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"John Hussey's two books on Waterloo" Topic

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1,737 hits since 16 Feb 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Trajanus16 Feb 2018 9:20 a.m. PST

No doubt been covered before but now the "Search" is no longer with us ……………

Who has read them and what did you think?

Brechtel19816 Feb 2018 9:24 a.m. PST

They are a must-have along with Andrew Field's four books on the campaign.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP16 Feb 2018 10:01 a.m. PST

100% agree.

I have read so many books on 1815, I really doubted these would tell me much new.

That may be why, to my surprise, I found Volume I the better read than II…….I had never really fully understood Wellington's apparent paralysis initially. Now that I read of Gosselies and the Prussians falling back, it makes more sense. He is a DoW fan without a doubt, but very convincing about the "failure" to support Ligny as "promised", about how the Prussians esp Blucher pushed for the forward battle that he did not want etc.

Volume II is very good on Plancenoit. Best explanation of the fight there that I have read. Volume II is shorter than I had expected, or than the book suggests. Half the book is references, OoB, footnotes etc……..literally. He does make some very good comments, in suffices at the end of chapters, myth-busting on small details (really well done). But if this was your first ever read about "Waterloo" I think you would struggle. Field is better on 18th June, at least west of Papelotte anyway.

The two together are superb though.

The Search is no longer with us? I tried yesterday and got nowhere….I thought that was just me.

Trajanus16 Feb 2018 10:38 a.m. PST

Quoting Bill:

"Temporarily turned off because it was causing problems with the database."

"The search routines put a lot of stress on the forum databases, which increases the incidence of bugs. So, while I am working on the bug issues, I'd like to keep database stress to a minimum.

As a compromise, I will probably restore searches for Supporting Members, and see how that goes."

Trajanus16 Feb 2018 10:41 a.m. PST

But if this was your first ever read about "Waterloo" I think you would struggle.

If only it were!

Stoppage16 Feb 2018 11:33 a.m. PST
Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP16 Feb 2018 1:46 p.m. PST

I think something has gone very wrong here.

Never met Bill…indeed he (could be she even) has all my sympathy………..but I think the Bug has hit us again

Never mind….pushes us back to the top again (Grin)

Ethics? Integrity….? Naw!

Milhouse16 Feb 2018 9:32 p.m. PST

Back to Hussey. Just started Vol 1. Very impressed.

Marc at work17 Feb 2018 2:23 a.m. PST

I like the sound of vol 2. The French right flank has always been the key to the battle for me and where the decision of win/lose was made

I shall go look for them now



4th Cuirassier17 Feb 2018 4:30 a.m. PST

@ deadhead

I think Trajanus was responding to your question about where the Search function had gone.

@ Marc

Hussey makes the very interesting point that as Prussian overs from Plancenoit were still falling onto the Brussels chaussee as Wellington's men drew level with Plancenoit, a mile and more – 40 minutes or so – into their general advance from the ridge, clearly Plancenoit hadn't yet fallen, and hence it wasn't the right where their line collapsed, as it was still in action long after the rout began elsewhere.

He disposes very well of a number of nonsenses about Napoleon's state of health too. If Boney had really had a case of the Clement Freuds he could not have ridden 30 miles in retreat, for example.

He's also very good at spotting Hofschroer's abuse of historical sources. Hoffie for example tries to suggest that the Osnabruck Landwehr were somehow pivotal in repulsing the Old Guard, whereas a more accurate reading has them following after others had done so. Hofschroer switches the sequence of events to make it appear that they happened the opposite way around.

One might almost say he exposes a new type of logical fallacy invented by Hamilton-Williams and Hofschroer: prope hoc ergo propter hoc – "near to this, therefore because of this". The prope hoc fallacy is similar to the post hoc fallacy; some Germans were standing nearby where a French unit was driven back, therefore Germans drove it back.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP17 Feb 2018 6:49 a.m. PST

The message thread above has altered since I commented on the Bug striking again. Something really weird had crept in but clearly fixed and removed now…hence my "cryptic" comment. Apologies.

Hussey's two volumes are superb. I will again say how taken I was with Vol I, to my surprise, as it gives a masterful account of the opening moves and the reasons for Allied seeming indecision, hesitancy and delays in concentrating their forces.

Vol II does have some novelty indeed, which for 18th June is not easy.

