The following long series of posts is the email exchanges, personal diagrams, notes and images I captured while umpiring the Waterloo Campaign using the Pratzen Editions Flight of the Eagle volume I.
12-16 players with mildly modified rules, and all battles conducted were diced by the Umpire. The system is an exploration in communication, working with unknowns and of course fun. The title is not hyper realistic but it shines a very clear light on the problems of command, communication and attrition. From maps, to the tyranny of time, you are exposed to the vagaries of real time communications and limited knowledge. Lets follow the first few days of the campaign. There is some genuinely funny stuff!
Wellingtons knowledge base at start:
Readability note, each set of content where possible has a time stamp and location is given. Battle details are repeated and tweaked (generally) for each player. Most of the time GM comments are noted. I have left fonts alone and only correct minor spelling items where meaning is lost.
Napoleons knowledge base at a start
The Actual Terrain
Summary of orders for Day 1:
The ‘night before’-orders are issued by Napoleon:
Thus Napoleon orders his leaders to do the following:
At 0400 all is under control.
Ney sends on orders to D’erlon:
The Emperor has commanded that you move north at once to secure Mons.
I am sending a cavalry patrol ahead from my forces at Maubeuge to scout the road into Mons.
I will advise if we find the enemy in the area. You should move north along the La Capelle-Avesnes-Maubeuge-Mons road. I will be to your west in the area of Valenciennes.
Please advise me immediately of your location so that we may better coordinate our efforts.
My headquarters will be in Valenciennes.
He also orders units directly under his command:
Order Date: June 14 Order Time: 6:15 From: Marshall Ney
To: Generals Reille and Kellerman Formations in This Order: III Cav Corp and II Corps Origin Location:
Maubeuge Destination Location: Maubeuge ______________________________________________________________________
Generals the moment of action is at hand. Our Emperor has entrusted us with the honor of securing Mons and Tournay.
We will move at once westwards. Your specific orders are as follows. General Kellerman you are to lead the wing by advancing
on the road to Valenciennes. It is imperative that yo send patrols ahead to scout from Valenciennes to Quieorain,
Conde and Maulde. You must also dispatch a patrol North towards Mons to find if the enemy is advancing on the EmperorÕs flank.
I expect you to be past Valenciennes by nightfall. I will accompany you on your march General Reille you will follow
General Kellerman with your forces along the road to Valenciennes. Be alert for patrol reports coming back from the area of
Alert me at once if you become aware of enemy forces moving south from Mons.
I expect you to be past Bavay before nightfall.
Ney fires off a missive to Nappy – some serious historical ass kissing:
Order Date: June 14
Order Time: 6:15 From: Marshall Ney
To: Napoleon Formations in This Order: Origin Location: Maubeuge
Destination Location: The road to Philippeville ______________________________________________________________________
My beloved Emperor I have just received your directive sending me west to Valenciennes.
I am moving there with haste. I have directed Marshall DÕErlon to move north to Mons along the La Capelle-Avesnes-Maubeuge-Mons road. I must thank you once more for the glory of commanding your left wing.
I promise that your new found confidence is not misplaced.
Likewise Grouchy sends a note to Vandamme:
Date: 14th June, 1815
Time: Immediately after receiving orders from Napoleon
From: 2ème Marquis de Grouchy
To: General Vandamme
Bonjour General and may this morning find your spirits high. His Imperial Majesty Napoleon I, By the Grace of God and the Constitutions of the Empire, Emperor of the French has provided us his marching orders. The Emperor will be in Philippeville with the VIth Corp. I will take the IV Corp infantry and II Corp Cavalry north along the road to Charleroi. It is your order to move east to Dinant with the III Corp infantry and IV Corp Cavalry. Please send out patrols ahead of your advance and be vigilant as we seek out their location. The grand plan is to march upon Liege, but wait for further command after reaching Dinant and we can assess the situation.
2ème Marquis de Grouchy
Day 1 Chronlogical Messages.
Messages sent during day 1 from GM to Commanders
HR 1200 Day 1
South of Mons Arriving noon:
@1100 1st Res Cav Enter Mons and were informed by local spies that British forces are in the area near Semninpes [sp] They appear to be a Cavalry force of some strength. Only 4th Leg, Soult force has arrived 5th is strung out along the road. I Corps is expected within an hour or so.
To Zieten @ Charleroi Msg arrives at Noon:
@1000 Patrol on road to Phillipieville meet a large contingent, possible advanced Cavalry screening force. Which drive your patrol off.
GM To Grouchy ,Phillippeville Arrives Noon.
@ 1000 Prussian Patrol met, but not captured headed Sth from Cherleroi.
TO: Uxbridge Arrives 1400
@1000 3Bde encounters heavy Cavalry Regiment and dust trails south of Mons indicate further forces.
