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"Operations of the Armée du Nord" Topic

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Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2019 8:19 p.m. PST

This may, all 5 volumes will be available.

2,000 transcriptions rewriting the French concentration and answering many other questions.

5th volume has analysis and over 100 translations.

More information at:

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP20 Apr 2019 8:20 p.m. PST

This May, all 5 volumes will be available.

2,000 transcriptions rewriting the French concentration and answering many other questions.

5th volume has analysis and over 100 translations.

More information at:

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP21 Apr 2019 1:41 a.m. PST

It will not be cheap at $350 USD, but that is perfectly reasonable for what must have been a massive undertaking, without being an obvious commercial "best-seller". There are pdf previews for each volume, to give one a taster.

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP21 Apr 2019 2:06 p.m. PST

The cost of assembling this reference was enormous – for an audience of less than a 100 individuals world-wide I'm sure. This has never been about making money – I have plenty of that already.

Further, this effort was never about broad distribution, but the right distribution. There are thousands of documents in private collections – including registries, and reports from June 15/16. I am trying everything to gain the attention of collectors and historians. Somehow, we need to create an effort to get these materials available.

This reference set also cost a lot to print and ship. It weighs quite a bit…

The 5th Volume is more narrative with hundreds of translations. It will be available by itself from Amazon shortly.

And if anyone objects to the conclusions this volume makes – the data is available. Not only in the reference set, but over time, I will be making the scans of the original correspondence available online.

A 100 page Chronological Summary with 1-3 line English translations of all 2,000+ pieces in the reference can be downloaded from the website today.

dibble23 Apr 2019 7:11 p.m. PST

So what questions does this 'tour de force' set out to answer?

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP23 Apr 2019 11:30 p.m. PST

The question that began this effort was, why did Soult "change" Napoleon's orders on June 12. This research has now revealed a second plan – a position of June 12 where the Army was arrayed south of Maubeuge pointed towards Mons.

It is a second plan, as Bertrand's notes mention specifically a second letter to Soult – the letter that would introduce the Position of the 13th – the three balanced columns arrayed south of Charleroi – the plan Napoleon ultimately adopted.

The narrative in the 5th volume offers two explanations for why Soult followed the Mons plan instead of the Charleroi plan. Bertrand's notes are critical in this explanation – the key being that Soult was expected to return to Laon on June 11, but remained in Avesnes. All the orders from Paris on June 10 and 11 were sent to Soult at Laon. (even Gérard's reports went to Soult at Laon) The delay was significant, far longer than the journey from Laon to Avesnes. As the orderly was to go to Laon, deliver the order, and wait in Laon for additional orders (per the instructions as Bertrand recorded them in his notes) we can guess that it was only after a significant delay, but before Napoleon arrived, that the orderly went searching for Soult.

There are other questions:
- How pervasive was the intrigue/spies/traitors in the French army. In fact, an agent of Fouché was apprehended in the Palais de l'Élysée…. on June 10!
- Identity of French "traitors" who gave information to Prussians on June 14. The Prussian historians thought they were from the Armée du Nord – but they probably were not.
- Did Soult forget about Grouchy? Not at all.
- Actual reason for Vandamme's delay on June 15 – if the rider broke his leg, produce the service record. The records of the listed rider only show two neck wounds on June 18. (rider was a member of Soult's staff, as Vandamme had not sent a member of his – Napoleon complained about this on the 16th)
- Level of Napoleon's ignorance on June 15/16 of his left. Turns out this was mentioned by a member of Soult's staff after the campaign. Just as Napoleon and Gourgaud's accounts suggest, Napoleon never knew where d'Erlon was – his entire plan on June 16 was never executable.
- What was Soult doing on June 17. Now we know.
- Who ordered d'Erlon's formation on June 18.
- State of French operations in 1815.

Before this reference, we had Reille's registry, and the Grouchy copy. There is a nice collection of transcriptions for Vandamme in SHD, but it is not a registry, and every copy is backed by an original… including letters not related to Vandamme.
Now there are 2 additional registries for Soult, with a 3rd identified (in private collection – still seeking), one for d'Erlon (massive # of entires, truly gives the daily machinations of a French corps in 1815), and critically, Bertrand's notes and his registry for 1815. However, for Bertrand, April, and some 20+ pages of notes remain in a private collection. As his notes were undated, they are of supreme importance in case they cover June 11, 12, and 13. What we have does include June 10, which fills in the blank for the letters found at auction.

