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Title: The Campaign of Waterloo - A Military History; Third Edition
Author: Ropes, John Codman
Language: English
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      Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).


      *      *      *      *      *      *




  Designed to accompany the author’s “Campaign of
  Waterloo; a Military History.”

  Price, $5.00 _net_.

  Publishers, New York.

      *      *      *      *      *      *


A Military History



Member of the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Military
Historical Society of Massachusetts, and the Harvard Historical
Society; Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and
the Royal Historical Society; Honorary Member of the United States
Cavalry Association, etc. Author of “The Army under Pope,” in the
Scribner Series of “Campaigns of the Civil War”; “The First Napoleon,
a Sketch, Political and Military,” etc.

Third Edition.

New York
Charles Scribner’S Sons

Copyright, 1892, by
Charles Scribner’S Sons.


The need of another narrative of the campaign of Waterloo may not be
at first sight apparent. There has been a great deal written on this
subject, and much of it has been written by eminent hands. The last
and the most unfortunate campaign of the great soldier of modern times
has naturally attracted the repeated attention of military historians.
Jomini, Clausewitz, Charras, Siborne, Kennedy, Chesney, Vaudoncourt,
La Tour d’Auvergne, Thiers, Hooper, and many others have sought to
explain the almost inexplicable result,—the complete defeat in a very
brief campaign of the acknowledged master of modern warfare. One would
suppose that the theme had been exhausted, and that nothing more
remained to be said.

But several circumstances have contributed to render the labors of
these writers unusually difficult. In the first place, the overthrow
of Napoleon, which was the immediate result of the campaign, operated
to prevent a satisfactory account of it being given to the public
from the French point of view at the time when the facts were fresh
in men’s minds. The Emperor, exiled at St. Helena, could indeed give
his story; but, unable, as he was, to verify or correct his narrative
by citations from the orders that were given at the time, and by
conferring with the officers who had served under him, he has left us
an account, which, though by no means without historical value, is yet
so defective and erroneous in parts that it has aroused in the minds
of men who are not alive to the great difficulties which always attend
the composition of a military narrative, and who are not concerned
to make fair allowance for the unavoidable and peculiar difficulties
of one writing in the circumstances which surrounded Napoleon at St.
Helena, grave doubts as to the trustworthiness of his recollection
and even as to his veracity. The chief officers of the army have also
rendered little assistance to the historian. Ney was shot a few months
after the battle. Soult, Grouchy, d’Erlon and others were forced into
exile. No detailed reports were ever made by them. The royal government
did not concern itself about this episode in the experience of their
predecessors. What the French commander and his subordinates had to say
about the campaign came out by degrees, and much of it only after long
years of waiting. Many of the narratives were written and published
before all the facts had become known,—hence were necessarily more or
less imperfect.

With a few exceptions, too, the histories of this campaign have been
gravely affected by the partisanship of their authors. It is well-nigh
impossible for Thiers and La Tour d’Auvergne to admit any fault, for
Charras and Quinet to admit any merit, in Napoleon’s management of
affairs. It is equally difficult for the majority of English writers to
avoid taking sides against the Emperor in any of the numerous disputes
to which the campaign of Waterloo has given rise. These influences
have operated in many cases to deflect the narrative of the military
operations into a criticism of those who have written from the opposite

Nevertheless, all this discussion has not been by any means without
use. We have had many obscure corners cleared up, many seemingly
inexplicable problems solved, and we are now in possession, taking
all our information together, of nearly all, if not quite all, the
facts. It only remains to collect and co-ordinate them in a spirit of
impartiality. This is the task attempted in the present volume. It may
be added that the narrative and discussions will be confined to purely
military topics.

In the treatment of the subject, Napoleon will naturally be the central
figure. The campaign was his campaign, planned and executed by him,
frustrated by his opponents. It will be our endeavor to get at, as
nearly as we can, his intentions, his expectations, his views from day
to day of the facts of the case, so that we may, if possible, carry a
personal interest into the varying fortunes of those eventful days.
This will be found entirely consistent, it is believed, with an equally
careful attempt to view events from the standpoints which the English
and Prussian commanders must have occupied from time to time during the

The general method of Colonel Chesney in his “Waterloo Lectures” is
adopted; that is, the chapters will first contain a statement or
narrative, and, afterwards, notes. In these we shall have occasion
to examine most of the controversies concerning this campaign. Those
persons who do not care for these discussions can read the chapters

Those controversies which would occupy too much space if given in the
text proper will be found in appendices.

A partial list of works relating to the campaign is prefixed.

A map of the theatre of war in Belgium and another of the field of
Waterloo are inserted in the book.

For those students who desire to follow the campaign more carefully,
an Atlas has been prepared, which is sold separately. It contains
a general map of the whole theatre of war, eleven maps of Belgium,
showing the varying positions of the three armies during the campaign,
and two maps of the field of Waterloo, in which the topographical
features are shown by contour lines taken from the government
survey, and on which the positions of the troops are set down at the
commencement and close of the battle. The references in the text to
maps are to the maps in this Atlas.

Copies of all the important orders and despatches will be found in
Appendix C.

The author desires to express his thanks for valuable manuscripts,
books and references kindly furnished him by Major General R. Oldfield,
R. A., and Colonel F. A. Whinyates, R. A.; also for many useful
suggestions, and for assistance in many ways, to Major W. R. Livermore,
Corps of Engineers, U. S. Army, and Captain A. H. Russell, Ordnance
Department, U. S. Army.

He desires also to acknowledge the aid rendered him by M. Eugène
Wenseleers, Barrister of the Court of Appeal, Brussels, in ascertaining
the location of the Chateau Marette, at Walhain, where (and not at
Sart-à-Walhain, as has been generally believed) Marshal Grouchy was
when he heard the sound of the cannon of Waterloo.

  99 Mount Vernon Street:
  Boston: June 1, 1892.

  J. C. R.


Since the publication of this book the writer has been put in
possession of facts which have led him to reverse his opinion of the
truth of the story that the Duke of Wellington rode to Wavre on the
evening of the 17th of June, 1815.

  J. C. R.

  99 Mount Vernon Street:
  Boston: May 17, 1893.




  CHAPTER I: THE PLAN OF CAMPAIGN                                1

  The general military situation                                 2

  Reasons for taking the offensive                            2, 3

  Napoleon decides to move against Wellington and
  Blücher                                                        3

  Positions of the Anglo-Dutch and Prussian Armies            3, 4

  Napoleon’s plan                                                4

  As stated in Gourgaud’s Narrative                              4

  And in the “Memoirs”                                           5

  The other plans which were open to him                         6

  His expectation that Blücher would accept battle
  single-handed                                               7, 8

  NOTE TO CHAPTER I                                              9

  Napoleon’s plan distinguished from certain other
  plans attributed to him                                        9

  Alison’s view that he threw himself between the
  two allied armies                                             10

  Condemned by Wellington and Clausewitz                        10

  But adopted by Hooper and Quinet                              11

  Rogniat’s theory, that Napoleon ought to have aimed
  at seizing both Quatre Bras and Sombreffe on
  the first day                                                 12

  Jomini’s belief, that he did have this intention              12

  Adopted by La Tour d’Auvergne                                 13

  And by Charras                                                13

  Their view opposed to that of Napoleon, Wellington
  and Clausewitz                                                13

  Napoleon desired and expected a battle with the
  Prussians                                                 14, 15

  CHAPTER II: THE FRENCH ARMY                                   16

  The army as affected by Napoleon’s return from
  Elba                                                          16

  Confidence of the soldiers in Napoleon                        17

  Lack of confidence in the high officers                       17

  Napoleon’s choice of Soult to take Berthier’s place           17

  Soult’s unfitness for the position of chief-of-staff          18

  The five corps-commanders                                     18

  Estimate of the defects of the French general officers
  by Napoleon and by Charras                                    19

  Probability of the truth of their views                       19

  What Napoleon expected from his lieutenants                   20

  Marshal Ney sent for at the last moment                       20

  Sudden appointment of Marshal Grouchy to the
  command of the right wing                                     21

  Napoleon’s error in not taking Marshal Davout with
  him                                                           22

  Estimate of Napoleon’s own bodily and mental vigor
  at this period                                             23-24

  Portrait of Napoleon by General Foy                           23

  Estimate of the French Army                                   24

  It was not the best army which Napoleon had ever
  led                                                           24

  But it was a better army than either that of Wellington
  or of Blücher                                                 25

  Its strength and composition                               25-28

  NOTE TO CHAPTER II                                            29

  Napoleon’s health—Gardner—Ségur                               29

  The Gudin story                                               30

  Napoleon more or less a sufferer; but on the whole
  possessed of good health and strength                     30, 31

  CHAPTER III: THE ALLIED ARMIES                                32

  Strength and composition of the Prussian army             32, 33

  Location of the different corps                               33

  Temper and spirit of the army                                 34

  Marshal Blücher                                               34

  The Duke of Wellington’s army                                 34

  Its strength and composition                               35-38

  Location of the various divisions                             38

  Merits and defects of the several parts of the army           39

  The generals: the Prince of Orange                            40

  Lord Hill,—Sir T. Picton                                      40

  The Duke of Wellington                                        40

  The internal economy of the three armies                  41, 42

  That of the French army                                       41

  That of the English army                                      42

  That of the Prussian army                                     42

  NOTE TO CHAPTER III                                           43

  Defects peculiar to the inexperienced English regiments       43

  NAPOLEON                                                      44

  Napoleon assembles his army near Charleroi                44, 45

  He addresses it at Avesnes on the 14th                        45

  His letters to his brother Joseph and to Davout
  confirm the view above given of his plan of
  campaign                                                      45

  The general order of movement issued on the evening
  of the 14th of June                                       45, 46

  Accident in the transmission of his orders to General
  Vandamme on the 15th                                          46

  Desertion of General Bourmont                                 47

  The operations in the centre under Napoleon’s immediate
  supervision                                                   47

  Positions of the centre and right on the night of the
  15th and 16th                                                 48

  Operations of the left wing. Arrival of Ney               48, 49

  He pushes the divisions of Bachelu and Piré to Frasnes        49

  And leaves those of Jerome and Foy at Gosselies               49

  Backwardness of the 1st Corps                              50-52

  At 3 A.M. of the 16th one division had not arrived
  at the Sambre                                                 51

  D’Erlon to blame for this tardiness                           52

  Napoleon’s own summary of the situation on the
  evening of the 15th                                           53

  He had purposely abstained from occupying Sombreffe           53

  He expected Blücher to fight the next day for the
  preservation of his communications with Wellington            53

  He gets a few hours’ sleep during the evening of
  the 15th                                                      54

  NOTES TO CHAPTER IV                                           55

  1. Marshal Ney’s lack of a proper staff                       56

  2. Discussion of the results of the operations on
  the 15th                                            56 _et seq._

  Jomini and Charras consider them incomplete and
  unsatisfactory                                                56

  A. The question, as regards the non-occupation of
  Sombreffe on the evening of the 15th                       57-61

  Rogniat’s criticism                                           57

  Napoleon’s answer                                             57

  Charras and Jomini                                        58, 59

  Re-statement of Napoleon’s plan and expectations              59

  The plan suggested by Rogniat, Jomini and Charras
  no improvement on that of Napoleon                            60

  B. The question as regards the non-occupation of
  Quatre Bras on the evening of the 15th                     61-63

  (1.) Reasons why the effect on Blücher of the
  occupation of Quatre Bras might be different
  from that of the occupation of Sombreffe                      61

  (2.) The occupation of Quatre Bras on the evening
  of the 15th not necessary to Napoleon’s scheme                62

  3. Reasons why Napoleon blamed Ney for not
  having occupied Quatre Bras on the 15th                       63

  4. Did Napoleon give Ney a verbal order to
  seize Quatre Bras on the 15th?                                64

  The statements of Gourgaud and the Memoirs                    64

  The statement in the Bulletin of the Army, sent off
  in the evening of the 15th                                    65

  The published statement of Marshal Grouchy in
  1818 that he heard the Emperor blame Ney for
  having disobeyed his orders to seize Quatre
  Bras on the 15th                                    65, n. [122]

  The subsequent hearsay evidence of little value            66-67

  The Bulletin much the best evidence that we have           67-69

  That no mention is made in the written orders of
  the 16th of the verbal order of the day before, is
  not material                                                  69

  AND WELLINGTON                                                70

  Blücher on the 14th ordered his army to concentrate
  at Sombreffe                                                  70

  And without consulting Wellington                             70

  The nature of the understanding between them        70 _et seq._

  Müffling’s statement generally misunderstood                  71

  There was every intention to act in concert, but no
  definite agreement as to details                              72

  Bülow’s disobedience of orders                                73

  Gneisenau’s remissness in not giving him full information
  of the situation                                              73

  Wellington’s desire to protect Ghent and Brussels             74

  He retained his headquarters at Brussels                      74

  He thought it probable that the French would
  advance by way of Mons                                        74

  Hence he would not hastily move in force in the
  direction of Quatre Bras                                      75

  The Prince of Orange hears of the French advance              76

  And brings word of it to the Duke at Brussels at
  3 P.M. of the 15th                                            77

  Wellington’s first orders were issued between 5 and
  7 P.M.                                                        77

  They were simply for the concentration of the various
  divisions of his army                                         78

  But they implied that Nivelles and not Quatre Bras
  was likely to be the point of concentration for
  the whole army                                                78

  Information that Blücher is concentrating at Sombreffe
  arrives in the evening at Brussels                            78

  And Wellington issues, about 10 P.M., his “After
  Orders” which direct a general movement
  towards the east                                              79

  Difficulty of reconciling the evidence as to the subsequent
  orders of the Duke                                            79

  The Duke’s official report states that he ordered the
  whole army to Quatre Bras in the early morning
  of the 16th                                                   80

  Müffling’s statement                                          80

  The Duke’s conversation with the Duke of Richmond   81, n. [170]

  The instructions issued to Colonel De Lancey have
  been lost                                                     81

  The orders to Hill in the early morning of the 16th           82

  They indicate that no decision for a concentration
  at Quatre Bras had then been reached                          83

  This inference may be also drawn from the halt of
  Picton’s division at Waterloo                                 83

  It has even been maintained that as late as 10 A.M.
  of the 16th the Duke had not decided to hold
  Quatre Bras                                         84, n. [182]

  But the Letter of the Duke to Marshal Blücher and
  the “Disposition” of Sir W. De Lancey contradict
  this supposition                                              85

  Character and meaning of the “Disposition”                    86

  The “Disposition” evidently the foundation of the
  Letter to Blücher                                          87-88

  Taken together, they show that the Duke ordered
  a concentration of his army at Quatre Bras in
  the early morning of the 16th                                 88

  But not until after he had given the orders above
  mentioned to Hill and Picton                                  88

  His decision was probably arrived at while he
  was at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball                         89

  NOTES TO CHAPTER V                                            90

  1.  The Duke’s “Memorandum on the Battle of
  Waterloo”                                                     90

  Its surprising statements                                     90

  2.  No definite plan of action agreed on by Wellington
  and Blücher in the event of a French
  invasion                                                      91

  3.  Wellington does not deserve credit for promptness
  in deciding to concentrate at Quatre
  Bras                                                          92

  4.  Wellington’s original intention of concentrating
  at Nivelles considered                                        93

  It is approved by Colonel Maurice                             93

  A. But when Wellington knew that the French
  main army was in front of Blücher at Sombreffe
  he could run no great risk in concentrating
  at Quatre Bras                                                94

  B.  His fault was in delaying to issue the order to
  do so                                                         94

  If his orders had been strictly carried out, Ney
  would have occupied Quatre Bras without
  opposition, and been able to assist Napoleon
  at Ligny                                                      95

  C.  Napoleon attached great importance to Quatre
  Bras, and gave Ney a large force in order to
  make sure of its acquisition                              95, 96

  5.  The extent of the cantonments of the allied
  armies criticized                                             96

  Opinion of Sir James Shaw-Kennedy                             96

  Opinions of Charras and Napoleon                          97, 98

  6.  Napoleon’s criticism on Blücher for fixing Sombreffe
  as the point of concentration for his
  army, well supported                                          98

  But his censure of Wellington for concentrating at
  Quatre Bras undeserved                                        99

  Because this decision of Wellington’s was based
  on Napoleon’s having already concentrated in
  front of Sombreffe                                       99, 100

  CHAPTER VI: THE DUTCH-BELGIANS                               101

  Prince Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar occupies Quatre
  Bras in the afternoon of the 15th                            101

  And is attacked by Reille’s advance between 5 and
  6 P.M.                                                       101

  The other brigade of Perponcher’s division, Bylandt’s,
  ordered there also                                           102

  The Prince of Orange arrives at Quatre Bras at 6
  A.M. of the 16th                                            102

  NOTE TO CHAPTER VI                                           103

  Maurice’s criticism on the occupation of Quatre
  Bras by the Dutch-Belgian generals                           103

  But the fact that they knew of the concentration of
  the French and Prussian armies near Sombreffe
  fully justifies their course                            103, 104

  OF JUNE:  WELLINGTON                                         105

  The Duke leaves Brussels about 7.30 A.M. of the
  16th                                                         105

  And rides at once to Quatre Bras                             106

  His letter to Blücher                                        106

  Comparison of the statements in the Letter with
  those in the “Disposition” of Sir W. De
  Lancey                                                   107-108

  He evidently accepted the “Disposition” as conclusive        108

  He rides over to Brye to confer with Blücher                 108

  And returns to Quatre Bras between 2 and 3 P.M.              109

  No doubt expecting to find a large part of his army
  there                                                        109

  Delbrück’s theory, that the Duke deliberately
  misrepresented the situation of his army, entirely
  unsupported                                             109, 110

  NOTES TO CHAPTER VII                                         111

  1.  Actual positions of Wellington’s divisions at
  7 A.M. of the 16th                                       111-113

  2.  Whether, if the Duke had known the truth, he
  would have stayed at Quatre Bras,—_quære_                    114

  3.  Wellington badly served by his subordinates in
  the matter of the transmission of intelligence
  from the front                                           114-115

  OF JUNE: NEY                                                 116

  Ney returns from Charleroi to Gosselies at 2 A.M.            116

  And at first orders Reille to set out at once for
  Frasnes                                                      116

  But afterwards changes his mind, and allows Reille,
  with the divisions of Jerome and Foy, to remain
  in Gosselies                                                 117

  He ought to have sent them to Frasnes at once                117

  And to have filled their places at Gosselies with the
  divisions of the 1st Corps                                   118

  He does nothing to bring up the 1st Corps till late
  in the forenoon                                              119

  Soult’s first order to him on the 16th                       120

  Received about 6 A.M., and answered before 7 A.M.            120

  Ney then returns to Frasnes, leaving Reille at Gosselies,
  with instructions to march to the front at
  once on receipt of orders from army headquarters             120

  About 9 A.M. Reille receives word from Girard
  that the Prussians are massing at Fleurus                    121

  And at 10 A.M. he reads the Emperor’s letter to
  Ney, brought by Flahaut                                      121

  But defers his march to Frasnes till he gets further
  orders from Ney                                              122

  He gets further orders, and leaves Gosselies at 11.45
  A.M.                                                         122

  Soult’s second order directs Ney to march on Quatre
  Bras                                                         122

  The Emperor’s letter to Ney                                  123

  The 1st and 2d Corps and Kellermann’s cavalry are
  all put at Ney’s disposal                                    123

  The third order to Ney from Soult that morning          123, 124

  Its peremptory character                                     124

  Ney refuses fully to obey his orders                         124

  His unwillingness to take the risks which they involve       124

  He proposes to keep half his force in reserve                125

  NOTES TO CHAPTER VIII                                        126

  1.  Summary of Ney’s conduct on the morning of
  the 16th                                                     126

  2.  He evidently did not intend to obey his orders
  strictly                                                     127

  3.  The light his conduct on the 16th throws on his
  failure to seize Quatre Bras the day before                  127

  4.  No criticism can be made on Napoleon and Soult           128

  5.  Why Napoleon did not send Ney an earlier order
  to seize Quatre Bras, answered in Chapter IX                 128

  OF JUNE: NAPOLEON                                            129

  Ney and Napoleon at Charleroi during the night of
  the 15th and 16th                                            129

  Napoleon, impressed by the backwardness of
  d’Erlon, decides to wait until the left wing is
  ready                                                        130

  The formal order to Ney to seize Quatre Bras not
  given until Ney’s report of the state of his command
  had arrived—between 8 and 9 A.M.                             131

  The advance of the centre and right also delayed to
  conform to the movements of the left                    131, 132

  Napoleon’s expectations as to the forwardness of
  Ney’s command                                           132, 133

  Napoleon prepares and sends letters to Ney and
  Grouchy, in view of the possible withdrawal
  of Marshal Blücher                                      134, 135

  He seems to have thought this probable                       136

  But he made every preparation for encountering the
  enemy in force both at Sombreffe and at Quatre
  Bras                                                         137

  The 6th Corps regarded as a reserve for the whole
  army                                                         138

  NOTES TO CHAPTER IX                                          139

  1. The censure generally passed on Napoleon for
  his delays on the morning of the 16th not
  deserved                                                     139

  Opinions of Wellington and Clausewitz              139, n. [310]

  2. Ney not responsible for the backwardness of
  the 1st Corps during the night                               140

  3. Ney’s inactivity on returning to Gosselies                140

  4. No evidence thus far of indolence or irresolution
  on the part of Napoleon                                      140

  5. Error of supposing that he ever thought of
  pressing on to Brussels between the two allied
  armies—Chesney and Clinton                                   141

  His letters to Ney and Grouchy conclusive as
  to this                                                 141, 142

  His object was to destroy the allied armies in
  succession—Jomini                                            142

  ASSURANCE OF SUPPORT                                         143

  Blücher concentrated his army without receiving
  any assurance of support from Wellington                     143

  He got Wellington’s letter about noon of the 16th            144

  Wellington arrived at Brye at 1 P.M.                         144

  Their conversation                                           144

  Wellington gave no unconditional promise                     145

  Blücher’s decision to fight was arrived at before he
  heard from or saw Wellington                                 146

  And on entirely independent grounds                          147

  NOTE TO CHAPTER X                                            148

  Blücher’s reasons for deciding to accept battle at
  Ligny as given by Damitz                                     148

  He was unwilling to retreat                                  148

  Suggestions of Ollech and Delbrück not of any
  value here                                                   149

  Blücher expected to concentrate his whole army of
  120,000 men                                                  149

  And was unwilling to change his decision when he
  found he could not count upon Bülow’s arrival                150

  CHAPTER XI: THE BATTLE OF LIGNY                              151

  Position of the Prussian army at Ligny                       151

  Napoleon examines the position                               152

  The most obvious plan of battle was to turn the
  Prussian right                                               152

  But Napoleon decides to attack the centre                    153

  Positions taken by the French                           153, 154

  The 2 P.M. order sent to Ney to coöperate with
  the main army                                                154

  The battle begins at 2.30 by attacking Ligny and
  St. Amand                                                    154

  The 3.15 P.M. order to Ney                                   155

  Napoleon determines about half-past five o’clock to
  put in the Guard                                             156

  The unexpected appearance of d’Erlon’s Corps
  causes a delay of nearly two hours                           157

  The attack by the Guard breaks the Prussian centre           158

  The Prussians fall back to Brye and Sombreffe                159

  Losses of the Prussians and French                           159

  The non-employment of the 6th Corps                     159, 160

  Extent of the victory                                   160, 161

  It was not equal to Napoleon’s hopes, but it had
  disposed of the Prussians for a time                    161, 162

  NOTES TO CHAPTER XI                                          163

  1. Napoleon’s delay in beginning the battle                  163

  His reasons considered                                       164

  2. His plan of battle criticised by Rogniat and
  others                                                       164

  Napoleon’s reply to Rogniat                                  165

  His reasons for taking the course he did                     165

  The criticism of Davout and Clausewitz considered            166

  3. Clausewitz’s doubts as to the decisive result of
  Ney’s movement                                               167

  The question fully stated and Napoleon’s expectations
  justified                                                    167

  4. What Napoleon had a right to expect from Ney              168

  5. Whether Napoleon’s plan was the best, considering
  that he could not absolutely rely on
  Ney’s coöperation                                            169

  6. Why Napoleon did not order d’Erlon to remain
  and take part in the battle                                  170

  He must have assumed that d’Erlon had come upon
  the field for this purpose                                   170

  And there was not time to send him orders                    170

  7. Napoleon’s skill well displayed at Ligny                  171

  Clausewitz’s review of the battle                        171-173

  He points out that Napoleon was more economical
  in the use of his troops than Blücher                        171

  Severe and unwarranted criticism of Marshal Davout
  on Napoleon’s tactics                                        173

  Napoleon not responsible for the error which
  brought d’Erlon on the field                                 174

  8. Whether Napoleon was wise in arresting the
  progress of the battle on the appearance of the
  strange corps (d’Erlon’s),—_Quære_                       174-175

  9. Napoleon to be censured for not having made
  use of the 6th Corps                                         175

  BRAS                                                         176

  _Résumé_ of Marshal Ney’s doings in the forenoon
  of the 16th                                                  176

  He should have ordered Jerome and Foy to Gosselies
  in the early morning                                         177

  He scattered his command instead of uniting it, as
  he was ordered to do                                         177

  He begins the action at 2 P.M., with the divisions
  of Bachelu, Foy and Piré                                     178

  Jerome’s division arrives at 3 P.M.                          178

  Wellington returns to Quatre Bras at 2.30 P.M.               178

  Picton’s division arrives at 3.30 P.M.                       178

  Alten’s division arrives at 5 P.M.                           179

  At this hour Ney has only the 2d Corps on the field          179

  Reasons for the non-arrival of the 1st Corps                 179

  Its delay in starting                                        180

  Its leading division—Durutte’s—turned off by an
  aide of the Emperor’s from Frasnes towards St.
  Amand                                                        180

  The corps is seen approaching St. Amand about
  5 P.M.                                                       180

  It must, therefore, have left the Charleroi road at
  Frasnes about 4.30 P.M.                                      181

  This was two hours and a half after Jerome’s division
  had passed through Frasnes                                   181

  Responsibility of Ney and d’Erlon for this extraordinary
  state of things                                              181

  Marshal Ney not to blame for recalling D’Erlon to
  Quatre Bras                                                  181

  It was probably the staff-officer who carried the
  2 P.M. order who turned the 1st Corps off from
  the turnpike                                                 182

  For the non-arrival of Kellermann’s cavalry Ney
  alone was responsible                                        182

  He ordered it to remain in the rear at Frasnes and
  Liberchies                                              182, 183

  In this he deliberately disobeyed orders                     183

  He finally, at 6 P.M., puts in one brigade of
  Kellermann’s Corps                                           183

  Which is at first successful, but is afterwards driven
  back with loss                                               184

  The French retire to Frasnes                                 184

  The casualties on both sides                                 184

  If d’Erlon’s Corps had not been turned off, it is
  probable that Wellington would have been
  badly beaten                                            184, 185

  If Ney had concentrated his whole command between
  12 M. and 2 P.M., Quatre Bras would
  probably have been evacuated                            185, 186

  In this case Ney could have spared 10,000 or 20,000
  men to assist Napoleon                                       186

  Criticism on Marshal Ney’s management                        186

  Wellington’s skilful handling of his troops             187, 188

  NOTES TO CHAPTER XII                                         189

  1. Charras’ erroneous statements as to Ney’s orders
  in regard to the employment of Kellermann’s
  cavalry                                                      189

  2. Napoleon’s mistakes in his account of the
  matter in his Memoirs                                        190

  But his principal censure on Ney for not having got
  his command together and used it as a whole,
  is fully borne out                                           191

  3. Curious error of Siborne’s                                191

  4. Jomini’s defence of Reille’s delay to march to
  Frasnes                                                      192

  It overlooks the necessity of occupying Frasnes in
  any event, and therefore cannot be accepted                  193

  5. Baudus’ account of his carrying an order from
  Soult to d’Erlon                                             193

  Reasons for thinking that this order must have been
  directed to Ney                                              194

  Baudus probably carried the duplicate of the 3.15
  P.M. order to Ney                                            195

  The evidence on certain minor points conflicting             196

  JUNE: NAPOLEON                                               197

  _Résumé_ of the campaign up to date                          197

  Napoleon had no reason for delay                             197

  He had a disposable army composed almost entirely
  of fresh troops                                              197

  Reasons for thinking that the Prussians might soon
  recover from the defeat of Ligny                             198

  Opportunity open to Napoleon of overwhelming
  that part of Wellington’s army which was at
  Quatre Bras                                                  199

  Napoleon’s inactivity on this morning                        200

  Probably the result of fatigue                               200

  Ney sends no report to the Emperor                           200

  Soult’s first order to him to move on Quatre Bras            201

  Napoleon presumes that Wellington has long since
  fallen back                                                  201

  Napoleon’s lack of energy and activity this morning          202

  Before noon, however, the 6th Corps and the Guard
  are ordered to Marbais                                       203

  Second order to Ney at noon                                  203

  Girard’s division of the 2d Corps left at Ligny              203

  Napoleon’s reasons for supposing that Blücher had
  retired on Namur                                        203, 204

  Of which the principal was that he had on the day
  before employed so large a part of his army in
  holding the Namur road                                       204

  Pajol captures some prisoners and a battery on the
  road to Namur                                                205

  Napoleon’s neglect to send out cavalry to explore
  the country to the north                                     205

  Napoleon determines to send Grouchy with the 3d
  and 4th Corps to pursue the Prussians                        206

  His verbal orders to Grouchy, and Grouchy’s remonstrances    207

  Grouchy’s points not well taken                              207

  Grouchy’s denial that he ever received on that day
  a written order                                              208

  Berton reports a whole Prussian corps at Gembloux            209

  The Emperor, then, in the absence of Soult, dictates
  to Bertrand an order to Grouchy                              209

  Full text of this order                                 209, 210

  This order changes entirely the task assigned to
  Grouchy                                                      210

  He is to ascertain whether the Prussians intend to
  separate from the English or to unite with them
  to cover Brussels or Liége in trying the fate of
  another battle                                               211

  And is left full discretion as to his course in either
  event                                                        211

  Strength and composition of his command                      212

  He reaches Gembloux that evening                             212

  And writes to the Emperor a report in which he
  says he shall try to separate the Prussians from
  Wellington                                              212, 213

  Strength of Wellington’s force at Quatre Bras                214

  At Quatre Bras the Emperor in person leads the
  pursuit of the English                                       214

  His remark to d’Erlon                                        215

  Interesting picture of the march by the author of
  “Napoléon à Waterloo”                                        215

  Skirmish at Genappe                                          216

  The English take up positions south of the hamlet of
  Mont St. Jean                                                216

  NOTES TO CHAPTER XIII                                        217

  1. Napoleon not to be blamed for not having pursued
  the Prussians in the early morning of the
  17th. Clausewitz’s opinion                                   217

  2. Napoleon probably would not have detached
  Grouchy had he known that the Prussians had
  retired on Wavre                                             218

  3. Effect on the contemporary historians of
  Grouchy’s concealment of the Bertrand order—_e. g._,
  on Clausewitz                                                218

  4. Curious survival of this effect on historians who
  wrote after the order had come to light                      219

  On Chesney                                                   219

  On Maurice                                                   219

  On Hamley                                                    221

  On Hooper                                                    222

  5. Whether the Bertrand order was sufficiently
  explicit. Charras’ opinion                                   222

  6. The reasons for directing Grouchy on Gembloux
  considered                                                   223

  7. Valuable suggestions of Maurice as to the reasons
  which induced Napoleon to suppose that
  the Prussians had retreated to Namur                         223

  8. It was an error for Napoleon to trust to the
  probabilities, when so much was at stake                224, 225

  BLÜCHER AND WELLINGTON                                       226

  Zieten and Pirch I. fall back towards Wavre                  226

  Renunciation of the line of Namur                            226

  But a general concentration at Wavre not necessarily
  implied                                                      226

  Although it was rendered possible by Gneisenau’s
  action                                                       227

  Gneisenau unwilling to renounce all hope of union
  with the English                                             228

  Although he recognized the difficulties attending it         228

  And doubted whether he could rely on Wellington              229

  Blücher carried off the field to Mellery                     229

  Hardinge’s story of the discussion between Blücher
  and Gneisenau                                                230

  The Prussian generals decide to march to join Wellington     230

  Movements of Thielemann and Bülow                            231

  Admirable conduct of the Prussian corps-commanders           231

  The Prussians fall back on Wavre                             232

  Leaving a detachment at Mont St. Guibert                     232

  The artillery trains arrive at Wavre at 5 P.M.               232

  Wellington at Quatre Bras on the morning of the
  17th                                                         233

  His message to Blücher sent through Lieut. Massow            233

  Blücher replies about midnight, promising support            234

  Wellington’s uncertainty during the day and evening
  of the 17th                                                  234

  The risk which he ran                                   235, 236

  NOTES TO CHAPTER XIV                                         237

  1. Maurice’s correction of Siborne                           237

  2. The story of the Duke’s ride to Wavre on the
  evening of the 17th                                      238-242

  Lockhart’s brief statement                                   239

  Lord Ellesmere’s denial of Lockhart’s statement              239

  The story as told by the Rev. Julian Charles Young       239-241

  Mr. Coltman’s recollection of his father’s statement
  about it                                                     241

  Reasons for rejecting the story                              242

  3. Napoleon’s criticism on the course of Wellington
  and Blücher after the battle of Ligny                        243

  Clausewitz denies that Wellington ran any risk               243

  His view not tenable                                         244

  The question of the advisability of running the risk
  stated                                                       244

  GROUCHY AND BLÜCHER                                          245

  Grouchy’s letter from Gembloux of 10 P.M. not
  really satisfactory                                          245

  But Napoleon and Soult do not give him further
  instructions or any information                              246

  Napoleon thinks Grouchy may arrive by the bridge
  of Moustier and sends Marbot to look out for him             247

  Grouchy was acting under the Bertrand order                  248

  Which laid upon him the task of ascertaining the
  intentions of the Prussians                                  249

  And then left him entire liberty of action                   249

  Errors of Gardner and Maurice as to this latter point   249, 250

  Grouchy at 10 P.M. of the 17th issues his orders
  for the next day to move on Sart-à-Walhain at
  6 and 8 A.M.                                                 250

  But at daybreak he has learned that the Prussians
  had retired on Brussels                                      251

  Yet he does not change his orders                            252

  He should have marched for the bridge of Moustier
  at daybreak                                                  253

  Opinion of Jomini                                            253

  Opinion of Clausewitz                                        253

  Opinion of Charras                                           253

  Grouchy neglects to reconnoitre to his left                  254

  He arrives at Walhain and stops at the house of
  M. Hollert, a notary                                         255

  He writes a despatch to the Emperor                          255

  Analysis of this despatch                               255, 256

  The sound of the cannon of Waterloo is heard                 256

  Grouchy’s plain duty                                         256

  Gérard’s advice                                              256

  Grouchy refuses to follow it                                 257

  And resumes his march on Wavre                               257

  Condition of the roads and bridges                           258

  Grouchy might have crossed the Dyle after having
  arrived at La Baraque                                        259

  Three general misconceptions                                 259

  1. As to the place where the sound of the cannon
  was heard                                                    259

  2. As to the necessity of marching by way of Mont
  St. Guibert                                                  259

  3. As to the resistance to be expected at the bridges        260

  Grouchy might have been across by 4 P.M.                     260

  Positions of the IVth and IId Prussian Corps at
  that moment                                                  261

  And of the Ist Corps                                         261

  Probability that Grouchy would have arrested the
  march of Bülow and Pirch I.                                  261

  Zieten’s march, however, would not have been
  interfered with                                              261

  Bülow reaches St. Lambert at noon                            262

  Pirch I. and Zieten do not leave Wavre till nearly
  noon                                                         262

  Tardiness of these movements                                 263

  Accounted for by Gneisenau’s distrust of Wellington          263

  His postscript to the letter to Müffling                     263

  His doubts as to Wellington’s accepting battle dispelled
  by the sound of the cannon of Waterloo                       264

  The combat at Wavre                                     264, 265

  The bridge of Limale carried by the French between
  6 and 7 P.M.                                                 265

  Soult’s 10 A.M. order to Grouchy                             265

  Analysis of this order                                       266

  Its main object                                              266

  It furnishes no justification for Grouchy’s course           267

  Inconsistency between this despatch and the instructions
  given to Marbot                                          268-270

  The despatch probably not revised by Napoleon                270

  The 1 P.M. order to Grouchy                             270, 271

  Both despatches show that Napoleon was relying on
  Grouchy                                                      272

  The postscript to the second shows that the Emperor
  had become alarmed                                           272

  NOTES TO CHAPTER XV                                          273

  1. The wisdom of detaching Grouchy with 33,000
  men considered                                               273

  This course was decided on when it was believed
  that the Prussians had retreated on Namur                    273

  For Grouchy was not needed for the battle with the
  Anglo-Dutch army                                             274

  But the Bertrand order shows that Napoleon feared
  that Blücher might have undertaken to join
  Wellington                                                   274

  In which case he would have had a long start by
  the time when Grouchy could move                             275

  Yet Napoleon adhered to the original decision to
  send Grouchy off, although he gave him a distinct
  warning                                                      276

  Risks incurred by this course                                276

  It would have been far safer to have taken Grouchy
  and his two corps with the main army                         277

  2.  Kennedy’s reason against the detachment of
  Grouchy                                                      277

  But it was not to beat Wellington that Grouchy was
  needed, but to keep off Blücher                              278

  3.  Importance of treating independently of the
  conduct of Napoleon and Grouchy                              279

  4.  Hamley’s opinion as to Grouchy’s proper course
  given and commented on                                       280

  5.  The probable results, if Grouchy had marched
  for Moustier at daybreak                                     281

  It would seem that he might easily have concealed
  the object of his march                                      281

  Charras, however, is of a different opinion                  282

  Examination of his views                                     282

  Probability that Grouchy could have effected a
  crossing at Moustier and Ottignies by 11 A.M.                283

  And that Bülow would have stopped to concentrate
  his corps and fight                                          283

  And that Pirch I. and Thielemann would have reinforced
  Bülow                                                        284

  Zieten, however, if he chose to do so, might have
  continued his march                                          284

  6.  Charras’ view as to the difficulty of Grouchy’s
  effecting a crossing after he had arrived at La
  Baraque                                                      284

  His statements as to the Prussian force in the
  vicinity of the lower bridges unsupported                    285

  7.  It is generally stated that Grouchy was at
  Sart-à-Walhain when he heard the sound of the
  cannon of Waterloo                                           286

  Statements of the different narratives                  286, 287

  He was, however, at Walhain, at the Chateau
  Marette, then the residence of M. Hollert, the
  Notary of Nil St. Vincent                               287, 288

  CHAPTER XVI: THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO                          289

  Napoleon examines the allied position at 1 A.M.              289

  Early in the morning he again goes to the front to
  see if the English are there                                 290

  His expectation of victory                                   290

  The _rôle_ which he expected Grouchy to play                 290

  He does not seem to have drawn the very natural
  inference that Wellington was expecting
  Blücher; or, if he did, he certainly did not act
  upon it                                                      291

  The rain ceased about 8 A.M.                                 291

  The original intention was to begin the battle at
  9 o’clock                                                    292

  But Drouot suggested delay and Napoleon acquiesced           292

  Napoleon forms the army in three lines                       292

  His delay in beginning the action criticised                 293

  And his neglect to send word to Grouchy                      294

  Every hour’s delay a gain to Wellington                      294

  Whose army was unequal to the shock without the
  assistance of the Prussians                                  294

  Kennedy’s explanation of Wellington’s course                 295

  Risks that Wellington took                                   295

  Wellington had had the field surveyed                        296

  Description of the English position                          297

  Composition and strength of Wellington’s army                298

  Positions of the various troops                              299

  Hougomont and La Haye Sainte                                 300

  Strength and composition of the French army                  301

  Positions of the corps                                       301

  Napoleon’s plan of battle                                    302

  Establishment of a great battery east of the Charleroi
  turnpike                                                     302

  It has been universally commended                            303

  The attack on Hougomont, ordered as a preliminary
  to the main attack, which was to be on the centre, very
  rashly and carelessly conducted                         303, 304

  The assault by d’Erlon’s Corps                           304-307

  Formation of the troops                                      305

  No assignable reason for such a peculiar and unwieldy
  formation                                                    305

  The attack is made and repulsed                              307

  Napoleon sees the Prussians on the heights of St.
  Lambert                                                      307

  Capture of La Haye Sainte                                    307

  The great cavalry attacks on the English centre              308

  They were made against troops in good condition to
  stand them                                                   308

  Napoleon is called away at 4 P.M. to take charge
  of the resistance to the Prussians                           308

  Necessity of maintaining the Charleroi road and
  Planchenoit against their assaults                           309

  Napoleon’s personal supervision needed                       309

  The great cavalry charges                                    309

  They accomplish little and the cavalry is ruined             310

  French batteries placed to the south of La Haye
  Sainte enfilade the English line west of the
  turnpike                                                     310

  But this was only done to a limited extent                   310

  The attack by the heavy cavalry of the Guard                 311

  Napoleon succeeds in repulsing Bülow                         311

  The battle against the English not actively carried
  on after the cessation of the cavalry attacks                312

  But the English line at this period becomes from
  various causes very weak. Kennedy’s description
  of it                                                        312

  What Napoleon might have accomplished against
  the English had he not been fighting the Prussians
  at this time                                                 313

  The fight with the Prussians terminated, Napoleon
  returns to the front                                         314

  Wellington has made every effort to restore his
  line; its condition to the west of the pike                  314

  Ney is ordered to make preparations for an attack
  to be made by the Imperial Guard                             315

  Disposition at this time of the various battalions of
  the Guard                                               315, 316

  Strength and composition of the attacking force              316

  The Emperor leads up and hands to Ney two regiments
  of grenadiers and two of chasseurs                           317

  They are formed in columns of battalions and march
  in _échelon_, the right in advance                           317

  Premature attack of a body of French horse on the
  left of the Guard                                            317

  No support furnished by Reille                               318

  Admirable conduct of d’Erlon                                 318

  The leading battalions of the Guard strike Maitland’s
  brigade of guards                                            319

  Captain Powell’s account                                     319

  The leading battalions of the Guard are beaten               320

  General Maitland’s account                                   321

  Skilful and gallant conduct of Sir C. Halkett                322

  The left and rear battalions of the Guard continue
  to advance                                                   323

  But are attacked in flank by the 52d regiment                324

  And are completely overthrown                                324

  The failure of the attack largely due to the absence
  of supports                                                  324

  Arrival of the van of Zieten’s Corps on the field            324

  The French right wing retires in confusion                   325

  Charge of the cavalry-brigades of Vivian and Vandeleur       325

  Exertions of Napoleon to restore order                       325

  He is finally forced to retire                               326

  The French retreat blocked at Genappe                        326

  The result of the battle due to the intervention of
  the Prussians                                                327

  Probable course of Zieten if Grouchy had detained
  Bülow and Pirch I.                                           328

  Grouchy, however, not solely responsible for the defeat      328

  NOTES TO CHAPTER XVI                                         329

  1. The French tactics generally censured                     329

  Napoleon and Ney both to blame                               329

  Injurious effect on the French chances of success of
  Napoleon’s absence at Planchenoit                            330

  The attack on Hougomont criticised                           330

  The defence of Planchenoit praised                           331

  2. The English tactics exceedingly good                      331

  3. The attack of the Imperial Guard                          331

  A. No foundation for the hypothesis of two columns           332

  B. The claims of the 52d regiment considered                 333

  The notion that it was only the skirmishers of the
  Imperial Guard who were driven off by Maitland’s
  brigade refuted by the testimony of eye
  witnesses                                                    334

  The great credit due to Colborne                             335

  4. Napoleon’s reasons for ordering the attack considered     336

  Zieten’s intervention not anticipated                        336

  The English reported as growing weaker                       337

  Ney ordered and expected to support the attack by
  Bachelu’s division and by cavalry on the left                337

  Ney disappoints the Emperor’s expectations in both
  respects                                                     337

  The charge of the Guard might have been properly
  supported                                                    338

  Contrast between Ney and Wellington                          338

  Note on Ney’s state of mind                        338, n. [777]

  5.  Wellington’s course in leaving 18,000 men at
  Hal and Tubize, not to be defended                           339

  6.  As to the effect upon the Prussians of the appearance
  of Grouchy’s force marching from
  the Dyle                                                     339

  7.  The rout of the French army due to the irruption
  of Zieten’s Corps                                            340

  The comparative weakness of the Anglo-Dutch
  army at the close of the action                              341

  8.  Relative responsibility of Napoleon and Grouchy
  for the intervention of the Prussians                        341

  Both are responsible for it                                  342

  CHAPTER XVII: CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS                        343

  The principal points treated of in this book             343-350


  On some characteristics of Napoleon’s Memoirs                351

  Injustice done Napoleon by Charras and others                351

  Peculiarity of Napoleon’s memory                             352

  He recalls his expectations, but not the tenor of the
  orders which he gave                                         352

  Illustration from the orders sent to Ney on the afternoon
  of the 16th                                                  352

  The same thing probably true as to the order sent
  to Grouchy                                                   353

  The orders given in the “Memoirs” were probably
  never sent                                                   354

  And the Bertrand order, which was sent, was forgotten        354


  On Marshal Grouchy and the Bertrand order                    355

  Denials by Marshal Grouchy in his pamphlets published
  in Philadelphia that he received on the
  17th any written order                                       355

  He relied on the fact that no copy of the Bertrand
  order was among the major-general’s papers                   356

  Publication of the order in 1842                             357

  It is now recognized in the Grouchy Memoirs                  357

  Original text of the Bertrand Order                          358

  Grouchy’s report to the Emperor dated Gembloux,
  10 P.M., June 17, given in full                              359

  It is in reality a reply to the Bertrand order               360

  Mutilation by Marshal Grouchy of the text of this
  report                                                       360

  Object of the change                                         360

  No doubt as to the correct reading                           361


  I. Napoleon’s Address to his army, June 14, 1815             362

  II. Order of movement, June 14, 1815                         363

  III. Order to the Count Reille, 8.30 A.M., June 15, 1815     366

  IV. Order to the Count d’Erlon, 10 A.M., June 1815           367

  V. Order to the Count d’Erlon, 3 P.M., June 15, 1815         367

  VI. Subsequent Order to the Count d’Erlon, June 15, 1815     367

  VII. Order to Gen. Noguès, 3 A.M., June 16, 1815             368

  VIII. Bulletin of the army, June 15, 1815, evening           369

  IX. Wellington’s first Memorandum of Orders, June 15, 1815   370

  X. Wellington’s letter to the Duc de Feltre, 10 P.M.,
  June 15, 1815                                                371

  XI. Wellington’s “After Orders,” 10 P.M., June 15, 1815      371

  XII. Extract from Wellington’s Report of the
  Operations, June 19, 1815                                    372

  XIII. Wellington’s Conversation with the Duke
  of Richmond, June 16, 1815                                   373

  XIV. Wellington’s Orders to Lord Hill, June 16, 1815         374

  XV. Extract from Wellington’s “Memorandum
  on the Battle of Waterloo”                                   374

  XVI. Wellington’s Letter to Blücher, 10.30 A.M.,
  June 16, 1815                                                376

  XVII. Soult’s first order to Ney, June 16, 1815              377

  XVIII. The Emperor’s Letter to Ney, June 16, 1815            377

  XIX. Count Reille’s Letter to Ney, June 16, 1815             379

  XX. Ney’s Orders to Reille and d’Erlon, June 16, 1815        379

  XXI. Soult’s formal Order to Ney to carry Quatre
  Bras, June 16, 1815                                          380

  XXII. Soult’s second Order to Ney to carry Quatre
  Bras, June 16, 1815                                          381

  XXIII. Flahaut’s Letter to the Duke of Elchingen             382

  XXIV. Napoleon’s Letter to Grouchy, June 16, 1815            382

  XXV. The 2 P.M.—June 16th—Order to Ney                       383

  XXVI. The 3.15 P.M.—June 16th—Order to Ney                   384

  XXVII. Soult’s Letter to Ney, June 17, 1815                  384

  XXVIII. Soult’s Order to Ney, 12 M., June 17, 1815           385

  XXIX. Capt Bowles’ story of Wellington at Quatre
  Bras, June 17, 1815                                          386

  XXX. Grouchy’s report to Napoleon from Sart-à-Walhain,
  11 A.M., June 18, 1815                                       386

  XXXI. General Order of preparation for the Battle
  of Waterloo, June 18, 1815                                   387

  XXXII. Order for the attack to begin at 1 P.M.,
  June 18, 1815                                                388

  XXXIII. The 10 A.M.—June 18th—Order to Grouchy               388

  XXXIV. The 1 P.M.—June 18th—Order to Grouchy                 389


(At end of this volume.)





History of Europe from the commencement of the French Revolution to
the Restoration of the Bourbons in 1815. By Archibald Alison, LL. D.
New Edition with Portraits. Vols. XIII and XIV. Wm. Blackwood & Sons,
Edinburgh & London, MDCCCL.


An Historical Sketch of the Campaign of 1815, illustrated by Plans of
the Operations and of the Battles of Quatre-Bras, Ligny and Waterloo.
By Captain Batty, of the First or Grenadier Guards. 2d Edition,
Considerably Enlarged. London, 1820.


Études sur Napoléon. Par le lieutenant-colonel de Baudus, ancien
aide-de-camp des Maréchaux Bessières et Soult. 2 Vols. Paris:
Debécourt: 1841.


Précis, historique, militaire et critique, des batailles de Fleurus et
de Waterloo. Avec une Carte. Par le Maréchal-de-Camp Berton. Paris:
Delaunay. 1818.


Prepared, with critical estimates, in October, 1875, by Justin Winsor,
now Librarian of Harvard College, in Bulletin No. 35 of the Public
Library of the City of Boston, of which Mr. Winsor was then Librarian.
It includes a notice of Maps and Plans.

Colonel Chesney gives a list of works cited by himself just after the
Table of Contents in his Waterloo Lectures.

Colonel Maurice in his book entitled “War,”—London and New York:
Macmillan & Co., 1891,—gives in the Appendix, pp. 128 _et seq._, a
list of books relating to the campaign of Waterloo,—with comments and


Wellington: or Public and Private Life of Arthur, first Duke of
Wellington. By G. Lathom Browne. London, W. H. Allen & Co. 1888.


Journal of R. H. Bullock, 11th Light Dragoons. English Historical
Magazine. July, 1888.



1. L’Ode sur la Bataille de Waterloo ou de Mont St. Jean:

2. Relation Belge sur la Bataille de Waterloo, et de la part qu’y a
prise la troisième division militaire du Royaume des Pays Bas:

3. Relation Française, par un témoin oculaire:

4. Campagne de Walcheren et d’Anvers; 1809:

5. Relation Anglaise, traduite sur le texte, publiée à Londres en
Septembre dernier.

Bruxelles, 1816. (With a portrait of the Prince of Orange, and maps.)


Histoire de la Campagne de 1815: Waterloo: Par le Lt-Colonel Charras.
5me Édition, revue et augmentée. Avec un Atlas nouveau. Leipzig: F. A.
Brockhaus. (No date.)


Waterloo Lectures: A Study of the Campaign of 1815. By Colonel Charles
C. Chesney, R. E., late Professor of Military Art and History in the
Staff College. Third Edition. London: Longmans, Green & Co. 1874.


Letter to his father written by Major Chatham Horace Churchill, of the
1st Foot Guards, Aide to General Lord Hill. (Waterloo Roll Call, pp.
2, 14, 92, and Appendix.) The letter was first printed in the Life
of Sir William Napier, pp. 175 _et seq._ It was reprinted, with some
omissions and some additions, in an English magazine called Atalanta,
in November, 1887, where it erroneously said to have been “hitherto
unpublished.” The writer’s name is not given. Mr. Dalton, the compiler
of the Waterloo Roll Call, states in the Appendix (p. 235) that a copy
of the letter is in his possession. It would be well worth while to
republish it textually with notes.


Der Feldzug von 1815 in Frankreich. Hinterlassenes Werk des Generals
Carl von Clausewitz.

Zweite Auflage. Berlin: Ferd. Dümmler’s Verlagsbuchhandlung: 1862.


The War in the Peninsula, and Wellington’s Campaigns in France and
Belgium. With original maps and plans. By H. R. Clinton. London:
Frederick Warne & Co. 1878.

  CORRESPONDANCE de Napoléon 1er, publiée par ordre de l’Empereur
  Napoléon III.


Tome XXXL Œuvres de Napoléon 1er à St. Hélène. Paris: Imprimerie
Impériale. 1869.


A Voice from Waterloo: a history of the battle, &c. By Sergeant-major
Edward Cotton, late 7th Hussars.

Fifth Edition, revised and enlarged. Printed for the author. London. R.
Green. 1854.


Plan du Champ de Bataille de Waterloo. Bruxelles: 1816.

DAMITZ: Histoire de la Campagne de 1815: Par le major de Damitz,
officier prussien, d’après les documents du Général Grolman,
Quartier-Maître-Général de l’armée prussienne en 1815.

Traduite de l’Allemand par Léon Griffon. Avec Plans. 2 Volumes. Paris.
Correard. 1840.


See La Tour d’Auvergne.


Histoire de la Vie Militaire, Politique, et Administrative du Maréchal
Davout, Duc de Auerstaedt, Prince d’Eckmühl. D’après les documents
officiels. Par L. J. Gabriel de Chenier. Paris: Gosse, Marchal & Cie:


Documents inédits sur la campagne de 1815, publiés par le Duc
d’Elchingen. Paris. 1840.


Le Drame de Waterloo: Grande Restitution Historique. Avec un plan. 3me
edition. Paris: Au Bureau de la Revue Spiritualiste. 1868.


Le Maréchal Drouet, Comte d’Erlon. Notice sur la vie militaire, écrite
par lui-même et dediée à ses amis. Publiée par sa famille. Avec
portrait. Paris: Gustave Barba: Libraire Éditeur. 34 Rue Mazarine. 1844.


Essays on History, Biography, Geography, Engineering, &c. Contributed
to the Quarterly Review: By the late Earl of Ellesmere. London: John
Murray. 1858.


See Grouchy.

FRASER: Letters written during the Peninsula and Waterloo Campaigns. By
Sir A. S. Fraser. London: 1859.


Words on Wellington—the Duke-Waterloo—the Ball. By Sir Wm. Fraser,
Baronet. London. John C. Nimmo: 1889.


Quatre Bras, Ligny and Waterloo. A narrative of the campaign in Belgium
in 1815. By Dorsey Gardner. London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co. 1882.


The Crisis and Close of the Action at Waterloo. By an Eyewitness.
Dublin. Richard Milliken & Son: 104 Grafton Street. 1833.


1. Quelques Documents sur la Bataille de Waterloo, propres à éclairer
la question portée devant le public par M. le Marquis de Grouchy. Par
le Général Gérard. Paris: Denain: Novembre, 1829. (With a Map.)

2. Dernières Observations sur les Opérations de l’aile droite de
l’Armée Française à la Bataille de Waterloo, en réponse à M. le Marquis
de Grouchy. Par le Général Gérard. Paris: Denain: 1830. (With a Map.)

3. Lettre à MM. Germain Sarrut et B. Saint Edme, Rédacteurs de la
Biographie des Hommes du Jour. Paris: 12 Mars, 1840.


The Campaigns of Paris in 1814 and 1815, etc. Translated from the
French of P. F. F. J. Giraud by Edmund Boyce. 2d Edition, enlarged.
London. 1816.


Das Leben des Feldmarschalls Grafen Reithardt von Gneisenau. Vierter
Band. 1814, 1815. Von Hans Delbrück. Fortfetzung des Gleichnamigen
Werkes von G. H. Pertz. Berlin. 1880.


Letters and Journals of Field-Marshal Sir William Maynard Gomm, G. C.
B. From 1799 to Waterloo, 1815. Edited by Francis Culling Carr-Gomm.
London: John Murray. 1881.


An Historical Account of the Battle of Waterloo; intended to elucidate
the topographical plan executed by W. B. Craän, J. U. D. Translated
from the French, with explanatory notes, by Captain Arthur Gore, 30th
Regiment of Foot. With Plates. London. Printed for Samuel Leigh. 1817.

GOURGAUD (original):[2]

Campagne de dix-huit cent quinze: ou Relation des Opérations Miliaires
qui ont eu lieu en France et en Belgique, pendant les Cent Jours.
Écrite à Sainte Hélène. Par le Général Gourgaud. Paris: 1818.

GOURGAUD (translation):

The Campaign of 1815. Written at St. Helena by General Gourgaud.
London: 1818.


The Origin and History of the First or Grenadier Guards. By Lieut. Gen.
Sir F. W. Hamilton, K. C. B. In three volumes. London: John Murray.


1. Observations sur la Relation de la Campagne de 1815, publiée par
le Général Gourgaud, et Réfutation de quelques unes des Assertions
d’autres écrits relatifs à la bataille de Waterloo. Par le Maréchal de
Grouchy. Philadelphie. 1818.

2. The same, with omissions and changes. Philadelphia, 1819.

3. The same title except that the author’s name is given as “le Comte
de Grouchy.” Reprinted, with many omissions and changes, from the
Philadelphia edition of 1819. Paris: Chez Chaumerot Jeune, Libraire,
Palais Royal. 1819.[3]

4. Doutes sur l’Authenticité des Mémoires historiques attribués à
Napoléon et première réfutation de quelques unes des assertions qu’ils
renferment. Par le Comte de Grouchy: Philadelphie: Avril, 1820.

5. Fragments Historiques relatifs à la Campagne de 1815 et à la
Bataille de Waterloo. Par le Général Grouchy.

Lettre à Messieurs Méry et Barthélemy.

Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, 20 Novembre, 1829.

6. Fragments Historiques, &c.

De l’influence que peuvent avoir sur l’opinion les documents publiés
par M. le Comte Gérard.

Paris: Firmin Didot Frères, 20 Decembre, 1829.

7. Le Maréchal de Grouchy du 16 au 19 Juin 1815. Par le Général de
Division Sénateur Marquis de Grouchy. Paris. E. Dentu. 1864.

8. Mémoires du Maréchal de Grouchy. Par le Marquis de Grouchy, officier
de l’état-major. vol. 4. Paris: E. Dentu. 1874.


The Despatches of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington. Compiled from
official and authentic documents, by Lieut.-Colonel Gurwood. Vol. XII.
London: John Murray: 1838.


The Operations of War explained and illustrated. By Edward Bruce
Hamley, Colonel in the Army, etc. Second Edition. William Blackwood &
Sons. Edinburgh and London. 1869.


The Life of Lord Hill, G. C. B. By the Rev. Edwin Sidney, A.M. Second
edition. London: John Murray: 1845.


Depuis sa formation jusqu’à son licenciement. Paris: Delaunay: 1821.


Waterloo: the Downfall of the First Napoleon: A History of the Campaign
of 1815. By George Hooper: author of “The Italian Campaigns of General
Bonaparte.” With Map and Plans. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1862.


See Histoire de l’Ex-Garde.

See St. Hilaire.

JOMINI (original):

Précis Politique et Militaire de la Campagne de 1815, pour servir de
supplement et de rectification à la Vie Politique et Militaire de
Napoléon racontée par lui-même. Par le Général J. Paris: 1839.

JOMINI (translation):[4]

The Political and Military History of the Campaign of Waterloo.
Translated from the French of General Baron de Jomini, by Capt. S. V.
Benét, Ordnance Dept. U. S. Army. Second Edition. New York: D. Van
Nostrand: 1862.


The Battle of Waterloo, with those of Ligny and Quatre Bras, described
by eye-witnesses, and by the series of official accounts published by
authority. To which are added Memoirs of F. M. the Duke of Wellington,
F. M. Prince Blücher, the Emperor Napoleon, etc., etc. Illustrated by
Maps, Plans, and Views of the Field, and Thirty-four Etchings from
Drawings. By George Jones, Esq., R. A. Eleventh Edition, enlarged and
corrected. London: L. Booth: Duke Street. 1852.


Notes on the Battle of Waterloo. By the late General Sir James
Shaw-Kennedy, K. C. B., acting at the time of the battle on the
Quarter-Master-General’s Staff of the Third Division of the Army.
London: John Murray: 1865.


Waterloo: Étude de la Campagne de 1815. Par le Lieutenant-Colonel
Prince Édouard de La Tour d’Auvergne. Avec Cartes et Plans. Paris:
Henri Plon: 1870.


The History of Lord Seaton’s Regiment (the 52d Light Infantry) at
the Battle of Waterloo. By the Reverend William Leeke, M. A. 2 vols.
London: Hatchard & Co. 1866.


See Van Loben Sels.


The History of Napoleon Buonaparte. By J. G. Lockhart. Third edition. 2
vols. London: John Murray. 1835.

The History of Napoleon Buonaparte. Reprinted from the Family Library.
London: William Tegg. 1867.


See Grouchy.


By Col. J. F. Maurice, R. A. From the United Service Magazine. Vol.
123. In the years 1890 and 1891.

MÉMOIRES (original):

Mémoires pour servir à l’Histoire de France en 1815, avec le plan de la
bataille de Mont St. Jean. Paris: 1820.

MEMOIRS (translation):

Historical Memoirs of Napoleon. Book IX. 1815. Translated from the
original Manuscript by B. E. O’Meara. London: Printed for Sir Richard
Phillips & Co. 1820.


Journal of the Waterloo Campaign. Kept throughout the Campaign of 1815.
By the late General Cavalié Mercer, commanding the 9th Brigade Royal
Artillery. In 2 vols. Wm. Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh & London. 1870.


See O’Connor Morris.


An Historical Account of the Campaign in the Netherlands in 1815 under
his Grace the Duke of Wellington and Marshal Prince Blücher. By William
Mudford. Illustrated. London. 1817.


Passages from my Life; together with Memoirs of the Campaign of 1813
and 1814. By Baron von Müffling. Edited with notes by Col. Philip
Yorke, F. R. S. Second Edition, revised. London: Richard Bentley, New
Burlington Street. 1853.

Part II., beginning with page 197, contains an account of the Waterloo


A Sketch of the Battle of Waterloo, to which are added the Official
Despatches of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington, Field Marshal
Prince Blücher, and Reflections on the Battles of Ligny and Waterloo.
By General Müffling. With Craän’s Map of the Field. Sixth Edition.
Waterloo. H. Gérard, Publisher. 1870.


Précis de la Campagne de 1815 dans les Pays-Bas. Bruxelles. Libraire
Militaire C. Muquardt: Merzbach and Falk, Éditeurs. 1887.


Life of General Sir William Napier, K. C. B., Author of the “History of
the Peninsular War.” Edited by H. O. Bruce, M. P. 2 vols. London: John
Murray. 1864.


  See Correspondance.

   „  Mémoires.

   „  Memoirs.


Souvenirs Militaires. Napoléon à Waterloo, ou Précis rectifié de la
Campagne de 1815. Avec des Documents nouveaux et des Piéces inédites.
Par un ancien officier de la Garde Impériale, qui est resté près de
Napoléon pendant toute la campagne. Paris: J. Dumaine, 1866.


The Journal of Henri Nieman of the 6th Prussian Black Hussars. From the
English Historical Magazine for July, 1888.


Great Commanders of Modern Times, and the Campaign of 1815. By William
O’Connor Morris. London: W. H. Allen & Co.: 1891.


Letters on the Battle of Waterloo. MSS. By John Oldfield, Captain and
Brigade-Major, Royal Engineers.


Geschichte des Feldzuges von 1815 nach archivalischen Quellen. Von
Ollech, General der Infanterie. Berlin: 1876.


See Memoirs.


Pajol, Général en Chef. Par le général de division Comte Pajol—son fils
ainé. 3 vols. Paris. Firmin Didot Frères. 1874.


Notice Biographique sur M. le Maréchal Marquis de Grouchy, Pair de
France, avec des Éclaircissements et des Détails historiques sur
la Campagne de 1815 dans le midi de France, et sur la Bataille de
Waterloo. Par M. E. Pascallet, Fondateur and Rédacteur en chef de la
Revue Générale, Biographique, Politique and Littéraire. 2e Edition.
Paris. 1842.


Histoire de la Campagne de 1815. Par Edgar Quinet. Paris: Michel Lévy
Frères. 1862.


See Campagne de la Belgique.


Réponse aux notes critiques de Napoléon sur l’ouvrage intitulé
“Considérations sur l’Art de la Guerre.” Paris. 1823.


History of the War in France and Belgium in 1815. Containing minute
Details of the Battles of Quatre Bras, Ligny, Wavre and Waterloo. By
Capt. W. Siborne; Secretary and Adjutant of the Royal Military Asylum
Constructor of the “Waterloo Model.” 2d Edition. 2 vols. London T. & W.
Boone: 1844. With an Atlas of Maps and Plans.


Notes of Conversations with the Duke of Wellington. 1831-1851. By
Philip Henry, 5th Earl Stanhope. New York, Longmans, Greene & Co. 1886.


Histoire, anecdotique, politique et militaire, de la Garde Impériale.
Par Émile Marco de Saint-Hilaire. Paris: Eugène Penaud. 1847.


The Supplementary Despatches, Correspondence and Memoranda of Field
Marshal Arthur, Duke of Wellington, K. G. Edited by his son, the Duke
of Wellington, K. G. Volume X. London: John Murray. 1863.


History of the Consulate and the Empire of France under Napoleon. By M.
A. Thiers. Vol. XX. London: Willis and Sotheran. 1861.


Die Tage von Ligny und Belle-Alliance. Von v. Treuenfeld,
Premier-Lieutenant im 2 Hessischen Infanterie-Regiment No. 82.
Mit 11 Karten. Hanover, 1880. Helwing’sche Verlags-Buchhandlung:
Schlägerstrasse 20.


Le Général Vandamme et sa Correspondance. Par A. Du Casse. 2 Vols.
Paris: Didier et Cie. 1870.


Précis de la Campagne de 1815 dans les Pays-Bas. Par le major
d’artillerie E. Van Löben Sels, aide-de-camp de S. A. R. le Prince
Frédéric des Pays-Bas. Avec Plans. Traduit du Hollandais. La Haye: Chez
les Heritiers Doorman: 1849.


Histoire des Campagnes de 1814 et 1815 en France. Par le Général
Guillaume de Vaudoncourt. Tome Quatrième. Paris. 1826.


Campagne et Bataille de Waterloo. Par Achille de Vaulabelle. Bruxelles.


Waterloo Letters. A selection from original and hitherto unpublished
letters bearing on the operations of the 16th, 17th and 18th June,
1815, by officers who served in the campaign. Edited, with explanatory
notes, by Major General H. T. Siborne, late Colonel R. E. Illustrated
with numerous Maps and Plans. London: Cassell & Co. Limited. 1891.


The Waterloo Roll Call. By Charles Dalton, F. R. G. S. London. Wm.
Clowes & Sons, Limited. 13 Charing Cross, S. W. 1890.


See Gurwood, and, also, Supplementary Despatches.


[1] Where these works are cited in this book they are cited by the word
which is printed in capitals; as ALISON, BATTY, BAUDUS.

[2] Our citations are from this (original) edition.

[3] Unless otherwise stated, our quotations are from this edition.

[4] Our citations are from this translation.



Napoleon entered Paris on his return from Elba on the twentieth of
March, 1815. His first endeavor, after quieting the not very formidable
movements of the royalists in the south and west of France, was to open
communications with the great powers. He proclaimed his policy to be
strictly one of peace, and we have every reason to believe that his
intentions were sincerely pacific. But his agents were turned back on
the frontier. The nations of Europe refused to treat with him on any
terms, and entered into an offensive and defensive alliance against him
with the avowed purpose of driving him from the throne of France. The
armies of the neighboring powers began immediately to concentrate on
the border, and even Russia set her troops in motion for the general
attack upon France and her Emperor.

To meet this formidable coalition Napoleon bent all his energies. The
army had, since his first abdication, been reorganized, and many high
commands had naturally been given to the chiefs of the royalist party.
Much had to be done before the new arrangements, necessitated by the
re-establishment of the Imperial government, could be effected.

These changes in the military organization of the country required
time. Besides, Napoleon was not desirous to precipitate matters.
He was naturally solicitous not to appear to commence an avoidable
war. He was, moreover, much occupied with domestic politics, but of
his dealings with the chambers and of his new constitution we do not
propose to speak.

Besides increasing and reconstituting the army, work was begun on the
fortifications of the principal cities.

By the first of June, no change having taken place in the relations of
France with her neighbors, it became incumbent on the Emperor to decide
what he would do.

The situation was, in brief, as follows: Two large armies, one composed
of English, Dutch, Belgian and Hanoverian troops, with contingents
from Brunswick and Nassau, the whole under command of the Duke of
Wellington, the other composed of Prussians, Saxons, and other Germans
under Marshal Blücher, lay scattered in their cantonments in Belgium
to the north and east of the rivers Sambre and Meuse. On the eastern
frontier, the Austrians were collecting a formidable force, and
were expecting to be reinforced in July by a powerful Russian army.
If Napoleon should maintain a strictly defensive attitude, France
would again be the theatre of hostilities, as in the previous year.
True, time would be gained by the delay, and time was most important
for filling the ranks of the army, completing the fortifications,
manufacturing ammunition, and generally putting the country into
a state of defence. But when the invasion came, it would be made
in overwhelming force. It was possible, certainly, to hope for the
repetition of the exploits of 1814, for victories like Champ Aubert,
Montmirail and Rheims; on the other hand, bloody and indecisive battles
like those of Brienne, Laon, and Arcis-sur-Aube were to be expected
with equal probability. The thing for Napoleon to do, if possible, was
to reduce this tremendous disparity of numbers, and this could only be
effected by beating his enemies in detail. If he could dispose of the
armies of Wellington and Blücher now, he would have so much the better
chance against the Austrians and the Russians. And Napoleon undoubtedly
hoped that if fortune should favor him in 1815 as in 1805 and 1806, for
instance,—if he should be able to repeat in Belgium the astonishing
successes of Austerlitz and Jena,—he would not find it impossible to
make peace with his father-in-law, the Emperor of Austria, and that
Russia, whose interests in the war were remote and really theoretical,
would willingly retire from the contest. When we add to this that
Napoleon’s _forte_ was the offensive, that his genius was specially
adapted for enterprising and daring strategy, we are not surprised that
he should have decided to move at once, with all his available force,
upon the armies of Wellington and Blücher.[5]

These armies were, as has been stated, lying in their cantonments on
and behind the Belgian frontier. (See Map 1.) Their front covered,
roughly speaking, an extent of a hundred miles, from Namur and Huy on
the east to Mons and Tournay on the west. They were distributed in
numerous towns and villages, some of these being as far back as forty
miles from the frontier. With the location of the various detachments
Napoleon was undoubtedly, to a great extent, acquainted. He calculated
that Wellington’s forces, which were scattered over a wide extent of
country, could not be concentrated in less than two days; and that it
would require more than one day for Blücher to assemble the four corps
of which his army was composed.

The high-road, which runs from Charleroi north through Quatre Bras,
Genappe and Waterloo to Brussels, ran between these armies,—that of
the Duke of Wellington lying to the westward of the road and that
of Marshal Blücher lying to the eastward of it. The Prussians lay
considerably closer to the frontier than the English and Dutch.
Wellington’s headquarters were at Brussels; Blücher’s at Namur. The
turnpike, which runs from Namur through Quatre Bras to Nivelles, was
the main avenue of communication between these two armies.

The Prussian lines of supply extended by way of Liége and Maestricht
to the Rhine; the English by way of Ostend and Antwerp to the sea. The
bases of the two armies were thus situated in opposite directions.
It was, of course, probable that if either of these armies should be
obliged to retreat, it would retreat towards its own base. But to
retreat towards its own base would be to march away from its ally. On
this peculiarity in the situation Napoleon’s plan of campaign was, to
a great degree, founded. The situation was far more favorable for him
than if the 220,000 men in Belgium had all belonged to one army, for
now, not only were there two armies, under two commanders, in whose
operations he might safely count upon the existence of more or less
misunderstanding and failure fully to meet each other’s expectations,
but the two armies were bound, in case of disaster to either or both,
to follow lines of retreat which were wholly divergent.

We are now prepared to consider Napoleon’s plan. He proposed to
assemble his own forces with all possible secrecy in the neighborhood
of Charleroi,—near the point of junction of the two opposing armies.
He expected that, on the first news of his approach, the two armies
would respectively concentrate, and then endeavor to unite. He expected
that the Prussians, being less scattered than the English, and being
likely to know of the approach of the French before the English could
possibly hear of it, would be the first to concentrate, and he expected
therefore to encounter them alone and unsupported by their allies.

The statement of Napoleon’s plan of campaign in Gourgaud’s narrative is
as follows:—[6]

  “The Prussian army, having intimation of the enemy’s intentions
  eight or ten hours before the English, would accordingly be first
  concentrated. Hopes were even entertained of attacking the Prussians
  before their four corps were united, or of obliging them to fall back
  in the direction of Liége and the Rhine, which was their line of
  operations; and by thus separating them from the English, to create
  an opportunity for new combinations.

  “In these calculations, the characters of the enemy’s commanders were
  much to be considered. The hussar habits of Marshal Blücher, his
  activity and decided character, formed a strong contrast with the
  cautious disposition, the deliberate and methodical manner of the
  Duke of Wellington. Thus, it was easy to foresee, that the Prussian
  army would be the first to be concentrated, and also that it would
  evince more decision and promptitude in hastening to the aid of its
  ally [than the English army would if the Prussians should be the
  first to be attacked]. If Blücher had only two battalions ready to
  act, he would be sure to employ them in support of the English army;
  but there was reason to believe that Wellington, unless his whole
  army was united, would not attack the French to succor Blücher. All
  these considerations rendered it desirable that the attack should
  be commenced against the Prussian army; it necessarily would, so we
  thought, be the first to be concentrated, and this turned out to be
  the fact.”

To the same effect the Emperor says in his “Memoirs”:—[7]

  “The [Prussian] army was to assemble in rear of Fleurus. * * * In the
  night between the 14th and 15th, confidential messengers returned to
  the French headquarters at Beaumont, and announced that everything
  was tranquil at Namur, Brussels and Charleroi; this was a happy
  presage. To have thus succeeded in concealing from the enemy the
  movements which the French army had made for the last two days, was
  to have already obtained a great advantage. The Prussian army found
  itself obliged either to establish a point of concentration further
  back than Fleurus, or to receive battle in that position without
  being able to be assisted by the Anglo-Dutch army. * * * All the
  measures of Napoleon had therefore for their object to attack the
  Prussians first.”

In a word, Napoleon believed that the allied generals had fixed the
points of concentration of their armies too near the frontier for
that concentration to be effected in season to oppose to his army an
overwhelming force; he thought it very likely also, for the reasons
above stated, that he would have only the Prussian army to deal with in
the first encounter of the campaign.

There were, to be sure, other courses open to him. He might direct
his army upon the communications of the Prussians by passing to the
eastward of them and turning their left flank. But this operation
involved a wide _détour_ over a difficult country, and in the battle
which was certain to result, the Prussian and the English armies would,
beyond a doubt, both be united against him. On the other hand he could
turn Wellington’s right by moving _viâ_ Lille, Valenciennes or Mons
upon Ghent or Brussels. An advance in this direction presented, to be
sure, fewer difficulties than the one just spoken of, and promised
greater advantages. The Duke himself always maintained that this
would have been Napoleon’s best move. It probably would have cut the
English communications with Ostend, and would very likely have forced
Wellington to evacuate Brussels without a battle, that is, unless
he cared to risk an engagement without the aid of his ally. But the
Prussians in the meantime would have concentrated without molestation
their whole army of 120,000 men, and if Wellington had been successful
in avoiding a battle with the French superior force, the two allied
generals ought to have been able either to manœuvre Napoleon out of
Belgium or to force him to battle on disadvantageous terms. It is
probable that in neither of these flanking movements would there be an
opportunity afforded for a direct, immediate, crushing blow upon one of
the allied armies, such as that which Napoleon thought it very possible
that the temerity of Marshal Blücher was going to present to him, if he
advanced by way of Charleroi.

We have seen that Napoleon seems to have thought it very likely that
Blücher would fight, but, of course, Napoleon could but conjecture
what Blücher would do; he could not certainly know that he would not
now, as he had done in Germany in 1813, avoid a direct conflict with
him, and retire on his base of operations. If Blücher should do this,
the two armies, it is true, would be separated and could be dealt with
accordingly; but the difficulties of the campaign would be vastly
greater than if the Prussian army should be practically disposed of by
a decisive victory at the outset. For if the Prussians should fall back
without hazarding a battle, they would have to be pursued, certainly
far enough to ascertain their real intentions, and to become assured
that they were, for the time being at least, definitely separated
from the army of Wellington. If this should appear to be the case
the question would then arise, which of the two armies should be
followed up; and in considering this question, the importance of the
occupation of Brussels, at that time the capital of the Netherlands,
would naturally influence Napoleon in favor of throwing the bulk of
his forces against the Anglo-Dutch. Napoleon, however, as we have
already said, seems to have thought it on the whole probable, knowing,
as he did, the daring and resolute character of the man, that Blücher
would fight, with or without the assistance of the English army, and
he also thought that the situation of the English army was such that
Blücher would not be likely to get much assistance from it. Napoleon,
therefore, hoped to open the campaign with a signal victory, crippling,
perhaps destroying, the Prussian army, and he knew that the result
of such a victory must be the retreat of the beaten Prussians in a
direction certain to separate them entirely and definitely from their
English and Dutch allies. The French Emperor would then be free to
carry the great bulk of his forces against the English and Dutch. If
Wellington stood, he expected to beat him; if he retreated, he would
leave Belgium and perhaps Holland at the disposal of the French.

Such, in brief, were Napoleon’s calculations and expectations.


The view given above of Napoleon’s plan has been by no means
universally accepted. It is often stated that he intended to separate
the two armies and attack them in detail, but if this expression is to
be understood as meaning that the former operation was to precede the
latter in point of time, it is not in our judgment a correct statement.
There never was, we believe, any expectation on Napoleon’s part that he
could, by throwing his army between those of Wellington and Blücher,
or by merely occupying strategic points, separate the allied armies
definitely from one another. What he did expect, was, as we have
seen,[8] to encounter one of these armies, that commanded by Marshal
Blücher, alone and unsupported by its ally. If it should decline
an engagement, or should fight and be beaten, he calculated on its
retiring towards its own base of operations, and so separating itself
by every march taken in that direction from its ally.

But several writers on the campaign present us with quite other ideas
of Napoleon’s intended operations. And as it is obviously of the first
importance that we should start with a correct idea of Napoleon’s plan,
if we would follow the events of the campaign intelligently, we will
examine these other theories somewhat in detail.

Take first the view that Napoleon’s intention was to throw his army
between those of Wellington and Blücher. This is Alison’s view.
We cite him, not because his name carries any weight as a military
authority, but because his error has been so clearly pointed out by
no less a person than the Duke of Wellington, in a criticism[9] of
Alison’s History of Europe written by the Earl of Ellesmere, who wrote,
as is well known, under the Duke’s inspiration. In the following
passage a quotation is made from the work of the famous German military
critic, Clausewitz:—

  “Mr. Alison (Hist. of Europe,[10] etc., vol. x, p. 991) speaks of
  ‘Buonaparte’s favorite military manœuvre of interposing between
  his adversaries, and striking with a superior force first on the
  right hand and then on the left,’ as having been attempted by him
  and baffled in this campaign. We doubt whether the expression of
  interposing between two adversaries can be correctly applied to any
  of Buonaparte’s successful campaigns, and we almost suspect that,
  if he had in contemplation a manœuvre of so much hazard on this
  occasion, it was the first on which he can be said to have attempted
  it. Hear Clausewitz on this matter:—

  “All writers who have treated of this campaign set out by saying
  that Buonaparte threw himself between the two armies, in order to
  separate them. This expression, however, which has become a _terminus
  technicus_ in military phraseology, has no clear idea for its
  foundation. The space intervening between two armies cannot be an
  object of operation.[11] It would have been very unfortunate if a
  commander like Buonaparte, having to deal with an enemy of twice his
  force, instead of falling on the one half with his united strength,
  had lighted on the empty interval, and thus made a blow in the air,
  losing his time, whilst he can only double his own force by the
  strictest economy of that commodity. Even the fighting the one army
  in a direction by which it will be pressed away from the other, even
  if it can be effected without loss of time, incurs the great danger
  of being attacked in the rear by the other. If the latter, therefore,
  be not far enough removed to put this risk out of the question, a
  commander will scarcely venture on such a line of attack. Buonaparte,
  therefore, chose the direction between the two armies, _not in order
  to separate them by wedging himself between_,[12] but because he
  expected to find and fall on Blücher’s force in this direction,
  either united or in separate bodies [corps].” _Feldzug von 1815_,
  &c., p. 54:[13]

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

  His main object was evidently to find the Prussian army, and beat it.”

Nevertheless we find Hooper,[14] who wrote long after Clausewitz, making
the very statement which Clausewitz thought so objectionable:—

  “He (Napoleon) calculated that if he struck at the centre of the two
  armies he should be able _to wedge himself in between them_, crushing
  any divisions which attempted to obstruct his progress, and, having
  won a position of vantage, he imagined that it would be in his power
  to manœuvre with rapidity from side to side and defeat each army in

To the same effect writes Quinet:—

  “He (Napoleon) will place himself between the two armies, at the
  centre of the line, that is to say, at the extreme right of the
  Prussian cantonments. By this move, the Duke of Wellington and
  Marshal Blücher will be separated from the first hour. The occasion,
  the moment, will decide on which of the two armies it will be best to
  strike the first blow.”[15]

It is unnecessary to repeat what has been so well said above in
opposition to this view. It is plain that these writers have
misconceived Napoleon’s plan. But we must consider this more fully.

This conception of the campaign is practically identical with the
theory first put forth by Rogniat in his “Considérations de l’Art de la
Guerre,” and repeated in his “Réponse aux Notes critiques de Napoléon,”
in the form of a criticism of Napoleon’s operations. He maintains that
Napoleon should have aimed first at seizing the two points of Quatre
Bras and Sombreffe on the Nivelles-Namur road, over which the allied
armies communicated with each other.

  “If, instead of six leagues, he had made eight or nine (and he had
  time enough, inasmuch as the Sambre was crossed at two o’clock), in
  pushing his left to Frasnes and his advance-guard to Quatre Bras,
  the centre and right to Sombreffe, with the reserves at Fleurus, he
  would have obtained the precious advantage he ought to have aimed at,
  that of separating the two opposing armies, of retarding the union of
  their corps, of taking a central position and of attacking them one
  at a time. In fact, Quatre Bras and Sombreffe are on the high-road
  from Namur to Brussels; master of these points, he could then have
  opposed the junction of the English on one side, of the Prussians on
  the other.”[16]

This view has also received the endorsement of Jomini,[17] who
evidently thinks that Napoleon must have entertained it.

  “Napoleon perceived that their (the Prussian) army sought to assemble
  between Namur and the causeway leading from Charleroi to Brussels, as
  it was by this route that the English would come to their assistance:
  now, under this supposition, the Emperor had but one wise course to
  follow; the most simple glance at the map would sufficiently indicate
  that it was essential to seize upon Sombreffe on the one side, and
  the central point of Quatre Bras on the other. * * * Because, once
  master of these two points, he was in position to act at will on
  either of the opposing armies, and prevent their junction.”

To the same effect is the sketch of Napoleon’s plan put forth by his
advocate, the Prince de la Tour d’Auvergne in his “Waterloo”:

  “The Sambre crossed, he (Napoleon) would seize the line of
  communication of the Anglo-Dutch and Prussians. Two columns would be
  charged to establish themselves, one at Quatre Bras, the other at

  “The separation consummated, he would easily make an end of both
  the Prussians and the Anglo-Dutch. For this would only be to renew
  a manœuvre familiar to him, and which had so often given him the

Charras, one of the Emperor’s hostile critics, takes the same view of
his intentions:

  “It requires only a glance at the map to indicate with certainty the
  point which it was his intention to reach in dictating his order of
  movement. * * *

  “The French army, occupying these places [Quatre Bras and Sombreffe]
  in force, would find itself placed between the Anglo-Dutch and the
  Prussians, thenceforward really capable,—to borrow from Napoleon his
  own expression,—of attacking them in detail, leaving to them, if they
  would escape from this misfortune,—the greatest that could befall
  them,—only the alternative of yielding ground and of uniting their
  forces at Brussels or beyond it.”[19]

Against this array of authority we oppose with confidence that of
Napoleon himself, of Wellington, and of Clausewitz. It was Napoleon’s
expectation, as we have seen above, that the Prussian army would be
the first to be concentrated, that it would offer battle at or near
Fleurus, and that he would be able to attack and overcome it before it
could be joined by the Anglo-Dutch forces.[20] If Blücher fought at
all at that stage in the campaign, it stood to reason that he would
fight _to the south_ of Sombreffe, _for the preservation of his line
of communication with Wellington_,—the Namur-Nivelles road. Hence,
the intention of occupying Sombreffe, _as a preliminary to a battle
with the Prussians_, could not, as we venture to think, have entered
Napoleon’s mind. On the contrary, he believed that the seizure of
Sombreffe would inevitably necessitate the retreat of the Prussians
to some point further north, as Wavre, or even to the neighborhood
of Brussels, where their junction with the English could be effected
without molestation.[21]

But the last thing which Napoleon wanted was that the allied armies
should retire to Wavre, or to the neighborhood of Brussels, and there
unite. He needed a battle, and a decisive success,[22] and he needed it
at once. A war of manœuvres was not the game for him to play at this
crisis. It was of vital importance for him to rout, if possible, in
succession, the armies of Blücher and Wellington; a battle, therefore,
was what he sought, and he expected that Blücher would fight him, and
fight him alone. It was only by routing Blüchers army, or forcing it to
retreat, that he expected to separate it from that of Wellington.

It must also be borne in mind, that the mere occupation of two points
on the line of communication between two allied armies does not in any
way prevent the unimpeded concentration of each army, and its being
moved, when concentrated, in any direction that its commander may
decide on. The “line of communication” seized is not to be confounded
with the line of supplies or the line of retreat of either army. No
doubt, the occupation of any point or points on the line by which two
allied armies communicate with each other tends to embarrass them, to
hinder any combined movements, and to delay their union; but to direct
the march of an invading army merely to compass this end, when it is
possible to defeat one of these opposing armies by engaging it where
it cannot be supported by its ally, is to miss the opportunity of the


[5] See Clausewitz, chaps. 8, 14.

[6] Gourgaud, pp. 42, 43.

[7] Corresp., vol. 31, pp. 195, 197, 198.

[8] _Ante_, pp. 4 _et seq._

[9] Ellesmere, pp. 161, 162. See Maurice, pp. 333 _et seq._; Jan. 1891.

[10] In the edition of 1850, this passage (as we suppose it to be) is
found in vol. xiii, p. 625, and reads somewhat differently, but the
idea is precisely the same.

[11] Thiers; vol. xx, book lx, p. 23, says: “He had conceived the
belief that the English and Prussians * * * would leave between their
respective forces a space, not very strongly guarded, and he thought
that, by bringing the whole strength of his army to bear upon this
point, he might become master of the position.”

[12] The italics are our own.

[13] In the edition of 1862, this passage is found in Chap. 22 on pages
46 and 47.

[14] Hooper, p. 58. See also, by the same author, Wellington, p. 207.
To the same effect, see Clinton, p. 378. _Cf._ Rogniat, Considérations,
p. 339, who was the first to announce this theory.

[15] Quinet, p. 75.

[16] Réponse, &c., pp. 261, 262.

[17] Jomini, p. 122, 123; also, pp. 213, 225, 226.

[18] La Tour D’Auvergne, pp. 41, 42; also, pp. 73 _et seq._

[19] Charras, vol. I, pp. 115, 116. See also Quinet, p. 101,—“Pour
empêcher la réunion (of the English and Prussian armies) il était
indispensable de fermer à la fois les deux passages (Sombreffe and
Quatre Bras).”

[20] Siborne (vol. I, p. 47) is perfectly clear on this point.

[21] Corresp.: vol. 31, p. 471.

[22] _Cf._ Clausewitz, ch. 14.



The French army, it is hardly necessary to state, had been seriously
affected by the sudden and complete change in government through which
France had passed in April, 1814. Without going into particulars, it
is sufficient to say that Napoleon found on his return from Elba much
which needed to be undone and more which it was necessary to do. But
the details of this partial reorganization do not greatly concern us.
Napoleon unquestionably did his utmost to bring the troops into a state
of efficiency. And he certainly was in great measure successful. The
larger part of the Marshals and high officers remained in France and
took command with cheerfulness, and the younger officers and the men
were unanimous in their devotion to the cause of their country against
the coalition. But some of the Marshals and generals high in rank
had retired into Belgium with Louis XVIII.; others declined active
service; and where there were so many defections, there was inevitably
not a little suspicion and disquietude. In the reorganization, which
was beyond a question necessary, great changes had to be made in the
higher commands, and the regiments, even, were to a greater or less
extent recast. The Guard was also reconstituted, a measure obviously
wise, taking account of the prestige which this famous corps had always
possessed, but a measure which, carried out as it had to be, in a very
brief period of time, could not but injure to a considerable extent
the value of the regiments of the line. It is true that France at this
time was full of veteran soldiers; some 200,000 men had returned into
the country from foreign prisons. There was an abundance of excellent
material. But the circumstances under which the existing military
force was reorganized and increased in numbers were unfavorable to the
_moral_ of the soldiers and of the army generally, and there was not
sufficient time before the outbreak of hostilities to overcome the
disturbing influences inseparable from such a state of things. The
men were full of enthusiasm for and confidence in Napoleon; but they
mistrusted many of their commanders. They were old soldiers, nearly
or quite all of them, and understood their work perfectly; but the
changes of the last eighteen months had been so utterly perplexing,—so
thorough,—the new organization had been so recent and attended by
so many disquieting circumstances and disturbing rumors, that the
absolute confidence, which ought to exist between the officers and men
of an army as strongly as between the members of a family, did not

Coming now to the _personnel_ of the army: Napoleon’s old
chief-of-staff, Berthier, who had served him in this capacity for
twenty years, who had grown accustomed to his ways, and was able by
reason of his long experience to supplement his defects, had retired
into Belgium with the King. To supply his place the Emperor selected
Marshal Soult, certainly a very singular choice.[24] Soult was a man
of Napoleon’s own age,—he had for several years commanded an army in
Spain, and had had, of course, a chief-of-staff of his own. To place
such a man at such a time of his life on staff duty when he should be
commanding troops, must strike any one as strange. Such an officer is
not fitted by his experience in an independent command for the duties
of a chief-of-staff. Those duties he has been for years accustomed to
turn over to a subordinate. The personal attention which they need he
has for years expected to be given by a junior officer. It is out of
the question that he can, all at once, assume the extremely laborious
duties which belong to the chief-of-staff. We shall, before we get
through, have more than one opportunity to see how Soult performed his
new tasks. It is safe to say that there was many a younger officer in
the French army who would have served with much more efficiency in this
all-important place, for which the utmost vigor and alertness of mind
and body are wellnigh indispensable.

For the invasion of Belgium, Napoleon destined the 1st, 2d, 3d,
4th, and 6th Corps, and the Imperial Guard, besides a large force
of cavalry. The five corps-commanders, d’Erlon, Reille, Vandamme,
Gérard and the Comte de Lobau were all men of experience and admitted
capacity. Vandamme was known specially as a hard fighter. Gérard was a
comparatively young officer of great promise. The Comte de Lobau, under
his original name of Mouton, had distinguished himself in the Austrian
campaign of 1809. But no one of them equalled in military talent the
leading generals in the Italian or Austerlitz campaigns,—Masséna,
Lannes, Davout, Desaix, and their fellows. The commander of the
cavalry, Grouchy, was a veteran of twenty years’ hard fighting, but
was not credited with possessing any great capacity. The fact is that
Napoleon himself could not do for his own army what the turmoil and
chaos of the Revolution had done for the army of the republic, and
that was to override seniority and all ordinary claims to promotion,
and to open the door wide to youthful vigor and ambition. It was to
the confusion created by the Revolution that the formidable list of
warriors who served France so brilliantly for twenty years owed in
great measure their rapid advancement. Napoleon himself constitutes no
exception to this remark.

Napoleon[25] says of his officers at this period:—

  “The character of several of the generals had been weakened by the
  events of 1814; they had lost something of that audacity, of that
  resolution, of that confidence, which had * * * contributed so much
  to the successes of former campaigns.”[26]

Charras has a passage to the same effect:[27]—

  “Enriched, systematically corrupted, by the prodigality of the
  Empire; enervated by luxury and pleasure; fatigued by twenty
  years of war, several among the generals would have preferred the
  tranquil life of their own homes to the labors of the march and the
  discomforts of the bivouac. They had tasted of peace for a whole
  year; they looked back on that period with regret. Some among them
  had met with rude defeats while in independent commands, and they
  remembered them well. Others, shaken by the cruel recollections of
  1813 and 1814, despaired of the issue of the war in view of the
  enormous armies of the coalition and of the feebleness of our means
  of defence. All remained brave, intrepid; but all had not preserved
  the activity, the resolution, the audacity of their early days. Their
  _moral_ was no longer equal to sustaining a reverse.”

These statements may very possibly be somewhat too highly colored, but
there is little doubt that there was a good deal of truth in them. It
is significant that they are made by writers who wrote of the campaign
from opposite points of view. Napoleon in his narrative of the campaign
sought to show that he was not the sole or even the chief cause of its
failure, and claimed that his orders were not carried out with the
spirit and energy which his lieutenants had once possessed. Charras
on the other hand, throughout his history, is uniformly harsh in his
comments on the Emperor’s conduct, and insists that he was greatly
lacking both in physical strength and in energy of character. That both
Charras and Napoleon, therefore, state that the higher officers of the
army were not up to the mark of their earlier campaigns renders it very
probable that such was the actual fact.

The importance of this fact is to be seen in its true light only when
we bear in mind to how great an extent Napoleon’s campaigns required
for their successful conduct qualities in his lieutenants by no means
universally found even in respectable corps-commanders,—qualities far
in excess of those commonly demanded. Napoleon was not content with
mere obedience; he expected from his chief officers an intelligent
comprehension of his views, and a vigorous and daring execution of the
parts assigned to them,—a sort of coöperation, in fact. The movements
with which the campaign of 1809 opened will best illustrate, perhaps,
what is here referred to. It is not too much to say that without this
hearty and intelligent work on the part of his lieutenants many of
Napoleon’s most brilliant and successful campaigns could never have
been carried out. We shall see in the course of this narrative how much
he expected from Ney and Grouchy. Hence any inability or unwillingness
on the part of the leading officers to render this assistance must
be fully taken into account when we are seeking to understand this
campaign of Waterloo.

We have not spoken of the commander of the Guard, Marshal Mortier,
because he was taken ill just before the opening of the campaign, and
no one replaced him. General Drouot, an artillery officer of great
merit, was the adjutant-general of the Guard, and orders were given
through him.

