Another View of Napoleon's Retreat


Images like this were designed to further humiliate French military history and elevate the status of Britain's vaunted armed forces. Here is a fairly factual accounting of the retreat:

During their meeting at La Belle Alliance on 18 June 1815, Wellington and Blücher decided that the Prussian cavalry would pursue the French. The Prussian chief of staff, Gneisenau, would take command of this pursuit. The exhausted allied troops would remain on the battlefield for the night. The Prussian II Corps under General Pirch would march in the direction of Mansart around midnight to cut of Grouchy's line of retreat. General Bülow received orders to march on Genappe.

After taking refuge in the last square of the Guard for some time, Napoleon and some of his officers fled to Genappes where he found his coach. He was almost captured by the Prussians when his coach got stuck in the mass of fleeing French soldiers. The Prussian Major von Keller managed to "capture" Napoleon's hat, coat and sword but the Emperor escaped.

The Prussian cavalry pursuit lost more and more of its momentum as the night progressed and eventually Gneisenau halted just south of Frasnes. The Prussians had captured about 8,000 French.

On the morning of 19 June Marshal Grouchy was still unaware of Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo. At about 1030 Grouchy received word of the Emperor's defeat. After some confusing moments General Vandamme proposed to march on Brussels to free the prisoners, cut of the enemy's line of communication and then regain France via Valenciennes. Soult's messenger, however, had brought orders for Grouchy to retreat to the river Sambre. Grouchy decided to do so by way of Namur, Dinant and Givet. In order to do so the Namur bridges had to be captured as fast as possible.

At 1130 Grouchy ordered General Exelmans to advance with his cavalry to Namur to take the bridges over the Sambre. The rest of Grouchy's command would follow at once, covered by a rear guard composed of Pajol's cavalry and Teste's infantry division.
This retreat was unhindered by General Thielmann's Prussians, many of whom had been routed after Grouchy's victory at Wavre. But General Pirch II Corps was on it's way to cut of Grouchy's line of retreat. He arrived at Mellery at about 1100 on 19 June but his troops were so exhausted that he had to let them rest. He spent the rest of the day there.

Two regiments of French Dragoons captured the Namur bridges at about 1600. At about 1900 the rest of Exelmans' cavalry passed through the city of Namur while Grouchy and IV Corps (General Gérard) were only about 10 km behind. Vandamme's III Corps reached Gembloux around 2100.

On 20 June Pirch's Prussians overtook the French and began to appear everywhere but where repulsed. Pirch then attacked again while the French withdrew through Namur but Teste's rear guard was able to hold off the Prussians at the cost of 1,500 Prussian casualties. Blücher then recalled Pirch and Thielmann and the Prussian pursuit of Grouchy's right wing ended.
Late on 21 June 1815, Grouchy's undefeated troops entered Phillipeville. He had managed to escape destruction or capture with about 28,000 men, most of his wounded, all his artillery and most of his equipment.






The telling remark comes when the "defeat" of Napoleon is handed directly to Wellington. And, while it is true that his leadership was critical, the war was actually won in the ensuing actions detailed above. Most of that legwork was done by the Prussians, not the English.

Waterloo 2012 Scenes



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

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

Now, what about 2015? Who knows?

Cavalry at Waterloo


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

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

Napoleon and his Carriage

Evening of Waterloo, Ernest Crofts

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

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

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

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.

To Sell or Donate


As the intrinsic value of artifacts and pieces of history skyrocket, the desires of the families who own those objects is beginning to come under scrutiny. Already, the British are seeing the effects of leaving no suitable heirs, debts, and crumbling fortunes to go with crumbling homes. This is the decline of an empire without the necessary war to finish off the ancestral homes and turn out the cousins and the uncles who are too far removed to make a legitimate claim.

And that really is the difference here. In centuries past, the conquering armies would walk off with the loot. In Britain, that hasn't happened for so long that there are, literally, homes overflowing with aged, squalid pseudo-treasures and, to be certain, more than a few legitimate ones. Where are the Russian hordes, ready to carry back to Novosibirsk the great treasures of a minor lord or prince?

No government should be expected to step in and buy every little trinket or doodad saved for two hundred years as the expected birthright of someone who now has few prospects in modern British society beyond a pension or a respectable middle class salary. How can you expect a person making less than sixty thousand pounds per year to run and maintain the costs of a multi-million pound estate when everything is in debt or arrears?

Let them sell these things into the marketplace. The real history will come out and be preserved if the price is correct.

The Aftermath of Waterloo

The Scots Greys Charging at Waterloo

The Chasseurs project crawls along at a rather slow pace. But, it does move along, so that's something to be happy about. Each and every element needs to fit together, and finding the pieces has been a long, drawn-out process.

The aftermath of Waterloo has always interested me. After the armies shattered themselves, the French abandoned the field. The chase was on; Napoleon fled before his forces and tried to find somewhere to go. He ended up surrendering himself to a British sea captain.

This excerpt has some great details:


It would make sense to me to depict this aftermath as a time of chaos and confusion. The staggering number of wounded would mean that The Chasseurs are stuck on the field and unable to retreat. This allows for scenes at the end to take place in a static setting, one that can be transitioned from quickly.

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.

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.

The Daily Habits of Emperor Bonaparte


Having just visited Paris, I was surprised to learn that Napoleon used the Tuileries as his residence; I somehow had passed over that. In an event, I regret not going there. Oh well.

This was excerpted from a great piece about Napoleon's daily habits. I am now in the process of putting together a sequence for The Chasseurs where they will march to the first battle, and then on to Waterloo.

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.

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.

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...