Europe’s fu­ture in the bal­ance

Provincial Living - - Back In Time... -

The af­ter­noon was full of ex­tra­or­di­nary hero­ism and un­qual­i­fied brav­ery. It was also punc­tu­ated by mis­cal­cu­la­tions and dread­ful blun­ders.

Fol­low­ing the French bom­bard­ment, Gen­eral d’Er­lon’s corps marched up the slope to­wards the Al­lied cen­tre. This should have been the pre­lude to a French tri­umph. In­stead, the soggy ground, un­even ter­rain and de­ter­mined op­po­si­tion held back the dense, un­wieldy French col­umns. See­ing his op­por­tu­nity, the Bri­tish cav­alry com­man­der, the Earl of Uxbridge, sent in the House­hold Brigade and the Union Brigade, in­clud­ing the Scots Greys. They over­ran all be­fore them un­til un­con­trolled en­thu­si­asm took the charge too far and lead to its dec­i­ma­tion by French ar­tillery and in­fantry.

The brave but im­petu­ous Ney then lead 5,000 French cav­alry into a fu­tile en­counter with Bri­tish “squares” that ended in great dev­as­ta­tion but achieved very lit­tle. The French con­tin­ued to press their at­tacks but were un­able to break the Al­lied lines.

“The near­est-run thing you ever saw in your life”

By 4.30pm, the first of Blücher’s troops had en­gaged the French on their right flank and Napoleon was run­ning out of time.

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