been born British. This is the "Waterloo industry" that exists in its worst. Such books were written for particular market and are likely to continue to do well in that very specific market with myths and tall tales.

One of the myths of Waterloo is the "thin red line" (2-ranks deep) routing the deep, heavy French columns. Actually the so-called thin red line (British troops wore red jackets) was not so thin and not so red.

During the battle most of Allied battalions 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.
Wellington's troops were so densely deployed at Waterloo that only in few other battles were put more men per km of front. Wellington packed especially many troops between Hougoumount and La Haye (where the French Guard attacked). These troops were "deployed initially in column of companies, most at 1/4 distance" (Mark Adkin - "Waterloo Companion").

Another myth is that the British Guard and the 52nd Foot were the only units fighting the Middle Guard. The truth is that about every other battalion in the area were involved in chucking just about everything but the kitchen sink at them as the French Guard advanced up the slope.
Without the Dutch, Belgians and the Germans, their numbers, loyalty and fighting skill Wellington would have his hat pulled down to his knee. These troops wore blue, green, red, and black uniforms - so the "thin red line" has little to do with the reality.

There are other myths, like the Old Guard being formed in heavy columns.
Actually they were Middle Guard and formed in squares.

The French.
Adolphe Thiers and Georges Blond.

Thiers Of course some French authors are no better. For example Adolphe Thiers and his Waterloo. (Thiers was a French politician and historian. He was a prime minister under King Louis-Philippe. The first volume of his "Histoire du Consulat et de l'Empire" appeared in 1845.)
It was impossible for Thiers to write about Waterloo without announcing the defeat of Napoleon. But he takes you by surprise when he comes to the rout of the French army, for the French have been everywhere victorious.
After 'deciding the defeat' of Blucher's army on his flank, the Emperor leads the Guard against the British. By the arrival of Ziethen's corps on the extreme of Wellington's line, the battle seems in a moment to have been lost, or rather, the French retire that they may not be cut off. By now the Guard is reduced by more than half (Thiers has not accounted this reduction of the Guard to any military action).
The French are defeated but the Prussians too had been defeated. The French lost no prisoners except the wounded. (He contradict himself by claiming that Erlon's corps lost 3,000 killed, wounded and prisoners.) For more information read review of Thiers' book by Nicholas Patrick Wiseman.

Georges Blond: "Once again, the climb up the slope of Mont Saint-Jean but this time, it is the Guard who lead. The British guns boomed, the shots cut swathes through the battalions, but the bearskins still moved forward. ... Five minutes later, half the first wave of attackers had fallen. Momentum was lost. ... Wellington saw, wonderful sight, Napoleon's Guard in difficulty ! ... Reille had just started to move his troops of I Corps to open an attack on the British right. These men suddenly saw before them, coming down the valley which they were preparing to climb, a mass of bearskins. ... Cries of 'All is Lost !' The Guard is defeated ! were heard.
The soldiers even claimed that in many places, ill-disposed agents shouted 'Every man for himself!"

When asked whether he had faced the Old Guard at Waterloo,
an English officer replied "we regret, exceedingly, that
were are not informed as to the name of quality of our opponents.
They might have been the Old Guard-Young Guard-or no Guard at all;
but certain it is, that they were, looking fierce enough,
and ugly enough to be anything." (Barbero - "The Battle" p 28)

Napoleon's Guard in 1815.
"In 1815 the old camaraderie of the Guard was replaced by suspicion."
There had been even defections among the officers of the
Middle and Young Guard whom Napoleon couldn't replace.

French POWS in Austrian custody.
Picture by J.A.Klein Picture: French POWs in Austrian custody: the sentry on extreme right is a Hungarian infantryman. Picture by J.A.Klein.

Some authors claim that the French army of 1815 was Napoleon's best and composed of battle hardened veterans. According to Henri Lachouque however "not all the discharged veterans returned. Some had been spoiled by civil life." (Lachouque - "Anathomy of Glory")
The veterans who marched to Waterloo knew well the taste of defeat, some were ex-POWs who spent months or even years years in Russian, British or Spanish captivity. They could be angry but without the air of invincibility. Captain Duthilt thought the soldiers who had suffered the defeats of the emperor's recent campaigns and the returned prisoners of war from Russia had lost a great deal of their enthusiasm. A call for volunteers produced only some laughable 15,000 men. "There was a prodigious gap between them (soldiers of 1815) and our old soldiers from the Camp the Boulogne." (- Desales, officer of artillery of Erlon's I Corps)

The Middle Guard at Waterloo. 
Picture by Rava In 1815 Napoleon's Guard was a fine fighting machine although not as good as their predecessors in 1804-1812. In 1815 the Imperial Guard was hastily assembled, lacked uniforms and quality weapons. Instead they wore shakos, hats, forage caps and woolen berets. "The Old Guard was better groomed, with blue half-belted greatcoats, bearskins and white leather straps and belts. The Middle Guard - the 3rd and 4th Grenadiers and Chasseurs - wore the shako; but some some of the gun and pouch straps had to be improvised from twisted string. " (Lachouque - "Waterloo" p 47)

Not 20 men could be found wearing the same uniform in any company in these regiments. Instead of the finely made weapons reserved only for the Imperial Guard the guardsmen carried line muskets and sabers. There was lack of shoes and food. The supplies were scarce and everything was performed in haste and confusion.

The Guard artillery train lacked of military drivers so volunteer civil drivers were accepted as "3rd class" soldiers.

