Napoleonic Wars Forum

The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

First cannon fire at Waterloo, on 18th...

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

Re: First cannon fire at Waterloo, on 18th...

Postby jf42 » May 27th, 2017, 10:12 am

Iain the important distinction between hay and straw is that hay has value as fodder for the beasts whereas straw by comparison has little nutrient value and is used primarily as litter, a combination of bedding and absorbent material where animals are kept indoors (Ironically the usefulness of straw increases when mixed with dung to create manure for the fields). As you will know, corn grew to a greater height in the 19th century and so straw was in abundance as a material. It was also used as bedding for humans be they drunks, convicts, or soldiers in the field if they could obtain it.

Straw might either be scattered on the floor of a steading for the above purposes, piled loosely for ready use or kept in a stack. Loose straw in buildings would have been eminently combustible. However, any straw that had been used to provide bedding in the pig pens would have been on its way to making manure and, for obvious reasons, not very combustible. Hay would kept more carefully, to avoid waste. Dried hay might be stored in hay lofts for ready use in winter. Equally combustible, it would however have mostly been eaten by midsummer.

As we have discussed, bales mechanically packed and trussed, were a C20th century invention. Straw loosely piled in a barn, as described by Clay, would not provide a stable footing, nor raise a defender very far off the ground. Whatever the Guards stood on to enable them to fire from loopholes higher up the walls, it is unlikely to have been herbal material.
Last edited by jf42 on May 27th, 2017, 2:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.
User avatar
jf42
Senior Veteran Member
 
Posts: 1247
Joined: June 23rd, 2011, 10:17 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: First cannon fire at Waterloo, on 18th...

Postby Iain » May 27th, 2017, 1:44 pm

Thank you JF…, lol; you speak like a professional ! ;)

That’s an interesting comment about Clay collecting the straw and not talking about food; eventually showing a priority.

Lol…, although distancing ourselves from Mark’s ‘First Cannon Fire,’ (sorry Mark) I also heard that straw mixed with horse dung was used as tobacco at Waterloo.
http://www.thewestonmercury.co.uk/news/ ... -1-1877278

Lol…, thank God I don’t smoke.

PS So the straw was not only for bedding, but was also needed to mix with the droppings of MacDonnell and Saltoun's horses.
User avatar
Iain
Senior Member
 
Posts: 377
Joined: October 21st, 2014, 5:53 am
Location: Belgium.

Re: First cannon fire at Waterloo, on 18th...

Postby MarkW » May 28th, 2017, 1:44 am

no worries, Iain, for letting the topic slip on to another branch, all related really i suppose :)

I actually brought up the haystack as i was wondering why the Duke had mentioned it etc, it was answered but led to further questions from others, i.e. did the French send over flammable material etc....

The first cannon fire was from the KGL as we know now...not a large French bombardment nor the three gun signal etc that was in the film...was that ever used to start a Napoleonic battle?

Movement from Jerome and likely a Nassau private fired the first shot from the wood into the French moving into it...or was it the cannon as it disrupted the columns moving forward? Time? 11:30am?

Clay was, by then, posted near the western wall of Hougoumont? By the time the fighting got to him, 11:55am?
MarkW
Participating Member
 
Posts: 138
Joined: March 9th, 2015, 1:32 am
Location: Sooke, British Columbia

Re: First cannon fire at Waterloo, on 18th...

Postby jf42 » May 28th, 2017, 7:59 am

Iain wrote:

PS So the straw was not only for bedding, but was also needed to mix with the droppings of MacDonnell and Saltoun's horses.


I doubt a few horse apples kicking about underfoot would have been of primary concern that day. Even to the Guards...
User avatar
jf42
Senior Veteran Member
 
Posts: 1247
Joined: June 23rd, 2011, 10:17 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: First cannon fire at Waterloo, on 18th...

Postby Iain » June 14th, 2017, 12:55 pm

Hi All…, I have a problem !

I’m researching John’s trilogy ‘Waterloo 1815’ and of course it’s the third; ‘Mont St Jean and Wavre’ (N°3) that interests me the most.
What a wonderful collection; but when turning the pages, you have no idea how happy I am to be writing a screenplay instead of a book. It frightens me to see the amount of work and research that must have gone into the publications !
In the meantime and in order not to infringe copyright material; I will only quote a few lines from a couple of paragraphs while eliminating the info that doesn’t really concern this post.

Please note that I will be intermingling these sentences with 10 Downing Street’s declaration that there was a “ferocious battle” at Hougoumont that started at 10h00. Meaning that between 10 to 11 o’clock, cannons and howitzers were being fired over the Hougoumont roofs.

Now, on the page that concerns me; there are no timings but John does say that the Allied cannon activity was “prior to the main assault.”

