Napoleon's letter to Grouchy, morning of 17 June 1815

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Proceed to Gembloux with the cavalry corps of General Pajol, the light cavalry of the 4th Corps, the cavalry corps of General Exelmans, the division of General Teste, of which you will take particular care, it being detached from its own corps, and the 3d and 4th corps of infantry.

You will explore in the directions of Namur and of Maastricht and you will pursue the enemy. Explore his march, and instruct me respecting his manoeuvres, so that I may be able to penetrate what he is intending to do.

I am carrying my headquarters to Quatre Bras, where the English still were this morning. Our communication will then be direct by the paved road of Namur. If the enemy has evacuated Namur, write to the general commanding the second military division at Charlemont to cause Namur to be occupied by some battalions of the national guard and some batteries which he will organise at Charlemont. He will give the command to a brigadier-general.

It is important to penetrate what the enemy is intending to do; whether they are separating themselves from the English or whether they are intending still to unite, to cover Brussels or[2] Liege, in trying the fate of another battle. In all cases, keep constantly your two corps of infantry united in a league of ground, and occupy every evening a good military position, having several avenues of retreat. Post intermediate detachments of cavalry, so as to communicate with headquarters.

Dictated by the Emperor, in the absence of the major-general, to the Grand-marshal Bertrand.[3] Ligny, 17 June, 1815

  1. Breton, pp. 47, 48. Breton supposed it to be the IV Prussian Corps (Bülow's) but it was the III Corps (Thielmann's).
  2. "The original is 'et', but this is plainly an error, very possibly caused by the fact that the letter was dictated" (Ropes).
  3. "There are other readings varying in unimportant points from the above" (Ropes).