The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Waterloo Campaign 1815, by William Siborne

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most
other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of
the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at  If you are not located in the United States, you'll have
to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this ebook.

Title: The Waterloo Campaign 1815

Author: William Siborne

Release Date: November 11, 2018 [EBook #58268]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by Brian Coe, Graeme Mackreth and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at (This
file was produced from images generously made available
by The Internet Archive)






Captain, Half Pay, Unattached,
Constructor of the
Waterloo Model




BY common consent, this Work is regarded as the best comprehensive account in the English language of the Waterloo Campaign. Even those who differ from the Author upon particular points, most cordially admit the general accuracy and fulness of his History. It is charmingly written, is graphic yet precise, and abundantly witnesses to the Author's most strenuous endeavour to do justice to every one who took part in that great Conflict.

This Work will henceforth be a household book amongst the Teutonic race; and all who read it will gain a very clear insight into the methods of Military Strategy as they were practised by the great Captains of that Age.

It is impossible to repress one's admiration of the heroic bravery displayed in this brief Campaign: whether amongst the Allies at Quatre Bras and Waterloo, or by the Imperial Guard at Planchenoit, or by the Prussians at Ligny, Wavre, and Le Chesnay.

The reader must be good enough to observe that a Prussian Brigade then equalled in numbers a French or an English Division.

This Work has extended to such great length that one half of the Appendix (see pages 42 to 44) and nearly all the Notes have been, most unwillingly, omitted. Only those Foot Notes have been inserted which are absolutely essential to the Text. Room has however been found, at pages 798 to 826, for the Nominal Lists of Officers at Waterloo, &c.

One would most earnestly wish that Wars may cease until the end of Time; but if that may not be, then may they be as bravely fought as was this War of Twenty Days: from the 15th June, when Napoleon crossed the Sambre; to the 4th July 1815, the day on which the Allies took possession of Paris.








IN graciously deigning to accept the Dedication of these pages, Your Majesty has afforded the greatest possible encouragement to my humble endeavours to record, with simplicity, impartiality, and truth, the incidents of an eventful War, resulting in a long enduring Peace; a War which shed a new and brighter lustre on the valour and discipline of the British Army, and once more called forth the consummate sagacity and far-extending prescience of that illustrious Chief, whom Your Majesty, with wise appreciation and a just pride, retains at its head.

Earnestly hoping that the result of those endeavours may prove not altogether undeserving of Your Majesty's approbation,

I have the honour to be,
With profound respect,
Your Majesty's most humble
And most devoted servant,
Captain Unattached.


IN offering to the Public this Third Edition, I feel called upon to state, by way of explanation, in what respect it differs from the two former Editions. During the interval which has elapsed, I have not failed to avail myself of every opportunity to correct and improve any points which further investigation rendered desirable; and I have been much gratified in finding that the general plan and arrangement of the Work, together with the elucidation of the military operations, and the views of their tendency and effect, have been generally borne out and approved; and that, consequently, in these respects little alteration has been required.

The exceptions, which consist principally in details, and amount in number to only four or five, have been rectified in this edition. They are chiefly the result of discussions which have appeared in the pages of the United Service Magazine; and relate to a portion of the proceedings of Sir Colin Halkett's and Sir Denis Pack's Brigades at Quatre Bras and Waterloo.

Through the kindness of His Excellency the Prussian Ambassador, Chevalier Bunsen, and of the Prussian Generals von Canitz and von Krauseneck, and of Major Gerwien of the Prussian Head Quarters Staff; I have obtained additional interesting details connected with the Prussian operations; more especially as regards the opening of the Campaign.

A Dutch work published, apparently under authority, by Major Van Löben Sels, Aide de Camp to his Royal Highness Prince Frederick of the Netherlands, and entitled B dragen tot de Kr gsgeschiedenis van Napoleon Bonaparte, of which I was not previously in possession, has enabled me to give additional particulars respecting the movements and dispositions of the most advanced portion of the Dutch-Belgian troops, on the first advance of the Enemy; and also to explain particular circumstances and qualify some observations respecting those troops which appeared in former Editions.

The Editor of an Article in The Quarterly Review, No. CLI., entitled Marmont, Siborne, and Alison, having, in his comments upon this Work, denied the accuracy of one or two important facts therein stated; I have, in notes at pages 57 and 152,[2] entered into more minute details, which explain the grounds that warrant me in adhering to the original statements.

The observations made in the Preface of a Volume of "Murray's Home and Colonial Library," entitled The Story of Waterloo, and the palpable embodiment of the present Work into the pages of the latter, have been such as could scarcely fail to attract attention; and I have accordingly appended to this Edition, in a separate form, some remarks upon that publication.[3] Public opinion (if I may judge by the unanimous consent of the press) having so distinctly pronounced its acknowledgment of the value of my Work, as one of History; I could not disregard the conduct of a Writer, who, in the first place endeavours to depreciate that value, and then unblushingly makes the most ample and unlicensed use of it for his own purposes.


18th June 1848.


[2] Omitted in this Fourth Edition.—E.A.

[3] Omitted in this Fourth Edition.—E.A.


The Duke of Wellington.


THE circumstance of the First Edition having been sold off within a very few days, combined with the highly favourable notices taken of the Work by professional as well as other critics, and, I may be permitted to add, the very flattering encomiums which have been pronounced upon it by so many who, from their position, are the most competent to form an opinion on its merits, cannot fail to afford proofs, the most satisfactory to the Public, and, at the same time, the most gratifying to the Author, that, in the production of these Volumes,[4] upon a subject of such stirring national interest, neither the expectations of the former have been altogether disappointed, nor the labours of the latter bestowed in vain.

The present Edition contains corrections on one or two points of trivial importance, to which my attention has been directed; and I shall be happy to receive further information from surviving Eye Witnesses who may discover any instances in which the facts related appear either inaccurately or insufficiently explained.


August 23rd, 1844.


[4] The First and Second Editions of this Work were each published in Two Volumes.—E.A.


SOME years ago, when constructing a Model of the Field of Waterloo, at a particular period of the Battle; I found it necessary to make great exertions to procure that detailed information for which I had sought in vain in the already numerous published accounts of the military transactions of 1815. Anxious to ensure the rigorous accuracy of my work, I ventured to apply for information to nearly all the surviving Eye Witnesses of the incidents which my Model was intended to represent. In every quarter, and among Officers of all ranks, from the General to the Subaltern, my applications were responded to in a most liberal and generous spirit; and the result did indeed surprise me, so greatly at variance was this historical evidence with the general notions which had previously prevailed on the subject. Thus was suggested the present Work. I was induced by the success of this experiment to embrace a wider field, and to extend my enquiries over the entire Battle; and, ultimately, throughout the Campaign itself, from its commencement to its close.

Having become the depository of such valuable materials, I felt it a duty to the honourable profession of which I am a humble member, to submit to it, and to the World, a true and faithful account of this memorable epoch in the history of Britain's military greatness.

Though not so presumptuous as to imagine that I have fully supplied so absolute a desideratum; yet I consider myself fortunate in being the instrument of withdrawing so far the veil from Truth. One of my Waterloo correspondents has humorously remarked, that "if ever truth lies at the bottom of a well, she does so immediately after a great Battle; and it takes an amazingly long time before she can be lugged out." The time of her emerging appears to have at length arrived; but, while I feel that I have brought to light much that was involved in obscurity, I cannot but be sensible that I may have fallen into errors. Should such be the case, I shall be most ready, hereafter, to make any corrections that may appear requisite, on my being favoured, by Eye Witnesses, with further well authenticated information.

I take this opportunity of returning my sincere thanks to the numerous Officers of the British Army, who have so kindly committed to my keeping their recollections of the events which I have attempted to describe. Similar thanks are likewise due to the Officers of the King's German Legion and Hanoverian Subsidiary Corps; as also to the General Officers who respectively furnished me with such information as related to the troops of Brunswick and Nassau.

I beg also to express my obligations to the Prussian Minister of War, and the Officers of the Prussian General Staff in Berlin, for the readiness and liberality with which they have supplied me with such details concerning the dispositions and movements of the troops of their Sovereign, as were essential to me in prosecuting the task I had undertaken.

Having briefly explained the circumstances that led to the construction of the Work which I thus venture to place before the Public, I have now only to express a hope that my labours may be crowned with usefulness. Should such a result occur, I shall then have obtained the only fame I seek.


March 1844.


Landing of Napoleon Buonaparte in France after his escape from Elba 47
Flight of Louis XVIII. 47
Decision of the Congress of Vienna 48
Preparations on the part of the Allied Powers for opening a Campaign against Napoleon 49
Great Britain and Prussia occupy Belgium 49
Advance of the Russians towards the French frontier 51
Advance of the Austrians 52
The troops of Bavaria, Baden, Würtemburg, and of Hesse, assemble upon the Upper Rhine 52
Preparations on the part of Napoleon 53
General aspect of France 57
Spirit of the French Army 58
Public Opinion and state of Parties in France 59
Belgium again destined to become the Theatre of War 62
The British Army 62
The Duke of Wellington 63
The Prussian Army 67
Prince Blücher von Wahlstadt 67
The King's German Legion; the Hanoverian, Brunswick, Dutch, Belgian, and Nassau troops 67
Napoleon and the French Army 68
Prospect of a severe struggle 69
Strength, composition, and distribution of the Anglo-Allied Army under Wellington 71
Its projected concentration in the event of Napoleon's advance 75
Strength, composition, and distribution of the Prussian Army under Blücher 76
Its projected concentration in the event of Napoleon's advance 79
The line on which Wellington's Left and Blücher's Right rested, selected by Napoleon for the direction of his attack 82
Strength, composition, and distribution of the French Army under Napoleon 82
Necessity under which the French Emperor is placed of opening the Campaign without awaiting the further development of his resources 87
Slight retrospect of the Campaign of 1814 88
Napoleon's prospect of success 88
His preparations for the commencement of hostilities 90
Wellington receives information from his Outposts in front of Tournai, of the assembling of French troops on the frontier; but delays the concentration of the Anglo-Allied troops until certain of the object and direction of Napoleon's main operation 91
Concentration of the French Army 91
Napoleon joins the latter in person 92
Ordre du Jour of the 14th of June 93
Zieten ascertains and communicates to the Allied Commanders the assembling of French troops in his front, and that there is every probability of an attack by the Enemy on the 14th or 15th of June 94
Blücher's dispositions 96
Extent of information gained by Wellington and Blücher immediately previous to the commencement of hostilities 97
Position of the First Prussian Corps d'Armée under Zieten 97
Advance of the French Army into Belgium on the 15th of June 98
The French force the Prussian Outposts; cross the Sambre, and gain possession of Charleroi 98
Retreat of the different Brigades of Zieten's Corps upon Fleurus 104
Affair at Gilly 106
Zieten's Corps concentrates in position between Ligny and St Arnaud 110
Losses experienced by this Corps on the 15th 111
The Second and Third Prussian Corps d'Armée, under Pirch and Thielemann, concentrate and bivouac on the night of the 15th; the former between Onoz and Mazy not far from Sombref, the latter in and around Namur 111
Bülow is desired to concentrate the Fourth Prussian Corps d'Armée at Hannut 112
Cause of this operation being deferred until the 16th 113
Ney joins the French Army, and receives from Napoleon the command of a detached Corps destined to operate by the Brussels road from Charleroi 114
The Advanced Post at Frasne, upon the extreme Left of the Duke of Wellington's Army, receives intelligence of the French attack 115
Consequent movements of de Perponcher's Dutch-Belgian Division 115
The Anglo-Allied Post at Frasne is driven in by the Advanced Guard of Ney's Corps; the progress of which is checked by Prince Bernhard of Saxe Weimar's Dutch-Belgian Brigade in front of Quatre Bras 116
Disposition of Ney's forces in the night of the 15th of June 118
Wellington is informed of Napoleon's advance, and makes his dispositions accordingly 119
Order of the movements of the Anglo-Allied Army 120
Disposition of the Centre and Right Columns of the French Army
during the night of the 15th
Remarks on the result of Napoleon's operations on the 15th of June 123
On the morning of the 16th, Wellington's troops are in movement upon Nivelles and Quatre Bras 129
The Dutch-Belgian Detachment at the latter point is reinforced, and becomes engaged with the French Advanced Guard 129
The Prince of Orange arrives, and succeeds in forcing back the French upon Frasne 131
Ney's views and dispositions 131
Wellington arrives in person at Quatre Bras 134
He proceeds to the Prussian Head Quarters for the purpose of holding a conference with Blücher 134
Adopted Plan of Operations 135
Instructions received by Ney from Napoleon 135
Ney's advance 143
The Prince of Orange's dispositions to meet it 143
Relative strength 143
The Prince of Orange retires towards Quatre Bras, occupies the Wood of Bossu, and endeavours to maintain the Post of Gemioncourt 144
Arrival of Picton's Division 145
Conspicuous gallantry of the Prince of Orange 147
Arrival of van Merlen's Light Cavalry Brigade 148
Van Merlen advances in support of Perponcher's Infantry 148
Both are driven back: the former to Quatre Bras; the latter into the Wood of Bossu, which is now attacked by the French 148
The latter occupy Gemioncourt and Piermont 148
Ney's position 149
Arrival of the principal portion of the Brunswick troops 149
Relative strength 150
Part of the Brunswick Corps posted between the Charleroi road and the Wood of Bossu 151
French attack 152
Wellington decides on meeting it 153
Advance of Picton with the Fifth British Division 153
The French Infantry gallantly repulsed by the British 154
Attack upon the Brunswickers 155
The Duke of Brunswick makes an ineffectual charge at the head of his Lancers 157
Retreat of the Brunswickers 157
Fall of the Duke of Brunswick 158
Conspicuous gallantry of the 42nd and 44th British Regiments 159
The French Cavalry advances as far as Quatre Bras 162
Is checked by the 92nd Highlanders 162
Kellermann joins Ney with L'Heritier's Cavalry Division 163
The French Cavalry attacks the British Squares 164
Picton advances his Infantry into the midst of the French Cavalry 166
Remarkable steadiness of the British Squares 167
Manner in which the charges of the French Cavalry were executed 167
The French are rapidly gaining possession of the entire Wood of Bossu, are reinforcing their Light Troops in Piermont, and are preparing to renew their attack upon Quatre Bras 172
Alten joins Wellington with two Infantry Brigades of the Third Division 173
Ney is joined by the remaining Division of Kellermann's Corps of Heavy Cavalry 173
Relative strength 173
Ney, after despatching an Order to d'Erlon to join him without delay, commences another general attack 174
Two French Foot Batteries suddenly open a fire from the edge of the Wood of Bossu upon the Brunswick Infantry 174
Gallant conduct of Lloyd's British Foot Battery 174
Advance of Halkett's British Infantry Brigade posted between the Wood of Bossu and the Charleroi road 175
Kielmansegge's Hanoverian Infantry Brigade advances along the Namur road to reinforce and support Picton's Division 175
Advance of French Infantry against Quatre Bras 176
The latter gallantly charged and pursued by the 92nd Highlanders 176
Halkett's Brigade posted between the Wood of Bossu and the Charleroi road 177
The 69th British Regiment is attacked and dispersed by French Cuirassiers 178
Vigorous assault along the whole of the Anglo-Allied Line 180
Arrival of British and German Artillery 181
French Cuirassiers driven back in confusion from Quatre Bras 182
Ney receives intelligence that d'Erlon's Corps has been ordered by Napoleon to march towards the Prussian Extreme Right on the Field of Ligny; and shortly afterwards a despatch reaches him, requiring him to attack and repulse whatever Enemy may be in his front, and then to fall upon the Prussian Right 182
Vigorous attack upon the Left of Wellington's Line successfully repelled 184
The French Cavalry continues its attacks upon the central portion of the Anglo-Allied Army 184
Ney receives a further despatch from the Emperor, urging him to comply immediately with the instructions previously given 185
Arrival of Brunswick reinforcement 185
Also of the First British Division under Cooke 186
Relative strength 186
Halkett is again attacked by French Cavalry, after which he makes a further advance of his Brigade 187
The British Guards succeed in forcing the French out of the Wood of Bossu 188
Signal defeat of French Cavalry by the British Guards and the Brunswick Guard Battalion 189
Wellington's victorious advance 191
Ney withdraws the whole of his forces to the Heights of Frasne, on which they bivouac for the night 191
D'Erlon joins Ney after the termination of the action 191
Losses in killed and wounded 193
Remarks upon the Battle 193
Blücher decides upon accepting battle in the position in rear of Fleurus 199
The position of Ligny strategically considered 200
The position itself described 201
Distribution of Zieten's Corps on the morning of the 16th of June 201
At eleven o'clock Pirch's Corps is posted as a Reserve to Zieten's 203
Thielemann's Corps reaches Sombref about noon 204
Its distribution on the Field 204
General view of Blücher's dispositions 204
About ten o'clock the foremost of the French troops debouch in two Columns from the Wood of Fleurus, and draw up in front of this town 204
Napoleon's views and dispositions 205
At two o'clock he communicates to Ney his intention to commence his attack upon the Prussians, and desires that Marshal also to attack the Enemy in his front 206
The French Light Troops gain possession of Fleurus 206
The Cavalry of Zieten's Corps falls back upon the position of Ligny 206
The French Army advances and takes up a position preparatory to its attack 207
Strength of the French forces under Napoleon 208
Strength of the Prussian forces under Blücher 209
Blücher's arrangements 209
He moves Thielemann's Corps into his Front Line, of which it then forms the Left Wing 210
Blücher's views and dispositions 211
Tactical defects of the position of Ligny 213
Napoleon commences the Battle with an attack by Vandamme's Corps upon St Amand 213
Gérard's Corps attacks Ligny 214
Contest in these Villages 215
The French carry St Amand 216
Renewed attack upon Ligny 217
Nature of the contest between Thielemann's and Grouchy's Corps 217
Girard's Division gains possession of St Amand la Haye 218
Blücher's dispositions for retaking this Village, securing Wagnelé, and impeding any further advance from the French Left 218
Failure of the Prussian attack upon St Amand la Haye 219
Blücher decides on a renewed attack upon this Village, as a diversion in favour of his projected movement against the French Left 219
Napoleon reinforces this Flank 220
The Prussians retake St Amand la Haye 220
Blücher reinforces his extreme Right with Cavalry 221
Prussian attack upon Wagnelé unsuccessful 222
The French regain St Amand la Haye 223
Continued contest at Ligny 223
Blücher reinforces his troops employed in the defence of this Village 224
Long and desperate struggle in the Villages of St Amand la Haye, Wagnelé, and the Hameau de St Amand 227
Napoleon, perceiving that Blücher has scarcely any Reserve remaining at his disposal, resolves upon attacking the Prussian Centre 230
He suspends his meditated attack in consequence of a large Column advancing apparently from Frasne towards his Left Rear 231
This Column is discovered to be d'Erlon's Corps d'Armée 234
This circumstance explained 234
Thielemann detaches a portion of his Cavalry with some guns across the Ligny, along the Fleurus road 237
They are attacked and driven back by part of Grouchy's Cavalry 237
Disposition and state of the Prussian troops at the moment Napoleon advances with a formidable Reserve across the Ligny 239
The Prussian Infantry forced to evacuate Ligny 242
Failure of Prussian Cavalry attacks upon the advancing Column of French Infantry 243
Blücher's horse is killed, and the Prince thrown under him 245
Critical situation of the Prussian Commander 246
He is removed from the Field 246
Retreat of Prussian Infantry upon Bry 247
Contest at Sombref 249
Retreat of the Prussians from St Amand and St Amand la Haye 250
Zieten's and Pirch's Corps retire by Marbais and Tilly 251
Thielemann's Corps retains its position 252
Close of the Battle 253
Distribution of the French troops 254
Disposition of the Prussian troops 254
Bülow's Corps reaches Gembloux during the night 255
Losses sustained by both Armies 255
Consequences of the Prussian defeat 255
Remarks upon the Battle 256
An engagement of short duration, and originating accidentally, takes place between the French and Anglo-Allied Picquets on the Field of Quatre Bras, about an hour before daylight of the 17th June 259
Wellington detaches a Patrol to his Left for the purpose of gaining intelligence concerning Blücher's movements 261
The Patrol finds the Prussians at Tilly 262
Upon its return Wellington decides on retrograding his forces to the position in front of Waterloo 263
Order of Movement 263
Communications between Blücher and Wellington 264
Retreat of the Anglo-Allied Infantry; masked from the Enemy 264
Ney's views and dispositions 266
Napoleon communicates to Ney the result of the Battle of Ligny; and proposes, should the Enemy's force at Quatre Bras advance against him, to co-operate with the Marshal in a combined attack upon the Anglo-Allied Army 267
Tardiness of Napoleon's movements 267
Simultaneous advance of Napoleon and Ney against Wellington 268
Uxbridge's dispositions for the retreat of the British Cavalry 270
Brilliant Cavalry Affair at Genappe 281
Retreat continued to the Waterloo position 282
Napoleon's advance checked on his reaching La Belle Alliance 282
Remarks on the retreat 283
Blücher's promised support 285
Wellington's disposition of his detached troops under Sir Charles Colville and Prince Frederick of Orange 285
The French and Anglo-Allied Armies establish their respective bivouacs for the night 286
At daybreak of the 17th, the Prussian Army commences its retreat upon Wavre 287
Zieten's Corps retires by Mont St Guibert, and reaches Wavre about mid day 287
Pirch's Corps follows the same route, and takes post upon the right bank of the Dyle 287
Thielemann, having collected together the Brigades of his Corps, begins to retire from the Field of Ligny at two o'clock in the morning 288
He halts in rear of Gembloux 289
Bülow retires by Walhain and Corbaix to Dion le Mont, near which he takes up a position 290
Thielemann resumes his march at two o'clock in the afternoon, and arrives at the position of Wavre late in the evening 290
Prussian Head Quarters established at Wavre 291
Blücher receives a message from Wellington 291
While the Prussians are effecting their retreat during the early part of the morning, the French continue quietly in their bivouac 292
Pajol, with the Light Cavalry Division, seeks the Prussians along the Namur road; followed by Lieutenant General Teste's Infantry Division, in support 292
Other troops detached towards Gembloux, near which traces of the Prussian retreat are discovered 293
Remarks upon the extraordinary degree of inactivity on the part of Napoleon 293
About noon, Napoleon proceeds to collect, in advance of Marbais, on the high road to Quatre Bras, a portion of the troops that had fought at Ligny; and detaches the remainder, under Grouchy, in pursuit of the Prussians 296
Napoleon's instructions to Grouchy 297
The troops assembled near Marbais advance upon Quatre Bras, which they reach about two o'clock 298
The Corps of Vandamme and Gérard do not reach Gembloux until late in the evening 299
Grouchy's dispositions 300
Disposition of the Prussian troops during the 17th 302
Influence of the defeat at Ligny upon the morale of the Prussian Army 305
Blücher is informed of the position of the Anglo-Allied Army 306
His instructions to Bülow 306
On the 18th, Vandamme's and Gérard's Corps commence the march from Gembloux, at nine o'clock, upon Wavre, preceded by the Heavy Cavalry under Excelmans, and supported on their left by Maurin's Light Cavalry 307
At half past ten o'clock, Excelmans' Advanced Guard comes in contact with the Prussian Rear Guard 307
At Sart à Wallain Grouchy's attention is called to the sound of a heavy cannonade in the direction of Mont St Jean 308
Gérard suggests to Grouchy the expediency of marching towards the cannonade 308
Grouchy's reasons for rejecting this proposal 309
The march upon Wavre continued 309
At daybreak on the 18th, Bülow quits his position near Dion le Mont to march through Wavre upon St Lambert, and thus commences the flank movement of the Prussians in support of the Anglo-Allied Army at Waterloo 310
Blücher communicates to Wellington his intention of immediately attacking the Enemy's Right Flank 311
Dispositions made for giving security to this movement 312
Blücher directs that as soon as Bülow's Corps has proceeded beyond Wavre, Zieten's Corps is to commence its march by Fromont and Ohain to join the Left Wing of Wellington's Army 312
Pirch's Corps to follow Bülow's in the direction of St Lambert; and Thielemann's to follow Zieten's as soon as its presence at Wavre is no longer essential 312
The march of Bülow's Corps through Wavre delayed by an accident 313
Bülow's Advanced Guard crosses the Defile of St Lambert, and halts in the Wood of Paris 313
Pirch, having strengthened his Rear Guard in consequence of the approach of the French, effects the passage of his Corps across the Dyle at Wavre 314
Blücher's instructions to Thielemann 316
Remarks upon Grouchy's movements during the 17th, and the early part of the 18th 316
Their influence upon the Battle of Waterloo 321
The French and Anglo-Allied Armies break up their bivouacs early on the morning of the 18th of June, in front of Waterloo 324
Preparations for Battle 325
The Field 325
Wellington's position 326
Distribution of the Anglo-Allied Army 327
Front Line: with the Advanced Posts of Smohain, La Haye, La Haye Sainte, and Hougomont 327
Second Line 347
Reserves 348
Detached forces in observation near Hal, and at Tubize; the former under Prince Frederick of Orange, the latter under Sir Charles Colville 350
Braine l'Alleud and Vieux Foriez occupied 350
Distribution of the Anglo-Allied Artillery 351
General view of the disposition of Wellington's forces 353
Napoleon's position 355
Distribution of the French Army 355
Front Line 355
Second Line 359
Reserves 362
General view of the disposition of Napoleon's forces 363
Remarks on the Emperor's delay in commencing the Battle 364
Strength of the Anglo-Allied Army in the Field 367
Strength of the French Army 368
The French Columns moving into position 368
Intense interest excited in both Armies when drawn up in presence of each other, and on the point of commencing the Battle 368
Napoleon's instructions to Grouchy previously to the Battle of Waterloo 370
A Prussian Officer joins the extreme Left of the Anglo-Allied Army, and reports that Bülow's Corps has reached St Lambert 371
Napoleon passes along the French Lines 372
The Battle commences about half past eleven o'clock, with an attack upon the Wood of Hougomont, by part of Prince Jerome's Division 375
The cannonade is opened by the guns of Sandham's Foot Battery in front of Cooke's Division 375
The French gain possession of a portion of the Wood and other inclosures of Hougomont 376
They are driven out 377
The French reconnoitre the Anglo-Allied Left 377
Jerome renews his attack, supported by part of Foy's Division 378
Fire opened upon the attacking troops by the Batteries posted with Clinton's Division 378
The French gain the Wood 378
Signal service rendered by Bull's Howitzer Battery 379
The French Skirmishers succeed in turning the Right of Hougomont, and in forcing the great Gate; which, however, is soon closed against the assailants 380
They then press forward against the Right of the Allied Front Line, and force Webber Smith's Horse Battery to retire into a hollow way to refit 381
They are charged and driven back by four Companies of the Coldstream Guards, under Lieutenant Colonel Woodford, which force then joins the defenders of Hougomont 381
The French, on debouching from the Wood into the Great Orchard, are gallantly charged and driven back by Lieutenant Colonel Lord Saltoun with the Light Companies of the First Brigade of Guards 383
The latter, being attacked in both front and flank, are compelled to fall back upon the hollow way in rear of the Great Orchard 383
On being reinforced by two Companies of the 3rd Regiment of Guards; they resume the offensive, and clear the Orchard of the Enemy 383
Ney's dispositions for a grand attack upon the Left Wing and Centre of the Anglo-Allied Army 384
Napoleon perceives troops in motion at some distance on his right 385
He detaches Domon's and Subervie's Light Cavalry Brigades in that direction 386
He ascertains that the troops he has seen belong to the Prussian Corp's d'Armée of Count Bülow 386
His Orders to Grouchy 387
Napoleon neglects to adopt effectual measures for securing his Right Flank 389
Commencement of the grand attack upon the Left Wing and Centre of the Anglo-Allied Army 392
On the right of the attack the French gain possession of the Farm of Papelotte; which, however, is soon retaken by the 3rd Battalion of the 2nd Regiment of Nassau 393
Retreat of Bylandt's Dutch-Belgian Infantry Brigade 395
Picton's dispositions 397
Attack by the French Left Central Column 399
Gallant charge by Kempt's Brigade 401
Death of Picton 402
Contest between Cuirassiers and the 2nd Life Guards in front of the Right of Kempt's Brigade 403
Attack upon La Haye Sainte by the Left Brigade of Donzelot's Division 404
Advance of Roussel's Cavalry Brigade by the French left of La Haye Sainte 405
Uxbridge decides upon charging the Enemy's attacking force with Somerset's and Ponsonby's Cavalry Brigades 406
Charge by the French Cuirassiers and Carabiniers 408
It is met by that of Somerset's Cavalry Brigade 409
Advance of Ponsonby's Cavalry Brigade 411
Advance of Alix's and Marcognet's French Infantry Divisions 411
They reach the crest of the Anglo-Allied position 412
Advance of the 92nd Highlanders 413
Their attack upon the head of Marcognet's Column 413
Charge by Ponsonby's Cavalry Brigade 413
Complete overthrow of the French Columns 414
The Greys capture the Eagle of the 45th French Regiment 415
They also charge and defeat a supporting Column of Marcognet's attacking force 415
The Royals capture the Eagle of the 105th French Regiment 418
The Inniskillings defeat and disperse the Columns to which they are opposed 419
Continuation of the charge by Somerset's Brigade 419
Disordered state of the two British Cavalry Brigades 420
They crown the Enemy's position, and cut down the Gunners and horses of the French Batteries 421
At length they retire 421
The Left of their Line suffers severely from a charge by Jaquinot's Light Cavalry Brigade 421
Vandeleur's Light Cavalry advances in support upon the left 422
Charge by the 12th and 16th British Light Dragoons 422
The French Cavalry is driven back 423
Advance of Ghigny's Light Cavalry Brigade 423
Vivian moves his Brigade to the right, and opens a fire from two guns of his Horse Artillery 424
The British Cavalry engaged in this affair sustains a heavy loss 425
Disposition of the troops on the Anglo-Allied Left and Centre 426
Tableau of the Battle at this period 427
Continuation of the contest at Hougomont 434
Attempted flank attack upon this Post completely defeated by Captain Cleeves's Foot Battery of the King's German Legion 436
The principal buildings of Hougomont, including the Château, set on fire by the French 437
Napoleon prepares a grand Cavalry attack upon Wellington's Right Wing 439
Renewed attack upon La Haye Sainte 439
Tremendous cannonade along the French Heights 441
French grand Cavalry attack 443
Its failure 446
Its renewal 448
Second failure 449
Ney, on being reinforced by Kellermann's Corps of Heavy Cavalry, and Guyot's Heavy Cavalry Division of the Guard, renews his attack 452
This is most successfully resisted 455
Ney directs another attack upon La Haye Sainte, and advances a heavy Column of Bachelu's Infantry against the Centre of the Anglo-Allied Right Wing 458
Wellington draws Chassé's Dutch-Belgian Division from Braine l'Alleud towards the principal scene of action, and moves Clinton's Division into the Front Line 458
Contest at La Haye Sainte 459
The 5th and 8th Line Battalions of the King's German Legion, on advancing to charge French Infantry in rear of La Haye Sainte, are suddenly assailed in flank by French Cavalry, and the 8th Battalion is almost entirely destroyed 460
Artillery in the Anglo-Allied Front Line reinforced 461
Attack by a Column of French Heavy Cavalry upon the Anglo-Allied Right completely defeated by Major Mercer's Battery of British Horse Artillery 461
A strong Column of French Infantry, supported by Cavalry, advances against the Centre of the Anglo-Allied Right Wing 462
It is charged by Somerset's Heavy Cavalry Brigade 463
Conduct of Trip's Dutch-Belgian Carabinier Brigade 463
Gallant charge by the 3rd Hussars of the King's German Legion 464
Renewed attack by the Column of French Heavy Cavalry in front of Major Mercer's Horse Battery 466
It is repulsed as before 466
Wellington reinforces the right of his Front Line by du Plat's Infantry Brigade of the King's German Legion, accompanied by Captain Sympher's Horse Battery of the same Service 467
It is attacked by French Cuirassiers 467
These are driven off by the Battalions of du Plat's Brigade 468
Renewed charge by the Cuirassiers equally unsuccessful 468
Failure of the French Cavalry attack upon the Right Centre of the Anglo-Allied Line 469
Adam's British Light Infantry Brigade advances into the Front Line, on the right of Maitland's Brigade; crosses the ridge, and takes up a position on the exterior slope 470
Here it is repeatedly attacked by French Cavalry 471
Advance of Halkett's Hanoverian Brigade 472
The French assail the Post of La Haye Sainte with the utmost vigour 474
It falls into their possession 478
Napoleon directs Ney to follow up this advantage with a vigorous attack upon the Centre of the Anglo-Allied Line, and at the same time to renew the assault upon Hougomont 478
Ney's views and dispositions 479
Attack upon Alten's Division 481
The 5th Line Battalion of the King's German Legion, led by Ompteda, gallantly charges French Infantry; but is furiously assailed in flank by a Regiment of Cuirassiers, and nearly destroyed. Ompteda is killed 482
Gallant repulse of an attack made upon portions of Maitland's and Adam's Brigades 483
British Squares in advance of the Duke's Line 484
Renewed but unsuccessful attack upon Hougomont 485
Adam's Brigade withdrawn to the reverse slope of the main position 487
General view of the Anglo-Allied Line 487
Advance of the Prussians towards the Field of Waterloo 490
Difficulties and impediments attending their march 491
The Fifteenth and Sixteenth Prussian Brigades reach the Wood of Paris 492
At half past four o'clock, Blücher decides upon attacking the Right Flank of the French Army with these Brigades, without waiting for the arrival of more of his troops 493
Prussian Cavalry driven back by Domon 494
Three Prussian Battalions attack the Extreme Right of the French general Front Line, near Smohain; but are compelled to retire into the Village 495
Napoleon detaches Lobau's Corps in support of Domon 495
The French Regiments of the Old and Middle Guard take up the position, in reserve, on the Heights of La Belle Alliance, vacated by Lobau's Corps 495
Blücher's dispositions 496
Lobau becomes engaged with Bülow 496
The remainder of Bülow's Corps reaches the Field 496
Blücher's dispositions 496
Relative strength of Bülow's and Lobau's forces 497
Napoleon detaches the Young Guard to Planchenoit, in support of Lobau's Right 498
At about six o'clock, Blücher is informed that Thielemann is attacked by a superior force at Wavre 499
He does not allow this circumstance to deter him from his present purpose 499
Bülow attacks Planchenoit 500
Contest in the Village 500
The Prussian troops driven out 500
Having rallied, they renew their attack 501
Napoleon detaches two Battalions of the Old Guard to Planchenoit 501
The Prussians are again driven out of the Village, and pursued as far as their main position 501
French and Prussian Cavalry become engaged 501
Napoleon, perceiving preparations on the part of the Prussians for renewing the attack upon Planchenoit, detaches General Pelet with another Battalion of the Old Guard to that Village 502
Critical situation of Napoleon 503
He resolves on making a renewed and formidable attack upon Wellington's Line 503
Wellington despatches Lieutenant Colonel Fremantle to the Left, to seek for the Prussian forces expected on that Flank 505
Situation of the Duke, and state of the Anglo-Allied Troops 505
Napoleon's dispositions for the attack 507
The Advanced Guard of Zieten's Corps approaches the Extreme Left of the Anglo-Allied Line 508
Vivian's and Vandeleur's Light Cavalry Brigades are removed from that Flank to the Centre 509
Wellington's dispositions 510
Centre of the Duke's line vigorously assailed by the French troops collected in and about La Haye Sainte 511
Sudden and destructive fire opened upon Kielmansegge's Brigade from French guns brought up to the very crest of the Allied position 513
The Prince of Orange is wounded whilst leading forward the Nassau Troops to repel the French attack upon that part of the Line 514
Wellington reinforces the latter with five Battalions of Brunswick Infantry 514
These, together with Kielmansegge's, Ompteda's, and Kruse's Brigades, are compelled to fall back a short distance 514
The Duke rallies the Brunswickers, who maintain their ground; as do also the before mentioned Brigades 515
Vivian's Hussar Brigade draws up in rear of these troops 515
Kielmansegge, on whom the command of the Third Division has devolved, succeeds in establishing the latter upon its former position 516
Commencement of Napoleon's last grand attack upon Wellington's line 518
Napoleon stations himself so that the Guard may pass by him as it advances to the attack 519
Disposition of d'Erlon's and Reille's Corps 520
The leading Column of the Imperial Guard suffers severely from the fire of the Allied Artillery, as it approaches the Duke's Line 521
Contest between the leading Column of the French Imperial Guards and Maitland's Brigade of British Guards 523
The former completely defeated and dispersed 523
Contest between Halkett and the Imperial Guards 524
Conduct of d'Aubremé's Dutch-Belgian Brigade 526
Advance of the second attacking Column of the Imperial Guard 527
Charge upon French Cuirassiers by a Squadron of the 23rd Light Dragoons 530
The second Column of the Imperial Guard charged in flank by the 52nd Regiment and 2nd Battalion 95th Regiment 532
Its defeat and dispersion by this charge 532
Adam's Brigade continues its forward movement, supported on its Right by a Battalion of Lieutenant Colonel Halkett's Hanoverian Brigade 535
State of d'Aubremé's Dutch-Belgian Brigade 537
Upon the extreme Left of the Anglo-Allied Line, the Skirmishers of Durutte's Division endeavour to establish themselves in the houses and inclosures in the valley on that Flank, and become engaged with the Prussians in and about Smohain 538
Blücher's dispositions 539
Formation and advance of Bülow's Left Wing for the Third attack upon Planchenoit, and of his Right Wing for a simultaneous attack upon Lobau 539
Junction of the Advanced Guard of Zieten's Corps with the troops constituting the Extreme Left of the Anglo-Allied Army 541
General view of the disposition of the Prussian forces relatively with that of the Anglo-Allied troops 542
General view of the state of the Anglo-Allied Army at the period of the attack and defeat of the French Imperial Guard 542
Prompt decision and admirable skill evinced by Wellington in seizing upon the advantage presented by the discomfiture of the French Guards 542
Advance of Vivian's Hussar Brigade to the attack of Napoleon's Reserves near La Belle Alliance 546
Disposition of these Reserves 548
Brilliant charge by the 10th British Hussars 549
Charge by the 2nd Light Dragoons of the King's German Legion 551
Adam's Brigade, continuing its advance, reaches the nearest French Height, intersected by the Charleroi road, and on which three Squares of the Imperial Guard are posted 552
General advance of the Anglo-Allied Line 553
The Duke orders Adam to attack the Squares of the Imperial Guard 555
The Earl of Uxbridge falls, severely wounded 556
The Imperial Guard retires from the charge by Adam's Brigade 557
Gallant charge by the 18th British Hussars near La Belle Alliance 559
Charge by a Squadron of the 10th British Hussars upon a Square of the Grenadiers of the Old Guard; which retires, and eventually disperses 560
The Left and Centre Squadrons of the 10th Hussars, continuing their pursuit, after the first charge, make another charge upon both Infantry and Cavalry, on the right, and beyond La Belle Alliance 561
A party of the 18th Hussars makes a dashing but ineffectual charge upon a Square, still further in advance 562
Lieutenant Colonel Halkett, with the Osnabrück Landwehr Battalion, pursues a Column of the Old Guard; and captures General Cambronne 563
Singular situation of the Duke of Wellington 565
Advance of Vandeleur's Light Cavalry Brigade 566
It charges and disperses a large Column of French Infantry, and captures a Battery 566
Adam's Brigade continues driving the Enemy before it along the left side of the Charleroi road 567
Effect produced upon the Right Wing of the French Army by the advance of Adam's, Vivian's, and Vandeleur's Brigades 568
Its effects also upon the French Left Wing 569
Napoleon takes shelter within a Square of the Imperial Guard 569
Continuation of the advance of the Anglo-Allied Army 570
In the Centre, La Haye Sainte is retaken: on the Right, Hougomont is cleared of the Enemy: on the Left, Durutte's Division, forming the Right of the French Front Line, takes to flight 570
The Left Wing captures the opposite line of Batteries 571
Disorder and flight of the whole of d'Erlon's Corps along the rear of Lobau's Corps; which, being at the same time assailed by part of Bülow's Corps, partakes of the panic, and mingles with the fugitives 571
The British troops near La Belle Alliance fall into the line of fire from a Prussian Battery, to which Wellington sends directions to cease firing 572
French Infantry dispersed, and a Battery captured, by the 52nd British Regiment 572
Capture of a Battery by the 71st British Regiment 573
Last French gun fired by Adam's Aide de Camp 573
A Battery captured by the Osnabrück Hanoverian Battery, under Halkett 573
The British Advanced Cavalry is in the midst of crowds of defeated French soldiers 574
Remarkable steadiness of the French Grenadiers à Cheval 575
Contest in Planchenoit 576
Gallant conduct of Pelet and a portion of the Chasseurs of the Guard 579
The French Troops that have been engaged at Planchenoit, retire in disorder and confusion towards the high road between Rossomme and Maison du Roi; the former of which points the British Advanced Brigades have already reached 580
Partial collision between the 18th British Hussars and a Prussian Regiment of Cavalry 580
The 1st Hussars of the King's German Legion narrowly escape coming into serious collision with the 11th and 16th British Light Dragoons 580
Wellington halts the main body of his Army upon the original French position 581
Blücher undertakes the pursuit 581
Wellington having satisfied himself, by his observations from the high ground beyond Rossomme, that the victory is secured beyond a doubt, returns towards Waterloo 581
On reaching La Belle Alliance, he meets Blücher 582
Dispositions made by the latter for effecting a vigorous pursuit 583
The Prussian troops headed in advance by Gneisenau, reach Genappe; where they capture a quantity of baggage, including Napoleon's travelling carriage 584
Napoleon at Quatre Bras 584
Direction of the retreat of the French troops 585
Napoleon proceeds to Charleroi; whence he despatches Jerome with Orders to rally the troops between Avesnes and Maubeuge 585
Gneisenau continues the pursuit, passing through Quatre Bras, and not resting until he arrives beyond the Heights of Frasne 585
Losses sustained by the respective Armies 587
Remarks upon the Battle 588
Relative numerical strength of the Combatants 589
Relative proportions in which the troops of the Anglo-Allied Army were actively engaged 589
Conduct of these troops 592
Extent of the actual share taken in the Battle by the Prussians 594
Upon the appearance of Vandamme's Corps in front of Wavre; Thielemann decides on maintaining the position at that point instead of following the remainder of the Prussian Army towards the Field of Waterloo 601
The Field of Wavre 602
Disposition of the different Brigades of Thielemann's Corps 603
Disposition of Grouchy's forces 605
The Light Troops of Vandamme's Corps gain possession of that part of the town of Wavre which lies on the right bank of the Dyle 606
Gérard makes an unsuccessful attack upon the Mill of Bierge 607
Vandamme fails in his efforts to carry the Bridge of Wavre 608
Grouchy, in person, leads another attack upon the Bridge of Bierge; which proves as fruitless as the former attempt, and on which occasion Gérard falls severely wounded 609
Pajol gains possession of the Bridge of Limale by a Cavalry attack 610
Grouchy, having pushed a portion of Gérard's Corps across the Dyle by Limale, disposes these troops so as to turn the Right of Thielemann's Corps 610
They are attacked by the Prussians, who are defeated; and forced to fall back upon the Wood near Point du Jour 611
The contest for the possession of the Bridges and Town of Wavre is continued until late in the night; the Prussians sustaining and repelling thirteen assaults 612
Disposition of the contending Forces on the morning of the 19th of June 616
Contest between Thielemann's Right, and Grouchy's Left, Wing; during which the French gain possession of part of the Wood of Rixansart 617
Teste's Division makes another attack upon Bierge 619
Thielemann takes up a second position 619
About eight o'clock he hears of the overthrow of Napoleon's Army at Waterloo 619
He renews the attack, which is attended with complete success; and retakes the Wood of Rixansart 619
The Wood again falls into the possession of the French 619
The latter capture the Village of Bierge 619
Thielemann decides upon effecting a retreat 620
The Prussians abandon the Town of Wavre 620
The French cross the Dyle, both at Wavre and at Bierge 621
The retreat is covered by Cavalry under Colonel von der Marwitz 621
Proceedings of General von Borcke, who had marched his Brigade on the previous evening to St Lambert 622
Thielemann retires along the road to Louvain, and takes up a position at St Achtenrode 622
Losses sustained by the Prussians and French 623
Remarks upon the Battle and its results 623
Grouchy decides on retiring upon Namur 625
Retreat of the French Army from the Field of Waterloo 627
On the 19th of June, the Prussian Army pursues in the direction of Charleroi, Avesnes, and Laon; the Anglo-Allied Army, in that of Nivelles, Binche, and Peronne 628
Bülow's Corps reaches Fontaine l'Evêque; and Zieten's Corps halts for the night at Charleroi 628
Thielemann continues during the night of the 19th at St Achtenrode 629
Pirch's Corps proceeds, on the evening of the 18th, in the direction of Namur; for the purpose of intercepting Grouchy's retreat 629
On the 19th, it halts at Mellery 629
The Anglo-Allied Army occupies Nivelles and its vicinity during the night of the 19th 631
Napoleon's flight through Charleroi 631
He desires Soult to collect the troops and march them to Laon 632
Grouchy retires upon Namur 632
Disposition of the respective Armies on the evening of the 19th 632
The Duke of Wellington's views on entering the French territory; and his General Order to the troops on the 20th of June 633
The Saxon Corps d'Armée is placed under his Grace's command 635
The Anglo-Allied Army reaches Binche and Mons 635
Grouchy's retreat to Namur 637
He is pursued by Thielemann and Pirch 638
Contest at Namur 641
The Prussians gain possession of this place 643
Remarks upon Thielemann's and Pirch's proceedings in connection with Grouchy's retreat to Namur and Dinant 645
Disposition of the respective Armies on the evening of the 20th 649
Wellington crosses the French frontier on the 21st 650
Blücher places Pirch's Corps under Prince Augustus of Prussia, to be employed in besieging the Fortresses left in rear of the main Army 651
Avesnes captured by Zieten's Corps 652
Blücher's farewell Address to the Belgians 653
Disposition of the respective Armies on the evening of the 21st 654
Wellington's Proclamation to the French people 654
Contrast between the conduct of the Prussian troops and that of the Anglo-Allied Army towards the inhabitants of the country through which they pass, attributable to the dissimilarity of views entertained by their Chiefs 656
Influence of Wellington's measures upon the cause of Louis XVIII. 657
On the 22nd of June, the Anglo-Allied Army reaches Le Cateau 659
The Corps under Prince Frederick of the Netherlands is destined to be employed in besieging the Fortresses 659
Blücher, in order to bring his First, Fourth, and Third Corps into closer communication, moves the two former only half a march on the 22nd: the latter reaches Beaumont 659
Disposition of the Second Corps 660
Decline of the political influence of Napoleon 661
His arrival in Paris on the 21st 661
His consultation with his Ministers 662
Policy of Fouché 663
Debates in the Chamber of Deputies 665
Speech of La Fayette 665
Resolutions adopted by the Chambers 666
Their effect upon Napoleon 667
His Message to the Chambers 668
Renewed debates 668
A Commission appointed 669
Its Report 670
Sensation produced by the speeches of Monsieur Duchesne and General Solignac 671
Napoleon abdicates the Throne in favour of his son 674
Independent character of the French Parliament 675
On the 23rd, Wellington and Blücher give their troops a halt 676
Force detached under Colville to attack Cambray 676
The Allied Commanders have an interview at Catillon, and arrange their Plan of Advance upon Paris 677
On the 24th, Wellington reinforces the troops under Colville 678
Capture of Cambray 679
Proposals are made at the Outposts of the Allied Armies for a Suspension of Hostilities 679
These are rejected 680
Louis XVIII. arrives at Le Cateau 680
Guise surrenders to Zieten's Corps 681
The Prussians are one day's march in advance of the Anglo-Allied Army 682
Disposition of the respective Armies on the evening of the 24th 682
Proclamation issued by the Provisional Government in Paris 683
Surrender of the Citadel of Cambray 684
On the 25th, the Anglo-Allied Army reaches Joncour 684
The Fortress of La Fère on the Oise invested by part of Zieten's Corps 684
The Advanced Guard and Cavalry of the Right Prussian Column reach Montescourt 686
The main body of Bülow's Corps arrives at Essigny le Grand 686
Blücher's reply to an application by the Commissioners from the French Chambers for a Suspension of Hostilities 686
The French troops collected at Laon march to Soissons, towards which point Grouchy's force is also approaching 687
Soult, finding himself superseded in the command, quits the Army 687
Disposition of the respective Armies on the evening of the 25th 687
Napoleon quits Paris 688
His Address to the Army 688
On the 26th, the main body of the Anglo-Allied Army moves to Vermand 689
Capture of Peronne 689
Colville's Division rejoins the main Army 690
Wellington's reply to the French Commissioners 690
La Fère holds out against the Prussians 692
The First and Fourth Prussian Corps advance by forced marches towards Compiegne and Pont St Maxence 694
Disposition of the respective Armies on the evening of the 26th 695
Early on the morning of the 27th, the Advanced Guard of Zieten's Corps secures the Bridge and Town of Compiegne; when the French, under d'Erlon, are within half an hour's march of that point 695
The latter, after an unsuccessful attempt to take the place, retire upon Soissons 696
Movements of Zieten's and Thielemann's Corps upon Soissons, Villers Cotterets, and Crespy 697
Bülow secures the Bridge over the Oise at Creil 699
Affair at Senlis 700
Blücher succeeds in securing the line of the Oise 701
Grouchy endeavours to effect his retreat to Paris by forced marches 702
The main body of Wellington's Army crosses the Somme and marches to Roye 702
The Duke's anger and indignation excited by the conduct of the Dutch-Belgian troops on the march 703
Disposition of the respective Armies on the evening of the 27th 704
Affair at Villers Cotterets between the Advanced Guard of Zieten's Corps and the French Troops under Grouchy and Vandamme 705
Affair at Nanteuil between part of Zieten's Corps and Reille's Corps 708
Reille succeeds in effecting a junction with d'Erlon 709
Direction of the retreat of the Imperial Guard and Sixth Corps; also of the Third and Fourth French Corps 709
The Advanced Guard and the Reserve Cavalry of Zieten's Corps, under Prince William of Prussia, fall upon Reille's troops in full retreat, attack them, and make 2,000 prisoners 709
The main body of Thielemann's Corps moves on to Crespy in support of Zieten 710
The Prussian operations have the effect of cutting off the retreat of the French troops to Paris by the great Soissons and Senlis roads 711
The French Provisional Government sends another Deputation to request the Allied Commanders to agree to a Suspension of Hostilities 711
Disposition of the respective Armies on the evening of the 28th 713
On the 29th, Bülow's and Zieten's Corps take up a position in front of Paris 714
The remains of the French Grand Army of the North retire within the lines of the capital 714
The Anglo-Allied Army reaches different points between Gournay and Pont St Maxence 715
Positions of the respective Armies on the evening of the 29th 715
Composition of the garrison of Paris 716
Its means of defence 717
Policy of the Provisional Government 718
Napoleon quits Paris for Rochefort 720
His narrow escape from falling into the hands of the Prussians 720
New Commissioners appointed by the Government to wait upon the Duke of Wellington for the purpose of negotiating a Suspension of Hostilities 720
Sound judgment and extraordinary foresight evinced in his Grace's Reply to their Proposals 721
Blücher directs Bülow to make an attack upon Aubervilliers in the night of the 29th 725
He is joined by Wellington in person, when the two Commanders agree not to suspend their operations so long as Napoleon remains in Paris 725
The Prussians carry the Village of Aubervilliers, and drive the French back upon the Canal of St Denis 726
The Allied Commanders decide upon masking the fortified Lines of St Denis and Montmartre with one Army; whilst the other should move to the right, and cross to the opposite bank of the Seine 727
Projected Plan of Operations 727
On the 30th, Zieten's and Thielemann's Corps move off to the right, while Bülow's continues in its position 729
Disposition of the respective Armies on the evening of the 30th 731
Policy of Fouché 732
Letter from Davoust (Prince of Eckmühl) to Wellington and Blücher, demanding a Suspension of Hostilities 733
Wellington's reply 734
Blücher's reply 735
Address to the Chamber of Deputies from Davoust and other Generals of the Army 736
Proclamation issued by the Chambers 738
On the morning of the 1st of July, Bülow's Corps moves off to the right, towards Argenteuil 739
The Anglo-Allied Army reaches Le Bourget, and takes up the position vacated by the Prussians 739
The French attack Aubervilliers, and gain possession of half the Village 739
The British Light Troops of Colville's Division retake the greater part of Aubervilliers 740
Lieutenant Colonel von Sohr's Prussian Light Cavalry Brigade reaches Versailles 741
He is attacked by the French Cavalry under Excelmans 742
Affairs at Rocquencourt, Versailles, and Le Chesnay 743
Remarks upon the detaching of Sohr's Brigade 744
Positions of the respective Armies on the evening of the 1st of July 747
On the 2nd of July, the Prussian Army moves towards the Heights of Meudon and Chatillon, on the south side of Paris 748
Affairs at Sèvres, Moulineaux, and Issy 748
The Anglo-Allied Army continues in position in front of St Denis 750
Wellington establishes a Bridge at Argenteuil, and keeps open the communication with the Prussian Army 750
Critical situation of the French Army 750
The Provisional Government directs the Commissioners to wait again upon the Duke of Wellington 751
His Grace's reply to their request 751
Position of the respective Armies during the night of the 2nd of July 751
Affair at Issy on the morning of the 3rd of July 752
Cessation of Hostilities 753
Convention of Paris 754
Conclusion 758
I. Declaration, on the 13th of March 1815, of the Allied Powers, upon the return of Napoleon Buonaparte to France [5]
II. Treaty of Alliance of the 24th of March 1815, concluded between Austria, Russia, Prussia, and Great Britain [5]
III. Proclamation of the King of Prussia to his Army [5]
IV. Address of the Emperor Alexander to a numerous body of
Russian troops which he reviewed on the 5th of April 1815
V. The Convocation of the Champ de Mai [5]
VI. Effective strength and composition of the Anglo-Allied Army, under the command of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington 783
VII. Orders for the defence of the towns of Antwerp, Ostend, Nieuport, Ypres, Tournai, Ath, Mons, and Ghent [5]
VIII. Effective strength and composition of the Prussian Army, under the command of Field Marshal Prince Blücher von Wahlstadt 790
IX. Effective strength and composition of the French Army, under the command of Napoleon Buonaparte 794
X. Strength of the French Army, according to information received at the Prussian Head Quarters, shortly before the commencement of hostilities [5]
XI. Ordre du Jour: le 13 Juin 1815 [5]
XII. Orders given by Lieutenant General von Zieten, Commanding the First Prussian Corps d'Armée, on the 2nd May 1815, to be acted upon by his Brigadiers, in case of the Enemy's attack [5]
XIII. Ordre du Mouvement: 14 Juin 1815 [5]
XIV. Memorandum for the Deputy Quartermaster General of the Anglo-Allied Army, on the 15th June [5]
XV. Movement of the Anglo-Allied Army: 15th of June [5]
XVI. Despatch from Napoleon to Marshal Ney: 16th of June [5]
XVII. Order of Movement for Marshal Ney: 16th of June [5]
XVIII. Order of Movement for Count Reille: 16th of June [5]
XIX. Despatch from Count Reille to Marshal Ney: 16th of June [5]
XX. Orders from Napoleon to Marshal Ney: 16th of June [5]
XXI. Orders from Napoleon to Marshal Ney: 16th of June [5]
XXII. Orders from Napoleon to Marshal Ney: 16th of June [5]
XXIII. Return of killed, wounded, and missing, of the British troops, at the Battle of Quatre Bras [5]
XXIV. Return of killed, wounded, and missing, of the Brunswick troops, at the Battle of Quatre Bras [5]
XXV. Effective strength of the French Army at the Battle of Ligny [5]
XXVI. Effective strength of the Prussian Army at the Battle of Ligny [5]
XXVII. Orders from Napoleon to Marshal Ney: 17th of June [5]
XXVIII. Orders from Napoleon to Marshal Ney: 17th of June [5]
XXIX. Return of killed, wounded, and missing, of the British troops, and King's German Legion, on the retreat from Quatre Bras to Waterloo [5]
XXX. Effective strength of the Anglo-Allied Army at the Battle of Waterloo [5]
XXXI. Effective strength of the French Army at the Battle of Waterloo [5]
XXXII. List of Officers of the King's German Legion, who were present at the Defence of La Haye Sainte 798
XXXIII. Effective strength of the Prussian troops on the Field of Waterloo [5]
XXXIV. Lines descriptive of the part taken in the Battle of Waterloo by the Sixth Brigade of British Cavalry, upon the repulse of the last attack by the French; with the death of Major the Hon. Frederick Howard [5]
XXXV. List of British Officers who were present at the Defence of Hougomont 799
XXXVI. Return of killed, wounded, and missing, of the British troops, at the Battle of Waterloo [5]
XXXVII. Return of killed, wounded, and missing, of the King's German Legion, at the Battle of Waterloo [5]
XXXVIII. Return of killed, wounded, and missing, of the Hanoverian troops, on the 16th, 17th, and 18th of June 1815 [5]
XXXIX. Return of killed, wounded, and missing, of the Brunswick troops, at the Battle of Waterloo [5]
XL. Return of killed, wounded, and missing, of the troops of the Nassau Contingent (1st Regiment), at the Battle of Waterloo [5]
XLI. List of Officers of the British Army who were present in the Actions on the 16th, 17th, and 18th of June 1815, including those posted near Hal on the 18th; and distinguishing such as were killed, wounded, or missing 800
XLII. List of the Officers of the King's German Legion, killed, wounded, or missing, in the Actions of the 16th, 17th, and 18th of June 1815 820
XLIII. List of the Officers of the Hanoverian troops, killed, wounded, and missing, in the Actions of the 16th, 17th, and 18th of June 1815 822
XLIV. List of the Officers of the Brunswick troops killed in the Actions of the 16th and 18th of June 1815 823
XLV. Return of killed, wounded, and missing, of the Dutch-Belgian troops, on the 16th, 17th, and 18th of June 1815 [5]
XLVI. Return of killed, wounded, and missing, of the Prussian troops, at the Battle of Waterloo [5]
XLVII. List of the Officers of the Prussian Army, killed, wounded, and missing, at the Battle of Waterloo 824
XLVIII. Letter from the Duke of Wellington to Earl Bathurst, being his despatch after the Battle of Waterloo 827
XLIX. Proclamation of Louis XVIII. to the French people [5]


[5] Omitted in this Fourth Edition.—E.A.


Belgium and Part of France

The Field of Quatre Bras at 3 o'clock P.M., June 16

The Field of Quatre Bras at 9 o'clock P.M., June 16

The Field of Ligny at a quarter past 2 o'clock P.M., June 16

The Field of Ligny at half past 8 o'clock P.M., June 16

The Field of Waterloo at a quarter past 11 o'clock P.M., June 18

[Plan of La Haye Sainte]

[Plan of Hougomont]

[The Field of Waterloo at a quarter to 2 o'clock P.M., June 18]

The Field of Waterloo at a quarter to 8 o'clock P.M., June 18

The Field of Waterloo at five minutes past 8 o'clock P.M., June 18

The Field of Wavre at 4 o'clock P.M., June 18

The Field of Wavre at 4 o'clock A.M., June 19

Part of France, Section I.

Part of France, Section II.

[The Three Plans within brackets have been specially prepared for this Fourth Edition.—E.A.]


The Duke of Wellington
Engraved from a Medallion by E.W. Wyon

The reverse
From a Medal by J. Henning, Esq.

Prince Blücher von Wahlstadt
From a Medal struck in honour of the Prince
by the citizens of Berlin

The reverse
From a Medallion by W. Foster, Esq.

Napoleon Buonaparte

The Prince of Orange

The Duke of Brunswick

Sir Thomas Picton

Count Sir Charles Alten

Lord Hill

Marshal Soult, Duke of Dalmatia

The Marquess of Anglesey

Marshal Ney, Prince of the Moskwa

[Pg 47]





THE history of Europe records but few events so universally and so intimately involving the policy and interests of her component States, as the escape of Napoleon Buonaparte from the island of Elba, on the 26th of February 1815—his landing in France, and his again ascending, unopposed, that throne from which Louis XVIII. had fled with precipitation, upon learning the triumphal approach towards the capital of his successful and formidable rival. With the rapidity of lightning the intelligence spread itself over the whole Continent, and with all the suddenness and violence of an electric shock did it burst amidst the delegates from the different States, who were then asembled in Congress at Vienna. This important Assembly, so unexpectedly interrupted, had been called together to deliberate upon measures of international security and prosperity; and to solve those intricate questions of policy necessarily arising out of the various combinations, which,[Pg 48] in the course of a general War, carried on with unmitigated violence, and but little intermission, for nearly a quarter of a century, had so fatally unhinged and dismembered the previously existing social order and polity of Europe. With one accord, a fresh appeal to the sword was decided upon; the military resources of every nation were again called into requisition. From State to State the cry "To arms!" was responded to with cheerfulness and alacrity, and immense Armies were put in motion towards the French frontier: all animated with the sole object and fixed determination of annihilating, for ever, the common foe whom they had already conquered; but whom, as it would then appear, they had but ineffectually humbled.

The openly declared project of the Allied Sovereigns to employ all their means, and combine all their efforts, towards the accomplishment of the complete overthrow of the resuscitated power of Napoleon, with whom they had determined, thenceforth, to enter into neither truce nor treaty, was singularly favoured by the circumstance of their Armies being still retained upon a war establishment. The forces of the several Powers were continued on that scale, in consequence of the difficulties experienced in the Congress in dealing with and settling many perplexing questions of international policy, and moderating the warmth of the discussions that took place upon them. It was considered expedient to keep up powerful reserves, available both for home service, and for any contingencies that might arise out of combinations and revolts among those minor States, whose aversion to the new political arrangements was more than suspected. Thus it had been found necessary to detach bodies of troops from the main bulk of the forces, in consequence of the state of the Poles placed under the protection of Russia, and of the Saxons inhabiting that[Pg 49] portion of their country which had been ceded to Prussia; as also, in consequence of the powerful diversion, as regarded Austria, caused by the sudden irruption of Murat, King of Naples, into the north of Italy. Notwithstanding these necessary deductions, however, it was found practicable to assemble, by the end of May, an efficient force of not less than 500,000 men, upon different points contiguous to the French frontier, with all the supplies necessary for the prosecution of a vigorous Campaign.

The most important portion of this extensive line of frontier was undoubtedly that which fronted the Netherlands; for although it had been planned by the Allies that no advance was to be made by the troops in Belgium until the remainder of their forces had reached a line of connecting points along the French frontier, when all their Armies were to march, in combined movement, upon the capital: still it was reasonably to be expected that Napoleon would not wait for the completion of this plan, but rather that he would endeavour, by a decisive effort, if not to frustrate its accomplishment, at least to diminish its efficacy. It required no great exercise of military sagacity or political foresight to predict, that after having adopted a maturely considered disposition of force on the most important points along his general line of defence, and placed his frontier Fortresses upon a respectable footing, Napoleon would open the tremendous game, upon which his crown, his political existence, and the fate of France, were now fairly staked, by a bold, sudden, and resolute advance into Belgium—straining every nerve to vanquish, in detail, the Allied forces in that densely populated country; of which a vast portion was already prepared to declare in his favour. His authority once established in[Pg 50] Brussels, through the means of some great and signal triumph, the accession to his moral influence over the entire mass of the French nation would be immense; and then, flying to the succour of his nearest Corps menaced from the banks of the Rhine by the approach of hostile forces (upon which his possession of Belgium would operate as a powerful check by the facilities thus afforded for a combined attack in front and flank), a series of brilliant successes, supported by fresh levies from the interior, might enable him even to dictate terms to the Allies, who had indignantly rejected all his overtures.

Hence the importance of narrowly watching the Belgian frontier, and of making due preparations for meeting any attack in that quarter, was too obvious not to form a principal feature in the general plan of the Allies. Its defence was assigned to an Army under the Duke of Wellington, comprising contingent forces from Great Britain, from Hanover, the Netherlands, Brunswick, and Nassau; and to a Prussian Army, under Field Marshal Prince Blücher von Wahlstadt.

At the moment of the landing of Napoleon on the French shore, the only force in the Netherlands consisted, in addition to the native troops, of a weak Anglo-Hanoverian Corps, under the command of His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange; but the zeal, energy, and activity displayed by the Government of Great Britain, in engrafting upon this nucleus a powerful Army, amounting at the commencement of hostilities, to about 100,000 combatants, notwithstanding the impediments and delays occasioned by the absence of a considerable portion of its troops in America, were truly surprising. At the same time, the extraordinary supply of subsidies furnished by the British Parliament, without which not one of the Armies of the[Pg 51] Allied Sovereigns could have commenced operations, and by means of which England thus become the great lever whereby the whole of Europe was set in motion towards the attainment of the one common object, was admirably illustrative of the bold, decided, and straightforward policy of the most determined, the most indefatigable, and the most consistent, enemy of Napoleon.

Within the same period, the Prussian forces, originally limited to a corps of 30,000 men, under General Count Kleist von Nollendorf, occupying the Prussian territories bounded by the Rhine, the Meuse, and the Moselle, were augmented to an effective Army of 116,000 combatants, with all the rapidity and energy which a keen sense of the wrongs and miseries their country had endured under the ruthless sway of their inveterate foe, and a salutary dread of a repetition of such infliction, could not fail to inspire.

Great Britain and Prussia thus occupied the post of honour, and formed the vanguard of the mighty masses which Europe was pouring forth to seal the doom of the Napoleon dynasty.

A Russian Army, under Field Marshal Count Barclay de Tolly, amounting to 167,000 men, was rapidly traversing the whole of Germany, in three main Columns: of which the Right, commanded by General Dochterow, advanced by Kalisch, Torgau, Leipzig, Erfurt, Hanau, Frankfort, and Hochheim, towards Mayence; the Centre, commanded by General Baron Sacken, advanced by Breslau, Dresden, Zwickau, Baireuth, Nuremberg, Aschaffenburg, Dieburg, and Gross Gerau, towards Oppenheim; while the Left Column, commanded by General Count Langeron, took its direction along the line of Prague, Aube, Adelsheim, Neckar, and Heidelberg, towards Mannheim. The heads of[Pg 52] the Columns reached the Middle Rhine, when hostilities were on the point of breaking out upon the Belgian frontier. The intimation to these troops of another Campaign in France, and of a probable reoccupation of Paris, had imparted new life and vigour to the spirit of inveterate hatred and insatiable revenge which they had so thoroughly imbibed against the French; and which had so invariably marked their career since the memorable burning of MOSCOW.

An Austrian army of about 50,000 men, commanded by Field Marshal Prince Schwartzenburg, and the Army of Reserve under the Archduke Ferdinand, amounting to 40,000 men, were gradually occupying the most important points along the right bank of the Rhine, between Basle and Mannheim. In addition to this force, about 120,000 men were then assembling on the plains of Lombardy, upon the termination of the decisive Campaign against Murat; which secured the deposition of the latter, and the restoration of King Ferdinand to the throne of Naples. Vigorous and energetic measures such as these on the part of Austria, clearly indicated that her Government, discarding alike the circumstance of a family alliance with Napoleon, and the views which had once induced it to enter into a league with him and with the Southern German States, as a security against its formidable northern neighbours, still adhered with inflexible resolution to its subsequently adopted policy of entering into, and fostering, a general European compact, having for its object the complete annihilation of the despotic sway of the ambitious Soldier Sovereign of the French.

The assembling also, on the Upper Rhine, of a Bavarian Army, commanded by Prince Wrède, of the Contingents of Baden and Würtemberg, under the hereditary Prince of[Pg 53] Würtemberg, and of the troops of Hesse, amounting altogether to about 80,000 men, offered a sufficient guarantee for the line of policy espoused by the Confederated States of the Rhine.

Formidable as was the attitude assumed by the Allies towards France, and imposing as was their array of Armies assembling upon her frontier; they nevertheless found their great antagonist prepared, on learning that they had determined on an irrevocable appeal to the sword, to throw away the scabbard. He assumed a bold and resolute posture of defence—armed at all points, and prepared at all hazards, either to ward off the blows of his adversaries, or to become himself the assailant. The indefatigable exertions of Napoleon in restoring the Empire to its former strength and grandeur were really astonishing; and never, perhaps, in the whole course of the extraordinary career of that extraordinary man, did the powerful energies of his comprehensive mind shine forth with greater brilliancy and effect, than in his truly wonderful and incredibly rapid development of the national resources of France on this momentous occasion.

The truth of this assertion will be best confirmed by briefly enumerating some of the most important objects accomplished within the limited interval of three months—from his landing at Cannes, to his taking the Field against the Allies. Among them were—the complete overthrow of all obstacles in the way of his reascending the throne; the reconciliation, to a very considerable extent, of the several factions whose discordant views and interests had distracted the whole nation; the suppression of the insurrectionary movements in La Vendée, and the establishment of his authority over every part of the Empire; the projection of[Pg 54] various public measures, laws, and ordinances; the remodelling of the civil and military administrations; the restoration of the Army to its previous organisation under the Imperial Regime; the placing of the numerous Fortresses of the kingdom in an efficient state; the erection of fortified works around Paris, Lyons, and other important points; the reorganisation of the National Guard d'élite, to the extent of 112,000 men, divided into 200 Battalions, and destined principally for garrisoning the Fortresses; the adoption of the most active operations in all the arsenals, and the employment of vast numbers of additional workmen in the manufacture of arms and ammunition. Before all these we ought to place the raising, clothing, arming, drilling, and organising of 410,000 men (including the National Guard d'élite), which, in addition to the 149,000 men of which the Royal Army consisted on the 1st of March, formed, on the 1st of June, an effective force of 559,000 men, available for the national defence.

Of this number, the effective force of the troops of the Line amounted to 217,000 men, and the Regimental Depôts to 146,000 men: the remainder, consisting of 200 Battalions of the National Guard d'élite, of 20 Regiments of Marines, of 10 Battalions of Marine Artillery, of Coast Guards, Veterans, and Organised Pensioners, and amounting to 196,000 men, constituted the Armée extraordinaire, to be employed in the defence of the Fortresses and of the coast.

Napoleon having calculated that an effective force of 800,000 men would be requisite to enable him to oppose the Allies with full confidence of success, had given orders for the formation, at the Regimental Depôts, of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Battalions of every Regiment of Infantry, and of the 4th and 5th Squadrons of every Regiment of Cavalry; also for the additional formation of 30 Battalions[Pg 55] of Artillery Train, of 20 Regiments of the Young Guard, of 10 Battalions of Waggon Train, and of 20 Regiments of Marines. These and other measures he anticipated would furnish the force desired, but not until the 1st of October. The movements of the Allies, however, and his projected plan of active operations, precluded the possibility of his waiting for their full accomplishment. To augment the means of local defence, instructions were also issued for the reorganisation of the National Guard throughout the Empire, by which it was divided into 3130 Battalions, and was to form, when complete, no less a force than 2,250,000 men!

Out of the disposable force of the troops of the Line, and partly also out of the National Guard d'élite, were formed seven Corps d'Armée, four Corps of Reserve Cavalry, four Corps of Observation, and an Army of the West or of La Vendée.

The Army of the North, generally designated the Grand Army, was to be considered as acting under the immediate orders of the Emperor. It consisted of five Corps d'Armée (the First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Sixth), all the Reserve Cavalry, and the Imperial Guard. Its total force amounted to nearly 120,000 men; and its distribution, in the early part of June, was as follows:—

The First Corps d'Armée commanded by Count d'Erlon, had its Head Quarters at Lille; the Second, under the orders of Count Reille, was cantoned in the environs of Valenciennes; the Third, under Count Vandamme, was assembled in the environs of Mézières; the Fourth, under Count Gérard, in the environs of the Metz; and the Sixth Corps, commanded by Count Lobau, was stationed at Laon. The four Corps of Reserve Cavalry under the chief command[Pg 56] of Marshal Grouchy, were in cantonments between the Aisne and the Sambre. The Imperial Guard was in Paris.

The Fifth Corps d'Armée, commanded by Count Rapp, formed the basis of an Army of the Rhine, and consisted of about 36,000 men. Its Head Quarters were at Strasburg, and it occupied the principal points along that part of the frontier between Landau and Hagenau; communicating with the Fourth Corps d'Armée on its left, as also with the First Corps of Observation on its right.

The Seventh Corps d'Armée, commanded by the Duke of Albufera, formed the basis of the Army of the Alps. It did not at that time amount to more than 15,000 men; but arrangements were made for its augmentation, by the end of June, to 40,000 men. It held the passes along the Italian frontier—was strongly posted at Grenoble, and at Chambery—communicating on its left with the First Corps of Observation; and covering the approach to Lyons, where very extensive works were carried on with the utmost vigour and activity.

The First Corps of Observation, called the Army of the Jura, commanded by Lieutenant General Lecourbe, guarded the passes along the Swiss frontier; had its Head Quarters at Altkirch, and occupied the line between Huningen and Belfort—communicating on its right with the Army of the Alps, and on its left with the Army of the Rhine. It did not, at that time, consist of a larger force than 4,500 men; which, however, was to be augmented to 18,000 on the arrival of additional Battalions from the National Guard d'élite then in course of active organisation.

The Second Corps of Observation, called the Army of the Var, commanded by Marshal Brune, had its Head Quarters at Marseilles; occupied Toulon and Antibes, and watched the frontier of the Maritime Alps. Its force, which then[Pg 57] amounted to 5,300 men, was to be joined by sixteen Battalions of the National Guard d'élite; and, in this way, increased to 17,000 men.

The Third Corps of Observation, called the Army of the Eastern Pyrenees, commanded by Lieutenant General Count Decaen, had its Head Quarters at Perpignan. It did not then consist of more than 3,000 men; but was to be augmented by thirty-two Battalions of the National Guard d'élite to 23,000 men.

The Fourth Corps of Observation, called the Army of the Western Pyrenees, or of the Gironde, was commanded by Lieutenant General Clausel; had its Head Quarters in Bordeaux; consisted of the same force as that of the Third Corps; and was to be augmented in a similar manner.

The Army of La Vendée, commanded by General Lamarque, was occupied in restoring tranquillity to that part of the Empire. It consisted of about 17,000 men, including Detachments supplied temporarily from the Third and Fourth Corps of Observation.

Arrangements had also been made for reinforcing, at the end of June, the two Armies of the Rhine and the Alps, with 50,000 men from the troops of the Line organised in the Regimental Depôts, and with 100,000 men from the National Guard d'élite; and with a view to afford a Second Line and Support to the Grand Army, commanded by Napoleon in person, the latter was to be augmented by 100,000 men of the National Guard, and by 60,000 men of regular troops taken from the Depôts, where the additional Battalions and Squadrons of Regiments were in course of daily organisation.

The general aspect of France at that moment was singularly warlike. It was that of a whole nation buckling[Pg 58] on its armour; over the entire country armed bodies were to be seen in motion towards their several points of destination: every where the new levies for the Line, and the newly enrolled National Guards were in an unremitting course of drill and organisation: the greatest activity was maintained, day and night, in all the arsenals, and in all the manufactories of clothing and articles of equipment: crowds of workmen were constantly employed in the repair of the numerous Fortresses, and in the erection of entrenched works. Every where appeared a continued transport of artillery, waggons, arms, ammunition, and all the material of war; whilst upon every road forming an approach to any of the main points of assembly in the vicinity of the frontiers, might be seen those well-formed veteran bands, Napoleon's followers through many a bloody field, moving forth with all the order, and with all the elasticity of spirit, inspired by the full confidence of a renewed career of victory—rejoicing in the display of those Standards which so proudly recalled the most glorious Fields that France had ever won, and testifying by their acclamations, their enthusiastic devotion to the cause of the Emperor, which was ever cherished by them as identified with that of their country.

The sentiments which so generally animated the troops of the Line, must not, however, be understood as having been equally imbibed by the remaining portion of the Army, or indeed by the major part of the nation. There was one predominant cause, which, though its influence acted as an additional stimulus to the Army, was, to a very considerable extent, the sole incentive to exertion with the civil portion of the community. It was the general prevalence of that unconquerable aversion and undisguised contempt entertained by the French for the mass of their foreign invaders, whose[Pg 59] former humiliation and subjection, the result of an almost uninterrupted course of victory and triumph to which the history of France presented no parallel, had served to flatter and to gratify the national vanity. It was this feeling, combined with a dread of that retributive justice which would inevitably follow in the train of a successful invasion, that operated so powerfully upon the mass of the nation, with whom the cry of "Vive l'Empereur!" merged into that of "Vive la France!"

To the above cause may also be traced the temporary reconciliation of the different factions which it was one of the main objects of Napoleon's celebrated Champ de Mai to establish. This Convocation of the Popular Representatives, which had in a measure been forced upon the Emperor by the political vantage ground the people had gained during even the short constitutional reign of Louis XVIII., and of which they had begun to feel the benefit, did not in any degree fulfil the expectations of its projector. The stern Republicans were dissatisfied with the retention of a Chamber of Peers, which, in the late reign, they had regarded as an English importation; and the Royalists were no less disgusted with the materials out of which such a Chamber had been constructed; while both parties felt it to be a mere semblance of a constitutional body, destined to be composed of the willing slaves of the despot, his ready instruments for counteracting and paralysing the effects of any violent ebullition of the popular will.

When it is considered that an overwhelming majority of the members of the new Chamber of Deputies were men of avowed Republican principles, and that in their very first sittings, they evinced by the tone of their debates, and by the tenor of their measures, a determination to uphold the authority vested in them by the people, and to make even[Pg 60] the military power of the Emperor subservient to their views of Popular Government; when, also, it is considered that the two predominant Parties in the State, the Republicans and the Royalists, relied upon, and awaited but, the issue of events, for the ultimate success and realisation of their respective principles: it need not excite surprise that Napoleon, on quitting the capital to take the Field, should have appeared to feel that he left behind him a power even more dangerous to the stability of his authority, and more destructive of his ambitious projects, than that which he was going personally to confront. He naturally calculated largely upon the enthusiasm of his troops and their devotion to his cause: but he must have entertained serious doubts as to whether this spirit was shared by the great majority of the nation; and must have foreseen that it would only be by means of a successful result of the approaching contest, that he could possibly avert the dangers to which his sovereignty was exposed, as much by the machinations of political opponents at home, as by the combinations of hostile forces abroad. He was now made painfully sensible of the vast change which the result of all his former Wars, the restoration of the legitimate Monarch, and the newly chartered Liberty of the Subject, had gradually wrought in the political feelings and sentiments of the Nation.

In short, he found that he had to contend with a mighty, and an uncontrollable, power—the great moral power of Public Opinion—compared with which, the Military Power, centred in a single Individual, however brilliant the latter in genius and in conception, however fertile in expedients, and however daring and successful in enterprise and in execution, can acquire no permanent stability, when not based upon, and emanating from, the broad and comprehensive moral energies of the Nation; and even a[Pg 61] succession of dazzling triumphs, when gained through the instrumentality of an arbitrary drain upon the national resources, and in opposition to the real interests and welfare of the State, tends but to hasten the downfall of the Military Dictator: whose career may be aptly likened to a Grecian column erected upon a loose foundation, displaying around its lofty capital an exuberance of meretricious ornament, which, by its disproportionate weight, destroys the equilibrium of the ill-supported shaft, and involves the entire structure in one confused and irretrievable ruin. Its fall may startle the world with its shock; the fragments may strew the earth in a wreck as gigantic as were its proportions when it drew the gaze of admiring or trembling nations: but they are but the more striking proofs of the destruction that has overtaken it;—it is a ruin still.

[Pg 62]


BELGIUM, the frequent battle-ground of Europe, whose every stream and every town is associated with the memory of bygone deeds of arms, was destined, in 1815, to witness another and a mighty struggle—a struggle in which were arrayed, on the one side, the two foremost of the confederated Armies advancing towards the French frontiers; and, on the other, the renowned Grande Armée of Imperial France, resuscitated at the magic call of its original founder—the great Napoleon himself. During the months of April and May, troops of all arms continued to enter upon, and spread themselves over, the Belgian soil.

Here might be seen the British soldier, flushed with recent triumphs in the Peninsula over the same foe with whom he was now prepared once more to renew the combat; and here the Prussian, eager for the deadly strife, and impatiently rushing onward to encounter that enemy whose ravages and excesses in his Fatherland still rankled in his memory. The Englishman was not fired by the desire of retribution; for it had pleased Divine Providence to spare Great Britain from the scourge of domestic war, and to preserve her soil unstained by the footprint of a foreign enemy. The Prussian soldier looked forward with a sullen pleasure to the prospect of revenge: vengeance seemed to him a sacred duty, imposed upon him by all the ties of kindred, and by all those patriotic feelings, which, in the hour of Prussia's need, had roused her entire people from[Pg 63] the abject state to which they had been so fatally subdued; which, when the whole country lay prostrate at the conqueror's feet, so wonderfully, so powerfully, and so successfully prompted her sons to throw off the yoke. History will mark this deliverance as the brilliant point in Prussia's brightest era, affording as it does, a clear and beautiful parallel to that in which an equally forcible appeal to the energies of the nation was made with similar success by that illustrious Statesman and General, Frederick the Great, when opposed single-handed to the immense Armies and powerful resources of surrounding States. France was about to expiate by her own sufferings the wrongs she had wrought upon his country and his kind, and the Prussian panted for an opportunity of satiating his revenge.

