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Title: The Battle of Wavre and Grouchy's Retreat - A study of an Obscure Part of the Waterloo Campaign
Author: Kelly, William Hyde
Language: English
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THE BATTLE OF WAVRE AND
GROUCHY’S RETREAT


THE BATTLE OF WAVRE
AND GROUCHY’S RETREAT

A Study of an Obscure Part of
the Waterloo Campaign


by

W. HYDE KELLY, R.E.

With Maps and Plans



London
John Murray, Albemarle Street, W.
1905



AUTHOR’S PREFACE


So much has been written on the Waterloo Campaign that, even in the
smallest details, nothing new can be revealed; but the dazzling
magnitude of the great battle itself has obscured a part of the campaign
which is seldom studied--the battle against Thielemann, and Grouchy’s
skilful retreat from Wavre.

I have chosen this tail-end of the campaign because little is known
about it; because it serves useful lessons even for to-day; because the
operations leading up to the battle round Wavre are of great interest;
and because a campaign full of mistakes should be studied as carefully
as a campaign free from error. From history we obtain experience, and
experience teaches us how to act for the future. We learn how great men
of old time fought their battles and managed their retreats; we see the
reasons of their successes and their failures; and we should endeavour
to make use of our lessons when our own time comes. Not that Grouchy
can be deemed a great soldier; nor can his part of the 1815 campaign be
regarded as of prime importance in itself; but as showing the small
trifles that mar great plans in their execution, as showing how little a
thing will sometimes destroy the grandest conceptions, his operations
from 16th June to the end of the month are well worthy of attention.

I might have employed my time more profitably had I chosen to work upon
some more illustrious name than Grouchy’s, or upon some more modern
campaign of greater advantage to the war student of to-day; but I chose
to bring forward an obscure page in the history of the most famous
campaign, for in that history there is much that may still be laid to
heart.

Great deeds deserve great critics, but, as Colonel Henderson wrote in
his Preface to “Stonewall Jackson,” “if we were to wait for those who
are really qualified to deal with the achievements of famous captains,
we should, as a rule, remain in ignorance of the lessons of their lives,
for men of the requisite capacity are few in a generation.” Man is not
so fortunate that he can live in every period; and for knowledge he
must go backwards to search in history. The statesman will read of the
great quarrels between Charles I. and his Parliament, not because he
would imitate either the one side or the other, but because he will
desire to mould future action upon the experience of the past. Napoleon
himself prepared all his ambitious schemes from the pages of Tacitus,
Plutarch and Livy, and the histories of the deeds of Hannibal,
Alexander, and Cæsar. Wellington “made it a rule to study for some hours
every day”; and since these two great men advocate study of history, who
is there who shall gainsay the advantages of learning? But the true
method of reading history requires something far deeper than mere
perusal: it must be accompanied by careful and continuous thought. A
true history will encourage the reader to bury himself in the very
atmosphere of the time, and will bring him to see with his eyes the
comings and goings of great men, the rights and wrongs of their deeds,
and their impress upon contemporary people.

This small volume attempts nothing of this kind: it is a sketch, a mere
outline, of a minor portion of a remarkable campaign. In it I have made
no mention of the tactical formations employed; I have given no details
of armaments, equipments, or means of transport; for these are now of no
value to the soldier-student. The comments or remarks are to be taken or
left, as it shall please the reader: they are my own views; possibly
they may coincide with the views of others; in that case they will be
interesting.

I may admit that these pages were at first written for my own use--mere
notes taken down while I read a dozen authorities on the subject. I
afterwards persuaded myself that my studies might prove of use to those
who had little time to search the volumes in the libraries.

I trust I shall not offend German susceptibilities by omitting the
prefix “von” in the Prussian names and titles. I only do so to save
space.

I have to add my gratitude to the numerous writers and historians who
have told the splendid story of Waterloo, and from whom I have drawn my
facts.

  W. HYDE KELLY.

    _August 1905._



CONTENTS


  CHAP.                                                           PAGE

     I. BRIEF DISCUSSION OF THE EARLIER OPERATIONS--UP TO LIGNY      1

    II. THE THIRD PRUSSIAN CORPS AND GROUCHY’S FORCES               52

   III. THE RETREAT OF THIELEMANN’S CORPS FROM SOMBREFFE            66

    IV. GROUCHY’S PURSUIT OF THE PRUSSIANS                          80

     V. BLUCHER MARCHES TOWARDS MONT ST JEAN WITH THE FIRST, SECOND,
           AND FOURTH CORPS                                         100

    VI. THIELEMANN’S INSTRUCTIONS AND HIS DISPOSITIONS AT WAVRE     108

   VII. THE BATTLE OF WAVRE                                         115

  VIII. GROUCHY’S RETREAT                                           133

    IX. NOTES AND COMMENTS                                          153

        INDEX                                                        165



MAPS


        PAGE

  1. ILLUSTRATING THE OPERATIONS OF 15TH-20TH JUNE                   1

  2. THE BATTLE OF WAVRE--POSITIONS AT DAYBREAK, 19TH JUNE         115

  3. ILLUSTRATING GROUCHY’S RETREAT FROM NAMUR                     133

[Illustration: MAP ILLUSTRATING THE OPERATIONS OF JUNE 15^{ṬḤ} TO
20^{ṬḤ} 1815.

  _William Stanford & Company, Ltd._, _The Oxford Geographical Institute._

John Murray, Albemarle St., W.]



THE BATTLE OF WAVRE AND GROUCHY’S RETREAT



CHAPTER I

BRIEF DISCUSSION OF THE EARLIER OPERATIONS--UP TO LIGNY


The Allied troops in the Netherlands had begun to concentrate as early
as the 15th of March. They were cantoned from Trèves and Coblentz to
Courtrai. But their commanders were away in Vienna--both Wellington and
Blucher. The largest number that could be concentrated to meet a sudden
attack on Belgium in April was 80,000 men. Of these, 23,000 were
Anglo-Hanoverian troops, 30,000 were Prussians, 14,000 were Saxons, and
the remainder Dutch-Belgians. The spirit of discipline was almost wholly
wanting among the Saxons and Dutch-Belgians; the greater part of them
had, at one time or another, served Napoleon, and were not to be
trusted. Kleist, commanding the Prussians on the Rhine, had arranged
with the Prince of Orange, who commanded the troops in the Netherlands,
that, in the event of a French attack, they would retire together on
Tirlemont; thus leaving Brussels exposed, and giving the enemy a firm
footing in Belgium.

By the 1st of April, Napoleon could have mustered a force of 50,000 men
on the frontier near Charleroi. He could have marched direct on Brussels
(as the Prince of Orange and Kleist had agreed to fall back). With
Brussels in his hands, he could have turned and repeated his favourite
strategy by falling upon the allied armies in turn. Wellington was
dreading such an attack.

But the project, although it may have entered Napoleon’s thoughts, was
never seriously contemplated by him. His army, although rapidly being
raised, organised, and equipped in hundreds of thousands of men, was not
yet in a condition to enter upon a prolonged campaign. He might gain a
slight temporary success with these 50,000 men; he might be reinforced
by another 100,000 in the North; but, meantime, how should he check the
other great invading armies of the Allies? For their preparations were
forging ahead. Barclay de Tolly was marching with 167,000 Russians in
three columns through Germany. Marshal Schwarzenberg, commanding an
Austrian army of 50,000 men, and the Archduke Ferdinand, at the head of
40,000 men, were hastening to reach the Rhine. One hundred and twenty
thousand men were being collected in Lombardy, after Murat’s decisive
overthrow. Prince Wrede, commanding a Bavarian army 80,000 strong, was
assembling his forces behind the Upper Rhine. Truly a formidable array!

To strike a premature blow at Belgium with 50,000 men did not therefore
commend itself to Napoleon as a possible opening. By waiting, he not
only increased his army and reserve forces; he made it appear that the
war was being forced upon him by the threatened invasion of France. His
apparent reluctance to open hostilities would be a great point in his
favour. Then, again, the plans of the Allies would unfold themselves
presently, and he could strike at will.

While the Allies were planning and re-planning, discussing and arguing
their plans of campaign, their brilliant adversary was growing daily
stronger. But the position was an intricate one. A too-hasty invasion of
France with ill-concentrated forces would have brought about a
repetition of the 1814 campaign outside Paris. There were to be no
half-measures with Napoleon this time.

Many plans were put forward by the Allied generals; and after lengthy
discussion, it was finally decided to adopt a modified scheme proposed
by Schwarzenberg, which was to come into operation towards the end of
July. This plan provided for the simultaneous invasion of France by six
armies. Wellington, with 92,000 British, Dutch-Belgians, Hanoverians,
Nassauers and Brunswickers, was to cross the frontier between Beaumont
and Maubeuge; Blucher, with 116,000 Prussians, between Beaumont and
Givet; Barclay de Tolly, with 150,000 Russians, _viâ_ Saarlouis and
Saarbruck; and Schwarzenberg, with 205,000 men--Austrians, Wurtembergers
and Bavarians--by Basle; Frimont, with 50,000 Austrians and Piedmontese,
was to advance on Lyons from Lombardy, while Bianchi, at the head of
25,000 Austrians, was to make for Provence. The first four armies were
to converge on Paris, by Peronne, Laon, Nancy and Langres respectively;
and the two last were to create a diversion in the South and support the
Royalists.

This was the final plan of the Allies; but long before the date fixed
for the first moves, Napoleon was fully acquainted with their designs.
Newspaper reports and secret letters had kept him informed throughout
the preparations. He tells us that he worked out two alternative plans
of campaign. His first idea was to concentrate a force of 200,000 men
outside Paris, and await the approach of the Allied armies. He proposed
to gather the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Corps, the
Imperial Guard, and Grouchy’s Cavalry Reserve, round the Capital, which
would be garrisoned by 80,000 regular troops, mobilised guards and
sharpshooters, strongly entrenched and governed by Davoût: and to
concentrate round Lyons Suchet’s army of the Alps, 23,000 men, and
Lecourbe’s Corps of the Jura, 8,000 men. All the great fortresses were
strongly garrisoned; and Napoleon intended to let the Allies advance
until they were surrounded with these powerful garrisons and faced by
himself with 200,000 men. The date fixed by the Allies for the crossing
of the frontier was 1st July. It would take them three weeks to draw
near Paris. By that time the entrenchments round the Capital would be
completed. But the Allies, operating on six different lines, would be
obliged to detach large forces to watch Suchet and Lecourbe, and to mask
the great strongholds in their way. When they had approached Paris,
their great armies would have been thus reduced to 400,000 men, far from
their bases, and faced by the greatest soldier of modern time. The
campaign of 1814 would be repeated, but Napoleon would have 200,000 men
at his back, and a powerful entrenched camp at Paris. Thus the Allies
would in all probability be crushed in detail; whether they would
recover and overwhelm Napoleon by sheer weight of numbers seemed
doubtful.

But to allow France to be over-run in the meantime by the invaders would
enrage the Parisians; and Parisians had always to be reckoned in any
plan of Napoleon’s. A more splendid scheme soon presented itself to him.
He had a great idea of the importance of winning Brussels: and defensive
warfare was unworthy of his genius. He resolved to attack before the
Allies should be concentrated. By the middle of June his available
forces on the Northern frontier would amount to 125,000 men.

    “He would enter Belgium: he would beat in turn, or separately,
    the English and the Prussians; then, as soon as new
    reinforcements had arrived from the depôts, he would effect a
    junction with the 23,000 men under Rapp, and would bear down
    upon the Austro-Russians.”[1]

Here was a plan after his own heart. To establish himself once more at
the head of the nation he must win a glorious victory for France. The
minds of Frenchmen were peculiarly susceptible to the inspiriting
effects of military glory. Therefore he would strike at Belgium: he
would separate Blucher from Wellington and beat each army in turn. And
here is revealed the nicety of his calculations. He must attack and beat
either Wellington or Blucher before they could join their forces.

    “If he directed his line of operations against Brussels through
    Ath, and debouched from Lille or Condé against Wellington’s
    right, he would merely drive the English army towards the
    Prussian army, and two days later he would find himself face to
    face with their united forces. If, on the contrary, he marched
    against Blucher’s left, through Givet and the valley of the
    Meuse, in the same way he would still hasten the union of the
    hostile forces by driving the Prussians to the English. Inspired
    by one of his finest strategical conceptions, the Emperor
    resolved to break boldly into the very centre of the enemy’s
    cantonments, at the very point where the English and Prussians
    would probably concentrate. The road from Charleroi to Brussels
    forming the line of contact between the two armies, Napoleon,
    passing through Beaumont and Phillippeville, resolved, by this
    road, to fall like a thunderbolt on his foe.”[2]

Wellington’s troops were scattered in cantonments stretching over an arc
from Oudenarde to Quatre-Bras. The Second Corps, under Lord Hill,
formed the extreme right, and occupied Ghent, Oudenarde, Ath and Leuze.
The Corps was 27,000 strong, of whom scarcely 7,000 were British troops.
The First Corps, under the Prince of Orange, occupied Mons, Rouelx,
Soignies, Genappe, Seneffe, Frasnes, Braine-le-Comte, and Enghien. This
Corps was 30,000 strong, of whom only 6,300 were British. Its left
rested on Genappe, Quatre-Bras, and Frasnes, and was in touch with the
right of the First Corps, of the Prussian army, under Zieten, whose
headquarters were at Charleroi. Wellington’s Reserve, 25,500 men, was
posted in the neighbourhood of Brussels, under the Duke’s personal
command. The Cavalry, under Lord Uxbridge, was comprised in seven
brigades, British and King’s German Legion; with one Hanoverian brigade,
five squadrons of Brunswick Cavalry, and three brigades of Dutch-Belgian
Cavalry. The Brunswickers were stationed near Brussels; the three
Dutch-Belgian brigades were allotted to the First Corps, and the
remainder of the cavalry were stationed at Ninove, Grammont, and in the
villages scattered along the Dender.

Wellington was expecting an attack by way of Lille and Courtrai, and
always regarded this direction as Napoleon’s best move. For his army was
based on Ostend, Antwerp, and the sea; hence, had Napoleon attacked by
way of Mons, he would have cut Wellington’s communications, and forced
him to evacuate Brussels. On the other hand, he would have driven the
English army towards the Prussians.

Wellington’s dispositions were eminently suited to rapid concentration
on threatened points, while, at the same time, they were sufficiently
scattered to make the subsistence of the troops possible. He had
selected Oudenarde, Ath, Enghien, Soignies, Nivelles, and Quatre-Bras as
points of interior concentration; and in this way, by whichever route
Napoleon chose to attack, Wellington could bring his Reserve to the
threatened point, and at the same time bring the remainder of his forces
into concentration, enabling him to throw at least two-thirds of his
whole force in front of the enemy within twenty-four hours.

Blucher’s army, 116,000 strong, was divided into four Corps. The First
Corps, under Zieten, had its headquarters at Charleroi; and its outposts
stretched from Bonne Espérance through Lobbes, Thuin and Gerpinnes to
Sossoye. Its right was in touch with the left of the Prince of Orange’s
Corps of Wellington’s army. The Second Corps, under Pirch I., had its
headquarters at Namur. Its Divisions were stationed in Thorembey les
Beguignes, Heron, Huy and Hannut. Its outposts stretched from Sossoye
to Dinant. The Third Corps, under Thielemann, whose headquarters were at
Ciney, had its Divisions stationed at Asserre, Ciney, Dinant and Huy.
Its outposts extended from Dinant to Rochefort. The Fourth Corps,
Bulow’s, had its headquarters at Liège: its Divisions were stationed at
Warème, Hologne, Liers, Tongres and Lootz.

Bluchers scheme of concentration enabled him to collect his four Corps
together at their respective points of assembly--Fleurus, Namur, Ciney
and Liège, within twelve hours. If the French crossed the Sambre at
Charleroi, Blucher intended to concentrate his army in front of
Sombreffe, on the Namur-Nivelles road, where he would be within 8 miles
of Quatre-Bras, Wellington’s point of concentration under those
circumstances. If Napoleon moved along the Meuse towards Namur, the
First, Second and Fourth Corps were to concentrate on Namur, while
Thielemann’s Corps, the Third, acting from Ciney, would attack the
enemy’s right flank. If, again, Napoleon advanced on Ciney, Zieten,
Pirch I. and Thielemann were to concentrate their Corps on Ciney, and
the Fourth Corps was to remain at Liège as a Reserve.

These were the dispositions of the Allies; but they were not
strategically in a sound position. Wellington’s line of supply lay
through Ostend and Antwerp to the sea; Bluchers lay by Liège and
Maestricht to the Rhine. Therefore, in the event of a disaster to
either, or both, their lines of retreat would carry them further apart.
It was this weakness on which Napoleon based his whole plan. The
Prussian army, being the nearer to Napoleon, would be the first met
with, and therefore the first to concentrate. By a rapid crossing of the
Sambre at Charleroi, Napoleon would force the First Corps back on
Fleurus, where the Prussian army was to concentrate, and throw himself
on the point of junction of the Allied armies when concentrated; namely,
the Quatre-Bras-Sombreffe road. He knew that the Prussians, by reason of
their dispositions, would be concentrated first, and he therefore hoped,
by possessing himself of the point of junction, to beat their
concentrated army before Wellington, who, he decided, would be much
slower in assembling his troops, could come up to Quatre-Bras. It was of
vital importance to Napoleon to beat the Prussian army, entirely and
completely, in its position at Sombreffe, before Wellington could come
to Blucher’s assistance. The retreat of the Prussians on Wavre without
such a decisive defeat, would have upset the whole plan: for Wellington
would then have retired and united with Blucher, either in front of
Brussels or behind it. But, if thoroughly beaten, the Prussians would
retreat on Liège: and only in this way could Napoleon effectually
separate the two armies and crush them in turn. Such was Napoleon’s
argument. In conception, the plan was brilliant; but its execution was
unworthy of him.


_Composition of the French Army._

Napoleon’s Grand army for the invasion of Belgium was made up of the
First, Second, Third, Fourth and Sixth Corps d’Armée; four Corps of
Reserve Cavalry; and the Imperial Guard; a total of 116,124 men. The
First Corps, under d’Erlon, consisted of the First, Second, Third, and
Fourth Infantry Divisions, and the First Light Cavalry Division. In the
early part of June, the Corps was stationed at Lille. The Second Corps,
under Reille, consisted of the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Infantry
Divisions, and the Second Light Cavalry Division. This Corps was
quartered at Valenciennes. The Third Corps, Vandamme’s, comprised the
Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Infantry Divisions, and the Third Light
Cavalry Division, and was stationed at Mézières. The Fourth Corps,
Gérard’s, was composed of the Twelfth, Thirteenth and Fourteenth
Infantry Divisions, and the Seventh Light Cavalry Division. The Corps
was stationed in Metz, Longwy, and Thionville. The Sixth Corps, Lobau’s,
was made up of the Nineteenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-first Infantry
Divisions; it was stationed at Laon. Grouchy commanded the four Corps of
Reserve cavalry; these First, Second, Third, and Fourth Cavalry Corps
were commanded by Pajol, Excelmans, Kellermann, and Milhaud
respectively; they were mostly stationed between the river Aisne and the
frontier. The Imperial Guard consisted of twelve regiments of infantry,
two regiments of heavy cavalry, three of light cavalry, and thirteen
batteries of artillery. The Guard left Paris for Avesnes early in June.
To the First and Second Corps d’Armée were attached six batteries; to
the Third and Fourth, five batteries; and to the Sixth, four batteries
of artillery.

This army was the best, in point of courage, warlike spirit, and
devotion to himself, that Napoleon ever led. But the men were without
discipline, and distrusted their leaders. Napoleon’s generals were not
the best that had ever served under him. Ney was a tried veteran, the
“bravest of the brave,” but he had just come over to Napoleon from Louis
XVIII. Grouchy had never held an independent command. It is remarkable
that _both_ Ney and Grouchy should have failed Napoleon in this, his
last, campaign; but neither were fitted to the great trusts committed to
them. Napoleon himself was not the same man who had beaten back the
Allies a year previously at Montmirail, Montereau, and Champaubert, but
he was still a master of strategy and the strongest man of France.


_The First Movements of the French._

Napoleon began his concentration early in June. He moved the First Corps
from Lille to Avesnes; the Second from Valenciennes to Maubeuge; the
Third from Mézières to Chimay; the Fourth from Thionville to Rocroi; the
Sixth from Laon to Avesnes; and the Guard from Paris to Avesnes.

The concentration was in full swing, with the exception of Grouchy’s
Reserve Cavalry, when Napoleon left Paris on the night of 11th June.
Grouchy had not received his orders for concentration from Soult, the
Chief of the Staff, who had neglected to send them until the 12th. Here
was an omission at the outset which might well have had serious results.
But Grouchy lost no time in setting his Corps on their roads, and by
rapid marching he had all his cavalry beyond Avesnes on the night of the
13th.

On the evening of the 14th Napoleon moved his headquarters to Beaumont.
The First Corps was on the extreme left, between Maubeuge and
Solre-sur-Sambre; the Second Corps between Solre-sur-Sambre and Leers;
the Third and Sixth Corps between Beaumont and the Sambre; the Fourth
Corps between Phillippeville and Florenne; Grouchy’s Reserve Cavalry
between Beaumont and Phillippeville; the Imperial Guard at Beaumont.
This concentration was brilliantly planned, and skilfully executed:
worthy of Napoleon’s best days.

The French army crossed the frontier early in the morning of the 15th of
June, in three columns. The left column (d’Erlon’s and Reille’s Corps)
crossed by Thuin and Marchienne; the centre column (Vandamme’s, Lobau’s
Corps, Imperial Guard, and Grouchy’s Reserve Cavalry), at whose head was
the Emperor himself, crossed by Ham-sur-Heure, Jamioux, and Marcinelle;
the right column, Gérard’s Corps, by Florennes and Gerpinnes. The front
was covered by twelve regiments of cavalry.

The arrangements for relieving the troops of a fatiguing march by
avoiding the crossing of columns in front of each other, and for the
communication between each column, were admirable. The baggage and
ammunition waggons, except those of the latter which were required for
immediate use, were kept 9 miles in rear of the army. The advanced
guards of the different columns communicated constantly with each other,
so that no column should get ahead of the others. A screen of scouts was
sent out in all directions to obtain every scrap of information as to
the enemy’s position, and report direct to the Emperor. Everything was
to be done to ensure the rapid march of a well-concentrated army on the
point where it was expected that the Prussians would be met with. But
three of the Corps commanders failed to carry out their instructions.
D’Erlon started from his camp at half-past four instead of at three
o’clock, as ordered. Vandamme never knew of the march of the army until
Lobau’s Corps pushed on his rear: the orders sent to him from
headquarters had not reached him, owing to an accident to the officer
sent by Soult. And Gérard, who should have marched at three, did not
reach Florennes until 7 A.M. All this was carelessness. Soult should
have sent such important orders in duplicate. It is interesting to
observe how these delays affected the subsequent movements of the
columns on the 15th.

But, first of all, the centre column shall be followed, as being that
led by the Emperor himself. In the advance on Charleroi, Pajol’s cavalry
led the way. Zieten’s outposts were everywhere driven in, and when Pajol
entered Charleroi at midday (the 15th) the Prussians had withdrawn, and
taken up a strong position at Gilly, 2 miles north-east of Charleroi.
The centre column halted to await Vandamme’s arrival; for Grouchy, who
did not like the appearance of the Prussian position, would not attack
until he had Excelmans’ Cavalry and Vandamme’s Corps with him. Napoleon,
impatient at the delay, took command in person at 5 P.M., and pushed
home a vigorous attack; and the Prussians retired at dusk to Fleurus.
Vandamme and the Cavalry bivouacked within 2 miles of the Prussians. The
Guard bivouacked between Gilly and Charleroi; Lobau’s Corps south of the
river, near Charleroi; and Gérard’s Corps on the right, crossing the
Sambre at Châtelet, bivouacked on the road to Fleurus. Napoleon thus had
the Third, Fourth, and Sixth Corps, the Imperial Guard, and Grouchy’s
Cavalry concentrated between Fleurus and Charleroi, intending to attack
the Prussians in strength next day, either at Fleurus or at Sombreffe.
The Emperor passed the night at Charleroi.

Had it not been for Vandamme’s delay, and had Grouchy attacked the
Prussians at once at Gilly, the latter could have pushed his enemy as
far as Sombreffe that night, which it was Napoleon’s intention that he
should have done. But Vandamme’s slowness prevented Grouchy from
advancing further than Fleurus that evening.

On the Left, matters had not, by nightfall, progressed as far as
Napoleon wished. Reille, in accordance with his instructions, had
marched with his Corps, the Second, from Leers at 3 A.M., and pushed on
to Marchienne, everywhere driving back the enemy’s outposts. He was then
ordered to march on Gosselies, where it was reported that a body of
Prussians were in position. He therefore pushed on his troops along the
Charleroi-Brussels road; and finding Jumet occupied by a Prussian
rearguard, he drove out the enemy, and reached Gosselies at about 5 P.M.
Marshal Ney now arrived on the scene, and, having just come from the
Emperor, from whom he received his orders, took over the command of the
Left Wing. Ney pushed on to Frasnes with Piré’s Cavalry and Bachelu’s
Infantry Division: Girard’s Division was sent to pursue the Prussians,
who had retreated from Gosselies towards Fleurus: the remaining
divisions of Reille’s Corps--Jerome’s and Foy’s--stayed at Gosselies.
Ney drove back Saxe-Weimar’s Brigade from Frasnes at 6.30 P.M.; the
brigade retiring on Quatre-Bras. Lefebvre-Desnouette’s Division of Light
Cavalry of the Guard had arrived with Ney, and was now moved in support
of his infantry at Frasnes.

Thus Ney, at 6.30 P.M., while there were still nearly three hours of
daylight left, had with him two light cavalry divisions, and one
infantry division, at Frasnes. The distance to Quatre-Bras was 2½ miles.
In less than an hour he could have reached the cross-roads and attacked
Saxe-Weimar’s Brigade. But he merely pushed his cavalry forward,
reconnoitred the position, and then withdrew his men to Frasnes, himself
returning to Gosselies at about 8.30 P.M.

