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06 Apr 2018 10:50 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Changed title from "Has anyone read this yet?" to "Has anyone read Waterloo: The Truth at Last yet?"
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Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP16 Oct 2017 8:20 a.m. PST


I'm a bit disconcerted by how illiterate the blurb is, is all.

"The start of the battle was delayed because of the state of the ground not so. Marshal Ney destroyed the French cavalry in his reckless charges against the Allied infantry squares wrong. The stubborn defence of Hougoumont, the key to Wellington s victory, where a plucky little garrison of British Guards held the farmhouse against the overwhelming force of Jerome Bonaparte s division and the rest of II Corps not true."

If it's based on French accounts from 1816 it's probably just wring rather than new (I've just read today a 19th century French account of Quatre Bras in which the French suffered 3,000 casualties and the "English" 9,000. Yeah, right.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP16 Oct 2017 8:29 a.m. PST

They have certainly done the author no favours with this awful piece of prose. It needs punctuation to be readable but the style is terrible.

I have his books on Grouchy and on Ney at QB, here, unopened as yet. I just need some time to sit down and read! This book is coming very late in the day, unless it really does have some new primary sources. We have had so many books telling us that everything we thought we knew about Waterloo need rethinking. Funnily enough not one came up with anything that proved to be any great surprise.

Personal logo Artilleryman Supporting Member of TMP16 Oct 2017 9:11 a.m. PST

Absolutely. The only 'new' theory I have seen was that Soult was still a Royalist supporter and deliberately undermined the Emperor's plans. It was quite persuasive.

rmaker16 Oct 2017 10:15 a.m. PST

The only 'new' theory I have seen was that Soult was still a Royalist supporter and deliberately undermined the Emperor's plans.

And that's not new, either. I believe that charge was first aired in the 1820's.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP16 Oct 2017 10:25 a.m. PST

I bet it was aired between 16 and 18 June 1815, for that matter!

Personal logo Artilleryman Supporting Member of TMP16 Oct 2017 3:12 p.m. PST

Well …. it was new to me at least.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP16 Oct 2017 5:37 p.m. PST

Absolutely. The only 'new' theory I have seen was that Soult was still a Royalist supporter and deliberately undermined the Emperor's plans. It was quite persuasive.

grin That must be why the Royalists took Ney out and shot him later.

Green Tiger17 Oct 2017 2:05 a.m. PST

Might be worth a look…

holdit17 Oct 2017 6:27 a.m. PST

I'm sure I read that claim somewhere before. It may have been David Hamilton-Williams, whose book on Waterloo I read, but have never revisited.

Old Contemptibles Supporting Member of TMP17 Oct 2017 7:29 a.m. PST

Tempting. That is all I need, one more book I don't have the time to read.

Dave Jackson Supporting Member of TMP18 Oct 2017 6:28 a.m. PST

Well then, Rallynow, you'll be used to it…….

Dynaman878918 Oct 2017 7:56 a.m. PST

> That must be why the Royalists took Ney out and shot him later.

Yup, along the lines of getting rid of the hitman to leave no witness.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP18 Oct 2017 9:02 a.m. PST

"The start of the battle was delayed because of the state of the ground not so. Marshal Ney destroyed the French cavalry in his reckless charges against the Allied infantry squares wrong. The stubborn defence of Hougoumont, the key to Wellington s victory, where a plucky little garrison of British Guards held the farmhouse against the overwhelming force of Jerome Bonaparte s division and the rest of II Corps not true."

I'm sorry, this is such a gross set of misleading claims and broad brush explanations, I don't think anyone needs to take it too seriously.

Yup, along the lines of getting rid of the hitman to leave no witness.

Why? You only eliminate witnesses if knowledge of the covert action is detrimental to 1. those who were served and 2. if the knowledge of the deceit is NOT detrimental to the perpetrator. Neither is the case. If Ney had sabotaged Napoleon, any French Veteran would be out to get him.

Murvihill18 Oct 2017 9:24 a.m. PST

Ney was executed because he committed treason against louis. He accepted command of an army to bring Napoleon to heel, he could have ended the coup attempt with one pistol shot in Napoleon's general direction but instead turned coat. No conspiracy necessary.

Oliver Schmidt18 Oct 2017 9:57 a.m. PST

Still the book seems to bring hitherto unknown eyewitness accounts.

If these are cited in their entirety, so that the reader can make up his own mind on how to interprete them, they will be very useful to add some more facets to the knowledge of the battle.

