Sunday, April 30, 2023

Quatre Bras - Advance to Gemioncourt Farm

Gemioncourt Farm
Soldaat Jean Decoster was posted with his section roughly a hundred paces to the south of Gemioncourt. He and his friend, Soldaat Denis Dupont, hadn't had a chance to go inside the farm complex, they knew the farmer and his family. Their battalion had been pushed forward as soon as the French artillery had begun to fire.

"Look at that, Jean, you can see the crops moving, there are Frenchmen in there!" Dupont cried out, the man was visibly nervous.

Decoster couldn't blame him, he was starting to question his own sanity for having joined the army. He guessed it was time to repay the King for the training, clothing, and food the army had bestowed upon them.

Soldats Pierre Delaplace and Roger Brassard marched up the chaussée side by side, yelling out "Vive l'Empereur!" with the other men in the battalion.

Their muskets at the ready, the two men from the south of France felt lucky to be marching on the roadway itself, near the center of their company. The flanks of the company spread to either side of the road and men were already complaining that the crops were grabbing at their gaiter straps and slowing them down.

The battalion was in column, its four center and grenadier companies each in line, one company behind the other. The light company was deployed well to the front, skirmishing with their Dutch-Belgian counterparts.

Brassard felt something pass near his head, he also heard the hiss of something fast moving. He realized with a shock, that what he'd heard was an enemy ball. He swallowed hard.

"Missed me that time!" he hissed at his compatriot.

Delaplace muttered, "Just march, Roger, march and be ready." He could see the gathering clouds of smoke ahead, they were getting near the enemy line.

Die Braunschweiger bei Quatre Bras 1815
Richard Knötel
The Duke of Brunswick went up and down his line, encouraging his men, many of whom were so young and inexperienced that he wondered if they would stand against the might of Bonaparte's army. He would know soon enough.

There! The French were there, the Duke saw a battalion in column, skirmishers to the front. They marched steadily, not quite within range, but the French skirmishers were already shooting at his men.

"Your Grace, please move around. Those skirmishers are aiming for you!"

The Duke was startled, he supposed that the French were shooting at him personally. Well, damn them, he wouldn't hide!

"There they are lads! Steady now, steady! Officers! Stand by to fire!"

The Duke nudged his horse to the rear of the firing line, no point in blocking the fire of his own men, he reasoned. Another ball hissed past, things were heating up!

Then he heard his officers give the command to fire. The volley was ragged as the men were nervous, but it was telling, before the powder smoke closed in, he had seen the front ranks of the French battalion on the road stagger, numerous men went down.

The fight was on!

Map of the battlefield
Brassard looked for his friend, but didn't see him. The command rang out to prepare to fire, so he focused on doing just that, no doubt he'd see Pierre shortly.


For the next few minutes, Brassard focused on firing and reloading, with the powder smoke billowing out with each volley it was hard to see anything. But his job was simple, stand in the ranks and do what you were told.

"En avant!²"

As Brassard stepped out, he felt the man on his right stumble against him, he looked and saw the man, fellow named Guillaume, fall to the surface of the chaussée without a sound.

Brassard couldn't stop to help him, couldn't do anything but shoulder his musket and march. So Brassard, experienced soldier that he was, did precisely that.

Behind him, on the road to Brussels, Pierre Delaplace lay on his back. His left leg shattered by a musket ball, Pierre had tried to tie off the wound, but it was too hard. The men marching past kept jostling him as he tried to stop the bleeding, his hands slippery with his own blood.

After a few moments, Delaplace felt an extreme tiredness sweep over him, so he had laid back. The powder smoke was clearing and he could see blue sky overhead. Perhaps he should sleep, then he could bind his wound.

Delaplace died on the road to Brussels on the 16th of June 1815.

"Back to the farm lads! There's too many of them!"

Decoster shook his head, there were a lot of Frenchmen moving towards them. He stood to go and watched as Dupont fired once more.

"Got the bastard!"

Decoster shook his head again, how in hell could Dupont tell if he'd hit anyone?

"Damned fellow has wasted the entire morning." The Duke of Wellington muttered under his breath as he snapped his glass closed.

"Your Grace?"

Turning, Wellington said, "Nothing Gordon, is Picton up yet?"

"Kempt's brigade is moving into place along the road to Sombreffe, Your Grace! His Hanoverians are already in place. Pack's brigade is coming in now!"