However much I panned Dawson's "Napoleon and Grouchy" I did also concede that it was great at showing what the latter knew and could have supposed at any one time….and that by 18th June nothing he did would have made any difference. I accept Marbot was only doing what he was told, but, if any one unit could have kept the Prussians away, it would have been 7th Hussars, with maybe a Light Battn or two, in the woods towards Lasne….not in front of the woods watching passively

Marc at work17 Feb 2018 8:16 a.m. PST

Sounds better and better

4th. Agreed, and interesting. My view of the right is that the Prussians sucked valuable resources away, and added pressure. Napoleon's final attack was not the entire guard. Some was fighting in Planenoit and some were held back in square as reserves. The fear of the labour attack crippled Napoleon from the outset. If Lobeau and the YG had not been diverted, a different battle. But now we are into what ifs. I ponder the outcome if the Prussians has been half a day later, or in less strength. Interesting

The books are now in my basket so I shall get them and see for myself


Gazzola17 Feb 2018 10:23 a.m. PST

Got both copies and look forward to finding the time to read them.

However, I hope Deadhead's comment that the author is a 'DoW fan without a doubt' does not mean that the books are just another Anglo-based or biased version. That would be very disappointing.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP17 Feb 2018 10:58 a.m. PST

I honestly do not think you will be disappointed. I think I was trying to say that he does address the criticism of DoW, in so many books, for apparent paralysis in the opening hours and the delay in concentration that resulted. I found that refreshing and novel to me, rather than biased and Anglo-Centric.

The contribution of Netherlanders is especially acknowledged throughout and well analysed. Again I thought Plancenoit coverage was better than that of the Anglo Allied line, if only because the French right flank battle is rarely presented, elsewhere, in any understandable sequence.

I would love to read further reviews of this book (or indeed any of the recent releases on 1815, all of which have their own style and vary hugely in quality and novelty)

Brechtel19817 Feb 2018 11:54 a.m. PST

There is an interview with John Hussey about the books on the Napoleon Series.

von Winterfeldt17 Feb 2018 12:02 p.m. PST


you should read Bernard Coppens book, then you would understand the battle, Marbot et all had not the inkling of a thought that the Prussians would arrive and did look out.

Oliver Schmidt17 Feb 2018 12:19 p.m. PST

Here a letter Marbot wrote shortly after the battle:


It seems by 1830, his memory of what really happened had improved a bit:

von Winterfeldt17 Feb 2018 1:29 p.m. PST


"« Laon, 26 juin 1815.

Je ne reviens pas de notre défaite ! … On nous a fait manœuvrer comme des citrouilles. J'ai été, avec mon régiment, flanqueur de droite de l'armée pendant presque toute la bataille. On m'assurait que le maréchal Grouchy allait arriver sur ce point, qui n'était gardé que par mon régiment, trois pièces de canon et un bataillon d'infanterie légère, ce qui était trop faible. Au lieu du maréchal Grouchy, c'est le corps de Blücher qui a débouché !… Jugez de la manière dont nous avons été arrangés !"

alas Paul L Dawson ignores this to establish his opinion that Boney knew quite early that the Prussians would appear at his right flank, yet he failed to do anything whatsoever to counter this.

4th Cuirassier17 Feb 2018 1:40 p.m. PST

I hope Deadhead's comment that the author is a 'DoW fan without a doubt' does not mean that the books are just another Anglo-based or biased version.

I think it's about time we had an Anglo-centric account of Waterloo. I've never read one.

Gazzola17 Feb 2018 2:01 p.m. PST


Sorry about the comment about your comment. It made me think that the book might be all about Wellington and the Brits, with the rest of the allies and their opponents somewhat sidelined.

What yourself and others are saying suggests this may not be the case, so I am really looking forward to reading them, as soon as I can fit them in.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP18 Feb 2018 6:21 a.m. PST

Please don't think you have to apologise. I may well be wrong and really look forward to further reviews of this book. I found it very thought provoking, esp Vol I.

Oddly enough, although I would still stand by my DoW comment, one of the strengths of the work is the careful explanation of the role of the Prussians and Netherlands forces, so important in the opening moves. Far too many books just provide an endless list of Unit numbers, moving through countless obscure Belgian villages, and of disputed timings of messages (ad nauseam)….with no analysis

dibble19 Feb 2018 2:34 p.m. PST

Both books are well written, fairly balanced and a must read but don't expect too much on the battle itself as Hussey has a deep seeing critical eye that is looking more at the controversies of times, orders and myths. His take on the whole episode of the 100 days is well worth the money. They look good on the shelf too especially when they are flanked by Miur's 'Wellington' twins and Dawson's latest 'Waterloo' diatribe….Nothing like taking the rough with the smooth….

Paul :)

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP20 Feb 2018 4:48 a.m. PST

Expressed far better than I managed.

I now realise this was just what I was trying to say. Second volume specially is brilliant at analysis, myths and controversies, but less descriptive of the battle itself……….. that makes for quite some novelty. Funny thing tho' these two seem less commercially promoted than the Field or Dawson books.