Now it has been fiercely contested that Ney received verbal orders from
Napoleon to occupy Quatre-Bras on the night of the 15th. Whether he did
or did not is a point still undecided by the authorities on the
campaign, but it matters little, for Napoleon, in his written orders to
Ney on the 16th, expressed his satisfaction with the progress of the
night before, and did not blame Ney for his failure to occupy the
cross-roads. As a matter of fact, Saxe-Weimar made such a bold show of
resistance to the reconnaissance sent by Ney, that the latter was
entirely deceived as to his enemy’s numbers: he believed that the
English were in great force there. Had Ney attacked Quatre-Bras that
night, he would have driven back Saxe-Weimar’s Brigade of Nassauers, the
only troops in occupation, and seized the most important point in the
theatre of war. But, viewing the question from what must have been Ney’s
own point of view, he was acting on sound strategical principles by not
pushing ahead too far. He had only just arrived on the ground, and was
not acquainted with any of his Staff, or his divisional generals, or
even with the strength of his troops. He believed that a strong English
force held Quatre-Bras, and that, by attacking, he would be overwhelmed
by the whole of Wellington’s army; that Napoleon’s Left Wing would be
crushed. He therefore adopted more cautious methods, and awaited the
arrival of d’Erlon’s Corps, and news of the progress of the Centre and
Right Wing.

Prince Bernard of Saxe-Weimar may be credited with having saved the
situation for the Allies. Had he adhered rigidly to the principles of
strategy, he would have fallen back from Quatre-Bras; but instead, his
fine courage prompted him to hold on until supports should arrive, and
his boldness triumphed over Ney’s prudence. If Ney had seized
Quatre-Bras that night, and if the succeeding events had taken place as
they did take place, the battle of Waterloo would never have been
fought, for Wellington could not have risked a battle without hope of
Prussian assistance. But there were many little risks and chances which
might have changed the whole result of the campaign!

To return to d’Erlon. By starting an hour and a half later than he was
ordered to do, he lost most valuable time; and throughout the day he
took no pains to make up for the delay, although he actually received an
order from Soult, late in the afternoon, to the effect that he was to
join Reille at Gosselies that evening. Instead of this, by nightfall his
leading division, Durutte’s, was at Jumet, 1½ miles in rear of
Gosselies, and his Headquarters at Marchienne, 6 miles in rear! Matters
had not progressed at all satisfactorily on the Left Wing.


_The 15th of June on the side of the Allies._

Blucher had decided upon a concentration of his whole army at Sombreffe,
in the event of Napoleon attacking by Charleroi. Therefore, on the
evening of the 14th, he ordered the Second, Third, and Fourth Corps to
concentrate on Sombreffe, while the First Corps was to make a stout
resistance, and fall back slowly on Fleurus, which Zieten was to hold,
in order to gain time for the concentration. These arrangements were
made without any definite agreement between Wellington and Blucher, as
to the Duke’s movements under these circumstances. It was understood
that each should give the other all the assistance in his power, in the
event of a French attack; but no formal undertaking for definite action
was entered into. Besides, Blucher, when he ordered his concentration,
believed that Wellington’s troops were too scattered to allow of their
concentration within two days. He could not therefore have expected much
actual support from Wellington. There was also the possibility that
Wellington himself was confronted with a strong force.

In the concentration of the Prussian Corps, another defect in the
transmission and execution of orders from Headquarters must be
mentioned. Gneisenau, the chief of Blucher’s Staff, sent instructions to
Bulow, commanding the Fourth Corps, on the 14th, to the effect that he
was so to dispose his Corps that his troops might reach Hannut in one
march. The order was indefinite, and contained no statement that
Napoleon was about to attack; there was no mention of the disposition of
the other Prussian Corps; no mention of Blucher’s intentions, or of the
general situation. This was culpable negligence on the part of the
chief of the Staff. It was his duty under the circumstances to transmit
all such important information to all the Corps commanders; and because
Bulow’s Corps was some distance in rear, is no reason why such a
necessary step should have been omitted. The result was a serious delay
on the part of the Fourth Corps. At midnight on the 14th, a second
despatch from Gneisenau was sent to Bulow, ordering a concentration of
his Corps on Hannut. The first despatch reached Bulow at 5 A.M. on the
15th, when he was at Liège. The instructions contained in it were at
once acted upon, and Bulow sent a report to this effect to Headquarters.
While these instructions were being carried out, the second despatch
arrived towards midday (on the 15th). Its contents seemed to Bulow to be
impossible to act upon until the next day, for most of his troops were
by this time so far in their movement that the new order could not reach
them in time to be carried out that night; also there would be no
quarters prepared for those troops which were still within reach of the
new instructions. Furthermore, this second despatch was also indefinite.
It contained no positive order that Bulow was to move his headquarters
to Hannut; it merely suggested that Hannut appeared suitable. There was
no mention of the commencement of hostilities. Bulow therefore decided
to postpone the execution of this order until the 16th, and he sent a
report to this effect to Blucher, promising to be in Hannut by noon next
day (16th). The officer sent with this report reached Namur at 9 P.M.,
expecting to find Blucher there, but he discovered that Headquarters had
been removed to Sombreffe. Meanwhile, a third despatch was sent off at
11 A.M. on the 15th from Namur, instructing Bulow to move the Fourth
Corps, after a rest at Hannut, on Gembloux, starting at daybreak on the
16th. The orderly carrying this message naturally went to Hannut, where
he expected to find Bulow. At Hannut he found Gneisenau’s second
despatch lying unopened, awaiting Bulow’s arrival. He then started off
at all speed with both despatches to Liège, where he arrived at daybreak
on the 16th. But by this time Gneisenau’s instructions were
impracticable. Thus Bulow, through no fault of his own, was prevented
from reaching the field of Ligny with his Corps, when his arrival on the
right flank of the French might have had the same effect that the
arrival of the Prussian army had at the great battle two days later.

While the concentration of the Second and Third Corps was rapidly
progressing behind him, Zieten was occupied with his retreat on
Fleurus. At half-past three in the morning of the 15th, the Prussian
picquets in front of Lobbes, a village on the Sambre, were driven in by
the advanced guard of the French Left Column (this was the head of
Reille’s Corps advancing). An hour later, the French opened with
artillery on Maladrie, a hamlet about a mile in front of Thuin. It was
this cannonade which was heard by the troops of Steinmetz’s Division in
Fontaine l’Evêque, and even Zieten at Charleroi heard it. He therefore
lost no time in sending reports to both Blucher and Wellington that
fighting had actually commenced. His report to Wellington gave the Duke
definite news that an attack on Charleroi was imminent, but it did not
induce him to alter his plans in any way. For Wellington was still
apprehensive of an attack by way of Mons, and he judged that his army
was in the best position to meet such an attack. He was unwilling to
engage himself in a move eastwards while there was a chance of the
French attacking from the westwards. With such a belief, it is clear
that Wellington, by concentrating prematurely at Quatre-Bras, which it
was his intention to do if Napoleon’s attack should eventually be by the
Charleroi-Brussels road, would merely carry out the very move which his
enemy would wish. Therefore he awaited more definite news of the French
attack on Zieten.

But Zieten’s report to Blucher made the Marshal more than ever assured
of the wisdom of concentrating at Sombreffe.

The retreat of Zieten’s Corps was very ably carried out. The Prussians
at Maladrie, after maintaining a stubborn resistance, were finally
overpowered, but they retreated in good order on Thuin. Here they joined
a battalion of Westphalian Landwehr, and resistance was made until 7
A.M., when, after suffering very heavy losses, the Prussians fell back
to Montigny. Here, again, they joined two squadrons of Dragoons, who
covered the rest of their retreat to Marchienne. But the French cavalry,
under Pajol, pushed on so vigorously, and the small retreating column
suffered such severe losses, that, upon arrival at Marchienne, a mere
skeleton was left. By this time also the outposts at Lobbes had effected
their retreat on Marchienne. General Steinmetz, commanding the First
Division of Zieten’s Corps, was now fully aware of the French attack. He
therefore sent a staff officer to warn Van Merlen, who commanded the
Dutch-Belgian outposts at St. Symphorien between Binche and Mons, and to
inform him that he was falling back with his Division upon Charleroi.

The manner in which the outposts fell back, and the readiness with which
reports as to the enemy’s movements and those of the several Prussian
picquets and supports were passed from one part of the retreating
Division to the other, and from the right of Zieten’s corps to the left
of Wellington’s army, are worthy of the closest attention. The Prussian
commanders thoroughly understood the value of rapid and accurate
information, distributed to all parts of their commands. The long
Napoleonic wars had taught them something of their profession.

Zieten’s management of his retreat marks him as a very capable soldier.
Towards 8 A.M. he satisfied himself that the whole French army was
making for Charleroi. He therefore sent out the following orders for
retreat: the First Division (Steinmetz’s) to retire by Courcelles to
Gosselies, and take up a position behind the village; the Second
Division to gain time for the retreat of the First by defending the
bridges over the Sambre at Châtelet, Charleroi, and Marchienne; it was
then to fall back behind Gilly. The Third and Fourth Divisions, with the
cavalry and artillery reserves, were to take up position at Fleurus.

Meanwhile, Napoleon was pushing rapidly on Charleroi with the Imperial
Guard and Pajol’s Cavalry Corps. The Prussian detachment holding the
bridge connecting Marcinelle and Charleroi made a stout defence, but was
soon overpowered, and by noon the French had obtained possession of the
town. The Third and Fourth Divisions of Zieten’s Corps were by this time
well on the road to Fleurus, but Steinmetz’s Division was in great
jeopardy. For the French were already masters of the Sambre, even below
Charleroi, and the First Division was in danger of being cut off from
its retreat on Gosselies. Accordingly Zieten, with great resolution,
detached three battalions of infantry from the Third Division, and sent
them to Colonel Lutzow, who was holding Gosselies with a regiment of
Lancers from Roder’s Reserve Cavalry. Lutzow placed one battalion in
Gosselies, and took up a position in reserve with the remainder. As soon
as the French had taken Charleroi, Napoleon ordered Pajol to send a
brigade of Light Cavalry towards Gosselies, and to take the remainder of
his Corps towards Gilly. The Brigade actually reached Jumet ahead of
Steinmetz’s Division, which had not yet crossed a small stream called
the Piéton, which ran between Fontaine l’Evêque and Gosselies. But
Colonel Lutzow went out with his regiment of Lancers from Gosselies, met
the French Hussars, and drove them back with loss, enabling Steinmetz
to reach the village in safety.

In the meantime reinforcements, consisting of the advanced guard of
Reille’s Corps, were being pushed along the Gosselies road, with a view
to cutting off Steinmetz’s retreat, and separating Zieten’s Corps from
Wellington’s army. This move of the French was very skilful, but
Steinmetz, perceiving that his position was one of great danger, made a
feint against the French left flank, and, covering his retreat with a
regiment of Lancers and one of Hussars, withdrew to Heppignies, a
village half-way between Gosselies and Fleurus. Had Steinmetz been
caught and surrounded at Gosselies, Blucher would have been weaker by
one Division in the great struggle at Ligny next day; and he could ill
afford to reduce his numbers.

Ney, who had taken over the command of the French Left Wing, and who was
at this time pushing on with Piré’s Cavalry and Bachelu’s Infantry to
Frasnes, sent Girard’s Division of Reille’s Corps to pursue Steinmetz.
Girard occupied Ransart, and made an attack upon Heppignies, but the
Prussians drove him back, and retired in good order to Fleurus, thus
rejoining the main body of their Corps, and effecting their retreat in a
very skilful manner.

In the Prussian centre, meanwhile, Pirch II.‘s Second Division, which
had been ordered to gain time for the retreat of the First, retired to
Gilly, on the road to Fleurus, when the French entered Charleroi. At
Gilly the Prussians took up a strong position and prepared to delay the
French advance as much as possible. Pirch’s line of defence stretched
from Soleilmont on his right, to Châtelineau on his left; and a small
stream ran in his front at the foot of the ridge on which his position
stood. His left flank was further strengthened by a detachment holding
the bridge over the Sambre at Châtelet. Cavalry patrols watched the
valley of the Sambre for the approach of Gérard’s Corps, which was
already marching on Châtelet. Had Gerard marched earlier from
Phillippeville, he would have prevented, by his occupation of Châtelet
earlier in the day, Pirch’s stand at Gilly.

Grouchy had orders to take Vandamme’s Corps and Excelmans’ Cavalry, and
pursue the Prussians along the Charleroi-Fleurus road; but he was
deceived as to the strength of the enemy at Gilly. Fearing to attack
without further reinforcements, he rode back to Napoleon for
instructions. This was at about 5 P.M. Napoleon, fretting at the delay,
which he regarded as needless, himself rode out with four squadrons of
Cavalry of the Guard, and reconnoitred Pirch’s position. He soon
satisfied himself as to Pirch’s real strength, and gave Grouchy orders
to attack at once. Accordingly, at 6 P.M., artillery fire opened on the
Prussians from two batteries; three infantry columns from Vandamme’s
Corps were ordered to assault in front, and two cavalry brigades to
menace the Prussian flanks. Pirch was preparing to reply to the French
artillery fire, when he received orders from Zieten to retire on Fleurus
_viâ_ Lambusart. As soon as he began to withdraw his battalions, the
French cavalry, under Letort, made a vigorous attack. The Prussian
infantry resisted stoutly, and a regiment of dragoons, with great
boldness, charged the French squadrons with such effect that they were
for the moment checked, and the Prussians were able to gain the cover of
the wood of Fleurus. A battalion of the Sixth Regiment of the Line, by
forming square repeatedly, bravely kept the enemy’s cavalry at a
distance, and gained very valuable time for the retreat of the rest of
Pirch’s Division. In front of Lambusart, where Pirch joined some
battalions of the Third Division and Roder’s Reserve Cavalry, a fresh
position was taken up, and a regiment of Brandenburg Dragoons, sent by
Zieten to support Pirch II., did excellent service by charging the
French horsemen and checking their pursuit. Towards eight o’clock three
batteries of French Horse Artillery, which accompanied the cavalry,
opened fire on Lambusart; but night was coming on, and the attack died
out very shortly afterwards. Pirch II. then withdrew to Fleurus, where
he joined the remainder of Zieten’s Divisions, and the whole Corps
retreated to Ligny. Steinmetz had reached Fleurus from Heppignies at
about 10 P.M.

Zieten’s retreat in the face of almost the whole French army is worthy
of close attention. His men had been marching and fighting from three
o’clock in the morning until ten o’clock at night, and had engaged the
enemy in one or two very sharp conflicts. The skilful manner in which
each Division was withdrawn without getting too closely engaged with the
enemy, and in which the Divisions supported each other, is illustrative
of the best methods of war. That he was able to concentrate his Corps at
Fleurus with a loss of only 1,200 men, after having checked the rapid
onset of the French, speaks very highly for Zieten’s skill in
generalship. The campaign of Waterloo still affords useful lessons and
examples to modern students.

The Prussian Second Corps, under Pirch I., reached Sombreffe by ten
o’clock at night; the Third Corps passed the night at Namur; while the
Fourth Corps was still near Liège.

On Wellington’s side, Van Merlen, commanding the outposts between Mons
and Binche, received the report from General Steinmetz at 8 A.M., to the
effect that the French had attacked and driven in his outposts, and that
he was falling back on Charleroi with his Division. Early in the morning
the troops of Perponcher’s Dutch-Belgian Division, which was stationed
at Hautain-le-Val, Frasnes, and Villers Perruin, heard firing from the
direction of Charleroi. In the afternoon, definite news reached them of
the enemy’s attack on Charleroi, and Perponcher at once assembled his
First Brigade (Bylandt’s) at Nivelles. A picquet of the Second Nassau
battalion was posted in front of Frasnes to give warning of the French
advance. In the meantime, Prince Bernard of Saxe Weimar, with his
Brigade of Nassau troops, belonging to Perponcher’s Division, on his own
initiative moved forward from Genappe to Frasnes, reporting his action
to the headquarters of his division at Hautain-le-Val; and Perponcher
approved. When Ney advanced on Frasnes in the evening, with Piré’s
cavalry and Bachelu’s infantry, Saxe Weimar, after making a determined
show of resistance, skilfully withdrew behind Quatre-Bras, and Ney, as
before-mentioned, was quite deceived as to his actual strength, and
forebore to attack that night.

Zieten’s report to Wellington, sent off from Charleroi at 5 A.M.,
reached the Duke’s headquarters at Brussels at 9 A.M. Wellington did not
consider the news sufficiently definite to cause him to make any
immediate alteration in his dispositions. But at three o’clock in the
afternoon, the Prince of Orange, coming from the outposts near Mons,
where he had seen Van Merlen, and obtained information of the attack on
the Prussians and of their retreat, reported his intelligence to the
Duke. Wellington was now satisfied of the true direction of the French
attack, but he sent orders to General Dornberg at Mons to report at once
any movement of the French in that direction. He then ordered his troops
to concentrate at their respective headquarters. On the left,
Perponcher’s and Chassé’s Divisions were to assemble at Nivelles; the
Third British Division (Alten’s) was to concentrate at Braine-le-Comte
and march on Nivelles in the night; the First British Division (Cooke’s)
was to assemble at Enghien. In the centre, Clinton’s Division (the
Second British) was to collect at Ath, and Colville’s (the Fourth
British) at Grammont. On the right, Steedman’s Division and Anthing’s
Brigade of Dutch-Belgians were to march on Sotteghem. Uxbridge’s
cavalry was to assemble at Ninove, except Dornberg’s Brigade, which was
to march on Vilvorde; (still Wellington had apprehensions for his
right). The Reserve was kept in readiness in and around Brussels; with
orders to be prepared to march at once.

Late that night (the 15th), towards ten o’clock, news of Ney’s attack at
Frasnes was received by the Prince of Orange at Braine-le-Comte. The
latter forwarded the report to Wellington, adding that Saxe Weimar had
fallen back to Quatre-Bras, and that the French advance had been checked
there. A despatch from Blucher at Namur also reached Wellington about
this time, and the Duke decided to march his troops more to their
left--_i.e._ towards the Prussians. He therefore issued a second batch
of orders that night, directing Cooke’s Division from Enghien to
Braine-le-Comte; Clinton’s and Colville’s Divisions from Ath and
Grammont to Enghien; and the cavalry from Ninove to Enghien. The other
dispositions were to remain as they were.

At the close of the 15th, Napoleon’s position promised success for his
efforts next day. Blucher had only Zieten’s Corps concentrated at Ligny;
Pirch’s Corps was still some miles back. Wellington’s army was still far
from Quatre-Bras. Surely, if Napoleon advanced to the attack of the
Prussians at daybreak on the 16th, he must, with his overwhelming
forces, crush half of Blucher’s army and force the remainder to fall
back on Liège? And Ney, if he attacked with Reille’s and d’Erlon’s Corps
(for the latter might have pushed on during the night)--or even with
Reille’s Corps and Piré’s Cavalry--could have driven back the English
force at Quatre-Bras, which, by daybreak on the 16th, had only been
reinforced by the remainder of Perponcher’s Dutch-Belgian Division? Ney
had ridden to Charleroi in the night, and had had an interview with
Napoleon. He must, therefore, have known the state of affairs in the
centre and on the right; he must have told Napoleon how matters stood on
his wing. Why did not Napoleon order him to attack Quatre-Bras at
daybreak on the 16th? There is no satisfactory answer. It is
inconceivable that Napoleon, than whom no general has ever been bolder
and more decisive in his moves or quicker to take action at critical
moments, should have neglected to spend the night of the 15th in
bringing up the troops in rear--Lobau’s Corps, d’Erlon’s Corps, Gérard’s
Corps. What if the columns had straggled out and become doubled in
length? Had Napoleon’s troops never made a greater effort in his earlier
campaigns? There is no doubt existing that Napoleon, great warrior as
he was, let his opportunity slip on the night of the 15th. His advanced
troops were within 2 miles of Ligny, and 3 of the Quatre-Bras-Sombreffe
road. Was not this the very point he had aimed at so carefully in his
plan of campaign? He was already almost master of the line of junction
of Wellington’s and Blucher’s armies. He had, in fact, almost, but not
quite, attained the main objective of his scheme. It was within his
grasp on the night of the 15th. How could Wellington prevent Ney from
capturing Quatre-Bras at daybreak on the 16th? And how could Blucher
save Ligny and Sombreffe, if Napoleon chose to bring up his two Corps
from Charleroi and Châtelet, and attack at dawn with these overwhelming
numbers? Both these attacks would have called for great efforts from the
French troops, who had been marching and fighting since 3 A.M. on the
15th; but the attacks would have been finished in three or four hours,
and _then_ Napoleon could have thought of giving rest to his tired
infantry, while his cavalry pursued the Prussians back towards Liège. A
day spent in resting and in concentrating, and Napoleon could have
turned to deal with Wellington. The Napoleon of Jena and Austerlitz
would have won the campaign on the 15th.

But the delays of the 15th were insignificant in comparison with those
of the 16th. And there were not only delays on the 16th, but very
serious mistakes--although of a kind without which no war has ever been
waged. It is not our intention to criticise these mistakes so much as to
discuss their effects on the course of the campaign, and to illustrate
their grievous results.


_Movements on the 16th._

Ney, on his return to Gosselies from his interview with Napoleon,
ordered Reille to move Jerome’s and Foy’s Divisions, with his five
batteries of artillery, to Frasnes, whither he himself went. Ney’s
misgivings as to the wisdom of attacking Quatre-Bras were not unfounded.
He feared a movement against his right flank by a strong force of
Prussians whom he believed to be between Quatre-Bras and Ligny. He was
anxious for his left flank, in case some of Wellington’s troops were
moving against him from the direction of Nivelles. He was ignorant of
the real strength in front of him at Quatre-Bras. He had no staff
officers whom he could send out to gather information on these points.
He was unwilling to risk damaging Napoleon’s plans by inviting defeat
while so far in advance of the centre column. He therefore waited for
d’Erlon’s Corps and Kellermann’s Corps of heavy cavalry, which Napoleon
had promised to send him. He despatched orders to d’Erlon to bring up
the First Corps with the utmost speed to Frasnes.

In the meantime, Wellington’s troops were fast moving on Nivelles and
Quatre-Bras. Lord Uxbridge’s Cavalry and Clinton’s Division were ordered
to move on Braine-le-Comte, and Steedman’s Division with Anthing’s
Brigade from Sotteghem to Enghien at daybreak. Picton’s Division started
from Brussels for Quatre-Bras at 2 A.M. The Duke of Brunswick, with
5,000 Brunswick infantry, left at 3 A.M. At 3 A.M. also Perponcher
reached Quatre-Bras with his First Brigade of Dutch-Belgians, under
Bylandt. The Prince of Orange arrived at Quatre-Bras at 6 A.M.,
reconnoitred Ney’s position, and pushed Perponcher’s troops further
forward. He gave orders that as great a show of strength as possible was
to be made, but a close or premature engagement with the enemy was to be
avoided. Thus at 7 A.M. the Prince had 9 battalions of Dutch-Belgian
troops, and 16 guns, holding Quatre-Bras; Ney opposite, with Piré’s
Division of Lancers, Bachelu’s Division of Infantry, and
Lefebvre-Desnouette’s Cavalry of the Guard, in all 9,700 men, and the
remainder of Reille’s Corps in support at Frasnes!

Wellington himself arrived at Quatre-Bras at 11 A.M., inspected the
position, saw that the French were not preparing an immediate attack,
and complimented the Prince of Orange on his dispositions. He then rode
off to the mill of Bussy, where he met Blucher. It is not necessary to
go into the details of this interview. Suffice it to say that Wellington
agreed with Blucher that he would come to the latter’s assistance at
Ligny, _if he was not himself attacked_.

At 11 A.M. Ney received from Napoleon a letter giving him detailed
instructions as to the movements of the French army. The Emperor told
Ney that he intended attacking the Prussians at Ligny, driving them back
on Gembloux. Ney was then to march on Brussels, and Napoleon, marching
by the Sombreffe-Quatre-Bras road with his Imperial Guard, would support
him. Thus, according to the letter, Ney’s movements were to wait upon
Napoleon’s. This interpretation was some cause of Ney’s delays on the
16th.

Soon after the receipt of Napoleon’s letter, Ney received an order from
Soult, chief of the Staff, directing him to move the First and Second
Corps, and Kellermann’s Cavalry, on Quatre-Bras, drive back the enemy,
and reconnoitre as far as he could towards Nivelles and Brussels; also
to push a division to Genappe, and another towards Marbais, so as to
open communication with Napoleon’s left between Sombreffe and
Quatre-Bras. Napoleon’s intention was to reach Brussels by daybreak on
the 17th, having defeated the Prussians, and Ney having defeated the
English!

In accordance with this order, Ney sent instructions to Reille and
d’Erlon. These were to the following effect:--The First, Second, and
Third Divisions of d’Erlon’s Corps were to move to Frasnes; the Fourth
Division of that Corps, with Piré’s Cavalry, was to move to Marbais;
Kellermann’s Cavalry Corps to Frasnes and Liberchies.

Just at this time, a message from Reille reached Ney, stating that
Girard (not Gérard, who commanded the Fourth Corps) had sent in a report
that strong columns of Prussians were moving along the Namur-Nivelles
road, with heavy masses behind them. (These were Pirch’s I. troops
deploying at St Amand and Ligny.) Reille had seen Napoleon’s letter to
Ney, and read its contents, but he wrote to Ney that he would wait the
latter’s instructions, while he prepared his troops for instant march.
Another order from Napoleon reached Ney at this moment. It stated that
the Marshal was to unite the First and Second Corps with Kellermann’s
Cavalry, and drive the enemy from Quatre-Bras, thus distinctly
emphasising the previous order. The Emperor, who thought that Ney would
then have an ample force to crush any troops which could be in front of
him, stated that Grouchy was about to move on Sombreffe.

