SEVENTH COALITION :
* United Kingdom
COMMANDERS AND LEADERS
NAPOLEON BONAPARTE DUKE OF WELLINGTON GEBHARD LEBERECHT VON BLüCHER
* 50,700 infantry * 14,390 cavalry * 8,050 artillery and engineers * 252 guns
TOTAL: 118,000 Anglo-allies: 68,000
* United Kingdom: 25,000 British and 6,000 King's German Legion * Netherlands: 17,000 * Hanover: 11,000 * Brunswick: 6,000 * Nassau: 3,000 * 156 guns
CASUALTIES AND LOSSES
* 24,000 to 26,000 killed, wounded including 6,000 to 7,000 captured
* 15,000 missing
TOTAL: 24,000 Anglo-allies: 17,000
* 3,500 killed * 10,200 wounded * 3,300 missing
* 1,200 killed * 4,400 wounded * 1,400 missing
Location within modern-day Belgium, then a part of the
United Kingdom of the Netherlands
* v * t * e
* Rocheserviere * La Suffel * Reduction of the French fortresses
The BATTLE OF WATERLOO was fought on Sunday, 18 June 1815, near
Waterloo in present-day
Upon Napoleon's return to power in March 1815, many states that had
opposed him formed the Seventh Coalition, and began to mobilize
armies. Wellington and Blücher's armies were cantoned close to the
north-eastern border of France.
Upon learning that the Prussian army was able to support him,
Wellington decided to offer battle on the Mont-Saint-Jean escarpment ,
Waterloo was the decisive engagement of the
The battlefield is located in the municipalities of Braine-l\'Alleud
Lasne , about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) south of
* 1 Prelude * 2 Armies * 3 Battlefield
* 4 Battle
* 4.1 Preparation
* 4.3 The
Grand Battery starts its bombardment
* 5 Aftermath
* 6 Analysis
* 6.1 Historical importance * 6.2 Views on the reasons for Napoleon\'s defeat
* 7 Battlefield today * 8 Coin controversy * 9 See also * 10 Notes * 11 References * 12 Further reading * 13 External links
On 13 March 1815, six days before
An additional consideration for
Wellington's initial dispositions were intended to counter the threat
Only very late on the night of 15 June was Wellington certain that
Ney's orders were to secure the crossroads of Quatre Bras, so that he
could later swing east and reinforce
Meanwhile on 16 June,
Crucially, the Prussians did not retreat to the east, along their own lines of communication. Instead, they, too, fell back northwards—parallel to Wellington's line of march, still within supporting distance and in communication with him throughout. The Prussians rallied on Bülow\'s IV Corps, which had not been engaged at Ligny and was in a strong position south of Wavre .
With the Prussian retreat from Ligny, Wellington's position at Quatre Bras was untenable. The next day he withdrew northwards, to a defensive position he had reconnoitred the previous year—the low ridge of Mont-Saint-Jean, south of the village of Waterloo and the Sonian Forest .
Napoleon, with the reserves, made a late start on 17 June and joined Ney at Quatre Bras at 13:00 to attack Wellington's army but found the position empty. The French pursued Wellington's retreating army to Waterloo; however, due to bad weather, mud and the head start that Napoleon's tardy advance had allowed Wellington, apart from a cavalry action at Genappe , there was no substantial engagement.
Before leaving Ligny,
As the 17th of June drew to a close, Wellington's army had arrived at its position at Waterloo, with the main body of Napoleon's army following. Blücher's army was gathering in and around Wavre, around 8 miles (13 km) to the east of the city. Early on the morning of the 18th, Wellington received an assurance from Blücher that the Prussian army would support him. He decided to hold his ground and give battle.
Main article: Order of Battle of the
Three armies were involved in the battle: Napoleon's Armée du Nord, a multinational army under Wellington, and a Prussian army under Blücher. Left, Marshal Michel Ney , who exercised tactical control of the greater part of the French forces for most of the battle. Right William, Prince of Orange , commander of the Anglo-allied I Corps .
The French army of around 69,000 consisted of 48,000 infantry, 14,000
cavalry, and 7,000 artillery with 250 guns.
However as the army took shape, French officers were allocated to units as they presented themselves for duty, so that many units were commanded by officers the soldiers didn't know, and often didn't trust. Crucially, some of these officers had little experience in working together as a unified force, so that support for other units was often not given.
The French army was forced to march through rain and black coal-dust mud to reach Waterloo, and then to contend with mud and rain as it slept in the open. Little food was available for the soldiers, but nevertheless the veteran French soldiers were fiercely loyal to Napoleon.
Wellington later said that he had "an infamous army, very weak and
ill-equipped, and a very inexperienced Staff". His troops consisted
of 67,000 men: 50,000 infantry, 11,000 cavalry, and 6,000 artillery
with 150 guns. Of these, 25,000 were British, with another 6,000 from
the King\'s German Legion (KGL). All of the
Many of the troops in the Coalition armies were inexperienced. The Dutch army had been re-established in 1815, following the earlier defeat of Napoleon. With the exception of the British and some from Hanover and Brunswick who had fought with the British army in Spain, many of the professional soldiers in the Coalition armies had spent some of their time in the French army or in armies allied to the Napoleonic regime. The historian Barbero states that in this heterogeneous army the difference between British and foreign troops did not prove significant under fire.
Wellington was also acutely short of heavy cavalry, having only seven British and three Dutch regiments. The Duke of York imposed many of his staff officers on Wellington, including his second-in-command the Earl of Uxbridge . Uxbridge commanded the cavalry and had carte blanche from Wellington to commit these forces at his discretion. Wellington stationed a further 17,000 troops at Halle , 8 miles (13 km) away to the west. They were not recalled to participate in the battle but were to serve as a fallback position should the battle be lost. They were mostly composed of Dutch troops under Prince of Orange\'s younger brother Prince Frederick of the Netherlands . They were placed as a guard against any possible wide flanking movement by the French forces, and also to act as a rearguard if Wellington was forced to retreat towards Antwerp and the coast.
The Prussian army was in the throes of reorganisation. In 1815, the former Reserve regiments, Legions, and Freikorps volunteer formations from the wars of 1813–1814 were in the process of being absorbed into the line, along with many Landwehr (militia) regiments. The Landwehr were mostly untrained and unequipped when they arrived in Belgium. The Prussian cavalry were in a similar state. Its artillery was also reorganising and did not give its best performance – guns and equipment continued to arrive during and after the battle.
Offsetting these handicaps, the Prussian Army had excellent and professional leadership in its General Staff organisation. These officers came from four schools developed for this purpose and thus worked to a common standard of training. This system was in marked contrast to the conflicting, vague orders issued by the French army. This staff system ensured that before Ligny, three-quarters of the Prussian army concentrated for battle with 24 hours notice.
After Ligny, the Prussian army, although defeated, was able to realign its supply train, reorganise itself, and intervene decisively on the Waterloo battlefield within 48 hours. Two and a half Prussian army corps, or 48,000 men, were engaged at Waterloo; two brigades under Bülow, commander of IV Corps, attacked Lobau at 16:30, while Zieten\'s I Corps and parts of Pirch I\'s II Corps engaged at about 18:00.
The Waterloo position was a strong one. It consisted of a long ridge
running east-west, perpendicular to, and bisected by, the main road to
Brussels. Along the crest of the ridge ran the Ohain road, a deep
sunken lane . Near the crossroads with the
Using the reverse slope , as he had many times previously, Wellington
concealed his strength from the French, with the exception of his
skirmishers and artillery. The length of front of the battlefield was
also relatively short at 2.5 miles (4.0 km). This allowed Wellington
to draw up his forces in depth, which he did in the centre and on the
right, all the way towards the village of Braine-l\'Alleud , in the
expectation that the Prussians would reinforce his left during the
day. An 1816 map showing the local geography, with Waterloo
defending the approach to
In front of the ridge, there were three positions that could be fortified. On the extreme right were the château, garden, and orchard of Hougoumont . This was a large and well-built country house, initially hidden in trees. The house faced north along a sunken, covered lane (usually described by the British as "the hollow-way") along which it could be supplied. On the extreme left was the hamlet of Papelotte .
Both Hougoumont and Papelotte were fortified and garrisoned, and thus anchored Wellington's flanks securely. Papelotte also commanded the road to Wavre that the Prussians would use to send reinforcements to Wellington's position. On the western side of the main road, and in front of the rest of Wellington's line, was the farmhouse and orchard of La Haye Sainte , which was garrisoned with 400 light infantry of the King\'s German Legion . On the opposite side of the road was a disused sand quarry, where the 95th Rifles were posted as sharpshooters.
Wellington's forces positioning presented a formidable challenge to any attacking force. Any attempt to turn Wellington's right would entail taking the entrenched Hougoumont position. Any attack on his right centre would mean the attackers would have to march between enfilading fire from Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte. On the left, any attack would also be enfiladed by fire from La Haye Sainte and its adjoining sandpit, and any attempt at turning the left flank would entail fighting through the lanes and hedgerows surrounding Papelotte and the other garrisoned buildings on that flank, and some very wet ground in the Smohain defile .
