Imatges de pàgina

ettes, to Field Marshal Ney, with instructions to attack the English and Belgians as they came up upon the Brussels road, and particularly to dislodge them from Quatre Bras, where they partially communicated by their left with the Prussians. He himself, by a lateral movement in the direction of Namur, led the third and fourth corps of infantry into a position opposed to that of the Prussians at Sombref and Ligny. D'Erlon, at the head of the first corps, occupied what might be called the centre of the French army at Marchiennes, and being about mid way between Buonaparte and Ney, was in a situation to act as reserve to either who might most need his assistance. The action of the day divided itself into the combat with the Prussians at Ligny, and that with the English at Quatre Bras. We commence with that in which Napoleon was personally engaged with Blucher.

The Prussian army, about eighty thousand strong, occupied in position a chain of rising ground extending from Brie to Sombref. The keys of their position were the two small villages of St Amand and Ligny, situated at the foot of the heights in flat meadows, through which flows a marshy rivulet. The situation was in several respects unhappily chosen, for Blucher excels rather in the day of battle, than in the previous tactics which prepare for success. The heights, rising like an amphitheatre, exposed the Prussians in every point to the action of the French artillery, which was served with their usual eminent skill; although the two villages, filled with infantry, and every way prepared for defence, covered their line as if with two formidable redoubts. The combat began at St Amand, on which the right flank of the Prussians rested. The village was carried by the French General Lefol, but almost instantly recovered by the Prussians,

a similar scene Buonaparte's officers had been summoned forth to that hazardous expedition which gave rise to the war; and the leading events of the rise and of the decision of the conflict had the same preface, as if to show how narrowly the path of pleasure is divided from those of ambition, danger, and death.

While the English army thus pressed forward to the scene of battle, Buo. naparte spent the night in adjusting his plan of operations for the ensuing day. His successful manœuvres of the 15th had placed it in his choice to attack the English army in detail as it came up, or to engage the three divisions of Prussians under Blucher, who were already in position. If he poured, however, his full force upon the British, his right flank, and, in the event of advance, his rear, must be exposed to Blucher; or if he chose the alternative of fighting the Prussian field-marshal with the principal part of his army, it was necessary to leave a force sufficient to engage the attention of the British, since otherwise he must be exposed to similar danger on the left. Napoleon preferred making his first attack upon the Prussians, and unquestionably with great judgment, because there was more danger of a collected and arrayed army assuming offensive operations against his flank and rear, than was to be apprehended from one which was not yet concentrated, and had not assumed a position. At the same time, aware of the enterprise and energy of Wellington, he resolved to avail him self of his numerical force, and instead of leaving a mere corps of observation opposed to the British, to press upon them with such a force as, attacking them partially and in detail, could not fail to repulse, if not totally to defeat their advanced guard. He therefore assigned the command of his left wing, with the cavalry of Lebfevre Desnou

who, from their masses drawn up in rear of the place, threw in fresh forces. The French, reinforced in turn, renewed the assault, and gaining a partial possession of the hamlet, maintained a murderous conflict in the street, the orchards, and houses. Grouchy, in the meantime, attacked Sombref, a village on the extreme right, or rather somewhat on the rear of the Prussian position. It was defended with the most obstinate gallantry by the Saxon General Thielman, distinguished as one of the first of his nation who declared for European independence. The village of Ligny, in front of the Prussian centre, was attacked and defended with an obstinate fury, even superior to that with which the battle raged at Saint Amand and on the other points. General Gerard, under the eye of the emperor, here used his utmost exertions to dispossess the Prussians, and received his death's wound in the conflict. The number of houses standing isolated, and surrounded by courts in front, and farm-yards behind, formed so many redoubts, the possession of each of which was separately disputed; and the peaceful church-yard, with its little wall of circumvallation, was desperately attacked and defended. The deep sentiment of national hatred which animated the combatants on either side, gave a new and horrid feature to the war. No quarter was asked, offered, or accepted. Amid the roar of three hundred pieces of artillery, the flames of the houses, the groans of the dying, and the carcases of the slain, which choaked the street, the battle continued to rage with unabated fury. At length, General Pecheux brought up the French reserve, consisting of eight battalions of the guards, hitherto unengaged, and the village of Ligny fell finally into their possession. At St Amand a desperate attack of the Prussians, led by Marshal Blucher in person, suddenly re