The Briton, if he had no such spur as that which urged the Prussian soldier forward, did not want a sufficiently exciting stimulus; he cherished, in an eminent degree, that high feeling and proud bearing which a due sense of the obligations imposed on him by his country, and of her anxious expectations of his prowess, could not fail to inspire; determined resolutely and cheerfully to discharge the former, and, if possible, to more than realise the latter.




These feelings and dispositions of the soldiery in the two most advanced of the Allied Armies were concentrated with remarkable intensity in the characters of their respective Chiefs.

With peculiar propriety may it be said of the illustrious Wellington, that he personified, as he ever has done, the pure ideal of the British soldier—the true character of his own followers. Resolute, yet cool, cautious and calculating[Pg 66] in his proceedings; possessing a natural courage unshaken even under the most appalling dangers and difficulties; placing great yet not vain reliance upon physical and moral strength, as opposed to the force of numbers;—it was not surprising that he should have inspired with unbounded confidence, soldiers who could not but see in his character and conduct the reflection and stamp of their own qualities, the worth of which he so well knew, and which he had so often proved during the arduous struggle that had been brought to so brilliant and so glorious a conclusion. But besides these traits in his character, which so completely identified him with a British Army, there were others which peculiarly distinguished him as one of the greatest Captains that his own or any other nation ever produced, and which might well inspire confidence as to the result of the approaching contest, even opposed as he was to the hero of a hundred fights, with whom he was now, for the first time, to measure swords. The eagle glance with which he detected the object of every hostile movement and the promptitude with which he decided upon, and carried into effect, the measures necessary to counteract the Enemy's efforts; the lightning-like rapidity with which he conducted his attacks, founded as they frequently were upon the instantaneously discovered errors of his opponents; the noble and unexampled presence of mind with which he surveyed the battlefield, and with which he gave his orders and instructions; unaffected by merely temporary success, unembarrassed by sudden difficulties, and undismayed by unexpected danger; the many proofs which his operations in the Peninsula had afforded of his accurate knowledge, just conception, and skilful discrimination, of the true principles of the Science of Strategy—all tended to point him out as the individual best fitted by his abilities, his experience, and[Pg 67] his character, to head the military array assembled to decide the all-important question whether the Star of Napoleon was to regain the ascendant, or to set in darkness; whether his iron despotism was again to erect its mighty head, or to be now struck down and crushed—finally and effectually crushed.

The character of the Commander of the Prussian Army in this memorable Campaign, the veteran Marshal Prince Blücher von Wahlstadt, was, in like manner, peculiarly adapted for concentrating within itself all those feelings and emotions already adverted to as animating this portion of the enemies of France—possessing, to a degree bordering on rashness, a high spirited daring in enterprise; distinguished, on critical occasions in the field, when the unrestrained feelings and nature of the ci-devant bold Hussar started forth in aid of the veteran Commander, by a personal display of chivalrous and impetuous bravery; ever vigilant for an opportunity of harassing his Enemy; and fixedly relentless in the pursuit, so long as he retained the mastery; qualities, which, in his own country, had acquired for him the sobriquet of Marschall Vorwärts—he was eminently fitted to be both the representative and the leader of the Prussians.

Here, too, in close alliance and amity with the British soldier, were seen the German Legionary, the Hanoverian, and the Brunswicker, who had so nobly shared with him, under the same Chief, all the toils and all the glories of the War in the Peninsula; and who were now prepared to defend the threatened liberties of their respective countries, the very existence of which, as independent States, hung upon the issue of the impending struggle.

[Pg 68]

Although the British were but little acquainted with their other Allies, the Dutch, the Belgians, and the Nassau troops in the service of the King of the Netherlands, still the fact that it was upon their own soil the brunt of the coming contest was to fall, and in all probability to decide the question whether it should become a portion of Imperial France, or continue an independent State, coupled with the knowledge which the British troops possessed of the character of the Prince at their head, who had gained his laurels under their own eyes, and who had thus ingratiated himself in their favour, encouraged great hopes of their hearty exertions in the common cause.

It was naturally to be expected that Napoleon, from the moment he reascended the throne of his former glory, would devote the utmost energies of his all-directing mind to the full development of whatever military means France, notwithstanding her recent reverses, yet retained; but the rapidity and the order with which so regular and so well organised a force as that which was now concentrating on the French side of the Sambre, had been collected and put in motion, were truly wonderful. The speedy and almost sudden reappearance of the old Army in all its grandeur, with its Corps and Divisions headed by men, who, by a series of daring and successful exploits, had proved their just titles to command, and endeared themselves to the old campaigners, was such that it seemed as if the French had realised the fable of the dragon's teeth, which it might be said they had sown as they crossed their frontiers in the previous year, when retreating upon the capital before the victorious Allies. Never did any Army contain within itself so much of that necessary essence in the composition of a military force,—unbounded enthusiasm, combined with[Pg 69] the purest devotion to its leader. The oft-told tale of the veteran of so many a hard-fought field, indulging in the hope of aiding by his exertions, at any sacrifice, in again carrying the Eagles to the scenes of their former triumphs, excited the ardour of many a youthful aspirant to share with him the glory of wiping out the stain which had dimmed the lustre of his country's fame, and darkened a most eventful page in her annals.

Such being the nature of the elements ready to rush into collision, it was easy to foresee that the shock which that collision would produce, would be both violent and terrible; but no one could have anticipated that within the short space of four days from the commencement of hostilities, the die would be irrevocably cast, annihilating for ever the imperial sway of Napoleon, and securing to Europe one of the longest periods of peace recorded in her history.



[Pg 71]


BY the middle of June, the Anglo-Allied Army which had been gradually assembling in Belgium, under the command of the Duke of Wellington, amounted to about 106,000 men, and was composed in the following manner:—

British 23,543
King's German Legion 3,301
Hanoverian 22,788
Brunswick 5,376
Nassau (1st Regiment) 2,880
Dutch and Belgian 24,174
British 5,913
King's German Legion 2,560
Hanoverian 1,682
Brunswick 922
Dutch and Belgian 3,405
British 5,030  102  guns.
King's German Legion    526    18      "
Hanoverian    465    12      "
Brunswick    510    16      "
Dutch and Belgian 1,635    56      "
——— ——
8,166  204  guns.
Engineers, Sappers and Miners, Waggon-Train, and Staff Corps.
British 1,240
Infantry 82,062
Cavalry 14,482
Artillery    8,166
Engineers, Waggon-Train, &c.    1,240
105,950  men  and  204  guns.

[Pg 72]

The Infantry was divided into two Corps and a Reserve.

The First Corps, commanded by General His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange, was composed

of the First Division, under Major General Cooke;

of the Third Division, under Lieutenant General Sir Charles Alten;

of the Second Dutch-Belgian Division, under Lieutenant General de Perponcher;

and of the Third Dutch-Belgian Division, under Lieutenant General Baron Chassé.

The Left of this Corps rested upon Genappe, Quatre Bras, and Frasne, on the high road leading from Brussels to Charleroi on the Sambre, and communicated with the Right of the First Corps d'Armée of the Prussian Army, the Head Quarters of which Corps were at Charleroi. De Perponcher's Dutch-Belgian Division formed the extreme Left, having its Head Quarters at Nivelles, on the high road from Brussels to Binche. On its right was Chassé's Dutch-Belgian Division, more in advance, in the direction of Mons and Binche, and quartered principally in Roeulx, and in the villages between the latter place and Binche. The next Division on the right was Alten's, having its Head Quarters at Soignies, on the high road from Brussels to Mons, and occupying villages between this town, Roeulx, Braine le Comte, and Enghien. The Right Division, Cooke's, had its Head Quarters at Enghien.

[Pg 73]

The Second Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Lord Hill, consisted

of the Second Division, under Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton;

of the Fourth Division, under Lieutenant General the Hon. Sir Charles Colville;

of the First Dutch-Belgian Division, under Lieutenant General Stedmann;

and of a Brigade raised for service in the Dutch Colonies, called the Indian Brigade, under Lieutenant General Baron Anthing.

The Second Division, which formed the Left of this Corps, communicated with Alten's Right; its Head Quarters were at Ath, on the Dender, and upon the high road leading from Brussels to Tournai, and one Brigade (the Third), occupied Lens, situated about midway between Ath and Mons.

The Fourth Division was the next on the right, having its Head Quarters at Audenarde on the Scheldt, and occupying also Renaix. One Brigade of this Division (the Sixth Hanoverian) garrisoned the fortress of Nieuport on the coast. The First Dutch-Belgian Division was cantoned in villages bordering upon the high road connecting Grammont with Ghent; and the so-called Indian Brigade occupied villages between this line and Alost.

The Reserve consisted

of the Fifth Division, under Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Picton;

of the Sixth Division, under Lieutenant General the Hon. Sir Lowry Cole;

of the Brunswick Division, under the Duke of Brunswick;

[Pg 74]

of the Hanoverian Corps, under Lieutenant General von der Decken;

and of the Contingent of the Duke of Nassau, which comprised the 1st Regiment of Nassau Infantry, containing three Battalions, and forming a Brigade under the command of General von Kruse.

The Fifth and Sixth Divisions, and the Brunswick Division, were quartered principally in and around Brussels, excepting the Seventh Brigade, which together with von der Decken's Corps, the 13th Veteran Battalion, the 1st Foreign Battalion, and the 2nd Garrison Battalion, garrisoned Antwerp, Ostend, Nieuport, Ypres, Tournai, and Mons; and von Kruse's Nassau Brigade was cantoned between Brussels and Louvain.

Of the fortresses already mentioned, those which had not been destroyed by the French when they gained possession of the country in 1794, namely, Antwerp, Ostend, and Nieuport, were strengthened, and each rendered capable of holding out a siege. By taking every possible advantage offered by the remains of the old fortifications, and by the continued employment of 20,000 labourers, through requisitions on the country, in addition to the military working parties, and by the accession of artillery and stores from England and Holland, the towns of Ypres, Tournai, Mons, Ath, and the Citadel of Ghent, were placed in a state of defence, and a Redoubt was constructed at Audenarde to protect the Sluice Gates, which afforded the means of inundating that part of the country.

The Cavalry of the Anglo-Allied Army, commanded by Lieutenant General the Earl of Uxbridge, consisted of seven Brigades, comprising the British and the King's German Legion; of a Hanoverian Brigade; of five[Pg 75] Squadrons of Brunswick Cavalry; and of three Brigades of Dutch-Belgian Cavalry.

The British and King's German Legion Cavalry, with the Hanoverian Brigade, were stationed at Grammont and Ninove, and in villages bordering upon the Dender. The Brunswick Cavalry was dispersed in the vicinity of Brussels. The First Brigade of Dutch-Belgian Cavalry was cantoned in the neighbourhood of Roeulx; the Second Brigade, in villages between Roeulx and Mons; and the Third Brigade, partly on the south side of Mons, in the direction of Maubeuge and Beaumont, and partly between Binche and Mons.

The wide dissemination of the Duke of Wellington's forces which the advanced line of cantonments presented—a line forming a considerable portion of a circle, of which Brussels was the centre, and the Tournai, Mons, and Charleroi roads were the marked radii—tended greatly to facilitate the means of subsisting the troops, and to render that subsistence less burthensome to the country; while, at the same time, it offered to the Duke, in conjunction with the interior points of concentration, and with the efficient Reserve stationed around the capital, full security for his being prepared to meet any emergency that might arise. The main points of interior concentration were (commencing from the right) Audenarde, Grammont, Ath, Enghien, Soignies, Nivelles, and Quatre Bras. From whatever point, therefore, offensive operations might be directed against that portion of the Belgian frontier occupied by the Army under Wellington—whether from Lille, by Courtrai, or by Tournai, between the Lys and the Scheldt; from Condé, Valenciennes, or Maubeuge, by Mons, between the Sambre and the Scheldt; or from Maubeuge, Beaumont, or[Pg 76] Philippeville, by Charleroi, between the Sambre and the Meuse—the Duke, by advancing to the threatened point with his Reserve, and placing the remainder of his troops in movement, had it in his power to concentrate at least two-thirds of his intended disposable force for the Field, upon the line of the Enemy's operations, within twenty-two hours after the receipt of intelligence of the actual direction and apparent object of those operations.

The Prussian Army, under the command of Prince Blücher von Wahlstadt, amounted to nearly 117,000 men, and was thus composed:—

Infantry 99,715
Cavalry 11,879
Artillery, Waggon-Train, and Engineers   5,303
116,897  men  &  312 guns.

It was divided into four Corps d'Armée.

The First Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Zieten,[6] consisted

of the First Brigade, under General Steinmetz;
of the Second Brigade, under General Pirch II.;[7]
of the Third Brigade, under General Jagow;
[Pg 77]of the Fourth Brigade, under General Count Henkel;
of a Cavalry Reserve, under Lieutenant General Röder;
and of an Artillery Reserve, under Colonel Lehmann.

The Right of this Corps d'Armée, the Head Quarters of which were at Charleroi, communicated with the Left of the First Corps of the Duke of Wellington's Army. Its Right Brigade, the First, was cantoned in and around Fontaine l'Evêque, which lies midway between Charleroi and Binche; the Second Brigade, in Marchienne au Pont, on the Sambre; the Third Brigade, in Fleurus; the Fourth Brigade, in Moustier sur Sambre; the Reserve Cavalry in Sombref, and the Reserve Artillery in Gembloux. The line of Advanced Posts of this Corps extended from Bonne Esperance (two miles south-west of Binche) along the frontier of Lobbes, Thuin, and Gerpinnes, as far as Sossoye.

The Second Corps d'Armée, commanded by General Pirch I., consisted

of the Fifth Brigade, under General Tippelskirchen;
of the Sixth Brigade, under General Krafft;
of the Seventh Brigade, under General Brause;
of the Eighth Brigade, under Colonel Langen;
of a Cavalry Reserve, under General Jürgass;
and of an Artillery Reserve, under Colonel Rhöl.

The Head Quarters of this Corps were at Namur, situated at the confluence of the Sambre and the Meuse, where also its first Brigade (the Fifth) was stationed; the Sixth Brigade was cantoned in and around Thorembey les Beguignes; the Seventh Brigade in Heron; the Eighth Brigade in Huy; the Reserve Cavalry in Hannut; and the Reserve Artillery along the high road to Louvain. The[Pg 78] line of Advanced Posts of this Corps extended from Sossoye as far as Dinant on the Meuse, about midway between Namur and Givet.

The Third Corps d'Armée, commanded by Lieutenant General Thielemann, consisted

of the Ninth Brigade, under General Borke;
of the Tenth Brigade, under Colonel Kämpfen;
of the Eleventh Brigade, under Colonel Luck;
of the Twelfth Brigade, under Colonel Stülpnagel;
of a Cavalry Reserve, under General Hobe;
and of an Artillery Reserve, under Colonel Mohnhaupt.

The Head Quarters of this Corps were at Ciney: the Ninth Brigade was stationed at Asserre; the Tenth Brigade at Ciney; the Eleventh Brigade at Dinant; the Twelfth Brigade at Huy, on the Meuse; the Reserve Cavalry between Ciney and Dinant; and the Reserve Artillery at Ciney. The line of Advanced Posts of this Corps extended from Dinant as far as Fabeline and Rochefort.

The Fourth Corps d'Armée, commanded by General Count Bülow von Dennewitz, consisted

of the Thirteenth Brigade, under Lieutenant General Hacke;
of the Fourteenth Brigade, under General Ryssel;
of the Fifteenth Brigade, under General Losthin;
of the Sixteenth Brigade, under Colonel Hiller;
of a Cavalry Reserve, under General His Royal Highness Prince William of Prussia;
and of an Artillery Reserve, under Lieutenant Colonel Bardeleben.

The Head Quarters of this Corps were at Liege, where was also stationed the Thirteenth Infantry Brigade; the[Pg 79] Fourteenth Brigade was cantoned in and around Waremme; the Fifteenth Brigade at Hologne; the Sixteenth Brigade at Liers; the First Brigade of Reserve Cavalry at Tongern; the Second Brigade at Dalhem, and the Third Brigade at Lootz; the Reserve Artillery was cantoned in and about Gloms and Dalhem.

Prince Blücher's Head Quarters were at Namur.

The points of concentration for the respective Corps were therefore Fleurus, Namur, Ciney, and Liege. The four Corps were so disposed that each could be collected at its own Head Quarters within twelve hours; and it was fully practicable to form a junction of the whole Army at any one of these points within twenty-four hours from the time of such collection. At Namur, the most central point, it would of course be accomplished in much less time.

Blücher had decided, in the event of an advance by the French across the line of the Sambre, by Charleroi, upon concentrating his Army in a position in front of Sombref, a point upon the high road between Namur and Nivelles, above fourteen miles from the former place, and only seven miles and a half from Quatre Bras, the point of intersection of this road with the one leading directly from Charleroi to Brussels, and at which Wellington had agreed, in that case, to concentrate as large a force as time would admit, in order to check any advance in this direction, or to join Blücher's Right Flank, according to circumstances.




Should the Enemy advance along the left bank of the Meuse towards Namur, this place would become the point of junction of the First, Second, and Fourth Corps of the Prussian Army, whilst the Third, collecting at Ciney, would, after presenting a stout resistance at Dinant, operate as effectively as circumstances would admit, against the Right of the line of attack; and should he advance by the right[Pg 82] bank of the Meuse towards Ciney, the Army would concentrate at this point, with the exception of the Fourth Corps, which would assemble at Liege as a Reserve, for the better security of the Left Flank and of the communications with the Rhine.

Such were the dispositions of the Allied Commanders, who contemplated no change in their arrangements until the moment should arrive of the commencement of hostile demonstrations of a decided character, for which they were perfectly prepared, and for which a vigilant look-out was maintained along the general line of the Advanced Posts.

From the foregoing, however, it would appear that the concentration of Wellington's Army on its own Left, and that of Blücher's Army on its own Right, required longer time than that in which they could have been respectively accomplished on other points; and further that the distribution of the former was better calculated to meet the Enemy's advance by Mons, and that of the latter to meet it by Namur, than to oppose a line of attack by Charleroi. This peculiar feature in the dispositions of the two Commanders did not escape the vigilance of Napoleon, who, as will be seen in the sequel, made it subservient to his hopes of beating their Armies in detail.

The French troops destined to constitute the Grand Army with which Napoleon had decided upon taking the field against the allied forces in Belgium, comprised the First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Sixth Corps d'Armée;[Pg 83] four Corps of Cavalry; and the Imperial Guard: amounting altogether to 116,124 men:—

Infantry 83,753
Cavalry 20,959
Artillery, Waggon-Train, and Engineers 11,412
116,124 men and 350 guns.

The First Corps d'Armée, commanded by Lieutenant General Count d'Erlon, consisted

of the First Infantry Division, under Lieutenant General Alix;

of the Second Infantry Division, under Lieutenant General Baron Donzelot;

of the Third Infantry Division, under Lieutenant General Baron Marcognet;

of the Fourth Infantry Division, under Lieutenant General Count Durette;

and of the First Light Cavalry Division, under Lieutenant General Jaquinot;

with 5 Batteries of Foot, and 1 of Horse, Artillery.

In the beginning of June, this Corps was stationed in and around Lille.

The Second Corps d'Armée, commanded by Lieutenant General Count Reille, consisted

of the Fifth Infantry Division, under Lieutenant General Baron Bachelu;

of the Sixth Infantry Division, under Lieutenant General Prince Jerome Napoleon;

of the Seventh Infantry Division, under Lieutenant General Count Girard;

of the Ninth Infantry Division, under Lieutenant General Count Foy;

and of the Second Light Cavalry Division, under Lieutenant General Baron Piré;

with 5 Batteries of Foot, and 1 of Horse, Artillery.

This Corps was stationed in and around Valenciennes.[Pg 84]

The Third Corps d'Armée, commanded by Lieutenant General Count Vandamme, consisted

of the Eighth Infantry Division, under Lieutenant General Baron Le Fol;

of the Tenth Infantry Division, under Lieutenant General Baron Habert;

of the Eleventh Infantry Division, under Lieutenant General Berthezene;

and of the Third Light Cavalry Division, under Lieutenant General Baron Domon;

with 4 Batteries of Foot, and 1 of Horse, Artillery.

This Corps was assembled in and around Mézières.

The Fourth Corps d'Armée, commanded by Lieutenant General Count Gérard, consisted

of the Twelfth Infantry Division, under Lieutenant General Baron Pecheux;

of the Thirteenth Infantry Division, under Lieutenant General Baron Vichery;

of the Fourteenth Infantry Division, under Lieutenant General de Bourmont;

and of the Sixth Light Cavalry Division, under Lieutenant General Maurin;

with 4 Batteries of Foot, and 1 of Horse, Artillery.

This Corps occupied Metz, Longwy, and Thionville, and formed the basis of the Army of the Moselle; but it was now decided that it should approach the Sambre, and unite itself with the Grand Army.

The Sixth Corps d'Armée, commanded by Lieutenant General Count Lobau, consisted

[Pg 85]

of the Nineteenth Infantry Division, under Lieutenant General Baron Simmer;

of the Twentieth Infantry Division, under Lieutenant General Baron Jeannin;

of the Twenty-First Infantry Division, under Lieutenant General Baron Teste;

with 4 Batteries of Foot, and 1 of Horse, Artillery.

This Corps was assembled in and around Laon.

The four Corps forming the Reserve Cavalry were placed under the command of Marshal Count Grouchy.

The First, commanded by Lieutenant General Count Pajol, consisted

of the Fourth Cavalry Division (Hussars), under Lieutenant General Baron Soult;

and of the Fifth Division (Lancers and Chasseurs), under Lieutenant General Baron Subervie;

with 2 Batteries of Horse Artillery.

The Second Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Count Excelmans, consisted

of the Ninth Division (Dragoons), under Lieutenant General Strolz;

and of the Tenth Division (Dragoons), under Lieutenant General Baron Chastel;

with 2 Batteries of Horse Artillery.

The Third Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Count de Valmy (Kellermann), consisted

of the Eleventh Division (Dragoons and Cuirassiers), under Lieutenant General Baron L'Heritier;

and of the Twelfth Division (Carabiniers and Cuirassiers), under Lieutenant General Roussel d'Hurbal;

[Pg 86]with 2 Batteries of Horse Artillery.

The Fourth Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Count Milhaud, consisted

of the Thirteenth Division (Cuirassiers), under Lieutenant General Wathier;

and of the Fourteenth Division (Cuirassiers), under Lieutenant General Baron Delort;

with 2 Batteries of Horse Artillery.

The principal portion of the Reserve Cavalry lay in cantonments between the Aisne and the frontier.

The Infantry of the Imperial Guard consisted

of the 1st and 2nd Regiments of Grenadiers, under Lieutenant General Count Friant;

of the 3rd and 4th Regiments of Grenadiers, under Lieutenant General Count Roguet;

of the 1st and 2nd Regiments of Chasseurs, under Lieutenant General Count Morand;

of the 3rd and 4th Regiments of Chasseurs, under Lieutenant General Count Michel;

of the 1st and 3rd Regiments of Tirailleurs, under Lieutenant General Count Duhesme;

and of the 1st and 3rd Voltigeurs, under Lieutenant General Count Barrois.

The Cavalry of the Guard consisted

of two Regiments of Heavy Cavalry (Grenadiers à Cheval and Dragoons), under Lieutenant General Count Guyot;

and of three Regiments of Light Cavalry (Chasseurs à Cheval and Lancers), under Lieutenant General Lefèbvre-Desnouettes.

Attached to the Guard were 6 Batteries of Foot, and 4 Batteries of Horse, Artillery, with 3 Batteries of Reserve Artillery; comprising [Pg 87]altogether 96 pieces of cannon, under the command of Lieutenant General Desvaux de St. Maurice.

These troops were principally in Paris.

The French Emperor having, upon the grounds explained in a former Chapter, determined to take the Field against the Allied Armies in Belgium, the commencement of active operations could no longer be deferred. When we reflect upon the disparity of force with which he was going to contend against two such Generals as Wellington and Blücher, we are bound to acknowledge that it was an undertaking daring and perilous in the extreme, even for an individual of the dauntless and adventurous character of Napoleon. A delay of only a few weeks would have secured for him, by means of the vast organisation which was in constant and rapid progress, a sufficient accession of disposable troops to have enabled him to effect a powerful diversion upon either Wellington's Right, or Blücher's Left, Flank, and thus to impart an infinitely greater degree of weight and stability to his main operations; but then, on the other hand, this delay would also have brought the powerful Armies of the confederated Sovereigns across the whole line of his eastern frontier, and have led to the consummation of that combined movement upon the capital, the execution of which it was his great aim to frustrate.

But it was not the first time that Napoleon had advanced against such fearful superiority of numerical strength. In the previous year, when nearly surrounded by the victorious forces of Prussia, Austria, and Russia, when apparently overwhelmed by a succession of disasters, and when his Army was daily diminishing by the desertion of newly raised conscripts, and presenting the mere wreck[Pg 88] of its former self, he was at the very acme of his mental energy, and in the full possession of his determinate and all subduing will. His great genius seemed to acquire additional vigour and elasticity, with the increasing desperation of his position; and darting with electric suddenness and rapidity, now upon one adversary and then upon another, maintaining with the renowned leaders of his detached forces, a combination of movements developing the highest order of strategy, he succeeded by his brilliant triumphs at Champaubert, Montmirail, and Monterau, not only in stemming the torrent of invasion, but in causing the resumption of the diplomatic preliminaries of a Peace. This Peace, however, these very triumphs induced him, as if by a fatality, to reject with scorn and indignation, although the terms were honourable in the highest degree under his then existing circumstances.

Hence, with such a retrospect, Napoleon might well indulge in hope and confidence as to the result of the approaching Campaign, notwithstanding the want of sufficient time for a greater development of his resources. A finer or a more gallant Army, or one more complete and efficient in every respect, than that which he was going to lead in person, never took the Field.



He had selected for the line of his main operations the direct road to Brussels, by Charleroi, that being the road, as before remarked, on which Wellington's Left, and Blücher's Right respectively rested, and which he designed to maintain by first overcoming the Prussian Army, which was the most advanced on that line, and then attacking the Anglo-Allied troops before they could be collected in sufficient strength to prevent his further progress; his grand object being to impede the junction of the two Armies; to vanquish them in detail; to establish himself[Pg 90] in Brussels; to arouse the dense population in Belgium, of which a vast proportion secretly adhered to his cause; to reannex the country to the French Empire; to excite the desertion of the Belgian soldiery from the service of Holland; to prevent a check by these means to the operations of the invading Armies crossing the Rhine; perhaps also to enter into negotiations; and, at all events, to gain, what was to him of vital importance, time for the advance and co-operation of further reinforcements from France.

The necessary Orders were now despatched for the concentration of the Grand Army; and in order to mask its movements as much as possible, the whole line of the Belgian frontier was studded with numerous Detachments of the National Guards furnished by the garrisons of the fortresses, more especially along that part of the frontier which passes in advance of Valenciennes, Condé, Lille, and even as far as Dunkirk; all the debouchés of which line were strongly occupied, the Outposts tripled, and there was every apparent indication that either the principal attack, or at least a formidable diversion, was in course of preparation in that quarter.

These measures had the effect of strengthening the anticipations which Wellington had previously formed of offensive movements from the side of Lille and Valenciennes, and consequently of placing him still more upon his guard against any hasty and incautious junction of his forces with those of Blücher, until fully satisfied as to the true direction and object of Napoleon's main operations.

On the 12th of June, Lieutenant Colonel Wissell, whose Regiment, the 1st Hussars of the King's German Legion,[Pg 91] formed an extensive line of Outposts in front of Tournai, reported to Major General Sir Hussey Vivian, to whose Brigade the Regiment belonged, that he had ascertained, from information on which he could rely, that the French Army had assembled on the frontier, and was prepared to attack. Vivian desired him to report upon the subject to Lord Hill, to whose Corps his Regiment was attached while employed on this particular service.

The next morning, Vivian repaired in person to the Outposts, and found that a French Cavalry Picquet which had previously been posted opposite to Tournai, had a short time before marched to join the main Army, and had been relieved by Douaniers. These, upon being spoken to by Vivian, did not hesitate to say that their Army was concentrating, and that if the Allies did not advance, their troops would attack. On returning to his Quarters, Vivian communicated what he had seen and heard both to Lord Hill and the Earl of Uxbridge, by whom the circumstances were made known to the Duke of Wellington. His Grace, however, for reasons before stated, did not think the proper moment had arrived for making any alteration in the disposition of his forces.

Gérard's Corps quitted Metz on the 6th of June, with Orders to reach Philippeville by the 14th. The Imperial Guard began its march from Paris on the 8th, and reached Avesnes on the 13th, as did also Lobau's Corps from Laon. D'Erlon's Corps from Lille, Reille's Corps from Valenciennes, and Vandamme's Corps from Mézières, likewise arrived at Maubeuge and Avesnes on the 13th. The four Corps of Reserve Cavalry concentrated upon the Upper Sambre.

The junction of the several Corps on the same day, and[Pg 92] almost at the same hour (with the exception of the Fourth, which joined the next day), displayed the usual skill of Napoleon in the combination of movements. Their leaders congratulated themselves upon these auspicious preparations, and upon finding the "Grand Army" once more assembled in "all the pomp and circumstance of glorious war:" the appearance of the troops, though fatigued, was all that could be desired; and their enthusiasm was at the highest on hearing that the Emperor himself, who had quitted Paris at three o'clock on the morning of the 12th, and passed the night at Laon, had actually arrived amongst them.

Upon the following day, the French Army bivouacked on three different points.

The Left, consisting of d'Erlon's and Reille's Corps, and amounting to about 44,000 men, was posted on the right bank of the Sambre at Solre sur Sambre.

The Centre, consisting of Vandamme's and Lobau's Corps, of the Imperial Guard, and of the Cavalry Reserves, amounting altogether to about 60,000 men, was at Beaumont, which was made the Head Quarters.

The Right, composed of Gérard's Corps and of a Division of Heavy Cavalry, amounting altogether to about 16,000 men, was in front of Philippeville.

The bivouacs were established in rear of some slight eminences, with a view to conceal their fires from the observation of the Enemy.

The Army, while thus assembled, on the eve of opening the Campaign, received through the medium of an Ordre du Jour the following spirit-stirring appeal from its Chief:—

[Pg 93]

"Napoleon, by the Grace of God, and the Constitutions of the Empire,
Emperor of the French, etc., to the Grand Army,

"At the Imperial Head Quarters,
Avesnes, June 14th, 1815.

"Soldiers! this day is the anniversary of Marengo and of Friedland, which twice decided the destiny of Europe. Then, as after Austerlitz, as after Wagram, we were too generous! We believed in the protestations and in the oaths of Princes, whom we left on their thrones. Now, however, leagued together, they aim at the independence, and the most sacred rights of France. They have commenced the most unjust of aggressions. Let us, then, march to meet them. Are they and we no longer the same men?

"Soldiers! at Jena, against these same Prussians, now so arrogant, you were one to three, and at Montmirail one to six!

"Let those among you who have been captives to the English, describe the nature of their prison ships, and the frightful miseries they endured.

"The Saxons, the Belgians, the Hanoverians, the soldiers of the Confederation of the Rhine, lament that they are compelled to use their arms in the cause of the Princes, the enemies of justice and of the rights of all nations. They know that this Coalition is insatiable! After having devoured twelve millions of Poles, twelve millions of Italians, one million of Saxons, and six millions of Belgians, it now wishes to devour the States of the second rank in Germany.

"Madmen! one moment of prosperity has bewildered them. The oppression and the humiliation of the French people are beyond their power. If they enter France they will there find their grave.

"Soldiers! we have forced marches to make, battles to fight, dangers to encounter; but, with firmness, victory will be ours. The rights, the honour, and the happiness of the country will be recovered!

"To every Frenchman who has a heart, the moment is now arrived to conquer or to die!


"The Marshal Duke of Dalmatia,
Major General."


[6] In order to avoid the constant repetition of the prefix "von" to the names of the German Officers, I have omitted it altogether in the present edition; an omission, however, which I feel persuaded those Officers will not consider as involving any breach of courtesy or respect.

[7] Prussian General Officers bearing the same family name, are usually distinguished by the addition of the Roman numerals. General von Pirch I. is named on the next page.

[Pg 94]


NAPOLEON by his precautionary measures of strengthening his Advanced Posts, and of displaying along the whole line of the Belgian frontier an equal degree of vigilance and activity, had effectually concealed from his adversaries the combined movements of his several Corps d'Armée, and their concentration on the right bank of the Sambre.

During the night of the 13th, however, the light reflected upon the sky by the fires of the French bivouacs, did not escape the vigilant observation of Zieten's Outposts, whence it was communicated to the Rear that these fires appeared to be in the direction of Walcourt and of Beaumont, and also in the vicinity of Solre sur Sambre; further, that all reports received through spies and deserters concurred in representing that Napoleon was expected to join the French Army on that evening; that the Imperial Guard and the Second Corps had arrived at Avesnes and Maubeuge; also that, at one o'clock in the afternoon of that day, four French Battalions had crossed the river at Solre sur Sambre, and occupied Merbes le Château; that late in the night the Enemy had pushed forward a strong Detachment as far as Sart la Bussière; and lastly, that an attack by the French would certainly take place on the 14th or 15th.

On the 14th of June, the Dutch-Belgian General van Merlen, who was stationed at St Symphorien, near Mons, and who commanded the Outposts between the latter place[Pg 95] and Binche which formed the extreme Right of the Prussians, ascertained that the French troops had moved from Maubeuge and its vicinity by Beaumont towards Philippeville, that there was no longer any hostile force in his front, except a Picquet at Bettignies, and some National Guards in other villages. He forwarded this important information to the Prussian General Steinmetz, on his left, with whom he was in constant communication, and by whom it was despatched to General Zieten at Charleroi.

The Prussian General Pirch II., who was posted on the left of Steinmetz, also sent word to Zieten that he had received information through his Outposts that the French Army had concentrated in the vicinity of Beaumont and Merbes le Château; that their Army consisted of 150,000 men, and was commanded by General Vandamme, Jerome Buonaparte, and some other distinguished Officers; that since the previous day all crossing of the frontier had been forbidden by the French under pain of death; and that a Patrol of the Enemy had been observed that day near Biercée, not far from Thuin.

During the day, frequent accounts were brought to the troops of Zieten's Corps, generally corroborative of the above, by the country people who were bringing away, and seeking some place of safety for, their cattle. Intelligence was also obtained of the arrival of Napoleon, and of his brother, Prince Jerome.

Zieten immediately transmitted the substance of this information to Prince Blücher and to the Duke of Wellington; and it was perfectly consistent with that which the latter had received from Major General Dörnberg, who had been posted in observation at Mons, and from General van Merlen (through the Prince of Orange) who, as already mentioned, commanded the Outposts[Pg 96] between that place and Binche. Nothing, however, was as yet positively known concerning the real point of concentration, the probable strength of the Enemy, or his intended offensive movements, and the Allied Commanders therefore refrained from making any alteration in their dispositions, and calmly awaited the arrival of reports of a more definite character concerning the Enemy's designs.

Zieten's troops were kept under arms during the night, and were collected by Battalions at their respective points of assembly.

Later in the day Zieten ascertained, through his Outposts, that strong French Columns, composed of all Arms, were assembling in his front, and that every thing portended an attack on the following morning.

Zieten's communication of this intelligence reached Blücher between nine and ten o'clock on the night of the 14th.

Simultaneous Orders were consequently despatched by eleven o'clock for the march of Pirch's Corps from Namur upon Sombref, and of Thielemann's Corps from Ciney to Namur. An Order had already, in the course of the day, been forwarded to Bülow at Liege, desiring him to make such a disposition of his Corps d'Armée as should admit of its concentration at Hannut in one march; and at midnight a further Order was despatched, requiring him to concentrate his troops in cantonment about Hannut.

Zieten was directed to await the advance of the Enemy in his position upon the Sambre; and, in the event of his being attacked by superior numbers, and compelled to retire, to effect his retreat as slowly as circumstances would permit, in the direction of Fleurus, so as to afford sufficient time for the concentration of the other three Corps in rear of the latter point.

[Pg 97]

The vigilance which was thus exercised along both the Anglo-Allied and Prussian line of Outposts, obtained for Wellington and Blücher the fullest extent of information which they could reasonably have calculated on receiving respecting the dispositions of the Enemy immediately previous to an attack. They had been put in possession of the fact that considerable masses of French troops had moved by their right, and assembled in front of Charleroi. Still, this baring of the frontier beyond Tournai, Mons, and Binche, of the troops which had previously occupied that line, and their concentration in front of Charleroi, might be designed to mask the real line of operation, to draw the Anglo-Allied troops towards Charleroi, upon which a feigned attack would be made, while the real attack was intended to be by Mons. Hence no alteration was made by the Duke in the disposition of his forces; but the Prussian Field Marshal immediately ordered the concentration of his own troops at a point where they would be at hand in case Charleroi should be the real line of attack, and whence they could far more readily move to the support of Wellington, should that attack be made by the Mons road.

Zieten's position, and his line of Advanced Posts, have already been described. His Right Brigade (the First), having its Head Quarters at Fontaine l'Evêque, held the ground between Binche and the Sambre; his Centre Brigade (the Second) lay along the Sambre, occupying Marchienne au Pont, Dampremy, La Roux, Charleroi, Châtelet, and Gilly; a portion of his Third Brigade occupied Farciennes and Tamines on the Sambre, while the remainder was posted in reserve between Fleurus and the Sambre; and his Left Brigade (the Fourth) was extended along this river nearly as far as Namur. The Reserve Cavalry of the First Corps[Pg 98] had been brought more in advance, and was now cantoned in the vicinity of the Piéton, having Gosselies for its point of concentration.

In this position, Zieten, without making the slightest alteration, remained fully prepared for the expected attack on the morrow.

While Napoleon was occupied in prescribing his intended order of attack, he received a despatch from Count Gérard announcing that Lieutenant General de Bourmont, and Colonels Clouet and Villoutreys, attached to the Fourth Corps, had deserted to the Enemy—a circumstance which induced the Emperor to make some alteration in his dispositions.

The morning of the 15th had scarcely broken, when the French Army commenced its march towards the Sambre, in three Columns, from the three bivouacs already mentioned as having been taken up during the previous night. The Left Column advanced from Solre sur Sambre, by Thuin, upon Marchienne au Pont; the Centre from Beaumont, by Ham sur Heure, upon Charleroi; and the Right Column from Philippeville, by Gerpinnes, upon Châtelet.

As early as half past three o'clock in the morning, the head of the Left Column came in contact with the Prussian troops in front of Lobbes, firing upon, and driving in, the Picquets of the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Regiment of Westphalian Landwehr, commanded by Captain Gillhausen. This Officer who was well aware that the French troops that had assembled, the night before, in great force in his front, intended to attack him in the morning, had posted his Battalion so as to afford it every advantage to be derived from the hilly and intersected ground it occupied. The French, however, inclined more to their right, and joined other troops advancing along the road to Thuin, which lay[Pg 99] on his left. Shortly after, they drove back an advanced Cavalry Picquet; and, at half past four, commenced a fire from four guns upon the Outpost of Maladrie, about a mile in front of Thuin.

This cannonade, which announced the opening of the Campaign by the French, was heard by the Prussian troops forming the Left Wing of Steinmetz's Brigade; but the atmosphere, which was extremely thick and heavy, was most unfavourable for the conveyance of sound; so much so, that the greater portion of the Right Wing of the Brigade remained for a considerable time in ignorance of the Enemy's advance.

The firing, however, was distinctly heard at Charleroi; and Zieten, who, by the reports which he forwarded on the 14th to Wellington and Blücher, had fully prepared these Commanders to expect an attack, lost no time in communicating to them the important fact, that hostilities had actually commenced.

Shortly before five o'clock, he despatched Courier Jägers to their respective Head Quarters, Brussels and Namur, with letters containing the information that since half past four o'clock, he had heard several cannon shots fired in his front, and at the time he was writing, the fire of musketry also, but that he had not yet received any report from his Outposts. To Blücher he at the same time intimated that he should direct the whole Corps to fall back into position; and, should it become absolutely necessary, to concentrate at Fleurus. His report to the Duke of Wellington arrived in Brussels at nine o'clock in the morning; that to Prince Blücher reached Namur between eight and nine o'clock. The former, while it placed the British Commander on the qui vive, did not induce him to adopt any particular measure—he awaited further and more definite information; but the latter satisfied the Prussian Field Marshal that he[Pg 100] had taken a wise precaution in having already ordered the concentration of his several Corps in the position of Sombref.

The Prussian troops at Maladrie checked, for a time, the advance of the French upon Thuin, and maintained their ground for more than an hour, with the greatest bravery. They were overpowered, and driven back upon Thuin. This place was occupied by the 3rd Battalion of the 2nd Westphalian Landwehr, under Major Monsterberg, who, after an obstinate and gallant resistance, during which the Battalion suffered an immense loss, was forced to retire, about seven o'clock, upon Montigny, where he found Lieutenant Colonel Woisky, with two Squadrons of the 1st West Prussian Dragoons.

The French succeeded in taking this village, and the retreat was then continued in good order, under the protection of Woisky's Dragoons, towards Marchienne au Pont; but before reaching this place, the latter were attacked, and completely overthrown by the French Cavalry; and the Infantry getting into disorder at the same moment were partly cut down, and many were taken prisoners. Indeed so severe was the loss which the 3rd Battalion of the 2nd Westphalian Landwehr suffered in this retreat, that the mere handful of men which remained could not possibly be looked upon as constituting a Battalion in the proper meaning of the term. It was reduced to a mere skeleton. Lieutenant Colonel Woisky was wounded on this occasion; but continued, nevertheless, at the head of his Dragoons.

Captain Gillhausen, who, as before stated, commanded the Prussian Battalion posted at Lobbes, as soon as he had satisfied himself that Thuin was taken, saw the necessity of effecting his own retreat, which he did, after the lapse of[Pg 101] half an hour, drawing in his Picquets, and occupying the Bridge over the Sambre with one Company. He then fell back, and occupied the Wood of Sar de Lobbes, where he received an Order, as soon as the Post of Hoarbes was also taken by the Enemy, to continue his retreat, taking a direction between Fontaine l'Evêque and Anderlues.

The Post at Abbaye d'Alnes, occupied by the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Westphalian Landwehr, under the temporary command of Captain Grollmann, also fell into the hands of the French, between eight and nine o'clock.

As soon as the Commander of the First Prussian Brigade—General Steinmetz—was made acquainted with the attack upon his most Advanced Posts along the Sambre, he despatched an Officer of his Staff—Major Arnauld—to the Dutch-Belgian General van Merlen at St Symphorien, situated on the road between Binche and Mons, to make him fully acquainted with what had taken place, and with the fact that his Brigade was falling back into position. On his way, Major Arnauld directed Major Engelhardt, who commanded the Outposts on the right, to lose not a moment in withdrawing the chain of Picquets; and on arriving at Binche, he spread the alarm that the French had attacked, and that the Left of the Brigade was warmly engaged, which rendered it necessary that the Right should retire with the utmost expedition. Until this Officer's arrival, the Prussian troops in this quarter were wholly ignorant of the attack; the state of the atmosphere, to which allusion has already been made, having prevented their hearing the slightest sound of any firing. They had a much greater extent of ground to pass over in retreat than the rest of the Brigade, and yet, by the above unfortunate circumstance, they were the last to retire.

Zieten, having ascertained, about eight o'clock, that the[Pg 102] whole French Army appeared to be in motion, and that the direction of the advance of its Columns seemed to indicate the probability of Charleroi and its vicinity being the main object of the attack, sent out the necessary Orders to his Brigades. The First was to retire by Courcelles to the position in rear of Gosselies; the Second was to defend the three Bridges over the Sambre, at Marchienne au Pont, Charleroi, and Châtelet, for a time sufficient to enable the First Brigade to effect its retreat towards Gosselies, and thus to prevent its being cut off by the Enemy, after which it was to retire behind Gilly; the Third and Fourth Brigades, as also the Reserve Cavalry and Artillery, were to concentrate as rapidly as possible, and to take up a position in rear of Fleurus.

The three points by which the First Brigade was to fall back, were Mont St Aldegonde, for the troops on the right, Anderlues for those in the centre, and Fontaine l'Evêque for the left. In order that they might reach these three points about the same time, Zieten ordered that those in front of Fontaine l'Evêque should yield their ground as slowly as the Enemy's attack would admit. Having reached the line of these three points, about ten o'clock, the Brigade commenced its further retreat towards Courcelles, having its proper Left protected by a separate Column consisting of the 1st Regiment of Westphalian Landwehr and two Companies of Silesian Rifles, led by Colonel Hoffmann, in the direction of Roux and Jumet, towards Gosselies.

At Marchienne au Pont stood the 2nd Battalion of the 6th Prussian Regiment, belonging to the Second Brigade of Zieten's Corps. The Bridge was barricaded, and with the aid of two guns, resolutely maintained against several attacks; after which these troops commenced their retreat upon Gilly, by Dampremy. In the latter place were three[Pg 103] Companies of the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Regiment of Westphalian Landwehr, with four guns. These also retired about the same time towards Gilly, the guns protecting the retreat by their fire from the Churchyard; after which they moved off as rapidly as possible towards Gilly, while the Battalion marched upon Fleurus; but the 4th Company, which defended the Bridge of La Roux until Charleroi was taken, was too late to rejoin the latter, and therefore attached itself to the First Brigade, which was retreating by its Right Flank.

Lieutenant General Count Pajol's Corps of Light Cavalry formed the Advanced Guard of the Centre Column of the French Army: it was to have been supported by Vandamme's Corps of Infantry, but by some mistake, this General had not received his Orders, and at six o'clock in the morning had not quitted his bivouac. Napoleon, perceiving the error, led forward the Imperial Guards in immediate support of Pajol. As the latter advanced, the Prussian Outposts, though hard pressed, retired, skirmishing in good order. At Couillet, on the Sambre, about a mile and a half below Charleroi, the French Cavalry fell upon a Company of the 3rd Battalion of the 28th Prussian Regiment, surrounded it, and forced it to surrender.

Immediately afterwards, the French gained possession of Marcinelles, a village quite close to Charleroi, and connected with this town by a dike 300 paces in length, terminating at a Bridge, the head of which was palisaded. Along this dike the French Cavalry ventured to advance, but was suddenly driven back by the Prussian Skirmishers, who lined the hedges and ditches intersecting the opposite slope of the embankment; a part of the village was retaken, and an attempt made to destroy the Bridge. The French,[Pg 104] however, having renewed the attack with increased force, succeeded in finally carrying both the dike and the Bridge, and by this means effected their entrance into Charleroi. Major Rohr, who commanded this Post, now felt himself under the necessity of effecting his retreat with the 1st Battalion of the 6th Prussian Regiment, towards the preconcerted position in rear of Gilly, which he did in good order, though hotly pursued by Detachments of Pajol's Dragoons.

By eleven o'clock, the French were in full possession of Charleroi, as also of both banks of the Sambre above the town, and Reille's Corps was effecting its passage over the river at Marchienne au Pont.

The right Column of the French Army, commanded by Count Gérard, having a longer distance to traverse, had not yet reached its destined point, Châtelet on the Sambre.

The Fourth Brigade of Zieten's Corps, as also the advanced portion of the Third, continued their retreat towards Fleurus; General Jagow, who commanded the latter, having left the two Silesian Rifle Companies and the Fusilier Battalion[8] of the 7th Prussian Regiment at Farciennes and Tamines, for the purpose of watching the points of passage across the Sambre, and of protecting the Left Flank of the position at Gilly. But, from the moment the French made themselves masters of Charleroi, and of the left bank of the Sambre above that town, the situation of the First Brigade under General Steinmetz became extremely critical. Zieten immediately ordered General Jagow, whose Brigade was in reserve, to detach Colonel Rüchel with the 29th Regiment of Infantry to Gosselies, for the purpose of facilitating General Steinmetz's retreat.[Pg 105] The Colonel found that General Röder (commanding the Reserve Cavalry of the Corps) had posted there the 6th Regiment of Prussian Uhlans (Lancers) under Lieutenant Colonel Lützow, to whom he confided the defence of Gosselies, which he occupied with the 2nd Battalion of the 29th Regiment, while he placed himself in reserve with the other two Battalions.

As soon as the French had assembled in sufficient force at Charleroi, Napoleon ordered Count Pajol to detach General Clary's Brigade towards Gosselies, and to advance with the remainder of the First Corps of Reserve Cavalry towards Gilly. General Clary, with the 1st French Hussars, reached Jumet, on the left of the Brussels road, and only but little more than a mile from Gosselies, before the First Prussian Brigade had crossed the Piéton. He now advanced to attack Gosselies, but was met by Lieutenant Colonel Lützow and his Dragoons, who defeated and repulsed him, and thus secured for General Steinmetz time to pass the Piéton; and as soon as the latter had turned the Defile of Gosselies, Colonel Rüchel with the 29th Regiment moved off to rejoin the Third Brigade.

The check thus experienced by General Clary led to his being supported by Lieutenant General Lefèbvre-Desnouettes, with the Light Cavalry of the Guard and the two Batteries attached to this force; and a Regiment from Lieutenant General Duhesme's Division of the Young Guard was advanced midway between Charleroi and Gosselies as a Reserve to Lefèbvre-Desnouettes. The Advanced Guard of Reille's Corps, which had crossed the Sambre at Marchienne au Pont, was also moving directly upon Gosselies, with the design both of cutting off the retreat of Zieten's troops along the Brussels road, and of separating the Prussians from the Anglo-Allied Army.[Pg 106] D'Erlon's Corps, which was considerably in the rear, received orders to follow and support Reille.

General Steinmetz, upon approaching Gosselies, and perceiving the strength of the Enemy and the consequent danger of being completely cut off, with the utmost promptitude and decision directed the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Westphalian Landwehr to march against the Enemy's Left Flank, with a view to divert his attention and to check his advance, while, protected by the 6th Lancers and the 1st Silesian Hussars, he continued his retreat towards Heppignies. This plan was attended with complete success; and Steinmetz reached Heppignies with scarcely any loss, followed by General Girard at the head of the Seventh Division of the Second French Corps d'Armée, with the remainder of which Reille continued his advance along the Brussels road. Heppignies was already occupied by the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 12th Prussian Regiment, and with this increase of strength Steinmetz drew up in order of battle, and upon Girard's attempting to force the place, after having previously occupied Ransart, he advanced against him, and drove him back in the direction of Gosselies. A brisk cannonade ensued, which was maintained on the part of the Prussians, only so long as it was deemed necessary for covering their retreat upon Fleurus.

In conformity with Zieten's Orders, General Pirch II., when forced to abandon Charleroi, retired to Gilly, where, having concentrated the Second Brigade, about two o'clock, he took up a favourable position along a ridge in rear of a rivulet; his Right resting upon the Abbey of Soleilmont, his Left extending towards Châtelineau, which Flank was also protected by a Detachment occupying the Bridge of Châtelet, Gérard's Corps not having as yet arrived at that point.[Pg 107] He posted the Fusilier Battalion of the 6th Regiment in a small Wood which lay in advance on the exterior slope of the ridge; four guns on the right, upon an eminence commanding the valley in front; two guns between this point and the Fleurus road, as also two guns on the right of the road, to impede as much as possible the advance of any Columns towards Gilly. The Sharp Shooters of the Fusilier Battalion of the 6th Regiment, by lining some adjacent hedges, afforded protection to the Artillery. The 2nd Battalion of the 28th Regiment was stationed beyond the Fleurus road, near the Abbey of Soleilmont, in such a manner as to be concealed from the Enemy. The 1st Battalion of this Regiment stood across the road leading to Lambusart; and its Fusilier Battalion was posted more to the left, towards Châtelet. The 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Westphalian Landwehr was posted in support of the Battery in rear of Gilly. The 1st Battalion of this Regiment, previously mentioned as on the march from Dampremy to Fleurus, passed through Lodelinsart and Soleilmont, and rejoined the Brigade in rear of Gilly, before the affair had terminated. The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 6th Regiment formed the Reserve. The 1st West Prussian Dragoons were posted on the declivity of the ridge towards Châtelet: they furnished the Advanced Posts, and patrolled the valley of the Sambre, maintaining the communication with the Detachment at Farciennes, belonging to the Third Brigade.

General Pirch, foreseeing that in the event of the Enemy succeeding in turning his Right, a rapid advance along the Fleurus road would be the means of greatly molesting, if not of seriously endangering, his retreat upon Lambusart, took the precaution of having this road blocked up by an abatis in the Wood through which it led.

[Pg 108]

Vandammme did not reach Charleroi until three o'clock in the afternoon, when he received Orders to pursue the Prussians, in conjunction with Grouchy, along the Fleurus road. It was, however, a considerable time before any advance was made. In the first place, the whole of Vandamme's Corps had to cross the Sambre by a single Bridge; secondly, both Generals were deceived by exaggerated reports concerning the strength of the Prussians in rear of the Fleurus Woods; and Grouchy who had gone forward to reconnoitre, returned to the Emperor with a request for further instructions. Upon this, Napoleon undertook a reconnaissance in person, accompanied by the four Squadrons de Service; and having formed an opinion that the amount of force in question did not exceed 18, or 20,000 men, he gave his Orders for the attack of General Pirch's Brigade.

The French Generals having directed their preparatory dispositions from the Windmill near the Farm of Grand Drieu, opened the engagement about six o'clock in the evening, with a fire from two Batteries. Three Columns of Infantry advanced in echelon from the right, the first directing its course towards the little Wood occupied by the Fusilier Battalion of the 6th Prussian Regiment; the second passing to the right of Gilly; and the third winding round the left of this Village. The attack was supported by two Brigades of General Excelmans' Cavalry Corps, namely, those of Generals Bourthe and Bonnemain; of which one was directed towards Châtelet, thus menacing the Prussian Left Flank, and the other advanced along the Fleurus road.

The Battery attached to the Second Prussian Brigade was in the act of replying with great spirit to the superior fire from the French Artillery, and the Light Troops were already engaged, when General Pirch received Zieten's Orders to[Pg 109] avoid an action against superior numbers, and to retire by Lambusart upon Fleurus.

Perceiving the formidable advance and overwhelming force of the Enemy, he did not hesitate a moment in carrying those Orders into effect, and made his dispositions accordingly; but the retreat had scarcely commenced when his Battalions were vigorously assailed by the French Cavalry. Napoleon, in the hope of profiting by this retrograde movement, sent against the retreating Columns the four Squadrons de Service of the Guard, under General Letort, a distinguished Cavalry Officer attached to his Staff. The Prussian Infantry withstood the repeated attacks of the French Cavalry with undaunted bravery, and aided by the gallant exertions of Lieutenant Colonel Woisky, who boldly met the Enemy with the 1st West Prussian Dragoons, and checked his progress, the greater part of it succeeded in gaining the Wood of Fleurus. The Fusilier Battalion of the 28th Regiment (of which it will be recollected, one Company had previously been captured on the right bank of the Sambre) was the only Column broken on this occasion. It had been ordered to retire into the Wood by Rondchamp, but before it could complete the movement, it was overtaken by the Enemy's Cavalry, by which it was furiously assailed, and suffered a loss of two thirds of its number.

The Fusilier Battalion of the 6th Regiment was more fortunate. When about five hundred paces from the Wood, it was attacked by the Enemy's Cavalry on the plain, but forming Square, and reserving its fire until the French horsemen had approached within twenty or thirty paces, it gallantly repelled several charges. As the vigour with which these attacks were made began to slacken, the Battalion cleared its way with the bayonet through the[Pg 110] Cavalry that continued hovering round it. One of its Companies immediately extended itself along the edge of the wood, and kept the French Cavalry at bay. The latter suffered severely on this occasion, and General Letort who led the attacks was mortally wounded.

The Brandenburg Dragoons had been detached by Zieten in support of Pirch's Brigade, and opportunely reaching the Field of Action, made several charges against the French Cavalry, which they repulsed and compelled to relinquish its pursuit.

Pirch's Brigade now took up a position in front of Lambusart, which was occupied by some Battalions of the Third Brigade, and General Röder joined it with his remaining three Regiments of Cavalry and a Battery of Horse Artillery. At this moment, the French Cavalry, which was formed up in position, opened a fire from three Batteries of Horse Artillery, and thus brought on a cannonade, with which, however, the affair terminated.

The First Prussian Brigade having safely executed its retreat from Heppignies, towards Fleurus, reached St Amand about eleven o'clock at night.

The Detachments left by the Third Brigade at Farciennes and Tamines, had been previously called in, and effected their retreat without any molestation, as did also, subsequently, the Second Brigade from Lambusart, by Boulet, towards Fleurus, protected by the Reserve Cavalry.

Zieten's Corps, at three o'clock in the morning had possessed a line of Advanced Posts, from Dinant on the Meuse, crossing the Sambre at Thuin, and extending as far as Bonne Esperance, in advance of Binche; thus stretching along a space of from forty to fifty miles in length: its main force occupied the Sambre from Thuin as far as its confluence with the Meuse, an extent of, at least, thirty six[Pg 111] miles, exclusive of the numerous windings throughout the whole course of the river between those two points. The men had, since daybreak, been constantly under arms, in motion, and almost as constantly engaged, pursued, and assailed upon all points by an overwhelming superiority of force, headed by the élite of the French Cavalry; and it was not until about eleven o'clock at night that the Corps effected its concentration in position between Ligny and St Amand, at a distance varying from fourteen to twenty miles in rear of its original extended line of Outposts; after having successfully and gloriously fulfilled the arduous task imposed upon it of gaining sufficient time for the concentration, on the following day, of all the Prussian Corps, by stemming, as well as its scattered force would admit, the imposing advance of the whole French Army.

The loss of the First Prussian Corps d'Armée on the 15th of June, amounted to 1200 men. The Fusilier Battalions of the 28th Regiment and of the 2nd Westphalian Landwehr, reduced to mere skeletons, were united, and formed into one Battalion.

Before ten o'clock on the morning of the 15th, a further Order was despatched from the Prussian Head Quarters to the Third Corps d'Armée, to the effect that after resting during the night at Namur, it was to continue its march upon the morning of the 16th, towards Sombref.

At half past eleven o'clock in the forenoon a despatch was forwarded to Bülow, announcing the advance of the French, and requesting that the Corps after having rested at Hannut, should commence its march upon Gembloux by daybreak of the 16th, at the latest.

By three o'clock in the afternoon of the 15th, the Second Corps d'Armée had taken up the position assigned to it between Onoz and Mazy in the immediate vicinity of[Pg 112] Sombref, with the exception, however, of the Seventh Brigade, which, having been stationed in the most remote of the Quarters occupied by the Corps, did not reach Namur until midnight. Here the latter found an Order for its continuance in Namur until the arrival of the Third Corps d'Armée; but as this had already taken place, the Brigade, after a few hours' rest, resumed its march, and joined its Corps at Sombref about ten o'clock in the morning of the 16th June.

Thielemann passed the night at Namur, which he occupied with the Tenth Brigade; the Ninth Brigade bivouacked on the right, and the Eleventh on the left, of Belgrade, a village at a short distance from the town, on the road to Sombref; the Twelfth Brigade in rear of the Ninth; the Reserve Cavalry at Flavinne, between that road and the Sambre; and the Reserve Artillery on the left of the road.

It has already been explained that on the 14th, Blücher sent off a despatch to Bülow desiring him to make such a disposition of his Corps as should enable his troops to reach Hannut in one march; and that at midnight of the 14th, a second despatch was forwarded, requiring him to concentrate the Fourth Corps at Hannut. The first of these despatches reached Bülow, at Liege, at five o'clock on the morning of the 15th; when he issued the necessary Orders with an instruction that they should be acted upon as soon as the troops had dined, and forwarded a report of this arrangement to Head Quarters. These Orders to his troops had been despatched some hours, and the consequent movements were for the most part in operation, when, towards noon, the second despatch arrived. Bülow, considering the effect which the change required by this new Order would have upon the troops, inasmuch as their reception was prepared in quarters to which, in this case,[Pg 113] they would no longer proceed, and they would have nothing provided for them in the destined bivouac near Hannut, also as a great proportion of them could not receive the Orders for the change in the direction of their march until evening, decided upon deferring the new movement until daybreak of the 16th. The despatch, moreover, did not require him to establish his Head Quarters at Hannut, but merely suggested that the latter appeared the most suitable for the purpose. The General was, besides, perfectly unconscious of the commencement of hostilities, which, indeed, he had expected would be preceded by a Declaration of War; and he had also good grounds for an opinion which he had formed that it was in contemplation to assemble the whole Army at Hannut.

He made a report to Head Quarters of his reasons for deferring the execution of the Order, with the intimation that he would be at Hannut by midday of the 16th. Captain Below, on Bülow's Staff, who carried this despatch, arrived at nine o'clock in the evening of the 15th at Namur, where he discovered that the Head Quarters of the Army had been transferred to Sombref.

At half past eleven o'clock in the forenoon of the 15th, another despatch was forwarded to Bülow from Namur, announcing the advance of the French, and requesting that the Fourth Corps, after having rested at Hannut, should commence its march upon Gembloux, by daybreak of the 16th at latest. The Orderly who carried it was directed to proceed to Hannut, the presumed Head Quarters of Bülow's Corps on that day. On reaching that place, the Orderly found the previous despatch lying in readiness for the General, and, mounting a fresh horse, he then went on with both despatches to Liege, where he arrived at sunrise. The Orders which they contained had now, however, become[Pg 114] impracticable, in consequence of Bülow's not having immediately carried into effect the first Order to collect at Hannut; and thus by one of those mischances, which, in war, occasionally mar the best planned operations, the opportune arrival of the Fourth Prussian Corps at the Battle of Ligny, which would, in all probability, have changed the aspect of affairs, was rendered a matter of impossibility.

Late in the evening, and after Prince Blücher had established his Head Quarters at Sombref, Captain Below arrived with the before mentioned report from Count Bülow; on receiving which his Highness was made sensible that he could no longer calculate with certainty upon being joined by the Fourth Corps on the following day.

It was seven o'clock in the evening of the 15th, when Marshal Ney, who had just arrived, joined the Emperor near Charleroi, at the point where the road to Fleurus branches off from the one to Brussels. Having expressed the pleasure he felt at seeing him, Napoleon gave him the command of the First and Second Corps d'Armée; explaining at the same time that Reille was advancing with three Divisions upon Gosselies; that d'Erlon would pass the night at Marchienne au Pont; that he would find under his orders Piré's Light Cavalry Division; as also the two Regiments of Chasseurs and Lancers of the Guard, of which, however, he was not to make use except as a Reserve. "Tomorrow," added the Emperor, "you will be joined by the Reserve Corps of Heavy Cavalry under Kellermann. Go and drive back the Enemy."

It has already been shown in the preceding Chapter, that the extreme Left of the Duke of Wellington's Army, composed of de Perponcher's Second Dutch-Belgian Division,[Pg 115] rested upon the Charleroi road to Brussels. The Second Brigade of this Division, under Colonel Gödecke, was thus located:—1st Battalion of the 2nd Regiment of Nassau, at Hautain le Val; the 2nd Battalion, at Frasne and Villers Peruin; the 3rd Battalion, at Bezy, Sart à Mavelines, and Quatre Bras; both Battalions of the Regiment of Orange-Nassau, at Genappe. There was also at Frasne a Dutch Battery of Horse Artillery, under Captain Byleveld.

Early on the morning of the 15th, these troops were lying quietly in their cantonments, perfectly unconscious of the advance of the French Army, when they heard a brisk cannonade at a distance in the direction of Charleroi; but not having received the slightest intimation of the Enemy's approach, they concluded that the firing proceeded from the Prussian Artillery practice, which they had frequently heard before, and to which they had therefore become accustomed. Gradually towards noon, however, the cannonade became more distinctly audible; and, in the afternoon, the arrival of a wounded Prussian soldier completely set at rest all doubt as to the advance of the French. An Orderly was immediately despatched with the intelligence to the Regimental Head Quarters, whence it was also communicated to General de Perponcher's Head Quarters at Nivelles.

In the meantime, Major Normann, who commanded the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Regiment of Nassau, drew up the latter with the Battery in position in rear of Frasne, and upon the road to Quatre Bras, after having posted a Picquet of observation in advance of the village.

Perponcher lost not a moment in ordering both Brigades of his Division to hasten towards their respective points of assembly; the 1st Brigade, under General Bylandt, to Nivelles, and the 2nd, under Colonel Gödecke, to Quatre Bras.

[Pg 116]

Before this Order, however, could possibly reach these troops, Prince Bernhard of Saxe Weimar, who commanded the Regiment of Orange-Nassau, at Genappe, having been informed by the Officer of the Dutch-Belgian Maréchaussées, who had been compelled to quit his post at Charleroi, that the French were advancing from that place, took upon himself to move forward with the above Regiment from Genappe to Quatre Bras, and despatched a report of such movement to the Head Quarters of the Brigade at Hautain le Val, as also, subsequently, to General de Perponcher at Nivelles, by Captain Gagern, of the Dutch-Belgian Staff, who happened to be just then at Genappe, for the purpose of collecting information.

About six o'clock in the evening, parties of Lancers belonging to Piré's Light Cavalry Division of Reille's Corps appeared in front of Frasne, and soon drove in Major Normann's Picquet.

This Officer placed a Company on the south or French side of Frasne, for the purpose of preventing as long as possible the entrance of the French into the Village. Byleveld's Battery took post on the north side of the Village, and the remaining Companies of the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Regiment of Nassau drew up in its support. Two guns were upon the road, and three on each side of it. After some time, the Lancers, having been reinforced, compelled the Company before mentioned to retire through the Village and fall back upon the main body, which then opened a vigorous fire, by which this front attack by the French Cavalry was defeated. The latter then made a disposition to turn the Left Flank of these troops; on perceiving which Major Normann and Captain Byleveld resolved upon falling back to within a short distance in front of Quatre Bras. The retreat was conducted in[Pg 117] excellent order, the Battery continuing to fire along the high road.

Quatre Bras was the rendezvous of the Second Brigade; and the 3rd Battalion of the 2nd Regiment of Nassau, which was cantoned in its immediate vicinity, had already, without waiting for the receipt of superior Orders, assembled at that point. Prince Bernhard, on arriving there with the Regiment of Orange-Nassau, and learning the particulars of the engagement at Frasne, assumed the command as Senior Officer, and being fully impressed with the importance of securing the point of junction of the high road from Charleroi to Brussels, with that from Namur to Nivelles, came to the resolution of making a firm stand at Quatre Bras. This decision accorded entirely with the spirit of the Orders which had in the meantime been despatched from Braine le Comte, the Dutch-Belgian Head Quarters, on the receipt of intelligence of the French having crossed the Sambre. General de Perponcher, who commanded the Division, had also approved of the Prince's determination, and Colonel Gödecke who was at Hautain le Val, and who had hitherto commanded the Second Brigade, now tendered his command to his Serene Highness, who immediately accepted it.

The Prince pushed forward the 3rd Battalion of the 2nd Regiment of Nassau, in Column, upon the high road towards Frasne, detached two Companies of the 1st Battalion, and the Volunteer Jägers, to the defence of the Wood of Bossu, and the remaining Companies on the high road towards Hautain le Val; and posted the remainder of the Brigade at Quatre Bras, along the Namur road. Of Byleveld's Horse Battery, four guns were posted in advance in the direction of Frasne, two on the road to Namur, and two in rear of the main body.

[Pg 118]

By the determined show of resistance which his Serene Highness displayed, as well as by the vigorous cannonade which he maintained, Piré's Advanced Guard, the Left Flank of which became endangered by the Dutch occupying the Wood of Bossu, was forced to retire in its turn, which it did unmolested, and brought back intelligence that Quatre Bras was occupied by ten Battalions with Artillery, and that Wellington's troops were moving to concentrate at this important point.

At ten o'clock at night, Ney's forces were thus disposed:—Piré's Light Cavalry Division and Bachelu's Infantry Division occupied Frasne, a village situated upon the Brussels road, about two miles and a half on the French side of Quatre Bras; the two Regiments of Chasseurs and Lancers of the Guard were in reserve in rear of Frasne; Reille was with two Divisions, and the Artillery attached to them, at Gosselies: these Divisions ensured the communication until the arrival of d'Erlon's Corps, which was to remain that night at Marchienne au Pont. The remaining Division of Reille's Corps (Girard's) was at Heppignies, and thus served to maintain the communication with the Main Column under Napoleon. The troops were greatly fatigued by having been kept constantly on the march since three o'clock in the morning; the strength of the different Regiments, the names of their Colonels, and even of the Generals, were unknown to the Marshal, as also the number of men that had been able to keep up with the heads of the Columns at the end of this long march.

These circumstances, combined with the information brought in from Quatre Bras, induced Ney to decline risking a night attack upon that point; and he contented himself with taking up a position in advance of Frasne. Having issued such Orders as he deemed essential, and enjoined the[Pg 119] most vigilant look out, he returned to Charleroi, where he arrived about midnight; partook of supper with Napoleon (who had just arrived from the Right Wing of the Army), and conferred with the Emperor upon the state of affairs until two o'clock in the morning.

The first intimation which the Duke of Wellington received on the 15th, of hostilities having commenced, was conveyed in the report already alluded to, as having been forwarded by General Zieten, shortly before five o'clock in the morning, and as having reached Brussels at nine o'clock. It was not, however, of a nature to enable the Duke to form an opinion as to any real attack being contemplated by the Enemy in that quarter. It simply announced that the Prussian Outposts in front of Charleroi were engaged. It might be the commencement of a real attack in this direction, but it might also be a diversion in favour of an attack in some other direction, such as Mons. In fact, until further information was received, it could only be considered in the light of an affair of Outposts.

Not long after three o'clock in the afternoon, the Prince of Orange arrived in Brussels, and informed the Duke that the Prussian Outposts had been attacked and forced to fall back. His Royal Highness had ridden to the front at five o'clock in the morning, from Braine le Comte, and had a personal interview at St Symphorien, with General van Merlen, whose troops were on the immediate right of the Prussians, who had retired. After having given to this General Verbal Orders respecting his Brigade, the Prince left the Outposts between nine and ten o'clock, and repaired to Brussels to communicate to the Duke all the information he had obtained respecting the Enemy's attack upon the Prussian Advanced Posts.

[Pg 120]

This, however, was not sufficiently conclusive to induce his Grace to resolve upon any immediate step; but, in about an hour afterwards, that is, about half past four, General von Müffling, the Prussian Officer attached to the British Head Quarters, waited upon the Duke with a communication which had been despatched from Namur by Prince Blücher at noon, conveying the intelligence that the French had attacked the Prussian Posts at Thuin and Lobbes on the Sambre, and that they appeared to be advancing in the direction of Charleroi. The Duke was fully prepared for this intelligence, though uncertain how soon it might arrive. The reports which had been made to him from the Outposts, especially from those of the 1st Hussars of the King's German Legion, stationed in the vicinity of Mons and Tournai, gave sufficient indication that the Enemy was concentrating his forces. But, as observed in the preceding Chapter, his Grace was determined to make no movement until the real line of attack should become manifest; and hence it was, that if the attack had been made even at a later period, his dispositions would have remained precisely the same.

The Duke at once gave Orders for the whole of his troops to assemble at the Head Quarters of their respective Divisions and to hold themselves in immediate readiness to march. At the same time an express was despatched to Major General Dörnberg, requiring information concerning any movement that might have been made on the part of the Enemy in the direction of Mons.

The following were the movements ordered by the Duke. Upon the Left of the Army, which was nearest to the presumed point of attack—Perponcher's and Chassé's Dutch-Belgian Divisions were to be assembled that night at Nivelles, on which point Alten's British Division (the[Pg 121] Third) was to march as soon as collected at Braine le Comte; but this movement was not to be made until the Enemy's attack upon the Right of the Prussian Army and the Left of the Allied Army had become a matter of certainty. Cooke's British Division (the First) was to be collected that night at Enghien, and to be in readiness to move at a moment's notice.

Along the central portion of the Army—Clinton's British Division (the Second) was to be assembled that night at Ath, and to be in readiness also to move at a moment's notice. Colville's British Division (the Fourth) was to be collected that night at Grammont, with the exception of the troops beyond the Scheldt, which were to be moved to Audenarde.

Upon the Right of the Army—Stedmann's Dutch-Belgian Division, and Anthing's Dutch-Belgian (Indian) Brigade were, after occupying Audenarde with 500 men, to be assembled at Sotteghem, so as to be ready to march in the morning.

The Cavalry were to be collected that night at Ninhove, with the exception of the 2nd Hussars of the King's German Legion, who were to remain on the look out between the Scheldt and the Lys; and of Dörnberg's Brigade, with the Cumberland Hussars, which were to march that night upon Vilvorde, and to bivouac on the high road near to that town.

The Reserve was thus disposed—Picton's British Division (the Fifth), the 81st British Regiment, and Best's Hanoverian Brigade (of Cole's Division), were to be in readiness to march from Brussels at a moment's notice. Vincke's Hanoverian Brigade (of Picton's Division) was to be collected that night at Hal, and to be in readiness at daylight on the following morning to move towards Brussels, and to halt on the road between Alost and Assche for further orders. The Duke of Brunswick's[Pg 122] Corps was to be collected that night on the high road between Brussels and Vilvorde. Kruse's Nassau Brigade was to be collected at daylight on the following morning upon the Louvain road, and to be in readiness to move at a moment's notice. The Reserve Artillery was to be in readiness to move at daylight.

It was ten o'clock at night when the first intelligence of the attack made by the French in the direction of Frasne, was received at the Prince of Orange's Head Quarters, at Braine le Comte. It was carried by Captain Gagern, who, as previously mentioned (see page 70), had been despatched by Prince Bernhard of Saxe Weimar, with his Serene Highness's report of the affair, to General Perponcher at Nivelles, and who was subsequently sent on by the General, with this information to the above Head Quarters. Lieutenant Webster, Aide de Camp to the Prince of Orange, started soon afterwards for Brussels, with a report from the Dutch-Belgian Quartermaster General, de Constant Rebecque, stating what had taken place, and detailing the measures which he had thought proper to adopt. These measures did not entirely coincide with the instructions above given, as issued by the Duke, because they were consequent upon the affair at Frasne, with which his Grace at that time was unacquainted; but they were perfectly consistent with the spirit of those instructions, inasmuch as they were not adopted "until the Enemy's attack upon the Right of the Prussian Army, and the Left of the Allied Army had become a matter of certainty." The Enemy's advance along the Charleroi road had already been successfully checked at Quatre Bras, and the necessity of immediately collecting at this important point, the troops ordered by the[Pg 123] Duke "to be assembled that night at Nivelles" was too obvious to be mistaken.

A little before ten o'clock on the same evening, a further communication reached the Duke from Prince Blücher, announcing the crossing of the Sambre by the French Army, headed by Napoleon in person; and the required intelligence from other quarters having arrived almost at the same moment, and confirmed him in the opinion "that the Enemy's movement upon Charleroi was the real attack," he issued, at ten o'clock P.M., the following Orders for the march of his troops to their Left:—Alten's Division to continue its movement from Braine le Comte upon Nivelles. Cooke's Division to move from Enghien upon Braine le Comte. Clinton's and Colville's Divisions to move from Ath, Grammont, and Audenarde, upon Enghien. The Cavalry to continue its movement from Ninhove upon Enghien.

The disposition of the French Left Column, under Ney, during the night of the 15th, has already been shown. The Centre Column of the French Army was thus located—Vandamme's Corps bivouacked in the Wood of Fleurus; Pajol's Corps of Light Cavalry at Lambusart; the Third Light Cavalry Division, under Domon, on the left, at the outlet of the Wood, and the Heavy Cavalry Corps of Excelmans between the Light Cavalry and Vandamme; the Guards bivouacked between Charleroi and Gilly; and Lobau's Corps, together with Milhaud's Heavy Cavalry Corps, lay in rear of Charleroi. The Right Column, consisting of Gérard's Corps, bivouacked in front of the Bridge of Châtelet, which point it had reached during the evening.

The result of the proceedings on the 15th was highly[Pg 124] favourable to Napoleon. He had completely effected the passage of the Sambre; he was operating with the main portion of his forces directly upon the preconcerted point of concentration of Blücher's Army, and was already in the immediate front of the chosen position, before that concentration could be accomplished; he was also operating with another portion upon the high road to Brussels, and had come in contact with the Left of Wellington's troops; he had also placed himself so far in advance upon this line, that even a partial junction of the forces of the Allied Commanders was already rendered a hazardous operation, without a previous retrograde movement; and he thus had it in his power to bring the principal weight of his arms against the one, whilst, with the remainder of his force, he held the other at bay. This formed the grand object of his operations on the morrow.

But however excellent, or even perfect, this plan of operation may appear in theory, still there were other circumstances, which, if taken into consideration, would scarcely seem to warrant a well grounded anticipation of a successful issue. Napoleon's troops had been constantly under arms, marching, and fighting, since two o'clock in the morning, the hour at which they broke up from their position at Solre sur Sambre, Beaumont, and Philippeville, within the French frontier: they required time for rest and refreshment; they lay widely scattered between their Advanced Posts and the Sambre; Ney's forces were in detached bodies from Frasne as far as Marchienne au Pont, the halting place of d'Erlon's Corps; and although Vandamme's Corps was in the Wood of Fleurus, Lobau's Corps and the Guards were halted at Charleroi, and Gérard's Corps at Châtelet. Hence, instead of an imposing advance, with the first glimmering of the dawn of the 16th, the[Pg 125] whole morning would necessarily be employed by the French in effecting a closer junction of their forces, and in making their preparatory dispositions for attack; an interval of time invaluable to the Allies, by the greater facility which it afforded them for the concentration of a sufficient force to hold their Enemy in check, and to frustrate his design of defeating them in detail.

In taking a calm retrospect of the dispositions made by Napoleon on the night of the 15th of June, we become strongly impressed with a conviction, that to the laxity of those dispositions, to the absence which they indicated of that energetic perseverance and restless activity which characterised the most critical of his operations in former Wars, may, in a very great degree, be attributed the failure of the Campaign on the part of the French. The great advantages derived by Napoleon from the result of his operations during the 15th, have been already set forth; but of what avail were those advantages to him, if he neglected the requisite measures for effectually retaining them within his grasp; or if, having secured them, he hesitated in following them up with the promptitude and energy which their complete development demanded of him? His position, if judged by that of his most advanced forces, was all that could be desired; but, by fatally neglecting to concentrate the remainder of his troops in the immediate support of that advance, the important advantages which such a position held forth were completely neutralized. Doubtless the troops required rest; but, if one portion required it more than another, it was that which now lay most in advance: they had performed the longest march, and had withstood, in addition, the whole brunt of the action; so there was no reason whatever why the remainder[Pg 126] of the French Army should not have been so far advanced as to afford direct support to the important position taken up by the leading Divisions: that which had been so successfully effected by the heads of the Columns, might have been attained with infinitely greater ease and security by the masses which followed. And even supposing that serious impediments stood in the way of the full accomplishment of this concentration, such as the usual delays occasioned by the lengthening out of the Columns of March, to what did they amount in comparison with so many brilliant instances of what had been overcome by the noble and heroic efforts of a French Army headed by Napoleon? Had it even required some sacrifice, which at the most could only have consisted in the temporary diminution of strength, by the loss of stragglers on the march, what was this when placed in the balance with the fulfilment of the grand design of Napoleon's invasion of Belgium—preventing the junction of the Allied Armies, and overthrowing them in detail?

The commencement of this design, in which the essential requisite was rapidity of movement, had been eminently successful: a vantage ground had been gained which offered the most encouraging prospect of success: of Blücher's four Corps, only one, Zieten's, had assembled in the chosen position of Ligny, on the night of the 15th; Pirch's, which had arrived from Namur, was in bivouac between Onoz and Mazy, about six miles from Ligny; Thielemann's Corps, which had quitted its cantonments around Ciney at half past seven o'clock in the morning, passed the night at Namur, about fifteen miles from Ligny; Bülow's Corps, supposed by Blücher to be then at Hannut, was still at Liege, about sixty miles distant from Ligny. Between this position of Ligny and that occupied by the leading Divisions of Napoleon's main Army, namely the[Pg 127] villages of Lambusart, Wagnée, and the Wood of Fleurus, there was an interval of not more than from two to three miles! Hence every thing was favourable to the French Emperor's plan, which only required to be carried on with the same vigour and activity that had marked its commencement; the fate of Napoleon, of France, and of Europe, hung upon its issue; not an hour, not a moment should have been suffered to pass unheeded; and had the French Right been concentrated during the night in this position, as also the Left under Ney, between Gosselies and Frasne, and had an impetuous attack, with overwhelming force, been made not later than five o'clock on the following morning, upon both Zieten's and Pirch's Corps, not at that time united, it is very possible that these troops would have been beaten in detail, that Thielemann's Corps, advancing from Namur, would either have shared the same fate, or have moved off in the direction of Hannut or Liege to effect a junction with Bülow, whilst Ney would either have been enabled to secure the important point of Quatre Bras before the arrival of any considerable portion of the Anglo-Allied troops, or would have held his own force advantageously disposed for a junction with that of Napoleon, on the latter moving to the left, by the Namur road, for the purpose of bringing the great mass of his Army against Wellington.

