Nations of Europe and the Great War - Charles Morris

Nelson and Wellington, the Champions of Britain

End of the European Reign of Terror


For nearly twenty years went on the stupendous struggle between Napoleon the Great and the Powers of Europe, but in all that time, and among the multitude of men who met the forces of France in battle, only two names emerge which the world cares to remember, those of Horatio Nelson, the most famous of the admirals of England, and Lord Wellington, who alone seemed able to overthrow the greatest military genius of modern times. On land the efforts of Napoleon were seconded by the intrepidity of a galaxy of heroes, Ney, Murat, Moreau, Massena and other men of fame. At sea the story reads differently. That era of stress and strain raised no great admiral in the service of France; her ships were feebly commanded, and the fleet of Great Britain, under the daring Nelson, kept its proud place as mistress of the sea.

[Illustration] from Europe and the Great War by Charles Morris


The Battle of the Nile

The first proof of this calve before the opening of the century, when Napoleon, led by the ardor of his ambition, landed iii Egypt, with vague hopes of rivaling in the East the far-famed exploits of Alexander the Great. The fleet which bore him thither remained moored in Aboukir Bay, where Nelson, scouring the Mediterranean in quest of it, first came in sight of its serried line of ships on August 1, 1798. One alternative alone dwelt in his courageous soul, that of a heroic death or a glorious victory. "Before this time tomorrow I shall have gained a victory or Westminster Abbey," he said.

In the mighty contest that followed, the French had the advantage in numbers, alike of ships, guns and men. They were drawn up in a strong and compact line of battle, moored in a manner that promised to bid defiance to a force double their own. They lay in an open roadstead, but had every advantage of situation, the British fleet being obliged to attack them in a position carefully chosen for defense. Only the genius of Nelson enabled him to overcome those advantages of the enemy. "If we succeed, what will the world say?" asked Captain Berry, on hearing the admiral's plan of battle. "There is no 'if' in the case," answered the admiral. "That we shall succeed is certain: who may live to tell the story, is a very different question."

The story of the "Battle of the Nile" belongs to the record of eighteenth-century affairs. All we need say here is that it ended in a glorious victory for the English fleet. Of thirteen ships of the line in the French fleet, only two escaped. Of four frigates, one was sunk and one burned. The British loss was 895 men. Of the French, 5,225 perished in the terrible fray. Nelson sprang, in a moment, from the position of a man without fame into that of the naval hero of the world—as Dewey did in as famous a fray almost exactly a century later. Congratulations and honors were showered upon him, the Sultan of Turkey rewarded him with costly presents, valuable testimonials came from other quarters, and his own country honored him with the title of Baron Nelson of the Nile, and settled upon him for life a pension of 2,000.

Nelson at Copenhagen

The first great achievement of Nelson in the following century was the result of a daring resolution of the statesmen of England, in their desperate contest with the Corsican conqueror. By his exploit at the Nile the admiral had very seriously weakened the sea-power of France. But there were Powers then in alliance with France—Russia, Sweden and Denmark—which had formed a confederacy to make England respect their naval rights, and whose combined fleet, if it should come to the aid of France, might prove sufficient to sweep the ships of England from the seas.

The weakest of these Powers, and the one most firmly allied to France, was Denmark, whose fleet, consisting of twenty-three ships of the line and about thirty-one frigates and smaller vessels, lay at Copenhagen. At any moment this powerful fleet might be put at the disposal of Napoleon. This possible danger the British cabinet resolved to avoid. A plan was laid to destroy the fleet of the Danes, and on the 12th of March, 1801, the British fleet sailed with the purpose of putting this resolution into effect.

Nelson, then bearing the rank of vice-admiral, went with the fleet, but only as second in command. To the disgust of the English people, Sir Hyde Parker, a brave and able seaman, but one whose name history has let sink into oblivion, was given chief command—a fact which would have insured the failure of the expedition if Nelson had not set aside precedent, and put glory before duty. Parker, indeed, soon set Nelson chafing by long-drawn-out negotiations, which proved useless, wasted time, and saved the Danes from being taken by surprise. When, on the morning of April 30th, the British fleet at length advanced through the Sound and came in sight of the Danish line of defense, they beheld formidable preparations to meet them.

