Battle of Waterloo: Two Armies vs One
June 1815
Read a Prussian, a British, a French account of this battle; you may easily be led to believe
that you are reading about three different battles. This battle is known to the British as Waterloo,
to the French it is Mont St-Jean, and to the Prussians it is La Belle Alliance,
for the inn where Blucher proposed the name to Wellington
as appropriately commemorative of their successful alliance.

1. Introduction: from Elba to Paris.
- - - Napoleon returns. >
- - - "I will fix Bonaparte !" >
- - - Napoleon enters Paris. >
- - - Map: France's resources "were stretched pathetically thinly." >
2. The Hundreds Days
- - - "We are too strong to be attacked here." >
- - - The French stormed the Charleroi bridge. >
- - - General Bourmont deserted to the Allies. "A cur is always a cur." >
- - - Battle of Gilly. >
- - - The Nassauers. >
3. Two Battles: Quatre Bras & Ligny.
4. Battle of Waterloo / La Belle Alliance
- - - In the morning.
- - - - - - Breakfast. >
- - - - - - Emperor's orders to Grouchy and Soult. >
- - - - - - "They are Prussians, aren't they ?" "Yes, sire." >
- - - Beginning of the battle and the attack on Hougoumont.
- - - - - - Hougoumont and its defenders. >
- - - - - - The first French attacks on Hougoumont. >
- - - - - - Artillery duel. >
- - - - - - The gates of chateau. >
- - - - - - French howitzers set the buildings alight. >
- - - - - - Skirmish fire and artillery bombardement continued
- - - - - - to the last minutes of the battle. >
- - - Attack of Erlon's infantry columns.
- - - - - - Quiot's brigade vs Kempt's brigade. >
- - - - - - Donzelot's division vs Bijlandt's brigade. >
- - - - - - Grenier's brigade vs Pack's brigade. >
- - - - - - Attacks on Papelotte Farm. >
- - - - - - Map. >
- - - Cavalry charges.
- - - - - - The charge of Allied cavalry. >
- - - - - - Erlon's corps after the charge. >
- - - - - - The French lancers and cuirassiers fell on the
- - - - - - British dragoons and did terrible execution. >
- - - - - - The charges of French cavalry against Allies squares. >
- - - The French captured La Haye Sainte.
- - - - - - The Green Rascals. >
- - - - - - The first French attack on La Haye Sainte. >
- - - - - - "On this spot 17 Frenchmen already lay dead, and their bodies
- - - - - - served as a protection to those who pressed after them..." >
- - - - - - The gate was battered down with axes, the wall was scaled
- - - - - - and the French bursted into the farmyard. >
- - - - - - The French inside the farm. >
- - - - - - The French tirailleurs and artillery pushed beyond La Haye Sainte. >
- - - Napoleon's Guard Infantry at Waterloo.
- - - The Prussian army at Waterloo.
- - - - - - Map. >
- - - - - - Between 4:00 and 4:30 pm Bulow's corps fell upon Napoleon's exposed flank. >
- - - - - - The fighting in Plancenoit was of a particularly merciless nature. >
- - - - - - Ziethen linked up with Wellington. >
- - - - - - Blucher was no fool. >
- - - The French army disintegrated. The Prussian pursuit.
- - - Casualties at Waterloo.
5. The race to Paris.

French infantry

"One saw officers and men prick their hands
to mingle their blood with the liquor
and so swear to shed it to the last drop
for Napoleon's cause."
- Larreguy

Introduction: From Elba to Paris.
On Elba Island grenadiers and chasseurs were assigned to guard the Emperor.
"Major Raoul, carrying a brace of loaded pistols, and two Polish Guard Lancers
escorted Napoleon every day." - Henri Lachoque

King of France, Louis XVIII. On May 3rd took place a solemn entry of King Louis XVIII in Paris. He suffered from gout and elephantiasis (thickening of the tissues in the legs and genitals). One young Napoleonic officer was very surprised, "How odd ! I thought the King perished in the Revolution !"
The Bourbons were back.
"And indeed a mere 11 months in office have sufficed for the new regime to make itself detested. Notable among its innumerable mistakes has been to alienate the army. ... Of course the army had had to be cut down to a peacetime footing. Louis XVIII's government had inherited a national debt of 759,175,000 francs and in the last years of war, though comprising only 2,58 % of the population, the army had been consuming over half the national budget." (Austin - "The Return of Napoleon" p 50)

The French army was reduced from 400,000 to 200,000 men. But in the same time was created ruinously expensive 20,000-strong Household Troops Maison du Roi. The army was to be remodelled on Frederick the Great's. No wonder if some troops 'offered shouts and insults to the royal emblems.'

Napoleon returns.
"Kill your emperor, if you can !"
- Napoleon to the soldiers of 5th Line

Napoleon was on Elba Island but many politicians were worried about Bourbon ineptitude and the growing tensions in France. The Prussians and Spaniards present in the Vienna Congress have been seeing it as 'a powder barrel liable to explode any moment.' Voices have been urging Napoleon's deportation to more remote islands like St.Lucia, St.Helena or Azores. One British newspaper was thinking that the vile climate 'would soon purge this world of our friend Bonaparte.' Minister Talleyrand wrote to King Louis XVIII "People are showing their intention of sending Bonaparte away from Elba. ... Everywhere people have been mooting this project."

The idea of making an eventual comeback had been in Napoleon's mind even when he'd left Fountainbleau... In February he'd sent his trusted Corsican secret service agent Francisco Cipriani to Vienna, to report back as soon as the Congress' dissoultion was imminent.

On Sunday after mass Napoleon announced his departure. Seeing the merchant ship "Saint Esprit" sailing into the harbour, the Emperor has realised he was short of transports. He ordered Jerzmanowski to take 20 Poles, board her, and toss the cargo of Turkish gran into the dock. Peyrusse was ordered to pay for it. At 7 PM Napoleon left his palace. His sloop passed closely by each of the 6 other vessels, where the troops were piled up. At 8 PM one of the "Inconstant's" cannons fired the signal to depart.

Napoleon's flotilla eluded both of the French [royalist] frigates and the British warships, tacking to and fro between Elba and Corsica to prevent just this eventuality.

Napoleon's landing at Antibes, 
at 5 PM on 1 March. Napoleon and his small corps (Elba Battalion, Elba Squadron, and small Corsican battalion called "Elba Flanquers") returned to France. Napoleon's landed at Antibes, at 5 PM on 1 March. (See picture).

Napoleon writes: " ... by marching quickly, I left people ignorant of [the size of] my forces. I wouldn't have succeeded if I'd marched on Toulon, because they'd have formed a correct idea of how feeble they were, and no one likes getting stuck in such escapades." Napoleon instructed General Cambronne: "You will go on ahead - always ahead. But remember that I forbid one drop of French blood to be shed to recover my crown."

The troops set off. The Poles, encumbered with boots, lances, and sabers, carried their saddles on their heads and hung their headwears around their necks. They sounded like itinerant ironmongers as they clanked along. One the way to Paris Napoleon met several troops sent by the royalists to stop him. One of them was the 5th Line Infantry Regiment. Randon writes: "The Emperor appeared on the road and halted beside his troopers. Some 100 Guard Grenadiers who were following him placed themselves off the road to his left, in line with the Polish Guard Lancers.
It was the most emotional moment of the encounter. ... The sight of the Emperor ... shook the fidelity of the men of the 5th Line Regiment." Rouget de l'Isle: "Clad in the little grey overcoat which so often had had a magical effect on the men ... he came forward to within pistol range." There is a sudden silence before Napoleon says: "Here I am. Soldiers of the 5th Line, recognise me ... If there is a soldier among you who wants to kill his Emperor he can do so." (According to Louis Marchand "Kill your emperor, if you can.")
Randon: "The Polish Guard Lancers, sabres sheathed, reached the men of the 5th Line, began parleying with them, broke them up; and almost instantly shouts of Vive l'Empereur ! rang out on all sides.
As if by an electric reaction the state of exaltation passed through the ranks of the 5th, and in the twinkling of an eye shakos were on bayonet points, and all chests breathed out vivat !"

Lachoque writes: "Captain Randon shouted 'Fire !' Nothing happened. He overheard a voltigeur say: 'The dumb bastard ! If we fired, he's not the one we'd shoot.' Then another: 'We would be son-of-the-bitches to harm a man who has done us nothing but good...."

At Grenoble Napoleon, his Elba troops and the 5th Line met 7th and 11th Line, 4th Hussars and Engineers. These troops were told that Napoleon arrived. Jube writes: "I'm told that the 7th Line ... has just left at the double shouting Vive l'Empereur ! and that at its head the colonel, after drawing a pencil plan of the gateway, had broken open a side drum and taken out the eagle, which had been immediately placed on the standard's lance head. Tricolour cockades had been distributed to the men ..."

Guiraud of the Engineers: "Our regiments wanted to follow the 7th. The gunners were charging their cannon with the fleurs-de-lis [the very medals, perhaps, Artois had been so lavish with !]. The cavalrymen [hussars] were tearing their white [royalist] cockades to pieces with their teeth." According to Labedoyere on 13 March Napoleon rode out of Lyons, escorted by horse artillery and 4th Hussars. This group was "accompanied as far as the barrier by the populace, whose voiceferations redoubled as he left."

Marshal Ney.
"I will fix Bonaparte !"

Marshal Ney Marshal Ney was on his estate at Coudreaux, more and more convinced it's time for him to retire. He declared "The Emperor can't come back ! He has abdicated. And if he were to land, it'd be every Frenchman's duty to fight him."

On 6 March one of the War Minister's ADCs arrived bringing this famous marshal order to go immediately to his command area. Ney goes to Paris and then leaves for Besancon "with the firm determination to fight the Emperor ..." Ney declared "It's good thing the Man from Elba has attempted his crazy enterprise. It's going to be the last act of his tragedy. I'll fix Bonaparte. ... That raving lunatic'll never forgive me for making him abdicate." He repeats his words about taking Napoleon back to Paris in an iron cage.

At Besancon, Marshal Ney met General Lecourbe "Lecourbe, I know you. You love your country. Bonaparte abdicated. ... You owe him nothing. If he exiled you to your estates it was because he wanted all services to be done to him personally." Lecourbe says he harbours no bitterness against Napoleon. All over the area where Ney's and Lecourbe's troops are scattered the peasantry is declaring for Napoleon. And Ney own 7,000 troops aren't to be relied on. The marshal meet with regimental officers and exhorts them: "Louis XVIII reigns over France. ... I'm counting on you. You'll see me at your heart. But if anyone among you, for personal reasons, finds it repugnant to fight this war, let him frankly say so. ... We don't need any cry-babies, male of female."

The officers began murmuring, showing Ney's words weren't altogether to their taste. One of Ney's first acts having been to imprison an officer for shouting Vive l'Empereur ! Ney became animated in word and gesture and cried "I'll march at your head. And if need be it'll be I who'll fire the first shot ! ... I'll run my sword through the first man that budges !"

Several days later Ney is informed that "a battalion of the 76th Line, which was escorting Ney's artillery park, has just entered Chalon to shouts Vive l'Empereur ! The town has instantly revolted. The troops say they want to present this artillery to the little corporal ..." And more bad news, regiment of hussars had adopted the tricolor cockade, forced the gates of Auxonne, and was marching on Dijon. Ney was in state of great perplexity, pacing his room.

Few days passed however and Ney began changing his attitude. He gathered his troops to read a proclamation. More than one anxious observer was remembering the days of the Revolution, when troops had massacred their officers. But Ney's proclamation is surprising: "The legitimate dynasty adopted by the French nation is going to reascend the throne. Only the Emperor Napoleon, our sovereign, has the right to reign over our beautiful country. ...
Soldiers ! ... Now I'm going to lead you toward this immortal phalanx Napoleon is leading to Paris ..." The soldiers couldn't believe their ears and eyes. The shouts Vive l'Empereur ! set their hearts, so long oppressed, on fire. Larreguy writes: "One saw officers and men prick their hands to mingle their blood with the liquor and so swear to shed it to the last drop for Napoleon's cause." Chlapowski writes: "I was in Bath ... when the news arrived that the Emperor had left Elba and landed at Frejus. Knowing the French army as I did, I did not doubt that they would nearly all rally to him." (Chlapowski, - p 152)

Napoleon enters Paris.
"I thought myself present at the Resurrection of Christ"

On 16 March the King Louis XVIII swore to "die on the throne" but three days later he fled to Belgium followed by his Maison du Roi. Napoleon entered Paris. Many witnesses noticed what a lot of weight he'd put on and his peculiar bronzed complexion. On 20 March several regiments of light cavalry came and drew up in the White Horse Courtyard - the very same courtyard where their master had last year taken so moving a farewell fo the Old Guard. Napoleon inspected them "at length." Napoleon had been also struck by the depth of republican sentiment evident among the French people.

Paul Britten-Austin writes: "Going through the streets [of Paris] where 'every bird seemed to the workmen to be an eagle,' Lavalette hears that 'the King and the entire court have left during the night..." At 11:00 AM Napoleon still have not arrived from Fountainbleau. The Emperor gave order for the Elba Battalion should have a day's rest; which means the Grognards won't share Napoleon's entry into the capital. On the road between Fountaibleau and Paris the Emperor reviewed another regiment At St Denis when the colonel of 2nd Line refused to join Napoleon's troops, his own officer tore off his epaulettes and "fling it in his man's face."

It was evening when Napoleon reached Paris. The Emperor, seeing his carraige could get no further, got out in the midst of immense crowd (20,000 people at least) pressing around him. The people almost stifled him. Thiebault writes: "Suddenly Napoleon reappeared. The explosion was sudden, irresistible. I thought myself present at the Resurrection of Christ." He was carried up to his appartments without his feet touching the steps of the staircase. Officer Lavalette had his eyes "bathed in tears." The crowd tried to come forward to him, but a wave of officers rushed forward and would have crushed them. The doors, with difficulty, were shut, and the crowd dispersed.
"Napoleon's unheralded return from Elba, which split France diagonally in two and startled an admiring but also terrified Europe, would lead to a catastrophe every bit as great as that of 1940. Once again Frenchmen were faced with the implacable hostility of all Europe's ' legitimate' sovereigns and aristocracy determined to have done with the detestable Bonaparte once and for all, with revolutionary ideas and French militarism." (Austin - "The Return of Napoleon" p 15)

At Vienna the vilinists who were playing as the Congress danced stopped the music, their bows in mid-air. He had returned !

In 1815 France no longer was the almighty Empire of 1805-1812.
After Napoleon's triumphant arrival in Paris, the Allies
undertook to provide over 850,000 men between them.
According to David Chandler France's resources (250,000)
"were stretched pathetically thinly."

"I'd like the Emperor to win the first 2 battles,
but lose the third." -Joseph Fouche
Napoleon's one-time minister

The Hundreds Days Campaign.
"The [French] army was brave, but there was an inevitable
lack of cohesion because the men did not know their
commanders and distrusted the generals.
[The army] was capable of reaching the heights of ecstasy and,
equally, plumbing the depths of depression."
Lachouque - "Waterloo" p 48

Netherlands Light Dragoons.
Picture by de Beaufort, France. Because the British Cabinet had refused to declare war against France as opposed to war against Napoleon, Wellington was constrained from sending his cavalry across the border. Merlen's Dutch/Belgian cavalry had captured several French patrols, but were ordered by Wellington to escort them back across the frontier. This situation continued until 13th June. Frustrated Prince of Orange wrote to Wellington: "I'm going to send back the French prisoners this morning with a letter to General Count d'Erlon according to your wishes."
Wellington had an extensive network of spies in France, and had the advantage of having money to pay them. He received daily information from the spies and agents. One of them, Grant, secured information from Royalist sympathizers provided by the Comte d'Artois.

"Napoleon still had time to decide on his method - offensive or defensive - in selecting his terrain for a national war. He would personally have preferred a national war, but the French Chamber of Representatives, the liberals, the ideologists, the 'Constitutionalists' and La Fayette had began to have misgivings: rulded by politics the sovereign had to impose silence on the war leader. Occupied with enemies inside and outside France, he had first to vanquish the latter in order to win over the former. ...
Despite kidney disease, his activity and stamina were prodigious during the 85 days of his last reign and the 96 hours of the campaign. ... but after April 1814 [his first abdication] his energy sometimes appeared to flag: he took longer to make a decision; he meditated, hesistating as if he were rather tired or unsure of himself ... Napoleon no longer had the same faith in his star, and he tried to conceal his uncertainties behind authoritative statements, a contempt for his adversaries, a kind of arrogant confusion between the wish and the deed." (Lachouque - "Waterloo" pp 57-58)

Napoleon decided to concentrate the army around Beaumont, storm Charleroi, cross the Sambre River at this point and take the Prussians by surprise and defeat them. On 14th it was raining and the bivouacs were flooded. Few campfires were carefully concealed from view. Part of the the infantry and engineers camped in the mist-drenched woods.
The Prussian and the British-Netherlands armies were immobile along 150 km of frontier - the former looking towards the Rhine River and the latter towards the sea port at Ostend. Their headquarters were 65 km apart.
Napoleon decided to invade Belgium and separate the two Allies armies. "The psychological factor was that Wellington and Blucher were only mediocre strategists. Wellington was skilful in defence but not much good at manoeuvres - slow to get going, prudent, practical, egotistical; Blucher, the fiery hussar with "Forward !" on his lips, was a firm believer in attacking with the utmost force ... " (- Lachouque, p 59)

"We are too strong to be attacked here." - Wellington.
"Bonaparte will not attack us." - Blucher.

Grouchy's cavalry was ready to reconnoitre the army's road to Charleroi. The Prussian cavalry outposts were on the alert. The Britissh had known that the French troops were gathering between Avesnes and Philippeville; but they were reluctant to believe the reports.

