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314

NOVEMENTS OF THE HOSTILE ARMJES.

march at break of day and take a position in advance of Quatre Bras, on the road to Brussels, and to guard the roads leading to Namur and Nivelles. The Emperor with the centre and right of the army, marched to attack the Prussian army, before the corps of general Bulow could come up, or the English be able to assemble on its right. The enemy were soon discovered to be drawn up in order of battle; their left on the village of Sombref, occupying the road to Namur; their centre at the village of Ligny, and their right on the village of St. Amand. Their reserve occupied the heights of the windmill Bry. The forces of the enemy exceeded 80,000 men ; the line was tranverse to the road of Namur, in a direction from the village of Sombref to Gosselies. Their front was covered by a deep ravine. The French army approach. ed the enemy about ten o'clock in the morning, halted and formed. Their third corps was in advance of Fleur. us ; the fourth formed their centre, and marshal Grouchy with the cavalry composed the right. The Emperor with a small retinue, ascended the heights, reconnoitered and made himself perfectly acquainted with the position of the enemy. Marshai Blucher did not expect to have been attacked on the 16th, and expected to have had time to concentrate all his army, and to be supported on his right by the English.

Marshal Ney, when on the point of marching to take the position assigned him, halted in consequence of a report that the English and Prussian armies had effected a junction in the environs of Fleurus.

The Emperor apprised of this delay, blamed him for having lost eight hours, and repeated the order for him to march in advance of Quatre Bras. In consequence of the delay of Marshal Ney, the line of the army near Fleu. rus had remained inactive until 2 o'clock, when the emperor ordered a change of front at Fleurus. Tbis move, ment placed the third corps at the distance of two cannon shot froin St. Amand; the fourth the same distance from Ligay, and the third the same from Sombref. The sixth Corps, on its march from Charleroy received orders to take a position in advance of Fleurus as a general reserve, Every thing announced the destruction of the Prussian

PRUSSIANS DEFEATED AT LIGNY.

315

army. The emperor said to count Gerard, who applied to him for instructions as to the attack upon the village of Ligny: “In three hours the fate of the war may be deci. ded; if Ney executes his orders properly, not a cannon of the Prussians will escape. They are completely surprisa ed." The villages of St. Amand and Ligny were attacked by the third and fourth corps, about three in the afternoon. Grouchy forced the left of the Prussians to fall back ; all their positions on the right of the ravine were taken, and the enemy was driven to the left side of it.

The conflict was sharp and warm ; the villages of St. Amand and Ligny were each taken and retaken several times. During the engagement the Prussians were reinforced by the remainder of the third corps, which increased their strength to 90,000 men, while the French including their reserve did not exceed 70,000. The French crossed the ravine, attacked and drove before them the reserve of the enerny, broke the centre of their line, and compelled them to retire. General Monthion was directed to pursue them. Marshal Grouchy, and generals Excelmans and Pajol distinguished themselves. The trophies of the victory were forty pieces of cannon, eight standards, and a considerable number of prisoners. The enemy stated their own loss at 25,000 men, killed, wounded and prisoners ; besides 20,000 disbanded and plundered the shore of the Meuse to Liege. The loss of the French was 6,950, killed and wounded. Marshal Blucher was thrown from his horse by a charge of cuirassiers, under the feet of the horses, but they followed up their charge without discovering him, and night enabled him to escape. The prince of Orange had marched to Quatre Bras, where the English army was expected to be concentrated, and prince Bernard of Saxe, had taken a position between that place and Genappe. The position of the prince of Orange was an important one, being the point at which the different divisions of Wellington's army were concentrating. Had it not been for the delay of marshal Ney, he might have secured this position, and been enabled to attack separately the divisions of the English army on their march. These advantages were lost. But the marshal having received the orders of the emperor, with about half his force com

316

ACTION AT QUATRE BRAS.

menced an attack upon the Prince of Orange about two o'clock, which grew into a vigorous conflict by three.

The Prince's division was broken and thrown into disorder; but was supported by the fifth English and the Prince of Brunswick's divisions, which approached with great haste and disorder, after a march of eight leagues from Brussels, which they left at ten in the morning. The enemy being reinforced, were greatly superior in numbers; but were deficient in cavalry and artilliery. The contest was renewed with redoubled fury; the enemy was again repulsed with a severe loss; but having taken a position in the rear of a piece of woods which secured their flanks, they maintained it until night. Ney fixed his head quarters at Quatre Bras, his line being two cannon shot distant from the enemy. He was joined by bount Erlon with the corps of reserve.

The loss of the English troops was estimated at 9000; that of the French at 3400.

