Writing

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.


The Chasseurs Writing Project


There are four writing projects that I am planning on completing this year. I would like to get them planned out and written well before the end of the year, but things do come up. However, I don't see any reason why they can't be finished up and ready to go for next Christmas.

I don't have any set order for completing them, although I am hoping to get The Easter Wolf up and running by Easter in order to give people an alternative history of the celebration of Easter from an American marketing perspective. Living in Germany has made me aware of the fact that not everyone celebrates the same holiday the same way. It's a much bigger deal here than it is in the United States. I have found a great vehicle for a new telling of the behind the scenes machinations of Easter that I thought was worthy of getting out there.

The oldest projects are the ones that center around Norman Rogers and his self-deluding trip through the popular culture. The two best stories I have are set in different times. I have a lot of source material for these projects.

The Chasseurs is at the full writing stage. There isn't much research left to do. I have enough source material to complete the project. All I need now is time. Because these portals exist as blogs, I have to keep adding material in order to maintain interest. Which is no problem--I have the chance to do this. But, really, these sites should be fully-realized websites, and not blogs. For now, Scribd is the preferred method of publication. I would expect that this will change in the future, although I would think that this would be because Scribd doesn't give me the flexibility to fully self-publish material as of yet.

Consider this the January update for these projects. More to follow.

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.

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.

Hegel's Man Crush on Napoleon

Did Hegel Have a Man Crush on Napoleon?

If it wasn't for all of this school work, I would have had some great posts this month.

Big, big sigh...

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.
Enhanced by Zemanta

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 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

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

A Great Idea For a Character

An arctic fox, not an albino fox, of course

Well, there are several issues at work here.

I've already gotten an established sort of home lair for The Chasseurs--a den that has been dug out under an apple tree that has fallen over near where they live above ground in their "regular life."

The den is sort of a meeting room where they cannot bring girlfriends. An old albino fox has decided to let them use the den, temporarily, while he makes a new den several hundred yards away. Now, finding a picture of an albino fox would be, I would think, pretty easy, except that when you type in the word "fox" and search images now, Megan Fox, the actress, brings back half of the hits and even when you specify an "albino fox," you still get back a slew of photos.

I settled on a great photo of an arctic fox. Why an albino fox? I dunno. Just being weird.

Anyway, this old fox is a great idea for a character. He's kind of a possessive landlord type, and the four dogs have to make certain that they don't upset his decor while they go over the things they need to remember.

1. Always stay in sight of one another
2. Stop, sniff, and bark once or bark twice. Hopefully, barking twice happens more often than barking once.
3. When there's a boom, duck.
4. When there's a whoosh, duck.
5. When it's quiet, wait for a boom or a whoosh.
6. Never stop moving.

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

Hougamont


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.

Pardon Me While I Steal a Chapter

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Here's the entirety of Chapter 13 of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Great Shadow."

CHAPTER XIII

THE END OF THE STORM

OF all the things that seem strange in that battle, now that I look back upon it, there is nothing that was queerer than the way in which it acted on my comrades; for some took it as though it had been their daily meat without question or change, and others pattered out prayers from the first gunfire to the last, and others again cursed and swore in a way that was creepy to listen to. There was one, my own left-hand man, Mike Threadingham, who kept telling about his maiden aunt, Sarah, and how she had left the money which had been promised to him to a home for the children of drowned sailors. Again and again he told me this story, and yet when the battle was over he took his oath that he had never opened his lips all day. As to me, I cannot say whether I spoke or not, but I know that my mind and my memory were clearer than I can ever remember them, and I was thinking all the time about the old folk at home, and about Cousin Edie with her saucy, dancing eyes, and de Lissac with his cat's whiskers, and all the doings at West Inch, which had ended by bringing us here on the plains of Belgium as a cockshot for two hundred and fifty cannons.