The French army formed on the slopes of another ridge to the south.
In the right rear of the French position was the substantial village
Plancenoit , and at the extreme right, the Bois de Paris wood.
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher
Wellington rose at around 02:00 or 03:00 on 18 June, and wrote letters until dawn. He had earlier written to Blücher confirming that he would give battle at Mont-Saint-Jean if Blücher could provide him with at least one corps; otherwise he would retreat towards Brussels. At a late-night council, Blücher's chief of staff, August Neidhardt von Gneisenau , had been distrustful of Wellington's strategy, but Blücher persuaded him that they should march to join Wellington's army. In the morning Wellington duly received a reply from Blücher, promising to support him with three corps.
From 06:00 Wellington was in the field supervising the deployment of
his forces. At Wavre, the Prussian IV Corps under Bülow was
designated to lead the march to Waterloo as it was in the best shape,
not having been involved in the
Battle of Ligny
Napoleon's seemingly dismissive remark may have been strategic, given his maxim "in war, morale is everything". He had acted similarly in the past, and on the morning of the battle of Waterloo may have been responding to the pessimism and objections of his chief of staff and senior generals.
Later on, being told by his brother, Jerome , of some gossip
overheard by a waiter between British officers at lunch at the 'King
of Spain' inn in
Genappe that the Prussians were to march over from
The historian Andrew Roberts notes that "It is a curious fact about
Battle of Waterloo
The initial attack by Bauduin's brigade emptied the wood and park,
but was driven back by heavy British artillery fire, and cost Bauduin
his life. As the British guns were distracted by a duel with French
artillery, a second attack by Soye's brigade and what had been
Bauduin's succeeded in reaching the north gate of the house.
Sous-Lieutenant Legros, a French officer, broke the gate open with an
axe, and some French troops managed to enter the courtyard. The
Fighting continued around
Hougoumont all afternoon. Its surroundings
were heavily invested by French light infantry, and coordinated
attacks were made against the troops behind Hougoumont. Wellington's
army defended the house and the hollow way running north from it. In
I had occupied that post with a detachment from General Byng's brigade of Guards, which was in position in its rear; and it was some time under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel MacDonald, and afterwards of Colonel Home; and I am happy to add that it was maintained, throughout the day, with the utmost gallantry by these brave troops, notwithstanding the repeated efforts of large bodies of the enemy to obtain possession of it. — Wellington.
When I reached Lloyd's abandoned guns, I stood near them for about a minute to contemplate the scene: it was grand beyond description. Hougoumont and its wood sent up a broad flame through the dark masses of smoke that overhung the field; beneath this cloud the French were indistinctly visible. Here a waving mass of long red feathers could be seen; there, gleams as from a sheet of steel showed that the cuirassiers were moving; 400 cannon were belching forth fire and death on every side; the roaring and shouting were indistinguishably commixed—together they gave me an idea of a labouring volcano. Bodies of infantry and cavalry were pouring down on us, and it was time to leave contemplation, so I moved towards our columns, which were standing up in square. — Major Macready, Light Division, 30th British Regiment, Halkett's brigade.
The fighting at
Hougoumont has often been characterised as a
diversionary attack to draw in Wellington's reserves which escalated
into an all-day battle and drew in French reserves instead. In fact
there is a good case to believe that both
THE GRAND BATTERY STARTS ITS BOMBARDMENT
Map of the battle. Napoleon's units are in blue, Wellington's in red, Blücher's in grey.
The 80 guns of Napoleon's grande batterie drew up in the centre. These opened fire at 11:50, according to Lord Hill (commander of the Anglo-allied II Corps), while other sources put the time between noon and 13:30. The grande batterie was too far back to aim accurately, and the only other troops they could see were skirmishers of the regiments of Kempt and Pack, and Perponcher\'s 2nd Dutch division (the others were employing Wellington's characteristic "reverse slope defence "). Nevertheless, the bombardment caused a large number of casualties. Though some projectiles buried themselves in the soft soil, most found their marks on the reverse slope of the ridge. The bombardment forced the cavalry of the Union Brigade (in third line) to move to its left, as did the Scots Greys, to reduce their casualty rate.
NAPOLEON SPOTS PRUSSIANS
At about 13:00,
FIRST FRENCH INFANTRY ATTACK
A little after 13:00, I Corps' attack began in large columns . Bernard Cornwell writes " suggests an elongated formation with its narrow end aimed like a spear at the enemy line, while in truth it was much more like a brick advancing sideways and d'Erlon's assault was made up of four such bricks, each one a division of French infantry". Each division, with one exception, was drawn up in huge masses, consisting of the eight or nine battalions of which they were formed, deployed, and placed in a column one behind the other, with only five paces interval between the battalions.
The one exception was the 1st Division (Commanded by Quiot , the leader of the 1st Brigade). Its two brigades were formed in a similar manner, but side by side instead of behind one another. This was done because, being on the left of the four divisions, it was ordered to send one (Quiot's brigade) against the south and west of La Haye Sainte, while the other (Bourgeois\' ) was to attack the eastern side of the same post.
The divisions were to advance in echelon from the left at a distance of 400 paces apart — the 2nd Division (Donzelot\'s ) on the right of Bourgeois' brigade, the 3rd Division (Marcognet\'s ) next, and the 4th Division (Durutte\'s ) on the right.They were led by Ney to the assault, each column having a front of about a hundred and sixty to two hundred files .
The leftmost division, advanced on La Haye Sainte. The farmhouse was
defended by the King\'s German Legion . While one French battalion
engaged the defenders from the front, the following battalions fanned
out to either side and, with the support of several squadrons of
cuirassiers , succeeded in isolating the farmhouse. The King's German
Legion resolutely defended the farmhouse. Each time the French tried
to scale the walls the outnumbered Germans somehow held them off. The
Prince of Orange saw that
La Haye Sainte had been cut off and tried to
reinforce it by sending forward the Hanoverian Lüneberg Battalion in
At about 13:30, d'Erlon started to advance his three other divisions, some 14,000 men over a front of about 1,000 metres (1,100 yards), against Wellington's left wing. At the point they aimed for they faced 6,000 men: the first line consisted of the Dutch 1st "Brigade van Bylandt " of the 2nd Dutch division, flanked by the British brigades of Kempt and Pack on either side. The second line consisted of British and Hanoverian troops under Sir Thomas Picton , who were lying down in dead ground behind the ridge. All had suffered badly at Quatre Bras. In addition, the Bijlandt brigade had been ordered to deploy its skirmishers in the hollow road and on the forward slope. The rest of the brigade was lying down just behind the road.
At the moment these skirmishers were rejoining their parent
battalions, the brigade was ordered to its feet and started to return
fire. On the left of the brigade, where the 7th Dutch Militia stood, a
"few files were shot down and an opening in the line thus occurred".
The battalion had no reserves and was unable to close the gap.
D'Erlon's troops pushed through this gap in the line and the remaining
battalions in the Bylandt brigade (8th Dutch Militia and Belgian 7th
Line Battalion) were forced to retreat to the square of the 5th Dutch
Militia, which was in reserve between Picton's troops, about 100 paces
to the rear. There they regrouped under the command of Colonel Van
Zuylen van Nijevelt . A moment later the Prince of Orange ordered a
counterattack, which actually occurred around 10 minutes later.
Bylandt was wounded and retired off the field, passing command of the
brigade to Lt. Kol. De Jongh. The
Battle of Waterloo
D'Erlon's men ascended the slope and advanced on the sunken road,
Chemin d'Ohain, that ran from behind
La Haye Sainte and continued
east. It was lined on both sides by thick hedges, with Bylandt\'s
brigade just across the road while the British brigades had been lying
down some 100 yards back from the road, Pack's to Bylandt's left and
Kempt's to Bylandt's right. Kempt's 1,900 men were engaged by
Bourgeois' brigade of 1,900 men of Quiot's division. In the centre,
Donzelot\'s division had pushed back Bylandt's brigade. On the right
of the French advance was Marcognet's division led by Grenier's
brigade consisting of the 45e Régiment de Ligne and followed by the
25e Régiment de Ligne, somewhat less than 2,000 men, and behind them,
Nogue's brigade of the 21e and 45e regiments. Opposing them on the
other side of the road was Pack\'s 9th Brigade consisting of three
Scottish regiments: the
Royal Scots , the 42nd
The French advance drove in the British skirmishers and reached the
sunken road. As they did so, Pack's men stood up, formed into a four
deep line formation for fear of the French cavalry, advanced, and
opened fire. However, a firefight had been anticipated and the French
infantry had accordingly advanced in more linear formation. Now, fully
deployed into line, they returned fire and successfully pressed the
British troops; although the attack faltered at the centre, the line
in front of d'Erlon's right started to crumble. Picton was killed
shortly after ordering the counter-attack and the British and
Hanoverian troops also began to give way under the pressure of
numbers. Pack's regiments, all four ranks deep, advanced to attack
the French in the road but faltered and began to fire on the French
instead of charging. The 42nd
CHARGE OF THE BRITISH HEAVY CAVALRY
Our officers of cavalry have acquired a trick of galloping at
everything. They never consider the situation, never think of
manoeuvring before an enemy, and never keep back or provide a reserve.
