IMPERIAL FAMILY POSTSCRIPT
it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy 'ow's yer soul?"
I have examined a specific period of British history and correlated the degree of family involvement in an Imperial issue: the French control of Europe. This review indicates the degree of British family support for the Empire and the degree of Scottish absorption into the institution of the British army, which in turn suggests the rate of cultural socialisation. Assembling research materials is no easy task and being in Brussels, I decided to examine the family presence at the Battle of Waterloo. Waterloo was after the Act of Union and Culloden; it was also at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, which had caused Britain to fumble her American colonies. Waterloo is sufficiently distant in time to be a stable reference and data source.
I have therefore examined the British officers directly involved at the Battle of Waterloo (also known to the Germans as the Battle of La Belle Alliance) and identified members from the families indicated below. There were no Mackenzie Regiments present at Waterloo, although some now-amalgamated sister units were present. The lack of direct family interest should result in a neutral bias. I have decided to include the Campbells because their numbers are interesting. The individuals named are not themselves claimed as direct relatives, except where noted. The statistical information is taken from Captain Siborne's book, which is considered a basic source of data and reference. I have used the officer list for the three-day campaign, beginning on the 16 June and not just for the battle of 18 June, 1815. To maintain the relevance of his numbers, similarly I have used Siborne's list of the British and their mercenaries, The King's German Legion, with their strengths for the beginning of the campaign. Of the Allied army's total strength of 106,000 he cites British field and staff manpower returns as totaling 29,656 all ranks. He does not distinguish officers from men in his totals, although he has named the officers. I have used David Chandler's research to crosscheck Siborne's and to provide a basis for comparison of family commitment.
Waterloo was seen at the time as a significant event and much of Britain's army was then in North America. Thus the officers who won the battle on the playing fields of Eton were critically necessary and perhaps responsibly motivated. There are sixty-four family names listed as officers in Wellington's army. Sadly, I did not find equivalent details for French and Prussian officers in their respective battlefield armies. I do not know if any family members may have served with the French or Prussians, or who might have served with Wellington's army, but not as officers.
British units then varied in size. At Waterloo, the 2nd Battalion, Scots Guards fielded 41 officers and 1,020 men. The 3rd Battalion of the 95th Regiment of Foot only deployed two companies and 188 men and the household cavalry regiments each fielded only two squadrons. (A household squadron's average strength was then 116 men.). Additionally, some members from one regiment may have served at this battle with another regiment for various reasons, so it is not always possible to rely on later regimental histories for facts. (The regiments will quite correctly be proud of their former members' possible heroics and cite that to justify their regiment's inclusion in the honours.)
An obvious conclusion is that the large number of Campbells indicates their early integration into English culture and the military institution. It seems revealing that such a comparatively high proportion is in senior ranks and only one was not engaged in a fighting position. It should be recalled that commissions had to be purchased and the Lowland Campbells had received early rewards for supporting the English. The Mackenzies are all in junior (subaltern) ranks and this is also not surprising since there had been little time to absorb the Highlanders into English culture and the British army. Having lost both their Chief's financial support due to his wars with England, and having themselves fought for him, their commission purchasing power would have been limited. The Scots seem well represented in their traditional sport of fighting. The Armstrongs apparently had particular skills, and English families have a reasonable demographic spread. General Sir John Moore was Wellington's predecessor and the Moores were a distinguished English military family.
Early 19th Century Tactics
A routine attack against a defended location (usually an obstacle to movement, such as a river, hill feature, woods, etc) consisted of an all-arms combined effort. This would involve an artillery barrage to precede the infantry attack, plus direct fire during their attack. At a coordinated time the cavalry and infantry would take up coordinated positions. At a coordinated time, or pre-arranged event, the mobile cavalry and infantry would manoeuver into position and begin their forward attack.