covered the village and a height in its vicinity, and seemed for a time to incline the scale of victory in favour of the Prussians. Napoleon was so much alarmed at the consequences of this assault, as instantly to dispatch orders to bring up to his aid the first corps under D'Erlon, which, as we have observed, had been left at Marchiennes to be a reserve, either to his own left, or to the corps engaged with the English under Marshal Ney. But before this corps reached the field of action, St Amand had been regained by the French. In these desperate contests the Prussians suffered very much from the artillery. The reinforcements which they threw in succession into each village had to descend the heights, exposed at each step of their progress to the French fire, while the columns of the enemy, moving along the flat meadow ground, and availing themselves of the hedges and hollow ways, made their corresponding manœuvres without encountering any considerable loss by the Prussian guns stationed on the rising ground. Under these advantages, the French, towards the conclusion of this dreadful and desperate struggle, about seven o'clock at night, obtained at length undisputed possession of Ligny and St Amand. It remained to consummate their victory by an attack on the Prussian position. The imperial guard, supported by their heavy cavalry, traversed the village of Ligny, and forced a ravine which protected the Prussian front, at the same time that a large body of cuirassiers attacked in their rear the main body, posted behind Ligny, and that the Prussian cavalry were repulsed in some disorder by those of Napoleon. The general attack, aided by the superiority of numbers, was successful, and Blucher, who had, during the whole day, in vain expected the assistance of Bulow with the fourth corps, was now compelled to give orders for retreat. The Prussians per

which the Prussians had been constrained to abandon. Such was the battle of Ligny, in which the Prussians, as Blucher truly said, lost the field, but not their honour. About twenty thousand men, being one-fourth of their effective force engaged, were killed and wounded, much field-artillery was abandoned, and some wounded became prisoners. But the victory was attended with none of those decisive consequences which were wont to mark the successes of Buonaparte. There were no corps cut off or dispersed, no regiments which fled or flung down their arms, no line of defence forced, and no permanent advantage gained. The loss of the victors was, by the official accounts, estimated at three thousand men, which ought to have been more than quadrupled. Still, however, they had struck a great blow,-overpowered a stubborn and inveterate enemy, and opened the campaign with favourable auspices. The degree of advantage, however, which Napoleon might have derived from the Prussian retreat was greatly limited by the indifferent success of Ney against the forces of Lord Wellington.

formed this difficult and dispiriting manœuvre in the face of a victorious army, surrounded by his cavalry, and amid the confusion incident to ap proaching darkness, with the same steadiness and precision which marked the memorable retreat upon Chalons on the 14th February, in the preceding campaign. Formed into masses, and repulsing on all hands the repeated charges of the heavy French cavalry, the Prussians retreated in good order on the heights, and from thence continued their retrograde movement upon Tilly, abandoning to the enemy the field of battle and villages heaped with dead, and about 30 guns which could not be withdrawn from the defiles and broken ground. They had nearly sustained a far more irreparable loss in the person of their gallant general. The Prince Marshal, as he directed the retreat, was involved in one of the charges of cavalry, his horse struck down by a cannon-shot, and he himself prostrated on the ground. His aid-de-camp threw himself beside the veteran, determined to share his fate, and had the precaution to fling a cloak over him to prevent his being recognized by the French. The cuirassiers passed over him, and it was not until they were repulsed, and in their turn pursued by the Prussian cavalry, that the gallant veteran was raised and remounted. His death, or captivity, at that eventful moment, might have had most sinister effects on the event of the campaign, as it may be fairly doubted, whether any thing short of Blucher's personal influence and exertion could, after this hard-fought and unfortunate day, have again brought the Prussian army into action on the eventful eighteenth of June. When relieved, and again mounted, Blucher directed the retreat upon Tilly, and achieved it unmolest ed by the enemy, who did not continue their pursuit beyond the heights

On the morning of the 15th, the Prince of Orange, having reinforced the troops whom he found at Quatre Bras, was speedily engaged in a skirmish with the advanced guard of Marshal Ney, which was maintained by the sharp-shooters on each side with great spirit. Meanwhile the brigades of British began to arrive in succession. sion. The ground around Quatre Bras is intersected with inclosures, then waving with heavy and tall crops, which, with the hedges, rendered it very difficult for either party engaged to ascertain the situation, or movements, or strength of that opposed to them. On the British left, the position of Quatre Bras, with the main causeway leading from Charleroi to


Brussels, is flanked by a wood, called the Bois de Bossu. Great efforts were made by the French tirailleurs to gain, and by the Belgians to defend, this strong ground, which necessarily commanded the position. About three o'clock the main attack commenced. The French advanced nearly at the same moment upon the causeway from Charleroi to Brussels, and on the intersecting cross-road from Namur to Nivelles. The division of General Foy, which advanced first to the attack, was so warmly received by the British, that it was compelled to retreat in disorder. The first brigade, having advanced somewhat before the rest, was instantly charged and routed by the Highland regiments. The forty-second regiment pushed forward in line after the fugitives, but the nature of the ground, and the height of the corn, hid from their observation body of cavalry, who advanced to support the French infantry. The Highlanders threw themselves into the hollow square, but the cavalry were so close upon them, that nearly two companies were cut off, with their commanding officer, Colonel Macara, and after making the most gallant individual resistance, almost every man was cut down. The rest of the regiment, by a steady and destructive fire, and supported by their gallant countrymen of the ninety-second, repelled the repeated charges of the cavalry, and completely asserted their ancient high character. It was with as little effect that Marshal Ney tried the effect of a general charge of heavy cavalry, which formidable arm the French had so often employed with success, against the position of Quatre Bras. Two regiments of cuirassiers, forming a solid column of cavalry, came at a hand-gallop down the causeway towards Quatre Bras, intending to carry by a coup-de-main a battery of two guns, and thus penetrate to the very