  During all this time the roaring of those guns had been something dreadful to listen to, but now they suddenly died away, though it was like the lull in a thunderstorm when one feels that a worse crash is coming hard at the fringe of it. There was still a mighty noise on the distant wing, where the Prussians were pushing their way onwards, but that was two miles away. The other batteries, both French and English, were silent, and the smoke cleared so that the armies could see a little of each other. It was a dreary sight along our ridge, for there seemed to be just a few scattered knots of red and the lines of green where the German Legion stood, while masses of the French appeared to be as thick as ever, though of course we knew that they must have lost many thousands in these attacks. We heard a great cheering and shouting from among them, and then suddenly all their batteries opened together with a roar which made the din of the earlier part seem nothing in comparison. It might well be twice as loud, for every battery was twice as near, being moved right up to point blank range with huge masses of horse between and behind them to guard them from attack.
  When that devil's roar burst upon our ears there was not a man, down to the drummer boys, who did not understand what it meant. It was Napoleon's last great effort to crush us. There were but two more hours of light, and if we could hold our own for those all would be well. Starved and weary and spent, we prayed that we might have strength to load and stab and fire while a man of us stood on his feet.
  His cannon could do us no great hurt now, for we were on our faces, and in an instant we could turn into a huddle of bayonets if his horse came down again. But behind the thunder of the guns there rose a sharper, shriller noise, whirring and rattling, the wildest, jauntiest, most stirring kind of sound.
  "It 's the pas-de-charge!" cried an officer. "They mean business this time!"
  And as he spoke we saw a strange thing. A Frenchman, dressed as an officer of hussars, came galloping towards us on a little bay horse. He was screeching "Vive le roi! Vive le roi!" at the pitch of his lungs, which was as much as to say that he was a deserter, since we were for the king and they for the emperor. As he passed us he roared out in English, "The Guard is coming! The Guard is coming!" and so vanished away to the rear like a leaf blown before a storm. At the same instant up there rode an aide-de-camp, with the reddest face that ever I saw upon mortal man.
  "You must stop 'em, or we are done!" he cried to General Adams, so that all our company could hear him.
  "How is it going?" asked the general.
  "Two weak squadrons left out of six regiments of heavies," said he, and began to laugh like a man whose nerves are overstrung.
  "Perhaps you would care to join in our advance? Pray consider yourself quite one of us," said the general, bowing and smiling as if he were asking him to a dish of tea.
  "I shall have much pleasure," said the other, taking off his hat; and a moment afterwards our three regiments closed up, and the brigade advanced in four lines over the hollow where we had lain in square, and out beyond to the point whence we had seen the French army.
  There was little of it to be seen now, only the red belching of the guns flashing quickly out of the cloudbank, and the black figures -- stooping, straining, mopping, sponging -- working like devils, and at devilish work. But through the cloud that rattle and whirr rose ever louder and louder, with a deep-mouthed shouting and the stamping of thousands of feet. Then there came a broad black blurr through the haze, which darkened and hardened until we could see that it was a hundred men abreast, marching swiftly towards us, with high far hats upon their heads and a gleam of brasswork over their brows. And behind that hundred came another hundred, and behind that another, and on and on, coiling and writhing out of the cannon-smoke like a monstrous snake, until there seemed to be no end to the mighty column. In front ran a spray of skirmishers, and behind them the drummers, and up they all came together at a kind of tripping step, with the officers clustering thickly at the sides and waving their swords and cheering. There were a dozen mounted men too at their front, all shouting together, and one with his hat held aloft upon his swordpoint. I say again, that no men upon this earth could have fought more manfully than the French did upon that day.
  It was wonderful to see them; for as they came onwards they got ahead of their own guns, so that they had no longer any help from them, while they got in front of the two batteries which had been on either side of us all day. Every gun had their range to a foot, and we saw long red lines scored right down the dark column as it advanced. So near were they, and so closely did they march, that every shot ploughed through ten files of them, and yet they closed up and came on with a swing and dash that was fine to see. Their head was turned straight for ourselves, while the 95th overlapped them on one side and the 52nd on the other.
  I shall always think that if we had waited so the Guard would have broken us; for how could a four-deep line stand against such a column? But at that moment Colburne, the colonel of the 52nd, swung his right flank round so as to bring it on the side of the column, which brought the Frenchmen to a halt. Their front line was forty paces from us at the moment, and we had a good look at them. It was funny to me to remember that I had always thought of Frenchmen as small men; for there was not one of that first company who could not have picked me up as if I had been a child, and their great hats made them look taller yet. They were hard, wizened, wiry fellows too, with fierce puckered eyes and bristling moustaches, old soldiers who had fought and fought, week in, week out, for many a year. And then, as I stood with my finger upon the trigger waiting for the word to fire, my eye fell full upon the mounted officer with his hat upon his sword, and I saw that it was de Lissac.