Of course, if a French general wrote something about the battle in 1815, and contradicts other eyewitness accounts published in 1816 or 1870, the fact that his wish-wash has been forgotten for 200 years doesn't make him automatically a herald of truth.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP18 Oct 2017 10:12 a.m. PST

@ Oliver

This is the issue. There is no reason why any source from 1815 should automatically trump any other source just because it has only just come to light.

Regimental diarists have a worm's eye view of the action and may know very little about what else was going on around them. One thinks of the Waterloo soldier who described French cuirassiers as "Napoleon's bodyguards", for example. The Prussians who attacked Saxe-Weimar's troops and Mercer's battery at the end of the day clearly didn't even know what army they had in front of them.

I'd be very surprised if their regimental diaries or officers' memoirs made any mention of having fired only on their own side. I bet they convinced themselves that they'd routed the Old Guard, as Ziethen's wacky memoirs claimed 25 years later.

Snapper6907 Feb 2018 2:49 a.m. PST

I received my copy of this book yesterday. The original accounts mentioned are quoted in detail at first glance.

The detailed analysis of wounds received and casualties suffered by various units does tend to put many events into a different context, and is plausibly presented.

In the chapter about the Nassau troops on the Allied left flank, there are many irritating references to "La Haye Sainte", when "La Haie" is obviously meant. Possibly a proof reading error?

So far, a few "facts" are called into question, including the hypothesis that Ponsonby was killed by French musketry and not by lancers. The analysis of which French regiments actually assaulted Hougoumont or fought in the woods thereabout is also revealing, as it is well supported by evidence from the casualty reports etc.

I look forward to reading the rest of the book. If you like a "narrative" style, you will be disappointed, as this work is very analytical, with much number-crunching in the main body of the text. All sources are well annotated as footnotes on the relevant pages.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP07 Feb 2018 3:30 a.m. PST

@ snapper

I'll be interested in hearing more as you read more.

One thing that does not emerge clearly from many accounts is how and where the French came by all their casualties at Waterloo. Most accounts focus on the losses to the British heavy cavalry and to the squares from the artillery fire. In contrast nobody seems able to say what losses Reille or d'Erlon took. The very small forces committed to defend Plancenoit rule that front out of having been the major source of French losses (and it was still held by the French as Wellington's advance drew level with it – hence the Prussian overs falling among Wellington's men). Later casualty returns showing, eg, 50% casualties in the Guard heavy cavalry division, don't say anything about when those occurred, being mainly returns taken 2 or 3 days after the battle versus those of the 15th June.

Trajanus07 Feb 2018 4:00 a.m. PST

"Why Napoleon Lost The Great Battle"

I've always thought being out flanked by the Prussians might might have had something to do with it. Maybe I should write a book.

Snapper6907 Feb 2018 4:41 a.m. PST

@ 4th Cuirassier

The "where" and "when" in the casualties may well remain obscure. This book does, however, analyze the "how", by comparing the incidence of gunshot & bayonet wounds, for example, with the incidence of sabre cuts etc., which indicates whether the unit in question predominantly faced infantry or cavalry. Comparisons of total casualties also indicate the actions of units, which leads the author to believe that the 1e Légère did not, in fact, directly assault the Hougoumont complex, as their casualties did not reflect such an assault.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP07 Feb 2018 6:37 a.m. PST

@ Trajanus

The French were broken by Wellington's general advance. They were still fighting in Plancenoit as he advanced past it. We know this because many witnesses reported overs from Prussian artillery falling among Anglo-Allied troops as they reached La Belle Alliance. Prussian artillery would not still have been firing from east to west if the French had collapsed there. So Wellington's troops broke the French line and had time to advance around a mile and a half from their Mont St. Jean positions to reach a point abreast of Plancenoit, at which point fighting was still continuing.

The idea that the whole French line failed simultaneously, or that it collapsed opposite the Prussian sector first, is just a partisan fiction cooked up by German nationalists in the 19th century and reheated by hacks with an agenda in recent years. It's not reconcilable with the evidence. The significance of the Prussian flank march is not in doubt, but when all's said and done, they occupied a maximum of about 10,000 French troops. Wellington dealt with the other 65,000 (including all the heavy cavalry and most of the artillery), so we shouldn't fall for warmed-over Prussian propaganda here.