What is really nice is that the found registries bring a lot of order to the materials in SHD. For example, Soult's notes/dictations for June 12, contained in multiple cartons, can now be assembled and put in order, establishing timing to some degree.

Another helpful element of the entire reference is the timing of order flow. Much was sent by the regular mail, then in mid-May the estafette service was established which increased the speed dramatically. Finally, for the critical missions, and during combat operations, the orderlies/members of staff were utilized. With 2000 pieces of correspondence presented, a lot of data is available.

This work has also enabled meeting with private collectors, and more materials have been found. For example, the original, unedited, report from Hulot to Gérard.

Hundred+ additional letters or dictations/notes have been identified that remain in private collections – seeking those aggressively.

Finally, a nice find – Eugène Stoffel's notes and draft of his unpublished Waterloo manuscript. He died before the maps were done, and it was sold at auction. de Janvry then published a chapter on June 17 operations. This is not the complete collection, but I am working with a couple French academics – might try to combine all the elements into a future work. What is most interesting about it is just seeing the 19th century book writing process – actual cut and pastes, notes scribbled on all sorts of paper – including a wedding invitation.

This work definitely rewrites the French concentration, and much more.

So yeah, no doubt, it is a tour de force.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP24 Apr 2019 5:16 a.m. PST

I well recall the detail that went into "Waterloo Betrayed" and, whilst I always found the Soult treason idea hard to accept (the old argument that no conspiracy can survive undetected that long, unless it is imaginary), it proved the most profound analysis of the build up to invasion that I have read.

Reading the contents PDFs, this is again very much about the lead up in Vols I-III. IV is the invasion up to the night before Waterloo/Wavre. V is yet to be published and that single volume will presumably cover the two battles, the retreat of Grouchy and (I was about to say Napoleon, corrected it to Ney, then suddenly asked was anyone in command for 24 hours?) the survivors of Waterloo.

It will surely be a major reference for future writers on 1815 and I do suspect we have not seen the last of them. At least this text has a sensible title……….how did the publishers possibly allow that?

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP24 Apr 2019 9:14 a.m. PST

If Soult betrayed Napoleon, it could have been a conspiracy of one – it was suspected contemporaneously, and we now know that Soult _did_ keep critical documents out of view. This was theory during Waterloo Betrayed, and is now fact – his descendants finally released a trove at Auction during the 2000s. Fouché may have had his minions, but his activities were also largely a conspiracy of one. Both Soult and Fouché acted for their personal benefit.

Volume 5 is "The Analysis" – it does not cover the battle or retreats. It recovers the concentration in extreme detail because there are hundreds of new pieces of correspondence on the concentration. It absolutely rewrites that history – the concentration was a demonstrable disaster.

There was a Mons plan. But, was it a plan, or a ruse? Consider – the Allies received numerous reports of a plan to operate by Mons. Hence, they either did have well connected conduits of information, or, as many have suggested, Napoleon planted bad info. I present a lot of information about this – including reproducing translations of the plans/notes around it.

I accused Soult due to an aggregation of "intentional acts" that defied explanation. This research has determined that the orders to Gérard, changing to Rocroi by the 13th instead of Charleroi by the 12th, was not nefarious, and it was well communicated. Gérard himself is responsible for the tardy march, and for correcting it.
The "change" of orders on June 12 is explained – and again, is no longer considered nefarious. However, Soult's remaining in Avesnes on June 11 was a huge event that gets very little attention. (Soult defied orders.)

Napoleon's ignorance on June 15/16 remains inexplicable. Soult had several communications with d'Erlon, and was aware of the situation. Thus, considering the other explanations, while I suspect Soult was not very motivated… "Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence" can now apply. In Betrayed, I couldn't find the examples of Soult behaving incompetently beyond a few wordy letters and some misnamed places. This research shows that those attributes can be applied to many scribes. Hence, I join the ranks of those who feel Soult failed – rather than he conspired. I am not going to argue against evidence, and having two new registries for Soult, one which is titled "Mouvement des Troupes", is significant.

If Soult were alive, which interpretation do you think he would prefer?

But the greater point of this project is – there are thousands of primary source materials that remain in private hands. I have identified reports from June 15/16, and registries. HUGE. A single piece could turn everything upside down.

