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"The battle of Wavre and Grouchy's retreat;
a study of an obscure part of the Waterloo campaign"

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THE BATTLE
OF WAVRE &
GROUCHY'S
RETREAT

HYDE KELLY









THE BATTLE OF WAVRE
AND GROUCHY'S RETREAT

A STUDY OF AN OBSCURE PART OF
THE WATERLOO CAMPAIGN

By W. HYDE KELLY, RE.

WITH MAPS AND PLANS



LONDON

JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET, W.

1905



AUTHOR'S PREFACE

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

I have chosen this tail-end of the campaign
because little is known about it; because it serves
useful lessons even for to-day; because the opera-
tions leading up to the battle round Wavre are
of great interest; and because a campaign full of
mistakes should be studied as carefully as a cam-
paign free from error. From history we obtain
experience, and experience teaches us how to act
for the future. We learn how great men of old
time fought their battles and managed their
retreats; we see the reasons of their successes and
their failures; and we should endeavour to make
use of our lessons when our own time comes.



vi



PREFACE



Not that Grouchy can be deemed a great soldier;
nor can his part of the 1815 campaign be regarded
as of prime importance in itself; but as showing
the small trifles that mar great plans in their
execution, as showing how little : a thing will some-
times destroy the grandest conceptions, his opera-
tions from 16th June to the end of the month
are well worthy of attention.

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

Great deeds deserve great critics, but, as
Colonel Henderson wrote in his Preface to
" Stonewall Jackson," " if we were to wait for
those who are really qualified to deal with the
achievements of famous captains, we should, as a
rule, remain in ignorance of the lessons of their
lives, for men of the requisite capacity are few in
a generation." Man is not so fortunate that he
can live in every period; and for knowledge he



PREFACE vii

must go backwards to search in history. The
statesman will read of the great quarrels between
Charles I. and his Parliament, not because he
would imitate either the one side or the other, but
because he will desire to mould future action upon
the experience of the past. Napoleon himself
prepared all his ambitious schemes from the pages
of Tacitus, Plutarch and Livy, and the histories
of the deeds of Hannibal, Alexander, and Caesar.
Wellington "made it a rule to study for some
hours every day "; and since these two great men
advocate study of history, who is there who shall
gainsay the advantages of learning ? But the true
method of reading history requires something far
deeper than mere perusal : it must be accompanied
by careful and continuous thought. A true history
will encourage the reader to bury himself in the
very atmosphere of the time, and will bring him
to see with his eyes the comings and goings
of great men, the rights and wrongs of their
deeds, and their impress upon contemporary
people.

This small volume attempts nothing of this
kind: it is a sketch, a mere outline, of a minor
portion of a remarkable campaign. In it I have



viii PREFACE

made no mention of the tactical formations em-
ployed; I have given no details of armaments,
equipments, or means of transport; for these are
now of no value to the soldier - student. The
comments or remarks are to be taken or left, as it
shall please the reader : they are my own views;
possibly they may coincide with the views of others;
in that case they will be interesting.

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

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

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

W. HYDE KELLY.

August 1905.



CONTENTS



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

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

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

IV. GROUCHY'S PURSUIT OF THE PRUSSIANS . . . . 80

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

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

VII. THE BATTLE OF WAVRE . . . . . . . 115

VIII. GROUCHY'S RETREAT . . . . . . . 133

IX. NOTES AND COMMENTS . . . . . . . 153

INDEX ... 165



MAPS

PAGE

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

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

3. ILLUSTRATING GROUCHY'S RETREAT FROM NAMUR . . . . . . . 133



MAP ILLUSTRATING THE OPERATIONS OF JUNE 15TH TO 20TH 1815.






THE BATTLE OF WAVRE AND
GROUCHY'S RETREAT



CHAPTER I

BRIEF DISCUSSION OF THE EARLIER OPERATIONS
UP TO LIGNY

The Allied troops in the Netherlands had begun
to concentrate as early as the 15th of March.
They were cantoned from Treves and Coblentz to
Courtrai. But their commanders were away in
Vienna - both Wellington and Blucher. The
largest number that could be concentrated to
meet a sudden attack on Belgium in April was
80,000 men. Of these, 23,000 were Anglo-
Hanoverian troops, 30,000 were Prussians, 14,000
were Saxons, and the remainder Dutch-Belgians.
The spirit of discipline was almost wholly want-
ing among the Saxons and Dutch-Belgians; the
greater part of them had at one time or another,
served Napoleon, and were not to be trusted,



2 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS

Kleist, commanding the Prussians on the Rhine,
had arranged with the Prince of Orange, who
commanded the troops in the Netherlands, that,
in the event of a French attack, they would retire
together on Tirlemont; thus leaving Brussels
exposed, and giving the enemy a firm footing in
Belgium.

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

But the project, although it may have entered
Napoleon's thoughts, was never seriously contem-
plated by him. His army, although rapidly being
raised, organised, and equipped in hundreds of
thousands of men, was not yet in a condition to
enter upon a prolonged campaign. He might
gain a slight temporary success with these 50,000
men; he might be reinforced by another 100,000
in the North; but, meantime, how should he
check the other great invading armies of the
Allies? For their preparations were forging
ahead. Barclay de Tolly was marching with
167,000 Russians in three columns through



GATHERING OF FORCES              3

Germany. Marshal Schwarzenberg, commanding
an Austrian army of 50,000 men, and the
Archduke Ferdinand, at the head of 40,000 men,
were hastening to reach the Rhine. One hundred
and twenty thousand men were being collected
in Lombardy, after Murat's decisive overthrow.
Prince Wrede, commanding a Bavarian army
80,000 strong, was assembling his forces behind
the Upper Rhine. Truly a formidable array!

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

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



4 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS

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

This was the final plan of the Allies; but
long before the date fixed for the first moves,
Napoleon was fully acquainted with their designs.
Newspaper reports and secret letters had kept
him informed throughout the preparations. He



THE PLANS OF NAPOLEON              5

tells us that he worked out two alternative plans
of campaign. His first idea was to concentrate
a force of 200,000 men outside Paris, and await
the approach of the Allied armies. He proposed
to gather the First, Second, Third, Fourth,
Fifth and Sixth Corps, the Imperial Guard, and
Grouchy's Cavalry Reserve, round the Capital,
which would be garrisoned by 80,000 regular
troops, mobilised guards and sharpshooters,
strongly entrenched and governed by Davout:
and to concentrate round Lyons Suchet's army of
the Alps, 23,000 men, and Lecourbe's Corps of
the Jura, 8,000 men. All the great fortresses were
strongly garrisoned; and Napoleon intended to
let the Allies advance until they were surrounded
with these powerful garrisons and faced by himself
with 200,000 men. The date fixed by the Allies
for the crossing of the frontier was 1st July. It
would take them three weeks to draw near
Paris. By that time the entrenchments round
the Capital would be completed. But the Allies,
operating on six different lines, would be obliged
to detach large forces to watch Suchet and
Lecourbe, and to mask the great strongholds in
their way. When they had approached Paris,
their great armies would have been thus reduced
to 400,000 men, far from their bases, and faced
by the greatest soldier of modern time. The



6 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS

campaign of 1814 would be repeated, but
Napoleon would have 200,000 men at his back,
and a powerful entrenched camp at Paris. Thus
the Allies would in all probability be crushed
in detail; whether they would recover and over-
whelm Napoleon by sheer weight of numbers
seemed doubtful.

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

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

Here was a plan after his own heart. To
establish himself once more at the head of the
nation he must win a glorious victory for France.

(1) Houssaye.



THE EMPEROR'S INTENTION              7

The minds of Frenchmen were peculiarly suscept-
ible to the inspiriting effects of military glory.
Therefore he would strike at Belgium : he would
separate Blucher from Wellington and beat each
army in turn. And here is revealed the nicety
of his calculations. He must attack and beat
either Wellington or Blucher before they could
join their forces.

" If he directed his line of operations against
Brussels through Ath, and debouched from Lille
or Condé against Wellington's right, he would
merely drive the English army towards the
Prussian army, and two days later he would find
himself face to face with their united forces. If,
on the contrary, he marched against Blucher's
left, through Givet and the valley of the Meuse,
in the same way he would still hasten the union
of the hostile forces by driving the Prussians to
the English. Inspired by one of his finest
strategical conceptions, the Emperor resolved to
break boldly into the very centre of the enemy's
cantonments, at the very point where the English
and Prussians would probably concentrate. The
road from Charleroi to Brussels forming the fine
of contact between the two armies, Napoleon,
passing through Beaumont and Phillippeville,
resolved, by this road, to fall like a thunderbolt
on his foe." (1)

Wellington's troops were scattered in canton-
ments stretching over an arc from Oudenarde to
Quatre-Bras. The Second Corps, under Lord

(1) Houssaye,



8 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS

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

Wellington was expecting an attack by way
of Lille and Courtrai, and always regarded this
direction as Napoleon's best move. For his army
was based on Ostend, Antwerp, and the sea;



DISPOSITIONS OF THE ALLIES              9

hence, had Napoleon attacked by way of Mons,
he would have cut Wellington's communications,
and forced him to evacuate Brussels. On the
other hand, he would have driven the English
army towards the Prussians.

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

Blucher's army, 116,000 strong, was divided
into four Corps. The First Corps, under Zieten,
had its headquarters at Charleroi; and its out-
posts stretched from Bonne Esperance through
Lobbes, Thuin and Gerpinnes to Sossoye. Its
right was in touch with the left of the Prince
of Orange's Corps of Wellington's army. The
Second Corps, under Pirch I., had its headquarters
at Namur. Its Divisions were stationed in
Thorembey les Beguignes, Heron, Huy and




10 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS

Hannut. Its outposts stretched from Sossoye
to Dinant. The Third Corps, under Thielemann,
whose headquarters were at Ciney, had its Divi-
sions stationed at Asserre, Ciney, Dinant and
Huy. Its outposts extended from Dinant
to Rochefort. The Fourth Corps, Bulow's, had
its headquarters at Liege: its Divisions were
stationed at Wareme, Hologne, Liers, Tongres
and Lootz.

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

These were the dispositions of the Allies; but



THE ALLIES' LINES OF SUPPLY              11

they were not strategically in a sound position.
Wellington's line of supply lay through Ostend
and Antwerp to the sea; Blucher's lay by Liege
and Maestricht to the Rhine. Therefore, in the
event of a disaster to either, or both, their lines of
retreat would carry them further apart. It was
this weakness on which Napoleon based his whole
plan. The Prussian army, being the nearer to
Napoleon, would be the first met with, and there
fore the first to concentrate. By a rapid crossing
of the Sambre at Charleroi, Napoleon would force
the First Corps back on Fleurus, where the
Prussian army was to concentrate, and throw
himself on the point of junction of the Allied
armies when concentrated; namely, the Quatre-
Bras - Sombreffe road. He knew that the
Prussians, by reason of their dispositions, would
be concentrated first, and he therefore hoped, by
possessing himself of the point of junction, to
beat their concentrated army before Wellington,
who, he decided, would be much slower in
assembling his troops, could come up to Quatre-
Bras. It was of vital importance to Napoleon to
beat the Prussian army, entirely and completely,
in its position at Sombreffe, before Wellington
could come to Blucher's assistance. The retreat
of the Prussians on Wavre without such a decisive
defeat, would have upset the whole plan: for



12 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS

Wellington would then have retired and united
with Blucher, either in front of Brussels or behind
it. But, if thoroughly beaten, the Prussians
would retreat on Liege: and only in this way
could Napoleon effectually separate the two armies
and crush them in turn. Such was Napoleon's
argument. In conception, the plan was brilliant;
but its execution was unworthy of him.

Composition of the French Army.

Napoleon's Grand army for the invasion of
Belgium was made up of the First, Second, Third,
Fourth and Sixth Corps dharma; four Corps of
Reserve Cavalry; and the Imperial Guard; a
total of 116,124 men. The First Corps, under
d'Erlon, consisted of the First, Second, Third, and
Fourth Infantry Divisions, and the First Light
Cavalry Division. In the early part of June, the
Corps was stationed at Lille. The Second Corps,
under Reille, consisted of the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh
and Eighth Infantry Divisions, and the Second
Light Cavalry Division. This Corps was
quartered- at Valenciennes. The Third Corps,
Vandamme's, comprised the Ninth, Tenth, and
Eleventh Infantry Divisions, and the Third Light
Cavalry Division, and was stationed at Meziéres.
The Fourth Corps, Gérard's, was composed of the



COMPOSITION OF THE FRENCH ARMY              18

Twelfth, Thirteenth and Fourteenth Infantry Divi-
sions, and the Seventh Light Cavalry Division.
The Corps was stationed in Metz, Longwy, and
Thionville. The Sixth Corps, Lobau's, was made
up of the Nineteenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-
first Infantry Divisions; it was stationed at Laon.
Grouchy commanded the four Corps of Reserve
cavalry; these First, Second, Third, and Fourth
Cavalry Corps were commanded by Pajol, Excel-
mans, Kellermann, and Milhaud respectively;
they were mostly stationed between the river
Aisne and the frontier. The Imperial Guard
consisted of twelve regiments of infantry, two
regiments of heavy cavalry, three of light
cavalry, and thirteen batteries of artillery. The
Guard left Paris for Avesnes early in June. To
the First and Second Corps d'Armee were
attached six batteries; to the Third and Fourth,
five batteries; and to the Sixth, four batteries of
artillery.

This army was the best, in point of courage,
warlike spirit, and devotion to himself, that
Napoleon ever led. But the men were without
discipline, and distrusted their leaders. Napoleon's
generals were not the best that had ever served
under him. Ney was a tried veteran, the " bravest
of the brave," but he had just come over to
Napoleon from Louis XVIII. Grouchy had



14 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS

never held an independent command. It is re-
markable that both Ney and Grouchy should
have failed Napoleon in this, his last, campaign;
but neither were fitted to the great trusts com-
mitted to them. Napoleon himself was not the
same man who had beaten back the Allies a
year previously at Montmirail, Montereau, and
Champaubert, but he was still a master of
strategy and the strongest man of France.

The First Movements of the French.

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

The concentration was in full swing, with the
exception of Grouchy's Reserve Cavalry, when
Napoleon left Paris on the night of 11th June.
Grouchy had not received his orders for con-
centration from Soult, the Chief of the Staff,
who had neglected to send them until the 12th.
X" Here was an omission at the outset which might
well have had serious results. But Grouchy lost
no time in setting his Corps on their roads, and



June 15.] THE FRENCH ARMY MOVES              15

by rapid marching he had all his cavalry beyond
Avesnes on the night of the 13th.

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

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

The arrangements for relieving the troops of
a fatiguing march by avoiding the crossing of
columns in front of each other, and for the



16 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS [June 15.

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



June 15.] THE PRUSSIANS RETIRE              17

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



18 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS [June 15.