Instead of this, what happened? Of the French Right, its main force remained the whole night at Charleroi and Châtelet, on the Sambre, whilst between the Advance of Ney's forces at Frasne and his Rear at Marchienne au Pont, there was an interval of about twelve miles. Napoleon did not advance towards Fleurus until between eleven and twelve o'clock on the 16th, by which time Zieten's, Pirch's, and Thielemann's Corps were all concentrated and in position, and he did not commence the Battle of Ligny until nearly[Pg 128] three o'clock in the afternoon; while Ney, on his side, in consequence of his operations having been rendered subordinate to those of the Emperor, delayed to advance with any degree of vigour until between two and three o'clock, about which time Wellington's Reserve reached Quatre Bras, from Brussels, and joined the forces then engaged in front of that point!


[8] The Prussian Regiments of Infantry generally consisted of three Battalions, of which the Third was the Fusilier Battalion.

[Pg 129]


WITH the early dawn of the 16th of June, the whole of the Duke of Wellington's forces were in movement towards Nivelles and Quatre Bras. Previously to starting from Brussels for the latter point, his Grace despatched an Order for the movement of the Cavalry and of Clinton's British Division upon Braine le Comte, as also of the troops under Prince Frederick of the Netherlands, consisting of Stedmann's Dutch-Belgian Division, and of Anthing's Dutch-Belgian (Indian) Brigade, from Sotteghem to Enghien, after leaving 500 men, as before directed, in Audenarde.

Picton's Division quitted Brussels by the Charleroi road about two o'clock in the morning; and the Duke of Brunswick's Corps somewhat later. Kruse's Nassau Brigade received Orders to follow along the same road, but having been dispersed in extended cantonments between Brussels and Louvain, it required some considerable time to collect together, and did not therefore reach Quatre Bras sufficiently early to take part in the action.

The disposition made by Colonel the Prince Bernhard of Saxe Weimar at this point, on the night of the 15th, with the Second Brigade of Perponcher's Dutch-Belgian Division, has already been described. Soon after ten o'clock on that evening, Major Count Limburg Stirum, Dutch Aide de Camp to the Prince of Orange, left Braine le Comte for Nivelles, with a Verbal Order from the[Pg 130] Dutch-Belgian Quartermaster General, enjoining General Perponcher to hold his ground to the last extremity, to support his Second Brigade by the First, and even to ask for aid from the Third Anglo-Allied Division, and from the Dutch-Belgian Cavalry Division; and, at all events, to send an Officer to acquaint the Commanders of these Divisions with the state of affairs. This message appears to have reached Nivelles about midnight.

Previously to this, that is, between nine and ten o'clock in the evening, Captain Crassier's Company of the 27th Battalion of Chasseurs moved out from Nivelles towards Quatre Bras en reconnaissance. About two o'clock in the morning, Perponcher himself followed with the remainder of the Chasseurs, which body reached Quatre Bras at four o'clock. General Bylandt, who commanded the First Brigade, ordered the remaining Battalions of the latter, and his Artillery, to commence their march from Nivelles at five o'clock. The 7th Dutch Line Battalion was directed to remain at Nivelles until relieved by Alten's Division.

At three o'clock in the morning, Perponcher arrived at Quatre Bras, and after having reconnoitred the position, immediately commenced operations for recovering the ground lost on the previous evening. Just at this time a detachment of about fifty Prussian Hussars of the 2nd Silesian Regiment, under Lieutenant Zehelin, who, on the previous day, had been driven back from near Gosselies, and had retreated towards Hautain le Val, gallantly advanced to the front, attacked the Enemy's Outposts, forced them to retire, and then formed a chain of Vedettes. As soon as the Dutch-Belgian troops had advanced to within a short distance of these Prussian Hussars, the latter moved off by their left towards Sombref.

[Pg 131]

Prince Bernhard of Saxe Weimar's Brigade penetrated deeper into the Wood of Bossu, and secured the entrances into it from the French side.

Perponcher directed the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Regiment of Nassau to take post on an eminence in advance towards Frasne, and stationed the 3rd Battalion of this Regiment more to the left. The latter, however, was soon relieved by the 27th Chasseurs, which Battalion, on reaching Quatre Bras, at four o'clock in the morning, had detached two Companies to the left. These moved steadily forward in extended order towards the Wood of Delhutte, outside of which the Enemy showed his Light Troops. They succeeded in forcing back the French into a hollow way bordering the Wood, where the latter maintained themselves for some little time, and then retired into the Wood itself. Taking advantage of the cover afforded by the edge of the Wood, the French now poured a deadly fire upon their assailants, who retreated to some favourable ground a little in advance of their Battalion.

The Prince of Orange arrived at Quatre Bras about six o'clock, and immediately reconnoitred the position of the Enemy, and that occupied by his own troops. Having expressed his perfect satisfaction with all the arrangements and dispositions which had been made, both on the previous evening and on that morning, he ordered the troops then present to take up a position more in advance, for the purpose of imposing upon the Enemy; enjoining at the same time, all unnecessary firing, it being desirable under then existing circumstances, to avoid bringing on prematurely an attack by the Enemy.

Ney, having quitted Charleroi at a very early hour in the morning, returned to Gosselies, where he communicated[Pg 132] with Reille, whom he ordered to assemble the force then with him, consisting of two Infantry Divisions and their Artillery, and to advance upon Frasne: to which point the Marshal repaired in person. Here he collected all the information which the Generals and other Officers had been able to obtain respecting the Enemy; and being naturally anxious to make himself acquainted with the details of the force placed so suddenly under his orders, he desired Colonel Heymès, his first Aide de Camp, to repair to every Regiment, and note down their strength and the names of the Commanding Officers; after the performance of which duty, Colonel Heymès laid before the Marshal a return of the troops in the Field.

The uncertainty in which Ney was placed as to the amount of force concentrated by the Allies during the night in rear of Quatre Bras, and the conviction which he had reason to entertain that the Prussians were in strong force at no very great distance on his right, and that therefore any check experienced by the Main Column under Napoleon, would endanger his Right Flank and even his line of communication, rendered him cautious in attacking a point so considerably in advance of the Emperor's Left, without ample means at hand to enable him, in case of disaster, to maintain that line, or, in the event of success, to effectually establish himself at Quatre Bras, and derive every possible advantage from its possession, by checking, if not defeating in detail, any body of troops that might be approaching it as a point of concentration from either Nivelles or Brussels.

Hence he became extremely anxious for the arrival of d'Erlon's Corps and the promised Third Corps of Heavy Cavalry under Kellermann; the more so, as although Lefèbvre-Desnouette's Light Cavalry of the Guard was[Pg 133] nearer at hand, he had been desired by Napoleon not to make use of it. Officers of the Chasseurs and Lancers of the Guard (in consequence of the deficiency of Staff Officers) were sent to the rear in the direction of Marchienne au Pont, with Orders to hasten the march of the First Corps upon Frasne; while Ney himself was busily occupied in reconnoitring the Enemy's position and movements.

Whilst so employed, a despatch reached him from the Emperor, acquainting him that he had just ordered Kellermann's Dragoons to march to Gosselies, where they would be at his disposal; stating, at the same time, his intention to withdraw Lefèbvre-Desnouette's Light Cavalry of the Guard from the force under his command; and expressing a wish to be informed of the exact disposition of the First and Second Corps, and of the Cavalry Divisions attached to them, as also of the probable strength of the Enemy, and of the particulars which had been obtained concerning him.

The 5th Battalion of Dutch Militia, which arrived at Quatre Bras about seven o'clock, was ordered, some time afterwards, to occupy the Farm of Gemioncourt. The other Battalions of Bylandt's Brigade, as they arrived in succession, formed a Reserve, extending itself from the point of intersection of the two high roads along the Nivelles road, and in rear of the Wood of Bossu. About nine o'clock, Captain Stievenaar's Foot Battery attached to Bylandt's Brigade also arrived at Quatre Bras.

Aided by these reinforcements, the Prince of Orange made his dispositions for impeding as much as possible the expected French attack, and maintaining his ground in front of Quatre Bras until the arrival of the Allied troops, which he knew were rapidly approaching from Brussels and Nivelles. The arrival of the First Brigade induced him to[Pg 134] make a further advance, and extension to the right, of the Second Brigade; retaining a firm hold of the Wood of Bossu.

He disposed of his Artillery in the following manner: upon the high road, in advance of his Centre and in front of Frasne, he placed two guns of Perponcher's Divisional Horse Artillery; three guns a little in left rear of these, and three guns towards the left, so as to keep the road to Namur in view. He also placed six guns of the Divisional Foot Artillery a little to the right of, and in line with, the advanced guns of the Horse Battery, and the remaining two guns on the Right Wing of his First Line.

His Royal Highness had unfortunately no Cavalry in the Field; yet such was the firm countenance which he displayed in the arrangement of his nine Battalions and sixteen guns that the Enemy, unaware of this circumstance, and probably misled by the appearance, at an early hour, of the chain of Vedettes formed by the Prussian Detachment of Hussars, to which allusion has previously been made, and also conceiving that a considerable force had already assembled at Quatre Bras, made no vigorous attempt, until the afternoon, to dislodge him from his position.

Between ten and eleven o'clock, the Duke of Wellington arrived in person at Quatre Bras, where he joined the Prince of Orange, of whose dispositions he fully approved. He reconnoitred the ground; observed only a few of the Enemy in front, who occasionally fired a shot; saw that there was a little popping musketry, but that nothing more serious was at that time threatened in this quarter.

Conceiving that the Enemy was not in any great force at Frasne, while at the same time, accounts reached him that Prince Blücher, in his position at Ligny, was menaced by the advance of considerable masses; the Duke, accompanied[Pg 135] by his Staff and a small escort of Cavalry, shortly afterwards rode off to hold a conference with the Prussian Commander, whom he found at the Windmill of Bussy, between Ligny and Bry; whence he had an opportunity of observing the French preparatory dispositions for attack.

These having led the Duke to conclude that Napoleon was bringing the main force of his Army to bear against Blücher, he at once proposed to assist the Prince by first advancing straight upon Frasne and Gosselies, as soon as he should have concentrated sufficient force, and then operating upon the Enemy's Left and Rear, which would afford a powerful diversion in favour of the Prussians, from the circumstance that their Right Wing was the weakest and most exposed, and considering the object of Napoleon's movement, the one most likely to be attacked.

Upon a calculation being made, however, of the time which would elapse ere the Duke would be able to collect the requisite force for undertaking this operation, and of the possibility of Blücher being defeated before it could be carried into effect, it was considered preferable that Wellington should, if practicable, move to the support of the Prussian Right by the Namur road. But a direct support of this kind was necessarily contingent on circumstances, and subject to the Duke's discretion. The latter having expressed his confident expectation of being enabled to afford the desired support, as also of his succeeding in concentrating, very shortly, a sufficient force to assume the offensive, rode back to Quatre Bras.

It was nearly eleven o'clock when General Flahaut, an Aide de Camp of the Emperor, after passing through Gosselies, arrived at Frasne, with the following letter from the latter to the Marshal:

[Pg 136]

"Au Maréchal Ney. "To Marshal Ney.
"Mon Cousin—Je vous envoie; mon Aide de Camp, le Général Flahaut, qui vous porte la présente lettre. Le Major Général a dû vous donner des Ordres; mais vous recevrez les miens plus tôt, parceque mes Officiers vont plus vite que les siens. Vous recevrez l'Ordre du Mouvement du Jour; mais je veux vous en écrire en détail, parceque c'est de la plus haute importance. My Cousin—I send you my Aide de Camp, General Flahaut; who brings you the present letter The Major General [Soult] will give you the Orders; but you will receive mine sooner, because my Officers go quicker than his. You will receive the Order of Movement of the Day: but I wish to write to you respecting it in detail, because it is of the highest importance.
"Je porte le Maréchal Grouchy avec les 3e et 4e Corps d'infanterie sur Sombref. Je porte ma Garde à Fleurus, et j'y serai de ma personne avant midi. J'y attaquerai l'Ennemi si je le rencontre, et j'éclairerai la route jusqu'à Gembloux. La d'après ce qui ce passera, je prendrai mon parti peutêtre à trois heures après midi, peutêtre ce soir. Mon intention est que, immédiatement après que j'aurai pris mon parti, vous soyez prêt à marcher sur Bruxelles, je vous appuierai avec la Garde qui sera à Fleurus ou à Sombref, et je désirerais arriver à Bruxelles demain matin. Vous vous mettriez en marche ce soir même si je prends mon parti d'assez bonne heure pour que vous puissiez en être informé de jour et faire ce soir trois ou quatre lieues et être demain à sept heures du matin à Bruxelles. "I direct Marshal Grouchy with the Third and Fourth Corps of Infantry on Sombref. I direct my Guard to Fleurus, and I shall be there personally before noon. I shall attack the Enemy there if I meet with him, and I shall clear the road as far as Gembloux. There, according to what will happen, I shall make my decision; perhaps at three o'clock in the afternoon, perhaps this evening. My intention is that, immediately after I shall have made my decision, you may be ready to march on Brussels. I will support you with the Guard which will be at Fleurus or at Sombref; and I would desire to arrive at Brussels to morrow morning. You would march this evening even if I make my decision at a sufficiently early hour that you may be informed of it in daylight, and traverse this evening three or four leagues, and be at Brussels to morrow at seven o'clock in the morning.[Pg 137]
"Vous pouvez donc disposer vos troupes de la manière suivante:— Première Division à deux lieues en avant des Quatre Chemins s'il n'y a pas d'inconvénient. Six Divisions d'infanterie autour des Quatre Chemins, et une Division à Marbais, afin que je puisse l'attirer à moi à Sombref, si j'en vais besoin. Elle ne retarderait d'ailleurs pas votre marche. Le Corps du Comte de Valmy, qui a 3,000 Cuirassiers d'Élite, à l'intersection du chemin des Romains et de celui de Bruxelles, afin que je puisse l'attirer à moi, si j'en avais besoin; aussitot que mon parti sera pris, vous lui enverrez l'Ordre de venir vous rejoindre. Je désirerais avoir avec moi la Division de la Garde que commande le Général Lefèbvre-Desnouettes, et je vous envoie les deux Divisions du Corps du Comte de Valmy pour la remplacer. Mais dans mon projet actuel, je préfère placer le Comte de Valmy de manière à le rappeler si j'en avais besoin, et ne point faire de fausses marches au Général Lefèbvre-Desnouettes; puisqu'il est probable que je me déciderai ce soir à marcher sur Bruxelles avec la Garde. Cependant, couvrez la Division Lefèbvre par les deux Divisions de Cavalrie d'Erlon et de Reille, afin de ménager la Garde; et que, s'il y avait quelque échauffourée avec les Anglais, il est préférable que ce soit sur la Ligne que sur la Garde. "You may then dispose your troops in the following manner:— First Division at two leagues in front of Quatre Bras, if in doing so there is no inconvenience. Six Divisions of Infantry about Quatre Bras; and one Division at Marbais, so that I may draw it to myself at Sombref, if I should have need of it. It would not otherwise retard your march. The Corps of the Count de Valmy, which has 3,000 Cuirassiers d'Élite, at the intersection of the Roman road with that of Brussels, in order that I may draw it to myself if I should have need of it: as soon as my decision is made, you will send him the Order to rejoin you. I would desire to have with me the Division of the Guard commanded by General Lefèbvre Desnouettes, and I send you the two Divisions of the Corps of the Count de Valmy to replace it. But in my present design, I prefer to place the Count de Valmy in such a manner as to be able to recall him if I should have need of him; and not to make false marches for General Lefèbvre Desnouettes: since it is probable that I shall decide this evening to march on Brussels with the Guard. However, cover Lefèbvre's Division with the two Cavalry Divisions of d'Erlon and Reille, in order to spare the Guard; and that, if there shall be any affray there with the English, it may be with the Line rather than with the Guard.
[Pg 138] "J'ai adopté comme principe général pendant cette Campagne, de diviser mon Armée en deux Ailes et une Réserve. Votre Aile sera composée des quatre Divisions du 2e Corps, de deux Divisions de Cavalerie Légère, et de deux Divisions du Corps de Valmy. Cela ne doit pas être loin de 45 à 50 mille hommes. I have adopted as a general principle during this Campaign to divide my Army into two Wings and a Reserve. Your Wing will be composed of the four Divisions of the Second Corps, the two Light Cavalry Divisions, and the two Divisions of the Corps de Valmy. That ought not to be far from 45,000 to 50,000 men.
"Le Maréchal Grouchy aura à peu près la même force, et commandera l'Aile Droite. La Garde formera la Réserve, et je me porterai sur l'une ou l'autre Aile, selon les circonstances. Le Major Général donné les Ordres les plus précis pour qu'il n'y ait aucune difficulté sur l'obéissance à vos Ordres lorsque vous serez détaché; les Commandants de Corps devant prendre mes Ordres directement quand je me trouve présent. Selon les circonstances, j'affaiblirai l'une ou l'autre Aile en augmentant ma Réserve. "Marshal Grouchy will have nearly the same force, and will command the Right Wing. The Guard will form the Reserve, and I shall repair to one or other Wing according to circumstances. The Major General is giving the most precise Orders that there may be no difficulty as regards obedience to your Orders when you will be detached; the Commanders of Corps must take my Orders directly from me, when I am present. According to circumstances, I shall weaken the one, or the other, Wing in augmenting my Reserve.
"Vous sentez assez l'importance attachée à la prise de Bruxelles. Cela pourra d'ailleurs donner lieu à des accidents, car un mouvement aussi prompt et aussi brusque isolera l'Armée Anglaise de Mons, Ostende, etc. Je désire que vos dispositions soient bien faites pour qu'au premier Ordre, vos huit Divisions puissent marcher rapidement, et sans obstacle sur Bruxelles."N." "You will sufficiently perceive the importance attached to the capture of Brussels. That will otherwise give occasion to incidents: for a movement equally prompt and abrupt will isolate the English Army from Mons, Ostend, &c. I would desire that your dispositions may be well made that, at the first Order, your eight Divisions may march rapidly and without obstacle upon Brussels."N."
"Charleroi, le 16 Juin, 1815." "Charleroi, 16th June 1815."

[Pg 139]

This letter, which was intended to convey to Ney a general notion of Napoleon's intentions, prescribed to him, at the same time, as a principle, that he was to consider his movements subordinate to those of the Emperor. The latter intimated his purpose of attacking the Enemy at Fleurus, should he find him there, and of pushing on as far as Gembloux, where he would decide upon his plan of further operation, "perhaps at three o'clock in the afternoon, perhaps in the evening;" immediately after which Ney was to be ready to march upon Brussels, supported by Napoleon with the Guards, it being the Emperor's desire to reach that capital in the morning.

The idea of advancing upon Gembloux, and of capturing Brussels by a coup de main, which could only be effected by a vigorous repulse and signal defeat of the Corps of Zieten, and by a successful turning and partial dispersion of those of Pirch and Thielemann, as also by the rapid march of a closely collected force under Ney, proves that Napoleon had either been insufficiently informed as to the general dispositions of his opponents, or had greatly miscalculated the degree of energy and promptitude required in his movements for the execution of such a design.

Very shortly afterwards, Ney received the official Order of Movement to which Napoleon adverted in his letter as having been sent by Soult. It instructed him to put the Second and First Corps d'Armée, as also the Third Corps of Cavalry which had been placed at his disposal, in movement upon Quatre Bras; to take up a position at that point; thence to push forward reconnaissances as far as possible on the roads to Brussels and Nivelles, d'où probablement l'Ennemi s'est retiré; to establish, should he meet with no impediment, a Division with some Cavalry at Genappe; and to detach another Division towards Marbais, in order to[Pg 140] cover the interval between Sombref and Quatre Bras. He was also to desire the General Officers commanding the two Corps d'Armée to assemble their troops, collect the stragglers, and order up all the waggons belonging to the Artillery and to the Hospitals that might still be in the rear.

In pursuance of these instructions, Ney despatched Orders of Movement to Counts Reille and d'Erlon.

The former was desired to put the Second Corps immediately on the march, for the purpose of taking up the following position:—the Fifth Division in rear of Genappe, upon the Heights which command that town, the left appuied upon the high road; one or two Battalions covering all the débouchés in advance on the Brussels road; the Ninth Division, following the movement of the Fifth, to take up a position in second line on the Heights to the right and left of the village of Bauterlet; the Sixth and Seventh Divisions at Quatre Bras.

It was at the same time intimated to Reille that the three first Divisions of d'Erlon's Corps were to take post at Frasne; the Right Division to establish itself at Marbais along with Piré's Division of Light Cavalry; that the former was to cover his (Reille's) march towards Brussels, and both his Flanks; that two Divisions of Kellermann's Corps were to take post at Frasne and Liberchies; and that the Regiments of the Guard under Generals Lefèbvre-Desnouettes and Colbert were to remain in their actual position at Frasne.

This Order had scarcely been sent off to Reille when Ney received from the latter a despatch, dated Gosselies, 16th June, a quarter past ten A.M., announcing his having just received from Girard (whose Division was still at Heppignies) a verbal report by one of his Officers, to the effect that the Enemy continued to occupy Fleurus with[Pg 141] Light Cavalry; that hostile masses were observed advancing along the Namur road, the heads of their Columns reaching as far as St Amand; that these troops were gradually forming, and gaining ground; that as far as could be judged at that distance, the Columns appeared to consist of six Battalions each; and that movements of additional troops were perceived in their rear. Reille added that General Flahaut, in passing through Gosselies, had made him acquainted with the purport of the Orders he was conveying to the Marshal, whereupon he had communicated with Count d'Erlon, in order that the latter might follow the movement which he (Reille) had intended to commence as soon as the Divisions were under arms, but that in consequence of this report from Girard he would wait for the Marshal's further instructions, holding the troops ready to march.

About the same time, Orders reached Ney from Napoleon, desiring him to unite the Corps under Reille and d'Erlon, and the Cavalry Corps under Kellermann, which latter, it was stated, was on the point of commencing its march towards him; remarking also, that with these troops he ought to be able to destroy whatever forces the Enemy might bring forward; that Grouchy was going to advance upon Sombref; and that the Emperor was setting off for Fleurus, to which place the Marshal was to address his reports.


Quatre Bras

In consequence of these instructions, Ney became anxious for the speedy concentration of his troops, and again sent Orders to Reille and d'Erlon to move up their Divisions. The information which he had obtained concerning the Enemy in his front, and Girard's report of the assembling of troops in front of Fleurus, induced him to be cautious in his proceedings, and not to attempt any impetuous onset until he could have all his force more in hand, instead of[Pg 143] the greater portion of it being, as it then was, lengthened out in Columns of Route along the Charleroi high road; and, in this respect, his views were in perfect accordance with the last despatch which he had received from the Emperor, enjoining him in the first instance, to unite the two Corps of Reille and d'Erlon. Hence, in debouching from his position at Frasne, about one o'clock, his advance was by no means vigorous: it was limited to a gradual pressing forward of the Light Troops, and amounted to little more than a reconnaissance.

About two o'clock, Ney, calculating that d'Erlon's Corps could not be far in his rear, and hoping that the sound of his cannonade would hasten its march, resolved to attack the Enemy's forces which intercepted his advance upon Quatre Bras. Piré's Light Cavalry, constituting a strong line of Skirmishers with well disposed Supports, covered the advance of the Infantry Divisions of Bachelu and Foy, whilst that of Jerome followed as a Reserve.

The force with which Ney thus entered the field, consisted of Three Divisions of Reille's Corps, of Piré's Light Cavalry, of 4 Batteries of Foot, and 1 of Horse, Artillery: altogether—

16,189 Infantry
1,729 Cavalry
38 Guns.

The Prince of Orange's force consisted of de Perponcher's Division (with the exception of the 7th Dutch Line Battalion); of 1 Battery of Foot, and 1 of Horse, Artillery: altogether—

6,832 Infantry
16 Guns.

It was not long after two o'clock when the Duke of[Pg 144] Wellington returned to Quatre Bras from the Prussian Army. He observed attentively, with his glass, the movements of the French, and told the Prince of Orange he would be attacked directly.

In a few minutes, the French advanced, and the Dutch-Belgian troops gradually retired; but the Prince, aware of the great advantages which the position of Quatre Bras would derive from the possession of the Farm of Gemioncourt, adjoining the Charleroi road, as also of the Wood of Bossu on the Right, and of the inclosures of Piermont on the Left Flank, endeavoured, with that view, to make a stand, as soon as his Centre reached the first named point. The 5th Battalion of Dutch Militia which occupied this Post, successfully withstood several attacks, during which Ney drew up his forces along the ridge which, intersecting the high road in the immediate (French) rear of Gemioncourt, extends on one side towards the Wood of Bossu, and on the other in the direction of Piermont.

The vast preponderance of force on the part of the French, was now quite manifest to the Prince of Orange, who found himself compelled to withdraw the main body of his troops into the Wood of Bossu, still retaining, however, the Post of Gemioncourt. He gave an Order to Captain Stievenaar's Foot Battery to fall back and take up a flanking position near the Wood. Here this Officer, who possessed the highest merit, lost not a moment in reopening his fire, but scarcely had he done so when he was mortally wounded. At the same moment one gun was damaged so as to become useless. The Enemy rapidly advanced in such superior force as to compel the Battery to resume its retreat. Captain Byleveld's Horse Battery retired by the opposite side of Gemioncourt. One of its limbers blew up, severely wounding an Officer, and occasioning the gun[Pg 145] attached to it to be relinquished. The French pressed forward with their Light Troops; and part of Piré's Light Cavalry, seizing a favourable opportunity, gallantly charged the 27th Dutch Light Infantry, threw it into confusion, and made many prisoners. At this time a portion of Bachelu's Infantry Division on the right advanced towards the village of Piermont.

It was about half past two, or perhaps a quarter before three o'clock, when the Prince of Orange, whose situation had become extremely critical, as he directed his anxious looks towards that point of the horizon which was bounded by the elevated ground about Quatre Bras, had the inexpressible satisfaction of recognising, by their deep red masses, the arrival of British troops upon the field.

These comprised the Fifth Infantry Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Picton, and consisting of the Eighth British Brigade, under Major General Sir James Kempt, the Ninth British Brigade, under Major General Sir Denis Pack, and of the Fourth Hanoverian Brigade, under Colonel Best. The head of the Column, leaving Quatre Bras on its right, turned down the Namur road, along which the Division was speedily drawn up; the British Brigades in Front, and the Hanoverian Brigade in Second Line. Captain Rettberg's Battery of Hanoverian Foot Artillery took post on the right, and Major Rogers's Battery of British Foot Artillery on the left, of the Division. The 1st Battalion of the 95th British Regiment, commanded by Colonel Sir Andrew Barnard, was despatched in haste towards the Village of Piermont, of which it was to endeavour to gain possession.


Prince of Orange

The French, on perceiving the arrival of the British Infantry, opened a furious cannonade from their Batteries,[Pg 147] with a view to disturb its formation, while Ney, anxious to secure the vantage ground of a Field which he plainly foresaw, was likely to become the scene of a severe contest, renewed his attack upon Gemioncourt, still bravely defended by the 5th Dutch Militia. Hereupon, Perponcher, having received an Order to advance this Battalion along the high road, immediately placed himself at its head, as did also the Prince of Orange himself, who rode up to it at the same moment. The manner in which His Royal Highness personally led on his National Militia on this occasion, was distinguished by the most resolute and conspicuous gallantry. The Battalion was exposed to a most destructive fire from some guns which the Prince seemed determined to capture. Placing himself frequently at its head, and waving his hat, he presented in his own person so brilliant and heroic an example, that for a considerable time the Battalion maintained its ground most bravely against the far superior number of the Enemy. It was composed, however, of young and inexperienced soldiers, who had not attained sufficient confidence to fight in anything like deployed order; and, therefore, when, a few minutes afterwards, a swarm of Cavalry rushed upon it, it soon lost its compactness, and broke into a confused and hasty retreat; whilst the French Infantry succeeded in obtaining possession of the Farm, in which they firmly established themselves.

The Duke of Wellington, who now assumed the command, was so much alive to the importance of maintaining Gemioncourt and its inclosures, that he gave directions for its immediate occupation by a British Regiment, but the one destined for this service having by some accident been otherwise disposed of, some delay occurred, and the 28th British Regiment, commanded by Colonel Sir Charles Philip Belson, was then marched down towards that point,[Pg 148] under the guidance of Lieutenant Colonel Gomm, on the Staff of the Fifth Division. As the Battalion approached the Farm, the latter was discovered to be already occupied by the French, whereupon it was withdrawn to its Division.

The Third Dutch-Belgian Light Cavalry Brigade, under General van Merlen, had shortly before this reached the Field, and now advanced to the support of the Dutch Infantry retiring from Gemioncourt; but they were met and defeated by Piré's Cavalry, and pursued along the high road nearly to Quatre Bras, where they arrived in great disorder; a portion of them coming in contact with the Duke of Wellington himself, and carrying his Grace along with them to the rear of Quatre Bras. The latter, however, succeeded in arresting their further flight, and in bringing them again to the front. The French Cavalry did not, on this occasion, follow up the pursuit, evidently hesitating to approach very near to the Allied Infantry, the latter appearing well formed, and fully prepared to receive them. The Dutch-Belgian Infantry retreated to the Wood of Bossu, abandoning four guns to the Enemy, who closely pursued them, and now began to penetrate into the Wood.

Meanwhile, Bachelu, on the French Right, threw a considerable force into Piermont in sufficient time to secure its possession before the 1st Battalion 95th British Regiment had approached the Village, and was pushing forward another strong body towards a small Wood that lay still more in advance, on the opposite side of the Namur high road, the possession of which along with that of Piermont would have effectually cut off the direct communication between Quatre Bras and Ligny. Here, for the first time in this Campaign, the troops of the two nations became engaged. The Skirmishers who successfully checked the further advance of the French, and secured the Wood, were the 1st Battalion[Pg 149] of the British 95th Rifles, whom the old Campaigners of the French Army, at least those who had served in the Peninsula, had so frequently found the foremost in the fight, and of whose peculiarly effective discipline and admirable training they had had ample experience.

The possession of Gemioncourt proved of the utmost importance to Ney's position, which now assumed a definite character, and, in a purely tactical point of view, offered great advantages. The southern portion of the Wood of Bossu was occupied by his extreme Left, while his extreme Right was in full possession of Piermont; and these points were connected by a narrow valley extending along his whole front, bounded on either side by a hedgerow, and intersecting the Charleroi road close to Gemioncourt. The outer fence was strongly occupied by his Light Troops, ready to cover the formation and advance of his Columns of Attack, for the support of which by Artillery, the Heights constituting his main position in rear of Gemioncourt, offered every facility.

Scarcely had Picton's Division taken up its ground, when the Duke of Brunswick's Corps arrived upon the field. It was not complete; its Artillery (under Major Mahn) and the 1st and 3rd Light Battalions (commanded by Major Holstein and Major Ebeling), having been stationed in distant cantonments, had not yet joined. The 2nd Light Battalion (under Major Brandenstein) was immediately detached to the Wood near Piermont on the left of the position, and of which the possession had already been secured by the 1st Battalion of the British 95th Regiment: the two Rifle Companies of the Advanced Guard Battalion (under Major Rauschenplatt) were moved into the Wood of Bossu; on the right of which some detachments of Cavalry were posted for the purpose of observing the Enemy's dispositions in that quarter. The remainder of[Pg 150] these troops, by a movement to their left, when close upon Quatre Bras, deployed in rear of, and in a direction parallel to, the Namur road, thus forming a Reserve to Picton's Division. The absent portion of the Corps reached the field in the course of the action, as will hereafter be explained.

The Duke of Wellington's force in the Field at this moment was as follows:—

Infantry. Cavalry. Guns.
British} {Eighth Infantry Brigade 2471
{Ninth do. do. 2173
K.G. Legion} {Battery of Foot Artillery 6
Hanoverians} {Fourth Infantry Brigade 2582
{Battery of Foot Artillery 6
Brunswickers} {Advanced Guard Battalion 672
{2 Battalions of the Light Infantry Brigade 1344
{Line Infantry Brigade 2016
{Regiment of Hussars 690
{Squadron of Lancers 232
Dutch-Belgians} {Second Infantry Brigade 6832
{Third Cavalry Brigade 1082
{Half Battery of Horse Artillery 2
{Battery of Foot Artillery 8
{  Do.    Horse 8
——— ——— ———
18,090 2,004 30

The following is the amount of force which Marshal Ney had actually in the Field:—

Infantry. Cavalry. Guns.
Fifth Infantry Division 5,003
Sixth    do. 6,591
Ninth    do. 4,595
3 Divisional Foot Batteries 24
1 Reserve Foot Battery 8
Second Cavalry Division 1,729
1 Battery of Horse Artillery 6
——— ——— ———
16,189 1,729 38

[Pg 151]

The cannonade which had opened against the Fifth British Division as it took up its ground, continued with unabated vigour. The French Light Troops were now observed advancing from the inclosures that skirted the foot of their position, and to meet them the Light Companies of the different Regiments of Picton's Division were immediately thrown forward. On the French extreme Right all further progress was checked by the gallant manner in which the 1st Battalion 95th British Regiment, though opposed by a much superior force, retained possession of the Namur road, which they lined with their Skirmishers, while the Wood in rear was occupied by the Battalion Reserve and the 2nd Brunswick Light Battalion. On the French Left, however, the incessant rattle of musketry in the Wood of Bossu plainly indicated by its gradual approach in the direction of Quatre Bras, that the Dutch-Belgian Infantry were yielding to the fierce onset of the Enemy in that quarter.

The protection which the French would derive from the possession of the eastern portion of this Wood for the advance of their masses over the space between it and the Charleroi road, instantly became apparent to the British Commander; in fact, the previous pursuit of the Dutch-Belgian Cavalry along this road proved the expediency of establishing some restraint to such facility for a hostile advance in that direction; and he therefore requested the Duke of Brunswick to take up a position with a part of his Corps between Quatre Bras and Gemioncourt, so as to have his Left resting upon the road, and his Right communicating with Perponcher's Division, part of which was deployed along the skirt of the Wood.

The Duke of Brunswick immediately ordered forward the Guard Battalion (under Major Pröstler), the 1st Line[Pg 152] Battalion (under Major Metzner), and the two Light Companies of the Advanced Guard Battalion, which he posted in Close Columns upon, and contiguous to, the road, on the ground indicated, and threw out a line of Skirmishers connecting these Columns with the two Jäger Companies in the Wood. As an immediate Support to the Infantry, he stationed the Brunswick Hussars (under Major Cramm) and Lancers (under Major Pott) in a hollow in their rear; while as a Reserve to the whole, the 2nd and 3rd Line Battalions (under Major Strombeck and Major Norrmann) were posted en crémaillère contiguously to the houses of Quatre Bras, which important point they were to defend to the last extremity.

Whilst this disposition on the Anglo-Allied Right was in progress, two heavy French Columns were observed descending into a valley below Gemioncourt, where, under cover of the strong line of Skirmishers, which had been for some time engaged with those of Picton's Division, they were divided into separate smaller Columns of Attack. The cannonade from the French Heights, which now sensibly quickened, was telling fearfully amidst the Fifth British Division; and a fresh impulse having been given to the Enemy's Light Troops by the near approach of their own attacking Columns, the British Skirmishers, overpowered by numbers only, were seen darting, alternately and at short distances, to the rear, through the line of smoke that had been raised midway between the contending Armies.

At this critical moment, when the rapid progress of the French in the Wood of Bossu, and their imposing advance against his Left Wing, threatened to compromise his disposal of the Brunswick troops on the right of the Charleroi road, Wellington, by one of those electric inspirations of his master mind with which he had been wont in former[Pg 153] Campaigns to frustrate the best devised plans of his opponents, resolved not to await the attack, but to meet it. He instantly ordered the advance of Kempt's and Pack's Brigades, with the exception of the 92nd Regiment, which (under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Cameron) was to continue at its post on the Namur road, close to Quatre Bras.

During the advance of these two Brigades, which was made with admirable steadiness and in the best order, the Skirmishers fell back upon their respective Battalions, all of which now presented a clear front to the Enemy. From the heads of Ney's Columns, as well as from the thick lines of Skirmishers by which they were connected, a severe and destructive fire was opened and maintained against the British line, along which the gallant Picton, the far famed Leader of the no less renowned "Fighting Division" of the British Army in the Peninsular Campaigns, was seen galloping from one Regiment to another, encouraging his men, and inciting them by his presence and example. The troops significantly responded to his call by those loud and animating shouts with which British soldiers are wont to denote their eagerness to close with their enemies. The interval between the adverse lines was rapidly diminishing: the fire from the French suddenly began to slacken; hesitation, quickly succeeded by disorder, became apparent in their ranks; and then it was, that, animating each other with redoubled cheers, the British Regiments were seen to lower their bristling bayonets, and driving everything before them, to pursue their opponents down to the outer fence of the valley, whence the French line had advanced in the full confidence of triumph.

Kempt's Brigade, in consequence of the greater proximity of its original position to that of the Enemy, was the first to[Pg 154] overthrow the French Infantry. The 79th Highlanders, on the left of the line (commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Douglas), made a gallant charge down the hill, dashed through the first fence, and pursued their opponents, who had advanced in two Battalion Columns, not only across the valley, but through the second fence; and, carried on by their ardour, even ventured to ascend the Enemy's position. By this time, however, their ranks were much broken: they were speedily recalled, and as they retraced their steps across the valley, they derived considerable support from the adjoining Battalion in the line, the 32nd Regiment (commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Maitland), which was keeping up from the first hedge a vigorous fire against the French, who now lined the second fence. The remaining Regiments of both Brigades had all in like manner charged down as far as the nearest hedge, whence they inflicted a severe loss upon their Enemies as these precipitately retired, with their ranks completely broken and disordered on passing through the inclosure.

On the right of the line, the 42nd Highlanders (commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Sir Robert Macara), and 44th Regiment (commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Hamerton), had advanced to within a very short distance of Gemioncourt, in which, and behind the hedges lining the valley, the French were seeking shelter.

During the progress of this contest on the Anglo-Allied left of the Charleroi road, the Brunswick troops were not permitted to remain in quiet possession of their advanced position on the right, which indeed was well calculated to attract Ney's attention. A Battery was immediately drawn up on the opposite Height westward of Gemioncourt, from which, as also from the incessant fire maintained by the Enemy's Skirmishers posted at no great distance from the[Pg 155] front of the line, a very destructive fire was maintained against the Brunswick troops. The Regiment of Hussars particularly suffered, standing in line, and frequently receiving an entire discharge from the Battery. The Brunswickers were, for the most part, young and inexperienced soldiers—in every sense of the word, raw troops: and the numerous casualties which befel their ranks in this exposed situation might have produced a fatal influence upon their discipline, but for the noble example of their Prince, whose admirable tact and calm demeanour were most conspicuous on this trying occasion. Quietly smoking his pipe in front of his line, he gave out his Orders as if at a mere field day; and was only restrained from taking offence at the representations made to him by some of his Staff of the imminent danger to which he was exposing himself, from a consciousness of the kindly motives by which they were dictated.

At length, the continued havoc created amongst his devoted followers by the fire from the French Heights, excited the impatience of the Duke himself for at least the means of retaliation; and as his own Artillery was still upon the march from its cantonments, he sent to the Duke of Wellington a request to be furnished with some pieces of cannon.



This was immediately acceded to, and four guns were moved forward and posted on the right of the Brunswick Infantry; but they had scarcely fired a few rounds when the Enemy's cannonade was redoubled; two of the guns were quickly disabled, and several of the horses attached to the limbers were killed. At the same time, two Columns of French Infantry were seen advancing in succession along the edge of the Wood of Bossu, preceded by a Battalion in line, and supported by some Cavalry, of which description[Pg 157] of force there also appeared to be a considerable mass advancing along the Charleroi road. As the French Infantry rapidly approached the right of the line of the Brunswick Skirmishers, the latter were forced to retire, as were also the Dutch-Belgian Infantry that lined the Wood at this part of the field. The Duke of Brunswick, perceiving that the bend of the wood in rear of his Regiment of Hussars was likely to impede the freedom of its movements, immediately ordered the latter to proceed to the opposite side of the Charleroi road, and retire towards Quatre Bras, there to remain in readiness to act according to circumstances. Then, placing himself at the head of his Lancers, he gallantly charged the advancing Infantry, which, however, received them with so much steadiness and good order, and opened upon them so destructive a fire, that the attack completely failed, and the Regiment withdrew to Quatre Bras.

Finding the strength of the Enemy's forces to be so overpowering, the Duke now ordered the Infantry posted contiguously to the Charleroi road, also to retire upon the main position. The 1st Line Battalion moved hastily along the road, while the Guard Battalion, with which the Duke himself was at this time present, retired across the fields eastward of the isolated House upon the Charleroi road, towards the Allied line, posted upon the road to Namur. Major Pröstler, who commanded the Guard Battalion, rendered himself conspicuous by his exertions to execute this movement in as orderly a manner as possible, but the eager and close pursuit by the French Light Troops, now emboldened by success, a shower of round shot upon the Column, and the approach of the Enemy's Cavalry, spread such a panic among these young troops that they fled in confusion, some through Quatre Bras, and others through the Anglo-Allied line on the left of that point; and it was in the[Pg 158] moment of attempting to rally his soldiers, not far from the little garden of the House before mentioned, that the Duke of Brunswick was struck from his horse by a shot which terminated the career of this gallant Prince.

In the mean time the Brunswick Hussars were ordered forward to cover the retreat of the Infantry, and repel the advance of the French Cavalry, which was now seen in rapid motion along the Charleroi road, as if incited and emboldened by the loud shouts of triumph sent forth by their Light Troops in front. The Hussars, whose order while advancing, was quickly disturbed by a straggling fire from the French Infantry, to which their Right Flank became exposed, failed in producing the slightest check upon the Cavalry, and were soon seen wheeling about and in full flight, closely pursued by their opponents.

To the 42nd Highlanders and 44th British Regiment, which were posted on a reverse slope, and in line, close upon the left of the above road, the advance of French Cavalry was so sudden and unexpected, the more so as the Brunswickers had just moved on to the front, that as both these bodies whirled past them to the rear, in such close proximity to each other, they were, for the moment, considered to consist of one mass of Allied Cavalry. Some of the old soldiers of both Regiments were not so easily satisfied on this point, and immediately opened a partial fire obliquely upon the French Lancers, which, however, Sir Denis Pack and their own Officers endeavoured as much as possible to restrain; but no sooner had the latter succeeded in causing a cessation of the fire, than the Lancers, which were the rearmost of the Cavalry, wheeled sharply round, and advanced in admirable order directly upon the rear of the two British Regiments.

The 42nd Highlanders having, from their position, been[Pg 159] the first to recognise them as a part of the Enemy's forces, rapidly formed Square; but just as the two Flank Companies were running in to form the rear face, the Lancers had reached the Regiment, when a considerable portion of their leading division penetrated the Square, carrying along with them, by the impetus of their charge, several men of those two Companies, and creating a momentary confusion. The long tried discipline and steadiness of the Highlanders, however, did not forsake them at this most critical juncture: these Lancers, instead of effecting the destruction of the Square, were themselves fairly hemmed into it, and either bayoneted or taken prisoners, while the endangered face, restored as if by magic, successfully repelled all further attempts on the part of the French to complete their expected triumph. Their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Sir Robert Macara, was killed on this occasion, a lance having pierced through his chin until it reached the brain; and within the brief space of a few minutes, the command of the Regiment devolved upon three other Officers in succession: Lieutenant Colonel Dick, who was severely wounded, Brevet Major Davidson, who was mortally wounded, and Brevet Major Campbell, who commanded it during the remainder of the Campaign.

If this Cavalry attack had fallen so unexpectedly upon the 42nd Highlanders, still less had it been anticipated by the 44th Regiment. Lieutenant Colonel Hamerton, perceiving that the Lancers were rapidly advancing against his rear, and that any attempt to form square would be attended with imminent danger, instantly decided upon receiving them in line. The low thundering sound of their approach was heard by his men before a conviction they were French flashed across the minds of any but the old soldiers who had previously fired at them as they passed[Pg 160] their Flank. Hamerton's words of command were, "Rear rank, right about face!"—"Make ready!"—(a short pause to admit of the still nearer approach of the Cavalry)—"Present!"—"Fire!" The effect produced by this volley was astonishing. The men, aware of their perilous position, doubtless took a most deliberate aim at their opponents, who were thrown into great confusion. Some few daring fellows made a dash at the centre of the Battalion, hoping to capture the Colours, in their apparently exposed situation; but the attempt, though gallantly made, was as gallantly defeated. The Lancers now commenced a flight towards the French position by the Flanks of the 44th. As they rushed past the Left Flank, the Officer commanding the Light Company, who had very judiciously restrained his men from joining in the volley given to the rear, opened upon them a scattering fire; and no sooner did the Lancers appear in the proper front of the Regiment, when the front rank began in its turn to contribute to their overthrow and destruction.

Never, perhaps, did British Infantry display its characteristic coolness and steadiness more eminently than on this trying occasion. To have stood in a thin two deep line, awaiting, and prepared to receive, the onset of hostile Cavalry, would have been looked upon at least as a most hazardous experiment; but, with its rear so suddenly menaced, and its flanks unsupported, to have instantly faced only one rank about, to have stood as if rooted to the ground, to have repulsed its assailants with so steady and well directed a fire that numbers of them were destroyed—this was a feat of arms which the oldest or best disciplined Corps in the world might have in vain hoped to accomplish; yet most successfully and completely was this achieved by the gallant 2nd Battalion of the 44th British Regiment, under its brave Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Hamerton.

[Pg 161]

In this attack occurred one of these incidents which, in daring, equal any of the feats of ancient chivalry, which makes the wildest fables of the deeds of the knights of old appear almost impossible; which cause the bearing of an individual to stand out, as it were, in relief amidst the operations of the masses; and which, by their characteristic recklessness, almost invariably insure at least a partial success.

A French Lancer gallantly charged at the Colours, and severely wounded Ensign Christie, who carried one of them, by a thrust of his lance, which, entering the left eye, penetrated to the lower jaw. The Frenchman then endeavoured to seize the Standard, but the brave Christie, notwithstanding the agony of his wound, with a presence of mind almost unequalled, flung himself upon it—not to save himself, but to preserve the honour of his Regiment. As the Colour fluttered in its fall, the Frenchman tore off a portion of the silk with the point of his lance; but he was not permitted to bear the fragment beyond the ranks. Both shot and bayoneted by the nearest of the soldiers of the 44th, he was borne to the earth, paying with the sacrifice of his life for his display of unavailing bravery.

In the mean time, the leading portion of Piré's Light Cavalry, from which the Lancers that attacked the 42nd and 44th British Regiments had been detached, as already described, continued its advance along the high road towards Quatre Bras, driving in the Brunswick Hussars, who were now galloping confusedly upon the 92nd Highlanders then lining the ditch of the Namur high road contiguous to Quatre Bras. Pursued by the Chasseurs à Cheval, and finding no opening for their passage, they made for the Right Flank of the Regiment: and, as they were flying past, the Grenadier Company was wheeled back upon[Pg 162] the road so as to oppose a front at that point to the flank of the pursuing Cavalry, upon which the Highlanders now poured a most destructive volley. The shock thus occasioned to the French Cavalry was immediately perceptible; but though thrown into confusion, the main body soon reformed, and retired with much steadiness and regularity.

The front of the Column, however, impelled by the furious ardour with which it had advanced, or, perhaps, imagining itself still followed and supported by the main body, dashed in amongst the houses of Quatre Bras, and even advanced to some distance beyond them, cutting down several stragglers whom they found there, principally belonging to the routed Brunswick Infantry, as also groups of wounded. Many of them rushed through the large opening into the Farm Yard of Quatre Bras, which was situated immediately in rear of the Right of the 92nd. A few daring fellows finding they had proceeded too far to be able to retire by the same direction in which they had advanced, wheeled round suddenly at the point where the high roads intersect each other, and galloped right through the Grenadier Company of the Highlanders, shouting, and brandishing their swords, and receiving a fire from some of the rear rank of the Regiment as they dashed along the road. None of them escaped: one, an Officer of the Chasseurs à Cheval, had already reached the spot where the Duke of Wellington was at that moment stationed in rear of the Highlanders. Some of the men immediately turned round and fired: his horse was killed, and at the same moment a musket ball passed through each foot of the gallant young Officer. Those of the French Chasseurs who had entered the Farm Yard, finding no other outlet, now began to gallop back, in small parties of two or[Pg 163] three at a time, but few escaped the deadly fire of the Highlanders.

About this time, Kellermann reached the Field, with the Eleventh Heavy Cavalry Division under Lieutenant General l'Heritier. This augmented Ney's forces to the following amount:

Infantry. Cavalry. Guns.
Force already in the Field 16,189 1,865 38
Eleventh Cavalry Division 1,743
1 Battery of Horse Artillery 6
——— ——— ———
16,189 3,608 41

The French Infantry upon the extreme Left had by this time possessed themselves of the greater portion of the Wood of Bossu, from the Allied rear of which numerous groups of wounded and runaways were now seen to emerge; indeed, it soon became evident that no dependance could be placed on the continued occupation of the Wood by the Dutch-Belgian forces, and that the whole brunt of the Battle would have to be borne by the British, Hanoverian, and Brunswick forces. Upon the extreme French Right, all attempts to turn the opposite Flank of the Allies were successfully checked by the steadiness and gallantry of the 95th British Regiment, supported by the 2nd Brunswick Light Battalion.

Ney, although he had failed in his first general attack upon the Anglo-Allied line, had fully ascertained that the raw troops of which the Dutch-Belgian and Brunswick Cavalry in the Field were composed, were totally incapable of competing with his own veteran warriors of that Arm, and he therefore determined to take advantage of Kellermann's arrival for the execution of a vigorous Cavalry attack.[Pg 164] Retaining General Piquet's Brigade in reserve, he combined, for this purpose, General Guyton's Brigade, consisting of the 8th and 11th Cuirassiers, with Piré's Light Cavalry Division; and also taking advantage of his greatly superior Artillery force, he caused the attack to be preceded and covered by a tremendous cannonade, occasioning great havoc in the ranks of the Anglo-Allied Infantry, the range for which the French Gunners had by this time ascertained with fearful precision.

It was not long before the British Battalions most in advance were warned of the approach of hostile Cavalry by the running in of their Skirmishers; and scarcely had they formed their Squares when the Batteries respectively opposed to them having ceased their fire, a rushing sound was heard through the tall corn, which, gradually bending, disclosed to their view the heads of the attacking Columns; and now began a conflict wherein the cool and daring intrepidity with which British Infantry are accustomed to defy the assaults of Cavalry was exemplified in a manner that will ever reflect honour and glory upon the Regiments to whose lot it fell, on this memorable Field, to assert and maintain their country's prowess. A rolling fire from the muskets of the 42nd Highlanders and 44th British Regiment, given at a moment when the Enemy's horsemen were almost close upon their bayonets, though most destructive in its effects upon their own immediate opponents, checked not the ardour and impetuosity of the general attack. These two diminutive Squares, now completely surrounded by the French Cavalry, seemed destined to become a sacrifice to the fury with which a rapid succession of attacks was made upon them; no sooner was one Squadron hurled back in confusion, than another rushed impetuously forward upon the same face of a Square, to experience a[Pg 166] similar fate; and sometimes different faces were charged simultaneously.



A strong body of Cuirassiers now passed the Right Flank of the two Regiments, along the high road, with an evident intention of making another attempt upon Quatre Bras.

Picton, who had been watching with intense anxiety the contest maintained by the 42nd and 44th British Regiments in their exposed situation, and who had become convinced of the utter hopelessness of obtaining any efficient support from the Allied Cavalry then in the field, could no longer restrain his impatience to fly to the rescue of the devoted Squares; and, as a substitute for Cavalry, he decided upon immediately assailing that of the Enemy with his own oft tried Infantry. With this view, he united the Royals (under Lieutenant Colonel Colin Campbell) and the 28th Regiment, both of which Corps were at that moment standing in Column at quarter distance. Led on by both Picton and Kempt, the united Column, with loud shouts, boldly advanced into the midst of the Enemy's Cavalry; the whole extent of ground along its front appeared to swarm with Lancers, Chasseurs à Cheval, and Cuirassiers, a considerable portion of whom were now seen rapidly forming for an attack upon the Column; but Picton constantly on the alert, and at the same time desirous of arriving at such a distance as would enable him to present an efficient flank fire in support of the 44th Regiment, continued advancing until the last moment, when he suddenly formed it into Square.

The repeated and furious charges which ensued, were invariably repulsed by the Royals and the 28th, with the utmost steadiness and consummate bravery; and although the Lancers individually dashed forward and frequently wounded the men in the ranks, yet all endeavours to effect[Pg 167] an opening, of which the succeeding Squadron of Attack might take advantage, completely failed. The ground on which the Square stood was such that the surrounding remarkably tall rye concealed it in a great measure, in the first attacks, from the view of the French Cavalry until the latter came quite close upon it; but to remedy this inconvenience, and to preserve the impetus of their charge, the Lancers had frequently recourse to sending forward a daring individual to plant a lance in the earth at a very short distance from the bayonets, and they then charged upon the lance flag as a mark of direction.

The advance of the Royals and the 28th had been almost immediately followed, under the same form, by that of the 32nd Regiment, which, having reached a convenient distance, halted, and formed Square so as to support, at the same time, by a flank fire, the Royals and 28th, and the Square of the 79th Highlanders, which latter Regiment constituted a connecting link with the 95th British Regiment upon the extreme Left.

Upon the advance of the Regiments belonging to Kempt's and Pack's British Brigades, Best's Hanoverian Brigade occupied the Namur road in their rear, along which the Landwehr Battalions Lüneburg, Osterode, and Münden (respectively commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Ramdohr, Major Reden, and Major Schmid) were deployed, while the Landwehr Battalion Verden (under Major Decken), also in line, was posted somewhat in advance.

In this position, Picton's Division sustained repeated assaults of the French Cavalry, which attacked the Squares simultaneously, and in every direction: as a portion rushed upon one Square, other Squadrons passed on to assail the next; some parties, taking advantage of sinuosities of the ground, awaited, like birds of prey, the favourable moment[Pg 168] for pouncing upon their victims; no sooner was one attacking Squadron driven back and dispersed by a stream of musketry from the face of a Square, than a fresh party would rush from its cover upon the same ranks, in the vain hope that the means of breaking its onset had been expended; but a reserved fire never failed to bring down upon it a similar fate. Viewed from a little distance, the British Squares could at times be scarcely discerned amidst the surrounding Cavalry; and as the latter was frequently observed flying back from sudden discharges of musketry, a spectator might easily have imagined the Squares to be so many immense bombs, with every explosion scattering death and confusion among the masses that rushed so daringly into their fatal vicinity.

The French Cavalry, by its repeated failures to make any impression on the British Infantry by the manner in which it had passed through and through the intervals between the Squares, and in which the charging Squadrons when dispersed had got intermingled, was now in great disorder—Lancers, Chasseurs, and Cuirassiers, were mixed together and crossing one another in every direction, seeking out their respective Corps. To retire and reform had therefore become with them an absolutely necessary measure; but this afforded no respite to the devoted Squares, against which the Batteries upon the French Heights now played with terrific effect.

During the French attack of the British Squares on the eastern side of the Charleroi road, a considerable body of Cuirassiers advanced along the latter, with the evident design of making another attack upon the Anglo-Allied Centre at Quatre Bras. The Belgian Cavalry, which was again ordered forward, endeavoured to check this movement,[Pg 169] but with no better effect than that which attended its former attempt; in fact, it retired sooner, charged and pursued by the Cuirassiers, against whom a rapid fire was now opened from the 92nd Highlanders, who still lined the ditch of the Namur road, close to Quatre Bras, a fire so destructive in its effects that the steel clad warriors were completely staggered, and the order of their advance so thoroughly shaken that they were compelled to retire in confusion.

In addition to the furious cannonade to which they were subjected, the foremost of Picton's British Battalions, more especially the 42nd and 44th Regiments, were exposed to a rapid and destructive fire, which, as soon as the Enemy's Cavalry had been withdrawn, was opened upon them by the French troops advancing from the inclosures of Gemioncourt. To check this, Skirmishers were thrown forward, but from the want of sufficient ammunition, they could reply but very feebly to the fire of their opponents, who, not suffering the same disadvantage, were picking them off as fast as they could load. Their line soon became fearfully thinned, and finally their ammunition was totally exhausted, to which circumstance the Officer on whom the command of them had devolved (Lieutenant Riddock, 44th Regiment) called the attention of Sir Denis Pack, who ordered him to close his men to their centre and to join his own Regiment.

He had just executed the first part of the Order, when the French Cavalry having rallied and reformed, renewed their attacks upon the British Squares. Squadrons of Cuirassiers and Lancers, in their onward course, swept past Lieutenant Riddock and his party, while others intercepted his direct line of retreat. He instantly formed four deep,[Pg 170] and with his front rank at the charge, he made good his way through the Enemy's Cavalry, as far as the south face of the Square formed by the 44th Regiment; which, however, was so hotly pressed at the moment as to be unable to receive him, whereupon he ordered his men to lie down close to their bayonets, until a favourable opportunity should offer for their admission within the Square.

A repetition of the former scene on this part of the Field now took place, and the attacks, which were conducted with similar impetuosity, were met by a resistance equally undaunted. As if to overawe the Square formed by the Royals and 28th British Regiments, the French Cavalry now made a simultaneous attack upon three of its faces, and these consisted mainly of the latter Corps. Picton, who was again in the Square, upon perceiving the approach of this apparently overwhelming force, suddenly and emphatically exclaimed, "28th! remember Egypt!" They answered him with a loud cheer, and reserving their fire until the Cavalry had approached within a few yards of the Square, their muskets were coolly and deliberately levelled at their assailants, who in the next moment were hurled back in wild disorder, horses and riders tumbling over one another, and creating indescribable confusion. Similar in their results were all the attacks made upon the other British Squares, which maintained their ground with the same unshaken steadiness and gallantry.

These repeated charges by the French Cavalry, though conducted by veteran soldiers, with admirable order and compactness, and though affording innumerable instances of individual gallantry and daring, were certainly not carried on in a manner calculated to ensure success over Infantry distinguished by such high training and such undaunted bravery as the British proved themselves to possess on this[Pg 171] memorable occasion. There was no indication of a systematic attack upon any particular point by a rapid succession of charging Squadrons—no forlorn hope like rush upon the opposing bayonets by the survivors of a discharge of musketry levelled at a leading Squadron, and that rush followed up with lightning-like rapidity by the next Squadron, which, in spite of the intervening space encumbered with the bodies of men and horses overthrown in the first charge, would thus obtain the greatest chance of effecting by its own weight and compact order, a breach in the Square at the point originally selected for the assault.

No such system of attack was attempted; but, on the contrary, it almost invariably happened that the leading Squadron no sooner received the fire from the point attacked, than it either opened out from the centre to the right and left, and retired, or, it diverged altogether to one flank, leaving the succeeding divisions, in both cases, to observe the same movement; and, in this manner, the whole of the attacking force exposed itself to a far more extended range of fire and consequent loss, than if it had pursued the more daring, and at the same time, more decisive, mode of attack just described.

Whilst a considerable portion of the French Cavalry was thus fruitlessly assailing the British Squares, a body of Lancers, which had advanced considerably in the rear of those Squares, made a sudden and unexpected charge upon the Hanoverian Landwehr Battalion Verden, which was then, as previously explained, deployed a short distance in front of the Namur road: it was completely successful, and the greater part of the Battalion was cut down by the Lancers, who, emboldened by this triumph, were preparing to cross the Namur road, where a well directed fire opened upon them[Pg 172] by the Landwehr Battalions Lüneburg and Osterode, lying concealed in the ditch by which it was lined, threw them into disorder, and forced them to a precipitate retreat.

The whole of the French Cavalry was now withdrawn for the purpose of reforming its broken and disordered ranks, leaving the Anglo-Allied Infantry to be again assailed by a vigorous cannonade from the Heights above Gemioncourt. The only movement on the part of the Anglo-Allied forces was the advance of the Brunswick Guard Battalion and 2nd Line Battalion in front of Quatre Bras, by the right of the Charleroi road, as a precautionary measure against any flank attack that might be attempted from the Wood of Bossu upon the advanced Battalions of Picton's right.

It was long past five o'clock. The French Infantry in the Wood of Bossu was continually making progress towards the Namur road, across which increased numbers of the Dutch-Belgian troops, to whom the defence of the Wood had been entrusted, were seen hastily retiring. In Piermont, the French Light Troops had been reinforced, and they were now evidently preparing for a more vigorous attack upon the extreme Left of Wellington's forces; whilst certain movements in the vicinity of Gemioncourt gave intimation of an intended renewal of the attack upon Quatre Bras. All prospect of the Anglo-Allied Cavalry encountering Ney's veteran Dragoons with any chance of success had entirely vanished; whilst, on the other hand, the latter were on the point of being reinforced by the arrival of another Cavalry Division. Pack's Brigade had expended nearly the whole of its ammunition; its exposed position, and the continued Cavalry charges in its rear having precluded the transmission of the necessary supply. The Brunswickers had been greatly discouraged by the death of their gallant Prince; and the[Pg 173] losses sustained by all the troops engaged had already been truly frightful.

It was at this very moment, when Wellington's situation had become so extremely critical, that two Infantry Brigades of the Third Division, under Lieutenant General Sir Charles Alten, most opportunely reached the Field of Action by the Nivelles road. They were the Fifth British Brigade, commanded by Major General Sir Colin Halkett, and the First Hanoverian Brigade, under Major General Count Kielmansegge; and were accompanied by Major Lloyd's Battery of British Foot Artillery, and by Captain Cleeves's Battery of Hanoverian Foot Artillery.

By the arrival of these troops Wellington's force was augmented as follows:—

Infantry. Cavalry. Guns.
Force already in the Field 18,090 2,004 30
British} {Fifth Infantry Brigade 2,254
{Battery of Foot Artillery 6
K.G. Legion      Do.      do  6
Hanoverians First Infantry Brigade 3,189
Dutch-Belgians 7th Dutch Line Battalion 731
——— ——— ———
24,264 2,004 42

About the same time, Ney's troops were reinforced by the remaining Division of Kellermann's Corps of Heavy Cavalry, so that his whole force was constituted as follows:—

Infantry. Cavalry. Guns.
Force already in the Field 16,189 3,472 44
Twelfth Cavalry Division 1,502
1 Battery of Horse Artillery 6
——— ——— ———
16,189 4,974 50

[Pg 174]

Ney, on perceiving the arrival of this reinforcement to the Anglo-Allied troops, despatched a peremptory Order to d'Erlon to hasten to his support and join him without a moment's delay; and having well calculated the advantages he still retained, he resolved upon a bold and vigorous effort to secure the victory.

The greater portion of the Wood of Bossu was now in his possession; and this circumstance appeared to him to present the means of establishing himself at Quatre Bras, and of thus enabling him effectually to turn Wellington's Right Flank, and cut off his line of retreat upon Brussels. With this view he had already greatly reinforced his Infantry in the Wood through which he had even ordered the advance of two Batteries, in a direction parallel to, and within a very short distance of, its eastern boundary, so that they might be prepared to act upon the plain, as soon as circumstances rendered such a proceeding advisable or expedient. He now also threw forward additional Light Troops to strengthen his extreme Right in the vicinity of Piermont; whilst his Cavalry, so vastly superior, both in numbers and in efficiency, to that which the British Commander had brought into the Field, constituted his main central force, and compensated in a great measure for the deficiency created in this point of his line by the drawing off of the Infantry to the Flanks.

The two French Batteries above alluded to as having advanced along the interior of the Wood of Bossu, suddenly opened a destructive fire from the edge of the latter upon the Brunswick troops posted on the right of the Charleroi road, just as Lloyd's Battery arrived at Quatre Bras. The Duke instantly ordered the advance of this Battery into the open space between the Charleroi road and the Wood, for the purpose of silencing the French guns; but before the British[Pg 175] Artillerymen could unlimber, several horses of the Battery were killed, wheels were disabled, and, from the proximity of the Enemy's guns, some of the Gunners were literally cut in two by the round shot with which they were so closely assailed. Nevertheless, the Battery succeeded, not only in silencing its opponents, but also in forcing back into the wood a French Column of Infantry, which, advancing directly towards the Brussels road, had endeavoured to turn its Right Flank: after which brilliant services, Lloyd, perceiving no adequate Support, judged it prudent, in the then crippled state of his Battery, to retire to his former Post, abandoning two guns for which he had not a sufficient number of horses remaining, and which consequently could not be recovered until the termination of the action.

Halkett's Brigade, shortly after passing Quatre Bras, was ordered to bring up its left shoulders; and, entering the rye fields in front of the Namur road, it proceeded some little distance in advance, and halted.

Kielmansegge's Brigade continued its march along the Namur road, and received Orders to strengthen the extreme Left, as also to support, and, where necessary, to relieve the exhausted British Battalions, which had so bravely withstood the fiercest onsets of a most daring and well organised Cavalry, and had so unflinchingly endured the incessant cannonade maintained against them by the well served Batteries on the French Heights.

It was during the advance of the Third British Division to take up its ground—Halkett proceeding directly to the front, and Kielmansegge moving along the Namur road to the left—and under cover of the heavy cannonade which was maintained against the Allied line at this time, that again a Column of French Infantry advanced from out of the Wood, towards the Brussels road, and entering the latter[Pg 176] by the isolated House southward of Quatre Bras, established itself in and about that building and its inclosures.

Shortly afterwards, another Column advanced in support of the former one, which then emerged from its cover, and began to ascend that part of the Anglo-Allied position occupied by the 92nd Highlanders. On perceiving this, Major General Barnes, Adjutant General to the British forces, who had just ridden up to the right of the Regiment, placed himself very conspicuously at the head of the Highlanders, waving his hat, and exclaiming, "92nd, follow me!" In an instant the latter sprang out of the ditch in which they had hitherto been posted, and with great gallantry and steadiness charged down the slope. The French Infantry hastily fell back, until having gained the partial shelter afforded them by the isolated House and its inclosures, they opened a most destructive fire upon the Highlanders, who nevertheless slackened not their pace, but drove the French out of their cover. Their Commanding Officer, Colonel Cameron, here received his death wound, and having lost the power of managing his horse, the latter carried him at its utmost speed along the road until he reached Quatre Bras, where his servant was standing with his led horse, when the animal, suddenly stopping, pitched the unfortunate Officer on his head. The supporting Column, however, securing the garden opposite to the House and on the right of the road, seemed resolved to make a stand against the further advance of the Highlanders; but the latter, by a judicious disposition of their force in three divisions—one towards each flank of the garden, and the other directly to the gate in front—and again uniting as soon as these points were secured, once more rushed upon their foes with the bayonet, displaying, under a terrific fire, the most undaunted bravery.

[Pg 177]

As soon as the French turned their backs, the 92nd poured upon them a volley which proved most destructive, and continued their advance, pursuing the Enemy along the edge of the Wood, into which they finally retired upon perceiving a disposition on the part of the French Cavalry to charge, and finding themselves exposed to a heavy cannonade which was rapidly thinning their ranks to a fearful extent. Subsequently, in consequence of their very severe loss, they were withdrawn through the Wood to Quatre Bras.

Again the French Skirmishers were creeping up the slope from the Gemioncourt inclosures, and Pack, who had united the remains of the 42nd and 44th Regiments into one Battalion, made the best show of resistance in his power to their teazing tiraillade; but being aware how very small a quantity of ammunition remained in his men's pouches, his anxiety on this point became extreme, the more so as he had good reasons for apprehending fresh attacks of Cavalry. His advanced position in the immediate proximity of the formation of the Enemy's Columns of Attack, naturally kept him on the look out for effective British support; and on observing the head of Halkett's Brigade, as the latter was advancing from Quatre Bras, he instantly despatched an Aide de Camp to that General, with a message, that his own Brigade had expended nearly the whole of its ammunition, and that if he did not offer him a Support, he would be under the necessity of almost immediately abandoning his position. Halkett at once acceded to the proposal by sending forward the 69th British Regiment, and desiring its Commanding Officer, Colonel Morice, to obey any Orders he might receive from General Pack.

In pursuance of Orders received from the Duke, Halkett moved the remainder of his Brigade into the space between the Wood of Bossu and the Charleroi road, fronting the[Pg 178] French Left Wing. Here he found the Brunswick Infantry retiring with precipitation: he immediately put himself in communication with their Commanding Officer, Colonel Olfermann, and by aid of the support which his Brigade presented to their view, he succeeded in bringing them up under cover, in the ditch which, traversing the space between the Wood and the high road, ran nearly parallel with the Enemy's line.

Leaving his Brigade in the position he had taken up, in support of the Brunswickers and of Pack's Brigade, and pending the arrival of further instructions from the Duke, Halkett galloped to the Front, nearly beyond the Farm of Gemioncourt, for the purpose of ascertaining, if possible, the disposition and intentions of the Enemy. He was not kept long in suspense, Ney's arrangements for another general attack having been concluded; and, observing the Cavalry destined to advance against the Allies on both sides of the Charleroi road in motion, he turned round his horse and hastened to dispose his Brigade in such a manner as to render it fully prepared to brave the coming storm. On his way, he sent an intimation to Pack of his discovery, and Orders to the 69th Regiment to prepare forthwith to receive Cavalry.

A sudden and heavy cannonade had already opened from the French Heights—a sure prelude to the attack which was about to take place—and the 69th Regiment was in the act of forming Square, when the Prince of Orange rode up to it and asked what it was doing. Colonel Morice explained that he was forming Square in pursuance of the instructions he had received; upon which His Royal Highness, remarking that he did not think there was any chance of the Cavalry coming on, ordered him to reform Column, and to deploy into line. During this last move[Pg 179]ment a strong body of French Cuirassiers, taking advantage of the surrounding high corn, and of the circumstance of the Regiment lying in a hollow, approached unperceived quite close to the spot, and rushing suddenly and impetuously upon a Flank, succeeded in completely rolling up the Regiment, riding along and over the unfortunate men, of whom great numbers were cut down, and in the midst of the confusion thus created, captured and carried off one of the Colours; in defence of which Major Lindsay, Lieutenant Pigot, and Volunteer Clarke, highly distinguished themselves, and were desperately wounded. Some Officers and men took shelter in the Square formed by the 42nd and 44th Regiments; the mounted Officers gained the other side of the road, pursued by about twenty of the Enemy, and escaped by riding through one of the Hanoverian Battalions lining the Namur road.

The 30th Regiment, which had also been deployed into line by the Orders of the Prince of Orange, most fortunately discovered, in sufficient time, the approach of Cavalry (notwithstanding the extraordinary height of the rye, which greatly impeded all observation), formed Square with remarkable rapidity, and, reserving their fire until the very last moment, they completely dispersed and drove off a body of Piré's Lancers, and a portion of Kellermann's Cuirassiers, which troops had made a charge upon them, enveloping two faces of their Square. Picton, who, from the opposite side of the high road, was an eye witness of this scene, was so much pleased with the perfect steadiness of the Regiment, that, seizing a favourable opportunity of galloping up to it, he called for the Commanding Officer, and told Lieutenant Colonel Hamilton that he should report to the Duke the gallant conduct of his Corps. Indeed the steadiness and gallantry of the 30th in this Battle were so[Pg 180] conspicuous as also to draw upon them the well merited commendations of the Prince of Orange, and Generals Alten, Halkett, and Kielmansegge.

The 73rd Regiment (under Colonel Harris), and the Brunswickers, were equally on the alert; but the French Cavalry, on finding them prepared, diverged towards the high road.

The 33rd Regiment (under Lieutenant Colonel Elphinstone), had formed Square upon its leading Company (the Grenadiers) at the moment the latter had reached some rising ground; in which position it became a conspicuous mark for the fire, at point blank distance, of a French Battery which opened upon it with great spirit. It was deemed advisable to deploy it into line, in which formation the Regiment advanced towards the two Brunswick Battalions then fiercely engaged with the Enemy's Light Troops near the skirt of the Wood; but upon approaching the latter, a report was spread along the line that French Cavalry was in its rear, whereupon the Regiment rushed precipitately into the Wood, within which it was speedily reformed.

Whilst that portion of Kellermann's Dragoons which had dispersed the 69th Regiment, were sweeping gallantly onwards in their bold career along the high road towards Quatre Bras, the greater body of this Corps advanced into the open space on the right of that road. Here Picton's gallant little bands found themselves again involved in one general onset of Cavalry, made with a violence and fury which seemed to betoken a desperate resolve to harass the devoted Squares to the last extremity, and to carry every thing by main force. At the same time a dense cloud of Skirmishers, bursting forth from the inclosures of Piermont,[Pg 181] threatened to turn the extreme Left of the Anglo-Allied Army; whilst the French Infantry in the Wood of Bossu, close upon the northern boundary of the latter, equally endangered its extreme Right.

At this moment, Ney's prospects were bright enough to justify his hopes of success, and he hailed the captured Colour, presented to him by the Cuirassier Lami of the 8th Regiment, as the harbinger of victory. In fact, on whatever point of his line Ney now directed his view, his operations were full of promise as to the result.

It was certainly a most anxious moment to the British Chief: but frightfully crippled as were his resources by the failure and hasty retreat of the great bulk of the Dutch-Belgian Infantry, by the evident inferiority and utter helplessness of his Cavalry, and by the dreadfully severe losses already inflicted upon his British Regiments, he calmly surveyed the field of slaughter, and deliberately calculated upon the extent to which the heroic valour and admirable spirit so unequivocally displayed by the British and German Infantry would enable him to bear up against the storm that now spread its fury along his whole line, until his eagle glance might detect some favourable opening, seize some critical moment, to deal the stroke that, by a combination as sudden as the launching of the thunderbolt of the storm itself, should avert its fury, or oppose to it a barrier that might exhaust its strength.

The arrival of Lloyd's British, and Cleeves's German, Batteries, attached to Alten's Division, had already made a most important addition to the Duke's Artillery force; the former took post in front of Quatre Bras on the right, the latter on the left, of the Charleroi road.

Almost immediately afterwards, Major Kuhlmann's Battery of Horse Artillery of the King's German Legion,[Pg 182] belonging to the First Division, which it had preceded on the Nivelles road, reached the Field, and moved rapidly to the point of intersection of the Brussels and Nivelles road, where it came into action, at the very moment the Cuirassiers who had fallen upon Halkett's Brigade were advancing in mass along the former road towards Quatre Bras. Two guns under Lieutenant Speckmann were posted so as to bear directly upon the French Column, and completely to enfilade the road; and as the Cuirassiers approached with the undaunted bearing that betokened the steadiness of veterans, and with the imposing display that usually distinguishes mailed Cavalry, a remarkably well directed fire was opened upon them: in an instant the whole mass appeared in irretrievable confusion; the road was literally strewed with corses of these steel clad warriors and their gallant steeds; Kellermann himself was dismounted, and compelled like many of his followers to retire on foot.

It was at this moment that Colonel Laurent, who had been despatched from the Imperial Head Quarters, reached Ney, with a pencilled note requiring the Marshal to detach the First Corps towards St Amand. Having fallen in with the head of the Column of that Corps, he had taken upon himself to alter the direction of its march; and, on coming up with Count d'Erlon, who had preceded his Corps, and was then in front of Frasne, he showed him the note, and explained to him where he would find the head of his Column. Shortly afterwards, General d'Elcambre, Chief of the Staff to the First Corps, arrived to report the movement which was in course of execution.

Ney now saw clearly that at the very moment he required the aid of d'Erlon's Corps, not only to counterbalance the arrival of reinforcements which had joined Wellington, but[Pg 183] to give an efficient support to the renewed general attack he had projected, that Corps had been placed beyond his reach, and that he must, in all probability, continue to fight the battle without any addition to the force he had already in the Field. Nevertheless, he did not allow the circumstance to suspend the execution of his operations; and, with the hope of yet securing the assistance of the First Corps, he sent back General d'Elcambre, with a peremptory Order for its return towards Quatre Bras.

It was soon after this that Ney received another despatch from Napoleon, dated at two o'clock. From its general tenor it was evidently written previously to the departure of Colonel Laurent with the Order for the flank movement of d'Erlon's Corps, and therefore the bearer of it must have taken longer time than was necessary in conveying it to the Marshal. It announced that the Prussians were posted between Sombref and Bry, and that at half past two Grouchy was to attack them with the Third and Fourth Corps d'Armée, and expressed the Emperor's wish that Ney should also attack whatever Enemy might be in his front, and, after having repulsed the latter, fall back in the direction of Ligny, to assist in enveloping the Prussians. At the same time it stated, that should Napoleon succeed in defeating the latter beforehand, he would then manœuvre in Ney's direction, to support in like manner the Marshal's operations. It concluded by requesting information both as to Ney's own dispositions and those of the Enemy in his front. This despatch reached Ney at a moment when he was most seriously engaged, when the issue of the battle was extremely doubtful, and the probability of his being enabled to afford the support required by Napoleon most questionable.

[Pg 184]

Upon the extreme Left of the Anglo-Allied forces, the advance of the French Light Troops from Piermont and its vicinity was met in a most determined and gallant manner by the head of Kielmansegge's Hanoverian Brigade (which after having moved along the Nivelles road, exposed to the continued fire from the Batteries on the French Heights, had just reached that part of the field), in conjunction with the 1st Battalion 95th British Rifles, and the 2nd Brunswick Light Battalion. The most determined efforts were made by the Enemy to turn the Anglo-Allied Flank. The French Infantry had already gained the high road, and were boldly pressing forward, when the British Rifles, the Brunswick Light Infantry, and the Hanoverian Field Battalion Lüneburg (under Lieutenant Colonel Klencke) dashed in amongst them. The contest was obstinate and severe; but the Allied Light Troops having been reinforced by the Hanoverian Field Battalion Grubenhagen (under Lieutenant Colonel Wurmb), gradually obtained the ascendancy, and, dislodging their opponents from one inclosure after another, continued steadily advancing, and gaining ground.

Along the whole front of the central portion of the Anglo-Allied Army, the French Cavalry was expending its force in repeated but unavailing charges against the indomitable Squares. The gallant, the brilliant, the heroic, manner in which the remnants of Kempt's and Pack's Brigades held their ground, of which they surrendered not a single inch throughout the terrific struggle of that day, must ever stand pre-eminent in the records of the triumphs and prowess of British Infantry.

To relieve them as much as possible from the severe pressure they experienced, now that their ammunition was almost entirely exhausted, some of the Hanoverian Battalions were judiciously thrown forward so as to afford[Pg 185] them a close, immediate, and efficient, support, while others continued to line the Namur road; a disposition for which the arrival of Kielmansegge's Brigade had presented the ready means, and which imposed an impregnable barrier to any further advance of the French Cavalry, whose ranks were now thoroughly disordered, and their numbers greatly diminished, by their perseverance in a contest the hopelessness of which began to appear but too evident.

During that part of the Battle just described, Ney received a further despatch from the Emperor by Colonel Forbin Janson. It was dated a quarter past three, and announced to the Marshal that Napoleon was at that moment seriously engaged. It desired Ney to manœuvre immediately so as to turn the Right of the Prussians and fall upon their Rear, and contained the remark that the latter would thus be taken en flagrant délit at the moment they might be endeavouring to join the English. The impossibility of Ney's complying with these directions was already sufficiently apparent.

At this time, Wellington received an addition to his forces by the arrival of the 1st and 3rd Brunswick Light Battalions, and the Brunswick Brigade of Artillery under Major Mahn, consisting of a Battery of Horse, and another of Foot, Artillery. The guns were immediately posted close upon the Namur road, at a short distance to the left of Quatre Bras; and their fire, combined with that of the British and German Batteries, soon produced a very perceptible effect upon the French Artillery. The Infantry reinforced the 1st and 3rd Brunswick Line Battalions occupying the houses of Quatre Bras.

The most important reinforcement, however, was the[Pg 186] arrival, at nearly the same moment—about half past six o'clock—of the First British Division, under Major General Cooke, consisting of the First Brigade of Guards, commanded by Major General Maitland, and the Second Brigade of Guards, commanded by Major General Sir John Byng.

