The French forces at Quatre Bras

by John Franklin

No series of articles about the fighting at Quatre Bras would be complete without a selection of eye-witness accounts describing the part played by the French forces under Maréchal Ney. These testimonies provide a key element in our understanding of the early stages of the campaign, for they confirm that Napoleon expected the coalition armies to retire, rather than engage in battle, and thereby expose Brussels to his advance without a serious engagement taking place on the 16th June. It is unclear whether this diagnosis was based on intelligence the emperor had received or merely a reading of his opponents, but the Duke of Wellington and the Prussian high command had certainly agreed that the Allied army would concentrate in the vicinity of Nivelles (not Quatre Bras), and that the Prussians would assemble at Sombreffe in the event of a French attack. Consequently, neither of the combatants was expecting an action to take place at the crossroads.  

The accounts dispel a number of the erroneous statements which have perpetuated in a multitude of English language books on the campaign. Rather than there being a seemingly endless series of uncoordinated charges at Quatre Bras, they confirm that the French light cavalry was manoeuvred with great precision on difficult terrain, and that the Cuirassiers under Comte Valmy executed a single charge late in the day, in a valiant attempt to obtain control of the crossroads despite their facing overwhelming odds. Additional accounts, not given here, confirm that elements of the I Corps under Comte d’Erlon arrived in the vicinity of Frasnes towards nine o’clock in the evening and relieved the beleaguered troops of the II Corps under Comte Reille, who had been engaged since two o’clock in the afternoon.

The items within the following selection have been translated from French and will, I believe, enable readers to obtain a better understanding of the encounter which took place at the crossroads on the 16th June 1815. 




Charles, Comte de Flahaut de la Billarderie

During the Waterloo campaign Flahaut served as one of Napoleon’s aide-des-camp. It was Flahaut who was charged with the delivery of the message to Maréchal Ney on the morning of the 16th June which outlined the emperor’s plan for the campaign. In 1857 Flahaut wrote to the historian Alexis Brialmont about the recent publication of the latter’s book on the Duke of Wellington and the Waterloo campaign, and in this letter he provided details of the events which occurred at Quatre Bras:

‘I have just read the account of the 1815 campaign that ends with the second volume of your study of the Duke of Wellington and I cannot resist the desire to express my satisfaction, despite the sadness I felt with the recollection of these memories from reading this particular piece of history, which distinguishes itself by the impartiality with which you describe the events and the judgment of the men who took part in them. I hope you will allow me to inform you of various errors of fact that could not have otherwise come to your knowledge and which are of such nature that they will no doubt modify the opinion you have expressed on the role that Marshals Ney and Grouchy played, and the outcome of this campaign.

Perhaps it would be better to achieve my purpose by describing all that I witnessed, or which I have personal knowledge. At Charleroi the emperor, as you state, dictated to me between 8 and 9 o’clock in the morning, a letter for Maréchal Ney, in which he let him know the manner in which he had distributed the army under his immediateorders and those of Maréchal Grouchy, and informed him (as far as I can remember) of the operations he would undertake with the latter, being the corps of Comte Lobau and the Garde Impériale, against the Prussian army. But as for the orders relating to the various movements, I was charged with giving them verbally to Maréchal Ney. I then gave him on behalf of the emperor, the order to advance upon Quatre Bras, to strongly occupy this important place and (if the forces that he met would permit him) to support the movement being undertaking by the emperor against the Prussian army with all the troops he had available.

Having given him [Ney] the order towards 11 o’clock, as I stated in the letter to the Duc d’Elchingen [Ney’s son] which you cite, I rode ahead and met, quite close to Quatre Bras, General Lefèvbre-Desnouettes with his cavalry. I remained with him while awaiting the arrival of the troops under Maréchal Ney and we saw, quite some distance in front of us, the English staff officers, who appeared to be examining our position. General Lefèvbre-Desnouettes had some cannon shots fired at his cavalry, even though they were out of range. Finally, Maréchal Ney appeared and the affair started, but there was no coherence in the dispositions. We took, as it is said, the bull by the horns, launched the troops successively in the order they arrived. Despite the bravery they displayed no result was obtained. The night came and each army held its position. I ate with Maréchal Ney and following this I went on my way to rejoin the emperor. I arrived at Fleurus between 6 and 7 in the morning. Maréchal Ney had not had time to make his report to the emperor and had charged me to inform him what had taken place. My account did not satisfy the emperor.

