The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 15

Author: Wolfgang Menzel  | Date: A.D. 1815

The Battle of Waterloo

A.D. 1815


Having overthrown Napoleon and occupied Paris, the allied monarchs of Europe permitted the defeated Emperor to retire to the Island of Elba off the Italian coast and retain his sovereignty over this tiny domain. Seeing that they had begun quarrelling among themselves and that the new French King, Louis XVI II, was but little welcome to France, Napoleon resolved on a sudden, dashing effort to regain his power.

Leaving Elba without warning, he landed with a few followers at Cannes, March 1, 1815, and was hailed with joy by the people. Even his former marshal, Ney, who was sent by Louis XVIII to suppress the uprising, went over to Napoleon instead. Within a month of his reentry into the country the Emperor was in Paris with as full control of all France as ever before. Unfortunately for him, the troops raised against him by Europe had been only partly disbanded and were very rapidly regathered. The ensuing war upon the French border, with its culminating struggle of the giants" at Waterloo, has been very bitterly discussed, very passionately argued. British opinion upon the subject is irreconcilable with Prussian. The French naturally agree with neither. Three narratives are therefore presented: the first by the German author, Menzel; the second by Captain Sibome, generally regarded by Englishmen as the fairest and most accurate description of the battle; and the third Hugo’s celebrated and impassioned picture, giving the French aspect of the tragic struggle.


THEN Napoleon returned from Elba, the allied sovereigns were still assembled at Vienna, and at once allowed every dispute to drop in order to form a fresh and closer coalition. They declared the Emperor an outlaw, a robber, proscribed by all Europe, and bound themselves to bring a force more than a million strong into the field against him. All Napoleon’s cunning attempts to bribe and set them at variance were treated with scorn, and the combined powers speedily came to an understanding on points hitherto strongly contested.

The lion, thus driven at bay, turned upon his pursuers for a last and desperate struggle. The French were still faithful to Napoleon, who, with a view of reinspiring them with the enthusiastic spirit that had rendered them invincible in the first days of the Republic, again called forth the old Republicans, nominated them to the highest appointments, reestablished several Republican institutions, and, on June 1st, presented to his dazzled subjects the magnificent spectacle of a field of May, as in the times of Charlemagne and in the beginning of the Revolution, and then led a numerous and spirited army to the Dutch frontiers against the enemy.

Here stood a Prussian army under Blucher, and an Anglo-German one under Wellington, comprehending the Dutch under the Prince of Orange, the Brunswickers under their Duke, the recruited Hanoverian legion under Wallmoden. These corps d’arm"’e most imminently threatened Paris. The main body of the allied army, under Schwarzenberg, then advancing from the south, was still distant. Napoleon consequently directed his first attack against the two former. His army had gained lmmensely in strength and spirit by the return of his veteran troops from foreign imprisonment. Wellington, ignorant at what point Napoleon might cross the frontier, had followed the old and ill-judged plan of dividing his forces; an incredible error, the allies having simply to unite their forces and to take up a firm position in order to draw Napoleon to any given spot. Wellington, moreover, never imagined that Napoleon was so near at hand, and was amusing himself at a ball at Brussels, when Blucher, who was stationed in and around Namur, was attacked on June 14, 1815.

Napoleon afterward observed in his memoirs that he had attacked Blucher first because he well knew that Blucher would not be supported by the over-prudent and egotistical English commander, but that Wellington, had he been first attacked, would have received every aid from his high-spirited and faithful ally. Wellington, after being repeatedly urged by Blucher, collected his scattered corps, but neither completely nor with sufficient rapidity; and on Blucher’s announcement of Napoleon’s arrival, exerted himself on the following morning so far as to make a reconnoissance. The Duke of Brunswick, with impatience equalling that of Blucher, was the only one who had quitted the ball during the night and had hurried forward against the enemy. Napoleon, owing to Wellington’s negligence, gained time to throw himself between him and Blucher and to prevent their junction; for he knew the spirit of his opponents. He consequently opposed merely a small division of his army under Ney to the English, and turned with the whole of his main body against the Prussians.

The veteran Blucher perceived his intentions and in consequence urgently demanded aid from the Duke of Wellington, who promised to send him a reenforcement of twenty thousand men by four o’clock on the 16th. But this aid never arrived; Wellington, although Ney was too weak to obstruct the movement, making no attempt to perform his promise. Wellington retired with superior forces before Ney at Quatre-Bras, and allowed the gallant and unfortunate Duke William of Brunswick to fall a futile sacrifice. Blucher meanwhile yielded to the overwhelming force brought against him by Napoleon at Ligny, also on June 16th.

Vainly did the Prussians rush to the attack beneath the murderous fire of the French, vainly did Blucher in person head the assault and for five hours continue the combat hand to hand in the village of Ligny. Numbers prevailed, and Wellington sent no belief. The infantry being at length driven back, Blucher led the cavalry once more to the charge, but was repulsed and fell senseless beneath his horse, which was shot dead. His adjutant, Count Nostitz, alone remained at his side. The French cavalry passed close by without perceiving them, twilight and a misty rain having begun to fall. The Prussians fortunately missed their leader, repulsed the French cavalry, which again galloped past him as he lay on the ground, and he was at length drawn from beneath his horse. He still lived, but only to behold the complete defeat of his army.

Blucher, although a veteran of seventy-three, and wounded and shattered by his fall, was not for a moment discouraged. Ever vigilant, he assembled his scattered troops with wonderful rapidity, inspirited them by his cheerful words, and had the generosity to promise aid, by the afternoon of June 18th, to Wellington, who was now in his turn attacked by the main body of the French under Napoleon. What Wellington on the 16th, with a fresh army, could not perform, Blucher now effected with troops dejected by defeat, and put the English leader to the deepest shame-by keeping his word. He consequently fell back upon Wavre in order to remain as close as possible in Wellington’s vicinity, and also sent orders to Buelow’s corps, which was then on the advance, to join the English army, while Napoleon, with the idea that Blucher was falling back upon the Meuse, sent Grouchy in pursuit with a body of thirty-five thousand men.

Napoleon, far from imagining that the Prussians, after having been, as he supposed, completely annihilated or panic-stricken by Grouchy, could aid the British, wasted the precious moments, and instead of hastily attacking Wellington spent the whole of the morning of the 18th in uselessly parading his troops, possibly with a view of intimidating his opponents and of inducing them to retreat without hazarding an engagement. His well-dressed lines glittered in the sunbeams; the infantry raised their shakos on their bayonet points, the cavalry their helmets on their sabres, and gave a general cheer for their Emperor. The English, however, preserved an undaunted aspect. At length, about midday, Napoleon gave orders for the attack, and, furiously charging the British right wing, drove it from the village of Hougomont. He then sent orders to Ney to charge the British centre. At that moment a dark spot was seen in the direction of St. Lambert. Was it Grouchy? A reconnoitring party was despatched and returned with the news of its being the Prussians under Buelow. The attack upon the British centre was consequently countermanded, and Ney was despatched with a considerable portion of his troops against Buelow.