Had it not been for Vandamme's delay, and
had Grouchy attacked the Prussians at once at
Gilly, the latter could have pushed his enemy
as far as Sombreffe that night, which it was
Napoleon's intention that he should have done.
But Vandamme's slowness prevented Grouchy
from advancing further than Fleurus that evening.
On the Left, matters had not, by nightfall,
progressed as far as Napoleon wished. Reille,
in accordance with his instructions, had marched
with his Corps, the Second, from Leers at 3 a.m.,
and pushed on to Marchienne, everywhere driving
back the enemy's outposts. He was then ordered
to march on Gosselies, where it was reported
that a body of Prussians were in position. He
therefore pushed on his troops along the Charleroi-
Brussels road; and finding Jumet occupied by
a Prussian rearguard, he drove out the enemy,
and reached Gosselies at about 5 p.m. Marshal
Ney now arrived on the scene, and, having just
come from the Emperor, from whom he received
his orders, took over the command of the Left
Wing. Ney pushed on to Frasnes with Piré's
Cavalry and Bachelu's Infantry Division : Girard's
Division was sent to pursue the Prussians, who
had retreated from Gosselies towards Fleurus:
the remaining divisions of Reille's Corps - Jerome's
and Foy's - stayed at Gosselies. Ney drove back



June 15.] NEY'S CAUTION              19

Saxe-Weimar's Brigade from Frasnes at 6.30 p.m.;
the brigade retiring on Quatre-Bras. Lefebvre-
Desnouette's Division of Light Cavalry of the
Guard had arrived with Ney, and was now
moved in support of his infantry at Frasnes.

Thus Ney, at 6.30 p.m., while there were still
nearly three hours of daylight left, had with
him two light cavalry divisions, and one infantry
division, at Frasnes. The distance to Quatre-
Bras was 2 1/2 miles. In less than an hour he
could have reached the cross-roads and attacked
Saxe-Weimar's Brigade. But he merely pushed
his cavalry forward, reconnoitred the position,
and then withdrew his men to Frasnes, himself
returning to Gosselies at about 8.30 p.m.

Now it has been fiercely contested that Ney
received verbal orders from Napoleon to occupy
Quatre-Bras on the night of the 15th. Whether
he did or did not is a point still undecided by
the authorities on the campaign,- but it matters
little, for Napoleon, in his written orders to Ney
on the 16th, expressed his satisfaction with the
progress of the night before, and did not blame
Ney for his failure to occupy the cross-roads. As
a matter of fact, Saxe- Weimar made such a bold
show of resistance to the reconnaissance sent by
Ney, that the latter was entirely deceived as
to his enemy's numbers: he believed that the



20 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS [June 15.

English were in great force there. Had Ney
attacked Quatre-Bras that night, he would have
driven back Saxe- Weimar's Brigade of Nassauers,
the only troops in occupation, and seized the
most important point in the theatre of war. But,
viewing the question from what must have been
Ney's own point of view, he was acting on sound
strategical principles by not pushing ahead too
far. He had only just arrived on the ground,
and was not acquainted with any of his Staff, or
his divisional generals, or even with the strength
of his troops. He believed that a strong English
force held Quatre-Bras, and that, by attacking,
he would be overwhelmed by the whole of
Wellington's army; that Napoleon's Left Wing
would be crushed. He therefore adopted more
cautious methods, and awaited the arrival of
d'Erlon's Corps, and news of the progress of the
Centre and Right Wing.

Prince Bernard of Saxe- Weimar may be
credited with having saved the situation for the
Allies. Had he adhered rigidly to the principles
of strategy, he would have fallen back from
Quatre-Bras; but instead, his fine courage
prompted him to hold on until supports should
arrive, and his boldness triumphed over Ney's
prudence. If Ney had seized Quatre-Bras that
night, and if the succeeding events had taken



June 15.] BLUCHER CONCENTRATES              21

place as they did take place, the battle of
Waterloo would never have been fought, for
Wellington could not have risked a battle
without hope of Prussian assistance. But there
were many little risks and chances which might
have changed the whole result of the campaign!
To return to d'Erlon. By starting an hour
and a half later than he was ordered to do, he
lost most valuable time; and throughout the
day he took no pains to make up for the delay,
although he actually received an order from
Soult, late in the afternoon, to the effect that
he was to join Reille at Gosselies that evening.
Instead of this, by nightfall his leading division,
Durutte's, was at Jumet, l 1/2 miles in rear of
Gosselies, and his Headquarters at Marchienne,
6 miles in rear! Matters had not progressed
at all satisfactorily on the Left Wing.

The 15th of June on the side of the Allies.

Blucher had decided upon a concentration of
his whole army at Sombreffe, in the event of
Napoleon attacking by Charleroi. Therefore, on
the evening of the 14th, he ordered the Second,
Third, and Fourth Corps to concentrate on
Sombreffe, while the First Corps was to make a
stout resistance, and fall back slowly on Fleurus,



22 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS [June 15.

which Zieten was to hold, in order to gain time
for the concentration. These arrangements were
made without any definite agreement between
Wellington and Blucher, as to the Duke's
movements under these circumstances. It was
understood that each should give the other all
the assistance in his power, in the event of a
French attack; but no formal undertaking for
definite action was entered into. Besides, Blucher,
when he ordered his concentration, believed that
Wellington's troops were too scattered to allow
of their concentration within two days. He
could not therefore have expected much actual
support from Wellington. There was also the
possibility that Wellington himself was confronted
with a strong force.

In the concentration of the Prussian Corps,
another defect in the transmission and execution
of orders from Headquarters must be mentioned.
Gneisenau, the chief of Blucher's Staff, sent
instructions to Bulow, commanding the Fourth
Corps, on the 14th, to the effect that he was so
to dispose his Corps that his troops might reach
Hannut in one march. The order was indefinite,
and contained no statement that Napoleon was
about to attack; there was no mention of the
disposition of the other Prussian Corps; no
mention of Blucher's intentions, or of the general



June 15.] NEGLIGENCE AND DELAY              23

situation. This was culpable negligence on the
part of the chief of the Staff It was his
duty under the circumstances to transmit all
such important information to all the Corps
commanders; and because Bulow's Corps was
some distance in rear, is no reason why such a
necessary step should have been omitted. The
result was a serious delay on the part of the
Fourth Corps. At midnight on the 14th, a second
despatch from Gneisenau was sent to Bulow,
ordering a concentration of his Corps on Hannut.
The first despatch reached Bulow at 5 a.m. on the
15th, when he was at Liege. The instructions
contained in it were at once acted upon, and
Bulow sent a report to this effect to Headquarters.
While these instructions were being carried out,
the second despatch arrived towards midday (on
the 15th). Its contents seemed to Bulow to be
impossible to act upon until the next day, for
most of his troops were by this time so far in
their movement that the new order could not
reach them in time to be carried out that night;
also there would be no quarters prepared for those
troops which were still within reach of the new
instructions. Furthermore, this second despatch
was also indefinite. It contained no positive order
that Bulow was to move his headquarters to
Hannut; it merely suggested that Hannut



24 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS [June 15.

appeared suitable. There was no mention of
the commencement of hostilities. Bulow therefore
decided to postpone the execution of this order
until the 16th, and he sent a report to this effect
to Blucher, promising to be in Hannut by noon
next day (16th). The officer sent with this
report reached Namur at 9 p.m., expecting to
find Blucher there, but he discovered that Head-
quarters had been removed to Sombreffe. Mean-
while, a third despatch was sent off at 11 a.m. on
the 15th from Namur, instructing Bulow to move
the Fourth Corps, after a rest at Hannut, on
Gembloux, starting at daybreak on the 16th.
The orderly carrying this message naturally went
to Hannut, where he expected to find Bulow.
At Hannut he found Gneisenau's second despatch
lying unopened, awaiting Bulow's arrival. He
then started off at all speed with both despatches
to Liege, where he arrived at daybreak on the
16th. But by this time Gneisenau's instructions
were impracticable. Thus Bulow, through no
fault of his own, was prevented from reaching
the field of Ligny with his Corps, when his arrival
on the right flank of the French might have had
the same effect that the arrival of the Prussian
army had at the great battle two days later.

While the concentration of the Second and
Third Corps was rapidly progressing behind him,



June 15] THE FIGHTING COMMENCES              25

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





26 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS [June 15.

wish. Therefore he awaited more definite news
of the French attack on Zieten.

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

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



June 15.] ZIETEN'S RETREAT              27

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

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

Meanwhile, Napoleon was pushing rapidly on
Charleroi with the Imperial Guard and Pajol's



28 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS [June 15.

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



June 15.] STEINMETZ AVOIDS NEY              29

enabling Steinmetz to reach the village in
safety.

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

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



30 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS [June 15.

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

Grouchy had orders to take Vandamme's Corps
and Excelmans' Cavalry, and pursue the Prussians
along the Charleroi- Fleurus road; but he was
deceived as to the strength of the enemy at
Gilly. Fearing to attack without further rein-
forcements, he rode back to Napoleon for instruc-
tions. This was at about 5 p.m. Napoleon,
fretting at the delay, which he regarded as
needless, himself rode out with four squadrons



June 15] DETAILS OF THE FIGHTING              31

of Cavalry of the Guard, and reconnoitred Pirch's
position. He soon satisfied himself as to Pirch's
real strength, and gave Grouchy orders to attack
at once. Accordingly, at 6 p.m., artillery fire
opened on the Prussians from two batteries;
three infantry columns from Vandamme's Corps
were ordered to assault in front, and two cavalry
brigades to menace the Prussian flanks. Pirch
was preparing to reply to the French artillery
fire, when he received orders from Zieten to
retire on Fleurus via Lambusart. As soon as
he began to withdraw his battalions, the French
cavalry, under Letort, made a vigorous attack.
The Prussian infantry resisted stoutly, and a
regiment of dragoons, with great boldness, charged
the French squadrons with such effect that they
were for the moment checked, and the Prussians
were able to gain the cover of the wood of
Fleurus. A battalion of the Sixth Regiment of
the Line, by forming square repeatedly, bravely
kept the enemy's cavalry at a distance, and
gained very valuable time for the retreat of the
rest of Pirch's Division. In front of Lambusart,
where Pirch joined some battalions of the Third
Division and Roder's Reserve Cavalry, a fresh
position was taken up, and a regiment of
Brandenburg Dragoons, sent by Zieten to support
Pirch II., did excellent service by charging the



32 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS [June 16.

French horsemen and checking their pursuit.
Towards eight o'clock three batteries of French
Horse Artillery, which accompanied the cavalry,
opened fire on Lambusart; but night was coming
on, and the attack died out very shortly after-
wards. Pirch II. then withdrew to Fleurus,
where he joined the remainder of Zieten's
Divisions, and the whole Corps retreated to
Ligny. Steinmetz had reached Fleurus from
Heppignies at about 10 p.m.

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

The Prussian Second Corps, under Pirch I.,
reached Sombreffe by ten o'clock at night; the



June 15.] ON WELLINGTON'S SIDE              33

Third Corps passed the night at Namur; while
the Fourth Corps was still near Liege.

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





34 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS [June 15.

tioned, was quite deceived as to his actual
strength, and forebore to attack that night

Zieten's report to Wellington, sent off from
Charleroi at 5 a.m., reached the Duke's head-
quarters at Brussels at 9 a.m. Wellington did
not consider the news sufficiently definite to cause
him to make any immediate alteration in his
dispositions. But at three o'clock in the after-
noon, the Prince of Orange, coming from the
outposts near Mons, where he had seen Van
Merlen, and obtained information of the attack
on the Prussians and of their retreat, reported his
intelligence to the Duke. Wellington was now
satisfied of the true direction of the French attack,
but he sent orders to General Dornberg at Mons
to report at once any movement of the French in
that direction. He then ordered his troops to
concentrate at their respective headquarters. On
the left, Perponcher's and Chassé's Divisions were
to assemble at Nivelles; the Third British
Division (Alten's) was to concentrate at Braine-
le-Comte and march on Nivelles in the night;
the First British Division (Cooke's) was to
assemble at Enghien. In the centre, Clinton's
Division (the Second British) was to collect at
Ath, and Colville's (the Fourth British) at Gram-
mont. On the right, Steedman's Division and
Anthing's Brigade of Dutch-Belgians were to



June 15.] THE ALLIES DRAW CLOSER              35

march on Sotteghem. Uxbridge's cavalry was
to assemble at Ninove, except Dornberg's Brigade,
which was to march on Vilvorde; (still Welling-
ton had apprehensions for his right). The Reserve
was kept in readiness in and around Brussels;
with orders to be prepared to march at once.

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

At the close of the 15th, Napoleon's position
promised success for his efforts next day. Blucher
had only Zieten's Corps concentrated at Ligny;
Pirch's Corps was still some miles back.
Wellington's army was still far from Quatre-
Bras. Surely, if Napoleon advanced to the



36 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS [June 15-16.

attack of the Prussians at daybreak on the 16th,
he must, with his overwhelming forces, crush
half of Blucher's army and force the remainder
to fall back on Liege! And Ney, if he attacked
with Reille's and d'Erlon's Corps (for the latter
might have pushed on during the night) - or
even with Reille's Corps and Piré's Cavalry -
could have driven back the English force at
Quatre-Bras, which, by daybreak on the 16th,
had only been reinforced by the remainder of
Perponcher's Dutch-Belgian Division? Ney had
ridden to Charleroi in the night, and had had
an interview with Napoleon. He must, therefore,
have known the state of affairs in the centre
and on the right; he must have told Napoleon
how matters stood on his wing. Why did not
Napoleon order him to attack Quatre-Bras at
daybreak on the 16th? There is no satisfactory
answer. It is inconceivable that Napoleon, than
whom no general has ever been bolder and more
decisive in his moves or quicker to take action
at critical moments, should have neglected to
spend the night of the 15th in bringing up the
troops in rear - Lobau's Corps, d'Erlon's Corps,
Gérard's Corps. What if the columns had
straggled out and become doubled in length?
Had Napoleon's troops never made a greater
effort in his earlier campaigns? There is no



JUNE 16.] NAPOLEON'S MISTAKE              37

doubt existing that Napoleon, great warrior as
he was, let his opportunity slip on the night of
the 15th. His advanced troops were within
2 miles of Ligny, and 3 of the Quatre-Bras-
Sombreffe road. Was not this the very point
he had aimed at so carefully in his plan of
campaign? He was already almost master of
the line of junction of Wellington's and Blucher's
armies. He had, in fact, almost, but not quite,
attained the main objective of his scheme. It
was within his grasp on the night of the 15th.
How could Wellington prevent Ney from captur-
ing Quatre-Bras at daybreak on the 16th? And
how could Blucher save Ligny and Sombreffe, if
Napoleon chose to bring up his two Corps from
Charleroi and Chatelet, and attack at dawn
with these overwhelming numbers? Both these
attacks would have called for great efforts from
the French troops, who had been marching and
fighting since 3 a.m. on the 15th; but the attacks
would have been finished in three or four hours,
and then Napoleon could have thought of giving
rest to his tired infantry, while his cavalry
pursued the Prussians back towards Liege. A
day spent in resting and in concentrating, and
Napoleon could have turned to deal with
Wellington. The Napoleon of Jena and Auster-
litz would have won the campaign on the 15th.







