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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

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Re: Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby Iain » July 9th, 2017, 8:52 am

Hi All…

John posted the following on Facebook last year concerning Ensign Algernon Greville’s letter to his father, directly after the battle. (GG)
Firstly, it pleases me in as much as it confirms my theory about water in the orchard…, but when you read between the lines, it also helps build a good picture in relation to this particular event in respect to the terrain.

“The musketry was tremendous; Milnes was struck in the breast and command passed to poor Luttrell who suffered a sickening wound and must lose an eye.
Saltoun was conspicuous by his bravery – He rode to the head of my section and we advanced into the hail of death – The Enemy’s fire instantly killed several men at my side and I expected to perish each moment; yet their Voltigeurs retreated in face of our attack to a point beyond a deep ditch filled with water. We came up and with our great steadiness, occupied the ground our Enemy had vacated and extended along a thickset hedge.”

With this incident ‘stuck in his mind,’ (writing about it, instead of many others that day) it could very well have been Greville’s first encounter with the enemy on leaving the sunken lane. (following the first French occupation of the orchard that morning)

Of course, without the remainder of the letter, this is speculation; quote John: "The rest of Greville's account of the fighting in the orchard is absolutely fascinating."
Nonetheless…
Quote; “The musketry was tremendous;” indicating a well organized formation of French troops and being well commanded. Otherwise, the musketry would have been ‘plick plock’ as the Enemy filter one by one through the bottom left hand corner opening.

Taking into consideration that the Germans were occupying the garden and the orchard, there would be very little need for them to line the loopholes along the eastern wall. All available men would have concentrated their firepower where it’s needed…, along the southern defences.
The French then push the Germans from the southern wood and as the majority of the retreating Germans use the orchard, those already in the orchard could very well have simply joined the momentum towards the sunken lane !
What’s more, due to the eastern loopholes being momentarily ‘unmanned,’ the French access to the orchard would have been relatively unhindered; providing them with the time to reform and provide that “hail of death.”

PS
As for the remainder of the day and building on the above theory: With there only being one access (easy to cover) it could indicate the Allied repeated formation in the orchard for the remainder of the day. Troops naturally lining the eastern wall, the hedgerows to the south and the east with a section of men (at a distance) covering the entrance.
Of course, with the French battling such odds, sheer force of numbers would have been the only way to obtain access. Then, having gained access; limited space due to water, trees and bodies, the eastern loopholes and sunken lane crossfire would have created an even more devastating effect than the ‘Killing Zone’ along the wall.

…, Iain.
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Re: Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby Iain » July 9th, 2017, 9:46 am

Provided by John Franklin.
A contemporary sketch of the orchard at Hougoumont, circa 1815, by Haines and Turner.

Don’t want to read too much into the sketch as it was done after the battle, and the apple trees were totally devastated.
Nonetheless, could that be the southern opening and the southern hedgerow on the right ? (well indicating a dip/ditch to the left)

Lol..., more invention. Could that be the ridge at the back ? Or just cloud !
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Re: Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby Iain » July 9th, 2017, 9:59 am

John again:

Francis Fownes Luttrell:
Born on the 10th February 1792
Waterloo, being severely wounded at the latter, losing his right eye. He retired from the army on the 28th April 1825. However, he became Lieutenant-Colonel of the 2nd Somerset Militia on the 4th June 1839. He died on the 4th January 1862.
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Re: Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby Andrew » July 9th, 2017, 3:46 pm

Iain,

Hepburn of the 2/3rd Guards is clear that the French (at least twice) outflanked the thick hedge on the southern edge of the orchard by making their way up the hedge that ran north along the eastern boundary of the orchard and firing in; saying it was this that drove them from the hedge. Saltoun says that the French brought a gun up to the southern hedge that he attempted to capture but without success. Constant-Rebecque reported that after the French had pushed the Nassau troops back from the hedge, they destroyed it in several places, presumably to make access away from the fire from the garden wall; no doubt regimental sapeurs would have not required too long to achieve this.