centre of the British position. But a part of the ninety-second regiment, which, protected by a cottage and its dung-hill, were not seen by the cuirassiers, received them with a fire so well aimed and severe, that, united to the discharge of the battery itself, its effects seemed like those of magic. The whole causeway was strewed with men and horses, wounded and slain, and the remainder of the horsemen, flying to the rear of their army, announced every where the loss of the battle. It was, however, still far from being decided; the French were superior in numbers, and particularly in cavalry and artillery, for the British guns were not come up, and their cavalry had not yet had time (their quarters being so far distant as the Dender) to join the army.

The Duke of Wellington himself came on the field about three o'clock with the British guards. The moment was critical; for the French had, by repeated efforts, succeeded in dispos sessing the Belgian sharp-shooters from the Bois de Bossu, and were now in almost undisputed possession of this large wood, which enfiladed the British position. General Maitland had instant orders to recover this indispensable post. The guards rushed into the wood, forced the ene my from bush to bush, from tree to tree, through the whole space; drove them over the little brook which traverses the wood, and finally forced them into the open field beyond it. But the instant they attempted to debouche, in order to follow up their advantages, they found themselves in the presence of a large body of French cavalry, who advanced to charge them during the temporary confusion incident to their issuing from the wood. To escape this attack, they retired into the Bois de Bossu. The French again attempted to penetrate, were again repulsed; the guards again pur

sued, were once more checked by the menaced charge of the cavalry, and obliged in their turn to retire. And these manœuvres were repeated once or twice on each side with little variation; the guards being unable to debouche from among the trees in such order as to meet the menaced charge, and the French finding it altogether impossible to obtain any footing with in the wood itself. The guards sustained a heavy loss in this sustained conflict, and several gallant officers were slain or mortally wounded.

ted under three thousand killed and wounded. The relative strength of the armies engaged varied at different periods of the action. In the beginning, the French had a great preponderance, particularly in cavalry and artillery; but as the successive British divisions came up, the conflict became more equal, and at the close of the day it is probable the Duke of Wellington might have some superiority. The battle might be considered as doubtful, were it not for the cir eumstance, that the allies retained possession of the position from which it had been the object of the enemy to drive them; an advantage which the retreat of the succeeding day rendered of little importance.

Many gallant officers fell on this hard-fought day. There was general regret for the Duke of Brunswick, who, though so plain in his dress and unassuming in his manners that he was often mistaken for one of his own black hussars, nourished in his bosom the glow of ancient German chivalry. He had sworn to avenge his father's fall, in memory of whose disastrous fate his chosen regiments were arrayed in mourning. The early loss of a beautiful and affectionate wife had disgusted him with the world, and he seemed to live only to avenge his family and country. His efforts in favour of independence during the hazardous campaign of 1809, had procured him a high rank among German patriots. His brief reign after his restoration had endeared him to his subjects. He was among the first to hasten to join Lord Wellington, on the breaking out of the present war, with forces superior in numbers to what his dominions were supposed capable of supplying. And he was now to fill the soldier's grave, for which his courage and constancy furnished a distinguished epitaph.

It would be endless to enumerate

This obstinate conflict was equally fatal to the other corps of the allies. The Brunswickers had been in the brunt of the day since the battle commenced. Their gallant Duke, who fought at their head, had been repeatedly wounded, but no entreaties could prevail on him to leave the field. In a desperate charge, which he headed in person, he was shot through the heart by a musket-ball. The Belgians, under the command of the Prince of Orange, fought with great bravery, and sustained a corresponding loss. One of their cavalry regiments, which, without regarding the disparity of equipment, ventured to engage in close conflict with the cuirassiers, was almost entirely cut to pieces. The enemy, however, had suffered as severely; and Ney, finding no chance of bringing the action to a favourable termination without an accession of numbers, sent to order up the reserve, which had been quartered at Frasnes, and which he conceived was to be placed at his dis posal. When he found it had been marched to the right, in order to sustain Buonaparte's attack on Saint Amand, he renounced all hopes of victory, and confined himself to the efforts necessary to preserve his position. The battle terminated with the day; the loss of either party, being nearly equal, cannot be justly estima

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