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 Waterloo Archive: Atlas

 Waterloo Archive: Atlas

 Waterloo Archive: Atlas

Gareth Glover and Stephen Summerfield

Ken Trotman Publishing (2021)

220 pages, illustrated throughout with colour maps & contemporary sketches, portraits etc.

With today’s ability to access satellite imagery, GPS, and digital maps, it is hard to imagine how soldiers in the past were able to operate over unfamiliar terrain or in a foreign country. As recently as the early 1960s, much of Southeast Asia was unmapped.[1] When the American Army began operating in Vietnam some of the first units they sent in were engineers to survey the country and create topographic maps for the fighting forces to use. Two hundred years ago the British Army in the Peninsular had similar problems.

In 1808, there were no reliable maps of Portugal and Spain for Wellington and his Army. Eventually he began sending out exploring officers and by 1811 he had a reasonably good idea of the terrain in Portugal. However, in 1812 when offensive operations against the French in Spain began he had to start again. And in 1813, when the campaigns switched to northern Spain he had to send even more officers out, for this was new territory that had not been fought over. These exploring officers were to provide maps of the terrain, plus reports on the conditions of roads, the availability of forage, shelter, river crossings, etc. These terrain studies were  brought back to the Army Headquarters and the staff would use them to plan the movements of the army.

For the 1815 Campaign in Belgium and France, Wellington remembered the difficulty of operating and Portugal and Spain and made great effort to know the area where he was operating. Maps were collected from a variety of sources such as the 1797 Louis Capitaine maps of Belgium that were based on those of Count Joseph Ferraris, drawn between 1770 and 1778. Wellington also sent out Royal Staff Corps officers to the areas of operations to make further maps and terrain sketches.

Fast forward two hundred years. In 2019 Gareth Glover was visiting the National Army Museum when he came across a folder that contained field sketches of Belgium drawn by Captain William Major, and  Lieutenants Augustus Brauns, Samuel Perry, and William Dumaresq, all of them Royal Staff Corps officers. These drawings inspired Mr. Glover to produce a volume of contemporary maps to his Waterloo Archives series. For this project he teamed with Dr. Stephen Summerfield. Thus the groundwork was laid for Gareth’s 100th book.

The idea behind Waterloo Archive: Atlas was to provide the reader with an idea of what the terrain looked like in 1815 as seen by the commanders and soldiers. This is important because the Waterloo battlefield and the surrounding area has changed significantly over the past 200 year. Gareth and Stephen also wanted to have actual depictions of what the buildings looked like then, because not only the land changed, but also the buildings that were key terrain during the battles.

The Atlas consists of over 130 contemporary maps including:

83 hand drawn terrain sketches done by Wellington’s staff in the months before the battle. Some of these are just linear drawings noting major features, while other are quite detailed and include illustrations of the landscapes. These maps are colourised by Dr. Stephen Summerfield.

12 maps of the battlefield by Joseph Ferraris which were made 40 years prior, but are in color and shows the farm roads and buildings, contour lines, wooded areas, and fields.

4 maps of the battle drawn by Willem Craan a few years later. The value of these maps is not so much the depiction of the troop deployments, but of the terrain and the layout of various buildings, such as Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte.

9 battle maps drawn by participants, including British, Dutch, and Prussians

7 maps of the sieges of the French fortresses drawn by James Carmichael-Smyth, who was Wellington’s Chief of Royal Engineers in the Waterloo Campaign.

Maps of various cities. Some of these were from the  personal papers of Lieutenant General Henry Clinton who commanded the 2nd Division

The two authors restored many of the maps and added colour to them to enhance their key features. The Atlas also has more than 85 contemporary drawings of the battlefields and surrounding terrain. Many of them were done within days of the battle, including those of: Thomas Stoney who visited the battlefields of Quatre Bras and Waterloo shortly afterwards; Denis Dighton, Military Artist to the Prince Regent also visited the battlefield of Waterloo within a week of the battle. These are his early sketches which his later paintings were based and are considered more accurate than the paintings; and James Rouse who wandered the fields a year later and published his drawings in 1817.

These paintings of Hougoumont, La Haye Sainte, La Belle Alliance, the Farm of St. Jean, Quatre Bras, Genappe, Wavre, and others, as well as the terrain of the battlefields, show the reader what the buildings looked liked in 1815 and in many cases prior to their repairs and renovations.

 The Waterloo Archives: Atlas is a treasure trove of visual information on the 1815 Campaign. For the first time, the reader will be able see the terrain as it was two hundred years ago. It is truly a case of a picture being worth a thousand words! It is a must buy for those interested in the Waterloo Campaign.

Robert Burnham

September 2021

[1] Medieval cartographers would have put a notation “Here be dragons” on unknown areas of maps.