Friday, June 30, 2023

Begging the Readers' Pardon ...

We interrupt this series so that the author can take a break.

A long week, I must work on Friday, oil change Saturday morning, there is no rest for the wicked I guess. (Truth be told, the oil change is at 1030, not exactly early, but any day requiring an alarm clock to be set is harmful for my peace of mind.)

Anyhoo, there was a bit of discussion in the comments yesterday regarding the uniforms of the period. Braid, plumes, tassels, fancy cords, and all the other paraphernalia which attracts many to this time period. Indeed, the uniforms were very colorful ...

On parade.

On campaign the men of the French infantry would be dressed as shown in the opening picture. Oilskin covers protecting their shakoes, only the wool tuft designating the company would be visible. Greatcoats of grey (sometimes beige or tan) covered the fancy uniforms. Those chaps in the picture are a grenadier company, the red tufts and epaulettes give that away. Also they have two crossbelts, line infantry had one (no sword you see). A few of the men are wearing the fatigue cap, which one French soldier described as making one look like a stepped-upon mushroom.

The line companies (four per battalion by 1812, one grenadier and one voltigeur - light infantry, company made up the remainder of the battalion, six companies in total) didn't have epaulettes, so they didn't have them on their greatcoats. The sixth company, the voltigeurs would also (usually) have epaulettes, of green or yellow or a mixture of those two colors. (They also had two crossbelts.)

The trousers were made of some coarse material which was loose and comfortable and normally over the gaiters. (Gaiters helped keep pebbles and the like out of the shoes, yes shoes, not boots.)

Now on parade you'd see the infantry dressed like this -

(Do chase that source for a very nice article, with lots of pictures, on French uniforms in the Grande Armée.)

The other branches also had their campaign uniforms which were dulled down and made comfortable (and cheap, those dress uniforms cost a lot!).

Add in the fact that the men campaigned in all sorts of weather, mud and dust would quickly reduce the wearer of a nice uniform to a rather dull grey creature anyway, why wear the good stuff?

How did you distinguish one regiment from another wearing greatcoats and oilskins on the shakoes. You didn't, unless the colors were unfurled, the regimental number (or name in the case of Guard units) were on the flag. But alas, the colors were usually cased until you went into battle.

Regimental numbers were on shako plates and buttons in the line and the light infantry. But in reality, due to the nature of the fighting in those days, you were seldom far from your regiment (and sergeants and officers!). The officers knew which units belonged to them, and they knew who they reported to. So quick identification of a regiment in the field wasn't really that important.

However, the shape of one's headgear could be very important. Up until the campaign in Spain British light dragoons wore the Tarleton helmet ...

A very distinctive form of headdress. So of course some functionary in London thought it best to change their head gear to a shako, very much like the one favored by French light cavalry. Wellington was very much displeased by that.

The color of a uniform (with the possible exception of the British and the KGL) wasn't much use in the swirling powder smoke, in bad weather/low light conditions. After all, blue, dark green, and the like tend to all look the same at a distance. Put greatcoats on 'em and good luck telling one unit from another.

Yes, there were many friendly fire incidents in those days, just like today. The fog of war is a very literal concept!

There were morale aspects to the uniforms, crossbelts made men look bigger at a distance, bearskins really made them look bigger, but did those frighten the enemy? Not unless the unit wearing that gear had a sound reputation. As one Neapolitan king said, when asked what color uniform he'd like his troops in, he is alleged to have said, "Dress them in blue, dress them in red, dress them in yellow, I don't care, they're just going to run away no matter what they're wearing." (I must note, the Italians who fought with Napoléon, who was after all King of Italy were quite capable. It isn't the man or the suit which makes a soldier. As Napoléon is alleged to have said, "There are no bad regiments, only bad colonels!")

So there some background information for you and some more reading here on Napoleonic era uniforms. (No, there won't be a quiz, but it might be on the final. 😁)

Enjoy, I'll be back soon with another episode, though truth be told, I am loathe to end the battle just yet, I'm enjoying the journey.


Thursday, June 29, 2023

The Crescendo

Charge de Cavalerie napoléonienne¹
Henri Louis Dupray
Brigadier Tomasz Kasprowicz was dismounted, checking one of Liliana's hooves, she had been limping earlier. He found a small stone which he quickly removed.

"There girl, that should help." he stroked the horse's neck affectionately and she nuzzled her rider in return.

Remounting, he heard the trumpets calling once again. He heard Soldat Jan Kolski mutter, "Drogi Jezu, nie znowu.²"

Kasprowicz looked over at Kolski, the man was riding a dragoon mount, he'd lost his own at some time during the charges. He looked terrible, as bad as Kasprowicz felt. Kasprowicz didn't say a word, he knew exactly what Kolski meant. The difference was, this time it appeared that the infantry was going up the ridge with them.

All afternoon the cavalry had flung themselves at the enemy guns and infantry squares. With each assault, fewer men rode back down the hill. Most of the heavies from both Milhaud's and Kellerman's cavalry corps had been drawn into the charges. Guyot's Imperial Guard heavies and then even his own unit, Général de Division Comte Lefebvre-Desnouëttes' Guard light cavalry had joined in.

From what Kasprowicz could see, there were no reserves left. Only the Guard infantry stood in formation near La Belle Alliance, waiting. Every other fresh body of troops had been committed.