"Very well, I need that road held, it leads right into Blücher's rear. It looks like I won't be able to help the old boy directly this day, least we can do is keep the French at bay here! Come along now, back to the crossroads!"

Riding to the crossroads, Wellington looked to the Bossu Wood to the southwest. "What do we have in the wood?"

Gordon paused, then remembered an earlier report, "Dutch-Belgians, Your Grace. Perponcher's men. The Brunswickers are in the fields between there and the chaussée."

The Duke thought for just a moment, then ordered, "Message to Maitland, with my compliments, have them reinforce the Bossu Wood when they come up. I'll feel happier knowing that the Foot Guards were watching my right."

Gordon had already written out the order and handed it to another staff officer for dispatch.

Wellington shifted in his saddle and turned to Gordon once more, "I need to be informed immediately when new units arrive, have a staff officer with dispatch riders posted at the crossroads."

"Immediately, Your Grace."

Maréchal Michel Ney was happy with the progress Reille's troops were making. He regretted not having Girard's division of that corps present³, but as d'Erlon was in sight now, he was satisfied that he had the men needed to take the crossroads.

"Monsieur le Maréchal, have you given orders for d'Erlon to take the road to Thyle?"

A young aide-de-camp had been watching the head of d'Erlon's column move to the right, taking the road to Thyle and not staying on the main chaussée. Perhaps he wasn't fully informed of the Marshal's plan, but he felt he should call his commander's attention to it.

Ney pulled out his telescope, observing what the aide had just reported, he snapped the glass shut and bellowed, "What treason is this? Where in the names of all the saints is d'Erlon going?"



"Gallop over there, find d'Erlon, order him to report to me personally and halt his move to Thyle!"

"But ..."

"Now, Bosquet! Go!"

Chef d'escadron Louis Bosquet spurred his horse to the southeast. He had to wonder what was going on, it seemed that the Emperor's plan was falling into disarray.

Plans had a tendency to do just that as soon as action is joined. As Bosquet galloped, he wondered if anything had ever gone to plan? Certainly not in his experience.

But this campaign, only a few days old, was already going wrong.


¹ "Fire!"
² "Advance!"
³ They had been detached to serve with the right wing, at Ligny.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

The Battle of Ligny, Vandamme's Attack

Near Sombreffe, Wallonia, Belgium
Soldat Jules Jegou felt the sweat running down his forehead from under his shako. The day was growing hot.

He saw his company commander, Capitaine Jacques Pretre draw his sword and straighten his back. He saw the captain glance back over his shoulder and grin at the men behind him. Though Pretre looked nervous, he also looked as if was enjoying himself.

Jegou was not.

He was relatively new to the army, he had been among the young soldiers conscripted in 1813, one of the so-called Marie Louises.¹ He had turned 18 on the march to Leipzig. All he knew of army life was defeat. Many of the soldiers around him had been with the army since the glory days of 1805 and 1806. They welcomed the return of Napoléon. Jegou welcomed the chance to not be unemployed.

As the drums began to rumble and thump, Jegou thought that perhaps unemployment wasn't that bad after all. His heart nearly jumped into his throat as he heard the command, "En avant!²"

Seconde-Lieutenant Moritz Neugebauer heard the drums, faintly at first, then growing louder he heard the sound which had sent shivers down the spines of many of Bonaparte's opponents ...

"Vive l'Empereur!!"

Getting a tighter grip on his sword, Neugebauer barked at his men, "Steady lads, the Frenchies are on their way!"

Nearby, looking out of a shattered window, Soldat Horst Schwartzman gulped as he saw the first skirmishers. The French were indeed here!

"Make ready!" Neugebauer shouted.

Soldats Théophile Trudeau and Bernard Riqueti seemed to move effortlessly through the tall crops. Trudeau would hold his fire, Riqueti would shoot first.

"Ah, there, in that building! See them, Bernard?"

"Heh, I do my lad, I do."

Riqueti knelt and steadied his musket, aiming at an open window, he had seen the shadow of a man within. Though his smoothbore musket was no better, nor worse, than any other musket in the French army, he knew the idiosyncrasies of his weapon. He was consistently accurate out to a hundred paces.

There! He pulled the trigger, then immediately began to reload.

Schwartzman jumped as the man next to him, Karlheinz Meyer, gasped and then dropped to one knee, panting. Looking at him, Schwartzman could see the blood from Meyer's torn throat soaking the man's tunic and the floor underneath him.

