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  • Waterloo: Hougomont

    What if the French had been able to fully exploit their initial breaching the gates at Hougomont and secured the position?

    How would that have impacted the battle?
    Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

  • #2
    I believe the idea was to flank the Brits to their right and threaten their supply lines to the coast.

    The Prussians were supplied from a different line, towards the Rhine and reasoning was that Wellington would not want to be cut from the coast and the Prussians wouldn't want to be separated from the Rhine.

    That same idea was the basis for the assumption that the Prussians would with withdraw East after Ligny - towards their reserves instead of North towards Wellington.

    Wellington - as suggested by his deployment - anticipated such a movement, reinforced the farm and placed Hill with another 18.000 men behind on the road to Halle.


    A successful attack by the French on the farmhouse, would probably have led to Wellington shifting Hills force, and Napoleon trying a flank towards Halle.

    Assuming the Prussians arrive from 1300 onward from the direction of Wavre as they did, I expect the decisive battle to not be on the 18th, but maybe the 19th or 20th on a different field.


    For a full understanding of just how Hougomont (and also the rarely ever mentioned fight at Plancenoit later in the afternoon) fenced in the French army, take a look at this map.



    http://www.napolun.com/mirror/napole...F_WATERLOO.htm

    To separate the Prussian/Anglo Dutch force was the overriding idea of all of Napoleon's actions during the 100 days campaign, it was the reason for his advance into Belgium, and imho also for his opening move on the 18th.
    Last edited by Snowygerry; 29 Jan 18, 07:41.
    Major Atticus Finch - ACW Rainbow Game.

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    • #3
      Wellington also had a contingency plan for the RN to establish an alternative coastal base and supply route
      Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
      Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Snowygerry View Post
        I believe the idea was to flank the Brits to their right and threaten their supply lines to the coast.

        The Prussians were supplied from a different line, towards the Rhine and reasoning was that Wellington would not want to be cut from the coast and the Prussians wouldn't want to be separated from the Rhine.

        That same idea was the basis for the assumption that the Prussians would with withdraw East after Ligny - towards their reserves instead of North towards Wellington.

        Wellington - as suggested by his deployment - anticipated such a movement, reinforced the farm and placed Hill with another 18.000 men behind on the road to Halle.


        A successful attack by the French on the farmhouse, would probably have led to Wellington shifting Hills force, and Napoleon trying a flank towards Halle.

        Assuming the Prussians arrive from 1300 onward from the direction of Wavre as they did, I expect the decisive battle to not be on the 18th, but maybe the 19th or 20th on a different field.


        For a full understanding of just how Hougomont (and also the rarely ever mentioned fight at Plancenoit later in the afternoon) fenced in the French army, take a look at this map.



        http://www.napolun.com/mirror/napole...F_WATERLOO.htm

        To separate the Prussian/Anglo Dutch force was the overriding idea of all of Napoleon's actions during the 100 days campaign, it was the reason for his advance into Belgium, and imho also for his opening move on the 18th.

        That site is crap; full of out of date information, bias, stuffed full of misquotes, and 'historian' opinion.

        If you are going to point people to information, make it good information.

        Paul
        ‘Tis said his form is tiny, yet
        All human ills he can subdue,
        Or with a bauble or medal
        Can win mans heart for you;
        And many a blessing know to stew
        To make a megloamaniac bright;
        Give honour to the dainty Corse,
        The Pixie is a little shite.

        Comment


        • #5
          If Hougoumont had fallen it would have pinned the Dukes right wing and put it under constant bombardment by artillery and harrassment by light infantry and cavalry and Jeromes troops would be freed up to assault the right too. With the loss of La Haie Sainte, and the danger that caused, would have made the allied position untenable. The analogy would be 'I either retreat or I stay to bite at your knee-caps'

          Paul
          ‘Tis said his form is tiny, yet
          All human ills he can subdue,
          Or with a bauble or medal
          Can win mans heart for you;
          And many a blessing know to stew
          To make a megloamaniac bright;
          Give honour to the dainty Corse,
          The Pixie is a little shite.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Dibble201Bty View Post
            That site is crap; full of out of date information, bias, stuffed full of misquotes, and 'historian' opinion.
            The map is just about the only one that shows the battle entirely though (in fact I'd expand the map even more to include Waver and Halle, and consequently Grouchy and Hill), I could not in good faith link the map, without mentioning the site.

