Battle of Waterloo

Silver medal of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Battle of Waterloo, by Emile Rogat


This is the commemorative medal issued by the English after Waterloo. The fallen eagle, depicted on the back, is surrounded by vultures, representing the British, Austrians, Russians and the Dutch armies. It was designed and engraved by a Frenchman, hoping to sell it on the British market.

Can it really be true that the 200th anniversary is a few months away?

An Account of Napoleon at Waterloo

Evening of Waterloo by Ernest Crofts.

The French army is in a route, and Napoleon is urged to leave the Battle Field, while the Old Guards protect his carriage.

There are numerous accounts similar to this one:
Napoleon, left the Elysée at four o'clock on the morning of 12 June to join the army, passing by Laon, Avesnes, Beaumont, Charleroi and Fleurus, where the first battle between the French and Prussians was fought. Having reached Laon at six o'clock in the evening, he mounted his horse and made a tour of the town and the defenses: at eight o'clock he returned to the Prefecture where he lodged; at four o'clock on the morning of the 13th, he again set out for Avesnes, his general headquarters. He remained there on the 13th and on the 14th, he proceeded on horseback at 10 a.m. to Beaumont where he slept: he rose very early and walked upon the balcony, taking note continually of the weather and conversing with his brother Jerome. On the 15th he climbed the hill at Charleroi, after having driven back the enemy who only surrendered it towards three o'clock in the afternoon. There he made the whole army march past him in column. At seven in the evening he proceeded to the outposts, returning at ten o'clock to sleep at a citizen's house in the Place de Promenade at Charleroi. During the night various officers of the staff kept coming and going to give Napoleon accounts of the movements made by the different army corps. From their investigations they reported to him that General Bourmont had joined the enemy. Napoleon considered it necessary to make fresh plans, being pretty sure that this General from his treachery would give the enemy an exact account of the position of the French army. Napoleon, therefore, left Charleroi at ten a.m. on the 16th and visited one or two places where he found strong columns of the enemy's army. He continued his observations until a sufficient force had arrived to enable him to commence the battle. Towards three in the afternoon the firing began with much fury and lasted until nine o'clock in the evening when the Prussians were completely defeated. Napoleon spent the evening on the battlefield, until eleven o'clock, when he was assured on all sides that the position had been taken. He passed through the ranks in returning to a village (Ligny) towards Fleurus where he slept. There several of the brave men who had accompanied him from the Isle of Elba, said to him, “Sire, Your Majesty has here, far from Elba, the brave men of Elba.” He replied “I rely wholly upon you and the courage of the brave army.” On his return in the evening, an infantry Colonel who had just had his arm carried away said to the Emperor, “Sire, I have one arm less, the other remains at the service of Your Majesty.” The Emperor stopped and asked him what regiment he commanded; he replied, “The first Grenadier regiment of your Guard.” He was carried to the village with Napoleon's orders that the greatest care must be taken of him.
On the 17th of June, Napoleon left the village where he had slept, and visited the battlefield of the evening before as he always did on the day after a battle. He went very quickly up the hill to Genappes where he remained making observations on the movements of his advance guard; the cavalry attached to which several times charged the British cavalry as it passed out of the town. At this time a violent storm threw into confusion the whole French army which, owing to their many days of rapid marching, lack of provisions, and want of rest was in a most pitiable state. At last the courage of the French overcame the horrible weather. The troops struggled on with unparalleled valor; in the evening Napoleon visited the outposts in spite of the heavy rain and did his utmost to encourage the men. At seven o'clock, p.m. he took out his watch and said that the troops had need of rest, that they should take up their positions, and that the next day early, they would be under arms.
At this moment shouts were heard from the British army, Napoleon asked what these could be. Marshal Soult (then Chief of Staff) replied “It is certainly Wellington passing through the ranks that is the cause of the shouting.” At seven o'clock, Napoleon said he wished to bivouac; it was pointed out to him that he was in a ploughed field and in mud up to the knees, he replied to the Marshal, “Any kind of shelter will suit me for the night.” He retraced his steps at its height owing to the passing of the whole of the Imperial Guard which was hastening to seek shelter from the bad weather. Napoleon went into a kind of Inn out of which the troops, who had installed themselves in it, were turned, and here he fixed his General Headquarters, because he did not wish to go to the town of Genappes, which was only a league distant, saying that during the night he would here receive more readily reports from the army. At the same time everyone had found the best available quarters in which to pass the night. Generals Corbineau, La Bedoyere, Flahaut, aides-de-camp on Napoleon's staff, spent the night in riding between the various army corps and returning to him to give an exact account of the movements which were taking place. 
On the 18th Napoleon having left the bivouac, that is to say the village Caillou on horseback, at half-past nine in the morning came to take up his stand half a league in advance upon a hill where he could discern the movements of the British army.

