If there really was such a thing as “traveling”, perhaps I would choose to go back to June 18, 1815, to meet Emmanuel de Grouchy, the last of Napoleon Bonaparte’s promotions. Marshal. On this day, the famous Battle of Waterloo broke out. This is a small town just 20 kilometers from Brussels, the capital of Belgium. Before 1815, it was as obscure as any other town on the European continent, however, the great war of June 18, 1815, made it famous all over the world.
Against the two sides, it was the French Emperor Napoleon and the British “Iron Duke” Wellington, and Grouchy decided Napoleon’s defeat, thus determining the future trend of Europe. Why did Grouchy stand still? This question can only be asked by him.
Now, let’s take a time machine to meet the marshal, and before that let’s take a look at the mistakes of His Majesty the Emperor Napoleon.
In the previous year, under the military pressure of European powers, Napoleon was forced to abdicate, and the unpopular Bourbon dynasty returned to rule France under the protection of the bayonet of the powers. Not long after, Napoleon, who saw the opportunity, resolutely sneaked back to France to regain the throne. Along the way, the armies sent by the Bourbons have defected, and the transformation of a French newspaper from “The Corsican Monster Lands” to “His Majesty the Emperor Will Arrive in Faithful Paris” happened in just a few days.
After the restoration, Napoleon was faced with a grim situation. His re-rule brought not the olive branch of the foreign powers, but the sword of the seventh anti-French alliance. Napoleon had no choice but to fight, and the French army he commanded quickly moved northward, defeating the Prussian army in the first battle.
Just in triumph, Napoleon made a mistake. In the early morning of June 17, 1815, the emperor ordered: Grouchy led the right flank of the French army to continue to advance eastward, scout and pursue the enemy in the direction of Liege (the capital of the Belgian province of Liege), and report the enemy’s whereabouts—— Just for the simple reconnaissance of the enemy’s situation, the French army divided a large force of 33,000 people and 96 artillery pieces, accounting for almost one-third of the French army that Napoleon could use at that time. Such tasks could have been accomplished by sending a cavalry corps and an infantry division.
Napoleon was defeated by the British and British forces at Waterloo.
What kind of person is Grouchy? All I can say is that he is an honest man. He has been a soldier in Napoleon’s army since the French Revolution. Grouchy has been in the army for 20 years and has participated in various campaigns from Spain to Russia, from the Netherlands to Italy. The bullets of the Austrians, the scorching sun of Egypt, the daggers of the Arabs, the freezing cold of Russia, which killed his predecessors one after another, made room for him. On April 15, 1815, Grouchy was awarded the scepter of the French Marshal for his efforts in suppressing the rebellion of the royalists.
Judging from his resume, Grouchy has never had a single-handed experience, not to mention that Napoleon made another mistake on the morning of June 18. The order Grouchy received was simply inexplicable: Grouchy was ordered to move closer to Napoleon, resist the Prussian army, and reach the northern position as soon as possible, while Waterloo was to the west. Perhaps anyone who received the order would be as confused as Grouchy: to attack the assembled Prussian army directly, or to intervene between the Prussian army and the British army led by Wellington? To prevent the meeting of the enemy, or to directly reinforce the French army at Waterloo? Without clear instructions, firm action is naturally impossible.
It was in this confusion of Grouchy that the Battle of Waterloo broke out.
Even by the standards of early 19th-century battles, the battlefield at Waterloo was too narrow. The British position was a long hill with a valley in front of it, separated from the French to the south. The British positions were about 5.6 kilometers long from left to right, but only less than 3.2 kilometers had defensive depth. In this area, the Duke of Wellington invested 49,600 infantry, 12,400 cavalry, 5,645 artillery and 156 artillery pieces, for a total of 67,645 men. Confronting the British army was the French army commanded by Emperor Napoleon himself, including 48,950 infantry, 15,765 cavalry, 7,232 artillery and 246 artillery pieces, totaling 71,947 people. The French cavalry had a clear advantage, and the power and range of the 12-pounder used by the French artillery exceeded the British 9-pounder and 6-pounder.
At 11:30 a.m. on June 18, the French artillery prepared for artillery fire with 80 cannons (instead of the originally planned 24 12-pounders), which opened the curtain of the decisive battle of Waterloo. The rumbling sound of the cannons reached the ears of Grouchy, who was leading the army to track the Prussians, and of course to the ears of the French soldiers under his command.
At the time, Grouchy was walking in a garden with his commanders. When he heard the sound of cannons coming from the direction of Waterloo, General Gérard immediately proposed: “I think we should move in that direction.”
Other French generals also echoed: “Marshal, go to Waterloo, the emperor has already sent to the British army. An attack has been launched, and a major battle has begun.”