  I saw it, and Jim did too. I heard a shout, and saw him rush forward madly at the French column; and, as quick as thought, the whole brigade took their cue from him, officers and all, and flung themselves upon the Guard in front, while our comrades charged them on the flanks. We had been waiting for the order, and they all thought now that it had been given; but you may take my word for it, that Jim Horscroft was the real leader of the brigade when we charged the Old Guard.
  God knows what happened during that mad five minutes. I remember putting my musket against a blue coat and pulling the trigger, and that the man could not fall because he was so wedged in the crowd; but I saw a horrid blotch upon the cloth, and a thin curl of smoke from it as if it had taken fire. Then I found myself thrown up against two big Frenchmen, and so squeezed together, the three of us, that we could not raise a weapon. One of them, a fellow with a very large nose, got his hand up to my throat, and I felt that I was a chicken in his grasp. "Rendez-vous, coquin; rendez-vous!" said he, and then suddenly doubled up with a scream, for someone had stabbed him in the bowels with a bayonet. There was very little firing after the first sputter; but there was the crash of butt against barrel the short cries of stricken men, and the roaring of the officers. And then, suddenly, they began to give ground-slowly, sullenly, step by step, but still to give ground. Ah! it was worth all that we had gone through, the thrill of that moment, when we felt that they were going to break. There was one Frenchman before me, a sharp-faced, dark-eyed man, who was loading and firing as quietly as if he were at practice, dwelling upon his aim, and looking round first to try and pick of an officer. I remember that it struck me that to kill so cool a man as that would be a good service, and I rushed at him and drove my bayonet into him. He turned as I struck him and fired full into my face, and the bullet left a weal across my cheek which will mark me to my dying day. I tripped over him as he fell, and two others tumbling over me I was half smothered in the heap. When at last I struggled out, and cleared my eyes, which were half full of powder, I saw that the column had fairly broken, and was shredding into groups of men, who were either running for their lives or were fighting back to back in a vain attempt to check the brigade, which was still sweeping onwards. My face felt as if a red-hot iron had been laid across it; but I had the use of my limbs, so jumping over the litter of dead and mangled men, I scampered after my regiment, and fell in upon the right flank.
  Old Major Elliott was there, limping along, for his horse had been shot, but none the worse in himself. He saw me come up, and nodded, but it was too busy a time for words. The brigade was still advancing, but the general rode in front of me with his chin upon his shoulder, looking back at the British position.
  "There is no general advance," said he; "but I'm not going back."
  "The Duke of Wellington has won a great victory," cried the aide-de-camp, in a solemn voice; and then, his feelings getting the better of him, he added, "if the damned fool would only push on!" -- which set us all laughing in the flank company.
  But now anyone could see that the French army was breaking up. The columns and squadrons which had stood so squarely all day were now all ragged at the edges; and where there had been thick fringes of skirmishers in front, there were now a spray of stragglers in the rear. The Guard thinned out in front of us as we pushed on, and we found twelve guns looking us in the face, but we were over them in a moment; and I saw our youngest subaltern, next to him who had been killed by the lancer, scribbling great 71's with a lump of chalk upon them, like the schoolboy that he was. It was at that moment that we heard a roar of cheering behind us, and saw the whole British army flood over the crest of the ridge, and come pouring down upon the remains of their enemies. The guns, too, came bounding and rattling forward, and our light cavalry -- as much as was left of it -- kept pace with our brigade upon the right. There was no battle after that. The advance went on without a check, until our army stood lined upon the very ground which the French had held in the morning. Their guns were ours, their foot were a rabble spread over the face of the country, and their gallant cavalry alone was able to preserve some sort of order and to draw off unbroken from the field. Then at last, just as the night began to gather, our weary and starving men were able to let the Prussians take the job over, and to pile their arms upon the ground that they had won. That was as much as I saw or can tell you about the Battle of Waterloo, except that I ate a two-pound rye loaf for my supper that night, with as much salt meat as they would let me have, and a good pitcher of red wine, until I had to bore a new hole at the end of my belt, and then it fitted me as tight as a hoop to a barrel. After that I lay down in the straw where the rest of the company were sprawling, and in less than a minute I was in a dead sleep.