John writes;
“THE STRUGGLE FOR HOUGOUMONT COMMENCES.
Jérôme and Foy commanding the 3rd and 9th Divisions respectively, launched a preliminary attack PRIOR TO THE MAIN ASSAULT.”
Bla, bla, bla…, “the three battalions of the 1er Régiment Léger marched towards the enclosure in two lines. The French officers waved their swords and encouraged their men.”
(Note; I take 4 to 5 minutes to walk the distance between La Belle Alliance and the ‘wood’)
“As the formations came within the range of the Allied batteries stationed on the heights above the farm commanded by Sandham and Kuhlmann, the French were subjected to a devastating salvo.”
(Note; unless I have misunderstood, this is before the Enemy have opened any musket fire)

The follow-up paragraph goes on to say, quote: - “Wellington and his Staff arrived at the heights immediately to the rear of Hougoumont to study the attack.”
(Note; once again, I could be wrong here; but with this being a follow-up paragraph, it gives the impression that Wellington was not ‘on-site’ during the first salvo; and because of the firing, he was probably drawn towards his cannons to survey the activity)
Anyway…
“A vast cloud of tirailleurs supported by close columns now advanced against the wood, from where they were greeted by the Brunswick and Nassau.”
The French enter the wood.
Amidst the onslaught, Bauduin was killed.
Bla, bla, bla…
“Now watching from the heights above, Wellington observed the ferocity of the attack. Then, with due consideration, he ordered Sir Augustus Fraser to send for a battery of howitzers.”

Now…, bowing to the specialists who maintain that the French artillery did not fire at Hougoumont before 11h35, (or, I suppose, the ridge’s right flank) how can anyone suggest it was Napoleon’s centre-ground salvo (as per the film) that were the first Waterloo shots ?

Lol…, please do not tell me that Hougoumont was a mini battle within a battle; when cannons and howitzers are being fired at 10h00 followed by Baron Bauduin being killed and soldiers being mowed down by large-shot, quote; “killing and wounding dozens of men at a time.”

Thoughts please…, Iain.
User avatar
Iain
Senior Member
 
Posts: 377
Joined: October 21st, 2014, 5:53 am
Location: Belgium.

Re: First cannon fire at Waterloo, on 18th...

Postby unclearthur » June 14th, 2017, 9:51 pm

Not strictly true about straw as forage, sorry, JF. It was a major equine dietary component, mentioned in most cavalry ration guides/standing orders of the period. Whether it was fed as long fibre with hay or chaffed to mix with the grain element isn't clear, though.
User avatar
unclearthur
Veteran Member
 
Posts: 703
Joined: February 11th, 2012, 3:42 pm
Location: South Wales

Re: First cannon fire at Waterloo, on 18th...

Postby Andrew » June 14th, 2017, 9:53 pm

Ian,

the first thing that strikes me is this; is the 'main attack' that is mentioned a couple of times, the main French attack by d'Erlons' corps, or the main attack on Hougoumont? If it is the latter, what constitutes the 'main attack'? French accounts talk of an attack by a strong skirmish line, which eventually clears the wood, but is thrown back out again by a counter-attack of the English (presumably guards). Only then does Bauduin's brigade (of Joseph's division) attack through the wood and reach the 'killing ground'. Is this the main attack? After Bauduin's brigade gets bogged down in front of the walled garden, so Soye's brigade (the second brigade of Joseph's division) is committed, which swings round and attacks the north gate. Is this the 'main attack'? After the failure of this attack, Tissot's brigade, of Foy's division, is committed. With three brigades committed, is this the main attack? Although regiments are rotated into the fight, no further brigades are committed. The idea of a main attack is somewhat confused and open to individual interpretation. The claim that the whole of Reille's corps being committed to the attacks on Hougoumont is a false one according to my research and interpretation of French accounts.

Secondly, I believe dramatic language should be avoided by historians unless clear and specific proof can be given. 'Vast clouds' (open to interpretation), 'devastating salvos' (what constitutes a devastating salvo?) and 'killing and wounding dozens at a time' (subjective and conjecture) are examples.

Don't get me wrong, I am a huge admirer of John's work, but there is a danger in literal interpretations of works which are very short in the way that Ospreys are. I was accused of not being dramatic enough in my descriptions of Talavera, but my position was that I was not prepared to 'sex it up' if I did not have evidence for it. John might well have that evidence, but cannot produce it in a book of such short length.

I have no evidence of a preliminary attack prior to the advance of Joseph's skirmishers; which were almost certainly all found from the 1st leger (my interpretation). It is hard to believe there was a two division attack, followed by one purely by skirmishers. French accounts from Joseph and some of his subordinate's (as well as Foy's), do not mention a preliminary attack. John might have some, but they would still fly in the face of the ones I (and he) possess.