At the last moment, on the eve of the opening of hostilities, the
Emperor sent for Marshal Ney. Why the orders to this distinguished
officer were not given earlier, we are not informed; it seems like
an unpardonable oversight, to say the least. As such Ney certainly
regarded it.[28] Ney was given no time for preparation; it was only
by the exercise of great diligence that he reached the front when he
did, and that was at five o’clock in the afternoon of the 15th, after
the Sambre had been crossed. He was assigned to the command of the 1st
and 2d Corps, commanded by the Counts d’Erlon and Reille respectively;
but he was ignorant of their organization, and had even to learn the
names of the division commanders. It is difficult, if not impossible,
to understand this strange neglect of Napoleon. No one knew better than
he how important it is that the commander of an army or of a wing of
an army should have ample time to know his troops and to be known by
them, and that this was especially necessary where a reorganization had
recently taken place.

In the army, thus constituted, there were, then, three Marshals. Of
these, one, Soult, was serving in a new capacity for him, that of
chief-of-staff; another, Ney, had not been given a fair chance to get
a good hold on the troops assigned to him; the third, Grouchy, was
not a man of superior capacity, had never commanded an army-corps in
his life, and had only just been made a Marshal. Grouchy was at first
assigned to the command of the reserve cavalry, consisting of the four
cavalry corps of Pajol, Exelmans, Kellermann and Milhaud, numbering
in all 13,784 men. But the campaign had scarcely opened when he was
relieved from this duty, and placed in command of the right wing of the
army, consisting of the 3d and 4th Corps, those of Generals Vandamme
and Gérard, together with a considerable force of cavalry. Here again
was a singular neglect on Napoleon’s part of the importance of allowing
the new Marshal time to get used to his new duties; and, as we shall
ultimately have occasion to see, this circumstance operated most
unfavorably when Grouchy found himself in an independent command. It
looks very much as if Napoleon only decided to send for Ney at the last
minute, and as if the assignment of Grouchy to the command of the two
corps of Vandamme and Gérard was not determined on until the campaign
had opened.

But not only was the organization of the army not as perfect as it
might have been by reason of the course which Napoleon pursued in
regard to Ney and Grouchy; there was an officer whom he ordered to
stay behind when he might have had him with himself as well as not, a
man of the highest reputation, the Duke of Auërstadt, the Prince of
Eckmühl, Marshal Davout. The Emperor had made him Minister of War, but
Davout begged to have a command in the field. He represented to the

  “That the defence of Paris, notwithstanding its incontestable
  importance, was, like all questions of interior defence, only
  secondary, and essentially subordinate to the result of military
  operations; that when it was a question of playing a decisive part
  on the field of battle, it was not the time to make experiments with
  new men; that it was necessary, on the contrary, for the Emperor to
  surround himself with men who had given good account of themselves
  and who had had long experience in high command. The Marshal did
  not succeed in convincing the Emperor, who contented himself with
  replying: ‘I cannot entrust Paris to any one else.’ ‘But, sire,’
  replied Davout, ‘if you are the victor, Paris will be yours; and if
  you are beaten, neither I nor any one else can do anything for you.’”

There can be no question that the Marshal’s reasoning was sound; but
Napoleon persisted in his course. What he lost by not having Davout
with him in this campaign, it is not easy to estimate; it is perhaps
foolish to conjecture. But it would probably not be going too far
to say that Davout in the place of either Ney or Grouchy would have
prevented the catastrophe of Waterloo.

This sketch of the _personnel_ of the French army naturally leads up to
an estimate of its chief, that is, of his comparative fitness at this
period of his life to undertake the tasks of such a daring, laborious
and perilous campaign as this attack on Blücher and Wellington was sure
to prove.

Most historians have agreed that in point of bodily activity the
Emperor did not show himself in this campaign the equal of his former
self; in fact, most writers have gone farther than this; they have
attributed to him a lassitude of mind as well as of body, they have
found a want of the mental activity and a lack of the resolute will,
which had been so characteristic of him in his earlier days. The
portrait of Napoleon by General Foy is one of the best we have, and is
of especial value as having been drawn by a contemporary, who served
throughout his wars and commanded a division at Waterloo.

  “With his passions, and in spite of his errors, Napoleon is, taking
  him all in all, the greatest warrior of modern times. He carried
  into battle a stoical courage, a profoundly calculated tenacity, a
  mind fertile in sudden inspirations, which by unhoped-for resources
  disconcerted the plans of the enemy. * * * Napoleon possessed in an
  eminent degree the faculties requisite for the profession of arms;
  temperate and robust, watching and sleeping at pleasure, appearing
  unawares where he was least suspected, he did not disregard the
  details to which important results are sometimes attached. * * * He
  carried with him into battle a cool and impassible courage; never
  was a mind so deeply meditative more fertile in rapid and sudden
  illuminations. On becoming Emperor he ceased not to be the soldier.
  If his activity decreased with the progress of age, this was owing to
  the decrease of his physical powers.” And in a note he adds: “In the
  latter years the Emperor had grown fat; he ate more, slept longer,
  and rode less; but he retained all the vigor of his mind, and his
  passions had lost little of their strength.”[30]

There is in fact no reason to doubt that Napoleon’s habitual activity
and even his capacity for physical exertion had in 1815 sensibly
diminished. Like most men of forty-five, he was not so full of energy
as he had been at five and twenty. He had also grown stout, and he was
furthermore a sufferer from some painful maladies which rendered it
difficult for him to keep on horseback for any great length of time.[31]
All these circumstances would naturally tend to diminish, more or less,
the once ceaseless activity of his mind; we may, therefore, expect to
find him less thoughtful, less vigilant, less careful, than he had been
in his earlier campaigns. But it is plain that the standard by which
the Napoleon of 1815 is tested is no ordinary standard,[32] and it may
well be that although he may have failed to come up to the high mark
which he formerly attained, we shall nevertheless find in this campaign
of Waterloo no conspicuous lack of ordinary activity and energy.

In conclusion, we may fairly say that while we recognize that the
army with which Napoleon was preparing to take the field in June,
1815, was not as well-organized a body of troops as some of the armies
which he had led to victory, that its corps-commanders were not as
brilliant soldiers as were many of the distinguished generals of that
period, that peculiar circumstances rendered Soult, Ney and Grouchy
less serviceable than they probably would have been had things been
otherwise ordered, and that the Emperor himself was more or less
deficient in the never-resting activity of mind and body which he
had once possessed, we must not forget that the soldiers and their
officers were all veterans, that their generals had won their rank by
distinguished service on many a bloody field, and that no man living
surpassed their leader in military talent. It is not correct to say[33]
that the army which Napoleon led into Belgium was the finest he had
ever commanded, but it is quite certain that it was by far the best of
the three armies then in the field.

The strength and composition of this army, was, according to
Charras,[34] whom we may safely follow, as follows:—

    1st Corps: d’Erlon.

    Four divisions of infantry,—
  Allix, Donzelot, Marcognet, Durutte            16,885        Men
    One division of cavalry,—Jaquinot             1,506         „
    Artillery,—46 guns,—engineers, etc.           1,548         „
              Total,                                   19,939   „

    2d Corps: Reille.

    Four divisions of infantry,—
  Bachelu, Jerome Napoleon,[35] Girard, Foy      20,635        Men
    One division of cavalry,—Piré                 1,865         „
    Artillery,—46 guns,—engineers, &c.            1,861         „
              Total,                                   24,361   „

  3d Corps: Vandamme.

    Three divisions of infantry,--
  Lefol, Habert, Berthezène                     16,851          „
    One division of cavalry,--Domon              1,017          „
    Artillery,--38 guns,--engineers, &c.         1,292          „
              Total,                                   19,160   „

  4th Corps: Gérard.

    Three divisions of infantry,--
    Pécheux, Vichery, Bourmont[36]             12,800           „
      One division of cavalry,--Maurin          1,628           „
    Artillery,--38 guns,--engineers, &c.,       1,567           „
              Total,                                   15,995   „

  6th Corps: Lobau.

    Three divisions of infantry,--
    Simmer, Jeannin, Teste                      9,218           „
    Artillery,--32 guns,--engineers, &c.,       1,247           „
              Total,                                   10,465   „

  Imperial Guard:

    Old Guard:
    One division,--Friant,--grenadiers          4,140           „
    Middle[37] Guard:
    One division,--Morand,--chasseurs           4,603           „

    Young Guard:
    One division,--Duhesme,--voltigeurs, &c.,   4,283           „
    Two divisions of cavalry,--Guyot,
      Lefebvre-Desnouettes                      3,795           „
    Artillery,--96 guns,--engineers, &c.,       4,063           „
                Total,                                 20,884   „

    Reserve Cavalry: Grouchy.

    1st Cavalry Corps: Pajol.
    Two divisions,--Soult, Subervie             2,717
    Artillery,--12 guns,                          329

    2d Cavalry Corps: Exelmans.
    Two divisions: Stroltz, Chastel             3,220
    Artillery,--12 guns,                          295

    3d Cavalry Corps: Kellermann.
    Two divisions,--L’Heritier, Roussel         3,360
    Artillery,--12 guns,                          319

    4th Cavalry Corps: Milhaud.
    Two divisions,--Wathier, Delort             3,194
    Artillery,--12 guns,                          350

                Total,                                 13,784   „

    Workmen, waggoners, &c., about                      3,500   „
                Grand Total,                          128,088   „

Leaving out the last item as consisting chiefly of non-combatants, we
have an army consisting of 124,588 men.

  Of these, the infantry numbered,                     89,415  Men

  the cavalry, including the horse artillery of
    the reserve cavalry, numbered,                     23,595   „

  the artillery (344 guns including the above)
    numbered,                                          11,578   „
          Total,[38] as above,                        124,588   „


[23] Charras, vol. 1, pp. 69, 70: Histoire de la Garde Imperiale: Saint
Hilaire, p. 654.

[24] Ib., pp. 653, 654.

[25] Corresp., vol. 31, p. 249.

[26] _Cf._ Gourgaud, pp. 67, 68.

[27] Charras, vol. 1, p. 70.

[28] Ney’s letter to the Duke of Otranto; Jones, p. 385.

[29] Davout, p. 540.

[30] Foy’s History of the War in the Peninsula; vol. 1, pp. 110-112:
Histoire de la Guerre de la Peninsule; pp. 161-164.

[31] Thiers, vol. xx, book lx, p. 37, n.: Grouchy Mém., vol. 4, p. 44,
n. 2; id. in Le Mal de G., p. 18, n. 2.

[32] Soult told Sir W. Napier: “The Emperor seemed at times to be
changed; there were moments when his genius and activity seemed as
powerful and fresh as ever; at other moments he seemed apathetic.
For example, he fought the battle of Waterloo without having himself
examined the enemy’s position. He trusted to General Haxo’s report. In
former days he would have examined and re-examined it in person.” Life
of Sir W. F. W. Napier, vol. 1, p. 505.

[33] As do Chesney, p. 67, and Hooper, pp. 62, 161.

[34] Charras, vol. 1, pp. 65-68.

[35] Charras, vol. 1, p. 196, n., says that Jerome’s command was purely
nominal, and that Guilleminot, his chief-of-staff, really commanded
this division.

[36] Bourmont deserted to the enemy early on the 15th June, and was
succeeded by Hulot.

[37] We here follow many historians in calling Morand’s command the
Middle Guard, “la moyenne Garde.”

[38] Charras’ summing up of the cavalry and artillery varies from ours,
and would seem to be 500 less than the number before given by him.


The opinion expressed here in regard to the health of the Emperor is
substantially that entertained by Thiers and Chesney. The former says
that the Emperor’s brother Jerome, and also one of the surgeons on the
Emperor’s staff, both told him that Napoleon was a sufferer at this
time from an affection of the bladder. But this was, he says, denied by
Marchand, the Emperor’s valet. “Whatever may have been the health of
Napoleon at this epoch, his activity was not diminished.”[39]

To the same effect is Chesney’s opinion,[40] opposing that of
Charras.[41] Further evidence on the subject has been collected by
Mr. Dorsey Gardner.[42] His conclusion is entirely opposed to that of
Colonel Chesney, and in our judgment he places altogether too much
reliance on that delightful, but gossipy, writer, the Comte de Ségur.
Ségur’s History of the Russian Campaign is the best known work on
the subject, but it is essentially a romance. In it he advances with
great boldness his favorite theme of the breaking down of Napoleon’s
health.[43] But the Emperor’s health was able to endure without
injury that terrible strain; he certainly showed in 1813 and 1814
every evidence of physical vigor. No doubt the peculiar maladies from
which he suffered occasionally impaired the activity of both mind and
body; but the talk of Ségur verges at times on puerility. Gourgaud’s
_Examen Critique_ of Ségur’s work points out its defects cleverly and
unsparingly. As for the conversation, referred to by Gardner, which the
Earl of Albemarle[44] reports as having taken place in 1870 between
his son and General Gudin, who was, in 1815, a page in waiting on the
Emperor, to the effect that Napoleon secluded himself all the forenoon
of the day of the battle of Waterloo, and that “it was nearly noon when
the Emperor descended the ladder that led to the sleeping room and rode
away,” it is really impossible to accept the story. Charras, who for
his own reasons (and, by the way, not for the reasons which Chesney
very naturally supposes actuated him), endeavors to magnify Napoleon’s
inactivity throughout this campaign, represents him as, on this morning
of the 18th, reconnoitring the position after eight o’clock,[45] giving
his orders for the marshalling of the army, watching the deployment
of the troops between nine and half-past ten, riding along the lines,
and dictating the order of battle before eleven o’clock. On all such
points we are quite safe in following Charras, and we must consider
Gudin’s story as having (to say the least) suffered greatly in its
transmission. Besides, there was no “ladder that led to the sleeping
room,” in the house[46] in which Napoleon slept the night before

To repeat, then, once more. Napoleon in this campaign was troubled by
and doubtless suffered considerably from some painful maladies; and,
even apart from this fact, we cannot look for the youthful vigor and
activity of 1796 or 1805 in the year 1815. He was not in these respects
equal to his former self; and it was further to be expected that the
deficiency of his physical energy would be accompanied by a diminished
mental alertness and vigilance. All the same, we think it will be
found that he showed in this campaign a very fair degree of strength
and activity. But we shall know more about this as we proceed with the


[39] Thiers, vol. xx, book lx, p. 37, n.

[40] Chesney, p. 72, n.

[41] Charras, vol. 2, p. 203, n. H.

[42] Gardner; Quatre Bras, Ligny and Waterloo; pp. 31-37; p. 220, n.

[43] Histoire de Napoleon et de la Grande Armée pendant l’année 1812.
Paris, 1825. Book 4, chaps. 2 and 6.

[44] Fifty Years of my Life: by the Earl of Albemarle, p. 98. _Cf._
Thiers, vol. XX, p. 37, note.

[45] Charras, vol. 1, pp. 270, 271. This, as will be seen later on, was
the third reconnoissance since midnight.

[46] _Cf._ Fraser, Words on Wellington, p. 250. The Caillou house was
set on fire by the Prussians, but the principal rooms were spared, and
the house was afterwards carefully restored.



The army which was commanded by Field Marshal Blücher numbered about
124,000 men, and was thus composed:—[47]

  Ist Corps: Zieten.

  Four divisions of infantry,—
  Steinmetz,—Pirch II.,—Jagow—Henckel        27,887       Men
  One division of cavalry,—Röder              1,925        „
  Artillery,—96 guns,—engineers, &c.          2,880        „
              Total                                 32,692 „

  IId Corps: Pirch I.

  Four divisions of infantry,—
  Tippelskirchen,—Krafft,—Brause,—Langen     25,836        „
  One division of cavalry,—Jürgass            4,468        „
  Artillery,—80 guns,—engineers, &c.          2,400        „
             Total                                  32,704 „
  IIId Corps: Thielemann.

  Four divisions of infantry,--
  Borcke,--Kämpfen,--Luck,--Stülpnagel       20,611        „
  One division of cavalry,--Marwitz           2,405        „
  Artillery,--48 guns,--engineers, &c.        1,440        „
             Total                                  24,456 „

  IVth Corps: Bülow.

  Four divisions of infantry,--
  Hacke,--Ryssel,--Losthin,--Hiller          25,381        „
  One division of cavalry,--
  Prince William of Prussia                   3,081        „
  Artillery,--88 guns,--engineers, &c.        2,640        „
             Total                                 31,102  „

  Workmen, waggoners, &c., about                    3,120  „
             Grand total                          124,074  „

Leaving out the last item, we have an army consisting of 120,954 men.
Of these,

  the infantry numbered                            99,715 Men
   „ cavalry      „                                11,879  „
   „ artillery, 312 guns, numbered                  9,360  „
             Total as above                       120,954  „

The headquarters of Zieten’s Corps were at Charleroi, of Pirch I. at
Namur, of Thielemann at Ciney, and of Bülow at Liége. The first three
of these places were near the frontier.

The Prussian army was mainly composed of veterans; even of the youngest
soldiers most had seen service in 1813 or 1814. The corps-commanders
were experienced officers, though only one of them, Bülow, had ever
had an independent command. Bülow had in 1813 won the battle of
Dennewitz against Marshal Ney. The troops were certainly not so inured
to war as were those of Napoleon’s army, nor were they so well led; but
they knew their trade, and were prepared for battle. Blücher himself
was a veteran of the Seven Years’ War. He had seen more than fifty
years of service. In the campaigns of 1806 and 1807 he had displayed
conspicuous zeal and courage. In those of 1813 and 1814, although too
old and infirm to assume all the tasks which ordinarily devolve on an
army-commander, he had yet, with the assistance of his chief-of-staff,
markedly increased his reputation. Nevertheless no one considered
him a general of a high order of talent. His conceptions of strategy
were crude and imperfect, and his blunders caused his command to be
more than once badly defeated by Napoleon in the winter campaign in
France in 1814. But Blücher was a thorough soldier, active, daring
and resolute, and never was afraid of taking responsibility. He was
moreover a great favorite with the army. He was animated by an almost
insane hatred of Napoleon, and he entered on the work assigned to him
by the allied powers with an eager determination that bordered upon
ferocity. This spirit of his infused itself into the army;[48] every
man was ready to fight, and every man expected to beat in the end. His
chief-of-staff, Gneisenau, was an able administrator, and relieved the
old field-marshal from all attention to details.

The army commanded by the Duke of Wellington was a very heterogeneous
body of troops. Although nominally divided into corps, after the
fashion of the armies of the continent, this arrangement, being
one which had never been adopted by the Duke before, was only
imperfectly[49] practised in the campaign of 1815. We shall get a
better idea of the strength of Wellington’s forces if we enumerate them
according to their different nationalities. Leaving out the troops
employed on garrison duty at Antwerp, Ostend, Ghent and other places,
estimated at 12,233 men,[50] we find the forces available for the field
to have been thus composed:—


  Nine brigades of infantry,—
  Maitland (Guards),—Byng (Guards),—
  Johnstone,—Kempt,—Pack,—Lambert           20,310         Men

  Three brigades of cavalry,—
  Somerset (Guards),—Ponsonby,—Vandeleur     3,578          „

  Six regiments contained in four
  composed of British
  troops and those of the King’s
  German Legion                              2,335          „
  Artillery,—102 guns                        5,030          „
            Total British force,                    31,253  „

      King’s German Legion:

  Two brigades of infantry,—Duplat,—Ompteda  3,285
  Add men on detached service                   16

  Five regiments contained in the four
  brigades of Dörnberg, Grant, Vivian
  and Arentsschildt.                         2,560          „
  Artillery,—18 guns                           526          „
            Total King’s German Legion       6,387          „


  Five brigades of infantry,—
  —Lyon                                     13,788

  One brigade of cavalry,—Estorff            1,682
  Artillery,—12 guns                           465
            Total Hanoverians                       15,935  „


  Seven brigades of infantry,—
  Bylandt,—Prince Bernard of Saxe
  —Anthing                                  24,174

  Three brigades of cavalry,—
  Trip,—Ghigny,—Merlen                       3,405
  Artillery,—48 guns                         1,635
            Total Dutch-Belgians                    29,214  „


  Two brigades of infantry,—
  Buttlar,—Specht                            5,376
  Two regiments of cavalry,—                   922
  Artillery,—16 guns                           510
            Total Brunswickers                       6,808  „

  Nassau Contingent: Kruse.

  One regiment of infantry:
  three battalions                                   2,880  „

  Engineers, sappers, miners,
  waggon-trains and staff-corps                      1,240  „
            Total disposable army in the field      93,717  „

    Of these the
  Infantry numbered                         69,829
  Cavalry     „                             14,482
  Artillery   „     196 guns                 8,166
  Engineers, waggon-trains, &c.              1,240
                                                    93,717  „

    Or, according to nationality,
  the British numbered                      31,253
   „  King’s German Legion                   6,387
   „  Hanoverians     „                     15,935
   „  Dutch-Belgians[52] „                  29,214
   „  Brunswickers                           6,808
   „  Nassau contingent                      2,880
   „  Engineers, &c.,                        1,240
                                                    93,717  „

This army was organized, as we have said above, into two corps and a
reserve, in addition to which was a large body of cavalry, and a
small force of reserve artillery. There were six (so-called) British
divisions in the army, only one of which, the 1st, Cooke’s, was
composed entirely of British troops,—the Guards; the others contained
troops of the King’s German Legion and Hanoverians. To each of these
divisions were attached two batteries. Six troops of horse-artillery
were attached to the cavalry.

The 1st and 3d British divisions, those of Cooke and Alten, with the
2d and 3d Dutch-Belgian divisions of Perponcher and Chassé, composed
the 1st Corps under the Prince of Orange. They covered the front of
the army from Quatre Bras to and beyond Enghien, occupying the country
in and around Nivelles, Roeulx, Soignies and Braine-le-Comte. They
numbered 25,233 men, with 48 guns.

The 2d and 4th British divisions, those of Clinton and Colville, with
the 1st Dutch-Belgian division of Stedmann, and Anthing’s Indian
brigade, constituted the 2d Corps under Lord Hill. They continued the
line of the army to the north and west, occupying the country in and
around Ath, Grammont and Audenarde. They numbered 24,033 men, with 40

The Reserve, or rather that portion of it destined for service in
the field, and not counting the troops on garrison-duty, was under
the immediate direction of the commander-in-chief. It was composed
of the 5th and 6th British divisions, those of Picton and Cole, of
the Brunswick Corps under the Duke of Brunswick, and of the Nassau
contingent under General Kruse. They numbered 20,563 men, with 64 guns.

The British and King’s German Legion cavalry was composed of seven
brigades, the whole under Lord Uxbridge. They numbered 8,473 men. To
this corps were attached, as has been stated, six horse batteries. This
cavalry was stationed mainly in rear of the 2d Corps, near Ninove and
Grammont; but one brigade under General Dörnberg was at and in the
neighborhood of Mons.

The Hanoverian, Brunswick and Dutch-Belgian cavalry were attached
respectively to the various divisions of these troops. They numbered
6,009 men, with one horse-battery of 8 guns.

To recapitulate:—

  1st Corps: Prince of Orange      25,233  Men
  2d Corps: Lord Hill              24,033   „
  Reserve                          20,563   „
  Lord Uxbridge’s cavalry corps     8,473   „
  Other Cavalry                     6,009   „
  Artillery—196 guns                8,166   „
  Engineers, &c.                    1,240   „
            Total as above given   93,717   „

Of this miscellaneous force the Duke relied really only on his English
troops and those of the King’s German Legion, a corps raised originally
in Hanover, which had for many years belonged to the English crown.
These troops had served in the Peninsula for several years with great
credit. The Hanoverian contingent, strictly so called, was composed of
very raw troops, and the same was true of the Dutch-Belgians. Little
was known about the Brunswickers and Nassauers. The fidelity of many of
the allied troops was strongly suspected, as they had been raised in
countries which had for the past few years been subject to France, and
the sympathies of the soldiers were supposed to be with Napoleon.[53]
The Duke’s opinion of his army is well known. He considered it the
poorest he had ever led.[54] Very possibly he may have underestimated
its quality; but certain it is that the force which he commanded was
a very heterogeneous collection of troops, that they had never acted
in the field as an army before, and that the character and steadiness
of a considerable number were, on account of either disaffection or
inexperience, gravely doubted by their commander.

All this was in all probability known to Napoleon, and served as the
basis of his expectations, as we shall see later on.

Of the principal officers of this motley force, it is not necessary to
say much. The Prince of Orange, who commanded the 1st Corps, though
an officer of experience, had not distinguished himself as a general.
Lord Hill, who led the 2d Corps, was a very valuable man, whose merit
had been thoroughly ascertained in the Peninsula. Sir Thomas Picton
had a well-won reputation as a man of energy, courage, and capacity in
all the positions in which he had served. Then there were many junior
officers of great merit.

The Duke himself was in the prime of life, having just passed his
forty-sixth birthday. He had never met Napoleon before, but he had
often met and defeated his Marshals. His career had been one of almost
uninterrupted success. His experience in the field against French
soldiers had been large, and he was for this reason peculiarly fitted
for the work he had now in hand. He had shown very varied ability. His
military imagination, if one may use such a word, may not have been
large, but he had few equals in the faculty of making up his mind what
it was best to do under ascertained circumstances. His decisions were
always dictated by practical reasons. He never allowed sentiment to
hinder the exercise of his common sense. He could advance or retreat,
fight or decline to fight, with equal ease,—with him it was a mere
question of what it was best under the circumstances to do. Though
esteemed a cautious officer, he had shown over and over again that
he possessed not only courage and firmness, but that in daring, and
in coolly taking great risks, he was equal to any emergency. His hold
on his army, that is, on his own troops, was perfect. In ability,
reputation, and in social rank, his preëminence among the officers
of the British army and the King’s German Legion was cheerfully
acknowledged, and over these parts of his army he exercised a perfect
and unquestioned control. And his long experience in dealing with his
Spanish allies had given him an uncommon facility in administering the
affairs of such a composite body of troops as he was now to command.

These three armies were curiously different in their internal economy.
Napoleon, as we have said before, expected from his high officers
a sort of coöperation. The “Correspondence of Napoleon” is full of
long and confidential letters to his marshals, written during his
campaigns, explaining the situation, stating his own intentions at
length, giving them not only orders to be executed, but suggestions
for their guidance in case of the happening of certain contingencies.
We shall see excellent specimens of these letters in the course of
this narrative. Napoleon had been for years constantly in the habit of
directing complicated movements, in which the active and intelligent
comprehension of his main object and purpose on the part of his
lieutenants who were operating at a greater or less distance from him,
was essential to success. Hence these elaborate communications, in
which the style of the military order is but barely preserved, and in
which the effort of the writer to impart all the information in his
power to his correspondent and to give him an intelligent and precise
knowledge of the objects of the campaign, is very evident.

In the English army there was nothing of this sort. Obedience, not
coöperation, was what Wellington required, and it was all he needed.
Operating as he did on a much smaller scale than Napoleon, his simpler
methods were quite adequate to his wants. It is needless to say that
such a relation as that which existed between Napoleon and his old
companions in arms, who had begun their careers with him in Italy or
Egypt, never existed to the least extent in the English service.

The Prussian army was managed differently from either the English
or French. Baron Müffling, who was the Prussian _attaché_ at the
headquarters of the Duke of Wellington, says:—[55]

  “I perceived that the Duke exercised far greater power in the army
  he commanded than Prince Blücher in the one committed to his care.
  The rules of the English service permitted the Duke’s suspending
  any officer and sending him back to England. * * * Amongst all the
  generals, from the leaders of corps to the commanders of brigades,
  not one was to be found in the active army who had been known as

  “It was not the custom in this army to criticise or control the
  commander-in-chief. Discipline was strictly enforced; every one knew
  his rights and his duties. The Duke, in matters of service, was very
  short and decided.”

It is clear that Baron Müffling had seen a very different state of
things prevailing in the Prussian service,[56] where it would seem
that advice was sometimes thrust upon the general-in-chief, and even
criticism was not silent. Perhaps the fact that the Prussian army was
always organized in corps, and that the chiefs of corps and all the
other high officers were men of an equal social rank, rendered it hard
to conduct matters according to the far more soldierly ways prevailing
in the English service. Whatever may have been the reason, however,
such would seem to have been the fact in the early part of this century.


[47] Charras, vol. 1, pp. 81, 82. See vol. 2, p. 202, note G, where it
is shown that the number of men in the artillery given by Wagner is
much too small.

[48] The view of the Prussian army presented here is that of Charras
(vol. 1, p. 89); but Delbrück, the biographer of Gneisenau, states that
many of the troops were inexperienced, and some were half-hearted in
the cause. Gneisenau, vol. 4, pp. 381, 382. _Cf._ Siborne, vol. 1, pp.
302, 303.

[49] For instance, at the battle of Waterloo, troops of the 1st Corps,
that of the Prince of Orange, were stationed on both ends of the line.

[50] These figures are taken from Siborne.

[51] This brigade was composed of one regiment of Nassau, in three
battalions, and one regiment of Orange-Nassau and numbered 4,300 men.

[52] Including 4,300 Nassauers.

[53] Müffling, Passages; pp. 204, 223.

[54] Gurwood, vol. xii, pp. 358, 509,—letters to Lt. Gen. Stewart, May
8, and to Earl Bathurst, June 25, 1815.

[55] Müffling, Passages; pp. 213, 214.

[56] See, for instances, Müffling, Passages; pp. 15-18, 83, 304, 311:
See also Stanhope, p. 110, for the “great discussion” the night after
the battle of Ligny, when “Blücher and Grolmann carried the day for
remaining in communication with the English army” against Gneisenau.
See _post_, p. 230.


The Earl of Ellesmere, who wrote, as has been before said, under the
inspiration of the Duke of Wellington, has given us the following
critical estimate of a portion of the Duke’s army. He is speaking of
the English and German infantry, some thirty thousand in all, which
fought at Waterloo.[57]

  “Of this very body, which bore the brunt of the whole contest, be
  it remembered that not above six or seven thousand had seen a shot
  fired before. It was composed of second battalions to so great an
  extent that we cannot but imagine that this disadvantage would
  have been felt had the Duke attacked the French army, as he would
  have attacked it at Quatre Bras on the 17th, if the Prussians had
  maintained their position at Ligny—as he would have attacked it on
  the 18th at Waterloo, if the army with which he entered the south
  of France had been at his disposal. For purposes of resistance the
  fact is unquestionable that these raw British battalions were found
  as effective as the veterans of the Peninsula; but it might have
  been hazardous to manœuvre under fire, and over all contingencies of
  ground, with some of the very regiments which, while in position,
  never flinched from the cannonade or the cavalry charges through the
  livelong day of Waterloo.”


[57] Ellesmere, page 299.



Napoleon, as we have said above,[58] “proposed to assemble his own
forces with all possible secrecy in the neighborhood of Charleroi,”
and this step was, of course, the essential preliminary to the opening
of the campaign. The five corps of which the army was to be chiefly
composed, were widely separated from each other, and each was at a
considerable distance from Charleroi. The 1st and 2d Corps lay to the
westward of Charleroi, in the neighborhood of Lille and Valenciennes
respectively, the 3d and 4th Corps to the southeastward of Charleroi,
near Mezières and Metz; the 6th Corps was at Laon, about half way
from Charleroi to Paris, and the Guard partly at Paris, and partly,
not far off, at Compiègne. The four cavalry corps were stationed to
the north of Laon, between that place and Avesnes. The larger part of
these commands were placed on or near the frontier, and any movements
on their part were likely to be observed by the enemy. Nevertheless
the concentration of the army was safely and secretly effected. The
4th Corps, which was near Metz, broke camp as early as the 6th of
June, the 1st Corps, which was near Lille, as early as the 9th, the
Guard left Paris on the 8th, the other corps left their encampments at
somewhat later dates. The Emperor left Paris at half-past three o’clock
 on the morning of the 12th, and so well were his calculations made
that, on the evening of the 14th, his headquarters were at Beaumont,
not more than sixteen miles south of Charleroi, with the entire army
within easy reach. And, by the expedient which he adopted, of causing
demonstrations to be made at various points on the frontier, from the
English Channel on the west almost to Metz on the east, he diverted the
attention of the enemy’s pickets and created false alarms, so that his
formidable army was concentrated without arousing the serious concern
of the chiefs of the allied armies.

On the evening of the 14th, at Avesnes, the Emperor issued to his
soldiers one of his stirring orders;[59] he reminded them that this
was the anniversary of Marengo and Friedland; he called upon them to
conquer or die.

As confirming what has been said above as to his plans and
expectations, he wrote to his brother Joseph the same morning, as
follows:[60] “To-morrow I go to Charleroi, where the Prussian army is;
that will occasion either a battle or the retreat of the enemy.” To the
same effect he wrote at the same time to Davout:[61] “I shall pass the
Sambre to-morrow, the 15th. If the Prussians do not retire, we shall
have a battle.” These letters show how perfectly clear his plan lay in
his own mind,—not as a project of separating the allied armies from one
another by occupying any points on the line by which they communicated
with each other, but as an intention of attacking and defeating the
army of Blücher before it could be supported by that of Wellington,
unless, indeed, it should fall back before him.

That evening at Beaumont was issued a general order[62] for the forward
movement of the army, to commence at half-past two o’clock the next
morning, the 15th. For each corps special directions were given, and
also for each of the three divisions of the Imperial Guard,—Marshal
Mortier, its commander, having through illness been obliged to remain
at Avesnes. The 2d Corps, followed by the 1st, was to advance on the
left of the army; the 3d and 6th and the Guard on the centre; and
the 4th Corps, which was at Philippeville, on the right. Charleroi
was stated to be the general objective point of the movement: but
Reille was warned that the 2d Corps would probably cross the Sambre
at Marchienne, a few miles higher up, and Gérard was by a later
order[63][64] directed to cross with the 4th Corps at Châtelet, a
little lower down. The sappers were to precede each column to repair
the roads and bridges, which had been in the past few months broken up
by the French, in order to obstruct the march of the allies, should
they cross the frontier. The centre columns were to be preceded by the
cavalry of the 3d Corps and by the cavalry-corps of General Pajol. The
other three cavalry-corps, under the command of Marshal Grouchy, were
to follow the army. (See Map 2.)

By the carelessness of the headquarters-staff in sending but one
officer to Vandamme, and in not requiring a receipt[65] from him, and by
the accident of this officer being thrown from his horse and failing
to deliver his message, Vandamme did not get this order in season; he
consequently was not able to get the 3d Corps on the road till seven
o’clock. This delay was, of course, vexatious, and operated to hinder
the movement upon Charleroi, and to render it less decisive than it
otherwise would have been.

An unhappy incident occurred to the 4th Corps. General Bourmont, who
commanded its leading division, deserted to the enemy, accompanied by
his staff. Bourmont was an old royalist, but he had apparently given in
his unqualified adhesion to the imperial cause. His treason could not
but have a very unfortunate effect on the soldiers, creating a feeling
of distrust in their officers, particularly in those of high rank.

With these deductions, the day of the fifteenth of June was decidedly
a successful one for the French. Although the Prussian General Zieten,
who, with the 1st Prussian Corps, held the line of the Sambre, having
advance-posts on the right or south bank, opposed at all points to the
French a skilful and obstinate resistance,[66] the superiority of his
adversaries was too decided for a successful stand to be made anywhere.

In the centre, the operations were under the immediate direction of
the Emperor, who mounted his horse at three in the morning.[67] In the
march on Charleroi the Young Guard followed the cavalry, Vandamme’s
Corps having been, as we have seen, delayed. Everywhere the enemy
were pushed back. Pajol entered Charleroi about noon. Here a halt was
made to allow Vandamme time to arrive, and the enemy took up a strong
position on the heights of Gilly, a little to the north and east of
Charleroi. Their firm attitude seems to have imposed somewhat[68] on
Marshal Grouchy, who had come up with the cavalry-corps of Exelmans,
and on Vandamme, who in the afternoon arrived and took his proper post
in the advance; and it was not until about five o’clock,[69] when
Napoleon assumed command in person, and with a vigor that savored
perhaps of impatience assaulted the position, putting in even the
cavalry of the headquarters-guard, that the enemy gave way, and retired
to Fleurus.

Vandamme and Grouchy, with Pajol’s and Exelmans’ cavalry, bivouacked a
mile or two south of Fleurus. The Guard rested between Charleroi and
Gilly; the 6th Corps on the south bank of the river, near Charleroi.

On the right, the corps of Gérard crossed the river at Châtelet, and
remained for the night on the road to Fleurus.

Thus, three corps,—the 3d, 4th, and 6th,—the Guard, and the greater
part of the cavalry, were concentrated near Charleroi and between
that place and Fleurus, ready to attack the Prussians at Fleurus or
Sombreffe the next day.

The Emperor’s headquarters were fixed at Charleroi.

Coming now to the operations of the left wing,—Reille, at the head
of the 2d Corps, starting from Leers, on the Sambre, at three in the
morning, drove the enemy from point to point, occupying the various
bridges across the river, until he reached Marchienne.[70] By the terms
of an order[71] dated 8.30 A.M. he was allowed to pass the Sambre at
this point, and by another order, which is not preserved, but only
referred to in an order to d’Erlon,[72] he was directed to march on
Gosselies, and to attack a body of the enemy which appeared to be
there. In obedience to his instructions, Reille crossed the bridge at
Marchienne and moved directly upon Jumet, a village on the road leading
from Charleroi to Brussels. Here he encountered a Prussian rear guard,
which he quickly overthrew, and at once moved upon Gosselies. It was
“at this moment,” when he was marching on Gosselies, he says, that
Marshal Ney arrived and took command.[73] This was about five o’clock
in the afternoon.[74]

Ney, who had just overtaken the army on the march, had ridden over from
Charleroi, where he had seen the Emperor, and had received[75] from him
the command of the 1st and 2d Corps. Napoleon had told him that Reille
was marching on Gosselies, and, when he reached Reille, he found him,
as we have just seen, in the very act.

On his arrival at Gosselies, Ney carried forward with himself to
Frasnes the cavalry of the 2d Corps, Piré’s, and the division of
Bachelu. About half-past six,[76] Ney with these troops drove
the enemy,—a brigade under Prince Bernard of Saxe Weimar,—from
Frasnes. They fell back to Quatre Bras. The division of Girard
was sent in pursuit of the Prussians, who had retired from
Gosselies on Fleurus. The other two divisions,—those of Jerome and
Foy,—remained at Gosselies. A division of cavalry of the Guard,
under Lefebvre-Desnouettes, about 2000 strong, which had been lent
temporarily to Ney, was placed by him in support of the troops at
Frasnes.[77] Ney remained at Frasnes till a late hour in the evening.

Thus the 2d Corps had accomplished its tasks for the day. Its commander
had shown himself energetic and capable. The advance at Frasnes
observed the enemy’s post at Quatre Bras. The troops had had a very
exhausting day and needed a good night’s rest.

The 1st Corps, under the Count d’Erlon, did not do so well by any
means. To begin with, d’Erlon did not start at 3 A.M., as he was
ordered to do, but at 4 o’clock.[78] His troops had no fighting
to do; they simply followed in the rear of the 2d Corps.[79] They
had, to be sure,[80] five miles farther to go, having bivouacked at
Solre-sur-Sambre, and they were, no doubt, affected by that tendency
to delay which seems always to attend the last half of a long marching
column; it is well known that the last half never keeps up, relatively,
with the first half. D’Erlon had also been required to detach part of
his troops at the various crossings of the Sambre.[81] But these facts
afford no adequate explanation of the tardiness of this corps. At
night d’Erlon’s headquarters were at Marchienne; his leading division,
Durutte’s, had reached Jumet;[82] but at least one-fourth of his troops
had not crossed the river. Nevertheless, by an order[83] dated 3 P.M.,
d’Erlon had been informed that Reille had been ordered to march on
Gosselies and to attack the enemy there, and that the Emperor wished
him, d’Erlon, also to march on Gosselies and to support this operation.
Later in the day, or perhaps in the evening,[84] after Marshal Ney
had assumed command of the two corps, d’Erlon was informed[85] that
it was the Emperor’s intention that he should join the 2d Corps at
Gosselies, and that Ney would also give him orders to that effect.[86]
This last sentence must imply that Napoleon had enjoined on Ney to
bring up these troops. It is true that Charras[87] says that, on the
evening of the 15th, the 1st Corps was in echelon from Marchienne to
Jumet, implying that all the troops had crossed the river; and this
is the generally accepted belief.[88] But we find a despatch,[89]
dated at Marchienne at 3 A.M. of the 16th, from the chief-of-staff
of the 3d division of the 1st corps, Marcognet’s, to General Noguès,
who commanded the 1st brigade of that division, informing him that
the 2d brigade would remain at Marchienne until the arrival of the
1st division, that of General Allix. This shows beyond a doubt that,
notwithstanding the order of three o’clock in the afternoon for the 1st
Corps to reach Gosselies and support Reille in attacking the enemy,
and the subsequent order to the same effect, yet, at three o’clock in
the morning of the 16th, twelve hours afterwards, one division had not
arrived at the river, and another division (two brigades) was still
at Marchienne. This state of facts, it must be recollected, existed
when the whole 2d Corps had been at and beyond Gosselies for more than
eight hours! It is impossible not to blame d’Erlon for this excessive
tardiness in the movements of his corps,—not only for not having
executed the order of three o’clock in the afternoon to proceed at once
to Gosselies, but generally, for not having seen to it that his troops
were, during the entire march, within a short distance[90] of the 2d
Corps, a measure certainly, when all the circumstances are taken into
account,—and especially that the advance of Reille was to be made in an
enemy’s country and was actually stoutly resisted,—of the most obvious
necessity. And it must not be forgotten that in Belgium in the middle
of June, it is light until nine o’clock in the evening, and the sun
rises before four.

It may be remarked that the controversies which have been waged in
regard to the truth of Napoleon’s statement that he, on the 15th, gave
Ney verbal orders to seize and occupy Quatre Bras, have deflected the
attention of historians from the subject now under consideration,—the
conduct of d’Erlon in regard to the march of the 1st Corps on the
15th,—a subject closely connected, as we shall hereafter see, with the
operations of the army on the succeeding day.

In regard to the much vexed question referred to above, we shall say
nothing here. It is not pretended that Napoleon gave to Ney on the
15th any written orders to go to Quatre Bras. Napoleon’s statement[91]
that he gave him verbal orders to that effect has been denied, and
is widely disbelieved. We prefer, for many reasons, to confine our
narrative to generally admitted facts, or to those which admit of
definite proof. What we have to say about this matter will be found in
the Notes to this chapter.

In summing up the situation, we may fairly conclude, that, with the
exception of the backwardness of the 1st Corps, the progress made
during the day had been satisfactory to the Emperor. He says himself:—

  “All the Emperor’s manœuvres had succeeded to his wishes; he had it
  thenceforth in his power to attack the armies of the enemy in detail.
  To avoid this misfortune, the greatest that could befall them, the
  only means they had left was to abandon the ground, and assemble at
  Brussels or beyond that city.”[92]

Napoleon had in fact concentrated in front of Fleurus a sufficient
force wherewith to fight the Prussians, if, as he thought it not
unlikely, they should risk a battle on the next day. He was not
apprehensive of the Anglo-Dutch army joining their allies in this
battle, for Wellington, as he calculated, could not concentrate in
season a sufficient force to overcome the two corps which, under
Ney, he intended should occupy Quatre Bras the next forenoon. He had
purposely abstained from occupying Sombreffe, for he feared that if he
did this, Blücher, finding his communications with Wellington blocked
at this point, would retire without a battle, and endeavor to effect
a junction with the English at Wavre, or elsewhere to the northward;
whereas, so long as the road which connected his army with that of
Wellington remained free, Blücher might with confidence be expected to
risk a battle for the preservation of that line of communication, that
is, at or near Fleurus, with the expectation of being reinforced by his
ally. But if he ventured upon this course, Napoleon expected to beat
him, for Napoleon calculated that, by the occupation of Quatre Bras
the next morning, he could prevent Blücher’s receiving any assistance
from his Anglo-Dutch allies.

A letter[93] written by Baron Fain, one of the Emperor’s secretaries,
to Joseph Bonaparte, dated Charleroi, June 15th, at 9 o’clock in the
evening, states that the Emperor has just returned, very much fatigued,
having been on horseback since three in the morning, and has thrown
himself on his bed for a few hours’ repose; but that he will mount his
horse again at midnight. This, however, as we shall see hereafter, he
did not do, as at midnight Marshal Ney came to confer with him, having
just ridden back from his extreme front at Frasnes.


[58] _Ante_, p. 4.

[59] Corresp., vol. 28, p. 324, No. 22,052: App. C, I; _post_, p. 362.

[60] Ib., vol. 28, p.322, No. 22,050.

[61] Ib., vol. 28, p. 323, No. 22,051.

[62] Ib., vol. 28, p. 325, No. 22,053: App. C, II; _post_, p. 363.

[63] La Tour d’Auvergne, p. 62.

[64] Charras, vol. I, pp. 101,117: La Tour d’Auvergne, p. 57, n. _Cf._
Stanhope, pp. 65, 248.

[65] Maurice, p. 547: Sept. 1890.

[66] For a valuable discussion of Zieten’s conduct, see Col. F.
Maurice’s Article on Waterloo in the United Service Magazine for
October, 1890.

[67] Corresp. vol. 28, p. 330, No. 22,055: Baron Fain to Prince Joseph.

[68] But see Grouchy: Observations, pp. 60 _et seq._

[69] Charras, vol. 1, p. 111.

[70] Charras, vol. 1, pp. 99, 100.

[71] Doc. Inéd., III, p. 22; App. C, III; _post_, p. 366.

[72] Ib., V, p. 25; App. C, V; _post_, p. 367. See Napoléon à Waterloo,
p. 58.

[73] Doc. Inéd., p. 56: Statement of General Reille.

[74] Charras, vol. 1, p. 123.

[75] Doc. Inéd., p. 4, statement of Colonel Heymès. The hour given
by Heymès, seven o’clock, is much too late. We can fix the time of
this conversation from a statement of Marshal Grouchy’s. That officer
(Observations, p. 61) tells us that on going to Charleroi to take his
orders from the Emperor just before the attack on Gilly, he found him
giving instructions to Ney. The attack on Gilly was ordered, as we have
seen above, at five o’clock, so that Ney must have joined the Emperor
some time before five, and probably reached Reille about half or
three-quarters of an hour later. _Cf._ Van Loben Sels, p. 140.

[76] Report of Prince Bernard, given in full in Van Loben Sels, p. 134,
n. Heymès’ statement is all wrong as to the hours. He says Ney met the
Emperor at seven, put himself at the head of the 2d Corps at eight, and
occupied Frasnes at ten. Doc. Inéd., p. 4.

[77] Doc. Inéd., pp. 4, 5. Col. Heymès’ Statement.

[78] See Napoléon à Waterloo, p. 53, where d’Erlon’s order to his
troops to break camp at 4 A.M., instead of at 3 A.M., as had been
directed, is given in full, and severely commented on.

[79] Charras, vol. 1, p. 98. _Cf_ the 10 A.M. order to d’Erlon: Doc.
Inéd., IV, p. 24; App. C., iv; _post_, p. 367. This directed d’Erlon to
cross the Sambre at Marchiennes or Ham, and take up a position close to
that of Reille.

[80] Ib., p. 98, n.

[81] Charras, vol. 2, pp. 207, 208.

[82] Durutte’s statement, Doc. Inéd., p. 71, that this Corps camped at
night beyond Gosselies, is wholly unsupported. Durutte probably meant
Jumet, not Gosselies. The divisions of Foy and Jerome, of the 2d Corps,
occupied Gosselies.

[83] Doc. Inéd., V., p. 25; App. C, v; _post_, p. 367.

[84] At six or seven o’clock, Charras thinks. Charras, vol. 2, p. 224.

[85] Doc. Inéd., VI., p. 25; App. C, vi; _post_, p. 368.

[86] In some unaccountable way Chesney (Waterloo, pp. 118, 119) has
overlooked these orders that Napoleon gave to d’Erlon to close up
on Reille at Gosselies. The _Documents Inédits_ are not among the
authorities given in the List which follows his Table of Contents,
although they are referred to on page 119, and this may account for
this regrettable oversight. His blame of Napoleon, which is very
severe, is, therefore, entirely undeserved.

[87] Charras, vol. 1, p. 110.

[88] La Tour d’Auvergne, p. 91; Siborne, vol. 1, p. 82; Quinet, p. 90;
Hooper, p. 76: The author of “Napoléon à Waterloo” alone states (p. 34)
that a part of the 1st Corps had not crossed at night. See also p. 60.

[89] Napoléon à Waterloo, p. 144; App. C, vii; _post_, p. 368.

[90] Charras, vol. 1, p. 98.

[91] Corresp. vol. 31, p. 199: Gourgaud, p. 47.

[92] Corresp. vol. 31; p. 202.

[93] Corresp. vol. 28; p. 330, No. 22,055.


1. Marshal Ney was acting under considerable disadvantage during
this afternoon and evening. We have spoken of this subject before.
His difficulties are well pointed out by Colonel Maurice in a recent
paper,[94] in which much stress is laid, and very justly, on the fact
that Ney had not with him a proper staff. It is true that Ney was no
neophyte in the practice of war, and that he was perfectly well known
to his corps-commanders, and in fact to his entire command. But he
arrived at the front late in the day,—at nearly five o’clock in the
afternoon,—and with but a single staff-officer. It was only natural and
right that he should personally occupy himself with the conduct of the
advance to Frasnes, that he should accompany the cavalry, and should
attend to the posting of Bachelu’s infantry division in support. And
he may very possibly have found the leading division of the 1st Corps,
Durutte’s, between Jumet and Gosselies[95] on his return, late in the
evening, from Frasnes to the latter place. That the 1st Corps had not
fully executed its part of the programme must have been, however, only
too plain to him; and the necessity of exerting himself energetically
to bring it up to the front[96] if he would have his whole command
well in hand for to-morrow’s work must have appeared, in view of
d’Erlon’s slowness, most imperative. At least, there is every reason to
suppose this.

2. As to whether Napoleon accomplished as much as he had intended to
accomplish, or as much as he ought to have intended to accomplish, on
this day of the fifteenth of June, writers have differed. Those who,
like Jomini and Charras,[97] maintain the theory that his intention was
to seize both Sombreffe and Quatre Bras at once, and those who, like
Rogniat, insist that this ought to have been his intention, whatever it
may in reality have been, hold that the operations of this first day
were incomplete. Jomini says:—[98]

  “Napoleon had to renounce the idea of pushing on the 15th as far as
  Sombreffe and Quatre Bras, which were to be the pivots of all his
  after movements.” “One may feel assured,” says Charras,[99] “that the
  haste which Napoleon intended should characterize the march of the
  army had for its object the occupation of Quatre Bras and Sombreffe
  on the first day of the campaign. This occupation failed, in
  consequence of a considerable loss of time; the principal avenue of
  communication between Blücher and Wellington remained free, although
  menaced; it is for this reason that we hold that Napoleon told the
  truth in writing that ‘this loss of time was very injurious’ and that
  we add,—the day of the 15th had been incomplete.”

The passage to which Charras here refers is to be found in the
Memoirs,[100] and it runs thus:—

  “On the same day [the 15th], the attack of the woods before Fleurus,
  which had been ordered to commence at four o’clock in the afternoon,
  did not take place until seven o’clock. Night came on before the
  troops could enter Fleurus, where it had been the project of the
  chief to place his headquarters that very day. This loss of seven
  [_sic_][101] hours was very injurious at the opening of a campaign.”

A. Let us first consider this question so far as it affects the
operations of the centre and right of the army,—that is, with reference
to the non-occupation of Sombreffe on the 15th.

Rogniat’s criticism, that the Emperor ought to have aimed at seizing
Sombreffe on the 15th, is especially interesting, as it was answered by
Napoleon himself from St. Helena.

  “He [Napoleon] ought to have carried his whole army the same day
  as far as Fleurus, by a forced march of eight to ten leagues, and
  to have pushed his advance guard as far as Sombreffe; but, instead
  of hastening to arrive in the midst of his enemies, he stopped at
  Charleroi, whether because he was retarded by the bad weather or for
  other motives.”[102]

To this Napoleon replied:—[103]

  “The Emperor’s intention was that his advance guard should occupy
  Fleurus,[104] keeping [the bulk of] his troops concealed behind
  the wood near this city;[105] he took good care not to let his army
  be seen, _and, above all, not to occupy Sombreffe_.[106] This [the
  occupation of Sombreffe] would of itself have caused the failure of
  all his manœuvres; for then Marshal Blücher would have been obliged
  to make Wavre the place for the concentration of his army, the battle
  of Ligny would not have taken place, and the Prussian army would not
  have been obliged to give battle [as it did] in its then not fully
  concentrated condition, and not supported by the English army.”

In his “Réponse aux Notes critiques de Napoléon,”[107] Rogniat
criticises this observation as follows:—

  “In occupying Sombreffe on the 15th, Napoleon would have won, without
  striking a blow, the immense result of isolating the two opposing
  armies in order to fight them separately, a result which the victory
  of Ligny, so dearly purchased, did not obtain for him.”[108]

While Rogniat thus condemns Napoleon for not having proposed to himself
to occupy Sombreffe on the 15th, Charras[109] summarily dismisses
Napoleon’s statement just quoted, as unworthy of serious attention. Not
to have aimed at occupying Sombreffe on the 15th, he says, would have
been contrary to “the very principles of his strategy.” He accordingly
finds that in this respect Napoleon had failed on the evening of the
15th to attain his objective point.

Jomini’s view[110] of Napoleon’s plan, as we have seen above, coincides
with that of Charras.[111]

In respect to these criticisms, we observe in the first place that
these writers have adduced no sufficient reason for distrusting
Napoleon’s own account of his plan and intentions. That account is
perfectly clear and consistent throughout. He wanted, he tells us, to
fight at the outset a decisive battle with one of the allied armies.
He looked for great results from such a battle. He expected, he says,
that the Prussians would be promptly concentrated, and would offer
battle near Fleurus,—to the south of Sombreffe; and that owing to the
unreadiness of the Anglo-allied army, and his proposed seizure of
Quatre Bras on the first day of the campaign, he would be able to fight
the Prussians, isolated, for the time being, from the English.[112]
While he claims to have ordered the occupation of Quatre Bras on the
first day, he nowhere says that he proposed to occupy Sombreffe on the
first day. When he is criticised for not having attempted this, he
maintains that he was right. He considered, he says, that Blücher’s
object in fighting a battle at this stage in the campaign must be the
maintenance of his communications with his allies;[113] the Prussians
would, therefore, fight, if they fought at all, to the south of the
Namur-Quatre-Bras turnpike, somewhere to the south of Sombreffe. And,
as he expected great and perhaps decisive results[114] from such a
battle, he contented himself on the 15th of June with threatening
with his centre and right this turnpike, and purposely abstained from
occupying Sombreffe. For if Blücher should find Sombreffe occupied and
his line of communications with Wellington actually in the enemy’s
hands, it was probable, so Napoleon thought, that he would retire to
some point further north, where a union of the two armies could easily
be effected, and so this opportunity of fighting the Prussians alone
and isolated from the English would be lost.

In the second place, we fail to see that the plan which Rogniat blames
Napoleon for not having adopted, and which Jomini and Charras believe
he really entertained, but failed to carry into effect, that is, the
plan of occupying both Sombreffe and Quatre Bras on the 15th, was an
improvement in any way over Napoleon’s plan as described by himself,
as stated above. These writers would have Napoleon begin the campaign
by separating the two hostile armies by occupying two points on the
road by which they communicated with each other. Napoleon says that
if he had done this, while the two armies would certainly have been
separated, his chances of dealing decisively with one of them, alone
and unsupported by its ally, would most likely have vanished. And the
probabilities are that Napoleon was right in this opinion. Blücher
would naturally have retired, if he had found the Namur-Quatre-Bras
road occupied at Sombreffe by the French in force; he would have tried
to concert with Wellington some combined operation in the neighborhood
of Wavre or Brussels; and thus the opportunity which Napoleon had at
Ligny, where the Prussians were exposed to the attack of the main
French army without the assistance of a single English soldier, would
not have been offered by Blücher.

It seems to us that Napoleon is right in his contention, and that the
great chance which he had at the battle of Ligny of defeating one of
his two adversaries alone and unsupported, was in exact accordance
with his expectations, and, was, as much as such things ever are, the
result of his well-calculated dispositions.

We conclude, therefore, that there is no good reason to suppose
that Napoleon intended on the evening of the 15th to push forward
to Sombreffe and hold the Namur-Nivelles road at that point. He may
very possibly have expected to fix his headquarters at Fleurus,
but, although he did not succeed in doing this, his object had been
substantially attained at the close of the first day of the campaign,
so far as the operations of the right and centre were concerned.

B. Let us now consider the other branch of the question,—Did Napoleon
intend to occupy Quatre Bras on the 15th?

(1.) If we are correct in the view taken above, namely, that Napoleon
did not intend to seize Sombreffe on the 15th, because he feared that
if Blücher found his line of communications with Wellington occupied in
force at Sombreffe, he would retire to the northward, and there form
a junction with the Anglo-Dutch army, it would seem at first blush as
if Blücher might be expected to take the same course if he found the
turnpike to Nivelles occupied in force by the enemy at Quatre Bras. But
this seems to be pushing the argument too far. Blücher could hardly be
expected to be affected by the report of the occupation of Quatre Bras
so much as by the expulsion of Zieten’s Corps from Sombreffe, and by
the occupation of that place by the main French army. Theoretically, so
to speak, the seizure of any one point on the Namur-Nivelles turnpike
ought to produce the same effect on Marshal Blücher’s mind, and,
therefore, on his subsequent movements, as the seizure of any other.
Yet one can easily see that, practically, this might not be so. On the
other hand, there was certainly the risk that Blücher would not fight
at or near Sombreffe unless he thought he could count on receiving aid
from Wellington, and this expectation could hardly be entertained, if
he knew that the French were in possession of Quatre Bras. Still, the
importance of preventing Wellington, by an early occupation of Quatre
Bras, from assisting the Prussians in their resistance to the attack
which he hoped to make upon them the next day, may well have induced
Napoleon to give on the 15th to Marshal Ney orders to occupy Quatre
Bras at once, and to take the chance of the result of this step being
the withdrawal of the Prussian army to Wavre or Brussels.

(2.) But the matter is really of very little consequence, so far, at
least, as the successful carrying out of Napoleon’s plan is concerned.
Let us assume that Napoleon is correct in his statement that he gave
a verbal order to Ney on the 15th to push forward to Quatre Bras. We
have nevertheless just seen that the Memoirs testify to the Emperor’s
general satisfaction on the evening of the 15th with the progress that
had been made during the day, notwithstanding the non-occupation of
Quatre Bras. Napoleon has in fact nowhere said that it was _necessary_
to occupy Quatre Bras on the 15th. The written orders to Ney, on the
morning of the 16th, which we shall shortly have occasion to consider,
imply that, at the time he wrote them, Napoleon was content with Ney’s
having on the 15th occupied Frasnes and threatened Quatre Bras, and
that he then desired the movement on the latter point to take place on
the forenoon of the 16th, while he himself was massing his troops for
the advance on Sombreffe and the expected battle with the Prussians in
the afternoon. In truth, when we consider that the bulk of the army
under Napoleon in person could hardly have been in condition to engage
the Prussians at daybreak of the 16th, we can easily comprehend that
Napoleon,—whatever he might have enjoined on Ney at five o’clock in the
afternoon before, when he no doubt expected that much more progress
would be made before the next morning than actually was made,—should
have been quite content with Ney’s not having reached a point so far
to the front as Quatre Bras.[115]

As for Jomini[116] and Charras,[117] they admit that, when Napoleon
perceived the impossibility of seizing Sombreffe on the 15th, he ceased
to desire the occupation of Quatre Bras, and was quite content with
Ney’s advance remaining for the night at Frasnes. In their conclusion
we may, for the reasons we have just given, well agree, without
committing ourselves to their theory of Napoleon’s plan, which, as we
have seen above, differs materially from his own account of it.

We conclude, therefore, that the result of the operations of the first
day had also been satisfactory so far as the non-occupation of Quatre
Bras was concerned. But Marshal Ney’s command was far from being well
in hand at the close of the day, as we have had occasion to point out

3. But, it may fairly be asked, in view of what has been said, assuming
that Napoleon gave Ney a verbal order at five o’clock in the afternoon
of the 15th, why, if the non-occupation of Quatre Bras by Ney on that
evening did not really disarrange Napoleon’s plans, did Napoleon blame
Marshal Ney for not having occupied it? Because, in the first place, it
was a disobedience of orders; secondly, because Napoleon believed that
Ney’s stopping at Frasnes, this side of Quatre Bras, was dictated by
an exaggerated caution, which it was equally surprising and annoying
to find in a man like Ney; and, thirdly because when he came to write
his narrative of the campaign, he connected this hesitation to take
risks, which Ney had evinced on the 15th, with Ney’s very singular
management of his command on the next day,—of which we can here say
nothing without anticipating our story. It was to Ney’s supposed faulty
arrangements on the 16th that the Emperor—who never knew all the facts
of the case, by the way,—naturally attributed the failure of the 1st
Corps to take part either in the battle of Quatre Bras or in that of
Ligny. Hence we find Napoleon severe on Ney for not boldly pushing out
to Quatre Bras on the evening of the 15th, not because it was necessary
to occupy the cross-roads that night,—for the next morning would have
done quite as well,—but because Ney’s hesitation seemed to the Emperor
to indicate in him a lack of that boldness and energy on which he had
always counted hitherto with entire confidence.

4. In what has just been said, we have assumed that Napoleon gave to
Ney a verbal order at five o’clock on the 15th to push forward with the
two corps and seize Quatre Bras. But was this the fact?

This question has been the subject of a great deal of controversy, as
every student of the campaign knows to his cost. In our view, as we
have just pointed out, it is not a matter of much consequence. Napoleon
nowhere claims that the failure of Marshal Ney to carry out this order
was a serious matter, although he does attribute his failure to carry
it out to an undue prudence and an unnecessary caution, for which he
censures him. Still, the matter has been so hotly contested, that it
may be best to address ourselves to it briefly.

The statements in Gourgaud’s narrative[119] and the Memoirs,[120] that
Napoleon ordered Ney, at their meeting near Gilly, to advance boldly
to Quatre Bras with his two corps and to take up a position beyond
it, with guards on the roads to Nivelles, Brussels and Namur, are
exceedingly positive and explicit. These statements were written in
1818 and 1820. The only piece of strictly contemporaneous evidence
that we have is the statement in the official bulletin of the
army,[121] which was sent off from Charleroi on the evening of the
15th, that Ney’s headquarters were that evening at Quatre Bras,—and
it certainly is a very strong confirmation of Gourgaud and the

Again, the reason given in Gourgaud[123] and the Memoirs[124] as
inducing Ney to halt this side of Quatre Bras, namely, that he deemed
it unwise to advance further to the front than the main body had
proceeded,—judging by the sound of the cannon, which came from the
neighborhood of Fleurus and Gilly,—is a very natural[125] one. It is no
doubt the reason he gave to the Emperor at their interview that very
night at Charleroi.

Neither Ney nor Soult have left any statements in writing[126] about
the matter. Nor is it claimed that Ney ever made any verbal statement
on the subject. Thiers[127] asserts that Soult “frequently said * * *
that on the afternoon of the fifteenth of June he heard Napoleon order
Marshal Ney to proceed to Quatre Bras,” and he cites the memoirs of
General Berthezène, who commanded one of Vandamme’s divisions, to the
effect that Soult had told him that Napoleon gave these orders to Ney.

On the other hand we have a statement of Ney’s son, then Duke of
Elchingen, that Colonel Heymès, Ney’s aide-de-camp, said in 1841
to him,[128] that the name of Quatre Bras was not pronounced in the
conversation between the Emperor and Marshal Ney on the afternoon of
the 15th. The Duke furthermore tells us[129] that in 1829, Marshal Soult
told him and Colonel Heymès that the Emperor had no idea of having
Quatre Bras occupied on the evening of the 15th, and gave no orders to
that effect.

But how is it possible to reconcile this hearsay evidence, with the
undeniable fact that the official bulletin states Ney’s headquarters on
the evening of the 15th to be at Quatre Bras? It is surely much more
likely that these reports by Marshal Ney’s son, of statements by Heymès
and Soult, of their recollections, given respectively fourteen and
twenty-six years after the occurrence, are defective in some way, than
that the bulletin made up on the very evening should have contained a
statement that Ney was at Quatre Bras when he had never been directed
to go there. The contents of the bulletin must have been known to
Soult, the chief-of-staff of the army; in fact, the bulletin itself
must have been either actually composed by him or under his immediate
direction; and it is simply incredible that he should have inserted a
statement that Ney’s headquarters were, on the evening of the 15th,
at Quatre Bras if he knew that the Emperor had no intention of having
Quatre Bras occupied that evening, and had given no orders to that
effect. It is to be noted also that Charras makes but an incidental
mention of the bulletin,[130] which is the only bit of contemporaneous
evidence that we have, and confines his discussion of the testimony
to an examination of these reported sayings of Soult and Heymès. When
we take also into account that, in his carefully drawn Narrative,[131]
Heymès does not explicitly state that Quatre Bras was not mentioned,
that there is nothing whatever from Soult over his own signature, that
these sayings of Soult and Heymès rest on mere hearsay evidence, and
that they were spoken, if spoken at all, many years after the campaign,
it is evident that the statement in the bulletin is by far the best
evidence that we have. The mention of Quatre Bras in the bulletin was
made at the time,—before any controversy had arisen,—it was moreover a
mere incidental mention, and cannot be supposed to have been intended
to serve a purpose of any kind.

Where the evidence is so conflicting, it is impossible for many persons
to make up their minds. As we remarked before, the matter is not one of
any great importance in its bearing on the fortunes of the campaign.
The question, whether Ney received at five in the afternoon of the
15th of June verbal orders to seize Quatre Bras that evening, is of
consequence mainly with reference to the scope of Napoleon’s plan at
that moment, and also with respect to his reproach of unwarrantable
hesitation on the part of Marshal Ney. It seems to us, we frankly say,
on the whole, almost certain that the order was given. At any rate, we
can hardly doubt that, when the bulletin was sent off that evening to
Paris, it was believed at the headquarters of the army that Marshal Ney
was at Quatre Bras; we must admit this, unless we gratuitously invent
an intention to deceive the public on a point of this kind. And as Ney
could hardly have been supposed to occupy Quatre Bras without orders,
he must have been supposed by those who drew up the bulletin,—that is,
Soult, the chief-of-staff of the army, and the Emperor himself,—to
have proceeded to Quatre Bras in conformity with the verbal order given
him that afternoon.[132]

The fact that the subsequent written orders to proceed to Quatre Bras,
issued on the morning of the 16th, make no mention either of this
verbal order, or of Ney’s failure to comply with it, does not seem
to us to tend in any way to show that the verbal order had not been
given. There would not only be no need of referring to such a fact in a
subsequent written order, but such a mention of it would be unusual and
unmilitary.[133] What light, if any, the contents of the written orders
throw on the question of the previous giving of a verbal order, is a
matter that will be considered hereafter.


[94] United Service Magazine: Sept., 1890: pp. 541 _et seq._

[95] Doc. Inéd., p. 71. Statement of General Durutte. As we have before
remarked, this officer probably mistook Jumet for Gosselies. See
_ante_, p. 50, note 25.

[96] “An error was committed by suffering it [the 1st Corps] to remain,
during the night of the 15th, echeloned between Marchienne and Jumet.”
Gourg. p. 66.

[97] _Ante_, pp. 12, 13.

[98] Jomini, p. 125. Jomini says (p. 123) that “Napoleon gave Grouchy
a verbal order to push as far as Sombreffe that very evening, if
possible”; but no evidence of such an order is cited. See Jomini’s
letter to the Duc d’Elchingen, pp. 225, 226. _Cf._ La Tour d’Auvergne,
p. 69. That Napoleon nowhere blames Grouchy for not having pushed on
to Sombreffe on the 15th,—taken in connection with his censure of Ney
for not having seized Quatre Bras that evening,—is pretty good evidence
that he neither ordered nor expected Grouchy to reach Sombreffe.

[99] Charras, vol. 1, p. 116: _cf._ vol. 2, p. 225, Note K.

[100] Corresp., vol. 31, p. 249.

[101] Evidently a misprint for “three”; the word “seven” having
obviously been carelessly repeated.

[102] Rogniat: Consid., p. 339: cited in Corresp., vol. 31, p. 471.

[103] Corresp., vol. 31, p. 471.

[104] Rogniat claims that there is a serious inconsistency between
this statement, as to the occupation of Fleurus by the advance guard,
and that in the Memoirs, where it is said that the Emperor intended to
place his headquarters there. This seems rather hypercritical. Charras
(vol. 2, p. 221) says “It stands to reason that if he had had his
headquarters in that city [Fleurus], he would have occupied Sombreffe.”
But this is surely going too far. Headquarters might well have been in
Fleurus, while the Prussians held the heights of Brye and Sombreffe,
and even the villages of Ligny and St. Amand; and this actually was the
case the next day,—the 16th. Fleurus, half way between Charleroi and
Sombreffe, was a very natural place for the Emperor to aim at as his
resting place for the night of the 15th.

[105] Clausewitz, ch. 30, p. 60. But see Rogniat, Réponse, p. 262.

[106] The italics are our own.

[107] pp. 264, 265.

[108] It is not easy to see what is meant here. It is certain that,
without having occupied Sombreffe on the 15th, Napoleon did fight the
Prussians separately on the 16th. That Ligny was not a more decisive
victory was due to special causes.

[109] Vol. 1, p. 115, note. Quinet, p. 102, does not follow Charras

[110] Jomini, pp. 123, 125.

[111] La Tour d’Auvergne, pp. 73 _et seq._ takes the same view.

[112] Vaudoncourt, vol. 3, 2d part, pp. 134, 135, states the Emperor’s
plan with admirable clearness. But on pp. 165, 166, he slides into the
theory of Jomini.

[113] _Cf._ Clausewitz, ch. 22, p. 46. “It was certainly to be assumed
that both generals would remain in communication with each other.”

[114] “Bonaparte hoped, if he met Blücher’s main body, to destroy it by
a quick attack, before Wellington could arrive.” Ib., ch. 22, p. 46.

[115] But see La Tour d’Auvergne, pp. 75, 76.

[116] Jomini, pp. 125, 215.

[117] Charras, vol. 1, p. 124. _Cf._ Quinet, p. 102.

[118] _Ante_, pp. 51, 52. Gourg. p. 66.

[119] Gourgaud, p. 47.

[120] Corresp. vol. 31, p. 199.

[121] Corresp., vol. 28, p. 333: “L’Empereur a donné le commandement
de la gauche au prince de la Moskowa, qui a eu le soir son quartier
général aux Quatre Chemins, sur la route de Bruxelles.” This Bulletin
was printed in the “Moniteur” of the 18th. App. C, viii; _post_, pp.
369, 370. It is to be found in Jones, pp. 378, 379.

[122] Marshal Grouchy, in 1818, only three years after the battle, in
the first edition of the pamphlet which he published in Philadelphia,
entitled “Observations sur la Relation de la Campagne de 1815, publiée
par le Général Gourgaud,” in defending himself for having, on the 18th
of June, as he claims, strictly obeyed his orders, instead of marching
to the sound of the cannon of Waterloo, says (p. 32):—

“Besides, this way of looking at the matter was fortified in my eyes
by the disapproval which Napoleon had shown in my presence of the
conduct of Marshal Ney. _I had heard him blame him for having suspended
the movement of his troops on the 15th at the sound of the cannonade
between Gilly and Fleurus_, for having halted Reille’s Corps between
Gosselies and Frasnes, and for having sent a division towards Fleurus,
where the fighting was going on, _in place of keeping himself to the
execution, pure and simple, of his orders, which prescribed to him to
march on Quatre Bras_. (The italics are ours.)

And again, when speaking of his own refusal to entertain the suggestion
that he should march to the sound of the cannon, he says (p. 61):—

“Could I, moreover, so soon forget that Napoleon had censured Marshal
Ney for having halted at the sound of the cannon which were being fired
near Fleurus, for having sent troops in that direction, and for having
permitted himself to depart from the literal execution of his orders?”

Grouchy must be referring here to the scene at the Emperor’s
headquarters on the night of the 15th and 16th (see _post_, p. 116).

In the edition published in Philadelphia in 1819, and in the
reproduction of the pamphlet from this edition in Paris in the same
year, Grouchy omits the statement that he heard the emperor blame
Ney, and rests his argument on the censure on Ney’s conduct contained
in the Gourgaud Narrative. One may not unreasonably conjecture that,
after publishing the edition of 1818, he was informed that Ney’s
family denied that Ney had received on the 15th any order to go to
Quatre Bras, and that Grouchy was unwilling to give evidence in this
controversy against this contention of the friends of the Marshal.

Captain Pringle, R. E., in an Appendix to Scott’s Napoleon (Paris
edition, 1828, p. 833, n.), is the only author who cites the
above-quoted statements of Marshal Grouchy.

[123] Gourgaud, p. 48, n.

[124] Corresp., vol. 31, p. 200.

[125] _Cf._ Jomini, p. 214, to whom the hesitation of Ney to occupy
Quatre Bras seems justifiable, “unless the order to rush headlong on
Quatre Bras had been expressed in a formal manner.”

[126] In his letter to the Duke of Otranto (Jones, 386), Ney says: “The
Emperor [on the 15th] ordered me immediately to put myself at the head
of the 1st and 2d Corps, &c., &c. With these troops * * * I pursued
the enemy, and forced him to evacuate Gosselies, Frasnes, Millet,
Heppignies. There they took up a position for the night. * * *

“On the 16th I received orders to attack the English in their position
at Quatre Bras.”

It will be observed that Ney omits to state what directions, if any,
the Emperor gave him on the 15th. He confines himself to enumerating
the troops placed under his orders and to stating what he accomplished
with them. The remark that he was ordered on the 16th to attack Quatre
Bras throws no light on the question we are examining, viz.:—what
orders were given to him on the 15th.

[127] Thiers, vol. xx, p. 31, n.

[128] Letter from the Duke of Elchingen to General Jomini, 16 October,
1841, published in the “Spectateur Militaire,” Dec. 15, 1841, as cited
in Charras, vol. 1, p. 119, n. _Cf._ Heymès’ Statement, Doc. Inéd., p.

[129] Doc. Inéd., p. 30.

[130] See _post_, p. 69, n. 38.

[131] Doc. Inéd., p. 4.

[132] We cannot find any allusion to the evidence furnished by this
bulletin in any of the authorities, except in the “Waterloo” of La
Tour d’Auvergne (p. 75), in Mr. William O’Connor Morris’s “Campaign of
1815” (Great Commanders of Modern Times, p. 327, note), and in the work
entitled “Napoléon à Waterloo,” p. 24, n., where the proper weight is
given to the matter. Hence the elaborate discussions of Charras and
Chesney, failing as they do, to meet this important piece of evidence,
do not greatly assist in arriving at a decision. The bulletin is not
alluded to in the Duke of Elchingen’s notes to the despatches collected
in his “_Documents Inédits_.”

The probability is that the existence of this Bulletin escaped
Chesney’s attention. Charras, however, cites the Bulletin (vol. 1, pp.
113, 114, notes). The fact that “Napoléon à Waterloo” was a reply to
the work of Charras, and that the “Waterloo” of La Tour d’Auvergne was
a reply to Chesney, accounts for our not finding the subject discussed
by Chesney and Charras. It is, however, difficult to understand why
Charras in his elaborate work should have overlooked the inference to
be drawn from the statement in the bulletin.

[133] _Cf._ Charras, vol. 1, p. 120.



Marshal Blücher had long since fixed upon Sombreffe as the point of
concentration for his army, in the event of the French crossing the
Sambre at or near Charleroi, and he had even chosen the line of the
brook of Ligny, which borders the villages of St. Amand, Ligny, and
Balâtre, as a possible battlefield.[134]

On the night of the 13th of June, Zieten, who commanded the Ist
Prussian Corps, and whose headquarters were at Charleroi, saw the
French bivouac fires at Beaumont and Solre;[135] and, on the evening of
the 14th, Blücher ordered the IId, IIId and IVth Corps to concentrate
at or near Sombreffe. Zieten with the Ist Corps was to make as
obstinate resistance as possible and fall back to and hold the village
of Fleurus, thus gaining time for the concentration of the whole

These measures, it is admitted by all writers, were taken without any
consultation being had with the Duke of Wellington at the moment. But
it is claimed that there existed a definite understanding between the
two commanders, in pursuance of which Blücher acted.[137]

There had been a meeting between Wellington and Blücher at Tirlemont
on May 3d, which the Duke[138] in a letter to the Prince of Orange
pronounces “very satisfactory.” Baron Müffling, who was the Prussian
military _attaché_ at the Duke’s headquarters, states[139] that
the lines of march which the English and Prussian armies should
respectively pursue _in case France should be invaded_, were definitely
agreed upon and laid down in writing. This agreement may have been
arrived at at that interview, though Müffling does not say so. He then
goes on to say:—[140]

  “The junction of the English and Prussian armies for a
  _defensive_[141] battle * * * was so distinctly _prescribed by
  circumstances and by the locality_ that no doubt whatever could be
  raised on the point.”

He then proceeds to give his views, and ends by saying:—

  “The point of concentration for the Prussian army was accordingly
  marked out between Sombreffe and Charleroi, and for the English, _en
  dernier lieu_, between Gosselies and Marchiennes.”

We do not think[142] that Müffling intends here to state that Blücher
and Wellington had made any agreement as to their respective action
in case Napoleon should be the invader; he only tells us what in his
judgment was the true course for them to take,—the course marked out,
as he thought, by the circumstances and the locality. That we are
right in this, will appear when the likelihood of Wellington’s having
definitely agreed to advance his army to the very borders of the Sambre
and the immediate vicinity of Charleroi, in view of his well-known
anxiety for his communications, is considered for a moment.[143] We
believe that the Duke, although doubtless informed of Marshal Blücher’s
intention to concentrate his army at Sombreffe in case the enemy
advanced by way of Charleroi, made no agreement whatever with him as to
his own movements. The two commanders no doubt fully intended to act in
concert, and expected and relied upon the hearty support of each other,
but there was not, as we believe, any definite agreement as to the
particular steps to be taken in the event of a French invasion.

This matter is an important one to settle, because some Prussian
historians claim that Blücher gave battle at Ligny relying on
Wellington’s agreement to support him. We cannot decide on this
question at the present stage of our narrative; but we have already
seen that Blücher gave orders for his four corps to concentrate
at Sombreffe without any definite agreement or understanding with
Wellington that he was to be assisted by the English in the battle that
was almost certain to occur as a consequence of this concentration.
All he had a right to expect was, that the Duke, as soon as he was
informed of the situation, would at once assemble his forces, and, if
he could safely and wisely do so, would march to the assistance of
his ally.[144] But the Prussian Marshal took the risk of the English
general’s not coming to his support in the next day’s battle; for, in
the first place, he knew the scattered situation of the Anglo-Dutch
troops, and that it would take a couple of days or so to get them
together; and, secondly, he could not be sure that Napoleon might not,
by operating with a part of his army by way of Mons and Hal, induce the
Duke to concentrate his forces so far to the westward as to put it out
of his power to render any help to an army that was fighting in front
of Sombreffe.

We have stated that, on the evening of the 14th, Blücher ordered the
IId, IIId and IVth Corps to concentrate at or near Sombreffe. In
compliance with these directions the IId and IIId Corps respectively
concentrated, and marched rapidly towards Sombreffe. But Bülow, whose
headquarters were at Liége, and who had, in obedience to his first
orders, concentrated his corps, took it upon himself to disobey a
subsequent order which he received about eleven o’clock in the morning
of the 15th, directing him to march at once upon Hannut, and to put
off the execution of this order until the next day. It is hardly
worth while to undertake to decide how far Gneisenau, Blücher’s
chief-of-staff, was, as has been often asserted, partly to blame for
this mischance, by not inserting in the order a statement to the
effect that hostilities were imminent. The matter has been often
discussed;[145] it would seem that Bülow ought to bear the largest
share of the blame; but why Gneisenau, upon whose shoulders lay the
burden of effecting a concentration of the entire army by the morning
of the 16th, should have omitted, when a battle was imminent, to put
the commander of his most distant corps in possession of the facts of
the situation and of Marshal Blücher’s intentions, it is certainly not
easy to see. In such an exigency, the chief-of-staff must be held to
the duty of omitting nothing that would tend to accomplish his task.

The Duke of Wellington had been, as had Marshal Blücher, aware for the
last few days of the movement of large masses of French troops near the
frontier, but he had not deemed it necessary or desirable in any way to
alter his dispositions. He felt that his army was the force relied upon
to protect Brussels, where the King of the Netherlands was, and Ghent,
where the King of France was, and that it was of the utmost importance
that Napoleon should not be allowed to gain the political advantage of
putting those newly made sovereigns to flight,[146] and repossessing
himself of Belgium and Holland. Moreover, of the importance of
preserving his own communications with Antwerp and Ostend the Duke was
well aware. He believed that Napoleon’s best move would be against his
communications;[147] and he felt that, under this belief, he ought to
hesitate before concentrating his army and moving it by its left to
gain a union with that of Marshal Blücher.[148]

Hence he retained his own headquarters at Brussels, thirty-four
miles[149] from Charleroi. His army, as has been already stated, lay
in cantonments to the westward of the Charleroi-Brussels turnpike.
It is well known that Wellington looked for a movement of the French
either on the road from Mons to Brussels or to the westward of that
road. He had repaired the fortifications of Mons, Ypres, Tournay and
other places, and put them in a state of defence.[150] It is also to be
observed that for the last three days before the opening of hostilities
the information that came to him of the enemy’s movements indicated a
probable concentration of their forces near Mons.[151] Wellington’s
troops, if they remained in the positions which they occupied on
June 12th, for instance, could be concentrated at Braine-le-Comte
or Hal,—towns on the road from Mons to Brussels,—much more readily
than at Quatre Bras or Gosselies,—that is, they were well situated to
oppose such a movement of the French as that which the Duke thought
it most likely Napoleon would make. They were, it is true, still in
their cantonments, scattered about in the towns and villages, but the
Duke evidently thought that he would have time enough to assemble his
various detachments and concentrate his army after the movements of
his adversary should have been clearly ascertained. For holding this
opinion he has been sharply criticised, but this we will consider in
another place.

We must, therefore, bear in mind, first, that Wellington thought it
likely that Napoleon would advance, if he advanced at all, by way of
Mons, or to the westward of it, and, secondly, that he thought his
own army was well placed to meet such an advance. In fact we may go
further, and say that Wellington having this opinion about the line
which the French would probably take, felt it all the more necessary to
retain his troops in their existing positions, from which they could,
as he judged, easily be assembled to meet such an attack, because he
saw clearly that no assistance, certainly no immediate assistance,
could be expected from the Prussians, in such an emergency, so remote
were they from the Mons-Brussels route. If Napoleon was to be met or
baffled in such a movement it must be by the Anglo-Dutch army. And the
Duke also saw with equal clearness that nothing could serve the purpose
of the French, if they were making their main attack by way of Mons,
better than a premature movement of the Anglo-Dutch army towards Quatre
Bras and Sombreffe, by which the communications of that army would be
exposed throughout their whole length. Hence it was to be expected that
the Duke would be most careful not to make such a premature movement,
and, therefore, that he would insist on being convinced that the main
French attack was by way of Charleroi before doing more than effecting
the assembling of his scattered troops at their respective places of

It so happened that the Prince of Orange, who commanded, as we have
said, the 1st Corps, left his headquarters at Braine-le-Comte early on
the morning of the 15th, rode to the outposts, heard some firing in the
direction of Thuin, a village some ten miles west of Charleroi, and
then rode straight to Brussels[152] without stopping on his way at his
own headquarters. During his absence[153] reports had been forwarded to
him from Generals Dörnberg and Behr, who were at Mons, to the effect
that all was quiet in their front, and from Van Merlen, whose command
lay a little to the eastward of Mons, that Steinmetz’s Prussian brigade
had been attacked early in the morning[154] and that the enemy’s
movements seemed to be directed on Charleroi. These reports remained
some hours at the Prince’s headquarters, and were then forwarded to
the Duke at Brussels, where they arrived in the evening. But before
that time, in fact by or before 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the
Prince himself had arrived, bringing his own report, which was a very
indefinite one, and which was to the effect that the enemy had attacked
the Prussian outposts near Thuin. This was the first information which
the Duke received of the outbreak of hostilities.[155] About the
same time, also, a dispatch[156] sent by Zieten to Müffling arrived,
announcing that he had been attacked before Charleroi.

Wellington gave sufficient credence to these reports to issue
orders[157] for the immediate concentration of the different
divisions[158] at the points designated for them respectively, and for
their being in readiness to march at a moment’s notice, but waited till
further reports from Mons should come in before doing more.[159] These
orders were despatched between five and seven o’clock.[160]

They provided simply, as we have said above, for the assembling of the
various divisions of the army at certain convenient places. There is,
however, one passage in these orders that requires attention. Alten’s
division—the third British division—had been directed in the first
part of the order to assemble at Braine-le-Comte, but it was further
ordered to march to Nivelles (where the two Dutch-Belgian divisions of
Chassé and Perponcher had been directed to assemble), if Nivelles had
been attacked during the 15th, yet not until it should be found “quite
certain that the enemy’s attack is upon the right of the Prussian army
and the left of the British army.”[161] This concentration of three
divisions of infantry with cavalry and artillery, say about 25,000
men, at Nivelles, seven miles west of Quatre Bras, was thus the only
provision made in this first order or set of orders for the contingency
of the French attack being made on the lines on which it actually
was made; and it would seem to be a legitimate inference from this
arrangement that Nivelles, and not Quatre Bras, had been selected by
Wellington as the point of concentration for his army in case Napoleon
advanced by way of Charleroi. In this connection it is important to
note that in a letter dated 7 P.M., but probably not sent off till
midnight, Müffling wrote to Blücher that the Duke would be in the
morning in the region of Nivelles with his whole force.[162]

Later in the evening, a despatch from Blücher to Müffling, sent from
Namur, arrived,[163] announcing the concentration of the Prussian army
at Sombreffe, and requesting Müffling

  “To give him speedy intelligence of the concentration of Wellington’s
  army. I immediately,” says Müffling, “communicated this to the Duke,
  who quite acquiesced in Blücher’s dispositions. However, he could
  not resolve on fixing his point of concentration before receiving the
  expected news from Mons.”

This information from Blücher, however, induced the Duke to issue,
about ten o’clock in the evening,[164] a second set of orders, having
for their object a general movement of the army towards the east.[165]
Alten’s division was now positively ordered to Nivelles; Cooke’s
division of guards, which had been ordered to collect at Ath, some
thirteen miles south-west of its headquarters at Enghien, was now
ordered on Braine-le-Comte, eight miles south-east of Enghien; and the
second and fourth divisions, and the cavalry of Lord Uxbridge, which
constituted the extreme right of the army and had been cantoned between
Ath and Audenarde on the Scheldt, were now ordered to Enghien. Enghien
is about eight miles north-west of Braine-le-Comte, which is about nine
miles west of Nivelles, which in its turn is about seven miles west of
Quatre Bras. No orders were issued to the reserves.

Up to this point we can go by the records. But here we encounter
serious difficulties in the evidence. Everybody knows that, somehow or
other, the Duke of Wellington collected the next day at Quatre Bras a
considerable part of his army. We also know that it has been claimed
that during the night of the 15th and 16th the Duke ordered the whole
army to Quatre Bras. We shall presently have occasion to describe how
the Dutch-Belgian troops got there without his orders; but our task now
is to examine the orders which Wellington gave after the despatch of
those the substance of which has just been given, and his Report of
the campaign, and also his own doings on the morning of the 16th, and
see what light these documents and doings throw upon the statements and
claims which have been made and set up in his behalf.

The Duke’s official report,[166] dated Waterloo, June 19th, seems to
contain express reference to three sets of orders.

  “I did not hear,” he says, “of these events [the French attack on
  the Prussian posts on the Sambre] till in the evening of the 15th;
  and I immediately ordered the troops to prepare to march,” that is,
  by the orders which were sent off between 5 and 7 o’clock P.M., “and
  afterwards,” that is, by the orders issued at 10 o’clock, “to march
  to their left, as soon as I had intelligence from other quarters to
  prove that the enemy’s movement upon Charleroi was the real attack.”

Then, after stating how the Prince of Orange reinforced the brigade
of Prince Bernhard at Quatre Bras, and had, early in the morning of
the 16th, regained part of the ground which had been lost the evening
before, he goes on to say:—

  “In the meantime,”—that is to say, before the “early morning,”—“I had
  directed the whole army to march upon Les Quatre Bras.”[167]

Müffling says[168] that, towards midnight,[169] the Duke entered his
room, and said:

  “I have got news from Mons, from General Dörnberg, who reports that
  Napoleon has turned towards Charleroi with all his  forces, and that
  there is no longer any enemy in front of him; therefore orders for
  the concentration of my army at Nivelles and Quatre Bras are already
  despatched. * * * Let us, therefore, go[170] * * * to the ball.”

In spite of this evidence, there is no little difficulty in arriving
at the conclusion that orders for a general concentration of the
Anglo-Dutch army at Quatre Bras were issued by the Duke of Wellington
either during the night of the 15th and 16th, or on the morning of the
16th. It is not only that no such orders as Müffling says the Duke
told him he had despatched,[171] that no orders directing (to use the
Duke’s own words) “the whole army to march upon Les Quatre Bras,”—have
ever been produced,—that, in fact, not a single order of Wellington’s,
directing any troops, except those belonging to the reserves, upon
Quatre Bras, has ever been brought to light. This, though true, is not
conclusive. It is stated by Colonel Gurwood[172] that the original
instructions issued to Colonel De Lancey[173] were lost with that
officer’s[174] papers; and it is of course possible that there may
have been instructions for him to issue orders for the different corps
or divisions to concentrate at Quatre Bras which were thus lost.[175]
But the real difficulty in holding the theory that, at some time during
the night, or in the early morning of the 16th, the Duke issued such
instructions, is, that such a theory is apparently inconsistent with
the only orders[176] given on the early morning of the 16th, of which
we have copies, and also, with the Duke’s actions during the same

Let us consider these points in their order. The orders to which
we have just referred are two in number; they are said to have
been signed by Colonel Sir W. De Lancey, the Deputy Quarter Master
General (or chief-of-staff). They are simply dated 16th June, 1815;
neither the place nor the hour is given, but they must have been
written at Brussels;[177] and in the early morning. They are both
addressed to Lord Hill. The first directs him to move the second
division of infantry upon Braine-le-Comte, and informs him that the
cavalry have also been ordered to the same place. Now, although to
move from Enghien, to which place these divisions had been directed
in the preceding order, to Braine-le-Comte, is to approach Quatre
Bras; it certainly is not the same thing as to march to Quatre Bras.
Braine-le-Comte is in fact sixteen miles west of Quatre Bras. This
despatch closes by saying:—“His Grace is going to Waterloo.” This would
seem to indicate that the Duke had not made up his mind at that time
whether he would personally go to Nivelles or to Quatre Bras, the roads
to which points branch off at Waterloo.[178]

The next despatch orders the troops at Sotteghem,—Stedmann’s 1st
Dutch-Belgian Division and Anthing’s brigade,—to proceed to Enghien, a
place some twenty-five miles to the west of Quatre Bras.

Here, then, are orders issued on the 16th, in the early morning, to be
sure, as we may suppose, but still some hours after the Duke had heard
from General Dörnberg at Mons that the French had turned off towards
Charleroi, and there is no word in them indicating any intention or
expectation of a concentration at Quatre Bras.[179] It is inconceivable
that these orders, or at least the first of them, should have been
worded as they were, if the Duke, at the time of giving them, had the
intention of concentrating his army at Quatre Bras. They are evidently
based on the leading idea of the first two sets of orders, namely, of a
general movement of the army towards the east, so that a concentration
at Nivelles could be easily made.

The facts in regard to Picton’s division also seem to show that not
only at the time when the orders to that division were given, say at 2
A.M., but even when the Duke left Brussels at about 7.30 A.M., he had
not made up his mind to concentrate his army at Quatre Bras. Picton
was ordered to halt at Waterloo, where, as we have said, the roads to
Nivelles and Quatre Bras branch off. He arrived there about ten, halted
a couple of hours,[180] and, “about twelve o’clock, an order reached
him for the continuation of the march of his division upon Quatre
Bras.”[181] It would certainly seem that when the Duke was riding to
Quatre Bras that morning,—passing Picton’s division on the road,—he had
not decided whether to order Picton to Nivelles or to Quatre Bras.[182]
He knew that the latter place was occupied by a brigade or more of
Dutch-Belgian troops, but he had not ordered them there himself,—he had
on the previous evening ordered them to Nivelles; they had, in fact,
come to Quatre Bras and stayed there contrary to the orders which he
had given; and apparently he had not yet fully decided whether he would
withdraw them or reinforce them.

If, therefore, we are to make up our minds solely from Wellington’s
acts in the morning of the 16th, and from the only orders issued that
morning of which we have copies, taken in connection with the previous
orders of which we have cognizance, it would seem, that the Duke from
the first intended to occupy Nivelles strongly, as a good thing to do
in any event; and that he finally determined on concentrating his army
in the neighborhood of that town. It is a fair inference from these
acts and orders that he had not, before he left Brussels, contemplated
concentrating his army further to the eastward; and that it was not
until he had ridden to Quatre Bras, and seen, as he supposed, a very
small force[183] in front of him, that he, bearing in mind, no doubt,
that the reserves on the Brussels road and the troops at Nivelles
were not far off, decided to hold the place, and take the risk of the
enemy’s overwhelming him by a superior force; and that he then,—just as
soon as he had made up his mind to this,—sent his aides to Picton and
the rest on the Brussels road, and to Nivelles; but that not even then
was a general concentration of the whole army at Quatre Bras ordered,
in the strict sense of the word, though, no doubt, every effort was
made to collect there all the troops that could be reached.

But there are two pieces of evidence which remain to be considered,
which contradict this inference, and warrant the conclusion that
before he left Brussels Wellington changed his mind, and did order
a concentration of his whole army at Quatre Bras, as he says in his
Report he did. The first is the letter[184] which the Duke wrote to
Marshal Blücher on the morning of the 16th, and the second is the
“Disposition[185] of the British Army at 7 o’clock A.M., 16th June,”
“written out for the information of the Commander of the Forces by
Colonel Sir W. De Lancey.”

The letter in question never, we believe, saw the light until it was
published at Berlin, in 1876, in Von Ollech’s History of the Campaign
of 1815. We shall give a full translation of it later on; the original
is in French. The “Disposition,” of which we give below an exact
copy,[186] is not signed by Sir W. De Lancey, but by DeLacy Evans.
Evans,[187] who became afterwards a distinguished general officer, was
in 1815 a Major, and was serving as an extra aide-de-camp to Major
General Ponsonby, who commanded the second brigade of cavalry. His
attestation to this memorandum, therefore, can hardly have been made
at the time; but we have a right to suppose that the paper was in De
Lancey’s handwriting, or that Evans had some other sufficient grounds
for thus attesting its authenticity. It purports, in our opinion,[188]
to be a statement, prepared by Wellington’s chief-of-staff, of the
probable positions at 7 o’clock A.M. of the 16th of June, of the
various divisions of the army, and of their respective destinations.