            Most maps available online don't even show Plancenoit, the majority of the French Guard, Lobau's corps or even Blucher, nor Napoleon's HQ at la Belle Alliance, they just show the French left flank.

            They change the direction of the battle as well, creating the impression the action at Hougomont was part of the attack in the direction Mont-St-Jean, while it was in fact several hours earlier, the first obstacle Napoleon encountered on his approach in the morning.

            You cannot understand the significance of the fight at Hougomont (and French tenacity in their attempts to take it) without seeing the full picture and most notably the fact that between there and Plancenoit is only 3K.

            The fact that Hougomont held in the morning, necessitated the French to go around it to the right and deploy as they did, when the Prussians attacked Plancenoit later in the afternoon the French army was surrounded and cut off from all but one road, the one they came up on.
            Last edited by Snowygerry; 30 Jan 18, 04:01.
            Major Atticus Finch - ACW Rainbow Game.

            Comment


            • #7
              But Hougoumont's danger of falling occurred well before the Plancenoit action which started at approximately 18:00hrs. Napoleon's main attack was against the Duke's weaker left, that was anchored on Papelotte/La Hay/Fischermont on the extreme allied left and La Haie Sainte (taken at between 18:00 and 18:15 hrs.) which was the allied line's central bastion. If Hougoumont had fallen at about 13:00 when the danger of it falling had occurred, then within about 30 minutes to an hour, the Duke's right would have been flanked, pounded and put under huge pressure. Even when La Haie Sainte fell at about 18:15hrs, it caused the critical high tide for the allies. The allied right would have been under even worse pressure and for 4 hours longer, thus things would have been a lot more critical.

              That D'Erlon's main attack on the Duke's left was to drive the allies away from any possible aid from the Prussians, Hougoumont was about the most critical part of the lines as far as the allies were concerned.

              For much better maps of Waterloo than that Napoleoneskiya travesty.

              http://www.armchairgeneral.com/forum...an#post2908100

              Paul
              Last edited by Dibble201Bty; 30 Jan 18, 05:34.
              ‘Tis said his form is tiny, yet
              All human ills he can subdue,
              Or with a bauble or medal
              Can win mans heart for you;
              And many a blessing know to stew
              To make a megloamaniac bright;
              Give honour to the dainty Corse,
              The Pixie is a little shite.

              Comment


              • #8


                That's a good map yes (indeed I suspect it's the one the Russian map is based on..), it's just that for someone with no previous knowledge of the land it may be harder to read in this format.

                Other then that there's little to disagree with in your post.

                Except the conclusion - if Hougomont had fallen in the morning (the attack there started at 10:00 btw, we have Wellington's word for that, as well as his qualification of the original onset as "furious") there would imho not have been a battle of Waterloo as we know it on the 18th, but an indecisive action genre Quatre Bras or Ligny.


                Edit, so I guess OP will have to consider not only what if Hougomont falls, but also when.

                The breaching of the *North gate* famous from the romantic accounts ( there was a South gate as well) was not the initial attack, rather the third or so.

                ..able to fully exploit their initial breaching the gates at Hougomont
                North gate :



                South gate :



                https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hougoumont
                Last edited by Snowygerry; 30 Jan 18, 08:38.
                Major Atticus Finch - ACW Rainbow Game.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Well! If you think that Hougoumont was in danger of falling at 10:00hrs. I'll leave you to it.

                  OP's Question:
                  What if the French had been able to fully exploit their initial breaching the gates at Hougomont and secured the position?
                  Thanks for the pictures. Not for me to stand in the way of your knowledge

                  I think I'll re-read Pyramids. Terry Pratchett's Camel always gives me a laugh.

