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British At Waterloo

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Birddog View Drop Down
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    Posted: 31 Mar 2012 at 15:14
Thousands of words have been written about the battle of Waterloo, or Mont-Saint-Jean or La Bell Alliance.
 
Of the forces under the command of The Duke of Wellington 25000 were British, 6,000 from the King's German Legion, 17,000 Dutch and Belgian troops, 11,000 from Hanover, 6,000 Brunswickers and 3,000 Nassus. Over half the army were Dutch/Belgians or Germans of some discribtions.
 
Later in the day 50000 Prusians arrived to complete the rout of the fully commited French army.
 
In the end most of the Allied particpats in the battle came from German states, so it could be claimed to be a great German victory. Was the British presence just incidentle? Could this campaign have been brought to a sussesful end if the British had butted out and left it to the Dutch and Germans? Is victory in war just a matter of numbers, or does the quility of leaders and troops count? What did the British add to the allied victory at Waterloo?   
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Mar 2012 at 23:08
Well the British themselves were also 'German' insofar as that word had much meaning in 1815, and many of your 'Germans' were in effect 'British'.
 
You need to bear in mind that the King's German Legion was composed entirely of subjects of King George III - hence the "King's" legion. So were the Hanoverians. It's not so clear about 'Brunswickers' since there were various Brunswick states, but at the time the elector of Brunswick-Lüneburg was also King of Hanover, and hence King of England.  
 
Nassauers is more confusing though I don't think any of the 'Nassaus' would have been subject to the English King (on a side note, the Dukes of Nassau are now represented by the Grand Duke of Luxembourg).
 
It's worth noting too of course that the British provided the generalship that led to the battle being fought on favourable terms in the first place.
 
So without Britain, the Hanoverians and the King's Legion - 40,000 troops - wouldn't have been at the battle anyway and Napoleon would have walked it, disposing of the Dutch/Belgians first (assuming they fought) and then turning on the Prussians. Actually there probably wouldn't have been a battle of Waterloo to commemorate, since Napoleon would more likely have pushed on to Brussels.
 
The key turning point of the battle (and one worth symbolically and morale-wise most) was the defeat of the Imperial Guard columns by the 'thin red line' of the British, rising in effect from ambush and enveloping the French. As wikipedia has it:
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The last of the Guard retreated headlong. A ripple of panic passed through the French lines as the astounding news spread: "La Garde recule. Sauve qui peut!" ("The Guard retreats. Save yourself if you can!"). Wellington now stood up in Copenhagen's stirrups, and waved his hat in the air to signal a general advance. His army rushed forward from the lines and threw themselves upon the retreating French.
 
The arrival of the Prussians (who, it is worth noting, had been defeated by the French in the manoeuvrings of the previous couple of days) turned the victory into a rout, but the victory was already a victory. Without the Prussian arrival however the French may have got away is reasonable order, which would at least have made yet another battle necessary, prolonging Napoleon's rule, and maybe allowing him to ask for terms.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Mar 2012 at 23:10
PS I'm not sure what you mean by 'fully committed'. Napoleon's entire army was not at Waterloo.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Apr 2012 at 02:58
Got away in reasonable order... The British were defeated in Waterloo, but for the miraculouos Prussian arrival that turned certain defeat into a victory.

The only reason for the French defeat at Waterloo was Blucher. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Apr 2012 at 04:29
Originally posted by Sarmat Sarmat wrote:

Got away in reasonable order... The British were defeated in Waterloo, but for the miraculouos Prussian arrival that turned certain defeat into a victory.

The only reason for the French defeat at Waterloo was Blucher. 
 
So Napoleon won the Russian campaign after all. Its just winter that defeted him.
 
The fact of the matter is the British held their ground and the French retreated before Blucher came. Having lost much of their cavalry and the prime of their troops continuing the fight was basically insanity. So they left the field before Blucher's troops came hence the victory was clearly British.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Apr 2012 at 05:30
How is Napoleon's Russian campaign relevant here?

And yes he was never military defeated in Russia it was just extended communication line and lack of supplies, there was no big winter involvement either. There was no however even a single Russian general who could match Napoleon in military talent. Bagration was a candidate but he perished unfortunately.