Their line of march having been by the Nivelles road, they came very opportunely upon the most critical point of the Anglo-Allied position, namely, its extreme Right, just at the moment when the French Light Troops, having driven out the Dutch-Belgian Infantry, showed themselves in force along the northern boundary of the Wood of Bossu, and some of their Skirmishers had almost gained the high road.

Wellington's force was still further augmented by the recently arrived troops as follows:—

Infantry. Cavalry. Guns.
Force already in the Field 24,264 2,004 42
British} {First Infantry Division 4,061
{Battery of Foot Artillery 6
K.G. Legion   Do.    Horse  do. 6
Brunswick} {1st and 3rd Light Battalions 1,344
{Battery of Foot Artillery 8
{   Do    Horse do 8
——— ——— ———
29,669 2,004 70

Ney's force actually present continued as before:—

Infantry. Cavalry. Guns.
16,189 4,974 50

The Prince of Orange, who had galloped along this road to meet the Guards, immediately ordered the Light[Pg 187] Companies under Lieutenant Colonel Lord Saltoun, to enter the Wood. They rushed forward with a loud cheer, and commenced a brisk fire on their opponents, who were soon made sensible of the superior description of force now brought against them. The remainder of the Brigade speedily followed, and the loud, sharp, animated rattle of musketry, which was progressing rapidly into the very heart of the Wood, plainly indicated that even in this quarter, where the French had hitherto been the most successful, and whence they might not only have molested the Anglo-Allied troops on the eastern boundary of the Wood, but have most seriously endangered the Right of the British position, they were now encountering a most vigorous and determined resistance.

Halkett's Brigade, with the Brunswickers, resolutely maintained the ground on which they had been charged by the French Cavalry. As the latter retired, the Light Companies of the Brigade, with a portion of the Brunswickers on the right, and some Hanoverian Riflemen on the left, advanced in pursuit. The French threw forward a line of Tirailleurs to check them, and a brisk fire was maintained on both sides. The cannonade on this side of the field was also kept up with great spirit. At length the French Cavalry advanced, forcing back Halkett's Skirmishers upon their respective Columns, on which they then charged. Their attack, however, was not made with much energy, and, upon their being uniformly repulsed, the Light Troops resumed their former ground. Halkett pushed forward his Battalions to the line of his Skirmishers, and then moving towards his right, in the direction of the ravine, which descends from the Wood, drove across the rivulet a body of French Infantry, from which a portion of his[Pg 188] Brigade had suffered a severe fire. In this part of the affair one of Picton's Battalions—the Royals—co-operated. The two Brunswick Battalions continued boldly to advance even beyond this line, resting their right close upon the Wood.

In the meantime, Byng's Brigade had closely followed up Maitland's in support, having previously sent forward its Light Companies under Lieutenant Colonel Macdonell round by Quatre Bras, skirting the eastern border of the Wood. The spirited and determined nature of the advance of the British Guards not admitting of that restraint which, considering the many intricate parts of the Wood, was essential for the preservation of order, led to great confusion in their ranks by the time they reached the southern extremity, after having fairly driven out the French; and in this state they ventured to pursue the Enemy on the open ground, but were quickly repulsed by his Reserves; and the French Artillery poured so destructive a fire into this portion of the Wood, that Maitland deemed it advisable to withdraw the 2nd Battalion (under Colonel Askew) to the rivulet, where it was immediately joined from the rear by the other Battalion of his Brigade (the 3rd, under Colonel the Hon. William Stuart).

The time which would have been occupied in restoring the order and regularity that had been so completely lost during the progress of these Battalions through the Wood, was considered too precious for that purpose at such a moment, and the Brigade was ordered to form line to its left, outside the Wood, the men falling in promiscuously as fast as they emerged from their cover, and extending the line into the plain between the Wood and the Brussels road. Thus formed, the line advanced, though but for a short distance, when it opened and continued a brisk fire, under which the[Pg 189] French Infantry, in its immediate front, deployed with the utmost steadiness and gallantry. This advance had been followed by the Brunswick Guard Battalion, which was now manœuvring to form on the left of Maitland's Brigade.

The French Cavalry, which had been watching for an opportunity to charge the Brigade, now made a dash at its Left Flank. When the irregular formation of the latter, which has been already explained, is considered, it is evident that any attempt to form Square at that moment would have involved the British Guards in inextricable confusion, and have rendered them an easy prey to the French horsemen. Rapid as was the advance of the latter, its object was frustrated in a manner which testifies the extraordinary discipline of the men of that Brigade. Mere discipline it was not; it was an instinctive momentary impulse, which seemed to animate the whole Corps with the sole conviction, that the only step to be taken, the only chance left for safety, consisted in a general and instantaneous movement to the ditch which bounded the Wood on their right. This was accomplished with complete success, and the French Cavalry, which had advanced in full confidence of an easy triumph, were hurled back in confusion by a volley from the ditch, which the Brigade had lined with a rapidity, a dexterity, and a precision, quite wonderful; while at the same moment, the Brunswick Battalion threw itself into Square, and received the Cavalry with a degree of coolness, steadiness, and gallantry, which won for it the warmest admiration and encomiums of the British who witnessed the manœuvre. The flanking fire which was thus brought to bear so suddenly on the French Cavalry by the Brunswickers, and the destructive front fire so deliberately[Pg 190] poured in amongst them by the British Guards from the ditch, fairly drove them out of this part of the Field.

More to the left, the French were retiring before Halkett in perfect order, covered by their Skirmishers. As that General's Brigade neared the Farm House of Gemioncourt, Major Chambers of the 36th Regiment, an experienced Officer, incited by the desire of capturing a Post which had been throughout the day a point d'appui to the French Centre, led on two Companies of his Corps towards it. They made a gallant rush into the courtyard, but were met by a smart fire which forced them back. Major Chambers, however, rallied his men in the orchard; and having instructed them how to proceed in their attack, the place was instantly carried.

The further advance upon the Anglo-Allied Left had, in the meantime, kept equal pace with that on the Right. Ney had been compelled to yield the strongholds by aid of which he had hoped to force the Duke's position: his Infantry had been driven out of Piermont and the inclosures in front of his Right, as also out of the Wood of Bossu on his Left: Gemioncourt, also, in front of his Centre, had been captured; while the plain between the two positions, over which his Cavalry had executed innumerable charges—charges that were occasionally suspended merely that the scattered bands might rally afresh to renew the onslaught with redoubled vigour, and that his Artillery might pour upon the devoted Squares its destructive missiles, by which each was shattered to its very centre,—was now completely cleared from the presence of a single horseman.

It was long after sunset, and darkness was sensibly approaching, when Wellington, now that his Flanks and[Pg 191] Centre were relieved, in the manner already described, from the severity of a pressure of such long duration, led forward his victorious troops to the foot of the French position. The loud shouts which proclaimed the triumphant advance of his forces on either Flank were enthusiastically caught up and responded to by those who constituted the main central line, and who had so nobly and so resolutely withstood and defied the impetuous battle shock by which they had been so repeatedly and so pertinaciously assailed.

Ney, convinced of the utter futility, if not imminent hazard, of protracting the contest, withdrew the whole of his forces, and concentrated them on the Heights of Frasne, throwing out a strong line of Picquets, to which Wellington opposed a corresponding line, having the southern extremity of the Wood of Bossu on the Right, the inclosures south of Piermont on the Left, and Gemioncourt in the Centre, for its main Supports.

The French Picquets manifested an extraordinary degree of vigilance; the slightest movement on the side of the Anglo-Allied Picquets instantly attracted attention, and was noticed by a concentrated fire from the watchful Sentries of the Enemy. No movement, however, of any consequence was made on either side during the night. The wearied combatants sought that rest of which they stood so much in need, and the silence in which the Anglo-Allied bivouac soon became hushed, was only disturbed by the arrival of additional reinforcements, consisting principally of British Cavalry.

Ney was joined by the First Corps, after the termination of the action. At nine o'clock, d'Erlon presented himself to the Marshal for the purpose of reporting to him his proceedings, and of receiving his Orders, after which the[Pg 193] Corps was bivouacked in the rear of Frasne; with the exception, however, of Durutte's Division (the Fourth), and Jaquinot's Light Cavalry Brigade, which d'Erlon had left on the Field of Ligny; in front of the extreme Right of the Prussian Army; a measure which he had deemed advisable in order to prevent the Enemy from debouching into the plain between Bry and the Wood of Delhutte.


Battle of Quatre Bras at 8 o'clock, p.m.

It is singular that Napoleon, who at Fleurus held so powerful a Reserve as that consisting of the Imperial Guard and the Sixth Corps, and who was in perfect ignorance of the true state of affairs at Quatre Bras, should have ventured to withdraw from Ney a force amounting to more than one half of that which he had originally placed at his disposal. It was decidedly a false step, from which no advantage resulted on his own Field of Battle, whilst there can be very little doubt that it lost him that of Quatre Bras.

The losses sustained in this Battle by the Anglo-Allied Army in killed, wounded, and missing, were as follows:—

British 2,275
Hanoverians 369
Brunswickers 819

To these must be added the loss of the Dutch-Belgian troops, amounting probably to about 1,000 killed and wounded, which makes the entire loss of the Anglo-Allied Army equal to about 4,463 men.

The French loss amounted to about 4,000 killed, wounded, and missing.

Such was the Battle of Quatre Bras: a battle in which[Pg 194] the British, the Hanoverian, and the Brunswick, Infantry, covered itself with imperishable glory; to estimate the full extent of which we must constantly bear in mind, that the whole brunt of the action fell upon that Infantry; that throughout the greater part of the day it was totally unaided by any Cavalry, that Arm of the Allies in the field having, at the outset, proved itself incompetent to engage with the French; and, lastly, that it was completely abandoned in the latter part of the action by the Second Dutch-Belgian Infantry Division, amounting to no less than 7,533 men.

When the imagination dwells upon that which constitutes one of the most prominent features of the Battle—the manner in which the gallant Picton, on finding there was no Cavalry at hand wherewith to charge effectively that of the Enemy, led on the British Infantry, and dashed into the midst of the French masses, stoutly maintaining his ground in defiance of their oft repeated assaults, invariably scattering back their charging Squadrons in confusion, and this, too, in the face of a splendid Cavalry, animated by the best spirit, and headed by a Kellermann, whose fame and merit were so universally acknowledged—with what exulting pride and heartfelt gratitude must not the British nation reflect on the heroic valour displayed by her sons in their noble fulfilment of the desires and expectations of her Cambrian Chief!

The zealous and cordial support which the Hanoverians and the Brunswickers afforded to their British brethren in arms, the devotion with which they commingled with them in the thickest of the fight, are indelibly engraven in the grateful memory of every true German, and remain recorded as a lasting theme of admiration in the history of their fatherland.

[Pg 195]

The defeat sustained by the French was certainly not attributable, in the slightest degree, to any deficiency on their part, of either bravery or discipline. Their deportment was that of truly gallant soldiers, and their attacks were all conducted with a chivalric impetuosity, and an admirably sustained vigour, which could leave no doubt on the minds of their opponents as to the sincerity of their devotion to the cause of the Emperor.

In a strategical point of view, both parties gained certain important advantages, and lost others which had been comprised within their respective plans of operation.

Ney had succeeded in preventing the junction of the Anglo-Allied Army with the Prussians, and might have obtained still more important results, had he not been deprived of the services of d'Erlon's Corps, the arrival of which he had been so fully led to expect.

Wellington, though he had been compelled to relinquish all hope of being enabled to afford that aid to Blücher which, in the morning, he had proffered to him, yet, by maintaining his ground at Quatre Bras sufficiently long to admit of the arrival of reinforcements which enabled him to obtain a brilliant victory, he completely succeeded in frustrating the grand object of Ney's movements, which had been to defeat the Anglo-Allied troops thus advancing, in detail, and also to operate upon Blücher's Right Flank. The Duke's success gave ample and convincing evidence of the sagacity and foresight with which his plans had been devised and matured, as also of the soundness of those calculations by which he had for some time previously placed himself, with the confident security of a master of his art, in a posture of defence, fully prepared to meet every emergency, from whatever point, or however suddenly, the coming storm[Pg 196] might arise. And now that he had gained the Battle, and secured the important point of Quatre Bras, upon which the remainder of his troops were advancing, and where the greater portion of them would arrive in the evening and during the night, he was perfectly ready and willing, should the Prussians prove victorious at Ligny, to renew the contest on the following morning, by attacking Ney with his collected force; and then, if successful (of which little doubt could be entertained), by a junction with Blücher's Right, to operate upon Napoleon's Left, so as to bring the great mass of the combined Armies to bear directly upon the main body of the French; or, in case of a defeat of the Prussians, to make good his retreat along his principal line of operation, in such a manner, as to secure a position between Quatre Bras and Brussels, favourable for a co-operation of Blücher's forces with his own, and for presenting a bold and determined stand against the further advance of the French Emperor.

Orders were now forwarded for the movement of Clinton's Division on the following morning, at daybreak, from Nivelles to Quatre Bras: and of Colville's Division, at the same hour, from Enghien to Nivelles. The Reserve Artillery was directed to move at daybreak, on the following morning, to Quatre Bras, there to receive further orders; and the Tenth Infantry Brigade, under Major General Sir John Lambert, was directed to march, at the same hour, from Assche to Genappe, there to remain until further orders.

The tremendous roar of Artillery in the direction of Ligny gave a sufficient intimation to the Duke that a great Battle had taken place in that quarter, but as it seemed to continue stationary, and only ceased as night set in, he was[Pg 197] doubtful of the result, and remained in this state of suspense and uncertainty until the following morning; the Officer who had been despatched in the night to Quatre Bras from the Prussian Head Quarters with the expected communication, having been surprised in the dark, and made a prisoner by the French.


Battle of Ligny

[Pg 199]


PRINCE BLÜCHER having ascertained, on the morning of the 16th, that his communication with the Left Division of the Duke of Wellington's forces by Quatre Bras continued uninterrupted, resolved upon accepting battle in the position in rear of Fleurus, which had been previously fixed upon as the one most eligible, in the event of the Enemy's adoption of that line of operations respecting which all doubt and uncertainty had now ceased. Its importance in a strategical point of view, apart from tactical considerations, was manifest. Wellington having, on his part, selected Quatre Bras as the point whereon to concentrate his forces, the position in question, connected as it was with the latter by a paved road over an extent of not more than six or seven miles, offered great facility for co-operation and mutual support upon whichever point the great mass of the French Army might be directed.

Should it prove tenable, then, considered in conjunction with the advance of the Russians from the Rhine, the whole line of the Meuse below Namur, and the communications with Aix la Chapelle and the Prussian States, were effectually secured. If, on the other hand, either position should be forced by the Enemy, then Mont St Jean and Wavre, upon parallel lines of retreat towards Brussels and Louvain, would likewise offer the means of co-operation on the south side of the Forest of Soignies; and supposing Blücher willing to risk for a time his communication with the right[Pg 200] bank of the Meuse, concentric lines of retreat upon Brussels would bring the two Armies in combined position in the immediate front of that capital.

Supposing also that Napoleon's plan had been to advance by Mons, the concentration of the Prussian forces could not have been effected upon a more favourable point than that of Sombref, whence they could have advanced in support of their Allies, leaving a sufficient portion of Zieten's Corps to watch the approaches by Charleroi: and, finally, had the French Emperor directed his main attack by Namur, the retreat of Thielemann's Corps would have secured time for effecting the concentration of the First, Second, and Third Prussian Corps d'Armée, if not also of the Fourth, while the Duke of Wellington's forces might have assembled at Quatre Bras, for the purpose of meeting any secondary attack from the Charleroi side, and of forming a junction with the Prussian Army.

The position itself comprises the Heights of Bry, Sombref, and Tongrines, contiguous to the high road connecting Namur with Nivelles, by Quatre Bras, and to the point of junction of that road with the one from Charleroi, by Fleurus. These Heights are bounded upon the south-west and western sides, or right of the position, by a ravine, through which winds a small rivulet along the Villages of Wagnelé, St Amand la Haye, and St Amand, near the lower end of which last, it unites with the greater rivulet of the Ligny; and, along the whole of the south side, or front of the position, by a valley, through which flows the Ligny, and in which lie, partly bordering the stream itself, and partly covering the declivities, the Villages of Ligny, Mont Potriaux, Tongrenelles, Boignée, Balatre, and Vilrets. At the last named point, another small rivulet falls into the Ligny on quitting a deep ravine, which commences northward of the[Pg 201] Village of Botey, and thus tends to the security of the extreme Left of the position. The extreme Right, however, resting upon the Namur road, in the direction of Quatre Bras, was completely en l'air. The Heights in rear of St Amand, Ligny, and Sombref, are somewhat lower than those on the opposite or Fleurus side of the valley; and, from the nature of the ground, troops, particularly Artillery, are more exposed on the former than on the latter, where the undulations afford better cover. The descent from either side into the Villages of Wagnelé, St Amand la Haye, and St Amand, is gentle: between the latter point and Mont Potriaux the sides of the valley descend more rapidly: and below that Village they become steep, particularly about Tongrines, Boignée, and Balatre: while the ground above commands alternately from side to side. Above Mont Potriaux, the bed of the valley is soft, and occasionally swampy: below that point it partakes still more of this character. The buildings in the Villages are generally of stone, with thatched roofs, and comprise several farm houses with courtyards, presenting great capabilities for defence. St Amand and Boignée are the most salient points of the position, the central portion of which retires considerably, particularly near Mont Potriaux.

In the morning of the 16th, the First Corps (Zieten's) occupied that portion of the position which is circumscribed by the Villages of Bry, St Amand la Haye, St Amand, and Ligny. The four Brigades of this Corps had been very much mixed up together when occupying these Villages during the night, which will account in some measure for the promiscuous manner in which their several Battalions appear to have been distributed during the Battle. The main body of the Corps was drawn up on the Height between Bry and Ligny, and upon which stands the Farm and Windmill of Bussy,[Pg 202] the highest point of the whole position. Seven Battalions of the Second Brigade (General Pirch II.) were formed immediately in rear of this Farm; the 28th Regiment and 2nd Westphalian Landwehr in the First, and the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 6th Regiment in the Second, Line; while the 3rd Battalion of the latter Regiment occupied the Farm itself, which was put into a state of defence. Two Battalions of the Fourth Brigade (General Count Henkel), namely, the 2nd Battalions of the 19th Regiment and of the 4th Westphalian Landwehr, stood on the slope between the Second Brigade and Ligny; while the remaining four Battalions of the Brigade—the 1st and 3rd of the 19th Regiment, and the 1st and 3rd of the 4th Westphalian Landwehr—were charged with the defence of Ligny. The Village of Bry was occupied by the 3rd Battalions of the 12th and 24th Regiments, belonging to the First Brigade (General Steinmetz); and the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Westphalian Landwehr was posted in rear of the Village in support. The 1st and 3rd Companies of the Silesian Rifles, attached to this Brigade, were distributed about the intersected ground between Bry and St Amand la Haye. The remainder of the First Brigade was posted on the Height in the rear of St Amand, its Right resting on St Amand la Haye; the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 12th Regiment on the right, and the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 24th Regiment on the left, forming a First, and the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 1st Westphalian Landwehr forming a Second, Line. The defence of St Amand was confided to three Battalions of the Third Brigade (General Jagow)—the 1st and 2nd of the 29th Regiment, and the 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Westphalian Landwehr. The remaining six Battalions of this Brigade were posted in reserve northward of Ligny, and near the Bois du Loup. The 2nd[Pg 203] and 4th Companies of the Silesian Rifles were thrown into Ligny. The Reserve Cavalry of Zieten's Corps continued in advance, upon the Fleurus high road, watching the movements of the Enemy.

It was eight o'clock when these dispositions were completed; and about eleven o'clock, Pirch's Corps, which more than an hour before had quitted its bivouac near Mazy, was formed up in reserve to Zieten. The Fifth Brigade (General Tippelskirchen) stood across the high road, near its intersection with the old Roman road, in the customary Prussian Brigade order of three lines of Columns of Battalions at deploying intervals, and had in its front the two Batteries, Nos. 10 and 37. The Sixth Brigade (General Krafft) was posted in similar order in the rear of the Farm of Bussy, and in left rear of Bry. The Seventh Brigade (General Brause) stood more to the left: it had only the 14th Regiment then present, for the 22nd Regiment and the Elbe Landwehr did not rejoin it until one o'clock in the afternoon. The Eighth Brigade (Colonel Langen) was ordered to remain upon the high road leading from Sombref to Fleurus, until the arrival of the Third Corps (Thielemann's). One of its Battalions—the 3rd of the 21st Regiment—as also two Squadrons of the Neumark Dragoons attached to this Corps, had been left in the line of Outposts beyond the Meuse, towards Philippeville; and did not rejoin it until the 20th of June.

The Reserve Cavalry of Pirch's Corps, under General Jürgass, was stationed in rear of the high road, and on the west side of Sombref.

The twelve pounder Batteries, Nos. 4 and 8, and the Horse Batteries, Nos. 5 and 18, remained in reserve, near Sombref.

[Pg 204]

Thielemann's Corps, which had quitted Namur about seven o'clock in the morning, had reached Sombref before twelve. It was immediately assigned its position in that part of the Field which lies between Sombref and Balatre, and was posted in Columns upon both high roads, here to remain available for either a movement to the right, or for the occupation of the position in Left Front of Sombref, along the Heights in rear of the Ligny rivulet.

Such were the dispositions made by Blücher previously to Napoleon's advancing from Fleurus. The occupation of Ligny and St Amand—the most salient part of the position—by Zieten's Corps, and the posting of the Reserve Cavalry of the latter in the intervening space between those Villages and Fleurus, were justly calculated to secure for the Prussian Commander ample time for further developing his Line of Battle in such a manner as the direction and mode of his opponent's attack might render most expedient.

In the morning of the 16th, the French troops which lay along the Sambre, and which belonged to that main portion of the Army which was more immediately under the orders and guidance of Napoleon, quitted their bivouacs, and marched to join their leading Columns, the position of which in front of Fleurus was described in the Fourth Chapter.

It was past ten o'clock when these troops debouched in two Columns from the Fleurus Wood—the one along the High road, the other more to the right—and drew up in two lines within a short distance of Fleurus. In the First Line Pajol's Light, and Excelmans' Heavy, Cavalry, formed the Right, and Vandamme's Corps, the Left, Wing; while Gérard's Corps which had not received the Order to march until half past nine o'clock, arrived much later, and occupied the Centre. Girard's Division was detached some little[Pg 205] distance on the extreme Left. The Imperial Guard and Milhaud's Corps of Cuirassiers constituted the Second Line. More than an hour was passed in this position before the arrival of the Emperor, who then rode along the line of Vedettes, and reconnoitred the Enemy's dispositions.

It appeared to Napoleon that Blücher had taken up a position perpendicular to the Namur road, and had, in this way, completely exposed his Right Flank; whence he inferred that the Prince placed great reliance upon the arrival of auxiliary forces from the Duke of Wellington's Army.

A single glance at the Prussian position, as it has been described, will suffice to prove that the French Emperor was in error as regarded Blücher's assumed Line of Battle, and that so far from its having been perpendicular to, it was, in the general military acceptation of the term, parallel with, the Namur road. At the same time it is proper to remark, that he may have been misled by the massing of the Prussian troops between the salient point of the position, St Amand, and the road in question, as well as by the direction of the line of the occupied Villages of St Amand, Ligny, and Sombref. It must also be acknowledged that although the inference was incorrectly drawn, it accorded in substance with the real fact, that Blücher did rely upon the arrival of a portion of Wellington's forces by the Namur road from Quatre Bras.

Napoleon having returned from his reconnaissance, immediately gave his Orders for the advance of the Army, and for the disposition of each individual Corps in his intended Line of Battle.

Impressed with the important advantage which, according to his assumed view of Blücher's position, might accrue from a vigorous and well timed attack upon the Right and Rear of the Prussians, while vigorously assailing them[Pg 206] himself in their Front, he directed Soult to address to Ney the despatch, dated two o'clock, to which reference was made in the preceding Chapter, acquainting the Marshal that in half an hour thence he proposed attacking Blücher, posted between Sombref and Bry, and desiring that he would, on his part, also attack whatever might be in his front, and that after having vigorously repulsed the Enemy, he should move towards the Emperor's Field of Battle, and fall upon the Right and Rear of the Prussians; adding, at the same time, that should the Emperor be first successful, he would then move to the support of the Army at Quatre Bras.

The French Light Troops moved forward against Fleurus, of which place they gained possession between eleven and twelve o'clock, and then opened from their Light Artillery a cannonade upon the Prussian Cavalry Posts taken up by the 6th Uhlans. The latter immediately retired, and formed upon the left of the Brandenburg Dragoons, which Regiment had been placed in front of the Tombe de Ligny, along with the Horse Battery No. 2, in support. The Brandenburg Uhlans were also in support, but more to the rear, and on the left of the high road.

At this time, Napoleon was on the Height of Fleurus, again reconnoitring the Prussian position; and it was also about the same period that Wellington joined Blücher in person near the Mill of Bussy.

As soon as Röder perceived the imposing array of the French Columns in full advance, he ordered the immediate retreat of his Cavalry, which he covered with the 6th Uhlans and the Brandenburg Dragoons, together with two pieces of Horse Artillery. He sent the main body, which he had stationed in a hollow, in rear of the Tombe de Ligny, as also the remainder of the Artillery, across the[Pg 207] Ligny, with directions to take post between the Village of that name and Sombref. He himself continued with the above two Regiments, and the two guns, near the Tombe de Ligny, until he received Orders also to retire.

In the mean time, the main body of the French Army advanced in great regularity in Columns of Corps. The Left Column, consisting of the Third Corps d'Armée under Vandamme, to which was attached the Infantry Division under Lieutenant General Girard belonging to Reille's Corps (then with Ney), being destined to advance against St Amand, the most salient point of the Prussian position, and therefore having the shortest distance to pass over, was the first to take up its ground, preparatory to attack. Whilst thus engaged in making its preliminary dispositions for this purpose, it was cannonaded by the Prussian Batteries posted on the Heights in rear of the Village. Girard's Division took post on the left of Vandamme's Corps, and Domon's Light Cavalry Division on the left of Girard.

The Centre Column, consisting of the Fourth Corps d'Armée, under Gérard, advanced along the Fleurus high road, and took up, somewhat later, a position upon the Heights fronting Ligny, and parallel to the general direction of that Village; its Left being near the Tombe de Ligny, and its Right resting on an eminence southward of Mont Potriaux.

The Right Column, under Grouchy, comprising the Cavalry Corps of Pajol and Excelmans, moved by its right, and took post, as did also the Light Cavalry Division under Lieutenant General Maurin, belonging to the Fourth Corps d'Armée, on the right of Gérard, and showing front towards the Villages of Tongrines, Tongrenelle, Boignée, and Balatre.[Pg 208] Grouchy disposed this Cavalry so as to protect Gérard from any attempt which the Prussians might make to debouch in his rear from Mont Potriaux or Tongrenelle; as also to watch any hostile movements on their Left, and to divert their attention from the Centre. Pajol's Corps, which was formed on the Right, detached along the cross road which leads to Namur. The Villages of Boignée and Balatre being situated on the French side of the valley, and occupied by Prussian Infantry, Grouchy was supplied with two Battalions from Gérard's Corps. The 1st and 2nd Squadrons of the 3rd Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry belonging to Thielemann's Corps, which had been posted in advance, upon the Fleurus road, retired skirmishing until they reached the barrier at the Bridge, whither they were pursued by the French Cavalry. Here, however, the latter were checked and driven off by the 3rd Battalion of the 4th Kurmark Landwehr, belonging to Colonel Luck's Brigade.

The Imperial Guard and Milhaud's Cuirassiers were halted in reserve, the former on the left, and the latter on the right, of Fleurus.

The numerical strength of the French Emperor's forces prepared to engage with the Prussian Army amounted to:—

Infantry, 43,412
Cavalry, 12,614
Artillery, 6,856
Total, 62,882 men, with 204 guns.

If to this we add Lobau's Corps, which was on the march from Charleroi, the total amount of available force was:—

[Pg 209]

Infantry, 51,564
Cavalry, 12,614
Artillery, 7,788
Total, 71,966 men, with 242 guns.

The Prussian Army in the Field amounted to:—

Infantry, 73,040
Cavalry, 8,150
Artillery, 3,437
Deduct loss of first Corps on 15th June, 1,200
Total, 83,417, with 224 guns.

As soon as the direction of the Enemy's movements for attack became sufficiently manifest, Blücher made such further disposition of his force as appeared to him requisite to meet that attack.

He ordered the Batteries of the First Corps d'Armée (Zieten's) to be suitably posted for impeding the Enemy's advance. The three Heavy Batteries of the Corps were immediately drawn up on the Height between Ligny and St Amand. They were supported by the Battery of the First Brigade, posted in rear of St Amand. Somewhat later, when the direction of attack by Gérard's Corps became more developed, the Battery of the Third Brigade was placed on the right of Ligny, near a quarry, and the Battery of the Fourth Brigade on the left of the Village, upon the declivity descending to the rivulet. The Battery of the Second Brigade, the Foot Battery No. 1, and the Horse Battery No. 10, remained in reserve. Of the remaining Horse Batteries of the Corps, one continued with the Cavalry under General Röder (which was posted in a[Pg 210] hollow, as before stated, between Ligny and Sombref), and the other was with the 1st Silesian Hussars, which Regiment had been detached in observation on the Right Flank of the Army, and posted between the northern extremity of the village of Wagnelé and a large pond contiguous to the old Roman road.

By the time the action commenced in front of St Amand and Ligny—half past two o'clock—Blücher was satisfied that no necessity existed for any movement of his Third Corps d'Armée to the right; and he therefore ordered it to proceed from the position it had hitherto held in Columns upon the two high roads near Sombref, and form the Left Wing of his line of battle; resting its Right upon Sombref, and occupying the Heights, at the foot and on the declivities of which are situated the Villages of Mont Potriaux, Tongrines, Tongrenelle, Boignée, Balatre, Vilrets, and Botey.

The Ninth Brigade (General Borke) was formed in Brigade order in rear of Sombref and northward of the Namur high road, having detached one of its Battalions (the 3rd of the 8th Regiment) with the Foot Battery No. 18, to Mont Potriaux, where the former posted itself on the north, and the latter took up a favourable position on the south, side of the Church. The Eleventh Brigade (Colonel Luck) with the twelve pounder Battery No. 7, stood across the Fleurus high road, in front of the junction of the latter with the Namur road upon the Height of Le Point du Jour, having detached the 3rd Battalion of the 4th Kurmark Landwehr into the valley, where it occupied the houses in its immediate vicinity. Four Battalions of the Tenth Brigade (Colonel Kämpfen) were drawn up on the Height of Tongrines, resting their Right on this Village, and having in their front the Foot Battery No. 35, and at a[Pg 211] short distance from their Left, the Horse Battery No. 18. The remaining two Battalions of the Brigade were detached, the 3rd Battalion of the 27th Regiment, to occupy Tongrines and the Castle of Tongrenelle, and the 3rd Battalion of the 2nd Kurmark Landwehr, to hold the Villages of Boignée and Balatre. The 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Kurmark Landwehr, belonging to the Brigade, as also two Squadrons of the 6th Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry, and two Squadrons of the 9th Hussars, attached to this Corps, still continued in the line of Outposts in the vicinity of Dinant, to observe Givet; and rejoined on the morning of the 17th of June. The Twelfth Brigade (Colonel Stülpnagel) with the Horse Battery No. 20, was formed in Brigade order, in reserve, near the Windmill, on the Height of Le Point du Jour. The Reserve Cavalry of this Corps, with the Horse Battery No. 19, was posted on the extreme Left of the position between Botey and Vilrets, whence it detached the 3rd Squadron of the 7th Uhlans to Onoz, in observation.

This position and the order of battle which was thus developed, were well calculated to answer the object which Blücher had in view, namely, to hold his ground long enough to gain sufficient time for the arrival of at least a portion of Wellington's forces, expected to join the Prussian extreme Right by the Namur road; as also, perhaps, for the arrival and co-operation of Bülow's Corps, in rear of Thielemann, by the Gembloux road. In either of these cases, if not previously favoured by the circumstances of the general battle about to take place, such a marked accession to his strength would enable him to assume the offensive; whilst, in the first mentioned, Wellington would effectually prevent a junction between Napoleon's and Ney's forces.

[Pg 212]

The position had been long before selected, and the whole of the ground had even been surveyed, with a view to meet the contingency which had now actually occurred; but then it must be remembered, that in this design the co-operation of the Fourth Corps d'Armée was fully contemplated, whereas the latter had now become a doubtful question: and hence it was that Blücher was led to place more reliance upon a direct support from Wellington, than would otherwise have been the case.

To accept a battle, notwithstanding the absence of Bülow's Corps, was undoubtedly the wisest course. The Enemy's force in the field did not appear to exceed that of the Prussians; and therefore, considering the nature of the position, the contest would, in all probability, become protracted, perhaps until the arrival of Bülow; perhaps, also, until the close of day, without any distinct advantage being gained by either party. In the former case, the required preponderance might instantly give a decidedly favourable turn to the scale; in the latter, the junction of the Fourth Corps during the night would enable Blücher on the following morning to attack his opponent with every prospect of success, and either to relieve Wellington, if necessary, from any pressure in his front, or so to combine his further operations with those of the British Commander, should the latter have held his ground and concentrated his Army, as to lead to the complete overthrow of both Napoleon's and Ney's forces.

To have declined the contest, and retired so as to effect a junction with his Fourth Corps, he must still, if he wished to act in close concert with Wellington, have abandoned his direct communication with the Meuse and the Rhine, whence he drew all his supplies; a result which might as well be trusted to the chances of a battle.

[Pg 213]

These considerations were also, in all probability, strongly seconded by a desire on the part of the Prussian Commander, and one perfectly in keeping with his ardent character, to take every possible measure which was at all warranted by the actual posture of affairs, for vigorously opposing Napoleon's advance.

In a tactical point of view, the position was undoubtedly defective. Nearly the entire of the ground situated between the line of Villages of Ligny, St Amand, and Wagnelé, and the great Namur road, was exposed to the view of the Enemy; and as there was every probability of a protracted village fight along the front of the position, the Supports and Reserves required to maintain a contest of that nature, would necessarily be subjected to the full play of the Batteries on the opposite heights. Upon the space above mentioned every movement could be detected from the French side; where, on the contrary, the undulations were such as to admit of the concealment of the disposition of considerable masses of troops. The defect in this respect was subsequently made strikingly manifest by the fact that the gradual weakening of the Prussian Centre for the purpose of reinforcing the Right, was closely observed by Napoleon, who took advantage of the insight thus obtained into his opponent's designs, by collecting in rear of the Heights of Ligny that force with which, when he saw that the Prussians had no Reserve remaining, he so suddenly assailed and broke the Centre of their line.

Napoleon's dispositions having been completed, the Battle commenced, about half past two o'clock, with an attack upon the Village of St Amand, by Lieutenant General Lefol's Division of Vandamme's Corps. The attack, which was made in three Columns, proved successful; the three[Pg 214] Battalions of the 29th Prussian Regiment which defended it, were compelled, after a stout resistance, to yield to greatly superior numbers, and were driven out of the Village. General Steinmetz, whose Brigade was posted in rear of St Amand, pushed forward all the Sharpshooters of the 12th and 24th Regiments to their support.

These, however, being unable to make head against the Enemy, who already made a disposition to debouch from the village, the 12th and 24th Regiments were led forward to renew the contest. In the mean time, just as the French appeared at the outlet of the Village, a shower of grape and canister was poured right down amongst them from the Foot Battery No. 7. Immediately upon this, both Battalions of the 12th Regiment descended into the ravine, rushed upon the inclosures, and, driving the Enemy's shattered Infantry before them, regained possession of the Village. The 24th Regiment advancing by Wings of Battalions—the one in line and the other in column of reserve respectively—supported this attack upon the left, and established itself in the lower part of St Amand.

In the course of this short prelude, the Batteries ranged along the little eminences which rose on either side of the valley of the Ligny, opened a furious cannonade along the whole extent of the Front Lines of the contending Armies. Ligny, as also St Amand (when repossessed by the Prussians), both of which lay so directly under the French guns, seemed devoted to destruction. Their defenders, sheltered in a great degree by stone walls, hollow ways, and banked up hedges, appeared perfectly motionless while the deluge of shot and shell poured fast and thick around them; but no sooner did those in Ligny discover a dusky mass emerging from the clouds of smoke which enveloped the Heights above them, and wending its course downwards upon the[Pg 215] lower portion of the Village, than they rushed out of their concealment, and lining with their advanced Skirmishers the outermost inclosures, prepared to meet the onset which would probably bring them into closer contact with their Enemies, and lead to a struggle in which physical strength and innate courage, combined with individual skill and dexterity, might effect a result unattainable by a recourse to projectiles alone. It was the 2nd Battalion of the 19th Prussian Regiment, which, issuing from its cover, where it had stood in column, rapidly deployed, and, by a well directed volley, shook the advancing mass, which it then threw into disorder by following up this advantage with a well sustained fire.

Twice was this attack repeated on the part of Gérard's troops, but with a similar result. A second Column now advanced against the centre of the Village, and shortly afterwards a third was launched against the upper part of it, near the old Castle; but their attempts to penetrate within its precincts proved equally futile, and the four Prussian Battalions of Henkel's Brigade gallantly maintained the post of Ligny. As the French Column withdrew, their Batteries played with redoubled energy upon the Village, and fresh Columns prepared for another assault.

The troops of Vandamme's Corps renewed the attack upon St Amand with the utmost vigour; and forcing back the 12th and 24th Prussian Regiments, which suffered most severely, penetrated into the Village, where the fight became obstinate, and the fire most destructive. Steinmetz had only two more Battalions of his Brigade remaining at his disposal—the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 1st Westphalian Landwehr—and these he pushed forward into the Village, to restore confidence to the defenders, whose numbers were so fearfully reduced, and, if possible, to stem[Pg 216] the progress of the assailants. They had scarcely got fairly into action, however, when their Commanding Officers were wounded, and both Battalions gave way before the furious onset of the French, the 3rd Battalion leaving numbers of its men killed, along the outlets of the Village. The whole Brigade, which, within a short period, had suffered a loss of 46 Officers and 2,300 men, having rallied in rear of St Amand, retired into position between Bry and Sombref, and the three Battalions which had first occupied the Village, marched to rejoin the Third Brigade; whilst the loud shouts of "Vive l'Empereur!" which immediately followed the cessation of the sharp rattle of the musketry, heard even amidst the incessant thunder of the Artillery, proclaimed the triumph of the French Infantry.

In the meantime, another assault was made upon Ligny, whose defenders had been reinforced by the two remaining Battalions of Henkel's Brigade. The French now changed their mode of attack. They advanced simultaneously against the centre with the view of gaining the Churchyard, and against the lower end of the Village in order to turn the Left Flank of the defenders; and taking advantage of the unusually great height of the corn, their line of Skirmishers, strengthened by whole Battalions so as to give it a decided superiority over that of the Prussians, approached so cautiously and silently as to continue unperceived until they suddenly possessed themselves of the outermost hedges and gardens. A hand to hand contest ensued, and the Prussians, pressed in front by superior numbers, and taken in flank at the same time, were forced to yield. Presently, however, stimulated by the combined exertions of the Commanding Officers, Majors Count Gröben, Kuylenstierna, and Rex, they recovered themselves, rallied, and again faced their Enemies.

[Pg 217]

The Battle, on this part of the Field, now presented an awfully grand and animating spectacle, and the hopes of both parties were raised to the highest state of excitement. Intermingled with the quick but irregular discharge of small arms throughout the whole extent of the Village, came forth alternately the cheering "En avant!" and exulting "Vive l'Empereur!" as also the emphatic "Vorwärts!" and the wild "Hourrah!" whilst the Batteries along the Heights, continuing their terrific roar, plunged destruction into the masses seen descending on either side to join in the desperate struggle in the valley, out of which there now arose, from the old Castle of Ligny, volumes of dark thick smoke, succeeded by brilliant flames, imparting additional sublimity to the scene.

The Prussians gradually gained ground, and then pressing forward upon all points of the Village, succeeded in clearing it of the French; who, in retreating, abandoned two guns which had been moved close down to the principal outlet on that side. General Jagow's Brigade (the Third) had made a change of front to its left, and approached the Village; the 3rd Battalions of both the 7th and 29th Regiments had been detached to the right, to protect the Foot Batteries Nos. 3 and 8, and to remain in reserve; the four remaining Battalions descended into the Village as a reinforcement.

Beyond an occasional cannonading, the action on the eastern side of the Field, between the Corps of Grouchy and of Thielemann, was comparatively languid: being limited to a contest, varied in its results, for the possession of the village of Bognée, and subsequently, of those houses of Tongrines which were situated along the bottom of the valley; as also to some skilful manœuvring on the part of Grouchy with his Cavalry, with a view of menacing the Prussian Left.

[Pg 218]

In the mean time, the French maintained possession of St Amand, but Zieten's twelve pounder Batteries, which were now moved forward, presented a formidable obstruction to their debouching from that Village.

Napoleon directed General Girard, on the extreme Left, to take possession, with his Division, of St Amand la Haye; and this operation having been successfully accomplished, gave the French the advantage of outflanking from thence any attack upon St Amand itself.

Blücher ordered General Pirch II. to retake this Village; whereupon the latter advanced with his Brigade from the Height of Bry, and withdrew the 1st Battalion of the 6th Regiment from the Windmill of Bussy, which was then occupied by the 2nd Battalion of the 23rd Regiment (Eighth Brigade), and near to which the 1st Westphalian Landwehr Cavalry remained during the whole of the action.

At the same time, the Prussian Chief, fully sensible of the very critical position in which he would be placed, were the French, following up the advantages they had already gained upon his right, to debouch from St Amand and St Amand la Haye in sufficient force to overpower Zieten's Corps, and thus cut off his communication with Wellington; he decided upon occupying the Village of Wagnelé, whence repeated attacks might be directed against the Enemy's Left Flank; and, with this view, he desired General Pirch I., who commanded the Second Corps, to detach the Fifth Brigade (General Tippelskirchen's) to the latter Village, and to place it under the orders of General Jürgass, who was also sent to that part of the Field, with Lieutenant Colonel Sohr's Brigade of Cavalry (consisting of the 3rd Brandenburg, and 5th Pomeranian, Hussars), together with two Squadrons of the 6th Neumark Dragoons,[Pg 219] and the Horse Battery No. 6. Colonel Marwitz, of Thielemann's Corps, was also ordered to join these troops with two Regiments of his Brigade, the 7th and 8th Uhlans. The Brigade of General Brause (the Seventh), which had been rejoined by detached Battalions, was pushed forward as far as the Roman road, to occupy the position vacated by the advance of General Tippelskirchen's Brigade, to which it was to act as a Support in case of necessity.

It was four o'clock when General Pirch II. who had formed his Brigade for the attack of St Amand la Haye, having his Left Flank protected by the 12th Regiment, which had reassembled in rear of St Amand, moved his Front Line against the former Village. As it advanced, however, its ranks were dreadfully shattered by the fire from the French Artillery, nor were they less thinned by that of the musketry as they entered the Village; and such was the determined resistance on the part of the French, that they were unable to penetrate beyond the centre of the Village; and though reinforced by the 1st Battalion of the 6th Regiment, from the Second Line, they found it quite impracticable to drive the Enemy out of a Large Building which was surrounded by a stone wall, and which formed the point of connection between the two Villages. The Prussians having got into great disorder, and being closely pressed by the French, were compelled to abandon the Village, in order to collect their scattered remnants, and to reform. General Girard, whose Division had, under his own immediate guidance, so gallantly maintained the Village, fell mortally wounded on this occasion.

Blücher now decided on a renewed attack upon St Amand la Haye, in order to occupy the front of Girard's Division, while he should carry into effect his previously projected movement against the Enemy's Left Flank; and,[Pg 220] anxious to ensure the due execution of his instructions and to direct the attacks himself, he repaired in person to this part of the Field. General Tippelskirchen's Brigade, having advanced along the Roman road, was already formed in Brigade order, in rear of Wagnelé, while Jürgass had posted his Cavalry more to the left, and opposite to the interval between that Village and St Amand la Haye, whence he could with considerable advantage fall upon the Enemy, should the latter venture to debouch in that direction.

These movements did not escape the watchful eye of Napoleon, who detached a Division of the Young Guard and a Battery of the same Corps in support of his Left Wing, as also General Colbert's Brigade of Lancers from Count Pajol's Corps, to reinforce the Cavalry on the Left, and to preserve the communication with Ney.

When all was ready for the attack, Blücher, who felt how much depended on its result, galloped up to the leading Battalions, and thus earnestly and impassionately ordered the advance:—"Now, lads, behave well! don't suffer the Grande Nation again to rule over you! Forward! In God's name—forward!" Instantly his devoted followers rent the air with their re-echoing shouts of "Vorwärts!"

Nothing could surpass the undaunted resolution and intrepid mien which Pirch's Battalions displayed as they advanced against, and entered, St Amand la Haye, at a charging pace; they completely swept the Enemy before them; while Major Quadt, who commanded the 28th Regiment, supported by some Detachments of the 2nd Regiment (from Tippelskirchen's Brigade) gained possession of the great building. The 1st Battalion of the 6th Regiment, after having forced its way right across the Village, sallied forth from the opposite side, in pursuit of the Enemy, with a degree of impetuosity which its Officers had the utmost difficulty in restraining, while numbers of the[Pg 221] men were on the point of plunging into the very midst of the French Reserves. The Cavalry on the right of the Village seemed to have caught up the intrepid spirit and enthusiastic devotion of the Infantry; and, as if impatient to join in the struggle, a Squadron of the Brandenburg Uhlans supported the attack of the Village by a charge upon the Enemy's Cavalry: after which, the remainder of this Regiment, with the 1st Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry, advanced under General Treskow, into the plain on the left of the Village, of which the whole contour now bristled with the bayonets of the 46th Regiment, while the 28th Regiment held the Post of the Great Building, which it had so gallantly carried, and the 2nd Westphalian Landwehr stood in Second Line, as a Reserve.

So completely absorbed was the attention of the twelve pounder Battery No. 6, which stood in a somewhat isolated position, by the contest in St Amand la Haye, which it covered by its fire, that it had not noticed the stealthy advance of a Troop of the Enemy's horsemen, wearing the uniform of the Light Artillery of the Guard, and most unexpectedly found itself attacked in flank by these bold adventurers. This give rise to a curious scene, for the Prussian Gunners, in the first moment of surprise, could only defend themselves with their rammers and handspikes; but with these they plied the intruders with so much adroitness and resolution as to hurl their leaders to the ground, and force the remainder to betake themselves to a hasty flight.

Prince Blücher had, in the meantime, on perceiving Colbert's French Lancers hovering upon, and stretching out beyond, his extreme Right, ordered General Pirch to detach two more Cavalry Regiments—the Queen's Dragoons and the 4th Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry—as a reinforcement to the Cavalry of Zieten's Corps.

[Pg 222]

The nearly simultaneous attack upon Wagnelé by Tippelskirchen's Brigade, previously mentioned as having taken post in rear of that Village, was not attended with an equal degree of success. The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 25th Regiment advanced in Column through the centre of Wagnelé; but on debouching, the 2nd Battalion, which led the advance, was suddenly assailed by a fire from the French Skirmishers who lay concealed in the high corn. Although its order was thus considerably disturbed; it succeeded, nevertheless, in effecting its deployment. The 1st Battalion also deployed, but, in doing so, its Left Wing covered the right of the 2nd Battalion; and while executing a second movement, intended to clear the front of the latter, the French Battalions pressing forward, drove in the Prussian Skirmishers upon the Regiment, which consisted mostly of young soldiers; when, notwithstanding the conspicuously meritorious exertions of all their Officers, they were overthrown and dispersed in such a manner that it became impracticable to lead them back into action in any other way than by separate Detachments. The 3rd Battalion of this Regiment shared nearly the same fate; for, having plunged into the high corn, it received a volley which disordered its ranks, and killed its three senior Officers; and although it maintained for some time a fire in return, it was eventually compelled to retire, as were also the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 5th Westphalian Landwehr, under precisely similar circumstances. The Brigade was reformed, under the protection of the 2nd Prussian Regiment, which now advanced from the Reserve, boldly encountered the Enemy, and aided by the efficacious fire of the Foot Battery No. 10, stemmed the further progress of the French, and thus gained time for the remaining Battalions to reform in rear of Wagnelé. Upon the advance, however, of a French[Pg 223] Column towards its Left Flank, it fell back as far as the entrance into the Village.

The French now renewed their attacks upon St Amand la Haye, and made their appearance simultaneously in front and in both flanks of that Village. The fight again became desperate. Pirch's Brigade had, however, exhausted both its ammunition and its strength, when Blücher pushed forward the 3rd Battalion of the 23rd Regiment (from the Eighth Brigade—Colonel Langen's), and soon afterwards the 3rd Battalion of the 9th Regiment, together with the whole of the 26th Regiment (from the Sixth Brigade—General Krafft's); whereupon General Pirch withdrew his Battalions, which had suffered so severely, to the rear of Bry. The Foot Battery No. 3, belonging to Pirch's Brigade, had at an earlier period moved to its left, and had taken up a position near the quarries on the right of Ligny, by the side of the Foot Battery No. 8, of Jagow's Brigade.

While the struggle in the Villages in front of the Right of the Prussian position continue to wear an indecisive and unsettled aspect; let us return for a moment to Ligny, which we left in possession of Count Henkel's Fourth Prussian Brigade, supported by the Third Brigade under General Jagow.

The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 7th Regiment (of Jagow's Brigade) were ordered to traverse the Village, and to advance in column against the Enemy. Just as they debouched, they found in their immediate front, several French Battalions, in Close Column, moving directly against the village. Both parties at once came to a halt; the Prussians without being able to deploy in the defile, and the French without attempting to do so, probably unwilling[Pg 224] to lose the time which such a movement would require. A fire of musketry commenced which lasted half an hour, and caused much loss. Other Battalions now hastened across the village, but all at once, a rumour flew rapidly among them, that the French were in possession of the Churchyard, and in a moment several muskets were aimed in that direction, and either thoughtlessly or nervously discharged. Those Battalions that were in front, at the outlet of the village, became alarmed by this unexpected firing in their rear. At the same time, a discharge of grape, from some guns suddenly brought forward by the French, in their immediate front, augmented their confusion, and forced them to a retreat. They were closely pursued by the Enemy, whose Skirmishers made a dash at the Colour of the 2nd Battalion of the 7th Regiment, which they would have captured but for the noble and determined gallantry with which it was defended.

General Krafft, from whose Brigade (the Sixth) five Battalions had already been detached, namely, four for the defence of St Amand la Haye, and one in aid of that of Ligny, now received Blücher's Order with his remaining four Battalions (the 1st and 2nd of the 9th, and the 1st and 3rd of the 1st Elbe Landwehr), to drive the Enemy out of the latter Village. The Foot Battery No. 15, was posted between the left of Ligny and the Bois du Loup, and the Foot Battery No. 37, was directed towards St Amand. The other Batteries posted between Ligny and St Amand received Orders to retire accordingly as they expended their ammunition, for the purpose of refitting; and they were successively relieved by the Foot Battery No. 1, the Horse Battery No. 10, and the twelve pounder Batteries Nos. 4 and 8. The Horse Battery No. 14 was advanced across the stream between[Pg 225] Ligny and Sombref, and took post on the other side of the valley, where it was much exposed to the Enemy's fire, and lost 19 Gunners and 53 horses.

General Krafft moved forward, in the first instance, only two Battalions, and kept the others in reserve; but all of them soon became engaged; for the French, though driven back at first, received considerable reinforcements.

The fight throughout the whole Village of Ligny was now at the hottest: the place was literally crammed with the combatants, and its streets and inclosures were choked up with the wounded, the dying, and the dead: every house that had escaped being set on fire, was the scene of a desperate struggle: the troops fought no longer in combined order, but in numerous and irregular groups, separated by houses either in flames, or held as little forts, sometimes by the one, and sometimes by the other party; and in various instances, when their ammunition failed, or when they found themselves suddenly assailed from different sides, the bayonet, and even the butt, supplied them with the ready means for prosecuting the dreadful carnage with unmitigated fury. The entire Village was concealed in smoke; but the incessant rattle of the musketry, the crashing of burning timbers, the smashing of doors and gateways, the yells and imprecations of the combatants, which were heard through that misty veil, gave ample indication to the troops posted in reserve upon the Heights, of the fierce and savage nature of the struggle beneath. In the meantime, the relieving Batteries on the Prussian side, which had arrived quite fresh from the rear, came into full play, as did also a reinforcement, on the French side, from the Artillery of the Imperial Guard. The earth now trembled under the tremendous cannonade; and as the flames, issuing from the numerous burning houses,[Pg 226] intermingled with dense volumes of smoke, shot directly upwards through the light grey mass which rendered the Village indistinguishable, and seemed continually to thicken, the scene resembled for a time some violent convulsion of nature, rather than a human conflict—as if the valley had been rent asunder, and Ligny had become the focus of a burning crater.

Long did this fierce and deadly strife continue without any material advance being made on either side. At length the French gained possession of a large House, as also of the Churchyard, into which they brought forward two pieces of cannon. General Jagow vainly endeavoured with the 7th Regiment to retake this House. The 1st Battalion of the 3rd Westphalian Landwehr displayed the most inflexible perseverance in its endeavours to drive the French out again from the Churchyard: it made three unsuccessful attempts to cross an intervening ditch, and subsequently tried to gain a hollow way, which lay in the flank of that post, but falling upon the French reinforcements that were advancing towards it, they were compelled to abandon the enterprise.

Fresh victims were still required to satiate the "King of Terrors," who might be said to hold a gala day in this "Valley of Death." Blücher had ordered Colonel Langen's Brigade (the Eighth) to follow in succession that of General Krafft. The position vacated by the former, in front of Sombref, was taken up by Colonel Stülpnagel's Brigade (the Twelfth) of Thielemann's Corps, and the chain of Skirmishers of the latter Brigade extended along the rivulet as far as Ligny. As soon as Colonel Langen had reached the immediate vicinity of Ligny, he posted the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 21st Regiment upon an eminence near the Village, and the Foot Battery No. 12, covered by two Squadrons of the 5th Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry, upon the left of the road leading to Ligny. The 21st Regiment made[Pg 227] no less than six different attacks, partly in conjunction with the other troops that fought in Ligny, and partly isolated, without succeeding in disturbing the position of the Enemy in that portion of the village which lies on the right bank of the Ligny. Colonel Langen, observing the increased fury and obstinacy of the fight in Ligny, detached thither also the 1st Battalion of the 23rd Regiment, and the 2nd of the 3rd Elbe Landwehr: he then took up a position, with the remainder of his Brigade, near the Mill of Bussy, into which he threw the 2nd Battalion of the 23rd Regiment. The 1st Battalion of this Corps, having formed two Columns, rushed into the Village, and, after crossing the stream, received a sharp fire from the windows of the houses on the opposite side. The Left Column of the Battalion stormed a farm house, of which, after it had burst in the gates with hatchets, it gained possession, and thus protected the advance of the Right Column.

At this moment, Napoleon's final and decisive attack commenced on this point; but previously to entering upon an account of it, it will be necessary to resume the narrative of the contest along the remainder of the Line of Battle.

On the Right, Tippelskirchen's Brigade (the Fifth) was ordered to renew the attack upon St Amand la Haye; and, as an auxiliary movement, a bold push was to be made upon the group of houses in rear of that village, and of Wagnelé, called the Hameau de St Amand. Both of the 3rd Battalions of the 2nd and 25th Regiments, under Major Witzleben, advanced against the latter point, while the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 2nd Regiment, the 3rd Battalion of the 5th Westphalian Landwehr, and a Battalion of the 25th Regiment made a direct attack upon St Amand la Haye. Both movements were supported by the Foot Batteries Nos. 10 and 37, and Colonel Thümen was detached, with the[Pg 228] Silesian Uhlans, and the 11th Hussars, to cover the Right of the Brigade: the 1st and 2nd Squadrons of the 5th Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry were posted in reserve. The 3rd Battalion of the 2nd Regiment opened the attack upon the Hameau de St Amand, and being well protected on their right by the 11th Hussars, carried it by storm. The French appeared determined to regain this point, which from its position, was, in fact, the key to the defence of the three Villages of St Amand, St Amand la Haye, and Wagnelé; and the struggle for its possession was most obstinate and sanguinary. All the Battalions of Tippelskirchen's Brigade became successively engaged. Four times was St Amand la Haye lost and retaken by the 2nd Regiment, which suffered severely. General Jürgass ordered forward the Horse Battery No. 6, on the right of which the Foot Battery No. 10 then took post. The Silesian Uhlans and the 11th Hussars suffered considerably from their exposure to the Enemy's Artillery. Colonel Thümen was killed at their head, by a cannon shot, and was succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel Schmiedeberg, who ordered both these Regiments to make a change of front to the right; when the Prussian Lancers dashed forward to meet the advance of a French Regiment, which they completely defeated, and having followed up the attack with a vigorous pursuit, fell all at once among the Enemy's Reserves; but they immediately recovered themselves, and rallied with great celerity, order, and precision.

About this time, the Light Cavalry Brigade of Colonel Marwitz, already mentioned as having been ordered from the Left, reached the Right Flank, and was formed up in two lines: also the four Battalions that had been detached from General Krafft's Brigade, arrived upon the right of St Amand la Haye, and came into action. The Battle on[Pg 229] both sides on this part of the Field continued to rage with unabated violence, and with such indefatigable ardour did the Prussians continue the struggle, that when the fire of their Infantry Skirmishers was observed to slacken, from the men having expended their ammunition, the soldiers of the 11th Hussars rushed into the midst of them, and supplied them with such cartridges as they had of their own; an act of devotion to which many of them fell a sacrifice. General Jürgass ordered forward the Brigade (Seventh) of General Brause in support of that of General Tippelskirchen, which had suffered a very severe loss. When General Brause had, at an earlier period, taken post at the Trois Burettes, upon Tippelskirchen advancing from that point to Wagnelé (as previously explained), he stationed both the 3rd Battalions of the 14th and 22nd Regiments upon an eminence on the left of the high road, for the purpose of keeping up the communication with Tippelskirchen; and he pushed on the other two Battalions of the 14th Regiment towards Bry, that they might be nearer at hand, if required, for the contest in the Villages of Wagnelé and St Amand la Haye, while the two Squadrons of the Elbe Landwehr Cavalry, attached to his Brigade, kept a look out upon both sides of the road. These two Battalions, thus posted, caught the eye of Blücher as he looked round for the nearest available force, and he immediately ordered them to advance, and join in the contest; and General Brause, on being made acquainted with this disposition, led forward the 3rd Battalions of the 14th and 22nd Regiments, and the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Elbe Landwehr, while the four remaining Battalions of his Brigade, making a change of front to their left, formed up, in reserve, in rear of the Namur road. On approaching the more immediate scene of the action, General[Pg 230] Brause came upon the 3rd Battalion of the 9th Regiment, which had expended all its ammunition: he procured for it a fresh supply, and ordered it to return into the Village, along with the 2nd Battalion of the 14th Regiment; while the 1st Battalion of this Regiment threw itself into St Amand la Haye, and relieved the 2nd Regiment, which now retired, as did also the remainder of Tippelskirchen's Brigade to the rear of Wagnelé, where it reformed.

Here, in these Villages on the Right, as well as at Ligny, the fight never slackened for a moment: fresh masses, from both sides, poured in among the burning houses as often as the fearfully diminished numbers and dreadfully exhausted state of the combatants rendered relief imperatively necessary; partial successes on different points were constantly met by corresponding reverses on others; and so equally were the courage, the energies, and the devotion of both parties balanced, that the struggle between them appeared, from its unabated vigour, likely to continue until the utter exhaustion of the one should yield the triumph to the greater command of Reserves possessed by the other.

The anxiety at that time on the part of Blücher for the arrival of either a portion of Wellington's forces, or Bülow's Corps, was extreme; and frequently, as he cheered forward his men in their advance to take part in the contest, did he address them with the exhortation, "Forward, lads! we must do something before the English join us!" In fact, his only Reserve remaining was the Ninth Brigade (General Borcke's), the withdrawal of which would greatly expose his Centre; and Napoleon, who had already entertained a suspicion that such was the case, resolved upon terminating the sanguinary combat in the valley, by boldly advancing a portion of his own intact Reserves, consisting of the Guard and Lobau's Corps (which had[Pg 231] just arrived and was posted on the right of Fleuras) against the Prussian Centre.

For the execution of his project the French Emperor destined the Imperial Guard, with Milhaud's Corps of Cuirassiers in support. He wished to conceal this movement as much as possible from the Enemy, and caused it to be made to the right, along the rear of the Corps of Gérard, a portion of whose Batteries were ordered to be withdrawn, for the purpose of affording greater protection to the Guard, by diverting the Enemy's fire to other points, and of deceiving him as to the real object of the movement, if observed previously to the actual execution of the Emperor's design.

This far-famed band of veteran warriors, and Milhaud's splendid Corps of mailed Cuirassiers, were in full march towards the lower extremity of Ligny, where they were to cross the stream, when, all at once, they were halted by an Order direct from the Emperor, who had decided upon suspending the movement, until he should ascertain the result of an incident that had occurred upon his extreme Left, and which had placed him for the time in considerable doubt and anxiety respecting its real nature.

He had received a message from Vandamme, informing him that a strong Column, composed of Infantry, Cavalry, and Artillery, was advancing towards Fleuras; that it had at first been looked upon as the Corps detached from Ney's forces, until it was discovered that it moved by a different road from that along which those troops had been expected, and in a direction towards the French Left Rear, instead of the Prussian extreme Right; that Girard's Division had been consequently induced to fall back, and take up a position to cover Fleurus; and that the effect produced upon his own[Pg 232] Corps by the sudden appearance of this Column was such, that if his Majesty did not immediately move his Reserve to arrest its progress, his troops would be compelled to evacuate St Amand and commence a retreat.

This intelligence could not fail to create alarm in the mind of the French Emperor, who concluded that the Corps in question had been detached against his Rear, as a diversion in favour of Blücher, from the Army of Wellington, who had probably obtained some signal triumph over Ney. Another Officer arrived from Vandamme, reiterating the account previously given. Napoleon instantly gave the Order for the halt of the Imperial Guard; and despatched one of his Aides de Camp to reconnoitre the strength and disposition of the Column, and to discover the object of its movement.

The commencement of the march of the Imperial Guard and Milhaud's Cuirassier Corps towards Ligny, had been conducted with so much skill, and the manœuvring of these troops at one point in their line of march to shelter themselves from the fire of the Prussian Batteries, to which they had become suddenly exposed, bore so much the appearance of a retrograde movement, accompanied as it was by the withdrawal of a portion of the guns of Gérard's Corps, that the Prussians were completely deceived by it. Intelligence was hastily conveyed to Blücher that the Enemy was retreating; whereupon he ordered the march of all the remaining disposable Battalions of Colonel Langen's Brigade (the Eighth) upon St Amand, to enable him to take advantage of the circumstance by pressing upon the Enemy's Left.

In the mean time, Colonel Marwitz had been menaced by the advance of a considerable line of Cavalry and a[Pg 233] Battery, which latter annoyed him but little. This Cavalry did not, however, seem much disposed to risk a close encounter: once it put forward a Detachment, which was overthrown by two Squadrons of the 7th and 8th Uhlans, and then a Regiment of French Chasseurs à Cheval fell upon the Skirmishers of the 2nd Regiment of Infantry, but was driven back by two Squadrons of the 5th Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry. Colonel Marwitz had been ordered by General Jürgass to send out Patrols in different directions from the Right Flank, for the purpose of seeking out the communication with the Duke of Wellington's forces. These brought in prisoners, from whom it was ascertained that a whole French Corps, the First, under Count d'Erlon, was in that vicinity.

Subsequently, French Cavalry were perceived between Mellet and Villers Perruin; whereupon Colonel Marwitz, who had been reinforced by two Squadrons of the Pomeranian Hussars, ordered a change of front of his Brigade in this direction, then deployed his eight Squadrons in two lines, with considerable intervals, and withdrew them, alternately, towards the high road; followed, though not vigorously, by three French Regiments of Cavalry and a Battery, comprising Jaquinot's Light Cavalry Brigade, attached to d'Erlon's Corps. As he approached the chaussée, the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 2nd Elbe Landwehr, as also the 3rd Battalion of the 22nd Regiment, advanced to his support.

Until about six o'clock the action along that part of the line which extended from Sombref to Balatre, had not been carried on with any degree of energy, and the occupation of the opposing forces was generally limited to mutual observation. Now, however, the French Infantry (of which only a small portion was attached to Grouchy's Cavalry), penetrated as far as the precincts of the Village of[Pg 234] Tongrines; but Colonel Kämpfen's Brigade (the Tenth), having been successively reinforced by all the Battalions of Colonel Luck's Brigade (the Eleventh) excepting one which was left in reserve, the French were easily repulsed, and the Prussians maintained full possession of all this portion of their original position.

It was about seven o'clock when the Aide de Camp returned from his reconnaissance, and reported to Napoleon that the Column in the distance which had caused so much uneasiness proved to be d'Erlon's Corps; that Girard's Division, upon being undeceived, had resumed its position in the Line of Battle; and that Vandamme's Corps had maintained its ground.

This movement of d'Erlon's Corps admits of being satisfactorily explained. Napoleon, having received information that d'Erlon had been left in reserve in front of Gosselies, and inferring, perhaps, from this circumstance that Ney was sufficiently strong to be able to hold his ground at Quatre Bras, without further aid than what he had at hand, resolved upon employing this Corps upon the Prussian Right Flank; but in the meantime, d'Erlon had, in pursuance of instructions from Ney, continued his march towards Quatre Bras; and having himself proceeded in advance, had reached Frasne, at which place Colonel Laurent found him, and communicated to him the Emperor's Order for the march of his Corps upon St Amand; adding that on coming up with the head of his Column, he had taken upon himself to change its direction of march into that of St Amand. D'Erlon hastened to comply with Napoleon's wishes, and despatched General d'Elcambre, his Chief of the Staff, to make known the movement to Marshal Ney.

[Pg 235]

His route from Frasne towards St Amand, the point prescribed by the Order, lay through Villers Perruin, and the movement was altogether one of a retrograde nature. Hence the direction of the Column, as seen in the distance, was well calculated to alarm the troops of the French extreme Left; as also to excite surprise in the mind of Napoleon, who having formed no expectation of the arrival of any French troops in the Field by any other direction than that from Gosselies upon St Amand, or perhaps from Quatre Bras upon Bry, also participated in the opinion that the Column in question, under its attendant circumstances and general disposition, could be no other than that of an Enemy. As d'Erlon debouched from Villers Perruin, and advanced upon the prescribed point, St Amand, he threw out his Cavalry (Jaquinot's) to his Left, for the protection of this Flank; and it was before this Cavalry that the Prussian Brigade, under Colonel Marwitz, retired in the manner already explained, a movement which fully restored confidence to Girard's Division.

All at once this Column was observed to halt, to indicate an indecision in its intentions, and finally to withdraw from the Field. D'Erlon had in fact just received from Ney a peremptory Order to join him without delay, with which he resolved to comply, probably concluding that he was bound to do so from the circumstance of his having been in the first instance placed under the Marshal's immediate command; having ascertained also from the Emperor's Aide de Camp that he was not the bearer of any instructions whatever from Napoleon as to his future movements, and that the appearance of his Corps upon that part of the Field of Battle had been quite unexpected. This pressing Order had been despatched by Ney immediately previous to the arrival of Colonel Laurent on the Heights of Gemioncourt.

[Pg 236]

If the first appearance of this Column had caused alarm and perplexity among the troops of the French Left Wing, the apprehensions it excited on the Prussian Right, when its Cavalry was observed to advance and to drive back Colonel Marwitz' Brigade, which had been sent towards it en reconnaissance (as already explained), were still greater; and its equally unexpected disappearance (with the exception of its Cavalry, and a portion of its Infantry), at a moment when it was felt that its vigorous co-operation must have rendered the issue of the Battle no longer doubtful, was looked upon as a particularly fortunate turn of affairs; and Blücher's hopes revived as he prepared to carry into effect his meditated attack upon the French Left Flank.

There did not appear on the part of Napoleon any eagerness to resume the movement of the Imperial Guard towards the lower extremity of Ligny, but rather an anxiety to await calmly the most favourable moment for his projected attack. Doubtless he had discovered the march of the remaining Battalions of Colonel Langen's Brigade, from Sombref towards St Amand, as a further reinforcement to the Prussian Right, and calculated upon paralysing the attack which Blücher was evidently preparing against his Left Flank, by executing a sudden and vigorous assault on the Prussian Centre, with a preponderating mass of fresh troops.

At length, towards eight o'clock, the Emperor gave the Order for the Guard and Milhaud's Corps of Cuirassiers to resume their march. The same precautions were observed as before for masking the movement as much as possible, and so successfully, that Thielemann, on observing a French Battery opposite Tongrines entirely withdrawn, and[Pg 237] Grouchy's lines of Cavalry presenting a diminished extent of front, and conceiving, at the same time, that the contest in Ligny was assuming a change favourable to the Prussians, concluded that the moment had then arrived in which an attack might be made with every probability of success, upon the Right Flank of the Enemy. He had only one Brigade remaining of the Cavalry of his Corps, namely that of Colonel Count Lottum; the other Brigade, under Colonel Marwitz, having been, as already explained, for some time detached to the extreme Right of the Prussian Army. General Hobe, who commanded this Cavalry Division, had previously moved forward Count Lottum's Brigade and posted it in rear of Colonel Kämpfen's Infantry Brigade. Thielemann now desired him to advance with Lottum's Brigade and the Horse Battery No. 19, along the Fleurus high road.

In carrying this Order into effect, General Hobe posted the Battery, in the first instance, close to the twelve pounder Battery No. 7, which stood across the Fleurus high road, about midway between the junction of the latter with the Namur road and the Bridge over the Ligny. A cannonade was opened from this point upon the French guns on the opposite Height, to which the latter replied with great spirit, and one of the guns of the Battery was dismounted. The remaining guns were now advanced rapidly along the high road, preceded by two Squadrons of the 7th Dragoons: on getting into position, two of the guns continued upon the road itself, on which the French had also posted two pieces, but scarcely had the Squadrons formed up, and the Battery fired a few rounds, when they were furiously attacked by the 5th and 13th French Dragoons of Excelmans' Cavalry Corps: in an instant they were thrown into confusion; the two guns upon the road escaped, while the remainder fell[Pg 238] into the hands of the French Dragoons, who closely pursued the Prussians.

General Borcke (commanding the Ninth Brigade) observing this mêlée upon the Fleurus road, immediately pushed forward the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 1st Kurmark Landwehr, and posted them in rear of the hedges and walls running parallel with the high road, so as to flank the Enemy's Cavalry; the 2nd Battalion of the same Regiment followed the movement, and was finally stationed upon the road. In order to support these Battalions, and to preserve the communication with Colonel Stülpnagel's Brigade (the Twelfth) on his right, he occupied Mont Potriaux and its outlets with the remainder of his Brigade, excepting the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 8th Regiment, which he held in reserve.

The 5th and 13th French Dragoons finding themselves likely to be thus seriously impeded both in front and on their left, and finally experiencing on their right a cannonade from the two Batteries attached to Colonel Kämpfen's Brigade, which had moved forward from the Height above Tongrines to the rise of ground south of Tongrenelle, retired from this part of the Field.

It will be recollected that Colonel Stülpnagel's Brigade, on relieving that of Colonel Langen in front of Sombref, had extended a chain of Skirmishers along the stream as far as Ligny: these were now reinforced by both the 3rd Battalions of the 31st Regiment and the 6th Kurmark Landwehr, with the 3rd Battalion of the 5th Kurmark Landwehr in reserve. The 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Kurmark Landwehr were posted on the Height between Sombref and Bois du Loup, having on their right and somewhat in advance, two Squadrons from each of the 5th and 6th Regiments of Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry, together[Pg 239] with two guns from the Foot Battery No. 12. The remaining four Battalions of the Brigade were in reserve immediately in front of the inclosures of Sombref.

It was nearly eight o'clock, when General Krafft despatched an Aide de Camp to the rear with a message stating, that it was only by dint of extraordinary efforts that the troops in Ligny could hold out against the Enemy, who was continually advancing with fresh reinforcements. General Count Gneisenau (the Chief of Staff of the Prussian Army), in the absence of the Prince, sent word that the Village must be maintained, at whatever sacrifice, half an hour longer.

About the same time, General Pirch II. sent word to Blücher that his Brigade, in defending St Amand la Haye, had expended the whole of its ammunition, and that even the pouches of the killed had been completely emptied. To this the Prince replied, that the Second Brigade must, nevertheless, not only maintain its Post, but also attack the Enemy with the bayonet.

In fact, the exhaustion of the Prussian troops was becoming more manifest every moment. Several Officers and men, overcome by long continued exertion, were seen to fall solely from excessive fatigue. No kind of warfare can be conceived more harassing to the combatants than was the protracted contest in the Villages which skirted the front of the Prussian position. It partook also of a savage and relentless character. The animosity and exasperation of both parties were uncontrollable. Innumerable individual combats took place. Every house, every court, every wall, was the scene of a desperate conflict. Streets were alternately won and lost. An ungovernable fury seized upon the combatants on both sides, as they rushed wildly forward to relieve their comrades exhausted by their exertions in the[Pg 241] deadly strife—a strife in which every individual appeared eager to seek out an opponent, from whose death he might derive some alleviation to the thirst of hatred and revenge by which he was so powerfully excited. Hence no quarter was asked or granted by either party.


Battle of Ligny at ½ past 8 o'clock p.m.

When it is considered that a very great portion of the Prussian Army consisted of young soldiers, who were under fire for the first time, their bravery and exertions in maintaining so lengthened a contest of this nature, with the veteran warriors of the French Army, cannot fail to be regarded with the highest admiration.

Such were the distribution and the state of the Prussian troops throughout their Line, when Napoleon arrived near the lower extremity of Ligny, with a formidable Reserve. This consisted of eight Battalions of the Guard, of Milhaud's Corps of Heavy Cavalry, comprising eight Regiments of Cuirassiers, and of the Grenadiers à Cheval of the Guard. It was not, however, his sole Reserve; for most opportunely Lobau's Corps had just arrived and taken post on the right of Fleurus. The troops which the French Emperor held thus in hand ready to launch as a thunderbolt against the weakened Centre of the Prussian Line of Battle, were perfectly fresh, not having hitherto taken any part whatever in the contest, and they might justly be styled the flower of his Army. It was this consciousness of the vantage ground he then possessed which, upon his perceiving the comparatively unoccupied space in rear of Ligny, called forth from him the remark to Count Gérard, "They are lost: they have no Reserve remaining!" He saw that not another moment was to be delayed in securing the victory which was now within his grasp, and gave his last Orders for the attack at the very time when Blücher, whose Right[Pg 242] had just been strengthened by the arrival of the remaining three Battalions of Colonel Langen's (the Eighth) Infantry Brigade, was making his dispositions for vigorously assailing the French Army in its Left Flank.

The projected movement that was to decide the Battle was preceded, at about half past eight o'clock, by the rapid advance of several Batteries of the Guard, which opened a most destructive fire upon the Prussians posted within, and formed in the immediate rear of, Ligny. Under cover of this cannonade, Gérard, with Pecheux's Infantry Division, reinforced the troops that still maintained that half of the Village which lay on the right bank of the rivulet, and pushed forward with a determination to dislodge the Enemy from the remaining portion on the left bank. While the Prussian Infantry in rear of Ligny were in movement for the purpose of relieving their comrades who were already giving way before this renewed attack, they suddenly perceived, on the French right of the Village, a Column issuing from under the heavy smoke that rolled away from the well served Batteries which had so unexpectedly opened upon them, and, which continued so fearfully to thin their ranks; and, as the mass rapidly advanced down the slope with the evident design of forcing a passage across the valley, they could not fail to distinguish both by its well sustained order and compactness, and by its dark waving surface of bearskins, that they had now to contend against the redoubted Imperial Guard. Ligny being thus turned, the Prussian Infantry, instead of continuing its advance into the Village, was necessitated, by its inferiority of numbers, to confine its operations to the securing, as far as possible, an orderly retreat for the defenders of the place.

Notwithstanding their dreadfully exhausted and enfeebled state, and their knowledge that a body of fresh troops was[Pg 243] advancing against them, a body, too, which they knew was almost invariably employed whenever some great and decisive blow was to be struck, they evinced not the slightest symptom of irresolution, but, on the contrary, were animated by the most inflexible courage. The sun had gone down, shrouded in heavy clouds, and rain having set in, the battlefield would speedily be enveloped in darkness; hence the Prussians felt that it required but a little more perseverance in their exertions to enable them to counterbalance their deficiency of numbers upon any point of their Line by a stern and resolute resistance, sufficient to secure for the entire of their Army the means of effecting a retreat, unattended by those disastrous consequences which a signal defeat in the light of day might have entailed upon them.

The 21st Regiment of Infantry boldly advanced against the French Column, with a determination to check its further progress; but soon found itself charged in flank by Cavalry that had darted forward from the head of a Column which, by the glimmering of its armour, even amidst the twilight, proclaimed itself a formidable body of Cuirassiers. It was, in fact, Milhaud's whole Corps of that description of force, which had effected its passage on the other side of the village. The 9th Regiment of Infantry fought its way through a mass of Cavalry, whilst Major Wulffen, with two weak Squadrons of the 1st Westphalian Landwehr Cavalry, made a gallant charge against the French Infantry, which received it with a volley at a distance of twenty paces. The Prussian Infantry compelled to evacuate Ligny, effected its retreat in Squares, in perfect order, though surrounded by the Enemy, bravely repelling all further attacks, made in the repeated but vain attempts to scatter it in confusion.

Blücher, who had arrived upon the spot from his Right,[Pg 244] having, in consequence of this sudden turn of affairs, been under the necessity of relinquishing his meditated attack upon the French Left, now made a last effort to stem the further advance of the Enemy, and, if possible, to force him back upon Ligny. The rain having ceased, it became lighter, and the Enemy's Columns being more clearly discernible, the Prince immediately ordered the advance of three Regiments of the Cavalry attached to the First Corps d'Armée, namely, the 6th Uhlans, the 1st West Prussian Dragoons, and the 2nd Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry. These Regiments, which constituted the only Cavalry force immediately at hand, had for some time been posted in reserve, and had suffered severely from their exposure to the fire from the French Artillery. Lieutenant General Röder directed the 6th Uhlans to make the first charge. The Regiment was led on by Lieutenant Colonel Lützow, to whose Brigade it belonged. In the charge which was directed upon the Enemy's Infantry, Lützow and several of his Officers fell under a volley of musketry. The Regiment, which was about 400 strong, lost on this occasion 13 Officers and 70 men. A second attack, made by the 1st West Prussian Dragoons, and supported by the 2nd Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry, seemed to offer a fair prospect of penetrating the French Infantry, when the former Regiment was unexpectedly charged in flank by the Enemy's Cuirassiers, and completely dispersed. The Westphalian, and 1st Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry, with several other Squadrons of the Landwehr, were collected together, and formed a mass of twenty four Squadrons, with which a further attack was made upon the Enemy, but without success.

The cause of this failure is to be attributed not to the want of sufficient Cavalry, for indeed there was an ample[Pg 245] number for the purpose, but to the confusion and disorder consequent upon the surprise which the Enemy's attack had occasioned, and which was augmented by the darkness that had set in upon the Field. Nor was the failure caused by the absence of that most essential requisite in a charge of Cavalry, good example on the part of the Officers who lead the well set Squadrons into the midst of an Enemy's ranks.