That this “Disposition” was relied on by Wellington when he wrote his
letter to Blücher, seems, by comparing the two papers, very clear. We
find, for example, that the “Disposition” states that, of the four
divisions of the 1st Corps, Cooke’s was at 7 A.M. at Braine-le-Comte,
marching to Nivelles and Quatre Bras, Alten’s was at Nivelles, and
marching to Quatre Bras, and those of Chassé and Perponcher were at
Nivelles and Quatre Bras. We then find the Duke writing to Blücher,
that, at 10.30 A.M., one division of this corps was at Quatre Bras
and the rest at Nivelles. It cannot be denied that, so far as this
corps is concerned, certainly, the two papers hang together perfectly
well. Wellington had a perfect right to suppose that Cooke could get
from Braine-le-Comte to Nivelles, or nearly there, between seven and
half-past ten; and as for the positions of the other divisions, he
simply follows the memorandum which his chief-of-staff has prepared for
his information, and on which he had an undoubted right to rely. We
shall give, later on, other instances of this agreement between these
two papers. They seem to us to demonstrate the authenticity of the

Assuming now the authenticity of this memorandum, we wish to point
out that its statements necessarily imply that orders had been issued
to the army other than those of which we have copies,—that is, other
than those of which we have given abstracts above. Thus, all we have
hitherto been able to ascertain in regard to the orders to Cooke’s
division is, that it was by the 10 P.M. order of June 15, directed to
march from Enghien on Braine-le-Comte. It would appear from the De
Lancey Memorandum that it had been subsequently ordered to Nivelles and
Quatre Bras. And the Duke does not hesitate to tell Marshal Blücher—on
the strength of De Lancey’s statement, that, at 7 A.M., Cooke was at
Braine-le-Comte,—that Cooke must have arrived at Nivelles by half-past
ten,—he being, according to De Lancey’s memorandum, under orders to
proceed there.

So with the cavalry. We have seen above that in an early morning
order of the 16th, it is said that the cavalry had been directed on
Braine-le-Comte. Yet there must have been some subsequently issued
order to Lord Uxbridge, for we find the “Disposition” stating that the
cavalry is, at 7 A.M., at Braine-le-Comte, and is marching to Nivelles
and Quatre Bras; and Wellington, relying on this statement of his
chief-of-staff, that a subsequent order had been sent out ordering the
cavalry to continue their march to Nivelles, does not hesitate to tell
Marshal Blücher, that his cavalry will be at Nivelles at noon.

We shall have occasion hereafter to examine both papers in detail; but
what we have just pointed out will suffice for the purpose now in hand.

That is to say, the “Disposition” prepared for the Duke’s information
by Colonel De Lancey, and the letter of the Duke to Marshal Blücher are
pieces of strictly contemporaneous evidence; and show beyond a doubt
that further orders, issued subsequently to those of which we know the
tenor, and directing the army on Quatre Bras, were really given in
the morning of the 16th, as Wellington, in his Report of the battle,
explicitly states was the case.

Thus,—to recur for a moment to the orders dated on the 16th, and
to the inferences drawn from them,—although at the time when the
despatch dated the 16th to Lord Hill, to move the second division on
Braine-le-Comte, in which it was stated that the Duke was going to
Waterloo, was issued, the Duke assuredly had not made up his mind to
concentrate his army at Quatre Bras, nevertheless, he did subsequently,
and probably not long afterwards, make up his mind so to do, and
thereupon he issued an order for that division to march to Nivelles,
as the “Disposition” states. As for Stedmann’s division and Anthing’s
brigade, which were the subjects of the other order written on the
16th, the “Disposition” simply embodies the purport of this order. And
as for the halt of Picton’s division at Waterloo, to which we have
called attention above, if we suppose that, before he left Brussels for
Quatre Bras, the Duke had issued orders for the concentration of the
whole army, or, at any rate, of the bulk of the army, at Quatre Bras,
he may well have passed Picton’s division on its march to Waterloo,
assured that, after a brief rest at that place, which would do the
men no harm, an order would arrive from Brussels, where very possibly
the staff[189] were writing out the orders to the army, for Picton to
continue his march to Quatre Bras.

Wellington’s decision to concentrate at Quatre Bras the whole army,—or
the bulk of the army,—for it does not appear even from the De Lancey
Memorandum that he ever expected the far distant divisions of Colville
and Stedmann to arrive in season,—was reached, in all probability,
while he was at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball. He went to the ball at
or soon after 10 P.M., and he stayed there until after 2 A.M.[190] He
told the Duke of Richmond, just before he left the house, that he had
“ordered the army to concentrate at Quatre Bras.”[191] At some time,
therefore, after the issuing of the orders to Lord Hill, which are
dated the 16th,[192] and before 2 or 2.30 A.M., the Duke decided to
concentrate the army at Quatre Bras.


[134] Clausewitz, ch. 15, ch. 16. Sib., vol. 1, p. 39.

[135] Chesney, p. 71: Siborne, vol. 1, p. 54.

[136] Clausewitz, ch. 23, p. 48: Chesney, p. 71.

[137] Charras, vol. 1, p. 127, states this to be the fact, but cites no

[138] Gurwood, vol. xii, p. 345. Clausewitz, ch. 11, p. 28, probably
refers to this meeting, though he locates it at St. Trond. _Cf._
Chesney, p. 77.

[139] Passages, p. 231.

[140] Ib. p. 232.

[141] The italics are ours.

[142] As does Chesney, for instance (p. 77), who says that the English
and Prussian chiefs agreed to assemble their armies respectively at
the points given in the above citation from Müffling. Maurice also
(pp. 145, 146, May, 1890) makes the same statement. Both these writers
evidently rest on the statement of Müffling, cited above, which does
not seem to us to sustain them. They are, however, careful to confine
the agreement to the measures to be taken in case the French advanced
by way of Charleroi. _Cf._ La Tour D’Auvergne, p. 107.

Siborne (vol. 1, pp. 39 and 40) says that Blücher and Wellington had
agreed in the above-mentioned event to concentrate respectively at
Sombreffe and Quatre Bras, but he gives no authority for the statement.
Jomini (p. 122) says substantially the same thing. Charras (vol. 1, p.
84) makes the same statement, also without citing any authority for it.
Very possibly he took it from Siborne. _Cf._ Chesney, p. 93.

[143] _Cf._ Supp. Desp., vol. x, p. 521: Memorandum on the Battle of
Waterloo. App. C, xv; _post_, pp. 374, 375, 376.

[144] “Naturally, then, Prince Blücher * * * would expect to be
supported by Wellington, so far as the existing situation would make
this support possible to the Duke.” Ollech, p. 124.

[145] Clausewitz, ch. 20; Chesney, pp. 82, 101; Siborne, vol. 1, pp.
70, 71, n. Charras, vol. 1, p. 128, n.; Gneisenau, vol. 4, pp. 360 _et
seq._; Ollech, pp. 90 _et seq._ _Cf._ Maurice, p. 259: June, 1890;
also, p. 546: Sept., 1890.

[146] Supp. Desp., vol. x, p. 521; Memorandum on the Battle of
Waterloo; App. C, XV; _post_, pp. 374, 375, 376; Ellesmere, p. 171.

[147] Supp. Desp., vol. x, p. 530. App. C, XV; _post_, pp. 374, 375,

[148] Maurice, pp. 148, 149: May, 1890.

[149] Chesney, p. 76.

[150] Siborne, vol. 1, p. 33.

[151] See this information collated in Maurice, pp. 147, 148: May,
1890. He is also inclined to think that Napoleon ordered the temporary
occupation of Binche, with the intention of creating the belief that a
part, at least, of the French army was moving on Mons.

[152] Ollech, p. 115.

[153] Ib., pp. 114, 115. Maurice, p. 540: Sept., 1890.

[154] Steinmetz sent this message to Van Merlen at 8 A.M. Van Loben
Sels, p. 125, note. Chesney, p. 94, note.

[155] Charras, who says, vol. 1, p. 130, that Wellington received at
nine o’clock in the morning a despatch from Zieten, announcing that his
advance posts had been attacked, is clearly in error. Hooper, p. 83,
points out that the expression on which Charras bases his conclusion
really means that 9 A.M. was the date of the latest intelligence from

Siborne, vol. 1, p. 164, n., severely criticises the arrangements of
the Prince of Orange for the transmission of intelligence.

[156] Müffling, Passages, p. 228.

[157] Gurwood, vol. xii, p. 472. App. C, ix; _post_, p. 370. We rely
mainly on the “Memorandum for the Deputy Quartermaster General,” from
which he drafted the orders. In some cases we know that the orders
actually sent varied somewhat from the terms of the Memorandum; this
was no doubt true in all cases; but the differences were not material.
See Van Loben Sels, p. 177, note (1).

[158] 0llech (p. 116) says Cooke’s division was not mentioned in these
orders. He is in error; it is Clinton’s division that is not mentioned.
Cooke’s was ordered to collect at Ath, not Clinton’s, as Ollech has it.

[159] Müffling, Passages, p. 229.

[160] Chesney, p. 83, n. Müffling, p. 229. Maurice, p. 69: April, 1890.
Charras, vol. 1, p. 132, n., says between eight and half-past nine.

[161] Gurwood, vol. xii, p. 473; App. C, ix; _post_, p. 370.

[162] Gneisenau, vol. 4, p. 365, note.

[163] Müffling, Passages, p. 229.

[164] At 10 o’clock, however, it was not known at Brussels that
Charleroi had been taken. In a letter to the Duc de Feltre, dated 10
P.M., the Duke says that the enemy “appears to menace” Charleroi.
Gurwood, vol. xii, p. 473; App. C, x; _post_, p. 371.

[165] Gurwood, vol. xii, p. 474; App. C, xi; _post_, p. 371.

[166] Gurwood, vol. xii, pp. 478, _et seq._ App. C, xii; _post_, p. 372.

[167] It is remarkable that this distinct and unequivocal statement,
made in an official report the day after the battle, should have
received so slight attention. It is hardly, if at all, alluded to
either by those who believe that Wellington did order his army to
concentrate at Quatre Bras, or by those who do not believe this. There
is no mention of it in Siborne, Chesney, Hooper, Kennedy, Maurice,
O’Connor Morris.

[168] “Passages, p. 230. _Cf._ Maurice, p. 261: June, 1890.

[169] Siborne (vol. I, pp. 79, 80) says this information arrived about
10 P.M. Charras (vol. 1, p. 134) says it was “towards eleven o’clock.”

[170] _Cf._ Letters of the First Earl of Malmesbury, vol. 2, p. 445
(London, Bentley, 1870,), where a similar statement is said to have
been made by Wellington to the Duke of Richmond just before the former
left the ballroom. See App. C, xiii; _post_, p. 373.

[171] Müffling’s letter to Gneisenau, dated 7 P.M. but no doubt
sent off about midnight (Passages, pp. 229, 230) says that “as
soon as the moon rises, the reserves will march; and, in case the
enemy should not attack Nivelles, the Duke will be in the region of
Nivelles with his whole force in the morning in order to support
your Highness.” Gneisenau, vol. 4, p. 365, note. The letter does not
mention Quatre Bras. Delbrück, in his Life of Gneisenau, vol. 4, p.
367, says that “Müffling also reported about midnight to the Prussian
commander-in-chief that the allied army would be concentrated in twelve
hours, and that at ten o’clock on the following morning 20,000 men
would be at Quatre Bras, and the cavalry corps would be at Nivelles.”
But he cites neither Müffling nor any other authority for this amazing
statement. Müffling tells us himself that in his judgment the cavalry
could not reach Quatre Bras before nightfall,—hence they could reach
Nivelles only two or three hours before nightfall. Müffling, Passages,
p. 235.

[172] Gurwood, vol. xii, p. 474. _Cf._ Maurice, p. 144: May, 1890. Van
Loben Sels, p. 181. Ellesmere, pp. 173, 174.

[173] The Deputy Quarter Master General, or chief-of-staff.

[174] He was killed at Waterloo.

[175] The orders themselves, however, would be received at the
headquarters of the different corps or divisions, and might, possibly,
be even now in existence.

[176] Gurwood, vol. xii, p. 474; App. C, xiv; _post_, p. 374.

[177] “Previously to starting from Brussels for” Quatre Bras,—says
Siborne, vol. I, p. 88.

[178] Maurice, p. 344: July, 1890. This is Colonel Maurice’s
conclusion. So, Ollech, p. 118.

[179] Siborne, vol. 1, p. 88, says: “With the early dawn of the 16th
of June, the whole of the Duke of Wellington’s forces were in movement
towards Nivelles and Quatre Bras.” And then he gives the substance of
the orders to Hill. It is not easy to follow Siborne’s train of thought

[180] Gomm, p. 352; Waterloo Letters, p. 23. Gomm says the march was
resumed at 1 P.M.

[181] Siborne, vol. 1, p. 102, note.

[182] Maurice, p. 344: July, 1890. It is curious that the contradiction
between these facts and the Duke’s statement in his Report should not
have been commented on.

[183] Wellington’s letter to Blücher: Ollech, p. 125; Maurice, p. 257:
June 1890; _post_, p. 106: App. C, xvi; _post_, pp. 376, 377.

[184] Von Ollech, p. 125. Maurice, p. 257: June, 1890; _post_, p. 106;
App. C, xvi; _post_, pp. 376, 377.

[185] Supp. Desp., vol. x, p. 496.

[186] Disposition of the British Army at 7 o’clock A.M., 16th June.

  1st division               Braine le Comte   marching to Nivelles and
                                                 Quatre Bras.
  2d      „                         „          marching to Nivelles.
  3d      „                  Nivelles              „ to Quatre Bras.
  4th     „                  Audenarde             „ to Braine le Comte.
  5th     „                  beyond Waterloo       „ to Genappe.
  6th     „                  Assche                „ to Genappe and
                                                 Quatre Bras.
  5th Hanoverian brigade     Hal                   „ to Genappe and
                                                 Quatre Bras.
  4th     „                  beyond Waterloo       „ to Genappe and
                                                 Quatre Bras.
  2d  division    {army of the  }              at Nivelles and
  3d      „       {Low Countries}                Quatre Bras.
  1st division    }     „
  Indian brigade  }     „    Sotteghem         marching to Enghien.
  Major-General Dörnberg’s}
  brigade and             }  beyond Waterloo       „ to Genappe and
                                                 Quatre Bras.
  Cumberland Hussars      }
  Remainder of the cavalry   Braine le Comte       „ to Nivelles and
                                                 Quatre Bras.
  Duke of Brunswick’s Corps, beyond Waterloo       „ to Genappe.
  Nassau                          „                „ to Genappe.

The above disposition written out for the information of the commander
of the Forces by Colonel Sir W. De Lancey. The centre column of names
indicates the places at which the troops had arrived or were moving on.
The column on the right of the paper indicates the places the troops
were ordered to proceed to at 7 o’clock A.M., 16th June, previous to
any attack on the British.

  (Signed) DeLacy Evans.

By the phrase—“the places at which the troops had arrived or were
moving on”—the writer means, in all probability, the places to which
the troops were, in his judgment, nearest, at 7 A.M.

[187] Waterloo Roll Call, pp. 4, 19.

[188] Maurice (June, 1890, p. 261) adopts a different construction
of the statement; he thinks it means that the orders to march to the
various points named were issued at seven o’clock A.M. But why should
it have been thought necessary to give to the Commander of the Forces
information of the hour of issuing the orders? What he would want to
know would be where the various divisions probably were at a given
hour, and to what points they were marching.

[189] Major Oldfield states that the Duke rode out to Quatre Bras
unattended by his Quartermaster-General, De Lancey, or by the other
heads of departments. Oldfield, MSS.

[190] Lady Jane Dalrymple Hamilton, in her most interesting Journal,
now in the possession of her granddaughter, Lady Manvers, says: “We
found him [the Duke] there [at the ball] on our arrival at 10 o’clock.
* * * We remained till past two, and, when I left, the Duke was still

[191] App. C, xiii; _post_, p. 373.

[192] _Ante_, p. 82.


1. We may properly devote a few words here to the Duke of Wellington’s
“Memorandum on the Battle of Waterloo,” written in 1842, in reply to
Clausewitz’s History of the Campaign of 1815. There are some statements
contained in this paper which fairly take one’s breath away.

For instance, we learn that the Duke, “having received the intelligence
of” the French “attack only at three o’clock in the afternoon of the
15th, _was at Quatre Bras before the same hour on the morning of the
16th_,[193] with a sufficient force to engage the left of the French

The fact is, that, at 3 A.M. of the 16th only the brigade of Prince
Bernhard of Saxe Weimar was at Quatre Bras, and he had taken it there
entirely on his own responsibility, and not, as is implied in the above
statement, in obedience to orders from the Duke of Wellington.

But it is unnecessary to set forth in detail any refutation of such
statements as the above. The best English authorities do not rely[195]
on this Memorandum, alleging that the Duke’s memory, when he wrote it,
was no longer exact.[196] We are quite within bounds when we say that
this Memorandum adds nothing to our knowledge of the facts. We may add
that it is a pity that this is so. Wellington wrote this Memorandum in
1842,—twenty-seven years only after the date of the battle of Waterloo.
This is not so very long after the occurrence: we are now twenty-nine
years after Gettysburg. Very many officers conversant with the facts
must have been then alive; and the Duke had access to all the official
papers. It is a pity, we repeat, that he did not set himself to the
task of drawing up an exhaustive and accurate narrative of the facts of
the campaign.

2. We desire to call attention again to the absence of evidence that
Wellington and Blücher had formulated any definite plan of concerted
action in the event of Napoleon’s invading Belgium.

One thing, at any rate, is quite clear, and that is that neither of
the allied commanders acted, so far as we can judge, in pursuance of
any such agreement. Blücher, when he hears of Napoleon’s advance to
Charleroi, orders his army to assemble at Sombreffe, and then sends
word to Wellington of what he has done; the latter, as we have seen,
although he learns that the enemy’s main attack is by way of Charleroi
and therefore upon the Prussians, and although he has long known that
in this event it was Blücher’s intention to concentrate his army at
Sombreffe, takes no instant steps to bring his army into close union
with that of Blücher. His first idea, certainly, is to assemble his
army at Nivelles. This difficulty, it is true, does not seem greatly
to trouble the writers who have adopted the theory of a previous
understanding or arrangement; it seems to be possible, for instance,
for Siborne, to believe that Wellington had agreed to concentrate
at Quatre Bras,[197] and yet actually to call attention[198] to the
fact that he halted Picton’s division at Waterloo, hours after he
had known that Blücher was concentrating at Sombreffe, because he had
not then made up his mind whether to send Picton to Nivelles or to
Quatre Bras. But he and those other historians who have followed him,
or have adopted the same theory, have certainly a serious difficulty
to contend with. The Duke had been informed about mid-night[199] that
Quatre Bras was occupied by a part of Perponcher’s division, and he
had heard also that Blücher was concentrating his army at Sombreffe.
If he had agreed with Blücher to concentrate the Anglo-Dutch army at
Quatre Bras, he would assuredly have given his orders accordingly, and
in season,—at least one would suppose so,—and he certainly could have
had a large force there by ten o’clock in the morning. But he acted, on
the other hand, as if he thought that he possessed perfect discretion
as to what he would do,—as if he was bound by no agreement whatsoever.
It is evident, in fact, that he did not make up his mind till shortly
before he left Brussels to go to Quatre Bras himself, whether he would
undertake to hold the place or not.

3. It is, however, to be noted that the action that was fought at
Quatre Bras assumed at once such importance in the eyes of the world,
that those historians who have been great admirers of the Duke have
very generally asserted that he had, almost from the first news of the
French attack, determined to concentrate his army there. This assertion
has been accompanied by many eulogistic remarks, in which Wellington’s
prescience and power of quick decision have been held up to an
undeserved admiration. “At ten the same night, however” [the 15th],
says Gleig,[200] “the enemy’s movements had sufficiently disclosed his
intentions; and the whole army, with the exception of the reserve, was
put in motion. It marched by various roads upon Quatre Bras.” Captain
Pringle, of the Royal Engineers, upon whom Sir Walter Scott largely
relied for his narrative of the campaign, says:[201] “Having obtained
further intelligence about 11 o’clock [on the evening of the 15th],
which confirmed the real attack of the enemy to be along the Sambre,
orders were immediately given for the troops to march upon Quatre Bras.”

We have just seen that no such orders were given until the early
morning hours of the 16th.

4. Assuming now, as we fairly may, that the Duke did not direct a
general concentration of his army at Quatre Bras until shortly before
he left Brussels, say, for a guess, at 2 A.M. of the 16th, let us
endeavor to get a notion, if we may, of his first intentions and
expectations, as shown in his previously issued orders.

He had directed three divisions on Nivelles,—all his reserves to a
point on the Charleroi-Brussels pike from which they could easily be
moved to Nivelles,—and his more westerly divisions to Enghien and
Braine-le-Comte, in the direction of Nivelles. Among the troops thus
directed on Nivelles were some that had been stationed at Genappe
and Quatre Bras. He had in fact ordered his army to concentrate at
Nivelles; notwithstanding that he had been informed that the French
attack was by way of Charleroi, that Blücher was concentrating at
Sombreffe, that a brigade of Dutch-Belgians was at Quatre Bras,
and that it had been skirmishing with the enemy. The question of
the appropriateness of his action to these facts is certainly an
interesting one.

Colonel Maurice, the most recent military commentator on the
campaign, discusses this question, and arrives at the conclusion that
Wellington’s original intention of concentrating his army at Nivelles,
was in accord with the principles of war.[202] “If there is one thing
which rests on more certain experience than another,” says he, “it is
that an army ought not to expose itself piecemeal to the blows of a
concentrated enemy. Wellington, therefore, contemplated concentrating
his army out of reach of the advancing French. Napoleon, from his
general knowledge of the position of the English army, assumed that
they would, of course, not venture to oppose him till they had fallen
back to concentrate. As the case actually happened, only the wild
wandering of d’Erlon’s Corps prevented Ney from overwhelming the force
in his presence at Quatre Bras.”

To this it may be replied:—

A. That Wellington, as we have stated above,[203] knew at 11 P.M. of
the 15th that the main body of the French under Napoleon in person
were concentrating in front of the Prussians, who were themselves
concentrating at Sombreffe. He might, therefore, fairly reckon on being
able, if he acted with promptness, to assemble at Quatre Bras during
the next forenoon a force quite as large as any that might reasonably
be expected to be spared from the main body of the French to oppose
him. He, therefore, would not have exposed his troops “piecemeal
to the blows of a concentrated enemy,” if he had ordered a general
concentration at Quatre Bras after making sure that the main body
of the French was at or near Fleurus, and that the main body of the
Prussians was ready to receive them there.

B. It is perfectly true that had d’Erlon’s Corps come up in due time,
the forces which Wellington had at Quatre Bras, including the several
bodies of reinforcements, as they successively arrived, would have been
overwhelmed in detail. But then, as we shall shortly show, Wellington
did not issue his orders for his army to concentrate at Quatre Bras in
season to effect his object. Had he done so, on the night of the 15th
and 16th, he would have had by noon, certainly, a very much larger
body of men than he actually did have, very possibly enough to oppose
successfully both d’Erlon and Reille. It must be remembered that it was
not until (say) 2 o’clock in the morning, or thereabouts, that he gave
any orders to any troops to proceed to Quatre Bras.

We conclude, therefore, that Wellington would not have run any
unwarrantable risk by ordering his army to assemble at Quatre Bras as
soon as he had learnt of the French advance by way of Charleroi. And
that this was the true course for him to take is virtually admitted
by his own subsequent accounts of his doings,[204] on which we have
commented above in our remarks on his “Memorandum on the Battle of
Waterloo.” (_Ante_, p. 90.) Had the instructions which he actually
gave been strictly carried out, had the brigade of Prince Bernhard of
Saxe Weimar been withdrawn to Nivelles in obedience to the orders of
10 P.M., Ney might have occupied Quatre Bras without opposition, in
the morning of the 16th. And although it is possible, and, in fact,
probable, that he would have been attacked by the English during the
afternoon, and while it would have been obviously out of the question
for him to have advanced on Brussels, leaving the English army at
Nivelles, yet, supposing that he had had both his corps with him, as he
ought to have had, he assuredly would have been able to spare a part of
his forces to take the Prussians in rear while they were fighting at
Ligny, as the Emperor (as we shall see) desired him to do.

C. As for Napoleon’s expectations in regard to the  English occupation
of Quatre Bras as given to us by Colonel Maurice, it must certainly
be admitted by everybody that Napoleon considered the occupation of
the cross-roads as of very great importance for himself, and that the
reason why he gave Ney 45,000 men of all arms was in order to make a
sure thing of it. Very possibly he did not expect that the English
general would be able, scattered as his army was in its cantonments, to
assemble a very large force there during the morning of the 16th. But
it is evident that he thought that his adversary’s getting 30,000 or
40,000 men together, and either assisting the Prussians or attacking
his left flank, was a thing so likely to occur, and so dangerous a
thing, if it did occur, that he gave his two largest corps to his best
fighting general in order to provide fully for this contingency by
seizing and occupying the cross-roads of Quatre Bras. If the emergency
arose, Napoleon was bound to be prepared for it. If he had regarded it
as extremely improbable that the English would be encountered in force
at or near Quatre Bras, he would probably have strengthened his main
army with one of the corps which he gave to Ney.

5. That Wellington and Blücher erred in allowing their armies to remain
in their widely extended cantonments until Napoleon attacked them is
now generally admitted. Sir James Shaw-Kennedy’s remarks[205] on this
point sum up the question forcibly:—

  “They [the allied commanders] determined to continue in the
  cantonments which they occupied until they knew positively the line
  of attack. Now it may safely be predicted that this determination
  will be considered by future and dispassionate historians as a
  great mistake; for, in place of waiting to see where the blow
  actually fell, the armies should have been instantly put in motion
  to assemble. Nor was this the only error: the line of cantonments
  occupied by the Anglo-Allied and Prussian armies was greatly too
  extended. * * * From the time, therefore, that it became known that
  Napoleon’s army was organized and formed into corps ready to take
  the field, the armies of Wellington and Blücher should have been so
  placed in cantonments as to be prepared to meet any of the cases
  supposed,”—_i.e._, an advance of the French by any one of the great
  Flanders roads,— * * * “and from the moment that it was known that
  the French army was at all in movement, the allied armies should have
  been withdrawn from their cantonments and placed very near to each

Wellington and Blücher, it will be remembered, had known for several
days that Napoleon was massing his forces, and yet they put off till
the last moment even the assembling their corps and divisions in their
respective places of _rendezvous_.

Sir James Shaw-Kennedy then proceeds to discuss the proper “line of
cantonments” of the allied armies from the time when “it was known
that Napoleon had a large organized army ready to take the field,”[206]
and he gives it as his opinion that Blücher should have “made Genappe
his headquarters, cantoning his army between Louvain and Gosselies,
occupying the line of the Sambre from Namur to the frontier by strong
bodies of cavalry, &c.,” and that Wellington, having his headquarters
at Brussels, should have cantoned his army between Brussels and
Soignies, with cavalry outposts.

Charras[207] expresses the same opinion as to the line of cantonments
of Wellington’s army, but he holds that by the end of May the Duke
should have carried his headquarters six or eight leagues [15 or 20
miles] in advance of Brussels:[208] while Blücher ought at the same
time to have removed his headquarters to Fleurus,[209] and to have
concentrated his forces within a radius of six or eight leagues
(fifteen or twenty miles); having outposts on the Sambre and Meuse.

In this last opinion, as he says, he follows Napoleon.[210] The latter,
it is to be noted, does not criticise Wellington, as do Charras
and Clausewitz, for retaining his headquarters in Brussels, but
only,—in this connection, that is,—for the excessive extent of his
cantonments.[211] Napoleon’s view seems to be that Brussels was the
right place for the headquarters of the Anglo-Dutch army and Fleurus
for those of the Prussian army; and that from the 15th of May both
generals should have greatly reduced the extent of their cantonments,
so that no part of their troops, except the advance-posts, should be
more than twenty miles distant from the headquarters of the army.
Had this course been adopted, he says the Prussians might have been
assembled at Ligny at noon of the 15th,[212] ready to receive the attack
of the French army. He does not, however, go on and state his view of
the mode and time of the coöperation of the English army in that event.
We must content ourselves with merely stating these opinions.

6. That Marshal Blücher, who had allowed his troops to remain in their
widely scattered cantonments until the last moment, erred in giving
Sombreffe as the point of concentration of his army, seems on principle
and authority very clear. Napoleon’s remarks[213] on this are as

  “Marshal Blücher ought, as soon as he knew that the French were at
  Charleroi [that is to say, on the evening of the 15th,] to have
  given, as the point of assembling of his army, not Fleurus, nor
  where the French could not arrive until the evening of the 16th. By
  doing so, he would have had all the day of the 16th, and the night
  between the 16th and 17th, to effect the junction of his whole army.”

He also for the same reasons censures Wellington[214] for establishing
“Quatre Bras as the point of reunion” for his army. Sir James
Shaw-Kennedy[215] says to the same effect:

  “The determination of Wellington and Blücher to meet Napoleon’s
  advance at Fleurus and Quatre Bras was totally inconsistent with the
  widely scattered positions in which they had placed their armies;
  their determination in this respect amounted in the fullest extent to
  that error which has so often been committed in war, by even great
  commanders, of endeavoring to assemble on a point which could only be
  reached by a portion of the troops intended to occupy it, while the
  enemy had the power of concentrating upon it his whole force.”

We do not believe, as we have pointed out above, that any such
determination had been arrived at by Wellington and Blücher beforehand;
but, Blücher’s taking the decisive step of ordering a concentration
of his army at Sombreffe, instead of at Wavre, for instance, placed
Wellington, as we have just pointed out, under the necessity of
ordering a concentration of his army, or a part of it, at Quatre
Bras, unless he was prepared to leave his ally without support. The
criticisms of Napoleon and of General Shaw-Kennedy, are, therefore,
we submit, really confined to Blücher’s action. Napoleon is not
considering what Wellington ought to have done _in view of the step
which Blücher took in concentrating at Sombreffe_, but is only giving
his opinion, that, on general principles, Quatre Bras was not the
proper place of concentration for the English, just as Sombreffe was
not the proper place of concentration for the Prussians, after the
French were known to be advancing on Charleroi. It must be noted that
Napoleon and Kennedy both assume that the two allied generals had
agreed upon Sombreffe and Quatre Bras respectively.[216] If there was
no such agreement, (and we think there was not any), then we cannot
properly consider Wellington’s decision to concentrate at Quatre Bras
except in connection with the fact that Blücher had committed himself
to a battle at Ligny and needed his support.


[193] The italics are ours. But see _post_, p. 374, n. 2.

[194] Supp. Desp., vol. x, p. 523; App. C, XV; _post_, pp. 374, 375,

[195] Chesney, p. 83, n.; p. 101; p. 131.

[196] Ib., p. 101; p. 131.

[197] Siborne, vol. 1., p. 40.

[198] Ib., p. 102, note.

[199] By a despatch sent to the Prince of Orange at Brussels from
Braine-le-Comte at 10 P.M. Van Loben Sels, p. 176, note.

[200] Gleig’s Life of the Duke of Wellington, p. 308.

[201] Scott’s Life of Napoleon, p. 833. Paris; Galignani; 1828.

[202] Maurice, pp. 344 _et seq._ (July, 1890.) _Contra_, Charras, vol.
1, pp. 132, _et seq._

[203] _Ante_, p. 80, n. 36.

[204] Chesney, p. 101.

[205] Kennedy, pp. 168-170. See, also, Clausewitz, chaps. 11, 15, 17.
Charras, vol. 1, p. 80. Corresp., vol. 31, p. 254.

[206] Kennedy, p. 171.

[207] Charras, vol. 1 p. 80.

[208] This is also the opinion of Clausewitz; ch. 18.

[209] Charras, vol. 1, p. 83. Clausewitz, ch. 18, says “nearer
Nivelles,” _i.e._, nearer than Namur is.

[210] Corresp., vol. 31, p. 253.

[211] Ib., p. 254.

[212] Ib., p. 253.

[213] Ib., p. 254. The words in brackets are in the edition of 1820,
known as the “Mémoires,” but are not in the “Correspondance.” The
“Mémoires” also substitute “the 17th” for “the evening of the 16th.”

[214] Corresp. vol. 31, p. 255.

[215] Kennedy, p. 172.

[216] Corresp., pp. 195,197. Kennedy, p. 172.



Turning now from the consideration of the arrangements ordered by the
allied commanders, our first attention is due to the occupation of
Quatre Bras by the brigade of Prince Bernhard of Saxe Weimar, belonging
to the Dutch-Belgian division of Perponcher in the corps commanded
by the Prince of Orange. This brigade, which was cantonned along the
turnpike from Genappe to Frasnes and in the neighboring villages,[217]
was, on the first news of hostilities, concentrated by its commander
at Quatre Bras, with its outposts at Frasnes, an act which, done
without orders, as it was, did him great credit.[218] As a matter of
fact, however, orders were on the way directing the same thing. In
the absence of the Prince of Orange at Brussels, his chief-of-staff,
General Constant Rebecque, having heard of the advance of the French,
had already[219] sent to Perponcher an order to assemble one brigade
of his division at Quatre Bras, and the other at Nivelles. Between 5
and 6 o’clock of the afternoon of the 15th Prince Bernhard’s brigade
was attacked near Frasnes by the advance of Reille’s Corps.[220] At 9
he sent off to Nivelles a report of the action; this was immediately
forwarded to Braine-le-Comte, where the headquarters of the Prince of
Orange were;[221] but he being at Brussels at the Duchess of Richmond’s
ball, Rebecque, his chief-of-staff, took it upon himself to order
Perponcher to support Prince Bernhard’s brigade at Quatre Bras with the
other brigade of his division, Bylandt’s.[222] Rebecque then, at 10
P.M., sent a despatch to the Prince of Orange at Brussels informing him
what he had done.

About 11 o’clock,[223] an hour at least after this order had been
expedited, arrived Wellington’s 5 o’clock order to the Prince of Orange
“to collect at Nivelles the 2d and 3d divisions of the army of the Low
Countries.” In obedience to this, a new order[224] was made out and sent
to Perponcher, but he took it upon himself to carry out his earlier
instructions to assemble his whole division at Quatre Bras, and in this
he was supported by his corps-commander, the Prince of Orange. The
greater part of Bylandt’s brigade arrived in the early morning of the
16th. Perponcher arrived in person at 3 A.M.,[225] the Prince of Orange
at 6 o’clock.[226] (See Map 3.)

Thus was Quatre Bras occupied on the evening and night of the 15th, not
only without orders from Wellington, but contrary to his orders. Had
his orders been obeyed, Ney would have found on the next morning no one
to oppose him.


[217] Van Loben Sels, p. 130.

[218] Ib., pp. 131, 132. Chesney, p. 100.

[219] Van Loben Sels, p. 128, note.

[220] Ib., pp. 133, 134, note.

[221] Van Loben Sels, p. 175.

[222] Ib., p. 176.

[223] Ib., p. 176, note.

[224] Ib., p. 178, n. It would seem that the sending to Perponcher the
order to return to Nivelles was a mere form.

[225] Ib., p. 183.

[226] Ib., p. 185.


“Almost all historians” says Colonel Maurice,[227] “write as if the
occupation of Quatre Bras by Prince Bernhard was a step for which he
not only deserves the greatest credit, but one which in itself was
sure to be of vast advantage to the English army.” In this opinion
Colonel Maurice does not share. We have fully treated of this subject
before.[228] All we need say here is to repeat, that the question of
the suitableness of Quatre Bras as the point of concentration for
the Anglo-Dutch army could not have been considered by the Duke of
Wellington at this moment apart from the fact that Marshal Blücher
was concentrating his army at Sombreffe; and that, when this fact was
ascertained, the Duke must concentrate at Quatre Bras or abandon all
hope of assisting his ally. We have also pointed out that the fact
that the main French army was opposed to the Prussians constituted
this case an exception to the general rule; for, in this instance, _ex
hypothesi_, the Duke would encounter only those troops which Napoleon
would feel himself strong enough to detach from his main body.

If we are right in this contention, therefore, then the Dutch-Belgian
generals,—Constant Rebecque, Perponcher, and the Prince of Saxe
Weimar,—having learned the situation of the French and Prussian armies
before the Duke heard of it, did what Wellington, had he known what
they knew, would have ordered to be done.[229] And it may be added,
that we fully concur in the commendation which has so generally been
awarded to them for their prompt and vigorous action.


[227] Maurice, p. 345: July, 1890.

[228] _Ante_, pp. 94 _et seq._

[229] Chesney, p. 102; Hooper, p. 84.



The Duke of Wellington, as we have seen, did not decide on ordering
a general concentration of his army at Quatre Bras until the early
morning hours of the 16th of June.

We have produced above two orders, both addressed to Lord Hill, written
at Brussels on the morning of the 16th of June, and we have shown
that the first, at any rate, was written and sent out before the Duke
had made up his mind to concentrate his army at Quatre Bras. We have
also, however, shown, that before he left Brussels, he did make up his
mind to do this, and that orders to this effect were, no doubt, then
issued. We cannot fix the hour or hours at which this was done, but it
was undoubtedly before the Duke left Brussels. This last hour has been
differently fixed,[230] but it was probably about half-past seven. He,
then, leaving the Deputy Quarter Master General and the other heads of
departments in Brussels,—[231] presumably to attend to the issuing of
the orders for the concentration of the army at Quatre Bras,—rode to
the latter place, where he arrived about 10 o’clock. Here he found only
Perponcher’s division of Dutch-Belgian troops, under command of the
Prince of Orange.

At half-past ten, he wrote to Marshal Blücher the letter before
referred to, which, as we have said above, never, as we believe, saw
the light until it was published in Berlin,[232] in 1876, in Von
Ollech’s History[233] of the Campaign of 1815. We give a translation of
it here in full.

  On the Heights behind Frasnes:
  June 16, 1815. 10.30 A.M.

  My dear Prince:

  My army is situated as follows:

  The Corps d’Armée of the Prince of Orange has a division here and at
  Quatre Bras, and the rest at Nivelles.

  The Reserve is in march from Waterloo to Genappe, where it will
  arrive at noon.

  The English Cavalry will be at the same hour at Nivelles.

  The Corps of Lord Hill is at Braine-le-Comte.

  I do not see any large force of the enemy in front of us, and I
  await news from your Highness and the arrival of troops in order to
  determine my operations for the day.

  Nothing has been seen on the side of Binche, nor on our right.

  Your very obedient servant,


Let us see precisely how far this letter agrees with Colonel De
Lancey’s Memorandum, which he drew up—presumably before the Duke left
Brussels—for the Duke’s information, and of which we have before
spoken, entitled “Disposition of the British army at 7 o’clock A.M.,
16th June.” (See Map 4.)

The 1st Corps, says the Duke in his letter, has a division here,—that
is, in rear of Frasnes,—and at Quatre Bras. This, as we have seen
above, was the 2d division of Dutch-Belgian troops,—Perponcher’s. The
rest of the 1st Corps, says the Duke, are at Nivelles. Now, of the
three divisions,—those of Chassé (Dutch-Belgian), Alten, and Cooke,
which constituted the rest of the 1st Corps,—the first two had been
ordered to Nivelles the previous evening,—the last, Cooke’s, is stated
in the De Lancey “Disposition” to be, at 7 A.M., at Braine-le-Comte.
The Duke, therefore, might well suppose that it would accomplish the
greater part of the distance between Braine-le-Comte and Nivelles, nine
miles, in three hours and a half.

The Duke next says “The Reserve is in march from Waterloo to Genappe,
where it will arrive at noon.” For this statement the Duke did not
have to refer to the “Disposition.” He had passed Picton’s division on
the road, a mile or two north of Waterloo, probably a little before 9
A.M.; and, supposing, as he did, that Picton either had then received,
or shortly would receive, orders to push on to Quatre Bras, he was
warranted in saying that the division would reach Genappe at noon. He
did not take the trouble to except from his general statement, which he
doubtless thought was sufficiently accurate for all practical purposes,
the division of Sir Lowry Cole, which the “Disposition” placed at
Assche, eight miles north-west of Brussels, nor the 5th Hanoverian
brigade, which was at Hal.

The Duke next says that the English Cavalry will be at Nivelles at
noon. The “Disposition” puts them at Braine-le-Comte at 7 A.M. Relying
on this statement, the Duke says they will accomplish the nine miles
between that place and Nivelles by noon.

“The Corps of Lord Hill is at Braine-le-Comte,” is the next and last
statement in the letter. That corps consisted of the 2d and 4th British
divisions, of the 1st Dutch-Belgian division, and of Anthing’s brigade.
As respects the 2d division, the “Disposition” states that it was at 7
A.M. at Braine-le-Comte. The 4th division, the “Disposition” states,
was at Audenarde at 7 A.M. and was marching on Braine-le-Comte; but the
Duke certainly could not have supposed it possible that that division
could have marched from Audenarde to Braine-le-Comte, a distance of
more than thirty miles, between seven and half-past ten in the morning.
And as for the 1st Dutch-Belgian division and the Indian brigade,
the “Disposition” puts them at Sotteghem, a village near Audenarde,
at 7 A.M., and states that they are marching on Enghien. The Duke,
therefore, had not the authority of the “Disposition” for the statement
made in his letter as to these portions of Lord Hill’s Corps; but
then these divisions had been stationed so far away, that probably
he never counted on them at all in his own mind in connection with a
concentration at Quatre Bras. These were the troops which he left at
Hal and Tubize on the day of Waterloo to protect his right.

It is, therefore, we submit, easy to see that the Duke had the
“Disposition” before him when he wrote the letter to Marshal Blücher.
He seems to have taken it,—so to speak,—blindfold; it never seems
to have occurred to him that it was practically impossible that his
various divisions could have been at seven o’clock that morning where
his chief-of-staff had said that they were. He accepted the memorandum
as official, and followed it substantially—with a few deviations, to
be sure, as we have pointed out—in his letter to Blücher. Not only
this; the Duke acted at once on the faith of the representations
contained in the “Disposition.” He, about noon, rode over to Brye to
confer with Marshal Blücher, and to propose to coöperate with him. It
is evident from the narrative[234] of Baron Müffling, who accompanied
the Duke, that Wellington was, in his opinion, laboring under grave
misconceptions as to the whereabouts of his army. The conversation,
according to Müffling, was mainly concerned with the manner of the
promised coöperation,—Gneisenau wishing the Duke to march from Quatre
Bras to Brye, and Wellington being unwilling thus to expose his
communications with Brussels and Nivelles. Towards the close of the
discussion, says Müffling, the Duke adopted a suggestion of his, and
said “I will overthrow what is before me at Frasnes and will direct
myself on Gosselies.” We cite this simply to show how confident
Wellington was that he would find a sufficiently large force at Quatre
Bras on his return from Brye, at about half-past two o’clock. If
Alten’s division was at Nivelles at 7 A.M., _en route_ for Quatre Bras,
it should have arrived there before noon. The reserves, which marching
from Brussels for Quatre Bras, had by 7 A.M. nearly reached Waterloo,
ought to be at Quatre Bras, which is not over eleven miles further,
by 2 or 3 P.M. If the cavalry was actually at Braine-le-Comte at 9
A.M. it might well be at Nivelles by noon, and at Quatre Bras, only
seven miles further, by 3 P.M. Cooke might be expected about the same
time, with his division of Guards. These expectations were no doubt
in the mind of the Duke of Wellington as he rode back to Quatre Bras
from his meeting with Marshal Blücher. The theory advanced, or perhaps
suggested, by the Prussian biographer of Gneisenau, Delbrück,[235]
that the Duke misrepresented the position of his army for the purpose
of inducing Blücher to give battle at Ligny on the strength of his
promise to support him, and of his ability to keep his promise, so that
he, Wellington, might gain the necessary time for the concentration of
his army, has not, in our judgment, anything to support it.[236] The
truth plainly is, that the Duke was himself entirely deceived by the
statement drawn up for his information by his chief-of-staff. He took
it for granted that the troops were where they were stated to be, and
made his dispositions accordingly. He was destined thereby not only
to be greatly disappointed, but to incur imminent danger of defeat.
For, as a matter of fact, many of his divisions were at seven that
morning nowhere near the positions assigned them in Colonel De Lancey’s
Memorandum. We shall refer to this matter in another place; suffice it
to say now that the Duke’s reinforcements came on the field very much
later than he had reason to expect; that the allied troops were for a
couple of hours or so in a very precarious situation, and would without
doubt have been disastrously defeated had Napoleon’s orders been
carried out.


[230] Müffling (Passages, p. 230) says about 5. Mudford puts it at
7. Gardner, p. 58, at 8. Sir A. Frazer (Letters of Colonel Sir A. S.
Frazer, London, 1859, p. 536), writes at 6 A.M., that he has “just
learned that the Duke moves in half an hour.” The Duke had 22 miles
to ride to arrive at Quatre Bras, and he got there about 10 A.M. His
letter to Blücher is dated 10.30 A.M. Oldfield (MSS.) puts the time of
the Duke’s departure as before that of Sir George Wood and Lieutenant
Colonel Smyth, who “drove out in a calêche of the latter” “between
seven and eight o’clock,” and soon after the departure of the Brunswick
troops, which was “at an early hour.”

[231] Oldfield, MSS.

[232] Von Ollech, p. 125. Maurice, June, 1890, p. 257. App. C, xvi;
_post_, pp. 376, 377.

[233] Charras, vol. 1, p. 192, note, refers to it to show that
Wellington was opposite Frasnes at 10.30 A.M., but he makes no other
reference to it.

[234] Müffling, Passages, p. 236. Ollech, p. 126.

[235] Gneisenau, vol. 4, pp. 369, 370.

[236] At the same time, it must be said that Delbrück was quite
naturally led to adopt this suggestion. It is only on the supposition
that the “Disposition” is an authentic document and that the Duke
followed it blindly, but honestly, in his letter to Marshal Blücher,
that we can find a satisfactory answer to Delbrück’s suggestion.


1. It may be worth while to state, as nearly as we can, the actual
positions at 7 A.M. of the 16th of the various bodies of troops
mentioned in the “Disposition.” (See Map 5.)

The 1st division was not at 7 A.M. at Braine-le-Comte. It did not reach
that place from Enghien until 9 A.M.[237] Its commander, General Cooke,
having received no further orders, halted the division till noon, when
he took upon himself the responsibility of continuing the march to
Nivelles, where he arrived at 3 P.M. Here he received orders to proceed
at once to Quatre Bras.

The 2d division, Clinton’s, which was also stated in the “Disposition”
to have been at 7 A.M. at Braine-le-Comte, and to be marching on
Nivelles, did not, in fact,[238] receive the order to march from the
neighborhood of Ath, where it was stationed, to Enghien till twelve
hours after it was dated,—_i.e._, not until 10 A.M. of the 16th! The
troops did not reach Enghien till 2 P.M., and missing, apparently, the
direct road, did not arrive at Braine-le-Comte till midnight.

The 3d division, Alten’s, is said in the “Disposition” to have been at
Nivelles at 7 A.M., and marching to Quatre Bras. It did not arrive at
Nivelles till noon.[239]

The 4th division, Colville’s, was no doubt correctly stated in the
“Disposition” to have been at Audenarde at 7 A.M. The 10 P.M. orders of
the 15th of June directed it on Enghien; and we must presume, for the
reasons given above, that further orders to march on Braine-le-Comte
had been issued.

The 5th division, Picton’s, was not “beyond Waterloo” at 7 A.M., as
stated in the “Disposition.” In point of fact, it must have been some
six miles on the Brussels side of Waterloo at that hour.[240] Included
in this division was the 4th Hanoverian brigade,[241] and the Duke of
Brunswick’s Corps.

The 6th division, Cole’s, is no doubt correctly stated in the
“Disposition” to have been at 7 A.M. at Assche; but whether orders for
it to march to Genappe and Quatre Bras had arrived at so early an hour,
may be doubted.

Similar observations apply to the 5th Hanoverian brigade, stated in the
“Disposition” to have been at 7 A.M. at Hal, and marching to Genappe
and Quatre Bras, and to the 1st Dutch-Belgian Division and Anthing’s
Indian brigade, stated to be at Sotteghem, and marching to Enghien.

The “Disposition” states that the 2d and 3d divisions of the Army of
the Low Countries were at Nivelles and Quatre Bras at 7 A.M. This
was not true of the 3d division, Chassé’s, which did not assemble at
Nivelles till near noon.[242] The 2d division, Perponcher’s, as we have
seen, was at Quatre Bras at 7 A.M.

As for the statement in the “Disposition” that Major General
Dörnberg’s brigade and the Cumberland Hussars were “beyond Waterloo” at
7 A.M., it certainly was far from correct. Dörnberg had been directed
by an order sent off from Brussels between 5 and 7 P.M. of the 15th to
retire his brigade from the neighborhood of Mons to Vilvorde, a town
seven miles north of Brussels. He could not have reached Vilvorde,
which is a distance of forty-five miles, until late in the afternoon.

As for the “remainder of the cavalry,” which was stationed in and near
Ninove, it not only was not at Braine-le-Comte at 7 A.M., as stated
in the “Disposition,” but it did not receive the first order,—sent
off from Brussels about 10 o’clock in the evening of the 15th,—until
shortly before six in the morning.[243] It was therefore only an hour’s
march from Ninove on its way to Enghien at seven o’clock. It did not
reach the field till “the evening was far advanced and the conflict had

Nor could Kruse’s Nassau brigade have passed Waterloo at 7 A.M., as
stated in the “Disposition,” _en route_ for Genappe, for it did not
arrive at Quatre Bras in season to take part in the action.

We have been at some pains to lay the facts in regard to this
“Disposition” before the reader, because it certainly is the most
misleading statement ever drawn up “for the information” of a
commanding general. No thought seems to have been given either to the
time at which the orders could be received, or to the time required to
carry them out. An officer of sufficient experience in war to occupy
the post of chief-of-staff to the Duke of Wellington ought certainly to
have been quite competent to give to his commanding officer an estimate
of the probable positions at any given time of the various divisions
of the army, on which it would be safe to rely.[245]

2. Whether, if such an estimate had been made, Wellington would have
stayed at Quatre Bras, may be a question, but he probably would have
risked it, as he evidently did not suppose the French to be in great
force in his front, and it was obviously of prime importance to retain
his communications with Blücher, if possible.

3. Finally, it must be said that the Duke of Wellington was not well
served by his subordinates on the day of the 15th in respect to the
transmission to him of information from the front.[246] His first news
of the attack on the Prussian lines near Thuin did not arrive till 3
P.M., although the French movement must have been pronounced some ten
or eleven hours before that hour. Charleroi was occupied by the main
French column at noon, but all the Duke had heard at 10 P.M. simply
warranted him in writing that the enemy “appeared to menace Charleroi.”
Brussels is only 35 or 36 miles from Charleroi; and by a good despatch
system news of such importance ought to have been transmitted in four
hours. If that had been done,—if Wellington had known at four or five
o’clock in the afternoon positively that the French had occupied
Charleroi in force, and if his information from Mons had arrived at
the same time, as certainly ought to have been the case,—there is
every reason to suppose that he would at once have issued orders for
the concentration of the army at Quatre Bras. The orders which he did
issue to this effect were not sent out, as we have seen, till the early
morning hours of the 16th, some nine or ten hours later than those
which we may fairly suppose he would have issued, had information of
the French movements been promptly transmitted to him. But how far the
commander-in-chief is himself responsible for such delays as this is,
of course, a question. It is and must be for him to devise efficient
methods, and to put them to the test often enough beforehand to feel
justified in relying on them in a sudden emergency. And the situation
in which the Duke of Wellington was in the month of June, 1815,
certainly would seem to have called for the utmost watchfulness and for
the taking of every precaution. It is impossible not to conclude that
he failed in these respects.


[237] Grenadier Guards, vol. 3, p. 15.

[238] Leeke, vol. 1, pp. 10, 11.

[239] Siborne, vol. 1, p. 90.

[240] Siborne, vol. 1, p. 102, note. Gomm, pp. 353, 354. Waterloo
Letters, pp. 23, 24. Gomm says Picton’s division left Brussels at 5
A.M., marched to Waterloo (a distance of about eleven miles), and
halted there two hours; and then at 1 P.M. resumed its march for Quatre
Bras, where it arrived at 3.30 P.M. Siborne (vol. 1, p. 102) says
that Picton arrived at a quarter before 3 P.M., having left Waterloo
about noon. As the distance is about thirteen miles, the later hour of
arrival given by Gomm is probably correct.

[241] Siborne, vol. 1, p. 103, n.

[242] Van Loben Sels, p. 232.

[243] Historical Record of the Life Guards, p. 193: 2d Ed. London;
Longmans: 1840. Bullock’s Journal; English Historical Magazine, July,
1888, p. 549.

[244] Life Guards, p. 194. Bullock, p. 549, says eight o’clock.

[245] It ought to be remembered, however, that the “Disposition” was
in all probability drawn up in a great hurry. Wellington had put off
the decision to concentrate at Quatre Bras so late that both the giving
of the necessary orders and the preparation of this “Disposition” must
have been done in the greatest haste.

[246] _Cf._ Siborne, vol. 1, p. 166, note.



Marshal Ney, as we have seen,[247] rode back from the front at Frasnes
to report to the Emperor at Charleroi, where he arrived at midnight of
the 15th. He informed the Emperor, so Colonel Heymès says,[248]

  “Of the dispositions he had made. The Emperor made him stay to
  supper, gave him his orders, and received the Marshal with the frank
  confidence of the camp; he unfolded to him his projects and his hopes
  for the day of the 16th, which was very soon to begin. He talked with
  him a long time in the night of the 15th and 16th. All the officers
  of the Imperial headquarters can attest this.”

Among these officers was, no doubt, Marshal Grouchy.

It goes without saying that at this interview Ney told the Emperor
that he had not occupied Quatre Bras, and why he had not done so. With
almost equal certainty may it be believed that Napoleon told him that
he must occupy the place the next forenoon.

Heymès then proceeds as follows:[249]

  “The 16th, at two o’clock in the morning, the Marshal returned to
  Gosselies (_i.e._, from Charleroi), where he stopped some minutes in
  order to confer with General Reille; he gave him the order to set
  out, as soon as he could, with his two divisions and his artillery,
  and to get his troops together at Frasnes, where the Marshal himself
  would arrive almost as soon.”

And he adds that at 8 A.M. Reille at the head of his two divisions
was _en route_ for Frasnes. General Reille, however, while he says[250]
that his troops were ready to march in the morning,[251] says also that
at 7 A.M. he went to see Marshal Ney, to ask for orders; and that the
Marshal said he was expecting them from the Emperor. One may infer from
these statements, which are not perfectly consistent with each other,
that Ney, on his return to Gosselies from Charleroi, told Reille that
they must be ready to move at a moment’s notice, and that that officer
at once proceeded to get his men into marching order, and that he had
them on the Charleroi-Brussels turnpike, ready to march, before seven
o’clock. One may, perhaps, infer more than this; namely, that Ney,
immediately on his return from seeing the Emperor, ordered Reille to
proceed with his two divisions, as soon as he could, from Gosselies to
Frasnes, so that, when the order to seize Quatre Bras should arrive,
it might be executed promptly; but that he afterwards reconsidered the
matter, and allowed Reille to remain in Gosselies till the written
orders should come.

Whether this be so or not, however, it is plain that when Ney had
been, as Heymès says he had been, informed by the Emperor himself
of his projects for the ensuing day, he ought certainly to have
ordered Reille up to Frasnes at once, with the two divisions then at
Gosselies,—thereby uniting all of the 2d Corps that was under his
control,[252]—and to have seen to it that the 1st Corps was ready
to follow promptly in their rear. No special authority for this was
needed. In fact it was obviously necessary to get these two divisions
out of the way of the 1st Corps, which ought to be assembling at
Gosselies in the early morning, if it was to accomplish anything of
consequence during the forenoon. But Ney, whatever may have been his
first intentions on returning from seeing Napoleon, did actually
nothing of this kind.[253] One cannot avoid the feeling that he was
unwilling to take the slightest responsibility, even that involved in
uniting the three divisions of the 2d Corps at Frasnes, and supplying
their place at Gosselies with the four divisions of the 1st Corps,—a
step which, taking account of the situation, and of the written orders
that had been issued to the 1st Corps, it was his manifest duty to
take. The consideration, that, by this course, the formal order to
seize Quatre Bras, which he undoubtedly expected, could be executed at
once, while, by retaining Reille at Gosselies until the order should be
received, the time required to march the five miles which lay between
Gosselies and Frasnes would postpone the carrying out of the movement
by some two hours or more, does not seem to have had any weight with
him. In fact, beyond getting Reille in readiness to march, Ney really
seems to have made no preparations to facilitate the execution of the
important order which he fully expected to receive.

That this statement is not too strong, appears when we consider what
Ney did to get the 1st Corps up and well in hand, a matter which
assuredly demanded his most strenuous and active efforts at this
moment. Ney arrived at Gosselies from Charleroi, as we have seen, about
2 A.M. He stayed there, apparently, till shortly after 7 A.M.[254] We
know[255] that, even at 3 A.M. one division of the 1st Corps had not
arrived at the river, and that another was still at Marchienne. The
other two divisions had crossed the Sambre, and the leading one[256]
was between Jumet and Gosselies. Colonel Heymès, after stating the
positions of the English at Quatre Bras,[257] says:[258] “In default
of staff-officers, of whom the Marshal had none, officers of the
chasseurs and lancers of the Guard were sent to meet the 1st Corps
in the direction of Marchienne-au-Pont; they had orders to press its
march to Frasnes.” But we shall presently see, that it was not until 11
A.M., when Reille, with the divisions of Foy and Jerome, was ordered to
advance from Gosselies to Quatre Bras, that the first three divisions
of d’Erlon’s Corps were ordered to Frasnes. It appears, then, from
Heymès’ statement, that the activity exhibited by Marshal Ney, to
which he calls attention, was not shown until Ney had ordered these
divisions to Frasnes, that is, until after eleven o’clock. That this
conjecture is correct, appears also from the fact, stated by Colonel
Heymès,[259] that the regiments of the chasseurs and lancers of the
Guard, from which officers were detailed on staff duty, as above
stated, were in reserve behind the village of Frasnes, and, therefore,
not at Gosselies. There is, therefore, nothing to show that Marshal
Ney did anything in regard to getting up the 1st Corps until after 11
o’clock A.M.[260] If he had, Colonel Heymès, who was on his staff,
would doubtless have mentioned it. And it seems to be an unavoidable
inference from what Colonel Heymès says, that at the time when these
extemporized staff-officers were sent to find the 1st Corps and hurry
it up, part of it, at any rate, was supposed by Marshal Ney to be yet
in the neighborhood of Marchienne.

The first written order[261] which Marshal Ney received on this morning
of the 16th, was from Marshal Soult, who informed him that the Count
of Valmy had been ordered to Gosselies with his corps of cavalry,
and placed under his, Ney’s, orders; these troops were to replace
the division of cavalry of the Guard under Lefebvre-Desnouettes.[262]
Marshal Soult then inquired whether the 1st Corps had executed its
movement, that is, had crossed the river, and had joined the 2d Corps
at Gosselies, in pursuance of the orders[263] to the Count d’Erlon of
the day before. He further desired that Ney would inform him as to
the exact positions of the 1st and 2d Corps, and of the two divisions
of cavalry, which were attached to them. We do not know what answer
Marshal Ney returned to these interrogatories, but he told Reille,[264]
in the course of the conversation to which we have before referred,
shortly before seven o’clock in the morning, that he had rendered to
the Emperor an account of his situation. This first order, therefore,
must have arrived about 6 A.M.; and from its contents, and also from
the hour when it was sent, as well as from the tenor of the orders to
d’Erlon of the day before, we can see how carefully the operations of
the left wing were watched at the headquarters of the army.

Shortly after this conversation between Ney and Reille, the Marshal
went back to Frasnes,[265] leaving word with Reille that, if any orders
for the movement of troops should arrive in his absence, they were
to be executed at once, and their contents communicated to the Count
d’Erlon, who was at Jumet, or in rear of that place.

About 9 o’clock, General Reille continues,[266] a report was received
from General Girard, who commanded that division of the 2d Corps which
had gone off to the right and joined the main army, to the effect
that the Prussians were forming beyond Fleurus. This report Reille
transmitted at once to the headquarters of the army at Charleroi; but
he sent no word of it to Ney, at Frasnes, at that time.

About an hour afterwards, that is, about 10 A.M.,[267] General Flahaut
of the Emperor’s staff, passed through Gosselies, bringing with him an
important letter[268] for Marshal Ney, written by the Emperor himself,
the contents of which Flahaut communicated to Reille. Of this letter we
shall speak at length in another connection. Suffice it to say here,
that it treated of the occupation of Quatre Bras, the formal order for
which, emanating from the chief-of-staff, it stated would arrive about
the same time. This no doubt was the case.[269]

Reille’s orders from Ney, it will be recollected, were imperative
and precise, to execute[270] at once during Ney’s absence, any
instructions for the movement of troops that might arrive. Yet
we find him writing[271] from Gosselies at 10.15 A.M., to Ney at
Frasnes,—a distance of five miles,—to say that he has been informed
by General Flahaut of the contents of the Emperor’s letter, but that,
in consequence of the information as to the Prussians taking up their
positions near Fleurus, which he had received from Girard before 9
A.M., he has thought it best to postpone the march of his two divisions
from Gosselies to Frasnes until the return of his messenger.[272] And
this, too, just after he had read a letter from the Emperor himself,
prescribing what dispositions Ney should make of his troops after he
had executed the movement on Quatre Bras. One cannot but recall the
criticisms on the generals in this army made by both Napoleon and
Charras, which we have given in an earlier chapter.[273] If Reille
thought the information sent by Girard was so important, why did he not
send it to Ney at once, instead of waiting an hour and a half?

Marshal Ney sent back a peremptory order to Reille to move up to the
front at once.[274] The march began at about a quarter before twelve
o’clock,[275] the division of Foy leading.

Let us now look at the Emperor’s letter and at the orders which Ney
received from Soult during the morning of the 16th.

The orders which were received by Ney on the 16th prior to the
commencement of the battle of Quatre Bras, were three in number. Of the
first[276] we have already spoken.[277] The second,[278] which was the
formal order, directed the Marshal to put the 2d and 1st Corps, and
the 3d Corps[279] of cavalry, in march for Quatre Bras, where he was
to take up a position, and make reconnoissances in the directions of
Brussels and Nivelles. He was to station a division with cavalry at
Genappe, and another division at or near Marbais.

The letter[280] states that the major-general (Soult) has issued the
orders, but that Ney may perhaps receive this letter a little sooner,
as the Emperor’s aides are better mounted. The Emperor then tells
Ney what his own plans are for the day,—a subject which will be more
appropriately treated in another place,—and then says:—“You can then
dispose of your troops in the following manner: the first division at
two leagues in front of Quatre Bras; * * * six divisions of infantry
at and near Quatre Bras and another at Marbais, so that I can order it
to me at Sombreffe, if I have need of it. * * * The corps of the Count
of Valmy * * * at the intersection of the Roman and Brussels roads,
so that I may draw it to me, if I have need of it. * * * Your wing
will be composed of the four divisions of the 1st Corps, of the four
divisions of the 2d Corps, of the two divisions of light cavalry [those
of Jaquinot and Piré], and of the two divisions of the corps of Valmy.”

It has been asserted[281] that this letter restricted Ney in the
employment of the cavalry of the Count of Valmy; but it seems perfectly
clear that all the above-mentioned bodies of troops are put explicitly
at Ney’s disposal for the purpose of carrying out the orders which he
would receive from the major-general; and that the dispositions of his
command which Ney is requested to make, are to be made _only after the
accomplishment of the main object of the movement_,—_the seizure of the

But it is impossible that Ney could have had any doubt on the subject,
inasmuch as there was a third formal order sent by Marshal Soult.

This order[282] informs Ney that an officer of lancers reports
considerable bodies of the enemy near Quatre Bras. It then proceeds
thus: “Unite the corps of the Counts Reille and d’Erlon and that of
the Count of Valmy,[283] who has this instant started to join you; with
these forces you ought to be able to beat and destroy any force of the
enemy which you may meet.” It then says that it is not very likely that
Blücher has sent any troops to Quatre Bras, so that Ney will have to
do only with the troops coming from Brussels. It concludes by stating
that Grouchy has made the movement on Sombreffe of which Ney had been
informed in the former order.

Now these orders, and certainly the last one, are as plain as plain can
be. They do not admit of two constructions. Yet Ney, still unwilling to
surrender his own judgment, still deeming it injudicious to push his
command so far in advance of the main army, orders[284] the first three
divisions of the 1st Corps to take up a position at Frasnes. Frasnes,
it must be remembered, is two miles and a half from Quatre Bras,—nearly
two miles from the field of battle,—an hour’s march. Not only this,
but he orders the two divisions of cavalry of the Count of Valmy to
establish themselves at Frasnes and Liberchies,—the latter a village
two miles southwest of Frasnes.

Consider this a moment. The principal formal order directed Ney, in
so many words, to unite the two _corps d’armeé_, and the corps of
cavalry, and to take position at Quatre Bras,—not at Frasnes. Even
if the Emperor’s letter admitted of a construction at variance with
this, so far as the cavalry of the Count of Valmy was concerned, the
last order of Soult’s was unmistakable. It left no room for latitude
of construction. All the troops were to be united in the effort to
get possession of the intersection of the roads, and the cavalry of
the Count of Valmy is explicitly included. Instead of carrying out
this order, which was both plain and peremptory, and called for the
simultaneous employment of his entire command, or, at any rate, for the
employment of as much of his command as he could assemble, more than
half the force which had been placed at Ney’s disposal was ordered by
him to halt and “take position,” “establish themselves,” two miles and
more to the south of the cross-roads. He himself, in his letter to the
Duke of Otranto,[285] states that the 1st Corps “had been left by him
in reserve at Frasnes.” Although this statement is incorrect, inasmuch
as that unlucky command never got quite so far as Frasnes, yet it shows
beyond controversy what Marshal Ney _intended_ to do with the 1st
Corps. He furthermore says in this letter, that it was at the moment
when he was about to order it up from Frasnes, that he learned that the
Emperor had disposed of it. That is to say, he had actually _intended_
to keep a whole corps of 20,000 men (or at least three-fourths of them)
two miles from the battle-field till five o’clock in the afternoon,
for (as we shall see hereafter) it was not until five o’clock that he
learned that d’Erlon’s Corps had wandered off.


[247] _Ante_, p. 54.

[248] Doc. Inéd., Heymès’ Rel. p. 6. See _ante_, p. 65, n. 28.

[249] Ib., pp. 6, 7.

[250] Doc. Inéd., Reille, Not. Hist., p. 57.

[251] From the context, he would seem to mean before 7 A.M.

[252] Girard’s division was with the main army under Napoleon.

[253] _Cf._ La Tour D’Auvergne, p. 189. Muquardt, pp. 145, 146.

[254] Doc. Inéd., Reille, p. 57.

[255] _Ante_, p. 51.

[256] _Ante_, p. 50, n. 25.

[257] Doc. Inéd., Heymès, pp. 7, 8.

[258] Ib., p. 8.

[259] Ib., pp. 5, 7. _Ante_, p. 49.

[260] Ib., Reille, p. 57.

[261] Doc. Inéd., VII, pp. 26, 27; App. C, xvii; _post_, p. 377.

[262] _Ante_, p. 49.

[263] Doc. Inéd., Heymès. V, VI, p. 25; App. C, v, vi; _post_, pp. 367,

[264] Ib., Reille, p. 57.

[265] Ib., p. 57.

[266] Doc. Inéd., Reille, p. 57.

[267] Reille in his “Notice Historique” says 11 A.M. But his despatch
to Ney, in which he says that he read the Flahaut order, is dated 10.15
A.M. Doc. Inéd., XI, pp. 37, 38; App. C, xix; _post_, p. 379.

[268] Ib., X, pp. 32 _et seq._ App. C, xviii; _post_, pp. 377, 378.

[269] Ib., p. 30: at least this was the opinion of Marshal Ney’s son.

[270] Ib., Reille, p. 57.

[271] Ib., XI, pp. 37, 38. App. C, xix; _post_, p. 379. He does not
mention in his “Notice Historique” that he delayed executing Ney’s

[272] The delay thus occasioned is estimated by Charras (vol.
2, p. 238) at an hour and a quarter. It was really an hour and
three-quarters, as Reille ought to have started at ten.

[273] _Ante_, p. 19.

[274] Doc. Inéd., Reille, XII, p. 38; App. C, xx; _post_, pp. 379, 380.

[275] Charras, vol. 1, p. 189. _Cf._ vol. 2, p. 238.

[276] Doc. Inéd., VII, pp. 26, 27; App. C, xvii; _post_, p. 377.

[277] _Ante_, p. 120.

[278] Doc. Inéd., VIII, p. 27; App. C, xxi; _post_, pp. 380, 381.

[279] That of the Count of Valmy, Kellermann.

[280] Doc. Inéd., X, pp. 32 _et seq._; App. C, xvii; _post_, pp. 377,

[281] Charras, vol. 1, pp. 204, 205.

[282] Doc. Inéd., IX, p. x31; App. C, xxii; _post_, p. 381.

[283] Charras (vol. 1, p. 190) says that this order differed from
Soult’s previous orders in authorizing Ney to employ the cavalry of the
Count of Valmy. But both Soult’s orders direct this in express terms.

[284] Doc. Inéd., XII, pp. 38, 39; App. C, xx; _post_, pp. 379, 380.

[285] Jones, p. 386. Charras, vol. 1, p. 215.


1. The conduct of Marshal Ney on the 15th and 16th has been the
subject of violent and bitter disputes. One principal cause of these
disputes lies in the supposition that Napoleon in his accounts of the
campaign has misrepresented the facts, so as to throw a large part of
the blame for the final disaster undeservedly upon Ney. Accordingly,
what Napoleon has said about Ney, and his motives in saying it, have
been the subjects of discussion, rather than what Ney himself did. We
have strictly confined our narrative to the consideration of Ney’s
acts, orders, and statements, supplemented by those of one of his
corps-commanders and his chief-of-staff. From these it appears,

(a) That Ney was informed of the Emperor’s intentions during the night
of the 15th and 16th:

(b) That he contented himself, on his return to Gosselies at two
o’clock in the morning, with ordering Reille to get his two divisions
ready to move: he did not order Reille up to Frasnes as he might have
done; nor did he see to it that the places of Reille’s divisions at
Gosselies were taken by the two divisions of d’Erlon’s Corps, which, as
we have seen,[286] were, at that hour well across the river:

(c) That instead of pushing right on to Quatre Bras with all his
disposable force when he finally got his written  orders, as those
orders in express terms peremptorily directed him to do, he ordered
three divisions of the 1st Corps to take up a position at Frasnes,
two miles from the field of battle, and Kellermann’s two divisions
of cavalry “to establish themselves” partly there and partly at
Liberchies, a village still further from the field:

(d) That he deliberately intended those three divisions of the 1st
Corps and those two divisions of cavalry to stay at Frasnes and
Liberchies, as his reserve, instead of having them with him for
immediate use on the field of Quatre Bras:

(e) Lastly, all these things are _admitted_ to be true; they are not
accusations against him; they are facts, stated by himself, either in
his own orders or letters, or by his own chief-of-staff, or by General

2. There is certainly one inference to be drawn from these facts. It is
that Marshal Ney was not, in that night and morning, preparing for a
decisive blow. So much, we presume, will be conceded. It is also plain
that he was not proposing strictly to obey his orders. He evidently had
his doubts about the wisdom of his orders. He was not going to embark
too deep in what he evidently feared might prove a disastrous venture.
He would proceed to Quatre Bras with the three divisions of the 2d
Corps, but he would leave three divisions of the 1st Corps and the two
divisions of Kellermann’s cavalry to protect his flank and line of
retreat, and also to be at hand in case the Emperor should need them.
He did not dare to trust the Emperor fully. He must, he felt, in this
emergency, act according to his own judgment.

3. If we are right in this conclusion, we can easily understand why
Ney failed to carry out the order given to him at five o’clock on the
afternoon of the 15th, to seize Quatre Bras that evening. We have
left the much disputed question of the giving of this order on one
side in our narrative[287] for reasons already stated; but we have,
nevertheless, expressed our opinion[288] that the order was given.
Ney’s conduct on the 16th is of a piece, we believe, with his conduct
on the 15th.

4. No serious criticism can be passed, we think, on the tenor of the
orders issued to the corps-commanders of the left wing, or to the
commander of that wing, during the afternoon of the 15th and the
morning of the 16th. Neither the Emperor nor Soult could well have done
more than they did to arouse the energy of the officers who had charge
of the operations there.[289] The orders were precise and imperative.
The trouble was that the officers to whom they were addressed lacked
either the disposition or the energy requisite to carry them into

5. But why, it may be fairly asked, did not Napoleon, as soon as he had
found out that Ney had not seized Quatre Bras on the evening of the
15th, order him forthwith to proceed to do so in the early morning of
the 16th? Why this delay in sending him a formal written order?

This question will be considered in the next chapter, when we come to
describe Napoleon’s doings on the 16th.


[286] _Ante_, p. 51.

[287] _Ante_, p. 52.

[288] _Ante_, pp. 67, 68.

[289] For an explanation of Chesney’s (pp. 118, 119) severe strictures,
see _ante_, p. 51, n. 29.



It is time that we returned to the headquarters of the French army.

Marshal Ney, as we have seen in the last chapter, reported in person
to the Emperor at Charleroi at midnight of the 15th. “He rendered
account” to him, says Colonel Heymès,[290] “of the dispositions he
had made.” Napoleon was thus informed that Ney had halted at Frasnes
and had not occupied Quatre Bras, the evening before. Ney must have
stopped at Charleroi about an hour and a half, as he reached Gosselies
on his return about two in the morning. He must have told the Emperor
where some, at any rate, of his troops were,—that Bachelu’s infantry
division and Piré’s cavalry division of the 2d Corps were at Frasnes;
that the divisions of Jerome and Foy were at Gosselies; that Durutte’s
division of the 1st Corps was between Jumet and Gosselies. So much as
this Ney knew. But his arrival at the army had been so recent, and his
occupations since his arrival had been so engrossing, that he could
not probably have had much more information to give the Emperor as
to the whereabouts of the 1st Corps. His almost total deficiency of
staff officers was a grievous drawback, and prevented him from getting
that hold on his entire command which otherwise he no doubt would have
secured even by this time. Very possibly he had already sent word to
d’Erlon to hurry up to the front. But he must have reported to the
Emperor that a large part of the 1st Corps, perhaps half of it, was
still far to the rear.

Napoleon does not mention this interview in his Memoirs, or in the
Gourgaud Narrative, nor does he anywhere say that he, on the morning of
the 16th, gave to Marshal Ney any other orders than the written ones of
which we have in the last chapter given the substance.

It would seem from these orders that Napoleon thought it inexpedient
that Ney should make any further endeavor to carry Quatre Bras by a
_coup-de-main_. The situation was a different one from that which
existed (as Napoleon correctly supposed) the evening before. It might
now be expected that the cross-roads would be held by a respectable
force from Wellington’s army; or, at least, it was obviously unwise
and hazardous not to make adequate preparations for this very possible
state of things. It was also plain, from what Ney had stated at the
midnight conference, that his command would not be, in the early
morning hours, sufficiently concentrated for any decisive stroke.[291]
Hence, somewhere about five o’clock, the first of the three orders of
which we have spoken in the last chapter was sent off from Charleroi;
the one in which Ney was informed that Kellermann’s cavalry had been
ordered to him to take the place of that of Lefebvre-Desnouettes, and
in which he was directed to report to the Emperor whether the 1st Corps
had “executed its movement,” and to inform him of the exact positions
of the 1st and 2d Corps. This order, as we have seen, Ney replied to
before 7 A.M. His reply, which, we may assume, contained some news of
the advance of the 1st Corps, and also stated that the divisions of
Jerome and Foy of the 2d Corps were at Gosselies ready to march, must
have reached headquarters shortly before 8 A.M. As soon as this reply
was received, Napoleon and Soult prepared the formal order for the
conduct of the left wing during the forenoon.

That order, as we have seen, directed Ney to unite the 1st and 2d Corps
and the cavalry of the Count of Valmy, and to proceed at once to take
possession of Quatre Bras. It was issued as soon as the Emperor had
become satisfied, from Ney’s report, that such a movement had become
practicable,—that is, that it could be made in sufficient force to
overcome any opposition it would be likely to encounter. Until he had
become satisfied of this, it was deemed unadvisable to issue the order
to advance beyond Frasnes.

We are able to fix the hour at which this formal order to seize Quatre
Bras was prepared by Soult with quite an approach to accuracy. We
know that Napoleon dictated a letter to Ney, which he sent by Count
Flahaut,[292] and which arrived at Gosselies about the same time[293]
with the formal order,—that is,—about 10 A.M.[294] Flahaut wrote[295] to
Marshal Ney’s son, then Duke of Elchingen, that, to the best of his
recollection, the Emperor dictated the letter to him between 8 and 9
o’clock in the morning. Such a letter, dictated between 8 and 9, and
afterwards reduced to proper form, would have reached Gosselies, a
distance of about four miles and a half from Charleroi, about 10 A.M.,
as Reille[296] says it did. This accords perfectly with the statement
made above that Napoleon waited to hear more definitely from Ney before
framing his order for the morning’s operations.

But the backwardness of d’Erlon’s Corps not only deferred the forward
moment of the left wing; it seems to have delayed the advance of the
main body. Until Napoleon could be sure that Ney with the large force
that had been assigned to him was in march on his left, able to give
a good account of any Anglo-Dutch forces which might attempt to unite
with the Prussians or to molest the left flank of the main French
army, he seems to have been unwilling to move upon Blücher. It was
part of his plan that Ney with the left wing should at least “contain”
that part of Wellington’s army which that general might reasonably be
expected to get together at Quatre Bras. Hence, when Ney reported to
the Emperor at midnight the very backward state of the 1st Corps, the
latter not only decided to wait before giving him further orders until
something more definite and satisfactory should be learned respecting
that corps, and until Ney could fairly be supposed to have had time
enough to get his entire command well in hand, but he also postponed
his own forward movement upon Fleurus and Sombreffe until Ney could
move simultaneously upon Quatre Bras. These considerations certainly
go far to account for and justify the delay in the early morning hours
of the 16th, which has drawn down upon the Emperor so much severe and
almost contemptuous criticism. Napoleon, in truth, could have done
nothing else, unless he had risked a battle with the Prussians on the
chance that Ney, with the 2d Corps alone, could prevent their being
assisted by the English. It is true, this is what actually happened;
but it was Napoleon’s intention that Ney should operate against the
English with his entire command, and in deferring the giving of orders
for the advance of the army until he had reason to believe that Ney
could do this, he was simply carrying out his original scheme.

To finish now with Napoleon’s intentions and expectations in regard
to his left wing. He may well have expected that Ney had, in advance
of receiving the formal order, sent Reille to Frasnes with his two
divisions, which Ney’s reply to his early morning inquiry had informed
him were then all ready to march, thus uniting the entire 2d Corps,
_minus_ Girard’s division; also, that the leading divisions of the
1st Corps would be gotten under arms without delay in Gosselies, so
as to be ready to march at once. He must have expected his order to
reach Gosselies by 10 A.M., and Frasnes by 11 A.M., and he may well
have thought it quite possible,—as indeed it would have been,—that
Ney, at the head of three divisions of infantry and one of cavalry,
might be able to drive out of Quatre Bras the Dutch-Belgians who
had been encountered the evening before, unless, indeed, they had
been largely reinforced. At or about 1 P.M., however, the 1st Corps
ought to be arriving at Quatre Bras, as its leading divisions would
leave Gosselies—as Napoleon would have a right to suppose—between
10 and 11 A.M.; so that, by 2, or, at any rate, by 3 P.M., Marshal
Ney would have his entire command at Quatre Bras, well in hand, and,
pretty certain,—at least so Napoleon would be likely to think,—to be
successful over any troops they might encounter. On these expectations,
which, as we have seen, were quite warranted by the information he had
received, he based his calculations for the day’s doings.

While Napoleon was thus awaiting at Charleroi definite news of the
progress and condition of the left wing of his army, he employed his
time,—or a part of it, at least,—in determining on the lines of action
he would pursue in view of possible emergencies. As we have already
seen, he desired nothing so much as to join battle with Marshal Blücher
on the 16th of June. It had been his expectation[297] that the Prussian
general would assemble his army near Sombreffe, and fight a battle,
somewhere to the south of that village, for the preservation of his
line of communications with the Duke of Wellington,—the Namur-Nivelles
turnpike. At the same time, it was, of course, perfectly possible
that the allied commanders had made other arrangements.[298] It was
not impossible, for instance, that Napoleon’s concentration had been
such a surprise to them that they were purposing to fall back, for the
present at least, either divergently towards their respective bases,
or in a northerly direction by parallel lines. In any event it would
be manifestly desirable to inform the commanders of the right and left
wings of the army of the Emperor’s probable course in any such event,
so that every advantage might be promptly taken of the situation. It
was certainly true, that instructions of this nature might not be
required; they would assuredly not be required if Blücher should do
what Napoleon had thought it likely he would do. In that case there
would be no need of elaborate instructions being given to either Ney
or Grouchy; the issue of the battle would settle everything. But in
order to be prepared for the other state of affairs, Napoleon employed
himself with preparing letters to the commanders of the wings of the

The letter[299] to Ney, which, as we have seen, was dictated by the
Emperor to General Flahaut between 8 and 9 A.M., and was carried by
that officer to Ney, whom it must have reached at Frasnes shortly
before eleven o’clock,[300] informs him that Marshal Grouchy is
marching on Sombreffe with the 3d and 4th Corps; that the Emperor is
taking the Guard to Fleurus, where he will be before midday; that he
will attack the enemy if he meets him, and will clear the road as far
to the eastward as Gembloux. There, at Gembloux, the Emperor will
make up his mind what to do next,—perhaps at three in the afternoon,
perhaps not till evening. But he tells Marshal Ney that, just as soon
as he has made up his mind, he wants him to be ready to march on
Brussels; that he will support him with the Guard, which will be at
Fleurus or Sombreffe,[301] and that he would like to get to Brussels
the next morning. He then tells him where he would like him to station
his various divisions.[302] He informs him that he has divided his army
into two wings and a reserve; that Ney’s wing will consist of the 1st
and 2d Corps, comprising eight divisions of infantry and two of light
cavalry, and of the cavalry of the Count of Valmy; that Marshal Grouchy
commands the right wing; that the Guard will constitute the reserve.
He closes by reiterating the importance of Ney’s dispositions being so
well made that he can march on Brussels,—_i.e._, from Quatre Bras,—as
soon as ordered to do so.

To Grouchy the Emperor sent a similar[303] letter, giving him the
command of the 3d and 4th Corps,—those of Vandamme and Gérard,—and of
the three cavalry-corps of Pajol, Milhaud and Exelmans. He orders him
to Sombreffe with his entire command; the cavalry are to be sent off
at once, the infantry to follow without halting anywhere. The Emperor
states that he is removing his headquarters from Charleroi to Fleurus,
where he will arrive between 10 and 11 A.M., and that he is going to
Sombreffe, leaving the Guard, unless it should be necessary to employ
it, at Fleurus. “If the enemy is at Sombreffe,” he goes on to say,
“I propose to attack him; I propose to attack him even at Gembloux,
and to possess myself of that position; my intention being, after
having explored [_connu_] these two positions, to set out this night,
and operate with my left wing, which Marshal Ney commands, against the
English.” He then desires Grouchy to send him reports of everything he
may learn, and finishes by saying:—“All my information is to the effect
that the Prussians cannot oppose to us more than forty thousand men.”

It is quite true, that this last remark shows, as several writers[304]
have pointed out, that the Emperor was to a considerable extent
mistaken on this morning of the 16th in his apprehension of the
situation. But it is an error to take these letters as if they
were written for the purpose of giving Napoleon’s estimates of the
probabilities; they are rather instructions in the event of the
occurrence of not impossible contingencies. The fact in the case was
just this,—the main army was about to make a forward movement against
the Prussians; if they were found to be in force and offered battle,
the result of this battle would of course settle everything; but if
they should retire, instead of offering battle, they must be followed,
and that involved the separation of the French army into two unequal
portions. Hence it was very desirable to inform Ney, from whom in this
event the right wing and reserves would march away, about how far the
Prussians would be followed, and, especially to enjoin upon him, in
case the Emperor should deem it safe to leave the care of the Prussians
to Grouchy, and should himself retrace his steps, and, with his Guard,
join the left wing, to be ready to march on Brussels at an instant’s

It must be noted, too, that these letters, especially when taken in
connection with the formal orders of Soult to the two Marshals, show
how absolutely Napoleon adhered to his original conception of the
campaign, as we have before described it. To attack the Prussians
first,—to follow them up for a considerable distance, so as to be
assured of the direction which their retreat was taking,—and then,
and only then, to return to the Brussels road and advance on the
English,—such was the programme marked out in the two letters to Ney
and Grouchy. We shall have occasion to refer to this in another place.

Lastly, while the Emperor expressly states in his letter to Grouchy
that he estimates that the Prussians can not oppose to him a force of
over forty thousand men, and while it may perhaps be inferred from
his letter to Ney that he thought that that officer would meet with
little or no opposition, it is to be observed that Napoleon acted in
all respects as if he expected that the enemy would be found in force.
Both Ney and Grouchy were explicitly directed to employ the whole of
their respective forces. We have spoken of this before as it affected
Ney. It was the same with the movement prescribed to Grouchy,—“Take
your right wing to Sombreffe,”—[305] _i.e._, the two _corps-d’armée_,
and the three cavalry corps. Whatever Napoleon may have conjectured as
to the force or intentions of the enemy, both of his movements this
forenoon,—that of the main army on Sombreffe, and that of the left wing
on Quatre Bras,—were to be made in force,—with all the force he could
muster. If he did expect, as some writers think, that his enemies would
retire before him, he at any rate made every preparation to fight and
overcome them, should they give him battle. It was in order, as we have
pointed out, that these movements might be made simultaneously, and in
sufficient force, that they were deferred to such a late period in the
day,—the backwardness of the 1st Corps having postponed for several
hours the concentration of the left wing.

It will be noticed that in none of these letters or formal orders is
the 6th Corps under the Count of Lobau mentioned. The inference is,
that, at that time, the Emperor desired to retain this body of troops
as a reserve for the whole army. He wanted to get along, if he could,
without employing it at all in the present stage of the campaign.


[290] Doc. Inéd., Heymès, p. 6.

[291] _Cf._ La Tour D’Auvergne, pp. 91, 92.

[292] Doc. Inéd., X, p. 32; App. C, xviii; _post_, pp. 377, 378.

[293] _Ante_, p. 121, note 23.

[294] _Ante_, p. 121, note 21.

[295] Doc. Inéd., XXI, p. 63; App. C, xxiii; _post_, p. 382.

[296] Ib., XI, pp. 37, 38; App. C, xix; _post_, p. 379.

[297] _Ante_, pp. 5, 13, 14.

[298] Ollech, p. 123.

[299] Corresp., vol. 28, p. 334. Doc. Inéd., X, p. 32; App. C, xviii;
_post_, pp. 377, 378.

[300] Flahaut, says Reille, passed through Gosselies about 10 A.M. Doc.
Inéd., XI, pp. 37, 38; App. C, xix; _post_, p. 379.

[301] This seems to imply that the Emperor did not propose to carry the
Guard to Gembloux.

[302] See _ante_, p. 123.

[303] Corresp., vol. 28, p. 336; App. C, xxiv; _post_, pp. 382, 383.

[304] Ollech, pp. 112, 113: D’Auvergne, pp. 103, 104: Charras, vol. 1,
pp. 143, 144.

[305] “_Rendez-vous avec cette aile droite à Sombreffe._”


1. The very simple explanation suggested in this chapter of the cause
of the delay on the morning of the 16th in the movement of the main
body of the French army under the Emperor in person, namely, that that
movement was deferred because of the inability of the left wing of the
army to make a simultaneous movement on Quatre Bras, does not seem to
have occurred to most of the historians of this campaign.[306] But
surely, when allowance is made for this fact, the severe criticisms of
Jomini,[307] Charras,[308] Siborne[309] and others, must be held to be
quite beside the mark. Had Ney occupied Quatre Bras on the evening of
the 15th, the forward movement of the main French army would certainly
not have been thus delayed. It would doubtless have been made in the
early morning of the 16th, even though it might have been necessary to
give Ney the 6th Corps in place of the backward 1st. But as Quatre Bras
had not been occupied the evening before, and as the backward state
of d’Erlon’s Corps rendered it impossible for Ney to make a forward
movement with the entire force which had been assigned to him until
the forenoon was well advanced, the operations of the main body were
postponed, and the troops were allowed what would otherwise have been
an unnecessary[310] time to rest and recruit.

2. It is to be observed here, that for the backwardness of the 1st
Corps at midnight of the 15th, Marshal Ney was in no wise responsible.
His recent arrival at the army and his lack of a proper staff exonerate
him completely from any blame for this unfortunate delay. For this
d’Erlon alone must be held responsible.

3. It is unnecessary to repeat here what we have said above as to Ney’s
conduct on his return to Gosselies from his interview with Napoleon at
Charleroi. It seems to us that any competent and energetic officer,
bent upon getting ready to execute his orders as soon as they should
be received, and to execute them to the letter when he should receive
them, would have accomplished far more than Marshal Ney accomplished
that morning.

4. We desire to call attention to the fact that up to this time there
is no evidence whatever of indolence, or irresolution, on the part of
the Emperor Napoleon. From the time when he left Paris at half-past
three in the morning of the 12th to the time of which we are now
writing, he seems to have been fully up even to his own high standard
of military activity and capacity. His general order for the movement
of the army on the 15th was as clear and full as it was possible for
an order to be. His energy and dash on the 15th were noticeable. His
vigor and endurance also seem to have been equal to the demands put
upon them. From three in the morning to eight in the evening of the
15th he was on horseback, and in personal command of the troops. At
midnight he had a long conference with Marshal Ney. Since the result
of that conference was, as we have seen, to induce the postponement of
the advance of the army, the Emperor may, very possibly, have taken
some rest in the early morning hours of the 16th. But the despatch to
Ney requesting from him an exact account of his position must have been
sent off about five, and at or soon after eight we find him dictating
to Count Flahaut the letters to Ney and Grouchy. It is hardly
necessary to add, that if the explanation given above of the causes of
the delay in the advance-movement of the army on the morning of the
16th be correct, there is not the slightest foundation for the charges
of hesitation or irresolution, which have been so often made.[311]

5. It seems to be difficult for some writers to keep steadily in mind
the absolute necessity of Napoleon’s either defeating the Prussians or
compelling them definitely to retreat, before he undertook any movement
in the direction of Brussels, either with the view of attacking the
English or of occupying that city. Thus Chesney,[312] speaking of
Napoleon’s intentions on the morning of the 16th, says:—

  “His morning orders clearly prove that he expected no serious
  opposition from them (the Prussians) or the English at present, and
  was divided only in his mind between the thought of pressing on
  direct to Brussels between the two allied armies, or striking at the
  supposed Prussian right, driven back on Fleurus the day before.”

But Napoleon’s letters to Ney and Grouchy, to which Chesney here
refers, explicitly contradict this supposition. Napoleon says in his
letter to Ney:—[313]

  “I am sending Marshal Grouchy with the 3d and 4th Corps of infantry
  to Sombreffe. I am taking my Guard to Fleurus, and I shall be there
  myself before noon. I shall there attack the enemy if I meet him, and
  I shall clear the road as far as Gembloux. There, after what shall
  have passed, I shall make up my mind.”

And he directs Ney to be all ready to march to Brussels, as soon as he
(Napoleon) shall have arrived at a decision. But this decision, it is
to be observed, was not to be taken until the Prussians should either
have been attacked and defeated, or should have fallen back at least
as far as Gembloux.

To the same effect is the letter to Grouchy:[314]

  “If the enemy is at Sombreffe I am going to attack him; I am going
  to attack him even at Gembloux, and to carry even that position; my
  intention being, after having explored (_connu_) these two positions,
  to set out this night and to operate with my left wing, which is
  under the command of Marshal Ney, against the English.”

It is plain from both these letters that to say that Napoleon was
“divided in his mind” between “pressing on direct to Brussels between
the two allied armies” and attacking the Prussians in front of him,—in
other words, that he was hesitating which of these two courses he would
take, is a statement utterly without foundation. In both despatches he
states unequivocally his immediate intention,—namely, to attack the
Prussians; and it was only after he should have attacked and driven
the Prussians and forced them as far to the eastward as Gembloux, that
he proposed to retrace his steps, to reinforce Ney, and march against
the English. Brussels, indeed, was regarded by Napoleon as perhaps the
most important result of the campaign, next to the enormous military
advantage which would be secured by the defeat or dispersion of the
armies of Wellington and Blücher. But this was all. For the Emperor to
gain Brussels, these hostile armies must either be attacked and beaten,
or else they must definitely separate, each retiring towards its own
base. The idea of passing between the two armies at this stage of the
campaign, and so arriving at Brussels, it is safe to say, never entered
Napoleon’s mind. His object, as Jomini[315] correctly states, was “not
to occupy Brussels, but to destroy the opposing masses in succession.”


[306] It is, however, given in Du Casse’s Vandamme, vol. 2, p. 562.

[307] Jomini, pp. 129, 130.

[308] Charras, vol. 1, pp. 138, 145, 182.

[309] Siborne, vol. 1, p. 85.

[310] The Duke of Wellington, however, thought the inactivity of
Napoleon on the morning of the 16th was necessitated by the long
marches of the past few days. Ellesmere, pp. 296, 297. So, Clausewitz,
ch. 25, p. 53.

[311] _Ante_, pp. 132, 139.

[312] Chesney, pp. 138, 139: See also, Clinton, p. 380.

[313] Corresp., vol. 28, p. 334: Doc. Inéd., X, p. 32; App. C, xviii;
_post_, pp. 377, 378.

[314] Corresp., vol. 28, p. 336; App. C, xxiv; _post_, pp. 382, 383.

[315] Jomini, p. 112.