There was not enough elite gendarmes for the Guard so men from King's Hunt were accepted.

The Red Lancers lacked men and accepted cavalrymen from various sources: Royal Corps, retirement, Young Guard and the horse grenadiers.

The discipline was poor, the old timers were annoyed and complained that the Young Guard went out with girls or got drunk.

In 1814 Ney became the spokesman for
the marshals' revolt, demanding 
Napoleon’s abdication There was not much trust left 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. In 1814 at Fontainebleau, Marshal Ney became the spokesman for the marshals' revolt, demanding Napoleon’s abdication. When the Emperor returned in 1815, Marshal Ney promissed the Bourbons to bring him alive in an iron cage. General Louis Friant blatanly colaborated with the Burbons in order to keep his position.

Shortly before Waterloo there had been defections among the officers of Middle and Young Guard whom Napoleon couldn't replace. The old camaraderie of the Guard was replaced by suspicion.

Only the 1st Grenadiers and 1st Chasseurs were filled with men with 12 years' service and with the memebers of the faithful 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.
The 2nd Grenadiers and 2nd Chasseurs accepted men with 8 years' service. The 3rd and 4th Grenadiers, and 3rd and 4th Chasseurs were filled up with men with only 4 years' service. These units were established only after Napoleon's return from Elba, when men were transferred from the army to form the new Guard regiments. The entire army called them Middle Guard although officially there was no Middle Guard. The beaurocrats in Ministry of War called them Old Guard.
The Young Guard consisted of volunteers, retired men, Corsicans, recruits and even deserters (!)

All things considered, these were still quite good but not superb units, a fact that has not been stressed enough in accounts of this last offensive. (Barbero - "The Battle" p 264)



When line of the British and German infantry was broken
by the Middle Guard the situation became critical.
Wellington ordered Chasse to bring his Netherland division
and do it quickly.

The Guard vs Wellington's troops.
Before the attack Napoleon informed Ney
that Grouchy's troops had arrived.
Ney announced it to the overjoyed Guard.
Soon however they heard artillery fire in the rear
and the enthusiasm "gave way to a profound silence,
to amazement, to anxiety".

What had happened at Waterloo was this. At 10am GdD Friant formed all regiments of the 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 enemy.

Then 7 battalions were sent against Wellington's troops. They were formed in squares and marching in echelons. A single horse battery advanced with them. The battery was divided into four sections, 2 guns each, and positioned between the squares.

Grouchy Shortly before the attack, Napoleon's ADC General Dejean arrived to Marshal Ney with the news that Marshal Grouchy's troops had arrived. Ney ordered Colonel Levasseur to go right along the line and announce the news. The line troops and the Guard were overjoyed. But before Levasseur reached the end of the line he heard artillery fire in the rear and troops' enthusiasm "gave way to a profound silence, to amazement, to anxiety".
Marshal Ney forbade Levasseur to go and find out the cause of this anxiety.

French deserter and Wellington's preparations.
Wellington had brought a number of units in from both flanks
to support the troops facing Imperial Guard.
Wellington was able to shorten his front line
due to the arrival of Blucher's Prussians.

French deserter at Waterloo Less than 30 min. before the attack of Napoleon's Guard, a French deserter officer of horse carabiniers rode up to British 52nd Foot yelling 'Vive le Roi !' He met the British saying 'That scoundrel Napoleon is with his Guard over there. He will be upon you shortly.'
According to Ensign Leeke of the British Guard it was "...a French cuirassier officer came galloping up the slope and down the bank in our front, near to Sir John Colborne, crying 'Vive l'Roi !'"

Wellington had brought a number of units in from both flanks to support the troops facing Imperial Guard. Wellington was able to shorten his front line due to the arrival of Blucher's Prussians. It was Blucher's indirect contribution to the defeat of French Guard. The troops from the flank were Vivian's cavalry brigade, Vandeleur's cavalry brigade and other smaller units. Halkett's and Du Platt's brigades had come forward to support Hougoumont and flank the Imperial Guard. Chasse's division deployed behind British infantry between Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte.

Guard's advance.
The Guard "bend under artillery fire
like corn smitten by the wind."
- Ensign Macready of 30th Foot

The 3rd Chasseurs at Waterloo, 
Picture by Jean Auge, France. According to General Petit who witnessed the advance, the battalions of the Middle Guard were formed in squares to eventually repulse the Allied cavalry. There was a possibility of repetition of cavalry counter-attack as it happened during d'Erlon's assault (or the slaughter of Luneburg Btn. and V KGL Line Btn. by French cuirassiers).

Mark Adkin writes: "All the battalions were formed up in squares, advanced in squares and attacked in squares, as they had no wish to be caught on the move by cavalry ... There were no skirmishers deployed from these battalions. Senior officers rode or walked ahead. Each battalion's drummers were in the centre." (- Adkin p 391)
Majority of witness accounts were written some 10-20 years after the battle when memory was not the freshiest. Additionally a square with drummers and officers inside could easily give the impression of a column.
- "The advance of the enemy upon this part of the position was in heavy columns of infantry, with crowds of tirailleurs in their front ..." - Lord Somerset
- "I could see the French advancing ... in heavy masses of close columns." - Lt. Wilson
- "The French advanced in masses of infantry." - Lt. Rudyard

General Friant The Middle Guard followed their mounted commanders, Marshal Ney and General Louis Friant. Henri Lachoque writes: "Without a single skirmisher to scout ahead, Ney, Friant, and Poret de Morvan marched at the head of Guillemin's battalion of the 3rd Grenadiers."

