200 years ago this week...

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Re: 200 years ago this week...

Postby Mike the Pike on Thu Jun 18, 2015 9:44 am

1 and 2: I tend to agee with a lot of what you lot have said. For an event 200 years ago it was particularly well documented, even though no-one can actually agree what time the battle started. And, as has been stated a 'final' (not counting the post battle skirmishes around Paris) decisive battle and the culmination of over 20 years of near constant warfare.
The Napoleonic wars were amongst the last spectacular/colorful wars, where National leaders, be they Emporers or Kings as well as scores of Princes, Dukes, Earls actually took to the field to decide things. Likewise, it was also one of the last 'gentlemanly' wars (excepting the brutal guerrilla conflict in the Iberian peninsula and the retreat from Russia).
The great personalities too on each side. Boney himself, Nosey Wellington, Blucher, Ney, Picton, Silly Billy of Orange, the list goes on.... The many anecdotes from the battle itself are also fascinating, from adulterous Uxbridge and his leg to Lieutenant Legros 'L'enfennceur' to the charge of the Union Brigade to 'Le mot de Cambronne' .......
Not too mention the spectacle of the battlefield, pre-kick-off. Hussars in gaudy 'Hungarian' uniforms, Cuirassiers in glistening breastplates with plumed helmets, 'Mamelukes', batteries of brass cannons, the massed ranks of cavalry, the columns/lines of red and blue (not to mention black, green and white and grey)Oh my!
And, of course the near endless 'What ifs'.....
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Re: 200 years ago this week...

Postby Mike the Pike on Thu Jun 18, 2015 10:51 am

200 years ago to (almost) the minute, depending on whose watch was 'right' the battle started....

Time to answer question three then.
I tend to agree with the Swiss officer/officer/observer Baron Jomini that the reasons for Napoleon's defeat were four-fold....
"The first, and most influential, was the arrival, skilfully combined, of Blücher, and the false movement that favoured this arrival. The second, was the admirable firmness of the British infantry, joined to the sang-froid and aplomb of its chiefs; the third, was the horrible weather, that had softened the ground, and rendered the offensive movements so toilsome, and retarded till one o'clock the attack that should have been made in the morning; the fourth, was the inconceivable formation of the first corps"

If any of the above four had been different things might have gone rather better for the French and the outcome of the battle might well have gone in favour of Boney.

However, my personal favourite 'what-if' is one that would have been quite possible at the time and certainly something firmly within Napoleon's control, and which would almost have certainly affected Jomini's #1. That is the choice of Grouchy as corps commander and the 'relegation' of the Iron Marshal, Davout to the role of Minister of War. Davout, had a very good track record against the Prussians and during the Napoeonic wars in general. Considered one of the most able of the Marshalate. The only Marshal not to rally to the short lived Bourbon restoration. But most of all, one of the few Marshals that was really capable of independent command and using his initiative. Biased as I am, those are his glasses in my avatar pic, I am convinced if he had commanded the 30,000 troops on the French Right wing, he would have prevented Blucher from joining Wellington at Mt. saint Jean or at worst would have arrived in force, hot on their heels, crushing them against the French forces blocking them at Plancenoit.

Ah well, perhaps in an alternate universe he did and that in that plane of existence Napoleonic managed to win the battle, see off the rapidly approaching Russians and Austrians, bring some sort of peaceful balance to a new Europe, etc etc, etc
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Re: 200 years ago this week...

Postby Mike the Pike on Thu Jun 18, 2015 11:52 am

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Re: 200 years ago this week...

Postby Primarch on Thu Jun 18, 2015 12:28 pm


The Earl of Uxbridge and his leg, one of the more interesting stories from the day.
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