August 8 1815: Waterloo as a Ball


 On August 8 1815, Duke of Wellington writes to John Croker, who is proposing to write a history of the Battle of Waterloo. Wellington tries to dissuade him by arguing that it is not possible.

My Dear Sir,  I have received your letter of the 2nd, regarding the battle of Waterloo. The object which you propose to yourself is very difficult of attainment, and, if really attained, is not a little invidious. The history of a battle is not unlike the history of a ball. Some individuals may recollect all the little events of which the great result is the battle won or lost; but no individual can recollect the order in which, or the exact moment at which, they occurred, which makes all the difference as to their value or importance.

Then the faults or the misbehavior of some gave occasion for the distinction of others, and perhaps were the cause of material losses; and you cannot write a true history of a battle without including the faults and misbehavior of part at least of those engaged.

Believe me that every man you see in a military uniform is not a hero; and that, although in the account given of a general action, such as that of Waterloo, many instances of individual heroism must be passed over unrelated, it is better for the general interests to leave those parts of the story untold, than to tell the whole truth.

If, however, you should still think it right to turn your attention to this subject, I am most ready to give you every assistance and information in my power.

‘Believe me, &c. ‘, Esq.’ ‘Wellington.

The photos above and those on  @1815now twitter account are by Olivier Papegnies.

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