Art

La Bataille de Waterloo

La bataille de Waterloo
The stacks upon stacks of historical paintings of the Battle of Waterloo could fill several libraries. There is no shortage of imagery and material, much of it very richly detailed and laboriously reconstructed from the historical record.

Clément-Auguste Andrieux painted La bataille de Waterloo in 1852. He had the ability, at that stage, to compare his work to the testimony of survivors. Although still very removed from the incident, it is a well-regarded depiction. Andrieux went on to illustrate the events of the Franco-Prussian War.

Gamers Will Sustain History


I don't know what to vote for, but history isn't kept alive in books. It's kept alive in the popular culture--movies, music, art and now games.

Computer gaming is still in an infancy stage that requires a lot of imagination and suspension of disbelief. The games being played today will seem like the games of twenty years ago--and so on and so forth. As the sophistication level of gaming increases, so will the integration of history.

Don't Make This


Steven Spielberg's adaptation of AI ruined it; I hope they don't make this project.

Napoleon, and the era in which he lived, would be great fodder for untold numbers of stories and a miniseries and films and whatnot; the subject matter is definitely worth mining. Is there any enthusiasm for what Spielberg would accomplish here? I doubt it.

If Kubrick envisioned the project as a film, and if he had the scale of Barry Lyndon in mind, then any deviation from that will require padding and changes that would dilute his original intention. Add in Spielberg's penchant for melodramatic nonsense, and you have the makings of a ruined project that adds nothing of value. Of course, it could go the other way and be brilliant, but I doubt it. I probably won't ever see Lincoln simply because I cannot abide the historical stylings of Doris Kearns Goodwin. I'm probably alone in this sentiment.

Kubrick's vision should stay with his legacy. Who could possibly reinterpret his work properly?

Another View of Napoleon's Retreat


Images like this were designed to further humiliate French military history and elevate the status of Britain's vaunted armed forces. Here is a fairly factual accounting of the retreat:

During their meeting at La Belle Alliance on 18 June 1815, Wellington and Blücher decided that the Prussian cavalry would pursue the French. The Prussian chief of staff, Gneisenau, would take command of this pursuit. The exhausted allied troops would remain on the battlefield for the night. The Prussian II Corps under General Pirch would march in the direction of Mansart around midnight to cut of Grouchy's line of retreat. General Bülow received orders to march on Genappe.

After taking refuge in the last square of the Guard for some time, Napoleon and some of his officers fled to Genappes where he found his coach. He was almost captured by the Prussians when his coach got stuck in the mass of fleeing French soldiers. The Prussian Major von Keller managed to "capture" Napoleon's hat, coat and sword but the Emperor escaped.

The Prussian cavalry pursuit lost more and more of its momentum as the night progressed and eventually Gneisenau halted just south of Frasnes. The Prussians had captured about 8,000 French.

On the morning of 19 June Marshal Grouchy was still unaware of Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo. At about 1030 Grouchy received word of the Emperor's defeat. After some confusing moments General Vandamme proposed to march on Brussels to free the prisoners, cut of the enemy's line of communication and then regain France via Valenciennes. Soult's messenger, however, had brought orders for Grouchy to retreat to the river Sambre. Grouchy decided to do so by way of Namur, Dinant and Givet. In order to do so the Namur bridges had to be captured as fast as possible.

At 1130 Grouchy ordered General Exelmans to advance with his cavalry to Namur to take the bridges over the Sambre. The rest of Grouchy's command would follow at once, covered by a rear guard composed of Pajol's cavalry and Teste's infantry division.
This retreat was unhindered by General Thielmann's Prussians, many of whom had been routed after Grouchy's victory at Wavre. But General Pirch II Corps was on it's way to cut of Grouchy's line of retreat. He arrived at Mellery at about 1100 on 19 June but his troops were so exhausted that he had to let them rest. He spent the rest of the day there.

Two regiments of French Dragoons captured the Namur bridges at about 1600. At about 1900 the rest of Exelmans' cavalry passed through the city of Namur while Grouchy and IV Corps (General Gérard) were only about 10 km behind. Vandamme's III Corps reached Gembloux around 2100.

On 20 June Pirch's Prussians overtook the French and began to appear everywhere but where repulsed. Pirch then attacked again while the French withdrew through Namur but Teste's rear guard was able to hold off the Prussians at the cost of 1,500 Prussian casualties. Blücher then recalled Pirch and Thielmann and the Prussian pursuit of Grouchy's right wing ended.
Late on 21 June 1815, Grouchy's undefeated troops entered Phillipeville. He had managed to escape destruction or capture with about 28,000 men, most of his wounded, all his artillery and most of his equipment.






