The Chasseurs

The 8th Duke of Wellington


If you're following this sort of thing, please note that the title will continue:
The 8th Duke of Wellington has died at his home in Hampshire, aged 99.
Arthur Valerian Wellesley died peacefully at Stratfield Saye Estate, near Basingstoke, surrounded by his family, a spokesman said.
Also known as the Prince of Waterloo, the duke was a descendant of the 1st Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo.

A Threat Never Carried Out


Nothing could be more horrific to consider than the destruction of Napoleon's army in Russia; I have deliberately avoided researching it or going into it because I wanted to limit my focus to the last two battles of the Napoleonic era in Europe where we end it all at Waterloo.

It is interesting that this particular letter, concerning a threat that never happened, went for 150,000 euros. Did someone drive up the cost? Is it really worth that much?

My guess is that there are so few remaining privately held documents like this that it was worth every penny to whomever wanted to preserve it.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

Leipzig and a Flashback



The Battle of Leipzig is where three of my characters were subjected to a harrowing retreat and the defeat of the French Army in which they served. Oh, sure. They're dogs. But this snippet from the book by Sir Walter Scott is exactly the sort of tone that will be set when I introduce a kind of flashback.

Scott's book is very interesting, but it is, of course, the sort of history that the victor writes.

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.

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.

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.

The Chasseurs: The Hunter in the Meadow


Another short piece from the Chasseurs, and it probably follows the first piece I did last month.

The Chasseurs: The Hunter in the Meadow

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.

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