Marshal Blücher, as we have seen,[316] had, on the evening of the
14th, ordered a concentration of his entire army in the neighborhood
of Sombreffe. This, as has been pointed out above, was done without
consultation, at the moment certainly, with the Duke of Wellington;
and we have before stated that we do not find that it was done in
pursuance of any previous arrangement between the two commanders. At
any rate it is not disputed that Marshal Blücher took up a position in
order of battle to the south of the Namur-Nivelles turnpike without
having received either by letter or word of mouth any assurance
whatsoever that his English ally was prepared to support him, other
than that contained in Müffling’s despatch, sent off from Brussels
about midnight, and informing him that Wellington expected to be at
Nivelles at 10 A.M. in strong force. Zieten’s (Ist) Corps, about
five o’clock in the morning of the 16th, withdrew[317] from the
neighborhood of Fleurus, where it had passed the night of the 15th,
to the north side of the brook of Ligny, and took up position in the
villages of St. Amand, Brye and Ligny. Between 9 and 10 A.M. the IId
Corps, commanded by Pirch I.,[318] arrived, and took up a position
behind that occupied by the Ist Corps.[319] Between 11 A.M. and 12 M.
the IIId Corps, Thielemann’s, came up, and occupied the line between
Sombreffe and Tongrinelle. These were the positions which were held
during the battle by the three corps which had been gotten together;
the IVth Corps, Bülow’s, it was then known could not come up during
the day. Not until noon[320] did Wellington’s letter, dated “On the
heights behind Frasnes, 10.30 A.M.,” arrive. Not until 1 P.M.[321] did
the Duke himself meet Marshal Blücher. Then a conversation took place
between them. There is no doubt that Wellington expressed[322] himself
as practically certain that the bulk of his army would be assembled at
Quatre Bras early in the afternoon. His verbal statements to Marshal
Blücher were to the same effect as the statements contained in his
letter. We have seen how mistaken he was in these, and how he came to
be mistaken. What he wrote and said, however, he honestly believed;
and he certainly did give to Marshal Blücher some assurance that he
should be supported by the Anglo-Dutch forces in his impending struggle
with the bulk of the French army. According to some authorities, his
assurance took the form of a positive promise of support; and these
writers do not hesitate to assert that Blücher’s decision to accept
battle at Ligny was based upon this definite promise.[323] “Upon this
assurance,” says Charras, “the Prussian general decided to receive the
battle which he could have avoided.”

The principal knowledge we have of the conversation between Wellington
and Blücher comes from what Müffling has told us about it.[324]
According to him the last words the Duke spoke were:—“Well! I
will come, provided I am not attacked myself.” General Dörnberg’s
evidence[325] is to the same effect. The latest Prussian historian
of the campaign[326] does not claim that the Duke gave Blücher any
unconditional promise of support. That a different impression should
have obtained currency with the Prussians is very natural. The Duke’s
statements of the proximity of his army, made with perfect honesty, but
based, as we have seen, on very erroneous _data_, no doubt raised false
hopes in the minds of the Prussian generals. That these statements
afterwards assumed in the mind of General Gneisenau, the Prussian
chief-of-staff, the aspect and dimensions of a positive pledge of
support, seems from Delbrück’s Life of Gneisenau quite probable.[327]
But the evidence, what there is of it, and the probabilities of the
case, are all the other way. That is to say, Blücher decided to fight
at Ligny, without having any such definite promise of support from
Wellington, as the latter relied upon when he decided to await the
attack of the French at Waterloo, two days later.

This will appear more clearly when we consider the other assertion made
on behalf of the Prussian commander, of which we have made mention
above,—namely, that Blücher’s decision to accept battle at Ligny was
based upon this promise of support from Wellington.[328] Delbrück, in
his Life of Gneisenau,[329] says: “Although this position [_i.e._,
at and near Ligny] had been carefully considered and taken up with
all caution, it was yet not fully decided to receive battle.” This
decision was not arrived at, we are given to understand, until Blücher
had received from Wellington a promise of support. That could not have
been until between 1 and 2 o’clock P.M., for the Duke did not arrive
at Brye till one o’clock. Müffling says[330] that it was “when the
heads of Napoleon’s attacking columns showed themselves moving upon St.
Amand” that “the Duke asked the Field Marshal [Blücher] and General von
Gneisenau: ‘_Que voulez-vous que je fasse?_’”

That is, we are asked to believe that Blücher had not fully decided to
await the attack of these French columns, now seen to be advancing, in
the positions which had been deliberately selected, and on which the
troops had been carefully stationed, until the Duke of Wellington had
stated himself able to do what Blücher and Gneisenau wished him to do.
We are asked to believe that Blücher would have retreated if Wellington
had told him that his situation was such that he could not bring him
any aid.

We must say that such a contention seems to us hardly to deserve
serious consideration. It is surely plain enough that Blücher had
chosen a battle-field,—had posted his army there,—had encouraged his
troops to expect a conflict with the French,—without taking counsel
with the English general.[331] Had he determined to fight only if he
should receive assurance of support from Wellington, would he not have
taken some pains to obtain such assurance? Would he have left it
entirely to the chance of Wellington’s writing him a letter, or riding
over to his headquarters? These questions answer themselves.

We conclude, then, that it is a fact beyond controversy that Marshal
Blücher decided to accept battle at Ligny altogether independently of
any support or assistance that might be afforded him by the Anglo-Dutch
army. He deliberately ran the risk of encountering, unsupported by his
allies, and with such only of his troops as he could on short notice
collect close to the frontier, the bulk of the French army under
Napoleon himself. How far he was wise in this we will consider in
another place; what we have sought to make plain now is that such was
the fact.


[316] _Ante_, p. 70.

[317] Ollech, p. 120.

[318] Pirch II. commanded a brigade in the 1st Corps.

[319] Ollech, p. 122.

[320] Gneisenau, vol. 4, p. 373.

[321] Ollech, p. 125.

[322] Müffling: Passages, 230, 231, 237.

[323] Charras, vol. 1, pp. 150, 151, and note. Damitz, p. 92.
Gneisenau, vol. 4, p. 375. Charras states in the note cited above that
Clausewitz “says that it was the promise of help from Wellington that
decided Blücher to receive battle,”—but we have not been able to find
the passage. He also says that Siborne substantially follows Damitz in
this matter; but we can not find that Siborne represents Wellington as
making any such promise. In his official report of the battle Blücher
does not claim that such a promise was given. Jones, pp. 320, 321.

[324] Müffling: Passages, pp. 233-237.

[325] Ollech, p. 127, note.

[326] Ib., p. 127.

[327] Ollech (p. 142) quotes Gneisenau as writing on the 17th: “We
received from the Duke of Wellington the written promise that if the
enemy should attack us, he would attack them in the rear.” There is no
such promise in Wellington’s letter to Blücher.

[328] La Tour D’Auvergne, p. 109, entirely disbelieves this assertion.

[329] Gneisenau, p. 372.

[330] Müffling: Passages, p. 234.

[331] Blücher’s Report leaves the question open. Jones, pp. 320, 321.


What were the reasons which induced Marshal Blücher to take up a
defensive position at Ligny, and there await the attack of Napoleon?
The question is certainly an important one. We have considered above
and rejected the answer to this question offered by some Prussian
writers, that Blücher accepted battle only on the definite promise of
support from Wellington. It remains to see what other reasons have been
adduced for his taking a step so perilous to the fortunes of the allies.

Neither Clausewitz nor Jomini pay any attention to the question.

Damitz’[332] explanation is as follows:—

  “Marshal Blücher was free to refuse the combat; he could very well
  have avoided it, and have waited until the IVth Corps should have
  joined him. But, seeing himself at the head of 80,000 men, it was not
  in his firm and decided character to turn his back on an adversary.
  He knew that he could not vanquish Napoleon by skilful manœuvres,
  but only by repeated blows. The General and his army felt themselves
  strong enough; that was of itself a reason for not avoiding a battle.”

He then goes on to show that a march to join the English army would
involve a temporary renunciation of the Prussian base of operations.

These are the reasons he gives. He adds most unexpectedly:—[333]

“It is then evident that the Prussians decided on accepting battle
because the Duke of Wellington had given them his word.” But of any
such fact as this no mention whatever is made until the writer has
occasion to speak[334] of the conversation between Wellington and
Blücher between 1 and 2 P.M., when the French were deploying their
columns for the attack. It is impossible to believe that Blücher had
not before this made up his mind to fight, altogether independently of
anything Wellington might say to him.

Ollech[335] suggests, as an answer to the question, “Why did Blücher
give battle on the 16th although a whole army corps had not arrived?”
that he did it in order to give the English army time to concentrate.
This writer does not pretend that Wellington gave the Field Marshal any
definite promise of support.[336]

Delbrück, in his Life of Gneisenau, says[337] that Blücher, relying
on Wellington’s promise, and still hoping that at least late in the
evening a portion of the IVth Corps would arrive, concluded to give

There is really not much to be said on this subject. The truth is
plain enough. Blücher had, as we have said above,[338] long ago fixed
upon Sombreffe as the point of concentration for his army in case the
French should cross the Sambre at or near Charleroi; and he had, most
likely, communicated this determination to the Duke of Wellington. In
arriving at this determination he undoubtedly assumed that he would be
able to collect his whole army together,—say, 120,000 men. He thought,
and he had a right to think, that if Napoleon should advance by way of
Charleroi, he would be sure to attack the Prussian army if it should
be found posted at or south of Sombreffe; and that Napoleon would
be obliged to employ against it the bulk of his army. Hence Blücher
calculated that the Anglo-Dutch concentration could be effected without
serious molestation, and that some assistance at any rate from that
quarter might safely be counted on. But when the day arrived, he found
that he could not reckon on the arrival of one of his corps in time
for the battle. Yet he still adhered to his determination to accept
the contest, partly from unwillingness to retreat at the outset of the
campaign, and partly in the hope that important aid would be received
from Wellington. This determination, however, was arrived at without
consultation with Wellington and before his letter was received,—in
which, it is to be noted, there is no promise whatever,—and, of course,
before the Duke himself rode over to Brye. What Wellington said no
doubt strengthened the Field Marshal in his belief in the soundness of
his decision; it reinforced his judgment; it gave him hopes of victory.
But to say that his decision to receive the attack of the French at
Ligny was based upon any promise of support made by Wellington, is
entirely contrary to the evidence.


[332] Damitz, p. 85.

[333] Damitz, p. 87.

[334] Ib., p. 92.

[335] Ollech, pp. 123, 124.

[336] Ib., p. 127.

[337] Gneisenau, vol. 4, p. 375.

[338] _Ante_, p. 70.



Marshal Blücher had taken up a position, which although in some
respects determined by the nature of the ground, was nevertheless
intended to secure two objects,—first, his line of communications with
Namur, and an unobstructed march for his expected IVth Corps, Bülow’s,
and, secondly, his avenue of communication with the Anglo-Dutch
army, from which he expected to receive at least some assistance in
the course of the afternoon. It thus came about that the centre of
the Prussian army was at Sombreffe,—that the line of the right wing
ran through the villages of Ligny and St. Amand in a south-westerly
direction, and that that of the left wing ran from Sombreffe
through the hamlet of Mont Potriaux to Tongrinelle and Balâtre in a
south-easterly direction. This left wing consisted entirely of the
IIId Corps, Thielemann’s. It contained 22,051 infantry, 2,405 cavalry,
and 48 guns.[339] The Ist Corps, Zieten’s held the front of the centre
and right wing, and was supported by the IId Corps, that of Pirch I.,
throughout its whole extent. These two corps contained 56,803 infantry,
6,093 cavalry, and 176 guns.[340] The right wing was “in the air”; it
was possible to turn it completely, by way of St. Amand and Wagnelée.
Behind Ligny and St. Amand, and on commanding ground, was the village
of Brye. Blücher’s whole force thus consisted of 87,352 men, of whom
8,498 were cavalry,—with 224 guns.

Napoleon, having finished giving his orders shortly after nine, arrived
at Fleurus about 11 A.M.[341] He busied himself, while the troops were
arriving, with examining the enemy’s position. From the tower of an old
and disused windmill in the outskirts of the town he made, it is said,
his first observations. Then he went,—without his staff, as his custom
was before a battle,—partly on horseback and partly on foot, along
the front of the enemy’s position, seeing for himself everything that
could be seen. By the time the troops had arrived in the neighborhood
of Fleurus, he had formed his plan. He had not, however, correctly
estimated the numbers of the force opposed to him; the nature of the
ground prevented his being able to see all the enemy’s troops.[342]

The more natural and obvious plan for Napoleon would have been to
direct his attack upon the exposed Prussian right wing, and to operate
in conjunction with the column under Marshal Ney, so far as that
might seem expedient. By moving upon Wagnelée and Brye, he would turn
the position of St. Amand, and almost certainly secure a victory.
But Napoleon did not see in this operation any chance of inflicting
a decisive blow.[343] At most, he would only have defeated an exposed
wing of the enemy’s army. There would have been nothing to prevent its
falling back upon the centre and left wing. The Prussians would no
doubt be worsted, but their defeat could hardly be of a character to
cripple them. Nor would their communications be in the slightest degree

What Napoleon determined on was an operation far more decisive. He saw
that that part of the Prussian army which lay in the neighborhood of
Sombreffe, Tongrinelle and Balâtre, placed there, as it had been, for
the purpose of protecting the communications with Namur, would in all
probability not dare to move from its position, and would accordingly
not be able to take any active part in the battle. He would therefore
have to deal only with that portion of the enemy’s army which lay
between Sombreffe and St. Amand,—say, two-thirds of their entire force.
He also saw that if the enemy’s centre, between Ligny and Sombreffe,
could be broken, the Prussian right wing would be separated from the
rest of the army, and that he might hope to overwhelm it. He saw also
one other thing. If, at or about the time when this success should be
obtained, a strong column from Marshal Ney’s command could march down
the Quatre Bras-Namur turnpike and move upon Brye, that success would
almost certainly be of the most decisive character.[344] Attacked in
front and rear at the same time, its connection with the rest of the
army severed, surrounded by superior numbers, the utter rout of that
part of the Prussian army was inevitable. (See Map 6.)

At one o’clock the French army had arrived, and was in and about
Fleurus. The Emperor threw the 4th Corps, Gérard’s, about 16,000
strong,[345] with 38 guns, far to the right, opposite the whole front
of the village of Ligny; the 3d Corps, Vandamme’s, about 19,000
strong,[346] with 38 guns, connected with the left of the 4th Corps,
and, assisted by Girard’s division of the 2d Corps, about 4,300
strong,[347] with 8 guns, menaced the Prussians in the village of St.
Amand; while the cavalry of Pajol and Exelmans, to the number of about
6,500 men,[348] with 24 guns, supported by Hulot’s division of the 4th
Corps, observed the Prussian left wing,—stationed from Sombreffe to
Balâtre. The Guard, with Milhaud’s Cuirassiers, in all about 22,000
men, with 102 guns,[349] was kept in reserve, near Fleurus, ready to
strike the final blow when the enemy in Ligny and St. Amand should
have been sufficiently weakened by a continuous struggle of three or
four hours. The whole force consisted of 67,787 men, of whom 13,394
were cavalry, with 210 guns.[350] These dispositions consumed perhaps
an hour or more. At 2 o’clock the chief-of-staff, Soult, wrote[351]
to Marshal Ney, informing him that, at half-past two Marshal Grouchy,
with the 3d and 4th Corps, would commence an attack on a Prussian
corps stationed between Sombreffe and Brye; that it was the Emperor’s
intention that Ney should also attack the enemy before him; and, after
having vigorously driven them, should fall back upon the main army to
join in enveloping this Prussian corps, of which mention had just been

Then, at half-past two precisely, the battle began;[352] Gérard
vigorously attacked Ligny,—Vandamme and Girard, St. Amand. With
equal vigor did the Prussians defend their positions. The engagement
immediately became very hot, and very sanguinary. Both sides fought
with singular determination. In less than an hour Napoleon was
convinced that he had more than a single corps to deal with,—as he
had written to Ney,—it was an army. The success, therefore, could be
made more decisive than he had at first thought possible, if only
at the proper time Ney’s coöperation could be secured. Without that
coöperation, indeed, he was practically sure of victory; it was plain
to him that the Prussians in the villages of Ligny and St. Amand and
its neighboring hamlets, and on the heights in the rear of these
villages, were becoming exhausted, and were suffering terribly from
the fire of his guns, to which their position on the heights exposed
them;[353] he knew that when the proper moment arrived he could defeat
them; but he wanted something more than a defeat; he saw that the rout
or capture of this part of the Prussian army was a certain thing if
Ney could only make that movement from Quatre Bras upon their right
and rear, of which he had spoken in his 2 o’clock order. Hence at
a quarter-past three Soult wrote to Ney again,[354] urging him to
manœuvre at once, so as to envelop the enemy’s right, and to fall on
his rear. He told him that the Prussian army was lost if he acted
vigorously; that “the fate of France was in his hands.” “Thus,” the
order proceeds, “do not hesitate an instant to make the movement which
the Emperor orders, and direct yourself on the heights of Brye and St.
Amand to assist in a victory perhaps decisive.”

The officers who carried these orders had some thirteen miles to ride,
about six miles on cross-roads, as far as Gosselies, and the remainder
on the great Brussels turnpike, on which d’Erlon’s troops were marching
towards Frasnes. Their errands could not have been performed in less
than two hours,[355] and as a matter of fact they required three hours.
Napoleon could hardly have expected the first order to reach Ney much
before 5 P.M., and the second hardly before 6 P.M. The distance from
Quatre Bras to Marbais, where the road branches off from the Namur
turnpike in the direction of Wagnelée, is nearly four miles. If then
at 5 o’clock it should be in Marshal Ney’s power to execute the 2 P.M.
order, his troops might be looked for or heard from in the direction of
Marbais about 7 o’clock. If he should be unable to obey the 2 o’clock
order, but should be able to execute the 3.15 order, his movement down
the Namur road might be looked for about 8 o’clock.

The battle then went on with unabated determination and with heavy loss
on both sides. Blücher reinforced his troops from time to time; in this
way he exhausted his reserves; nearly all his divisions were brought
under fire. Napoleon on the other hand was exceedingly chary of giving
aid to the two corps engaged; he wished to keep his reserves as large
as possible; at half-past five he had employed ten thousand fewer men
than his adversary.[356] At this time, also, the 6th Corps was well
on its way from Charleroi. The hour was approaching, too, when Ney’s
coöperation might be expected.

Up to this time Napoleon had remained in his position in front of
Fleurus;[357] it was a central position, and nothing had called for his
personal superintendence elsewhere.

But now he prepared to strike the decisive blow. He determined to put
in the Guard. He proposed to send to Vandamme the infantry division
known as the Young Guard, and one of the two brigades of the division
known as the chasseurs of the Guard;[358] the other brigade of this
division he would place at the disposal of Gérard. He himself, at
the head of the infantry division of grenadiers of the Guard, known
as the Old Guard, with all the artillery of the Guard, with Guyot’s
division of the heavy cavalry of the Guard, and Milhaud’s division of
cuirassiers of the line,—to take the place of Lefebvre-Desnouettes’
division of light cavalry of the Guard which was with the left wing
under Marshal Ney,—prepared to carry the village of Ligny, and the
commanding heights above and to the right of the village, thereby
breaking the centre of the enemy’s line.

At this moment, however, word came from Vandamme that a column of
the enemy was seen debouching from a wood some two miles away, and
apparently marching on Fleurus. This was not the quarter in which the
expected reinforcement from Ney was looked for. Curiously enough,
Vandamme did not ascertain what this column was. Why he should not
have done this it is not easy to see. Had he sent a patrol to find out
who these troops were, time would have been saved, and time, at that
hour in the day, was most important. The Emperor sent one of his own
aides to ascertain the facts; and, pending his report, suspended the
projected attack. The battle went on as before, but Blücher drew more
and more from his centre and left wing to support his right at St.
Amand and the neighboring villages.

In something less than two hours the aide returned.  The troops which
Vandamme had reported advancing were those of d’Erlon’s Corps.[359] All
anxiety was relieved. Napoleon naturally concluded[360] that d’Erlon
had been sent by Ney, and would immediately move on Brye. He instantly
resumed the suspended movement.[361] Before half-past seven, Vandamme
had received his reinforcements, and had renewed the fight with energy.
At the same time the Emperor, at the head of the grenadiers and cavalry
of the Guard and of Milhaud’s cuirassiers, marched for the village
of Ligny, of which the eastern portion was already in the possession
of Gérard’s Corps. The Prussians, though fighting desperately, were
speedily overcome; the village was carried; the brook of Ligny, a
serious obstacle for both cavalry and artillery, was crossed on the
bridges in the town; and at half-past eight o’clock[362] the French
troops, passing out of the northern end of the village, deployed on
the heights lying between that village and Sombreffe, and ascended the
plateau, the key to the field of battle, on which stood the windmill of
Bussy. The Prussian troops which Blücher had allowed to remain on this
part of the line offered a stout but ineffectual resistance. The old
Marshal himself came up from St. Amand, where he had wrongly supposed
that the crisis of the battle was being decided, and at the head of a
body of cavalry fiercely charged the victorious French. In one of the
encounters his horse was killed, he himself was badly bruised, and came
very near being taken prisoner.

Meantime, the Prussians fell back from St. Amand and the neighboring
villages, which were at once occupied by Vandamme. Brye, however,
was held until midnight by Pirch I. with a strong rear guard, and
Thielemann occupied Sombreffe and Point du Jour. The corps of Zieten,
followed finally by that of Pirch I., retreated on Tilly, a town just
north of Sombreffe, and in the direction of Wavre.

The Prussians lost[363] in this battle about 18,000 men killed and
wounded; and, a day or two afterwards, about 10,000 or 12,000 more,
who would seem to have done their duty in the fight, abandoned their
colors, and retired towards Liége. These men belonged to provinces
which had formerly been part of the French Empire, and their sympathies
were with Napoleon.[364] The French captured some thousands of the
Prussian wounded, and 25 or 30 guns. The French loss was between 11,000
and 12,000 men.[365]

The battle was over at about half-past nine. The 3d Corps established
itself in bivouac beyond St. Amand and Wagnelée; the 6th Corps occupied
the plateau of Bussy; the 4th Corps was on the right of the 6th, with
one division at and near Potriaux. The Guard and Milhaud’s cuirassiers
occupied a line behind these troops.[366] At 11 P.M. the Emperor
returned to Fleurus,[367] where he established his headquarters.

All parts of the French army on the field had taken part in this action
except the 1st and 6th Corps. The 1st Corps retired towards Frasnes
soon after it had been seen. As for the 6th Corps, the order to Lobau,
which was not sent until 2.30 P.M., could not have reached him in his
bivouac near Charleroi till 3.30 P.M. He had eight miles to march
before reaching Fleurus; he was then directed on Ligny, and he passed
through Ligny, just after the successful attack of that place by the
Imperial Guard, to his final position on the plateau of Bussy, between
Brye and Sombreffe, where he arrived about 9.30 P.M.[368] It has been
considered singular, that when Lobau arrived at Fleurus, say, about
7.30 P.M.,[369] he should have been directed on Ligny, apparently to
support the movement of the Guard; whereas if he had been instructed
to move on Brye by passing around St. Amand and Wagnelée it would seem
that he might have struck the defeated Prussians in flank and rear, and
accomplished substantially what Napoleon expected from Ney. But the
withdrawal of the 1st Corps could only be explained by the supposition
that Ney had encountered the English in considerable force; and under
these circumstances Napoleon may have deemed it wiser to retain the 6th
Corps as a reserve for the whole army.[370]

The battle of Ligny was a great victory, although it was not a
decisive victory. Napoleon had diminished by one-third the strength of
his opponent’s army, and had also driven him from the field. He had
certainly achieved a great success. But the advantage obtained was not
all that he had a right to expect. Had it not been for the appearance
of d’Erlon’s Corps in the neighborhood of St. Amand, the attack by the
Guard would have been made at half-past five o’clock, when there would
have been sufficient daylight left to have made it possible to follow
up the victory. On such a result as would have been obtained in this
event Napoleon had a right to calculate, and that he did not obtain
such a result was in no way his fault.[371] For the purpose therefore,
of estimating the adequacy of the Emperor’s measures to the task before
him, and the danger which Marshal Blücher ran when he accepted battle,
we should consider what would have been the result, if the attack of
the Guard had been made two hours earlier than it was made, and there
had been two hours of daylight in which to complete the defeat and to
pursue the enemy.

As for the coöperation of Ney, that is a different matter. Napoleon
could not know what resistance Ney might encounter; hence he could not
calculate on his overcoming that resistance and sending a reinforcement
to the main army,—he could only hope that Ney would be able to do
this. If Ney should be able to keep off the English, all that Napoleon
had a right to calculate on would be effected. Whether Ney could have
accomplished more than he did accomplish will be considered in another

Owing, then, to the postponement of the attack on the Prussian centre
caused by the unexpected apparition of a large body of troops (the 1st
Corps), in a quarter where it threatened the French left, the victory
of Ligny was by no means so complete as it otherwise would have been.
Darkness came on before the Prussians, retiring from St. Amand and the
neighboring hamlets, could be vigorously pressed. Nevertheless, the
victory of Ligny had disposed of Blücher for thirty-six hours, at the
very least. It gave Napoleon an opportunity of attacking Wellington
the next day without danger of interference from the Prussians. And
as this success had been achieved with no loss at all on the part of
the 1st and 6th Corps and with a trifling loss on the part of the
Guard, Napoleon was in excellent condition to take advantage of the
opportunity thus presented. That is to say, the decision of Marshal
Blücher to accept battle when he had collected only three-fourths of
his army, and the inability of the Duke of Wellington to render him any
assistance, had produced this result at the close of the second day of
the campaign,—that one of the allied armies had been badly beaten, and
that Napoleon was perfectly free to attack the other the next day with
superior forces, most of which consisted of fresh troops.


[339] Charras, vol. 1, p. 155, n.

[340] Ib., p. 155, n.

[341] Charras, vol. 1, p. 145.

[342] Ib., p. 150.

[343] For a further discussion of this subject see the Notes to this

[344] “A movement that would certainly have obtained an immense
victory.” Jomini, p. 223.

[345] Charras, vol. 1, p. 155, n. The division of Hulot and the cavalry
of Maurin were stationed opposite the bend in the enemy’s line, beyond
Ligny. Ib., p. 161.

[346] Ib., p. 155, n.

[347] Charras, vol. 1, p. 155, n.

[348] Ib., p. 155, n.

[349] Ib., p. 155, n.

[350] Ib., p. 155, n. This is exclusive of the 6th Corps, which was in
reserve. It numbered 10,465 men, with 32 guns.

[351] Doc. Inéd., XIII, p. 40; App. C, xxv; _post_, pp. 383, 384.

[352] The battle of Ligny has often been described. Charras, La Tour
d’Auvergne, Thiers, on the French side, Clausewitz and Ollech on the
German side, give excellent descriptions. Siborne’s account is also
very clear and good. It is unnecessary to repeat the details here.

[353] Sir Henry Hardinge, speaking to the Duke of Wellington, said:
“When you had examined the Prussian position, I remember you much
disapproved of it, and said to me, ‘if they fight here they will be
damnably mauled.’”

* * * The Duke added: “They were dotted in this way—all their bodies
along the slope of a hill, so that no cannon ball missed its effect
upon them.” Stanhope, p. 109. _Cf._ Hooper, p. 96.

[354] Doc. Inéd., XIV, p. 42; App. C, xxvi; _post_, p. 384.

[355] The Duke of Elchingen—Doc. Inéd., p. 41—estimates the distance at
nearly five leagues, that is, 12-1/2 miles, and allows two hours for
the time occupied. Charras, vol. 1, page 204, n., makes the distance
six leagues (15 miles) and estimates the time at three hours.

[356] Charras, vol. 1, p. 166.

[357] Ib., p. 164.

[358] Sometimes classed as part of the Old Guard, as in Charras, vol.
1, p. 67 and La Tour d’Auvergne, p. 48, and sometimes as “the Middle
Guard” (_la Garde moyenne_). See “Napoléon à Waterloo,” p, 315, n. 1;
p. 325.

[359] We shall consider in another place how d’Erlon’s Corps came to be
there. Shortly after it was seen by Vandamme it retired to Frasnes.

[360] La Tour d’Auvergne, p. 135: Jomini, pp. 138, 139.

[361] There was no delay, as suggested by Siborne, vol. 1, p. 218. From
where the Guard had been stationed to the northerly end of the village
of Ligny, where it was put in, was at least two miles and a half. Only
a small part of this distance had been traversed before the news from
Vandamme caused a halt.

[362] Charras, vol. 1, p. 175, n. 2: letter from Soult to Joseph

[363] Charras, vol. 1, p. 179, where he discusses the Prussian
authorities. _Cf._ Muquardt, p. 139, n.

[364] _Cf._ Gneisenau, vol. 4, pp. 381, 382. Müffling: Passages, pp.
204, 205, 223. Siborne, vol. 1, pp. 302, 303.

[365] Charras, vol. 1, p. 180.

[366] Ib., pp. 177, 178.

[367] Ib., p. 179.

[368] Charras, vol. 1, p. 178.

[369] Charras (vol. 1, p. 184) thinks it was not later than 6.30 P.M.
when the 6th Corps reached Fleurus.

[370] Charras (vol. 1, pp. 184, 185) severely criticises this decision.

[371] Unless he erred in arresting the attack of the Guard on the
appearance of the strange corps. See _post_, p. 174, note 8.


1. Napoleon has been often blamed because he did not begin the battle
of Ligny till between two and three o’clock in the afternoon. We
have spoken of this criticism before, and recur to it now merely to
repeat that the greater part of this delay may (in all probability)
be accounted for by his wish that his own advance-movement should be
contemporaneous with that of the left wing, one-half of which was far
in the rear. There was probably also an unusual amount of time spent in
examining the position of the enemy.

Clausewitz[372] is undoubtedly right in saying that

  “If the actual tactical shock of battle could have been arranged to
  take place in the morning of the 16th, it would have been an enormous
  mistake in Napoleon to have delayed it, for Blücher was collecting
  his troops at that time, and, as the whole force of the Prussians
  [including Bülow’s Corps, which for anything Napoleon knew to the
  contrary, might arrive during the day] was far superior to the 75,000
  men which he could use against it, nothing was so important as to
  offer battle before it was all got together.”

It is also true,[373] that, had Napoleon advanced early in the morning
with the main body of his army, leaving Ney to push forward with the
left wing as soon as he could, he would have been able to interrupt
the formation of the Prussian line of battle, and would not have been
in the least interfered with by the Anglo-Dutch army. But Napoleon,
although it is plain from his letters to Grouchy and Ney that he did
not expect to find either the Prussians or the English in great force,
preferred on the whole to make his own advance coincide in point of
time with that of Marshal Ney. He could not estimate with any certainty
the number of troops which Blücher might have on the heights of
Ligny or within call; he could not know how large a part of his army
Wellington had been able to collect. Hence he decided to defer his own
movement until Ney was ready, or, at least, ought to have been ready,
with all the troops which had been assigned to him, to protect the left
flank of the main army from all danger of an attack by the Anglo-Dutch

The question is one on which different opinions will always exist.
The course adopted by Napoleon was unquestionably the one most in
accordance with the principles of war. Whether a chance of success
justifies a departure from the practice of those principles, or whether
such a departure is warranted only in cases of emergency, is the real
question. We have no room to discuss it further here.

2. Napoleon’s plan of battle at Ligny has been severely criticised.
Clausewitz,[374] Rogniat,[375] Marshal Davout,[376] are especially
pronounced in their opinion that Napoleon should have manœuvred so
as to turn the Prussian right, and not to pierce their centre. The
question is thus stated by Rogniat:

  “We arrived upon their right flank; reason counselled us to attack
  this wing; in this way we should have avoided in part the defiles of
  the brook; we should have approached our own left wing, which was
  fighting at Quatre Bras, so that both armies could have helped each
  other, and finally we should have thrown the Prussians far from the
  English, in forcing them to retire on Namur.”

To this Napoleon[377] replied from St. Helena:

  “The question in this battle was not that of separating the English
  from the Prussians; we knew that the English could not be ready to
  act till the next day; but here the point was to hinder that part of
  the IIId Corps of Blücher which had not joined him by 11 A.M., and
  which came by way of Namur, and also the IVth Corps, which came from
  Liége by way of Gembloux, from uniting [with the Ist and IId Corps]
  on the field of battle. In cutting the enemy’s line at Ligny, his
  whole right wing at St. Amand was turned and compromised; while by
  simply becoming masters of St. Amand, we should have accomplished

In other words, Napoleon defends his plan of battle by showing that it
aimed at a decisive tactical success; that its accomplishment would
practically have destroyed half of the Prussian army; which an attack
upon the exposed right wing would not have effected. He contends that
the Prussians being, as they certainly were, on this day, completely
separated from the English, the best thing he could possibly do was to
take advantage of their faulty formation, and cut off and destroy the
two exposed corps. This he calculated he could effect with the troops
he had in hand. Then he undoubtedly hoped that he would get assistance
from Ney in this operation.[378] The order to Ney at 2 P.M. shows this
beyond a question; and this order was reiterated at a quarter-past
three. Napoleon said to Gérard during the battle,[379] “It is possible
that in three hours the issue of the war may be decided. If Ney
executes his orders well, not a cannon in the Prussian army can escape
capture. That army is taken _en flagrant délit_.” This last expression
occurs also in the 3.15 P.M. order. The possibility of Ney’s sending a
force down the Quatre-Bras-Namur turnpike to take the exposed Prussian
right wing in rear, was therefore an additional reason for inclining
him to make his main attack at Ligny, and thereby isolate this wing,
with the hope of surrounding and destroying it. That he had no right to
count on Ney’s coöperation is certainly true, as has been stated above;
but then Napoleon believed that he could carry out his plan without
Ney’s coöperation, and that if Ney should assist him, his success would
be overwhelming.

To the reasons advanced by Rogniat for making the main attack upon the
right flank of the Prussians, Marshal Davout adds another:—[380]

  “He ought not to have left the Prussian army between himself and
  Marshal Ney; because, in that case, if he should beat the Prussians,
  he would force them to retire in the direction of the English.”

To the same effect Clausewitz[381] asks, “whether Bonaparte ought to
have arranged his attack so as to drive Blücher towards Wellington,
or so as to push him away from him,”—implying that the result of the
battle as fought by Napoleon had the former effect.

  “If,” says Clausewitz, “Bonaparte had attacked St. Amand with his
  right wing, Wagnelée with his left, and had advanced with a third
  column against the road from Brussels,[382] the Prussians, if they
  lost the battle, would have been forced to retreat along the Roman
  road, that is, towards the Meuse, and a union with Wellington in the
  days immediately following the battle would have been very uncertain,
  perhaps impossible.”

We can have no hesitation in admitting that if the Prussians had been
driven in the direction of the Meuse as the result of the battle, they
could not have afforded aid to the English on the 18th of June. But we
can hardly believe that if Napoleon had destroyed their Ist and IId
Corps, which he expected would be the result of his plan of battle, the
Prussians could possibly have afforded any further assistance to the
English. Still, while the decision of the Prussian generals after the
battle to maintain their communication with the Duke of Wellington,
and to come to his assistance at Waterloo with their whole army, was
not arrived at merely or chiefly because the two corps which had
been beaten at Ligny were able to fall back in a northerly direction
instead of in an easterly direction, in retiring from the field of
battle,[383] it is certainly true that this fact did make the task
easier of accomplishment; it saved time, also. At the same time, it
did not affect in any way the risk involved in the operation,—that of
renouncing for the time being their line of supplies.

3. We have seen that Napoleon believed that Ney’s intervention, which,
as we have seen, might have occurred at the moment when the Prussian
centre was being pierced, would have gained him a great victory. But
Clausewitz[384] asks: “Why was it inevitable that 10,000 men in the rear
of the strong Prussian army of 80,000 men, in an open country, where
one can see on all sides, should bring about its complete overthrow?”
In other words, Napoleon was not warranted (so Clausewitz contends) in
expecting such a decisive success, even if Ney should send 10,000 men
down the Namur road.

But Clausewitz has not in his question, above quoted, put the case
quite fairly. The question which Napoleon considered was this:—What
would in all probability be the effect upon two Prussian corps,
numbering at the commencement of the action not over 63,000 men,
attacked vigorously for three or four hours, subjected during that
time to a most destructive fire of artillery, reduced by casualties to
a force not greatly exceeding 50,000 men, assailed in front by over
20,000 fresh troops in addition to their opponents of the last few
hours, forced to make a precipitate retreat by having their connection
with the rest of their army broken,—what would be the effect upon them
at this moment of an unexpected and vigorous attack in rear of 10,000
fresh troops? Napoleon thought and said, that, in his judgment, the
result would be the total rout of the two corps, the capture of all
their guns and perhaps half of their men. It is probable that he was
right in his opinion.

4. But how far was Napoleon warranted in expecting aid from Ney?

As to Ney’s whereabouts at the time when the 2 P.M. order should reach
him, say, at 5 P.M., we have spoken before,[385] and have shown that,
long before that hour, certainly as early as 4 P.M., the whole of the
2d Corps and the greater part of the 1st Corps ought to have arrived
at Quatre Bras. In fact, it will be remembered that had Reille obeyed
at once Ney’s order to him he would have arrived at Quatre Bras at
noon; and there was nothing to prevent d’Erlon following promptly on
his traces. Napoleon, it is true, as we learn from his own narrative,
had heard of this vexatious delay, caused by Reille,—which he naturally
but erroneously attributed to Reille’s superior, Ney,—but he still
seemed to think it possible that Ney could be at Quatre Bras at noon,
notwithstanding. This, to be sure, was absolutely out of Ney’s power,
as we have seen; but there was no reason whatever why Ney should not
have had long before 5 P.M. his whole command well in hand, at or in
front of Quatre Bras. Napoleon was perfectly justified in assuming this
to be the case.

But though Ney might well be at Quatre Bras with his whole force, he
might yet be entirely unable to comply with the Emperor’s order to
detach a force to attack the Prussians in rear.

Clausewitz[386] points out that Ney with his 40,000 men could easily
encounter 50,000 to 60,000 English and Dutch. This is certainly true.
It may be added that the last dispatch[387] sent to Ney informed him
that an officer of lancers had just informed the Emperor that large
masses of the enemy were to be seen near Quatre Bras. This information
was incorrect, as a matter of fact, yet it was believed to be true at
the time the despatch was written. Of course the truth may have been
ascertained before the 2 P.M. order was sent to Ney; but we do not know
this for a fact. There was certainly no reason why Napoleon should have
felt certain that Ney would find it possible to send troops to his
assistance; it all depended upon the forwardness of the concentration
of the Duke of Wellington’s army; and as to this Napoleon could but
guess,—he had no information at all.

5. If Napoleon, then, could not rely with any certainty on Ney’s
assistance, was he justified in adopting a plan of battle, to the full
success of which Ney’s coöperation was essential? Would it not have
been wiser for him to have adopted the plan recommended by Rogniat,
Davout and Clausewitz, and to have thrown his whole force on the
exposed right wing of the Prussians?

This question cannot be properly answered without a careful examination
of the tactical conditions, and this no one of Napoleon’s critics
has attempted with any detail. We will leave the matter, therefore,
with this single observation. Napoleon, when he had completed his
examination of the Prussian position, saw that there were open to
him two plans of attack, each giving excellent promise of success.
He chose the one which in his judgment offered the greater chance of
success, independent of Ney’s coöperation, and promised a decisive
success if Ney’s coöperation could be secured. As it was, without Ney’s
assistance, and in spite of an unfortunate accident which caused an
injurious delay in the final attack, he gained a great victory. It
hardly seems worth our while to speculate on what the results would
have been if he had adopted the other plan.

6. Why did not Napoleon order d’Erlon’s Corps to remain and take part
in the action? For not doing this he has been most severely criticised
by Charras[388] and others. But Napoleon must have supposed that d’Erlon
had come upon the field under orders from Marshal Ney expressly to
remain and take part in the action. Why, then, should he send him any
orders? Jomini, indeed, says[389] that Napoleon should have sent d’Erlon
an order directing him on Brye. We can see now that this would have
been wise; but it might well have appeared unnecessary at the time,
inasmuch as the order of 2 P.M. by implication directs Ney’s troops on
Brye. It must also be remembered that at this moment Napoleon had all
he could attend to in organizing the decisive movement on Ligny.

If any other explanation than the above be needed, it has been
furnished by Clausewitz.[390] He says that the lateness of the hour
probably prevented Napoleon from directing personally the employment of
the 1st Corps.

  “Napoleon seems to have received information of the approach of this
  corps somewhere in the neighborhood of half-past five; it took till
  seven before the news that it was d’Erlon was brought him; it would
  have taken an hour before d’Erlon could have received the order, and
  another hour would have passed before he could have  appeared in the
  neighborhood of Brye,” _i.e._, in obedience to such an order.

The inference is that Napoleon may well have thought it better to let
d’Erlon proceed in obedience to the orders under which he was acting
when he came upon the field.

7. We may fairly say that Napoleon fought few battles in his whole
career more carefully and more skilfully than the battle of Ligny. The
difference between a brave and zealous general of ordinary capacity and
a master in the art was well illustrated on this field. Clausewitz’s
remarks on this battle are very clear and instructive. We give them in
full,—premising that the figures vary more or less from those which we
have adopted.

  [391]“If we get a picture of the whole battle, it is like all modern
  battles, a slow destruction of the opposing forces in the first line,
  where they touch each other, in a fire lasting many hours, subjected
  to only slight oscillations, till, at last, one part obtains a clear
  superiority in reserves, _i.e._, in fresh bodies, and then with
  these gives the deciding blow to the already wavering forces of the

  “Bonaparte advances with about 75,000 men[392] against Blücher, whose
  three united corps form a force of 78,000 men,[393] that is of equal

  “With about 30,000 men he combats, from 3 o’clock till 8, the two
  chief points of Blücher’s position, St. Amand and Ligny. He employs
  some 6,000 men to occupy the IIId Prussian army corps, and with
  33,000 he remains far behind the fighting line, quietly in reserve.
  Of these he employs 6,000 men finally to sustain the battle at St.

  “As early as 6 o’clock he determines to give the deciding blow at
  Ligny with the Guard: at that moment he receives the information
  that a considerable corps has appeared on his left flank, about one
  hour’s march distant. Bonaparte stops his movement, for it might be a
  corps coming from the enemy at Brussels. The fact is, it was Frasnes
  against St. Amand. A troop of cavalry is sent in haste to reconnoitre
  this corps, but nearly two hours go by before the news comes back
  that it is the 1st French army corps. On this account the attack on
  Ligny does not take place till 8 o’clock.

  “Even this blow Bonaparte does not give with the whole mass of his
  reserves, but only with about half of them, that is, with the Guard;
  the 6th Corps remains behind as a reserve.

  “Blücher has in the beginning of the battle employed the Ist army
  corps of 27,000 men in the positions of Ligny and St. Amand, and the
  IIId, of 22,000 men, in that extending from Sombreffe to Balâtre,
  and has kept back only the IId, with 29,000 men, as a reserve. It is
  true that the IIId army corps could have been concentrated, since the
  enemy did not attack it in earnest, and it may have been looked upon
  as a reserve. Blücher, it is true, counted still on Bülow’s arrival;
  but it did not take place, and so the situation of the Prussian
  reserves remained always unfavorable. The IId army corps, that is,
  the reserves, were gradually, as we have seen, employed to sustain
  the battle. Nothing therefore remained to decide the battle even if
  the state of the battle had remained perfectly balanced, or even had
  turned out favorably for us.

  “As the day ended, the situation of the opposing forces was somewhat
  as follows: Blücher had used up in the villages 38,000 infantry,
  who had suffered considerably, had in great part expended their
  ammunition, and must be looked upon as useless, in which there
  was not much more force. 6,000 infantry were stationed behind the
  villages, scattered in single battalions which had however not yet
  fought. The rest of the 56,000 men of the Ist and IId army corps were
  cavalry and artillery, of which only a small part was fresh.

  “If the IIId army corps had been collected, or if it had been
  sufficiently provided for, it would have been a reserve of about
  18,000 men; it could therefore have been said that Blücher had still
  24,000 men in reserve.

  “Bonaparte, although originally some few thousand men weaker than
  Blücher, had now, however, several thousand more fresh troops than
  that general: the cause of this was his keeping back more men, a
  greater economy of forces in the firing.

  “This small[394] superiority of reserves would naturally not have
   decided much, but it must nevertheless be looked on as the first
  cause of the victory.

  “The second reason was the unequal result which the firing had up to
  that time produced.

  “It is true that when Bonaparte advanced against Ligny we still
  occupied part of this village, but we had then lost the rest; it
  is true that we still occupied a position between Wagnelée and St.
  Amand, but here, too, we had lost villages and ground; the engagement
  had therefore turned out everywhere a little to our disadvantage, and
  in such a case the preparations for the deciding blow are already

  “The third and most important reason was, however, without doubt, the
  fact that Blücher did not have at his disposal the troops which had
  not yet fought, namely, the IIId Corps. It is true that the XIIth
  brigade was very near him, but that was too little: the IXth was also
  not far away; but of this, as well as of the whole of Thielemann’s
  Corps, there had been no thought; and the IIId Corps, therefore,
  as regards a decisive blow to be given by it, was as good as out
  of reach and could be used only for the retreat. Perhaps and very
  probably, this scattered disposition of Thielemann is to be looked
  upon as on the whole an actual advantage. If the IIId Corps had been
  at hand, it would have been employed also, without increasing the
  chances for a successful result, which, considering the turn which
  the whole affair had taken, could have been secured only by a decided
  superiority, such, in fact, as the arrival of Bülow’s Corps would
  have procured. And if the IIId Corps had been used, the loss in
  battle would probably have been greater by 10,000 men.”

We cannot leave this subject without calling attention to a remark[395]
of Marshal Davout’s in his criticism of the Emperor’s conduct of this
campaign. He speaks of him in connection with this battle as

  “The Napoleon of the Moskowa, who, to make use of a vulgar
  expression, takes the bull by the horns; this was the reason why this
  battle was so bloody and so hotly fought, etc.”

How much justification there is for this remark appears from
Clausewitz’s review of Napoleon’s tactics, which we have cited above.
But Davout had a case to make out, apparently, and he desired to
score a point at every stage of his criticism; an extremely common
temptation, by the way, to which very many critics yield. As for the
losses suffered by the French to which Davout refers, it must be
remembered that Napoleon would have brought the action to a close
two hours sooner, had it not been for the unexpected apparition of
d’Erlon’s Corps; and that a good part of the French loss was suffered
in those two hours. The same cause also operated to render the victory
much less decisive than it otherwise would have been, as darkness
came on before anything like pursuit could be attempted. Any fair
criticism, therefore, of Napoleon’s conduct of the battle of Ligny
ought to proceed on the supposition that this unlucky incident, for
which a superserviceable staff-officer was solely responsible, had not
occurred. On this supposition, then, the Prussian centre at Ligny would
have been broken between 6 and 7 P.M., the losses of the French would
have been much less, and their victory would necessarily have been much
more complete.

8. The wisdom of Napoleon’s course in arresting the attack on the
Prussian centre when the news of the appearance of a strange corps
which might possibly consist of hostile troops was brought to him, has
perhaps not received the attention it deserves. When Napoleon decided
to wait till he should learn what this body of troops might be, he
was all ready to give the finishing blow to the Prussian army. He was
pretty certain to break up a large part of that army. If the unknown
corps should turn out to have come from Ney, it was certainly in a
position where it could play a most important part in the attack. If,
on the other hand, it should turn out to have come from Wellington,
Napoleon, provided only that he should have time enough to complete his
contemplated stroke against Blücher, would probably be in a much better
situation to deal with his antagonists than he could otherwise hope to
occupy. It would seem, therefore, as if it was by no means clear that
Napoleon took the wisest course when he deferred the main attack on the
Prussians on the appearance of d’Erlon’s Corps.

9. It is not easy to see why Napoleon, certainly when he found that
he would have to fight a battle at Ligny, should not have ordered the
6th Corps up to Fleurus at once, so that he might have it close at
hand in case he needed it. The extreme importance of inflicting, if
possible, a crushing defeat on the Prussians was so clearly seen by
him, as his orders to Ney on the afternoon of the 16th and morning
of the 17th abundantly show, that we cannot understand why he should
not have availed himself of the aid of Lobau’s command. Lobau, even
if he were not sent for until 11 A.M., could have been at Fleurus at
or before 4 P.M.; and had he then been directed to march in rear of
the troops of Vandamme and Girard which were fighting at and near St.
Amand, he could have fallen upon the Prussian right and rear near Brye
at or about half-past five o’clock, which was the moment when Napoleon
was preparing for the decisive stroke at Ligny. Lobau could undoubtedly
have accomplished all that Napoleon expected from Ney. And the
coöperation of Lobau could have been arranged for without any chance of
failure, while that of Ney was necessarily dependent on the situation
in which he might find himself at Quatre Bras.


[372] Clausewitz, ch. 25, p. 53.

[373] _Cf._ Charras, vol. 1, pp. 182, 183.

[374] Clausewitz, ch. 34.

[375] Cons. sur l’Art de la Guerre, p. 339, cited in Corresp., vol. 31,
p. 472.

[376] Davout, p. 545.

[377] Corresp., vol. 31, p. 472.

[378] Clausewitz (ch. 34, pp. 81 _et seq._) points out that Ney’s
coöperation could not have formed an essential part of Napoleon’s plan
of battle, for Napoleon “could not know whether Ney would be able to
spare him a single man.”

[379] Corresp., vol. 31, p. 206.

[380] Davout, p. 545.

[381] Clausewitz, ch. 34, p. 83.

[382] It is not quite clear in which direction this column was to

[383] Maurice, pp. 350, 351: July, 1890. Maurice thinks that the beaten
troops must have crossed the turnpike, even if they were intending to
retreat towards the Rhine.

[384] Clausewitz, ch. 31, p. 66.

[385] _Ante_, p. 133.

[386] Clausewitz, ch. 31, p. 65.

[387] Doc. Inéd., IX, p. 31; App. C, xxii; _post_, p. 381.

[388] Charras, vol. 1, pp. 170, 171, 183, 184.

[389] Jomini, p. 138.

[390] Clausewitz, ch. 34, p. 84.

[391] Clausewitz, ch. 32, pp. 73 _et seq._

[392] This includes the 6th Corps.

[393] Charras makes the Prussian army about 87,000 strong.

[394] Unless we include the IIId Corps among the Prussian reserves,
the French superiority in reserves was very large; and Blücher, as
Clausewitz goes on to state, did not have the IIId Corps at his

[395] Davout, p. 547.



Marshal Ney, as we have seen, took no steps what ever, on his return
to Gosselies from his midnight interview with the Emperor, to get his
command in readiness for the work of the coming day. Frasnes, in any
event, he must have known, would have to be occupied in force, whether
an advance from that place to Quatre Bras should be decided on or
not.[396] Yet, instead of getting the divisions of Foy and Jerome up
to Frasnes at once, where Bachelu and Piré already were, and supplying
their place at Gosselies by the divisions of the 1st Corps, one of
which, we know (Durutte’s), had bivouacked between Jumet and Gosselies,
he suffered them to remain at Gosselies; and, so far as appears, sent
officers to hurry up d’Erlon only after he had ordered him to Frasnes
(_ante_, p. 119), that is, after 11 A.M. Then there was a delay of an
hour and three-quarters, for which Ney was not directly responsible,
which was caused by Reille,[397] who, instead of obeying Ney’s order
to march promptly from Gosselies to the front on receipt of any orders
of movement from the headquarters of the army, delayed doing so until
he had informed Ney, who was at Frasnes, that he had heard from Girard
that the Prussians were concentrating near St. Amand, and had thereupon
received fresh orders. But this delay could never have occurred had
Reille been at  Frasnes himself, to which place he ought to have been
ordered by Ney hours before.

It is, therefore, perfectly correct to say, that if Reille’s two
divisions at Gosselies had been, early in the morning, ordered to
Frasnes, where Bachelu and Piré had been since the previous evening,
Marshal Ney could have commenced the battle of Quatre Bras with all
the 2d Corps, except Girard’s division, which was with the main army,
at eleven o’clock, the hour when he received his orders from Soult and
his letter from the Emperor. Or, if he had thought best to defer the
attack until he should have communicated to the Emperor the information
as to the concentration of the Prussian army near St. Amand conveyed
by Girard,[398] he would have been able to obey his orders, whatever
they were, the moment his messenger returned. There was also no reason
why d’Erlon should not have been likewise ordered up from Gosselies
to Frasnes to support Reille, certainly with Durutte’s division,
leaving the other divisions to come along as fast as they could. And
it is not going too far to say that the measures above suggested were
simply those which common sense would dictate, to an officer in Ney’s

However, as a matter of fact, Ney did not take these measures, nor
did he, even on the receipt of his orders, which, as we have seen,
peremptorily directed him to assemble the 1st and 2d Corps and
Kellermann’s two divisions of cavalry, and with this force to carry
Quatre Bras, proceed to comply with them. He ordered d’Erlon to halt
at Frasnes; he ordered Kellermann[400] to station one division at
Frasnes and one at Liberchies; and he assailed the enemy’s position
at Quatre Bras about 2 P.M. with the infantry divisions of Bachelu
and Foy, and the cavalry division of Piré. It was not until nearly 3
o’clock[401] that the division of Jerome[402] arrived, and took its
place in the line of battle. With the 2d Corps alone, then, did Marshal
Ney attempt the task which he had been directed to undertake with
all the troops which had been assigned to him. The 1st Corps and the
cavalry he ordered to stay behind to protect his flanks and line of

When such are the preparations, nothing but extraordinary luck can give
success in battle; and at first it seemed as if this luck was in store
for Marshal Ney. When he began the action, Perponcher’s Dutch-Belgian
division constituted the sole force of the enemy at Quatre Bras; and
Wellington not having yet returned from Brye, where he had been to see
Blücher, the Prince of Orange, a gallant young officer, but possessing
no remarkable abilities, was in command. Ney’s two divisions gave him a
slight superiority in infantry, which was augmented by the arrival of
the third, and his soldiers were much the better fighters. He easily
gained ground, and success seemed assured.

The Duke of Wellington reached the field about half-past two; and
of course assumed control. He now had occasion to see how far the
statements of the “Disposition” were from the actual facts; he found
himself obliged to sustain a vigorous and well-conducted attack by
superior forces, as best he might. Fortunately, about 3.30 P.M.,[403]
Picton’s British division arrived, followed immediately by the Duke of
Brunswick’s Corps, and Ney found himself slightly outnumbered.[404]
Nevertheless, the quality of his troops, both officers and men, was so
good, and his superiority to his antagonists in cavalry and artillery
was so great, that he continued the fight with the expectation of
success and with the chances in his favor.[405] But no efforts of his
could overcome the steadiness and courage of the British infantry.
The Dutch-Belgians retired after a couple of hours’ fighting; the
Brunswickers were broken, and the Duke of Brunswick was killed; but the
British and Hanoverian troops, though outmatched at this stage of the
action, stubbornly maintained the fight.

At five or soon after, two brigades of Alten’s 3d British division
arrived, and gave Wellington an equality, perhaps even a slight
superiority in force. Ney, on the other hand, had not been reinforced
either by d’Erlon or by Kellermann’s two divisions of cavalry, all
which troops had been placed at his disposal by the Emperor, and all
which he had been, by the last order which he had received from Marshal
Soult, expressly directed to employ in the movement upon Quatre Bras.
That is to say, as late as five o’clock, when the battle had been in
progress for three hours, Ney had not got his command together, had
not, in fact, assembled one-half of it on the field. Where were these
missing troops? (See Map 7.)

Take, first, the case of the 1st Corps. We have seen that the division
of the 2d Corps, which was the last to arrive, arrived on the field of
battle at or shortly before 3 P.M. Quatre Bras is distant from Frasnes
about two miles and a half, and the field of battle, therefore, was
about two miles beyond Frasnes. Since Jerome arrived on the field at 3
o’clock, he must have left Frasnes about or soon after 2 o’clock. If
Durutte, who commanded the leading division of the 1st Corps, had
followed Jerome promptly from Jumet, which is not over a mile and a
half to the south of Gosselies, he would have reached Frasnes before 3
o’clock. The other two divisions, which were ordered to Frasnes, should
have arrived certainly in the course of the next hour and a half; so
that by 4 or 4.30 P.M. Ney should have had the three divisions of the
1st Corps which he had ordered to Frasnes, ready for use there.

What actually happened was this. Durutte, who commanded the leading
division of the 1st Corps, when in march from Jumet for Frasnes,[406]
received orders from Ney to continue his march to Quatre Bras. But, as
he was reaching Frasnes,[407] he was ordered by one of the Emperor’s
aides, on his own responsibility,[408] to direct his march towards
Brye. This order Durutte obeyed, and, on arriving at Frasnes, turned
the head of the column to the right. D’Erlon, who, had he been present,
might have stopped this unauthorized proceeding, had unfortunately
ridden in advance of his corps. The aide, who, according to d’Erlon’s
statement, was carrying a pencil note to Marshal Ney, came up with
d’Erlon just beyond Frasnes, and told him what he had done. D’Erlon
then rode back to join his command, sending his chief-of-staff to
Marshal Ney to inform him what had happened. The 1st Corps then
proceeded by way of Villers-Peruin towards St. Amand for possibly
a couple of miles,[409] when it was seen by Vandamme, who between
5.30 and 6 o’clock reported to the Emperor the appearance of this
unexpected body of troops.[410] The corps must have been seen,
therefore, shortly after 5 o’clock. It must, therefore, have left the
Charleroi road at Frasnes somewhere about 4.30 P.M. That is, the head
of d’Erlon’s column did not reach Frasnes till two hours and a half
after the rear of the 2d Corps had left it. For, as we have seen, the
last division of the 2d Corps, Jerome’s, had passed through Frasnes by
2 o’clock.

This fact, that there was a march of two hours and a half between
the two corps which constituted the principal part of Marshal Ney’s
command, has not received due attention.[411] It is impossible to
account for it without laying a grave responsibility on the shoulders
of both Marshal Ney and the Comte d’Erlon. There is no need of dwelling
on the importance of the matter. That there was no sufficient effort
to obey the orders of the Emperor,—vigorously and energetically to
carry out the duty assigned to this wing of the army,—is too plain for
argument. It needs hardly to be remarked, that if Durutte had followed
closely on the traces of Jerome,—even if he had started from Jumet at
the moment when Jerome started from Gosselies, and had not (as would
have been natural and proper) moved up nearer to Gosselies before the
order to march to Quatre Bras arrived,—he could not have been turned
off the main road by the Emperor’s staff-officer, for, long before
half-past four o’clock, which was the hour when the staff-officer
reached Frasnes, Durutte would have been fighting the English at Quatre
Bras. One cannot avoid the conclusion that Marshal Ney’s measures for
getting his command together on the field of battle this day were
singularly ineffective.

For d’Erlon’s marching off towards St. Amand, Ney, of course, was in no
wise responsible. When he heard of it, he sent him a peremptory order
to return at once. For this he has been severely, and, in our opinion,
unjustly blamed by many critics who have approached the question in
the belief that d’Erlon was ordered to leave Ney’s immediate command by
the Emperor himself. But this was not so. Napoleon addressed no order
to d’Erlon. The only orders which the Emperor sent on this afternoon of
the 16th of June of which we have any knowledge were sent to Marshal
Ney. Napoleon cannot be imagined to have sent a direct order to one
of Ney’s corps-commanders, for they, the Emperor must have supposed,
were acting under the Marshal’s immediate supervision. Napoleon himself
always denied having sent any order to d’Erlon, and even Charras
believes him to be correct in this statement. We shall recur to this
subject later; suffice it to say here that we are inclined to think
that it was the 2 P.M. order that was shown, or, of which more likely,
the supposed purport or intent was stated, to Durutte.[412] The time at
which Durutte’s column was perceived heading for St. Amand indicates
approximately when he must have left the turnpike at Frasnes; and this,
as we shall hereafter see, was about the hour when the officer who
carried the 2 P.M. order must have reached Frasnes.

D’Erlon, on receiving Ney’s order to return, retraced his steps,
leaving Durutte’s division on his right in the neighborhood of Marbais,
but he did not reach Frasnes till after 9 P.M. Thus the 1st Corps was
of no use either to Ney or Napoleon that afternoon.

Take next the case of Kellermann’s cavalry. The last order which Ney
received was, as we have seen, perfectly explicit in terms.[413] It
directed him to “unite the corps of Counts Reille and d’Erlon, and that
of the Count of Valmy [Kellermann],” and stated that “with these forces
he ought to be able to beat and destroy any force of the enemy which
might present itself.” Yet Ney ordered one of Kellermann’s divisions
to halt at Frasnes and the other at Liberchies,—two miles, and two
miles and a half, respectively, from the field of battle. It is not
going too far to say that there is no excuse for such flat disobedience
of orders. Cavalry, as respects the use to which they were put in those
days, must be on the spot, ready to take advantage in an instant of a
weak place in the enemy’s line of battle. No one knew this better than
Marshal Ney. The disposition he made of his cavalry was deliberately
made, from the same reason which induced him to order the 1st Corps to
take up position at Frasnes,—probably because he deemed it unwise and
even dangerous that the left wing should be advanced so far in front of
the main army; and he did not send for Kellermann till six o’clock, and
then he only employed one brigade.[414]

To return now to the battle. The arrival of Alten’s division gave
Wellington the advantage, certainly in point of numerical force;
still, the three infantry-divisions of the 2d Corps were superior in
numbers to the two divisions of Picton and Alten; and the Dutch-Belgian
and Brunswick troops had suffered so much that there was very little
fight left in them. The cavalry of Piré was easily superior to that of
the Brunswickers and Dutch-Belgians; none of the English cavalry had
arrived; and the French were decidedly superior in artillery.

About 5 P.M.[415] the 2 o’clock order from Napoleon was received, but
it was impossible for Ney, situated as he was, to execute it. At 6
P.M.[416] the 3.15 P.M. order arrived. Then, according to Charras,[417]
Ney for the first time sent to Kellermann to bring up L’Heritier’s
division. The veteran of Marengo made a gallant and at first a
successful charge[418] at the head of the cuirassier brigade of this
division, but, finally, the galling fire from the British in the
farm-enclosures near the intersection of the roads, received when the
horses were blown and the impetus of the charge was exhausted, brought
about a panic, and the troops retired in great disorder. Soon after
this, which was the last offensive move made by the French, Cooke’s
division of the English Guards came up from Nivelles, and the French
were forced to retire to Frasnes, which they did in good order.

At the close of the action, the Duke of Wellington had employed his
1st, 3d and 5th British divisions, the 2d Dutch-Belgian division,
and the Brunswick contingent, numbering in all over 31,000[419] men;
Marshal Ney, of the 43,000 men which had been entrusted to him and with
which he was to “beat and destroy any enemy’s force” in his front, had
brought to the encounter less than 22,000 men. The casualties of the
Anglo-Dutch army were nearly or quite 4,500,—those of the French over

It cannot be seriously questioned that the result of the action would
have been a victory for the French if the 1st Corps, d’Erlon’s, had
not been diverted from the turnpike.[420] The head of his column
reached Frasnes, as we have seen, about half-past four o’clock, and the
leading division could have been put in line before half-past five,
that is, shortly after the arrival of Alten’s division. Wellington
at this moment was deeply involved in the battle. He was expecting
reinforcements hourly. He probably would not have thought of retiring.
In fact his deficiency in cavalry and artillery would have made it a
difficult matter to bring off his command in good order, and it is not
likely that any of his troops save his (so called) British divisions
could have sustained with firmness the strain of a retreat before an
enemy fired with the success of the first battle of the campaign.
The chances are that if d’Erlon’s Corps had marched straight on to
Quatre Bras, the result would have been a severe defeat for the Duke
of Wellington. Distrust and even demoralization would almost certainly
have appeared in most of his foreign contingents; and with only his
English regiments and those of the King’s German Legion he could not
have mustered a sufficient force to justify him in accepting battle at
Waterloo, even if he had been otherwise disposed to do so. In fact, one
may safely conclude, that the battle of Waterloo would not have been
fought had not d’Erlon’s Corps been turned aside by the unauthorized
act of the staff-officer. We may, and in fact we must, even go further.
It is altogether improbable that if Blücher had found that Wellington
was in no condition to receive battle on the 18th, he would have
deviated from his natural course of action after losing the battle of
Ligny; he would without doubt, in such case, have retired on either
Liége or Namur. These consequences are assuredly not too remote. The
immediate and palpable results of an action, or of a failure to act,
are within the legitimate field of inquiry; in fact, unless this be
permitted, history can yield no lessons at all; it is only when we
carry our speculation into the region of remote results, or vary too
much from the conditions which actually existed, that we are going
beyond the line of legitimate inference and useful deduction. It may be
added that it is, and in the nature of things must be, for each person
to draw the line in each case.

If, now, we ask what would probably have happened if Ney had collected
his troops at Frasnes during the forenoon, in order that he might be
able promptly to obey his orders as soon as they should be received,
as we have above maintained he ought to have done, we are inclined to
think that the simultaneous movement upon Quatre Bras between twelve
and two o’clock of 40,000 men would have brought about the prompt
retirement by the Prince of Orange[421] of Perponcher’s division.
It would probably have fallen back on Nivelles, where Chassé was
assembling the other Dutch-Belgian division. Whether the Duke on
his return from Brye could have effected a concerted attack on the
French by combining a movement on the Brussels road by Picton and the
Brunswickers with one on the Nivelles road by Perponcher and Alten, it
is not easy to say. The advantage of position would have clearly been
with the French, and in fact they would have been considerably superior
in numbers. There would certainly have existed no reason why in this
case Ney could not have sent 10,000 or even 20,000 men down the Namur
road in compliance with the orders of 2 and 3.15 P.M.[422]

Neither of the above-described advantages was gained by Marshal Ney.
By leaving the divisions of Jerome and Foy at Gosselies instead of
bringing them up to Frasnes early in the morning,—by leaving that of
Durutte at Jumet, and the other three of d’Erlon’s divisions still
further in rear until long after the last regiments of the 2d Corps had
left Gosselies,—he rendered a prompt and bloodless occupation of Quatre
Bras almost impossible. Exactly how far he was responsible for the
gap between his two corps, we do not know. But we can certainly say
that a diligent and experienced officer in Ney’s place would have known
to a half an hour just how long after the arrival of the last division
of the 2d Corps, the van of the 1st Corps might be expected. The whole
management of Marshal Ney on this day shows distrust of the Emperor’s
judgment, unwillingness to take the most obvious steps, finally,
disobedience of orders. As the natural consequence of his wilfulness
and perverseness he failed to reap the enormous successes which the
Emperor’s sagacity had placed within his power. All he did was to
prevent Wellington from giving any aid to Blücher. This he certainly
accomplished; and an important service it was. He also showed himself
as he always did, a brave, resolute, capable officer on the field of
battle. Probably he did as much as any one could have done with the
force actually under his hand. But had he taken the necessary steps to
get the large and powerful body of troops which Napoleon had entrusted
to his care well in hand in due season, he could not have failed, so
far as we can see, to achieve a striking success, which might very
possibly have had a decisive effect on the fortunes of the war. If
each of the two allied generals had been defeated at the outset of the
campaign, the chances of Napoleon for final victory would have been
greatly in his favor.

In regard to the conduct of this battle by the Duke of Wellington
nothing new can be said. He has always received the credit which he
certainly fully merited, of maintaining most skilfully and with great
spirit and tenacity a fight in which he was outmatched until nearly the
close of the day. He had been gravely misled by his chief-of-staff as
to the situation of the various bodies which composed his army; and in
fact it must be admitted that his own calculations were very far from
being worthy of his reputation. Hence he ran the risk of encountering
a largely superior force; and that he had actually to deal with only
half of this force was due to no strategy of his. He found himself
in a most perplexing and dangerous situation, in which he displayed
undoubtedly great skill and courage, but for the successful result of
the day he was largely indebted to the “fortune of war.”[423]


[396] _Cf._ Jomini, p. 221.

[397] Jomini, p. 226, defends Reille’s course. We shall discuss this
question in the Notes to this chapter.

[398] _Cf._ Jomini, pp. 221, 226.

[399] La Tour d’Auvergne, pp. 91, 92, 145; Muquardt, pp. 145, 146, 149,
n. Charras, though discussing Ney’s conduct at considerable length
(vol. 2, pp. 236 _et seq._), does not touch upon this part of it.

[400] Kellermann, Charras says, vol. 1, p. 188, had at 10.30 A.M.
passed Gosselies. His two divisions were, therefore, long before 2
P.M., at Frasnes, and Liberchies.

[401] “_Vers 3 heures._” Reille’s statement, Doc. Inéd, p. 59.

[402] Or that of Guilleminot, as Charras prefers to call it. Charras,
vol. 1, pp. 195, 196, n.

[403] Gomm, p. 353; Waterloo Letters, p. 23.

[404] Siborne, vol. 1, p 108.

[405] We shall not attempt a tactical account of the battle. It is well
described by Siborne and Charras, and there is much of value in other
writers. But it is not worth while at this late day to go into detail.

[406] Doc. Inéd., p. 71, Durutte’s statement.

[407] Drouet, p. 95.

[408] Ib., p. 95; Doc. Inéd, p. 65; d’Erlon’s statement.

[409] As it would seem from the map. But the distance is a matter of
conjecture only.

[410] Corresp., vol. 31, p. 207.

[411] But see “Napoléon à Waterloo,” pp. 132 _et seq._

[412] So, Hooper, pp. 136, 137.

[413] Doc. Inéd., IX, p. 31; App. C, xxii; _post_, p. 381.

[414] Charras, vol. 1, p. 206.

[415] Ib., p. 204, n.

[416] Ib., p. 206.

[417] Ib., p. 206. Charras says that Roussel’s division remained where
it was. He is probably correct. But see Siborne, vol. 1, p. 136, and
Hooper, p. 127.

[418] Siborne is in error in supposing that there were two charges.
Only one brigade was put in, the cuirassiers, and this was towards the
end of the action.

[419] Siborne, vol. 1, p. 153. Charras, vol. 1, p. 210, rates
Wellington’s force as high as 37,000 men.

[420] Even Hooper admits (p. 137) that the “timely presence” of these
troops would have “placed Wellington in an extremity of peril.” _Cf._
Siborne, vol. 1, pp. 162, 163.

[421] The Duke of Wellington did not get back from Brye, where he had
gone to confer with Marshal Blücher, until half-past two o’clock.

[422] Jomini, however, says (p. 227) that all that could have been
expected of Ney even in this case would have been to maintain his
position. But he says this in a letter to Marshal Ney’s son, and his
statement cannot be taken seriously. The events of the day demonstrated
that one corps would have been amply sufficient to hold the place, had
it been once occupied by the French.

[423] _Cf._ Chesney, p. 137.


1. Charras’ references to the orders to Marshal Ney as respects
Kellermann’s cavalry, are disingenuous and very misleading. They are
evidently intended to throw the blame for the non-employment of this
body of troops upon the shoulders of Napoleon.

It will be remembered that in his letter[424] to Ney, which the Emperor
said might arrive a little before the formal order signed by Marshal
Soult, the Emperor told Ney what his wishes were as to the disposition
of his troops after he should have occupied Quatre Bras. One division
was to be stationed two leagues in front of Quatre Bras,—six divisions
around Quatre Bras,—and Kellermann’s cavalry at the intersection of
the Roman road with the Charleroi turnpike, so that the Emperor might
recall it, if he desired so to do. In the same letter he tells Ney to
be careful of Lefebvre-Desnouettes’ division, which belonged to the

It seems plain enough that this letter must be taken in connection with
Soult’s definite order,[425] to which the letter refers, which ordered
Ney to direct the 1st and 2d _corps d’armée_ and the 3d corps of
cavalry,—Kellermann’s,—upon Quatre Bras, and there take up his position.

But the latest order[426] of Soult positively instructs Ney to unite
the two corps of Counts Reille and d’Erlon and also that of the Count
of Valmy, and says in so many words that with these forces he ought to
be able “to beat and destroy” the enemy.

There is not either in the letter or in these orders a single word
limiting the employment of Kellermann’s cavalry to “a case of
necessity.” Yet this is what Charras states[427] was contained in
Soult’s order. He even says that Ney did not dare[428] to employ
but one out of the four brigades of which Kellermann’s Corps
consisted,—meaning that he was so hampered by his orders.

Hooper[429] also says that Ney used Kellermann’s cavalry “sparingly, in
obedience to the instructions of Napoleon.”

The orders speak for themselves. Ney was not only permitted to
use Kellermann’s Corps, but was positively directed to do so. It
was only in his use of the cavalry of the Guard—the division of
Lefebvre-Desnouettes[430]—that he was restricted.

2. Napoleon in his account of the campaign labored under a mistake as
to the time when he gave Ney his orders on the 16th. He says it was
in the night. This involved him in another mistake, namely, that the
orders directed Ney “to push on at daybreak beyond Quatre Bras.” It
is true that he rendered it possible for the readers of his book to
rectify these errors, for he says that Flahaut was the bearer of these
orders, and he survived the campaign. Doubtless if the Emperor could
have had access to him, these mistakes would have been rectified; as it
is, they render much of what Napoleon says of no value. Then, Napoleon
never learned the truth about the wanderings of d’Erlon’s Corps; and
this of course, invalidates his criticisms as to that matter. But in
regard to the main point made in this chapter, the Emperor’s opinion
is given explicitly. He blames Ney[431] _for not having_ “executed his
orders and _marched on Quatre Bras with his 43,000 men_.” That Ney
should concentrate his entire command was in reality, the burden of his

That this neglect to keep his command together was in Napoleon’s eyes
Ney’s principal fault in his conduct on the 16th, appears unmistakably
from the following passages in Soult’s despatch[432] to Ney of the next

  “The Emperor has seen with pain that you did not yesterday unite
  your divisions; they acted independently of each other; hence they
  experienced losses.

  “If the corps of the Counts d’Erlon and Reille had been together, not
  an Englishman of the troops which attacked you would have escaped.
  If the Count d’Erlon had executed the movement upon St. Amand which
  the Emperor had ordered, the Prussian army would have been totally
  destroyed, and we should have taken perhaps 30,000 prisoners.

  “The corps of Generals Gérard and Vandamme and the Imperial Guard
  have always been united: one exposes one’s self to reverses when
  detachments are put in peril.

  “The Emperor hopes and desires that your seven divisions of infantry
  and your cavalry shall be well united and organized, and that
  together they shall not occupy more than one league of ground, so
  that you may have them under your hand and may be able to employ them
  at need.”

What Soult told Sir William Napier,[433] years afterwards, is without
question the truth:—“Ney neglected his orders at Quatre Bras.”

3. It may be worth while to correct a curious error into which Siborne
has fallen in his anxiety to show that Ney was not ordered to seize
Quatre Bras early in the morning. He[434] calls attention to the fact
that the 2 P.M. order to Ney was addressed on the back of the letter
to the Marshal at Gosselies. “This circumstance,” he says, “proves that
Napoleon was under the impression that Ney had not at that time (two
o’clock) commenced his attack, but was still at Gosselies.” But this
argument, if it is good for anything, shows that Napoleon supposed that
Ney and, of course, the bulk of his command also, would be at Gosselies
when the bearer of the letter arrived there, say at 3 o’clock, which
is simply absurd. The fact is that, Ney having the previous night had
his headquarters at Gosselies, all orders to him were naturally and
properly sent there first.

4. Jomini,[435] in a letter to the Duke of Elchingen, suggests that
Napoleon might well have left Reille’s corps and Lefebvre-Desnouettes’
cavalry at Frasnes to watch the enemy at Quatre Bras, and thrown
d’Erlon’s Corps and Kellermann’s cavalry on the rear of the Prussians
at Brye, a manœuvre which, he says, “could be executed from Frasnes as
well as from Quatre Bras.” Into the merits of this suggestion we do
not propose to enter; there is certainly much to recommend it. But in
a postscript General Jomini takes special pains to express his opinion
that General Reille is not “deserving of the least censure” for having
deferred putting his corps in motion from Gosselies for Frasnes, on the
morning of the 16th, until he had communicated Girard’s information to
Marshal Ney.

  “We must not forget that General Reille had just sent—nine
  o’clock—positive information of the presence of the entire Prussian
  army towards Ligny: he must have concluded from this that the left
  would be called upon to take part in the attack of this army, and
  that it would be unfortunate if, after such information, he took the
  Genappe [Quatre Bras] route when it would be necessary to turn to
  the right towards Brye. This reasoning was more than logical, it was
  based on the laws of _la grande tactique_.”[436]

In this passage Jomini seems to overlook what he has just before said
about Frasnes. Even if the left should be called upon to take part
in the attack of the Prussians instead of being concentrated for the
attack of Quatre Bras, it would still be necessary for a large force to
establish itself at Frasnes, in order to observe the enemy at Quatre
Bras; to proceed then to Frasnes, with the two divisions of Foy and
Jerome, from Gosselies, where he was when the Emperor’s order reached
him, was the right thing for Reille to do in any event. Jomini in fact
suggests this very thing as in his judgment the correct course, viz.:
to leave the 2d Corps at Frasnes and to throw the 1st Corps on Brye.
This attempt, therefore, to justify Reille’s delay in marching to
Frasnes, fails.

5. Other theories than the one we have adopted as to the cause of
the wanderings of d’Erlon’s Corps have been broached. Thiers thinks
that Napoleon sent d’Erlon a direct order; Charras[437] has combated
this view in a careful examination of the evidence, and we agree
with him. There is, however, considerable conflict of testimony.
Lieutenant-Colonel de Baudus, who was on the staff of Marshal Soult in
this campaign, in his “Études sur Napoléon,”[438] tells this story:—

  “At the moment when the affair [the battle of Ligny] was at its
  height, Napoleon called me and said to me: ‘I have sent an order
  to the Comte d’Erlon to direct his whole corps in the rear of the
  right of the Prussian army; go and carry to Marshal Ney a duplicate
  of this order, which ought to be communicated to him. You will tell
  him that, whatever may be the situation in which he finds himself,
  it is absolutely necessary that this disposition should be executed;
  that I do not attach any great importance to what is passing to-day
  on his wing; that the important affair is here, where I am, because
  I want to finish with the Prussian army. As for him, he must,
  if he cannot do better, confine himself to keeping the English
  army in check.’[439] When the Emperor had finished giving me his
  instructions, the major-general [Soult] recommended me in the most
  energetic terms to insist most forcibly on the Duke of Elchingen
  that, on his part, nothing should hinder the execution of the
  movement prescribed to the Comte d’Erlon.”

Notwithstanding this circumstantial narrative, we do not believe
that Napoleon sent d’Erlon a direct order. Napoleon had in all his
communications with Ney placed d’Erlon under him; the letter written to
Ney that morning by the Emperor said:—“The major-general has given the
most precise instructions, so that there shall be no difficulty about
obedience to your orders when you are detached from the main army; when
I am present, the corps-commanders will take their orders from me.” Now
Napoleon must have supposed that d’Erlon would be with Ney at 5 P.M.

Baudus’ book was published twenty-six years after the battle. His
recollection of the fact that he was sent on such a mission was no
doubt clear; very likely he remembered with approximate accuracy what
Napoleon and Soult said to him; but he may easily have been mistaken
as to the order itself. It would be very natural that an order to Ney
directing him to send the 1st Corps to attack the Prussian right might
be mistaken for an order to d’Erlon, who commanded the 1st Corps,
to do this. And what to our mind settles the matter is, that if the
order had really been one directed to d’Erlon, neither the Emperor nor
Soult would have wasted their time in asking Baudus to ask Ney not to
interfere with its execution. If, on the other hand, it was an order
to Ney, urging on him to detach a part of his command to take the
Prussians in rear, such remarks as Napoleon and Soult made to Baudus
were directly apposite, and were made, no doubt, in order that they
might be repeated to Ney, so that he might enter more fully into the
Emperor’s view of the situation. Lastly, although no specific mention
might be made in the written order of the troops which Ney was to
detach, it is extremely probable that both Napoleon and Soult spoke
of the 1st Corps in this connection, as it was of course known that
d’Erlon was to come up in rear of Reille, who might very probably be
actively engaged, and that d’Erlon’s Corps, therefore, would probably
be sent, if any was sent.

We have little doubt that Baudus carried the duplicate of the 3.15
P.M. order to Marshal Ney. Everything that he says about it points to
this; the statement that the battle was at its height when the order
was given to him would be true at a quarter-past three; the strong
language of the Emperor and Soult as to the importance of persuading
Ney to comply with their request has the same ring as the language of
the order.[440] Baudus tells us that when he was nearing Quatre Bras
he was nearly run down by Kellermann’s cuirassiers, who were, as we
have seen,[441] routed between 6 and 7 P.M.[442] Charras says that the
3.15 P.M. order[443] arrived at 6 o’clock.[444] This duplicate of it,
dated 3.30 P.M.[445] the transmission of which was delayed, as we have
seen, by the verbal messages to Ney, may very possibly not have reached
the Marshal till half-past six. Baudus found Ney in a state of great
exasperation against the Emperor, who had, as he had been told, ordered
the 1st Corps to march upon St. Amand without informing him of this
change of plan. The fact that Baudus saw nothing of the 1st Corps on
the road confirms our hypothesis that that corps had been turned off by
the bearer of the 2 P.M. despatch.

In conclusion, we may say that the evidence as to this matter is not
entirely satisfactory. D’Erlon says the order he saw was addressed to
Marshal Ney. Reille says the same. D’Erlon says the order was brought
by General Labedoyère; Heymès, by Colonel Laurent. Heymès says that
Colonel Laurent, after turning the 1st Corps off the turnpike, informed
Ney what he had done;[446] Baudus says that Ney told him[447] that he
never received any advice of the sort at all, and that he only learned
that the corps had gone off by sending to Frasnes for it, and there
being no troops there. It is idle to seek to reconcile these minor
contradictions. They are not important.


[424] Doc. Inéd., X, p. 32; App. C, xviii; _post_, pp. 377, 378.

[425] Ib., VIII, p. 27; App. C, xxi; _post_, pp. 380, 381.

[426] Ib., IX, p. 31; App. C, xxii; _post_, p. 381. This refers to the
prior order in distinct terms.

[427] Charras, vol. 1, p. 205.

[428] Ib., p. 206.

[429] Hooper, p. 127.

[430] Even in regard to this division, Soult’s order plainly implies
that Ney might make use of it. Doc. Inéd., VIII, p. 28; App. C, xxi.;
_post_, pp. 380,381.

[431] Corresp., vol. 31, p. 209.

[432] Doc. Inéd., XVII, p. 46; App. C, xxvii; _post_, pp. 384, 385.

[433] Life of General Sir W. Napier, vol. 1, p. 505.

[434] Siborne, vol. 1, p. 146, n.

[435] Jomini, pp. 219, 221.

[436] Ib., p. 226.

[437] Charras, vol. 2, pp. 242 _et seq._

[438] Vol. 1, pp. 210 _et seq._ Paris: 1841.

[439] This is exactly what was enjoined on Ney by the 3.15 P.M. order.
It is to be noted that, while the 2 P.M. order expressly directed Ney
to attack the English, and only after having vigorously pushed them,
to turn back and operate against the Prussians, the 3.15 P.M. order
directed him to manœuvre _at once_,—that is, without waiting until he
should have driven the English,—so as to surround the Prussian right
wing. This is precisely what Baudus says the Emperor and Soult desired
him so strongly to urge upon Marshal Ney.

[440] See note 16, on page 194.

[441] Charras, vol. 1, pp. 206-208.

[442] Heymès, Ney’s aide-de-camp, says (Doc. Inéd., pp. 9, 10) that it
was just when Kellermann’s cuirassiers had been routed that Colonel
Laurent arrived and told Marshal Ney that he had ordered d’Erlon to
turn off the main road in the direction of St. Amand. Baudus came up a
little later, evidently, as he met the cuirassiers some distance from
the field of battle. But as Baudus saw nothing of the troops of the 1st
Corps, we think Heymès must be mistaken, as to Laurent’s having just
turned off the head of the column to the right. If so, Baudus must have
passed at least half the corps on the road.

[443] According to Gourgaud, p. 57, Colonel Forbin-Janson carried this

[444] Charras, vol. 1, p. 206.

[445] Doc. Inéd., p. 42.

[446] Ib., pp. 9, 10.

[447] Baudus, vol. 1, p. 212.



Napoleon had, thus far, as we have seen, in the main, accomplished his
programme. Things had turned out, so far as the enemy were concerned,
very much as he had originally expected. He had found Blücher
determined to fight; he had found Wellington wholly unprepared to
assist his ally. He had encountered the Prussians, therefore, alone;
and he had beaten them. He had, in the main, as we have said, done what
he expected to do. It now only remained to complete the original plan
marked out in the letters to Ney and Grouchy of the morning before;
and, leaving the latter with the 3d and 4th Corps and plenty of cavalry
to ascertain the direction in which the Prussians had retreated, to
march himself at the head of the 6th Corps and the Guard to join Ney,
and move promptly against the English. (See Map 8.)

There was no reason in the world for delay. As has been pointed out
above, Napoleon had not been obliged to employ all his troops in
obtaining the victory of Ligny. The troops which he intended to take
with him were fresh, or substantially so. The 6th Corps had not fired
a shot; the Guard, though it had lost perhaps a thousand men, had
certainly done no very hard fighting, and it had been brilliantly
successful. The cavalry, also, had suffered but little. Ney, too, had
plenty of fresh troops. The 1st Corps, d’Erlon’s, had not been engaged;
nor had the light cavalry division of Lefebvre-Desnouettes; only one
of the four brigades of Kellermann’s heavy cavalry had been in action
at Quatre Bras. Thus a formidable army, almost entirely composed of
fresh troops, could be led at once against the Duke of Wellington’s
heterogeneous forces. The weather, in the morning of the 17th, was
fine; the Prussians, wherever they had gone, were, at any rate, for
the time being, out of the way; there was no reason, we repeat,
why advantage should not have been promptly taken of the fortunate
situation in which the victory of Ligny had temporarily placed the
French,—why there should have been any hesitation whatever in dealing
with the Anglo-Dutch army, separated, as it now was, from its ally.

But we may go farther than this. Fortunate as the situation of the
French was on the morning after the battle of Ligny, there were grave
reasons for deeming this advantage to be very brief in its duration.
Napoleon had, indeed, won a victory over Blücher. But the tardiness of
d’Erlon and the disobedience of Ney had prevented Napoleon from getting
from his left wing the assistance on which he had counted; and he
himself had not seen fit to modify his operations so as to conform to
this different state of facts. He had not attacked the Prussians while
they were taking position on the heights of Ligny, because at that
early hour the forward movement of the main army could not have been
covered by the advance of the whole of the left wing. He had not been
able to win the crushing victory over the Prussians when concentrated
which he would undoubtedly have won if Ney had obeyed his orders
intelligently and boldly, and had been able, as he then would have been
able, to send a large force down the Namur road to take the Prussians
in rear. Lastly, Napoleon had not achieved the success on which he
had a right to count without the aid of Ney, for, on the unexpected
appearance of the 1st Corps, he had delayed the final stroke until it
was too dark to take full advantage of it. Napoleon had not in the
battle of Ligny, as he very well knew, destroyed the Prussian army. He
understood perfectly the difference between the victory he had actually
won and the victory which he would have won had he received from Ney
the assistance of d’Erlon’s Corps, or even of 10,000 men.[448] Hence
it is remarkable that he should not have exerted himself to use his
incomplete success to the best advantage, and this required, of course,
the utmost energy and activity on his part.

There was also, had he only known it, a magnificent opportunity before
him on this morning of the 17th. For, owing to the carelessness of
the Prussian staff, Wellington had not been promptly informed of the
result of the battle of Ligny, and he was still at Quatre Bras, only
six miles from Brye, where he could be assailed in front and flank. He
had not yet succeeded in collecting his entire army. It was perfectly
practicable to attack him in this condition before the Prussians could
possibly reorganize their beaten forces, and come to his assistance.
For such an attack Napoleon had ample means, and of the best quality,
as we have just seen. Ney’s movements could easily be coördinated with
his own; Ney could attack the English in front, while the Emperor
brought up the 6th Corps and the Guard over the Namur-Quatre-Bras
turnpike directly upon their flank. The march from Brye could be begun
at sunrise,—at 4 A.M.; Quatre Bras could be reached before 7 o’clock.
Had Napoleon, then, acted with energy in accordance with his own plan,
he would have stood a very good chance of crushing this portion of
Wellington’s army,—so far from its ally, so open to attack.[449] But,
apart from this, this was not one of those cases where time is required
to come to a decision; nothing was risked by marching against the
English at once. And, as it happened, fortune had put in Napoleon’s
way the opportunity of striking a decisive blow.

Napoleon allowed this opportunity to escape him. Up to this moment we
have seen him as active, as sagacious, as energetic as ever. But it
would certainly seem that on this morning of the 17th he was not up
to the mark. He probably was greatly fatigued, and we need not wonder
at it. From half-past three on the morning of the 12th, when he left
Paris, to eleven o’clock at night of the 16th, when, having fought
and won the battle of Ligny, he sought rest at Fleurus, he had been
subjected to a tremendous strain. Neither Wellington nor Blücher had
had anything like it. He had been on the move and at work, night and
day. He had had to decide at the moment the most important questions,
he had had to take the gravest responsibilities. There was a natural
reaction. The Emperor yielded to the sense of fatigue. He put off
the execution of the next part of his plan. He moreover neglected to
ascertain the facts of the situation, and hence was unaware, until too
late, of the great opportunity then presented to him. General Jomini
considerately remarks:—[450] “Undoubtedly the Emperor had powerful
motives for resigning himself to such inactivity; but these motives
have never reached us.”

Napoleon wasted most of the morning. He expected, he says, to hear
from Ney what the result of his operations had been; but that officer,
furious with the Emperor for having, as he supposed, withdrawn the
1st Corps without notice from his command,[451] vouchsafed no report to
headquarters. Finally, about 8 A.M., General Flahaut, the Emperor’s
aide, who had carried the letter to Ney the previous morning and had
remained with him during the day, returned to Napoleon and brought him
the first information of the battle of Quatre Bras.

He also brought word that Ney had received no news of the result of
the battle of Ligny.[452] Thereupon Soult wrote a despatch[453] to Ney
informing him that the Prussians had been “put to rout,” and that
Pajol was pursuing them on the roads to Namur and Liége. Ney was
then told that the Emperor was going to Brye; that it did not seem
possible for the English to do anything against him, Ney, but that if
they should undertake anything, the Emperor would march directly upon
them. Then the Emperor comments on the fact that Ney did not act on
the preceding day with his entire force.[454] Lastly, Ney is ordered to
take up position at Quatre Bras; but if that should not be possible,
then he was at once to state the facts in detail, and the Emperor would
immediately march on Quatre Bras himself, while Ney should assail the
enemy in front. If, on the contrary, there should be only a rear-guard
there, Ney was to attack it and take up position there. Ney was also
directed to inform the Emperor of the exact situation of his divisions,
and of all that was going on in his front.

That no move of importance was then under contemplation at headquarters
appears from this sentence:—

  “To-day will be needed to terminate this operation, to supply
  ammunition, bring in stragglers, and call in detachments. Give your
  orders accordingly; and see to it that all the wounded are cared for
  and transported to the rear; we hear complaints that the ambulances
  have not done their duty.”

This despatch was probably written about 8 A.M.[455] It is clear
from reading it that Napoleon presumed, as a matter of course, that
Wellington had long before heard of the defeat of Blücher, and had
fallen back towards Brussels, leaving only a rear-guard at Quatre Bras.
Had he known the truth,—which was, as we shall soon see, that the
Duke did not move a man till 10 A.M.,—he would no doubt have attacked
him at once. It is true that Napoleon’s conjecture as to Wellington’s
movements was a very natural one. It is true, also, that he had a
perfect right to expect to receive from the commander of his left wing
an accurate and full account of the situation there; Ney ought, it is
not necessary to say, to have prepared a report of the battle of Quatre
Bras on the evening of the 16th, and sent it off to headquarters at
once. Furthermore, he ought to have informed the Emperor on the morning
of the 17th that the English were still at Quatre Bras in force.
Napoleon’s inactivity does not in the least excuse him. But Ney’s
neglect to make proper reports of the situation at Quatre Bras does not
in any way justify Napoleon’s delay in marching upon the English. The
propriety of this step was not dependent on the accounts to be received
from Marshal Ney. To unite the reserves to the left wing and move
upon Wellington at the earliest possible moment was the thing to do,
whatever might be the reports from Ney.

Marshal Soult seems to have been of no assistance to the Emperor on
this morning. If he had been a competent and efficient chief-of-staff
he would assuredly have had all needed information ready for the
Emperor when the latter made his appearance in the morning. As it
was, knowing nothing of what had happened at Quatre Bras till nearly
eight o’clock, waiting till it should suit Ney to furnish him with
the information requested in the 8 A.M. despatch, assuming that
Wellington must have heard of the defeat of Blücher and fallen back in
consequence, the Emperor amused himself with going over the field of
battle, and talking politics to the generals.[456] He did not exert
himself in the least to stimulate the energy and activity of his
subordinates; in fact, he yielded to that lassitude which is so apt
to succeed unusual exertion. He deliberately postponed the execution
of the next step in his campaign, notwithstanding that the incomplete
result of his encounter with the Prussians rendered it all the more
imperative that no time should be lost and no opportunity neglected.

During the forenoon, however, the troops intended to join Ney were
ordered to Marbais on the turnpike,—Lobau[457] at ten o’clock,—the Guard
and Milhaud’s cuirassiers at eleven. At noon, it having been reported
that the English were still at Quatre Bras, another order[458] was
sent to Ney, directing him to attack the enemy there, and informing
him that the Emperor was leading the troops now at Marbais to support
his operations. Thus the execution of the plan of campaign marked out
in the letters to Ney and Grouchy was at last resumed; the reserves
under Napoleon marched to join the left wing under Ney; the right wing
under Grouchy was assigned to take care of the defeated Prussians.
Girard’s division of the 2d Corps, which had suffered severely in the
battle,—Girard himself having been mortally hurt,—was left on the field
to take care of the wounded.

Napoleon had undoubtedly assumed that the Prussian army, if beaten,
would retire on its base of operations, towards Namur and Liége. This
assumption was strengthened by the circumstances of the battle of
Ligny. He had not failed to note the strong force retained by Marshal
Blücher to protect his communications with Namur as well as the road
to Gembloux, by which the IVth Corps was expected to arrive. He was
perfectly justified in inferring that if Blücher had established a new
or secondary base at Wavre, for instance, or Louvain, or if he had
had any idea whatever of renouncing his line of communications, so as
to be able to coöperate with the English in subsequent operations, he
would without doubt have placed his left wing in a wholly different
position, where he could have made some use of it in the battle.[459]
The fact that Thielemann’s Corps was placed where it could not be of
any assistance to those of Zieten and Pirch I., seemed to indicate
that reliance was placed upon the English for any help these corps
might need, and corroborated the presumption that Blücher and Gneisenau
were willing to take the risk of the defeat of a part of the Prussian
army by accepting battle where support could only be furnished by
their allies, and had no intention whatever of renouncing their base
of operations, _via_ Namur and Liége. Added to these considerations
was the general presumption against such a dangerous and inconvenient
course as a change of base must always be.[460]

It must also be remembered that the Prussians held the villages of
Brye and Sombreffe till after midnight, so that there was no obstacle
whatever to the troops of the two beaten corps retiring after the
battle by the Quatre-Bras-Namur turnpike towards Namur. It may well be
questioned whether there was any need for these troops to cross the
pike at all; or whether any of them would have crossed it, had Blücher
given orders for the whole army to retire on Namur.[461]

Hence it was assumed at the headquarters of the French army that it
was in the direction of Namur that the Prussians had retreated.[462]
Soult, early in the morning, sent out Pajol on the Namur road with a
division of his own corps, supported by a brigade from Exelmans’ Corps,
to ascertain the facts; and before 8 A.M. Pajol reported the capture
of a battery and prisoners at Le Mazy on that road.[463] It was on
this information that Soult informed Ney that Pajol was pursuing the
Prussians on the road to Namur.

