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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Hougoumont’s first hour :

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

Re: Hougoumont’s first hour :

Postby Iain » December 19th, 2016, 5:43 pm

Hi Josh…, and thank you for the image advice; I’ll change it asp ! Thank you also for your comments.

Andrew…, OMG !
Thank goodness you, Josh and I don’t live near here at Waterloo…, we’d be in the La Belle Alliance every evening with a pint of Lambic beer and our wives would never see us again. ;)

I’ve been waiting for your post and I appreciate the time you spent writing it.
As such, it does not merit a ‘5-minute’ reply. I must study your comments and I’ll get back to you in a couple of days time.

Meanwhile, I’ll reserve a Christmas table at Plancenoit…, lol.

Have a nice evening.
Kind Regards…, Iain.
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Re: Hougoumont’s first hour :

Postby Andrew » December 19th, 2016, 10:30 pm

Iain,

I hope I will be over with Waterloo Uncovered in July; perhaps we can have that pint then. I rather enjoy the bar in Plancenoit!

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Re: Hougoumont’s first hour :

Postby Iain » December 20th, 2016, 5:51 am

Would be very pleased to meet up with you Andrew.

I have a Waterloo brick to give to RHQ in January. Unfortunately, some Coldstreamer wasn’t very delicate when extracting it from the wall and chipped off a corner.., ;)
As such, I’ll be meeting the Team in the hope they’ll provide me with a complete one.
I’ve had permission from Mrs du Parc Locmaria, President of the Intercommunale Bataille de Waterloo 1815 to ‘export’ it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cuqjHxXBH0o
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=st6PwQfdvME

Looking forward to that beer…, Iain.
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Re: Hougoumont’s first hour :

Postby Iain » December 24th, 2016, 10:15 am

Andrew and Josh…, thank you. I’m learning and adding !
Please forgive this very late reply. Also, it’s once again quite long but that’s principally due to quotes from yourselves, John and Gareth. (Gareth replied)

Josh…
Quote:
“Evelyn's quoted passage here doesn't really tally with the first attack the way I understand it, no ideas why 3 charges are highlighted, unless it's a conglomeration of events. Or small scale hand to hand sub unit stuff.”
Lol…, this is great stuff for the grey-cells !
I can easily imagine 90 SG and probably another 90 CG…, 180 elite Guardsmen with just a bugle, a whistle and a Sergeant Major McGregor’s scream to provide orders.
Probably using a 3-rank alternate firing tactic; (as can be seen in the film on a regimental scale) they then move on with bayonets before firing again.
file:///F:/1%20TOTAL%20CONTENTS/2%20Writing%2015-12-16/1%20WATERLOO/2%20RESEARCH/Rottenburg.pdf
Had they been occasionally beaten back because of an overwhelming force…, then they’d have to be ‘bugled’ back to regroup before attacking again. Hence…, perhaps the 3 attacks ! (60 Scots Guards were killed/wounded during this event according to Evelyn. But of course, he wouldn’t have known about the Courts Martial so we must reduce that number by 18)
I’d absolutely love an expert to add to, or contradict that firepower tactic !

In the meantime, Evelyn’s surely not talking about Saltoun because this conversation with his sister took place only a few days after the battle…, and he’d not have had time to learn about it from the Officer’s Mess, because he’s still in hospital.

Quote:
“I'd love it Ian if you were able to render this screenplay in such a way that gives equal time to the French and allies.”
Thank you Josh ! I sincerely believe you will be very surprised by the result.

Andrew…
Quote:
“The first point I would make therefore, is that your timeline is very much a British one.”
Lol…, you are probably correct Andrew but honestly, that’s the reason for the post.
When I first sent it to John, I mentioned that I didn’t intend publishing it as I originally wanted to keep the research confidential. But as he’s being gagged by a publisher and Gareth is up to his ears in archive spiders, I changed my mind in the hope that some ‘Frenchman’ could confirm an 11h00 small-shot attack on the wood. (or to please Napoleon, perhaps even sooner)

Quote:
“I find it very difficult to accept that the 1st léger moved through the orchard and round to the rear of the farm approaching the north gate from the east;”
1st Léger ? I hope I didn’t say it was the 1st Léger that forced the orchard; didn’t I simply say ‘the French.’ If not then please forgive me.