Towards 10 o’clock we mounted our horses and, after having crossed the battlefield, we reached the high road. There, the emperor left Maréchal Grouchy, by addressing him those words which I remember as if it happened yesterday: ‘Go Grouchy, pursue the Prussians like a sword in their back, but always communicate with me from your left’. You will see then, sir that it was impossible to attempt to further convince of the importance of maintaining sight of the Prussian army and to be ready, if necessary, to rejoin the emperor. One therefore should understand that His Majesty should not have expected the Prussians to arrive without being followed by Grouchy. In relation to Maréchal Ney, he knew on the 16th at 11 o’clock in the morning the importance that the emperor attached to the seizure of the position of Quatre Bras.’



Pierre-Agathe Heymès

Maréchal Ney had been executed in the immediate aftermath of the campaign, and therefore had no voice with which to counter the various accusations levied at his command. However, his aide-de-camp, Colonel Pierre-Agathe Heymès, championed his former leader’s cause in a lengthy letter written to Ney’s son, which along with various other testimonies, was subsequently published:

‘On the 16th, at two in the morning, the Marshal returned to Gosselies where he remained for some time in order to communicate with General Reille; he ordered him to march as soon as possible with his two divisions and his artillery, and to collect at Frasnes, where the Marshal would join him almost immediately. Once again, the Marshal found himself at the head of his troops in the presence of the enemy. He collected the reports which the generals and various other officers had been able to procure, during which time I traversed the line, visiting each of the regiments, noting the names of the colonels and the number of their corps. Shortly thereafter I presented these details to the Marshal, along with the general state of his army.

It has been shown that on the 16th, at eight in the morning, there was at Frasnes but the light cavalry division commanded by General Piré, together with the infantry of General Bachelu, and the two regiments of Chasseurs and Lancers of the Garde Impériale, which were held in reserve behind the village; General. Reille, with the two divisions commanded by Foy and Guilleminot [Jérôme], was en route to this point. The division under General Girard had been directed upon Ligny the preceding evening by the emperor, where that general was killed on the 16th. This division never rejoined the II Corps, of which it formed a part.

Thus, when the whole of the II Corps was brought together there were only four regiments of light cavalry, and three divisions of infantry and artillery available; in all between 17,000 and 18,000 men, not 40,000, as has been so often repeated. The light cavalry of the Garde Impériale should not be included in the number, for the emperor forbade their being engaged in any action.

The enemy, who occupied Quatre Bras, at this time showed a force of 25,000 men with a numerous artillery; his right covered the Bois de Bossu; his centre was in front of Quatre Bras; his left was lost in the direction of Namur, occupying the road to that place, and approaching our right flank.

In lieu of staff officers, in whom the Marshal was deficient, officers of Chasseurs and Lancers of the Garde Impériale were sent in the direction of Marchiennes-au-Pont to meet the I Corps, with orders to press the march upon Frasnes. The morning of the 16th was passed in reconnoitring the enemy and the ground upon which we were about to be engaged, and in awaiting the arrival of the I Corps and the reserves of the cavalry under General Kellerman [Comte Valmy]. About eleven o'clock, General Flahaut brought orders to carry the position of Quatre Bras and to march upon Brussels. The Marshal made his dispositions immediately. Time passed. It was one o'clock, and still the I Corps had not arrived; we had not even any tidings of it, but it could not be far off. The Marshal did not hesitate to bring the enemy to action. The English were visibly receiving reinforcements, but their numerical superiority did not disquiet him. He thought that the sound of our cannon would cause the I Corps to hasten their arrival, and so he attacked the enemy. The division commanded by Guilleminot threw itself into the Bois de Bossu, where it encountered strong resistance; however, at three o'clock, it was master of the wood, and threatened the rear of Quatre Bras. The division under Bachelu met the enemy in front, upon the high road, and the division led by Foy attacked the extreme left of the English. The enemy resisted at all points, but our attacks were impetuous. The cavalry division of Piré, although protected by our artillery, charged, but without success.

A little before three o'clock [sic] General Kellerman, at the head of two regiments of Cuirassiers, arrived to partake of our labours; he only waited long enough to let the horses recover their wind then executed a brilliant charge which had all the success desirable. He cut to pieces several squares of Scottish infantry, routed others, took a Colour, and notwithstanding the most vigorous resistance managed to establish himself at Quatre Bras. If the I Corps, or one of its divisions, had arrived at this moment the day would have been one of the most glorious to our army; but infantry were wanting to reverse the conquest which our cavalry had just achieved, and the Marshal had no reinforcements at his disposal to call upon, for the three divisions of the II Corps were already seriously engaged.

