Battle of Ligny, 1815.
The Prussians Stand Alone.
"Around one of French regimental flags began a massive brawl,
Prussian skirmishers ripped the flag from its pole and took away bands and tassels.
The French however mercilessly bayoneted many of the attackers
and saved the precious Eagle."

1. Introduction.
2. The Battlefield and the Armies.
- - - Organization and deployment of the Prussian army. >
- - - The French are coming. >
- - - Map. >
3. The Battle.
- - - Vandamme vs Zieten. >
- - - The old Blücher personally led the counter-attack. >
- - - "The French Hidden in Tall Crops Let Off Crushing Volleys." >
4. Mysterious troops on Vandamme's flank.
5. Blow for blow.
6. Gerard's attacks on Ligny.
- - - Gerard succeeded in gaining a foothold in the village. >
- - - Bajonett Angriff. >
- - - The churchyard was besieged. >
- - - "... the devils of Henckel and Jagow hurled out their hatred." >
- - - French sappers attempted to smash down the gate of chateau. >
- - - The fighting took on a new savagery. >
7. On the Flank.
8. The advance of Old Guard was accompanied by
- - artillery cannonade and thunder lightnings.

9. Victory !
10.To Waterloo.
Battle of Ligny 1815,
by Adalbert von Rößler,
Bildersaal deutscher Geschichte.
Ligny was ablaze from end to end. The smoke and heat
became insufferable, and the Frenchmen and Prussians
moved in a grimy, reddish haze. The battlefield became
hell on earth. Every street, building, and garden was
disputed - bayonets and musket butts were the weapons
of choice. The Old Guard entered Ligny and swept
everything before them with the bayonet, moving like
a raging bull with lowered head.

"... at this moment the engagement is very sharp.
... The Prussians have been caught flagrante delicto
as they were seeking to join the English."
- Napoleon to Soult at Ligny

The Prussians hoped to be able to hold their line
long enough for Wellington's army to arrive.

Prussian Chief-of-Staff Gneissenau In 1815 Napoleon first attacked Blucher at Ligny and then Wellington at Waterloo. The battle of Ligny was executed by the French and Prussian armies using classic methods. The Prussian side had defended their positions very agresively while the French attempted to capture these strongpoints and make a breakthrough.

Prussian staff officers visited the Ligny position several weeks before and Mjr. Groeben made a map of it. They considered this position as a good one, two corps could be deployed defensively, while two other corps would outflank Napoleon on his left.

The Prussians hoped to be able to hold their line long enough for Wellington to arrive. Wellington had a good relationship with Blucher, the Prussian trusting the Duke implicitly. When Major Nostitz once questioned the honesty of Wellington's intentions to come to the aid of the Prussians, the old fieldmarshal dismissed the accusations. Nostitz had first expressed his missgivings before the war, when Wellington had shown no signs of moving his army into a position where it could better support Blucher. "Thus no further attempt was made to get the Duke of Wellington to move his army into other quarters that would have given us a more certain assurance of the promised support." - Major Count Nostitz
Before the battle of Ligny Wellington rode to the Prussians, where he was again to repeat his promises of support. The Prussians held their ground against Napoleon until 7 pm. They were anxiously awaiting the arrival of Wellington but nothing came.

Gourgaud remarked "If Blucher were to have only 2 btns. available, he would have used these to support the English army, while one could take it for granted that Wellington would not attack the French in support of Blucher until he had concentrated his entire army."

The Allied failure to concentrate their armies resulted in Prussians suffering a defeat, and in British-Netheralnd army being forced to retire after being held at Quatre Bras by Marshal Ney.

Prussians' major error however was failure to ensure that Bülow's moved his IV Armee-Korps on time and joined the main army at Ligny. According to Peter Hofschroer the Chief-of-staff Gneisenau "failed to convey the urgency of the situation" and "for Bülow was also being delibarately awkward and obtuse". (Hofschroer - "1815 The Waterloo Campaign" p 220)

Not having his entire army concentrated at Ligny, Blücher might have done better to consider a withdrawal towards Gembloux. There he could have all four corps (and not three) and hold a defensive position instead of fighting a major battle already at Ligny.

If the French followed Blücher to Germbloux, Wellington could move from Quatre Bras and attack their flank and rear. The Prussian generals had dilemma what to do but the old Blücher after Wellington had agreed in detail to give him substantial support already made his mind up.
Blücher wanted to fight and he got what he prayed for !

Mjr. Nostitz explains Blucher's situation: "One asked the question if it were more advisable to join up with the English by means of a flank march, or to fall back towards Bulow's IV Corps. Some commanders, in such circumstances, would have chosen one or the other way out of a battle, particularly as only part of the force were concentrated; I can affirm that the Field Marshal (Blucher) made his decision without a moment's hesitation, and that nobody in headquarters uttered a word against this.
It is indisputable that it would have made a bad impression on the army if such a courageous commander, trusted by all, and at the head of 80,000 men, largely experienced soldiers, had avoided a battle in a position chosen by himself and where the Duke of Wellington had agreed in detail to give him substantial support." (Mjr. Graf von Nostitz - "Das Tagebuch des Generals der Kavallerie Grafen von Nostitz" II. Theil 'Kriegsgeschitchliche Einzelschriften' Heft 6, p 22 f. publ. in Berlin 1885)

At noon Napoleon climbed up the windmill
at Fleurus from where he observed the Prussian army.

The Battlefield and the Armies.
"Blucher had drawn up his 84.000 men and 224 guns
along a series of low ridges to the north of the Ligny brook
with strong detachments holding the various villages
along its banks." - David Chandler

Ligny Stream The steep-banked Ligny Stream was 1-4 m wide with steep banks overgrown with willows and bushes. There were 4 bridges along the stream. The villages were well built with a number of stone buildings and church towers. Some villages had ditches and hedges around their perimeters. The highest point was the Bussy Mill where Blücher's observation post was located. The second highest point was Point du Jour where general Thielemann (Tielemann) established his headquarters. Between the wood of Bois du Loup and small village of Mont Potriaux was a marshy meadow. The battlefield was covered with growing crops and was gently undualting.

The village of Saint-Amand was made up of isolated farms and buildings surrounded by meadows and thickets. There were two parallel roads running through Ligny - one on the right bank, the other on the left bank - connected by a stone bridge and a few wooden foot-bridges. To the west of Ligny stood the strongly built Chateau de Looz.

Troops at Ligny 1815:

74,800 men
252 guns

96,000 men
224 guns
80,000 men
Chandler - "Dictionary of
the Napoleonic Wars" p 250

order of battle: >
84,000 men
Chandler - "Dictionary of
the Napoleonic Wars" p 250

order of battle: >

Organizatiuon and deployment of the Prussian army.
"Blucher's Prussians were solidly entrenched
in the villages bordering the small river of Ligny ..."

