By John Fortescue
The crusade of Waterloo: The vintage Account of Napoleon’s final Battles
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Extra resources for The Campaign of Waterloo: The Classic Account of Napoleon’s Last Battles
They deceived themselves-at least it is charitable to believe so-they deceived him, and they caused considerable anxiety to our General in the field ; thus accomplishing what is probably the greatest degree of mischief that is possible to small talkers in their relation to great men. As to the vacillation of the Government in regard to the Militia, it must be remarked that the issue raised by Whitbread-whether England were at war or peace- was a real one which troubled even Wellington at the front long after the words were spoken in Parliament.
The Prussian communications lay towards the east, the British towards the west, the Dutch towards the north. Which of them was to sacrifice its line of operations in case of mishap ? Without immediately raising this issue, Gneisenau consented to move Prussian troops farther westward so that the most advanced of them should occupy Charleroi and the ground west of it so far as the Roman road from Binche to Bavai, but asked for further light upon Wellington's plans. The Duke in reply admitted that political considerations counted for much in the disposition which he advocated, and conceded further that to allow them too much weight, as compared with purely military exigencies, was as great a blunder as the converse.
Again, a triumphal entry, bloodless or the reverse, into Belgium, would certainly rally the Belgians, and probably the Dutch also, to Napoleon ; and the moral effect in Europe would be very great. The new King of the Netherlands had just set up his capital at Brussels. The restored King of France had taken refuge at Ghent. If both of these potentates were forced to take to their heels because the Allies from want of energy or alleged military reasons were unable to protect them, the old legend of Napoleon's invincibility would be re-established and his partisans would show their heads all over Europe.