Book Review:
The Waterloo Archive: German Sources


Edited by Gareth Glover

For too long we've been only offered British accounts of the great battle of Waterloo and, as history lovers, we have missed out on some telling experiences of German troops there.

They were a large part of the Allied army and served in forces including those of Hanover, Brunswick, Nassau and, of course, the King's German Legion.

Some of those men were unfairly accused of not doing as well as British troops, but in The Waterloo Archive: German Sources we get to see the contribution made by the German-speaking troops.

Journals and diary notes from soldiers in dozens of regiments make up the The Waterloo Archive: German Sources and its wide-reaching view is one of its great strengths.

In addition, many of the sources have never been published in English before and so offer readers a rich new look at warfare in the Napoleonic era.

There were details from Major von Dreves, of the Osnabruck Landwehr, who described Colonel Hugh Halkett capturing General Cambronne of the French Imperial Guard.

It was during the retreat from Waterloo and the general had been organising a rearguard when the colonel forced his way through French skirmishers to grab the enemy officer and haul him, fighting, back to his lines.

"A French general (whose name I believe was Cambronne) was energetically engaged in attempting to halt and reform the battalions.

"He succeeded several times; but their retiring continued however, as they were forcefully driven back by our pursuing battalions.

"Our brigadier, the then Col Halkett, had observed that action and, with unequalled intrepidity, rode through the French skirmishers, who covered the retreating columns, to that general and, with great luck, brought him back before the entire line, through the enemy skirmishers, and made him his pirsoner, notwithstanding (the man's) forceful resistance."

Rifleman Friedrich Lindau's narrative is amazing. He was serving with Colonel Ompteda's KGL brigade and was helping to defend La Haye Sainte during Waterloo.

During the massive rainstorm that struck the night before the fighting Lindau was ordered not into the dry of the buildings but to camp in the orchard.

"Which did not please me at all because I could not find a single dry spot."

Lindau tells of the fierce firefight between the French and his comrades, how the attackers grabbed at their rifles through the loopholes and the desperate shortage of ammunition.

Eventually they had to surrender and were robbed by the French and some wounded were killed.

Some time later they escaped while their captors plundered a barn and soon came across Prussian uhlans who took them to a nearby village where they recovered from their exertions.

Lindau had a good friend called Harz who had been unable to sleep on the night before Waterloo because he had dreamed he had died, shot through the body.

Lindau told him not to mind such stuff but during the battle Harz was killed, shot through the body.

One amusing part of his tale is that he mentions a woman from Hamelin whose surname was Pieper.

The cavalry and artillery are also covered in The Waterloo Archive: German Sources.

I read with interest General William Dornberg's description of dealing with a regiment of cuirassier that had been advancing at the trot between Allied artillery and infantry squares.

Only having light cavalry at hand, Dornberg ordered two regiments to stay in column and hit the French heavies on each flank as they came on. The plan worked a treat and the cuirassiers were seen off.

On a subsequent attack by the armour-clad French, Dornberg was run through the lung with a sword.

"As blood was coming out of my mouth and my speaking was much impaired, I had to ride off to the rear."

So matter of fact and without the histrionics we would get nowadays.

The Waterloo Archive: German Sources offers many such instances that bring alive the battle of Waterloo and the very important part that Wellington's German allies played in winning the fight.

Included in sections on the various regiments are details of officers killed and wounded and the number of casualties the units suffered.

A great addition to our Napoleonic knowledge.


- Richard Moore


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