Blucher made the necessary dispositions to face the French. Knowing the importance of defending Ligny he placed several brigades on the line between Ligny and Wagnelee. "Blucher's Prussians were solidly entrenched in the villages bordering the small river of Ligny - more particularly at Saint-Amand and at Ligny." (Lachoque - "Waterloo" p 83)
The blue-clad Prussian infantry garrissoned all villages, took cover behind walls and hedges and in hollow ground. How well chosen the Prussian positions were tell us Soult's message to Ney. Soult wrote: "The Emperor has charged me to inform you that the enemy has assembled one corps of troops between Sombreffe and Brye and that at 2:20 pm Grouchy will attack them with the III and IV Corps."

Especially the villages of Saint Amand and Ligny were strongly occupied. Wagnelee and western part of Saint Amand were not well suited to defence and were only very lightly garrissoned. Roeder's powerful reserve cavalry stood in the hollow ground between Brye and Ligny. Pirch's brigade stood near Bossu Mill. Henckel defended Ligny. By Tongrinne stood Kemphen's brigade. Kemphen defended The flank of Prussian army was covered by part of von Hobe's cavalry (Lottum's brigade) while other part (Marwitz's brigade) moved to the opposite flank. Marwitz had been ordered to send out patrols to establish contact with the English.
At noon Wellington arrived from Quatre Bras and was greeted by Tippelskirch's 5. Infanterie-Brigade. Wellington, his staff officers (some had their umbrellas) and escort rode to Bussy Mill where they met with Blucher and his staff.

Prussian General 
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher.
General Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher

Prussian General Gneisenau.
General August Neidhardt von Gneisenau

GL Ziethen-II
GM Pirch-I
GL Tielemann
1st Inf. Brigade - GM Steinmetz
2nd Inf. Brigade - GM Pirch-II
3rd Inf. Brigade - GM Jagow
4th Inf. Brigade - GM Henckel

GL Roeder
1st Cav. Brigade - GM Treskow-II
2nd Cav. Brigade - Ob. Lutzow-II

Mjr. Rentzell
5th Inf. Brigade - GM Tippelskirch
6th Inf. Brigade - GM Krafft
7th Inf. Brigade - GM Brause
8th Inf. Brigade - GM Bose

GM Jürgass
1st Cav. Brigade - Ob. Thümen
2nd Cav. Brigade - Ob.Ltn. Sohr
3rd Cav. Brigade - Ob.Ltn. Schulenburg

Mjr. Lehmann
9th Inf. Brigade - GM Borcke
10th Inf. Brigade - GM Krauseneck
11th Inf. Brigade - Ob. Luck u.Witten
12th Inf. Brigade - Ob. Stülpnagel

GM Hobe
1st Cav. Brigade - Ob. Marwitz
2nd Cav. Brigade - Ob. Lottum

Mjr. Grevenitz

Prussian order of battle in 1815

The French are coming.
At 11 am Napoleon arrived and was greeted
with loud "Vive l'Empereur!"

The French are coming. It was a very hot June day. The Grenadiere and Carabiniere were beaten. Within 5 minutes the entire infantry of the Imperial Guard formed in a single column and marched through the fields to Fleurus where the natives lined the main street, more out of curiosity than enthusiasm. At 10 am the first French troops started to move out of Fleurus to take up their positions.

The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Guard Chasseurs Regiment halted near the mill. The Young Guard took up a position on the left, behind Vandamme's corps.

At 11 am Napoleon arrived and was greeted with loud "Vive l'Empereur!" During a reconnaissance he realized that the Prussians would make a stand at Ligny so he ordered to make the preparations to fight them. Lachouque writes: "Nothing could be seen through the motionless fields of rye drooping in the heat, apart from a handful of Prussian troopers emerging from a fold in the terrain behind a mound called the 'Tomb of Ligny.' ...

Napoleon at Ligny Napoleon ordered the sappers to build an observation post - a circular gallery around the windmill (see picture) - and, map in hand, began to survey the scene to check the information supplied by the surveyor Simon." Napoleon could see (with the aid of field-glasses) a large group of horsemen near the Busy windmill. It was Blucher with his staff. Orientation was difficult because of the large elms planted along many roads. Gradually, the Emperor realised that the Prussians were in front of him in rapidly increasing numbers.

Having carefully surveyed the Prussian dispositions, the Emperor concluded that they stood awaiting Wellington to come down the road from Quatre Bras and form up on their right. In consequence, Napoleon realized, the Prussians had based their dispositions on an assumption: that Wellington would come in time and in enough strength to make a difference. Napoleon planned accordingly. If he struck hard at Prussians' right and destroyed it before Wellington could arrive, he might drive the enemy in disorder back and be free to march on Brussles and defeat Wellington.

Emperor Napoleon
Emperor Napoleon

Marshal Soult
Marshal Soult

II ARMY CORPS - (part)
- - - - - 7th Inf. Division - GdD Girard

- - - - - 8th Inf. Division - GdD Lefol
- - - - - 10th Inf. Division - GdD Habert
- - - - - 11th Inf. Division - GdD Berthezene
- - - - - 3rd Cav. Division - GdD Domon

- - - - - 12th Inf. Division - GdD Pecheux
- - - - - 13th Inf. Division - GdD Vichery
- - - - - 14th Inf. Division - GdD Hulot
- - - - - 7th Cav. Division - GdD Maurin

- - - - - 19th Inf. Division
- - - - - 20th Inf. Division
- - - - - 21st Inf. Division

- - - - - 4th Cav. Division [hussars]
- - - - - 5th Cav. Division [lancers]

- - - - - 9th Cav. Division [dragoons]
- - - - - 10th Cav. Division [dragoons]

- - - - - 13th Cav. Division [cuirassiers]
- - - - - 14th Cav. Division [cuirassiers]

Old Guard Division
Old Guard Division
Young Guard Division

Guard Heavy Cav. Div.


French Order of Battle


Map of Battle of Ligny 1815

Map of battle of Ligny
Map of the battle of Ligny, 1815.

Ext.links: maps of Ligny - 1 , - 2 , - 3 .


The fight between the French and Prussians was very hard.
Steinmetz's brigade suffered 33 % casualties, while
Girard's division was so weakened by losses that
it remained near Fleurus for the rest of the war.

The Battle.
The musketry continued with unrelenting intensity.

At 2 pm Gerard's IV Corps deployed about 800 m from the edge of Ligny. Gerard himself was almost caught by the Prussian 6. Uhlan Regiment while inspecting the front. "... his chief of staff was pierced 7 times by lances." (- Lachouque)
Vandamme was to have the honor of the attack on the Prussian right. His corps deployed in front of S.Amand and S.Amand la Haye. Napoleon wrote Ney to inform him that he would attack the Prussians at 2:30 pm. Ney was to attack any force before him and then turn against Blücher's flank.

