Controversy and the History of Dutch Arms, circa 1815


There are some who don't think the British deserve (as much) credit for Waterloo:
Napoleon, who had escaped his small island, made a triumphant return in Paris and became emperor of the French once again. Outlawed by the Allied powers, he decided on one final gamble. With a force of 125,000 strong he crossed the border of the new Kingdom of the United Netherlands on June 15th, in order to split up and defeat the Allied Army (90,000 men, commanded by the Duke of Wellington), and the Prussian Army (110,000 men under Field Marshall Blücher). The following day Napoleon managed to beat back the Prussians at Ligny after a hard, costly battle. Meanwhile, his trusted marshal Ney found a Dutch division on his way near Quatre-Bras: the commander of the 2nd Brigade, the 24-year old Bernhard, Prince of Saxe-Weimar, had received orders from the Duke of Wellington to retreat immediately towards Waterloo. He, however, explained to his officers: "I have never heard of a campaign that started with a retreat. I intend to defend Quatre-Bras". The divisional Chief of Staff, general De Perponcher-Sedlnitzky, later claimed he "never received Wellingtons' orders in time". Thus the Dutch and Nassau troops stayed where they were and put up a strong defense, until British and Brunswick troops came to their aid, driving the French back to their original positions. Ney had been too cautious and thus failed to drive the Allied troops off at Quatre-Bras; now, the Allied divisions had enough time to gather south of Mont Saint-Jean, and the Prussians to establish contact with the Allied Army.
On June 18th, the Line Infantry Batallion nr. 2, as part of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Dutch Division, commanded by lt.Gen. Baron Chassé (nicknamed "Papa Bayonet" by his troops, because he preferred the bayonet charge instead of the exchange of musket volleys), was camped outside the village of Braine l'Alleud. The retreat on the previous day in heavy rain had been hard, and to make matters worse, the army's supplier had gone bankrupt, leaving the men without provisions. They were not involved in any major action early in the battle, except for some skirmishes with French cavalry. Later in the afternoon, orders came for the division to move up to the first line. By now, the men came under fire of French artillery. Chassé noticed a gap in the Allied line: the French Imperial Guard Grenadiers of 3eme and 4eme Regiments were advancing, and the battered British and Brunswick troops in front of them gave way. He had the 1st Brigade march towards the Imperial Guard Grenadiers. A few volleys were exchanged and both sides returned to their former position, -much to the irritation of the Dutch and Belgians, who were anxious to finish the job. When the Imperial Guard Grenadiers advanced again, Chassé lived up to his reputation: after some devestating rounds of grapeshot from the Dutch Horse Artillery of captain Krahmer de Bichin, the columns of the six batallions of 1st Brigade (35th Jagers, 2nd Line, 4th, 6th, 17th and 19th Militia) crashed into the 3eme and 4eme Grenadiers. The Guard Grenadiers fled in terror, throwing away their bearskin caps and backpacks.
The 3rd Division went in pursuit; the 2nd Line drove away a group of Guard Grenadiers that had set up a defence at La Haye Sainte; three officers were wounded in this engagement. The 1st Brigade went after the French all across the battlefield, as far south as Rosomme. 15 minutes after Chassé's spirited attack, the Duke of Wellington ordered the general advance of the Allied Army. The 19th Militia came into contact with the Prussians, who then took over the pursuit of the fleeing French troops. Later, Wellington met Blücher near the farm "La Belle Alliance"; then he rushed back to his headquarters in Waterloo and wrote his report, the infamous "Waterloo Despatch". To the horror of Chassé and his officers, no mention was made of the atack of his division. Instead, Wellington belittled the role of the Dutch and the Prussians, making Waterloo (a name he chose instead of Belle-Alliance) a British victory. He defended his account of the battle agressively in the years to follow, despite contrary accounts from Dutch, Belgian, German and French sources. To this day, there are those who still hold on to the idea of the British squares, fighting back a sea of French cavalry, the Prussians arriving late in the evening and playing no part whatsoever, and the Dutch fleeing the scene as cowards.

The Line Infantry Batallion nr. 2 lost nearly 20 % of its officers and men, the highest number of losses suffered by any unit in the 3rd Division. It marched towards Paris, and returned later that year to the Netherlands. The 2nd Line was combined with the 16th, 17th and 18th Militia Batallions into the '2e Afdeeling Infanterie', from 1841 the 2nd Infantry Regiment. This remained its number until the regiment was disbanded in 1950; its traditions were transferred to the newly raised "Regiment Limburgse Jagers", a regiment which still exists today, making it the oldest regiment in the Dutch Army. It's battle honours include "Breda 1813", "Naarden 1814" and "Waterloo 1815", having the latter inscribed in its regimental colours.
I think that you can find these sorts of controversies wherever you look, especially when victory could have more than one parent, of a sort. In any event, it's a great read.