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Two Views of Waterloo

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Two Views of Waterloo
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Author(s): Newman Smith & C. W.
Date Published: 2010/10
Page Count: 108
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-340-3
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-339-7

Further insights into the campaign of 1815

This book contains two pieces—one very short—which give the reader and student of military history further insights into the Battle of Waterloo. The first, ‘Flying Sketches’ is fascinating. It is the account of a British tourist who has landed at Ostend in time to be caught up in the momentous events of June, 1815. We are given insights into the court of Louis, the French monarch ever ready to flee before the advance of Napoleon. We are party to the conversations of British soldiers before the battle and witness the army as it marches from Brussels. The narrator visits the battlefields of Waterloo and Quatre Bras immediately after the termination of the battle and we discover it to be a lawless landscape where the wounded and dying still lay, where French stragglers still snipe at moving figures, where plunderers ply their deadly trade and where roaming Prussian troops, intimidating with threats and acts of violence, rob ally and enemy alike. The plight and care of the wounded in the aftermath of battle is also starkly described and several soldiers recount their battlefield experiences to the author. This is essential source material from a non-military author. It is accompanied here by a short work which, because of its length, would have been unlikely to receive re-publication in modern times. In it an anonymous sergeant of the Third Battalion, First Regiment of Foot Guards describes his experience of the great battle. Available in softcover and hardcover with dust jacket.

Lost in the contemplation of such sights as these, we jogged on to the still more memorable farmhouse called La Belle Alliance. It was here that the Duke of Wellington and Marshal Blucher were said (for the point is still doubtful) to have first met after the victory which their joint forces had accomplished, and to have embraced each other so cordially. If so, the singular and original appellation of this farm renders the coincidence more extraordinary, and the name still more appropriate than it would otherwise be.<br>
It was a little above this spot that Napoleon remained during a great part of the battle, and in the hollow in front there must have been a desperate conflict, if we may judge from the immense number of bodies that lay heaped together. Indeed the very ditches were filled with them, and they were so slightly covered by the dirt thrown over them, that, mistaking it for plain ground, I was perfectly electrified as I found my own foot give way (in a sort of bog), to see another start up! It was fortunate that I was moving slowly, and had advanced no further; else I might in one moment have been out of sight of my companions, and buried among the heroes of Waterloo without participating in their glory.<br>
My curiosity was a little blunted by this event; so, picking up a tolerably good cuirass, I put it into our carriage, and resumed my safe position there, hoping to bring home this relic and memento of the occurrence, which, however, some of the Belgian gens d’armes thought (and very justly) I should remember well enough without, and therefore took it from me afterwards, on entering Brussels.<br>
We now found our way more than ever impeded by the dead bodies of horses and men; the broken or plundered ammunition carriages too, lay beside the road, which was in several places actually strewed with holsters, bayonets, and pieces of cloth, red, white, and blue. Just here, also, I was particularly struck with the position of a poor fellow who lay dead near us, with his face to the ground, and his arms and legs extended in such a manner as to make us infer that he died in agony, or, at all events, in the very act of “biting the dust.” From his height and muscular figure (already nearly stripped), I suspect he had on the day of battle worn a large cuirass, which lay near him, shattered, either by the balls of the enemy or the hands of the plunderers.<br>
Now, it certainly may be asked why I speak thus contemptuously of others for picking up what they could find, while we, and many more (though perhaps stimulated by less sordid motives) did the same thing in a minor degree? I answer, that we never stripped the dying, or otherwise hastened their death; we merely sought a sad memorial of Waterloo.<br>
On our right a sort of scaffolding was pointed out that was thought to have been erected by Napoleon for the purpose of seeing the operations of the armies, but I still doubt this fact, and I am tolerably well assured he never used it for any such purpose. Nevertheless, the construction of this wood-work might well justify such an opinion, and at all events it would have served as a delightful stand for stewards to have seen the interesting contest of “France against all Europe.” I did not hear, however, that any one occupied it on the occasion.<br>
A little further on, our attention was drawn to the melancholy sight of a line of bodies, that appeared to have been mowed down by artillery; and while we were led by appearances to infer that they might be our countrymen, we could not but regret the imperious, but sad necessity which, calling all attention to the living, thus left so many heroes lying exposed upon the plain, and perhaps, even when buried, to be but slightly covered by the earth, in a spot not distinguished by any monumental record.
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