What are your orders?
Blucher to the Corps Commanders:
We seem to have lost these orders. Blucher orders:
Day and Time: Day 1
To: I Corps
Destination Location: Philippeville
We need to find the French. At 8 hours per day, head south toward outskirts of Philippeville. III Corps will be approaching from East. If French, appear in Philippeville, coordinate with III Corps and destroy them.
From: Blucher To: II Corps
At 8 hours per day, head south to Dinant. Deploy into combat formations south of Dinant toward Givet. I Corps and III Corps will be heading to Philippeville.
From: Blucher To: III Corps Location: Philippeville
We need to find the French. At 8 hours per day, head west toward outskirts of Philippeville. I Corps will be approaching from North. If French, appear in Philippeville, coordinate with I Corps and destroy them.
2300 Zieten to Blucher:
June 14th Day 1 Formation (CC – Blucher)
Once again we are poised to bring bloody retribution upon the Corsican Ogre, for which I eagerly await.
I Corps has sent out patrols towards Phillipeville and along the Sambre River on both directions from Charleroi and the advance guard is prepared. We shall find and engage the French revolutionaries!
Zieten, I Corps commanding
GM- Scouts report a significant force of cav and Infantry in the distance 2 Corps.
Zieten to 1Corps:
Origin Location: Charleroi Destination Location: Charleroi
Formation (Corps/Division): I CORPS
Duration: 10 hours
Ending Formation: Fortifying and Rest
To all divisions: Soldiers of Prussia! We have the honour of avenging the shame of Jena and placing the Corsican Ogre back in his cage. The town of Charleroi is to be fortified to protect our depots while our patrols seek out the enemy.
Corps Engineers are to site Redoubts for our artillery on the outskirts of Charleroi and Abatis is to placed across all roads and gates. The Chief of staff is to assign a suitable officer to liaise with the Burgher of Charleroi to enlist the population to help prepare the fortifications. The fortifications are to be sited for all round defence. A curfew is to be placed on the town with no civilians to enter or leave the town during the night.
Ist and 2nd divisions and the cavalry are to be south of the Sambre River, 3rd division is to be North of the river. Division commanders are expected to assign pickets well forward of the fortifications.
The 2nd and 3rd divisions will assist with building the fortifications, with their arms stacked close by. The 1st division and the Corps cavalry will be at the ready to march within 15 minutes notice as the advance guard. The 2nd and 3rd divisions are to be expected to be ready to move within 2 hours.
Formation (Corps/Division): PATROL LEADERS
Duration: 12 hours
Patrol commanders: you are to leave at first light and return at last light. You are instructed to leave watch stations on the outward journey and retrieve them on the return journey. Enemy patrols are to be engaged at patrol leaders discretion, but the primary responsibility is to immediately report any sightings of the French revolutionaries.
Patrol 1 is to monitor the Sambre River towards Thuin.
Patrol 2 is to advance is to advance along the Charleroi – Phillipeville road, with the additional responsibility to finding suitable ground to deploy the army towards, such as a military ridge for artillery.
Patrol 3 is to advance towards the tributary south of the Sambre
Patrol 4 is to advance towards the Dinant – Phillipeville road
Patrol 5 is to patrol the road Charleroi to Binch
Patrol 6 is to Patrol Sambre River Charleroi to Namur
Formation (CC – Blucher)
Zieten to Blucher:
Once again we are poised to bring bloody retribution upon the Corsican Ogre, for which I eagerly await. I Corps has sent out patrols towards Phillipeville and along the Sambre River on both directions from Charleroi and the advance guard is prepared. We shall find and engage the French revolutionaries!
Zieten, I Corps commanding
To Thielman III Corps
On the road to Phillieppeville the Corps Cav encounters a full Corps of Cavalry and more infantry in the rear based on travel clouds raised.
Blucher earliest he can know is 1800 (near Huy).
4.5 hours [14.30] to notify Zieten I Corps.
II CORPS – IF east of Dinant hear guns in faint distance.
I Corps will defend behind the bridges (1 sector and 1 unit up) with 2 in reserve. Redoubts and Abatis defending bridges in a city, come at me Frenchie!
The roads between Beaumont and Phillipeville are jammed. VI Corps, and Imperial Guard are all attempting to go East. While the Reserve Cav are headed in multiple directions.
I CAV Corps
[patrols pass by on opposite roadway]
1st Res Cav Enter Mons and are informed by local spies that British forces are in the area near Semninpes [sp] They appear to be a Cavalry force of some strength. Only 4th Leg, Soult force arrives 5th is strung out along the road.
d’Erlon and 1 Corps enter Mons.
Report back to Ney  & Nappy(?) 
