A bit of site maintenance.
It has been pointed out to me should really have posted a Part 2 with Russ’s tale and pictures when posting rather than add below Pauls otherwise visitors would not know was there.
So here it
Napcon part 2, Battle of Waterloo.
To Marshal Davout, Paris
From Napoleon, Brussels
My dear Davout
Ring the bells and fire 200 guns. We have put Wellington flight today for his channel ports, and our cavalry is harrying his retreat and putting as many in the bag as they can.
Yesterday dawned wet, but not the biblical deluge of the previous day, and brought in outriders from the pickets with news that Blucher had broken clear of Grouchy so that at least some of the Prussian army would arrive today to the aid of Wellington.
The English and their militias were, miraculously, just across the valley mostly hidden behind the modest ridge stretching either side of the highway to Brussels. I didn’t think he would stop and fight this side of Brussels. But his hubris has meant that he did and that played into my hands.
Out of walled Farmsteads he had created three bastions ahead of the ridge to break up and channel our attack. This had the effect of dividing the field into left and right wings. The two end farmsteads were not important for us to hold, but taking the central one, La Haie Sainte Farm, would assist our attacks on both wings. Our artillery would be requested to issue the eviction notices to the squatters therein.
I could determine that he feared for his right because he had placed most of his artillery there, so I would fix his attention there and break him on his left.
I called together my Generals and laid out my plans.
I told them the Prussians were an irrelevance. The battle would be won before they could interfere. I ordered Lobau and his IV Corps march and defend Plancenoit and interrupt any Prussian plays for our right. I instructed my Lion to let the Prussians come to him and burn up time doing so. I suggested that the forests on his left might provide a position to enfilade attacks as they came in on that side. Of course if the Prussians made a mistake and came too close in march column, then he had the discretion to unleash the cavalry to punish such foolishness.
With the Prussians dealt with, I would give them no further thought and focus the rest of my force and attention on rolling the English off their ridge.
My general instructions was for the Leger Regiments to form a long skirmish line in front of the army and advance quickly to close range of the enemy. The artillery was to fire and move, fire and move their pieces forward, to quickly close to decisive range up on-to the ridge and then batter the English hiding behind. All these firing elements leading my advance were to, were possible, get rid of the enemy artillery first which are the bane of any attack.
The cuirassiers were to follow immediately behind the Leger to within close charge range and ride down any infantry that chose not form squares, and defeat any cavalry sent to contest our advance. The columns of the remaining infantry were to follow the cuirassiers and roll over any that did form square.
The attack must with great speed and mass as I estimated we had five hours to get the job done. It would be sufficient.
I gave Ney sole control of the pinning battle on the left. He would have Rielle’s Corps, Kellerman’s Reserve cavalry and I added the Young Guard foot and artillery. Ney proposed to ignore Hougoumont factoring it would cost more troops to capture than it was worth and he had insufficient artillery to blast them out. I said that was at his discretion.
D’Erlon’s Corps and Milhaud’s cavalry would attack the right, supported by the Old and Middle Guard infantry. I added the three Imperial Guard batteries to D’Erlon’s own batteries to create a Grand Battery to win artillery dominance over the English left. Two batteries each from Ney and the Old Guard were to first destroy the defenders of La Haie Sainte farm.
The four regiments of the Guard cavalry would form a reserve in the centre until the appropriate use for them could be determined. All other forces were to be committed immediately.
I took up a position in the small hamlet of Belle Alliance on the Brussels road to observe the attacks on the left and right. I asked the band of the Middle Guard to play the Marseilles to inspire the attacks as I unleashed them on the English. The men responded with their usual ‘Vive la Emperor!’ and the drummers beat out Pas de Charge. It was time.
At 10:00am the attack began. D’Erlon’s troops made rapid progress across the valley to their initial objectives and three Leger skirmish lines started engaging the English. One battery was quickly destroyed and another disordered.
Behind them followed the cavalry and their Line comrades in attack columns.