Sous-lieutenant Hercule Benoit stood with the remnants of his battalion, he was nearing the limits of his endurance. He now commanded the grenadier company, all twenty-seven of them, all that were left of the one hundred and eleven men who had advanced into Belgium only four days before.

They had been fighting the English and their German allies in the orchard to the east of the farm complex. They had finally managed to drive them from the orchard. Some of the enemy infantry, Benoit thought them to be Nassauers from their green uniforms, fled up the ridge. The red coated English fell back into the formal garden, exacting a heavy toll from the French.

He had seen his brother, Jean-Pierre³, briefly in the morning. After chastising him for being a fool for rejoining Napoléon, his brother had gone ahead and returned to the army himself, to the same regiment he had served in before, the 12th Chasseurs à Cheval. He'd been promoted as well, from Brigadier to Maréchal des logis-chef⁴.

Sous-lieutenant Benoit had been busy fighting around Hougoumont all day and had not seen the massive cavalry charges earlier in the day. When the Emperor's brother, Prince Jérôme, had pulled what was left of his brigade out of the orchard, he had seen the hillside leading up to the ridge covered by the dead and wounded of the cavalry, men and horses. It had stunned him.

Now they were to go up the hill, to support what remained of the cavalry. Why had no one thought of this earlier? Even the greenest of the green knew better than to attack infantry, still in good order, with cavalry only.

"I wonder where my brother is now?" he thought.

Maréchal des logis-chef Benoit sat his mount some 400 paces from where his younger brother stood. He knew the fighting around the big chateau was brutal, he hoped his brother was still among the living.

This was his second horse of the day, his favorite, Cherie, had been killed in the last attack up the hill. His regiment of light cavalry was covering the flanks of the heavy cavalry. He'd had the misfortune to have a howitzer shell explode close by, which had eviscerated poor Cherie.

He had openly sobbed as he had dispatched the poor beast with his pistol. He had started to walk back to the lines when a comrade he'd served with at Leipzig rode up leading an extra horse.

"Jean-Pierre! Take this one!"

As he had mounted the small mare, another light cavalry horse apparently belonging to another chasseur regiment, he wondered what had happened to her former rider. As he and Brigadier Maurice Féret rode back to rejoin their unit, Benoit looked back and saw the many dead and wounded near the crest of the English ridge. No doubt the poor bastard was still up there.

Private James Woodhouse of the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards was lying on the ground. Their officers had bade them lay down to keep them relatively safe from the French cannon fire. His side of the field had not experienced the cavalry charges as they were posted up the ridge from the big chateau, Goomont he'd heard it called.

But guns from the units attacking the chateau had been shooting at the Foot Guards and causing some damage. So now they lay in the muck, awaiting orders.

He could see the officers walking about, which gave him confidence. As he watched one of the captains using a glass to try and make sense of things, his messmate, Harry Thompson, nudged him.

"'Ere, look at that cheeky young bastard Daugherty, I think he's actually asleep!" Thompson said with a grin.

"Let 'im be Harry, we might all be sleeping by tonight, and I mean the long sleep. Daugherty's young, first battle and all. Surprised he can sleep through all this racket."

Both men chuckled and went back to relaxing in the warm mud of the Belgian countryside.

Sergeant Fabrice Benoit, a very distant cousin of Jean-Pierre and Hercule Benoit, had seen the dark uniformed men advancing towards the rear of their position. He thought they might be Prussians, their uniforms didn't look much like the French uniforms, their shakoes were a much different shape and the cloth of their tunics was a very dark blue.

Were these their allies? Come to help them defeat the French, he certainly hoped so. He and his boys were very low on ammunition, a party had been sent back to find some. There were a lot of men moving to the rear Benoit noticed, not all of them wounded.

Again he thought of the irony of it all, he was Dutch, attached to a mostly German-speaking unit in the Dutch army, fighting against the French, who he had been fighting with not two years ago. What a strange world, he thought.

Generalleutnant Hans Ernst Graf von Zieten had his men moving into position near the small hamlet of Smohain. He turned his glass towards the English position.

"Hauptmann von Müller! Are the English retreating? Are we moving into a trap?"

Von Müller turned his own glass towards where the commander of I Corps was looking. He saw what his commander saw, men moving to the rear, some wounded, many looked healthy. The usual dodge of helping a wounded comrade to the rear, accompanied by four or five healthy men.

"It looks like the English are quitting the field, Herr Generalleutnant."

Von Zieten snapped his glass closed in a rage, "Recall the men, we must fall back so that we don't get caught up in this fiasco. Wellington has been defeated, that's the only explanation. Send a message to the Field Marshal, 'English retreating on the forest south of Brussels, recommend we fall back and regroup.' Got it? Off you go then Hauptmann!"

Within minutes, the Prussians that Benoit had seen advancing had fallen back out of sight. He thought that odd, for he could hear cannon fire to the south of his position. Who was attacking who in that direction? Why were the Prussians retreating? He began to consider falling back himself, but the French to his front seemed quiet for the moment.

"What the hell is going on?" he muttered.

Karl Freiherr von Müffling⁵ had received a message that the Prussian troops which had been tying in to the Allied left were now falling back.

"Was für ein Wahnsinn ist das?⁶" he had said aloud.