Firstly…, I suppose do we agree that there were dead Frenchmen by the north gate BEFORE all the Guards finally entered the farm. (?)
If so, then there are only two directions they could have taken…, east along the wall from the orchard; or, from the western cornfield while passing through the kitchen garden’s hedgerow.
(UNLESS <I’ve just thought of something> unless they ‘sneaked’ along the outside hedgerow by the cornfield to the extreme north of the kitchen garden by the ponds…, then, doubled back along Le Chemin de Goumont. But that has too many flaws !)
As I’ve already described a possible orchard theory…, I must explain the impossibility of a western cornfield hedge entry. (please note that I am contradicting Gareth’s reply here as he’s using Clay’s narrative without the strategic Allied elements in the garden ! Something Clay would not have been aware of !)

As I’ve already mentioned, the kitchen garden is chock-a-block with Guardsmen; so, simply for that reason alone, it would have been impossible for the French to have crossed the garden strip. What’s more, the hedgerow apparently had tree trunks “as thick as your arm.” (like the orchard, according to Evelyn)
But then again and to satisfy the most contradictive frames of mind…, perhaps Piré’s Horse Artillery had created holes in the hedgerow through which the French could have passed. What’s more, perhaps there were no more Guards in the middle section of the garden with the 3 sub-divisions to the south and the CG reserve to the north.
If after all that they managed to get access to the garden, then we must weigh up the lanes defences.
Firstly, I am absolutely certain that the lane itself did not have a hedgerow. Contrary to nearly all specialist drawings…, even John and also Gareth’s narrative. It obviously had a wooden fence to stop the transfer of cows wandering in to eat the vegetables…, and about every 10 meters there was a high, slender tree. (independent of the witness accounts, please see William Mudford’s 1817 annexed sketch and especially the 'Dead being buried.' Lol..., just noticed this..., I hope that's not water at the end of the lane ? viewtopic.php?f=43&t=2961&p=18769#p18769)
This means that those manning the western loopholes, ventilation holes and western door had a clear view of the hedgerow and any Frenchman stupid enough to enter would have been a perfect close-quarter target. What’s more, we must not forget the CG by the NW corner would have eliminated any potential hero.

Concerning western wall loopholes…, Gareth mentioned that he has no evidence of such loopholes along the wall. Hmmmmm...

Please note that for a ‘detective,’ it’s not because a murder weapon was not found in ‘The Lounge,’ that the deceased on the carpet was not murdered !
As such, it’s not because there are no letters, sketches or 1815 comments to such a defensive situation, that the loopholes did not exist.
Concerning western loopholes, it must be understood that on the night of the 17th, the Coldstreamers transformed the chateau-farm into a garrison.
Despite the bad weather, French campfire lights and smoke must have been clearly visible from the western lane and especially the chateau apartments…, as such, why loophole an eastern wall which is defended by the sunken lane, the orchard and the ridge, and NOT defend the wall which presented the biggest risk ?

Note: It’s my point of view that ‘walls can talk’ and this one absolutely shouts !
As for any loopholes in the great barn wall, (thanks to Gareth) the barn’s inside wall was probably half-filled with bales of straw so the Guards inside at ground level couldn't have had access to it. So they'd have to clime the bales to pierce the wall, meaning that the outside repairs would be at different levels. (next visit I'll take more photos)
Also, as can be seen in the image below on the center building by the western door, there are traces that look suspiciously like repairs upstairs. And despite the inaccuracy of the old sketch, the ventilation holes at the time are clearly visible. (so these holes are certainly not post battle modifications)
Wall description : viewtopic.php?f=43&t=3241&start=10

I’m not quite sure if the north-west inside corner wall had a small barn ! It probably did, unlike today where the new monument is situated. I seem to remember Clay mentionning it when describing his walk-about before the battle. Either way, this ‘shed’ wall obviously had holes. (it’s pouring down…, and if soldiers in those days were as ‘malin’ as they are today; they’d be inside in the dry with an officer and spending a very long time piercing the walls. Lol.)
Don’t forget that at the time, they didn’t know that Napoleon had no intention of left flanking the Allies (cutting Wellington's programmed western escape route) …, meaning that they COULD have found themselves with a large part of the French Army to the west. So it seems only logical that that wall must have been fortified. Contradictions would be welcomed.
Lol..., just noticed a shed roof on the sketch below indicating a possible building..., but the drawing is so badly proportioned that it's difficult to say: WHATSMORE; although the sketch is badly drawn, I see a window in the gardener's house extention looking on to the garden... Had I been the gardener's wife, I would have insisted on some western evening sunlight !
Also more indications there concerning the shape of the buildings to the rear.

