Puslapio vaizdai

quently seen to nod and doze. Ney and d'Erlon, left to their own judgment, had evolved a scheme of formation so complex that, when tried, as it now was, it proved unworkable. The confusion was veiled by a terrific, continuous, and destructive artillery fire. After some delay, and a readjustment involving preparations against the possible flank attack of the Prussians, d'Erlon's corps advanced in four columns, under Donzelot, Allix, Marcognet, and Durutte respectively. Opposed was Picton's decimated corps, with a few Dutch-Belgians, whose valor, never very bright, had been almost eclipsed by the fact that their uniforms, having been mistaken for French ones, had drawn upon them the fire of their own associates. Durutte, on the extreme right, seized Papelotte, but lost it almost immediately. The conflict then focused about La Haye Sainte, where the garden and orchard were seized by an overwhelming force. The buildings had been inadequately fortified, but Major Baring, with his garrison, displayed prodigies of valor, and held them. The assailants, supported hitherto by batteries firing over their heads, now charged up the hill; as they reached the crest, their own guns were silenced, but their yells of defiance rent the air. The Dutch-Belgians of the first rank hearkened an instant, and fled incontinently until, followed by the jeers and menaces of the British grenadiers and Royal Scots, they reached a place of safety, when they reformed, and stood. Picton was thus left unsupported, but at that decisive moment Donzelot tried the new tactics again, and his ranks fell into momentary confusion. Picton charged, the British artillery opened, and, though the English general fell, mortally wounded, his men hurled back the French. This first success enabled Wellington to bring in his infantry, and to throw in his cavalry against a body of French riders, under Roussel, which, having swept the fields around La Haye Sainte, was now coming on. His order was for Somerset and Ponsonby to charge. The shock was terrific, but the French cavalry yielded, and the whole of d'Erlon's line rolled back in fair order. A few vain efforts were made by the rash Englishmen to create confusion, but they were thwarted. This ended the effort upon which Napoleon had based his hope of success; there was still desultory fighting at Hougomont, and the Prussians, though not visible, were forming behind the forest of Paris.

There was a long and ominous pause before the next renewal of conflict. Wellington used it to repair his shattered left, Napoleon to

form a corps under Lobau, intended to repel the flank attack of the Prussians. Ney was determined to redeem his repulse by a second front attack, and Napoleon, either by word or silence, gave consent. While the batteries kept up their fire, the marshal gathered in the center the largest mass of horsemen which had ever charged on a European battle-field, 12,000 men, light and heavy cavalry. His aim was to supplement Reille, still engaged at Hougomont, and dash in upon the allied right center. Donzelot's column, now reformed, was hurled directly against La Haye Sainte, and the mass of the cavalry surged up the hill. The gunners of Wellington's artillery, unprotected even by breastworks, stood to their pieces until the attacking line was within forty yards; then they delivered their final salvo, and fled. Wavering for an instant, the French advanced with a cheer. Before them stood the enemy in hollow squares, four ranks deep, the front kneeling, the second at the charge, the two others ready to fire. The horsemen dared not rush on those bristling lines. In and out among the serried ranks they flowed and foamed, discharging their pistols, and slashing with their sabers, until, discouraged by losses, and exhausted by useless exertion, their efforts grew feeble. Dubois's brigade, according to tradition, dashed in ignorance over the brow of a ravine, men and horses rolling in horrid confusion into the unsuspected pit. The abyss, it is believed, was likewise the grave of the fifteen hundred men and two thousand horses which were eventually collected from round about. The British reserve cavalry, supported by the infantry fire, and a few hastily collected batteries, completed the defeat of Ney's first charge. A second was repulsed in the same way. The undaunted marshal then waited for reinforcements. No fewer than thirty-seven squadrons came in, Napoleon sending Kellermann's heavy dragoons as a last resort. Guyot's division of the heavy guard cavalry was also there-some say summoned by Ney, others that they came of their own accord; the question arises because, in the next stage of the battle, their absence from their place was a serious matter. Another time, and still another, this mighty force moved against the foe. Pouring in and out, backward and forward among the squares, they lost cohesion and force until, at the moment of Wellington's extremity, they withdrew, as before, exhausted and spent.

The energy and zeal of the English commander were in strange contrast to Napoleon's growing apathy; but Wellington was

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now at the end of his powers. It was six, and to his repeated messages, calling for Blücher's aid, there had been no response. He was face to face with defeat. Baring had held La Haye Sainte with unsurpassed gallantry; his calls for men had been answered, but his requisitions for ammunition were strangely neglected. Ney, seeing how vain his cavalry charges were, withdrew before the last one took place, arrayed Bachelu's division, collected a number of field-pieces, and fell furiously, with cannonade and bayonet charge, upon the farm-house. His success was complete: the garrison fled, his pursuit was hot, and, leading in person, he broke through the opposing line at its very heart. Had he been supported by a strong reserve, the battle


would have been won. Müffling, Wellington's Prussian aide, dashed away to the Prussian lines, and, as he drew near the head of Zieten's division, shouted, «The battle is lost if the corps does not press on and at once support the English army.» Ney's adjutant, demanding infantry to complete the breach he had made, was received by Napoleon with petulance. One brigade from Bülow's corps had attacked at about half-past four; repulsed at first, their onset was growing fiercer, for two other brigades had come in. Soult had opposed Ney's waste of cavalry. He and the other generals were displaying a wilfulness bordering on insubordination. A portion of the guard had just been detached for Lobau's support. To Ney's demand for infantry the

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Emperor replied, «Where do you expect me to get them from? Am I to make them?» Had the old Bonaparte spirit moved the chieftain to put himself at the head of what remained of the guard infantry to support Ney, a temporary victory would have been won; and then, with a remnant flushed with victory, he could have turned to Lobau's assistance before the main Prussian army came in. Thus was lost Napoleon's one chance to deal Wellington a decisive blow.

It was to prevent a dangerous flank movement of the enemy-the advance, namely, of Bülow, with the cavalry corps of Prince William (afterward first emperor of Germany), upon Plancenoit-that Napoleon had detached the young guard, under Duhesme, a third of his precious reserve, to support Lobau's right; Durutte being in the rear of his left, that portion was already as strong as it could be made. Nevertheless the Prussians seized Plancenoit; at once the French rallied, and drove them out; Blücher threw in eight fresh battalions, and these, with the six already engaged, dashed for the ravine leading to the village. The passage was lined with French, and for a time it was like the valley of Hinnom; but the Prussians pressed on, and the young guard reeled. Napoleon sent in two battalions of the old guard, under Morand; their firmness restored that of their comrades, and the place was cleared, 2000 dead remaining as the victims of that furious charge and countercharge. At seven Bülow was back again in his first position, awaiting the arrival of Pirch's corps to restore his riddled ranks. Napoleon had now left only twelve of the twenty-three battalions of the guard reserve, less than 6000 men. Wellington had repaired the breach made by Ney, and, though still hard pressed on his right, Zieten had made good the strength of his left, some of his cavalry having been detached to repair other weak spots in the line. At this moment Zieten conceived that Bülow was further giving way, and hesitated in his advance. The brief interval was marked by Durutte, and, with a last desperate effort, he carried Papelotte, La Haye, and Smohain, hoping to prevent the fatal juncture. It was half an hour before Zieten retrieved his loss. By that time Pirch had come up, and, with this reinforcement, Bülow, behind the heavy fire of his powerful batteries, charged Lobau, and advanced on the guard at Plancenoit. Lobau, the hero of Aspern, stood like a rock until Durutte's men, and the remnants of d'Erlon's corps, flying past his flank, induced a panic in his own ranks. Thereupon the

VOL. LII.-113.

whole French right fell into confusion, all except the guard, who stood in the churchyard of Plancenoit until surrounded and reduced in number to about 250 men, when, under Pelet's command, they placed their eagle in their midst, formed a square, drove off the cavalry which blocked their path, and reached the main line of retreat with scarcely enough men to keep their formation.

Before the combined armies of Wellington and Blücher the French could not stand, but, in spite of inferior numbers, and the manifest signs of defeat, General Bonaparte might have conducted an orderly retreat. The case was different with Napoleon, the Emperor, even though he were now a Liberator; to retreat would have been merely a postponement of the day of reckoning. Accordingly, the great adventurer, facing his destiny on the height at Rossome, determined, in a last desperate effort, to retrieve the day, and stake all on a last cast of the dice. For an instant he appears to have contemplated a change of front, wheeling for that purpose by Hougomont, where his resistance was still strong; but he finally decided to crush the AngloBelgian right, if possible, roll up both armies into a confused mass, so that, perchance, they might weaken rather than strengthen each other, and then, with Grouchy's aid, strike for victory. Indifferent to Ney's demands, he had set the very elect of his army in array against Bülow; surely they might stand firm while his blow elsewhere was delivered. But he did not reckon in this with Wellington's reserve power; though the dramatic stories of the Duke's mortal anxiety rest on slight foundation, there is no doubt that he felt a great relief when the Prussians entered the combat, for immediately he turned his attention, not to rest, but to the reforming of his line. Officers and men, English or German, knew nothing of Bülow's or Blücher's whereabouts when Napoleon took his resolution, but, sensible of having been strengthened, they displayed at half-past seven that evening the same grim determination they had shown at eleven in the morning. Though Wellington's task of standing firm until Blücher's arrival was accomplished, and though, perhaps, his soldiers heard the distant firing of the Prussian guns, yet nothing could be seen across the long interval, the noise attracted little attention, and neither he nor they could know what was yet before them. It was, therefore, splendid courage in general and army which kept them ever ready for any exertion, however desperate. Against this army, in this temper, Napoleon despatched

what was left of that force which was the peculiar product of his life and genius, the old and middle guard. Most of its members were the children of peasants, and had been born in ante-Revolution days. Neither intelligent in appearance nor graceful in bearing, they nevertheless had the look of perfect fightingmachines. Their huge bearskin caps and long mustaches did not diminish the fierceness of their aspect. They had been selected for size, docility, and strength; they had been well paid, well fed, and well drilled; they had, therefore, no ties but those to their Emperor, no homes but their barracks, and no enthusiasm but their passion for imperial France. They would have followed no leader unless he were distinguished in their system of life; accordingly, Ney was selected for that honor, and, as they came in proud confidence up the Charleroi road, their Emperor passed them in review. Like every other division, they had been told that the distant roar was from Grouchy's guns; when informed that all was ready for the finishing stroke, that there was to be a general advance along the whole line, and that no man was to be denied his share in certain victory, even the sick, it is said, rose up, and hurried into the ranks. The air seemed rent with their hoarse cheers as their columns swung in measured tread diagonally across the northern spur of the cross-like elevation which cut the surface of the valley. Wellington, informed of the French movement, as it is thought, by a deserter, issued hurried orders to the center, ordered Maitland's brigade to where the charge must be met, and posted himself, with Napier's battery, somewhat to its right. While yet his words of warning were scarcely uttered, the head of the French column appeared. The English batteries belched forth a welcome, but, although Ney's horse, the fifth that day, was shot, the men he led suffered little, and, with him on foot at their side, they came steadily onward. The British guards were lying behind the hill-crest, and the French could discern no foe-only a few mounted officers, of whom Wellington was one. Astonished and incredulous, the assailants pressed steadily on until within twenty yards of the English line. «Up, guards! make ready!» rang out the Duke's wellknown call. The British jumped, and fired; about 300 of Ney's gallant soldiers fell. But there was no confusion; on both sides volley succeeded volley, and this lasted until the British charged. Then, and then only, the French withdrew. Simultaneously Donzelot had fallen upon Alten's division; but he was

leading a forlorn hope, and making no impression. As Ney fell back, a body of French cuirassiers advanced upon the English batteries. Their success was partial, and behind them a second column of the guard was formed. Again the assault was renewed; but the second attempt fared worse than the first. To the right of Maitland, Adam's brigade, with the 52nd regiment, had taken stand; wheeling now, these poured a deadly flank fire into the advancing French, while the others poured in a devastating hail of bullets from the front. The front ranks of the French replied with spirit, but when the British had completed their manoeuver, Colborne gave the order, his men cheered in response, and the countercharge began. «Vive l'Empereur!» came the responsive cheer from the thinning ranks of the assailants, and still they came on. But in the awful crash they reeled, confusion followed, and almost in the twinkling of an eye the rout began. Two battalions of the old guard, under Cambronne, retreated in fair order to the center of the valley, where they made their last gallant stand against the overwhelming numbers of Halkett's German brigade. They fought until but 150 survived. From all sides the despairing cry of «Sauve qui peut!» rang on their ears. To the final summons of surrender the leader assented, and they filed in dejection to the rear. This occurrence has passed into tradition as an epic event; what Cambronne might well have said, «The guard dies, but never surrenders,» was not uttered, but it epitomizes their character, and in the phrase they and their leader have found immortality.

The last charge of the guard took place almost at the moment when Durutte was finally routed. Wellington gave the order for a general advance. The French left fell into panic, and fled toward Belle Alliance. Before La Haye Sainte stood two squares of French soldiers, the favored legion chosen to protect the imperial headquarters. In the fatal hour it splendidly vindicated the choice, and amid the chaos stood in perfect order. Throughout the famous charge of his devoted men Napoleon rode hither and thither, from Rossome to Belle Alliance. His looks grew dark, but at the very last he called hoarsely to the masses of disorganized troops that came whirling by, bidding them to stand fast. All in vain; and, as the last square came on, he pressed inside its serried wall. It was not too soon, for the Prussians had now joined the forward movement, and, in the supreme disorder consequent, the other square dissolved.

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