"Sir?" his British aide, Captain Harold Fisk, asked.

"Von Zieten's corps is in sight of the field, but now he's withdrawing, he has been told that we are defeated!"

Fisk was shaken by the statement, "But Sir, we are not!"

"I know. Come, we must ride to von Zieten and stop his withdrawal, if he does not come up, then we certainly are lost!"

Fisk spurred his horse and followed the Prussian. He thought to inform the Duke, but he and von Müffling were alone for the moment. Fisk wondered where all the other staff officers were. Little did he know, but Wellington's staff had been decimated this day. He was one of the few left upright on the field.

The trumpets sounded, the drums beat the pas de charge and another attack was launched up the British ridge just to the east of Hougoumont.

The field was torn and muddy, corpses and wounded men and animals were strewn about to make it hard not to tread upon them. But the French infantry shouldered their muskets once more, the cavalry drew their sabers and urged their tired mounts forward, many could only maintain a walking pace. The horses were nearly blown, the men exhausted.

Then a rider came galloping down the length of the advance, his hat lifted in the air, waving back and forth as the officer, an Imperial aide-de-camp, shouted, "Nous sommes sauvés! Voila le Maréchal de Grouchy! En avant mes braves! Vive l'Empereur! Vive l'Empereur!⁷"
Immediately shoulders went back, men lifted their chins, a thousand voices bellowed in unison ...

Vive l'Empereur!

The Armée du Nord went up the ridge, the bands played La Victoire est à nous, the men were uplifted. Then the cries were redoubled as many men began to shout, "Vive la Garde Impériale, les immortels marchent avec nous!⁸" French morale soared.

Up on the ridge, Wellington when was informed of this development, he galloped to the point where he assumed the French would arrive. Pulling out his glass, he surveyed the scene. Then he turned to Cathcart ...

"Damn the fellow is a mere pounder after all. Well, we shall see who is left standing. Alert the Guards, I believe Bonaparte means to try his luck here. Go now!"

"Your Grace!"

As Cathcart galloped off, Wellington turned his glass towards La Belle Alliance. He saw the Imperial Guard began to move, for just a moment he felt doubt. Then it passed and he continued to lead his army.

"Come, Copenhagen, let's move to our right a bit more."

As he did so, the men began to cheer, something which always irked him, but for now he'd let them cheer, he doubted that many would live to see the sunset. But he had been informed that the Prussians were in action on his left and were also attacking Bonaparte's rear near Plancenoit.

He stroked his horse's neck and said, "No matter what old fellow, we did our duty this day."

¹ "Charge of French cavalry." Though this painting is not specific to Waterloo, to my knowledge, and it would be unusual for mixed types of cavalry to be charging all together like this, it's a nice image of charging French cavalry.
² Dear Jesus, not again.
³ He started the story as Fabrice Benoit, then I went and gave one of the allied soldiers the exact same name. Seeing the first Fabrice had only a brief mention, I changed his name to Jean-Pierre. Yes. I should fire my editor. (I had to change his brother's name - Pierre became Hercule - as well. Geez ...)
⁴ Cavalry equivalent to a sergeant major in the infantry. For those completely confused with French ranks, see here.
⁵ He was the Prussian liaison officer with Wellington's headquarters.
⁶ What madness is this?
⁷ We are saved! Here is Marshal de Grouchy! Forward my braves! Long live the emperor! Long live the emperor!
⁸ Long live the Imperial Guard, the immortals march with us!

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

The Crisis

Chateau Frischermont
The fighting on Wellington's left flank, centered around the small hamlets and farm buildings of La Haye, Smohain, Papelotte and Frischermont, had surged back and forth since d'Erlon's attack earlier in the day. It seemed to the defenders that the French were not that serious about taking the area. As if they were simply keeping the defenders busy while the main event was going on near the center of the Anglo-Allied position.

Sergeant Fabrice Benoit was angry, French infantry had driven them out of the small hamlet of Smohain once again. As he took a head count of his file, he noticed that Korporaal Oliver Van Schepdael was nowhere to be seen.

"Van Roy, where's Van Schepdael?"

"Dead, Sergeant, he was covering us while we pulled back from that wrecked barn. Lucky shot from a voltigeur hit him in the back of the head, I saw it, no possibility of him surviving that."

As Benoit looked around, Van Roy continued, "Tijs Desramaults and Tom De Greef were killed as well, what you see is all that's left."

Soldats Matthieu Carton, Bram Van Roy, and Daan Goossens were still in shock from the death of their corporal, and friend, Van Schepdael. But there was no time for mourning as the drums were calling them to fall in once again.

Kapitein Hendrik Dujardin, their company commander came up, "All right lads, we're going in again. Don't stop to fire, go straight in with the bayonet."

Some of the men looked panicky at that thought, but Benoit told them, "They're as tired as you are, one more push and we'll throw them out into the fields."

As the men fell in, Dujardin heard cannon fire to the east, another French contingent? They'd best drive the Frenchmen out of Smohain, he didn't want to be in the open if those were French guns!

Their officers were rushing the men forward, though the Prussian troops were exhausted, the sound of fighting to their front gave them a spark.

"Come on, men! Push on, we're on the French flank and the English are still holding their ground! Push on!"

