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One of the 28th - a Tale of Waterloo

CHAPTER XVII.

QUATRE BRAS.

At ten o'clock Captain O'Connor returned and Lieutenant Desmond hurried off.

"Were you sorry to leave, O'Connor?" Ralph asked that officer.

"No; I was glad to get away," he replied. "Knowing as I do that in another twenty-four hours we may be engaged, and that in forty-eight the greatest battle of the age may take place, it was horribly sad to look on at the scene and wonder how many of the men laughing and flirting and dancing so gayly there would be so soon lying stark and cold, how many broken hearts there would be among the women. I felt heartily glad that I had neither wife nor sweetheart there. It is not often I feel in low spirits, but for once one could not help thinking. Here it is a different thing; we are all soldiers, and whatever comes we must do our duty and take our chance. But the gayety of that scene jarred upon me, and I could see there were many, especially the older men, who were thinking as I did. I dare say if I had found any partners and gone in for dancing I should have thought but little about it; but standing looking on the thoughts came. I think you were right, Conway, not to go."

"Have you heard any news of what has taken place to-day?"

"Yes. I was standing by the colonel when Picton came up to him and said:

"'There's been sharp fighting on the frontier. Zieten gave the French a deal of trouble, and only fell back about six miles. The other corps, except Bulow's, will all join them to-night.

"'It is a thousand pities that Zieten did not send off a mounted messenger to us directly he became engaged. If he had done so we might have started at one o'clock to-day, and should have been in line with the Prussians to-morrow. I suppose he thought Blucher would send, and Blucher thought he had sent; and so between them nothing was done, and we only got the news at seven o'clock this evening. Nine precious hours thrown away. It is just a blunder of this sort that makes all the difference between failure and success in war. Had the message been sent, we and the Dutch divisions and the troops from Braine le-Comte might all have been up by the morning. As it is, Blucher, with only three out of his four army corps, has the whole of the French army facing him, and must either fall back without fighting or fight against superior numbers—that is, if Napoleon throws his whole force upon him, as I suppose he will. It is enough to provoke a saint."

"'Which will Blucher do, do you think, general?" the colonel asked.

"'He sends word that he shall fight where he is; and in that case, if Napoleon throws his whole force on him, he is nearly certain to be beaten, and then we shall have Napoleon on us the next day."

"And now, Conway, I think it better to get a few hours' sleep if we can; for to-morrow will be a heavy day for us, unless I am mistaken."

It was some time before Ralph slept, but when he did so he slept soundly, waking up with a start as the sound of a bugle rang out in the night air. It was taken up by the bugles of the whole division, and Brussels, which had but an hour before echoed with the sound of the carriages returning from the ball, woke with a start.

With the sound of the bugle was mingled that of the Highland pipes, and in a few minutes the streets swarmed with the soldiers; for there was scarce a house but had either officers or men quartered in it. The upper windows were thrown up and the inhabitants inquired the cause of the uproar, and soon the whole population were in the streets. There was no delay. The soldiers had packed their knapsacks before lying down to sleep, and in a quarter of an hour from the sound of a bugle the regiments were forming up in the park. They were surrounded by an anxious crowd. Weeping women were embracing their husbands and lovers; the inhabitants looked pale and scared, and the wildest rumors were already circulating among them; mounted officers dashed to and fro, bugles kept on sounding the assembly; and the heavy rumble of guns was heard as the artillery came up and took up their appointed position.

In half an hour from the sound of the first warning bugle the head of the column began to move, just as daylight was breaking. Comparatively few of the officers of Ralph's regiment were married men, and there were therefore fewer of those agonizing partings that wrung the hearts of many belonging to regiments that had been quartered for some time at home; but Ralph saw enough to convince him that the soldier should remain a single man at any rate during such times as he is likely to be called upon for serious service in the field. It was a relief when the bands of the regiment struck up, and with a light step the troops marched away from the city where they had spent so many pleasant weeks.

As the troops marched on their spirits rose—and indeed the British soldier is always at his gayest when there is a prospect of fighting—the hum of voices rose along the column, jokes were exchanged, and there was laughter and merriment. The pace was not rapid, and there were frequent stoppages, for a long column cannot march at the same pace as a single regiment; and it was ten o'clock when they halted at Mount St. Jean, fourteen miles from Brussels. Here the men sat down by the roadside, opened their haversacks, and partook of a hasty meal. Suddenly there was a cheer from the rear of the column. Nearer and nearer it grew, and the regiment leaped to their feet and joined in the shout, as the Duke of Wellington, with a brilliant staff, rode forward on his way to the front.