Girard’s report as to the Prussian columns on the Namur road made Ney
doubly anxious for his position. He therefore again sent urgent orders
to Reille and d’Erlon to hasten up. At 2 P.M., in the belief that
d’Erlon must be close behind, he moved to the attack of the Anglo-Dutch
position with three infantry divisions (Bachelu’s, Foy’s and Jerome’s,
of Reille’s Corps) and Piré’s Division of Light Cavalry, with 5
batteries--a strength of 18,000 men and 40 guns. Opposed to him were the
7,000 infantry and 16 guns of the Prince of Orange.

It is not proposed to give an account of the battle of Quatre-Bras. It
has been shown what an opportunity Ney had lost by not attacking
earlier, and what his reasons were for not doing so. Picton’s Division
and the Duke of Brunswick’s Division arrived early in the afternoon, and
Wellington took over the command. These reinforcements, to which were
added towards the close of the day, Alten’s Division, Cooke’s Division,
two more Brunswick battalions and a battery of Brunswick artillery, gave
Wellington a superiority in numbers over Ney, who was only reinforced by
Kellermann’s Cavalry Corps during the battle. D’Erlon’s Corps had, in
the meantime, been wandering between Ligny and Frasnes.

In its results the battle of Quatre-Bras was of great importance to both
sides. Although Ney had not obtained possession of Quatre-Bras, and had
not defeated Wellington’s troops, nor driven them back on Brussels, yet
he had effectually prevented Wellington joining with Blucher’s right. He
had not been guilty of disobeying orders, and he himself did not feel
confident of victory when he attacked on the afternoon of the 16th. On
the other hand, Wellington had, by his masterly defence, completely
frustrated Ney’s object. He was now in full possession of Quatre-Bras;
he had gained a brilliant victory, and his divisions were still coming
up from behind. Should he receive news of a Prussian victory at Ligny,
he was prepared to attack Ney next morning, and, if successful, to join
Blucher’s right wing and fall upon Napoleon’s left. If the Prussians
were defeated at Ligny, he was ready to fall back and take up a position
where Blucher could join him, and together they would attack Napoleon’s
combined forces.

To turn to events upon the Prussian side, Blucher’s decision to stand at
Ligny was determined by several strategical considerations. Firstly, the
position he chose communicated with Wellington’s left by 6 miles of very
good road, along which co-operation on either hand could be easily
effected. Secondly, he guarded the communications with Aix-la-Chapelle
and the Prussian States. Thirdly, if the Allies should be defeated both
at Quatre-Bras and at Ligny, then two parallel lines of retreat, the one
upon Mont St Jean towards Brussels, and the other upon Wavre towards
Louvain, were available, which would render possible a junction near the
forest of Soignies. Fourthly, if Napoleon had advanced against
Wellington by way of Mons, the Prussians, by concentrating at Sombreffe,
could have marched to the Duke’s assistance, leaving Zieten to watch
Charleroi and the neighbourhood. Fifthly, if Napoleon had advanced on
Namur, the Third Corps (Thielemann’s) could have retreated as did
Zieten’s, and allowed time and protection for the First, Second, and
possibly the Fourth Corps, while Wellington moved to join the Prussian
right.

The situation of the Allied armies was not exactly that of the Austrians
and Sardinians in Italy in 1796-97; there was the possibility of
striking at their point of junction and of beating each army separately,
but the short and excellent line of communication between the points of
concentration of Wellington’s and Blucher’s armies, namely, the
Quatre-Bras-Sombreffe road, afforded each army such easy and rapid means
of effecting a junction, although, in fact, it was not actually used as
a means of co-operation, that there was a “moral” influence in it which
went a long way towards defeating Napoleon’s object. This may sound
somewhat exaggerated; but what was it that made Ney uneasy for his own
right flank on the 15th-16th, before he attacked? The report sent by
Girard that Prussian columns were on that road. What was Napoleon’s fear
during the battle of Ligny? That Wellington would send a force from
Quatre-Bras to join Blucher’s right, along this road. What was the chief
advantage in Wellington’s position at Quatre-Bras? This road again,
which afforded a means of joining the Prussians at Ligny, had the
occasion arisen. And in what way was this road of use to Blucher at
Sombreffe? He could co-operate with Wellington if Napoleon had attacked
_viâ_ Mons.

Blucher had decided to fight at Ligny, even though he had little hope of
the arrival of Bulow’s Corps in time to join the battle. For he
believed that Napoleon’s forces were not superior to his own in
numbers; he had selected the position previously, and had had it
surveyed carefully; he hoped that he would be able to hold his own
either until Bulow arrived, or until night put an end to the fight. In
the event of the Fourth Corps reaching the field in time to take part,
the extra weight in numbers would decide in Blucher’s favour, or else
the Corps would attack Napoleon’s right flank at a time when his troops
would be most fatigued. Or again, if night came on, sufficient time
would have been gained for Bulow’s arrival to be made certain before
daybreak next day, when a successful attack on the French might
confidently be expected. In both cases, any pressure on Wellington would
be relieved, so that the Anglo-Dutch Army might combine with Blucher to
overwhelm the whole of Napoleon’s forces. Thus Blucher reasoned.

To refuse a battle would have meant a retreat along his communications
with the Rhine, and Blucher was most unwilling to abandon his chances of
joining with Wellington.

The battle itself will not be described; but d’Erlon’s wanderings
towards the field and away from it again, and the influence of these
aimless manœuvres on the struggle, may be discussed here.

At eight o’clock that morning (the 16th), Napoleon had sent orders to
Ney to detach one Division of his force to Marbais, so as to support the
Emperor and attack in rear the Prussian right, while the battle of Ligny
was at its height. At 2 P.M., he had ordered Ney to attack and defeat
whatever force might be in front of him (he had ascertained that Ney
must be greatly superior in numbers to the force that opposed him), and
then to move along the Namur road and fall on Blucher’s rear. At 3.15
P.M. this order was reiterated, and in the most emphatic manner was Ney
ordered to bring the whole of his forces to bear on the Prussian right
and rear. When, therefore, at 5.30 P.M., Napoleon was preparing his
greatest blow at Blucher and getting in readiness his Reserves to crush
the Prussian Centre at Ligny, the news that a strong column of infantry,
cavalry, and artillery was making for Fleurus on the French left
arrived, and it might have been guessed that this was a part of Ney’s
forces, acting in accordance with the instructions sent to the Marshal,
but sadly in the wrong direction. Instead of moving against the Prussian
right, this column was making for the left rear of the French. Vandamme,
who forwarded the report to the Emperor, suspended his movements, and
Girard fell back with his Division, until the uncertainty should be
cleared up. For it _was_ possible, perhaps, that Wellington had
overcome Ney and was marching to assist Blucher; Ney had sent no tidings
during the day. Napoleon, at first, believed that the force was the
Division despatched by Ney in accordance with the eight o’clock order;
but he reflected that the numbers were too great for a Division, and
that Ney had been ordered to send the force by Marbais. Then, when
Vandamme’s suspicions were supported by a second report, he became
extremely uneasy; he suspended his projected attack on the Prussian
centre: and sent off an officer of his staff to ascertain the truth. At
7 P.M., nearly two hours after the first appearance of the strange
column, the staff-officer returned, with the tidings that d’Erlon’s
whole Corps was at hand, and was marching to join Napoleon’s left. On
the receipt of this news, the advance of the Imperial Guard was renewed,
and Girard’s Division resumed its former position in line.

How d’Erlon had arrived in this position may be explained with little
difficulty. When Napoleon’s aide-de-camp, Laurent, reached Gosselies
with the morning order, he found that the First Corps was already
marching towards Quatre-Bras, and that d’Erlon himself had gone forward
to Frasnes. Laurent hastened to find him, and on overtaking the columns
of the First Corps on his way, he took upon himself the responsibility
of changing their direction towards St Amand. D’Erlon, on learning what
had been done, rode off at once to join his Corps, sending word to Ney
to inform him what had happened. The road from Frasnes towards St Amand
lay through Villers-Perruin, and it was this direction which brought the
column into such an unexpected position towards the French rear. On
reaching Villers-Perruin, however, d’Erlon sent out a Light Cavalry
Brigade to his left, as a precautionary measure. This Brigade
encountered a Prussian Brigade of Hussars and Lancers under Marwitz, who
withdrew slowly and in good order. Girard’s Division, perceiving the
Prussians retire, became reassured, and moved forward to its original
position. But now, d’Erlon received from Ney a most urgent and
peremptory order to rejoin him at once. D’Erlon, who acted under Ney’s
immediate orders, decided that it was his duty to obey those orders; and
since he had received no definite instructions from the Emperor as to
how he should act when he had brought his Corps on the field, he turned
about and left the ground. Thus he was too late in his return to be of
use to Ney at Quatre-Bras, and the eccentric direction given to his
columns, although the natural outcome of his previous dispositions,
served to postpone Napoleon’s great attack with his Guard for two hours;
and, when the addition of 20,000 men might have entirely overwhelmed the
Prussians, he calmly withdrew his men.

D’Erlon’s error was his inaction when he arrived on the field, and not
so much his diversion from Ney’s orders. He must have known that he
could not return to Quatre-Bras in time to be of any service; but that
by following up Marwitz, and falling on the rear of the Prussian right
wing, he would be most likely to render the very greatest assistance to
Napoleon. How he could have failed to realise the importance of his
presence at such a juncture surpasses all imagination. The very fact
that Marwitz’s Brigade had been able to present some show of compactness
before Jacquinot’s Cavalry might have proved to him that there was still
a stout resistance to be expected on the part of the Prussians. Again,
we think Napoleon should have sent instructions as to how d’Erlon should
act, by his aide-de-camp, in the event of the strange column being
French. Had d’Erlon remained on the left wing to assist Ney, Quatre-Bras
might have been won by the French. Had he realised the uselessness of a
return march to Ney when he was yet at hand to help Napoleon, and
thrown all his weight into the struggle at Ligny, he would have been of
the greatest use in overwhelming the Prussians.

Such mistakes as these are unexpected, and therefore happen, in war.



CHAPTER II

THE THIRD PRUSSIAN CORPS AND GROUCHY’S FORCES


The Third Prussian Corps, commanded by Lieut.-General Thielemann,
entered on the campaign of 1815 with a total strength of 23,980 men and
48 guns. There were four divisions[3] of infantry, containing from six
to nine battalions each. These were composed as follows:--

  NINTH DIVISION--Major-General BORCKE--    Battns.   Men.
    8th and 30th Regiments of the Line          3}   6,752
    1st KURMARK Landwehr Regiment               6}

  TENTH DIVISION--Colonel KAMPFEN--
    27th Regiment of the Line                   3}   4,045
    2nd KURMARK Landwehr Regiment               3}

  ELEVENTH DIVISION--Colonel LUCK--
    3rd and 4th KURMARK Landwehr Regiments      6    3,634

  TWELFTH DIVISION--Colonel STULPNAGEL--
    31st Regiment of the Line                   3}   6,180
    5th and 6th KURMARK Landwehr Regiment       6}
                                                -- ------
              TOTAL Infantry                    30  20,611

The cavalry numbered 2,405 men, in two brigades, as follows:--

RESERVE CAVALRY--General HOBE.

  Colonel MARWITZ’S Brigade--     Squadrons. Men.
        7th Uhlans                      3}
        8th Uhlans                      4}    925
        9th Hussars                     3}

  Colonel Count LOTTUM’S Brigade--
        5th Uhlans                      3}
        7th Dragoons                    5}  1,480
        3rd KURMARK Landwehr            4}
        6th KURMARK Landwehr            4}
                                        -- ------
        TOTAL Cavalry                   26  2,405

The Reserve Artillery of the Corps, under Colonel Mohnhaupt, numbered
964 men, with 48 guns. The guns were divided up into one 12 pr. foot
battery (No. 7), two 6 pr. foot batteries (Nos. 18 and 35), and three
batteries of horse artillery (Nos. 18, 19 and 20). Each battery, horse
and foot, had 8 guns.

SUMMARY.
                      Men.  Guns.
  Infantry          20,611
  Cavalry            2,405
  Artillery            964    48
                    ------    --
          TOTAL     23,980
                    ======

As regards organisation, the Corps was an early form of the modern Army
Corps, although there were no “divisional” troops attached to the
infantry divisions, and the “corps” troops consisted of the cavalry and
artillery brought together as “reserves” under separate commanders, and
the necessary engineers and train. It is curious to note that, in the
actual fighting, the artillery and cavalry, more especially the former,
were divided up, as soon as the battle began. The idea which prevailed
in those days, of cavalry “reserves” and cavalry corps, composed of two
or more “divisions,” is a marked feature of the later Napoleonic era;
and the fact that both disappeared after 1815 goes some way to proving
the futility, or, rather, the disadvantages of such organisations, as
Napoleon meant them. No larger bodies of cavalry than divisions have
been used since; nor has any army since gone forth with a cavalry
“reserve.”

The Prussian infantry regiment had three battalions, one of which was
the Fusilier battalion. The battalions averaged from 750 to 600 men
each; the divisions, from six to nine battalions. The cavalry regiment
was composed of from three to five squadrons; the brigade, of from three
to four regiments. The batteries of artillery, horse and foot, consisted
of 8 guns each, and the personnel of the battery numbered 160 on the
average. Thielemann’s Corps was weak in cavalry and artillery, as
measured by modern notions; the proportions were 1 cavalryman to nearly
every 10 infantry, and 2·4 guns per 1,000 infantry.

The spirit of the troops was excellent, and they were led by brave and
capable officers. The old hatred of the French still burned in the
hearts of the Prussian soldiers, and they desired nothing so much as to
be given an opportunity of revenging Jena and Auerstadt. Their officers
were well trained and full of enthusiasm; they had confidence in their
men, and the latter had confidence in them.

At Ligny, the Corps won praise for its firm behaviour, and although,
during the battle, it had not been hard pressed at any time, at the
close of the day, when the Prussian right and centre were broken, it
maintained its original position before Sombreffe and on Blucher’s left,
enabling the First and Second Corps to withdraw from the field in
safety. When it was almost too dark to distinguish friend from foe,
Thielemann made a bold counter-stroke with two of his battalions. Major
Dittfurth, with the First and Second Battalions of the 30th Prussian
Regiment, moved out from Mont Potriaux, which village he had held
throughout the afternoon, crossed the Ligny, and made a demonstration
against Grouchy on the French right, in order to hinder the pursuit of
the broken Prussian centre. A regiment of Dragoons from Excelmans’ Corps
charged the Second Battalion, but was repulsed, and Dittfurth, gaining
courage, pushed his men further and seized a hill occupied in force by
the French. Two more cavalry charges were launched against them, but
were also repulsed. And now a division of Lobau’s Corps, in a heavy
column, advanced against the First Battalion; but Dittfurth, with great
skill and presence of mind, so disposed the Second Battalion as to bring
a heavy flanking fire on the French, who suffered severe losses from
this fire, and who, being uncertain in the darkness of the strength of
the enemy, withdrew. Dittfurth now checked his advance, having
successfully prevented the French from pressing too hard on the Prussian
centre, and withdrew his battalions to Mont Potriaux. A French cavalry
brigade charged up to the barrier on the Fleurus high-road to gain
Sombreffe, but the Prussians of the Ninth Division beat them off.

When the battle died out in the darkness, Thielemann held the line
Sombreffe-Point du Jour. He remained in position until 3 A.M. on the
17th, when the whole field had been evacuated by the First and Second
Corps; and then he commenced, in perfect order, his retreat to Gembloux,
where he was to join the Fourth Corps, under Bulow, who had arrived
there during the night.

Thielemann’s men were not discouraged by the loss of the battle of
Ligny; on the contrary, they were full of spirit and determination;
their behaviour under fire had been excellent, and they eagerly waited
for a further opportunity of trying their strength with their formidable
enemies.

The losses in the corps at Ligny amounted to about 1,000 men killed and
wounded, and 7 guns lost.

The force detached by Napoleon for the pursuit of the Prussians, and
given over to Marshal Grouchy, numbered 33,611 men and 96 guns. It was
composed as follows:--

  THIRD CORPS--VANDAMME.                      Battns.}   Men.
  Eighth Division--(Lefol)
      15th Light Infantry, 23rd, 37th, and           }
        64th Regiments of the Line                11 }
                                                     }
  Tenth Division--(Habert)                           }
      22nd, 34th, 70th and 88th Regiments            }  14,508
        of the Line                               12 }
                                                     }
  Eleventh Division--(Berthézène)                    }
      12th, 33rd, 56th, and 86th Regiments           }
        of the Line                                8 }
                                                 ---
                Battalions Infantry               31
                                                 ---

  Artillery
                                                Men.    Guns.
      4 batteries Foot[4] Artillery (8 guns
          each)                                  782        32
    Engineers                                    146

  TOTALS, THIRD CORPS

  Infantry                                    14,508
  Artillery                                      782        32
  Engineers                                      146
                                              ------
                                              15,536
                                              ======

  FOURTH CORPS--GÉRARD.

  Twelfth Division--(Pecheux)                  Battns.   Men.
      30th, 63rd, and 96th Regiments of
        the Line                                  10}
                                                    }
  Thirteenth Division--(Vichery)                    }
      48th, 59th, 69th, and 76th Regiments          }
        of the Line                                8}   12,589
                                                    }
  Fourteenth Division--(Hulot)                      }
      9th Light Infantry, 44th, 50th, and           }
        111th Regiments of the Line                8}
                                                  --
                Battalions Infantry               26
                                                 ===

  Seventh Cavalry Division--(Maurin)        Squadrons.    Men.
      6th Hussars                                  3}
      8th Chasseurs                                3}      758

  Reserve Cavalry Division--(Jacquinot)
      6th, 11th, 15th, and 16th Dragoons          16     1,608

  Artillery                                      Guns.
      4 Batteries Foot Artillery                  32}
      1 Battery Horse Artillery                    6}    1,538

  Engineers                                                201

  TOTALS, FOURTH CORPS

                     men.   guns.
  Infantry          12,589
  Cavalry            2,366
  Artillery          1,538
  Engineers            201
                    ------    --
          TOTAL     16,694    38
                    ======    ==

  TWENTY-FIRST DIVISION--TESTE. Detached from
        Lobau’s Corps.                          Battns.  Men.
    8th Light Infantry, 40th, 65th, and 75th
      Regiments of the Line                        5     2,316

    Artillery attached to the Division--         Guns.
      1 Battery Foot Artillery                     8       161

                                                 Men.    Guns.
            TOTAL, Teste’s Division            2,477         8


  _Cavalry_                                 Squadrons.    Men.
  FOURTH CAVALRY DIVISION (belonging
      to 1st Cavalry Corps) under PAJOL
      (commanding First Cavalry Corps)--
    1st, 4th, and 5th Hussars                     12     1,234

  Artillery attached to this Cavalry Division--  Guns.    Men.
    1 Battery Horse Artillery                      6       154

  SECOND CAVALRY CORPS (EXCELMANS’)--
      Ninth Cavalry Division--(Strolz)          Squadrons
        5th, 13th, 15th, and 20th Dragoons        16}
                                                    }
      Tenth Cavalry Division (Chastel)              }    2,817
        4th, 12th, 14th, and 17th Dragoons        15}

  Artillery attached to the Second Cavalry Corps--
                                                 Guns.
      2 Batteries Horse Artillery                 12       246


SUMMARY OF GROUCHY’S FORCES.

  +-----------------------------+---------+--------+----------+------+-----+
  |                             |Infantry.|Cavalry.|Artillery.|Engrs.|Guns.|
  +-----------------------------+---------+--------+----------+------+-----+
  |Third Corps, Vandamme        |  14,508 |     -- |      782 |  146 |  32 |
  |Fourth Corps, Gérard         |  12,589 |  2,366 |    1,538 |  201 |  38 |
  |Twenty-First Division, Teste |   2,316 |     -- |      161 |   -- |   8 |
  |Fourth Cav. Division, Pajol  |      -- |  1,234 |      154 |   -- |   6 |
  |Second Cav. Corps, Excelmans’|      -- |   2817 |      246 |   -- |  12 |
  |                             +---------+--------+----------+------+-----+
  |                             |  29,413 |  6,417 |    2,881 |  347 |  96 |
  |  Deducting losses at Ligny  |   3,940 |    907 |      600 |   -- |  -- |
  |                             +---------+--------+----------+------+-----+
  |            TOTALS           |  25,473 |  5,510 |    2,281 |  347 |  96 |
  +-----------------------------+---------+--------+----------+------+-----+
  33,611 men, 96 guns.

It will be seen that Grouchy was given a large proportion of cavalry,
although the numbers composing the different units were in most cases
very short. Thus the Second Cavalry Corps numbered only 2,817 men,
whereas a modern cavalry corps, or rather, two cavalry divisions (as no
modern army organises larger bodies of cavalry than divisions), would
amount to 9,000 or 10,000 men. The Fourth Cavalry Division (commanded by
Soult, brother of the Chief of the Staff, although under the immediate
orders of Pajol, commanding the First Cavalry Corps), numbered 1,234
instead of 4,896 men, as the modern British Cavalry Division at war
strength would number. The horse batteries consisted of 6 guns, as
opposed to 8 in the Prussian horse batteries. The foot batteries
contained 8 guns each on both sides. The infantry battalions were weak,
averaging from 400 to 500 men. Only Gérard’s Corps was well supplied
with cavalry; the remainder of the cavalry was formed in divisions or
corps. The idea of cavalry reserves served its purpose on the field of
battle in the earlier Napoleonic days, but for such operations as
Grouchy was about to carry out, the organisations were too cumbersome.

Grouchy’s men were good soldiers, but without discipline, without
confidence in their leaders. This would seem paradoxical; but as far as
courage, determination, and tenacity make good soldiers, they were
excellent. Houssaye said of Napoleon’s last army: “He had never before
handled an instrument of war, which was at once so formidable and so
fragile.” Indeed, Ligny proved well enough the impetuosity and dash of
the French soldiers, but it was only the influence of victory which
impelled them; had they suffered defeat, they would, not improbably,
have been panic-stricken. They worshipped the Emperor as their idol, but
for their more immediate superiors they had little respect. De
Bourmont’s desertion on the 15th June, as the army crossed the frontier,
had an injurious effect on the men’s feelings; murmurs rose from the
ranks, and mistrust of their generals was everywhere visible. The
Republican spirit was in them, but now it needed even more than the
personal force of the Emperor to set it blazing again.

At Ligny, the Third (Vandamme’s) and the Fourth (Gérard’s) Corps had
borne the brunt of the fighting, and had splendidly attacked the
stout-hearted Prussians posted in the villages and on the banks of the
stream. The final success of their onslaught against Blucher’s centre
and right, where the terrible slaughter gave evidence of the
stubbornness of the fight, speaks well for the quality of the men. The
cavalry had done little except execute some occasional charges against
Thielemann’s Divisions, and seize Tongrenelles and Balâtre: although
Milhaud’s Cuirassiers (with whom we are not concerned in this narrative)
broke through the centre at Ligny at the close of the day.

The losses were heavy in Vandamme’s and Gérard’s Corps, especially among
the infantry--nearly 4000 killed and wounded; while the cavalry lost 900
and the artillery 600.

There was very little of the spirit of co-operation between Napoleon’s
generals in this campaign. They all had petty jealousies, but none so
strongly as Vandamme, Gérard and Grouchy. And these were the men to whom
the pursuit of the Prussians had been entrusted!

Grouchy was, and had been, a brilliant leader of cavalry. He had not
the impetuous dash of Murat, the greatest of Napoleon’s cavalry
commanders, but he had mastered the art of handling large masses of
horsemen. He was a soldier of twenty years’ war experience, and he had
distinguished himself at Hohenlinden, Friedland, Eylau, Wagram, and in
Russia. He was given the command of the four corps of reserve
cavalry--Pajol’s, Milhaud’s, Excelmans’, and Kellermann’s--early in June
1815, but after Ligny he was appointed to a higher and more responsible
post--commander of the Right Wing, charged with the duty of following up
the Prussians and preventing them from joining Wellington.

Grouchy was not a fit man for independent command. In spite of his
exploits in former days, he had never before been exercised in so great
a responsibility. And no sooner had he received the appointment than he
began expostulating and raising objections. Yet whom else could Napoleon
choose? Murat was no longer with him. Davoût was Minister of War and
Commandant of Paris--he could not be spared. These were the two men who
should have been in Ney’s place and Grouchy’s. Lannes, Dessaix, or
Masséna would have well filled the post instead of Grouchy, but Lannes
and Dessaix were dead, and Masséna’s services were not available.
Napoleon was not now served by his lieutenants as he had been of old,
and his generals were not of the stuff which had composed his earlier
subordinates. The truth is that he could no longer ignore the claims of
rank and seniority. In former days, he could promote to the highest
ranks those whom he chose, and those “who had yet a name to make.”

Of the generals in the Waterloo campaign, on the French side, who could
have taken Grouchy’s place? We cannot say that Gérard could, simply
because he advised Grouchy at Walhain to do the right thing! He was
junior, too, to Vandamme. And Vandamme was a rough, uncouth soldier. He
had commanded a division at the age of twenty-seven, and had exhibited
great qualities as a fighter, but for so important a command as
Grouchy’s, he was not the man. Had he been a really capable general,
would he not have risen beyond one step in rank since 1799? He was a
divisional commander in 1799, and a corps commander in 1815; for sixteen
years he had not risen. Besides, he quarrelled both with Gérard and
Grouchy (as well as with Soult), and his slow movements on the 15th
June, as Napoleon crossed the Sambre, were not entirely due to ignorance
of orders.

Soult was the only possible alternative, but he was already Chief of
the Staff. As Chief of the Staff he was a failure, but he could not be
replaced, and Napoleon desired to have a Marshal of France by his side.
Soult was in disgrace on Napoleon’s return from Elba, but the Emperor
pardoned him and appointed him to the post that should have been given
to Davoût, once the latter had put the organization of the armies in
fair order. Suchet was a better man than Soult for Chief of the Staff,
and Soult was a better man than Grouchy for the command of the right
wing. But Suchet already commanded the army of the Alps.