Cacadore s07 Feb 2018 10:57 a.m. PST

Reads like an editor was correcting the piece according to his opinion and his comments got left in. If you take out the words ''Not so'', ''wrong'' and ''Not true'' it sort of makes sense. Thus:

The start of the battle was delayed because of the state of the ground. Marshal Ney destroyed the French cavalry in (better: 'with') his reckless charges against the Allied infantry squares. The stubborn defence of Hougoumont, the key to Wellington s victory, (add: was) where a plucky little garrison of British Guards held the farmhouse against the overwhelming force of Jerome Bonaparte s division and the rest of II Corps.

That's a little overly simplistic you might think, and obviously written in line with traditional Allied histories. The word 'plucky' is for an English audience, but there's nothing that's absolutely ''wrong'' about that.

However, the blurb is saying the opposite: that what we believe is not true.

We're told to

Forget what you have read about the battle on the Mont St Jean on 18 June 1815; it did not happen that way.

How does he know what we've read? Just in London we have historians like Sir Richard Evans and Andrew Roberts at loggerheads about what happened that day. Crazy.

Certainly Hougomont was a big bother to Bonaparte and for the following reason.

If you look at Bonaparte's actual and reported orders, derived from other first-hand accounts (as opposed to the hagiography he started on St Helena) then it does seem that he was acting under a number of misapprehensions about where the main British force were located. The main reason for thinking this is that some of his orders to his corps leaders told them to advance together to beyond the British line. This might indicate that he thought the few British he could see on the ridge (remember Wellington had ordered most of his infantry to lie down out of sight) were simply a vanguard.

This is supported by Bonaparte's first infantry orders, which told his corps leaders to – and correct me if I'm wrong – 'advance to Mont St Jean' together, even though the huge obstacle that is Hougomont would obviously prevent Jerome from keeping up with the rest.

It's also arguable if the mass cavalry attacks were done on Ney's initiative. It took a very long time to assemble all the various cavalry units which mostly had to come from behind the French infantry lines in full view of Bonaparte's observation point, to give them their orders and then to watch as the attacks went on and on with units retiring and re-forming. To support the case that the cavalry attacks were all Ney's doing, we have Bonaparte later, obviously absolving himself from blame for the defeat by claiming Ney acted without orders. Then we have French mythographers later saying that either Bonaparte was indisposed or that cavalry units were simply joining in without orders. It's difficult to know what to believe, especially, as when the battle drew to it's climax and the allied line was thinning alarmingly near La Haie Saint; Banaparte was perfectly able to overrule Ney when he asked for more troops.

The "start of the battle was delayed because of the state of the ground'' argument seems odd to say the least.

As a keen walker myself, the idea that a crop-heavy, bowl-shaped terrain could ever dry out in a morning after the tremendous soaking it got from the previous night seems very strange. A big part of what Bonaparte was writing on St Helena (if you can get hold of his writings from that isle, they make fascinating reading) centre of course on distancing himself from the loss of Grouchy. Grouchy never came and it is unlikely Bonaparte could bring himself to admit he was waiting for him. Still, the 'waterlogged ground' excuse is the traditional reason for the delay given in most histories.

I put more faith in how Amazon describes the writer:

Paul Dawson is a writer of fiction and poetry and an internationally recognized scholar in the fields of narrative theory and Creative Writing.

As they say: LOL.

Trajanus07 Feb 2018 1:44 p.m. PST

@ 4th Cuirassier

I understand that this is the emoji I should have followed my remark with 🙃 Who knew!

But if you are trying to tell me that the French troops posted to watch that flank from the start of the battle, or the ones committed to slowing the Prussian advance, or fighting in and around Planchenoit did nothing and were a figment of Prussian propaganda, perhaps its you who should be writing a book!

dibble08 Feb 2018 2:40 p.m. PST

I've had the book since the 4th. I would have posted something on it but I was doghoused for 5 days, though I did post this on the ACG before I got into the meat of the book:

I have read upto the repulse of the cavalry charges of the household and Union cavalry.

So far Dawson goes into a lot of detail pertaining the Hougoumont and d'Erlon assaults. He inserts wherever he can, the fate of individual officers and gives tables for each regiments casualty list. He also gives opinions and supposed 'myth' busting. But what is most telling is his take of the 32nd foot and the incident of the regimental colours

Dawson states thar the 28th ligne must have "broken into" the 32nd foot because of what Lt.Belcher noted, and then goes on to Belcher's account as published in Siborne's Waterloo letters No.154.