The defence against an infantry attack was to spread the opposing infantry in line to maximise the firepower to stop the attack. The attacker seeing the manoeuver to spread his opponent's infantry might then try to switch his attack to a cavalry charge, since the extended infantry line could be turned and the attacking cavalry surround the battalion in line. Given manoeuver time, the defender, on seeing the advancing cavalry might order his battalion to form a square. The square enabled 360° protection to blunt the cavalry attack. While the cavalry might then be frustrated, the 'squared' battalion might then represent an artillery, or lancer, target. Commanders were expected to juggle these factors and orders to maximise their damage of the opposing forces.
Napoleon is reported to have said that victory belonged to the side with the 'big battalions'. A French infantry regiment had 2,100 men; and a French cavalry regiment had 800-900 men. These numbers were usually greater than their Continental opponents and certainly larger than their British opposites. Wellington did not fight at Waterloo by corps, or even divisional command: he commanded centrally and allocated each brigade and battalion to the line. He deliberately mixed his different nationalities to encourage bravery. He did issue orders through the division (eg de Perponcher-Slednitsky), and brigade (eg Maitland) commanders, but they were not given ordinary command authority.
Since Wellington was already familiar with the Mont St Jean hill feature south of Brussels, he confidently issued orders on how the position was to be occupied and coordinated his plan with his Prussian allies. The Brussels-Charlerois road bisects Wellington's defence line and helped both armies to find their way after a long march up from the Battle at Ligny. The Allied and French main lines are just over 1.5 kms apart. Napoleon's Grande Batteries position was on a smaller hill in the dip between the main lines, spread across the road. The town of Waterloo and Wellington's main HQ is actually about 7 kms behind Wellington's lines.
The hill stretches from the nearly adjacent town of Braine l'Allude about 5 kms towards Wavre. The hill-feature is somewhat like a cylinder on its side, with both a forward and rearward slope over most of its length. The soil is clay and in the damp Belgian weather it is often wet and sticky. The ground rolls deceivingly and what appears flat may hide a small valley: there is a lot of dead ground. Men could not see each other from many points along d'Erlon's lengthy attack march. The Nassau Brigade was entirely out of sight on the Eastern end of Wellington's line. The local farms in 1815 were made of stone, with 2-3m high, stone walls for protection. Notre Dame de Frishermont now stands as a large complex of school buildings where there had been empty fields on the east side of Wellington's line.
There were more wooded areas, the Bois de Paris is almost gone now, Waterloo has grown and the Bois de Soignie has shrunk. The wood that had protected Lieutenant Colonel MacDonnell and his troops at the Chateau has disappeared. The Belle Alliance restaurant, where Wellington and Blücher met is still there - with a name-change. Pappelotte and La Haye Sainte do not welcome visitors, although the Timmermann family at Hougoumont did until they sold their farm in 2004. Sadly in 1826, the Dutch Queen ordered the southern shoulder of the 'sunken road' to be dug up and pilled to make the Butte de Lion monument to her son. Tourists now climb that hill and wonder who did what. (Click on map to expand view.)
British infantry were (and still are) organised into regiments. Unlike some of the continental armies a British regiment rarely fought as a corporate body, but in battalions of a regiment. The concept of regiment enabled the development of army traditions and 'family' esprit de corps. The British regiments themselves had both an assigned army-list number to designate seniority, and a recognised name, or title (eg 71st Highland Regiment). A regiment might have had as many as 20 fighting battalions and the battalions were individually identified as 1/54 (1st Bn of the 54th Regt), etc. When there was only a single battalion assigned from a regiment, the battalion might be called by the regimental title alone. (The 2/48, might be identified within its local area as 'The Black Watch', for convenience. Battalions grouped sub-units of a variable number of companies, approximately 10 at this time. Bureaucracies use abbreviations to speed paperwork and the terms regiment and battalion were often both abbreviated to regt and bn.
The heart of an infantry battalion, or regiment, was it's flag, which was used as a visible rallying point. The flag was embroidered with that regiment, or battalion's battle honours. Each battalion was given a unique flag in either colour, or design and the men were trained to know where it was at all times. In battle the noise was often deafening, it would be hard to see with all the smoke, and only by forming on the flag could men be assured of their progress. These flags came to have an importance and meaning beyond national symbols. The flags were often the focus of bloody struggles as men died trying to snatch an enemy flag. (Napoleon decorated his regimental flag-staffs with Roman eagles, which became the goal of every fighting British soldier, since to secure one 'Eagle' would ensure one's entire future by reward.)
