Napoleon Series Archive 2015

The Waterloo Campaign, June 12th *PIC*

On June 12th, Soult gave the following report to Napoleon on his efforts to carry out the orders of June 10th.

Avesnes, 12 June 1815

In executing the order that Your Majesty gave on the 10th of this month, I have issued the following dispositions regarding the sites that the various army corps must occupy on the 13th:

The 2nd Corps on the Sambre, from below Maubeuge to Solre-sur-Sambre, occupying the villages of Hantay, Montigny, Bousignies, Bersillies, Colleret, Cerfontaine, and Ferrière-la-Grande.

The 1st Corps between Pont-sur-Sambre and Maubeuge, staying ready to debouch on one or other bank of the Sambre, as your Majesty has ordered.

The 3rd Corps at Beaumont.

The 6th Corps at Beaufort where it will have its headquarters, Fontaine, Limont, Eclaibes, Dimont, Dimechaux, Wattignies, Choisies, Damousies, Obrechies, and Ferrière-la-Petite.

The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Cavalry Corps, under the command of Marshal Grouchy, at Solre-le-Château and in the villages of Sars, Lez-Fountain, Offies, L’Epine, Chamoul, Clairfayts, Epmoy, Beaurieux, Grandrieu, Hestrud, Leugmes, Cousolre, Aibes, Quiévelon, Solrimes, Eccles.

The artillery parks and bridging equipment will be placed in front of Avesnes; we have left some villages vacant so that they can stable their horses.

The town of Avesnes is left at the disposal of Your Majesty’s Guard, as well as the villages behind and those in the Helpe valley on the right and left of Avesnes.

According to a report received from Count Gérard, the first division of the Armée de la Moselle will reach Rocroi on the 13th, the second on the 14th, the third on the 15th, the cavalry division and the artillery park also on the 15th. I immediately wrote that Your Majesty had ordered that he should be fully assembled at Rocroi on the 13th and that I had given him an order to this effect. I repeated the order to him to accelerate the march of his troops to make up for the time lost, and to continue the march of his Army by directing it via Chimay on Beaumont, where it will form the second line behind the 3rd corps and follow it on its march towards the Sambre as soon as that begins.

General Delort, commanding the 14th cavalry division, wrote to me from Metz on the 9th that his division would arrive at Mézières on the 13th and that he could not reach his destination at Hirson until the 15th. I sent him an order to march from Mézières via Rocroi and Chimay to Beaumont to reach there by the 15th and to place himself in line with the remainder of the cavalry. I have informed Marshal Grouchy of this.

And with that, for whatever reason, Soult sabotaged Napoleon's plans, and as we'll see later, enabled much much worse.


Napoleon left Paris the morning of the 12th and when he arrived in Laon, he found that Grouchy had not yet received any orders for the Reserve Cavalry. Napoleon immediately got Grouchy moving, but much of the cavalry would have to force march to the frontier.

This screw-up may be explained as Soult had been sent on a mission to Lille and had only arrived in Avesnes on the 12th, and thus it was that day that he sent out the orders for the 10th. Of course, VI Corps, the Guard, and IV Corps were already on the march.

Napoleon sending Soult on a mission prior to the campaign as garnered much criticism.

Regnault and others criticize Monthion for not picking up the slack in Soult's absence - and this continues to raise the interesting question of just what did Monthion do during the 1815 Campaign in Belgium? (Monthion, like Soult, was a member of the cult of silence, and there are few mentions of Monthion in memoirs etc.)

For some, forgetting to send Grouchy orders is Soult's biggest mistake or greatest sign of nefariousness. Despite my beliefs in Soult's conduct, this is the one situation that seems to me to be a mistake. Mistake or not, I have spoken with those that passionately believe that much of the French reserve cavalry entered the campaign very fatigued, especially the heavies, and that this played a role in the results of the campaign. Jean-Marc Largeaud is one. The capabilities of cavalry/horses and what type of attrition or performance degradation forced marches make on them as they enter into a demanding campaign - I simply have no clue. Regardless, whatever the truth, it doesn't necessarily help Soult's case that his organization screwed this up - but this is consistent with the conventional history : Soult was incompetent.

However, that does not offer a good explanation for why Soult changed Napoleon's intentions.

It also throws a shadow of suspicion on the earlier orders to Gérard, for Napoleon's intentions there were also very clear.

I researched the issue of Soult's rewrite extensively. Tomorrow, I'll post some of the explanations.

But, if one simply imagines where each division was on June 12th, and what the above orders did... well, then it may become very obvious why Soult did what he did...

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The Waterloo Campaign, June 12th *PIC*
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