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Waterloo - La Garde vs 2nd 95th

First up then is Captain Miller  the CO of No 1 company.p194 Glovers 'Letters from the Battle of Waterloo -unpublished correspondence form Allied officers from the Siborne papers'

'Our brigade again formed line, and I had hardly retired to the rear of the position to get my wound dressed, when I saw the Imperial Guard advancing in a heavy column along the ridge. This is the period you fix upon for your representation of the battle, and I am fortunately I am able to speak distinctly to it; as the setting sun shone full in the enemy's face, and on the backs of my own Regiment. The enemy advanced to the bend of the position , and forced back the left of my Regiment down the Eastern slope of the ridge and the right of the one to the left  [sic 2nd  1st Guards ?], leaving an opening between1 and 200 yards in the line. That appeared to me to be the most critical period of the battle; as there was only a line of Belgians behind, which would probably have made no great resistance, all seemed lost

Miller now goes on to make assumptions about matters he cannot have known about at the time:
'The advance of the Prussians on the other side however; the resistance he met with towards La Haye Sainte, and perhaps something of a panic, obliged the enemy to give way, when there was certainly no sufficient force in his front to oppose him'

No mention of the 52nd and Colborne's wheel??

The account of Corporal Aldridge related second hand Siborne's Letter 128

He was the left hand man of the front rank of the 2nd 95th

"The French came up in three Columns abreast of each other; they looked like quarter distance Columns. Their left was obliquely to his left..............saw the 52nd move forward  to the right of the 2nd 95th and charge those Columns. About this time Lord Wellington rode up to the 95thand called out 'Who commands the 95th'  Colonel Norcott and Major Wilkins had just been wounded, and at first no Officer answered Then Lieut. Dixon stepped forward. Lord Wellington said 'Order the 95th to charge'.Lieut Dixon then saw that Captain Logan,who commanded the right Company of the rear line, was in command, and gave the order to him. Captain Logan gave the word 'Forward' to the Battalion. The enemy gave way."

So some confusion as to who was in command of the 2nd 95th at this this 'critical' moment? It seems Wellington has to ride up and tell them to get their arses in gear - to use our modern parlance?

Lets have a look at what the 52nd were up to - their young Ensign Leeke -
'The History of Lord Seaton's Regiment Vol 1 - page 43

 'The 52nd was alone, the other regiments of Adam's brigade having been thrown out by the suddenness and peculiarity of the movement. In this dangerous and exposed advance Sir John Colborne was on the right of the Regiment, anxiously watching a large mass of the enemy's cavalry, which was seen between us and the French position'

p 113  'the Guards were not there, but 300yards away,that the 71st never reached the enemy, but were away to the right, near the inclosures of Hougomont; that the 95th were not in line with the 52nd,and were not seen by them....."   . the conflict between the 52nd and the Imperial Guard 'took place not towards the crest of the British position , as has been related by Siborne and others, but 300 yards below it"

But what does a 16 year old Ensign in his first battle know?

On Jack's urging I read this recently - - Sale's The Lie at the Heart of Waterloo.

He argues essentially, that the 1st (Grenadier) Guards had in fact fallen back in the face of the Garde columns and that Colbourne ordered a left form, not wheel (though it's not very convincing that he knows the difference), from the 52nd, in order to fire into their flank. Having seen this happening the 2/95th moved forward in order to support their left flank. Then the combined Light Brigade (inc. 2/95th) moves forward to sweep the Garde backwards and they are the ones who receive the French 'merde' in defence of Napoleon's HQ. Meanwhile the rest of the army is struggling to catch up and the Prussians are coming out of Plancenoit. He claims this has been hidden because Wellington wanted to give himself the credit, so it was reported that he ordered the 1st Guards to stand and charge, and that's what repulsed the Garde. Sale says this order was given but that the 1st Guards were repulsed, and the 52nd saved the day by preventing the columns from taking advantage. This is the 'lie' the whole book attacks.

It's persuasive and uses a number of letters and accounts to back it up. It's also nice to think that the lights played the central role. But I'm a little wary. Sale is apparently an old Green Jacket, and the whole thing may be very bias.

Anyone else read this, or got something else to add to the 2/95ths role at the crisis?
Ben Townsend

Sale is debating this with Andrew Fields at RGJ museum on the 30th May. Rob and I are going along.

The main problem with the accounts of Leeke, Gawler etc is that their position becomes more entrenched throughout the mid C19th controversy, ending  with stridently declaring that the 52nd alone defeated the entire Guard and similar overstatements.

Colborn indicates that the 95th corresponded to the 52nd's movements, but there is a great deal of massaging of facts and homogenising of memories going on by the 1830s. Prior to that the earlier accounts are more reliable regarding the allies movements, but pretty useless in describing the French units or formations that opposed. You have to go to the French commanders and participants to understand what was in front of the allies.
Ben Townsend

Here is Clinton writing to General Sir Thomas Graham shortly after the battle.