Wellington now ventured to charge the enemy with his right wing, but was repulsed and lost the farm of La Haye Sainte, which commanded his position on this side as Hougomont did on his right. His centre, however, remained unattacked, the French exerting their utmost strength to keep Buelow’s gallant troops back at the village of Planchenoit, where the battle raged with the greatest fury, and a dreadful conflict of some hours’ duration ensued hand to hand. But about five o’clock, the left wing of the British being completely thrown into confusion by a fresh attack on the enemy’s side, the whole of the French cavalry, twelve thousand strong, made a furious charge upon the British centre, bore down all before them, and took a great number of guns. The Prince of Orange was wounded. The `road to Brussels was already thronged with the fugitive English troops, and Wellington, scarcely able to keep his weakened lines together, was apparently on the brink of destruction, when the thunder of artillery was suddenly heard in the direction of Wavre. "It is Grouchy!" joyfully exclaimed Napoleon, who had repeatedly sent orders to that general to push forward with all possible speed. But it was not Grouchy, it was Blucher.

The faithful troops of the veteran Marshal (the old Silesian army) were completely worn out by the battle, by their retreat in the heavy rain over deep roads, and by the want of food. The distance from Wavre, whence they had been driven, to Waterloo, where Wellington was then in action, was not great, but was rendered arduous owing to these circumstances. The men sometimes fell down from extreme weariness, and the guns stuck fast in the deep mud. But Blucher was everywhere present, and notwithstanding his bodily pain ever cheered his men forward, with "indescribable pathos," saying to his disheartened soldiers: "My children, we must advance; I have promised it; do not cause me to break my word!" While still distant from the scene of action, he ordered the guns to be fired in order to keep up the courage of the English, and at length, between six and seven in the evening, the first Prussian corps in advance, that of Zieten, fell furiously upon the enemy. "Bravo!" cried Blucher, "I know you, my Silesians; today we shall see the backs of these French rascals!"

Zieten filled up the space’ still intervening between Wellington and Buelow. Exactly at that moment Napoleon had sent his Old Guard forward in four massive squares in order to make a last attempt to’ break the British lines, when Zieten fell upon their flank and dealt fearful havoc among their close masses with his artillery. Buelow’s troops, inspirited by this success, now pressed gallantly forward and finally regained the long-contested village of Planchenoit from the enemy. The whole of the Prussian army, advancing at the double and with drums beating, had already driven back the right wing of the French, when the English, regaining courage, advanced.

Napoleon was surrounded on two sides, and the whole of his troops, the Old Guard under General Cambronne alone excepted, were totally dispersed and fled in complete disorder. The Old Guard, surrounded by Buelow’s cavalry, nobly replied, when challenged to surrender, "La Garde meurt, et ne se rend pas" ["The Guard dies, and never surrenders"]; and in a few minutes the veteran conquerors of Europe fell beneath the righteous and avenging blows of their antagonists. At the farm of La Belle Alliance, Blucher offered his hand to Wellington. "I will sleep tonight in Bonaparte’s last night’s quarters," said Wellington. "And I will drive him out of his present ones!" replied Blucher.

The Prussians, fired by enthusiasm, forgot the fatigues they had for four days endured, and, favored by a moonlight night, so zealously pursued the French that an immense number of prisoners and a vast amount of booty fell into their hands, and Napoleon himself narrowly escaped being taken prisoner. At Genappe, where the bridge was blocked by fugitives, the pursuit was so close that he was compelled to abandon his carriage, leaving his sword and hat behind him. Blucher, who reached the spot a moment afterward, took possession of the booty, sent Napoleon’s hat, sword, and star to the King of Prussia, retained his cloak, telescope, and carriage for his own use, and gave up everything else, including a quantity of the most valuable jewelry, gold, and money, to his brave soldiery. The whole of the army stores, two hundred forty guns, and an innumerable quantity of arms thrown away by the fugitives, fell into his hands.


The night of June 17, 1815, was one of heavy and incessant rain, accompanied by thunder and lightning. Amid such a storm the troops of two mighty armies lay down within cannon-shot of each other. The allied forces under Wellington were posted on the field of Waterloo, about twelve miles from Brussels, with the forest of Soigne, eight miles in width, intervening. Their position extended a little more than two miles, from a ridge on the road to Wavre, to a series of heights in the rear of the chateau of Hougomont. From the summit of the ridge the ground sloped backward, so as to hide the reserves, and keep the front itself concealed till the-moment for action had arrived. In front of the left stood the farm of La Haye Sainte, abutting upon the road from Charleroi to Genappe, and on the right the chateau of Hougomont-both places being formidable posts in advance.

The army of Napoleon was formed in two lines, with a reserve. The first consisted of infantry flanked by cavalry, with five batteries, comprising eight guns in each, ranged along the front of this line, with a sixth, of twelve-pounders, in support; while six guns of horse artillery were posted on the right of Jacqueminot’s cavalry. The second line consisted entirely of cavalry, with the exception of the two infantry divisions of the Sixth Corps, under Count Lobau, on the Charleroi road, well supported by artillery. In reserve, the Imperial Guard drew up infantry, cavalry, and artillery right and left of the road. These dispositions of Napoleon were as judicious as circumstances would admit of, and he was free to move his columns of attack against any part of the English which might seem the weakest, while his own position was such as to render a direct attack by a force not superior to his own dangerous in the extreme.

About ten o’clock on the morning of Sunday, the 18th, a great stir was observed along the French line; and presently a furious attack was made upon the chateau of Hougomont, occupied by a detachment of the brigade of guards under Colonel Hepburn and Lord Saltoun, who maintained the post throughout the day despite the repeated and desperate assaults by large bodies of the enemy. While the endosures of Hougomont thus continued to be furiously assailed, the artillery on both sides thundered along the whole extent of each line. Under cover of the cannonade, Ney formed his columns of attack against the left and centre of the British position. This dense mass, consisting of at least sixteen thousand men, supported by seventy pieces of cannon, ranged along the brow of the height, led by D’Erlon, at about two o’clock moved forward to attack the left centre of the British under a murderous fire from the allied artillery.