Thielman to Blucher: Day and Time: June 14, Noon
From: Thiellman (III Corps) To: Blucher
Sir, my cavalry patrol on the Dimant – Phillippeville Road has reported spotting a full French Cavalry Corps and infantry in the rear in the outskirts of Phillippeville. The rest of my Corps is about 9 km from Phillippeville in a defensive formation awaiting I Corp to join them and co-ordinate an attack.
0800 II Cav & IV Corps – msg ARRIVES Noon to grouchy
5km shy of Charleroi you encounter a significant force of Prussians.
[Establish march order of IICav and IV Corps.]
1245 Grouchy Situation:
IIC Cav is spread out over 3,000m or 3km in dual column,5 km from town and the Sambre river.
Maurins light Cav from IV Corps is in front of it, another 1km along the road which is wooded and picturesque. Prussian light hussars harass your own cavalry along the road.
Stretching 6km behind the IIC is the rest of IV Corps 12,13,14 Div + Arty, trudging past flat open farmland in the heat.
Reports now indicate that Prussian forces of some substance based upon combined intelligence suggests at least 1 Division and supporting Cavalry. are dug in with abatis, road blocks all on the south side of the Sambre River.
Your vanguard has deployed to attack and battle is about to be given.
TO: Vandamme from Gen. Milhaud
1200-1400: Battle of Bois de Renonsau
Lefol’s 8th Division is the lead infantry formation on the road, setting a cracking pace behind the 3 cavalry formations. Watier and Delorts Currassier make a dashing sight as they advance to the enemy at a trot.
Further ahead the Damons light cavalry screen the woods to your armies left.
The Battle of Bois de Renonsau is about to begin.
Ahead light cavalry deployed screening the enemy infantry who looked set for battle. The large black, bay and brown horses of the 13th and 14th cuirassiers form up. Red plumes jostled in the warm breeze. Their 97cm long sabers were drawn, and held at parade rest. All is in place.
Behind them your infantry deployed into line of advance, each battalion forming up just so ; Voltiguers on the left with Fusliers center and Grenadiers on the right. The soldiers breathed hard and dust covered their breeches and gaiters. Chasseurs in dark blue advanced into the woods seeking more Prussians.
The battle ensues.
Around 1500 more of your forces arrive to allow both Corps to work together.
You have been in pursuit for 2 hours. Your cavalry is attempting to stay connected to the enemy. But their reinforcements are adding to the chaos of a general withdrawal towards Dinant.
The Prussians having seen the Heavy cav are having none of it. They fight a tightly managed rearguard action along the road back towards Dinant. The heavy woods prevent any flanking. Your men were outnumbered, but the weight of the heavy cavalry sealed the Prussians fate. Only the woods prevented a rout.
Despite the 13th and 14ths best efforts light losses were inflicted on the Prussians.
TO Thielman from General Borcke:
Ahead of your men the enemies light cavalry deployed screening the infantry who looked set for battle. The large black, bay and brown horses of the 13th and 14th cuirassiers formed up, you recognized their distinctive epaulettes. Their red plumes jostled in the warm breeze. 97cm long sabers were drawn at held at parade rest. Behind them the infantry deployed into line of advance, each battalion forming up just so ; Voltiguers on the left with Fusliers center and Grenadiers on the right.
The soldiers are breathing hard and dust covered their breeches and gaiters. Chasseurs in dark blue advanced into the woods on your right.
Knowing your orders are to fight a rearguard action your men deploy in two double battalion lines.
Your cavalry would slow the Cuirassiers, and the infantry would fall back upon itself, creating a square if needed. The battle ensues.
After two hours of light fighting your men have done you proud. With light losses to morale [-1] the enemy heavy cavalry pursuit along the wooded road was limited. Your forces now consolidate 2 hours back along the road to Dinant, which is still 10 km to your rear. Your forces are approximately an hour from being consolidated to either prepare for battle or continue back to Dinant.
Battle of Sambre River
To Grouchy from Gerard:
The Regimental drummers from 12th division beat the rhythm of the advance, coronets wailed their horrid tunes.
Maurin’s cavalry headed down river looking for crossings, while L’heritier’s 11th heavy Cuirassiers rode on the right of the 12ths 2 regiments.
Ahead abatis, minor earth works and Prussians heckling you on await. Undaunted the 30th and 96th line Regiments from Brigade Rome advance in column as does Schaeffer’s Brigade. Sporadic musket fire cracks from buildings, farmhouses and general stores across the river.
Your intel has shown just two bridges cross the town, the embankments are steep but not impassable.
Pecheux’s men have fought bravely. Though repulsed twice with moderate losses [-2 morale] they have plenty of fight in them. They are still heavily engaged in house to house fighting on the South side of the bridges.
During the battle the rest of the corps begins to arrive.