AND – many of the items sold at auction over the last 2 decades (and probably before – but much harder to find materials that predate Internet catalogs) had the SHAT stamps etc., they were taken from the archives. Stolen! And key pieces relating to June 16, quoted in 19th century, are missing.

Something stinks. There was a cult of silence. However, protecting ones reputation is a powerful motivator.

Final note, in Betrayed I pointed out several that were sure Bourmont crossed on the 14th. (and returned and crossed on 15th) In this work, I demonstrate that the distance was more than doable – you can't use the speed of orderlies as a guide. The 9-10 km an hour calculations are generally for troopers doing a job – without extreme motivation, and those that averaged 3-4 kmh were clearly loafing. Sustained rates of double that speed have been observed by motivated riders. I also found another source – Bourmont's son – who is emphatic it was the 14th, and I present his entire late 19th century pamphlet translated. It gives great insight into why the traitors of 1815 largely disappeared from view – they were stoned in the streets when seen even 50 years later. (literally)

Hence, the royalists who bought their way onto Ney's firing squad bragged about it for a couple years, but then faded away. The Royalist conspiracy of 1815 was big, and well known, but has faded from popular view for these reasons which are well documented if one looks.

The 5th volume stands alone with hundred+ translations. The Master Chronology (100 pages itself) has summaries of all 2,000 unique items. There are far more than 2,000 transcriptions, actually, as for about 500+ we have registry, draft/notes, and the original letter.

From the found registries, I estimate that SHD has about 20% of the correspondence from 1815.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP24 Apr 2019 9:32 a.m. PST

I must say I am impressed.

Not just by the work that has gone into researching primary sources, then the effort of cross checking them all for veracity, then the integrity of what is surely more a researcher's gold mine than a low brow commercial project.

But most of all by anyone who can return to us and say that, after further research they have changed their mind. Almost unique……

Chaotic concentration is right (although it could equally be said about the defenders of Belgium). Such a contrast with the effort that went into raising an army, was its deployment on campaign. Rain, mud, staff work, treachery, apathy or battle fatigue, illness…..probably far more (eg LUCK!) all contributed. It is a minor miracle that anyone turned up on the 18th to face each other.

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP24 Apr 2019 9:56 a.m. PST

I have spent over $150,000 USD on this to date – I doubt I'll see $10,000 USD return in 5 years…

When I toured Europe two years ago, I spoke to many (historians/authors/collectors) and I told them I was going to make a digital database, probably elastic search, that would allows us to browse/search/etc. all the French correspondence from 1815. I have 15,000+ scans and add hundreds monthly…


Then I said, a reference book set.


This is simply a field where the smell of paper matters, and hence this book set, far more expensive than an online digital database.

But I did this because we MUST shake the tree. MOST collectors are not historians, nor care. (note, most, not all. Léon Bernard is both.)

How do we get the attention of collectors/descendants? Serious question… (countless letters sent, more sending, new leads monthly, very little success. very secret world, I've been told, due to aggressive taxation and other reasons)

So I am hoping that this reference set and new analysis will generate some buzz in the historical matters it corrects to make more contacts.

Moving a Corps was like moving a town. Yet, from the correspondence, it was a machine. A lot of what I found is not strategic or ground breaking – but it is very cool to see the process in detail.

In 1815, the French failures originated at the top. (outside of money/shortage of horses) Soult remaining in Avesnes instead of continuing to Laon (per orders) was terminal. Napoleon's plans undone – the timing thrown off a day.

There has been cross checking on the narratives I cover – but, I don't cover everything. I look forward to the day when another presents something significant and drew upon the resource I provided.

But I must also refer to Pierre de Wit's work – the most comprehensive:
We work together to access these materials. In fact, Pierre found the Stoffel work – I bought it… probably over paid, but I'm a sucker for this stuff. (And it did have insights from Christoph Stoffel that were important!)

Rittmester Supporting Member of TMP25 Apr 2019 10:56 a.m. PST

A very impressive work and achievement.

Do I understand it right, that the first four volumes are transcriptions in french, and the fifth volume is an analysis in english?

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP25 Apr 2019 12:23 p.m. PST

That is correct – Volume 1 – 4 are transcriptions in French. Volume 1 has a small intro to each registry in English – usually chronicling its discovery, or background. Each Week of May or day of June has all the entries listed with summaries in English, and then what follows are the pieces of correspondence.

