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"Question re Dawson's Waterloo book" Topic

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4th Cuirassier23 Jun 2023 4:34 a.m. PST

I've been dipping into the above title on the French army at Waterloo. I may perhaps have missed this detail because of how I've been using the book, but something about the approach slightly puzzles me. PD's analysis is of uniform items returned to regimental stores by about August 1815, from which he offers inferences about attire during the 100 Days.

This data certainly tells you what was handed in, but it is not clear (to me at least) that this is the same as what was worn. Soldiers weren't going to be demobilised in their socks and boxers. They wore something, and given the cost of clothing (the first thing looted on the battlefield), it was both custom and economy for the soldiery to live in their uniforms. Military types did not then, as they do now, wear civvies off-duty. Indeed, as they had actually paid through salary deductions for their uniforms, there is a strong argument that the coats, shirts etc were theirs, not the army's. And I've seen no evidence that the army was buying these things back.

It seems at least possible that the stuff turned in that August was the worn-out out-of-date tat, and that the more recently-issued (and quite well-made judging by Paul D's photos) uniform coats were taken away by the soldiery as they left the depot for the last time. If so, would this explain all the pre-Bardin stuff still apparently knocking around in 1815? That these were old-pattern well-worn items that nobody was anxious to hang on to?

Brechtel19823 Jun 2023 5:00 a.m. PST

To which Waterloo book are you referring? There's more than one by this author…

MarbotsChasseurs23 Jun 2023 5:05 a.m. PST

Hello 4th Cuirassier,

1815 isn't my time period, nor is what uniforms were worn, but I found a soldier from the 3e Ligne who left the regiment in 15 September 1815 and the document shows his uniform details. His name is Caporal Antoine-Andre Regard. Below can be seen what he had at the time of leaving the regiment.



4th Cuirassier23 Jun 2023 5:45 a.m. PST

The one I'm looking at is "Napoleon's Waterloo Army: Uniforms and Equipment".

@ Marbot

I think that is the type of record PLD relies on. It notes that the soldier had a musket, bayonet, cartridge box, etc. Obviously he was going to have to turn those in. So is this paper a list of what he handed in; or is it a list of everything he had, including what he stood up in?

MarbotsChasseurs23 Jun 2023 6:21 a.m. PST

Well this document comes from Baseb Leonore and not the archival boxes, but similar stuff. I believe he is using the larger revues that show all the equipment and details on what was worn. I had a conversation with Paul about this and I need to see what he said. My understanding was he turned in his equipment and kept his uniform, but I will confirm later today.

Also, I have the retirement records for 7e Legere and 17e Ligne in 1815. I will see if they show any details about uniforms.

MarbotsChasseurs23 Jun 2023 9:16 a.m. PST

Below is the review of the 3e Ligne Depot on 23 October 1807 by General baron Alexis-Balthazar-Henri-Antoine de Schauenburg. This is the only mention of any of the regiments that wore unique uniforms for the tambour or musiciens from the whole review. Another document of the 3e Ligne shows

It shows that the 3e Ligne tambours and musiciens wore celestial blue (light blue) uniforms with red lapels. The review by General Schauenburg was sent to me by Frederic Berjaud who is the author of this great website. link




The last document is everything the regiment has and what fabric was found in the magazine of the regiment on 1 Nov 1807. I believe these are the things he used and correspondence found in the XB boxes of each regiment to figure out what the men wore. This document also shows their clothing, equipment, and effects for recruits. Not the same period I understand, but I have seen these types of documents for the 7e Legere and 17e Ligne for 1814-1815. I have more things from Paul, but I do not want to share anymore that would give away what he has worked hard on in his upcoming books. For example, he shared with me the whole story of the 3e Lignes white uniforms, Schobert's order book, and when the actual schako was worn by the regiment. He has always been very generous in sharing his materials with those who want to do research.


Brechtel19824 Jun 2023 8:36 a.m. PST

The one I'm looking at is "Napoleon's Waterloo Army: Uniforms and Equipment".

I have that one as well as some others by the same author and have found some 'interesting' statements as well as errors in fact in the text:

-The title of the book would have been more accurate is 'Armee du Nord' was used instead.

-‘the bulk of the army was formed from poorly trained conscripts that had been hurried into the ranks in 1813.'-page 49.

Having served in 1813, in either Germany or Spain, made them veterans in 1815.