There were different types of infantry regiments, battalions, and even companies. Basically, a 'line' infantry regiment was expected to be employed 'on the line'. The line would imply a fixed defensive position, and basic infantry tasks. The French were much more used to manoeuver and movement, but the British were trained for dogged resistance. The conscripted young Prussian farmers would be pushed and hit into place by their sergeants and were much less well trained. There were specialist rifle regiments (and sub-units) and they were trained to move more quickly (140 paces to the minute vice a guard unit's 110, or a line unit 120), and perhaps to fire the newly issued Baker rifle. The rifle was slower, but more accurate than the [then] aging Queen Bess musket, which could fire up to four times per minute but with a maximum accuracy of 50m.
There were grenadier, voltigeur, and fusilier heavy infantry; plus carabiniers, and chasseur light infantry units. British infantry battalions usually had light companies (their functions implicit in their titles), and battalions and companies had designated skirmishers. A skirmisher's function was to crawl individually out in front of the friendly units and to get near the enemy lines. Once there they were to kill officers by preference, but ordinary soldiers as well, often while they were formed in impotent line. (Skirmishers might be chased away by enemy skirmishers, a deliberate infantry charge, or by cavalry.)
Confusingly, both the cavalry and British artillery used the same term 'regiment' in their titles. The cavalry fought in regiments, with sub-units of squadrons, the artillery in independent batteries, or companies. Like the infantry battalions, the cavalry regiments were centrally commanded, but might detach a squadron with a fixed independent mission. A cavalry regiment might be heavy, or light, and be termed guard, dragoon, carabiniers, hussar, chasseurs, grenadiers á cheval, cuirassier, or lancer. A heavy regiment was provided large, heavy horses to carry large men with straight swords, who were semi-armoured with a breastplate and steel helmet. The heavy regiments would be tasked to 'ride down' enemy infantry or cavalry units and were expected to do exactly that. British cavalry brigades consisted of from two to four regiments.
Heavy cavalry wore a steel breastplate and helmet, often decorated with long animal hair and their regimental titles varied from guard, to dragoon, grenadiers á cheval, carabiniers, or cuirassiers, depending on the army. Dragoons and dragoon guards were the helmeted middleweights (used as heavy British cavalry at this time) and provided commanders flexibility as they often carried a mix of weapons including sabres, pistols, and carbines. The carabiniers were usually a little lighter than the dragoons and not often used in heavy fighting. A 'light' horse could be as much as 20 cms shorter than a 'heavy' horse. Heavy cavalrymen were encouraged to be audacious
The light regimental tasks were usually reconnaissance, pursuit, or flank protection; but light units could also be used to support a deliberate infantry attack, thicken a defensive position, or even fight dismounted. A light regiment was provided smaller horses for smaller men armed with curved sabres. The regiments were called hussars, chasseurs, light horse, or light dragoons in most armies and were armed with only a sabre and pistol. Lancers were another light (or medium), type of cavalry and, like the Polish lancers, provided commanders with added flexibility. Lancers carried a long lance made of a strong ash, or bamboo pole, ~3-5cms in diametre and 2.5-5m long, with a sharp knife fitted into the end. A lancer regiment could successfully attack an infantry square, since the lance outreached a musket with fixed bayonet. (Similarly, the Polish Lancers rode down the Scots Grays, who over-extended their own charge through d'Erlon's corps and past the French artillery position at Waterloo.)
