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The nearest run thing you ever saw: the Battle of Waterloo

Calculations of Wellington's forces

Table showing French calculations of Wellington’s forcesTable showing French calculations of Wellington’s forcesThe author of this work, General Caspar Gourgaud (1783-1852) was a soldier in the French Army who fought in various arenas throughout the Napoleonic Wars, eventually rising to become Napoleon’s aide-de-campe.

This promotion was based partly on his actions at the battle of Brienne in 1814, when he killed a marauding Cossack cavalryman who was charging towards Napoleon’s tent. Following further service at Waterloo, Gourgaud became one of Napoleon’s fellow prisoners on St Helena, where he wrote this work and also a journal of his stay.

The book provides an analysis of the battle as well as the preceding months and aftermath, with chapters concerning French forces’ preparations in early 1815, the battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras and the situation of the French military following their defeat and Napoleon’s abdication.

Gourgaud appears to have been a rather divisive figure, due to his gasconades, (or boasts) and affected manner. Though he volunteered to accompany Napoleon to his exile in St Helena, when resident there he argued with fellow exiles and eventually decided to leave.

He did however remain a supporter of Napoleon and was part of a group who returned to St Helena to bring back Napoleon’s remains for burial in Paris.

The table shown here reveals the French calculations of the forces under Wellington’s command that opposed them at Waterloo. The book itself was previously held in the library of the War Office, before being given to King’s.

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