Already a booming of guns in the distance told that the troops were engaged, and there was another cheer when the order ran along the line to fall in again.

Fighting had indeed begun soon after daylight. Prince Bernhard who commanded the division of Dutch troops at Quatre Bras, had commenced hostilities as soon as it was light by attacking the French in front of him; and the Prince of Orange, who had ridden to Nivelles, directly the ball was over, brought on the Dutch troops from that town, and joining Prince Bernhard drove back the French to within a mile of Frasnes.

The Duke of Wellington reached Quatre Bras soon after eleven, and finding that there was no immediate danger there, galloped away to communicate with Blucher.

He found that the latter had gathered three of his corps, and occupied a chain of low hills extending from Bry to Tongres. The rivulet of Ligny wound in front of it, and the villages of St. Armand and Ligny at the foot of the slope were occupied as outposts. These villages were some distance in front of the hills, and were too far off for the troops there to be readily reinforced from the army on the heights. The Duke of Wellington was of opinion that the position was not a good one, and he is said to have remarked to Blucher: "Everyman knows his own people best, but I can only say that with a British army I should not occupy this ground as you do."

Had the duke been able to concentrate his force round Quatre Bras in time, he intended to aid the Prussians by taking the offensive; but the unfortunate delay that had taken place in sending the news of the French advance on the previous morning rendered it now impossible that he should do so, and he therefore rode back to Quatre Bras to arrange for its defence against the French corps that was evidently gathering to attack it.

It was well for the allies that Napoleon was not in a position to attack in force at daybreak. His troops, instead of being concentrated the night before at Fleurus, were scattered over a considerable extent of country, and many of them were still beyond the Sambre. Marshal Ney, who had been appointed to the command of the corps, intended to push through Quatre Bras and march straight on Brussels, had only arrived the evening before, and was ignorant of the position of the various divisions under his command. Therefore it was not until two o'clock in the afternoon that Napoleon advanced with sixty thousand men to attack the Prussians at Ligny, while at about the same hour the column under Ney advanced from Frasnes against Quatre Bras. The delay was fatal to Napoleon's plans.

Had the battles commenced at daybreak, Ney could have brushed aside the defenders of Quatre Bras, and would have been at Mount St. Jean by the time the English came up. The Prussians would have been beaten by noon instead of at dusk, and before nightfall their retreat would have been converted into a rout, and on the following day Napoleon's whole army would have been in a position to have fallen upon the only British divisions that Wellington could by that time have collected to oppose him, and would probably have been in possession of Brussels before night.

Thus, while the delay in sending news to Wellington prevented the allies combining against the French on the 16th of June, the delay of Napoleon in attacking that morning more than counterbalanced the error. There was the less excuse for that delay, inasmuch as he had himself chosen his time for fighting, and should not have advanced until he had his whole force well up and ready for action; and as the advance during the first day's fighting had been so slow, the whole army might well have been gathered at nightfall round Fleurus ready to give battle at the first dawn of day.

Fighting as he did against vastly superior forces, Napoleon's one hope of success lay in crushing the Prussians before the English—who, as he well knew, were scattered over a large extent of country—could come up, and his failure to do this cost him his empire.

The artillery fire ceased in front before the column continued its march for Mount St. Jean. The Prince of Orange had paused in his advance when he saw how strong was the French force round Frasnes, and Ney was not yet ready to attack. Therefore from eleven until two there was a cessation of operations, and the ardor of the troops flagged somewhat as they tramped along the dusty road between Mount St. Jean and Genappe.

The Prince of Orange was having an anxious time while the British column was pressing forward to his assistance. As the hours went by he saw the enemy's forces in front of him accumulating, while he knew that his own supports must be still some distance away Nevertheless, he prepared to defend Quatre Bras to the last. He had with him six thousand eight hundred and thirty-two infantry and sixteen cannon, while Ney had gathered seventeen thousand men and thirty-eight guns to attack him. The latter should have had with him D'Erlon's corps of twenty thousand men, and forty-six guns, but these were suddenly withdrawn by Napoleon when the latter found that the Prussian force was stronger than he had expected. They had just reached the field of Ligny when an order from Ney again caused them to retrace their steps to Quatre Bras, where they arrived just after the fighting there had come to an end. Thus twenty thousand men with forty-six guns were absolutely thrown away, while their presence with either Napoleon or Ney would have been invaluable.

