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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

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

For all discussions relating to the Hundred Days and Napoleon's final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

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

Postby Iain » July 18th, 2017, 2:38 pm

Thank you Jack; I look forward to reading those links. In the meantime, I found the map relating to the position of the howitzer…, it’s on page 340 of the Waterloo Companion.

Thanks again Andrew…
Below is the same map taken from Mark Adkin’s book ! Despite a couple of errors, something which is remarkable with this map is his attention to detail and proportions. Place a Google map and radar image over it and it corresponds perfectly ! That’s an important remark in relation to the howitzer below !
Secondly, I checked out over 200 viable maps and drawings (Craan included) and found nothing where the orchard’s hedge is in line with the southern wall. On the other hand, such a hedge is visible on many old postal cards like the one below with the two ladies. Perhaps Büsgen and the others, (following the elimination of the wood) and on post-battle souvenir visits; perhaps used the modification to provide the Sibourn letters.

Anyway, Mark Adkin has the pathway on the south side of the hedge and like Craan, this track continues east to open freely onto the fields.
In the meantime, I see no logic in having an orchard opening to the right ! On the other hand, it seems more than likely that there was a wooden fence like the one along the western lane to keep the horses away from the track and hedgerow. Otherwise, they’d simply use the track and trot off !
What’s more, his gate looks well positioned and more or less in line with the eastern wall track; providing easy access to both the southern kitchen garden and the orchard. Meaning that the apple cart is distanced from the garden on its way to the farm.
This gate had obviously been flattened by the French, despite it having been ‘fortified’ by the Coldstreamers.

As for the howitzer…
As we know already, the paddock’s surrounding hedgerow is high. (“trunks as thick as your arm”)
As such I have two points.
One: There are ‘leafy’ loopholes along the orchard’s southern hedge…, meaning that if the howitzer was there, (see image) the orchard must have been under the control of the French. (note; even the Allies behind the southern wall cannot see the howitzer because of the hedgerow…, except for a few who can see over the gate)

Two: The howitzer’s angle of fire. (left to right)
Taking into consideration that Mark Adkin’s plan is very accurate and due to the height of the hedges; the only angle providing a VISIBLE target of the farm is over the orchard gate. Now…, if you place a plastic transparent ruler over the gate on page 332 of the Waterloo Companion, (remember the hedge height) there is no way you can trace a line from the paddock to the chapel or gardener’s house.
Could this be the reason why the southern buildings were spared ?

Kind Regards…, Iain.
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Southern wall and orchard.jpg
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Hedge and howitzer low pixels.jpg
Hedge and howitzer low pixels.jpg (154.24 KiB) Viewed 65 times
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Re: Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby Andrew » July 18th, 2017, 5:25 pm

Iain,

I love the old postcard showing the gate into the orchard next to the wall! This of course clearly shows the hedge on a line with the wall! I accept this MAY have been planted after the battle; although I cannot see that this is really likely. Whilst I cannot argue with your logic for not having two entrances, I have certainly seen it or read its description somewhere; I just have to find my source! Several diagrams in Les Carnets de la Campagne, No. 1, Hougoumont, show a hedge in line with the wall, then a track, then a hedge (a continuation of the hedge overlooking the killing field). These are modern, but the level of detail in this series suggest they are based on some credible source, rather than just made up. Having looked through my own collection of diagrams/maps, I find none to back up my point, so I must conclude it came from a written source which I must now try and find when I have the time!!

We have to be wary of using Adkin's excellent work as an authority, because however good it is, there are a number of verifiable errors and a disappointing lack of references. For instance, like you, he refers to a 'howitzer'; I have no idea where this information came from. Saltoun, the only man I know of who refers to an artillery piece being brought forward, calls it a 'gun'; twice. Adkin shows its position on the diagram to which you refer, but gives no indication of why he places it here. My gut feeling is that this is a 'guesstimate' and therefore cannot be used with any degree of confidence. He also says it was 'probably drawn from the 3rd Company, 2nd Horse Artillery [Regiment].' Whilst it is true that the divisional artillery of l'Heritier's division was sent to support the attacks on Hougoumont, there is no evidence to suggest it came from them; it is just as likely to have come from one of Reille's divisional batteries. Unless of course he has some information/reference he is not sharing with us. Given that the idea must have been to cause a breech in the wall, a gun firing ball must have been a better option, with the howitzers held back to drop their shells over the wood and into the farm complex.

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

Postby Iain » July 19th, 2017, 9:54 am

Good morning Andrew…

Firstly, it always amazes me how we’re all able to discuss events such as this after 200 years of specialist Historian research ! How is it possible for Houssaye, Sibourn and all the others to base their research about a battle when they are only vaguely aware of the terrain. The flooded north western grounds spring to mind with “the French left flanking the farm.” They would have needed boats !
Lol…, concerning this post, if Alasdair White is reading, I’m sure he’s having a good old giggle.

Anyway…
As I make clear with nearly every post, I’m no expert so I’m unable to comment on the French artillery. I leave that for people like you ! ;)
Concerning the ‘howitzer,’ there was obviously something there as Saltoun and Waterloo Uncovered confirms. What’s more, the ‘cosiness’ of Adkin’s gun position with high hedges and only a few musket shots from the wall over the gate to hinder the action; the French Horse Artillery were certainly in a secure position until Hepburn emptied the orchard.
Question; due to the angle, (in relation to the Waterloo Uncovered discovery) all shots fired from the paddock at the wall would have been ricochets ! (?)

As for the hedge, well, it’s pretty certain that on the day, the southern orchard hedge was not in line with the wall. As can be seen in Alasdair White’s 1816 sales map.
https://projecthougoumont.com/of-hedges-myths-memories/
Click for pdf : Of_Hedges_Myths_and_Memories_A_historica
Although this is more of a sketch than a map, it clearly indicates the southern hedge bordering the paddock. (below)

Combining the drawing below and the postcard, it obviously indicates a change in farming policy with the new owners reverting to corn and cows.
Following the elimination of the southern wood, they obviously had no more use of the paddock’s hedgerow so they uprooted that then replanted the roots to provide a southern wall extension. Then, they obviously transferred the two kitchen gardens to the orchard and the two ladies by the gate are probably workers having a midday break. (no long shadows)
And while they were at it, the farmer also uprooted the southern hedge along the sunken lane and levelled off the ground to increase the size of the northern pasture land. (while at the same time, filling in the stream that evacuated the ridge waters to the pond. Meaning that todays' floods are less important than they were in 1815)
viewtopic.php?f=43&t=2961

Regards…, Iain.
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1816 sales contract low pixels.jpg
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Re: Where was Clay on the night of the 17th/18th

Postby Iain » July 19th, 2017, 1:36 pm

Something I don't quite understand with Alisdair's pdf file is a cadastre image dated 12th July 1816 with all buildings present. I quickly read through the file but unless I missed it, nothing is mentioned concrning the demolished buildings.

As such, perhaps this map must be treated with precaution. (hedgerow bordering the paddock)
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