38 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS [June 15-16.

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

Movements on the 16th.

Ney, on his return to Gosselies from his inter-
view with Napoleon, ordered Reille to move
Jerome's and Foy's Divisions, with his five
batteries of artillery, to Frasnes, whither he
himself went. Ney's misgivings as to the wisdom
of attacking Quatre-Bras were not unfounded.
He feared a movement against his right flank
by a strong force of Prussians whom he believed
to be between Quatre-Bras and Ligny. He was
anxious for his left flank, in case some of
Wellington's troops were moving against him
from the direction of Nivelles. He was ignorant
of the real strength in front of him at Quatre-
Bras. He had no staff officers whom he could
send out to gather information on these points.
He was unwilling to risk damaging Napoleon's
plans by inviting defeat while so far in advance



June 16] QUATRE-BRAS              39

of the centre column. He therefore waited for
d'Erlon's Corps and Kellermann's Corps of heavy
cavalry, which Napoleon had promised to send
him. He despatched orders to d'Erlon to bring
up the First Corps with the utmost speed to
Frasnes.

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



40 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS [June 16.

all 9,700 men, and the remainder of Reille's Corps
in support at Frasnes!

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

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

Soon after the receipt of Napoleon's letter, Ney
received an order from Soult, chief of the Staff,
directing him to move the First and Second Corps,
and Kellermann's Cavalry, on Quatre-Bras, drive
back the enemy, and reconnoitre as far as he could



June 16] GIRARD'S REPORT              41

towards Nivelles and Brussels; also to push a
division to Genappe, and another towards Marbais,
so as to open communication with Napoleon's left
between Sombreffe and Quatre-Bras. Napoleon's
intention was to reach Brussels by daybreak on
the 17th, having defeated the Prussians, and Ney
having defeated the English!

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

Just at this time, a message from Reille
reached Ney, stating that Girard (not Gérard,
who commanded the Fourth Corps) had sent in
a report that strong columns of Prussians were
moving along the Namur-Nivelles road, with heavy
masses behind them. (These were Pirch II's
troops deploying at St Amand and Ligny.)
Reille had seen Napoleon's letter to Ney, and
read its contents, but he wrote to Ney that he
would wait the latter's instructions, while he
prepared his troops for instant march. Another
order from Napoleon reached Ney at this moment.
It stated that the Marshal was to unite the First





42 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS [June 16.

and Second Corps with Kellermann's Cavalry,
and drive the enemy from Quatre-Bras, thus
distinctly emphasising the previous order. The
Emperor, who thought that Ney would then
have an ample force to crush any troops which
could be in front of him, stated that Grouchy was
about to move on Sombreffe.

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

It is not proposed to give an account of the
battle of Quatre-Bras. It has been shown what an
opportunity Ney had lost by not attacking earlier,
and what his reasons were for not doing so.
Picton's Division and the Duke of Brunswick's
Division arrived early in the afternoon, and
Wellington took over the command. These rein-
forcements, to which were added towards the close
of the day, Alten's Division, Cooke's Division,



June 16.] RESULTS OF QUATRE-BRAS              43

two more Brunswick battalions and a battery of
Brunswick artillery, gave Wellington a superiority
in numbers over Ney, who was only reinforced by
Kellermann's Cavalry Corps during the battle.
D'Erlon's Corps had, in the meantime, been
wandering between Ligny and Frasnes.

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



44 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS [June 16.

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

The situation of the Allied armies was not
exactly that of the Austrians and Sardinians in
Italy in 1796-97; there was the possibility of



June 16.] QUATRE-BRAS-SOMBREFFE ROAD              45

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

Blucher had decided to fight at Ligny, even
though he had little hope of the arrival of Bulow's
Corps in time to join the battle. For he believed



46 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS [June 16.

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

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

The battle itself will not be described; but
d'Erlon's wanderings towards the field and away
from it again, and the influence of these aimless
manoeuvres on the struggle, may be discussed here.
At eight o'clock that morning (the 16th),



June 16.] LIGNY              47

Napoleon had sent orders to Ney to detach one
Division of his force to Marbais, so as to support
the Emperor and attack in rear the Prussian right,
while the battle of Ligny was at its height. At
2 p.m., he had ordered Ney to attack and defeat
whatever force might be in front of him (he had
ascertained that Ney must be greatly superior
in numbers to the force that opposed him), and
then to move along the Namur road and fall on
Bluchers rear. At 3.15 p.m. this order was
reiterated, and in the most emphatic manner was
Ney ordered to bring the whole of his forces to
bear on the Prussian right and rear. When,
therefore, at 5.30 p.m., Napoleon was preparing
his greatest blow at Blucher and getting in
readiness his Reserves to crush the Prussian
Centre at Ligny, the news that a strong column
of infantry, cavalry, and artillery was making for
Fleurus on the French left arrived, and it might
have been guessed that this was a part of Ney's
forces, acting in accordance with the instructions
sent to the Marshal, but sadly in the wrong
direction. Instead of moving against the Prussian
right, this column was making for the left rear
of the French. Vandamme, who forwarded the
report to the Emperor, suspended his movements,
and Girard fell back with his Division, until the
uncertainty should be cleared up. For it was



48 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS [June 16.

possible, perhaps, that Wellington had overcome
I Ney and was marching to assist Blucher; Ney
had sent no tidings during the day. Napoleon,
at first, believed that the force was the Division
despatched by Ney in accordance with the eight
o'clock order; but he reflected that the numbers
were too great for a Division, and that Ney had
been ordered to send the force by Marbais. Then,
when Vandamme's suspicions were supported by
a second report, he became extremely uneasy;
he suspended his projected attack on the Prussian
centre : and sent off an officer of his staff to
ascertain the truth. At 7 p.m., nearly two hours
after the first appearance of the strange column,
the staff-officer returned, with the tidings that
d'Erlon's whole Corps was at hand, and was
marching to join Napoleon's left. On the. receipt
of this news, the advance of the Imperial Guard
was renewed, and Girard's Division resumed its
former position in fine.

How d'Erlon had arrived in this position
may be explained with little difficulty. When
Napoleon's aide de - camp, Laurent, reached
Gosselies with the morning order, he found
that the First Corps was already marching
towards Quatre-Bras, and that d'Erlon himself
had gone forward to Frasnes. Laurent hastened
to find him, and on overtaking the columns of



June 16.] D'ERLON'S ERROR              49

the First Corps on his way, he took upon
himself the responsibility of changing their
direction towards St Amand. D'Erlon, on
learning what had been done, rode off at once
to join his Corps, sending word to Ney to
inform him what had happened. The road from
Frasnes towards St Amand lay through Villers-
Perruin, and it was this direction which brought
the column into such an unexpected position
towards the French rear. On reaching Villers-
Perruin, however, d'Erlon sent out a Light
Cavalry Brigade to his left, as a precautionary
measure. This Brigade encountered a Prussian
Brigade of Hussars and Lancers under Marwitz,
who withdrew slowly and in good order. Girard's
Division, perceiving the Prussians retire, became
reassured, and moved forward to its original
position. But now, d'Erlon received from Ney
a most urgent and peremptory order to rejoin
him at once. D'Erlon, who acted under Ney's
immediate orders, decided that it was his duty
to obey those orders; and since he had received f
no definite instructions from the Emperor as to
how he should act when he had brought his
Corps on the field, he turned about and left the
ground. Thus he was too late in his return to
be of use to Ney at Quatre-Bras, and the
eccentric direction given to his columns, although



50 THE EARLIER OPERATIONS [June 16.

the natural outcome of his previous dispositions,
served to postpone Napoleon's great attack with
his Guard for two hours; and, when the addition
of 20,000 men might have entirely overwhelmed
the Prussians, he calmly withdrew his men.

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



June 16.] A COSTLY MISTAKE              51

and thrown all his weight into the struggle at
Ligny, he would have been of the greatest use
in overwhelming the Prussians.

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





52

CHAPTER II

THE THIRD PRUSSIAN CORPS AND GROUCHY'S
FORCES

The Third Prussian Corps, commanded by Lieut-
General Thielemann, entered on the campaign
of 1815 with a total strength of 23,980 men and
48 guns. There were four divisions (1) of infantry,
containing from six to nine battalions each.
These were composed as follows: -
Ninth Division - Major-General Borcke -

                                   Battns. Men.

8th and 30th Regiments of the Line . 3}
1st Kurmark Landwehr Regiment   .  . 6} 6,752

Tenth Division - Colonel Kampfen -

27th Regiment of the Line   .   .  . 3}
2nd Kurmark Landwehr Regiment .      3} 4,045

Eleventh Division - Colonel Luck -

3rd and 4th Kurmark Landwehr Regiments 6 3,634

Twelfth Division - Colonel Stulpnagel -

31st Regiment of the Line . . .        3}
5th and 6th Kurmark Landwehr Regiments 6) 6,180
                                       ========
           Total Infantry, 30 battalions 20,611 men.

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

52



June 16.] THE THIRD PRUSSIAN CORPS              53

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

RESERVE CAVALRY - General Hobe.
Colonel Marwitz's Brigade -
                         Squadrons. Men.


7th Uhlans .                3)
8th Uhlans .                4}   925
9th Hussars .               3}

Colonel Count Lottum's Brigade -

5th Uhlans . . . .          3)
7th Dragoons . . .          5)
3rd Kurmark Landwehr .      4) 1,480
6th    "       "            4}
                               _____
Total Cavalry, 26 squadrons or 2,405 men.

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

SUMMARY.

         Infantry 20,611 men.

         Cavalry   2,405  "

         Artillery   964  " 48 guns.
                  ______
        Total . . 23,980  "

As regards organisation, the Corps was an
early form of the modern Army Corps, although
there were no "divisional" troops attached to



54 THE THIRD PRUSSIAN CORPS [June 16.

the infantry divisions, and the "corps" troops
consisted of the cavalry and artillery brought
together as "reserves" under separate com-
manders, and the necessary engineers and train.
It is curious to note that, in the actual fighting,
the artillery and cavalry, more especially the
former, were divided up, as soon as the battle
began. The idea which prevailed in those days,
of cavalry "reserves" and cavalry corps, com-
posed of two or more "divisions," is a marked
feature of the later Napoleonic era; and the fact
that both disappeared after 1815 goes some way to
proving the futility, or, rather, the disadvantages
of such organisations, as Napoleon meant them.
No larger bodies of cavalry than divisions have
been used since; nor has any army since gone
forth with a cavalry "reserve."

The Prussian infantry regiment had three
battalions, one of which was the Fusilier
battalion. The battalions averaged from 750 to
600 men each; the divisions, from six to nine
battalions. The cavalry regiment was composed
of from three to five squadrons; the brigade, of
from three to four regiments. The batteries of
artillery, horse and foot, consisted of 8 guns
each, and the personnel of the battery numbered
160 on the average. Thielemann's Corps, was
weak in cavalry and artillery, as measured by



June 16.] THIELEMANN'S CORPS              55

modern notions; the proportions were 1 cavalry-
man to nearly every 10 infantry, and 2 - 4 guns per
1,000 infantry.

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

At Ligny, the Corps won praise for its firm
behaviour, and although, during the battle, it had
not been hard pressed at any time, at the close
of the day, when the Prussian right and centre
were broken, it maintained its original position
before Sombreffe and on Bluchers left, enabling
the First and Second Corps to withdraw from the
field in safety. When it was almost too dark to
distinguish friend from foe, Thielemann made a
bold counter-stroke with two of his battalions.
Major Dittfurth, with the First and Second
Battalions of the 30th Prussian Regiment, moved
out from Mont Potriaux, which village he had
held throughout the afternoon, crossed the Ligny,
and made a demonstration against Grouchy on
the French right, in order to hinder the pursuit



56 THE THIRD PRUSSIAN CORPS [June 16.

of the broken Prussian centre. A regiment of
Dragoons from Excelmans' Corps charged the
Second Battalion, but was repulsed, and Dittfurth,
gaining courage, pushed his men further and seized
a hill occupied in force by the French. Two more
cavalry charges were launched against them, but
were also repulsed. And now a division of
Lobau's Corps, in a heavy column, advanced
against the First Battalion; but Dittfurth, with
great skill and presence of mind, so disposed the
Second Battalion as to bring a heavy flanking fire
on the French, who suffered severe losses from
this fire, and who, being uncertain in the dark-
ness of the strength of the enemy, withdrew.
Dittfurth now checked his advance, having
successfully prevented the French from pressing
too hard on the Prussian centre, and withdrew
his battalions to Mont Potriaux. A French
cavalry brigade charged up to the barrier on the
Fleurus high-road to gain Sombreffe, but the
Prussians of the Ninth Division beat them off.

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



June 16.]   GROUCHY'S DETACHMENT         57



Corps, under Bulow, who had arrived there during
the night.

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

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

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


THIRD CORPS - Vandamme.
                                        Battns.} Men
Eighth Division - (Lefol)                      }
   15th Light Infantry, 23rd, 37th, and        }
   64th Regiments of the Line . .        11    }
Tenth Division - (Habert)                      }
   22nd, 34th, 70th and 88th Regiments         } 14,508
   of the Line                           12    }
Eleventh Division - (Berthezene)               }
   12th, 83rd, 56th, and 86th Regiments        }
   of the Line                            8    }
                                         __
       Battalions Infantry .             31






58 THE THIRD PRUSSIAN CORPS [June 16.

Artillery                                    Men. Guns.
4 batteries Foot (1) Artillery (8 guns each) 782  32
Engineers                                    146

TOTALS, THIRD CORPS
Infantry                                  14,508
Artillery                                    782  32 guns.
Engineers                                    146
                                          ______
                                          15,536 men.

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

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

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

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

   Engineers ..................................   201
__________________________________________________________________
(1) The French foot batteries contained 8 guns; the horse batteries,
6 guns. The horse battery belonging to Vandamme's Corps had been
detached with Domon's Light Cavalry Division, to the Left Wing.



June 16.] GROUCHY'S DETACHMENT                       59



               TOTALS, FOURTH CORPS

                Infantry 12,589 men.
                Cavalry   2,366  "
                Artillery 1,538  "
                Engineers   201  "
                         ______
Total ....               16,694  " 38 guns



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

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

Total, Teste's Division .                   2,477 men, 8 guns.

Cavalry

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

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

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

Artillery attached to the Second Cavalry Corps -

                                           Guns.
   2 Batteries Horse Artillery . .           12     246



60



THE THIRD PRUSSIAN CORPS



SUMMARY OF GROUCHY'S FORCES.