"We are too strong to be attacked here," Wellington proclaimed. "Bonaparte will not attack us," predicted Blucher. Wellington and Blucher had booked full diaries of social activities. Wellington was planning to attend cricket match and gala ball at the Duchess of Richmond.

The French army was to march towards the Sambre, the route stages were long, and the terrain was difficult, wooded. The heat was overpowering. Four army corps, cavalry, and the guard, had at their disposal only one bridge and three equipment bridges. A French deserter informed the Allies that the attack was planned for the following day.

On 15th June the French army - except for the III Army Corps under Vandamme - started early. But the III Corps was still asleep when the VI Corps, which should have been following it, rushed into its bivouacs. Vandamme had received no marching orders. It was alleged that the messenger bringing them had broken his leg. In the past, Marshal Berthier had sent orders in duplicate or triplicate by different messengers, but unfortunately, Berthier was dead, and the new chief-of-staff Marshal Soult was not made for staff work. Vandamme's III Corps was 3 hours behind schedule. The Guard cursed.

Napoleon was not aware of this setback and crossed the frontier at Thy-le-Chateau.

The French stormed the Charleroi Bridge.
The French light infantry overthrew the Prussian battalion
that was defending the bridge. The Guard Sappers and Guard Marines
then cleared the bridge and threw the barricades into the river.

Pajol's cavalry, backed by 
the Guard Sappers and Marines
take the Charleroi Bridge. Charleroi owes its name to Charles II of Spain. Its inhabitants live in a war zone for several centuries known what it is to be in the midst of wars and sieges. Lachouque writes: "At that time they readily acclaimed Napoleon; but they feared his soldiers, who had a reputation as pillagers and whose lack of discipline was well known. They preferred the English, who were governed by an iron fist and who paid well. However, everything is relative: they were prepared to welcome the French because they had chased away the Prussians - brutal, mean, ravenous and hating anyone who spoke French."

The French advance guard discovered that the roads had been cut by trenches and barren with fallen trees to make them unusable. The night before the Prussian engineers and infantrymen were very busy. Domon's light cavalrymen were reconnoitring ahead of the French army and made contact with the Prussians. The French charged and cut down group of Prussian infantry dressed in white Saxon uniforms and with French shakos on their heads. To Domon's surprise no cavalry had been encountered.

The sun swept the mist away, it was going to be hot. Charleroi was fortified. The bridge was 8 m wide, protected by a palisade, barricaded and defended in front and in the rear. Beyond it a street climbed towards the upper town, which was built in the shape of an amphitheatre on a hill. The slopes were cluttered with houses and gardens. Two battalions of Prussian 6th Infantry occupied the city and General Ziethen had established his headquarters there that morning. The Prussian commander was forewarned of the French attack by his outposts.

At noon the French light infantry overthrew the Prussian battalion that was defending the bridge. The Guard Sappers and Guard Marines then cleared the bridge and threw the barricades into the river. Napoleon arrived and immediately launched Pajol's hussars. The Prussians halted them with grape shot. The Guard Sappers and Marines went on, followed by the Young Guard infantry. The enemy was in full retreat and the French cavalry moved after them. The Young Guard, Guard Sappers and Guard Marines occupied the houses in the suburbs of Charlerois to organize the defense in case the Prussians should attack.

Napoleon and the 
Young Guard in 1815. The Emperor set up his headquarters in a mansion where the lunch had been prepared for Prussian General Hans Ernst Karl Graf von Ziethen-II. The Red Lancers dismounted to water their horses, while the Guard Horse Chasseurs escorted Napoleon. Napoleon was tired, he sat astride a chair and watched the cheerful Young Guard marching past.

Several infantry divisions and some artillery arrived and were crossing the bridge and the frontier. Exelmans's dragoons had also crossed the Sambre River. Pajol's light cavalry was a little bit late due to the foundering of a large number of their horses. The 1st Hussars was exhausted. Napoleon ordered several troops to cross the frontier not at Charleroi, where there was heavy congestion, but at Le Chatelet. The roads were full of soldiers, horses, guns, caissons and supply wagons.

General Bourmont deserted to the Allies.
"A cur is always a cur."

The commander of the 14th Infantry Division of IV Corps, General Bourmont, deserted with his staff, thereby dishonoring his name. There followed great disturbance among the soldiers and officers and some time was wasted to restore order. General Gerard finally managed to reassure the troops, who spat out the name of the traitor between an oath and a curse and wanted only to advance against the enemy.
Blucher on seeing Bourmont refused to receive him, saying: "A cur is always a cur."

Napoleon soon learned about Bourmont. Jardin Ainé (the elder) writes: "During the night various officers of the staff kept coming and going to give Napoleon accounts of the movements made by the different army corps. From their investigations they reported to him that General Bourmont had joined the enemy. Napoleon considered it necessary to make fresh plans, being pretty sure that this General from his treachery would give the enemy an exact account of the position of the French army."

Battle of Gilly.
The Guard Dragoons avenged the death of their beloved Letort,
the F/28th Infantry lost 13 officers and 614 men that day !

Map of battle of Gilly
1815. Ziethen's corps was in retreat towards Fleurus (near Ligny), he was falling back as slowly as possible and protected the army concentrating at Sombreffe. Constant-Rebecque had kept his Netherlands divisions on the alert. The British were quiet; Wellington read the despatches but thought the French attack on Charleroi was a feint. The peasants informed Allies that Napoleon was with his Guard at Charleroi. Marshal Ney pursued the Prussians and forced them to evacuate Gosselies, Frasnes and Heppignies.

Marshal Grouchy took Pajol's light cavalry and Exelmans' dragoons and arrived at Gilly where stood Prussian brigade under Pirch-II (of Ziethen's Corps). The village consisted of long row of houses. Pirch-II put 4 battalions in and around the village.
One battalion, the F/6th Infantry held a small wood at the front.
The II/28th stood on the far side of the cobbled road in the abbey of Soleilmont.
The II/2nd Westphalian Landwehr formed reserve behind Gilly.
The I/2nd Westphalian Landwehr and the Westphalian Cavalry Regiment were on the march to Fleurus. The 1st West Prussian Dragoons stood near Chatelet. One battery stood in open field near Gilly, on a small copse. Skirmishers were placed behind the hedges to protect the battery. The road towards Gilly was blocked by abatis. The Prussians stood in these positions until 6 PM.

Marshal Grouchy was up with the leading French cavalry, and personally reconnoitered Prussian position, before returning to Charleroi for further orders. Napoleon himself then rode to Gilly and drew up his troops for the assault. He called on Vandamme to speed up his march towards Gilly and the Guard to support Grouchy. Vandamme's infantry was to storm the village while Exelmans' dragoons were to attack the enemey on his right flank. At 5:15 PM Pirch-II sent Ziethen an information about the French advance.

At 5 PM, after 40 km march in intense heat, arrived Vandamme's exhausted III Corps. Until then there was not much going on. There were only skirmishes and the guns fired few shots. In the skirmish Major von Quadt had a horse shot under him by French infantryman. At 6 PM two French batteries opened fire and three infantry columns advanced in echelon by the right. The center column marched straight on Gilly. Four dragoon regiments moved in support: two against Prussians' flank and two along the cobbled road until they were halted by the barricade. Pirch-II received an order from Ziethen to withdraw, which he then tried to carry out.

The Prussian artillery ceased fire and left the battlefield under the cover of light troops. Dissapointed Napoleon sent Pajol's and Letort's cavalry in pursuit. The F/6th Infantry under Major von Haine covered the Prussian withdrawal. Another battalion of light infantry, the F/28th Infantry was nearby. Both units were formed in squares 500 paces from the wood called de Tricheheve. The French cavalry was without horse artillery. Major Heine spoke to his men, he called on them to remain calm and finished with the words: "No man is to fire unless I give the order."

Meanwhile the French attacked the F/28th and broke it. The French Guard Dragoons and part of 15th Dragoons cut to pieces the enemy in full view of von Haine's men. A number of men from the broken square sought refuge in the square formed by the F/6th Infantry. There is a graphic description of these charges in the regimental history of the 6th Infantry:
General Letort 
of the Guard Dragoons
was killed at Gilly. "It was not long before the first attack followed. Major von Haine led them advance to within 30 paces, gave the order to fire, and the French Guard Dragoons, were repelled in disorder. The subsequent attacks were no more successful as each repulse added to the confidence of our Fusiliers. The enemy cavalry, however, were out of control and carried out one violent attack after the other, all without success and with great loss."

The regimental history of the 28th Infantry (a former Berg regiment) described what happened: "Although several cavalrymen managed to break into the square, they were all bayoneted. Even after such a show of resistance, the enemy tried to persuade the troops to change sides. General Letort, commander of the French Guard Dragoons, recognised the Fusiliers by their Berg uniform. He thought that, since the hopelessness of their position would be obvious to them, their loyalty might waver. he rode up and demanded they desert the Prussian army. A shot rang out and Letort fell dead from his saddle. Fusilier Kaufmann of the 12th Company had leapt out of the square and given the enemy general his answer, in powder and lead. The battalion continued to withdraw but just before it reached the wood, the enemy cavalry approached again. The 10th Company faced front while the others continued their movement. At this critical moment, the full force of the enemy cavalry charge it home."

Dragoons of the Imperial Guard.
Picture by Roussellot. The Guard Dragoons avenged the death of their beloved Letort, the F/28th Infantry lost 13 officers and 614 men that day ! This battalion was then reorganised into a new 'combined battalion' with the survivors of the III/2nd Westphalian Landwehr which had suffered heavily on the retreat from Thuin earlier on.

It was not the duty of the rear guard to be annihilated, but to give ground as slowly as possible. The Prussians had stopped the enemy for several hours, until Napoleon had had to deal with them, and then they quickly fell back. But it is always difficult to try to withdraw in the face of more numerous enemy. Pajol's cavalry pursued the Prussians as far as Lambusart. The 1st West Prussian Dragoons countercharged and halted the French for a short while.

Napoleon ordered Grouchy to take Pajol's and Exalmans' cavalry and march towards Fleurus. Ziethen sent von Roeder's three cavalry regiments and horse battery in support of the hard-pressed Pirch-II's brigade. They charged several times and halted the spearheading French cavalry units. Near Gosselies the French 1st Hussars met the Prussian 6th Uhlans and 24th Infantry. The uhlans attacked and drove the hussars back in disorder, only to be attacked in turn by French lancers of Pire's division. Heinrich Niemann of the 6th Uhlans wrote: "By command of Gen. Ziethen we engaged the French; but it was nothing more than a feint; they retreated before us." Pirch-II's brigade was able to break off and reached Ligny before midnight.

The Nassauers.
The Nassauers were alarmed by the exodus of peasants
and the artillery fire coming from the Fleurus direction.

Fusilier and Carabinier
of 2nd Nassau Light Infantry. Napoleon despatched Marshal Ney with Reille's II Army Corps and Lefebvre-Desnouettes' Guard Light Cavalry Division. At 6:30 PM the Red Lancers were receieved with musket fire but after some quick maneuvers the enemy fell back. The hostile troops were Prince Bernard of Saxe-Weimar's battalions. The Nassauers were alarmed by the exodus of peasants and the artillery fire coming from the Fleurus direction.

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 ..."

Prince Bernard wrote to General Perponcher: "At about 6:30 PM the French attacked the forward posts at Frasnes with infantry and artillery, the Nassau battalion and the battery there withdrew half way to Quatre-Bras."

It was a hot night.
Napoleon was back in Charleroi, very tired he fell asleep. In the courtyard, the II Battalion of the 1st Grenadiers was on duty. Soult and his staff however were at work sending out message to various troops. The Emperor thought that Blucher, who had been affected by the sudden appearance of the French near his dispersed forces, would beat retreat. Wellington would not be able to withstand a French attack unaided and would fall back. In theory this calculation looked simple and depended on the speed of the marching troops.

In Charleroi however there was a massive pile-up of vehicles and such disorder near the bridge that Radet's Gendarmes were unable to overcome.


The Prussians have been caught flagrante delicto
as they were seeking to join the English."
- Napoleon to Marshal Soult.

Two Battles: Ligny and Quatre Bras.
"In the wagon train the Emperor's robes were ready, with the gold
and the proclamations addressed to the Belgian people ..."
- Henri Lachoque

Grouchy's cavalry signalled at 5 AM that the Prussian were leaving Fleurus and moving in the direction of Ligny, Brye and Point-du-Jour. This information was confirmed at 6 AM. Napoleon pondered, hesitated, called his ADC Flahaut and at 9 AM dictated to him order for Marshal Ney. Marshal Grouchy would screen the Emperor's march on the Belgian capital against Prussian attacks. The state entry was already prepared. Lachoque writes: "In the wagon train the Emperor's robes were ready, with the gold and the proclamations addressed to the Belgian people and to the inhabitants of the right bank of the Rhine River. They awaited only a date and a signature."

Napoleon ordered Lobau's VI Army Corps to stay near Charleroi until further orders (this was not mentioned in the letters to Ney and Grouchy).

Blucher was on horseback since daybreak. He mounted his horse and rode towards the Brye windmill, where he was loudly acclaimed by Ziethen's infantrymen. There were no news from Wellington. Lachoque writes: "Wellington was still asleep, and his reserve troops were in disorder. Only General Picton ... had left at 4 AM with the brigades of Kempt and Pack ... The Nassau battalions moved off at 9 AM. ... Wellington rose at 5 AM, breakfasted with von Dornberg, mounted his horse at 8 AM and ... set off towards Genappe."

The heat was stifling. Grouchy with cavalry decided to wait for Gerard's IV Army Corps before moving against the Prussians. Lachouque: "Nothing could be seen through the motionless fields of rye drooping in the heat, apart from a handful of Prussian troopers emerging from a fold in the terrain behind a mound called the 'Tomb of Ligny.' ... Napoleon ordered the sappers to build an observation post - a circular gallery around the windmill - and, map in hand, began to survey the scene to check the information supplied by the surveyor Simon."

Battle of Ligny, 1815.

As it was intention of the commanders of the Allied armies in Belgium to unite their armies to fight a decisive battle against Napoleon, the combats of 16th June should be regarded as part of a single battle. According to Peter Hofschroer the Allied failure to accomplish this concentration resulted in Prussian army suffering a defeat, and in Wellington's army, which held its ground against Ney at Quatre Bras, being forced to retire as a result of that defeat. Despite having made several promisses to the contrary, Wellington only managed to bring part of his army into action on 16th June. To achieve the desired concentration of the two armies, both Blucher and Wellington would have to pull back and select another position. This they accomplished two days later at Mont St. Jean, near Waterloo.

Battle of Quatre Bras, 1815.





Battle of Waterloo, 1815.
Many of the French accounts in an attempt to preserve the myth of Napoleonic infallibility,
put the blame upon Ney and Grouchy and shed warm light on the Emperor.
The British accounts have tended to magnify out of all proportion the accomplishments of
the very modest numbers of British soldiers.



"General Reille passed information given to him by the waiter at the Genappe inn
about "a concerted link-up between the British and the Prussians coming from Wavre."
"Foolishness" retorted Napoleon " after a battle like the one at Ligny,
the joining of the British and the Prussians is impossible."
- Henri Lachouque

In the morning.
Poor work by Soult's staff resulted in chaos on the roads,
and with almost no food for men and horses.
Old Guard grumbled that it all smacked of treason.

Reveille. Picture by Job. Night fell. Outside, the rain fell and swamped the rye-fields. The men could neither eat nor sleep, and they were wallowing in water. The chasseurs and hussars bivouacked in the mud together with lancers. There were horses everywhere.

Officer Martin of the French 45th Line Infantry (Marcognet's division) writes: "This was the first bivouac in the campaign. One could scarcely sleep on account of water, but there was plenty of talk about the operations. Everyone was the general and no one listened to anything, which gave rise to amusing conversations. Each bivouac fire was transformed into a political office. But this did not prevent wood from being flung on the fire, and the pot was kept boiling."

Le Caillou in June 1815. 
Here were Napoleon's headquarters
before the battle. Napoleon's headquarters were set up in the small farm at Le Caillou. A walled orchard that ran from the courtyard towards the north had already been comandeered as a bivouac for the duty battalion (I/1st Chasseurs of the Old Guard) under Duuring's command.
The first room on entering the building was reserved for the duty officers, and in the rooms on the first floor were bales of straw for the staff offices. Jerome Bonaparte and General Reille were accommodated at the Hotel du Roi d'Espagne. The generals' mess was at Plancenoit.

Poor work by Marshal Soult's staff resulted in chaos on the roads, and with almost no foods for the troopers. Hunger drove the soldiers of Old and Young Guard to go marauding and the Old Guard grumbled that it all smacked of treason.

In the night (2 AM) Napoleon received despatched from Marshal Grouchy that the Prussians were withdrawing either to Wavre or Perwes. Grouchy was having them followed and Napoleon was satisfied, he wrote: "The victory at Ligny is of the utmost importance; the elite of the Prussian army has been crushed, the morale of that army will suffer the shock of it for a long time."

Prussian General Blucher At 3:30 AM Wellington received a letter from Blucher. In it the Prussian general announced that he would be leaving at dawn and would attack the enemy's right flank with one or perhaps three army corps. Lachouque writes: "The Duke experienced an immense feeling of relief ..."

The troopers had cooked flour mixed with water
because Soult had no thought of ordering up the supply wagons,
laden with bread and meat, from Charleroi.

The sun rose at 4 am.
The cavalrymen groomed their wet and famished horses. Keeping the artillery wagons moving was laborious as they were heavy. The drums beat the call to arms. Marshal Soult, the cgief-of-staff, wrote: "The Emperor orders the army to be ready to attack at 9 AM. The commanders of the army corps will assemble their troops, see that weapons are in order and allow the soldiers to prepare a meal."
The battalions, squadrons and batteries had started out at daybreak, and then they had set up the cooking pots. The troopers had cooked flour mixed with water because Soult had no thought of ordering up the supply wagons, laden with bread and meat, from Charleroi.