"Get back on that window, Schwartzman!" he heard his sergeant growl.

Taking his position, he heard the order, "Feuer!!"

Trudeau gave a long, drawn out hiss between his teeth, then fell face first to the ground. Riqueti looked on in shock as his comrade lay there, dead. That sudden Prussian volley had struck home.

He heard his sergeant nearby, "Fall back to that line of trees we passed, lads. The squareheads are snug in those buildings, we'll need more men to winkle them out."

Riqueti stood and fired, hoping he had avenged his comrade's death.

Ernest Crofts
"They're dug in as firm as ticks in those villages, Sire."

The aide-de-camp had galloped all the way from Général Vandamme's position, his horse was lathered with sweat, the young lieutenant's uniform was as well.

"De la Bédoyère, is Gérard in position?"

"He is, Sire."

"Soult! Dispatch to Gérard, march now, Vandamme seems to be bogging down."

Turning once more to De la Bédoyère, the Emperor grinned, "Time to raise the ante I think. Lieutenant, ride back to Général Vandamme with my compliments, 'Press your attack, Gérard is going in on your right!' Go!"

As the young officer galloped off, Napoléon Bonaparte put his glass to his eye once more. He would probe these damn Prussians, then when he had their full attention, Ney would hit them from behind!

Not six miles from the Emperor's position, Chef d'escadron Louis Bosquet was once again trying to prod his commander to action.

"Monsieur le Maréchal, cannon fire to the east has been reported. The Emperor's wing of the army is in action against the Prussians. We need to move, the crossroads is being reinforced even as we speak." Bosquet was nearly frantic at the time being wasted.

"Where is d'Erlon? I won't move without him close by." Maréchal Ney was petulant this morning, out of sorts.

"His lead division is within an hour's march, he will be up soon enough to support our attack on the crossroads!"

"Calm yourself, Bosquet, I will not be rushed."

As Prussian and French soldiers killed each other not far away, the French under Michel Ney sat and ate their breakfast.

¹ See here.
² Forward!

Friday, April 28, 2023

Another Lazy Day ...

OAFS Photo
I was going to continue the Napoleonic saga, but it was just too nice out to buckle down and write anything. So ...

As you can see above, Spring has busted out. Some trees haven't leafed out yet, but close inspection reveals little buds getting ready. Our weeping cherry trees sprouted a meager selection of blossoms this year, you had to look close to see them.

I was concerned about that, but many other trees in the area that usually have a riot of flowers about now have nada, zilch, bupkis. So I'm thinking it's the odd weather we've had this year. Bitter cold at times (well, bitter for Little Rhody along the coast) and virtually no snow at all.

Climate change!

Well sure, it changes with the seasons, it changes over the eons, it changes because the number of variables involved are far too many and complex for we mere humans to calculate.

Hey, stuff happens.

Anyhoo, that's it for now, I'm in weekend mode. I will probably (no guarantees) continue the story soon.

Just not right now, I'm relaxing as if I actually was retired.


Thursday, April 27, 2023

We Interrupt Our Regular Programming ...

So at the daytime job, lots of software integration testing going on this week. During the run-up to this week I did something completely unlike me ...

I volunteered.

To go to work early on Monday and Wednesday, like get up at 0400 local, then be at work at 0530.

Computers needed to be loaded with software, databases cleaned, and generally get everything ready for our guys to demonstrate to the customer that things work as they should.

Which they do. Not perfectly mind you, this is a complex system and has its quirks, idiosyncrasies, and no small share of "bad ideas" that seemed like "good ideas" at the time. If you get my drift.

Anyhoo, did my duty, got things in a proper state to test on the two aforementioned days. Tuesday was a "normal" day, as will be today (as you read, tomorrow as I write).

Thing is though, I slept terribly on Sunday night and again on Tuesday night, which, given the early goes on Monday and Wednesday, left me in a state I can only describe as ...


So I'm pausing the Waterloo campaign for a day and taking to my rack early. (Last night as you read this, in a few minutes as I write this.)

Dang, I used to be so much better at burning the candle at both ends.

Of course, I used to be younger too.

I'll leave you with this ...

A bientôt, mes amis ...