It is nevertheless very strange that no reconnoissance should have been
ordered in the direction of Tilly and Wavre.[464] This may perhaps be
partly due to the fact that the cavalry divisions belonging to the
3d and 4th Corps, upon which such duties would most naturally fall,
were exhausted by their efforts of the day before, that the 6th Corps,
which bivouacked nearest to Brye, had no cavalry division attached to
it, and that the rest of the cavalry was on the right of the position.
These facts may perhaps serve to account in a way for what cannot but
be considered as an inexcusable neglect. There was plenty of cavalry
with the army. Exelmans could have been sent out towards Wavre, as
easily as Pajol towards Namur. Both routes were equally open to the
enemy. It was certainly by no means impossible that Blücher should,
in spite of his defeat, endeavor to keep up his communication with
Wellington, especially considering that half his army,—the IIId and
IVth Corps,—was untouched, as Napoleon very well knew. The neglect,
therefore, to explore the country to the north of the turnpike cannot
be excused. The blame for this neglect must fall primarily upon
Napoleon, for he ought to have ordered Soult to attend to this matter
in the early morning. This he certainly failed to do. Soult ought, to
be sure, to have had the reconnoissance made, on his own motion; and
in neglecting this, he shows that he was not a good chief-of-staff.
But the Emperor seems to have been satisfied with what Soult had done;
hence, the blame of not ascertaining that the two beaten Prussian
Corps had retreated in the direction of Wavre, falls finally on his
shoulders. Nor can Napoleon’s fault in this matter be explained or
excused on the ground of his fatigue; it costs no exertion to order
a cavalry officer to make an exploration in a certain direction; the
reason the order was not given was because the Emperor was so sure that
such an exploration would result in nothing,—because in fact he was
so confident that the Prussians had retired to the eastward, towards
their base of operations. There was, it is true, as we have pointed out
above, strong reason to believe this to be the fact; but there was also
a possibility that it might not be the fact; and if it should turn out
not to be the fact, the plan of Napoleon would have to be essentially
modified, for a retreat of the two beaten corps in the direction of
Wavre, where they could easily be united with the two unbroken corps,
could hardly have any other object than a junction with the English
army, retiring, as that army was sure to do, from Quatre Bras towards

Before Napoleon left the field of battle for Marbais, shortly before
twelve o’clock, he called Grouchy to him and gave him instructions by
word of mouth. Up to this time no further information had been received
since Pajol had reported the capture of guns and prisoners on the Namur
road. The Emperor at first simply told him to take the 3d and 4th
Corps and the cavalry of Pajol and Exelmans and to pursue the enemy.

  “I replied to him,” says Marshal Grouchy, whose account[465] we are
  now giving, “that the Prussians had commenced their retreat at ten
  o’clock the evening before; that much time must elapse before my
  troops, who were scattered over the plain, were cleaning their guns
  and making their soup, and were not expecting to be called upon
  to march that day, could be put in movement; that the enemy had
  seventeen or eighteen hours the start of the troops sent in pursuit;
  that although the reports of the cavalry gave no definite information
  as to the direction of the retreat of the mass of the Prussian army,
  it was apparently on Namur that they were retiring; and that thus, in
  following them, I should find myself isolated, separated from him,
  and out of the range of his movements. These observations,” Marshal
  Grouchy goes on to say, “were not well received; the Emperor repeated
  his orders, adding that it was for me to discover the route taken
  by Marshal Blücher; that he himself was going to fight the English,
  ‘if they will stand on this side of the Forest of Soignes’[466] that
  it was for me to complete the defeat of the Prussians in attacking
  them as soon as I should have caught up with them, and that I must
  communicate with him by the paved road,”[467]—the Namur-Quatre-Bras

These objections raised by Marshal Grouchy were clearly not well
taken. His two corps had done the principal part of the fighting the
day before; they were unquestionably in need of repose the forenoon
after the battle. The fresh troops in the army were required for the
operations which were to be immediately undertaken against the English.
Hence the delay in beginning the pursuit of the Prussians, of which
Grouchy complained, was unavoidable, unless the whole plan of campaign
was to be changed. It would have been very desirable, no doubt, had it
been possible, to follow up the defeated Prussians with the greatest
promptness and vigor. But under the circumstances this was not
practicable, unless, as we have said, Napoleon should change his plan,
and should march against Blücher with the bulk of his army, consisting
almost entirely of fresh troops, and should leave Grouchy with the
corps of Vandamme and Gérard to watch the English. This the Emperor was
not proposing to do. Moreover, if the Prussians were really retiring
on their base, as both Napoleon and Grouchy at this time supposed was
the case, delay in following them up could not be a very material

Then, as for the objection that, if he followed the Prussians towards
Namur, he would “find himself isolated, separated from the Emperor,
and out of the range of his movements,” this was to a certain extent
unavoidable. The fact that such an objection should be raised shows how
unfit Grouchy was for an independent command. The slightest reflection
should have convinced him that the task assigned to him could not well
be assigned to any one else; and that it was a task which some one must
perform. It was, therefore, his manifest duty to undertake it with
cheerful alacrity, and not in the fault-finding spirit which he does
not even attempt to conceal.

These were the only orders which Marshal Grouchy ever admitted having
received on the 17th; he denied, over and over again, in his pamphlets
written about the battle, ever having received any written order,
whether from Napoleon or Soult, until the next day.[469] In consequence
of these formal and explicit denials, which were very generally
credited, the statements made by Napoleon in his St. Helena narratives,
which, though anything but exact, nevertheless conveyed the truth
substantially, were generally disbelieved. For nearly thirty years
after the battle of Waterloo a wholly false notion was prevalent as
to the task assigned by Napoleon to Marshal Grouchy. Neither Siborne,
who wrote in 1844, nor Van Loben Sels, who wrote in 1849, was aware of
the existence of the written order which we are now about to give. The
mischievous influence which this deliberate concealment of his orders
by Marshal Grouchy has exerted upon the general opinion of Napoleon’s
conduct of this campaign can hardly be exaggerated.

Shortly after giving these verbal orders to Grouchy, which were plainly
based on the theory that Blücher had fallen back on Namur, Napoleon
received[470] a report from Berton, who commanded the brigade which
was sent out in support of Pajol, to the effect that he had been led
by the statements of the inhabitants to proceed to Gembloux, where he
had seen, at 9 A.M., a Prussian corps of some 20,000 men.[471] This
certainly looked as if the Prussians were not retiring on Namur. The
first thing to be done, therefore, was to find out where they were
going, and what they were proposing to do. At Gembloux, so it now
appeared, one would be sure to get on the track of the Prussians, and
obtain news of their movements and designs. Accordingly the Emperor, in
the temporary absence of Marshal Soult, dictated to General Bertrand
the following order[472] to Grouchy:—

  “Proceed to Gembloux with the cavalry corps of General Pajol,
  the light cavalry of the 4th Corps, the cavalry corps of General
  Exelmans, the division of General Teste, of which you will take
  particular care, it being detached from its own corps,[473] and the 3d
  and 4th corps of infantry.

  “You will explore in the directions of Namur and of Maestricht,[474]
   and you will pursue the enemy. Explore his march, and instruct me
  respecting his manœuvres, _so that I may be able to penetrate what he
  is intending to do_.[475]

  “I am carrying my headquarters to Quatre Bras, where the English
  still were this morning. Our communication will then be direct by
  the paved road of Namur. If the enemy has evacuated Namur, write to
  the general commanding the second military division at Charlemont to
  cause Namur to be occupied by some battalions of the national guard
  and some batteries which he will organize at Charlemont. He will give
  the command to a brigadier-general.

  “_It is important to penetrate what the enemy is intending to do;
  whether they are separating themselves from the English, or whether
  they are intending still to unite, to cover Brussels or[476] Liége,
  in trying the fate of another battle._[477] In all cases, keep
  constantly your two corps of infantry united in a league of ground,
  and occupy every evening a good military position, having several
  avenues of retreat. Post intermediate detachments of cavalry, so as
  to communicate with headquarters.

  Dictated by the Emperor,
  in the absence of the major-general, to the
  Grand-marshal Bertrand.”[478]

  Ligny, 17 June, 1815.

Not only is the tone of this letter altogether different from that of
the verbal orders previously given, but the duty assigned to Grouchy is
a wholly different one.

There is in the letter no trace of that certainty as to the position
of affairs so plainly exhibited in the verbal orders. The news that a
Prussian corps has been seen at Gembloux has evidently made a strong
impression on the Emperor. It may very possibly indicate that Blücher
is not falling back to Namur. The statement is twice made in the
letter that the Emperor is in doubt as to the intentions of the
Prussians, and the chief task now imposed upon Grouchy is to ascertain
those intentions. _The precise danger to be anticipated is stated
explicitly._ Grouchy is warned in so many words that the Prussians
may be intending to unite with the English to try the fate of another
battle for the defence of Brussels,—which was exactly what they were
intending to do, and what they succeeded in doing. Whether they are
or are not intending to do this, is the principal thing for Grouchy
to find out. As the Emperor had previously informed Grouchy of his
determination to fight the English “if they will stand on this side
of the Forest of Soignes,”—which meant of course that he looked upon
a battle with them the next day as very possible,—this question of
the Prussians uniting with the English in fighting this battle was of
vital importance to him.[479] _What Grouchy was to do if he found the
Prussians directing their movements so as to compass this end, it was
left to him to determine for himself._ It might be that he could hinder
the accomplishment of their design most effectually by attacking them;
it might be that his best course would be to rejoin the main army as
soon as he could, or to manœuvre so as to act in conjunction with it.
It was impossible for Napoleon to tell beforehand how things would turn
out. Full discretion was therefore left to Grouchy to take whatever
course might seem best to him.

Marshal Grouchy was making his arrangements to get his command under
way when he received this letter. He experienced great delay in
beginning his march to Gembloux. Vandamme did not get started till two
o’clock. Gérard left Ligny an hour later. It came on to rain hard about
two o’clock, and the roads soon became very bad. Grouchy did not
succeed in getting farther with his two infantry corps that night than
Gembloux, which is rather less than eight miles from St. Amand.[480]
The cavalry of Exelmans was, however, stationed at Sauvenières, to
gather information. Grouchy had with him a force of 33,319 men of
all arms, of whom 4,446 were the cavalry belonging to the two corps
of Pajol and Exelmans.[481] Napoleon took with himself Domon’s light
cavalry division of the 3d Corps, but Grouchy retained that of Maurin,
belonging to the 4th Corps,—say, 1,500 men. That is, he had 6,000
cavalry in all.

At ten o’clock that evening Grouchy wrote to the Emperor from Gembloux
a letter[482] which seemed to indicate that he comprehended, at least
to a certain extent, the nature of his task. He says that it appeared
to him that the Prussians had passed through Sauvenières, where his
(Grouchy’s) cavalry now have arrived, and that, at Sauvenières,
they had divided into two columns, one taking the road to Wavre, by
Sart-à-Walhain, and the other that to Perwez, a town on the way to
Maestricht. Grouchy then goes on to say:—

  “One may perhaps infer that a part is going to join Wellington, and
  that the centre, which is the army of Blücher, is retiring on Liége;
  another column with artillery has effected its retreat on Namur.
  Exelmans has been ordered to send this evening six squadrons to
  Sart-à-Walhain and three to Perwez.

  “According to their reports, _if the mass of the Prussians is
  retiring on Wavre, I shall follow them in that direction, in order
  that they may not be able to gain Brussels, and to separate them from

  “If, on the contrary, my information proves that the principal
  Prussian force has marched on Perwez, I shall direct myself on that
  city in pursuit of the enemy.”

That Marshal Grouchy understood something of the nature of the task
before him is apparent from this despatch. But when he says that his
object in following the mass of the Prussians in the direction of Wavre
is to prevent their gaining Brussels, he is plainly beside the mark.
No movement of his from Gembloux to Wavre or in the direction of Wavre
could possibly hinder a force at Wavre from marching on Brussels.
When he declares that his object in proceeding in the direction of
Wavre would be to separate the Prussians from Wellington, he must be
understood to mean the direction of Wavre, as contradistinguished from
the direction of Perwez,—that is, in other words, if the Prussians go
north instead of east he will also go north instead of east. And as he
had abundance of cavalry, there was certainly no reason, now that he
had cause, as he says he had, to suspect that a part of the Prussians
had gone to Wavre, with the intention of uniting with Wellington,
why he should not have reconnoitred to his left the next morning and
ascertained the facts.

Leaving Marshal Grouchy at Gembloux with the right wing, we now return
to Napoleon, who, when we left him, was about to lead the reserves,
consisting of the 6th Corps and the Guard, and some cavalry, to Quatre
Bras. Orders, repeated orders, had been sent, as we have seen, to
Marshal Ney, to get him to move upon Quatre Bras. But Ney had not
moved a man.[484] Charras thinks he must have informed the Emperor, in
obedience to the 8 A.M. order, that the English were still in force
in his front. But there is no evidence whatever of this. Charras
himself,[485] after censuring the Emperor for his delays on this
morning, does not assign as the cause of the second and more peremptory
despatch to Ney, dated at noon, any reply of Ney’s to the 8 A.M.
despatch, but the return of a reconnoitring party sent out by Napoleon
himself, which reported the English at Quatre Bras. If anything
further were needed to show that Ney vouchsafed no reply to the 8
A.M. despatch, it is found in the fact that this noon order refers to
no such reply. In fact it was not until Ney saw the column under the
Emperor in person advancing on the Namur road that he put his cavalry
in motion, and it was the Emperor’s own staff officers[486] that
ordered d’Erlon forward in pursuit of the English. This was about 1 P.M.

Wellington had collected at Quatre Bras about 45,000 men. The rest
of his army was at Nivelles and Braine-le-Comte. Since 10 A.M. he
had been quietly withdrawing his forces, and Ney had not offered an
interruption.[487] Probably he did not know what Wellington was doing.
Yet Ney must have had at his disposal about 40,000 men, 25,000 of whom
had not fired a shot or drawn a sword. There is no saying what loss the
English might not have been obliged to suffer, if he had vigorously
pressed them. His conduct on this day is even more culpable than on the
day before. There was not only not any of that intelligent coöperation
which, as has been remarked, Napoleon always counted upon in his
lieutenants,—there was positive disobedience of orders.

At Quatre Bras, the Emperor, who had ridden from Ligny in his carriage,
mounted his horse,[488] and led the pursuit in person. He now saw, and
no doubt with mortification, what an opportunity he had missed. He
was also, and with reason, indignant[489] with Ney for not having
obeyed his orders, ascertained that Wellington was withdrawing his
forces, sent him word at once, and energetically pressed the enemy.
His fatigue seems to have wholly disappeared, and he showed, this
afternoon of the 17th as he had on the afternoon of the 15th,[490] how
he could infuse his own activity and energy into his troops. We have
two pictures of Napoleon on this afternoon, by eye witnesses. The Count
d’Erlon, in his autobiography,[491] says:—

  “The Emperor found me in advance of this position (Quatre Bras), and
  said to me in a tone of profound chagrin these words, which have been
  always graven on my memory:—

  “‘They have ruined France; come, my dear general, put yourself at the
  head of this cavalry, and vigorously push the English rearguard.’

  “The Emperor never quitted the head of column of the advance-guard,
  and was even engaged in a charge of cavalry in debouching from

Says the author of “Napoléon à Waterloo,”—an officer of artillery of
the Guard, who was near the Emperor throughout the campaign:—[492]

  “One must needs have been a witness of the rapid march of this army
  on the day of the 17th,—a march which resembled a steeplechase
  rather than the pursuit of an enemy in retreat,—to get an idea of
  the activity which Napoleon knew how to impress upon his troops when
  placed under his immediate command. Six pieces of the horse-artillery
  of the Guard, supported by the headquarters squadrons, marched in the
  first line, and vomited forth grape upon the masses of the enemy’s
  cavalry, as often as, profiting by some accident of ground, they
  endeavored to halt, to take position, and retard our pursuit. The
  Emperor, mounted on a small and very  active Arab horse, galloped
  at the head of the column;[493] he was constantly near the pieces,
  exciting the gunners by his presence and by his words, and more
  than once in the midst of the shells and bullets which the enemy’s
  artillery showered upon us.”

There was a smart skirmish at Genappe. The 7th English regiment of
hussars was injudiciously ordered to charge the French lancers, and was
beaten back. Then the pursuing French, in mounting the hill behind the
town of Genappe, were ridden down by the 1st Life Guards.

During the whole afternoon the rain fell in torrents, and there was a
severe storm of thunder and lightning. Very possibly the bad weather
may have favored the retiring army. The retreat of the English was
continued to the position to the south of the hamlet of Mont St. Jean,
where the battle of the next day was fought.


[448] See his despatch to Ney, of the 17th, cited above; p. 191.

[449] Siborne, vol. 1, p. 255.

[450] Jomini, p. 148.

[451] See Ney’s letter to the Duke of Otranto; Jones, 386.

[452] See Charras’ very apposite remarks on this: vol. 1, p. 234.

[453] Doc. Inéd., XVII, pp. 45, 47; App. C, xxvii.; _post_, pp. 384,

[454] See _ante_, p. 191.

[455] Charras, vol. 1, p. 235, n.

[456] La Tour d’Auvergne, p. 214. See also, pp. 208 and 233.

[457] One division of the 6th Corps, that of Teste, was detached, and
added to Grouchy’s command.

[458] Doc. Inéd., XVI, p. 44; App. C, xxviii; _post_, pp. 385, 386.

[459] Maurice, p. 350; July, 1890: citing Clausewitz, ch. 33, p. 76.
Gneisenau, vol. 4, p. 386.

[460] Maurice, pp. 350, 354: July, 1890.

[461] But see Maurice, pp. 350, 351: July, 1890. He thinks that
the troops of the two beaten corps must at first have retreated
northward,—that is, across the turnpike, in the direction of Wavre.

[462] This mistake could not have been made, as Ollech points out (p.
172) if the battle had been decided before nightfall.

[463] As a matter of fact, these troops were not a part of a column in
retreat for Namur; but, of course, this could not be known at once. See
Siborne, vol. 1, pp. 286, 287. Clausewitz, ch. 37, p. 92.

[464] Jomini states (p. 150, n.) that General Monthion reconnoitred
in the direction of Tilly and Mont St. Guibert in pursuance of orders
given him by the Emperor on the morning of the 17th. Siborne, vol. 1,
p. 317, states that Domon’s cavalry division of the 3d Corps, which had
been temporarily attached to the main column, reconnoitred the country
between the Brussels road and the Dyle. This must have been, however,
in the afternoon of the 17th.

[465] Grouchy, Obs., p. 12 _et seq._

[466] Fragments Hist., Lettre à MM. Méry et Barthélemy; pp. 4, 5.
Grouchy Mem., vol. 4, p. 44.

[467] Grouchy, Obs. p. 13.

[468] Ollech, p. 171. _Cf._ Clausewitz, ch. 51.

[469] This subject will be treated of in Appendix B; _post_, p. 355.

[470] Charras, vol. 1, p. 240.

[471] Berton, pp. 47, 48. Berton supposed it to be the corps of Bülow,
but it was really that of Thielemann. Ollech, p. 157.

[472] Pascallet, p. 79. Charras, vol. 1, p. 241. Appendix B; _post_, p.

[473] This division belonged to the 6th Corps.

[474] Namur lay nearly south-east and Maestricht nearly north-east from

[475] The italics are ours.

[476] The original is “_et_,” but this is plainly an error, very
possibly caused by the fact that the letter was dictated.

[477] The italics are ours.

[478] There are other readings varying in unimportant points from the

[479] Whether it was wise under these circumstances for Napoleon to
detach such a large force as that which he intrusted to Grouchy, is a
question which will be discussed in the notes to Chapter XV.

[480] Charras, vol. 1, p. 242.

[481] Ib., vol. 1, p. 238.

[482] Gérard: Dernières Obs., p. 15; Charras, vol. 1, p. 244;
Siborne, vol. 1, p. 297. Of the mutilations in the text affecting the
significance of this letter, contained in the Grouchy Memoirs, notice
will be taken in Appendix B, _post_, p. 359, where a full copy of it
will be given.

[483] The italics are ours.

[484] Charras, vol. 1, p. 249.

[485] Ib., pp. 236, 237.

[486] Charras, vol. 1, p. 250.

[487] _Cf._ Napoléon à Waterloo, p. 181.

[488] Charras, vol. 1, p. 250.

[489] Gourgaud, pp. 77, 78; Corresp., vol. 31, p. 214.

[490] _Ante_, p. 47.

[491] Le Maréchal Drouet, p. 96.

[492] Napoléon à Waterloo, pp. 185, 186.

[493] _Cf._ Gourgaud, pp. 78, 79. _Cf._ Mercer’s Diary, vol. 1, p. 269.


1. In regard to Napoleon’s action with reference to the defeated
Prussians, it is necessary to distinguish between instituting a prompt
and vigorous pursuit of them, and taking immediate measures for
ascertaining in which direction they had retreated. The first was under
the circumstances impossible, that is, without an entire change of
plan, but the second was not only possible, but of prime necessity.

Charras,[494] however, complains bitterly of Napoleon for not following
up the Prussians. “Not to pursue the vanquished, sword in hand, to
leave him time to collect himself, to reform his forces, to gather in
his reinforcements, was so strange a thing for troops accustomed to the
tactics of Napoleon.”

But Clausewitz[495] with better judgment says:—

  “If we seem here to find so great a difference from the earlier
  methods of procedure adopted by the French, we must get a true
  picture of the changed conditions. The extraordinary energy in
  pursuit to which the brilliant results of Bonaparte’s former
  campaigns were due, was simply pushing very superior forces after
  an enemy who had been completely vanquished. Now, however, Napoleon
  had to turn with his main force, and above all with his freshest
  troops, against a new enemy, over whom victory had yet to be gained.
  The pursuit [of the Prussians] had to be carried out by the 3d and
  4th Corps, the very two who had been engaged in the bloodiest fight
  till ten in the evening, and now necessarily needed time to get into
  order again, to recover themselves, and to provide themselves with

Napoleon, therefore, while censurable for not having ascertained as
early as possible the direction of the retreat of the Prussians, and
for not having moved promptly with his main body against the English,
can not be blamed for having allowed Grouchy’s troops to remain on the
field till noon, to recover from their fatigues.

2. It hardly needs to be said that if Napoleon had known that the
Ist and IId Prussian Corps were retiring on Wavre, he would not have
ordered Grouchy on Gembloux. Exactly what he would have done, it is
needless to conjecture, but in all probability he would have kept the
whole army together, or within easy reach, so as to have concentrated
an overwhelming force against Wellington the next morning, if not on
that afternoon.

3. To illustrate the effect which the concealment of the Bertrand order
by Marshal Grouchy has produced on the mind of an able critic, take the
following passages from Clausewitz,[496] who wrote his narrative before
the order came to light:—

  “Bonaparte, it is claimed, ordered Grouchy to keep between Blücher
  and the road from Namur (Charleroi) to Brussels, for the second
  battle would have to be fought on this road, and only thus was
  there a possibility of Grouchy’s coöperating in it. But of such an
  order nothing can be found except in the untrustworthy account[497]
  of Bonaparte and of the men who have copied him. The account
  which Grouchy gives of the movements of the 17th bears too much
  the character of the simple truth[498] not to gain credence; and,
  according to this, Bonaparte’s instruction was directed in very
  general terms towards pursuing Blücher, and was drawn up in very
  uncertain expressions.”

  [499]“As we read Marshal Grouchy’s account of the events which took
  place with Bonaparte on the morning of the 17th, we see:—

  (1) That this Marshal in all probability actually received no
  other direction for his action on the 17th besides a very general
  instruction to pursue the Prussians:

  (2) That Bonaparte had no idea of the retreat of the Prussians
  towards the Dyle, and considered the opinion that they had gone
  towards Namur not unreasonable, and therefore did not give the
  Marshal the direction of Wavre.”

Clausewitz concludes by surmising that Napoleon was “affected by a sort
of lethargy and carelessness.” Had Clausewitz known the truth, namely,
that Grouchy was sent off with a letter of instructions, telling him in
so many words that the Prussians might be intending to unite with the
English to fight a battle for the defence of Brussels on the turnpike
on which Napoleon was now marching with the intention of encountering
the English, we should have had a very different criticism from this,
we may be sure.

4. But it is a curious thing, that, even with those historians who
wrote after the Bertrand letter came to light, the influence of
Grouchy’s misrepresentations has induced a sort of ignoring of the
letter, and an acquiescence in the erroneous judgment of Napoleon’s
conduct formed when the existence of the letter was unknown, and when
the verbal instructions, as given by Grouchy, were all the orders which
it was believed that Napoleon ever gave to Grouchy. Thus Chesney,[500]
after giving the substance of the document, says:—

  “Such was the whole tenor of this important letter, which serves to
  show two things only: that Napoleon was uncertain of the line of
  Blücher’s retreat, and that he judged Gembloux a good point to move
  Grouchy on in any case.”

The injunction to Grouchy, though given by Chesney almost textually, to
ascertain whether or not the Prussians were intending to unite with
the English and fight a battle for the defence of Brussels,—the very
thing which they actually were intending to do,—has evidently made no
impression whatever on his mind.

The same determination,—for we know not what other word indicates more
correctly the temper of mind which must possess a historian of this
campaign who shuts his eyes to the contents of the Bertrand letter,—the
same determination, we say, not to recognize the fact that the Bertrand
letter shows beyond a question that Napoleon was alive to the danger
that the Prussians might be intending to do exactly what they were
intending to do, that is, unite with the English and fight another
battle,—this time on the Brussels road,—is shown also by the latest
English critic, Colonel Maurice. He says:—[501]

  “He (Napoleon) gave orders to Grouchy, with a force of 33,000
  men and 96 guns, to pursue the Prussians, complete their defeat,
  and communicate with him by the Namur road.[502] Written orders
  were subsequently given to Grouchy _directing him to move on

Here, the warning contained in the written order, the injunction to
ascertain whether the Prussians were intending to join Wellington, is
absolutely and quietly ignored. One would suppose that all that the
Bertrand letter contained was an order to move on Gembloux. Colonel
Maurice proceeds:—

  “He (Grouchy) promised, that if, from the reports he received,
  he gathered that the Prussians had for the most part retired on
  Wavre, he would follow them there, in order to prevent them gaining
  Brussels, and in order to separate them from Wellington. _This is
  the first indication we receive, on any authentic evidence, that
  any one in the French army supposed that the duty of separating the
  Prussians from Wellington would become the task of Grouchy’s force.
  Up till then, all the French supposed that there was no prospect of
  Blücher’s attempting to unite with Wellington._”[503]

Yet in the body of the Bertrand letter, of which Colonel Maurice quotes
the first line, are these words:—

  “It is important to penetrate what the enemy is intending to do;
  _whether they are separating themselves from the English, or whether
  they are intending still to unite, to cover Brussels, or Liége, in
  trying the fate of another battle_.”

We confess our inability to explain or account for criticism of this
nature, unless by the hypothesis that to a mind preoccupied with a
certain view, firmly held, it is often possible that the plainest
evidence should be, so to speak, invisible. It is as plain as anything
can be that Grouchy’s letter, from which Maurice makes his quotation,
_is a reply to that part of the Bertrand letter_ which we have given
above; but Maurice, his mind full of the verbal orders only, wholly
overlooks this.

But Colonel Maurice and Colonel Chesney are not alone in their views.

General Hamley,[504] in his account of the campaign, says of Grouchy:
“His orders were to follow them [the Prussians], complete their rout,
and never lose sight of them.” Hamley does not seem even to have heard
of the Bertrand order. Hence his elaborate criticism on Grouchy’s
conduct,[505]—leaving out, as it does, the two most important _data_,
viz.:—Napoleon’s explicit warning to Grouchy of the possibility of the
Prussians uniting with the English to fight a battle for the defence of
Brussels, and his equally explicit statement to Grouchy (as reported
by the latter), that he was going that very afternoon to attack the
English “if they will stand on this side of the Forest of Soignes,”—is
entirely beside the mark, and cannot be considered as possessing any
practical value whatever. He has addressed himself to a case which
never really existed.[506]

Hooper, also, omits entirely the information which the Emperor gave
of his own intention, and of his conjecture that the English might
fight “on this side of the forest of Soignes,”—where they actually did
fight,—and dismisses the explicit injunction for Grouchy to ascertain
the facts in these words:—[507]

  “Yet some doubts of the correctness of his views had entered the mind
  of the Emperor before he quitted Ligny, and he remarked (_sic_) to
  Grouchy that it was important to learn whether the Prussians were
  separating themselves from the English, etc.”

These instances suffice to show how seriously the concealment of the
Bertrand letter by Marshal Grouchy has affected the historians of the
campaign. The prominence assigned to the verbal orders to Grouchy, so
common in most of the narratives, is not only utterly useless,—but most

5. But was the Bertrand letter sufficiently explicit?

Charras,[508] who, unlike the English historians cited above, fully
admits that the letter shows that Napoleon saw “the possibility of
the union of the allied armies to cover Brussels,” observes that this
involved the necessity of reconnoitring in the directions of Mont St.
Guibert and Wavre. “Nevertheless,” he goes on to say,

“Napoleon did not make this the subject of a special recommendation
to Grouchy; * * * and the latter, given over to his own inspirations,
did not repair the inconceivable fault of the commander-in-chief. He
had an order to proceed to Gembloux; he did not trouble his head about
anything else.”

If Napoleon had entertained as low an opinion of Marshal Grouchy’s
capacity as Charras evidently did, it certainly would have been a
terrible mistake to have omitted to tell him to explore the region
between Gembloux and Wavre. But questions of this kind hardly bear
discussing; every one has his own opinions on such matters, based on
his own estimate of other men’s ability, his own experience, his own
notions of what is fitting. The suggestion of danger to the main army,
if it should find the Prussians as well as the English opposed to it on
the Brussels turnpike, would have amply sufficed for many generals. It
was not, however, sufficient, as we shall soon see, for Marshal Grouchy.

6. We cannot agree with those who contend that it was an error to
direct Grouchy on Gembloux in the first instance.[509] Up to the moment
when the order was dictated to Bertrand no other considerable force of
the enemy had been discovered; at Gembloux, Berton had found a whole
corps. Here, therefore, one could not help getting at the direction
of the Prussian retreat. And, owing to the lack of an early morning
reconnoissance in all directions, this was, at noon, obviously the most
promising direction for the pursuing force to take.

7. We owe to Colonel Maurice some valuable suggestions which serve
to explain Napoleon’s neglect to take adequate measures to ascertain
the direction of the Prussian retreat. He points out in the first
place[510] the folly of such writers as Quinet, who would have Napoleon
sleep in the midst of his Guard,—who expect the commander of an army to
do the work of a sentry on the outer picket-line. It may be remarked in
this connection, by the way, that as the French were not able to push
up to the Namur turnpike on the evening of the 16th, their advanced
posts could not possibly have heard anything more than the withdrawal
of the enemy towards the pike, down which they might have marched
without let or hindrance towards Namur. Colonel Maurice in the next
place quotes an able criticism[511] by an officer whom he does not
name, to the effect that Napoleon’s vast experience enabled him in his
later years to dispense with much of that personal attention to the
facts which in his earlier campaigns it had been absolutely necessary
for him to give.

Colonel Maurice also calls attention to the circumstances which we have
detailed above, which very naturally induced Napoleon to adopt the
opinion that the Prussians had fallen back towards the Rhine.[512]

8. In conclusion, we may admit, fully, with Colonel Maurice, to whom we
owe a great deal for setting this matter of the probabilities of the
case in its true light, that Napoleon’s estimate of the probabilities
was a correct one. He was quite warranted under all the circumstances
in believing that the Prussians had retired towards their base.
Nevertheless, this belief does not justify him for having neglected to
ascertain the facts by a prompt exploration of the whole region through
which the Prussians could have retreated.

The lesson which this neglect teaches, is a plain one. It is, that
where there is any chance at all of the occurrence of an event,
which, if it does happen, will be fatal, it is folly to trust to the
probabilities of the case; every precaution should be taken; nothing
that can avert a fatal calamity should be neglected, no matter how
small may appear to be the chance of its happening. In this case, we
find Napoleon, at one o’clock in the afternoon of the day after the
battle of Ligny, entirely ignorant of the whereabouts and intentions
of the Prussians, and, in fact, alarmed lest they should be intending
to unite with the English, whom he is expecting to fight the next
day; obliged to go off himself to join his left wing, and to leave
the all-important task of preventing the union of his adversaries to
a newly-made Marshal, in whose abilities he cannot place very great
confidence. And all this, because he did not have the facts as to the
Prussian retreat ascertained at day-break.


[494] Charras, vol. 1, p. 233.

[495] Clausewitz, ch. 37, p. 95.

[496] Clausewitz, ch. 37, p. 93.

[497] The Memoirs are exceedingly unsatisfactory in regard to this
part of the campaign. Napoleon evidently had no exact recollection of
the order which he dictated to Bertrand. He was only sure that he gave
Grouchy an intimation that he might need him. See App. A; _post_, p.

[498] Very possibly Grouchy did tell “the simple truth” in his account
of the interview between himself and the Emperor. The trouble with
Grouchy was, that he did not tell “the whole truth.” He denied having
received any written order.

[499] Clausewitz, ch. 48, p. 130.

[500] Chesney, p. 152.

[501] Maurice, pp. 73, 74: April, 1890.

[502] These are the verbal orders.

[503] The italics are our own.

[504] Hamley, Op. of War, p. 190. He also cites the verbal orders.

[505] Ib., pp. 196-198.

[506] Hamley contends that the injunction to Grouchy—which, by the way,
is contained in both the written and the verbal orders,—to communicate
with Napoleon by the Namur-Quatre Bras turnpike, is not consistent with
a movement towards Wavre. But why should not this arrangement have
been prescribed for the sake of greater safety? If the Prussians were
moving towards Wavre and the Dyle, their cavalry might be expected to
make all communication across the country very hazardous for couriers
or staff-officers. And, as a matter of fact, it was by the Brussels
turnpike to Quatre Bras, thence by the Namur turnpike to Sombreffe, and
thence _via_ Gembloux to Grouchy’s position in front of Wavre, that
Napoleon sent Grouchy the two orders on the day of the battle. Napoléon
à Waterloo, pp. 277, 278.

[507] Hooper, p. 153.

[508] Charras, vol. 1, pp. 241, 242.

[509] Assuming, that is, that it was wise in Napoleon to detach Grouchy
with his two corps from the main army after he had reason to apprehend
that the Prussians might be intending to unite with the English. See
the Notes to Chapter XV; _post_, pp. 273 _et seq._

[510] Maurice, p. 348: July, 1890.

[511] Ib., p. 353.

[512] Ib., pp. 350-355.



Zieten and Pirch I. fell back after the battle of Ligny, as has
been above stated,[513] in the direction of Wavre. Gneisenau, the
chief-of-staff of the Prussian army, on whom, in the absence of
Marshal Blücher, who was unhorsed and quite seriously bruised in a
cavalry encounter at the end of the day, and was supposed to have been
taken prisoner,[514] the command devolved, gave the order at first for
the two beaten corps[515] to retire on Tilly, and then, as one of his
staff-officers called his attention to the fact that Tilly was not
on all the maps, he substituted Wavre for Tilly as the point to be

This step involved obviously the renunciation of the line of Namur.
It implied also that the IIId and IVth Corps, those of Thielemann and
Bülow, would be ordered to retire in the general direction of Wavre,
so that a union of the whole army might be effected somewhere to the
northward. But it did not necessarily imply that this union of the army
would be effected at Wavre; or even that, if effected at Wavre, it
would be followed by an attempt to unite with the Anglo-Dutch army. It
was quite possible that the two beaten corps might, after reforming
at Wavre, be ordered in the direction of Maestricht, towards which
place the IIId and IVth Corps might also be ordered to retire. In fact,
this was the interpretation put by General Thielemann on the facts
as he first learned them. He wrote to Bülow,[517] that he had heard
nothing from the Marshal, but supposed that the intention was that the
Ist and IId Corps were to fall back from Wavre towards St. Trond, which
is a town in the direction of Maestricht, some 35 miles from Wavre.

At the same time it is clear that Gneisenau, in ordering Zieten and
Pirch I. to Wavre, had taken the necessary preliminary steps to effect
a concentration of the whole army at that place, from which a movement
for the assistance of Wellington, if he should be willing to accept
battle at Waterloo, could be made. This union with the Anglo-Dutch
army was, therefore, naturally regarded by the Prussian officers and
soldiers as the real object of the movement to Wavre.[518] It may be
that Gneisenau himself gave his orders with the sole intention of
bringing about a union of the two allied armies.[519] But this is
doubtful. It is more likely that he ordered a retreat on Wavre, knowing
that this alone could render such a union possible, and leaving its
practicability and advisability to be determined afterwards.

It must be remembered that the step which Gneisenau had taken involved
a temporary change of base, with all the many inconveniences and
risks therefrom resulting. The communications with Namur must be
abandoned. No such course as this had been thought of when Marshal
Blücher decided on accepting battle at Ligny; if it had been, he would
have posted his troops very differently, as we have had occasion to
observe.[520] Gneisenau, however, though disappointed at not receiving
help from the English during the battle, yet influenced, very possibly,
by the fact that Wellington had successfully held his ground against
the attack of the French left wing,[521] was extremely unwilling to
renounce, by retiring on Namur, all hopes of another battle to be
fought in coöperation with the English. Hence he determined to take at
any rate the first steps to make it possible to fight such a battle;
and in the absence of his chief, and in the confusion and turmoil
which followed the successful charge of the Imperial Guard, he did not
hesitate to take the responsibility of ordering the beaten corps to
retire on Wavre.[522]

But whether it would be wise to concentrate the whole army on Wavre
was a question that could not be settled in an instant. It was in
truth dependent on many things. The question of supplies of ammunition
was perhaps the most serious problem; but there were others, each
presenting more or less difficulty. Then, besides these, there was
the question of the amount of confidence to be placed in the Duke of
Wellington. The whole object, the sole justification, of the manœuvre
now in contemplation was the fighting another battle in coöperation
with the English. Here, of course, it had to be assumed that the Duke
would be desirous of fighting such a battle. But could Wellington be
relied upon to fulfil the expectations which would be entertained in
regard to his willingness and ability to fight such a battle? Gneisenau
had been gravely disappointed by the non-arrival of support from the
English army during the battle of Ligny. He never had had,—so we learn
from Müffling,[523]—entire confidence in the Duke’s trustworthiness.
The letter[524] received on the morning of the battle,—so far from
accurate,—the confident statements[525] made by the Duke at Brye early
in the afternoon, on which such expectations had been formed, and
which had proved so utterly unreliable,—must have seriously shaken
Gneisenau’s belief in Wellington. He feared lest the danger to the
Prussian army involved in its concentration at Wavre might be incurred
only to see the Anglo-Dutch army marching off to Antwerp or Ostend.

During the night Marshal Blücher had been carried, badly bruised and
suffering a good deal,—a man, too, it must be remembered, seventy-two
years of age,[526]—to the little village of Mellery,—or Melioreux, as
the older maps have it,—a mile or two north of Tilly.[527] Here, in
a little house, filled with wounded men, he passed the night. Here
Gneisenau, his chief-of-staff, and Grolmann, his quartermaster-general,
joined him. Here also was brought Lieutenant-Colonel Hardinge, the
English military _attaché_ at Blücher’s headquarters, who had lost
his left hand in the battle.[528] He gave to the Duke of Wellington,
twenty-two years after, an account of his experience during that
night, making the mistake,—natural enough under the circumstances,
and considering how long a time had elapsed,—of locating the scene
at Wavre, and not at Mellery. The story is thus reported by Earl

  “Yes,” said Hardinge, “Blücher himself had gone back as far as Wavre.
  I passed that night, with my amputated arm, lying with some straw
  in his ante-room, Gneisenau and other generals constantly passing
  to and fro. Next morning Blücher sent for me. * * * He said to me
  that he should be quite satisfied if, in conjunction with the Duke
  of Wellington, he was able now to defeat his old enemy. I was told
  that there had been a great discussion that night in his rooms,
  and that Blücher and Grolmann had carried the day for remaining in
  communication with the English army, but that Gneisenau had great
  doubts as to whether they ought not to fall back to Liége and
  secure their own communication with Luxembourg. They thought that
  if the English should be defeated, they themselves would be utterly

Colonel Maurice tells us in confirmation of this story that General
Hardinge “records that, as he was, on the 17th, lying on his bed,
Blücher burst into his room, triumphantly announcing: ‘Gneisenau has
given way. We are to march to join Wellington.’”[530]

If these statements are to be accepted literally, and there is,
perhaps, no sufficient reason why they should not be, the credit of
the decision remains wholly with Marshal Blücher. Still, it may, not
impossibly, be that Gneisenau, to whose action alone it was due that
the original intention of retreating on Namur, in case it should be
found necessary to retreat at all, had been departed from, felt himself
morally bound to present to his impetuous and unthinking chief the
more cautious and conservative course; and that in reality he was not
averse to find that the movement which he had ordered in Blücher’s
absence should receive from his chief and his advisers such hearty
approval and be prosecuted to its natural result.

While the Ist and IId Corps were making their way towards Tilly and
Mont St. Guibert, Thielemann, in ignorance of the dispositions of the
commander-in-chief, retired from Tongrinelle and Balâtre to Sombreffe,
and thence continued his retreat to Gembloux, so as to approach the
IVth Corps, which had arrived late in the evening in the neighborhood
of Baudeset and Sauvenières. Thielemann reached Gembloux at 6 A.M.
of the 17th. Here he wrote a letter to Bülow, to which reference has
been already made. Bülow in reply requested him to retire to the
neighborhood of Corbaix, half way between Gembloux and Wavre, and
informed him that he himself was directing his corps on Wavre. In these
movements, which were to be nearly parallel, the corps of Bülow was to
keep to the eastward of that of Thielemann.

Thus the temporary separation of the four corps composing the
Prussian army worked no harm. The corps-commanders acted with
cheerful and zealous coöperation in the absence of orders from
the commander-in-chief. In fact nothing can be finer than the
spirit displayed by the Prussians after the loss of the battle of
Ligny,—whether we look at their willingness to take risks and make
sacrifices to ensure the success of the combined movement now in
process of execution, or at the harmony which prevailed among the chief
officers, which it is evident neither the loss of the battle nor the
non-arrival of Bülow’s Corps had disturbed in the least.

Orders were now issued for the retreat of the whole army on Wavre. It
was conducted as follows:—[531]

The Ist Corps marched from its position between Tilly and Mellery
early in the morning of the 17th, and proceeded through Gentinnes and
Mont St. Guibert towards Wavre, where it crossed the Dyle, and took up
position at Bierges.

The IId Corps followed by the same route somewhat later, and halted at
Aisemont, a village on the south side of the Dyle, opposite Wavre.

The IIId Corps rested at Gembloux till 1 or 2 o’clock P.M., and then
marched by way of Corbaix to Wavre, the head of the column passing
through the town in the evening, but the rear guard not arriving till
the morning of the 18th.

The IVth Corps marched in two columns, by way of Walhain and Tourinnes
to Dion-le-Mont, a village about two miles east of Wavre, where it
arrived about 10 P.M. of the 17th.

One brigade of infantry belonging to the IId Corps and some cavalry
were stationed for a time at Mont St. Guibert for purposes of
observation,[532] and General Groeben, of Blücher’s staff, who
accompanied these troops, witnessed from a high hill near Tilly[533] the
march of the troops which Napoleon carried with him to Quatre Bras, and
the movement of a smaller body, estimated by him at about 12,000 or
15,000 men, in the direction of Gembloux. He supposed, naturally, that
this was all the force which had been detached for the pursuit of the
Prussians.[534] The march of the rest of Grouchy’s command was concealed
by the inequalities of the ground.

The artillery trains, containing the needful ammunition for the coming
battle, for the arrival of which Gneisenau had felt great anxiety,
arrived safely at Wavre about 5 P.M. of the 17th.

Thus the retreat of the Prussians on Wavre had been successfully and
quickly accomplished, and, what is almost as important, it had escaped
the observation of the French. Marshal Blücher had collected at Wavre
somewhere about 90,000 men, and both the army and its leaders were
animated by the best spirit, impatient to encounter the enemy again,
and confident of success in another battle.

The Duke of Wellington spent the night after the battle of Quatre Bras
at Genappe, but returned to the front “at daybreak, or soon after.”[535]
A detachment of cavalry was soon afterwards sent out, which ascertained
that the Prussians had been beaten the day before, and were now
retreating on Wavre. This information reached Wellington about 7.30

Blücher had sent an officer, Major Winterfeldt, from the field of
battle the evening before to inform General Müffling of his intended
retreat, but he had been wounded,[537] and the information had not
reached the Duke.

At 9 o’clock another officer arrived from Blücher,[538] Lieutenant
Massow.[539] The Duke told him that he would fall back to the position
of Mont St. Jean where he would give battle, if he were supported by
one Prussian corps. This answer Massow carried to Blücher. He arrived
at Wavre at noon. At this hour, as we are told by the latest Prussian
historian,[540] it was not known where the IIId or IVth Corps was,
and the reserve ammunition had not arrived.[541] No decided assurance
could, therefore, be given during the day. Finally, about 11.30 P.M.,
news arrived from Bülow of the arrival of his corps at Dion-le-Mont,
and about the same time a despatch from Müffling arrived, stating that
the Anglo-Dutch army had taken position for battle at Mont St. Jean.
Then Grolmann wrote to Müffling Blücher’s answer. It was sent off about
midnight of the 17th.

This despatch stated that Bülow would move at break of day by way of
St. Lambert to attack the right flank of the enemy, and that the IId
Corps would support the IVth Corps in this operation. The Ist and IIId
Corps were to hold themselves in readiness to do the like.

This despatch, which could not have reached Wellington until the
morning of the battle of Waterloo, seems actually to have contained the
first definite promise of support from Blücher.[542] Long before its
arrival the Duke had taken up his position at Waterloo in the hope—in
fact, in the expectation,—of receiving some such promise of assistance
and support. Messages were doubtless exchanged, as we are told,[543]
between the English and Prussian headquarters during the whole day.
But the Duke received no positive assurance until the early morning
of the 18th that the Prussian army, or any part of it, would come to
his assistance. It is true that he was aware that the Prussians were
concentrating at Wavre; and he knew that their object in so doing
could be nothing else than to tender him their support in the battle
that was sure to occur the next day. But it must have required all the
resolution and courage which he possessed to have decided him to take
up position for battle without having received any definite assurance
that the necessary support would be furnished.

For it was a perfectly possible thing that he might the next morning
be assailed by a hundred thousand men. Blücher had, no doubt, sent him
the information obtained by Groeben, that Napoleon had detached only
12,000 or 15,000 men to follow the Prussians, and was bringing against
the Anglo-Dutch army all his remaining troops.[544] As we see it now,
that would have been Napoleon’s best course. If he had known the facts
at the time, as he might easily have done had he not neglected to take
the proper measures to ascertain them, that is what he probably would
have done. At any rate, Wellington had no assurance from any quarter
whatever that Napoleon would not do exactly that thing. If Napoleon
had done it, and if the weather had been fine and the ground hard,
what chance would Wellington have stood? The question is asked simply
to define the situation in which the Duke placed himself on the night
of the 17th and 18th. That is, we desire to bring out the fact that
Wellington in taking up position at Waterloo, instead of continuing
his retreat to Brussels and arranging with Blücher to do the like
from Wavre, ran a very great risk of being beaten before he could get
help from the Prussians, whereas if both commanders had proceeded to
Brussels, where the roads from Waterloo and Wavre converge, they would
have greatly outnumbered the French. This course was the one which
Napoleon maintained would have been the safer and wiser.[545]

Still, it must be remembered that both Wellington and Blücher were
anxious to close the campaign with a great battle, which was certain to
take place if Wellington stood at Waterloo, and that it was by no means
certain that Napoleon would push through the forest of Soignes only
to find the combined armies confronting him. They also thought that
there was a very fair chance that they would succeed in effecting the
union of their armies at Waterloo.


[513] _Ante_, p. 159.

[514] Ollech, p. 157.

[515] He could not at this time communicate with Thielemann and Bülow.

[516] Gneisenau, vol. 4, p. 385; Ollech, p. 156.

[517] Ollech, p. 157. Maurice (pp. 354, 355: July, 1890) points out
that this serves, as far as it goes, to show that Napoleon might have
known of the retreat of Zieten and Pirch I. to Wavre without changing
his opinion that the whole Prussian army was intending to fall back to
the eastward.

[518] Damitz, p. 143.

[519] This is Ollech’s opinion (p. 156): “Thus had Gneisenau broken all
bridges behind him, given up all communication with the Rhine, that he
might once again offer the hand to the English for a common blow which
should forever overthrow the French forces.” But this is surely going
too far. Communication with the Rhine could be maintained as well by
way of Maestricht as by way of Liége.

[520] _Ante_, pp. 151, 204. _Cf._ Gneisenau, vol. 4, p. 386

[521] Gneisenau, vol. 4, p. 386.

[522] Ollech, p. 156; Gneisenau, vol. 4, p. 385.

[523] Müffling: Passages, p. 212.

[524] _Ante_, p. 106.

[525] _Ante_, p. 144.

[526] He was exactly seventy-two years and six months old on the day of
the battle of Ligny.

[527] Ollech, p. 157.

[528] Siborne, vol. 1, p. 241, n.

[529] Stanhope, p. 110.

[530] Maurice, p. 355: July, 1890. Colonel Maurice is inclined to
believe that the above incident “must have taken place in Wavre, after
the receipt of Wellington’s offer to remain and fight at Waterloo, if
Blücher would join him with one or two corps.” This is certainly very
possible. The incident reported in Stanhope’s work, however, is stated
to have occurred the night after the battle, which, as we know from the
Prussian historians, Blücher spent at Mellery. Ollech, p. 157. Very
possibly there may have been a second discussion at Wavre on the 17th.

[531] Ollech, pp. 166 _et seq._

[532] Ollech, p. 166. These troops were afterwards replaced by two
battalions of infantry, a regiment of cavalry, and two batteries,
under Lieutenant-Colonel Ledebur. See _post_, p. 260; Ollech, p. 168;
Siborne, vol. 1, p. 285.

[533] Ollech, p. 168.

[534] Ib., p. 169.

[535] Waterloo Letters: Vivian, p. 153.

[536] Ollech, p. 179.

[537] Müffling: Passages, pp. 238, 239.

[538] For a capital story connected with this incident, see the
“Letters of the First Earl of Malmesbury,” vol. 2, p. 447. London,
1870. App. C, xxix; _post_, p. 386. See also Waterloo Letters, pp. 154,

[539] Müffling Passages, p. 241; Ollech, p. 180.

[540] Ollech, p. 187.

[541] It arrived about 5 P.M. See _ante_, p. 232.

[542] _Contra_: Siborne, vol. 1, p. 279. This subject will be
considered in the Notes to this chapter.

[543] Gneisenau, vol. 4, p. 393.

[544] In point of fact Wellington supposed that only the 3d Corps
had been detached for the pursuit of the Prussians. See his Official
Report, Jones, p. 307.

[545] See _post_, p. 243.


1. Colonel Maurice has recently examined the evidence in reference
to the communications which passed between the Duke of Wellington
and Marshal Blücher on the subject of the support to be given to
the English army by the Prussians.[546] We think he has shown that
the account given in Siborne is not altogether correct, and we have
followed Colonel Maurice in preferring the statements of Müffling and

Siborne says[547] that the Duke, on the morning of the 17th, sent back
the Prussian officer[548] who first brought him the news of Blücher’s
defeat, with a letter to the Field Marshal, “proposing to accept a
battle on the following day in the position in front of Waterloo,
provided the Prince would detach two corps to his assistance”; and
that, in the course of the evening[549] he received from Blücher a reply
in these terms:—

  “I shall not come with two corps only, but with my whole army; upon
  this understanding, however, that, should the French not attack us on
  the 18th, we shall attack them on the 19th.”

Colonel Maurice is inclined to the opinion that the letter which is
quoted by Siborne is really one written to Müffling at Blücher’s
dictation on the following morning, after nine o’clock, in which
Müffling is desired to inform the Duke of Blücher’s intentions, and in
which some of the words given above are employed. If this be so, and it
seems very likely, the Duke not only took up his position for battle
before he had received any definite assurance of support from his ally,
but he did not get any until the arrival at the Duke’s headquarters
at Waterloo of the letter sent off from Wavre between 11 and 12
P.M.,[550] which could hardly be before 2 A.M. of the 18th. How much
longer the Duke would have remained in his position waiting for the
promise of Prussian support, no one, of course, can say. He certainly
did not propose to stay and fight single-handed. He had sent word to
Blücher by Massow that without Prussian support he would be obliged to
fall back to Brussels.[551] Yet according to Siborne, he waited till
evening,[552] according to Ollech, he must have waited till two o’clock
in the morning, before receiving any definite assurance of assistance.

2. But there is a story, which rests on testimony which it is
impossible to disregard, to the effect that the Duke, after having
caused his army to take up its position on the field of battle, rode
over to Wavre in the evening to ascertain for himself whether or not
he was to be supported by Marshal Blücher in the battle of the ensuing
day. This story has been carefully investigated by Colonel Maurice,[553]
and we shall state, as briefly as we can, the evidence collected by him.

We first find the story in print in the year 1835, in Lockhart’s Life
of Napoleon.[554] It reads as follows:—

  “All his arrangements having been effected early in the evening of
  the 17th, the Duke of Wellington rode across the country to Blücher,
  to inform him personally that he had thus far effected the plan
  agreed on at Brye, and express his hope to be supported on the morrow
  by two Prussian divisions. The veteran replied that he would leave
  a single corps to hold Grouchy at bay as well as they could, and
  march himself with the rest of his army upon Waterloo; and Wellington
  immediately returned to his post.”

To this the following note is appended:—

  “The fact of Wellington and Blücher having met between the battles of
  Ligny and Waterloo is well known to many of the superior officers in
  the Netherlands; but the writer of this compendium has never happened
  to see it mentioned in print. The horse that carried the Duke of
  Wellington through this long night journey, so important to the
  decisive battle of the 18th, remained till lately, it is understood,
  if he does not still remain, a free pensioner in the best paddock at

Lord Ellesmere, however, writing, as we have before had occasion to
remark, under the inspiration of the Duke of Wellington, states in a
review of a biography of Blücher that Lockhart is mistaken.[555] But it
is curious that no statement whatever is given by him of the manner
in which the Duke passed the evening of the 17th. His actions are
accounted for only till dark.

The story is most circumstantially told in the journal of the Rev.
Julian Charles Young:—[556]

  “In the year 1833, while living in Hampshire, no one showed my wife
  and myself more constant hospitality than the late Right Honorable
  Henry Pierrepont, the father of the present Lady Charles Wellesley. *
  * * On one of our many delightful visits to Conholt, Mr. Pierrepont
  had but just returned from Strathfieldsaye as we arrived. He had
  been there to meet the judges, whom the Duke was accustomed to
  receive annually, previously to the opening  of the assizes. After
  dinner, Mr. Pierrepont was asked by the Duke of Beaufort, who, with
  the Duchess, was in the house, if he had had an agreeable visit.
  ‘Particularly so,’ was the answer. ‘The Duke was in great force
  and, for him, unusually communicative. The two judges and myself
  having arrived before the rest of the guests, who lived nearer
  Strathfieldsaye than we did, the Duke asked us if we were disposed
  to take a walk, see the paddocks, and get an appetite for dinner. We
  all three gladly assented to the proposition. As we were stumping
  along, talking of Assheton Smith’s stud and hounds, one of the judges
  asked the Duke if we might see Copenhagen, his celebrated charger.
  ‘God bless you,’ replied the Duke, ‘he has been long dead; and half
  the fine ladies of my acquaintance have got bracelets or lockets made
  from his mane or tail.’ ‘Pray, Duke, apart from his being so closely
  associated with your Grace in the glories of Waterloo, was he a very
  remarkable—I mean a particularly clever horse?’

  “_Duke_—‘Many faster horses, no doubt, many handsomer; but for bottom
  and endurance, never saw his fellow. I’ll give you a proof of it. On
  the 17th, early in the day, I had a horse shot under me. Few know it,
  but it was so. Before ten o’clock I got on Copenhagen’s back. There
  was so much to do and to see to, that neither he nor I were still for
  many minutes together. I never drew bit, and he never had a morsel
  in his mouth till eight P.M., when Fitzroy Somerset came to tell me
  dinner was ready in the little neighbouring village, Waterloo. The
  poor beast I saw myself stabled and fed. I told my groom to give him
  no hay, but, after a few go-downs of chilled water, as much corn and
  beans as he had a mind for, impressing on him the necessity of his
  strewing them well over the manger first. Somerset and I despatched
  a hasty meal, and as soon as we had done so, I sent off Somerset on
  an errand. This I did, I confess, on purpose that I might get him out
  of the way; for I knew that if he had had the slightest inkling of
  what I was up to, he would have done his best to dissuade me from my
  purpose, and want to accompany me.

  “‘The fact was, I wanted to see Blücher, that I might learn from
  his own lips at what hour it was probable he would be able to join
  forces with us the next day. Therefore, the moment Fitzroy’s back
  was turned, I ordered Copenhagen to be resaddled, and told my man to
  get his own horse and accompany me to Wavre, where I had reason to
  believe old ‘Forwards’ was encamped. Now, Wavre being some twelve
  miles from Waterloo, I was not a little disgusted, on getting there,
  to find that the old fellow’s tent was two miles still farther off.

  “‘However, I saw him, got the information I wanted from him, and made
  the best of my way homewards. Bad, however, was the best, for, by
  Jove, it was so dark that I fell into a deepish dyke by the roadside;
  and if it had not been for my orderly’s assistance, I doubt if I
  should ever have got out. Thank God, there was no harm done, either
  to horse or man!

  “‘Well, on reaching headquarters, and thinking how bravely my old
  horse had carried me all day, I could not help going up to his head
  to tell him so by a few caresses. But hang me, if, when I was giving
  him a slap of approbation on his hind-quarters, he did not fling out
  one of his hind legs with as much vigour as if he had been in stable
  for a couple of days. Remember, gentlemen, he had been out with me
  on his back for upwards of ten hours, and had carried me eight and
  twenty miles besides. I call that bottom! ey?’”

Then there is another piece of evidence. Colonel Maurice says:—[557]

  “Mr. Coltman—a well-known barrister now alive—remembers to have
  distinctly heard his father, then Mr. Justice Coltman of the Common
  Pleas, tell the story, and say that he had heard it from the Duke’s
  own mouth during a particular visit to the Duke at Strathfieldsaye in
  a named year, 1838. He wrote to me, giving the story substantially,
  though not with quite as much detail, and making the horse’s kicking
  out in reply to the caress take place on the 18th instead of on the
  17th, as it appears in Young’s narrative. He had at the time never
  seen Young’s book. Obviously, the difference as to the day of the
  kick is just such a lapse as would naturally occur in a narrative not
  written down at the time. Either may be right.”

Notwithstanding the improbable features in these accounts,—and there
are many,[558]—it is at first sight difficult to account for the
existence of this evidence, except on the supposition that the story
is true. But a close examination of the so-called Diary of the Rev.
Mr. Young shows that it is not, strictly speaking, a diary at all, for
the stories and remarks contained in it were not set down at the time,
as in an ordinary journal. Thus, this very story, the date of which is
given as 1833, is entered under the date of October 7, 1832. (Diary, p.
153.) Take another instance. The writer is speaking of Mr. John Wilson
Croker, and he says, under date of March, 1832 (pp. 144, 145), that
“for forty years he [Croker] filled a prominent position in the world
of letters.” Now forty years before 1832, Croker was only twelve years
old. Again, in this very story of the ride to Wavre, which is said to
have been told in 1833, the Duke is made to say of his horse Copenhagen
that he had then “been long dead.” But, in fact, Copenhagen did not die
till 1836; the date of his death is given on the grave-stone erected
over his remains at Strathfieldsaye.

As for the letter of Mr. Coltman to Colonel Maurice, which is a
statement recently made of the former’s recollection of what he had
heard his father say that the Duke of Wellington told him in 1838, it
clearly cannot have much weight, unless corroborated.

There is, moreover, some newly-discovered evidence. It consists of
notes taken by the late Baron Gurney, of the Court of the Exchequer,
of conversations with the Duke of Wellington. In one of these, the
Duke was asked “whether a story was true of his having ridden over to
Blücher the night before the battle of Waterloo and returned on the
same horse. He said: ‘No; that was not so. I did not see Blücher the
day before Waterloo.’” This seems to settle the question.

3. We have spoken briefly of Napoleon’s opinion, that the Duke of
Wellington and Marshal Blücher ought to have retired on Brussels. The
passage to which we referred reads as follows:—[559]

  “One may ask,—What ought the English general to have done after the
  battle of Ligny and the combat of Quatre Bras? There cannot be two
  opinions on this subject. He ought on the night of the 17th and
  18th to have traversed the Forest of Soignes by the Charleroi pike,
  while the Prussian army was traversing it by the Wavre pike; the
  two armies could then unite at daybreak before Brussels, leaving
  rearguards to defend the forest,—gain some days to give those of
  the Prussians who had been dispersed by the battle of Ligny time to
  rejoin the army,—obtain reinforcements from the fourteen English
  regiments which were either in garrison in Belgium or had just landed
  at Ostend on their return from America,—and leave the Emperor of the
  French to manœuvre as he liked. Would he, with an army of 100,000
  men, have traversed the forest of Soignes to attack on the other side
  of it the two hostile armies united, more than 200,000 strong, and
  in position? That would certainly have been the most advantageous
  thing that could happen to the allies. Would he have been contented
  to take up a position himself? He certainly could not have kept it
  long, for 300,000 Russians, Austrians, and Bavarians, already arrived
  at the Rhine, would in a few weeks have been on the Marne, which
  would have obliged him to fly to the defence of the capital. Then,
  the Anglo-Prussian army could have marched forward, and joined their
  allies under the walls of Paris.”

It is plain that the course pointed out by the Emperor would have
avoided all the risks incurred by Wellington in giving battle at
Waterloo, with the needed support not available until afternoon. But
Clausewitz[560] denies that Wellington incurred any risk.

  “Wavre is distant from Wellington’s field of battle about two
  [German, or about ten English] miles. From the moment when the Duke
  of Wellington saw the enemy appear in his front up to  Blücher’s
  arrival, six or eight hours would therefore have to elapse, unless
  Blücher had started still earlier; but in that time a battle against
  70,000 men cannot be begun, fought and decided; it was therefore
  not to be feared that Wellington would be defeated before Blücher

It is, perhaps, a sufficient reply to this remark to recall the
fact that the battle of Ligny was begun at half-past two and was
completely finished at half-past nine, and that this period of seven
hours includes the delay of nearly two hours caused by the unexpected
appearance of d’Erlon’s Corps. It seems to us foolish to contend that
Wellington did not run a great risk of being defeated before the
arrival of the Prussians. Had the battle been begun five or six hours
earlier, all the troops in Napoleon’s army could have been employed
against the Anglo-Dutch forces, and the battle could have been fought
as the Emperor intended to fight it. The risk of being beaten, we
repeat, was a great risk; and we believe the Duke was quite aware that
it was such when he assumed it. The question then is,—recurring to
Napoleon’s censure on Blücher and Wellington for not having avoided
this risk by continuing their retreat to the immediate neighborhood
of Brussels,—whether the possibility of overthrowing Napoleon at the
beginning of the campaign by effecting a union of the allied armies at
Waterloo warranted the two allied commanders in taking the risk of the
defeat of the Anglo-Dutch army before this union could be effected. As
this question is evidently one capable of indefinite discussion, we
content ourselves with stating it.


[546] Maurice, pp. 534 _et seq._: Sept., 1890.

[547] Siborne, vol. 1, p. 251, following Damitz, p. 212.

[548] Lieutenant Massow.

[549] Siborne, vol. 1, pp. 278, 279, following Damitz, p. 213.

[550] Ollech, p. 187; Gneisenau, vol. 4, pp. 393, 394.

[551] Ib., p. 180.

[552] Siborne, vol. 1, p. 278.

[553] Maurice, pp. 533-538: Sept., 1890; and pp. 330 _et seq._,
January, 1891.

[554] Vol. 2, p. 313. The History of Napoleon Buonaparte. By J. G.
Lockhart. 3d ed., 2 vols. John Murray: 1835. See also the same work, p.
594; London: William Tegg: 1867.

[555] Ellesmere, p. 157; Quarterly Review, vol. 70, p. 464.

[556] A Memoir of Charles Mayne Young, Tragedian: With extracts from
his son’s journal. By Julian Charles Young, M. A., Rector of Ilmington.
London and New York: Macmillan & Co.: 1871; pp. 158 _et seq._

[557] Maurice, p. 337: January, 1891.

[558] Mere improbability, however, is not a sufficient reason for
rejecting a story supported by credible evidence. It is always
impossible to place one’s self precisely in the position of those
of whom the story is told. And some, at any rate, of the improbable
features may be mere accretions on the original story.

[559] Corresp., vol. 31, p. 258.

[560] Clausewitz, ch. 39, pp. 99, 100.



Napoleon received Marshal Grouchy’s letter, dated Gembloux, 10 P.M.
of June 17th, about 2 A.M. of the 18th, at the Caillou House, on the
Brussels turnpike, where he passed the night of the 17th. A close
examination of it might have raised a suspicion in his mind that
Grouchy did not thoroughly comprehend his task, and that he might
possibly fail to take the right course, if the emergency, which he had
in his letter represented as not unlikely to occur, should actually
confront him. He had said, that, if he found that the mass of the
Prussians were retiring on Wavre, he “would follow them in that
direction, in order that they might not be able to gain Brussels, and
to separate them from Wellington,” but if they were retiring on Perwez,
that he would direct himself on that city. We have pointed out above
that it was clearly impossible for him to prevent the Prussians from
getting to Brussels. He was thirty miles from Brussels,—the Prussians
less than twenty,—and they were directly between him and Brussels. And
as for separating the Prussians at Wavre from Wellington, while Grouchy
must of course follow them in the direction of Wavre as distinguished
from that of Perwez, yet the only thing really open to him was to cross
the Dyle at once by the bridges of Moustier and Ottignies and then to
act in close connection with the main French army,—to stand between
it and the Prussians, and ward off the danger as best he might. This
could be done; but this was all that could be done. It was not to be
expected that an attack upon the Prussian rearguard at Wavre,—which was
the only other thing that Grouchy could do,—however vigorously made,
could have the result of detaining their whole army. But, in Grouchy’s
letter, a movement on his part to rejoin or to approach the main army
by crossing the Dyle, in case he found that the Prussians were massing
at Wavre, was not even mentioned.

Napoleon and Soult, therefore, one would suppose, might have seen by
the programme which Grouchy had marked out for himself in his despatch
that in all probability he was not clearly apprehending the situation,
and that it was therefore possible that he might make a serious,
perhaps a very serious, mistake the next day. They ought, therefore,
if they suspected this to be the state of the case, to have replied at
once, giving him precise instructions as to his course in the event of
the retreat of the Prussians on Wavre. They should have told him, that,
if he should find this to be the fact, he must at once march to cross
the Dyle above Wavre, at Moustier and Ottignies, approach the main
army, and act in conjunction with it. Yet although Grouchy told the
officer who carried the 10 P.M. despatch to wait for an answer, none
was returned.[561] Grouchy was not even informed where the army was,
and that it was confronted by the English army in position. Nor was he
advised, as he surely should have been, that Domon’s reconnoissance
had proved that a strong Prussian column,—consisting, as we have seen,
of the two beaten corps, those of Zieten and Pirch I.,—had retired on
Wavre by way of Gery and Gentinnes.[562] It is impossible to account
for these omissions.[563]

Now this last-mentioned fact, that “a pretty strong (Prussian) column”
had “passed by Gery and Gentinnes, directed on Wavre,” was the most
important fact that could be ascertained, both for Napoleon and
Grouchy. Napoleon had in fact, at 2 A.M. of the 18th, when Grouchy’s
letter arrived, strong reason to apprehend that Grouchy might, during
the night, ascertain that the whole of Blücher’s army had retired on
Wavre. It certainly would seem that this was one of those cases where
nothing should be omitted that could assist the mind of a subordinate
in arriving at a correct conclusion.[564]

Napoleon, however, seems to have thought it unnecessary to send Grouchy
any precise directions. We know that he expected Grouchy to arrive
the next afternoon by the bridge of Moustier. Marbot, whose Memoirs
have just been published, states,[565] that, towards 11 A.M. of the day
of the battle, he was sent with his own regiment of hussars and a
battalion of infantry to and beyond the extreme right of the army, with
instructions, brought to him by one of the Emperor’s aides, to push
reconnoissances to the bridges of Moustier and Ottignies. He says that
these detachments were connected by cavalry-posts, “so that they could
quickly inform him of their junction with the advance guard of the
troops of Marshal Grouchy, which were to arrive on the Dyle.”

It may perhaps be, that Grouchy’s expressed intention that he would
try to prevent Blücher from joining Wellington was held by both the
Emperor and his chief-of-staff as indicating with sufficient certainty
that, if he found that the Prussians were retiring on Wavre, he would
proceed at once to cross the Dyle at Moustier or Limale, and operate
on the left bank of that river, on the right of the main army.[566]
This course was almost necessarily implied in an attempt to prevent the
Prussians at Wavre from joining the English, as we have just pointed
out; it may be, therefore, that the Emperor thought another order
needless. But whatever the reason, no order was sent to Grouchy till
10 A.M. the next morning. This did not reach him till 4 P.M.[567] that
afternoon, when he was fighting in front of Wavre.

Marshal Grouchy, then, acted up till 4 o’clock of the 18th of June
under the order dictated the previous day by the Emperor to Count
Bertrand. This fact we desire distinctly to bring out, so that there
shall be no possibility of further mistake on this subject. The history
of this day, from the very first narratives down to the very last, has
been illustrated by the mistakes of historians and critics as to the
orders under which Marshal Grouchy acted. Not only did Grouchy himself
deliberately deny for nearly thirty years that he received any written
order on the 17th, thereby misleading the most sagacious critics and
rendering their criticisms on this part of the campaign in great part
valueless, but even long after the fact was universally acknowledged
that he did get a written order in the shape of the Bertrand letter,
a certain unwillingness or inability to take in the meaning of this
written order, to recognize that it imposed a different task on
Marshal Grouchy from that laid upon him by the verbal orders which had
previously been given him, has, nevertheless, strangely enough existed.
We have pointed this out in the Notes to Chapter XIII; but we will add
one or two more instances here.

The Bertrand order, as we have seen, instructed Grouchy to find out
what the Prussians were intending to do,—_whether they were intending
to separate themselves from the English, or to unite with them for
the purpose of trying the fate of another battle for the defence
of Brussels or Liége_,—and the order closed without giving him any
directions whatever in case either of these emergencies should arise.
The thing which Grouchy was to do, therefore, was to ascertain whether
the Prussians were intending to unite with the English, _and then to
act in accordance with his best judgment_. No directions whatever,
we repeat, were given to him for his conduct if he should find that
the Prussians were intending to unite with the English. We have just
adverted to this omission of the Emperor to give Grouchy precise
instructions in this emergency. There is no question that he did not
give any. Grouchy was entirely untrammelled. If he found that the
Prussians were intending to unite with the English to fight another
battle for the defence of Brussels, he was absolutely free to adopt
whatever course might seem to him best.

Yet we find the latest American historian of this campaign, in speaking
of Grouchy’s rejection of the advice given by Gérard, when the cannon
of Waterloo was heard, saying, that the question was, “whether to turn
the army to its left on reaching Corbaix, and, crossing the Dyle by
the bridges of Moustier and Ottignies, to take the road to Maransart
and Planchenoit, _or to adhere to the Emperor’s orders to follow the
Prussians_ whom they now knew to be at Wavre,”—[568] and, again, that
Grouchy “_persisted in adhering to the orders the Emperor had given

In the same way we find the latest English commentator on the campaign
saying, “Whether Grouchy can be held responsible for not having”
marched to the sound of the guns “_when Napoleon’s instructions
directed him on Wavre_, will always be a subject for endless, and, I
think, not very profitable, debate.”[570]

It is quite time that an end should be put to misunderstandings on this
subject. Until 4 P.M., we repeat, Grouchy acted under the Bertrand
order only.

To return to the narrative.

Marshal Grouchy had written to the Emperor at 10 P.M. of the 17th, as
we have seen, telling him that, “arrived at Sauvenières, the Prussians
had divided into two columns, one taking the road for Wavre in passing
by Sart-à-Walhain, and the other appearing to be directed on Perwez.”
He then went on to say that he would operate in the direction in which
he found that the mass of their forces had gone.

Being thus in doubt as to the direction of the retreat of the enemy,
he determined to move at first on Sart-à-Walhain, from which point he
could march either on Wavre or on Perwez according to the information
he might there receive. Inclining probably at this time to the opinion
that the Prussians had retreated by way of Perwez, in which case there
would be no necessity for unusual haste, he determined to give his
troops a good night’s rest. Of the absolute necessity of gaining time
in case he should find that the Prussians had retreated on Wavre with
the intention of joining Wellington, he seems to have been utterly

Hence, at or soon after 10 P.M., he issued his orders to his
corps-commanders to march in the morning to Sart-à-Walhain.
Vandamme,[571] whose corps had bivouacked somewhat in advance of
Gembloux, was to start at 6 A.M. It was to be preceded in the march by
Exelmans’ cavalry, the bulk of which was at Sauvenières. Gérard,[572]
whose troops were in and about Gembloux, was to follow with his corps
at 8 A.M. Pajol[573] was ordered from Mazy on the Namur road, where he
then was, taking with him the division of Teste, to Grand Leez, where
he would receive further orders.

Then, at 2 A.M., Grouchy writes to the Emperor to inform him that he
was intending to march on Sart-à-Walhain,[574] but without indicating
his ulterior course.

During the early morning hours, however, information was received[575]
which removed his doubts as to the direction of the Prussian retreat,
for we find him writing to Pajol[576] “at daybreak,” as follows:—

  “The movement of retreat of Blücher’s army appears to me very clearly
  to be upon Brussels.”[577]

Marshal Grouchy, therefore, at daybreak,—which in Belgium at that
season of the year is at least as early as 3.30 A.M.,—for the sun rises
at 3.48 A.M.,—had come to the conclusion that Blücher was retiring on
Brussels by way of Wavre. Yet he still adhered to his plan of marching
on Sart-à-Walhain, although that place had been chosen the evening
before as the first stage in the next day’s march because he had then
been in doubt as to whether his ultimate movement would be in the
direction of Wavre or in that of Perwez.[578] Moreover, although he
had come to the conclusion that the Prussians were retiring on Wavre,
towards the English, which made promptness and celerity on his part of
the very first importance, he did not change the very late hours he had
fixed for the march of the next morning. In fact, even these hours were
not adhered to. Exelmans,[579] who preceded the column, did not start
till 7.30 A.M.; Vandamme,[580] who came next, did not move until 8
A.M.; and it was not until 9 A.M. that Gérard’s[581] corps got through
the town of Gembloux, and was in full march for Sart-à-Walhain. And yet
no one knew better than Marshal Grouchy that the Prussians had many
hours the start of him, and that if he was going to do anything that
day to prevent them from joining Wellington, there was no time to be

There is no difference of opinion among the Continental[582]
authorities as to Marshal Grouchy’s true course on this morning. As
soon as he had arrived at the conclusion that the Prussians were
retiring on Wavre, which was, as we have seen, between 3 and 4 A.M.,
he should have changed his evening orders entirely; he should have
begun his march at once, and should have directed it to the bridge of
Moustier. (See Map 9.)

Says Jomini:—[583]

  “The Marshal should not, then, have hesitated; he should at daybreak
  on the 18th have marched with all speed on Moustier with Exelmans,
  Vandamme and Gérard, directing Pajol’s cavalry and Teste’s division
  on Wavre, in pursuit of the enemy’s rearguard.

  “Being able to reach Moustier by ten o’clock,[584] he could have then
  forwarded his infantry on Wavre by Limale, pushing Exelmans’ dragoons
  on St. Lambert, or else have marched to Lasne himself.”

Says Clausewitz:—[585]

  “But the moment he learnt that Blücher had turned towards the Dyle,
  which must have happened in Gembloux in the night between the 17th
  and 18th, the idea must have shot at once into his mind that this
  could only be in order to join Wellington, for one does not leave
  one’s natural line of retreat without reason. From that moment he
  had to consider it his duty, not to lie at the heels of Blücher’s
  rear-guard, but to get between him and Bonaparte, in order to be able
  to throw himself in front of Blücher in case he wanted to march off
  to his right. According to this, he would have to turn from Gembloux
  to the Dyle by the shortest road, &c.”

Says Charras:—[586]

  “Everything indicated that the most advantageous manœuvre for
  Blücher was that which would bring him the most quickly near
  Wellington,—would unite the Prussians to the Anglo-Dutch. Since
  the opening of hostilities the two allied generals had manœuvred
  to bring about this union; and it was evident that they were not
  going to renounce this idea after the defeat of one of their armies;
  the activity, energy, audacity,—so well known,—of Blücher—the
  tenacity,—equally well known,—of Wellington,  sufficed to guarantee
  that they would not easily renounce this intention.

  “If they should succeed in this, Napoleon would find himself exposed
  to being crushed under the weight of the two allied armies.

  “This catastrophe, the greatest of all misfortunes, Grouchy ought,
  before everything, to put himself in position to avert, so far as he
  could do so. Hence it was imperative that he should come as speedily
  as possible within the sphere of Napoleon’s operations; and hence,
  also, he must march on Moustier.

  “From this point, in fact, better than from any other, he would be
  equally in position to diminish the consequences of the union of
  the Prussians and the Anglo-Dutch, if it should already have been
  effected, or to hinder it, if it should not yet have taken place.”

With these authorities we entirely concur. Marshal Grouchy, as soon as
he had made up his mind that Blücher was retiring on Brussels by way
of Wavre, should have marched for the bridge of Moustier, and should
have started at daybreak.[587] Instead of this, he adhered to the
direction of Sart-à-Walhain, although, even if he were proposing to
follow Blücher straight to Wavre, Sart-à-Walhain was out of the direct
route. It had in fact been selected _because_ it lay to the eastward
of the Wavre road. He might have saved from two to four hours by
starting at daybreak, but of this he was utterly unmindful. He did not
thoroughly reconnoitre with his cavalry towards the Dyle, to see if the
enemy were not marching towards the English, although it was certainly
his manifest duty to do so.[588] All he did in this direction was to
send[589] a staff-officer with a small escort at daybreak or soon after
to the bridge of Moustier, to see, apparently, if any Prussian troops
had crossed there, but he rejoined Grouchy before Grouchy had arrived
at Sart-à-Walhain, that is, before 11 A.M. With this exception the
Marshal made absolutely no reconnoissances to his left until he had
arrived in front of Wavre.

Somewhere between 10 and 11 A.M. he reached Sart-à-Walhain. Thence
he proceeded to Walhain, or, as it is sometimes called, Walhain St.
Paul.[590] He alighted at the house of a M. Hollert, the notary of the
neighboring village of Nil St. Vincent, who lived in a large house
in Walhain known as the Chateau Marette. Here he stopped to write
a despatch to the Emperor and to get his breakfast. The cavalry of
Exelmans and the 3d Corps under Vandamme had passed this point on the
road to Wavre, and had reached or perhaps passed Nil St. Vincent.

The despatch, which is dated Sart-à-Walhain, by an error for
Walhain,—11 A.M.,—begins by stating that the Ist, IId and IIId Corps
of Blücher’s army are marching in the direction of Brussels. Grouchy
subsequently says:—[591]

  “This evening I expect to be concentrated at Wavre, and thus to find
  myself between Wellington, whom I presume to be in retreat before
  your majesty, and the Prussian army.”

He also states that some of the Prussians are proceeding towards
the plain of the Chyse, near the Louvain road, with the design of
concentrating there, or of fighting any troops which may pursue them
there, or of uniting themselves to Wellington. This part of the
despatch looks as if Grouchy thought that a part of the Prussians
intended to concentrate to his right. Still, as he distinctly states
that the Ist, IId and IIId Corps are marching in the direction of
Brussels, we must suppose that he is not referring to these three corps
when he speaks of those Prussians who are proceeding towards the
plain of the Chyse. So that, when he says that at Wavre he expects to
be between Wellington, who he supposes is retiring on Brussels by the
Charleroi turnpike, and the Prussian army, three of whose corps are, he
says, also retiring on Brussels, it is difficult, if not impossible, to
know what he means. He seems to have been completely bewildered.

This despatch had hardly been handed to the staff-officer[592] who
was to carry it to the Emperor, when the cannon of Waterloo was
heard. Then, at any rate, Marshal Grouchy knew that the English were
not retreating before Napoleon, but were standing “on this side of
the Forest of Soignes,” as the Emperor had, the afternoon before,
conjectured they might. Three Prussian corps had gone towards Brussels,
as Grouchy had just written to the Emperor. It was very possible that
they might at that moment be marching across the country to join the
Anglo-Dutch army. Perhaps nothing could prevent this. But it was
plainly Grouchy’s duty to march towards the Emperor as fast as he
could. If he could not prevent the Prussians from joining the English,
he might at any rate be able to prevent them from attacking the French.
If he should cross the Dyle at Moustier and Ottignies, and move
directly towards the line of march which they must take in order to
attack the French, their march would, if he arrived in time, assuredly
be suspended. This was at any rate the thing to try to do. It was to
be feared that a terrible disaster was impending over Napoleon and his
army; but there was a chance of averting it. There was only one thing
to do,—and that was, promptly and gallantly to make the attempt to
avert it. (See Map 10.)

Gérard, who had arrived at Walhain with his corps, strenuously urged
Grouchy to march to the sound of the cannon. He pressed this on
Grouchy with perhaps undue heat; but the occasion was one that admitted
of no delay. The son of Marshal Grouchy, who may be supposed to have
heard his father’s account of the interview, says:—[593]

  “The commander of the 4th Corps uttered haughtily, and in a fashion
  little in harmony with the respect due to his chief and with military
  discipline, the advice that the right wing ought to march to the
  sound of the cannon in order to effectuate a junction with the

  “Grouchy did not find the advice bad in itself, but the form employed
  to present it. At the same time he consented to discuss Gérard’s
  opinion with him.”

That personal feelings had some influence on Marshal Grouchy’s decision
would seem from the above statement very probable.[594]

We do not reproduce the arguments of Marshal Grouchy here, because
they are based mainly upon his statement, which we have found to be
erroneous, that “his instructions, from which he was not permitted to
depart, enjoined formally upon him not to lose sight of the Prussians
when he should have joined them.”

A discussion where one of the parties concealed the existence of a
written order, which prescribed no such instructions as those stated
above, cannot enlighten us much.

The difficulties of marching across the country by way of Mont St.
Guibert to the Dyle were also dwelt upon,—the chief-of-artillery of the
4th Corps, Baltus, having great doubts as to the possibility of such
a march, and the chief-of-engineers, Valazé, offering to remove the

Grouchy finally decided to resume the march towards Wavre. His army
marched in a single column by the road which, passing through Nil
St. Vincent and just to the north of Corbaix, reaches La Baraque,
and thence leads to Wavre by a line, almost straight. Not a half a
mile beyond La Baraque there is a road which leads to the bridge of
Moustier, less than three miles off; three-quarters of a mile farther
on is another road, which, with its branches, leads to the bridges of
Limelette and Limale, at a distance of only two miles. Half a mile
north of the bridge of Moustier is another bridge, that of Ottignies.
These bridges had not been destroyed, and they were all unguarded.[595]
Then there were convenient woods able to conceal any movement of the
troops towards the river.

There was a slight affair in a wood a short distance beyond La Baraque,
in which the cavalry of Ledebur,[596] assisted by two battalions of
infantry, skirmished for an hour or so. While this was going on, two
divisions of the IId Corps, which had been making their way through the
town of Wavre, were brought back, and took up position, facing south,
about a mile south of the town. But there was no resistance to speak
of. When the French advanced, the Prussians retired on Wavre.

In its march, which was made to the sound of the cannon of
Waterloo,[597] the army of Marshal Grouchy had then abundant
opportunity to cross the Dyle at Moustier and Ottignies, at Limelette
and Limale.[598] La Baraque, on the main road to Wavre, from near which
the roads to these bridges diverge, was reached about two o’clock.[599]

From this point on to Wavre, the Prussians were clearly to be seen
marching to the field of Waterloo.[600] If Grouchy had in season
recalled Pajol and the division of Teste from the extreme right of the
column, in order to mask the movement by threatening Wavre, it would
certainly seem that Vandamme’s Corps might have crossed at Limale and
Limelette, and Gérard’s at Ottignies and Moustier, and that, before 4
P.M., the whole force could have been _en route_ for St. Lambert.[601]

The fact is, the whole question of Grouchy’s flank march at noon has
been unnecessarily confused by three very general misconceptions,

(1) That it was at Sart-à-Walhain where the sound of the cannon was
heard. It was at Walhain, a good mile nearer to the bridges.

(2) That it was necessary, in order to go to the bridges, for Grouchy’s
column to cut across the marshy and difficult country between Walhain
and Moustier,[602] by way of Mont St. Guibert. Instead of this, the
main road could be kept until the army had arrived at La Baraque; or,
possibly, the 4th Corps could have taken a somewhat long cross-road
which leads to Moustier from Neuf Sart, a village on the main road
about a mile to the south-east of La Baraque, while the 3d Corps could
have marched on the roads which branch off to the bridges just beyond
La Baraque.

No doubt, if Grouchy had started at daybreak from Gembloux, as he
ought to have done, he would have passed through Mont St. Guibert,
and over very bad and miry roads; but to gain the bridge of Moustier
from Walhain, the route he actually pursued, by way of La Baraque, was
nearly as short as the other, and was, up to that point, so far as we
know, a tolerable road.[603] At least there were no such complaints of
it as were made of the roads from Ligny to Gembloux.

Now, from the point just beyond La Baraque, where the first road
branches off, it is nearer to Moustier than it is to Wavre. From where
the other road branches off to Limale and Limelette, the distance is
about the same as to Wavre. Making allowance, then, for the badness of
the river roads, on the one hand, and for the time saved by passing the
army over several instead of over one single road on the other hand,
and assuming that there had been no fighting, the whole force could
have successfully crossed the river by 4 P.M., which was the hour at
which Grouchy’s force arrived in front of Wavre.

(3) That there would have been any serious resistance experienced at
the bridges.

Not one of these bridges, as has been above pointed out,[604] was
occupied in force by the Prussians. Only one, that at Limale, was
occupied at all, and that only by a small detachment. They had had also
some cavalry and two battalions of infantry in observation at Mont St.
Guibert, but these retreated to La Baraque on finding that the cavalry
of Exelmans had got in their rear by way of Corbaix.

Had Marshal Grouchy, therefore, pursued his march to the neighborhood
of La Baraque, which place his head of column reached about 2 P.M., and
had he then promptly availed himself of the roads which lead to the
bridges, directing Pajol, who was a very able and experienced officer,
to cover and conceal the movement with his cavalry and the division
of Teste, he could, as it seems to us, in all probability, have been
across the Dyle at 4 o’clock, ready to march towards Lasne and St.

Now at 4 o’clock only two brigades[605] of Bülow’s (IVth) Corps had
passed through Lasne. They, with the artillery and cavalry which
accompanied them, were at that moment resting and reforming in the Wood
of Paris,[606] a little wood just west of the town of Lasne, after an
exhausting march.[607] The other two brigades were between St. Lambert
and Lasne. The IId Corps was stretched along the road between Wavre and
St. Lambert. It had not yet reached the latter place.[608] The Ist Corps
was a mile and a half from Ohain, on the northerly road. The IIId Corps
was in and about Wavre. (See Map 11.)

If, then, Marshal Grouchy had succeeded in the operation of crossing
the Dyle at the four bridges or any of them while Thielemann’s Corps
was detained in Wavre by Pajol and Teste, and if he had boldly advanced
towards Lasne and St. Lambert, he would certainly have arrested the
march of Bülow and Pirch I. Although the Prussians would have been
superior in numbers, they yet would have been compelled to halt and
form line of battle on observing the advance of Grouchy’s 30,000 men.
The chances are that Grouchy would ultimately have been forced to
retire; he could hardly have been a match for the 50,000 men opposed
to him; and his retreat could at any time have been precipitated by
an attack on his right flank by Thielemann, if that officer had felt
himself at liberty to leave Wavre. Yet these operations would without
question have consumed the rest of the afternoon; it would almost
certainly have been impossible for the corps of Bülow and Pirch I. to
have attacked the French at Planchenoit that day. Zieten certainly
might have pursued his march unmolested if he had thought it wise
to do so. How these movements would have affected the result of the
battle of Waterloo, we will consider when we come to the account of the
battle. All we want to show at this stage of the narrative is, that,
had Gérard’s counsel been taken, Marshal Grouchy’s command might have
been across the Dyle at Moustier and the other bridges by 4 P.M., and
that at that moment the van of the IVth Corps had only just passed
through Lasne.

It is time that we returned to the Prussians.

Bülow, whose corps (the IVth) had not been engaged at Ligny, was
ordered to march at daybreak from Dion-le-Mont, where he had passed
the night, for St. Lambert, with the view of attacking the French
right.[609] He had a long distance to go, and was, moreover, detained by
a fire which broke out in the streets of Wavre, and his main body did
not reach St. Lambert till noon.[610] Here there was a long halt.[611]

The IId Corps was to follow the IVth, but for some reason or other it
did not begin to leave Wavre till nearly noon,[612] and it was not until
4 P.M. that the whole corps had got through the town and had taken the
road for St. Lambert.[613]

The Ist Corps,—Zieten’s,—which was to march by the northerly road, by
way of Ohain, to join the army of Wellington, also did not start until
nearly noon.[614] The IIId Corps, which was to be the last to leave
Wavre, was to march by way of Couture towards Planchenoit, in support
of the IVth and IId Corps. But it was to remain in Wavre, if the
enemy should show himself there in force.

These arrangements, it must be confessed, do not indicate that
determination to march with all possible speed to the support of an
ally in danger of being defeated before the promised support arrives,
which has usually been attributed to Marshal Blücher. They are so
deliberate, so tardy even, that we must seek an explanation of them.
Bülow, it is true, moved out promptly enough; but the delay of the IId
Corps in leaving Wavre is most extraordinary, under the circumstances,
considering that its commander had been informed at midnight that the
IVth Corps had been ordered to march at break of day, and that he
himself had been ordered to join that corps immediately, and follow its
line of march.[615]

It appears now, from the recent history of Von Ollech, that about 9.30
A.M. Marshal Blücher dictated a note to General Müffling, stating
that he would place himself, ill as he was, at the head of his troops
in order to attack at once the right of Napoleon’s army; and that
Gneisenau, still disposed to be cautious in trusting to the assurances
of the English general that he would accept battle at Waterloo, added a
postscript in these words:—[616]

  “General Gneisenau has been informed of the contents of this letter,
  but asks your Excellency to ascertain definitely whether the Duke
  really has a fixed determination to fight in his present position,
  or whether perhaps it is a mere demonstration, which at the best
  would be very unfortunate for our army. Your Excellency will have the
  kindness to obtain for me full information on this matter, as it is
  of the highest importance to be thoroughly assured of what the Duke
  is going to do, in order to determine our course of action.”

Ollech[617] goes on to tell us that Gneisenau was, even at this late
hour, not without his misgivings. He says that Gneisenau believed that
the Duke had left him in the lurch at Ligny. He also says that he fully
took in the exposed situation of the Prussian army, if the Anglo-Dutch
forces should fall back to Brussels,—a retreat by way of Louvain being
probably then the only thing open to the Prussians. He says, indeed,
that before an answer was received to this communication, Gneisenau had
determined to go ahead, and carry out the plan, and that between 11 and
12 in the morning Zieten had been ordered to Ohain.

But may we not fairly infer, that, under the impression of these
feelings,—of this doubt whether Wellington really intended to fight,—a
doubt, it must be remembered, which no sound of cannon until half-past
eleven in the morning came to dispel,—Bülow had been ordered to be very
cautious, and to proceed with all deliberation,—and that the departure
of Pirch I. and Zieten had been delayed? It would certainly seem as if
this were the case.

The welcome sound of the cannon of Waterloo, however, shortly before
noon, dispelled all doubts and all hesitations; and there can be no
question that every one in the Prussian army from the old Field Marshal
down to the privates in the ranks did their best for the success of
the day. The roads were frightful; it was almost impossible to get the
artillery and waggons over them; but every exertion was made.

Grouchy’s obstinate determination to operate on the right bank of the
Dyle brought him in front of Wavre. He displayed more troops than the
Prussian generals had supposed that he had with him. But their plan was
not altered. To Thielemann’s Corps alone was it left to defend the town.

It is not necessary to go into the details of this action. It was
not fought by Marshal Grouchy with any skill. The troops of Vandamme
entangled themselves in the vain endeavor to carry the lower bridges
in the town. The 4th Corps repeatedly but ineffectually endeavored to
get possession of the Mill of Bierges, just above the town. Here Gérard
was wounded. Between 6 and 7 P.M. Pajol carried the bridge of Limale,
and this position was held, despite an attempt of the Prussians to
repossess themselves of it. The attack on Wavre was conducted in the
most gallant manner by the French, but without any well-arranged plan.
Their efforts were in the main uselessly directed against an enemy
behind walls and in houses, when nothing would have been easier than
to have turned the whole position by crossing the river at Limale. The
resistance of the Prussians was worthy of all praise.

During the action Marshal Grouchy received two despatches from Marshal
Soult. These demand our careful consideration, not because they can in
any way explain the motives which actuated Marshal Grouchy in directing
his command upon Wavre instead of upon Lasne and St. Lambert, for they
were received too late to have influenced him at all, but because they
throw light on the expectations entertained by Napoleon in regard to
Grouchy’s movements and especially in regard to his coöperation with
the main army.

These orders were both signed by Marshal Soult, the chief-of-staff, and
were no doubt drafted by him.

The first, dated at 10 A.M., reads as follows:—[618]

  In front of the Farm of Caillou,
  June 18, 1815, 10 A.M.