At Waterloo the artillery was of two main types of weapons and organisations to support either infantry, or the faster moving cavalry. 'Foot' artillery calibres included 6, 9, 12, and 18 pounder (pdr) guns pulled by horses with a limber (a wheeled box to aid attaching a gun or caisson - another wheeled ammunition box). "Horse' artillery calibres were usually 6 or 9 pdr guns with 5.5" howitzers (hows). As with many aspects of their armies, the French artillery were generally superior to the British. The artillery usually organised its guns into batteries of four, six, or eight guns, often of the same calibre, but both the French and British mixed calibres (6 or 9 pdr guns with 5.5" hows). The British horse-artillery favoured five 9 pdr guns and one 5.5" how per battery. At this time the batteries were independent commands, coordinated by the commander's (eg Wellington's) artillery staff.
The artillery fired a six, eight, nine, 12, 18--pound solid shot, iron ball, or alternately, a short-range canister filled with 60-120 smaller balls of iron termed case shot (or grapeshot), or a longer range case shot of 30-60 slightly larger balls. The infantry and reserve guns were usually heavier, took longer to deploy, and were not so well-equipped with horses and men to be able to move as rapidly as the cavalry. Siege artillery, rockets, and mortars were also coordinated, of these there were only some early, inaccurate Congreve rockets used at Waterloo. The Prussians usually mixed their calibres in eight-gun batteries of 6/12 pdrs plus 7/10" hows.
Artillery was allocated on the basis of one battery per division or independent brigade. The Prussians and French were more generous and allocated an additional battery for each infantry division (or equivalent). That allocation held at Waterloo for the infantry divisions, but Uxbridge's cavalry of seven brigades was supported by five batteries. Each artillery gun was pulled by six horses, and each troop of six guns usually deployed in staggered pairs of guns to reduce casualties. At Waterloo, 140 of Captain Mercer's 200 battery horses were killed, virtually immobilising him. Black gunpowder was used at this time and it burned with a lot of smoke, so that the battlefield targets were usually obscured, once firing began, thereby reducing the maximum effective range.
Strategic Position: June 1815
Napoleon, of course, escaped from his exile on Elba, landing back in France on 1 March 1815, and yet there he was in Belgium in June (at that point just transferred from Austrian, to French, and then to Dutch sovereignty). (Belgium was not created until 1830.) Emperor again, Napoleon Bonaparte had organised an entirely new army, admittedly including many old soldiers who had been discarded by the temporary Louis XVIII French monarchy. By June, this new imperial army had already deployed 105,000 men, in Paris and spread in small armies along the borders of France to confront the anticipated attacks. l'Armée du Nord crossed the French border near Charlerois on 15 June with an additional ~120,000 men. Napoleon had a further 500,000 men being mobilised, but these would not be available for some months and France was tiring of war.
As soon as Europe heard of Napoleon's escape ambassadors met at Vienna and agreed to field their own armies to recapture Napoleon. By June ~1,000,000 men were in various stages of mobilisation, and the British had fielded a coalition army with Dutch and some German mercenary participation. The commander was the British Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington and the hero of the Peninsular War. The 107,000-man Anglo-Dutch army was called the Allied Army and it was spread from the channel to Brussels in garrisons to ensure their lines of communications to the British navy. The only other fielded army was Prussian and it was south-east of Brussels in the general area of Namur-Charlerois. This army was more closely grouped than the Allied army, because its lines of communication back to Prussia were too long, forcing the army to rely upon its own resources. Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Prinz von Wahlstadt, at 72 the eldest of the three commanders commanded a conscript army of ~125,000 men: both Napoleon and Wellington were 46 years old.
Of the other nations, an additional 617,000 men from Austria, Russia, Switzerland, Upper Italy, Naples, Spain, Portugal, and North Germany, were mobilised and in various stages en route towards France. There were a further 500,000 Rhineland Germans being mobilised. Napoleon could not possibly defeat all these forces after they came together, but he might destroy their political will to fight - IF he could gain early decisive victories. To Napoleon, the Anglo-Dutch and Prussian armies were just vulnerable targets in their isolation: he would destroy them both.