However, at the time, it was not possible for Napoleon to make an
alternative selection, and Grouchy was the only man available. Up to
this point there had been no reason to doubt his capabilities, and it is
not fair to criticise the man until his faults have been clearly proved;
it must be remembered that mistakes in war are inevitable; and the
“general who makes no mistakes in war has not waged war for long.”[5]



CHAPTER III

THE RETREAT OF THIELEMANN’S CORPS FROM SOMBREFFE


General Gneisenau, who had taken Bluchers place in command during his
temporary disablement (his horse had rolled on him during a close
pursuit by French cavalry), gave orders at the close of the battle of
Ligny for the First and Second Corps (Zieten’s and Pirch I.‘s) to
retreat upon Tilly, and for Thielemann to cover the withdrawal until the
centre and right were clear of the field. He was then to retire upon
Tilly, or, should he not be able to make for that point, to retreat upon
Gembloux, and unite there with the Fourth Corps under Bulow. Thielemann
and Bulow were then to effect their junction with the main army.

The First and Second Corps spent the night of the 16th between Mellery,
Tilly and Gentinnes, on the two roads which lead towards Wavre, and join
at Mont St Guibert. Thielemann remained upon the field of battle until 3
A.M., when he began his retreat upon Gembloux. It was only after the
First and Second Corps had reached Tilly and Gentinnes in the middle of
the night that Wavre was chosen as the rallying point. It is most
probable that Gneisenau’s immediate object was to move the shattered
Corps clear of the battlefield under the firm protection of Thielemann’s
men, before he cast about for a point of assembly. To ensure an orderly
retreat and the soonest possible revival of the defeated troops was the
first thing to be aimed at. And Gneisenau, who is credited with
initiating the brilliant strategy of the retreat to Wavre, took care
first of all to rally his men; for he must have feared a vigorous
pursuit by the French, who, he supposed, would soon force Thielemann to
withdraw.

The retreat of a defeated army in face of the enemy is one of the most
difficult and delicate operations in war. The two chief causes of the
success of the Prussian retreat from Ligny were the favourable darkness
and Thielemann’s firm behaviour at Sombreffe.

It is not necessary to enter here into the details of the retreat of
Zieten and Pirch I., except in so far as they bear upon the subject of
Thielemann’s withdrawal, but a brief description of their movements may
be given. The two Corps retreated by the roads Tilly-Mont St Guibert
and Gentinnes-Mont St Guibert. Pirch’s Corps, arriving second, remained
at Mont St Guibert for a time as rear-guard, to protect the cross-roads,
and still further to steady the men; for the best troops are unsteadied
by retreat. Zieten pushed on to Wavre, arriving at noon, and took his
troops across the Dyle, halting at Bierges, about a mile south-west of
the town. Pirch followed, but did not cross the Dyle; he halted between
Aisemont and St Anne, two villages a mile and two miles south-east of
Wavre.

Gneisenau had given Thielemann the choice of retreating upon Tilly or
Gembloux, a point which could only be decided according to
circumstances. Both of these places were on roads converging upon Wavre,
and at Gembloux there were no less than four alternative routes. When
Thielemann made preparations for his retreat, he considered carefully
the respective advantages of these two points. If he chose Tilly, he
would have to make a flank march along the Namur road to Marbais and
strike northwards from there. He would then be following the road taken
by Pirch I. and Zieten; but this very fact was an objection, because
there were sure to be disabled waggons, broken-down guns, and hundreds
of stragglers to hinder his passage. He could only use one road, too.
But was it safe to expose himself to an attack on his flank by the
French, while he was marching on Marbais? Certainly not; for he could
not possibly slip by in the darkness; it would be daylight before his
rear had cleared Sombreffe. He turned to Gembloux. The road from
Sombreffe to that village was direct. He would not expose either flank
by marching along that road. It was not encumbered with the remnants of
a retreating force; and his troops were already in an easy position to
withdraw. At Gembloux, he might expect to meet Bulow’s Corps; and if so,
the two could unite and use any of the four roads from thence towards
Wavre. It would save a great deal of time if he could employ more than
one road for his march, but he would have to make ample provision for
guarding the rear of his columns, and it would be more difficult to
protect three columns than one. He expected to be closely pursued the
moment he began to retreat, but he would leave a strong rear-guard to
cover him.

But it must be remembered that Thielemann, at this time, did not know
whither the retreat was ordered, beyond Gembloux. He guessed that it was
in the direction of Wavre on account of the route taken by the First and
Second Corps.

He therefore decided to retire upon Gembloux. During the night, he drew
in all his outposts, and collected his somewhat scattered battalions.
In the battle, battalions from one division had become mingled with
battalions from another, and the Reserve Cavalry Division now consisted
only of Lottum’s Brigade; Marwitz’s Brigade had retired with Zieten by
Gentinnes. General Borcke, with the Ninth Division, and General Hobe
with Lottum’s Cavalry Brigade, were left as rear-guard, drawn up along
the Namur road, between Sombreffe and Point du Jour. At 2 A.M. the head
of the Corps, consisting of the Reserve Artillery, moved off, and by 4
A.M., after sunrise, the rear-guard started. Two hours’ marching brought
the main body to Gembloux. Here Thielemann, having found out that Bulow
with the Fourth Corps had reached Baudeset, on the old Roman road, about
3 miles behind Gembloux, called a halt to rest his troops. It was a
hazardous step, so far as he knew, for the French might be upon him at
any moment; but it must be remembered that he had had no further
instructions as to his future movements, beyond the bare fact that he
was to join Bulow and together they were to unite with the main army.
But where were the First and Second Corps?

Thielemann sent word to Bulow to ask him if he had had any instructions
as to their movements, and telling him that he had not yet been
followed by the French. Bulow could give no information; but at 9.30
A.M., an aide-de-camp from Blucher arrived with orders for the Fourth
Corps to march on Dion-le-Mont, a village 3 miles east of Wavre, _viâ_
Walhain and Corbaix. The orders further stated that Bulow was to post
his rear-guard (the Fourteenth Division, under Ryssel--9 battalions, or
6,953 infantry) at Vieux Sart at the end of the march, so as to give
notice of the approach of the French; and to send a force consisting of
1 cavalry regiment, 2 battalions of infantry, and 2 guns of horse
artillery, to Mont St Guibert, to support Colonel Sohr, who was at Tilly
with a cavalry brigade and 4 guns acting as rear-guard to the First and
Second Corps. When Sohr fell back, the detachment from Bulow’s Corps was
to remain at Mont St Guibert as rear-guard on the Tilly road. Bulow
therefore detached Colonel Ledebur with the 10th Hussars, the Fusilier
battalions of the 11th regiment of the line and the 1st Pomeranian
Landwehr, and 2 guns of No. 12 Battery Horse Artillery, to Mont St
Guibert, while the remainder of his Corps marched upon Dion-le-Mont. The
movement was painfully slow, and not until 10.30 P.M. were the troops in
position.

Thielemann, meanwhile, who had received orders to continue his march on
Wavre, made preparations to resume his road. At 2 P.M., his troops
having gained a sound and well-earned rest, secure, strange to say, from
pursuit--for not a Frenchman had been seen--he again advanced, and
passed by Ernage, Nil Perrieux, Corbaix, and La Baraque. He reached
Wavre with his main body at 8 P.M., having covered the 15 miles in six
hours, and passed through to La Bavette, a mile north of Wavre, where he
halted for the night. His rear-guard (the Ninth Division and Lottum’s
Cavalry Brigade) did not reach the Dyle until midnight; they bivouacked
on the right bank. Marwitz, with his Cavalry Brigade, which had retired
by Gentinnes with Zieten, now rejoined the Third Corps, and the troops
which had been detached two days before to Dinant (a battalion of the
3rd Kurmark Landwehr, belonging to the Eleventh Division, and two
squadrons of the 6th Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry, belonging to Lottum’s
Brigade) also arrived. Thus the retreat of the Third Corps was
accomplished in security, and accompanied by none of the disastrous
effects of a defeat.

Defeat at the hands of so great a master of war as Napoleon usually
meant annihilation. To follow up his victory, to pursue the retreating
force, and to leave no vestige of fighting power in the vanquished, is
the aim and object of every general who wins a battle. When the
Prussians were defeated at Ligny, the advantage of vigorous pursuit with
all the available cavalry and Lobau’s Corps would have been enormous.
The whole aim of Napoleon’s strategy had been to crush the Prussians,
and to prevent them from interfering with his attack on Wellington. He
had found Blucher ready to fight at Ligny, and he had beaten him. To
allow Blucher to retreat with fighting power left in his army was the
very result to be avoided at all cost. Then why did not Napoleon follow
up his victory? What are the facts?

The battle was over at about 9 P.M., on the 16th, the broken centre of
Blucher’s line retreating by Bry. Darkness covered the field. Vandamme’s
Third Corps, Gérard’s Fourth Corps, and Milhaud’s Cuirassiers had
well-nigh exhausted themselves in their vigorous attacks, but Excelmans,
Pajol, with their two Cavalry Corps, and Lobau with the Sixth Corps,
were available for the pursuit. Their troops were comparatively fresh;
Lobau had only arrived on the field towards the end of the day. But no
attempt was made to hinder the retreat of Zieten and Pirch I. Thielemann
maintained a firm hold on Sombreffe, but he did not cover Bry or the
roads to Tilly.

The French bivouacked on the battlefield; the Third Corps in front of St
Amand; the Fourth Corps in front of Ligny; the Imperial Guard on the
hill at Bry; the Cavalry behind Sombreffe (and facing Thielemann); and
the Sixth Corps behind Ligny. Grouchy’s vedettes were almost within
ear-shot of Thielemann’s outposts. Yet, although Thielemann’s rear-guard
did not begin to retreat until after sunrise, nothing was discovered,
and when day broke the French were still slumbering heavily in their
bivouacs. Their vedettes should have been moved forward with the first
streak of dawn, to feel for the Prussians. They should, at least, have
_heard_ something, even if they saw nothing; for a retreat cannot be
carried out with absolute silence. There must be cracking of whips,
rumbling of wheels, cries from the drivers, and excitement among the
animals, however quiet the troops themselves may be. If even
half-a-dozen patrols had been sent out to gather information as soon as
day broke, the French could not have failed to discover Thielemann’s
retreat, and, having found it, they would not have had much difficulty
in locating its direction. There seemed to be a fixed resolve to let the
Prussians go free.

On the other hand, there were many reasons which caused Napoleon’s
decision not to pursue during that night. The Prussian right wing had
not been crushed; it retreated because its position was dangerous as
soon as the centre gave way. The left wing, Thielemann’s Corps, was very
firm. There was also the probable arrival of Bulow’s Corps by the Namur
road. The Prussian army was still full of fight. No news from Ney had
been received during the day. Napoleon was in entire ignorance as to the
state of affairs on his left wing. Lastly, a pursuit by night,
especially the pursuit of a still formidable enemy, is a most dangerous
task.

But if there was no actual pursuit by night, means should have been
taken to ascertain the direction of the retreat, for it was
all-important to discover this, and a very few patrols would have
sufficed to gather the information.

If there were good and sufficient reasons for not pursuing by night,
there were none for the delay when day broke. Grouchy had been summoned
to Napoleon’s headquarters at Fleurus at eleven o’clock at night, when
he received orders to send the two Corps of cavalry under Pajol and
Excelmans to pursue the enemy at daybreak. Grouchy then remained at
Fleurus until 9 A.M., when he was ordered to accompany Napoleon on a
tour of inspection of the battlefield! What was the object of visiting
the field at this critical time? This behaviour was most unusual on
Napoleon’s part. Was he affected at the sight of so much bloodshed, and
desirous of cheering the injured? He had witnessed too much slaughter on
the battlefield to be touched with emotion, which can only be a weakness
in a general. The general should fight with as little loss of human life
as possible, but he should not be filled with pitiful reflections in the
crisis of a campaign. Besides, the wounded, both French and Prussians,
were being cared for. There seems to have been some physical cause for
Napoleon’s strange behaviour on the morning of the 17th; for after he
had visited the field he discussed politics and affairs in Paris with
his generals! He wasted the hours until 11 A.M. Shortly before that hour
he had received news from Ney as to the battle at Quatre-Bras, and this
decided him to make his final arrangements. He ordered Lobau to take the
Sixth Corps (less Teste’s Division) to Marbais, to support Ney and
attack Wellington’s left flank. He himself would follow with the
Imperial Guard and Domon’s Light Cavalry Division. Grouchy was to take
the Third and Fourth Corps, Teste’s Division, and Pajol’s and Excelmans’
Cavalry, and pursue the Prussians. Thus only at 11 A.M. on the morning
of the 17th did Napoleon give his orders for the pursuit.

Of course, it was necessary to know what had happened at Quatre-Bras,
but the fact of having received no news from Ney, and, besides, no
assistance from that quarter during the battle at Ligny, should have
suggested to Napoleon that Ney must certainly be in difficulties. Had he
been victorious at Quatre-Bras, he would have been certain to send a
message of some kind, even if he sent no reinforcements to St Amand.
Ney, under the circumstances, would have been much more likely to send
news if he had been successful, than during a time when all his
attention was occupied with the fighting around him.

But this does not explain why Napoleon neglected to follow up the
Prussians. As soon as day broke, there were two most important steps to
take. Firstly, to find out where the Prussians had gone to, since touch
with them had been lost during the night, and to drive them away from
Wellington; and secondly, to find out how Ney had fared, and to send him
help if he needed it.

Now, a force in retreat does not require an equivalent force to pursue
it. The moral advantages with the victor enable him to press vigorously
with fewer troops. So the force detached under Grouchy (33,600 men) was
ample to follow up the Prussians, and to beat even the fresh Corps
(Bulow’s) which Napoleon suspected in the vicinity of Gembloux. True,
Grouchy’s force was required to do something more than follow up and
beat Thielemann’s Corps, or Thielemann’s and Bulow’s combined: but what
could be Napoleon’s object in keeping back any troops at Ligny? Having
detailed Grouchy’s force, the remaining troops might have been pushed to
Quatre-Bras at dawn, and _not_ at midday.

Whatever may be said in extenuation of Napoleon’s delay and inactivity
on the morning of the 17th, the actual circumstances of the case did not
warrant his wasting his time on the previous day’s battlefield and
discussing politics with his generals when all his energies should have
been concentrated on the great crisis at hand; and having so far
successfully carried out his brilliant strategic plan, he should most
certainly have followed up his success and made sure that he _had_
separated Blucher from Wellington.

It is easy to criticise Napoleon now, when the results of his inactivity
are so apparent, but by taking into account the actual circumstances at
the time, as they must have presented themselves to him, without
reference to the results, and by putting ourselves in the position or
the man in command, it is impossible to find sufficient reasons for his
delays.

What actually happened in the pursuit of the Prussians will be related
in the next chapter.



CHAPTER IV

GROUCHY’S PURSUIT OF THE PRUSSIANS


Grouchy had received orders from Napoleon at about 11 P.M. on the night
of the 16th to send the two cavalry corps of Pajol and Excelmans at
daybreak in pursuit of the Prussians. He was not told in which direction
to pursue, or whether to pursue Thielemann only.

Accordingly, when Pajol started off at 4 A.M., there were no signs to
show in which direction Thielemann had retired. Taking Soult’s Division
of Light Cavalry, Pajol started off from Balâtre and made his way across
to the Namur road, under the impression that this was the true line of
retreat. He sent in a despatch from Balâtre (he must have written it
very soon after his troops had started) to the Emperor, stating that he
was “pursuing the enemy, who were in full retreat towards Liège and
Namur,” and that he had already made many prisoners. Shortly after
striking the Namur road, he came upon a Prussian Horse Battery (No. 14)
which had “withdrawn during the battle of Ligny to replenish its
ammunition waggons”(!) but had failed to fall in with the ammunition
column. Thielemann had ordered it to retire on Gembloux, when he beat
his retreat, but this it failed to do, and wandered about aimlessly near
the Namur road. When Pajol’s men came up, they captured the whole
battery, in front of Le Mazy; and Pajol reported it in great glee to the
Emperor. This tended to increase the belief that the Prussians were
making for Namur. But Pajol, advancing some three miles beyond Le Mazy,
without coming across further traces of the enemy, began at last to
suspect that he was leading a wild goose chase. Accordingly he halted at
Le Boquet, and sent out reconnoitring parties. At midday (while
Thielemann was resting at Gembloux) he started off northwards on
Saint-Denis, with the object of taking the road to Louvain. At
Saint-Denis he was joined by Teste’s Division, which had been sent to
him by Napoleon. Thus Pajol was very far from being of use in the chase.

Meanwhile, Excelmans fared little better. Berton’s Brigade of Dragoons,
belonging to Excelmans’ Corps, started off to follow Thielemann’s
rear-guard, whose departure was only noticed as it left Sombreffe. But
Berton followed down the Namur road behind Pajol. What was the
advantage in searching the country which had just been passed by the
First Cavalry Corps? It is hard to suppose that it was not known which
way Pajol had taken. Berton got as far as Le Mazy, where he was told by
some peasants that the Prussians had retreated by Gembloux. He therefore
halted, sent back the news to Excelmans, and awaited instructions. It
was unfortunate for the French that he did not think of sending this
news _forward_ to Pajol!

Instructions soon arrived, and Berton was ordered to march on Gembloux.
He therefore marched up the valley of the Orneau, a small stream running
southwards to the Sambre, and arrived in front of Gembloux at 9 A.M.
Here he found the Prussian outposts, and descried, on the far side of
the village, the whole of Thielemann’s Corps taking their rest.
Excelmans, with his remaining three brigades of cavalry, arrived before
Gembloux, half an hour later, _i.e._ at 9.30 A.M. He saw that there were
some 20,000 Prussians resting beyond the village, and yet he neglected
to send back word to Grouchy immediately. He did not even inform Pajol
of his discovery, so the latter was still wandering. Although he had
3,000 cavalry and 12 guns, Excelmans made no attempt to harass the
Prussians, who, since they were resting, were obviously not ready to
fight again. But his mistake lay not so much in his avoiding conflict as
in his omission to send immediate news to Grouchy and Pajol. There can
never be a mistake in sending back too much information to head-quarters
(as far as the means of transmission allow); what is not required can
there be disposed of.

So much for the efforts of Excelmans and Pajol to follow up the
Prussians.

Grouchy, meanwhile, at 11.30 A.M., received the following written order
from Napoleon:--

    “Repair to Gembloux with the Cavalry Corps of Pajol and
    Excelmans, the Light Cavalry of the Fourth Corps, Teste’s
    Division, and the Third and Fourth Corps of Infantry. You will
    send out scouts in the direction of Namur and Maestricht, and
    you will pursue the enemy. Reconnoitre his march, and tell me of
    his movements, that I may penetrate his designs. I shall move my
    headquarters to Quatre-Bras, where the English still were this
    morning; our communication will then be direct by the Namur
    road. Should the enemy have evacuated Namur, write to the
    general in command of the Second Military Division at
    Charlemont, to occupy this town with a few battalions of
    National Guards. It is important to discover what Wellington and
    Blucher mean to do, and whether they meditate uniting their
    armies to cover Brussels and Liège by risking the fate of a
    battle. At all events, keep your two Infantry Corps continually
    together, within a mile of each other, reserving several ways of
    retreat; place detachments of cavalry between, so as to be able
    to communicate with Head-quarters.”

This order contains certain very definite instructions. First, Grouchy
was to concentrate all his forces at Gembloux. Secondly, he was to
reconnoitre towards Namur and Maestricht, as it was very possible
(according to Napoleon’s information) that the enemy had gone in those
directions. Thirdly, he was to follow the tracks of the Prussians, and
to try to discover what they intended to do.

As to the first, Grouchy was unaware that Excelmans, with his whole
Corps, was already at Gembloux. But Pajol’s report from Le Mazy might
have helped him to come to the conclusion that the Prussians had not
taken that direction.

Grouchy, when he had received his verbal instructions from Napoleon, had
expostulated and expressed the opinion that no advantage would be
obtained if he carried out the operations he was ordered to. He argued
that the Prussians had already had twelve hours’ start; that although no
definite news had yet been received from the cavalry scouts, it was
extremely likely that Blucher had retired on his base, Namur; and that
in following the Prussians in this direction he would be moving further
and further from Napoleon. He asked to be allowed to march to
Quatre-Bras with the Emperor. But Napoleon, naturally enough, declined,
and firmly repeated his orders to Grouchy, saying that it was his
(Grouchy’s) duty to find which route the Prussians had taken, and to
attack them as soon as he found them.

Grouchy withdrew and proceeded to carry out his orders. But if he was so
far convinced of the importance and infallibility of his own conclusions
as to discuss them boldly before the Emperor, he certainly could not
have been very hopeful or determined when he proceeded to carry out the
very instructions against which he had been arguing!

He then sent orders to Vandamme, who was at St Amand, to march at once
with the Third Corps to Point-du-Jour, at the junction of the Gembloux
and Namur roads. He sent an aide-de-camp towards Gembloux to obtain news
from Excelmans. (Not often is it necessary for a general to send one of
his own Staff to gather news from the advanced cavalry!) He then went
himself to Ligny to give Gérard his orders.

In starting Vandamme before Gérard, Grouchy made a serious mistake; for
Gérard had over an hour to wait before he could march his troops off,
since both Corps had to use the same road, and Vandamme was behind
Gérard at the time. Vandamme’s Corps had suffered less than Gérard’s at
Ligny the day before, but it was no longer a case of fearing an
inferiority in numbers. Vandamme marched with incredible slowness. His
advanced guard did not reach Point-du-Jour until 3 P.M.; (Thielemann was
by this time an hour’s march beyond Gembloux!) The roads were in a very
bad state, it is true, and the heavy rain that was falling made marching
difficult; also the passage of the Prussians had made the roads worse;
but Point-du-Jour is less than 4 miles from St Amand.

Grouchy himself went to Point-du-Jour, arriving at the same time as
Vandamme’s advanced guard. Here he received his aide-de-camp, who had
returned with news from Excelmans; who reported that “he was observing
the enemy’s army,” and “would follow the Prussians as soon as ever they
should begin to march” (Houssaye). Grouchy, instead of giving Vandamme
and Gérard orders to hasten their march on Gembloux, and galloping there
himself, made no effort to hurry. He accompanied Vandamme’s Corps, which
still continued with extraordinary slowness; and arrived at Gembloux at
seven o’clock in the evening; taking four hours to cover 5 miles. Gérard
arrived there two hours later. Thus at the end of the day, Grouchy’s
main body was less than 7 miles from Ligny; and he was supposed to be
vigorously pressing the Prussians! He had not yet found the direction of
their retreat! Compare, allowing even for the rain and the state of the
roads, his rate of marching with Thielemann’s, over the same road, a few
hours previously; and compare Grouchy’s subsequent retreat.

Napoleon’s first instruction to Grouchy was to concentrate all his
forces at Gembloux. To enable both Corps to arrive at Gembloux together,
Gérard’s should have marched off first and taken the cross-country road
from Sombreffe to the old Roman road, and thence along to Gembloux.
Vandamme would then have had a clear road past Point-du-Jour,
undisturbed by Gérard’s troops. As it was, Gérard’s men had to traverse
a road already cut up by the Prussians and Vandamme’s Corps.

Excelmans had lost every opportunity. He should not have contented
himself with watching the enemy; he should have made “feints,” to cause
the Prussians to disclose their intentions, or he should at least have
discovered the direction of their movements. If he was too weak to
attack even the rear-guard, he should have endeavoured to work round
Thielemann and occupy him while Grouchy with the main body arrived. He
should also have sent across to Pajol and asked him to work in towards
his left so as still further to hamper Thielemann. But none of these
things were done, and the Prussians were allowed to move off quietly,
Excelmans merely following behind!

Even when Thielemann moved out of Gembloux at 2 P.M., it was three
o’clock before Excelmans entered the village, and yet his scouts had
been watching the Prussians since 9 A.M. He was content to march
leisurely on to Sauvenière, a village 3 miles north of Gembloux.

Grouchy decided to halt at Gembloux for the night. Although there were
still two hours of daylight left when Vandamme’s Corps reached the
village, yet it was ordered to bivouac there. Grouchy afterwards stated
that the roads were too bad to march on, and the rain too heavy; this is
true, to a certain extent, but considering how well the Prussians had
marched under the self-same conditions, and the urgency of the
situation, Grouchy might have made much more progress.

Excelmans, arriving at Sauvenière at six o’clock in the evening, sent
out Bonnemains’ Brigade (4th and 12th Dragoons) towards Sart à Walhain,
and the 15th Dragoons towards Perwez, to reconnoitre. Scouts were also
sent towards Tourinnes and Nil St Vincent. These scouts found a small
Prussian rear-guard at Tourinnes, but they only watched the enemy for an
hour, and then returned. Bonnemains brought his Brigade back to Ernage,
where he bivouacked for the night. He had gathered information that the
Prussians were retreating towards Wavre; and the 15th Dragoons also
reported from the neighbourhood of Perwez to the same effect; so that
Excelmans, at 10 P.M., knew with comparative certainty that the enemy
were marching on Wavre.

Pajol, in the meantime, finding that he was mistaken in his conclusions
as to the direction of the Prussian retreat, marched back from St Denis
with Soult’s Light Cavalry and Teste’s Division to Le Mazy, the point
from which he had started in the morning. Now, even if he had found that
he was striking in a wrong direction, there can be no possible reason
for his retreating to Le Mazy. He must have known that such a move,
whether right or wrong, would have a very great influence on Grouchy’s
plan; therefore, instead of marching all his forces back, he should have
sent an aide-de-camp or galloper to find where the main body was, or to
find Grouchy and get fresh instructions. Pajol exercised no discretion
whatever in making such a move.

At 10 P.M., at Gembloux, Grouchy wrote the following despatch to the
Emperor:--

  “GEMBLOUX, _17th June_, 10 P.M.

    “Sire,--I have the honour to report to you that I occupy
    Gembloux and that my Cavalry is at Sauvenière.[6] The enemy,
    about 30,000 strong, continues his retreat. We have captured
    here a convoy of 400 cattle, magazines and baggage.

    “It would appear, according to all the reports, that, on
    reaching Sauvenière, the Prussians divided into two columns: one
    of which must have taken the road to Wavre, passing by Sart à
    Walhain; the other would appear to have been directed on Perwez.

