‘Napoleon has humbugged me, by God; he has gained twenty-four hours’ march on me’. With these words, uttered in an anteroom at a ball famously hosted by the Duchess of Richmond three days before Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington, commanding an allied army composed of Dutch, Belgian, German, and British troops ordered his force to concentrate at a small strategic crossroads south of Brussels, called Quatre Bras.
Napoleon had, indeed, fooled Wellington. Over the days preceding, Wellington had received conflicting intelligence about French intentions. Napoleon was attempting to convince his enemy that he would attack through the town of Mons, and then outflank Wellington’s position on the right and cut off the British line of retreat to the channel ports of Antwerp and Ostend. This was Wellington’s greatest fear, but he also offered him an opportunity to act as the principal instrument of Napoleon’s demise.
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