Part of Donzelot's division advanced on the immediate right of the Guard, along the Genappe Road. Small group of cuirassiers and Guard cavalry rode behind the Guard infantry. The slope was steep and sufficient to slow both infantrymen and cavalrymen.

The first echelon was formed by the I/3rd Grenadiers. As they marched on the left side of the road to La-Haye-Sainte they were shortly joined by Napooleon. To the left and rear marched I/4th Grenadiers. Further to the left were three other battalions. These five battalions formed the first wave of attack. The Guard advanced at the pas de charge.

British horse gunner at Waterloo. 
Adkin - The Waterloo Companion The British batteries fired canister and double canister "from the front and on one side" while the skirmishers and sharpshooters aimed at officers and generals. The Middle Guard "bend under artillery fire like corn smitten by the wind." (- Ensign Macready of 30th Foot)
"The Guard suffers severely from artillery fire during its advance." (- Mark Adkin)
"The Guard already under fire from the English guns in front, began to be shelled on the right by the Prussians." (- Henri Lachoque)

Then Ney fell with his horse that was killed. He got up and with saber in hand he joined Friant. Then Friant and several officers were wounded. Many lay scattered upon the ground with ghastly wounds, moaning in agony. They fell in heaps. The mounting casualties caused an agitation among the guardsmen and the charge briefly lost momentum. Despite heavy casualties the Guard had passed beyond La Haye Sainte. The guardsmen then surged through the smoke.
Few hours earlier Bachelu's 5th Division never reached neither Hougoumont nor the allied positions because their advance was driven back by the weight of artillery fire from the combined Allies batteries on the ridge.

The Guard broke through Allies first line.
The British and Germans fell back in an indescribable disorder
officers and men mixed, fled in "frightful confusion".
Friant went to tell the Emperor that all was well.

General Poret de Morvan General Poret de Morvan was a man of a robust stature, and every drop of blood in his frame came from the fiercest of fighting stock. He inspired the I/3rd Grenadiers to march on. They gave a terrible yell and rushed like demons with the bayonets overthrowing the Brunswickers, and capturing British batteries of Cleeves and Lloyd. Actually when de Morvan's men appeared in front of these cannons the gunners run away in panick.

Mjr. Lloyd remained a little too far behind his fleeing men and a French officer caught up with him and cut him down with his saber. Lloyd died few weeks later in hospital.

When the flutter of terror passed through the hearts of the Brunswickers they "fell back in disorder" and rallied under the cover and support of Vivian's Cavalry Brigade.

De Morvan's guardsmen then collided with von Kruse's Nassauers (2,841 men in two line and one Landwehr battalion). MG von Kruse writes " ... (the Guard) reached the plateau, with our infantry (part of I Battalion) withdrawing only 100 paces. A violent firefight broke out ..."
The commander soon brought up the II Battalion (943 men) under Mjr. von Nauendorf and formed in column. Unfortunately the Crown Prince was wounded and the II Btn. fell back. In their footsteps went the remaining battalions.
General Kielmansegge explained that his brigade also had to retreat when von Kruse's men fell back. Prince of Orange was wounded in the shoulder but his officers had a difficult time persuading him to retire.

De Morvan's grenadiers (450-500 men minus heavy casualties from artillery and musketry), slightly turned to the left and together with the I/4th Grenadiers were heading toward the left flank of General Sir C. Halkett's 5th Brigade. The 30th Foot "Cambridgeshire" (635 men minus casualties) and the 73rd Highland (498 men minus casualties) must have felt their hearts drop a rib or two.
Ensign Macready writes: "As they rose step by step before us, with their red epaulettes and cross belts put over their blue greatcoats, and topped by their high, hairy caps, and keeping time, and their officers looking to their alignement ... I certainly thought we were in for very slashing work."

The frightened 73rd of Foot decided that their Colors should be removed from the staffs. The two banners were wrapped around the torso of a sergeant, who was ordered to leave at once for Brussels.

British infantry. Halkett's battalions changed formation from squares to 4-deep lines but the 2 French guns and musketry did great execution among the redcoats. The British (33rd, 69th and 43rd of Foot) were seized with panic,turned about and, in an indescribable disorder officers and men mixed, fled in "frightful confusion". The mob stampeded for shelter. (Some authors blame the friendly - and cowardly of course - Dutch/Belgians for Haklett's rout.)

Haklett's men were in sorry state: the 33rd and 69th were "badly mauled" and Sir Colin Halkett was wounded, a musket ball passed through his cheek. Some witnesses remarked that "Fortunately the enemy took no advantage" while other authors claim that the French pursued them with roars of victory. Reduced to crowds of runaways, the redcoats fled past the hedge. Their wounded clung to their comrades, begging them not to abandon them.

The Germans of von Kruse and Kielmansegge were also in poor shape. Von Kruse wrote: "These troops evaded as much as they could the fire of the French troops now spread across the plateau. There was also fire heard left in the flank and in the rear, and it seemed, as if the extreme left flank of the army was pushed back vigorously." Though wounded in the hand, General Friant went to tell the Emperor that all was well.

