Plains of Waterloo (II), The [Laws J3]
DESCRIPTION: The singer tells of all the places he has fought, ending with his part at Waterloo (from which he is grateful to have emerged alive). He tells of Napoleon's success on the first two days of the battle and of Wellington's victory on the final day
EARLIEST DATE: 1869 (Logan)
KEYWORDS: war Napoleon battle
June 18, 1815 - Battle of Waterloo
FOUND IN: US(MW,Ro) Canada(Mar,Ont)
REFERENCES (6 citations):
Laws J3, "The Plains of Waterloo II"
Dean, pp. 118-119, "The Battle of Waterloo" (1 text)
Hubbard, #154, "The Plains of Waterloo" (1 text, 1 tune)
Mackenzie 73, "The Plains of Waterloo," "Wellington and Waterloo" (2 texts)
Ives-NewBrunswick, pp. 117-119, "The Battle of Waterloo" (1 text, 1 tune)
DT 547, PLNWLOO3
ST LJ03 (Full)
O. J. Abbott, "The Plains of Waterloo" (on Abbott1)
Amos Jollimore, "The Plains of Waterloo" (on MRHCreighton)
cf. "The Plains of Waterloo (V)" (subject, plot)
NOTES: The notes in Laws regarding this piece are somewhat confusing. He quotes Mackenzie to the effect that this song "is plainly derived" from the much longer, more elaborate broadside piece we've listed as "The Plains of Waterloo (V)."
That the two are on the same theme is undeniable. But Bennett Schwartz, who has examined the matter with care, notes "I do not believe it was Laws's intent to consider these both the same, but rather to consider only the derivative as traditional. I think an argument can be made that J3 is not a derivative of this broadside at all."
There are three other broadsides in Bodleian Library site Ballads Catalogue that describe the battle and go under the name "Plains of Waterloo." I do not believe they are the source of J3 either. Specifically,
"The Plains of Waterloo" beginning "The ancient sons of glory were all great men they say" (shelfmarks Harding B15(239b), Harding B 28(76), Harding B 11(3017), Harding B11(3018), Harding B 11(3019))
"The Plains of Waterloo" beginning "Assist me you muses while I relate a story" ( Harding B25(1501)[a hard-to-read copy])
"The Plains of Waterloo" beginning "On the Eighteenth Day of June, my boys, Napoleon did advance" (shelfmarks Firth c.14(7), Firth b.25(507), Firth c.14(28), Harding B11(91), Harding B 25(1503), Harding B 11(3020), Harding B 15(239a)) [Roud #5824]
Mackenzie's opening stanza for this song is presumably characteristic:
Come all you brisk and lively lads, come listen unto me,
While I relate how I have fought through the wars of Germany.
I have fought through Spain, through Portugal, through France and Flanders too;
But it's little I thought I'd be reserved for the plains of Waterloo. - BS, RBW
Although the "Battle of Waterloo" took place on June 18, 1815, it was actually the culmination of a several-day campaign. Napoleon, who had just returned from Elba, knew that all Europe would soon turn against him. His only hope was to defeat his enemies piecemeal -- starting with the Anglo-Dutch army of Wellington (the hero of the Peninsular campaign) and the Prussian army of Blucher.
Even though Napoleon started levying troops immediately, Wellington and Blucher together outnumbered the forces at his command by better than three to two. He had to separate them. He undertook this by dividing his army into two wings, the left under Ney and the right under Grouchy. (This was probably Napoleon's worst mistake of the campaign. He left his three of his best Marshals -- Soult, Suchet, and Davout -- in minor roles, while making the uninspired Ney and the inexperienced Grouchy his field commanders).
Napoleon struck first on June 16. Ordering Ney to attack Wellington's rearguard at Quatre Bras, Napoleon took Grouchy's reinforced right and attacked Blucher at Ligny. Ney's attack accomplished little, but Grouchy beat Blucher handily at Ligny.
Napoleon had apparently achieved his objective; Blucher was forced to retreat -- which took him away from Wellington. Napoleon therefore swung the larger part of his army back to deal with the British.
Unfortunately for the French, Blucher didn't retreat far. Even worse, Grouchy didn't follow him closely. Ney's errors topped things off. Given field command by Napoleon at Waterloo (June 18), Ney was unable to dislodge Wellington before Blucher returned to the battlefield. Since Grouchy did *not* show up, Blucher and Wellington swept Ney from the field, ending Napoleon's dreams forever. - RBW
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