"In the second attack of the French infantry on the left centre of the line, the brigade advanced in line to charge. Immediately on the passing of the narrow road which ran along our front, the ensign carrying the Regimental colours was severely wounded. I took the colour from him until another ensign could be called. Almost instantly after, the brigade still advancing, and the French infantry getting into disorder and beginning to retreat, a mounted officer had his horse shot under him. When he extricated himself, we were close to him. I had the colour on my left arm and was slightly in advance of the division. He suddenly fronted me and seized the staff, I still retaining a grasp of the silk; the colours were nearly new. At the same moment, he attempted to draw his sabre, but he had not accomplished it when the covering colour-sergeant, named Switzer, thrust his pike into his breast and the right rank and file of the division, namely Lacy, fired into him. he fell dead at my feet."

Dawson goes on in his narration

"However, the 32nd Regiment of Foot had lost their colour to the 28th regiment of Line Infantry. The French mounted officer is likely to have been Battalion commander Marens…."

Did the 32nd (Cornwall) Regiment of Foot loose their regimental colours?

Were they "broken into" by the 28th ligne?

Evidence shows not so on both counts. Dawson gives no evidence of what he claims.

Paul :)

Cacadore s08 Feb 2018 6:30 p.m. PST

The Amazon article claims that the author's revelations are based on secret French files which he saw opened for the first time since Waterloo…

What should we make of that? The only things of any relevance to the battle would be first hand accounts – which are hardly secret. Or perhaps Boney's written orders. Yet why should the anti-Bonaparte Royalist government seal them? Perhaps they're from St Helena. But then,judging from Boney's own writings, anything out of St Helena is suspect.

Snapper6909 Feb 2018 5:42 a.m. PST

I cannot believe the amount of speculation here. If you read the author's introduction, he explains which files he was able to examine, none of which were "secret", but some of which had been unavailable for a period of time, for various reasons.

He also states quite clearly that the conclusions made are his own, and that the reader may well come to other conclusions based on the evidence presented.

The Amazon article and jacket blurb is marketing at its worst, I agree, but the author seems not to make such claims. I will reserve my final opinion until I have finished reading. I certainly hope some of the contrinutors will reserve their opinion until they have at least started reading…….

Allan F Mountford09 Feb 2018 8:39 a.m. PST

Frontline Books state quite clearly:

'During October 2016 Paul Dawson visited French archives in Paris to continue his research surrounding the events of the Napoleonic Wars. Some of the material he examined had never been accessed by researchers or historians before, the files involved having been sealed in 1816. These seals remained unbroken until Paul was given permission to break them to read the contents.'

On the face of it, this is a stunning archival find. Is the publisher's claim correct or incorrect?

dibble09 Feb 2018 12:08 p.m. PST

I posted on another site pertaining the sources Dawson tapped….

Anyway! Dawson goes on to describe where he tapped his information of the French army from 'Muster rolls' legion of Honour records etc, and that he and his collegues had collected "over 80,000 points of data" and have found over 200 "untapped" "officer accounts in legal documents.

….and also.

Dawson admits that he is "pro-Napoleon and anti-Britain at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

which I think is a good thing as he is laying his cards on the table. But all the same, it is getting in the way of his telling of the battle.

Paul :)

dibble09 Feb 2018 12:32 p.m. PST

by the way! The delay in starting the attack according to Dawson, was because not all the French army had united and many units were strung out on the way to the battlefield many of those not reaching their allotted parts until the morning of the battle, which is no revelation really as this has been known for some years.

Dawson is also making the argument that La Haie, Fischermont and Papelotte were more important than Hougoumont and that the reason this has been ignored is because of anglo-centric bias in anglo-phonic tomes which to a large extent, ignore the Prussian/ allied far left in the narration; which is correct in the lack of its telling in many tomes.

Were those villages on the far left more important than Hougoumont on the right?

Those casualty returns charts are inaccurate, as the returns for dead and missing were hearsay form personnel of each unit.

Paul :)

Cacadore s09 Feb 2018 3:27 p.m. PST


'I cannot believe the amount of speculation here. If you read the author's introduction, he explains which files he was able to examine, none of which were 'secret'

Unfortunately the Amazon blurb was more sensational.

There's also a mystery here. Something just doesn't sit right in Dawson's stance.

If you have the book, can you have a look in the bibliography for us and see if Dawson's used anything written by Bonaparte after the battle?

Re: Dibble,

'Dawson admits that he is "pro-Napoleon and anti-Britain at the beginning of the nineteenth century.'

