To the right, on the main road, you see the roofs of La Haye Sainte; it was held by the King's German Legion, who were Hanoverian exiles in British service. Beyond, where the main road crosses the opposite skyline, is the inn of La Belle Allance; and there the British and allied soldiers could see the French and hear their drums and bands as they passed the Emperor in review and marched to their positions.
There also, on the slope before the inn, they saw French artillery being dragged into line. At 1.30 p.m., 78 French guns simultaneously opened fïre. All dong the line, this artillery barrage was remembered by Wellington's troops as the hardest part of the battle, because there was nothing they could do about it. But the guns were a little below the level of the ridge. Consequently, shot which fell short came bounding up the slope and thosc which were high went right over; and just behind the ridge there was a zone of comparative safety.
Wellington therefore ordered the infantry to retire a hundred yards from the lane. This meant they could no longer see what was happening in the valley. But they could hear. After half an hour, the gunfire suddenly stopped, and they heard the approaching drums of Napoleon's infantry, the rum-
There is a small mound, still visible on your right, which half hides the buildings of La Haye Sainte. The leading ranks of the French came over the top of it, and met the fire of the Rifle Brigade. But further along to their right they could not see anyone on the lane. So they inclined in that direction. Forty yards in front of where you stand, they halted and began to deploy into line. The main reason for this manoeuvre seems to have been the hedges: they were not thick and men could easily force their way through them, but a solid body of men could not march through them in formation.
Picton had ordered the Scottish infantry forward again to the hedges: the French had not yet seen them. He shouted 'Fire!' and the Scots discharged 3,000 muskets in the French in the middle of their deployment could hardly reply. Then he shouted 'Charge! Charge! Hurrah!' -
Sir William Ponsonby, commanding the Union Brigade, was also here on the lane. He gave an order to his aide-
French cavalry came across from beyond La Haye Sainte, intending to support their infantry attack. But under the double assault the ranks of the French infantry broke, and their
survivors retreated disorganized across the valley. The British cavalry in their excitement went too far, right up among the guns on the opposite slope, and before they could fight their way back, something like half of them were killed.
Within about half an hour, the valley as you see it from here was empty again, except that thousands of dead and wounded men and horses were lying in the mud and the trampled rye. Later in the afternoon this part of the field was comparatively quiet: the main action took place at the far side of the main road.
But it was dong this lane, from your left, that the advance guards of the Prussian army under Marshal Blucher began to arrive at about 7 p.m. too late to take much part in the fighting here, but just in time to revive the spirits of Wellington's men, who by that time were in desperate straits.
|The Waterloo Lion hill|
|Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte|
|The Duke of Wellington|
|Field Marshal Prince Blücher|
|The Prince of Orange|
|The attack on Hougoumont farm|
|Wellington's heavy cavalry charge|
|The fall of La Haye Sainte farm|
|Marshal Ney launches the French cavalry|
|The Old Guard advances|
|The battle is lost|
|The last stand of the Old Guard|
|History related websites|