Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bonaparte Book 16. Waterloo

“La Quelle Da Fini (The Battle is Over)”…Napoleon Bonaparte

As we prepared our armies to fight Wellington, Joachim Murat approached us with an army of 10,000 men. Although he had deserted Napoleon during the Russian campaign, he now returned full of remorse. The allies, considering Murat as part of Napoleon’s family, did not allow him to continue ruling Naples. Instead, they reinstalled the Bourbons there, but some French and Neapolitan troops remained loyal to Murat, and even now, he begged to follow the Emperor of France once more.

Napoleon greeted Murat sarcastically, “Have you come to taunt me, Murat? To offer charity or help the allies finish off the last embers of France?”

Looking down at the floor, Murat said, “My Emperor, I have wronged you, but today, I come to set things right. Offer me a chance to redeem myself before you.”

Napoleon: “No, Murat! You have not been loyal to me to the last, like Allain Juppe here, or like Lannes who stood by me in Moscow to the very end. So go back, you are no brother of mine. Messina and Ney came to me the moment I landed in Marseilles, but you…you, of all people, waited until I took control of the palaces in Paris and Versailles.”

The fiery Murat became indignant at this refusal of his military aid, “Come now, Emperor! You can not turn me back in such dire moment. Wellington’s forces are powerful, armed with new machines known as the Gatling guns. How canst you compare me with Allain Juppe, who is nobody?  I am King of Naples, and in my heart, I have not forgotten you.”

Napoleon: “Is that true, Murat? Or is it because Talleyrand and Fouche attempted to make you Emperor in my stead? Is that not the real conspiracy? Out with you! I AM the Emperor of France, and I shall make my own decision. I need loyal men who will stand by me, not turncoats who desert me at my moment of need as you did in Moscow. Also, you are no longer King of Naples or even a Marshal of France, as Juppe is now.”

And so, Murat, having no other choice, walked away downtrodden in his soul, as we went forth to face the armies of Wellington without him. He looked at me with anger, for I hath served him on more than one occasion before, but I felt no fear of him. I had slain the great Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar at the height of his glory, and I did not desert Napoleon as Murat did in Moscow. I would fight and die for my Emperor if it was the last thing I did on this Earth.

But in truth, it was not just Wellington who amassed an army against us. Wellington’s army comprised of British, Dutch, and Belgians, but Frederick also sent his Prussians and Hessians upon us led by Marshal Glenhard Blucher. Napoleon decided to appoint Messina and Ney as his deputies and ordered the forces to converge on Wellington from different directions at Waterloo. Lannes, because he fought for the Bourbons, and myself were made bodyguards to his Imperial self, and in this manner, we marched fearlessly to Waterloo.

Messina led the Third Infantry through Quatrebas and was in strong position to crush Wellington off his left wing had the man been a lesser general. But it seemed that Wellington had already anticipated the move. Before he could attack Wellington’s amassed forces, small skirmishers harried Messina through the hedges.

Ney’s army was trapped by Blucher. Blucher was arguably the most competent general Prussia had in that time. The Prussians no longer fought in silly squares that were so easy to maneuver, and they were swifter than those armies France had defeated before. Nevertheless, Ney fought hard, and soon, Blucher was forced to retreat closer to Wellington’s main force.

In the meantime, Napoleon’s main army moved to the heart of Wellington’s army. The two men had not fought in person before, but Napoleon understood well how Wellington had deposed his brother Joseph in the Peninsular War. By attacking Spain when Napoleon’s attentions were diverted in Russia, he forced Napoleon to split his force on two distant fronts, allow Britain to crush France in the center. That would not happen again this time.

Napoleon was a man who took little sleep. Most of his time was spent on timing. Due to my proximity to him, I knew the Emperor slept only three to four hours a day, but that night, he did not sleep at all. All throughout the night, he had been planning for Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon claimed that he was as fresh as a daisy, but he could easily see through his lie. He was tired and exhausted in body as much as in soul.

Napoleon’s forces were almost equally matched with Wellington’s in terms of numbers, and he was, as always, confident of victory. Had we not overcome other enemies of far greater number before. But then Murat’s warning proved true. The English did not use rifles like us that had to be reloaded all the time. That summer, an Englishman by the name of James Gatling had created this demonic device that could shoot almost infinitely by straps of bullets slung into them. All the Brits had to do was turn the wheel and keep shooting.

Rows and rows of brave Frenchmen fell at the assault of these machines. As always, the fearless Marshal Lannes thought a man could solve any problem as long as he had the requisite courage, so he led a fearless cavalry charge against Wellington. These men had made him betray his Emperor once, but it would not happen again. Today, he would destroy Wellington once and for all.

It seems that Lannes rode with the gods, for none of the British bullets seemed to hit Lannes. So swift and adept was his charge. Wellington repeatedly ordered his men to shoot, but to no avail. Finally, he took the rifle and aimed at Lannes himself.

A crack of lightning went forth, and I felt like my entire world would darken. Lannes was struck midair, and a moment later, he fell dead and was lying on the ground. A hero of France hath fallen at Waterloo today.

With the death of Lannes and the assault of the Gatlings, of which we never saw before, France began to lose its thunder. Even though Ney’s men came back, the Prussians were now emboldened. Wellington sent an army of Belgians to assist Blucher, and after some heavy fighting, Ney himself was captured.

With Messina’s men trapped by the skirmisher and his own main force giving grounds to the Gatlings, a world-weary Napoleon looked at the sky and said, “La Quelle Da Fini (the Battle is Over!)” It was then that I knew our invincible Emperor had lost heart.

By evening, there was no longer will to fight, for Napoleon had fainted out of sheer fatigue. Carrying his imperial sword, I presented it to Wellington, for I was a Marshal, the most senior officer remaining that day. The Fifth Infantry, without its Emperor commanding it, would surrender. By the time Messina arrived, Napoleon did not even have the will to reprimand him, and Ney arrived in chains. Blucher and his Prussians had redeemed himself.

Only a Hundred Days after our escape from Elba, the French Empire was over. The British would march over Paris, and the Bourbons would be restored. So much for our Revolution. The pain of that thought excruciated me. I did not have the nerve to tell of our surrender to the Emperor, but all I knew was that it was all over today at Waterloo, the day that would live in infamy through all of Napoleon’s jaded military records of success.

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