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.

Whose Slippers?

Scattered all throughout Europe are trunks and chests full of treasures; of this I am certain. When something like this is examined, the question I always want to know is, what's missing? What were the really valuable items that ended up being pawned off during the war (s) and what was filched out of there by a thieving relative?

Items from two or three hundred years ago are commonplace enough in small museums in Germany; really, you can go to any stadt museum and see excellent pieces. I'm sure it's that way throughout the continent; maybe not, but I suspect that there are trunks needing a good dusting all over. Perhaps that is oversimplified and overly romantic.

In America, if it's a hundred and twenty years old or more, people lose their mud over such an "antiquity." The American way is to tear it down, pave it over, get rid of it. We do not preserve much of anything in this country.

To call Napoleon's sister a princess is to acknowledge her marriage to a man of limited title who abandoned her for a mistress; she became Paulette when the family arrived in France and was loyal to her brother to the end of his days.

I think that the article should have reflected more of her status as a wholly created royal with the same commoner's blood as her brother. If you consider the painting above, someone had to have been cruelly inclined to give her too long of a neck. What an unflattering portrait.

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.

French Light Infantry in Miniature

Here are some French light infantry, as rendered by Don Voss at the Lead Adventure Forum. This is some very spectacular work, and I really like the mismatched and hard-worn look that is rendered here.

The level of detail and the care for the material that you will find with any depiction of the Napoleonic Wars is breathtaking and humbling, it truly is.

Chimney Sweeps and Rural France

The Chimney Sweep by Frederick Daniel Hardy

The excerpt, above, is snipped out of Honour and Violence by Anton Blok. In the early portion of The Chasseurs, I'll put a piece in there about a chimney sweep who is hired to clean out the chimneys and Ecarlet and Bretagne have a disagreement about who will watch him while he works. Ecarlet is convinced that all chimney sweeps are thieves and Bretagne is convinced that Ecarlet has been imagining things that are not there.

I don't know when further work on The Chasseurs will continue. A number of pieces are in place, and there is a great deal of work happening offline. But it has been the slowest of projects, to be certain.

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.

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.


In terms of drama, Hougamont is a key part of the Waterloo mystique.

I will have to craft a scene or two that incorporates this part of the battle into the story. My hope is that there will be an opportunity in May to write a few chapters and then begin posting them. I have enough material now to work with. It's down to the actual writing, and May will be a great time to get a good part of this done.

Taking Out the Old Watercolor Paints

For The Chasseurs project, I will have to reintroduce myself to watercolors. These are photos, not scans, of what I am putting together.

I have a lifelong aversion to watercolor painting. I can either make it work or I end up making it a sloppy mess. I tend to try to use the watercolor paints from the tubes as if they were oils. I suppose my penance for that transgression will have to be trying a little harder to make the medium work...

Posted via email from Warren Jason Street