As the troops surged forward, a band to the rear started playing the Yorcksher Marsch, written by the great Beethoven himself. Hearing the march, Sergeant Hans Pizzeck felt a surge of pride and cried out, "Death to Bonaparte!"

As the men repeated that cry, the battalion crested a slight ridge, there, to their front, not 500 paces away, stood French cavalry.

The battalion hesitated until the officers began to shout that they were pickets only, and even as they shouted that, the French troopers began to fall back on their supports, still out of sight to the rear.

Pizzeck, for a brief moment, desperately wanted to vomit, the French cavalry at Ligny had nearly killed him, all of the men he had started the campaign with were now dead. Soldat Manfred Klepper had died just a day after his brother Wolfram. At least thirty other men from the company were still missing. Pizzeck just knew that they were dead, or in French captivity.

As the company marched forward, Pizzeck muttered under his breath, "Bitte Herr Gott, lass mich heute meine Pflicht tun.¹"

"Say a prayer for all of us, Sergeant!" one of the men cried out.

"I will, lad. I will."

The French fell back even faster than they had advanced. Benoit and his men were back under cover, but not without cost, Soldats De Gieter and Duquesne had fallen during the attack. De Gieter, though badly wounded, still lived. Duquesne was dead.

Two men had carried Duquesne into the building, thinking he might still be alive. Benoit had ordered the two to take their positions at the loopholes in the broken wall facing to the southwest.

He checked on Duquesne, his lower jaw was shot away, the man was dead, without a doubt. He hissed under his breath, "Godverdomme Bonaparte.²"

Soldat Goossens looked with surprise at his sergeant, after all, Napoléon himself had pinned the cross of the Legion of Honor upon Benoit's chest after Borodino. But thinking of his dead comrades, dead because of the ambition of but one man, Goossens had to agree. Better that Napoléon had never been born.

La Haye Sainte had fallen, Major von Baring and a handful of survivors had scrambled up the ridge to rejoin Wellington's main defensive line. They had fought to the last cartridge and had then resorted to bayonets, musket butts, even fists, but to no avail, the French were too numerous.

Though the fields surrounding La Haye Sainte were choked with French casualties, they had succeeded in seizing the farm. Already they were opening up on the ridge, causing casualties in units that were already shaken by French artillery fire.

An entire battalion of Hanoverians had been cut to ribbons in an attempt to succor the garrison of La Haye Sainte. Colonel Ompteda, the commander of von Baring's brigade had himself been killed when the unit, in line, had been attacked by French cuirassiers.

Many men in the Anglo-Allied army were beginning to glance nervously over their shoulders to the rear and what they perceived as safety.

Though the massive attacks by the French cavalry had been driven back multiple times, it forced the men to stay in square. Every time the cavalry pulled back, the French artillery would open fire again. Many of the interiors of the squares were like hospitals, the dead were thrown out, while the wounded were dragged in.

Many survivors recalled seeing the same French cavalrymen over and over again. The French couldn't get to them and the infantry wouldn't fire, not wanting to throw their fire away and perhaps give the French the chance to charge home. A bloody stalemate ensued.

Eventually the cavalry drew back, just below the crest of the ridge. Then the French guns would open up, killing more of the infantry. A British captain had seen a Brunswick square beginning to collapse, the officers and sergeants were literally shoving men into the gaps left by cannon fire. He wondered if it were possible to have a battle where no one survived.

The situation was desperate.

The Duke of Wellington was anxious, though he didn't show it. As he observed the French cavalry fall back yet again and saw his men being slaughtered by artillery, he thought of Brussels and England. If he were defeated this day ...

He shook his head and called out, "Gordon!"

Another aide, a man he barely knew, road up, "Your Grace, Colonel Gordon has been grievously wounded, he has been taken back to Waterloo."

"De Lancey!" The Duke looked around, then he remembered that De Lancey had been sent to Lord Hill.

"Your Grace, I'm afraid that Sir William has fallen. Gravely injured, the surgeons fear that the wound is mortal."

Wellington sat his horse for a long moment, then turned, "My apologies, what is your name again, Sir?"

"Cathcart, Sir. Lieutenant George Cathcart of ..."

"Quite. Now if you would, ride over to General Cooke and inform him that the French seem to be gathering another force of infantry across the valley. I believe he might be the target of that attack."


Général de Brigade De la Bédoyère took the hastily scribbled note from the officer sent by Général de Division Baron Simmer, commanding the 19th Infantry Division, part of Lobau's VI Corps, part of which was deployed forward of Plancenoit.

De la Bédoyère read the note again, then crumpled it up and stuck it in his valise. Riding closer to the Emperor, he waited.

When Napoléon noticed him, he turned to his aide and smiled, "What is it my dear De la Bédoyère?"

De la Bédoyère leaned in very close and whispered to the Emperor, "Sire, it is the Prussians, they have arrived in force on our right flank, nearly in our rear."

"Smile, De la Bédoyère, there is still time to win this battle before the Prussians can intervene. Where are they now, certainly not within cannon range?"

"Enemy shot are already falling in Plancenoit, soon they will interdict the road back to Charleroi.'

Napoléon smiled again, but he felt something deep in the pit of his stomach. Was it panic, or perhaps something he had eaten for breakfast? The Emperor realized that their chances for victory were getting smaller and smaller the more the sun dipped to the west. One more effort, if he could just rally the men to drive Wellington from the field.