Blücher himself, seeing that the fate of the day depended solely on the chance of the Cavalry at hand succeeding, while there was yet light, in hurling back the French Columns into the valley which they had so suddenly and so resolutely crossed, rallied his routed horsemen; and placing himself at their head, charged, in his old Hussar style, with the full determination of restoring, if possible, that equal footing with the Enemy which had hitherto been so gallantly maintained. The French firmly stood their ground, and the charge proved ineffectual. As Blücher and his followers retired to rally, they were rapidly pursued by the French Cuirassiers. At this moment, the Prince's fine grey charger—a present from the Prince Regent of England—was mortally wounded by a shot, in its left side, near the saddle girth. On experiencing a check to his speed, Blücher spurred, when the animal, still obedient to the impulse of its gallant master, made a few convulsive plunges forward; but on feeling that his steed was rapidly losing strength, and perceiving at the same time the near approach of the Cuirassiers, he cried out to his Aide de Camp:—"Nostitz, now I am lost!" At that moment the horse fell from exhaustion, rolling upon its right side, and half burying its rider under its weight. Count Nostitz immediately sprang from his saddle, and holding with his left hand the bridle of his own horse, which had been[Pg 246] slightly wounded, he drew his sword, firmly resolved to shed, if necessary, the last drop of his blood in defending the precious life of his revered General. Scarcely had he done so, when he saw the Cuirassiers rushing forward at the charge. To attract as little as possible their attention, he remained motionless. Most fortunately, the rapidity with which the Cuirassiers advanced amidst the twilight, already sensibly obscured by the falling rain, precluded them from recognising, or even particularly remarking, the group, although they swept so closely by that one of them rather roughly brushed against the Aide de Camp's horse. Shortly afterwards, the Prussian Cavalry having rallied, and reformed, in their turn began to drive back the French. Again the thunder of their hoofs approached, and again the flying host whirled past the Marshal and his anxious friend; whereupon the latter, eagerly watching his opportunity as the pursuers came on, darted forward, and seizing the bridle of a Noncommissioned Officer of the 6th Uhlans, named Schneider, ordered him and some Files immediately following, to dismount and assist in saving the Prince. Five or six powerful men now raised the heavy dead charger, while others extricated the fallen hero, senseless and almost immoveable. In this state they placed him on the Noncommissioned Officer's horse. Just as they moved off, the Enemy was again pressing forward with renewed speed, and Nostitz had barely time to lead the Marshal, whose senses were gradually returning, to the nearest Infantry, which gladly received the party, and, retiring in perfect order, bade defiance to the attacks of its pursuers.

The Horse Battery No. 2, which had supported these Cavalry attacks by directing its fire against the Left Flank of the Enemy, became, all at once, surrounded by French[Pg 247] Dragoons. These vainly endeavoured to cut the traces, and the Prussian Artillerymen defended themselves so well that they succeeded in effecting the escape of the Battery through an opening in the inclosures of Bry. The Foot Battery No. 3, however, was overtaken in its retreat by the Enemy's Cavalry, between the Windmill and Bry, and lost one of its guns.

During these Cavalry attacks, the Prussian Infantry, already exhausted, and broken up into separate divisions by the desperate contest in the valley, had collected together at the outlets of the villages. Some of the Regiments presented a remarkable degree of steadiness and good order. At length the Cavalry Brigade of General Treskow, then comprising the Queen's and the Brandenburg Dragoons, and the Brandenburg Uhlans, were brought forward, and made several attacks upon the French Infantry and Cuirassiers. Colonel Langen advanced, at the same time, from near the Windmill, with the only Battalion of his Brigade remaining at his disposal, the 2nd of the 23rd Regiment, under the guidance of General Pirch I., and covered by the Cavalry of General Treskow; but all his efforts proved unavailing. He himself was wounded, and then driven over by a gun. The Battalion, however, by continuing in admirable order, enabled General Pirch I., on whom, at this time, the defence of Ligny had devolved, to effect the retreat of the troops from the Village. General Jagow retired, with a part of his Brigade to Bry, and immediately occupied this point. Some Battalions of General Krafft's Brigade (the Sixth) fell back from Ligny, towards the high road, leaving Bry on their left; others still more to the left towards Bry.

General Pirch II., whose Brigade (the Second) had been posted by the Prince in rear of St Amand la Haye, preparatory to a renewed attack, was upon the point of proceeding to support the Seventh and Eighth Brigades, then[Pg 248] seriously engaged, when he observed the retreat towards Bry. He immediately withdrew his Brigade to this point, where he supported and facilitated the retreat of the troops from the Village, with the assistance of the twelve pounder Battery No. 6, and the Foot Battery No. 34, as also of the Westphalian Landwehr Cavalry, under Major Wulffen, to which latter Corps several Dragoons that had become separated from their own Regiments, attached themselves.

General Grolman, the Quartermaster General of the Prussian Army, foreseeing the consequences of the Line having been thus broken by the Enemy, hastened to Bry, and desired General Pirch II. to cover the retreat by means of the troops here collected together. He then proceeded in the direction of Sombref, and finding near this place two Battalions of the 9th Regiment (Sixth Brigade) he posted them in rear of a hollow road, leading from Bry towards Sombref. These Battalions had, in their retreat from Ligny, defeated several attempts on the part of the Enemy's Cavalry to break them. Grolman, on perceiving a twelve pounder had stuck fast in this hollow road, ordered the Battalions to advance again in front of the latter, to assist in extricating the Battery, and to protect its retreat; which was immediately accomplished within view of the French Cavalry.

It was at this critical period of the battle, that the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Westphalian Landwehr, which still continued in reserve, in rear of Bry, under the command of Captain Gillnhaussen, appeared upon the Height in front, where it particularly distinguished itself. In the first place it succeeded in effectually checking, by its vigorous fire, the French Cuirassiers, who were in pursuit of the Prussian Infantry. Then it drove back French Cavalry which was on the point of making a fresh attack upon the Prussian Dragoons. Afterwards it successfully withstood three charges[Pg 249] by the French Cavalry of the Guard. General Grolman now ordered this Battalion to join the 9th Regiment near Sombref; and, with the latter, to take up a position at the junction of the cross road from Ligny with that from Bry to Sombref. This position, which was in rear of the before mentioned hollow road, was maintained until past midnight.

Such were the circumstances resulting from the French having forced the Prussian Line at Ligny, and pursued in the direction of Bry: it is now necessary to explain what occurred at that time, at, and in the vicinity of, Sombref.

The First Brigade, which had been placed in reserve, was ordered to take post, in Squares, upon the high road to Sombref, to check the pressure of the Enemy's Cavalry. Subsequently, when the direction of the retreat was decided upon, it fell back upon Tilly. The Fourth Brigade, with the exception of one or two Battalions, advanced again through Sombref towards Ligny, just as the French Cavalry pushed towards the high road. The Battalions of the Brigade formed Squares, and fell back upon the high road, whence they continued their further retreat.

At the time the French troops were debouching from Ligny, Colonel Stülpnagel's (the Twelfth) Brigade was posted in front of Sombref; and Colonel Rohr had just pushed forward towards Ligny with the 2nd Battalion of the 6th Kurmark Landwehr, when he perceived three French Cavalry Regiments advancing against the Right Wing of the Brigade; whereupon he gradually retired, and the whole Brigade threw itself into Sombref, just as the French Cavalry made an attack at the entrance of the Village, and captured the two guns of the Battery No. 12, which had been posted there. Major Dorville faced about the rear division of the 6th Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry, and[Pg 250] gallantly attacked the French Cavalry, in the hope of checking their progress; but the lances of his brave followers were shivered against the cuirasses of their opponents, and for a moment the former could only defend themselves with their broken poles. The Prussian Infantry, however, hastened forward in support; the French were driven out of the Village; and one of the lost guns was retaken.

Every exertion was now made to secure the possession of Sombref. General Borcke (Ninth Brigade) sent thither two Battalions of the 1st Kurmark Landwehr; which, during this movement, fired upon the flank of the Enemy's Cavalry as the latter fell back. The defence of the entrance into the Village from the side of Ligny was confided to the 2nd Battalion of the 6th Kurmark Landwehr, under Colonel Rohr.

About this time, General Jürgass received Orders to cover with his Cavalry (of the Second Corps) the retreat of the Prussian Infantry from St Amand la Haye and Wagnelé. General Brause, perceiving that the Enemy had attacked Colonel Marwitz' Cavalry Brigade, on his right, and endangered his communication with the rear, hastened with the Fusilier Battalions of the 22nd Regiment (which had continued in reserve in rear of St Amand la Haye) towards the high road, upon which the greater part of the Seventh Brigade had by this time been collected. The Prussians, on retiring from St Amand la Haye, were closely followed by the French. The 1st Battalion of the 14th Regiment was still in the Hamlet of St Amand when it received the Order to retire. During its retreat it was attacked whilst in a hollow way. It immediately showed a front on each flank, and succeeded in driving back the Enemy. General Jürgass now sent forward the 4th Squadron of the Brandenburg Hussars to attack the Enemy's Tirailleurs, who were beginning to advance from out of St Amand la[Pg 251] Haye. The latter were immediately forced back upon the Village. Somewhat later, however, the French Tirailleurs poured forth in greater numbers from out of Wagnelé, and threw themselves upon the Right Flank of the retreating troops. A mêlée ensued, in which General Jürgass was shot in the shoulder.

When the Centre of the Prussian Army had been broken by the French Cavalry, and the Prussian Commander had been placed so completely hors de combat, Lieutenant General Count von Gneisenau, the Chief of the Staff, having undertaken the direction of affairs, ordered the retreat of the First and Second Corps upon Tilly; and despatched Colonel Thile with directions to Thielemann, that if he could not effect a direct retreat upon Tilly, he was to retire upon Gembloux, there to unite with Bülow, and then effect a junction with the rest of the Army.

The occupation of Bry by General Pirch II. offered a safe point of retreat to the disordered Prussian Battalions; and, now that it had become quite dark, Pirch led all the troops from this post towards Marbais, where they reformed, and whence, soon afterwards, under the command of Lieutenant General Röder, they continued the retreat upon Tilly. Marwitz' Cavalry Brigade, which was not pursued with much vigour by the Enemy, fell back to the rear of the Battalions formed up to cover its movement, and now joined the rest of the Cavalry of the Right Wing, in the general retreat.

The Fifth Infantry Brigade was in full retreat upon Marbais when the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 22nd Regiment still continued posted on the high road, not far from the Trois Burettes. The good order and perfect steadiness of these Battalions, which were commanded by Major Sack, completely checked the further advance of the[Pg 252] French Cavalry, and greatly facilitated the retreat of the Prussian troops.

After General Jürgass was wounded, the command of the Rear Guard devolved upon Lieutenant Colonel Sohr, of whose Brigade (the Brandenburg and Pomeranian Hussars) it consisted. He executed this duty with great success, falling gradually back upon the Cavalry posted in advance of Tilly by Lieutenant General Zieten; who then took command of the whole of the Cavalry employed in protecting the retreat.

During the retreat of the Centre of the Prussian Army, which had been effectually broken, and of its Right from St Amand and Wagnelé, which, in consequence of Blücher's previous dispositions for his contemplated attack upon the French Left, was better prepared to sustain a reverse of this kind; the Left Wing, under Thielemann, maintained its position, and contributed not a little, by its firm countenance, in diffusing a considerable degree of caution into the French movements in advance.

This was strikingly exemplified by the conduct of the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 30th Prussian Regiment. They were posted at Mont Potriaux, and although their knowledge of what was passing on other points of the Line was very imperfect, still it sufficed to prompt their Commander to cross the rivulet, and undertake, if not a vigorous attack, at least a demonstration, which, now that darkness had almost covered the Field, would tend to impede, perhaps to paralyze, the French movements against the Prussian Centre. Having effected their passage, they met at first but a feeble opposition from a line of Skirmishers: a French Regiment of Dragoons then advanced very close upon the 2nd Battalion, but was driven off; whereupon both these Battalions pushed forward, and[Pg 253] gained a Height which was occupied in force by the Enemy. Here they sustained two more Cavalry attacks, which proved equally unsuccessful. A mass of Infantry belonging to Lobau's Corps, having its Flanks covered by parties of Cavalry, now advanced against the 1st Battalion; but having, in the dark, exposed a Flank to the Battalion, it was also repulsed.

Major Dittfurth, however, finding himself in too isolated a position, did not deem it prudent to advance further upon ground which he knew to be in full possession of the Enemy, and therefore retraced his steps.

A renewed attempt was made, at the same time, by the French Light Cavalry Brigade under General Vallin, to push forward along the high road towards Sombref, and gain possession of the barrier; but the attack was as abortive as had been the former one upon this point.

With the darkness of night, now rapidly deepening, the din of battle, which had been terrific and incessant until the last faint glimmering of twilight, became gradually hushed: its expiring sounds still issuing from the Heights in front of Bry, whence the flashes from the fire of Artillery, and from that of Skirmishers along the outskirts of this village (held by General Jagow with the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 9th Regiment, and the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Westphalian Landwehr), indicated to the French Army the extreme verge of its advance; while the still more vivid flashes emitted from the rattling musketry fire of the two Battalions of the 30th Regiment, which had so gallantly sallied forth out of Mont Potriaux, under Major Dittfurth, as previously described, as also from the Prussian guns which defended the approach to Sombref, and frustrated the renewed attack along the high road[Pg 254] towards that point, plainly intimated that the Prussian Left Wing (Thielemann's Corps) still firmly maintained itself in a position whence it might seriously endanger the Flank of any further movement in advance against the Centre.

Vandamme's Corps (the Third) bivouacked in advance of St Amand, Gérard's Corps (the Fourth) in front of Ligny, the Imperial Guard upon the Heights of Bry, Grouchy's Cavalry in rear of Sombref, and Lobau's Corps (the Sixth) in rear of Ligny. This possession of the Field of Battle, and the capture of 21 pieces of cannon, were the only advantages of which the French could boast as the immediate result of so severe a struggle. With these, however, it would seem that their Emperor was fully satisfied: if he had entertained any idea of pursuit, it was now abandoned; he took no measures for watching the movements and prying into the designs of his adversary: but left his troops resting in their bivouacs, offering no molestation whatever to the Prussians, whilst he in person returned to Fleurus, where he passed the night.

The contrast between the circumstances of the two Armies during the night was very striking; for whilst the victors were indulging in perfect repose, the vanquished were completely on the alert, seizing every possible advantage which the extraordinary quietude of their Enemies afforded during the precious hours of darkness; and never, perhaps, did a defeated Army extricate itself from its difficulties with so much adroitness and order, or retire from a hard fought field with so little diminution of its moral force.

The Prussian Commander was carried to Mélioreux, about[Pg 255] six miles in rear of Ligny, and the Head Quarters were established there for the night.

Thielemann still retained possession of his original position in the Line of Battle; and General Jagow, with several detached Battalions belonging to Zieten's Corps, occupied Bry and its immediate vicinity. From this position the latter General quietly effected his retreat about an hour after midnight, taking the direction of Sombref, and thence proceeding to Gembloux, presuming, in all probability, that the general retreat would be towards the Meuse. It was not until three o'clock in the morning, when the Field of Battle had been completely evacuated by the remainder of the Prussian Army, that Thielemann commenced his retreat, which he conducted slowly, and in perfect order, to Gembloux; near which Bülow's Corps d'Armée (the Fourth) had arrived during the night.

The loss of the Prussian Army on the 15th and 16th of June, amounted in killed and wounded to about 12,000 men: that of the French to between 7,000 and 8,000. But few prisoners were taken on either side.

In consequence of this defeat, Blücher was compelled, in order to maintain and secure his close communication with Wellington, to abandon the line of the Meuse between Namur and Liege; but his orderly and unmolested retreat afforded him sufficient time to remove all his stores and material from these points to Maestricht and Louvain, which now constituted his new base of operations.

It was not, however, a defeat which involved the loss of every advantage previously gained. Blücher was not driven from the Field: but, on the contrary, he maintained it during the night, with the exception of the Villages of Ligny and St Amand in his front; thus facilitating the orderly[Pg 256] retreat of his own Army, and, at the same time, affording a considerable degree of security to the direct line of retreat of the Duke of Wellington.

The defeat certainly compelled the latter to retire on the following morning, whatever might have been his success at Quatre Bras; but so long as Blücher had it in his power to fall back in such a manner as to effect his junction the next day with Wellington, the advantage which accrued to the common object of the two Commanders was of the highest importance. They would then unite after the concentration of each Army had been accomplished; hitherto, they had been compelled to meet their opponents before they had succeeded in collecting their respective forces. If, however, Wellington had been unable to maintain his ground against Ney, and Napoleon had in this manner succeeded in beating both Armies in detail; or, if the Prussian defeat had been followed up by a vigorous pursuit, the loss of the Battle of Ligny might have placed both Armies in a critical position.

The struggle at Ligny was undoubtedly of a most desperate and sanguinary character. It was, almost throughout, one continued village fight; a species of contest which, though extremely harassing and destructive to both parties engaged, was that most likely to prove of a long duration, and consequently to afford a better prospect of relief by the promised support from Wellington, or by the hoped-for junction of Bülow.

It remains a question whether Blücher, had he confined himself during the latter part of the action to the same defensive system he had so successfully carried on up to that time, instead of detaching his Reserves to the Right, and preparing for an attack upon the Enemy's Left, might not[Pg 257] have fully maintained his original position until dark, and thus have saved his Army from defeat. By the arrival of Bülow's Corps during the night, he would then have been prepared to meet his opponent on the following morning with a greatly preponderating force; whilst, on the other hand, Wellington, having concentrated a considerable portion of his Army, would have been placed in an equally advantageous position as regards the already vanquished Enemy in his own front. When it is considered that along the whole extent of Blücher's line, the French had not gained any material advantage upon one single point, and that the Prussians continued to hold their ground with most exemplary firmness; the circumstance of his not having delayed the collecting of his Reserves, for a grand attack upon the Enemy's Left, until actually joined by either the British or Bülow's troops, can scarcely be explained except by a reference to the peculiar character of the Prussian Chief, whose natural fiery temperament led him, in all probability to seize with avidity the first prospect which opened itself of a favourable opportunity of aiming a deadly thrust at his hated foe, rather than to adhere to that comparatively passive kind of warfare which so ill suited his own individual inclination and disposition.

Napoleon had undoubtedly gained the victory from the moment he succeeded in penetrating the Prussian Centre; but it was not distinguished by that brilliant success, or by those immediate and decisive advantages, which might have been anticipated from the admirable manner in which the attack had been prepared, and the care with which it was concealed from the Prussians, at a moment when they had no Reserve remaining, and when the co-operation of the British on their Right, or the arrival of Bülow's Corps from Hannut, had[Pg 258] become quite impracticable. This appears the more surprising when we reflect that he had a considerable Corps of Cavalry under Grouchy at hand to support this attack, and that the whole of Lobau's Corps was in the Field, fully prepared for active operations.

The consequences resulting from the absence of energetic measures on the part of the French Emperor, in following up the defeat of the Prussians, on the evening of the 16th and morning of the 17th, will be fully developed in subsequent Chapters.

[Pg 259]


THE bivouac on the Field of Quatre Bras, during the night of the 16th, continued undisturbed until about an hour before daylight, when a Cavalry Patrol having accidentally got between the adverse Picquets near Piermont, caused an alarm in that quarter that was quickly communicated to both Armies by a rattling fire of musketry, which, rapidly augmenting, extended itself along the line of the Advanced Posts. Among the first who hastened to ascertain the origin and nature of the engagement was Picton, who, together with other Staff Officers, as they arrived in succession, on discovering that no advance had been attempted or intended on either side, soon succeeded in restoring confidence. Similar exertions were successfully made on the part of the French Officers, and as day began to break upon the scene, both parties resumed their previous tranquillity. In this untoward affair, the Picquets furnished by Kielmansegge's Hanoverian Brigade, and by the 3rd Brunswick Light Battalion were sharply engaged, and a Picquet of the Field Battalion Bremen suffered considerably.

It was not long before Wellington, who had slept at Genappe, arrived at Quatre Bras, where he found Major General Sir Hussey Vivian, whose Brigade of Light Cavalry, consisting of the 10th British Hussars (under Colonel Quentin), of the 18th British Hussars (under Lieutenant Colonel the Hon. Henry Murray), and of[Pg 260] the 1st Hussars of the King's German Legion (under Lieutenant Colonel von Wissell), was posted on the left of that point with two strong Picquets thrown out; one, of the 18th Hussars, under Captain Croker, on the Namur road, and the other, of the 10th Hussars, under Major the Hon. Frederick Howard, in front—with a Picquet from the latter, under Lieutenant Arnold, on the right of the Namur road.

Vivian, on being asked what account he could give of the Enemy, communicated to the Duke the result of his observations, which were necessarily very limited, as, with the exception of the firing that had taken place, as before mentioned, along the line of Picquets, the French had continued perfectly quiet, and had as yet given no indication of any offensive movement.

The Duke then took a general survey of the Field, and while sweeping the horizon with his telescope, he discovered a French Vedette on some rising ground, in the direction of Fleurus, and a little to the right of the high road leading to Namur, apparently belonging to some Picquet thrown out from Ney's extreme Right on the previous night, after the battle had ceased; or to some detached Corps placed in that quarter for the purpose of observation, and for the maintenance of the communication between Napoleon and Ney. The Duke had received no intelligence of Blücher; and, probably, judging from the advanced position of the Vedette in question that whatever might have been the result of the Battle of Ligny, the Prussians could not have made any forward movement likely to endanger Ney's Right, he came to the conclusion that it was quite possible that, on the other hand, Napoleon might have crossed the Namur road, and cut off his communication with Blücher, with the design of[Pg 261] manœuvring upon his Left and Rear, and causing him to be simultaneously attacked by Ney. His Grace therefore desired Vivian to send a strong Patrol along the Namur road to gain intelligence respecting the Prussian Army.

A Troop of the 10th Hussars, under Captain Grey, was accordingly despatched on this duty, accompanied by Lieutenant Colonel the Hon. Sir Alexander Gordon, one of the Duke's Aides de Camp. As the Patrol advanced along the road, the Vedette before mentioned began to circle, evidently to give notice of the approach of an Enemy, and then retired. This induced the Patrol to move forward with great caution, so as to guard against the possibility of being cut off. Nevertheless it continued, but with all due precaution, advancing along the road, until after passing a few scattered cottages, comprising a hamlet called Petit Marbais, it reached, about a mile and a half further on, some rising ground, about five miles from Quatre Bras, and beyond which was another height. A Vedette was observed posted upon the latter, but who had evidently not yet discovered the approach of Captain Grey's Troop. Down in the intervening hollow was an isolated house, at the door of which stood a dismounted Sentry, and some horses were standing in an adjoining yard.

Captain Grey directed Lieutenant Bacon to patrol towards the house, while he remained with the remainder of the Troop, concealed from the Enemy's view, a disposition favoured by the nature of the ground, and the trees in the hedges, on both sides of the road. When Lieutenant Bacon's party moved forward, it was discovered by the Vedette, who began circling, and fired his carabine. The French Picquet posted in the house instantly rushed out; several of the men had their jackets and accoutrements off; and the Post could easily have been captured, had the[Pg 262] special duty on which the British Patrol was engaged admitted of an attack. The French turned out very quickly and galloped to the rear along the high road, while Bacon's party was recalled. A few French Cavalry galloped up to the Vedette on the Heights, but evinced no disposition to advance.

It had now become sufficiently evident that, commencing from this point, the French were in possession of the Namur road; but the principal object which Sir Alexander Gordon had in view was yet to be attained. The Patrol now retired a little until it reached a cross road, which a peasant pointed out as the Prussian line of retreat. Pursuing this track, the Patrol, within an hour, reached Tilly; where General Zieten, who had been placed in temporary command of the Cavalry, was covering the retreat of the Prussian Army.

After remaining here about a quarter of an hour, during which Sir Alexander Gordon obtained from General Zieten the most ample information respecting the movements of the Prussians, the Patrol commenced its return, at a quick pace, striking into a cross road, which joined the high road at a point nearer to Quatre Bras than the one whence it had quitted it. The Patrol reached Quatre Bras at about half past seven o'clock; and Sir Alexander Gordon immediately reported to the Duke that the Prussians had retreated towards Wavre, that the French occupied the ground on which the Battle had been fought; but that they had not crossed the high road, along which the Patrol had proceeded almost into the immediate vicinity of their Advanced Posts.

This latter circumstance was very remarkable, and served to satisfy Wellington that, either Napoleon's victory had not been followed up with a vigour and an effect, by which[Pg 263] the safety of his own Army would have been perilled, or, that it had not been of a character sufficiently decisive to have enabled the French Emperor to avail himself of such a vantage ground.

Having ascertained that the contingency for which, as has already been explained, he was fully prepared, had actually taken place; he instantly decided upon retrograding his troops to a position in front of the point of junction of the roads leading from Charleroi and Nivelles upon Brussels, in which he might rely upon the co-operation of a sufficient portion of Blücher's forces from Wavre with his own, by which he would be enabled to confront Napoleon and his main Army with ample means, and thus attain that great aim and end of all strategy, of "operating with the greatest mass in a combined effort upon a decisive point."

Hence, a change in the direction of the previously ordered movements became necessary, and the following instructions were issued:—

"To General Lord Hill.

"17th June 1815.

"The Second Division of British Infantry to march from Nivelles on Waterloo, at 10 o'clock.

"The Brigades of the Fourth Division, now at Nivelles, to march from that place on Waterloo, at 10 o'clock. Those Brigades of the Fourth Division at Braine le Comte, and on the road from Braine le Comte to Nivelles, to collect and halt at Braine le Comte this day.

"All the baggage on the road from Braine le Comte to Nivelles to return immediately to Braine le Comte, and to proceed immediately from thence to Hal and Bruxelles.

"The spare Musket Ammunition to be immediately parked behind Genappe.

"The Corps under the command of Prince Frederick of Orange will move from Enghien this evening, and take up a position in front of Hal, occupying Braine le Château with two Battalions.

"Colonel Estorff will fall back with his Brigade on Hal, and place himself under the orders of Prince Frederick."

[Pg 264]

Shortly after the departure of the before mentioned Patrol of the 10th Hussars, along the Namur road, the Duke received some despatches from England, to which he gave his attention; and now that he had satisfied himself as to the real state of things, and issued his Orders for the movements of his distant troops, as also for the retreat of those present in the Field, he laid himself down on the ground near Quatre Bras, covered his head with one of the newspapers he had been reading, which had accompanied those despatches, and appeared to fall asleep.

After remaining some time in this state, he again rose, mounted his horse, and rode a little distance down the Field in front of Quatre Bras. He then looked about through his telescope, and expressed to those about him his astonishment at the perfect stillness of the Enemy, remarking at the same time, "What if they should be also retiring? It is not at all impossible."

A second Officer, Lieutenant Massow, had been despatched from the Prussian to the Anglo-Allied Head Quarters; and it was about this time that he reached the Duke, with a verbal communication respecting the retreat upon Wavre, and the position intended to be assumed in that quarter. It was of a nature which, taken altogether, was so far satisfactory, that Wellington immediately sent a verbal message by this Officer to Blücher, acquainting him with his intended retrograde movements, and proposing to accept a battle, on the following day, in the position in front of Waterloo, provided the Prince would detach two Corps to his assistance.

The following is the manner in which the retreat of the Anglo-Allied Infantry, then in full operation, was executed. It was an important matter to mask the retreat as much as[Pg 265] possible, so as to gain time for the free and unimpeded movement of the Army along the high road leading to the position in front of Waterloo. For this purpose, the Light Troops continued to maintain the line of Outposts, until their respective Supports, which had remained stationary sufficiently long to conceal the retreat of the troops in their rear, began also to retire.

The First and Fifth British Divisions, and the Second Dutch-Belgian Division, as also the Brunswick Corps, effected their retreat in excellent order, notwithstanding the delay that was created by the narrowness of the bridge and street of Genappe. Their retreat was covered by Alten's Division, to which were added for this purpose, the 1st Battalion of the 95th British Rifles, the 2nd and 3rd Brunswick Light Battalions, the Brunswick Advanced Guard Battalion, and the Light Companies of Byng's Brigade of Guards.

The main body of Alten's Division commenced its retreat about eleven o'clock. Ompteda's Brigade of the King's German Legion was withdrawn to Sart à Mavelines, which it immediately occupied, as also the Wood of Les Censes in its front. Halkett's British Brigade then retired secretly until it reached some favourable ground, a little distance in rear of Ompteda's Brigade, upon which it was immediately drawn up. Kielmansegge's Hanoverian Brigade was withdrawn still further to the rear, and occupied a third position. Thus posted, the Division was ordered, in the event of being attacked, to retire by Brigades alternately.

It was a little before midday when the Light Troops of Alten's Division began to retire. They occupied the advanced line, commencing from the southern extremity of the Wood of Bossu on the right, extending along Gemioncourt and the inclosures of Piermont, and crossing the[Pg 266] Namur road on the left: from which line they gradually and slowly fell back upon Ompteda's Brigade, in a manner evincing admirable skill, steadiness, and regularity.

In order more effectually to mask the movements on the Allied side of the Namur road, the whole of the Cavalry was drawn up in two lines immediately contiguous to, and in rear of, that road; the Heavy Cavalry forming the Second Line, and Picquets being thrown out from the First Line, to relieve those of the retiring Infantry.

The main body of Alten's Division now commenced its further retreat; but not by alternate Brigades, this mode having been directed only in the event of an attack; the latter retired successively in the order in which they stood, preserving their relative distances, so that they might commence the alternate system of retreat, if attacked. To facilitate the passage of other portions of the Army through the narrow defile of the bridge and town of Genappe, this Division retired by Bezy, and crossed the Genappe, lower down the stream, by the bridge of Wais le Hutte.

In the early part of the morning, Ney had, like his opponent, been ignorant of the result of the Battle of Ligny; but he was aware that the Anglo-Allied Army had been considerably reinforced during the night, principally by the arrival of its Cavalry.

The Marshal calculated that if Napoleon had gained a victory, and crossed the Namur road, the longer Wellington remained in the position of Quatre Bras, the greater the danger he incurred of having not only his communication with Blücher effectually cut off, but also his main line of retreat upon Brussels intercepted; and that in such a case it was wiser not to advance against the British General, as the latter might then retire, and thus elude the effect of a[Pg 267] combined operation between Napoleon's and his own forces. He also judged that if, on the other hand, the French Emperor had been defeated, an attack made on his own part, upon the Anglo-Allied Army, might subject himself to the risk of having to contend against a combined operation between Wellington and Blücher; and thus expose both his own and Napoleon's forces to the probability of being defeated in detail.

In this uncertainty, Ney sent a message by General Count Flahaut, who happened to be still with him, and who was returning to rejoin the Emperor wherever he might be found, expressive of his anxiety to learn the result of the action of the preceding day. In the mean time, he kept his troops in a state of perfect quietude; his main body was posted in reserve on the Heights of Frasne, between which and the Outposts there were intermediate Columns of Support; but no movement whatever was attempted.

Ney at length received the information he had solicited, in a despatch from Soult, wherein the result of the Battle of Ligny was briefly described. It also stated that Napoleon was proceeding, with the principal portion of his forces, to the Mill of Bry, close to which the high road leads from Namur to Quatre Bras, and that therefore it would not be practicable for the Anglo-Allied Army to act against him (Ney); but that, should such a case happen, the Emperor would march directly upon it by that road, while Ney should attack it in front, and in this manner that Army would at once be destroyed. The despatch required from Ney a report of the exact position of his forces, and an account of all that was going on in his front.

Hence it is evident that Ney's opinion, that a victory at[Pg 268] Ligny ought to be followed up by a combined attack upon Wellington, perfectly coincided with Napoleon's views; but while Ney was thus justified in remaining inactive during the early part of the day, the fact of the Emperor's not moving directly upon Genappe with the morning's dawn, and his excessive delay in breaking up his bivouac at Ligny, are inexplicable. A glorious opportunity had presented itself for the attainment of his original design of defeating both Armies in detail, but which was completely lost by a most extraordinary and fatal want of energy and vigour in seizing upon the advantages which the victory of Ligny had placed within his reach.

Ney, having ascertained that Napoleon's forces were in motion, had commenced the advance of his own troops, when a second despatch reached him, dated, "in front of Ligny, at noon," intimating that the Emperor had just posted a Corps of Infantry and the Imperial Guard in advance of Marbais, that he wished him to attack the Enemy at Quatre Bras, and force him from his position; and that his operations would be seconded by the Corps at Marbais, to which point his Majesty was proceeding in person.

Upon discovering that the Anglo-Allied Infantry had retired, and that the troops around, and in rear of, Quatre Bras, consisted of Cavalry covering the retreat, Ney brought forward his own Cavalry in advance, and appeared to regulate its movements so that its attack might be directed against the Front of the British simultaneously with that of the Cavalry which he now perceived advancing along the Namur road against its Flank.

About this time, the 10th Hussars were moved across the Namur road, and down the slope in front where they were halted, in echelon of Squadrons; and while they were[Pg 269] thus posted, Wellington and his Staff came to the front of the Regiment. From this spot the Duke was attentively watching, through his telescope, the dispositions and movements of the French, whom he could discover as soon as they reached the Quatre Bras side of Little Marbais; when all at once at a distance of about two miles, masses were seen forming on the side of the Namur road, conspicuously glittering in the sun's rays; by which the Duke was at first induced to believe that they were Infantry, whose bayonets were so brilliantly reflected; but it was soon discovered that they were Cuirassiers.

After a short time, these were observed to advance, preceded by Lancers, and it was not long before the Picquet of the 18th British Hussars, posted on that road, began skirmishing, as did also the Picquet of the 10th British Hussars, more in the front of the position, and likewise, still further to the right, in front of Quatre Bras, a Picquet consisting of a Squadron of the 11th British Light Dragoons, detached from Major General Vandeleur's Brigade, which comprised the 11th Light Dragoons (under Lieutenant Colonel Sleigh), the 12th Light Dragoons (under Colonel the Hon. Frederick Ponsonby), and the 16th Light Dragoons (under Lieutenant Colonel Hay). The 10th Hussars then fell back again into their proper place in the line. Vivian now took up a new alignment, throwing back his Left so as to present a front to the Enemy's advance, and to protect the left of the position. Vandeleur's Brigade was then in Right Rear of Vivian's and close to Quatre Bras.

The Anglo-Allied Infantry having, some time previously, entirely crossed the Genappe, with the exception of the Light Companies of the Second Brigade of Guards on the right, and of the 1st Battalion 95th British Regiment (Rifles), on the left, which troops had been directed to remain until the[Pg 270] last moment, and were now retiring to Genappe (where they were subsequently drawn up at the entrance of the town), and the Duke having satisfied himself that a formidable body of the French Cavalry was endeavouring to fall upon him and to molest his retreat, it became a question with his Grace, at that moment, how far it might be advisable to offer any serious resistance to the advance of the Enemy; but Lieutenant General the Earl of Uxbridge, the Commander of the Anglo-Allied Cavalry, having remarked that, considering the defiles in the rear, and the distance to which the great mass of the Infantry had already retired and from which it could offer no immediate support, he did not think the Cavalry was favourably situated for making such an attempt, the Duke assented to the correctness of this view, and requested his Lordship at once to carry into effect the retreat of the Cavalry.

Uxbridge immediately made the following dispositions for this purpose. The First or Household Brigade of Heavy Cavalry commanded by Major General Lord Edward Somerset, and consisting of the 1st Life Guards (under Lieutenant Colonel Ferrior), of the 2nd Life Guards (under Lieutenant Colonel the Hon. Edward P. Lygon), of the Royal Horse Guards, or Blues (under Lieutenant Colonel Sir Robert Chambre Hill), and of the 1st (or King's) Dragoon Guards (under Colonel Fuller), together with the Second Brigade of Heavy Cavalry, commanded by Major General the Honourable Sir William Ponsonby, consisting of the 1st, or Royal Dragoons (under Lieutenant Colonel Clifton), of the 2nd Royal North British Dragoons, or Scots Greys (under Colonel Hamilton), and of the 6th, or Inniskilling Dragoons (under Colonel Muter), formed the Centre Column, which was to retire by the Brussels high road.

[Pg 271]

Vandeleur's and Vivian's Brigades constituted the Left Column, which was to effect its retreat by a Bridge over the Genappe at Thuy, still lower down the stream than that by which Alten's Infantry Division had crossed.

The Right Column was formed of part of the Third Light Cavalry Brigade, commanded by Major General Sir William Dörnberg, the 1st and 2nd Light Dragoons of the King's German Legion (under Lieutenant Colonels Bülow and de Jonquières), while the remaining Regiment, which was the 23rd British Light Dragoons (under Colonel the Earl of Portarlington), was employed as a portion of the Rear Guard of the Centre Column. The 15th British Hussars (under Lieutenant Colonel Dalrymple), belonging to the Fifth Cavalry Brigade, under Major General Sir Colquhoun Grant, was also attached to the Right Column; while of the two remaining Regiments of the Brigade, the 2nd Hussars of the King's German Legion (under Lieutenant Colonel Linsingen), and the 7th British Hussars (under Colonel Sir Edward Kerrison), the former had been left in occupation of a line of Posts on the French frontier, extending from Courtrai, through Menin, Ypres, Loo, and Fürnes, to the North Sea, and the latter formed a part of the Rear Guard of the Centre Column. This Right Column was to pass the Genappe by a ford higher up the stream than the town of Genappe.

These skilful dispositions had scarcely been arranged, when the Picquet of the 18th Hussars, on the left, came in at a good round trot, followed by two or three Squadrons of French Cavalry, upon which Vivian's Battery of Horse Artillery, opened a fire whereby their advance was checked. The Enemy, however, was observed to be very active in bringing up his Artillery, which soon opened upon the Hussar Brigade. Vivian, having received the Earl of[Pg 272] Uxbridge's instructions to retire, accompanied with an intimation that he would be supported by Vandeleur's Brigade, then in his rear, and observing that the French Cavalry was pressing forward in great numbers, not only in his front, but also on his flank, he put his Brigade about, and retired in line, covered by the Skirmishers. The French followed, with loud cries of "Vive l'Empereur!" and just as the Brigade reached a sort of hollow, their guns again opened, throwing shells, which mostly flew over the heads of the 18th Hussars, against which Regiment they appeared to be principally directed. In the mean time, Vandeleur's Brigade had been drawn up in support, on rather a commanding position, and Vivian approached it in the full expectation that it would open out for the passing through of his own men, and take the Rear Guard in its turn; but on the Hussars arriving within fifty or sixty yards of the Fourth Brigade, Vandeleur put it about, and retired—Vivian not being aware that Vandeleur had previously received Orders to retire and leave the road clear for the retreat of the Cavalry in his front. Vivian immediately occupied the ground thus vacated, and, with a view to check the Enemy's advance more effectually, ordered the 18th Hussars to charge, as soon as the French approached within favourable reach.

The weather, during the morning, had become oppressively hot; it was now a dead calm; not a leaf was stirring; and the atmosphere was close to an intolerable degree; while a dark, heavy, dense cloud impended over the combatants. The 18th Hussars were fully prepared, and awaited but the command to charge, when the Brigade guns on the right commenced firing, for the purpose of previously disturbing and breaking the order of the Enemy's advance. The concussion seemed instantly to rebound through the still[Pg 273] atmosphere, and communicate, as an electric spark, with the heavily charged mass above. A most awfully loud thunder clap burst forth, immediately succeeded by a rain which has never, probably, been exceeded in violence even within the tropics. In a very few minutes the ground became perfectly saturated; so much so that it was quite impracticable for any rapid movement of the Cavalry. The Enemy's Lancers, opposed to the Sixth British Brigade, began to relax in their advance, and to limit it to skirmishing; but they seemed more intent upon endeavouring to envelope, and intercept the retreat of, the Hussars. Vivian now replaced the 18th Hussars by the 1st Hussars of the King's German Legion, as Rear Guard, with Orders to cover well the Left Flank and Left Front of the Brigade. He had already sent off his Battery of Horse Artillery, to cross the Genappe by the Bridge of Thuy, and despatched an Aide de Camp to Vandeleur, to request he would move his Brigade as quickly as possible across that Bridge, so that he might meet with no interruption in his retreat, in the event of his being hard pressed.

Of the Centre Column, the Heavy Brigades of Lord Edward Somerset and Sir William Ponsonby had retired along the Charleroi road, and were taking up a position on some high ground, a little in rear of Genappe, on either side of that road. The detached Squadron of the 11th Light Dragoons (under Captain Schreiber), was withdrawn and directed to retire through the above town. The 23rd Light Dragoons were also withdrawn, and posted upon the ascent between Genappe and the position occupied by the two Heavy Brigades. The 7th Hussars continued on the south side of Genappe, as Rear Guard.

Neither the Centre, nor the Right, Column experienced any serious molestation in its retreat while on the French[Pg 274] side of the Genappe: large bodies of Cavalry were seen in motion, but their Advanced Guards limited their attacks to skirmishing.

At length the 7th Hussars retired through Genappe, after having thrown out their Right Squadron, commanded by Major Hodge, as Rear Guard, to cover the retreat of the Centre Column, regulating its proceedings in conformity with such Orders as it might receive from Major General Sir William Dörnberg, who had been desired to superintend the movements of the Skirmishers. Major Hodge led out the Right Troop, under Captain Elphinstone, to skirmish, while Lieutenant Standish O'Grady, who commanded the Left Troop, held the high road, from which he had occasionally to send assistance to the former, and frequently to advance, to enable the Skirmishers to hold their ground, as their movements were difficult, through ploughed fields so soft that the horses always sank up to their knees, and sometimes to their girths. In this manner, every inch of ground was disputed, until within a short distance of Genappe.

Here Dörnberg informed Lieutenant O'Grady that he must leave him; that it was of the utmost importance to face the Enemy boldly at this spot, as the Bridge in the town of Genappe was so narrow that the Squadron would have to pass it in file; that he was to endeavour as much as possible to obtain time for drawing off the Skirmishers, but not to compromise his Troop too much. Lieutenant O'Grady then called in his Skirmishers, and advanced with his own Troop boldly up the road at a trot. The Cavalry immediately opposed to him, went about, followed by him for some distance; and he thus continued alternately advancing and retiring, until he saw all the Right Troop safe on the road in his rear. He then began to retire at a walk, occasionally halting and fronting, until he turned[Pg 275] the corner of the town of Genappe: when he filed the men from the left, and passed through the place at a gallop. Upon the arrival of the Squadron at the opposite entrance of Genappe, it was posted between this point and the main body of the 7th Hussars, which had been drawn up on the road in a column of divisions, prepared to check the advance of the Enemy on his debouching from the town.

The British Left Cavalry Column continued its retreat, which was towards the little Bridge of Thuy, by deep narrow lanes, converted by the tremendous pour of rain into perfect streams. Vivian withdrew the 10th and 18th Hussars from the position he last occupied, but on their approaching the Genappe an interruption occurred in consequence of Vandeleur's Brigade not having effected its passage across the Bridge; and the delay became so great that he was induced to put about the 18th Hussars, with a view to their affording a Support to the 1st German Hussars, should they require it. In a short time after this, Vandeleur's Brigade resumed its progress: the 10th Hussars followed; and, as the 1st Hussars, with which Regiment Vivian himself was at the moment, continued to maintain a vigorous and effective skirmish, he ordered the 18th to resume its retrograde movement; having previously directed that some men of the 10th Hussars should be dismounted on reaching the opposite bank of the Genappe, and be prepared with their carbines to defend the passage, should the retreat of the remainder of the Brigade be severely pressed. After skirmishing some time, Vivian despatched a Squadron of the 1st German Hussars to the Bridge, and the moment he began to do so, the French Cavalry again pushed forward with so much boldness and rapidity as to interpose between the Left Squadron and the main body of the Regiment, and to compel that Squadron[Pg 276] to pass the Genappe lower down than the Bridge over which the Brigade passed the little stream. Having ascertained that all was ready, Vivian galloped down the road to the Bridge with the remainder of the 1st German Hussars. The French followed them, loudly cheering, but as soon as the Hussars cleared the Bridge, and the Enemy's Dragoons reached it, some of the dismounted men that had been formed along the top of the opposite bank, in rear of a hedge, overlooking the Bridge and a hollow way, through which the road led from it up the ascent, opened a fire upon the foremost of the French Lancers that had come up to the other end of the Bridge, while the remainder of the 10th, and the whole of the 18th Hussars, were drawn up along the rising ground or bank. The good countenance here shown by Vivian's Brigade, combined with the soft and miry state of the ground after the thunderstorm had set in, completely checked the pursuit by the Enemy's Cavalry, which now turned towards the high road.

The Left Cavalry Column, after Vivian's Brigade had remained in its position for some little time, continued its retreat without further molestation (the Enemy having contented himself with merely detaching a Patrol to watch its movements) along a narrow cross road, running nearly parallel with the Charleroi high road, and leading through the Villages of Glabbaix, Maransart, Aywiers, Frischermont, Smohain, and Verd Cocou. Here Vivian's Brigade arrived in the evening, in the vicinity of the Forest of Soignies, and bivouacked; while Vandeleur's Brigade passed the night somewhat nearer to the ground which had been selected for the position to be taken up by the Anglo-Allied Army.

The Right Cavalry Column, consisting only, as previously stated, of the 1st and 2nd Light Dragoons of the King's German Legion, and of the 15th British Hussars, effected[Pg 277] its retreat in good order, protected by its Skirmishers, as far as the ford, which it crossed above Genappe. At this point, the French Cavalry suspended its pursuit, and proceeded, in like manner as that on the right had done, to join the main body on the high road; while the British Right Cavalry Column continued its retreat unmolested towards the position of Waterloo, in rear of which it bivouacked.

A large body of French Cavalry, consisting of from sixteen to eighteen Squadrons, was now entering Genappe by the Charleroi road, followed by the main body of the French Army under Napoleon.

The Earl of Uxbridge, who was desirous of checking the Enemy's advance, so as to gain sufficient time for the orderly retreat of the Anglo-Allied Army, and to prevent a compromise of any portion of the rearmost troops, decided upon embracing the advantage which the narrow Defile of Genappe seemed to present in aid of his design. The town consists mainly of houses lining the high road, on the Brussels side of the Bridge. The road then ascends a ridge, the brow of which is about six or seven hundred yards distant, and here Lord Uxbridge had halted the Heavy Brigades of Lord Edward Somerset and of Sir William Ponsonby, and posted them so as to cover the retirement of the Light Cavalry. At first, he formed them in line; Somerset's on the right, and Ponsonby's on the left, of the high road; but observing by the Enemy's formidable advance, that the Light Cavalry would soon be compelled to fall back, his Lordship drew up Somerset's Brigade in a Column of half Squadrons upon, but close to, the right of the road itself, so as to admit of troops retiring by its left; and formed Ponsonby's Brigade into a Column of Half Squadrons upon the left of the high road, and somewhat to the rear. The 7th Hussars were formed at some little distance in the rear of Genappe,[Pg 278] and the 23rd Light Dragoons were drawn up in support of that Regiment, and about midway between it and the Heavy Cavalry on the Height. The Squadron of the 7th Hussars, under Major Hodge, it will be recollected, was halted between the main body of that Regiment and the town of Genappe.

Thus posted, the Centre retiring Cavalry Column remained about twenty minutes, when loud shouts announced that the French had entered the town. Presently a few horsemen appeared galloping out of the street, and dashed at speed into Major Hodge's Squadron. They were found, on being taken, to be quite inebriated. In a few moments afterwards, the French Column showed its head within the town; the leading Troop consisted of Lancers, all very young men, mounted on very small horses, and commanded by a fine looking, and, as it subsequently appeared, a very brave man. The Column remained about fifteen minutes within the town, its head halted at the outlet facing the British Rear Guard, and its flanks protected by the houses. The street not being straight, and the rear of the Column not being aware that the front had halted, continued pressing forward, until the whole mass became so jammed that it was impossible for the foremost ranks to go about, should such a movement become necessary.

Their apparent hesitation and indecision induced Lord Uxbridge, who stood upon some elevated ground adjoining the right of the road, to order the 7th Hussars to charge. The latter, animated by the presence of the Commander of the Cavalry, who was also their own Colonel, rushed forward with the most determined spirit and intrepidity; while the French, awaiting the onslaught, opposed to them a close, compact, and impenetrable phalanx of lances; which, being securely flanked by the houses, and backed by a solid mass of horsemen, presented a complete chevaux de frise. Hence,[Pg 279] it is not surprising that the charge should have made no impression upon the Enemy; nevertheless, the contest was maintained for some considerable time; the Hussars cutting at their opponents, and the latter parrying and thrusting, neither party giving way a single inch of ground; both the Commanding Officer of the Lancers, and Major Hodge, commanding the leading Squadron of the Hussars, were killed, gallantly fighting to the last.

The French had by this time established a Battery of Horse Artillery on the left of Genappe and upon the opposite bank of the river, from which they opened a brisk fire upon the British Cavalry in support, and several shot struck the main body of the 7th Hussars, upsetting men and horses, and causing great impediments in their rear. The French Lancers now advanced, and drove the 7th Hussars upon their Reserve; but here the 7th rallied, renewed their attack, and forced back the Lancers upon the town. The latter having been reinforced, rallied, in their turn, and drove back the Hussars. These, however, again rallied, and resolutely faced their opponents, with whom they gallantly continued a fierce encounter for some time longer, when to terminate a conflict which was most obstinate and sanguinary without being productive of any favourable result, but in which the bravery of the 7th Hussars shone most conspicuously, and became the theme of admiration of all who witnessed it, Lord Uxbridge decided upon withdrawing that Regiment and charging with the 1st Life Guards. As soon as the Hussars went about, in pursuance of the Orders received, the Lancers followed them. In the mêlée which ensued, the French lost quite as many men as did the Hussars; and when at length the latter were able to disengage themselves, the former did not attempt to follow them. The 7th retired through the 23rd Light Dragoons,[Pg 280] took the first favourable turn off the road and reformed in the adjoining field.

During this contest, the French, having become sensible of the evil that might arise from the closely wedged state of the Cavalry in the town, began to clear the rear of the most advanced portions of the Column, so as to admit of more freedom of movement in case of disaster. A Battery of British Horse Artillery had taken post close to a house on the Height occupied by the Heavy Cavalry, and on the left of the road; and it was now replying to the French Battery on the opposite bank of the river.

So exceedingly elated were the French with having repulsed the 7th Hussars in this their first serious encounter with the British Cavalry, that immediately on that Regiment retiring, the whole Column that was in Genappe raised the war cry, and rent the air with shouts of "En avant!En avant!" evincing the greatest impatience to follow up this momentary advantage, and to attack the Supports; for which, indeed, the opportunity appeared very favourable, as the ranks of the latter were suffering considerable annoyance from the well directed and effective fire of the French guns on the opposite bank of the river.

They now abandoned the secure cover to which they had been indebted for their temporary success, and were advancing up the ascent with all the confidence of a fancied superiority, when the Earl of Uxbridge, seizing upon the advantage presented for attacking them while moving up hill, with their Flanks unsupported, and a narrow Defile in their rear, and being also desirous of affording the 1st Life Guards an opportunity of charging, brought forward that Regiment through the 23rd Light Dragoons, who opened out for its passage to the front. The Life Guards now made their charge, most gallantly headed by Colonel Sir[Pg 281] John Elley, Deputy Adjutant General, who, at the moment of contact with the Enemy, began by cutting down two men right and left. It was truly a splendid charge; its rapid rush down into the Enemy's mass, was as terrific in appearance as it was destructive in its effect; for although the French met the attack with firmness, they were utterly unable to hold their ground a single moment, were overthrown with great slaughter, and literally ridden down in such a manner that the road was instantaneously covered with men and horses, scattered in all directions. The Life Guards, pursuing their victorious course, dashed into Genappe, and drove all before them as far as the opposite outlet of the town.

This brilliant and eminently successful charge made a deep impression upon the Enemy, who now conducted his pursuit with extreme caution. The 23rd Light Dragoons, which had supported the 1st Life Guards in their charge, became again the last Regiment in the Rear Guard, and continued so during the remainder of the retreat. Ponsonby's Brigade had deployed to the right of the high road, and the guns were so disposed as to take advantageous positions, retiring en échiquier.

The Enemy, after quitting Genappe, tried to get upon the Flanks of the Centre retiring Column, chiefly upon the Right Flank; but the Royals, Greys, and Inniskillings, manœuvred beautifully; retiring by alternate Squadrons, and covered by their own Skirmishers, who completely beat the French Light Cavalry in that kind of warfare. Finding that from the deep state of the ground, there was not the least danger of his being turned by the Enemy, Lord Uxbridge gradually withdrew Ponsonby's Brigade to the high road. He kept the Light Cavalry, protected by the Household Brigade, as the Rear Guard, and slowly retired into the chosen position[Pg 282] in front of Waterloo, the guns and rockets constantly plying the Enemy's Advance, which, although it pressed forward twice or thrice, and made preparations to attack, never ventured to come to close quarters with its opponents; and the Column received from it no further molestation.

On arriving at the foot of the Anglo-Allied position, the 23rd Light Dragoons moved off to the (Allied) right of the high road, and into the hollow in which lies the Orchard of the Farm of La Haye Sainte. Here they were drawn up, prepared to meet the French Advanced Guard, should it follow them, or to fall upon its Flank, should it venture to continue its march along the road. The latter, however, halted upon the Height which intervenes between La Haye Sainte and La Belle Alliance, and opened a fire upon the Centre of the Duke of Wellington's Line, above the former Farm, from two Batteries of Horse Artillery.

Picton, who was then upon the rising ground in rear of La Haye Sainte, and who was intently watching the Enemy's advance along the high road, perceived Columns of Infantry advancing from La Belle Alliance. He immediately took upon himself to unite the two Batteries nearest at hand, which were those under Major Lloyd of the British Artillery, and Major Cleeves of the King's German Legion (although not belonging to his own Division), and to place them in position on the high ground close to the Charleroi road. The guns immediately opened a brisk cannonade upon the French Columns, of which they had obtained a most accurate range just as their leading Divisions had entered the inclosed space between the high banks which line the high road where it is cut through the Height before mentioned as intervening between La Belle Alliance and La Haye Sainte. This mass of the Enemy's Infantry suffered severely from the fire, to which it stood exposed about half an hour: for[Pg 283] the head of the Column having been unable to retrograde, in consequence of the pressure from its rear, and prevented by the high bank on either side of the road from filing off to a flank, could not readily extricate itself from so embarrassing a situation.

During the whole of this fire, the Allied Batteries were replied to, though very ineffectually, by the two Batteries of French Horse Artillery posted on the Height in question.

It was now twilight: the approaching darkness was greatly accelerated by the lowering aspect of the sky. Picquets were hastily thrown forward by both Armies, and to so great a height had the mutual spirit of defiance arisen, that the near approach of opposing parties, advancing to take up their ground for the night, led to little Cavalry affairs, which, though unproductive of any useful result to either side, were distinguished, on different points of the Lines, by a chivalrous bravery which seemed to require a prudent restraint.

In one of these affairs, Captain Heyliger of the 7th Hussars, made a very brilliant charge with his Troop; and when the Duke of Wellington sent to check him, his Grace desired to be made acquainted with the name of an Officer who had displayed so much gallantry. A very spirited charge was also made by the Right Troop of the 2nd Light Dragoons of the King's German Legion, under Lieutenant Hugo; who was allowed by his Commanding Officer to volunteer for that service, and who, from the vicinity of Hougomont, boldly rushed up the Height intervening between that point and Mon Plaisir, and gallantly drove back a portion of the French Advanced Guard of Cavalry; recapturing at the same time three carriages filled with British sick and wounded.

The manner in which the Duke of Wellington withdrew[Pg 284] his Army from the position of Quatre Bras to the one of Waterloo, must ever render that retreat a perfect model of operations of this nature, performed in the immediate presence of a powerful Enemy. Those dispositions which have been described as having been made by him for the purpose of masking the retirement of the main body, of affording perfect security to the passage of the Defile in his rear, and of ensuring the orderly and regular assembly of the several Corps on the ground respectively allotted to them in the new position, evince altogether a degree of skill which has never been surpassed.

In such operations, the covering of the Army by its Cavalry and Light Troops necessarily forms an important feature; and a glance at the manner in which this duty was fulfilled by the Earl of Uxbridge, with the Cavalry, Horse Artillery, and a few Light Battalions, at his disposal, is sufficient to show that the exemplification of such feature on this occasion was exceedingly beautiful. Indeed, so orderly and so perfect were all the arrangements connected with this retreat, from its commencement to its close, that the movements partook more of the appearance of a Field Day upon a large scale, than of an operation executed in the actual presence of an Enemy; and this was particularly observable as regarded the protection afforded by the Cavalry and Horse Artillery, which manœuvred to admiration, and in a style that, combined with the brilliant charge by the 1st Life Guards at Genappe, evidently impressed the Enemy with a due sense of the efficiency of the gallant troops immediately in his front. It may here also be remarked, that the judicious dispositions made by Lord Uxbridge in covering this retreat, and the high degree of confidence with which he inspired the Cavalry, afforded well grounded anticipations of the success likely to attend his measures[Pg 285] when conducting that Cavalry in the open battle field, on which, it was foreseen, its prowess would so very soon be tested. The British and German portion of the Cavalry was in excellent order, and seemed already to have imbibed, in a high degree, that gallant bearing and chivalrous spirit, which it beheld and admired in its distinguished Chief.

In the course of the evening, the Duke received from Prince Blücher a reply to the request he had made for his support in the position he was now occupying. It was highly characteristic of the old man, who had written it, in the following terms, without previously conferring with, or addressing himself to, any one:—"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."

The Duke, who, as has already been explained, had, from the commencement of the Campaign, considered it very possible that Napoleon would advance by the Mons road, still entertained apprehensions of an attempt on the part of his opponent to turn him by Hal, and seize Brussels by a coup de main. For this, however, he was fully prepared, having made his dispositions for the security of that Flank, in the manner pointed out in the following instructions, which he issued to Major General the Hon. Sir Charles Colville:—

"17th June 1815.

"The Army retired this day from its position at Quatre Bras to its present position in front of Waterloo.

"The Brigades of the Fourth Division, at Braine le Comte, are to retire at daylight tomorrow morning upon Hal.

"Major General Colville must be guided by the intelligence he receives of the Enemy's movements in his march to Hal, whether he moves by the direct route or by Enghien.

[Pg 286]

"Prince Frederick of Orange is to occupy with his Corps the position between Hal and Enghien, and is to defend it as long as possible.

"The Army will probably continue in its position in front of Waterloo tomorrow.

"Lieutenant Colonel Torrens will inform Lieutenant General Sir Charles Colville of the position and situation of the Armies."

The respective lines of Picquets and Vedettes had scarcely been taken up along the low ground that skirted the front of the Anglo-Allied position, and the last gun had just boomed from the Heights, when "heaven's artillery," accompanied by vivid flashes of lightning, again peeled forth in solemn and awful grandeur; while the rain, pouring down in torrents, imparted the utmost gloom and discomfort to the bivouacs, which the opposing Armies had established for the night, upon the ground destined to become celebrated in history, even to the remotest ages.

[Pg 287]


IT was not until the night of the 16th, after Zieten's and Pirch's Corps d'Armée had retired to Tilly and Gentinnes, that it was decided the Prussian Army should retreat upon Wavre. This decision was communicated in the Orders then transmitted from the Prussian Head Quarters to the First and Second Corps d'Armée (Zieten's and Pirch's) directing them to bivouac at Bierge and St Anne, in the vicinity of Wavre; as also in the Orders forwarded, on the next morning, to the bivouacs of the Third and Fourth Corps (Thielemann's and Bülow's), at Gembloux and Basse Bodecée, directing them to fall back, and bivouac at La Bavette and Dion le Mont near Wavre.

Zieten's and Pirch's Corps retired by Mont St Guibert, in rear of which Defile the latter Corps remained a considerable time as Rear Guard, while the former marched on to Wavre, where it arrived about midday, crossed the Dyle, and took up its position at Bierge. Pirch followed the same route, but took post on the right bank of the Dyle, between St Anne and Aisemont.

With the first glimmering of daylight the troops, which, under the command of General Jagow, had continued in full possession of Bry and its immediate vicinity during the night, began to retire, firstly, in the direction of Sombref, and thence to Gembloux, which they reached before the arrival of Thielemann's Corps. After the receipt of the Order pointing out the direction of the[Pg 288] retreat, Jagow conducted these troops, in the course of the 17th, towards their respective Brigades.

Lieutenant Colonel Sohr, whose Cavalry Brigade with half a Horse Battery, formed the Rear Guard of the line of retreat of Zieten's and Pirch's Corps, received Orders to take up a concealed position between Tilly and Gentinnes, thence to watch the movements of the Enemy; and, as soon as he found himself pressed by the latter, to fall back upon the Defile of Mont St Guibert.

Thielemann, who, it will be recollected, had received a message from Gneisenau, leaving it optional with him to retire by Tilly or Gembloux, according to circumstances, decided on falling back upon the latter point; being well aware that the Enemy was in possession of the Villages of St Amand and Ligny, and of the Field of Battle to within a very short distance from Sombref.

He had collected together his widely disseminated Brigades, and drawn in his Advanced Posts; an operation which, executed in the darkness of the night, retarded his departure so much that it was two o'clock in the morning before the Reserve Artillery, which formed the head of the Column, struck into the road which at Point du Jour, leads from the Namur chaussée to Gembloux. The Rear Guard of this line of retreat, which consisted of the Ninth Infantry Brigade, under Major General Borcke, and the Reserve Cavalry, under General Hobe, and was drawn up along the Namur road, having in its front the Fleurus chaussée, leading directly towards the Enemy, did not commence its march until after four o'clock, when the sun had risen. The main body of the Corps reached Gembloux at six o'clock in the morning.

On approaching this place, Thielemann learned that Bülow had posted the Fourth Corps about three miles in[Pg 289] rear of Gembloux, upon the old Roman road; whereupon Major Weyrach, Aide de Camp to Prince Blücher, who had continued with Thielemann during the night of the 16th, set off to seek out the Field Marshal, and to report to him the position and attendant circumstances of the Third and Fourth Corps d'Armée. He soon succeeded in discovering the Prussian Head Quarters at Mélioreux, and communicated the above important information to Count Gneisenau.

Thielemann gave his own Corps a halt on the other side of the town, in order that his troops might obtain rest and refreshment.

The Advance of Bülow's Corps had reached Basse Bodecée, upon the old Roman road, at nightfall of the 16th of June. Here that General became acquainted with the loss of the Battle of Ligny: whereupon he ordered the Brigades of his Corps to be posted at intervals along this road, with the exception of the Thirteenth (under Lieutenant General Hake), which was directed to bivouac more to the rear, near Hottoment, where the same road is intersected by that which conducts from Namur to Louvain.

Both Corps remained for some hours in a state of uncertainty as to the direction to be taken for forming a junction with the First and Second Corps. Thielemann wrote to Bülow that he had received no Orders from Prince Blücher, but that he presumed the retreat was upon St Trond. He also stated that he had not been followed by the Enemy, but that he had heard distant firing on the right, which he concluded was connected with the Duke of Wellington's Army.

At length, about half past nine o'clock, Prince Blücher's Aide de Camp, Major Weyrach, arrived at Bülow's Head[Pg 290] Quarters, and brought the Orders for the retreat of the Fourth Corps to Dion le Mont, near Wavre, by Walhain and Corbaix. The Orders also required that Bülow should post the main body of his Rear Guard (which consisted of the Fourteenth Brigade) at Vieux Sart; as also that he should send a Detachment, consisting of one Regiment of Cavalry, two Battalions of Infantry, and two guns of Horse Artillery, to the Defile of Mont St Guibert, to act, in the first instance as a Support to Lieutenant Colonel Sohr, who was at Tilly, and then, upon the latter falling back, to act as Rear Guard in this direction. Lieutenant Colonel Ledebur was accordingly detached upon this duty with the 10th Hussars, the Fusilier Battalions of the 11th Regiment of Infantry and 1st Regiment of Pomeranian Landwehr, together with two guns from the Horse Battery No. 12. The Corps itself moved directly upon Dion le Mont, and on reaching the Height near that town, on which is situated the public house of A tous vents, took up a position close to the intersection of the roads leading to Louvain, Wavre, and Gembloux.

At two o'clock in the afternoon, Thielemann commenced his march upon Wavre; where the Corps arrived late in the evening, and took up its position at La Bavette, leaving the Ninth Infantry Brigade (General Borcke) and the Cavalry Brigade of Colonel Count Lottum, on the right bank of the Dyle. In this position the Corps was now rejoined by Colonel Marwitz' Cavalry Brigade, which had retired by Tilly; as also by the 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Kurmark Landwehr, and the two Squadrons of the 6th Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry, which troops had been left at Dinant. The Squadron of the 7th Uhlans that had been detached to Onoz, also joined, but having fallen in with a[Pg 291] superior force of the Enemy's Cavalry, had experienced a great loss. The two Squadrons of the 9th Hussars, belonging to this Corps, had not yet arrived from Ciney.

The Prussian Head Quarters were established, early on the 17th, at Wavre. The veteran Field Marshal, who was still suffering considerably in consequence of his fall, was obliged to seek rest the moment he arrived there, and did not quit his bed during the remainder of the day.

In the course of the forenoon, Lieutenant Massow, who had been despatched with a message to the Duke of Wellington, returned with the one from his Grace, communicating the intention of the latter to fall back upon Waterloo and accept a battle there, provided he received the support of two Prussian Corps. (See page 264.) There was every disposition to enter into this proposal, but some degree of uncertainty existed as to whether Bülow's Corps would join the Army on the 17th, as also a certain misgiving respecting the Park of Ammunition of both Zieten's and Pirch's Corps, which had been directed upon Gembloux, a circumstance that excited apprehensions as to the possibility of furnishing the much needed supply of ammunition to these Corps which were at hand. In this state of uncertainty, no other resolution could be adopted than that of holding the position in front and in rear of the Dyle (with the Advanced Guard of the Fourth Corps as far forward as Mont St Guibert), until the required ammunition should be obtained; and Blücher deferred replying to Wellington's communication, in the hope that his Army would very soon be relieved from the unpleasant circumstances above mentioned.

While the Prussians were thus effecting their retreat in[Pg 292] good order, along the cross roads of that part of the country (high road there was none), no corresponding activity manifested itself on the part of the French, whom the morning's dawn found still lying in their bivouac. Their Vedettes stood within half a mile of the Columns of Thielemann's Rear Guard; the retreat of which, not having commenced until after sunrise, might have been easily remarked: and had the French detached but the smallest Patrol, they could not have failed to discover the direction of that retreat—whether towards Namur or Gembloux.

It was not until after Thielemann had retired a sufficient distance to escape further notice that any disposition for movement occurred to disturb the perfect quietude of their repose. Then, Pajol with a Division of his Light Cavalry Corps, under Lieutenant General Baron Soult, consisting of the 1st, 4th, and 5th Hussars, was detached in pursuit of the Prussians. He struck into the Namur road, and shortly afterwards Lieutenant General Baron Teste's Infantry Division of Lobau's Corps (the Sixth), followed in support, and took up a position on the Heights of Mazy.

Pajol had not proceeded very far when he perceived a Prussian Battery retiring upon Namur, which he lost no time in capturing and forwarding to Head Quarters; where the circumstance strengthened the belief that Blücher had retreated by that road. It was the Prussian Horse Battery No. 14, belonging to the Second Corps, which, having towards the end of the Battle expended every shot, had driven off the Field to procure a fresh supply of ammunition, but had not succeeded in falling in with the Reserve Ammunition Waggons. The Battery neither returned to its own Corps, nor did it comply with Thielemann's express Order to march upon Gembloux, but consumed much time in uselessly driving first in one direction, and then in another. It[Pg 293] was accompanied at this moment by a Squadron of the 7th Prussian Uhlans, which the Third Corps had neglected to recall from Onoz. The Squadron retired on the approach of the French Cavalry, and escaped with a loss of 30 men; but all the guns fell into the hands of the Enemy.

Pajol, feeling at last some reason to doubt that Namur was a point in the Prussian retreat, diverged from the high road, and proceeded to St Denis, where he was joined by Teste's Division. A Brigade of Excelmans' Cavalry Corps had been detached to offer support to Pajol, should the latter require it; but in consequence of certain information, gained upon the road, it was subsequently directed to proceed towards Gembloux, on approaching which it discovered traces of the Prussian retreat.

Grouchy, who commanded the Right Wing of the French Army in Napoleon's absence, repaired early in the morning to the Emperor's Quarters at Fleurus, for instructions, according to an Order he had received to that effect on the previous evening. He was desired to wait and accompany the Emperor, who was going to visit the Field of Battle. The latter, however, did not start from Fleurus until between eight and nine o'clock, and on reaching St Amand, he examined the approaches by which this Village had been attacked the day before; then, he rode about the Field, gave directions for the care of the wounded; and, as he passed in front of different Regiments, that were falling in without arms on the ground where they were bivouacked, he was received with loud cheers. He addressed himself to nearly all the Corps, and assured them of the lively satisfaction he had felt on witnessing their conduct in the battle. Having dismounted, he conversed freely, and at great length, with Grouchy and Gérard, on the state of public opinion in[Pg 294] Paris, the different political parties, and on various other subjects quite unconnected with those military operations upon the successful issue of which depended the stability of his present power.

That Napoleon should have neglected to follow up the advantages which fortune had thrown in his way on the morning of the 17th of June, is quite incomprehensible. With the exception of a Prussian Picquet at Gentinnes, his whole front as far as Gembloux, was perfectly clear of an Enemy. Wellington was still in position at Quatre Bras, where his Left had become exposed by the retreat of the Prussians, and in rear of which point was the Defile of Genappe. There was nothing to prevent Napoleon from marching directly upon that Defile; and supporting, by a vigorous attack upon the Anglo-Allied Left and Rear, a simultaneous movement against the Front by the force under Ney. Whither had fled the mighty spirit which had shone forth with such dazzling brilliancy in former Wars, and which had never displayed the energy of its powers of combination, and activity in following up successes, more eminently than in the Campaign of the previous year? When before did he omit pressing every advantage to the utmost, or neglect to seize that moment of time, in which, having defeated one portion of his Enemies, he was enabled to fall with combined force upon another? His Army was not more fatigued than was that of Wellington, which had arrived at Quatre Bras by forced marches. The troops which he subsequently did lead upon that point, when it was too late, consisting chiefly of the Imperial Guard and the Sixth Corps, were comparatively fresh. The former had not been engaged at Ligny until towards the termination of the action, when they suffered scarcely any loss; the latter, which arrived later, had remained intact. The idea of[Pg 295] forming a junction with Ney, with a view of attacking Wellington, was certainly entertained; but its execution was most unaccountably and unnecessarily delayed until its intended effect could not but fall powerless upon a vigilant Enemy, fully prepared, by having improved the precious moments of time, thus lost, to detect the purpose of the movement, and to ward off the intended blow.

With an Army greatly inferior in numbers to the united forces of his adversaries, Napoleon's prospects of success rested exclusively upon his utmost skill and address, not only in preventing that union of force, but also in so planning, arranging, and executing his combinations, that having succeeded in defeating one opponent with a superior mass, he might then precipitate himself in like manner upon another, at the very moment when the latter might be occupied or engaged with one of his Marshals. This would have exacted of him the most untiring energy, the application of all his great resources in strategical science, a lightning-swift decision, and a daring resolution both in adopting and in executing all his movements. It was by the exercise of such powerful mental resources as these, that, unaided by a sufficiently corresponding amount of physical force, he had conducted the Campaign of 1814; but the spirit by which they were conceived, and the genius which instinctively seized the means of their execution, seemed to have abandoned him in this, his last, Campaign: a faint gleam of the old spirit was visible in its opening movements, but it was now rather a wildfire, dazzling him for a moment, on the downward path to his destiny, than the Star which had so often led him to victory. The last flash of his genius was brief, and, on the memorable plains of Fleurus, seemed to disappear, and leave him in utter darkness.

The same fatal inactivity which had marked the French[Pg 296] Emperor's proceedings on the evening of the 15th, and during the morning of the 16th, again manifested itself upon the 17th of June: and it was not until nearly noon of this day, upon receiving a report of a reconnaissance, made in the direction of Quatre Bras, and upon learning that a considerable body of Prussians had been discovered at Gembloux, that he made any disposition for the movement of his troops, beyond the previous detaching of Pajol's Light Cavalry in pursuit of the Prussians along the Namur road.

He now ordered the following troops to proceed to occupy a position in advance of Marbais, across the Namur road, facing Quatre Bras:—

Lobau's Infantry Corps (the Sixth), with the exception of the Twenty First Division, under Lieutenant General Teste, which had already been detached in support of Pajol;

Milhaud's Corps of Heavy Cavalry (Cuirassiers), Lieutenant General Baron Subervie's Light Cavalry Brigade, from Pajol's Corps;

the Third Light Cavalry Division (belonging to the Third Corps), under Lieutenant General Baron Domon; and the Imperial Guard, both Cavalry and Infantry.

To Marshal Grouchy he confided the pursuit of the Prussians, and for this purpose he placed at his disposal as great an extent of force as his limited means would admit: a force, certainly not sufficient to enable that Marshal to confront the whole Prussian Army, should the latter, after having rallied and concentrated its strength, make a stand against him, but quite so to enable him to watch its movements, and to manœuvre so as to maintain his communication with the main Army, and, if pressed by superior numbers, to effect a junction with Napoleon.

[Pg 297]

The following were the troops thus detached under Grouchy:—

Infantry. Cavalry. Artillery. Guns.
Third Corps, General Count Vandamme 14,508 936 32
Fourth Corps, General Count Gérard 12,589 2,366 1,538 38
Twenty first Division (Sixth Corps), Lieutenant General Baron Teste 2,316 161 8
Fourth Division (First Cavalry Corps), Lieutenant General Count Pajol 1,234 154 6
Second Cavalry Corps, Lieutenant General Count Excelmans 2,817 246 12
——— ——— ——— ———
29,413 6,417 3,035 96
Deduct loss on 16th, 3,900 800 400 ...
——— ——— ——— ———
Total 25,513 5,617 2,635 96

33,765 men and 96 guns.

The Seventh Infantry Division, under Lieutenant General Girard (belonging to the Second Corps) having suffered very severely in the Battle, was left upon the Field.

Napoleon's instructions to Grouchy were extremely simple and concise: "Pursue the Prussians, complete their defeat by attacking them as soon as you come up with them, and never let them out of your sight. I am going to unite the remainder of this portion of the Army with Marshal Ney's Corps, to march against the English, and to fight them if they should hold their ground between this and the Forest of Soignies. You will communicate with me by the paved road which leads to Quatre Bras." No particular direction was prescribed, because the Emperor was totally ignorant of the real line of the Prussian retreat. At the same time he was strongly impressed with the idea that Blücher had retired upon Namur and Liege, with a view to occupy the line of the Meuse, whence he might seriously endanger the[Pg 298] Right of the French Army, as also its main line of operation, should it advance upon Brussels.

Grouchy did not hesitate to remark to the Emperor, that the Prussians, having commenced their retreat at ten o'clock the previous night, had gained several hours' start of the troops with which he was to follow them; that although the reports received from the Advanced Cavalry conveyed no positive information as to the direction in which the great mass of the Prussian Army had effected its retreat, appearances as yet seemed to justify the supposition that Blücher had fallen back upon Namur; and that as he would thus have to pursue in a direction contrary to that which Napoleon was himself going to take, with very little chance of being able to prevent the execution of any dispositions the Prussians might have resolved upon when quitting the Field of Battle, he begged to be allowed to follow the Emperor in his projected movement upon Quatre Bras.

Napoleon declined to entertain this proposition, repeated the Order he had already given to him, adding that it rested with him (Grouchy) to discover the route taken by the Prussians, whose defeat he was to complete by attacking them the moment he came up with them; while he himself would proceed to fight the English.

The Order was immediately given for the advance of the troops previously assembled near Marbais, preceded by Subervie's Division of Light Cavalry, as Advanced Guard. By the time they reached Quatre Bras, which was about two o'clock, the whole of Wellington's Infantry had crossed the Genappe, and was retiring along the high road to Brussels, protected by the Cavalry, which was now pressed by the French, in the manner described in the preceding Chapter.

[Pg 299]

The march of the French troops through Bry, in the direction of Quatre Bras, became known to the Prussians through Lieutenant Colonel Sohr, who still held his Cavalry Brigade, even at this time, posted in rear of Tilly. Shortly afterwards, some of the French Cavalry having approached, he began to retire slowly towards Mont St Guibert, and, as he frequently formed up, in wait for the Enemy, he did not reach that point until the evening of the 17th. Here he found Lieutenant Colonel Ledebur, who had arrived with his Detachment, and had received Orders to maintain the Defile.

Upon the departure of Napoleon, Grouchy ordered Vandamme and Gérard to get their Corps under arms, and to move them, in the first instance, to the junction of the Gembloux road with that to Namur; and having subsequently received intelligence that a considerable body of Prussians had passed through the former town, he desired that those two Corps should continue their movement upon that point. In the mean time, he repaired to the Advanced Posts of Excelmans' Dragoons, which were by this time beyond Gembloux. It was part of this Cavalry which followed Lieutenant Colonel Sohr, on the left. They merely threw out Skirmishers against him; and, as night set in, they abandoned the pursuit in this direction.

The Corps of Vandamme and Gérard did not reach Gembloux until very late in the evening. The former was posted in advance, the latter, in rear, of the town; near which also, and on the right bank of the Ormeau, was stationed the Sixth Light Cavalry Division, under General Vallin, who succeeded to the command, upon Lieutenant General Maurin being wounded at the Battle of Ligny. The First Brigade of Lieutenant General Chastel's Tenth[Pg 300] Cavalry Division, consisting of the 4th and 12th Dragoons, under General Bonnemain, was pushed on to Sart à Wallain, and the 15th Dragoons (from General Vincent's Brigade of the Ninth Cavalry Division, under Lieutenant General Baron Soult), were detached to Perwès. From both these points, reports were sent into Gembloux that the Prussians had retired upon Wavre.

Pajol, with his Light Cavalry and Teste's Infantry Division, had returned from St Denis, between Namur and Gembloux, to the original position occupied by the latter in the morning, at Mazy, in the immediate vicinity of the Field of Ligny; a movement for which no satisfactory cause has ever been assigned.

The extent of information obtained by Grouchy concerning the Prussian retreat, and the nature of the dispositions which he adopted in consequence, will be best explained by the following despatch which he addressed to the Emperor:—

"Gembloux, le 17 Juin, "Gembloux, 17th June,
à dix heures du soir. at ten o'clock in the evening.
Sire,—J'ai l'honneur de vous rendre compte que j'occupe Gembloux et que ma Cavalerie est à Sauvenières. L'Ennemi, fort d'environ trente mille hommes, continue son mouvement de retraite; on lui a saisi ici un parc de 400 bêtes à cornes, des magasins et des bagages. "Sire,—I have the honour to report to you that I occupy Gembloux, and that my Cavalry is at Sauvenières. The Enemy, about thirty thousand men strong, continues his movement of retreat. We have seized here of his, a pen of 400 horned cattle, magazines and baggage.
"Il paraît d'après tous les rapports, qu'arrivés à Sauvenières, les Prussiens se sont divisés en deux Colonnes: l'une a dû prendre la route de Wavre, en passant par Sart à Wallain, l'autre Colonne paraît s'être dirigée sur Perwès. "It would appear according to all the reports, that, on arrival at Sauvenières, the Prussians divided themselves into two Columns: one of which took the road to Wavre, passing by Sart à Wallain; the other Column would appear to have been directed on Perwès. [Pg 301]
"On peut peutêtre en inférer qu'une portion va joindre Wellington, et que le Centre, qui est l'Armée de Blücher, se retire sur Liège: une autre Colonne avec de l'Artillerie ayant fait son mouvement de retraite par Namur, le Général Excelmans a Ordre de pousser ce soir six Escadrons sur Sart à Wallain et trois Escadrons sur Perwès. D'après leur rapport, si la masse des Prussiens se retire sur Wavre, je la suivrai dans cette direction, afin qu'ils ne puissent pas gagner Bruxelles, et de les séparer de Wellington. "It may perhaps be inferred from this that one portion is going to join Wellington; and that the Centre, which is the Army of Blücher, is retiring on Liege. Another Column with Artillery having made its retreat by Namur, General Excelmans has the Order to push this evening six Squadrons on to Sart à Wallain, and three Squadrons on to Perwès. According to their report, if the mass of the Prussians is retiring on Wavre, I shall follow them in on Wavre, I shall follow them in that direction, so as to prevent them from reaching Brussels, and to keep them separated from Wellington.
"Si, au contraire, mes renseignemens prouvent que la principale force Prussienne a marche sur Perwès, je me dirigerai par cette ville à la poursuite de l'Ennemi. "If, on the contrary, my enquiries prove that the principal Prussian force has marched on Perwès, I shall proceed by that town in pursuit of the Enemy.
"Les Généraux Thielemann et Borstel faisaient partie de l'Armée que Votre Majesté a battue hier; ils étaient encore ce matin à 10 heures ici, et ont annoncé leurs avaient été mis hors de combat. Ils ont demande en partant que vingt mille hommes des les distances de Wavre, Perwès et Hannut. Blücher a été blessé légèrement au bras, ce qui ne l'a pas empêché de continuer à commander après s'être fait panser. Il n'a point passé par Gembloux. "Generals Thielemann and Borstel formed part of the Army They were still here at 10 o'clock this morning, and have announced that twenty thousand of their men have been disabled. They asked, in leaving, the distances of Wavre, Perwès, and Hannut. Blücher has been slightly wounded in the arm; which, however, has not hindered him from continuing to command after having his wound dressed. He has not passed by Gembloux.
"Je suis avec respect, de Votre Majesté,
"Sire, le fidèle sujet,
"Le Maréchal Comte de Grouchy."
"I am with respect,
"The faithful subject of
"Your Majesty,
"Marshal Count de Grouchy."

