Histories of the Battle of Waterloo abound, but this three volume set, covering the entire campaign, is truly exceptional and unique. For anyone who knows anything of the subject, the author’s name reveals all. A contemporary of the events, it was Siborne who built the famous model of the battle and he who corresponded with dozens of the soldiers who fought during the conflicts of 1815 in Belgium and France to create a huge resource of information on the final defeat of the First Empire of the French. Siborne’s ‘Waterloo Letters’ are famous and are the most comprehensive and essential of all source material of the campaign. This book, originally produced as one large volume, was the work which resulted from Siborne’s research and is, therefore, unparalleled. The Leonaur Editors have represented Siborne’s text making it more accessible to modern readers and added illustrations, diagrams and maps which were not present in the original edition. The complete work has been divided into three volumes each covering a different aspect of the campaign. The first relates the conflicts leading to the day of battle from the time Napoleon escaped from Elba, the second concerns the Battle of Waterloo itself, and the final volume describes the engagements that followed the battle and the pursuit to Paris. The text is rich in detail concerning the activities of each of the protagonist forces making this format useful for those interested in vital events—often absent in other books—which took place both before and after the Battle of Waterloo itself.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
He was now desirous of ascertaining whether the disposition and spirit of the enemy’s troops were at all commensurate with the extent of the works which he saw before him: and, with this view, he directed Bülow to make an attack, in the night of the 29th, with part of his Corps d’Armée, upon Aubervilliers. He also desired Zieten to support this attack, by raising as much alarm as possible in the villages of Bondy and Pontin.
Before the attack commenced, Blücher was joined by Wellington in person, who communicated to him the proposals which had been made by the French commissioners. Being already engaged in an important operation, he could not consent to suspend hostilities; and the two commanders agreed in opinion that, as long as Napoleon remained in Paris, they could not arrest their operations without insisting upon his being delivered up to them. Accordingly, the duke wrote a letter immediately to the commissioners to this effect.
Blücher confided the attack upon Aubervilliers to General Sydow, with the Thirteenth Brigade (nine battalions), together with one battalion of the Fourteenth Brigade, and two regiments of cavalry. The remainder of the Fourth Corps d’Armée was held under arms, in readiness to follow up any acquired advantage. Four battalions advanced in column, under Colonel Lettow, supported by the remaining five battalions. The arrangements, being made during the night, occupied some little time, so that twilight had set in when the attack commenced. Colonel Lettow penetrated the extensive village on three sides, forced the barriers, and carried every thing before him with the bayonet. The place had been occupied by one thousand of the enemy’s best troops; of whom two hundred were made prisoners, and the remainder pursued as far as the canal of St Denis.
General Sydow, accompanied by Major Lützow of the staff, immediately made a reconnaissance of the canal; and soon discovered that its opposite bank was lined with infantry in great force, and that the different points of passage were defended by batteries. Nevertheless he made the attempt to advance; but the troops were received with a vigorous fire of both artillery and musketry; and it soon became evident, that the enemy’s fortified position could not be taken except at a great sacrifice of both time and men. Sydow, therefore, limited his operations to the occupation of the captured village.
A simultaneous advance towards the canal was made, on the left of Aubervilliers, by the 3rd Battalion of the 1st Pomeranian Landwehr, and the 10th Regiment of Hussars; which maintained the communication with the First Corps. A sharp tiraillade took place, which terminated in the withdrawal of these troops to their former position.
By means of this reconnaissance it was made sufficiently manifest that the line of the canal of St Denis could not be carried without a serious assault, preluded by a heavy cannonade. It then became a question with the Allied commanders, who had thus, most fortunately, the opportunity of concerting measures in person. Whether it would not be advisable to endeavour to turn the enemy’s strongly fortified lines of St Denis and Montmartre, by masking those lines with one army, whilst the other should move off to the right, and cross to the left bank of the Seine, lower down the stream.
Although this movement would have the effect of extending and dividing the Allied forces, and consequently of augmenting the chances of success on the part of the enemy: should the latter possess the disposition and the means, not only of acting determinedly on the defensive, but also of assuming the offensive, accordingly as circumstances might favour the attempt; still any defeat of this kind was fully counterbalanced by the advantages which the plan presented. It cut off the entire communication with Normandy, from which Paris derived its chief supplies; whilst the approach of the Bavarian Army towards the opposite side was gradually limiting the resources of the capital in that quarter.
It enabled the commanders to present their forces simultaneously at different points: and thus, by continuing that display of vigour which had characterised their advance, they were far more likely to impose upon the morale of both the defeated army and the citizens, than by limiting their combined operations to the attack of the stronghold presented by the lines of St Denis; for to do this, would, in all probability, require time, and it was evident from the repeated proposals made by the French Government for a suspension of hostilities, that time was their great object, whether for the purpose of facilitating the collection and organisation of their resources, or in the hope of obtaining more favourable terms from the Allies.
It had also been tolerably well ascertained that, although fortified works had been thrown up on the right bank of the Seine, the defence of the left bank had been comparatively neglected. A further inducement towards the adoption of this plan arose from a report which was now received from Major Colomb, stating that although he had found the bridge of Chatou, leading to Malmaison, destroyed: he had hastened to that of St Germain, on hearing that it had not been injured; and succeeded in gaining possession of it at the very moment the French were on the point of effecting its destruction. The bridge of Maisons, still lower down the stream, was also taken and occupied.
No time was lost by the Prussian commander in taking advantage of the captured bridges across the Seine.