NAPOLEON’S WATERLOO – Military Miniatures
February 1, 2013
One of my Academy “lads” favored me with four photos of his erstwhile hobby displayed in his newly purchased display case military miniatures depicting Napoleon’s Waterloo. Tim Utter, admission counselor at Concordia University, was an Academy student during the years I was an Academy instructor during the early and mid-sixties. Tim is a member of the Academy class that inaugurated The Fred and Ruth Bartling Scholarship two years ago. He is a respected friend and a knowlegeable lay historian. We have been sharing dialog regarding the miliary miniatures illustrating Napoleon’s Waterloo debacle. We share verbatim that dialog.
(Tim) Fred, Happy New Year:
Back in 1965, I started a strange hobby: painting military miniatures. The hobby ended about 1980, but in recent years I bought a display case. Thought you might appreciate the attached pictures . . . 1,100 figures in all, illustrating scenes from the Battle of Waterloo. Best wishes to you and Ruth. 1/18/2013
(Fred) What a wonderful and serendipitous surprise. Recently at lunch with one of your classmates I was given Victor Hugo’s Les Miserabiles. A huge volume of some 1200 pages. I read a few sections daily. Marvelous writing with an interesting plot for a history buff. Just completed a few evenings ago Book First WATERLOO, pages 265-312. – a careful description of the battle. Your visual depiction helps my understanding. Now I can visualize what a “square” meant and implied. Your display of the building gave insight what was involved. I suspect you may have been aware or even read Hugo’s account of the battle. Your hobby is not strange at all but most meaningful. Do you plan to take this up again as a hobby – nice way to go as you approach retirement? I ran into Hugo in Vietnam as he is enshrined as an important spiritual teacher (French Indochina connection no doubt). I have a blog on the Cao Dai and saw a painting (picture) of Hugo at their temple entrance. (See blog on this site: Bahai and Cao Dai Religious Sects: Syncretistic Monotheism, 11 /4//2012) 1-18-201
(Tim) Yes, “squares” were formed to repel cavalry attacks. That is why cavalry attacks at an enemy’s wings, then sent in mass infantry columns to break the center – which he did at Waterloo. It was the same strategy used by Lee at Gettysburg, implemented as Pickett’s charge. And,like Lee, Napoleon had tried to soften up the enemy with a huge artillery barrage. However, at Waterloo, Wellington’s Anglo-Allied Army had laid down on the reverse slopes of the small hills, waiting for the artillery barrage to end and awaiting the infantry column in turn. Ultimately, Marshal Blucher’s timely arrival with his Prussian Army that rolled up Napoleon’s right flank completed the victory.
Wellington and Blucher met at the small village appropriately named “LaBelle Alliance.” While the battle was actually fought at Mont St. Jean. Wellington chose to name the battle after his headquarters at Waterloo – much more anglo-sounding. By the way . . when Churchill died, he made arrangements that his political rival, Charles DeGaulle, would be forced to come by train to Waterloo Station, rather than the more convenient Victoria Station. (1-28-2013)
(Fred) Very interesting and informative. Ruth agrees this would be interesting for a blog on The Bartling Scholarship. I would need your permission. And if so would you send me again the pictures of your Military Miniatures displayed in your new cabinet? Cordially – Fred Regarding my great-great grandfather Wilhelm Koehler – “was a sixteen year old volunteer in the infantry (Blucher’s Prussian Army) against Napoleon at Waterloo . . . experienced a shot (wounded as well) through his jacket and spent the entire evening on three dead French soldiers.” (1-29-2013)
(Tim) You certainly have my permission . . . a privilege. Wow! Such detailed information about Wilhelm Koehler! If he was killed (Fred notes – not “killed” but wounded) as part of the Prussian advancement thru the village of Plancenoit (i.e. Napoleon’s right wing), you might appreciate this . . . http://walkingwaterloo.blogspot.com/2009/04/plancenoit.html (1-31-2013)
(Fred) additional information regarding Koehler found in Genealogical Data and Historical References I prepared for my maternal lineage: “Wilhelm Koehler b .3/11/ 1797 – d. 3/23/1875. Hanover – chief forester of Eilenreid near the Hanover ‘Pferderturm’ (Horsetower). Koehler volunteered at age 16 for the rifleman’s corps of Kielmannegg and fought near Waterloo against Napoleon’s forces. In 1863 he was awarded the royal Guelphen Badge.” In another source a grandson observed: ” At sixteen he participated in the battle of Waterloo as a volunteer from Bremen; he was wounded and slept the whole night on top of three Frenchmen who were dead — he said”. I have a small photo from my mother’s photo album of Wilhelm in uniform with his wife. Both in later life, perhaps close to the year 1863 when Wilhelm received his honorary badge. (1-30-2013)
What a distinct pleasure to share dialogue with my former student and subsequently as friend over many years. Meaningful friendship and respectful dialog adds special meaning and purpose to life.