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Thread: Lobau´s Corps at Waterloo

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    Default Lobau´s Corps at Waterloo

    Hello fellow forum members,
    I want to discuss a certain part of the Waterloo battle, let me expalin. After Napoleon became aware of the prussian presence he sent Lobaus VI corps towards La Belle Alliance and the Prussians. Whether this move was correct or not has long been debated but there is also some debate around whether Lobau should have continued advancing east through the Bois de Paris to the Lasne valley to face Bülow there instead of deploying and waiting for two hours along the road to Placenoit.

    Some people say that had Lobau reached the Lasne defile(probably not realistic) or taken position in Bois the Paris(possible to reach) woods then Lobau´s corps would have single handedly been able to stop the prusssians as they were still struggling advancing to the battlefield. This would thereby enable Napoleon to still have his Imperial Guard reserve since he then would not have to send it to maintain and recapture Placenoit.
    Does anyone have any thought on this specific topic?

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    Prince of Essling's Avatar Napoleonic Enthusiast
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    Default Re: Lobau´s Corps at Waterloo

    Looking at the maps on pages 205 & 208 in Uffindell's "On the Fields of Glory", it would not have been possible for Lobau to have reached the defile at Lasne unless the Prussians halted their march - he had to cover about 4,000 yards (apart from the time required to reform his Corps for the march) whereas the second half of the Prussian IV Corps had to cover a similar distance from when spotted by Napoleon at 13:00 from Rossomme at Chapelle St. Robert. The Prussian advance guard had just over 2,000 yards to cover. It might have been possible for a cavalry detachment to have reached the defile in time but whether horse artillery could have arrived as well must be questionable, as conditions were horrendous. Without artillery support French cavalry on their own were unlikely to delay the Prussians for sufficient time to have made any real difference to the eventual outcome of Waterloo.

    If Lobau had been able to reach the Bois de Paris, his deployment there might have gained Napoleon enough time for a draw with Wellington or possible victory (depending on whether he used his Guard en masse up the highway immediately La Haye Sainte fell or in support of the cavalry attacks). Lobau's deployment in the woods might have resulted in the Prussians acting slightly cautiously - not knowing how many men they were facing, they might have felt the need to deploy fully before attacking, though with Blucher in charge I suspect they might well have been thrown in piece meal & would eventually overcome Lobau by sheer weight of numbers. But Bulow's advance guard did have less distance to cover than Lobau - about 2,000 yards as they were already at Chapelle St Lambert!
    Last edited by Prince of Essling; September 29, 2010 at 03:28 AM. Reason: spelling & correction

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    Default Re: Lobau´s Corps at Waterloo

    I agree here with your analysis. Lasne was definitley too far away and I think Bois de Paris would have been possible to reach if Lobau had acted directly but this is no certainty. From what I know the exact orders given to Lobau are also unclear so if he was authorized to carry such a move out is also unsure, know anything more about this?

    Your point about Blücher I had not considered. The thing with taken up position in the woods is that it would give the defenders an advantage mainly from not knowing the enemy´s strength and becoming cautious. Considering how willing the Prussians under Blücher actually were to commit waves of troops later to take Placenoit and Blücher´s earlier actions, they probably would have pressed on regardless. The willingness of the Prussians to reach their ally and send massive troops into the meatgrinder still amazes me.

    Anyways the position Lobau actually took up was not weak and the fighting withdrawal to Placenoit went rather well. Lobau was also one of the best and most experienced of the available men at Waterloo so his reasoning was most likely sound.

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    Prince of Essling's Avatar Napoleonic Enthusiast
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    Default Re: Lobau´s Corps at Waterloo

    Quote Originally Posted by MrT View Post
    From what I know the exact orders given to Lobau are also unclear so if he was authorized to carry such a move out is also unsure, know anything more about this?
    I haven't so far been able to find a copy of his orders.

