Battle Narratives

The Battle of Wavre

by Colonel Dejan Zupancic, AdR

I send you copies of documents that were found on a captured Prussian staff officer. They are the official reports written by Generalleutnant von Thielemann to Generalfeldmarschall Blücher and describe the battle of Wavre fought between the Prussian III Armee-Korps (Col. Dejan Zupancic, IV Reserve Cavalry Corps, AdR) and the French Aile Droite, Armée du Nord (Col. Zbyszek Pietras, V Corps d'Armee, AdR).

Herr Generalfeldmarschall und Fürst,
Situation, 4:00 PM: My Korps has encountered a large French force moving north towards Wavre. I issued orders to occupy all the crossings across the Dyle river, thus to Wavre Map Limale Map secure the rear of the main body of our army which is marching to help the Duke of Wellington crush Napoleon. I am attaching detailed maps of Wavre and Limale with dispositions of our and the French units. The crossings are marked with letter B (bridge) and are as follows:

Casualties up to 4:00PM: Prussians 150 infantry; French 100 infantry, 50 cavalry, 2 guns, 1 brigadier.
Respectfully, Your obedient servant,
Generalleutnant von Thielemann

Herr Generalfeldmarschall und Fürst,
Situation, 5:15 PM: I have 6. Kurmark Landwehr at B1 which is enough at the moment. One battalion is placed in the chateau controlling the bridge while the second is placed just outside Limalette, making crossing impossible due to intervening ZOCs. The third battalion is deployed in the fields, out of the enemy LOS. 1. and 2. battalion Map 5:15 PM from 4. Infanterie are moving south to reinforce Landwehr troops. The B2 is defended by 5. Kurmark Landwehr and 31. Infanterie reinforced with two light companies from 19. Infanterie. These two formations broke early in the battle when my opponent managed a lucky flank shot on the fusilier battalion of 19. Infanterie, marching north. This battalion routed, together with 3 battalions from 12. Brigade. I tried intervening ZOCs defense with the available units (which were disordered regular battalions in column formation), which proved extremely costly. After I lost 100 regulars in one discharge of a French battery I decided to move my battalions into the village of Limale and to defend the crossing with skirmishers. I deployed the brigade battery at hex 28,45 in order to shell any French infantry column that closed on the bridge. Fusiliers from 19. Infanterie are holding a chateau at B3. B3 is almost impossible for the French to capture, so 1 elite battalion is more than enough to defend it, especially with one heavy battery (with two on the way) occupying the heights to the north, which is able to fire a flank shot at any French unit that approaches the chateau and bridge. B4 and B5 are defended by 10. and 11. Brigade with 1. Kavallerie Brigade in reserve. Battalions from 2., 3. and 4. Kurmark Landwehr are holding hexes covering B5 by intervening ZOCs which is very effective. This way I can keep fatigue quite low and effectively prevent any French crossing there. This is costly to the battalion deployed on the bank of the river but I also took out 6 of his cannons with my infantry there. B6 is defended by 9. Brigade and their greatest opponent is boredom; the nearest French unit is 1000 yards away. I also moved 2. Kavallerie Brigade south since I don’t think that French have much chance of crossing the Dyle over the northern bridges. 1. Kavallerie Brigade is deployed NW of Wavre. Casualties up to 5:15PM: Prussians 975 infantry; French 225 infantry, 50 cavalry, 6 guns, 1 brigadier.
Respectfully, Your obedient servant,
Generalleutnant von Thielemann