[Pg 302]

Although the information conveyed in this despatch was incorrect on some points, and imperfect on others, inasmuch as it represented that Prussian Columns had retired upon Namur and Perwès, which was not the case, and gave no account of the Columns (First and Second Corps) which had retreated by Tilly and Gentinnes, still it was well calculated to satisfy Napoleon, that at least the spirit of his instructions had been understood by the Marshal. The latter had stated that he suspected a portion of the Prussian troops was proceeding to join Wellington, and that, should he ascertain, through his Cavalry detached to Sart à Wallain and Perwès, that the great mass of the Prussians was retiring upon Wavre, it was his intention to pursue them in that direction, "so as to prevent them from reaching Brussels, and to keep them separated from Wellington."

Four hours afterwards (that is, at two o'clock on the morning of the 18th) he sent off another despatch to the Emperor, reporting that he had decided on marching upon either Corbaix or Wavre.

The retreat of the Prussian Army, after its defeat at Ligny on the 16th of June, was conducted with great skill, and executed in very good order. By detaining Thielemann's Corps upon the Field of Battle until the morning of the 17th, ample security was afforded to the line of retreat by Gembloux; and by not withdrawing Bülow's Corps from that town until Thielemann drew near to it, the distance between the main bodies of these two Corps became so limited as to present the ready means of opposing their combined force to a vigorous pursuit should such be attempted.

By the evening of the 17th, the entire Prussian Army (with the exception of the Ninth and Thirteenth Brigades,[Pg 303] and the Reserve Cavalry of the Third Corps, which arrived by six o'clock on the following morning) had assembled in the immediate vicinity of Wavre—two Corps on the right, and the remaining two Corps on the left, bank of the Dyle—in perfect order, and fully prepared to resume the offensive. Upon the two lines of retreat, the Rear Guards were well disposed at Vieux Sart and Mont St Guibert; where they continued during that night, and whence they retired leisurely on the following day. On the Prussian Left, Patrols were despatched towards the main road leading from Namur to Louvain. On the Right, a Detachment was sent from Zieten's Corps to Limale, on the left bank of the Dyle, to cover the Flank, and Patrols were pushed higher up the river, to communicate with the Post of Mont St Guibert. Major Falkenhausen had been detached, during the day, to Seroulx for the purpose of reconnoitring the country in the vicinity of Genappe, and of the high road to Brussels; and he succeeded in discovering, from the wooded tracts beyond Seroulx, the advance of the French Army along the chaussée. Patrols were also detached towards Lasne, Couture, and Aywiers, to observe the Defiles along the rivulet of the Lasne.

Such were the dispositions of the defeated Prussians on the evening of the 17th, while the victorious French had not advanced beyond Gembloux. The former had fallen back, in good order, upon a line with, and a short distance from, the Anglo-Allied Army on their Right; while their opponents, though encountering no obstacle of importance, had made but little progress, and were widely diverging from, instead of closely co-operating with, the main Army from which they had been detached. These dispositions, so ably planned and so efficiently performed, were well calculated to facilitate the grand operation of the morrow, namely,[Pg 304] Blücher's flank movement to the right, to effect a junction with Wellington.

The retreat to Wavre did not in any way incapacitate the Prussian Army for the resumption of actively offensive operations. With respect to its material, it so happened that the Park of Reserve Ammunition Waggons had, in the first instance, been directed upon Gembloux; and Colonel Röhl, who superintended the Ordnance Department of the Army, sent his Aide de Camp during the night of the 16th to conduct this Reserve to Wavre; whilst he himself hastened to the latter town, for the purpose of putting the whole of the Artillery, accordingly as it arrived there, again in a fit state for action. The supply of ammunition, however, was necessarily incomplete; but in order to prevent any failure in this respect, should some mishap occur to the Park of Reserve Ammunition Waggons, a Courier was despatched to Maestricht, with directions for the speedy transport of a supply of ammunition from thence to the Army, by means of the common waggons of the country. Similar Orders were conveyed to Cologne, Wesel, and Münster: and, by way of precaution, an express was sent to Liege for the removal of the Battering Train to Maestricht; as also for the destruction, in case of danger, of the iron foundry in the Arsenal of the former place.

Fortunately, however, the Reserve Ammunition Waggons reached Wavre safely at five o'clock in the afternoon of the 17th. The Corps and Batteries were furnished with a complete supply of ammunition, and the Army was thus placed in a perfectly efficient state for commencing another battle. This turn of affairs was most encouraging, and Blücher delayed not another moment in despatching to Wellington the reply to which allusion has already been made. (See page 285.)

[Pg 305]

As regards the influence which the defeat at Ligny exercised over the morale of the Prussian Army, its injurious effects were made manifest amongst the newly raised drafts from the Rhenish and Westphalian Provinces, and from the Duchy of Berg. Of these troops, 8,000 men betook themselves to a flight which admitted of no check until they reached Liege and Aix la Chapelle. Among the Rhenish troops, particularly those from Provinces which had formerly belonged to France, there were many old French soldiers; and although several of them fought with great bravery, others evinced a bad disposition, and there were instances in which they passed over to their former companions in arms. Such, however, was not the case with the troops from the other western districts of the Prussian State: there was scarcely a single man amongst the missing, who belonged to any of the old Westphalian Provinces, Mark, Cleve, Minden, and Ravensberg, whilst several came from that of Münster.

But the morale of the great mass of the Prussian Army continued unshaken. The spirit of the troops was neither tamed nor broken; and their enthusiasm, though damped, had not been subdued. Unbounded confidence was placed in the firm decision and restless energy of their aged and venerated Chief; who, though suffering from the effects of his fall, by which his whole frame had sustained a severe shock, evinced not the slightest apprehension of fatal consequences to the Campaign resulting from this defeat. His unbending nature led him to cast aside for the moment those purely political interests and theoretically strategical principles, by which a more cautious and less enterprising Commander might have been induced to secure the line of the Meuse, and to preserve his direct communications with the Prussian States, and thus afford but a doubtful[Pg 306] and an inefficient support to his Ally. Placing full reliance on the resources of his own mind, and on the stern, warlike character of his troops; he devoted his whole energies to the attainment of the one grand object—that of crushing Napoleon by combining with Wellington. This confidence in himself and in his soldiers was strikingly and characteristically manifested in the concluding words of a General Order which he issued to the Army on the morning of the 17th. "I shall immediately lead you against the Enemy;—we shall beat him, because it is our duty to do so."

Towards midnight of the 17th, a communication reached Blücher from General Müffling (already mentioned as having been attached to the British Head Quarters) to the following effect. "The Anglo-Allied Army is posted with its Right upon Braine l'Alleud, its Centre upon Mont St Jean, and its Left near La Haye; having the Enemy in its front. The Duke awaits the attack, but calculates upon Prussian support."

This intelligence was forwarded, at midnight, to General Count Bülow, accompanied by the following Order:—"You will therefore, at daybreak, march with the Fourth Corps from Dion le Mont, through Wavre, taking the direction of Chapelle St Lambert, in which vicinity you will keep your force concealed 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 upon the Enemy's Right Flank. The Second Corps will follow you as a direct Support: the First and Third Corps 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 upon Wavre. All the Baggage Train, and everything not[Pg 307] actually required in the Field of Action, will be sent to Louvain."

Instructions, in conformity with the above, were also forwarded to the Commanders of the other Corps; and a communication of these arrangements was despatched to General Müffling, with an explanation that the fatigue of the troops could not possibly admit of earlier support. This General was, at the same time, requested to forward timely intelligence of the attack upon the Duke, and of the nature of that attack, that measures might be adopted accordingly.

At five o'clock on the morning of the 18th, Pajol started from Mazy, with Soult's Cavalry Division and Teste's Infantry Division, marching by St Denis and Grand Lez, to Tourinnes; where he was to await further Orders. At about eight o'clock, Excelmans' Corps of Heavy Cavalry, consisting of eight Regiments of Dragoons, was put in motion; and at nine o'clock, Vandamme's and Gérard's Infantry Corps began their march along one and the same road, by Sart à Wallain, upon Wavre. The Left of this Column was protected, towards the Dyle, by the advance of Maurin's Division of Light Cavalry, under General Vallin.

It was about half past ten o'clock, when Excelmans' Advanced Guard came up with the Prussian Rear Guard, on the road to Wavre. He immediately formed his troops in position, resting their Left upon the wooded ravine near the Farm of La Plaquerie, and their Right in the direction of Neuf Sart. While his Skirmishers were engaged with those of the Enemy, he sent the Chef d'Escadron d'Estourmel, to inform Marshal Grouchy of what was going on in front, and also to make known to him that[Pg 308] the Prussian Army had continued its retreat upon Wavre during a part of the night and that morning, for the purpose of forming a closer communication with the Duke of Wellington's forces.

The march of the Third and Fourth Corps was greatly retarded by the bad state of the roads, and frequent halts were occasioned by the narrowness and miry nature of the Defiles. Gérard, having preceded the Column, reached Sart à Wallain at eleven o'clock, where he found Grouchy breakfasting in the house of M. Hollaërt, a Notary. In about half an hour after his arrival, Colonel Simon Lorière, who was acting as his Chief of the Staff, suddenly heard, while walking in the garden of the house, a distant but violent cannonade, of which he immediately went to apprise his General. Grouchy repaired at once to the garden, accompanied by Gérard, Vandamme, Excelmans, and several other Officers. He immediately called for M. Hollaërt, and asked him in what part of the country he considered this tremendous cannonade to be going on. The latter, pointing to the Forest of Soignies, replied that it must be in the direction of Planchenoit, Mont St Jean, and that vicinity.

Gérard then declared his opinion to be in favour of the expediency of marching in the direction of the cannonade, in order to connect the movements of the detached force more closely with Napoleon's operations; and offered to lead his own Corps towards the Battle. This measure was opposed by the Marshal, as also by General Baltus, of the Artillery, who represented the difficulties of a march in which this Arm might be compromised. On the other hand, General Valaze, Commanding Engineer of Gérard's Corps, after having coincided in the opinion expressed by the latter, observed that he had three Companies of Sappers,[Pg 309] by aid of which he could remove many obstacles. Gérard then gave his assurance that he could at all events move on with the gun carriages and limbers.

Grouchy, however, stated his determination to act in conformity with his instructions; which were, to pursue and attack the Prussians, and never to lose sight of them. It had just been intimated to him that his troops had come up with a Rear Guard of the Enemy's Infantry, and he did not consider his information was sufficient to warrant the conclusion that Blücher was drawn up, in expectation of being attacked by him at Wavre; or that he would continue his retreat upon Brussels; or, that if, in manœuvring to effect his junction with Wellington, he would do so in front, or in rear, of the Forest of Soignies.

He has since declared, that he did not deem it his duty to follow the counsel given by Gérard, but to attack the Prussians; that to effect the proposed movement with the whole of his forces would have been acting contrary to his Orders; that to have detached only a portion of those forces in the direction of the Forest of Soignies, would have been to separate the two Corps of his Army by a river, whose waters were swollen by the rain, and whose banks were swampy, and thus have rendered their mutual support impossible, however essential it might have become; finally, that a war of inspiration appertains alone to the General in Chief, and that his Lieutenants must confine themselves to that of execution. Hence the march to Wavre was continued.

Whilst proceeding to the Advanced Guard, Grouchy received the despatch, dated from the Farm of Caillou, the 18th of June, at ten o'clock in the morning, acquainting him that the Emperor was going to attack the Anglo-Allied Army, in its position at Waterloo; desiring him to direct[Pg 310] his movements upon Wavre in such a manner as to draw his forces nearer to those of Napoleon, and, especially, to keep up a close communication with the latter.

The receipt of these instructions was not followed by any immediate change in Grouchy's dispositions. He despatched no Cavalry force—not even a single Patrol—to watch any movements that might be attempted, or actually then in course of execution, by the Prussians, towards the Field on which the Emperor had intimated to him his intention of attacking the force under Wellington; and hence it is almost needless to add, that he neglected to establish that close and active communication with the main Army which was so essentially important for the accomplishment of the object of the general plan of operations, and to which Napoleon had especially directed his attention in the before mentioned despatch. His sole aim seemed to be a direct advance upon Wavre; and this he carried into execution without at all detaching to, or in any way manœuvring by, his left. On the contrary, upon arriving in person at the position occupied by Excelmans, he desired the latter to move to his right, and take post at Dion le Mont; and the ground thus vacated was shortly afterwards taken up by Vallin's Light Cavalry Division.

At daybreak of the 18th of June, Bülow, in conformity with the Order which he had received during the previous night from Blücher, quitted his position near Dion le Mont, to march through Wavre to St Lambert. This was the commencement of the important flank movement of the Prussians in support of the Anglo-Allied Army in position in front of Waterloo; and every measure of precaution was adopted with a view to its being carried into effect with certainty and safety. The sun had not yet risen when[Pg 311] Major Witowsky was despatched with a Detachment of the 2nd Silesian Hussars, to Maransart, for the purpose of closely reconnoitring the Defiles of the Lasne, which had already been patrolled the evening before, and to observe the country in front of those Defiles, in the direction of the Enemy's position. Major Falkenhausen, previously mentioned as having pushed a reconnaissance beyond Seroulx on the 17th, was now directed also to reconnoitre the Lasne. Scouring parties were sent out, which kept up the communication that had been opened the previous day with Lieutenant Colonel Ledebur at Mont St Guibert: the whole country between the Dyle and the Charleroi high road was carefully explored; and correct intelligence was continually sent to the rear concerning the French Army.

By means of this vigilant look out, the Prussians secured the important advantage of retarding the communications between the French Emperor and his Marshal, since it compelled the bearer of despatches to pursue a very circuitous route.

At half past nine o'clock, on the morning of the 18th, whilst Bülow's Corps was on the march to St Lambert, the following additional despatch was forwarded to General Müffling:—

Wavre, 18th June 1815, at half past nine o'clock.

"I request you will say to the Duke of Wellington, in my name, that even ill as I am, I shall, nevertheless, put myself at the head of my troops, for the purpose of immediately attacking the Enemy's Right Flank, should Napoleon undertake anything against the Duke. If, however, the day should pass over without a hostile attack, it is my opinion that we ought tomorrow, with our combined forces, to attack the French Army. I commission you to communicate this as the result of my inward conviction, and to represent to him that I consider this proposal to be the best and most suitable in our present position.


[Pg 312]

The Prussians very soon discovered that the French had made no disposition whatever for the protection of their Right Flank. Major Witowsky had proceeded as far as Maransart before he fell in with an Enemy's Patrol; and Major Falkenhausen found the Defiles of the Lasne perfectly free and unobserved. Upon receiving this intelligence, Blücher decided upon supporting the Anglo-Allied Army, by directing the march of his whole force, or at least of three Corps, towards the Wood of Paris, and debouching from thence upon the Flank and Rear of the Enemy; and Major Lützow was immediately despatched for the purpose of narrowly watching, from the other side of the above Wood, the French movements directed against the position of the Anglo-Allied Army.

No report as yet had been received from the Rear Guard, concerning Grouchy's advance, and as Blücher's object was now to gain the Defiles of the Lasne without interruption, and to occupy in force the Wood of Paris, he determined to avail himself of the time and opportunity which offered for the projected movement. Being, however, uncertain as to the amount of Grouchy's force, the Prince deemed it advisable that Wavre should not be abandoned until the greater part of the Army had passed the Defiles of St Lambert; and with this view, he directed that as soon as Bülow's Corps should have proceeded beyond Wavre, Zieten's Corps was to commence its march by Fromont and Ohain to join the Left Wing of Wellington's Army near La Haye. Pirch's Corps was ordered to follow Bülow's in the direction of St Lambert; and Thielemann's Corps, after retaining possession of the Defile of Wavre sufficiently long to render the general movement of the Army secure, was then gradually to follow Zieten's Corps upon Ohain.

An unfortunate incident occurred during the passage of[Pg 313] Bülow's Corps, through Wavre, which materially impeded the march of the troops. The Advanced Guard, consisting of the Fifteenth Brigade (under General Losthin), with the 2nd Silesian Hussars, and a twelve pounder Battery, had scarcely passed through the town when a fire broke out in the main street, and extended itself with great rapidity. This not only caused a suspension of the march of the main body of the Corps, but created much alarm, in consequence of the great number of ammunition waggons in the place. Every exertion was made to extinguish the fire. The 1st Battalion of the 14th Regiment, under Major Löwenfeld, and the 7th Pioneer Company, were ordered upon this duty; and after they had encountered considerable difficulty, their efforts were crowned with success.

In the mean time the Advanced Guard of Bülow's Corps had continued its march, and reached St Lambert by eleven o'clock. The Sixteenth, and then the Thirteenth, Brigade arrived much later; and the Fourteenth Brigade, which formed the Rear Guard, was a long way behind. The Advanced Guard did not wait the arrival of the other Brigades, but proceeded forthwith to cross the Defile of St Lambert. Having effected the passage, which was attended with great difficulty, in consequence of the soft and miry state of the valley, it halted in the Wood of Paris, where it continued a considerable time, waiting for the approach of the main body. Patrols, however, from the 2nd Silesian Hussars, were immediately sent forward to feel for the Anglo-Allied Left, and to reconnoitre the French Right.

Zieten's Corps (the First) commenced its march, upon the left bank of the Dyle, towards Ohain, about noon.

Whilst Bülow's Reserve Cavalry, following the Thirteenth Infantry Brigade, was passing through Wavre, French Cavalry[Pg 314] had penetrated between the Rear Guard of this Corps, at Vieux Sart, and the Detachment under Lieutenant Colonel Ledebur at Mont St Guibert. The 2nd Pomeranian, and the 1st Silesian, Landwehr Cavalry were immediately detached from the Reserve Cavalry of the Corps, to aid in checking the advance of the Enemy.

The Prussian Lieutenant Colonel Ledebur, who was still at Mont St Guibert, having received intelligence of the approach of the French, decided on commencing his retreat towards Wavre. Lieutenant Colonel Sohr, who had fallen back early in the morning from Mont St Guibert, sent 150 Cavalry and two guns of Horse Artillery as a reinforcement to Ledebur. The latter now succeeded in forming a junction with the two Cavalry Regiments detached from the Reserve, as also, subsequently, with the Cavalry Brigade under Sohr, after a slight affair with the Third French Corps (Vandamme's), whilst making good his retreat to Auzel.

Pirch's Corps (the Second) broke up from its position between St Anne and Aisemont, on the right bank of the Dyle, about noon, for the purpose of passing the Defile of Wavre. The 1st Battalion of the 14th Regiment, which occupied this town, was relieved by a Battalion of the 30th Regiment, belonging to the Third Corps (Thielemann's). Pirch had just put his Corps in motion, with a view to cross the Dyle by the town of Wavre, when the approach of the Enemy was announced. The Defile was crowded with the troops; the progress of their march could not be otherwise than slow; and at this moment Lieutenant Colonel Sohr, whose Brigade formed the Rear Guard of the Corps, sent in word, that the Enemy presented a force of six Regiments of Cavalry, ten pieces of Artillery, and two strong Columns of Infantry.

The Wood of Sarats, close to the Farm of Auzel, was[Pg 315] now occupied by some Battalions of the Eighth Brigade, the command of which had devolved upon Colonel Reckow. Pirch placed the whole of the Rear Guard under the Orders of General Brause, the Commander of the Seventh Brigade, and reinforced Lieutenant Colonel Sohr with the 11th Hussars and four pieces of Horse Artillery. Brause posted the remaining Battalions of the Eighth Brigade in rear of the Wood, and the three Regiments of Cavalry on the right, with the Foot Battery No. 12 in their front. The Seventh Brigade, deployed into line, remained in reserve.

Lieutenant Colonel Ledebur retired slowly before the Enemy, and formed a junction with the Eighth Brigade, under Colonel Reckow; who maintained his position until three o'clock in the afternoon, against the Advanced Guard of Vandamme's Corps. Between three and four o'clock, General Brause ordered the retreat. Lieutenant Colonel Sohr crossed the Bridge at the Mill of Bierge, which was occupied by two Companies of the 2nd Battalion of the 14th Regiment; and then followed the Reserve Cavalry of Pirch's Corps, to which his Brigade belonged, but which he did not overtake until he reached the Field of Waterloo. The Enemy did not advance with much vigour; the retreat was conducted with perfect order, and the Fusilier Battalion of the 1st Pomeranian Landwehr, under Major Krüger, distinguished itself on the occasion. After the passage of the river had been effected, the 1st Battalion of the Elbe Landwehr remained at Bierge until the Bridge was destroyed and the Mill set on fire. The 11th Hussars and the 2nd Battalion of the Elbe Landwehr were posted in observation of the passages across the Dyle, and did not rejoin the Corps before the following day.

Blücher had quitted Wavre before eleven o'clock in[Pg 316] the forenoon, and repaired to the vicinity of Limale, in order to make himself acquainted with the nature of the country in the direction of St Lambert. Whilst here, he received intelligence of the approach of the Enemy towards Wavre. Colonel Clausewitz, Chief of the Staff of the Third Corps, was immediately made the bearer of an Order for Thielemann to defend the position at this place, in the event of the Enemy advancing in force; but, should the latter cross the Dyle higher up the stream, or not appear in great strength (a point concerning which nothing positive was then known), he was to leave only a few Battalions in position at Wavre, and to follow the main Army, with his Corps, as a Reserve, in the direction of Couture.

Grouchy's movements, on the 17th and 18th, form so striking a feature in the history of this Campaign, and exercised so important an influence upon the fate of the decisive Battle of Waterloo, that it becomes an essential point in the study of that history, to examine how far he complied with, and carried into effect, the instructions received from his Master, and to what degree his proceedings, consequent upon his ascertaining the direction of the Prussian retreat, coincided with the general plan and object of Napoleon's operations. On a reference to the account of his transactions during the 17th, given in the despatch written at ten o'clock on that night, it appears he was completely ignorant of the line by which the principal mass of the Prussian Army had retreated, namely, that of Tilly and Gentinnes, by Zieten's and Pirch's Corps, although his Cavalry had driven back the Prussian Detachment from the latter place to Mont St Guibert, but from whence it appears to have been withdrawn in the night. His attention[Pg 317] seems to have been much less devoted to this quarter than it was to his Right, in which direction he detached as far as Perwès. The main body of his forces did not proceed further than Gembloux on the 17th, that is, about five miles from the Field of Ligny.

Upon a first consideration, we are strongly impressed by the striking contrast between this march, in pursuit of a defeated Army, which had commenced its retreat on the previous night, and which presented no check to the advance, and the march of Napoleon from the same Field, by Quatre Bras and Genappe, as far as La Belle Alliance, in front of the Waterloo position, a distance of about sixteen or seventeen miles; and this, too, in rear of a victorious Army, with a Cavalry Rear Guard boldly and successfully impeding the advance of its pursuers. It must, however, be taken into account, that in one most important respect Napoleon possessed a decided advantage over Grouchy—an advantage, the magnitude of which increased with every moment that elapsed after the wet weather had set in; for while the former moved the whole distance along a paved high road, the latter had to proceed entirely by cross roads, which may more properly be designated common field roads. It is to this particular point that both Grouchy and Gérard refer in justification of the late arrival of the Infantry at Gembloux. Nevertheless, Grouchy detached considerably to his Right, with his Cavalry, misled by the same idea which had prevailed with Napoleon, that Blücher had retreated upon the Meuse; and the very circumstance of his Dragoons having reached Perwès on the night of the 17th, proves that had he organised a more extended, more combined, and more energetic reconnaissance, with the sixty five Squadrons of Cavalry which had been placed under his orders, he might have connected his operations on[Pg 318] the right of the Dyle with those of Napoleon on the left of that river, by occupying the line of Nil St Vincent, Corbaix, Mont St Guibert, and the Bridge of Moustier. The only check he would have experienced would have been at the Prussian Post of Mont St Guibert; which, however, in the case of an active reconnaissance, as above, might have been attacked by a strong Detachment in front, and turned by Corbaix on its left.

To show the connection which this disposition would have secured with Napoleon's movements, it is only necessary to state, that the Third Cavalry Division, under Lieutenant General Domon, had been detached from the Emperor's Column to reconnoitre the country between the Dyle and the high road to Brussels; and that the 4th Regiment of Chasseurs à Cheval pushed as far as the Bridge of Moustier, on which line its Skirmishers exchanged a few carabine shots with some Prussian Dragoons, who did not, however, appear willing to engage further with them. It was by means of this reconnaissance that Napoleon ascertained the retreat, through Tilly and Gentinnes, of the principal Prussian Column, consisting of Zieten's and Pirch's Corps, although the line by which they retired was undiscovered by Grouchy, in whose immediate sphere of operations it was situated.

But if such good grounds exist for inferring that, on the 17th, an earlier and a clearer insight into the Enemy's movements might have been obtained by the Corps detached in pursuit of the Prussians, and that when obtained, it would have rendered the communication with the operations of the main Army on the left of the Dyle, a matter not only important in the highest degree, but also perfectly practicable; and if a failure in this respect be attributable to the absence of sufficient energy and vigour on the part of Grouchy, how[Pg 319] much more forcibly does it not expose the extraordinary, the unaccountable, dilatoriness of Napoleon himself during the whole of the precious morning of the 17th! How striking a view it unfolds of what might have been accomplished, had the bivouac at Ligny been broken up a few hours earlier! Then, Wellington's Army was still between Quatre Bras and the narrow Defile of Genappe, open to an attack in front by Ney, simultaneously with one in flank by the force collected at Marbais (a part of which might have been detached across the Genappe, towards the rear of the Anglo-Allied Army, by Villers la Ville and Bousseval, masked by the Wood of Berme); and the rearmost Corps of the Prussian Army (Thielemann's), which was retreating through Gembloux, might have been attacked with effect, by the superior force of all Arms under Grouchy.

As regards Grouchy's movements during the early part of the 18th, it is very remarkable, that although he had in his despatch, written at ten o'clock the previous night, communicated to Napoleon his surmises of an intended junction of a portion of Blücher's forces with those of Wellington, and his consequent intention of following the Prussians in the direction of Wavre, afin qu'ils ne puissent pas gagner Bruxelles, et de les séparer de Wellington, and although he must or ought to have been aware that Wavre was only twelve miles distant from Napoleon's main line of operations, whereas Gembloux was about fifteen miles distant from Wavre, he not only delayed his departure from Gembloux until between seven and eight o'clock in the morning, but manœuvred by his right; taking the more circuitous line, through Sart à Wallain, and rendering his operations still more dilatory by moving both Vandamme's and Gerard's Corps along one and the same road. Had he not, from want of sufficient vigilance, continued ignorant of the fact,[Pg 320] that the principal Prussian Column, consisting of the First and Second Corps, had retired upon Wavre, at so short a distance from his left as by the line of Tilly, Gentinnes, and Mont St Guibert, there can be very little doubt that he would have marched upon the latter point, which the Prussians, aware of its importance, had occupied with a Rear Guard; but even with the amount of information which he possessed, and with the inference justly impressed upon his mind that a co-operation between Blücher and Wellington was projected, we are at a loss to account for his not having moved upon Mont St Guibert, and manœuvred by his left.

In his despatch, written at two o'clock in the morning, he mentioned to the Emperor his design of marching upon Corbaix or Wavre; a movement of which Napoleon, in his reply, expressed his approval; and if he had directed one of his Infantry Corps along the line of Corbaix and La Baraque, and the other by that of Mont St Guibert and Moustier, there can be no doubt that, even late as was the hour at which he started from Gembloux, he would, in a great measure, have fulfilled the expectations of his Imperial Master. In this case, he would naturally have so divided his Cavalry, that one portion would have scoured the country along the Front and Right of the Column marching by Corbaix and La Baraque, and the other portion would have been employed in a similar manner along the Front and Left of the Column moving upon Mont St Guibert and Moustier. Both at this point and at Ottignies, about eight hundred yards lower down the stream, there is a stone bridge across the Dyle. There is a direct road from Moustier to St Lambert, scarcely five miles distant, and another to the Field of Waterloo. The Cavalry in advance of the Left Column could not have failed to[Pg 321] discover the Prussian troops in march to join the Left of Wellington; for they were then passing slowly, and with extreme difficulty, through the Defiles of St Lambert and Lasne. This discovery would have led to the Right Column being moved by its left, from La Baraque to Moustier; the Cavalry attached to it masking the movement as long as possible. The Left Column would then, in all probability, have followed its advanced Cavalry to St Lambert; and the Right Corps have either moved upon the same point as a reinforcement, or have diverged upon Lasne as a Support, upon which the former might have fallen back, if compelled to effect its retreat towards Planchenoit.

In this manner might Grouchy have so far realised the anxious expectation of Napoleon as to have fallen upon Bülow flagrante delicto, and have materially procrastinated the co-operation of Blücher with Wellington on the 18th of June; a co-operation which a contrary proceeding, originating in fatal tardiness of movement, and exhibiting useless manœuvring in a false direction, could not fail to render easy in execution and successful in result. But beyond such procrastination of the meditated junction of Blücher's and Wellington's forces, Grouchy could have effected nothing. The junction itself could not have been prevented. The tendency of Grouchy's movements had been too narrowly watched; the country between the Dyle and the Charleroi road to Brussels had been too vigilantly explored; and the movements, in succession, of the different Prussian Corps had been too nicely calculated and determined; to admit of the possibility of a failure, as regarded the arrival of a considerable portion of the Prussian forces on the Left of the Anglo-Allied Army.

Blücher had made so admirable a disposition of his four Corps d'Armée, that two of them could at any time[Pg 322] have combined, and therefore have presented a superior force to Grouchy, at any point between Wavre and Planchenoit; whilst the remainder of the Army might have continued its march to the Field of Waterloo. Had Grouchy moved by St Guibert and Moustier upon St Lambert, Thielemann's Corps would then have been on the march towards Couture, according to his original instructions; and finding Bülow engaged with the Enemy, would have joined him. Grouchy might then have contrived to hold both these Corps at bay, and thus have reduced the co-operating Prussian force at Waterloo to the two Corps under Zieten and Pirch, besides considerably retarding that co-operation; since without having experienced the effects of any such interruption to the progress of the other Corps, as we have here supposed, these two Generals did not reach the Field of Battle until seven o'clock in the evening of the 18th.

Such is the extent of the advantage which, under the circumstances, Grouchy would have gained by a march from Gembloux upon St Lambert; a most important one, no doubt, as time for pushing the struggle with Wellington, with the whole force at his immediate disposal, before the arrival of the Prussians, was of the most vital consequence to Napoleon; and this advantage Grouchy entirely lost by his march upon Wavre—a march which enabled Blücher to appear with three, out of his four, Corps d'Armée, on the great and decisive Field of Action; and that in sufficient time to render the victory as complete as could reasonably be desired.

No exertions, however, on the part of Grouchy, after he broke up from Gembloux on the morning of the 18th, could have effectually frustrated the junction of Wellington and Blücher. Two great errors, for which that Marshal was[Pg 323] not accountable, reduced the contemplated junction from a measure of calculation to one of certainty. The first and principal of these has already been adverted to at some length, and cannot be too closely kept in view—the fatal neglect of a vigorous pursuit of the defeated Prussians, on the night of the 16th and morning of the 17th, by a detached Corps; combined with the extraordinary delay in the attack upon Wellington at Quatre Bras, on the latter day. The second error arose from the want of a strong reconnaissance and vigilant look out on the right of the main French Army, on the morning of the 18th, followed up by the occupation of the Defiles of the Lasne.

It was nearly four o'clock when Vandamme's Corps arrived in front of the position which Thielemann was in the act of quitting, with a view to follow and support the remaining three Prussian Corps that were at that moment on the march towards the Field of Waterloo; and, with a fire that was opened from the French Batteries, commenced the Battle of Wavre, which will be described in its proper place in a subsequent Chapter.

[Pg 324]


IT rained incessantly during the night of the 17th, occasionally in torrents; whilst loud and frequent peals of thunder fell ominously on the ear of the toil-worn soldier, startling him from the fitful slumber, which was all the rest the chill and comfortless bivouac on the Field of Waterloo could afford him in that tempestuous night.

Scarcely had the morning dawned when the numerous groups, stretched around the smouldering remains of the bivouac fires, or couched in the hollows, or lying under such slender cover as the few trees and brushwood within range of the positions of their respective Regiments afforded, were seen gradually in motion; and as the eye of an observer wandered along the space which lay between the main bodies of the hostile Armies—a space varying in no greater width than from one thousand to fifteen hundred yards—the Officers in command of the several Picquets might be seen, on either side, withdrawing their Vedettes and Sentries from the very limited and almost conversational distance that had separated them from their opponents during the night, concentrating their Detachments, and establishing their Main Posts more within the immediate range of the respective positions occupied by the grand Armies.

As the morning advanced, the dense vapoury masses which had so long rolled slowly and heavily over the plain, gradually began, as if relieved by the constant discharge of their contents, to soar into a higher region, where, during[Pg 325] the whole day, with little or but imperceptible motion, they hung spread out into a broad expansive vault, through which the rays of the sun were unable fully to penetrate, until just at the moment of its sinking from the scene of strife, when it shed the full blaze of its setting splendour upon the victorious advance of the Anglo-Allied Army. The drying and cleaning of firearms soon became general, and the continuous discharge of muskets, at rapid and irregular intervals, fell upon the ear like the rattle of a brisk and widely extended skirmish.

All at once, the scene became more animated and exciting. Drums, bugles, and trumpets were heard over the whole Field, sounding the "Assembly"; and never was the call to arms, in either Army, responded to with greater zeal, alacrity, and cheerfulness. While the Regimental inspections, tellings off, and preparatory arrangements of detail were proceeding, Staff Officers were seen galloping in various directions; and, shortly afterwards, the different Brigades, which, by their bivouacs had but faintly and irregularly traced the Line of Battle taken up by each Army, were moved and distributed in the precise order prescribed by the illustrious Chiefs who had on that day, and for the first and only time, met to measure swords.

The Field of Waterloo is intersected by two high roads (chaussées) conspicuous by their great width and uniformity, as also by the pavement which runs along the centre of each. These two roads, the eastern one leading from Charleroi and Genappe, and the western from Nivelles, form a junction at the Village of Mont St Jean, whence their continuance, in one main road, is directed upon the capital of Belgium.

In front of the above junction; and offering, as it were, a[Pg 326] natural military position for the defence of this approach to Brussels, a gentle elevated ridge of ground is intersected, at right angles, by the Charleroi road, about 250 yards north of the Farm called La Haye Sainte, and follows a westerly direction until about midway between the two high roads: whence it takes a south-westerly course, and terminates abruptly at its point of intersection with the Nivelles road, about 450 yards north of Hougomont, a Country Seat, with Farm, Offices, Gardens, Orchards, and Wood. On the east side, the ridge extends itself perpendicularly from the Charleroi road until it reaches a point, distant about seven hundred yards, where, elevating itself into a Mound or Knoll, it overlooks the Hamlet of Papelotte; and thence, taking a north-easterly course, expands into an open plateau.

This ridge constituted the position of the First Line of the Duke of Wellington's Army, which Line is more distinctly defined by a road, entering on the east side, from Wavre, by Ohain, and winding along the summit of the ridge until it joins the Charleroi high road just above La Haye Sainte; from which point of junction a cross road proceeds along the remaining portion of the ridge, and thus connects the two high roads with each other.

The undulations of the ground in rear of this position were admirably adapted to the disposition of the Second Line and Reserves, presenting a gently inclined reverse slope along nearly the whole extent of the ridge, with fine open and convenient stations for Cavalry, perfectly concealed from the Enemy's observation.

The Right of the main position is bounded by a valley, which has its source very considerably in rear of the Centre of the French position, by which it is intersected; and thence, sweeping round the southern and western inclosures of Hougomont, proceeds in the direction of Merbe Braine.[Pg 327] Into this valley a ravine directs its course in rear of, and parallel with, the principal portion of the Right Wing of the Anglo-Allied position, at a distance from the latter varying from 200 to 250 yards; and between this ravine, which is intersected by the Nivelles road, and Merbe Braine, rises a sort of plateau, upon which was posted a portion of the Second Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Lord Hill, destined to act, as circumstances might require, either in reserve to the First Line, or en potence to it in repelling any attack upon that Flank of the Anglo-Allied Army.

Upon the extreme Left of the First or main Line was stationed Vivian's Light Cavalry Brigade, comprising the 10th and 18th Hussars, and the 1st Hussars of the King's German Legion. The two former Regiments were in Line, in rear of the Wavre road, and withdrawn a little from the crest of the ridge: the Right of the 10th resting upon a lane, which, leading up from Smohain, crossing over the position, and descending along its reverse slope, proceeds in the direction of the Village of Verd Cocou. The 1st Hussars of the King's German Legion were also in Line, and formed in reserve. The Left of the Brigade was completely en l'air, upon high, open, and flat ground; the main ridge widening considerably in that direction, as previously explained. A Picquet, consisting of a Squadron of the 10th Hussars (under Captain Taylor), occupied the Village of Smohain, down in the valley which, having its source a little to the westward of La Haye Sainte, takes an easterly and therefore parallel course with that part of the ridge which formed the Left Wing of the British position. The Advanced Post of this Picquet was on the further side of the Village, and its Vedettes formed a chain on the rising ground beyond, within half-carbine shot of some French Cavalry, standing[Pg 329] dismounted in Close Columns. A party was detached from the Picquet as a Patrol on the road to Ohain.


Battle of Waterloo at ¾ past 11 o'clock a.m.

The Village of Smohain, as also the Farms of La Haye and Papelotte, with adjacent houses and inclosures, were occupied by a portion of the Second Brigade of Perponcher's Division of the troops of the Netherlands. The Regiment of Orange Nassau, consisting of two Battalions, held Smohain and La Haye: while the Farm of Papelotte was occupied by the Light Company of the 3rd Battalion of the 2nd Regiment of Nassau, which, together with the 2nd Battalion of this Regiment, and four guns of Captain Byleveld's Dutch-Belgian Battery of Horse Artillery, were posted upon the exterior slope, immediately under the brow of the main ridge, and a little to the westward of the lane leading directly up the slope from the Farm of Papelotte.

The Advanced Posts of these troops were at the foot, and their Line of Sentries extended along the brow, of the opposite slope of the valley; this Line receded towards the western limit of the Hamlet of Papelotte, where it joined the general Line of Picquets along the bottom of the exterior slope of the position of the Anglo-Allied Left Wing.

On the right of Vivian's Brigade, and having its own Right resting upon a narrow lane, forming a slight hollow way, lined with hedges, stood Vandeleur's Brigade of Light Cavalry, consisting of the 11th, 12th, and 16th British Light Dragoons, in Columns of Squadrons, by Regiments, Left in front. The lane on which its Right rested descending the interior slope of the position, joined the other lane which led from Vivian's Right to Verd Cocou.

The extreme Left of the Infantry of the main Line of the[Pg 330] position was formed by the Fifth Hanoverian Brigade, under Colonel Vincke, belonging to Picton's Division. It was formed in Columns of Battalions, those of Hameln and Hildesheim (under Majors Strube and Rheden) in First, and those of Peine and Gifhorn (under Major Count Ludolph von Westphalen, and Major Hammerstein) in Second, Line; and was posted somewhat under the crest of the ridge, upon the reverse slope, and in rear of the junction of a lane leading up from Papelotte, with the Wavre road.

On the immediate right of Vincke's Brigade, and having its own Right upon the Knoll which presents the highest and most commanding point along the position of the Left Wing of the Anglo-Allied Army, the Fourth Hanoverian Brigade, under Colonel Best, was drawn up. It formed part of the Sixth Division, and was composed of the Landwehr Battalions of Lüneburg, Verden, and Osterode, which were deployed in Front Line; and of Münden, which was in reserve. A Battery of Hanoverian Foot Artillery, under Captain Rettberg, was attached to this Brigade, and, from the peculiarly favourable circumstances of the ground, which formed a sort of natural fieldwork, was most advantageously placed.

Upon the exterior slope of that portion of the ridge which lies between the before mentioned Knoll and the Genappe high road, Bylandt's Brigade of Perponcher's Division of the troops of the Netherlands was deployed in Front Line. It consisted of the 27th Battalion of Dutch Light Infantry, the 7th Battalion of the Belgian Line, and of the 5th, 7th, and 8th Battalions of Dutch Militia. Of the above, the 5th Battalion of Dutch Militia was posted in reserve, along with the remaining four guns of Captain Byleveld's Battery of Horse Artillery attached to this[Pg 331] Brigade, in rear of the straggling hedge which lines the Wavre road, between the Knoll and the Charleroi high road.

Upon the interior slope of the ridge, and at a distance of about two hundred yards from the Wavre road, was posted the Ninth Brigade of British Infantry, under Major General Sir Denis Pack, in a Line of Battalion Columns, at deploying intervals. It consisted of the 3rd Battalion 1st Royal Regiment, the 1st Battalion 42nd Royal Highlanders, 2nd Battalion 44th Regiment, and of the 92nd Highlanders. The Left Regiment, the 44th, was stationed on the Knoll, in rear of the Right of Best's Hanoverian Brigade; and on the right of the 44th stood, in succession, the 92nd, 42nd, and 1st Royals.

Upon the right, but more in advance, of Pack's Brigade, and at a short distance in rear of the hedge along the Wavre road, stood the Eighth Brigade of British Infantry, under Major General Sir James Kempt, also in Line of Battalion Columns, at deploying intervals, and comprising the 28th Regiment, the 32nd Regiment, the 1st Battalion 79th Highlanders, and the 1st Battalion 95th Rifles. The Right of the 32nd Regiment rested upon a high bank of the Charleroi road; on its left stood the 79th Highlanders, and the 28th formed the Left Regiment of the Brigade.

In the immediate front of the Right of the Brigade, and at a distance from the Wavre road of about 120 yards, there was a Knoll having on its right a large Sand Pit, adjoining the Charleroi road; and partially facing the small Garden in rear of La Haye Sainte. On the Allied side of the Knoll was a single hedge, extending about 150 yards from the Charleroi road in a direction parallel to the Wavre road. In the Sand Pit were posted two Companies of the 1st Battalion 95th British Rifles; the[Pg 332] Knoll and hedge were occupied by another Company of the same Regiment. These Advanced Companies had placed an abatis across the high road, near that part of it which is joined by the hedgerow. The remaining Companies lined a portion of the Wavre road, commencing from the point of its intersection with the Charleroi road.

These two Brigades, namely, the Eighth and Ninth British, together with the Fifth Hanoverian Brigade, constituted the Fifth Division, under Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Picton.

Along the continuation of the ridge on the right of the great Charleroi road, the Third Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Charles Alten, was disposed in the following order:—

The Second Brigade of the King's German Legion, commanded by Colonel Ompteda, which formed the Left of the Division, consisted of the 1st and 2nd Light Battalions (under Lieutenant Colonel von dem Bussche, and Major Baring), and of the 5th and 8th Line Battalions of the King's German Legion (under Lieutenant Colonels Linsingen and Schröder).

The 1st Light Battalion was formed in Column of Companies at quarter distance, Left in front. It stood a little in rear of the cross road which unites the great Nivelles road with that of Charleroi, on which last its Left Flank rested. To the right of this Column stood the 5th Line Battalion, formed in Column at quarter distance upon one of its centre Companies. In rear of these two Columns, and fronting the deploying interval between them, stood the 8th Line Battalion, in Second Line, in Column of Companies, at quarter distance, upon one of its centre Companies.




La Haye Sainte

[Pg 335]

The 2nd Light Battalion, under the command of Major Baring, occupied the Farm of La Haye Sainte.

The buildings of this Farm are so disposed as to form three sides of a square, the north side comprising the Farm House itself, with a portion of the stabling; the west side the remainder of the stables and cow houses; and the south side principally a large Barn: a brick wall, extending along the great road, unites the north and south buildings, and thus forms the fourth boundary of the large quadrangular farm yard.

On the south, or French, side of the Farm, and down in the valley, which here separates the Allied and French positions, lies an Orchard, about 240 yards long and 80 wide, having for its eastern boundary, the great road, in direct prolongation of the wall which incloses the farm yard on that side. This Orchard is inclosed within a hedgerow; as is also a Kitchen Garden, on the north side of the Farm, excepting the boundary of the latter along the road side, which is a continuation of the eastern wall.

A large gate and a doorway, the former almost facing the east end of the Barn, and the latter quite close to the east end of the dwelling house, lead from the yard into the great road; another gate, at the south end of the stabling which forms the western side, as also a large door from the west end of the Great Barn, lead both into a small narrow portion of the Orchard, whence there is an outlet into the open fields on the right. From the front door of the dwelling house, which faces the farm yard, there is a passage to the back or north side of the house, whence a door opens into the Kitchen Garden.

Since daybreak, the little garrison, amounting to scarcely 400 men, had been busily engaged in strengthening their Post to the fullest extent of the means within their[Pg 336] reach, which, however, were extremely limited. Among the difficulties which they had to overcome, it may be remarked that, on the preceding evening, immediately after taking possession of the Farm, the soldiers had broken up the Great Barn door, on the west side, for firewood; and that, about the same period, the Carpenters of the Regiment were detached to Hougomont, in compliance with an Order received to that effect. Unfortunately, also, the mule laden with the Regimental trenching tools had been lost the day before, so that not even a hatchet was forthcoming. Loop holes were pierced through the walls; and a barricade was thrown across the high road, in prolongation of the south wall. The Battalion was composed of six Companies, of which Major Baring posted three in the Orchard, two in the Buildings, and one in the Garden.

On the right of Ompteda's Brigade stood the First Hanoverian Brigade, under Major General Count Kielmansegge, consisting of the Field Battalions of Bremen, Verden, Duke of York, Grubenhagen, and Lüneburg. The last mentioned Battalion was formed in Column, at quarter distance, upon one of its centre Companies; the head of the Column in line with, and at a deploying interval from, that of the Right Column of Ompteda's Brigade. Next, on the right, at the proper interval for deployment, stood the two Battalions Verden and Bremen, in Contiguous Columns of Companies, at quarter distance; the former Right in front, the latter Left in front. The two Battalions York and Grubenhagen were formed in Second Line, in rear of the centre of the interval between the Battalions Lüneburg and Verden, in Contiguous Columns of Companies, at quarter distance, York Right, and Grubenhagen Left, in front.

On the right of Kielmansegge's Hanoverian Brigade, was posted the Fifth British Brigade, commanded by Major[Pg 337] General Sir Colin Halkett, and comprising the 2nd Battalion 30th, the 1st Battalion 33rd, 2nd Battalion 69th, and 2nd Battalion 73rd, British Regiments. Its position was more forward than that of the other portion of Alten's Division, with which its front was in an oblique direction, its right shoulders having been brought forward so as to preserve the parallelism between the general Line and the crest of the main ridge. The 2nd Battalions 73rd and 30th Regiments formed Contiguous Columns of Companies, at quarter distance, the former Right, the latter Left, in front; and at a deploying interval for two Battalions from the head of the Column formed by the Bremen Battalion. The other two Battalions of this Brigade, the 1st Battalion 33rd and 2nd Battalion 69th Regiments, were formed in Contiguous Columns of Companies, at quarter distance, in Second Line, and in right rear of the 73rd and 30th Regiments; the 33rd Right, and the 69th Left, in front.

In rear of the centre of the interval between the Right of Kielmansegge's, and the Left of Halkett's Brigade, was posted, in Second Line, the 1st Battalion of the 1st Regiment of Nassau, forming part of the Nassau Brigade, commanded by Major General Kruse. The Battalion was in Column on a central Company. The remainder of this Brigade, consisting of the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the same Regiment, was formed in Contiguous Columns, in a Third Line, as a Reserve.

On the right of Halkett's Brigade, the First British Division, commanded by Major General Cooke, was posted. It consisted of the First and Second Brigades of Guards, and was disposed in the following manner:—

The First Brigade commanded by Major General Maitland, and comprising the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 1st[Pg 339] Regiment of Foot Guards, formed the Left Brigade of the Division. The 3rd Battalion stood in Columns of Companies, at quarter distance, on the crest of the ridge; and between it and the head of the Right Column of Halkett's Brigade, there was a deploying interval for one Battalion. The 2nd Battalion was placed in Right Rear of the 3rd, also in Column of Companies, at quarter distance: it was on the reverse slope, and immediately under the crest of the ridge.



The Second Brigade, comprising the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd or Coldstream Regiment, and the 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Regiment of Foot Guards, and commanded by Major General Sir John Byng, was posted on the crest of the ridge, between the First Brigade and the Nivelles road. The 2nd Battalion 3rd Foot Guards was on the left, the 2nd Battalion of the Coldstream Guards on the right, and more in advance on the brow of the hill; and the disposition was such, that the four Battalions of the Division were placed en échiquier.

The Buildings of Hougomont, its Gardens and Orchards, were completely overlooked from the commanding ground occupied by the Second Brigade, which formed the Reserve to the troops therein posted, consisting (including those in the Wood) of the four Light Companies of the Division, the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Regiment of Nassau, a Company of Hanoverian Field Riflemen, and a Detachment of a hundred men from the Field Battalion Lüneburg of Kielmansegge's Brigade.

The principal dwelling house or Château of Hougomont was a substantial brick building, of a square form. Adjoining its north-east angle was the Farmer's House, the east end of which abutted on the Great Garden; and in the angle between this house and the Château was a narrow[Pg 340] tower, of the same height as the latter, to which its interior served as a staircase. At the south-east corner of, and communicating with, the Château stood a very neat little Chapel.

On the north, or British, side of the Château, was a spacious Farm yard, bounded on the west by a large Barn and a Shed, and on the east by Cow Houses and Stabling adjoining the Garden. There was a continuation of the Stabling along the north side, and a gateway; and near the centre of the yard there was a drawwell of which the superstructure formed a dovecot.

On the south, or French, side of the Château, and inclosing the latter, was the Court yard; of which a Barn on the west, the Gardener's House, some Stables and other Offices on the south, and the Garden Wall on the east, formed the boundaries. There was a communication between the Court and the Farm yard, by means of a doorway in the small portion of wall connecting the Château with the great Barn; and through the whole length of the latter building there was also a carriage way leading from the one Court into the other. A gateway, passing through a portion of the Gardener's House, led out from the Court yard to the south, or French, side; and from this gate a narrow road conducted across the open space between the Buildings and the Wood, through which it took its course in the same direction until it gained the fields beyond the inclosures. There was also a pathway from this road, commencing at the corner of the little Garden, and traversing the Wood in the direction of the south-east angle of the general boundary of the inclosures, whence it continued towards La Belle Alliance.

The approach to Hougomont from the Nivelles road was lined, nearly as far as the Château, by fine tall elms: it conducted to the gate of the Farm yard facing[Pg 341] the British Line; and, sweeping along the west side, it led also to the South Gate of the Court yard. On the east side of the Buildings was a large Garden, laid out with all the formality which characterises the Flemish style. It was inclosed on the south and east sides by a high brick wall, and on the north side, facing the British Line, by a hedge. Adjoining the east side of the Garden, but considerably wider and longer than the latter, was the Large Orchard, and along the north side was the smaller Orchard—the latter bounded by a hedge and hollow way, and the former inclosed within high and compact hedges, partially lined by a ditch on the inner side. A prolongation of the southern hedge of the Great Orchard formed the boundary of the Wood facing the south Garden Wall, and in the narrow space between these two boundaries was a row of apple trees, which, together with the hedge, served to conceal, in a great measure, the Garden Wall from the view of an Enemy, approaching through the Wood. There was a small Garden in front of the Gardener's house, formed by the continuation of the south Garden Wall until it met another wall issuing perpendicularly from the South Gateway leading out of the Court yard. There were two inclosures on the west side, of which one served as a Kitchen Garden.

The Wood extended in length, southwards, about 350 yards, and its greatest width was about 280 yards. It was bounded on the west by another Orchard; and on the east by two large inclosures, of which the one nearest the Great Orchard was a grass field fenced with hedges, and lined by a ditch on the inner side.

Although the site of the buildings of Hougomont was but slightly elevated above the valley, which, as already remarked, winds along the south and west inclosures, there[Pg 342] was a gradual but uninterrupted ascent of the ground from thence as far as the eastern portion of the fence which divides the two inclosures, beyond the great Orchard; where it attained a height not much inferior to that of either the French or Allied Front Lines, between which it was centrically situated. On the south, or French, side of that hedge, the ground inclined at first gently, and then rapidly, into the valley; but on the west, throughout the extent of the Wood, and on the north of the Allied side, across the Great Orchard, the descent was everywhere very gradual.

Such was Hougomont—a decidedly important point in the Field of Battle, from its prominent position in the immediate front of the Right of the British line; and rendered ever memorable by the truly heroic and successful stand maintained throughout the day by the troops allotted for its defence.

From the first moment of the occupation of this Post, measures were concerted and adopted for strengthening the means of defence which it presented. During the night, the Garden Walls were pierced with numerous loopholes; and, in order to enable the men to fire down from the tops of the Walls upon their assailants, platforms constructed out of such materials as the place afforded were raised wherever the depth of the wall on the inner side rendered such a measure desirable. In many places, however, and especially on the eastern side, the ground formed embankments against the wall, sufficiently elevated to obviate the necessity of any additional aid for such purpose. The outer gates were closed up, with the exception of the one from the Farm yard, which faced the Anglo-Allied position, and which was left open in order to facilitate the communication with the latter. The[Pg 343] different flanking fires which were offered by the relative situations of the Garden Walls, and the fences of the Orchards, Woods, and other inclosures, imparted to the Post a strength, of which, in the course of the action, due advantage was taken. In short, every precaution was adopted which the means at hand suggested for contributing to the security of the place; and the preparations that were in progress indicated, on the part of the troops stationed in this quarter, an intention to give the Enemy a warm reception, and a resolution to maintain a vigorous defence.

When, on the previous evening, the Light Companies of the Division were thrown into Hougomont, it was so arranged that those of the Second Brigade, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Macdonell, should occupy the Buildings and the Gardens: and that those of the First Brigade, under Lieutenant Colonel Lord Saltoun, should hold the Great Orchard and the Wood; in which latter the Hanoverians and Nassauers were principally stationed.

The abrupt termination of the ridge along which the Allied Front Line was posted, at its point of junction with the Nivelles road, was in the direct rear of the buildings of Hougomont.

On the other side of the road, this termination presented a sudden and bold, though short, slope down into the long valley which, after sweeping by Hougomont, proceeds in the direction of Merbe Braine. A portion of the slope, including the summit, was covered with brushwood, and its base was bounded by a horse path, partially lined with a stunted hedge; forming, altogether, excellent cover for Light Infantry. On the other side of the valley, the ground ascends, at first abruptly, and then gradually, to the summit of that portion of the main ridge upon which the Left of[Pg 345] the French Army rested; and from the point of junction of the Avenue conducting to Hougomont with the great Nivelles road, a narrow road leads directly up the opposite slope, and stretches across the ridge or plateau in the direction of Braine l'Alleud.



Along a portion of this road, principally consisting of a hollow way, were posted in advance, some Light Troops of the Anglo-Allied Army. They formed a part of the Fourth Brigade of the Fourth Division (under Colonel Mitchell), attached to the Second Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Lord Hill. The Brigade consisted of the 3rd Battalion of the 14th British Regiment (under Lieutenant Colonel Tidy), of the 23rd Fusiliers (under Colonel Sir Henry Ellis), and of the 51st British Light Infantry (under Lieutenant Colonel Rice), which troops were disposed in the following manner.

Along that portion of the Hougomont Avenue which is nearest to the Nivelles road was extended the Light Company of the 23rd Regiment. On its right was an abatis, which had been thrown across the great road; and close upon the right of this artificial obstacle, a Company of the 51st Regiment was posted. Four more Companies of this Regiment, and the Light Company of the 14th, were extended along the hollow way alluded to as stretching across the ridge, on the extreme Left of the French position. The remainder of the 51st stood in Column of Support, about two hundred yards in rear of the hollow way. The 23rd Regiment was stationed on the left of the Nivelles road, on the reverse slope, and immediately under the crest of the main ridge, in rear of the Second Brigade of Guards. The 14th Regiment was posted in Column on the southern descent from the plateau, on which was assembled the Second British Division; and[Pg 346] from the view which it possessed of the ground occupied by the 51st, it was well placed as a Reserve to the Light Infantry. In a ravine, descending from the immediate Right of the Skirmishers of the Brigade down into the valley, was posted a Squadron of the 15th British Hussars (under Captain Wodehouse), from which a Picquet was detached to the right of the abatis, as also an intermediate one for keeping up the communication; and some Vedettes were thrown out to the right, having in their front a continuation of the ravine, possessing a more marked and distinct character.

The troops posted upon the plateau already described as situated on the west of the Nivelles road and in front of the Village of Merbe Braine, and which, together with Colonel Mitchell's Brigade, constituted the extreme Right of the Anglo-Allied Army, under the command of Lord Hill, were available either as a Reserve to the main Line of Battle, or as a defence against any hostile attempt upon the Right Flank. They consisted of the main body of the Second Infantry Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton. This was composed of the Third British Light Brigade, under Major General Sir Frederick Adam; of the First Brigade of the King's German Legion, under Colonel du Plat; and of the Third Hanoverian Brigade, under Colonel Halkett.

Adam's Brigade, consisting of the 52nd Regiment (under Colonel Sir John Colborne), of the 71st Regiment (under Colonel Reynell), of the 2nd Battalion of the 95th Regiment (under Lieutenant Colonel Norcott), and two Companies of the 3rd Battalion of the latter Corps (under Lieutenant Colonel Ross), was, previous to the commencement of the Battle, posted between the Village of Merbe Braine and the Nivelles road, near where the[Pg 347] latter is intersected by the cross road leading to Braine l'Alleud: but as soon as the first attack was made upon Hougomont (with which the Battle opened), it was advanced beyond this cross road, and stood, in Battalion Columns of Companies, at quarter distance, on the plateau; whence it overlooked the Nivelles road, and had a full view of that portion of the main Front Line to which the troops of Clinton's Division formed a Reserve.

Du Plat's Brigade of the King's German Legion, consisting of the 1st Line Battalion (under Major Robertson), of the 2nd (under Major Müller), of the 3rd (under Lieutenant Colonel Wissell), and of the 4th (under Major Reh), stood in Open Column, near the foot of the slope descending towards the Nivelles road.

Halkett's Brigade, consisting of the Landwehr Battalions Bremervörde (under Lieutenant Colonel von der Schulenburg), Salzgitter (under Major Hammerstein), Osnabrück (under Major Count Münster), and Quackenbrück (under Major von dem Bussche Hünefeld), was posted in Contiguous Close Columns of Battalions, on the north side of the plateau, near the village of Merbe Braine.

The Second general Line of the Anglo-Allied Army consisted entirely of Cavalry, British and German. Posted partly on the reverse slope of the main ridge, and partly in the hollows in rear, it was entirely screened from the Enemy's observation. The Brigades were formed, for the most part, by Regiments, in Close Columns of Squadrons, at deploying intervals.

Commencing from the right, near to the Nivelles road, stood the Fifth Brigade, under Major General Sir Colquhoun Grant, consisting of the 7th and 15th Hussars, and of the 13th Light Dragoons (under Colonel Doherty.)

[Pg 348]

On the left of Grant's Brigade was posted the Third Brigade under Major General Sir William Dörnberg, consisting of the 23rd Light Dragoons, and of the 1st and 2nd Light Dragoons of the King's German Legion. The Cumberland Hanoverian Hussars (under Lieutenant Colonel Hake) were attached to, and formed in rear of, this Brigade. They properly belonged to Colonel Estorff's Hanoverian Cavalry Brigade: as did also the Prince Regent's Hussars (under Lieutenant Colonel Ferdinand Count Kielmansegge), and the Bremen and Verden Hussars (under Colonel August von dem Bussche); which Regiments were detached with the force at Hal.

Still more to the left, and in rear of the Right of Alten's Division, stood the 3rd Hussars of the King's German Legion, under Colonel Sir Frederick von Arentsschildt.

Immediately on the right of the Charleroi road, and in rear of Alten's Division, the First or Household Brigade, under Major General Lord Edward Somerset, was drawn up. It comprised the 1st and 2nd Life Guards, the Royal Horse Guards (Blue), and the 1st Dragoon Guards.

On the left of the Charleroi road, and in rear of Picton's Division, stood the Second Brigade, under Major General Sir William Ponsonby; consisting of the 1st Dragoons (Royals), the 2nd Dragoons (Scots Greys), and the 6th Dragoons (Inniskillings).

The Fourth and Sixth Brigades, under Major Generals Sir John Vandeleur and Sir Hussey Vivian, were posted upon the extreme Left of the main Line of the position, as previously explained.

The Reserves consisted of the Dutch-Belgian Cavalry Division, under Lieutenant General Baron Collaert; of the Brunswick Corps, comprising both Cavalry and Infantry,[Pg 349] the command of which, since the fall of the Duke, had devolved upon Colonel Olfermann; and of the Tenth British Brigade, under Major General Sir John Lambert. The latter formed part of the Sixth Division, commanded by Lieutenant General the Hon. Sir Lowry Cole; and had only just reached the Field, after having performed forced marches from Ghent.

Collaert's Division was stationed in rear of the Centre, and within the angle formed by the junction of the high roads leading from Charleroi and Nivelles. It comprised the First Brigade, commanded by Major General Trip, and consisting of the 1st Dutch Carabiniers, the 2nd Belgian Carabiniers, and the 3rd Dutch Carabiniers; the Second Brigade, commanded by Major General Ghigny, and consisting of the 4th Dutch Dragoons, and the 8th Belgian Hussars; and the Third Brigade, commanded by Major General van Merlen, and consisting of the 5th Belgian Light Dragoons, and the 6th Dutch Hussars.

The Brunswick Corps was posted between the northern portion of the Village of Merbe Braine and the Nivelles road, on which its Left rested; and comprised the following troops:—a Regiment of Hussars, a Squadron of Lancers, the Advanced Guard Battalion (which was at this time detached to the right of Merbe Braine); a Light Infantry Brigade, under Lieutenant Colonel Buttlar, consisting of the Guard Battalion, and the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Light Battalions; and an Infantry Brigade, under Lieutenant Colonel Specht, consisting of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Line Battalions.

Lambert's Brigade was posted near the Farm of Mont St Jean; and consisted of the 4th Regiment (under Lieutenant Colonel Brooke), of the 27th Regiment (under Major Hare), and of the 40th Regiment (under Major Heyland).

[Pg 350]

In order to afford greater security to the Right Flank of the Anglo-Allied Army, and also to keep open the communication with the detached forces near Hal, and at Tubize, namely, the Corps of Prince Frederick of Orange, and the Sixth British and Sixth Hanoverian Brigades, under Lieutenant General Sir Charles Colville; it was deemed essential to occupy the small town of Braine l'Alleud, about three quarters of a mile westward of Merbe Braine: and whence a road leads to Tubize, which is distant between eight and nine miles.

With this view, the Third Division of the Netherlands, commanded by Lieutenant General Baron Chassé, was placed under the orders of General Lord Hill; a part of whose Corps, as previously explained, formed the extreme Right of the Anglo-Allied position. The First Brigade, under Colonel Ditmers, occupied the town itself. It consisted of the 35th Battalion of Belgian Light Infantry, the 2nd Battalion of the Dutch Line, and of the 4th, 6th, 17th, and 19th Battalions of Dutch Militia. The 17th Battalion, detached a little to the left, kept up the communication with Clinton's British Division. The Second Brigade, under Major General d'Aubremé, occupied a good position about half a mile in advance of Braine l'Alleud, upon a height on which stood the Farm of Vieux Foriez.

It was at a very early hour of the 18th, that Lieutenant Colonel Torrens, Deputy Quartermaster General, reached Braine le Comte, and delivered to Sir Charles Colville the Order (see page 285), for his falling back upon Hal. That General immediately put in motion his two Brigades. These consisted of the Sixth British Brigade, under Major General Johnstone, and the Sixth Hanoverian Brigade, under Major General Sir James Lyon, accompanied by Major Brome's[Pg 351] British Foot Battery. The remaining Brigade (the Fourth British, under Colonel Mitchell), as also the other Foot Battery, belonging to the Fourth Division (Captain Rettberg's Hanoverian), were on the Field of Waterloo. On reaching Tubize, Colville fell in with the Advance of Prince Frederick's Corps: and as that was the point of junction with the road leading by Braine le Château and Braine l'Alleud to the position in front of Waterloo; he halted there, and despatched Lieutenant Colonel Woodford, Assistant Quartermaster General to the Division, to report his proceedings to the Duke. His Grace expressed himself perfectly satisfied; and desired Lieutenant Colonel Woodford to remain upon the Field of Waterloo, in order that he might be prepared to return to Sir Charles Colville with any instructions which circumstances might induce the Duke to transmit to him.

The Artillery of the Anglo-Allied Army, commanded by Colonel Sir George Wood, was distributed in the following manner:—

On the extreme Left was a British Horse Battery[9] of six guns, under Lieutenant Colonel Sir Robert Gardiner, with Vivian's Hussar Brigade. Upon the exterior slope of the main ridge, and above the Hamlet of Papelotte, were four guns of Captain Byleveld's Dutch-Belgian Horse Battery, attached to Perponcher's Division. The remaining four guns of this Battery were on the crest of the main ridge, in rear of that Division. On the highest point of the position of the Left Wing, and in front of the Right of Best's Hanoverian Brigade, was posted Captain[Pg 352] Rettberg's Hanoverian Foot Battery of six guns. In front of Kempt's Brigade stood Major Rogers's British Foot Battery of six guns. Major Lloyd's British, and Captain Cleeves's King's German, Foot Batteries, of six guns each, were with Alten's Division. Major Kuhlmann's King's German Horse Battery, and Captain Sandham's British Foot Battery, of six guns each, were attached to Cooke's Division. All the above Batteries were posted in Front Line; as was also Lieutenant Colonel Sir Hew Ross's British Horse Battery (from the Reserve), of six guns, which was posted on the height immediately in rear of La Haye Sainte, and near the intersection of the Wavre road with the Charleroi high road, in which latter two of its guns were stationed. Major Sympher's King's German Horse Battery, and Captain Bolton's British Foot Battery, of six guns each, were attached to Clinton's Division.

The remaining Horse Batteries were with the Cavalry. They were (exclusive of Lieutenant Colonel Sir Robert Gardiner's already mentioned) Major Bull's of six howitzers; Lieutenant Colonel Webber Smith's of six guns; Major Whinyates's of six guns, and provided with rockets; Captain Mercer's of six guns; and Major Ramsay's of six guns. Captain Petter's Dutch-Belgian Horse Battery of eight guns, was attached to Collaert's Cavalry Division. The Dutch-Belgian Horse Battery under Captain van der Smissen, and Foot Battery under Captain Lux, of eight guns each, were with Chassé's Division at Braine l'Alleud. The Brunswick Horse Battery, under Captain Heinemann; and Foot Battery, under Major Moll, of eight guns each, were with the Brunswick Corps. The British Horse Battery under Major Beane, and Foot Battery under Captain Sinclair (belonging to the Sixth Division), as also the Hanoverian Foot Battery under Captain Braun, all three having six guns each, were in reserve near Mont St Jean.

[Pg 353]

The whole of the Batteries were engaged in the Front Line, more or less, during the course of the Battle.

This disposition of Wellington's forces, so completely in accordance with the general features of the ground which he had selected with consummate judgment as the Field on which he was prepared to give battle to his imperial rival in the great art of war, was admirably calculated for either offensive or defensive measures. The opposite line of Heights, which the Enemy would naturally crown with the main Line of his forces, was fully within the effectual range of cannon shot; and no hostile movement could be made against any part of the position, that would remain undiscovered within the range of musketry. The formation of the ground in rear of the ridge, along the brow of which his Front Line was posted, was such as effectually to screen from the Enemy's observation any movements of the Supports and Reserves, preparatory to either a contemplated attack, or to the assembling of the necessary means of resistance at any threatened point. In rear of the main Front Line the ground was practicable for the movements of all Arms, the country was perfectly open, and the two high roads added still further to the facility of communication between the front and rear. The occupation of the Posts of Hougomont and La Haye Sainte presented important advantages in aid alike of offensive and defensive operations.

The Right Flank was rendered secure, not only by the position of Clinton's Division, commanding the valley skirting the Village of Merbe Braine, but also by the occupation of the Town of Braine l'Alleud, whence Chassé's Division could co-operate so as to render any attempt of the Enemy to turn that Flank a most hazardous experiment.

Although the Left of the main Front Line rested upon an[Pg 354] open plain or elevated plateau, and was therefore completely en l'air: yet the Village of Smohain, the Farms of La Haye and Papelotte, together with the scattered houses and numerous enclosures on the abrupt slope descending into the valley in front, by being well garnished with Infantry, offered the means of protracted resistance; while Cavalry was at hand, on the high ground, to cover the latter if forced to retire, and to frustrate the complete development of the Enemy's disposition of attack. The latter description of force was also available in maintaining a vigilant look out for any direct flank attack; which, however, was the less to be apprehended in consequence of the preconcerted Prussian co-operation in that quarter.

The position also afforded ample security for a retreat. The two broad high roads uniting at a point in rear of the centre, greatly facilitated the retirement of unbroken masses upon Mont St Jean; while the Village itself, and the numerous buildings and inclosures which lined the great road as far as the Forest of Soignies, presented the ready means of securing the further retreat of those masses, which, it may be assumed, would have constituted a main Central Column.

On the right, the Villages of Merbe Braine, Le Mesnil, and L'Estraye, connected with Braine l'Alleud and with one another, as also with the Forest, by several cross roads, and intersected by numerous inclosures, were well calculated for the retirement of the extreme Right of the Army, by the advantages which they afforded for covering such retreat with Light Troops.

On the left, the ground was more open, but the distance between the position and the Forest was infinitely less, the latter stretching southward to the Village of Verd Cocou; and the troops retiring in this direction, being much closer[Pg 355] to the high road, would have their Right in a great measure protected by the well defended retreat of the Central Column.

The Forest itself, consisting almost entirely of tall trees, unaccompanied by underwood, was passable for all Arms; it was intersected by numerous roads and lanes in every direction; and its southern extremity, adjoining the high road, was thickly skirted with houses and gardens, adding considerably to its capabilities for a vigorous stand against the further advance of an Enemy.

The retrograde march of the detached forces from Tubize and Hal upon Brussels, and their junction with the remainder of the Anglo-Allied Army in the position of Uccle, between that capital and the Forest of Soignies, will readily present itself to the minds of military men studying the dispositions and movements to which a retreat would have probably given rise; but this is a subject which, embracing as it naturally would, the consequent operations of the Prussians, opens a wide field for discussion, into which it is unnecessary to enter.

The general direction of the Front Line of the French Army was nearly parallel with that of the Anglo-Allies. The high road from Charleroi to Brussels, which intersected the Allied position near its Centre, also passed through the Centre of the French line. The point of this intersection was La Belle Alliance, a small Farm house and Inn; and the distance from the one position to the other, taken along the high road between these two points, was 1400 yards.

About two hundred yards in the French rear of this house is a summit, the altitude of which exceeds, by about thirteen feet, that of any point along the Anglo-Allied[Pg 356] position. A ridge issuing from it, and extending in a north easterly direction towards Frischermont, formed the position of the Right Wing of the Front Line of the French Army.

On the west side, a road leading from the summit, descends rather rapidly as a hollow way down into and across the long valley that takes its course towards Hougomont, then ascends until it reaches another ridge, along which it winds round that Post, at a distance varying from 300 to about 440 yards, until it joins the Nivelles chaussée; and that winding road indicates pretty nearly the ground occupied by the Left Wing of the French Front Line.

The Right Wing of this Line consisted of the First Corps d'Armée, commanded by Lieutenant General Count d'Erlon, comprising four Divisions of Infantry, and one of Light Cavalry.

Its Left Division, which was the Second, commanded by Lieutenant General Baron Donzelot, rested its Left upon La Belle Alliance. The First Brigade of this Division, under General Baron Schmith, consisted of the 13th Regiment of Light Infantry and the 17th Regiment of the Line; the former comprising three, and the latter, two, Battalions. The Second Brigade, under General Aulard, consisted of the 19th and 51st Regiments of the Line, each comprising two Battalions. These Brigades were deployed in two Lines, the second at a distance of sixty yards in rear of the first.

On the right of the Second Division was the First, commanded by Lieutenant General Alix. Its First Brigade, under General Baron Quiot, consisted of the 54th and 55th Regiments of the Line, each comprising two Battalions. Its Second Brigade under General Baron[Pg 357] Bourgeois, consisted of the 28th and 105th Regiments of the Line, each comprising two Battalions. The Brigades were deployed in two Lines, the second at a distance of sixty yards in rear of the first.

On the right of the First Division stood the Third, commanded by Lieutenant General Baron Marcognet. Its First Brigade, under General Noguès, consisted of the 21st and 46th Regiments of the Line; and its Second Brigade, under General Grenier, of the 25th and 45th Regiments of the Line; all four Regiments comprising two Battalions each. These two Brigades were, in like manner, deployed in two Lines, the second at a distance of sixty yards in rear of the first.

On the right of the Third Division, nearest to the extremity of the ridge, and immediately opposite the Farms of Papelotte and La Haye, was posted the Fourth Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Count Durutte. Its First Brigade, under General Chevalier Pegot, consisted of the 8th and 29th Regiments of the Line; and its Second Brigade, under General Brue, of the 85th and 95th Regiments of the Line; all four Regiments comprising two Battalions each. These two Brigades were also deployed in two Lines, the second at a distance of sixty yards in rear of the first.

The Cavalry attached to this Corps, which was the First Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Baron Jaquinot, was posted in a valley on the right of the Infantry: having in its front the Village of Smohain, which it held in observation, as also the Château of Frischermont, on the right of the valley; at the same time throwing out Patrols in the direction of Ohain. It was deployed in three Lines. Its First Brigade, under General Bruno, consisting of the 3rd and 7th Chasseurs; and its Second[Pg 358] Brigade, under General Gobrecht, of the 3rd and 4th Lancers.

The Artillery attached to the Infantry Corps, consisting of five Batteries of eight guns each (including a Reserve Battery of eight twelve pounders), was ranged along the front of the different Divisions respectively; and the Battery of Horse Artillery—six guns—attached to the First Division of Cavalry, was posted on the right of the latter.

The Left Wing of the Front Line of the French Army was formed by the Second Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Count Reille, comprising three Divisions of Infantry and one of Light Cavalry.

Its Right Division, which was the Fifth, commanded by Lieutenant General Baron Bachelu, rested its Right upon La Belle Alliance, and was ranged along the descent from thence down into the valley, which, more westward, winds past Hougomont. The First Brigade of this Division, under General Husson, consisted of the 2nd Regiment of Light Infantry and the 61st Regiment of the Line, the former comprising two, and the latter, three, Battalions; and the Second Brigade, under General Baron Campy, of the 72nd and 108th Regiments of the Line, the former comprising two, and the latter, three, Battalions. The Brigades were deployed in two Lines, the second at a distance of sixty yards in rear of the first.

On the Left of the Fifth Division, and upon the Height facing the southern boundary of Hougomont, stood the Ninth Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Count Foy. Its First Brigade, under General Baron Gauthier, consisted of the 92nd and 93rd Regiments of the Line, comprising two Battalions each. Its Second Brigade, under General[Pg 359] Baron Jamin, consisted of the 4th Regiment of Light Infantry, and of the 100th Regiment of the Line, each comprising three Battalions. These two Brigades were, in like manner, deployed in two Lines, the second at a distance of sixty yards in rear of the first.

On the left of the Ninth Division, and along the ridge of the western boundary of Hougomont, stood the Sixth Division, commanded by Prince Jerome Napoleon. Its First Brigade, under General Baron Bauduin, consisted of the 1st Regiment of Light Infantry and of the 3rd Regiment of the Line, the former comprising three, and the latter two, Battalions. Its Second Brigade, under General Baron Soye, consisted of the 1st and 2nd Regiments of the Line, comprising three Battalions each. These two Brigades were also deployed in two Lines, the second at a distance of sixty yards in rear of the first.

On the left of the Infantry, was posted the Light Cavalry attached to the Corps, namely, the Second Cavalry Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Baron Piré. Its First Brigade, under General Baron Hubera, consisted of the 1st and 6th Chasseurs; and its Second Brigade, under General Mathieu, of the 5th and 6th Lancers. It stood across the Nivelles high road, in three deployed Lines, rather under the crest of the ridge, on its reverse slope; and threw out Picquets in the direction of Braine l'Alleud, as also more to its left, thus keeping up a vigilant look out around this Flank of the Army.

The Second general Line of the French Army was formed in the following manner:—

In the Centre, close along the west side of the Charleroi high road, stood the Sixth Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Count Lobau. Only two of its Divisions, the[Pg 360] Nineteenth and Twentieth, were present; the Twenty First was with the Army under Marshal Grouchy. Each of the two Divisions formed a Close Column of Battalions by Grand Divisions; the head of the Column of the Nineteenth Division being distant about a hundred yards in rear of the right of the Second Corps, and an interval of about two hundred yards was preserved between the rear of the Nineteenth Division and the head of the Column of the Twentieth Division.

The former was commanded by Lieutenant General Baron Simmer; and its First Brigade, under General Baron de Bellair, consisted of the 5th and 11th Regiments of the Line, the former comprising two, the latter, three, Battalions. Its Second Brigade, under General Simmer, consisted of the 27th and 84th Regiments of the Line, comprising two Battalions each.

The Twentieth Division was commanded by Lieutenant General Baron Jeannin: its First Brigade, under General Bony, consisted of the 5th Regiment of Light Infantry, and of the 10th Regiment of the Line; and its Second Brigade, under General Tromelin, of the 107th Regiment of the Line; all three Regiments comprising two Battalions each.

There were three Batteries of Foot Artillery, of eight guns each, attached to the Divisions, including one of reserve; as also a Horse Battery of six guns. They were posted on the Left Flank of the Corps.

On the right of these two Divisions of the Sixth Corps, and separated from them by the high road only, were stationed the Third Light Cavalry Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Baron Domon, and the Fifth Light Cavalry Division, commanded by Lieutenant General Baron Subervie (belonging to the First Cavalry Corps, commanded by General Count Pajol). They were formed in Close[Pg 361] Column of Regiments by Squadrons. The First Brigade of the former, under General Baron Dommanget, consisted of the 4th and 9th Chasseurs; and the Second Brigade, under General Baron Vinot, of the 12th Chasseurs. The First Brigade of the Fifth Division, under General Count Colbert, consisted of the 1st and 2nd Lancers; and the Second Brigade, under General Merlin, of the 11th Chasseurs.

The two Batteries of Horse Artillery attached to these two Divisions, comprising six guns each, were posted on the Right Flank of the Column.

The Right Wing of the Second French general Line was composed of the Fourth Cavalry Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General Count Milhaud, which was posted on a parallel ridge, in rear of the two central Divisions of the First Infantry Corps, and distant from them about two hundred yards. It was deployed in two Lines, the second at a distance of sixty yards in rear of the first.

The Corps consisted of two Heavy Cavalry Divisions—the Thirteenth, commanded by Lieutenant General Wathier St Alphonse, and the Fourteenth, under Lieutenant General Baron Delort. The First Brigade of the Thirteenth Division, under General Dubois, consisted of the 1st and 4th Cuirassiers; the Second, under General Baron Travers, of the 7th and 12th Cuirassiers. The First Brigade of the Fourteenth Division, under General Baron Farine, consisted of the 5th and 10th Cuirassiers; and the Second, under General Baron Vial, of the 6th and 9th Cuirassiers.

The two Batteries of Horse Artillery attached to this Corps, comprising six guns each, were stationed, one in the Centre, and the other on the Left Flank.

The Left Wing of the French Second general Line, composed of the Third Cavalry Corps, commanded by[Pg 362] Lieutenant General Kellermann (Count de Valmy), was posted about two hundred yards in rear of the Centre of the Second Infantry Corps. It was deployed in two Lines, the second at a distance of sixty yards in rear of the first.

The Corps consisted of two Heavy Cavalry Divisions: the Eleventh, commanded by Lieutenant General Baron L'Heritier; and the Twelfth, under Lieutenant General Roussel d'Hurbal. The First Brigade of the Eleventh Division, under General Baron Picquet, consisted of the 2nd and 7th Dragoons; and the Second, under General Gniton, of the 8th and 11th Cuirassiers. The First Brigade of the Twelfth Division, under General Baron Blancard, consisted of the 1st and 2nd Carabiniers; and the Second, of the 2nd and 3rd Cuirassiers.

The two Batteries of Horse Artillery attached to this Corps, comprising six guns each, were posted one upon each Flank.

The Third general Line, forming the Grand Reserve of the whole Line of Battle, and comprising the entire force of the Imperial Guards, Cavalry and Infantry, under the command of Lieutenant General Count Drouot, was thus formed.