                  Paul
                  Last edited by Dibble201Bty; 30 Jan 18, 22:21.
                  ‘Tis said his form is tiny, yet
                  All human ills he can subdue,
                  Or with a bauble or medal
                  Can win mans heart for you;
                  And many a blessing know to stew
                  To make a megloamaniac bright;
                  Give honour to the dainty Corse,
                  The Pixie is a little shite.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Well! If you think that Hougoumont was in danger of falling at 10:00hrs. I'll leave you to it.
                    Not just me,

                    Wellington reinforced the place at 9:00 ordering Guards companies to the farm, and additional Dutch and German troops into to orchard after Orange had already ordered two additional Hanoverian companies in there before that.

                    Along with the original companies who had been there since the night before.

                    The initial attack of Baudin reportedly breached the *Southern gate* around 11:30 btw, leading to a scene similar to what later transpired at the North gate.

                    I see no particular reason why the chateau Goumont couldn't be attacked at dawn, it was a pivotal position blocking three roads and clearly noted on every map.

                    A younger Napoleon presumably would have, given the fact that when he finally arrived on the field he did note the significance of the position immediately and his first orders concerned it as well.
                    Last edited by Snowygerry; 01 Feb 18, 04:15.
                    Major Atticus Finch - ACW Rainbow Game.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Snowygerry View Post
                      Not just me,

                      Wellington reinforced the place at 9:00 ordering Guards companies to the farm, and additional Dutch and German troops into to orchard after Orange had already ordered two additional Hanoverian companies in there before that.

                      Along with the original companies who had been there since the night before.

                      The initial attack of Baudin reportedly breached the *Southern gate* around 11:30 btw, leading to a scene similar to what later transpired at the North gate.

                      I see no particular reason why the chateau Goumont couldn't be attacked at dawn, it was a pivotal position blocking three roads and clearly noted on every map.

                      A younger Napoleon presumably would have, given the fact that when he finally arrived on the field he did note the significance of the position immediately and his first orders concerned it as well.
                      I wasn't going to bother replying But I think I had better.

                      Sorry Snowy but you should look again at what the OP posted. There was no combat until after 1130 when cannon fire opened the battle.

                      After chasing of a few 'probably plundering, French cavalry an Infantry, the Guards Occupied Hougoumont at about 19:00hrs the night before the battle

                      The Duke after inspecting the Hougoumont defences, ordered the light companies of the 3rd Foot Guards and Coldstream Guards to the west of the farm (1st company of Hanover Field jager sharpshooters, Luneburg and Grubenhagen companies were stationed in the orchard and wood which would cover the lane and haystack area and had the Nassau and Hanoverian companies into the woods. Then the 800,odd 1st battalion, 2nd Regiment commanded By Captain (Major) Bugsen was ordered to Hougoumont at about 09:00hrs, had to traverse across the entire front line from east to west and reached Hougoumont at about 10:00hrs. where they took up positions in the Chateau complex (Grenadier company) orchard and formal gardens. I could go into more detail, but this post is already running into a small essay, so I'll try and keep things brief.

                      The initial breach of the defenses was by just a few French in the first assault (which attacked through the woods and orchard) who followed Nassau Grenadier Lieutenant von Wilder and axed his hand off whilst he was trying to enter the farmhouse via the gardener's front entrance that faced south. The few French who entered were dispatched by sergeant Buchseib and his 'section' There was no real danger of Hougoumont falling at this point and this incident must have occurred between 12:00hrs and 12:15hrs, not 11:30 as you have stated as the opening of the battle didn't open (by consensus) until about 11:30hrs.

                      There was also a door in the western wall which was also forced by about a dozen Frenchmen and penetrated. This happened during the second attack where the assault was aimed at the western side. The attackers were all killed here too. There may have been another penetration of this door but things are sketchy.

                      And then we have the most serious penetration of the North gate by about 30-40 Frenchmen and it's famous closing.

                      The southern door was blown in later by a cannon ball strike but the door was secured, and no Frenchmen tried to take advantage.

                      So their were three, or even four incursions by the French but only one was serious and that was the North gate which occurred at about 13:00hrs.