Published in 1892, "The Great Shadow" was intended to be a tale of the Napoleonic War. You can find it here at Project Guttenberg.

Also at Project Guttenberg, I had a chance to sift through "A Visit to Three Fronts" and this piece stood out:
The French soldiers are grand. They are grand. There is no other word to express it. It is not merely their bravery. All races have shown bravery in this war. But it is their solidity, their patience, their nobility. I could not conceive anything finer than the bearing of their officers. It is proud without being arrogant, stern without being fierce, serious without being depressed. Such, too, are the men whom they lead with such skill and devotion. Under the frightful hammer-blows of circumstance, the national characters seem to have been reversed. It is our British soldier who has become debonair, light-hearted and reckless, while the Frenchman has developed a solemn stolidity and dour patience which was once all our own. During a long day in the French trenches, I have never once heard the sound of music or laughter, nor have I once seen a face that was not full of the most grim determination.
Germany set out to bleed France white. Well, she has done so. France is full of widows and orphans from end to end. Perhaps in proportion to her population she has suffered the most of all. But in carrying out her hellish mission Germany has bled herself white also. Her heavy sword has done its work, but the keen French rapier has not lost its skill. France will stand at last, weak and tottering, with her huge enemy dead at her feet. But it is a fearsome business to see—such a business as the world never looked upon before. It is fearful for the French. It is fearful for the Germans. May God's curse rest upon the arrogant men and the unholy ambitions which let loose this horror upon humanity! Seeing what they have done, and knowing that they have done it, one would think that mortal brain would grow crazy under the weight. Perhaps the central brain of all was crazy from the first. But what sort of government is it under which one crazy brain can wreck mankind!
If ever one wanders into the high places of mankind, the places whence the guidance should come, it seems to me that one has to recall the dying words of the Swedish Chancellor who declared that the folly of those who governed was what had amazed him most in his experience of life. Yesterday I met one of these men of power—M. Clemenceau, once Prime Minister, now the destroyer of governments. He is by nature a destroyer, incapable of rebuilding what he has pulled down. With his personal force, his eloquence, his thundering voice, his bitter pen, he could wreck any policy, but would not even trouble to suggest an alternative. As he sat before me with his face of an old prizefighter (he is remarkably like Jim Mace as I can remember him in his later days), his angry grey eyes and his truculent, mischievous smile, he seemed to me a very dangerous man. His conversation, if a squirt on one side and Niagara on the other can be called conversation, was directed for the moment upon the iniquity of the English rate of exchange, which seemed to me very much like railing against the barometer. My companion, who has forgotten more economics than ever Clemenceau knew, was about to ask whether France was prepared to take the rouble at face value, but the roaring voice, like a strong gramophone with a blunt needle, submerged all argument. We have our dangerous men, but we have no one in the same class as Clemenceau. Such men enrage the people who know them, alarm the people who don't, set every one by the ears, act as a healthy irritant in days of peace, and are a public danger in days of war.
Four dogs during World War I? Well, I'll have to think about that.

