The Field of Waterloo by the London Reading Book

1851

Waterloo is a considerable village of Belgium, containing about 1600 inhabitants; and the Field of Waterloo, so celebrated as the scene of the battle between two of the greatest generals who ever lived, is about two miles from it. It was very far from a strong position to be chosen for this purpose, but, no doubt, was the best the country afforded. A gently rising ground, not steep enough in any part to prevent a rush of infantry at double-quick time, except in the dell on the left of the road, near the farm of La Haye Sainte; and along the crest of the hill a scrubby hedge and low bank fencing a narrow country road. This was all, except La Haye Sainte and Hougoumont. This chateau, or country-seat, one of those continental residences which unite in them something of the nature of a castle and a farm-house, was the residence of a Belgic gentleman. It stands on a little eminence near the main road leading from Brussels to Nivelles. The buildings consisted of an old tower and a chapel, and a number of offices, partly surrounded by a farm-yard. The garden was enclosed by a high and strong wall; round the garden was a wood or orchard, which was enclosed by a thick hedge, concealing the wall. The position of the place was deemed so important by the Duke of Wellington, that he took possession of the Château of Goumont, as it was called, on the 17th of June, and the troops were soon busily preparing for the approaching contest, by perforating the walls, making loop-holes for the fire of the musketry, and erecting scaffolding for the purpose of firing from the top.

The importance of this place was also so well appreciated by Bonaparte, that the battle of the 18th began by his attacking Hougoumont. This name, which was bestowed upon it by the mistake of our great commander, has quite superseded the real one of Château Goumont. The ruins are among the most interesting of all the points connected with this memorable place, for the struggle there was perhaps the fiercest. The battered walls, the dismantled and fire-stained chapel, which remained standing through all the attack, still may be seen among the wreck of its once beautiful garden; while huge blackened beams, which have fallen upon the crumbling heaps of stone and plaster, are lying in all directions.

On the field of battle are two interesting monuments: one, to the memory of the Hon. Sir Alexander Gordon, brother to the Earl of Aberdeen, who there terminated a short but glorious career, at the age of twenty-nine, and "fell in the blaze of his fame;" the other, to some brave officers of the German Legion, who likewise died under circumstances of peculiar distinction. There is also, on an enormous mound, a colossal lion of bronze, erected by the Belgians to the honour of the Prince of Orange, who was wounded at, or near, to the spot.

Against the walls of the church of the village of Waterloo are many beautiful marble tablets, with the most affecting inscriptions, records of men of various countries, who expired on that solemn and memorable occasion in supporting a common cause. Many of these brave men were buried in a cemetery at a short distance from the village.

Field of Waterloo.