Herr Generalfeldmarschall und Fürst,
Situation description, 6:30 PM: I have 6. Kurmark Landwehr and two battalions of 19. Infanterie Regiment at B1. One Landwehr battalion remains in the chateau controlling the bridge while the second is outside Limalette. The third battalion remains in the fields, out of the enemy LOS. 19. Infanterie Regiment is placed further back in column formation. The French tried to rout my battalion out of the chateau with point-blank Map 6:30 PM artillery fire but they lost 8 guns in this action and never fired a shot! Those 600+ battalions really carry a lot of firepower. The B2 is defended by 5. Kurmark Landwehr and 31. Infanterie. I lost a lot of skirmishers deployed in open terrain lately, so I pulled them back and instead placed a battalion of 31. Infanterie in the village near the river. This battalion is in line formation and prevents any French movement on my side of the river. Any French formation that crosses B2 will end its movement in this battalion's ZOC and will be faced by imminent destruction. The Brigade battery is placed so that it can shell any French unit around the bridge. 2. Kavalerie Brigade is also deployed at Limale, acting as a final reserve for the Southern sector. I am also moving one battery from Wavre to Limale. Fusiliers from 19. Infanterie hold the chateau at B3. I have two batteries occupying the heights to the north, covering the approaches to the chateau and bridge. B4 and B5 are defended by 10. and 11. Infanterie Brigade with 1. Kavalleire Brigade in reserve. Battalions from 2., 3. and 4. Kurmark Landwehr were holding positionss covering B5 but they accumulated a lot of fatigue, so I pulled them back and placed 8. Jager Detachment at hex 53,22. This way my Landwehr units will have some time to rest. B6 is defended by 9. Infanterie Brigade, still unopposed. General situation: I am very pleased with development so far. There has been no major threat of French managing to cross over the river so far. I lost a lot of infantry to French cannon, especially at the town of Wavre, but I also managed to disable a good number of enemy artillery pieces. My opponent fires an average of 5 batteries both in defensive and offensive phases totaling 10 rounds per quarter-hour; with this pace he should have problems with artillery ammunition later in the battle. My artillery is firing only in offensive phases and only on units that can be hit in flank; I will need a lot of ammunition when the French columns begin their attack. Casualties up to 6:30PM: Prussian 1525 infantry; French 375 infantry, 50 cavalry, 14 guns, 1 brigadier. Situation: French minor defeat.
Respectfully, Your obedient servant,
Generalleutnant von Thielemann III Armee-Korps

Herr Generalfeldmarschall und Fürst,
Situation description, 7:45 PM: I have 6. Kurmark Landwehr and two battalions of 19. Infanterie Regiment at B1, with one battalion in the chateau. My opponent placed two batteries in hex 30,55 where they can hit my units holding Limale and Limalette in the flanks. He managed to rout two battalions of 6. Kurmark Landwehr so I had to send forward battalions of 19. Infanterie Regiment. The B2 is defended by 5. Kurmark Landwehr and 31. Infanterie reinforced with two light companies from 19. Infanterie and three cavalry regiments of 2. Kavalerie Brigade. French cannons routed my battalion placed at hex 28,49 thus opening the crossing for the infantry. Zbysek sent over the bridge more than 12 Légère skirmish companies which promptly engaged my units. In order to eliminate this threat and regain control of the bridge I had to use my line cavalry which overran several skirmish units but suffered badly from French muskets and cannons in return. Surviving skirmishers were later attacked by formed infantry battalions and now there are only 2 French companies still left on my side of the river. 1. Kavallerie Brigade is making its way towards Limale. Fusiliers from 19. Infanterie are holding the chateau at B3. B4 and B5 are defended by 10. and 11. Infanterie Brigade with 1. Kavalleire Brigade in reserve. 8. Jager Detachment and light companies from 27. Infanterie regiment at the bridges were soon attacked by French battalions in column formation. Two French battalions managed to force their way across the river but were subsequently destroyed by Prussian artillery and infantry counterattack. My heavy battery managed to wound General Habert who was observing the French attack from his headquarters at Aisemont.Map 7:45 PM B6 is defended by 9. Infanterie Brigade and one battery. Their rest came to an end with the arrival of two French dragoon regiments accompanied by one heavy battery. General situation: I am still pleased with development so far. All French battalions that managed to cross the river were destroyed in detail as was a majority of the skirmisher force that attacked Limale. My artillery is keeping a low profile in order to save as much of our artillery ammunition as possible for later stages of the battle. Casualties up to 7:45PM: Prussian 2100 infantry, 150 cavalry; French 2000 infantry, 50 cavalry, 15 guns, 1 brigade (Vincent) and 1 divisional (Habert) commander. Situation: French minor defeat.
Respectfully, Your obedient servant,
Generalleutnant von Thielemann III Armee-Korps