Chasse's counterattack. La Garde Recule !
"Chasse unmasked a battery and threw forward
six of Detmer's battalions, which flung the
Guard back beyond the slope" - Henri Lachoque

General Chasse.
Netherland army. General Chassé (1765-1849) was nicknamed "General Bayonet". In previous years he served in the French army, fought with distinction at Talavera (Spain) against the British and at Arcis-sur-Aube against the Austrians and Russians. At Waterloo Chassé commanded entire infantry division.
For most of the morning, his troops had remained near Braine l'Alleud, where they were well fed by the inhabitants and abudantly refreshed with beer and juniper brandy.
In the evening Chasse stood at the head of Colonel Detmers' brigade (approx. 3,000 men) and had followed the developing actions with growing interest. He had trouble restraining his soldiers anxious to engage themselves in the fighting.

When the British, Nassau and Brunswick infantry were thrown back the situation became critical. The British infantry started to break up, communicating its panic to German units to their left.

Wellington ordered Chasse to bring three of his battalions into frontline at once. Chasse had marched them parallel to the ridge and behind its crest and found a suitable place to execute a right turn and deploy into line. Major van Delen writes: "These battalions advanced in a manner to be more or less sheltered against the musketry fire, leaving the bayonets alone exposed."

As they took up the right position, the Netherlanders found themselves on the flank of the Grenadiers of the Guard. Chassé formed Detmers' Brigade in a large attack column, 2 battalions wide and 3 battalions deep.
According to Wiegmans General Chasse formed Detmers' brigade "in closed columns per 6 divisions (companies), and arrived with the sixth battalion ... Now he rode off to the left wing of Detmers' brigade, but soon returned to our sixth battalion, and called forcefully: Storm pace ! ..."
Other sources claim that Detmers' brigade was formed in line.
Erwin Muilwijk believes that "the entire brigade charged with six battalions in columns side by side.... It is interesting that the jager of the 35th Battalion mentions being in square. Does this perhaps mean that the first three battalions getting forward were temporarily all in square ?"

Chasse's second brigade under d'Aubreme was formed in three massive squares and stood behind Maitland's British Guards.

Chasse spoke to the soldiers: "... you will leave the second line and go over to the first, stay calm, trust in my leadership ... the battle is not decided, but how pleasing it will be to you to have cooperated in the decision."

Chassé has sent forward horse battery commanded by Kpt. Krahmer de Bichin. (The battery commanded by Lux didn't make it to the scene of the fighting.) Krahmer's gunners unlimbered on the ridge, to the right of the British 30th and 73rd Foot. Other sources place Krahmer between Halkett's and Maitland's brigades.
Their fire took the grenadiers in the flank. "... it was under the unexpected hail of canister that the two grenadier squares began to waver. Macready remembered that battery well, even though he had no idea of its nationality. 'Whoseover they were, they served most gloriously, and their metallic bang, bang, bang, with the rushing showers of grape that followed, were the most welcome sounds that ever struck my ears - until I married." (Barbero - "The Battle" p 268)

Map of attack made by 
Napoleon's Imperial Guard
at Waterloo, in 1815

Ensign Macready of 30th Foot wrote: "Some guns from the rear of our right [Krahmer] poured in canister among them, and the slaughter was dreadful."

"Coming out from the dead angle, without so much as a skirmisher to reconnoitre first, the grenadiers of the Middle Guard were taken to account by the artillery; but they closed ranks and overthrew 2 of Brunswick battalions, and 2 of Halkett's. Wounded in the hand, Friant withdrew, calling out 'All goes well," when passing near the Old Guard, of which the Emperor directed the three battalions fundamentally from La Haye Sainte. But almost immediately Chasse unmasked a battery and threw forward six of Detmer's battalions, which flung the French back beyond the slope - where they were picked up by Cambronne's chasseurs." (Lachouque - "Waterloo" p 184)

Chasse leads the Dutch-Belgians,
who are coming down the slope
with bayonets ready.  
Picture by James Thiriar. With drawn sword Chasse "General Bayonet" marched forward into the gap, which appeared between the Brunswickers and the 5th British Brigade. He called upon the Dutchmen: "Forward colonel Detmers and charge with the bayonet !"

Chasse write: "... there were no troops, not a single man of the allies between my division and the French Guard ..." Wildly enthusiastic, drumming and shouting, with their shakos on the top of their bayonets they dashed into the fray cheering 'Long live the House of Orange! Long live the king !' Munter of Detmers' brigade wrote: "Then we took a few shots at each other with the musket, but the French didn't want to give way."

Lieutenant Koch: "... the artillery had soon reloaded and overtaken the column; it once more gave a volley and now the enemy started retreating, strongly pursued by us; our losses were considerable... a grenade exploded amidst our drummers and fifers, so that there was hardly one left ..." The Middle Guard was greatly surprised by the sight of fresh forces, and shattered by the heavy casualties from artillery fire. They fell back down the slope and their panic spread to d'Erlon's infantry.

"La garde recule ! Sauve qui peut!" (The Guard retreats ! Save yourself if you can !) The Belgian 35th Jagers formed in square followed the French guardsmen, "It was then that you should have seen how that fine Guard fled at full speed." recalled an anonymous jager of 35th. (- Erwin Muilwijk)

Many authors prefer not to dwell on the fact that it was a Dutch unit which broke the leading echelon of the Imperial Guard. In their books you don't find a beep about it. Some do describe this action shortly and with a portion of jealousy or ridicule. For example "the Dutch-Belgians were merely chasing an already defeated battalion". Chasse 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 Wellington.