                              Infantry. Cavalry. Artillery. Engrs. Guns.
Third Corps, Vandamme         . 14,508    --        782      146    32
Fourth Corps, Gérard          . 12,589   2,366    1,538      201    38
Twenty-First Division, Teste  .  2,316    --        161       --     8
Fourth Cav. Division, Pajol   .  --      1,234      154       --     6
Second Cav. Corps, Excelmans' .  --      2,817      246       --    12
                                29,413   6,417    2,881      347    96
Deducting losses at Ligny        3,940     907      600       --    --
Totals .                        25,473   5,510    2,281      347    96
                      33,611 men, 96 guns.

It will be seen that Grouchy was given a
large proportion of cavalry, although the numbers
composing the different units were in most cases
very short. Thus the Second Cavalry Corps
numbered only 2,817 men, whereas a modern
cavalry corps, or rather, two cavalry divisions
(as no modern army organises larger bodies of
cavalry than divisions), would amount to 9,000
or 10,000 men. The Fourth Cavalry Division
(commanded by Soult, brother of the. Chief of
the Staff, although under the immediate orders
of Pajol, commanding the First Cavalry Corps),
numbered 1,234 instead of 4,896 men, as the
modern British Cavalry Division at war strength
would number. The horse batteries consisted of
6 guns, as opposed to 8 in the Prussian
horse batteries. The foot batteries contained
8 guns each on both sides. The infantry



CHARACTER OF THE MEN              61

battalions were weak, averaging from 400 to 500
men. Only Gérard's Corps was well supplied
with cavalry; the remainder of the cavalry was
formed in divisions or corps. The idea of
cavalry reserves served its purpose on the field
of battle in the earlier Napoleonic days, but for
such operations as Grouchy was about to carry
out, the organisations were too cumbersome.

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



62 THE THIRD PRUSSIAN CORPS

needed even more than the personal force of the
Emperor to set it blazing again.
At Ligny, the Third (Vandamme's) and the
Fourth (Gérard's) Corps had borne the brunt of
the fighting, and had splendidly attacked the
stout-hearted Prussians posted in the villages and
on the banks of the stream. The final success
of their onslaught against Blucher's centre and
right, where the terrible slaughter gave evidence
of the stubbornness of the fight, speaks well for
the quality of the men. The cavalry had done
little except execute some occasional charges
against Thielemann's Divisions, and seize Tongre-
nelles and Balatre: although Milhaud's Cuirassiers
(with whom we are not concerned in this narrative)
broke through the centre at Ligny at the close of
the day.
The losses were heavy in Vandamme's and
Gérard's Corps, especially among the infantry -
nearly 4000 killed and wounded; while the
cavalry lost 900 and the artillery 600.
There was very little of the spirit of co-operation
between Napoleon's generals in this campaign.
They all had petty jealousies, but none so strongly
as Vandamme, Gérard and Grouchy. And these
were the men to whom the pursuit of the Prus-
sians had been entrusted!
Grouchy was, and had been, a brilliant leader



GROUCHY                           63

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

Grouchy was not a fit man for independent
command. In spite of his exploits in former
days, he had never before been exercised in so
great a responsibility. And no sooner had he
received the appointment than he began ex-
postulating and raising objections. Yet whom
else could Napoleon choose? Murat was no
longer with him. Davout was Minister of War
and Commandant of Paris - he could not be
spared. These were the two men who should
have been in Ney's place and Grouchy's. Lannes,
Dessaix, or Massena would have well filled the post
instead of Grouchy, but Lannes and Dessaix were
dead, and Massena's services were not available.



64 THE THIRD PRUSSIAN CORPS

Napoleon was not now served by his lieutenants
as he had been of old, and his generals were not
of the stuff which had composed his earlier
subordinates. The truth is that he could no
longer ignore the claims of rank and seniority.
In former days, he could promote to the highest
ranks those whom he chose, and those "who had
yet a name to make."
Of the generals in the Waterloo campaign,
on the French side, who could have taken
Grouchy's place? We cannot say that Gérard
could, simply because he advised Grouchy at
Walhain to do the right thing! He was junior,
too, to Vandamme. And Vandamme was a rough,
uncouth soldier. He had commanded a division
at the age of twenty-seven, and had exhibited
great qualities as a fighter, but for so important
a command as Grouchy's, he was not the man.
Had he been a really capable general, would he
not have risen beyond one step in rank since
1799? He was a divisional commander in 1799,
and a corps commander in 1815; for sixteen
years he had not risen. Besides, he quarrelled
both with Gérard and Grouchy (as well as with
Soult), and his slow movements on the 15th June,
as Napoleon crossed the Sambre, were not entirely
due to ignorance of orders.
Soult was the only possible alternative, but



ALTERNATIVE COMMANDERS              65

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

However, at the time, it was not possible for
Napoleon to make an alternative selection, and
Grouchy was the only man available. Up to this
point there had been no reason to. doubt his
capabilities, and it is not fair to criticise the man
until his faults have been clearly proved; it must
be remembered that mistakes in war are inevit-
able; and the "general who makes no mistakes
in war has not waged war for long." (1)

(1) Turenne.



CHAPTER III

THE RETREAT OF THIELEMANN'S CORPS FROM
SOMBREFFE

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

The First and Second Corps spent the night
of the 16th between Mellery, Tilly and Gentinnes,
on the two roads which lead towards Wavre,
and join at Mont St Guibert. Thielemann
remained upon the field of battle until 3 a.m.
when he began his retreat upon Gembloux. It



June 17.] GNEISENAU'S STRATEGY              67

was only after the First and Second Corps had
reached Tilly and Gentinnes in the middle of the
night that Wavre was chosen as the rallying
point. It is most probable that Gneisenau's
immediate object was to move the shattered
Corps clear of the battlefield under the firm
protection of Thielemann's men, before he cast
about for a point of assembly. To ensure an
orderly retreat and the soonest possible revival
of the defeated troops was the first thing to be
aimed at. And Gneisenau, who is credited with
initiating the brilliant strategy of the retreat to
Wavre, took care first of all to rally his men;
for he must have feared a vigorous pursuit by
the French, who, he supposed, would soon force
Thielemann to withdraw.

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

It is not necessary to enter here into the
details of the retreat of Zieten and Pirch L,
except in so far as they bear upon the subject
of Thielemann's withdrawal, but a brief description
of their movements may be given. The two
Corps retreated by the roads Tilly - Mont St



68 RETREAT OF THIELEMANN'S CORPS [June 17.

Guibert and Gentinnes - Mont St Guibert.
Pirch's Corps, arriving second, remained at Mont
St Guibert for a time as rear-guard, to protect
the cross-roads, and still further to steady the
men; for the best troops are unsteadied by
retreat. Zieten pushed on to Wavre, arriving at
noon, and took his troops across the Dyle, halting
at Bierges, about a mile south-west of the town.
Pirch followed, but did not cross the Dyle; he
halted between Aisemont and St Anne, two
villages a mile and two miles south-east of Wavre.
Gneisenau had given Thielemann the choice of
retreating upon Tilly or Gembloux, a point which
could only be decided according to circumstances.
Both of these places were on roads converging
upon Wavre, and at Gembloux there were no
less than four alternative routes. When Thiele-
mann made preparations for his retreat, he
considered carefully the respective advantages of
these two points. If he chose Tilly, he would
have to make a flank march along the Namur road
to Marbais and strike northwards from there.
He would then be following the road taken by
Pirch I. and Zieten; but this very fact was an
objection, because there were sure to be disabled
waggons, broken-down guns, and hundreds of
stragglers to hinder his passage. He could only
use one road, too. But was it safe to expose



June 17.] RETIREMENT ON GEMBLOUX              69

himself to an attack on his flank by the French,
while he was marching on Marbais? Certainly
not; for he could not possibly slip by in the
darkness; it would be daylight before his rear
had cleared Sombreffe. He turned to Gembloux.
The road from Sombreffe to that village was direct.
He would not expose either flank by marching
along that road. It was not encumbered with
the remnants of a retreating force; and his troops
were already in an easy position to withdraw. At
Gembloux, he might expect to meet Bulow's
Corps; and if so, the two could unite and use any
of the four roads from thence towards Wavre.
It would save a great deal of time if he could
employ more than one road for his march, but
he would have to make ample provision for
guarding the rear of his columns, and it would
be more difficult to protect three columns than
one. He expected to be closely pursued the
moment he began to retreat, but he would leave
a strong rear-guard to cover him.

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

He therefore decided to retire upon Gembloux.
During the night, he drew in all his outposts, and



70 RETREAT OF THIELEMANN'S CORPS [June 17.

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

Thielemann sent word to Bulow to ask him
if he had had any instructions as to their move-
ments, and telling him that he had not yet been



June 17.] BULOW'S DISPOSITIONS              71

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

Thielemann, meanwhile, who had received
orders to continue his march on Wavre, made



72 RETREAT OF THIELEMANN'S CORPS [June 17.

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

Defeat at the hands of so great a master of
war as Napoleon usually meant annihilation. To
follow up his victory, to pursue the retreating
force, and to leave no vestige of fighting power



June 17.] AFTER LIGNY              73

in the vanquished, is the aim and object of every
general who wins a battle. When the Prussians
were defeated at Ligny, the advantage of vigorous
pursuit with all the available cavalry and Lobau's
Corps would have been enormous. The whole
aim of Napoleon's strategy had been to crush
the Prussians, and to prevent them from inter-
fering with his attack on Wellington. He had
found Blucher ready to fight at Ligny, and he
had beaten him. To allow Blucher to retreat
with fighting power left in his army was the
very result to be avoided at all cost. Then why
did not Napoleon follow up his victory? What
are the facts?

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





74 RETREAT OF THIELEMANN'S CORPS [June 17.

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

On the other hand, there were many reasons
which caused Napoleon's decision not to pursue



June 17.] NAPOLEON'S DECISION              75

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

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

If there were good and sufficient reasons for
not pursuing by night, there were none for the
delay when day broke. Grouchy had been
summoned to Napoleon's headquarters at Fleurus
at eleven o'clock at night, when he received orders
to send the two Corps of cavalry under Pajol
and Excelmans to pursue the enemy at daybreak.
Grouchy then remained at Fleurus until 9 a.m.,
when he was ordered to accompany Napoleon on
a tour of inspection of the battlefield! What



76 RETREAT OF THIELEMANN'S CORPS [June 17.

was the object of visiting the field at this critical
time? This behaviour was most unusual on
Napoleon's part. Was he affected at the sight
of so much bloodshed, and desirous of cheering
the injured? He had witnessed too much
slaughter on the battlefield to be touched with
emotion, which can only be a weakness in a
general. The general should fight with as little
loss of human life as possible, but he should not
be filled with pitiful reflections in the crisis of a
campaign. Besides, the wounded, both French
and Prussians, were being cared for. There seems
to have been some physical cause for Napoleon's
strange behaviour on the morning of the 17th;
for after he had visited the field he discussed
politics and affairs in Paris with his generals!
He wasted the hours until 11 a.m. Shortly
before that hour he had received news from
Ney as to the battle at Quatre-Bras, and this
decided him to make his final arrangements. He
ordered Lobau to take the Sixth Corps (less
Teste's Division) to Marbais, to support Ney and
attack Wellington's left flank. He himself would
follow with the Imperial Guard and Domon's
Light Cavalry Division. Grouchy was to take
the Third and Fourth Corps, Teste's Division,
and Pajol's and Excelmans' Cavalry, and pursue
the Prussians. Thus only at 11 a.m. on the



June 17.] THE EMPEROR'S MISTAKE              77

morning of the 17th did Napoleon give his
orders for the pursuit.

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

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

Now, a force in retreat does not require an
equivalent force to pursue it. The moral advan-
tages with the victor enable him to press vigor-
ously with fewer troops. So the force detached



78 RETREAT OF THIELEMANN'S CORPS [June 17.

under Grouchy (33,600 men) was ample to follow
up the Prussians, and to beat even the fresh , Corps
(Bulow's) whchh Napoleon suspected in the yicimty
of Gembloux. True, Grouchy's force was required
to do something more than follow up and beat
Thielemann's Corps, or Thielemann's and Bulow's
combined : but what could be Napoleon's object
in keeping back any troops at Ligny? Having
detailed Grouchy's force, the remaining troops
might have been pushed to Quatre-Bras at dawn,
and not at midday.

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

It is easy to criticise Napoleon now, when the
results of his inactivity are so apparent, but by
taking into account the actual circumstances at
the time, as they must have presented themselves
to him, without reference to the results, and by



June 17.] FATAL DELAY              79

putting ourselves in the position of the man in
command, it is impossible to find sufficient reasons
for his delays.

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



CHAPTER IV

GROUCHY'S PURSUIT OF THE PRUSSIANS

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

Accordingly, when Pajol started off at 4 a.m.,
there were no signs to show in which direction
Thielemann had retired. Taking Soult's Division
of Light Cavalry, Pajol started off from Balatre
and made his way across to the Namur road,
under the impression that this was the true line
of retreat. He sent in a despatch from Balatre
(he must have written it very soon after his troops
had started) to the Emperor, stating that he was
"pursuing the enemy, who were in full retreat
towards Liege and Namur," and that he had
already made many prisoners. Shortly after
striking the Namur road, he came upon a
Prussian Horse Battery (No. 14) which had

80



June 17.] GROUCHY IN PURSUIT              81

withdrawn during the battle of Ligny to
replenish its ammunition waggons but had
failed to fall in with the ammunition column.
Thielemann had ordered it to retire on Gembloux,
when he beat his retreat, but this it failed to
do, and wandered about aimlessly near the Namur
road. When Pajol's men came up, they captured
the whole battery, in front of Le Mazy; and
Pajol reported it in great glee to the Emperor.
This tended to increase the belief that the
Prussians were making for Namur. But Pajol,
advancing some three miles beyond Le Mazy,
without coming across further traces of the enemy,
began at last to suspect that he was leading a
wild goose chase. Accordingly he halted at Le
Boquet, and sent out reconnoitring parties. At
midday (while Thielemann was resting at Gem-
bloux) he started off northwards on Saint-Denis,
with the object of taking the road to Louvain.
At Saint-Denis he was joined by Teste's Division,
which had been sent to him by Napoleon. Thus
Pajol was very far from being of use in the chase.
Meanwhile, Excelmans fared little better.
Berton's Brigade of Dragoons, belonging to
Excelmans' Corps, started off to follow
Thielemann's rear-guard, whose departure was
only noticed as it left Sombreffe. But Berton
followed down the Namur road behind Pajol.



82 PURSUIT OF THE PRUSSIANS [June 17.

What was the advantage in searching the country
which had just been passed by the First Cavalry
Corps? It is hard to suppose that it was not
known which way Pajol had taken. Berton got
as far as Le Mazy, where he was told by some
peasants that the Prussians had retreated by
Gembloux. He therefore halted, sent back the
news to Excelmans, and awaited instructions. It
was unfortunate for the French that he did not
think of sending this news forward to Pajol!