-‘Charles Esdaile remarks that the Armee du Nord was nothing like the Grande Armee, and was less likey to win battles or to be able to sustain defeat.'-51.

Of the four main battles fought by Nord in 1815, two were victories, one was a draw, and won was a loss.

-‘If any marshal was a traitor, it was Davout.'-74.

Davout never betrayed his oath or his Emperor and never took service with the Bourbons. To accuse him of being a traitor is, at the very least, inaccurate.

-‘…we forget the mess Berthier, the saintly chief of staff, created at the start of 1809.'-74

I have never seen Berthier referred to as 'saintly.'

The staff mess at the beginning of the 1809 campaign was Napoleon' fault, not Berthier's. Berthier was acting as Napoleon's chief of staff and was never the commander of the Army of Germany.

He arrived in theater before Napoleon did, and Napoleon attempted to command from Paris using both couriers and the semaphore telegraph.

The dispatches did not arrive in sequence which was confusing, and Berthier finally bluntly informed Napoleon that his presence with the army was crucial. Once Napoleon arrived in theater, the mess he caused was sorted out successfully.

‘-The bulk of the men were the conscripts of 1814, with a few veteran sub-officers and officers.'-613.

This contradicts the comment from page 49, which is also incorrect. The use of the term 'sub-officer' instead of NCO is quite puzzling.

-‘Ligny, although doubtful if it was a French victory…Ligny also demonstrates excellently the great weakness of the army: when the French army were winning, the soldiers fought well, but when checked or losing, the French soldiers simply fled and ran.'-613.

Ligny was one of Napoleon's best-fought battles. The French fought outnumbered (76,800 French to 83,000 Prussians) against the Prussians and inflicted three times as many casualties that they incurred (34,000 Prussians to 11,500 French).

-.The veteran soldiers of 1815 were those men lucky enough not to have been killed in the Peninsular War, and a few men who had frozen to death in Russia.'-614.

Troops from the French armies in Spain were drawn off to other duties, such as for the invasion of Russia and for the main army in France in 1814. It is highly doubtful that the majority were killed in Spain. Further, those French and allies captured in Russia were finally sent home in 1814 after the first abdication. Not all of the French dead in Russia died of exposure or 'freezing.' About 10,000 stragglers were captured at the Berezina for example.

‘-Simply put, the Armee du Nord was captured at Waterloo, or at least just over 60 percent of it was: over 14,000 men were made prisoners…'-615.

14,000 is not 'just over 60 percent' of the Armee du Nord. A quick arithmetical check shows it is a little over 19 percent. So the idea that the Armee du Nord was captured at Waterloo is incorrect.

DrsRob24 Jun 2023 1:10 p.m. PST

"The use of the term 'sub-officer' instead of NCO is quite puzzling."

It is not to me. The word is a literal translation of the French: "sous-officiers" and unlike "NCO" the French word does not include corporals. Dawson's translation is therefore better than "NCO" as it avoids confusion.

Brechtel19824 Jun 2023 1:14 p.m. PST

I disagree.

It should be common knowledge that corporals in the Grande Armee were not NCOs. Be that as it may, the English translation of sous-officier is non-commissioned officer, or NCO.

4th Cuirassier25 Jun 2023 4:50 a.m. PST

I tend to agree with Kevin's points above. By the standards of 1815, to have been in the ranks for two years makes you a veteran. The only way you could justify calling the French men conscripts would be if you could show that their counterparts in the opposing armies were more experienced than this. Considering that the Prussians had only been at war with France since 1813, then by this yardstick they were exactly as inexperienced as the French. The Foot Guards included 600 men – a battalions worth – who until April had been in the Berkshire militia, and the Foot Guards had only been in the Peninsula since 1813 themselves.

The Armee du Nord's problem wasn't the quality of the soldiers but of the leadership.

Oliver Schmidt25 Jun 2023 5:28 a.m. PST

It should be common knowledge that corporals in the Grande Armee were not NCOs.
I hope it is not.

1st January 1791:


von Winterfeldt25 Jun 2023 5:44 a.m. PST

Well hopefully some people stop their crusade (reminds me of the victimisation of Dave Hollins) using hair splitting arguments against Paul Dawson, please read the document Oliver Schmidt linked, also note that bas officier – was suppressed and replaced by sous officier.

