June 18 through 21, 1815 (22060 -
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22060. - ORDER
TO EACH CORPS COMMANDER OF THE ARMY,
June 18, 1815, eleven o'clock in the morning.
Once that all the army is arranged in battle, about an hour
after midday, the moment when the Emperor will give the order to the marshal
Ney, the attack will start to seize the village of Mount-Saint-Jean, at the
intersection of the roads, to this end, the battery of 12 of the 2nd corps and
that of 6th will meet with that of the 1st corps. These twenty-four pieces of
ordnance will fire on the troops from Mount-Saint-Jean, and the count d' Erlon
will begin the attack, while carrying ahead his left division and supporting
it, following the circumstances, by divisions of the 1st corps, 2nd corps will
advance accordingly to keep in line with Count d'Erlon
The companies of sappers of the 1st corps will be ready to
be barricaded at once in Mount-Saint-Jean.
According to the copy. War Depot.
22061 - BULLETIN OF THE
Laon, June 20, 1815.
BATTLE OF LIGNY, UNDER FLEURUS.
The 16th in the morning the army occupied the following
The left wing, commanded by the marshal duke of Elchingen,
and composed of 1st, and the 2nd corps of infantry and of 2nd of cavalry,
occupied the positions of Frasnes.
The right wing, controlled by Marshal Grouchy, and composed
of 3rd and 4th corps of infantry and the 3rd corps of cavalry, occupied the
heights behind Fleurus.
The headquarters of the Emperor were in Charleroi, as were
the imperial Guard and the 6th corps.
The left wing had the order to march on Quatre-Bras, and
the line on Sombreffe. The Emperor went to Fleurus with his reserve.
The columns of Marshal Grouchy being moving saw, after
having passed Fleurus, the enemy army, commanded by field-marshal Blucher,
occupying the moulin de Bussy plateau to the left of the village of Sombreffe,
and prolonging his cavalry far ahead on the road to Namur: His right side was
in Saint-Amand and occupied this large village with great forces, having in
front of it a ravine which formed his position.
The Emperor reconnoitered the force and positions of the
enemy, and resolved to attack at once. It was necessary to make a change of
face, the line in front while pivoting on Fleurus.
General Vandamme marched on Saint-Amand, General Gerard on
Ligny and Marshal Grouchy on Sombreffe, the third division of the 2nd corps,
commanded by General Girard, marched in reserve behind the corps of the General
Vandamme, the Guard lined up on the height of Fleurus, as well as the
cuirassiers of General Milhaud.
At three hours after midday these dispositions were
completed, the division of General Lefol, forming part of the corps of General
Vandamme, began first and seized Saint-Amand, from where it drove out the enemy
with the bayonet. It was maintained during all the combat, with the cemetery
and the bell-tower of Saint-Amand. But this village, which is very-wide, was
the site of various combats during the evening; all the corps of General
Vandamme was committed there, and the enemy forces engaged there were
General Girard, placed in reserve of the corps of General
Vandamme, turned the village by his right and fought there with his accustomed
valor. The respective forces were supported on both sides by about sixty pieces
On the line, General Gerard engaged with the 4th corps at
the village of Ligny, which was taken and re-taken again several times.
Marshal Grouchy, at the extreme right, and General Pajol
fought at the village of Sombreffe, the enemy showed from 80 to 90,000 men and
a great number of artillery pieces.
At seven o'clock, we were Masters of all the villages
located on the edge of the ravine which covered the position of the enemy; but
this one still occupied with all his masses the plateau of moulin de Bussy.
The Emperor went with his Guard to the village of Ligny;
General Gerard debouched general Pécheux with what remained to him of
the reserve, almost all the troops having been committed in this village. Eight
battalions of the Guard emerged with the bayonet, and behind them the four duty
squadrons, the cuirassiers of General Delort, those of the General Milhaud and
the grenadiers à cheval of the Guard. The old Guard approached with the
bayonet the enemy columns which were on the heights of Bussy, and in an instant
covered the battle field with dead. The duty squadron tackled and broke a
square and the cuirassiers pushed the enemy in all the directions. At
seven-thirty, we had forty artillery pieces, many wagons, standards and
prisoners, and the enemy sought his safety in a precipitate retreat. At ten
o'clock the battle was finished, and we were masters of all the battle
General Lützow was made prisoner. The prisoners ensure
that field-marshal Blucher was wounded. The best of the Prussian army was
destroyed in this battle. His loss cannot be less than 15,000 men; ours is of
3,000 killed or wounded men.
On the left, Marshal Ney marched on Quatre-Bras with a
division which had fallen on an English division which was placed there, But,
attacked by the prince of Orange with 25,000 men, part English, part Hanovriens
in the pay of England, he pulled back on his position at Frasnes. There he
engaged in multiple combats; the enemy endeavoured to force it , but in vain,
the Duke of Elchingen awaited 1st corps, which arrived in the night; he
restricted himself to hold his position. In a square attacked by 8th regiment
of cuirassiers, the flag of the 69th regiment of English infantry fell into our
hands, the Prince of Brunswick was killed, the Prince of Orange was wounded. It
is sure that the enemy had many persons and generals of note killed or wounded.