Instructions soon arrived, and Berton was
ordered to march on Gembloux. He therefore
marched up the valley of the Orneau, a small
stream running southwards to the Sambre, and
arrived in front of Gembloux at 9 a.m. Here-
he found the Prussian outposts, and descried,
on the far side of the village, the whole of
Thielemann's Corps taking their rest. Excelmans,
with his remaining three brigades of cavalry,
arrived before Gembloux, half an hour later, i.e.
at 9.30 a.m. He saw that there were some
20,000 Prussians resting beyond the village, and
yet he neglected to send back word to Grouchy
immediately. He did not even inform Pajol of
his discovery, so the latter was still wandering.
Although he had 3,000 cavalry and 12 guns,
Excelmans made no attempt to harass the
Prussians, who, since they were resting, were



June 17.] ORDER FROM NAPOLEON              83

obviously not ready to fight again. But his
mistake lay not so much in his avoiding conflict
as in his omission to send immediate news to
Grouchy and Pajol. There can never be a
mistake in sending back too much information
to head-quarters (as far as the means of trans-
mission allow); what is not required can there
be disposed of.

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

Grouchy, meanwhile, at 11.30 a.m., received
the following written order from Napoleon: -

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



84 PURSUIT OF THE PRUSSIANS [June 17.

place detachments of cavalry between, so as to be
able to communicate with Head-quarters."

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

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

Grouchy, when he had received his verbal
instructions from Napoleon, had expostulated and
expressed the opinion that no advantage would
be obtained if he carried out the operations he
was ordered to. He argued that the Prussians
had already had twelve hours' start; that although
no definite news had yet been received from the
cavalry scouts, it was extremely likely that Blucher
had retired on his base, Namur; and that in
following the Prussians in this direction he would
be moving further and further from Napoleon.
He asked to be allowed to march to Quatre-Bras



June 17.] A SERIOUS MISTAKE              85

with the Emperor. But Napoleon, naturally
enough, declined, and firmly repeated his orders
to Grouchy, saying that it was his (Grouchy's)
duty to find which route the Prussians had taken,
and to attack them as soon as he found them.

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

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

In starting Vandamme before Gérard, Grouchy
made a serious mistake; for Gérard had over an
hour to wait before he could march his troops
off, since both Corps had to use the same road,
and Vandamme was behind Gérard at the time.
Vandamme's Corps had suffered less than Gérard's



86 PURSUIT OF THE PRUSSIANS [June 17.

at Ligny the day before, but it was no longer
a case of fearing an inferiority in numbers.
Vandamme marched with incredible slowness.
His advanced guard did not reach Point-du-Jour
until 3 p.m.; (Thielemann was by this time an
hour's march beyond Gembloux!) The roads
were in a very bad state, it is true, and the
heavy rain that was falling made marching
difficult; also the passage of the Prussians had
made the roads worse; but Point-du-Jour is
less than 4 miles from St Amand.

Grouchy himself went to Point-du-Jour,
arriving at the same time as Vandamme's
advanced guard. Here he received his aide-de-
camp, who had returned with news from
Excelmans; who reported that "he was observ-
ing the enemy's army," and "would follow the
Prussians as soon as ever they should begin to
march" (Houssaye). Grouchy, instead of giving
Vandamme and Gérard orders to hasten their
march on Gembloux, and galloping there him-
self, made no effort to hurry. He accompanied
Vandamme's Corps, which still continued with
extraordinary slowness; and arrived at Gembloux
at seven o'clock in the evening; taking four
hours to cover 5 miles. Gérard arrived there
two hours later. Thus at the end of the day,
Grouchy's main body was less than 7 miles



June 17.] EXCELMANS AT FAULT              87

from Ligny; and he was supposed to be vigor-
ously pressing the Prussians! He had not yet
found the direction of their retreat! Compare,
allowing even for the rain and the state of the
roads, his rate of marching with Thielemann's,
over the same road, a few hours previously; and
compare Grouchy's subsequent retreat.

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

Excelmans had lost every opportunity. He
should not have contented himself with watching
the enemy; he should have made "feints," to
cause the Prussians to disclose their intentions,
or he should at least have discovered the direction
of their movements. If he was too weak to attack
even the rear-guard, he should have endeavoured
to work round Thielemann and occupy him while
Grouchy with the main body arrived. He should
also have sent across to Pajol and asked him to



88 PURSUIT OF THE PRUSSIANS [June 17.

work in towards his left so as still further to
hamper Thielemann. But none of these things
were done, and the Prussians were allowed to move
off quietly, Excelmans merely following behind!

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

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

Excelmans, arriving at Sauveniere at six
o'clock in the evening, sent out Bonnemains'
Brigade (4th and 12th Dragoons) towards Sart
a Walhain, and the 15th Dragoons towards
Perwez, to reconnoitre. Scouts were also sent
towards Tourinnes and Nil St Vincent. These



June 17.] PAJOL MOVES TO LE MAZY              89

scouts found a small Prussian rear-guard at
Tourinnes, but they only watched the enemy
for an hour, and then returned. Bonnemains
brought his Brigade back to Ernage, where he
bivouacked for the night. He had gathered
information that the Prussians were retreating
towards Wavre; and the 15th Dragoons also
reported from the neighbourhood of Perwez to
the same effect; so that Excelmans, at 10 p.m.,
knew with comparative certainty that the enemy
were marching on Wavre.
Pajol, in the meantime, finding that he was
mistaken in his conclusions as to the direction
of the Prussian retreat, marched back from
St Denis with Soult's Light Cavalry and Teste's
Division to Le Mazy, the point from which he
had started in the morning. Now, even if he
had found that he was striking in a wrong
direction, there can be no possible reason for his
retreating to Le Mazy. He must have known
that such a move, whether right or wrong,
would have a very great influence on Grouchy's
plan; therefore, instead of marching all his forces
back, he should have sent an aide-de-camp or
galloper to find where the main body was, or to
find Grouchy and get fresh instructions. Pajol
exercised no discretion whatever in making such
a move.





90 PURSUIT OF THE PRUSSIANS [June 17.

At 10 p.m., at Gembloux, Grouchy wrote the
following despatch to the Emperor: -

"Gembloux, 17th June, 10 p.m.

"Sire, - I have the honour to report to you
that I occupy Gembloux and that my Cavalry is
at Sauveniere.(1) The enemy, about 30,000 strong,
continues his retreat. We have captured here a
convoy of 400 cattle, magazines and baggage.

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

"It may perhaps be inferred from this that
one portion is going to join Wellington; and
that the centre, which is Blucher's army, is
retreating on Liege. Another column, with
artillery, having retreated by Namur, (2) General
Excelmans has orders to push, this evening, six
squadrons to Sart á Walhain, and three to
Perwez. According to their report, if the mass
of the Prussians is retiring on Wavre, I shall
follow them in that direction, so as to prevent
them from reaching Brussels, and to separate
them from Wellington. If, on the contrary, my
information proves that the principal Prussian
force has marched on Perwez, I shall pursue
the enemy by that town.

"Generals Thielemann and Borstel (?) formed
part of the army which Your Majesty defeated
yesterday; they were still here at 10 o'clock

(1) This would mislead Napoleon, who would infer that Pajol's
Cavalry was included.

(2) Grouchy infers this from Pajol's capture of the Horse Battery
near Le Mazy.



June 17.] GROUCHY'S DESPATCH              91

this morning, (1) and have announced that they
have 20,000 casualties. They enquired on
leaving, the distances of Wavre, Perwez, and
Hannut. Blucher has been slightly wounded in
the arm, but it has not prevented him from
continuing to command after having had his wound
dressed. He has not passed by Gembloux. - I
am, with respect, Sire, Your Majesty's faithful
subject, Marshal Count Grouchy."

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

(1) Grouchy's orders to his commanders for the
next day, sent out at 10 p.m., showed that he
still firmly believed that the Prussians were
retreating on Liege, although in his despatch
Grouchy seems to have avoided telling Napoleon that they were
still there at two o'clock in the afternoon!



92 PURSUIT OF THE PRUSSIANS [June 17.

to Napoleon, he had recognised the possibility
of their having taken the road to Wavre.

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

When Bonnemain's reports to Excelmans
reached Grouchy, he should have had no longer
any doubts as to the true line of Blucher's
retreat. Towards half-past two in the morning,
news from Walhain came in, to the effect that
the peasants there had reported that about three
Prussian Corps had passed through on the
previous day, marching in the direction of
Wavre. A glance at the map will show that
Gembloux to Walhain is in the direction of
Wavre, and not of Liege. Further, from
information gathered by the peasants from
Prussian stragglers and the gossips who seem
to find a place in every army, the enemy were
talking of the coming battle near Brussels. As
to Grouchy's thoughts, and the influence these
reports had on him, it is difficult to find what



June 18.] STRATEGICAL POSSIBILITIES              93

train of reasoning he followed. He knew that
Napoleon expected to fight Wellington near the
Forest of Soignies : he knew, too, that the
Emperor was anxious for him to prevent the
Prussians from marching across to join the
English, yet he did not consider the very
great possibility that Blucher might rapidly join
Wellington by a short flank march from Wavre.
Had such a possibility entered his mind, he
must have reflected on the best means of
thwarting it, ere it became too late. Obviously
his only move then was to make for the bridges
at Moustier and Ottignies, via Saint Géry. By
reaching the left bank of the Dyle (which he
could easily do before Blucher), Grouchy could
have either manoeuvred to join Napoleon, when
an addition of 33,000 troops must have over-
whelmed Wellington, or he could have continued
to pursue the Prussians, should it happen that
he had been wrong in supposing that they were
marching to join the English. It did not
require extraordinary foresight or mental effort
to realize how much more useful and how much
more effective a move via St Géry and Moustier
and the left bank of the Dyle would have been.
If Grouchy was really as undecided as he
appears to have been, as to the Prussian line
of retreat, he should have had recourse to a



94 PURSUIT OF THE PRUSSIANS [June 18.

movement which offered no doubtful advantages.
A move across the Dyle by Moustier would
have had a very great effect, and if the
Prussians had really retreated on Liege, this
movement of Grouchy's would still have its
advantages. He could have thrown his weight
into the fight at Waterloo; Napoleon would
not blame him for this assistance, if he knew
that the Prussians were out of reach.

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

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



June 18.] THE BEGINNING OF WATERLOO              95

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

Gérard at once urged Grouchy to change his
direction and march to the sound of the cannonade.
But Grouchy refused to take the responsibility of
disobeying the orders he had received from
Napoleon - "to pursue and attack the Prussians,



96 PURSUIT OF THE PRUSSIANS [June 18.

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

At the same time, while blaming Grouchy for
his want of foresight and boldness, it must not be
forgotten that the state of the roads and of the
whole countryside was a very heavy factor against
him. It was almost impossible to get the guns
through the mud and mire which composed the
roads. The infantry had to wade ankle-deep in



June 18.] FRENCH DILATORINESS              97

many places, and for wheeled transport the
roads were nearly impassable. Rain had fallen
incessantly. Still, much could have been done
by the cavalry, which was the arm which should
have been relied upon most during these opera-
tions; and if the infantry had taken to the fields
on either side of the road, they would hardly have
marched slower than Vandamme's men. The
Prussians, who were under the necessity of taking
with them all their guns, waggons, and trains that
they wished to save from the enemy on the same
roads that their infantry used, were able to cover
nearly 2 1/2 miles an hour. It might be presumed
that the French could cover 2 miles an hour.

Vandamme, continuing his march while
Grouchy breakfasted at leisure at Walhain,
reached Nil St Vincent with his corps at
10.30 a.m. Here, in accordance with Grouchy's
orders on the previous evening, he halted, and
awaited fresh instructions. It was one o'clock
before Grouchy arrived in person, and gave them
to him. Then he and Excelmans, who had met
with a Prussian rear-guard near Neuf Sart and La
Baraque, were ordered to continue their march on
Wavre. An hour later, Vandamme's advanced
guard was attacked by Ledebur's detachment of
Hussars, which had been left at Mont St Guibert.
Ledebur had remained at Mont St Guibert,





98 PURSUIT OF THE PRUSSIANS [June 18.

unaware of the proximity of the French, until
his patrols caught sight of the troops at Nil St
Vincent. Then he was alive to the dangers of
his situation; for he was indeed in peril of being
cut off. Excelmans' Dragoons at La Baraque
stood across his rear, and Vandamme's Corps
was threatening to cut off his retreat by Corbaix.
He, however, was a man of great military instinct,
and saw that his only chance of escape lay in
attacking the French advanced squadrons. This
he did with his Hussars, and, being reinforced from
Pirch's Corps by two battalions, which in addition
to the battalions which were with him before,
made up his detachment to the strength of a
brigade, he boldly attacked the head of
Vandamme's column. Grouchy ordered Excel-
mans to turn Ledebur's position by Dion-le-Mont,
but before the French Cavalry had developed
their movement, the Prussians had retreated
through the wood of La Huzelle and had fallen
back on Wavre. Vandamme was sent off in
pursuit, with orders to follow the Prussians to
Wavre, take up a position there, and await
instructions.

Grouchy himself, as soon as Ledebur had
retired, rode off to Limelette, a village on the
left bank of the Dyle, to reconnoitre with his
own eyes. It is a pity, for his reputation as a



June 18.] ORDERED TO WAVRE              99

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

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



CHAPTER V

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

At nightfall on the 17th, while Grouchy was still
at Gembloux, the whole of Blucher's army
(except two Divisions, the Ninth and Thirteenth,
and the Reserve Cavalry of Thielemann's Corps,
which were posted as rear-guards to the Third and
Fourth Corps) had reached Wavre and its neigh-
bourhood. As explained in the third chapter, the
Second and Third Corps bivouacked on the left
bank of the Dyle, beyond Wavre, and the First
and Fourth on the right bank. Pirch I. was
between St Anne and Aisemont; Bulow was at
Dion-le-Mont. The rear-guards were posted at
Vieux Sart and Mont St Guibert; these troops
fell back next day as the French advanced. On
Blucher's left, patrols scoured the country towards
Namur and Louvain; on his right they watched
the Dyle and its approaches. Limale was held by
a detachment from Zieten's Corps to protect the
right flank, and cavalry patrols rode to and from
over all the valley of the Dyle. The reserve



June 18.] THE PRUSSIANS PREPARED              101

ammunition columns with full supplies reached
Wavre in the afternoon of the 17th, and thus all
the batteries were replenished. It speaks well for
the Prussian arrangements that these supplies
should have reached Wavre at so important a
moment; when on account of their unexpected
retreat to Wavre, all previous arrangements had
to be cancelled.

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

"I shall not come with two corps only, but
with my whole army; upon this understanding,
however, that, should the French not attack us on
the 18th, we shall attack them on the 19th."

