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Waterloo & Wellington

  • #2
    Closed Accounts Posts: 20,298 Jawgap


    For the day that's in it.......

    "ah, ces terribles chevaux gris......"

    Scotland_Forever.jpg

    Wellington's army won the day, but does that make him a great general?

    My own view is that as a commander and battlefield general, he was steady but not particularly innovative.

    His 'greatness' as a general stems less from his battlefield exploits (post the Peninsular War) than from his ability to keep a coalition toghether, making him a great general in the way Eisenhower and Schwarzkopf were great generals.


Comments

  • #2


    Nice Picture.

    To defend the great Anglo-Irish general, one could point to his earlier brilliant campaigns on the Peninsula and India. But in the context of the Waterloo campaign, he commanded a very ad-hoc force of Hanoverians, Dutch(many of whom were former French soldiers) and English and not a single command such as had Napoleon. As well, given the preponderance of artillery on the Gallic side, his precise positioning on the hill ridge afforded his troops a measure of protection against this, negating its impact. Finally, he was with with men: in all accounts of the battle the figure of Wellington being the backbone, offering a Patrician's presence where the fighting was fiercest stiffened the resolve of the Allied troops. This can be contrasted with Napoleon's rather more relaxed and stand-offish approach on the day.

    - based on recent reading of Cornwell (Waterloo) and Roberts (Napoleon)


  • #2


    Manach wrote: »
    Nice Picture.

    To defend the great Anglo-Irish general, one could point to his earlier brilliant campaigns on the Peninsula and India. But in the context of the Waterloo campaign, he commanded a very ad-hoc force of Hanoverians, Dutch(many of whom were former French soldiers) and English and not a single command such as had Napoleon. As well, given the preponderance of artillery on the Gallic side, his precise positioning on the hill ridge afforded his troops a measure of protection against this, negating its impact. Finally, he was with with men: in all accounts of the battle the figure of Wellington being the backbone, offering a Patrician's presence where the fighting was fiercest stiffened the resolve of the Allied troops. This can be contrasted with Napoleon's rather more relaxed and stand-offish approach on the day.

    - based on recent reading of Cornwell (Waterloo) and Roberts (Napoleon)

    The picture is an interesting but complete mis-representation of the Scots Greys' charge on the day - it has however become emblematic of the battle.

    Wellington did organise himself and his various troops very well - and by all accounts he spent some 16 hours in the saddle, mounting Copenhagen at about 0500 and personally overseeing the disposition of his troops.

    The reverse slope defence he used was fairly standard for him at this point, so not particularly 'innovative' - but it was effective. I think the rains helped mitigate the worst of the artillery's effects as the muddy ground prevented the French gunners from skipping balls off the ground to skim into the ranks - there was also little of the rocks and shale they like to skip balls off to create showers of fragments.

    Napoleon was 'late' to the game - by the time he inspected the field, Wellington had largely deployed and his officers were telling him it would be several hours before sufficient troops could be concentrated for battle.

    In defence of Napoleon - his retirement to his tent in the afternoon was thought to have been due to fatigue and illness, but yes, he wasn't quite the presence he had been at previous battles.

    Saying that, in Ney, Soult and de Grouchy he was probably better served with subordinates than Wellington was.


  • #2


    Jawgap wrote: »
    I think the rains helped mitigate the worst of the artillery's effects as the muddy ground prevented the French gunners from skipping balls off the ground to skim into the ranks - there was also little of the rocks and shale they like to skip balls off to create showers of fragments.

    Having 'walked' the French advance up the slope at Waterloo, now much reduced as it was used to provide a quarter of a million tons of soil to build the giant memorial pyramidal hill, l can advise you that doing it after a night of rain, carrying sixty or seventy pounds of sodden military gear over woolen clothing, must have been a horrifying experience.

    Sadly, the inevitable results were repeated less than fifty years later, using precisely the same military tactics, by George Pickett's division as they attacked uphill the dug-in Union troops at Gettysburg...Pickett's Charge, led by the astonishingly brave General Armistead, resulted in the annihilation of the flower of the Confederacy's infantry.

    tac


  • #2


    Mr Jawgap - Please note tac's military maxim, #48 -

    'In battle, the term 'innovative' can often be applied to something that you should have thought of, but did not, and the enemy should not have thought of, but did.'

    tac


  • #2


    Jawgap wrote: »

    Saying that, in Ney, Soult and de Grouchy he was probably better served with subordinates than Wellington was.

    I remember from a childhood reading of a biography of Napoleon, and one admittedly aimed at children, that his big problem at Waterloo was precisely that Grouchy was NOT there.

    Napoleon was desperately waiting for Grouchy's reinforcements which never arrived. Fortunately for Wellington, Blucher's Prussian reinforcements did, which is what turned the battle.

    In the Anglo-centric view of military matters which currently makes up the Irish zeitgeist we are supposed to think of Waterloo as being a great British victory (I know, I know, Wellington was a Mick and so were many of his soldiers, especially those in the Highland regiments) but my perfunctory reading suggests that Wellington essentially carried out a holding defensive action with his outnumbered coalition forces until the Prussians showed up to actually win the thing.

    Or am I being a little unfair? :)


  • #2


    The Napoleonic era saw the first large scale battles since roman times, and apart from cannon and musket adding distance the tactics boiled down to picking the right terrain, attacking or drawing an attack on your own terms and time and getting lucky (to paraphrase Caesar and Napoleon).

    I'm more into my roman history, but at waterloo all of those boxes were ticked.

    Innovation in battle is what you do when things are going wrong and have no other choice, or can foresee predictable tactics and set up on the right terrain, attack or draw attack on your terms and time and get lucky.... So saying a general was not particularly innovative is a bit like saying humans go to war.

    The last time this ever happened <successfully> was Cannae.


  • #2


    ......

    I'm more into my roman history, but at waterloo all of those boxes were ticked.

    ......

    Off topic and as an aside, I've just gone through a bit of a 'Roman' period, reading Tom Holland's 'Dynasty,' Mary Beard's 'SPQR' and Peter Heather's 'The Restoration of Rome'


  • #2


    Add in Adrian Goldsworthy the complete roman army


  • #2


    The above poster shows excellent taste.
    As well, the bios of both Augustus and Caesar by the same author.
    Fictionwise - the trilogy by Robert Harris on Cicero and the Fall of the Republic.


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