Monday, June 15, 2015

Thursday, June 15, 1815

It was 200 years ago today that Napoleon's army crossed the Belgian border at Charleroi and advanced on Quatre-Bras in order to split the Prussian and British armies. By occupying the central position, Napoleon hoped to defeat each army separately and occupy Brussels and the channel ports.

Neither Blücher nor Wellington were expecting such a rapid advance so Napoleon gained the element of surprise in the opening days of the campaign [Battle of Waterloo].

The Prussian outposts were quickly overrun and the army was ordered to assemble at Ligny. Napoleon's right, under Marshal Grouchy, pursued the retreating Prussians while the left, under Marshal Ney, marched on Quatre Bras in order to prevent the British army from uniting with the Prussians.


11 comments :

  1. Actually, Grouchy was supposed to prevent the Prussian Army from reinforcing Wellington at Waterloo. This he manifestly failed to do, which contributed greatly to Napoleon's defeat there.

    Interestingly enough, a similar thing happened during the Battle of First Manassas in the American Civil War. The 70 year old Union commander in West Virginia, General Patterson was supposed to engage Johnston's troops in the Martinsburg area to prevent them from reinforcing Beauregard's army at Bull Run. This he failed to do and the reinforcements arrived just in time to prevent a Union victory and resulted in a Union defeat instead. McDowell took the blame and was relieved of his command but it was really Patterson who was responsible.

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  2. Either you have severely condensed all this (deleting the battle of Ligny and moving immediately to the post-battle pursuit), in which case the simultaneous attacks on Quatre Bras have been moved back, or you are exaggerating with the phrase "pursued the retreating Prussians", as they were concentrating for a stand at Ligny.

    It's of course Blücher's (or perhaps Gneisenau's) decision to retreat to Wavre rather than Namur or Liege, and Grouchy's failure to stop him, that made possible the defeat of Napoleon.

    Think of the immense difference another result would have made to history. Napoleon might have held the throne another 3 or 4 months more before being defeated by the advancing Russians.

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    1. I wouldn't be too sure about that. Wellington was by far the best commander on the allied side (it was fortunate for the Americans that he wasn't commanding the British force at New Orleans). Had he been defeated at Waterloo, the affect on allied morale would have been considerable. Napoleon might have had time to greatly increase the size of his army with which to oppose the Austrian and Russian forces which were approaching France. As Napoleon himself said, the men are nothing, the man is everything.

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    2. Actually, Blucher had assured Wellington that, in the event of a Prussian setback, he would retreat so as to affect a confluence of the two armies. Without that assurance, Wellington probably would not have made a stand at Waterloo.

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  3. This is day One of the four day campaign. Wait for what happens on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The Battle of Waterloo is still three days away.

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    1. So what's all that about Grouchy's pursuit doing here?

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    2. Read what I wrote. Grouchy was pursuing the Prussian outpost regiments who were retreating on Ligny. (The gray arrow labelled #2 on the map.)

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  4. I more than happy to talk about the campaign but let's do it in order. This is only the first day. Don't get ahead of me.

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  5. There us a great Waterloo movie by the Soviets in the '60's.
    Good histories on youtube about Nap
    I never realized he wasn'r French but was a Italian from Corsica.
    I wonder if thats why he didn't care about French lives in gaining his prodeful wicked designs to be top dog. Hmmm.
    He ruined the French dream of a better world and France never recovered until today.
    Wellington was the only one to beat him and possibly was the better General
    U do think Nap's opposition was worthless.
    strange that men so easily want to kill each other over nothing.
    however they would say glory is something and Waterloo is remembered because its seen as glorious.
    Nap did nothing good or moral. he was a athesist too I understand.
    .

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    1. You have a remarkable ability to misunderstand and misinterpret everything you read. I don't think I've ever seen anyone who can get so many things wrong in just a few sentences.

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    2. One of the facts that many commentators fail to emphasize is that Napoleon was suffering from prostatitis and was unable to mount a horse. This became serious at Waterloo when he was unable to reconnoiter the situation on his right when the first Prussian corps arrived. Thus he was dependent on the commander of his right flank who greatly overestimated the number of Prussians present. This caused Napoleon to postpone sending in the Imperial Guard against Wellington's line, which was in considerable disarray due to the loss of Hougoumont, for 2 hours. When he finally committed the Guard, Wellington had been given time to rectify the situation and was well prepared to receive them.

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