The divisions of Alix and Marcognet, pressing onward, had opened fire on the Dutch-Belgian line, when the latter lost all order and fled. Picton’s division, consisting of the brigades of Kemp and Pack, numbering altogether little more than three thousand men, deployed into line to receive not fewer than thirteen thousand infantry, besides cavalry; but Picton, nothing daunted, as soon as the enemy halted and began to take ground to the right, shouted, "A volley, and then charge!" The order was so rigidly obeyed that the enemy, taken in the act of deploying, were borne back in the utmost confusion. The success was however dearly purchased-Picton was mortally wounded by a musketball in the temple; but Kemp gallantly supplied his place, and the line moved on, driving before it all resistance. A body of cuirassiers bearing hard upon the Hanoverian infantry, the Household Brigade, led by Lord Edward Somerset, came thundering forward, and the bite horsemen of the rival nations met in close and desperate strife.

The British prowess at length prevailed, and the enemy, overpowered, fled in wild confusion; but as the French far out-umbered the allies in cavalry, their reserve coming up in excellent order once more turned the tide of battle. Our dispersed horsemen fell back, experiencing considerable loss. Covered by the horse artillery and supported by Vivian’s hussars, they however succeeded in reaching the crest of the position, where they reformed under protection of the infantry. But the ground was covered with the dead and dying; and among the former was Major-General Ponsonby. While great efforts continued to be made by the French to gain possession of Hougomont, and the right of the line was threatened by a body of lancers, Donzelat’s division pushed upon La Haye Sainte. The interval between became filled by such a display of horsemen as had never been looked upon by the most experienced soldier in the allied army.

Forty squadrons, of which twenty-one consisted entirely of cuirassiers, descending from the French heights in three lines began to mount to the English position; and despite the murderous discharge of the allied artillery, these resolute horsemen continued to advance at a steady trot, their cannon thundering over them. Arriving within forty yards of the English guns, with a loud shout they put their strong horses to their speed, and in a moment all the advanced batteries were in their possession. At this period all the allied regiments were in squares along the crest of the glacis, with their front ranks kneeling. Nevertheless the cuirassiers would not shrink from the trial. Once again the cry arose, "Vive I’Empereur!" and, with the noise of thunder, they rushed on. But their pace slackened as they approached; and they no sooner received a fire than they broke off from the centre by troops and squadrons.

Thus passed the whole line of cuirassiers, while the second and third lines-the former consisting of lancers, the latter of chasseurs-plunged headlong into the same course, and the British infantry became enveloped by the enemy. But they were not left long to maintain the combat single-handed. Lord Uxbridge, gathering as many squadrons as were available, launched them against the assailants, and drove them back over the declivity in confusion. They however soon rallied under their own guns, and, driving back the English beyond their squares, the game of the previous half-hour was played over and over again. Round and round these impenetrable masses the French horsemen rode, individuals here and there closing upon the bayonets and cutting at the men, but not a square was broken. The repulse of Ney’s cavalry, and the failure of the attempts upon Hougomont and La Haye, determined Napoleon to make another effort upon the main position of the allies. Kellermann was ordered to move forward with his corps, while Ney adding the cavalry of the guard, no less than thirty-seven squadrons formed in rear of the broken force which had begun to rally; and in a short time the whole extent of the field between Charleroi road and Hougomont was covered with these splendid corps of horsemen. Again were the squares assailed without success, and again did Lord Uxbridge come to the rescue.

Having failed to make an impression on the first line, composed entirely of British and German troops, a large body of French cavalry passed over the ridge, and threatened the Dutch-Belgians in the second line. Great was the commotion in that part of the field from which whole masses of men began to move off without firing a shot. Lord Uxbridge again led the remains of his cavalry forward, and the enemy were driven back, pursued by Somerset’s brigade; but the Dutch-Belgian carbineers disregarded the exhortation of Lord Uxbridge to follow him in the same course. Instead of advancing to the attack they went to the right about, and, galloping through the Third Hussars of the German Legion, fairly fled the field.

Never did a battlefield present such an anomalous spectacle. To all appearance the French were masters of the position of the allies. Their cavalry rode round the English infantry, and their strength of numbers overawed the allied horse. Scarcely an English gun gave fire, and most of those in front were actually in the possession of the enemy, the gunners having sought shelter within the squares. Yet the guns were safe, for the artillery-men had left neither harness nor limber, and thus the cavalry were deprived of the means of carrying them off. Meanwhile, the right of the English line had been sharply assailed, but Adams’s brigade, consisting of the Fifty-second, Seventy-first, and Second battalions of the Ninety-fifth Regiment, under the immediate direction of Wellington, drove the enemy back over the hill.

Napoleon, finding that all his attempts upon Hougomont had failed, in order to make a lodgment in front of the main position, pushed forward Donzelat’s division against La Haye Sainte, which, after a sharp opposition by Major Baring, was carried.

It was now about half past four o’clock, when the British regiments, although reduced to skeletons, still held their ground; and the Duke rode along the line, encouraging his diminished battalions, when the welcome sound of Blucher’s approach was heard, as the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Prussian brigades debouched from the Wood of Paris, moving upon the right flank of the French army. Lobau, with the Sixth Corps, had been detached to resist this movement; but the Prussians continued to receive reenforcements, and at six o’clock they had brought thirty battalions, twenty-seven squadrons, and sixty-four guns into action. In vain Lobau, with half that force, sought to maintain his ground; and abandoning Planchenoit, he drew off toward the Charleroi road.

At this critical moment Napoleon, observing the masses of Prussians pouring into the field, determined to attack the right centre of the English position with a column of the Imperial Guard; while a second, in support, moved nearer toward Hougomont. The cavalry were at the same time to advance en masse; and this movement was to be made under cover of the whole of their powerful artillery. The interval between these masses was to be filled up with cavalry, and Donzelat’s division, now gathered round La Haye Sainte, was to dash forward. These preparations were met by Wellington filling up the gaps already made in his line; and these arrangements were still in progress when forth from the enclosures of La Haye Sainte Donzelat’s corps came pouring.

They advanced in dense skirmishing order, and brought several pieces of artillery to bear within a hundred yards of the allied line-doing such dreadful execution on the German legion that Kreuse’s Brunswickers wavered until sustained by Du Plat’s Brunswickers and the Nassau regiments, gallantly led by the Prince of Orange, on which occasion he was severely wounded. The Duke’s presence restored order, and the battle was renewed. The Imperial Guard, led by Ney, Friant, and Michel, after filing past the Emperor, now passed down the descent from La Belle Alliance. There was a cessation in the firing of the French artillery, and simultaneously with this advance the corps of D’Erlon, en the’on of columns, moved partly upon Lambert’s brigade, while their right was engaged with the Prussians; and Reille, with some of his battalions penetrating the Wood of Hougomont, advanced boldly with another portion upon the centre of the English line.

