The Battle Of Waterloo And The Final Defeat Of Napoleon Bonaparte

An artist's representation of the Battle of Waterloo, 1815

A Brief Overview Of The Battle Of Waterloo

The Battle of Waterloo took place on the Sunday of June 18th, 1815 around Waterloo in the modern day Belgium which was a constituent of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. The French army under the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte lost to the two armies of the Seventh Coalition which was under the command of Duke of Wellington, and the Prussian Army which was led by Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher who was also the Prince of Wahlstatt.

Historical Background Of The Battle Of Waterloo

In March 1815, Napoleon's return to power prompted the formation of the Seventh Coalition of nations which was made up of the British army which included the Belgian, German, and Dutch troops led by Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington and the Prussian army led by Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher. The Coalition began to assemble the armies in preparation for a battle against Napoleon. Wellington's army together with the Prussian army was harbored near the border of France in the northeastern region. Following the coalition of the two armies, Napoleon decided to invade Blücher's and Wellington's armies hoping to destroy them before they could join forces and invade France together with the other Seventh Coalition members. During the Battle of Ligny, Napoleon managed to attack the Prussian's while concurrently ambushing Wellington and his army during the Quatre Bras battle. In spite of Wellington's perseverance at the Battle of Quatre Bras, the Prussian's defeat prompted him to retreat from Waterloo. Following the results of the two battles, Napoleon dispatched a third of his army to chase after the Prussian army which had previously withdrawn alongside Wellington and his troops. The result of Napoleon's pursuit led to the concurrent and separate Battle of Wavre with the Prussians.

Immediately Wellington realized that the Prussian army had the military capacity to support him, he positioned the Mont-Saint-Jean escarpment battle that took place opposite Brussels road. Wellington endured continuous attacks from Napoleon's army all through the afternoon but got help from the Prussians who were arrived in succession. Upon desperation, Napoleon sent out his last army in the evening as an attempt for one last attack. The Prussians broke through the right flanking the French while Wellington's army consisting of Anglo-allies counter-attacked in the center overpowering Napoleon's army. Napoleon Bonaparte's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo marked the end of his rule as the Emperor of France. Four days after the Battle of Waterloo Napoleon abdicated the throne on July 7th, as the coalition troops infiltrated to France.

The French Army at the Battle of Waterloo

The French army under the leadership of Napoleon was known as Armée du Nord. Napoleon's army had about 69,000 soldiers 48,000 of whom were infantry, 14,000 of whom were cavalry and 7,000 men who consisted of the artillery with 250 guns. The French army mainly consisted of veterans who had a substantial amount of experience and unquestionable devotion to him. Initially, Napoleon had used recruitment when forming the French army, however, as the army began to grow the French soldiers were assigned to military fractions as they showed up for duties. In the end, many posts were commanded by officers whom the soldiers were not familiar with and did not trust. A crucial weakness of the French army is that some officers were inexperienced in teamwork and operating as a consolidated force, therefore, hindering support for the other factions. Another weakness in the French army was that they involuntarily marched through rain and mud that consisted of dust from black coal to get to Waterloo after which they had to deal with the rain and mud since they slept in the open. Despite having insufficient food supply, the French troops were vehemently loyal to Napoleon their Emperor.

The Coalition Army

The Battle of Waterloo was fought by three armies which included; a multinational army under the command of Wellington, the Prussian army under Blücher's command against the French. Wellington's army comprised of 67,000 soldiers 50,000 of whom were infantry, 11,000 of whom were cavalry, and 6,000 of them were artillery who had 150 guns. 25,000 of the soldiers were from Britain, 17,000 were Belgian and Dutch troops, 6,000 were from the Germanic Legion, 11,000 were from Hanover, 3,000 were from Nassau and 6,000 were from Brunswick. Many of the soldiers from the coalition armies did not have sufficient experience. Wellington's army lacked heavy cavalry which gave Napoleon's army an upper hand since they had heavy cavalry. The Prussian army was not properly established since it was in the process of reorganization. In 1815 the former Legions, Reserve regiments, and Freikorps were in the course of being absorbed into the army alongside most Landwehr militia. The Landwehr were not adequately trained or equipped when they went to Belgium. The Prussian cavalry and artillery were sufficiently equipped since they were also reorganizing and therefore did not perform to their optimum best during the battle.

Despite these shortcomings, the Prussian army had exemplary leadership in its organization since the officers attended four schools that were solely established for the purpose of training. In spite of the Prussian troops retreating after the Battle of Ligny they instantly reorganized, realigned, and intervened in the Battle of Waterloo within 48 hours.

The Battle Field

The Waterloo was an unyielding position that compromised of a lengthy ridge that stretched perpendicularly and was bisected by the main road and lay east-west to Brussels. Ohain road, a deep concaved lane stretched across the crest of the ridge. A humongous elm tree which stood near the crossroads at the Brussels road served as Wellington's command post for a significant portion of the day. Wellington positioned his infantry perpendicular to the rear side of the crest of the ridge that followed Ohain road. On the other hand, the French army formed on the gradient of another ridge to the south of Wellington was positioned such that Napoleon could not see his positions. Due to this reason, Napoleon formation of his troops was symmetrically about the Brussels road.

The Historical Significance Of The Waterloo Battle

The Waterloo battle was a historic event in more than one way. The Battle of Waterloo was a turning point that brought about relative peace, technological progress, and material prosperity. Without a doubt, the battle concluded the series of wars that had previously tormented Europe alongside other regions of the world caused by the French Revolution. One of the significant aftermaths of the war was the imperial and war mongering career of Napoleon Bonaparte who is perceived to be a great statesman and commander in history came to an end together with the First French Empire.

Parts of the area where the battle took place have changed in appearance as tourism began soon after the war ended. In 1820, William I the King of Netherlands ordered a monument to be constructed. A giant mound known as the Lion's Hillock was built by use of 300,000 cubic meters of terrene retrieved from the ridge.


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