Soult breakfasted with the Emperor, his brother Jerome, and Marshal Ney. After breakfast the table had been cleared and maps were spread on it. Ney claimed that Wellington's German-British-Nethrlands army was in retreat, while Soult expressed regreat about the remoteness of Grouchy's troops in view of its importance. General Reille passed information given to him by the waiter at the Genappe inn about "a concerted link-up between the British and the Prussians coming from Wavre." "Foolishness" retorted Napoleon " after a battle like the one at Ligny, the joining of the British and the Prussians is impossible."

Emperor's orders to Grouchy and Soult.

Grouchy About 10 AM, Napoleon had Marshal Soult write the following letter to Marshal Grouchy:
"The Emperor received your last report from Gembloux. You write to His Majesty of only two Prussian columns that have passed Sauveniere and Sart-a-Wlhain. However, other reports mention a third column, just as strong, having passed [Saint] Gery and Gentinnes, and moving towards Wavre. The Emperor has charged me to inform you that at this moment, His Majesty is going to attack the English army which has taken positions at Waterloo, in front of the forest of Soignes.
Thus, His Majesty wishes that you direct your movements on Wavre so as to move closer to us, to link your operations [with ours] and establish communication [with us], pushing before you the Prussian army corps which has taken this direction and might have stopped in Wavre, where you are to arrive as soon as possible.
You are to follow the enemy columns on your right with some light troops to observe their movements and to gather up their stragglers. Inform me immediately of your dispositions and your march route as well as on any news you have of the enemy and do not neglect to establish communications with us; the Emperor wishes to have frequent reports from you."

At 11 AM Napoleon dictated order to Soult:
"As soon as the entire army is deployed in order of battle, by about 1 PM, the attack to seize the village of Mont-Saint-Jean at the road junction will commence, when the Emperor gives the order to Marshal Ney. To this end, the 12-pounder batteries of the II [Reille's] and VI [Lobau's] Corps will join that of the I [deErlon's] Corps.
These 24 cannon will fire on the troops at Mont-SaintJean, and Count de Erlon will commence the attack with his left flank division, and according to circumstances, support iy with other divisions of the I Corps. The II Corps will advance far enough to guard de Erlon's flank. The sapper companies of the I Corps will be prepared to barricade themselves at Mont-Saint-Jean immediately."

"They are Prussians, aren't they ?"
"Yes, sire."

The Emperor was growing impatient and he thought about the Prussians.
He sent Marbot's 7th Hussars and one infantry battalion, beyond Fichermont. Marbot: "At the beginning of the battle, towards 11 AM, I was detached from the division with my own regiment and an infantry battalion ... These troops were posted on our extreme right, behind Frischermont, facing the Dyle." Posts were set up at the Mousty and Ottignies bridges - possibly to make contact with Grouchy, to whom Soult had sent order. Grouchy was marching towards Wavre.

Meanwhile the Emperor directed his fieldglass to the east, it was impossible to make out something glittering ... perhaps troops ? French ? Prussians ? Napoleon sent his ADC, General Bertrand, toward the plateau between Couture-Saint-German and La Chapelle-Robert.
NCO of the Prussian hussars 
taken prisoner 
by Marbot's hussars. Bernard returned, hat in hand.
"What news ?"
"Bad, sire."
"They are Prussians, aren't they ?"
"Yes, sire."
"I thought as much."
This information was confirmed shortly afterwards by a prisoner belonging to the Prussian hussars. This unit was already at Chapelle-Saint-Lambert.


"Most sources state as a bald fact that 5.000 Frenchmen fell dead or wounded
at Hougoumont but without justifying this number and not taking into account
the heavy losses suffered during the retreat after battle."
- Mark Adkin

Beginning of the battle and the attack on Hougoumont.
The French troops arrived slowly on the battlefield
and acclaimed the Emperor as they took up their positions.
The British, Germans and Netherland troops could hear
the French regimental bands playing.

Between 7 AM and 8:30 AM Wellington inspected the line from west to east, this included visiting Hougoumont and ordering reinforcements. (At 10 AM he visited Hougoumont the second time.)

At 9 AM Reille's II Army Corps passed in front of Le Caillou, followed by the Imperial Guard, and Kellermann's Cavalry Corps. Then came a single division (Durutte's) of d'Erlon's I Army Corps. The waterlogged state of the ground was hindering the movements of the cannons and howitzers.
Napoleon mounted his mare La Marie and went ahead of the troops, stopping beyond Rossomme farm. The French troops arrived slowly on the battlefield and acclaimed the Emperor as they took up their positions. The British, Germans and Netherland troops could hear the French regimental bands playing.

Napoleon had ordered his troops to be in position at 9 AM, however, this was not to be. The supply trains only caught up with their troops late the previous night or early in the morning, adding to the delays. The soldiers had to search for something edible, causing the units further dispersed. According to Peter Hofschroer, at 9 AM Reille's II Corps reached the battlefield, a long way behind was the Imperial Guard, the cavalry, and Lobau's VI Corps. Durutte's division of de Erlon's I Corps reached the battlefield about midday. The delays were making up, in part, for the time Blucher's troops were losing on the muddy roads between Wavre and Lasne.

Hougoumont and its defenders.
According to Mark Adkin the myth that Hougoumont was defended solely
by the British Guards has arisen, not so much with serious students
of the battle, but through the casual reader or visitor to the battlefield.
Great emphasis is placed in many accounts of the fight on the role played by the Guards.
This misunderstanding is certainly compounded, if not caused,
by the numerous plaques commemorating the actions of the Guards in Hougoumont.
Five plaques are dedicated to the Guards and two to the French.
There is nothing to show others played an important role.

Hougoumont Photo: wargamer's model of Hougoumont in 1815. Although NOT accurate in every detail, it gives a good impression of what it looked like. Mark Adkin - "Waterloo Companion."

Hougoumont, originally called Gomont or Goumont, was a Chateau and farm lying about 5 km south of the village of Waterloo. At the time of the Battle of Waterloo, the Chateau was owned by the Chevalier de Louville. He lived in Nivelles and rent the Chateau to a farmer called Dumonceau. The Chateau building itself, however, remained unnoccupied.

Hougoumont Hougoumont was a robust compound surrounded by walls, with stables, barns, and houses. There was a massive gate on the south side, leading to an inner courtyard.

The compound itself faced the Allies. There was a garden, whose walls extended eastward for approx. 200 yards, and beyond it was an orchard. It all, however, was known only to the Allied troops who were occupying the farm, all the French could see from their positions were trees and few buildings.

At about 09.30 AM the 1st Battalion of Nassau was brought to Hougoumont. Its carabineer company took up positions inside the buildings to the south. The voltigeur company lined up with a Brunswick jäger company at the edge of the wood. The garden walls were defended by two companies, and the hedge of the orchard by one company. One company was held in reserve in the wood.

Nassauers in combat.
Picture by Knotel. General von Kruse writes: "About 9:30 AM ... the 1st Battalion of the regiment, received the order to occupy the farm of Hougoumont that lay ahead of the centre of the right flank. A company of Brunswick jager stood along the fence of the wood near the farm and, behind the gardens, a battalion of the 2nd English Guard Regiment."

The I Battalion of 2nd Nassau Regiment (I/2 Nassau) was commanded by Major Busgen. This is what he has to say: "The farm was in the shape of a long, closed rectangle. ... On my arrival with the battalion, the farm and the garden were unoccupied. A company of Brunswick Jagers stood on the furthest edge of the wood. A battalion [sic] of English Guards ... was deployed partly behind the farm, and partly in a sunken road behind the gardens mentioned ... From the measures of defence already undertaken, it was clear that this position was already occupied.
One room house, as was later apparent, contained supplies of infantry ammunition. I immediately undertook the necessary deployment for the defence. I had the Grenadier Company occupy the buildings, and sent two companies to the vegetable garden next to them. I placed one company behind the hedge of the orchard, moved the voltigeurs into line with the Brunswick Jagers, and placed one company in reserve a little to the rear. Hardly was this deployment finished when the enemy began their attack on the wood with a heavy bombardement of shell and canister."

According to British researcher Mark Adkin the myth that Hougoumont was defended solely by the British Guards has arisen, not so much with serious students of the battle, but through the more casual reader or visitor to the battlefield. Great emphasis is placed in many accounts of the fight on the role played by the Guards. This misunderstanding is certainly compounded, if not caused, by the numerous plaques commemorating the actions of the Guards in Hougoumont. Five plaques are dedicated to the Guards and two to the French.
There is nothing to show others played an important role.

Troops in Hougoumont
11:30 AM
detachment (10-20 men) of Netherland light infantry
I am not sure if they were withdrawn before the battle or not.
grenadier company (135 men) of I/2nd Nassau in the buildings
two companies (2 x 135 men) of I/2nd Nassau in the Garden
one company (135 men) of I/2nd Nassau in Great Orchard
two companies (2 x 135 men) of I/2nd Nassau in the Wood
one company (100 men) of Field Jager Corps
detachment (50 men) of Luneburg Light Battalion
detachment (50 men) of Grubenhagen Light Battalion
light company (100 men) of II/2nd British Guards in the Garden
light company (100 men) of II/3rd British Guards west of the buildings
Total 1.210 men

Dutch and Belgians (10-20)
Germans (1,000)
British (200)

These forces were attacked by half of
French 6th Division under Prince Jérôme
(1st and 2nd Light Infantry Regiment)

12.30 - 1.15 PM
I/2nd Nassau (800 men)
seven companies of II/2nd British Guards (7 x 100 men)
four light companies of British Guards (4 x 100 men)
Total 1.900 men

Germans (1,500)
British (400)

These forces were attacked by the entire
French 6th Division under Prince Jérôme

2.45 - 7.00 PM
II/2nd British Guard (900 men)
II/3rd Guard British (900 men)
I/2nd Nassau (800 men)
Total 2.600 men

Germans (800)
British (1,800)

These forces were attacked by French
6th Division under Prince Jérôme and
9th Division under Maximilien Foy

7.00 - 8.00 PM
II/2nd British Guard (900 men)
II/3rd Guard British (900 men)
I/2nd Nassau (800 men)
II KGL Line Battalion (520 men)
Hannoverian Saltzgitter Landwehr Battalion (640 men)
Brunswick Advance Guard Battalion (650 men)
Brunswick Leib Battalion (565 men)
Brunswick I Light Battalion (680 men)
Total 5.655 men

Germans (3,855)
British (1,800)

These forces were attacked by French
6th Division under Prince Jérôme and
9th Division under Maximilien Foy

Actually Wellington garrisoned all three farms, Hougoumont, La Haye Sainte and Papelotte.
Most of the defenders were German troops:

in La Haye Sainte 400-500 Germans

in Papelotte 900 Germans

in Hougoumont 2.000-5,600 Germans and British


The first French attacks on Hougoumont.
"The murderous fire coming from the buildings, the garden wall
and orchard hedge halted the French."
- Major Busgen of the Nassauers

General Reille Artillery of Reille's II Army Corps opened fire and the Allied batteries immediately responded. Captain Sandham's Battery claims to have fired the first Allies cannon shot of the battle - a claim disputed by Cleeve's Battery of King's German Legion. At about midday, GdD Reille decided to send light infantry into the Hougoumont wood and see what would happen. To begin the attack Reille selected Jerome's Bonaparte's division.

Prince Jerome Bonaparte Jerome did not owe his command to any particular military ability; in fact, his performance as commander of the Westphalian troops during Napoleon's invasion of Russia had been a failure. Within the army, Jerome was better known for his scandalous American wife, whom Napoleon had refused to allow into France.
Jerome ordered the 1st Light to attack the wood. (Two days earlier the 1st Light formed in squares had thrown back Wellington's cavalry at Quatre Bras.) The light infantrymen had barely taken up their positions before Hougoumont when the order came to advance into the wood. They immediately formed themselves in three columns and moved forward screened by skirmishers. The French skirmishers were running toward the trees, leaping a ditch, and getting through the hedge. They found themselves under lively fusillades from the German light infantry.

The columns of the 1st Light were hit and their officers ordered them down into a little lane-sunken that ran right along their front. The French officers started sending small troops into the wood, where the skirmishers exchanged shots with the enemy. "At that moment there were about a thousand muskets at Hougoumont, of which perhaps half were defending the perimeter of the park." (- A. Barbero)

At 11 am Petters' Netherlands battery received order to move forward and take position on the plateau of Mont St.Jean. Petter wrote that his guns were "... standing opposite the farm named Hougoumont.... in front of us was the farm ... " (Erwin Muilwijk wrote that "In a recent book by Mark Adkin "Waterloo Companion", the battery is left standing in reserve for the entire battle, see map 16, page 274.") Petters' battery and British battery under Ramsay supported the defenders of Hougoumont. As soon as Petters' battery deployed the French fired on them and hit several caissons that exploded into the air. But they held their ground and remained firing until 7 o'clock in the evening before received order to pull back from the artillery line. They lost many train horses and the battery was almost unteamed.

Jerome sent another regiment into the wood. The two units were under GdB Bauduin who was on horseback and urging his men forward. The Germans fired well-aimed shots and Bauduin fell from his horse. He was killed almost at once. The Germans became frustrated by the rapidly growing number of French infantrymen pouring into the wood. They ran short of ammunition and fell back to the buildings and the garden.
Major Busgen of the I/2nd Nassau writes: "Under close pursuit from the French, the retiring troops fell back partly around the right of the buildings, partly to the left between the garden wall and the orchard hedge."

The French reached the 6-feet high wall protecting the garden. But the Germans were waiting for them, and together with the light companies of the British Foot Guards they repulsed the attackers. "The murderous fire coming from the buildings, the garden wall and orchard hedge halted the French." (- Major Busgen of the Nassauers)

The French skirmishers fell back into the safety of the wood, where also stood their columns. Howitzer battery under Mjr. Bull (one of the few officers who wore a beard) opened fire and shells began to explode among the trees and above the heads of the French. The French abandoned the wood and the hedgerows at once. The Germans and the Foot Guards went forward and retook the lost ground.

Artillery duel.
During the cannonade the French, German and British infantry
remained stretched out on the ground in hollows and sunken lanes
The French south of Hougoumont, while the Allies north.

French artillery,
picture by Korfilm. Reille's artillery kept firing on all cylinders and several guns had been brought up as far as the Nivelles Road. Almost all the British eyewitness accounts confirm that the British and German infantry massed on the high ground beyond Hougoumont came under fire and suffered a steady attrition that gradually began to wear on the men's nerves.

Most of the British battalions were formed in column of companies (not a thin red line). It was a very deep formation with all 10 companies lined up one behind the other. It was easy to maneuver battalions so deployed and therefore ideal formation for waiting troops; but it certainly wasn't suitable for withstanding artillery bombardement. The cavalry also suffered from atyillery fire.

Sergeant Wheeler of the British 51st Light writes: "A shell now fell into the column of the 15th Hussars and bursted. I saw a sword and scabbard fly out from the column ... grape and shells were dupping about like hell, this was devilish annoying. As we could not see the enemy, although they were giving us a pretty good sprinkling of musketry ..."
A British officer wrote that one of the French batteries "was committing great devastation amongst our troops in and near Hougoumont." Bull's howitzer battery also got under fire, suffered losses in men, wagons and horses, and exhausted their own ammunition to such a point that, no more than 2 hours after the beginning of the battle, they were compelled to abandon the line of fire.

The fire of the French artillery also distracted the British gunners. Instead of targeting the French columns they got involved in counter-battery fire. Wellington had expressely forbade it but it was ignored. (Napoleon explained: "When gunners are under attack from an enemy battery, they can never be made to fire on massed infantry. It's natural cowardice, the violent instinct of self-preservation ...")

During the artillery duel part of Reille's infantry remained stretched out on the ground in hollows and sunken lanes. The British and German infantry were also stretched out on the ground, beyond Hougoumont.

The gates of chateau.
"The English barricaded themselves there;
the French made their way in,
but could not stand their ground. "
- Victor Hugo

While Bauduin's two units stayed in the shelter of a sunken lane, Jerome sent forward two other regiments of his division. The freshmen were led by GdB Soye and they compelled the Germans and Brits to retreat to the buildings and the garden. "Towards one o'clock, the French renewed their attack, moving against the buildings and gardens in a great rush, attempting to climb the garden wall and to seize the orchard hedge. However, the skirmish fire from the garden wall chased them off and they were repelled at all points. In this attack, the enemy set lights to several stacks of hay and straw close to the farm, intending to set the buildings alight, but this was not successful." (- Mjr. Busgen)

Attack on the gates. The French began maneuvering around the flanks. Several columns moved across the plain west of Hougoumont. They were under cover from horse battery that had advanced beyond ythe Nivelles Road. Soye's men invaded the orchard, forcing the Germans and British Foot Guards to abandon it. The guardsmen were chased back into the hollow way (bordered with thorny hedgerows) that ran in front of the chateau.

The British and German infantrymen hidden behind garden walls opened fire. The French stood their ground and engaged the defenders in an intense firefight. The French hauled a cannon into the orchard. The guardsmen attempted to capture it but failed miserably. The musketry however was so fierce that the gunners withdrew the cannon to a more covered position. Despite being more exposed the French stubbornly held their ground and the exchange of musketry went on, more or less inconlusively. Meanwhile the Guards had brought an ammunition cart through the north gate (it was not barricaded).

Bauduin's two regiments moved on the west side of Hougoumont. (After Bauduin's death Col. de Cubieres had taken command of the brigade.) Pressed by French skirmishers the British light troops were obliged to give ground. Bauduin's men descended into a sunken lane, and found themselves in front of the north gate. Col. de Cubieres was mounted and urging his skirmishers forward. His one arm was in a sling because of a wound he had suffered at Quatre Bras. Within a moment he was wounded again. Major Ramsay of Royal Horse Artillery was lost to a musket ball early on.