    “It may perhaps be inferred from this that one portion is going
    to join Wellington; and that the centre, which is Blucher’s
    army, is retreating on Liège. Another column, with artillery,
    having retreated by Namur,[7] General Excelmans has orders to
    push, this evening, six squadrons to Sart à Walhain, and three
    to Perwez. According to their report, if the mass of the
    Prussians is retiring on Wavre, I shall follow them in that
    direction, so as to prevent them from reaching Brussels, and to
    separate them from Wellington. If, on the contrary, my
    information proves that the principal Prussian force has marched
    on Perwez, I shall pursue the enemy by that town.

    “Generals Thielemann and Borstel (?) formed part of the army
    which Your Majesty defeated yesterday; they were still here at
    10 o’clock this morning,[8] and have announced that they have
    20,000 casualties. They enquired on leaving, the distances of
    Wavre, Perwez, and Hannut. Blucher has been slightly wounded in
    the arm, but it has not prevented him from continuing to command
    after having had his wound dressed. He has not passed by
    Gembloux.--I am, with respect, Sire, Your Majesty’s faithful
    subject,

  MARSHAL COUNT GROUCHY.”

This despatch would not give Napoleon a very correct idea of the state
of affairs. No mention was made by Grouchy of Pajol’s detachment, so the
Emperor could only infer that Grouchy had all his cavalry together and
all his infantry together. Mention should have been made, too, of the
discovery that the Prussians had not retreated by the Namur road. So far
as could be learnt from this despatch, only 30,000 Prussians had been
accounted for. That Blucher had “not passed through Gembloux” would at
once suggest that he had gone by some other road, not explored by
Grouchy, with his main body.

Grouchy’s orders to his commanders for the next day, sent out at 10
P.M., showed that he still firmly believed that the Prussians were
retreating on Liège, although in his despatch to Napoleon, he had
recognised the possibility of their having taken the road to Wavre.

He ordered Excelmans’ Cavalry and Vandamme’s Corps to march to Sart à
Walhain; Gérard’s Corps to follow Vandamme’s to Sart à Walhain, and the
Seventh Cavalry Division to push on to Grand Leez; Pajol’s force to
march from Le Mazy to Grand Leez. (Pajol had reached St Denis, half-way
from Le Mazy to Grand Leez, on the 17th, so that he now had covered this
ground twice.)

When Bonnemain’s reports to Excelmans reached Grouchy, he should have
had no longer any doubts as to the true line of Blucher’s retreat.
Towards half-past two in the morning, news from Walhain came in, to the
effect that the peasants there had reported that about three Prussian
Corps had passed through on the previous day, marching in the direction
of Wavre. A glance at the map will show that Gembloux to Walhain is in
the direction of Wavre, and not of Liège. Further, from information
gathered by the peasants from Prussian stragglers and the gossips who
seem to find a place in every army, the enemy were talking of the coming
battle near Brussels. As to Grouchy’s thoughts, and the influence these
reports had on him, it is difficult to find what train of reasoning he
followed. He knew that Napoleon expected to fight Wellington near the
Forest of Soignies: he knew, too, that the Emperor was anxious for him
to prevent the Prussians from marching across to join the English, yet
he did not consider the very great possibility that Blucher might
rapidly join Wellington by a short flank march from Wavre. Had such a
possibility entered his mind, he must have reflected on the best means
of thwarting it, ere it became too late. Obviously his only move then
was to make for the bridges at Moustier and Ottignies, _viâ_ Saint Géry.
By reaching the left bank of the Dyle (which he could easily do before
Blucher), Grouchy could have either manœuvred to join Napoleon, when an
addition of 33,000 troops must have overwhelmed Wellington, or he could
have continued to pursue the Prussians, should it happen that he had
been wrong in supposing that they were marching to join the English. It
did not require extraordinary foresight or mental effort to realize how
much more useful and how much more effective a move _viâ_ St Géry and
Moustier and the left bank of the Dyle would have been. If Grouchy was
really as undecided as he appears to have been, as to the Prussian line
of retreat, he should have had recourse to a movement which offered no
doubtful advantages. A move across the Dyle by Moustier would have had a
very great effect, and if the Prussians had really retreated on Liège,
this movement of Grouchy’s would still have its advantages. He could
have thrown his weight into the fight at Waterloo; Napoleon would not
blame him for this assistance, if he knew that the Prussians were out of
reach.

At 6 A.M. on the morning of the 18th, Grouchy sent another message to
Napoleon, stating that further information had been received, which
confirmed the news that Blucher was making for Brussels “_viâ_ Wavre, so
as to concentrate there, or to give battle after joining Wellington.”
Grouchy told Napoleon in his message that he was “starting immediately
for Wavre.” But he himself did not actually start until 9 A.M.

He ordered Vandamme to march at 6 A.M., and Gérard at 8 A.M. Now, at
that time of year, it was light enough to march at 3.30 A.M., hence
Grouchy wasted another valuable two and a half hours, when time was
all-important. Again, there was no necessity to keep Gérard’s Corps
waiting for Vandamme’s to get ahead, as there were no less than four
roads from Gembloux towards Corbaix, and the two inner ones could easily
have been used for this march.

But the troops were still further delayed. Their breakfasts were not
ready for them, and Vandamme’s Corps did not start until nearly eight
o’clock. They had had twelve hours in bivouac at Gembloux, and yet their
breakfasts could not be ready by 6 A.M.! Excelmans’ men at Sauvenière,
too, were not in the saddle until 6 A.M. Grouchy himself left Gembloux
at 8.30 A.M. He overtook Vandamme’s Corps at Walhain at about 10 A.M.,
and here he dismounted for breakfast, allowing the troops to march on.
At half-past ten, Excelmans’ advanced guard came into touch with
Thielemann’s rear-guard, on the road to Wavre near La Baraque. This news
was sent back to Grouchy, while Excelmans extended his men and engaged
the Prussians lightly. At Walhain, Gérard, having ridden ahead of his
troops, joined Grouchy, and during their breakfast, the sound of heavy
firing in the direction of Mont St Jean was heard from the garden of the
house where they had stopped. (This was the opening cannonade of the
battle of Waterloo, which began at half-past eleven.)

Gérard at once urged Grouchy to change his direction and march to the
sound of the cannonade. But Grouchy refused to take the responsibility
of disobeying the orders he had received from Napoleon--“to pursue and
attack the Prussians, and on no account to lose sight of them.” Having
received, a few minutes before, Excelmans’ report from the front, he
considered that he was moving in the right direction. To march across
country to join Napoleon would have been contrary to his orders. To send
a part of his forces across the Dyle would be to separate his army at a
most dangerous moment. But this was just one of those cases when
instructions need not have been implicitly obeyed. Circumstances had
altered considerably since Grouchy had received his orders from
Napoleon. A resolute and capable commander, in Grouchy’s place, would
have marched with his whole force by St Géry and Moustier from Gembloux
at daybreak on the 18th. Certainly it would have been a mistake to
divide his army at this time, but Grouchy should without doubt have
taken upon himself the responsibility of digressing from his original
instructions, and he would have been justified by the change in
circumstances.

At the same time, while blaming Grouchy for his want of foresight and
boldness, it must not be forgotten that the state of the roads and of
the whole countryside was a very heavy factor against him. It was almost
impossible to get the guns through the mud and mire which composed the
roads. The infantry had to wade ankle-deep in many places, and for
wheeled transport the roads were nearly impassable. Rain had fallen
incessantly. Still, much could have been done by the cavalry, which was
the arm which should have been relied upon most during these operations;
and if the infantry had taken to the fields on either side of the road,
they would hardly have marched slower than Vandamme’s men. The
Prussians, who were under the necessity of taking with them all their
guns, waggons, and trains that they wished to save from the enemy on the
same roads that their infantry used, were able to cover nearly 2½ miles
an hour. It might be presumed that the French could cover 2 miles an
hour.

Vandamme, continuing his march while Grouchy breakfasted at leisure at
Walhain, reached Nil St Vincent with his corps at 10.30 A.M. Here, in
accordance with Grouchy’s orders on the previous evening, he halted, and
awaited fresh instructions. It was one o’clock before Grouchy arrived in
person, and gave them to him. Then he and Excelmans, who had met with a
Prussian rear-guard near Neuf Sart and La Baraque, were ordered to
continue their march on Wavre. An hour later, Vandamme’s advanced guard
was attacked by Ledebur’s detachment of Hussars, which had been left at
Mont St Guibert. Ledebur had remained at Mont St Guibert, unaware of
the proximity of the French, until his patrols caught sight of the
troops at Nil St Vincent. Then he was alive to the dangers of his
situation; for he was indeed in peril of being cut off. Excelmans’
Dragoons at La Baraque stood across his rear, and Vandamme’s Corps was
threatening to cut off his retreat by Corbaix. He, however, was a man of
great military instinct, and saw that his only chance of escape lay in
attacking the French advanced squadrons. This he did with his Hussars,
and, being reinforced from Pirch’s Corps by two battalions, which in
addition to the battalions which were with him before, made up his
detachment to the strength of a brigade, he boldly attacked the head of
Vandamme’s column. Grouchy ordered Excelmans to turn Ledebur’s position
by Dion-le-Mont, but before the French Cavalry had developed their
movement, the Prussians had retreated through the wood of La Huzelle and
had fallen back on Wavre. Vandamme was sent off in pursuit, with orders
to follow the Prussians to Wavre, take up a position there, and await
instructions.

Grouchy himself, as soon as Ledebur had retired, rode off to Limelette,
a village on the left bank of the Dyle, to reconnoitre with his own
eyes. It is a pity, for his reputation as a General, that he had not
taken upon himself more of this essential duty, during these operations.
At Limelette, he heard very plainly the distant roar of the guns at Mont
St Jean, and he had no longer any doubts that a big battle was in
progress on his left. On his return to La Baraque, towards 4 P.M., he
received a letter from Napoleon, written at Le Caillou farm-house at 10
A.M., in which the Emperor ordered him to push on to Wavre, at the same
time drawing nearer to the main army, and keeping up the closest
communication by Ottignies and Moustier. This letter had the unfortunate
effect of confirming Grouchy in his own ideas of the correctness of his
movements, while he made no alterations in his dispositions of Gérard’s
and Vandamme’s Corps to bring them nearer the Emperor. But he did order
Pajol, who had reported from Grand Leez that no trace of the Prussians
had been found between that place and Tourinnes, to take his cavalry and
Teste’s Division across country to Limale, on the Dyle, where he was to
force a passage.

This order given, Grouchy rode off towards Wavre, where the impatient
Vandamme was already beginning an attack.



CHAPTER V

BLUCHER MARCHES TOWARDS MONT ST JEAN WITH THE FIRST, SECOND, AND FOURTH
CORPS


At nightfall on the 17th, while Grouchy was still at Gembloux, the whole
of Blucher’s army (except two Divisions, the Ninth and Thirteenth, and
the Reserve Cavalry of Thielemann’s Corps, which were posted as
rear-guards to the Third and Fourth Corps) had reached Wavre and its
neighbourhood. As explained in the third chapter, the Second and Third
Corps bivouacked on the left bank of the Dyle, beyond Wavre, and the
First and Fourth on the right bank. Pirch I. was between St Anne and
Aisemont; Bulow was at Dion-le-Mont. The rear-guards were posted at
Vieux Sart and Mont St Guibert; these troops fell back next day as the
French advanced. On Blucher’s left, patrols scoured the country towards
Namur and Louvain; on his right they watched the Dyle and its
approaches. Limale was held by a detachment from Zieten’s Corps to
protect the right flank, and cavalry patrols rode to and fro over all
the valley of the Dyle. The reserve ammunition columns with full
supplies reached Wavre in the afternoon of the 17th, and thus all the
batteries were replenished. It speaks well for the Prussian arrangements
that these supplies should have reached Wavre at so important a moment;
when on account of their unexpected retreat to Wavre, all previous
arrangements had to be cancelled.

It was only when Blucher had thus made sure of his concentration and of
the refilling of his waggons and limbers, that he replied to
Wellington:--

    “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.”

Having reached Wavre in safety, the Prussians, though they had lost none
of their courage, began to feel greater confidence. The defeat at Ligny
had merely damped their ardour for a space; it had in nowise impaired
their fighting value. The men were eager for a further trial with the
French, and they were now more determined than before to regain prestige
and humble the victors of Jena. Nevertheless, among the lesser troops
and the newly raised corps from the Rhenish provinces, there had been
many desertions. Most of these had once been French soldiers
themselves, and knew the fear of Napoleon. To the number of 8000 these
men “absented” themselves after the battle of Ligny, while some fled
headlong to Liège. On the whole, considering the heterogeneous
composition of Bluchers army, there was very little bad faith among the
men.

About midnight on the 17th, a message from Wellington, through Muffling,
reached Blucher. It ran:--

    “The Anglo-Allied army is posted with its right upon Braine
    l’Alleud, its centre upon Mont St Jean, and its left upon La
    Haye; with the enemy in front. The Duke awaits the attack, but
    calculates on Prussian support.”

Gneisenau was very suspicious of the sincerity of Wellington’s
intentions; he believed that the Duke would fall back at the last
moment, and involve the Prussian army in a serious disaster. But Blucher
had a greater idea of the honour of the words of generals, and finally
overcame the reluctance of his Chief of the Staff. He thereupon replied
to Wellington that--

    “Bulow’s Corps will set off marching tomorrow at daybreak in
    your direction. It will be immediately followed by the Second
    Corps. The First and Third Corps will also hold themselves in
    readiness to proceed towards you. The exhaustion of the troops,
    part of whom have not yet arrived, does not allow of my
    commencing my movement earlier.”

An order to this effect was at once sent to Bulow at Dion-le-Mont:--

    “You will, therefore, at daybreak, march with the Fourth Corps
    from Dion-le-Mont, through Wavre, in the direction of Chapelle
    St Lambert, on nearing which you will conceal your force as much
    as possible, in case the enemy should not, by that time, be
    seriously engaged with the Duke of Wellington; but should it be
    otherwise, you will make a most vigorous attack on the enemy’s
    right flank. The Second Corps will follow you as a direct
    support; the First and Third will also be held in readiness to
    move in the same direction if necessary. You will leave a
    detachment in observation at Mont St Guibert; which, if pressed,
    will gradually fall back on Wavre. All the baggage train, and
    everything not actually required in the field, will be sent to
    Louvain.”

Now, why was Bulow’s Corps, which was at Dion-le-Mont, to lead the flank
march, while Pirch I., Zieten, and Thielemann were all so much nearer to
Chapelle St Lambert? Dion-le-Mont was 10 miles by road from Chapelle St
Lambert; Aisemont, where Pirch was, was 8 miles; Bierges, Zieten’s
headquarters, was only 4 miles; and La Bavette, Thielemann’s
headquarters, 6 miles. It followed, then, that Pirch could not move
until Bulow’s Corps had passed. Had Bluchers men been so exhausted, it
would have saved most of them many miles of weary marching if Zieten and
Thielemann had been ordered to Chapelle St Lambert, and Pirch and Bulow
to move in nearer to Wavre. Bulow’s Corps had so far taken no part in
the fighting, and it may have been Bluchers desire to give them
opportunities, but for all that he knew Wellington might be in dire
straits as soon as the battle began, so that he should not have
hesitated to send off the nearest Corps.

Bulow commenced his march from Dion-le-Mont at daybreak, with Losthin’s
Fifteenth Division as advanced guard. At 7 A.M. the Division reached
Wavre, but the crossing of the bridges over the Dyle occupied a long
time, and the passage through the town was hindered by a disastrous fire
which broke out in the main street, through which the troops were
marching. Great excitement prevailed, as it was feared that all the
reserve ammunition waggons, parked in the town, were in danger. But the
troops of the 14th Regiment of the line made great exertions, and were
able to overcome the flames. But the Corps had been delayed for two
valuable hours, and did not clear Wavre until 10 A.M. Meanwhile, parties
of cavalry were busy reconnoitring towards Maransart and Couture. A
detachment of Hussars rode out to patrol the valley of the Lasne, and
another detachment to establish communication with Ledebur at Mont St
Guibert. All the country between Plancenoit and the Dyle was carefully
examined, and reports were sent in continually. The Prussian scouting
work was very efficiently performed, and is still worthy of notice, even
in these days. Every opportunity was taken of searching and feeling for
the enemy. Not only were the Prussians accurately informed, but they
hindered Napoleon’s communications with Grouchy, by occupying the roads
their messengers might use, and compelling them to make very wide
détours.

The roads being reported clear, Bulow’s Corps continued on its way, but
progress was not rapid, owing to the state of the roads and the
exhaustion of the troops. The advanced guard reached St Lambert at about
10.30 A.M., and the main body arrived about mid-day, but the rear-guard
(Ryssel’s Division) did not arrive until three o’clock in the afternoon.
At Maransart, the reconnoitring party found that the French had no
detachments watching their flank, and the valley of the Lasne was clear.

The safe arrival of Bulow’s Corps at St Lambert, and the reports from
his scouts, made Blucher resolve to hasten the march of the First and
Second Corps. Pirch’s men had broken up their bivouacs at 5 A.M., but
had had to wait until 12 noon to allow Bulow’s Corps to pass clear of
Wavre. Zieten, on the left bank of the Dyle, marched for Ohain at noon.
Blucher was uneasy about Grouchy’s strength, and his intentions. He was
anxious to take his whole army towards Mont St Jean, but he was afraid
of an attack on his rear and flank. He therefore determined to leave
Thielemann’s Corps at Wavre to await Grouchy’s approach, and if the
French were not in strength, Thielemann was to march to join the main
body, leaving a small force in Wavre as a rear-guard. Blucher himself,
leaving Gneisenau to arrange matters at Wavre, rode on to St Lambert at
11 A.M.

While Pirch’s Corps was passing through Wavre, Ledebur’s detachment
retired on the town from Mont St Guibert, and the enemy’s cavalry
appeared in sight. This was not a pleasant time for action, as the
troops were thickly crowded in the defiles and lanes. Sohr’s Brigade of
Cavalry, forming Pirch’s rear-guard, fell back, and the Seventh and
Eighth Divisions were halted and faced round. The Eighth Division was
posted in the wood of La Huzelle, with the Seventh in support. But the
French did not press their advance, and at three o’clock, the Prussians
retired across the Dyle. Pirch’s Corps then continued its march on St
Lambert, leaving Thielemann in defence of Wavre.

As a flank march, Blucher’s movement to St Lambert was both a tactical
and a strategical success; although under different circumstances, it
would have been a failure. For Grouchy should never have allowed it to
be carried out. By efficient reconnoitring, such as was carried out by
the Prussian Hussars, Grouchy should have discovered the threatened
movement early in the morning of the 18th, and have sent Maurin’s
Cavalry Division, followed by Excelmans’ Cavalry and Gérard’s Corps, to
Moustier and Ottignies. The cavalry could have reached the bridges there
in time to threaten Blucher’s flank, and prevent him, if not from
assisting Wellington with a part of his forces, at least from throwing
his whole weight into the battle against Napoleon. And even at the end,
Grouchy might, had he been too late across the Dyle to prevent Blucher
from joining Wellington, have covered Napoleon’s retreat, and saved the
Emperor’s army from the disastrous rout which befell it.



CHAPTER VI

THIELEMANN’S INSTRUCTIONS AND HIS DISPOSITIONS AT WAVRE


Thielemann had been ordered by Blucher to defend Wavre at all costs if
the French appeared in force, but if there was no fear of a serious
attack, to leave a small rear-guard there and follow the other three
Corps.

As Excelmans’ Cavalry had shown so little activity in their attack on
the outposts, Thielemann, towards three o’clock, decided to move his
Corps towards Ohain, leaving only a small detachment to defend Wavre. In
his judgment, if the French had meant to hinder the march towards
Wellington, they would have appeared in force several hours ago. So
slowly did they appear to be approaching, and in no great numbers, that
Thielemann had every reason to suppose that a small force would be
sufficient to cover his march, and that his main body would be of much
greater assistance at St Lambert than at Wavre. His patrols had so far
only seen the opposing cavalry and the head of Vandamme’s Corps; the
whole strength of Grouchy’s force was as yet undiscovered. Accordingly,
at about 3.30 P.M., the Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Divisions,
with the Reserve Cavalry and Artillery, were ordered to begin marching
towards Frischermont and Chapelle St Lambert; and a small detachment
under Colonel Zeppelin, consisting of the two Fusilier battalions of the
30th Regiment of the Line and the 1st Kurmark Landwehr Regiment,
belonging to the Ninth Division, was detailed to hold Wavre.

When, at 4 P.M., the head of Vandamme’s Corps appeared on the road from
La Baraque leading towards the main bridge at Wavre, and Excelmans’
Cavalry was seen massing at Dion-le-Mont, one Division, the Twelfth
(Stulpnagel’s) was already on the road to Rixensart, and the Eleventh
was in the act of marching. The Ninth Division (Borcke’s), which had
been posted near the farm of La Huzelle, fell back before Vandamme, but
on reaching Wavre, it was found that the bridges had been barricaded,
and no entry was possible. This left the Division in a situation of some
danger, but Borcke led his men off to the right, to Basse Wavre, where
there was another bridge, about half a mile down the stream. Here they
crossed, and destroyed the bridge behind them. This was a most necessary
step, because Excelmans’ Dragoons were scarcely a mile and a half away
at Dion-le-Mont, and they might at any moment make a dash for Basse
Wavre. The destruction of the bridge, too, saved Thielemann the task of
defending it, and so scattering his troops, which were already none too
numerous. To have left the bridge as a means of possible counter-attack
was not desirable, nor even necessary, as a counter-attack by Limale or
the Mill of Bierges would have had all the points in its favour.

Having no further orders, Borcke lined the left bank of the Dyle at
Basse Wavre with picked marksmen from the 8th Regiment of the Line and
the 1st Battalion of the 30th Regiment. These he placed under the
command of Major Dittfurth, who had already distinguished himself during
the close of the battle at Ligny. These skirmishers extended from Basse
Wavre to Wavre, and took cover behind the trees lining the bank, and the
neighbouring hedges and walls. Borcke continued his way to Wavre, and
there detached one battalion (the 2nd of the 30th Regiment) and two
squadrons of cavalry, to reinforce Colonel Zeppelin’s detachment, which,
by this time, had loopholed all the buildings along the bank of the
river, and were improvising defences. This done, Borcke resumed his
march towards the main Prussian army!

General Borcke’s timely reinforcements to Zeppelin, and his prompt
initiative in lining the Dyle at Basse Wavre with sharpshooters,
afterwards proved to be of the greatest assistance. There was nothing
but his own foresight to cause him to take these measures as he passed
along, and it was fortunate for Thielemann that he did not march off
without detaching these parties.

As soon as Vandamme’s Corps plainly showed signs of attacking,
Thielemann immediately halted all his Divisions and began to dispose
them for defence.

The position afforded favourable means for defence. The Dyle, ordinarily
a shallow stream, but at this time in flood, owing to the heavy rains,
ran along the front in a narrow valley. The town of Wavre, situated on
the left bank, extended for about half a mile along the stream, and was
connected with a few buildings which formed a kind of suburb on the
opposite bank, by two stone bridges, one of which, the larger of the
two, carried the main Brussels-Namur road. About three-quarters of a
mile up-stream, on the left bank, was the Mill of Bierges, destined to
be the scene of the fiercest fighting; here there was a wooden bridge,
carrying a narrow country road, leading from the village of Bierges. At
Limale, a village 2¼ miles up-stream from Wavre, and at Limelette,
another village a mile further, there were also wooden bridges. On the
right bank of the Dyle, there was a series of hills commanding the town,
the river, and the bridges. On the left bank, a similar series of
heights, rather steeper but not so high; and numerous hedges, lanes, and
hollows on the left bank compensated for the greater “command” of the
ground on the opposite side of the stream. All the buildings along the
river were hastily loop-holed, and the two bridges at Wavre strongly
barricaded. Basse Wavre included a few buildings about half a mile below
Wavre; and houses stood on both banks. There were many lanes and
cross-roads branching from the main Brussels road, on both sides of the
stream, so that the movements of troops could be conducted generally
under cover; but the state of the roads was so bad, that any movement at
all was extremely difficult and slow. Grouchy’s side commanded
Thielemann’s, but the latter’s was well covered, both from artillery and
musket fire. Behind Wavre was a hill, which would afford good cover for
reserves.

Thielemann saw that the enemy might attack at any or all of the points
of passage: and he was therefore determined to be prepared for any
emergency. In placing the troops, his one idea was to hold the line of
the stream with skirmishers and sharpshooters in sufficient strength to
prevent any sudden surprise, and to keep his supports together close at
hand, to reinforce any threatened point or to guard his flanks. He
placed the Tenth Division (Kampfen’s) behind Wavre, resting on a small
wood near the Brussels road. The Twelfth Division (Stulpnagel’s), which
had started on its way to St Lambert, was brought back to Bierges, and
placed behind the village. The bridge at Bierges was barricaded, and the
mill prepared for defence. One battery of Horse Artillery (No. 20) was
placed in front of the village. The Eleventh Division (Luck’s) was
placed astride the Brussels road, behind Wavre, and on the left of the
Tenth Division.

The Ninth Division (Borcke’s) was to have been placed in rear of the
Tenth and Eleventh Divisions as a general reserve, but Borcke, after
detaching the troops to hold Basse Wavre and reinforce Zeppelin, had
marched his Division off towards the main army, in the belief that the
whole Corps had already marched. As Borcke had made a wide detour from
Basse Wavre to La Bavette, there was some reason for his misjudgment.
His march was not discovered in time; so Thielemann’s force was reduced
by six battalions and one battery of artillery.

Hobe’s Cavalry Division (Marwitz’s and Lottum’s Brigades) was posted
with one battery of Horse Artillery (No. 18) near La Bavette: a central
position, whence it might be directed on any part of the field. The
remainder of the artillery was distributed along the front. The bank of
the Dyle and the riverside buildings in Wavre were occupied by Light
troops and sharpshooters from the different regiments. Two more
companies of infantry were sent to Basse Wavre, under Major Bornstaedt,
to reinforce the detachment there. Three battalions and three squadrons
under Stengel, from Zieten’s Corps, were sent back to guard the bridge
at Limale.