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Ligny, a Misspent Morning

Looking north towards Ligny
It was early in the morning of the 16th of June, it was looking to be a fine day as the sun rose over southern Belgium. Soldat Manfred Klepper was looking out towards the south, he can see smoke from the French campfires. He can also hear the occasional musket shot as a lazy sentry cleared his weapon by the simple expedient of firing it in a "safe" direction. (Outside of Paris the previous year a man had been badly wounded by a sentry "clearing" his musket. Klepper always did it the approved way, by drawing the ball and charge as he had been taught. Slow but quiet and safe!)

"Hey, Manfred!" Klepper turned to see Werner Baumbach, another simple soldier like himself though of much greater experience.

"Hello, Werner. Looks like we have a fine day brewing." He nodded to the south, "As long as those fellows stay quiet."

Baumbach nodded as well, "The Froggies appear to be sleeping in today, I don't like it. Almost as if they're up to something."

"Do you think they'll attack?" Klepper asked.

"You can be sure of that, lad. They're probably waiting for the rest of their army to close up. Then they'll attack. Boney won't wait for us, he'll hit us when he's damned good and ready."

"De la Bédoyère, where is Lobau's corps?"

"Still crossing the Sambre, Sire. II and IV Corps are in place as is most of Maréchal Grouchy's cavalry reserve. The Guard is ready, though the Grenadiers are still coming in, the bulk of the Guard stands ready. The cavalry of Lefèbvre-Desnoëttes¹, minus your duty squadron is near Gilly. I have informed Maréchal Ney that they should be sent back to us when Kellerman's cavalry corps comes up."

"Very well, I will launch Vandamme at Saint-Amand, Gérard at the village of Ligny, Grouchy will mask the Prussian left, he is to demonstrate to pull Blücher's strength in that direction. When we are fully engaged, Ney should be in position to attack the Prussian right rear. Then we will have them. Have dispatches been sent to Ney?" The Emperor turned to Soult as he asked that.

"Yes, Sire. I sent three couriers shortly before dawn."

"Very well!" The Emperor clapped his hands together then said, "Now then, a bit of breakfast is perhaps in order!"

"The French don't appear to be there in strength, they certainly aren't in any hurry." Sir Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, snapped his telescope closed and handed it to an aide.

"We've heard nothing from Blücher all morning either, Your Grace." Lieutenant Colonel Sir Alexander Gordon pointed out as he noted the time on his pocket watch. Nearly ten of the clock.

"The French seem to be quiet for the moment, I've a mind to ride over to see the old Prussian in person. What say you, Gordon?"

"'Tis a fine morning, Your Grace. It might be a good idea to determine what the Field Marshal has in mind, should the French decide not to move today."

Turning to the duty captain, Wellington ordered the party to move to the southeast, along the road to Namur. He was nervous, it wasn't like the Bonaparte he was familiar with to waste time, yet it seemed that that was exactly what the French were doing. Turning to Gordon once more, Wellington spoke.

"Perhaps there's trouble in Paris? Not all of the French were happy to see Bonaparte return. Have we had any word on that subject, Gordon?"

"Not a whisper, Your Grace."

"Hhmm, most curious."

"With all due respect, Monsieur le Maréchal, we should move forward. The crossroads is lightly held at the moment." Chef d'escadron Louis Bosquet shifted in his saddle as he said this, Ney had been in an odd mood all morning.

Knowing that the morning dispatches from the Emperor had ordered the crossroads be seized, Bosquet couldn't fathom what le Rougeaud was hesitating for, they had more than sufficient numbers to take Quatre-Bras. And hold it.

"Not all of Reille's corps is on the field yet. We only have a single brigade from Kellerman's cavalry, and what's more, d'Erlon is still fumbling around trying to get his corps through Charleroi. You weren't in Spain, you have no idea of the way the English fight. There could be thousands of them concealed in every fold in the ground. They don't show their strength until you commit your own. I will not throw the campaign away for the sake of being in a hurry."

"But the Emperor ..."

"Is not here, Bosquet. We move when d'Erlon is up!"

"What the devil are they waiting for?" Decoster grumbled.

As luck would have it, their company was in skirmish order just forward of Gemioncourt. He would have preferred to be in the buildings, but having them just to the rear was comforting. They had a place to run to, if they needed to run. But so far the French seemed content to make and consume their breakfast.

Dupont sighed and looked at his old friend, "The waiting, it's hard you know? Gives a fellow too much time to think. Perhaps the war has been called off?"

"Not likely, not with Bonaparte still drawing breath. The delay could be a stratagem, lull us into letting our guard down and then striking." Decoster wasn't sure, for the moment he was content to bask in the sunshine. If the fighting never started, he wouldn't mind.

