Tuesday, June 13, 2023

La Haye Sainte and Hougoumont, Early Afternoon

La Haye Sainte
Adolf Northern
Lieutenant Wilhelm Brecher had Sergeant Horst Schumann with a detachment of men watching the door which had been torn down and used for firewood the night before. While most of the French attack was going in to the east of the farm, one of the sergeants who had been in the orchard warned him that another French unit was in that same orchard.

"Looks to be the better part of a brigade, Sir."

"Where are the rest of your men, Sergeant?"

"Dead, Sir. Some of them came in through the gate with me, the rest are still out there."

At that moment, Brecher heard shouting from the gate to the west,  a brisk firefight was breaking out there.

"Very well, Sergeant, report to your company commander, if you can find him!"

"Captain Finsch is still out there, Sir. I saw him fall."

"Very well, come with me!" He ran to where his detachment was struggling to keep the French out.

He saw that the farm cart which had placed to obstruct the entryway had been smashed up and pulled to one side, but not without cost to the attacking French. Brecher could see a dead French pioneer near the entrance, he had to assume that that man had wielded the axe which had destroyed the cart. He still gripped it as he lay lifeless in the muck.

"Damn it! You, Sergeant, put together a firing party, ten men, two ranks. Shoot anyone coming through that door!"

There were already a number of dead bodies in the entrance, French and Hanoverian, making it difficult to get through. Brecher saw two French soldiers trying to drag their dead comrades out of the way.

"Sergeant, shoot those two men!"

The two Frenchmen joined the growing pile of bodies.

Up on the ridge behind La Haye Sainte, the Prince of Orange was very concerned. He could see that the men outside of the farm complex had been driven back. The light infantry of the Lüneburg Light Battalion had come scrambling back up the ridge, disordered and missing a great number of men¹.

Turning to an aide, he commanded, "My compliments to Baron von Ompteda. If he could move his brigade forward to cover the withdrawal of the Lüneburgers, I would much appreciate it!"

The aide galloped over to where the 2nd Brigade of the King's German Legion was posted. The Prince took out his glass once more and noticed that the Hanoverians were no longer there, but a sizeable force of French cuirassiers was.

Turning to another aide he barked, "To Ompteda, hold your positions."

Before that aide could gallop off, the first aide returned. "Your Highness, with all respect, the Baron will not advance, there are French cavalry present in strength."

Though he was irked that a mere colonel had refused an order, the Prince recognized the wisdom in not advancing. But it planted a seed which would bear bitter fruit later in the day.

Sergent-major Pierre Marchand paused before ordering any more of his men through the opening in the farm complex. He had lost too many men already, including his Lieutenant Xavier Dupuy. He had also noticed the virtual cessation of small arms fire to the east.

As he was deciding what to do next, a Maréchal des logis² of cuirassiers yelled at him. "Where is your officer?"

"Dead, what's going on?"

"The English cavalry cut up our boys pretty bad, we've orders to fall back to the ridge!"

"Can you cover us?"

"Yes, but you have to fall back now!"

The infantry from Colonel Claude Charlet's brigade of Baron Joachim Jérôme Quiot du Passage's 1st Division had driven the allied troops from the environs of the farm complex. They had also suffered badly trying to break through the various gates leading into the interior.

As Marchand and the rest of brigade fell back, they had no idea that they had caused the Hanoverians to expend a great deal of ammunition.

Major Georg Freiherr von Baring, commanding the 2nd Light Battalion of the King's German Legion breathed a sigh of relief as the French attacks dwindled and then ceased altogether.

A few small fires had broken out, but his men were using their cooking kettles to douse the flames with water from the pond in the courtyard. Things had been close, far too close, at the western gate as the door had been burned in the night. But his men had made the French pay dearly for that gate, he could see that a few Frenchmen had made it into the courtyard, and had died for their troubles.

As he surveyed his command, he heard one of his aides trying to get his attention. Turning to the man, he asked, "What is it, Düring?"