Lobau’s Corps started their march to Plancenoit and the Imperial Guard double timed to their assigned positions on the left and right.
By 10:30am English had almost unhinged the plan time-table by disordering D’Erlon’s left and right Leger lines – halting their progress and the units behind, but at 11:00am the middle one pressed on and the cuirassiers followed.
In the middle, three columns of infantry charged off a screen of skirmishing infantry and were able to look in to the reverse slope and observe the English units hidden behind. In less than an hour D’Erlon had taken the ridge top road and split Wellington’s first line.
To the left, one of D’Erlon’s Hussar units charged a Dutch infantry regiment to who calmly formed into square leaving the Hussars milling to their front.
Louis-Nicolas – the Dutch fought with great courage today – more-so than their vaunted allies. I am drawing up plans to reincorporate their units back into our Grand Armee.
Over by La Haie Sainte, Ney pushed his forces forwards.
And then, somewhere out of the smoke and fire my army regained the luck it had enjoyed in the glory days of 2008
Milhaud ordered the 10th cuirassier regiment to charge a line of Dutch Infantry regiment that was seeking an enfilading position on D’Erlon’s right, the breaking of which would allow my heavies to also roll over a hussar regiment behind. But the chevaliers had trouble passing through all their advancing brothers and were slowed making their charge. This allowed the Dutch to gallop forward a horse artillery battery and together with the Line unleashed a fearsome volley, hiding our horsemen in the dense smoke. Through my spy glass I expected a broken charge and empty saddles returning, but when the smoke cleared it was the Dutch Line that had been ridden down and Hussars put to flight. Milhaud has told me though the fire was heavy his men did not for a moment hesitate. The Horse Artillery was then captured by our following up infantry.
My friend – As you and I have discussed give a man a big horse, a steel cuirass and tell him he is invincible and he will believe you and ride through all of the religion’s hells. [Cuirassiers took two artillery and a musket hit and passed all the morale tests with their +1 bonus]
Luck cast us her favour extravagantly and without ration yesterday.
The story of D’Erlon’s flank was a general engagement along the ridge from La Haie Sainte Farm to La Haie, precipitating a progressive collapse of the English from right to left. And all of Wellington’s efforts to prise our hands from his throat came to nothing.
At 11:35, the English King’s Guardsmen abandoned La Haie Sainte.
At 11:42 am the Duke sent his Greys heavy cavalry and a gallant young general against our 5th cuirassiers, only to see them break and the General, Ponsonby, unhorsed and captured. I imagine the English think him dead. I will write to them and tell them he is gravely wounded but in the care of Chief Surgeon Larrey.
At midday the lead Prussian units are seen from Plancenoit. Lobau sends me a note of their arrival by adjutant but is otherwise untroubled.
On the Brussels Road near a distinctive Elm, the English set up and start firing one of their infernal fire work batteries that they hold such store in. But when the second salvo lands on some unfortunate Dutch Militia and throws them into a panic the English pack down the contraption and start shooting cannon until they are overrun in the mid-afternoon.
By 12:11 D’Erlon has horse artillery on the ridge road firing into Wellington’s left flank on the reverse slope of the hill. We have gained possession of 4/5th of this feature, throwing back or breaking the infantry that had been behind its hedges.
At the same time, Ney’s middle columns have reached the sunken road, and though the fighting here is more in the balance, Ney was playing the perfect cape to hold the attention of the English bull.
By 1:00pm the English left had retired off the ridge all together and the flank is only being held by some battered and nervous Dutch militia and light cavalry, entirely inadequate to stop what is about to roll over them. Wellington and his generals are trying to send fresh troops to close the rupture but there I now so much confusion in their lines that the messengers are not getting through to the intended units.
Wellington does succeed in scraping together three batteries to interdict Ney’s right and some Riflemen to harass D’Erlon’s left, but that isn’t where the Duchess is holding the Ball (have you heard that Wellington and his Generals were absent from their posts at a soirée in Brussels when Ney had arrived at Quatre Bras. Even Murat wasn’t that derelict in his duties – but I digress).