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Re: Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby Iain » July 14th, 2017, 6:16 am

Thank you Andrew…
Sorry for the late reply but I was trying to find a map/drawing of a single howitzer in the paddock near the gate; but with my badly-kept 2014 stockpile of notes, I simply couldn’t find it.
Lol…, it’ll pop up one of these days asking to be classified !

In the meantime, something is worrying my ‘logic-neurons’!
Do you have any substantiating evidence of any artillery position east of the orchard ? Did Hepburn say that the eastern flanking was supported by a howitzer ?
(Very interesting “destroying the hedge in several places”! Must absolutely research that pioneer aspect )

I had read about an incident somewhere with the shots aimed at and even ‘passing through’ the eastern gate; but common sense is pushing me to ask a couple of questions.
Firstly, (if Hepburn indicated artillery to the east) I’m asking myself if these two events are not just one of a kind ? (eastern hedgerow being confused with the paddock)

I have another couple of paragraphs to add but I need your confirmation about an eastern gun emplacement.

Kind Regards…, Iain.
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Re: Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby Iain » July 14th, 2017, 5:43 pm

PS
Quote: "Hepburn of the 2/3rd Guards is clear that the French (at least twice) outflanked the thick hedge on the southern edge of the orchard by making their way up the hedge that ran north along the eastern boundary of the orchard."

Note: With the French bodies building up on the orchard’s southern entrance..., it's only 'human' that the French veer east towards the SE corner before heading north along the eastern hedgerow.
Unfortunately for the French, what they didn't know, is that the sunken lane was full of ‘camouflaged’ leafy Allies as it's almost certain that they extended well to the east along the lane. (further east than the orchard)
As a consequence, this provided a 'surprise' northern firepower on the Enemy aiming ‘willy-nilly-westward’ through the hedge.

When Wellington chose Waterloo to "stop the French," he was obviously unaware about this Hougoumont zigzag line of defence in relation to the sunken lane, the orchard and the farm. (too fine a detail) As such, it’s absolutely fascinating to study the advantages of the Allies in relation to the farm's defence !

Following just a few years researching Hougoumont, it’s only now that I’m starting to appreciate the officers’ talents for creating an impeccable fortification.
Following 200 years of research to understand how they managed to defend Hougoumont..., they, the officers, had it all summed up in a matter of minutes !
In the meantime, we’ve still a lot to learn of their tactics on the day !
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Re: Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby Andrew » July 17th, 2017, 6:24 am

Iain, my time to apologise for a slow response; but at least my absence may help your cause as I was at Waterloo visiting the latest Waterloo Uncovered dig as one of their 'Visiting Historians' (bought a great old print of Napoleon at Waterloo from the carboot sale in Plancenoit!!).

They have continued to dig the 'killing field' in front of the southern wall; they have reached the eastern end. At this end of the wall they found a couple of cannister balls which, given the trees that covered this area from the French ridge, support the theory that they may have been fired from a gun that had been dragged forward. One was dug up as I was there and they were convinced that by the pattern of the soil it had been fired from the east! Now I will have to get back to them to confirm this was the final analysis. I directed several of the organisers to the Forum so I hope one may read this and offer some response 'from the horse's mouth!' We can never be sure how much evidence has been gathered by detectorists and therefore lost, but my feeling is that the crew of any gun that was brought forward to fire at almost point blank range, was almost certainly quickly shot down. To my knowledge, Saltoun is the only man to mention a French gun/howitzer. The evidence suggests that the French concentrated up to 42 guns to the west of the main road, but it is accepted that most of them were aimed at the ridge above the farm. You will no doubt know from your own research that maps that show the French deployment vary as to the extent to which the French line extended west, with Pire's cavalry division that stood on the extreme left shown both west and east of the Nivelle road.