It was not until 9 o’clock in the evening that General d’Erlon arrived in person, having completed his journey, and he received orders directly from the Marshal. The I Corps was instructed to bivouac in rear of Frasnes, and spent part of the night marching to this place, which was established as a rally point.’



Honoré-Charles, Comte Reille

In the absence of the I Corps, the task of capturing the crossroads fell principally on the officers and men commanded by Comte Reille. Having rallied to the emperor upon his return to France, Reille was appointed to the head of the II Corps. He was a veteran who enjoyed only modest success against the British and their allies in the Iberian Peninsula, being heavily defeated at the battle of Vitoria. This defeat clearly influenced his behaviour at Quatre Bras. His caution during the early stages of the fighting denied the French of their best opportunity to seize the crossroads. In his report to Maréchal Ney, written in the immediate aftermath of the engagement, he described the actions of those under his supervision on that day:

‘In accordance with your Excellency’s orders, yesterday I ordered the army corps to leave its camps and to proceed on the road to Brussels, so as to take a position at Les Trois Bras [Quatre Bras] and Genappe. The division of Light Cavalry and the 5th Infantry Division, which were camped at Mellet, arrived in front of Frasnes in the face of the enemy, who occupied the Bois de Bossu and Les Trois Bras.

Your Excellency, at two o’clock, as soon as the 9th Infantry Division was within range to support them, I gave the order to leave the wood on the left and to conquer the position of Les Trois Bras. This movement was covered by the artillery; the two infantry divisions and one of cavalry executed their orders despite the difficult terrain. The 5th Division formed in columns by battalions close to the advanced post of Gémioncourt, and the 1st Brigade of the 9th Division moved to that farm. The 5th Division then crossed the ravine and marched to the position of Les Trois Bras, with great unity, despite the fire from the line of enemy skirmishers and his artillery. But having arrived on the plateau it could not resist the charge of a line of enemy infantry. The English and Scottish forced them to retreat into the ravine. General Foy deployed the 100e Régiment in rear of the advanced post [of Gémioncourt], and the good countenance of the corps protected the retrograde movement and inflicted heavy losses on the enemy. General Jamin with the 4e Léger positioned himself on the high road, forward of Gémioncourt. General Bachelu and Generals Campy [sic] and Husson, who had done their utmost to conquer the plateau, rallied their troops behind the post. The 108e Régiment maintained excellent order. An officer and some English prisoners announced that 15,000 men of their troops, which had left Brussels at three o’clock in the morning, had arrived two hours before Lord Wellington’s attack.

General Piré, who had been directed to the right, where the terrain was very difficult for his cavalry, was called back to the left where the 6th Division had arrived. These two divisions acted under your Excellency’s immediate orders. Therefore, I cannot but send you the reports of the two commanding Generals. After our attack on the left wing of the enemy had been repulsed, a skirmish fire established itself along that part of the front line. Our artillery caused considerable damage to the enemy, who wanted to take the road to Namur. In order to have this communication, he captured the farm of Piraumont. This day cost the enemy a lot of men. His losses were certainly greater than ours. Ours number about [blank] killed, of whom [blank] were officers, [blank] were wounded, of whom [blank] were officers. If the troops employed in attacking this position did not succeed, it is because the enemy’s force was three times greater than ours. I only have praise for the manner in which Generals Bachelu, Foy and Lacroix, the Chief of Staff, as well as the various Maréchal-des-camp, who commanded the troops, acted under my direct orders. A cannon and a howitzer were taken by the 72e Régiment and the 4e Léger. A Colour was also captured by that regiment, but the man who carried it was killed and it was retaken [by the enemy].

Your Excellency, you witnessed the deeds of the 6th Division, commanded by Prince Jérôme, and the cavalry of General Piré. I will send a detailed list of all the officers and soldiers who have particularly distinguished themselves, and who have the right to promotion or decoration.’



Maximilien-Sébastien, Comte Foy

The 9th Division was among those in the II Corps which played an active part in the battle. According to its commanding officer, Comte Foy, the 1st Brigade advanced to a position close to Gémioncourt, where it was engaged with various elements of the Allied army, while the 2nd Brigade supported this movement. It was from here that the French launched successive attacks upon the crossroads:

‘The morning of the 16th June passed quietly, but towards midday we set out for Quatre Bras, an extremely important position where two high roads crossed. A reconnaissance by the Chasseurs of the Garde Impériale had been driven back the day before by an enemy force which the men under General Lefèbvre-Desnouettes identified as Nassau soldiers. 