    According to page 192 A F Becke's "Napoleon and Waterloo" Lobau was ordered to take up a good intermediate position where his men could stop the advance of the Prussians. Further Lobau was ordered to vigorously attack the Prussians as soon as Grouchy's guns were heard thundering in their rear!
    Last edited by Prince of Essling; September 29, 2010 at 07:16 AM. Reason: spelling

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    Default Re: Lobau´s Corps at Waterloo

    Yes that seems similar to what the Waterloo Companions says. Do you have any info on the actual position that Lobau took up and waited for the prussians? I think I can find something but maybe we could compare

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    Prince of Essling's Avatar Napoleonic Enthusiast
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    Default Re: Lobau´s Corps at Waterloo

    Quote Originally Posted by MrT View Post
    Yes that seems similar to what the Waterloo Companions says. Do you have any info on the actual position that Lobau took up and waited for the prussians? I think I can find something but maybe we could compare
    Becke says between Plancenoit & Bois de Paris; map 166 of Esposito & Elting's " Military History & Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars" & map 10 on page 106-107 in Hofshchroer's "1815: the German Victory" shows Lobau deployed on the line Chateau de Frichermont to Bois de Ranson, on to Ferme de Hanotelet and finally to the Lasne Brook. Having looked at the terrain map of the field of Waterloo in Fortescue's History of the British Army this appears to be the most logical position.
    Last edited by Prince of Essling; September 29, 2010 at 10:01 AM. Reason: spelling + additional info

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    Default Re: Lobau´s Corps at Waterloo

    Ok, the Waterloo Companions map puts the position as the higher ground astride the Plancenoit road behind a crossroads. The road goes in a north westernly direction towards Frichermont and in the south eastern direction it appears to end in a wood that is unnamed. Is this Bois de Ranson? If that is the case then I think our sources agree.

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    Prince of Essling's Avatar Napoleonic Enthusiast
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    Default Re: Lobau´s Corps at Waterloo

    Since my post at #2 I have reread the passages in Becke, Hofschroer & Uffindell concerning Bulow's advance on Waterloo. The Prussians did in fact halt for somewhile (about 2 hours) at the Lasne defile, worried that the 300 French cavalry who had driven off a small Prussian patrol of 1 officer and 20 troopers were the advance guard of a flanking force. It took a while to prove this was not so, and then for an order from Grolman on behalf of Blucher to get Bulow moving. The first Prussians appeared near Frichermont about 3:00 p.m. Therefore in retrospect Lobau did have sufficient time to occupy the Bois de Paris.

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    Default Re: Lobau´s Corps at Waterloo

    Quote Originally Posted by MrT View Post
    Ok, the Waterloo Companions map puts the position as the higher ground astride the Plancenoit road behind a crossroads. The road goes in a north westernly direction towards Frichermont and in the south eastern direction it appears to end in a wood that is unnamed. Is this Bois de Ranson? If that is the case then I think our sources agree.
    There is a wooded area next to Frichermont which belongs to the Chateau, immediately down from that & just NW of Ferme de Hanotelet is another wooded area - this is the Bois de Ranson.

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    Default Re: Lobau´s Corps at Waterloo

    This is interesting, my Waterloo Companion says that at 1 p.m. von Blücher arrived at the front of the prussian column, which had then reached Chapelle St Lambert, and orders a halt for the trailing formations to catch up and also orders a reconnaissance of the area ahead. It also states that Bülow had known for two hours that neither the Lasne valley nor the Bois de Paris contained frenchmen and that this was not the reason from the halt. I do feel that this book doesn´t cover the Prussian side of the story as well as for Allied and French ones so I am sceptical. I used to have Hofschröer´s book, which I trusted more for the Prussian side, but I lost it on an airplane before I could read almost any of it.