— Wellington. Charge of the Scots Greys at Waterloo,
At this crucial juncture, Uxbridge ordered his two brigades of British heavy cavalry—formed unseen behind the ridge—to charge in support of the hard-pressed infantry. The 1st Brigade , known as the Household Brigade, commanded by Major-General Lord Edward Somerset , consisted of guards regiments: the 1st and 2nd Life Guards , the Royal Horse Guards (the Blues), and the 1st (King\'s) Dragoon Guards . The 2nd Brigade , also known as the Union Brigade, commanded by Major-General Sir William Ponsonby , was so called as it consisted of an English, the 1st (The Royals) ; a Scottish, 2nd (\'Scots Greys\') ; and an Irish, 6th (Inniskilling) ; regiment of heavy dragoons. British Household Cavalry charging
More than 20 years of warfare had eroded the numbers of suitable cavalry mounts available on the European continent; this resulted in the British heavy cavalry entering the 1815 campaign with the finest horses of any contemporary cavalry arm. British cavalry troopers also received excellent mounted swordsmanship training. They were, however, inferior to the French in manoeuvring in large formations, cavalier in attitude, and unlike the infantry some units had scant experience of warfare. The Scots Greys, for example, had not been in action since 1795. According to Wellington, though they were superior individual horsemen, they were inflexible and lacked tactical ability. "I considered one squadron a match for two French, I didn't like to see four British opposed to four French: and as the numbers increased and order, of course, became more necessary I was the more unwilling to risk our men without having a superiority in numbers".
The two brigades had a combined field strength of about 2,000 (2,651 official strength); they charged with the 47-year-old Uxbridge leading them and a very inadequate number of squadrons held in reserve. There is evidence that Uxbridge gave an order, the morning of the battle, to all cavalry brigade commanders to commit their commands on their own initiative, as direct orders from himself might not always be forthcoming, and to "support movements to their front". It appears that Uxbridge expected the brigades of Sir John Ormsby Vandeleur , Hussey Vivian and the Dutch cavalry to provide support to the British heavies. Uxbridge later regretted leading the charge in person, saying "I committed a great mistake", when he should have been organising an adequate reserve to move forward in support. Sergeant Ewart of the Scots Greys capturing the eagle of the 45ème Ligne by Richard Ansdell
The Household Brigade crossed the crest of the Allied position and charged downhill. The cuirassiers guarding d'Erlon's left flank were still dispersed, and so were swept over the deeply sunken main road and then routed.
The blows of the sabres on the cuirasses sounded like braziers at work. — Lord Edward Somerset.
Continuing their attack, the squadrons on the left of the Household Brigade then destroyed Aulard's brigade. Despite attempts to recall them, they continued past La Haye Sainte and found themselves at the bottom of the hill on blown horses facing Schmitz's brigade formed in squares .
To their left, the Union Brigade suddenly swept through the infantry lines, giving rise to the legend that some of the 92nd Gordon Highland Regiment clung onto their stirrups and accompanied them into the charge. From the centre leftwards, the Royal Dragoons destroyed Bourgeois' brigade, capturing the eagle of the 105th Ligne. The Inniskillings routed the other brigade of Quoit's division, and the Scots Greys came upon the lead French regiment, 45th Ligne, as it was still reforming after having crossed the sunken road and broken through the hedge row in pursuit of the British infantry. The Greys captured the eagle of the 45th Ligne and overwhelmed Grenier's brigade. These would be the only two French eagles captured by the British during the battle. On Wellington's extreme left, Durutte\'s division had time to form squares and fend off groups of Greys. Private of the Chevau-légers of the line (lancers) who routed the Union Brigade
As with the Household Cavalry, the officers of the Royals and Inniskillings found it very difficult to rein back their troops, who lost all cohesion. Having taken casualties, and still trying to reorder themselves, the Scots Greys and the rest of the Union Brigade found themselves before the main French lines. Their horses were blown, and they were still in disorder without any idea of what their next collective objective was. Some attacked nearby gun batteries of the Grande Battery. Though the Greys had neither the time nor means to disable the cannon or carry them off, they put very many out of action as the gun crews were killed or fled the battlefield. Sergeant Major Dickinson of the Greys stated that his regiment was rallied before going on to attack the French artillery: Hamilton, the regimental commander, rather than holding them back cried out to his men "Charge, charge the guns!".
As Ponsonby tried to rally his men against the French cuirassers, he was attacked by Jaquinot's lancers and captured. A nearby party of Scots Greys saw the capture and attempted to rescue their brigade commander. However, the French lancer who had captured Ponsonby killed him and then used his lance to kill three of the Scots Greys who had attempted the rescue. By the time Ponsonby died, the momentum had entirely returned in favour of the French. Milhaud's and Jaquinot's cavalrymen drove the Union Brigade from the valley. The result was very heavy losses for the British cavalry. A countercharge, by British light dragoons under Major-General Vandeleur and Dutch–Belgian light dragoons and hussars under Major-General Ghigny on the left wing, and Dutch–Belgian carabiniers under Major-General Trip in the centre, repelled the French cavalry.
All figures quoted for the losses of the cavalry brigades as a result
of this charge are estimates, as casualties were only noted down after
the day of the battle and were for the battle as a whole. Some
historians, Barbero for example, believe the official rolls tend to
overestimate the number of cavalrymen present in their squadrons on
the field of battle and that the proportionate losses were, as a
result, considerably higher than the numbers on paper might suggest.
The Union Brigade lost heavily in both officers and men killed
(including its commander, William Ponsonby, and Colonel Hamilton of
the Scots Greys) and wounded. The 2nd Life Guards and the King's
Dragoon Guards of the Household Brigade also lost heavily (with
Colonel Fuller, commander of the King's DG, killed). However, the 1st
Life Guards, on the extreme right of the charge, and the Blues, who
formed a reserve, had kept their cohesion and consequently suffered
significantly fewer casualties. On the rolls the official, or paper
strength, for both Brigades is given as 2,651 while Barbero and others
estimate the actual strength at around 2,000 and the official
recorded losses for the two heavy cavalry brigades during the battle
was 1,205 troopers and 1,303 horses.
Jan Willem Pieneman : The
Battle of Waterloo
Some historians, such as Chandler and Weller, assert that the British heavy cavalry were destroyed as a viable force following their first, epic charge. Barbero states that the Scots Grey were practically wiped out and that the other two regiments of the Union Brigade suffered comparable losses. Other historians, such as Clark-Kennedy and Wood, citing British eyewitness accounts, describe the continuing role of the heavy cavalry after their charge. The heavy brigades, far from being ineffective, continued to provide valuable services. They countercharged French cavalry numerous times (both brigades), halted a combined cavalry and infantry attack (Household Brigade only), were used to bolster the morale of those units in their vicinity at times of crisis, and filled gaps in the Anglo-allied line caused by high casualties in infantry formations (both brigades). This service was rendered at a very high cost, as close combat with French cavalry, carbine fire, infantry musketry and—more deadly than all of these—artillery fire steadily eroded the number of effectives in the two brigades. At 6 o'clock in the afternoon the whole Union Brigade could field only 3 squadrons, though these countercharged French cavalry, losing half their number in the process. At the end of the fighting the two brigades, by this time combined, could muster one squadron.
14,000 French troops of D'Erlon's I Corps had been committed to this
attack. The I Corps had been driven in rout back across the valley
THE FRENCH CAVALRY ATTACK
Marshal Ney leading the French cavalry charge, from Louis Dumoulin\'s Panorama of the Battle of Waterloo
A little before 16:00, Ney noted an apparent exodus from Wellington's
centre. He mistook the movement of casualties to the rear for the
beginnings of a retreat, and sought to exploit it. Following the
defeat of d'Erlon's Corps, Ney had few infantry reserves left, as most
of the infantry had been committed either to the futile Hougoumont
attack or to the defence of the French right. Ney therefore tried to
break Wellington's centre with cavalry alone. Initially Milhaud\'s
reserve cavalry corps of cuirassiers and Lefebvre-Desnoëttes\' light
cavalry division of the Imperial Guard, some 4,800 sabres, were
committed. When these were repulsed, Kellermann\'s heavy cavalry corps
and Guyot\'s heavy cavalry of the Guard were added to the massed
assault, a total of around 9,000 cavalry in 67 squadrons. When
Wellington's infantry responded by forming squares (hollow box-formations four ranks deep). Squares were much smaller than usually depicted in paintings of the battle – a 500-man battalion square would have been no more than 60 feet (18 m) in length on a side. Squares that stood their ground were deadly to cavalry, as cavalry could not engage with soldiers behind a hedge of bayonets, but were themselves vulnerable to fire from the squares. Horses would not charge a square, nor could they be outflanked, but they were vulnerable to artillery or infantry. Wellington ordered his artillery crews to take shelter within the squares as the cavalry approached, and to return to their guns and resume fire as they retreated.
Witnesses in the British infantry recorded as many as 12 assaults, though this probably includes successive waves of the same general attack; the number of general assaults was undoubtedly far fewer. Kellermann, recognising the futility of the attacks, tried to reserve the elite carabinier brigade from joining in, but eventually Ney spotted them and insisted on their involvement.