From April to June Napoleon had re-organised the French affairs of state after the hurried departure of the royalists, while he picked over his old comrades to fill key positions in a new imperial army. He had quickly fielded small armies to garrison his eastern borders, while he gathered and equipped l'Armée du Nord for his planned offensive. The borders were sealed for security, while units were formed and deployed: it was really quite brilliant. Napoleon was a strategic thinker and he had developed the concept of the central position to an art-form. By moving his army secretly to Charlerois he occupied the boundary between the Allied and Prussian armies. Since Wellington only heard of Napoleon's movement while at the Duchess of Richmond's ball in the evening of 15 June, his army was still spread out. (Wellington immediately ordered part of it to concentrate at Quatre-Bras, near Ligny.) So Napoleon found that he did indeed occupy the central point and could hold off the distant Allies, while destroying the exposed Prussians. When they were finished he would then destroy the isolated Allies.
Fighting was heavy at Ligny on 16 June and the Prussians suffered 30,000 casualties. The ground is nearly flat and in June there were tall-standing crops. Napoleon had deputised Michael Ney, Duke of Elchingen and Prince of Moskowa, to command his left flank and hold off Wellington. This was not Ney's finest hour. With 40,000 men under his command Ney never attacked boldly and he allowed the Allies to concentrate much of their army when they had initially had as few as only 2,500 men opposing him. The explanation was that in June 'the corn was as high as an elephant's eye' and Ney couldn't see what was in front of him. Ney was overly cautious, since his role was only to keep Wellington from joining the Prussians against Napoleon. However, Ney had been warned that Wellington was astute and that the British fought well.
With casualties from the 16 June Battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras, various detachments and garrisons the engaged army strengths on 18 June were approximately: the Allies 69,500; the Prussians 80,000; and the French 70,500.
French Army of the North Reserve, Napoleon (as of 15 June 1815) (120,713 men, 366 x guns - Inclusive Ney & Grouchy)
(The numbers should be reduced for the 18 June battle.)
French Left Wing, Ney (as of 15 June 1815) (51,170 men, 116 x guns)
French Right Wing, Grouchy (via Wavre as of 17 June 1815) (38,476 men, 100 x guns)
Prussian Blücher (as of 15 June 1815) (125,010 men, 312 x guns)
(Prussian Brigade = French division-equivalent. The numbers should be reduced for the 18 June battle. An additional smaller corps was in Luxembourg.)
Anglo-Allied Wellington (as of 15 June 1815) (107,000 men, 216 x guns)
(The numbers should be reduced for the 18 June battle. The Hanoverian corps was absent from Waterloo holding garrisons. Hill commanded the division-size flank guard at Halle. Prins Willem had limited delegated, command authority. At the time a British division might have two brigades.)
Wellington and Blücher met on the night of 16 June, agreed to withdraw on the next day, agreed that the Prussians would withdraw first, agreed that the Anglo-Dutch would occupy and defend Mont St Jean, and finally agreed that Blücher would send a Prussian corps (about 35,000 men) to aid Wellington and to join the eastern end of the Allied line. This was a considerable degree of coordination by the two commanders! Wellington had the advantage over both Blücher and Napoleon because he had already conducted a reconnaissance in 1813/1814 of the area south of Brussels. He had anticipated that he might have to defend Brussels sometime, which was then a significant political centre and armoury, and Wellington had picked out two possible defensive features. Since Mont St Jean is the better of the two, he chose that for this anticipated defence. Napoleon occupied the other. Wellington anchored the ends of his line with carefully chosen 'strong-points' and picked another in the middle. His main line was slightly to the rear of the strong-points along the long hill feature which crossed the French approach march at right angles. La Bois de Soignie behind the position provided an 'in extremis' exit. Wellington's task was to stay in his position until Blücher arrived.
On 17 June, rather than press his tactical advantage Napoleon had a bad day. Since he was both the supreme military commander and the Emperor and head of state, his army awaited orders prior to moving. Meanwhile the allies slipped away. Napoleon had a nice leisurely breakfast, followed by a quiet dose in the sun and did nothing. He only 'came to' after lunch when the last British cavalry and horse artillery were left covering the withdrawal. After lunch it also began to rain. Napoleon divined what had happened and detached his newest cavalry marshall, le Marquis Emmanuel Grouchy, to command the right flank to pursue the Austrians to Wavre. Napoleon stayed with Ney to follow the Allies. Splitting forces is not a recommended tactic in a hot pursuit and clear orders to rejoin the main army were not given to Grouchy.