It was now seven o’clock-the third corps of Prussians had arrived; and their whole force, close at hand, was little less than fifty thousand men, with one hundred pieces of cannon. The French batteries, which had remained silent until the rear of the advancing column had cleared their muzzles, opened with rapidity and precision, doing fearful execution upon the regiments that came within their range. As the leading column of the guard approached, the English batteries played upon them: yet they never paused a moment, but continued boldly to advance, despite the havoc occasioned by the murderous fire. Michel nobly fell, Friant was severely wounded, and Ney, who rode at the head of these veterans, had his horse shot under him; but, nothing dismayed, he led them on foot, and driving in the light troops, they reached the summit. Then Wellington directed the brigade of guards, under Major-General Maid and, to attack this imposing force. Pouring in a destructive volley, they moved upon the enemy with the bayonet, and spite of every effort of the officers to rally, this elite of the French army ran down the slope, closely pursued by the British guards.

Napoleon, seeing his guards falling back in confusion, his broken squadrons fleeing, his guns abandoned, and having no reserve to fall back upon, shortly after eight o’clock galloped from the field. A cheer was now heard on the right, which flew swiftly along the entire position of the allies, and the whole line rushed forward. Darkness soon set in, and such confusion prevailed that the advanced cavalry got so completely intermingled among the crowds of fugitives that they could with difficulty extricate themselves, and more than one awkward rencounter took place. Guns, tumbrels, the whole materiel, in short, of the routed army, remained in the possession of the British. Then as the Prussians came furiously advancing upon the routed enemy, the Duke, feeling that the day was won, caused the order for a general halt to be passed; and the weary but victorious English lay down upon the position they had so gloriously gained.

Almost every individual of Wellington’s personal staff was either killed or wounded. The Duke, after following the flying army far beyond La Belle Alliance, was on his way back when he met Blucher. Many congratulations passed between the two generals; and the latter readily undertook to follow up the pursuit. Thus was fought, and thus ended, one of the greatest battles in modern times; and if its results be taken into account, perhaps the most important recorded in history.


Those who wish to form a distinct idea of the battle of Waterloo need only imagine a capital A laid on the ground. The left leg of the A is the Nivelles road, the right one the Genappe road, while the string of the A is the broken way running from Ohaine to Braine l’Alleud. The top of the A is Mont St. Jean, where Wellington is; at the left lower point Reille is with Jerome Bonaparte; the right lower point is La Belle Alliance, where Napoleon is. A little below the point where the string of the A meets and cuts the right leg, is La Haye Sainte; where the!eft cuts it, is Hougomont; and in the centre of this string is the exact spot where the battle was concluded. Here the lion is placed, the involuntary symbol of the heroism of the Old Guard.

The triangle comprised at the top of the A between the two legs and the string is the plateau of Mont St. Jean; the dispute for this plateau was the whole battle. The wings of the two armies extend to the right and left of the Genappe and Nivelles roads, D’Erlon facing Picton, Reille facing Hill. Behind the point of the A, behind the plateau of St. Jean, is the forest of Soigne.

As for the plan itself, imagine a vast undulating ground; each ascent is commanded by the next ascent, and all the undulations ascend to Mont St. Jean, where they form the forest.

The two generals had attentively studied the plain of Mont St. Jean, which is called at the present day the Field of Waterloo. In the previous year, Wellington, with prescient sagacity, had examined it as suitable for a great battle. On this ground and for this duel of June 18th, Wellington had the good side, and Napoleon the bad; for the English army was above, the French army below.

All the world knows the first phase of this battle; a troubled, uncertain, hesitating opening, dangerous for both armies, but more so for the English than for the French.

It had rained all night; the ground was saturated; the rain had collected in hollows of the plain as in tubs; at certain points the ammunition-wagons had sunk in up to the axletrees and the girths of the horses; if the wheat and barley laid low by this mass of moving vehicles had not filled the ruts, and made a litter under the wheels, any movement, especially in the valleys, in the direction of Papelotte, would have been impossible.

The action was begun furiously, more furiously perhaps than the Emperor desired, by the French left wing on Hougomont. At the same time Napoleon attacked the centre by hurling Quiot’s brigade on La Haye Sainte, and Ney pushed the French right wing against the English left, which was leaning upon Papelotte.

The attack on Hougomont was, to a certain extent, a feint, for the plan was to attract Wellington there and make him strengthen his left. This plan would have succeeded had not the four companies of guards and Perponcher’s Belgian division firmly held the position, and Wellington, instead of massing his troops, found it only necessary to send as a reenforcement four more companies of guards and a battalion of Brunswickers. The attack on the French right on Papelotte was serious; to destroy the English left, cut the Brussels road, bar the passage for any possible Prussians, force Mont St. Jean, drive back Wellington on Hougomont, then on Braine l’Alleud, and then on Hall-nothing was more distinct. Had not a few incidents supervened, this attack would have succeeded, for Papelotte was taken and La Haye Sainte carried.

There is a detail to be noticed here. In the English infantry, especially in Kemp’s brigade, there were many recruits, and these young soldiers valiantly withstood our formidable foot, and they behaved excellently as sharpshooters. The soldier when thrown out en tirailleur, being left to some extent to his own resources, becomes as it were his own general: and these recruits displayed something of the French invention and fury. These novices displayed an impulse, and it displeased Wellington.

After the taking of La Haye Sainte, the battle vacillated.

There is an obscure interval in this day, between twelve and four; the middle of this battle is almost indistinct, and participates in the gloom of the melee. A twilight sets in, and we perceive vast fluctuations in this mist, a dizzying mirage, the panoply of war at that day, unknown in our times; flaming colbacks, flying sabre-taches; cross-belts; grenadier bearskins; hussar dolmans; red boots with a thousand wrinkles; heavy shakos enwreathed with gold twist; the nearly black Brunswick infantry mingled with the scarlet infantry of England; the English soldiers wearing clumsy round white cushions for epaulettes; the Hanoverian light-horse with their leathern helmets, brass bands, and red horsetails; the Highlanders with their bare knees and checkered plaids, and the long white gaiters of our grenadiers-pictures, but not strategic lines; what a Salvator Rosa, but not a Gribeauval, would have revelled in.