I believe at best, this could simply be a poor-will partisan work in the mould of Hofshroer's Waterloo analysis. Which is bad enough as he wasted many peoples' time on these boards in ahistorical misdirection.

So, nothing wrong with being pro, or wanting to write an historical book from the point of view of one of the sides. It also conforms with an authentic English-language perspective in that, being a pluralist democracy, Britain entertained pro-Bonapartist and anti-war political viewpoints from within it's own Whig-ite political and millitary establishments throughout the wars. Wilson, the Luctanian leader and Sheridan, the playright MP are two examples. They railed against their own leaders much as the American Democrats are doing today. But, even as an admirer of Wellington, I wouldn't dream of having the arrogance to write a book about Waterloo that allowed readers to glean that I was anti-French. I.e. not only against the battlefield commander (though that would be bad enough) but avowedly against a whole nation and its people. That would just diminish what I was doing, surely? Hitler was a monster. But who wants to read a book about WW2 where all Germans just become ciphers for the author's angst? It's a bit anti-human. I sometimes go on French websites to converse with French posters, in French, about Waterloo. I also know a few French gamers I talk to at shows. Even though I'm pro-English, they couldn't be nicer.

So why is Dawson anti- British?.
Even Mel Gibson's one-sided films, Gallipoli and Patriot, never decended into being anti- a whole people or a whole nation.

Major Snort09 Feb 2018 3:47 p.m. PST

I haven't read the book in question, but are you sure that you are talking about the same Paul L. Dawson who wrote this book about Waterloo – and has written or co-written several other books about the Napoleonic era?

Cacadore s09 Feb 2018 4:04 p.m. PST

Dawson's a common name, it's true.

Major Snort09 Feb 2018 4:15 p.m. PST

Well Cacadore s, I'm really glad that you had time to edit that essay above analysing Paul Dawson, The Australian author, and his possible motifs, otherwise you could have ended up looking like a fool!

Cacadore s10 Feb 2018 5:41 p.m. PST

And we wouldn't want that, would we Major?

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP10 Feb 2018 5:58 p.m. PST

The author is not responsible, I don't think, for the Amazon blurb, which is likely written by the publisher's PR department – as in some cases are actual titles. We have all heard, I'm sure, of books retitled for certain audiences or indeed altogether, with the author not necessarily consulted.

It would be interesting though to know whether there are any actual new sources used and what their merits are. Just because a source is old doesn't make it valuable or any good. If Ziethen's comedy memoirs had never been published and were to be unearthed today as a new source, it wouldn't make them any less of a joke. They'd still be a farrago of self serving garbage.

Cacadore s11 Feb 2018 5:55 p.m. PST

4th Cuirassier 10 Feb 2018 4:58 p.m. PST !
"It would be interesting though to know whether there are any actual new sources used and what their merits are."

I'm extremely sceptical that the French would unseal anything related to Nappy at the request of a mere non-Gaul.

Snapper6912 Feb 2018 3:56 a.m. PST

Well, the new and previously unconsulted documents seem to be the casualty lists/regimental muster rolls, which were sealed in 1816 and not opened until the author's visit in 2016.

The book does not, in fact, provide any astounding revelations. As has already been stated here, the delay commencing the action on the 18th was mainly due to the French Army not yet having concentrated and had nothing to do with soft ground, a fact which has been well known for some time now.

The book is mainly an analysis of unit casualties, and should have been presented as such. Many interesting conclusions are drawn from the examination of total casualties per Regiment/Battalion and the types of wounds sustained. Some of these conclusions effectively question the received knowledge of who did exactly what during the battle, especially with respect to the fighting around Hougoumont. The author presents a well-founded thesis of the French not pressing the attacks on Hougoumont anything like has been previously presented. Indeed, the author surmises that no French attack even came close to significantly outnumbering the garrison at the point of contact.

There are some interesting points made about Ney's cavalry attacks indeed being supported by infantry, as well as significant documentation of support by artillery.

I found the testimony to the extreme early arrival of advance Prussian elements to be revealing. I was already aware of a much earlier Prussian presence than has traditionally been reported. The commencement of Prussian attacks around 2.30pm – 3.00pm has been previously documented by other authors. The fact that Prussian advance guard elements may already have been present around 11.00am obviously sheds much light on subsequent developments. Lobau's Corps was initially intended to support D'Erlon in the assault, but was diverted to secure the right flank, where it saw action throughout the day, albeit mainly skirmishing.