There he dismounted, and with his fieldglass endeavored to discover all the movements in the enemy's line. The chief of the staff suggested that they should begin the attack; he replied that they must wait, but the enemy commenced his attack at eleven o'clock and the cannonading began on all sides; at two o'clock nothing was yet decided; the fighting was desperate. Napoleon rode through the lines and gave orders to make certain that every detail was executed with promptitude; he returned often to the spot where in the morning he had started, there he dismounted and, seating himself in a chair which was brought to him, he placed his head between his hands and rested his elbows on his knees. He remained thus absorbed sometimes for half-an-hour, and then rising up suddenly would peer through his glasses on all sides to see what was happening. At three o'clock an aide-de-camp from the right wing came to tell him that they were repulsed and that the artillery was insufficient. Napoleon immediately called General Drouet in order to direct him to hasten to reinforce this army corps which was suffering so heavily, but one saw on Napoleon's face a look of disquietude instead of the joy which it had shown on the great day of Fleurus. The whole morning he showed extreme depression; however, everything was going on as well as could be expected with the French, in spite of the uncertainty of the battle, when at 6 o'clock in the evening an officer of the mounted Chasseurs of the Guard came to Napoleon, raised his hand and said “Sire, I have the honor to announce to Your Majesty that the battle is won.”
“Let us go forward,” Napoleon replied, “We must do better still. Courage mes braves: Let us advance!” Having said this he rode off at a gallop close to the ranks encouraging the soldiers, who did not keep their position long, for a hail of artillery falling on their left ruined all. In addition to this, the strong line of British cavalry made a great onslaught on the squares of the guard and put all to rout.
It was at this moment that the Duke of Wellington sent to summon the Guard to surrender. General Kembraune replied that the Guard knew how to fight, to die, but not to surrender. Our right was crushed by the corps of Bülow who with his artillery had not appeared during the day but who now sought to cut off all retreat.
Napoleon towards eight o'clock in the evening, seeing that his army was almost beaten, commenced to despair of the success which two hours before he believed to be assured. He remained on the battlefield until half-past nine when it was absolutely necessary to leave. Assured of a good guide, we passed to the right of Genappes and through the fields; we marched all the night without knowing too well where we were going until the morning. Towards four o'clock in the morning we came to Charleroi where Napoleon, owing to the onrush of the army in beating a retreat, had much difficulty in proceeding. At last after he had left the town, he found in a little meadow on the right a small bivouac fire made by some soldiers. He stopped by it to warm himself and said to General Corbineau, “Et bien Monsieur, we have done a fine thing.” General Corbineau saluted him and replied, “Sire, it is the utter ruin of France.” Napoleon turned round, shrugged his shoulders and remained absorbed for some moments. He was at this time extremely pale and haggard and much changed. He took a small glass of wine and a morsel of bread which one of his equerries had in his pocket, and some moments later mounted, asking if the horse galloped well. He went as far as Philippeville where he arrived at mid-day and took some wine to revive himself. He again set out at two o'clock in a mail carriage towards Paris where he arrived on the 21st at 7 a.m. at the Elysée whence he departed on the 12th, in the same month.
Certified correct by me,
Jardin Ainé;
Equerry to the Emperor Napoleon

The Red Cloak


The spoils of war go on display:
Items seized at the Battle of Waterloo including Napoleon's red cloak are to go on display at Windsor Castle to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle.
The ankle-length cloak was worn by Napoleon on the night before the French defeat and was looted from his carriage after the victory by Allied troops.
The embroidered red felt cloak has been in the Royal Collection since 1837.
A great deal of treasure was left on the battlefield, and then discarded during the retreat. How much of it ended up in private hands, I wonder.

One Hundred Days by Alan Schom


This is one of the last books that I will read before The Chasseurs project is transitioned from a research project to a more proper blog about history and the Napoleonic Era (it's been in the works for long enough).

Alan Schom's book is brimming with excellent pieces and facts that are done in a very scholarly fashion. The quality of his details really rank up there with the best scholarship on this era. Gathering together the historical works on Napoleon would take a dozen blogs a dozen years; there's simply way too much that is way too good to ignore. There are hundreds of books written over a hundred years ago that are extremely valuable; Google Books is a good source for those.

