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The Campaign of Waterloo, 1815

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The Campaign of Waterloo, 1815
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Author(s): Antoine Henri Jomini
Date Published: 2010/06
Page Count: 160
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-211-6
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-212-3

The Emperor's fall by one of his own generals

Posterity has been granted several renowned historians of the Napoleonic Wars and the author of this book, Antoine-Henri Jomini, is notable among them—for he not only chronicled its history, but was an active participant in its events. Service with Napoleon saw him in action at Austerlitz, Ulm, Jena, at Eylau where he was awarded the Legion of Honour and at Lutzen and Bautzen. His work, The Art of War is an essential treatise on the waging of war in the early nineteenth century and is required reading for any student of the period. He is credited as one of the founding fathers of modern strategy. Jomini's take on the campaign of Waterloo is valuable to modern students for all the reasons stated, but also because it considers the campaign primarily and inevitably from the French perspective upon which his experience of warfare was based. Available in soft cover and hard cover with dust jacket for collectors.

Under the circumstances in which Grouchy was placed, it was more than ever his duty to follow this plan; because his first mission was to prevent the Prussians from turning back against Napoleon, and the second point alone was to harass him in his retreat. Now, by marching along the Prussian columns with his infantry, while his light cavalry harassed his rear, he would have had the double advantage of opposing all attempts at a junction with the English, and avoiding the battle in the defile, which otherwise he would be constrained to give at Wavre. Three principal roads were open to him: that on the right by Sart à Valain, which had been followed by Bulow; that on the left by Mont-St. Guibert, from whence he could advance on Wavre, either by following the right bank of the Dyle, or crossing this river at Moustier, and reaching Wavre by the left bank, thus avoiding a horrible combat in a defile. All were equally long, but that on the left approached within two leagues of Napoleon’s army, and on the contrary, that on the right deviated as much farther from it. Nearly a day’s march was gained by the first, without considering that he interposed between the two allied armies.<br>
The marshal should not, then, have hesitated; he should at daybreak, on the 18th, have marched with all speed on Moustier, with Excelmans, Vandamme and Gérard, directing Pajol’s cavalry and Teste’s division on Wavre, in pursuit of the enemy’s rear-guard. Being able, to reach Moustier by ten o’clock, he could have then forwarded his infantry on Wavre by Limale, pushing Excelmans’ dragoons on St. Lambert, or else have marched to Lasne himself, from which place he would have heard, at noon, the violent cannonade at Waterloo.<br>
Instead of taking this wise resolution, Grouchy, undoubtedly desirous of following to the letter, on the heels of the Prussians as ordered, and deceived by reports that still signalled Prussian columns in the direction of Pervez, directed his own on Sart à Valain, this being the route Bulow had taken. The marshal decided thus, the more so as he was perfectly ignorant that half the Prussian army had passed by Gentines and Mont-St. Guibert, the reconnoissance made in this direction on the 17th, having been reported to Napoleon and not to him. To this fault, that of starting at too late an hour, can be added; and as a consequence, towards noon only Vandamme had got beyond Sart à Valain, and the head of Gérard’s column had but reached this village.<br>
Grouchy had just been rejoined by this general, when the sound of a cannonade, hollow and distant, but lively and well sustained, announced an important battle: Count Gérard then proposed to the marshal, to take that direction immediately, persuaded that in marching au canon, as Ney did at Eylau, he might decide the victory.<br>
However wise this advice might have been in itself, we must avow that the same advantages would not have accrued, as if this movement had been operated from Gembloux at daybreak, and that his arrival would have been too late to prove decisive; because, supposing that Vandamme, whose corps was in advance, could commence moving at one o’clock, and this on the heights of St. Martin, it is probable he would not have reached Moustier before four. Now the frightful state of the roads, the bad condition of the bridges, the boggy defiles of the Dyle, and above all, the presence of Thielmann’s corps, which extended from the heights of Bierge to Limale, opposing his crossing, authorize us in believing, that Grouchy would not have reached Lasne or St. Lambert before seven or eight in the evening. Then, Thielmann’s and Pirch’s corps, formed in rear of the rivulet of Lasne, preventing him from pushing on farther, Bulow and Ziethen would not the less have decided the battle of Waterloo; it certainly would have proved less disastrous, for the conquered, but there was not the slightest possibility of gaining it.
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