Andrew
User avatar
Andrew
Honorary Academic Advisor
 
Posts: 667
Joined: September 13th, 2012, 7:40 am
Location: Wiltshire, UK

Re: First cannon fire at Waterloo, on 18th...

Postby jf42 » June 15th, 2017, 7:17 am

unclearthur wrote:Not strictly true about straw as forage, sorry, JF. It was a major equine dietary component, mentioned in most cavalry ration guides/standing orders of the period. Whether it was fed as long fibre with hay or chaffed to mix with the grain element isn't clear, though.


Thanks, mon oncle, my apologies if I overstated my case. I was trying to point out that hay and straw should not be regarded as interchangable material, and that their comparitive value as fodder determines how they will be stored, or where they might have been found in the farmstead at Hougoumont in June 1815, and in what quantities. Thus, it would be more likely to find loose straw lying about the place than hay, as illustrated by the 'mow' of dry straw in an unidentified building which Clay saw guardsmen resting atop in the early morning.

Those factors would, in turn, determine a) to what extent either hay or straw contributed to the fires that took hold in the farm buildings during the battle and b) the likelihood that either material contributed to preparing buildings for defence, as Iain assumed. I didn't mean to suggest how either material might have been appropriated for fodder on June 17th /18th.
User avatar
jf42
Senior Veteran Member
 
Posts: 1247
Joined: June 23rd, 2011, 10:17 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: First cannon fire at Waterloo, on 18th...

Postby Iain » June 15th, 2017, 1:32 pm

Hi Andrew; and thank you !

I’m always in admiration when reading specialist replies like that and it certainly creates a dividing line for me and the hobbyists.

In fact, I was only reacting to Mark’s heading; quote, “First cannon fire at Waterloo” and not the sound coming from the ‘main attack.’ (notice I talk about sound)
Concerning my screenplay, it would be pure stupidity to try to ‘remake’ the 1970 feature film as I’m sure most historians are relatively satisfied with the result…, to such an extent that I’m sure some of them even miss-out on events such as this first Hougoumont salvo. (with its consequences perhaps influencing the timing of the main attack. Had I been Napoleon and seeing my left flank being ‘mowed down’ [sorry] I’d certainly have advanced my timeline for the days’ events)
Lol…, I now refer to this as the ‘10 o’clock syndrome’!

In the meantime with my work being fiction and based at Hougoumont, the main attack doesn’t really influence the farm because Clay and Coy never saw any central salvo.
On the other hand…, they did hear it; as they did the first salvos from the ridge passing overhead !
Lol…, can you imagine, I’d have looked a right donkey if I had the first shots sounding off at 11h35. (like the 1970 film)

Andrew…, changing the subject ! Not quite sure if I’ll be able to make it to Plancenoit for a beer.
My Associate’s in London and the Windsor region for the time being visiting all the seven regiments plus their RHQs. Trying to get our watches integrated as demob gifts !
But with the Trooping of the Colour for the Irish Guards on Saturday his late debrief and especially the follow-up will take quite some time.

Kind Regards…, Iain.
Last edited by Iain on June 30th, 2017, 6:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
Iain
Senior Member
 
Posts: 377
Joined: October 21st, 2014, 5:53 am
Location: Belgium.

Re: First cannon fire at Waterloo, on 18th...

Postby Iain » June 15th, 2017, 1:46 pm

jf42 wrote:
unclearthur wrote:
Thanks, mon oncle,


Lol..., "mon oncle"! :)
Amazing how many people speak French here !
I’ve been speaking French for well over 40 years and I’m still unable to hide my ‘ex-pat’ status. And still lots to learn !
Story: My wife when she was about 5 years old didn’t like her grandfather. He always preferred her sister to such an extent she never called him ‘Granddad.’ (or the equivalent) One day when speaking with her parents about him, she called him ‘mon oncle.’
Lol…, she received a slap on the face and was chased off to bed. ;)

We are two days short of the Waterloo anniversary and late last evening I saw a tractor pulling a cart full of straw. (big round disc shapes) Unaware of this post, my wife remarked “they’re late this year”!
As such, Hougoumont was probably well stocked up with both hay and straw.
(and our apples are only 1cm in diameter)

Post update:
The image below is one I took on the 18 June 2015. (still 'green')
Today, 1st of July 2017, and the wheat is still not harvested. As such (I suppose) it was not a cornfield between the farm and the French..., it was a wheat field.

…, Iain.
Attachments
DSC_0092.JPG
DSC_0092.JPG (261.32 KiB) Viewed 36 times
Last edited by Iain on June 30th, 2017, 6:13 am, edited 2 times in total.
User avatar
Iain
Senior Member
 
Posts: 377
Joined: October 21st, 2014, 5:53 am
Location: Belgium.

PreviousNext

Return to War of the Seventh Coalition 1815

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest