Sharpe’s Waterloo, 15th to 18th June 1815, is the setting for Lieutenant Colonel Richard Sharpe to exercise command of a battalion whilst serving on the Prince of Orange’s General Staff.
The battle of Waterloo was ‘the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life’. This was the first and last time the Duke of Wellington and the French Emperor fought each other in battle. The Duke of Wellington’s military career was well documented in Wellington at Waterloo by J. Weller and Wellington, The Years of the Sword by Lady Longford.
A Russian film entitled The Battle of Waterloo, subtitled in French, provides an accurate visual display of the action on the day.
The Prince of Orange may have been responsible for the retreat northwards from Quatre Bras (crossroads). How many times did the French cavalry charge uselessly at the infantry squares? The Prussians may have delayed their arrival at Waterloo, however Napoleon’s swift concentration of forces and speed of advance into Belgium was a brilliant feat of arms.
Who won at Waterloo? It was an allied victory which should have been called the Battle of Belle Aliance. If the Prussians arrived in the early afternoon then Napoleon would have fought a rearguard action back to the screen of frontier fortresses.
Napoleon’s forces were so roundly defeated by Wellington that garrisons capitulated. French accounts describe Waterloo as a glorious French victory that turned to defeat at the last action.
General Cambronne in fact surrendered La Vielle Garde.
The Waterloo battle site is a monument to Napoleon and his Grande Armee. The fortified sites of La Haye Sainte and Hougoumont (Goumont) are visible. The Dutch altered the British ridge by 2 metres in order to construct the vast lion monument which dominates the entire battle site.
There were many heroes created at Waterloo. Marechal de France Ney was hanged by Louis XVIII despite Wellington’s appeal for clemency. Prussian General Gneisenau pursued the retreating French forces, crossed the frontier and entered Paris 4th July to accept the surrender. Waterloo was a small battlefield where many men and killing machines clashed, many died horribly. The Duke of Wellington prayed he had fought his last battle. Sharpe and Harper played their parts well.