About Waterloo, you probably should try to research more about the subject before making statements like that.

And British didn't held their ground they were at the point of collapse when the Prussians came and change the tide of the battle.

Perhaps, reading more German, Russian, French, etc. sources except focusing on British propaganda pamphlets would serve you better if you really want to understand the battle...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Apr 2012 at 05:55

My point of bringing the Russian campaign was simple, that campaign was a defeat even if he never lost a battle because he lost control of the field.

In Waterloo a similar thing happened. The British were close to collapse but they didn't. They held their ground. Had the Prussians been a day away no doub they would have lost but since the Prussian vanguard reached the battle all was lost for Napoleon who already by the afternoon has lost his imperials and much of his cavalry.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Apr 2012 at 06:13
Your point is not clear. So, are you saying that British would have lost without the Prussians arriving at the right moment or not? The Napoleon most likely didn't have chances to win the war from the very beginning, that is clear enough; but he would have crushed the British at Waterloo for sure, but for the Prussian miracle.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zagros Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Apr 2012 at 07:20
There are British propaganda pamphlets about Waterloo?  Back then, now or in between... can you post a link?

Edited by Zagros - 01 Apr 2012 at 07:20
"There was glory in pissing, Corabb decided as he watched the stream curve out and make that familiar but unique sound as it hit the ground." So true.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Apr 2012 at 07:26
My point is quite clear. The British didn't win the battle on their own but they didn't lose it either. They kept the field and destroyed Napoleon's best troops before any Prussian came. 
 
Still they would have been forced to retreat by dark but Napoleon would have never had the power to chase them away. The arrival of the Prussias (just arrival without actually joining the fight) ended all hopes of victory. Even if no Prussian fought in the battle the battle was lost anyway since Napoleon would be forced to contend with the Prussians the next day in not that evening and there was no chance (at least not without reinforcements) that he could take on two large armies in this short period.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Birddog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Apr 2012 at 07:41
Thank you all for putting in your imput.
 
Thanks Graham for providing the background information of the many German contigents that made up the King's Army. To my understanding the Germans of the KGL were some of the most professional and loyal soldiers fighting for Britian.
 
 My use of the words fully commited comes from my understanding that the French Troops on the battlefield of Waterloo were fully commited against the Allies on the ridge, or in delaying the Prussians, thus Nepoleon could not put together a rear guard and withdraw his force to fight another day.
 
I also understand that 30000 British troops were covering the road to mons on the day of the battle at Waterloo.
 
Sarmat: I am not sure if you can call the arrival of the Prussians as a miracle. The only reason the Duke of Wellington stayed to fight at Waterloo was on the promise of aid from the Prussians. The Duke knew the quality (or lack thereof) of his forces and knew he hadn't much change of beating the French with that he had at the time without Prussian support.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Apr 2012 at 08:12
The critical campaign issue is not really whether the British would have won at Waterloo if the Prussians hadn't arrived. The French were crying 'Save yourselves' before the Prussians arrived. Of course there might have been some miracle, some blaze of brilliance from Napoleon, that saved he day for the French. But that is alternative history. It never happened.
 
The critical campaign issue is what would have happened wthout the British. On the previous two days the Prussians had lost two engagements against the French. The Prussians alone were in fact outnumbered by the French by some 3 to 2. As indeed also were the British and Hanoverians alone.
 
It is basically nutty to think either the Prussians or the British could have crushed Napoleon on their own. In sequence though, the Allied army stopped Napoleon and forced his army to retreat at least temporarily. The Prussian arrival, as I said before, changed that winning position into a rout, and ensured strategic victory in the campaign.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Apr 2012 at 09:57
There Prussian arrival changed the defeat into victory and it was a miracle because Blucher skillfully outmaneuvered Grouchy's superior forces and arrived earlier to the field then Grouchy with all his forces. Napoleon couldn't predict such fast and skillful move and that miscalculation was the reason of the French defeat. Of course, the French were mauled, but for the British the defeat would mean a total destruction. 

