John Sadler came to give his talk on the 200-year anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo (June 18, 1815) having taken eight-day guided tours of the battle sites, and was still very much ‘there’ during his talk.
The audience got a graphic feeling for the hilly battle field – very muddy after several days of rain, a steep hill almost impossible to get up, through fields of high ripe corn, with a chateau and farm yards. Napoleon’s one army was fighting several Allies’ armies in different sectors of the battle field.
Much of the detail of the day came from the account left by Captain Cavalie Mercer of the Royal Horse artillery who was at the battle. The outcome was undecided until Napoleon hesitated too long in sending in his crack cavalry up the steep corn-covered hill before more Allies’ re-enforcements arrived.
Born in French-occupied Corsica, under the French, Napoleon was educated in France as an artillery man.
After the Revolution the French had disbanded their regular army and killed all their nobility and leaders. As a brilliant tactician he was rapidly promoted to General.
From a rag-tag collection of men he created a new army system or corps, of several divisions and generals who rose on merit, with each Corps being self-sufficient and a small army in itself. He also introduced 12lb cannon.
He had won 60 of the 72 battles he fought, but Waterloo was the last, before he was deposed for the second time. After 20 years of fighting Europe had at last rid itself of Napoleon.
The French Revolution had been for Equality, Egalite and Fraternity, but had quickly led to an Emperor, with the ambition to further rule the whole of Europe.
Having invaded all neighbouring countries, except Britain, several times, they formed a coalition under Wellington (who had won all six of his battles) and were determined to win this time. It finally ended the struggle between the French and the British, and, established Britain as a super power for the whole of the 18C.
Next Talk: Thomas Bewick, Northumberland’s greatest artist, engraver and author, on Friday, November 20, at The Jubilee Hall, Rothbury, 7.30- 9pm, all welcome, visitors £3.