Warfare in News
Posted on Tuesday 11th July
The Last Great Waterloo Mystery Unravelled
Napoleon didn’t lose the Battle of Waterloo; all his devotees will tell you that. It was the failings of his subordinates, Marshal Ney and Marshal Grouchy, that cost him victory on 18 June 1815. Most of the venom that has been unleashed on the two marshals has been directed squarely at Grouchy, who commanded the right wing of Napoleon’s army. It was he who was supposed to keep the Prussians from joining Wellington at Waterloo. He failed in this, resulting in Napoleon being caught between the two Allied armies, bringing defeat upon the Emperor of the French just as he was about to destroy Wellington – or so it is claimed.
Not true, according to a new book, the author of which, having spent months trawling the French military archives at the Château de Vincennes in Paris. He has uncovered a mass of documents that many in France would prefer were left undisturbed, and which have never been published before.
These are messages that were passed between Napoleon and Grouchy, and casualty returns from the three vital days of the Waterloo campaign. They show that Napoleon failed to keep Grouchy informed of the movements of the main body of the French army – not even replying to Grouchy’s messages for many hours – and of giving the marshal misleading information. Grouchy did not even know that Napoleon was attacking Wellington at Waterloo until 15.00 hours on the day of the battle. Even then, Grouchy was not instructed to march to join the emperor at Waterloo. Rather than being the man who brought about the end of the Napoleonic dream, either incompetently or intentionally (as has been suggested), Grouchy carried out his orders to the letter.
The Battle of Waterloo was one of the defining moments in British and French history, being the last time that the two nations fought each other on European soil. The two countries became allies in the war in the Crimea and the two world wars of the twentieth century. Yet Napoleon is still revered in France, as any visitor to Paris knows. To preserve the myth of Napoleon’s military genius, the reputations of others have had to be systematically demolished, none more so than Emmanuel Grouchy. This ground-breaking work aims to set the record straight.
Written by John Grehan
The book, Napoleon and Grouchy The Last Great Waterloo Mystery Unravelled will be out from Pen & Sword Books, August 2017.
Napoleon and Grouchy(Hardback - 256 pages)
by Paul L. Dawson
One of the enduring controversies of the Waterloo campaign is the conduct of Marshal Grouchy. Given command of a third of Napoleon’s army and told to keep the Prussians from joining forces with Wellington, he failed to keep Wellington and Blücher apart with the result that Napoleon was overwhelmed at Waterloo. Grouchy, though, was not defeated. He kept his force together and retreated in good order back to France.
Many have accused… Read more...
Of further interest...
Waterloo200 - A Defining Moment in European HistoryThu 9th August
Gemma Bagshaw writes about the work of the Waterloo200 group, dedicated to celebrating the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo in 2015, and attempting to introduce the Napoleonic Wars into schools and the curriculum. Read article...
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On 15 June 1815, Wellington and Napoleon confronted each other on the battlefield for the first time at the Battle of Waterloo. Julian Paget and Derek Saunders give an account of the fighting at Hougoumont - the key to victory at Waterloo. Read article...
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David Buttery writes for Warfare Magazine about his 'Wellington Against' series. Read article...
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