Originally posted on Adventures In Historyland.
The day dawned fresh and cool after the rain which had stopped some time after first light, only fitful showers reimagined and passed across the sky as a farewell gesture from the storm. The sultry heat of the past three days had broken and clouds were still thick in the sky. Slats of sunlight shone down on the scene below.
In the daylight the battlefield unfolded itself to the eye. On either side of the main Brussels Chaussée were wide expanses of open fields bordered by ditches and hedges, the crops were ready to harvest and stood as tall as a man. To the east was the Bois de Paris, and to the north, hidden by Mont St Jean ridge, was the Bois de Soignes. The ridge rose distinctively but undramatically up from a valley formed by the rival height of Trimontiau, where advance elements of the French army had spent the night.
Regiments were coming awake and going through their practised routines as if nothing of moment was about to occur. Breakfast was put on the boil, equipment checked and cleaned, picquet’s posted, foragers sent out, drums and bugle calls sounding for the morning parade, parade state given and recorded, and half rations of alcohol were administered. Meanwhile the senior officers waited for orders. Though the procedure was slightly different in each army, military life has a pattern that most soldiers recognise.
Many had awoken with premonitions of death, wills were hurriedly written after stand too. Soon slips of paper were being passed around. They all said similar things, give this to my loved ones if I don’t make it, and I’ll do the same for you. In the ranks of the British contingent everything was…