A British eyewitness of the first French cavalry attack, an officer in the Foot Guards, recorded his impressions very lucidly and somewhat poetically:
About four p.m., the enemy's artillery in front of us ceased firing all of a sudden, and we saw large masses of cavalry advance: not a man present who survived could have forgotten in after life the awful grandeur of that charge. You discovered at a distance what appeared to be an overwhelming, long moving line, which, ever advancing, glittered like a stormy wave of the sea when it catches the sunlight. On they came until they got near enough, whilst the very earth seemed to vibrate beneath the thundering tramp of the mounted host. One might suppose that nothing could have resisted the shock of this terrible moving mass. They were the famous cuirassiers, almost all old soldiers, who had distinguished themselves on most of the battlefields of Europe. In an almost incredibly short period they were within twenty yards of us, shouting "Vive l'Empereur!" The word of command, "Prepare to receive cavalry", had been given, every man in the front ranks knelt, and a wall bristling with steel, held together by steady hands, presented itself to the infuriated cuirassiers. — Captain Rees Howell Gronow, Foot Guards. "The artillery officers had the range so accurately, that every shot and shell fell into the very centre of their masses" (Original inscription and drawing after George Jones ).
In essence this type of massed cavalry attack relied almost entirely on psychological shock for effect. Close artillery support could disrupt infantry squares and allow cavalry to penetrate; at Waterloo, however, co-operation between the French cavalry and artillery was not impressive. The French artillery did not get close enough to the Anglo-allied infantry in sufficient numbers to be decisive. Artillery fire between charges did produce mounting casualties, but most of this fire was at relatively long range and was often indirect, at targets beyond the ridge. If infantry being attacked held firm in their square defensive formations, and were not panicked, cavalry on their own could do very little damage to them. The French cavalry attacks were repeatedly repelled by the steadfast infantry squares, the harrying fire of British artillery as the French cavalry recoiled down the slopes to regroup, and the decisive countercharges of Wellington's light cavalry regiments, the Dutch heavy cavalry brigade, and the remaining effectives of the Household Cavalry. At least one artillery officer disobeyed Wellington's order to seek shelter in the adjacent squares during the charges. Captain Mercer , who commanded \'G\' Troop , Royal Horse Artillery , thought the Brunswick troops on either side of him so shaky that he kept his battery of six nine-pounders in action against the cavalry throughout, to great effect.
I thus allowed them to advance unmolested until the head of the column might have been about fifty or sixty yards from us, and then gave the word, "Fire!" The effect was terrible. Nearly the whole leading rank fell at once; and the round shot, penetrating the column carried confusion throughout its extent ... the discharge of every gun was followed by a fall of men and horses like that of grass before the mower's scythe. — Captain Cavalié Mercer , RHA. A British square puts up dogged resistance against attacking French cavalry.
For reasons that remain unclear, no attempt was made to spike other
allied guns while they were in French possession. In line with
Wellington's orders, gunners were able to return to their pieces and
fire into the French cavalry as they withdrew after each attack. After
numerous costly but fruitless attacks on the Mont-Saint-Jean ridge,
the French cavalry was spent. Their casualties cannot easily be
estimated. Senior French cavalry officers, in particular the generals,
experienced heavy losses. Four divisional commanders were wounded,
nine brigadiers wounded, and one killed – testament to their courage
and their habit of leading from the front. Illustratively, Houssaye
reports that the Grenadiers à Cheval numbered 796 of all ranks on 15
June, but just 462 on 19 June, while the Empress Dragoons lost 416 of
816 over the same period. Overall Guyot's Guard heavy cavalry
division lost 47% of its strength. 2nd Guard
SECOND FRENCH INFANTRY ATTACK
Eventually it became obvious, even to Ney, that cavalry alone were achieving little. Belatedly, he organised a combined-arms attack, using Bachelu's division and Tissot's regiment of Foy's division from Reille's II Corps (about 6,500 infantrymen) plus those French cavalry that remained in a fit state to fight. This assault was directed along much the same route as the previous heavy cavalry attacks (between Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte). It was halted by a charge of the Household Brigade cavalry led by Uxbridge. The British cavalry were unable, however, to break the French infantry, and fell back with losses from musketry fire.
Uxbridge recorded that he tried to lead the Dutch Carabiniers, under Major-General Trip , to renew the attack and that they refused to follow him. Other members of the British cavalry staff also commented on this occurrence. However, there is no support for this incident in Dutch or Belgian sources. Meanwhile, Bachelu's and Tissot's men and their cavalry supports were being hard hit by fire from artillery and from Adam's infantry brigade, and they eventually fell back. Although the French cavalry caused few direct casualties to Wellington's centre, artillery fire onto his infantry squares caused many. Wellington's cavalry, except for Sir John Vandeleur's and Sir Hussey Vivian's brigades on the far left, had all been committed to the fight, and had taken significant losses. The situation appeared so desperate that the Cumberland Hussars, the only Hanoverian cavalry regiment present, fled the field spreading alarm all the way to Brussels. The storming of La Haye Sainte by Knötel
FRENCH CAPTURE OF LA HAYE SAINTE
At approximately the same time as Ney's combined-arms assault on the centre-right of Wellington's line, rallied elements of D'Erlon's I Corps, spearheaded by the 13th Légère, renewed the attack on La Haye Sainte and this time were successful, partly because the King's German Legion's ammunition ran out. However, the Germans had held the centre of the battlefield for almost the entire day, and this had stalled the French advance.
With La Haye Sainte captured, Ney then moved skirmishers and horse artillery up towards Wellington's centre. French artillery began to pulverise the infantry squares at short range with canister . The 30th and 73rd Regiments suffered such heavy losses that they had to combine to form a viable square.
The possession of La Haye Sainte by the French was a very dangerous incident. It uncovered the very centre of the Anglo-Allied army, and established the enemy within 60 yards of that centre. The French lost no time in taking advantage of this, by pushing forward infantry supported by guns, which enabled them to maintain a most destructive fire upon Alten's left and Kempt's right ... — Captain James Shaw, 43rd Foot , Chief of Staff 3rd Division.
Along with this artillery fire a multitude of French tirailleurs occupied the dominant positions behind La Haye Sainte and poured an effective fire into the squares. The situation was now so dire that the 33rd Regiment's colours and all of Halkett's brigade's colours were sent to the rear for safety, described by historian Alessandro Barbero as, "... a measure that was without precedent". Wellington, noticing the slackening of fire from La Haye Sainte, with his staff rode closer to it. French skirmishers appeared around the building and fired on the British command as it struggled to get away through the hedgerow along the road. Alten ordered a single battalion, the Fifth KGL to recapture the farm. Their Colonel Ompteda obeyed and chased off some French skirmishers until French cuirassiers fell on his open flank, killed him, destroyed his battalion and took its colour. A Dutch–Belgian cavalry regiment ordered to charge, retreated from the field instead, fired on by their own infantry. Merlen's Light Cavalry Brigade charged the French artillery taking position near La Haye Sainte but were shot to pieces and the brigade fell apart. The Netherlands Cavalry Division, Wellington's last cavalry reserve behind the centre having lost half their strength was now useless and the French cavalry, despite its losses, were masters of the field compelling the allied infantry to remain in square. More and more French artillery was brought forward.
A French battery advanced to within 300 yards of the 1/1st Nassau square causing heavy casualties. When the Nassauers attempted to attack the battery they were ridden down by a squadron of cuirassiers . Yet another battery deployed on the flank of Mercer's battery and shot up its horses and limbers and pushed Mercer back. Mercer later recalled, "The rapidity and precision of this fire was quite appaling. Every shot almost took effect, and I certainly expected we should all be annihilated. ... The saddle-bags, in many instances were torn from horses' backs ... One shell I saw explode under the two finest wheel-horses in the troop down they dropped".
French tirailleurs occupied the dominant positions, especially one on a knoll overlooking the square of the 27th. Unable to break square to drive off the French infantry because of the presence of French cavalry and artillery, the 27th had to remain in that formation and endure the fire of the tirailleurs. That fire nearly annihilated the 27th Foot, the Inniskillings, who lost two-thirds of their strength within that three or four hours.
The banks on the road side, the garden wall, the knoll and sandpit swarmed with skirmishers, who seemed determined to keep down our fire in front; those behind the artificial bank seemed more intent upon destroying the 27th, who at this time, it may literally be said, were lying dead in square; their loss after La Haye Sainte had fallen was awful, without the satisfaction of having scarcely fired a shot, and many of our troops in rear of the ridge were similarly situated. — Edward Cotton, 7th Hussars,
During this time many of Wellington's generals and aides were killed or wounded including Somerset, Canning, de Lancey, Alten and Cooke. The situation was now critical and Wellington, trapped in an infantry square and ignorant of events beyond it, was desperate for the arrival of help from the Prussians. He later wrote,
The time they occupied in approaching seemed interminable. Both they and my watch seemed to have stuck fast.
