Waterloo Report Charras

Deckblatt Charras

In the following article an excerpt of the report of the lieutenant colonel Charras “History of the Campaign of 1815, Waterloo” will be given. The special attention is here also given to the left side of the allied army, on which the militia battalion Muenden stood. The used book is the first edition in German language of 1858, issued by the publishing house Rudolf Kuntze, Dresden. Unfortunately I didn't found an English edition of this book till now. Therefore I'm trying to make a translation myself. If someone has an English edition of the book that can be shared, please contact me.

The excerpt begins with the twelfth chapter, the description of the beginning of the fights at Waterloo (pages 255 to 293). Due to the fact that I'm not a professional translator, the translation may use not the correct terms but it's difficult to find a correct wording for the old phrasing which is also not anymore used in German today.


Twelfth chapter.

18 June. – Waterloo. – Napoleon experiences that the Anglo=Dutch army did not move; – With daybreak he persuades himself that this is substantiated. – His confidence in the result of the battle which he wants to supply. – Wellington’s confidence is not less. – Description of the English position. – Wellington deploys at 6 o'clock. – His strength. – Napoleon reconnoiters the enemy’s position. – At 9 o'clock the French begin to deploy their order of battle. – Instructions at Grouchy. – Instructions for the forthcoming battle. – Napoleons plan of the battle – Around 11 ½ clock he opens the combat with the attack on Goumont. – Reille instructed therewith. – First setback of this attack. – Napoleon experiences the arrival of Bülow at Chapelle St. Lambert. – Measures in consequence of this message – New instructions at Grouchy – Erlon attacks the English left wing; he was repelled with large losses. – Fruitless attacks on la Haye Sainte. – Continuation of the fight with Goumont. – Conditions of the battle at 3 o'clock. – Arrangements Wellingtons. – Napoleon waives the attack of enemy’s left wing and decides to direct the main efforts against the center. – Removal of la Haye Saint. – Attack Milhaud's and Lefebvre=Desnouettes against the Anglo=Dutch center, at 4 o'clock. – They are repulsed. – Around 4 ½ clock the corps of Bülow move into the line. – Their position at 5 o'clock. – Ney renews the attack with the riders of Milhaud and Lefebvre=Desnouettes. – Arrangements Wellingtons in foresight of this repetitive attack. – Situation of his army. – Ney is supported by Kellermann and Guyot. – The attack is again repelled. – Ney's losses. – Losses of the Anglo=Dutch center. – Conditions of the battle on the left and right wing. – Continuation of the combat against Bülow. – Attack of 6 battalions of old guard against the Anglo=Dutch center; it is repelled.

Around 7 ½ clock intervenes of Ziethen’s vanguard in the combat at Papelotte. – Beginning of disorder in the French army. – General advance of the Anglo=Dutch army. – The disorder grows rapidly. – Two divisions Pirch I. move into the line against Plancenoit – The village is taken by the Prussians. – General dissolution of the French army. – The Prussians pursuing. – The pursuit stops only with daybreak. – Napoleon arrives in Charleroy and goes to Philippeville. – Mutual losses. –

The night was black, the sky covered with thick clouds, which were disrupted only rarely by lightning. The thunder rolled at the distance. Since yesterday afternoon, the rain is still cascading in torrents. Napoleon mounted his horse and rode, accompanied by Bertrand, on the country road forwards until abreast the tenant farm Rossomme. It was 1 o'clock. A line of bivouac-fires ranged from Braine-l`Alleud to Frichemout along the horizon. These were the bivouacs of the Anglo=Dutch army.

Their battalions had had a short and rapid march yesterday. They had arrived with good time in their positions and had used the rest of the day, as well as the near forest, to collect wood and to bore now the tempest with its assistance more easily.

In the French lines, bivouac-fires were rarely seen. The soldiers, less well supplied, expected the end of this cumbersome night with impatience.

Nothing seemed to indicate a movement of the enemy. If he would retreat, then Napoleon wanted to follow him despite the darkness and to knock him down. What he wrote down at least in this way. But his inactivity at the night after the victory at Ligny is not suitable to strengthen the faith in this expression. Such enterprises exceeded at that time the measure of his activity.

He returned to his headquarters and thereafter received soon by spotter reports messages of the picquets and by the statements from two deserters the confirmation whose what he deduced only from the strength and expansion of the bivouac-fires namely that the Anglo=Dutch army stood immovably.

He was very satisfied by this news, but however was afraid that this will not be confirmed until he could persuade himself with daybreak by own eyes that Wellington wanted to accept a battle.

So, despite his hesitation and his delay, after defeating the Prussians in their separation, he had the luck, to find now his second opponent, far of them and to aim a crucial blow at them.

Recently he had announced in the Moniteur, "that Wellington is vain, fainthearted and unknowing, that it seems he is predestinated for large disasters", and now it seems that this wrong forecasts for too long, fulfill themselves too. He thought it at least.

Shortly thereafter he said to his generals "we have 90 chances for and 10 against us". That was his conviction; he wrote it down, and the statement seems authentic.

But also Wellington considered the opportunities of the fight, which he await and which he could have avoided, and was expecting a good end; he trusted in the strength of the carefully selected and exactly reconnoitered position; on the eagerness of his troops, on the firmness of his old soldiers from the peninsula wars and finally from the promise of Blücher.

He wrote Sir Charles Stuart (to Brussels) „the Prussians will be ready again in the morning for any thing, everything is going well" and to the Duke of Berry "I hope and which is more, I have every reason to believe that it will go well.“[1]

On the message, that the Anglo=Dutch army had moved in its position at Mont St. Jean, Blücher had answered that he is intending to give a part of his army the order to march there at daybreak and followed by the other part at the soonest, and this answer had just arrived to Wellington, when he expressed his full confidence.

The rain stopped around 6 o'clock; but the sky still hung full of heavy clouds.

The Anglo=Dutch army began to move into its battle order.

Coming from the tenant farm le Caillou, Napoleon's headquarter, three ridges which evenly strike from southwest toward northeast direction can be met. The Brussels country road cuts through their crests consecutively at the tenant farm Rossomme, at the public house la belle Alliance, and about 150 to 200 meters beyond the tenant farm la Haye Sainte.

The crest of this last ridge is at the same time the south border of a more massive terrain elevation, which is trending westward up to Merbe=Braine, stretched in a valley from south to north, eastward until Ohain, northward to Mont St. Jean, where a flat low ground to the village Waterloo begins, which lies 1 hour from Haye Sainte in a cut-out of the Soigne'r forest.[2] This terrain elevation is usually called the plateau of Mont St. Jean. About 5-600 meters west of la Haye Sainte a ridge branching away from the plateau with smaller width and sweeps in regular flattening against the Brussels country road, which it will meet near the public house la belle Alliance. On this ridge the watershed lies between the Senne and the Dyle. Two small valleys rise at the ridge; one’s going away southwest behind the chateau Goumout and is merging near the same with the valley of Merbe Braine; the other one sweeps towards southeast, closely goes by below la Haye Sainte, Papelotte and la Haye and contains the hamlet Smohain.

These two valleys are forming at the base of the Plateau of Mont St. Jean with sole exception of the mentioned ridge a kind of envelopment; their slopes are easily accessible, even for the artillery, only in immediate vicinity of la Haye Sainte the northern slope is somewhat steeper on 5 - 600 meters of development. The mentioned tenant farm lies directly at the road.

The chateau Goumont is located 1500 meters westerly thereof. It towers at the slope of the ridge which limits the valley on the south. The country road of Nivelles passes 350 meters westerly, crosses the valley of Merbe=Braine on a fill and conjoins at Mont St. Jean with the country road from Charleroy to Brussels.

The tenant farms Papelotte and la Haye are 14 and 1500 meters east of la Haye Sainte, Smohain barely 2000.

Below la Haye the valley becomes narrower and has more gorges; in the middle of a waterlogged ground a small rivulet rises, which flows below Ohain and then into the Lasne stream, which goes to the Dyle.

Chateau Frichemont, 300 meters south of Smohain, lies on the level of the southern valley slope.

That was the terrain, on which Wellington wanted to accept Napoleons attack.

It seems, as we already mentioned, as a coherent elevation, which is generally flattening itself gently to the south, so that the slopes can be coated easily with direct fire. Goumont, la Haye Sainte, Papelotte, la Haye, Smohain, Frichemont are just as much positions for the defense of the access.

A route between Ohain and Braine l'Allend follow pretty much the edge of the Plateau up to the level of Goumont. About 200 meters north of la Haye Sainte it crosses the country road. On this side of this crossroad it’s[3] even with the ground and surrounded with strong, but gappy living hedges.

Beyond the crossroad the hedges disappear; it forms a hollow-way with an average depth of approximately 2 meters and a length of 600 meters[4]; then it is again at ground level.

This road marks nearly exactly the front of the English deployment.

The left wing stretched with its extreme sections up to the vicinity of la Haye and reached on the other hand up to the Brussels country road, which was strongly barricaded.


[1]Both letters are D. D. Waterloo, 18 June, 3 o'clock in the morning; which one to the Duke of Berry is French written. (Dispatches, Th. 12.)

[2]Since 1815 the whole part of the forest, which surrounded Waterloo, was exterminated. Now no more wood stands westerly the Brussels country road and also the south border, which is going to Bert=Coucon, was moved back about ¾ hour.

[3]Or in fact „was“

[4]The road has now only on the north side the high edge; on the south side it is at ground level; the earth was carried for the hill from there, which bears the lion and the laconic inscription: 18. June 1815.


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