In point of numbers, Thielemann’s troops were less than half as strong
as those of Grouchy; and it was evident that the coming fight was to be
of the fiercest description. Thielemann’s men were in fine trim and
eager for the enemy’s attack.

[Illustration: THE BATTLE OF WAVRE.

_Grouchy’s attack at Daybreak, June 19^{th}._

  _William Stanford & Company, Ltd._, _The Oxford Geographical Institute._

John Murray, Albemarle St., W.]



CHAPTER VII

THE BATTLE OF WAVRE


Vandamme’s advanced guard, between three and four o’clock, had driven
Borcke’s Division back on Wavre, and Vandamme, eager to burst into
activity after the irritable delays on the march, proceeded to attack
without waiting for Gérard, or even for Grouchy’s orders. He was afraid
that night would come on and allow the Prussians to escape, as they had
done from Sombreffe. He only saw in front of him a force waiting to be
attacked; he had no thoughts for the general situation. He was a
rough-and-ready soldier, and he thought he saw his chance of beating the
Prussians single-handed. He longed for the marshal’s bâton; he was
jealous, too, of Gérard.

At this time, Excelmans was at Dion-le-Mont with his cavalry, slightly
in rear of Vandamme. Gérard was nearing La Baraque, some 4 miles in
rear. Pajol, with his cavalry and Teste’s Division, had just reached
Tourinnes.

Before Grouchy could reach Vandamme, the latter had launched the whole
of his Tenth Division (Habert’s), consisting of the 22nd, 34th, 70th and
88th Regiments of the Line, against the village opposite Wavre. The
French, in heavy columns, supported by a furious cannonade from two
batteries of twelve-pounders placed to the right of the Brussels road,
cleared the few Prussian sharpshooters from the buildings, and pressed
on to the main bridge. But here they were met with a terrible fire from
their front and on their flanks, from the sharpshooters lining the
hedges and buildings on the opposite bank. The Prussian batteries played
fiercely on their columns, and on the whole of the ground behind them,
where their own guns were placed. In a few minutes, General Habert and
600 men were down. Attempts to force the barricaded bridge were beaten
back with frightful loss, and the Division was placed in a very serious
position. If they retreated, they came under the heavy fire of the
Prussian batteries on the opposite heights; if they remained where they
stood, the enemy’s sharpshooters would annihilate them; to advance was
impossible. Gradually, they found shelter, company by company, under the
walls of the buildings along the bank, whence they had just driven the
Prussians. Vandamme was now deeply committed to the fight.

Grouchy, who had by this time arrived on the scene, unaware of the
strength of the Prussians at Wavre, and unaware, too, of Blucher’s march
on St Lambert, made arrangements to support Vandamme’s attack by two
other attacks on either flank. For this purpose, he ordered Excelmans to
move his cavalry from Dion-le-Mont to the front of Basse Wavre, and a
battalion under Lefol to make an attempt to cross at the Mill of
Bierges.

It was now five o’clock, and a message arrived from Napoleon, sent at
1.30 P.M., saying that Bulow’s Corps had just been seen at St Lambert,
and ordering Grouchy to lose no time in moving to join the Emperor’s
right, when he would crush Bulow in flank. Grouchy, knowing that he
could not now disengage Vandamme, sent orders to Pajol to hasten his
march on Limale, and ordered Gérard to lead the Fourth Corps towards
that village at once. He conceived the idea of assaulting and carrying
Wavre with Vandamme’s Corps, aided afterwards by Excelmans’ Cavalry,
while he sent the remainder of his army on Chapelle St Lambert _viâ_
Limale. This was a skilful project, and the best under the
circumstances, no doubt; for the movement on Limale would have had the
double effect of turning Thielemann’s left flank, while it promised to
bring a strong reinforcement on Napoleon’s right. But it was now too
late. The opportunity had passed much earlier in the day.

Hulot’s Division, of Gérard’s Corps, had now reached the scene of
Vandamme’s efforts, and Grouchy ordered it to move to the left and force
a passage at the Mill of Bierges. Lefol’s battalion had made several
attempts to cross the bridges there, but had each time been beaten back
by the Prussian sharpshooters and the batteries in front of Bierges
village. Some guns were sent to aid Lefol and endeavour to silence the
Prussian artillery opposite, but they were themselves outnumbered and
silenced. On Hulot’s arrival, a fresh battalion was sent to relieve
Lefol’s detachment, and the whole Division followed. By this time, both
banks of the Dyle, from Bierges to Basse Wavre, were lined with
skirmishers and sharpshooters, pouring a terrific fire into each other.
Hulot’s Division had great difficulty in moving through the swamps and
mud to the bridge at Bierges, and suffered severely from the Prussian
batteries. The battalion which relieved Lefol’s began at once to make a
fresh attempt to force the bridge, but was beaten off with loss.

Grouchy, impatient and fretful, rode off to meet the remainder of the
Fourth Corps and Pajol’s force, still some distance behind on the
Namur-Brussels road. Ordering Pajol to make all haste for Limale, he
returned to the field, where he found that matters had made no progress.
Infuriated by the repeated failures to carry the bridge and Mill of
Bierges, he himself led a fresh attack with Hulot’s men, but nothing
could overcome the fire of the Prussians. Gérard fell wounded and was
carried off the field.

Finding his attacks on Bierges and Wavre unsuccessful, Grouchy left
Vandamme and Excelmans to carry on the fight, while he himself led the
remainder of Gérard’s Corps to Limale. Pajol had arrived in front of the
Limale bridge shortly before dark, with Teste’s Division and his own
cavalry. Stengel, who held Limale with three battalions and three
squadrons, had omitted to barricade the bridge, and when Pajol perceived
this he sent a regiment of Hussars at full speed on the bridge, and,
charging four abreast only, these horsemen burst through the Prussians
posted at the farther end. The passage was forced and Teste’s Division
was sent across; and Stengel, finding himself very much outnumbered,
abandoned Limale and took up a position on the heights above the
village. Hearing of Stengel’s difficulties, Thielemann sent the Twelfth
Division (Stulpnagel’s) and Hobe’s Cavalry to reinforce him. Thielemann
saw now that the real point of crossing was Limale, and not Bierges or
Basse Wavre, and he moved all the troops he could spare towards his
right. Four battalions of the Tenth Division took up Stulpnagel’s former
position, and three battalions of the Twelfth Division were left to
defend Bierges; the remainder marched to join Stengel.

It was now dark, but the battle continued with vigour. Grouchy posted
his battalions in front of Limale, and, considering the darkness of the
night, it is surprising how he managed to place them without confusion.
Stengel’s men kept up a harassing fire on his columns as they wound
their way through the muddy lanes from the village to the height above
the Dyle and deployed to receive Stulpnagel’s attack. Pajol moved his
cavalry to the French left flank.

Stulpnagel, his Division now reduced to six battalions, left one
battalion (the Fusilier battalion of the 5th Kurmark Landwehr Regiment)
and one battery in a copse north of Bierges, as a reserve, and joined
Stengel, who was now on his right, with his remaining five battalions.
His orders were to endeavour to regain Limale, and drive the French
across the Dyle. He formed his attack with two battalions in first line,
with three in support. His two squadrons were sent to reinforce
Stengel, and the rest of the cavalry posted in rear, to be in readiness
for a flank movement. The darkness was so great that little cohesion was
possible between the units, and it is not surprising that the attack
fell to pieces. The formation of the ground was unknown, and the little
folds and features which make or mar a night attack were plentiful: and
unfortunately for the Prussians, they marred their plans. As the front
line was advancing in fair order, a hollow lane was suddenly met with,
and caused great confusion, being unexpected; but worse than this, the
opposite side was lined with French sharpshooters, who poured volleys
across into the disordered Prussians. There was, for a time, no attempt
to seek cover, and the losses from the fire of the French opposite were
heavy, in spite of the darkness. The second line, which was to have
supported the first, moved too far to its left, and became itself a
front line, engaging more French skirmishers. Stengel, on the right, was
charged by cavalry and compelled to retire.

Stulpnagel perceived that little good could come of an attack the
successive steps of which had merged into a confused line, and resolved
to withdraw to the shelter of the wood behind Point-du-Jour, leaving a
line of outposts to watch the front edge. The cavalry took post behind
the infantry; and the French fearing to venture through the
uncertainties of the night, the fighting on this side ceased.

Meanwhile, on the Prussian left, before Wavre and the Mill of Bierges,
the fighting went on most vigorously. The darkness did not prevent the
fury of the fight; it only seemed to add to the grimness of it. The
whole of Vandamme’s Corps was now engaged, and time after time the
French rushed at the barricades on the bridges. Thirteen separate
assaults were beaten back by the Prussians, and no less than five times
the defenders, in pursuing the routed enemy, attacked and drove them
from the houses on the far side of the Dyle. Once, the French had
possession of the main bridge, and had even occupied some of the
neighbouring buildings, but the Prussian reserves were hurried up, and
these drove out the French. Each time there seemed a chance of the enemy
obtaining a footing on the left bank, the Prussian reserves, judiciously
posted near at hand among the side-streets and dwellings, rushed out and
overwhelmed the intruders. Four battalions defended Wavre against the
whole of Vandamme’s Corps. But while the attackers were exposed at each
attempt to cross the bridges, the defenders were secure behind their
loop-holed walls. Only a great superiority of artillery fire, to
prepare the way for the assault, and to destroy some of the nearer
walls, could have made a crossing successful. A few daring Sappers might
have brought up bags of powder to blow in the barricades; they could
only have done so by sacrificing themselves, but heroes and brave men
were not wanting. Shortage of powder, however, explains the fact that no
such attempt was made.

At Basse Wavre, lower down the stream, the attack had not been pressed.
Excelmans’ Cavalry had been ordered to make a demonstration on that
flank, but cavalry cannot cross a stream without bridge or ford. Only
one French battalion, supported by a single gun and two squadrons, had
shown themselves, and these were of no use without a bridge to carry
them across.

The only advantage which Grouchy had obtained was on his left, which had
rolled back the Prussian right, but had in no way destroyed it. Firing
ceased at about 11 P.M., and great preparations were made on both sides
for a renewal of the fight at daybreak. But Grouchy was well pleased
with his success on the left, since he assumed that he had at least cut
off half of the Prussian army. It was now too late for him to be of
assistance to Napoleon, and the din of the distant battle had long ago
died out. But Grouchy took no steps to ascertain how matters stood with
the Emperor. He merely sent orders to Vandamme to bring his Corps across
the Dyle at Limale, as he intended making an end of the Prussian right
flank, and marching to join Napoleon before Brussels, thinking, for a
reason which cannot be explained, that the allies had been beaten.
Perhaps it was his confident belief in the invincibility of the Emperor;
but yet again he made no efforts to gain information or to confirm his
own views. Teste’s Division came up during the night, and, crossing the
Dyle at Limale, took post on the right flank of Gérard’s Corps, between
Limale and Bierges, and resting its own right dank on the Dyle.

Thielemann, on the other hand, had sent an officer’s patrol to
reconnoitre on his right, and to ascertain what had occurred at Mont St
Jean. This officer returned during the night with the news of Napoleon’s
rout, and consequently Thielemann expected Grouchy, who, he supposed,
was fully acquainted with the situation, to retreat early next morning,
if not during the night. But two incidents occurred which sadly reduced
his numbers and which caused a rearrangement of his troops. Stengel, for
a reason never yet explained, calmly marched off from Stulpnagel’s right
at daybreak, to St Lambert, there to join his own Corps, Zieten’s.
Possibly he had personal views of the situation, and considered the
battle over! It is uncharitable to suppose that he had feelings against
Thielemann or Stulpnagel. But in either or any case, his conduct was
most blameworthy and most unsoldierlike. His departure (which must have
been noticed before his movement had gone far, and therefore could have
been prevented) reduced Thielemann’s force by three battalions and three
squadrons; and this at a moment when every man was of importance. But
even another inexplicable movement was made by Colonel Ledebur, who,
with his detachment of five squadrons and two guns of the Horse
Artillery, marched to St Lambert during Grouchy’s attack, bivouacked
there for the night, and then moved off to join the Fourth Corps on the
19th. These two detachments were thus of no use whatever to Thielemann,
and their extraordinary action must have caused him considerable
anxiety, since it might have appeared as desertion. But Thielemann was
firm in his belief that Grouchy would retreat, and when, at daybreak on
June 19, he saw French troops still in their positions, he assumed that
they were merely acting as a rear-guard to cover the general retirement.
He therefore ordered Colonel Marwitz, with the 8th Uhlans and two
squadrons of the 6th Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry, to attack Grouchy’s left
flank above Limale, while Hobe, with the 5th and 7th Uhlans, was to
advance in support on Marwitz’s left. To replace Stengel’s detachment,
the Twelfth Division was extended still further to its right, weakening
the whole of its front line, and leaving only three battalions in
reserve in the wood near Point-du-Jour. On Stulpnagel’s left, six
battalions of the Tenth Division held the line to Bierges and the Dyle.
In support, there were three battalions of the 3rd Kurmark Landwehr
Regiment, from the Eleventh Division, while the 4th Kurmark Landwehr
(two battalions) with two squadrons, were posted behind Wavre as a
general reserve. Two battalions from the Twelfth Division were posted to
hold the Mill of Bierges. The remainder of Thielemann’s force was
extended along the Dyle in Wavre and Basse Wavre; but little fighting on
this front was now expected.

To support Marwitz’s attack, two batteries (one horse and one foot)
opened fire on the French columns massed on the plateau above Limale,
but the enemy’s artillery, which was greatly superior, replied fiercely
and soon silenced the Prussian guns, five of which were disabled.

Grouchy, who was still ignorant of Napoleon’s defeat, prepared an attack
on his part. His numbers vastly exceeded Thielemann’s thin forces, and
counted Gérard’s Corps (three divisions), Teste’s Division and Pajol’s
Cavalry. (Vandamme had not obeyed Grouchy’s orders of the previous
night, to march with his Corps to Limale.) Grouchy now formed three
Divisions--Teste’s, Vichery’s and Pecheux’s--in first line, divided into
three columns of attack. Teste’s Division formed the right column,
and was to attack Bierges and the mill; Vichery’s Division in the
centre, to attack the Prussian centre; and Pecheux’s Division against
Stulpnagel’s right flank. Each column was provided with a battery of
artillery, escorted and preceded by skirmishers. The remaining
division--Hulot’s--was in reserve behind the centre column. Pajol’s
Cavalry was to turn the Prussian right flank, which rested on the wood
of Rixensart. Twenty-eight French against ten Prussian battalions.

Thielemann perceived the coming attack, and reinforced his line with one
battalion, which he posted on his left, and which was all he could
spare. The French columns were too heavy for the Prussians, who were
hopelessly outnumbered. The Twelfth Division gave way, and the French
took the wood of Rixensart. Stulpnagel fell back on his supports--the
three battalions of the Eleventh Division and two batteries--and took up
a new position behind the wood. Teste’s attack on Bierges was stoutly
opposed by the two battalions posted there, and four battalions of the
Tenth Division were brought up in support. On the Prussian extreme
right, the cavalry brigades of Marwitz and Lottum--in all, twelve
squadrons--occupied Chambre and secured the flank.

At 8 A.M. definite news arrived of the French rout at Waterloo, and the
Prussians were aroused to renew their efforts. The tidings had a great
effect on the spirits of the men, and they rushed to the attack with
great vigour, recapturing the wood of Rixensart. This counter-stroke
deceived Grouchy, who at first believed that the Prussians had been
reinforced; but Stulpnagel’s effort was short-lived, and could not be
pushed further, for want of supports. Consequently, Grouchy in his turn
ordered a fresh attack, and the Prussians were again driven out of the
wood. At 9 A.M. Bierges fell into the hands of Teste, who had had a very
hard task to drive out the two gallant battalions defending the place.
The capture of this point was a serious blow, for the French had now
broken through Thielemann’s defence at the angle; and it was no longer
possible for the Prussians to resist on both wings. The centre having
been broken, and the right seriously threatened by overwhelming numbers,
Thielemann could not but withdraw.

Vandamme had remained in front of Wavre, but had not attacked, although
the defence had been greatly weakened by detachments for the right.

At 10 A.M. Thielemann ordered the retreat. He knew that Grouchy must
himself retreat sooner or later, but to hold on to Wavre too long would
mean Thielemann’s own destruction. By retreating, he would gain time,
and when the opportunity occurred, he would again advance, and possibly
convert Grouchy’s retirement into a rout. Under the protection of
Marwitz’s Cavalry--the 7th and 8th Uhlans, and the 3rd and 6th Landwehr
Cavalry with three batteries of horse artillery--the infantry retired,
and Zeppelin evacuated Wavre. The rear-guard, posting itself on the
Brussels road, threatened the French left whenever an opportunity
occurred.

As soon as Zeppelin withdrew from Wavre, Vandamme pushed his men across
the Dyle, both at Bierges and Wavre, and advanced up the Brussels road.
In rear of Wavre, in a hollow behind the town, two battalions of the 4th
Kurmark Landwehr Regiment were posted, and these were compelled to fall
back. But one of the battalions, reaching a small wood near La Bavette,
re-formed, and attacked and drove back a squadron of French cavalry
which was pursuing. The other battalion overthrew a French battalion,
and then continued its retreat. Marwitz’s Cavalry repulsed the squadrons
at the head of Vandamme’s columns, which were now advancing towards La
Bavette by the main road and by a parallel lane on the left. The
Prussian infantry retreated towards Louvain, through the villages of St
Achtenrode and Ottenburg; but behind St Achtenrode, Thielemann halted
and took up a defensive position. To retreat too far would hinder his
plan of turning back again to attack Grouchy when he retired. The
French, too, had halted about La Bavette, having at this moment heard
definite news of Napoleon’s disaster. No cavalry pursued the Prussians,
for in the close and intersected country beyond La Bavette it was
impossible for cavalry to manœuvre, and only with difficulty could it be
traversed by infantry.

As to Borcke in the meantime, his Division had reached Couture at 8 P.M.
on the previous evening, and a report was sent to Blucher. A reply was
returned that Borcke was to remain at Couture and await further orders.
But early next morning, hearing from Stengel, who had passed through St
Lambert, that the French were following him, Borcke extended two of his
battalions from St Robert to Rixensart, with the remaining four in
reserve. He had an idea that the French were advancing in his direction,
but had he only known the true position of Grouchy’s troops, he might
have been so bold as to attack them in rear. He certainly would have
caused a panic among Grouchy’s men, who would naturally suppose that
Blucher was returning with the main body. But, seeing three French
cavalry regiments detached to watch him, Borcke held back, and
positively took no action, although the Prussians still held Wavre. What
a diversion he might have made!

In the fighting of the 18th and 19th, Thielemann lost 2,500 men; the
French about 2,200; and the results were very creditable to the
Prussians. Attacked by more than double his numbers, and with very
little time to prepare his defence, Thielemann had held off the French
during all the critical hours of the afternoon and evening of the 18th.
He had successfully occupied the whole of Grouchy’s force during the
time when the latter might still have been of use to Napoleon. Without
knowing it, Grouchy had been almost surrounded, but Borcke’s Division
took no advantage of its position. How near to, and yet how far from,
succouring Napoleon was Grouchy! A little fore-thought, more energy, and
a bolder initiative on Grouchy’s part would have overcome the opposition
of the elements, and rendered Napoleon’s great stroke a success.

As an example of a defence of a river and village, the battle of Wavre
was a brilliant exploit. The courage on both sides was of the highest
order. Thielemann held Wavre as long as he could, and only withdrew when
he saw that his opportunity would occur the moment Grouchy learned the
result of Waterloo. To stay in his position, after the French had taken
Bierges, would have been to court disaster, but to retreat too soon
would have ruined his chances of rallying again to the attack. In the
previous night’s attacks, the Prussians had shown great courage and
tenacity, and the French were no less courageous and determined; their
movements in the darkness were carried out with surprising skill, and
reflect highly on their management and control. Vandamme’s repeated
efforts against the bridges might have been avoided, and every available
man brought across the Dyle at Limale, leaving only enough men to watch
Zeppelin in and around Wavre itself.

[Illustration: MAP ILLUSTRATING GROUCHY’S RETREAT FROM NAMUR, JUNE
20-28, 1815.

  _William Stanford & Company, Ltd._, _The Oxford Geographical Institute._

John Murray, Albemarle St., W.]



CHAPTER VIII

GROUCHY’S RETREAT


Grouchy first heard the news of Napoleon’s defeat at half-past ten on
the morning of the 19th, just as he was preparing to pursue Thielemann
and push his infantry towards Brussels. The news was brought by a staff
officer, riding up with the most dejected appearance. He could scarcely
get his words out, and Grouchy seemed at first to believe that the
fellow was mad. But at last there was no doubt about it: the French had
been severely beaten. What was Grouchy to do? Should he continue his own
operations, as if nothing had happened, and keep his men in ignorance,
whereby he might yet cover Napoleon’s retreat? Or should he retreat
himself before he was hemmed in?

At first he thought of marching against Blucher’s rear, but very little
reflection showed him that Thielemann would in the meantime attack _his_
rear, and his 30,000 men would be caught between two forces. Then
Vandamme, always impetuous and for action, proposed that they should
march straight on Brussels, set free the French prisoners there, and
retire by Enghien and Ath to Lille. This was a daring but futile plan.

Of what use would such a movement have been, even had it been
successfully carried out? To march boldly completely round the rear of
the allied armies, liberate a few prisoners, and then march off in the
opposite direction, would have been to waste the only formed body left
of all Napoleon’s army. And what would Thielemann do in the meantime?
There was now no hope of winning over Brussels or the Dutch-Belgians,
otherwise there would have been some weight in Vandamme’s extraordinary
proposal. But Grouchy counselled otherwise. He knew that he already ran
the risk of being attacked in flank, most probably in rear, by a portion
of Blucher’s army, while Thielemann would certainly advance again as
soon as the retreat began. He therefore decided to retreat on Namur,
where he would act further according to circumstances. It was useless as
well as dangerous to direct his retreat towards the line taken by the
remnants of Napoleon’s host, where all would be confusion; it was better
by far to retreat on his own line and endeavour to preserve his troops
intact as long as possible. At Namur, he might do great things yet; for
Namur had not, like Charleroi, witnessed first the triumph and then the
downfall of Napoleon’s last plans.

Even at this moment, Grouchy was already in danger of being attacked in
rear. For Pirch I. had received orders on the night of the 18th to march
towards Namur with his Corps (the Second) and cut off Grouchy from the
Sambre; and by the time that Grouchy heard of the rout, he had reached
Mellery, on the Tilly-Mont St Guibert road, and 8 miles in Grouchy’s
rear. But his troops were exhausted, and his Divisions scattered--the
Sixth, Seventh, Eighth Divisions, twenty-four squadrons of his reserve
cavalry, and the reserve artillery, were with him; but the Fifth
Division and the rest of his cavalry were pursuing the French on the
Charleroi road. So Pirch ordered a halt at Mellery.

Blucher’s main body was pursuing the French by Charleroi in the
direction of Avesnes and Laon. The cavalry of the First and Fourth
Corps, also twelve squadrons belonging to the Second Corps, were at this
time following up the fugitives between Frasnes and Gosselies, while the
Prussian infantry followed as rapidly as their exhaustion would allow.
Bulow’s Corps had pursued over-night as far as Genappe, where it
bivouacked, and then resumed its march at daybreak, sending out
cavalry--the 8th Prussian Hussars, followed by two other regiments--to
watch Grouchy’s movements on the left. The Fourth Corps was leading the
Prussian main body in the pursuit. The First Corps followed, and
likewise sent out cavalry to watch the left flank for signs of Grouchy.

Meanwhile, Grouchy began his retreat. His troops had reached the line La
Bavette-Rosieren, in their pursuit of Thielemann, and now Excelmans’
Cavalry was sent off with orders to make all speed to Namur and secure
the bridges over the Sambre at that place. Excelmans reached Namur at
4.30 P.M., a little more than five hours to cover 30 miles by devious
lanes and byways in a terrible condition after the rains.

Gérard’s Corps, preceded by the Seventh Cavalry Division (six squadrons
under Vallin, who had taken Maurin’s place), re-crossed the Dyle by the
bridge at Limale, and moved by a narrow lane to the main Namur-Brussels
road. Vandamme’s Corps withdrew from La Bavette, and marched through
Wavre, Dion-le-Mont, Chaumont, Tourinnes, Sart à Walhain, Grand Leez,
St Denis to Temploux on the Namur-Nivelles road, where it arrived at 11
P.M. and there bivouacked. Gérard’s Corps had reached Temploux an hour
earlier.

Pajol, in command of the rear-guard, which was composed of the Fourth
Cavalry Division--twelve squadrons, under Baron Soult--and Teste’s
Infantry Division, demonstrated against Thielemann to keep him occupied
until Wavre had been cleared, and then retreated by Corbaix, Walhain,
Sauvenière, to Gembloux, where he bivouacked for the night.

As has been seen, Pirch was at Mellery with the Second Corps during the
19th from 11 A.M.; but he did not wish to risk attacking Grouchy without
news of Thielemann. Grouchy’s army was still in good order and capable
of stout fighting, but Pirch might have assisted the general situation
by at least threatening Gérard’s right flank as he retreated. It is not
likely that Grouchy would have checked his retreat on Namur, even if
Pirch had shown himself, but Gérard would have been obliged to face
round, and might possibly have been cut off; or if Grouchy had halted to
confront Pirch, Thielemann would have had a good opportunity to attack
him in flank.

Thielemann only heard of the French retreat towards 6 P.M. on the 19th,
and his intelligence came through General Borcke, who discovered
Grouchy’s movement, from St Lambert. Pajol had a rear-guard still in
front of Thielemann, and as the latter’s troops were tired with their
recent exertions, the Prussians postponed their pursuit until the next
day, the 20th, when Borcke was ordered to march at daybreak with the
Ninth Division from St Lambert, across the Dyle, and towards Namur.