ARRIVAL OF THE PRUSSIAN IV CORPS: PLANCENOIT
See also: Prussians attack out of the Wood of Paris
The first Prussian corps to arrive in strength was Bülow's IV Corps. Bülow's objective was Plancenoit, which the Prussians intended to use as a springboard into the rear of the French positions. Blücher intended to secure his right upon the Châteaux Frichermont using the Bois de Paris road. Blücher and Wellington had been exchanging communications since 10:00 and had agreed to this advance on Frichermont if Wellington's centre was under attack. General Bülow noted that the way to Plancenoit lay open and that the time was 16:30.
At about this time, the 15th Brigade IV Corps was sent to link up
with the Nassauers of Wellington's left flank in the Frichermont-La
Haie area, with the brigade's horse artillery battery and additional
brigade artillery deployed to its left in support.
ZIETEN\'S FLANK MARCH
Situation from 17:30 to 20:00
Throughout the late afternoon, Zieten's I Corps had been arriving in greater strength in the area just north of La Haie. General Müffling, Prussian liaison to Wellington, rode to meet I Corps.
Zieten had by this time brought up his 1st Brigade, but had become concerned at the sight of stragglers and casualties from the Nassau units on Wellington's left and from the Prussian 15th Brigade. These troops appeared to be withdrawing and Zieten, fearing that his own troops would be caught up in a general retreat, was starting to move away from Wellington's flank and towards the Prussian main body near Plancenoit. Zieten had also received a direct order from Blücher to support Bülow, which Zieten obeyed and marched to Bülow's aid.
Müffling saw this movement away and persuaded Zieten to support Wellington's left flank. Müffling warned Zieten that "The battle is lost if the corps does not keep on the move and immediately support the English army". Zieten resumed his march to support Wellington directly, and the arrival of his troops allowed Wellington to reinforce his crumbling centre by moving cavalry from his left.
The French were expecting Grouchy to march to their support from Wavre, and when Zieten's I Corps appeared at Waterloo instead of Grouchy, "the shock of disillusionment shattered French morale" and "the sight of Zieten's arrival caused turmoil to rage in Napoleon's army". I Corps proceeded to attack the French troops before Papelotte and by 19:30 the French position was bent into a rough horseshoe shape. The ends of the line were now based on Hougoumont on the left, Plancenoit on the right, and the centre on La Haie. Durutte had taken the positions of La Haie and Papelotte in a series of attacks, but now retreated behind Smohain without opposing the Prussian 24th Regiment as it retook both. The 24th advanced against the new French position, was repulsed, and returned to the attack supported by Silesian Schützen (riflemen) and the F/1st Landwehr. The French initially fell back before the renewed assault, but now began seriously to contest ground, attempting to regain Smohain and hold on to the ridgeline and the last few houses of Papelotte.
The 24th Regiment linked up with a Highlander battalion on its far
right and along with the 13th
Landwehr regiment and cavalry support
threw the French out of these positions. Further attacks by the 13th
Landwehr and the 15th Brigade drove the French from Frichermont.
Durutte's division, finding itself about to be charged by massed
squadrons of Zieten's I Corps cavalry reserve, retreated from the
battlefield. The soldiers of D’Erlon's Corps alongside this attack
on Durutte's division also broke and fled in panic, while to the west
the French Middle Guard were assaulting Wellington's centre. The
Prussian I Corps then advanced towards the
ATTACK OF THE IMPERIAL GUARD
Meanwhile, with Wellington's centre exposed by the fall of La Haye
Sainte and the
Plancenoit front temporarily stabilised, Napoleon
committed his last reserve, the hitherto-undefeated Imperial Guard
infantry. This attack, mounted at around 19:30, was intended to break
through Wellington's centre and roll up his line away from the
Prussians. Although it is one of the most celebrated passages of arms
in military history, it had been unclear which units actually
participated. It appears that it was mounted by five battalions of the
Middle Guard, and not by the grenadiers or chasseurs of the Old
Old Guard battalions did move forward and formed the
attack's second line, though they remained in reserve and did not
directly assault the allied line.
... I saw four regiments of the middle guard, conducted by the
Emperor, arriving. With these troops, he wished to renew the attack,
and penetrate the centre of the enemy. He ordered me to lead them on;
generals, officers and soldiers all displayed the greatest
intrepidity; but this body of troops was too weak to resist, for a
long time, the forces opposed to it by the enemy, and it was soon
necessary to renounce the hope which this attack had, for a few
moments, inspired. — Marshal M. Ney.
Other troops rallied to support the advance of the Guard. On the left infantry from Reille's corps that was not engaged with Hougoumont and cavalry advanced. On the right all the now rallied elements of D'Érlon's corps once again ascended the ridge and engaged the allied line. Of these, Pégot's brigade broke into skirmish order and moved north and west of La Haye Sainte and provided fire support to Ney, once again unhorsed, and Friant's 1st/3rd Grenadiers. The Guards first received fire from some Brunswick battalions, but the return fire of the grenadiers forced them to retire. Next, Colin Halket's brigade front line consisting of the 30th Foot and 73rd traded fire but they were driven back in confusion into the 33rd and 69th regiments, Halket was shot in the face and seriously wounded and the whole brigade retreated in a mob. Other allied troops began to give way as well. A counterattack by the Nassauers and the remains of Kielmansegge's brigade from the allied second line, led by the Prince of Orange, was also thrown back and the Prince of Orange was seriously wounded. General Harlet brought up the 4th Grenadiers and the allied centre was now in serious danger of breaking. General David Hendrik Chassé
It was at this moment that the timely arrival of the Dutch General Chassé turned the tide in favour of the Anglo-allied army. Chassé's relatively fresh Dutch division was sent against them, led by a battery of Dutch horse-artillery commanded by Captain Krahmer de Bichin . The battery opened a destructive fire into the 1st/3rd Grenadiers' flank. This still did not stop the Guard's advance, so Chassé ordered his first brigade (Colonel Hendrik Detmers ) to charge the outnumbered French with the bayonet; the French grenadiers then faltered and broke. The 4th Grenadiers, seeing their comrades retreat and having suffered heavy casualties themselves, now wheeled right about and retired. British 10th Hussars of Vivian's Brigade (red shakos – blue uniforms) attacking mixed French troops, including a square of Guard grenadiers (left, middle distance) in the final stages of the battle.
To the left of the 4th Grenadiers were the two squares of the 1st/
and 2nd/3rd Chasseurs who angled further to the west and had suffered
more from artillery fire than the grenadiers. But as their advance
mounted the ridge they found it apparently abandoned and covered with
dead. Suddenly 1,500 British
The last of the Guard retreated headlong. A ripple of panic passed through the French lines as the astounding news spread: "La Garde recule. Sauve qui peut!" ("The Guard is retreating. Every man for himself!") Wellington now stood up in Copenhagen\'s stirrups and waved his hat in the air to signal a general advance. His army rushed forward from the lines and threw themselves upon the retreating French.Chesney 1874 , pp. 192, 225
The surviving Imperial Guard rallied on their three reserve battalions (some sources say four) just south of La Haye Sainte for a last stand . A charge from Adam\'s Brigade and the Hanoverian Landwehr Osnabrück Battalion, plus Vivian's and Vandeleur's relatively fresh cavalry brigades to their right, threw them into confusion. Those left in semi-cohesive units retreated towards La Belle Alliance. It was during this retreat that some of the Guards were invited to surrender, eliciting the famous, if apocryphal, retort "La Garde meurt, elle ne se rend pas!" ("The Guard dies, it does not surrender!")
PRUSSIAN CAPTURE OF PLANCENOIT
At about the same time, the Prussian 5th, 14th, and 16th Brigades were starting to push through Plancenoit, in the third assault of the day. The church was by now on fire, while its graveyard—the French centre of resistance—had corpses strewn about "as if by a whirlwind". Five Guard battalions were deployed in support of the Young Guard, virtually all of which was now committed to the defence, along with remnants of Lobau's corps. The key to the Plancenoit position proved to be the Chantelet woods to the south. Pirch's II Corps had arrived with two brigades and reinforced the attack of IV Corps, advancing through the woods.
The 25th Regiment's musketeer battalions threw the 1/2e Grenadiers (Old Guard) out of the Chantelet woods, outflanking Plancenoit and forcing a retreat. The Old Guard retreated in good order until they met the mass of troops retreating in panic, and became part of that rout. The Prussian IV Corps advanced beyond Plancenoit to find masses of French retreating in disorder from British pursuit. The Prussians were unable to fire for fear of hitting Wellington's units. This was the fifth and final time that Plancenoit changed hands.