Having reached Wavre in safety, the
Prussians, though they had lost none of their
courage, began to feel greater confidence. The
defeat at Ligny had merely damped their ardour
for a space; it had in nowise impaired their fight-
ing value. The men were eager for a further trial
with the French, and they were now more
determined than before to regain prestige and
humble the victors of Jena. Nevertheless, among
the lesser troops and the newly raised corps from
the Rhenish provinces, there had been many
desertions. Most of these had once been French



102 MARCHES TOWARDS ST JEAN [June 18.

soldiers themselves, and knew the fear of
Napoleon. To the number of 8000 these men
"absented" themselves after the battle of Ligny,
while some fled headlong to Liege. On the whole,
considering the heterogeneous composition of
Blucher's army, there was very little bad faith
among the men.

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

It ran: -

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

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

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



June 18.] BLUCHER'S PLANS              103

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

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

Now, why was Bulow's Corps, which was at
Dion-le-Mont, to lead the flank march, while Pirch
I., Zieten, and Thielemann were all so much nearer
to Chapelle St Lambert? Dion-le-Mont was 10
miles by road from Chapelle St Lambert;
Aisemont, where Pirch was, was 8 miles; Bierges,
Zieten's headquarters, was only 4 miles; and La
Bavette, Thielemann's headquarters, 6 miles. It
followed, then, that Pirch could not move until
Bulow's Corps had passed. Had Blucher's men
been so exhausted, it would have saved most of
them many miles of weary marching if Zieten and
Thielemann had been ordered to Chapelle St



104 MARCHES TOWARDS ST JEAN [June 18.

Lambert, and Pirch and Bulow to move in nearer
to Wavre. Bulow's Corps had so far taken no
part in the fighting, and it may have been
Blucher's desire to give them opportunities, but for
all that he knew Wellington might be in dire
straits as soon as the battle began, so that he
should not have hesitated to send off the nearest
Corps.

Bulow commenced his march from Dion-le-
Mont at daybreak, with Losthin's Fifteenth
Division as advanced guard. At 7 a.m. the
Division reached Wavre, but the crossing of the
bridges over the Dyle occupied a long time, and
the passage through the town was hindered by a
disastrous fire which broke out in the main street,
through which the troops were marching. Great
excitement prevailed, as it was feared that all
the reserve ammunition waggons parked in the
town were in danger. But the troops of the 14th
Regiment of the line made great exertions, and
were able to overcome the flames. But the Corps
had been delayed for two valuable hours, and
did not clear Wavre until 10 a.m. Meanwhile,
parties of cavalry were busy reconnoitring
towards Maransart and Couture. A detachment
of Hussars rode out to patrol the valley of the
Lasne, and another detachment to establish com-
munication with Ledebur at Mont St Guibert.



June 18.] BULOW AT ST LAMBERT              105

All the country between Plancenoit and the Dyle
was carefully examined, and reports were sent in
continually. The Prussian scouting work was
very efficiently performed, and is still worthy of
notice, even in these days. Every opportunity
was taken of searching and feeling for the enemy.
Not only were the Prussians accurately informed,
but they hindered Napoleon's communications
with Grouchy, by occupying the roads their
messengers might use, and compelling them to
make very wide detours.

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

The safe arrival of Bulow's Corps at St
Lambert, and the reports from his scouts, made
Blucher resolve to hasten the march of the First
and Second Corps. Pirch's men had broken up
their bivouacs at 5 a.m., but had had to wait until
12 noon to allow Bulow's Corps to pass clear of




106 MARCHES TOWARDS ST JEAN [June 18.

Wavre. Zieten, on the left bank of the Dyle,
marched for Ohain at noon. Blucher was
uneasy about Grouchy's strength, and his intent-
tions. He was anxious to take his whole army
towards Mont St Jean, but he was afraid of an
attack on his rear and flank. He therefore
determined to leave Thielemann's Corps at Wavre
to await Grouchy's approach, and if the French
were not in strength, Thielemann was to march
to join the main body, leaving a small force in
Wavre as a rear-guard. Blucher himself, leav-
ing Gneisenau to arrange matters at Wavre, rode
on to St Lambert at 11 a.m.

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



June 18.] BLUCHER'S FLANK MARCH              107

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



CHAPTER VI

Thielemann's instructions and his
dispositions at Wavre

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

As Excelmans' Cavalry had shown so little
activity in their attack on the outposts, Thiele-
mann, towards three o'clock, decided to move his
Corps towards Ohain, leaving only a small detach-
ment to defend Wavre. In his judgment, if the
French had meant to hinder the march towards
Wellington, they would have appeared in force
several hours ago. So slowly did they appear to
be approaching, and in no great numbers, that
Thielemann had every reason to suppose that a
small force would be sufficient to cover his march,
and that his main body would be of much greater
assistance at St Lambert than at Wavre. His
patrols had so far only seen the opposing cavalry
I and the head of Vandamme's Corps; the whole

108



June 18] ARRIVAL AT WAVRE              109

strength of Grouchy's force was as yet undis-
covered. Accordingly, at about 3.30 p.m., the
Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Divisions,
with the Reserve Cavalry and Artillery, were
ordered to begin marching towards Frischermont
and Chapelle St Lambert; and a small detach-
ment under Colonel Zeppelin, consisting of the
two Fusilier battalions of the 30th Regiment of the
Line and the 1st Kurmark Landwehr Regiment,
belonging to the Ninth Division, was detailed to
hold Wavre.

When, at 4 p.m., the head of Vandamme's
Corps appeared on the road from La Baraque
leading towards the main bridge at Wavre, and
Excelmans' Cavalry was seen massing at Dion-le-
Mont, one Division, the Twelfth (Stulpnagel's)
was already on the road to Rixensart, and the
Eleventh was in the act of marching. The Ninth
Division (Borcke's), which had been posted near
the farm of La Huzelle, fell back before Vandamme,
but on reaching Wavre, it was found that the
bridges had been barricaded, and no entry was
possible. This left the Division in a situation of
some danger, but Borcke led his men off to the
right, to Basse Wavre, where there was another
bridge, about half a mile down the stream. Here
they crossed, and destroyed the bridge behind
them. This was a most necessary step, because



110 THIELEMANN'S INSTRUCTIONS [June 18.

Excelmans' Dragoons were scarcely a mile and a
half away at Dion-le-Mont, and they might at
any moment make a dash for Basse Wavre. The
destruction of the bridge, too, saved Thielemann
the task of defending it, and so scattering his
troops, which were already none too numerous. To
have left the bridge as a means of possible counter-
attack was not desirable, nor even necessary, as a
counter-attack by Limale or the Mill of Bierges
would have had all the points in its favour.

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



June 18.] DESCRIPTION OF WAVRE              111

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

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

The position afforded favourable means for
defence. The Dyle, ordinarily a shallow stream,
but at this time in flood, owing to the heavy
rains, ran along the front in a narrow valley.
The town, of Wavre, situated on the left bank,
extended for about half a mile along the stream,
and was connected with a few buildings which
formed a kind of suburb on the opposite bank,
by two stone bridges, one of which, the larger
of the two, carried the main Brussels-Namur road.
About three-quarters of a mile up-stream, on the
left bank, was the Mill of Bierges, destined to be
the scene of the fiercest fighting; here there was
a wooden bridge, carrying a narrow country road,
leading from the village of Bierges. At Limale,
a village 2 miles up-stream from Wavre,



112 THIELEMANN'S INSTRUCTIONS [June 18.

and at Limelette, another village a mile further,
there were also wooden bridges. On the right
bank of the Dyle, there was a series of
hills commanding the town, the river, and the
bridges. On the left bank, a similar series of
heights, rather steeper but not so high; and
numerous hedges, lanes, and hollows on the left
bank compensated for the greater "command" of
the ground on the opposite side of the stream.
All the buildings along the river were hastily loop-
holed, and the two bridges at Wavre strongly
barricaded. Basse Wavre included a few buildings
about half a mile below Wavre; and houses stood
on both banks. There were many lanes and cross-
roads branching from the main Brussels road, on
both sides of the stream, so that the movements
of troops could be conducted generally under
cover; but the state of the roads was so bad, that
any movement at all was extremely difficult and
slow. Grouchy's side commanded Thielemann's,
but the latter's was well covered, both from
artillery and musket fire. Behind Wavre was a
hill, which would afford good cover for reserves.
Thielemann saw that the enemy might attack
at any or all of the points of passage: and he
was therefore determined to be prepared for any
emergency. In placing the troops, his one idea
was to hold the line of the stream with skirmishers



June 18.] POSITIONS OF PRUSSIAN TROOPS               113

and sharpshooters in sufficient strength to prevent
any sudden surprise, and to keep his supports
together close at hand, to reinforce any threatened
point or to guard his flanks. He placed the Tenth
Division (Kampfen's) behind Wavre, resting on
a small wood near the Brussels road. The Twelfth
Division (Stulpnagel's), which had started on its
way to St Lambert, was brought back to Bierges,
and placed behind the village. The bridge at
Bierges was barricaded, and the mill prepared for
defence. One battery of Horse Artillery (No. 20)
was placed in front of the village. The Eleventh
Division (Luck's) was placed astride the Brussels
road, behind Wavre, and on the left of the
Tenth Division.

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

Hobe's Cavalry Division (Marwitz's and



114 THIELEMANN'S INSTRUCTIONS  [June 18.

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

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






CHAPTER VII

THE BATTLE OF WAVRE

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

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

Before Grouchy could reach Vandamme, the

115



116 THE BATTLE OF WAVRE [June 18.

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



June 18.] NAPOLEON APPEALS TO GROUCHY              117

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

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



118 THE BATTLE OF WAVRE [June 18.

on Napoleon's right. But it was now too late.
The opportunity had passed much earlier in
the day.

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

Grouchy, impatient and fretful, rode off to
meet the remainder of the Fourth Corps and
Pajol's force, still some distance behind on the



June 18.] GROUCHY'S ATTACKS FAILS               119

Namur-Brussels road. Ordering Pajol to make
all haste for Limale, he returned to the field,
where he found that matters had made no pro-
gress. Infuriated by the repeated failures to
carry the bridge and Mill of Bierges, he himself
led a fresh attack with Hulot's men, but nothing
could overcome the fire of the Prussians. Gérard
fell wounded and was carried off the field.

Finding his attacks on Bierges and Wavre
unsuccessful, Grouchy left Vandamme and
Excelmans to carry on the fight, while he himself
led the remainder of Gérard's Corps to Limale.
Pajol had arrived in front of the Limale bridge
shortly before dark, with Teste's Division and his
own cavalry. Stengel, who held Limale with
three battalions and three squadrons, had omitted
to barricade the bridge, and when Pajol perceived
this he sent a regiment of Hussars at full speed on
the bridge, and, charging four abreast only, these
horsemen burst through the Prussians posted at
the farther end. The passage was forced and
Teste's Division was sent across; and Stengel,
finding himself very much outnumbered, aban-
doned Limale and took up a position on the
heights above the village. Hearing of Stengel's
difficulties, Thielemann sent the Twelfth Division
(Stulpnagel's) and Hobe's Cavalry to reinforce him.
Thielemann saw now that the real point of cross-



120 THE BATTLE OF WAVRE [June 18.

ing was Limale, and not Bierges or Basse
Wavre, and he moved all the troops he could
spare towards his right. Four battalions of the
Tenth Division took up Stulpnagel's former
position, and three battalions of the Twelfth
Division were left to defend Bierges; the
remainder marched to join Stengel.

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

Stulpnagel, his Division now reduced to six
battalions, left one battalion (the Fusilier
battalion of the 5th Kurmark Landwehr
Regiment) and one battery in a copse north
of Bierges, as a reserve, and joined Stengel,
who was now on his right, with his remain-
ing five battalions. His orders were to
endeavour to regain Limale, and drive the
French across the Dyle. He formed his attack
with two battalions in first line, with three in
support. His two squadrons were sent to



June 18.] THE PRUSSIANS CHECKED              121

reinforce Stengel, and the rest of the cavalry
posted in rear, to be in readiness for a flank
movement. The darkness was so great that little
cohesion was possible between the units, and it
is not surprising that the attack fell to pieces.
The formation of the ground was unknown, and
the little folds and features which make or mar a
night attack were plentiful: and unfortunately
for the Prussians, they marred their plans. As the
front line was advancing in fair order, a hollow
lane was suddenly met with, and caused great
confusion, being unexpected; but worse than this,
the opposite side was lined with French sharp-
shooters, who poured volleys across into the dis-
ordered Prussians. There was, for a time, no
attempt to seek cover, and the losses from the
fire of the French opposite were heavy, in spite of
the darkness. The second line, which was to have
supported the first, moved too far to its left, and
became itself a front line, engaging more French
skirmishers. Stengel, on the right, was charged
by cavalry and compelled to retire.

Stulpnagel perceived that little good could
come of an attack the successive steps of which
had merged into a confused line, and resolved to
withdraw to the shelter of the wood behind Point-
du-Jour, leaving a line of outposts to watch the
front edge. The cavalry took post behind the





122 THE BATTLE OF WAVRE [June 18.

infantry; and the French fearing to venture
through the uncertainties of the night, the fight-
ing on this side ceased.

Meanwhile, on the Prussian left, before Wavre
and the Mill of Bierges, the fighting went on most
vigorously. The darkness did not prevent the
fury of the fight; it only seemed to add to the
grimness of it. The whole of Vandamme's Corps
was now engaged, and time after time the French
rushed at the barricades on the bridges. Thirteen
separate assaults were beaten back by the
Prussians, and no less than five times the
defenders, in pursuing the routed enemy,
attacked and drove them from the houses on the
far side of the Dyle. Once, the French had
possession of the main bridge, and had even
occupied some of the neighbouring buildings,
but the Prussian reserves were hurried up, and
these drove out the French. Each time there
seemed a chance of the enemy obtaining a footing
on the left bank, the Prussian reserves,
judiciously posted near at hand among the side-
streets and dwellings, rushed out and overwhelmed
the intruders. Four battalions defended Wavre
against the whole of Vandamme's Corps. But
while the attackers were exposed at each attempt
to cross the bridges, the defenders were secure
behind their loop-holed walls. Only a great



June 18.] AT BASSE WAVRE              123

superiority of artillery fire to prepare the way
for the assault, and to destroy some of the nearer
walls, could have made a crossing successful. A
few daring Sappers might have brought up bags
of powder to blow in the barricades; they could
only have done so by sacrificing themselves,
but heroes and brave men were not wanting.
Shortage of powder, however, explains the fact
that no such attempt was made.