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    Prince of Essling's Avatar Napoleonic Enthusiast
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    Default Re: Lobau´s Corps at Waterloo

    For a good map of Waterloo see the Craan map at http://www.nla.gov.au/apps/cdview?pi=nla.map-rm1383-v
    This book is an English translation of Craan's which explains & elucidates the above map http://www.jeux-histoire.fr/doc/craan.pdf
    Last edited by Prince of Essling; October 02, 2010 at 07:35 AM. Reason: Formatting

  12. #12

    Default Re: Lobau´s Corps at Waterloo

    A lot of Hofschroer's writing on Waterloo has been shown to be a mistaken or even deliberate misinterpretation of the correspondence of Zieten,Mueffling and others. We had a discussion of this with examples on this forum quite a few months back.I expect I could find it.

    If you read German the Pflugk-Harttung documents also available, in excessive detail however.
    First Empire magazine has had numerous discussions of movement at Waterloo over the years and I find it a quite unbiased magazine.
    http://www.firstempire.net/indexmn.htm

    http://firstempire.net/samples/sample82.pdf
    Last edited by Jihada; October 02, 2010 at 10:37 PM.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Lobau´s Corps at Waterloo

    I don't think I can add much of value to this discussion as I'm in a hotel room at the moment and away from my books.

    The only point I can add is, that having refought this phase of the battle several times both as French and Prussian the general advantage the French have in the earlier phase of the Prussian appearance is its cavalry domination. The Prussians were having enormous problems dragging guns and horses through the broken and marshy terrain to reach the plateau, and this left their infantry poorly supported and exposed to the large numbers of French cavalry guarding their right flank.

    Under such constraints it becomes extremely difficult to make progress across the open plateau towards Plancenoit especially as there was little artillery to keep the French cavalry at bay.

    On every occassion we have refought this phase of the battle the Prussian advance has stalled as soon as it tries to leave the shelter of the woods, and remains stalled until the first cavalry begins to arrive in force and the first guns are dragged up the slopes through the mud.

    I can't say it ever occurred to me or any of my opponents to give up this initial advantage by sending my infantry into the woods. To do so might have given the Prussian's more trouble deploying across the stream, but would also have neutralised the French advantage in cavalry and artillery. Not something any of us thought sensible.
    Last edited by Didz; October 03, 2010 at 04:53 AM.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Lobau´s Corps at Waterloo

    Ok! I'm back with my books again so I had another look at this last night.

    According to Hofschoer the wood at Frichermont had been scouted by a troop of Prussian Hussars at about 10am, and a detachment of this patrol had met with Captain Taylor of the 1Oth British Hussars who had reported the meeting to Wellington. The Prussian's had immediately established a picket line along the fringes of Frichermont Wood and south along the west bank of the Lanse Brook covering the entire advance and its left flank to avoid any surprises from the French, although as far as they could tell the French had no significant forces to in the area.

    [We didn't study the Lasne Brook when we visited the battlefield, which was a bit of an oversight, but Hofschoer reports that the Prussian's found the stream itself easily fordable, but that its banks were steep and trecherous making it a formidable obstical for anything other than infantry.]

    By 11:30am the leading two brigades (the 15th and 16th Brigades) of Bulow's 4th Corps had reached St. Lambert on the east bank of the Lanse Brook, about a mile from the village of Lanse and at least three miles from Frichermont. However, it was not expected that the rest of the 4th Corps would arrive at St Lambert much before 4pm.

    A more detailed examination was made of the route across the Lanse defile and a local farmer was mounted on a borrowed artillery horse to help point out a better route across the stream. Whilst this examination was taking place the 15th and 16th Brigade rested around St Lambert, caught their breath and tried to cook some food. Whilst the rest of the 4th Corps continued to struggle along the muddy tracks to join them, together with the leading elements of the Reserve Cavalry Corps.

    At 2pm, three and a half hours later? (by my watch 2pm is 2.5 hours after 11:30pm unless this was the time the Fusiliers marched, giving the rest a further hours rest) , the 4th Corps finally left St. Lambert and began to make its way across the Lasne Brook defile. The 15th Brigade led the advance, screened by the Fusiler Battalions of the 18th Regiment and 3rd Silesia Landwehr and by the 2nd Neumark Landwehr Cavalry from the Reserve Cavalry Brigade (von Sydow) plus its own two squadrons of the 3rd Silesian Landwehr Cavalry Regiment and two more from the same regiment deattached from the 16th Brigade. This advance guard arrived in Frichermont Wood just before 3pm. They found the wood empty and deployed to protect the right flank of the rest of the 15th Brigade as it struggled across the Lasne Brook defile to join them on the edge of the plateau.

