Waterloo: Ney Defends Himself

The most false and defamatory reports have been publicly circulated for some days, respecting the conduct which I have pursued during this short and unfortunate campaign.

After having fought during twenty-five years for my country, and having shed my blood for its glory and independence, an attempt is made to accuse me of treason; and maliciously to mark me out to the people, and the army itself, as the author of the disaster it has just experienced.

Compelled to break silence, while it is always painful to speak of oneself, and particularly to repel calumnies, I address myself to you, sir, as the president of the provisional government, in order to lay before you a brief and faithful relation of the events I have witnessed.

On the 11th of June, I received an order from the minister of war to repair to the imperial head-quarters. I had no command, and had no information upon the force and composition of the army.

Neither the emperor, nor his minister, had given me any previous hint, from which I could anticipate that I should be employed in the present campaign; I was consequently taken unprepared, without horses, without equipage, and without money; and I was obliged to borrow the necessary expenses of my journey.

I arrived on the 12th at Laon, on the 13th at Avesnes, and, on the 14th, at Beaumont. I purchased, in this last city, two horses from the Duke of Treviso, with which I proceeded on the 15th, to Charleroi, accompanied by my first aide-de-camp, the only officer I had with me.

I arrived at the moment when the enemy, attacked by our light troops, was retreating upon Fleurus to Gosselies.

The emperor immediately ordered me to put myself at the head of the first and second corps of infantry, commanded by Lieutenant-Generals d'Erlon and Reille, of the divisions of light cavalry of Lieutenant-General Pire, of the division of light cavalry of the guard under the command of Lieutenants-General Lefebvre Desnouettes and Colbert, and of two divisions of cavalry of Count Valmy, forming altogether eight divisions of infantry and four of cavalry.

With these troops, a part of which only I had as yet under my immediate command, I pursued the enemy, and forced him to evacuate Gosselies, Frasne, Millet, and Heppiegnies.

There I took up a position for the night, with the exception of the first corps, which was still at Marchiennes, and which did not join me until the following day.

On the 16th, I was ordered to attack the English in their position at Les Quatre Bras. We advanced towards the enemy with an enthusiasm difficult to be described. Nothing could resist our impetuosity.

The battle became general, and victory was no longer doubtful; when, at the moment that I intended to bring up the first corps of infantry, which had been left by me in reserve at Frasne, I learned that the emperor had disposed of it, without acquainting me of the circumstance, as well as of the division of Girard of the second corps, that he might direct them upon St. Amand, and to strengthen his left wing, which was warmly engaged with the Prussians. The shock which this intelligence gave me confounded me.


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