As for the chances of Napoleon to succeed in the campaign in general, there were no any. France couldn't sustain another conflict with the coalition.

The picture as "the French had been already defeated and Prussians just completed the route" is just inaccurate misrepresentation.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Birddog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Apr 2012 at 10:59

Gneisenau, Blucher’s chief of staff, organized the Prussian order of march so that IV Corps, furthers from Waterloo marched through the rest of the Prussian Army and onwards towards Waterloo, while the Corps closest to the Allies were the last to march. Admittedly IV Corps had not been engaged at Ligny, but it had been covering the withdrawals of the rest of the army for the last two days. It got delayed by the burning house in Wavre, and the last elements of IV Corps didn’t start their march to Waterloo until 6 hours after the leading elements. The other two Corps moved out behind them.

Either Gneisenau was very confident that Wellington could hold out until the arrival of the IV Corps, or he wanted no part in an Allied defeat at Waterloo. His manoeuvring sounds neither skilful or fast to me.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Apr 2012 at 14:23
My two cents. Allied participants were significant to one another. The British couldn't have done it without the Prussians and the Prussians couldn't have done it without the British. After all, in my estimations, Waterloo was a near run thing. The valiant stand of the British and the timely arrival of Blucher forces on the field didn't change anything much. It wasn't until the charge and subsequently checked advance of the undefeated Imperial Guard upon Wellingotn's center that Napoleon & the French realized they were beaten.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Sarmat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Apr 2012 at 20:53
Originally posted by Birddog Birddog wrote:

Gneisenau, Blucher’s chief of staff, organized the Prussian order of march so that IV Corps, furthers from Waterloo marched through the rest of the Prussian Army and onwards towards Waterloo, while the Corps closest to the Allies were the last to march. Admittedly IV Corps had not been engaged at Ligny, but it had been covering the withdrawals of the rest of the army for the last two days. It got delayed by the burning house in Wavre, and the last elements of IV Corps didn’t start their march to Waterloo until 6 hours after the leading elements. The other two Corps moved out behind them.

Either Gneisenau was very confident that Wellington could hold out until the arrival of the IV Corps, or he wanted no part in an Allied defeat at Waterloo. His manoeuvring sounds neither skilful or fast to me.


Gneisenau was an idiot and he wanted to withdraw completely, it was only Blucher to persuaded him to return to Waterloo. I don't see how Cnisenau's fallacies played any role in the battle, the credit entirely belongs to Blucher only.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Birddog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Apr 2012 at 07:38
If the Prussians arrived earlier at the battle field Nepoleon might have been able to put up a reguard and withdraw his army in good order rather than in a rout. I'd say Gneisenau's fallcies played a huge part in the outcome of the battle.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Birddog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Apr 2012 at 08:02
As the British were a minority in the Allied Army, at Waterloo they were a very signficant minority. The British troops, if not veterans, (only 7000 of the 25000 were veterans of Spain) where regular soldiers, (mostly from 2nd Battalions from England). The KGL were very reliable, (prehaps the most professional soldiers in the Allied army). Some of the Hanoverians and Brunswickers had experiance in Spain. The Dutch/Belgium troops.....the ones who had military experiance had it fighting under Nepoleon and their loyality was questionable. Wellington had to rely on his British regulars and loyal Germans to hold the line at Waterloo until the arrival of the Prussians, completing the great Allied (Allied as in all together with the Prussians) victory.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Apr 2012 at 02:09
Add to that the fact that the reorganisation of the Prussian army under Scharnhorst (which had led to the sacking of almost all the generals) had stalled after his death in 1813, and that much of the Prussian army consisted of raw recruits.
 
For the state of the Prussian army at the time (and its dependence on British aid) see http://napoleonistyka.atspace.com/Prussian_army.htm#_in_1813
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Apr 2012 at 10:25
I was just reading the Blucher recognized & gave the credit for the victory at Waterloo to Wellington. Has anyone else came across such a statement from Blucher?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Birddog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Apr 2012 at 20:16
No, but it seems like they got on well together.
 
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Do i see tongue?

Sorry, sorry.. i couldn't resist Embarrassed
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