But for TMP I am not sure I would ever encountered them, certainly not in any bookshop

von Winterfeldt21 Feb 2018 2:37 a.m. PST

after all those glowing reports – I bought those two volumes, so far extremely boring to read and nothing new whatsoever.
At least Dawson is demolishing some myths for good, exploring the archives, like that the unit supposedly smashing one of the gates – allgedly by an officer with an exe, didn't have any.

So far the best read in English – The Waterloo archives, How the Guards were beaten, Clinton's two volumes – and then – not a lot compared to the book by Coppens and the Carnets Verts, seemingly for me – at least – the best recent books about Belle Alliance are from Belgian authors.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP21 Feb 2018 6:50 a.m. PST

Firstly, I think it is great to hear divergent views and wish we could see more analysis of the various books on 1815, produced in the last two or so years. Books without maps and filled with "debouching" I will not forget in a hurry.

I suppose whether anything new depends on one's knowledge of the whole campaign. Until recently I had read little beyond 18th and Quatre Bras, so there was much here that was new to me. I had hardly heard of Gosselies, other than an obscure name on a map. Its significance in the opening moves suddenly made far more sense of DoW's early "inertia". The Prussian taste for a forward battle, even after the failure to concentrate, rather than the alternative, south of Brussels etc….I found thought provoking.

As I said above, Dibble put it best. This is light on novel facts eg whether a unit had axes, or were at a given spot at a given time. I thought it was far better at interpretation, analysis, explanation.

I fear if you found the first volume disappointing and boring, the second may prove more so. Apologies for leading you astray!

Your comment about Belgian authors. I suspect anyone drawing on "foreign" (ie not the Queen's English) language sources is far more likely to find something new to say…almost by definition

Allan F Mountford21 Feb 2018 10:18 a.m. PST

Here a letter Marbot wrote shortly after the battle:


It seems by 1830, his memory of what really happened had improved a bit:

Here is Art Pendragon talking to Ed Wimble on the same subject over on ConsimWorld in 2001:

Ed, Regulating elements were used from company all the way up to division formations. You'll find reference to them in each countries regulations. Concerning Marbot; I'm glad you asked the questions that you did, because it made me do some research that I found very interesting.

As mentioned in his memoirs by the editor, he was supposed to have written an offical recite in 1815 for Davout, but it is no longer in the archives. Of course there are a great many original pieces concerning Waterloo which are missing, those archives were almost certainly cleaned of documents, and it is quite possible several times over. Marbot refused to write about Waterloo in his memoirs which stop in 1814. He finished the memoirs in 1844, 10 years before his death, so he had plenty of time to continue them. Possibly he, or his heirs, threw the chapter away, or like Parquin he refused to even think about writing them. The 1830 letter, addressed to Grouchy is highly suspect. There are several reasons why, but generally it is accepted that he wrote it to confirm the official version by Napoleon. You can forget about the detached squadrons, Captain Eloy's report, and so on, all untrue. In his 1815 letter to his wife, he doesn't say he commanded a battalion. He only says that the flank was guarded by his regiment, a battalion of light infantry and three guns, and that it wasn't enough. There is heavy speculation that he didn't command those troops and guns, and its unclear what time he is writing about. Some believe it is probably around five in the afternoon, when he starts fighting the Prussians. If you follow the 26 juin, 1815 letter; the light infantry would have to be that of the 13eme légère, detached by the order of Napoleon conveyed by Labédoyère and an officer Marbot didn't remember the name of. But the 13eme had all three battalions assaulting the Allies position, so it couldn't have been the 13eme. If you do believe the 1815 letter; it might have been anything, probably the most outlying French pickets would have been from the 8eme de ligne, which had the light regiment duties later on in the day. Remember that Durutte's division did not have any légère component. The German sources quoted in Hofschror do not mention a French skirmish line in the woods, so there might not have been a infantry unit in those woods at all. But I've found that German sources can be just as unreliable as everyone else who wrote accounts of Waterloo. Even the photocopy of his hand written letter dated 1831 doesn't gives us any insight to the questions at hand So where does that leave us, just another piece of the puzzle missing. If a player wants to use the troops Marbot describes, or decide not to use them, then who's to say who is right or wrong. Best Regards and good gaming, Art

von Winterfeldt23 Feb 2018 12:09 a.m. PST

perhapts I was too rash to make that a statement, I have to read front to cover to make an assesment, also the morei I read the more interesting it gets.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP23 Feb 2018 12:37 a.m. PST

Does not mean the original comment was not very welcome.

I again say how much I wish we could read more reviews of new publications in our field.

Plus first impressions do count in reading. How many books have I started and never finished, or just skipped through?