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

The only advantage which Grouchy had
obtained was on his left, which had rolled back
the Prussian right, but had in no way destroyed
it. Firing ceased at about 11 p.m., and great
preparations were made on both sides for a renewal
of the fight at daybreak. But Grouchy was well
pleased with his success on the left, since he
assumed that he had at least cut off half of the
Prussian army. It was now too late for him to be
of assistance to Napoleon, and the din of the distant
battle had long ago died out. But Grouchy took



124 THE BATTLE OF WAVRE [June 18.

no steps to ascertain how matters stood with the
Emperor. He merely sent orders to Vandamme
to bring his Corps across the Dyle at Limale, as
he intended making an end of the Prussian right
flank, and marching to join Napoleon before
Brussels, thinking, for a reason which cannot be
explained, that the allies had been beaten.
Perhaps it was his confident belief in the
invincibility of the Emperor; but yet again he
made no efforts to gain information or to confirm
his own views. Teste's Division came up during
the night, and, crossing the Dyle at Limale, took
post on the right flank of Gérard's Corps, between
Limale and Bierges, and resting its own right
flank on the Dyle.

Thielemann, on the other hand, had sent an
officer's patrol to reconnoitre on his right, and
to ascertain what had occurred at Mont St Jean.
This officer returned during the night with the
news of Napoleon's rout, and consequently Thiele-
mann expected Grouchy, who, he supposed, was
fully acquainted with the situation, to retreat early
next morning, if not during the night. But two
incidents occurred which sadly reduced his
numbers and which caused a rearrangement of
his troops. Stengel, for a reason never yet
explained, calmly marched off from Stulpnagel's
right at daybreak, to St Lambert, there to



June 18-19.] EXTRAORDINARY MOVEMENTS              125

join his own Corps, Zieten's. Possibly he had
personal views of the situation, and considered
the battle over! It is uncharitable to suppose
that he had feelings against Thielemann or
Stulpnagel. But in either or any case, his
conduct was most blameworthy and most un-
soldierlike. His departure (which must have
been noticed before his movement had gone
far, and therefore could have been prevented)
reduced Thielemann's force by three battalions
and three squadrons; and this at a moment
when every man was of importance. But even
another inexplicable movement was made by
Colonel Ledebur, who, with his detachment
of five squadrons and two guns of the Horse
Artillery, marched to St Lambert during
Grouchy's attack, bivouacked there for the
night, and then moved off to join the Fourth
Corps on the 19th. These two detachments
were thus of no use whatever to Thielemann,
and their extraordinary action must have caused
him considerable anxiety, since it might have
appeared as desertion. But Thielemann was
firm in his belief that Grouchy would retreat,
and when, at daybreak on June 19, he saw French
troops still in their positions, he assumed that
they were merely acting as a rear-guard to cover
the general retirement. He therefore ordered



126 THE BATTLE OF WAVRE [June 19.

Colonel Marwitz, with the 8th Uhlans and two
squadrons of the 6th Kurmark Landwehr Cavalry,
to attack Grouchy's left flank above Limale,
while Hobe, with the 5th and 7th Uhlans, was
to advance in support on Marwitz's left. To
replace Stengel's detachment, the Twelfth
Division was extended still further to its right,
weakening the whole of its front line, and
leaving only three battalions in reserve in the
wood near Point-du-Jour. On Stulpnagel's
left, six battalions of the Tenth Division held
the line to Bierges and the Dyle. In support,
there were three battalions of the 3rd Kurmark
Landwehr Regiment, from the Eleventh Division,
while the 4th Kurmark Landwehr (two battalions)
with two squadrons, were posted behind Wavre
as a general reserve. Two battalions from the
Twelfth Division were posted to hold the Mill
of Bierges. The remainder of Thielemann's force
was extended along the Dyle in Wavre and Basse
Wavre; but little fighting on this front was now
expected.

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



June 19.1 THE PRUSSIANS OUTNUMBERED              127

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

Thielemann perceived the coming attack, and
reinforced his line with one battalion, which he
posted on his left, and which was all he could
spare. The French columns were too heavy
for the Prussians, who were hopelessly out-
numbered. The Twelfth Division gave way,
and the French took the wood of Rixensart



128 THE BATTLE OF WAVRE [June 19.

Stulpnagel fell back on his supports - the three
battalions of the Eleventh Division and two
batteries - and took up a new position behind
the wood. Teste's attack on Bierges was
stoutly opposed by the two battalions posted
there, and four battalions of the Tenth Division
were brought up in support. On the Prussian
extreme right, the cavalry brigades of Marwitz
and Lottum - in all, twelve squadrons - occupied
Chambre and secured the flank.

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



June 19.] THIELEMANN RETREATS              129

Prussians to resist on both wings. The centre
having been broken, and the right seriously
threatened by overwhelming numbers, Thiele-
mann could not but withdraw.

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

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

As soon as Zeppelin withdrew from Wavre,
Vandamme pushed his men across the Dyle, both
at Bierges and Wavre, and advanced up the
Brussels road. In rear of Wavre, in a hollow
behind the town, two battalions of the 4th
Kurmark Landwehr Regiment were posted, and






130 THE BATTLE OF WAVRE [June 19.

these were compelled to fall back. But one of
the battalions, reaching a small wood near La
Bavette, re-formed, and attacked and drove back
a squadron of French cavalry which was pursuing.
The other battalion overthrew a French battalion,
and then continued its retreat. Marwitz's Cavalry
repulsed the squadrons at the head of Vandamme's
columns, which were now advancing towards La
Bavette by the main road and by a parallel lane on
the left. The Prussian infantry retreated towards
Louvain, through the villages of St Achtenrode
and Ottenburg; but behind St Achtenrode,
Thielemann halted and took up a defensive
position. To retreat too far would hinder his
plan of turning back again to attack Grouchy
when he retired. The French, too, had halted
about La Bavette, having at this moment heard
definite news of Napoleon's disaster. No cavalry
pursued the Prussians, for in the close and
intersected country beyond La Bavette it was
impossible for cavalry to manoeuvre, and only
with difficulty could it be traversed by infantry.
As to Borcke in the meantime, his Division
had reached Couture at 8 p.m. on the previous
evening, and a report was sent to Blucher. A
reply was returned that Borcke was to remain at
Couture and await further orders. But early next
morning, hearing from Stengel, who had passed



June 19.] BORCKE'S OPPORTUNITY              131

through St Lambert, that the French were follow-
ing him, Borcke extended two of his battalions
from St Robert to Rixensart, with the remaining
four in reserve. He had an idea that the French
were advancing in his direction, but had he only
known the true position of Grouchy's troops, he
might have been so bold as to attack them in rear.
He certainly would have caused a panic among
Grouchy's men, who would naturally suppose that
Blucher was returning with the main body. But,
seeing three French cavalry regiments detached
to watch him, Borcke held back, and positively
took no action, although the Prussians still held
Wavre. What a diversion he might have made!
In the fighting of the 18th and 19th, Thiele-
mann lost 2,500 men; the French about 2,200;
and the results were very creditable to the
Prussians. Attacked by more than double his
numbers, and with very little time to prepare his
defence, Thielemann had held off the French
during all the critical hours of the afternoon
and evening of the 18th. He had successfully
occupied the whole of Grouchy's force during
the time when the latter might still have been
of use to Napoleon. Without knowing it,
Grouchy had been almost surrounded, but
Borcke's Division took no advantage of its
position. How near to, and yet how far from,



132 THE BATTLE OF WAVRE [June 19.

succouring Napoleon was Grouchy! A little fore-
thought, more energy, and a bolder initiative on
Grouchy's part would have overcome the opposi-
tion of the elements, and rendered Napoleon's
great stroke a success.

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









CHAPTER VIII

Grouchy's Retreat

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

At first he thought of marching against
Blucher's rear, but very little reflection showed
him that Thielemann would in the meantime
attack his rear, and his 30,000 men would be

133



134 GROUCHY'S RETREAT [June 19.

caught between two forces. Then Vandamme,
always impetuous and for action, proposed that
they should march straight on Brussels, set free
the French prisoners there, and retire by Enghien
and Ath to Lille. This was a daring but futile
plan.

Of what use would such a movement have
been, even had it been successfully carried out?
To march boldly completely round the rear, of
the allied armies, liberate a few prisoners, and
then march off in the opposite direction, would
have been to waste the only formed body left
of all Napoleon's army. And what would
Thielemann do in the meantime? There was
now no hope of winning over Brussels or the
Dutch - Belgians, otherwise there would have
been some weight in Vandamme's extraordinary
proposal. But Grouchy counselled otherwise.
He knew that he already ran the risk of being
attacked in flank, most probably in rear, by a
portion of Blucher's army, while Thielemann
would certainly advance again as soon as the
retreat began. He therefore decided to retreat
on Namur, where he would act further according
to circumstances. It was useless as well as
dangerous to direct his retreat towards the line
taken by the remnants of Napoleon's host, where
all would be confusion; it was better by far to






June 19.] TO NAMUR              135

retreat on his own line and endeavour to
preserve his troops intact as long as possible.
At Namur, he might do great things yet; for
Namur had not, like Charleroi, witnessed first
the triumph and then the downfall of Napoleon's
last plans.

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

Bluchers main body was pursuing the French
by Charleroi in the direction of Avesnes and
Laon. The cavalry of the First and Fourth
Corps, also twelve squadrons belonging to the
Second Corps, were at this time following up
the fugitives between Frasnes and Gosselies,
while the Prussian infantry followed as rapidly



136 GROUCHY'S RETREAT [June 19.

as their exhaustion would allow. Bulow's Corps
had pursued over-night as far as Genappe, where
it bivouacked, and then resumed its march at
daybreak, sending out cavalry - the 8th Prussian
Hussars, followed by two other regiments - to
watch Grouchy's movements on the left. The
Fourth Corps was leading the Prussian main body
in the pursuit. The First Corps followed, and
likewise sent out cavalry to watch the left flank
for signs of Grouchy.

Meanwhile, Grouchy began his retreat. His
troops had reached the line La Bavette-Rosieren,
in their pursuit of Thielemann, and now
Excelmans' Cavalry was sent off with orders
to make all speed to Namur and secure the
bridges over the Sambre at that place. Excel-
mans reached Namur at 4.30 p.m., a little more
than five hours to cover 3O miles by devious
lanes and byways in a terrible condition after
the rains.

Gérard's Corps, preceded by the Seventh
Cavalry Division (six squadrons under Vallin,
who had taken Maurin's place), re-crossed the
Dyle by the bridge at Limale, and moved by
a narrow lane to the main Namur-Brussels road.
Vandamme's Corps withdrew from La Bavette,
and marched through Wavre, Dion-le-Mont,
Chaumont, Tourinnes, Sart á Walhain, Grand



June 19.] PIRCH ON THE FLANK              137

Leez, St Denis to Temploux on the Namur-
Nivelles road, where it arrived at 11 p.m. and
there bivouacked. Gérard's Corps had reached
Temploux an hour earlier.

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

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

Thielemann only heard of the French retreat




138 GROUCHY'S RETREAT [June 19-20.

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

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



June 20.] TESTE IN NAMUR              139

This was the cavalry heading Pirch's Corps,
which had marched from Mellery to Sombreffe.
Gérard's column had now stumbled on Van-
damme's rear -guard, posted 3 miles outside
Namur; and Vandamme himself coming out
from Namur, Grouchy ordered him to clear the
road for the Fourth Corps, and cover its march
with his rear-guard.

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

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

In Namur, Teste made a brilliant defence.
The town was fortified, but the works were out-
of-date and dilapidated; and there was no time
to improve the local resources. Teste's men



140 GROUCHY'S RETREAT [June 20.

only numbered 2,000, with eight guns, and
Pirch's Corps was some 20,000 strong. All the
wounded, the baggage, and the transport had
been sent across the Sambre, and the bridge
barricaded.

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



June 20.] FROM NAMUR TO DINANT              141

and lumber piled up against the enemy's end.
The guns had to be left behind.

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

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

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

The scattered remnants of Napoleon's army
were fleeing along the roads from Charleroi



142 GROUCHY'S RETREAT [June 20-21.

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

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



June 21-22.] OBSTACLES BEFORE BLUCHER 143

miles from Phillippeville, but he had marched
at daybreak on the 21st. Pirch, marching to
Thuin on the 21st, was moving parallel to
Grouchy, but the latter's march was not
hindered.

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

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

On the 22nd, Soult was at Laon endeavouring



144 GROUCHY'S RETREAT [June 22.

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



June 22-23.] NAPOLEON POWERLESS              145

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

The 23rd was a day of comparative rest
for the Prussian army. Blucher was anxious
to draw in his Corps for his advance on Paris.
Thielemann moved from Beaumont to Avesnes.
On the 24th the advance was resumed. The
Prussian army was to march in two columns.
On the left, nearer Grouchy, Zieten's and
Thielemann's Corps were to march by the



146 GROUCHY'S RETREAT [June 24-25.

valley of the Oise on Compiegne, keeping a sharp
watch for Grouchy. On the right, Bulow's
Corps, the Fourth, was to march by St Quentin,
Ham, Roye, to Pont St Maxence.

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

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

On the 25th Zieten moved from Guise to
Cerisy, with cavalry towards La Fére. Thiele-
mann marched from Nouvion to Origny; Bulow,
from St Quentin to Chauny.

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

Blucher, learning from the reports of the
advanced cavalry of Soult's retreat from Laon,



June 25-27.] RACE FOR THE OISE              147

now directed his troops to seize the passages of
the Oise, cross the river, and cut off both
Grouchy and Soult between Soissons and the
capital. It was a race for the bridges of the
Oise, and for Crepy and Senlis.

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

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



148 GROUCHY'S RETREAT [June 27.

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

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



June 27.] PRUSSIANS SEIZE THE BRIDGES              149

on Paris; also to send his reserve cavalry and
artillery to Gillicourt.

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

Bulow, in the meantime, was hastening down
from Kessons to seize the bridges at Pont St
Maxence and Creil; and his advanced guard was
ordered to detach a "flying column" to secure the
passages. Accordingly, Sydow took a squadron
of Hussars and a company of infantry, and
marched with all speed to Creil, the infantry
being carried in carts. Just as the Prussians
reached the bridge, part of d'Erlon's advanced
cavalry was observed making for the same place
from the opposite side. Sydow attacked with
his squadron and drove back the French; and
on the arrival of the rest of Bulow's advanced
guard, a regiment of infantry was left to hold
Creil, while a regiment of cavalry pushed on to
Senlis, where it was expected to find d'Erlon.
But on reaching that village, it was found to be



150 GROUCHY'S RETREAT [June 27-28.

unoccupied, and the Prussians halted there. At
nightfall, however, Kellermann, leading d'Erlon's
column, came up from Crepy with a brigade of
heavy cavalry, and immediately charged down on
the Prussians. The latter were unprepared, and
were speedily routed. They fled back to Pont St
Maxence, and Kellermann fell back on d'Erlon's
infantry. Sydow now came up with the rest of
Bulow's advanced guard, expecting to find Senlis
already occupied by Prussians, but he was
astonished by their absence. However, he
occupied Senlis at 10 p.m. When d'Erlon
approached, he was met with a heavy fire from
the Prussian sharpshooters, who had loop-holed
the nearest houses and taken shelter behind walls.
Finding Senlis too strongly held, d'Erlon with-
drew, and made his way towards Gonesse, while
Reille took part of his force to Nanteuil. Night
put an end to pursuit.

