Book Review: Waterloo: the French Perspective


by Andrew W. Field

Croydon, UK: Pen and Sword, 2012. Pp. x, 310. Illus., maps, diagr., appends., notes, biblio., index. $50.00. ISBN: 1781590435

The French View of the “Nearest Run Thing“ at Waterloo

This is the companion volume to Field’s Prelude to Waterloo: Quatre Bras, The French Perspective.  As he did for Quatre Bras, in this work Field delves into considerable detail on the organization, command, and the operations and tactics of the French Army during the decisive battle at Waterloo, two days after the twin battles of Quatre Bras and Ligny .

Using French soldiers’ accounts , Field makes a compelling case for the narrowness of the margin between victory and defeat at Waterloo.  He also presents evidence disproving the contention often found in British accounts that the French “came on in the same old way, and were beaten in the same old way.” The French are shown to have introduced new tactics , including the famous Divisional Column used by d’Erlon’s I Corps , specifically designed to defeat the British dispositions .  These tactics might have broken Wellington’s army were it not for the intervention of the Prussian Army late on the afternoon of June 18th  on the French right at Placenoit.

Field also dissects the important decisions of Napoleon, Marshal Ney, and other high-level French officers that shaped the campaign, in this way clearing up many questions regarding the mistakes that led the French Army to defeat at Waterloo , perhaps most notably Ney ’s the disastrous massed cavalry charges or the wholly unnecessary waste of troops at Hougomont.

In conjunction with the Quatre Bras volume (and a hoped for Ligny one as well), Field helps us understand Wellington called Waterloo “the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life” and gain a greater appreciation for the abilities of Napoleon’s Arm ée du Nord in 1815

                                  --Alexander Stavropoulos

Our Reviewer : Dr. Alexander Stavropoulos received his Ph.D. in History from the CUNY Graduate Center in 2013.  Currently an Adjunct Professor at Kingsborough Community College, CUNY, his previous reviews for StrategyPage include . Prelude to Waterloo: Quatre Bras: The French Perspective     


Reviewer: Alexander Stavropoulos   

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