Herr Generalfeldmarschall und Fürst,
Situation description, 9:00 PM: The situation in this battle changed dramatically when the French managed to shoot down the Prussian skirmishers defending B4 just south of Wavre. Instantly the whole sector was crowded with French infantry which poured through the opening. They used the dusk to concentrate in this sector in great strength. The French advance was unstoppable; whole brigades were thrown on single Prussian battalions. I counterattacked immediately with what I had available but with noMap 9:00 PM success. 30. Infanterie Regiment and 1. Kavallerie Brigade were called to Wavre to reinforce 9. and 10. Brigade. After securing the crossing the French attacked a key position in Wavre and captured it. A Kurmark Landwehr battalion recaptured the position immediately but they couldn't withstand the attack of four fresh French battalions. I attacked this brigade with 30. Infanterie Regiment but it was a failure. One French battalion also managed to cross at B5 but they were destroyed in detail by a Landwehr battalion. 2. Bn. / 27. Infanterie Regiment fought valiantly south of the Hermitage, preventing the French from moving towards Moulin de Bierges and B3. The battalion was twice pushed back by a stronger enemy but it didn't leave the front line until they were eventually attacked by a dragoon regiment and the remaining 100 men routed to the nearby forest. My men are still fighting the French in Wavre but it is a lost cause; I am already preparing a defensive line on the heights north of Wavre, supported with regular cavalry. My scouts report French strength on our side of the Dyle as 4 infantry and 1 cavalry divisions, elements of both III and IV Corps d'Armée. I will retreat towards the high ground around hex 35,11 (a major objective position) in order to keep covering the road to Bruxelles. Prussian disposition at 9:00 PM: I have 6. Kurmark Landwehr at B1, one battalion in the chateau controlling the bridge with the second just outside Limalette. My opponent placed two batteries at 3 hex distance from the chateau and is pouring fire on the defending battalion. Two battalions of 19. Infanterie Regiment are making their way north. The B2 is defended by 3 light companies and two battalions, one from 5. Kurmark Landwehr and the second from 31. Infanterie. The remaining 4 battalions from these two regiments are making their way north. This bridge is secure for now with skirmishers guarding the crossing. The last French forces that crossed the bridge here were destroyed some time ago. 2. Kavallerie Brigade with its artillery (3 batteries) is also moving north. Fusiliers from 19. Infanterie are holding a chateau at B3. Their position is perilous with French battalions advancing to their rear. B6 is defended by one battalion of 1. Kurmark Landwehr Regiment and light companies from 30. Infanterie brigade. They are under attack by a combined force of skirmishers, two batteries and a couple of battalions. As you can see, things turned for the worse. I could resist the French attacks as long as I had skirmishers to cover the crossing, but after they were destroyed there was little I could do to stop the onslaught. Casualties up to 9:00PM: Prussian 3925 infantry, 500 cavalry; French 3775 infantry, 200 cavalry, 17 guns, 1 brigade (Vincent) and 2 divisional (Habert, Hulot) commanders. Situation: Draw.
Respectfully, Your obedient servant,
Generalleutnant von Thielemann III Armee-Korps

Herr Generalfeldmarschall und Fürst,
Situation description, 11:00 PM: The situation developed from bad to worse for our Prussians in this past hour. All crossings were lost together with the town of Wavre and the villages of Limalette and Limale. I am trying to concentrate around hex 35,11 but I am afraid that a bulk of my southern flank will have their way cut off around le Point du Jour. My forces now number less than 15000 men, the majority of which are showing a worrisome level of fatigue. Map 11:00 PMPrussian disposition at 11:00 PM: 6. Kurmark Landwehr: 1. and 3. battalion (both highly fatigued) that had been guarding B1 and Limalette routed after a strong French attack and are now at Gransart trying to avoid the French advance guard while 3. battalion made it to Bierges together with two battalions of 19. Infanterie Regiment (1. and 2.). These three battalions are still battle-worthy. Fus. battalion of 19. Inf. Reg surrendered at Moulin de Bierge after defying a number of French attacks. Battalions of 5. Kurmark Landwehr and 31. Infanterie Reg. are scattered north of Bierges and le Point du Jour. 5. Hussars were attacked shortly ago by French dragoons; they were routed and 7. Dragoons thrown into disorder as a consequence. 5. Uhlans made it to the forests north of le Point du Jour. I am having great problems in moving my artillery north. Two batteries joined with 5. Uhlans and an unescorted 12-pdr. battery is making a long detour to reach the rallying point safely. One medium battery was attacked by French cavalry and is trying to make contact with Prussian infantry at Bierges. 10. and 11. Infanterie brigades (with remnants of 9. Brigade - two regular battalions) are taking their position for the final stand. Their attached cavalry was completely destroy in Wavre so they're now supported only by the intact 1. Kavalerie Brigade. Combined strength of the three infantry (10, 11, 9) brigades is less than 6000 men which is a result of savage fighting in Wavre. Also all light companies have been destroyed by now. Casualties up to 11:00PM: Prussian 6125 infantry, 925 cavalry, 1 gun, 2 regimental commanders (von Zschuschen, von Ditfurth); French 4925 infantry, 350 cavalry, 18 guns, 1 brigade (Vincent) and 2 divisional (Habert, Hulot) commanders. Situation: Draw.
Respectfully, Your obedient servant,
Generalleutnant von Thielemann III Armee-Korps