Gareth:
Gareth is ‘convinced’ that the dead French by the gate did not come from the orchard. What’s more, he remarked that the Courts martialed was a ‘red herring.’
Of course…, as yet, he has not read this debate.

These Courts Martial heroes stood fast while creating a barrier, blocking any French movement emerging from the wood !
A personal point of view is that these 50-odd men had entrenched themselves without any real hand-to-hand combat. I say that because; if they had been using bayonets for well over an hour, the sheer number of French would have overpowered them.
As such, it seems obvious that they stood fast and used volleys of small shot and the subsequent splinters was enough to hold back the enemy. Speculation of course…, nonetheless, being static, it allows Cubières to move up the southern part of the western kitchen garden. (by the wood)
As such, with the Courts Martialed troops, the remnants of Clay’s sub-division, a western wall well defended plus a reserve Coldstreamer sub-division to the north…, NOT A SINGLE 1st Léger Frenchman could have had access to the NW corner.
Total logic !

Gareth:
Quote…
“If the French troops moved along the northern wall, why did they not enter the garden”?
Good question…
All I can say to that is that over the past few hours, their objective is to take the farm. With the Allies in the formal flower garden all facing south and east and the garden with its decorative bushes and flowers, it probably didn’t look like anything worth taking. On the other hand, seeing a wall and buildings in front of them must have enticed them to advance. Don’t forget that this northern hedgerow had tree trunks "as thick as your arm” with probably one small opening to provide access to the cherry trees. (the small orchard strip )

RHQ:
In the meantime…, I just couldn’t wait to have more evidence concerning the Courts Martialed especially the names. As such, I contacted RHQ.
CG-Archive wrote back last week with the following:

Quote…
“Dear Sir,
We have checked the Battalion dairies and nothing is mentioned of the incident within the Coldstream Guards at Hougoumont.
I would suggest asking Mr John Franklin of where he acquired that information to assist you, because here at The Coldstream Guards Regimental Headquarters we have no such information of such events taking place.
Yours Sincerely
Regimental Archivist”

On the other hand, Jimmy at SG-Arvhives is researching the event at this very moment and he asked me to be patient.
Please note that all the Edinburgh archives from General Sir Michael Gow are now with the Scots Guards at RHQ. He only died recently in 2013 so I suppose the boxes are still not totally digitalized.
Anyway, we can certainly take it for granted that the Courts Martial incident did take place. (John has the names and the consequenses)

Andrew…
Quote:
“The history says that it took two hours for the French to secure the Hougoumont wood, which needed to be done before a true assault on the farm could begin; suggesting this was not until 1330hrs.”
Extremely interesting Andrew and what’s more…, it sounds logical. But I have a question !
We all know that Napoleon wanted to attack asp to reduce the risk of having to deal with Blücher. In the meantime, he was informed that “the mud was in Wellington’s favour” in relation to his cannons…, but that wouldn’t have stopped his infantry from “teasing” Hougoumont. As such and knowing that the wood had enemy skirmishers during the night, might it not be feasible to suggest a 10h00 start for the battle ?

Lol… Gareth contradicts !
“I do not believe that any of the French infantry moved on Hougoumont before the Battle commenced (say 11.30) because Bull was ordered to fire on them as they advanced and he began firing after the French cannonade began.”
So be it ! This means that my north gate timeline must be from 11h30 to 13h30.

