Napoleon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821)
“Give me night or give me Blücher”
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. Prayer during Battle of Waterloo at about 5.45 om on 18 June.
The Battle of Waterloo is one of the three most famous battles together with the Battle of Nieuwpoort (1600) and the Battle of Stalingrad (1943). The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday, 18 June 1815, near Waterloo, which is now part of Belgium, but was then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. The allied victory over Napoleon Bonaparte brought an end to French domination of large parts of Europe and began a period of peace on the continent that lasted for nearly half a century. His defeat ended his rule of Emperor of the French, marking his end of his Hundred Days return from exile.
In 1814, twenty five years of war finally came to an end with the surrender of the Emperor Napoleon and his banishment to the Mediterranean island of Elba. The European powers began the task of restoring their continent to normality and peace.
On 1st March 1815 Napoleon escaped from Elba and landed in France. Nineteen days later he was in Paris and resumed his title as Emperor. His army rallied to him. The soldiers who had been captured during the years of fighting had been released enabling Napoleon to reform his Grande Armée.
The European allies reassembled their armies and prepared to resume the war to overthrow the Emperor yet again.
The Waterloo battlefield was very small in area even for the standards of those days.
Napoleon had approximately 74,000 troops and 256 guns.
Wellington had about 68,000 men and 156 guns. In time Blücher and the Prussians would arrive on the field with three corps, being some 70.000 men.
Allied order of battle:
The Duke of Wellington
Prince Willem of Orange
Lieutenant General Sir William Hill
Lieutenant General Prince Frederich, Duke of Brunswick
Quartermaster General: Major General Sir George Murray
Adjutant General: Major General Sir Edward Barne
The historian Andrew Roberts notes that “It is a curious fact about the Battle of Waterloo that no one is absolutely certain when it actually began”. Wellington recorded in his dispatches that at “about ten o’clock [Napoleon] commenced a furious attack upon our post at Hougoumont”. Other sources state that the attack began around 11:30.
The battle on the 18th of June 1815, short and brief:
General Cambronne is reputed to have answered a call to surrender with the words “The Guard dies but does not surrender”. Historian Peter Hofschröer has written that Wellington and Blücher met at Genappe around 22:00, signifying the end of the battle. Other sources have recorded that the meeting took place around 21:00 near Napoleon’s former headquarters at La Belle Alliance.
French casualties in the Battle of Waterloo were 25,000 men killed and wounded and 9,000 captured, while the allies lost about 23,000.
The Battle of Waterloo is famous for a number of reason. It is of historical importance because it definitively ended the series of wars that had convulsed Europe, and involved many other regions of the world, since the French Revolution of the early 1790s. It also ended the political and military career of Napoleon Bonaparte, imperian monarchist and one of the greatest commanders and statesmen in history. Finally, it ushered in almost half a century of international peace in Europe.
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