1. Introduction: Quatre Bras and Bossu Wood.
- - - Prince of Orange's troops. >
- - - Marshal Ney's troops. >
2. The First Blood.
- - - Skirmish in the morning. >
- - - Prince of Orange. >
- - - Wellington's troops and chaos on the roads. >
- - - Wellington rode to Blucher. >
3. The Battle.
- - - French attack. >
- - - Allies' reinforcements. >
- - - The Dutch repulsed French cavalry and drove off Jamin's brigade. >
- - - French lancers created havoc. >
- - - French infantry columns were halted by the British infantry. >
- - - Wellington's forward movement failed. >
- - - Allies suffered under fire. >
- - - With a 2 to 1 advantage in men Wellington decided to go over to the offensive. >
- - - Luneburg Battalion captured Pireaumont. >
- - - French cuirassiers captured British color
- - - and scattered several British units. >
- - - French chasseurs inflicted heavy casualties on the British Guards. >
- - - Wellington's offensive. Allies had maintained their positions they had held that morning. >
Introduction: Quatre Bras and Bossu Wood.
The landscape of Belgium is a contrasting landscape of flatlands in Flanders and rolling hills in Wallonia. In 1815 Napoleon's army entered Belgium to find and defeat the two Allied armies: Prussian under Blucher and British-German-Netherlands under Wellington.
While Napoleon was taking care of the Prussians, Marshal Ney was sent towards the village of Quatre Bras.
Quatre Bras was a very small village located near the important crossroards on the road to Brussels. Kincaid recounted: "Quatre Bras at that time consisted of only 3 or 4 houses ... "
Marshal Ney arrived at Quatre Bras around 2 PM. He immediately recognized the importance of the crossroads at Quatre Bras and the Bossu Wood. It was impossible to move along the road to Brussels while the enemy occupied the wood. The Bossu Wood consisted of tall trees and thick undergrowth, wide footpaths facilitated toop movements.
Nearby stood Gemioncourt. It was a large farm with large towers, walled gardens and orchards offering a strongpoint for the defence. H.Williams described the strongpoint: "Gemioncourt was typical of Belgian farms of the period: it was built strongly of stone, with the main house and subsidiary buildings grouped around a central courtyard entered by a single wooden gate, so that from without the farm presented the thick, windowless outer walls of its buildings and high connecting walls. With the simple addition of loopholes, such a farm became a formidable bastion"
The visibility was limited for both sides because of standing crops of tall rye, wheat and corn. The tree-lined brook banks offered good vantage line for skirmishers.
So far there were only few troops on the battlefield. The advance guard (Nassau and Netherlands troops) had fought a combat with some French the previous evening. They had done so on their own initiative, choosing not to carry out Wellington's orders to move their entire force on Nivelles. Thanks to Constant Rebeque and Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar, the French had just about been thwarted in their attempt to drive the two Allied armies in Belgium apart.
His Royal Highness The Prince of Orange (1792-1849) commaded the Netherland troops.
Although only 23 at Waterloo, he commanded the I Corps, the largest corps in the Allied Army.
This command was given to him for entirely diplomatic reasons. Until Wellington arrived in Brussels in April,
Prince of Orange was the commander-in-chief of Allied forces stationed in Netherlands.
It was only after intense pressure and persuasion that his father, the King of the Netherlands, agreed to Wellington taking
overall command. Nothing less than I Corps was acceptable to his father. (- Mark Adkin)
In the beginning of the battle of Quatre Bras, Prince of Orange had 9-10 infantry battalions and 16 guns.
- Bijleveld's Horse Battery
- 27th Dutch Jagers Battalion under Grunebosch stood between the farms of Gemioncourt and Pireaumont, and guarded also the bridge near the Materne Pond. One company supported the artillery.
Marshal Ney had Reille's II Army Corps (5th, 6th, 9th Infantry Division, and 2nd Cavalry Division) and the elite Guard Light Cavalry.