Lieutenant Legros with axe. Surprised by the appearance of Cubieres and his skirmishers the Foot Guards beat a hasty retreat, passing through the still-open gate into the farmyard and closed the big door as fast as they could. Lieutenant Legros - nicknamed "The Smasher" - took a sapper's axe and positioned himself before the gate. He choped a hole through the door panel with an axe. Then the barrier yielded to the pressure of many bodies, and a group of Frenchmen burst inside.

At the beginning of the savage melee that followed, the panicked Germans and Brits sought refuge in the buildings, leaving Legros' band masters of the field. A Frenchman armed with an ax chased a German officer, caught up with him at the door, and chopped off one of his hands. Meanwhile some guardsmen managed to close the gate. The French found themselves in a crossfire and were killed except a boy-drummer.

Henri Lachouque writes: "In Hougoumont, the show of power developed into a battle. Jerome persisted; the soldiers would stop at nothing less than a struggle to death. Soye's brigade, called up in support, penetrated the woods; the battalion of the 1st Brigade - decimated by the Coldstream Guards taking cover behind the orchard walls - encircled the farm and the chateau in the west, and the 1st Light broke down the north gateway. There was slaughter in the courtyard, in the corridors of the chateau and in the chapel. The thatched buildings were set on fire; Jerome was wounded." Some French infantrymen attempted to climb over the walls but were shot by the defenders.

Painting by E. Chaperon. Large group of French skirmishers climbed the slope in the direction of the British batteries, concealing themselves amid the tall crops. In the course of few minutes many gunners and horses were hit and the battery was forced to abandon the line of fire.

Wellington decided to alleviate the pressure on the defenders of Hougoumont, two battalions went down the slope in companies, one after the other, and attacked the enemy. The French surprised by the arrival of so numerous reinforcements withdrew and abandoned the orchard. Only a handful of men of the 1st Light, resisted the British and Germans to the last man.

French howitzers set the buildings alight.
"Between 2 and 3 PM, a [French] battery drew up on the right side
of the buildings and began to bombard them heavily with cannons and howitzers.
It did not take long to set them all alight." - Major Busgen, Nassau Battalion .

"At Hougoumont, the struggle continued unabated. The British Guards light companies, the Brunswickers and one of du Plat's KGL battalions fought with two of Foy's regiments. ... A battery of French howitzers lobbed shells into the buildings, setting them alight. The chateau, the farmhouse, the stables and storehaouses all went up in flames. The British fell back into the chapel and the gardener's house from where they continued to fire on the French..." (Hofschroer - "1815 Waterloo Campaign - The German Victory" p 81)

"Between 2 and 3 PM, a [French] battery drew up on the right side of the buildings and began to bombard them heavily with cannons and howitzers. It did not take long to set them all alight." (- Major Busgen, Nassau Battalion)

The French grenadier companies led the assault, and they forced their way through a small side door into the upper courtyard. They even took several prisoners before the musket fire from the windows and walls drove them out. The Nassau battalion and British Guards battalion followed them and regained much of the lost ground. It was the last serious attack on Hougoumont.

The skirmish fire and artillery bombardement
continued to the last minutes of the battle.

"Clearly, the disproportion of the forces involved in the struggle
for Hougoumont is nothing but a legend of historiography.
In the course of the day, the French employed ... 33 battalions
and some 14,000 muskets. Against them, Wellington committed ...
21 battalions - 6 British and 15 German - and a total of 12,000 muskets."
- Alessandro Barbero

Hougoumont after battle. The heavy skirmish fire and artillery bombardement continued to the last minutes of the battle of Waterloo. For all its ferocity the fighting for Hougoumont was a subsidiary part of the day's events.

Several sources claim that by the end of the day the entire French II Corps had been sucked into the struggle for Hougoumont - some 18,000 infantrymen. This is difficult to justify. The figure hinges on whether Bachelu's division was drawn in. It is clear that at least his leading brigade attempted to advance on Hougoumont from the south-east around mid-afternoon. These battalions had to advance 1000 m diagonally across the Allied front. They came under heavy artillery fire and the attack broke up without reaching H. For these reason this division has not been included in the number of French troops that actually assaulted Hougoumont.

The French probably emplyed 5 bateries (34 guns) against Hougoumont. The Duke brought up to 9 batteries (48-54 guns) into action already within the first hour.

Most sources state as a bald fact that 5.000 Frenchmen fell dead or wounded at Hougoumont but without justifying this number and not taking into account the heavy losses suffered during the retreat after battle.

"Historians have often stated, that the French attack against Hougoumont was a gigantic waste, in which a small number of defenders kept engaged and eventually defeated an immensely superior enemy host. However, from Napoleon's point of view, the offensive against the perimeter wall of the chateau represented only one aspect of a much broader maneuver, whose objective was to drive in Wellington's entire right wing, and the duke, knowing what was at stake, responded in kind. While the Hougoumont defenders never had, at any given moment, more than 2,000 muskets within the perimeter of the chateau, the total number of soldiers in all the battalions that were committed to this section was much higher. ... Reille's corps exerted pressure not only on the troops inside the perimeter of the chateau but also on all the Allied infantry deployed in that sector, keeping them constantly engaged until the very last phase of the battle.
Clearly, the disproportion of the forces involved in the struggle for Hougoumont is nothing but a legend of historiography. In the course of the day, the French employed the three divisions of II Corps in this sector, for a total of 33 battalions and some 14,000 muskets. Against them, Wellington committed the brigades of Byng, du Plat, Adam, and Hew Halkett, 5 Brunswick battalions, one from Nassau, .... amounting to 21 battalions - 6 British and 15 German - and a total of 12,000 muskets." (- Alessandro Barbero)


The British infantry rather than advance with lowered bayonets,
"they too opened fire, inevitably getting the worst of the exchange,
so that they started to fall back in disorder, while the French
45th Line burst through the hedge en masse, yelling in triumph."
Panic spread through the British 92nd Foot and the troop dissolved
into a mob of howling runaways.

Attack of d'Erlon's infantry columns.
"But farther to the right [of La Haye Sainte],
the combat had advanced beyond the sunken lane,
and it was clear that the French had captured the crest
of the ridge and were gradually pushing the enemy back."
A. Barbero - "The Battle"

Napoleon was by Rossomme, his spyglass was in his hand and he often pointed it at various parts of the battlefield. During one of the surveys he seemed to catch a glimpse of sometning in the distance, something that hadn't been there before. Nevertheless, all uncertainty was soon dispelled, because a squadron from the 7th Hussars of Col. Marbot arrived bringing the Emperor a Prussian prisoner with a note addressed to Wellington.

Napoleon ordered d'Erlon to attack Allies line. The French were going to come out and pound it right at the Allies defense and see if that defense was for real. They were going to punch it and punch it and punch it, and hit them in the mouth, and see what happens.

General d'Erlon Before 2 pm four infantry divisions of d'Erlon's corps began their advance. Each division had two brigades of 4-6 battalions. For the first 500 m they marched not in heavy columns but in narrow and long formations threading their way through the more than 200 limbers, and ammunition wagons that fed the 80 guns of French Grand Battery.

The soil was muddy, some gaiters came apart and many shoes were lost.
As they reached the line of guns of the Grand Battery, the firing ceased and the infantry formed up their battalions in lines, with every battalion sending forward its voltigeurs as skirmishers. Behind the skirmishers marched entire battalions. Each division formed one block of 8-10 battalions. The battalions averaged 480-580 men, or 400-485 without the voltigeurs, each covering a front of 80-120 m. In the beginning of the advance the gaps between divisions were about approx. 160-240 m. As these divisions advanced the intervals shrinked considerably.

French infantry at Waterloo, 
picture by Jean Auge. Now the advance proper began and the French had to cover approx. 500 m separating them from the enemy. The British, German and Netherland batteries (total of 29 pieces) fired as fast as the gunners could reload. "In some cases, the gunners had forced open a passage for their cannon through the hedge that bordered the sunken lane." The cannonballs tore through the tightly packed ranks. Netherland and British skirmishers banged away and fell back, they couldn't stop the French.

The marching soldiers flattened the fields of rye "whose crops "had stood almost as tall as a man." Riding at the front of the four divisions was Marshal Ney and General d’Erlon, with their staff. Actually there were not four divisional columns but only two. The two other were brigade-size formations. On the left one brigade of Allix/Quiot's division (General Allix was replaced by Quiot) attacked La Haye Sainte, while another brigade crossed the hedge and the road behind. Donzelot’s division almost reached the hedge, while Marcognet’s division was within 50 m of the crest. One brigade of Durutte’s division was far behind and climbing the slope while the other marched towards Papelotte.

"When the line of French skirmishers, closely followed by the leading columns, approached the British batteries behind the sunken lane, a wave of panic began to spread among the artillerymen. Sir William Gomm, a member of Wellington's staff, saw 2 cannons being moved back in great haste at the enemy's approach, and he couldn't help noting that this withdrawal was carried out with 'considerable bustle'. But the majority of the guns were simply abandoned.

The bulk of Allies infantry was deployed at least a 100 yards behind the Chemin d'Ohain and the thick, thorny hedge that lined it. The soldiers remained there, flat on their stomachs.

Quiot's Brigade (1.800) vs Kempt's Brigade (1.900)
The Highlanders fell back. When Sir Thomas Picton saw, to his horror,
that the Scots were starting to disband, he ordered one of his officers
to go and stop them.

French fusilier,
picture by Keith Rocco The fight began on the left. One brigade of Allix/Quiot's division came under heavy artillery and rifle fire from British riflemen in the sandpit and from the "German riflemen on the roofs of La Haye Sainte causing it to veer slightly right.

The French skirmishers stormed the sandpit and the mound behind it, forcing the British 95th Rifles "to abandon their position in great haste."

Meanwhile the French column kept advancing. The strength of the brigade was approx. 1,800 bayonets in 4 battalions while Kempt's brigade consisted of approx. 1,900 Scots and English also in 4 battalions. Kempt's men were deployed not in their typical 2-rank deep formation but rather in the far more cautious 4-rank line, because they feared an attack by cavalry.
(The previous days they suffered badly from the French cavalry at Quatre Bras.)

The rest of the Rifle battalion, stationed in the sunken lane, ought to have held out longer but "when these troops saw Kincaid's unit falling back, they experienced a moment of panic..." The French 51st Line Regiment "had reached the hedge and overrun the abandoned guns, and with the British infantry finally in sight, the French were briskly maneuvering to change from column of attack to a deployment in line..."

Before the Rifles fired a volley "Kincaid had time to see the advancing French quickly spreading out, 'cheered and encouraged by the gallantry of their officers...' Another officer of Kempt's brigade also remembered with admiration "the gallant manner the French officers led out their companies in deploying... When the French column appeared, the troops in the other battalions of Kempt's brigade rose to their feet and opened fire."

The four French battalions struggled with fully deploying from columns into lines. GdB Aulard was killed and his "soldiers took shelter behind the hedge, each man responding as he might to the enemy fire... Kincaid realized that the ranks of his riflemen were growing dangerously thin..."

The Highlanders in 1815. General Picton spurred his horse "into the midst of Kempt's men and ordered a bayonet assault: Charge ! Charge ! Hurrah !" Some French troops halted their advance, others not - and all kept up their fire throughout.

"Upon reaching the sunken lane, the troops of [French] 32nd Line Regiment found themselves in the midst of the enemy, who were retreating down the slope.... A little farther left, the Scottish troops of the 79th Regiment, the Cameron Highlanders, encountered such heavy fire that they chose to stop before reaching the hedge, content to respond with volleys of their own."

The French seemed to have no intention of giving up, and Wellington himself, who wasn't far away from the struggle, noticed that after a while the Camerons 'seemed to have had more than they liked of it. The Highlanders fell back.

Death of Picton, 
picture by Edward Orme When Sir Thomas Picton saw, to his horror, that the Scots were starting to disband, he ordered one of his officers to go and stop them. But when he was speaking to the officer a French soldier fired and mortally wounded Picton. Officer's horse was wounded by another bullet and collapsed.

Donzelot's Division vs Bijlandt's Brigade
"Having approach us to within 50 paces not a shot had been fired,
but now the impatience of the soldiers could do no longer be restrained,
and they greeted the enemy (the French) with a double row."

Bijlandt's brigade had five understrength battalions of Dutch-Belgian infantry. One battalion formed skirmish line (27th Dutch Jagers), another three were lining the hedge, and only one battalion was held in reserve. The Dutch and Belgian infantry were formed on 2 ranks. Bijlandt's brigade covered almost the entire front that was about to receive French attack, "the rest of the first line, on Bijlandt's right, was held by only 400 men of the 95th Rifles ... and positioned on the high ground above the sandpit. As the Dutch and Belgians opened up with their muskets, the two British brigades (Kempt's and Pack's) on either side and 50 m to the rear of them began to change from battalion column of companies to line."

General Bijlandt Ltn. Scheltens of VII Belgian Line Battalion wrote: “Our battalion opened fire as our skirmishers had come in. The French column was unwise enough to halt and begin to deploy. We were so close that Cpt. Henry l’Olivuer, commanding our grenadier company, was struck on the arm by a ball, of which the wad, or cartridge paper, remained smiking in the cloth of his tunic … One French battalion commander had received a sabre cut on his nose, which was hanging down over his mouth.”

Netherland infantry at Waterloo The firefight was "protracted and effective" before the Dutch/Belgians fell back. "Having approach us to within 50 paces not a shot had been fired, but now the impatience of the soldiers could do no longer be restrained, and they greeted the enemy (French) with a double row." (Col. van Zuylen van Nyevelt, chief-of-staff of 2nd Division)

Bylandt's forces eventually gave way and retreated through British line. Ltn. Hope of British 92nd Foot writes: “… the Belgians, assailed with terrible fury, returned the fire of the enemy for some time with great spirit … then partially retired from the hedge.” Except one battalion the rest fell back but Mjr-Gen. Constant-Rebeque rallied them in the rear.

Grenier's Brigade vs Pack's Brigade
The French 45th Line burst through the hedge en masse, yelling in triumph.
Panic spread through the 92nd Gordon Highlander and the troop dissolved
into a mob of howling runaways.

French drummer, by Funcken Meanwhile other French brigade under Grenier marched against Pack's brigade. Pack’s men did not attack the French until they had crossed over the hedge.
The French threw the British 42nd Foot into some confusion.

Major de Lacy Evans wrote: “Sir Denis Pack … ordered 4-deep [line] to be formed and closed in to the centre. The Regiment, which was then within about 20 yards of the column, fired a volley into tem. The enemy on reaching the hedge at the side of the road had ordered arms, and were in the act of shouldering them when they received the volley from the 92nd.”

"Like Kempt's, Pack's men had lain down at some distance from the sunken lane and remained there for a long time, but then they had deployed in line, 4-rank deep ... and advanced to one side of the hedge, while the French were approaching it from the other. Grenier's infantry, with the 45th Line Regiment ( at the head of the column, reached the hedge with their muskets still on their shoulders. Having got through, they were crossing the lane when they realized that the enemy infantry was deployed in their front.
The Scots fired a volley before the French could level their muskets, and for a moment the head of the column seemed to break up; but the French fired an answering volley almost at once, and theirs was equally deadly."

The 42nd Black Watch advanced as far as the hedge, stopped short, and rounanced the idea of crashing through it. They were stopped and thrown back by the French fire.

"... Pack, who was advancing in the midst of the following battalion, the 92nd Gordon Highlanders began to shout: "Ninety-Second, everything has given way on our right and left and you must charge this column."

French infantry at Waterloo The redcoats however rather than charge with lowered bayonets, "they too opened fire, inevitably getting the worst of the exchange, so that they started to fall back in disorder, while the men of the French 45th Line burst through the hedge en masse, yelling in triumph."

Panic spread through the 92nd Gordon Highlander and the troop dissolved into a mob of howling runaways.

From his chair on the heights of Rossomme, Napoleon could see nothing of this, except for the white smoke that enveloped the entire ridge. Around La Haye Sainte the smoke was not moving forward; there the King German Legion was putting up a stiff resistance. "But farther to the right, the combat had advanced beyond the sunken lane, and it was clear that the French had captured the crest of the ridge and were gradually pushing the enemy back."

Napoleon mounted his horse and moved to the high ground at La Belle Alliance where he continued surveying the battlefield through his telescope. "Things seemed to be turning out as he had predicted. Almost everywhere, and more and more clearly as the eye swung from left to right, the smoke was advancing, a sign that the pressure being exerted by d'Erlon's troops was proving irresistible.... At two o'clock in the afternoon, along the Chemin d'Ohain between La Haye Sainte and Papelotte, the French were winning the battle fo Waterloo."

Attacks on Papelotte Farm.
The Prussians arrived later and thought
the farm was in French hands. They mistook
the uniforms of the Nassauers for French ones.

Papelotte The farms of Papelotte, La Haye, Fichermont and Smohain were defended by Prince Bernhard Saxe-Weimar's Netherland's brigade, actually made up of Germans in the Orange Nassau and the 2nd Nassau Regiments. The soldiers were armed with French and British muskets. (One of Prince Bernhard's battalions was sent to Hougoumont.)

Papelotte was made of long, strong buildings. Along three sides of these buildings was a wall 3 m high around an orchard. In many places tall crops obstructed any attackers. The farm was surrounded by sunken roads and hedges. Colonel Best writes: "[The battle area] consisted of fields of planted corn, with hedges and bushes here and there. However, the columns of marching troops and their camps had trampled the lush cornfields flat. The heavy soil had been much softened by the heavy rainfall, and hindered the movements of the troops."

Prince Bernhard screened his position with skirmishers, and in each farm were placed 1-2 companies. The rest of his brigade stood in reserve.

