Satisfied by the artillery preparation, and the unaccountably feeble Prussian response, the Emperor ordered the resumption of the advance. Two massed infantry columns immediately marched to the assault, while to the south the Swiss also formed column and advanced towards the woods. With drums beating the infantry let out a mighty cheer: "Vive L'Empereur!".
|Napoleon: Right lads, now go in there and sweep away that Prussian rubbish!|
|Blucher: Here zey come boys! Ve vill haf zem for breakfast, lunch and dinner!|
while Ney led the 45th against the Prussians regulars lining the heights.
|Ney: Forward the 45th!|
|Cambronne: Courage, mes enfants. La victoire est à nous!|
Meanwhile, the 3rd Swiss advanced almost unnoticed towards against the southern flank of the Prussian line.
Decimated by the relentless pounding of the French guns, the Prussian 21st fell back in confusion, leaving the gunners either side of them unsupported. Seeing his chance, Quiestil led a sudden charge which overran one of the Prussian batteries.
|The 13th demonstrate the art of "Assault and Battery".|
|Blucher: Ooops, zat vasn't supposed to happen. Gneisenau, send in ze Guards!|
|Ney: It's nothing lads, barely a scratch. Charge, Goddammit!|
The Emperor watched intently. Everything seemed to be going more or less according to plan.
|Napoleon: You'll see Marbot, it'll be 1806 all over again!|
|Soult: Splendid work, men! Shame about poor old Ney though, eh? Ahem.|
Only the Silesian regulars continued to hold the first line, but were now faced by the French Imperial Guard. A desultory volley failed to stop them and the Silesians braced for impact.
|Cambronne: er.....I think it's this way, Chasseurs!|
On the right the Prussian 1st Foot Guards were barely able to fire a few shots before the Bavarians were on top of them. Despite losing the first round of the melee, however, the guardsmen held their ground.
Sensing that the climax of the battle had arrived, the Prussian Garde du Corps now charged the 13th Légère, who failed in their attempt to form square. Amazingly, however, the 13th not only survived the impact but won the first round of the melee, forcing the Prussian horsemen back in disorder. Quiestil couldn't believe his luck.
|Quiestil: Er....we'll just pretend that didn't happen, shall we?|
|Murat: I've received terrible news from Naples and must return immediately!|
But it was all to no avail. Although he was able to rally his Landwehr, Blucher watched helplessly as the Prussian Foot Guards were finally driven back in disorder by the Bavarians. The 10th Silesians, after a desperate hand-to-hand struggle with the Chasseurs, broke and ran.
|Blucher: I hate to say zis, Gneisenau, but we're going to have to run for it!|
And so the battle ended. As his army streamed away from the battlefield, Blucher could at least take comfort from the fact that the French were too disorganised to mount a pursuit.
|Blucher: I am 72 and a proud soldier. We'll beat them yet, Gneisenau!|
|Napoleon: The only ones who were any good were the Bavarians!|
JC accepted his defeat with gallantry and grace. It could and indeed should have been otherwise but for those accursed Bavarians and his atrocious luck with the dice.
My sincere thanks to Don, Ian, Steve, Roy, John, Chuck, Nigel, Tony H, Tony F, Rob, Richard and Tom, without whom I could never have got this far, and to all those whose kind words and encouragement kept me going.