- 5th Infantry Division under Bachelu (Husson's 4 battalions, Campi's 5 battalions)
General de Division Comte Honore-Charles-Michel Reille (1775-1860) commanded the II Army Corps. From 1810 until the end of Peninsular War he was fighting Wellington's troops and Spanish guerillas. His relationship with Marshal Soult was strained to the extent that Reille abandoned his post in 1814.
General de Division Baron Gilbert-Desire-Joseph Bachelu (1777-1849) commanded the 5th Infantry Division.
He was a competent general, engineer by training. Bachelu was an outspoken, unrepentant republican.
The first 10 years of his military service was as engineer.
The First Blood.
The French Red Lancers approached Frasnes and were greeted with artillery fire from a Dutch horse battery and musket fire from the II Battalion of 2nd Nassau. Lefebvre-Desnouettes decided that it was folly for cavalry alone to try to drive infantry out of a village, and called for infantry support.
A battalion from Bachelu's division would take time to reach the outskirts of Frasnes.
Meanwhile the 1st Squadron of the Red Lancers (it was the famous Elba Squadron made
of Poles) moved round the east of Frasnes and advanced, getting close to Quatre-Bras without
encountering serious resistance.
Captain Bijleveld of horse battery writes: "Towards the end of the afternoon we were attacked by French Lancers, but the precautions I had made with Major Normann, commanding the II Battalion of Nassau Regiment ... frustrated the French. ... As soon as I had arrived with my battery ... ordering them to load canister. The infantry drew up in line to the left and right. ... The French Lancers debouching from Frasnes were fired upon by canister by the whole battery which killed and wounded several men and horses. They retired to the village and sent out patrols. ... They posted sentries; we did also, maintaining our position till the next morning."
Ney wrote to Napoleon: "The troops that we found at Frasnes had not been fighting at Gossieles ... Tomorrow, at daybreak, I will send out a reconnaissance party to Quatre-Bras which will, if possible, occupy this position, because I believe the Nassau troops have gone ..."
In early morning, about 5 AM General Perponcher deployed the 27th Jagers Battalion,
replacing the posts of the III/2nd Nassau. Skirmishers covered the path along the
southern edge of Bossu Wood. One battery was deployed on a heightened ground.
Two companies of the II/2nd Nassau were sent to reconnoitre.
Bijleveld's battery opened fire on the Red Lancers. The cavalry combat was short and both sides disengaged after light casualties. At 7 AM a small body of French troops probed enemy positions but was driven back after a brief exchange of fire. Colonel van Zuylen van Nuevelt writes: "At 7 o'clock the enemy [French] began to reconnoitre our position by making a few cavalry charges, which were however, repulsed with loss on his side ... Up to now the enemy had not appeared in great strength; the troops against whom we had to fight consisted, besides part of the line infantry, the Guard Chasseurs, Guard Lancers and Guard Horse Artillery ..."
An attempt by two companies of Nassauers to advance towards Frasnes was likewise repelled. French artillery arrived and large groups of skirmishers made demonstrations along the front line. At noon the III/2nd Nassau relieved the II/2nd Nassau which then went for lunch.
At 6 AM arrived Prince of Orange and inspected the front line.
He was in command until Wellington returned from his meeting with Blucher.
Prince of Orange saw French foragers making their fires close by, behind them, in the tall crops near Frasnes, stood lancers.
There was chaos at the various choke-points on the line of march. Constant Rebeque found state of confusion on the road to Quatre Bras, as von Alten's and Chassee's divisions had arrived at the same time. The noise of battle could be heard by many troops on the road. The road to Nivelles was blocked by the baggage of the British 3rd Division. Nobody seemed to be in charge of traffic control. The chaos was such that much of Wellington's force would not arrive until the late evening, when the battle was over.
The cavalry that Wellington had confidently predicted to Blucher and Gneiseanu would be at
"Nivelles at noon" were, unknown to anyone at Quatre Bras, somewhere between Enghien and
Braine-le-Comte, caught in the infernal confusion that had engulfed much of the Allied army.