Napoleon in Egypt

Napoleon at the Battle of Aboukir
As I begin the actual writing of The Chasseurs, it's important to develop some of the secondary characters.

The Chasseurs will be centered around four dogs who are caught up in the chaotic days before and after the Battle of Waterloo. All of the dogs survive; all of them go home in the end. The story is about what happens to them and why it happens. It's not so much about them as it is about what war does to an individual. In order to tell the same old story a different way, I'm going to have four very different and, I hope, interesting and compelling, dogs step into some very different roles than we are used to.

They are tended and cared for by a battlefield surgeon who maybe suspects they have a very rich and interesting life away from his wagons, but doesn't let on. He is responsible for training dozens of dogs throughout the Napoleonic Wars; these four are all that are left.

I want to do one flashback scene where he is in Egypt, with Napoleon's Army. Here is a bit of that backdrop:

From: An Account of the French Expedition in Egypt; Written by Bonaparte and Berthier; with Sir William Sidney Smith’s Letters. With an English translation (London, Edward Baines, 1800.), pp. 39-42.


Battle of Aboukir.


Head Quarters, Alexandria, 11th Thermidor, (July 29.)
The army began to move at daybreak on the 7th thermidor. The advanced guard was commanded by General Murat, who had under his order 400 cavalry, and the brigadier general Destaing, with three battalions, and two pieces of cannon. Brigadier General Davoust, with two squadrons, and 100 dromedaries, was ordered to take a position between Alexandria and the army, in order to oppose the Arabs and Murad Bey, who were every moment expected to arrive, with the design of joining the Turkish army, and in order to preserve the communication with Alexandria.
The General of division, Menou, who had proceeded to Rosetta, was ordered to take post by the day-break at the extremity of the bar of Rosetta, at Aboukir, and near the entrance of the Lake Madie, in order to cannonade such of the enemy’s vessels as he might find on the Lake, and to harass his left. 
The enemy’s first line was posted about half a league in front of the fort of Aboukir. About 1000 men occupied a mount of sand, defended on its right towards the sea by entrenchments, and supported by a village to the distance of about 300 toises, which was occupied by 1200 men, and four pieces of cannon. The left was upon a detached sand hill, to the left of the peninsula, and about 600 toises in front of the first line. This position was very badly fortified, and was besides of no real importance; but the enemy occupied it in order to cover the most plentiful wells of Aboukir. Some gun-boats appeared to be stationed so as to protect the space between this position and the second line, which was also occupied by 2000 men, provided with six pieces of cannon. The enemy’s second position was about 300 toises in the rear of the first village; his centre at the redoubt which he had taken form us; his right behind and entrenchment which he had extended from his redboubt to the sea, a space of about 150 toises; his left was posted between the redoubt and the sea, on some low land hills and the shore, commanded by the fire form the redoubt and the gun-boats. In this position there was about 7000 men, and twelve pieces of cannon. About 100 toises behind the redoubt lay the village and fort of Aboukir, occupied by nearly 1500 men. The train of the pacha, who had the chief command, consisted of 80 horsemen. 
Bonaparte ordered the columns to halt, and made his dispositions for the attack.
Brigadier-General Destaing, with his three battalions, was to carry the height of the enemy’s right, which was occupied by 1000 men, while a piquet of cavalry was at the same time to cut off the retreat of this corps upon the village.
The division of Lannes was ordered to advance upon the sand hill, to the left of the first line of the enemy, where he had 2000 men, and six pieces of cannon. A squadron of cavalry was ordered to observe the motions of this corps, and to cut off its retreat.
General Destaing adanved upon the enemy at the charge of bayonet. He abandoned his entrenchments, and retreated towards the village. The fugitives were cut in pieces by the cavalry.
The corps against which the division of Lannes marched, seeing the first line give way, and the cavalry about to turn its position, fired only a few shot, and immediately quitted it. Two squadrons of cavalry, and a platoon of guides on horseback cut off their retreat, and killed or drive into the sea this body of 2000 men, of which not an individual escaped.
