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Waterloo 200: defiant generals save the day! (16 June 1815)

Two hundred years ago on this very own day the Battle of Quatre Bras was fought. 

If it had not been for a few defiant generals of the Netherlands army, no troops would have been present at all on this morning to oppose the further march towards Brussels by Marshal Ney's army corps. The previous evening the Duke of Wellngton had issued his orders top concentrate his divisions and the one commanded by General Perponcher was told to assemble at Nivelles. But that same evening the Nassau brigade had already met opposition just south of the crossroads of Quatre Bras. Its commander Colonel von Sachsen-Weimar informed his superiors about the instant threat.

Fortunately the chief of staff of the Allied I Corps Constant-Rebecque realised the danger, and recommended Perponcher to send his other infantry brigade to Quatre Bras for support. The general had already acted on his own, to do just that! When the Prince of Orange returned early on 16th June from the Duchess of Richmond ball he was informed of the situation and agreed with all the measures taken. (... read on below...)

General Perponcher de Sedlnitzky

Portrait of Lieutenant-General Perponcher de Sedlnitzky

A few years later it was Napoleon himself while in exile on St. Helena, who credited the defiant behaviour of the Netherlands generals who understood the tactical importance of Quatre Bras. In his Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire de France en 1815 (page 100) the former emperor wrote about the decision of the Prince of Orange to stand his ground:


He sensed the overall importance of that position, and in case the Allied would loose it, and that all their cantonments that led from the highroad from Nivelles could only execute their junction by the road and behind of Genappe.

Read more about the brave decisions of Constant-Rebecque, Perponchen, von Sachsen-Weimar and the Prince of Orange in our Volume Two "Quatre Bras, Perponcher's Gamble". Or purchase our e-Books for 16th June!

Quatre Bras 1815 Dutch Belgians