On Waterloo

By June 19, 2015February 18th, 2021No Comments

It is, indeed, remarkable that Napoleon, during his numerous campaigns in Spain as well as other countries, not only never encountered the Duke of Wellington before the day of Waterloo, but that he was never until then personally engaged with British troops, except at the siege of Toulon, in 1793, which was the very first incident of his military career. Many, however, of the French generals who were with him in 1815, knew well, by sharp experience, what English soldiers were, and what the leader was who now headed them. Ney, Foy, and other officers who had served in the Penninsula, warned Napoleon that he would find the English infantry “very devils in fight.” The Emperor, however, persisted in employing the old system of attack, with which the French generals often succeeded against continental troops, but which had always failed against the English in the Penninsula. He adhered to his usual tactics of employing the order of the column; a mode of attack probably favoured by him (as Sir Walter Scott remarks) on account of his faith in the extreme valour of the French officers by whom the column was headed. It is a threatening formation, well calculated to shake the firmness of ordinary foes; but which, when steadily met, as the English have met it, by heavy volleys of musketry from an extended line, followed up by a resolute bayonet charge, has always resulted in disaster to the assailants.

Sir ES Creasy, Fifteen Decisive Battles Of The World, 1852, 44th Edition, London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co, p 385