The telling remark comes when the "defeat" of Napoleon is handed directly to Wellington. And, while it is true that his leadership was critical, the war was actually won in the ensuing actions detailed above. Most of that legwork was done by the Prussians, not the English.

To Sell or Donate


As the intrinsic value of artifacts and pieces of history skyrocket, the desires of the families who own those objects is beginning to come under scrutiny. Already, the British are seeing the effects of leaving no suitable heirs, debts, and crumbling fortunes to go with crumbling homes. This is the decline of an empire without the necessary war to finish off the ancestral homes and turn out the cousins and the uncles who are too far removed to make a legitimate claim.

And that really is the difference here. In centuries past, the conquering armies would walk off with the loot. In Britain, that hasn't happened for so long that there are, literally, homes overflowing with aged, squalid pseudo-treasures and, to be certain, more than a few legitimate ones. Where are the Russian hordes, ready to carry back to Novosibirsk the great treasures of a minor lord or prince?

No government should be expected to step in and buy every little trinket or doodad saved for two hundred years as the expected birthright of someone who now has few prospects in modern British society beyond a pension or a respectable middle class salary. How can you expect a person making less than sixty thousand pounds per year to run and maintain the costs of a multi-million pound estate when everything is in debt or arrears?

Let them sell these things into the marketplace. The real history will come out and be preserved if the price is correct.

The Aftermath of Waterloo

The Scots Greys Charging at Waterloo

The Chasseurs project crawls along at a rather slow pace. But, it does move along, so that's something to be happy about. Each and every element needs to fit together, and finding the pieces has been a long, drawn-out process.

The aftermath of Waterloo has always interested me. After the armies shattered themselves, the French abandoned the field. The chase was on; Napoleon fled before his forces and tried to find somewhere to go. He ended up surrendering himself to a British sea captain.

This excerpt has some great details:


It would make sense to me to depict this aftermath as a time of chaos and confusion. The staggering number of wounded would mean that The Chasseurs are stuck on the field and unable to retreat. This allows for scenes at the end to take place in a static setting, one that can be transitioned from quickly.

Steampunk and the Napoleonic Era



As nice as it would be to include some early elements of steampunk (which I adore as a Humanities discipline, and which should get enormous amounts of academic respect) in this project, I don't think I can get away with too much. I would certainly like to show the accoutrements of the dogs in a way that suggests steampunk. Why not?

It's not like it wouldn't have some practical historical application:
Meanwhile, the US inventor Robert Fulton, who would build the first commercial steamship in 1807, gets financial backing from Napoleon to develop the Nautilus, a submersible warship or submarine. Powered by a mechanical crank, it is intended to be used to attach explosive devices to the hulls of enemy ships. Although Fulton's submarine succeeds in tests in 1801, it can't keep up with normal ships. When Napoleon decides the French navy cannot make any practical use of the Nautilus, Fulton tries the British, who also reject it despite another successful test demonstration.
Good enough for me. Steampunk is a go.

Brilliant Stuff


Just when you think you've found all of the wonderful sites and blogs and archives of Napoleonic Era stuff, bam! You come across a site like Iron Mitten.

The above is an illustration by Secondus. Absolutely marvelous stuff.

The style here is so well conceived and realized. This is why this project has taken so long. When you deal with Napoleonic Era subject matters, you have to get it right.

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.

A Nod to Old Rivalries

King Willem Orange at Waterloo
Battles create rivalries. Ever wonder where the term "double Dutch" came from?