You probably have expected that the French Guard will break also Wellington's second line (Chasse's troops) with easy. This is what often happens on wargamers' tables, the Guard is invincible no matter what is the situation.
In reality it was quite a different thing. For example at Talavera the British Foot Guard broke through French first line and was counter-attacked by the second line. The British suffered heavy casualties and fled back. Similar thing happened to the Russian Guard.
Usually the attackers, even if successful in breaking the first line, are as much drained emotionally and physically, as the enemy. They are also in some sort of disorder. In this situation a well-coordinated counterattack made by fresh troops will be effective, especially when supported by well-served artillery.
Wellington was well prepared for the fight.

Confusing fighting.
The British Foot Guards broke the 3rd Chasseurs
after "a lengthy exchange of musketry"
The redcoats then were counterattacked by 4th Chasseurs,
flew in disorder up the slope back to their position
as fast as they came down.

The first echelon of the attacking Middle Guard consisted of the tall and robust grenadiers. These lads pierced the allied line before being counterattacked and thrown back by Chasse's Netherlands infantry. The second echelon was made of the shorter chasseurs.

The I and II/3rd Chasseurs (total 1,000 men), was closing on the ridge. They 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. As it was not enough Maitland's Guard Brigade then stood up and delivered volley at close range.

The chasseurs deployed from square into line to answer fire with fire. The exchange of musket fire was quite long. The French say about approx. 10 minutes. Griffith on p 26 in 'Forward into Battle' says about "a lengthy exchange of musketry."

Finally the artillery and musket fire took toll on the chasseurs and they began wavering. Seeing this Wellington ordered Maitland to charge. After battle as a result of their actions against the chasseurs, not the grenadiers, the British 1st Guards were renamed as the 1st or Grenadier Regiment of Foot Guards. Wellington however denied saying "Now Maitland!" or "Up Guards and at them!"

The pursuing British Guards intermixed with the fleeing chasseurs, they "came down the slope in a hand to hand combat all the way down to Hougoumont's orchards." A British officer from Bolton's battery said that the combatants were so intermixed, "that we had to stop firing."

Then suddenly Maitland's guardsmen fell apart when a single battalion of 4th Chasseurs arrived. The British Guards flew in disorder up the slope back to their position as fast as they came down. GdB Henrion's chasseurs closely pursued the redcoats. It was not the end of problems for the redcoats, the 3rd Foot Guard from MG Sir Byng's Brigade "had to retire several times" when the French attacked their flanks.

Colborne. Sir John Colborne then brought the 52nd Foot round to outflank the French as they passed his brigade. The 52nd fired a volley into the left flank of the chasseurs and attacked. The I/52nd with 1,130 muskets was the strongest battalion on the battlefield. In contrast the average battalion of Middle Guard had only 500 muskets.

The 3rd Chasseurs were driven back down the slope. Soon however the 52nd was put into a disorder by British 23rd Light Dragoons. The 52nd Foot mistook the dragoons for enemy and fired. There was chaos among the troops. The 52nd resumed the pursuit but without the previous vigor.

The 3e Chasseurs fell back towards La Belle Alliance. Captain Prax of the 3rd Chasseurs reported: "First our two battalions held the English in checks then night fell, we found ourselves surrounded, and we followed the tide, alas ! alas !' Henri Lachoque writes: "The remnants of the 4th Chasseurs, all whose officers were out of action, joined up with the 3rd after the fight at Hougoumont." (Lachoque - "The Anatomy of Glory" p 489)

The Guard "bent under the numbers."
Detmers' brigade was among the first Wellington's troops
who started the pursuit, "perhaps 10 to 15 minutes before
the general advance was ordered by Wellington."
- "First Empire" # 86

Group of French Guard cavalry attempted to rescue their comrades but the Prussian light cavalry dispersed them. Meanwhile Chasse's infantrymen pursued the first echelon of the Middle Guard. Some of the fleeing guardsmen threw away knapsacks and bearskins and they took cover in the orchard by La Haye Sainte.

Van Eysinga of 19th Militia Battalion: "There they took a position and defended themselves in a way one could only expect of the noble French Guard; it grieved me to help destroy these brave troops ... At the mmoment we had cleared the orchard, French cuirassiers approached us in anger ..."
Detmers' brigade was among the first Wellington's troops who started the pursuit, "perhaps 10 to 15 minutes before the general advance was ordered by Wellington." (- "First Empire" # 86, publ. in UK in 2005)

Van Doren: "The Guard, who could not resist this dogged attack, had to yield a second time for the bayonets of Chasse and give up the attack." Detmers' brigade continued pursuit, crossed the highway and French Grand Battery, where they didn't stop. They just went through the guns and ammunition wagons and followed the French.

While two battalions of Detmers' brigade struggled with the Guard in the orchard at La Haye 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 Foot: "... 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.

"F*** off !"
"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 !"
Mark Adkin - "The Waterloo Companion", UK

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 battalions of the Old Guard as a reserve: II/3rd Grenadiers, II/2nd Grenadiers, II/2nd Chasseurs and Cambronne with II/1st Chasseurs.

It was a very difficult situation for the French Guard. The line troops were thrown out of Hougoumont area, the heavy cavalry was decimated, and on the flank were the Prussians. The few last battalions of Guard were attacked by British, German and Netherland troops.

Despite being attacked by British cavalry, German infantry from Hougoumont, and surrounded and shelled with grapeshot the II/3rd 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 1st Grenadiers and the Emperor.

