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roads of Brussels and Namur the respective headquarters of Wellington and Blucher. A brigade of troops of Nassau, under the orders of the prince Bernard of Saxe Weimar, offered some resistance at Frasnes, and fell back on Quatre Bras. Ney, instead of advancing to Quatre Bras, stopped short at Frasnes. Ziethen, pushed by Napoleon in person with the cavalry of the guard, concentrated his force behind Fleurus. Night now came on.
At seven in the evening of this day (the 15th) the duke of Wellington was informed, by a courier from Blucher, of the forward movement of the French. He sent orders through the cantonments that the troops should hold themselves in readiness. In four or five hours after, a second courier an- . nounced the commencement of hostilities by Napoleon, — and his line of movement. The duke of Wellington, with several of his officers, was at a ball at Brussels when this intelligence reached him. No
is necessary for introducing here what would be recalled, by association, to the memory of most readers, and many would long to read once more, the verses in which this incident is touched by Lord Byron :
“ There was a sound of revelry by night,
And Belgium's capital had gather'd then
look'd love to eyes which spake again, And all went merry as a marriage bell : But hush! hark! a deep sound strikes likes a rising knell !
« Ah! then and there was hurrying to and fro,
And gathering tears, and tremblings of distress;
If ever more should meet those mutual eyes,
There appears no just ground for the assertion that the duke of Wellington was dilatory or surprised. When he received the first despatch from Blucher, the movements and intentions of Napoleon were not yet sufficiently developed for any counter movement by the British. It was doubtful whether he designed attacking these by the road of Mons, or the Prussians, as he did, by that of Charleroi. This question was resolved by the second despatch, and the duke of Wellington issued to the army its orders of march and concentration. As to his being present, under such circumstances, with his officers at a ball ; brave men, on the eve of honourable danger, feel a certain “ alacrity of spirit," : which would be indulged by a prudent chief. The army of the duke of Wellington was in motion during the night of the 15th. The distinguished fifth division, and the Brunswicker division, under its gallant duke, moved on Quatre Bras. On the morning of the 16th, Napoleon renewed + “ I have not that alacrity of spirit, Nor cheer of mind that I was wont to have.”
Shakspeare — Richard III.
to Ney his orders to occupy a position in advance of Quatre Bras, astride on the road to Brussels; and sent him, at the same time, 3000 cuirassiers, making the French left wing 46,000 men. Napoleon himself advanced with his centre and right to attack Blucher before he could be joined by Bulow from his distant quarters at Liege, on the one side, or by the duke of Wellington, from Brussels, on the other. The fire was opened by the French at Fleurus. After a short and light can. nonade, the Prussian advanced posts fell back
upon the main army, which occupied the villages of St.
Amand with its right, Sombref with its left, and fried Ligny with its centre. At ten o'clock, Napoleon
halted; formed for battle ; reconnoitred the Prussian position, along his line of videttes, from heights and windmills; and inferred, from the exposure of
the Prussian right, that Blucher expected the suproi port of Wellington through Quatre Bras. ch
An aide-de-camp from marshal Ney announced its
that, instead of occupying Quatre Bras, that marnis
shal stopped short on hearing the cannonade to his right, but was still ready to advance upon a repetition of orders, and receiving an explanation of this new incident. Napoleon replied to Ney, that the incident was not new, but a night old; and reiterated to him the order to advance, occupy Quatre Bras, and detach, on his right, 8000 infantry, and a division of cavalry, which should attack the Prussian reserve at Bry, in rear of Ligny. 66 Tell him," said Napoleon, to the aide-de-camp charged with the orders, “ that the fate of France is in his hands !"* This
• Relation du Gén, Gourgaud.
movement, had it been executed, would, according to the best military authorities, have annihilated Blucher.
At three o'clock the French commenced the attack, under Vandamme, Gerard, and Grouchy, upon the whole Prussian line. The attack of Vandamme upon St. Amand was severe and unsatisfactory. At five o'clock, Ligny, taken and retaken several times, was still bravely disputed by both armies, and partially occupied by Gerard. At the same time, Grouchy had driven back the Prussian left (cavalry) from its outposts to its main position behind Sombref. Napoleon prepared to bring up, in person, his guard against the Prussian centre. Whilst he was directing the necessary movements, Vandamme announced the approach of a British column, of about 20,000 men, on his left. Napoleon could not conceive this movement possible, but still changed his dispositions to meet the hostile column. It proved to be the French corps of d'Erlon, who had moved towards the cannonade. Napoleon resumed his first dispositions and movements, attacked and carried Ligny, the Prussian centre; dislodged the Prussian left by a charge of cavalry, in which Blucher was unhorsed (whether by the French in pursuit, or his own Prussians in their disorder, is doubtful) and compelled the Prussians to retreat at all points, with the loss of forty guns, and from 15,000 to 20,000 men hors de combat. The Prussian army, according to the account dictated by Napoleon to general Gourgaud, was saved from utter destruction only by Vandamme's error, which caused two hours' delay; and by the approach of night. The French estimated their own loss at 7000 men.
Whilst Napoleon, with his centre and left wing, was engaged with the Prussians at Ligny, marshal Ney, less successfully, disputed with the British the position of Quatre Bras. The prince of Orange, by order of the duke of Wellington, proceeded early in the morning to Quatre Bras, joined there the prince of Saxe-Weimar, and occupied, unmolested, with only 9000 or 10,000 men, that vital position for several hours. It was now that Ney perceived the fatality of his not advancing, and all the importance of the orders of Napoleon. He moved forward so late as mid-day, in pursuance of fresh orders, with 14,000 infantry, 3000 cavalry, and forty-four guns. At two o'clock the respective outposts exchanged fire; and at three o'clock, within hearing of the cannonade at Ligny, the French “ frankly”* assailed the British. The prince Orange and the Belgians gave way to the French division of general Foy. The duke of Brunswick with the Brunswickers, and sir Thomas Picton with the fifth division, came up opportunely, at their utmost speed, and in some disorder, with only 1200 or 1500 Brunswick cavalry, and ten or twelve guns. The combat was vigorously renewed. The British had the advantage of numbers; the French of cavalry and artillery. The duke of Brunswick fell at the head of his hussars, who gave way. A part of Picton's division was forced into a wood, but there rallied. The third division, under general Alten, came up, was assailed before it had yet time to form, and lost a regimental colour during a charge