The loss of the English is given to be 4 or 5,000 men; ours, on this side, was
very-considerable: it is upwards of 4,200 men killed or wounded, This combat
finished in the evening, Lord Wellington then evacuated Quatre-Bras and went on
In the morning of the 17th, the Emperor went to the
Quatre-Bras, from where he marched to attack the English army; he pushed to the
entry of the forest of Soigne, with the left wing and the reserve. The right
wing went by Sombreffe, against field-marshal Blucher, who moved on Wavre,
where he appeared to want to place himself.
At ten o'clock in the evening, the English army,
Mount-Saint-Jean occupied by its center, was in position in front of the forest
of Soigne; It would have been necessary to be able to have three hours to
attack it; we were obliged to postpone until the following day.
The headquarters of the Emperor was established at the
stone farm close to Plancenoit. The rain fell in torrents. Thus, on the day of
the 16th, the left, the right-hand side and the reserve were also committed at
a distance of about two leagues.
BATTLE OF MONT-SAINT-JEAN.
At nine o'clock in the morning, the rain having decreased a
little, the 1st corps was put in motion and placed, the left on the road to
Brussels and opposite the village of Mount-Saint-Jean, which appeared in the
center of the position of the enemy, the 2nd corps supported its right to the
Brussels road, and his left at a small wood, within range of the English Army's
cannon. The cuirassiers went in reserve behind, and the Guard in reserve on the
heights. The 6th corps, with the cavalry of General Domon, under the orders of
Count Lobau, was intended to go behind our right, to oppose a Prussian corps
which appeared to have escaped Marshal Grouchy and with the intention to fall
on our right flank, the intention which had been known to us by our reports and
[by] the letter of a Prussian General that an ordinance taken by our runners
carried. The troops were full of ardor.
We estimated the forces of the English army at 80,000 men;
it was supposed that the Prussian corps, which could be in position about the
evening, could be 15,000 men, the enemy forces were thus of more than 90,000
men; ours were fewer.
At midday, all the preparations were finished, and prince
Jerome, commanding a division of the 2nd corps, intending to form the extreme
left, moved on the wood of which the enemy occupied a part. The cannonade
began; the enemy supported with thirty artillery pieces the troops that it had
sent to hold the wood. Our ends also on our side of the provisions of
artillery. At one o'clock, Prince Jerome was master of all the wood, and all
the English army withdrew like a veil. Count d'Erlon attacked the village of
Mount-Saint-Jean and supported his attack by eighty artillery pieces, He
engaged a terrible cannonade, which did much to make the English army suffer,
All the blows related to the plateau. A brigade of the 1st division of the
count d'Erlon seized the village of Mount-Saint-Jean; a second brigade was
charged by a corps of English cavalry, which inflicted severe losses on it, At
the same moment, a division of English cavalry charged the battery with count
d' Erlon on his right, and disorganized several sections; but the cuirassiers
of General Milhaud charged this division, whose three regiments were broken and
It was three hours after midday. The Emperor advanced the
Guard to place it in the plain, on the ground which the 1st corps at the
beginning of the action had occupied, this being the corps already ahead. The
Prussian division, of which we had seen the movement, then started to begin
with the tirailleurs of Count Lobau, while plunging his fire on all our right
flank. It was suitable to undertake nothing elsewhere, to await the result
which this attack would have. To this end, all the means of the reserve were
ready to go to the help of the count Lobau and to crush the Prussian corps as
That done, the Emperor had the idea to conduct an attack by
the village of Mount-Saint-Jean, [from] which we expected a decisive success;
but, by a movement of impatience so frequent in our military annals, and which
was often so disastrous to us, the cavalry of the reserve, seeing a retrograde
movement made by the English to be safe from our batteries, of which they had
already suffered, crowned the heights of Mount-Saint-Jean and charged the
infantry, This movement, which, made at the time and supported by the reserves,
was to decide the day, made separately and before the affairs on the right were
finished, became disastrous. Not having any means to contermand, the enemy
showing many masses of infantry and cavalry, and two divisions of cuirassiers
being committed, all our cavalry ran at the same time to support their
comrades. There, for three hours, were made many valorous charges which broke
several squares and six flags of the English infantry, favors out of proportion
with the losses which our cavalry [suffered] by the grapeshot and volleys. It
was impossible to have our reserves of infantry until we had pushed back the
flank attack of the Prussian corps. This attack was always prolonged and
perpendicular to our right flank, the Emperor sent general Duhesme with the
young Guard and several batteries of reserve. The enemy was contained, pushed
back and recoiled; he had exhausted his forces and we did not have anything any
more to fear from it. It was this moment which was indicated for an attack on
the center of the enemy.