German Osnabruck 
Landwehr Battalion, 
Source: Adkin's Waterloo Companion The Hanoverians also took part in the pursuit of the French Guard. The Osnabrück Landwehr Battalion (633 Germans wearing British red uniforms, see picture from Mark Adkin's book -->) were personally led by the commander of 3rd Hannoverian Brigade, Colonel Halkett. According to Halkett himself, this battalion was on the right of Adam's brigade. The Osnabrück Battalion advanced toward a single French battalion standing in the open and attacked it. It was a battalion of the Old Guard under General Cambronne.

The Germans were supported from the flank by British 10th Hussars (452 men). The hussars charged but were repulsed "after a fierce combat". Then the Germans and the French fired at each other, Cambronne was wounded, thrown from his horse and taken prisoner.
Outnumbered by 2 to 1 by the German infantry and outflanked by British cavalry Cambronne's battalion fell back and soon had vanished almost completely.

There is much talk on what really was said by Cambronne. 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. 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 !" (- Mark Adkin)

    Halkett's version
    Halkett wrote: "After receiving our fire with much effect, the (French) column [Sic] left their General with two officer behind when I ordered the sharpshooters to dash on and I made a gallop for the General (Cambronne)."
    French version.
    According to General Poret de Morvan who was accompanying Cambronne, the general was wounded in the head and an English seargant [It was probably Seargeant Führing of the Osnabruckers, he wore the British redcoat] helped him back to his feet. Cambronne was taken prisoner but gave "the sergeant" his purse in recompense.
    German version.
    General Cambronne Ltn. Richers of the Osnabruck Battalion: "Our skirmihers deployed against the Old Guard skirmishers and a firefight began. We were advancing, but the enemy stood where he was... Once the advancing battalion reached the skirmish line, its pace accelerated. We moved up, the enemy skirmishers disappeared and the front ranks of the [French] column fired a volley at us. I believe we all hesitated and stood where we were."... In this critical moment Ob. Halkett inspired the Germans with a cry 'Hurrah, brave Osnabrückers !' and they lowered their bayonets and charged. Richers writes: "Our opponents didn't engage in a bayonet fight with us. They stood for a moment longer, then wavered, turned around and retired a short distance in relatively good order. Their formation then started to break up and finally they fled in total disorder." The officers did attempt to rally the veterans but it was in vain. Some British authors claim that Cambonne was captured by Halkett. But according to Hofschroer, Cambronne "certainly surrendered to the Osnabrückers, possibly first to Führing, who may then have handed the dazed Frenchman over to Halkett." (In 1808 at Benavente, French General Lefebvre-Desnouettes was captured by a German named Bergmann, who handed his precious prize to British hussar Grisdale. Ah the modest German soldiers :-)

Waterloo 1815

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.

The French Guard vs Prussians.
The fighting was ferocious, commander of the Young Guard,
GdD Duhesme was mortally wounded, GdD Barrois was wounded.
The commander of VI Army Corps, GdD Mouton was taken prisoner.
The 1st Tirailleurs suffered 92 % casualties,
while the entire Division of Young Guard suffered 80 % casualties.

Battle of Plancenoit.
Hofschroer, pp 121-122 Plancenoit was a big village with a cobblestone street, a church built of stone and a walled cemetary. All inhabitants fled their houses yesterday. Lobau sent four battalions to occupy the village. Hiller's first attack on the village was made with 6 battalions (the remaining battalions were detached.).

Two battalion columns of 15th Regiment pushed into the village and then on the high walls of the cemetary and church. The Prussians found themselves under fire from French snipers stationed in the houses.

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 captured 3 cannons and several hundred prisoners.
(Bulow is however wrong claiming that already in this stage they were counterattacked by the Old Guard.)

Young Guard in Plancenoit. Within 30 min. of fighting the Young Guard (and some elements of Lobau's corps) forced the Prussians to retreat all the way back to open country. Blucher was furious, he mounted his horse and rode to the fleeing troops.

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. Now Blücher ordered Bülow's corps to attack, and uttered these remarkable words: "We must give air to the English army."

General Hiller came on with 14th Brigade. He described in detail what happened: "Overcoming all difficulties and with heavy losses from canister and musketry, the 15th Infantry and 1st Silesian Landwehr penetrated to the high wall around the churchyard held by the Young Guard. These two columns succeeded in capturing a howitzer, 2 cannon, several ammunition wagons and 2 staff officers along with several hundred men.

The open square around the churchyard was surrounded by houses, from which the enemy could not be dislodged in spite of our brave attempt. A firefight continued at 15 to 30 paces which ultimately decimated the Prussian battalions." It took more hard fighting before the 14th Brigade took the churchyard from the Young Guard, and then the rest of the village. Only few houses were left in French hands.

The Old Guard took Plancenoit in bayonet point.
At each recoil General Barrois of the Young Guard
called for help from the Old Guard.

Old Guard Chasseurs Once the Prussians have captured the churchyard Napoleon was very alarmed. At each recoil General Barrois of the Young Guard called for help from the Old Guard. Morand sent Pelet the following order: "Take your first battalion to Plancenoit where the Young Guard is being beaten. Support it and hold the position ... Keep your troops together and well in hand. If you attack the enemy, employ a single division (two platoons) with bayonets."