Eighteen vessels, including full-rigged ships and hulks, were moored in a line nearly a mile and a half in length, flanked to the northward by two artificial islands mounted with sixty-eight heavy cannon and supplied with furnaces for heating shot. Near by lay two large block-ships. Across the harbor's mouth extended a massive chain, and shore batteries commanded the channel. Outside the harbor's mouth were moored two 74-gun ships, a 40-gun frigate and some smaller vessels. In addition to these defenses, which stretched for nearly four miles in length, was the difficulty of the channel, always hazardous from its shoals, and now beaconed with false buoys for the purpose of luring the British ships to destruction.

Defeat of the Danes

With modern defenses—rapid-fire guns and steel-clad batteries—the enterprise would have been hopeless, but the art of defense was then at a far lower level. Nelson, who led the van in the 74-gun ship Elephant, gazed on these preparations with admiration, but with no evidence of doubt as to the result. The British fleet consisted of eighteen line-of-battle ships, with a large number of frigates and other craft, and with this force and his indomitable spirit, he felt confident of breaking these formidable lines.

At ten o'clock on the morning of April 2d the battle began, two of the British ships running aground almost before a gun was fired. At sight of this disaster Nelson instantly changed his plan of sailing, star-boarded his helm, and sailed in, dropping anchor within a cable's length of the Dannebrog, of 62 guns. The other ships followed his example, avoiding the shoals on which the Bellona and Russell had grounded, and taking position at the close quarters of 100 fathoms from the Danish ships.

A terrific cannonade followed, kept up by both sides with unrelenting fury for three hours, and with terrible effect on the contesting ships and their crews. At this juncture took place an event that has made Nelson's name immortal among naval heroes. Admiral Parker, whose flagship lay at a distance from the hot fight, but who heard the incessant and furious fire and saw the grounded ships flying signals of distress, began to fear that Nelson was in serious danger, from which it was his duty to withdraw him. At about one o'clock he reluctantly hoisted a signal for the action to cease.

At this moment Nelson was pacing the quarter-deck of the Elephant, inspired with all the fury of the fight. "It is a warm business," he said to Colonel Stewart, who was on the ship with him; "and any moment may be the last of either of us; but, mark you, I would not for thousands be anywhere else."

As he spoke the flag-lieutenant reported that the signal to cease action was shown on the masthead of the flagship London, and asked if he should report it to the fleet.

"No," was the stern answer; "merely acknowledge it. Is our signal for 'close action' still flying?"

"Yes," replied the officer.

"Then see that you keep it so," said Nelson, the stump of his amputated arm working as it usually did when he was agitated. "Do you know," he asked Colonel Stewart, "the meaning of signal No. 39, shown by Parker's ship?"

"No. What does it mean?"

"To leave off action!" He was silent a moment, then, burst out, "Now damn me if I do!"

Turning to Captain Foley, who stood near him, he said: "Foley, you know I have only one eye; I have a right to be blind sometimes." He raised his telescope, applied it to his blind eye, and said: "I really do not see the signal."

On roared the guns, overhead on the Elephant still streamed the signal for "close action," and still the torrent of British balls rent the Danish ships. In half an hour more the fire of the Danes was fast weakening. In an hour it had nearly ceased. They had suffered frightfully, in ships and lives, and only the continued fire of the shore batteries now kept the contest alive. It was impossible to take possession of the prizes, and Nelson sent a flag of truce ashore with a letter in which he threatened to burn the vessels, with all on board, unless the shore fire was stopped. This threat proved effective, the fire ceased, the great battle was at all end.

At four o'clock Nelson went on board the London, to meet the admiral. He was depressed in spirit, and said: "I have fought contrary to orders, and may be hanged; never mind, let them." There was no danger of this; Parker was not that kind of man. He had raised the signal through fear for Nelson's safety, and now gloried in his success, giving congratulations where his subordinate looked for blame. The Danes had fought bravely and stubbornly, but they had no commander of the spirit and genius of Nelson, and were forced to yield to British pluck and endurance. Until June 13th, Nelson remained in the Baltic, watching the Russian fleet which he might still have to fight. Then came orders for his return home, and word reached him that he had been created Viscount Nelson for his services.

Nelson at Trafalgar

There remains to describe the last and most famous of Nelson's exploits, that in which he put an end to the sea-power of France, by destroying the remainder of her fleet at Trafalgar, and met death at the moment of victory. Four years had passed since the fight at Copenhagen. During much of that time Nelson had kept his fleet on guard off Toulon, impatiently waiting until the enemy should venture from that port of refuge. At length, the combined fleet of France and Spain, now in alliance, escaped his vigilance, and sailed to the West Indies to work havoc in the British colonies. He followed them thither in all haste; and subsequently, on their return to France, he chased them back across the seas, burning with eagerness to bring them to bay.