"Ammunition, Sir, we need more."

"Go up to the ridge, find Baron Ompteda and see if he can send some down to us."


Little did Baring know, but their ammunition wagon was overturned on the chaussée to the north. Forgotten in the excitement to get to the field and take up positions on the ridge at Mont St. Jean.

It wasn't a problem, yet.

Prince Jérôme had just received word that his 1st Brigade commander, Bauduin, was dead, shot out of the saddle in the advance on the chateau. The brigade was also making very little headway against the well-built complex.

"Pinchon, my compliments to Capitaine Meunier, have him position his howitzers to fire into the complex. Tell him to move his 6-pounders as close to the walls as practicable."


As Pinchon galloped off, Jérôme thought of asking his corps commander for more men, perhaps Foy's division? But then he would have to share the credit for seizing Hougoumont. No, his own division should be more than sufficient for the task. He rode forward to accompany his guns to the chateau. Best have a look for himself!

Defence of Hougoumont Farm at the Battle of Waterloo
Jason Askew
Corporal Michael 
Wareham and Private Mick Wilcox were both exhausted from loading and firing from the upper windows of what their officer had called "the gardener's house." The house had been nice at some point, far nicer than anything either man had seen growing up.

Now it was a mess, discarded equipment, dead and wounded men everywhere and discarded paper scattered about from their biting off the ends of their cartridges. But looking out the window to the south, Wareham could see that their fire had been devastating. The area between the walls and the wood were carpeted with dead and dying men.

"I think the Frenchies might be done with us us for now, Mick."

"Gor, I certainly 'ope so, Corp. My shoulder's going to be one massive bruise from all this. I don't think I fired this many rounds in Spain!"

At that moment both men heard the scream of a howitzer shell passing overhead.

"Damn it, sounds like the Frenchies just got smart. If they bring their guns up, we're in for it, Mick."

Hearing a crash behind them, Wilcox went to the other side of the room, to a window overlooking the courtyard. "Corp, that one hit the main house, the bloody roof is smoldering!"

"I hope they put that out, lots of wounded men in there." At that moment a French musket ball came through the window and hit the wall behind Wareham.

"Sod that! 'Ere the bastards come again!"

Wilcox looked to the south, he took a deep breath and readied himself to continue firing into yet another crowd of French infantry moving towards them.

Either they would run out of ammunition, or Bonaparte would run out of men. But His Majesty's Coldstream Guards wouldn't run, they would rather die at their posts.

¹ The Light Battalion Lüneburg lost 278 casualties out of 617 men present at the beginning of the campaign, most of them on the 18th.
² Cavalry equivalent of  a sergeant.


  1. Excellent writing Sarge! - TB

  2. The last "survivors" win. At necessary, horrible cost. Great writing, Sarge!

  3. One heck of a story... and the paintings help tell it...

    1. Many of the paintings available online tell the story of the British at Waterloo. And they were the smallest contingent on the field!

  4. My eyes sting, my mouth is gritty and dry, and tastes like sulphur and paper, half my face is stained black, my ears ring like the cathedral at Matins, and I have no bloody idea where I lost my fornicating shako.

    Fantastic writing, thank you.

  5. You can (almost) never have too much ammunition. I wonder if they scrounged the dead and wounded on both sides for arms and ammunition?

    Sometimes the little things are what wins or loses a big battle.

  6. "Either they would run out of ammunition, or Bonaparte would run out of men. But His Majesty's Coldstream Guards wouldn't run, they would rather die at their posts."
    They were using Brown Bess muskets like this one at the Cody Firearms Museum, unit marked to the 1st Battalion of the Coldstream Guards. History you could hold in your hands, but they won't let you take it out of the case ;-(
    John Blackshoe

    1. I've handled a reproduction Brown Bess, but to hold the real deal in your hands, one that may have been at Waterloo, now that would be something!

  7. Are the swords in the header painting correct? British cavalry used straight swords?

    1. Heavy cavalry used straight swords, light used curved blades.


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