With Laye Haye Saint taken and Ney decimating Wellington’s center with close-range cannon fire, Napoleon decided upon a final push. A last roll of the dice, committing his Imperial Guard reserve to breaking Wellington’s faltering center.
Turning to Ney, he ordered him to prepare to lead forward 9 battalions of the Old and Middle Guard against Wellington’s center. These, formed in battalion carré ( massive squares, each side 3 ranks-deep), each battalion echeloned right. Between each battalion were horse-guns of the Imperial guard. Behind and supporting the advance would be the Imperial Guard cavalry.
Napoleon kept the two senior battalions, the 1st and 2nd of the 1st Foot Grenadiers Regiment, in reserve, guarding his person at La Belle Alliance. Ney’s attack force would be supported by every other infantry brigade not actively in combat: the men of Reilly’s and D’Erlon’s Corps; battered by a long day of bloody fighting, but heartened by the appearance of the Guard advancing. In the past, this had always been a harbinger of victory, committed when the enemy was near to breaking. The Guard had never known defeat….
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