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there is an end of either patriots or republicans. I am your last dictator.” With these prophetic words, Napoleon left for the army on the 12th of June.
Of the 150,000 men that the Emperor counted on mustering to fall upon the English and Prussians, the remainder of his forces being necessarily scattered along his eastern and southern frontiers, under different generals, to keep head against the enemy, he was obliged to detach 20,000 to suppress a rising in La Vendée. Fouché partially quieted the Royalists of that region by representing that the struggle would soon be decided on the field of Flanders, and that the blood spilt on the Loire would then be in vain. All the chiefs listened to him save the Marquis de la Rochejacquelein, who with more courage than skill rushed to an encounter with the opposing force, and fell in the action.
The English student eager for details of the campaign of Waterloo will find it described at length in his own country's memoirs and historians. Here he will find but a succinct account, much as that given of the Peninsular war, both of them told fully in English annals. Napoleon, whose army lay scattered along the northern frontier, concentrated his forces secretly at Maubeuge. Wellington had disposed his 90,000 men, of whom one half were English, between Brussels and the frontier, some at Tournay, some at Nivelles. Blücher's 110,000 men were similarly dispersed between Cambray and Namur. To get between them, and beat one after the other, was Napoleon's design, a happy one if he could inflict a total defeat on either of his enemies, but dangerous if he only succeeded in repelling one; for, as the Prussian and English forces were each almost equal to him, any failure or incompleteness of success on his part would expose his army to be crushed between those of his enemies. The latter is precisely what happened.
On the 15th of June, the French army crossed the frontier, and afterwards the Sambre, driving the enemy
CHAP. from Charleroi, and came on the 16th in front of the XLIV.
greater part of the Prussian army, some 100,000 strong, drawn up on the rising ground of Ligny. The French were inferior in number, 40,000 of them having marched with Ney in the direct road to Brussels to prevent the English coming to the aid of Blücher. Napoleon commanded Ney to take possession of the cross-roads at Quatre-Bras. The marshal's orders were not only to do this, but to despatch a large part of his force to fall on the rear of the Prussians, whilst Napoleon should be engaged with them.
French writers, notably M. Thiers, characterise this order as an emanation of genius. Now the device of attacking an enemy in front, and sending a division round to attack him in flank and rear, is one of the most obvious of manæuvres, requiring, we should say, no particle of genius. If there were genius, it was on both sides, for Blücher besought the Duke of Wellington to do precisely the same thing by the French. Ney and Wellington were both too much pressed to do either. Ney did detach D'Erlon's corps to execute the desired maneuvre, but was obliged to recall it in his distress. The British repelled all the attempts of Ney to establish himself at Quatre-Bras, but the Prussians were driven from the field of Ligny. A seasonable and well-directed charge of the French guards broke through Blücher's centre, and drove him in some disorder, but not in rout, from the field.
Napoleon then joined Ney in pursuit of the English, who, learning the defeat of Blücher, retired on the 17th from Quatre-Bras to take position before Waterloo, some four or five leagues distant from Wavre, to which spot Blücher had withdrawn. Napoleon had despatched Grouchy with 34,000 men to pursue, harass, and prevent him from coming to the succour of the English. Grouchy's corps, however, not one-half the Prussian, was very insufficient for this purpose, which,
no doubt, chiefly caused the delays and hesitations of the general.
On the morning of the 18th, Napoleon marshalled his 75,000 men, all veteran French soldiers, in front of the Duke of Wellington's army, numbering some 70,000, one-half of whom alone were English, and of these a great portion were under fire for the first time. The veterans of the Peninsula were in America. There were some 20,000 Belgians, belonging to a country so lately constituted that it is no reproach to its soldiers that they were neither zealous nor staunch. Napoleon did not give the signal for attack till half-past eleven, waiting, according to some, for the ground to dry after a heavy night's rain-according to others, giving time for Grouchy to join him. Pressing orders had been despatched to the marshal.
The first efforts of the French were directed to drive the English from the château of Hougoumont and the farm of La-Haye-Sainte. The obstinate resistance of the English preventing their enemies from clearing away these obstacles, Napoleon resolved notwithstanding to direct the mass of his infantry upon the English left. It was to mount the height, and establish its position there in face of the enemy. The French ascended the hill in three columns, and, gaining its crest, were deploying under a heavy fire, when the Scots Greys and other regiments of English heavy cavalry charged them, broke through and so thoroughly disorganised them that in little more than an hour's time the French fell back into the vale below. Such was the fortune of the first French attack.
Ere a second could be organised, the Prussian columns were seen advancing in the distance, and the Emperor was obliged to detach a large body of infantry, especially the guards under Lobau, to prevent the threatened irruption. He ordered Ney, however, to carry the farm of La-Haye-Sainte, and await there with his cavalry, until Lobau had first repelled the Prussians, when the foot guards should be sent to his succour, and foot and
horse might then make the second grand attack upon
a short time, the French were for the third time driven back from the high plain of Mont-St.-Jean, whilst simultaneously a fresh Prussian corps advanced, and pushed its formidable troops upon the high road. The French could no longer withdraw by it, and were obliged to fling themselves, dispersed and defeated, through the vast cornfields. The old guard, however, still intact, protected the Emperor's retreat. Wellington and Blücher met very near the spot where Napoleon had observed the battle.
The day after, the Emperor found himself at Laon, the country around covered with the scattered relics of his army. He knew not what had befallen Grouchy. So leaving to Soult the command and the care of rallying the fugitives, he hastened to Paris. Shunning the Tuileries, he entered the Elysée palace in the evening of the 20th, flung himself into a bath, and summoned a council for the next morning. The mournful faces met, and did not brighten when Napoleon announced his defeat, and his thirst to repair it. For this he demanded a temporary dictatorship. The only voices which seconded him and signed an appeal to the people, and the revolutionists rather than to the moderates or the chamber, were those of Carnot and of Lucien. The rest, even Caulaincourt, were for consulting the chamber, although the chamber, observed Regnault, would insist on a second abdication. The decided Napoleonists replied by a threat to dissolve the chamber. To succeed, it ought to have been done ere talked of. For the members met at Fouché's, excited each other, and were excited by the ministers to resistance. Amongst those who attended and heard the rumour of dissolution was General Lafayette. Benjamin Constant had consulted him in drawing up the Additional Act, and the general had had conversations with Joseph Buonaparte. Without being adverse to the dynasty, he mistrusted Napoleon's promise of liberalism,