Soon after two o'clock Picton's division, which headed the column, heard several cannon shots fired in rapid succession, and in another minute a perfect roar of artillery broke out. The battle had evidently begun; and the weary men, who had already marched over twenty miles, straightened themselves up, the pace quickened, and the division pressed eagerly forward. A few minutes later an even heavier and more continuous roar of cannon broke out away to the left. Napoleon was attacking the Prussians. The talking and laughing ceased now. Even the oldest soldiers were awed by that roar of lire, and the younger ones glanced in each others, faces to see whether others felt the same vague feeling of discomfort they themselves experienced; and yet terrible as was evidently the conflict raging in front, each man longed to take his part in it.

The officers' orders to the men to step out briskly were given in cheerful and confident voices, and the men themselves—with their fingers tightening on their muskets, and their eyes looking intently forward as if they could pierce the distance and realize the scene enacting there—pressed on doggedly and determinedly. Messenger after messenger rode up to General Picton, who was marching at the head of the column, begging him to hurry on, for that the Prince of Orange was step by step being driven back. But the troops were already doing their best.

The Dutch and Belgian troops had fought with considerable bravery, and had held the village of Piermont and a farm near it for some time before they fell back to the wood of Bossu. Here they make a stout stand again, but were at length driven out and were beginning to lose heart, and in a few minutes would have given way when they saw on the long straight road behind them the red line of Picton's column. The glad news that help was at hand ran quickly through the wood, and the Belgians met their foes with fresh courage.

Picton's force consisted of the Eighth and Ninth British Brigades, the former under General Sir James Kempt, the latter under Sir Denis Pack. With them were the Fourth Brigade of Hanoverians, with two batteries of artillery—the one Hanoverian, the other British. The excitement of the troops increased as they neared Quatre Bras, and a loud cheer ran along the line as they neared the wood, and took their place by the side of the hardly pressed Dutch and Belgians. Pack's brigade consisted of the first battalion Forty-second, second Forty-fourth, first Ninety-second, and first Ninety-fifth, while Kempt had under him the first Twenty-eighth, first Thirty-second, first Seventy-ninth, and Third Royals.

The aspect of the fight was speedily changed now. The French, who had been advancing with shouts of triumph, were at once hurled back, and the defenders a few minutes later were strengthened by the arrival of the greater part of the Duke of Brunswick's corps. In point of numbers the combatants were now nearly equal, as the allies had eighteen thousand infantry, two thousand cavalry, and twenty-eight guns on the field. Of these, however, but eight thousand at most were British. Picton at once sent forward the first battalion of the Ninety-fifth, and these cleared a little wood in the front of Piermont of the French light troops, and restored the communication between Quatre Bras and Ligny.

Ney, however, was preparing to advance again in force. His front was covered with a double hedgerow, which afforded admirable shelter to his skirmishers, while his artillery were so placed on rising ground in the rear of his position as to sweep the whole country over which his column would advance to the attack. At this moment the duke returned from his conference with Blucher. He at once saw that the enemy had gathered a heavy column behind the wood of Bossu, and directed the Prince of Orange to withdraw the guns that were too far advanced, and to gather the Dutch and Belgian troops to oppose the advance, at the same time he sent forward the Twenty-eighth to their assistance.

They arrived, however, too late; for the French swept the Belgians before them and advanced steadily, while their artillery from the high ground opened a furious cannonade upon Picton's division. One of the Brunswick regiments now joined the Belgians, but in spite of this reinforcement the latter were driven from the wood of Bossu, which they had occupied when the British first came up. The British troops were suffering heavily from the artillery fire to which their own guns could make no effectual reply.

"Pretty hot this, Conway," Captain O'Connor said to Ralph. "It's not pleasant standing here being made a target of."

"That it's not," Ralph said heartily. "I call it horribly unpleasant. I shouldn't mind it so much if we were doing something."

It was indeed trying for young soldiers under fire for the first time. The French had got the range accurately, and every moment gaps were made in the line as the round shot plowed through them. The officers walked backward and forward in front of their men with exhortations to stand steady.

"It will be our turn presently, lads," Captain O'Connor said assuringly. "We will turn the tables on them by and by, never fear."

There was not long to wait. Clouds of French skirmishers were seen advancing through the hedgerows, and stealing behind the thickets and woods that skirted the road, and a moment later the orders came for the light companies of all the regiments of Picton's division to advance.