JOHN’s email…, lol !
Following a post here on the Napoleonic Forum, John replied with an email:
“I will start by asking you a question: At the start of the battle (11:15 to 11:30) who do you think was in the orchard”?
Instantly…, we see a contradiction as he mentions “11h15.”
Unfortunately, the next paragraph is a little frustrating as he finishes it with a 'mums the word.' As such, like John, I’m ‘gagged.’
Quote:
“I hope that the above is useful, and all I ask is that you do not publish this information prior to the release of the 'Struggle for Hougoumont' at the end of October.”

Andrew:
Quote Cubières: Extremely interesting !

Additional info AFTER the north gate infraction:
Quote Andrew:
“This clearly says that it was the southern gate that Legros broke open! [But also bear in mind that Clay seems to suggest that both the northern and southern gates were broken in!]”
Concerning Legros…, this is perhaps the reason why John said he was ill at ease with Legros and the north gate. (and that ties in with my reasoning that the dead bodies were not from the 1st Léger)
This south gate event is of course a couple of hours after the north gate infraction because following his entry, Clay was ‘immediately’ posted to the second floor of the chateau. (or perhaps even the byre with the western door as the 1st Léger are now rapidly moving up the garden from the wood)
The chateau then caught fire about 15h00 with Clay and the others being refused an exit until the very last minute. He was then posted to the south gate with Philpot (RIP) during which time the large-shot hit the gate. (so the south gate was probably well after 15h30)

I’m not quite sure at what period of time the western door was penetrated and whether the drummer entered via the west door or the south gate !
In the meantime, please note that I intend using the drummer boy in the script because although many like to condemn the boy as a Clay fantasy; absolutely nobody can provide any proof that the boy didn’t exist.
So why should we doubt him ?

Something that always intrigues me with the south gate cannon shot and the subsequent intrusion is the fact that nearly every Historian mentions that independent of the loopholes, it was the southern wood that was the best part of the Hougoumont defence. Without it, the farm would have fallen in a matter of hours.
As such, the angle of the south gate wall in relation to Piré’s Horse Artillery to the west would only have produced ricochets and would have simply scraped the wall and ploughed into the right-angled wall of the formal garden. Meaning that the shots that shattered the south gate and the upstairs wall of the gardener’s house, must have come from Jérôme’s artillery beyond the wood to the south. (‘a blind target’)

Josh, Andrew, John and Gareth…, I thank you all very much for your advice and I’m already modifying the timeline.

Joyeux Noël
Kind Regards…, Iain.
Attachments
MUDFORD Burying the dead.jpg
MUDFORD Burying the dead.jpg (198.64 KiB) Viewed 329 times
Hougoumont west.jpg
Hougoumont west.jpg (179.53 KiB) Viewed 331 times
Ventilation holes and wall modifications.JPG
Ventilation holes and wall modifications.JPG (178.5 KiB) Viewed 331 times
William Mudford 1782 - 1848 published 1817.jpg
William Mudford 1782 - 1848 published 1817.jpg (143.47 KiB) Viewed 331 times
Western hedge.jpg
Western hedge.jpg (132.26 KiB) Viewed 331 times
Last edited by Iain on January 28th, 2017, 9:09 am, edited 13 times in total.
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Re: Hougoumont’s first hour :

Postby Iain » December 28th, 2016, 2:45 pm

Found this in the ‘Sunday’s Post – London Gazette Extraordinary.’
Downing-Street, June 22, 1815.

Now; for someone to be 10 minutes either side of a battle commencement of such importance…, or even 20 minutes is one thing, but one and a half hours ?????????????????

Quote start of text:
Major the Hon. H. Percy arrived late last night with a dispatch from Field-Marchal the Duke of Wellington, K. G. to Earl Bathurst, his Majesty’s principal Secretary of State for the War Department, of which the following is a copy :
Waterloo, June 19, 1815.

My Lord…, bla; bla; bla.

PS This is an added remark made on the 03/03/17... Following a little more research, many Google pages indicate that the battle started at 10h00.

PPS I hope this isn't a copy from the newspaper, but the following URL also mentions 10h00.
http://www.wtj.com/archives/wellington/1815_06f.htm
>
Hugh Grant:
https://www.theguardian.com/books/audio ... hugh-grant
>
Attachments
Wellington to Secretary of State 19 June.jpg
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Re: Hougoumont’s first hour :

Postby Andrew » December 28th, 2016, 8:25 pm

I guess that nicely sums up the difficulty of ANYONE being absolutely dependable when it comes to timings during a battle. If the CinC can't get it right, then what hope do any more junior ranks have when it is they who are actually doing the fighting!

