This was the scene after midnight, 19 June 1815: On the battlefield more than 50,000 men and 7,000 horses lay dead and wounded; the wreckage of a once proud French Grande Armee was struggling in abject disorder to the Belgian frontier pursued by murderous Prussian dragoons; caked in dust and sweat, the Duke of Wellington began writing the dispatch that would send his country into mourning and jubilation; and Napoleon Bonaparte, exhausted and stunned at the scale of his defeat, rode through the darkness towards Paris, abdication and the end of his Empire. In the hours, days, weeks and months that followed, news of the battle would begin to shape the consciousness of an age; the battlegrounds would be looted and cleared, its dead buried or burned, its ground and ruins overrun by voyeuristic tourists; the victorious British and Prussian armies would invade France and occupy Paris. And as his enemies within and without France closed in, Napoleon saw no avenue ahead but surrender, exile and captivity. In this dramatic and ground-breaking account of the aftermath of the battle of Waterloo, Paul O'Keeffe employs a multiplicity of contemporary sources and viewpoints to create a reading experience that brings into focus as never before the sights, sounds and smells of the battlefield, of conquest and defeat, of celebration and riot.
This book begins where many accounts of Waterloo end, on the evening of 18 June 1815. One of the most famous battles in British history may have been over, but the following weeks were full of drama. Meticulously researched, the book brings home the horrors of the battlefield where 200,000 men with 60,000 horses fought all day over an area of barely five square miles. There was pillaging by the local peasantry, but also the permitted pulling of teeth to be sent to England to be set in dentures. There was a war still to be won. Napoleon did not surrender, but returned to Paris, pursued by the victorious British and Prussian armies, hell-bent on plunder. He then fled to the coast, hoping to sail to the USA, but the British had other plans for him. O’Keefe has done a magnificent job tying up loose ends and telling a story that needed to be told.
'I was gripped by the wealth of detail and humanity in the book. The author takes the reader on an extraordinary journey from the battlefield with its dreadful harvest of dead and dying, past surgeons working to save innumerable casualties in hellish conditions, alongside couriers galloping across Europe to bring news to expectant capitals waiting to hear of the fate of nations. Stories of plunder, high finance and rumour are skilfully blended with very personal details of exhaustion, pain and loss felt by everyone who survived. This is how the tales of battles should be told, whatever the time, place or outcome.'
- Emily Mayhew, author of Wounded
Publication date: 09/10/2014
Publisher: The Bodley Head Ltd an imprint of Vintage
|Publication date:||9th October 2014|
|Publisher:||The Bodley Head Ltd an imprint of Vintage|
|Genres:||Biography / Autobiography, History,|
Paul O'Keeffe's acclaimed books include biograhies of Wyndham Lewis (Some Sort of Genius, 2000) and Benjamin Robert Haydon (A Genius for Failure, 2009). He lives in Liverpool.More About Paul O'Keeffe