"Forward, lads!" Captain O'Connor said. "It's our turn now. Keep cool and don't waste your ammunition."

With a cheer his company followed him. Every hedge, bank, and tree that could afford shelter was seized upon, and a sharp crackling fire at once replied to that of the French skirmishers. The light companies were then armed with far better weapons than those in use by the rest of the troops, and a soldier could have told at once by the sharp crackling sound along the front of the British line that it was the light companies that were engaged. But now a heavy column of troops was seen advancing from the village held by the French; and this, as it approached the part of the line held by the Brunswickers, broke up into several columns. The Germans were falling back, when the duke sent Picton's two brigades to meet the enemy halfway. The Ninety-second were left behind in reserve on the road, the light companies were called in, Picton placed himself in front of the long line, and with a tremendous cheer this advanced to meet the heavy French columns.

It was thus through the wars of the period that the English and French always fought: the French in massive column, the English in long line. Once again, as at Albuera and in many a stricken field, the line proved the conqueror. Overlapping the columns opposed to it, pouring scathing volleys upon each flank, and then charging on the shaken mass with the bayonet, the British regiments drove the enemy back beyond the hedgerows, and were with difficulty restrained from following them up the face of the opposite hill.

On the right, however, the Brunswickers were suffering heavily from the cannonade of the French, and were only prevented from breaking by the coolness of their chief. The Duke of Brunswick rode backward and forward in front of them, smoking his pipe and chatting cheerfully with his officers, seemingly unconscious of the storm of fire: and even the most nervous of his young troops felt ashamed to show signs of faltering when their commander and chief set them such an example. Four guns, which at his request Wellington had sent to him, came up and opened fire; but so completely were they overmatched that in five minutes two were disabled and the other two silenced.

As soon as this was done two French columns of infantry, preceded by a battalion in line, advanced along the edge of the wood, while a heavy mass of cavalry advanced along the Ghent road, and threatened the Brunswickers with destruction. The Brunswick, Dutch, and Belgian skirmishers fell back before those of the French. The Duke of Brunswick placed himself before a regiment of lancers and charged the French infantry; but these stood steady, and received the lancers with so heavy a fire that they retreated in confusion on Quatre Bras. The duke now ordered the infantry to fall back in good order, but by this time they were too shaken to do so. The French artillery smote them with terrible effect; the infantry swept them with bullets; the cavalry were preparing to charge. No wonder then that the young troops lost their self-possession, broke, and fled in utter confusion, some through Quatre Bras others through the English regiments on the left of the village.

At this moment the gallant Duke of Brunswick, while striving to rally one of his regiments, received a mortar wound. He died a few minutes later, as his father had died on the field of Jena. The Brunswick hussars were now ordered to advance and cover the retreat of the infantry; but as they moved toward the enemy they lost heart, turned, and fled from the field, the French lancers charging hotly among them. So closely were the two bodies mixed together that the Forty-second and Forty-fourth which were posted on the left of the road, could not distinguish friend from foe.

Before the former regiment had time to form square the French were upon them, and for two or three minutes a desperate hand-to-hand conflict took place between bayonet and lance. The Forty-fourth did not attempt to form a square. Its colonel faced the rear rank about, and these poured so tremendous a volley into the French cavalry that they reeled back in confusion. Two companies of the Forty-second which had been cut off from the rest were almost annihilated; but the rest of the square closed in around French cavalry who had pierced them and destroyed them to a man. The Twenty-eighth also repulsed the enemy.

"What do you think of it now, Conway?" Captain O'Connor asked as the French retreated.

"I feel all right now," Ralph said; "though I thought just now that it was all over with me. A big Frenchman was just dealing a sweeping cut at me when a musket shot struck him. Still this is a thousand times better than standing still and being pounded by their artillery. I confess I felt horribly uncomfortable while that was going on."

"I dare say you did, lad."

The Duke of Wellington had, upon the fall of their commander, in vain endeavored to rally the flying Brunswickers. As he was so engaged the cavalry column swept down upon him. He put spurs to his horse and galloped to the spot where the Ninety-second were lying behind a ditch bordering the road. The French were close to his heels. He shouted to the men of the Ninety-second in front of him to throw themselves down, and setting spurs to his horse leaped the ditch and the men behind it, and instantly the Highlanders poured so terrible a volley into the French cavalry that a hundred saddles were emptied.