Captain Mercer of the Royal Horse Artillery writes: "The 23rd (Light Dragoons) floundered through ...
About noon after threading through more mud and many watery lanes, doubtful if we were in
the right direction, we came out upon a more open and dry country ... To the same point
various columns of cavalry were converging, and under a park wall we found Sir Vandeleur's
brigade ... Here we also dismounted to await the arrival of Major McDonald ...
Meanwhile Wellington rode to Blucher. Wellington speaking fluently in French asked Blucher and Gneiseanu: Que voulez-vous que je fasse ? (What do you want me to do ?)
Prussian officer Muffling acted as translator for the discussion.
Blucher's plan was simple; to give battle, aided by a significant force to be sent by Wellington.
Ney arrived and saw only the outposts made of the Germans and Dutch.
He remarked to General Reille, the commander of II Army Corps: "There is hardly anyone
in the Bossu Wood, we must take it at once." Bossu Wood was very important but the main
attack was directed east of the wood, along the road to Quatre Bras.
Around 2 PM the French moved in force, and the Allied outposts retired to Grand-Pierrepont. The French artillery opened fire and infantry columns screened with skirmishers moved forward.
While Bachelu's division pushed back the Dutch 27th Jagers towards Gemioncourt, Foy's division moved against the center of enemy. Bijleveld's and Stevenart's batteries suffered considerable loss of gunners and horses.
Half of Foy's division (Gauthier's brigade) attacked the southern edge of Bossu Wood but was thrown back by I/Nassau-Orange and 8th Militia. The two battalions then were driven back 250 m into the wood by a new French attack. (During this battle, the brave Colonel de Jongh of the 8th Dutch Militia, had been wounded and had ordered his staff to tie him to the saddle so he can stay with his battalion.)
Duke Bernhard led the volunteers of the I/2nd Nassau and 2 comp. of the 7th Militia in a counterattack, and pushed the French back out of the wood.
Around 4 PM arrived Jerome Bonaparte's division. Marshal Ney ordered this large unit immediately to the Bossu Wood. The Nassauers fell back in rather good order. They still held the northern part of the wood and supported with fire the Netherlands troops defending Gemioncourt. Meanwhile Foy's division rallied on the road to Quatre Bras.
The 5th Militia suffered from French howitzers. Four companies of 27th Jagers were in the process of withdrawing when Pire's chasseurs struck them, inflicting casualties, and scattering many survivors.
Heavily outnumbered and hard pressed, the Netherlands troops under Bijlandt and the Nassauers were in a very critical situation. Before 3:30 PM arrived van Merlen's Cavalry Brigade (5th Light Dragoons, 6th Hussars) with 2 guns. Both regiments were Dutch.
Merlen was a seasoned general, his troopers however were exhausted. The horses had been saddled since the morning before, and they marched 9 hours (!) in oppressive heat that day.
Shortly after Merlen the 5th British Division under Picton came.
Picton deployed his troops as follow: Kempt's and part of Pack's brigades in the first line,
Best's Hannoverian brigade in the second, Hanoverian battery on the right, and British
battery on the left.
Next came several strong battalions of Brunswick infantry along with artillery and cavalry. They Brunswickers deployed between Bossu Wood and the road to Charleroi. Duke of Brunswick deployed two companies of the Vanguard Battalion in the wood, and the Jager Battalion in a ditch near Gemioncourt. The jagers were in groups of 4 at intervals of six paces.
Meanwhile the French infantry captured Gemioncourt. With the 5th Militia dislodged, the British 28th also fell back, and the Allied centre was in immediate danger of collapse.
Despite all odds, the 5th Dutch Militia still hang on north of Gemioncourt. Seeing the arrival of fresh reinforcements the militiamen stormed the farm at bayonet point, and cleared away French skirmishers (of Jamin's brigade, Foy's division) from the walls and fields. Only a handful of Frenchmen held on in the farm itself.
