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Illustrated Battles of the Napoleonic Age—Volume 4

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Illustrated Battles of the Napoleonic Age—Volume 4
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): Arthur Griffiths, D. H. Parry, Archibald Forbes and Others
Date Published: 2014/04
Page Count: 292
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-78282-248-6
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-78282-247-9

Forty-four battles of the Napoleonic era in words and pictures

Napoleon was one of the most significant figures in world history; a military and administrative genius, statesman and despot, he set Europe ablaze and his influence around the globe resounds to this day. While there is no real glory in warfare, the Napoleonic period, with its marching Imperial armies, plumes bobbing above casques and shakos, and martial figures in uniforms glinting with steel, brass or bronze, is an irresistibly romantic time that fascinates both serious students and casual readers. Great battles were fought across continents, from the heat of the Iberian Peninsula to the snows of the Russian steppe, from the sands of Egypt to the northern woodlands of the Canadian frontier. This world at war, on land and sea, has been chronicled in hundreds of books, from first-hand accounts by soldiers who knew its battles to the works of modern historians who know there is an eager readership. Today we are familiar with photographs of warfare, but in the early nineteenth century the visual documentation of wars was undertaken by a host of talented artists and illustrators, and it is their work that places this unique Leonaur four volume set above the ordinary. Compiled from the writings of well regarded historians and experts on the subject, these accounts were originally part of a multi-volume collection of essays on the battles of the entire 19th century. Each essay benefits from the inclusion of illustrations, diagrams and maps to support and enhance the narrative, many of which will be unfamiliar to modern readers.
Battles covered in this final volume include San Sebastian, Vittoria, the Pyrenees, Bergen op Zoom, the Gurkha War, Lundy’s Lane, Toulouse, Ligny, New Orleans and Waterloo.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles.

Soon after three o’clock Napoleon gave the signal for his troops to advance to the attack; and for the next five and a half hours a continuous and desperate struggle was carried on in and about the villages bordering the ravine. There remained out of action in the earlier phases of the fighting, the Imperial Guard and Milhaud’s cuirassiers halted in reserve, the former on the left, the latter on the right of Fleurus. Those troops were held back for the final stroke, which Napoleon himself was intending to administer. Lobau had not yet come up, and his command never fired a shot.
When his assailants came on, Blücher was quite ready for them. He had marshalled his forces betimes. Zieten with the 1st corps occupied the right and centre, that portion of the position included in the villages of Brye, St. Amand la Haye, St. Amand, and Ligny. The brigades of this corps had been greatly mixed during the night when occupying those villages, and the battalions were distributed rather promiscuously during the battle. Its main body was drawn up on the slope between Brye and Ligny, near the farm and windmill of Bussy, the highest point of the whole position. Seven battalions stood in rear of it, two more linking Bussy and Ligny, and four battalions were specially charged with the defence of Ligny itself. Three battalions were posted in the vicinity of the village of Brye; and several companies were distributed in the intersected ground between that village and St. Amand la Haye. Four battalions were posted on the high ground in rear of St. Amand, their right resting on St. Amand la Haye, and the defence of St. Amand itself was entrusted to three battalions of the 3rd brigade. The remaining six battalions of this brigade were posted in reserve northward of Ligny. The 2nd army corps, commanded by General Pirch I., was formed up in reserve to Zieten; and to the 3rd corps (Thielemann) was assigned the left, in that part of the field lying between Sombref and Balatre.
The actual battle was begun by an attack on St. Amand on the part of a division of Vandamme’s corps. Made in three columns with great vigour, it proved successful, and after a stubborn resistance the Prussians were driven from the village. But when the French attempted to debouch from it, they were met by showers of grape and canister from the Prussian guns; the Prussian infantrymen hurled themselves forward strenuously, and, as the result of a prolonged and bloody mêlée, regained possession of the village, and held it for a while. This, however, was but a prelude, bloody though it was. St. Amand was a place of great importance, constituting as it did the strength of the Prussian right, and, from the intersection of gardens and hedges, was very capable of defence although so much in advance of the rest of the Prussian position. Continued desperate fighting for two hours had the result that the French were in possession only of half the village. But Vandamme was not content with this half-success. Before the furious onset he now made the Prussian troops, who had lost most of their officers, gave way with a loss of 2,500 men, and withdrew into position between Brye and Sombref, while loud shouts of “Vive l’Empereur!” proclaimed the triumph of the French infantry.
The village of Ligny was long and stubbornly held by the Prussians. Its defenders sheltered by stone walls, hollow ways, and banked-up hedges, remained quiescent under the hurricane of French shot and shell; but as the French infantry were visible descending the slope, they quitted their concealment, sent forward their skirmishers, and once and again threw into disorder with their fire the advancing adversaries. Column after column forced its way into the village, only to be hurled back. Gérard himself headed one of the French attacks, and almost penetrated within the precincts of the old castle in the upper part of the village; but he was repulsed again and again with great slaughter by the four Prussian battalions of Henkel’s brigade, which gallantly maintained the post of Ligny. As the discomfited French troops withdrew, their batteries played with redoubled energy on the village, and fresh columns pre- pared for another assault. That presently came, and a desperate struggle ensued. Mingled with the din of musketry-fire throughout the whole extent of the village rose from the French fierce shouts of “En avant!” and “Vive l’Empereur!” responded to by the Prussians with counter-cries of “Vorwärts!” and the wild “Hourra!” whilst the batteries on the heights poured destruction into the masses descending either slope to join in the desperate struggle in the valley, out of which arose from the old castle volumes of thick dark smoke with occasional flashes of lurid flames. Once again the Prussian defenders succeeded in clearing the village of the French, who in retreating abandoned two guns; and four fresh Prussian battalions were thrown into shattered and bloodstained Ligny, whose streets and gardens were heaped with the slain.
Vandamme, on the French left, held possession of St. Amand, but was unable to debouch from it. Napoleon then ordered General Girard, on the extreme left, to carry the village of St. Amand la Haye, which he accomplished after a bitter struggle. Blücher then ordered General Pirch II. to retake the place; but his brigade, closely pressed by the French occupants, and having got into great contusion, was forced to withdraw its scattered remnants and to re-form. In this combat Girard, whose division had so gallantly held the village, fell mortally wounded. Blücher resolved on a renewed attack; and when the preparations therefore were accomplished, aware how much depended on the result, he galloped to the head of his column, and addressed some rough, stirring words to his young soldiers. “Now, lads!” he shouted, “behave well! Don’t let the grande nation get the better of us again! Forward—in God’s name—Forward!” Pirch’s battalions dashed into the village at a charging pace, sweeping the enemy completely before them. Sallying forth on the other side, they pursued the enemy with an impetuosity which the officers had difficulty in restraining; and many plunged into the very midst of the French reserves. The cavalry caught the enthusiasm of their brethren of the infantry, and supported the attack on the village by a headlong charge on the enemy’s cavalry. Almost simultaneously the adjacent village of Wagnelée was assailed by the Prussians; but the attempt, although sustained with vigour, ultimately failed. For hours a constant struggle was maintained until darkness, on the Prussian right flank, every village taken and re-taken with immense slaughter.