In the two hundred years since the Battle of Waterloo countless studies examining almost every aspect of this momentous event have been published – narratives of the campaign, graphic accounts of key stages in the fighting or of the role played by a regiment or by an individual who was there – an eyewitness. But what has not been written is an in-depth study of a division, one of the larger formations that made up the armies on that decisive battlefield, and that is exactly the purpose of Philip Haythornthwaite’s original and highly readable new book. He concentrates on the famous Fifth Division, commanded by Sir Thomas Picton, which was a key element in Wellington’s Reserve. The experiences of this division form a microcosm of those of the entire army. Vividly, using a range of first-hand accounts, the author describes the actions of the officers and men throughout this short, intense campaign, in particular their involvement the fighting at Quatre Bras and at Waterloo itself.
PICTON’S DIVISION AT WATERLOO
Veteran Napoleonic historian Philip Haythornwaite provides an informative narrative of the British 5th Division and its stalwart heroism at the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo. The book opens with a quick introduction to the 1815 campaign and the British Divisional system. Following is a description of the British Infantry units assigned to the 5th Division. The battle narrative properly begins in Brussels, with the news that Napoleon’s Armee du Nord has crossed the French frontier and stolen a march on the Allied armies. The 5th Division’s magnificent stand at the centre of the Allied line at Quatre Bras gets significant coverage. The author makes an entirely plausible argument that General Picton and his men saved Wellington’s Anglo-Dutch Army at this exhausting battle. The bloodletting at Mont St Jean seems almost an afterthought by comparison. The book closes with a follow-up on the fates of some of the surviving personalities in the Division.
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