  The Emperor has received your last report, dated from Gembloux.[619]

  You speak to his Majesty of only two Prussian columns, which have
  passed at Sauvenières and Sart-à-Walhain. Nevertheless,  reports say
  that a third column, which was a pretty strong one, has passed by
  Gery and Gentinnes, directed on Wavre.[620]

  The Emperor instructs me to tell you that at this moment his Majesty
  is going to attack the English army, which has taken position at
  Waterloo, near the Forest of Soignes. Thus his Majesty desires that
  you will direct your movements on Wavre, in order to approach us, to
  put yourself in the sphere of our operations, and to keep up your
  communications with us, pushing before you those portions[621] of the
  Prussian army which have taken this direction, and which may have
  stopped at Wavre, where you ought to arrive as soon as possible.

  You will follow the enemy’s columns which are on your right by some
  light troops, in order to observe their movements and pick up their
  stragglers. Instruct me immediately as to your dispositions and your
  march, as also as to the news which you have of the enemy; and do not
  neglect to keep up your communications with us. The Emperor desires
  to have news from you very often.

    The Marshal, Duke of Dalmatia.

To understand this despatch one must refer to that to which it
professes to be an answer, namely, that dated Gembloux, at ten
o’clock the night before. In that despatch Grouchy says, as will
be remembered,[622] that, at Sauvenières, the Prussians apparently
divided into two columns, one directed on Wavre and the other on
Perwez; and that he will follow the principal force of the enemy in
either direction as his information may indicate. Now Soult, having
this before his eyes when he is writing the 10 A.M. despatch, simply
says,—Do not take the Perwez direction,—take the Wavre direction,—for
that will bring you nearer to us. We, also, have heard of a pretty
strong Prussian column which has retreated on Wavre; that is an
additional reason why you should take that direction. We want you to
approach us,—to get within the sphere (_en rapport_) of our operations;
 to keep up your communications with us; therefore you ought to get to
Wavre as soon as possible.

The object of directing Grouchy on Wavre was therefore that he might
approach the main army; that he might keep in strict communication
with it,—might be within the sphere of its operations. There is no
strategical or other object even hinted at in directing Grouchy on
Wavre, save that of approaching the main army.[623] Nor is there any
difficulty whatever in discerning the meaning of the writer.

It is also perfectly plain that no opposition to Marshal Grouchy’s
occupation of Wavre was apprehended. It is therefore fairly to be
inferred that the writer intended, that, if the situation should be
such from any cause that the occupation of Wavre or the attempt to
occupy it, would not subserve the purpose of enabling Grouchy to draw
nearer to the main army, he should carry out this purpose in some
other way. It seems to us foolish to say that this despatch would have
justified Grouchy in taking the course which he did take, supposing,
that is, that he had received it in time for it to affect his action.
If, for example, a gentleman on a walking tour should order his servant
to bring his baggage to a certain town, so that he might easily get at
it from the place where he was himself expecting to be the next day,
and the servant should find that all communication between this town
and the region where his master expected to be had been interrupted by
some accident, like the destruction of a railway-bridge, for instance,
and he should nevertheless bring his master’s baggage to that town,
instead of bringing it within his master’s reach by carrying it to
some other place, justifying himself by the terms of the letter, he
would generally be regarded as having acted like a fool. Yet this is
very nearly a parallel case to that of Marshal Grouchy, supposing that
he had received the despatch in time to have acted on it, and had then
acted as he did. The only thing needed to make it absolutely parallel
is, that the servant in the case supposed should be in possession of
information, of which his master was ignorant, making the carrying of
the baggage to him at the earliest possible moment a matter of the
utmost importance. Then the cases would be on all fours with each other.

But we have delayed perhaps too long to show that this order cannot
justify Grouchy’s action. Our excuse is that it has been so used by
more than one authority.[624] Nor does the order show that Napoleon
would have made the same mistake that Grouchy did, as has sometimes
been thoughtlessly said; for Napoleon, at the time the despatch
was sent off, knew nothing, as has just been pointed out, of the
circumstances then under Grouchy’s observation.

It cannot, of course, be contended that Napoleon was not responsible
for this order of 10 A.M. A commander-in-chief must be supposed to
know what orders are issued in his name. Yet it is certainly true that
the directions given to Marbot do not tally at all with this order to
Grouchy. According to the latter, Grouchy would be looked for in the
direction of Wavre,—that is, of Lasne and St. Lambert; but Marbot was
given to understand that the Emperor expected Grouchy to cross the Dyle
at the bridges of Moustier and Ottignies. Colonel Marbot, in a letter
written to Marshal Grouchy in 1830, says:—[625]

  “At the commencement of the action, towards 11 A.M., I was detached
  from the division with my own regiment and a battalion of infantry,
  which had been placed under my command. These troops were posted on
  our extreme right, behind Frischermont, facing the Dyle.

  “Particular instructions were given to me on the part of the Emperor
  by his aide-de-camp, Labedoyère, and by a staff officer whose name I
  do not recall. They prescribed to me to leave the bulk of my command
  always in view of the field of battle, to post 200 infantry in the
  Wood of Frischermont[626] one squadron at Lasne, having outposts
  as far as St. Lambert; another squadron, half at Couture, half at
  Beaumont, sending reconnoissances as far as the Dyle, to the bridges
  of Moustier and Ottignies.”

He then describes the arrangements for the speedy transmission of
intelligence, and proceeds:—

  “A note from Captain Eloy,[627] which the intermediate posts promptly
  transmitted to me, informed me that he had found no force at
  Moustier, nor at Ottignies, and that the inhabitants assured him that
  the French on the right bank of the Dyle would pass the river at
  Limale, Limelette and Wavre.”

He sent this word to the Emperor, who ordered him to push
reconnoissances in those directions. Then, half a mile beyond St.
Lambert, they captured some Prussians, who informed him that they were
followed by a large part of the Prussian army. He then says:—

  “I proceeded to St. Lambert with a squadron to reinforce the troops
  there. I saw in the distance a strong column, approaching St.
  Lambert. I sent an officer in all haste to forewarn the Emperor,
  who replied, telling me to advance boldly, that this body of troops
  could be nothing else than the corps of Marshal Grouchy, coming from
  Limale, and pushing before it some stray Prussians, of whom the
  prisoners I had just taken were a part.”

Soon after, the fact that the approaching column was composed of
Prussian troops was manifest. The Emperor was now sure that Grouchy
would come by the upper bridges:—

  “My adjutant, whom I had ordered to go and inform the Emperor of the
  positive arrival of the Prussians at St. Lambert, returned, saying
  to me that the Emperor ordered me to inform the head of Marshal
  Grouchy’s column, which ought at this moment to be debouching by the
  bridges of Moustier and Ottignies, since it had not come by Limale
  and Limelette, of the fact that the Prussians were advancing by way
  of St. Lambert.”

It is plain from the above narrative that the Emperor, when he sent
Marbot off, shortly before 11 A.M., expected Marshal Grouchy to arrive
during the afternoon,[628] and that his first idea was that he would
arrive by the bridges of Moustier and Ottignies. This seems to show
that the Emperor did not revise the 10 A.M. despatch sent off by Soult,
which indicated that they expected Grouchy to arrive from Wavre.
Napoleon must have been at this hour,—10-11 A.M.,—making his final
preparations for the battle.

Then there was another despatch to Grouchy, which we also give here in

  Field of Battle of Waterloo,
  the 18th of June: 1 P.M.


  You wrote to the Emperor at 2 o’clock[630] this morning, that you
  would march on Sart-lez-Walhain; your plan then is to proceed to
  Corbaix or[631] to Wavre. This movement is conformable to his
  Majesty’s arrangements which have been communicated to  you.
  Nevertheless, the Emperor directs me to tell you that you ought
  always to manœuvre in our direction.[632] It is for you to see the
  place where we are, to govern yourself accordingly, and to connect
  our communications, so as to be always prepared to fall upon any of
  the enemy’s troops which may endeavor to annoy our right, and to
  destroy them.

  “At this moment the battle is in progress[633] on the line of
  Waterloo. The enemy’s centre is at Mont St. Jean; manœuvre,
  therefore, to join our right.

  The Marshal, Duke of Dalmatia.

  “P. S. A letter, which has just been intercepted, says that General
  Bülow is about to attack our right flank; we believe that we see this
  corps on the height of St. Lambert. So lose not an instant in drawing
  near us and joining us, in order to crush Bülow, whom you will take
  in the very act.”

In this letter the Emperor’s desire that Grouchy would manœuvre in
his direction is expressed again and again, and even in the body
of the letter it is plain that some apprehension is entertained at
headquarters of an attack upon the right of the army by the Prussians.
The postscript, of course, speaks for itself.

Grouchy did not receive this letter till between 6 and 7 P.M.,[634] when
it was too late for him to accomplish much. He, however, carried the
bridge of Limale, and established himself on the left bank of the Dyle
for the night.

Taking the two letters together,—and leaving out of view for the moment
the postscript of the second,—we see that Napoleon was expecting that
Grouchy would approach him. He had learned of the “pretty strong
column” which had passed by Gery and Gentinnes, directed on Wavre. He,
no doubt, supposed that Grouchy had also learned of it; and he knew
from Grouchy’s despatches of 10 P.M. of the 17th and 2 A.M. of the
18th, that Grouchy had recognized the necessity of manœuvring in the
direction of Wavre, if the mass of the Prussian army should have taken
that course. Hence he expected to see him. He thought it likely that
he would come by the bridges of Moustier and Ottignies, and strike in
on his right and keep off any of the enemy’s troops who might seek to
molest him.

Of any apprehension of a serious attack by the Prussians in force there
is no trace till we come to the postscript to the second letter. Up
to the time when this postscript was written, Napoleon would seem to
have felt pretty sure (though perhaps with some misgivings), either
that Grouchy would prevent the Prussians from attacking him, or would
himself join, or connect with, the main army. But the appearance of
the Prussians at St. Lambert and the absence of any information from
Grouchy evidently alarmed him.


[561] Mém. du Duc de Raguse, vol. 7, pp. 124, 125.

[562] Soult’s despatch to Grouchy: June 18th, 10 A.M.

[563] Even if the Emperor had been asleep when Grouchy’s aide arrived,
or had been at the front, where he was between one and two o’clock
in the morning, to see if the English army was still in position, a
competent chief-of-staff should, of his own motion, have sent back at
once to Grouchy the information possessed at headquarters.

[564] Especially when, according to Marshal Marmont, the subordinate
was a man like Grouchy: Mém., vol. 4, p. 125. See, also, Napoléon à
Waterloo, p. 226, n.

[565] Marbot, vol. 3, pp. 404 _et seq._; Gérard: Dern. Obs. p. 44.

[566] _Cf._ La Tour d’Auvergne, pp. 232, 233, 245.

[567] Grouchy Mém., vol. 4, pp. 70, 87, 131, n.

[568] Gardner, pp. 160, 161. The italics are our own.

[569] Ib., pp. 161, 162.

[570] Maurice, p. 550: Sept. 1890., The italics are our own. It is
possible that Colonel Maurice may have had in mind the language of
Soult’s order dated 10 A.M., in which Grouchy’s movement on Wavre is
approved. But this did not reach Grouchy till 4 P.M., as we have just
stated. See, also, Kennedy, p. 159.

[571] La Tour d’Auvergne, p. 315, n. 1. The hour of starting is given
in the Grouchy Memoirs (vol. 4, p. 56) as “before four o’clock.” But
this is a gross and manifest error. _Cf._ Charras, vol. 2, p. 33, where
the hour is given as 6 A.M.

[572] La Tour d’Auvergne, p. 316, n. 1; Grouchy Mém., vol. 4. p. 55.

[573] La Tour d’Auvergne, p. 316, n. 2; Grouchy Mém., vol. 4, p. 57.

[574] This despatch is not in existence, but its receipt was
acknowledged and the above statement in it was referred to in Soult’s
despatch to Grouchy, dated 1 P.M., June 18th. From Grouchy’s statement
that he was going to Sart-à-Walhain, Soult drew the inference that he
was going to Corbaix or to Wavre.

[575] Gérard: Dern. Obs., pp. 13, 14; Letter of General Exelmans.

[576] Grouchy Mém., vol. 4, pp. 62, 63.

[577] There is in the Grouchy Mémoires, vol. 4, pp. 65, 66, what
purports to be a copy of a despatch to the Emperor dated Gembloux,
3 A.M. But its authenticity is more than doubtful. _Cf._ La Tour
d’Auvergne, p. 318, n. It begins with the statement that all Grouchy’s
reports and information confirm the idea that the Prussians are
retiring on Brussels, to concentrate there, or to deliver battle after
being united to the English.

[578] Charras, vol. 2, pp. 33, 55. Charras seems to us to be in error
in supposing that Grouchy’s uncertainty still existed on the morning of
the 18th. He has, perhaps, overlooked the statement in Grouchy’s order
to Pajol, dated at daybreak, quoted in the text.

[579] Gérard: Dernières Obs., p. 24; Letter of General Exelmans.

[580] Ib., p. 25; Letter of General Berthezène.

[581] Gérard: Quelques Doc., p. 12.

[582] We shall examine the English authorities in the Notes to this
chapter. See _post_, p. 280.

[583] Jomini, pp. 175 _et seq._

[584] 10.30 A.M., according to Charras, vol. 2, p. 62.

[585] Clausewitz, ch. 50, p. 146.

[586] Charras, vol. 2, pp. 57, 58.

[587] We reserve for the Notes to this chapter the consideration of the
various opinions on the consequences of this movement, had it been made.

[588] See Siborne’s excellent remarks on this subject,—vol. 1, pp. 318
_et seq._

[589] Declaration of M. Leguest, in the Grouchy Mém., vol. 4, pp. 141,
142. The staff-officer, by name Pont-Bellanger, must have left Moustier
several hours before Marbot’s officer, Captain Eloy, got there. See
Marbot, vol. 3, p. 407.

[590] See the Notes to this chapter.

[591] Grouchy Mém., vol. 4, pp. 71, 72. This despatch is given in full
in Appendix C, xxx; _post_, pp. 386, 387.

[592] Grouchy Mém., vol. 4, p. 75.

[593] Le Mal. de Grouchy, p. 15, n. 2: p. 59; Grouchy Mém., vol. 4, p.

[594] La Tour d’Auvergne, p. 328. _Cf._ Grouchy Mém., vol. 4, p. 295.

[595] The one of these bridges which was nearest Wavre, that at Limale,
was passed at six o’clock by Valin’s cavalry, without experiencing
any serious resistance. Siborne, vol. 2, p. 286. Berton, pp. 66,
67. Marbot’s cavalry-picket occupied the bridge of Moustier all the
afternoon. Marbot, vol. 3, p. 407. _Cf._ Charras, vol. 2, p. 69.

[596] Ollech, pp. 208, 209.

[597] Berthezène, in Gérard, Dem. Obs., p. 25.

[598] Berton, p. 66, n.

[599] Charras, vol. 2, p. 44.

[600] Berthezène, in Gérard, Dern. Obs., p. 25.

[601] Charras’ discussion of this movement will be considered in the
Notes to this chapter: _post_, p. 284, n. 6.

[602] Charras, vol. 2, p. 69, n.

[603] The paved _chaussée_ which now runs straight from Gembloux to
Wavre was not built in 1815. Nor was the _chaussée_ from Sombreffe to

[604] _Ante_, p. 258.

[605] The Prussian brigade corresponded then to the French or English

[606] Sometimes called the Wood of Frischermont.

[607] Siborne, vol. 2, pp. 127, 128.

[608] See Siborne’s Map of the Field of Wavre, 4 o’clock P.M., 18th

[609] Ollech, p. 187.

[610] Clausewitz, ch. 42, p. 107.

[611] Maurice, p. 549: Sept., 1890.

[612] Charras, vol. 2, p. 43.

[613] Ib., p. 45. _Cf._ Siborne’s Map of the Field of Wavre, 4 o’clock
P.M., June 18th.

[614] Ib., p. 43.

[615] Ollech, p. 188.

[616] Ib., p. 189; Maurice, p. 537: Sept., 1890.

[617] Ollech, p. 190.

[618] Grouchy Mém., vol. 4, p. 79; Charras, vol. 1, pp. 283, 284; App.
C, xxxiii; _post_, p. 388.

[619] _Ante_, p. 212; also App. B, _post_, p. 358.

[620] This must have been the Ist and IId Corps.

[621] The original has “corps”; but army-corps are not meant. The same
word is used below,—“quelques corps légers.”

[622] _Ante_ p. 212; App. B, _post_, p. 358.

[623] Gérard (Dern. Obs. p. 19) remarks:—“If one analyzes separately
the text of these two despatches, * * * one perceives that the Emperor
has spoken of the direction of Wavre only because he finds it indicated
in the reports of the commander of the right wing. The principal object
of both of them was to insist upon movements which would bring the
troops of the right wing near the main body.” Gérard is here referring
to the order sent to Grouchy at 1 P.M. (_post_, p. 270), as well as to
that dated 10 A.M.

[624] Chesney, p. 206; Kennedy, p. 162; Gardner, p. 161, n.; Grouchy
Mém., vol. 4, pp. 78, 80, 87.

[625] Marbot, vol. 3, pp. 404 _et seq._ This letter is chiefly made up
from his report, which is to be found in “Napoléon à Waterloo,” pp. 344
_et seq._ The editors of Marbot’s Memoirs say (vol. 3, p. 408) that the
steps they have taken to find the report at the War Office have been

[626] Sometimes called the Wood of Paris.

[627] He commanded the picket at Moustier.

[628] This was Marbot’s own conviction; vol. 3, p. 408.

[629] La Tour d’Auvergne, pp. 270, 271; Charras, vol. 1, pp. 286, 287;
Siborne, vol. 1, pp. 400, 401; Napoléon à Waterloo, pp. 279, 280; App.
C, xxxiv; _post_, p. 389.

[630] The Grouchy Memoirs (vol. 4, p. 82) give this as 3 o’clock.

[631] The text given in the Grouchy Memoirs, vol. 4, p. 82, replaces
this “or” by an “and.” This is not followed in any other work.

[632] The text of the Grouchy Memoirs inserts here the following:—“and
to seek to come near to our army, in order that you may join us before
any body of troops can put itself between us. I do not indicate to you
the direction you should take.”

[633] The original is “engagée.” “This letter,” says Marshal Grouchy
(Fragm. Hist., Lettre à MM. Méry et Barthélemy; p. 14), “was in
a hand writing so difficult to decipher that I read it, as did
also my chief-of-staff, and my senior aide-de-camp, ‘gagnée.’” The
chief-of-staff, General Le Sénécal, says that the Marshal closely
questioned the officer who was the bearer of the despatch, but he was
so intoxicated that they could not get anything from him. Grouchy Mém.,
vol. 4, pp. 132, 133. _Cf._ Gérard, Dern. Obs., p. 20, n.

[634] Grouchy Mém., vol. 4, p. 87.


1. The first question that demands consideration in connection with the
matters narrated in this chapter is this:—

Was it wise in Napoleon to detach from his main army such a large
force as that which he gave to Grouchy? Or,—to state the question
more carefully,—Napoleon, being, at 1 P.M. of the 17th (through his
own neglect, but the cause is not important in this connection), in
ignorance of the direction of the retreat of the Prussians, but having
in mind that they might be intending to unite with the English and
fight another battle for the defence of Brussels,[635]—was it wise in
him to detach 33,000 men from his main army to find out about and take
care of the Prussians?

This question, it must be observed, is quite a different one from
that presented to Napoleon in the forenoon of the 17th, when he and
Grouchy and every one else believed that the Prussians had fallen back
on Namur. If the Prussians had retreated on Namur, they had assuredly
given up all idea of further coöperation with the English, at any rate
for the present. The two corps entrusted to Marshal Grouchy might
perhaps accelerate their retreat, and ought to be able to prevent
an offensive return on their part against the communications of the
French. For this purpose they could perfectly well be spared; for
the army which Napoleon was taking with him to Waterloo was able
alone to defeat the army of Wellington. It was a somewhat larger
army,[636]—it was composed throughout of excellent troops,—it was full
of enthusiasm,—and it was commanded by the greatest general of the
day. Nor was it a matter of any great importance that Grouchy could
not well be detached till after twelve o’clock, owing to the necessity
of giving his troops time to recover from the fatigues of the battle
of the day before, the stress of which had fallen almost wholly on
them, for, if the Prussians had retreated on Namur and Liége, there
was no special and imminent danger to be apprehended.[637] To detach
Marshal Grouchy with 33,000 men under these circumstances, which were
then believed to exist, was one thing. But the question we are now
considering is,—whether Napoleon’s adhering to the plan of sending
Grouchy off with two corps is to be justified after he had seen reason
to be apprehensive of the possibility of the Prussians uniting with the
English to fight another battle for the defence of Brussels.

This danger of the union of the two allied armies was, as the Bertrand
order shows, distinctly recognized as a possible danger by Napoleon
when he dictated the order to Bertrand. It is true that Napoleon
did not think it likely that this union would be made, but he knew
perfectly well that if it should be made, it would place him in the
greatest peril. He, therefore, expressly warned Grouchy that the
Prussians might be intending to unite with the English to fight another
battle for the defence of Brussels; and we have seen that, in the event
of Grouchy’s finding this to be the case, Napoleon expected him to
cross the Dyle and act in conjunction with the main army. If this was,
in Napoleon’s opinion, to be his true course in the not impossible
event of Blücher’s falling back on Wavre, why send him off at all? What
was there to be gained by sending him off which made it worth while
to run the risks inseparable from detaching such a large force from
the main army when such a terrible danger as the union of the Prussian
and English armies was even remotely apprehended? For there certainly
was a chance of Grouchy’s not coming back in time to prevent the
catastrophe; Napoleon ran the risk of Grouchy’s not receiving accurate
or trustworthy information as to the doings of the enemy,—of his not
acting on the information which he might obtain in accordance with
sound military principles,—of his being delayed by the destruction of
the bridges, and by the manœuvres of the enemy.

But this is not all. If the Prussians had fallen back on Wavre with
the intention of uniting with the English and fighting another battle
for the defence of Brussels, as Napoleon in the Bertrand order warns
Grouchy they might be intending to do, they must have carried out their
project in great part at the time when Napoleon was dictating his order
to Bertrand. On this hypothesis, they had certainly already obtained a
great advantage over any force sent to pursue them or to interrupt the
execution of their scheme. Was it not therefore much wiser to keep the
whole army together, well in hand, and under the Emperor’s immediate

These risks and chances, and others, Napoleon took, when he sent
Grouchy off with his 33,000 men; and for what?

The fact probably is this; that Grouchy was originally ordered to
follow up and observe the Prussians when every one supposed them to
be retreating towards the Rhine, and especially to prevent or check
any offensive return upon the French communications; and that when
Napoleon, between 12 and 1, received information which awakened in
his mind doubts of the correctness of this supposition, and even some
apprehension that Blücher might be intending to unite with Wellington
and fight another battle for the defence of Brussels, he adhered to his
original disposition of Grouchy’s force, contenting himself with giving
him an express warning of the danger to be apprehended.

The question then comes down to this:—

If the Prussians were going to separate themselves from the English,
there was no great risk in making such a large detachment from the main
army, and there might very possibly be occasions in which a force of
33,000 men might accomplish more than a smaller one. It may, however,
well be questioned whether half the number would not have answered
every end, and allowed the Emperor the use of 15,000 more men in his
contest with Wellington, who certainly could have brought to the
encounter 18,000 more men than he actually had on the field.

On the other hand, if the Prussians were intending to unite with the
English, as Napoleon had some reason at any rate to believe, and if
Grouchy did not rejoin the main army, or at least act in connection
with it, or defeat the Prussians while marching to the field of battle,
Napoleon was ruined. There was then the risk of his not doing either
of these things,—whether through the Prussians having so many hours
the start of him,—or through ignorance of the facts,—bad roads,—broken
bridges,—unsound judgment,—it matters not,—and that risk was assumed
by Napoleon when he detached him, without, as it seems to us, any
compensating advantage.

Our conclusion, then, is this: if Napoleon had sent off Grouchy with
his 33,000 men in the full belief that the Prussians had fallen back on
Namur, he would be chargeable only with neglect in not having found
out where they had gone; but his sending off this large force after he
had so much reason to apprehend that the Prussians were intending to
unite with the English that he expressly warned Grouchy to that effect,
was to take a wholly unnecessary and very dangerous risk. It was to
persist in carrying out a plan which new information had rendered
entirely inapplicable to the circumstances as now understood to exist.

Had Napoleon, when he had come to entertain the apprehension that the
Prussians might be intending to unite with the English, followed on
the 17th the same general plan which he had adopted on the 15th, and,
leaving, say, Pajol with the division of Teste, to find out where the
Prussians had gone and what they were proposing to do, had taken the
rest of the army with him, sending Grouchy at daybreak of the 18th with
one, or perhaps both, of his corps to St. Lambert, with instructions
to delay the Prussians in every way possible should they come from
Wavre either to attack the main army or to reinforce Wellington, he
would have taken no serious risk, and he would have had his whole army
under his own eye and subject to his immediate control on the day of
the great battle. In this case Grouchy would have performed at St.
Lambert the task which Ney performed at Quatre Bras,—of preventing the
intervention of the other allied army in the battle then in progress.
There is not the least reason to suppose that this course would have
affected the decision either of Wellington to accept battle or of
Blücher to support him. But the chances in favor of Napoleon’s success
in the battle would have been vastly greater than they actually were.

2. We have expressed the doubt whether, even if the Prussians were
known to be separating from the English, it would not have been wiser
if Napoleon had given Grouchy only one corps wherewith to pursue
them. But while this may be true, we cannot agree with Sir James
Shaw-Kennedy in his reasons for criticising the detachment of Grouchy’s
force from the main army. He says:—[638]

  “His (Napoleon’s) great difficulty—as he ought well to have known
  from the experience of a whole succession of disastrous campaigns to
  his armies in Spain—was the overthrow of the Anglo-Allied army; and
  against it he should have led his last man and horse, even had the
  risk been great in the highest degree; which, as has been seen,[639]
  it clearly was not. Had Napoleon attacked the Anglo-Allied army with
  his whole force, and succeeded in defeating it, there could be little
  question of his being able to defeat afterwards the Prussian army
  when separated from Wellington.”

And again:—[640]

  “If Grouchy’s proper place was on the field of battle at Waterloo,
  then Napoleon should have sent for him at daylight on the morning
  of the 18th, when he saw the Anglo-Allied army in position and
  determined to attack it.”

The difficulty with this reasoning, as it seems to us, lies in the fact
that it was not that he might be strong enough to defeat Wellington
that Napoleon needed to have all his army on the field of Waterloo, but
in order to prevent his being overwhelmed by the union of the army of
Blücher to that of Wellington. With the army of Wellington the force
Napoleon had at Waterloo was abundantly able to cope; but against the
two armies of Wellington and Blücher united, he was certain to succumb.
Hence, inasmuch as he, at 1 P.M. of the 17th, had changed his mind
as to the Prussian retreat, had come to regard as very questionable
the view which until after 12 o’clock of that day he certainly had
entertained, that the Prussians were separating themselves definitely
from the English, and had recognized the possibility of their uniting
with the English and even joining with them in a battle to be fought
for the defence of Brussels, he should have changed his dispositions
accordingly. He should have left a comparatively small force,—perhaps
of cavalry only,—to follow up and find out about the Prussians, and
should have taken all his army-corps with him, because if the Prussians
should attempt to take part in the battle he would be sure to need
every man he could muster.[641]

3. It seems for many writers to be well-nigh impossible to treat
separately of the conduct of Marshal Grouchy. This may require some
effort of mind; but it surely is worth while to make it.[642] Suppose
we are of opinion that Napoleon made a mistake in the first place in
detaching him with his 33,000 men; that he was furthermore inexcusable
in not advising him on the night of the 17th and 18th of the most
important fact that the two armies were confronting each other at Mont
St. Jean,—in not sending him the information which Domon had picked
up as to the retreat of a part of the Prussians towards Wavre,—and,
finally, in not directing him in precise terms, that, if he should find
that the Prussians were retiring on Wavre, he should cross the Dyle at
Moustier and Ottignies, and operate in connection with the main army.
Suppose, we say, we find all this to be true. We have yet to pass upon
Grouchy’s conduct.

The Emperor’s faults cannot excuse Grouchy’s faults, nor can his
faults excuse those of the Emperor.[643] The object of military
criticism is not to see which officer made the most mistakes.

4. As to the proper course for Marshal Grouchy to take after he became
satisfied (as he did about daybreak of the 18th) that the Prussians
were retreating on Wavre, we have seen that the principal continental
critics,—Jomini, Clausewitz and Charras,—are of opinion that he should
at once have manœuvred to his left and crossed the Dyle, so as to get
in communication with the main army under the Emperor.

But General Hamley[644] is of a different opinion. He approves of
Grouchy’s direct movement on Wavre. After remarking that Grouchy did
not know that Wellington would stop to fight at Waterloo, he says:—

  “He thought the Prussians, if they were really moving on Wavre,
  intended to join Wellington at Brussels. * * * And were they so
  moving, he, by marching to Wavre, would threaten decisively their
  communications with their base by Louvain, and so either prevent the
  execution of their project, or render it disastrous.”

It is unnecessary to say anything in regard to this observation, except
that, if Grouchy thought as Hamley thinks he did,—and as he very likely
did,—he was wholly mistaken as to the intention of Marshal Blücher.
Very possibly he might have injured the Prussians a good deal had they
been intending to go to Brussels; but, as they were, on the contrary,
intending to join Wellington, who had taken up a position for battle to
the south of the Forest of Soignes, Grouchy’s calculations, as given
us by Hamley, were beside the mark, and his movements were entirely

It is certainly true, as Hamley says,[645] that Grouchy did not know
that “Wellington would stop to fight at Waterloo.” But Grouchy
expressly says that Napoleon told him[646] that he was going “to march
upon the English, and fight them, if they stood this side [_i.e._,
south of] the Forest of Soignes,” _i.e._, at Waterloo. This indicated
that Napoleon thought it quite possible that the English might take
their stand there and fight. And the Bertrand order warned Grouchy
that the Prussians might be intending to unite with them to fight a
battle for the defence of Brussels. But this order, as we have observed
before, is utterly ignored by General Hamley.

5. We have pointed out in the text that the three principal Continental
critics,—Jomini, Clausewitz and Charras,—unite in the opinion that
Marshal Grouchy should have marched at daybreak for the bridge of
Moustier,—covering the movement by his cavalry. What would have been
the result of this manœuvre? (See Map 9.)

Let us suppose that the Prussian detachment of Ledebur, which was
stationed at Mont St. Guibert to observe the movements of Marshal
Grouchy’s column, had been driven out of their position, or flanked out
of it (as they finally were), before six in the morning, by the French
cavalry, and had been compelled to retire to the neighborhood of Wavre.
The movements of the main body of Grouchy’s command might, therefore,
without much difficulty, have been concealed from observation. At least
this seems to be assumed by Jomini,[647] who says that Grouchy could
have been at the bridge of Moustier at 10 A.M.,—and then have moved “on
Wavre by Limale, pushing Exelmans’ dragoons on St. Lambert, or else
have marched to Lasne himself.”

But Charras[648] thinks that the movement to Moustier would have been at
once perceived by Ledebur’s cavalry, and that Grouchy would probably,
on arriving at Moustier and Ottignies, have found himself in face of
40,000 men and 150 pieces of cannon, in position behind the Dyle,
and that it could only have been by a very unlikely concurrence of
circumstances that Grouchy could have seized these bridges before the
Prussians would have been in sufficient force to oppose him.

These conclusions seem to us very strained. Grouchy had 6,000 excellent
cavalry. Ledebur’s detachment consisted of two battalions of infantry,
four squadrons of cavalry and two guns,—possibly 1,500 men in all.[649]
A movement on Corbaix would have compelled him to fall back to La
Baraque as surely at five in the morning as at one in the afternoon,
when, as we have seen, it had this effect. Certainly, Ledebur could
have been got out of the way, and could only have reported that the
French were very active, and were manœuvring apparently on Wavre by
way of Corbaix and La Baraque. We see no reason to doubt that Jomini
is perfectly correct in supposing that the column of Marshal Grouchy,
with the exception of one of his cavalry divisions, say, that of Pajol,
supported, perhaps, by the infantry division of Teste, could have
crossed the bridges of Moustier and Ottignies, without any molestation
whatever, by or soon after 10 A.M., and that they might have been well
on their way towards Lasne and St. Lambert before the Prussians were
aware what they were about.

In speculations of this kind, it is very easy, of course, to omit by
accident some of the _data_ of the problem. But when it is remembered
that the principal subject which the Prussians were contemplating that
morning was not the movements of the 12,000 or 15,000 men, who were
(as they supposed)[650] all the troops which Napoleon had detached
against them, but the very serious question whether the whole army, or
three-fourths of it, should march across the country to attack Napoleon
and succor Wellington, we can hardly believe that any reports which
Ledebur could have brought in would have brought 40,000 men to the
bridges of Moustier and Ottignies by 10 or 10.30 A.M.

It seems to us, then, altogether probable that Marshal Grouchy could
have crossed the Dyle at Moustier and Ottignies with the bulk of his
forces before 11 A.M.[651]

At this hour, only “the advanced guard of Bülow’s corps had * * *
reached St. Lambert. The 16th, and then the 13th, brigade arrived much
later, and the 14th brigade, which formed the rear-guard was a long way
behind.”[652] At this hour the Ist, IId and IIId Corps were still in
and about Wavre. It would have been at this moment, when the IVth Corps
was thus strung out, toiling through the bad roads, that Grouchy would
have made his appearance, and have commenced his march from Moustier
and Ottignies to Lasne and St. Lambert. Can it be believed that he
would not have stopped Bülow? What else could Bülow have done but halt,
and concentrate his command, and await the reinforcements which were
expected from Wavre? But this would have involved him in an engagement
with Grouchy’s force, from which he could be released only by the
arrival of those reinforcements. When would they have arrived? (See Map

If Grouchy’s movement on Moustier had not been observed and promptly
reported to Blücher,—which is the assumption on which we are
proceeding, as being on the whole the most probable,—there is no
reason to suppose that the Ist and IId Prussian Corps would have moved
out of Wavre earlier than they did,—that is, about noon.[653] The IId
Corps followed the IVth, and would of course have become engaged with
Grouchy. The IIId would in time very likely have followed the IId; but
it probably would not have left Wavre till much later. These three
corps would have been Grouchy’s opponents; they would have outnumbered
him considerably, and would, no doubt, ultimately have worsted him.
But he probably would have prevented any portion of their troops from
attacking the main army under Napoleon.

As for the Ist Corps, there would have been nothing to prevent its
marching along the northerly road by way of Ohain to join Wellington,
if Zieten had thought it safe to run the chance of the Anglo-Dutch army
holding out until his arrival.

What effect these operations would have had on the issue of the battle
of Waterloo will be considered later.

6. We have stated above[654] that Grouchy, once arrived at La Baraque,
might have crossed the Dyle by the four bridges of Moustier and
Ottignies, Limale and Limelette, without, as it seems probable to us,
encountering serious opposition.[655] This view is strongly maintained
by Thiers, and as strongly contested by Charras. The latter’s
principal reason for doubting the feasibility of this movement is
the supposed presence in the woods of Sarats and Warlombrout, which
line the road from La Baraque to Wavre on the east and west sides
respectively, just after passing the former place, of the two divisions
of Reckow and Brause of the IId Corps, some 11,000 or 12,000 men.[656]
The wood of Warlombrout lies between the road leading to Moustier and
that leading to Limelette.

We think Charras in error as to the advanced position of these two
brigades, or divisions, as they may more properly be called.

Siborne makes no mention at all of the occupation of the wood of
Warlombrout, and says that that of Sarats was occupied by some
battalions of the 8th brigade, Reckow’s,[657] and that the rest of the
brigade was in rear of the wood. He says that the 7th brigade, that of
Brause, was in reserve. Ollech[658] says that Reckow’s brigade sent two
battalions into this wood of Sarats,[659] and that the brigade took up
position between Manil and St. Anne, which is nearly a mile in rear
of the wood; and that the other brigade was in rear of this. He says
nothing about the occupation of the wood of Warlombrout.

We do not know where Charras obtained his information; but it seems
quite clear that the movement to the bridges would not have met with
the amount of opposition which he claims. These brigades of Reckow and
Brause were portions of the IId Corps, and were expecting to cross
the Dyle at Wavre, and march to support Bülow. No one, of course,
can say what these troops would have done had Grouchy attempted to
cross the Dyle by the bridges or any of them; but it is certain that
these troops were not then expecting any such movement, nor were they
stationed where they could at once or easily have interfered with it.

7. Where was Grouchy when he heard the sound of the cannon of Waterloo,
and rejected the advice of Gérard to march to the support of the

That it was at Sart-à-Walhain where Marshal Grouchy heard the sound of
the cannon of Waterloo, is the universally accepted belief. But it is
an error. It may be interesting to see how it originated.

Berton, who wrote in 1818, says[660] that Grouchy’s column “was still at
the village of Walhain when it heard the first cannon-shots of Mont St.
Jean,” and that it was there that Gérard gave his advice.[661]

Grouchy, writing his “Observations” the same year in Philadelphia,
which were reprinted in Paris in 1819, states[662] that the cannon was
heard while they were skirmishing in the wood of Limelette, between 1
and 2 P.M.

Gérard, in a letter also written in 1819, states[663] that it was “at
Wallin, or Sart-à-Wallin.” He says he found the Marshal eating some
strawberries. It was about 11 A.M., a little more, or a little less. He
gives an account of the interview, and then says “We quitted Wallin,

His acting chief-of-staff, Colonel Simon Lorière, says in his

  “At 11 o’clock the Third [Fourth] Corps was entirely assembled at

  “The Count Gérard, who preceded the march of his corps, learnt that
  Marshal Grouchy had stopped at a house in the village  belonging to
  a M. Hollaert; he went there with the officers of his staff; he told
  me to follow; we found his Excellency at breakfast.”

Colonel Denniée of Gérard’s staff locates the incident at Sarra-Walin,
and speaks of Gérard’s having found the Marshal at breakfast.[665]

Gérard wrote to a friend of his at Brussels to look up M. Hollaert; he
did so, and wrote[666] to Gérard to say that he had been to see him at

This seems to have decided Gérard that the place was Sart-à-Walhain;
for he writes in 1820 to Colonel Grouchy, a son of the Marshal, as

  “It was not at 3 o’clock in the afternoon that I rejoined the
  commander-in-chief of the right wing, but towards 11 o’clock in the
  morning; he was at Sarra-Walin, at the house of a M. Hollaert, a
  notary, where he was breakfasting.”

Grouchy finally conceded to Gérard that it was long before they were
skirmishing in the wood of Limelette, that the sound of the cannon of
Waterloo was heard. He admitted in a letter[668] published in 1829, that
it was at Sart-à-Walhain, and at 11.30 A.M. This is also the statement
made in the Grouchy Memoirs.[669]

Nevertheless it was at Walhain and not at Sart-à-Walhain where Marshal
Grouchy was when he heard the sound of the cannon, and Gérard proffered
his advice to march toward the field of battle. It is certain that
the incident took place at the house of a notary—a M. Hollaert (or
Hollert, as it should be spelled),—for many of the officers who give
their recollections mention his name; and it is in no wise remarkable
that the name of the village in which his house stood should have made
no distinct impression on their memories. Now there was at that time
no notary at Sart-à-Walhain. There is none now. It is a very small
village. There was not in fact a notary’s office at Walhain in 1815;
there was none until 1818. But M. Joseph Hollert was in 1815 the notary
of the neighboring town of Nil St. Vincent, and he lived in a large
house in Walhain known as the Chateau Marette. It was here that he
received Marshal Grouchy in the forenoon of the 18th of June, 1815, and
it was into his garden that the officers went out from the house to
catch the direction of the firing.[670]

The matter is of no very great importance. Still, Walhain was certainly
a good mile nearer than Sart-à-Walhain to the bridges, whether Grouchy
marched by way of Mont St. Guibert or La Baraque. (See Map 11.)


[635] See the Bertrand order, _ante_, p. 210.

[636] This statement is true only of the army which the Duke had
in line of battle at Waterloo. There were besides some 18,000 men,
stationed at Hal and Tubize, of whom he did not avail himself.

[637] “Napoleon would not have lost his line of communication with
France had Blücher immediately reoccupied the position of Ligny upon
Napoleon’s leaving it; for his advance upon Wellington necessarily
opened to him both the Mons and Lille great lines to France.” Kennedy,
pp. 154, 155.

[638] Kennedy, p. 157.

[639] _Ante_, p. 274, n. 3.

[640] Kennedy, p. 160; Chesney, pp. 206, 207.

[641] Marshal Soult, according to Baudus (vol. 1, pp. 222, 223), was
opposed to detaching Grouchy with the large body of troops assigned to
him. He said to one of his aides that it was a great fault to detach
so considerable a force from the army which was going to march against
the Anglo-Belgian troops; that in the condition in which the defeat of
the evening before had put the Prussian army, a feeble force, with the
cavalry of General Exelmans, would suffice to follow and observe it in
its retreat. We concur in Marshal Soult’s conclusion, but not with his
reasons. It was not because the Prussian army was so weak, but because
it was still so formidable, that Napoleon should have kept all his army

[642] See the admirable observations of Siborne (vol. 1, pp. 318 _et
seq._); and of Van Loben Sels, pp. 319 _et seq._ With many writers, to
blame Napoleon is to exonerate Grouchy; with others, again, to blame
Grouchy is to exonerate Napoleon.

[643] _Cf._ Kennedy, pp. 160, 161; Chesney, pp. 206, 207. On the other
hand see Van Loben Sels, pp. 323, 324.

[644] Operations of War, p. 196 _et seq._

[645] Hamley, p. 196.

[646] Frag. Hist.; Lettre à MM. Méry et Barthélemy, p. 5; Grouchy Mém.,
vol. 4, p. 44.

[647] Jomini, p. 176.

[648] Charras, vol. 2, pp. 62, 63. Hooper’s view [pp. 342 _et seq._]
is substantially that of Charras. He also seems to think that unless
Grouchy could succeed in defeating the Prussian troops opposed to him,
his intervention would be useless. It seems to us, on the other hand,
that all that it was needful for Grouchy to do was to engage, and so to
detain, the corps of Bülow and Pirch I.; and by marching from the Dyle
upon their line of march from Wavre to St. Lambert, he was, it seems to
us, certain to accomplish this. This view is well presented by Quinet,
pp. 301-304.

[649] Charras, vol. 2, p. 42.

[650] _Ante_, p. 232.

[651] Siborne (vol. 1, p. 320) thinks that Grouchy could have
successfully crossed the Dyle even if he had not started from Gembloux
earlier than he did.

[652] Siborne, vol. 1, p. 311; Charras, vol. 2, pp. 72, 73.

[653] Charras, vol. 2, p. 43; Siborne, vol. 1, pp. 311, 312. Kennedy
(p. 163) seems to suppose that Pirch I. and Zieten followed Bülow
without any interval.

[654] _Ante_, p. 259.

[655] Van Loben Sels (pp. 322, 323, 340) is very positive as to this.

[656] Charras, vol. 2, p. 376; also, p. 44.

[657] Siborne, vol. 1, p. 313. He strictly follows Damitz, p. 247.

[658] Ollech, pp. 208, 209.

[659] Called by him Lautelle. It is sometimes called the wood of
Lauzel, as it adjoins a farm of that name.

[660] Berton, p. 55.

[661] Berton, pp. 55, 59.

[662] Grouchy, Obs., p. 16.

[663] Quelques Doc., p. 7. He means Walhain and Sart-à-Walhain.

[664] Ib., 12. By “Walin,” he means Walhain.

[665] Quelques Doc., pp. 17, 18. By “Sarra-Walin,” he means

[666] Ib., p. 19. His letter was dated September 30, 1819.

[667] Ib., p. 24. See also Gérard’s “Lettre à MM. Germain-Sarrut et B.
Saint Edme,” pp. 10, 11; and his “Dernières Observations,” pp. 8, 29.

[668] Fragm. Hist.; Lettre à MM. Méry and Barthélemy, p. 9.

[669] Grouchy Mém., vol. 4, pp. 71, 75.

[670] The writer has abundant proof of the above statements. He has
also visited the house. M. Wenseleers, who is referred to in the
Preface, obtained for him this information in 1888 and 1889.



Napoleon, as we have seen, took up his headquarters on the evening
of the 17th at the Caillou house on the Brussels road, about a mile
and a half south of the little tavern known then and now as La Belle
Alliance. All the afternoon and night it rained hard. We may suppose
that, as his custom was, he slept during the evening. At 1 A.M. of
the 18th, he mounted his horse, and, with Bertrand, rode out to the
front.[671] Here he rode or walked along the line of the pickets until
he had satisfied himself that Wellington’s army was in position,
awaiting battle. The fires at which the soldiers of the English and
Dutch army were drying and warming themselves left no doubt of this. He
must have been occupied in this way more than two hours, as he was near
the wood of Hougomont at half-past two in the morning.

After returning, various reports came in. Between 7 and 8 A.M. he
received from an officer who had been sent to the advanced posts, word
that the enemy were retiring. This information he at once communicated
to d’Erlon,[672] whose corps was in the first line,—that of Reille not
having got fully up,—and ordered him to put his troops in march and
to pursue the enemy with vigor. But d’Erlon having judged the enemy’s
movement quite differently, sent his chief-of-staff to the Emperor to
tell him that he, d’Erlon, thought that the English were making their
dispositions to receive battle. D’Erlon proceeds:—

  “The Emperor came immediately to the advanced posts. I accompanied
  him; we dismounted in order to get near the enemy’s vedettes, and to
  examine more closely the movements of the English army. He perceived
  that I was right, and being convinced that the English army was
  taking position, he said to me:—

  ‘Order the men to make their soup, to get their pieces in order, and
  we will determine what is to be done towards noon.’”

Napoleon seems in fact not to have spared himself any trouble, and
there evidently was no very conspicuous deficiency in the physical
energy of a man who, after a good afternoon’s work in the saddle in
directing the march of an army, was able to go out twice in the deep
mud during a rainy night and morning to visit the outer pickets of
his line of battle, nearly two miles from the house where he had
established his headquarters.

The reason of this apparently rather unnecessary solicitude is really
not far to seek. Napoleon felt as confident of beating Wellington’s
army that day as he had felt of beating Blücher’s army on the day but
one before, provided only that it would accept battle. He believed,
and he was justified in believing, that his army was superior to that
opposed to him, in fighting capacity certainly, and even, possibly, in
numbers. He trusted to Grouchy to keep the Prussians off, as he had on
the day of Ligny trusted to Ney to protect him against the English, and
he may also have thought it possible that Grouchy would arrive on the
field in time to make the victory more crushing,—playing, in this way,
much the same _rôle_ which Napoleon had marked out for Ney at Ligny. He
accordingly feared nothing so much as the retreat of the English.

That he supposed that Grouchy would cross the Dyle at Moustier is
certainly a fair inference from Marbot’s report and letter, from
which we have made extracts above.[673] That he should have been so
certain about it, however, is remarkable, as he had given Grouchy
no instructions[674] of any kind whatsoever since he had sent him the
Bertrand order, and that left him entire freedom of action.

Another very remarkable thing is that Napoleon should not have drawn
from the fact that Wellington was awaiting battle the inference that
he was expecting the assistance, and the powerful assistance, of
Blücher.[675] At least it would seem pretty certain that he did not draw
this inference, for he took neither of the steps which, if he had come
to that conclusion, would seem to be dictated by common sense,—he
neither attacked Wellington as early as he possibly could, nor did he
do anything to make sure of Grouchy’s intervention until 10 A.M., when
he sent him the order which we have given above.[676] If, on his return
to the Caillou house at half-past three or thereabouts in the morning,
he had sent an officer to order Grouchy to march towards the main army
by the bridges of Moustier and Ottignies, he would have done only what
the fact of Wellington’s confronting him, which he had just ascertained
with his own eyes, should have led him to do.

The rain ceased, according to Charras,[677] at 6 A.M.;
Vaudoncourt,[678] a much earlier authority, puts it at 8 o’clock; Van
Loben Sels[679] says that the rain had diminished at break of day,
but it was not until 10 o’clock that the atmosphere became clear;
Baudus,[680] who was at the battle on Soult’s staff, says the rain
ceased towards 9 o’clock. We may probably assume that the rain had
ceased by 8 o’clock, and that in another hour, had Napoleon so chosen,
he might have begun the battle.

This, in point of fact, he originally intended to do. He had issued an
order in good season to the corps-commanders, that they should see that
the soldiers cleaned their guns and got their breakfasts, so that at
9 o’clock precisely they should be ready to commence the battle.[681]
Drouot, who was a distinguished artillery-officer, and was then acting
as adjutant-general of the Guard, tells us[682] that Napoleon intended
to begin the battle by 8 or 9 at the latest. But Drouot advised a delay
of two to three hours on account of the condition of the ground, which
the heavy rain of the past afternoon and night had rendered too soft
for the rapid and effective movements of artillery; and Napoleon, who
was himself an artillery officer, and always made great use of this
arm, yielded to the suggestion, and determined to put off the main
attack till towards one o’clock P.M.

About 8 A.M. the Emperor rode along the lines,[683] examining the
enemy’s position, which he had already, as we have seen, inspected
twice since midnight. He then dictated an order of battle, or, rather,
an order of movement, the result of which would be that the army would
be arranged in three lines, ready for the attack. This marshalling of
the army was, according to all accounts, a magnificent and imposing
spectacle; the bands played; the men shouted “Vive l’Empereur!”; the
movement was skilfully designed and beautifully executed; but, except
as a way of occupying the time, it would probably never have been
thought of. It began shortly before nine and was over by half-past
ten.[684] It showed at any rate that had it been thought advisable, the
battle might have been begun at 9 A.M.

After this pageant “Napoleon passed before the lines and was received
by immense, by enthusiastic acclamations.”[685] He then, shortly before
eleven o’clock, dictated his plan of attack. Of this we shall speak
later on.

One cannot but be struck with a recurrence here of the same error to
which we have had occasion to call attention before,—namely, the error
of acting on the probabilities of the situation when it is admitted
that a different state of things may nevertheless, in spite of the
probabilities, exist, and that, if it does exist, a wholly different
course of action must be taken, or a fatal result will inevitably
follow. Napoleon was, very likely, warranted in thinking it probable
that morning that, what with the loss and demoralization consequent
on their defeat at Ligny, and what with the interference with their
plans which Grouchy with his 33,000 men could reasonably be expected
to make, he himself was safe against any intervention on the part of
the Prussians. But he did not and could not know where the Prussians
were; in fact, he had great reason to believe that a large part of them
had gone to Wavre; and at that very moment he thought it very likely
that their action in going to Wavre would induce Grouchy to come to
him by way of Moustier. If, then, the exigency called in the Emperor’s
mind for this course on the part of Grouchy, why did it not equally
demand from Napoleon the promptest action against Wellington, and the
exertion of every means to make sure of Grouchy’s intervention? This
criticism is, in fact, only an extension of that made in reference to
the step taken by Napoleon in detaching Grouchy’s large force when he
felt it necessary at the same time to warn Grouchy expressly that the
Prussians might be intending to unite with the English.

However we may explain these apparent contradictions, they certainly
existed in Napoleon’s mind and also in his actions. He was so sure
of having only the Anglo-Dutch army to fight that he deliberately
postponed attacking it until he could do so in the most approved style;
he was confident that if the Prussians had gone in the direction of
Wavre with the intention of joining the English or of attacking the
French, Grouchy would return to him by the bridge of Moustier. And
yet, from 1 P.M. of the afternoon of the 17th to 10 A.M. of the 18th,
he sent Grouchy no orders, and no information. Where such is the lack
of ordinary care on the part of the commanding general, a great deal
surely must depend upon the energy and capacity of the subordinate.

While this was the general situation at the French headquarters, the
Duke of Wellington, having with his customary carefulness set his army
in battle array, was quietly waiting until it should suit his adversary
to assault his lines. Every hour’s delay was a distinct gain to him;
and he knew it. He knew, what Napoleon of course could not know, that
the Prussians were on their way to attack the French and to join the

At the same time, it must not be supposed that the Duke had no cause
for anxiety. Of the defects of his army he was well aware. No one knew
better than he that such a conglomerate mass of troops as that which he
commanded, consisting, too, in great part of raw and untried soldiers,
could not possibly be equal to the well-appointed army of Napoleon’s
veterans whose blows he was soon to receive. His only reliance,
therefore, was on Blücher’s promised support. As Sir James Shaw-Kennedy
well says:—[686]

  “In order at all to understand the views of the Duke of Wellington
  as to accepting battle on the field of Waterloo, it is essential
  to keep this arrangement [_i.e._, with Blücher] fully in view;
  otherwise the Duke might justly be accused of the utmost temerity
  and folly in accepting battle, as much the greater portion of his
  army consisted of mere Landwehr and of Dutch-Belgian troops. The
  latter, from political and other causes, could not be depended upon;
  which, in fact, had been already proved on the 16th. It would be
  an error to suppose that it was from any want of courage that the
  Dutch-Belgian troops could not be depended upon; proof enough exists
  that the people of those countries are capable of the most heroic
  and persevering exertions when engaged in a cause that they care to
  support; but under the circumstances in which they were placed on
  this occasion, they were without confidence, were not acting in a
  cause which they cordially supported, and showed that it was not one
  in which they wished to oppose themselves seriously to French troops.”

But Wellington felt that he could rely on Blücher’s promise, and he
took his chance that Blücher would be able to fulfil his promise, and
that he himself would be able to hold out until the promise should be
fulfilled. These risks, however, were by no means small.

In the first place, the Duke not only did not know that Napoleon had
given Grouchy two whole corps; he even supposed that he had given him
but one, and that Napoleon was confronting him on the morning of the
battle with his whole army, “with the exception of the 3d Corps, which
had been sent to observe Marshal Blücher.”[687] This risk, fortunately
for the Duke of Wellington, was not actually incurred. But, all the
same, Wellington is entitled to the credit of having faced it with his
eyes open.

Secondly, there was the chance that Grouchy might intervene, and
prevent the Prussians from fulfilling their promise. We have already
shown what Grouchy could have done in this way had he either acted of
his own motion in accordance with the demands of the situation by
marching at daybreak for the bridge of Moustier, or had followed the
counsel of Gérard at noon.

The issue of the battle of Waterloo, in fact, might have been entirely
changed if the movements of troops not under the control of either of
the commanding generals had been other than they were; it is this fact
among others which gives the battle a peculiar interest.

The position to the south of the villages of Mont St. Jean and
Waterloo, known as the field of Waterloo, had been, some time before
the campaign opened, reconnoitred by the English engineers; “the
several sketches of the officers had been put together, and one fair
copy made for the Prince of Orange; a second had been commenced for
the Duke.”[688] The chief-of-engineers, Lieutenant-Colonel Smyth,
who was present at the action of Quatre Bras, sent back to Brussels
during the afternoon, presumably by the Duke’s direction, for a
plan of this position; and the original sketches, which, together,
constituted a plan, were forwarded to him by Captain Oldfield, the
brigade-major of engineers.[689] The next morning, “upon the receipt
of a communication from Blücher,”[690] the Duke obtained from Colonel
Smyth these sketches, and gave them to Sir William De Lancey, his
Deputy-Quartermaster-General, or chief-of-staff, “with orders” (as
Major Oldfield states)[691] “to take up the ground on which we fought
the next day. Colonel Smyth was at the same time desired to take the
necessary measures for entrenching the village of Braine-la-Leud.”

To this position, then, well understood and mapped out, the Duke of
Wellington fell back on the afternoon of the 17th from Quatre Bras with
that part of his army which was under his immediate command, and to it
also he directed the greater part of the troops which were at Nivelles
and other places. (See Map 13.)

The position was a strong one. The first or main line of battle crossed
the Charleroi-Brussels pike at right angles where the road from Ohain
and Wavre strikes into it, nearly three-quarters of a mile south of the
hamlet of Mont St. Jean, where the _chaussée_ to Nivelles branches off
from the pike. To the east of this pike the English left extended for a
mile or so,—for more than half this distance on the crest of a gentle
slope; but the little villages of Smohain, Papelotte and La Haye, lying
from a quarter to a half a mile in front, were occupied. To the west
of the pike the line ran along the same ridge for nearly a third of
a mile, when it turned somewhat towards the southwest, but still ran
along the crest of the ridge, and so continued for nearly a half a mile
farther. Here the line was covered by a garden and a considerable wood
enclosing a solid old building, known as the Chateau of Hougomont. This
building and its enclosures lay about 350 yards in front of the main
line of battle, at its extreme right, and they were occupied in force.
The ridge was admirably suited for defensive purposes. The reverse
slope offered excellent protection for infantry lying behind it; and
in front, there were no trees or other impediments; every movement of
the enemy was plainly to be seen, and was exposed to fire. Moreover the
ground over which the enemy must advance for the attack was so moist
and muddy, that all rapidity of movement, even of cavalry, was out of
the question.

Wellington had on the field the whole of the 1st, 2d, 3d, 5th and 6th
British divisions, one brigade (Mitchell’s) of the 4th division, the
2d and 3d Dutch-Belgian divisions, and the contingents from Brunswick
and Nassau,—numbering in all 49,608 infantry, 12,408 cavalry and 5,645
artillery, with 156 guns,—a total of 67,661 men.[692]

These troops, as we have before observed,[693] were stationed on the
field without reference to the corps to which they belonged. The reason
for this probably was that the Duke desired to distribute his foreign
troops, on some, at any rate, of whom he placed no great reliance,
among his British troops and those of the King’s German Legion,
which were his main dependence. Then, inasmuch as the army had never
before acted by corps, or, in fact, at all, in the field, no special
inconvenience was to be apprehended from this arrangement.

The army of the Duke was composed as follows:—[694]

  British troops:—
    Infantry        15,181
    Cavalry          5,843
    Artillery        2,967

  King’s German Legion:—
    Infantry         3,301
    Cavalry          1,997
    Artillery          526

  Total British and King’s
    German Legion           ------  29,815 Men

    Infantry                10,258
    Cavalry                    497
    Artillery                  465
                                     11,220 „

    Infantry         4,586
    Cavalry            866
    Artillery          510
                                      5,962 „

    Infantry                          2,880 „

    Infantry        13,402
    Cavalry          3,205
    Artillery        1,177           17,784 „

  Total as above.                    67,661 „

To the eastward, or English left, of the turnpike, were stationed in
the first line the 5th and 6th British divisions, the 2d Dutch-Belgian
division, and the British cavalry brigades of Vivian and Vandeleur.
This part of the line seems to have been commanded by Sir Thomas
Picton,[695] although it is not clear whether he had any authority
except over his own division, the 5th. Of these troops the cavalry were
stationed on the extreme left. One brigade of Dutch-Belgians, that
of Prince Bernhard of Saxe Weimar, occupied the villages of Smohain,
Papelotte and La Haye. The English infantry were placed on the reverse
of the slope of the ridge, so as to be sheltered from the enemy’s fire.
But the other Dutch-Belgian brigade, Bylandt’s, was, as Sir James
Shaw-Kennedy says,[696] “posted, most unaccountably, in front of the
Wavre road, on the slope. * * * In this position, it was jutted forward
in front of the real line of battle, which was mainly the Wavre road.
It was directly exposed to the fire of the greatest French battery
that was on the field, and singly exposed to the first onset of the
French attacking columns.” Who was responsible for this inconsiderate
and dangerous measure we do not know. In rear of the left wing, and
protected from the French fire, stood the Union brigade, so called, of
Major General Sir William Ponsonby, composed of the Royal Dragoons, the
Scots Greys, and the Inniskilling Dragoons.

The right of the left wing rested on the Charleroi turnpike. The 3d
British division, Alten’s, continued the line to the west of the
turnpike. On the westerly side of the pike, and about 300 yards to the
south of the point where the Wavre road crosses it, was the farmhouse
of La Haye Sainte, which was strongly occupied by a battalion of the
King’s German Legion under Major Baring. An _abatis_ was formed across
the road at the south end of the boundary wall of the house,[697] but it
was broken up during the course of the battle.

Beyond the third division, on the allied right, were stationed the
two brigades constituting the 1st division, Cooke’s,—a part of the 2d
brigade, Byng’s, occupying, with some Nassau and other foreign troops,
the Chateau and enclosures of Hougomont.

The 2d division, Clinton’s, was in reserve near Merbe Braine, as was
also the Brunswick contingent. The 3d Dutch-Belgian division, Chassé’s,
was on the extreme right, and partly in the village of Braine-la-Leud.
The heavy cavalry brigade of Lord Edward Somerset was stationed in the
rear, near the Charleroi pike; the Dutch-Belgian cavalry were farther
to the right.

It is plain from the foregoing that, with the exception of the
unfortunate brigade of Bylandt, the army was skilfully arranged so as
to escape as far as was possible the fire of the enemy’s artillery,
which was known to be extremely formidable. The occupation of Hougomont
was most carefully attended to; the walls were loop-holed,—not only
of the house, but of the garden; and, surrounded, as it was, on the
sides nearest the French by a considerable wood, it was a really
strong place. So long as it was held, the right of Wellington’s line
was practically unassailable.[698] The farmhouse of La Haye Sainte
on the Brussels road was also made very strong, although, owing to
some oversight, no adequate mode of reinforcing the defenders, or of
supplying them with ammunition, was provided. No earth-works had been
thrown up anywhere.[699] An _abatis_ had, as has been observed, been
placed across the Charleroi road, and another was thrown across the
Nivelles road in rear of Hougomont.

Napoleon brought to the field of Waterloo the 1st, 2d, and 6th Corps
(_minus_ the division of Teste), the Imperial Guard, the heavy cavalry
of Kellermann and Milhaud, the light cavalry of Domon, detached from
the 3d Corps, and of Subervie, detached from the cavalry-corps of
Pajol,—a total of 71,947 men, of whom 48,950 were infantry, 15,765
cavalry, and 7,232 artillery. There were 246 guns.[700]

The 1st Corps constituted the right of the first line. Its left rested
on the Charleroi turnpike near the inn of La Belle Alliance, and its
light cavalry observed the villages of La Haye and Papelotte on the
extreme right. The 2d Corps continued the first line to the west, the
cavalry of Piré being stationed beyond the Nivelles road. The 6th Corps
and the Guard, with the cavalry of Kellermann and Milhaud, were in

Of the three divisions of the 2d Corps present at the battle,—that of
Girard having been left at Ligny,—the division of Jerome was on the
left, that of Foy in the centre, and that of Bachelu on the right,—its
right resting on the Charleroi road.

Of the four divisions of the 1st Corps, that of Donzelot was the left,
and its left rested on the Charleroi road; then came that of Allix,
commanded by Quiot; then that of Marcognet, and then that of Durutte.
This last was opposite Papelotte and La Haye.

The two armies were nearly equal in numbers; and had that of the Duke
of Wellington been equal in point of material to that of the Emperor,
the advantage of position which it possessed would have fully made up
for the slight superiority in numbers possessed by the French. As it
was, however, the superiority of the French, not only in artillery
and cavalry, but so far as a large part of the Anglo-Dutch army was
concerned, in _moral_, was unquestionable, and Wellington’s only
justification for receiving battle lay, as Kennedy points out above, in
his expectation of receiving help from Blücher.

Napoleon, as we have seen, dictated his plan of battle before eleven
o’clock. It provided that,[701] as soon as the whole army should be
ranged in order of battle, about 1 P.M., and the Emperor should give
the order to Marshal Ney, the attack should commence, having for its
object to get possession of the village of Mont St. Jean, where the
road from Nivelles strikes into the Charleroi turnpike. This attack was
to be made by the 1st Corps, supported on the left by the 2d Corps. To
aid this attack a formidable battery of seventy-eight guns, many of
them twelve-pounders, was to be moved forward on the east side of the
road to a ridge which ran in front of and parallel to the French line
of battle, and only 600 yards from the English position.

The Emperor had then definitely decided before eleven o’clock to defer
the principal move of the day till about one in the afternoon. In this
decision he was mainly, if not wholly, influenced by the difficulties
which he saw would be caused by the deep mud of the fields over which
his troops would have to manœuvre.

The determination of Napoleon to make his main effort against the
village of Mont St. Jean, so as to possess himself of the principal
avenue of retreat open to the enemy,—the road to Brussels,—has always
elicited the commendation of military men. The Emperor undoubtedly
intended to aid the attack of the 1st Corps by advancing the 6th Corps
in its support; but this, as we shall see, owing to the intervention
of the Prussians, he did not attempt. Whether, in case the attack
had succeeded, so far as to give to the French the possession of
the Brussels road, the Forest of Soignes would have afforded cover
to Wellington’s retreating army, as English writers have always
maintained, or would have necessitated the abandonment of the greater
part of their artillery, as Napoleon contended, is a question which we
will not undertake to discuss here.

At 11.30 A.M., before the time arrived for beginning the main operation
of the day, Napoleon ordered Reille to attack Hougomont with his left
division, that of Prince Jerome.[702] This movement, intended only as
a diversion, was undertaken without any sufficient examination of the
enemy’s position, and in the most inconsiderate manner.[703] Neither
Jerome, who commanded the division, nor Guilleminot, who, Charras
maintains, really controlled its operations, took the pains to direct
the boiling courage and superfluous energy of the men, which, skilfully
used, might have resulted in obtaining at least partial success. For
example, the western entrance of the Chateau was perfectly open to
artillery fire, and, had a few heavy guns been employed, the doors
and adjacent wall would have been demolished, and the building would
probably have been taken,[704] although it is doubtful if it could have
been held. Bags of powder, also, would have destroyed the garden wall,
but no one thought of supplying them to the men.[705] In consequence
of these neglects, the soldiers of Jerome’s division, after possessing
themselves of the wood and orchard, were shot down by their opponents
from behind the garden wall, and from the loopholes in the house and
its outbuildings, and could make no further progress. This, of itself,
was, perhaps, of no great consequence; but Reille, impatient of being
thwarted, and still neglecting to ascertain the precise reasons of the
ill-success of the attack, sent in the division of Foy to support that
of Jerome. In fact, later in the day, the division of Bachelu was also
employed in this useless and most costly attempt to get possession of
Hougomont. When it is considered that the 2d Corps contained on this
morning not far from 12,000 foot soldiers, and that very few of them
assisted in the attacks on the main line of the English army, one gets
an idea of the wasteful, and, in fact, inexcusable mismanagement of the
resources of the French army on this day. Not more than half the above
number of men were employed to maintain the position.

The main operation of the day was to be, as we have said, an advance by
the 1st Corps under d’Erlon to break the centre of the English line at
and near the junction of the Wavre road with the turnpike. The great
battery of seventy-eight pieces of cannon continued firing for an hour
and a half at a distance of less than a third of a mile from the crest
in front of which lay the brigade of Bylandt, and behind which lay the
brigades of Kempt and Pack and Best of Picton’s division. At half-past
one Napoleon ordered d’Erlon forward.

His attack was to be made in four columns, marching in _échelon_, the
left in advance. The formation of these columns was so extraordinary,
and so ill-suited for the work to be done, that it has always excited
the comment of military men. We owe to Charras[706] a clear explanation
of this formation. The first, or left, column consisted of the
brigade of Bourgeois of the division of Allix,—the other brigade of
this division, that of Quiot, being assigned to the special task of
capturing La Haye Sainte. This brigade of Bourgeois contained four
battalions, one behind another; each battalion stood in three ranks,
one behind the other; and there was a distance of five paces between
the battalions. The front of this column, therefore, consisted of
one-third of the number of men in the leading battalion; and there
being four battalions in the brigade, there were of course twelve ranks
in the column. It was the same, _mutatis mutandis_, with the other
columns. Donzelot’s division, which contained nine battalions, had,
therefore, twenty-seven ranks in its column; the divisions of Marcognet
and Durutte, which had only eight battalions each, had each twenty-four
ranks. This formation was quite an exceptional one. A column very
generally in use at that day consisted of a battalion in the centre, in
line,—that is, in three ranks,—flanked on either side, by battalions in
column of divisions, capable of promptly forming line or square. And
then there were other convenient formations in frequent use. But these
formations of d’Erlon’s divisions were unwieldy,—they lacked mobility.
Why Ney and d’Erlon should have departed from the usual practice on
this occasion, no one knows.[707]

The story of d’Erlon’s charge has been often told.[708] How the
soldiers of the unfortunate brigade of Bylandt, utterly unable, as
they were, after having been exposed to the fire of the great battery
for an hour and a half, to resist alone the impact of such an enormous
force, broke in confusion and fell to the rear amid the undeserved
curses of their English allies;[709] how the French in their unwieldy
masses pressed forward to the crest of the ridge to receive the
fire at short range of the brigades of Pack and Kempt, which only
the leading battalions were able, owing to the faulty formation of
the columns, to return at all; and how, when staggered by the fire,
and while endeavoring to disengage their closely following ranks,
Ponsonby’s brigade of heavy cavalry charged them furiously, riding
down between the columns, throwing them into confusion, cutting down
the exposed foot-soldiers, capturing two eagles, and many prisoners,
disabling some 15 guns, and forcing the three left columns to fall
back in disorder,—all this is familiar to all readers of the story of
Waterloo. It is difficult to find a parallel to this clumsily executed
movement of d’Erlon’s. At the same time, faulty as the formation of
the columns was, the troops got actually on the crest of the British
position; and had there been any timidity or hesitation on the part
of their adversaries, the columns would undoubtedly have forced their
way through the British line. But the necessary time was not allowed
them. Sir Thomas Picton was alive to the danger; he was prompt to seize
the opportunity; his troops by their close and deadly fire threw the
heads of the columns into confusion, and then charged them with the
bayonet. Lord Uxbridge, who commanded the cavalry, rode over from his
own position on the other side of the turnpike, and ordered Ponsonby
to charge. He then returned to lead Somerset’s cavalry brigade in a
successful charge on the west of the pike. The whole affair was a great
and deserved success for the English. Their cavalry, however, was very
severely handled on returning to its original positions.

Shortly before d’Erlon moved out, Napoleon had seen a body of troops
on the heights of St. Lambert, far off on his right. It was soon
ascertained that they were Prussians. He then sent off the 1 P.M.
order to Grouchy.[710] By the time that the unfortunate charge of the
1st Corps had resulted in the repulse narrated above, certainly before
3 P.M., Napoleon had decided that he must employ the 6th Corps in
resisting the Prussians, and not in supporting the 1st Corps in further
operations against the English, as he had originally intended to do.
But whatever shape the next movement might assume, the first thing to
be done was evidently to carry the farmhouse of La Haye Sainte, which
had just been unsuccessfully attempted.

This was undertaken in the same reckless and careless manner which had
characterized the assault on Hougomont. Although the French had an
abundance of heavy guns, none were used to batter down the doors and
walls, in front of which the bravest officers and men could accomplish
but little, and were sacrificed to no purpose.[711] The place was
finally taken shortly before 4 P.M.[712]

But the capture of La Haye Sainte was only a necessary preliminary to
a serious attack on the enemy’s main line. Napoleon (or perhaps Ney)
seems to have thought that the troops of d’Erlon had been too severely
handled to warrant the expectation of any immediate aid from them. They
would require an hour or two, perhaps, to recover. At any rate, it was
determined to assail the English centre to the west of the Charleroi
road, and as the infantry of the 1st Corps were not for the moment
available, and as that of the 2d Corps, or at least, the greater part
of it, was engaged in attacking Hougomont, it was decided to make the
assault this time with cavalry alone.

The troops on this portion of Wellington’s line,—between the Charleroi
road and Hougomont,—had been subjected only to artillery fire, and even
that had not been anything like as severe as that sustained by the
troops exposed to the great French battery on the opposite side of the
road. They consequently were in good condition to resist cavalry,[713]
especially considering that the bad ground over which the cavalry must
pass would be certain to diminish the force of their assaults. Sir
James Shaw-Kennedy, who was on this part of the line, tells us that the
opinion at the time among the English officers was that the attack was

This was also Napoleon’s own opinion; he seems to have yielded to Ney’s
solicitations against his own judgment. But at this time, shortly
after 4 P.M., the advance of Bülow’s Corps occupied the constant
attention of the Emperor; he was constrained to leave the conduct
of the battle against Wellington to Marshal Ney, in whose tactical
skill and management he had great confidence, and to devote himself
mainly to the task of directing the movements of the 6th Corps and of
those portions of the Guard, which from time to time he was obliged to
detach for its support, so as to prevent the Prussians from seizing
the village of Planchenoit and thus menacing the communications of the
army. Napoleon’s neglect of the conduct of the operations against the
English has often been the subject of comment and severe criticism;
but we imagine that he was far more anxious to hinder the Prussians,
who were aiming, so to speak, at a vital part, from succeeding, than
even to defeat the English. To fend off the Prussians was an absolute
necessity; to drive the English from the field, a thing no doubt
very desirable; but as there was no fear that they would take the
offensive, and as, if they did, the army, or, at least, the great bulk
of it, was in line of battle opposed to them, no great danger was to
be apprehended from them. Whereas the Prussians were striking at the
flank and rear, aiming to get control of the Charleroi road, and thus
of the line of communications and retreat of the army. To prevent their
succeeding in this was, therefore, of vital importance. Hence Napoleon
attended to this himself, and left to Ney the conduct of the fight
against Wellington’s army.

Marshal Ney, then, determined to carry the allied centre by charges
of cavalry. He seems to have made no effort to support this attack by
the infantry of the 2d Corps, although it would certainly have been
quite possible to have withdrawn at least Bachelu’s division from the
wood of Hougomont and to have used it with good effect. But Ney was
originally an officer of cavalry; this fact may have made him think
it possible to accomplish more with cavalry alone than to others
would seem practicable. At any rate, from 4 to 6 P.M. the splendid
divisions of Milhaud, Lefebvre-Desnouettes, Kellermann and Guyot were
successively launched against the English lines. Every one has heard
of the magnificent gallantry of these fine troops; every one knows the
indomitable steadiness with which their repeated onsets were borne.
At the close of these assaults the French cavalry had become wellnigh
exhausted; and they had not broken a single square. Nevertheless, the
English, Hanoverian, Nassau and Brunswick troops had suffered severely;
obliged to remain in squares for fear of the repeated irruptions of
the French cavalry, they presented an easy mark to the French infantry
skirmishers of Donzelot’s division, which with a portion of Quiot’s
was finally brought over from the east side of the turnpike, as well
as to the artillery from the French main position, which, necessarily
silent while the cavalry were on the plateau, constantly recommenced
its fire as soon as the cavalry retired down the slope, as was done
many times during these two hours. In fact this part of the allied line
was finally weakened so much that it was very near giving way, as we
shall shortly see. At one time, all the troops for nearly half a mile
to the west of the Brussels pike had retired from exhaustion, and in
disorder, and the Duke himself had to lead up fresh troops to take
their places.[714]

More, however, might have been accomplished by the French. For
instance, the enfilading batteries, which towards the close of the day,
dismounted Mercer’s guns[715] and practically destroyed several squares
of infantry, might have been employed quite as easily two hours before,
and more of them might well have been used.[716]

But no use whatever was made, except as above stated, of the very
great advantage afforded by the position of La Haye Sainte for the
posting of batteries which should sweep the whole line of the allies,
dismount their guns, riddle their squares, and render their infantry
unable to resist the shock of cavalry. Nor was the infantry of the 1st
Corps brought up in season. As for that of the 2d Corps, Ney hardly
made any use of it at all; he suffered it to remain in the wood and
enclosures of Hougomont.

Napoleon said, and it cannot be seriously disputed, that the heavy
cavalry of the Guard, the division of Guyot, went in without his
orders. Whether Ney ordered it in is, however, doubtful. His
chief-of-staff, Colonel Heymès, denies that he did. He says that the
cavalry of the Guard went in of its own accord. (Doc. Inéd., pp. 16,
17.) At any rate, it was a great mistake, whoever committed it, as all
the authorities freely say. It destroyed the last cavalry-reserve of
the army.

While these operations were going on in front, Napoleon was personally
superintending the desperate and gallant fight made by the two
divisions of the 6th Corps under Lobau against Bülow’s advance.
The two leading divisions of the IVth Corps, which moved out about
4.30 P.M., were easily checked at first; but they rallied, and were
reinforced by the rest of the corps; and, between 5 and 6 P.M., Lobau
was driven back, and Planchenoit itself was threatened. The Emperor
was obliged to put in the Young Guard, which, with three batteries,
occupied Planchenoit, while the 6th Corps extended on its left so as
to connect with the right of the 1st Corps. But the Prussians drove
the Young Guard out of the village; and the Emperor had to order in
three battalions of the Old and Middle Guard with two batteries. These
troops, gallantly supported by the Young Guard, retook the town, and
the Prussians fell back some distance. Napoleon then seems to have
thought that the attack of the Prussians was exhausted. It was nearly
seven o’clock.[717] In this action the fighting on both sides was very
obstinate. The French troops were superior in point of experience to
those of Bülow,—those of the 6th Corps were led by a very able officer,
Lobau, and the regiments of the Guard were the _élite_ of the army.
Hence, though much inferior in numbers, they obtained this success,
which under other circumstances, would have been decisive. But in this
case their enemies had reinforcements at hand. Pirch I., at the head of
the IId Corps, was only two miles in rear.

This, however, Napoleon of course could not know. Hence, thinking that
the danger from the Prussians was practically over, he hastened towards
the front, where for the last hour, ever since the conclusion of the
cavalry attacks, the battle had languished. It had in fact consisted
during this period only of a general skirmish firing along the centre
of the English position to the west of the Brussels pike, the result of
which, however, was, undoubtedly, to weaken perceptibly the strength
and _moral_ of the allied troops. This part of the English line was
in fact in a bad way at this period of the battle.[718] As Sir James
Shaw-Kennedy, who was on this part of the line on the staff of the 3d
division, says:—[719]

  “La Haye Sainte was in the hands of the enemy; also the knoll on
  the opposite side of the road; also the garden and ground on the
  Anglo-Allied side of it; Ompteda’s brigade was nearly annihilated,
  and Kielmansegge’s so thinned, that those two brigades could not
  hold their position. That part of the field of battle, therefore,
  which was between Halkett’s[720] left and Kempt’s[721] right, was
  unprotected; and being the very centre of the Duke’s line of battle,
  was consequently that point, above all others, which the enemy
  wished to gain. The danger was imminent; and at no other period of
  the action was the result so precarious as at this moment. Most
  fortunately Napoleon did not support the advantage his troops had
  gained at this point by bringing forward his reserve; proving that
  he did not exert that activity and personal energy in superintending
  and conforming to the progress of the action, which he ought to have

As to this last observation, we have just seen how the Emperor was
employed during this critical period of the action. He was in truth
fighting another battle with inferior forces against the Prussians,
and this, too, at a distance of a mile and a half from the English
line of battle.[722] The criticism on Napoleon is therefore unfounded;
it is due simply to the fact that his occupation during this period
of the battle was not borne in mind by General Shaw-Kennedy. But the
fact remains; if there had been no other battle to fight,—no desperate
action at Planchenoit, requiring the presence and personal direction of
the Emperor,—if the attack upon the allied lines could have been made
under the eye and direct orders of Napoleon himself,—in the opinion
of Kennedy, whose account of the battle is one of the best we have,
it would have gone hard with Wellington’s army. Add to this, that if
there had been no other battle to fight, the Emperor could have brought
16,000 fresh men to bear upon this exhausted force of Wellington’s.
It should be added, also, that the English heavy cavalry of Somerset
and Ponsonby, which had been well nigh exhausted by their charges at
the beginning of the action, and had suffered more or less during the
afternoon, were not able to render efficient service at the close of
the day.

Napoleon, as we have seen, as soon as he had, as he supposed,
definitely repulsed the Prussians in the neighborhood of Planchenoit,
hastened to the front, where he must have arrived somewhere about
seven o’clock. His absence from the field during this time was, as we
have seen, not due to any fault or neglect of his, but nevertheless
it was most unfortunate for the success of his army.[723] Marshal Ney
had exhausted, as he supposed,[724] all the resources available to him.
Over the Imperial Guard he had no authority; and the only infantry in
the army that had not been put in belonged to the Guard. Meanwhile
Wellington had exerted himself to the utmost to restore at least a
semblance of strength to his line of battle west of the turnpike; he
had rallied the men of Alten’s division, who had been shaken by the
fall of that officer, who was severely wounded; he had brought forward
some Brunswick troops; he had ordered Chassé’s (3d) Dutch-Belgian
division from its position near Merbe Braine to a position in rear
of the guards; he had brought over to the centre the light cavalry
brigades of Vivian and Vandeleur from the extreme left. He had, in
fact, done all that could be done, and he was now awaiting the next
move of his antagonist with a coolness, vigilance and alertness which
the discouraging aspects of the fight did not in the least affect. But
his situation was a perilous one. His losses had been very great. His
English troops were much exhausted; the patience and confidence of
most of his foreign allies were nearly worn out; and on that part of
his line lying to the west of the turnpike his artillery was mostly
dismounted. He had, however, in reserve some of his best troops, and
one or two batteries.

Maitland’s brigade of guards and Adam’s brigade of Clinton’s division
had suffered but little, and were troops of the best quality.

Ney had acquainted the Emperor with the state of things in his front,
and had been informed that, as soon as he could, the Emperor would
sustain him with a part of the Guard. Meantime, he was to collect as
much of the cavalry, and of Reille’s infantry, as he could, to support
the attack which might soon be expected to be made by the Guard,
supported by the infantry of the 1st Corps.

It was, as must be sufficiently apparent to the reader, out of the
question at this period of the action for Napoleon to organize an
attack against the English lines with the Imperial Guard, in any such
fashion as that which he employed with such crushing effect on the day
but one before, at Ligny. To begin with, the cavalry of the Guard, both
the light and the heavy, had been shattered, and virtually ruined for
the time being, by their repeated, ineffectual and costly efforts to
carry the plateau during the previous few hours. Then, but a fraction
of the infantry and artillery of the Guard was disposable. The Young
Guard, consisting of eight battalions, organized in four regiments,
with twenty-four guns, was in Planchenoit,[725] where, also, was one
of the eight battalions of the Old Guard (grenadiers), two battalions
of the Middle Guard (chasseurs), and two batteries.[726] Two more
battalions[727] of the Old Guard and one battery were on the road
which, leading from Planchenoit to the Charleroi pike, comes out near
the Maison du Roi, and one battalion of the Middle Guard was at the
farm of Chantelet, in the neighborhood of the Caillou house, where
were the headquarters-baggage and trains. As each of the divisions of
the Guard consisted of eight battalions, there were therefore but ten
battalions left which could be employed against the English.[728] But,
in addition to these detachments, for which we have the authority of
Charras, we learn from Damitz,[729] who states with more minuteness
than any other author the disposition made of the Imperial Guard, that
one battalion of grenadiers and one of chasseurs were brought forward
from Rossomme and stationed near La Belle Alliance. This left but eight
battalions disposable for the projected attack.

These eight battalions[730] constituted four regiments, namely, the 3d
and 4th grenadiers (Old Guard) and the 3d and 4th chasseurs (Middle
Guard). The 3d and 4th regiments of grenadiers constituted the brigade
of General Roguet; the 3d regiment was commanded by General Poret
de Morvan, the 4th by General Harlet. The 3d and 4th regiments of
chasseurs constituted the brigade of General Michel; the 3d regiment
was commanded by General Mallet, the 4th by General Henrion.[731] The
whole force, which could not have much exceeded 3,000 men, was under
the command of General Friant, a very distinguished officer, titular
colonel of the 1st regiment of foot-grenadiers of the Guard.

The Imperial Guard, which consisted of 24 battalions, organized into
12 regiments, of which 4 belonged to the Old Guard, 4 to the Middle
Guard, and 4 to the Young Guard, had been stationed at the beginning of
the day just in front of the farm of Rossomme, and on either side of
the Charleroi turnpike. From this point 16 battalions had been detached
to various points, as we have seen. The Emperor in person now took the
remaining 8 battalions[732] from this position to the front, and handed
them over to Ney just to the south of La Haye Sainte. This was about 7
P.M. Here he addressed them; he encouraged them, and urged them to make
their best efforts. These eight (or, probably, only six battalions)
were then formed in as many columns, each of a front of two companies,
and arranged in _échelon_,[733] the right battalion in front.[734] This
was the 1st battalion of the 3d regiment of grenadiers, commanded by
General Poret de Morvan. Two batteries of horse-artillery, placed on
the left flank, accompanied the infantry. There seems to have been no
arrangement for the proper support of the movement by cavalry, although
a body of cuirassiers did, shortly before the main shock took place,
charge Napier’s battery. They were, however, easily and speedily driven
off. The French cavalry was, in fact, nearly exhausted. Protection
on the left of the advancing column, however, the Guard imperatively
needed, as, in its march towards the enemy, its left flank would
inevitably be exposed to all the troops stationed between the north end
of Hougomont and the main British line. On its right, the column was
protected from a flank attack by the troops of the 1st Corps. (See Map

It was, according to all the accounts, Napoleon’s intention that Reille
should disengage at least one division of his corps from the enclosures
of Hougomont, and support this charge of the Guard on the left; but
this does not seem to have been even attempted. D’Erlon, on the other
hand, must have exerted himself to the utmost to support the Guard;
for the divisions of Donzelot and Quiot most gallantly and forcibly
attacked the Anglo-Allied line for about a third of a mile to the west
of the turnpike, overthrowing and driving back the Brunswick and Nassau
troops, and even the Hanoverians and English, so that the personal
interposition of the Duke was required to reëstablish the line. These
attacks were made about the time when the Guard began its forward
movement, and they had the effect of shaking the allied troops on this
part of the field so much that they certainly could not have stood
another serious and well-sustained assault, such as might have been
delivered by the Imperial Guard.

But the movement of the column[735] of the Imperial Guard was not made
in this direction, but diagonally across the field towards the enemy’s
right centre, where Wellington had stationed his reserves, and where he
had at least one battery, Bolton’s, then commanded by Napier, in good

The English, as soon as they perceived the famous bearskin caps of
the Imperial Guard, directed all their disposable guns upon their
approaching foes; but, whether it was owing to the smoke, or to the
inequalities of the ground, the Guard does not seem to have suffered
until it got to close quarters with the 1st (Maitland’s) brigade of the
English guards.[736]

The leading battalion of the Guard was, as we have seen, formed in
column with a front of two companies in three ranks. As each battalion
had four companies,[737] and consisted of about 500 men,[738] there
would be about 75 men in the front rank of the leading battalion,
allowing for the file-closers. To its left and rear, marching in
_échelon_, were the other battalions which constituted the attacking
force, accompanied by two batteries of horse artillery of six pieces
each, which kept up a destructive fire as the infantry advanced. We
quote from the journal of an officer[739] in the English guards:—

  “Suddenly the firing ceased, and, as the smoke cleared away, a most
  superb sight opened on us. A close column of Grenadiers (about
  seventies in front) of _la Moyenne Garde_,[740] about 6,000 strong,
  led, as we have since heard, by Marshal Ney, were seen ascending
  the rise, _au pas de charge_, shouting “_Vive l’Empereur_.” They
  continued to advance till within fifty or sixty paces of our front,
  when the brigade[741] were ordered to stand up. Whether it was from
  the sudden and unexpected appearance of a corps so near them, which
  must have seemed as starting out of the ground, or the tremendously
  heavy fire we threw into them, _La Garde_, who had never before
  failed in an attack, _suddenly_ stopped. Those, who from a distance
  and more on the flank could see the affair, tell  us that the effect
  of our fire seemed to force the head of the column bodily back.

  “In less than a minute above 300 were down. They now wavered, and
  several of the rear divisions began to draw out as if to deploy,
  whilst some of the men in their rear beginning to fire over the heads
  of those in front was so evident a proof of their confusion that Lord
  Saltoun * * * holloaed out, ‘_Now’s the time, my boys._’ Immediately
  the brigade sprang forward. _La Garde_ turned, and gave us little
  opportunity of trying the steel. We charged down the hill till we
  had passed the end of the orchard of Hougomont, when our right flank
  became exposed to another heavy column (as we afterwards understood,
  of the chasseurs of the _Garde_) who were advancing in support of
  the former column. This circumstance, besides that our charge was
  isolated, obliged the brigade to retire towards their original

It is plain from this account that the head of the French column
consisted of some 70 (or 75) men, as we have pointed out would be the
case if the leading battalion was in column with a two company front;
and that the fire of Maitland’s brigade, which must have had a front of
about 450 men, added to that of a part of Halkett’s brigade, to that
of Napier’s battery, and to that of the Dutch-Belgian battery of Van
der Smissen,[742] which General Chassé had most opportunely brought up,
destroyed this leading battalion and one or more of those in _échelon_
with it on its left and rear. It is also clear from this account
that the pursuing troops soon found themselves flanked by the other
battalions of the Imperial Guard, which they took to be a separate
column, and were obliged to fall back. It is very unlikely, by the way,
that they advanced as far as the end of the orchard of Hougomont, a
quarter of a mile from their position.

It may be that the rear battalions of the Guard inclined in their
advance, by accident or oversight, more to their left than they should
have done, and thus presented the appearance of a separate column.
General Maitland says:—[743]

  “As the attacking force moved forward, it separated; the chasseurs
  inclined to their left. The grenadiers ascended the acclivity towards
  our position in a more direct course, leaving La Haye Sainte on their
  right, and moving towards that part of the eminence occupied by the
  1st brigade of Guards.”

He also speaks of the effect of the fire of the batteries which
accompanied the Guard:—

  “Numerous pieces of ordnance were distributed on the flanks of
  this column. The brigade suffered by the enemy’s artillery, but it
  withheld its fire for the nearer approach of the column. The latter,
  after advancing steadily up the slope, halted about twenty paces from
  the front rank of the brigade.

  “The diminished range of the enemy’s artillery was now felt most
  severely in our ranks; the men fell in great numbers before the
  discharges of grape shot and the fire of the musketry distributed
  among the guns.”

General Maitland goes on to describe the repulse of the French attack:—

  “The smoke of the [French] artillery happily did not envelop the
  hostile column, or serve to conceal it from our aim.

  “With what view the enemy halted in a situation so perilous, and in a
  position so comparatively helpless, he was not given time to evince.

  “The fire of the brigade opened with terrible effect.

  “The enemy’s column, crippled and broken, retreated with the utmost
  rapidity, leaving only a heap of dead and dying men to mark the
  ground which it had occupied.”

The attempt of some of the rear battalions to deploy, noticed by
Captain Powell, is thus mentioned by Charras:—[744]

  “Unhappily, whether by orders, or by the instinct of the soldier,
  the Guard deploys, in order to reply to the musketry which decimates
  it from moment to moment; and, by this movement, it masks  the
  two batteries which have followed it, which have taken position on
  the crest of the plateau, and whose fire has, up to this instant,
  protected its flanks.”

But what the leading battalions of the Guard needed at the moment
when they were being destroyed by the superior fire of the brigade of
English guards was not so much the continued effect of the fire of
artillery upon the brigade as the prompt advance of cavalry, which
would have compelled Maitland to throw his regiments into squares.

Failing this, the best thing for the Guard would have been a flank
attack on Maitland’s brigade by troops of the 1st Corps; but this was
averted by the gallant and skilful conduct of Sir Colin Halkett and
Colonel Elphinstone in bringing the remains of Halkett’s brigade, which
had suffered terribly during the past hour, to the left of the English
guards, and thus protecting them in their contest with the Imperial
Guard.[745] In fact the attack on Halkett’s brigade by Donzelot’s troops
at this time was very sharp, and at one time caused great confusion.
It was a critical moment; for, if Halkett had been beaten, Donzelot’s
troops would have flanked Maitland’s brigade, and, attacked as it
then would have been, on front and flank, it would have been forced
to retire, and perhaps even routed. Donzelot’s troops did their best
to gain a foothold on the plateau; they did gain a temporary success;
they knew the importance of the task assigned to them, and gallantly
strove to support the charge of the Guard. On the other hand, the
intelligent appreciation of the emergency on the part of Halkett and
his subordinates, and their obstinate and courageous maintenance of
their exposed position deserve the highest commendation.

If this attack of the Imperial Guard had been supported on the right
by cavalry, this resistance on the part of Halkett’s and Maitland’s
commands could not have been encountered.

It seems probable that the failure of the attack of the Guard upon
Maitland’s brigade involved in confusion both the 3d and 4th regiments
of grenadiers (Old Guard), the four (or, more probably, three)
battalions of which were the leading battalions in the whole column.
This, however, is by no means certain. All we know is, that those
troops which were not swept off the field by the charge of Maitland’s
guards, among which assuredly were the 3d and 4th regiments of
chasseurs (Middle Guard), ignorant, probably, of the fate which had
befallen their comrades, steadily pursued their way towards the right
centre of the English position. As the eight (or, more probably, six)
battalions of the original column were formed in _échelon_, the right
in advance, it is plain that the march of the four (or, more probably,
three) rear battalions would bring them on a part of the English line
to the English right of the position of Maitland’s brigade,—in fact,
“towards that part of” the English “position which had been vacated
by the second brigade of Guards, when it moved to Hougomont.”[746]
In this direction, then, these remaining battalions of the Imperial
Guard advanced. To all intents and purposes they now constituted a
second column. As a second column they must have appeared not only to
the men of Maitland’s brigade, when their pursuit of the leading and
defeated battalions brought them on a line with the left _échelons_ of
the original formation, but also to the troops of the brigade of Sir
Frederick Adam, who, having been lying behind a ridge, a little to the
north of Hougomont, were now advanced, and found the French guard in
full march for the summit of the acclivity.

The initiative seems to have been assumed without a moment’s
hesitation by Sir John Colborne, the lieutenant-colonel of the 52d
regiment, who brought his command into line parallel to the flank of
the Imperial Guard, and at once opened fire. This action was approved
on the spot by General Adam, who ordered the other regiments of the
brigade to support the 52d. The French column was obliged to halt,
and to deploy to its left, in order to return the fire, and for a few
minutes the action was very heavy on both sides.[747] But the other
British regiments coming up, and the French, who were acting at a
manifest disadvantage in being thus compelled to halt when half way up
the slope, and resist an unexpected and resolute attack on their flank
while they were exposed also to the fire from the enemy’s batteries
in front, becoming evidently uneasy, Colborne ordered a charge, which
broke the column up completely. He followed the disintegrated and
demoralized battalions without an instant’s hesitation even across the
Charleroi turnpike.

In this attack, the Imperial Guard was supported on its left flank
neither by cavalry nor by the infantry of Reille’s Corps. Had either
been employed, the disaster could not have happened. A charge of
cavalry would have forced the 52d to form square; an advance of
Bachelu’s division, or a part of it, would have engaged all the
attention of Adam’s brigade, and permitted the Guard to pursue its way
unmolested to the crest of the hill.

What would have succeeded the repulse and defeat of the Imperial
Guard had the Prussians not interposed, no one of course can tell.
But while these movements were going on, about 7.30 P.M., the van of
Zieten’s Corps reached Papelotte;[748] and the division of Steinmetz,
supported by cavalry and artillery, turning at once the right of the
1st Corps and the left of the 6th, advanced upon the field of battle,
spreading terror and confusion throughout the right wing of the French
army. Durutte’s and Marcognet’s divisions abandoned their positions;
Lobau retired towards Planchenoit; while the immense success which the
English had obtained over the French left in routing the Imperial Guard
was instantly improved by Wellington in ordering his two remaining and
as yet untouched cavalry brigades, those of Vivian and Vandeleur, to
charge. These bodies of horse, which had been, in the latter part of
the afternoon, brought over from the English left to the rear of their
centre, were now launched upon the troops of Donzelot and Quiot, and
the remains of the French cavalry; and then the Duke, seeing that the
battle was won, ordered the whole line to advance. (See Map 12.)