Several companies of the militia then deployed to the south of Gemioncourt. They were then charged by the French 6th Chasseurs-a-Cheval. Supported by the fire of Bijlevald's battery, the 5th Dutch Militia delivered a deadly volley at close range and beat off the French. The chasseurs came back and charged again. And again they were thrown back. The third cavalry charge was made by the 6th Lancers. Meanwhile the militiamen were joined and encouraged by the brave Prince of Orange. The lancers were repulsed.
Several battalions of French infantry under Jamin (of Foy's division) moved east of Gemioncourt. Prince of Orange ordered Marlen's cavalry brigade to charge these forces, while the 5th Dutch Militia Battalion and 27th Dutch Jagers were to attack from the flank. The two units charged and drove off the French infantry.
French lancers created havoc.
Van Merlen's brigade was attacked by the 5th Lancers and 1st Chasseurs while they were still deploying. The Dutch cavalry fled in panic with the French hot on their heels. Prince of Orange's ADC, Major van Limburgh Stirum, was badly wounded.
The lancers followed through to Bijleveldt's and Stevenart's batteries and cut down many
gunners. Then they hit the 5th Militia and 27th Jagers and inflicted heavy
casualties. Hofschroer writes: "The Prince of Orange was caught in the rout, but was
saved by the speed of his mount.
The lancers were disordered by the charge and thus were easily repulsed by musket volleys fired by the II/Nassau-Orange and a British battalion. The cavalry slowly fell back.
Meanwhile the 5th Belgian Light Dragoons fought with French 6th Chasseurs. After a brief
hand-to-hand the Belgians fell back, but the French did not pursue them. The Scots mistook
the Belgians for French and fired. Williams writes: "There then occuredd one of those tragic
incidents of war in which men die in error at the hands of friends.
The Brunswick jagers deployed in the ditch had put their large hats on the bushes in front of them. It attracted a lot of musket fire from French voltigeurs. The 95th Rifles (ext.link) was unable to retake the village defended by Bachelu's infantrymen. Prince of Orange sent several companies of 27th Jagers to assist the British, but language proved a barrier to useful co-operation. Sir Andrew tried to encourage the Dutch to march forward in line with his men, but the Dutch tried to explain that the French are in too great numbers to attack frontally.
The French were in tall crop and unseen to Sir Andrew's men.
Sir Andrew insisted and his riflemen went forward unaccompanied, only to be repulsed
at once by a massive volley.
Meanwhile Marshal Ney ordered Bachelu's division and half of Foy's division to advance. Five batteries were deployed between Gemioncourt and Pireaumont in support. Wellington deployed 7 British battalions 500 m south of Quatre Bras, and 4 Hanoverian battalions on the Namur road. This large force was supported by the 95th Rifles and Roger's battery. The British 28th of Foot was sent to support the Netherlands troops in Gemioncourt.
The French columns crossed the brook and were greeted with powerful volleys fired by the British and German infantry. The fire was tremendous and the French halted. Then they were charged by the Highlanders and Hanoverians. The French infantry fell back.
Wellington's forward movement failed.
The Allies infantry was halted by French artillery fire and then was thrown into confusion by cavalry charge. Fortunately they managed to
form squares. Hofschroer writes: "... squares of British infantry held off the French cavalry at first,
but the square of the 42nd was broken and the 44th was thrown into disorder, the colour of
the 44th being fought over."
The official report of the Hanoverian brigade described the action that followed: "... Verden Battalion was not able to fall back quickly enough and was largely ridden down or taken prisoner."
Wellington rallied the Brunswick hussars and, bringing up the remnants of Merlen's cavalry, prepared to go forward and plug the gap. Williams writes: "But before his cavalry was positioned to advance, Pire's superior forces struck, driving them and Wellington himself back beyond the crossroads." Wellington, to avoid death or ignominious capture, rode toward the 92nd Highlanders ... Calling out to the men to crouch low, he jumped his horse over their heads and found refuge nehind them." According to Best approx. 2 squadrons of French chasseurs attacked battalion of the 92nd Highland but without success.