"Herr Generalfeldmarschall, a party of the English is approaching. A high ranking officer I believe, perhaps Wellington himself." The young captain of hussars had very good eyesight, the Field Marshal's aide, General August Neidhardt von Gneisenau did not.

He gestured for his telescope. Putting it to his eye he saw a party of men, most of them in red uniforms, but the senior looking man appeared to be in civilian attire. He didn't know what to make of that, then he saw their liaison officer with the English, Baron von Müffling.

Snapping the glass shut, he looked at Blücher and grunted, "It is Wellington."

Wellington thought the Prussians had a very good position, but for one thing. Most of their formations were standing in the open, certainly they had strong positions in the various villages, but the reserves were in plain sight of the French.

"I daresay my good man, if you stand out in the open like that, your men will be damnably mauled. The French are very good with their artillery. Why not tuck your reserves behind these small rises in the ground. You'll still have time to react when their infantry moves up."

After those words were translated Blücher sat up straight and with a confident look told the Duke, "Meine Jungs wollen ihren Feind gerne kommen. Wir verstecken uns nicht im Boden!²"

Wellington nodded after Müffling translated for him, "Well Sir, then you'll be damnably mauled."

Shaking his head, Wellington added, "Mind you, provided I am not attacked myself, I shall march to your assistance."

"Provided I am not attacked myself." Wellington snapped at Gneisenau as he spurred his horse and the party moved off.

Müffling apologized to a very red-faced Gneisenau, then followed Wellington back to Quatre-Bras.

Gneisenau began to speak, but Blücher lifted a hand to silence him, "I know how you feel, but trust me, Wellington will keep his word."

Gneisenau would not be silenced so easily, but as he started again, a sharp thump was heard from the French lines. Everyone turned to see that the French artillery had spoken.

The fight was on, regardless of whether they were ready or not.

"We will do our duty Gneisenau, this much I know!" With that, Blücher galloped down the line, exhorting his men to fight ...

"Heute kämpfen wir, meine Kinder!³"

Yes, today Blücher and his "children" would fight, and perhaps die.

As would many on both sides.

¹ Commanded the Light Cavalry Division of the Imperial Guard in 1815.
² My boys want to see their enemy coming. We will not hide in the ground!
³ Today we fight, my children!

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Moves and Countermoves

Near Thuin, Wallonia, Belgium
"Where in God's name is Gérard?"

The Emperor was furious as the day had not started well at all. The only corps which was on schedule was Reille's II Corps. Word had come in that they were across the Sambre and had destroyed an entire Prussian battalion near Thuin. But Vandamme's III Corps had gotten a late start when the single messenger carrying their orders had had a fall from his horse and had not delivered the message.

D'Erlon's I Corps was still mostly in France, Lobau's small VI Corps was in hand, as was the bulk of the Imperial Guard. But Napoléon knew that he had to concentrate, and quickly, before his enemies figured out what he was up to.

Napoléon had already torn a strip off of his chief of staff, Marshal Soult, for the incident with Vandamme's corps. He was looking about for someone to scream at when he saw a dispatch rider approaching. "Ah, perhaps this is news of Gérard!"

It was, but not good news.

One of his aides took the message and Napoléon noticed that the man went pale as a sheet as he read the message. "Well, what is it? Out with it man!"

"Sire, the commander of Gérard's lead division, Général Bourmont, has deserted to the Prussians. His division stopped dead in its tracks when Bourmont and his entire staff just left, without a word to anyone. The commander of his first brigade, Hulot, has taken command and is trying to sort things out, but ..."

"Yes, that should take some time." The men around the Emperor saw that he was struggling to control his temper.

"Soult, send a dispatch, TWO couriers this time, separate routes, to Vandamme, his corps is to press on to Charleroi and seize that town. Pass through Gérard's corps if and where necessary. Vandamme shall have priority! Soult, send the same to Gérard. I must have Charleroi!"

Soldaats Jean Decoster and Denis Dupont were on the move once more, to a small crossroads that both men were very familiar with, Quatre-Bras. They had grown up on nearby farms and both had enjoyed going to the crossroads as children and watching the traffic traveling through on the way north to Brussels and on the way south to Charleroi.