There was no resistance of any consequence made, except by the
scattered regiments of the Imperial Guard, and by the 6th Corps
under the Count de Lobau, which held Planchenoit against the renewed
assaults of Bülow’s Corps, supported now by two divisions of the
corps of Pirch I. until the retreat of the army beyond that point
was assured. The Emperor did what he could; he exerted himself in
every way;[749] his headquarters-cavalry charged the English light
horse; but the army was too much exhausted to make any extraordinary
exertions; and, attacked both in front and flank as the French were,
nothing but extraordinary exertions could possibly suffice to check the
victorious enemy, superior in numbers as well as in position. Hence
with the exception of the 6th Corps, whose task was a definite one,
and undoubtedly comprehended by every soldier in it, and of which one
of the most courageous and efficient officers in the French army had
charge, no resistance on a large scale was offered. The 1st Corps was
hopelessly disorganized, and necessarily so; the 2d Corps could no
doubt have effected an orderly retreat on Nivelles,[750] but Reille did
not see the necessity of this course, and perhaps could not have been
expected to do so. Most of the battalions of the Guard preserved their
organization, and resisted heroically to the last. The Emperor was
finally forced to take refuge in one of the squares of the Guard, and
in its midst he was safely borne off his last field of battle.[751]

The French army was routed; but its condition was made exceptionally
bad because only one avenue of retreat was followed, and also because
this avenue was practically blocked at Genappe by the supposed
necessity of crossing the Dyle on a single bridge.[752] Had the army
been able to spread itself over an open country, it is not likely that
the rout would have been so complete, and it is quite certain that the
captures of artillery would not have been so great. But the Prussian
cavalry took up the pursuit which neither the Prussian nor the British
infantry were sufficiently fresh to maintain; and in the exhausted
condition of body and bewildered state of mind in which the mass of
the French soldiers were when the catastrophe came, little was needed
to complete their demoralization. At Genappe over a hundred pieces of
cannon were abandoned, and from that point on no attempt was made to
keep up even a semblance of order.

Such was the famous battle of Waterloo. It has become a synonym for
hopeless and irremediable disaster. It is not, however, necessary here
to review the causes of the catastrophe. What we have still to say on
this head we shall put into the Notes to this chapter. But there is one
subject that properly belongs here.

What would have been the effect if Grouchy had detained the corps of
Bülow and Pirch I., so that they could not have taken part in the

In this discussion we shall assume the correctness of our conclusions,
reached previously, that if Grouchy had started at daybreak for the
bridge of Moustier, or even if he had followed the counsel of Gérard,
he would almost certainly have prevented Bülow, Pirch I. and Thielemann
from taking any part in the battle.[753] We shall not reargue these
questions, for they have been already fully discussed.

Let us suppose, then, that Napoleon could have utilized his whole force
against the army of Wellington during the whole afternoon; that he
could have given his personal direction to the conduct of the action;
that he could have followed up the repulse of the 1st Corps with a new
attack in which Lobau should support d’Erlon, and in which the cavalry
should take its proper part; that he had been on the spot when La Haye
Sainte fell, and had improved that advantage as he well knew how to do;
that he had had the whole of the Imperial Guard—infantry, cavalry, and
artillery,—at his disposal for the carrying of Wellington’s position;
it seems to us there can be no reasonable question as to the result;
the Duke would have been badly beaten, and the action would in all
probability have been over, or substantially so, by six o’clock. This
question is not asked to gratify the imagination, or for purposes of
speculation, but simply that we may form a judgment on the adequacy
of Napoleon’s means to the end which he had in view; for, if military
history cannot assist us in forming correct opinions on the adequacy of
certain available means to the attainment of certain proposed objects,
it is of no use whatever. The view we hold as to the necessity of
Blüchers support to Wellington’s success is the same as that which
we have seen[754] put forth by Sir James Shaw-Kennedy, where he is
justifying the Duke for accepting battle at Waterloo.[755]

As for Zieten, he could not have come up till half-past seven o’clock,
which would have been too late for him to be of any use to the English.
The probability is that he would have joined the other corps that
were fighting Grouchy. It is hardly likely that he would have pursued
his intention of joining Wellington, after he had heard that the
other three corps were not likely to interfere in the battle between
Napoleon and Wellington. This would have been to run a great risk;
and one that under the circumstances no prudent officer would run. We
are supposing now that Zieten hears at Ohain, for instance, that the
other corps are engaged with Grouchy at St. Lambert or Couture,—now,
then, he must admit that if Grouchy shall be able, owing to obstinate
or skilful fighting, or to the lateness of the hour, or to chance, to
prevent Bülow, Pirch I. and Thielemann from attacking Napoleon that
afternoon, the chances are that Napoleon will defeat Wellington before
he, Zieten, can possibly arrive; and, therefore, for him to proceed
further than Ohain will simply be to involve himself in the disaster of
the Anglo-Dutch army.

But while we must state our conviction that Grouchy would have
prevented the defeat of Napoleon had he crossed the Dyle, we certainly
do not consider him the sole cause of the defeat.


[671] Corresp., vol. 31, p. 219; Charras, vol. 1, p. 263.

[672] Drouet, pp. 96, 97; Vaudoncourt, vol. 4, p. 24.

[673] _Ante_, pp. 268 _et seq._

[674] The question of the alleged orders sent to Grouchy during this
night will be treated of in Appendix A; _post_, p. 353.

[675] Van Loben Sels, p. 319.

[676] _Ante_, p. 265.

[677] Charras, vol. 1, p. 265.

[678] Vaudoncourt, vol. 4, 24.

[679] Van Loben Sels, p. 270.

[680] Baudus, vol. 1, p. 225.

[681] Doc. Inéd., XVIII, p. 52; App. C, xxxi; _post_, p. 387.

[682] Thiers, vol. xx, p. 157, n.

[683] Charras, vol. 1, p. 270.

[684] Charras, vol. 1, p. 274.

[685] Ib., p. 275.

[686] Kennedy, p. 131.

[687] Wellington’s Official Report: Gurwood, vol. xii, p. 481.

[688] Oldfield MSS.; Porter’s Hist. Royal Engineers, vol. 1, p. 380.
A copy of this sketch is inserted opposite page 565 of C. D. Yonge’s
“Life of Wellington”; London: Chapman and Hall; 1860. See, also, p. 616
of the same work.

[689] Curiously enough they were very nearly lost in the action; the
officer who had them in his keeping, Lieutenant Waters, being unhorsed
in the _melée_.

[690] Probably the information brought by Lieutenant Massow; _ante_, p.

[691] Oldfield MSS.

[692] Siborne, vol. 1, pp. 460, 461; App. xxx. Charras, vol. 1, p. 269,
n. 2, raises the total to 70,187 men of all arms, of whom 13,432 were
cavalry. He gives the number of guns as 159.

[693] _Ante_, p. 35, n. 3.

[694] Siborne, vol. 1, pp. 460, 461: App. xxx.

[695] Sir Lowry Cole, commanding the 6th British division, was not in
the action.

[696] Kennedy, p. 61; Waterloo Letters, pp. 30, 31, Sir W. Gomm.

[697] Waterloo Letters, pp. 403, 404.

[698] Kennedy, p. 65.

[699] Oldfield MSS.

[700] Siborne, vol. 1, p. 461: App. xxxi. Charras (vol. 1. p. 238, n.)
gives the total as 72,447 men and 240 guns.

[701] Doc. Inéd., XIX, pp. 53, 54; App. C, xxxii; _post_, p. 388.

[702] We shall not attempt to give a complete tactical description of
the battle of Waterloo. The narratives of Siborne, Charras, Hooper, La
Tour d’Auvergne, and others give all the facts. With the exception of
two or three points, their accounts do not differ materially.

[703] The following extract from a letter by Baron Müffling written on
June 24, 1815, is directly in point here:—

“Before we arrived there I said to the Duke, ‘If only there were an
apparently weak point in the right flank of your position, so that
Bonaparte might assail it right furiously, and neglect his own right
wing to such an extent that he should fail to discover the march of the

“And see! when we arrived there, there lay the advanced post of
Hougomont, upon which he (B.) indeed fell.” Militär Wochenblatt, Nov.
14, 1891.

[704] La Tour d’Auvergne, p. 266; Charras, vol. 1, p. 281.

[705] Charras, vol. 2, p. 18.

[706] Charras, vol. 1, p. 288, and note 2.

[707] Charras, vol. 1, p. 288; La Tour d’Auvergne, p. 274. D’Erlon in
his autobiography throws no light on the matter; Drouet, p. 97.

[708] Nowhere better, perhaps, than in Erckmann-Chatrian’s “Waterloo.”

[709] Siborne, vol. 2, pp. 5, 6.

[710] _Ante_, p. 270.

[711] Charras, vol. 2, p. 18. Colonel Heymès of Ney’s staff says that
more than 2,000 men were killed in endeavoring to get possession of La
Haye Sainte. Doc. Inéd., p. 17. This, however, must be an excessive

[712] Charras, vol. 1, pp. 302, 303; vol. 2, p. 18; Hooper, p. 213, n.;
O’Connor Morris, p. 352. Other authorities put the capture of La Haye
Sainte two hours later. Colonel Heymès of Ney’s staff places the hour
between 6 and 7 P.M. Doc. Inéd., pp. 18, 19.

[713] Kennedy, pp. 114-116. Kennedy’s account of this part of the
battle, as indeed of all parts of it, is most valuable; but we think
he is in error in supposing that La Haye Sainte had not fallen before
these cavalry attacks were made.

[714] Kennedy, pp. 127 _et seq._; Siborne, vol. 2, pp. 152 _et seq._

[715] Mercer, vol. 1, p. 325; Napoléon à Waterloo, p. 315; Siborne,
vol. 2, pp. 154, 155. Mercer in his Diary seems to think these
enfilading batteries were Prussian; but see his letter and plan in the
Waterloo Letters, pp. 214 _et seq._ _Cf._ Waterloo Letters, p. 330.

[716] Van Loben Sels, p. 333.

[717] Charras, vol. 1, p. 318.

[718] Siborne, vol. 2, pp. 152 _et seq._; Van Loben Sels, p. 295. _Cf._
Porter’s Hist. Royal Engineers, vol. 1, p. 382: Waterloo Letters, p.
339, where the hour is fixed by Lieutenant-Colonel Dawson Kelly at
“about half-past six.”

[719] Kennedy, p. 127.

[720] Halkett’s brigade was on the main line, nearly half of a mile
west of the pike.

[721] Kempt’s brigade was on the east side of the Brussels pike; its
right rested on it.

[722] It is almost exactly a mile and a half from the point of
intersection of the Brussels turnpike with the Wavre road to the church
in Planchenoit.

[723] See Napoléon à Waterloo, pp. 313, 318.

[724] The principal question as to this is in regard to the corps of
Reille, a part of which, certainly, might have been more usefully
employed in sustaining the cavalry attacks than in fighting in the wood
of Hougomont, or on the Nivelles road on the west side of Hougomont.
See Heymès’ statement in Doc. Inéd., pp. 17, 18.

[725] Charras, vol. 1, p. 316.

[726] Ib., p. 317.

[727] Ib., p. 321, n.; correcting the statement on p. 318, which speaks
of only one battalion of grenadiers being on the road to the Maison du

[728] Charras, vol. 1, p. 321.

[729] Damitz, vol. 1, p. 285. Damitz gives a complete roster of the
Guard, and, in fact, of the whole army, at the end of his first volume.
He also gives the numbers of the regiments and battalions detached in
and around Planchenoit.

[730] Damitz, vol. 1, p. 285, states that owing to the losses suffered
at Ligny these eight battalions had been consolidated into six. Batty
(pp. 106, 107) also says that the 4th regiment of grenadiers consisted
of but one battalion, and that the same was true of the 4th regiment of

[731] At least this was the fact on the 16th of June, prior to the
battle of Ligny. See the Roster at the end of Damitz’ first volume. All
these officers, except Henrion, are mentioned by Charras (vol. 1, p.
322) as participating in this charge. _Cf._ Gore, p. 59. This work is
an explanation, in 1817, of Craän’s Map of the Field.

[732] Ney: Letter to the Duke of Otranto; Jones, p. 387. But Drouot
(Jones, p. 227) and Napoleon (Corresp., vol. 31, p. 238) say four
battalions only, and the latter adds “of the Middle Guard.” It is not
unlikely that the other battalions had previously been brought up to
the neighborhood of La Haye Sainte.

[733] Charras, vol. 1, p. 321.

[734] This is implied in Damitz’ statement, vol. 1, p. 286, as well as
from Charras’ statement that the horse-batteries were on the left flank
of the column. It is distinctly so stated in Van Loben Sels, p. 295.

[735] We call the whole mass, consisting of columns of
battalions,—division (or two company) front,—arranged in _échelon_,—a
column, merely for convenience’ sake. It may be remarked that the
French infantry were formed in three ranks.

[736] Waterloo Letters, pp. 254, 257; _Contra_, Siborne, vol. 2, p. 166.

[737] St. Hilaire: Hist. de la Garde, p. 634.

[738] Charras, vol. 1, p. 67.

[739] Captain Powell, in Waterloo Letters, pp. 254, 255.

[740] This is an error. “La Moyenne Garde” consisted solely of the
chasseurs of the Guard; the grenadiers constituted the Old Guard,
strictly so called. It is not uncommon to find the grenadiers and
chasseurs spoken of as constituting the Old Guard; this is Charras’
usage. But it is an error to speak of the grenadiers of the Middle
Guard. The grenadiers whom he saw were the 1st battalion of the 3d
regiment,—_ante_, p. 317. See Napoléon à Waterloo, p. 315, n. 1; pp.
321, 325, 327, n. 1. _Contra_, Gore, p. 75.

[741] The 1st brigade of guards, about 1,800 strong,—Siborne, vol. 1,
p. 460. App. xxx. They were formed in four ranks.

[742] Relation Belge, pp. 74 _et seq._

[743] Waterloo Letters, pp. 244, 245.

[744] Charras, vol. 1, pp. 325, 326.

[745] See Waterloo Letters, pp. 320, 321; Siborne, vol. 2, pp. 170,
171, n.; See, also, Waterloo Letters, pp. 330, 331, 339, 340.

[746] Waterloo Letters, p. 245; Maitland’s narrative.

[747] Waterloo Letters; Colborne’s narrative, pp. 284, 285; Gawler’s
narrative, p. 293.

[748] Charras, vol. 1, p. 327, n.

[749] Charras, vol. 1, p. 331.

[750] Doc. Inéd., p. 62; Reille’s Statement.

[751] Hist. de l’Ex-Garde, pp. 538, 539.

[752] Charras, vol. 1, p. 334.

[753] _Ante_, pp. 261, 283.

[754] _Ante_, pp. 294, 295.

[755] _Cf._ Wellington’s Report (Gurwood, vol. xii, p. 484; App. C,
xii; _post_, pp. 372, 373). where he says that _he attributes the
successful result of the day to the assistance he received from the


1. That the tactics employed by the French at the battle of Waterloo
in their operations against the army of the Duke of Wellington were
unworthy of the experience and reputation of their commanders is almost
universally admitted. The word “commanders” is used advisedly, because
Ney seems to have had the immediate direction of the 1st and 2d Corps
even when the Emperor was personally superintending the battle, and
when Napoleon was called off to direct the defence of Planchenoit, Ney
was certainly in sole control. But this does not fully exonerate the
Emperor from responsibility for the dispositions which were made.

The faulty formation of d’Erlon’s Corps in its great assault on the
English left was the first blunder. The employment of the whole of
Reille’s Corps in the attack on Hougomont was the next. Then the
negligent and wasteful way in which the attacks on both Hougomont and
La Haye Sainte were conducted warrant severe criticism. The employment
of all the reserve cavalry of the army was a most unheard of and
uncalled for proceeding; they were all put in, and kept in until they
were all exhausted. One would certainly suppose that Ney, who was
responsible for this proceeding, must have seen, long before the close
of the afternoon, that the cavalry were being completely ruined, and
that no appreciable injury was being inflicted on the enemy.

We cannot but think that if Napoleon had personally directed the
battle at this period, this useless and wasteful employment of the
cavalry would not have been made. And we cannot help thinking, also,
that the Emperor would have brought some at least of Reille’s troops
out of the enclosures of Hougomont to support any attacks of cavalry
which he might have ordered, either in conjunction with the divisions
of Donzelot and Quiot, or with the Imperial Guard, which, but for the
attack of the Prussians, he would no doubt have put in between 4 and 5
o’clock. We must bear in mind, that Napoleon was fighting the Prussians
near Planchenoit during a large part of the afternoon, and, in fact
during the critical period of the battle; and that he cannot fairly be
held liable to the censure for the tactics used in the fight against
the English, which some English writers, in forgetfulness of this fact,
have undertaken to apply to him.

The 1st Corps, after its severe repulse, rallied well and did
extremely good work. The persistent attacks of Quiot’s and Donzelot’s
infantry showed great enterprise and daring, up to the very last; and
these troops deserve all praise. No doubt the bravery of the men of
the 2d Corps in their ineffectual attacks on Hougomont was equally
commendable; but it was a great waste of material to employ the
entire corps in such an operation as attacking Hougomont. Hougomont
should have been attacked, undoubtedly, but only by a moderate
force; very possibly it might have been carried, had proper means
been employed.[756] But it was of far more importance to utilize the
infantry of the 2d Corps in breaking the English lines to the eastward
of Hougomont, in conjunction with cavalry or the Imperial Guard, than
to persist in throwing fresh regiments against the brick walls of the
house and garden. Hougomont might in fact have been turned; and, if
the last charge had succeeded, it would have been. A notable exception
to the unfavorable criticism on the French tactics on this day is made
by all historians when speaking of the gallant, skilful and obstinate
defence of Planchenoit against the Prussians by the 6th Corps under
the Count de Lobau, assisted by the Young Guard and some regiments of
grenadiers and chasseurs. No praise is too high for these troops.

2. The English tactics deserved, and have always received, the high
commendation of historians. Not only was the Duke himself always
watchful and alert, but his efforts were admirably seconded by his
officers. The unfailing energy and enterprise shown even at the very
close of this exhausting day by the Duke himself and his lieutenants
is at least quite as remarkable as the obstinacy and courage displayed
in resisting the repeated attacks of their antagonists. The conduct of
Maitland, Halkett and Colborne in the last great emergency exhibits
the tenacity, courage, presence of mind, and readiness to seize
the opportunity, which are the great military virtues, existing in
undiminished vigor at the close of a most bloody and doubtful contest.

3. The account given in the text of the charge of the Imperial Guard
does not agree fully with any of the narratives, but will be found,
on reflection, it is submitted, to harmonize most of the conflicting
evidence. The subject is a large one, and the testimony is very
confusing. It is impossible to reconcile all the statements. But it is
believed that the view maintained in the text,—that the Imperial Guard
advanced in one body, or column, not in two; that this column (as we
may call it, for lack of a better term) consisted at most of eight, and
probably of only six battalions, each formed in close column of grand
divisions,—that is, with a front of two companies,—the usual practice
in those days,—presenting about 75 men in the front rank,—that these
battalions advanced in _échelon_, the right in advance,—explains most
of the discrepancies, and accounts for all or nearly all the important
statements contained in the different narratives. It was the leading
battalions of this column which were met and defeated by Maitland’s
guards; it was the rear battalions which were flanked and routed by the
52d and the other regiments of Adam’s (light) brigade.

A. There is, in our judgment, no foundation for the hypothesis of two
columns, which, introduced by Siborne, has received the indorsement
of Chesney, Kennedy and Hooper. It is opposed to the contemporaneous
authorities of both nations. Napoleon’s report of the battle,[757]—Ney’s
letter to the Duke of Otranto,[758]—Drouot’s speech in the chamber of
Peers,[759]—speak but of one column,—of one attack,—of one repulse. Sir
Digby Mackworth, who was on Lord Hill’s staff, in a position where he
could observe everything, wrote in his journal at eleven o’clock at
night, after the battle was over, as follows:—[760]

  “A black mass of the grenadiers of the Imperial Guard, with music
  playing and the great Napoleon at their head, came rolling onward
  from the farm of La Belle Alliance. * * * The point at which the
  enemy aimed was now evident. It was an angle formed by a brigade of
  guards [Maitland’s] and the light brigade [Adam’s] of Lord Hill’s

Mackworth then goes on to describe the contest, and the rout of the
enemy. There is not a word of there being two columns and two attacks.

This is true, it is believed, of all the early narratives by British
officers.[761] It may fairly be deduced from this evidence that the
repulse of the right and advanced battalions by the guards, and the
attack on the left and rear ones by the light brigade were nearly
synchronous,—the latter being probably a few minutes later than the

B. The claims put forward on behalf of the light brigade (Adam’s), and
specially of the 52d regiment, next demand our consideration.

Gawler, a distinguished officer of the 52d, in his “Crisis and Close
of the Action at Waterloo”[762] admits that “the headmost companies of
the Imperial Guard * * * crowned the very summit of the position.” He
says that “the fire of the brigade of guards then opened upon them, but
they still pressed forward.” And he claims[763] that their attack was
repulsed not “by a charge of General Maitland’s brigade of guards,”
“but * * * by a charge of the 52d, covered by the 71st regiment,
without the direct coöperation of any other portion of the allied army.”

Unfortunately for this claim, however, we have it from another officer
of the 52d, Leeke, that Gawler was on the extreme right of the
regiment.[764] In this position, as Leeke remarks, he could not have
seen what took place at the head of the French column.[765] When he
says, therefore, that the flank attack of the 52d alone overthrew the
Imperial Guard, he is speaking without any personal knowledge of what
took place in the front of that column, and we are thrown back on the
evidence of the officers of Maitland’s brigade.

Leeke has a curious theory on this matter. He says that the advance of
the Guard was preceded and covered by “a mass of skirmishers,”[766] and
that it was these skirmishers and these only that were driven off by
Maitland’s brigade.

In order to maintain this contention, Leeke is compelled to assume the
presence in front of the main body of the Imperial Guard of “massed
skirmishers” thrown out by the Guard, and also that the battalions of
the Guard never got nearer to Maitland’s brigade than 300 yards.[767]

But this is mere guess work. Sharpin, an officer in Napier’s battery,
which was stationed close to Maitland’s brigade, says:—[768]

  “We saw the French bonnets just above the high corn and within 40 or
  50 yards of our guns. I believe they were in close columns of grand

Says Captain Powell of the 1st Foot Guards:—[769]

  “A close column of grenadiers (about seventies in front) * * * were
  seen ascending the rise * * * They continued to advance till within
  50 or 60 paces of our front.”

Says Captain Dirom of the same regiment:—[770]

  “The Imperial Guard advanced in close column with ported arms, the
  officers of the leading division in front waving their swords. The
  French columns showed no appearance of having suffered on their
  advance, but seemed as regularly formed as if at a field-day. When
  they got within a short distance we were ordered to make ready,
  present and fire.”

Leeke’s theory of “massed skirmishers” needs no further refutation.
There can be no question that the officers of Maitland’s guards saw
right before them the leading battalions of the Imperial Guard formed
in the ordinary manner, in close columns of grand divisions. The
skirmishers had all been withdrawn by the time the leading battalions
reached the top of the acclivity.

It should, however, be added that the left and rear battalions which
Colborne attacked in flank were entirely unaffected by the charge of
Maitland’s brigade. The British guards did undoubtedly charge the
troops in their front, and drove them down the hill a short distance,
but on finding other troops, _i.e._, the four (or, more probably,
three) rear and left battalions of the Imperial Guard, on their right
flank, they retired to the crest of the hill, and certainly did not
assist the 52d and the other regiments of Adam’s brigade in their
brilliant flank attack. The credit of having overthrown the rear half
of the column of the Imperial Guard is due entirely to that brigade;
and it assuredly was a most skilfully designed and daringly executed
movement. Colborne saw at a glance that the several battalions of the
Guard could not be deployed in such a way as to return anything like
as destructive a fire as that which the unbroken line of the 52d could
deliver. The Guard undoubtedly did its best; the firing was very hot
for a time; Gawler says[771] his regiment lost 150 officers and men in
four or five minutes. But his men were perfectly steady; their fire
was at very close range and well kept up; they had the advantage of
position; the loss of the French columns was fearful;[772] and when
Colborne, perceiving that the moment had come, ordered a charge, the
Guard broke into a confused mass, and were pursued to and across the
Charleroi road. The flank attack of Adam’s brigade was certainly a most
brilliant, and yet a well-justified, manœuvre,—impossible to any but
veteran troops, and which none but an experienced, vigilant and daring
officer would ever have ordered. Colborne took, it must be admitted,
great risks. He says himself[773] that, as his skirmishers opened fire
on the Guards, his attention was completely drawn to his position and
dangerous advance,—a large mass of cavalry having been seen on the
right. Certainly it must have required some nerve to decide to run such
a risk as this, and on his own responsibility too, for he advanced his
regiment before receiving any order from General Adam. But success
justified his decision.

4. Whether Napoleon was warranted in ordering the Guard forward, or
rather that portion of it which could be mustered, is a question
which has been much discussed, and, we are inclined to think, to no
great profit. The answer must depend on the extent of the information
possessed by Napoleon as to the actual condition of things at the time
when he ordered the movement; and this, of course, must be mainly a
matter of conjecture. The order was given somewhere about half-past
six o’clock,—an hour before Zieten arrived at Papelotte; and Napoleon
certainly did not expect him. Bülow had been forced to retire. The news
from the front received by the Emperor when he was conducting the fight
against the Prussian flank attack near Planchenoit had been decidedly
favorable. The army of Wellington was reported as manifestly getting
weaker and weaker. The guns placed near La Haye Sainte had done serious
damage to the English squares and batteries. The activity and energy
of Quiot’s and Donzelot’s infantry showed no abatement. It seems to us
that the Emperor had good reason to think that the English lines would
give way before a determined attack made by fresh troops, and those the
veterans of the Imperial Guard. He told Ney to mass on the right of
Hougomont all the troops of Reille’s Corps that he could collect, to
concentrate the divisions of Quiot and Donzelot near La Haye Sainte,
and to prepare to support the attack with cavalry.[774]

He must, however, have been grievously disappointed as to the execution
of this order by Marshal Ney. When the Emperor brought up the Guard,
Bachelu’s infantry had not been drawn out of the wood of Hougomont.[775]
Piré’s cavalry, which were in perfectly good condition, had not been
brought over from the Nivelles road.[776] No attempt apparently had been
made to organize any cavalry force from the wrecks of the splendid
divisions which Ney had so obstinately and blindly launched again and
again upon the English squares. And the Emperor, who must have expected
that an officer of the ability and experience of Marshal Ney would have
made some at least of the necessary arrangements for the proper support
of the charging column, must have experienced a disappointment as
sudden as it must have been bitter, when he saw the battalions of the
Guard ascend the plateau without a regiment of cavalry to protect their
flanks, or any part of the 2d Corps supporting their attack.

The charge, such as it was, of the Imperial Guard at Waterloo was
most firmly and gallantly met and repulsed. But it should never be
forgotten that it was not the sort of charge which Napoleon was in
the habit of making with his Guard; that it was, at best, a charge
of 8 battalions out of 24,—of 12 guns out of 96,—and that no cavalry
at all, light or heavy, supported the charging column. Made, as it
was, without supports, except so far as Donzelot’s gallant infantry
protected its right flank, it was a terrible mistake to make it. And
it is all but certain that if proper care and skill had been expended
on the preparations and accompaniments of the movement,—if, in a word,
Ney had kept his head cool and his hand steady, as did the Duke,—Piré’s
lancers and Bachelu’s division would have given abundant employment to
the whole of Adam’s brigade, and a few squadrons of horse could have
protected the advance on the right. This is not, we submit, going too
far in the region of conjecture. Bachelu and Piré, at any rate, were
close at hand, and under Ney’s command, and were, so far as we know,
doing nothing at the time when the charge was ordered.

Ney, in fact, contributed apparently little, except his example of
desperate courage, to the success of the day. But courage, though
indispensable, does not take the place of judgment and presence of
mind.[777] Ney failed most unmistakably to make the most of his
resources; he lost sight, practically, of one of the two corps under
his orders; he used up all his cavalry; and he neglected to make even
the preparations and arrangements which were yet feasible to second the
attack of the Guard. It is impossible not to contrast his conduct with
that of Wellington, whose admirable forethought and coolness gave him
the control of the situation, and enabled him to utilize fully all the
resources which at the close of this trying day still remained to him.

5. We have not thought it necessary to do more than to call attention
to the fact that the Duke of Wellington retained some 18,000 men of
Colville’s division at Hal and Tubize throughout this perilous and
bloody day. The best English authorities[778] unhesitatingly condemn the
Duke’s action in this regard. Says Sir James Shaw-Kennedy:—[779]

  “Wellington certainly ought to have had Colville, with the force
  under his command, on the field of battle at Waterloo. There was no
  cause whatever for his being kept in the direction of Hal. It would
  have been a gross error on the part of Napoleon to have detached
  any important force on that road, and Colville should, early on the
  morning of the 18th, have been ordered to march to Waterloo, if he
  had no information of the advance of the enemy on Hal.”

6. It may be thought by some that the effect upon the corps of Bülow
and Pirch I. of the appearance of Marshal Grouchy’s command, marching
from Moustier and Ottignies upon Lasne and St. Lambert, has been stated
too strongly in the text. But we cannot think so. Imagine 30,000 or
40,000 men marching in a long column along miry roads to attack an
enemy, and still some miles from the field of battle, perceiving a body
of troops of apparently equal or nearly equal strength moving right
upon their line of march, which is also their line of communications.
How many officers in Bülow’s position would not have halted to resist
such an attack?

It is to be observed, that the dilemma in which Bülow and Pirch I.
were placed by knowing that Grouchy was attacking Wavre was quite a
different one. In the first place, they, as we now know, estimated
Grouchy’s force at only half its strength,—they never, it must be
remembered, actually saw it; and in the second place, Grouchy might
well be detained by Thielemann at and about Wavre until the battle of
Waterloo had been won.

If, however, Grouchy had been observed marching from the Dyle directly
on their columns _en route_ for Planchenoit, the Prussian commanders
almost certainly would have been compelled to halt and to give him
battle. And this they must have done even although they might have
been satisfied that their forces were superior in numbers. A smaller
force, if it is directed on the line of march of a larger one, almost
inevitably must detain it.

7. The complete ruin which overtook the French army at Waterloo is
to be attributed mainly to the unexpected appearance and vigorous
attack of Zieten’s Corps at the close of the day, when the French
had become thoroughly exhausted, and when, owing to the darkness, it
was impossible for the Emperor to accomplish anything in the way of
rallying them or making new dispositions. The English had certainly
won a great success in routing the Imperial Guard; but they were not
strong enough to drive the French army from the field, even with
the assistance which Bülow and Pirch I. afforded on the side of
Planchenoit. They had cleared their front of the enemy from Hougomont
to the turnpike; but they were in no condition to attack the strong
position of the French, defended by the troops of the 2d Corps, and
crowned with many and powerful batteries. The French centre, Müffling
tells us,[780] remained immovable after their right wing was in full
retreat, and it was not until some of Zieten’s batteries, which had
been brought over to the west of La Haye Sainte, opened fire, that it
began to retire. Then Wellington ordered his whole line to advance. But
it was a very thin line indeed, consisting, as Müffling says, only of
small bodies, of a few hundred men each, and at great intervals from
each other. Müffling goes on to say:—[781]

  “The advance of such weak battalions, with the great gaps between,
  appeared hazardous, and General Lord Uxbridge, who commanded the
  cavalry, drew the Duke’s attention to the danger; the Duke, however,
  would not order them to stop. * * * The Duke with his practised
  eye perceived that the French army was no longer dangerous; he was
  equally aware, indeed, that, with his infantry so diminished, he
  could achieve nothing more of importance: but if he _stood still_,
  and resigned the pursuit to the Prussian army _alone_, it might
  appear in the eyes of Europe as if the English army had defended
  themselves bravely indeed, but that the Prussians alone decided and
  won the battle.”

The rout of the divisions of Durutte and Marcognet was entirely due
to Zieten’s attack; this is universally admitted. Had it not been for
Zieten, then, the only contest that would have gone on that evening
would have been at and near Planchenoit; and it is hard to suppose
that Napoleon could not have maintained his position there, if he had
had his whole army to draw from when the Young Guard and Lobau needed
reinforcements. To the unexpected irruption of Zieten’s Corps,—or
rather of his leading division of infantry, all his cavalry, and most
of his artillery,—arriving at the close of the day, on the flank of the
army, and in perfectly open ground, is the rout of the French army,
therefore, principally to be attributed.

8. It only remains to discuss the question of the responsibility for
the intervention of the Prussians, as between the Emperor and Marshal
Grouchy. It may fairly be said that if either of them had taken all
the steps which the situation, as it presented itself to his mind,
demanded, this intervention might have been prevented.

If the Emperor, when he thought it possible that the Prussians might be
intending to unite with the English, had taken Grouchy with him, and
had stationed his two corps, or one of them, on the day of the battle,
at or near Lasne and St. Lambert, or if he had employed one or both of
Grouchy’s corps in attacking the English, Blücher, it is safe to say,
would not have interfered in the duel between Napoleon and Wellington.

If, after sending Grouchy off, Napoleon had informed him of the
impending battle, and had charged him to return to the main army by
way of Moustier if he found that the Prussians had gone to Wavre, it
is altogether probable that the march of the Prussians would have been

On the other hand, if Grouchy had acted of his own motion on sound
military principles at daybreak of the 18th, or even had been willing
to follow the counsel of Gérard at noon, the same result would probably
have been attained.

Napoleon took a wholly unnecessary risk when he detached Grouchy with
such a large force, after he had reason to apprehend that the Prussians
were intending to unite with the English, and he negligently omitted to
take the usual means to reduce this risk by supplying his lieutenant
with the necessary information, and with precise orders in case he
should find that Blücher intended to coöperate with Wellington. He
trusted to Grouchy to take the right course, and Grouchy failed to
do so. Both Napoleon and Grouchy are therefore responsible for the
intervention of the Prussians and the loss of the battle.


[756] _Ante_, pp. 303, 304.

[757] Corresp., vol. 28, p. 343; Jones, p. 384.

[758] Jones, p. 387.

[759] Ib., p. 227.

[760] Sidney’s Life of Lord Hill, p. 309.

[761] Jones (Artillery Operations), p. 177; Sharpin in the “Waterloo
Letters,” pp. 228 _et seq._; Gore, pp. 58 _et seq._ See, also, Captain
Batty’s account (pp. 106 _et seq._,) in his “Historical Sketch of the
Campaign of 1815”: London, 1820. He was an ensign in the 1st regiment
of foot-guards in Maitland’s brigade. He speaks, it is true, of the
chasseurs of the Guard “forming another attack”; but he says that it
was when Maitland was advancing, that he perceived the chasseurs “so
far advanced as to menace the right flank of the brigade,”—which is
substantially the view maintained in the text. _Cf._ Siborne, vol. 2,
p. 170, where the same statement is made. Yet Siborne (vol. 2, p. 174)
says that “between the heads of the two attacking columns there was a
distance during their advance of _from ten to twelve minutes’ march_.”
How such an interval was possible, when the contest of the Guard
with Maitland’s brigade was of such extremely short duration, is not
apparent. See Maitland’s statement in “Waterloo Letters”, pp. 244, 245;
also statements of Powell and Dirom; pp. 255, 257, 258.

[762] Gawler, p. 15.

[763] Ib. pp. 31, 32.

[764] Leeke, vol. 1, p. 84.

[765] Lord Seaton, then Sir John Colborne, who commanded the 52d,
admits that he did not himself see, and could not have seen, any
movement of the guards. He simply claims that the Imperial Guard halted
when his skirmishers opened fire on their flank. Leeke, vol. 1, p. 101.

[766] Ib., pp. 43, 44, 84.

[767] Leeke, vol. 1, p. 84. See also his letter to the Editor of the
Army and Navy Gazette, August 17, 1867.

[768] Waterloo Letters, p. 229. _Cf._ a statement of an officer in the
same battery,—Jones, p. 177,—probably Sharpin.

[769] Waterloo Letters, pp. 254, 255.

[770] Waterloo Letters, p. 257.

[771] Ib., p. 293; _Cf._ Colborne’s Letter, p. 285.

[772] Leeke, vol. 1, p. 104; Letter of Colonel Brotherton.

[773] Ib., p. 101.

[774] Charras, vol. 1, p. 321.

[775] Wellington brought up about this time to the right centre of his
line Chassé’s Dutch-Belgian Division, besides other troops.

[776] Wellington about this time brought over the brigades of Vivian
and Vandeleur to the threatened centre of his line, as well as the
remnants of Somerset’s and Ponsonby’s brigades.

[777] On Marshal Ney’s state of mind at this time, see Gourgaud, pp.
48, n.; 111, 112; Corresp., vol. 31, pp. 249, 250; Muquardt, p. 149,
n.; Life of Sir W. Napier, vol. 1, p. 505,—where Soult gives his
opinion on Ney’s conduct; Berton, p. 41, where Ney’s extraordinary
letter to Fouché (Jones, pp. 385 _et seq._) is examined.

[778] Chesney, p. 217; Hamley, p. 198.

[779] Kennedy, p. 174.

[780] Müffling; Passages, p. 249.

[781] Müffling; Passages, p. 250.



The justification for this book on the well-worn subject of the
campaign of Waterloo is to be found, if at all, in its treatment of
certain topics to which we now propose very briefly to advert.

1. First among them is Napoleon’s plan of campaign.[782] In regard
to this we have followed his own account, and have pointed out the
difference between it and the plan which it has been claimed he either
really did entertain or ought to have entertained.

2. In regard to the much-vexed question of the alleged verbal order to
Marshal Ney to seize Quatre Bras on the afternoon of the 15th of June,
new light, it is submitted, has been thrown.[783] The contemporaneous
evidence of the bulletin, and the statement made by Marshal Grouchy in
1818, make it very difficult to disbelieve Napoleon’s account of this

3. The true cause of the delay on the morning of the 16th of June has
been, we submit, pointed out.[784] The fact that d’Erlon’s Corps was so
far in the rear seems to have been the chief reason for delaying the
forward movement both of the left wing and of the main army.

4. It has been shown by Marshal Ney’s orders to his command, and from
other evidence furnished by his defenders, that his arrangements for
carrying out his instructions on the 16th were extremely defective,
and, in fact, that he perversely departed from the letter and spirit
of his orders.[785] It has also been shown that a vigorous and
unhesitating compliance with the orders which he received would in all
probability have changed the issue of the campaign.[786]

5. In regard to the movements of d’Erlon’s Corps on the 16th, it has
been shown that its leading division was two hours and a half behind
the rear divisions of the 2d Corps on the road to Quatre Bras; and
that if d’Erlon’s Corps had closely followed the rear division of the
2d Corps, it could not have been turned aside by the staff-officer’s

6. Attention has been called to Napoleon’s plan of battle at Ligny, and
to the criticisms which it has met with.[788]

7. The view of those writers who regard it as great negligence on
the part of Napoleon that on the morning of the 17th he did not take
adequate measures to ascertain the direction of the Prussian retreat,
is fully adopted.[789]

8. It is also maintained that Napoleon should on that morning at
daybreak have marched with the 6th Corps and the Guard to attack the
English at Quatre Bras in conjunction with Ney’s forces,—a point on
which most writers strongly insist.[790]

9. The connection between the injunction contained in the Bertrand
order and the new idea as to the projects of Marshal Blücher, which
Berton’s discovery of a Prussian corps at Gembloux had started in
Napoleon’s mind, is brought out;[791] and Napoleon is censured for
having on the afternoon of the 17th detached so large a force from his
army when he had reason to apprehend that a movement by Blücher with
the intention of coöperating with Wellington had been in operation
since the previous evening.[792]

10. The warning contained in the Bertrand order is given its due
prominence; and the fact that Marshal Grouchy was acting under that
order, and therefore had entire liberty to take any steps which his own
judgment might approve to frustrate the attempt of the Prussians to act
in conjunction with the English, is strongly insisted on.[793]

11. It is shown that Grouchy was at Walhain, and not at Sart-à-Walhain
when he heard the sound of the cannon of Waterloo and rejected the
counsel of Gérard.[794]

12. That Napoleon expected Grouchy to arrive on the left bank of the
Dyle by crossing it at the bridge of Moustier is shown by Marbot’s
testimony; and attention is called to the inference which this fact
warrants, that Napoleon was not cognizant of the language used in the
10 A.M. order to Marshal Grouchy, which seemed to imply that Grouchy
was expected to reach Wavre first.[795]

13. It is pointed out that from about four o’clock in the afternoon
of the 18th of June to about half-past six, Napoleon’s attention was
absorbed by the attack of Bülow’s Corps upon the right and rear of the
French army; and that, for the mistakes committed during this period in
the assaults on the English army, Ney is mainly responsible.[796] It is
furthermore shown that by reason of this distraction of the Emperor’s
attention from the operations in his front, valuable opportunities for
success against Wellington’s army were lost.[797]

14. Marshal Ney is censured for having done so little in the way of
preparation for the successful charge of the Imperial Guard.[798]

15. The questions relating to the formation of the Imperial Guard
in its charge against the English, and of its repulse and defeat by
the English guards and the light brigade, have received particular
attention. It is believed that the view here presented will be found to
harmonize nearly all the conflicting statements.[799]

16. It is maintained that Marshal Grouchy, if he had started for the
bridge of Moustier at daybreak,[800] or had followed the advice of
Gérard at noon,[801] would probably have stopped Bülow and Pirch I. by
engaging them, and that Zieten, in all probability, would not have
proceeded further than Ohain;[802] in which case Napoleon would have
been able to employ his whole army against that of Wellington, and
would have defeated it.

Coming now to the Allies:—

17. It is contended that the definite understanding as to the steps
to be taken in the event of a French invasion, which has generally
been attributed to the Duke of Wellington and Marshal Blücher, did not

18. That the Duke, in the early morning hours of the 16th, ordered a
general concentration of his army at Quatre Bras, as he says in his
Report he did, is shown by an examination of his letter to Marshal
Blücher, and a comparison of that letter with the statement as to
the situation and destination at 7 A.M. of the 16th of the different
divisions of his army, known as “The Disposition,” drawn up by Sir
William De Lancey, the Deputy Quartermaster General, before the Duke
left Brussels.[804]

19. That the Duke, in issuing the order for concentrating at Quatre
Bras after he had become satisfied that Napoleon was concentrating in
front of Blücher, was acting in strict accordance with the demands of
the situation, is maintained:[805] but it is shown that it was several
hours after Wellington received this information as to Blücher and
Napoleon before he issued the order, and that this delay was not
only uncalled for, but that it gravely imperilled the success of the

20. It is shown that it is not true that Blüchers decision to fight at
Ligny was based on a promise of support from Wellington.[807]

21. Attention is called to the now generally admitted fact that it was
not until the early morning hours of the 18th that Blücher was able
to give Wellington definite assurance of his support in the battle of

22. The evidence in regard to the story that the Duke rode over to
Wavre on the evening of the 17th is given,[809] and, on that evidence,
the story is rejected.

A few words in conclusion.

1. It does not seem to us that Napoleon can be charged with any lack
of activity or decision of character, except on the morning after the
battle of Ligny, when he was, as we imagine, pretty well tired out. But
his energy speedily returned, and we find him conducting the pursuit
of the English during the afternoon, and making an examination of their
position in the mud and rain in the middle of the night.

2. Nor was there any defect in his plan of campaign. Had Ney executed
his orders with promptness and without hesitation, the campaign would
have been finished on the 16th of June, either by Ney’s furnishing the
needed force to take the Prussians in rear at Brye and Wagnelée, or by
his defeating Wellington badly by the help of the 1st Corps. If either
of these things had happened, there could not possibly have been any
battle of Waterloo; the Prussian and English armies would have been
definitely separated; one, and perhaps both, would have been beaten;
and never, in all probability, would they have acted together again.
For this failure to achieve success on the second day of the campaign,
Ney and not Napoleon was responsible.

3. But for not overwhelming at Quatre Bras on the early morning of the
17th the two-thirds of his army which Wellington had collected there,
no one but Napoleon was responsible; and his failure to do this must be
attributed to his excessive fatigue.

4. Then, for his neglect to ascertain the direction of the
Prussian retreat on the same morning, Napoleon is responsible; and
although Soult ought to have attended to this, in his capacity of
chief-of-staff, yet, as the Emperor does not appear to have blamed him
for not having reconnoitred in the direction of Wavre, we must consider
Napoleon as open to this censure. It is true, it was not likely that
Blücher had retired in the direction of Wavre; but it was of vital
importance to know whether he had or not. Hence it was a great neglect
not to find out.

5. Napoleon is also solely responsible for having persisted in his
original design of detaching Grouchy in pursuit of the Prussians after
he had reason to believe that they were intending to unite with the
English, and to suspect, in fact, that they had been approaching the
English during the previous night and morning; and for contenting
himself with merely giving Grouchy a warning that this might be their
intention. He laid upon Grouchy, in fact, a burden which to that
officer, as Napoleon was well aware, was entirely new; hence, the
Emperor was not warranted in risking so much on the chance of Grouchy’s
being able to sustain it. It is this that Napoleon is to blame for
in this connection; for having, when he saw that the Prussians might
(as the Bertrand order expresses it) be “intending to unite with the
English to cover Brussels in trying the fate of another battle,”
persisted in adhering to his original plan,—devised when he and Grouchy
and everybody else supposed that the Prussians had gone to Namur,—of
sending Grouchy in pursuit of them with two _corps d’armée_. Many
writers will have it that “Napoleon did not in the least foresee the
flank march of the Prussians.”[810] This,—if to foresee be equivalent to
expect,—may be true. But Napoleon certainly did, at 1 P.M. of the 17th,
recognize the possibility of the Prussians uniting with the English;
and the true criticism on him is, as it seems to us, that, having this
in mind, as a possibility, he should have detached Marshal Grouchy
with 33,000 men from the main army, and have been content to rely on
Grouchy’s being able to prevent this project of the Prussians from
being carried out. It must be added to this, that his neglect to send
Grouchy any information of his own situation, and any orders as to what
he expected him to do if he found the Prussians were marching to join
Wellington or to attack the main French army, showed an unjustifiable
reliance on the favors of fortune.

6. To Marshal Grouchy belongs the blame of having entirely failed to
apprehend his mission, as indicated to him by the express warning
contained in the Bertrand order. Had he acted intelligently in
accordance with the information which he acquired in the night of
the 17th and 18th, he could have prevented the Emperor from being
overwhelmed by both the allied armies. At daybreak, as appears from his
letter to Pajol, he knew that the Prussians had retired towards Wavre
and Brussels. But the meaning of this fact he utterly failed to grasp.
He made no change in his previously ordered dispositions, which this
news should have shown him were wholly unsuited to the situation as
now ascertained. Nor did the sound of the cannon of Waterloo produce
on him a greater effect. He would not accept the suggestion of Gérard.
He persisted in a course which completely isolated his command, and
prevented it from playing any part in the events of that memorable day.
Napoleon, as we have pointed out, made a great mistake in trusting so
much to Grouchy’s good judgment; he took a wholly unnecessary risk; he
might, as well as not, have taken Grouchy, with far the larger part
of his command, with the main army; had he done so, the catastrophe
of Waterloo could not, so far as we can judge, have happened. But had
Grouchy acted up to the demands of the situation in which he found
himself, he also would have averted the ruin which the unhindered union
of the allies brought upon Napoleon and his army.


[782] Chapter I, and Notes: Notes to Chapter IV.

[783] _Ante_, pp. 64 _et seq._

[784] _Ante_, pp. 131, 132, 139.

[785] Chapter VIII., and Notes.

[786] _Ante_, pp. 184-186.

[787] _Ante_, p. 181.

[788] _Ante_, pp. 164 _et seq._

[789] _Ante_, p. 205.

[790] _Ante_, pp. 197 _et seq._

[791] _Ante_, p. 209.

[792] Chapter XV., note 1.

[793] _Ante_, p. 211; pp. 249 _et seq._

[794] _Ante_, p. 255; pp. 286 _et seq._

[795] _Ante_, pp. 268 _et seq._

[796] _Ante_, pp. 311 _et seq._; p. 330.

[797] _Ante_, pp. 314, 330.

[798] _Ante_, pp. 337, 338.

[799] _Ante_, pp. 316 _et seq._; pp. 331 _et seq._

[800] _Ante_, pp. 281 _et seq._

[801] _Ante_, pp. 259 _et seq._

[802] _Ante_, p. 328.

[803] _Ante_, pp. 70 _et seq._; p. 91.

[804] _Ante_, pp. 87 _et seq._

[805] _Ante_, p. 94.

[806] _Ante_, p. 89.

[807] Chap. X.

[808] _Ante_, p. 234.

[809] _Ante_, pp. 238 _et seq._

[810] Chesney, p. 207; Kennedy, pp. 163, 164.



Probably no military narratives that ever were written have been
subjected to more harsh and unjust criticism than the two accounts
of the campaign of Waterloo, which, under the names of the Gourgaud
Narrative and the Memoirs, were dictated or written by Napoleon at St.
Helena. To read the remarks of Charras, Chesney, Hooper, and others,
about these books, one would suppose that a military narrative is the
easiest, plainest sort of narrative to write, and that if a general
wished to compose it properly he would isolate himself from his
fellow-officers and subordinates, and get into some secluded corner of
the world thousands of miles from the records of the war-department.
For if this is not the view of these writers and of others like them,
they are either ignorant of the extreme difficulty which attends the
composition of a military narrative, or else are bent upon treating the
fallen Emperor with gross injustice.

For instance, Napoleon says in his “Memoirs”[811] that “on the 14th
_in the evening_,”[812] General Bourmont deserted to the enemy. The
whole army broke camp in the early hours of the 15th. When the 4th
Corps moved at five o’clock, it was discovered that Bourmont had
left. Charras states that the staff-records of the 4th Corps, to
which Bourmont belonged, mention that he deserted on the 15th, and
that he wrote a letter to Gérard announcing his desertion dated at
Philippeville on the 15th. But Napoleon at St. Helena had neither the
staff-records of the 4th Corps to go by, nor the letter of Bourmont
to Gérard. Yet Charras[813] calls the Emperor’s statement a designed
misstatement (_une inexactitude calculée_).

But we have no disposition to dwell on harsh criticisms of this kind.
Our purpose at present is to call attention to a peculiarity of
Napoleon’s which may serve to explain the existence in his Memoirs
of very definite statements which are apparently very wide of the
truth. This peculiarity is, that while his orders to his lieutenants
were often very general in their character,—pointing out clearly
enough, it is true, the thing to be aimed at, or the danger to be
feared,—but leaving entirely to the officer the course to be adopted
if the emergency should arise,—yet these orders never seem to have
been retained in Napoleon’s memory in the shape in which they were
given, but what he did recall about them was his expectation that, on
receiving his order, his lieutenant would act in such or such a manner.
This expectation, that such or such action would be taken by his
lieutenant on receiving such or such an order, was all that was left
of the order in his mind; and, when he came to write his narrative, he
would often (at any rate) state that he had given definite instructions
to such or such an effect, when all he had really done was to give a
general order, from the giving of which he expected such or such a
course of action to be taken by his subordinate.

Thus, take the orders to Ney, issued on the afternoon of the 16th,
at 2 and 3.15 P.M.[814] They were, as we have seen, very general in
character; Ney was directed, after he should have beaten, or, at least,
checked, the English, to turn round, and manœuvre so as to take the
Prussians in flank and rear. But the “Memoirs”[815] say:—

  “He [Napoleon] reiterated the order for him to push on in front of
  Quatre Bras; and, as soon as he should have taken position there,
  to detach a column of 8,000 infantry, with the cavalry-division of
  Lefebvre-Desnouettes, and 28 pieces of cannon, by the turnpike which
  ran from Quatre Bras to Namur, which he was to leave at the village
  of Marbais, in order to attack the heights of Brye, in the enemy’s

It is to be observed that the Memoirs make no mention of the orders
which were actually sent to Ney that afternoon. And Napoleon sent to
Ney no such order as this. What he here calls an order was really what
he expected Ney to do when he should get the 2 and 3.15 P.M. orders.
That this was so, appears from what follows:—

  “After having made this detachment, there would still remain to him
  [Ney] in his position of Quatre Bras 32,000 men and 80 pieces of
  cannon, which would be sufficient to hold in check all the English
  troops which could be expected to arrive from their cantonments
  during the day of the 16th.”

That is,—the Emperor had figured it all out in his own head, as if he
were in Ney’s place. Ney could spare so many men and so many guns; he
would have so many men and so many guns left. But, in fact, the orders
to Ney left it to him to make these calculations for himself.

Let us apply now this mode of working of Napoleon’s mind to his
statements in regard to the orders which he says in his “Memoirs” he
sent to Grouchy.[816]

  “At ten o’clock in the evening the Emperor sent an officer to Marshal
  Grouchy, whom he supposed to be at Wavre, to inform him that there
  would be a great battle the next day; that the Anglo-Dutch army was
  in position in front of the Forest of Soignes, its left resting on
  the village of La Haye; that he ordered him to detach before daybreak
  from his camp at Wavre a division of 16,000 men of all arms and 16
  pieces of cannon on St. Lambert, in order to connect with the main
  army and operate with it; that as soon as he should be assured that
  Blücher had evacuated Wavre, whether to continue his retreat on
  Brussels or to move in any other direction, he (Grouchy) was to
  march with the larger part of his troops to support the detachment
  which he had sent to St. Lambert.”

Thiers[817] finds in the minuteness of detail in which this supposed
order is stated in the Memoirs a proof that it could not have been
invented. We do not so regard the matter. To our mind, the terms in
which Napoleon has, in the extract given above, framed what he says was
the order which he sent to Grouchy, simply express the expectations
formed in his own mind of what Grouchy would do, when, after having
received the Bertrand order, he found that Blücher had fallen back
towards the English. We think the orders sent to Ney on the afternoon
of the battle of Ligny should serve as a guide to us here. We do not
believe that Napoleon sent to Grouchy any such order as that which
he gives in his Memoirs; but then we do believe that he sent him the
Bertrand order, which he does not even mention in his Memoirs, and
which in fact he no doubt forgot all about. And we believe that, having
a distinct recollection of having sent Grouchy an order, and also a
very distinct recollection of what he expected Grouchy would do when he
got the order, he has fused the two things in his mind, and has given
us his order in the terms of his expectations.

There is nothing very uncommon about this. It is certainly to be
distinguished from deliberate misrepresentation. It is partly, at any
rate, the result of an active imagination working on facts imperfectly
recollected, but which have been dwelt upon until the mind has become
disturbed and warped.


[811] Corresp., vol. 31, p. 251.

[812] The italics are ours.

[813] Charras, vol. 1, p. 104, n. 1.

[814] Doc. Inéd., XIII., p. 40; XIV., p. 24; App. C, xxv., xxvi;
_post_, pp 383, 384.

[815] Corresp., vol. 31, p. 204.

[816] Corresp., vol. 31, p. 216; see, also, p. 212.

[817] Thiers, vol. xx, p. 95, n.



We have stated (_ante_, p. 208) that Marshal Grouchy “denied, over and
over again, in his pamphlets written about the battle, ever having
received any written order, whether from Napoleon or Soult, until the
next day (the 18th)”; and we have pointed out the grave misconceptions
of the conduct of Napoleon which have been the result of these denials
on the part of Marshal Grouchy, which, for many years, were very
generally credited. We now propose to prove the truth of our statement.

In 1818 Marshal Grouchy published in Philadelphia his “_Observations
sur la Relation de la Campagne de 1815 publiée par le Général
Gourgaud_.” After giving an account of the verbal orders which Napoleon
gave him, of his observations in regard to them, and of the Emperor’s
reply (_ante_, p. 207), he says:—[818]

  “Such are the only dispositions which were communicated to me; the
  only orders which I received.”

In the same pamphlet he says:—[819]

  “But why, unceasingly repeats this ‘Combatant of Waterloo,’—why does
  not Marshal Grouchy publish the text of the orders which he received?

  “The reason is simple. It is that they were only transmitted to  me
  verbally. Those who have served under Napoleon know how rarely he
  gives them in writing. * * * If it is of any consequence to show that
  they were only verbal, I can find if not a proof, certainly a strong
  indication of it in the letter of the Major-General, Marshal Soult,
  in speaking of my march on Sartavalin. He expresses himself in these

  “‘This movement is conformed to the dispositions which have been
  communicated to you.’

  “He would not have failed to say to the instructions or the orders
  which I have transmitted to you, and which you are acting under, if I
  had received any except verbal orders.”

The point of this argument is fully seen only when we remember that the
Bertrand order was dictated by the Emperor in the absence of Soult, the
chief-of-staff, and therefore no copy of it was likely to be found on
the regular official files. But fortune enabled Grouchy to make sure of
this, for he had, soon after Waterloo, an opportunity of examining the
records of the chief-of-staff.

Accordingly, we find him, soon afterwards,[820] in support of his denial
of having received the orders alleged in the Memoirs to have been sent
to him, saying, not, as he ought to have done, that he did receive an
order through Bertrand, which, however, was entirely different in its
tenor from those given in the Memoirs, but that he received on the 17th
no written order at all.

  “The proof of this is in the order-book and correspondence of the
  major-general, the organ of communication of the General-in-chief
  with his lieutenants. This irrefutable document, which, when I
  received the command of the army after the loss of the battle
  of Waterloo, came into my possession, shows that no orders or
  instructions except those contained in the two letters given
  herewith, and dated at 10 A.M. and 1 P.M. of the 18th, were ever sent
  to me.”

In a work published in Paris in 1829, speaking of the 10 A.M. order to
him of the 18th of June, he says:—[821]

  “This letter, and that dated from the field of battle of Waterloo,
  at one o’clock, are the only ones which I received and which were
  written to me on the 17th and 18th. The book of the orders and
  correspondence of the major-general, which I possess, proves this.
  It gives the hours at which orders are given, and the names of the
  officers who carry them; and its details do not permit a suspicion of
  an omission any more than of a misstatement.”

It is rather remarkable, to say the least, that General Bertrand should
not have stated what he recollected about the matter. But he does not
appear to have done so; unless the mention in Jomini’s “Political
and Military History of the Campaign of Waterloo,”[822] that General
Bertrand sent Grouchy a positive order to march on Gembloux, may be
attributed to information received from Bertrand.

The Bertrand order first saw the light in 1842,—twenty-seven years
after the battle of Waterloo. It was printed in a work entitled
“_Notice Biographique sur le Maréchal de Grouchy, &c._,”[823] by E.
Pascallet, editor of a Review treating of Biography, Politics and
Letters. The biography is eulogistic. The order is accompanied by no
explanation of the repeated denials, to which we have called attention
above, of any such order ever having been received by the Marshal.[824]

After this publication, however, the Bertrand order was acknowledged in
the memoirs of Marshal Grouchy. It is found in the work of the Marquis
de Grouchy, published in 1864, entitled “_Le Maréchal de Grouchy du 16
au 19 juin, 1815_,”[825] written to refute the accusations of Thiers,
and in the 4th volume[826] of the “_Mémoires du Maréchal de Grouchy_,”
by his son, the Marquis. In neither of these books is there any
attempt at explaining away the point blank denials of the Marshal’s
having received any written order on the 17th of June. It would
certainly not be easy to conjecture what explanation could be given.
The order reads as follows (Pascallet, p. 79):—

  “_Rendez-vous à Gembloux avec le corps de cavalerie de général Pajol,
  la cavalerie légère du quatrième corps, le corps de cavalerie du
  général Excelmans, la division du général Teste, dont vous aurez
  un soin particulier, étant détachée de son corps d’armée, et les
  troisième et quatrième corps d’infanterie. Vous vous ferez éclairer
  sur la direction de Namur et de Maestricht, et vous poursuivrez
  l’ennemi. Eclairez sa marche, et instruisez-moi de ses manoeuvres,
  de manière que je puisse pénétrer ce qu’il veut faire. Je porte mon
  quartier-général aux Quatre-Chemins, où ce matin étaient encore les
  Anglais. Notre communication sera donc directe par la route pavée
  de Namur. Si l’ennemi a évacué Namur, écrivez au général commandant
  la deuxième division militaire à Charlemont, de faire occuper Namur
  par quelques bataillons de garde nationale et quelques batteries de
  canon qu’il formera à Charlemont. Il donnera ce commandement à un

  _Il est important de pénétrer ce que l’ennemi veut faire: ou il se
  sépare des Anglais, ou ils veulent se réunir encore, pour couvrir
  Bruxelles et Liège, en tentant le sort d’une nouvelle bataille. Dans
  tous les cas, tenez constamment vos deux corps d’infanterie réunis
  dans une lieue de terrain, et occupez tous les soirs une bonne
  position militaire, ayant plusieurs débouchés de retraite. Placez
  détachemens de cavalerie intermédiaires pour communiquer avec le

  _Ligny, le 17 juin, 1815._

  (_Dicté par l’empereur, en l’absence du major-général, au
  grand-maréchal Bertrand._)

Passing now to Marshal Grouchy’s report to the Emperor, dated Gembloux,
June 17,1815, 10 P.M. This was printed for the first time in the Count
Gérard’s “_Dernières Observations sur les Operations de l’Aile Droite
de l’Armée Française à la Bataille de Waterloo_,” published in Paris in
1830. It reads as follows:—[827]


  “_J’ai l’honneur de vous rendre compte que j’occupe Gembloux, et que
  ma cavalerie est à Sauvenières. L’ennemi, fort d’environ trente mille
  hommes, continue son mouvement de retraite; on lui a saisi ici un
  parc de 400 bêtes à cornes, des magasins et des bagages._

  “_Il paraît d’après tous les rapports, qu’arrivés a Sauvenières,
  les Prussiens se sont divisés en deux colonnes: l’une a dû prendre
  la route de Wavres, en passant par Sart-à-Wallain; l’autre colonne
  paraît s’être dirigée sur Perwès._

  “_On peut peut-être en inférer qu’une portion va joindre Wellington,
  et que le centre, qui est l’armée de Blücher, se rétire sur Liége:
  une autre colonne avec de l’artillerie ayant fait son mouvement de
  retraite par Namur, le général Excelmans a ordre de pousser ce soir
  six escadrons sur Sart-à-Wallain, et trois escadrons sur Perwès.
  D’après leur rapport, si la masse des Prussiens se retire sur Wavres,
  je la suivrai dans cette direction, afin qu’ils ne puissent pas
  gagner Bruxelles, et de les séparer de Wellington._

  “_Si, au contraire, mes renseignements prouvent que la principale
  force prussienne a marché sur Perwès, je me dirigerai par cette ville
  à la poursuite de l’ennemi._

  “_Les généraux Thielman et Borstell faisaient partie de l’armée que
  Votre Majesté a battue hier; ils étaient encore ce matin à 10 heures
  ici, et out annoncé que vingt mille hommes des leurs avaient été mis
  hors de combat. Ils ont demandé en partant les distances de Wavres,
  Perwès et Hannut. Blücher a été blessé légèrement au bras, ce qui ne
  l’a pas empêché de continuer à commander après s’être fait panser. Il
  n’a point passé par Gembloux._

  _Je suis avec respect
  de Votre Majesté_,
  _Sire_,  _Le fidèle sujet_,
  (_Signé_) _Le Maréchal Comte de Grouchy_.”

This version of Grouchy’s report from Gembloux has been adopted
textually by all writers on the campaign,—Charras,[828] Siborne,[829]
La Tour d’Auvergne,[830] Chesney,[831] Quinet,[832] the author of
“Napoléon à Waterloo,”[833] and others.

The salient thing in this report is its response to the Bertrand order.
That directed Grouchy to find out what the Prussians were intending
to do, whether to separate from the English, or to unite with them to
cover Brussels or Liége in trying the fate of another battle. Grouchy
says in this despatch, that, if the mass of the Prussians retires on
Wavre he will follow them in that direction _in order that they may not
be able to gain Brussels and to separate them from Wellington_; but it
on the contrary his information proves that their principal force is
marching on Perwès he will march on that city in pursuit of the enemy.
But in the Grouchy Memoirs this expression of intention is supplanted
by another.[834]

The whole clause reads as follows:—

  “_Si j’apprends par des rapports qui, j’espère, me parviendront
  pendant la nuit, que de fortes masses prussiennes se portent sur
  Wavre, je les suivrai dans cette direction, ET LES ATTAQUERAI DES QUE

This substitution of an expressed intention to attack the Prussians
as soon as he should have caught up with them, if he finds them going
to Wavre, is a radical departure from the received text. It is not
difficult to see the motive for making this mutilation. Grouchy and
his defenders were unwilling to allow that he had, in this despatch,
expressed his intention of manœuvring with the object of separating
the Prussians from Wellington, for that was exactly what he distinctly
refused to do on the next day. And the reason which he alleged for
refusing to follow Gérard’s advice was, that he had been told by the
Emperor to follow the Prussians up closely, and attack them as soon as
he should catch up with them. Hence, to admit that the received text of
his 10 P.M.  report on the 17th is correct, is to admit that Grouchy,
at the time he wrote it, took a different view of his task from that
which he put forward the next day, and ever afterwards maintained;
it is, in fact, to admit that he had received, understood, and was
intending to act under the Bertrand order, which warned him that the
Prussians might be intending to unite with the English; that on that
evening of the 17th, at any rate, he fully recognized the real danger
to be feared, and regarded, as his great task, not the following on the
heels of the Prussians, and attacking their rear guard, but manœuvring
so as to prevent them from carrying out their purpose of joining the

That the changes in the two Grouchy books are wilful mutilations of the
correct text, made for the purpose stated above, appears sufficiently
from the fact that the statement of what Grouchy was going to do, if he
found the Prussians retiring on Perwès is entirely omitted, apart from
the fact that not a single writer adopts the Grouchy version.

Charras puts it mildly in our opinion when he says of Grouchy,[837]—“He
has not always been very exact, or very sincere.”


[818] Observations, Phila. ed. 1818, p. 13. In the Philadelphia edition
of 1819, p. 12, and in the Paris edition, 1819, p. 13, the statement is
made somewhat stronger by the insertion of the words “word for word.”

[819] Obs., Phila. ed., 1818, pp. 26, 27; ed. 1819, pp. 24, 25; Paris
ed., pp. 30, 31.

[820] Doutes sur l’authenticité des Mémoires Historiques attribués à
Napoléon. Par le Cte de Grouchy. Philadelphie; Avril, 1820.

[821] Fragments Historiques: Lettre à MM. Méry et Barthélemy, p. 5,

[822] Jomini, p. 149. Jomini’s Preface is dated in 1838.

[823] Pascallet, p. 79.

[824] _Cf._ Napoléon à Waterloo, p. 199, n.

[825] Le Mal de Grouchy en 1815, pp. 26-28.

[826] Grouchy Mém., vol. 4, pp. 50, 51.

[827] Gérard: Dem. Obs., p. 15.

[828] Charras, vol. 1, p. 244.

[829] Siborne, vol. 1, p. 297.

[830] La Tour d’Auvergne, p. 230.

[831] Chesney, p. 153.

[832] Quinet, p. 430.

[833] Napoléon à Waterloo, p. 219.

[834] Grouchy Mém., p. 58; see, also, p. 263, where the writer says
that he has the original under his eyes. See, also, the same thing in
the “Mal de Grouchy en 1815,” p. 37; and also p. 194, where Thiers is
sharply taken to task for following the generally received version.

[835] The capitals are ours.

[836] _Cf._ Clausewitz, ch. 48, p. 131; ch. 50, p. 146.

[837] Charras, vol. 2, p. 53.



ADDRESS TO THE ARMY: June 14, 1815.

Corresp. Vol. 28, p. 324.

22052.—À L’ARMÉE.

  AVESNES, 14 juin 1815.

Soldats, c’est aujourd’hui l’anniversaire de Marengo et de Friedland,
qui décidèrent deux fois du destin de l’Europe. Alors, comme après
Austerlitz, comme après Wagram, nous fûmes trop généreux; nous crûmes
aux protestations et aux serments des princes que nous laissâmes
sur le trône! Aujourd’hui, cependant, coalisés contre nous, ils en
veulent à l’indépendance et aux droits les plus sacrés de la France.
Ils ont commencé la plus injuste des agressions. Marchons donc à leur
rencontre: eux et nous ne sommes-nous plus les mêmes hommes?

Soldats, à Iena, contre ces mêmes Prussiens aujourd’hui si arrogants,
vous étiez un contre trois; à Montmirail, un contre six.

Que ceux d’entre vous qui ont été prisonniers des Anglais vous fassent
le récit de leurs pontons et des maux affreux qu’ils ont soufferts!

Les Saxons, les Belges, les Hanovriens, les soldats de la Confédération
du Rhin, gémissent d’être obligés de prêter leurs bras à la cause des
princes ennemis de la justice et des droits de tous les peuples. Ils
savent que cette coalition est insatiable. Après avoir dévoré douze
millions de Polonais, douze millions d’Italiens, un million de Saxons,
six millions de Belges, elle devra dévorer les états de deuxième ordre
de l’Allemagne.

Les insensés! Un moment de prospérité les aveugle. L’oppression et
l’humiliation du peuple français sont hors de leur pouvoir. S’ils
entrent en France, ils y trouveront leur tombeau.

Soldats, nous avons des marches forcées à faire, des batailles à
livrer, des périls à courir; mais, avec de la constance, la victoire
sera à nous: les droits, l’honneur et le bonheur de la patrie seront

Pour tout Français qui a du cœur, le moment est arrivé de vaincre ou de


D’après la copie. Dépôt de la guerre.


ORDER OF MOVEMENT: June 14, 1815.

Corresp. vol. 28, p. 325.


  BEAUMONT, 14 juin 1815.

Demain 15, à deux heures et demie du matin, la division de cavalerie
légère du général Vandamme montera à cheval et se portera sur la route
de Charleroi. Elle enverra des partis dans toutes les directions
pour éclairer le pays et enlever les postes ennemis; mais chacun de
ces partis sera au moins de 50 hommes. Avant de mettre en marche
la division, le général Vandamme s’assurera qu’elle est pourvue de

A la même heure, le lieutenant général Pajol réunira le 1er corps de
cavalerie et suivra le mouvement de la division du général Domon, qui
sera sous les ordres du général Pajol. Les divisions du 1er corps de
cavalerie ne fourniront point de détachements; ils seront pris dans la
3e division. Le général Domon laissera sa batterie d’artillerie pour
marcher après le 1er bataillon du 3e corps d’infanterie; le lieutenant
général Vandamme lui donnera des ordres en conséquence.

Le lieutenant général Vandamme fera battre la diane à deux heures et
demie du matin; à trois heures, il mettra en marche son corps d’armée
et le dirigera sur Charleroi. La totalité de ses bagages et embarras
seront parqués en arrière, et ne se mettront en marche qu’après que le
6e corps et la Garde impériale auront passé. Ils seront sous les ordres
du vaguemestre général, qui les réunira à ceux du 6e corps, de la Garde
impériale et du grand quartier général, et leur donnera des ordres de

Chaque division du 3e corps d’armée aura avec elle sa batterie et ces
ambulances; toute autre voiture qui serait dans les rangs sera brûlée.

M. le comte de Lobau fera battre la diane à trois heures et demie, et
il mettra en marche le 6e corps d’armée à quatre heures pour suivre le
mouvement du général Vandamme et l’appuyer. Il fera observer, pour les
troupes, l’artillerie, les ambulances et les bagages, le même ordre de
marche qui est prescrit au 3e corps.

Les bagages du 6e corps seront réunis à ceux du 3e, sous les ordres du
vaguemestre général, ainsi qu’il est dit.

La jeune Garde battra la diane à quatre heures et demie, et se mettra
en marche à cinq heures; elle suivra le mouvement du 6e corps sur la
route de Charleroi.

Les chasseurs à pied de la Garde battront la diane à quatre heures, et
se mettront en marche à cinq heures et demie pour suivre le mouvement
de la jeune Garde.

Les grenadiers à pied de la Garde battront la diane à cinq heures et
demie, et partiront à six heures pour suivre le mouvement des chasseurs
à pied.

Le même ordre de marche pour l’artillerie, les ambulances et les
bagages, prescrit pour le 3e corps d’infanterie, sera observé dans la
Garde impériale.

Les bagages de la Garde seront réunis à ceux des 3e et 6e corps
d’armée, sous les ordres du vaguemestre général, qui les fera mettre en

M. le maréchal Grouchy fera monter à cheval, à cinq heures et demie
du matin, celui des trois autres corps de cavalerie qui sera le plus
près de la route, et il lui fera suivre le mouvement sur Charleroi; les
deux autres corps partiront successivement à une heure d’intervalle
l’un de l’autre. Mais M. le maréchal Grouchy aura soin de faire marcher
la cavalerie sur les chemins latéraux de la route principale que la
colonne d’infanterie suivra, afin d’éviter l’encombrement et aussi pour
que sa cavalerie observe un meilleur ordre.

Il prescrira que la totalité des bagages restent en arrière, parqués et
réunis, jusqu’ au moment où le vaguemestre général leur donnera l’ordre

M. le comte Reille fera battre la diane à deux heures et demie du
matin, et il mettra en marche le 2e corps à trois heures; il le
dirigera sur Marchienne-au-Pont, où il fera en sorte d’être rendu avant
neuf heures du matin. Il fera garder tous les ponts de la Sambre, afin
que personne ne passe; les postes qu’il laissera seront successivement
relevés par le 1er corps; mais il doit tâcher de prévenir l’ennemi
à ces ponts pour qu’ils ne soient pas détruits, surtout celui de
Marchienne, par lequel il sera probablement dans le cas de déboucher,
et qu’il faudrait faire aussitôt réparer s’il avait été endommagé.

A Thuin et à Marchienne, ainsi que dans tous les villages sur sa
route, M. le comte Reille interrogera les habitants, afin d’avoir des
nouvelles des positions et forces des armées ennemies. Il fera aussi
prendre les lettres dans les bureaux de poste et les dépouillera pour
faire aussitôt parvenir à l’Empereur les renseignements qu’il aura

M. le comte d’Erlon mettra en marche le 1er corps à trois heures du
matin, et le dirigera aussi sur Charleroi, en suivant le mouvement du
2e corps, duquel il gagnera la gauche le plus tôt possible, pour le
soutenir et l’appuyer au besoin. Il tiendra une brigade de cavalerie en
arrière, pour se couvrir et pour maintenir par de petits détachements
ses communications avec Maubeuge. Il enverra des partis en avant de
cette place, dans les directions de Mons et de Binche, jusqu’ à la
frontière, pour avoir des nouvelles des ennemis et en rendre compte
aussitôt; ces partis auront soin de ne pas se compromettre et de ne pas
dépasser la frontière.

M. le comte d’Erlon fera occuper Thuin par une division; et, si le pont
de cette ville était détruit, il le ferait aussitôt réparer, en même
temps qu’il fera tracer et exécuter immédiatement une tête de pont sur
la rive gauche. La division qui sera à Thuin gardera aussi le pont de
l’abbaye d’Aulne, où M. le comte d’Erlon fera également construire une
tête de pont sur la rive gauche.

Le même ordre de marche prescrit au 3e corps pour l’artillerie, les
ambulances et les bagages, sera observé aux 2 e et 1er corps, qui
feront réunir et marcher leurs bagages à la gauche du 1er corps sous
les ordres du vaguemestre le plus ancien.

Le 4e corps (armée de la Moselle) a reçu ordre de prendre aujourd’hui
position en avant de Philippeville. Si son mouvement est opéré et
si les divisions qui composent ce corps d’armée sont réunies, M. le
lieutenant général Gérard les mettra en marche demain à trois heures
du matin, et les dirigera sur Charleroi. Il aura soin de se tenir
à hauteur du 3e corps, avec lequel il communiquera, afin d’arriver
à peu près en même temps devant Charleroi; mais le général Gérard
fera éclairer sa droite et tous les débouchés qui vont sur Namur. Il
marchera serré en ordre de bataille, et fera laisser à Philippeville
tous ses bagages et embarras, afin que son corps d’armée, se trouvant
plus léger, se trouve à même de manœuvrer.

Le général Gérard donnera ordre à la 14e division de cavalerie, qui a
dû aussi arriver aujourd’hui à Philippeville, de suivre le mouvement de
son corps d’armée sur Charleroi, où cette division joindra le 4e corps
de cavalerie.

Les lieutenants généraux Reille, Vandamme, Gérard et Pajol se mettront
en communication par de fréquents partis, et ils régleront leur
marche de manière à arriver en masse et ensemble devant Charleroi.
Ils mettront, autant que possible, à l’avant-garde des officiers qui
parlent flamand, pour interroger les habitants et en prendre des
renseignements; mais ces officiers s’annonceront comme commandant des
partis, sans dire que l’armée est en arrière.

Les lieutenants généraux Reille, Vandamme et Gérard feront marcher tous
les sapeurs de leurs corps d’armée (ayant avec eux des moyens pour
réparer les ponts) après le premier régiment d’infanterie légère, et
ils donneront ordre aux officiers du génie de faire réparer les mauvais
passages, ouvrir des communications latérales et placer des ponts
sur les courants d’eau où l’infanterie devrait se mouiller pour les

Les marins, les sapeurs de la Garde et les sapeurs de la réserve
marcheront après le premier régiment du 3e corps. Les lieutenants
généraux Rogniat et Haxo seront à leur tête; ils n’emmèneront avec eux
que deux ou trois voitures; le surplus du parc du génie marchera à la
gauche du 3e corps. Si on rencontre l’ennemi, ces troupes ne seront
point engagées, mais les généraux Rogniat et Haxo les emploieront aux
travaux de passages de rivière, de têtes de pont, de réparation de
chemins et d’ouverture de communications etc.

La cavalerie de la Garde suivra le mouvement sur Charleroi et partira à
huit heures.

L’Empereur sera à l’avant-garde, sur la route de Charleroi. MM. les
lieutenants généraux auront soin d’envoyer à Sa Majesté de fréquents
rapports sur leurs mouvements et les renseignements qu’ils auront
recueillis. Ils sont prévenus que l’intention de Sa Majesté est d’avoir
passé la Sambre avant midi, et de porter l’armée à la rive gauche de
cette rivière.

L’équipage de ponts sera divisé en deux sections; la première section
se subdivisera en trois parties, chacune de 5 pontons et 5 bateaux
d’avant-garde, pour jeter trois ponts sur la Sambre. Il y aura à
chacune de ces subdivisions une compagnie de pontonniers.

La première section marchera à la suite du parc du génie après le 3e

La deuxième section restera avec le parc de réserve d’artillerie à la
colonne des bagages; elle aura avec elle la 4e compagnie de pontonniers.

Les équipages de l’Empereur et les bagages du grand quartier général
seront réunis et se mettront en marche à dix heures. Aussitôt qu’il
seront passés, le vaguemestre général fera partir les équipages de la
Garde impériale, du 3e corps et du 6e corps; en même temps, il enverra
ordre à la colonne d’équipages de la réserve de cavalerie de se mettre
en marche et de suivre la direction que la cavalerie aura prise.

Les ambulances de l’armée suivront le quartier général et marcheront
en tête des bagages; mais, dans aucun cas, ces bagages, ainsi que les
parcs de réserve de l’artillerie et la seconde section de l’équipage
de ponts, ne s’approcheront à plus de trois lieues de l’armée, à moins
d’ordres du major général, et ils ne passeront la Sambre aussi que par

Le vaguemestre général formera des divisions de ces bagages, et il y
mettra des officiers pour les commander, afin de pouvoir en détacher
ce qui sera ensuite appelé au quartier général ou pour le service des

L’intendant général fera réunir à cette colonne d’équipages la totalité
des bagages et transports de l’administration, auxquels il sera assigné
un rang dans la colonne.

Les voitures qui seront en retard prendront la gauche, et ne pourront
sortir du rang qui leur sera donné que par ordre du vaguemestre général.

L’Empereur ordonne que toutes les voitures d’équipages qui seront
trouvées dans les colonnes d’infanterie, de cavalerie ou d’artillerie,
soient brûlées, ainsi que les voitures de la colonne des équipages
qui quitteront leur rang et intervertiront l’ordre de marche sans la
permission expresse du vaguemestre général.

A cet effet, il sera mis un détachement de 50 gendarmes à la
disposition du vaguemestre général, qui est responsable, ainsi que tous
les officiers de la gendarmerie et les gendarmes, de l’exécution de ces
dispositions, desquelles le succès de la campagne peut dépendre.

  Par ordre le l’Empereur:

  Le maréchal de l’Empire, major général,

  Duc de Dalmatie.

D’après l’original. Dépôt de la guerre.


Doc. Inéd., p. 22.

15 Juin.



Monsieur le comte Reille, l’empereur m’ordonne de vous écrire de passer
la Sambre, si vous n’avez pas de forces devant vous, et de vous former
sur plusieurs lignes, à une ou deux lieues en avant, de manière à être
à cheval sur la grande route de Bruxelles, en vous éclairant fortement
dans la direction de Fleurus. M. le comte d’Erlon passera à Marchiennes
et se formera en bataille sur la route de Mons à Charleroi, où il sera
à portée de vous soutenir au besoin.

Si vous êtes encore à Marchiennes lorsque le présent ordre vous
parviendra, et que le mouvement par Charleroi ne pût avoir lieu, vous
l’opéreriez toujours par Marchiennes, mais toujours pour remplir les
dispositions ci-dessus.

L’empereur se rend devant Charleroi. Rendez compte immédiatement à Sa
Majesté de vos opérations et de ce qui se passe devant vous.

  Le maréchal d’empire, major général,

  Duc de Dalmatie.

  Au bivouac de Jumignon, le 15 juin, 1815, à 8 heures et demie du


Doc. Inéd., p. 24.


  Bivouac de Jumignon, 15 juin,
  10 heures du matin.

Monsieur le Comte, l’empereur m’ordonne de vous écrire que M. le comte
Reille reçoit ordre de passer la Sambre à Charleroi, et de se former
sur plusieurs lignes à une ou deux lieues en avant, à cheval sur la
grande route de Bruxelles.

L’intention de Sa Majesté est aussi que vous passiez la Sambre à
Marchiennes, ou à Ham, pour vous porter sur la grande route de Mons
à Charleroi, où vous vous formerez sur plusieurs lignes, et prendrez
des positions qui vous rapprocheront de M. le comte Reille, liant
vos communications et envoyant des partis des toutes les directions:
Mons, Nivelles, etc. Ce mouvement aurait également lieu si M. le comte
Reille était obligé d’effectuer son passage par Marchiennes. Rendez-moi
compte de suite de vos opérations et de ce qui se passe devant vous;
l’empereur sera devant Charleroi.


ORDER TO THE COUNT D’ERLON: 3 P.M., June 15, 1815.

Doc. Inéd., p. 25.



  En avant de Charleroi, à 3 heures du soir,
  15 juin 1815.

Monsieur le comte d’Erlon, l’empereur ordonne à M. le comte Reille de
marcher sur Gosselies, et d’y attaquer un corps ennemi qui paraissait
s’y arrêter. L’intention de l’empereur est que vous marchiez aussi
sur Gosselies, pour appuyer le comte Reille et le seconder dans ses
opérations. Cependant, vous devrez toujours faire garder Marchiennes,
et vous enverrez une brigade sur les routes de Mons, lui recommandant
de se garder très militairement.



Doc. Inéd., p. 25.



  Charleroi, le 15 juin 1815.

Monsieur le Comte, l’intention de l’empereur est que vous ralliez
votre corps sur la rive gauche de la Sambre, pour joindre le 2e corps
à Gosselies, d’après les ordres que vous donnera à ce sujet M. le
maréchal prince de la Moskowa.

Ainsi, vous rappellerez les troupes que vous avez laissées à Thuin,
Sobre et environs; vous devrez cependant avoir toujours de nombreux
partis sur votre gauche pour éclairer la route de Mons.

  Le maréchal d’empire, major général,
  Duc de Dalmatie.


ORDER TO GENERAL NOGUÈS: 3 A.M., June 16, 1815.

“Napoléon à Waterloo,” p. 144.

Ordre de mouvement adressé par l’adjudant commandant, chef d’état-major
de la 3e division du 1er corps, au général Noguès, commandant la 1er
brigade de cette division.

  Quartier général à Marchienne-au-Pont:
  16 juin (trois heures du matin).

D’après l’intention du général en chef, le lieutenant général me charge
de vous inviter à faire partir de suite votre brigade pour être rendue
à six heures du matin, et plus tôt s’il était possible, à Gosselies.

  L’adjudant commandant,
  chef d’état-major:
  Ch. d’Arsonval.


La 2e brigade reste ici jusqu’à l’arrivée de la première division, pour
se rendre ensemble à la même destination.

This indicates that at 3 A.M. of the 16th, while the 4th division
(Durutte’s) was in bivouac beyond Jumet (Doc. Inéd., Durutte’s
statement, p. 71, where he gives Gosselies, where the Second Corps was,
by mistake for Jumet), the 2d Division (Donzelot’s) must also have
crossed the river, the 3d division (Marcognet’s) was at Marchienne, and
the 1st (Allix’) had not yet reached the Sambre.


BULLETIN OF THE ARMY: June 15, 1815: Evening.

Corresp. vol. 28, p. 331.


  CHARLEROI, 15 juin 1815, au soir.

Le 14, l’armée était placée de la manière suivante:

Le quartier impérial à Beaumont.

Le 1er corps, commandé par le général d’Erlon, était à Solre, sur la

Le 2e corps, commandé par le général Reille, était à Ham-sur-Heure.

Le 3e corps, commandé par le général Vandamme, était sur la droite de

Le 4e corps, commandé par le général Gérard, arrivait à Philippeville.

Le 15, à trois heures du matin, le général Reille attaqua l’ennemi
et se porta sur Marchienne-au-Pont. Il eut différents engagements
dans lesquels sa cavalerie chargea un bataillon prussien et fit 300

A une heure du matin, l’Empereur était à Jamioulx-sur-Heure.

La division de cavalerie légère du général Domon sabra deux bataillons
prussiens et fit 400 prisonniers.

Le général Pajol entra à Charleroi à midi. Les sapeurs et les marins
de la Garde étaient à l’avant-garde pour réparer les ponts; ils
pénétrèrent les premiers en tirailleurs dans la ville. Le général
Clary, avec le 1er de hussards, se porta sur Gosselies, sur la route de
Bruxelles, et le général Pajol sur Gilly, sur la route de Namur.

A trois heures après midi, le général Vandamme déboucha avec son corps
sur Gilly.

Le maréchal Grouchy arriva avec la cavalerie du général Exelmans.

L’ennemi occupait la gauche de la position de Fleurus. A cinq heures
après midi, l’Empereur ordonna l’attaque. La position fut tournée et
enlevée. Les quatre escadrons de service de la Garde, commandés par le
général Letort, aide-de-camp de l’Empereur, enfoncèrent trois carrés;
les 26e, 27e et 28e régiments prussiens furent mis en déroute. Nos
escadrons sabrèrent 400 ou 500 hommes et firent 1,500 prisonniers.

Pendant ce temps, le général Reille passait la Sambre à
Marchienne-au-Pont, pour se porter sur Gosselies avec les divisions du
prince Jérôme et du général Bachelu, attaquait l’ennemi, lui faisait
250 prisonniers et le poursuivait sur la route de Bruxelles.

Nous devînmes ainsi maîtres de toute la position de Fleurus.

A huit heures du soir, l’Empereur rentra à son quartier général à

Cette journée coûte à l’ennemi cinq pièces de canon et 2,000 hommes,
dont 1,000 prisonniers. Notre perte est de 10 hommes tués et de 80
blessés, la plupart des escadrons de service, qui ont fait les charges,
et des trois escadrons de 20e de dragons, qui ont aussi chargé un carré
avec la plus grande intrépidité. Notre perte, légère quant au nombre, a
été sensible à l’Empereur, par la blessure grave qu’a reçue le général
Letort, son aide-de-camp, en chargeant à la tête des escadrons de
service. Cet officier est de la plus grande distinction. Il a été
frappé d’une balle au bas-ventre, et le chirurgien fait craindre que sa
blessure ne soit mortelle.

Nous avons trouvé à Charleroi quelques magasins. La joie des Belges
ne saurait se décrire. Il y a des villages qui, à la vue de leurs
libérateurs, ont formé des danses, et partout c’est un élan qui part du

Dans le rapport de l’état-major général, on insérera les noms des
officiers et soldats qui se sont distingués.

L’Empereur a donné le commandement de la gauche au prince de la
Moskova, qui a eu le soir son quartier général aux Quatre-Chemins, sur
la route de Bruxelles.

Le due de Trévise, à qui l’Empereur avait donné le commandement de la
jeune Garde, est resté à Beaumont, malade d’une sciatique qui l’a forcé
de se mettre au lit.

Le 4e corps, commandé par le général Gérard, arrive ce soir à Châtelet.
Le général Gérard a rendu compte que le lieutenant général Bourmont, le
colonel Clouet et le chef d’escadron Villoutreys ont passé à l’ennemi.
Un lieutenant du 11e de chasseurs a également passé à l’ennemi. Le
major général a ordonné que ces déserteurs fussent sur-le-champ jugés
conformément aux lois.

Rien ne peut peindre le bon esprit el l’ardeur de l’armée. Elle regarde
comme un événement heureux la désertion de ce petit nombre de traîtres,
qui se démasquent ainsi.

Extrait du Moniteur du 18 juin 1815.



Gurwood, vol. xii, p. 472.




  BRUXELLES, 15 June, 1815.

General Dörnberg’s brigade of cavalry, and the Cumberland Hussars, to
march this night upon Vilvorde, and to bivouac on the high road near to
that town.

The Earl of Uxbridge will be pleased to collect the cavalry this night
at Ninhove, leaving the 2d hussars looking out between the Scheldt and
the Lys.

The 1st division of infantry to collect this night at Ath and adjacent,
and to be in readiness to move at a moment’s notice.

The third division to collect this night at Braine le Comte, and to be
in readiness to move at the shortest notice.

The 4th division to be collected this night at Grammont, with the
exception of the troops beyond the Scheldt, which are to be moved to

The 5th division, the 81st regiment, and the Hanoverian brigade of the
6th division, to be in readiness to march from Bruxelles at a moment’s

The Duke of Brunswick’s corps to collect this night on the high road
between Bruxelles and Vilvorde.

The Nassau troops to collect at daylight to-morrow morning on the
Louvain road, and to be in readiness to move at a moment’s notice.

The Hanoverian brigade of the 5th division to collect this night at
Hal, and to be in readiness at daylight to-morrow morning to move
towards Bruxelles, and to halt on the high road between Alost and
Assche for further orders.

The Prince of Orange is requested to collect at Nivelles the 2d and 3d
divisions of the army of the Low Countries; and, should that point have
been attacked this day, to move the 3d division of British infantry
upon Nivelles as soon as collected.

This movement is not to take place until it is quite certain that the
enemy’s attack is upon the right of the Prussian army, and the left of
the British army.

Lord Hill will be so good as to order Prince Frederick of Orange to
occupy Audenarde with 500 men, and to collect the 1st division of the
army of the Low Countries and the Indian brigade at Sotteghem, so as to
be ready to march in the morning at daylight.

The reserve artillery to be in readiness to move at daylight.




Gurwood, vol. xii, p. 473.


  à BRUXELLES, ce 15 juin, 1815.

  à 10 heures du soir.


Je reçois les nouvelles que l’ennemi attaqua les postes Prussiens ce
matin à Thuin sur la Sambre, et il paraissait menacer Charleroi. Je
n’ai rien reçu depuis neuf heures du matin de Charleroi. * * * *



WELLINGTON’S “AFTER ORDERS”: 10 P.M., June 15, 1815.

Gurwood, vol. xii, p. 474.



  BRUXELLES, 15th June, 1815.

The 3d division of infantry to continue its movement from Braine le
Comte upon Nivelles.

The 1st division to move from Enghien upon Braine le Comte.

The 2d and 4th divisions of infantry to move from Ath and Grammont,
also from Audenarde, and to continue their movements upon Enghien.

The cavalry to continue its movement from Ninhove upon Enghien.

The above movements to take place with as little delay as possible.




Gurwood, vol. xii, p. 478.


  WATERLOO, 19th June, 1815.


Buonaparte, having collected the 1st, 2d, 3d, 4th, and 6th corps of the
French army, and the Imperial Guards and nearly all the cavalry, on the
Sambre, and between that river and the Meuse, between the 10th and 14th
of the month, advanced on the 15th and attacked the Prussian posts at
Thuin and Lobbes, on the Sambre, at daylight in the morning.

I did not hear of these events till in the evening of the 15th; and I
immediately ordered the troops to prepare to march, and afterwards to
march to their left, as soon as I had intelligence from other quarters
to prove that the enemy’s movement upon Charleroi was the real attack.

The enemy drove the Prussian posts from the Sambre on that day; and
General Ziethen, who commanded the corps which had been at Charleroi,
retired upon Fleurus; and Marshal Prince Blücher concentrated the
Prussian army upon Sombref, holding the villages in front of his
position of St. Amand and Ligny.

The enemy continued his march along the road from Charleroi towards
Bruxelles; and, on the same evening, the 15th, attacked a brigade of
the army of the Netherlands, under the Prince de Weimar, posted at
Frasne, and forced it back to the farmhouse, on the same road, called
Les Quatre Bras.

The Prince of Orange immediately reinforced this brigade with another
of the same division, under General Perponcher, and, in the morning
early, regained part of the ground which had been lost, so as to have
the command of the communication leading from Nivelles and Bruxelles
with Marshal Blücher’s position.

In the meantime, I had directed the whole army to march upon Les Quatre
Bras; and the 5th division, under Lieut.-General Sir Thomas Picton,
arrived at about half-past two in the day, followed by the corps of
troops under the Duke of Brunswick, and afterwards by the contingent of

At this time the enemy commenced an attack upon Prince Blücher with his
whole force, excepting the 1st and 2d corps, and a corps of cavalry
under General Kellermann, with which he attacked our post at Les Quatre

       * * *

I should not do justice to my own feelings, or to Marshal Blücher and
the Prussian army, if I did not attribute the successful result of
this arduous day to the cordial and timely assistance I received from
them. The operation of General Bülow upon the enemy’s flank was a
most decisive one; and, even if I had not found myself in a situation
to make the attack which produced the final result, it would have
forced the enemy to retire if his attacks should have failed, and
would have prevented him from taking advantage of them if they should
unfortunately have succeeded.

       * * *

  I have the honor to be, &c.





Letters of the First Earl of Malmesbury, London; Bentley. 1870. vol. 2,
p. 445.



At the Duchess of Richmond’s ball at Brussels the Prince of Orange,
who commanded the 1st division of the army, came back suddenly, just
as the Duke of Wellington had taken his place at the supper table, and
whispered some minutes to his Grace, who only said he had no fresh
orders to give, and recommended the Prince to go back to his quarters
and go to bed.

