Pictures

The Importance of Little Details


Well, that's not a real cannon.

It's a picture of one taken at Disneyland Paris. You can see that it has been cast or fabricated to look real, but it isn't.

Or is it?

If you were going to go out and get a fake cannon, where would you go? And why wouldn't you just buy an old one and dress it up and make it look real.

This is the actual coat worn daily by Napoleon:



But, then again. What's genuine and what's fake?

The reason why this project has, literally, taken forever is that I have so much source material to go through and I'm doing this so that I can get most of this right.

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.

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.

For Want of a Winter Horseshoe


The BBC has an interesting magazine piece about military logistics, and it touches on several key incidents in history. I took notice of this part of the story of Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812:

This is the first I have heard of this issue. One of the oldest stories about the collapse of the Grand Armee in Russia has always centered around the cheap tin buttons on the greatcoats of the soldiers:


I would think that both facts had an impact on the fortunes of Napoleon's men.

Something I Might Employ


This is the famous robotic arm that is writing out the Bible in Gothic script outside of the cathedral in Trier.

I think if I were to use this thing, I might get somewhere with this project.

A lot of what I have done and organized has been scrapped. I am reorganizing the whole blog thing as well--having 12 or 13 blogs really isn't conducive to writing stories, but, then again, there is no down side to being busy and creative all of the time.

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.

Rocroi

Rocroi by Jeroen van der Werf

Rocroi by Jeroen van der Werf

Rocroi by Jeroen van der Werf
I came across these photos of the French fortress town of Rocroi and had to put them up; you'll find more of these (and some really interesting pages) at Fortified Places. Here's a wonderful aerial shot of Rocroi from Wikipedia:



I have been researching how the French people reacted to the return of Napoleon. Provence did not welcome Napoleon, so he took a circuitous route through the foothills of the Alps and returned to Paris a mere twenty days or so after leaving Elba. This began the Hundred Days, and The Chasseurs is very much a story that is embedded in this period of French history. I have more research to do in order to get the next few pieces just right. Work on this project has been glacially slow, but I'm hoping it can pick up here when Fall arrives; I don't do much in the summer months. August is practically a "lost" month for me every year since I tend to view it as a vacation period.

Instead of making it joyous or angry, I have a scene that I'm building where the reaction is muted and confused. I think it should be fairly neutral since the story of The Chasseurs is opening up in a town that is tired of the Napoleonic Wars.

I'm not going to set it in Rocroi, but this is a frontier town that has seen a great deal of history.
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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.

Another Great Example of Reenactors in Action


Now, that's a first--reenactors out in the snow.

I won't vouch for it, but there's a website dedicated to the art of reenacting history. A lot of what I stumble across when researching the various pieces that I'm finally able to put together shows the dedication and craft of reenactors all over the world.

Cavalry From Above


One of the stylistic themes that I want to have run through The Chasseurs is the overall confusion and chaos of war, and, in particular, of the battlefields where they travel. I envision a number of random shots of cavalry troops, from any and all of the different sides, blinding running around, trampling things, and accomplishing nothing.

The two sketches above are roughly drawn to show the mounted cavalry from overhead, traveling two abreast, and running through the various scenes. They appear, and disappear, within moments. They are important, and cannot be bothered to stop and see what's what.

I tried to do some research on how to adequately draw this, but I ran into a number of roadblocks. Here, you see the riders with the round, flat hats:


What's missing is a drawing guide. I found these after I did the two sketches above:



And, they're helpful, but not as much as an overhead photo would be. I'm not getting the details correct.

Anyway, I like that as a theme, and I'll drop that in when I can.

No Umbrellas For You


If I'm not mistaken, this ban on umbrellas continues to this day for many military organizations:
Captain Mercer of the British Horse Artillery described the miserable night he and his troop spent on the field of Waterloo before the battle: “My companion (the troop’s second captain) had an umbrella, which by the way afforded some merriment to our people on the march, this we planted against the sloping bank of the hedge, and seating ourselves under it, he on the one side of the stick, me on the other side, we lighted cigars and became-comfortable”.
The Duke, who was indifferent to the way his officers chose to dress, drew the line at umbrellas. “At Bayonne, in December 1814,” writes Captain Gronow of the First Foot Guards, “His Grace, on looking round, saw, to his surprise, a great many umbrellas, with which the officers protected themselves from the rain that was then falling. Arthur Hill came galloping up to us saying, Lord Wellington does not approve of the use of umbrellas during the enemy’s firing, and will not allow the “gentlemen’s sons” to make themselves ridiculous in the eyes of the army.”
Colonel Tynling, a few days afterwards, received a wigging from Lord Wellington for suffering his officers to carry umbrellas in the face of the enemy; His Lordship observing, “The Guards may in uniform, when on duty at St. James’, carry umbrellas if they please, but in the field it is not only ridiculous but unmilitary.”
Standing orders for the army in the Peninsula and in the Waterloo campaign stated categorically “Umbrellas will not be opened in the presence of the enemy.”
However the surgeon of Captain Mercer’s troop of Horse Artillery was seen to be sheltering under the forbidden item during the early part of the Battle of Waterloo.
Excellent stuff. The umbrella image from above is from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and it's a lady's parasol. This one was made, apparently, in England in the late 18th or early 19th century. It does correspond to the time period, however.

An Apple Tree on its Side


I have a photo study here of an apple tree that has grown parallel to the ground. Whoever has tended the tree didn't mind the fact that it is very low to the ground.


I have it in mind to use this sort of thing as a place where The Chasseurs can gather and talk about their dog problems. Dogs, they do have problems. How do we know what they talk about when they're off by themselves?