Waterloo: Ney Defends Himself (2)


Having now under my command only three divisions, instead of the eight upon which I calculated, I was obliged to renounce the hopes of my victory; and, in spite of all my efforts, notwithstanding the intrepidity and devotion of my troops, I could not do more than maintain myself in my position till the close of the day.

About nine o'clock, the first corps was returned to me by the emperor, to whom it had been of no service. Thus twenty-five or thirty thousand men were absolutely paralyzed, and were idly paraded, during the whole of the battle, from the right to the left, and the left to the right, without firing a shot.

I cannot help suspending these details for a moment, to call your attention to all the melancholy consequences of this false movement, and, in general, of the bad disposition during the whole of the day.

By what fatality, for example, did the emperor, instead of directing all his forces against Lord Wellington, who would have been taken unawares, and could not have resisted, consider this attack as secondary?

How could the emperor, after the passage of the Sambre, conceive it possible to fight two battles on the same day?

It was to oppose forces double ours, and to do what the military men who were witnesses of it can scarcely yet comprehend.

Instead of this, he had left a corps of observation to watch the Prussians, and marched with his most powerful masses to support me, the English army would undoubtedly have been destroyed between Les Quatre Bras and Gemappe; and that position, which separated the two allied armies, being once in our power, would have afforded the emperor an opportunity of outflanking the right of the Prussians, and of crushing them in their turn.

The general opinion in France, and especially in the army, was, that the emperor would have bent his whole efforts to annihilate first the English army; and circumstances were favourable for the accomplishment of such a project: but fate ordered it otherwise.

On the 17th, the army marched in the direction of Mont St. Jean. On the 18th, the battle commenced at one o'clock, and though the bulletin which details it makes no mention of me, it is not necessary for me to say that I was engaged in it.

Lieutenant-General Count Drouot has already spoken of that battle in the chamber of peers. His narration is accurate, with the exception of some important facts which he has passed over in silence, or of which he was ignorant, and which it is now my duty to disclose.

About seven o'clock in the evening, after the most dreadful carnage which I have ever witnessed, General Labedoyere came to me with a message from the emperor, that Marshal Grouchy had arrived on our right, and attacked the left of the united English and Prussians.


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