French forces not retreating with the Guard were surrounded in their positions and eliminated, neither side asking for nor offering quarter. The French Young Guard Division reported 96 per cent casualties, and two-thirds of Lobau's Corps ceased to exist. Carabinier-à-Cheval cuirass holed by a cannonball at Waterloo, belonging to Antoine Fauveau (Musée de l\'Armée )
Despite their great courage and stamina, the French Guards fighting in the village began to show signs of wavering. The church was already on fire with columns of red flame coming out of the windows, aisles and doors. In the village itself—still the scene of bitter house-to-house fighting—everything was burning, adding to the confusion. However, once Major von Witzleben's manoeuvre was accomplished and the French Guards saw their flank and rear threatened, they began to withdraw. The Guard Chasseurs under General Pelet formed the rearguard. The remnants of the Guard left in a great rush, leaving large masses of artillery, equipment and ammunition wagons in the wake of their retreat. The evacuation of Plancenoit led to the loss of the position that was to be used to cover the withdrawal of the French Army to Charleroi. The Guard fell back from Plancenoit in the direction of Maison du Roi and Caillou. Unlike other parts of the battlefield, there were no cries of "Sauve qui peut!" here. Instead, the cry "Sauvons nos aigles!" ("Let's save our eagles!") could be heard. — Official History of the 25th Regiment, 4 Corps,
Lord Hill invites the last remnants of the French Imperial Guard
to surrender, painted by
Robert Alexander Hillingford
The French right, left, and centre had all now failed. The last
cohesive French force consisted of two battalions of the Old Guard
stationed around La Belle Alliance; they had been so placed to act as
a final reserve and to protect
As dusk fell, both squares withdrew in relatively good order, but the
French artillery and everything else fell into the hands of the
Prussian and Anglo-allied armies. The retreating Guards were
surrounded by thousands of fleeing, broken French troops. Coalition
cavalry harried the fugitives until about 23:00, with Gneisenau
pursuing them as far as
Genappe before ordering a halt. There,
Napoleon's abandoned carriage was captured, still containing an
annotated copy of Machiavelli 's
There remained to us still four squares of the Old Guard to protect the retreat. These brave grenadiers, the choice of the army, forced successively to retire, yielded ground foot by foot, till, overwhelmed by numbers, they were almost entirely annihilated. From that moment, a retrograde movement was declared, and the army formed nothing but a confused mass. There was not, however, a total rout, nor the cry of sauve qui peut, as has been calumniously stated in the bulletin. — Marshal M. Ney.
In the middle of the position occupied by the French army, and
exactly upon the height, is a farm (sic), called La Belle Alliance.
The march of all the Prussian columns was directed towards this farm,
which was visible from every side. It was there that
Other sources agree that the meeting of the commanders took place near La Belle Alliance, with this occurring at around 21:00.
Waterloo cost Wellington around 15,000 dead or wounded and Blücher some 7,000 (810 of which were suffered by just one unit: the 18th Regiment, which served in Bülow's 15th Brigade, had fought at both Frichermont and Plancenoit, and won 33 Iron Crosses ). Napoleon's losses were 24,000 to 26,000 killed or wounded and included 6,000 to 7,000 captured with an additional 15,000 deserting subsequent to the battle and over the following days.
22 June. This morning I went to visit the field of battle, which is a little beyond the village of Waterloo, on the plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean; but on arrival there the sight was too horrible to behold. I felt sick in the stomach and was obliged to return. The multitude of carcasses, the heaps of wounded men with mangled limbs unable to move, and perishing from not having their wounds dressed or from hunger, as the Allies were, of course, obliged to take their surgeons and waggons with them, formed a spectacle I shall never forget. The wounded, both of the Allies and the French, remain in an equally deplorable state. — Major W. E. Frye. Invasion of France by the Seventh Coalition armies in 1815
At 10:30 on 19 June General Grouchy, still following his orders,
defeated General Thielemann at
Wavre and withdrew in good
order—though at the cost of 33,000 French troops that never reached
the Waterloo battlefield. Wellington sent his official dispatch
describing the battle to England on 19 June 1815; it arrived in London
on 21 June 1815 and was published as a
Royal Highness, – Exposed to the factions which divide my country,
and to the enmity of the great Powers of Europe, I have terminated my
political career; and I come, like
Teeth of tens of thousands of dead soldiers were removed by surviving troops, locals or even scavengers who had travelled there from Britain, then used for making denture replacements in Britain and elsewhere.
Waterloo was a decisive battle in more than one sense. Every
generation in Europe up to the outbreak of the
First World War
It was followed by almost four decades of international peace in
Europe. No further major conflict occurred until the
VIEWS ON THE REASONS FOR NAPOLEON\'S DEFEAT
General Antoine-Henri ,
In my opinion, four principal causes led to this disaster: The first, and most influential, was the arrival, skilfully combined, of Blücher, and the false movement that favoured this arrival; the second, was the admirable firmness of the British infantry, joined to the sang-froid and aplomb of its chiefs; the third, was the horrible weather, that had softened the ground, and rendered the offensive movements so toilsome, and retarded till one o'clock the attack that should have been made in the morning; the fourth, was the inconceivable formation of the first corps, in masses very much too deep for the first grand attack. — Antoine-Henri Jomini.
The Prussian soldier, historian, and theorist
Carl von Clausewitz
Bonaparte and the authors who support him have always attempted to portray the great catastrophes that befell him as the result of chance. They seek to make their readers believe that through his great wisdom and extraordinary energy the whole project had already moved forward with the greatest confidence, that complete success was but a hair's breadth away, when treachery, accident, or even fate, as they sometimes call it, ruined everything. He and his supporters do not want to admit that huge mistakes, sheer recklessness, and, above all, overreaching ambition that exceeded all realistic possibilities, were the true causes. — Carl von Clausewitz.
Wellington himself wrote in his official dispatch back to London: "I should not do justice to my own feelings, or to Marshal Blücher and the Prussian army, if I did not attribute the successful result of this arduous day to the cordial and timely assistance I received from them. The operation of General Bülow upon the enemy's flank was a most decisive one; and, even if I had not found myself in a situation to make the attack which produced the final result, it would have forced the enemy to retire if his attacks should have failed, and would have prevented him from taking advantage of them if they should unfortunately have succeeded".
Despite their differences on other matters, discussed at length in Carl von Clausewitz's study of the Campaign of 1815 and Wellington's famous 1842 essay in reply to it, the Prussian Clausewitz agreed with Wellington on this assessment. Indeed, Clausewitz viewed the battle prior to the Prussian intervention more as a mutually exhausting stalemate than as an impending French victory, with the advantage, if any, leaning towards Wellington.
An alternative view is that towards the end of the battle
Wellington's Anglo-allied army faced imminent defeat without Prussian
help. For example, Parkinson (2000) writes: "Neither army beat
Further information: List of Waterloo Battlefield locations The Lion\'s Mound at Waterloo
Some portions of the terrain on the battlefield have been altered from their 1815 appearance. Tourism began the day after the battle, with Captain Mercer noting that on 19 June "a carriage drove on the ground from Brussels, the inmates of which, alighting, proceeded to examine the field". In 1820, the Netherlands' King William I ordered the construction of a monument. The Lion\'s Hillock , a giant mound, was constructed here using 300,000 cubic metres (390,000 cu yd) of earth taken from the ridge at the centre of the British line, effectively removing the southern bank of Wellington's sunken road.
Every one is aware that the variously inclined undulations of the
plains, where the engagement between
The alleged remark by Wellington about the alteration of the battlefield as described by Hugo was never documented, however.
Other terrain features and notable landmarks on the field have
remained virtually unchanged since the battle. These include the
rolling farmland to the east of the Brussels–
Apart from the Lion Mound, there are several more conventional but
noteworthy monuments throughout the battlefield. A cluster of
monuments at the Brussels–
A monument to the Prussian dead is located in the village of
Plancenoit on the site where one of their artillery batteries took
position. The Duhesme mausoleum is one among the few graves of the
fallen. It is located at the side of Saint Martin's Church in Ways, a
hamlet in the municipality of
Genappe . Seventeen fallen officers are
buried in the crypt of the British Monument in the
As part of the bicentennial celebration of the battle, in 2015
* Lord Uxbridge\'s leg was shattered by a grape-shot at the Battle
of Waterloo and removed by a surgeon. The artificial leg used by
Uxbridge for the rest of his life was donated to a Waterloo Museum
after his death. There is also a leg on display at his house, Plas
Newydd, on Anglesey.
* Order of battle of the
* ^ Captain
Cavalié Mercer RHA , thought the Brunswickers
"...perfect children. None of the privates, perhaps were over eighteen
years of age" (Mercer 1891 , p. 218).
* ^ On 13 June, the commandant at
* ^ Losses are ultimately from the official returns taken the day
after the battle: Household Brigade, initial strength 1,319, killed
– 95, wounded – 248, missing – 250, totals – 593, horses lost
Union Brigade, initial strength 1,332, killed – 264, wounded –
310, missing – 38, totals – 612, horses lost – 631 (Smith 1998 ,
p. 544). * ^ This view appears to have arisen from a comment by
Captain Clark-Kennedy of the 1st Dragoons 'Royals', in a letter in H.
T. Siborne\'s book, he makes an estimate of around 900 men actually in
line within the Union Brigade before its first charge (Siborne 1891 ,
Letter 35, p. 69). Clark-Kennedy does not, however, explain how his
estimate was arrived at. The shortfall of 432 men (the equivalent of a
whole regiment) from the paper strength of the brigade is large.
However, another officer of the brigade, John Mills of the 2nd
Dragoons, says that the effective strength of the brigade did not
"exceed 1,200" (Glover 2007 , p. 59).
