Grouchy’s Waterloo, Andrew Field

The Battles of Ligny and Wavre

In this the third volume of his four-volume history exploring the French perspective of the Waterloo campaign, Andrew Field concentrates on an often neglected aspect of Napoleon’s final offensive the French victory over the Prussians at Ligny, Marshal Grouchy’s pursuit of the Prussians and the battle at Wavre. The story of this side of the campaign is as full of controversy and interest as the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo which he has examined in such a penetrating and original way in his previous studies.

Ligny was not the decisive battle Napoleon hoped it would be. Grouchy’s pursuit the morning after the battle was misdirected, and famously he failed to march to the sound of the guns of Waterloo and prevent the decisive intervention of the Prussians. Yet then, on hearing the news of the disaster, he safely extracted his army.

Napoleon in his memoirs accused Grouchy, like Marshal Ney, of a series of failures in command that led to the French defeat, and many subsequent historians have taken the same line. This is one of the long-standing controversies that Andrew Field explores in fascinating detail. Grouchy’s extensive description of his operations forms the backbone of the narrative, supplemented by other French sources and those of Prussian eyewitnesses.

As Andrew Field picks his way through the conflicting testimony he gives us a valuable new insight into the French view of their defeat and the bitter controversy that followed.