"Sire, the men will hear the Prussian guns ..."

"Enough!" the Emperor snapped.

"Soult! My compliments to Général Drouot³, he is to prepare the Guard to advance, also, have him send me a battalion to reinforce Lobau, if needed."

"A single battalion, Sire?" Soult looked uncomfortable, he would have called for at least a brigade.

"Do it!"

As De la Bédoyère sat his horse, in despair at this horrible turn of events, the Emperor turned to him.

"Time to boost the men's morale."


"Spread the word all along the line, Grouchy is here!"

"But Sire, Maréchal Grouchy is nowhere near ..."

"At once, the men don't know this, by the time they do, Wellington will be crushed. I will send the Young Guard in to hold Plancenoit, and if need be a battalion of my Old Guard. In the meantime, once the men begin advancing again, I will throw the rest of my Guard at Wellington's center!"

Napoléon had one more throw of the dice, it was time to gamble, time to trust in his destiny once more.

Surely the Young Guard and the VI Corps could hold the Prussians long enough for his Old Guard to pierce the English center. Ney reported that the enemy were wavering, men could be seen fleeing to the rear, La Haye Sainte had fallen. It was time to strike, time to send the eagles forward.

To victory, or death!

¹ Please Lord God, let me do my duty today.
² God damn Bonaparte. (Dutch)
³ In overall command of the Imperial Guard at Waterloo.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Meanwhile, to the East ...

Capitaine Joseph Martin was concerned, the men were grumbling, which wasn't unusual, what was unusual is what they were grumbling about.

As his company marched north towards the town of Wavre, in concert with the other units of Maréchal Emmanuel de Grouchy's wing of the Armée du Nord, they had passed by a disconcerting scene.

There, beside the road in full view of the troops, Maréchal Grouchy was involved in a heated argument with his two infantry corps commanders.

For a few hours now, a massive cannonade could be heard to the west. Everyone in the column knew that it was the Emperor's wing of the army, apparently engaged in action. A major action by the number of guns in action.

"Monsieur le Maréchal, we must march to the sound of the guns!" insisted Général de Division Dominique Vandamme, commanding the III Corps of the Armée du Nord.

Maréchal Grouchy turned to Vandamme and quietly asked, "So, you see fit to take command of this wing, my dear Général? Might I remind you that the Emperor elevated me to the Marshalate, not you. The Emperor gave me the command of this wing. Not you. What part of that are you having trouble understanding?"

Vandamme looked as if he was about to burst, when Général de Division Étienne Gérard, commanding IV Corps, stepped between the two men. "Gentlemen, the Maréchal is correct, he commands here. However, Général Vandamme makes a good point. The Emperor is in action against Wellington and his army, the Prussians are somewhere ahead of us. Perhaps we could send two of Vandamme's divisions to support the Emperor?"

Grouchy sighed, "My orders, gentlemen, are quite clear. We are to pursue the Prussian army and prevent them from marching to Wellington's aid. I have had no intelligence regarding Prussian movements other than that they are falling back to the north, towards Wavre, not Brussels. I intend to obey those orders and so shall you both."

Vandamme began to sputter, Grouchy interrupted him, "If you disagree, my dear Général, perhaps you should return to Paris and I can find someone else to command your corps."

Vandamme controlled himself and turned on his heel, "Very well, Monsieur le Maréchal, but I will not answer to the Emperor for failing to support him." he shouted back over his shoulder as he stormed off.

As Vandamme mounted his horse and trotted off, Gérard made to speak, Grouchy lifted a hand, "Enough, return to your corps, I am expecting our scouts to return soon with information of the whereabouts of Blücher. In the meantime, feel free to dispatch a courier to the Emperor and state your views. I'm sure you will articulate them better than your hotheaded colleague."

"Have we had no word from the Emperor?" Gérard wanted to press the point.

Grouchy gestured impatiently to his chief of staff, who knew immediately what his marshal wanted. He dug into his satchel and produced the message they had received from Soult late last night. Grouchy snatched the form from his chief of staff and pointed to the relevant phrase in the order ...

discover the intentions of Blucher and Wellington, if they intend to unite their armies to cover Brussels and Liege and if they intend to give battle.

"As I have not discovered this, I intend to maintain this march until we come up on the Prussians or we discern that they are moving to the west, to perhaps join Wellington's force. Until such time, we move on Wavre!"

Martin shook his head as he thought back to the angry exchange between their corps commander and the Marshal. Though he didn't know the specifics of the exchange, the men were suspicious. They barely trusted their officers though they were passionate about the Emperor himself. The army had been assembled far too hastily.

Martin looked back over his shoulder as he heard the word "trahison¹" muttered by someone behind him.

"Soldats! If I hear that word again I shall be most upset. You have fought well up until now, do any of you think you know better than the generals? We have our orders, there is no treason here, only in the minds of those who would upset the Emperor's plans by not obeying!"

"But Sir, the Emperor has often said that each soldier carries a marshal's baton in his knapsack!" The man who said this was young, a single campaign under his belt.

"I have inspected your knapsack, Louis, there is no marshal's baton in there, in fact, you're missing your extra shirt and trousers. Would you command in your underclothes?"

The company broke out in laughter at the look on young Barbeau's face. The crisis had passed, for the moment. But the men were impatient for victory, they seemed to see treason behind every little setback.

