Friday, 6 September 2013

Frischermont


Not much is known about the hamlet of Fichermont at the time of Waterloo which was on the far left of Wellington’s position, but during the morning of the 18th June it was defended by the 2nd Dutch division commanded by Prince Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar before his pickets were forced to abandon the hamlet by a French patrol at about 10.30am.
The old name of the chateau is Frischermont, but nowadays the name of Fichermont is used although there are several other versions can be found.

The first time the chateau has been mentioned in history was back in the year 1250. In that year Léon, seigneur in Brussels, approved of the donation of 1.75 hectares of land, at Fichermont, to the Abbaye of Aywiers.
At the end of the 17th century Antonie Xavier, maitre de camp and brigadier of the cavalry in Spanish service had the title of Seigneur of Fichermont. After his death at the battle of Seneffe in 1674, the territory of Lasne was established as a barony.
His descendants sold the chateau on 21st January 1805, with four hectares as garden to a Brussel lawyer called Jean Charles de Hardy de Beaulieu.
The chateau as it stood in 1815 probably dated from 1550 and its remains probably still existed in the early 12th century.
The chateau was made up by a series of buildings, comprising of the chateau and a farm, formed in 1815 in a rectangular shape of about 80 x 50 meters around a large cobblestone courtyard. It consisted of two wings with some annexes.
In its southwest corner was a huge barn with a high vaulted gate opened in a wall which connected the barn to the house. The front of this part was flanked by a large square tower, which had no windows, only loopholes. Each side of the tower was in turn crowed by a very small tower. This tower was situated in the northeast corner of the complex.
The tower and the adjoining buildings dominated the track which led in a steep slope towards la Marache. The chateau and the barn were on the north-west and south-west side of the courtyard. On the north side the complex was bordered by a garden and a park. High trees surrounded the whole complex which formed a small triangular wood but today the chateau is in ruins.
By midday of the 18th June, Prussian officers had been watching the French through their telescopes for several hours. Major. von Falkenhausen, leading a patrol of Prussian Uhlans, went as far as the main Brussels road south of La Belle Alliance, behind Napoleon's entire army. Farther north, General von Valentini, Bulow's chief of staff, together with few adjutants, entered Fichermont and encountered a farmer, who was seized, set on an artillery horse, and made to accompany the Prussians to the edge of the wood. As they made their way the ripening grain in the fields was taller than a man, and a few British deserters could be glimpsed walking back from the field of battle. Valentini pushed on beyond it (Fichermont wood), dismounted and studied the horizon with telescope. Here and there he spotted a few French sentries, but none of them thought to look to the right, in his direction.
The first Prussian corps to arrive was Bülow's IV Corps. His objective was Plancenoit, which the Prussians intended to use as a springboard into the rear of the French positions. Blücher intended to secure his right upon Frichermont using the Bois de Paris road. Blücher and Wellington had been exchanging communications since 10am and had agreed to this advance on Frichermont if Wellington's centre was under attack. French cavalry patrols were attacked and dispersed. Bulow then sent 2 battalions to link up with Wellington and protect his exposed flank. The Fusiliers of the18th and Fusiliers of the 3rd Silesian Landwehr marched toward Frichermont, Smohain and Papelotte. The Prussian infantry met the Nassauers and opened fire. The Nassauers replied and the musketry continued for 10 minutes before both sides realized their mistake.
General Bülow noted that the way to Plancenoit lay open and that the time was 16:30pm. Bulow writes: "It was half past four in the afternoon, when the head of our column advanced out of the Frichermont wood. The 15th Brigade under Gen. von Losthin deployed quickly into battalion columns, throwing out skirmishers. The brigade's artillery, along with the Reserve Artillery (of Bulow's Corps), followed up rapidly, seeking to gain the gentle ridge." Hiller's 16th Brigade moved out to the left. Prussian cannonballs began falling not far from Napoleon, some hit La Belle Alliance filled with wounded French soldiers. Napoleon turned his telescope in the direction the shots came from. Also about this time, the famous French cavalry attack was in full flow, charges by Domont's and Subervie's lancers and chasseurs slowed down the Prussian advance. One of the lancer regiment was led by Col. Surd who previous day after the combat at Gennappe had one arm amputated but insisted on maintaining command of his unit.
The cavalry charges were followed by a skirmish battle between the French and Prussian infantry. General Mouton's VI Army Corps was outnumbered by the Prussians and to prevent outflanking his right wing Mouton began retreating.
The French infantry tried to halt the Prussians with a very strong skirmish line but one of the Prussian battalions moved up and deployed, continually trying to force their way forward. Bulow writes: "The enemy disputed every foot of ground, but not with any great determination. Six battalions of the 16th Brigade now came up to assault Plancenoit. They formed three attack columns next to each other, with 2 battalions of the 14th Brigade following up in support. Just as this brigade formed up behind the 16th, the 13th Brigade under Gen. von Hake arrived and moved up behind the 15th."
The 15th Brigade IV Corps was sent to link up with the Nassauers of Wellington's left flank in the Frichermont-La Haie area with the brigade's horse artillery battery and additional brigade artillery deployed to its left in support. Napoleon sent Lobau's corps to intercept the rest of Bülow's IV Corps proceeding to Plancenoit. The 15th Brigade threw Lobau's troops out of Frichermont with a determined bayonet charge, then proceeded up the Frichermont heights, battering French Chasseurs with 12-pounder artillery fire, and pushed on to Plancenoit. This sent Lobau's corps into retreat to the Plancenoit area, and in effect drove Lobau past the rear of the Armee Du Nord's right flank and directly threatened its only line of retreat. Hiller's 16th Brigade also pushed forward with six battalions against Plancenoit. Napoleon had dispatched all eight battalions of the Young Guard to reinforce Lobau, who was now seriously pressed. (See The Battlefield Plancenoit)

 
Hamlet of Frischermont