The road also connected Nivelles and Namur, the former place the men had expected to march to except for counterorders given by a Dutch general, now they were marching hard for Quatre-Bras. Word was already filtering in that the French were moving on the crossroads in great strength,

"I'd hold them at Gemioncourt, remember playing in the fields near there? The place is a fortress, we could hold it against any army!" Dupont always spoke in absolutes, he had since he had been a child.

Gemioncourt farm today, just south of Quatre-Bras
Decoster knew better, well-supplied and supported infantry could make a good stand there, he knew that. But alone in the farm complex? The French would surround them and drive them out with their very good artillery.

Decoster did allow that the general in question, Hendrik George, Count de Perponcher Sedlnitsky, knew his business, he had learned from the best, having served with the British Army for a number of years.

Still, both men knew that Perponcher was taking a risk, disobeying the orders of the great Duke of Wellington.

But hell, this was the Netherlands and Perponcher was a Dutch general who knew his troops and his country. Stop the French at Quatre-Bras and who knows what good things might come about from such a feat?

"Monsieur le Marechal, we should push forward. My scouts tell me that the crossroads is vacant at the moment. Push forward with what we have on hand and we've satisfied the Emperor's first day objectives!" Général de Division Honoré Charles Michel Joseph Reille was elated at the progress his corps had made since crossing the Sambre that morning. He was in an aggressive move and knew that Napoléon would agree. But Michel Ney, the Bravest of the Brave, Marshal of France since 1804 was, for some reason, cautious.

"We don't know what lies beyond the crossroads, my dear Comte Reille. Wellington's entire army could be marching there, your corps is still not fully up. What do you have at the moment? Two divisions? Some cavalry, perhaps a brigade of that? It is too soon, we must hold here, consolidate our forces and then move."

Reille shook his head, he was about to speak, then decided against it. He too had fought the English in Spain, they were very good at hiding their strength. Perhaps Ney was right.

Though II Corps had made good time, the men were straggling all the way back to the Sambre. They might not be concentrated until the morning of the 16th. After all, the men were tired, as was he, a good night's sleep and a good meal, then they would hit les Anglais, and they would hit them hard.

But in the morning, not now.

"Sire, the Prussians appear to be making a stand on a line running from Wagnelée, to Saint-Amand, then to Ligny, just south of Sombreffe. It's a fair position along the Ligne brook, the ground slopes up to their position. However, their right flank, towards Quatre-Bras is in the air. If Ney obeys his orders ..."

Napoléon interrupted de la Bédoyère with some excitement, "Yes, yes, we have them. Ney will hold the English and their Dutch allies at the crossroads while we destroy Blücher and the Prussians!"

"Soult, send to Ney, to seize the crossroads immediately then push north with II Corps towards," glancing at the map the Emperor pointed, "Genappes, then have him send d'Erlon with his I Corps down the Namur road. While I assault the Prussians with my Guard, d'Erlon will fall upon Blücher's rear. We have them gentlemen, we have them!"

De la Bédoyère added in, "Some reports also indicate that a fourth of the Prussian army, the IV Corps of General von Bülow is not up yet. Blücher will be fighting at a disadvantage!"

"Confirm those reports, Soult! Tonight we position ourselves, on the morrow we shall fall on the Prussians like a pack of wolves!"

Manfred Klepper looked across the fields lying south of the small ridge his unit was bivouacked on. For once Sergeant Pizzeck had taken pity on him, he had no duties this evening other than to clean his musket and his kit.

His eyes were still red from crying over the death of his brother, Wolfram. They had marched hard after the defeat at the bridge, but the French seemed content to come on slowly. The Prussians had had ample time to form along a new line of battle.

His battalion occupied a small village, so they would be fighting from cover once again. He preferred that to standing out in the open exchanging musket volleys with the enemy. Clear fields of fire as far as he could see.

He didn't give a thought to the fact that the numerous French artillery would also have a clear field of fire on his position. Their guns outranged his musket by a lot. But he was young, and today had been his and his brother's first battle since the skirmishes around Paris in 1814.

Klepper caught his breath and felt the tears start again, it had also been his brother's last battle. How was he going to tell his mother? His brother's body had been left behind to the tender mercies of the French. No doubt his brother would be thrown into a pit and buried without benefit of clergy.

Manfred Klepper stopped and wiped his tears away. He would worry about all that later. Tomorrow he resolved to kill as many of the French as he could. His brother would be avenged.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Big Week coming, Prep Work almost complete.

 Well, Chanters! It's Monday (or will be when this is published, so if the world gets destroyed between the time I'm writing this and then...well...Let's blame it on Beans! Yeah, THAT's the ticket!!!)