Napoleon picked three particularly poor choices for his key subordinates (Ney, Grouchy, and Soult) and so Napoleon earned condemnation. Neither Ney, nor Grouchy (both cavalry men) had had any experience in commanding infantry-heavy armies. Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult, duc de Dalmatie, Napoleon's chief of staff, was completely inexperienced at staff-work, although perhaps the best available French infantry commander. It was Soult's orders which allowed Grouchy to misunderstand Napoleon's concept of 'following' the Prussians: Grouchy virtually pushed them on to the Waterloo battlefield. Some historians feel Napoleon's personnel choices were so bad he must have been attempting to prove he could still win - despite them. The key rule in an era without communications was "...to march to the sound of the guns". Yet when Grouchy's staff heard the guns at Waterloo and commented to him, his pride was hurt and he refused to abandon his (badly worded) literal orders. Ney had to be reminded to use his guns and cavalry at various times, when he evidently became fixated on his own plans. The 'Bravest of the brave' Ney personally led 13 impotent cavalry charges against the Allied squares. He was indeed brave, but thoughtful?
With Blücher, although once defeated, still marching his 90,000 remaining men in the general area, the key to Napoleon's plan was time. Blücher was known to have had an abiding hatred of the French and he had a reputation for stubbornness. Napoleon now had to find and beat Wellington before Blücher could possibly arrive. (Although the Prussians did not immediately appear to be joining the Allies, military commanders must always assume a worst case. The worst case for the French was that the Prussians came to Wellington's aid.) Time was thus the key and Wellington had to be beaten before the Prussians could possibly arrive. Delaying the attack, after dividing his forces, was a fatal risk. Yet the senior French staff argued for delay in opening operations and Napoleon acquiesced. It had rained all night and the muddy clay soil did not suit the gunners, either in manoeuvering their guns, or in enabling the solid shot to 'skip' on coming to ground and so kill a further file of men. (Typically shot would indeed be fired at a low angle and on hard, dry ground instead of being sucked in the shot would skip until gravity stopped it - all the while it would kill men as it came down for another skip.)
The 18 June 1815 Battle
The battle opened with French artillery at about 1100 followed by a divisional diversionary attack against Wellington's western, strongly defended Chateau de Goumont, now known as Hougoumont. The diversion was unable to make headway and did not succeed in drawing Allied reserves away from the main line. (Worse, this side-show continued all day and was allowed to drag in an additional division, thus only diverting the French.) Wellington had charged Sir George Byng, who commanded the 2nd Guards Brigade to ensure adequate reinforcements of Hougoumont; and he maintained a trickle-flow with the 2nd Foot Guards (Coldstream). At about 1300 a bombardment against the Allied centre and eastern line by the massed French artillery caused some damage, but Wellington had ordered his troops to lie down on the reverse slope (the 'other side' of the hill) to avoid casualties. He had perfected this technique while previously serving in India to negate damage by the opening barrages. The 20,000-man French I Corps, commanded by le Marquis Jean Baptiste D'Erlon, was planned to deliver the main French attack, but it did not move until about 1330 (and then in an awkward formation). By then the first Prussian riders could be seen already on the horizon. Napoleon was not yet immediately threatened, but already he had to make further detachments away from his attacking army to protect his flank. Napoleon had only two infantry corps in reserve at this point, the Guard and Lobau's 8,000-man corps. The Guard was always reserved for the coup de grâce, so Lobau's small corps was swallowed by some very rough country, where it could only perform look-out and delaying roles.
