At 6 p.m., Marshal Ney called off the fruitless cavalry assaults upon Wellington’s Anglo-Dutch regiments on Mont-Saint-Jean. His torn uniform covered with mud and his face blackened with gunpowder smoke, Ney was now ordered by Napoleon to capture La Haye Saint at all costs.
Forward of and warding Wellington’s center, the farm complex had been held all day by elements of the King’s German Legion. Thus far, it had held out against every French assault; and fire from its defenders had harried the flanks of every French assault on Wellington’s position that had been forced to bypass it.
Napoleon explained to Ney that the key to cracking Wellington’s position lay in taking La Haye Saint. With this gadfly and breakwater gone, the Emperor could advance his final reserve, the Imperial Guard, up the Charleroi Road and break Wellington’s decimated infantry; which he was certain could take no more punishment.
Meanwhile, however, a crises was developing on his right flank. Another battle was raging there, independent of that being conducted against Wellington’s position.
Blücher’s Prussians had arrived in strength, and were threatening to cut his line of retreat!
All that long June day (only three days short of the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year) the Prussians had marched towards the sound of the guns. Leaving a single corps (Thielmann’s III Korps) to hold the river Crossing at Wavre against interference by the hapless Grouchy; Blücher and Gneisenau had come with every man, horse, and gun at their disposal. At 4 pm, even as Ney was preparing his grand cavalry assault, the Prussian vanguard was massing under the cover of the Bois de Paris forest along Napoleon’s right (eastern) flank. Here the lead elements of Von Bülow’s IV Korps, two infantry brigades, two batteries of guns, and a regiment of Silesian Hussars were poised to strike toward the village of Plancenoit. Behind them and still marching forward was the rest of the Corps, in total some 32,000 men….
(Deadliest Blogger has moved. To continue reading, go here.)