In ANY case, it's Springtime in Texas which means the temperature oscillates between freezing, then shorts and t-shirts, then afternoon downpours that would make Noah worried.  Had a hail warning last night as I went to bed.  The weather guessers said hail up to baseball size was possible.  Unfortunately, the "Clear the stuff you didn't want to unpack after moving into the new house out of the garage" has been on hold for quite some time now. Fortunately, the weather guessers were wrong.  Which is a double plus good thing, because even if we'd cleaned the garage, it's only a two car space.

That's right, Beans, MBD and MG are visiting and since her car is less than a couple of months old, my truck was almost certain to come in third in the in garage parking lottery.  

Just sayin'

So, are MBD and MG visiting for any specific reason, juvat?  Why yes, Sarge and thanks for asking as that is the subject of the post.

Yes, I'm desperate for one this week.

I believe I've mentioned before that MBD is "with child".  About 4 months worth.  Starting to show a little, but seems "Morning Sickness" starts around that time. Obviously, I'm no expert on the phenomenon, but having watched Mrs. J go through it twice and now MBD going through a return bout, I know enough to tread softly and answer "Yes, Dear" at every request.

Mom, Daughter and Grandchild #3 to be

That's worked well so far.

But,  I've mentioned that MBD and The Rev live in College Station in a large house his family owns.  While the majority of the time, it's just the three of them there, that changes on certain weekends in the fall.  Seems Aggie Football Fans put the "FAN" in fanatic.  The house opens up for family and friends coming to watch the game.  While the Football season is over for this year, another big event is happening next weekend.  The Rev's only sister is getting married in College Station this coming Saturday.  The house will be ground zero.

Gathering of the Clan in the College Station House


MBD has, I think, wisely decided that the chaos of the event will be extremely stressful for her and Grandchild #3 (gender as yet unknown, so Official Blog Callsign is still TBD).  So, she has ceded her housekeeping responsibilities to The Rev and transported herself, MG and future grandchild to the relative quiet of Rancho Juvat.  The 4.5 of us will travel to the wedding the morning thereof.

As I said, a wise campaign plan.

MG trying on her dress for the wedding.  Looks pretty good!


And, Mrs. J and I get to spend time with them.  So...Win/Win!

The major drawback to that napping thing is,  my office is MG's bedroom and at this point, I've been kicked out so she can have her nap, which shortens the amount of time I have to blather on about some subject or another.  Ah well!

Left with nothing better to do on my Sunday afternoon,  I think I will follow her lead and engage in nappage myself.

Yeah! I'm enjoying this Grandpa gig!  A lot!

Peace out, Y'all!

Sunday, April 23, 2023

The Bridge

"Patrol coming in!"

Wolfram Klepper turned his head at the shout and was rewarded with a growl from his sergeant, "Eyes to your front, Klepper!"

With nearly the same breath, Sergeant Hans Pizzeck ordered the men nearest the barricade to pull back a cart to make a path for what he could clearly see now were Prussian Uhlans

"Come on lads, put your backs into it!"

The cart, laden with rocks, was pulled back, giving enough space for the small six man patrol to pass. One of the riders looked down at Pizzeck and yelled, "The bloody French aren't but three minutes march from here. Bastards surprised us!"

Pizzeck shook his head, "Now put the bloody cart back where you found it lads! Prime your firelocks boys, the French are coming and they want this bridge!"

Capitaine Joseph Martin was the first man around the bend in the road. He could hear the rush of the Sambre and now he could see that the bridge he was ordered to seize was barricaded.

"Sergent-major Juin! Skirmish order, keep the last rank back as a reserve!"

Juin nodded as he directed the men to break up into pairs, he held the specified men back and had them form a compact two-deep line. This captain might know his business after all.

As the men began to move forward from cover to cover, they opened a desultory fire upon the barricade. One man firing the other waiting until the first man had reloaded before firing himself. They didn't expect to hit anything, the point was to keep the Prussians' heads down.

"Juin, stay with the reserve!" Martin shouted as he made his way forward. When he had reached a position where he could keep an eye on things, he turned and saw that his drummer had managed to keep up.

"Pierre, keep beating the pas de charge until I say otherwise, the rest of the battalion will be up soon and I want those square heads over there to think we're more than just a company!"