In Napoleon's account that was published in Le Moniteur on the 21st June, it says, ' At midday, all the preparations being complete, Prince Jerome, commanding a division of the 2nd Corps, and destined to form the extreme right, moved on the wood of which the enemy occupied a part...At one o'clock, Prince Jerome was master of the wood...
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Re: Hougoumont’s first hour :

Postby Iain » December 29th, 2016, 7:07 am

Thank you Andrew…

Don’t quite understand the phrase “destined to form the extreme right;” when he was on the extreme left. (?)

Anyway, your ‘Le Moniteur’ find fits roughly into your other finds when you mentioned that it took about 2 hours to control the wood. (meaning from 11h00 to 13h00)
Of course, the first musket shot would not have been done from La Belle Alliance and to move so many forces up to a safe but strategic spot near the wood could very well have taken at least an hour…, so a step-off at 10h00. (confirming Wellington’s timeline)

Lol…, and what’s more important for me is that my, timeline is just about correct.

Because of the error in ‘Le Moniteur,’ (east instead of west) and with a man who was in extreme pain plus psychologically unstable, the error is totally comprehensible.
However, the thing that perplexes me most, is it needed a newbie to create such a timeline after 200 years of specialist research.

Humbled and confused…, Iain.
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Re: Hougoumont’s first hour :

Postby Andrew » December 29th, 2016, 7:34 am

Iain wrote:
Don’t quite understand the phrase “destined to form the extreme right;” when he was on the extreme left. (?)



Damn! Sorry Iain, that is my mistake; it does say left - good job I wasn't in the guards!!

I still owe you a couple of observations on your last longer post, but I'm trying to use some holiday time to knock out another couple of chapters on my latest; I promise to get round to it fairly soon!

Regards,

Andrew
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Re: Hougoumont’s first hour :

Postby Josh&Historyland » December 29th, 2016, 1:06 pm

Was thinking about clocks yesterday. The different officers all had pocket watches, all of which required winding and all of which probably varied due to heat, damp and movement. Apparently most watches were set by whatever the local clocks in the local area, others might not have been changed from British time or Prussian or French times. When we think of this it's easier to understand how the start time of the battle varies by about an hour.

As to the firepower tactic you suggested Iain, I'd have to say a 3 rank alternate firing system as seen in the movie and ZULU would be an unlikely option for a light company.

Josh.
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Re: Hougoumont’s first hour :

Postby Iain » December 29th, 2016, 6:57 pm

Josh…, thank you. (I've taken note about the 'rank' firing)

Lol… Thinking back to one of your kind remarks in 2014, you granted me the title of ‘newbie gong polishing’ historian. And I proudly accepted the honour.
Meanwhile and independent of my medal, I’d like to add that I’m an antique clock specialist with 40 years of experience in watch repairing and manufacturing.
viewtopic.php?f=43&t=3511
http://www.colandmacarthur.com
https://www.dropbox.com/s/nr0xisb51nvmb ... n.jpg?dl=0

The best watch on the Waterloo Battlefield was obviously Napoleon’s Breguet. (if he had it with him at the time)
http://www.hautetime.com/breguet-celebr ... loo/66070/
Anyway, among the officers, (French/German/British) I’m sure the majority of pocket watches had lever escapements, invented by an Englishman called Thomas Mudge in 1755 and improved by Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1787. These watches were very precise for the time with an accuracy of about 5 to 10 seconds-a-day.

If I can revert back to a remark from Andrew in relation to timings provided by the ordinary soldier, then I’d be inclined to say that the traditional soldier would not have had a watch and their timings would have been in relation to the sun and the daily piquet bugle calls. (reveille to lights out)
Lol… Concerning bugle calls in the wood at the time, I posted a question on a couple of major ‘Fifes and Drums’ Brigade Facebook Groups. I’ve not yet found the courage to answer over 100 specialist replies. Tomorrow perhaps !

PS Unlike today..., were there different timezones for the Prussians ? The French obviously had the same time as us !
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