[Illustration] from Europe and the Great War by Charles Morris


On the 19th of October, 1805, the allied fleet put to sea from the harbor of Cadiz, confident that its great strength would enable it to meet any force the British had upon the waves. Admiral De Villeneuve, with thirty-three ships of the line and a considerable number of smaller craft, had orders to force the straits of Gibraltar, land troops at Naples, sweep British cruisers and commerce from the Mediterranean, and then seek the port of Toulon to refit. As it turned out, he never reached the straits, his fleet meeting its fate before it could leave the Atlantic waves. Nelson had reached the coast of Europe again, and was close at hand when the doomed ships of the allies appeared. Two swift ocean scouts saw the movements, and hastened to Lord Nelson with the welcome news that the long-deferred moment was at hand. On the 21st, the British fleet came within view, and the following signal was set on the masthead of the flagship:

"The French and Spaniards are out at last; they outnumber us in ships and guns and men; we are on the eve of the greatest sea-fight in history."

On came the ships, great lumbering craft, strangely unlike the war-vessels of today. Instead of the trim, grim, steel-clad, steam-driven modern battleship, with its revolving turret, and great frowning, breech-loading guns, sending their balls through miles of air, those were bluff-bowed, ungainly hulks, with bellying sides towering like black walls above the sea as if to make the largest mark possible for hostile shot, with a great show of muzzle-loading guns of small range, while overhead rose lofty spars and spreading sails. Ships they were that today would be sent to the bottom in five minutes of fight, but which, mated against others of the same build, were capable of giving a gallant account of themselves.

It was off the shoals of Cape Trafalgar, near the southern extremity of Spain, that the two fleets met, and such a tornado of fire as has rarely been seen upon the ocean waves was poured from their broad and lofty sides. As they came together there floated from the masthead of the Victory, Nelson's flagship, that signal which has become the watchword of the British isles: "England expects that every man will do his duty."

Nelson Wins and Dies

We cannot follow the fortunes of all the vessels in that stupendous fray, the most famous sea-fight in history. It must serve to follow the Victory in her course, in which Nelson eagerly sought to thrust himself into the heart of the fight and dare death in his quest for victory. He was not long in meeting his wish. Soon he found himself in a nest of enemies, eight ships at once pouring their fire upon his devoted vessel, which could not bring a gun to bear in return, the wind having died away and the ship lying almost motionless upon the waves.

Before the Victory was able to fire a shot fifty of her men had fallen killed or wounded, and her canvas was pierced and rent till it looked like a series of fishing nets. But the men stuck to their guns with unyielding tenacity, and at length their opportunity came. A 68-pounder carronade, loaded with a round shot and 500 musket balls, was fired into the cabin windows of the Bucentaure, with such terrible effect as to disable 400 men and 20 guns, and put the ship practically out of the fight.

The Victory next turned upon the Neptune and the Redoubtable, of the enemy's fleet. The Neptune, not liking her looks, kept off, but she collided and locked spars with the Redoubtable, and a terrific fight began. On the opposite side of the Redoubtable came the British ship Temeraire, and opposite it again a second ship of the enemy, the four vessels lying bow to bow, and rending one another's sides with an incessant hail of balls. On the Victory the gunners were ordered to depress their pieces, that the balls should not go through and wound the Temeraire beyond. The muzzles of their cannon fairly touched the enemy's side, and after each shot a bucket of water was dashed into the rent, that they might not set fire to the vessel which they confidently expected to take as a prize.

In the midst of the hot contest came the disaster already spoken of. Brass swivels were mounted in the French ship's tops to sweep with their fire the deck of their foe, and as Nelson and Captain Hardy paced together their poop deck, regardless of danger, the admiral suddenly fell. A ball from one of these guns had reached the noblest mark on the fleet.

"They have (lone for me at last, Hardy," the fallen man said.

"Don't say you are hit!" cried Hardy in dismay. "Yes, my backbone is shot through."

His words were not far from the truth. He never arose from that fatal shot. Yet, dying as he was, his spirit survived.

'I hope none of our ships have struck, Hardy," he feebly asked in a later interval of the fight.

"No, my lord. There is small fear of that."

"I'm a dead man, Hardy, but I'm glad of what you say. Whip them now you've got them. Whip them as they've never been whipped before."

Another hour passed. Hardy came below again to say that fourteen or fifteen of the enemy's ships had struck.