The cavalry recoiled for a moment in confusion, but then reformed and retired in good order. Some of the leading squadrons, however, had galloped on into the village, and cut down some stragglers there; but the Highlanders closed round them, and, being pent up in a farmyard from which there was but one outlet, scarce a man who had entered escaped.

The French had now received heavy reinforcement—Kellermann's heavy horse having come upon the field—and as neither the Dutch nor Belgian cavalry would face the French troopers they were free to employ their whole cavalry force against the British infantry.

Again and again they charged down upon the Twenty-eighth, Forty-second, Forty-fourth, and First Royals. The Twenty-eighth and the Royals did not indeed wait to be attacked, but led by Picton and Kempt in person resolutely advanced to charge the French cavalry. This feat, seldom exampled in military history, was rendered necessary in order to cover the flank of the Forty-second and Forty-fourth, now, by the flight of the Brunswickers, Dutch, and Belgians, open to the attacks of the French cavalry. The fields here were covered with a growth of tall rye, that concealed the approach of the French cavalry till they were within a few yards of the infantry, and it was only by the tramp of the horses as they rushed through the corn that the British square knew when their foes would be upon them.

Picton in the center of the Twenty-eighth encouraged them by his presence, and they stood firm, although the cavalry again and again charged down until their horse's chests touched the close line of bayonets. They were every time repulsed with heavy loss. The Thirty-second, Seventy-ninth, and Ninety-fifth were also exposed to similar attacks; but everywhere the British soldiers stood firmly shoulder to shoulder, and nowhere did the French succeed in breaking their ranks.

At five o'clock fresh guns and cavalry reinforced Ney, and his infantry again advanced in great force through the wood of Bossu. The British squares were decimated by the fire of the artillery, and several batteries were advanced to comparatively short range, and opened with destructive effect.

Stoutly as the eight thousand British had fought—deserted though they were by their allies—against Ney's overpowering numbers, they could not much longer have stood their ground, when at the critical moment General Alten's division came up by the Nivelles road to their aid. Halket's British brigade advanced between the wood of Bossu and the Charleroi road; while the Hanoverian brigade took up ground to the left, and gave their support to the hardly-pressed British.

Ney now pushed forward every man at his disposal. His masses of cavalry charged down, and falling upon the Sixty-ninth, one of the regiments just arrived, cut it up terribly, and carried off one of its colors. The Thirty-second, however, belonging to the same brigade, repulsed a similar attempt with terrible slaughter. The French infantry, supported by a column of cuirassiers, advanced against the Hanoverians, and driving them back approached the spot where the Ninety-second were lying. Major-General Barnes rode up to the Highlanders taking off his hat, and shouted: "Now, Ninety-second, follow me!"

The Highlanders sprang from the ditch in which they were lying, the bagpipes struck up the slogan of the regiment, and with leveled bayonets they threw themselves upon the French column. In vain its leading companies attempted to make a stand. The Highlanders drove them back in confusion, and they broke and fled to the shelter of the hedgerows, where they tried to resist the advance, but the Highlanders burst through without a pause. Their colonel, John Cameron, fell dead; but his men, more furious than before, flung themselves on the French, and drove them back in confusion into the wood.

Ney still thought of renewing the attack; but D'Erlon's corps had not yet arrived, while at this moment two light battalions of Brunswickers, with two batteries of artillery, came up, and almost immediately afterward General Cooke's division, comprising two brigades of the guards, reached the spot. The latter at once advanced against the French skirmishers, just as they were issuing afresh from the wood of Bossu. The guards had undergone a tremendous march; but all thought of fatigue was lost in their excitement, and they swept the French before them and pressed forward. As they did so the whole British line advanced, Halket's brigade on the one flank the guards on the other.

In vain the French cavalry charged again and again. In vain the French infantry strove to stem the tide. One after another the positions they had so hardly won were wrested from them. Picton's division retook the village; Piermont was carried by the Ninety-fifth and the German legion; while the guards drove the enemy entirely out of the wood of Bossu. Night was now falling, and Ney fell back under cover of darkness to his original position in Frasnes; while the British lighted their fires, and bivouacked on the ground they had so bravely held.

As soon as the order came for the troops to bivouac where they were standing, arms were piled and the men set to work. Parties chopped down hedges and broke up fences, and fires were soon blazing. Owing to the late hour at which the fight terminated, and the confusion among the baggage wagons that were now beginning to arrive from the rear, no regular distribution of rations could be made. Most of the men, however, had filled their haversacks before leaving their quarters on the previous evening, and a party sent down the road obtained a sufficient supply of bread for the rest from a commissariat wagon. While the fires were being lighted the light company were ordered to aid in the work of collecting the wounded. The other regiments had also sent out parties, and for hours the work went on. Owing to the frequent movements of the troops, and the darkness of the night, it was difficult to discover the wounded, and there were no materials at hand from which torches could be made.