    The ground in the Lasne valley was terribly boggy and the guns quickly sank up to their axles in the mud, so that it became extrememly difficult to move them. Blucher personally urged the men to greater efforts and they eventually struggled up the other bank and deployed in the woods between Lasne and Frichermont at about 3pm. (it took them an hour to cover about one and a half miles.

    Having reformed in two lines, the 15th Brigade then moved forward into Frichermont Wood. The 1/18th, 3/18th, and the 1st and 2nd Battalions 3rd Silesian Landwehr formed the first line, whilst the entire 4th Silesian Landwehr formed the second line. Once this forced had successfully reached Frichermont Wood the two fusilier battalions which had been there since 3pm were sent forward through the wood to secure the far side, where they occupied two houses. The 2nd Battalion 4th Silesian Landwehr was also dispatched to the southern fringe of the wood to guard against any surprise attack from that direction. The remaining units of the 4th Corps continued to move up to join them including the first artillery from Nr11 Horse Battery, and the 2nd Silesian Hussars from Reserve Cavalry Brigade (von Schwerin) joined the 15th Brigade in the wood.

    The 15th Brigade had now secured Frichermont Wood.

    The first elements of the 16th Brigade began to arrive just after 3:30pm, followed by the remainder of the Reserve Cavalry who pushed through the 13th Brigade and arrived just behind the 16th.

    The 13th Brigade having lost their position in the column to the Reserve Cavalry rested at St. Lambert for about three hours until the road had cleared and then followed the Reserve Cavalry down into the Lasne defile. Leaving at about 2:45 pm they arrived in Lasne at about 3:45pm and filed into Frichermont Wood at about 4pm.

    So, the approximately arrival schedule at Frichermont Wood was:

    2:30pm F/18th F/3rd Silesia Landwehr, 2nd Neumark Landwehr Cavalry, 3rd Silesian Landwehr Cavalry.
    3:00pm 15th Brigade
    3:30pm 16th Brigade
    4:00pm Reserve Cavalry
    4:30pm 13th Brigade
    After 4:30pm Reserve Artillery (the 12pdr batteries appearing first, but the column was straggling badly crossing the Lasne defile)
    5pm 14th Brigade arrived last delayed by the Reserve Artillery

    Nevertheless, by 5pm (Prussian Time) most of Bulows 4th Corps was over the Lasne Brook and ready to join the attack. However, according to Hofschoer's research the attack itself actually began an hour earlier at 4pm with only the 15th and 16th Brigades supported by elements of the Reserve Cavalry available.

    Interestingly, according to both Lachouque and Barbero this deployment into Frichermont Wood went completely unnoticed by the French and Lobau was not aware of the Prussian presence until the Prussians began their advance out of Frichermont Wood at about 5:30pm (French Time), although the Prussian reports claim that their men were in contact with the French by 4:30pm.

    Does anyone have a more detailed timetable for the French response?
    Last edited by Didz; October 05, 2010 at 04:38 AM. Reason: Slightly rephrased the opening paragraph to put events in better chronological order.

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    Prince of Essling's Avatar Napoleonic Enthusiast
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    Default Re: Lobau´s Corps at Waterloo

    According to Becke:

    At 1:30pm Napoleon ordered Subervie & Domon's Divisions of Light Cavalry to move to the right; shortly afterwards he ordered Lobau to support them, and take up agood intermediate position where he could stop the advance of the Prussians, and attack Bulow vigorously as soon as Grouchy's guns were heard thundering in the rear of IV Corps. [Becke - page 193 - says Lobau was wasted for nearly 3 hours as the Prussians didn't come on seriously until 4:00pm and weren't dangerous until 5:00pm]; according to footnote in Houssaye's "1815 Waterloo" there have been some suggestions by Gourgaud that Lobau merely carried out a reconnaisance of the area in person before his troops moved off!