I start on May 9 for a couple reasons. First, with Soult's appointment, the Armée du Nord started to become real. Napoleon had it mostly identified since March, but there was no real capacity for maneuver – in fact, communications from Paris were carried by the Post – the normal mail, and took several days to reach the frontier. (in middle/late may, the estafette service was established, and as hostilities approached, members of staff.) Second, with finding 2 registries of Soult (starting on May 9 and May 11) we actually begin to have a full record that can be analyzed/commented on.

The 5th Volume, available in a couple weeks, has analysis of key things learned from the newly discovered materials. It has many translations, and can be read stand-alone. I include complete translations of several interesting pieces – eyewitness testimony from 1st Corps and 3rd Corps staff that have new insights.

I plan on putting all the digital images online at my website, but this will take time. However, one can see a sample of one of Soult's registries here:

I also delineate the many hundreds of items that remain in private collections, but we are aware of from past auctions. The goal of this project is to demonstrate how much of the conventional history is wrong due to the lack of critical primary source material – and if that can gain traction, the hope that we can convince descendants/collectors to allow access to surviving materials. There is a registry of Soult in a private collection (Soult kept multiple for different purposes), and of course the one Grouchy published still remains lost. 20+ pages of Bertrand's notes remain in a private collection. Napoleon's correspondence includes 1 entry for June 10 – but in reality, Napoleon and Bertrand worked on the final concentration – with many letters written including both a Mons and Charleroi plan.

Some might say, "be wary of those who claim to have found new stuff." Almost always that comes from those who have never done the work to find new materials. For 1815, and really the late empire years, the Auctions have been saturated with critical documents.

My website has more information, and if anyone wants the 100 page Master Chronology (summaries of all 2000 pieces) or wish a sample of the set, please contact me.

Rittmester Supporting Member of TMP26 Apr 2019 7:23 a.m. PST

Thank you very much for the information.

Imperiale28 Apr 2019 6:24 a.m. PST

Stephen what will the cost of Volume 5 be

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP28 Apr 2019 12:34 p.m. PST

Volume 5 will be $50 USD – note, its PoD, so the costs are high. I throw it in for free if the 4 references are bought – but I know they are pricey.

I really encourage anyone slightly interested to download the chronological summary. To appreciate the depth and range of topics – browsing through all 2000+ entries (100+ page PDF) still amazes me. Take June 8 – nothing "major" happened, Soult was preparing for his trip to Lille, a cavalry regiment got transfered, etc. Yet 100+ pieces of correspondence cataloged for that day. Its one thing to read about how things are done, and Elting's work is a great primer – but then to see them done.

One thing repeated (and in my opinion falsely) about 1815 is that Soult should have used multiple orderlies – that Berthier would have. No. What men? What horses? What money? Soult asked for money for horses on June 16. Gérard was asked to send 2 riders back along his march to gather intelligence about Allied movements – his response? Can't afford to! In fact, its clear they queued things up so that 1 rider could handle multiple formations. The regular French mail was used to communicate with the military until mid-May… and Davout have to plead to get Lavalette's estafettes put in place. And then, Lavalette had to plead to get them supplied, to get the gates open in the middle of the night (they left Paris at 11pm) etc.

There is just a whole lot more going on to get the War Machine functioning than is typically documented.

However, the opposite extreme is how quickly dispatches were delivered when it worked.

Reille was smart, he put letters to his wife in Jerome's Imperial mail service. This begs the question – with all that was going on, why did they have an Imperial Mail service that Jerome was privileged to use!? Priorities?!

Study what happened through June 13th, and the screw ups during hostilities are neither surprising or very extreme. The major mistakes happened while Napoleon was still in Paris – it just took through June 16 for their impact to ripple through events.

Rittmester Supporting Member of TMP29 Apr 2019 9:39 a.m. PST

Looking forward to Vol 5 and the analysis, that one I will buy for sure. The analysis in your previous work was very interesting, and it will be just as interesting to see the new material included and see what new conclusions there are. (Unfortunately my French is almost non-existent, so the references unfortunately are not of much value to me).

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP29 Apr 2019 2:21 p.m. PST

You must have invested massively to create this resource. The snag is that, however paradoxical this might sound, the "lingua franca" of the world is now "English". (No of course, it is American and an accident of history, or the outcome of various wars, ensured that they spoke English and not French or Dutch or Spanish.)