Upon our arrival at Frasnes we saw that the Bois de Bossu and the hamlet of Quatre Bras were occupied in force. We observed the British officers making a detailed reconnaissance. It was now that the emperor delivered battle with the Prussians in front of Fleurus, and we could hear his guns. I followed the division commanded by Bachelu; the division led by Girard was seconded to the emperor, while the division commanded by Prince Jérôme followed mine. The I Corps brought up the rear. The cavalry division commanded by General l’Héritier was also behind us. Bachelu’s division, together with my own, reached the farm close to Frasnes where Maréchal Ney was in the adjacent field with the Chasseurs and Lancers of the Garde Impériale, and the light cavalry division under General Piré.

The Marshal said that there was hardly anyone in the Bois de Bossu and that it was to be captured immediately. Reille thought that the battle might be similar to those in Spain, where the English troops would show when the time was right, and believed that we should wait until the troops were united before beginning the attack. But the Marshal was impatient and reckless, and thought that our companies of Voltigeurs were all that were required to capture the position.

Bachelu marched in the direction of the small stream situated below Gémioncourt, and I followed in support on the left with my 1st Brigade, while allowing my second to reform and wait by the farm at Frasnes, before being relieved by troops from the next division. Having received our orders Bachelu and I, at the head of the column, moved to the left in the direction the northern tip of the Bois de Bossu. The enemy showed a great many troops outside of the wood and around the houses at Quatre Bras, as well as on the road to Namur. Four cannon began firing at us and our heavy and light artillery responded. Four English and Scottish battalions formed in line of battle, by battalion, on the heights above Gémioncourt, which was crossed by the road from Namur. They attacked our 5th Division, which at that moment was surmounting the plateau. The 2e Léger formed the head of column of Bachelu’s Division. They did not anticipate the enemy attack and retired. The remainder of the division became disordered and abandoned their positions, not even stopping on the plateau behind Gémioncourt. I passed the stream near the house with my 1st Brigade and I ordered General Jamin, a dedicated, brave and excellent officer, to continue the advance with the 4e Léger. I retired and subsequently formed the 100e Régiment de Ligne on the height in rear of Gémioncourt.

The 100e Ligne, by its good countenance, held the enemy column which pursued the 5th Division. The rest of my division formed on the height in front of Lerat [Lairalle], while the 5th Division rallied between Lerat and the hamlet of Piermont [sic]. The first prisoners that we captured announced that Wellington, with eight English brigades, had just arrived from Brussels and that other troops, including artillery, would arrive shortly. They also confirmed that there was already a considerable body of Belgian, Dutch and German troops at the crossroads.

The Marshal directed Jérôme’s Division towards the Bois de Bossu, by the high road to Brussels, as well as l’Héritier’s cavalry division. The enemy marched on the left of the road to Namur. When he arrived there was a heavy exchanged of cannon fire from both sides. Around four o'clock in the afternoon the English, who were anxiously marching on the road to Namur, and Piermont as a result, despite our artillery fire causing considerable losses, seized the village and carried the nearby woods. This circumstance forced us to extend and retract the right wing. To the left, Prince Jérôme captured the Bois de Bossu and repelled the various reinforcements which the enemy received successively.’


Jean-Baptiste Jolyet

The three battalions of the 1er Léger formed part of Prince Jérôme Bonaparte’s 6th Division during the Waterloo campaign. Chef-de-bataillon Jean-Baptiste Jolyet had the honour to command the 1st Battalion, which comprised 17 officers and 599 men on the morning of the 16th June. Jolyet’s account of the fighting at Quatre Bras was written many years after the battle. However, it still incorporated fascinating details which add to our understanding of events:   

‘On the 16th the regiment remained in its camp until midday, at which time most of our army corps set out on the road to Brussels; we heard the cannon on our right and saw smoke in front of Fleurus. Soon the cannonade was also heard in front of us, when we arrived near Frasnes, for it was in front of this village that several of our divisions were engaged in battle with the English. Our regiment moved towards the left of the road near a wood, where we discovered masses of English infantry posted on the heights at the junction of roads to Brussels and Nivelles (the position of Quatre Bras). Towards four o'clock in the evening our 2nd Battalion advanced into the wood, and after securing it, moved towards its northern edge and engaged the English regiments there. I remained at the back until almost six o’clock in the evening, waiting for instructions.