While the cuirassiers suffered from the grapeshot, we sent
four battalions of the Middle Guard to protect the cuirassiers, to support the
position, and, if it were possible, to disengage and keep the plain clear for
our cavalry. We sent two other battalions to keep close on the extreme left of
the division which had maneuvered on our flanks, in order to not have any
concern there; the remainder was available in reserve, part to ocupy the
crossing behind Mount-Saint-Jean, part on the plateau behind the battlefield
which formed our position of retreat.
In this state of affairs, the battle was gained; we
occupied all the positions which the enemy occupied at the beginning of the
action; our cavalry too early and having been badly employed, we could not hope
for decisive successes any more, But marshal Grouchy, having learned the
movement of the Prussian corps, went on behind this corps, which ensured us a
bright success for the following day. After eight hours of fire and charges of
infantry and cavalry, all the army saw with satisfaction the battle gained and
the field in our possesion.
At eight-thirty, the four battalions of the Middle Gard
which had been sent onto the plateau beyond Mount-Saint-Jean to support the
cuirassiers, being hampered by the grapeshot of the enemy, marched with the
bayonet to remove his batteries, the day finished; a charge made on their flank
by several English squadrons put them in disorder; the fugitives passed by the
ravine; the adjoining regiments, which turned back some troops belonging to the
Guard in the stampede believed that it was of the Old Guard and shook: the
cries All is lost! The Guard is pushed back! were made. The soldiers even claim
that at several points some malevolents shouted Save yourselves! At all events,
a panic [and] fear spread all at the same time on all the battle field: they
precipitated in the greatest disorder on the line of communication: the
soldiers, the gunners, the caissons pressed themselves to arrive there; the old
Guard which was in reserve was assailed, and itself involved.
In an instant, the army was nothing more than one confused
mass, all arms in a melee, and it was impossible to reform a [single] corps.
The enemy, who realized this astonishing confusion, debouched columns of
cavalry; the disorder increased; the confusion of the night prevented rejoining
the troops and from showing them their error. Thus a finished battle, a day's
work done, errors repaired, great successes assured for the following day, was
all lost by one moment of panic [and] fear. The duty squadrons even, arrayed
beside the Emperor, were collapsed and disorganized by these tumultuous floods,
and there was not anything to do but follow the torrent. The ready reserve, the
baggages which had not passed back across the Sambre, and all that was on the
battle field, fell into the hands of the enemy. There was not even the means of
awaiting the troops of our line; one stumble, that is what the bravest army in
the world, when it came to fight and its organization did not exist any more.
The Emperor passed the Sambre at Charleroi on the 19th, at
five o'clock in the morning. Philippeville and Avesnes were given for point of
meeting. Prince Jerome, General Morand and the other Generals already rejoined
part of the army there, Marshal Grouchy, with the corps of the right, made his
movement on the lower Sambre.
The loss of the enemy must have been very great, to judge
by the flags that we took from them and by the retrograde steps that they had
[made]; Ours will be able to be calculated only after the rallying of the
troops, Before the burst of disorder, we had already experienced considerable
losses, especially in our cavalry, so fatally and yet so bravely committed. In
spite of these losses, this valorous cavalry constantly kept the position which
it had taken from the English, and gave up it only when the tumult and the
disorder of the battle field forced it, In the middle of the night and with the
obstacles which encumbered the road, it could not preserve its organization.
The artillery, as usual, was covered with glory.
The carriages [wagons] of the headquarters had remained in
their ordinary position, retrograde movement not having been considered
necessary. In the course of the day, they fell into the hands of the enemy.
Such was the exit of the battle of Mount-Saint-Jean, glorious for the French
armies, and yet so disastrous.
[ extracts from the Monitor of June 21, 1815 ]
22062. - MESSAGE TO THE
CHAMBER OF THE REPRESENTATIVES.
Elysee palace, June 21, 1815.
Mr. President, after the battles of Ligny and
Mount-Saint-Jean, and after having provided for the rallying of the army at
Avesnes and Philippeville, for the defense of the border places and that of the
towns of Laon and Soissons, I returned to Paris to coordinate with my ministers
on defense measures, and to listen to the Chambers on all that the safety of
the country requires.
I formed a committee for the Minister for Foreign Affairs,
Count Carnot and the Duke of Otranto, to renew and follow negotiations with the
foreign powers, in order to know their true intentions, and to put a term for
the war, if that is compatible with the independence and the honor of the
nation, But the greatest union is necessary, and I count on the co-operation
and the patriotism of the Chambers and on their attachment to my person.
I send to the Chamber's midst, as police chiefs, prince
Lucien and the Foreign Ministers, of war, the interior and the general police
force, to carry this message, and to give the communications and the
information which the Chamber will be able to wish.
According to the original. Files of the Legislative Corps.