The Infantry of the Imperial Guard constituted the Centre of the Reserve. It consisted of four Regiments of Grenadiers, four Regiments of Chasseurs, two Regiments of Tirailleurs, and two Regiments of Voltigeurs; each Regiment divided into two Battalions. The 1st and 2nd Regiments of Grenadiers, and the 1st and 2nd of Chasseurs, formed the Old Guard, under Lieutenant General Count Friant; the 3rd and 4th Regiments of Grenadiers, and the 3rd and 4th of Chasseurs formed the Moyenne, or Middle, Guard, under Lieutenant General Count Morand; the four Regiments of Tirailleurs and Voltigeurs constituted the Young Guard[Pg 363] under Lieutenant General Count Duhesme. This force was posted somewhat in advance of the Farm of Rossomme, in six Lines of four Battalions each, at a distance of twenty yards from one another, and so disposed that the Charleroi high road alone separated the two Right, from the two Left, Battalions of each Line. To each description of the Infantry of the Imperial Guard; the Old, the Middle, and the Young, Guard, two Batteries, of eight guns each, were attached. These were stationed on either Flank; and the Reserve Artillery of the Guard, consisting of twenty four guns, was posted in rear of these Lines.

The Right Wing of the Third Line, or Reserve, consisted of the Light Cavalry of the Imperial Guard, commanded by Lieutenant General Lefèbvre Desnouettes, namely, the Chasseurs and Lancers of the Guard. It was posted at a distance of about two hundred yards in rear of the Fourth Cavalry Corps and deployed in two Lines, the second at a distance of sixty yards in rear of the first. The two Batteries of Horse Artillery belonging to the Corps, comprising six guns each, were posted in its centre.

The Left Wing of the Third Line, or Reserve, consisted of the Heavy Cavalry of the Imperial Guard, commanded by Lieutenant General Count Guyot, namely, the Grenadiers and Dragoons of the Guard. It was stationed in rear of the Third Cavalry Corps, and deployed in two Lines, the second at a distance of sixty yards in rear of the first. Its two Batteries of Horse Artillery, comprising six guns each, were posted in the centre.

This admirable order of battle, at once grand, simple, and imposing, and presenting to its skilful designer the most ample means of sustaining, by an immediate and efficient support, any attack, from whatever point he might wish to direct it, and of possessing everywhere a respectable force at[Pg 364] hand to oppose any attack upon himself, from whatever quarter it might be made, was no less remarkable for the regularity and precision with which the several masses, constituting thirteen distinct Columns, advanced to their destined stations, than for the unusual degree of warlike pomp and high martial bearing with which the Lines drew up in this mighty battle array. The movements throughout were executed under the cheering and spirit stirring sounds of bugles, drums, and trumpets, sending forth the long cherished national military airs of the Republic and of the Empire. The weather had cleared up a little, and to the Anglo-Allied Army, the crowning of the opposite Heights by the French Lines, with all its accompanying circumstances, presented a magnificent spectacle.

Napoleon has frequently been blamed for having thus consumed some very precious time in a mere ostentatious display of his forces. Public opinion, however, should not suffer itself to be too easily influenced by the apparent justness of such censure, and it would be ungenerous to the established renown of the French Leader not to attach due weight to the following circumstances. In the account of the Battle attributed to the Emperor's own dictation, one cause of delay in commencing offensive operations is represented to have been the soft and miry state of the ground after the excessive rain which had fallen during the night; in consequence of which it was found impossible to manœuvre the Artillery and the Cavalry, and it was considered advisable to wait until the ground had, in some degree, resumed its natural consistency. When, therefore, the manœuvring of these two Arms was pronounced to be practicable, though attended with some difficulty, which, however, it was added, would gradually disappear; the[Pg 365] employment of the interval in an orderly and a deliberate formation of a well-defined order of battle, was a measure scarcely questionable at the moment, however much the subsequent course of events may have proved that it militated against the chances of success on the part of the French.

The additional impulse which this imposing spectacle was calculated to impart to the moral force of his troops, is also well worthy of consideration. His soldiers, as they contemplated the extended double Front Line of Infantry, disposed as if about to enfold the Enemy in a deadly embrace, and the fluttering of gay lance flags on either extremity, indicating that its Flanks were duly protected; as they glanced at the Second general Line, a double one of Cavalry, superbly mounted, and proudly mailed in glittering helmet and cuirass; and, as they scanned the well disposed Reserves and serried Centre; their reliance on their own strength and in the resources of their Leader was unbounded, their anticipations of success were heightened, and their eager longing for the contest was greatly augmented. And while adverting to the grand spectacle in a moral point of view, it would be well to consider whether it may not have also been designed to exert a powerful influence on that portion of the Anglo-Allied forces with which the Emperor was tampering, in the full expectation of seeing them again range themselves under his victorious Eagles: but which Wellington, with judicious foresight and prompt address, broke up as a united body, and distributed among his British troops; thus securing himself against the possible enactment of a scene similar to that which so powerfully contributed to Napoleon's disaster on the plains of Leipzig.

But supposing it to be admitted upon these grounds that the delay of the attack, having once been determined, was judiciously and advantageously employed, we ought[Pg 366] also to consider whether the delay itself may not have been superinduced by motives of far higher import.

Although the miry state of the ground has been put forward as the ostensible cause, can we for a moment imagine that Napoleon was the man to have allowed himself to be deterred by such an obstacle from commencing the attack at an earlier hour; had he, at the moment, been sufficiently acquainted with the actual state of things to foresee that the delay, together with the possibility of a lengthened contest, and of the approach of aid to the British General from the Prussian side, tended to render his situation one of extreme peril?

May we not rather be justified in inferring, that his object was to gain time for the due execution and successful development of Grouchy's operations! The despatch which the Emperor had received from Grouchy, dated Gembloux, 17th June, at 10 P.M. (see page 300), clearly explained that General's intentions, which were, that should the mass of the Prussian forces retire upon Wavre, he would follow them in that direction, so as to prevent them from either reaching Brussels or forming a junction with Wellington; but that if, on the other hand, they should fall back upon Perwès, he would advance towards that town in pursuit of them. In the former case, Napoleon's delay was likely to facilitate the combined operation; because in order to prevent the junction with Wellington, Grouchy required sufficient time to throw himself between the Prussians and the Emperor: and, in the latter case, the delay would be immaterial, because then the Prussian co-operation with Wellington was not to be apprehended; and the battle with the Anglo-Allied Army would have to be fought by the Emperor, unsupported by Grouchy.

It may, perhaps, be argued that Napoleon, by commencing[Pg 367] his attack much earlier, would not have been under the necessity of employing a considerable portion of his Reserve against the Prussians in defence of his Right Flank, at a time when he so urgently needed them for following up and strengthening his attacks upon the Duke of Wellington's line. There existed, however, no such striking disparity, in point of numbers, between Wellington's forces, and his own, as to warrant his throwing away a chance amounting, according to the information he had already received, almost to a certainty, of being enabled to bring his greatest mass to bear against each Army separately: and which would doubtless have been the case as regards the Anglo-Allied Army, had Grouchy, by the adoption of more vigorous and energetic measures, manœuvred in such a manner as to sufficiently impede the Prussian co-operation by posting one of his Corps so as to command the Defiles of St Lambert and Lasne, and holding the other in reserve, to be employed by either the Emperor or himself, according to circumstances.

Whether Napoleon was really actuated by any such motives, must remain a doubtful point. These remarks, however, are offered for the consideration of those who censure him for his delay in commencing the Battle of Waterloo.

The strength of the Anglo-Allied Army in the Field was as follows:—

Infantry. Cavalry. Artillery. Guns.
British 15,181 5,843 2,967 78
King's German Legion 3,301 1,991 526 18
Hanoverians 10,258 497 465 12
Brunswickers 4,586 866 510 16
Nassauers 2,880
Dutch-Belgians 13,402 3,205 1,177 32
——— ——— ——— ———
Total 49,608 12,402 5,645 156

[Pg 368]

Infantry 49,608
Cavalry 12,402
Artillery 5,645
Total 67,655 men, and 156 guns.

The French Army consisted of:—

Infantry 47,579
Cavalry 13,792
Artillery 7,529
Total 68,900 men, and 246 guns.

The martial sounds already adverted to as having accompanied the march of the French Columns into position, had scarcely been wafted towards the Anglo-Allied Army, when mounted Officers were discerned galloping along the opposite Heights, and taking up the necessary alignments; and, presently, the simultaneous flashing of bayonets over dark masses, on various points, and the roll of drums, now become more distinctly audible, announced the arrival of the heads of the Columns destined to constitute the Front Line. As this gradually developed itself, and was seen extending on either side, from La Belle Alliance, and apparently almost overlapping both Flanks of the Allies, the scene became truly imposing and highly exciting. The two Armies were now fairly in presence of each other; and their mutual observation was governed by the most intense interest, and the most scrutinizing anxiety.

In a still greater degree did these feelings actuate their Commanders, while watching each other's preparatory[Pg 369] movements, and minutely scanning the surface of the arena on which tactical skill, habitual prowess, physical strength, and moral courage, were to decide, not alone their own, but in all probability, the fate of Europe. Apart from national interests and considerations, and viewed solely in connection with the opposite characters of the two illustrious Chiefs; the approaching contest was contemplated with anxious solicitude by the whole military world. Need this create surprise when we reflect that the struggle was one for mastery between the far famed Conqueror of Italy, and the victorious Liberator of the Peninsula; between the triumphant Vanquisher of Eastern Europe, and the bold and successful Invader of the South of France! Never was the issue of a single Battle looked forward to as involving consequences of such vast importance—of such universal influence.


[9] For the sake of uniformity, and to prevent misconception, I have adopted, throughout this work, the terms "Horse Battery" and "Foot Battery," employed in all the Continental Armies, although in the British service the distinction is better known by the terms "Troop" and "Brigade."

[Pg 370]


WHILE the preparatory dispositions, alluded to in the preceding Chapter, were in progress, Napoleon ordered the following despatch to be forwarded to Grouchy:—

"En avant de la Ferme de Caillou,
le 18 Juin,
à 10 heures du matin.
"In front of the Farm de Caillou,
18th June,
at 10 o'clock in the morning.
"Monsieur le Maréchal, "Monsieur Marshal,
"L'Empereur a reçu votre dernier rapport daté de Gembloux. Vous ne parlez à sa Majesté que des deux Colonnes Prussiennes qui ont passé à Sauvenières et Sarra Walin; cependant des rapports disent qu'une troisième Colonne, qui était assez forte, a passé à Gery et Gentinnes, se dirrigeant sur Wavres. "The Emperor has received your last report dated from Gembloux. You only speak to His Majesty of the two Prussian Columns which have passed by Sauvenières and Sarra Walin; however the reports say that a third Column, which was pretty strong, has passed by Gery and Gentinnes, directing itself on Wavre.
"L'Empereur me charge de vous prévenir, qu'en ce moment S.M. va faire attaquer l'Armée Anglaise qui a pris position à Waterloo, près de la Forêt de Soignes; ainsi S.M. désire que vous dirigiez vos movemens sur Wavres, afin de vous rapprocher de nous, vous mettre en rapport d'opérations et lier les communications, poussant devant vous les Corps de l'Armée Prussienne qui ont pris cette direction et qui auraient pu s'arrêter à Wavres, ou vous devez arriver le plus tôt possible. [Pg 371] "The Emperor charges me to inform you, that at this moment His Majesty is going to attack the English Army which has taken up a position at Waterloo, near the Forest of Soignies; so His Majesty desires that you would direct your movements on Wavre in such a manner as you may approach us, so as to put yourself in touch with the operations and to knit up the communications; pushing before you the Corps of the Prussian Army which has taken that direction, and which may have halted at Wavre, where you should arrive at the earliest possible moment.
Vous ferez suivre les Colonnes Ennemies qui ont pris sur votre droite par quelques Corps Légers, afin d'observer leur mouvements et ramasser leurs fuyards; instruisez moi immédiatement de vos dispositions et de votre marche, ainsi que des nouvelles que vous avez sur les Ennemis, et ne négligez pas de lier vos communications avec nous; l'Empereur désire avoir très souvent de vos nouvelles. You will cause the Enemy's Columns which have taken (the road) on your right to be followed by some Light Corps, in order to observe their movements and to collect their fugitives. Instruct me immediately of your dispositions and of your march, as well as of the news you may have of the Enemy, and do not neglect to knit up your communications with us. The Emperor desires to receive news from you very frequently.
"Le Major Général
Duc de Dalmatie."
"The Major General
Duke de Dalmatia."

It will thus be seen that Grouchy's report, despatched from Gembloux on the previous night, was well calculated to inspire the Emperor with great confidence as to the result of his present plan of operations, notwithstanding the very little progress that had hitherto been made in that quarter; and which, as already remarked, must be ascribed principally to his own inactivity during the early part of the 17th. He approved of the movement upon Wavre, in pursuit of the great mass of the Prussian Army: but at the same time expressed his desire that it should be executed in such a manner as to draw the Detached Force more within the sphere of the operations of the main French Army; and above all, he enforced the necessity of maintaining a close communication with the latter.

Some time before the Battle commenced, a Prussian Patrol reached the Village of Smohain, in which was posted the Picquet of the 10th British Hussars, under Captain[Pg 372] Taylor; whom the Officer accompanying the Patrol desired to report to the Duke of Wellington that General Count Bülow was at St Lambert, and advancing with his Corps d'Armée. Captain Taylor immediately despatched Lieutenant Lindsey, of the 10th, with the intelligence to Head Quarters, as directed. The Prussian Officer was certainly ignorant of the very slow progress made by the main body of Bülow's Corps; and the information which he thus conveyed to the Duke, before the Battle had commenced, naturally led the latter to calculate upon a much earlier arrival of the Prussians than could possibly take place: for, in point of fact, it was only Bülow's Advanced Guard which had then reached St Lambert.

The formation of the French Lines was scarcely completed when the magnificent and animating spectacle which they presented was heightened in an extraordinary degree by the passing of the Emperor along them, attended by a numerous and brilliant Staff. The troops hailed him with loud and fervent acclamations. There was depicted on their brows a deep rooted confidence in his ability, with such an Army, to chain victory to the car in which he had already advanced in triumph to within a few miles of the capital of Belgium. They exulted in the idea that they were now fairly ranged in battle array, under the Chief of their choice, and the idol of their devotion, against the Army of that nation which of all others had proved the most inveterate and the most enduring in its hostility to France; a nation which had not only by its wealth cemented and held together the great European league which had once precipitated that idol from the throne, but had also flung into the scale her own native strength and valour, by which the Fleets of the Empire had been destroyed, its Armies driven out of the Peninsula, and the sceptres of Spain and Portugal wrested from its grasp.[Pg 374] They appeared as if excited by the assurance, that the hour had arrived in which the disasters of the Nile and Trafalgar, of Salamanca and Vittoria, were to be cast into the dark shade of oblivion, by the dazzling splendour of the triumph about to be achieved.



Never throughout the whole of his career had Napoleon received from his soldiers more unequivocal demonstrations of attachment to his person, of unlimited confidence in his power, of complete devotion to his cause, and of absolute submission to his will, than were manifested in this short and fatal Campaign by which that career was terminated. With an Army thus animated by one sentiment, and presenting in appearance and material all that his practised eye could desire, it may readily be conceived that he fully participated in the general confidence of a signal victory.

Wellington's dispositions remained as previously described. Shortly before the action commenced, he rode down to Hougomont, and, proceeding by the Lane which crosses the Wood in the direction of La Belle Alliance, remained a few minutes at the point where the Lane reaches the eastern boundary of the Wood. Having made his observations upon that portion of the Enemy's Line which came under his view, he ordered the Light Companies of the British Guards that were in the Wood to be relieved by the Nassau Battalion and the Hanoverian Light Infantry. The former were then withdrawn to the Great Orchard, where the Light Companies of the First Brigade remained, while those of the Second Brigade moved on, along the rear of the inclosures, to the Lane which passes between the right of the Buildings and the Kitchen Garden, and leads into the Wood on that side.

The Duke next rode up to the high ground on the Nivelles road, unaccompanied by his Staff, to reconnoitre[Pg 375] the Enemy's Left. He then rode along to the Left of his own Line as far as La Haye. When the action began, he was in front of the Left of the First Brigade of Guards.

Napoleon, having completed the inspection of his troops, proceeded to take up his own station upon the Height in rear of La Belle Alliance, which afforded him a commanding view of the whole Field. The Infantry Brigades speedily formed Lines of Battalion Columns respectively. The state of the ground was reported practicable for the movements of Artillery. All was in perfect readiness.

The anxiously looked for moment had now arrived.

The Emperor sent an Order to Reille to begin the Battle by an attack upon Hougomont; and it was about half past eleven o'clock when, from the right of Prince Jerome's Division, a Column, advancing towards the south-western boundary of the Wood, rapidly extended itself into a strong line of Skirmishers. As they approached the Wood, a few straggling shots from behind the outermost trees and hedges gave warning that the defenders were prepared for resistance, and announced to both Armies that the Battle had actually commenced. The French, hastening their advance to obtain a better view of their opponents, began to single them out; and the shots from both sides, quickening in succession, speedily increased into a brisk and well sustained fire of musketry.

Jerome's supporting Columns had not advanced far when the Duke of Wellington, with his Staff, galloped up to the spot on which the Coldstream Guards were formed; and having directed his glass upon the French Columns, the guns of Captain Sandham's Foot Battery, attached to Cooke's Division, were ordered to the front. They instantly unlimbered and opened the cannonade from the[Pg 376] Anglo-Allied position. The first discharge was from a howitzer, the shell of which burst over the head of a Column moving towards the Hougomont inclosures. The shots from the remaining guns in succession also took effect; and the Battery was soon in full play. It was immediately followed up by an equally well directed fire from Captain Cleeves's Foot Battery of the German Legion, in front of Alten's Division.

The Batteries of Reille's Corps now opened in their turn, to draw off the fire from their Columns. Napoleon sent an Order to Kellermann to push forward his twelve pieces of Horse Artillery into the Front Line, facing Hougomont. The intervals between the reports from the guns on either side rapidly diminished: in a brief space of time no intervals could be distinguished; and the cannonade, increasing in violence every moment, now thundered forth in one continual roar.

"——deep throated engines belch'd, whose roar
Imbowel'd with outrageous noise the air."

The French Columns, as they moved towards Hougomont, were twice checked by the fire from the British Batteries; which, having been given with remarkable precision, appeared to cause considerable loss and disorder among them. At length they effected their advance. The French Skirmishers, followed by fresh Supports, had, in the mean time, made good their entrance into the Wood; and such was the boldness of their advance that they soon drove the Nassau Battalion and Hanoverian Riflemen before them. They were also pushing forward in considerable force across the inclosures adjoining the left of the Wood.

At this moment, Wellington gave Orders, in person, to Major Bull's British Howitzer Horse Battery, which had[Pg 377] just been drawn up on that part of the main ridge which was immediately in rear of the Great Orchard of Hougomont, to dislodge the Enemy's Infantry from those inclosures by means of shells. This service, which, considering the proximity of the Allied troops in the Wood, was of a very delicate nature, was executed with admirable skill, and attended with the desired effect. The Enemy was forced to abandon the fields in front of the Great Orchard; from which the Light Companies of the First Brigade of Guards now moved on, as did also those of the Second Brigade, from the Lane and Kitchen Garden on the right, to relieve the Nassauers and Hanoverians in the Wood. They dashed forward with the most determined resolution, blazing away in the very faces of their opponents, whose further advance they completely checked; and then gallantly pressing on, they gradually succeeded in clearing the Wood of the French Skirmishers.

With the exception of the cannonade maintained between the French Left and the Anglo-Allied Right Wing, and which was gradually extending towards the opposite extremities of the hostile Lines, the action was as yet confined to the Post of Hougomont.

About this time, a body of French Cavalry, issuing from the low ground near Papelotte, approached that part of the Anglo-Allied Left Wing which was occupied by Best's Hanoverian Infantry Brigade, and Captain Rettberg's Hanoverian Foot Battery. It was a strong reconnaissance, made by the French to ascertain whether the summit on which the above Battery was posted had really been intrenched, its appearance, as viewed from the opposite Heights, having induced a supposition that such was the case. Best, expecting to be attacked, immediately formed his Brigade into Battalion Squares; but the French Cavalry speedily retired.

[Pg 378]

Jerome now moved down fresh Columns to reinforce his Skirmishers. They were directed more against the Allied Right of the Wood, while a part of Foy's Division was ordered to support the attack by a simultaneous advance against the front. The descent of Jerome's troops was observed from the position of the extreme Right of the Allied Second Line, which afforded a partial view up the valley on that side of Hougomont. Two guns were therefore detached, under Captain Napier, from Captain Bolton's Battery, to open a fire upon the advancing Columns; but they were instantly cannonaded by the Batteries on the French Extreme Left, particularly by the Horse Battery of Piré's Light Cavalry, on the Height intersected by the Nivelles road. The remaining guns of the Battery were brought into action, as were also those of Major Sympher's Hanoverian Horse Battery; and a vigorous fire was now maintained against both the attacking troops and the French guns. Lieutenant Colonel Webber Smith, whose British Horse Battery was also with Clinton's Division, but lower down the slope, commenced firing up the valley, across the Nivelles road, at one of Jerome's Columns; but on ascertaining that the latter was somewhat beyond the effectual range of his six pounders, he detached an Officer to the right of the Front Line in rear of Hougomont, to discover whether a more commanding position could be obtained for his Battery on that part of the Field.

In the mean time, Jerome's Skirmishers, having been very strongly reinforced, renewed their attack upon the Wood, in conjunction with Foy's Infantry on their right. The Light Companies of the British Guards presented a stout and desperate resistance, but were forced to yield to an overwhelming superiority of numbers. Retiring from tree to tree, and frequently hazarding a bold and obstinate stand,[Pg 379] by which they suffered most severely, they at length withdrew from the unavailing contest: those of the Coldstream and 3rd Regiment seeking shelter partly in the Lane adjoining the right of the Château, and partly behind a Haystack which fronted the Wood near the south-west angle of the buildings; while those of the 1st Regiment fell back into the Great Orchard, on the left.

The French Skirmishers, finding themselves relieved for the moment from any immediate pressure upon their front, now rapidly advanced towards the Buildings and Garden. The hedge which lined the Wood on this side appeared to them, as it gradually presented itself to their view, to form also the boundary of the Great Garden. In the full confidence that this important post was now within their grasp, they rushed forward at the pas de charge to force an entrance. They were instantly and fatally undeceived. A deadly fire bursting forth from the loop holes and platforms along the Garden Wall, which was parallel to, and about thirty yards distant from, the hedge, laid prostrate the leading Files. Those which came up in rapid succession were staggered by the sudden and unexpected appearance of this little fortress. Not venturing upon an escalade, they were forced to take advantage of such cover as was afforded by the hedge and trees; whence they kept up a popping fire, though at fearful odds, with opponents so well concealed by the wall, as also by a row of apple trees which ran along its exterior.

The French Infantry were pushing forward through the Wood in support of this attack, when Major Bull's Horse Battery recommenced its fire; and a shower of howitzer shells fell amongst them, causing the greatest destruction and confusion in their ranks.

Again the defenders dashed forward from the Flanks, and regained a considerable portion of the Wood; whereupon[Pg 380] Major Bull ceased firing in that direction, and pointed his guns on strong Columns of French Infantry in support, which he succeeded in causing to retrograde; notwithstanding the very galling fire to which he was himself at that time exposed, not only from the Batteries in his front, but also from Piré's Horse Battery on the French Height adjoining the Nivelles road, by which his own Battery was completely enfiladed.

The French that were in the Wood having rallied, and obtained a vast preponderance of force, now advanced in a most determined manner against the Light Infantry of the British Guards, and compelled the latter to retire to their former posts on the Flanks of the Château and Gardens. At the same time, Jerome's Light Troops were advancing rapidly, and in great force, against the right of the Buildings. That portion of the Light Companies of the Coldstream and 3rd Regiment of Guards which was outside the Farm made a gallant stand, under cover of the Haystack, and from the Lane before mentioned. The Haystack itself was set on fire by the French in one of their attacks, and was now in full blaze. These Guardsmen held their ground with the greatest bravery until they saw themselves completely outflanked, and in danger of being cut off from all retreat.

They then hastily withdrew into the great Court Yard by the Gate which faces the Allied position; and which they instantly closed and endeavoured to block up with ladders, posts, barrows, or whatever was nearest at hand. The French, however, succeeded in forcing the Gate; but the defenders betook themselves to the nearest cover, whence they poured a fire upon the intruders, and then rushing forward, a struggle ensued which was distinguished by the most intrepid courage on both sides. At length, Lieutenant Colonel Macdonell, Captain Wyndham, Ensigns Gooch[Pg 381] and Hervey, and Sergeant Graham, of the Coldstream Guards, by dint of great personal strength and exertions, combined with extraordinary bravery and perseverance, succeeded in closing the Gate against their assailants. Those of the latter who had entered the Court Yard fell a sacrifice to their undaunted and conspicuous gallantry.

The remainder of the French Skirmishers, passing on by the Left and to the Rear of Hougomont, and, crossing the Avenue leading to it from the Nivelles road, and the adjacent rivulet, spread themselves over some broken ground partially covered with brushwood. They were now immediately under the position to which Lieutenant Colonel Smith had moved his Battery from its former station on the other side of the Nivelles road, and which was in front of the Extreme Right of the First Line of the Anglo-Allied Army. This Battery had just been hotly engaged with, and had suffered severely from, the Horse Battery posted in front of Piré's Light Cavalry Brigade; which had previously directed its fire upon Bull's guns, and which maintained the cannonade with Lieutenant Colonel Smith's Battery for the purpose of covering the advance of these Light Troops. Smith had succeeded in silencing the fire of his opponent; when the French Skirmishers, taking advantage of both the broken ground and the high corn beyond it, suddenly opened upon his Battery a popping fire so destructive in its effects, that in a few moments several of the Gunners and horses were killed, and so much damage was sustained by the limbers, that it became absolutely necessary to withdraw the guns into a little hollow way that led from the rear of the Battery into the Nivelles road, and in which it remained some time for the purpose of refitting and getting into order.

This daring onset of the French Skirmishers was checked by the advance of four Companies of the Coldstream[Pg 382] Regiment of Guards, under Lieutenant Colonel Woodford. They then fell back to the wall of the Farm yard, near which they collected a considerable force, when Colonel Woodford charged them. They gave way immediately, and withdrew from the contest; which afforded Colonel Woodford an opportunity of entering the Farm with a part of the reinforcement by the side door in the Lane. The remainder of the detached force occupied the inclosures between the Château and the Nivelles road.

During this advance of the French Skirmishers against the extreme Right of the Allied Front Line, the troops which formed their Support attempted again to force open the rear Gate of Hougomont. The individuals before mentioned as having closed the Gate, were, at the time, occupied in rendering it more secure by placing against it some pieces of ash timber that lay in the yard. The French failing in their endeavours to push in the Gate, a brave Grenadier volunteered to climb over and open it from the inside. Captain Wyndham, on perceiving the latter at the top of the gate, instantly desired Sergeant Graham, whose musket he was holding whilst the latter was bringing forward another piece of timber, to drop the wood, take his firelock, and shoot the intruder. The Order was instantly obeyed; and the intrepid assailant, who, for any useful result, ought to have been accompanied by a score of his comrades, fell beneath Graham's deadly aim. It was at this moment that the French Skirmishers who had advanced against the main position, were falling back upon their Support; and the whole of these troops were driven off by the advance of the four Companies of the Coldstream Guards, detached from the main position, as previously described.

In the mean time, the French Infantry in the Wood, finding their advance against the Garden so suddenly[Pg 383] checked, endeavoured to turn it by its Left. With this view they were debouching through a large gap in the fence, forming an outlet from the Wood into the Orchard; when Lieutenant Colonel Lord Saltoun, seizing the favourable opportunity, made a most gallant charge upon the head of the Column with the Light Companies of the First Brigade of Guards, and succeeded in driving the Enemy back into the Wood.

Shortly afterwards, a large body of the Enemy's Light Troops began to advance stealthily along the eastern hedge of the Hougomont inclosures, communicating at the same time with the Infantry in the Wood on their Left. This was immediately followed by a direct front attack upon the Orchard; which compelled Lord Saltoun gradually to withdraw his greatly reduced force, from tree to tree, until he reached the hollow way in rear of that inclosure.

The Light Troops in front of Alten's Division, having perceived the French creeping along the hedge so as to turn the Left Flank of Hougomont, were on the point of forming to oppose them; but on the latter being pointed out to the Prince of Orange, who had just come to the front to make his observations, he coolly remarked:—"No, don't stir—the Duke is sure to see that movement, and will take some step to counteract it." He had scarcely spoken, when two Companies of the 3rd Regiment of British Guards, detached from the Allied Line, were seen advancing along the same hedge, in an opposite direction, to meet them.

Lord Saltoun being thus reinforced upon his Left, and the French Skirmishers in his front having become exposed to a sharp flanking fire from the Guards lining the eastern Garden Wall, he resumed the offensive; cleared the Orchard of the Enemy, and reoccupied its front hedge: while the Detachment on the Left drove the French along the outer hedge,[Pg 384] and down into the hollow whence they had debouched; and then joined the troops in the Great Orchard. The front Hedge of the Orchard, the front Wall of the Garden, with the Lane and Avenue on the right, constituted at this time the Outer Line of the defence of Hougomont.

During the progress of the contest of Hougomont, Ney had been occupied in making his preparatory dispositions for carrying into execution Napoleon's intended grand attack upon the Centre and Left of the Anglo-Allied line. The troops destined for this service consisted of the whole of d'Erlon's Corps d'Armée, and of Roussel's Division of Kellermann's Cavalry Corps. Their advance was to be covered and supported by no less than ten Batteries, which were now brought forward and posted along a ridge that intervened between the French Right and the Allied Left Wing, affording the guns a range of from six hundred to eight hundred yards of the Duke's Line. These Batteries consisted of the three twelve-pounder Batteries of the First, Second, and Sixth Corps, drawn up with their Left close upon the Charleroi road; of the four Divisional Foot Batteries; of the Horse Battery belonging to Jaquinot's Light Cavalry Brigade; and of the two Horse Batteries of Milhaud's Corps of Cuirassiers, which stood in Second Line, in rear of d'Erlon's Corps—altogether seventy four guns.

This imposing force of Infantry, Cavalry, and Artillery, exclusive of the ample Cavalry Reserves at hand, was not more than commensurate with the importance of the object which Napoleon had in view. His aim was not only to turn the Allied Left, but also to force the Centre of the position; and, by gaining possession of the Farms of La Haye Sainte and Mont St Jean, to cut off Wellington's main line of communication by the high road to Brussels, and, at[Pg 385] the same time, to prevent any contemplated junction of the Prussian and Anglo-Allied Armies.

This appeared to him preferable to any plan of operation against the Allied Right, where the skilful dispositions made by the Duke would require such a plan to embrace the attack and repulse of the troops occupying Braine l'Alleud, and the Post of Vieux Foriez, as well as the forcing of the position, en potence, held by Lord Hill; a consideration which, combined with a knowledge of the existence of a considerable body of Allied troops near Hal, and the fear of allowing himself to be induced into too great an extension of his own force towards his Left, caused him to resign all idea of attempting any movement of importance in that quarter.

He felt, moreover, that even a successful attack upon the Right would, in all probability, induce the Duke to fall back upon the Prussians; and thus effect that junction which it was his great object to frustrate: whereas, an attack upon the Anglo-Allied Left, which was not so strong, if successful, held out to him the prospect of his being enabled, by aid of the presumed vigorous co-operation on the part of Grouchy, and the momentarily expected arrival of a portion of that Marshal's forces on his own Right, to defeat both Armies in detail.

The Batteries had been regularly posted and fully prepared for action, and the Infantry Columns had advanced to the inner brow of the intervening ridge, when Ney sent word to the Emperor that the preliminary arrangements were completed, and that he only waited His Majesty's Orders to commence the attack. Napoleon immediately took a general view of the Field of Battle, and continuing his observations beyond his Right, in order to discover, if possible, any indication of the approach either of Grouchy or of a hostile force, he perceived in the direction of St[Pg 386] Lambert an indistinct mass, having the appearance of a body of troops; and pointing out the object to Soult, who was near him at the time, asked his opinion; whereupon the Marshal observed, that he really conceived it to be a Column on the march, and that there was great reason to believe it was a Detachment from Grouchy. All the Staff directed their telescopes upon the point indicated; and, as the atmosphere was not very clear, different opinions were entertained: some asserting that what had been taken for troops were trees; others that they were Columns in position; whilst several agreed with Soult, that they were troops on the march.

In this state of uncertainty and suspense, the Emperor sent for General Domon, and desired him to proceed instantly with a strong reconnoitring party to the right, and procure correct intelligence; to put himself quickly in communication with the troops approaching from St Lambert; to effect a junction with them, if they belonged to Marshal Grouchy, and to impede their advance if they proved to be Enemies. At the same time, the two Light Cavalry Divisions of Domon and Subervie proceeded some distance in the direction of the Wood of Paris; and were then drawn up en potence to the Right of the French Army.

Not long after Domon's departure, Napoleon's impatience to ascertain the precise character of the distant Column was relieved by the arrival of an Officer of Chasseurs with a Prussian Hussar, who had just been taken prisoner; and who was the bearer of a letter, addressed by the Prussian General Bülow to the Duke of Wellington, to acquaint the latter with his arrival at St Lambert. The prisoner stated that the Column which was perceptible in the vicinity of this Village, was the Advanced Guard of Bülow's Corps, which had not been engaged at Ligny; that he had been in the[Pg 387] morning at Wavre; that the three other Prussian Corps were stationed close to that town, and had passed the previous night there, without perceiving any indication of an Enemy in their front; and that a Patrol of his own Regiment had advanced, during the night, as far as two leagues from Wavre without encountering any body of French troops.

Soult who had just at that moment written the following letter to Grouchy, in reply to his Second Report from Gembloux, immediately added a postscript, referring to the above intelligence, and sent off the despatch, accompanied by the intercepted communication and the Hussar's report.

"Du champ de Bataille
de Waterloo, le 18, à
une heure après midi.
"On the Field of Battle
at Waterloo, the 18th, at
one o'clock in the afternoon.
"Monsieur le Maréchal, "Monsieur Marshal,
"Vous avez écrit ce matin, à deux heures, à l'Empereur que vous marcheriez sur Sart à Wallain; donc votre projet était de vous porter à Corbaix ou à Wavres: ce mouvement est conforme aux dispositions qui vous ont été communiquées: cependant l'Empereur m'ordonne de vous dire que vous devez toujours manœuvrer dans notre direction; c'est à vous à voir le point où nous sommes pour vous régler en conséquence et pour lier nos communications, ainsi que pour être toujours en mesure pour tomber sur quelques troupes Ennemies qui chercheraient à inquiéter notre Droite, et les écraser. En ce moment la bataille est engagée sur la ligna de Waterloo. [Pg 388] Le Centre de l'Armée Anglaise est à Mont Saint Jean, ainsi manœuvrez pour joindre notre Droite. "You wrote at two o'clock this morning to the Emperor that you would march on Sart à Wallain; consequently your plan was to proceed to Corbaix or to Wavre. This movement is in accordance with the dispositions which have been communicated to you: however the Emperor orders me to say to you that you ought always to manœuvre in our direction. It is for you to consider our present position in order to guide yourself accordingly, and to knit up our communications in such a way as to be always within limits to fall upon some of the Enemy's troops which would endeavour to annoy our Right, and to crush them. At this moment the Battle has commenced on the line of Waterloo. The Centre of the English Army is at Mont St Jean, so manœuvre to join our Right.
"Le Duc de Dalmatie. "The Duke of Dalmatia.
"P.S.—Une lettre qu'on vient d'intercepter porte que le Général Bülow doit attaquer notre Flanc. Nous croyons apercevoir ce Corps sur les Hauteurs de Saint Lambert; ainsi ne perdez pas un instant pour vous rapprocher de nous et nous joindre, et pour écraser Bülow que vous prendrez en flagrant délit." "P.S.—A letter which has just been intercepted states that General Bülow is about to attack our Flank. We believe we see this Corps on the Heights of Saint Lambert; therefore lose not an instant in coming nearer to us and joining us, and in crushing Bülow whom you will take in the very act."

The above letter is of much historical importance. Although conveying Napoleon's approval of Grouchy's movement upon either Corbaix or Wavre, it clearly indicates the commencement of that anxiety and uneasiness of mind which the Emperor experienced through the fear of even the possibility of a want of just conception on the part of the Marshal, of the true spirit in which the combination of his movements with those of the main Army should be carried on. He draws the Marshal's attention to the necessity of his manœuvring so as to prevent the execution of any hostile design against the Right Flank of the main Army, which is then engaged with Wellington's forces, and names Mont St Jean, the Centre of the Duke's position, as a guiding point. This anxiety was naturally augmented very considerably by the discovery of Bülow's troops, and the postscript accordingly enjoins still more urgently the necessity of a close and active co-operation.

Very shortly after the Officer who was the bearer of this despatch had started, a message was sent in by General Domon to the effect that his Scouts had fallen in with Detachments from the Enemy in the direction of St[Pg 389] Lambert; and that he had just sent out Patrols towards other points to obtain intelligence of Marshal Grouchy, and to communicate with him, if practicable.

It is to be observed, however, that the troops discovered by the French Cavalry did not belong to Bülow's main body, but merely to his Advanced Guard. The former was the mass first seen from La Belle Alliance, when it was moving across the Heights of St Lambert, on the right or opposite bank of the Lasne; but as explained in a preceding Chapter, it encountered great obstruction and much delay during its march towards the Field: whilst the latter, awaiting its arrival, rested concealed in the Wood of Paris, near Lasne.

Thus it appears that both Commanders were deceived as to the proximity of any considerable body of Prussians at this period of the day. Nevertheless, the conviction of such a proximity, while it imparted increased confidence to Wellington, in regard to the speedy execution of the plan of combined operation which he had preconcerted with Blücher, compelled Napoleon to employ additional vigilance and circumspection upon his Right Flank.

Great, however, as was the necessity for such vigilance; the measures that were adopted were lamentably deficient in energy, vigour, and judgement. Considering that the main body of Bülow's Corps was on the point of entering the Defile of St Lambert, in which it had to overcome the greatest difficulties; it appears unaccountable that the Officer employed in reconnoitring and patroling beyond the extreme Right of the French Army should not have urged the occupation of the Wood of Paris with a detached body of Infantry, with a view to impede Bülow's advance, and compel him to take a more circuitous route. In this manner the Prussian co-operation might have been so far[Pg 390] obstructed or delayed as to secure to Napoleon the power of advancing against Wellington with almost the entire of his force; and of thus, perhaps, accomplishing his grand object of defeating both Armies in detail.

No disposition of this kind was made; but, in place of it, Domon's and Subervie's Light Cavalry Divisions were moved to the right, en potence to the Front Line, their Picquets not extending beyond the plateau in front of the Wood of Paris. Whether this culpable neglect arose from the want of due penetration and foresight on the part of General Domon; or from this Officer having been instructed not to act as if in command of a detached Corps, but only to take up a position, within a prescribed distance, en potence to the general Front Line; or, from an over confident expectation on the part of Napoleon of approaching aid from Grouchy; are points not easily determined: but there can be no doubt that the error of not occupying the Wood of Paris with a strong body of Infantry, flanked and supported by the Cavalry, was fatal to the development of Napoleon's original design. One Infantry Division, combined with Domon's and Subervie's Cavalry Divisions, would have sufficed for obstructing the debouching of Bülow's Corps from the almost impassable Defile of St Lambert; and compelling it to move by its right, into the line of march of Zieten's Corps, which did not reach the field before seven o'clock in the evening. To move by its left, along the deep and miry valley of the Lasne, would have been impracticable so long as the Wood of Paris and its vicinity continued to be occupied by the French.

In short, the importance of seizing upon the means that presented themselves for materially retarding, if not of completely frustrating, the co-operation of the principal portion of the Prussian forces, was of so vital a nature, that[Pg 391] the French Emperor would have been justified in detaching the whole of Lobau's Corps, along with the Cavalry already mentioned, under an experienced and enterprising General, such as Lobau himself, to operate against the Prussians whilst these were occupied in passing the Defiles which led to his Right Flank. None of those troops were engaged with the Anglo-Allied Army during any part of the day; so that, without diminishing the numbers actually opposed to the latter, they might have been detached in the manner suggested: instead of remaining, as was the case, drawn up en potence on the immediate Field of Action, to be attacked by the Prussians, who were permitted to pass the Defiles without interruption, to collect their forces under cover of the Wood of Paris, to debouch from the latter successively and at their leisure, and to organise their movements of attack in perfect security, and with the most systematic order and regularity.

[Pg 392]


NAPOLEON, having taken the precaution of posting a Cavalry Corps of Observation upon his Right Flank, no longer delayed sending the Order to Ney for the commencement of the Grand Attack upon the Centre and Left Wing of the Anglo-Allied Army. About the same time, Wellington, considering that some of the Battalions along the Right Wing of his Front Line were too much exposed to the Enemy's cannonade, which had from the commencement been principally directed against them, and which was now conducted with increased vigour, withdrew them more under shelter of the crest of the ridge. It might then be about half past one, or perhaps a quarter before two o'clock.

The simultaneous advance of d'Erlon's four Divisions of Infantry, amounting to more than 16,000 men, was grand and imposing. As the heads of the Columns cleared their own line of Batteries ranged along the crest of the intervening ridge, and as the points on which they were directed for attack opened out to their view, loud and reiterated shouts arose from their ranks of "Vive l'Empereur!" which, as the masses began to descend the exterior slope of their position, were suddenly drowned in the roar produced by the discharge of seventy four pieces of French cannon over their heads. The effects of the latter upon Picton's Division, and upon Bylandt's Dutch-Belgian Brigade, which, as before stated, was[Pg 393] deployed upon the exterior slope of the Anglo-Allied position, were severely felt.

Light Troops now issued forth from each Column, and soon spread out into a line of Skirmishers extending the whole length of the valley. As Donzelot's Division, which was on the left, approached La Haye Sainte, one of its Brigades moved out to attack that Farm, while the other continued its advance on the right of the Charleroi road; and it was not long before a sharp fire of musketry along and around the hedges of the Orchard of La Haye Sainte announced the first resistance to d'Erlon's formidable advance. Shortly afterwards a dropping fire commenced among the hedges and inclosures of Papelotte, La Haye, and Smohain; which were occupied by the Nassau Battalions under Prince Bernhard of Saxe Weimar. The Right Brigade of Durutte's Division was thrown out against the troops defending these inclosures; while the Left Brigade continued to advance across the valley, so as to form a Support to Marcognet's Division on its left, and, at the same time, to connect this attack with the advance of the latter against the main Front Line of the Allied Right Wing.

Durutte's Skirmishers pressed boldly forward against those of Prince Bernhard's Brigade; and it was not long before they succeeded in gaining possession of the Farm House of Papelotte, driving out the Light Company of the 3rd Battalion of the 2nd Regiment of Nassau, commanded by Captain Rettberg; but the latter, on being reinforced with four additional Companies, resumed the offensive, and gallantly retook the Farm. The contest in this quarter was now limited to a persistent skirmish; which extended itself along La Haye and Smohain, occupied by the Regiment of Orange Nassau. With this tiraillade[Pg 395] on either Flank of d'Erlon's Corps, the central Columns pursued their onward course, and began to ascend the exterior slope of the Allied position.


Battle of Waterloo

Immediately on the departure of d'Erlon's Corps from the French position, Bachelu's Infantry Division, which constituted the Right of Reille's Corps, was moved forward to the immediate Height between La Belle Alliance and La Haye Sainte (where it is intersected by the hollow way formed by the Charleroi road), in order to maintain that point, to be at hand as a Reserve to the attacking force, and to keep up the connection between the Right and Left Wings of the Front Line of the French Army.

The three central Columns continued their Advance up the exterior slope of the Allied position. The nature of the ground still admitted of the play of the French Batteries over their heads, and great was the havoc produced by this fire upon Picton's devoted ranks. As the heads of the Columns neared the deployed Line of Bylandt's Brigade, the shouts of "Vive l'Empereur!" were renewed. The Skirmishers in advance had scarcely opened their fire upon the Brigade, in order to prepare for, and give increased effect to, the succeeding charge of the Columns; when the Dutch-Belgians, who had already evinced a considerable degree of unsteadiness, began firing in their turn, but with very little effect: immediately after which they commenced a hurried retreat, not partially and promiscuously, but collectively and simultaneously—so much so, that the movement carried with it the appearance of its having resulted from a word of command. The disorder of these troops rapidly augmented; but, on their reaching the straggling hedge along the crest of the position, an endeavour was made to rally[Pg 396] them upon the 5th Battalion of Dutch Militia. This attempt, however, notwithstanding the most strenuous and praiseworthy exertions on the part of the Officers, completely failed. The reserve Battalion and the Artillerymen of Captain Byleveld's Battery, though they seemed to stem the torrent for a moment, were quickly swept away by its accumulating force. As they rushed past the British Columns, hissings, hootings, and execrations were indignantly heaped upon them; and one portion, in its eagerness to get away, nearly ran over the Grenadier Company of the 28th British Regiment, the men of which were so enraged, that it was with difficulty they could be prevented from firing upon the fugitives. Some of the men of the 1st, or Royal Scots, were also desirous of shooting them. Nothing seemed to restrain their flight, which ceased only when they found themselves completely across and covered by the main ridge along which the Anglo-Allied Army was drawn up. Here they continued, comparatively under shelter, during the remainder of the battle, as a Reserve; in which capacity alone, considering their losses and their crippled state, they could now be rendered serviceable.

Picton, who had been calmly watching the French movements, and whose quick and practised eye detected the increasing unsteadiness and wavering disposition of the Dutch-Belgians, appeared to expect but a feeble resistance on their part; and upon his Aide de Camp, Captain Tyler,[Pg 397][10] remarking to him that he was sure they would run, he said, "Never mind; they shall have a taste of it, at all events." He had certainly not anticipated the possibility of their retiring so precipitately as they did the moment the French came within musket range of their ranks.

Now, however, that these troops had completely cleared away to the rear, and left him no other means wherewith to brave the coming storm than could be afforded by the shattered remnants of Kempt's and Pack's Brigades which had survived the sanguinary Fight of Quatre Bras, Picton immediately deployed his force, and assumed an attitude of patient but determined resistance. When the disparity in relative numbers of the assailants and defenders is considered, the attempt to make head with such odds, against the advancing masses of an Enemy elated by his triumphant progress, was, it must be admitted, a daring[Pg 398] and critical undertaking. Each Brigade presented a thin two deep Line. Their united strength did not amount to more than about 3,000 men; whilst of the French force, the central attacking Columns alone, which were now advancing directly upon these two Brigades, consisted of nearly 12,000 men. Picton had, moreover, no Infantry Reserve whatever, from which he could obtain support in case of success, or upon which he could fall back in case of disaster.

He was not, however, one to be daunted by the approach of heavy Columns, formidable as they might appear in point of numbers, when he could meet them with a well trained British Line, though it should be but two deep, and present but a fourth of the numerical force of its opponents. It is true, that nearly all the Regiments in Kempt's and Pack's Brigades had lost half their numbers in the Battle of the 16th; but Picton well knew that they had not lost that indomitable spirit, which, under his guidance, had immortalised them on that memorable Field of Battle. There, he had triumphantly led them both in Line against heavy Columns of Infantry, and in Squares against charging Squadrons of Cavalry. What, then, might not be achieved by such innate valour—by such consummate discipline? The entire confidence which he reposed in his men was warmly reciprocated on their part. With such a Chief to lead them, they would have bravely confronted the whole French Army, had it been moving in mass against them. The flight of the panic-stricken Dutch-Belgians produced no effect upon them beyond that of exciting their derision and contempt.

The 28th, 32nd, and 79th Regiments of Kempt's Brigade, when deployed, occupied a Line parallel to, and about fifty yards distant from, the hedge along the Wavre[Pg 399] road, its Right resting on a high bank lining the Charleroi road, and its Left terminating at a point in rear of that part of the Wavre road which begins to incline for a short distance towards the left rear. In their right front, immediately overlooking the intersection of the Charleroi and Wavre roads, stood (as before stated) the Reserve of the 1st Battalion 95th Rifles; they had two Companies, under Major Leach, posted in the Sand Pit adjoining the left of the Charleroi road; and one Company, under Captain Johnston, at the hedge on the Knoll in rear of the Sand Pit. Their Commanding Officer Colonel Sir Andrew Barnard, and Lieutenant Colonel Cameron, were with these Advanced Companies, watching the Enemy's movements.

Pack's Line was in left rear of Kempt's Brigade, and about 150 yards distant from the Wavre road. Its Left rested upon the Knoll between the Wavre road and a small coppice on the reverse slope of the position; but the Centre and Right extended across a considerable hollow which occurs on the right of that coppice. The front of the interval between the two Brigades became, after the retreat of the Dutch-Belgians, completely exposed and uncovered.

The French Left central attacking Column had continued its advance in a direction contiguous to, and parallel with, the high road, until the Skirmishers in front were suddenly checked by the Companies of the 95th British Rifles posted in the Sand Pit; which obstacle had hitherto been in a great measure concealed from their view by the particular formation of the ground, combined with the height of the intervening corn. Influenced by the discovery of this impediment, and by the appearance of the abatis upon the high road, the Column inclined to the right so as to clear the Sand Pit; and as their Skirmishers were pressing on in that direction, the Companies of the 95th became turned,[Pg 400] and were forced to fall back upon the other Company stationed along the little hedge in rear of the Pit. So vigorous and effective was the fire maintained from this hedge by the British Riflemen, both upon the Skirmishers and upon the Column itself, that the latter was induced to swerve still further to the right, out of its original direction.

The retreat of Bylandt's Brigade having removed all impediment to the advance of the central attacking Columns, the three Companies of the 95th soon found themselves outflanked by the French Skirmishers, and gradually retired upon their Reserve. The Light Companies of the other Regiments of Kempt's Brigade, which had moved out to skirmish, fell back in like manner, accordingly as the French Columns advanced. With a view to secure the Left Flank of the attacking force, and at the same time to connect the movements with those on the opposite side of the high road, the French presented a strong Line, or rather a mass, of Skirmishers, in the interval between that road and the Left central Column.

As the Columns now rapidly approached the crest of the Anglo-Allied position, the greater part of the Batteries along the French ridge—that is, all those which had been cannonading that portion of the Line embraced by the attack—gradually suspended their fire. The partial cessation of their thunder was immediately succeeded by loud and reiterated shouts from the Columns of "Vive l'Empereur!"; whilst at short intervals were heard the cheering exhortations of "En avant! en avant!" mingled with the continued roll of drums beating the pas de charge.

The Left central Column was advancing in a direction which would have brought it in immediate contact with the Right of the 28th British Regiment and the Left of the 79th[Pg 401] Highlanders, and had arrived within about forty yards of the hedge lining the edge of the Wavre road, when Picton moved forward Kempt's Brigade close to the hedge; where it was joined by its Light Companies, who came running in, followed by some of the most daring of the French Skirmishers, who, however, were quickly driven back. Suddenly the Column halted, and commenced a deployment to its right, the rear Battalions moving out rapidly to disengage their front.

Picton, seizing upon the favourable moment, ordered the Brigade to fire a volley into the deploying mass; and its brief but full and condensed report had scarcely died away, when his voice was heard loudly calling "Charge! charge! Hurrah!" Answering with a tremendous shout, his devoted followers burst through the nearest of the two hedges that lined the Wavre road. In doing this their order Was in some degree broken; and, when making their way through the further hedge, a fire was poured into them by such of their opponents as had their front uncovered. The Enemy's Skirmishers that had previously fallen back upon the Flanks of the Column instantly darted forward; and by their rapid and close telling fire assisted in the endeavour to augment the apparent disorder of Kempt's line. The 79th Highlanders suffered greatly, and experienced some delay in clearing the hedges. The Ensign (Birtwhistle) carrying the Regimental Colour of the 32nd, was severely wounded. Lieutenant Belcher, who commanded the left centre subdivision, took the Colour from him. In the next moment it was seized by a French Officer, whose horse had just been shot under him. A struggle ensued between him and Lieutenant Belcher; but, while the former was attempting to draw his sword, the covering Colour Sergeant (named Switzer) gave him a thrust in the breast with his[Pg 402] halbert, and the right hand man of the subdivision (named Lacy) shot him, just as Brevet Major Toole, commanding the right centre subdivision, called out, though too late (for the French Officer fell dead at Lieutenant Belcher's feet), "Save the brave fellow!" The delay in crossing the hedges was but momentary; order was speedily restored: and then, levelling their bayonets, the Brigade disclosed to view the glorious sight of a British Line of Infantry at the charge.

It was during this brief struggle that a severe and irreparable blow was inflicted upon the entire British Army, and a whole nation plunged into grief and mourning for the loss of a Chief; the brilliancy of whose career had so excited her admiration, and the fame of whose exploits had so exalted her pride. The truly brave and noble Picton was struck by a musket ball on the right temple. His death, which was instantaneous, was first observed by the Earl of Uxbridge's Aide de Camp, Captain Horace Seymour; whom he was, at the moment, desiring to rally the Highlanders. Captain Seymour, whose horse was just then falling, immediately called the attention of Picton's Aide de Camp, Captain Tyler, to the fact of the General having been wounded; and, in the next moment, the hero's lifeless corpse was, with the assistance of a private soldier of the nearest Regiment, borne from off his charger by that Officer. Thus fell the gallant soldier, who, as the Leader of the Third or "Fighting Division" in the Peninsular War, had already acquired an imperishable renown in the history of the British Army. As his life was spent in fighting the battles of his country, his death was an end suited to his stirring career. His brave spirit passed away amidst the roar and din of the bloody conflict, and his eyes closed on his last of Fields in the very moment of the advance of his troops to victory.

[Pg 403]

The French Column, surprised in the midst of its attempted deployment, and appalled by the bold and determined onset of Kempt's Line, appeared as if struck by a panic, fell into irremediable confusion, and fled with precipitation from its pursuers. Just as the British Brigade bore down the slope, its front was partially crossed from the right by French Cuirassiers, followed by the 2nd British Life Guards; the former, dashing in amongst their own thickly scattered Infantry Skirmishers; who threw themselves down to allow both fugitives and pursuers to ride over them, and then, in many cases, rose up and fired after the latter. But although the greater part of the Cuirassiers turned about and boldly faced their opponents, whereby several isolated individual contests occurred; the 2nd Life Guards soon obtained the mastery, and compelled them to resume their flight: whilst the 95th Rifles speedily closed upon the disordered mass of Infantry through which this portion of the Cavalry had passed, and amongst which the greatest confusion and consternation prevailed. Many flew wildly they scarcely knew whither; others delivered themselves up; and several were seized as prisoners.

On its right, the Brigade was supported in the charge by the 1st Light Battalion of the King's German Legion; which crossed over for that purpose from the opposite side of the high road.

Immediately after passing through the hedge, the extreme Left of the 28th Regiment had unexpectedly found itself almost in contact with a well formed French Column still advancing against the Allied position. The Right Wing of the Regiment was too deeply engaged with the Column directly before it to admit of its attention being drawn off to any other quarter; but the Left Wing, having a clearer[Pg 404] front, boldly brought forward its right shoulders, thus detaching itself from the Right Wing, and fired into the Left Flank of the advancing Column at the very moment when the head of the latter was charged by the Right Regiment (the Royals) of Ponsonby's Brigade of Heavy Cavalry. Kempt, becoming aware of the prolongation of the French attack along the Line to his left, and of the consequently exposed state of this Flank; and possessing no Infantry Support or Reserve of any kind, felt himself under the necessity of restraining his men from further pursuit, and ordered the Brigade to halt and reform. The Left Wing of the 28th, however, having its whole attention fixed upon the Column charged by the Royals, followed these Dragoons some distance down the slope, and assisted them in securing a great number of prisoners; after which it fell back, and rejoined the Right Wing of the Regiment. The 95th Rifles continued advancing, and driving the French Skirmishers before them beyond the Knoll by the Sand Pit.

From this extremely gallant and most decisive attack by Kempt's Brigade, we must proceed to describe the no less brilliant charges performed by both Somerset's and Ponsonby's Cavalry Brigades; but to afford a more ready comprehension of this period of the action, it will be necessary, in the first instance, to revert, to the attack and defence of La Haye Sainte.

The French Skirmishers thrown out by the Left Brigade of Donzelot's Division advanced boldly and resolutely against the Orchard of La Haye Sainte. The first shot tore away the bridle of Major Baring's horse close to his hand, and the second killed Major Bösewiel, the next in command. The three Companies of the 2nd Light Battalion of the King's German Legion, which, as before stated, were posted[Pg 405] in the Orchard, together with two Companies of the 1st Light Battalion of the King's German Legion under Captains Wynecken and Goeden, and a Company of Hanoverian Riflemen under Major Spörken, which were extended on the right of the Farm, presented a gallant resistance to the Enemy; but the latter continued to press forward with superior force, and the main body of the French Brigade having formed two Columns of Attack, which were rapidly advancing, one into the Orchard, and the other towards the Buildings, Major Baring fell back with his men upon the Barn.

At this moment, Colonel Klencke reached the Farm with the Lüneburg Field Battalion; which Wellington, on observing the French advance, had detached from the Left of Kielmansegge's Brigade as a reinforcement to the troops of La Haye Sainte. Baring immediately endeavoured to recover the Orchard; and had already made the Enemy give way, when he perceived a strong Line of Cuirassiers forming in right front of the inclosure. At the same time, Lieutenant Meyer came to report to him that the Enemy had surrounded the Garden in which his Company was posted, and that it had become no longer tenable. Baring ordered him to fall back into the Buildings, and to assist in their defence. The Skirmishers upon the right, on the sudden appearance of the Cavalry, ran in upon the Orchard to collect together: but coming in contact with the newly arrived Hanoverians, the latter got into disorder; and the effect produced by the sight of the advancing Line of Cuirassiers in their front, as also by the shouts of the French Infantry gaining possession of the Garden in their rear, was such, that notwithstanding all Baring's exertions to halt and collect his men, the whole of these troops betook themselves to an indiscriminate flight towards the main position of[Pg 406] the Allied Army, a course which they seemed to imagine constituted their only chance of safety.

They were speedily undeceived. The Cavalry overtook them in the midst of their confused retreat, rode over, sabred, and still further dispersed them; whilst, to add to the severity of their loss, they became exposed, after the Cavalry had passed on, to a flank fire from the Enemy's Infantry lining the hedge of the Garden. A portion of them succeeded in gaining the main position; whilst the remainder, securing themselves in the Buildings, augmented the little garrison under Lieutenants Carey and Græme, and Ensign Frank, who bravely and successfully maintained possession in defiance of the vigorous attacks on the part of the French Light Troops. The Lüneburg Hanoverian Battalion, however, suffered most severely: many were killed and wounded; among the latter was the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Klencke, and among the prisoners taken was Major Dachenhausen. Some on the left saved themselves by a precipitate retreat into the high road. The few that were collected together again during the remainder of the day constituted but a very insignificant portion of the original strength of the Battalion.

The Earl of Uxbridge, on perceiving the advance of the French Cavalry by La Haye Sainte, on the British right of the Charleroi road (the same alluded to as having dispersed the Hanoverian Lüneburg Battalion and Baring's Skirmishers of the Legion), as also the approach of the Infantry Columns which constituted the attack upon the Allied Left Wing on the opposite side of that road, decided upon a simultaneous charge by the Heavy Cavalry Brigades of Lord Edward Somerset and Sir William Ponsonby; the former against the Enemy's Cavalry, the latter against his masses of Infantry. The[Pg 407] resolution was scarcely formed when he proceeded to carry it into instant execution. Riding up to Lord Edward Somerset, he ordered him to prepare to form Line, keeping the Blues in support: and galloping on to Ponsonby's Brigade on the opposite side of the high road, he ordered that Officer to wheel into Line as soon as he saw the other Brigade do so, and to hold the Scots Greys in support. He then returned to the Household Brigade, and immediately put the whole in motion.

As this was the first grand attack made by the French on that day in fair open Field, Lord Uxbridge felt very desirous, in meeting it, to establish, if possible, the superior prowess of the British Cavalry; and thus to inspire it with confidence, and cause it to be held in respect by its opponents. He, therefore, with a view to excite the courage and heighten the enthusiasm of his followers, led the advance in person, placing himself in front of the Left of Somerset's Brigade, so as to be at about the centre of the Line when the Brigades should unite, on the continuation of the advance, in front of the Allied position. Nobly and faithfully did these brave Dragoons fulfil his anxious expectations.

For the purpose of ensuring efficient support to his Cavalry attacks, Lord Uxbridge had, before the commencement of the Battle, intimated to the Generals of Brigade that as he could not be present everywhere to give Orders, he expected they would always take upon themselves to conform to, and support, offensive movements in their front; and having on this occasion Light Cavalry Brigades on either Flank of the charging force, he felt in a great degree justified in placing himself in Front Line, particularly as he had assigned to each of the advancing Brigades its own immediate Support.

[Pg 408]

Though greatly palliated by the adoption of these precautionary measures, this was perhaps not altogether a prudent act on the part of the Commander of the entire Cavalry of an Army; since, in the charge of an extended Line of Cavalry against an Enemy close at hand, the carrière once begun, the Leader becomes so completely identified and mixed up with that Line itself, that his virtual command is rapidly limited to that of a Squadron Officer; whereas, when accompanying a Second Line, he is enabled to draw off, or reinforce, as circumstances may render expedient. His eager desire, however, to render this first charge a brilliant affair, combined with his own chivalric nature, led him to assume the post of honour and of danger, in order to animate by his example as a bold and determined soldier. At the same time, he trusted to the dispositions he had already made, and to the alertness of his Brigadiers, for due support to his attack; but which, from fortuitous circumstances, as will be seen by the sequel, was not forthcoming at the moment it was most urgently required.

The French Line of Cavalry, as it advanced, presented an imposing appearance. These veteran warriors bore with them an air of confident superiority and anticipated triumph, joined with a sort of gaieté de cœur, inspired no doubt by the reflection that they were about to encounter and overthrow their most implacable Enemies, the British. Their advance, like that of the Infantry on their right, had been to a certain extent triumphant; and, as the flight of the Dutch-Belgians had led that Infantry to imagine that victory was already within its grasp, so the dispersion of the Hanoverians was hailed by these Dragoons as a happy prelude to their grand attack. They had now ascended the brow of the ridge on which the Anglo-Allied[Pg 409] Infantry was posted, prepared for their reception: a vigorous fire was opened upon them by the four guns of Ross's British Horse Battery on the right of the high road, as also by Lloyd's British Foot Battery still further to the right; but a few seconds sufficed to restore the order of their advance: in the next moment their trumpets sounded the charge; when, amidst shouts of "Vive l'Empereur!" this gallant Line, glittering in all the splendour reflected from burnished helmet and cuirass, rushed on to the attack.

On the other hand, the British Household Brigade, presenting a beautiful Line, and animated by an equal degree of enthusiasm, had already been put into charging speed; and just as the Cuirassiers came close upon the Squares, and received a fire from their front faces, the two Lines dashed into each other with indescribable impetuosity. The shock was terrific.

The British, in order to close as much as possible upon the Cuirassiers, whose swords were much longer, and whose bodies were encased in steel, whilst their own were without such defence, seemed for a moment striving to wedge themselves in between the horses of their infuriated antagonists. Swords gleamed high in air with the suddenness and rapidity of the lightning flash, now clashing violently together, and now clanging heavily upon resisting armour; whilst with the din of the battle shock were mingled the shouts and yells of the combatants. Riders vainly struggling for mastery quickly fell under the deadly thrust or the well delivered cut. Horses, plunging and rearing, staggered to the earth, or broke wildly from their ranks. But desperate and bloody as was the struggle, it was of brief duration. The physical superiority of the British, aided by transcendant valour, was speedily made manifest; and the Cuirassiers,[Pg 410] notwithstanding their most gallant and resolute resistance, were driven down from off the ridge, which they had ascended only a few minutes before with all the pride and confidence of men accustomed and determined to overcome every obstacle. This first collision at the charge did not occur, however, throughout the entire extent of the opposing Lines. Somerset's Line was not parallel to that of the Cuirassiers, and as its Right was thrown somewhat forward, this came first in contact with the Enemy, and the collision, in consequence of the rapidity of the charge on both sides, followed in instantaneous succession in the direction of the Allied Left until intercepted in its further progress by a natural obstruction consisting of the hollow way through which the cross roads lead into the Charleroi road. The Cuirassiers on the right of the French Line were suddenly thrown out of their speed by coming unexpectedly on this hollow way, into which they consequently descended abruptly and confusedly; and as they began to urge their horses up the opposite bank, they beheld the 2nd British Life Guards, which formed the Left of Somerset's Brigade, in full speed towards them. All idea of resistance, in such a situation, was abandoned as hopeless. They immediately filed away down this hollow way to their right, and struck across the Charleroi road into the field in front of the 95th British Rifles; followed by the 2nd Life Guards, who were in equal disorder from having to pick their way as they best could down the steep banks adjoining the intersection of the two roads.

These Cuirassiers, after having rushed in upon the French Infantry Skirmishers thickly and confusedly congregated in that quarter, reined in their steeds, and fronting their pursuers, engaged them individually in hand to hand combat. They were soon, however, made sensible of their[Pg 411] inferiority in this species of contest, and either submitted to the victors, or fled with precipitation; whilst at the same time, Kempt's Brigade was charging gloriously down the exterior slope of the Allied position, and closing upon the Infantry with which these horsemen had become intermingled, in the manner previously described.

No sooner did Ponsonby perceive the Household Cavalry in motion, than in pursuance of the Orders he had received, he led on his own Brigade; but not being sufficiently aware of the state of affairs on the opposite side of the Wavre road, and not wishing to launch his Line against the Enemy's masses until the favourable moment had arrived, he commanded a temporary halt, and rode up to the hedge in order that he might, by personal observation, ensure the correct timing of the charge. He was accompanied by Colonel Muter, commanding the Inniskilling Dragoons; whom he desired to return and place himself in front of the Centre Squadron, and to order and conduct the movement, the moment he should observe him hold up his cocked hat as a signal.

It is necessary to remark that the Scots Greys, who stood in support some short time previously to this advance, just where the Enemy's round shot, after passing over the ridge in front, descended in quick succession and occasioned some losses in their ranks, were ordered to some lower ground in left rear of the other two Regiments; which new position they had scarcely reached when the latter were advanced as above, and the Greys immediately conformed to this movement.

During the advance of Alix's French Division (the First), its rear Brigade, which consisted of the 54th and 55th Regiments, inclined to its right, moved out of the mass, and formed two Columns, of two Battalions each, in support,[Pg 412] en échelon to the leading Brigade, consisting of the 28th and 105th Regiments. In like manner, the rear Brigade of Marcognet's Division (the Third), consisting of the 21st and 46th Regiments, broke into two Columns, of two Battalions each, in support, en échelon to, but more immediately in rear of, the leading Brigade, consisting of the 25th and 45th Regiments.

While Kempt's Brigade was bravely charging down the slope on the right, the heads of the leading Brigades of Alix's and Marcognet's Divisions, with conspicuous gallantry, and amidst shouts of triumph, crowned the crest of the Allied position on the left, crossing the Wavre road and the straggling hedge, by which their order had been in some degree disturbed. Alix's leading Brigade, having passed clear of Kempt's Left, found itself unopposed by Infantry, in its front; but the head of Marcognet's Column, after passing close by the right of Captain Rettberg's Hanoverian Foot Battery, from which it had received a very destructive fire, during its advance, beheld a short but compact line of Highlanders directly in its front.

This was the remnant of the 92nd Regiment which had so gallantly fought, and so greatly suffered, at Quatre Bras. It did not at that moment consist of more than 230 men, whilst the opposing Column numbered about 2,000. Pack, who was in front of the 92nd, on seeing the head of the French Column making its way through the hedge, resolved in his own mind that not a moment must be allowed to it for observation and reflection, as otherwise the French would succeed in establishing themselves in great force on the summit of the British position. He instantly decided upon a measure, which, in daring and determination, was fully commensurate with the emergency of the occasion. Addressing himself to the Highlanders, he said, in an[Pg 413] energetic tone, "92nd, you must charge—all in front of you have given way!" With loud cheers, and under the animating sounds of their native pibroch, the 92nd moved steadily on with the noble mien and gallant bearing of men bent upon upholding, at any sacrifice, the honour and glory of their country. That portion of the French Column which had by this time crossed the hedge was in perfect order, and presented a bold and determined front. As the 92nd approached the Column, it received from it a fire; which, however, it did not return, but continued to advance steadily until it had arrived within twenty or thirty yards distance, when the head of the French Column appeared panic struck, and facing about in the greatest confusion, endeavoured to escape; the Highlanders, at the same moment, throwing into the mass a concentrated fire, most destructive in its effects. The 92nd immediately charged; but at this very moment Ponsonby's Brigade came up.

Colonel Muter had just before perceived the raised cocked hat, when he instantly ordered and conducted the advance of the Brigade. It will be recollected that the Scots Greys had been ordered to support the Royals and Inniskillings; but having as was before explained, moved down into lower ground on the left, to get more under cover from the Enemy's cannonade, and subsequently advanced in left rear of those two Regiments, they beheld in their direct front the head of Marcognet's Division establishing itself on the height. Their course from that moment was obvious. They soon got up into Line, or nearly so, with the remainder of the Brigade, and joined in the general charge.

Upon Ponsonby's Brigade coming up with the Infantry, it passed through the latter as well, and as quickly as it[Pg 414] could: in some instances intervals were made for the Dragoons by the wheeling of companies; in others, by that of subdivisions or of sections: but generally the passage was effected in rather an irregular manner; and under the circumstances this was unavoidable. Of the remaining Regiments of Pack's Brigade, the 44th, which formed the Left, having its front covered by Best's Hanoverians, remained in support, on the summit or Knoll immediately above, and on the left of, the hollow in which the rest of the Brigade had been posted. The 1st Royal Scots, and the 42nd Highlanders on the right of the 92nd, moved forward immediately after the advance by the latter, and crossing the hedge, assisted Ponsonby's Cavalry in securing prisoners.

As the Scots Greys passed through, and mingled with, the Highlanders; the enthusiasm of both Corps was extraordinary. They mutually cheered. "Scotland for ever!" was their war shout. The smoke in which the head of the French Column was enshrouded had not cleared away, when the Greys dashed into the mass. So eager was the desire, so strong the determination, of the Highlanders to aid their compatriots in completing the work so gloriously begun, that many were seen holding on by the stirrups of the horsemen; while all rushed forward, leaving none but the disabled in their rear. The leading portion of the Column soon yielded to this infuriated onset; the remainder, which was yet in the act of ascending the exterior slope, appalled by the sudden appearance of Cavalry at a moment when, judging by the sound of musketry fire in front, they had naturally concluded that it was with Infantry alone they had to contend, were hurled back in confusion by the impetus of the shock. The Dragoons, having the advantage of the descent, appeared to mow down the mass; which, bending[Pg 415] under the pressure, quickly spread itself outwards in all directions. Yet, in that mass were many gallant spirits, who could not be brought to yield without a struggle; and these fought bravely to the death: not that they served to impede, but only to mark more strongly the course of the impetuous torrent as it swept wildly past them, presenting to the eye of the artistic observer those streaks which, arising incidentally from such partial and individual contests, invariably characterize the track of a charge of Cavalry.

Within that mass too, was borne the Imperial Eagle of the 45th Regiment, proudly displaying on its banner the names of Austerlitz, Jena, Friedland, Essling, and Wagram—Fields in which this Regiment had covered itself with glory, and acquired the distinguished title of "The Invincibles." A devoted band encircled the sacred Standard, which attracted the observation, and excited the ambition of a daring and adventurous soldier, named Ewart, a Sergeant of the Greys. After a desperate struggle, evincing on his part great physical strength combined with extraordinary dexterity, he succeeded in capturing the cherished trophy. The gallant fellow was directed to proceed with it to Brussels, where he was received with acclamations by thousands who came forward to welcome and congratulate him.

Without pausing for a moment to reform, those of the Greys who had forced their way through, or on either Flank of, the mass, rushed boldly onward against the leading supporting Column of Marcognet's right Brigade. This body of men, lost in amazement at the suddenness, the wildness, of the charge; and its terrific effects upon their countrymen on the higher ground in front, had either not taken advantage of the very few moments that had inter[Pg 416]vened, by preparing an effectual resistance to Cavalry; or, if they attempted the necessary formation, did so when there was no longer time for its completion. Their outer Files certainly opened a fire which proved very destructive to their assailants; but to such a degree had the impetus of the charge been augmented by the rapidly increasing descent of the slope, that these brave Dragoons possessed as little of the power as of the will to check their speed, and they plunged down into the mass with a force that was truly irresistible. Its foremost ranks driven back with irrepressible violence, the entire Column tottered for a moment, and then sank under the overpowering wave. Hundreds were crushed to rise no more; and hundreds rose again but to surrender to the victors; who speedily swept their prisoners to the rear, while the Highlanders secured those taken from the leading Column.

Along the remainder of the Line, the charge of the "Union Brigade" was equally brilliant and successful. On the right, the Royal Dragoons, by inclining somewhat to their left, during the advance, brought their Centre Squadron to bear upon the head of the leading Column of Alix's Division, which had crossed the hedges lining the Wavre road, and being unchecked, was rapidly advancing across the crest of the ridge. Suddenly its loud shouts of triumph ceased as it perceived the close approach of Cavalry up the interior slope of the Anglo-Allied position. Whether it was actuated by a consciousness of danger from the disorder necessarily occasioned in its rear by the passage through the banked up hedges, by a dread of being caught in the midst of any attempt to assume a formation better adapted for effective resistance, or of being entirely cut off from all support, it is difficult to decide, but the head of this Column certainly appeared to be seized with a panic. Having thrown out an[Pg 417] irregular and scattering fire, which served only to bring down about twenty of the Dragoons; it instantly faced about, and endeavoured to regain the opposite side of the hedges. The Royals, however, were slashing in amongst them before this object could be effected. The rear ranks of the Column, still pressing forward, and unconscious of the obstruction in front, now met those that were hurled back upon them down the exterior slope by the charge of the Royals, who continued pressing forward against both Front and Flanks of the mass. The whole was in a moment so jammed together as to have become perfectly helpless, Men tried in vain to use their muskets, which were either jerked out of their hands, or discharged at random, in the attempt. Gradually, a scattering flight from the rear loosened the unmanageable mass, which now rolled back helplessly along its downward course. Many brave spirits, hitherto pent up in the midst of the throng, appeared disposed to hazard a defiance; and amongst these the swords of the Royals dealt fearful havoc: many threw down their arms, and gave themselves up in despair; and these were hurried off by the conquerors to the rear of the British Line.

The 28th French Regiment, which formed a direct Support to the 105th Regiment, comprising the Column thus attacked, though astounded by the scene before it, and almost driven back by the panic stricken fugitives, still retained a considerable semblance of order.

Amidst the crowd that was now precipitating itself on this supporting Column, to seek its shelter and protection, was an Officer, the bearer of the Eagle of the 105th Regiment. This Standard, on which were inscribed the victories of Jena, Eylau, Eckmühl, Essling, and Wagram, was accompanied at the moment by a party apparently[Pg 418] forming a guard for its defence. Captain Clark, commanding the Centre Squadron of the Royals, on discovering the group, instantly gave the Order, "Right shoulders forward—attack the Colour!" and led directly upon the Eagle himself. On reaching it, he ran his sword through the body of the Standard Bearer who immediately fell, and the Eagle dropped across the head of Captain Clark's horse. He endeavoured to catch it with his left hand, but could only touch the fringe of the Colour, and it would probably have fallen to the ground, and have been lost in the confusion of the moment, had it not been saved by Corporal Stiles; who, having been Standard Coverer, and therefore posted immediately in rear of the Squadron Leader, came up at the instant, on Captain Clark's left, and caught the Colour as it struck, in falling, against his own horse's neck.

So great were the confusion and dismay created in the second Column by the rush towards it of the disorganised remnant of the leading body, mixed up as it were with the Dragoons still pressing eagerly forward, as also by the signal overthrow of the Columns on their right by the Inniskillings, that the entire mass speedily yielded to the pressure, and commenced a disorderly flight, pursued by the Royals to the foot of the valley by which the two positions were divided.

The Inniskillings, forming the Centre Regiment of the Brigade, did not come quite so soon into contact with the French Infantry as did the Flank Regiments. The Columns in their immediate front were the two formed by the 54th and 55th French Regiments, of two Battalions each; which, as previously explained, advanced in support, and in right rear, of Alix's leading Brigade. Only the Left, and part of the Centre, Squadron of the Inniskillings had to pass through British Infantry as they advanced; the front of the Right Squadron was clear. The Irish "hurrah!" loud, wild, and[Pg 419] shrill, rent the air as the Inniskillings, bursting through the hedge and bounding over the road, dashed boldly down the slope towards the French Columns, which were about a hundred yards distant; an interval that imparted an additional impetus to their charge, and assisted in securing for it a result equally brilliant with that obtained by the other two Regiments. The Right and Centre Squadrons bore down upon the 55th French Regiment; while the Left Squadron alone charged the 54th Regiment. These two Columns, like those on their right and left, were not allowed time to recover from their astonishment at the unexpected, sudden, and vehement charge of Cavalry launched against them. A feeble and irregular fire was the only attempt they made to avert the impending danger. In the next instant the Dragoons were amongst them, plying their swords with fearful swiftness and dexterity, and cleaving their way into the midst of the masses; which, rolling back, and scattering outwards, presented an extraordinary scene of confusion. In addition to the destruction effected by this Regiment, the number of prisoners which it secured was immense.

The Household Brigade continued its charge down the slope on the right, and partly on the left, of La Haye Sainte, with the most distinguished gallantry and success; and bringing their right shoulders forward, the 1st Life Guards pressed severely on the rear of the Cuirassiers, as a very considerable portion of them rushed tumultuously towards that part of the high road beyond the Orchard of La Haye Sainte which lies between high banks, and which was thus completely choked up with the fugitives. Many of those who found their retreat so seriously impeded, again faced their opponents, and a desperate hand to hand contest ensued; which, however, was suddenly terminated by a destructive[Pg 420] fire poured down upon the 1st Life Guards, from the top of the banks, by the Light Troops of Bachelu's Division that crowned the Heights through which the road has been excavated. The King's Dragoon Guards, leaving this struggle on their right, and rattling across the pavé, boldly ascended the Enemy's position. They were joined on their left, by the 2nd Life Guards, whose course had been by the left of La Haye Sainte. With these were now mingled Royals and Inniskillings, while further to the left were the Greys—the whole Line, without even any semblance of regularity, madly pursuing their wild career, as if intoxicated with the excess of triumph.

Then it was that Lord Uxbridge, who had so gallantly led the charge in person, and incited all by his example, eagerly sought for the Support on which he had confidently calculated; when, to his great surprise and mortification, he discovered that there was none at hand. Ponsonby's own immediate Support, which Lord Uxbridge himself had ordered to be formed by the Greys, had necessarily been employed in Front Line on the left, in the manner described; a fact of which, from his own position as Leader of that Line, he had been quite unaware. The direct Support of Somerset's Brigade, consisting of the Blues, had, during the charge, come up with, and joined, the Front Line. The Regiment was kept well in hand; and, by its comparatively good order, facilitated the drawing off of the remainder of that Brigade from further pursuit. But it was on the left of the high road, in rear of Ponsonby's Line, that support was most needed. His Lordship could not account for the circumstance of neither of the Light Cavalry Brigades, posted on the extreme Left, having come up in support of Ponsonby's advance, in conformity with the general instructions conveyed to his Brigadiers on the subject of affording mutual[Pg 421] support. The fact is, that Vandeleur's Brigade, which was the nearest, was then in motion for the purpose of affording its aid; but its progress was unfortunately impeded by its having previously to make a retrograde movement in order to pass a hollow way which separated it from the troops on the right. In vain did Lord Uxbridge sound to halt and rally—neither voice nor trumpet was heeded.

In a few seconds more, the Advanced Line was seen crowning the Enemy's position. The King's Dragoon Guards were suddenly exposed to a severe fire from the Batteries and from Bachelu's Columns of Infantry on their right; and perceiving a strong and well formed body of Cuirassiers on the point of advancing from the hollow beyond the ridge they had so rashly ascended, they, with such of the Royals and Inniskillings as had joined them, at length commenced a hasty retreat. The Greys, along with many of the Royals and Inniskillings, dashed in amongst the Batteries, and then, wheeling sharply to their left, rode along the line of cannon in that direction, sabring the Gunners and stabbing the horses, until they became sensible of the approach of a body of French Lancers moving down obliquely from the left upon the arena of this memorable conflict. They now fell back; but, with their horses blown and exhausted, it was not long before they were overtaken by the Lancers. These formed the Advance of Jacquinot's Light Cavalry Brigade, which had been unaccountably remiss in not having afforded a prompt and close Support to the attacking Columns of Infantry.