The village was then carried, and the enemy pursued as far as the redoubt, in the centre of the second position.
This second position was very strong, the redoubt being flanked by a ditch of communication, which secured the peninsula on the right as far as the sea. Another ditch of the like kind stretched along on the left, at a small distance from the redoubt.
The remaining space was occupied by the enemy stationed on the sand hills and in the batteries. In this position the enemy had from 8 to 9000 men. 
Whilst the troops took breath, some pieces of artillery were planted in the village, and long the shore on our left. A fire was opened on the redoubt, and on the enemy’s right.
The cavalry on our right attacked the enemy’s left, which it repeatedly charged with the greatest impetuosity, cutting down or driving into the sea, every one that came in their way. But they could not penetrate beyond the redoubt without being put between its fire and that of the gun boats. Hurried by their bravery into this terrible defile, they fell back at each charge, and the enemy made a stand with fresh forces on the dead bodies of their companions.
The chief of brigade Duvivier was killed, but the Adjutant General Rouize continued to direct their movement with distinguished ability and coolness. The Adjutant-General Leturc, the chief of brigade Bessieres, and the cavalry guides, were at the head of the charging column. Leturc thought that it was necessary to have a reinforcement of infantry: on communicating his desire, the General in chief sent him a battalion of the 75th. He again joined the cavalry; his horse was shot; he then put himself at the head of the infantry, and flew from the centre to the left, in order to join the van of the 18th, which he saw on their march to attack the enemy’s right. 
The 18th marched towards the entrenchments; the enemy at the same instant sallied upon the right: the heads of the columns sought body to body; the Turks endeavoured to wrest from our men the bayonets, which proved fatal to them. They flung their muskets behind them, and fought with their sabers and pistols, for every Turk carries a musket, two pistols in his girdle, and a sabre. The 18th at length reached the entrenchments; but the fire from the redoubt, which every where flanked the entrenchments, where the enemy again rallied, checked the column at the moment when every thing yielded to its impulse, General Fuguieres and Adjutant-General Leturc performed prodigies of valour. The former received a wound in the head, but he still continued to fight; a ball then shot off his left arm, and he was obliged to follow the 18th, which retreated to the village, keeping up however, a hot fire during the movement. The adjutant General Leturc, having in vain exhorted the column to throw itself into the enemy’s entrenchments, rushed into them himself, he was unsupported, and met a glorious death. The chief of brigade Monrangie was wounded. 
The General in Chief direct a battalion of the 23d light infantry, and one of the 69th, to advance upon the left of the enemy. General Lannes, who was at the head of these troops, seized the moment when the enemy had imprudently left his entrenchments. He attacked the redoubt vigorously upon its left and on the breast work. The 22d and 69th leaped into the ditch, and were soon upon the parapet, and within the redoubt. Meanwhile the 18th pushed forward at the charging step of the enemy. 
General Murat, who followed every movement, who commanded the advanced guard, who was constantly with the sharp shooters, and who on this day displayed as much coolness as talent, seized the moment when General Lannes attacked the redoubt to order a corps of infantry to charge and traverse all the enemy’s positions as far as the ditch of the fort of Aboukir. This movement was executed with so much impetuosity, and so opportunely, that at the moment the redoubt was forced, this corps had already reached its destination, and entirely cut off the enemy’s retreat to the fort. The route was complete. Confused and terrified, the enemy found every where the bayonet and death. The cavalry cut them down with their sabers. They believed they had no resource left but to fly to the sea, into which 6 or 7,000 threw themselves. There they were assailed by muskets and grape-shot. Never was so terrible a spectacle exhibited before. Not a man escaped—the ships were two leagues distant in the road of Aboukir.
Mustapha Pacha, Commander in Chief of the Turkish army, was taken, with about 200 Turks; two thousand men lay on the field of battle. All the tents, the baggage, and 20 pieces of cannon (two of which were English, being given by the court of London to the Grand Seignior) fell into our hands. Two English boats fled from our grape shot. Ten thousand Turks were drowned.