Sir Henry Clinton (NLS)
23rd June 1815

“The attack was directed against the first division’s position, it was comprised of three masses of infantry (the Imperial Guards). Our guards advanced to meet it, Adam’s brigade also advanced and brought up their right. Their cavalry was still very strong. I supported the attack by a Hanoverian Battalion at quarter distance, with the King’s German Legion in echelon and the 23rd regiment which formed part of the 4th division and was placed under my orders. The enemy gave way and was followed across the plain, our cavalry came forward and from this moment there was no check.”

The Waterloo Archive vol. I, edited by Gareth Glover, p.152

Captain Logan - who succeeded to the command of the Battalion after the wounding of the Field  Officers - Glover - Waterloo Archive Vol 1 p 157

"Soon after Bonaparte advanced with his Imperial Guard & commenced a heavy attack. Lord Wellington rode up to me & ordered I should attack them immediately. I marched with the 52nd & 71st Regiments on my right & such carnage I have never before beheld. The firing of the guns &c was so great that the man next to me could not hear my orders. After some desperate fighting the French began to retire & you may be certain sure we stuck to their breasts. That noble fellow Lord Wellington moved on with the 95th & frequently cried out 'Move on my brave fellows' "

Private John Lewis  - Glover Waterloo Archives 1  p 160:

".........Boney's Guards then made another charge upon us , but we made them retreat as before & and while we was in square the second time the Duke of Wellington and all his Staff came up to us in the midst of all the fire & saw we had lost all our commanding officers. He himself gave the word of command, the words he said to our regiment was this  ' 95th unfix your swords, left face & extend yourselves once more, we shall soon have them over the other hill' "

The History of Lord Seaton's Regiment Vol 1

Ensign Leeke again - foot note p  110

" I am exceedingly sorry not to be able to speak of the position or movements of our gallant friends of the 2nd Battalion of the 95th Rifles after the 52nd moved down from the British position on the flank of the Imperial Guard. They were, of course , thrown out by our sudden movement, and were not with us when we defeated the 10,000 men of the French Guard ; nor when we afterwards drove off the battalions of the grenadiers of the Guard from the height of La Belle Alliance. We were alone from the time we left the British position till we halted for the night at Rosomme, at about a quarter past nine."

from the same p 72

" At daylight on the 19th all were stirring. It was some time before we left our bivouac at Rosomme, perhaps an hour or two. On the opposite side of the road was a  battalion of the 95th Rifles, whom we had not seen the night before; probably they were the 2nd battalion of the 95th, who belonged to our brigade, and had come up some time after we had halted for the night"

Letters from the Battle of Waterloo Glover p 196

First Lieutenant Thomas Smith  2nd 95th

"I have no hesitation in stating that I firmly believe the 1st Brigade of Guards were in rear of the crossroads which ran along the ridge of the position and unites the two high roads, upon this head I am positive for a short time previous to the crisis the battalion I belonged to being stationary in square I rode to the left for the purpose of looking at the 1st Brigade of Guards in action and they were certainly in rear of the road and neither as I think they ever crossed it, and as far from their having driven back the attacking column, they were very near being driven out of their own position and which would most decidedly have been the case had not it been for Sir F Adam's brigade and a brigade of cavalry which charged on the moment of the former brigade moving to it's left, and when the 2nd 95th Regiment gave their fire I do not think the final column could have been more than twenty paces from them and which fire well given in made the most dreadful slaughter."
Ben Townsend

Great to have it all in one place like this. I have been corresponding with Paul Dawson on the French troops in the area at this time (1800-1900 depending on account). He feels that the 2nd corps who had been heavily engaged around Hougoumont supplied part of the supporting forces for the final French push (spearheaded by some of the Guard). Paul asserts that IF Colborn wheeled it was much more likely that he encountered part of the 2nd corps.

As usual, there are some grotesque oversimplifications of the battle floating around, which will tell you that neither the cavalry nor the infantry dominant attacks were supported by artillery or any of the other branches (combined arms attacks were the norm then as now), and that the French always attacked in column and the Brits in line (yawn).

Anyway- Paul's thoughts are an interesting take on things. He weights French accounts more heavily than English, but whether you agree with that or not, its useful and fascinating to have more information on the other perspective. Here are some of his thoughts on 2nd corps verbatim:

"At some stage Marshal Ney arrived on the French left to order 2nd Corps to attack. Captain Robinaux of the 2nd regiment of Line Infantry narrates that:[3]

At 6 o'clock, Marshal Ney came to our position and he cried with a loud voice: "Courage, the French army is victorious, the enemy is defeated on all points! "

Emperor, seeing an army corps that emerged into the plain, immediately announced the arrival of General Grouchy,  he ordered the commander of the cavalry to attack immediately the plateau Mont-Saint-Jean, occupied by the British under the command of General in Chief commander of the combined armies Lord Wellington, and there he found a strong resistance and a numerous artillery lying in wait which vomited fire and flames on all sides; the Imperial Guard advanced at once and  quickly took the position.

