16 June, 1815
on the hop by Napoleon Bonaparte's
brilliant surprise march that brought the French emperor
within a few days march of Brussels and a potential political
victory, the commander of the Anglo-Allied army, the Duke
of Wellington, had to buy himself time to regroup.
An advance French unit had been delayed at a vital crossroads
at Quatre Bras by a small force of 8000 men from Saxe-Weimar
and it was imperative that they were reinforced immediately.
crossroads was the link between the mainly British Anglo-Allies
and the Prussians.
an impassive front at a ball being held in his honour in
Brussels, Wellington dispatched troops towards Quatre Bras
as quickly as they became available.
Fortunately for the Allies, the French commander Marshal
Ney did not move quickly on the morning of the 16th
and it wasn't before 2pm that he sent forward General Reille
with 20,000 men to clear the enemy away.
Within an hour they had siezed two strongpoints on the Allied
line, but struggled to clear Allied troops from woods that
threatened the French left flank.
arrived, as did the lead elements of British reinforcements,
and the size of the clash moved from a skirmish to a full
late afternoon, the defenders had grown to some 26,000 men
with 42 cannons and they were forced to withstand a ferocious
attack by Ney.
French cavalry reached the crossroads and, despite Wellington
being forced to shelter in a square to avoid capture, the
At 6.30pm, a further reinforced Wellington (36,000) moved
forward and retook almost all of the ground lost to the
French that day.
The Allies lost some 4800 men, while French casualties were
It was a drawn clash tactically, but a major strategic blow