"That's better, though I bargained for twenty," said the dying man. "And now, anchor, Hardy—anchor."

"I suppose, my lord, that Admiral Collingwood will now take the direction of affairs."

"Not while I live," exclaimed Nelson, with a momentary return of energy. "Do you anchor, Hardy."

"Then shall we make the signal, my lord."

"Yes, for if I live, I'll anchor."

That was the end. Five minutes later Horatio Nelson, England's greatest sea champion, was dead. He had won—not "victory and Westminster Abbey"—but victory and a noble resting place in St. Paul's Cathedral.

Collingwood did not anchor, but stood out to sea with the eighteen prizes of the hard-fought fray. In the gale that followed many of the results of victory were lost, four of the ships being retaken, some wrecked on shore, some foundering at sea, only four reaching British waters in Gibraltar Bay. But whatever was lost, Nelson's fame was secure, and the victory at Trafalgar is treasured as one of the most famous triumphs of British arms.

The naval battle at Copenhagen, won by Nelson, was followed, six years later, by a combined land and naval expedition in which Wellington, England's other champion, took part. Again inspired by the fear that Napoleon might use the Danish fleet for his own purposes, the British government, though at peace with Denmark, sent a fleet to Copenhagen, bombarded and captured the city, and seized the Danish ships. A battle took place on land in which Wellington (then Sir Arthur Wellesley) won an easy victory and captured 10,000 men. The whole business was an inglorious one, a dishonorable incident in a struggle in which the defeat of Napoleon stood first, honor second. Among the English themselves some defended it on the plea of policy, some called it piracy and murder.

The Campaign in Portugal

Not long afterwards England prepared to take a serious part on land in the desperate contest with Napoleon, and sent a British force to Portugal, then held by the French army of invasion under Marshal Junot. This force, 10,000 strong, was commanded by Sir Arthur Wellesley, and landed July 30, 1808, at Mondego Bay. He was soon joined by General Spencer from Cadiz, with 13,000 men.

The French, far from home and without support, were seriously alarmed at this invasion, and justly so, for they met with defeat in a sharp battle at Vimeiro, and would probably have been forced to surrender as prisoners of war had not the troops been called off from pursuit by Sir Harry Burrard, who had been sent out to supersede Wellesley in command. The end of it all was a truce, and a convention under whose terms the French troops were permitted to evacuate Portugal with their arms and baggage and return to France. This release of Junot from a situation which precluded escape so disgusted Wellesley that he threw up his command and returned to England. Other troops sent out under Sir John Moore and Sir David Baird met a superior force of French in Spain, and their expedition ended in disaster. Moore was killed while the troops were embarking to return home, and the memory of this affair has been preserved in the famous ode, "The Burial of Sir John Moore," from which we quote: "We buried him darkly at dead of night, The sod with our bayonets turning,

By the glimmering moonbeams' misty light And the lanterns dimly burning."

In April, 1809, Wellesley returned to Portugal, now chief in command, to begin a struggle which was to continue until the fall of Napoleon. There were at that time about 20,000 British soldiers at Lisbon, while the French had in Spain more than 300,000 men, under such generals as Ney, Soult and Victor. The British, indeed, were aided by a large number of natives in arms. But these, though of service as guerillas, were almost useless in regular warfare.

[Illustration] from Europe and the Great War by Charles Morris


Oporto and Talavera

Wellesley was at Lisbon. Oporto, 170 miles north, was held by Marshal Soult, who had recently taken it. Without delay Wellington marched thither, and drove the French outposts across the river Douro. But in their retreat they burned the bridge of boats across the river, seized every boat they could find, and rested in security, defying their foes to cross. Soult, veteran officer though he was, fancied that he had disposed of Wellesley, and massed his forces on the seacoast side of the town, in which quarter alone he looked for an attack.

He did not know his antagonist. A few skiffs were secured, and a small party of British was sent across the stream. The French attacked them, but they held their ground till some others joined them, and by the time Soult was informed of the danger Wellesley had landed a large force and controlled a good supply of boats. A battle followed in which the French were routed and forced to retreat. But the only road by which their artillery or baggage could be moved had been seized by General Beresford, and was strongly held. In consequence Soult was forced to abandon all his wagons and cannon and make his escape by by-roads into Spain. This signal victory was followed by another on July 27, 1809, when Wellesley, with 20,000 British soldiers and about 40,000 Spanish allies, met a French army of 60,000 men at Talavera in Spain. The battle that succeeded lasted two days. The brunt of it fell upon the British, the Spaniards proving of little use, yet it ended in the defeat of the French, who retired unmolested, the British being too exhausted to pursue.

