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Siborne’s 1815 Campaign: Volume 2

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Siborne’s 1815 Campaign: Volume 2
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): William Siborne
Date Published: 2015/09
Page Count: 252
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-78282-454-1
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-78282-453-4

The conflict of the 18th June, 1815

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.

It was immediately evident to Vivian that the attack must in the first instance be directed against the advanced cavalry and artillery; and having put the line in motion, he placed himself in front of the centre, beside Lieutenant Colonel the Hon. Henry Murray, the commanding officer, for the purpose of putting the regiment into the required direction. This having been effected, he ordered the charge; when the hussars dashed forward with the greatest impetuosity, and, at the same time, with as much steadiness and regularity as if they had been at field day exercise on Hounslow Heath. Thus, the direction of the charge by the 18th diverged as much to the left, as that by the 10th had inclined to the right.
Just as the charge commenced, some French artillery coming from their right and slanting towards the right of the 18th, made a bold push to cross the front of the latter at a gallop. But the attempt failed, and the hussars were instantly among them, cutting down the artillerymen and drivers, and securing the guns. In the next moment they fell upon the advanced cavalry, which they completely dispersed; and then, bringing forward their left shoulders, they attacked the cavalry and guns that stood more to the right front, and near to the right square, which was now retiring. This cavalry appeared, at first, determined upon making a stand; and an officer in its front dashed forward, and fired at Lieutenant Colonel Murray; but, in another moment, the 18th were fiercely and dexterously plying their swords amongst them. They were forced to give way, the artillerymen were driven from their guns, and the whole fled in disorder.
The charge then ceased to be compact, for the assailants and the flying were intermingled pell-mell; all riding as fast as the confusion of the mêlée would permit; a part of them along the high road, but the principal portion on the Allied right of the latter; the whole, however, passing by La Belle Alliance, and leaving the two squares of the Guard on their right.
Vivian, satisfied with the complete success of the charge, ordered the regiment to halt and reform; whilst he proceeded himself to bring up the 1st Hussars of the Legion, which corps he had left in reserve.
On his way he found Major the Hon. Frederick Howard, with the right squadron of the 10th Hussars, which, as before stated, had been driven to the left by a charge of cuirassiers. This squadron stood forward within a short distance of the left square of the grenadiers of the Guard, from the fire of which it was losing men fast.
Vivian doubted for a moment how far it might be advisable to attack the square; but perceiving an infantry regiment in red advancing on his left, and calculating on its immediately charging the face and angle of the square next to it, he ordered Major Howard to charge the face and angle to which he was opposed. This was executed with the greatest gallantry and determination. Vivian himself joined in the charge, on the right of the squadron. The hussars charged home to the bayonets of the French Guard, and a fierce conflict ensued. Major Howard was killed at the head of his men. He was shot in the mouth, and fell senseless to the ground; when one of the Imperial Guard stepped out of the ranks, and brutally beat his head with the butt end of his musket. Two other officers, Lieutenants Arnold and Bacon, were wounded. Lieutenant Gunning was killed immediately previous to the attack. The regiment of infantry, however, did not charge, as Vivian had expected; but continued pursuing a separate column in its own immediate front on the high road.
Although the square, a very strong one, cannot be said to have been broken by the shock, for the veteran soldiers of whom it was composed knew too well their power of resistance against such a handful of horsemen; still the manner in which the latter, notwithstanding the rapid diminution of their number, continued cutting at the ranks, parrying bayonet thrusts, and pertinaciously pressing on, reflects the highest credit on the 10th British Hussars. The men fought with desperation; maddened probably by the fall of their officers.
The square, yielding to the pressure, continued to fall back until it reached the hollow way formed by the narrow road that leads from the chaussée in rear of La Belle Alliance, towards the left of the French position. Into this the Guard hastily descended in confusion, and escaping by either outlet, mingled with the host of fugitives hurrying along the general line of retreat of the French Army.