And it can then be asked, "how is it you were able to get out of Egypt?"

"The same way I got out of Russia. I walked."

"That's a very long way."

"These are very good wagons. No one pays much attention to a crazy old man with dogs and a tray full of saws."
Enhanced by Zemanta

The Bivouac


Sometimes a painting like this just tells the story for you.

We know that the night before Waterloo, the rains made the battlefield wet. I know that, in my story, the sorts of things that you see in this painting will be details that will make The Chasseurs react to what they find when they arrive. They will have spent days shadowing the armies, trying to avoid the confusion of calvary scouts and wayward units and deserters. They will find these rifles stacked everywhere and smell who owns them.

The way that dogs smell will mean a lot in this story. What a narrator or an all-knowing narrative might say can really be summed up by the fact that these dogs know what the Prussians, British, French and whoever else smelled like.

Storytelling tricks. You have to have them.

The Chasseurs

They were four dogs, and they were loyal to one another.


They were red, tan, brown and orange to strangers, but they were ranked according to how they had been trained while in the service of the French Army. The men had trained them for different jobs and put them in battalions and regiments, and the men had taken them across the continent. They had marched behind the men for months on end, seeing terrible things and feeling cold, wet, hungry and alone while in the company of tens of thousands of men who felt exactly the same way.


And so they learned to appreciate being warm, being full, and the quiet of an afternoon.


Long after the men in boots and the men on horses had gone home, some in shame, some in defeat, some in victory, they had found themselves with no masters, no battalions, no regiments, no one to hold their leash or tell them to do the things they had been trained to do.


And so they had done well. They had built themselves nice dens to sleep in, warm places to lay down, sunny spots in orchards where there was food and water nearby, and they knew how to avoid the men who lived in villages and did not go to war. They learned how to flatter old women and earn treats from happy children. They learned that when the sun was up, a dog felt better in the sun than in the shade. They learned that when all four of them had enough to eat, it was time to relax and nap and say nothing. They learned what it was to enjoy the quiet.

***

That's roughly the first part of The Chasseurs, and it is a raw piece of writing that hasn't been edited as yet. I suppose it helps to understand that I'm trying to imagine the simplicity of what dogs really need--food, water, companionship and little else. Dogs don't have philosophical yearnings for explanations for everything. Hey, have I eaten lately? That's pretty much what a dog prefers.

Anyway, The Chasseurs has been gestating for a while now, and I have to get after it.

On this blog, I will drop in narrative pieces like that and try to bend them to fit the history and the times. Whatever doesn't make sense, drop me a comment and I'll see if I can explain it better.

Timeline of the Battle of Waterloo


There are excellent resources out there, but this is the sort of thing that will inform what I'm trying to do. This map shows what happened in the afternoon, and this map shows what happened later in the day:



