Napoleon Series Archive 2015

The Waterloo Campaign - June 10th *PIC*

On June 10th, Napoleon sent the following orders for the final concentration of the Army before commencing hostilities:

Paris, June 10, 1815.

Position of the army on the 13th.

Imperial Headquarters and the Imperial Guard at Avesnes.
Artillery parks and bridge supplies on the banks before Avesnes.
Of the Reserve Cavalry 1st and 2nd Corps at Beaumont.
3rd and 4th Corps between Avesnes and Beaumont.
6th Corps at Beaumont. The headquarters to the rear. If the 6th Corps finds it troublesome to arrive at Beaumont, they could
arrive halfway.
1st Corps at Pont sur Sambre. This Corps will move without passing by Bavay. They will pass by Le Quesnoy, in order to avoid the enemy. They will reveal their movement as late as possible. As we do not suppose that it is necessary to spend more than one day in Valenciennes, it will be just the 13th that they will prepare their movement to arrive on the Sambre.
The 2nd Corps behind Maubeuge in columns on the Thuin road, without passing the border, and moving as unnoticed as possible.
The 3rd Corps at Philippeville.
Armée de la Moselle at Mariembourg.
All of the communications on the border will be intercepted.
The soldiers will have four days of bread on their backs, half-pound of rice, fifty cartridges.
The batteries will be with the divisions: reserve batteries with their army corps.
The light cavalry of each army corps will be in front of the corps.
Each ambulance with its division.
Each division will have on the auxiliary or military wagons eight days of bread, biscuits, and a cattle pen for eight days.
We will make no change on the border, we will not cross it at any point. We will fire no cannons. We will do nothing that could wake the enemy.
This order will remain secret.

Napoleon desired three columns which would take converging/parallel routes to Charleroi. Each wing was strong enough to deal with the reality that enemy forces could concentrate on the flanks and possibly come across the rear. While this would be a bold and risky maneuver, one finds Napoleon very cognizant of the possibility and his subsequent orders will always account for this.

Things to keep in mind while studying the Waterloo campaign:

- The correspondence was scattered after the French defeat. Grouchy kept the Registre du Major Général and what is often cited as this is only an extract that Grouchy published himself. The original is lost. Whether something IS or IS NOT in this copy is proof of nothing. Grouchy is known to have presented multiple versions of orders while trying to defend his conduct.
- The initial histories of the Waterloo Campaign were benefited by living veterans, yet suffered from very sparse records. Some early publications included dispatches provided by the individuals who possessed them, and they often would vouch for their authenticity. In recent years, several pieces of correspondence have been challenged for their authenticity - most notably the Bertrand written order to Grouchy on June 17th, and the 1pm Dispatch from "The Battlefield of Waterloo" on the 18th - interesting that Soult already knew the name of the battle.
- A concerted effort to gather materials was undertaken in the late 19th century, and the details of this are not well known, but the end result was that more materials, or copies when families would not give them up, came to the archives, and Arthur Chuquet published them.

It is well known that Napoleon kept his plans close to the vest. Hence, considering the above order... who knew about it? Napoleon issued it, Bertrand wrote it, Soult received it. Who else was aware of Napoleon's intentions? Possibly no one, or very few... and when something isn't known, it can't be analyzed.

Houssaye references the above order in his work, and Lettow-Vorbeck was the first to publish it in a book in the early 1900s, therefore making it available outside of those that could visit the archives. Thus, almost a century of Waterloo analysis and narrative creation occurred without the benefit of having access to Napoleon's intentions and much of the correspondence.

This is why, over the next few days, when incredible things start to happen, one can understand why it has never raised much alarm. The 19th Century was dominated by the debate over Ney and Quatre-Bras, Grouchy's wanderings, and of course, that memorable clash on June 18th, almost all from strong political slants with French Republicans leaving some of the most damaging myths. And due to the politics of the time (and which are alive and well on this forum) most of what Napoleon said in exile has been dismissed as lies, such as his claims of issuing recall orders to Grouchy on June 17th (the evidence that he did far outweighs that he didn't) while anything derogatory against Napoleon is repeated like a gospel from God - such as the famous "easy as breakfast" quote - a statement so powerful the source of the quote wouldn't even use it in his own book... and half the quote, the unsexy half, is found in other sources. Basically, it has no serious substantiation... but boy does it sound good - so just google it and see how many times it has been used, and that is a perfect indication of the lack of scholarship when it comes to the study of French operations in this campaign.

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The Waterloo Campaign - June 10th *PIC*
"du champ de bataille de Waterloo"
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