William Siborne was in possession of a number of eyewitness
accounts from generals, such as Uxbridge, down to cavalry cornets and
infantry ensigns. This makes his history particularly useful (though
only from the British and KGL perspective); some of these eyewitness
letters were later published by his son, a British Major General (H.
T. Siborne ). Parts of William Siborne's account was, and is, highly
controversial. The very negative light shed on the conduct of the
Dutch–Belgian troops during the battle by Siborne, which it should
be said was a reasonably accurate reflection the opinions of his
British informants, prompted a semi-official rebuttal by Dutch
Willem Jan Knoop in his "Beschouwingen over
Siborne's Geschiedenis van den oorlog van 1815 in Frankrijk en de
Nederlanden" en wederlegging van de in dat werk voorkomende
beschuldigingen tegen het Nederlandsche leger. Breda 1846; 2nd
printing 1847. Knoop based his rebuttal on the official Dutch
after-battle reports, drawn up within days of the battle, not on
twenty-year-old recollections of veterans, like Siborne. Siborne
rejected the rebuttal.
* ^ Barbero points out that in April the minister informed
Wellington that cavalry regiments could allow themselves no more than
360 horses. The text of this memorandum from Torrens to Wellington
Barbero refers to is available in Hamilton-Williams, p.75.
* ^ Losses are ultimately from the official returns taken the day
after the battle: Household Brigade, initial strength 1,319, killed
– 95, wounded – 248, missing – 250, totals – 593, horses lost
– 672. Union Brigade, initial strength 1,332, killed – 264,
wounded – 310, missing – 38, totals – 612, horses lost – 631
(Smith 1998 , p. 544).
* ^ In a cavalry unit an "effective" was an unwounded trooper
mounted on a sound horse. The military term "effective" describes a
soldier, piece of equipment (e.g. a tank or aircraft) or military unit
capable of fighting or carrying out its intended purpose.
* ^ This qualification may have been self-serving on Mercer's part.
Wellington himself sought refuge in the "shaky" Brunswick squares at
the time and observed what he interpreted as acts of cowardice by
British artillerymen, who "... ran off the field entirely, taking with
them limbers, ammunition, and everything ..." as he wrote in a letter
of 21 December 1815 to the Master-General of the Ordnance, Lord
Mulgrave. The incident even justified the denial of pensions to
members of the Artillery Corps in his view. So, where Mercer claimed
heroism, Wellington saw the opposite. See for the full text of
Wellington's letter, and an attempted rebuttal Duncan, F. (1879),
"Appendix A", History of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, pp.
444–464 — The letter was originally published in WSD, vol. XIV
(1858 ed.), pp. 618–620
* ^ Cavalrymen were not allowed to dismount without orders, so
individual initiative in spiking a cannon would have been impossible
for any ranker. Each British cannon had a number of headless nails for
spiking stored in a box on the gun carriage, so the French would have
had the means to disable the guns readily available, had they known
(Weller 1992 , p. 114).
* ^ A number of different mounts could have been ridden by Napoleon
at Waterloo: Ali, Crebère, Désirée, Jaffa, Marie and Tauris
(Summerville 2007 , p. 315) Lozier states it was Désirée (Lozier
* ^ On the contrary, many contradicted this British account
vehemently. See e.g.Eenens 1879 , pp. 131–198. Google Books; Knoop,
W.J. (1847) , "Beschouwingen over Siborne's Geschiedenis van den
oorlog van 1815 in Frankrijk en de Nederlanden", en wederlegging van
de in dat werk voorkomende beschuldigingen tegen het Nederlandsche
leger (2nd ed.), Breda ; Craan, W.B. (1817), An historical account of
the battle of Waterloo, translated by Gore, A., pp. 30–31 —
written in 1816 on the basis of eyewitness accounts does not mention
* ^ The commander of the Cumberland Hussars, who was later
court-martialled and cashiered, claimed that as his troopers (all
well-to-do young Hanoverians) owned their own horses he could not
order them to remain on the field. Following the battle the regiment
was broken up and the troopers assigned duties they, no doubt,
considered ignominious. Four were posted to Captain Mercer's horse
artillery troop, where he found them "amazingly sulky and snappish
with every one".(Mercer 1870b , p. 62)
* ^ Chesney states that Wellington and the Prussians remained in
contact and that it was agreed that Bülow followed by Pirch would
take the poorer road to "Froidmont" (Frichermont), while Zieten would
take the longer northern, but better made, road via Ohain (Chesney
1874 , pp. 173–178).
* ^ Two chasseur battalions of the 4th Chasseurs were merged into
one on the day of the battle, so while five Imperial Guard formations
went forward, they may have comprised six battalions (Barbero 2005 ,).
Similarly, Lewis, 2013, pp. 188 – 190.
* ^ The attacking battalions were 1st/3rd and 4th Grenadiers and
1st/3rd, 2nd/3rd and 4th Chasseurs of the Middle Guard; those
remaining in reserve were the 2nd/2nd Grenadiers, 2nd/1st and 2nd/2nd
Chasseurs of the
Old Guard (Adkin 2001 , p. 392).
* ^ "'The Guard dies, but it does not surrender!' is another of
these fictitious historical sayings. General Cambronne, to whom it is
attributed, never uttered. Victor Hugo, in Les Misérables, has
restored the true text. It is composed of a single word ".(Masson 1869
* ^ The reply is commonly attributed to General
Pierre Cambronne ,
originating from an attribution by the journalist Balison de Rougemont
in Journal General published on 24 June 1815,(Shapiro 2006 , p. 128)
although Cambronne claimed he replied "Merde!" (Boller 1989 , p. 12)
However, according to letters in
* ^ Hofschröer 1999 , pp. 68–69.
* ^ Hofschröer 1999 , p. 61 cites Siborne's numbers.
* ^ Hamilton-Williams 1994 , p. 256 gives 168,000.
* ^ A B Barbero 2005 , pp. 75–76.
* ^ Hamilton-Williams 1994 , p. 256.
* ^ Chesney 1874 , p. 4.
* ^ A B Barbero 2006 , p. 312.
* ^ Barbero 2005 , p. 420.
* ^ A B Barbero 2005 , p. 419.
* ^ Wikiquote:Wellington citing Creevey Papers, ch. x, p. 236
* ^ Marcelis 2015 .
* ^ Brown University Library .
* ^ Hamilton-Williams 1993 , p. 59.
* ^ A B Chandler 1966 , pp. 1016, 1017, 1093.
* ^ Siborne 1895 , p. 82.
* ^ Hofschröer 2005 , pp. 136–160.
* ^ Herold 1967 , pp. 53, 58, 110.
* ^ Longford 1971 , p. 508.
* ^ Chesney 1874 , p. 144.
* ^ Chesney 1874 , pp. 144–145.
* ^ Longford 1971 , p. 527.
* ^ Barbero 2005 , p. 75.
* ^ Hofschröer 1999 , p. 68 gives 73,000.
* ^ Glover 2014 , p. 30.
* ^ Longford 1971 , p. 485.
* ^ Longford 1971 , p. 484.
* ^ Barbero 2006 , p. 19.
* ^ Hamilton-Williams 1993 , pp. 239–240.
* ^ Hofschröer 2005 , p. 59.
* ^ A B C Hofschröer 2005 , pp. 60–62.
* ^ A B Barbero 2005 , pp. 78–79.
* ^ Barbero 2005 , p. 80.
* ^ A B Barbero 2005 , p. 149.
* ^ Parry 1900 , p. 58.
* ^ Barbero 2005 , pp. 141, 235.
* ^ Barbero 2005 , pp. 83–85.
* ^ Barbero 2005 , p. 91.
* ^ Longford 1971 , pp. 535–536.
* ^ Barbero 2005 , p. 141.
* ^ Longford 1971 , p. 547.
* ^ Roberts 2001 , pp. 163–166.
* ^ Barbero 2005 , p. 73.
* ^ Roberts 2001 , p. xxxii.
* ^ Longford 1971 , p. 548.
* ^ Bonaparte 1869 , pp. 292–293.
* ^ Fletcher 1994 , p. 20.
* ^ Barbero 2005 , pp. 95–98.
* ^ Roberts 2005 , p. 55.
* ^ Wellesley 1815 , To Earl Bathurst. Waterloo, 19th June 1815.
* ^ Barbero 2005 , pp. 113–114.
* ^ Thiers 1862 , p. 215.
* ^ Lamar 2000 , p. 119.
* ^ Booth 1815 , p. 10.
* ^ A B Creasy 1877 , Chapter XV.
* ^ Longford 1971 , pp. 552–554.
* ^ Barbero 2005 , p. 298.
* ^ Barbero 2005 , pp. 305, 306.
* ^ Roberts 2005 , p. 57.
* ^ Barbero 2005 , p. 131.
* ^ Hamilton-Williams 1993 , p. 286.
* ^ Hamilton-Williams 1993 , p. 287.
* ^ Barbero 2005 , p. 136.
* ^ Barbero 2005 , p. 145.
* ^ Cornwell 2015 , Those terrible grey horses, how they fight.
* ^ A B C D Haweis 1908 , p. 228.
* ^ Hamilton-Williams 1993 , pp. 289–293.