The debunking of the myth about the Guard "Dying rather than surrendering" was enlightening. Apparently, the casualty lists document the fact that those battalions of the Guard which made last stands on the evening of the battle did, in fact, surrender "en masse" when broken.

The work is very neutral when one considers it has been written by a self-confessed Bonapartist. Any comparison with one of Hofschröer's diatribes is ill informed and insulting.

The annoying confusion of place names which I already mentioned did detract heavily from the reading, though, and the lack of any maps makes it difficult to follow the narrative if one does not have a reasonable grasp of the geography of the battlefield.

All in all, I was pleased with the book. It is not what the jacket blurb states, but useful and enlightening nonetheless.

@Cacadore s

You seem to have a lot to say about a book you do not have. If you want to see the bibliography, I suggest you buy it, or at least borrow a copy?

arthur181512 Feb 2018 5:24 a.m. PST

I haven't finished the book yet, but my impression is that Snapper69 has made fair comments. True, the book doesn't live up to the blurb, but it's an interesting read and contains some thought-provoking points.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP12 Feb 2018 7:28 a.m. PST

What's never been clear to me is where the French suffered their losses at Waterloo. The east of Wellington's position was lightly engaged so it wasn't there, there were never enough at Plancenoit for them to have suffered badly there, and even I the cavalry took 50% losses that's only about 4,000 of a total that is sometimes given as high as 41,000. Now we have someone saying they didn't lose many at Hougoumont; so what was Reille doing all day and where did the losses occur?

Snapper6912 Feb 2018 8:14 a.m. PST

@4th Cuirassier

This book analyzes exactly that. D'Erlon took heavy losses, as did some of the regiments at Hougoumont, just not the ones credited for that action to date. The Young Guard suffered severely, as did the Old Guard during their attack and whilst covering the retreat.

Apparently, most of the losses were prisoners when the army broke.

dibble12 Feb 2018 11:05 a.m. PST

All well and good. but as I posted above (08 Feb 2018 1:40 p.m. PST):

"Did the 32nd (Cornwall) Regiment of Foot lose their regimental colours?

Were they "broken into" by the 28th ligne?

Evidence shows not so on both counts. Dawson gives no evidence of what he claims."

He also tries to make some other claims with accompanying accounts, but those accounts don't really argue his case.

He also reckons that there was a large 7,500 bayonet, infantry assault on Wellington's right, supported by Lancers and Cuirassiers at about 18:00 before the final Imperial Guard attack but that it has been totally ignored in all histories of the battle because it didn't involve mainly, British troops. Flimsy evidence of this occurring but there were actions going on around Hougoumont at this time and the allied units there did sterling work but if it was a full blown attack, it must have been a very feeble one and not very well coordinated and thus not seen as a major attempt and ignored as such and recorded ‘understandably' as part of the overall fight at Hougoumont..

Like all the other ‘new histories' of the battle, it seems that a certain amount of selective information is being used to fit a narrative, and his reliability on his casualty returns is an eyebrow raiser. Not the best Dawson Book in my opinion, and from the guard attack,is rather confusing but well worth the money for yet another spin of the greatest battle in history.

4th Cuirassier:

I would take Dawson's casualty returns with a pinch of Soult. The returns for dead and missing are word of mouth from eyewitnesses. The allied returns aren't accurate. A beaten, smashed and swept off the Battlefield army's certainly wont be.

Paul :)

dibble12 Feb 2018 12:05 p.m. PST

How many casualties does Dawson say occurred in the French infantry arm in total?



And POW:933

POW :10,016

Killed :869



Remember, Wellingtons army alone lost about 3,500 killed and 3,300 missing.

Don't ask me about the French cavalry reserve and artillery returns as I can't find them and unless they are in the total above, they would have to be wiped out, to get to 38-40,000 mark


Snapper6913 Feb 2018 2:20 a.m. PST


Cavalry losses are not included, he does state that the returns for most of the cavalry were not available for inspection, being either missing or damaged and requiring restoration.

dibble13 Feb 2018 8:32 a.m. PST


Right! See, I didn't read all the Analysis chapter as it was a little confusing and I got fed up anyway after the tedium of the selective telling of the battle itself.

