Waterloo: Ney Defends Himself (3)


This general officer, in riding along the lines, spread this intelligence among the soldiers, whose courage and devotion remained unshaken, and who gave new proofs of them at that moment, notwithstanding the fatigue with which they were exhausted.

What was my astonishment, (I should rather say indignation,) when I learned, immediately afterwards, that, so far from Marshal Grouchy having arrived to our support, as the whole army had been assured, between forty and fifty thousand Prussians were attacking our extreme right, and forcing it to retire!

Whether the emperor was deceived with regard to the time when the marshal could support him, or whether the advance of the marshal was retarded by the efforts of the enemy longer than was calculated upon, the fact is, that at the moment when his arrival was announced to us, he was still only at Wavre upon the Dyle, which to us was the same as if he had been a hundred leagues from the field of battle.

A short time afterwards, I saw four regiments of the middle guard advancing, led on by the emperor. With these troops he wished to renew the attack, and to penetrate the centre of the enemy. He ordered me to lead them on.

Generals, officers, and soldiers, all displayed the greatest intrepidity; but this body of troops was too weak long to resist the forces opposed to it by the enemy, and we were soon compelled to renounce the hope which this attack had for a few moments inspired.

General Friant was struck by a ball at my side, and I myself had my horse killed, and fell under it.

The brave men who have survived this terrible battle, will, I trust, do me the justice to state, that they saw me on foot, with sword in hand, during the whole of the evening, and that I was one of the last who quitted the scene of carnage at the moment when retreat could no longer be prevented.

At the same time, the Prussians continued their offensive movements, and our right sensibly gave way. The English also advanced in their turn. There yet remained to us four squares of the old guard, to protect our retreat.

These brave grenadiers, the flower of the army, forced successively to retire, yielded ground foot by foot, until finally overpowered by numbers, they were almost completely destroyed.

From that moment the retrograde movement was decided, and the army formed nothing but a confused mass. There was not, however, a total rout, nor the cry of "Save Who Can", as has been calumniously stated in the bulletin. As for myself, being constantly in the rear-guard, which I followed on foot, having had all my horses killed, worn out with fatigue, covered with contusions, and having no longer strength to walk, I owe my life to a corporal, who supported me in the march, and did not abandon me during the retreat.

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