Herr Generalfeldmarschall und Fürst,
Situation description, 2:30 AM: My troops now number 11700 men with 79% of them prepared for battle although I have great trouble with fatigue management. I have 12 battalions with 4 batteries and almost all of my cavalry concentrated along the Corbais-Bruxelles road just west of St. Roch. This force consists of 9., 10. and 11. Infanterie Brigades together with all of my remaining cavalry except for 200 hussars, of all remaining batteries except one, and of Fus. Bn. / 31. Inf. Regiment. Map 2:30 AM 6 battalions and one battery together with 200 cavalry are cut off from my main force and are at the moment deployed NW of Limale, trying to make contact with coming reinforcements. This force consists of the remnants of 12. Infanterie Brigade (minus one battalion and a battery), two remaining battalions of 19. Infanterie Regiment, Pferd-Batterie n.20 and 200 men from 7. Hussar Regiment. As you can see my situation looks rather desperate and there is not much I can do. Maybe I'll try an attack on Limale with my southern force but I am not expecting any success. Casualties up to 2:30AM: Prussian 8350 infantry, 1100 cavalry, 1 gun, 2 regimental commanders (von Zschuschen, von Ditfurth); French 5675 infantry, 525 cavalry, 18 guns, 1 brigade (Vincent) and 2 divisional (Habert, Hulot) commanders. Situation: French Minor Victory. Respectfully, Your obedient servant,
Generalleutnant von Thielemann

Herr Generalfeldmarschall und Fürst,
Situation description, 3:45 AM: My troops now number 9900 men with 80% of them prepared for battle. Von Borcke should arrive soon and bolster my strength considerably. I am afraid of the coming day; my enemy will be able to see all the weaknesses of my command. In the last hour fighting was very heavy NW of Limale where my Gruppe Sud (7 battalions, one battery and 200 troopers) was under heavy attack by a whole Map 3:45 AMFrench Corps d'Armée reinforced by at least one dragoon division. I lost all the cavalry, a battery, two wagon trains, two battalions and Major von Welling in this bitter fight. Prussian infantry covered themselves with glory in this bloody hour as they stubbornly resisted an enemy force that greatly outnumbered them. The five remaining battalions retreated into a nearby forest and will attempt to link with von Borcke. 1. and 2. Bn. / 31. Infanterie Regiment (together numbering 650 men) have low fatigue values and together with 2. Bn / 6. Kumark Lw. (575 men) have a good chance of linking with von Borcke. 1. Bn. / 31. Inf. Reg. and 1. Bn./ 5. Kurmark LW. are totally shattered (total 675 men) and I will try using them to cover a retreat of my good units. I have 12 battalions with 4 batteries and almost all of my cavalry concentated along Corbais-Bruxelles road just west of St. Roch. This force consists of 9., 10. and 11. Infanterie brigades together with all of my remaining cavalry, of all batteries and of Fus. Bn. / 31. Inf. Regiment garrisoning the major objective chateau. 7. Dragoon Regiment was ordered west in order to link with von Borcke's column which is without any cavalry support. As you can see my situation looks rather desperate and there is not much I can do except to wait for reinforcements. Casualties tiup to 3:45AM: Prussian 9725 infantry, 1300 cavalry, 8 guns, 3 regimental commanders (von Zschuschen, von Ditfurth, von Welling); French 6400 infantry, 800 cavalry, 18 guns, 1 brigade (Vincent) and 2 divisional (Habert, Hulot) commanders. Situation: French Minor Victory. Respectfully, Your obedient servant,
Generalleutnant von Thielemann III Armee-Korps

Herr Generalfeldmarschall und Fürst,
Situation description, 5:00 AM: With von Borcke's arrival my troops now number 10475 men with 45% of them prepared for battle. Zbysek saw the terrible state of my remaining forces and launched a couple of very powerful attacks. My cavalry counterattacks were successful at first but now I simply don't have any units in good order left along the Bruxelles road. Only two battalions from 19. Infanterie Regiment managed to make contact with von Borcke; the remainder of Gruppe Sud is either Map 5:00 AMdestroyed or running for their lives (i.e. has left the map). With the inevitable encirclement of my main body I was forced to break off and gallop to Bruxelles. As you can see my situation couldn't be any harder. I will try to get as many units as possible off the map and then surrender. Casualties up to 5:00AM: Prussian 11875 infantry, 2075 cavalry, 25 guns, 6 regimental commanders (von Zschuschen, von Ditfurth, von Welling, an unidentified Oberst, von Beckendorff, von Pleasmann) and 1 brigade commander (von Krauseneck); French 7500 infantry, 1700 cavalry, 18 guns, 4 brigade (Vincent, Burthe, Col. Anon., Lafitte) and 3 divisional (Habert, Hulot, Strolz) commanders. Situation: French Minor Victory. Respectfully, Your obedient servant,
Generalleutnant von Thielemann III Armee-Korps