Both the British Heavy Cavalry Brigades were now in full retreat. Somerset's regained the position without any serious molestation: but Ponsonby's Dragoons, particularly the Greys, who were upon the extreme Left, suffered severely from Jaquinot's Lancers and Chasseurs, the greater[Pg 422] part of them being in a state of the utmost confusion and exhaustion; whilst the latter were infinitely superior in numerical force, were in good order, and mounted on horses perfectly fresh. On their right the Lancers charged in Open Column; the remainder, extending in open Lancer order towards their left, rapidly spread over the plain, darting upon the stragglers and wounded of the British Cavalry who came within their reach; and, at the same time, giving confidence to such of their own scattered Infantry as were still retreating in disorder and confusion.

At length, the Support so greatly needed by Ponsonby's Brigade arrived upon its Left Flank. Vandeleur, having passed the hollow way and ravine which intercepted his progress towards the scene of action, had reached that part of the crest of the position occupied by Best's Hanoverian Brigade, through which it now advanced to the front in Open Column of divisions. The 12th Light Dragoons, being the leading Regiment, moved quickly down the slope: the 16th Regiment remained higher up the acclivity; while the 11th were drawn up in reserve upon the brow of the hill. The 12th and 16th wheeled into Line to their right. Lieutenant Colonel the Hon. Frederick Ponsonby, who commanded the 12th, perceiving the confusion that prevailed amidst the French Infantry in the valley, as also the extremely critical situation of a great number of scattered red coated Dragoons nearly on the crest of the French position, instantly charged a mass of unsteady Infantry which intervened between him and these Dragoons. This Infantry comprised the rearmost supporting Column of Marcognet's Division, and was the only one of the attacking Columns yet intact. It was now destined to share their fate. Already alarmed by the disorder into which the entire of the Infantry on its left[Pg 423] had been thrown, and now attacked so suddenly and unexpectedly on its right, it was penetrated by the charge of the 12th.

These Dragoons having forced their way through the Column, whereby their order was naturally much broken, came upon the Right Flank of the Lancers who were in pursuit of Ponsonby's Brigade. Quickening their speed, they dashed in amongst the French Cavalry, and acting almost perpendicularly upon their Flank, they "rolled up" such as were immediately in their front. The 16th Light Dragoons, with Vandeleur at their head, very gallantly charged obliquely upon the front of the Lancers, whose further advance was completely checked by this double attack. On their extreme Right, the 16th rather clashed with some of the retiring Dragoons: but the two Regiments, carrying every thing before them, succeeded in driving the French Light Cavalry down again to the foot of the valley; which they had been ordered, previously to their charge, not to pass.

Some few of both the 12th and 16th did, nevertheless, madly rush up the opposite Height; where, by this time, fresh troops had arrived, who made them suffer for their temerity.

Ghigny's Dutch-Belgian Light Cavalry Brigade, which had, at the commencement of this Cavalry attack, crossed the Charleroi road, came up, in the mean time, to the brow of the main position, on the left of Vandeleur's Brigade. One of its Regiments, the 4th Light Dragoons, went down the slope, following the 12th Light Dragoons; and after experiencing the effects of a brisk fire which was kept up by Durutte's Skirmishers from behind a bank and hedge, low down the slope, and from which the 12th Light Dragoons had previously suffered, it assisted in completing the dispersion of the French Infantry. The other[Pg 424] Regiment (the 8th Hussars) remained a few minutes upon the Height, and then advanced to draw off the retiring Cavalry.

Vivian, who had come forward in person from the extreme Left, and proceeded some way down the slope for the purpose of making his observations, upon perceiving Ponsonby's Brigade charging in disorder up the French Heights, immediately sent back word for the 10th and 18th British Hussars to move through the hollow way to their right, leaving the remaining Regiment of his Brigade, the 1st Hussars of the King's German Legion, to keep a look out to the left. Very shortly afterwards, two guns detached in advance from his Horse Battery, drew up on the brow of the main ridge; but had scarcely opened a fire when a well directed shot from one of the French Batteries passed through the ammunition boxes of one of the limbers, causing an explosion, which drew forth a shout of triumph on the part of the French Artillerymen.

The charge of Vandeleur's Brigade having succeeded, without the active aid of even its own immediate Support, the 11th Light Dragoons; the further advance of the 10th and 18th Hussars was not required, but they continued in their new position, on the right of the lane leading to Verd Cocou, and the two guns rejoined their Battery.

Major Whinyates's Rocket Troop, having been brought up to the crest of the main ridge, from its previous position in reserve near Mont St Jean, its Rocket Sections were moved down to the foot of the exterior slope, whence they discharged several rockets at the French troops then formed, or in the act of reforming, upon the opposite heights. Immediately after the execution of this service, which was gallantly and skilfully conducted, the Troop rejoined its guns on the crest of the position.

[Pg 425]

In the general mêlée which resulted from the charge of the British Heavy Dragoons, and the overthrow of such masses of Infantry, augmented as it was by the subsequent charges of, firstly, the French Lancers, and, then, the two Regiments of British Light Cavalry, severe losses were sustained on both sides; and the British Army was deprived of some of its brightest ornaments.

The gallant Leader of the "Union Brigade," when endeavouring to return to the Allied position, after using the most strenuous but fruitless exertions to restrain his men in their wild pursuit, and to withdraw them from a contest in which they had already gained undying fame, became a sacrifice to his chivalrous and patriotic zeal. Intercepted by a party of the Lancers in the soft ground of a newly ploughed field, out of which his exhausted steed had not the power to extricate itself, he fell beneath their deadly thrusts. Sir William Ponsonby had highly distinguished himself as a Cavalry Officer in Spain; and, independently of his merits as a soldier, which were justly appreciated by the whole Service, his amiable disposition and private virtues endeared him to all his brother Officers.

His equally gallant namesake, Colonel the Hon. Frederick Ponsonby, immediately after his brilliant charge with the 12th Light Dragoons, first through a Column of Infantry, and then upon the Right Flank of the Lancers, was endeavouring to withdraw his Regiment from further pursuit, when he was disabled in both arms, and carried by his horse up to the crest of the French position; where, receiving a sabre cut, he was struck senseless to the ground; and it was very generally supposed at the time that he had been left dead on the field.

Lieutenant Colonel Hay, who commanded the 16th[Pg 426] Light Dragoons, was desperately and dangerously wounded. Colonel Hamilton, the Commanding Officer of the Scots Greys, after gallantly leading his Regiment through the Enemy's Columns, across the valley, and up the opposite Heights, was last seen far in advance; where it is presumed, from his never having again appeared, he fell in the midst of the French lines, a sacrifice to his distinguished but indiscreet valour. Colonel Fuller, who commanded the 1st, or King's, Dragoon Guards, was killed when pursuing the Cuirassiers: he boldly led his Regiment up the French Height immediately upon the Allied Left of the Charleroi road. In addition to the above mentioned, the British Cavalry engaged in this affair sustained a very heavy loss in both Officers and men.

With the exception of the bodies of the slain; of such of the wounded as were too far from their respective Lines to be removed; of loose horses, some wildly careering about, others quietly grazing, and many staggering, plunging, or convulsively pawing the ground around them, from the agony of their wounds; the arena of this terrible conflict, which had ceased but a few minutes before, was now perfectly clear. The retiring crowds of French Infantry had disappeared behind the foremost ridge of their position, to collect and reform their scattered remnants.

The British Cavalry were similarly employed—Somerset's Brigade on the right of the Charleroi road, near the Orchard of the Farm of Mont St Jean; Ponsonby's on the opposite side of the road, in rear of a coppice bordering the hollow below that Farm; and Vandeleur's on the interior slope of the position, more to the right than where it had been posted during the earlier part of the day.

Pack's and Best's Brigades closed to their right upon Kempt's, so as to fill up the interval occasioned by the[Pg 427] retreat of Bylandt's Dutch-Belgian Brigade; and the Knoll in front of Kempt's Brigade was again occupied by three Companies of the 95th Regiment; as was also the Farm of La Haye Sainte by the 2nd Light Battalion King's German Legion, reinforced by two Companies of the 1st Light Battalion of that Corps.

Major General Sir John Lambert's Infantry Brigade, which had been kept in reserve near Mont St Jean, was put in motion at the time Ponsonby's Dragoons advanced to the charge; and it was now placed on the left of the Charleroi road, in Column, at quarter distance, in rear and in support of the Fifth Division.

The importance of the result of this signal defeat of the French attack was fully commensurate with the glory by which its achievement was distinguished. The object of that attack, which was to force the Centre and Left Wing of the Anglo-Allied Army and to establish a very considerable body of troops in the vicinity of Mont St Jean, was completely frustrated: 3,000 prisoners were taken; two Eagles were captured; and between thirty and forty pieces of cannon were put hors de combat for the greater part of the remainder of the day.

Thus terminated one of the grandest scenes which distinguished the mighty drama enacted on the ever memorable plains of Waterloo; a scene presenting in bold relief, genuine British valour crowned with resplendent triumph; a scene, which should be indelibly impressed upon the minds as well of living British warriors as of their successors in ages yet unborn.

Britons! before other scenes are disclosed to your view, take one retrospective glance at this glorious, this instructive, spectacle. Let your imagination carry you to the rear of[Pg 428] that celebrated position, and a little to the left of the Charleroi road. Behold, in the foreground, on the right, a British Line of Cavalry advancing to the charge, exulting in the consciousness of its innate courage, indomitable spirit, and strength of arm. Whilst you are admiring the beautiful order and perfect steadiness of their advance, your eyes are suddenly attracted by the glittering splendour of a Line of horsemen in burnished coats of mail, rising above the brow, and now crowning the summit of the ridge. They are the far famed Cuirassiers of France, led on by a Kellermann; gallant spirits that have hitherto overcome the finest troops that could be brought against them, and have grown grey in glory. Trumpets sound the charge; in the next instant your ears catch the low thundering noise of their horses' hoofs, and your breathless excitement is wound to the highest pitch as the adverse Lines clash together with a shock which, at the moment, you expect must end in their mutual annihilation. Observe the British, how they seem to doubt, for a second, in what manner to deal with their opponents. Now they urge their powerful steeds into the intervals between the necks of those of the Cuirassiers. Swords, brandished high in air, gleam fitfully in rapid succession throughout the Lines, here clashing together, there clanging against helmets and cuirass which ring under their redoubled strokes. See! the struggle is but a moment doubtful—the Cuirassiers, seemingly encumbered by their coats of mail, are yielding to superior strength, dexterity, and bravery combined—men and horses reel and stagger to the earth—gaps open out in their Line—numbers are backing out—others are fairly turning round—their whole Line now bends, and breaks asunder into fragments—in the next moment they appear, as if by a miracle, to be swept from off the crest of the[Pg 429] position, and being closely and hotly pursued by the victors, the whole rushing down the other side of the ridge, are snatched from your view.

Your attention is now irresistibly drawn to that part of the foreground immediately facing you; where you have barely time to catch sight of a Line of British Infantry just as it forces its way through the hedge that runs along the crest of the ridge, to charge a Column advancing up the other side. At the moment the shouts that proclaim its triumph reach your ear, you are struck by the majestic advance, close to your left, of another Line of British horsemen. These halt just under the brow of the ridge. In their Left Front your eye now also embraces a Line of British Infantry; whilst at the same time you see the heads of two hostile Columns, issuing through the hedge, and crowning the ridge amidst shouts of "Vive l'Empereur!" The one nearest to you, finding no immediate opposition to its further advance, is rapidly establishing itself on the Height: the other is instantly met by a small but daring band of Scotch Highlanders. A struggle ensues; the furthest Column is concealed from your view by the smoke in which it is suddenly enshrouded; but at the very moment when doubts arise in your mind as to the result, the Cavalry rushes forward, and, passing through intervals opened out for it by the Infantry, which immediately follows in pursuit, charges both these heads of Columns, cutting them up, as it were, root and branch; and then bounding through the hedge, the whole disappear as if by magic. Now let your imagination, keeping pace with the intensity of feeling excited by such a scene, carry you up to the summit of the ridge.

Behold, at once, the glorious spectacle spread out before you! The Dragoons are in the midst of the Enemy's[Pg 430] Columns—the furious impetuosity of their onslaught overcomes all resistance—the terror stricken masses, paralyzed by this sudden apparition of Cavalry amongst them, have neither time nor resolution to form Squares, and limit their defence to a feeble, hasty, straggling fire from their ill cemented edges—a flight, commencing from the rearmost ranks, is rapidly augmented by the outward scattering occasioned by the continually increasing pressure upon the front—the entire slope is soon covered with the dispersed elements of the previously attacking force—parties of Infantry are hurrying over the brow of the ridge to aid others of the Cavalry in securing the prisoners—3,000 of these are swept to the rear, and two Eagles are gloriously captured.

From the momentary contemplation of these trophies, your eyes instinctively revert to the course of the victors, whom you now perceive in the middle distance of the view—a broken Line of daring horsemen, rushing up the opposite Heights. Their intoxicating triumph admits of no restraint. They heed not the trumpet's call to halt and rally; but plunging wildly amidst the formidable Line of Batteries ranged along the French position, they commence sabring the Gunners, stabbing the horses, and seem to clear the ground of every living being. But physical efforts, however powerfully developed and sustained, have their limit: exhausted nature yields at length; and their fiery steeds, subdued, not by force but by exhaustion, retire with lagging faltering pace. You look in vain for a Support—there is none—but your eye is suddenly caught by the fluttering lance flags of a Column of the Enemy's Cavalry, approaching from the left, and you become nervously alive to the danger that awaits the valiant band of heroes, who are only now made sensible of the necessity of retiring to collect and[Pg 431] rally their scattered numbers. Seeing no Support ready to receive them, and becoming aware of the near approach of hostile Cavalry, they make a last and desperate effort. Those who are best mounted, and whose horses are least blown, succeed in regaining the Allied position unmolested; but a very considerable number are overtaken by the Lancers, with whom they now contend under a fearful disadvantage in point of speed and order.

But mark! a rescue is at hand—a gallant line of friendly Cavalry throws itself against the Right Flank of the Lancers, the further portion, or Left, of that Line first dashing through and scattering an unsteady mass of Infantry, the sole remaining Column out of the entire attacking force that has yet kept together. The tide of destruction now sets in strongly against the Lancers. Their pursuit is checked. The Heavy Dragoons are relieved from the pressure. A mêlée ensues; but you are not kept long in suspense; for in another moment this newly arrived force, making good its way, succeeds in driving the Lancers in confusion down to the foot of the valley. The arena in your front is speedily cleared of both friends and foes—the discharge of rockets, which now attracts your attention, appears like a display of fireworks in celebration of the glorious triumph—the affair has terminated.

But stay to witness the concluding part of the scene. Observe the splendidly attired group entering upon the right, just above La Haye Sainte. It is headed by one whom you cannot for a moment mistake—the illustrious Wellington. Lord Uxbridge, returning from his brilliant charge, now joins the Duke, while the whole Corps Diplomatique et Militaire express in the strongest terms their admiration of the grand military spectacle of which they have been spectators. Among them are representatives of nearly all[Pg 432] the continental nations, so that this glorious triumph of your valiant countrymen may be said to have been achieved in the face of congregated Europe. Honour, imperishable honour, to every British soldier engaged in that never to be forgotten fight! When Britain again puts forth her strength in battle, may her Sovereign's Guards inherit the same heroic spirit which animated those of George, Prince Regent, and inspire them with the desire to maintain in all their pristine purity and freshness the laurels transmitted to them from the Field of Waterloo; and when the soldiers of the three United Kingdoms shall again be found fighting side by side against the common Enemy, may they prove to the world that they have not degenerated from the men of the "Union Brigade,"[11] who by their heroic deeds on that great day, so faithfully represented the military virtues of the British Empire![Pg 433]




[10] The Dutch-Belgians having been posted in Line on the exterior slope, where, from the circumstance of their having been the only Troops of the Anglo-Allied Left Wing so distinctly visible to the Enemy, they became exposed in an especial manner to the destructive effects of the formidable array of French Batteries, which continued playing over the heads of the attacking columns. The losses of Bylandt's Brigade on the 16th had already thinned, and in a measure disorganised, its ranks; but those which it suffered on this occasion were terrific, and the numerous gaps that so rapidly presented themselves along the Line, as well as the number of superior Officers that were observed to fall, could scarcely fail to produce a prejudicial effect among these raw troops. Their confidence in their own power of resistance had also been very considerably shaken, by the circumstance of their having been deployed in a two-deep Line; instead of having been allowed to assume the three-deep formation to which they had previously been accustomed. In this affair, Perponcher had two horses shot under him. Bylandt was wounded, as were also Colonel Van Zuylen van Nyefelt, Lieutenant Colonel Westenberg who commanded the 5th Battalion of Dutch Militia, and several other Officers.

Had the British soldiers been fully aware of all these circumstances, their feelings would assuredly not have been so greatly roused against the Dutch-Belgians as they were on this particular occasion. But they had neither time nor opportunity for reflection. They only saw the hurried and confused retreat; and this, at such a moment, would have equally exasperated them, had the troops so retiring been British.

That Picton, who could perceive all that was passing along the exterior slope, should have given vent to his irritation in the remark he made to Captain Tyler, is more surprising; but it must be borne in mind, that his habitual reliance upon his own British infantry, with which he felt that he could attempt anything, usually led him to make but little allowance for the failure or discomfiture of troops in general under almost any circumstances.

[11] Sir William Ponsonby's Brigade was thus designated from the circumstance of its having consisted of an English Regiment, the Royals; a Scotch Regiment, the Greys; and an Irish Regiment, the Inniskillings.

[Pg 434]


MUCH as the attention of both Commanders had been absorbed by the contest described in the last Chapter, the attack and defence of Hougomont had nevertheless been renewed and maintained with unabated vigour.

The assailants, who continued in possession of the Wood, having been strengthened by powerful reinforcements from both Jerome's and Foy's Divisions, now opened so rapid and indiscriminate a fire upon the Garden Wall that it might almost be supposed they entertained the hope of battering it down with their shower of bullets. They failed to make any impression upon the little garrison; though they obtained partial successes on the Flanks, which again were counteracted on the part of the defenders by the aid of Detachments from the main body of Byng's Brigade of Guards, as also by the natural advantages of the localities. Thus, upon the right, a retreat of the Guards from the hedge which lines the Avenue and road leading to the Château, if followed up by the French, would draw upon the latter a murderous fire from the banks, brushwood, and other cover, in rear of the Avenue, together with a flank fire from behind the Buildings: and, upon the left, if they succeeded in forcing back the defenders from the front to the rear hedge of the Orchard, their Left Flank became exposed to a severe fire from the troops lining the eastern Garden Wall, while they suffered at the same time from the new fire directed against their front[Pg 435] by the retreating party, formed under cover of the hollow way by which that rear hedge is bounded.

It was about two o'clock when Byng, perceiving the increased pressure upon the troops in the Orchard, and the great diminution which had taken place in their numbers, desired Colonel Hepburn, who commanded the 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Foot Guards, to move down the slope with the remainder of his men as a reinforcement. Colonel Hepburn on reaching the hollow way found it occupied by Lord Saltoun with a very small force; and his Lordship having scarcely a man remaining of his own Battalion, gave over to the Colonel the command of that part of Hougomont, and rejoined Maitland's Brigade.

After a short time, Hepburn and his Battalion made a sudden and vigorous rush into the Great Orchard from the hollow way in its rear. The French Skirmishers gave way; and, as they crowded together while retreating through the gap that leads into the Wood, they suffered severely from the concentrated fire poured upon them by the Guards; who quickly established themselves along the front hedge of the Orchard.

This happened nearly at the same time in which the French were repulsed in their grand attack upon the Centre and Left of the Duke of Wellington's Line. It might be about half past two o'clock.

The Battle was then limited to a general cannonade, the roar of which was incessant; and its effects, now that the range on both sides had been very accurately obtained, were most galling and destructive to the troops posted along the interior slope of either position.

Alten's Light Troops again spread themselves out to the front as soon as Kellermann's Cuirassiers had been swept from off the exterior slope of the Anglo-Allied position.[Pg 436] They had not been out long before their attention was directed to a heavy Column of Infantry, apparently advancing from the vicinity of La Belle Alliance towards La Haye Sainte. It was Bachelu's Division, which had fallen back a little after the failure of d'Erlon's attack, to which it had acted as a Reserve. Lieutenant Colonel Vigoureux, of the 30th British Regiment, who commanded these Light Troops of Alten's Division, immediately threw them forward to meet the Column. They poured a well concentrated and most galling fire upon the mass; which immediately brought its right shoulders forward, and took the direction of Hougomont, either in consequence of that fire, or in accordance with Orders previously given.

The ground over which it wound its course descended sufficiently to render the movement indistinct to the British Batteries on the position; but the circumstance having been communicated to Captain Cleeves, whose Foot Battery of the King's German Legion was posted on the most commanding point of the ridge on the right of the Charleroi road, this Officer lost not a moment in making his arrangements. He permitted the Column to continue its march unmolested until it reached a point immediately in his front, on which he had directed his guns so as to concentrate upon the mass, at the proper moment, the whole fire of his Battery. The Column continued its march, and had cleared more than two-thirds of the distance between La Belle Alliance and Hougomont, when, having well entered within Captain Cleeves's line of fire, three rounds from each gun were thrown into it with astonishing rapidity, and awful effect. In a moment the greater portion of the Column appeared to be dispersed, and flying back in confusion towards the lower ground for shelter; leaving an immense[Pg 437] number of dead and dying to attest the fatal accuracy of the fire from the Battery.

As no hostile force of either Cavalry or Infantry appeared in its immediate vicinity, Bachelu soon succeeded in rallying his Division and renewing the advance. A similar result followed; whereupon all further attempt to effect the contemplated movement was abandoned: and thus a most serious flank attack upon Hougomont was completely frustrated by the skilfully managed fire of a single Battery.

Bachelu now took post again, upon the right of Foy, leaving a considerable interval between his Division and the Charleroi road.

Foiled in his varied and repeated attacks upon Hougomont, Napoleon had now recourse to incendiary projectiles. For this purpose he had ordered a Battery of Howitzers to be formed, from which shells were thrown so as to descend into the Buildings. The Great Barn, the outhouses on the north side of the Château, the Farmer's House, and finally the Château itself, were speedily set on fire. Dense volumes of smoke, enveloping the whole Post and its defenders, were wafted slowly towards the Anglo-Allied Line; the roofs of the Buildings soon fell in; and, shortly before three o'clock, the flames burst forth with great brilliancy. Many of the wounded had been carried, or had crawled, into the Buildings; but although their comrades entertained the most distressing apprehensions for their safety, the stern sense of duty and of honour prescribed that of the Post itself as paramount to every other consideration. Invested as the place was by an Enemy so overwhelmingly superior in numbers, and so unceasingly on the alert to seize upon any advantage that might offer; not a man could be spared to assist in extricating the sufferers from their perilous situation. Obedience to the natural dictates of[Pg 438] humanity was necessarily sacrificed to that which was due to the severe demands of discipline. Thus several perished in the flames.

Others, who had contrived to crawl into the open Courts, could scarcely breathe in the scorching and suffocating atmosphere. Many who had sought shelter, or had been laid, in the Chapel, and whose terrors were excited as they heard the crashing fall of burning timbers, or the frequent explosion of shells around them, at length beheld the flames penetrating the door of the sanctuary. The prayers that had been fervently, though silently, offered up from that holy place, had surely been accepted—the fire, reaching the feet of the wooden image of the Saviour of Mankind, that stood above the entrance, seemed to feel the sacred presence; for here its progress terminated; and this, without the aid of human efforts.

The conflagration did not occasion a moment's relaxation in the heroic exertions of the brave defenders of Hougomont. The courage and devotedness of the men kept pace with the zeal and intelligence of their Officers; and no sooner did new difficulties arise than they were met and overcome by the most judicious arrangements, combined with the most consummate gallantry.

It was now about half past three o'clock. The Anglo-Allied Line continued compact and unshaken in its original position. Its Advanced Posts of La Haye Sainte and Hougomont had successfully resisted the most formidable assaults.

The Left Wing had sustained considerable loss in meeting and repelling the French Right Wing, but the losses endured by the latter in that attack were infinitely more severe: whole Columns of Infantry had been completely overthrown[Pg 439] and dispersed; Squadrons of the most splendid and most devoted Cavalry had shared a similar fate; whilst from thirty to forty pieces of cannon had been rendered useless for nearly the remainder of the day. Hence, the French Emperor did not deem it advisable to renew, at least so soon, an attack upon the Left of the Anglo-Allied Army. He decided on forming a grand attack upon its Right and Centre: and since Reille's Infantry had already suffered very considerably in its assaults upon Hougomont, he determined upon employing his Cavalry for that purpose; more especially as the ground in front of that part of the Allied Line appeared well adapted for the movements of this description of force.

To gain possession of La Haye Sainte and Hougomont, as a preliminary step, was undoubtedly the most judicious course: but hitherto his endeavours to obtain that vantage ground had altogether failed, and he was now compelled to limit his plan; combining with the projected attack, renewed assaults against those Posts; which, even if again unsuccessful, would at least serve to divert in some degree, the Enemy's attention.

Napoleon also contemplated a more important diversion, by causing a demonstration to be made with Piré's Light Cavalry against Wellington's Right Flank.

In pursuance of this plan, renewed efforts were made by the attacking force against Hougomont; and two Columns from Donzelot's Division descended upon La Haye Sainte.

Meanwhile, Major Baring having applied for a reinforcement, two Companies were detached to his Post from the 1st Light Battalion of the King's German Legion. To these and a part of his own Battalion, he intrusted the defence of the Garden; and, abandoning altogether the Orchard, he placed the remainder of his force in the Buildings, distribut[Pg 440]ing their defence among the three Officers who had so courageously maintained them during the previous attack.

The French Columns advanced against this Post with the most undaunted resolution and the most conspicuous gallantry. The well aimed bullets of the German rifles, though they told quickly and fearfully amidst their masses, arrested not their progress for a moment. They rushed close up to the walls; and, seizing the rifles as they protruded through the loop holes, endeavoured to wrest them from the hands of the defenders. They also made a most furious assault against the gates and doors, in defence of which many lives were sacrificed. The greatest struggle was at the western opening to the Large Barn, the door of which was wanting. The French, determined to make good an entrance, encountered the brave Germans equally resolute to prevent them. The foremost Frenchmen, dashing boldly on to force their way, were struck down by the deliberate fire from the rifles the instant they reached the threshold; and seventeen of their dead bodies already formed a rampart for those who continued to press forward to carry on the struggle.

It was nearly four o'clock when certain movements made by the Lancers on the French extreme Left, led the Duke to suspect an attack from that quarter; and which, considering the almost isolated position of his detached force at Braine l'Alleud and Vieux Foriez, might, if successful, be attended with very serious consequences to himself. He drew Lord Uxbridge's attention to that point; and the latter immediately despatched Grant, with the 13th Light Dragoons and the 15th Hussars of his Brigade to attack the Lancers, detaching at the same time the 2nd Light Dragoons of the King's German Legion from Dörnberg's Brigade, towards Braine l'Alleud, for the purpose both of[Pg 441] facilitating the attack, by manœuvring on the left of the Lancers, and of watching the Enemy's dispositions in that direction.

The fire of Artillery along both Lines had been maintained with the utmost vigour. At this moment, however, a most furious cannonade was directed against that part of the Anglo-Allied Line which was situated between the two high roads. While some of the French Light Batteries took post in advance, others of the Imperial Guard, comprising twelve pounders, opened a fire from the Heights in rear of, and above, La Belle Alliance; and as the Batteries upon the main French Line were ranged along the arc of the chord formed by the Allied Line, the French Artillery was enabled by its very great numerical superiority in guns to concentrate an overwhelming fire upon any part of the Duke's position.

The Allied Infantry posted in Columns along the interior slope of the ridge, were entirely screened from the observation of the French, who could not distinguish any portion of their Enemies beyond the devoted British and German Artillerymen at their guns; which, despite the severity of the fire from their opponents, were worked with the most admirable coolness and intrepidity, and with a precision beyond all praise.

The thunder of the Artillery continued pealing forth in an uninterrupted roll, and the scene became awfully grand. The guns having once obtained the required range, were fired without intermission. Instantaneous flashes met the eye, all along the Heights, succeeded by volumes of smoke bounding forth along the ground in front, and enveloping the Batteries in clouds. The earth trembled beneath the dread concussion. The oldest soldiers had never witnessed a cannonade conducted with such fury, with such desperation.



[Pg 443]

The Allied Columns of Infantry were lying down upon the ground to shelter themselves as much as possible from the iron shower that fell fast and heavily—round shot, tearing frightful rents directly through their masses, or ploughing up the earth beside them; shells, bursting in the midst of the serried Columns, and scattering destruction in their fall, or previously burying themselves in the soft loose soil to be again forced upwards in eruptions of iron, mud, and stones, that fell among them like volcanic fragments.

During this terrible conflict of Artillery, Ney was making his preparatory dispositions with the Cavalry which Napoleon had desired him to launch against the Anglo-Allied Right Wing.

He first formed for attack, Milhaud's Corps of Cuirassiers, consisting of twenty four Squadrons; and directed Lefèbvre Desnouette's Light Cavalry Division of the Guard, comprising seven Squadrons of Lancers and twelve Squadrons of Chasseurs, to follow and support—in all forty three Squadrons—constituting a magnificent array of gallant horsemen. As they began to advance, the First Line, of Cuirassiers, shone in burnished steel, relieved by black horse hair crested helmets; next came the Red Lancers of the Guard, in their gaudy uniform, and mounted on richly caparisoned steeds, their fluttering lance flags heightening the brilliancy of their display; whilst the Third Line, comprising the Chasseurs of the Guard, in their rich costume of green and gold, with fur trimmed pelisses à la hussard, and black bearskin shakos, completed the gorgeous, yet harmonious, colouring of this military spectacle. Though formed in successive Lines of Columns in the hollow space on the immediate left of La Haye Sainte, where they were sheltered in some degree from the cannonade that raged so furiously above[Pg 444] them, the Rear Lines obliqued to the left on the advance, and became echelonned to the First Line, so as to present a general front extending from the Charleroi road on their right to the Hougomont inclosures on their left.

As they ascended the ridge, the French Artillery suspended their fire; and the Allied Batteries commenced pouring a destructive shower of grape shot amidst their devoted ranks. Fiercely and fatally did this iron hail rattle against the helmed and steel clad Cuirassiers, here glancing off, there penetrating the armour; wounding or laying prostrate many a gallant warrior at the very moment when the brightest visions of glory had opened on his ardent imagination. This iron sleet, however, caused no perceptible check to their progress; and, with shouts of "Vive l'Empereur!" they accelerated their pace until, having arrived within about forty yards of the guns, they received the last and well prepared discharge. Its effects were terrific: but though their order was somewhat broken, their courage was not shaken. The charge was sounded; a cheer followed; and, in the next instant, they rushed up to the very cannon's mouth.

In accordance with previous instructions given by the Duke of Wellington himself, the Artillerymen withdrew, upon the close approach of the Cavalry, and sought shelter either beside, or in rear of, the Infantry Squares; or, where occasion required, they threw themselves under the projecting bayonets of the outer kneeling ranks for protection. The Cuirassiers, on crowning the crest of the ridge; and finding themselves so unexpectedly in possession of a Line of Batteries, shouted loudly forth their triumph; and, then renewing their onward charge, were, in a moment, lost to the view of the Lancers and Chasseurs of the Guard. These troops, carried away by the enthusiasm of the[Pg 445] moment and the eager desire to share in the fancied victory, advanced with the same fiery impetuosity, and the whole force was now fairly across the ridge.

The Allied Infantry, distributed in chequered Squares along the interior slope, were fully prepared to meet the attack. Some little apprehension had been entertained for the safety of the Right of the Front Line, where the Brunswickers, who, as before remarked, were mostly young, raw troops, had taken up the ground previously occupied by Byng's Brigade of Guards, which had been entirely absorbed by the defence of Hougomont, with the exception of two Companies which, with the Colours, had been withdrawn, as a Reserve, to a more sheltered position on the right of the Nivelles road. As the French Cavalry advanced, the 23rd British Regiment of Infantry was led up to the Front Line, and into an interval between the Brunswick Squares. This Regiment had nearly reached the brow of the ridge when it was suddenly ordered to halt and prepare to receive Cavalry; and the Chasseurs of the Guard appearing the next moment in its front, a fire from this face was opened so hastily that scarcely a shot could have told upon the Enemy. It instantly recovered this somewhat nervous precipitation, and presented a bold and determined stand; as did also the Brunswickers, who acted on this occasion in a manner that would have reflected credit on the most experienced veterans.

The cannonade had necessarily ceased along the Right Wing of the Anglo-Allied Front Line, and along the French Batteries to which it was opposed. Hence the vehement cheering on the part of the French Cavalry became the more distinctly audible and the more highly exciting. A sullen silence was maintained throughout the Allied Squares, which were all at the "prepare,"—front ranks kneeling,[Pg 446] and the second at the charge,—thus forming a chevaux de frise, over which the rear ranks were ready to fire, as occasion might demand.

As the Cavalry now rushed down upon the Squares, the front faces of the latter opened their fire when the former had approached within about thirty paces of them. The effect of this fire was to create disorder and confusion in the leading Squadron or Half Squadron (as the case might be), which would then open out from the centre, and obliquing to the right and left respectively, pass on by the Flanks of the Square attacked, to the fire from which it would consequently become completely exposed. The succeeding repeated the manœuvre of the leading divisions; and their disorder became greater and greater as the continually augmenting obstacles in their front, the upset riders and horses, increased in multitude.

Here, as at Quatre Bras, the French Cavalry did not rush to the shock against a single British Square. The horsemen of the leading divisions who escaped the opposing fire, failed to maintain the direction of their speed with unabated vigour, and to dash against the Square, heedless of personal danger, and intent only upon securing the sole chance that offered for the success of their immediate followers. That portion of the Cavalry which passed through the intervals between the foremost Squares, directed their advance upon those that were in rear; and the Squares being generally en échiquier, the opening out and dividing of the attacking Squadrons in the manner described, soon commingled the horsemen of different Regiments, and added considerably to the disorder already caused by the dropping fire which assailed them in all directions.

The Anglo-Allied Cavalry, having the advantage of perfect order, now advanced to the charge; and after[Pg 447] encountering some little resistance on different points, speedily succeeded in relieving the Squares from the presence of the Enemy, whom they pursued over the crest of the ridge and down the exterior slope.

No sooner was Ney's Cavalry driven from the position, than the Allied Artillerymen flew from their shelter to their guns, and the French Batteries recommenced their fire. The former dealt destruction amidst the retiring masses as soon as, and wherever, they were uncovered by the Allied Cavalry; but some of the British Regiments, giving too much rein to their ardour, carried their pursuit rather too far; particularly the 23rd British Light Dragoons; who, having attacked the Flank of a Column of Cuirassiers whilst the latter was advancing against the 1st Regiment of Dutch Carabiniers, by which it was then attacked in front—Trip himself leading—drove both the Cuirassiers and a body of Lancers across the hollow on the right of La Haye Sainte, back upon their own Batteries on the Heights beyond, and thus created confusion amongst the French Gunners; who, however, made them pay for their temerity as they withdrew again towards their own position.

Towards the Allied Right, the Lancers, pursued by the 1st Light Dragoons of the King's German Legion, instantly reformed, and, resuming their charge, became themselves the pursuers; but on advancing over the ridge, they were not only exposed again to the fire from the Squares, but were at the same time most unexpectedly assailed by a brisk discharge of round shot from Captain Bolton's British Foot Battery, which had just been rapidly advanced to its left front, and very judiciously posted on some favourable ground close to, and on the right of, the Nivelles road, and in direct rear of the main ridge. Its fire was directed with great precision at the French Cavalry in the intervals between the[Pg 448] Squares in its front, and by its valuable assistance the Enemy was soon compelled to retire again across the ridge.

It will be readily conceived that such assistance was most essential, when it is recollected that, at this time, the 7th Hussars, the 1st Light Dragoons of the King's German Legion, the Brunswick Hussars, and the Squadron of Brunswick Lancers, were the only Cavalry Regiments posted in rear of that portion of the Front Line extending from the Nivelles road on the right, to the position of Halkett's British Infantry Brigade on the left, in rear of which latter stood the 23rd Light Dragoons. The manner in which those Regiments charged and repelled the French Cavalry opposed to them, merits the highest commendation.

The French Cavalry evinced the greatest alacrity, nay, impatience, in again getting into order—actuated, no doubt, by a sense of shame and indignation at finding its efforts frustrated, and its valour fruitless; although in possession of the Enemy's guns, and at liberty to act at its own discretion against his Squares.

The advance was speedily renewed; but evidently conducted with more caution, though not with less enthusiasm. Again did this brilliant array of horsemen boldly face the iron shower of grape, and gallantly crown the crest of the Anglo-Allied Right Wing. But now, instead of attacking indiscriminately as before, one portion was allotted to that service; whilst the remainder was kept in more compact order to stem the onset of the Allied Cavalry, by which, on the former occasion, they had been so signally repulsed. The charges were repeated against the Squares, in the same style, and upon the same system, as before; and with an equally fruitless result. This portion of the attacking force became gradually exhausted and out of order: but the remainder appeared well formed[Pg 449] up, and moving forward to charge the Second Line comprising Allied Cavalry; which, however, did not wait for the attack, but instantly advanced to meet it. The latter consisted of Somerset's Brigade on the left (greatly diminished by the effects of its former charge, on the occasion of the French attack of the Allied Left and Centre); of the 23rd British Light Dragoons, in rear of Halkett's British Infantry Brigade; of Trip's Dutch-Belgian Carabinier Brigade, in rear of the 23rd; of the Brunswick Hussars and Lancers, more to the right; of the 1st Light Dragoons of the King's German Legion, close to the Nivelles road; and of the 7th British Hussars, on the interior slope of that portion of the ridge which was immediately in left rear of Hougomont—a force scarcely amounting to half the number of Squadrons with which the French Cavalry had commenced this attack.

The charge was executed under great excitement, and with the utmost steadiness and gallantry. The struggle was desperate and sanguinary: but the French Cavalry, assailed in front by the same description of force, and on their flanks by the fire from the Squares, at length went about; and were followed, as before, over the ridge and down the exterior slope.

In rear of the Right of the Anglo-Allied Line, where, as previously observed, the Cavalry was then so very weak in numbers, the 1st Light Dragoons of the King's German Legion had deployed into Line, in order to occupy more ground and show a greater front. As the French Lancers were attacking the Squares, and advancing through the intervals between them, notwithstanding the renewed fire from Bolton's Battery, the Regiment hastened forward to charge them.

The Germans had not proceeded far when it was discovered that a body of the Enemy's Cavalry had penetrated[Pg 450] to the open space on their left. With great presence of mind and admirable promptitude, Major Reizenstein, who perceived the danger to which the Regiment was exposed by the already meditated attack upon its Left Flank, drew off a great part of it, and, with a right-shoulder-forward movement, advanced to meet these new assailants who were now coming on at full speed. The mutual impetuosity of the charge, and violence of the shock, were terrific. The two Lines dashed at and through each other, and those of the horsemen that were yet firm in their saddles, wheeling sharply round, again rushed to the fierce encounter with the most resolute bravery; and the dispersed riders, after rapidly exchanging cuts and thrusts, en passant, sought out their respective Corps.

As the Cavalry retired, the Infantry that had attacked La Haye Sainte desisted from their fruitless endeavours to force the gallant little garrison. Not long afterwards, Major Baring, on finding that the ammunition of his men had, by the constant firing, been reduced to less than one half, became apprehensive of its speedy exhaustion; and despatched an Officer to request a supply, which was promised to him. In the mean time, the Germans set about diligently repairing the injuries they had sustained, and making the best preparation in their power to meet the next attack.

Upon the first advance of the French Cavalry, by the Allied left of Hougomont, a body of Infantry Skirmishers crept along the boundary hedge of the Great Orchard on that side, and by thus turning the Flank of the 3rd Guards, who were at the same time assailed with renewed vigour in front, compelled them to retire into the hollow way in rear of the inclosure; but, as the Cavalry withdrew, so did the Light Troops on the left of the Orchard, and Lieutenant Colonel[Pg 451] Hepburn, advancing his men from their cover, drove back the French Skirmishers in the Orchard, and again occupied its front hedge.

The contest at this time, between the Allied Left, and the French Right, Wing was limited to a continued cannonade, with Light Troops skirmishing in the valley which separated the two positions. The Nassau troops, under Prince Bernhard of Saxe Weimar, maintained their ground with great spirit along the Villages and inclosures upon the extreme Left of the Anglo-Allied Army.

Grant, who, it will be recollected, had been detached with the 13th Light Dragoons and the 15th Hussars, to attack the 5th and 6th French Lancers, upon the extreme Left of the French Line, in consequence of certain menacing dispositions on their part, was first made aware that these had been merely a diversion to draw off a portion of the Allied Cavalry from the real point of attack, by the shouts which suddenly proceeded from their ranks; when, on turning round to ascertain the cause, he perceived the French in possession of the Batteries along the crest of the position, and charging the Squares posted on the interior slope. Observing a repetition of the attack, and the want of Cavalry on that part of the position which he had quitted; he most judiciously took upon himself to return to it with both Regiments: and, as will appear in the sequel, he arrived there at a most critical moment, when his absence might have produced the most fatal consequences. As a precautionary measure, the Right Squadron of the 15th Hussars, under Captain Wodehouse, was left in its original position, to observe the extreme Left of the French line; and the 2nd Light Dragoons of the King's German Legion continued to keep a look out between that point and Braine l'Alleud.

[Pg 452]

Napoleon, perceiving the necessity of affording an immediate Support to Ney's attack, sent an Order to Kellermann to advance for that purpose, with his Corps of Heavy Cavalry, consisting of the two Divisions commanded by L'Heritier and Roussel d'Urbal, and comprising (at the commencement of the Battle) seven Squadrons of Dragoons, eleven Squadrons of Cuirassiers, and six Squadrons of Carabiniers. In the mean time, Ney, with a similar object in view, had ordered forward Guyot's Heavy Cavalry Division of the Guard, comprising six Squadrons of Horse Grenadiers, and seven Squadrons of Dragoons. These thirty-seven Squadrons, combined with the force which had already attacked, and which had originally consisted of forty-three Squadrons, constituted a stupendous array of Cavalry, in comparison with that which was then posted in rear of the Right Wing of the Anglo-Allied Army; and which received no accession beyond the five Squadrons that Grant was in the act of withdrawing, as before explained, from the extreme Right.

Guyot's Division of the Guard having been placed by Napoleon at Ney's disposal, when he first desired him to form the grand Cavalry attack, the Marshal was entitled to employ it if he thought proper; but it is doubtful whether Napoleon, after having sent forward Kellermann's Corps, was desirous that the combined force should be thus prematurely engaged, since it would deprive him of his only Cavalry Reserve. Still, when we consider the limited extent of the Field of Battle, and the consequent facility with which he might have either suspended the employment of the Heavy Cavalry of the Guard, or countermanded Kellermann's advance, it is reasonable to infer that the French Emperor was not altogether displeased with the grand experiment which was about to be made, and which[Pg 453] encouraged the most sanguine expectations of a glorious triumph.

The coming attack was, like the former one, preceded by a violent cannonade. As before, the French Batteries concentrated their fire upon the Allied Artillery and Squares. The entire space immediately in rear of the crest of the ridge that marked the Front Line of the Duke's Right Wing, was again assailed with a tempest of shot and shell. Again were whole Files torn away, and compact Sections rent asunder.

But the extraordinary skill and the untiring energies of the British and German Gunners, combined with the heroic forbearance and the admirable steadiness of the Squares, fully impressed upon the mind of Wellington the conviction that, however formidable and disproportionate the force that his powerful adversary could wield against him, it might yet be made to suffer an exhaustion, moral as well as physical, that would render it totally unavailable and helpless at the moment when its extremest tension and fullest application would be so urgently required to extricate the Emperor from that perilous crisis which, by his Grace's masterly arrangements, was gradually approaching its consummation. To act exclusively on the defensive, to maintain his ground in defiance of every assault and every stratagem; and yet to harass and weaken his Enemy to the extent of his power, constituted the grand point on which hinged the practical development of those arrangements. A defeat and dispersion of his Army before the arrival of the Prussian troops, would lead to new measures, to additional sacrifices—perhaps to irretrievable disasters. But his resolve was fixed and irrevocable; for he knew that he could fearlessly rely upon the devotion, the endurance, and the valour of his British and German soldiers. And this implicit confidence[Pg 454] was nobly reciprocated; for as the troops remarked the serenity of his countenance and demeanour when rectifying any confusion or disorder, or felt as if spellbound by the magic influence of a few simple and homely words from his lips, they entertained no doubts as to the result of their glorious exertions.

When the tremendous Cavalry force, which Ney had thus assembled, moved forward to the attack, the whole space between La Haye Sainte and Hougomont appeared one moving glittering mass; and, as it approached the Anglo-Allied position, undulating with the conformation of the ground, it resembled a sea in agitation. Upon reaching the crest of the ridge and regaining temporary possession of the Batteries, its very shouts sounded on the distant ear like the ominous roar of breakers thundering on the shore. Like waves following in quick succession, the whole mass now appeared to roll over the ridge; and as the light curling smoke arose from the fire which was opened by the Squares, and by which the latter sought to stem the current of the advancing host, it resembled the foam and spray thrown up by the mighty waters as they dash on isolated rocks and beetling crags; and, as the mass separated and rushed in every direction, completely covering the interior slope, it bore the appearance of innumerable eddies and counter currents, threatening to overwhelm and engulf the obstructions by which its onward course had been opposed. The storm continued to rage with the greatest violence; and the devoted Squares seemed lost in the midst of the tumultuous onset. In vain did the maddening mass chafe and fret away its strength against these impregnable barriers; which, based upon the sacred principles of honour, discipline, and duty, and cemented by the ties of patriotism and the impulse of national glory, stood proudly unmoved and[Pg 455] inaccessible. Disorder and confusion, produced by the commingling of Corps, and by the scattering fire from the faces of the chequered Squares, gradually led to the retreat of parties of horsemen across the ridge; these were followed by broken Squadrons, and, at length, the retrograde movement became general.

Then the Allied Dragoons, who had been judiciously kept in readiness to act at the favourable moment, darted forward to complete the disorganisation and overthrow of the now receding waves of the French Cavalry.

The Allied Artillery had barely time to fire a few rounds into the retiring masses, when the Enemy's formidable Support rapidly advanced to renew the attack; and, as if it had been made aware that the Right of the Anglo-Allied Line was the weakest part, from the want of a sufficient Cavalry Support, its efforts appeared particularly directed to that point. A body of Heavy Dragoons was drawn up in Line, and advanced up the ridge leaving the Hougomont inclosures immediately on its left.

At this moment, however, Grant had most opportunely returned with the 13th Light Dragoons and 15th Hussars from the extreme Right; and instantly forming the 13th, which was the leading Regiment, in Line to the front, moved it up to the crest of the ridge, over which it gallantly charged and routed the French Dragoons, driving them about three hundred yards down to the low ground near the north-east angle of the Great Orchard of Hougomont. The 15th Hussars were also formed to the front, on the left of the 13th Light Dragoons, and charged a mass of Cuirassiers, which was driven back a like distance, upon large bodies of Cavalry. As these were observed commencing offensive operations, both in front and on the flank, the two Regiments, first the 13th, and then the 15th; were[Pg 456] compelled to retreat to the main position, and take post in rear of the Squares; but this they did with so much order and regularity that their presence and example imparted new life and confidence to the young Brunswickers; whose steadiness, on the Right of the Line, had been severely tested in the course of the grand Cavalry attack.

Notwithstanding these reverses, and the decided failure of their former attempts, the French horsemen most gallantly and resolutely renewed their advance, and again plunged in masses amidst the Allied Squares. Failing in their direct attack, they rode through the intervals between the Squares in all directions, exhibiting extraordinary coolness and intrepidity. Some of the most daring approached close up to the ranks, to draw forth the fire from a Square; and thus secure a better chance of success for the Squadron prepared to seize the advantage and to charge. Small parties of desperate fellows would endeavour to force an opening at some weak point, by cutting aside the bayonets and firing at the defenders with their pistols. But the Squares were proof against every assault and every stratagem.

More Cavalry crossed over the summit of the ridge; and the greater part of the interior slope occupied by the Allied Right Wing seemed covered with horsemen of all kinds—Cuirassiers, Lancers, Carabiniers, Chasseurs, Dragoons, and Horse Grenadiers. The French, enraged at their want of success, brandishing their swords, and exciting one another by shouts of "Vive l'Empereur!" reiterated their attacks with redoubled but fruitless vigour. Like the majestic oaks of the forest, which are poetically said to strike their roots deeper and more tenaciously into the earth as the fury of the storm increases, so stood the Anglo-Allied Squares, grand in the imposing attitude of[Pg 457] their strength, and bidding defiance to the tempestuous elements by which they were assailed on every side.

At length, the attack evinced symptoms of exhaustion; the charges became less frequent and less vigorous; disorder and confusion were rapidly augmenting; the spirit of enthusiasm and the confidence of superiority were quickly yielding to the feeling of despondency and the sense of hopelessness. The Anglo-Allied Cavalry again advanced, and once more swept the mingled host, comprising every description of mounted troops, from off the ground on which they had so fruitlessly frittered away their strength.

On this occasion, a body of Cuirassiers, having been intercepted in its direct line of retreat by a party of British Light Dragoons, was induced to surrender; but taking advantage of the weakness of their escort, they suddenly broke away, and galloped down the Nivelles road, by which they hoped to return to the French Lines. They were fatally deceived. As they passed the high bank, covered with brushwood, on the right of the road, where a Detachment of the 51st Regiment was stationed as one of the Supports to the Light Troops extended in front of the extreme Right, they were fired upon, though but partially, in consequence of their close pursuit by the Light Dragoons. This attracted the attention of Captain Ross of that Regiment, who was posted with his Company more in advance, and close to the abatis which had been thrown across the road near the head of the Avenue leading to Hougomont. Captain Ross, being thus prepared, also fired upon the Cuirassiers; whereupon their Commanding Officer, finding all further retreat effectually cut off by the abatis, surrendered to Captain Ross, declaring that he would not give himself up to the Dragoons. At this spot eighty of[Pg 458] the Cuirassiers and twelve of their horses were killed; and the remainder, about sixty, were dismounted, taken, or dispersed.

Shortly before this, Ney, perceiving the ill success of his Cavalry attacks, determined on combining them with such Infantry as he had at his disposal. Between d'Erlon's and Reille's Corps there was now a great interval, and the only troops of which he could make use for the above object, consisted of Bachelu's Division, on the right of the latter, as Donzelot's Division, on the left of the former, was still required for the attack upon La Haye Sainte, which he now ordered to be vigorously renewed, whilst he advanced a heavy Column of Bachelu's Infantry towards the Centre of the Allied Right Wing.

Wellington, who had, from the first, anticipated that the attacks of Cavalry would be followed up by others, in which that Arm would be combined with Infantry, was fully prepared to meet this contingency, having as soon as he had ascertained that the Enemy was not disposed to attempt any serious movement against his Right Flank, despatched an Order to Chassé to evacuate Braine l'Alleud and its vicinity, and to proceed with his Dutch-Belgian Division, towards the principal scene of action, along the low ground through Merbe Braine. By this means, his Grace, who contemplated reinforcing his First Line with troops from his Second, would be enabled to supply their place in the latter with others of equal strength. Chassé's movement, executed with much judgement, was in a great measure, if not entirely, concealed from the Enemy's observation; and was very skilfully covered by the 2nd Light Dragoons of the King's German Legion, who continued hovering near the Left Flank of the French Army.

[Pg 459]

In the mean time, the attack upon La Haye Sainte had been renewed with the same fury as before. Major Baring on perceiving the advance of the Enemy's Columns, sent an Officer to the position with this intelligence, and repeated his request for ammunition. The Light Company of the 5th Line Battalion of the King's German Legion was sent to his assistance; but the supply of ammunition, of which he stood so much in need, was not forthcoming: and he therefore, after waiting half an hour longer, during which the contest was uninterrupted, despatched another Officer on the same errand. This application proved equally unsuccessful. He received, however, a reinforcement of two Flank Companies from the 1st Regiment of Nassau.

The great struggle was again at the open entrance to the Barn; and the French, finding all their efforts to force an entrance so obstinately and successfully frustrated, had recourse to the expedient of setting the place on fire. A thick smoke was soon observed issuing from the Barn. The greatest consternation pervaded the little garrison; for although there was a pond in the yard, there were no means at hand for conveying the water to the point of danger. Major Baring, whose anxiety was extreme, glancing his eye at the large camp kettles borne by the recently arrived Nassauers, instantly pulled one from off a man's back: several Officers followed his example, and filling the kettles with water, carried them in the face of almost certain death, to the fire. The men hesitated not a moment. Every kettle was instantly applied to the same good office, and the fire was fortunately extinguished; though at the sacrifice of many a brave soldier. Several of the men, although covered with wounds, rejected all persuasion to retire. Their constant reply was, "So long as our Officers fight, and we can stand, we will not stir from the spot." At length[Pg 460] the Enemy, wearied out by this most resolute and gallant defence, once more withdrew.

At the commencement of this attack, while one portion of the Enemy's force was principally directed against the western entrance of the Great Barn; the other, leaving the Buildings on its right, advanced higher up the slope, as if intending either to penetrate the Farm by the Garden, or to cut off its communication with the main position.

The Prince of Orange, conceiving this to be a favourable opportunity for attacking the French Column, ordered the 5th and 8th Line Battalions of Ompteda's Brigade of the King's German Legion to deploy and advance. The Line was quickly formed; and the Battalions, bounding across the narrow sunken road, rushed forward, at a charging pace, driving the Enemy before them. But a body of Cuirassiers, that had unsuccessfully charged the Left Squares of Kielmansegge's Hanoverian Brigade, whilst those Battalions were advancing, came upon the Right Flank of the latter, unexpectedly for both parties. The 5th Line Battalion, which was on the right, having been supported in sufficient time by Somerset's Heavy Cavalry Brigade, suffered little loss; but the 8th Line Battalion—being on the left, and more in advance, in the act of charging when the Cuirassiers appeared—was completely surprised, and its Right Wing cut down and dispersed. The Commanding Officer of the Battalion, Colonel Schröder, was mortally wounded: several other Officers fell: Ensign de Moreau, who carried and defended the King's Colour, having been severely wounded, as also the Serjeant who afterwards held it, the Enemy succeeded in carrying off the prize. Major Petersdorf, the next in command, collected the scattered remnant of the Battalion, and posted it in rear of the hollow way.

[Pg 461]

The moment the Anglo-Allied Right Wing became cleared of the presence of the French Cavalry, it was again exposed to a furious cannonade. Several of the guns along the main ridge were by this time disabled. Major Bull, who had been obliged at an earlier period to withdraw his Howitzer Battery to the Second Line for the purpose of repairing casualties and completing ammunition, advanced again to his former post in the Front Line, along with Major Ramsay's Horse Battery, during the Second general Charge of the French Cavalry. These Batteries suffered severely from Piré's guns, stationed on the extreme Left of the French Line. Bull directed Lieutenant Louis to turn his two right guns towards them, and it was not long before this Officer succeeded in silencing them; a service which, as they enfiladed the Allied Right Flank, was of considerable advantage, during the remainder of the Battle, to all the Batteries and troops in this part of the Field.

The Duke, considering that a reinforcement of Artillery was particularly required in front of Cooke's Division and the Brunswick Infantry against which the Enemy was evidently preparing fresh attacks, ordered up Lieutenant Colonel Dickson's British Horse Battery, commanded by Major Mercer, and Major Sympher's Horse Battery of the King's German Legion, into the Front Line: the former, to the left of Lieutenant Colonel Smith's Horse Battery, in front of the Brunswickers; and the latter further to the left.

Major Mercer's Battery had barely time to get into action, when a heavy Column of Cavalry, composed of Horse Grenadiers and Cuirassiers, was seen ascending the ridge, and advancing at a rapid rate directly towards the spot upon which it had taken post. The guns, which were[Pg 462] nine pounders, were each loaded with a round and a case shot; and were run close up to a bank of two or three feet in height, which descended from the narrow cross road along the ridge, and which thus formed a sort of genouillère to the Battery. In front, the summit of the ridge consisted of a flat surface, of forty or fifty yards in width, whence the ground descended rapidly towards the plain that divided the two Armies. The Column continued to advance until it came quite close upon these guns, the muzzles of which were nearly on a level with the cross road; when it suddenly recoiled from the very destructive fire with which it was received. The horsemen of the leading Squadrons faced about, and endeavoured to force their way to the rear; confusion ensued, and the whole mass broke into a disorderly crowd. Several minutes elapsed ere they succeeded in quitting the summit of the ridge, during which the fire from the Battery was incessant; and, from the shortness of the distance, the size of the objects, and the elevation of the ground on which they stood, the consequent carnage was truly frightful. Many, instead of seeking safety in retreat, dashed through the intervals between the guns, and surrendered: but the greater part, rendered desperate at finding themselves held, as it were, in front of the Battery, actually fought their way through their own ranks; and, in the struggle, blows were exchanged on all sides. At length, the wreck of this formidable Column gained shelter under the slope of the ridge, leaving the summit encumbered with its killed and wounded.

About the same time, a strong Column of French Infantry, supported by Cavalry, was advancing against the Centre of the Anglo-Allied Right Wing. Whilst the opposed Batteries were concentrating upon it a vigorous fire, Lord Uxbridge brought forward Somerset's Heavy[Pg 463] Cavalry Brigade from its position on the right of the Charleroi road, for the purpose of attacking this Column; and also ordered up, in support, Trip's Dutch-Belgian Carabinier Brigade. The attack was made with great gallantry by the Household Cavalry, which succeeded in checking the advance of the Enemy; but, having been so much reduced in numbers, it was unable to penetrate the Column, which received it with a heavy fire. As Somerset retired; the French Cavalry by which the Column had been supported, prepared to advance.

Trip's Dutch-Belgian Cavalry was now at hand. Uxbridge, pleased with their fine appearance, and desirous of exciting in them a courageous enthusiasm, placed himself conspicuously in their front, and ordering the "Charge," led them towards the Enemy. He had proceeded but a very short distance, when his Aide de Camp, Captain Horace Seymour, galloped close up to him, and made him aware that not a single man of them was following him. Turning round his horse, he instantly rode up to Trip, and addressed himself to this Officer with great warmth. Then, appealing to the Brigade in terms the most exhorting and encouraging, and inciting them by gestures the most animated and significant, he repeated the Order to charge, and again led the way in person. But this attempt was equally abortive; and Uxbridge, exasperated and indignant, rode away from the Brigade, leaving it to adopt any course which its Commander might think proper: and as the French Cavalry, to which this hesitation was but too manifest, was now advancing rapidly to the attack, the Dutch-Belgians went about, and retired in such haste and disorder that the two Right Squadrons of the 3rd Hussars of the King's German Legion experienced the greatest difficulty in maintaining their ground, and avoiding being[Pg 464] carried along to the rear by these horsemen in the wildness of their flight.

The 3rd Hussars had just moved up into the Second Line, in rear of Kruse's Nassau Brigade, when this occurred; and the Left Squadron, being free from any interruption of the kind, gallantly charged and completely overthrew that portion of the Cuirassiers which was in its immediate front. As soon as the other two Squadrons had recovered their order, which had been so unexpectedly disturbed by the fugitive Dutch-Belgians, the whole Regiment advanced to the crest of the position; where it received from Lord Uxbridge, in person, the Order to charge a Line of French Cavalry, distant about 150 yards, and consisting of about three Squadrons of Cuirassiers and three Squadrons of Heavy Dragoons. Commencing the charge with a steady trot, and then plunging into a gallop, they broke through the Enemy's Line, which was advancing at a short trot, or almost at a walk; but became so completely turned and hemmed in upon their flanks and rear, that a vast proportion of them was cut off. The remainder, dispersed, and pursued by the French Cavalry, rode back to the Infantry Squares, in rear of which the Regiment reformed. Here the great loss which it had suffered in these two attacks become manifest. It was reduced to between sixty and seventy Files, which were formed into two Squadrons, and posted in rear of Kielmansegge's Hanoverian Brigade.

About this time, the Earl of Uxbridge, on examining the state of his Cavalry, perceived the Cumberland Regiment of Hanoverian Hussars at some distance in the rear, on the Brussels road. He immediately ordered them forward; and on their coming up, he posted them where they were by no means much exposed, but where they would at least appear to fill a gap occasioned by the severe losses[Pg 465] experienced by Somerset's and Ponsonby's Brigades: for the manner of their Commanding Officer, whilst being thus posted, rendered his Lordship doubtful of their continuing there if attacked.

That he had reason to apprehend something of this kind, was subsequently proved; for Colonel Hake, on finding the shot flying about him a little, took himself and his Regiment out of the Field: on discovering which, Lord Uxbridge despatched his Aide de Camp, Captain Horace Seymour, with an Order for his return. When Captain Seymour delivered this Order, the Colonel remarked that he had no confidence in his men, that they were Volunteers, and that their horses were their own property. The Regiment continued moving to the rear; notwithstanding Captain Seymour's repeating the Order to halt, and asking the Second in Command to save the honour and character of the Corps, by placing himself at its head and fronting the men. Finding his remonstrances produced no effect, he laid hold of the bridle of the Colonel's horse, and commented upon his conduct in terms such as no man of honour could have been expected to listen to unmoved. This Officer, however, appeared perfectly callous to any sense of shame; and far more disposed to submit to those attacks upon his honour than he had been to receive those of the Enemy upon his person and his Regiment. Upon rejoining the Earl of Uxbridge and relating what had passed; Captain Seymour was again directed to proceed to the Commanding Officer, and to desire that, if he persevered in refusing to resume his position in the Line, he would, at least, form the Regiment across the high road, out of fire. But even this Order was disregarded, and the Corps went altogether to the rear, spreading alarm and confusion all the way to Brussels.

In front of the Right of the Anglo-Allied Line, the French[Pg 466] Column of Horse Grenadiers and Cuirassiers, which had met with so disastrous a repulse from Major Mercer's Horse Battery, was reformed for another attack; to meet which the British Gunners were fully prepared: for the French horsemen had not retired so far down the hill but that the high caps of the Horse Grenadiers of the leading Squadrons, were visible above the brow of the exterior slope. The second attempt was preluded by a cloud of Skirmishers, who, advancing to within a very short distance of the front of the Battery, did considerable mischief to the Gunners with their carbines and pistols; but their intention being evidently to draw forth their fire, no notice was taken of them.

Then the Column again ascended the ridge, and advanced to attack the Battery; but on this occasion their pace scarcely exceeded a walk, or at most a gentle trot, too many obstacles lying in their way to admit of more rapid movement without confusion. Experience having shown the Gunners the destructive effects of a close fire, they allowed the leading Squadrons to attain about half the distance between the brow of the slope and the narrow road in their front before they commenced. The result, as may be readily imagined, was precisely similar to that of the former attack, which has already been detailed. Again the French horsemen fell into confusion, and again for several minutes were they exposed to a deliberate and an unerring fire of case shot, within a distance of not more than twenty yards, so that the pile of killed and wounded, left on the ground immediately in front of the Battery, before great, was now enormous.

Other Batteries along this part of the position were equally successful in repelling the attacks of the Enemy's Cuirassiers, who were assembling in considerable numbers at[Pg 467] the foot of the exterior slope, close to the Hougomont inclosures, apparently with the object of cutting off the direct communication with that Post, and forcing the Right of the Allied Front Line. The moment seemed favourable for such a project. Several of the Allied guns had by this time become completely disabled; the 2nd Battalion of the 3rd British Guards, awfully reduced, had been driven into the hollow way in rear of the Orchards of Hougomont; the young Brunswick Infantry had suffered severe losses; and the supporting Cavalry had become greatly exhausted by its repeated charges.

But Wellington, foreseeing the probability of a serious attempt upon this weakened point of his Line, and perceiving the approach of Chassé's Division (see page 458), supplied the required remedy by desiring Lord Hill to bring forward troops from the Second Line. The zeal, intelligence, and activity which had ever characterized the Hero of Almaraz and Arroyo del Molino when carrying out the designs of the Chief under whom he had acquired a lasting fame, seemed but to wait this summons to the more immediate scene of action, to appear again in all their accustomed vigour. He immediately put in motion du Plat's Infantry Brigade of the King's German Legion. As the latter advanced across the Nivelles road, from its left, the 2nd Line Battalion became the leading Column. It was followed by the 4th, then by the 3rd, and lastly by the 1st Line Battalion. As the 2nd approached the crest of the ridge, several Gunners ran in upon it for shelter from the Enemy's Cuirassiers, whose main body was now advancing against this Battalion. The four Light Companies of the Brigade, however, had just posted themselves close to the three small trees near this part of the crest of the ridge; and being armed with rifles, they delivered so[Pg 468] destructive a fire into the Cavalry as to compel it to withdraw.

Some of the Allied Cavalry then moved forward in pursuit, and du Plat's Brigade continued its advance until the 2nd Line Battalion had approached close to the hedge of the Great Orchard of Hougomont, whence a dropping fire was opened upon the Germans by the French Skirmishers. The Dragoons made a sudden and rapid retreat through the intervals of the Columns, in left front of which a fresh Line of hostile Cavalry now presented itself. Captain Sympher, who, with his Horse Battery of the Legion, had accompanied du Plat's advance, instantly unlimbered; and poured round shot through the intervals of the Columns, the latter maintaining, at the same time, a very effective independent file fire. The Cuirassiers gallantly advanced, notwithstanding this formidable resistance. They first became exposed to a flank fire from the left face of the 4th Line Battalion Square, and then again to that from the left face of the 3rd Line Battalion: nevertheless, they resolutely attacked the Battery, the Gunners of which either flew to the last mentioned Square for protection, or sought shelter under the carriages. At length, after having suffered severe losses by the unremitting fire from the nearest Squares, the French Cavalry retired in disorder; receiving a renewed discharge from the Battery, which was again in full play.

When du Plat's Brigade moved down the slope, the 2nd and 3rd Light, and 2nd Line, Battalions of the Brunswickers, advanced a short distance over the crest of the ridge, in left rear of the former. Here they became exposed to a destructive fire of both artillery and musketry, the latter from the French Skirmishers that had crept from along the eastern hedge of Hougomont, close under the[Pg 469] brow of that part of the Anglo-Allied position. They withstood this heavy fire, as also the subsequent charges of Cavalry, with great steadiness and courage; but as soon as the French horsemen were driven back by a portion of the Allied Cavalry (consisting of the 23rd British Light Dragoons, the 1st Light Dragoons of the King's German Legion, and the Brunswick Hussars and Lancers), the above mentioned Battalions withdrew from their exposed situation to the interior slope.

The French Skirmishers, who had, during this last attack by their Cavalry, pushed forward a very considerable force through the Great Orchard of Hougomont, and along its eastern boundary, now concentrated a most galling fire upon the Squares of the Legionary Brigade, whose Commander, du Plat, was mortally wounded; several Officers fell, and all those that were mounted had their horses shot under them. The fire ceased; and in the next moment the Cuirassiers, having rallied, renewed their charge: but with no greater success than before; and a third charge proved equally ineffectual against the determined bravery and patient endurance of the soldiers of the Legion.

About the time that du Plat's Brigade moved into the First Line, a considerable body of French Cuirassiers, which still remained in the hollow westward of La Haye Sainte, exposed to a fire from one or two of the Allied Batteries, advanced at a walk, to make another effort to break the Right Centre of Wellington's Line. This proved as unsuccessful as the previous attacks. The Squares, reserving their fire until the close approach of the hostile Cavalry, and then directing it against the latter in the most cool and deliberate manner, which the absence of all impetus in an attack at a walk enabled them to do with unerring effect, soon compelled the shattered Squadrons once more[Pg 470] to withdraw from a contest which the unexampled steadiness of the Allied Infantry had rendered almost hopeless on their part.

The French Cavalry that attacked the Squares of du Plat's Brigade, immediately in rear of Hougomont, had no sooner been driven off by the gallant resistance of the Germans, than the Skirmishers, who, as before observed, had advanced in such numbers along the eastern inclosures of that Post, crept close up under the brow of that part of the ridge on the interior slope of which was posted the main body of the Brunswick Infantry.

At this time, however, Lord Hill was bringing forward Adam's British Light Infantry Brigade, having directed it to cross the Nivelles road, and to advance in Columns up the slope, in rear of the Brunswickers. (The Brigade had, some time before, been moved from the plateau on the right, close to the edge of the Nivelles road, in which position it had continued in immediate reserve.) Suddenly the summit in its front was crowded with the French Skirmishers, who were almost as quickly concealed by the smoke from the rattling fire which they opened upon the Allied Artillery and the Squares. The Gunners, whose numbers were fearfully diminished, were speedily driven back from their crippled Batteries upon the nearest Infantry; upon which the concentration of this galling fire threatened the most serious consequences.

But succour was at hand. Wellington, in the midst of the shower of bullets, had galloped to the front of Adam's Brigade, ordered it to form Line, four deep; and then, pointing to the daring Skirmishers on the Height, called out, with perfect coolness and unaffected assurance, "Drive those fellows away!" With loud cheers, the Brigade moved rapidly up the slope, eager to obey the Duke's[Pg 471] command. From the want of sufficient space, the 52nd Regiment was not formed in Line with, but in rear of, the 71st and 2nd Battalion of the 95th Regiment, to which it consequently served as a Support. The French Skirmishers began to give way as the firm and intrepid front of the Brigade presented itself to their view. Adam continued his advance, driving the French Infantry before him. On crossing the ridge, the Brigade brought forward its right shoulders, and, when halted, it stood in a slight hollow; which, commencing in front of the right of the position occupied by Maitland's Brigade of Guards, descends towards the north-east angle of the Great Orchard of Hougomont. At the former point the 2nd Battalion of the 95th Regiment formed the Left; and at the latter, the 71st Regiment with the two Companies of the 3rd Battalion of the 95th Regiment formed the Right, of this Line. The Enemy's Cavalry having been perceived preparing for attack, the Battalions of the Brigade formed Squares: and as the interval between the 71st and the 2nd Battalion 95th Regiment, in this new position, was larger than was desirable; Colonel Sir John Colborne moved down the 52nd Regiment, in Squares of Wings of Battalions, to fill up the space; which he reached just in time to throw a most effective oblique fire upon the Cavalry which was in the act of attacking the 71st Regiment.

The French Carabiniers and Horse Grenadiers of the Guard made some gallant attacks upon the Brigade. They generally advanced by their right of the Hougomont inclosures, then fell upon the 71st Regiment, by which their charge was invariably broken; when such portions of them as continued in any degree of order, rushed onward in apparent infatuation upon the Right Wing Square of the 52nd Regiment; from the front and right faces of which[Pg 472] they received a close, well directed fire, which completed their disorder and confusion.

In one of these attacks, Major Eeles, whose Company of the 3rd Battalion 95th Rifles was attached to the 71st Regiment, upon observing the approach of the Carabiniers towards the right angle of the front face of the Square, moved his Company to the right, in line with the rear face, and, placing himself in its front, prevented his men from firing until the Carabiniers approached within thirty or forty yards of the Square; when he ordered a volley, which, combined with a cross fire from the 71st, brought down so many horses and men to the ground, at the same moment, that the further progress of the charge was most effectually frustrated. In an instant, one half of the attacking force was on the ground; some few men and horses were killed; more were wounded; but by far the greater part were thrown down over the dead, the dying, and the wounded. These, after a short interval, began to extricate themselves from the mass, and made the best of their way back to their Supports; some on horseback but most of them on foot.

Adam's Brigade, by means of the advanced position which it thus occupied, along the space between the Hougomont inclosures and the right front of Maitland's Brigade, presented an effectual barrier to the advance of the French Cavalry against that portion of the Allied Front Line which was situated upon the right of the latter point. In the intervals between the charges of Cavalry, it suffered severely from the Enemy's Artillery; more particularly the 71st Regiment, and 2nd Battalion 95th Rifles, the position of these Regiments being somewhat more exposed than that of the 52nd.

Halkett's Hanoverian Brigade had moved from its present position, near Merbe Braine, into the space within[Pg 473] the angle formed by the Nivelles road and the hollow way which leads from the Right of the Front Line down into the low ground below Hougomont; and it was shortly after Adam moved into his forward position, that Halkett advanced, with the Landwehr Battalions Osnabrück and Salzgitter, and took post on the exterior slope of the main ridge, in rear of du Plat's Brigade.

It was now about six o'clock. The formidable attacks made by the French along the entire Line of the Anglo-Allied Army had been productive of no positive advantage; the Advanced Posts of Hougomont and La Haye Sainte had successfully resisted the furious assaults which had hitherto been directed against them: and the forward position taken up by Adam's British Brigade, made it manifest to the French Emperor that, notwithstanding the gallantry, enthusiasm, and devotion displayed in those attacks by the finest troops he had ever assembled together, headed, too, by Generals of the highest celebrity; still greater efforts, and still greater sacrifices must be made if he hoped to drive the British lion from the position which it yet proudly retained with so firm a footing, before the Prussian eagle, which for some time past had hovered over, and was at this moment darting at, his extreme Right, should alight, in the plenitude of its force, to satiate its thirst for vengeance in the fierce and sanguinary struggle.

Napoleon sent an Order to Ney to renew the attack upon the Centre. To execute this with effect, however, fresh Infantry was requisite; and the Marshal had none at his disposal. He therefore despatched his first Aide de Camp, Colonel Heymès, to represent to the Emperor the exhausted condition of his troops: half of which were placed hors de combat, and the other half overcome by fatigue, and[Pg 474] failing in ammunition; and to request he would send him reinforcements. At this moment, however, Lobau's Corps and the Young Guard were required for the security of the French Right Flank against the offensive operations of the Prussians; consequently, the Battalions of the Old Guard, which constituted the only remaining Reserve of Infantry, could not be spared. To Ney's demand for fresh troops, Napoleon therefore replied,—"Ou voulez vous que j'en prenne? Voulez vous que j'en fusse?"

Ney, on being made acquainted with the manner in which his request had been received, saw very plainly that the Battle was far from being gained: and darted off to animate, by his presence, the attack which was now renewed upon La Haye Sainte; and which was covered by a vigorous fire from the French Artillery against that portion of the Anglo-Allied Line immediately in rear of this Post, in order to disturb any attempt to relieve or assist its defenders.

The united remains of Somerset's and Ponsonby's Brigades, which were on the reverse slope, behind Ompteda's Brigade of the King's German Legion, and which were extended in Single File for the purpose of making a show of force, suffered much from this cannonade. On perceiving its effects, Lord Uxbridge sent an Aide de Camp to recommend Lord Edward Somerset to withdraw his men from the range of the Enemy's guns. The latter sent back word that, were he to do so, the Dutch-Belgian Cavalry, who were in support, would immediately move off the Field! Somerset retained his position until the end of the Battle.

Shortly before the Columns from Donzelot's Division advanced to this attack of La Haye Sainte, a party of Horse Artillery, which had been detached from Whinyates's Rocket Battery, proceeded, under Captain Dansey, along the Charleroi road, to the front of the Centre of the Anglo-[Pg 475]Allied Line, and came into action with rockets, near that Farm, leaving its two guns in the rear, under Lieutenant Wright.

Captain Dansey very soon received a severe wound, which obliged him to retire; and the party, after firing a few rockets, fell back a little, to where its horses were standing. It was then commanded by a Serjeant (Daniel Dunnett), who, on perceiving the advance of the nearest French Column towards the Farm, dismounted his men as coolly and deliberately as if exercising on Woolwich Common, though without any Support whatever; laid rockets on the ground, and discharged them in succession into the mass—every one of them appearing to take effect. The advance of the Column was checked, and was not resumed until Sergeant Dunnett, having expended all his rockets, retired with his party to rejoin the guns in rear.

Major Baring's Detachment, after its extraordinary and successful exertions in repelling the previous assaults, was fearfully reduced in numbers; but its excellent spirit and conspicuous bravery remained unshaken. One circumstance, however, could not fail to render unavailing all their efforts, their courage, and their endurance. Notwithstanding Major Baring's urgently repeated applications for a supply of ammunition, his men were still left without the means of adequately defending their Post against the host of enemies by which they were successively assailed.[12] They[Pg 476] cheerfully repaired, as far as practicable, the gaps made in the walls by the French Artillery, and betrayed no despondency as they looked upon the sad and numerous proofs that lay around them of the immense sacrifices they had already made. But when, upon counting the cartridges, they discovered that they had not, upon an average, more than from three to four each, their consciousness of the desperate situation to which they were reduced, and of the impossibility of holding out under such circumstances, led to remonstrances, which their gallant Commander could not but admit to be reasonable. Yet no sooner did the latter, upon perceiving two French Columns again advancing towards the Farm, exhort them to renewed courage, and also to a careful economy of the ammunition, than he received the unanimous reply,—"No man will desert you,—we will fight and die with you!"

The French, exasperated by the protracted resistance of this handful of brave defenders, now came on with redoubled fury. The open end of the Great Barn was first assailed. Again they succeeded in setting the building on fire; but the Germans, having recourse to the same expedient as on the previous occasion, again contrived to[Pg 477] extinguish the flames. Baring's anxiety and uneasiness increased with every shot that was fired by his men; and he again sent to the rear for ammunition, coupling his demand with a distinct report, that he must and would abandon the place should no supply be forthcoming. This message, however, proved equally ineffectual. The fire of the garrison was gradually diminishing: perplexity was depicted in every countenance: many of the men now called out urgently for ammunition,—"We will readily stand by you, but we must have the means of defending ourselves!" Even their Officers, who during the whole day had displayed the greatest courage, represented to their Commander the impossibility of retaining the Post under such circumstances.

The French, who failed not to observe the distressing situation to which the defenders were reduced, now boldly broke in the door at that end of the long western building which is nearest to the entrance of the Great Barn, already so frequently assailed. The passage from the door through the building into the Farm yard having been barricaded, but few of the Enemy could enter at a time. These were instantly bayoneted, and the rear hesitated to follow. They now climbed up the outer wall of the long building, and mounted the roof, from which they easily picked off the defenders; who, not possessing the means of retaliation, were completely at their mercy. At the same time, they pressed in through the open Barn, which it was impossible to defend any longer. Baring was now reduced to the painful necessity of abandoning the place, and gave the Order to retire through the Dwelling House into the Garden. Many of the men were overtaken in the narrow passage through the House by the victors, who vented their fury upon them in the lowest abuse and most brutal treatment.

[Pg 478]

Baring having satisfied himself that the possession of the Dwelling House by the Enemy must render the Garden quite untenable; and finding that his Officers fully agreed with him on this point, he made the men retire, singly, to the main position. The greater part of them, accompanied by their brave but disconsolate Commander, descended into the high road by an opening in the bank adjoining the north-east angle of the Garden, and retired along the opposite side of the chaussée.

Baring sent back to their respective Regiments the remains of the reinforcements he had received; and, with the few men that were left of his own Battalion, he attached himself to two Companies of the 1st Light Battalion of the King's German Legion, which were then posted in the hollow way close to the right of the high road.

The surrender of La Haye Sainte, under the circumstances which have been described, was as purely honourable, as its defence against an overwhelming and furious host had been heroically brave. A thorough conviction that further resistance must have been marked by the sacrifice of the entire remnant of his courageous band at once suggested to the mind of a Commander like Baring, gifted with the requisite discernment and forethought of a true soldier, the reservation of such gallant spirits for some other part of the great contest; in which they might yet face their enemies, if not on equal terms, at least in a manner that would render their bravery and devotion not altogether unavailable in the general struggle for victory.

Loud and reiterated shouts of triumph having announced to the French Emperor the capture of La Haye Sainte; he immediately ordered it to be followed up by a vigorous attack upon the Centre of the Anglo-Allied Line, and by a simultaneous renewal of the assault upon Hougomont.

[Pg 479]

It was quite evident to Ney, that without an additional force of Infantry, it would be impossible for him to follow up, with effect, the advantage which he anticipated from the capture of La Haye Sainte. The Cavalry, which Napoleon had placed at his disposal, had been nearly annihilated in the course of its numerous attacks upon the Anglo-Allied Line,—attacks executed throughout with the greatest gallantry, but unproductive of any solid or decisive result upon a single point of that Line. If this Arm, comprising the flower of the chivalric Cavalry of France, had failed him when it sallied forth, gaily exulting in the freshness of its vigour, proudly conscious of the imposing attitude of its masses, and unrestrainedly impatient for the onslaught which was to exalt still more its already high renown; how could he calculate upon its efficacy, now that it was comparatively paralyzed?

The state to which his Infantry was reduced presented a prospect almost as cheerless. D'Erlon's Corps, severely crippled by its signally unsuccessful attack upon the Anglo-Allied Left Wing and Centre, had still further exhausted its force by repeated assaults against La Haye Sainte, on its