    Houssaye (page 209) says that the head of the Prussians column reached the Bois de Paris at 14:00pm & established themselves as the French Light cavalry were merely content to watch the outlets rather than occupy the avenues of the wood. Domon counterattacked the first Prussian attack, repulsing Prussian Hussars & fell upon their batteries, only to be repulsed by their fire. He fell back slowly into reserve behind Lobau whose 2 Divisions (Jeanin & Simmer) were drawn up one behind the other in the shape of T. Rather than attacking Lobau head on the Prussians (Prince William of Prussia's cavalry & Hiller's Brigade supported by Ryssel's Brigade) felt for his right flank. As a result Lobau edged back towards Plancenoit - sending one brigade to act as garrison. This garrison was forced out by superior numbers. [Uffindell's "On the Fields of Glory" pages 209/210 mentions the death of Count William Schwerin - commander of one of Bulow's cavalry brigades - apparently killed by a cannonball or cannister round just as he reached the edge of the Frischermont rise, which points to the French horse artillery having moved in support of Domon & Subervie].

    Shortly after 5:30 (pages 210/211 of Becke - 6:00pm according to Uffindell) Napoleon ordered Duhesme to take his Young Guard Division & reinforce Lobau & recapture Plancenoit at all costs. This they did by 6:00pm.

    After the Prussians recaptured Plancenoit 6:30pm+ Napoleon ordered the 1st battalions of the 2nd Grenadiers a Pied & 2nd Chasseurs a Pied under Morand & Pelet to recapture the village with the bayonet, chasing 14 battalions of Prussians back some 600 yards, & even managed to capture some guns. Bulow realising it was not a general attack by the Guards managed to scramble some troops together & counterattack - the Guards retired in good order to Plancenoit which they defended with the Young Guard in a stubborn fashion until the end of the battle. At some point a detachment from the 1st battalion 1st Chasseurs a Pied advanced to Ferme Chantelet, south of the Lasne Brook to check Bulow's cavalry patrols.

    Page 233 sets out approximate Prussian numbers & timing:
    4:30pm 16,000 including 2,700 sabres & 64 guns
    6:30pm 30,000 including 2,700 sabres & 64 guns
    7:30pm 52,000 including 8,800 sabres & 104 guns
    Last edited by Prince of Essling; October 05, 2010 at 09:28 AM. Reason: spelling + additional info

  16. #16

    Default Re: Lobau´s Corps at Waterloo

    Well the timings of the attack seem to correspond approximately to the Prussia records.

    According to Hofschroer Blucher and Bulow decided to commence their attack at 4:30pm despite only having the 15th and 16th Brigades in position because they could see from Frichermont that the French were gaining ground in Wellingtons centre. The 15th and 16th then advanced out of Frichermont Wood towards Plancenoit supported by the Reserve Cavalry and whatever artillery had managed to get across the Lanse by then.

    So, that more or less matches the timings given by Becke.

    The puzzle being why, if Napoleon was aware of the imminent arrival of the Prussian's at 1:30pm, before they even reached St Lambert, let alone begun crossing the Lanse Defile, he didn't insist that Lobau move to prevent them gaining a foothold on the far bank of the valley. Given the difficulties the Prussian's report in managing an unopposed crossing, an opposed crossing would have been a nightmare for them.

    I'm pretty sure that the scenario we used to play in the NCWC started at about 2pm just as the Prussian's began to leave St. Lambert and cross the Lanse. It was extremely hard for them to gain a foothold on the far bank of the Lanse even without Lobau's infantry to oppose them simply because of the lack of cavalry to fend off Domon and Subervie. The advance usually bogged down until about 4:30pm anyway when the Reserve Cavalry started to arrive.

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