Paul :)

von Winterfeldt15 Feb 2018 1:10 p.m. PST

I eventually bougth this book, though I am not overly interested in the battle of Belle Alliance.
I cannot understand the negative waives expressed by some here, clearly the author took a lot of pains to research in the archives.
Of course the book is not telling why Boney lost the battle, for that you have to read Bernard Coppens : Les Mensonges de Waterloo, but it provides a lot of new data.
I just checked the chapter of the arrival of the Prussians and I have to disagree totally with the author – his sources – that Boney was quite early aware of the Prussian arriveal is pure Napoleonic propaganda to cover up Boneys complete wrong judgement (which let consequently to the loss of the entire campaign) of the Prussian and Allied Army opposing him.
A pity that Dawson did not read Coppens on that topic and did not consult key German works on that subject, the Prussians were quite surprised that they could approach to the rear of the French Army unmolested and had time to concentrate, alas Dawson bases some of his assesment to one of the worst sources about the battle – Mauduit.
There Boney judged the Prussians utterly beaten and not able to concentrate before at least 3 days or more, he naturally did not expect that Wellington would make a stand and would take him on alone. It took the French Army so long to start the battle, because none was anticipated at the eve of the 17th July.
Consequently when the first Prussians became visible, Boney was sure it was Grouchy, how could it be otherwise after that drubbing of the Prussians at Ligny?
Despite all this – Boney was quite close beating the Allies at about 16:00 – when Blücher thought it was too dangerous to concentrate any longer but to just start fighting with mere 2 Prussian divisions to relieve the pressure from the Allies.
Still the book provides a lot of other interesting points of views which merit close study and reflection.
A massive volume with over 500 pages.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP15 Feb 2018 2:21 p.m. PST

That's not really a review of the book, is it?

von Winterfeldt14 Mar 2018 2:19 a.m. PST

Halfway through – including a peek at the analysis.

I am usually quite a fan of Dawsons books, there he covers very interesting topics, like cavalry remounts and must have spent an awfull amount of time and money doing research in the archives.

But with this book, I am at a loss. The author makes a good point how carefull one has to evaluate memoires but then often makes use of them – uncritically when they support his theories.

Also, and I admit I dislike this – he speaks about the British Army – I cannot see a British Army at the ridge of Mont St. Jean – but an allied one commanded by Wellington, British soldiers were part of it.

In assesing this army, it is a pifall – and indeed very anglo – phonetic (which Dawson is stressing often, but seems to adher to devotedly) to look only at the British parts.

While he downplays the Armée du Nord – regarding experience – compared to the British part of Wellingtons Allied Army, he uplays about their quality. Reading Clinton's inspection reports – this was clearly not the Peninsular army and a lot of units seemingly were almost unfit for duty.
Dawson hardly looks – into the quality of the other units of Wellington's and Blücher's army as well.

Yes, I agree that the Armée du Nord, due to political and organisational problems, was certainly not the best Boney ever commanded and yes also due to staff problems, maybe one of the worst, his counterparts however did not command crack armies either and suffered from similair problems.

Alas he falls in the trap that Boney did know almost at the start of the battle that the Prussians are arriving or indeed seeing them, capturing a Prussian messager.

He should have read, before writing his book Bernard Coppen's Waterloo – les messonges – Coppens clearly makes a good point why Boney was completley surprised by the Prussians at about 16:00.

Indeed the Prussians themselves could not believe in their luck, that they could collect unmolestetly some of their units, before launching their attack at the French right flank. They did this at about 16:00 – because they feared that the French were at the brink of routing the Allied Army, so far they did not encounter any French opposition.

A Prussian officer – of the spearhead advance Guard even commented that they could see the backs of the French units.

About his casualty tables, I would have found it usefull – if they included also the starting strength of a unit and not only the casualties.

His strong points are the narrative of French officers and casualty figures.
In that point – the truth, in other aspects of the battle – like awarness of the Prussians early – I am afraid not.