French line infantry At 2 pm square-formed the 8th Infantry Divison listened to General Lefol on horseback: "The battle is about to begin ... The Prussians will be crushed as they were at Jena ... Victory !"

At 2:30 pm the French lines echoed with the sounds of three cannons being fired by the Guard Artillery. A great shout went up: "Long live the Emperor !"

The infantry columns moved forward with bands playing and men calling "Vive l'Empereur !" The band of the 23rd Line (of Lefol's Division) entangled in the growing crops, played Le Chant dy Depart, la Victorie en chantant. The French advanced down the roads and across meadows and fields. The drums beat the charge, the cannons roared. It was the first great battle of this campaign and all the troops were fresh and eager to fight. Vandamme attacked west of S. Amand, while Gerard east of that village. Exelmans cavalry was on the flank, the Imperial Guard and heavy cavalry in reserve.

Vandamme vs Zieten.
Numerous hedges and ditches served
as a very good cover for both sides,
the French and the Prussians.

Vandamme and Ziethen were about to fight for three villages of Wagnele, S.Amand-la-Haye and S.Amand. Brye was north of the Prussian frontline and in the beginning was not attacked by Vandamme's troops.
French General Vandamme Dominique Vandamme (1770-1830) was a brutal and violent soldier, renowned for insubordination and looting. Napoleon once said to him, "If I had two of you, the only solution would be to have one hang the other." At Austerlitz he captured crucial position in Allies line, the Pratzen Heights. He also said that were he, Napoleon, to launch a campaign against Lucifer in Hell, then he would give Vandamme command of the vanguard." (- 2005)
"Vandamme ... was a knock-down, drag-out, whoop-it-up roughneck ... A Fleming with reddish hair and grey eyes ... His temper was instantaneous, his vocabulary sulphurous, his talent for insubordination stupendous. No marshal would willingly have him as a subordinate; only Davout could manage him. ... always ready to march and fight ... German troops liked serving under him; he treated his subordinates with iron rigor but took the best possible care of them." (Elting - "Swords Around a Throne" pp 158-159)
Vandamme was defeated in 1813 at Kulm and was taken prisoner by the Russians. After the restoration of King Louis XVIII of France Vandamme was exiled to America. Jean-Claude Van Damme , nicknamed The Muscles from Brussels, and known for rough action movies, has nothing to do with our General Vandamme :-)

Prussian General Ziethen Hans-Karl Graf von Ziethen-II Zieten was born in 1748 in Dechtow. Ziethen (or Zieten) was not frightened of making quick decisions. He was competent cavalry leader but not the best general for using infantry on defensive position. Ziethen shared the hardships of campaign with his soldiers but he was somehow aloof. The King granted Ziethen the title of Graf (or Count) in 1817.

The French infantry storm 
the village of St.Amand. Three battalions of Lefol's 8th Division formed themselves in columns and proceded by skirmishers entered the unoccupied S.Amand. Lefol kept moving towards S.Amand-la-Haye. Here the attackers were greeted by Prussian batteries deployed on the ridge behind the village. Killed and wounded carpeted the ground and Lefol's horse was killed under him. The French moved one battery (8 guns) up to the west of the village and fired canister at skirmishers of the Prussian I/29. Infantry Regiment.

The Prussian skirmishers fell back and 3-deep line of infantry opened long range fire on the gunners. The musketry continued with unrelenting intensity for 30 min. until the Prussian battalion withdrew towards S.Amand-la-Haye. In that village the II/29.Infantry Regiment and III/3.Westphalian Landwehr Regiment engaged the French for one hour.

French battery fired shells on S.Amand unsuccessfully attempting to set the buildings on fire, while Girard's 7th Division moved on S.Amand-la-Haye from the west. Girard led the 11th Light (ex-sharpshooters from Corsica and the Po Valley) "Courage, lads ! Lead to the right ! Close the ranks ! Charge !
In that village were numerous hedges and ditches which served as good cover for the Prussian skirmishers. Girard reinforced his skirmishers and under cover of their fire moved large columns against the village. His 12 Light and 4th Line colided with the enemy.
The French with drums beating entered S.Amand, while Prussian 3 btns. had their ammunition exhausted and withdrew from that part of the village. The French pursued them until got under artillery fire from Prussian artillery deployed on the ridge. The pursuers fell back to the village.

Prussian line infantry. Blucher arrived and cried: "Young men ! Keep yourself worthy ! Forward, in God's name !" The Prussians renewed their attack with force superior to the French. They attempted to retake S.Amand but their skirmishers were driven off by French skirmishers. The Prussians also moved against S.Amand-la-Haye with 2 btns. of 12.Infantry Regiment and 3 btns. of 24.Infantry Regiment. They brought up foot battery and opened canister fire. The French were driven off from the village. In the same time F/24.Infantry Regiment and II/3. Westphalian Landwehr Regiment supported by riflemen of Silesian Schützen and few companies of 29.Infantry Regiment captured the rest of S.Amand-la-Haye.

The 24.Infantry Regiment moved at a run from S.Amand-la-Haye to S.Amand but they were unable to make headway and fell back. GM Steinmetz ordered 2 btns. of 1.Westphalian Landwehr Regiment to counterattack.

The landwehr marched into a storm of shot, had lost a large number of men from the French hidden in S.Amand and fled. In the last action the 24.Infantry Regiment alone suffered 200 men killed and wounded and had exhausted ammunition.
This regiment was pulled out of S.Amand-la-Haye and placed in a hollow ground in the rear where the soldiers sat and rest for a while. The fighting was very bloody, Steinmetz's Brigade suffered 2.350 killed and wounded (!) Jagow's Brigade supported Steinmetz and also suffered heavy casualties. Girard's division was so weakened by casualties that it remained near Fleurus for the rest of the war. Lefol's 8th Division garrissoned S.Amand while Girard's 7th Division occupied S.Amand-la-Haye

The old Blücher led the counter-attack.
Blücher rode to the front rank and
personally led Pirch's brigade
already moving at the "pas de charge".

It was 4 pm. Pirch's 2. Brigade stood near Bussy Mill when Blücher ordered them to retake S.Amand. Tippelskirch's 5. Brigade from the reserve was to retake S.Amand-la-Haye. The two brigades formed themselves in battalion columns with two cavalry brigades (Sohr's and Marwitz's) behind them as a reserve.

Blücher rode to the front rank and personally led Pirch's brigade already moving at the "pas de charge". The infantrymen were quite animated and advanced with fixed bayonets. The French took to their heels, reeling before the advancing Prussians. The village was captured with the exception of a strong farmhouse occupied by a French battalion. The front was stabilized, Blücher was satisfied and returned to headquarters.

