Reminiscences of Captain Gronow

Author: R. H. Gronow

The Last Charge at Waterloo

It was about five o’clock on that memorable day, that we suddenly received orders to retire behind an elevation in our rear. The enemy’s artillery had come up en masse within a hundred yards of us. By the time they began to discharge their guns, however, we were lying down behind the rising ground, and protected by the ridge before referred to. The enemy’s cavalry was in the rear of their artillery, in order to be ready to protect it if attacked; but no attempt was made on our part to do so. After they had pounded away at us for about half an hour, they deployed, and up came the whole mass of the Imperial infantry of the Guard, led on by the Emperor in person. We had now before us probably about 20,000 of the best soldiers in France, the heroes of many memorable victories; we saw the bearskin caps rising higher and higher as they ascended the ridge of ground which separated us, and advanced nearer and nearer to our lines. It was at this moment the Duke of Wellington gave his famous order for our bayonet charge, as he rode along the line: these are the precise words he made use of - "Guards, get up and charge!" We were instantly on our legs, and after so many hours of inaction and irritation at maintaining a purely defensive attitude - all the time suffering the loss of comrades and friends - the spirit which animated officers and men may easily be imagined. after firing a volley as soon as the enemy were within shot, we rushed on with fixed bayonets, and that hearty hurrah peculiar to British soldiers.

It appeared that our men, deliberately and with calculation, singled out their victims; for as they came upon the Imperial Guard our line broke, and the fighting became irregular. The impetuosity of our men seemed almost to paralyze their enemies: I witnessed several of the Imperial Guard who were run through the body apparently without any resistance on their parts. I observed a big Welshman of the name of Hughes, who was six feet seven inches in height, run through with his bayonet, and knock down with the butt end of his firelock, I should think a dozen at least of his opponents. This terrible contest did not last more than ten minutes, for the Imperial Guard was soon in full retreat, leaving all their guns and many prisoners in our hands. The famous General Cambronne was taken prisoner fighting hand to hand with the gallant Sir Colin Halkett, who was shortly after shot through the cheeks by a grape-shot. Cambronne’s supposed answer of "La Garde ne se rend pas" was an invention of after-times, and he himself always denied having used such an expression.


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Chicago: R. H. Gronow, "The Last Charge at Waterloo," Reminiscences of Captain Gronow, ed. F. N. Maude and trans. Oliver Elton in Reminiscences of Captain Gronow (New York: Norroena Society, 1857), Original Sources, accessed August 10, 2022,

MLA: Gronow, R. H. "The Last Charge at Waterloo." Reminiscences of Captain Gronow, edited by F. N. Maude, and translated by Oliver Elton, in Reminiscences of Captain Gronow, New York, Norroena Society, 1857, Original Sources. 10 Aug. 2022.

Harvard: Gronow, RH, 'The Last Charge at Waterloo' in Reminiscences of Captain Gronow, ed. and trans. . cited in 1857, Reminiscences of Captain Gronow, Norroena Society, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 10 August 2022, from