Martin shook his head then called out to the battalion's musicians, who were marching just behind his company. "Give us Veillons au salut de l'Empire"

That should take their minds off of things, Martin thought to himself.

Awaiting Grouchy's force along the river Dyle, in the town of Wavre and stretching down that river in both directions, was a single Prussian corps, perhaps 20,000 men. The rest of Blücher's army was marching hard on Mont St. Jean. The Emperor had already seen their leading elements.

If only ...

But Grouchy was determined to obey his orders. At all costs.

¹ Treason.

Monday, June 26, 2023

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

 A little bit of music to get all y'all into the mood.

Liked the movie back in the day.  But...

This post has nothing to do with gunslingers.  Rather, it's been a week to remember.  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly put in their appearances.  In short, it was a very tough week. 

So...To put things in the proper categories.

The Good

All in all, it was a pretty great (though tough) week.  Got to go on a little get-a-way vacation on a ship with three of my favorite ladies.  (AKA Mrs. J, MBD and Mg) .  Set sail out of Galveston on Royal Caribbean (more to follow) on a 5 day cruise to Costa Maya and Cozumel.  Been to both many (many, many) times, but time with my ladies....So, a good thing.  

First, we got some good news.

Arrived at MBD and SIL's house in College Station.  She was just pulling a sheet of Chocolate Cookies out of the oven.  Offered us one.  In addition to the chocolate chips, there was also Blue M&M's mixed in.  Me, being not overly astute, enjoyed the cookie, but did not pick up on the nuance.  Mrs. J however, did and after a punch on my shoulder conveyed the message to me.  

We are soon to have a Grandson.  Thank you, Lord!  We will share middle names.

The best part of "The Good" was "hanging with my Babes!" on the cruise.  We had a blast!


The Bad

So, we're on board,   Me, Mrs. J, MBD and MG.  It's June in Texas, it's hot.  Unfortunately, MG is not completely potty trained, so she can't go into the swimming pool.  I got that.  However, I don't get why other children of the same age and diaper expertise level are allowed.   Could it be...some folks play by the rules, others don't believe the rules apply to them.  Who knows? (Ok...I do. More info to follow.)

All that having been said, Mrs. J  went out of her way in making sure we all had fun.

Turns out  the deck does pretty well at having a one person pool. Yeah, we had a great time with the pool.  Unfortunately there were additional complications.

You may have noticed in the above, one of her feet is wrapped in a plastic bag.  Well..."The Bad" had put in his first appearance.  The morning we left for the Port, MG was strolling around the back yard barefoot.  You may have read that Texas is under an extreme heat wave.  Unfortunately, MG stepped on a piece of black rubberized plastic that had been solar heated by the Texas Sun.

Second degree burns on your feet are officially "Not Fun!"

Spent a couple of hours trying to decide whether to sail or not.  The decision boiled down to if MBD and MG stayed, it's MBD and SIL, so...It's just the two of them to care for MG. But, SIL has to be at work, so effectively it's MBD by herself.   If they go on the cruise, it's MBD. Mrs J and I to take care of things.  So, We went.  

Worked great, by the way.  MG did a little fussing when the bandages were changed, but...not too bad.  She did a little walking on her heels, but we changed the bandages daily and she adapted.  Win/Win.


First stop on the cruise was Costa Maya.  Got off the boat, headed into the VERY small town.  Found a margarita bar (Hard to believe!!!) and ordered a three some.

Folks...I have discovered the only place on Earth where Margaritas are "undrinkable".  Good Lord! Apparently, they didn't use lime and most likely not Tequila either.  We were back on the boat within an hour of leaving it.  Went to the onboard bar to refresh our palates on what a Margarita should taste like. 

But...We've got those cool palm tree glasses to remember it by.
Another part of "The Bad"...We've cruised a lot of different Cruise Lines and been on Royal Caribbean  quite a few times.  Top of the list of our "Best Cruise Lines" is Silver Seas for Ocean cruising and AMAWaterways for river cruising.  On the other extreme, Carnival is by far the worst.  It's target market appears to be folks that will get very drunk, very fast and stay that way for the duration of the cruise.

We will NEVER cruise on Carnival again.

Royal Caribbean has been somewhere in the middle of the top half.  However, on this particular cruise it appears that a large portion of Carnival passengers upgraded.  To quote a movie, "...Drunk and Stupid is no way to go through life."  

These were also the folks that took their diapered children into the big people's pool.  No, Beans, upon noticing that, I elected to not go swimming. We may be re-evaluating our allegiance to Royal Caribbean based on this cruise.
 However, as we're waiting for the boat to sail, we get a message from LJW asking us to call her ASAP.
Well...Nothing good is going to happen after that.  We call.

Apparently a VERY large storm has blown through our area.  Rainfall has flooded our road and made our normally dry wash impassable.  It's hailing, somewhere between golf ball and base ball sized hail.  
All those white spots are hail impact.  It's amazing we still have windows.

Additionally, our neighbor's fence has blown down blocking our drive.

Which wouldn't be a problem since one can't (and shouldn't) cross the (non) dry wash.  Except...Shortly thereafter we get a call from our guests.  They had gone into town and on return were in our drive when the wash flooded.  Fortunately, they stopped prior to entering it.  Right about then was when the fence blew down, trapping them.