How much would it cost to have the books professionally translated? I ask rhetorically, not for the actual figure, but how relatively little more it would take to transform this work into something accessible worldwide.

von Winterfeldt30 Apr 2019 12:58 p.m. PST

English only leads you in a cul de sac, you must learn other languages – there are tons of books that won't never be translated at all.

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP30 Apr 2019 2:08 p.m. PST

You are so right. I have no hope that these books will ever appear in Gaelic…(I have three or four words in my Mother tongue).

But I still say that what we call English is the universal "lingua franca", because it is what the US speaks… do most expensive younger Chinese, or Russians etc etc…..

But your point is well made. What does it cost to get a book in French/German professionally translated?

Kevin in Albuquerque30 Apr 2019 7:29 p.m. PST

I will not agree that English (or American) leads you to a cul de sac, because we stole so many words from other languages! However, there are more and more excellent books with new translations available. I have several A. Mikaberidze books. This is a Georgian (the country, not the state) who is a full professor of history and social sciences at Louisiana State University in Shreveport. He's using primary Russian sources. Excellent work, highly recommended. Just keep looking.

4th Cuirassier01 May 2019 1:57 a.m. PST

What does it cost to get a book in French/German professionally translated?
I do it for nothing.

Of course the service is a bit erratic.

von Winterfeldt01 May 2019 5:19 a.m. PST

Foucart, Picard, Colin, Béraud, de la Jonquiere, Bonnal, Bressonnet, Saski, Buat, Chuquet, Fabry, Grasset, Foy, de Cugnac, Morvan, coresspondance of Boney, Davout, Eugene, Murat etc., etc., memoires – with the exception of Bressonnet – you won't have access to those superb works of these authors, learning a foreign language is not impossible, I agree – there are very good authors like Mikaberidze – but you will still miss out immensely.

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP01 May 2019 10:33 a.m. PST

Volume 5 has a lot of translation. I have not counted the number of letters, but most of the book is translation. I try, instead of saying what happened, to simply offer brief summaries and let the originals speak for themselves.

I also want to point out that SHD contained some useful materials, but hard to understand in isolation. For instance, Soult's notes/drafts from June 12 were in several batches in 2 cartons with no indication of order. However, once aligned with the Registry (from private collection) then the entire day came to life.

I don't know exact cost of translation – but I feel it would be more important to transcribe more. I have 15,000 images of materials – grows by hundreds every month – and I had to choose 2,500 (roughly – about 2,000 unique letters, but some have drafts/registry entries) for this work and it took 3 years and numerous/long trips to Europe from USA.

I would like to transcribe all the correspondence for the entire period (a few hundred volumes) and translate the critical pieces. But what is the audience? I estimate maybe 100 people in the world will care about this work – and that is probably wishful thinking…

As many have commented on – history study has become very diluted. Popular narratives that are fun sell – broad surveys that are inaccurate every page sell. The weeds, the details – bah, who needs that to get in the way of a good drama!

So its up to the community – support this effort, I will do more.

And, if anyone wants to volunteer for transcription or translation, join the team! Pay sucks, hours are long, but results are groundbreaking.

MaggieC7001 May 2019 3:02 p.m. PST


I think translation is a mixed-bag issue. On the one hand, if folks are going to be really interested in the era/period/subject, then they really should have a working knowledge of French and German, but perhaps that makes me old school.

On the other hand, to do justice to your work, and the effort you put into it, the translator absolutely positively must be able to produce a smooth, reasonable, and easily understood translation/transcription of the document that is absolutely positively not a literal translation! In other words, whoever you use must have not only a solid knowledge of French but also of the period, and a hefty dose of literary style.

I know we've all read those awful literl, stilted, formal translations. Better to leave the material alone than go that route.

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP01 May 2019 10:34 p.m. PST

MaggieC70 – translations are a hornets nest.

I have spoken/worked with many – native French, historians, professors, you name it.

There are those that share your view, and those completely opposite.

I have heard great arguments for literal translation with notes for idioms or other elements of the period. Accuracy above all else! If you are going to study the period, know how they spoke! (pounds table – in fact, this faction pounds hardest, but the opinion is held by fewest)

Then others say no, make it sing, capture the essence. Don't make them sound like robots! The use of an idiom is not relevant! (pounds table)

Neither extreme works in all cases.

I finally gave up and decided – my study is one of operations. My translations are at times not literary music. My fifth volume is boring – Clayton, Barbero, et al, guys, don't worry, you are safe, even if I have updated a few facts…

What is exciting? Reading Napoleon's dictations from June 10 for the first time. Napoleon's correspondence list one letter from June 10 – yet it was one of the most significant days of the campaign.