As I see from the original document – linked by Oliver Schmidt, corporals are included in the list of sub officers – but hey, it might be completely different in the so called Grande Armée which formed only a fraction of the French army. I find the use of Grande Armée quite puzzling, as the so called Grande Armée of 1812 consisted of at least half or more of non French soldiers, so in the case we speak about the French Army, the term Grande Armée is misleading.

Lord Hill25 Jun 2023 7:09 a.m. PST

Fascinating documents, Marbot, many thanks for posting!

Prince of Essling25 Jun 2023 8:54 a.m. PST

Many thanks Oliver & vW – agree totally with you, no more hounding of those who make useful & worthwhile contributions!

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP25 Jun 2023 12:19 p.m. PST

Just a note in passing: if you're not after the color plates, a black and white version of the book was $2.99 USD on kindle the last time I looked. And if you set all the uniform inventories to one side, you'd still have a lot of material on who was who in the Armee du Nord, and reports of various reviews and inspections.

Brechtel, I'd like to go on record agreeing with you that a Spring 1813 conscript was a veteran in 1815, and this would put him on a par with the Hanoverian and most of the Prussian armies. I wish Dawson had done a somewhat finer analysis of the various late Napoleonic conscriptions, but evidently the bulk of the men had been in the army since the First Abdication, and should at the very least have been adequately drilled by the next spring.

I think Dawson indulged in hyperbole, but he was right to point out that this was not the Boulogne Camp army, let alone the army of October 1806, which I regard as the finest French army ever to take the field. Those men were mostly dead or crippled by 1815, though not always "frozen." This army took more careful handling, and was arguably more fragile.

Brechtel19825 Jun 2023 1:05 p.m. PST

'As a weapon, [the Armee du Nord] was keen but brittle.-Esposito and Elting Atlas, Map 156.

I agree with you that the Grande Armee of 1806 was the finest Napoleon ever led and commanded.

'The Army of the North was one of the most formidable Napoleon ever led-devoted, hardened, eager veterans…'-Esposito and Elting Atlas, Map 156.

That being said, the Armee du Nord fought hard and well and were only defeated because the Prussians came in on the French right flank. Napoleon fought Wellington's army outnumbered as Lobau's VI Corps, the Young Guard, and two battalions of Old Guard infantry were not engaged with Napoleon, but the Prussians.

And then Ney wasted the French cavalry…

4th Cuirassier26 Jun 2023 2:31 a.m. PST

@ robert

a Spring 1813 conscript was a veteran in 1815, and this would put him on a par with the Hanoverian and most of the Prussian armies.

Dawson says on page 14

…we must also stress the role of the writer in the creation of the narrative. We all have preconceived ideas and personal biases about historical events based on what we have read about the subject, our own political, economic, sociological and ideological grounds; these will impact the way the historian interprets the source material. No historian is free from bias. I am pro-Napoleon and anti-Britain at the start of the nineteenth century.

So he's upfront about it, which tacitly means I think that it's OK to point out where this bias might be colouring the narrative. This is a big difference versus Hofchroer, who thought it was everyone but himself who was biased and indeed insane. You can use with confidence the data and facts PLD presents, but you have to treat anything subjective with some care and he warns you himself, in effect.

As a case in point I think he over-eggs this "conscripts" non-point even more than you note. The Prussian army could realistically only have included men who joined from early 1813 at the earliest (the numbers in the reserve weren't that significant, such men had no campaign experience anyway, and it wasn't until 113,000 muskets arrived from Britain that they were able to take the field). So the *most* experienced Prussians can only have been in the ranks since 1813.

The *typical* French other rank had been in for that long, plus there were further veterans who'd been in a lot longer than that. For example:

In the 4th Regiment of Line Infantry, of the 1,312 men, only seventy-eight had served before 1813; the vast majority (92 per cent) had enlisted in 1813. A similar picture is true of the 42nd Regiment of Line Infantry: of 1,372 men, 212 had served with the army from 1805, 22 from 1803, 19 since 1804, 52 since 1805, and 1,067 from 1813; representing some 77 per cent of the regiment. (p44)

A lot of units apparently recruited few men between 1805 and 1813, which I don't understand – but leaving that aside, the claim that these were inexperienced units looks a bit odd. Wellington, Bluecher or Brunswick would have sold their grandmothers to command units ten to twenty-five per cent of whose rank and file had ten or more years' service, with even the n00bs being on their third or fourth campaign.