There was a good discussion on this at


von Winterfeldt14 Mar 2018 2:35 a.m. PST

in case for the German phones

Lippe – Weißenfeld, Ernst Graf von : Geschichte des Königich Preussischen 6. Husaren – Regiments (ehedem 2. Schlesisches). Berlin 1860
„Excerpte aus Privatbriefen eines Officiers des Regiments an einem nahen Verwandten, während des Druckes bearbeitet.
(…) 29. Juli 1815 (…)
Am Morgen des 18. Setzten wir uns in Marsch, beim II. A.C. in Wavres vorbei, nach den Höhen von St. Lambert. Ich erhielt mit 70 Pfde. die Avantgarde. Um 11 Uhr kam ich richtig in St. Lambert an. Kein Feind hatte mich bemerkt. Ich fing einige französische Cavalleristen, die meine Nähe nicht geahnt hatten. Links vorwärts auf der großen Straße Jemappe – Brüssel hörte man einzelne Kanonenschüsse. Vor uns ein Defilee, das schlechterdings passiert werden mußte, um auf die St. Lambert gegenüberliegende, stark bewaldeten Höhen von Ohain und Lasnes zu kommen.
Es wurde mir befohlen, sogleich vorzugehen, das Defilee abzupatrouillieren und bei Lasnes zu passieren, um möglich zu erfahren, ob es von Lasnes links liegenden Wald und eine alte Abtei im Tahle vom Feind besetzt sei. Ich zog in Dorf Lasnes links gegen die Abtei und erfuhr, daß der rechte Flügel der französischen Reserve in Planchenois und zwischen diesen Dorfe und dem Walde jenseits des Defilees von Lasne stehe. Alle französischen in dieser Gegend aufgestellten Truppen kehrten mir den Rücken. Ich schloß daraus, daß man uns hier nicht erwartete. Daher zog ich still ab, passierte das Defilee von Lasnes und schlich mich nach dem Walde auf die Höhe. Dieser war bis zur Hälfte unbesetzt. Der unbesetzte Teil lag nach Ohain hin, was uns also günstig; denn von diesem Ort aus sollte das I. Corps die Verbindung zwischen dem linken Flügel und der Englädner und dem IV Corps machen.
Behutsam ging ich in den Wald, bis an einem Punkt, von wo aus man freies Feld sehn konnte. Links vor mir zeigte sich die französische Armee auf der Höhe von Belle Alliance im Rücken, wie sie in völliger Action mit der englischen, die schon um 1 Uhr Nachmittag etwas Terrain verloren hatte. Ein Generalstabs – Officier, der mit nachgekommen war, theilte meine Wahrnehmungen mit mir.
Da meine Patrouille unterdeß im Walde auf keinen Feind stießen, ließ ich einige Observationsposten zurück mit der Anweisung, sich nicht zu zeigen und jagte retour auf die Höhen von St. Lambert. Hier traf ich die ganze Generalität. Auf meinem und des Generalstabs – Officiers Rapport, setzte sich nun das IV. Corps in Marsch, passierte das Defilee bei Lasnes und versammelte sich, vom Feinde ungesehen, an und in dem Walde. Ehe noch zwei Brigaden vereinigt waren, wollte der Feldmarschall schon aus dem Walde (auf die Franzosen) losbrechen. General Bülow zögerte indeß absichtlich und mit Recht so lang bis wenigstens 12 bis 15,000 M. zusammen waren. Ein Adjutant brauchte nun unserem Regiment den Befehl, aus dem Walde hervorzubrechen und die feindliche Reserve – Cavallerie anzugreifen. Dies geschah. Eine feindliche Tirailleurlinie, welche sich und entgegenwarf, wurde verjagt (…) S. 257

matthewgreen18 Mar 2018 11:52 a.m. PST

I am about a third of the way through. I am not really a fan of Dawson, based on his book on Quatre Bras, which I thought was poor. This book has exceeded my admittedly low expectations.

This time he has managed to convince me that his finding of the muster rolls for the French army really does add important new data for historians. There is a very good bit in the intro where he explains what this data is and how he validated it. This makes his work an important contribution to the history of the battle – a must read until somebody uses this new data to better effect.

But he is not a good analyst. He seems too angry. I like my historians to forensically pull together the evidence to establish what happened and why. Dawson seems more interested in debunking myths and pursuing arguments about who is to blame.

Flicking ahead of myself to look at the advance of the Prussians to Plancenoit, I found the account very confusing. He's not alone there, but elsewhere he suggested that this sector was highly critical to the battle, and neglected by those villainous Anglo historians, who play up Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte instead. I agree – but I wish he could have done more work on this sector himself, because I am struggling to make sense of it. How much actually fighting took place in the 2km between the Bois de Paris and Plancenoit between Lobau's corps and Bulow's?

Having said which, I have gained some important new insights, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the book, putting aside his rather irritating style.

Oliver Schmidt18 Mar 2018 12:28 p.m. PST

If you want to estimate the involvement of the Prussians at Waterloo, the casualty lists are a good start:




These are the lists handed in by the regiments to the corps commanders shortly after the actions. However, they needn't be 100% correct. See for example the losses of the 2. Pommersches Landwehr-Infanterie-Regiment on 18th June: fighting to the death, covering up of deserters and strugglers, false transmission of numbers, or really so many deadly wounds, causing more dead thn wounded ?

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