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Waterloo Painting "La bataille de Waterloo. 18 juin 1815" by Clément-Auguste ANDRIEUX
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TOPIC: Waterloo Painting "La bataille de Waterloo. 18 juin 1815" by Clément-Auguste ANDRIEUX

Waterloo Painting "La bataille de Waterloo. 18 juin 1815" by Clément-Auguste ANDRIEUX 2 years, 5 months ago #1

  • Leffe7
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A painting by French Artist Clément-Auguste Andrieux about the French Cavalry Charge at Waterloo.

The british soldiers in the front seem to have been on their way to relieve La Haye Sainte. They were caught out of square and were overrun.

In the analysis of the painting (in French) there is some interesting information about the context of the painting. It was shown in 1852 when France was trying to make use of its former glory as an Empire under Napoleon. The Artist tried to sell the art to Napoleon III, but he refused. Napoleon III wanted to benefit from the glory of his uncle. But using the final defeat at Waterloo as a theme to do this is difficult, and didn't work out well in Andrieux's painting. Napoleon (or Ney) are not even shown in the painting but only the French Cuirassiers and a firmly standing British square in the background.
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Re: Waterloo Painting "La bataille de Waterloo. 18 juin 1815" by Clément-Auguste ANDRIEUX 2 years, 5 months ago #2

  • Saddletank
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I have never seen this painting before. It depicts the annihilation of the 5th Line Battalion KGL commanded by Col Ompteda at about 6:00pm on the slope of the main crest just north of La Haye Sainte.

The Light Battalions of the KGL were retreating from La Haye Sainte having run out of ammunition and were being pursued by French infantry. The Prince of Orange ordered Sir Charles Alten, commanding the KGL division, to send a battalion forwards in line to cover the light infantry retreat. Alten selected the 5th Btn. Colonel Ompteda protested the order as there were French cavalry in the vicinity and asked to be allowed to advance in square. Alten refused, as the Prince was in earshot of this conversation. Ompteda ordered the 5th out of square where they had been defending against French cavalry attacks and advanced them in line. The French infantry fell back but a regiment of cuirassiers hit the 5th in flank and rear and wiped them out, only 19 men made their way back to the Allied lines. Colonel Ompteda was among the fallen.

This is one of the most tragic acts of the whole battle and is one infamous reason why the British never thought highly of the Prince of Orange's tactical ability.
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Re: Waterloo Painting "La bataille de Waterloo. 18 juin 1815" by Clément-Auguste ANDRIEUX 4 months, 3 weeks ago #3

  • Didz
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The story of the destruction of the 5th KGL has been revised somewhat over the years as fresh records and testimony have surfaced, and the domination of the 'British Version' has been more effectively challenged.

Barbero for example gives a much more balanced account blaming Ompteda's tactical petrification for the fact that defenders of La Haie Sainte were allowed to become surrounded on all sides by the troops of the 13e Legere and despite repeated appeals by Baring to Ompteda remained cut-off and allowed to run out of ammunition.

It was the final break out of Barings surviving garrison and the inevitable loss of the farm that finally prompted Ompteda to do something, although by then it was far too little and far too late. With La Haie Sainte now in French hands the skirmishers of the 13e Legere turned their full attention on Ompteda's squares deployed beyond the sunken road on the forward slope of the ridge. At the same time with the roadway past the farm clear French artillery pieces were rushed forward and began firing canister at point blank range into the allied squares above the farm wiping out whole companies in a single blast.

There was panic amongst the allied troops, battalions were literally being killed where they stood, and nobody seemed to be doing anything to stop it. Sir Charles Alten in a fit of frustration and rage rode up to Colonel von Ompteda and ordered him to 'Do something to recapture the farm?' (That's probably the polite translation, I suspect what he actually shouted at the mezmerised Ompteda was slightly more colourful.')

Ompteda only had one battalion remaining that was anywhere near fighting strength and that was the 5th KGL, but he still baulked at the idea of sending them down the slope to attack the farm of La Haie Sainte which was now bristling with French entrenched behind its walls and in its farm house. He could also see the French Cuirassiers in squadron strength waiting behind their infantry to provide support, and so he did the unthinkable; he objected to the order from his superior Sir Charles Alten stating that in his opinion the situation precluded an advance. A fierce argument ensued which drew the attention of the Prince of Orange who was nearby, he listened to the argument and then did what was probably inevitable and sided with the senior commander Sir Charles Alten and ordered Ompteda to obey the orders of his senior officer. To which Ompteda apparently replied 'Well I will," and then summoned Colonel von Linsingen, the 5th's battalion commander and murmured to him "Try to save my nephews." (Apparently like many senior officers he had used his influence to secure two of his nephews commissions in the 5th Line Battalion, and now he was sending these boys aged 14 and 15 into serious danger.)

Lt Wheatley of the 5th then picks up the story of what happened next as his battalion were ordered to form line and advance on the farm. Sixty yards from the enemy infantry the battalion were ordered to charge, and Ompteda who was accompanying the battalion forward ordered the bugler to sound the call, whereupon he (Ompteda) was seen by Wheatley to urge his horse forwards and charge into the thick line of French skirmishers deployed along their front.

The skirmishers scattered and Wheatley and the rest of the battalion were chasing them down the slope towards the farm when he heard someone cry out 'Cavalry! Cavalry' but he paid no attention as he was at that point intent on catch a French drummer boy, who had tried to run though a hedge and was now caught on some brambles. He was just reaching out to grab the boy, when something hit him around the head and he was knocked unconscious.

He discovered later that a French Cuirassier had hit him with the flat of his sword. Colonel Ompteda was eventually surrounded by French infantry, who called to him repeatedly to surrender, but according to them Ompteda seemed to be in a frenzy and quite out of his head, lashing at them with his sword and shouting incoherently. Eventually one of the soldiers lost patience with him and shot him dead. When Wheatley regained consciousness he found the Colonels body a couple of steps away, with his mouth open and a bullet hole in his throat. Wheatley himself was taken prisoner and led away.

Linsingen had managed to seize the Colonel's two nephews and hauled them out of the battle to safety (one assumes he must have abandoned the rest of his men to their fate, though that point is overlooked.) His men were cut to pieces and their standard captured.

Kincaid states that soon after the disaster some British Light Dragoons finally appeared on the scene, and made a half-hearted attempt to drive the enemy off without doing much harm, and in the end the Riflemen lost patience with their performance and began firing into the melee regardless of who they might hit and the cavalry of both sides immediately stopped posturing and made off in all directions.

There was then a pause in the action in this sector of the front as both sides caught their breath, during which Sir Colin Halkett tried to lead a Netherlands cavalry regiment forward to clear the French skirmishers from the area, but after advancing a few steps they refused to move any closer, and after taking fire they turned their horses and withdrew to their former position. Halketts infantry still in their squares jeered at them and began firing at them themselves killing several as they retreated.

General Merlen also tried to lead a cavalry charge aimed at driving off the French artillery which was now deployed near La Haie Sainte and firing into the allied squares But the results were little better and Van Merlen was struck by a cannon ball and killed. Colonel Van Boreel tried to renew the attack calling on the 5th Light Dragoons to provide support, but they flatly refused to obey the orders of a Dutchman and rode off to join a different brigade commanded by Baron de Ghingy.

In all Prince Williams involvement in this affair was pretty small and brief, he basically sided with his senior officer and with accepted authority. But had Ompteda done more before the fall of the Farm perhaps the whole sorry event could have been avoided. Certainly Baring considered that he had been betrayed by the lack of support he was given in the defence of the farm.
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