Herr Generalfeldmarschall und Fürst,
I have to report that there is nothing left of the III Korps and that I had to surrender at 5:15AM after a crushing French attack that took out some 3000 of my disorderd and routed troops. I had to fight the advancing French units for more than 8 hard hours after they managed to force a river crossing and now I have no army left except for von Borcke's brigade who would start a retreat soon anyway. I lost heavily but I was also very pleased with the performance of my infantry; they fought like lions until they were all but eliminated.
Respectfully, Your obedient servant,
Generalleutnant von Thielemann III Armee-Korps

La Bataille de Quatre-Bras:
A PBEM Multiplayer
Alternate History

by Lieutenant Jean Tessier,
Ier Corps de Réserve de Cavalerie, AdN

Opening Moves
The Black Watch at Quatre-Bras

In the opening days of the campaign Maréchal Ney, in command of the French Aile Gauche, was charged with the capture of the Quatre-Bras crossroads and thus securing the Emperor's flank as the main army attacked and defeated the Prussians defending behind the Ligny Creek.

After making contact with his enemy on the road to Brussels, and some small skirmish action outside of Frasnes on the night of the 15th, Ney issued the following orders to his troops:

… the 6e division has been deployed to lead the attack. Basically, once Jerome has reached a river stretching from Bois Bossu till Etang Materne, we shall establish a line right behind a ridge north of that river. This will hide us from the Enemy. From left to right the line will look as follow; on the left Jerome, then Foy then Piré. Bachelu has been ordered to cover the extreme-right flank. I expect this line to be formed around 3.30pm depending on Enemy resistance. From there on, we will lead the attack on Quatre-Bras possibly in an outflanking manoeuvre by the right. We will gamble with Jérome's right flank during his northern progression as I do not know of enemy presence in Piramont. Pire will check it up. Girard and Kellermann will stay in reserve behind the river initially until further orders. Girard may have to clear Pireaumont if defended.

So ordered, the French army, resplendent and ready to prove their faith and devotion to their Emperor and country, moved to the offensive at approximately 2:00pm. Général Bonaparte in the lead drove up the Brussels road againstPerponcher Perponcher's 3rd Dutch- Belgian Division. The Allies, deployed along the ridge north of Frasnes, staged an excellent delaying defense, slowly retreating up the Brussels Road, successfully keeping Jérome's brigades from outflanking them and the powerful French guns from unlimbering and contributing to the battle.

Lieutenant-General Baron de Perponcher-Sedlnitzky

The French Advance – 3:00pm

On the French right Général Piré's Chasseurs squadrons scouted the road leading east, where they ran into a company of the 27th Dutch Regiment in Pireaumont. At 3:15pm, Piré launched a costly attack on the hamlet, sending the enemy to flight, the shaken survivors finding shelter amid the walls of an abandoned farm.

Meanwhile the French kept pouring more troops onto the battlefield. Foy deployed to Bonaparte's right and advanced towards the Materne stream, while Girard, ordered to the far right, marched eastwards behind Piré's cavalry to gain the Sombreffe road.

On the Allied side, Wellington, having just arrived on the field after a brief morning meeting with Prussian Feldmarschall Blücher, grasped the full extent of the French threat and thereupon ordered General Alten's command on the far left to guard the Sombreffe road and the fields to the east of Gemioncourt. Unfortunately, Wellington, located at the Quatre-Bras crossroads, found the 3rd Infantry Division without its leader as it marched by as Alten had ridden up to the Prince of Orange to receive his orders and survey the situation personally. Thus began some rather fractious moments in the Allied high command, with the Prince of Orange mediating between an exasperated Wellington and his I Army Corps commanders throughout the early hours of the battle.

After the exchange of a few harsh words, Alten's 3rd Division did eventually deploy on the Allied left, with Halkett's Brigade going into line between the Brussels and Sombreffe roads, and Ompteda's brigade from the Sombreffe road to the hamlet of Basse Cense; his thin line, covering a wide section of the front, was backed up by his last remaining brigade under Kielmansegge.