Due to French cavalry charges, Wellington's forward movement failed. He was obliged to order Picton's division to retire from their present positions to the shelter of their original positions along the Namur road.
The Duke of Saxe-Weimar observed this scene from the Bossu Wood and the next day wrote: "... whilst I was defending the wood, the enemy drove our left wing [Picton] as far as Quatre Bras, at this moment the brave Duke of Brunswick was killed ..."
Wellington moved the Brunswickers (see picture) nearer Gemioncourt, and deployed on the north bank of the brook. Hofschroer writes: "As their flank was exposed, Pack's 42nd and 44th Foot, partly recovered from the French cavalry attacks, moved up along the road a little. On the left of the Brunswickers, on the Namur road, stood the Luneburg Landwehr Battalion who had replaced the 92nd Highlanders. ... The 3rd Line occupied several buildings on the Quatre Bras road with the 2nd [Brunswick] to its right, and a battalion of the 92nd [Highland] to its left, in the ditch along the roadside."
Because the Brunswickers and some Scots formed the first line, they suffered from artillery fire. The skirmishers of Foy's division had moved up the bushes and along the brook. More skirmishers were firing from the flank, from Bossu Wood. Their fire was quite annoying for the Allies. Major von Rauschenplat had his arm ripped off by a shell splinter, and Major von Cramm was fatally wounded. The under-fire Brunswick infantry retired a little bit, while their uhlan squadron attacked the French 1st Light (of Jerome Bonaparte's division) formed in square. One volley drove back the uhlans in a great disorder.
Duke of Brunswick and his horse were struck and fell near the Leib Battalion [Brunswick]. He was rescued by jagers who carried him to the battalion, using their weapons as a stretcher. It was a fatal wound, the musketball smashed through Duke's one hand, his abdomen and his liver. Major Prostler of the Leib Battalion tried to rally his men, but two French horse guns swept them with canister and they broke, reeling back toward the crossroads.
With a 2 to 1 advantage in men
Before 5:30 PM arrived the 3rd British Division made of British and German troops.
The French were outnumbered. Kielmansegge's Hannoverian brigade was sent towards Pireaumont,
while Halkett's brigade deployed west of Quatre Bras. Hofschroer described what next
happened: "Major Lloyd with 4 9pdrs moved up to the left of Rauschenplat's companies.
French horse battery opened canister fire at British 33rd Foot 1st Yorkshire -West Riding. The redcoats broke up and fled to Bossu Wood.
Then Ney sent 3 battalions (one in line and two in column) followed by 3 battalions between the road and Bossu Wood, which was now largely in French hands. Five battalions under Gauthier (of Foy's division) advanced alomg the Charleroi road, with Pire's light cavalry to its rear.
A Prussian officer, Captain von Wussow, arrived at Quatre Bras. He was carrying a duplicate message from Blucher. (The first courier, Major von Winterfeld, had been shot by Bachelu's skirmishers.) Wussow recounted his experience: "I had to ride through enemy musketry, but managed to reach the English troops at Quatre Bras unscathed. Here I found the Duke of Wellington on foot, holding his telescope and watching the attack and movements of the enemy."
In the meantime the Emperor had been reflecting that Ney might not succeed in carrying out the movement of turning the corner at Quatre Bras but instead become enmeshed in an inconclusive fight with Wellington, with the result that d'Erlon corps would not get over to support him in time. But Napoleon considered that Ney should be able to carry out his primary mission of keeping Wellington from joining Blucher even without d'Erlon's corps. (Ney did not intentionally leave d'Erlon's 1st Corps behind.)
Ney was speechless with surprise and alarm when Delcambre informed him that in obedience to an order from Napoleon, d'Erlon's corps was marching off toward St.Amand to attack the Prussians at Ligny. How could the Emperor expect him to hold up an army with three battle-weary divisions ?
Ney decided to countermand Napoleon's order to d'Erlon.