"The French Hidden in Tall Crops
Let Off Crushing Volleys."

French light infantry, 
by Knotel The Prussians attempted to dislodge the defiant French battalion in the farmhouse but it was not an equal fight. The defenders were protected by buildings and walls while the attackers were crowded on the streets and were an easy target. The Prussians became disordered and suffered heavy casualties so officers pulled them back in an attempt to rally and reform.

Large group of Prussians gathered on the edge of the village but was attacked by French cavalry and almost lost battalion-color. As if that was not enough the French skirmishers appeared in large number and hidden in tall crops fired on the Prussians. In this situation GM Pirch ordered his brigade to fall back. The French by harrassing and following Pirch's brigade moved closer to the flank of Prussian grand battery on the ridge. This movement alarmed Prussian generals, and 2 sq. of 3.Uhlan Regiment with some Landwehr cavalry charged out of hollow ground and dispersed the skirmishers.

Tippelskirch's 5. Brigade moved through relatively empty Wagnelee, the wheeled to the left and moved against S.Amand-la-Haye. In the front marched F/25.Infantry Regiment and F/2.Infantry Regiment having their skirmishers up in front. They met French skirmishers and threw them back. The sight of entire Prussian brigade advancing in battle array was enough for 2 French btns. standing on a meadow by the farmhouse. They turned around and withdrew.

Other French troops lay quietly in the fields of tall crops watching the Prussians. The French then stood up and delivered a volley at the II/25.Infantry Regiment. The Prussian battalion halted and began deploying, while the I Battalion of this unit attempted to deploy on their flank. Because of the speed of their movement they failed to maintain the distance necessary to deploy and instead of being on the flank they found themselves in front of it. French artillery fired canister at them, while infantry battalion advanced to within 60 paces and fired at the Prussians. The Prussians returned fire but were soon badly disordered by fleeing skirmishers of 5.Westphalian Landwehr

Both flanks of the 5.Westphalian Landwehr Regiment got under lively fire from French skirmishers hidden in tall crops, became disordered and fell back. The F/25.Infantry Regiment was marching on the road to the farmhouse when they received fire from the French hidden in crops. Commander of the Prussian btn. and all senior officers fell wounded. Shocked but not broken the fusiliers fixed bayonets and rushed against the French. However when another French btn. appeared the fusiliers hastily withdrew. Their retreat towards Wagnelee was done under the cover of their own skirmishers. It was not all doom and gloom for the Prussians. The 2.Infantry Regiment enjoyed a great success as they recaptured S.Amand-la-Haye in a spirited bayonet charge.


Vandamme rode to Napoleon with news that Wellington's army
was marching on him with the intent of attacking his flank.

Mysterious troops on Vandamme's flank.
"They are enemies !"

One of Vandamme's staff officers had been sent to identify troops that were showing up on Vandamme's flank. He came riding back shouting "They are enemies !" Some of the troops (for example Lefol's division) panicked and soon anxiety and fear spread along the ranks like wild-fire.

Lefol turned cannons on his own infantry to stop them fleeing. Girard's division abandoned S.Amand-la-Haye and bravely faced the flank to meet the new enemy. Vandamme hurriedly rode to Napoleon with news that probably part of Wellington's British-German army was marching on him with the intent of attacking his flank.

Fighting against two armies was a disaster, even for Napoleon. He was defeated by enemy attacking his flank and rear at La Rothiere and Leipzig.

Napoleon's Chasseurs of
the Old Guard. Napoleon met Vandamme but remained calm. He sent one of his staff officers and the 3rd Guard Chasseurs to investigate the mysterious troops.

To calm Vandamme down the Emperor ordered Young Guard and Subervie's cavalry to march on the flank. Meanwhile the officer returned with news that the mysterious troops was French d'Erlon's I Army Corps and not the German-British-Netherland army attempting to outflank them.
Erlon marched on Marbais and St.Amand.

Lachouque writes: "At the Fleurus windmill, under heavy storm-clouds, his forehead beaded with prespiration ... hands crossed over the tails of his green coatee, fingers clenching feverishly, Napoleon strode up and down on the flour-coated floorboards and kept vigil ... On a map nailed to a beam, the name 'Marbais' had been underlined 10 times."


Expecting that Ziethen's I Corps
will be again under strong pressure,
the old Blucher moved Pirch-I's II Corps
behind him.
Napoleon supported Vandamme with the Young Guard.

Blow for blow.
The French infantry motivated by spectacular efforts of their officers
and supported by the Young Guard captured S.Amand and S.Amand-la-Haye.
The Prussian counterattack however was ferocious.

Prussian artillery, 
picture by Funcken. Prussian and French artillery redoubled their cannonade along the whole line and clouds of smoke covered the battlefield. The Emperor ordered to bring one battery of the Old Guard and infantry division of the Young Guard to support Vandamme.

Expecting that Ziethen will be again under pressure, the old Blucher moved Krafft's, Brausse's and Tippelskirch's brigades behind him. So now not only Ziethen but also Pirch-I struggled with Vandamme. Pirch-I (he was almost deaf) commanded entire II Army Corps of several brigades, while Pirch-II commanded only one brigade in Ziethen's I Army Corps.

Pirch-II's 2.Brigade advanced against S.Amand, passed over the stream and took the village at bayonet point. They also captured the church and moved out of the village against the enemy deployed in open field. But here the French artillery shattered them and the resolute Prussians quickly fell back to the village.

Prussian uhlans. Four Prussian cavalry regiments moved against the French west of S.Amand. In the first line rode the 3.Uhlan Regiment, behind the uhlans were 4.Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry Regiment, next were 5.Dragoon Regiment and in the tail was the strong 1. Queen's Own Dragoon Regiment. (Earlier all four units were deployed behind artillery on the ridge and suffered from French counter-battery fire.) The uhlans charged, pushing back the French light cavalry. The French regrouped and almost captured Prussian heavy battery positioned by the stream.

It was 6 pm when Pirch's 2.Brigade exhausted ammunition and was forced to abandon S.Amand. But part of Krafft's 6.Brigade and two fusilier btns. of Steinmetz's 1.Brigade attempted to retake the village. They continued their advance despite artillery and musket fire. The Prussian skirmishers outnumbered the French skirmishers posted in the houses and gardens and drove them back. Behind skirmishers advanced large columns and these also entered the S.Amand. Except the farmhouse the entire village was now re-occupied by the Prussians. Several btns. left the village and marched into the open where stood French btns. already being deployed in lines. Both sides opened fire and became enveloped in thick smoke.