A certain amount of tempest is always mingled with a battle, quid obscurum, quid divinum. Every historian traces to some extent the lineament that pleases him in the hurly-burly. Whatever the combination of the-generals may be, the collision of armed masses has incalculable ebbs and flows; in action the two plans of the leaders enter into each other and destroy their shape. The line of battle floats and winds like a thread, the streams of blood flow illogically, the fronts of armies undulate, the regiments in advancing or retiring form capes or gulfs, and all these rocks are continually shifting their position: where infantry was, artillery arrives; where artillery was, cavalry dash in; the battalions are smoke. There was something there, but when you look for it it has disappeared; the gloomy masses advance and retreat; a species of breath from the tomb impels, drives back, swells, and disperses these tragic multitudes. What is a battle? An oscillation. The immobility of a mathematical plan expresses a minute and not a day. To paint a battle, those powerful painters, who have chaos in their pencils, are needed. Rembrandt is worth more than Vandermeulin, for Vandermeulin, exact at midday, is incorrect at three o’clock. Geometry is deceived, and the hurricane alone is true, and it is this that gives Folard the right to contradict Polybius. Let us add that there is always a certain moment in which the battle degenerates into a combat, is particularized and broken up into countless detail facts which, to borrow the expression of Napoleon himself, "belong rather to the biography of regiments than to the history of the army." The historian, in such a case, has the evident right to sum up; he can only catch the principal outlines of the struggle, and it is not given to any narrator, however conscientious he may be, to absolutely fix the form of that horrible cloud which is called a battle. This, which is true of all great armed collisions, is peculiarly applicable to Waterloo; still, at a certain moment in the afternoon, the battle began to assume a settled shape.

Everybody is aware that the undulations of the plains on which the encounter between Napoleon and Wellington took place are no longer as they were on June 18, 1815. On taking from this mournful plain the material to make a monument, it was deprived of its real relics, and history, disconcerted, no longer recognizes itself; in order to glorify, they disfigure. Wellington, on seeing Waterloo two years afterward, exclaimed, "My battlefield has been altered." Where the huge pyramid of earth surmounted by a lion now stands, there was a crest which on the side of the Nivelles road had a practicable ascent, but which on the side of the Genappe road was almost an escarpment. The elevation of this escarpment may still be imagined by the height of the two great tombs which skirt the road from Genappe to Brussels: the English tomb on the left, the German tomb on the right. There is no French tomb-for France the whole plain is a sepulchre.

Through the thousands of cartloads of earth employed in erecting the mound, which is one hundred fifty feet high and half a mile in circumference, the plateau of Mont St. Jean is now accessible by a gentle incline, but on the day of the battle, and especially on the side of La Haye Sainte, it was steep and abrupt. The incline was so sharp that the English gunners could not see beneath them the farm situated in the bottom of the valley, which was the centre of the fight. On June 18, 1815, the rain had rendered the steep road more difficult, and the troops not only had to climb up but slipped in the mud. Along the centre of the crest of the plateau ran a ditch, the existence of which it was impossible for a distant observer to guess. On the day of the battle this hollow way, a trench on the top of the escarpment, a rut hidden in the earth, was invisible, that is to say, terrible.

Napoleon was accustomed to look steadily at war; he never reckoned up the poignant details; he cared little for figures, provided that they gave the total-victory. If the beginning went wrong, he did not alarm himself, as he believed himself master and owner of the end.

At the moment when Wellington retrograded, Napoleon quivered He suddenly saw the plateau of Mont St. Jean deserted, and the front of the English army disappear. The Emperor half raised himself in his stirrups, and the flash of victory passed into his eyes. If Wellington were driven back into the forest of Soigne and destroyed, it would be the definitive overthrow of England by France; it would be Crecy, Poitiers, Malplaquet, and Ramillies avenged; the man of Marengo would erase Agincourt.

The Emperor, while meditating on this tremendous result, turned his telescope to all parts of the battlefield. His guards, standing at ease behind him, gazed at him with a sort of religious awe. He was reflecting, he examined the slopes, noted the inclines, scrutinized the clumps of trees, the patches of barley, and the paths; he seemed to be counting every tuft of gorse. He looked with some fixity at the English barricades, two large masses of felled trees; the one on the Genappe road defended by two guns, the only ones of all the English artillery which commanded the battlefield; at the one of the Nivelles road, behind which flashed the Dutch bayonets of Chasse’s brigade. The Emperor drew himself up and reflected; Wellington was retiring, and all that was needed now was to complete this retreat by an overthrow. Napoleon hurriedly turned and sent off a messenger at full speed to Paris to announce that the battle was gained. Napoleon was one of those geniuses from whom thunder issues, and he had just found his thunder-stroke; he gave Milhaud’s cuirassiers orders to carry the plateau of Mont St. Jean.

They were three thousand five hundred in number, and formed a front a quarter of a league in length; they were gigantic men mounted on colossal horses. They formed twenty-six squadrons, and had behind them, as a support, Lefebvre Desnouette’s division, composed of one hundred sixty gendarmes the chasseurs of the guard, eleven hundred ninety-seven sabres; and the lancers of the guard, eight hundred eighty lances. They wore a helmet without a plume, and a cuirass of wrought steel, and were armed with pistols and a straight sabre. In the morning the whole army had admired them when they came up at nine o’clock, with bugles sounding, while all the bands played Veillons au salut de l’Empire, in close column with one battery on their flank, the others in their centre, and deployed in two ranks, and took their place in that powerful second line, so skilfully formed by Napoleon, which, having at its extreme left Kellermann’s cuirassiers, and on its extreme right Milhaud’s cuirassiers, seemed to be endowed with two wings of steel. The aide-de-camp Bernard carried to them the Emperor’s order: Ney drew his sabre and placed himself at their head, and the mighty squadrons started.

Then a formidable spectacle_was seen: the whole of this cavalry, with raised sabres, with standards flying, and formed in columns of division, descended, with one movement, and as one man, with the precision of a bronze battering-ram opening a breach, the hill of La Belle Alliance. They entered the formidable valley in which so many men had already fallen, disappeared in the smoke, and then, emerging from the gloom, reappeared on the other side of the valley, still in a close compact column, mounting at a trot, under a tremendous canister fire, the frightful muddy incline of the plateau of Mont St. Jean. They ascended it, stern, threatening, and imperturbable; between the breaks in the artillery and musketry fire the colossal tramp could be heard. As they formed two divisions, they were in two columns; Wathier’s division was on the right, Delord’s on the left. At a distance it appeared as if two immense steel lizards were crawling toward the crest of the plateau; they traversed the battlefield like a flash.

Nothing like it had been seen since the capture of the great redoubt of the Moskova by the heavy cavalry: Murat was missing, but Ney was there. It seemed as if this mass had become a monster and had but one soul; each squadron undulated and swelled like the rings of a polyp. This could be seen through a vast smoke which was rent asunder at intervals; it was a pell-mell of helmets, shouts, and sabres, a stormy bounding of horses among cannon, and a disciplined and terrible array; while above it all flashed the cuirasses like the scales of the dragon.