At noon General Durutte sent forward his skirmishers and bombarded the farms with artillery. Napoleon sent him as reinforcement one battery of 12pdrs of the Guard Artillery. Colonel Best: "A detachment of French infantry, mainly light troops attacked our extreme left. It attempted to take possession of the hamlet of Smohain and the farms of Papelotte and La Haye, as well as the chateau of Fichermont. The brave Nassauers resisted with greatest determination. Several bodies of infantry deployed in line to carry out this attack, supported by a few guns, and with skirmishers in front."

Half of Durutte's division attacked Papelotte. The French managed to capture some buildings. After 3 pm they renewed their attacks on Papelotte. The Nassauers counterattacked and forced the enemy out of the sunken road at bayonet point. French battery fired canister and threw the Nassauers back. The Prussians arrived later and thought the farm was in French hands. They mistook the uniforms of the Nassauers for French ones.

The Prussian Schutzen (riflemen) and fusilier battalion advanced against the numerous French skirmishers. The French fought back. The fight continued until the French general withdrawal. The Prussian light cavalry followed up.


Erlon's attack at Waterloo.
The British battalions deployed from columns to 4-rank deep lines.
The Dutch and Belgian infantry of Bilandt's brigade were formed on 2 ranks.
The French column of Donzelot "was unwise enough to halt and begin to deploy." - Ltn. Scheltens
The four battalions of Allix/Quiot's division "struggled with fully deploying from columns into lines."


The deafeat suffered by Erlon's corps limited Napoleon's posibilities.
He could no longer consider maneuvering against the Allies' left wing.

Cavalry Charges.
"We (the French Guard Cavalry) ... threatened the squares,
which put up a most honourable resistance." - de Brack

Lord Uxbridge. Lord Uxbridge commanded Wellington's cavalry. He was not only an excellent officer but also a womanizer. When he decided to elope with Wellington's sister-in-law (and got her pregnant, before returning her to a tearful husband only to elope for a second time, forcing a parliamentary divorce and then marrying the lady), the military establishment in London wrongly supposed that his talents were no longer required by Wellington because of the scandal. Lord Uxbridge was a brave man, and well known general.

Lord Uxbridge having come from inspecting the cavalry deployed behind Hougoumont, arrived on the high ground above La Haye Sainte. He saw French cuirassiers sabering Ross' gunners and ordered Somerset's Household Brigade to prepare to charge. Lord Uxbridge then rode to where Ponsonby's Union Brigade stood and ordered Ponsonby to prepare his heavy dragoons to charge.

The cavalry had to descend the slope, ascend the opposite slope, and then get past the sunken road. They had to move through the Allied infantry and pass through the thorny bushes on the side of the road.

Ponsonby's Union Brigade was thrown against front of the French formation. Bourgeouis' brigade was pushed back by the 1st Royals, the 6th Dragoons struck Donzelot's column, and the 2nd Dragoons (Scots Greys) moved against Marcognet's column. Ghigny's cavalry brigade followed Ponsonby's brigade. Vandeleur's cavalry brigade moved against the flank of the infantry. Lord Uxbridge in his hussar uniform, rode ahead of Somerset's Household Brigade.

The charge of Allied cavalry.
"On to Paris !"

Household Brigade at Waterloo.
Picture by Mark Churms. Two regiments of French cuirassiers were still scattered, not having had time to reorder their ranks after destroying the Luneberg Battalion near La Haye Sainte and chasing Ross' gunners. Several small groups of cuirassiers crossed the main road. They had no hope of resisting the sudden attack of three regiments of heavy cavalry led by Somerset. The cuirassiers - after short fight - were thrown back by the guardsmen.

As they were pursuing the cuirassiers, the guardsmen came upon the flank of Aulard's infantry brigade (Donzelot's column). The infantrymen was so surprised by the sudden appearance of cavalry that they broke and fled without much resistance. Some soldiers however started firing at the backs of the guardsmen, and here and there a rider was dragged from his horse and hauled away as a prisoner (incl. officer Waymouth, officer Irby, etc.)

Many guardsmen continued charging down the slope with Lord Uxbridge at their head. French infantry skirmishers stationed near La Haye Sainte opened fire on them. Commanding officer of the 1st Life Guards fall dead, and the colonel of the King's Dragoon Guards - crying oout to his men "On to Paris !" - was also killed.

Battalions of Schmit's infantry brigade formed squares near La Haye Sainte and repulsed the guardsmen with musket volleys.

Meanwhile one or two squadrons of 3rd Hussar KGL led by Kerssenbruch made fine attacks on two squadrons of cuirassiers. It was not long before two regiments of German cavalry joined the fight. The French brought fresh cuirassiers and dragoons, overlapped the Germans on both flanks and threw them back. The Germans lost officers Janssen, Bruggemann, Oehlkers and True.

Charge of Union Brigade (Scots Greys). When the dragoons of Union Brigade came to within 100-200 yards of Chemin d'Ohain, they halted and allowed the retreating British and Netherland infantry to reach safety by passing through the intervals between squadrons. Ponsonby rode up to a vantage point and saw the French infantry was engaged in crossing the sunken road. It was a perfect moment and Ponsonby ordered the charge.

Lord Uxbridge writes: "My impression is that the French were completely surprised by the first cavalry attack. It (our cavalry) had been rather hidden by rising ground immediately before ther position. I think the left wing of our infantry was partially retiring ..."

The British cavalrymen appeared out of the smoke, whirling their sabers above their heads. "As we approached at a moderate pace the front and the flanks [of the infantry column] began to turn their backs inwards; the rear of the columns had already begun to run away." (- De Lacy Evans)
The infantry actually fired a volley that brought down some 20 dragoons. Then, since there was no time to form a square formation against cavalry, they took to their heels. An instant later, the dragoons were upon them, sabering their victims without pity, even though at that point many of the French had thrown down their weapons and were trying to surrender. The 105th Line was cut to pieces, it lost its Color, colonel and many officers. The 28th Line was also hors de combat, although suffered somehow less than the 105th.

The Scots Greys bore down on Grenier's infantry brigade. The leading battalion opened fire and seemed able to repulse the attack. Captain Martin of French 45th Line writes: "Our soldiers didn't wait for the order to cross it (the hollow road lined with hedges) ; they hurled themselves at it, jumping over the hedge and breaking ranks in order to rush upon the enemy (the Highland infantry). Fatal recklessnes !
We struggled to bring them back into order. We brought them to a halt in order to rally them. ... Just as I finished pushing a soldier back into his rank, I saw him fall at my feet, struck down by a saber blow, and I quickly turned around. The British cavalry were charging us on all sides and cutting us to pieces. ... They even cut the boys who served as our pipers and drummers."
The death toll however was not extremely high - but Grenier's brigade was nonetheless crushed. Sergeant Ewart captured the color of 45th Line. It was the second Eagle captured at Waterloo and it would be the last.

The Scots Greys then attacked the 21st Line that had time to form square. The infantry emptied great many saddles with their well aimed volley. Then however the French broke their ranks and surrendered to the Scots.

Many infantrymen who had thrown themselves on the ground or raised their hands started gathering up their muskets and firing again. Captain Clark was attacked by a French soldier who pointed his musket at the captain's head, and pulled the trigger; a sudden turn of the head saved Clark's life, but the musketball carried away the tip of his nose.

French foot gunner
in campaign dress, 1815.
Picture by Clive Farmer.
Adkin's - The Waterloo Companion Some officers tried to rally the dragoons and lead them back up the slope. Many of the Scots Greys however decided that they had not yet had enough. They attacked the Grand Battery, or part of it. There were no guns captured but many gunners were seized with panic by the sudden appearance of the cavalry. (The gunners had stopped firing for fear of killing their own fleeing infantry.)
NCO Dickinson of British cavalry thought 15 French guns were permanently put out of action after the charge of Union Brigade. Others have suggested even much higher numbersctuly ke, 40 guns [!] This is approx. 50 % of the total strength of the French battery.
In fact, the Grand Battery was not put out of action. The dragoons had no means of carrying the cannons away and abandoned them. Nobody on the Allied ridge noticed any lasting reduction of fire, and the guns continued to be the biggest killer of allied infantry to the very last moments of the battle.

Durutte's division was also attacked by the Allied cavalry (several squadrons of Vandeleur's light dragoons, and some Grey Scots). Here the infantry however had time to form squares and repulsed every attack.

Erlon's corps after the charge.
"In the course of a few minutes,
five French [infantry] brigades had been
transformed into a mob of fugitives."
- Alessandro Barbero

Netherland infantryman in 1815.
Picture by Steven Palatka. The Germans of Ompteda's KGL Brigade, the Netherland soldiers of Bijlandt's brigade, and the Scots and Englishmen of Pack's brigade advanced in support of the British dragoons and completed the roundup of prisoners.
Due to confusion the British infantry fired on the Netherland troops, whose blue uniforms ( --> ) resembled the enemy's. Shortly thereafter, having realized their error, they mistook French troops for Netherland troops and let them get away.

According to some authors and witnesses d'Erlon's four divisions were "completely destroyed", "smashed" by the British, German and Netherland cavalry. They were "out of battle" or "all in captivity" etc. The quotations below lead the reader to believe that Erlon’s corps suffered horrendous losses to the cavalry, their morale was gone and they were surrendering by thousands.
- “… they could not prevent the Greys destroying the column in under 3 minutes.” - Lt. Winchester
- “The Union Brigade not only completely broke Donzelot’s division, but also smashed Marognet’s … the carnage was awful.” - Jac Welller in “Wellington at Waterloo.”
- “The dragoons are in the midst of the enemy columns - the furious impetuosity of their onslaught overcomes all resistance - the terror stricken masses, paralyzed by this sudden apparition of cavalry amongst them …” - Siborne “History of the War in France and Belgium 1815”
- “The column that was charged by the Royals was broken and the greater part taken prisoner.” - Lt. Shelton of 28th Foot

Erlon’s corps suffered heavy casualties, there is no doubt about it.
However their casualties were due to several things:

  • - the capture of La Haye Sainte was very costly
  • - they also lost men during the attacks on Papelotte
  • - they lost heavily in the debacle of the rush to escape the battlefield at the end
  • - they lost many more due to desertions during the days following the defeat

    De Erlon’s corps was able to rally after the cavalry charge and resumed attacks on all three farms: Papelotte and Frichermont and La Haye Sainte, just in front of Wellington's nose. Out of the three farms two were taken.

    However the deafeat suffered by Erlon's corps limited Napoleon's posibilities. He could no longer consider maneuvering against the Allies' left wing.

    The French lancers and cuirassiers fell on
    the British dragoons and did terrible execution.

    French lancers fanned out and started a mopping-up operation
    over the entire length of the ground where catastrophe
    had struck Erlon's infantry.

    Napoleon watched the rout and ordered a cuirassier division (four weak regiments) to counterattack. General Jacquinot also watched the rout of Erlon's infantry and sent two lancer regiments against the Allied cavalry.

    Lord Uxbridge returned to the Allied lines and met Wellington surrounded by his staff officers and foreign military attaches behind La Haye Sainte.

    French lancers defeat Scots Greys.
Part of picture by Brian Palmer. Meanwhile the French lancers fanned out and started a mopping-up operation over the entire length of the ground where catastrophe had struck Erlon's infantry. The lancers fell on the British cavalry. Many dragoons dashed up the slope, and everyone tried to save his own skin. Sir Ponsonby together with his adjutant, Mjr Reignolds made a dash to own line, and a French lancer began pursuing them. While they were crossing a plowed field, Ponsonby's horse got stuck in the mud and in an instant, the lancer was upon him. Ponsonby threw his saber away and surrendered.
    Reignolds came to his aid, but the lancer compelled both of them to dismount under the threat of his lance. At that moment, a group of Scots Grays happened to pass a short distance away, saw the three and galloped shouting in their direction with the idea of liberating Sir Ponsonby. "In a flash, the Frenchman killed the general and his major with 2 blows of his lance then charged the oncoming dragoons striking down 3 in less than a minute. The others abandoned the combat completely incapable of holding their own ..."

    Barbero writes: "In the memories of Waterloo, the French lancers, galloping at will over the battlefield, sending saber-armed cavalry fleeing before them, and calmly stopping to finish off the wounded without even having to dismount, appear as an image of vivid horror." NCO Dickson remembered how his comrades had been surrounded and struck down, slipping in the mud and trying to ward off the lance blows with their hands.

    The cuirassiers made at least an equal contribution to the pursuit and destruction of the British heavy cavalry. Captain Hamilton's body was found the next day, missing both arms and with a bullet in the heart. Lord Somerset escaped the pursuit of the cuirassiers. After the battle only 1 or 2 men reported out of an entire squadron of the 1st Dragoon Guards.

    The lancers were finally counteraatcked by fesh Allied cavalry. General Vandeleur brought two regiments of British light dragoons. Commander of the 12th Light Dragoons was wounded in both arms and lost control of his horse, which carried him into the midst of the lancers. He received a saber cut to his head and lost consciousness. When he regained consciousness, he was lying in the mud, and a lancer delivered a thrust that punctured his lungs. He lost consciousness again.

    The 12th Light Dragoons suffered horrible casualties. Before the charge there were more than 300 men in the ranks. After the fight however only 94 remained in the three squadrons. Some lost their horses during the fight and were therefore of no more use. Some were taken prisoner by the lancers and rejoined the regiment only on the next day.

    Netherlands light cavalry General Ghigny decided on his own initiative to attack the French lancers. The 8th Belgian Hussars formed the first line, while the 4th Dutch Light Dragoons were in the second line. The hussars were led by Duvivier, a napoleonic veteran and an officer of the Legion of Honor. The two fresh regiments were too much for the lancers. Duvivier's men scattered the French within moments.
    2nd Carabiniers fighting
with French cuirassiers
at Waterloo. General Trip led three regiments of Dutch and Belgian carabiniers against the French cuirassiers. The 1st (Dutch) Carabiniers were led by Lt-Col. Coenegracht, the 2nd (Belgian) Carabiniers by Col. de Bruijn, and the 3rd (Dutch) Carabiniers by Lt-Col. Lechleitner. The two sides met each other west of La Haye Sainte. Then the two lines clashed and after a short fight the French fell back to the bottom of the slope.

    Charges of French cavalry against Allies squares.
    "At 4 o'clock our square was a perfect hospital,
    being full of dead, dying, and mutilated bodies."
    Wellington appeared very "thoughtful and pale."

    Napoleon was continuing to observe the Prussian movements. Major La Fresnaye returned with a letter from Grouchy and the news were not good. Grouchy asked for orders to move in the direction of Chyse the following day. Bad news for the Emperor.

    With the cavalry battle being over, the French artillery opened fire again. The Allied batteries immediately answered them with their own thunder. Wellington moved Lambert's infantry brigade forward and deployed behind La Haye Sainte.

    French cavalry. The Allied generals and officers, with fieldglasses in hand, realized that the French cavalry was preparing to advance in even greater strength.

    Napoleon was sending General Milhaud with eight cuirassier regiments and General Lefebvre-Desnouettes with two regiments of Guard Cavalry, against the Allied center.

    French cuirassiers attack 
Highland infantry formed in square.
Battle of Waterloo. The French charged, routed the skirmishers and captured several batteries and was in possession of the Mont-Saint-Jean ridge. In front of them were Allied infantry formed in squares. The infantry opened fire and repulsed the cavalry. The French regrouped and began advance again. "Sometimes, this psychological game took on comedic rhythms. The Duke of Wellington recalled having seen some squares which 'would not throw away their fire until the cuirassiers charged, and they would not charge until we had thrown away our fire.'
    But variations were introduced into the game. Having realized that the squares' tactics was to hold their fire until the very last moment, the cuirassier commanders started to send individual riders forward. These urged their horses very close to the enemy and took aim with the short carbines they all carried. ... The British and German officers found it necessary to send some selected marksmen out of the square - with all the risk such exposure entailed - in an attempt to keep the cuirassiers and their carbines at a distance. ... Although the French cavalry was not making much progress, Wellington's situation was precarious. The enemy had overwhelmed his defensive line, his guns were temporarily lost, and he and all his generals were compelled to seek protection inside the squares, from where it inevitably became more difficult to exercise command. As Wellington remarked a few weeks later in a letter to Lord Beresford, the enemy cavalry were moving among the Allied troops as though they were their own." (- A. Barbero)

    English officer Patterson wrote: "The French cavalry, having posessed themselves of the brigade of Dutch guns posted on the heights to the left and rear of the wood of Hougoumont, were galloping, sword in hand, and cutting right and left at the gunners, who took shelter beneath the guns; but in this maneuver the gallant horsemen were exposed to the fire of the Black Brunswickers, whose heads were on level with the slope of the hill, which proved so destructive to them, at the very moment when they thought themselves in full posession of their prey, that, being without means of spiking the guns, or carrying them off ... they were compelled to retire ..."

    A British engineer officer (sheltered inside one of the squares) writes: "No actual dash was made upon us. Now and then an individual more daring than the rest would ride up to the bayonets, wave his sword about and bully; but the mass held aloof, pulling up within 5 or 6 yards ..." (- Mark Adkin)

    "In the Hougoumont sector, the French charges, mostly carried out by the Imperial Guard cavalry, were regularly coordinated with the action of the infantry troops occupying the pastures and part of the orchard. At first, the British cavalry enthusiastically rushed into a counteracharge, hoping to hurl back the pointed thrusts of the enemy: but they paid a heavy price for their zeal. More than once the troops of a British regiment, descending the slope at a trot, unexpectedly found themselves under fire from the [French] tirailleurs hidden in the tall grain and were obliged to return in great haste to their starting positions in order to avoid being trapped and cut off by the enemy closing in behind them: in other instances, the retreating French cavalry drew their pursuers into range of Reille's infantry squares, with consequences invariably disastrous for the British." (- A. Barbero)

    French cuirassiers attack
Nassauers at Waterloo. Ensign Gronow of British 1st Foot Guard writes: "Our squares presented a shocking sight. Inside we were nearly suffocated by the smoke and smell from burnt cartridges. It was impossible to move a yard without treading upon a wounded comrade, or upon the bodies of the dead; and the load groans of the wounded and dying was most appaling. At 4 o'clock our square was a perfect hospital, being full of dead, dying, and mutilated bodies." Wellington himself took refuge in this square. He appeared very "thoughtful and pale."