"Sir!" Pierre Desjardin barked as he began to pound out the beat. He noted that the sound was somewhat muffled, no doubt the head was damp. The weather had been by turns rainy and sunny.

"Damn it!" Martin saw one of his men fall to the ground, his comrade began to drag him back into cover, pausing briefly to fire in the direction of the barricade. The bridge was obviously well defended.

"I think I got one of the bastards!" Klaus Schmidt shouted out, almost immediately he grunted and fell onto the roadway, his shako flying away as he fell.

Manfred Klepper glanced at Schmidt as he loaded his musket. Schmidt was done for, his face was a red ruin.

Easing up, he saw more Frenchmen rounding the bend in the road, there was at least a full battalion moving up now. As he discharged his musket in the direction of the French, he could hear gunshots from behind. As he ducked down to reload, he could see the men in the houses behind the bridge laying down a steady fire on the French.

There were now a number of Frenchmen sprawled on the approaches to the bridge. But more were coming on fast!

"Pierre, sound the recall!" Looking back he saw that Juin was already gathering the men falling back from the bridge, he and the other sergeants were getting the men formed up again. He couldn't tell for sure, but he knew he had seen at least four of his men go down. They were still on the roadway, unmoving.

Martin moved back slowly, his drummer keeping pace. As he looked back at the Prussian-held bridge again, he heard a horse coming up behind him.

"How many, Joseph?!"

It was Chef de batallion Maurice Godet.

"No more than a company, Sir! But they are well-protected!"

"Not for long, nice work, Capitaine!"

Martin was puzzled by that remark until he saw something coming through, an eight-pounder from the divisional artillery!

"Scheiße! The bastards have brought up a cannon!" The man who yelled that out broke away from the barricade and ran back towards the houses lining the river.

"Get back here you bastard!" Pizzeck screamed at the man. Then he felt a slap on his shoulder. It was one of the pioneers.

"Better follow your man Sergeant, we've lit the fuses!"

But before they could move, the French cannon fired.

Manfred Klepper's ears were ringing and he was having trouble focusing his eyes. Why was his head wet?

One of his mates grabbed him by his cross straps and yanked, hard.

"Come on Manfred! The barricade is broken and the French are coming on fast!"

Klepper managed to get to his feet, he realized that he'd lost his shako. Looking around for it he saw it rolling on the bridge. Next to the body of his brother, Wolfram.


Slamming his shako on his head and slinging his musket, he tried to drag Wolfram back to safety. But as he looked closer, he could tell, Wolfram was dead.

"Fuses are all accounted for, Sir!"

Chef de batallion Godet nodded and thanked the man, turning to his battalion he gave the orders for the men to cross the bridge. The rest of the army could wait for his battalion, his men had paid the toll to cross the Sambre first, with their blood.

His face streaming tears, Manfred Klepper rejoined his unit in the upper story of a building not far from the bridge his brother had died defending.

The French were streaming across, the Prussians were getting ready to fall back towards their main line. Klepper looked out the window one more time.

He couldn't see his brother, there were too many enemy on the bridge, but there was one man who stood out, a French officer on a horse.

Klepper aimed in the officer's general direction and grunted with satisfaction as his musket kicked him hard when he fired.

When the smoke had cleared, and just before Sergeant Pizzeck had dragged him down the stairs to the back entrance, Klepper saw the horse, but no officer.

Godet gritted his teeth, the Prussian ball had torn an epaulette from one shoulder and had cut the skin underneath. When he had jerked back his horse had been startled and he had lost his seat.

His fall was broken by a dead Prussian soldier.

"Sir, are you all right?" Capitaine Martin was reaching down to assist Godet to his feet.

"It stings a bit, didn't do much more than break the skin I think. But it will take a bit longer for me to recover my dignity."

He grimaced as Martin handed him his hat. "Damn it, not an auspicious start. Unhorsed in a damned skirmish!"

Martin looked around as his battalion commander remounted his horse. He saw a number of dead and wounded men sprawled on the bridge and behind the barricade. They had lost a bit more than their dignity.

He looked up as Sergent-major Juin joined him, "We lost three men dead, Sir. Two wounded, neither too bad. The company is formed, looks like the battalion is on the move again. Shall we join them, mon Capitaine?"

"Mais certainement², my dear Juin. I'm sure our dear commander le Général Vandamme is already screaming at our division commander for being tardy. I'm sure IV Corps is already at Charleroi!"

¹ What the Prussians called their lance-equipped cavalry.
² Indeed.