”No, it’s just our army chasing the British rearguard.” Only Grouchy didn’t see it that way.
”Hurry up to where the guns were fired!” Gérard could no longer bear the hesitation shown by Grouchy.
”The emperor’s order to me is to follow the Prussians!” Grouchy, who felt that his authority had been offended, said in a more severe and blunt tone, “I will never deviate from my responsibility until the emperor withdraws his order!”
The French officers were desperate, and the rumbling of the cannon was ominously silent. Only the helpless Gerard was making his last effort: “Marshal, then let me take my army to Waterloo alone!”
What was Grouchy thinking at this time? This may be the question that all traversers want to ask him face to face. Yes, Napoleon indeed asked Grouchy to track the Prussians, but isn’t the rumbling of guns in front of him a signal of war? As a battle-hardened soldier, doesn’t Grouchy not understand the truth of “the general is outside, and the king’s life will not be accepted”? But he really doesn’t understand! In the end, Grouchy said to his subordinates: “It is irresponsible to disperse such a small force. My task is to pursue the Prussian army, not anything else.” So even Gerard could not go to Waterloo.
What a stupid decision this is! Afterwards, Napoleon made a sharp remark for his incompetent marshal: “Marshal Grouchy’s behavior is like his army being swallowed up by an earthquake on the way, it is simply unpredictable. .” At the moment when the fierce battle at Waterloo was in full swing, as many as 33,000 French troops were separated from any battlefield under the leadership of Grouchy.
Prussian troops arrive at Waterloo
This determined Napoleon’s fate. At noon that day, he had found through the telescope that “a dark cloud” was approaching the battlefield seven or eight kilometers to the northeast. This was the Prussian army coming to Waterloo. At this time, Napoleon was still convinced that victory could be achieved before the arrival of the Prussian army. “Now we still have a 60% chance.
” In a dense formation, they began to advance to the British positions – of course, they were met with extremely stubborn resistance from the British. At about 3:30 pm, the French army launched the most violent shelling of the day. “It is very dangerous to stretch out your arms, and you will be shot by shrapnel.” The French army used 5,000 cavalry (43 cavalry squadrons) to line up in an orderly manner. phalanx, approaching the enemy from the right flank without the coordination of the infantry. Under the slogan of “Long live the emperor”, the French cavalry rushed towards the coalition positions like a frenzy. Someone once recorded: “The heroic level of the French cavalry in the charge is something I have never seen in my life. I have never seen such a glorious action of the cavalry, and the firmness of the infantry’s resistance is comparable.”
Napoleon at this time Gru hoped to see through his eyes: “We are currently fighting near Waterloo, and the enemy is located on Mount Saint-Jean. Therefore, please immediately move to join my right flank…” , did not arrive at Grouchy’s headquarters until 6 pm.
But it was all too late. At 7 o’clock in the evening, Napoleon, who had been unable to attack for a long time, put his last reserve force on the battlefield of Waterloo, the famous Royal Guard (8 battalions). In previous battles, as long as the French Guards fought, it meant victory was right in front of their eyes. They swarmed up, crossed the ridge, and broke through the British positions, fully convinced that they would be victorious. But not this time. When the first row of French troops was less than 50 yards away from the British positions, the excited Wellington directly gave the order to the soldiers: “Guardians, stand up! Prepare! Shoot!” Opened fire, and after two rounds of salvo, the French army fell down in rows before they had time to pick up their guns. In less than a minute, the once invincible French Guards dropped more than 300. A corpse, the French Guards, who have always been invincible and invincible, suddenly stopped their pace.
At 9 o’clock in the evening, Blücher’s Prussian army finally arrived at Waterloo. 33,000 new troops flooded into the battlefield. Only 10 minutes after the arrival of the Prussians, Wellington rode to the top of the mountain, took off his hat and waved three times, signaling a full-scale advance. Almost all the troops under his command were exhausted, but with high morale, they still launched the final blow. In a flash, 40,000 people rushed down the hillside! The cheers of the British showed that the day was theirs.
In the Battle of Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington led the British army, which was not superior in number and equipment, to fight valiantly, and completely defeated the French army commanded by Napoleon himself with a strong defense and fierce attack.
Napoleon himself first saw the whole situation by hiding in a phalanx, and fled south after confirming that the situation was over. That night, the French army camped seven times, but all seven times they were pursued by the Prussian army, and all their weapons and baggage were lost. Napoleon, pale and in tears, returned to Paris with 10,000 defeated soldiers. The defeated Napoleon knew that his star had fallen, and he was unwilling to lead a rabble to fight the enemy, and was forced to announce his second abdication. The Hundred Days Dynasty came to an end, and an era finally ended…
If Napoleon had won…
But where would the wheel of history roll if Grouchy made a different choice?