Once placed and in order to further secure his position, Alten ordered Busse and the 1st KGL Battalion forward into the woods before Haute Cense. Unfortunately, his remaining troops were caught in the open before a mounting French cavalry presence, as Piré's Chasseurs had moved up the Sombreffe road after clearing Pireaumont, to threaten the Allied far left. Alten desperately called for reinforcements as he spied a French infantry division joining the cavalry. Alas, there were no reinforcements coming, as Wellington ordered the Duke of Brunswick and his reserve contingent to the right and behind the Bossu wood, much to the puzzlement and consternation of his subordinates. Alten formed square with the remainder of Ompteda's Brigade and awaited the worst.

Up to this point, the French had still only pressured the Allied line with musketry, French Tirailleurscontent to send their tirailleurs forward to push the enemy line back towards Quatre-Bras, while the anticipated flanking maneuver developed. Indeed, after several hours of fighting, the casualties had been slight, the Allies having suffered 325 men killed and wounded, while the French had suffered some 600 casualties.

General Perponcher was said to have turned to an aide and remarked, "The bloody French are rather tame, wouldn't you say?" Things would not remain so for long.

French Tirailleurs

The French Attack

At 4:15pm, Reille and Bonaparte saw an opportunity on their front to cause great harm to the enemy and, exercising some initiative, launched an effective attack against Perponcher's right, driving the Nassauers back and wounding Major-General Prinz Bernard von Sachsen-Weimar in the process. Ney, who had ridden over to direct Général Foy's command, was alarmed by such an aggressive move on his left and promptly called off the attack of the 6ème Division, reminding his subordinates of his desire to have Bonaparte's division pin down the enemy rather than pushing them back towards Quatre-Bras. Given hindsight, this was an unfortunate circumstance for the French, for had this attack continued, it most probably would have gained the vital crossroads before Chassé's timely arrival. As it was, Perponcher's regiments were driven away past Gemioncourt, and only a light skirmisher screen was left to harass forward enemy elements. It should be noted that the Nassau Jäger Volunteer Co. became isolated in Gemioncourt at this time, but no determined attempts were made by the French to capture this vital farmstead. Bonaparte's division, its left now protected by l'Héritier's heavy cavalry division, would not be seriously engaged again until Brunswick's attack later in the afternoon.

At Allied headquarters, more desperate pleas were heard from General Alten. Wellington, perturbed, reportedly said to the I Army Corps commander "Well, my dear Prince, I can't believe some of the tactics that are going on here. Alten's Brigadiers must have been at the opium den..." The Prince of Orange, incensed at the Duke's lack of perspective lashed out, "Give credit where credit is due, General! My corps has more than delayed the French and given the Duke of Brunswick plenty of time to deploy. Where is he, by the way?" So, again, Brunswick's deployment came into question, but Wellington stood by his decision to keep his reserve well hidden from the French. He then moved his headquarters to join up with Kielmansegge's command, to direct things personally. This, however, only created more confusion in the Allied ranks, thereby making the 3rd Division less than effective during the next few hours.

In the French center, Maréchal Ney ascertained the Allied weaknessDutch Militia and decided to act upon it forthwith. He galloped up to Général Foy and ordered an immediate assault to cut off the Allied retreat from the Quatre-Bras crossroads. Foy complied and in turn ordered Général de Brigade Gauthier to lead the assault. Things began well enough with the 92ème Ligne striking at the flank of the 7th Dutch Militia Bn. and sending it reeling back. A large hole appeared between Perponcher's and Alten's commands, and Chassé was still too far away to lend immediate support. Events for the French were taking a turn for the better when suddenly, disaster struck and Foy ordered the attack to be halted!

Dutch Militia, 1815

Foy's attack – 5:00pm

It would appear that during Gauthier's cutting attack on Perponcher's left, Général Foy received a contradicting order from his direct superior, Général Reille. It stated simply:

"Sir, no further advance has been authorized, please take up positions with a skirmish screen and where possible keep line units out of enemy fire. Engage the enemy with fire only until further notice. You and General Girard will soon be slamming the door on the enemy, pushing them into the woods, but the Maréchal has not ordered it slammed, yet."

