Military Subjects: Organization, Strategy & Tactics

The Dutch-Belgian Cavalry at Waterloo Archives: Dutch Sources

By André Develloet

1) About the Dutch-Belgian troops at Quatre-Bras

General Archives (ARA), Archives of State secretary of King William I 1813-1840, access nr. 2.02.01, nr. 6585.

In a report of Van de Capellen, in the night of the 16th of June, from Brussels to the King, he reported that while going in the direction of Nivelles, the informant saw the road blocked by many cavalry marching south but also many charts, wagons and caissons and isolated men, especially those of the Hussars of Boreel, moving to Brussels. He went as far as Waterloo where he encountered more wounded, who reported to him that

“the French in the middle of the afternoon had gained an advantage on our left wing, that our troops, especially the Hussars of Boreel, the Chevaulegers, the regiment of Orange-Nassau, some battalions of national militia, amongst them the 5th of whom we met some wounded and also the artillery have suffered much. They all fought very well, but had to withdraw before the superior force of the French cavalry, most of them lancers, after defending themselves valiantly”.

On the 17th of June, General Tindal, Inspector General of the infantry, reports to the King:

“Late in the evening arrived here Major Paravicini, Chief of Staff of the Brigade of Cavalry, commanded by General Van Merlen. This officer, who has received several sabrecuts in thehead, and furthermore a lancestab, gave me a quite unsettling report and said, while the fight was ongoing, to which apart from General Perponcher's Division, the cavalry brigade of General Van Merlen and some Dutch artillery as well as part of Hannoverian and Brunswick troops had taken part, a corps of enemy cavalry suddenly had found a way to fall upon the troops of your majesty from a direction where they weren’t expected and cause much disadvantage. This officer, who had received these wounds at that occasion, with which he presented himself to me, knew not to tell me anything about the position of HRH whom he believed was also among the mêlée…..[ ]. This morning at about 5 or 6 hours, a number of fleeing soldiers, mostly Germans, arrived in front of the city. This has caused some alarm for a moment, although, it was recognized since then that it had no meaning”.

Also on the 17th of June, Adjutant de Ceva wrote to General Tindal that he had spoken to Van Merlen at Genappe and that

“The Division of infantry has suffered much, particularly by a charge of cavalry. Our cavalry made a charge against that of the enemy although superior in numbers and has conducted itself perfectly. The losses had few consequences. The affair started at 15:30 hours and at about 4 or 5 hours the Brunswick troops entered in line…”

Chancery of the Military Order of William, file 6141, piece 1424:

[This file is full of examples about the Belgian 5th light dragoons..AD]

The chancellor notes the long lasting mêlée of the 5th dragoons with French cavalry and concludes that this regiment has rendered great service at Quatre-Bras and also behaved very well at Waterloo.

In piece 1424 various remarks are made:

“First Lieutentant de Messemaecre of the 5th dragoons has made with his platoon several fine charges”

“First Lieutentant de Renesse took over command of the squadron from his wounded Captain and brought it back into the fire with cold-bloodedness and courage. Sergeant-Major Raoult has done the same with a platoon after the officer had been wounded. Second Lieutenant d’ Ijve de Bavaij also has made several fine charges with his platoon and has even prevented the enemy cavalry to charge our pieces” [ of artillery…AD].

“Sergeant Leslenne of the 5th dragoons has liberated hios comrades at Quatre-Bras , made some French prisoners and was later hit by a musketball which broke one of his thighs in 2 places”.  

2) About the Dutch-Belgian troops at Waterloo

General Archives (ARA), Archives of State secretary of King William I 1813-1840, access nr. 2.02.01, nr. 6585.

In order to keep the King fully informed of developments, Van de Capellen wrote several letters on the 17th and 18th of June. At 22:30 on the 18th, he wrote to King william:

“….the cavalry has suffered the most. They reckon that she is reduced by half. The behavior of the (former Belgian) Carabiniers is especially hailed…”

At 11 o’ clock in the morning of the 19th Van de Capellen wrote to the King about the victory and how satisfied Wellington was with the conduct of the Dutch-Belgian troops and the Prince of Orange. In the evening of the 19th at 23:45 hours Van de Capellen had visited the Prince of Orange and reported that the Prince was particularly positive about the behavior of General Trip and concludes:

“He must have especially distinguished himself”.

Notes from General Tindal to Van de Capellen:

“After General Van Merlen had been deadly wounded, his only concerns were the holding of the position they defended and the hope that by the result of the battle the fatherland might be saved. He requested his adjutant, Captain de Bellefroid, to be so kind to send his personal belongings to his wife and son”

Another note from Tindal, undated but likely to be written on the 19th of June:

“General Collaert says that he is especially content about the conduct of the cavalry. He especially hails the Carabiniers. The Dutch as well as the Belgians have fought with an incomprehensible bravery. They have done three very brilliant charges. Also about the light cavalry he is very satisfied. He only remarks that the regiment of Hussars nr. 8 truly needed the new commander which it received recently, in order not to lose the military hierarchy entirely”

On the 20th of June at 22:30 hours, Van de Capellen reports to the King that

“Lt. Colonel de Brias of the Carabiniers, whom I saw today, is quite heavily wounded by a bullet in the leg. His regiment has in every charge cried “Vive le Roi” after the French cuirassiers had called upon them as their old comrades to join them”.

Chancery of the Military Order of William, file 6141:

Piece 1424. Chancellor notes about the 4th Dutch dragoons:

“This regiment has, in the number of decorations, which it has received, very benefitted, but also has, even while being present only at Waterloo, suffered very much. It is regrettable that because of the absence of the Colonel, who was heavily wounded, the first nominations have been done by another senior officer, who didn’t always agree with his Colonel.  There existed in that regiment a sort of jealousy between, as they would call it themselves, the Amsterdam and Utrecht squadrons and it is strange how some with excellent service records, were excluded from the nomination for the decorations…”

“The regiment has been exposed to many dangers. Lieutenant Baron van Alderwerelt Houtuinen has received several wounds: by a cannonball that shot his shako from his head and took away the shoulder of Dragoon Groenekamp, twice had his horse shot from under him, at one time by the shot of a Howitser, after the 2nd fall he was wounded on the leg, was told to leave the battlefield but refused and remained in front of the troop in the middle of the fire.”

In Piece 2531, a recommendation letter can be found by Colonel de Bruijn of the 2nd Carabiniers from Malines, dated 13 december 1816, about Horace Barazin,  trumpeter at the 2nd Carabiniers, who has distinguished himself

“in particular while charging in line upon the enemy , at the side of his superiors”.

In Piece 35, the chancellor notes in reaction to a letter from Von Baumhauer of the 6th Hussars dated 20 December 1819

“At the first charge in the evening, when Colonel Boreel had lost his horse, he (the undersigned) offered immediately with the utmost willingness to mentioned commander his own horse, of which the Colonel didn’t want to make use. The undersigned had the misfortune at the end of the charge to see his horse fall in its turn and was thus rendered out of service.”

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: December 2009

The Dutch-Belgian Cavalry at Waterloo Archives ]



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