The French at Waterloo: Eyewitness Accounts: Napoleon, Imperial Headquarters and 1st Corps Andrew W Field (Author)
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military (28 April 2020)
Andrew Field, who has published four best-selling books on the Battle of Waterloo, has established himself as one of the leading experts on the French perspective of the campaign. Using selected extracts from French eyewitness accounts that haven't been published before in English, he has added a new dimension to our understanding of what happened on the battlefield on 18 June 1815\. Now he takes his pioneering work a step further by publishing these accounts, with all their vivid and personal detail, in full. For the first time readers will be in a position to make their own interpretations of them and compare them to the recollections of soldiers from the allied armies, in particular the British, which have largely determined our assumptions about the battle for the last 200 years. They will also gain a heightened insight into the trauma that the French eyewitnesses went through as they tried to explain how the French lost a battle they claim they had been on the point of winning. This, the first of two volumes of the French accounts, features Napoleon's own description of the battle, those of his immediate household and the Imperial headquarters, and those of members of 1st Corps. Napoleon's own version of events, one of the first to be published in France, was used as the basis of many subsequent histories that ignore or gloss over his many dubious claims. His account of his actions and his view of what happened on that decisive day, and those of his close associates, make fascinating reading.
Andrew Field MBE is a former British army officer whose travels around the world have given him a unique opportunity to explore battlefields from ancient history to present times. He has always harboured a special fascination for the Napoleonic Wars. In particular he has reassessed Napoleon's campaigns in 1814 and 1815, and has carried out extensive research into Wellington's battles in the Peninsula. His books include Talavera: Wellington's First Victory in Spain, Waterloo: The French Perspective, Prelude to Waterloo: Quatre Bras, Grouchy's Waterloo: The Battles of Ligny and Wavre and Waterloo: Rout and Retreat.
Bernard is a good friend of mine: I have many happy hours on the battlefield with him. If you are interested in my views on the battle, have a look at my ‘Walking Waterloo’.
If I may add a word of caution, while I welcome Andrew's immersion in the French sources, and, still more so, decision to publish them in full, some of his translations are questionable, while occasionally his analysis is downright wrong, as in his refusal to accept that Mouton's corps was not sent over to the French right to block the Prussians (Napoleon had no idea they were coming, the story in Marbot about a clash with one of their patrols being as demonstrably false as the claim that the emperor spotted them as early as midday) but rather to support a second attack on Wellington's left, a conviction that leads him to respond to comments by the men concerned that they were completely taken by surprise when Bulow's men burst out of the Bois de Paris with the claim that they didn't know why they had been stationed where they were! I very much hope, then, that there has been a spot of rethinking.
I am so glad that Andrew has published the entire French accounts as I had encouraged him to do, his two volumes will sit nicely alongside the eight volumes of Waterloo Archive to date and at least 3 more to come.
Andrew Field has done a great service in opening up French sources to an anglophone audience. These volumes gives us me the prospect of them joining @Gareth Glover 's and John Franklin's on my bookshelf. This raises the prospect of a multi-national archive of accessible first hand accounts.
@Hans - Karl Weiß I think the weight of contradictory French evidence alone will mean most readers will come to the same conclusion as Bernard Coppens. There will always be those who will treat it as holy writ from their immortal hero. However, for the rest of us it will be an insight into his character and state of mind.
Well, Bernard Coppens revealed this description as lies and cover up stories to hide the fact that Boney was duped by Wellington and Blücher.