What Schom does is follow the money and the trail of events. It's not enough to know what was happening when Napoleon landed in France after escaping Elba; he makes note of the messages that went back and forth between the panicked officials who were sensing, probably from the outset, that the new King of France, Louis XVIII, was simply going to run for the border (and, of course, he did).

It is an excellent read. I cannot proceed until I've finished it.


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.

Waterloo 2012 Scenes



It would appear that they had spectacular weather, and a very good turnout, for the 2012 reenactment of Waterloo.

I had considered going, but it just wasn't meant to be. June has been an extremely tough month, and there just wasn't any way to justify a 6 hour, one-way, car ride into Belgium and then back again.

Now, what about 2015? Who knows?

Cavalry at Waterloo


In order to research the next phase of The Chasseurs, I have decided to rely heavily upon the academic work done by John Keegan in The Face of Battle.
If the story of Waterloo has a 'leitmotiv' it is that of cavalry charging square and being repulsed. It was not absolutely inevitable that horsemen who attempted to break a square should fail... The feat of breaking a square was tried by French cavalry time and again at Waterloo — there were perhaps 12 main assaults during the great afternoon cavalry effort — and always (though infantry in line or column suffered) with a complete lack of success. Practice against poorer troops had led them to expect a different result: a visible shiver of uncertainty along the ranks of the waiting musketeers which would lend the horsemen nerve for the last 50 yads, a ragged spatter of balls over their heads to signal the volley mistimed, then a sudden collapse of resolution and disappearance of order — regiment become drove, backs turned, heads hunched between shoulders, helot-feet flying before the faster hooves of the lords of battle: this, in theory, should have been the effect of such a charge. 
As Jac Weller has shown by careful analysis of formation-widths, the number of cavalrymen in an attacking line was always much lower than the number of infantrymen with whom their onset brought them face to face. If the average strength of a battalion was about 500, it would, formed four deep, present in square a face of about 60 feet across, opposing about 140 men to the approaching French cavalry. They, because of the greater bulk of their horses, could present no more than about 18 men on the same width of front, with another 18 immediately behind, and it was these 36 who would take the brunt of the square's fire... If the cavalry's moral power failed to disarm the infantry — as it always did at Waterloo — then each horseman theoretically became the target for 4 infantrymen. Viewed like this, "Here comes those damnded fools again", seems like an appropriate judgment on the character of the conflict.
These squares are vital for the visual and descriptive aspect of the story. I have a scene constructed so far where one of the dogs leaps up over the rifles and lands on a shoulder; he springs again and lands in the middle of the square and looks around, bewildered. After a volley, the smoke obscures him and he manages to wriggle out through the legs of the soldiers who are wondering where he came from and why he has a French tricolor rag tied around his neck.

More of this will follow; Keegan's work is the top of the line, as per usual.

Napoleon and his Carriage

Evening of Waterloo, Ernest Crofts

In the confusion of the end of Waterloo, what happened to the wounded? What happened to the men who could not retreat? What happened to the men who were mortally wounded (or in many cases, unable to walk)?

This aftermath is an interesting area of discussion. The French fled and the forces opposed to them were exhausted. In many cases, the troops had spent days on the march, trying to arrive at the battlefield as quickly as possible to deliver the maximum force necessary to knock each other out.

I love the details, the confusion, and the horror of it all is heartbreaking. What Crofts gets right is the haze and misery.

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.

The Lion Hill at Waterloo


The high ground on any battlefield is always noted during an appraisal of what happened there. This high ground is famous for being created long after the Battle of Waterloo ended.
The lion hill, which is the main memorial monument of the Battle of Waterloo, indicates the spot where the Prince of Orange was wounded. A total of 226 stairs leads to the top of the monument where one can enjoy a beautiful view of the entire battlefield. 
King William I of the Netherlands ordered the construction of this monument in 1820, to commemorate bravoury of his son, the prince of Orange, who was wounded here during the battle. 
The construction started in 1824 and was finished in November 1826. The hill is the ideal place to have an overview over the entire surface of the battlefield. A total of 300.000 m³ of earth were moved to erect this (for its era ) imposing monument. The earth was taken out of the fields between the "Haie Sainte" farm and the sunken lane behind which the Duke of Wellington had strategically positioned his troops. 
The earth was poured into a hill by working women from the Cockerill company in Liège, where also the Lion statue was cast. The hill is 43 m high and at the basis the circumference measures 520 m. A total of 226 stairs lead to the top of the hill. The socle on which the lion stands has been build in brick throughout the entire hill. The Lion itself weighs 28 tons, is 4,45 m high and 4,50 m long.
Impressive, at least in terms of devotion and dedication.