At this point, it becomes a rout:
At around 5.30pm Ney launched the final cavalry assault. There were too many regiments, fresh mingled with exhausted. The attack failed yet again.Ney now, far too late, launched the sustained infantry assault on La Haye Sante which was overwhelmed. By now the Prussian assault in the South East on Plancenoit was seriously threatening the French position.
Sure that the Allied line was at breaking point, Ney sent desperately to the Emperor for more troops to attack. Napoleon was at this point deploying the Guard to drive the Prussians back from Plancenoit. Once this had been achieved he resolved to launch the Guard at the main Allied line. By this time Wellington had reorganised his forces and the opportunity that Ney had, this time, correctly identified had passed.
The Guard marched up to La Haye Sante for the attack. There Napoleon stood aside and left the command to Ney. Ney led the five battalions up the left hand side of the Brussels road. As they climbed the ridge they came under fire from a curve of batteries assembled to meet them. A deserting French cavalry officer had warned of the Guard’s advance.
The Middle Guard threw back the British battalions of Halkett’s Brigade but were assaulted by the Belgian and Dutch troops of General Chassé and Colonel Detmers who drove them back down the hill.
The 3rd Regiment of Chasseurs approached the ridge opposite Maitland’s Brigade of Foot Guards (2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 1st Foot Guards). Wellington called to the brigade commander “Now Maitland. Now’s your time”. One authority had him as saying “Up Guards, ready”. The Foot Guards stood, fired a volley and charged with the bayonet driving the French Guard back down the hill.
The last of the French Guard regiments, the 4th Chasseurs came up in support as the British Guards withdrew back over the ridge.
Sir John Colborne brought the 52nd Foot round to outflank the French column as it passed his brigade, fired a destructive volley into the left flank of the Chasseurs and attacked with the bayonet. The whole of the Guard was driven back down the hill and began a general retreat to the cry of “La Garde recule”.

This map shows the battle at 8PM (it was June 18th, after all)



Some more tidbits:

The Battle of Waterloo and The Royal Scots Greys and Sergeant Charles Ewart:
  • After the battle the 1st Foot Guards were given the title “the Grenadier Guards” to commemorate the regiment’s role in overthrowing the French Grenadiers of the Old Guard. All ranks were given the bearskin cap to wear.
  • 14th Foot: The 3rd Battalion of the regiment fought at Waterloo. The battalion had been newly raised and was awaiting disbandment, having seen no service, when Napoleon escaped from Elba. The battalion crossed to Belgium and won the battle honour for the regiment. Most of the soldiers were under 20 years of age.
  • The Emperor Napoleon, some years before Waterloo, presented to each of his marshals a silver snuff box. Marshal Ney’s snuffbox was looted from his carriage after the battle by a British officer. Some years later the snuffbox was presented to the officers of the 19th Foot, the Green Howards, who used it in their mess for formal occasions.
  • The 27th Inniskilling Fusiliers, in the course of Ney’s cavalry attacks was bombarded by a French horse battery. By the end of the battle the battalion had suffered 478 casualties from a pre-battle strength of 750. An officer from a nearby battalion, Captain Kincaid, commented that the 27th seemed to be lying dead in its square. Kincaid, a veteran of the Peninsular War, said “I had never thought there would be a battle where everyone was killed. This seemed to be it.”
  • The Duke of Wellington spent his early army service as the lieutenant colonel of the 33rd Foot. After the Duke’s death Queen Victoria permitted the 33rd to adopt the title “the Duke of Wellington’s”, a fitting attribution for one of the army’s most persistently successful regiments of foot.
  • 79th Cameron Highlanders: As the French cavalry approached for the attack the regiment formed square. Piper Mackay marched around the square playing the pibroch “Peace or War”. The King subsequently presented Mackay with silver mounted pipes.
  • In spite of their presence in the film “Waterloo”, the 88th Foot, Connaught Rangers, were not present at Waterloo. They were on the far side of the Atlantic fighting the Americans.
  • The 95th had three battalions at Waterloo. After the battle the regiment was given the title of the “Rifle Brigade” in place of its number, which was reallocated to a newly raised infantry regiment.
  • In the closing moments of the battle a cannon ball struck the Earl of Uxbridge as he rode with the Duke of Wellington. The Duke said “By God you’ve lost your leg.” The Earl said “By God, so I have.” The remains of the leg were amputated in a house nearby and the owner buried the leg in his garden where it was a place of interest for some years.
  • Every year after 1815 the Duke of Wellington held a “Waterloo” banquet for his officers. The banquet is still held.
So much to choose from...