These are the other ranks, too. The NCOs aren't reflected in those numbers, so presumably each unit had, in addition, another five or ten per cent of seasoned men serving in these junior leadership positions.

So these French troops can't fairly be said to be "conscripts" with that much experience under their belts. The only way to justify such a label would be via comparison with other armies that showed the opposition to have been more experienced. The problem is that if PLD did that, it would be clear that the French army was actually, by a country mile, the most experienced of the three. You do tend to think he doesn't do this because of the bias he admits to upfront.

And in that case, being a "conscript" is of no account, because everybody else was one too. One might equally well argue that the French lost because they were forced to fight with inaccurate single-shot flintlock muskets.

Similar thinking – not by PLD but just generally – pervades the attempts to explain away the defeat of the Old Guard. It was the Middle Guard; it wasn't as good any more; blah blah blah. The fact is that the Old Guard were veterans in Davout's book and were pwned by British, Dutch, Belgian and Prussian "conscripts". So as a passage of arms, defeating them was still hugely impressive whether we are talking about Chasse's, Colborne's or Maitland's men, or those of the Prussian 18th Regiment.

von Winterfeldt26 Jun 2023 5:31 a.m. PST

how many spring soldiers of 1813 did still serve in the 1815 army? And it is much more than just about Veterans, Michael Lindt already showed that some units were created by a mix off 5 different regiments – no esprit de corps.

While the Allies had doubts about the loyalty of newly in corporated units, soldiers who previously fought for Boney – it was the French who had a problem with desertion, and a constant trickle of deserters – and not only officers, kept the Allies quite well informed.

The 1815 army was one of the most brittle French army in the Napoleonic wars, and all other armies stayed in cohesion even after set backs, while the 1815 army, those units which fought at Belle Alliance fell apart – Paul Dawson makes a good point about that and even how most of the units of the Guard were routing (and see a lot of threads in TMP about this) – but again, because he comes to well based and researched conclusions (how many did research the archives?) and comes to a different conclusion that books like Elting which are half baked research and mirror the bias of the author) – he gets attacked.

Brechtel19826 Jun 2023 6:28 a.m. PST

The Prussians had a Saxon mutiny on their hands, with Blucher having to get away from them out the back door of his headquarters, and those troops had to be either disbanded or sent into the interior of Prussia.

And at Ligny, the Prussians had to deal with the desertion of approximately 12,000 men at the end of the battle.

The only units of the Imperial Guard that were 'routed' at Waterloo were the five battalions that attacked the allied center-and that was only after a tough fight outnumbered. The Young Guard was thrown out of Plancenoit on the French right flank, but they rallied and counterattacked alongside the two Old Guard battalions sent to retake Plancenoit. The survivors of those two battalions broke out and headed south at the end of the action.

Further, the 1st Grenadiers a Pied left the field in excellent order, the Grenadiers a Cheval left the field at a walk and were left alone, and a Guard Foot Artillery company, out of ammunition, stood by their pieces and went through the crew drill for loading and then stood by their guns, causing a momentary halt in the British pursuit.

I have found through consistent research and long discussions with Col Elting that his research and conclusions were excellent, enhanced by the fact that he taught military history at West Point for eleven years. And the West Point library is world class. I not only used the library while at school there but also was given permission to use the special collection, which is housed under lock and key, years afterward conducting my own research on the Napoleonic period.

Regarding the 1815 regiments, they were built after the first abdication and the number of regiments were reduced. The amalgamations of the 'new' regiments occurred during this time and any esprit de corps could have been established before Napoleon's return, along with unit cohesion. That is usually overlooked.

An excellent resource for the reorganizations is JB Avril's Avantages d'une Bonne Discipline.


robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP26 Jun 2023 6:50 a.m. PST

4th, I think some of those missing years represent not a lack of intake, but a lack of survivors--or possibly the conscripts had been taken from some departments which were no longer part of France, and had simply gone home. And the several different levees of 1813 represent vastly different levels of combat experience--which is why I wrote "drilled." Certainly a young man in the ranks for Luetzen and still in the regiment at the time of the First Abdication was a veteran. But how many of them were there? And how many of the post-Leipzig draftees saw action in the 1814 campaign?

By all means, someone with authoritative numbers correct me, but it rather looks as though of the perhaps 300,000 men under arms when the First Empire was proclaimed and the 2,300,000 drafted afterward, only about 300,000 were still alive and fit to bear arms in the spring of 1815, and only about 60,000 of those had been in uniform as early as 1812. It would be interesting to see similar numbers for the other major combatants.