It was a curious numerical coincidence that twenty-six battalions were preparing to receive the charge of these twenty-six squadrons. Behind the crest of the plateau, in the shadow of the masked battery, thirteen English squares, each of two battalions and formed two deep, with seven men in the first lines and six in the second, were waiting, calm, dumb, and motionless, with their muskets, for what was coming. They did not see the cuirassiers, and the cuirassiers did not see them: they merely heard this tide of men ascending. They heard the swelling sound of three thousand horses, the alternating and symmetrical sound of the hoof, the clang of the cuirasses, the clash of the sabres, and a species of great and formidable breathing. There was a long and terrible silence, and then a long file of raised arms, brandishing sabres and helmets and bugles and standards, and three thousand heads with great mustaches, shouting "Long live the Emperor!" appeared above the crest. The whole of this cavalry debouched on the plateau, and it was like the beginning of an earthquake.

All at once, terrible to relate, the head of the column of cuirassiers facing the English left reared with a fearful clamor. On reaching the culminating point of the crest, furious and eager to make their exterminating dash on the English squares and guns, the cuirassiers noticed between them and the English a trench, a grave. It was the sunken road of Ohain.

It was a frightful moment: the ravine was there, unexpected, yawning almost precipitous, beneath the horses’ feet, and with a depth of twelve feet between its two sides. The second rank thrust the first into the abyss; the horses reared, fell back, slipped with all four feet in the air, crushing and throwing their riders. There was no mean of escaping; the entire column was one huge projectile. The force acquired to crush the English crushed the French, and the inexorable ravine would not yield till it was filled up. Men and horses rolled into it pell-mell, crushing each other, and making one large charnel-house of the gulf, and when this grave was full of living men the rest passed over them. Nearly one third of Dubois’s brigade rolled into this abyss.

A local tradition, which evidently exaggerates, says that two thousand horses and fifteen hundred men were buried in the sunken road of Ohain. These figures probably comprise the other corpses cast into the ravine on the day after the battle.

Napoleon, before ordering this charge, had surveyed the ground, but had been unable to see this hollow way, which did not form even a ripple on the crest of the plateau. Warned, however, by the little white chapel that marks its juncture with the Nivelles road, he had asked Lacoste a question, probably as to whether there was any obstacle. The guide answered, "No"; and we might almost say that Napoleon’s catastrophe was brought about by a peasant’s shake of the head.

Other fatalities were yet to arise. Was it possible for Napoleon to win the battle? We answer in the negative. Why? On account of Wellington, on account of Blucher? No; on account of God. Bonaparte, victor at Waterloo, did not harmonize with the law of the nineteenth century. Another series of facts was preparing, in which Napoleon had no longer a place: the ill-will of events had been displayed long previously.

It was time for this vast man to fall; his excessive weight in human destiny disturbed the balance. This individual alone was of more account than the universal group: such plethoras of human vitality concentrated in a single head-the world, mounting to one man’s brain-would be mortal to civilization if they endured. The moment had arrived for the incorruptible supreme equity to reflect. Streaming blood, overcrowded graveyards, mothers in tears, are formidable pleaders. Napoleon had been denounced in infinitude, and his fall was decided. Waterloo is not a battle, but a transformation of the universe.

The battery was unmasked simultaneously with the ravine sixty guns and thirteen squares thundered at the cuirassiers at point-blank range. The intrepid General Delord gave a military salute to the English battery. The whole of the English field artillery had entered the squares at a gallop; the cuirassier has not even a moment for reflection. The disaster of the hollow way had decimated but not discouraged them, they were of that nature of men whose hearts grow large when their number is diminished. Wathier’s column alone suffered in the disaster, but Delord’s column, which he had ordered to wheel to the left as if he suspected the trap, arrived entire. The cuirassiers rushed at the English squares at full gallop, with hanging bridles, sabres in their mouths, and pistols in their hands.

There are moments in a battle when the soul hardens a man, so that it changes the soldier into a statue, and all flesh becomes granite. The English battalions, though fiercely assailed, did not move. Then there was a frightful scene; all the faces of the English squares were attacked simultaneously, and a frenzied whirl surrounded them. But the cold infantry remained impassive; the front rank kneeling received the cuirassiers on their bayonets, while the second fired at them; behind the second rank the artillerymen loaded their guns, the front of the square opened to let an eruption of canister pass, and then closed again. The cuirassiers responded by attempts to crush their foe; their great horses reared, leaped over the bayonets, and landed in the centre of the four living walls. The cannonballs made gaps in the cuirassiers and the cuirassiers made breaches in the squares. Files of men disappeared, trampled down by the horses, and bayonets were buried in the entrails of thee centaurs. Hence arose horrible wounds, such as were probably never seen elsewhere. The squares, where broken by the impetuous cavalry, contracted without yielding an inch of ground; inexhaustible in canister, they produced an explosion in the midst of the assailants. The aspect of this combat was monstrous: these squares were no longer battalions, but craters; these cuirassiers were no longer cavalry, but a tempest: each square was a volcano attacked by a storm; the lava combated the lightning.

The extreme right square, the most exposed of all, as it was in the air, was nearly annihilated in the first attack. It was formed of the Seventy-fifth Highlanders; the piper in the centre, while his comrades were being exterminated around him, was seated on a drum, with his pipes under his arm, and playing mountain airs. These Scotchmen died thinking of Ben Lothian, as the Greeks did remembering Argos. A cuirassier’s sabre, by cutting through the bagpipe and the arm that held it, stopped the tune by killing the player.

The cuirassiers, relatively few, and reduced by the catastrophe of the ravine, had against them nearly the whole English army; but they multiplied themselves, and each man was worth ten. Some Hanoverian battalions, however, gave way; Wellington saw it, and thought of his cavalry. Had Napoleon at this moment thought of his infantry, the battle would have been won, and this forgetfulness was his great and fatal fault.

All at once the assailers found themselves assailed; the English cavalry were on their backs, before them the squares, behind them Somerset with the one thousand four hundred dragoon guards. Somerset had on his right Dornberg with the German chevaux-legers, and on his left Trip with the Belgian carbineers; the cuirassiers, attacked on the flank and in front, before and behind by infantry and cavalry, were compelled to make a front on all sides. But what did they care? they were a whirlwind, their bravery became indescribable. In addition, they had behind them the still thundering battery, and it was only in such a way that these men could be wounded in the back. For such Frenchmen, nothing less than such Englishmen was required.