So despite the dry presentation, I find reading what these guys wrote to each other to be exhilarating – and I understand what the translations say – and I have tried to get idioms/etc. properly addressed.

And I gladly accept any transcription/translation errors, and will try to make things better.

Musketballs02 May 2019 6:26 p.m. PST

If you are going to study the period, know how they spoke!

In the First World War there was a fad for young ladies to shame male acquaintances into joining up by putting personal messages into the newspapers.

One of these went: 'If you are not in khaki by the 20th, I shall cut you dead'. This one later figured in a German propaganda article, after a translator rendered it as: 'If you are not in khaki by the 20th, I shall hack you to death.'

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP11 May 2019 9:13 a.m. PST

The prediction of one hundred individuals max being interested. May well be so.

But what about university libraries? This is primary source material for future history researchers. $350 USD is nothing to a wealthy university.

When I said "future history researchers" what I meant was…Oh forget it. I can murder the English language sometimes

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP11 May 2019 10:12 p.m. PST

The price was set largely due to cost – this is PoD, the quality is surprisingly good, and many have commented positively about the satin like matte finish and the choice for cover art (photograph of Stoffel's Waterloo draft).

But it is correct that $350 USD is a trivial expense for what this delivers. $350 USD is for all 5 volumes directly from me – if one goes through amazon, it will be $450 USD for all 5. 5th Volume will be available week after next.

As far as universities etc., I have no clue if any will be interested. I have been continually disappointed at the bulk of the establishment's response to detail and truth – remember who shot Liberty Valance…

Because all 5 Volumes have not been available yet, and thus I have not started the heavy promotion (a video is in the works as well) there is much I have not announced.

For example, I expect there will be future editions – I already have new materials from private collections, and there is a growing list of errata – some French fans have been scrubbing and providing great feedback – hence those that buy the complete set will get future editions at cost. Like a subscription model.

But I suspect I will give away more sets than I ever sell… but the doors that this work has opened has made it well worth it.

I withdrew the accusations against Soult's fidelity because this work demonstrated Gerard was mostly responsible for 4th Corps' delays, and the orders of June 12 have an explanation. But, this work has proven that A) Soult and descendants kept thousands original documents from public view – long rumored but now confirmed and B) Napoleon's ignorance on June 15/16 was the root cause of the d'Erlon counter marching on June 16. This ignorance is inexplicable – we have documents that prove Soult was in contact and knew d'Erlon's status. Houssaye referenced more that has disappeared. Some of suggest Houssaye made up references, but we also now have fact that archival material was removed and has appeared at auction. Finally, any question of the depth of the betrayal during 1815 is also erased – it is pervasive in the documents – including the role of French officers directly working for the King (those who never served Napoleon in 1815 are not traitors, of course.) Hence, while I do revise many claims from Waterloo Betrayed, suspicions remain, and there is a whole lot of proof for many other claims from the prior work.

Rittmester Supporting Member of TMP26 May 2019 3:58 a.m. PST

The new evidence you mention wrt 4th Corps delay etc, I assume this is included in the analysis in the 5th volume? Do you have an estimate when it will be available?

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP28 May 2019 7:34 p.m. PST

5th Volume is done – once I get a proof print back from Ingram and it has no disasters, it will be available. I don't know how fast it percolates to online retailers.

The 5th Volume covers all aspects of the concentration in detail. Much of Gérard's actions existed in the archives, and the Soult registry activity clarifies it. Gérard, on his own, ordered the staggered March. When Gressot came through Metz with accelerated orders for Delort's cavalry (I believe) Gérard recognized the urgency from HQ, and responded by accelerating his march. Hence, Gérard had already took correction action by the time Soult ordered acceleration – but then Soult ordered him to Beaumont in accordance to the Mons plan – though the Mons plan didn't mention Gérard!

Finding Soult's registries was *huge*. For example, the archives have batches of Soult/staff drafts on June 12, but not in any particular order. With the registry, we can piece together the whole day. What is clear is that things were calm with a batch of routine orders, then a flurry of activity started in the afternoon – the final concentration orders had been received. Not every order was registered – but Gérard's was in detail. For d'Erlon, Reille, and Vandamme there are neither drafts or registry entries, but d'Erlon received his (notated in his registry) and the correspondence to Vandamme of June 13 countermands the June 12 orders that had previously been sent. For Reille, there is a June 13 order of the day to his divisions… which follows the Charleroi plan as sent by Bertrand.

