CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP Mieszko - Alberto
It's a dawn of a new day, from his HQ's tent the "Iron Duke" is observing the undulating ground lying in front of him: at last after one month of marching, countermarching and little skirmish actions, is here in this Belgian country, that the so long awaited and so long feared battle will take place.
Scouts report French troops approaching from West, someone tells that the mighty Imperial Guard is following them: "Maybe Napoleon himself is there." says the Duke to one of his ADC "Today is a good day for a battle!"
The first enemy troops are in sight around Hougoumont and Mon Plaisir farms and in Mont S.Jean village, immediately he sends orders to his generals: they must conceal from enemy eyes as many men as possible. "We don't know where French will strike us but I want that French too don't know who they're going to strike!" explains to the Prince of Orange.
Around him officers and ADCs are running to and fro carrying orders and dispatches, excitement is growing up, each man knows that today he'll fight for glory.
Suddenly a breathless messenger breaks into the tent: "Milord, news from North!". The Duke and his staff's officers stop their activity and raise the heads from the maps on the little camp desk, ready to listen the message.
"Elements of 5th and 6th Division are in contact with an enemy brigade behind the Wavre-Ohain road's ridge! It seems that French men are surprised: no enemy skirmisher is in sight!".
After an instant of incredulity, the Duke looks at the map and points the finger on the Wavre-Ohain road near the Bois de Ohain: "At North, so it's there that battle begins!"
"... the day was a very good one, like a summer one. All the men knew that hated French was somewhere before us: last night we've seen some camp fire to burn at about 2 miles at west. Our brigade, Kempt's 8th British Brigade, was operating at North between Ohain and Smohain villages. We was climbing a ridge followed by Pack's British Brigade at about 200 yds and flanked on the left by 10th British Brigade.
At about 100 yds from the top colonel ordered us to stop, then one company from each battalion was deployed as skirmisher and it began to march towards the summit. My company wasn't one of the selected and during following endless moments I thought that I'd have liked to be between skirmishers to see beyond the ridge.
As soon as the line of skirmisher pairs disappeared from our eyes, we heard to crackle rifle shots. White smoke clouds began to rise and we heard cries of pain of injured men to come from the top of the ridge. In that very moment I thanked heavens that my company wasn't ordered to deploy in open order.
After about two minutes the brigades started to march towards the top; along our path we met some of our injured fellows coming back but noone stopped his march: each man was curious and in the same time terrorized.
When we, at last, reached the top a thick smoke kept us from seeing anything and many men started to cough because of it. After we crossed a road running perpendicularly to our path, we finally saw a shocking view: about 50 yds beyond the ridge our skirmishers was harassing a French brigade formed by 6 battalions and one foot battery!
It was clear that enemy was been surprised in marching order because no 'voltigeur' or 'chasseur', that usually was stand before of French battalions in battle, was in sight and in addition guns was yet limbered. Skirmisher fire brought disorder in enemy columns and only 3 battalions was able to deploy 'voltigeur' whilst one, seeing our two brigades emerge from behind the ridge, fled without firing one shot.
After a three minutes stop, colonel ordered us to charge against disordered enemies that now were starting to give ground before us. We moved quickly towards French columns and crossed our skirmish lines that followed in the attack behind us. At about 100 yds we received an ineffective fire volley and at 60 yds we discharged our rifles bringing a little disorder in enemy formation. Three 'hip hip hurra' rose from our men and then we started to run: with help of two other battalions (92nd Highlander and 79th) we managed to surround an enemy battalion ..."
from "Memories of a Rifleman of 95th" by Jonathan Harcourt
The "Iron Duke" is walking nervously to and fro in front of his HQ tent followed by some ADCs, he is waiting for news from 5th and 6th Divisions. Through the spyglass he can see thick smoke clouds at north, but he can see too hordes of French troops throughout the plain marching against him. "D**ned French!" he shouts "and d**ned little Corsican!".
Even though the terrain chosen to deploy the army is a good one, with woods, villages and streams forming some good defenive lines, he knows that a little mistake could bring to a great disaster when Napoleon is on the field. "Unlike battles in Spain, today we face up the 'Empereur' himself, our men must forgive Salamanca and Vitoria and remember that each Frenchman will fight like two!" he says to an ADC.
Again he takes his spyglass and with a slow rotation from west to north he observes the battlefield: he can see enemy troops around Mon Plaisir farm, others along the road to La Belle Alliance, the Imperial Guard between Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte farms and many troops marching towards Papelotte and the Wavre-Ohain road.
