The Battle of Waterloo – The battle that ended the Napoleonic Empire
Napoleon is one of the greatest generals in history. However, he lost the famous Battle of Waterloo in 1815, and was later exiled.
Sunday, June 18, 1815, near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, a fierce battle took place between the army of the legendary Napoleon and the coalition of Britain and powerful allies such as Russia, Austria, Prussia, Sweden, Netherlands, Spain…
Return of the King
The Battle of Waterloo – Return of the Napoleon
By 1807, he was in control of an empire that stretched from the Elbe in the north, down Italy in the south, and from the Pyrenees (the natural border between France and Spain) in the west to the coast. Dalmatia (in present-day Croatia) in the east.
The decision to invade Russia in 1812 was a fatal mistake of this emperor. During that conquest expedition, Napoleon’s army was defeated by the legendary general Mikhail Kutuzov. After that, this army was completely defeated by allied forces in 1814, Napoleon was exiled to the island of Elba in the Mediterranean.
In early 1815, Napoleon fled to establish a new regime. Thanks to his prestige, the emperor of France quickly gathered forces. Even some of the people sent to arrest him turned to “clients”. They chanted “Long live the Emperor” and returned with him to Paris, causing the official emperor, Luis XVI, to flee.
Despite his defeat and exile, Napoleon’s prestige remained high. As the Allies gathered on the French frontiers, he organized new forces into Belgium. He intended to defeat the armies of the British, Prussian, Dutch, Hannover, Nassau, and Brunswick alliance one by one before they could launch a coordinated attack.
On June 16, 1815, he defeated the Prussians under the command of Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher in Ligny, Belgium. More than 30,000 troops pursued the remnants of the Prussians. This was Napoleon’s final military victory.
The Battle of Waterloo
On June 18, 1815, Napoleon led 72,000 men against the Duke of Wellington’s army of 68,000 men, which was stationed in a strong position near the village of Waterloo – about 20 km from the Belgian capital.
In a fatal mistake, Napoleon delayed until noon to order the attack to wait for the ground to dry. This gave Blucher’s army time to reach Waterloo, engaging in the late afternoon battle.
After repeated attacks, Napoleon was unable to break through the center of allied forces. Meanwhile, the Prussians were advancing and pressing on the eastern flank of Napoleon’s army.
By late afternoon, the French, under the command of Michel Ney, had captured the ranch in the heart of the Allied force. But Napoleon had to contend with 30,000 Prussians attacking the flanks of his army, so he could not come to support Ney’s attack after 19:00.
At dusk, the two French square formations were gradually pushed back. Although the ranks remained, the cannons and all the rest fell into the hands of the alliance. Around this bodyguard were thousands of French soldiers who fled in chaos.
Allied cavalry pursued the French until 11 p.m., and captured Napoleon’s chariot with diamonds that were later attached to the king’s crown of Prussia. 78 artillery pieces were captured by the coalition, two thousand prisoners were taken alive, including many French generals.
Ney’s notes describe a chaotic, but still courageous, French retreat. According to statistics, the loss of the French army in the Battle of Waterloo was more than 40,000 dead, wounded and missing, and about 9,000 people were captured. Allied troops lost about 17,000 men.
After the defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon returned to Paris and on June 22, 1815, abdicated, giving the throne to his son. After that, he was exiled to Saint Helena, a desolate island in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa, and lived quietly on the island for 6 years.
In May 1821, Napoleon died of a serious illness, at the age of 52. In 1840, his body was brought back to Paris for a funeral and buried under the dome of the Invalides in Paris.
Although in the end Napoleon was completely defeated, no one can deny the genius military talent of the emperor with a height of 1.69 m.