Napoleon retained his strategic brilliance, placing his army squarely between the Prussian and Anglo-Allied armies on June 16th. His tactical genius was fading. He allowed an entire corps to countermarch aimlessly on the 16th, denying him the opportunity for a decisive victory either at Ligny or Quatre Bras. Instead, at the end of the day the beaten Prussians escaped at Ligny and Wellington still held the crossroads at Quatre Bras. On the 17th Napoleon turned his main strength towards the British, after detaching Grouchy with two corps to pursue the retreating Prussians and prevent them from uniting with Wellington. A massive storm drenched the area on the 17th as Napoleon advanced upon the Anglo-Allied army that was deploying for battle in front of Mount Saint Jean.
The 18th dawned clear, but the rain-soaked ground still made maneuvering cavalry and artillery difficult, so Napoleon delayed the start of the battle, waiting for the ground to dry. Wellington fielded an Anglo-Allied army of 50,000 infantry, 11,000 cavalry and 150 guns. In front of his line, there were three strong positions; Hougoumont, Papelotte and La Haye Sainte. Many of his veteran regiments from Spain had been sent to Canada and the United States to fight the Americans. Napoleon’s army consisted of 48,000 infantry, 14,000 cavalry and 250 guns. Many of these troops were veterans of at least one campaign.
It was about 11am before Napoleon started the battle.
|Aware that the clock was ticking, and the Prussians could arrive at any time, the French quickly advanced the corps of d'Erlon on their right flank and easily drove in van Bylandt's brigade.|
|With the Allies on the ridge otherwise occupied, the French took a chance and sent in an attack on La Haye Sainte.|
|Taking a chance, the heavy dragoons of the Union Brigade attack impetuously.|
|D'Erlon's advance is halted by the Allies.|
|Both sides retire to lick their wounds. While Vivian's British light cavalry tries to sneak round the flank.|
|D'Erlon reorganizes while the French bring up reinforcements from both Lobau's Corps and the cavalry reserve.|
|The second attack on the Allied left, by the remains of d'Erlon's Corps reinforced by Lobau's Corps and part of the cavalry reserve.|
|Allied cavalry advance west of La Haye Sainte in the hope of distracting the French. Seeing a weakness in the French line, the Household Cavalry brigade charges and routs the French Grand Battery.|
|The French Grand Battery is overrun and destroyed before the supporting cavalry could intervene, but they would swiftly take their revenge on the Household cavalry.|
|The French heavy cavalry led by the Grenadiers a Cheval sweep forward to take their revenge on the supporting Allied cavalry.|
|While all this had been happening, it was all quiet on the western flank. Obviously the French player had decided that Hougoumont with Macdonnell's Guards was just too hard a nut to crack.|
|The French right advances again and the Allies take shelter behind the ridge.|
|The French heavy cavalry keep the Allies west of La Haye Sainte too busy to come to the support of their comrades.|
|The engagement takes place.|
|The French have swept the ridge clear, but hesitate behind the crest to avoid the Allied artillery fire.|
|The Allies are now under serious pressure, so the French don't waste any time in sending in a second assault on La Haye Sainte, this time with General Durutte with the leading brigade.|
|With only a few men standing, few of them unwounded, and with only a few rounds left each, the brave KGL light infantry are in trouble.|
|After many hours of bitter struggle, La Haye Sainte now falls into French hands and a major objective has been taken. Could the road to Brussels now be open?|
|The 95th Rifles had been doing sterling work from the sand pit, but their position was now untenable and they had to retire.|
|The French Heavy Cavalry cleared the ridge overlooking La Haye Sainte, first the supporting Allied Cavalry|
|and then the Brunswick artillery beside it.|
|The Prussians arrive only to find the Old and Middle Guard waiting to give them a warm welcome in Plancenoit.|
La Haye Sainte is safely in French hands, the Allied army is decimated and there is a huge hole in the middle of the Allied lines leaving Brussels open and unprotected.
The French have won a Victory!
Although it was of course "a damned nice thing — the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life".
Previous posts in this series
Battle of Waterloo in 6mm - Part 1, The Terrain
Battle of Waterloo in 6mm - Part 2, The Scenario