Foy exclaimed to his orderly, "Jean, first off who the Hell is this message from?? Ney?? Then who am I supposed to obey as I'm getting dissenting orders from both Reille and Ney???" Ney burst into a rage as he witnessed the attack grind to an ineffective halt before his very eyes! Insults and curses flew as orderlies and aides made themselves scarce in the face of Ney's legendary temper. A court-martial was surely in the making when Foy, with Reille's contradicting order in hand, valiantly stood his ground before the Maréchal's rage and explained his confusion. It appeared that Ney's own orders to Reille from an hour previously had just now reached the unfortunate Foy! Ney's revised plan to attack the Allied center never reached Reille in time! Desperate to salvage the situation, Ney turned his attention back to the battlefield, but he realized that it was too late to strike at the Allied center; Chassé's 2nd Dutch-Belgian Division had just arrived to relieve Perponcher and the threatened sector. The Allies had narrowly avoided defeat for a second time.

Wellington however had seen enough, and in a barrage of unquotable slights, berated the tactics of the foreign troops serving on the field. "I don't know what the enemy think of my subordinates, but by God, they frighten me," he was quoted as saying. Disgruntled, Wellington would relinquish command of the battle to the Prince or Orange and ride off to the north to gather what troops he could from the II Army Corps and Army Reserve. Despite witnessing two French attacks come to a mysterious halt before them, morale in the Allied camp was now at an all-time low.

At approximately 5:45pm, Alten's light troops of the King's German Legion were ordered to stand fast in the woods before the Haute Cense and Basse Cense Skirmish in Woods strongpoints. They were in due course surrounded by troops of the 12ème Légère. After a brief but frightful battle, they realized the futility of their position and surrendered their arms to the French. Girard, having thus gained the Haute Cense woods, immediately pressed on, encouraged by Bachelu's arrival to secure his left flank. At 6:15pm he charged into Ompteda's remaining squares with the 11ème Légère, and a fierce melée ensued. Ompteda was wounded, and the Allied line appeared on the verge of breaking when General Alten arrived on the scene to rally his battered troops. Alten's presence seemed to be stiffening Allied resistance, when suddenly a ball ripped through the air and struck the general fully in the chest. He was thrown to the ground, while all about him the remnants of the 1st KGL desperately fought for their lives. Eventually the brigade, beaten but not routed, retreated in the face of Girard's onslaught, a small detachment remaining behind with their fallen general.

The Death of General Alten – 6:15pm

When news of a felled enemy officer reached him, Général Girard rode over to investigate, and upon his arrival found General Alten suffering from a mortal wound. Surrounded by his sorrowing, captured soldiers, Alten whispered his dying words to a subordinate, "Please pass my thanks to the Prince of Orange and express my sincere regret that my Division was denied the opportunity to provide him with the level of service he deserved." Girard allowed this message to be relayed back to Allied lines while General Alten's body was accorded the full honors of war.

Girard's 7ème Division, through its arduous efforts, was now spent, and remained astride the Sombreffe road for the remainder of the afternoon, facing what remained of the 3rd British Infantry Division now under the command of Major-General Kielmansegge. It was now up to Générals Bachelu and Piré to win the day for the Maréchal.

The Allied Counter-Attack

At 6:10pm, French AdC Forbin-Janson arrived bearing a crucial message for Ney.
It read:

"Mon Prince, the Prussian is on the verge of collapse and your I Corps has been diverted towards Ligny to assure us of our glorious victory. There is no need of further instructions to the I Corps for it is already done by my own decree. I have anticipated but one or two Dutch divisions to your front; but no matter, secure the Sombreffe Road and our left from any Allied thrust. Use your skills, Maréchal, and our enemies will be cut in half, and tomorrow evening I will greet you at the gates of Brussels."

Forced to come to grips with the changing situation, Ney gathered his senior generals, including Kellermann who had just arrived onto the field, for a conference. He said, "Messieurs, L'Empereur just won against the Prussian. Our orders are now somewhat altered. We don't need to take Quatre-Bras anymore. Now, I intend to keep pressuring the Enemy's right with Bachelu and Piré, and take a bit of initiative. That should keep them busy enough to think twice before attacking us." And with that, the Maréchal rode off to take command of the French right consisting of Girard, Bachelu and Piré's commands.