Another interesting discussion I had was concerning the line of the 'bullfincher' hedge that marked the southern boundary of the orchard that Clay garrisoned temporarily in the morning. Once more, documentary evidence is conflicting; some show it as a continuation of the hedge that marked the southern edge of the 'killing field' and others that it was a continuation of the southern wall. Waterloo Uncovered could offer no opinion on this. One source has entry points to the orchard at each end of the hedge, not just next to the wall; then there is the evidence that the French cut some other access points.

Two brief final points for now (time pressing);

I know you are most interested in the early stages of the battle, but it seems clear that towards the end of the battle, the French occupied the sunken lane, at least that part at the northern edge of the orchard, as there are allied accounts of having to send troops down from the ridge to clear it due to the intensity of the fire that was coming from it.

Also, bear in mind that it was never the intention of the French hierarchy to actually capture Hougoumont. None of Napoleon's orders mention it and Reille, as the senior commander at the point, consistently bemoans the attempts to assault it; saying this was never the intention. He is supported by one or two other officers. I can come back to this if you want.

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Re: Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby Iain » July 17th, 2017, 5:20 pm

Thank you for that Andrew…, extremely interesting !

I’m pleased Hepburn didn’t mention anything about any artillery to the east as that would have created tactical problems. (visible from the ridge and more especially from the Allies along the sunken lane; further east than the orchard)

With my screenplay being complete to 09h55, I’m far from the French storming the sunken lane and to tell you the truth, I’ve adopted a lazy attitude by waiting for John’s book to add the details of such events.
Unlike yourself and all the other Historians here, I use your sources then verify if they tie up logically with other events and more especially the terrain as it was on the day. (floods ect.)
As such, I see no practical reason to have two access points for the orchard. I doubt very much if there was more than one horse and cart used to empty the orchard of apples…, so ‘traffic’ wouldn’t have been problem. What’s more, why facilitate scrumping ?
On the other hand, I love the idea confirmed by Hepburn of the French destroying the hedgerow to permit access. That, could have been the second hole in the hedge you were talking about !? Lol…, love it !

Quote: “At this end of the wall they found a couple of canister balls which, given the trees that covered this area from the French ridge, support the theory that they may have been fired from a gun that had been dragged forward. One was dug up as I was there and they were convinced that by the pattern of the soil it had been fired from the east!”
Please forgive my ignorance here concerning artillery and ammunition…
I thought a short-barrelled howitzer was similar to a mortar…, aiming high to drop from a height. Perhaps even being the gun responsible for the fires. (?)
Question:
Was this the type of shot used by a howitzer ? Or does it suggest that the howitzer was not alone ?

Kind Regards…, Iain.
PS Lol…, I didn’t know there were car-boot sales at Plancenoit !
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Re: Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby jf42 » July 17th, 2017, 6:49 pm

Iain, howitzers could be used to fire canister on a low trajectory, tending to have a wider dispersal of shot than a standard field piece.

There's a discussion that touches on the business here

viewtopic.php?f=20&t=3313&p=19779&hilit=howitzers#p19779

and here

viewtopic.php?f=20&t=1455&hilit=+grape

Firing!
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Re: Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby Andrew » July 17th, 2017, 7:26 pm

Iain, jf has answered your question on howitzer's firing cannister. I have no doubt it was howitzers firing shell that led to the fires. The French did not have a complete reserve of ammunition, so I doubt that anyone had bothered to provide one of the various types of ammunition specifically designed to cause fires;these were primarily for sieges, not open field battles.

The reference for the French making passages in the hedge of the orchard is the report written by Constant-Rebecque, COS to the Netherlands army (available in John Franklin's Waterloo, Netherlands Correspondence, (Dorchester: Henry Ling, 2010)).

Busgen describes the hedge as an extension of the wall rather than the hedge between the wood and the killing field. Various diagrams show the option described by Busgen, an entry point at each end of the hedge and (Craan I think) shows a double hedge; one a continuation of the wall and another, the other side of the track, a continuation of the hedge marking the northern edge of the wood.

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