It was no longer a melee, it was a headlong fury, a hurricane of flashing swords. In an instant the one thousand four hundred dragoons were only eight hundred; and Fuller, their lieutenant-colonel, was dead. Ney dashed up with Lefebvre Desnouette’s lancers and chasseurs; the plateau of Mont St. Jean was taken and retaken, and taken again. The cuirassiers left the cavalry to attack the infantry, or, to speak more correctly, all these men collared each other and did not lose their hold. The squares still held out after twelve assaults. Ney had four horses killed under him, and one-half of the cuirassiers remained on the plateau. This struggle lasted two hours.

The English army was profoundly shaken; and there is no doubt that, had not the cuirassiers been weakened in their attack by the disaster of the hollow way, they would have broken through the centre and decided the victory. This extraordinary cavalry petrified Clinton, who had seen Talavera and Badajoz. Wellington, three parts vanquished, admired heroically; he said in a low voice, "Splendid!" The cuirassiers annihilated seven squares out of thirteen, captured or spiked sixty guns, and took six English regimental flags, which three cuirassiers and three chasseurs of the guard carried to the Emperor before the farm of La Belie Alliance.

How far did the cuirassiers get? No one could say; but it is certain that on the day after the battle a cuirassier and his horse were found dead on the weighing-machine of Mont St. Jean, at the very spot where the Nivelles, Genappe, La Hulpe, and Brussels roads intersect one another. This horseman had pierced the English lines. The cuirassiers had not succeeded, in the sense that the English centre had not been broken. Everybody held the plateau, and nobody held it; but in the end the greater portion remained in the hands of the English. Wellington had the village and the plain; Ney, only the crest and the slope. Both sides seemed to have taken root in this mournful soil.

But the weakness of the English seemed irremediable, for the hemorrhage of this army was horrible. Kemp on the left wing asked for reenforcements. "There are none," Wellington replied. Almost at the same moment, by a strange coincidence which depicts the exhaustion of-both armies, Ney asked Napoleon for infantry, and Napoleon answered: "Infantry! where does he expect me to get them? Does he think I can make them?"

Still the English army was the worse of the two; the furious attacks of these great squadrons with their iron cuirasses and steel chests had crushed their infantry. A few men round the colors marked the place of a regiment, and some battalions were only commanded by a captain or a lieutenant. Alten’s division, already so maltreated at La Haye Sainte, was nearly destroyed; the intrepid Belgians of Van Kluze’s brigade lay among the wheat along the Nivelles road; hardly any were left of those Dutch grenadiers who in 1811 fought Wellington in Spain on the French side, and who in 1815 joined the English and fought Napoleon. The loss in officers was considerable: Lord Uxbridge, who had his leg interred the next day, had a fractured knee. If on the side of the French in this contest of the cuirassiers Delord, L’Heretier, Colbert, Duof, Travers, and Blancard were hors de combat, on the side of the English, Alten was wounded, Barnes was wounded, Delancey killed, Van Meeren killed, Ompteda killed, Wellington’s staff decimated-and England had the heaviest scale in this balance of blood.

The Second Regiment of foot-guards had lost five lieutenant-colonels, four captains, and three ensigns; the first battalion of the Thirtieth had lost twenty-four officers and one hundred twelve men; the Seventy-ninth Highlanders had twenty-four officers wounded, and eighteen officers and four hundred fifty men killed. Cumberland’s Hanoverian Hussars, an entire regiment, having Colonel Hacke at its head (who at a later date was tried and cashiered), turned bridle during the flight and fled into the forest of Soigne, spreading the rout as far as Brussels. The wagons, ammunition-trains, baggage-trains, and ambulance carts full of wounded, on seeing the French, gave ground, and approaching the forest, rushed into it; the Dutch, sabred by the French cavalry, broke in confusion.

From Vert Coucou to Groenendael, a distance of two leagues on the Brussels roads, there was, according to the testimony of living witnesses, a dense crowd of fugitives, and the panic was 50 great that it assailed the Prince de Conde’ at Mechlin and Louis XVIII at Ghent. With the exception of the weak reserve echelonned behind the field-hospital established at the farm of Mont St. Jean, and Vivian’s and Vandeleur’s brigades, which flanked the left wing, Wellington had no cavalry left, and many of the guns lay dismounted. At five o’clock Wellington looked at his watch, and could be heard muttering, "Blucher or night!" At this moment a distant line of bayonets glistened on the heights on the side of Frischemont. This was the climax of the gigantic drama.

Everybody knows Napoleon’s awful mistake: Grouchy expected, Blucher coming up; death instead of life. If the little shepherd who served as guide to Buelow, Blucher’s lieutenant, had advised him to debouche from the forest above Frischemont, instead of below Planchenoit, the form of the nineteenth century would have been different, for Napoleon would have won the Battle of Waterloo. By any other road than that below Planchenoit the Prussian army would have come upon a ravine impassable by artillery, and Buelow would not have arrived.

It was high time for Buelow to arrive. He had bivouacked at Dieu-le-Mont and marched at daybreak, but the roads were impracticable, and his division stuck in the mud. The ruts came up to the axletrees of the guns; moreover, he was compelled to cross the Dyle by the narrow bridge of Wavre; the street leading to the bridge had been burned by the French, and the artillery train and limbers, which could not pass between the two rows of blazing houses, were compelled to wait till the fire was extinguished. By midday Buelow’s vanguard had scarce reached Chapelle St. Lambert.

Had the action begun two hours sooner, it would have been over at four o’clock, and Blucher would have fallen upon the battle gained by Napoleon. Buelow was obliged to wait for the main body of the army, and had others to concentrate his troops before forming line; but at five o’clock, Blucher, seeing Wellington’s danger, ordered Buelow to attack, and employed the remarkable phrase, "We must let the English army breathe."

A short time after this, Losthin’s, Hiller’s, Hacke’s, and Ryssel’s brigades deployed in front of Lobau’s corps, the cavalry of Prince William of Prussia debouched from the Bois de Paris, Planchenoit was in flames, and the Prussian cannonballs began pouring even upon the ranks of the guard held in reserve behind Napoleon.

The rest is known-the irruption of a third army; the battle dislocated; eighty-six cannon thundering simultaneously; Pirch the First coming up with Buelow; Zieten’s cavalry led by Blucher in person; the French driven back; Marcognet swept from the plateau of Ohain; Durutte dislodged from Papelotte; Donzelat and Quiot falling back; Lobau attacked on the flank; a new battle rushing at nightfall on the weakened French regiments; the whole English line resuming the offensive and pushed forward; the gigantic gap made in the French army by the combined English and Prussian batteries; the extermination, the disaster in front, the disaster on the flank, and the guard forming line amid this fearful convulsion. As they felt they were going to death, they shouted, "Long live the Emperor!" History has nothing more striking than this death-rattle breaking out into acclamations.