For the Prince of Orange, however, it was time to go onto the offensive, galvanized as he was by the speedy arrival of General Cooke and his mighty 1st British Division.
He scribbled a brief note to the Duke of Brunswick:

"My Dear Duke, I am afraid Wellington had to quit the field to hurry forward troops and to coordinate with the Prussians. He has left me in command of this action. At this time the French are pressing our left flank. You must push through the woods with all vigor and drive into the French rear beyond Gemioncourt Farm. Your immediate objective would be to cut the main road leading to Frasnes. I will be at the crossroads until I am needed elsewhere. Signed, William, Prince of Orange"

At 6:45pm, the Duke of Brunswick coolly ordered Major General Olfermann to press forward through the Bossu Wood so as to strike at the enemy in the flank, while the Brunswick cavalry and artillery were sent to Quatre-Bras to reinforce those threatened sectors. Inside the Bossu Wood, the tirailleurs of the 2ème Légère courageously attempted to hold back the Black Horde, but there were simply too many troops forBrunswick Infantry them to handle in their fatigued state. Tired from their efforts earlier in the afternoon, Bauduin's brigade gave way before the relentless attacks of the Brunswickers.

Meanwhile, on the French right, Huber's Chasseurs, led by Piré, bypassed Basse Cense, defended by the Field Jäger Bn., to charge up the road leading to the rear of Quatre-Bras. They were closely followed by Bachelu's fresh division, and together they attempted to outflank the Allied left. The Prince of Orange was wise to their maneuvers, however, and sent for General Cooke who rushed east to meet them. A brief cavalry battle developed as the 1er and 6ème Chasseurs ran into squadrons of Brunswick Brunswick Hussars Hussars. French Général Huber was captured in this brief clash of sabers, which eventually ended in a stalemate as both forces retired to cover their respective army's flanks. Under cover of the cavalry melée, and aided by the ever-present Maréchal Ney, Général Bachelu deployed his division along a track of road a mere 2000m from the vital crossroads. Would General Cooke make it in time?

At 7:45pm, anxious for a victory or perhaps carried away by the moment, Général Bachelu issued fatal orders to his brigades, causing his troops to dangerously cramp full strength battalions tightly together, thereby sacrificing their ability to maneuver. French Infantry BreakingSeeing this opportunity present itself, without the slightest pause, General Cooke ordered his fine brigades "Forward!" Onwards they marched, bayonets gleaming, against Bachelu's massed columns. A mighty struggle ensued but the fate of Campi was sealed as confusion reigned supreme amidst the desperate rank and file. The disaster became complete when the bulk of the 108ème Ligne and elements of the 72ème surrendered to General Maitland and the Foot Guards. The French attack came to a grinding stop.

At this same hour, Kellermann ordered Blancard to charge the weakened Allied center but, alas, it was too little, too late. Chassé had deployed his brigades in depth and was thus able to prevent the powerful French cavalry from driving the charge home.

Back on the French left, Bauduin's fatigued troops had been stretched too far. Realizing the urgency of the situation, Bonaparte desperately called for reinforcements from Soye's brigade, but the Brunswickers pressed on, oblivious even to l'Héritier's dragoon squadrons. Exhausted and demoralized, Bauduin's men finally gave way, while Olfermann, successfully emerging from the Bossu Woods, gave chase to the hapless 6ème Division.

By approximately 8:00pm the French wings collapsed, and the order to retreat was sounded along the entire length and breadth of the line. The French Aile Gauche retreated from the battlefield down the Sombreffe Road.


Tactically, the French lost the battle, but casualty reports would indicate a rather narrowly-won engagement. The French lost some 4150 officers and men killed, wounded and missing, while the Allies suffered some 4325 casualties plus three lost guns. These figures include prisoners captured.

Strategically speaking, however, Ney's defeat at Quatre-Bras was but a set-back to Napoleon's campaign goals. The Prussian army he personally faced was thoroughly defeated at Ligny and sent reeling back towards Namur, beaten and demoralized. This feat was accomplished in large part by d'Erlon's timely arrival on the Prussian right flank, rather than being diverted to the aid of Ney and his wing. Maréchal Ney's decision to not involve the French I Corps may have cost him the battle of Quatre-Bras, but the campaign was perhaps now on a better footing because of it.

Field Marshal Wellington, for his part, oblivious to the victory won by his officers and men at Quatre-Bras, headed north to gather what he could of the II Army Corps and Reserve. He deployed them on the Mont-Saint-Jean ridge, to be joined the next day by the Prince of Orange and his triumphant yet weary troops. In the early morning dawn of June 18th, Napoleon, knowing full well that his flank was now secure, approached the daunting Allied defensive line. He deployed his I Corps on the left, the VI Corps was placed on the right, while Général Reille's command was placed in reserve along with the Garde.

Trumpets blared across the rain soaked fields and officers bellowed orders to seasoned veterans. The troops formed up, sighed almost as one, and braced themselves for another long, bloody day.

… but that is another story.