Not being able to teleport myself to the rescue, I called our neighbor (it was his fence) and explained the situation.  He said he'd go check on it.  Meanwhile, Mrs. J is on the phone with the guests, partially relaying status updates and mostly trying to allay panic.  

She's extremely good at that sort of thing, thank goodness.
Apres le deluge and after the fence has been moved.  The mud line across the road is about 30" deep and water was moving quite fast.  So getting out was "sporty".

Takes about an hour, but our neighbor gets his fence clear enough that the guest can back out and head into town.  We refunded their complete stay.  

5 Days later when we got home, the rain gauge looked like this.

Story was that was in about 30 minutes.

When we got home, our normally dry stock tank looked like this.
When dry, it's about 15' below this level

And it flooded our road.  So, staying put was inconvenient, but wise.
Bad. but not as bad as it could have been.

The Ugly

Mrs. J did a great job organizing the cruise.  Managed to put us up in a pretty nice suite, so all of us could be together.  It was pretty high up and nicely located near, but not close, to elevators and stairs, so getting around the ship was relatively easy.


Third night of the cruise, we've gotten MG settled down and sleeping.  The rest of us are getting that way, when the doorbell rings.  (Yeah, Royal Caribbean has doorbells on rooms).  I get up wondering WTF would the ship's crew need us for.

Opened the door, nobody there.  

Well, that's a piss-me-off.  Go back in the room, MBD is trying to settle a crying MG down and get her back asleep.  It takes a while.

Next night, same thing.  Now, I'm really pissed.  The next morning, I head down to look for someone to yell at inform of our displeasure.  I'm walking down the stairs as the elevators are mobbed with folks leaving the ship on excursions.  I see a crew member with shoulder braid and stop him and ask him who do I need to see to get help with this issue.

He answers "Me".  Ok, I think I got the head of security.

Nope, I got the Captain.  I explain the situation to him and that I've got a young injured Grand Daughter and a pregnant Daughter and they need their sleep.  He says he'll take care of it.

Final night aboard, around Midnight, the doorbell rings again. Again, nobody there.  Now, I'm furious.  I immediately leave the room in my gym shorts, t-shirt and bare feet (Yes, Beans, I dress up for sleeping) and head downstairs to the main lobby.  As I round the corner, I run into a security officer.  I explain the situation.  He asks me what I want done.  I mention that I'd like to see the perpetrators hanging from the yardarm in the morning.  He says "Well that probably won't happen, but they're in our office awaiting their parents arrival." 

Turns out there was a closed circuit camera about 10' from our door.

I mentioned that I hoped they and their families will be black listed by the cruise line from future travel forever.  We'll see.

Pour encourager les autres!

Hence, "The Good, The Bad, The Ugly" and, in this particular case "The Good" wins!

Peace out y'all!

Addendum 1.

Miss B checked into the Hospital today for a scheduled minor surgery.  Mom and Dad and the Dr's agreed that it was time for her nasal feeding tube to be replaced with feeding tube inserted into her belly.  She had reached the point where she was fussing with the tube in her nose and managing to occasionally pull it out.  As one might suspect that could be a problem, so...She'll be in the hospital for a couple more days.  Mom is staying down in San Antonio with her.  Waking up post-op, she seems to be doing well.  Well see.  Mark this one up on the Good side.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

The Gun Line

Chef d'escadron Augustin Couturier gasped in shock as the squadron to his front crested the ridge and was almost immediately enveloped in a cloud of powder smoke. The sound of canister hitting the armored breastplates and helmets of the men to his front was like hail on a tin roof. The screams of the horses and men, many in their death throes, nearly unnerved him.

A solid shot hissed past him, taking down the mount of the man directly behind him. He thought to check his squadron's advance but knew it would only lead to confusion, yelling back at his trumpeter he had but one thought, "Sound the charge!"

The horses were willing, Couturier felt his own mount try to break into a canter, but the beast was already tired from struggling up the increasingly muddy slope. The the horse shied and nearly threw Couturier from his saddle.

Looking at the ground, he saw dead and wounded men and horses everywhere, the leading squadron of his regiment had been torn to red ruin by British cannon. A number of his men surged past him, they were letting their emotions get the better of them.

"Rally! Rally to me!"

His trumpeter was sounding the rally call, but the excitement of the men, their rage after being under long range cannon fire throughout the day, couldn't be contained. So Couturier and his trumpeter picked their way forward and joined the charge of their squadron, following, rather than leading it.

Ramsay feared that perhaps he'd left it too late, but their first volley had stopped the French in their tracks. For the moment, already a second squadron of cuirassiers had burst through the lingering powder smoke and were coming on at a fast trot.

"Right lads, back to the infantry, look lively now!"

One of the sergeants yelled over at him, "What about the wheels, Sir? Shall we pull one?"

"Sod the bloody wheels, Sarn't. There is no time!"

As the men began to run back, one crew had their piece reloaded and were ready to fire, but the cavalry were on them quickly.

"Leave it, Jock!" he screamed.

But it was too late, most of the crew of his number two gun were sabered where they stood. Jock MacKay, the gun captain managed to unhorse one of the cuirassiers. Before he could dispatch the man and get under his gun for cover, another cuirassier brought his heavy sword down directly onto MacKay's head, cleaving his skull in two.