                      Paul
                      ‘Tis said his form is tiny, yet
                      All human ills he can subdue,
                      Or with a bauble or medal
                      Can win mans heart for you;
                      And many a blessing know to stew
                      To make a megloamaniac bright;
                      Give honour to the dainty Corse,
                      The Pixie is a little shite.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        There was no real danger of Hougoumont falling at this point and this incident must have occurred between 12:00hrs and 12:15hrs, not 11:30 as you have stated as the opening of the battle didn't open (by consensus) until about 11:30hrs.
                        Is that GMT +1

                        Joking aside, rather than argue the exact time that cannonball came flying through the door, I find this more interesting :

                        After chasing of a few 'probably plundering, French cavalry an Infantry, the Guards Occupied Hougoumont at about 19:00hrs the night before the battle..
                        Wasn't aware of that - is that from the diary of one of those guards ?

                        It at least suggests French units were near even on the 17th and an earlier attack would certainly have been possible..
                        Major Atticus Finch - ACW Rainbow Game.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Snowygerry View Post
                          Is that GMT +1

                          Joking aside, rather than argue the exact time that cannonball came flying through the door, I find this more interesting :



                          Wasn't aware of that - is that from the diary of one of those guards ?

                          It at least suggests French units were near even on the 17th and an earlier attack would certainly have been possible..
                          It was Captain (Lt. Colonel) James Macdonell (Yup! the very officer of the closing of the gates incident the next day) of the Coldstream Guards, who occupied Hougoumont with 4 Companies of Guards-men, who found the few suspected plundering 'foraging' French cavalry and infantrymen. this was about 19:00hrs of the 17th. But Hougoumont was in no danger of being occupied by the French army at this point as those French 'foragers' were clearly doing so far from the main Army.

                          What you have to remember is, that Napoleon's army was strung out at this point so had no chance of any fighting the evening before the battle. Indeed, the waterlogged ground wasn't the only reason Napoleon delayed the battle, he also had regiments still not arrived at the battlefield. some units were still foraging in the countryside when the battle commenced

                          Paul
                          Last edited by Dibble201Bty; 02 Feb 18, 16:49.
                          ‘Tis said his form is tiny, yet
                          All human ills he can subdue,
                          Or with a bauble or medal
                          Can win mans heart for you;
                          And many a blessing know to stew
                          To make a megloamaniac bright;
                          Give honour to the dainty Corse,
                          The Pixie is a little shite.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            This one then.

                            http://www.britishempire.co.uk/force...macdonnell.htm

                            General Muffling Blucher's liaison officer, remarked that Hougoumont was a difficult place to defend, the Duke replied 'Ah, but you do not know Macdonnell'.
                            I'd love to read his account of events at Hougomont before the battle, where is it ?

                            What you have to remember is, that Napoleon's army was strung out at this point so had no chance of any fighting the evening before the battle. Indeed, the waterlogged ground wasn't the only reason Napoleon delayed the battle, he also had regiments still not arrived at the battlefield. some units were still foraging in the countryside when the battle commenced.
                            No doubt yes, but this is What If thread, what if Hougomont fell, so we have to come up with a way to make it fall

                            Certainly a large part of Napoleons army marched within few miles of the place to take up position on the ridge further east on the morning of the 18th, those could have attacked Hougomont even if such a thing wasn't possible on the 17th.
                            Last edited by Snowygerry; 05 Feb 18, 04:45.
                            Major Atticus Finch - ACW Rainbow Game.

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                            • #15
                              I refer you back to the O.P's question.

                              Hougoumont had no chance of falling whatever the time before the battle.

                              You come up with an idea if you like. Don't forget to show some detail of how it 'could' have fallen

                              To find accounts of what happened at Hougoumont, you should look to Historian and editor, Gareth Glover and the many letters he has published.

                              John Franklin was going to release a book on Hougoumont, but that seems to not be forthcoming. It was due to be released early last year but all has gone quiet.

                              Paul
                              Last edited by Dibble201Bty; 05 Feb 18, 15:45.
                              ‘Tis said his form is tiny, yet
                              All human ills he can subdue,
                              Or with a bauble or medal
                              Can win mans heart for you;
                              And many a blessing know to stew
                              To make a megloamaniac bright;
                              Give honour to the dainty Corse,
                              The Pixie is a little shite.

                              Comment

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