Vandamme noticed that the Prussians are unable to move out of the villages. His infantrymen motivated by spectacular efforts of their officers and supported by the Young Guard captured S.Amand and S.Amand-la-Haye. But the Prussians were not giving up and brought Tippelskirch's 5.Brigade. Their batteries on the ridge bombarded both villages and two fusilier btns. (F/25.Infantry Regiment and F/25.Infantry Regiment) attacked the farmhouse, while three musketier btns. (I,II/2.Infantry Regiment and I/25.Infantry Regiment) supported by one btn. of 5.Westphalian Landwehr Regiment Regiment attacked S.Amand. Behind the infantry rode three cavalry regiments; 2.Uhlan Regiment and 11.Hussar Regiment in first line, and 5.Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry Regiment in second. It was a strong force.

French line infantry,
picture by Keith Rocco, USA. The French occupied S.Amand-la-Haye with 2 btns. while a substantial mass of infantry with two batteries stood in reserve behind the village. The Prussian light infantry (F/2.Infantry Regiment and F/25.Infantry Regiment) entered S.Amand-la-Haye and slipped to the right and left. After a bloody house-to-house fighting they captured the village.

The French in neighbour S.Amand counterattacked but the fusiliers were strenghtened with other troops and threw the attackers back. The French attacked three more times and three times they were repulsed. This victory had reversed the earlier French successes at S.Amand-la-Haye. Part of Tippelskirch's 5.Brigade captured weakly defended Wagnelee.

Brause's 7.Brigade descended from the ridge and captured S.Amand. During pursuit they found themselves in the open and the French cavalry attacked them. The Prussians run fast but in the opposite direction seeking safety in the village. The French cavalry also attacked skirmishers of 2.Infantry Regiment but were driven back by two sq. of 5.Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry Regiment.

With his infantry pushed back, Vandamme turned his artillery to pound the offending Prussians into submission. So far the Prussians were able to withstand all attacks and held their positions but they used majority of troops (not all) of two large corps; Ziethen's and Pirch-I's, against one French corps (Vandamme's), Girard's division and Young Guard division.


The fight for Ligny was even more ferocious than
Vandamme's and Ziethen's battle for S.Amand
and S.Amand-la-Haye.
The houses and even the church spire in Ligny were full of holes.
The fight throughout the whole village was at the hottest.

Gerard's attacks on Ligny.
In terms of moral strength (and not numbers)
Gerard's IV Corps was the best corps in the French army
right after the Imperial Guard.

General Gerard Ligny itself was about to be attacked by Gerard's IV Army Corps. This corps consisted of Pecheux's 12th Division and Vichery's 13th Division, Hulot's 14th Divion and Maurin's 7th Cavalry Division. Many of Gerard's regiments were recruited on areas very loyal to Napoleon. In terms of moral strength (and not numbers) it was probably the best corps in the French army right after the Imperial Guard. This fact alone assured Napoleon that Ligny will fall rather sooner than later. Gerard himself was a seasoned commander.

Prussian infantryman, 
picture by Steven Palatka The village of Ligny was approx. 1 km long. The right side of the village was defended by two btns. (F and I/19.Infantry Regiment) while the left part by two btns. of 4.Westphalian Landwehr Regiment. The infantrymen and Landwehr were well protected by walls and hedges. Their skirmishers took positions along the edge of village while individual companies stood behind them in the narrow streets as support and reserve. They removed windows and barricaded the doors.

The banks of Ligny Stream were here 2 m high (!) and the skirmishers cut steps into them and cut paths through fences and hedges. It helped them to move around and communicate. The nearest fields of tall crops were cut down giving no cover for the attackers. On the higher ground behind the village were set up 16 guns (some sources give 24-32 guns). As a general reserve served four battalions.

South of Ligny stood strong chateau. It was defended by skirmishers detached from I/19.Infantry Regiment. There were three gates and each was barricaded and defended by group of soldiers. Fourth and fifth group took cover behind hedges and along the walls, while the sixth group stood in the courtyard and served as a reserve.

Gerard succeeded in gaining
a foothold in the village.

The Prussians however were well prepared and waiting. When at 3 pm columns of French infantry closed on Ligny they were greeted with hail of canister and musket fire. The French advanced in three columns screened by skirmishers; two attacked the village while third moved against the chateau.
Taking advantage of this movement the French batteries limbered up and moved closer to the village. The French unlimbered just within canister range from the edge of Ligny. Prussian artillery opened fire in an attempt to stem the tide of advancing French.

French troops attacking Ligny.
The village is burning. French columns - some were carrying the tricolor-flags - climbed up into gardens and over the fences. The hidden Prussians fired at close range, shattering the heads of the columns. The attackers were shocked at their casualties and halted.

The Prussians counterattacked and the disordered French fell back. They were pursued to the field of tall crops where fresh French troops opened fire on the pursuers. Now it was the Prussian turn to flee and they did it with gusto.

The French artillery concentrated its fire on the garden walls, hedges and buildings that surrounded Ligny in an effort to punch a hole in them. Gerard's men plunged into the ditches and pressed up against the walls and fences, tearing it down as best they could. Despite heavy casualties the furious French assault succeeded in gaining a foothold in the village.

Bajonett Angriff: Bünau's hardmen at work.
The Prussians delivered a second volley
and charged with bayonets. The French fled.

Prussian infantry in combat. The II/19.Infantry Regiment moved through Ligny and deployed from column into line by the Ligny Stream. They sent forward skirmishers but these were quickly driven off by French skirmishers. A single French column advanced against the Prussian line. Mjr. von Bünau's battalion opened fire while the French column attempeted to deploy into line to return the fire.

The Prussians delivered a second volley and charged with bayonets. The French fled. Bünau's btn. was then directed to the other end of the village. His men broke up into small groups to take advantage of the hedges, walls and fences. They met the French and both sides opened fire before Bünau's men charged with bayonets. The French were thrown back and across the stream. The French then rallied and reformed behind their artillery. They advanced again and Bünau's men again drove the stubborn Frenchmen back.

When an isolated company of Bünau's battalion saw French company marching in their direcion they charged with bayonet. The French however kept moving until there was only 10 paces between the sides. The French company then halted, wavered and fled. (Rudolf von Leszczynski - "50 Jahre Geschichte des Koniglich Preussischen 2.Posenschen Infanterie-Regiments Nr.19" p 162)

Bünau's battalion had spent much of the day fighting either in skirmish order or in small battle groups. The skirmishers often had to crawl through gaps in the fences and hedges or very quickly move from one place to another. If all Prussian infantry was like Bünau's battalion, Ligny would probably never fall into French hands.

The churchyard was besieged.
Every street, building, and garden was disputed
- bayonets and musket butts were the weapons of choice.

