1815-2015 - Battle of Waterloo - La Grande Armée - Michel Ney

During the Waterloo Campaign three big armies participated.

Battle of Waterloo - Source picture: Wikipedia

1/ the French: Army of the North led by Napoleon Bonaparte

against Two 'Seventh Coalition armies':

2/ An Anglo-allied army commanded by the Duke of Wellington;
3/ the Prussian army led by Prince Blücher.

Unlike the armies of the Ancien Régime and other monarchies,
La Grande Armée and the Army of the North were based on
proven ability rather than on social class or wealth.

Napoleon wanted that in his army, every soldier, no matter how
humble of birth, could rise rapidly to the highest levels of
command, much as he had done.

One of the Marshals of his Army was Michel Ney.

Michel Ney - Source picture: Wikipedia

Michel Ney was born on January 10th. 1769 in Sarrelouis,
a town near the French-German border.
His parents were Pierre Ney and Margarethe Grewellinger.

Ney grew up bilingual, he spoke French and German. He was
educated at the Collège des Augustins and he became a
Notary in Sarrelouis.

A Life as civil servant did not suit Ney and he enrolled in the
Colonel-General Hussar Regiment in 1787. Ney rapidly rose
through the non-commissioned ranks.

Ney was in action during inter alia the Battle of Neerwinden
and many others. In 1794 he became wounded at the
Siege of Mainz.

Michel Ney - Source picture: Wikipedia


In 1796 Ney was promoted to général de brigade, he commanded
the cavalry on the German fronts.

From September 1802 Ney commanded French troops in
Switzerland and performed diplomatic duties.

On August 5th. 1802 he married Aglaé Louise. They would have
4 sons.

On May 19th. 1804 Ney received his Marshal's baton, the symbol
of his new status as Marshal of the Empire.

Ney was praised for his conduct at Elchingen. On June 6th. 1808,
Ney was created Duke of Elchingen.

In 1810 Ney joined Marshal Masséna in the invasion of Portugal.

During the 1812 invasion of Russia, Ney was given command of
the III Corps of La Grande Armée. He was wounded in the neck
but he recovered enough to fight. His nickname became:
The Last Frenchman on Russian Soil' or the 'Bravest of the Brave'

On March 25th. 1813 Ney was given the title
Prince de la Moskowa.

Michel Ney - Source picture: Wikipedia

When King Louis XVIII sat back on the throne, Ney, who had
pressured Napoleon to accept his first abdication and exile, was
promoted. He became a peer.

Despite Ney's promise to the King he joined Napoleon at Auxerre
on March 18th. 1815.

On June 15th. 1815, Napoleon appointed Ney commander of the left
wing of the Army of the North. On June 16th. 1815 Napoleon's forces
split up into two wings to fight two separate battles simultaneously.

Ney attacked Wellington at Quatre Bras, while Napoleon attacked
Blücher's Prussians at Ligny.

At Waterloo Ney commanded again the left wing of the army.
Around 3:30 p.m., Ney ordered a mass cavalry-charge against the
Anglo-Allied line. Ney's cavalry overran the enemy cannons but
they couldn't break the square formations of the Anglo-Allied Army.

Some historians said that Ney's decision led to Napoleon's defeat
at Waterloo.

When Napoleon was defeated, dethroned and exiled for the second
time in the summer of 1815, Ney was arrested. This took place on
August 3rd. 1815.

On December 6th. 1815 he was condemned and executed by
firing squad in Paris near the Luxembourg Garden on
December 7th. 1815.

If I would walk now near the Luxembourg Garden, I'll certainly 
think about Marshal Ney. 

Ney refused to wear a blindfold and he was allowed the right to
give the order to fire. His last words would be:

"Soldiers, when I give the command to fire, fire straight at my heart.
Wait for the order. It will be my last to you. I protest against my 
condemnation. I have fought a hundred battles for France and not
one against her .... Soldiers, Fire!"