Suddenly, with an angry gesture, he throws the spyglass towards HQ tent "Why no news from Picton? I must know the French force at North! I cannot waste precious time waiting for news from him!" he shout. An ADC picks up the spyglass and with reverent voice tell him "Milord your spyglass is broken, please accept this one: it was my father's during war in India".
The Duke looks at the young ADC and with a faint smile takes the spyglass "Thank you. I'll handle it with the respect it deserves!".
After these words a shouting messenger arrives from the road: "Milord, Milord! News from General Picton". Duke's expression becomes serious again: "Tell me, quick!"
"Milord, a French brigade was surprised in march and after a fierce hand to hand combat our men caused heavy losses: 2 battalions and 1 eagle captured, 1 battalion routed and 3 guns destroyed. Enemy brigade was nearly wiped out, but many French are in sight!"
The Duke listen with attention the report and then, with a smile aims the spyglass towards north and says "Well, these news are really good! But there's no time to waste: it's time to send new orders!"
"...after a short hand to hand combat, the enemy battalion, surronded by overwhelming forces surrendered. The survived enemy battalions were retreating towards north-west and we stopped our rush. We saw some injured fellows to go behind the lines and I'll never forget the joyful expression I saw on the face of a private of 1st Battalion of 79th Regiment that, carried on the shoulders by his fellows, was gripping in his hands the eagle of french 1st Battalion of 1st Line Regiment.
With a quick ceremony, captured eagle was hand over to General Picton and his staff, and he promised a decoration to the private that so bravely managed to capture it: I never saw that soldier again, but I hope he gained his well deserved decoration.
We knew that two other enemy battalions was captured in the just finished action and we could see the long column of prisoners marching towards our rear. But the rest was over: the enemy was in sight at west and we must reorder our companies. Our battalion had suffered only about 30 casualties so we recovered order in a while, but some battalions were so deeply disordered that they were forced to retreat behind the protection of new and fresh forces coming from south-east: we took turn in first line with two battalions of Best's brigade to give rest to many of our fellows.
We rose on the ridge that we'd went down only ten minutes before and in a while the defensive line was ready: it ran parallel to the ridge behind and was composed by six battalions supported by three others; at west I saw another line running north to south formed by four battalions: all men were ready to hold out against the likely french attack..."
from "Memories of a Rifleman of 95th" by Jonathan Harcourt
After a stop of about 3 months (Mieszko was disappeared...), here is a new chapter.
From a window of Papelotte Farm, the Duke of Brunswick is observing anxiously the ridge that runs from Southwest to Northeast along the front of his black troops: the French are somewhere behind it. Scouts did report many enemy brigades in march from Mont St. Jean Farm and he is quite decided to fight every inch of ground today.
Since about 30 minutes sounds of battle are coming from Northeast, the zone of Picton's 5th Division: rumors has it that a French infantry brigade was destroyed by British troops, but there is no confirmation.
The men, "his" black Brunswickers, are deploying to face the forthcoming threat on the reverse slope of the ridge, as ordered by the Duke of Wellington. A long line of skimishers runs at about 300 yds around the farms of "Papelotte" and "La Haye".
Suddenly from west a line of French battalions in column appears, and many enemy skirmishers emerge from the top of the ridge. At once thick clouds of smoke raise in front of Brunswicker and French skirmishers and the crackles of musket fill the air. "Hey you, man!" shouts the Duke to an ADC "Carry to Lt. Colonel von Buttler the following order: he must deploy his brigade to form a line from north to south in front of the French at west, his right joining Olfermans' left. He must cover our left flank and resist as long as possible: I'll send him some reinforcements if nedeed. Go now, run!". The young ADC leaves the room and the Duke follows him to mount on his horse and to go away at a gallop.
In less than 5 minutes von Buttler's Line brigade is in position with Moll's battery deployed in support. But, just a moment, what are those battalions behind French troops at west? The Duke points the spyglass and with a kind of deep "Mmmmh" sees that the French Imperial Guard is approaching against his left flank! Immediatley he writes some lines onto a sheet of paper and calls another ADC: "Take this, hand it over to Wellington personally with no delay. It's really of great importance that he gets this message as soon as possible! The Imperial Guard is coming here!"
The frightened ADC does about-turn leaving the Duke in the room only with his dark thoughts.
To be continued...