Oh. The matter of leaving the army in uniform. Dawson cites records of such where he could find them, and they not only left in uniform, but with drums and muskets. If I'd been Louis XVIII, I'd have been more careful with the muskets, and maybe even of the drums.

I agree that sometimes Dawson's interpretation of the data is not the only one, but he does give us the data to make our own best guesses. And I'd agree that, for example, a regiment with pre-Bardin uniforms in stock in the fall of 1814 and none after Waterloo probably issued them to someone.

4th Cuirassier26 Jun 2023 7:07 a.m. PST

I'm not sure the lack of esprit de corps is either new nor very unusual though – not enough to explain 1815, anyway. I am pretty sure I read the description "sharp but brittle weapon" of the A du N in the 1970s (maybe in Naylor, maybe in Waterloo: Battle of Three Armies).

In comparison, the Prussian army regiments of 1813 were cobbled together and reorganised repeatedly. They started out as regular battalions with junior reserve battalions attached, with a mix of experience between seasoned and none. Although there was a Landwehr, it was never the case that the Prussian raw recruits all went to the militia – the expanded line and Reserve battalions had a lot of green manpower, too. The junior Reserve battalions were then detached from the regulars and formed into autonomous regiments. The 12th was officially a new line regiment but was actually made up of one line and two ex-Reserve battalions. Other Reserve regiments had four battalions rather than three. Many comprised battalions from different places (East Prussia plus Lithuania, Silesia plus West Prussia in the same regiment). Hardly any had a proper fusilier unit as its third battalion. These units took the field later in 1813 alongside even greener Landwehr. In terms of their level of experience and unit cohesion, they were pretty dire – yet they didn't fall apart at the first defeat. In 1815 Prussia had a desertion problem; an entire Corps mutinied and had to be sent home, and after Ligny so many Prussians deserted and headed east that the French mistook them for the main body. The Westphalian Landwehr had only existed since 1814.

Wellington's army likewise contained troops who'd fought on the other side till quite recently; troops who fled when ordered to advance; troops who refused to charge when ordered to by their formation commander; troops who fired at Wellington trying to kill him; guards units that comprised large numbers of militia; green second battalions; and green heavy cavalry, such as the Scots Greys, who'd not served overseas in 15 years or something. They spoke four different languages between them, or five if you include Scottish.

The idea that the French army of 1815 was uniquely disadvantaged in its composition is thus quite a tough sell TBH. It's all relative, and relative to the enemy the French had it pretty good yet still didn't hold together where similarly disadvantaged armies had done so.

It feels like an agenda to say the allies didn't win fairly – instead, the uniquely-bad French army wasn't up to the job. Had it not let Napoleon down, Wellington and Bluecher would have been toast. Etc, etc. But really, if you look at the composition of these armies, the French were the A/B team (1813 veterans), Wellington the B/C team (some solid Germans and Peninsular hands but few guns and a lot of inexperienced second-line units), and the Prussians their C team (lots of Landwehr, but none of their A team units – Guards, proper heavy cavalry, or their heaviest artillery).

Brechtel19826 Jun 2023 8:56 a.m. PST

…it rather looks as though of the perhaps 300,000 men under arms when the First Empire was proclaimed and the 2,300,000 drafted afterward, only about 300,000 were still alive and fit to bear arms in the spring of 1815…

A total of 2,646,957 men were 'levied' from 1800-1815. Approximately 1,350,000 of those were actually called up for active duty and saw service in uniform.

See Napoleon et la Garde Imperiale by Henri Lachouque, 921-924.

'Between 1792 and 1804 the French Army fluctuated between 320,000 and 800,000 men. From 1804-1814 the total armed forces (including the navy, Gendarmerie, National Guard, veterans, and disciplinary units) reached an average of more than a million.'-Swords Around a Throne by John Elting, 55.

von Winterfeldt26 Jun 2023 12:48 p.m. PST

compare for example with the Prussian Army of 1815 – or better those who were with Blücher, also veterans of the Liberation Wars, and also newly created regiments made from different units.

Despite the drubbing they received at Ligny, they proved their resilience to rally and turn back on Boney at Belle Alliance.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP26 Jun 2023 3:20 p.m. PST

Thank you, Brechtel. I suspected I was off, but I hadn't remembered Lachouque. We don't quite have a complete and consistent set of numbers, but then the shifting borders of Imperial France would limit the precision anyway.