At 1:00pm, the Prussians had yet to close to musket range of Lobau – as if they had time to dally.
At that time I sent the Chasseurs a Cheval and Dutch Lancers of the Guard to assist D’Erlon to the right of La Haie Sainte as Ney marched a column in to repossess the farm.
At 1:40pm I invited the Empress Dragoon Guards and the Grenadiers a Cheval to ride around the English left flank and complete the destruction the cuirassiers had begun.
At that time the Old and Middle Guard marched their columns up to the ridge road flanked by their foot artillery. This unsurprisingly transfixed the English units who knew their reputation far outshone their own. So much so that they could not take any assertive action to clear their front of one more of Milhaud’s ubiquitous cuirassiers, the 12th. Even nearby old Tom Picton, dressed in the most unmilitary of garb, could not frighten or inspire them out of their stupor.
Meanwhile, Ney has his Leger pouring fire into the middle of the English line. The English are so far taking it but doing little to make it stop.
At 10 past 2, a fellow every bit as flamboyant at the King of Naples, with a tiger skin saddle cloth decides to lead the English Household Cavalry in a charge to throw back the Cuirassiers who are hypnotising the English Foot. The cuirassiers dig in their spurs and meet the Aristocrat’s sons head on. It is not a contest. The scions of the peerage are destroyed and their popinjay Commander is amongst their dead. I am informed this is the, till now, vaunted Uxbridge. The English will need a new commander of their cavalry.
This was all too much for the English Foot despite the high reputation they hold amongst some of my generals. Two regiments swept were swept away in the rout of the King’s courtiers. The Dutch fought longer and harder throughout the day.
By 2:15pm the Prussians put in a charge that Lobau holds this with ease.
By 2:35pm the English left completely collapses, and units there start streaming off the battle field. Wellington’s cavalry is in open mutiny. There is no inducement or punishment he can give to make them charge up that terrible hill into our cannon and the Guards that are marching magnificently over the crest. One spittle flecked General, his eyes bulging and his face the colour of the finest Burgundy is seen to be laying about these gentlemen with the flat of his sword, until a the guard of a sabre smashed into his nose unseats him and they turn their horses and canter to the rear.
By 2:43pm the English have lost the entire ridge – up-slope, crest-top and down-slope – from the sand pit east. The Imperial Guard Horse artillery has dismounted within canister range of the last remaining English Heavy cavalry still on this side of the field, backed up by all of the Old and Middle Guard.
Further blood loss is futile, particularly amongst my Dutch, Belgian and Rhineland subjects who throw down their arms and beg for forgiveness, while the English and Hanoverians flee for their ships.
There is over six hours of sunlight and I unleashed the still fresh cavalry units and horse artillery after them. Most not mounted on English thoroughbreds did not get half-way to Antwerp.
The Prussians retire in better order, but sandwiched between me and Grouchy, and having been beaten twice in three days, most will not regain Prussian soil.
Ney rode up to me and told me he had even captured Hougoumont without a fight. He said he gulled the English Foot Guards defending to sally forth by trailing an exposed flank. He then invited my brother Jerome to take a column of infantry and march through the southern gate. Sublime.
Our losses have been astonishingly light, but this is no more than I foresaw.
Please come by fast postal carriage. I need your help to instruct (guide) Soult in how to write marching orders to get our Corps across France to fall on Schwarzenberg, before he hears of our victory.
Wellington, Je lui ai cassé frère!
(Wellington. I smashed em Bro!)
Secret dispatché to Marshal Ney.
How lucky we were Michal that the English fought in the same-old-manner.
How would we have fared if Wellington had pulled back his batteries from the ridge line so we could not pick them off as we came up. How would we have fared if they had been set up in mass to bombard our forces as they came over the crest.
And what if he had formed up his squares in checker board so that each face was swept by supporting musket or artillery fire, and he had held his cavalry behind to charge through on our approaching infantry.
Then it might have been a near-run-thing.