Artillery Makes More than Just Noise



One of the elements that I don't want to ignore is the effect that artillery had on Waterloo. I think the story doesn't work without all of the elements at work--smoke, confusion, sound, and danger have to be all around.


I think the descriptions of things have to work as well. How would you describe something like this?




Two horses pulling a cannon--a smaller one. Is it a four pounder? An eight pounder? I'm sure that these omissions are fatal in storytelling, but how important are they, really?


Here's a wonderful article about artillery at Waterloo:

During the Waterloo Campaign in 1815 the raising of artillery was beset by some frustrating difficulties, and there was very little time. Napoleon rebuilt the artillery of the Guard but did little to the rest of the artillery. There was no lack of cannons, but trained gunners and horses were in short supply. Despite the poor shape the French artillery still was able to impress even the enemy.

In the beginning of the battle Reille's artillery kept firing on all cylinders and several guns had been brought up as far as the Nivelles Road. Almost all the British eyewitness accounts confirm that the British and German infantry massed on the high ground beyond Hougoumont came under fire and suffered a steady attrition that gradually began to wear on the men's nerves. Most of the British battalions behind Hougoumont-La Haye Sainte line were formed in column of companies (not a "thin red line"). It was a deep formation with all 10 companies lined up one behind the other. It was easy to maneuver battalions so deployed and therefore ideal formation for waiting troops; but it certainly wasn't suitable for withstanding artillery bombardement. 
To lessen their casulaties from artillery fire the British, Dutch and German infantry out on the ground. 
This way Wellington saved many lives. The cavalry in the second line also got under atyillery fire. Sergeant Wheeler of the British 51st Light writes, "A shell now fell into the column of the [British] 15th Hussars and bursted. I saw a sword and scabbard fly out from the column ... grape and shells were dupping about like hell, this was devilish annoying. As we could not see the enemy, although they were giving us a pretty good sprinkling of musketry ..." A British officer wrote that one of the French batteries "was committing great devastation amongst our troops in and near Hougoumont." Bull's howitzer battery also got under fire, suffered losses in men, wagons and horses, and exhausted their own ammunition to such a point that, no more than 2 hours after the beginning of the battle, they were compelled to abandon the line of fire. The fire of the French artillery distracted the British gunners. Instead of targeting the French columns they got involved in counter-battery fire. Wellington had expressely forbade it but it was ignored. (Napoleon explained: "When gunners are under attack from an enemy battery, they can never be made to fire on massed infantry. It's natural cowardice, the violent instinct of self-preservation ...") 
The British artillery was also effective. Some battalions of Reille's corps remained stretched out on the ground in hollows and sunken lanes. Other battalions received the fire standing firm. "Between 2 and 3 PM, a [French] battery drew up on the right side of the buildings and began to bombard them heavily with cannons and howitzers. It did not take long to set them all alight." (- Major Busgen, Nassau Battalion)
Those "sunken lanes" and places where the fighting took place are things that have to be included. I have two short pieces up, and I want to set a goal of solidifying the first few pieces before the month is out. August, being the month of vacation here in Europe, is probably going to be a slow and lazy month if I don't get out ahead of these things.

The Staff Meeting

Here's a sampling of what I uploaded onto Scribd. It's a rough draft of a piece that I'm calling "The Staff Meeting" and it's an early, tentative foray into getting "The Chasseurs" up and running.