If I may? I think those who point out that even the last levies of 1813 would be drilled by the Hundred Days are right, and I agree that the cadre of older veterans was probably as good or better than that of most of the Allies.

But this is still a serious loss of competitive advantage for France as opposed to the state of affairs in the Glory Years, or even 1809 or early 1812. The armies of Ulm Austerlitz and Jena were drilled to an inch, had maneuvered in large units in peacetime, had superior drill and staff systems and frequently a much higher percentage of veterans than their opponents. Those advantages were largely gone by 1815, and when you go to war with multiple major powers you need every edge you can get.

Brechtel19826 Jun 2023 5:59 p.m. PST

As an example of the makeup of experience in the ranks, the Grande Armee that marched against Austria and Russia in 1805 was made up of one-third veterans of at least six years' service. Half of the cavalry and 43 percent of the infantry 'had seen some combat.' Perhaps 1 in 30 were veterans of the old Royal Army, and a 'larger proportion' was made up of the volunteers of 1792-1794. The 'most numerous' were the conscripts called up in 179-1800 and the rest were well-trained conscripts.-See Swords Around a Throne, 60.

This army had almost three years of training and discipline in the Channel camps and was an excellent army, probably the best in the world. Undoubtedly it was the best in Europe.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP26 Jun 2023 6:20 p.m. PST

I finally ploughed through to the end of Dawson. The "60% captured" seems to be a bit of fumblemouth. The accompanying table shows that 60% OF THE CASUALTIES were POWs, which is probably true. There were other instances of poor proofreading and editing. (I'm Old School. I expect a minimum of one verb per sentence.)

Nonetheless, invaluable for the uniform nut, and the best I've seen for a regiment by regiment look at changes in the French Army from the First Abdication to the Second. I just wish he'd broken down the various Imperial levies following the 1812 campaign. A soldier who fought in Germany and France from Lutzen on is by way of being an old sweat. A kid herded into the depots just before the First Abdication ought to be trained by Ligny, but that's about all you can say for him. It's a distinction Dawson misses.

von Winterfeldt26 Jun 2023 11:14 p.m. PST

it is not only the training or experience that matters, but also morale. Blücher after being defeated at Ligny, was still full of fighting spirit and motivated his beaten troops to retaliate, while Boney after his defeat at Belle Alliance was broken, no resilience any more as after 18112.

4th Cuirassier27 Jun 2023 1:58 a.m. PST

It's beyond argument that Napoleon's previous armies, notably those of 1805-7, were better than that of 1815. But this point is not new, and nobody's disagreeing. For me the point is that there's no point bringing it up as a factor in the 1815 defeat, because it was true of the other armies involved as well. It cancels out.

The most useful thing I've found in PLD's book so far is the detail that the companies had all been deliberately shrunk to about 70 men in the 1814-5 organisation. I didn't know that. I had been under the impression that the post-1808 target strength of 140 men per company was still in force, not that most battalions reached it for long- about 600 seems more the norm (before campaign took its toll). PLD's research shows that an 1809 army could legitimately be in the same coat and hat as an 1815 one, but also that unfortunately, the 1815 battalions ought to be smaller. Which is a bit of a bummer.

von Winterfeldt27 Jun 2023 5:29 a.m. PST

Mauduit, sergent in 2nd battalion – 1st grenadiers, who wrote quite a fairy tale story was born in 1794 – so a mere 21 in 1815, a NCO as well, how many campaigns and army experience did he have under his belt? One year? And that gained him the rank of an NCO? In the Guard?

Brechtel19827 Jun 2023 5:45 a.m. PST

Regarding the corporal and NCO discussion:

'Caporals and brigadiers were not considered noncommissioned officers.'-John Elting, Swords Around a Throne, Appendix A, 676.

'Were not' and 'were not considered' might be important here. Regardless of a 1791 regulation, the Grande Armee was an entirely different entity than the Revolutionary armies. It was Napoleon's creation, built from the evolution of the armies that preceded it. And it was one of the most formidable in military history, regardless of the fact that Nord lost at Waterloo.

Brechtel19827 Jun 2023 8:55 a.m. PST

The "60% captured" seems to be a bit of fumblemouth. The accompanying table shows that 60% OF THE CASUALTIES were POWs, which is probably true.