No distinction was made between friend and foe. The bodies found to be cold and stiff were left where they lay; the rest were lifted and carried to one or other of the spots where the surgeons of the force were hard at work giving a first dressing to the wounds, or, where absolutely necessary, performing amputations. After an hour's work the light company was relieved by the grenadiers, and these in turn by the other companies, so that all might have a chance of obtaining as much sleep as possible.

The troops were indeed terribly fatigued, for they had had a thirty miles' march, and nearly six hours continuous fighting; but they were in high spirits at their success, although suffering severely from want of water. They had started in the morning with full canteens, but the dusty march had produced such thirst that most of these were emptied long before they reached the field of battle; and no water was to be found near the spot where the Twenty-eighth were bivouacked, and indeed with the exception of the regiments in the village, who obtained water from the wells, the whole army lay down without a drink. Water had, however, been fetched for the wounded, whose first cry as their comrades reached them had always been for it; and even when the search had ceased for the night, there were numbers still lying in agony scattered over the field. Ralph had before starting filled a canteen with brandy and water at the suggestion of Captain O'Connor.

"The less you drink, lad, while on the march the better; but the chances are you will find by night that every drop is worth its weight in gold. If you have the bad luck to be wounded yourself, the contents of the canteen may save your life; and if you don't want it yourself, you may be sure that there will be scores of poor fellows to whom a mouthful will be a blessing indeed."

So Ralph had found it. He had drunk very sparingly on the way, scarcely permitting himself to do more than to wet his lips; but when he set about the work of collecting the wounded, he felt more than amply rewarded for his little self-sacrifice by the grateful thanks of the poor fellows to whom he was able to give a mouthful of his hoarded store. It was not until his return to the bivouac, after his hour's turn of duty, that he learned the extent of the loss of the regiment. He knew by the smallness of the number who mustered for the search how much his own company had suffered, and in the brief intervals in the struggle he had heard something of what was doing elsewhere. Lieutenant Desmond had fallen early in the fight, shot through the heart as the light companies went out to oppose the French skirmishers. Captain O'Connor had received a lance wound through his arm; but had made a sling of his sash, and had kept his place at the head of his company.

The officers were all gathered round a fire when Ralph returned to the bivouac.

"I see you have your arm in a sling, O'Connor," he said. "Nothing serious, I hope?"

"No, I think not; but it's confoundedly painful. It was a French lancer did it. Fortunately one of the men bayoneted him at the very instant he struck me, and it was only the head of the lance that went through my arm. Still, it made a hole big enough to be uncommonly painful; the more so because it gave it a frightful wrench as the man dropped the lance. However, there is nothing to grumble at; and I may consider myself lucky indeed to have got off with a flesh wound when so many good fellows have fallen."

"Yes, considering the number engaged, the losses have been terribly heavy," the major said. "It looked very bad for a time."

"That it did," O'Connor agreed. "That's what comes of fighting with little mongrels by the side of you. It's always been the case when we get mixed up with other nationalities. Look at Fontenoy, look at Talavera. If I were a general I would simply fight my battles in my own way with my own men. If any allies I had liked to come up and fight on their own account, all the better; but I wouldn't rely upon them in the very slightest."

"The Belgians and Dutch fought very fairly at the beginning, O'Connor."

"Yes, I will admit that. But what's the good of fighting at the beginning if you are going to bolt in the middle of a battle? If we had had two or three regiments of our own cavalry, it would have made all the difference in the world; but when they went off, horse and foot and left our division alone to face the whole force of the enemy, I hardly even hoped we should hold our ground till Alten came up."

"Yes, he was just in the nick of time; but even with him we should have had to fall back if Cooke had not arrived with the guards. By the way, has any one heard what has taken place on our left?"

"We have heard nothing; but I think there is no doubt the Prussians must have been thrashed. One could hear the roar of fire over there occasionally, and I am sure it got farther off at the end of the day; beside, if Blucher had beaten Napoleon, our friends over there would be falling back, and you can see by their long lines of fire they have not done so. I dare say we shall hear all about it to-morrow. Anyhow, I think we had better lie down and get as much sleep as we can, we may have another hard day's work before us."

 


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