At daybreak on the 20th, Grouchy’s rear-guard left Gembloux and marched
on Namur by St Denis and La Falize. His infantry left Temploux about 9
A.M. Gérard’s Corps was intended to lead, Vandamme’s Corps covering the
retreat of the Fourth, but Vandamme upset the arrangements by betaking
himself over-night to Namur, leaving no instructions behind him for his
Divisional generals. Consequently, the Divisions of the Third Corps
moved off by themselves, early in the morning, and Gérard’s Corps, which
was carrying the wounded with it, was left uncovered. A short distance
beyond Temploux, the column was attacked by Prussian cavalry which had
been sent off in pursuit by Thielemann at daybreak that morning. And at
the same time, more cavalry were seen coming against the rear, along the
Nivelles-Namur road. This was the cavalry heading Pirch’s Corps, which
had marched from Mellery to Sombreffe. Gérard’s column had now stumbled
on Vandamme’s rear-guard, posted 3 miles outside Namur; and Vandamme
himself coming out from Namur, Grouchy ordered him to clear the road for
the Fourth Corps, and cover its march with his rear-guard.

Thielemann’s Cavalry, accompanied by a battery of horse artillery, had
come on at a great pace, and were almost too exhausted to attack the
French with any vigour; but they managed to drive back the enemy’s
cavalry and capture three guns. Further attack on the French rear-guard
was left to Pirch’s Corps, which was now hurrying up.

The French retreated through Namur, after being well treated by the
inhabitants (who supplied them with food, transport, and boats), and
leaving Teste’s Division with eight guns in defence of the town against
Pirch’s Corps. The remainder of Grouchy’s army crossed the Sambre by the
Namur bridge and marched on Dinant by the valley of the Meuse.

In Namur, Teste made a brilliant defence. The town was fortified, but
the works were out-of-date and dilapidated; and there was no time to
improve the local resources. Teste’s men only numbered 2,000, with
eight guns, and Pirch’s Corps was some 20,000 strong. All the wounded,
the baggage, and the transport had been sent across the Sambre, and the
bridge barricaded.

Pirch had suffered severely in his attack on Vandamme’s rear-guard
outside Namur, losing over 1,200 men. The French had beaten back his
three assaulting columns, and withdrawn into the town without letting
the Prussian cavalry cut them off. Consequently Pirch was in no mind for
a costly assault on Namur while Teste’s Division held the place; and he
knew that Teste would not hold his position longer than was absolutely
necessary for Grouchy with the main body to gain a safe distance. He
contented himself with holding the enemy’s attention in front, while he
despatched the main body of the Seventh Division to threaten the retreat
over the Sambre. But as soon as the main portion of Grouchy’s army had
cleared the river, Teste began to make his own preparations for retreat.
He ordered a sortie to be made against the Prussians on the north, to
gain time and to divert their attention from the bridge; and when all
was ready, he withdrew his troops rapidly in single file across the
parapets of the barricaded bridge, setting fire to a heap of faggots
and lumber piled up against the enemy’s end. The guns had to be left
behind.

It was nightfall now--that is to say, towards 9 P.M.--when Teste’s
Division filed across the bridge. The Prussians entered on the north,
but their way was barred by obstacles, and they were too late to prevent
the last men from escaping over the river. Their pursuit was checked by
the burning barricades, which had to be put out before the bridge could
be used; and the troops were halted in the town for the night, only a
few cavalry being pushed across the river on the road to Dinant, ready
for pursuit next day.

Teste continued his retreat unharmed, and reached Dinant at daybreak
next day, the 21st. Grouchy’s main body had arrived there over-night,
and the whole force proceeded to Phillippeville on the 21st. Pirch spent
the night at Namur with his Corps; Thielemann’s cavalry at Temploux, his
infantry at Gembloux.

Between Namur and Dinant, Grouchy had barricaded every narrow passage,
and placed obstacles at intervals on the roads; and in this way hindered
the chances of Prussian pursuit, and gaining time for himself.

The scattered remnants of Napoleon’s army were fleeing along the roads
from Charleroi towards Avesnes, Laon, and Phillippeville. Grouchy
therefore designed his retreat so as to bring his army clear of pursuit
as quickly as possible, and to work his way towards the fragments which
were with difficulty being collected round Laon by Soult, Reille, and
others. He hoped to reach Paris before the allied armies, in time to
organise a defence, or perhaps to effect a junction with the army of the
Alps under Suchet and with Lecourbe. Napoleon himself had given up the
plan of rallying his routed army under Grouchy’s still formidable force,
and had ridden in haste to Paris, where his position was already
precarious.

On the 21st, Grouchy marched from Dinant to Phillippeville, but Pirch I.
did not pursue. His Corps was required elsewhere, to blockade some of
the fortresses which barred the line of advance of Blucher’s army.
Grouchy might have retired through Givet and down the valley of the
Meuse, instead of risking the more dangerous road to Phillippeville. But
his aim was to draw near to any body of troops which were left from
Napoleon’s army, and to avoid marching down the narrow defile of the
Meuse valley where he would be liable to an attack in flank or in rear,
under great disadvantages. Zieten was at Beaumont on 20th June, 12
miles from Phillippeville, but he had marched at daybreak on the 21st.
Pirch, marching to Thuin on the 21st, was moving parallel to Grouchy,
but the latter’s march was not hindered.

Four French fortresses barred Blucher’s advance--Landrécies, Maubeuge,
Avesnes and Rocroi. It was necessary to reduce these before any further
advance on Paris was made; hence Grouchy was able to retreat unmolested
for the greater part of his movement. On the 22nd he reached Rocroi; and
Mezières on the 23rd. His force constituted an important menace to the
left flank of the Prussian army; and Blucher was thus obliged to detach
several parties of cavalry to watch the French movements.

Zieten took Avesnes on the 21st, and Grouchy’s march from Phillippeville
to Rocroi was in danger; but his strength was not accurately known at
the Prussian headquarters, and Blucher was anxious to push on to Paris.
The fall of Paris was expected to put an end to the French resistance.
The capture of Avesnes relieved Blucher of the danger which threatened
his army if he advanced, and it also gave him an advanced depôt for his
supplies.

On the 22nd, Soult was at Laon endeavouring to collect the remnants of
Napoleon’s army. He succeeded in gathering some 3,000 fugitives, mostly
of Reille’s Corps and d’Erlon’s, and with these he hoped to join
Grouchy. Urgent messages from Paris implored Grouchy to unite all the
forces he could find and oppose the advance of the allies. This was
easier said than done, for it was now a race between Blucher and
Grouchy. Grouchy had to take a long detour to avoid being cut off; while
the Prussians could advance direct on Paris, leaving detachments to
watch the fortresses which might prove dangerous in the rear, and
keeping close observation on the left flank on Grouchy’s operations.
Those fortresses which had not been taken by Zieten and Bulow were
blockaded by Pirch, and nearly all of them--at least all those which
menaced the advance--being garrisoned by ill-spirited and disheartened
troops, and capable of little resistance, were compelled to surrender.
But Blucher was careful to take no risks, and systematically he cleared
the way for his advance. The shorter line by which he marched ensured
his reaching Paris before Grouchy, if only with one Corps. Retreating
troops move quickly, but the Prussians proved themselves capable of some
wonderful forced marches.

For the French it was a time when the Napoleon of former days would have
revived the broken fortunes of his country, and rallied every soldier
for the protection of Paris. He would have brought up all the troops in
the West, from the Pyrenees, and from the Alps; and he would have led a
new army of 100,000 or 150,000 men against Blucher. The old strategy of
1814 would have been repeated, and many a loss suffered by the allies
before they could bring all their six armies to converge on Paris. But
now there was no Napoleon to fill the vacancy. The Emperor was defeated
in Paris as well as at Mont St Jean. He had no party, no power;
Frenchmen were wearied and sickened by the disasters he had brought on
their country through his insatiable ambition. Grouchy alone showed
power and resolution; yet he only led his forces in retreat. Could he
still save the country?

The 23rd was a day of comparative rest for the Prussian army. Blucher
was anxious to draw in his Corps for his advance on Paris. Thielemann
moved from Beaumont to Avesnes. On the 24th the advance was resumed. The
Prussian army was to march in two columns. On the left, nearer Grouchy,
Zieten’s and Thielemann’s Corps were to march by the valley of the Oise
on Compiègne, keeping a sharp watch for Grouchy. On the right, Bulow’s
Corps, the Fourth, was to march by St Quentin, Ham, Roye, to Pont St
Maxence.

On the 24th Zieten took Guise without firing a shot, and thus secured
another important point, to serve as a depôt, and as a refuge for
wounded. The First Corps halted for the night in the town, sending out
its cavalry as far as La Fère and Marle. Thielemann marched from Avesnes
to Nouvion, and threw out scouts to Hirson and Vervins. Bulow reached
the neighbourhood of St Quentin.

Grouchy, on the 24th, marched from Mezières to Réthel; Soult, from Laon
to Soissons. The Prussians were observed to be gaining.

On the 25th Zieten moved from Guise to Cérisy, with cavalry towards La
Fère. Thielemann marched from Nouvion to Origny; Bulow, from St Quentin
to Chauny.

Grouchy, finding Soult had retreated from Laon, changed his direction,
and hastened with part of his forces along the valley of the Aisne to
Soissons, while Vandamme, with the remains of the Third and Fourth
Corps, marched to Reims, where he arrived on the 25th.

Blucher, learning from the reports of the advanced cavalry of Soult’s
retreat from Laon, now directed his troops to seize the passages of the
Oise, cross the river, and cut off both Grouchy and Soult between
Soissons and the capital. It was a race for the bridges of the Oise, and
for Crepy and Senlis.

So anxious was the Prussian Commander-in-Chief, that at midnight on the
25th-26th, he ordered Zieten to make a forced march with his advanced
guard on Compiègne. A squadron of Hussars managed to reach that place at
midnight on the 26th-27th, and found that a large body of French were
expected there at any moment from Soissons. The remainder of Zieten’s
advanced guard could get no further than Noyon that night, while the
main body of his Corps bivouacked at Chauny. They were too exhausted to
go further that day. Thielemann, however, marched from Origny to
Guiscard, 20 miles as the crow flies; and Bulow from Ham to Ressons, 25
miles.

The French, in the meantime, were also hurrying to the Oise. Grouchy had
taken over the command of Soult’s motley force, and d’Erlon was sent
forward with about 4,000 men to reach Compiègne before the Prussians if
possible, and secure the bridge there. Vandamme was hurrying from Reims
towards Soissons with the Third and Fourth Corps.

At 4.30 A.M. on the 27th, Zieten’s advanced guard, consisting of a
Division, marching during the night, reached Compiègne, and Jagow, in
command, immediately took steps for its defence. Half an hour later the
head of d’Erlon’s troops appeared on the Soissons road! This was indeed
a narrow margin for success.

D’Erlon at once attacked, but a battery of Prussian horse artillery,
posted on the road, opened such a heavy fire on his columns that the men
gave way, and took refuge in a wood. From thence a sharp fire was kept
up by the French skirmishers, and four guns were brought up to cope with
the Prussian artillery; but these were soon silenced, and d’Erlon
ordered the retreat, finding that he could no longer gain the bridge
over the Oise, or delay the Prussian advance. As soon as he retreated, a
regiment of Hussars was sent in pursuit, but Jagow’s men were too tired
by their long forced march to follow up, and d’Erlon’s Corps was allowed
to gain much time. Zieten with his main body reached Compiègne at
mid-day; and found Blucher already there. Zieten was then ordered to
send the Second Division (this division had relieved the Third, under
Jagow, as advanced guard) towards Villets Coterets to cut off any force
which might be retreating from Soissons on Paris; also to send his
reserve cavalry and artillery to Gillicourt.

Just as Zieten’s troops reached Gillicourt, d’Erlon’s rear-guard left
that place, and followed d’Erlon to Crepy. From Crepy, however, the
French were again driven out by the Prussian cavalry, and d’Erlon
retreated westwards towards Senlis, hoping to gain the bridge at Creil.
Zieten’s Fourth Division with his cavalry and artillery bivouacked at
Gillicourt; his Second Division near Villets Coterets.

Bulow, in the meantime, was hastening down from Ressons to seize the
bridges at Pont St Maxence and Creil; and his advanced guard was ordered
to detach a “flying column” to secure the passages. Accordingly, Sydow
took a squadron of Hussars and a company of infantry, and marched with
all speed to Creil, the infantry being carried in carts. Just as the
Prussians reached the bridge, part of d’Erlon’s advanced cavalry was
observed making for the same place from the opposite side. Sydow
attacked with his squadron and drove back the French; and on the arrival
of the rest of Bulow’s advanced guard, a regiment of infantry was left
to hold Creil, while a regiment of cavalry pushed on to Senlis, where it
was expected to find d’Erlon. But on reaching that village, it was found
to be unoccupied, and the Prussians halted there. At nightfall,
however, Kellermann, leading d’Erlon’s column, came up from Crepy with a
brigade of heavy cavalry, and immediately charged down on the Prussians.
The latter were unprepared, and were speedily routed. They fled back to
Pont St Maxence, and Kellermann fell back on d’Erlon’s infantry. Sydow
now came up with the rest of Bulow’s advanced guard, expecting to find
Senlis already occupied by Prussians, but he was astonished by their
absence. However, he occupied Senlis at 10 P.M. When d’Erlon approached,
he was met with a heavy fire from the Prussian sharpshooters, who had
loop-holed the nearest houses and taken shelter behind walls. Finding
Senlis too strongly held, d’Erlon withdrew, and made his way towards
Gonesse, while Reille took part of his force to Nanteuil. Night put an
end to pursuit.

Thus at the close of the 27th, all the bridges over the Oise were in
Blucher’s hands, and there seemed every prospect of Grouchy’s forces
being cut off from Paris. The French had now three separate columns in
retreat, and there was a great danger of two of these being cut off.

On the 28th, long before dawn, the Second Division of Zieten’s Corps
approached Villets Coterets, where Grouchy had his headquarters. The
Prussians, hearing that the place was not strongly held, resolved to
carry it by surprise; but Grouchy had 9,000 men posted on the road to
Nanteuil, and these attacked and drove back the Prussians. Suddenly,
however, a panic seized the greater part of the French troops, who,
seeing a movement of Prussian troops towards Crepy, thought that their
retreat was being cut off, and they fled in a body down the road towards
Meaux. Thus Villets Coterets fell into the hands of the Prussians.

Vandamme, after restoring some order among the fugitives, led them, the
remains of the Third and Fourth Corps, scarcely 8,000 men, by Meaux, La
Ferté, and Lagny to Paris.

Zieten pushed on to Nanteuil on the 28th, where Reille’s rear-guard was
found and driven out. Reille was retreating on Gonesse, to effect a
junction with d’Erlon, who was falling back from Senlis. Bulow was
marching rapidly on St Denis, and had reached Marly la Ville by the
evening of the 28th, threatening to cut off Reille and d’Erlon.
Thielemann hastened from Compiègne and reached Crepy that night.

On the 29th Blucher’s Corps closed in, and by nightfall they occupied
the following positions:--Bulow’s Corps at Le Bourget and St Denis;
Thielemann’s Corps at Dammartin; Zieten’s at Blanc Mesnil and Aulnay.
Grouchy’s forces had entered Paris, having lost 4,000 men and 16 guns in
the numerous skirmishes along the Oise. But they had won the race, and
their retreat must be considered as a skilful operation. It had little
actual effect on the advance of the allies, but Grouchy, who had so
slurred his reputation in the great operations entrusted to him by
Napoleon, in his retreat somewhat retrieved his character as a general.



CHAPTER IX

NOTES AND COMMENTS


1. CHAPTER II.--The proportion of cavalry to infantry in Grouchy’s force
was large (more than one to five), but not excessive. He was given a
task in which cavalry must play the chief part. At the close of such a
battle as Ligny, the infantry on both sides must be more or less
exhausted, and it becomes the duty of the cavalry to pursue the
retreating enemy. Cavalry alone, however, will effect little, if the
enemy takes to rear-guard positions; it must be supported or accompanied
by artillery and infantry. It must be remembered that, of the two sides,
the vanquished are the more exhausted, and the greater the enemy’s
anxiety to draw his troops clear of pursuit, the closer that pursuit
must be. The French cavalry at Ligny, except Milhaud’s Cuirassiers, had
had little to do.

The proportion of cavalry to infantry in an army cannot be laid down by
any hard-and-fast rule. Prince Kraft wrote after 1870: “The duties of
the cavalry are so comprehensive and so important, especially at the
first moment of a war, that we cannot have too many cavalry ready for
service.” But he was speaking of Germany. Continental armies require a
far larger number of cavalry than our own; and not only for the reason
that their other arms are so much more numerous than ours. The advance
of modern armies is covered by a most numerous cavalry, sent out, as
were the German cavalry in 1870, miles ahead, as a screen, and for the
purpose of reconnaissance, or to harass the enemy’s concentration and
cut his communications.


2. _The French Corps in 1815._--The French Corps in the 1815 Campaign
were more independent than the Prussian Corps--that is to say, each
corps, except Lobau’s, was provided with sufficient cavalry and
artillery to enable it to act by itself. Each corps had a Light Cavalry
Division; but in Grouchy’s force, the Cavalry Division (Domon’s)
belonging to Vandamme’s Corps, with its horse battery, had been detached
to the left wing. Gérard’s Corps had its complete parts, but the Seventh
Cavalry Division attached to it numbered only 758 men; little more than
a modern regiment. The Reserve Cavalry Division, under Jacquinot, also
attached to Gérard’s Corps, numbered 1608 men, so that the two together
would only make a modern brigade. In artillery, the corps, for those
days, were well provided; and each corps also had its own engineers,
from 140 to 200 strong.


3. CHAPTER III. _Pursuits after a Battle._--A general who wins a battle
must make every effort to obtain the greatest possible advantages from
his victory; he must closely pursue the defeated enemy with cavalry,
artillery, and infantry; he must spare no one until the retreat has been
turned into a rout. Of the two sides, the vanquished are the more
exhausted; and the effects of defeat are so demoralising that, when
followed by pursuit, every vestige of organisation or power of resisting
vanishes. Men whose backs are turned on a victorious enemy who is
treading on their heels, harassing their flanks, and cutting them down
or capturing them by thousands, will think of nothing but their personal
safety. The more time that is left to the retreating force, the more
rear-guard positions it will be able to take up, and every rear-guard
action gives time for the retreat to be carried further and in greater
security. A timid pursuit is almost worse than none. Every nerve must be
strained to make the most of the situation.

Yet, in history, how many instances are there in which pursuits have
been carried out? What are the reasons which account for so many
battles ending without a pursuit? There are few instances, indeed, where
it has been possible for the victor to follow up his victory as is
advised in the books. To mention the most noted cases:--The pursuit of
the French after Waterloo; the pursuit after Jena; the cavalry advance
on Cairo after Tel-el-Kebir; and, most recently, the battles of the Yalu
and at Telissu, in the Russo-Japanese War. But how easy it is to recall
cases where pursuit has not followed the victory:--Wagram, Friedland,
Vittoria, Cannae, Malplaquet, Albuera, Spicheren, Bull Run, and the case
treated in this volume, among scores of others.

Many Generals have failed to take the opportunity when it was offered;
Hannibal himself was one of them. But in most of the cases there have
been strong reasons for the hesitation in pursuing. After a long and
fiercely-contested battle, both sides are exhausted; and there may be no
fresh troops at hand to carry out the pursuit. There may be heavy rains,
making the road impassable; there may be a lack of mounted troops. Most
of Wellington’s victories in the Peninsular War were so dearly bought
that his troops were far too exhausted themselves to think of pursuing
the enemy. After Malplaquet Marlborough’s army was in no condition to
follow up the victory, and the French were able to retreat in fair order
and unmolested. After Spicheren, the Prussians were too exhausted to
pursue, and the French withdrew in security. But after Ligny Napoleon
should have pursued, at least at daybreak on the 17th. It has been shown
that he had a strong force of cavalry, as well as Lobau’s Corps,
available for the pursuit, and with these he could have driven
Thielemann from Sombreffe. His cavalry would have threatened the
Prussian flanks and rear, while Lobau’s infantry would have attacked in
front. During the night it was perhaps unwise and unsafe to pursue,
owing to Thielemann’s firm front, and to the enormous risks of a pursuit
by night. No one knew better than Napoleon the value of pressing hard on
a vanquished foe, and it is impossible to explain why he spent the
morning of the 17th in trivialities. A day later, and he himself
realised the position of a defeated general closely and mercilessly
pursued by the victors.

Grouchy cannot be blamed for failing to pursue the Prussians on the
night of the 16th. He was directly under the Emperor’s orders, and he
only received his independent command on the morning of the 17th. At 11
P.M., on the night of the 16th, he had been ordered to send Pajol and
Excelmans in pursuit of the Prussians at daybreak, but no direction was
given to him. And when it was found that Thielemann’s men still held
Sombreffe, the cavalry took no further action that night.

Blucher, on the 18th, found it possible to pursue the French with the
utmost vigour by night; but there was this difference between the two
cases--the French were totally defeated in battle, and demoralised,
while the Prussians, at Ligny, were only partially defeated, and their
left wing was firm and unbeaten.

It was on the 17th that Grouchy’s mistakes began, after he had received
his new command from Napoleon, at 11 A.M.


4. CHAPTER IV.--It is astonishing that the outposts of Grouchy’s force
in front of Sombreffe should have heard nothing, or reported nothing, of
Thielemann’s withdrawal, which began at 2 A.M., and continued until 4
A.M., when the rear-guard left the village. Throughout the night, the
opposing sentries were within earshot; and if they were awake they could
not have helped hearing the commotion which must be caused by the
movement of so large a body of troops by night, however great the
precautions may be. True, it was a wet night; rain was falling heavily,
but not too heavily to drown the noise of the retreat. Even a
perfectly-planned and well-executed attack by night, with all the signs
pre-determined, and each movement marked beforehand, cannot be kept
absolutely quiet; there is always a stumbling, a cry of pain from a
sprained ankle or broken nose, a curse from the darkness, often a rifle
accidentally discharged; but in a retreat hastily decided on, how much
greater will the noise be! The shouting of orders which cannot be
conveyed by signs or signals on the spur of the moment, the noise of the
heavy waggons, the yells of the drivers, and the cracking of whips! In
those days the outpost positions would be scarcely two hundred yards
apart on such an occasion; very different to modern conditions, which
would make it impossible for two forces to remain in the same positions,
relative to one another, as Thielemann’s and Grouchy’s on that night.


5. CHAPTER IV.--Excelmans lacked the true instinct of a cavalry leader.
When he found Thielemann at Gembloux, at 9.30 A.M. on the 17th, the
first step we should expect him to take would be to send back immediate
word to Grouchy; then he would act according to his instructions, or as
his own notions prompted. In the present circumstances, he would have
taken steps to harass the enemy, deceive him as to his real numbers,
threaten his line of retreat, and force him to march off again, and so
spoil his rest and increase the fatigue of his troops, who would soon
become too tired either to march or fight, when their retreat would have
rapidly become a headlong rout; or to detain him in uncertainty until
the infantry arrived. Certainly, entire inactivity was wrong in such a
case. Every hour of rest allowed to Thielemann meant that his troops
would be able to march more rapidly when they took the road again. If
Thielemann had seen a few squadrons threatening his retreat, a few
showing themselves on his flanks, without knowing the real strength of
the force overtaking him, it is not conceivable that he would have
waited to be attacked by overwhelming numbers.


6. CHAPTER IV.--It must have disconcerted Napoleon to hear Grouchy
expostulating as to the orders which he had just given him. The Napoleon
of earlier days would have dealt with a heavy hand on the man who dared
discuss his orders. No doubt Grouchy felt very strongly on the subject,
and his views may very well have been sound--in fact, they were sound up
to a certain point; but it is never a soldier’s duty to discuss or argue
about his orders. The story of Grouchy’s insubordination--for
insubordination it certainly was--would be difficult to credit, but that
some of the best authorities on the campaign give it in their works; and
Grouchy himself, in his “Relation Succincte,” openly admits that he made
no attempt, in his conversation with the Emperor, to conceal his
misgivings.


7. CHAPTER IV.--The mismanagement of the places of assembly and the
times of starting the march of different bodies of troops which have to
take the same road, leads to miserable confusion. In the present case,
there were two Corps d’Armée, Gérard’s and Vandamme’s, which were
required to march from Ligny and St Amand La Haye respectively, to
Point-du-Jour by one and the same road. It seems obvious that, time
being important, and considering the positions of the two Corps,
Gérard’s Corps should be marched off first, while Vandamme’s should
follow as soon as it was ready. But Grouchy, for no reason which can be
found, ordered Vandamme to take the lead. Gérard had to wait over one
hour while Vandamme’s Corps passed him.

It is not an easy matter to arrange, in a case of this kind, that the
front corps should be clear by the time that the head of the corps in
rear comes up; but Gérard’s Corps was sufficiently far ahead of
Vandamme’s to allow plenty of time for his men to get on their way
before the latter approached, and, at all events, it would have been
better to halt Vandamme, while Gérard moved well on the road, than to
keep Gérard waiting while Vandamme passed him.


8. CHAPTER IV.--Vandamme’s march on Gembloux was extremely slow. He left
his bivouac at 12 noon, and arrived at Point-du-Jour, less than 4 miles
off, at 3 P.M., and at Gembloux, another 5 miles, at 7 P.M. The roads,
it must be remembered, were in a deplorable condition, and the rain was
falling steadily; but the rate of marching, when compared with the rate
of the Prussians over the same road, in only slightly better condition
of surface, and with the rate in Grouchy’s subsequent retreat, also in
heavy weather, is extraordinarily slow. The guns were moved with great
difficulty, and it must be supposed that infantry in large numbers were
used to drag them along, but there were still horses to be used, and the
Prussians had moved all their guns and waggons successfully. The state
of the weather has always been urged in extenuation of Grouchy’s
slowness in this campaign, but it has been laboured too much. It
certainly was a very heavy factor against him, but not so overpowering
as is alleged.