Eventually, an Aide-de-camp of General Guilleminot brought me the order to gain the road and march against the English. I found myself under cannon fire as soon as I left the wood in closed columns in order to support the Tirailleurs of the 4e Régiment  Léger, who were engaged with the English. I had my horse killed under me and lost a lot of men in a very short time. The Tirailleurs of the 4e Léger moved to the right and I found myself alone with my battalion in the middle of a large plain, having considerable numbers of English troops in front of me.

Two cavalry regiments, one of Cuirassiers and one of Lancers, then appeared and launched several attacks against the English squares, but as they were unsuccessful they retired. Seeing that I was alone, and being unwilling to lose any more men, I moved towards a large farm which served as a rallying point and two companies of the 3rd Battalion joined me. We were pursued by a cloud of English skirmishers, who were supported by artillery and columns of infantry. Nevertheless we were able to maintain ourselves in the surroundings of the farm until nightfall. I then began to retreat, and was soon joined by our colonel, who had been wounded at the beginning of the action, and who, despite the injury, came to look for us. He told me that the army corps was camping behind Frasnes. After calling back for the 2nd Battalion, which had remained at the edge of the wood, we rejoined our corps.’



Jean-Leonard Henckens

The 6e Régiment de Chasseurs à cheval commanded by Colonel Paul-Eugène de Faudouas formed part of the 2nd Cavalry Division under Comte Piré. At the outset of the campaign they totalled 34 officers and 526 men in four squadrons. Lieutenant Jean-Leonard Henckens served with the elite company, and his lengthy account of life in the French army included a chapter on Waterloo. On the 16th June he had received the order to reconnoitre the enemy positions, and then to occupy a position close to Gémioncourt, where he continues his account:

‘Later that day enemy reinforcements began to arrive successively, and the moment I began to consider my gratitude at the absence of enemy cavalry, there arrived Hussars and Dragoons with light artillery. The division commanded by Comte Piré, with the 6e Chasseurs à cheval at the head, fell upon the enemy cavalry, which was routed and driven back, while the artillerymen who manned the guns were killed and the caissons harnessed. Those artillerymen who could reach their horses followed the cavalry to the rear. However, the artillery pieces which remained were not spiked because we had no means of doing so. It was after this attack that Captain Ésteve and I saw on a meeting between various unaccompanied officers on a nearby height, and our instincts told us that these were the enemy General Staff. We endeavoured to approach this group of officers, who departed at full speed, leaving behind a cavalry officer who we took prisoner. But being exposed to the fire of the infantry who were in square, in a position behind a hedge, the rally was sounded.

At half past four in the afternoon our infantry, who we supported after we had rallied, had great difficulty in approaching Quatre Bras, and were attacked by Uhlans; our division, seeing that the attack was serious and had dispersed the infantry, rode forward. We contented ourselves in not overthrowing the enemy cavalry, but we reached Quatre Bras, which we endeavoured to maintain. But our infantry advanced slowly, whereas we found at every moment the arrival of enemy reinforcements, so we once again were forced to rally behind our infantry.

As Ney endeavoured to take control of Quatre Bras, and the infantry corps of d’ Erlon failed to support him, Kellerman's Cuirassiers were charged with this objective, while we moved up in support. The charge by the Cuirassiers commenced towards 7 o'clock and was admirable, but did not have the success that Ney expected: it was therefore continued by us, with the same courage but with the same lack of success, notwithstanding our great obstinacy to the first charge we was received in admirable fashion by the Scottish infantry, who unleashed a hail of bullets, which was when my beautiful horse, for whom I had paid a high price in September, was killed. I mounted another horse and charged again, but with the same result, which was followed by an offensive movement from the enemy. This progressively brought the two forces at our disposal together. We sustained severe losses during the charges. Captain Ésteve was killed, and many of my comrades were wounded and unhorsed. It was I who gathered remainder of the elite company together, of which there were only 25 men who were left mounted. The others were strewn over the ground we had charged, killed, wounded, or without an animal. The regiment rallied however, and the division of Comte Piré, which that day made the largest share of effort, did likewise.

In the evening the quarter-master gave me a horse to take as a replacement for the mount I had lost. The horse was excellent, and, by looking over the horse I remarked that he had belonged to an English physician, who was well equipped for the campaign. The portmanteau contained instruments richly mounted which later made a pretty sum.’



