#WaterlooRemembered Day 10: Mythbusting Waterloo Historians Gareth Glover and Andrew Field join me to explode a wide range of myths about the battle and campaign - what do we think we know that never happened? Was Waterloo irrelevant? Have a listen to hear their takes on these and many more questions. https://anchor.fm/the-napoleonicist/episodes/Waterloo-Remembered-Day-10-Mythbusting-Waterloo-efd6bu
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On a second thought, also the Allies had to trust quite inexperienced commanders, out of the three best Prussian Corps commandery, Yorck, Bülow and Kleist - only Bülow was present. Even Thielmann, who deserted Saxon service in 1813 - was given a corps, and his rude dealing with the Saxons, his old comrades, was rather fuel in the Saxon "mutiny" than to calm down the waves.
I know quite a few Saxons of today, who are interested a lot in their army, and whenever they hear Thielmann - a lot of negative comments are heaped upon him
I am not disagreeing at all, Hougoumont in context of Boney's battle plan is not a must to be taken, and could be masked as you describe it.
Otherwise I see no reason why not to debate other aspects, that is a reason of a forum.
By the way I bought your French - Perspectives Waterloo for my kindle - very enjoyable read so far and very interesting to read your conclusions, which opens new perspectives.
You describe very well the problems Boney had to find good material for commanders, on the other hand, full blame on him that he chose those he did - but maybe - as you point out he had no big alternatives.
He could have employed Murat - despite all misgivings - he used Ney despite all those bombastic words Ney claimed he would do when capturing Boney.
What I don't understand is his wing commander concept, this failed him in 1812 and 1813, 1814 did run better because he was directly controlling the affairs, like in his glory days. The Armée du Nord was small enough for him to command as in the old days, moreover much disturbing that he did not concentrate all his forces for the 18th - but this is judgement by hindsight again.
Thanks again, I was looking very much foreword and wasn't disappointed.
I have to say I side with Charles Esdaile - number one, Belle Alliance was a planned battle and was NOT orchestrated by Ney whatsoever.
Number two, Europe was hell bent to destroy once and forever Boney.
Listening to the podcasts before, it was remarked that the Prussians were very angry to fight AGAIN - against Boney. Wasn't he declared as being a sort of outlaw??
I cannot see any European head of state that wasn't fed up with the constant wars and they were quite happy when it ended in 1814 - and now 1815 again.
The Russian Army was very well on the march to France, when Berthier fell out of the window in Bamberg, Russian units passing through already for two days. The core Prussian units were on the march as well, as the Austrians and other German states as well.
As to Ney, it is a very bitter attempt of Boney to make him a scapegoat. For me it is indeed ridiculous to read the claim of Boney that he gave Ney an almost free hand to run the battle. In what other battles did he give a Marshal such a task, a Marshal who just joined the army three days before?
Boney had a battle plan, that did not work out, full stop, both Blücher and Wellington together proved much too able to beat him with his own arms - read also one of the contributions of Charles Esdaile on that.
I invite all to read at least the two books of Béraud, who describes how Boney did his military work, it was to command and to obey and any initiative of subordinates were stifled.
Indeed why no more specific order to conduct a reconnaissance after Ligny, and not to establish a constant liason with Ney, who else has to be blamed than Boney himself, Berthier was always waiting to get the orders and then transmit them.
The turning point in this campaign it for me the eve of the 16th when Boney had the illusion he had beaten the Prussians so badly that they needed some time - two or three days to re group before playing another important part in the campaign.
From there on everything goes wrong - on the faulty assumption that for a while the Prussians are out of action and there is no need to reckon with them and it is sufficient to shadow them, with a minor force - but why shadow them at all and not fully concentrate against Wellington?
The reason is that Boney did not think that Wellington would make a stand before Bruxelles because he would not dare to do so without Prussian support and the Prussians were out of action for a while.
For that reason he felt no great pressure to attack Wellington with all force, due to his inertia he gathered the information much too late. In case he would have done much earlier, he could have pinned him with Ney and roll up Wellington's left flank at Quatre Bras. Instead he let him escape.
And yes, he failed to concentrate his army at the eve of the 17th - which he would have done - when reckoning with a battle, he would have conducted a personal reconnaissance, another fiction he created later in his big lies, not out of relying on memory but with deliberate calculations to preserve his shining star.
He slept the night at Le Caillou and was surprised finding Wellington's army in front of him at the 18th.
Why not recall Grouchy immediately now, because he felt confident - he could take on easily Wellington alone with the forces he had on the spot.
Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte, and la Papelotte, important objects to be taken, even if the gaps are wide in between, you wouldn't feel comfortable just to ignore them and leave it in the back of your units attacking?
They were in my view uncomfortably too close to Wellingtons position not to be defended or not to be taken.
I agree with Andrew Fields, for once 😉 that the French musketry could be effectively employed at that distance - especially skirmishers (and there are numerous accounts that French skirmishers did open fire at long distances not without any effect) - yes they couldn't brake through but those buildings could have acted as a preparation ground for an attack.
The French perspective and Boney's perspective are not identical. For Boney all the battle was to re establish the myth that he was still the gratetes general in the world and by that it couldn't be him but only poor Ney and Grouchy to be blamed, he knew everything then and there but acted or failed to act according the the knowledge he pretended to have.
Finally about Boney's health, he was in a poor shape, did it effect him, I have no doubt that it did, you have a head ache, reflect how that affects you at work.
The constant campaigning and then his life style at Elba did not help him. He became so much bloated that some former generals had difficulties to recognize him and were worried by his poor looks.
He wasn't the energetic you fit general any longer - he should have stopped in 1808 and not have invaded Spain.