The Duke of Wellington remained nearly twenty minutes after this, and
then said to the Duke of Richmond, “I think it is time for me to go to
bed likewise;” and then, whilst wishing him good-night, whispered to
ask him if he had a good map in his house. The Duke of Richmond said
he had, and took him into his dressing-room, which opened into the
supper-room. The Duke of Wellington shut the door and said, “Napoleon
has _humbugged_ me (by G—), he has gained twenty-four hours’ march on
me.” The Duke of Richmond said, “What do you intend doing?”

The Duke of Wellington replied, “I have ordered the army to concentrate
at Quatre Bras; but we shall not stop him there, and if so I must
fight him _here_” (at the same time passing his thumb-nail over the
position of Waterloo). He then said adieu and left the house by another
way out. He went to his quarters, slept six hours and breakfasted,
and rode at speed to Quatre Bras, where he met Hardinge and went with
him to Blücher, who took him over the position at Ligny. The Duke of
Wellington suggested many alterations, but Blücher would not consent to
move a man.

The conversation in the Duke of Richmond’s dressing-room was repeated
to me, two minutes after it occurred, by the Duke of Richmond, who
was to have had the command of the reserve, if formed, and to whom
I was to have been aide-de-camp. He marked the Duke of Wellington’s
thumb-nail with his pencil on the map, and we often looked at it
together some months afterwards.



Gurwood, vol. xii, p. 474.


For the Movement of the Army on the 16th.[839]

Signed by Colonel Sir W. De Lancey, Deputy Quarter Master General.

To General Lord Hill, G. C. B.

  16th June, 1815.

The Duke of Wellington requests that you will move the 2d division of
infantry upon Braine le Comte immediately. The cavalry has been ordered
likewise on Braine le Comte. His Grace is going to Waterloo.

  To General Lord Hill, G. C. B.

  16th June, 1815.

Your Lordship is requested to order Prince Frederick of Orange to move,
immediately upon the receipt of this order, the 1st division of the
army of the Low Countries, and the Indian brigade, from Sotteghem to
Enghien, leaving 500 men, as before directed, in Audenarde.



SUPPLEMENTARY DESPATCHES, &c., of the Duke of Wellington: vol. x, pp.
523 _et seq._

But what follows will show that, notwithstanding the extension of the
Allied army under the command of the Duke of Wellington, such was
the celerity of communication with all parts of it, that in point
of fact[840] _his orders reached all parts of the army in six hours
after he had issued them_; and that he was in line in person with a
sufficient force to resist and keep in check the enemy’s corps which
first attacked the Prussian corps under General Zieten at daylight on
the 15th of June; having received the intelligence of that attack _only
at three o’clock in the afternoon of the 15th, he was at Quatre Bras
before the same hour on the morning of the 16th,[841] with a sufficient
force to engage the left of the French army_.

It was certainly true that he had known for some days of the
augmentation of the enemy’s force on the frontier, and even of the
arrival of Buonaparte at the army; but he did not deem it expedient to
make any movement, excepting for the assembly of the troops at their
several alarm posts, till he should hear of the decided movement of the

The first account received by the Duke of Wellington was from the
Prince of Orange, who had come in from the out-posts of the army of the
Netherlands to dine with the Duke at three o’clock in the afternoon. He
reported that the enemy had attacked the Prussians at Thuin; that they
had taken possession of, but had afterwards abandoned, Binch; that they
had not yet touched the positions of the army of the Netherlands. While
the Prince was with the Duke, the staff officer employed by Prince
Blücher at the Duke’s headquarters, General Müffling, came to the Duke
to inform him that he had just received intelligence of the movement of
the French army and their attack upon the Prussian troops at Thuin.

It appears by the statement of the historian[842] that the posts of the
Prussian corps of General Zieten were attacked at Thuin at four o’clock
on the morning of the 15th; and that General Zieten himself, with a
part of his corps, retreated and was at Charleroi at about ten o’clock
on that day; yet the report thereof was not received at Bruxelles till
three o’clock in the afternoon. The Prussian cavalry of the corps of
Zieten was at Gosselies and Fleurus on the evening and night of the

Orders were forthwith sent for the march of the whole army to its left.

The whole moved on that evening and in the night, each division and
portion separately, but unmolested; the whole protected on the march by
the defensive works constructed at the different points referred to,
and by their garrisons.

The reserve, which had been encamped in the neighborhood and cantoned
in the town and in the neighborhood of Bruxelles, were ordered to
assemble in and in the neighborhood of the park at Bruxelles, which
they did on that evening; and they marched in the morning of the 16th
upon Quatre Bras, towards which post the march of all the troops
consisting of the left and centre of the army, and of the cavalry in
particular, was directed.

_The Duke went in person at daylight in the morning of the 16th to
Quatre Bras_, where he found some Netherland troops, cavalry, infantry,
and artillery, which had been engaged with the enemy, but lightly; and
he went on from thence to the Prussian army,[843] which was in sight,
formed on the heights behind Ligny and St. Amand. He there communicated
personally with Marshal Prince Blücher and the headquarters of the
Prussian army.

In the meantime the reserve of the Allied army under the command of the
Duke of Wellington arrived at Quatre Bras. _The historian asserts that
the Duke of Wellington had ordered these troops to halt at the point
at which they quitted the Forêt de Soignies. He can have no proof of
this fact,[844] of_ _which there is no evidence_;[845] and in point of
fact the two armies _were united about mid-day_ of the 16th of June,
on the left of the position of the Allied army under the command of
the Duke of Wellington. These troops, forming the reserve, and having
arrived from Bruxelles, were _now_ joined by those of the _1st division
of infantry,[846] and the cavalry_; and notwithstanding the criticism
of the Prussian historian on the positions occupied by the army under
the command of the Duke of Wellington, and on the march of the troops
to join with the Prussian army, _it is a fact_, appearing upon the face
of the History, _that the Allied British and Netherland army was in
line at Quatre Bras, not only twenty-four hours sooner than one whole
corps of the Prussian army under General Bülow, the absence of which
is attributed by the historian to an accidental mistake, but likewise
before the whole of the corps under General Zieten, which had been the
first attacked on the 15th, had taken its position in the line of the
army assembled on the heights behind Ligny, and having their left at

It was perfectly true that the Duke of Wellington did not at first give
credit to the reports of the intention of the enemy to attack by the
valleys of the Sambre and the Meuse.

The enemy had destroyed the roads leading through those valleys, and he
considered that Buonaparte might have made his attack upon the Allied
armies in the Netherlands and in the provinces on the left of the Rhine
by other lines with more advantage. But it is obvious that, when the
attack was made, he was not unprepared to assist in resisting it: and,
in point of fact, did, on the afternoon and in the evening of the 16th
June, repulse the attack of Marshal Ney upon his position at Quatre
Bras, which had been commenced by the aid of another corps d’armée
under General Reille. These were the troops which had attacked on the
15th, at daylight, the Prussian corps under General Zieten, which corps
the Allied troops, under the Duke of Wellington, relieved in resistance
to the enemy.


WELLINGTON’S LETTER TO BLÜCHER: 10.30 A.M., June 16, 1815.

Ollech, opposite p. 124.

  Sur les hauteurs derrière
  Frasne le 16me Juin 1815
  à 10 heures et demi.

  Mon cher Prince:

Mon armée est situé comme il suit:

Le Corps d’Armée du Prince d’Orange a une division ici et à Quatre
Bras; et le reste à Nivelles.

La Reserve est en marche de Waterloo sur Genappe; ou elle arrivera à

La Cavalerie Anglaise sera à la même heure à Nivelles.

Le Corps de Lord Hill est à Braine le Comte.

Je ne vois pas beaucoup de l’ennemi en avant de nous; et j’attends les
nouvelles de votre Altesse, et l’arrivée des troupes pour décider mes
opérations pour la journée.

Rien n’a paru du côté de Binch, ni sur notre droite.

  Votre très obéissant serviteur




Doc. Inéd., p. 26.



  Charleroi, le 16 juin 1815.

Monsieur le maréchal, l’empereur vient d’ordonner à M. le comte de
Valmy, commandant le 3e corps de cavalerie, de le réunir et de le
diriger sur Gosselies, où il sera à votre disposition.

L’intention de Sa Majesté est qui la cavalerie de la garde, qui a
été portée sur la route de Bruxelles, reste en arrière et rejoigne
le restant de la garde impériale; mais, pour qu’elle ne fasse pas de
mouvement rétrograde, vous pourrez, après l’avoir fait remplacer sur la
ligne, la laisser un peu en arrière, où il lui sera envoyé des ordres
dans le mouvement de la journée—M. le lieutenant général Lefebvre
Desnoëttes enverra, à cet effet, un officier pour prendre des ordres.

Veuillez m’instruire si le 1er corps a opéré son mouvement, et quelle
est, ce matin, la position exacte des 1er et 2e corps d’armée, et
des deux divisions de cavalerie qui y sont attachées, en me faisant
connaître ce qu’il y a d’ennemis devant vous, et ce qu’on a appris.

  Le major général,

  Duc de Dalmatie.



Doc. Inéd., p. 32.: Corresp. vol. 28, p. 334.


Mon cousin, je vous envoie mon aide de camp, le général Flahaut, qui
vous porte la présente lettre. Le major général a dû vous donner des
ordres; mais vous recevrez les miens plus tôt, parce que mes officiers
vont plus vite que les siens. Vous recevrez l’ordre de mouvement du
jour, mais je veux vous en écrire en détail parce que c’est de la
plus haute importance. Je porte le maréchal Grouchy avec les 3e et
4e corps d’infanterie sur Sombref. Je porte ma garde à Fleurus et
j’y serai de ma personne avant midi. J’y attaquerai l’ennemi si je le
recontre, et j’éclairerai la route jusqu’ à Gem bloux. Là, d’après ce
qui se passera, je prendrai mon parti, peut-être à trois heures après
midi, peut-être ce soir. Mon intention est que, immédiatement après
que j’aurai pris mon parti, vous soyez prêt à marcher sur Bruxelles.
Je vous appuierai avec la Garde, qui sera à Fleurus ou à Sombref, et
je désirerais arriver à Bruxelles demain matin. Vous vous mettriez
en marche ce soir même, si je prends mon parti d’assez bonne heure
pour que vous puissiez en être informé de jour et faire ce soir 3 ou
4 lieues et être demain à 7 heures du matin à Bruxelles. Vous pouvez
donc disposer vos troupes de la manière suivante. Première division à
deux lieues en avant des Quatre-Chemins, s’il n’y a pas d’inconvénient.
Six divisions d’infanterie autour des Quatre-Chemins et une division à
Marbais, afin que je puisse l’attirer à moi à Sombref, si j’en avais
besoin. Elle ne retarderait d’ailleurs pas votre marche. Le corps du
comte de Valmy, qui a 3,000 cuirassiers d’élite, à l’intersection
du chemin des Romains et de celui de Bruxelles, afin que je puisse
l’attirer à moi, si j’en avais besoin; aussitôt que mon parti sera
pris, vous lui enverrez l’ordre de venir vous rejoindre. Je désirerais
avoir avec moi la division de la Garde que commande le général
Lefebvre Desnoëttes, et je vous envoie les deux divisions du corps
du comte de Valmy pour la remplacer. Mais, dans mon projet actuel,
je préfère placer le comte de Valmy de manière à le rappeler si j’en
avais besoin, et ne point faire faire de fausses marches au général
Lefebvre Desnoëttes, puisqu’il est probable que je me déciderai ce soir
à marcher sur Bruxelles avec la Garde. Cependant, couvrez la division
Lefebvre par les deux divisions de cavalerie d’Erlon et de Reille,
afin de ménager la Garde; s’il y avait quelque échauffourée avec les
Anglais, il est préférable que ce soit sur le ligne que sur la garde.
J’ai adopté comme principe général pendant cette campagne, de diviser
mon armée en deux ailes et une réserve. Votre aile sera composée des
quatre divisions du 1er corps, des quatre divisions du 2e corps, de
deux divisions de cavalerie légère, et de deux divisions du corps du
Comte de Valmy. Cela ne doit pas être loin de 45 à 50 mille hommes.

Le maréchal Grouchy aura à peu près la même force, et commandera
d’aile droite. La Garde formera la réserve, et je me porterai sur
l’une ou l’autre aile, selon les circonstances. Le major général donne
les ordres les plus précis pour qu’il n’y ait aucune difficulté sur
l’obéissance à vos ordres lorsque vous serez détaché; les commandants
de corps devant prendre mes ordres directement quand je me trouve
présent. Selon les circonstances, j’affaiblirai l’une ou l’autre aile
en augmentant ma réserve. Vous sentez assez l’importance attachée a la
prise de Bruxelles. Cela pourra d’ailleurs donner lieu a des incidents,
car un mouvement aussi prompt et aussi brusque isolera l’armée anglaise
de Mons, Ostende, etc. Je désire que vos dispositions soient bien
faites pour qu’au premier ordre, vos huit divisions puissent marcher
rapidement et sans obstacle sur Bruxelles.

  Charleroi, le 16 juin 1815.




Doc. Inéd., p. 37.

A M. LE MARÉCHAL Prince de la Moskowa.

  Gosselies, le 16 juin 1815,
  10 heures et quart du matin.


J’ai l’honneur d’informer Votre Excellence du rapport que me fait faire
verbalement le général Girard par un de ses officiers.

L’ennemi continue à occuper Fleurus par de la cavalerie légère qui a
des vedettes en avant; l’on aperçoit deux masses ennemis venant par la
route de Namur et dont la tête est à la hauteur de Saint-Amand; elles
se sont formées peu à peu, et out gagné quelque terrain à mesure qu’il
leur arrivait du monde: on n’a pu guère juger de leur force à cause de
l’éloignement; cependant ce général pense que chacune pouvait d’être de
six bataillons en colonne par bataillon. On apercevait des mouvements
de troupes derrière.

M. le lieutenant général Flahaut m’a fait part des ordres qu’il portait
à Votre Excellence; j’en ai prévenu M. le comte d’Erlon, afin qu’il
puisse suivre mon mouvement. J’aurais commencé le mien sur Frasnes
aussitôt que les divisions auraient été sous les armes; mais d’après
le rapport du général Girard, je tiendrai les troupes prêtes à marcher
en attendant les ordres de Votre Excellence, et comme ils pourront me
parvenir très vite, il n’y aura que très peu de temps de perdu.

J’ai envoyé à l’empereur l’officier qui m’a fait le rapport du général

Je renouvelle à Votre Excellence les assurances de mon respectueux

  Le général en chef du 2e corps.

  Comte Reille.



Doc. Inéd., p. 38.




  Frasnes, le 16 juin 1815.

Conformément aux instructions de l’empereur, le 2e corps se mettra en
marche de suite pour aller prendre position, la cinquième division[847]
en arrière de Gennapes, sur les hauteurs qui dominent cette ville, la
gauche appuyée à la grande route. Un bataillon ou deux couvriront tous
les débouchés en avant sur la route de Bruxelles. Le parc de réserve
et les équipages de cette division resteront avec la seconde ligne.

La neuvième division[848] suivra les mouvements de la cinquième, et
viendra prendre position en seconde ligne sur les hauteurs à droite et
à gauche du village de Banterlet[849].

Les sixième et septième divisions[850] à l’embranchement de Quatre-Bras,
où sera votre quartier général. Les trois premières divisions du comte
d’Erlon viendront prendre position à Frasnes; la division de droite
s’établira à Marbais avec la deuxième division de cavalerie légère du
général Piré; la première couvrira votre marche, et vous éclairera sur
Bruxelles et sur vos deux flancs. Mon quartier à Frasnes.

  Pour le Maréchal prince de la Moskowa,

  Le Colonel, premier aide de camp,


Deux divisions du comte de Valmy, s’établiront à Frasnes et à

Les Divisions de la garde des généraux Lefebvre Desnoëttes et Colbert
resteront dans leur position actuelle de Frasnes.



Doc. Inéd., p. 27.



  Charleroi, le 16 juin 1815.

Monsieur le Maréchal, l’empereur ordonne que vous mettiez en marche
les 2e et 1er corps d’armée, ainsi que le 3e corps de cavalerie, qui a
été mis à votre disposition, pour les diriger sur l’intersection des
chemins dits les Trois-Bras (route de Bruxelles), où vous leur ferez
prendre position, et vous porterez en même temps des reconnaissances,
aussi avant que possible, sur la route de Bruxelles et sur Nivelles,
d’où probablement l’ennemi s’est retiré.

S. M. désire que, s’il n’y a pas d’inconvénient, vous établissiez une
division avec de la cavalerie à Genappe, et elle ordonne que vous
portiez une autre division du côté de Marbais, pour couvrir l’espace
entre Sombref et les Trois-Bras. Vous placerez, près de ces divisions,
la division de cavalerie de la garde impériale, commandée par le
général Lefebvre Desnoëttes, ainsi que le 1er régiment de hussards, qui
a été détaché hier vers Gosselies.

Le corps qui sera à Marbais aura aussi pour objet d’appuyer les
mouvements de M. le maréchal Grouchy sur Sombref, et de vous soutenir
à la position des Trois-Bras, si cela devenait nécessaire. Vous
recommanderez au général, qui sera à Marbais, de bien s’éclairer sur
toutes les directions, particulièrement sur celles de Gembloux et de

Si cependant la division du général Lefebvre Desnoëttes était trop
engagée sur la route de Bruxelles, vous la laisseriez et vous la
remplaceriez au corps qui sera à Marbais par le 3e corps de cavalerie
aux ordres de M. le comte de Valmy, et par le 1er régiment de hussards.

J’ai l’honneur de vous prévenir que l’empereur va se porter sur
Sombref, où, d’après les ordres de Sa Majesté, M. le maréchal Grouchy
doit se diriger avec les 3e et 4e corps d’infanterie, et les 1er, 2e et
4e corps de cavalerie. M. le maréchal Grouchy fera occuper Gembloux.

Je vous prie de me mettre de suite à même de rendre compte à l’empereur
de vos dispositions pour exécuter l’ordre que je vous envoie, ainsi que
de tout ce que vous aurez appris sur l’ennemi.

Sa Majesté me charge de vous recommander de prescrire aux généraux
commandant les corps d’armée de faire réunir leur monde et rentrer les
hommes isolés, de maintenir l’ordre le plus parfait dans la troupe, et
de rallier toutes les voitures d’artillerie et les ambulances qu’ils
auraient pu laisser en arrière.

  Le maréchal d’empire, major général,

  Duc de Dalmatie.



Doc. Inéd., p. 31.



  Charleroi, le 16 juin 1815.


Un officier de lanciers vient de dire à l’empereur que l’ennemi
présentait des masses du côté des Quatre-Bras. Réunissez les corps des
comtes Reille et d’Erlon, et celui du comte de Valmy, qui se met à
l’instant en route pour vous rejoindre; avec ces forces, vous devrez
battre et détruire tous les corps ennemis qui peuvent se présenter.
Blücher était hier à Namur, et il n’est pas vraisemblable qu’il ait
porté des troupes vers les Quatre-Bras; ainsi, vous n’avez affaire qu’à
ce qui vient de Bruxelles.

Le maréchal Grouchy va faire le mouvement sur Sombref, que je vous
ai annoncé, et l’empereur va se rendre à Fleurus; c’est là où vous
adresserez vos nouveaux rapports à Sa Majesté.

  Le maréchal d’empire, major général,

  Duc de Dalmatie.



Doc. Inéd., p. 63.


  Paris, 24 novembre 1829.

Je voudrais, mon cher Duc, pouvoir répondre d’une manière plus précise
à vos questions; mais, n’ayant pas pris de notes, il m’est impossible,
après un intervalle de quinze années, de me rappeler les détails que
vous tenez à savoir.

C’est moi qui ai porté, le 16, à monsieur votre père, l’ordre de
marcher aux Quatre-Bras et de s’emparer de cette position. L’empereur
me l’a dicté le matin de bonne heure, autant qu’il m’en souvienne,
entre huit et neuf heures.

Quant à celle à laquelle je l’ai remis à M. le maréchal Ney, il me
serait impossible de le dire, n’y ayant pas attaché d’importance dans
le moment.

Après le lui avoir remis, j’ai pris les devants et ai été rejoindre le
général Lefebvre Desnoëttes, qui commandait l’avant-garde. L’infanterie
s’est fait longtemps attendre, mais dès que monsieur votre père nous a
rejoints, et avant qu’elle fût arrivée, il a fait attaquer les troupes
anglaises. Voilà tout ce dont je puis me souvenir; je regrette que ce
ne soit pas plus circonstancié, puisque vous tenez à avoir des détails
plus précis.

Croyez, mon cher Duc, à la sincérité de l’amitié que je vous ai vouée.

  Comte Ch. FLAHAUT.



Corresp. vol., 28, p. 336.



  Charleroi, 16 juin 1815.

Mon Cousin, je vous envoie Labédoyère, mon aide de camp, pour vous
porter la présente lettre. Le major général a dû vous faire connaître
mes intentions; mais, comme il a des officiers mal montés, mon aide de
camp arrivera peut-être avant.

Mon intention est que, comme commandant l’aile droite, vous preniez le
commandement du 3e corps que commande le général Vandamme, du 4e corps
que commande le général Gérard, des corps de cavalerie que commandent
les généraux Pajol, Milhaud et Exelmans; ce qui ne doit pas faire loin
de 50,000 hommes. Rendez-vous avec cette aile droite à Sombreffe.
Faites partir en conséquence, de suite, les corps des généraux Pajol,
Milhaud, Exelmans et Vandamme, et, sans vous arrêter, continuez votre
mouvement sur Sombreffe. Le 4e corps, qui est à Châtelet, reçoit
directement, l’ordre de se rendre à Sombreffe sans passer par Fleurus.
Cette observation est importante, parce que je porte mon quartier
général à Fleurus et qu’il faut éviter les encombrements. Envoyez de
suite un officier au général Gérard pour lui faire connaître votre
mouvement, et qu’il exécute le sien de suite.

Mon intention est que tous les généraux prennent directement vos
ordres; ils ne prendront les miens que lorsque je serai présent. Je
serai entre dix et onze heures à Fleurus; je me rendrai à Sombreffe,
laissant ma Garde, infanterie et cavalerie, à Fleurus; je ne la
conduirais à Sombreffe qu’en cas qu’elle fût nécessaire. Si l’ennemi
est à Sombreffe, je veux l’attaquer; je veux même l’attaquer à Gembloux
et m’emparer aussi de cette position, mon intention étant, après avoir
connu ces deux positions, de partir cette nuit, et d’opérer avec mon
aile gauche, que commande le maréchal Ney, sur les Anglais. Ne perdez
donc point un moment, parce que plus vite je prendrai mon parti, mieux
cela vaudra pour la suite de mes opérations. Je suppose que vous êtes
à Fleurus. Communiquez constamment avec le général Gérard, afin qu’il
puisse vous aider pour attaquer Sombreffe, s’il était nécessaire.

La division Girard est à portée de Fleurus; n’en disposez point à moins
de nécessité absolue, parce qu’elle doit marcher toute la nuit. Laissez
aussi ma jeune Garde et toute son artillerie à Fleurus.

Le comte de Valmy, avec ses deux divisions de cuirassiers marche sur la
route de Bruxelles; il se lie avec le maréchal Ney, pour contribuer à
l’opération de ce soir, à l’aile gauche.

Comme je vous l’ai dit, je serai de dix a onze heures à Fleurus.
Envoyez-moi des rapports sur tout ce que vous apprendrez. Veillez à ce
que la route de Fleurus soit libre. Toutes les données que j’ai sont
que les Prussiennes ne peuvent point nous opposer plus de 40,000 hommes.


D’après la copie. Dépôt de la guerre.


THE 2 P.M.—June 16th—ORDER TO NEY.

Doc. Inéd., p. 40.



  En avant de Fleurus,
  le 16 juin à 2 heures.

Monsieur le Maréchal, l’empereur me charge de vous prévenir que
l’ennemi a réuni un corps de troupes entre Sombref et Bry, et qu’à deux
heures et demie M. le maréchal Grouchy, avec les troisième et quatrième
corps, l’attaquera; l’intention de Sa Majesté est que vous attaquiez
aussi ce qui est devant vous, et qu’après l’avoir vigoureusement
poussé, vous rabattiez sur nous pour concourir à envelopper le corps
dont je viens de vous parler.

Si ce corps était enfoncé auparavant, alors Sa Majesté ferait manœuvrer
dans votre direction pour hâter également vos opérations.

Instruisez de suite l’empereur de vos dispositions et de ce qui se
passe sur votre front.

  Le maréchal d’empire, major général,

  Duc de Dalmatie.

  Au dos de cet ordre est écrit:
                  A M. le Maréchal Prince de la Moskowa,
                  A Gosselies, sur la route de Bruxelles.

  Et au crayon: Wagnée
                Bois de Lombuc.

  Un duplicata de cet ordre porte
      A M. le Maréchal Prince de la Moskowa,
    A Gosselies, sur la route de Bruxelles.



THE 3.15 P.M.—June 16th—ORDER TO NEY.

Doc. Inéd., p. 42.

Monsieur le Maréchal, je vous ai écrit, il y a une heure, que
l’empereur ferait attaquer l’ennemi à deux heures et demie dans la
position qu’il a prise entre le village de Saint-Amand et de Bry: en
ce moment l’engagement est très prononcé; Sa Majesté me charge de vous
dire que vous devez manœuvrer sur-le-champ de manière à envelopper la
droite de l’ennemi et tomber à bras raccourcis sur ses derrières; cette
armée est perdue si vous agissez vigoureusement; le sort de la France
est entre vos mains. Ainsi n’hésitez pas un instant pour faire le
mouvement que l’empereur vous ordonne, et dirigez vous sur les hauteurs
de Bry et de Saint-Amand, pour concourir à une victoire peut-être
décisive. L’ennemi est pris en flagrant délit au moment où il cherche à
se réunir aux Anglais.

  Le major général,

  Duc de Dalmatie.

En avant de Fleurus, le 16 juin 1815, à 3 heures un quart.


SOULT’S LETTER TO NEY: June 17, 1815.

Doc. Inéd., p. 45.



  Flerus, le 15 [17] juin 1815.

Monsieur le Maréchal, le général Flahaut, qui arrive à l’instant,
fait connaître que vous êtes dans l’incertitude sur les résultats
de la journée d’hier. Je crois cependant vous avoir prévenu de la
victoire que l’empereur a remportée. L’armée prussienne a été mise en
déroute, le général Pajol est à sa poursuite sur les routes de Namur
et de Liége. Nous avons déjà plusieurs milliers de prisonniers et 30
piéces de canon. Nos troupes se sont bien conduites: une charge de six
bataillons de la garde, des escadrons de service et la division de
cavalerie du général Delort a percé la ligne ennemie, porté le plus
grand désordre dans ses rangs et enlevé la position.

L’empereur se rend au moulin de Bry où passe la grande route qui
conduit de Namur aux Quatre-Bras; il n’est donc pas possible que
l’armée anglaise puisse agir devant vous; si cela était, l’empereur
marcherait directement sur elle par la route des Quatre-Bras, tandis
que vous l’attaqueriez de front avec vos divisions qui, à présent,
doivent être réunies, et cette armée serait dans un instant détruit.
Ainsi, instruisez Sa Majesté de la position exacte des divisions, et de
tout ce qui se passe devant vous.

L’empereur a vu avec peine que vous n’ayez pas réuni hier les
divisions; elles out agi isolément; ainsi, vous avez éprouvé des pertes.

Si les corps des comtes d’Erlon et Reille avaient été ensemble, il ne
réchappait pas un Anglais du corps qui venait vous attaquer. Si le
comte d’Erlon avait exécuté le mouvement sur St. Amand que l’empereur a
ordonné, l’armée prussienne était totalement détruite, et nous aurions
fait peut-être 30,000 prisonniers.

Les corps des généraux Gérard, Vandamme et la garde impériale
ont toujours été réunis; l’on s’expose à des revers lorsque des
détachements sont compromis.

L’empereur espère et désire que vos sept divisions d’infanterie et
la cavalerie soient bien réunies et formées, et qu’ensemble elles
n’occupent pas une lieue de terrain, pour les avoir bien dans votre
main et les employer au besoin.

L’intention de Sa Majesté est que vous preniez position aux Quatre-Bras
ainsi que l’ordre vous en a été donné; mais si, par impossible, cela
ne peut avoir lieu, rendez-en compte sur-le-champ avec détail, et
l’empereur s’y portera ainsi que je vous l’ai dit; si, au contraire, il
n’y a qu’une arrière-garde, attaquez-la, et prenez position.

La journée d’aujourd’hui est nécessaire pour terminer cette opération,
et pour compléter les munitions, rallier les militaires isolés et
faire rentrer les détachements. Donnez des ordres en consequence, et
assurez-vous que tous les blessés sont pansés et transportés sur les
derrières: l’on s’est plaint que les ambulances n’avaient pas fait leur

La fameux partisan Lutzow, qui a été pris, disait que l’armée
prussienne était perdue, et que Blücher avait exposé une seconde fois
la monarchie prussienne.

  Le maréchal d’empire, major général,
  Duc de DALMATIE.


SOULT’S ORDER TO NEY: 12 M., June 17, 1815.

Doc. Inéd., p. 44.



[851]4e corps d’armée [_sic_], à Gosselies.

  En avant de Ligny, le 17 à midi.

Monsieur le Maréchal, l’empereur vient de faire prendre position, en
avant de Marbais, à un corps d’infanterie et à la garde impériale; S.
M. me charge de vous dire que son intention est que vous attaquiez les
ennemis aux Quatre-Bras, pour les chasser de leur position, et que le
corps qui est à Marbais secondera vos opérations; S. M. va se rendre à
Marbais, et elle attend vos rapports avec impatience.

  Le maréchal d’empire, major général,
  Duc de Dalmatie.



Captain Bowles in Lord Malmesbury’s Letters, vol. 2, p. 447.

“On the morning of the 17th, my company being nearly in front of the
farmhouse at Quatre-Bras, soon after daybreak the Duke of Wellington
came to me, and, being personally known to him, he remained in
conversation for an hour or more, during which time he repeatedly
said he was surprised to have heard nothing of Blücher. At length a
staff-officer arrived, his horse covered with foam, and whispered to
the Duke, who without the least change of countenance gave him some
orders and dismissed him. He then turned round to me and said, ‘Old
Blücher has had a d—--d good licking and gone back to Wavre, eighteen
miles. As he has gone back, we must go too. I suppose in England they
will say we have been licked. I can’t help it; as they are gone back,
we must go too.’

He made all the arrangements for retiring without moving from the spot
on which he was standing, and it certainly did not occupy him five



Grouchy Mém. vol. 4, p. 71.

  Sart-à-Walhain le 18 juin, onze heures du matin.


Je ne perds pas un moment à vous transmettre les renseignements que je
recueille ici; je les regarde comme positifs, et afin que Votre Majesté
les reçoive le plus promptement possible, je les lui expédie par le
major La Fresnaye, son ancien page; il est bien monté et bon écuyer.

Les 1er, 2e et 3e corps de Blücher marchent dans la direction de
Bruxelles. Deux de ces corps out passé à Sart-à-Walhain, ou à peu de
distance, sur la droite; ils ont défilé en trois colonnes, marchant
à peu près de même hauteur. Leur passage a duré six heures sans
interruption. Ce qui a défilé en vue de Sart-à-Walhain peut-être évalué
à trente mille hommes au moins, et avait un matériel de cinquante à
soixante bouches à feu.

Un corps venant de Liége a effectué sa jonction avec ceux qui out
combattu à Fleurus. (Ci-joint une réquisition qui le prouve.)
Quelques-uns des Prussiens que j’ai devant moi se dirigent vers la
plaine de la Chyse, située près de la route de Louvain, et à deux
lieues et demie de cette ville.

Il semblerait que ce serait à dessein de s’y masser ou de combattre les
troupes qui les y poursuivraient, ou enfin de se réunir à Wellington,
projet annoncé par leurs officiers, qui, avec leur jactance ordinaire,
prétendent n’avoir quitté le champ de bataille, le 16, qu’afin d’opérer
leur réunion avec l’armée anglaise sur Bruxelles.

Ce soir, je vais être massé à Wavres, et me trouver ainsi entre
Wellington, que je présume en retraite devant Votre Majesté, et l’armée

J’ai besoin d’instructions ultérieures sur ce que Votre Majesté ordonne
que je fasse. Le pays entre Wavres et la plaine de la Chyse est
difficile, coupé, et marécageux.

Par la route de Wivorde, j’arriverai facilement à Bruxelles avant tout
ce qui sera arreté à la Chyse, si tant il y a que les Prussiens y
fassent une halte.

Daignez, Sire, me transmettre vos ordres; je puis les recevoir avant de
commencer mon mouvement de demain.

La plupart des renseignements que renferme cette lettre me sont fournis
par la propriétaire de la maison où je me suis arreté pour écrire à
Votre Majesté; cet officier a servi dans l’armée française, est décoré,
et parait entièrement dévoué à nos intérêts. Je les joins à ces lignes.



Doc. Inéd. p. 52.


L’empereur ordonne que l’armée soit disposée à attaquer l’ennemi à
9 heures du matin; MM. les commandants des corps d’armée rallieront
leurs troupes, feront mettre les armes en état, et permettront que les
soldats fassent la soupe; ils feront aussi manger les soldats; afin
qu’à 9 heures précises chacun soit prêt et puisse être en bataille avec
son artillerie et ambulances, à la position de bataille que l’empereur
a indiquée par son ordre d’hier soir.

MM. les lieutenants-generaux, commandant les corps d’armée d’infanterie
et de cavalerie, enverront sur-le-champ des officiers au major-général
pour faire connaître leur position et porter des ordres.

  Au quartier-général imperial,

  le 18 juin 1815.

  Le maréchal d’empire, major-général,

  Duc de Dalmatie.



Doc. Inéd. p. 53.

Une fois que toute l’armée sera rangée en bataille, à peu près à
1 heure après midi, au moment où l’empereur en donnera l’ordre au
Maréchal Ney, l’attaque commencera pour s’emparer du village de Mont
St. Jean où est l’intersection des routes. A cet effet, les batteries
de 12 du 2me corps et celle du 6me se réuniront à celle du 1er corps.
Ces 24 bouches à feu tireront sur les troupes du Mont St. Jean, et le
comte d’Erlon commencera l’attaque, en portant en avant sa division de
gauche et la soutenant, suivant les circonstances, par les divisions du
1er corps.

Le 2e corps s’avancera à mesure pour garder la hauteur du comte d’Erlon.

Les compagnies de sapeurs du 1er corps seront prêtes pour se barricader
sur-le-champ à Mont St. Jean.

  Au crayon et de l’écriture du Maréchal Ney.

  Ajouté par M. le Maréchal Ney.

Le comte d’Erlon comprendra que c’est par la gauche que l’attaque
commencera, au lieu de la droite.

Communiquer cette nouvelle disposition au général en chef Reille.


Ordres dictés par l’empereur, sur le champ de bataille du Mont St.
Jean, le 18, vers onze heures du matin, et écrits par le maréchal Duc
de Dalmatie, major général. Paris, le 21 juin 1815. Le Maréchal Prince
de la Moskowa Pair de France,




Grouchy Mémoires, vol. 4, p. 79.

  En avant de la ferme de Caillou, le 18 juin, 1815,
  à dix heures du matin.

Monsieur le maréchal, l’Empereur a reçu votre dernier rapport, daté de

Vous ne parlez à Sa Majesté que de deux colonnes prussiennes qui ont
passé à Sauvenière et à Sart-à-Walhain. Cependant des rapports disent
qu’une troisième colonne, qui était assez forte, a passé par Géry et
Gentines, se dirigeant sur Wavres.

L’Empereur me charge de vous prévenir qu’en ce moment Sa Majesté va
faire attaquer l’armée anglaise, qui a pris position à Waterloo, près
de la forêt de Soignes. Ainsi, Sa Majesté désire que vous dirigiez vos
mouvements sur Wavres, afin de vous rapprocher de nous, vous mettre
en rapport d’opérations et lier les communications, poussant devant
vous les corps de l’armée prussienne qui ont pris cette direction et
qui auraient pu s’arrêter à Wavres, où vous devez arriver le plus tôt

Vous ferez suivre les colonnes ennemies, qui out pris sur votre
droite, par quelques corps légers, afin d’observer leurs mouvements
et ramasser leurs traînards. Instruisez-moi immédiatement de vos
dispositions et de votre marche, ainsi que des nouvelles que vous avez
sur les ennemis, et ne négligez pas de lier vos communications avec
nous. L’Empereur désire avoir très-souvent de vos nouvelles.

  Le maréchal duc de DALMATIE.

For translation, see _ante_ p. 265.



La Tour d’Auvergne, p. 270.

  Du champ de bataille de Waterloo, le 18 juin,
  à une heure après midi.

  Monsieur le Maréchal,

Vous avez écrit, ce matin à deux heures, à l’Empereur, que vous
marcheriez sur Sart-lez-Walhain; donc votre projet était de vous porter
à Corbais ou à Wavre. Ce mouvement est conforme aux dispositions de Sa
Majesté, qui vous out été communiquées. Cependant, l’Empereur m’ordonne
de vous dire que vous devez toujours manœuvrer dans notre direction.
C’est à vous de voir le point où nous sommes pour vous régler en
conséquence et pour lier nos communications, ainsi que pour être
toujours en mesure de tomber sur les troupes ennemies qui chercheraient
à inquiéter notre droite et de les écraser.

Dans ce moment, la bataille est engagée sur la ligne de Waterloo; le
centre ennemi est à Mont-Saint-Jean; ainsi manœuvrez pour joindre notre

P. S. Une lettre qui vient d’être interceptée porte que le général
Bülow doit attaquer notre flanc. Nous croyons apercevoir ce corps sur
les hauteurs de Saint-Lambert; ainsi, ne perdez pas un instant pour
vous rapprocher de nous et nous joindre, et pour écraser Bülow, que
vous prendrez en flagrant délit.

  Le maréchal duc de DALMATIE.

For translation, see _ante_, p. 270.


[838] Captain George Bowles (Guards).

[839] The original instructions issued to Colonel De Lancey were lost
with that officer’s papers. These memorandums of movements have been
collected from the different officers to whom they were addressed.

[840] The italics are ours.

[841] The text cited is from the Supplementary Despatches; but it seems
to us quite possible that the reading of this passage given in the
Appendix to C. D. Yonge’s “Life of Wellington,”—London; Chapman & Hall,
1860,—is the correct one. It there reads as follows:—

“He was at Quatre Bras before twenty-four hours on the 16th,”—that is
by 3 P.M., on the 16th,—which was the fact. There are other points
where these versions differ, but this is the most important one. See
_ante_, p. 90.

[842] Clausewitz.

[843] About 1 o’clock, at the Windmill of Bussy, between Ligny and
Brie: so Hardinge told me.—J. G.

[844] _Cf._ Siborne, vol. 1, p. 102, n.; Gomm, p. 352; Waterloo
Letters; Gomm, p. 23.

[845] The italics are ours.

[846] The 1st division did not arrive on the field until after 6 P.M.
(_ante_, pp. 183, 184), and the cavalry, not at all.

[847] That of Bachelu.

[848] That of Foy.

[849] A village on the Brussels turnpike half a mile north of Quatre

[850] Those of Jerome and Girard. This shows that Ney expected that
Girard’s division would be returned to him.

[851] This mention of the 4th Corps, Gérard’s, must be an error.



  Adam, General Sir Frederick, commander British brigade, 35;
    his troops of the best quality, 315;
    his light brigade at Waterloo, 323-324, 332, 333, 335, 336.

  Albemarle, Earl of, his _Fifty Years of My Life_, reports story of
      Napoleon’s secluding himself on forenoon of battle of
      Waterloo, 30.

  Alison, Sir Archibald, his _History of Europe_ criticised by
      Wellington and the Earl of Ellesmere, 10;
    not a military authority, 10;
    his view that Napoleon intended to throw himself between the
      allied armies, 10.

  Allies. (See ARMIES.)

  Allix, General, commander division 1st French corps, 25;
    his division at Waterloo, commanded by Quiot, 302, 305.

  Alten, Lieutenant-General Count, commander 3d British division, 38;
    arrival of two of his brigades gives Wellington an equality of
      force at Quatre Bras, 179, 183;
    position at Waterloo, 300;
    wounded, his division rallied by Wellington, 314.

  Anglesea, Marquis of. (See UXBRIDGE.)

  Anthing, commander brigade Dutch-Belgians, 36;
    his brigade ordered to Enghien, 83, 89;
    reported near Audenarde, at 7 A.M., June 16th, 108.

    A. On some Characteristics of Napoleon’s Memoirs, 351-354.
    B. On Marshal Grouchy and the Bertrand Order, 355-361.
    C. Orders and Despatches, 362-389.

  Arentsschildt, Colonel Sir F., commander cavalry brigade King’s
      German Legion, 35, 36.


  ALLIED, in concert of action against Napoleon;
    troops of England, Belgium, Holland, Hanover, Brunswick, Nassau,
      and Prussia, 2-4;
    their cantonments on and behind the Belgian frontier, 3, 96;
    strength, organization, and internal economy of, 32-43.

  ANGLO-DUTCH, positions in Belgium before the campaign, 2-4;
    their extended cantonments, 2, 96;
    commanded by the Duke of Wellington, 34;
    heterogeneous character of, 34, 294;
    organization, 34-35;
    troops employed on garrison duty, 35;
    strength and composition in detail, 35-37, 39;
    location of the various divisions, 38-39;
    merits and defects of, 39-40, 43;
    principal officers, 40;
    Wellington as a commander, 40-41;
    internal economy of, 41-42;
    positions of troops as given in the “Disposition,” at 7 A.M.,
      June 16, 85, n. [186];
    actual positions, 111-113;
    badly served with information from the front, 114;
    at Quatre Bras, 178-179, 183;
    strength at Quatre Bras 184;
    losses, 184;
    at Quatre Bras morning of 17th, 214;
    position, composition, and strength at Waterloo, 297-299;
    in the battle of Waterloo, 294 _et seq._;
    18,000 men detached at Hal and Tubize, 339.

  British, strength and composition in detail, 35;
    mainly relied upon by Wellington, 39, 298;
    at Quatre Bras, 178-179, 184;
    steadiness of infantry, 179;
    in the skirmish at Genappe, 216;
    strength at Waterloo, 298;
    positions at Waterloo, 299-300;
    charge of the Union brigade, 306-307;
    suffered severely in d’Erlon’s assault, 310;
    the brigades of Vivian and Vandeleur brought to the centre at a
      critical moment, 314;
    repulse of the Imperial Guard by the Guards, 319-321;
    skilful use of troops by Sir Colin Halkett and Colonel Elphinstone
      in support of the Guards, 322;
    services of the light brigade, 323-324, 332-336.

  Brunswick contingent (see also BRUNSWICK, DUKE OF);
    strength and composition in detail, 37-38;
    in the action
    at Quatre Bras, 178-179, 183;
    broke in disorder, the Duke being killed, 179;
    strength at Waterloo, 299;
    position at Waterloo, 299-300;
    brought into action, 314;
    driven back by the French divisions of Donzelot and Quiot, 318.

  Dutch-Belgians, strength and composition of, in detail, 36;
    positions of, 38;
    raw troops, 39;
    occupation of Quatre Bras, 101;
    occupation criticised by Maurice, 103;
    fully justified, 104;
    the first troops to receive the attack at Quatre Bras, 101, 178;
    suffered severely, 183;
    strength and composition at Waterloo, 299, 314;
    Bylandt’s brigade badly placed, 299;
    breaks in confusion, 306;
    Chassé’s division supports the British guards, 314;
    opportune employment of Van der Smissen’s battery, 320.

  Hanoverians, strength and composition in detail, 36;
    raw troops, 39;
    at Quatre Bras, 179;
    fought stubbornly, 179;
    strength at Waterloo, 298;
    in the battle, 312.

  King’s German Legion, strength and composition in detail, 35-36;
    positions, 38-39;
    relied upon by Wellington, 39, 298;
    strength at Waterloo, 298;
    position, 300.

  Nassau contingent, strength and composition in detail, 37;
    in the reserve, 38;
    strength at Waterloo, 299;
    position, 300;
    suffered severely, 310;
    driven back by divisions of Donzelot and Quiot, 318.

  PRUSSIANS (allied), positions in Belgium before the campaign, 2-4;
    extended cantonments, 2, 96;
    strength and composition in detail, 32-33;
    locations of different corps, 33;
    composed mainly of veterans, 33;
    temper and spirit of, 34;
    Marshal Blücher, 34;
    internal economy of, 42;
    ordered to concentrate at Sombreffe on the 14th, 70, 143;
    strength and positions at Ligny, 143-144, 151-152, 172;
    in the battle of Ligny, 154-159;
    losses, 159;
    Blücher disabled, 158, 226, 229;
    retreat towards Wavre, 159, 226 _et seq._;
    Blücher decides to join Wellington, 230;
    admirable conduct of commanders after the battle of Ligny, 231;
    pledged to support Wellington, 234, 237;
    delay in the march to support Wellington, 262, 264;
    the combat at Wavre, 264-265;
    in the battle of Waterloo, 307-309, 311, 313-314, 324-328,
      336, 339-342.
    (See also Battles of LIGNY, WAVRE, and WATERLOO.)

  FRENCH, condition of, upon Napoleon’s return from Elba, 1, 16, 17;
    Soult made chief of staff, 17;
    confidence in Napoleon, 17;
    the corps commanders, 18;
    estimates of general officers, 19;
    what Napoleon expected of his lieutenants, 20;
    Ney sent for at last moment, 20;
    Grouchy suddenly appointed to command of right wing, 21;
    Napoleon’s mistake in leaving Davout at Paris, 22;
    estimate of the army, 24-25;
    strength and composition in detail, 25-28;
    internal economy of, 41;
    assembled near Charleroi, 44-45;
    addressed by Napoleon at Avesnes on the 14th, 45;
    general order of movement, 45-46;
    desertion of Bourmont, 47;
    operations on the 15th, 47-69;
    arrival of Ney, 49;
    delays in movement, 46, 50-53, 55, 118-119, 121-122, 125-127,
      130-132, 138, 139-140, 157, 161, 163 _et seq._, 176-178,
      180-187, 197 _et seq._, 211-212, 252-254, 256-257;
    the 2d corps attacks the Dutch-Belgians at Quatre Bras on the
      15th, 101;
    operations on the morning of the 16th, 116-142;
    in the battle of Ligny, 152-175;
    strength at Ligny, 154, 171;
    losses, 159;
    in the battle of Quatre Bras, 176-196;
    strength at Quatre Bras, 184;
    losses, 184;
    operations on the 17th, 197-225;
    force detached with Grouchy, 212, 220;
    pursuit of the English on the 17th led by the Emperor in
      person, 214;
    skirmish at Genappe, 216;
    Grouchy’s march on Wavre, 211-213, 245-262, 264-267, 272,
      279, 288;
    the combat at Wavre, 264-265;
    position at Waterloo, 301;
    strength and composition, 301;
    in the battle of Waterloo, 289-342;
    unwieldy formation of d’Erlon’s troops, 304-307;
    the great cavalry charges upon the English centre, 308-311;
    the charge of the Imperial Guard, 315-326, 331-338;
    tactics employed at Waterloo, 329-331;
    the rout of the French army due to vigorous attack of Zieten’s
      corps at close of the day, 340.
    (See also Battles of LIGNY, QUATRE BRAS, WAVRE, and WATERLOO.)

  Audenarde, on the Scheldt, one limit of Lord Uxbridge’s
      cantonment, 79.

  Austria, concentrates a formidable force on the eastern frontier
      for ultimate coöperation against Napoleon, 2.

  Auvergne. (See LA TOUR D’AUVERGNE.)

  Avesnes, Napoleon issued stirring order here “to conquer or die,”
      on the
  evening of June 14th, 45;
    Marshal Mortier detained here by illness, June 14th, 46.


  Bachelu, General, commander division 2d French corps, 25;
    advance to Frasnes, 49;
    at Quatre Bras, 178;
    position at Waterloo, 302;
    in the attack upon Hougomont, 304;
    Ney neglects to use this division to support his cavalry
      charge, 309;
    or in support of the charge of the Guard, 337.

  Baring, Major, his battalion of the King’s German Legion occupies
      farmhouse of La Haye Sainte, 300.

  Battle of Ligny, 143-175;
    Prussian strength and position, 143-144, 151;
    Napoleon’s plan of battle, 152, 153;
    position of the French, 153, 154;
    battle begins at 2.30, 154;
    orders to Ney, 154, 155;
    fought with determination on both sides, 156;
    nearly all the Prussian divisions under fire, 156;
    Napoleon decides to put in the Guard, 156, 157;
    delay caused by d’Erlon’s corps, 157;
    the Guard breaks Prussian centre, 158;
    Prussians fall back to Brye and Sombreffe, 159;
    Prussian desertions, 159;
    losses, 159;
    non-employment of the 6th French corps, 159, 160;
    extent of the French victory, 161, 162;
    discussion of the battle, 163-175.

  Battle of Quatre Bras, 176-196;
    attack begun by Ney at 2 P.M., 178;
    at that hour only Perponcher’s Dutch-Belgian division opposed
      him, 178;
    at 2.30 Wellington arrived and took command, 178;
    arrival an hour later of Picton’s division followed by the Duke
      of Brunswick’s corps, 178;
    the Dutch-Belgians retire after two hours’ fighting, 179;
    the Brunswickers break, the Duke being killed, 179;
    at 5 P.M. two brigades of Alten’s division arrive, 179, 183;
    Ney even then has in action only half the force assigned him, 179;
    and is therefore unable to execute Napoleon’s orders, 183;
    Kellermann’s gallant charge, 183, 184;
    arrival of Cooke’s division of the English guards, 184;
    the French retire, 184;
    forces engaged, 184;
    losses, 184;
    defeat of the French due to diversion of d’Erlon’s corps, 184;
    and to Ney’s disregard of orders, 187;
    Wellington’s skilful handling of his troops, 187, 188;
    discussion of the battle, 189-196.

  Battle of Waterloo, 289-342;
    the field surveyed before the campaign by English engineers, 296;
    strength and composition of the Anglo-Dutch army, 298, 299;
    positions, 297, 299-301;
    strength of the French army engaged, 301;
    position, 301, 302;
    relative strength and efficiency of the two armies, 302;
    Napoleon’s plan of battle, 302;
    the French attack upon Hougomont, 303-304;
    d’Erlon’s assault upon the allied centre, 304-307;
    unwieldy formation of his troops, 305, 306;
    gains the crest of the British position, 306;
    deadly fire and bayonet charge of Picton’s division, 306, 307;
    the charge of Ponsonby’s British cavalry, 306, 307;
    repulse of d’Erlon’s charge, 307;
    the French capture La Haye Sainte at great sacrifice, 307;
    Bülow’s corps (Prussian) advances and threatens Planchenoit,
      requiring Napoleon’s withdrawal from the field, 309;
    Ney left in command, 309;
    splendid onsets of French cavalry, 309-311;
    repulse of Bülow, 311;
    return of Napoleon to the front, 314;
    Alten’s British division rallied by Wellington, 314;
    the Brunswick troops brought forward, 314;
    Chassé’s Dutch-Belgian division placed in rear of British
      guards, 314;
    the light cavalry brigades of Vivian and Vandeleur brought
      to the centre, 314;
    the English troops exhausted, the allies discouraged, much
      artillery dismounted, 314;
    the reserves, with Maitland’s guards and Adam’s brigade combined
      at centre, 315;
    Ney ordered to collect infantry and cavalry to support an attack
      by the Imperial Guard, 315;
    the attack upon the Anglo-allied line by Donzelot and Quiot, 318;
    the broken lines rallied by Wellington, 318;
    steady advance of the Imperial Guard, 318, 319;
    destructive repulse of the Guard, 319 _et seq._;
    persistency of the rear battalions of the Guard, 323-324;
    timely charge of the 52d regiment, supported by the rest of Adam’s
      brigade, 324;
    the rout of the Guard complete, 324;
    Zieten’s attack, 324, 325;
    the French right wing shattered, 325;
    charge of the British cavalry brigades of Vivian and Vandeleur,
    Wellington orders his whole line to advance, 325;
    the French routed, 326;
    Napoleon borne away in one of the squares of the Guard, 326;
    the victory of the allies complete, 326;
    discussion of the battle, 329-342.

  Battle of Wavre, Thielemann’s corps left to defend the town, 264;
    attack without skill, 264;
    the troops of Vandamme entangle themselves in the attempt to carry
      the lower bridges, 264-265;
    the 4th French corps in vain attack the Mill of Bierges, above the
      town, 265; Gérard wounded, 265;
    Pajol carried the bridge of Limale, 265;
    battle conducted gallantly by the French, but without method, 265;
    resistance of the Prussians worthy of all praise, 265.

  Batty, Captain, _Historical Sketch of Campaign of 1815_, cited, 333.

  Baudus, Lieutenant-Colonel de, his _Études sur Napoléon_,
    cited, 193, 194, 195, 196, 279, 292.

  Beaumont, headquarters of Napoleon on the evening of June 14th, 45.

  Belgium, acts in concert with other nations of Europe against France
      and Napoleon, 2-4 (see also ARMIES ALLIED);
    territory occupied by the cantonments of the allied armies, 3, 74;
    Brussels the headquarters of Wellington, 3;
    daylight in, from before sunrise at 4 A.M. until 9 P.M., 52, 251.

  Bernhard, Prince. (See SAXE-WEIMAR.)

  Berthier, Marshal, Napoleon’s old chief of staff, retired into
      Belgium with Louis XVIII., 17.

  Berton, General, commander French brigade, reports to Napoleon the
      discovery of a Prussian corps at Gembloux, 209;
    his _Précis, historique, militaire et critique, des batailles de
      Fleurus et de Waterloo_, cited, 258, 286, 338.

  Bertrand, Grand Marshal (French), to whom Napoleon dictated order
      to Grouchy, 209, 210. (See GROUCHY.)

  Bierges, Mill of, Gérard wounded in attack upon, 265.

  Blücher, Field-Marshal Prince, commander of the Prussian army, 32;
    his character as an officer, 34;
    hatred of Napoleon, 34;
    chose the line of the brook of Ligny as a possible battle-field, 70;
    orders concentration of his army at Sombreffe, 70, 143;
    his understanding with Wellington, 70 _et seq._, 91, 100, 143-145;
    advises Müffling of the concentration of the Prussian army at
      Sombreffe, 78;
    his cantonments too greatly extended, 96 _et seq._;
    hears from Wellington, 144;
    determines to fight Napoleon at Ligny on independent grounds,
    his reasons for accepting battle, 148-150;
    his position, 151;
    battle formation and force, 151, 152;
    his position criticised by Wellington, 155, n. 15;
    leads cavalry charge against the French and
    narrowly escapes capture, 158;
    key to his position taken by the French Guard, 158;
    falls back to Brye and Sombreffe, 159;
    result of accepting battle with but three-fourths of his force
      unsupported by Wellington, 162;
    held Brye and Sombreffe until after midnight, 204;
    his retreat toward Wavre, 159, 226, 231-233;
    not in communication with Thielemann and Bülow after defeat of
      the corps of Zieten and Pirch I., 226, n. [516];
    his age at time of the battle, 229, n. [526];
    decides to join Wellington, 230, 234;
    assures Wellington of support at Waterloo, 234, 237 _et seq._;
    he as well as Wellington desired to close the campaign with a
      great battle, 235;
    advises Müffling that though ill he will lead his army in person
      at Waterloo, 263.

  Bonaparte, Jerome, commander French division, 2d corps, 25;
    had nominal command only, 25, n. [35];
    at Quatre Bras, 178, 179;
    his division in the attack on Hougomont, 303, 304.

  Bonaparte, Joseph, advised by Napoleon on morning of June 14th of
      his intended movement on Charleroi, 45.

  Bourmont, General, deserted with his staff to the enemy, succeeded
      by Hulot, 26, n. [36], 47.

  Braine-le-Comte, sixteen miles west of Quatre Bras, 82;
    headquarters of the Prince of Orange, 102.

  Braine-la-Leud ordered to be intrenched by Colonel Smyth, 296, 297.

  Brunswick, Duke of, commander Brunswick corps, 38;
    arrives opportunely at Quatre Bras, 178;
    killed at Quatre Bras, 179.

  Brussels, Wellington’s headquarters, 3, 74;
    chief objective of Napoleon next to the dispersion of the allied
      armies, 142.

  Brye, place of conference between Wellington and Blücher, 108, 144,

  Bullock, R. H., _Journal of_, cited, 113.

  Bülow, General, commander 4th Prussian corps, 33;
    had in 1813 won the battle of Dennewitz against Ney, 34;
    ordered to Ligny, 70;
    not fully informed of situation, delayed execution of order, 73;
    his arrival expected by Blücher, 151, 172;
    his non-arrival, 231;
    on the march to Waterloo, 262, 263;
    attacks the right flank of the French army, 308, 309;
    attacks Planchenoit and is repulsed, 311;
    capture of Planchenoit, 325;
    assures the allied victory, 340.

  Bylandt, Major-General Count de, commander Dutch-Belgian brigade,
    at Quatre Bras, 102, 114;
    dangerous position of his brigade at Waterloo, 299, 300.

  Byng, Major-General Sir John, commander brigade British guards, 35;
    position at Waterloo, 300.


  Caillou house, on the Brussels road near tavern of La Belle
      Alliance, Napoleon’s headquarters evening of June 17th, 30,
      245, 289.

  Charleroi, the general objective point June 15th, 46;
    occupied by the main French column at noon, June 15th, 47, 114;
    headquarters of Napoleon, 48.

  Charras, Lieutenant-Colonel, his _Histoire de la Campagne de 1815_,
      cited, 13, 17, 19, 25, 28, 29, 30, 32, 34, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50,
      51, 52, 56, 57, 58, 59, 63, 67, 69, 70, 71, 73, 77, 80, 94, 96,
      97, 98, 106, 122, 123, 124, 125, 136, 139, 144, 151, 152, 153,
      154, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160, 163, 170, 171, 177, 178, 179, 183,
      184, 189, 190, 193, 195, 201, 209, 212, 213, 214, 217, 222, 251,
      252, 253, 258, 259, 262, 265, 270, 280, 282, 283, 284, 285, 289,
      291, 292, 293, 298, 301, 304, 305, 306, 307, 312, 313, 316, 317,
      319, 321, 324, 325, 326, 337, 352;
    admits no merit in Napoleon, iv.

  Chassé, General, commander Dutch-Belgian division, 38;
    position at Waterloo, 300;
    opportunely brings into play Van der Smissen’s battery, 308;
    ordered to the rear of the British guards, 314.

  Chesney, Colonel Charles C., his _Waterloo Lectures_, cited, 25, 29,
      51, 69, 70, 71, 73, 74, 76, 77, 90, 95, 101, 104, 128, 141, 188,
      219, 221, 268, 278, 280, 339, 349.

  Clausewitz, General Carl von, his _Der Feldzug von 1815_, etc.,
      cited, 3, 10, 11, 13, 14, 58, 59, 70, 71, 73, 96, 97, 98, 139,
      154, 163, 164, 165, 166, 167, 169, 170, 171, 172, 173, 205,
      208, 217, 218, 219, 243, 253, 262, 280.

  Clinton, Lieutenant-General Sir Henry, commander 2d British division,
    position at Waterloo, 300.

  Clinton, H. R., his _The War in the Peninsula_, etc., concurs with
      Hooper in opinion as to Napoleon’s intention to wedge himself
      between the opposing armies, 11, n. [14], 141.

  Colborne, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir John (afterward Lord Seaton),
      commander British 52d regiment, 324;
    resists advance of the Imperial Guard, 324, 331-336.

  Cole, Sir Lowry, commander British 6th division, 38;
    position at Waterloo, 299;
    not in the action, 299, n. [696].

  Colville, General Sir Charles, commander British 4th division, 38;
    his division withheld from the field of Waterloo by Wellington,

  Communication between allied armies, lines of, not to be confounded
      with lines of supplies, 14.

  Cooke, Major-General, commander 1st division, 38;
    at Quatre Bras, 184;
    position at Waterloo, 300.

  _Correspondance de Napoléon_, cited, 5, 14, 19, 45, 47, 52, 53, 54,
      57, 64, 65, 66, 68, 96, 98, 99, 100, 134, 135, 141, 142, 165,
      180, 191, 215, 243, 289, 317, 332, 338, 351, 352, 353.


  Dalton, Charles, his _Waterloo Roll Call_ cited, 86.

  Damitz, Major, his _Histoire de la Campagne de 1815_, cited, 144,
      148, 149, 227, 285, 316, 317.

  D’Auvergne. (See LA TOUR D’AUVERGNE.)

  Davout, Marshal, desired field service, but was left at Paris, 22;
    would probably have prevented defeat at Waterloo, if in place of
      Ney or Grouchy, 22;
    Napoleon writes him, anticipating battle or retreat of Prussians,
    his _Histoire de la Vie Militaire_, etc., cited, 22, 164, 166, 173.

  Daylight in Belgium, through June from before sunrise at 4 A.M. until
      9 P.M., 52, 251.

  De Lancey, Colonel Sir William, Wellington’s chief of staff, 81;
    instructions to, lost, 81-82;
    his “Disposition” of the British army at 7 A.M., June 16th,
      85-86, n. [186];
    hurriedly drawn up, 114, n. [245];
    is furnished copy of Wellington’s survey-sketches, 296.

  Delbrück, Hans, his _Das Leben des Feldmarschalls Grafen Reithardt
      von Gneisenau_, cited, 34, 73, 78, 81, 109, 144, 145, 146, 149,
      159, 204, 226, 228, 234.

  D’Erlon, Count, commander 1st French corps, 18;
    position in the advance, 46;
    backwardness of his corps, 50-56, 94, 118, 119, 124, 127, 131,
      132, 137-140, 156, 198;
    his wandering march, 157-161, 170-172, 174-175, 180-182, 193-196;
    ordered to halt at Frasnes, 177-178, 183;
    presence of his corps at Quatre Bras would have assured Ney’s
      victory, 184-186;
    ordered to pursue the English rear guard, 215;
    in the first line at Waterloo, 289, 301;
    his grand assault upon the allied line, 304-307;
    unwieldy formation of his troops, 305, 329;
    rallied to support the Guard, 318, 330;
    his corps hopelessly disorganized, 325.

  Dirom, Captain, of 1st British foot-guards, describes advance of
      Imperial Guard, 335.

  _Documents Inédits sur la Campagne de 1815_, cited, 48, 49, 50, 51,
      55, 67, 116, 117, 119, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 129, 131, 134,
      141, 154, 155, 156, 169, 178, 180, 182, 189, 190, 191, 195,
      196, 201, 203, 292, 302, 307, 308, 314, 326, 352.

  Domon, General, commander cavalry division 3d French corps, 26;
    with Napoleon on march to Waterloo, 212;
    reported retreat of the Prussians, 246;
    at Waterloo, 301.

  Donzelot, General, commander division 1st French corps, 25;
    in d’Erlon’s assault at Waterloo, 305;
    supports cavalry charge, 310;
    brilliant attacks upon the allied line in support of the Guard,
      318, 322, 330, 337, 338.

  Dörnberg, Major-General Sir William, commander British cavalry
      brigade, 35, 36;
    reports Napoleon as having turned towards Charleroi, 80, 83;
    as to Wellington’s pledge of support to Blücher on the 16th, 145.

  Drouot, General, Adjutant-General of the Imperial Guard, an officer
      of great merit, 20;
    advised Napoleon to delay battle at Waterloo, 292.

  Du Casse, A., _Le Général Vandamme et sa Correspondance_, cited, 139.

  Durutte, General, commander division 1st French corps, 25;
    in the advance, 50, 129, 176, 179 _et seq._;
    position at Waterloo, 302;
    in d’Erlon’s assault, 305;
    his division routed, 325, 341.


  Elchingen, Duke of. (See NEY.)

  Ellesmere, Earl of, _Essays on History_, etc., cited, 10, 43, 74,
      139, 239.

  Elphinstone, Colonel, skilfully supports the British guards at
      Waterloo, 322.

  Erckmann-Chatrian, _Waterloo_, cited, 306.

  Exelmans, General, commander 2d French cavalry corps, 27;
    at Ligny, 154;
    in the march to Wavre, 212, 251 _et seq._


  Flahaut, General, on Napoleon’s staff, the bearer to Ney of the
      Emperor’s plans for the operations of the 16th, 121, 131, 134,
    returns, bringing news of the result at Quatre Bras, 200.

  Fleurus, point of retreat of the Prussians on the 15th, 48, 70;
    occupied by the French army on the 16th, 153-154;
    headquarters of Napoleon after battle of Ligny, 159, 200.

  Foy, General, his _History of the War in the Peninsula_, portrait
      of Napoleon, 23;
    commander division 2d French corps, 25;
    in the advance to Quatre Bras, 49, 122, 129, 130;
    at Quatre Bras, 178;
    at Waterloo, 301-302;
    joins in attack upon Hougomont, 304.

  Fraser, _Letters of Colonel Sir A. S._, cited, 30.

  Fraser, Sir William, _Words on Wellington_, cited, 105.

  Friant, General, commander division Old Guard, 26;
    at Waterloo, 316.


  Gardner, Mr. Dorsey, his _Quatre Bras, Ligny, and Waterloo_,
      cited, 29, 105, 249, 268.

  Gawler, an officer of the British 52d regiment, his _Crisis and
      Close of the Action at Waterloo_, cited, 333.

  Genappe, a smart skirmish at, 216;
    after the battle of Quatre Bras Wellington spent the night at, 233;
    the French retreat blocked at, 326.

  Gérard, General Count, commander 4th French corps, 18;
    in the advance, 44, 46;
    at Ligny, 153, 154, 157-159, 165;
    in the march to Wavre, 211;
    urged Grouchy to march to the sound of the cannon, 256, 257, 262;
    wounded in the attack on Wavre, 265;
    his _Quelques Documents_ and _Dernières Observations_, etc.,
      cited, 212, 247, 251, 252, 258, 259, 267, 271.

  Girard, General, commander division 2d French corps, 25;
    in pursuit of the Prussians, 49;
    at Ligny, 153, 154;
    mortally wounded, 203
    his division left at Ligny to care for the wounded, 203.

  Gleig, Rev. G. R., his _Life of the Duke of Wellington_, cited,
      92, 93.

  Gneisenau, General, chief of staff to Blücher, an able
      administrator, 34;
    remiss in not fully informing Bülow of the situation, 73;
    believed that Wellington had given assurance of support at Ligny,
      145, 149;
    assumed command after Blücher’s injury, 226;
    gave order for the retreat on Wavre, 226, 227;
    his want of confidence in Wellington, 229, 264.

  Gomm, Sir William Maynard, _Letters and Journals of_, cited, 83,
      112, 178, 299.

  Gore, Captain Arthur, _An Historical Account of the Battle of
      Waterloo_, cited, 316, 319, 332.

  Gourgaud, General, _Campagne de 1815_, cited, 4, 19, 52, 56, 63,
      64, 66, 195, 215, 216, 338.

  Grouchy, Marshal, commander French cavalry reserve, 18, 21;
    a veteran, 18;
    unfit for independent command, 208, 273;
    given command of the right wing, 21, 22, 135;
    in the first day’s advance, 47, 48;
    in the battle of Ligny, 154;
    given verbal orders by Napoleon to pursue the Prussians, 206, 209;
    his objections to order, 207, 208;
    the order dictated to General Bertrand, 209-211, 218-221, 223,
      249 _et seq._, 345, 350, 358;
    force given him for pursuit, 209, 212, 220;
    his letter to Napoleon from Gembloux, 212-213, 245, 250;
    his movement on Wavre, 211-213, 245-262, 264-267, 272, 279, 288;
    issues orders for the morning of the 18th, 250;
    his letter to Pajol morning of 18th, 251;
    makes no change in his orders, 252;
    should have marched for the bridge of Moustier at daybreak, 253;
    neglects proper reconnoissance, 254;
    his despatch from Walhain, 255, 256;
    heard the sound of the cannon of Waterloo at Walhain, not
      Sart-à-Walhain, 256, 259, 287, 288, 345;
    refused to accept Gérard’s advice, 256, 257;
    was expected to arrive on left bank of the Dyle by the bridge
      of Moustier, 268 _et seq._, 345;
    probable result had he marched for Moustier at daybreak, 281,
      283, 284, 326-328, 339, 342;
    or had followed the counsel of Gérard at noon, 261, 339, 342;
    in the battle of Wavre, 264-265;
    receives further orders from Napoleon, 265, 270;
    is supposed to be bearing toward the main army, 271, 272;
    carried the bridge of Limale, 271;
    expected to keep off Blücher, not to fight Wellington, 278;
    not solely responsible for defeat at Waterloo, 328, 342.

  Guard. (See IMPERIAL GUARD.)

  Gudin, General, Napoleon’s page at Waterloo, credited with story
      as to Napoleon’s health on morning of battle of Waterloo, 30.

  Guilleminot, General, according to Charras, the real commander of
      Jerome Bonaparte’s division, 25, n. [35], 304.

  Gurwood, Lieutenant-Colonel, _The Despatches of Field-Marshal the
      Duke of Wellington_, cited, 39, 71, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82,
      295, 328.

  Guyot, General, commander cavalry division Imperial Guard, 27;
    at Ligny, 157;
    in Ney’s charge upon the allied centre, 310, 311.


  Halkett, General Sir Colin, commander British brigade, 35;
    assists in opposing charge of Imperial Guard at Waterloo, 320,
      322, 331.

  Hamilton, Lieutenant-General Sir F. W., his _Grenadier Guards_,
      cited, 111.

  Hamley, General Edward Bruce, _The Operations of War_, etc.,
      cited, 221, 222, 280, 281, 339.

  Hardinge, General Sir Henry, English military _attaché_ at
      Blücher’s headquarters, gives Wellington’s criticism of
      Blücher’s position, 155;
    lost his left hand at Ligny, 229;
    story of discussion between Blücher and Gneisenau as to remaining
      in communication with the English, 230.

  Harlet, General, commander 4th regiment grenadiers of the Guard at
      Waterloo, 316.

  Henrion, General, commander 4th regiment chasseurs of the Guard at
      Waterloo, 316.

  Heymès, Colonel, Ney’s aide-de-camp, 67;
    regarding interview between Ney and Napoleon, 49, n. [75], 67, 68;
    reports account of Ney’s interview with Napoleon at midnight of
      the 15th, 116;
    reports conference between Ney and Reille, 116;
    as to the inactivity of Ney on morning of 16th, 119;
    as to arrival of the 3.15 P.M. order to Ney from Napoleon,
      195, n. [442];
    overestimates Napoleon’s loss in taking La Haye Sainte,
      307, n. [712];
    denies that Ney ordered Guyot to charge upon the allied centre,

  Hill, Lieutenant-General Lord, commander 2d British corps, 38;
    a valuable man, 40;
    orders to, morning of the 16th, 82, 88, 89.

  _Histoire de l’Ex-Garde_, cited, 326.

  Hooper, George, his _Waterloo_, cited, 11, 77, 104, 155, 182, 183,
      184, 190, 222, 282, 307.

  Hougomont, Chateau of, description of, 297;
    occupied by the English, 300;
    French attack upon, 303, 304, 329, 330.

  Hulot, General, succeeded General Bourmont to command of division
      4th French corps, 26;
    at Ligny, 153, n. [345], 154.


  Imperial Guard, strength of, 26;
    leaves Paris, 44;
    ordered to advance 45-46;
    leaves its commander, Marshal Mortier, behind, ill, 46;
    a division of cavalry of, supports Ney at Frasnes, 49, 157;
    in reserve near Fleurus at beginning of battle at Ligny, 154;
    led by Napoleon in person at Ligny, 157, 158;
    loss, 161, 197;
    pursues the retreating English, 214-216;
    position at Waterloo, 301;
    in defence of Planchenoit, 309, 311;
    attack on the English line by the cavalry of, 309, 311;
    the _élite_ of the army, 312;
    position, condition, and strength of, 315-318;
    charge of, and repulse by British guards and Adam’s brigade,
    the attack pressed, but again repulsed, 323, 324;
    resisted heroically to the last, 326;
    the Emperor finally forced to take refuge in one of its squares,
    the charge of, reviewed, 331, 332, 335-338.

  Inniskilling Dragoons, a part of the British Union brigade at
      Waterloo, 300.


  Jomini, General Baron de, _The Political and Military History of
      the Campaign of Waterloo_, cited, 12, 56, 59, 63, 66, 71, 139,
      142, 153, 158, 170, 176, 177,186, 192, 193, 200, 205, 253, 280,
      281, 357.

  Jones, George, _The Battle of Waterloo_, cited, 125, 144, 146, 200,
      235, 317, 332, 334, 338.


  Kellermann, Count of Valmy, commander 3d French cavalry corps, 27;
    at Quatre Bras, 183, 184, 197;
    in reserve at Waterloo, 301;
    in the charge upon the allied centre, 309-310.

  Kempt, Major-General Sir James, commander British brigade, 35;
    at Waterloo, 306, 312.

  Kennedy, General Sir James Shaw,—his _Notes on the Battle of
      Waterloo_, cited, 96, 97, 99, 100, 250, 268, 274, 278, 280,
      284, 294, 299, 301, 308, 310, 312, 339, 349.

  Kielmansegge, Count, commander Hanoverian brigade, 36;
    his brigade unable to hold its position at the close of the
      battle of Waterloo, 312.

  Kruse, General von, commander Nassau contingent, 37;
    did not arrive at Quatre Bras in time to take part in the action,


  La Haye Sainte, farm-house on Brussels road, 301;
    attack upon, by the French, 305, 307;
    captured shortly before 4 P.M., 307, n. [712], 308, 312.

  La Tour d’Auvergne, Lieutenant-Colonel Prince Édouard de, his
      _Waterloo: Étude de la Campagne de 1815_, cited, 13, 46, 51,
      56, 59, 63, 69, 71, 118, 130, 136, 146, 154, 157, 158, 177,
      202, 248, 250, 251, 257, 270, 304, 306.

  Leeke, Rev. William, an officer of the British 52d regiment, 333;
    his _History of Lord Seaton’s Regiment at the Battle of Waterloo_,
      cited, 111, 333, 334, 336.

  Lefebvre-Desnouettes, General, commander division of cavalry
      Imperial Guard, 27;
    in support of troops at Frasnes, 49, 157;
    in the charge upon the allied centre at Waterloo, 309.

  L’Heritier, General, commander of division 3d French cavalry corps,
    his division at Quatre Bras, 183.

  _Life Guards, Historical Record of the_, cited, 113.

  Ligny. (See BATTLE OF.)

  Lines of supply, 4.

  Lobau, Count of (Mouton), commander French 6th corps, 18, 26;
    in the advance on the 15th, 46;
    delayed in reaching Ligny, 160;
    as to non-employment of his corps at Ligny, 160;
    at Waterloo, 301;
    made gallant defence of Planchenoit, 311, 325, 331.

  Lockhart, J. G., his _History of Napoleon Buonaparte_,
      cited, 238, 239.


  Mackworth, Sir Digby, on Lord Hill’s staff at Waterloo, describes
      advance of Imperial Guard, 332.

  Maitland, Major-General, commander brigade British guards, 35;
    repulses attack of Imperial Guard at Waterloo, 319-323, 331-335.

  _Malmesbury, Letters of the First Earl of_, cited, 81, 233.

  Marbot, Colonel, his _Mémoires_, cited, 247, 254, 258, 268, 269, 270.

  Marcognet, General, commander division 1st French corps, 25;
    position at Waterloo, 302;
    in d’Erlon’s assault 305; forced to abandon his position, 325, 341.

  Marette, Chateau, at Walhain, 255, 288.

  Marmont, Marshal, _Mémoires_, cited, 246, 247.

  Maurice, Colonel J. F., his _Articles on Waterloo_, cited, 46, 47,
      55, 71, 73, 74, 75, 76, 80, 83, 84, 85, 86, 94, 103, 106, 167,
      204, 220, 221, 224, 227, 230, 237, 238, 241, 250, 262, 263.

  _Memorandum on the Battle of Waterloo_, cited, 72, 74, 90, 95.

  Mercer, General Cavalié, _Journal of the Waterloo Campaign_, cited,
      216, 310.

  Michel, General, commander brigade chasseurs of Imperial Guard at
      Waterloo, 316.

  Milhaud, General Count, commander French 4th cavalry corps, 27;
    at Ligny, 154, 157-159;
    at Waterloo, 301;
    in the charge upon the allied centre, 309.

  Morris, William O’Connor, his _Great Commanders of Modern Times,
      and the Campaign of 1815_, cited, 69, 307.

  Morvan, General Poret de, commander 3d regiment grenadiers of the
      Imperial Guard at Waterloo, 316, 317.

  Mortier, Marshal, commander Imperial Guard, taken ill just before
      the opening of the campaign, 20, 46.

  Mouton. (See LOBAU.)

  Mudford, William, his _Historical Account of the Campaign in the
      Netherlands in 1815_, cited, 105.

  Müffling, General Baron von, his _Passages from my Life_, cited, 39,
      42, 71, 77, 78, 80, 81, 105, 109, 144, 145, 146, 159, 229, 233,
      340, 341.

  Muquardt, his _Précis de la Campagne de 1815_, cited, 118, 159,
      177, 338.


  Napier, General Sir William, _Life of_, cited, 24, 191, 338.

  Napier’s battery at Waterloo, 317, 318.

  Napoleon, his return to Paris from Elba, 1;
    general military situation, 2;
    his reasons for taking the offensive, 2, 3;
    his plan of campaign, 4-15, 45, 59 _et seq._, 343, 348;
    his army, 16-28;
    gives Ney command of the left wing, 21, 49;
    his bodily strength and vigor, 23, 24, 29-31, 140, 200, 202, 290,
      347, 348;
    leaves Paris for the field, 44;
    assembles his army near Charleroi, 44, 45;
    issues general order of movement, 45, 46;
    the advance to Fleurus, 46-53, 55 _et seq._;
    fixes his headquarters at Charleroi, 48;
    as to verbal orders to Ney to seize Quatre Bras, 52, 62-69, 343;
    midnight conference, with Ney on the 15th, 54, 116, 129, 130,
      132, 140;
    orders to Ney on the 16th, 120-125, 130, 131, 134, 141-142,
    his reasons for delay on morning of 16th, 132-142, 163;
    his arrival at Fleurus about 11 A.M., 152;
    examines the position at Ligny, 152;
    his plan for the battle, 152-153, 164 _et seq._;
    battle of Ligny, 152-175;
    delays decisive blow upon the unexpected appearance of d’Erlon’s
      corps, 157-158, 160, 161, 170, 171, 174, 198;
    spends the night after the battle of Ligny at Fleurus, 159, 200;
    his skill conspicuous at Ligny, 171;
    not responsible for d’Erlon’s wandering, 182, 193 _et seq._;
    his delay on the morning of the 17th, 197 _et seq._;
    loses the opportunity of overwhelming Wellington at Quatre Bras,
      199-202, 344, 348;
    orders to Ney on the 17th, 201, 203 (see NEY);
    his march to join Ney, 203, 213-214;
    misconceives movement of Blücher, 203-206;
    his neglect of proper reconnoissance on the morning of the 17th,
      205, 217, 218, 223-225, 344, 348;
    gives verbal order to Grouchy to pursue the Prussians, 206, 209
      (see GROUCHY);
    the Bertrand order to Grouchy, 209-211, 218-223, 248, 249, 274,
    leads pursuit of the English from Quatre Bras, 214, 215;
    not to blame for not pursuing the Prussians on the early morning
      of the 17th, 217;
    expects Grouchy to arrive by the bridge of Moustier, 247,
      268 _et seq._, 290, 293, 294, 345;
    orders to Grouchy on the 18th, 265-272, 291;
    his headquarters at the Caillou house, 289;
    reconnoitres the field of battle of Waterloo at 1 A.M., 289;
    his conduct on the morning of the 18th, 289-294;
    his plan of battle, 292, 302 (see BATTLE OF WATERLOO);
    decides to defer the main attack until about 1 P.M., 292, 302;
    the attack upon Hougomont, 303, 304, 329;
    called from the front to resist Prussian attack upon his right
      flank, 308-309, 311 _et seq._, 330, 345, 346;
    returns to the front, 314;
    organizes general advance upon the British position, 315-317, 336;
    the attack of the Guard repulsed, 318-324, 331-338;
    his efforts to rally the Guard, 325;
    his army routed, 326;
    borne from the field in a square of the Guard, 326.

  _Napoléon à Waterloo_, cited, 48, 50, 51, 69, 157, 181, 214, 215,
      222, 247, 269, 270, 314, 319, 357.

  Ney, Marshal, placed in the field at the last moment, 20, 21, 49, 55;
    given command of the left wing, 21, 49;
    overtakes the army near Charleroi, 49;
    movement on Quatre Bras on the 15th, 49-54, 55, 56, 62, 69, 139;
    verbal orders from Napoleon on the 15th to seize Quatre Bras, 52,
      62-69, 343;
    midnight interview with Napoleon on the 15th, 54, 116, 129, 130,
      132, 140;
    lacks a competent staff, 55, 119, 129, 140;
    his defective preparations and disobedience of orders on the 16th,
      116-128, 140, 176-183, 186-187, 191, 344, 348;
    orders from Napoleon on the 16th, 120-125, 130, 131, 134,
      141-142, 154-156;
    in the battle of Quatre Bras, 178-196;
    prevented Wellington’s aiding Blücher, 187;
    makes no report of the result of the battle to Napoleon, 200, 202;
    orders from Napoleon on the 17th, 201, 203;
    his neglect to pursue Wellington on the morning of the 17th, 214;
    with Napoleon in pursuit of Wellington to Waterloo, 214 _et seq._;
    his great attack with d’Erlon’s infantry upon the allied line,
    the capture of La Haye Sainte, 307;
    cavalry attacks upon the allied centre, 309-311;
    non-employment of infantry, 309, 311, 318, 324, 337;
    responsible for mistakes in assaults upon the allied line,
      311 _et seq._, 329, 330, 345;
    his lack of preparations for an attack by the Imperial Guard,
      315, 317, 337, 338, 346;
    leads the charge of the Imperial Guard, 318-324, 331-338;
    contrasted with Wellington, 338.


  O’Connor Morris, William (see MORRIS).

  Oldfield, Major John, his _Letters on the Battle of Waterloo_,
      cited, 89, 105, 296, 301.

  Ollech, General von, _Geschichte des Feldzuges von_ 1815,
      cited, 72, 73, 76, 77, 83, 84, 85, 106, 109, 134, 136, 143,
      144, 145, 149, 154, 205, 208, 209, 226, 227, 228, 229, 231,
      232, 233, 238, 258, 262, 263, 285.

  Ompteda, Colonel von, commander brigade King’s German Legion, 35;
    his brigade nearly annihilated near La Haye Sainte, 312.

  Orange, Prince of, commander British 1st corps, 38;
    character as an officer, 40;
    hears of the French advance, 76;
    notifies Wellington at Brussels, 77;
    at Quatre Bras, 102, 178.


  Pack, Major-General Sir Denis, commander British brigade, 35;
    at Waterloo, 306.

  Pajol, General, commander 1st French cavalry corps, 27;
    in the advance on the 15th, 46, 47;
    at Ligny, 154;
    in pursuit of the Prussians after Ligny, 205;
    with Grouchy in the march on Wavre, 212;
    in the battle of Wavre, 265.

  Papelotte, small village in front of Wellington’s position at
      Waterloo, 297;
    occupied by Zieten’s corps, 324.

  Pascallet, M. E., _Notice Biographique sur M. le Maréchal Marquis
      de Grouchy_, cited, 209, 357.

  Perponcher, General, commander division Dutch-Belgians, 38;
    at Quatre Bras, 102, 103, 112, 178;
    his position at Waterloo, 299.

  Picton, Sir Thomas, commander 5th British division, 38;
    a man of energy and capacity, 40;
    at Quatre Bras, 178;
    in battle of Waterloo, 299;
    repulses d’Erlon’s charge, 306, 307.

  Pirch I., General von, commander 2d Prussian corps, 32;
    headquarters at Namur, 33;
    at Ligny, 143, 151, 159;
    falls back towards Wavre, 159, 226, 232, 246, 339, 340, 346;
    delayed in leaving Wavre, 262, 263;
    supports Bülow’s assaults upon Planchenoit, 325, 340.

  Piré, Lieutenant-General, commander cavalry division 2d French
      corps, 25;
    in the advance, 49;
    at Quatre Bras, 178;
    at Waterloo, 301, 337.

  Planchenoit, 313, n. [722];
    attacked successfully by Bülow, retaken by Napoleon, 311;
    gallantly defended by the Young Guard and Count de Lobau, 311.

  Ponsonby, Major-General Sir William, commander Union brigade
      English cavalry, 35;
    his charge at Waterloo, 306, 307, 313.

  Porter’s _History Royal Engineers_, cited, 296, 312.

  Powell, Captain, 1st British footguards, 334;
    describes advance of Imperial Guard at Waterloo, 319, 324.


  Quatre Bras, value of the position, 3 _et seq._, 12, 13,
      61 _et seq._, 94 _et seq._ (See BATTLE OF.)

  Quinet, Edgar, _Histoire de la Campagne de 1815_, cited, 11, 58, 282.

  Quiot, General, commanded Allix’s division at Waterloo, 302;
    assigned to the task of capturing La Haye Sainte, 305;
    brilliant attacks upon the allied line in support of the Guard,
      318, 330, 337.


  Raguse, Duc de, _Mémoires_, see MARMONT.

  Rebecque, General Constant, chief of staff to the Prince of Orange,
      orders Perponcher to the support of Prince Bernhard’s brigade
      at Quatre Bras, 101-103.

  Reille, General Count, commander 2d French corps, 18;
    in the advance, 44, 46, 48, 50, 101;
    conference with Ney on the 16th, 116;
    his _Notice Historique_, cited, 121;
    disobedience of orders, 121-122, 168, 176, 192-193;
    his corps at Quatre Bras, 178;
    position at Waterloo, 301;
    attacks Hougomont, 303-304, 314, n. 54, 329, 330, 337;
    failed to realize his opportunity for retreat, 326.

  _Relation Belge sur la Bataille de Waterloo_, cited, 320.

  Rogniat, his _Considérations de l’Art de la Guerre_, and
     _Réponse aux Notes Critiques de Napoléon_, cited, 12, 56, 57,
     58, 164.

  Roguet, General, commander brigade Imperial Guard at Waterloo, 316.

  Royal Dragoons, a part of the British Union Brigade at Waterloo, 300.

  Russia, sets her army in motion for the general attack upon France, 1;
    expected to reinforce the Austrian army, 2.


  Saint Hilaire, Émile Marco de, _Histoire de la Garde_, cited, 319.

  Saltoun, Lord, at Waterloo, 320.

  Sart-à-Walhain, Grouchy orders troops there, 250;
    erroneously supposed to be the place where he heard the cannon of
      Waterloo, 255, 286-288.

  Saxe-Weimar, Prince Bernhard of, commander brigade Dutch-Belgians,
      36, 36, n. [51];
    driven from Frasnes, 49, 101;
    at Quatre Bras, 90, 101-103;
    his position at Waterloo, 299.

  Scots Greys, a part of the British Union brigade at Waterloo, 300.

  Scott, Sir Walter, _Life of Napoleon_, cited, 93.

  Siborne, Captain W., _History of the War in France and Belgium
      in 1815_, cited, 13, 34, 35, 71, 73, 75, 77, 80, 82, 83, 84,
      91, 111, 112, 114, 139, 154, 158, 159, 179, 183, 184, 191, 192,
      199, 205, 212, 229, 232, 234, 237, 238, 254, 258, 261, 262,
      270, 279, 283, 284, 285, 298, 301, 306, 310, 312, 319, 322, 333.

  Sidney, Rev. Edwin, _The Life of Lord Hill_, cited, 332.

  Sombreffe, its military value, 12-14, 57 _et seq._;
    point of concentration for the Prussian army, 70;
    the centre of the Prussian army at the battle of Ligny, 151.

  Somerset, Major-General Lord Edward, commander cavalry  brigade
      British guards, 35; position at Waterloo, 300;
    charge of his brigade, 307, 313.

  Soult, Marshal, succeeds Berthier as Napoleon’s chief of staff, 17;
    unfit for the position, 18;
    told Sir W. Napier that Napoleon fought Waterloo without
      examination of the enemy’s position, 24, n. [32];
    not at fault on the morning of the 16th, 128;
    orders Ney to envelop the enemy’s right, 155;
    told Sir W. Napier that Ney neglected his orders at Quatre Bras,
    of no assistance to Napoleon on morning of 17th, 202;
    opposed to detaching Grouchy with so large a force, 279, n. [641];
    negligent as a staff officer, 246, 348.

  Stanhope, Philip Henry, 5th Earl, _Notes of Conversations with the
      Duke of Wellington_, cited, 42, 46, 155, 230.

  Steinmetz, General von, commander division Prussian 1st corps, 32;
    at Waterloo, 324-325.

  _Supplementary Despatches of the Duke of Wellington_, edited by his
      son, cited, 72, 74, 85, 90, 374 _et seq._

  Supplies, lines of, not to be confounded with lines of communication
      between the allied armies, 14.


  Thielemann, General von, commander 3d Prussian corps, 33;
    at Ligny, 144, 151, 159;
    his corps placed where it could not aid Zieten and Pirch I., 204;
    in the retreat to Wavre, 231, 232, 234, 261;
    his corps left alone, defended Wavre against Grouchy, 264-265.
      (See BATTLE OF WAVRE.)

  Thiers, M. A., his _History of the Consulate and the Empire of
      France under Napoleon_, cited, 10, 24, 29, 30, 66, 154, 193,
      292, 354.


  Union Brigade, British, commanded by Major-General Ponsonby,
      composed of the Royal Dragoons, Scots Greys, and the
      Inniskilling Dragoons, at Waterloo, 300, 306, 307, 313.

  Uxbridge, Lord (afterwards Marquis of Anglesea), commander of
      combined cavalry of British and King’s German Legion, 38;
    leads charge of Somerset’s cavalry at Waterloo, 307;
    calls Wellington’s attention to danger of pursuit of the French
      with weakened battalions, 341.


  Vandamme, Count, commander 3d French corps, known as a hard
      fighter, 18;
    delayed in the advance on the 15th, 47;
    at Ligny, 153, 154, 157-159;
    delayed in the march with Grouchy to Gembloux, 211, 252;
    his troops entangled in attempt to carry bridges at Wavre,
      264, 265.

  Vandeleur, Major-General Sir John, commander British light cavalry
      brigade, 35;
    his position at Waterloo, 299;
    brought to the centre with Vivian’s brigade at a critical time,
    in the final charge, 325.

  Van Löben Sels, E., _Précis de la Campagne de 1815 dans les
      Pays-Bas_, cited, 49, 76, 77, 92, 101, 102, 112, 279, 280,
      284, 291, 310, 312, 317.

  Vaudoncourt, General Guillaume de, _Histoire des Campagnes de 1814
      et 1815 en France_, cited, 59, 289, 291.

  Vivian, Major-General Sir Hussey, commander British light cavalry
      brigade, 35;
    his position at Waterloo, 299;
    brought into action at a critical moment, 314;
    in the final charge, 325.


  Walhain, where Grouchy heard the cannon of Waterloo, 255, 256, 259,

  Waterloo, the field of, 296;
    surveyed by English engineers before the opening of the campaign,
      296. (See BATTLE OF.)

  _Waterloo Letters_, cited, 83, 112, 233, 299, 300, 310, 312, 319,
      321, 322, 323, 324, 332, 333, 334, 335.

  Wavre, regarded by Napoleon as the proper point of concentration
      for the Prussian army, 98;
    the Prussian rendezvous after battle of Ligny, 233.
      (See BATTLE OF.)

  Weather, 198, 211, 216, 289, 291, 292, 348.

  Wellington, Duke of, headquarters at Brussels, 3, 74;
    his qualifications as a commander, 40, 41;
    his army, 34-40, 43, 294, 302;
    anticipates French advance by way of Mons, 74-77;
    his understanding with Blücher, 70 _et seq._, 91, 346;
    delays advance upon Quatre Bras, 77-115, 346-347;
    at Quatre Bras on the 16th, 106, 109;
    his conference with Blücher at Brye, 108, 144-146, 150;
    disapproves of Blücher’s position at Ligny, 155, n. [353];
    in the battle of Quatre Bras, 178, 179, 183-185, 187, 188;
    retreats from Quatre Bras, 214, 233, 297;
    learns of Prussian defeat at Ligny, 233;
    did not receive assurance of support from Blücher until the
      morning of the 18th, 234, 238, 347;
    his ride to Wavre to consult with Blücher, 238 _et seq._, 347;
    his preparations for the battle of Waterloo, 294-297;
    occupies Hougomont, 297;
    his command at Waterloo, 297-300;
    fortifies La Haye Sainte, 301;
    his justification in accepting battle based upon assurance of
      support from Blücher, 294, 295, 302, 327;
    his efforts to restore his shattered line, 310, 312, 314, 318;
    his imminent peril, 314;
    repulses charge of the Imperial Guard, 318-325, 332-336;
    final advance of his whole line, 325, 340, 341;
    his retention of 18,000 men at Hal and Tubize, 339;
    contrasted with Ney, 338, 339.


  Yonge, C. D., _Life of Wellington_, cited, 296.

  Young, Rev. Julian Charles, _A Memoir of Charles Mayne Young,
      Tragedian_ cited, 239-241.


  Zieten, General von, commander 1st Prussian corps, 32;
    headquarters at Charleroi, 33;
    resists French advance on the 15th, 47, 70, 77;
    at Ligny, 143, 151;
    falls back toward Wavre, 159, 226, 232;
    delay in movement on the 18th, 262;
    arrival of his corps at Waterloo, 324;
    his probable course indicated if Grouchy had detained Bülow
      and Pirch I., 328;
    his intervention not anticipated, 336;
    his appearance and decisive attack upon the right flank of
      French army assured the allied victory, 340, 341.

[Illustration: PART OF BELGIUM

from a tracing of a portion of Sheet XIII of the Comte de Ferraris’


made by Edward A. Reeves, Assistant Map Curator, R.G.S. London, 1889.

Retraced, omitting the features immaterial to the Campaign of 1815, by
Wm. H. Munroe, Boston, 1892.


[Illustration: PLAN OF THE FIELD




Compiled from the

Carte Topographique de la Belgique


  and from
  Craän’s Plan of the Battle of Waterloo


The positions of the troops are taken from Map No. 1 in Siborne’s
Waterloo Letters.

Map No. 13. The Field of Waterloo at 11.15 A.M. June 18, 1815.


      *      *      *      *      *      *

Transcriber’s note:

The spelling, hyphenation, punctuation and accentuation are as the
original, except for apparent typographical errors which have been
corrected.  Some unpaired double quotation marks could not be
corrected with confidence and were left as in the original.

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