In the meantime, the remainder of the 10th Hussars, consisting of the left and centre squadrons, that had, in the course of the first charge, crossed over to the right of the rise of ground on which the French reserve cavalry had been posted, had continued its course, under Lord Robert Manners, down into the valley, south-east of the Hougomont enclosures. The routed cavalry spread out in the utmost confusion—cuirassiers, of an almost gigantic size, galloped as hard as they could; and numbers tumbled off their horses to save themselves. The hussars now came upon retiring Infantry that appeared seized with a panic as their routed cavalry dashed past them—the large bearskin caps, worn by several of them, betokened a portion of the Imperial Guard—they commenced throwing down their arms, numbers of them loudly calling out “Pardon!”
Then crossing the same narrow road, before mentioned as leading from La Belle Alliance to the left of the French position (but on the Allied right of the hollow way by which the square of the Guard effected its escape), the hussars brought up their right shoulders, and ascended the height in rear of the hollow road. Upon the slope of the hill, about half a battalion of the French Guard had rallied and formed, with some cavalry close behind them, and opened a sharp fire upon the 10th. Part of the 18th Hussars, at this time, reached the hollow way, an obstacle, however, which rendered their attack wholly impracticable. Lord Robert Manners halted for a minute, when within about forty paces from them, to allow his men to form up. He then gave a cheer and charged; when the Imperial Guard and the cavalry instantly turned and fled: the greater portion of the former throwing themselves down, and many of the latter tumbling off their horses.
The Hussars pursued up to the brow of the hill: on the further, or south, side of which was a deep hollow; and beyond this a knoll (on the Allied right of the Charleroi road and nearly opposite de Coster’s house) upon which another square of infantry had formed, and appeared very steady.
At this time a party of the 18th Hussars—not more than from thirty to thirty five men—continuing the charge before described, close along the right of La Belle Alliance and Trimotion, and crossing the narrow road near its junction with the Charleroi road, dashed down the hollow, and ascending the height above mentioned, charged the square in most gallant style; but, as might have been expected, was checked and turned by the latter.
Lord Robert Manners and Captain Taylor had rallied a party of the 10th Hussars, with a view to support the 18th, should these be charged in their turn; which however did not occur.
The two last mentioned regiments had, by this time, been thrown so much into disorder by their charges, that it became necessary to check their further advance, in order to gain time for collecting and re-forming their ranks. Although this measure was supported by the coming up of the 1st Hussars of the Legion to take post in front of the brigade, and was also rendered secure by the advance, on the right, of Vandeleur’s Brigade (which had come up on Vivian’s right, and between him and the enclosures of Hougomont, in column of squadrons, at the moment he was preparing to charge the square of the Imperial Guard with the party of the 10th Hussars under Major Howard); still the rallying and re-forming of those two regiments was attended with considerable difficulty, inasmuch as they had become completely intermingled with the fugitives.
It is now necessary to recur to Adam’s Brigade, which we left advancing, and driving before it, near the Charleroi road, the three squares of the Guard that had retired as it approached to charge them. It will be recollected that, upon the brigade first advancing from the Allied position, Lieutenant Colonel Halkett followed it in immediate rear of its right flank, with the Osnabrück Battalion of Hanoverian Landwehr. When Adam reached the three squares above mentioned, Halkett, having the shortest space of ground to move over, soon came up in line with the brigade, still pursuing the column formed by the two battalions of Chasseurs of the Old Guard. The Osnabrückers having then become much annoyed by a fire that opened upon them obliquely from a French battery within a very short distance of their right, their 1st Company broke into subdivisions and, supported by the sharpshooters of the battalion, made a dash at the artillery, and captured six guns. During the greater part of the advance, they had been in almost close contact with the column formed by the two battalions of Chasseurs of the Old Guard; and Halkett frequently called out to them to surrender.
Having for some short time fixed his eye upon an individual whom he took to be the general officer in command of the Guard, from his being in full uniform, and from the animation he displayed in his endeavours to induce his men to stand their ground; and observing that the column, after receiving the fire of the Osnabrückers, left the general with two officers in its rear, he ordered the sharpshooters to dash on, whilst he, at the same time darted forward at full gallop to attack the general. When he had come up with him, and was about to cut him down; the latter called out that he would surrender.
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