The Chasseurs excerpt: The Staff Meeting

More on the Battle of Ligny


The Battle of Ligny was the battle that the French Army won en route to Waterloo. It must have been doubly cruel to have survived Ligny and to have been carried forward to the dashed hopes of Waterloo.
Napoleon won his final victory on June 16th, 1815 at Ligny, shortly before suffering a crushing defeat at Waterloo. Facing two enemy armies – Wellington’s Anglo-Allied and Bluecher’s Prussian – he aimed his main attack against Bluecher at Ligny and diverted Wellington’s attention by engaging his forward elements at Quatre Bras. The Eagle’s Last Triumph is the single most comprehensive examination of this vital aspect of the 1815 campaign available in English. Having put the battle at Ligny into perspective, the author provides a clear account of the action in detail, including much eye-witness testimony. The complex story of Wellington and Bluecher’s cooperation throughout the struggle against the French is revealed, with new light on Wellington’s promises of prompt aid to the Prussians in the early stages of the campaign – promises which he failed to keep. The reasons for General d’Erlon’s failure to support the French forces at either Ligny or Quatre Bras are traced, and how the main culprits in the fiasco later sought to cover up their responsibility. The Eagle’s Last Triumph is a vivid military epic, providing a cogent and lucid explanation of why Napoleon, victorious at Ligny, met with utter defeat just two days later at Waterloo.
Here's a modern map of the area around Ligny (I'd love to go there this summer, but I don't think it will happen).



I've been in the formative phase of The Chasseurs for just about long enough. I have let the story sort of build up in my mind and now the pieces are mostly in place. Ligny will be part of it, so I've been getting things organized along a sequence of events.

I also have a few photos of reenactors and things like that:






UPDATE: My plan was to work up some stuff before the 13th of June, and that just didn't happen. I apologize. I have such real affection for this project, and I'm still putting together so many different ideas. It just hasn't gotten to the point yet where I can get this down in words and all that.

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.

Research on the Battle of Ligny


Ligny presents itself with a great opportunity to highlight one of the lost details of Waterloo, and, that is, with Ligny, the French were on the move and the forces allied against him were in retreat.

Napoleon's Order of the Day before the Battle of Ligny:

Napoleon, by the Grace of God, and the Constitution of the Empire, Emperor of the French, &c. to the Grand Army.
AT THE IMPERIAL HEAD-QUARTERS. 
Avesnes, June 14th, 1815
"Soldiers! This day is the anniversary of Marengo and Friedland, which twice decided the destiny of Europe. Then, as after Austerliz, as after Wagram, we were too generous! We believed in the protestations and in the oaths of princes, whom we left on their thrones. Now, however, leagued together, they aim at the independence and most sacred rights of France. They have commenced the most unjust aggressions. Let us, then, march to meet them. Are they and we no longer the same men?
"Soldiers! At Jena, against these same Prussians, now so arrogant, you were one to three, and at Montmirail one to six!
"Let those among you who have been captive to the English, describe the nature of their prison-ships, and the frightful miseries they endured.
"The Saxons, the Belgians, the Hanoverians, the soldiers of the Confederation of the Rhine, lament they are compelled to use their arms in the cause of princes, the enemies of justice and the rights of nations. They know that this coalition is insatiable! After having devoured twelve millions of Poles, twelve millions of Italians, one million Saxons, and six million Belgians, it now wishes to devour the states of the second rank of Germany.
"Madmen! One moment of prosperity has bewildered them. The oppression and the humiliation of the French people are beyond their power. If they enter France they will there find their grave.
"Soldiers! We have forced marches to make, battles to fight, dangers to encounter; but, with firmness victory will be ours. The rights, the honour, and the happiness of the country will be recovered!
"To every Frenchman who has a heart, the moment has now arrived to conquer or to die.
THE MARSHAL DUKE OF DALMATIA,
MAJOR GENERAL

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.)

Waterloo Re-enactment

Re-enactment of Waterloo
I knew there was something out there like this [warning--audio will play at this website].

Now, is this cooler than a Civil War re-enactment? No, but it probably comes with less baggage and with a slightly more uncomfortable uniform to wear.

What's On When explains what happens at this event:
The infamous defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815 is re-enacted every year, bringing together volunteer regiments from all over Europe in full period gear, complete with weapons. Over 1000 people take part.
The event opens with a series of peaceful demonstrations of the life of a Napoleonic-era soldier. The first day ends with a spectacular sound-and-lights show over the battlefield. A village of Napoleonic bivouacs are set up on and around the battlefield and visitors can observe daily life in the camps, check out weaponry and equipment, assist with the cooking or watch the changing of the guard and patrols.
The final day is dedicated to the re-enactments of the battles of Plancenoit and Hougoumont, which make up what is known jointly as the Battle of Waterloo. After the last battle, troops retreat towards the Hameau du Lion in a great procession.
Other re-enactments include the arrival of ambulance crews in vintage vehicles to tend to wounded soldiers with tools and implements of the time. There's also a market selling all kinds of Napoleonic objects as well as a historical path for children.
The event takes place in June over the course of three days and features a pretty comprehensive overview of the battle and the history of the event.
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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.