The tidings of this victory were received with the utmost enthusiasm in England. It was shown by it that British valor could win battles against Napoleon on land as well as on sea. Wellesley received the warmest thanks of the king, and, like Nelson, was rewarded by being raised to the peerage, being given the titles of Baron Douro of Wellesley and Viscount Wellington of Talavera.

The French Driven from Portugal

Men and supplies just then would have served Wellington better than titles. With strong support he could have marched on and taken Madrid. As it was, he felt obliged to retire upon the fortress of Badajoz, near the frontier of Portugal. Spain was swarming with French soldiers, who were gradually collected there until they exceeded 350,000 men. Of these 80,000, under the command of Massena, were sent to act against the British. Before this strong force Wellington found it necessary to draw back, and the frontier fortresses of Almeida and Ciudad Rodrigo were taken by the French. Wellington's first stand was on the heights of Busaco, September, 1810. Here, with 30,000 men, he withstood all the attacks of the French, who in the end were forced to withdraw. Massena then tried to gain the road between Lisbon and Oporto, whereupon Wellington quickly retreated towards Lisbon.

The British general had during the winter been very usefully employed. The road by which Lisbon must be approached passes the village of Torres Vedras, and here two strong lines of earthworks were constructed, some twenty-five miles in length, stretching 133 from the sea to the Tagus, and effectually securing Lisbon against attack. These works had been built with such secrecy and despatch that the French were quite ignorant of their existence, and Massena, marching in confidence upon the Portuguese capital, was amazed and chagrined on finding before him this formidable barrier.

It was strongly defended, and all his efforts to take it proved in vain. He then tried to reduce the British by famine, but in this he was equally baffled, food being poured into Lisbon from the sea. He tried by a feigned retreat to draw the British from their works, but this stratagem failed of effect, and for four months more the armies remained inactive. At length the exhaustion of the country of provisions made necessary a real retreat of the French, and Massena withdrew across the Spanish frontier, halting near Salamanca. Of the proud force with which Napoleon proposed to "drive the British leopards into the sea," more than half had vanished in this luckless campaign.

Wellington in Spain

But though the French army had withdrawn from Portugal, the frontier fortresses were still in French hands, and of these Almeida, near the borders, was the first to be attacked by Wellington's forces. Massena advanced with 50,000 men to its relief, and the two armies met at Fuentes-de-Onoro, May 4, 1811. The French made attacks on the 5th and 6th, but were each time repulsed, and on the 7th Massena retreated, sending orders to the governor of Almeida to destroy the fortifications and leave the place.

Another battle was fought in front of Badajoz of the most sanguinary character, the total loss of the two armies being 15,000 killed and wounded. For a time the British seemed threatened with inevitable defeat, but the fortune of the day was turned into victory by a desperate charge. Subsequently Ciudad Rodrigo was attacked, and was carried by storm, in January, 1812. Wellington then returned to Badajoz, which was also taken by storm, after a desperate combat in which the victors lost 5,000 men, a number exceeding that of the whole French garrison.

Madrid Occupied

These continued successes of the British were seriously out of consonance with the usual exploits of Napoleon's armies. He was furious with his marshals, blaming them severely, and might have taken their place in the struggle with Wellington but that his fatal march to Russia was about to begin. Badajoz taken, Wellington advanced into Spain, and on July 21st encountered the French army under Marmont before the famous old town of Salamanca. The battle, one of the most stubbornly contested in which Wellington had yet been engaged, ended in the repulse of the French, and on August 12th the British army marched into Madrid, the capital of Spain, from which King Joseph Bonaparte had just made his second flight.

Wellington's next effort was a siege of the strong fortress of Burgos. This proved the one failure in his military career, he being obliged to raise the siege after several weeks of effort. In the following year he was strongly reinforced, and with an army numbering nearly 200,000 men he marched on the retreating enemy, meeting them at Vittoria, near the boundary of France and Spain, on June 21, 1813. The French were for the first time in this war in a minority. They were also heavily encumbered with baggage, the spoils of their occupation of Spain. The battle ended in a complete victory for Wellington, who captured 157 cannon and a vast quantity of plunder, including the spoils of Madrid and of the palace of the kings of Spain. The specie, of which a large sum was taken, quickly disappeared among the troops, and failed to reach the treasure chests of the army.