Prussian infantry on cemetery Several French btns. deployed from columns into thick skirmish lines, penetrated Ligny and besieged the churchyard. Gradually they got up to the walls, fences and hedges. The French skirmishers were supported by 2 guns. The well coordinated action between infantry and artillery brought great result, Prussian skirmishers hastily abandoned the churchyard.

The wounded Prussians were bayoneted on the spot, and Gerard's infantry poured into the buildings. But before they were able to establish themselves in the churchyard and get more ammunition the enemy counterattacked. The French hurriedly abandoned their positions and even left behind the two guns. The Prussians pursued them but only for a short while because French battery fired canister at them.

The Landwehr suffered heavy losses from French artillery. Lachouque writes: "A battery of cannon in the cemetery pulverised three battalions under von Jagow." Two officers commanding the Prussian skirmishers remained with troops until they fainted from loss of blood. The smoke was so dense that it was impossible to distinguish Prussians from the French.
Gerard's infantry again attempted to capture the churchyard and the houses around it. Every street, building, and garden was disputed - bayonets and musket butts were the weapons of choice. Gerard's infantry forced their way into the center of Ligny and in ferocious assault took the churchyard.

"... the devils of Henckel and Jagow
hurled out their hatred."
- Henri Lachouque
The fierce firefight continued for half hour
and many were ripped to pieces by musketballs.
Even the church spire was full of holes.

Prussian General Jagow Ligny was almost entirely in French hands (except the chateau and few houses) when two btns. from Jagow's 3.Brigade (I and II/7.Infantry Regiment) with their drums beating and loud cries entered the village. On Jagow's flanks rolled 16 guns and advanced two btns. of light infantry (F/7.Infantry Regiment and F/29.Infantry Regiment). Jagow with two btns. attacked the church but Gerard's infantry were ready and waiting for them.

Fight for the bridge at Ligny.
Nearby is the farm of En Bas.  
Picture by Knotel. Two French btns. formed in tight columns suddenly attacked and put Jagow's men into wild flight. The victors however decided not to pursue the Prussians behind village so Jagow was able to rally his troops and come back. This attack was better organized, they moved forward screened by skirmishers so there were no suprises and the church was taken.

Pardon was neither asked nor given, the badly wounded French who fell into Prussian hands were bayoneted.

Two French btns. formed in columns counterattacked, they met Jagow's columns on the street of Ligny. Only the front ranks were able to fire as the place was overcrowded and officers lost control. The fierce firefight continued for half hour and many were ripped to pieces by musketballs.

Church in Ligny. The surrounding houses and even the church spire were full of holes. The fight throughout the whole village was now at the hottest. Lachoque writes: "Bayonets broke against the church flagstones, one of them pinning a sergeant to the church door."

The French brought cannons and fired canister at the enemy near church. The Prussian infantry and Landwehr were horryfied by the losses. Fortunately for Jagow's men, two btns. of 7.Infantry Regiment counterattacked in such a speed that the surprised French gunners left their pieces and fled. The gunners were followed by large group of French infantry.
When the pursuing Prussians got near the field of tall crops they were greeted with a hail of musketballs and driven back to the village. The elated infantry of Gerard's division pursued the blue-clad enemy and recaptured the churchyard in the same time. Both sides were exhausted.

"The French sappers attempted
to smash down the gate of chateau."

It was almost 4 pm when the French attacked chateau. Their skirmishers opened fire while sappers attempted to smash down one of the three gates. The defenders shot the sappers within moments and opened fire on ths skirmishers. The French brought 8 guns and unlimbered them within 400 paces from the chateau. When the battery fired shells and canister the infantry encircled the chateau. The Prussian snipers managed to pick off several gunners and infantry officers and held the French at arms length.

The French brought more artillery and fired shells on the chateau. Some buildings went up in flames and the Prussians jumped out of the first floor windows and over the high walls. Gerard's infantry fired at them, it was as if fun of duck hunting but without the ducks.

The fighting took on a new savagery.
"Ligny was ablaze from end to end."
- Henri Lachouque

General Girard is killed. From west to east, brigade after brigade, division after division, the units of Blucher's and Napoleon's armies were punching each other in a series of trip-hammer blows.

Krafft's 6.Brigade and Bose's 8.Brigade were ordered to retake Ligny while exhausted Henckel's 4.Brigade was withdrawn to the safety of the wood of Bois du Loup. The French began a vigorous artillery fire on the fresh forces as soon as they became visible through the smoke. The artillery on both sides were roaring and many of the houses in Ligny were ablaze.

The fall of Ligny would be a tremendous threat to the Prussian center so they attempted to capture it at all cost. Four remaining btns. of Krafft's 6.Infanterie-Brigade entered village and marched down the main and widest street. (His two other btns. were already in Ligny and further four were in S.Amand foghting with Vandamme.)
Krafft's troops began fighting for every house and garden but that was not easy as the French skirmishers were numerous and being constantly reinforced. The Prussian skirmishers crossed the stream nine times and nine times were driven back !

The village was so packed with Frenchmen and Prussians that many units were so mixed up with others that it took time to extricate them. Now the fighting took on a new savagery with men lashing out with musket butts and bayonets and shouting insults. The streets were choked up with the wounded and the dead. The troops fought in groups, defending houses and barns like little forts. The larger buildings were attacked by the Prussians in the following way: their skirmishers surrounded the house and fired on the defenders while the battalion sappers smashed down the doors. Once the doors were down part of the skirmishers charged with bayonets while other part fired on those Frenchmen who attempted to escape from it by the windows and back doors.

French flag in 1815. Around one of French regimental flags began a massive brawl, Prussian skirmishers ripped the flag from its pole and took away bands and tassels but the French bayoneted many of the attackers and saved the precious Eagle.
The attacks advanced with surprising vehemence and quickly turned into a close, bitter battle where death gained a plentiful bounty. The Frenchmen so stubbornly defended themselves against the Prussian attacks that - for example - the Prussian 21.Infantry Regiment made 6 attacks and gained no ground. Gerard's infantry showed vigor and aggressivennes that had once been the hallmark of the Napoleonic infantry during the Glory Years (1805-7).


The presence of large cavalry force
caused Thielemann to be concerned.

On the Flank.
It was getting dark when the battle
between Thielemann and Grouchy began.

French dragoons.  Diorama. Napoleon detached Marshal Grouchy with part of Gerard's IV Army corps and Exelmans' II Cavalry Corps between Sombreffe and Balatre. Exelmans' cavalry consisted of dragoons.
Grouchy faced Thielemann's III Korps of four infantry brigades (9.,10.,11.,12.), some cavalry and artillery. Thielemann's headquarters were in the windmill on Point du Jour, the second highest place on the battlefield.