In the past the Netherlands reigned supreme at sea, and dominated global commerce. They drove the British and Portuguese from Indonesia, Malaya, and Ceylon, and arrogated to itself the fabulous trade of the Spice Islands. The merchant spirit of the Dutch made the United Netherlands the most powerful trading country of the world in the 17th century.
During the 17th century the Dutch were involved in countless wars, many of them at sea. Dutch fleet destroyed the main part of the entire Spanish navy at Gibraltar in 1607. Dutch wealth and maritime expansion was the source of much envy across Europe. When the British announced the act of navigation, which damaged Dutch traders in London, tensions became high. There were several wars between the two countries. In the second British-Dutch War several major battles took place, nearly all of them on English territory. It was during this period that the battle of Chatham (1667) took place, arguably the worst naval defeat in English history until this very day. However, many of Netherlands' colonies were swiftly annexed by Britain when the metropole succumbed to French conquest in 1795-1814.
British rivalry with the Netherlands, and Britain's jealousy of Dutch's wealth gave rise to several phrases including Dutch that promote certain negative stereotypes, incl. "Double Dutch" (meaning: gibberish or nonsense) and "Dutch courage" (drinking to cover up fear before combat). (By the way, many times the British, Russian, Polish, and French soldiers also enjoyed alcohol before combat. Edward Costello of British 95th Rifles wrote: "After having received a double allowance of grog, we fell in about 8 o'clock in the evening, 6th April 1812. The stormers were composed of men from the different regiments of the Light Division.")
In 1815, the allied army commanded by Wellington incl. 2 infantry divisions and 3 cavalry brigades of the Netherlands (or 'Dutch-Belgian') army. The British however believed that the Dutch and Belgians in general were pro French. Had Wellington lost at Waterloo, no doubt he would have had to reluctantly and bluffly point out that the failure was all the fault of the Dutch and Belgians. 
Some British writers played down the role of any troops except their own. The Dutch and Belgians are conveniently forgotten except, of course, where blame is imparted. These accounts tend to be shallow and superficial works that repeat selected myths without bothering to refer to other accounts. These authors overly rellies on British memoirs and dispatches. It is due to either nonunderstending any other language but English, or intellectual lazyness. For a serious researcher any work on the Waterloo Campaign which does not refer in detail to Dutch, Belgian, German or French sources is essentially one-sided and unreliable. 
You would almost have to be drunk in order to march in formation to your death and not give in to the urge to turn and run. Anything to steady the nerves.

Anyway, here's a post-script:

In the years following Waterloo the British were further annoyed with the Dutch/Belgians for King Willem Orange had a giant mound erected on the Waterloo battlefield, exactly on the spot where Prince Orange received his wound. (But It was King Willem's land and not British, so he could do what he wanted to.)

Painted Well After the Fact

La bataille de Waterloo
The stacks upon stacks of historical paintings of the Battle of Waterloo could fill several libraries. There is no shortage of imagery and material, much of it very richly detailed and laboriously reconstructed from the historical record.

Clément-Auguste Andrieux painted La bataille de Waterloo in 1852. He had the ability, at that stage, to compare his work to the testimony of survivors. Although still very removed from the incident, it is a well-regarded depiction. Andrieux went on to illustrate the events of the Franco-Prussian War.

Napoleon's Farewell


Such overwrought romanticism.

The expressions on these faces are priceless. Everything looks as if had known nothing but defeat. The washed out ground, the unpainted, neglected building in the background. Contrast this with the impeccable uniforms--no one could allow themselves to be painted in anything less than military splendor.

This is the speech Napoleon gave:
Soldiers of my Old Guard:
I bid you farewell.
For twenty years I have constantly accompanied you on the road to honor and glory. In these latter times, as in the days of our prosperity, you have invariably been models of courage and fidelity.
With men such as you our cause could not be lost; but the war would have been interminable; it would have been civil war, and that would have entailed deeper misfortunes on France. 
I have sacrificed all of my interests to those of the country. 
I go, but you, my friends, will continue to serve France. Her happiness was my only thought. It will still be the object of my wishes.
Do not regret my fate; if I have consented to survive, it is to serve your glory. I intend to write the history of the great achievements we have performed together.
Adieu, my friends.
Would I could press you all to my heart.



Character Development Sketches





I have four baseline sketches for the four main dog characters--Ecarlet, Bretagne, Brom and Belge. These are the four breeds I chose last year, and, so far, I haven't seen anything that would convince me to make a change. These four breeds of dog were present during the Napoleonic Wars.

Future sketches will give them a little more of a three-dimensional look, and maybe be a little more "cartoony" or "animation-y." Or they'll just be amateurish. I'm hoping for acceptable.

Storyboard Development for The Chasseurs


Time to start storyboards and story detail.

The opening shot will be on the character Ecarlet (the red poodle). He is the eldest of the four dogs and serves as their leader.

Their life before Waterloo is based on being in that "post-war" mode where everything is wrecked, but just beginning to return to some sort of normalcy. They are scouring the countryside, practicing how they will look for and identify the wounded (which was their job in the French Army, until the Battle of Nations at Leipzig).

At a distance, the French countryside should appear lush and beautiful, but, up close, ruined and ravaged and abandoned and destitute.