Each battalion of the guard, for this denouement, was commanded by a general: Friant, Michel, Roguet, Harlot, Mallet, and Pont de Morvan were there. When the tall bearskins of the Grenadiers of the Guard with the large eagle device appeared, symmetrical in line and calm, in the twilight of this fight, the enemy felt a respect for France; they fancied they saw twenty victories entering the battlefield with outstretched wings, and the men who were victors, esteeming themselves vanquished, fell back; but Wellington shouted, "Up, guards, and take steady aim!" The red regiment of English guards, which had been lying down behind the hedges, rose; a storm of canister rent the tricolor flag waving above the heads of the French; all rushed forward, and the supreme carnage began. The Imperial Guard felt in the darkness the army giving way around them, and the vast staggering of the rout: they heard the cry of "Sauve qui peut!" substituted for the "Vive I’Empereur!" and with flight behind them they continued to advance, hundreds falling at every step they took. None hesitated or evinced timidity; the privates were as heroic as the generals, and not one attempted to escape suicide.

Ney, wild, and grand in the consciousness of accepted death, offered himself to every blow in this combat. He had his fifth horse killed under him here. Bathed in perspiration, with a flame in his eye and foam on his lips, his uniform unbuttoned, one of his epaulettes half cut through by the sabre of a horse-guard, and his decoration of the great eagle dinted by a bullet-bleeding, muddy, magnificent, and holding a broken sword in his hand, he shouted, "Come and see how a marshal of France dies on the battlefield!" But it was in vain, he did not die. He was haggard and indignant, and hurled at Dronet d’Erlon the question, "Are you not going to get yourself killed?" He yelled amid the roar of all this artillery, crushing a handful of men, "Oh, there is nothing for me:’ I should like all these English cannon-balls to enter my chest!" You were reserved for French bullets, unfortunate man.

The rout in the rear of the guard was mournful; the army suddenly gave way on all sides simultaneously, at Hougomont, La Haye Sainte, Papelotte, and at Planchenoit. The cry of "Treachery!" was followed by that of "Sauve qui peut!" An army that disbands is like a thaw-all gives way, cracks, floats, rolls, falls, comes into collision, and dashes forward. Ney borrows a horse, leaps on it, and without hat, stock, or sword, dashes across the Brussels road, stopping at once English and French. He tries to hold back the army, he recalls it, he insults it, he clings wildly to the rout to hold it back. The soldiers fly from him, shouting, "Long live Marshal Ney!" Two regiments of Durotte’s move backward and forward in terror, and as it were tossed between the sabres of the hussars and the musketry fire of Kemp’s, Best’s, and Pack’s brigades. A rout is the highest of all confusions, for friends kill one another in order to escape, and squadrons and battalions dash against and destroy each other. Lobau at one extremity and Reille at the other are carried away by the torrent.

In vain does Napoleon build a wall of what is left of the guard; in vain does he expend his own social squadrons in a final effort. Quiot retires before Vivian, Kellermann before Vandeleur, Lobau before Buelow, Moraud before Pirch, and Domor and Subervie before Prince William of Prussia. Guyot, who led the Emperor’s squadrons to the charge, falls beneath the horses of English dragoons. Napoleon gallops along the line of fugitives, harangues, urges, threatens, and implores them; all the mouths that shouted "Long live the Emperor!" in the morning, remained wide open; they hardly knew him. The Prussian cavalry, who had come up fresh, dash forward, cut down, kill, and exterminate. The artillery horses dash forward with the guns; the train soldiers unharness the horses from the caissons and escape on them; wagons overthrown and with their four wheels in the air, block up the road and supply opportunities for massacre. Men crush one another and trample over the dead and over the living. A multitude wild with terror fill the roads, the paths, the bridges, the plains, the hills, the valleys, and the woods, which are thronged by this flight of forty thousand men. Cries, desperation; knapsacks and musket:; cast into the wheat; passages cut with the edge of the sabres; no comrades, no officers, no generals recognized-an indescribable terror. Zieten sabring France at his ease. The lions become kids. Such was this fight.

At Genappe an effort was made to turn and rally; Lobau collected three hundred men; the entrance of the village was barricaded, but at the first round of Prussian canister all began flying again, and Lobau was made prisoner. The Prussians dashed into Genappe, doubtless furious at being such small victors, and the pursuit was monstrous, for Blucher commanded extermination. Roguet had given the mournful example of threatening with death any French grenadier who brought in a Prussian prisoner, and Blucher surpassed Roguet. Duchesne, general of the Young Guard, who was pursued into the doorway of an inn in Genappe, surrendered his sword to a hussar of death, who took the sword and killed the prisoner. The victory was completed by the assassination of the vanquished. Let us punish as we are writing history-old Blucher dishonored himself. This ferocity set the seal on the disaster; the desperate rout passed through Genappe, passed through Quatre-Bras, passed through Sombreffe, passed through Frasnes, passed through Thuin, passed through Charleroi, and only stopped at the frontier. Alas! and who was it flying in this way? The grand army.

Did this vertigo, this terror, this overthrow of the greatest bravery that ever astonished history, take place without a cause? No. The shadow of a mighty right hand is cast over Waterloo; it is the day of destiny, and the force which is above man produced that day. Hence the terror, hence all those great souls laying down their swords. Those who had conquered Europe, fell crushed, having nothing more to say or do, and feeling a terrible presence in the shadow.

At nightfall, Bernard and Bertrand seized by the skirt of his coat, in a field near Genappe, a haggard, thoughtful, gloomy man, who, carried so far by the current of the rout, had just dismounted, passed the bridle over his arm, and was now, with wandering eye, returning alone to Waterloo. It was Napoleon, the immense somnambulist of the shattered dream, still striving to advance.


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Chicago: William Siborne et al., "The Battle of Waterloo," The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 15 in The Great Events by Famous Historians. Lincoln Memorial University Edition, ed. Rossiter Johnson (Harrogate, TN: The National Alunmi, 1926), Original Sources, accessed December 6, 2021,

MLA: Menzel, Wolfgang, et al. "The Battle of Waterloo." The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 15, in The Great Events by Famous Historians. Lincoln Memorial University Edition, edited by Rossiter Johnson, Harrogate, TN, The National Alunmi, 1926, Original Sources. 6 Dec. 2021.

Harvard: Menzel, W et al., 'The Battle of Waterloo' in The Great Events by Famous Historians, Vol 15. cited in 1926, The Great Events by Famous Historians. Lincoln Memorial University Edition, ed. , The National Alunmi, Harrogate, TN. Original Sources, retrieved 6 December 2021, from