June 14 - All is well
June 14 was the anniversary of the victories at Marengo and Friedland.
A great proclamation was read to the troops.
Napoleon wrote to his brother Joseph:
Avesnes, June 14, 1815, morning
My brother, I move my Imperial Headquarter to Beaumont this evening. Tomorrow the 15th, I will march on Charleroi, where the Prussian army is; this will give way to a battle or the retreat of the enemy. The army is handsome and the weather fine enough; the country support us strongly.
I will write this evening if we must have communications on the 16th. In the meantime, we must prepare.
During the day, Napoleon had the army creep towards the frontier, and as darkness fell, the dispositions were as follows:
• 1st Corps headquartered at Solre sur Sambre.
• 2nd Corps headquartered at Leers-Fosteau
• 3rd Corps headquartered at Clermont
• 4th Corps headquartered at Philippeville
• 6th Corps immediately south of 3rd Corps
• Imperial Guard headquartered at Beaumont
• Reserve Cavalry headquartered at Bossus
Since it left Metz, Gérard’s 4th Corps had commenced its march slowly, before accelerating, and then redirecting to Beaumont; it made it as far as Chimay before being ordered to Philippeville. Forced marches were used the last few days to make up for the delays. As a result, the three divisions of 4th Corps were fairly dispersed. Bourmont’s 14th Division marched over 30 kilometers and was headquartered at Florennes, 8 kilometers north of Philippeville. Pécheux’s 12th division covered far less than 30 kilometers and was headquartered at Roly, 7 kilometers south of Philippeville. Pécheux started a day later, though, and due to Gérard’s orders to accelerate the march, had nearly caught up to Bourmont. Its short march on this day may have been due to fatigue. Vichery’s 13th Division also marched over 30 kilometers and headquartered at Mariembourg, 12 kilometers south of Philippeville.
As darkness fell on June 14, Napoleon had achieved his objective. The Armée du Nord was gathered south of the Sambre, while the Allied high command remained unaware, confident that Napoleon wasn’t about to attack. Allied formations along the frontier noticed the increased activity, which led Zieten, headquartered at Charleroi, to put his 1st Corps on alert.
Napoleon wrote, “In the night of the 14th to the 15th, secret agents returning to the French headquarters at Beaumont stated that everything was quiet at Namur, Brussels, and Charleroy.”
This had been undoubtedly true.