The idea of 60% of Nord being captured is a major error. The French casualties listed in the Esposito/Elting Atlas are much closer to the actual losses of Nord:

Killed and Wounded: 26,000.

Captured: 9,000

Missing: 9,000

And some of those missing were undoubtedly captured as were some of the wounded, such as Cambronne. And some of the missing would also later show up with Nord.

Scott Bowden's book on Waterloo has, in the appendices, the numbers of those French troops that were present later, but that includes Grouchy's command who returned to France as victors, as they defeated Thielmann at Wavre.

Brechtel19828 Jun 2023 4:27 a.m. PST

The numbers for French casualties at Waterloo as listed by Scott Bowden in Armies at Waterloo:

Casualties, all types: 43,656.

Strength for Nord at the beginning of the battle: 74,500.

Strength on 25 June: 30,844.

Strength of Nord including Grouchy's command on 25 June: 62,737.

Brechtel19829 Jun 2023 5:26 a.m. PST

Mauduit, sergent in 2nd battalion – 1st grenadiers, who wrote quite a fairy tale story…

A contrary view of Mauduit's account is given in Andrew Field's excellent Waterloo: The French Perspective. After all the research I have done on the Napoleonic period over thirty years I have found that Andrew Field's accounts of the Waterloo campaign are excellent and set the standard on research for the campaign in Belgium in 1815.

'Perhaps the most compelling of French accounts is that of Hippolyte de Mauduit, who wrote: 'To undertake the history of a campaign, it is necessary to have been an actor in it, to have smelt the intoxicating smell of powder, to have experienced all the emotions of combat with cold steel, of standing helplessly under the fire of enemy batteries and finally to have slept and eaten amongst the dead!' Mauduit net his own criteria by serving at Waterloo as a sergeant in the prestigious 1st Regiment of Grenadiers of the Old Guard. Later, after commissioning, he went on to become the director of the military review La Sentinelle de l'Armee.'-7.

'In this latter post he entered into communication with a wide range of participants in the battle and, along with his own research into the French archives and reference to the British and Prussian histories, wrote his own account. In this way, he may be considered as the French equivalent of Siborne…Regrettably, Mauduit's own correspondence is not available to us in the same way that Siborne's is. Although inevitably a disciple of Napoleon, he does not hesitate to criticize him and attempts despite his ardent patriotism, to analyze the battle objectively. In his book Les derniers jours de la grane armee he identifies eleven reasons why the French lost the campaign, although only four of them relate directly to the battle of Waterloo. HIs account is embellished with many personal anecdotes of the battle, although interestingly, but rather disappointingly, none are of his part in the actual fighting.'-7.

On page 6 of the book, Andrew Field also comments on Henry Houssaye's account of the Waterloo campaign:

'Henry Houssaye's 1815 Waterloo…is perhaps one of the most objective available in any language…it draws heavily on British accounts and, whilst he could not benefit from more recent research, he has attempted to be as even-handed as possible. Houssaye gives us a thorough account of the whole campaign and his coverage of Grouchy's role is particularly interesting.'

Andrew Field's books on Waterloo are highly recommended and anyone who is interested in the camapaign and battles should at least read them, if not having them on hand in your personal library.

Brechtel19829 Jun 2023 5:41 a.m. PST

Regarding the Armee du Nord, again taken from Andrew Field's Waterloo: The French Perspective:

'The soldiers were not exclusively the young conscripts with which Napoleon had been forced to fight the campaigns of 1813 and 1814; they were now older, had endured much hardship and were accustomed to war. In the short period of peace after his abdication many tens of thousands of prisoners of war had been released from Britain, Prussia, Austria, and Russia, and the beleaguered garrisons throughout the German states that had been denied him in 1814 had also returned. Some of these men were not longer fit to serve, but many others had returned keed to avenge the privations and humiliations they had suffered…The army was therefore much more experienced than those of the previous two years. The soldiers were confident of victory and well motivated, burning to avenge past humiliations and slights'-18-19.

'We are beginning to see that the army had many more veterans than had been the case for many years, it had strong morale, absolute faith in the emperor and, despite, the short time Napoleon had to pull it together, it was well constituted and particularly strong in the quality and quantity of its cavalry and artillery. But we are also beginning to sense that there was something extraordinary about the army, something not quite right with the psyche, or the spirit, of it.'-19

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