Waterloo: Ney Defends Himself (4)


At eleven at night, I met Lieutenant-General Lefebvre Desnouettes; and one of his officers, Major Schmidt, had the generosity to give me the only horse that remained to him.

In this manner I arrived at Marchienne-au-Pont, at four o'clock in the morning, alone, without any officers of my staff, ignorant of the fate of the emperor, of whom, before the end of the battle, I had entirely lost sight, and who, I had reason to believe, was either killed or taken prisoner.

General Pamphile Lacroix, chief of the staff of the second corps, whom I found in this city, having told me that the emperor was at Charleroi, I supposed that his majesty intended to place himself at the head of Marshal Grouchy's corps, to cover the Sambre, and to facilitate to the troops the means of rallying near Avesnes; and with this persuasion I proceeded to Beaumont; but parties of cavalry following us too closely, and having already intercepted the roads of Maubeuge and Philippeville, I became sensible of the total impossibility of arresting a single soldier on that point to oppose the progress of the victorious enemy.

I continued my march upon Avesnes, where I could obtain no intelligence concerning the emperor.

In this state of things, having no intelligence of his majesty, nor of the major-general the disorder increasing every instant, and, with the exception of some veterans of the regiments of the guard and of the line, every one pursuing his own inclination, I determined to proceed immediately to Pris by St Quentin, and disclose, as quickly as possible, the true state of affairs to the minister of war, that he might send some fresh troops to meet the army, and rapidly adopt the measures which circumstances required.

At my arrival at Bourget, three leagues from Paris, I learned that the emperor had passed through that place at nine o'clock in the morning. Such, M. le Duc, is a faithful history of this calamitous campaign.

I now ask those who have survived that fine and numerous army, how I can be accused of the disasters of which it has been the victim, and of which our military annals furnish no example.

I have, it is said, betrayed my country--I who, to serve it, have shewn a zeal which I have perhaps carried too far; but this calumny is not and cannot be supported by any fact or any presumption.

Whence have these odious reports, which spread with frightful rapidity, arisen?

If, in the inquiries which I have made on this subject, I had not feared almost as much to discover as to be ignorant of the truth, I should declare that every circumstance proves that I have been basely deceived, and that it is attempted to cover, under the veil of treason, the errors and extravagancies of this campaign; error which have not been avowed in the bulletins that have appeared, and against which I have in vain raised that voice of truth which I will yet cause to resound in the chamber of peers.

I expect from the justice of your excellency, and from your kindness to me, that you will cause this letter to be inserted in the journals, and give it the greatest possible publicity.


Information from Christopher Kelly's A Full And Circumstantial Account of the Memorable Battle of Waterloo, published in London in 1836.

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