First of all, it is certain that Napoleon will win the battle of Waterloo. In fact, under the onslaught of the French army, the British positions were also crumbling for a time – Wellington once murmured: “May God save me, give me the night, or give me Blucher.” He knew that he was He was lucky enough to win, so he wrote that night: “Never in my life have I experienced such a restless life. I must frankly admit that I have never been so close to failure!” If it wasn’t for Blücher to arrive at Waterloo first, the exhausted British would also be unable to withstand this blow, and the Battle of Waterloo will surely go down in history as Napoleon’s victory.
If this is the case, after the French army has defeated the British army, it can turn around and deal with the defeated general – the Prussian army. After smashing the Blücher Legion and driving it back to the east bank of the Rhine, Napoleon could swagger forward surrounded by the Guards and easily take Brussels, the capital of Belgium today.
The Duchess of Richmond Ball was held in Brussels on June 15, 1815, and is known as the most famous ball in history. The dance ended in the early hours of the morning, and the officers and soldiers left, mothers, wives, and girlfriends crying, hugging, and waving the men to fight.
Next, the situation on the European continent will become extremely favorable for Napoleon. The anti-French alliance seemed to be a “behemoth”, with a total force far exceeding that of Napoleon. However, due to geographical limitations, only the British and Prussian troops stationed in Belgium were the only threats to France at that time. The hurried French army was able to defeat the Prussians and the British at the beginning of the anti-French alliance’s intervention, before and after the Battle of Waterloo. Such an astonishing victory could consolidate unity and stability within France and dampen the enemy’s will to fight. The armies of Russia, Austria, Bavaria, and other allied countries were naturally horrified when they heard the news of the annihilation of the British and Prussian armies as they slowly marched towards the eastern territories of France. The situation at this time was similar to that of Nurhaci in the Battle of Sarhu (1619) against the divided Ming army.
Even if the armies of the Anti-French Allies still mustered the courage to fight, they would have faced an even stronger French army. Immediately after Napoleon recaptured France on March 20, 1815, under the 10-month brief rule of the Bourbon dynasty, the French army was not only depleted of personnel, but also depleted of arms and ammunition, and severely short of horses. On the eve of the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon had collected 284,000 regular troops and 222,000 reserve troops. Although considerable, most soldiers had no combat experience, and experienced officers were even rarer. In this sense, a victory at Waterloo would have given Napoleon valuable time to develop this new army into a formidable force for the enemy.
In fact, the fears of European monarchs about Napoleon’s restoration were justified: Napoleon was marching toward Paris with the torch of the Revolution high, and if the torch was not extinguished as soon as possible, it would once again shake all the foundations of social order. Although Napoleon at the beginning of the Restoration recognized the Paris Peace Treaty signed by the Bourbon Dynasty earlier, accepted the French border in 1792, and sent envoys to the tsar and the Austrian emperor, no one would believe that the “Frenchman’s lifelong soldier” The emperor” will give up his long-cherished wish. In the heyday of the French Empire before 1812, Napoleon’s famous Codex had become a symbol of European unity under Parisian rule. Napoleon once said to the members of the French Senate: “If you are to unite the area up to the Pillar of Hercules (the Strait of Gibraltar) and Kamchatka, then the laws of France must rule there.” To his police Minister Fouche, and Napoleon even made it clear: “We need a European code, a European Supreme Court, a unified currency, a unified weight and measure.” In turn, the imperial scholars also complimented Napoleon: “Thank you for the emperor. of genius, all Europe will become one big family, united under one religion, one code.”
Next, will Napoleon’s dream be fulfilled by the victory of the Battle of Waterloo? It’s actually hard to say. It was Napoleon’s army that brought the idea of nationalism to all of Europe, which in turn made the ideal of “European unity” seem too advanced and out of step with the 19th century when nationalism was in the ascendant – Europe still had to go through the blood of two wars. Only with the baptism of fire can we find a new way to unite by peaceful means.
Napoleon was inevitably defeated in the war against the whole of Europe, but one thing may be certain: Britain, which lost the right to speak in the post-war spoils conference because of its defeat at Waterloo, will not be the biggest winner of Napoleon’s defeat. After Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, the “booty” shared by Britain included Malta, Cape of Good Hope and other overseas territories, thus becoming the absolute controller on the ocean. For the British Empire, the Battle of Trafalgar was the first cornerstone, and the Battle of Waterloo was the final capstone. It was from the power of the seas, the power of steam, the power of money, and the prestige that the Battle of Waterloo earned Britain, that the age of so-called “British Peace” was born.
Back on the afternoon of June 18, 1815, none of this would have happened if Grouchy had made it to Waterloo in time.
Perhaps, the contingency nurtured in history is its eternal charm.