* ^ Van Zuylen report Bas & Wommersom 1909 , pp. 338–339(vol. 3)
* ^ Barbero 2006 , pp. 134–138.
* ^ Hamilton-Williams 1993 , pp. 296–297.
* ^ Barbero 2006 , p. 138.
* ^ Uffindell & Corum 2002 , p. 211.
* ^ A B C Barbero 2006 , pp. 140–142.
* ^ A B Adkin 2001 , p. 217.
* ^ Anglesey 1990 , p. 125.
* ^ Grant 1972 , p. 17.
* ^ Oman pp. 422–424 (actions of brigades).
* ^ Barbero 2006 , p. 164.
* ^ Siborne 1891 , Letters: 18, 26, 104.
* ^ A B C Clark-Kennedy 1975 , p. 111.
* ^ Fletcher 2001 , pp. 142–143.
* ^ Wood 1895 , pp. 164, 171.
* ^ Siborne 1891 , p. 38.
* ^ Anglesey 1990 , p. 144.
* ^ Cotton 1849 , pp. 90–91.
* ^ Siborne 1891 , Letters 9, 18, 36.
* ^ Anglesey 1990 , p. 146.
* ^ Clark-Kennedy 1975 , pp. 110–111.
* ^ A B Wood 1895 , p. 177.
* ^ Fletcher 1999 , p. 270-271.
* ^ Siborne 1891 , p. 39.
* ^ A B Esposito & Elting 1999 , p. 354, Map 166.
* ^ Barbero 2006 , p. 156.
* ^ Siborne 1895 , pp. 443–449.
* ^ Adkin 2001 , p. 356.
* ^ Siborne 1895 , pp. 444, 447.
* ^ Adkin 2001 , pp. 273, 414.
* ^ A B Adkin 2001 , p. 359.
* ^ Gronow 1862 , The Duke of Wellington in our square.
* ^ Weller 1992 , pp. 211,212.
* ^ Adkin 2001 , pp. 252,361.
* ^ Mercer 1870a , pp. 313–315.
* ^ Mercer 1870a , p. 321.
* ^ Houssaye 1900 , p. 522.
* ^ A B Adkin 2001 , p. 361.
* ^ Siborne 1891 , pp. 14, 38–39.
* ^ Siborne 1891 , pp. 14–15 and letters 6,7 and 9.
* ^ Siborne 1895 , p. 465.
* ^ Simms 2014 , pp. 59–60, 63–64.
* ^ Beamish 1995 , p. 367.
* ^ Siborne 1895 , p. 483.
* ^ Siborne 1895 , p. 484.
* ^ Barbero 2006 , p. 236.
* ^ A B Hofschröer 1999 , p. 134.
* ^ A B Barbero 2006 , p. 234.
* ^ Barbero 2006 , p. 241.
* ^ A B Barbero 2006 , pp. 235–236.
* ^ Mercer 1870a , pp. 325–326.
* ^ Barbero 2006 , pp. 239.
* ^ Cotton 1849 , pp. 106–107.
* ^ Barbero 2006 , p. 240.
* ^ A B Barbero 2006 , p. 242.
* ^ A B Hofschröer 1999 , p. 116.
* ^ Hofschröer 1999 , p. 95.
* ^ Hofschröer 1999 , p. 117.
* ^ A B Hofschröer 1999 , p. 122.
* ^ A B Hofschröer 1999 , p. 125.
* ^ Uffindell & Corum 2002 , p. 232.
* ^ Uffindell & Corum 2002 , p. 233.
* ^ A B Hofschröer 1999 , p. 139.
* ^ A B Hofschröer 1999 , p. 140.
* ^ Hofschröer 1999 , p. 141.
* ^ Uffindell & Corum 2002 , pp. 232–233.
* ^ Chesney 1874 , pp. 187–190.
* ^ Adkin 2001 , p. 391.
* ^ Booth 1815 , pp. 73,74.
* ^ Field 2013 , pp. 191–192.
* ^ Field 2013 , pp. 196–199.
* ^ Bas & Wommersom 1909 , pp. 249–251, 258–259. (vol.2)
* ^ Bas & Wommersom 1909 , pp. 252–253, 419–424. (vol.2)
* ^ Field 2013 , p. 199.
* ^ Field 2013 , p. 200.
* ^ Field 2013 , pp. 203.
* ^ Chesney 1874 , pp. 214–215.
* ^ A B C Parry 1900 , p. 70.
* ^ Siborne 1895 , pp. 553–559.
* ^ White 2011 .
* ^ A B C D Hofschröer 1999 , pp. 144–145.
* ^ battleofwaterloo.org
* ^ Kincaid 2006 , p. 435.
* ^ Comte d\'Erlon 1815 .
* ^ Hofschröer 1999 , p. 149.
* ^ Hofschröer 1999 , p. 151.
* ^ Hofschröer 1999 , p. 150.
* ^ Booth 1815 , p. 74.
* ^ Booth 1815 , p. 23.
* ^ Davies 2012 , p. 244.
* ^ Corrigan 2006 , p. 327.
* ^ Mantle 2000 .
* ^ Frye 2004 , June 22.
* ^ A B "No. 17028". The
* Adkin, Mark (2001), The Waterloo Companion, Aurum, ISBN
* Anglesey, Marquess of (George C. H. V. Paget) (1990), One Leg: The
Life and Letters of Henry William Paget, First Marquess of Anglesey,
K.G. 1768–1854, Pen and Sword, ISBN 0-85052-518-7
* Barbero, Alessandro (2005), The Battle: A New History of Waterloo,
Atlantic Books, ISBN 1-84354-310-9
* Barbero, Alessandro (2006), The Battle: A New History of Waterloo
(translated by John Cullen) (paperback ed.), Walker & Company, ISBN
* Barbero, Alessandro (2013), The Battle: A New History of Waterloo,
Atlantic Books, p. 160, ISBN 978-1-78239-138-8
* Bas, F de ; Wommersom, J. De T'Serclaes de (1909), La campagne de
1815 aux Pays-Bas d'après les rapports officiels néerlandais,
volumes: I: Quatre-Bras. II: Waterloo. III: Annexes and notes. IV:
supplement: maps and plans, Brussels: Librairie Albert de Wit
* Beamish, N. Ludlow (1995) , History of the King's German Legion,
Dallington: Naval and Military Press, ISBN 0-9522011-0-0
* Black, Jeremy (24 February 2015), "Legacy of 1815", History Today
* Boller, Jr., Paul F.; George, Jr., John (1989), They Never Said
It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions, New
York: Oxford University Press, p. 12, ISBN 0-19-505541-1
* Mercer, A.C. (1870b), "Waterloo, 18 June 1815: The Royal Horse
Artillery Repulse Enemy Cavalry, late afternoon", Journal of the
Waterloo Campaign: Kept Throughout the Campaign of 1815, 2
* Mercer, A.C. (1891), "No 89:Royal Artillery", in Siborne, Herbert
Taylor, Waterloo letters: a selection from original and hitherto
unpublished letters bearing on the operations of the 16th, 17th, and
18th June, 1815, by officers who served in the campaign, London:
Cassell & Company, p. 218
* Masson, David; et al. (1869), "Historical Forgeries and
Kosciuszko's "Finis Poloniae"", Macmillan\'s Magazine , Macmillan and
Company, 19: 164
* Nofi, Albert A. (1998) , The Waterloo campaign, June 1815,
Conshohocken, PA: Combined Books, ISBN 0-938289-29-2
* Oman, Charles; Hall, John A. (1902), A History of the Peninsular
War, Clarendon Press, p. 119
* Palmer, R.R. (1956), A History of the Modern World, New York:
* Parkinson, Roger (2000),
* Anonymous. Napoleon\'s Guard at Waterloo 1815 * Bijl, Marco, 8th Dutch Militia a history of the 8th Dutch Militia battalion and the Bylandt Brigade, of which it was a part, in the 1815 campaign (using original sources from the Dutch and Belgian national archives) * de Wit, Pierre. The campaign of 1815: a study. Study of the campaign of 1815, based on sources from all participating armies. * The Cowards at Waterloo, retrieved 23 March 2013 based on Dellevoet, A. (2001), Cowards at Waterloo?: A Re-Examination of Bijlandt's Dutch-Belgian Brigade in the Campaign of 1815, Stackpole books
HISTORIOGRAPHY AND MEMORY
* Heinzen, Jasper (2014), "A Negotiated Truce: The Battle of Waterloo in European Memory since the Second World War", History & Memory, 26 (1): 39–74
* Shepherd, William R. (1923), "Map of the battlefield", Historical
Atlas, New York: Henry Holt and Company The map from the 1911 edition
is also available online.
Battle of Waterloo
Wikisource has original works on the topic: WATERLOO CAMPAIGN
Wikisource has original works on the topic: HUNDRED DAYS
* Earliest report of the battle in a London newspaper from The
Morning Post 22 June 1815
* "No. 17037". The
* French, Prussian and Anglo-Allies uniforms during the Battle of Waterloo : Mont-Saint-Jean (FR)
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* "Booknotes: Watch". Booknotes. 12 January 2003. Interview with
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