Waterloo 1815- A Brief Introduction
The Battle of Waterloo is one of the greatest in history.
Napoleon and Wellington, two of the finest military leaders of all time, faced each other. For nine hours 2oo,ooo men fought one of the most intense and bitter battles the world has seen.
In 1815 Napoleon, former Emperor of France, escaped from exile on Elba and marched to Paris, reclaiming the throne and rebuilding his army. When an alliance of all the major European nations threatened to overwhelm him, he decided to strike first.
Napoleon invaded Belgium and defeated the Prussians at Ligny on 16 June. The Prussians withdrew but did not flee towards Germany, as Napoleon assumed, but regrouped and advanced.
Knowing the Prussians were marching to join him, The Duke of Wellington manoeuvred his army to a previously scouted strategic position ready for battle.
Rain the night before delayed Napoleon’s attack until late morning of 18 June 1815. By sunset the world had changed. 54,000 men lay dead, dying or injured and Napoleon was vanquished.
It had been a close-run thing. In the afternoon the British were crumbling under French fire. They had lost the important stronghold of the farm at La Haye Sainte, but, after fierce fighting, held on to Hougoumont Farm.
The battle was in the balance until, late in the afternoon, the Prussians arrived on the French flank and decisively swung it in the Allies favour.
Waterloo brought to an end nearly a quarter of a century of conflict and ushered in one hundred years of relative peace in Europe.