Meanwhile Count d’Erlon had moved from the high road between Gosselies and Frasnes upon the
Roman Road leading towards Wagnele, and his advance had just come in sight of the field
of battle when he received counter-orders from Marshal Ney.
Luneburg Battalion captured Pireaumont.
Due to heavy artillery fire the Hanoverian troops were ordered to lie down.
General Charles Alten writes: "Both sides now engaged in a heavy artillery
bombardement, and the enemy tried several times to force the left flank, consisting of my
division. I sent off the 1st Luneburg Battalion to drive him again out of the village of
Pireaumont, to our fore, which the Brunswick infantry had been forced to leave.
The official Hanoverian report added: "An English battalion and two companies of Brunswick
jagers were the only troops that had until now been available to offer the enemy resistance
on the left wing. They had just been attacked with such force, that they had been driven out
of the village of Pireaumont and pushed back so far that the enemy skirmishers were able to
fire on the head of the column of the 1st Hanoverian Brigade on the road.
The French infantry attempted to retake Pireaumont. They came with stronger force but the Allies had already 2 Hanoverian battalions and 2 companies in the village, and 2 more Hanoverian battalions behind it. The French attack was beaten off.
Halkett's British brigade, followed by two Brunswick battalions (Life, and 1st Line) reached
the fields of tall rye. The Brunswickers took up their positions in the ditches along the
French cuirassiers captured the color of the 69th Foot
Ney learned that d'Erlon's powerful I Army Corps had moved towards Ligny. This meant that there were no reinforcements for Ney. He was outnumbered and could not now crush the enemy.
Ney sent for Guiton's Cuirassier Brigade in one last attempt to win. The heavy cavalry charged with outstretched sabers, but without any support and without horse artillery. The British 69th Foot fired a volley at 30 paces. The British square was charged by the 8th Cuirassiers and broken up. Cuirassier Henry with the help of Maréchal-des-logis Massiet jumped to the ground and picked up the king's color of the II Battalion of the 69th (the South Lincolnshire) from the arms of ensign Clarke who had been hacked down by 23 saber cuts. For this, he received the Legion of Honour.
American historian John Elting writes: "The 69th at once ordered its regimental tailors to make up a new flag, and denied any loss. Unfortunately, Napoleon had already announced the capture." (Elting - "Swords Around a Throne" p 352)
The British color was not the only one taken by the French cavalry. W.Y.Carman wrote: "At Quatre Bras the French cavalry general, Donzelot [sic], captured the colours of the British 69th and also a Dutch colour. These were eventually sold in 1909 to an English officer. The Dutch colour was brought to me in 1956 for identification and I recognized it as the original relic. I was able to arrange that it went to the Netherlands Army Museum at Leiden. There it was identified as from the 2nd 'Nassauche Ligte Infanterie'. Only the centre remained at the time. On the light yellow silk was embroidered the shield of the Orange-Nassau coat of arms. The crowned rampant lion was on field filled (with) billets. ... The crown at the top showed five hoops and the oval area was limited by a wreath. The remnant was not in the best condition." (- Letter from W.Y.Carman in Tradition Magazine # 31)
The cuirassiers also scattered the British 33rd Foot. "The 73rd were panicked by the fate of the 69th, and they too broke and ran for the wood. The 33rd formed on a knoll, became the target of horse battery, which cut them up with canister, causing them to follow the others who had broken." (Williams - "Waterloo ..." p 220)
The brave 30th Foot held their ground.
The brave cuirassiers reached Quatre Bras. Wellington reacted immediately, he formed 2 Brunswick battalions in squares and posted them near the croassroads. Kuhlmann's horse battery had come on ahead and opened fire.
Around 6:30 PM the British Foot Guards arrived. Their artillery deployed behind the ditch occupied by the Luneberg Battalion. It took the Foot Guards almost two hours to reach the southern edge of Bossu Wood, for the French infantry had disputed every tree and shrub of it. Also the Nassauers retook lost ground.