9. CHAPTER IV.--Grouchy wasted valuable time in bivouacking at Gembloux,
when there were still two hours of daylight left. His men must have been
tired with their exertions through the mud; but they had not made
extraordinary efforts. French soldiers had proved themselves capable of
greater things in other days, and under other commanders. Had they even
pushed on to Sauvenière that night, they would have arrived early enough
to allow themselves some six or eight hours’ rest; or even longer if the
cavalry were used with skill. The difficulties of this particular march
are often exaggerated; compare it with the marching of the same men two
days later, over the same roads, and after continuous fighting for
several hours; compare it, too, with some of the marches in the
Peninsula, a few years before!


10. CHAPTER IV.--Grouchy’s despatch from Gembloux on the night of the
17th to the Emperor cannot be read without a feeling of surprise at his
words. In the first place, he says, “My cavalry is at Sauvenière.” Now,
Napoleon would naturally infer that Pajol’s cavalry were included; or
that all the cavalry were probably together. It was misleading to say
that his “cavalry was at Sauvenière.” Secondly, “They (the Prussians)
were still here at ten o’clock this morning.” The Emperor would at once
conclude that the enemy had left soon after ten o’clock; he certainly
would suppose that Grouchy would have found out if they had remained
there later. Actually, the Prussians left at 2 P.M., four hours later.
Thirdly, “He (Blucher) has not passed by Gembloux.” Napoleon would
suppose (since Grouchy had been instructed to keep touch with the left
wing) that traces of Blucher and his main body had been searched for
between the line of Grouchy’s march and the main French army. On these
three essential points, the information given in the despatch was
decidedly misleading. Some other details were inaccurate, but they were
reasonable convictions, as far as Grouchy’s views went. Negative
information in war is very often as useful and important as positive;
and Grouchy would have assisted Napoleon to form his ideas if he had
reported that he had discovered no signs of a Prussian retreat on Namur.
He should also have made some mention of Pajol’s detachment--such as “no
news has been received from Pajol, who is on my right at St Denis, with
a detachment of cavalry and infantry.” Again, had Grouchy only accounted
for 30,000 Prussians, of the whole of Blucher’s army? What had become of
the remainder? Where were they?

Napoleon must have found it impossible to draw inferences of any weight
from this despatch; and in such a campaign as this, full and accurate
intelligence was of the utmost importance.


11. CHAPTER V.--A flank march in presence of the enemy is a most
difficult and dangerous operation. In the case of Blucher’s movement,
there was little actual danger from Grouchy, as events proved, but in
face of a vigorous enemy the Prussians would have been in a perilous
position. It was possible for an active enemy to seize the bridges over
the Dyle at Moustier and Ottignies, and fall upon Blucher’s flank. The
latter was not exposing his communications, for his real communications
were with Liege; he had temporarily abandoned them when he marched on
Wavre; but if attacked during his march his position would not have been
by any means safe. If defeated, whither would he have fallen back? This
is the chief danger of a flank march: the lack of a good, or even of
any, line of retreat. As a rule, a flank march, being away from the
general line of advance or retreat, has necessarily to be made on lesser
roads, and the difficulty of ample movement from one to another, or of
rapid deployment or change of front, becomes prodigious. Blucher, if
attacked during this march, would most probably have left one corps to
detain the enemy, while he, with the other three corps, resumed his
march towards Wellington; for to turn back would have been as dangerous
as to advance. But if his way had been barred he would have fallen back
on Brussels rather than upon Louvain, as he would still have a chance of
joining Wellington. If Blucher had been so attacked and defeated,
Grouchy would have been able to deal a terrible, in all probability a
crushing, blow on Wellington’s left flank.

It is interesting, but not particularly profitable, to speculate as to
what course events would have taken had Grouchy been up in time to
prevent Blucher’s flank march, and had checked him. Would Wellington
have fallen back on Brussels with Blucher, and fought again under the
city walls against Napoleon and Grouchy combined? In that case, the
weight of numbers would have been very much in favour of the allies, and
the great object of Napoleon’s plan of campaign--to prevent the junction
of the two armies--would have been thwarted. If Blucher, after being
checked, had fallen back on Louvain, while Wellington was still engaged
with Napoleon, it seems obvious that Grouchy’s extra numbers thrown into
the fight would have caused the Duke’s overthrow, for it would not then
have been necessary for Napoleon to detach against the Prussians;
Wellington was too seriously engaged to be able to withdraw, and the
defeat would have been complete. But after all, such speculation as this
might be continued indefinitely; and every campaign might be discussed
and argued to a hundred different conclusions by re-modelling the
conditions or improvising situations. A campaign, like a chess problem,
admits of more than one solution.


12. _Grouchy’s Retreat._ CHAPTER VIII.--A few points concerning
Grouchy’s retreat may be discussed briefly. Firstly, could he have been
intercepted before he reached Namur? The answer is Yes, by Pirch I.
Pirch had received orders, on the night of the 18th, to cut off Grouchy
from the Sambre; and he had accordingly marched towards Namur through
Maransart. He reached Mellery at 11 A.M. on the 19th. At this hour,
Grouchy had not begun his retreat. But Pirch’s men were tired, and they
were halted at Mellery. Had they pushed on another six miles to
Gembloux, which they would have reached at 2 P.M., Grouchy’s retreat on
Namur would have been intercepted. It is true that Grouchy’s force would
have greatly outnumbered Pirch’s, but the former would not stop to
engage the Prussians at Gembloux while Thielemann pressed close on his
heels. He would have been forced to make a very wide detour, and in the
meantime the Prussians could have hastened on and captured Namur.

Secondly, after Namur, why was not Grouchy more closely pursued? It
would have been an idle move to detach a force to follow Grouchy while
the advance on Paris was of such immediate importance. At best, Grouchy
could threaten the Prussian flank; but he would be more likely to
endeavour to join with the remnants of Napoleon’s army collected by
Soult. Little harm could be done by these forces; and the contagion of
defeat might have spread from Soult’s fugitives and demoralised
Grouchy’s men. In any case, the other allied armies were approaching the
frontier, and these would be able to deal with Grouchy. The important
move was to march on Paris, where the populace, sickened by Napoleon’s
collapse, were likely to accept terms.

Thirdly, could Grouchy really hope to effect anything advantageous by
his retreat on Paris? No, unless he saw a chance of persuading Napoleon
to put himself at the head of his troops and the Paris garrison, and
march out to repeat the strokes of 1814; but on the 22nd Napoleon had
abdicated.

Fourthly, could he have effected more by marching south to rally Suchet
and Lecourbe? Hardly; since overwhelming armies were approaching on that
side, and the fall of Paris would render resistance in the country
districts useless.

His case was really hopeless from the first. The allies in their march
on Paris would ignore him, and, moving by a much more direct road, would
reach the capital first. The triple line of fortresses across the line
of advance of the enemy, were expected to bar his approach, but they
were weakly garrisoned by ill-disciplined and raw troops, whose whole
spirit was shaken by Napoleon’s great defeat.

So far-reaching is the effect of a defeat as great as Waterloo that
armies, districts, even capitals, miles from the real theatre of war,
possibly in other countries, seem to crumble to dust before the
conqueror; but no fall from might and power has ever been so great as
Napoleon’s.


FOOTNOTES:

[1] Houssaye.

[2] Houssaye.

[3] The Prussians called them “brigades”--but as they varied in strength
from 6 to 9 battalions (although the battalions were weak) I have
substituted the word “divisions,” as they corresponded to the infantry
divisions in the French army.

[4] The French foot batteries contained 8 guns; the horse batteries, 6
guns. The horse battery belonging to Vandamme’s Corps had been detached
with Domon’s Light Cavalry Division, to the Left Wing.

[5] Turenne.

[6] This would mislead Napoleon, who would infer that Pajol’s Cavalry
was included.

[7] Grouchy infers this from Pajol’s capture of the Horse Battery near
Le Mazy.

[8] Grouchy seems to have avoided telling Napoleon that they were still
there at two o’clock in the afternoon!



INDEX


  Aisemont, village of, 68, 100, 103

  Aisne river, 13, 146

  Aix-la-Chapelle, 44

  Allies, earlier operations of the, 1-50

  Alten, General, Third British Division, 34, 42

  Anthing, General, Dutch-Belgians, 34, 39

  Antwerp, 8

  Artillery, Prussian, 54

  Asserre, 10

  Ath, 7-9, 34, 35

  Aulnay, 151

  Avesnes, 13-15, 135, 142, 143, 145, 146


  Bachelu, General, Infantry Division (French), 18, 33, 39, 42

  Balâtre, 62, 80

  Basle, 4

  Basse Wavre, 109-114, 117, 118, 123, 126

  Baudeset, 70

  Beaumont, 4, 7, 15, 142, 145

  Berthézène, Colonel, Eleventh Division, Third French Corps, 57

  Berton, General, Brigade of French Dragoons, 81, 82

  Bianchi, General (Austrians), 4

  Bierges, mill of, 111, 117-119, 122, 126, 127

  ----, village of, 68, 103, 111, 113, 118, 120, 124, 126-129

  Binche, 33

  Blanc Mesnil, 151

  Blucher, General, 4, 71, 83, 133;
    his army in Belgium, 9, 10;
    at Sombreffe, 21, 22, 25, 26;
    his reasons for concentrating at Ligny, 35-37, 43-47;
    interview with Wellington at Bussy, 40;
    defeated by Napoleon at Ligny, 73, 78;
    his retreat, 84, 90, 92;
    makes for Brussels, 94;
    marches towards Mont St Jean, 100-107;
    ordered to defend Wavre, 108;
    pursues French by Charleroi, 135;
    race for Paris between Grouchy and, 143-146, 151;
    at Compiègne, 148;
    captures bridges over the Oise, 150

  Bonne Espérance, 9

  Bonnemain, General, 88, 89, 92

  Borcke, General, Ninth Division, Third Prussian Corps, 52, 70,
    109-111, 113, 115, 130, 131, 138

  Bornstaedt, Major, 114

  Borstel, General, 90

  Bourmont, General de, 61

  Braine, l’Alleud, 102

  Braine-le-Comte, 8, 34, 35, 39

  Brunswick, Duke of, 39, 42

  Brussels, Napoleon resolves to attack, 6, 7

  Bry, 73, 74

  Bulow, General, Fourth Corps, 10, 66, 69, 78, 102;
    Gneisenau’s instructions--a serious delay, 22-24;
    too late for Ligny, 45, 46;
    at Baudeset, 70;
    without news, 71;
    at Dion-le-Mont, 100, 103;
    reaches St Lambert, 105, 117;
    pursues French to Genappe, 136;
    marches to St Quentin, 146;
    Ressons, 147;
    Senlis, 149, 150;
    and Marly la Ville, 151

  Bussy, mill of, 40

  Bylandt, General, First Brigade, Dutch-Belgians, 33, 39


  Cavalry, Prussian, 54

  Cérisy, 146

  Chambre, 128

  Chapelle St Lambert, 103, 105, 106, 109, 117

  Charlemont, 83

  Charleroi, 7, 9, 17, 25, 27, 28, 33, 36, 37, 141

  Chassé, General, 34

  Chastel, Colonel, Tenth Division, Second Cavalry Corps (French), 59

  Châtelet, 27, 30, 37

  Châtelineau, 30

  Chaumont, 136

  Chauny, 146, 147

  Chimay, 14

  Ciney, 10

  Clinton, General, Second British Division, 34, 35, 39

  Colville, General, Fourth British Division, 34, 35

  Compiègne, 146-148, 151

  Condé, 7, 8

  Cooke, General, First British Division, 34, 35, 42

  Corbaix, 71, 72, 94, 98, 137

  Courcelles, 27

  Courtrai, 8

  Couture, 104, 130

  Creil, 149

  Crepy, 147, 149-151


  Dammartin, 151

  Davoût, 5, 63

  Dender river, 8

  D’Erlon, General, First Corps (French), 12, 15, 16, 20, 21, 36, 39,
    41-43, 46, 48-50, 144, 147-151

  Dessaix, 63

  Dinant, 9, 10, 72, 139, 141, 142

  Dion-le-Mont, village of, 71, 98, 100, 103, 104, 109, 110, 115, 117, 136

  Dittfurth, Major, 55, 56, 110

  Domon, General, 76

  Dornberg, General, 34, 35

  Durutte, General, 21

  Dyle river, 68, 72, 93, 96, 98-100, 104-106, 110-112, 114, 118, 122,
    124, 126, 129, 136, 138


  Enghien, 8, 9, 34, 35, 39

  Ernage, 72, 89

  Excelmans, General, Second Cavalry Corps (French), 13, 56, 59, 63, 73,
    75, 76, 80-90, 92, 95-98, 107, 109, 110, 115, 117, 119, 123, 136


  Ferdinand, Archduke, 3

  Fleurus, 10, 17, 21, 27, 29, 32, 75

  Florennes, 15, 16

  Fontaine l’Evêque, 28

  Foy, General, 18, 38, 42

  Frasnes, 8, 18, 19, 33, 35, 38-41, 135

  Frimont, Marshal, 4

  Frischermont, 109


  Gembloux, 40, 56, 66, 68-70, 81-88, 94, 95, 137, 138, 141

  Genappe, 8, 41, 136

  Gentinnes, 66-68, 70, 72

  Gérard, General, Fourth Corps (French), 12, 15-17, 30, 36, 58, 61, 62,
    64, 73, 85-87, 94, 95, 99, 107, 115, 117-119, 124, 127, 136-139

  Gerpinnes, 9, 15

  Ghent, 8

  Gillicourt, 149

  Gilly, 17, 27, 28, 30

  Girard, General, 29, 41, 42, 47-49

  Givet, 4, 7

  Gneisenau, General, chief of Blucher’s Staff, 22-24, 66, 67, 102, 106

  Gonesse, 150, 151

  Gosselies, 18, 27, 28, 38, 48, 135

  Grammont, 8, 34, 35

  Grand Leez, 92, 99, 136

  Grouchy, Marshal Count, 5, 13-15, 17, 18, 30, 42, 55, 57, 62, 64,
      74-76, 78, 100, 105-107, 112;
    summary of his Forces, 60;
    unfit for independent command, 63;
    the only man available, 65;
    his pursuit of the Prussians, 80-99;
    battle of Wavre, 115, 117, 118, 120, 123-132;
    his retreat after Wavre, 133-152

  Guiscard, 147

  Guise, 146


  Habert, General, Tenth Division, Third French Corps, 57, 116

  Ham, 146, 147

  Ham-sur-Heure, 15

  Hannut, 10, 22-24

  Hautain-le-Val, 33

  Heppignies, village of, 29

  Heron, 9

  Hill, Lord, 8

  Hirson, 146

  Hobe, General, Reserve Cavalry, Third Prussian Corps, 53, 70, 113, 119

  Hologne, 10

  Houssaye, quoted, 6, 7, 61, 85

  Hulot, Colonel, Fourteenth Division, Fourth French Corps, 58, 118,
    119, 127

  Huy, 9, 10


  Infantry, Prussian, 54


  Jacquinot, General, Reserve Cavalry, Fourth French Corps, 50, 58

  Jagow, Colonel, 148

  Jamioux, 15

  Jerome, General, 18, 38, 42

  Jumet, 18, 21, 28


  Kampfen, Colonel, 52, 113

  Kellermann, General, Third Cavalry Corps (French), 13, 39-43, 63, 150

  Kleist, General, 2


  La Baraque, 72, 95, 97-99, 109, 115

  La Bavette, 72, 103, 113, 114, 130, 136

  La Bavette-Rosieren, 136

  La Falize, 138

  La Fère, 146

  La Ferté, 151

  La Haye, 102

  La Huzelle, wood of, 98, 106

  Lagny, 151

  Lambusart, 31

  Landrécies, fortress of, 143

  Langres, 4

  Lannes, General, 63

  Laon, 4, 13, 14, 135, 142, 143, 146

  Lasne, valley of the, 104, 105

  Laurent, Napoleon’s A.D.C., 48

  Le Boquet, 81

  Le Bourget, 151

  Le Caillou farm-house, 99

  Le Mazy, 81, 82, 84, 89, 92

  Lecourbe, General, 5, 142

  Ledebur, Colonel, 71, 97, 98, 104, 106, 125

  Leers, 15, 18

  Lefebvre-Desnouette, General, Cavalry of the Guard (French), 19, 39

  Lefol, Colonel, Eighth Division, Third French Corps, 57, 117, 118

  Letort, General, 31

  Leuze, 8

  Liège, 10, 24, 33, 90

  Liers, 10

  Ligny, 32, 35, 37, 38, 40, 41, 43, 44, 47, 55, 57, 62, 67, 74

  Lille, 7, 12, 14

  Limale, village of, 99, 100, 111, 114, 117, 119, 120, 124, 126, 132, 136

  Limelette, Village of, 98, 99, 112

  Lobau, General, Sixth Corps (French), 13, 15-17, 36, 56, 59, 73, 76

  Lobbes, village of, 9, 25

  Longwy, 13

  Lootz, 10

  Losthin, General, 104

  Lottum, Colonel Count, Reserve Cavalry, Third Prussian Corps, 53, 70,
    72, 114, 128

  Louvain, 81, 100, 103, 130

  Luck, Colonel, Eleventh Division, Third Prussian Corps, 52, 113

  Lutzow, Colonel, 28

  Lyons, 5


  Maestricht, 83

  Maladrie, hamlet of, 25, 26

  Maransart, 104, 105

  Marbais, 41, 47, 48, 79

  Marchienne, 15, 18, 21, 26, 27

  Marcinelle, 15, 28

  Marle, 146

  Marly la Ville, 151

  Marwitz, Colonel (Prussians), 49, 50, 70, 72, 113, 126, 128-130

  Masséna, General, 63

  Maubeuge, fortress of, 4, 14, 15, 143

  Maurin, General, 107

  Meaux, 151

  Mellery, 66, 135, 137

  Metz, 13

  Meuse valley, 7, 139

  Mézières, 12, 14, 143, 146

  Milhaud, General, Fourth Cavalry Corps (French), 13, 62, 63, 73

  Mohnhaupt, Colonel, Reserve Artillery (Prussian), 53

  Mons, 8, 25, 33, 34, 44

  Mont Potriaux, 55, 56

  Mont St Guibert, 66, 68, 71, 97, 100, 103, 104, 106

  Mont St Jean, 44, 95, 99;
    Blucher marches towards, 100-107

  Montigny, 26

  Moustier, 93, 96, 99, 107

  Muffling, 102

  Murat, 63


  Namur, 9, 10, 24, 33, 35, 83, 90, 100, 134-136, 138-141

  Nancy, 4

  Nanteuil, 150, 151

  Napoleon, his waiting tactics and inaction, 2, 3, 36, 37, 44, 50,
      76, 78;
    his scheme of campaign, 5, 11;
    resolves to attack Brussels, 6;
    his army for invasion of Belgium, 12;
    his first movements, 14;
    his position on 15th June, 35;
    his instructions to Ney, 40, 41;
    Ligny and after, 45, 47, 48, 73-78;
    Blucher’s reasons, 46;
    Grouchy and, 64, 65, 93, 105;
    his orders to Grouchy, 80, 83-85, 87, 99, 117;
    Grouchy’s despatches to, 90, 94;
    routed at Mont St Jean, 124;
    defeated at Wavre, 133;
    “no party, no power,” 145

  Neuf Sart, 97

  Ney, Marshal, the “bravest of the brave,” 13;
    in command of Left Wing, 18, 29;
    his cautious methods, 19, 20;
    Frasnes, 33, 35;
    interview with Napoleon, 36;
    hesitation about Quatre-Bras, 37-39, 42, 43, 75-77;
    Napoleon’s instructions to, 40, 41, 47, 48;
    his orders to d’Erlon, 49;
    no news from, 75-77

  Nil Perrieux, 72

  Nil St Vincent, 88, 97, 98

  Ninove, 8, 35

  Nivelles, 9, 34, 39, 41

  Nouvion, 146

  Noyon, 147


  Ohain, 106

  Oise river, 146, 147, 150

  Orange, Prince of, commander of troops in the Netherlands, 2, 8, 34,
    35, 39, 40, 42

  Origny, 146, 147

  Orneau, valley of the, 82

  Ostend, 8

  Ottenburg, village of, 130

  Ottignies, 93, 99, 107

  Oudenarde, 7-9


  Pajol, General, First Cavalry Corps (French), 13, 17, 26-28, 59, 60,
    63, 73, 75, 76, 80-84, 87, 89, 92, 99, 115, 117-120, 127, 137, 138

  Pecheux, Colonel, Twelfth Division, Fourth French Corps, 58, 127

  Peronne, 4

  Perponcher, General (Dutch-Belgians), 33, 34, 36, 39

  Perwez, 88, 90

  Philippeville, 7, 15, 141-143

  Picton, General, 39, 42

  Piéton stream, 28

  Pirch I., General, Second Corps (Prussians), 9, 10, 32, 35, 41, 66-68,
    73, 98, 100, 103, 105, 106, 135, 137, 139-144

  Pirch II., General, 30-32

  Piré, General, French Cavalry, 18, 29, 33, 36, 39, 41, 42

  Plancenoit, 105

  Point-du-Jour, 70, 85-87, 121, 126

  Pont St Maxence, 146, 150

  Provence, 4

  Prussian Corps, Third, 52-65


  Quatre-Bras, 7-9, 19, 20, 33, 35-45, 83;
    results of battle, 43


  Ransart, 29

  Rapp, General, 6

  Reille, General, Second Corps (French), 12, 15, 18, 21, 25, 29, 36,
    38-42, 142, 144, 150, 151

  Reims, 146, 147

  Ressons, 147, 149

  Réthel, 146

  Rixensart, 109, 127, 128, 131

  Rochefort, 10

  Rocroi, fortress of, 14, 143

  Roder, General, Reserve Cavalry (Prussian), 28, 31

  Rouelx, 8

  Roye, 146

  Ryssel, General, Fourteenth Division (Prussians), 71, 105


  Saarbruck, 4

  Saarlouis, 4

  St Achtenrode, village of, 130

  St Amand, 41, 49, 74, 85

  St Anne, village of, 68, 100

  St Denis, 81, 89, 92, 137, 138, 151

  St Géry, 93, 96

  St Lambert, 117, 125, 138

  St Quentin, 146

  St Robert, 131

  St Symphorien, 26

  Sambre river, 15, 27, 28, 139, 140

  Sart à Walhain, 88, 90, 92, 136

  Sauvenière, village of, 88, 90, 95, 137

  Saxe-Weimar, Prince Bernard of, 19, 20, 33, 35

  Schwarzenberg, General (Austrian Army), 34

  Seneffe, 8

  Seulis, 147, 149-151

  Sohr, Colonel, 71, 106

  Soignies Forest, 8, 9, 93

  Soissons, 146-148

  Soleilmont, 30

  Solre-sur-Sambre, 15

  Sombreffe, 10, 18, 21, 32, 37, 41, 42, 44, 55;
    retreat of Thielemann’s corps from, 66-79

  Sossoye, 9, 10

  Sottegheim, 35, 39

  Soult, Marshal, 14, 16, 21, 40, 64, 80, 89, 142, 143, 146, 147

  ----, Baron, 60, 137

  Steedman, General, 34, 39

  Steinmetz, General, First Division of Zieten’s Corps (Prussian),
    25-29, 32-34, 39

  Stengel, Colonel, 114;
    at Wavre, 119-121, 124, 130

  Strolz, Colonel, Ninth Cavalry Division, Second Cavalry Corps
    (French), 59

  Stulpnagel, Colonel, Twelfth Division Third Prussian Corps, 52, 109,
      113;
    at Wavre, 119-121, 124, 126-128

  Suchet, General, 5, 65, 142

  Sydow, General, 149, 150


  Temploux, 137, 138, 141

  Teste, General, Twenty-first Division Third Prussian Corps, 59, 76,
    81, 83, 96, 115, 119, 124, 127, 128, 137, 139-141

  Thielemann, Lieutenant-General, Third Prussian Corps, 10, 52, 55,
      56, 62, 81, 82, 87, 88, 90, 95, 100, 103, 106, 117, 119,
      124-134, 136-139, 141, 145-147, 151;
    his retreat from Sombreffe, 66-79;
    his instructions and dispositions at Wavre, 108-114

  Thionville, 13, 14

  Thorembey les Beguignes, 9

  Thuin, 9, 15, 26, 143

  Tilly, 66-68, 71, 73

  Tirlemont, 2

  Tolly, Barclay de, 2, 4

  Tongrenelles, 62

  Tongres, 10

  Tourinnes, 88, 99, 115, 136


  Uxbridge, Lord, 8, 35, 39


  Valenciennes, 12, 14

  Vallin, Colonel, 136

  Vandamme, General, Third Corps (French), 12, 15-18, 31, 47, 48, 57,
      62, 64, 73, 85-88, 92, 94, 95, 97-99, 108, 109, 111, 134, 136,
      138-140, 146, 147, 151;
    at Wavre, 115-119, 122, 124, 127, 129, 130, 132

  Van Merlen, General, 26, 33, 34

  Vervins, 146

  Vichery, Colonel, 58, 127

  Vieux Sart, 71, 100

  Villers Perruin, 33, 49

  Villets Coterets, 148-151

  Vilvorde, 35


  Walhain, 71, 92, 95, 97, 137

  Warème, 10

  Wavre, 44, 67-69, 72, 92-94, 98-101, 104, 106, 136;
    Thielemann’s instructions and dispositions at, 108-114;
    battle of, 115-132

  Wellington, Duke of, 4, 37, 38, 78, 83, 90, 93, 101;
    disposition of his troops in Belgium, 7;
    his plans, 25, 35;
    order for concentration, 34;
    a message to Blucher, 102

  Wrede, Prince, 3


  Zeppelin, Colonel, 109-111, 113, 129, 132

  Zieten, General, First Corps (Prussian), 8-10, 17, 22, 25-29, 31,
    32, 34, 35, 66-68, 70, 72, 73, 100, 103, 106, 114, 125, 142, 143,
    145, 146-151


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LONDON: JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, W.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber’s note:

Obvious printer errors corrected silently.

Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation are as in the original.





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