Napoleon Series Archive 2015

The Waterloo Campaign - June 16th Opportunity! *PIC*

Despite all the rewriting of orders that predated hostilities, Napoleon was presented with a tremendous opportunity. (In fact, this opportunity has so caught the attention of historians that the concentration is assumed to have been brilliant and largely ignored)

Because the Prussians had concentrated earlier than the Anglo-Dutch, they had a large army in an advanced and isolated position, but it was no match for Napoleon's forces. (of course, its isolation diminished with each hour as Wellington pushed troops to Quatre Bras)

Thus, even while learning that the Allies had forces on the left in front of Ney, Napoleon was certain he would win the campaign on June 16th. Because despite Quatre-Bras being occupied, as far as he knew, Ney still had overwhelming strength. And Napoleon would have been right... had Ney actually had those forces within his operation control. But Ney did not, and Ney had not been aggressively trying to push them all to Quatre Bras because there had been no urgency on the morning of June 16th. The urgency of the morning of June 16th is purely a product of hindsight, because we know if he would just move his butt, blah blah blah...

Regardless, as Napoleon surveyed the Prussians at Ligny, he quickly realized the opportunity. Pin the Prussians with frontal attacks, with the focus on his left, the Prussian right. This would suck in more and more Prussian forces to their right. At the same time, Ney would brush aside whatever was in front of him, and then dispatch at least several divisions down the Nivelles-Namur road catching the Prussians in the rear and inflict a devastating defeat. The map shows Napoleon's intended disposition for the army based on hist June 16 orders in the morning, and one can see how appealing it must have seemed.

And one should note, Napoleon did not call for I Corps, he sent commands to NEY, for Napoleon thought Ney had operational control of I Corps and II Corps, and thus Ney could determine what of his forces to use.

At no time did Napoleon ever realize that I Corps was actually closer to Napoleon than to Ney - and had he had a true picture of the dispositions of the left wing, it is almost certain his plan would have been different. And now the full extent of the treason that intentionally kept Napoleon misinformed on June 15th and 16th can be recognized. At some point, operating with wrong information, a devastating situation would develop. In this case, Napoleon fought the Battle of Ligny trying to execute a plan that was never possible because his forces were never where he thought they were.

Sometimes authors say VI Corps was "forgotten" in Charleroi. This is ridiculous. VI Corps was now the reserve of the army, and it was position so that it could maneuver on either wing. Janin, Lobau's Chief of Staff, was sent on a mission to check on the left, but was also told to inform Ney of the ability to call on VI Corps in case it was needed. Napoleon never lost sight of the fact that until the British army revealed itself, which would in turn reveal Wellington, that empty space to the west was a constant concern. In fact, many in the French army recognized this. VI Corps would be called once Napoleon felt Ney faced an army, because Napoleon was confident that Wellington would not both divide his forces and carry out an offensive maneuver.

But even with all these documented events going against Napoleon, he still had the opportunity to inflict a devastating defeat on the Prussians. So next, with an hour by hour analysis, we'll see how Napoleon and the French were robbed of a decisive victory by the continuation of misinformation that came from his Major General, Soult... and how much of this information was hidden during the lifetime of Waterloo Veterans, and how some of the most critical information has disappeared since it was first reported by multiple historians in the early 20th century.

And just another reminder, that the Reille-Soult family has released all of Soult's records from the Republic and the Empire up until the year 1814 - but continue to keep 1815 manuscripts, 'well-guarded' in the words of Paddy Griffith. I'm sure they have a very good reason...