    The Nassauers (see picture), the Brunswickers and the Netherland infantry, all were formed in squares and held fast.

    The Allies sent several fresh regiments of light cavalry against the cuirassiers. When the occassion presented itself, in the moment when the cuirassiers could be surprised, when were scattered and falling back after an unsuccessful charge against infantry, the Allied cavalrymen dashed forward. General Dornberg led the 23rd Light Dragoons and the 1st KGL Light Dragoons against a single cuirassier regiment. After an initial success Dornberg's men were defeated. Immediately thereafter, while remounting the slope in disorder, a fresh cuirassier regiment appeared and blocked their way. Seeing his light dragoons losing heart, Dornberg tried to lead them personally, and received saber cut to his lung. Blood started coming out of his mouth and he was forced to go to the rear. The British and German cavalrymen fell behind the infantry squares.

    The French Guard Cavalry also charged against the squares. French officer, Captain de Brack of Red Lancers writes: "Under the sabres of our Cuirassiers and the thrusts of our 4th Lancers of the Line, commanded by Colonel Bro, they (British) strewed the ground with their dead ... This success thrilled our cavalry who were now more impatient than ever to cross sabres.
    The Guard cavalry having been ordered to move forward, we marched towards the enemy in the direction of the fortified farm of La Haye Sainte, from which we were separated by a slight unulaton, a gentle slope and a small level area. The four regiments were on the same line, mounted on the main road, the Lancers on the right and then, to the left, the Chasseurs-a-Cheval, the Dragoons, and the Horse Grenadiers. ...
    I spoke loudly, and my words were overheard. From the front of our regiment a few officers pushed forward to join our group. The right hand files followed them; the movement was copied in the squadrons to restore the alignment; and then by the Guard Chasseurs-a-Cheval. This movement, of only few paces at the right, became more marked (as it passed to) the left. The brigade of the Guard Dragoons and Horse Grenadiers, who were awaiting orders to charge at any moment, believed this had been (given) ...
    They set off - and we followed !
    This is how the charge of the cavalry of the Imperial Guard took place, over the reason for which so many writers have argued so variously. ... We were nearly level with this farm, between which and us our Cuirassiers were charging. We rode through the batteries, which we were unable to drag back with us. We turned back and threatened the squares, which put up a most honourable resistance."

    British infantrymen 
being cut down by 
French cuirassiers French cuirassier 
vs highlander at Waterloo. The British claim that not a single square was broken. Siborne wrote that one square had a side "completely blown away and dwindled into a mere clump."

    The French however disagree with the British. General Delort of the cuirassiers claims that: "several squares were broken." Brigadier (then private) Pilloy of the French cuirrasiers wrote that he charged three times against a British square finally riding "over and through it". (E. Tattet - “Lettres du brigadier Pilloy ...” in Carnet de la Sabretache, Vol 15th)

  • ~

    A fight ensued around the loopholes of the farmyard.
    The French tirailleurs grabbed the barrels of the
    German's rifles and tried to wrest them out of their hands.
    When they gained control over one of the loopholes the
    French standing on the outside the wall started firing
    into the yard, using the loaded muskets that his comrades
    passed him, one after the other.

    The French captured La Haye Sainte.
    "Unlike Hougoumont, whose possesion was not critical to either side,
    La Haye Sainte was vital to both" - Mark Adkin

    La Haye Sainte in 20th Century, 
by Mark Adkin At Waterloo Wellington's troops garrisoned several strongpoints: La Haye Sainte, Hougoumont, Papelotte and La Haye. There were several differences between Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte. Hougoumont was a much more substantial complex, it could shelter a garrison of 2,000 infantrymen, while within the perimeter of La Haye Sainte Mjr. Baring had less than 500 men.

    Wellington had amassed his troops in huge numbers behind Hougoumont that the French were never able to cut off the garrison from the bulk of the army and all reinforcements and ammunition carts continued to enter the farmyard through the north gate. By contrast, behind La Haye Sainte, Wellington's line was thin and under heavy fire from the French Grand Battery. There is some evidence to suggest that Napoleon insited the farm must be taken at any cost. The French infantry and cavalry brought the garrison of La Haye Sainte to the verge of isolation.

    The location of La Haye Sainte gave the farm huge tactical importance to both, Napoleon and the Allies. For Napoleon to capture it meant he had secured a springboard from which to launch a final attack on Allies' center. Unfortunately little had been done to prepare the strongly-built farm for the defence. Furthermore, an adequate supply of ammunition had not been secured.

    Old photo of La Haye Sainte "Unlike Hougoumont, whose possesion was not critical to either side, La Haye Sainte was vital to both. ... A garrison of 400 indicates that it is likely Wellington underestimated its importance, at least initially. And whoever ordered Baring's pioneers and tools to Hougoumont on the night of 17/18 June had not got his tactical thinking straight... The bungled ammunition supply was another indication that the Anglo-Allied high command only belatedly appreciated the significance of this outpost... Because Baring lacked both tools and timber, the loopholes were few and there were no platforms built behind the walls... This meant that shooting over the walls was often not possible, and seriously restricted through them." (Mark Adkin - "The Waterloo Companion" pp 374, 376)

    Plan of La Haye Sainte
    Plan of La Haye Sainte Farm. (based on picture from "Waterloo Companion")
    Major Baring with a single KGL light battalion was detached to defend La Haye Sainte. "... I was ordered, immediately on arriving there, to send off the pioneers of the battalion to Hougoumont, so that I did not have even an axe; for the unfortunate mule that carried our entrenching tools was lost the day before. As day broke on the 18th June, we tried by all possible means to put the place (La Haye Sainte) in a state of defence ..."
    - Major Baring of KGL

    "The Green Rascals" (KGL).
    Les Coquins Verts.

    von Ompteda La Haye Sainte was defended by one battalion from Ompteda's 2nd KGL Brigade. This battalion (II Light Battalion) was commanded by Major George Baring. He was a seasoned officer, with at least 10 years active duty. The second in command was Major Bosewiel.
    The 403 Germans were armed with Baker rifles and dressed in green uniiforms.

    The Les Coquins Verts (Green Rascals) were well trained and disciplined unit. They were known for their excellence and their fighting ability. It was one of the most battle-experience units at Waterloo. Battle honors: Venta del Pozo.

    The first French attack on La Haye Sainte.
    The musket and rifle fire was such
    that soon the farm was surrounded
    and covered by white smoke.

    Major Baring writes: "Some [French] skirmishers commenced the attack. I made the men lie down, and forbade all firing until the enemy were quite near. The first shot broke the bridle of my horse close to my hand, and the second killed Major Bosewiel, who was standing near me. The enemy did not skirmish for very long, but immediately advanced over the height, with two close columns, one of which attacked the buildings, and the other threw itself en masse into the orchard, showing the greatest contempt for our fire."

    Fight for La Haye Sainte, 
1:30-2:30 PM Around 1.30 PM the French tirailleurs (of Charlet's brigade) attacked and captured the orchard. The German riflemen retired into the buildings. The musket and rifle fire was such that soon the farm was surrounded and covered by white smoke. Bosewiel was killed. The divisional commander, von Alten, ordered up the Luneberg Light Battalion of 8 companies (under von Klencke) and 2 companies of I Light KGL (under von Gilsa and Marszalek) to counter-attack so they might relieve the pressure on La Haye Sainte.

    Baring and group of his soldiers went outside the farm and merged with the newcomers. Suddenly from nowhere the French cuirassiers charged; instead of forming a square or retiring into the barn, the infantrymen ran back towards the ridge whence they had come. Von Klencke was killed, some of his men were slaughtered, others fled in panick towards allies line. Only few managed to reach La Haye Sainte. The French tirailleurs followed the riflemen, captured the small garden behind the farm and fired on those situated on the roof.

    Baring writes: "Colonel von Klencke now came to my aid with the Luneburg battalion. We immediately recommedned the attack, and he made the enemy give way, when I perceived a strong line of cuirassiers from in front of the orchard; at the same time Captain Meyer came to me and reported that the enemy had surrounded the rear garden, and it was not possible to hold it anay longer. I gave him orders to fall back into the buildings, and assist in their defence."

    However after the repulse of d'Erlon's corps by British cavalry, the French abandoned La Haye Sainte. Officer Graeme of KGL wrote: "A party of our men sallied out and pursued the crowd [of retreating French infantrymen] a considerable way up towards La Belle Alliance."

    "On this spot 17 Frenchmen already lay dead, and their bodies
    served as a protection to those who pressed after them..."

    A fight ensued around the loopholes of the farmyard.
    The French grabbed the barrels of the German's rifles
    and tried to wrest them out of their hands.

    After the first attack on La Haye Sainte only approx. 300 riflemen were still in the ranks. Ompteda sent to La Haye Sainte reinforcements: 2 companies of I Light Btn. and 1 company of V Line Btn.
    Baring regrouped his troops:
    - 6 comp. of II Light Btn. (barn, piggery, house). They wore green uniforms and were armed with rifles.
    - 2 companies of I KGL Light Btn. (garden). They wore green uniforms and were armed with rifles.
    - 1 company of V KGL Line Btn. (stables). They wore red uniforms, and were armed with muskets.
    The orchard was unoccupied.

    The second attack began at about 3 PM. Officer Graeme had his riflemen stationed on the roof of the 'piggery' when they saw a single French cuirassier approaching at a trot along the main road. When he got close, the cuirassier began waving his saber. The Germans thought he was a deserter and Graeme ordered his men to hold their fire. The Frenchman rode up all the way to the abatis that was blocking the road, raised himself in the stirrups as though trying to see over it, then suddenly wheeled his big horse and galloped back. The riflemen opened fire after him but the gallant cuirassier escaped their shots.

    The French attack "followed in the same force as before; namely, from two sides by two close columns, which, with the greatest rapidity, nearly surrounded us, and , despising danger, fought with a degree of courage which I had never before witnessed in Frenchmen ... [They threw] themselves against the walls, and endeavouring to wrest the arms from the hands of my men through the loopholes; many lives were sacrificed to the defence of the doors and gates; the most obstinate contest was carried on where the gate was wanting [the barn] ... On this spot 17 Frenchmen already lay dead, and their bodies served as a protection to those who pressed after them..." - Major Baring

    Using the pile of corpses as protection, the tirailleurs kept firing into the farmyard from behind it. Baring's horse was killed and his servant fled in panick.

    Two columns of French infantry, preceded by a chain of tirailleurs, advanced on both sides of the farm. Mjr. Baring was astonished with the contempt the French showed for his riflemen well-aimed fire. The French were quickly at the walls of the farm trying to force their way inside.

    A fight ensued around the loopholes of the farmyard. The French grabbed the barrels of the German's rifles and tried to wrest them out of their hands. When they gained control over one of the loopholes the French standing on the outside the wall started firing into the yard, using the loaded muskets that his comrades passed him, one after the other.

    Private Lindau fired at French officer on horseback as he urged his men to attack. The Frenchamn's horse was wounded and dragged down its master in the fall. The Germans ran through the gate and attacked the French tirailleurs. Lindau was searching the pockets of "his" officers when his comrades shouted to him: "Come on, leave that ! The cavalry's coming !"
    All ran for the farm and quickly closed the gate. Groups of cuirassiers remained behind the tirailleurs but their presence kept the riflemen locked inside the farm. When several squadrons of British Guard cavalry charged, some of the tirailleurs crowded around the walls of the farm, while others fell back. The cuirassiers fell back too.

    The riflemen greeted the withdrawal of the enemy with howls of derision from the walls and roofs of the farm. The British victory however was short lived, several squadrons of cuirassiers counterattacked and the Guardsmen fled behind the ridge.

    The gate was battered down with axes, the wall was scaled
    and the French bursted into the farmyard.

    The French broke down the door and both sides crossed bayonets.
    The attackers were pushed back but the French climbed up onto the roof
    of the stables and fired down into the yard at the Germans.

    Meanwhile grand cavalry charges began and 20 German, 12 British and 4 Dutch/Belgian battalions formed themselves in squares. The German riflemen opened fire at the serried ranks of cuirassiers slowly riding past the farm.

    Mjr. Baring wrote: "I could see all this going on, and I'm not afraid to admit that my heart sank more than once..." Meanwhile Baring noted that his riflemen are runing short of ammunition and sent officer to Ompteda asking for emergency delivery. The garrison of the farm was reinforced with Nassauers, it was the Light Company of II/1st Nassau (they were dressed in green uniforms and were armed with muskets). The Nassauers brought several large camp kettles, these were used to extinguish the fire in the barn.

    The French brought two infantry regiments of Durutte's division and several howitzers. The barn started burning and disappeared from the sight in a cloud of smoke, until the riflemen using the kettles managed to put out the blaze. The French 13th Light Regiment attacked the farm. The Nassauers were armed with muskets and had a lot of ammunition, but the KGL riflemen were using up their last shots. Mjr. Baring sent another note again asking for ammunition.

    The French broke down the outer door of the passage through the stables. It was here where both sides crossed bayonets. The attackers were pushed back but the French climbed up onto the roof of the stables and fired down into the yard at the riflemen.

    Defence of the gateway. 
After W.B.Wollen. The French attack the gate. The French seeing that the Germans' fire was growing lighter, attacked the side of the farm nearest the road, and sappers armed with axes started knocking down the carriage gate. It was officer Vieux of engineers who finally knocked down the gate. The French eventually broke in through the stable passage and barn entrance in the west. Shortly afterwards the main gate, underneath the dovecote, was battered down with axes wielded by men of the 1st Engineer Regiment and stormed by the II Battalion of 13th Light Regiment from Donzelot's 2nd Division.

    The French inside the farm.
    Some wounded Germans cried out in French Pardon !
    begging for life but they were bayoneted on the spot.

    French vs British at Waterloo The riflemen attempted to block up holes in the walls made by artillery fire but the French scaled the walls and bursted into the farmyard. Mjr. Baring gave order to retire through the house into the garden. They rushed to the rear with the French hot on their heels.

    Some wounded cried out in French Pardon ! begging for life but they were bayoneted. With shouts Coquin ! the French fired after the fleeing Nassauers. Baring attempted to defend the small garden but quickly found it untenable. His last men abandoned the farm sometime around 6.15 PM and sprinted up the slope. The French caught up with some and killed. "... many of the men were overtaken by the enemy, who vented their fury upon them in the lowest abuse..." (- Major Baring, KGL).

    The French were screaming at them, kicked and stripped of all they had before they were turned over to cuirassiers and escorted to the rear. The cuirassiers forced the prisoners to run, and when a man couldn't run fast enough, "they killed him with a saber blow."

    After 5 hours (with interruptions) of siege the French light infantry captured La Haye Sainte. Major Baring was to receive no replenishment throughout the battle, despite 5 separate and desperate appeals !
    Major Heise of II Light KGL (and ADC to Gen. von Alten) stated that the cart with ammunition was overturned on the Genappe Road during the confusion when the Cumberland Hussars fled from the battlefield. Baring reported that at the end he had only 42 men, but this also includes the 'missing'. Once these men returned to the ranks on the following day, Baring had approx. half of his troops.

    The French tirailleurs and artillery
    pushed beyond La Haye Sainte.

    It was one of the most extraordinary and pitiful incidents in military history.
    The British and German infantry stood out in the open whilst exposed to the
    merciless artillery and skirmishing fire of the French. This moment resembled
    the execution of the Prussian infantry in 1806 at Jena.

    French voltigeur The French continued their advance and their sudden appearance provoked panic and consternation among the KGL and British squares. Wellington rode up to this point and watched the French for a while.

    One of French tirailleurs fired a shot at Wellington and the duke immediately rode away. Another shot mortally wounded horse under Ltn. Cathcart. The officer left the horse to die and run on foot.

    General Alten and many allied officers lost their cool. Alten ordered Ompteda to recapture the farm. Ompteda objected. Prince of Orange intervened, and curtly ordered Ompteda to obey. The reluctant Ompteda finally ordered one of his squares to deploy into line and advance against La Haye Sainte.

    French cuirassier. Ompteda took V Line KGL and led them from the front. They boldly advanced dispersing French tirailleurs before them but then somebody cried out "Cavalry !" The French tirailleurs turned back and attacked. Ompteda and Ltn. Wheatley were surrounded by cavalry and infantry. Soon one of them was dead with a musket ball in his mouth, and the other lost consciousness and was taken prisoner by the French. "I saw Colonel Ompteda, in the midmost throng of the enemy infantry and cavalry, sink from his horse and vanish." (- Captain Berger, V KGL Line Btn.)

    The battalion was slaughetered. The British brought up and fired rockets but without much effect. The British light dragoons charged but without much enthusiasm and result. The cuirassiers were driven off only by Dornberg's cavalry (1st and 2nd KGL Light Dragoons). The Belgian 5th Light Dragoons and 6th Dutch Hussars attacked the French batteries but without success.

    Then the cavalry on both sides withdrew, with the cuirassiers halting their horses now and then to stabb the wounded British and Germans on the ground.

    French artillery,
picture by Korfilm. General Sir James Kempt had an idea to recapture La Haye Sainte with the British 27th Regiment of Foot but quickly changed his mind.

    After the farm fell into French hands, their artillery was brought forward. British officer Mercer of Royal Artillery wrote: "The rapidity and precission of this fire was quite appaling... Every shot almost took effect, and I certainly expected we should all be annihilated. ... The saddle-bags, in many instances were torn from horses' backs ... One shell I saw explode under the two finest wheel-horses in the troop down they dropped." The German and British squares were exposed not only to artillery fire but also to musket fire from the tirailleurs. The tirailleurs went down on one knee and kept up an uninterrupted musket fire. They even captured the knoll above the sandpit, and "whilst laying down, appeared to shoot their objects with great precission" as wrote one of British officers. The British 27th Regiment of Foot lost more than 2/3 of its men from the artillery and skirmishers alone. Kincaid wrote "the 27th regiment were lying dead, in square, a few yards behind us."