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

On the 28th, long before dawn, the Second
Division of Zieten's Corps approached Villets
Coterets, where Grouchy had his headquarters.



June 28-29.] THE FRENCH IN PANIC              151

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

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

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

On the 29th Blucher's Corps closed in, and by
nightfall they occupied the following positions: -
Bulow's Corps at Le Bourget and St Denis;
Thielemann's Corps at Dammartin; Zieten's at



152 GROUCHY'S RETREAT [June 29.

Blanc Mesnil and Aulnay. Grouchy's forces had
entered Paris, having lost 4,000 men and 16 guns
in the numerous skirmishes along the Oise. But
they had won the race, and their retreat must be
considered as a skilful operation. It had little
actual effect on the advance of the allies, but
Grouchy, who had so slurred his reputation in
the great operations entrusted to him by Napoleon,
in his retreat somewhat retrieved his character as
a general.



CHAPTER IX

NOTES AND COMMENTS

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

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





154 NOTES AND COMMENTS

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

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

Yet, in history, how many instances are there in which
pursuits have been carried out? What are the reasons which



NOTES AND COMMENTS              155

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

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



156 NOTES AND COMMENTS

vanquished foe, and it is impossible to explain why he
spent the morning of the 17th in trivialities. A day later,
and he himself realised the position of a defeated general
closely and mercilessly pursued by the victors.

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

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

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

4. Chapter IV. - It is astonishing that the outposts of
Grouchy's force in front of Sombreffe should have heard
nothing, or reported nothing, of Thielemann's withdrawal,
which began at 2 a.m., and continued until 4 a.m., when
the rear-guard left the village. Throughout the night, the
opposing sentries were within earshot; and if they were
awake they could not have helped hearing the commotion
which must be caused by the movement of so large a body
of troops by night, however great the precautions may be.
True, it was a wet night; rain was falling heavily, but
not too heavily to drown the noise of the retreat. Even
a perfectly-planned and well-executed attack by night, with
all the signs pre-determined, and each movement marked
beforehand, cannot be kept absolutely quiet; there is
always a stumbling, a cry of pain from a sprained ankle or



NOTES AND COMMENTS              157

broken nose, a curse from the darkness, often a rifle
accidentally discharged; but in a retreat hastily decided on,
how much greater will the noise be! The shouting of orders
which cannot be conveyed by signs or signals on the spur
of the moment, the noise of the heavy waggons, the yells
of the drivers, and the cracking of whips! In those days
the outpost positions would be scarcely two hundred yards
apart on such an occasion; very different to modern
conditions, which would make it impossible for two forces
to remain in the same positions, relative to one another, as
Thielemann's and Grouchy's on that night.

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

6. Chapter IV. - It must have disconcerted Napoleon to
hear Grouchy expostulating as to the orders which he had
just given him. The Napoleon of earlier days would have



158 NOTES AND COMMENTS

dealt with a heavy hand on the man who dared discuss
his orders. No doubt Grouchy felt very strongly on the
subject, and his views may very well have been sound -
in fact, they were sound up to a certain point; but it
is never a soldier's duty to discuss or argue about his
orders. The story of Grouchy's insubordination - for in-
coordination it certainly was - would be difficult to credit,
but that some of the best authorities on the campaign give
it in their works; and Grouchy himself, in his "Relation
Succincte," openly admits that he made no attempt, in
his conversation with the Emperor, to conceal his misgivings.

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

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

8. Chapter IV. - Vandamme's march on Gembloux was
extremely slow. He left his bivouac at 12 noon, and



NOTES AND COMMENTS              159

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

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

10. Chapter IV. - Grouchy's despatch from Gembloux on
the night of the 17th to the Emperor cannot be read without
a feeling of surprise at his words. In the first place, he
says, "My cavalry is at Sauveniere." Now, Napoleon would



160 NOTES AND COMMENTS

naturally infer that Pajol's cavalry were included; or that
all the cavalry were probably together. It was misleading
to say that his "cavalry was at Sauveniere." Secondly,
"They (the Prussians) were still here at ten o'clock this
morning." The Emperor would at once conclude that the
enemy had left soon after ten o'clock; he certainly would
suppose that Grouchy would have found out if they had
remained there later. Actually, the Prussians left at 2 p.m.,
four hours later. Thirdly, "He (Blucher) has not passed
by Gembloux." Napoleon would suppose (since Grouchy
had been instructed to keep touch with the left wing) that
traces of Blucher and his main body had been searched for
between the line of Grouchy's march and the main French
army. On these three essential points, the information given
in the despatch was decidedly misleading. Some other
details were inaccurate, but they were reasonable convic-
tions, as far as Grouchy's views went. Negative information
in war is very often as useful and important as positive; and
Grouchy would have assisted Napoleon to form his ideas
if he had reported that he had discovered no signs of a
Prussian retreat on Namur. He should also have made
some mention of Pajol's detachment - such as "no news
has been received from Pajol, who is on my right at St
Denis, with a detachment of cavalry and infantry." Again,
had Grouchy only accounted for 80,000 Prussians, of the
whole of Blucher's army? What had become of the
remainder? Where were they?
Napoleon must have found it impossible to draw inferences,
of any weight from this despatch; and in such a campaign
as this, full and accurate intelligence was of the utmost
importance.

11. Chapter V. - A flank march in presence of the
enemy is a most difficult and dangerous operation. In the
case of Blucher's movement, there was little actual danger
from Grouchy, as events proved, but in face of a vigorous
enemy the Prussians would have been in a perilous position.



NOTES AND COMMENTS              161

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

It is interesting, but not particularly profitable, to
speculate as to what course events would have taken had
Grouchy been up in time to prevent Blucher's flank march,
and had checked him. Would Wellington have fallen back
on Brussels with Blucher, and fought again under the city
walls against Napoleon and Grouchy combined? In that
case, the weight of numbers would have been very much in
favour of the allies, and the great object of Napoleon's plan
of campaign - to prevent the junction of the two armies -
would have been thwarted. If Blucher, after being checked,
had fallen back on Louvain, while Wellington was still
engaged with Napoleon, it seems obvious that Grouchy's
extra numbers thrown into the fight would have caused the
Duke's overthrow, for it would not then have been necessary





162 NOTES AND COMMENTS

for Napoleon to detach against the Prussians; Wellington
was too seriously engaged to be able to withdraw, and the
defeat would have been complete. But after all, such
speculation as this might be continued indefinitely; and
every campaign might be discussed and argued to a hundred
different conclusions by re-modelling the conditions or
improvising situations. A campaign, like a chess problem,
admits of more than one solution.

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

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



NOTES AND COMMENTS              163

these would be able to deal with Grouchy. The important
move was to march on Paris, where the populace, sickened
by Napoleon's collapse, were likely to accept terms.

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

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

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

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








INDEX



Aisemont, village of, 68, 100, 103

Aisne river, 13, 146

Aix-la-Chapelle, 44

Allies, earlier operations of the,
1-50

Alten, General, Third British
Division, 34, 42

Anthing, General, Dutch-Belgians,
34, 39

Antwerp, 8

Artillery, Prussian, 54

Asserre, 10

Ath, 7-9, 34, 35

Aulnay, 151

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

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

Balatre, 62, 80

Bas1e 4

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

Baudeset, 70

Beaumont, 4, 7, 15, 142, 145

Berthezene, Colonel, Eleventh
Division, Third Frerich Corps, 57

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

Bianchi, General (Austrians), 4

Bierges, mill of, 111, 117-119, 122,
126, 127
, village of, 68, 103, 111,
113, 118, 120, 124, 126-129

Binche, 33

Blanc Mesnil, 151

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

Bonne Esperance, 9

Bonnemain, General, 88, 89, 92

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

Bornstaedt, Major, 114

Borstel, General, 90

Bourmont, General de, 61

Braine, l'Alleud, 102

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

Brunswick, Duke of, 39, 42

Brussels, Napoleon resolves to
attack, 6, 7

Bry, 73, 74

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

Bussy, mill of, 40

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

Cavalry, Prussian, 54

Cerisy, 146

Chambre, 128



166



INDEX



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

Charlemont, 83

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

Chassé, General, 34

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

Chatelet, 27, 30, 37

Chatelineau, 30

Chaumont, 136

Chauny, 146, 147

Chimay, 14

Ciney, 10

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

Colville, General, Fourth British
Division, 34, 35

Compiegne, 146-148, 151

Conde, 7, 8

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

Corbaix, 71, 72, 94, 98, 137

Courcelles, 27

Courtrai, 8

Couture, 104, 130

Creil, 149

Crepy, 147, 149-151

Dammaetin, 151

Davout, 5, 63

Dender river, 8

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

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

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

Dittfurth, Major, 55, 56, 110

Domon, General, 76

Dornberg, General, 34, 35

Durutte, General, 21

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

Enghien, 8, 9, 34, 35, 39

Ernage, 72, 89

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

Ferdinand, Archduke, 3

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

Florennes, 15, 16

Fontaine l'Eveque, 28

Foy, General, 18, 38, 42

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

Frimont, Marshal, 4

Frischermont, 109

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

Genappe, 8, 41, 136

Gentinnes, 66-68, 70, 72

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

Gerpinnes, 9, 15

Ghent, 8

Gillicourt, 149

Gilly, 17, 27, 28, 30

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

Givet, 4, 7

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

Gonesse, 150, 151

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

Grammont, 8, 34, 35

Grand Leez, 92, 99, 136

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

Guiscard, 147

Guise, 146

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

Ham, 146, 147

Ham-sur-Heure, 15

Hannut, 10, 22-24

Hautain-le-Val, 33



INDEX



167



Heppignies, village of, 29

Hefon, 9

Hill, Lord, 8

Hirson, 146

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

Hologne, 10

Houssaye, quoted, 6, 7, 61, 85

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

Huy, 9, 10

Infantry, Prussian, 54

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

Jagow, Colonel, 148

Jamioux, 15

Jerome, General, 18, 38, 42

Jumet, 18, 21, 28

Kampfen, Colonel, 52, 113

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

Kleist, General, 2

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

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

La Bavette-Rosieren, 136

La Falize, 138

La Fere, 146

La Ferte, 151

La Haye, 102

La Huzelle, wood of, 98, 106

Lagny, 151

Lambusart, 31

Landrecies, fortress of, 143

Langres, 4

Lannes, General, 63

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

Lasne, valley of the, 104, 105

Laurent, Napoleon's A.D.C., 48

Le Boquet, 81

Le Bourget, 151

Le Caillou farm-house, 99

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

Lecourbe, General, 5, 142

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

Leers, 15, 18

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

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

Letort, General, 31

Leuze, 8

Liege, 10, 24, 33, 90

Liers, 10

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

Lille, 7, 12, 14

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

Limelette, village of, 98, 99, 112

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

Lobbes, village of, 9, 25

Longwy, 13

Lootz, 10

Losthin, General, 104

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

Louvain, 81, 100, 103, 130

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

Lutzow, Colonel, 28

Lyons, 5

Maestricht, 83

Maladrie, hamlet of, 25, 26

Maransart, 104, 105

Marbais, 41, 47, 48, 79

Marchienne, 15, 18, 21, 26, 27

Marcinelle, 15, 28

Marie, 146

Marly la Ville, 151

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

Massena, General, 63

Maubeuge, fortress of, 4, 14, 15
143

Maurin, General, 107

Meaux, 151

Mellery, 66, 135, 137

Metz, 13

Meuse valley, 7, 139



168



INDEX



Meziéres, 12, 14, 143, 146

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

Mohnhaupt, Colonel, Reserve
Artillery (Prussian), 53

Mons, 8, 25, 33, 34, 44

Mont Potriaux, 55, 56

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

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

Montigny, 26

Moustier, 93, 96, 99, 107

Muffling, 102

Murat, 63

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

Nancy, 4

Nanteuil, 150, 151

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

Neuf Sart, 97

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

Nil Perrieux, 72

Nil St Vincent, 88, 97, 98

Ninove, 8, 35

Nivelles, 9, 34, 39, 41

Nouvion, 146

Noyon, 147

Ohain, 106

Oise river, 146, 147, 150

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

Origny, 146, 147

Orneau, valley of the, 82

Ostend, 8

Ottenburg, village of, 130

Ottignies, 93, 99, 107

Oudenarde, 7-9

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

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

Peronne, 4

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

Perwez, 88, 90

Philippeville, 7, 15, 141-143

Picton, General, 39, 42

Piston stream, 28

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

Pirch II., General, 30-32

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

Plancenoit, 105

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

Pont St Maxence, 146, 150

Provence, 4

Prussian Corps, Third, 52-65

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

Ransart, 29

Rapp, General, 6

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

Reims, 146, 147

Reasons, 147, 149

Rethel, 146

Rixensart, 109, 127, 128, 131



INDEX



169



Rochefort, 10

Rocroi, fortress of, 14, 143

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

Rouelx, 8

Roye, 146

Ryssel, General, Fourteenth Divi-
sion (Prussians), 71, 105

Saarbruck, 4

Saarlouis, 4

St Achtenrode, village of, 130

St Amand, 41, 49, 74, 85

St Anne, village of, 68, 100

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

St Géry, 93, 96

St Lambert, 117, 125, 138

St Quentin, 146

St Robert, 131

St Symphorien, 26

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

Sart á Walhain, 88, 90, 92, 136

Sauvenifere, village of,88, 90, 95, 137

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

Schwarzenberg, General (Austrian
Army), 34

Seneffe, 8

Seulis, 147, 149-151

Sohr, Colonel, 71, 106

Soignies Forest, 8, 9, 93

Soissons, 146-148

Soleilmont, 30

Solre-sur-Sambre, 15

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

Sossoye, 9, 10

Sottegheim, 35, 39

Soult, Marshal, 14, 16, 21, 40, 64,
80, 89, 142, 143, 146, 147
, Baron, 60, 137

Steedman, General, 34, 39

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

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

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

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

Suchet, General, 5, 65, 142

Sydow, General, 149, 150

Temploux, 137, 138, 141

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

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

Thionville, 13, 14

Thorembey les Beguignes, 9

Thuin, 9, 15, 26, 143

Tilly, 66-68, 71, 73

Tirlemont, 2

Tolly, Barclay de, 2, 4

Tongrenelles, 62

Tongres, 10

Tourinnes, 88, 99, 115, 136

Uxbridge, Lord, 8, 35, 39

Valenciennes, 12, 14

Vallin, Colonel, 136

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

Wavre, 115-119, 122, 124, 127,
129, 130, 132

Van Merlen, General, 26, 33, 34

Vervins, 146

Vichery, Colonel, 58, 127

Vieux Sart, 71, 100

Villers Perruin, 33, 49

Villets Coterets, 148-151

Vilvorde, 35

Walhain, 71, 92, 95, 97, 137

Waréme, 10

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



170



INDEX



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

Wrede, Prince, 3

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

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



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