Adjutant Commandant Toussaint Jean Trefcon was born at Saint-Quentin on 11th April 1776, and was Cheif of Staff to General Bachelu agrees with the time of the advance of 2nd Corps being 18:00:[4]

At six, I remember looking at my watch as the day wore on, we were ordered out of the woods of Hougoumont to support the efforts of our cavalry. No sooner had we left the woods and formed up in columns by division that a rain of bullets and shrapnel fell on us like rain. I stood next to the General Bachelu, when he was hit by several bullets and had his horse under him true. The Brigadier General was wounded at the same time; I took temporary command of the division. Taken forward by our élan and despite their fire we were about the English when their arrived important reinforcement. No doubt they would have otherwise been forced to retreat. A violent fire greeted us when we came into contact with the English with our bayonets. Our soldiers fell in hundreds; others had to beat a hasty retreat: they would not be easily overcome. I received two severe contusions to the chest and I had my horse killed under me a grape-shot. In my fall I landed on my left wrist. The violence of the shock and pain that I felt made me lose consciousness. Fortunately for me, my fainting was short lived and I was soon regained of all my senses. Housed behind the body of my horse, I saw go past me charge of English Dragoons pursuing our unhappy divisions.

However, another eye-witnesses from the 2nd regiment of Light Infantry which formed part of Bachelus command places this event at seven o’clock an hour later, and is crucially writing a year after the battle, as opposed to decades with the first two sources presented, so it seems could be more reliable: [5]

At seven o'clock the victory seemed to be crowned through our prodigious efforts. Marshal Ney arrived on foot, sword in hand, to the 2nd Light Infantry Regiment, which had fought under the Marshals order on all the preceding days, but there were no more than a small number of men. "My" comrades, cried he, victory depends on you, remember that it is the English who are ahead of you! ". The ammunition of the regiment being exhausted, the officers of a regiment of cavalry which was placed behind them and unable to make any movement, brought to them in their helmets, the pistol cartridges which they had remaining,  which were used to load the muskets of the regiment.

In letter thought to be by Major Beaux commanding the 1st regiment of Line Infantry, he  writes as follows about the operations of 2nd Corps in conjunction with the Imperial Guard:[6]

At four hours in the evenings, we heard a strong cannonade coming from our right flank and were told it was the corps of Marshal Grouchy. The disorder began in the rear of our army, and those with malicious intent cried ‘save yourselves’. However many regiments fought on with great effort. Between six and seven hours in the evening we occupied the major part of the English positions, soon  after a regiment of Cuirassiers and the Grenadier a Cheval of the Imperial Guard passed through our lines  probably to take up different positions; but their retreat made a strong impression on the spirit of the soldiers.

At seven hours in the evening the Emperor arrived at the head of numerous battalions of the middle Guard. They were formed into column to the between the farm found in the centre of the battlefield and were to the right of the 3rd regiment of Line which defended the right of the garden of the village. They marched against five English regiments, which made numerous discharges of artillery and volleys of musketry and were charged by cavalry and they dissolved. If it had not been for our brave cuirassiers, not one soldier from the battalions wound have escaped.

Clearly the 1st Line and the 3rd Line, had moved to the east of Hougoumont and were stationed close to the garden and orchard of the farm, and formed the left wing of the general French advanced formed by the Old Guard and the Line, between Hougoumont and La Haie Sainte.

So on balance it seems 2nd Corps did advance in conjunction with the Imperial Guard. "


Thanks Ben - it adds something fresh to have French accounts and Paul Dawson is a formidable researcher. I cannot really say I believe all that the French claim as I think that they seem no less prone to over inflate what they did than the Brits did -  but it helps balance things.
What is certain is that something stopped the French at the time of Tthe Crisis'  and they retreated.

But my main reason for putting up this topic is not really to discuss the whole attack of La Garde and the  units which supported them but to look at specifically what the 2nd 95th were up to at this time. The now famous Greenjacket diarists Kincaid, Simmons and Leach are over the other side of the crossroads above La Haye Sainte with the 1st Batt.. Who tells the tale for the 2nd?
The letter that I opened with - Capt Miller tells of a situation where
all seemed lost It is perhaps significant that his letter is not published by Siborne as it does not fit in nicely with the British story that has come down to us.

I think that's about all I can find for the 2/95th and "The Crisis" so I will go back for a last word from Captain Logan who has taken command of the Battalion -  Waterloo Archive  Glover Vol 1 p 158:

"We crossed the Seine on the 3rd when Paris capitulated. We entered Paris a day or two after & I had the honour to command the first regiment of the Allies which entered Paris. We marched up to the Tuilleries to mount guard over the Palace. We are now encamped within twenty yards of the spot on which Louis and Queen were beheaded with about 20,000 others. We lost(2nd battalion) 14 officers & 225 men killed and wounded. I am recommended for a majority & Lord Hill thanked me personally as did also General Adams for the conduct of my regiment"

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