The corps attack was stopped at the top of the hill, up which the French had to advance, right at the Allied line, when Wellington ordered the troops to stand and they then delivered a devastating fire. While d'Erlon's corps shuddered and slowed, Wellington ordered Lord Henry Paget, Earl of Uxbridge to launch the heavy cavalry Union and Household brigades. This charge turned the corps attack into a shambles as the cavalry cut and killed their way through the French. It was 1500 before coherent order was restored and without more infantry, French options were rapidly evaporating. The western half of the French line was held by Honoré Charles Michel Joseph Reille's depleted II Corps. Although nominally the same strength as d'Erlon's, Reille had had casualties from the earlier battle at Ligny, had left a division at Ligny to 'police' the wounded, dead, and battlefield weapons, and had committed another division to the diversionary attack (still underway) at Hougoumont. Reille only had two under-strength divisions to hold his side of the line. When Napoleon ordered Ney to capture the Allied central strong point (the la Haye Sainte walled farm) Ney could only use the remnants of d'Erlon's corps. Strangely, even at this point Napoleon did not send Grouchy clear orders to join the army at Waterloo. By the time he did think of it, it was already too late. The emperor was guilty of over-confidence.
While Ney's ad-hoc attack ebbed around the stone farm walls, Ney saw some Allied movement to their rear and jumped to the conclusion that Wellington must have been beaten and was in retreat. (The movement could have been wounded, prisoners, or recovery of the protected reverse slope: it was not a retreat. Jumping to conclusions is not a good way to command effectively.) Ney then ordered a limited cavalry attack - he then only had cavalry in reserve. Orders were difficult to get right and these went wrong: a neighbouring Guard cavalry division joined Comte Edouard Jean Baptiste Milhaud's corps and soon there were 5,000 men and horses charging towards the rapidly reforming Allied infantry lines. Squares were formed and bayonets were fixed in three lines with the kneeling front rank fixing the butts of their muskets on the ground to make a thicket of strong knives, backed by alternating ranks of fire. The horses would not charge into that wall. Napoleon saw that the cavalry was used too soon, but he was then beginning to deal with the first Prussian attacks to his right-rear in the adjacent town of Plancenoit. The issue of wasted time was being confronted!
Napoleon ordered Francois Etienne Kellerman, Comte de Valmy's cavalry corps (which had been deployed to the rear of Reille's infantry) to support Ney's attacks. Sadly, it was all futile. Every soldier knew once cavalry were inside a square the entire battalion was only seconds from death by sabres and horse hooves. The sergeants and officers screamed at their men to fill any gaps, and to load, aim, fire to preserve their own lives. The French were shot at on the way in and then - with nowhere else to go, on the way out again. The Allied artillery had a field day, with targets both coming and going. In the end, the French cavalry died at Waterloo. At about 1800, Ney finally launched a coordinated assault on the Allied central strong-point (la Haye Sainte). (He ought to have done this much earlier.) A German Legion infantry battalion had been posted there and they had been equipped with Baker rifles. After firing all day the Germans ran out of ammunition and the French triumphed. At last Ney called for more infantry to support the French artillery, which had advanced to the centre of the Allied line, where the Allies were then suffering severe casualties.
Napoleon had been dealing with two Prussian corps (II and IV) which had forced their leading units into the French flank, having easily pushed back Lobau's corps. The Young Guard (at divisional strength) had already been committed at 1600 and now needed help. Napoleon denied Ney any further reserves, while he sent in two battalions of the Old Guard to clear Plancenoit. The Old Guard were successful and then Napoleon finally authorised the release of five battalions to Ney for a final attack. It was already too late to further the French success at the Allied centre, where Wellington had brought in some of his reserves to push out the French and fill the gaps. (There was a handy 'sunken' lateral road, which enabled him to shift units across the front, without French interference.) Even worse, as Napoleon himself led the last French infantry reserves up to Ney in the valley between the two armies, a third Prussian corps (I Corps, Blücher kept his promise and delivered not one, but three corps to Wellington!) began to appear at the eastern end of Wellington's line. The desperate French soldiers began to cry 'treason it's the [French] royalists' (being unaware of the existence of Hans Ernst Karl, Graf von Ziethen's 31,000-man Prussian corps), and to buy enough time for a miracle Napoleon yelled that it was just Grouchy at last.