Formed in close column by platoons, the II/2nd Chasseurs under Colomban marched towards Plancenoit. As the veterans neared the village they met Duhesme, commander of Young Guard. Duhesme was wounded on the head and could only remain in the saddle by being held there by the soldiers of Young Guard. Wounded was also GdB Chartrand who told Pelet the situation had got completely out of hand. Commander of the 3rd Voltigeurs, was running after his retreating soldiers. These were now ordered to turn around and follow the 2e Chasseurs.

Captain Peschot's company was ordered to fix bayonets and attack the Prussians who were coming down the street. The enemy was stopped for a moment but then some Old Guardsmen began to fire their muskets and Peschot lost control of the situation. The Prussians threw them back.

Other companies of the II/2nd Chasseurs were already engaged; Captain Anguis' company was sent to the street below to halt the Landwehr who were trying to outflank the village. Heuillet's company deefended themselves in and around the church, then rushed forward to the edge of the wood. The Old Guard enraged cut the throats of their prisoners. Pelet stopped them and detailed the regimental sappers to guard them. The sappers complied with great reluctance.

Pelet, still mounted on his mare, galloped from one group of Young Guard to another, trying vainly to rally them. The Prussians counter-attacked and Pelet's men were surrounded in the churchyard.

Pelet Pelet, stripped to his shirt and mounted couldn't believe his luck "I saw muskets aiming at me 40 paces away. I can not imagine how they did not shoot me 20 times."

Old Guard Grenadiers Then came the II/2nd Grenadiers sent by the Emperor and Pelet's chasseurs formed up with them. The grenadiers marched with their drums beating, and the Young Guard followed them with enthusiasm. Together they threw back the stubborn Prussians. It was a one big sweep. They pursued the enemy with bayonet up to the positions of artillery. The drum-major of the grenadiers, Stubert, used his mace as a club.

GdD Roguet had threatened with death any grenadier who should bring him a Prussian prisoner. The two battalions of the Old Guard and large group of Yung Guardsmen hotly pursued the enemy until found themselves out of village and in the open. The Prussian artillery opened fire forcing them to fall back. GdD Subervie's lancers attacked flank of the fleeing Prussians and inflicted further losses. The dashing lancers forced the gunners to bandon several batteries.

This is often said that the 2 btns. of Old Guard defeated 14 Prussian battalions (of which many were already disordered by earlier attacks and counterattacks) and inflicted 3,000 casualties. However the '3,000 casualties' sounds suspicious as the total loss of Prussian 16th and 14th Brigade for the entire battle was 3,219.

Meanwhile, to the south, two companies of the 1er Grenadiers, the oldest of the oldest, were sent to a hill above the river Lasnes, opposite the woods of Virere and Hubermont, to cover the French right flank. Two companies of 1st Chasseurs forced their way into the Chantelet Wood.
The remaining companies of 1st Grenadiers and 1st Chasseurs were formed in battalion squares on either side of Decoster's house near Rossomme Farm. These few men were Napoleon's last reserve.

The level of slaughter in Plancenoit
even surpassed Hougoumont.

"... the Prussians maddened by
the stubborn defense the French put up,
were not always disposed to take prisoners"

Prussian infantry vs 
Old Guard at Plancenoit. 
Picture by Rohling. Blucher rallied his troops and attacked again - the street fighting was very bloody and every house became like besieged fort. Despite being outnumbered by margin of 2 to 1 the French (Mouton's 8 btns., Young Guard's 8 btns. and Old Guard's 2 btns.) were able to hold on for 1 hour. Pelet writes: "Though I could not collect my men (II/2nd Chaseurs), they were all well under cover and kept up a murderous fire which contained the enemy ..."

The fighting was ferocious, commander of the Young Guard, GdD Duhesme was mortally wounded, GdD Barrois was wounded. The commander of VI Army Corps, GdD Mouton was taken prisoner. The 1st Tirailleurs suffered 92 % casualties, while the entire Division of Young Guard suffered 80 % casualties.

"... entire groups of the Young Guard were starting to raise their hands in surrender, although the Prussians maddened by the stubborn defense the French put up, were not always disposed to take prisoners." (Barbero - "The Battle" p 245)

The cemetery was besieged The last to leave were the veterans of Old Guard. They defended the church and cemetery to the very last. The church was built on a mound some 18 feet high that required men to ascend by steep steps.
The mound was encircled by the cemetery wall which had a ring of trees planted along its length inside. There would be thirty times as many bodies above ground in the churchyard as were beneath it.

The streets were covered with blood, and the French were abandoning Plancenoit. The level of slaughter in Plancenoit even surpassed Hougoumont. (Mark Adkin - "Waterloo Companion")

"Night fell. In flaming Plancenoit, General Pelet, Golzio, and Colomban with their 600 fur bonnets - 'all very pale' according to the General - and the Tirailleurs and Voltigeurs still held out. In the cemetery and the church the 2nd Westphalian Landwehr and the Pomeranians were shooting it out with the French at point-blank range when the units, suddenly outflanked, took to their heels. Pelet rallied his chasseurs around him, but it was so dark they could no longer recognize one another at 10 paces. The confusion was complete." (Lachoque - "The Anatomy of Glory" p 489)

Picture: the last of the Old Guard in Plancenoit, picture by Dmitrii Zgonnik of Ukraine.


The Old Guard left the battlefield in excellent order
with their characteristic bull-dog obstinacy and drums beating.

"Herr Gott, Dich loben wir".
General Gneissenau gathered some Prussian infantry
around him and commanded them to sing the hymn
"Herr Gott, Dich loben wir".
Meanwhile the French continued their flight.