    Kincaid's Rifles were worn out, "less from fatigue than anxiety." Under the fire of French tirailleurs posted on the roofs of La Haye Sainte, the 95th Rifles was forced to take quick refuge in the sunken lane. According to Barbero "a great number of Wellington's generals and aides were killed or wounded in this particular phase of battle, particularly in the area behind La Haye Sainte."

    Fight for La Haye Sainte.
Film Waterloo by S. Bondarczuk, 
Russia When years after the battle Cpt. Siborne started building his huge diorama of the battle, British generals insisted that the knoll where French tirailleurs were stationed and fired at the British had to be represented.
    Some German and British squares went under severe artillery bombardement and lost their original shape. Cpt. Scriba stood in one of the Hannoverian squares. This square "lost its original shape, at first it became irregular triangle, and then a mass closed up on all sides, without any indefinitetable shape." It was one of the most extraordinary and pitiful incidents in military history. The British and German infantry stood out in the open whilst exposed to the merciless case and skirmishing fire of the French. It resembled the execution of the Prussian infantry in 1806 at Jena by the French tirailleurs.

    Prussian officer Muffling (attached to Wellington) wrote: "The Duke was most desirous of our arrival and had repeatedly declared that this was the last moment, and if we did not arrive soon, he would be compelled to retreat." But Ziethen's Prussians were moving toward the line held by Pack's English and Scottish infantry and Best's Hannoverians.

    Pack's men were so anxious that they opened fire on the Prussians. But the men recognized each other and were shaking hands. The junction of two big armies had been accomplished.

    Mameluke Ali arrived at Napoleon's headquarters and stopped long enough to tell "It looks bad" and that the Prussians joined Wellington. Then he put spurs to his horse and rode away.


    According to Alessandro Barbero, the Guard in 1815
    were quite good troops but not superb,
    a fact that has not been stressed enough
    in accounts of this last offensive.
    - Barbero "The Battle" p 264

    Napoleon's Guard Infantry at Waterloo.
    The old camaraderie of the Guard was replaced by suspicion.

    The French Guard in 1815 was hastily assembled, lacked uniforms and quality weapons. Instead they wore shakos, hats, forage caps and woolen berets. The supplies were scarce and everything was performed in haste and confusion.

    The Guard artillery train lacked of military drivers so volunteer civil drivers were accepted as "3rd class" soldiers. There was less trust between the Guard and their commanders who abandoned their Emperor a year ago, this had shaken their faith in their leaders.

    There had been even defections among the officers of Middle and Young Guard whom Napoleon couldn't replace. The old camaraderie of the Guard was replaced by suspicion.

    Less than 30 min. before the attack of Napoleon's Guard, a French deserter officer of horse carabiniers rode up to British 52nd Foot yelling 'Vive le Roi !' He met the British saying 'That scoundrel Napoleon is with his Guard over there. He will be upon you shortly.'
    According to Ensign Leeke of the British Guard it was "...a French cuirassier officer came galloping up the slope and down the bank in our front, near to Sir John Colborne, crying 'Vive l'Roi !'"

    Wellington had brought a number of units in from both flanks to support the troops facing Imperial Guard. Wellington was able to shorten his front line due to the arrival of Blucher's Prussians. It was Blucher's indirect contribution to the defeat of French Guard. The troops from the flank were Vivian's cavalry brigade, Vandeleur's cavalry brigade and other smaller units. Halkett's and Du Platt's brigades had come forward to support Hougoumont and flank the Imperial Guard. Chasse's division deployed behind British infantry between Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte.

    Napoleon's Guard vs Wellington's troops.
    Napoleon's Guard vs Blucher's troops.

    When before the battle Prince Jerome mentioned about the possibility of Wellington and Blucher linking up,
    Napoleon dismissed this as impossible. Napoleon: "After such a battle as Fleurus [Ligny],
    the junction between the allies is impossible for at least 2 days; besides the Prussians
    are pressed by Grouchy's troops ..."

    Dark blue - French troops, red - british troops, dark orange - German and Netherland troops,

    If the Prussians had fallen back on their communication lines after Ligny,
    Wellington would almost certainly have had have fallen back on his,
    which ultimately meant reatreat to the channel coast
    with a view to re-embarking a la Dunkirk.

    The Prussian army at Waterloo.
    The absolute essential for a French victory at Waterloo
    was for the Prussians not to arrive.

    Blucher's Prussian army 
on the road to Waterloo. If the Prussians had fallen back on their communication lines after Ligny, Wellington would almost certainly have had have fallen back on his, which ultimately meant reatreat to the channel coast with a view to re-embarking a la Dunkirk. The object of offering battle at Waterloo was to hold Napoleon until the Prussians arrived. [In the classic British version of Waterloo the Prussians arrived just in time to mop up the battlefield.]
    The absolute essential for a French victory at Waterloo was for the Prussians not to arrive. The Prussian assault on this village of Plancenoit was the single biggest factor that cost the French a victory at Waterloo.

    Up until now Wellington was on the back foot and would have been beaten without Blucher's army. In the second stage of the battle, the Duke said: "Give me Blücher or give me night" and this is enough to see clearly that he was actually saying "I'm about to get my butt kicked".

    To halt the Prussians Napoleon first dispatched Lobau's corps, and two cavalry divisions, and then part of his Imperial Guard. "Napoleon's force available for attacking his main enemy was instantly reduced by over 10.000 men. This meant that for the main battle, which had yet to begin in earnest, Napoleon had less men than Wellington ... If Plancenoit was lost, the battle was lost, if the battle was lost, so was the campaign and with it the Emperor's throne.... When the French finally took La Haye Sainte ... it opened up a small window of opportunity [for Napoleon] ... Ney saw it and demanded infantry to exploit it. They were not forthcoming, primarily because of the situation in Plancenoit.... He [Napoleon] had started the day with an infantry reserve of 36 infantry battalions ... Keeping Plancenoit cost him 25 of them... In the event only 8 battalions of fresh troops were committed to the last attack on Wellington's ridge, of these only 5 were in the front line." (- Adkin pp 381-2, 390-1)

    Between 4:00 and 4:30 pm Bulow's corps
    fell upon Napoleon's exposed flank.

    Prussian cannonballs began falling not far from Napoleon.
    The Emperor turned his telescope in the direction
    the shots came from.

    "The French would have felt much less confident had they known that Prussian officers ... had been watching them through their telescopes for several hours. Sometimes past midday, Mjr. von Falkenhausen, leadinga patrol of uhlans, went as far as the main Brussels road south of La Belle Alliance, behind Napoleon's entire army ... Farther north, General von Valentini, Bulow's chief of staff, together with few adjutants, entered Fichermont and encountered a farmer, who was seized, set on an artillery horse, and made to accompany the Prussians to the edge of the wood.
    The ripening grain in the fields was taller than a man, and the red coats of a few British deserters could be glimpsed ... Valentini pushed on beyond it (Fichermont wood), dismounted and studied the horizon with telescope. Here and there he spotted a few French sentries, but none of them thought to look to the right, in his direction." (- A. Barbero)

    Prussian infantry at Plancenoit.
Picture by Duncker. At 4 PM all the cavalry and half of the infantry of Bulow's IV Corps were ready to fall upon the French. Several batteries were pushed forward. "The wounded, as we came rushing on, set up a dreadful crying, and holding up their hands entreated us, some in French and some in English, not to crush their already mangled bodies beneath our wheels. It was a terrible sight to see those faces with the mark of death upon them, rising from the ground and the arms outstretched towards us." (- Kpt. von Reuter)
    He also noticed that the Prussian infantry was in excellent spirit and greeted the heavy cannons with cheers.

    The French cavalry patrols were attacked and dispersed. Bulow then sent 2 battalions to link up with Wellington and protect his exposed flank. The Fus/18th and Fus/3rd Silesian Landwehr marched toward Frichermont, Smohain and Papelotte. The Prussian infantry met the Nassauers and ... opened fire. The Nassauers replied in kind and the musketry continued for 10 minutes before both sides realized their mistake. Peter Hofschroer writes: "This symbolic union of German soldier with German soldier marked the beginning of the end of the battle for Napoleon."

    Charges by Domon's and Subervie's lancers and chasseurs slowed down the Prussian advance. One of the lancer regiment was led by Col. Surd who previous day after the combat at Gennappe had one arm amputated but insisted on maintaining command of his unit.
    The cavalry charges were followed by a skirmish battle between the French and Prussian infantry. GdD Mouton's VI Army Corps was outnumbered by the Prussians and to prevent outflanking his right wing Mouton began retreating.

    Prussian General Bulow. Bulow writes: "It was half past four in the afternoon, when the head of our column advanced out of the Frichermont wood. The 15th Brigade under Gen. von Losthin deployed quickly into battalion columns, throwing out skirmishers. The brigade's artillery, along with the Reserve Artillery (of Bulow's Corps), followed up rapidly, seeking to gain the gentle ridge."
    Hiller's 16th Brigade moved out to the left.
    Prussian cannonballs began falling not far from Napoleon, some hit La Belle Alliance filled with wounded French soldiers. Napoleon turned his telescope in the direction the shots came from.

    The French infantry tried to halt the Prussians with a very strong skirmish line but one of the Prussian battalions moved up and deployed, continually trying to force their way forward. Bulow writes: "The enemy disputed every foot of ground, but not with any great determination ... Six battalions of the 16th Brigade now came up to assault Plancenoit. They formed three attack columns next to each other, with 2 battalions of the 14th Brigade ... following up in support. Just as this brigade formed up behind the 16th, the 13th Brigade under Gen. von Hake arrived and moved up behind the 15th."

    The fighting in Plancenoit was
    of a particularly merciless nature.

    "... the Prussians maddened by the stubborn defense the French put up,
    were not always disposed to take prisoners." - A. Barbero
    French General Pelet found his Old Guard busy cutting prisoners' throats
    and had to resort to forceful measures before he could manage to save a few.

    Plancenoit was a big village with a cobblestone street, a church built of stone and a walled cemetary. All inhabitants fled their houses yesterday. Lobau sent four battalions to occupy the village. Hiller's first attack on the village was made with 6 battalions (the remaining battalions were detached.).

    Battle of Plancenoit.
Hofschroer, pp 121-122 Two battalion columns of 15th Regiment pushed into the village and then on the high walls of the cemetary and church. The Prussians found themselves under fire from French snipers stationed in the houses. The French had brought canons and howitzers into the streets "where close range blasts of canister would blow away oppositions as a gale does autumn leaves." The Prussians however pressed forward and captured 3 cannons and several hundred prisoners. (Bulow is however wrong claiming that already in this stage they were counterattacked by the Old Guard.)

    The French counterattacked throwing Hiller's 16th Brigade out of the village. The brigade rallied under the protection of Ryssel's 14th Brigade.

    Meanwhile Blucher received news from Thielemann that Wavre is under attack by Grouchy's troops.

    Once again Hiller's 16th Brigade attacked Plancenoit. They were supported by Ryssel's 14th Brigade. The French counterattacked and threw the enemy out of the village. Young Guard had got into Plancenoit and took up positions in the houses and behind the churchyard walls. They were supported by one or two battalions of the Old Guard.

    The 16th Brigade advanced up the churchyard and forced the French to withdraw. The French rallied and immediately counterattacked. Both sides suffered very heavy casualties. The French skirmishers cleared the streets and tried to break out of Plancenoit but the Prussian hussars chased them back.

    The decisive attack was made by 14th and 16th Brigade, and the 5th Brigade that had just reached the battlefield. The French resisted with great determination before the Young Guard was again ejected from Plancenoit.

    Ziethen linked up with Wellington.
    Wellington reinforced the weakened parts of his centre
    by moving in troops freed from his left
    by the arrival of Ziethen's force.

    Prussian General Ziethen By 5 PM the 1st Brigade of Ziethen's I Corps had reached Lasne brook. Ziethen's chief of staff rode on to the battlefield and met Muffling, who informed him that the Duke was desperate for his help. A Prussian officer was sent on to examine the situation. He saw many wounded and stragglers retreating from Wellington's positions, while the French seemed to be pressing home their advantage.
    Evening was approaching. La Haye Sainte fell and the French Guard infantry was getting ready to attack Wellington's British-Netherland-German line.

    The leading elements of Ziethen's corps joined Wellington's troops on the left flank. Mjr. von Gillhausen of Prussian landwehr writes: "Here we linked up with a Hanoverian and a Scottish battalion." Harkot: "The wavering English mistook the Prussian detachment for the enemy and fired. As the Prussians did not reply, they soon noticed their error."

    Several Prussian batteries opened fire. Captain Borowski of 2nd Horse Battery writes: "As the smoke from the firing was so dense, I could only make out a few positions, and could not see the enemy columns. At this moment, the English infantry was forced back somewhat and I was ordered to occupy a ridge to the right."

    Wellington had gained invaluable time to reinforce the weakened parts of his centre by moving in troops from his right and others freed from his left by the arrival of Ziethen's force.

    Just as the French Middle Guard was being repulsed by the British, German and Netherland troops, Ziethen's advance was breaking through the French line. The Nassauers joined the advance. The French infantry fell back without much fight.

    Blucher was no fool.
    "Despite certain mental limitations, he was a fine fighting commander
    loved by his troops, who dubbed him "Papa Blucher"
    or "Old Forward" for his personal valor, strong character,
    and loyalty to both his men and allies."
    - David Chandler

    Some authors ridicule Blucher, describing him as "rashing fool", "idiot", "very poor general" etc. Blucher was aware of his limitations, and freely admitted his need for the expert assistance of his chief-of-staff General Gneisenau to keep him along the right strategic lines. Gneiseanu believed Wellington failed to march to the Prussian assistance at Ligny and was in favour of retreating towards the Rhine River, leaving Wellington to his own devices. Blucher thought otherwise.

    Blücher was in no afraid of Napoleon. He was a tough, stuborn old sod who refused to give in, when many others would have rolled over. Two years earlier, in 1813, Blücher defeated the French at Katzbach and defeated Napoleon in 1814 at La Rothiere. Unlike Wellington, Blucher faced Napoleon in battle several times and enjoyed some notable successes (Leipzig, La Rothiere, Laon).


    Mjr. Keller of Prussian 15th Infantry took possesion
    of Napoleon's sword, medals, hat and purse of diamonds.

    The French army disintegrated. Prussian pursuit.
    Darkness began to fall and the number of fugitives rapidly increased.

    Prussian pursuit at Waterloo. 
Prussian drummer was mounted on 
one of the horses of Napoleon's retinue.
Picture by Knotel. The Prussians emerged from the burning remains of village carrying their shakos on their muskets and singing. At this point the French army disintegrated completely. Darkness began to fall and the number of fugitives rapidly increased. Some were fleeing toward positions where stood Napoleon's last reserve, three btns. of Old Guard and part of Emperor's baggage. Escorted by Prussian uhlans, an infantry drummer was mounted on one of the horses of Napoleon's retinue.
    The drums of the 1er Grenadiers beat the "Grenadiers" to call stray veterans, who gradually filled to the brim their squares that were already crammed with generals, marshals and officers: Drouot, Soult, Ney, Bertrand, Petit and others.

    Near Genappe the two squares of Old Guard came together and were formed in long columns by sections. The Prussians watchfully followed them without much bothering. The 1er Grenadiers marched through byroads, guided by the natives, and reached Fleurus at dawn. The French fugitives were pursued mainly by the Prussian light cavalry. General Gneissenau placed himself at the head of Prussian advance guard and urged his exhausted soldiers all night long. Immediately after Napoleon left Le Caillou the Prussians arrived and set fire to the farm and its adjacent barns, burning alive all wounded Frenchmen who had been brought into these buildings.

    Mjr. Keller of Prussian 15th Infantry took possesion of Napoleon's sword, medals, hat and purse of diamonds. Near Rossomme Ltn. Jackson of Wellington's staff saw a large group of Prussian infantrymen bayoneting wounded French soldiers to death. He was genuinely afraid that they were going to kill him. Napoleon's surgeon Dr. Larrey was struck down by Prussian uhlan. The uhlan robbed him, tied his hands behind his back, and brought to the Prussians.

    Wellington and Blucher 
at Waterloo. On June 19, 1815 Wellington wrote to Bathurst on the actions of Prussian Army on Napoleon’s right flank and during pursuit after battle describing them as the "most decisive." Blücher suggested to Wellington that they call it the Battle of La Belle Alliance, but Wellington had other plans. He raced back to his headquarters and wrote his famous dispatch, explaining just how he had won the Battle of Waterloo.

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

    Wellington and Blucher decided that the Prussians alone would continue the pursuit. This decision is usually explained by citing the exhausted condition of Wellington's infantry, but Blucher's were surely no less tired. More likely the choice reflected the plodding management and slowness of movement that characterized British troops.