I try to unravel the confusion of June 10 – June 13 – if you read this, I would greatly appreciate any feedback.

I currently believe the Mons plan was a ruse that went awry. I make this case in the book – but it is also possible that the Mons plan was Napoleon's initial plan on June 10, and then it was switched to Charleroi – possibly when hearing of Gérard's progress. I outline how either scenario could have led to Soult's confusion – primarily because Soult was supposed to be in Laon. Soult did NOT forget to send Grouchy orders – he simply was in Avesnes when he sent them after Napoleon had arrived in Laon.

If the Mons plan was true, then the allied intelligence of an advance through Avesnes on Mons was correct at the time it was gathered.

Anyone who bought a hardcopy of Waterloo Betrayed can get all 5 volumes of the new set at cost.

Tassie30 May 2019 9:32 a.m. PST

I'm now looking at a set of these books in front of me.
The presentation, layout and organisation of each volume is, in my opinion, excellent.
Having studied in the military archives at Vincennes myself, I can assure everyone of the amount of effort, concentration and dedication that must have been required by the author merely to find these often badly misfiled original documents, let alone the countless hours needed to translate, order and analyse them.
These detailed and to my mind engaging volumes are perhaps not of immediate use if your interest is purely wargaming, but they should certainly prove of great interest and use in helping to understand the immense and complex difficulties involved in command and control during a campaign in the Napoleonic era.
Personally, I was pleased to see that the orders and reports are reproduced and printed in their original French language, as one is not then limited to someone else's interpretation and translation.
This decidedly indepth study illustrates just how much we still don't completely understand and/or know about this famous campaign. With so many other original, first hand documents in private collections, every effort to help complete our knowledge is not only to be applauded but welcomed. Although I freely admit I've not yet had the dedicated reading time and opportunity to give these volumes justice, based on what I've already discovered, I can thoroughly recommend this detailed publication.

Rittmester Supporting Member of TMP08 Jun 2019 2:54 a.m. PST

It is a while since I read your «Betrayed» bok, so I will have to read volume 5 before I can comment with any relevant analysis of the issues of those days.
I think the issue of Napoleon either preparing a ruse with the Mons plan, or actually changing the original due to later developments, is quite interesting. That might be a piece of operational deception (if deliberate) which worked quite well, although it did not change the ultimate outcome of the campaign. Which indications did you find that the Mons plan was a deliberate deception?

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP10 Jun 2019 6:37 p.m. PST

I present a fairly detailed analysis of June 10 – June 13 in the latest volume, The Analysis, which is now available.

There is an original letter from Bertrand to Soult that was found at auction. A draft of this letter is found in Bertrand's notes.

- The draft mentions Gérard, the original letter does not. The allies may not have known about Gérard's movement, it was only confirmed June 14.
- The draft mentions Grouchy/Cavalry, the original letter does not mention the reorganization of the Cavalry which included formation of the four Cavalry Corps – something the Allies were getting some word about.
- The draft includes a post script for d'Erlon NOT to move until June 13 as 1st Corps had a 1 day March to get into position, yet the body of the letter calls for 1st Corps to complete its movement by June 12 – an obvious contradiction. Beside this post-script is a note : "This follows the second letter to the major-général" It seems Bertrand was drafting two letters, one of which was the Charleroi plan that called for 1st Corps to March on the 13th to get in position that evening for the morning advance. This instruction is included in the Charleroi plan.
- If the Mons plan was sent late on the 10th, its execution by the end of day on the 12th was difficult to achieve – impossible if routed through Soult.
- There is no evidence found to date of Bertrand having sent the Mons plan to any of the generals. d'Erlon received only Bertrand's Charleroi plan – and acknowledged this as recorded in his registry.
- The Mons plan orders the Corps into vague locations, "Reille in the front south of Maubeuge, d'Erlon to the left, Vandamme to the right, Lobau & Guard in the center." It paints a picture of the army in an arrow pointing towards Mons. The Charleroi plan gives precise locations.

Thus, I raise the possibility that the Mons letter was written for other eyes, while on the same day the Charleroi plan was sent to the army – and one can see this in the surviving original Charleroi plan to Vandamme, the copy Soult sent to Grouchy from Avesnes, and d'Erlon's registry. Beyond Bertrand's notes and the Bertrand/Soult letter that articulates the Mons plan there is NO other evidence of this plan in any surviving documents.