When the Foot Guards emerged from the wood in a broken line, heading for the Grand Pierrepont Farm, they and the adjoining Brunswickers were pounded by French artillery, then attacked by Pire's lancers and driven back into the wood.
Other sources claim that the charge was made by Pire's 6th Chasseurs and 1st Chasseurs. The green-clad chasseurs attacked, forcing some of the Allied infantry into squares.
They also caught the Foot Guards, the creme-de-lacreme of the British infantry, formed in line and in the open. The French charged from a "concealed positions in a depresion near Pierrepont" and routed the British Guard within a moment. [- Source: GdD Pire's letter to GdD Reille, June 25th 1815, in Arch. Serv. Hist.]
The chasseurs cut the guardsmen down inflicting very heavy casualties. Approx. 500 redcoats were killed and wounded, the survivors fled in panic towards the Bossu Wood. The French infantry followed them and their voltigeurs retook some of the lost terrain.
Meanwhile the 7th Cuirassiers attacked one of Saxe-Weimar's battalions.
Picture: British infantry in combat, by Keith Rocco > .
At 7 PM fresh reinforcements arrived for Wellington, these were 1st and 3rd Brunswick Light Battalions, and von Kruse's 2,800 Nassauers. Wellington ordered the Foot Guards, the 3rd and 5th Division to move forward. Prince of Orange moved his Netherlands troops to eject the French from the Bossu Wood. The heavily outnumbered French troops were pushed back. Allies had maintained their positions they had held that morning.
Night fell and the fighting died down.
Officer Basil Jackson of the Staff Corps was on the road from Brussels and saw the evidence
of the raging battle: "... we ... began to meet wounded men and stragglers ... There was
quite a stream of disabled soldiers on the road, habited in red, blue or black ...
some of our friends, belonging on the Staff, gave us in the meantime, an account of
the battle; all agreeing that the Duke had never before been so severely pressed, or
had so much difficulty to maintain his position." [*1]
Ney had little to reproach himself for in the day's proceedings. Thrown into his command at the eleventh hour, with only three infantry divisions and small cavalry force, he had by skill and courage succeeded in fulfilling the intent of his original orders: he had prevented Wellington from aiding the Prussians for the whole of the 16th. At Ligny the Prussians stood alone and were crushed. Ney however can be partially blamed for the mess with d'Erlon's corps.
Wellington had less with which to be content. He had fought the most confusedd battle of his military career. His staff had let him down badly over the concentration of his army. Fortunately, though, his Netherland, German and British troops had all worked well together.
American military historian, Colonel John Elting writes: "Had Davout, instead of Ney, commanded Napoleon's left wing, there can be little doubt that Quatre Bras would have been a French victory. Even thirteen-thumbed Michel Ney, outnumbered and quite possibly under the handicap of a thudding hangover, fought Wellington to a draw there, giving somewhat more punishmnet than he took. Victory at Quatre Bras would have shifted the fortunes of that campaign and probably of the whole war." (Elting - "Swords Around a Throne" p 644)
"Wellington reported Quatre Bras as an English victory, won over superior forces
[actually the Duke enjoyed 2 to 1 advantage], and so it has remained in British history.
As for the hangover, belgian legend has it that Ney and his staff had billeted themselves
on a Belgian dignitary who was famous for his wine cellar, which they thoroughly
At Quatre Bras Marshal Ney lost 4,140 men. The French also captured British color.
Ney also successfully stopped any of Wellington's forces going to the aid of Blücher's
Sources and Links.
Hofschroer - "1815: The Waterloo Campaign"
Chandler - "Waterloo - the Hundred Days"
Chandler - "Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars"
Elting - "Swords Around a Throne"
Napoleonic Wars (maps)
Prince of Orange
Hendrik Baron de Perponcher
Marshal Michel Ney
Pictures of Nassau Troops.
Pictures of Dutch / Belgian Troops.
Pictures of Brunswick Troops.
Travel to Quatre Bras
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