June 18 - Triomphe Napoleon
Due to this research, the results of the campaign have been vacated. Napoleon wins.
As a result, a march is scheduled for Saturday, June 20, starting at 9am, in Waterloo Alabama. Proceeding alphabetically, there will be demonstrations in every Waterloo in North America until they are renamed to something that honors Napoleon’s unparalleled greatness.
Changing the results of the campaign, nor the study of this campaign, was intentional. Seeking to understand 19th century operations, it was chosen for two reasons – duration, and the expectation that all the requisite materials would be immediately accessible. This was Waterloo, the most written about and studied event of the 1st Empire, and arguably the 19th Century.
What was discovered was that due to the French defeat and the fall of Napoleon’s government, the majority of the source materials were missing and remain missing.
Lettow-Vorbeck revealed that Soult had changed Napoleon’s final concentration orders on June 12. Houssaye and Regnault ignored this event. Philippe de Callatay wrote an extensive article on the concentration, and stated:
In the 19th Century, care was taken to conceal Soult’s fault; neither the 10 June order nor the report of 12 June were published. Military solidarity was evident. For instance, among the documents he quoted in his own defense, Grouchy published in 1841 the contents of Soult’s register of orders and correspondence – but only from the next day (13 June) onwards. The imperial order of 10 June was not published in the Correspondance de Napoleon Ier; yet it was certainly known. Henry Houssaye stated that the order of 10 June was in the Archives de la guerre, Armée du nord, and that the report of 12th was in the national archives, AF. IV, 1938; but he did not disclose the contents of those documents. Again, in 1935, Commandant Jean Regnault, a qualified staff officer, repeatedly referred to the documents of 10 and 12 June, but cited nothing that could reveal the fault of Soult.
Callatay, Philippe de, “La Concentration de l’armée française pour la campagne de juin 1815,” Bulletin de la Société Royale Belge d’Etudes Napoléoniennes, Tome 51, 2007, English translation by John Hussey, First Empire, #102, footnote 36.
The above was simply unacceptable. If such a major event of the campaign could be ignored by so many, then how could any of the conventional history be trusted.
This began an intense journey to find information. The French military archives are of course the starting point, but likewise they are also leveraged quite extensively. There are others that continue to search the military archives, and have produced great research. There was nothing to be gained duplicating those efforts. I focused on other potential sources.
This led to the good fortune of discovering a variety materials.
Callatay discussed how the Registry of combat operations only started on June 13. However, this was explained by finding 2 additional registries. Soult’s Rapports registry ends on June 6, the day before he left on his mission for Lille. His Mouvements registry goes through June 17, and with some additional loose pages that even go later. It is clear that Soult started a new book for the period of hostilities as the Mouvements registry and the combat registry merge perfectly.
Most of Bertrand’s registry for the cent-jours, which included dictations and drafts for June 10, was found, and with Soult’s registry and surviving originals, gives a clear picture of the French concentration. As suspected, the conventional history was flawed.
d’Erlon’s registry was also found, and with over 600 entries, is the most complete account of a French corps during 1815. When compared to Reille’s registry in the military archives, the differences are profound. Reille’s includes mostly letters to peers and superiors. It seems probably that Reille had a separate registry, as Soult did, for communicating with his subordinates. It presents another artifact to search for.
The Registries also helped decode the Archives. The chronology of orders and the groupings of Soult’s dictations brought clarity to what was once unclear.
These discoveries finally solved the mystery of Soult’s order change on June 12, but raised additional questions as to why.
More than anything, the research revealed the magnitude of the challenge that remains.
In addition to Reille, we seek registries for Vandamme, Gérard, and Lobau. We seek the Soult/Grouchy registry, as well as the collection of materials du Casse had to verify the many copies in the archives.
We have discovered the existance of the following materials, all currently in private collections:
From May 9, after Soult’s appointment, Soult’s notes on war organization and organization of Soult’s staff, Drouot’s Auctions, May 17, 2006, Lot 166, #14.
From May 15, 2 letters from Rapp to Soult about Strasbourg, Army of the Rhine, Auctions of Nov. 28, 2006, Lot #254.
From May 16, Soult’s notes from Napoleon – assignment ambulances/transport – army to meet in Laon, Drouot’s Auctions, May 17, 2006, Lot 166, #9.
From May 17, 10 letters from Vandamme to Soult about 3rd Corps, Auctions of Nov. 28, 2006, Lot #253.
From May 18, Soult’s notes from Napoleon – formation of Armée du Nord, Drouot’s Auctions, May 17, 2006, Lot 166, #8.
From May 20, Soult’s notes from Napoleon – orders for d’Erlon, Reille, Vandamme, Gérard, and others, Drouot’s Auctions, May 17, 2006, Lot 166, #10.
From May 21, Soult’s notes from Napoleon – “war will not take place for 15-20 days.” Drouot’s Auctions, May 17, 2006, Lot 166, #11.
From May 22, Soult’s notes from Napoleon – “if Armée du Nord took offensive…”, Drouot’s Auctions, May 17, 2006, Lot 166, #12.
From May 25, 5 letters from Gérard to Soult, Metz, Army of the Moselle, Auctions of Nov. 28, 2006, Lot #255.
From May 25, Napoleon to Fouché, send an agent to Noyon, Drouot’s Auctions, January 29, 2016, Lot #105.
From May 26, Napoleon to Davout, Defense of Paris, Bernard Quaritch Limited – LIST 2016/13.
From May 31, 20 letters from Lobau to Soult, 8 letters from Teste to Soult, and more, May 10 – May 31, Auctions of Nov. 28, 2006, Lot #252.