There is no doubt there were two plans that were contradictory, and there are certainly other theories for their existence – though one that was published recently lacked access to the archival data or Bertrand's notes and thus was very shallow.

The final interesting tidbit is… According to Bertrand, an agent of Fouché was apprehended in the Palais de l'Élysée on June 10 – the very day these letters were dated/drafted.

If we consider what Napoleon did with the apprehension of the courier to Fouché earlier – a story confirmed by Lavalette, and if we consider Fouché's claims of sending a plan to the enemy, in a biography of dubious origins but supported by Sir Walter Scott, then you have the origins of a hollywood movie… yet one supported by the surviving physical artifacts.

If we take the more mundane view that Napoleon simply changed the plan and moved the advance east to accommodate Gérard's late arrival, then we must deal with another significant fact : the intelligence of a Mons advance via Avesnes as found all over the allied correspondence was valid at the point it was acquired.

Either scenario is quite interesting.

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP10 Jun 2019 6:40 p.m. PST

I should have mentioned that the Mons plan calls for the army to be in Position by June 12 – which makes the instruction for d'Erlon, as well as the Ordre du Jour for Position of the Army on the 13th problematic.

And all these materials are fully transcribed in the references, and all of them are translated in the latest volume, and all will be on the website in digital form when I find the time to do it…

Rittmester Supporting Member of TMP18 Jun 2019 2:50 a.m. PST

Just ordered the Analysis, I really look forward to read it.
Thank you for the feedback Stephen.

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP25 Jun 2019 3:08 p.m. PST

Diégo Mané has posted his review/summary of The Analysis, the final volume of the series that was just released:


He has provided a growing list of errata in the transcriptions – there are at times proper names or numbers that require expert knowledge to decipher. I will update the page on my website with errata over time.

Diégo has already posted several insights based on the volumes. These are very interesting.

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP07 Jul 2019 9:40 p.m. PST

The reviews are trickling in, and they are extremely flattering.


The Analysis volume is selling quite well.

So much of the French operations, repeated in books in the last two years, and that will be repeated in the books of the next two years, is rubbish.

Cdr Luppo29 Apr 2021 11:12 a.m. PST

Good Day Stephen,

do you have some infos to share about marshal Soult activities during that campaign / battle as chief of staff ? looking at what happened at the Battle of Toulouse 1814 and his following carreer .. one has to wonder on various elements..

with my best regards,

Eric ; )

Erwin Muilwijk13 Nov 2021 3:13 a.m. PST

Hello Stephen, does your work also contain the period after Waterloo?

Erwin Muilwijk13 Nov 2021 6:46 a.m. PST

Bought your books nonetheless just right now, as they are also essential to my research and publications on 1815.

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP03 Dec 2021 10:42 p.m. PST

@Cdr Luppo my Analysis volume goes into great detail on the orders Soult issued during 1815. Many of these come from newly discovered documents and registries. The key moment of the 1815 campaign was June 11/12, Soult decided to remain in Avesnes. The impact of this decision wrecked Napoleon's plans.

But it is fair to ask, why was Soult not with Napoleon? While it is common to suggest that Soult replaced Berthier as major-general, I am not sure anyone has ever highlighted that Berthier's replacement in spirit was Bertrand, who shared Napoleon's carriage, journeys, and issued the most important orders of the campaign. If Soult/staff underperformed in 1815, Napoleon must take the lion's share of the blame. Soult should have never been employed if he wasn't going to be given the complete role – or if he was to share it with Bertrand, they had to remain together.

Waterloo Betrayed cover's Soult's behavior in great detail. That analysis is still sound, but the analysis of the French operations has been made obsolete by the new volumes as hundreds of new documents were found.

Cdr Luppo09 Jan 2022 10:57 a.m. PST

Good Day Stephen,

Happy new year to you and relatives ! : )

i do apologize : i have missed your answer from 3 December, so thank you for those elements you shared. i must try to get a copy of the volume you noted as being the "analysis" volume .. which one is it ?

best regards

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP21 Apr 2022 10:30 p.m. PST

@Cdr Luppo – I don't get here often as I am once again waste deep in a start-up that requires working 7 days a week.

The Analysis is volume 5 of the Operations series.

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