Whither Sixth Corps?
This is more or less an addendum to my last post about new interpretations of history and concerns one of the issues about Waterloo that long has puzzled me. Just after noon on that June day, Napoleon detached Count Lobau’s Sixth Corps and two light cavalry division, 10,000 men representing his operational reserve (the Guard being the last resort reserve) and sent them off to face an as yet inchoate threat from the Prussian. As a result, Lobau’s column spent four hours marking time while two major French attacks (First Corps’ and the Cavalry’s) foundered against Wellington’s line. Had Lobau participated in either attack, Napoleon might well have won the battle before the Prussians could even reach the field. This lesson is repeated in every wargame on Waterloo, of which I have played most, and is a “mistake” rarely duplicated by a competent French player. How could so skilled a general as Napoleon make such a mistake? The simple answer of course, is that he didn’t It turns out, as detailed in Peter Hofschroer’s excellent German Victory, that Blücher and half the Prussian Fourth Corps, 15,000 men, were sitting just east of the battlefield by mid-morning, before the first shots had been fired. Wellington knew it, and Napoleon had more than a suspicion they were there. Had he not detached Lobau, Blücher would have pitched in to the open flank of the first French attack — he only waited until late afternoon because Lobau was where he was. Look for more details on this point in my article on the battle coming up in S&T 293, which seems a long way off but will be here before you know it.
The editor of Strategy & Tactics magazine, the Strategy & Tactics Press book line, and the primary developer for the folio and mini game lines for Decision Games. Author of dozens of articles and the first book in the S&T Press line, The Quest for Annihilation, he has also designed more than 30 wargames, focused on the tactical and grand tactical levels. He served six years as an Army officer in armor and mechanized infantry units.