    "The veteran and illustrious Blucher was foremost in the pursuit. Various commands were deputed to different officers, so that no retreat should be left for the convenient escape of the enemy. Among these was a small corps ... under the direction of Major von Keller; this excellent and able officer, in pursuance of his instructions arrived at the town of Genappe, at 11 o'clock at night on the 18th of June. The town was blocked up and barricaded to prevent the intrusion of the pursuing victors; it was also filled with French soldiers, who maintained a constant firing of artillery and musketry against the Prussians.
    The [Prussian] troops were not to be intimidated, but immediately took the place by storm; near to the entrance they met with the travelling carriage of Napoleon, having 6 horses, and the coachman and postilion ready mounted: the major, full of expectations that Buonaparte was now in his possession, ordered the coachman and postilion to stop, but as they did not obey the latter was immediately killed, together with the two foremost horses, and the coachman was cut down by the major himself.
    Blucher with Napoleon's hat 
shortly after Waterloo. The marks of the saber still remain upon one of the carriage springs; the gallant Prussian then forced open one of the doors of the carriage, but in the interval, Napoleon had escaped by the opposite door; and thus disappointed the triumphant hopes of that gallant officer. Such, however, was the haste of the Ex-Emperor, that he dropped his hat, his sword, and his mantle, and they were afterwards picked up on the road." (- "Waterloo Memoirs", London 1817, Vol II, pp 32-37)

    Napoleon's carriage brought to London. After its capture by Maj von Keller on 18 June 1815, William Bullock acquired the carriage. It greatly aroused the curiosity of the English people and they flocked to see items that were once His. Painted a dark blue, the dormeuse was embellished with frieze ornament in gold. The undercarriage and wheels were in blue and heightened in gold. The wheels, tyres and undercarriage were designed for strength. The exhibit was a tremendous success earning William Bullock 35,000 pounds ! The carriage was exhibited for many years at Madame Tussaud's waxwork museum in London, where it was destroyed by fire after World War I. It was never presented neither in Germany nor in Prussia, the country of officer von Keller.

    Grouchy While Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo (La belle Alliance) by Wellington and Blucher, Marshal Grouchy won battle of Wavre. After victory Grouchy was preparing to march on Brussles, when at 10:30 AM he received news of Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo. Grouchy ordered a withdrawal to Namur. Exelmans' dragoons were sent to secure the bridges across Sambre River. The French III and IV Army Corps and the artillery withdrew later. Meanwhile Blucher set up his headquarters at Genappe, from where he wrote report to Berlin. Wellington retired to his headquarters in Waterloo.

    On 19 June Blucher sent off three corps in pursuit of the French main army under Napoleon and Grouchy's force. They moved off at daybreak marching until evening. Ziethen's I Army Corps reached Charleroi. Wellington's troops followed up slowly and bivouacked around Nivelles. Wellington himself had gone to Brussels.

    Though Blucher had taken many stragglers prisoner during the 19th, he had no precise information on the whereabouts of the French army. Blucher wrote to Muffling: "I beseech Your Excellency to do everything possible to ensure that the English army moves to Mons or Binche tomorrow, for we have to move quickly now to take full advantage of the terror of the lost battle."
    Napoleon spent some time on 19 June rallying the fugitives arriving at Philippeville. Laon was designated the ralyying point. Meanwhile Grouchy reached Namur. Pirch's prussian attacked but after losing 44 officers and 1,272 men killed and wounded, they fell back. Grouchy escaped from the trap and kept his troops in good order. (Hofschroer - "1815: The Waterloo Campaign. The German Victory.")


    "Amazingly, at Waterloo the French had lost only 2 eagles,
    and those early in the battle to English cavalry."
    By contrast, they had taken either 4 or 6 colors -
    the number naturally is much disputed -
    from Wellington's army."
    - Colonel John Elting

    Casualties at Waterloo.
    When after the battle Wellington dismounted
    and gave his charger a firm pat on the croup,
    the horse kicked out, almost scoring a direct hit
    on his master's groin and resulting in
    the last casualty of the day.
    - Alessandro Barbero "The Battle"

    Vandamme and Gerard beg Grouchy 
to march to Waterloo. At Waterloo, Napoleon ran the show until the Prussians arrived. Fighting against two armies at once was too much even for Napoleon, and the French folded.

    The casualties (killed and wounded in combat) on the day of battle were surprisingly balanced: Napoleon 25,000, Wellington & Blucher 24,000.
    The most reliable data for Wellington's army list its losses as 3,500 dead, 10,200 wounded and 3,300 missing (of the missing 1,700 later returned to their regiments, while 1,600 were officially declared dead.)
    Blucher's casualties amounted to 1,200 dead, 4,400 wounded and 1,400 missing. I don't have data on how many of the missing Prussians returned to ranks and how many were declared dead. 600 ? (The Prussian military archives were destroyed during WW2 by Russian, American and British bombers.)

    The English authors propose much higher numbers for the French dead and wounded, arguing that the casualties suffered by Napoleon must have been vastly superior to those of the British; however, the available data, which relate to the officers, would lead lead one to question this argument. In battle a total of 207 French officers died or went missing, and another 66 died later as a consequence of their wounds.
    The statistics for allied armies are sometimes contradictory, collating them, it was found that a minimum of 218 officers from Wellington's army and 61 from Blucher's troops were dead or missing.
    According to historian Allessandro Barbero, with rare exceptions the wounded men who died after the battle do not seem to have been included in these totals, nor have any reliable data on the subject been published, except in regard to the British troops. Consequently, if these are excluded, at Waterloo, during the day, statistics suggest that 207 French officers died or went missing, as opposed to a total of 279 for their adversaries. Therefore, based on traditional ratios of officers to enlisted men, it seems legitimate to wonder whether the losses suffered by the French might even have been inferior to those of Wellington and Blucher.

    French cuirassiers with captured
British colors at Waterloo,
picture by Chaperon. "Amazingly, at Waterloo the French had lost only 2 eagles, and those early in the battle to English cavalry." By contrast, they had taken either 4 or 6 colors - the number naturally is much disputed - from Wellington's army." - John Elting
    "During the charges, the French cavalry captured several colors. The number is given as six by Thiers (Le Consulat et L'Empire) and by General Regnault. General Delort, in his account, refers to an English color being seized by a quartermnaster-sergeant of the 9th Cuirassiers, and that of a battalion of the KGL by Captain Klein de Kleinenberg of the Guard Chasseurs. The regimental history of the 10th Cuirassiers mentions as English standard captured by Sergeant Gautier." (Lachouque - "Waterloo" p 176)

    There are known at least names of three troopers who captured the Allies Colors:
    - one seized by Marechal de Logis Gauthier (Gautier) of the 10th Cuirassier Regiment
    - one by Fourier Palau of the 9th Cuirassier Regiment
    - one by unknown cuirassier of the 8th Cuirassier Regiment [He captured the Color of the British 69th Foot Regiment, GdD Kellermann to MdE Davout, 24th June 1815, Arch.Serv.Hist.]
    - one by Capitaine Klein de Kleinenberg from the Chasseurs of the Guard [he captured one Color of the KGL, GdD Leefebvre-Desnouettes to Drouot, 23rd June 1815, Arch. Serv.Hist.]

    During battle the captured colors were brought to and deposited in the farm of Le Caillou, farmhouse Napoleon had been using for his headquarters. Unfortunately during the retreat after battle the trophies were left there.

    There were hundreds Allies prisoners, incl. officers. Lieutenant Waymouth of the British 2nd Life Guards received a saber blow from a cuirassier, was dragged from his horse and hauled away as a prisoner. He remained a prisoner in enemy hands for several weeks after Waterloo. Captain Irby of the 2nd Life Guards was captured and taken away. There were also hundreds of Hannoverian, Brunswick, Scottish and English infantrymen in French captivity. Some were rescued in the end of battle and some were not. Amost certainly some of the prisoners were in fact massacred in cold blood. For example Napoleon's aide-de-camp Gourgaud was escorting a British heavy dragoon to the rear when an infantry NCO stepped out of formation, struck the big man down with the butt of his musket, and killed him with bayonet thrusts before Gourgaud had time to stop him.

    It sounds almost unbelievable that during the pursuit, the Prussians failed to capture even single French Color, a sign that, Napoleon's army did not in fact disintegrate as much as some British and Prussian sources claimed. But the casualties were very heavy: 25.000 killed, wounded and prisoners and 15.000 who deserted the ranks during pursuit and simply went home. Most of the British, German and Netherland deserters returned to the ranks after the battle was over.

    After Waterloo, at the Vienna Congress, Prussia and Russia proposed to partition France, while Austria and Britain strove for and pushed through a lenient treatment of France.

    When Napoleon was dethroned, Ney was arrested. He was tried, condemned, and was executed by firing squad. He refused to wear a blindfold and said: ““Soldiers, when I give the command to fire, fire straight at my heart. Wait for the order. It will be my last to you."
    Ney's execution was an example intended for other marshals, many of whom were eventually exonerated by the Bourbons.
    One of the legends of Ney was that he had managed to escape to the United States.


    "While Wellington's men were to march through
    what they were told to regard as friendly territory,
    Blucher intended to blaze a trail of destruction
    all the way to the enemy's capital." [to Paris]
    Hofschroer - "1815: The Waterloo Campaign" p 191

    The race to Paris.
    The honour of entering Paris fell to Ziethen's I Corps.

    Allied pursuit after Waterloo Hardly had the Allies defeated Napoleon than their arlier rivalries surfaced again. According to Peter Hofschroer, anxious to strengthen Prussia's hand at the peace table, Blucher was already thinking what effects his advance on Paris might have and hoping to reach it before Wellington. General Gneisenau (Blucher's chief-of-staff) was of the same opinion as Blucher.

    Wellington took a different approach. The Duke wrote "As the army is about to enter the French territory, the troops of the nations which are at present under the command of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington, are desired to recollect that their respective Sovereigns are the Allies of His Majesty the King of France, and that France ought, therefore, to be treated as a friendly country."

    Wellington's army entered France on 21 June. While Wellington's troops were to march through what they were told to regard as friendly territory, Blucher intended to blaze a trail of destruction all the way to Paris !
    Blucher also suggested to Wellington that he send his Dutch and Belgian cavalry as a raiding force to cut Napoleon's line of communication with Paris. The similarity of uniform between the Netherlanders and the French together with their familiarity with the French language could thus be used to great advantage.

    Napoleon's abdication had been announced to the French army on 23 June. This led to tremendous decline in morale. On 24 June approx. 1,000 guardsmen left for Paris, saying they could serve Napoleon better there. Then Soult left for Paris, taking his entire staff with him. Grouchy complained bitterly and frustrated tendered his resignation.

    On 24 June Wellington's 4th Division bombarded Cambrai. While the redcoats scaled the walls, royalist symphathisers attacked the garrison from within. The commandant of the garrison surrendered on 25 June. The Allies took 150 prisoners and few guns. On 25 June Wellington's advance guard, Vivian's Cavalry Brigade, reached Gricourt. Dr.Drude, a surgeon attached to the Brunswick jagers, wrote: "On 25 June, we marched very slowly with the English army, reaching our bivouacs in Marets at 12 o'clock that night." On 26 June the French commandant of Peronne was forced by the royalist population and British brigade with Netherland battery to capitulate.

    Grouchy did not want his troops to mix with the broken remnants of Napoleon's army, now led by Marshal Soult. This might have been detrimental to the discipline of his troops. Soult, now leaning in the royalist direction, resigned as Napoleon's chief-of-staff. Davout suggested Grouchy for the position, but he declined. However, he did take over supreme command of the army for the moment. Lacking leadership, large numbers of the men were deserting from the army. On arrival in Laon there were only 25,000 men with 30 guns. Two fresh batteries of the Young Guard arrived. There were also few thousands of dragoons, cuirassiers and horse gunners.

    Marshal Davout Napoleon had appointed the famous Marshal Davout, nicknamed "Iron Marshal", as Governor of Paris and supreme commander of the National Guard. The Provisional Government confirmed Davout as supreme commander of the army but put General Durosnel in charge of the National Guard.

    On June 30th the Prussians met strong French force near Aubervilliers. The Prussians were halted by canal and French artillery drawn up beyond it. Several troops of French Young Guard were rushed to la Villette and were now commanded by Davout in person along with his whole staff.

    The Prussian and French skirmishers fired on each other all afternoon. With the support of cavalry the Prussians gained some ground before being thrown back. Although Ziethen received Blucher's orders before midnight, he was concerned about making a night attack on the villages of Pantin and la Villette.

    Paris and Seine River Wellington's army was far to the rear. Blucher was not willing to wait for his ally. There was no way he was going to allow Wellington to be in a position to make any reasonable claim to lead the way into Paris.

    Blucher's army executed their move around the west of Paris to its relatively undefended south where they planned to enter the city. Thurn und Taxis wrote: "It is probable that the French did not anticipate this very bold move in which we gave up our basis of operations." Wellington's army relieved the Prussians on the northern front of Paris on 2nd July. Three British light companies moved to Aubervilliers and under fire from French skirmishers relieved the Prussian outposts. Local armistice however broke the fighting (mostly long range musket fire). Dr. Drude wrote: "Almost everywhere was deserted and had been plundered by both the Prussians and the English ... Around noon, we heard firing coming from Montmartre to the west, where the Prussians were having an encounter with the French."

    Once Prussian pioneers had completed the bridges at Argenteuil and Chatou using British pontoons, detachments were sent to Villeneuve and Suresnes. Thus the communications between Blucher and Wellington were established.

    Factions within the French ruling circles made overtures towards the Allies, hoping to attain a ceasefire. Blucher rejected their requests. The French also approached Wellington from whom they received a more favourable hearing. When the men of the French 1er Chasseurs heard the news of negotiations they stormed emissary's carriage accusing him of treason.

    Wellington Marshal Davout sent a letter to Wellington and Blucher to which both replied. Blucher's threats clrearly contrast with Wellington's conciliatory tone.

  • Wellington replied: "I have every reason on earth to stop the loss by the brave troops I command. However, this can only take place under conditions that assure the establishment and stability of the general peace."
  • Blucher's reply: "We are pursuing victory, and God has given us both the means and the will to do so. Be careful, My Lord Marshal, of what you do. Do not condemn a city to ruin, for you must know what bitter soldiers would do if they were allowed to storm your capital."
    Not surprisingly, Davout replied only to Wellington.
    Blucher did not intend to agree to a cease-fire until his troops had entered Paris.

    The Prussians regarded entering Paris as a matter of honor. Wellington was astute enough to attempt to turn this situation to his advantage. Blucher may have beaten him to the gates of Paris, but he had the best contacts in Paris and if he were to agree a cease-fire now, he would be pulling the rug from underneath Blucher's feet.
    Handing over Paris to the enemy without even token resistance was considered dishonorable, so one last show of force was deemed necessary. The firing across Seine River continued for long time. Near Issy the Prussian and French skirmishers crossed bayonets. The Prussian casualties were 30 officers and 1,241 other ranks. Other than that, Wellington's troops did little else other than bring up the Reserves to a bivouac between Bonneuil and Arnouville.

    At 7 AM the French artillery ceased fire. General Revest offering the surrender of Paris, requested a cease-fire. The French troops marched out of Paris between 5th and 11th July. Meanwhile Marshal Massena maintained order in the city.
    On 6th July General Ziethen deployed three battalions, one squadron and one battery to each of the 11 gates to Paris on the left bank of the Seine. He also detached one cavalry regiment from each army corps to restore order in the rear of the army.

    Wellington wrote to Blucher expressing his concerns as to Blucher's wish to billet the Prussian troops on the inhabitants of the city. Wellington's objections included: the unsuitability of the housing, the linguistic differences, and the sensitive nature of the Parisians. Wellington suggested that, because the low pay of the Prussian officers and soldiers meant they could not afford Paris prices, they should instead draw their supplies from the magazines. This would of course not be necessary for the British troops as they enjoyed much higher pay. Blucher however disagreed, the French billeted their troops in every Prussian city, incl. Berlin, during their occupation of Prussia.
    Blucher got his way.

    Prussian General Ziethen On 7th July the honour of entering Paris fell to Ziethen's I Army Corps. This splendid formation had suffered the first casualties in this campaign when hostilities opened on 15 June; Ziethen had suffered the heaviest casualties at Ligny, Ziethen's arrival on Wellington's left at Waterloo allowed Wellington to move men from that flank to save his centre from crumbling. Ziethen also marched the hardest to Paris. Wellington did not move any large bodies of troops into Paris itself, dut did have 20,000 men set up camp in the Bois de Boulogne on 7th July. Only a small detachment camped on the Champs-Elysees.

    Blucher intended to have Blucher appointed Governor of Paris, but Wellington preferred a candidate less symphatetic to Gneisenau, and suggested Prussian officer Muffling instead. Blucher agreed to this.

    The Prussian cavalry outposts made contact with Cossacks under Chernishev of the advancing Russian and Austrian armies. Few days earlier the detachment of Cossacks was the first allies troops who reached Paris.

    In April-June 1815 the strato-volcano Tambora erupted with a rating of 7 on the Volcanic Explosivity Index, making it the most deadly eruption in history. It created tsunamis and global climate anomalies. Pitch darkness was observed as far away as 600 km (370 miles) from the mountain summit for up to 2 days. Brilliantly colored sunsets and twilights were seen in London.
    The next year, 1816, became known as the Year Without a Summer ( in Europe and USA. Cool temperatures and heavy rains resulted in failed harvests in England and Ireland. Approx. 75 % of crops failed and livestock died. In America, many historians cite the "Year Without a Summer" as a primary motivation for the western movement and rapid settlement of what is now western and central New York and the American Midwest.

  • Sources and Links.

    Adkin - "Waterloo Companion"
    Austin - "1815: The Return of Napoleon"
    Barbero - "The Battle"
    Chandler - "Waterloo - the Hundred Days"
    Chandler - "Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars"
    Chlapowski - "Memoirs of a Polish Lancer"
    Elting - "Swords Around a Throne"
    Lachouque - "Waterloo"
    The Department of History at the US Military Academy - series of campaign atlases
    Napoleonic Wars (maps)
    Hundred Days
    Prince of Orange
    General Hendrik Baron de Perponcher
    Marshal Michel Ney
    General Honoré -Charles Reille
    General Jean-Baptiste Drouet, Comte d'Erlon
    Jérôme Bonaparte
    Pictures of Nassau Troops.
    Pictures of Dutch / Belgian Troops.
    Pictures of Brunswick Troops.
    Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington
    General Sir Thomas Picton
    Travel to Waterloo

    Prussian Order of Battle (1815) ~ British-Netherland Order of Battle (Waterloo)

    Napoleon, His Army and Enemies