Sunday, June 14, 2015

Prelude

Napoléon I in 1814 by Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier
"Do you see that, Hans, down there where the road comes out of the trees?" The Prussian captain was watching intently as in the distance men on horseback trotted out from a small copse of trees. It looked to him like a cavalry patrol. But whose cavalry?

"Yes,
Rittmeister, I see them. Cavalry?" The young trooper shifted nervously in the saddle, this was his first campaign. Rumor had it that the bogeyman himself, Bonaparte, was out there with his army.


"Obviously cavalry. But your eyes are much younger than mine Hansel, describe them to me."

"Well, they're wearing cloaks, grey I think, rather pale. The shakos look French, I think their horse furniture is, yes, green. Froggies Herr Rittmeister?"

"Froggies indeed young Unteroffizier Bennfeld! Now quick as you please, ride back and tell the Colonel. I think Boney's coming this way! Ride you rascal! Go!" The troop commander sent the corporal on his way with a swat on his horse's rump. The French were on the move, Bonaparte was coming!

Two hundred years ago this day, the French Armée du Nord was indeed on the march. It was do or die for the Emperor 
Napoléon. Defeat the English, their hirelings and their Prussian allies and perhaps Europe would be content to let him reign in peace.

Perhaps.

Since returning to France, I have swept all before me. Fat King Louis has scampered off to Brussels to hide behind the skirts of the English and we are on the move again. Can I do this? These people before me are nothing. I have defeated the Prussians many times, the one time I faced Les Anglais in the Peninsula, they retreated, fleeing to their damned ships. The rest of the time they faced my Marshals, who are nothing without me.

Nothing.



So Napoléon Bonaparte must have thought as the Armée du Nord moved north towards Charleroi. The hope was to insert his army between the Anglo-Allied army under Wellington, covering Brussels, and the Prussians under von Blücher around Charleroi.

Get between them, defeat each in detail and dictate peace from Brussels. That is my only real hope. My people are sick of war. Hopefully, so is the rest of Europe. England, Angleterre perfide, could not have limitless gold supplies. Since crushing the Austrians in Northern Italy, only English gold has kept the various coalitions in the field against me.

I wonder what the Emperor was thinking that day in mid-June, 1815. Did he really think he had a chance? All of Europe was arrayed against him.

The next few days would tell.

Three armies, one led by Napoléon Bonaparte, one of the greatest soldiers to ever take the field, the other two led by these men.

Generalfeldmarschal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher by Unknown
Commanding the Prussian Army in Belgium

Sir Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington by Thomas Lawrence
Commanding the Anglo-Allied Army in Belgium

All of Europe waited for the outcome. Would the Corsican be sent off once more? Or would the Continent again be plunged into ceaseless war?

History was about to be made...

8 comments:

  1. Thanks to you, Sarge, I've been reading a lot about yerp and their upscuddles. I'm starting to get the cast of characters and timeline suitcased in my mind. As for Waterloo, a fascinating battle which I could spend a lifetime studying, my thought is this. If you go to the trouble to throw a revolution and end up with an emperor marching on Moscow, maybe you've done it wrong. Here's your sign.

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    1. Just reread that. I do realize that Waterloo isn't in Russia.

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    2. Glad you like the historical posts Shaun.

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    3. I knew exactly what you meant and that was a pretty insightful remark.

      "Hey France! You're doing it wrong."

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    4. Lately, I'm not sure we should be calling the Kettle Black!

      Great post, I'm looking forward to great and wonderful posts as the battle bicentennial continues. (No Pressure)

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    5. You have a point there Juvat.

      Working that bicentennial thing.

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  2. “I tell you that Wellington is a bad general and the English are bad troops. The whole affair will be no more serious than swallowing one’s breakfast!”
    --N.

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    Replies
    1. Excellent quote!

      As we know, the Emperor was dead wrong on that account.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)