Hougoumont or Anatomy of Researching a Scene

I’m starting in on a new book, the second in my Three Soldiers Trilogy. The last book ended at Waterloo and this one begins there, in the battle itself.

The battle of Waterloo really had three parts: the fighting on the ridge; the fighting at La Haye Sainte, and the fighting at Hougoumont. La Haye Sainte and Hougoumont were farms positioned at strategic places.

So my first decision was what part of the battle to use.

Some limits were imposed by just where in the battle my hero’s regiment would be, but I solved that problem. I first selected La Haye Sainte and read up on that part of the battle. The problem was, La Haye Sainte fell to the French right at the end of the battle and that didn’t work for me, so I started reading about Hougoumont.

I found some very interesting sites about Hougoumont.
Project Hougoumont, which aims to restore the site
A very detailed model of Hougoumont
Summary of the whole battle
Detailed timeline of the defense of Hougoumont, including how Victor Hugo got it wrong in Les Miserables.

Still not enough….
I started pining to watch Waterloo, the epic 2 hour movie starring Rod Steiger and Christopher Plummer. I had a VCR copy but no working VCR. So I ordered the DVD.
I discovered another DVD about Waterloo, a documentary I’d seen on the History Channel. I ordered that, too (only to discover that I’d ordered it before…)

Then I hit on the idea to look on YouTube (Note to Everybody: you can find anything on YouTube). Sure enough they had clips of the movie Waterloo, enough to fill me with the sounds and sites of the battle.

I also ordered a book on Hougoumont. Hougoumont: The Key to Victory at Waterloo by Julian Paget and Derek Saunders (I always order some reference book when I start a new book)

I also poured through some of my relevant reference books on my bookshelves and braved falling over the clutter to get to them. Because they are shelved two (or three) deep, this was much like an archeological dig.

After all that I finally was able to write the opening scene of Chapter One.

Book One of my Three Soldiers Trilogy is scheduled for release in 2010, so who knows when this Book Two will come. Chances are I’ll be blogging about researching this book again!

How do you go about researching a scene or a topic? Have you found any other helpful things on YouTube?



Visit Diane’s website for a sneak peek of her eShort Story, The Unlacing of Miss Leigh, and her novella, Justine and the Noble Viscount, in THE DIAMONDS OF WELBOURNE MANOR. Diane’s contest is still on, too!

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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