John Hussey’s two volumes are on the the Waterloo campaign as a whole, with this one stopping two days before with the twin battles of Ligne and Quarte Bras. It goes after everything, starting with peace process of 1814.

He doesn’t go into a lot of detail there, but does go into the problems of the Congress of Vienna, and points up that Napoleon was watching the emerging factionalism with interest. From there, we get a recounting of the flight from Elba, and then the allied planning at stopping Napoleon.

And that planning takes up the bulk of the book. The general allied plan was to line four large armies up on the German border, and advance into France in something of a repeat of the 1814 campaign. The northernmost armies, British and Prussian (plus a number of minor German contingents which caused a new round of wrangling) were ready first, while Austrian and Russian armies assembled and made their way towards the border.

Napoleon needs to smash each of these armies, at least enough to put the fear of a large French victory into the allies and cause the internal tensions to tear them apart. However, the immediate reaction to his reappearance was to unite once again, putting a strain on his ability to militarily prepare in a hurry. Wellington ends up as the leader on the spot for the allies, and apparently is entranced enough by the allied planning for an offensive to not consider just how offensively-minded Napoleon really is.

Therefore both allied armies on the spot only have the loosest idea of how to handle a French offensive, even as Wellington and Blücher contemplate their coming offensive moves. This helps lead to confusion and a slow reaction on 15 and 16 June from both allied armies.

In fact, breakdowns of communication are the running theme of the last part of the book, as Napoleon tries for a dramatic victory to eliminate the Prussian army as threat, while Ney is involved in an ever-escalating battle against the British. There is a lot of study of dispatch times, and the likely interval for them to get to destinations, which does a lot to show just how fragmented views of these two battles were.

I think on occasion Hussey isn’t quite up to juggling all the balls involved here, but its a really big ask, as there is a lot that he is endeavoring to handle, and in general he does it very well, despite me getting lost on occasion. This is a very good study overall, with a lot of awareness and reference to previous serious histories and the controversies they’ve engendered. Even more than these important elements, the study of the preparations on both sides leading up to the campaign are very important, if you want to read up on more than just a period of three days in June (Ligny/Quarte Bras to Waterloo) at all, get these books.