Osage201726 Feb 2018 6:52 p.m. PST

"DoW fan without a doubt"

So I'm disappointed :-(

Digby Green26 Feb 2018 7:27 p.m. PST

John Hussey's two books are amazing in respect of their length and detail.
It is amazing what he has achieved. (especially at his age)
But he does seem to reject most myths and is a fan of the D.O.W.
He has very forthright opinions as you could see from his interviews with Kevin Kiley.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP27 Feb 2018 3:29 a.m. PST

He does address all the well known criticisms of DoW's performance in this campaign and provides some very convincing arguments in his favour. I guess that was what I meant by " a fan of…….."

Let's face it DoW and Blucher did carry it off in the end and win the campaign. That is what mattered.

As for the book. I enjoyed it immensely and found it thought provoking, even where not always 100% convincing.

Brechtel19827 Feb 2018 4:24 a.m. PST

I had the great pleasure of meeting John Hussey and having dinner with him and John Lee in London last June. Both are gentlemen of the highest order and we had a great time.

And doing the interview for the Napoleon Series, of which I was asked to do, was a lot of fun.

4th Cuirassier27 Feb 2018 5:08 a.m. PST

Let's face it DoW and Blucher did carry it off in the end and win the campaign.

In spite of Gneisenau.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP27 Feb 2018 6:24 a.m. PST

Yes, he is definitely the villain of the book……..

Brechtel19827 Feb 2018 10:18 a.m. PST

Army chiefs of staff don't lead pursuits…

Osage201728 Feb 2018 6:54 a.m. PST

I have respect for Mark Adkin. But I was never big fan of groupies, so to speak.

Personal logo Whirlwind Supporting Member of TMP28 Feb 2018 10:43 a.m. PST

In what way does the author's being a "Duke of Wellington fan" show itself?

4th Cuirassier28 Feb 2018 11:35 a.m. PST

He fails to admit that Wellington betrayed the valiant Prussians. Instead he totally debunks that zombie 19th-century theory while exposing many other near-catastrophic Prussian errors, which is not allowed.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP01 Mar 2018 2:18 a.m. PST

A DoW fan?

I guess I meant, as 4th C says just above, Hussey addresses the one recurring criticism of his conduct of the campaign. His apparent paralysis in the opening hours…..allowing Boney to humbug him, by God and steal a march…….

Most reasonable folk accept that Wellington could not have got to Ligny and did well to hang on at QBras. The book is convincing that there was no "promise".

Many would say that his early inactivity did, however, create a crisis situation at QBras/Nivelles that was only salvaged by Netherlands' initiative and Ney's lassitude.

The book is very convincing that it was all the fault of the Prussians (obviously). Ziethen's Corps was too near the border. Blucher wanted a forward battle, even though he had not concentrated his army, through poor staff work, whilst DoW favoured concentration and then battle roughly where 18th did happen. The scurvy Prussians then abandoned Gosselies and left the road to Brussels wide open.

and Gneisenau was a thoroughly nasty piece of work….and not too competent either.

Just like 4th C says…..

Seriously though I thought a great read, especially volume I, which still surprises me……If only Vol II had not been 50% (slight exaggeration) footnotes, references, OoB etc

42flanker01 Mar 2018 2:59 a.m. PST

Wellington had observed, as early as his first campaign in Holland, the importance of concentration, and the risks of dispersal in the face of an enemy who has the intitiative.

As we know, the choice of the Mont St Jean position was not a matter of chance.

von Winterfeldt01 Mar 2018 1:40 p.m. PST

a pity that a lot of readers are back whose fault it was and who did make the most severe mistakes instead of seeing how well both commanders the DoW and Blücher took on their difficult task with not the best quality of soldiers.

Ligny / Quatre Bras just did not work but already here the Allies – had the strategical better options, it just did not work then.

However Belle Alliance and Wavre just did it, what a marvellous manoeuvre – of two seperate armies to destroy an enemy.

The Allies, Prussians included, were up to their task, Boney was a failure

4th Cuirassier02 Mar 2018 2:47 a.m. PST

a pity that a lot of readers are back whose fault it was and who did make the most severe mistakes instead of seeing how well both commanders the DoW and Blücher took on their difficult task with not the best quality of soldiers.

Well, whose fault is that? This is a recent thing. It was started by Hamilton-Williams and pursued to insanity by Hofschroer. These two have set our understanding of the campaign back about a hundred years. They've simply revived arguments that were resolved that long ago.

Brechtel19802 Mar 2018 4:39 a.m. PST

Excellent point and right on the money. Unfortunately, there are other authors on Waterloo that keep the inaccurate information in circulation.

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