Prussian General Stulpnagel Stülpnagel and his 12.Brigade had its skirmishers deployed along the Ligny Stream. Vast majority of the skirmishers were drawn from F/31.Infantry Regiment and Kurmärk Landwehr Reegiment. The remaining battalions were formed in columns. Thielemann strengthened 12.Brigade with 8 heavy guns taken from corps artillery reserve. The presence of the French cavalry to the east caused Thielemann to be concerned about his flank, so he directed part of Hobe's cavalry to Tongrinne and south of Botey. Tongrinne was occupied by part of Borcke's 9.Brigade. Along the edge of village were placed skirmishers of F/30.Infantry Regiment. In the center stood two other btns. of that regiment.
The excellent Life Infantry Regiment was kept in reserve.

Marshal Grouchy. The battle between Thielemann and Marshal Grouchy began late. It was not before 6 pm when first volleys were exchanged between Grouchy's and Thielemann's troops. The French attacked with their skirmishers and some artillery. It was already getting dark and the French skirmishers were taking advantage of this situation. They sneaked around the Prussians and fired on their large columns from the flank and rear. The angered Prussians charged with bayonets but the skirmishers simply withdrew. They came back and kept popping up and firing into the Prussians.

The French dragoons came and attacked one of the columns but without success. The French moved one group of infantry and some artillery against Tongrinne while another group drew up to receive the Prussian II/30.Infantry Regiment. The Prussian btn. attempted to outflank the stationary enemy but was attacked by French dragoons and forced to halt and form square.
The French infantry and dragoons then moved against I/Infantry Regiment but the fight was inconclusive. The French were repulsed with musket fire but the Prussians soon fell back. In this situation the French again pressed on Tongrinne and Thielemann ordered Luck's 11.Brigade to defend it. (It was one of the weakest brigades in terms of numbers and quality. This brigade had only six btns. and all were Landwehr.) It was not long before Luck used 5 out of his 6 btns. But colonel Luck had luck, it was getting dark.

The French moved south-east of Tongrinne in an attempt to outflank the Prussian line. Thielemann answered by throwing at them Kemphen's 10.Brigade. He also placed Lottum's 2.Cavalry Brigade behind Kemphen's men as a reserve. This attack was supported by 8 heavy and 8 horse guns.
Lottum moved horse battery escorted by two sq. of 7.Dragoon Regiment towards Boignee, on more advanced position. This small group however was attacked by 5th and 13th Dragoon Regiment and driven off, the battery was captured.


The Old Guard entered Ligny and swept everything before them
with the bayonet, moving like a raging bull with lowered head.

The advance of Old Guard was accompanied by
artillery cannonade and thunder lightnings.

Blücher took the withdrawal of Young Guard as a sign
of his victory on this part of the battlefield.

Grenadier of the Old Guard.
Picture by Vernet, France. Napoleon ordered preparations for the main attack against the Prussian center. Lobau's VI Army Corps was called and the Young Guard was taken away from Vandamme. Blücher took the withdrawal of Young Guard as a sign of his victory on this part of the battlefield. He ordered forward three btns. of 8.Brigade and partially reestablished the original line of defence. His joy was however short lived. Cavalry patrol captured French officer who gave the information that another French corps was nearby (it was d'Erlon's).

The Prussians realized that the English were not going to be joining them that day. The battle between Vandamme and Ziethen became limited to artillery and skirmish combat.

Dark clouds began to roll across the sky throwing the entire battlefield into darkness. The artillery cannonade was accompanied by thunder lightnings. Desvaux St.Maurice saluted the Prussians with his Guard artillery, pounding Ligny and its outskirts and setting up a crossfire with the Young Guard batteries opposite, north of St.Amand. The slopes around the Brye mill were literally deluged with cannonballs and shells that pulverized the Prussians.

At 7.45 pm battalions of the Imperial Guard with drums beating moved forward like ancient phalanx. The veterans lowered bayonets and advanced They moved against Ligny in two columns. West of Ligny marched 2nd, 3rd and 4th Grenadier Regiment. East of the village marched the best of the best, the 1st Grenadier and 1st Chasseurs Regiment. They were all hand picked veterans with plenty of experience under fire. (The 3rd Chasseurs had been sent to the left to observe the mysterious troops on Vandamme's flank. The 2nd and 4th Chasseurs were supporting the Young Guard and Vandamme in their struggle for St.Amand.)

Lachouque writes: "The infantry of the Guard were marching in battalion columns at half-distance. Friant and Morand ... were marching at their head. 'Pere Roguet' was on horseback in front of Christinai's 2nd Grenadiers, which followed Petit, at the head of the 1st Grenadiers, who the previous year had been embraced in the courtyard of Fontainebleau by the Emperor. About 200 m to the left were the 1st Chasseurs under Cambronne ... Behind, Boissonnet's pioneer-sappers were with the marines of the courageous Tailhade.
Desvaux de St.Maurice In a great clanking of vehicles and steel, the artillery reserve advanced on the right flank with 8 guns abreast, preceded by Desvaux de St.Maurice (see picture) and Lallemand, and then 800 Guard Horse Grenadiers, 800 Guard Dragoons, and 1,600 cuirassiers under Delort ... The approach march lasted 20 minutes under the rumbling of a thunderstorm."

Gérard's brave infantry attacked between the Guard columns. Behind them rode 24 sq. of armored heavy cavalry led by Milhaud and 4 sq. of Guard Horse Grenadiers mounted on black horses. They entered Ligny and swept everything before them with the bayonet, moving like a raging bull with lowered head. Ligny was taken to the refrain of the Chant du Depart.

The enemy fled everywhere before them. The Guard climbed up the slope at Bossu Mill while the Prussian 21.Infantry Regiment was attacked by heavy cavalry and fought for survival. The Landwehr cavalry attempted to rescue their comrades but received a volley at point blank and fled in great disorder.

Blücher, mounted his horse, and with cloak streaming in the wind he rode to his last reserve. "In the Devil's name, attack, then !" he shouted to Roeder's cavalrymen. The old warrior drew his sword and led three cavalry regiments (6.Uhlan, 1.Dragoon, and 2.Kurmark Landwehr) into a desperate counter-attack. The Guard let them get close before delivering deadly volley. The Black Uhlans were decimated by the 4th Grenadiers, 13 officers and 70 troopers swept down within 20 m of the square. The Prussians were shattered and then charged by French heavy cavalry. The 6.Uhlan Regiment fled leaving behind their wounded and prisoners. The dragoons and Landwehr were also attacked and driven off. Some horse fell; others, riderless, galloped around in the smoke and finally tumbled into the stream.