The night of the sixteenth and seventeenth, the third corps

of the French army rested on its arms on the field of battle in advance of St. Amand; the fourth corps in advance of Ligny; marshal Grouchy at Sombref, and the sixth corps in reserve behind Ligny. The Prussians retreated in two columns towards Wavres, where the fourth corps under general Bulow arrived from Liege about 11 o'clock at night. The dispersed Prussians covered the country like a swarm of locusts, and committed dreadful ravages. The defeat of the Prussians occasioned great joy to the inhabitants on the left bank of the Rhine.

The duke of Wellington had reached and passed the night at Quatre Bras ; where his troops, exhausted and fatigued, continued to arrive. They had been on their march since the night of the fifteenth.

At break of day on the seventeenth, general Pajol, with the 6th corps, and a division of light cavalry was ordered to pursue the Prussians in the direction of Wavres; and marshal Ney received orders to inarch at day break on Quatre Bras, and attack the rear-guard of the English. Count Lobau was directed to march by the road of Namur, towards the same place, to aid the attack of marshal Ney. Marshal Grouchy with the third and fourth corps

PURSUIT OF THE PRUSSIANS.

317

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of infantry, and a corps of cavalry, set out to support general Pajol, in the pursuit of Blucher; he had positive orders to keep between him and the road leading to Brussels, so as to keep open the communication, and be in constant readiness to unite with the army.

The third division of the second corps having suffered much at the action at Ligny, remained to watch the field of battle and take care of the wounded.

After visiting the field of battle and ordering assistance for the wounded, the Emperor set off at full speed for Quatre Bras, expecting to arrive there at the same time with Count Lobau's cavalry, which he overtook at the village of Morchais. Grouchy in the pursuit of Blucher, marched to Gembloux, supposing he had retired in that direction. He arrived at four in the afternoon of the 17th, and ascertained that Bulows corps had entered the place the preceding night, that several of the corps of the Prussian army were in great disorder, the surrounding villages filled with wounded and runaways, and that desertion had already become alarming among the Saxon and Westphalian troops.

At six in the evening Grouchy learnt that the principal force of the enemy had retired towards Wavres; but as the soldiers were then at supper, he concluded not to follow him until morning.

This resolution enabled Blucher to gain a march of three hours on him, and has been considered as the prin. cipal cause of the loss of the battle of Waterloo.

A severe and drenching rain fell during the night, and the country being flat, it was in the morning almost impassable, for the artillery and cavalry.

The Emperor with the right, and centre of the army amounting to about 70,000 men, encamped in advance of Planehenoit, on the road to Brussels, and four and a haif leagues distant from that place. Wellington's army was encamped before him, consisting of 90,000 men, its head quarters being at Waterloo. It had 255 pieces of ordnance, and the French 242.

The Einperor supposing Grouchy at Wavres. dispatched an oificer at ten at night to inform him, that a decisive

318 INTELLIGENCE FROM GROUCHY DISAPPOINTS NAPOLEON.

battle would be fought the next day, the English army being posted in advance of the forest of Soignes, its left resting on the village of Haye. He ordered him to detach before day, a division of 7,000 men, with sixteen pieces of cannon to St. Lambert, to join the right of the grand army; and directed, that in case Blucher should retreat from Wavres towards Brussels, or in any other direction, to march with the greater part of his troops, to support his detachment at St. Lambert.

About an hour after this dispatch, the Emperor received a report from marshal Grouchy, by which it was with surprise and astonishment he learnt that instead of his being at Wavres, in close pursuit of Blucher, he was at Gembloux at five the preceding evening, and ignorant of the course Blucher had taken.

The Emperor immediately sent an officer to Gembloux to repeat the orders and instructions, which had previously been sent to Wavres. An hour after, he reviewed a second report from Grouchy, dated at 2 o'clock at night, stating that he had ascertained at six in the evening, that Blucher had retired towards Wavres, and that he should have pursued him immediately, but that his troops were encamped and preparing their suppers, which induced him to defer marching until early the next morning, when the soldiers having taken rest, their march would be more expeditious, and he concluded he should be able to be before Wavres in season.

During the night of the 17th and 18th, the situation of the French army was very critical, and Bonaparte was deeply occupied with thoughts upon its situation, and the important events which the next day might bring forth. Since the commencement of hostilities, by the most skilful maneuvres, and bold and sudden movements, he had surprised the enemy, succeeded in separating the two armies, and preventing their union, and gained an important victory, attended with a heavy loss to the enemy:But the mistake of Grouchy in not following up Blucher, he apprehended would defeat all his plans. The danger which he feared, however, was not which befel him. The enemy having two armies, one equal and the other near. ly equally so, to his own, it had been a primary object'

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