Thursday, June 19, 2008

Grouchy's Failure



Story Told by Lieutenant Radoux, Who Served Under Grouchy and the Emperor. Interesting Career of a Soldier Who Loved and Believed In the Corsican.

Would Napoleon have won Waterloo if re-enforced by Grouchy? And why did Grouchy fail to re-enforce Napoleon?

This dual question has been the battle-door and shuttlecock of discussion and dispute by statesmen, military men and historical writers ever since the memorable 18th of June, 1815, when the great Corsican in the space of a few hours lost Waterloo and the throne of France.

A most interesting and in some respects unique interview was had only a few years ago with an officer who served under Grouchy in that Waterloo campaign. This was Francis Radoux, a lieutenant in Captain Michal's company, Seventy-fourth regiment of infantry; a remarkable man, with a remarkable history; a veteran of 96 years at the time he was called on, and yet both physically and intellectually finely preserved.

Lieutenant Radoux was born in St. Savan, province of Brittany, France, Sept. 9, 1790. His childhood was barren of other than commonplace incidents, yet his soul was alive at an early age to the tremendous events which in rapid succession convulsed his nation. The French revolution, the battle of Valma, the execution of Louis XVI and his queen (Marie Antoinette), the fall of Robespierre, the growing power and influence of a certain captain of artillery, Napoleon Bonaparte by name; the Royalist war in La Vendee, Lord Howe's victory over the French, the conquest of Holland by the French armies, the victories of Bonaparte, commander of the French army in Italy, over the Austrians; his Egyptian invasion and sanguinary work, the battle of the Nile and destruction of the French fleet by Lord Nelson, the crossing of the Alps by Bonaparte and defeat of the Austrians at Marengo; the renewal of war between France and England; Austerlitz, Trafalgar, Jena, Vimera and Corunna; the rapid promotion of the artillery captain to commander in chief and emperor of France — these had all followed in quick succession by the time the boy Radoux had reached the age of 16.

In that year, 1806, Radoux enlisted on a French privateer, the Vetren, Captain Legrand. But after a short and bloodless experience he, with others, was captured by a British cruiser. He was transferred to a prison ship, and for seven long, weary years and some months he was a prisoner of war. But one day he saved an English officer from drowning, for which service he was unconditionally released.

Radoux at once returned to his native town, where he was received as one risen from the dead. Ere long he married his youthful love, Mlle. Jeanette Adams, and settled down to domestic life, to cultivate the arts of peace.

Napoleon's escape from Elba, his massing of another large army on the Belgian frontier and the rallying of the allied forces to meet him are too familiar facts to need reiteration.

With the flight of the French army from Waterloo the military career of Radoux ended. The next year he, with his wife and infant child, emigrated to America. He settled in Raymond, Maine, where for many years he carried on milling and was also a famous dancing master and violinist, the best in each role of any man in Maine at that time. His second wife was an aunt, by marriage, to Nathaniel Hawthorne. It was at his pleasant, richly furnished home in Portland that I met him. I found him a nice looking, interesting, polished, genial and agreeable old gentleman. He was in a suit of black and wore a black velvet skullcap, was evidently under 6 feet in height, with a straight military figure, had full blue eyes, a but slightly wrinkled face, clear cut, pronounced features, with a small semicircle of gray locks and a beard of medium length and white as snow.

At my request he gave a history of his life connected with the memorable days when his commander, "the emperor," as he affectionately called him, to a large extent controlled the military and political affairs of Europe.

"But there is one point on which I am eager to have your opinion," I said when the aged veteran had finished his story.

"And what is that, please?"

"As you were an officer under Grouchy, and hence had unusually good opportunity to know the real situation of things, I would like to learn your opinion in regard to the failure of Grouchy to re-enforce Napoleon. You know that for a long time afterward there were bitter recriminations between the marshal and the emperor as to how this important duty was attempted to be performed, and the reasons why Grouchy failed, on the day of Waterloo, to arrest the lateral movement of the Prussian troops from Wavre toward Waterloo."

"Yes, yes, I know," responded the old soldier, with animation. "I can assure you that Grouchy did the best he could under the circumstances to carry out the emperor's orders, but it was wholly impracticable."

And he thereupon gave a clear and logical explanation of the case. In substance he showed that Grouchy, late on the 17th, had been sent, with 30,000 men, to pursue the Prussian army, which had been defeated at Ligny, but with a force fully inadequate to cope with the entire Prussian army, especially as Blucher, its commander, in the interim had been re-enforced by a large division under General Bulow. Besides, the roads, owing to the heavy rains of the night of the 17th and morning of the 18th (Waterloo day), were very muddy and sloughy, making the moving of the wagons and artillery slow and difficult. Then, again, had Grouchy early known that Bulow and Blucher had made a diversion to join Wellington, 12 miles distant, at Waterloo, leaving Thielman, with only 17,000 men, to hold him in check as best he could, he perhaps would have done differently. He could have fought Thielman with results sufficient to allow of his reaching Napoleon in season to afford him any aid.

"Yes; Marshal Grouchy did the best he could!" repeated M. Radoux, with emphasis. "I was there, and I know whereof I speak. The emperor's plans were well laid, but my commander could not accomplish the impossible. So the emperor of necessity fought single handed and alone against the combined superior numerical force of Wellington and Blucher, and the result was Waterloo and his crown were lost!" — New York Herald.

A Slight Change

"Are they lovers still?"
"Well, he's still, but she isn't. You see, they are married now." — Detroit Free Press.

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