This would allow you to insert fresh forces, you are beginning to notice more Prussians forming up across the river to support the defense.
[Do you conduct a 2nd round of battle for two hours?]
You now have more forces to use but you know that the Prussian formations are deep also.
The townships defensive benefits will likely be mitigated or reduced in a second round.
Battle Report Sambre River
The Regimental drummers from French 12th division beat the rhythm of the advance, coronets wailed their horrid tunes.
11th heavy Cuirassiers rode on the right of the 12ths 2 regiments.
Your abatis, minor earth works and soldiers heckle the advancing french.
Undaunted the French 30th and 96th line Regiments from Brigade Rome advance in column as does Schaeffer’s Brigade. Sporadic musket fire cracks from buildings, farmhouses and general stores across the river.
1300 arrives to Grocuhy
Date: 14th June, 1815
Time: 11 am
From: General Vandamme
To: 2eme Marquis de Grouchy
My compliments to the good 2eme Marquis de Grouchy on the road to Dinant my patrol encountered a strong force of Prussian cavalry possibly supported by infantry.
We will continue to push towards Dinant and see if any Prussian forces make themselves known to us. We will await further orders in Dinant.
Your Loyal Sevant,
1400 to Blucher:
Dear Blucher, our patrol on the Road Charleroi-Phillipeville has encountered a large French force heading towards Charleroi. As we have not found military terrain suitable to attack the French revolutionaries, We are fortifying Charleroi with redoubts and abatis.
I beseech you to move with all possible speed with to assist us at Charleroi as I fear we face the entire French army. Rest assured that the stalwart Landwehr of I Corps will stand at long as we can. I Corps will fall back to Fleurus if the French attack in great force before we are reinforced.
Yours respectfully, Zieten, I Corps Commanding
Your forces are in Ath now. So is Frederic.
Orders just arrived for him to move towards Brussels!
@1400 Wellington orders you to Soignes.
Arrives in Ath.
@1400 he is ordered to Hall
Hill is also now in Ath.
Frederic to Lord Hill
Lord Hill – have departed for Brussels on Ath-Enighten-Hall-Brussells Rd. Am sending messengers to Lord Wellington advising of our intent, suggest you do the same. Best of Luck and God Speed – Frederic
Frederic to Lord Wellington.
Lord Wellington – your orders have been received and am acting best speed on same.
I believe that Lord Hill, in absence of any orders from you, and with rumours of contact being made with the Frenchies, will be following in my train. I am eager for any intelligence you may have, and your permission to march to the sound of guns, should it be my honour to hear them!.
Your Servant – Frederic
Credit goes to Steinmetz and his men. They have fought bravely, suffer no appreciable losses. Repulsed twice the French have plenty of fight left in them. They are still heavily engaged in house to house fighting on the South side of the bridges.
You have reserves, they have more divisions arriving in the distance which will give them reserves also.
The terrain advantage will diminish as the fight goes one and only the weight of your numbers will factor into combat. Right now it seems you have the upper hand.
Do you fight a 2nd round and continue to chip away at the smaller French force or retreat and suffer possible pursuit losses?
1500 Prince of Orange
A passing ADC in a lathered horse commandeers a fresh mount.
He quickly informs you that Uxbridge’s 3rd Bde of cavalry is under pressure from a large French force in/near Mons.
Orders arrive from Wellington to:
1. move all your forces back to Hall except Cooke
2. Send a patrol from Cooke to asses French strength to the south, but retire in order towards Brussels.
3. Be prepared to march cross country to Waterloo
[Umpire – verbatim to you, have fun…]
To the south of Nivelle your riders hear the sound of cannon and battle.
Given the distance it could be Charleroi.
1400 to Blucher
I must protest the direct coordination with III Corps. I humbly request that all coordination is through your chief of staff. While I am content to receive reports from Thielmann, I will only act according your wishes, as the most celebrated and loved commander of our glorious Prussian army.
Zieten, I Corps Commanding
1400 Druout to Umpire
Druout sits upright in his saddle, was that the sound of guns he heard over the cacophony of noise made by his men on the march?
Ump: Nice Try
Druout takes a swig from his flask of cognac and rubs his sore hip. He wonders if he is getting too old for campaigning, his back aches and now he’s hearing things that aren’t there. He contemplates his magnificent men and wonders if maybe after this glorious campaign he should leave way open for the young bucks……
1400 to Ney
d’Erlons encounters light to moderate cavalry forces early.
The British disengage North cross country.
Your eyeglass does show some very very weary looking troops in blue from the current forces you face. They would appear to have marched all day, horses are lathered and all of you have now fought for 6 hours. You have some time before orders are due in as we will run the clock until 2200, if you retreat it would need to be at the 2100 hour or there abouts at latest.