From June 1, 5 letters from Ruty, 3 letters from Neigre to Soult, May 13 – June 1, Auctions of Nov. 28, 2006, Lot #257.
From June 4, 20 letters from d’Erlon to Soult, May 14 – June 4, Auctions of Nov. 28, 2006, Lot #249.
From June 4, Soult to Napoleon, report of Gérard’s itinerary – Stolen, (the one to Davout is in SHD), Drouot’s Auctions, May 17, 2006 Lot 166, #1.
From June 4, 5 letters from Davout to Generals, Pierre Berge, June 17, 2009, Lot #78.
From June 5, Monthion to Grouchy, notifies that Generals Giradin, Curely, Gauthier, and Lion are on the way, Pierre Berge, June 17, 2009, Lot #12.
From June 6, 36 letters from Davout to Soult, May 13 – June 6 – Soult would leave for Lille after this, Auctions of Nov. 28, 2006, Lot #249.
From June 7, Napoleon to Soult, ordering Lobau to depart and arrival of Guard at Laon, Pierre Berge, March 19, 2008, Lot 277.
From June 8, Davout to Generals – Distribution of the Eagles, Osenat, Lot 106.
From June 10, Bertrand to Soult, transcribed in this work, Pierre Berge, March 19, 2008, Lot 277.
From June 10, Bertrand to Sout, cover letter describing the Mons plan, Pierre Berge, March 19, 2008, Lot 277, analyzed in this work.
From June 10, Napoleon via Bernard to Bacler d’Albe seeks maps, Sambre, Namur, Meuse, and the north, Osenat, Lot 2.
From June 11, Bertrand Order of the Day for Position of the Army on the 13th, duplicate of one sent on the 10th, Osenat, 12 Juin, 2010, Lot 38.
From June 13, Napoleon to Soult, equipages to HQ at Avesnes, Pierre Berge, March 19, 2008, Lot 277.
From June 13, Order of the Day signed by Soult, Position of the Army on the 14th, Drouot’s Auctions, May 17, 2006 Lot 166, #2.
From June 13, report to Napoleon from Soult, Drouot, May 17, 2006 Lot 166, #3.
From June 14, Order of Movement signed by Soult – to Pajol/Grouchy, Drouot’s Auctions, May 17, 2006 Lot 166, #4.
From June 15, notes dated June 15 – instructions on advance, Drouot’s Auctions, May 17, 2006 Lot 166, #13.
From June 16, signed on June 13, but notes on the June 16 combat – Nicolas Marie Mathurin de Galbois, Osenalt, July 2015.
From June 16, d’Erlon’s report from Gosselies, sent between 1pm and 3pm, to Soult, Missing – referenced by Houssaye.
From June 16, unsigned report on movements of Reille, d’Erlon, Pajol, situation of 15th, Stolen, Drouot’s Auctions, May 17, 2006 Lot 166, #5.
From June 16, 125 summaries from Soult to administrators, l’intendant général, May 15 – June 16, Auctions of Nov. 28, 2006, Lot #261. [The value of a registry is incalculable!]
From June 16, Ney’s report of 7 am, found in Gourgaud’s papers and mentioned in Reille’s account, Missing – referenced by Houssaye.
From June 17, Soult to Davout, results of Ligny (Verdier, Jean-Antoine? copy of letter), Osenat, Lot 2.
Undated, 160 documents on Napoleon’s nominations, Bassano, Davout, Bertrand, etc., March – June, Auctions of Nov. 28, 2006, Lot #266.
Undated, 23 pages on military description of Namur and Sambre/Meuse rivers, [the one Napoleon asked for?] Auctions of Nov. 28, 2006, Lot #265.
Undated, 8 letters from Reille to Soult about operations around Avesnes, Auctions of Nov. 28, 2006, Lot #251.
Undated, Relevé des Etats de situation des dépots de Cavalerie de l’armée du Nord en 1815, Auctions of Nov. 28, 2006, Lot #245. [Seen in a catalog in 2018.]
Undated, 24 documents letters/reports to Soult concerning fighting north of France May/June 1815, Auctions of Nov. 28, 2006, Lot #248.
Undated, 68 pages, Baudus’ account of Soult’s travels after Waterloo through August 26, Auctions of Nov. 28, 2006, Lot #248.
In the late 19th century, a collection of materials to a French officer who served in 1815 is discovered. This officer received letters from Napoleon, Davout, Soult, and every other significant personality. Is it kept together and preserved to give insight to this officers role in 1815?
No, it is sold, piece by piece to hungry autograph seekers. It is scattered around the world.
One individual takes the opportunity to buy several, and in the process acquires letters from Soult, Davout, and Grouchy for late May through June 10. Over his life, this man acquires wealth, and that allows him to acquire far more from different campaigns, and even different eras.
When he dies, his widow donates the collection to a university. This may be the background of the William H. Hoffman collection at Brown University, and it added 7 original letters from 1815 to our growing digital collection, as well as other related materials. It is fantastic, but at the same time, we know hundreds of documents were sent to the Intendant Général in Laon, and it is probably that this collection has been hopelessly distributed. How many individual pieces were in possession of someone without wealth, who died leaving their unusual possessions to indifferent descendants, who long ago discarded these priceless artifacts.
This is why finding descendants who have intact collections is so critical – and they often are unaware of what they have, and even if they have it. There are many current efforts on this front.
In the last six months, over 1000 pages of documents from 1815 were discovered from the descendant of a Corps commander of the Armée du Nord. The collection is blurred to protect the family:
The history of this campaign is far from over.