As Ramsay drew his sword he realized that to stand and fight was to die. As no one seemed to be paying him any mind, he started to make his way back to the squares. The ground was horrible, he could barely lift his feet due to the muck caked to his boots.

Still he went on. He heard, or rather felt, hoof beats coming up behind him. He turned, so quickly that he slipped and fell. Which saved his life for the moment.

"Où vas-tu cochon d'anglais?¹"

Ramsay heard the sibilant hiss of the cuirassier's saber slice past over his head. Had he still been standing he would have been decapitated. Scrambling, Ramsay managed to regain his feet as the horseman turned his mount.

Ramsay was angry now, how dare this cad refer to him as "English"? As the Frenchman came back, Ramsay ducked low and slashed his blade across the horse's back legs. As the French horse collapsed in the mud, Ramsay brought his sword down on the Frenchman's head.

Sparks flew as the blade glanced off the cuirassier's helmet, though it did seem to stun the man. Ramsay's next move was to give the Frenchman the point, at his throat where there was no armor.

Ramsay again turned back towards the nearest square, the other horsemen had shied off rather than face the bayonets of the formed infantry.

The infantry for their part dared not fire a volley, reserving their fire for a real threat. Discharging their muskets at close range would have brought down many a man and horse, but there was always the danger of a dead or badly wounded horse and rider crashing into the square, disrupting the ranks and leaving a hole for others to attack.

"Jaysus, Sir, but ye look a sight!"

Corporal Tommy Adair, his shako gone and his face powder stained, helped pull Ramsay into the square.

"Quite. Where are the rest of the men, Tommy?"

"All here, Sir, save number two gun's crew, 'aven't seen 'em."

As Ramsay tried to scrape the mud from his uniform, he turned to his batman, "I'm afraid they're done for, Tommy. They got off a last shot, then went down under French sabers."

At that moment a cheer went up from the infantry, the cavalry had pulled back out of sight.

Adair looked sad for a moment, then looked to his officer, "Back to the guns, Sir?"

"Right, Tommy, back to work. Let's go lads!"

Ramsay and what remained of H Troop went back to man their guns.

"Côté, how badly were we hurt?" Couturier and his squadron had fallen back to the dip between the ridges where they were sheltered from the English artillery.

"Seven men, twelve horses. I've got the fourriers² rounding up stray mounts. Dubonnier's squadron ahead of us was cut to pieces."

Couturier heard a trumpet call, another unit, this one of dragoons, was heading back up the slope to try their luck with the enemy guns and squares.

"Damn it, where is the infantry?" Couturier wondered.

Some eleven hundred paces from where Couturier's squadron was reorganizing itself, Maréchal Ney was gathering a body of infantry to assault La Haye Sainte. He had been given a direct order by the Emperor to seize the farm complex.

Much of d'Erlon's I Corps was still disorganized and demoralized from their earlier attack. Ney suspected that a number of men had made their way to the rear rather than go forward again.

One of his aides had already told him that some of the infantry were in a rather mutinous mood, muttering "treason" and "betrayal" as they did not know nor trust their officers.

A patchwork brigade of veterans had been mustered, it consisted of a number of battalions from three of d'Erlon's four divisions, the fourth was over on the right flank, still engaged in desultory fighting around Papelotte, Smohain, and La Haye³. This cluster of farm buildings and dwellings had been seized and lost a number of times already.

Ney drew his sword and placed himself at the head of these men.

"Soldiers of France! You know me, we must have this farm, this La Haye Sainte! The Emperor commands it!"

With shouts of "Vive l'Empereur!" the men went forward, skirmishers to the front, two squadrons of Milhaud's cuirassiers to either side of the column in support.

As they approached the complex, the volume of fire was less than it had been earlier. Many of the men suspected that the enemy was waiting for them to get closer before firing. They marched bent over, as men would walk into a heavy rain.

Only the occasional shot rang out, then the drums began to beat the pas de charge and the infantry surged forward. Clambering over the walls surrounding the courtyard of La Haye Sainte and forcing the gates along the Brussels chaussée.

For the garrison was down to their last few rounds.

Ney left a brigade commander to take on the task of seizing La Hate Sainte. One of his aides asked him where they were bound.

"The cavalry attack is fading. We must put heart into them. Go tell Guyot that the Emperor commands him to charge! The hour of decision is upon us!"

"But Guyot will know ..."

"He will advance this time. I know the man, he won't pass up a second chance at glory!"

Slowly, but surely, the attack of the French Armée du Nord was devolving into a series of uncoordinated and unsupported attacks. But in truth, Wellington's army was slowly bleeding to death.

Upon his ridge, sheltering in an infantry square as the French cavalry swirled all around, the Great Duke consulted the angle of the sun and his pocket watch, he was alleged to have muttered, almost to himself, "Dear God, give me Blücher or give me night. The army can't take much more of this."

Night was still hours away, but Generalfeldmarschall Blücher and his Prussians were far closer and were nearly ready to go into action.

¹ Where are you going English pig?
² Quartermasters, each cavalry troop had one. A squadron of two troops would therefore have two. In cavalry charges it was typical to lose more horses than men, but a man without a horse is of no use.
³ Not to be confused with La Haye Sainte in the center of the battlefield. See this map.