Blucher on the ground. Blücher's horse (it had been a present from the Prince Regent of England) was hit and fell to the ground trapping the commander underneath it. His adjutant's horse was hit too. According to Hofschroer "Two more charges of French cavalry passed over the pair before help could arrive."

The massive French attack was almost over, the rain stopped and the sun appeared again.

The advance of the Old Guard was unstoppable, but the Middle Guard had encountered some problems. For example the 4th Chasseur Regiemnt suffered so heavy casualties that after battle was reformed from two to one battalion. The Prussian 1.(Queen's) Dragoon Regiment executed a successful charge against French cavalry.
The II/1.Westphalian Landwehr Infantry Regiment formed square on top of a hill near Brye and repulsed three charges by the cuirassiers and Guard cavalry. Three other Prussian btns. stubbornly held Brye for hours and abandoned it only in early morning, at 3 am.


Napoleon would have won far more decisively if
he had the 15.000 men of d'Erlon's I Corps at Ligny.

Victory !
There were rumours that Blücher was taken prisoner.

The bodies of the dead and wounded French and Prussian soldiers lay in irregular lines amidst the wreckage, a reminder of the grim fighting. It was almost dark and the roads were full of Prussian soldiers from different battalions mixed together. There was chaos and noise everywhere and they thought that only a speedy withdrawal was the sole possibility for salvation. Some troops had to fight off continuous cavalry charges and many fugitives were sabered. There were rumours that Blücher was taken prisoner. The worst situation was in the troops ejected from Ligny while many of the regiments on the flanks retreated in good order.

Ligny after battle. Ligny was in ruins, the streets were covered with wounded men and horses and abandoned equipment: muskets, sabers, cartridge boxes, shakos etc..

Napoleon spent his time after battle in a residence in Fleurus while Blucher in Tilly where his troops were ordered to stop their flight. Staff officers were sent to block the roads leading to Gembloux and to redirect the retreating brigades with the intention to maintain contact with Wellington's troops.

If the French continued their pursuit with the same vigor as shortly after battle the Prussian brigades would fall apart. The progress of French pursuit became considerably slower because of three reasons:

  • exhaustion of troops, the fighting was etremely bloody
  • Soult's poor staff work
  • large number of Prussian vehicles and abandoned equipment blocked the roads
    In this situation Prussian generals were able to restore the order and assemble a large number of fugitives. The Prussian casualties were heavy but not overwhelming, 16,000 killed and wounded and 21 guns lost. This is approx. 15 % of their strength. There were also 6.000 men who abandoned their regiments in the night although many of them returned to ranks during the next day.

    The French casualties were 12,000 killed and wounded. The French won but a substantial part of the Prussian army escaped destruction and were able to march to the aid of Wellington's German-British-Netherland army and decide the outcome of Waterloo.

    Napoleon would have won more decisively if he had the 15.000 men of d'Erlon's I Corps at Ligny. Earlier Napoleon sent several orders for d'Erlon's Corps which was between Quatre Bras and Ligny ordering him to march to Ligny. Napoleon thought that if Ney could not march to Ligny, he would settle for d’Erlon’s corps as compensation.
    Marshal Ney However Marshal Ney (see picture) believed that his battle at Quatre Bras was the more important battle than Napoleon's at Ligny. The result was that d'Erlon wasted the day by marching and countermarching between Ligny and Quatre Bras and contributing to neither.

    The battle would have a different outcome if Blücher had either 30.000 men of Bülow's IV Corps or Wellington's 30.000-60.000 at Ligny. Blücher and Wellington made mistakes and this is not surprising for me. But I am a little bit disappointed with Napoleon. The whole affair with d'Erlon's corps and the short pursuit after battle were his failings. Maybe in 1815 he was no longer the genius, the energetic man like he was during the Italian Campaigns. Who knows.

    Wellington claimed to have watched the Prussian defeat at Ligny through his telescope from the crossroads at Quatre Bras. It must have been an "extraordinary telescope", wrote British author Siborne in his History of the War in France and Belgium in 1815 (1844), "to be able to see through a hill - in the dark".

  • ~

    "Ah ! Wellington ought to light a fine candle to old Blucher.
    Without him, I don't know where His Grace, as they call him,
    would be; but as for me, I certainly wouldn't be here."
    - Napoleon on St. Helena

    To Waterloo !
    Waterloo would be a battle against the clock.
    The arrival of Prussians would mean the difference
    between victory and defeat.

    Blücher - Commander of the Prussian army Napoleon was convinced that Blucher, after his defeat, would be careful not to risk his already battered army a second time. He declared that the Prussians would need at least 2 days to recover.

    Napoleon arrived at the chateau called 'Peace Castle' but was too tired to receive Grouchy who came for orders to pursue Prussians. Napoleon believed that the mere appearance of Grouchy's troops would cause the Prussians to accelerate their retreat. In the early morning Napoleon ordered Grouchy: "Follow him [Blucher] closely, with your sword against his back."

    Gneisenau directs retreat of the Prussian army. Next day Blucher woke up and chased away the physician who tried to rub some ointment into his bruised shoulder. Blucher made a comment "... if things go well today, soon we will all be washing and bathing in Paris." Then he wrote a letter to Muffling that if Napoleon "do not attack today, then in my opinion we (Blucher & Wellington) should attack him (Napoleon) tomorrow".

    The Battle of Waterloo would be a battle against the clock. The arrival of Prussians would mean the difference between victory and defeat.

    At 9:30 pm, Lobau's VI Army Corps passed through Ligny and took up position on the plateau of the Brye windmill in a sultry atmosphere, and against a nightmarish background. On the battlefield the band of the 1st Grenadiers of the Old Guard played Victoire est a nous. The Young Guard and the exhausted III and IV Corps set up wretched bivouacs on the battlefield.

    The enemy was defeated but not destroyed. The Prussian cavalry outposts were within range of the muskets of the French outposts guards. Some French battalions bivouacked drawn up in squares and with one rank under arms. Napoleon told Grouchy to follow the enemy with cavalry and some infantry.

    Sources and Links.

    Hofschroer - "1815 The Waterloo Campaign: Wellington, His German Allies..."
    Adkin - "The Waterloo Companion"
    Elting/Esposito - "A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars"
    Chandler - "Campaigns of Napoleon"
    Siborne - "Waterloo Letters"
    Chandler - "Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars"
    Battle of Ligny (diorama, photo gallery)
    Napoleonic Wars (maps)
    Hundred Days
    Pictures of Battle of Ligny.
    Marshal Emmanuel, marquis de Grouchy.
    Marshal Nicolas-Jean de Dieu Soult, duke de Dalmatie
    General Dominique Vandamme.
    General Guillaume-Philibert Duhesme.
    (Prussian) General Gebhard-Leberecht Blucher
    Travel to Ligny.

    Napoleon, His Army and Enemies