Prussian pursuit at Waterloo. 
Prussian drummer was mounted on 
one of the horses of Napoleon's retinue.
Picture by Knotel. The Prussians emerged from the burning remains of village carrying their shakos on their muskets and singing. At this point the French army disintegrated completely. 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.

Blucher's chief-of-staff, General Gneissenau, gathered some infantry around him and commanded them to sing the hymn "Herr Gott, Dich loben wir". Meanwhile the French continued their flight.

Marshal Soult Marshal Ney The drums of the 1st Grenadiers beat the "Grenadiers" to call stray veterans, who gradually filled to the brim their squares that were already crammed with marshals, generals, and officers: Marshal Soult, Marshal Ney, General Bertrand, General Drouot, General Petit and others. The possibility of massive Prussian cavalry attack caused the 1st Grenadiers (the oldest of the Old Guard) to form up in two squares. Not far stood the house of the guide Decoster.

Napoleon in the square 
formed by the 1st Grenadiers The square that was closer to the enemy, sent out its skirmishers who soon were "heavily engaged" against Prussian skirmishers. In other square, strengthened by a battery of 6 6pdr guns, Guard sappers and Guard sailors, was Napoleon.

The two squares left the battlefield with their characteristic bull-dog obstinacy. One square marched on the paved road and the other across the fields. Both moved in perfect order despite Prussian and British pursuit. The Guard battery was firing methodically, but it stopped neither the enemy nor the fugitives.

The two last squares of Old Guard
and piles of wounded and killed 
British and Prussian cavalrymen. Mjr. Howard with the British 10th Hussars received order to charge one of the squares. The Old Guard stood fast, the British received a volley and dispersed before coming into any contact with it. Howard took a musket ball in the face and fell from his charger.

A veteran of Old Guard stepped out from the ranks and bashed in Howard's skull with the butt of his musket.

The British dragoons were next to charge. The messenger of this order, Dawson, confessed that he would never forget the looks on their faces when he communicated these orders to them. The dragoons advanced but not too fast, and obviously without much enthusiasm. The Old Guard fired, Dawson was knocked off his horse, the British made a full turn and fled.

With the exception of few infantry battalions and several cavalry regiments, the French army disintegrated, the battle was over. Due to the tenacity of Wellington's troops and Blucher's very aggressive action against Napoleon's flank, the Emperor was thoroughly defeated. It was His end, and the end of era called Napoleonic Wars.

Wellington and Blucher 
at Waterloo.
Fieldmarshal Wellington and Field Marshal Blucher
at Waterloo.


The last words were lost in the din of a great roar of protest.
Crying 'Treason !' the veterans broke ranks,
shouting and hurling imprecations.
It was not true - not a second abdication !
They jeered at their officers and booed the generals.
'Say that again and you're dead !' cried a grenadier,
pointing his musket at a general ...

Napoleon's second abdication and the Guard.
"We have no more Emperor ..."

The Emperor left the troops and decided to abdicate the second time. It was soon informed to the army and the Guard. "Over 6,000 men answered the roll in the foot Guard on the 24th, including around 5,000 grenadiers and chasseurs and about 1,100 tirailleurs and voltigeurs. ... Driving the stragglers before them, the troops marched to Soissons, the 1st Chasseurs forming the rear-guard. The troops were marching at a good pace when beyond Etouvelles, they were ordered to halt and assemble ... Soult dismounted. In civilian clothes ... A 100 paces from the grenadiers he began walking up and down with his hand behind his back, like the Emperor. After an hour had passed he drew from his pocket a paper which his aides copied and read to the battalions ... " (Lachoque - "The Anatomy of Glory" p 492)
It was a letter from the Emperor.

The last words were lost in the din of a great roar of protest. Crying 'Treason !' the veterans broke ranks, shouting and hurling imprecations. It was not true - not a second abdication ! They jeered at their officers and booed the generals. 'Say that again and you're dead !' cried a grenadier, pointing his musket at a general who had threatened to have him shot. Some broke their muskets. Others knocked down their officers and NCOs and set out fothwith for Paris. Moton-Duvernet urged them to return to duty. 'To fight for whom ?' they asked. 'We have no more Emperor ...'

Finally General Roguet took command of the foot Guard and restored discipline. The initial fury was followed by a mournful resignation. HE was gone. In September the Young Guard was disbanded, then the Old Guard, and in November the Horse Grenadiers.

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"
Lachouque - "Waterloo"
Lachoque - "The Anatomy of Glory"
The contribution of the Netherlands Army in Waterloo Campaign >>
Picture of Middle Guard by Giuseppe Rava.
Napoleonic Wars (maps)
Hundred Days
Pictures of Battle of Plancenoit.
Prince of Orange
General Hendrik Baron de Perponcher
Marshal Michel Ney
General Louis Friant.
General Philibert-Jean-Baptiste François Curial.
General Pierre-Jacques Étienne Cambronne.
Old Guard.
Le musée de l'Armée.
Pictures of Garde Imperiale.
Chasseurs à cheval de la Garde impériale 1805.
Album photo estampes chasseurs à cheval.
Xème Escadron des Chasseurs à Cheval de la Garde.

Bonaparte's Consular Guard at Marengo 1800

Napoleon's Imperial Guard at Waterloo 1815

Battle of Waterloo 1815

Napoleon, His Army and Enemies