CHAPTER XV. THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO, 1815.
"Napoleon, by the Grace of God, and the Constitution of the
Empire, Emperor of the French, to the Grand Army.
AT THE IMPERIAL HEAD-QUARTERS, AVESNES, JUNE 14th, 1815.
"Soldiers! this day is the anniversary of Marengo and of
Friedland, which twice decided the destiny of Europe. Then, as
after Austerlitz, as after Wagram, we were too generous! We
believed in the protestations and in the oaths of princes, whom
we left on their thrones. Now, however, leagued together, they
aim at the independence and the most sacred rights of France.
They have commenced the most unjust of aggressions. Let us,
then, march to meet them. Are they and we no longer the same
"Soldiers! at Jena, against these same Prussians, now so
arrogant, you were one to three, and at Montmirail one to six!
"Let those among you who have been captives to the English,
describe the nature of their prison ships, and the frightful
miseries they endured.
"The Saxons, the Belgians, the Hanoverians, the soldiers of the
Confederation of the Rhine, lament that they are compelled to use
their arms in the cause of princes, the enemies of justice and of
the rights of all nations. They know that this coalition is
insatiable! After having devoured twelve millions of Poles,
twelve millions of Italians, one million of Saxons, and six
millions of Belgians, it now wishes to devour the states of the
second rank in Germany.
"Madmen! one moment of prosperity has bewildered them. The
oppression and the humiliation of the French people are beyond
their power. If they enter France they will there find their
"Soldiers! we have forced marches to make, battles to fight,
dangers to encounter; but, with firmness victory will, be ours.
The rights, the honour, and the happiness of the country will be
"To every Frenchman who has a heart, the moment is now arrived to
conquer or to die. "NAPOLEON."
"THE MARSHAL DUKE OF DALMATIA. MAJOR GENERAL."
The 15th of June had scarcely dawned before the French army was in motion for the decisive campaign, and crossed the frontier in three columns, which were pointed upon Charleroi and its vicinity. The French line of advance upon Brussels, which city Napoleon resolved to occupy, thus lay right through the centre of the cantonments of the Allies.
Much criticism has been expended on the supposed surprise of Wellington's army in its cantonments by Napoleon's rapid advance. These comments would hardly have been made if sufficient attention had been paid to the geography of the Waterloo campaign; and if it had been remembered that the protection of Brussels was justly considered by the allied generals a matter of primary importance. If Napoleon could, either by manoeuvring or fighting, have succeeded in occupying that city, the greater part of Belgium would unquestionably have declared in his favour; and the results of such a success, gained by the Emperor at the commencement of the campaign, might have decisively influenced the whole after-current of events. A glance at the map will show the numerous roads that lead from the different fortresses on the French north-eastern frontier, and converge upon Brussels; any one of which Napoleon might have chosen for the advance of a strong force upon that city. The Duke's army was judiciously arranged, so as to enable him to concentrate troops on any one of these roads sufficiently in advance of Brussels to check an assailing enemy. The army was kept thus available for movement in any necessary direction, till certain intelligence arrived on the 15th of June that the French had crossed the frontier in large force near Thuin, that they had driven back the Prussian advanced troops under General Ziethen, and were also moving across the Sambre upon Charleroi.
Marshal Blucher now rapidly concentrated his forces, calling them in from the left upon Ligny, which is to the north-east of Charleroi. Wellington also drew his troops together, calling them in from the right. But even now, though it was certain that the French were in large force at Charleroi it was unsafe for the English general to place his army directly between that place and Brussels, until it was certain that no corps of the enemy was marching upon Brussels by the western road through Mons and Hal. The Duke therefore, collected his troops in Brussels and its immediate vicinity, ready to move due southward upon Quatre Bras, and co-operate with Blucher, who was taking his station at Ligny: but also ready to meet and defeat any manoeuvre, that the enemy might make to turn the right of the Allies, and occupy Brussels by a flanking movement. The testimony of the Prussian general, Baron Muffling, who was attached to the Duke's staff during the campaign, and who expressly states the reasons on which the English general acted, ought for ever to have silenced the "weak inventions of the enemy" about the Duke of Wellington having been deceived and surprised by his assailant, which some writers of our own nation, as well as foreigners, have incautiously repeated. [See "Passages from my Life and Writings," by Baron Muffling, p. 224 of the English Translation, edited by Col. Yorke. See also the 178th number of the QUARTERLY. It is strange that Lamartine should, after the appearance of Muffling's work, have repeated in his "History of the Restoration" the myth of Wellington having been surprised in the Brussels ball-room,