The French were now everywhere on the retreat. Soult, after a vigorous effort to drive the British from the passes of the Pyrenees, withdrew, and Wellington and his army at length stood on the soil of France. A victory over Soult at Nivelle, and a series of successes in the following spring, ended the long Peninsular War, the abdication of Napoleon closing the long and terrible drama of battle. In the whole six years of struggle Wellington had not once been defeated on the battlefield.

His military career had not yet ended. His great day of glory was still to come, that in which he was to meet Napoleon himself on the field of Waterloo and, for the first time in the history of the great Corsican, drive back the latter's army in utter rout.

A year or more had passed since the events just narrated. In June, 1815, Wellington found himself at the head of an army some 100,000 strong, encamped around Brussels, the capital of Belgium. It was a mingled group of British, Dutch, Belgian, Hanoverian, German and other troops, hastily got together, and many of them not safely to be depended upon. Of the British, numbers had never been under fire. Marshal Blucher, with an equal force of Prussian troops, was near at hand; the two forces prepared to meet the rapidly advancing Napoleon.

There followed a defeat of Blucher at Ligny, and an attack on Wellington at Quatre Bras. On the evening of the 17th the army, retreating from Quatre Bras, encamped on the historic field of Waterloo in a drenching rain, that turned the roads into streams, the fields into swamps. All night long the rain came down, the soldiers enduring the flood with what patience they could. In the morning it ceased, fires were kindled and active preparations began for the terrible struggle at hand.

Here ran a shallow valley, bounded by two ridges, the northern of which was occupied by the British, while Napoleon posted his army on its arrival along the southern ridge. On the slope before the British center was the white-walled farm house of La Haye Sainte, and in front of the right wing the chateau of Hougoumont, with its various stout stone buildings. Both of these were occupied by men of Wellington's army, and became leading points in the struggle of the day. It was nine o'clock in the morning before the vanguard of the French army made its appearance on the crest of the southern ridge. By half-past ten 61,000 soldiers—infantry, cavalry and artillery—lay encamped in full sight. About half-past eleven came the first attack of that remarkable day, during which the French waged an aggressive battle, and the British stood on the defensive.

This first attack was directed against Hougoumont, around which there was a desperate contest. At this point the affray went on, in successive waves of attack and repulse, all day long; yet still the British held the buildings, and all the fierce valor of the French failed to gain them a foothold within.

About two o'clock came a second attack, preceded by a frightful cannonade upon the British left and center. Four massive columns, led by Ney, poured steadily forward straight for the ridge, sweeping upon and around the farmstead of La Haye Sainte, but met at every point by the sabres and bayonets of the British lines. Nearly 24,000 men took part in this great movement, the struggle lasting more than an hour before the French staggered back in repulse. Then from the French lines came a stupendous cavalry charge, the massive columns composed of no less than forty squadrons of cuirassiers and dragoons, filling almost all the space between Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte as they poured like a torrent upon the British lines. Torn by artillery, rent by musketry; checked, reformed; charging again, and again driven back; they expended their strength and their lives on the infantry squares that held their ground with the grimmest obstinacy. Once more, now strengthened by the cavalry of the Imperial Guard, they came on to carnage and death, shattering themselves against those unyielding squares, and in the end repulsed with frightful loss.

The day was now well advanced, it being half-past four in the afternoon; the British had been fearfully shaken by the furious efforts of the French; when, emerging from the woods at St. Lambert, appeared the head of a column of fresh troops. Who were they? Blucher's Prussians, or Grouchy's pursuing French? On the answer to this question depended the issue of that terrible day. The question was soon decided; they were the Prussians; no sign appeared of the French; the hearts of the British beat high with hope and those of the French sank low in despair, for these fresh troops could not fail to decide the fate of that mighty field of battle. Soon the final struggle came. Napoleon, driven to desperation, launched his grand reserve corps, the far-famed Imperial Guard, upon his enemies. On they come, with Ney at their head; on them poured a terrible torrent of flame; from a distance the front ranks appeared stationary, but only because they met a death-line as they came, and fell in bleeding rows. Then on them, in a wild charge, rushed the British Foot Guards, took them in flank, and soon all was over. "The Guard dies, but never surrenders," said their commander. Die they did, few of them surviving to take part in that mad flight which swept Napoleon from the field and closed the fatal day of Waterloo. England had won the great victory, now century-old, and Wellington from that day of triumph took rank with the greatest of British heroes.