Jean-Baptiste Charonnet

The valiant charge by the 8e and 11e Cuirassiers has been one of the most written about episodes from Quatre Bras, but surprisingly little primary research appears to have been undertake to establish the facts. In his report, written at 10 o’clock in the evening of the 16th June, Comte Valmy noted that the Colour of the 69th Regiment was taken by Cuirassiers Valgayer and Mourassin. However, the original report, which is held at the Château de Vincennes, is annotated in pencil with the names Albisson and Henry. Other accounts suggest that the Colour was actually taken by a Cuirassier named Lami, but examination of the extant records show that no man of that name was present with either regiment. It is interesting therefore to examine the account written by Jean-Baptiste Charonnet, who served as a trumpeter with the 8e Cuirassiers in 1815:

‘General Kellerman prescribed that the 8e Cuirassiers were to charge the English squares and to open a passage, then to move to the right and unmask the squadrons of the 11e Régiment, which were to advance in the second line. This provision did not allow any possibility for the Cuirassiers to retreat. We charged the English Dragoons which advanced towards the head of the column, but the elan was lost and the order was given for the 8e Régiment to retire.

The troopers of the 11e, who were now in the first line, began a new effort while those in the first line turned about: the English Dragoons sabred them and the brigade withdrew in disorder. Kellerman, who was dismounted and without his hat, was in the middle of the Cuirassiers, who rescued him.

The trumpeters were placed close to the standards, spaced at equal distanced, and they sounded the assembly amidst the dust which enveloped the men. The regiment rallied: the duty trumpeter to Colonel Garavaque was killed and I replaced him. The horses were blown, the officers passed along the ranks, the Cuirassiers were able to drink a little water, and then recommence the charge.

The colonel and I examined the terrain, and the signal for the regiment to advance was given. Meanwhile the colonel dismounted from his horse and walked around the animal, checking the girth and curb, as gun shots were directed towards him. The balls whistled passed his ears. In a calm voice he spoke to me, to ask what the English were doing. I replied: 'Those are not skirmishers who are firing at us. They are cantinières [camp followers]'. I was only 15 years old and was not aware of the uniform of the Scottish troops. The colonel remounted his horse and remained in the same position to observe the enemy. The regiment approached. The Cuirassiers did not let their chief leave their sight and joked, ‘he is getting angry’ they said. Look at what this will bring us. Slowly he put his hand on the hilt of his sword and he quickly drew the bright shining blade. To the soldier this firm movement is a good preparation after a careful reconnaissance. A shiver ran down the ranks as the colonel spoke 'We will charge, we fight and not retreat. Make no cuts with the sabre, only use your points, aim at their belly’s and turn your point for a quarter in order to pull the guts out of these rascals'.

We set off at the trot towards the corner of a square where three faces were formed by 4,000 [sic] Scottish troops; the fourth side was not yet formed. At the command ‘Charge!’ the Cuirassiers fell on the Scots. The colonel was 80 paces in front of the regiment; he made his black horse jump and so was the first to enter the square. The Cuirassiers overthrew the Scots, who either fled or laid down on the field, and leaning against their horse’s necks, the Cuirassiers pinned those on the ground who were trying to avoid their sabres. The horsemen fought the entire square, which was cut down and completely dispersed.

Within a short time the enemy line was crossed and the rally was sounded; the 11e Cuirassiers routed the English cavalry, while the 8e swept across the field again; the three sides of the square of the 69th was literally marked out by the dead. In the middle of the square the Lieutenant-Colonel and the Colour bearer were lying on the ground making no movement, the latter still held the Colour in his hand, for which he was killed. Cuirassier Henry jumped to the ground and snatched the Colour. In order to mount his horse as quickly as possible, he passed his precious trophy to Brigadier Borgnes who was close to him. Borgnes galloped away, taking the Colour with him, followed by Henry, who had been able to remount his horse. Borgnes arrived in front of the regiment, and was saluted by the Cuirassiers with loud cheering.’

Another account of events suggests that Maréchal-des-logis Louis-Bernard Massiet was also involved with Brigadier Antoine Borgne and Cuirassier Pierre Henry in the capture of the Colour, while the extant records confirm that the various individuals served with the 8e Cuirassiers in 1815. 


Front image: The Lancers belonging to Comte Piré’s 2nd Cavalry Division are shown attacking the 42nd (Black Watch) Regiment of Foot in what would become a desperate struggle. Painting by William Wollen (Black Watch Museum, Perth)  


What a fantastic set of first-hand accounts we've seen in this mini-series! Waterloo(1): Quatre Bras is available to order now, and will be released tomorrow. If you've enjoyed John's excellent articles on the various national contingents, make sure you get a copy!