The five Guard battalions were not committed together, but angled up the forward slope individually towards the re-formed Allied line, where they were defeated in succession. The last aided by Lieutenant Colonel Sir John Colborne, who won fame for moving his battalion of the 52 Regiment of Foot (without Wellington's express order) at right angles to fire into the flank of the French Old Guard 4th Chausseurs. Since the 52nd's fire coincided with Major-General Maitland's order to the 1st Foot Guards to 'Stand up, fire!', the 4th Chausseurs were devastated. Reeling from casualties, the 4th Chausseurs did what the French had never seen before: they retreated down the hill. By inevitable laws, Napoleon's lie was exposed at the same time as 'Grouchy's' men (Ziethen's Prussians) began to open fire. The French began to withdraw and Wellington signaled the Advance.
The Emperor was escorted off the field, protected by another battalion of his Old Guard. Although he lost his carriage Napoleon made it back to Paris. Wellington and Blücher met in the centre of the former French line. They agreed to name the battle differently, and they agreed to have the Prussians conduct the pursuit. Wellington's men were exhausted and most just fell where they stood and slept. Blücher had his chief of staff, General Augustus Wilhelm, Graf Neithard von Gneisenau, conduct the pursuit himself. Before dawn the French Army of the North had ceased to exist (save Grouchy, who fought a rear-guard action all the way back to Paris). Killed, lost, or deserted Napoleon's last army never fought again. Napoleon, stalled for time while he reviewed his options and then the Emperor surrendered to the British navy and was taken to St Helena, where eventually he died in 1821.
Present At Waterloo: 18 June 1815
In order to gain that insight of family involvement in this battle, which would suggest where family loyalties might then have been, I have noted those members by our family names. The men are sorted alphabetically here below, by rank and unit. 3 killed (k); 17 wounded (w). I have used Sibourne's unit identifications, which were typical for his era. The individual names are followed by a summary.
Waterloo Family Summary
From the numbers below an even representation of English and Scots implies Union and unemployment were successful motivators to seek an army career. The high proportion of Campbells can be explained by the early Campbell family acceptance of English domination and culture, dating back to Edward I. It might also be noted that the Scot's native war-like temper predisposed the Campbells to the military. By circumstance there were also some family-supported regiments at Waterloo (the Gordons, the Camerons, the Argyle and Sutherlanders, and the 71st Foot.)
1 Kipling wrote almost 100 years later, but he captured the sense of discipline by which British armies were able to win battles. The British soldiers were collectively referred to as Tommy's, to personalise the armies, much as the American song did for Johnny - (When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again). Kipling's thin red line was British infantry, disciplined fire and no break in the line won Waterloo. Curiously, the thin red line is an older quote delineating the difference between the sane and mad.
2 W Siborne, History of the Waterloo Campaign, Taken from Appendix XLI, pp 566-574. The list of Officers of the British Army who were present in the Actions on the 16th, 17th, and 18th of June, 1815, including those posted near Hal on the 18th. I have also noted 'William Howe DeLancey', at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Howe_DeLancey.
3 Siborne gives the Allied Army (British, German mercenaries, Belgo-Dutch) total at Waterloo as 67,661 men and 156 guns, confronting Napoleon's 68,900 Frenchmen and 246 guns, and joined late in the afternoon of the 18th of June by Blucher's 51,944 Prussians and 104 guns. See pp. 560-561. These numbers reflect actual combatants at Waterloo and do not include the considerable detachments and garrisons, such as Marshal Grouchy with a 34,000 man French detachment who were trailing the Prussians retreating from the earlier Battle of Ligny (16 June).
6 Robin May, The British Army in North America 1775-1783, p. 14 the regular line regimental commissions prices then varied from £400 to £3,500 proportionally for Ensigns to lieutenant colonels. This extraordinary cost in today's money was paid to the colonel of the regiment who had purchased the command and would recoup his costs and try to make a business profit.
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