Just as important and epic as its reputation would indicate. This is going to be long…
Name: The Battle of Waterloo, sometimes called the Battle of Mont-Saint-Jean.
The War: War of the Seventh Coalition, last of the Napoleonic Wars.
When: 18 June 1815
Where: Just south of the village of Waterloo, then Dutch, today Belgian.
Forces/Commanders: Circa 72’000 men of the French Empire under Napoleon I against circa 118’000 men of the Seventh Coalition (The United Kingdom, Prussia, Hanover, United Netherlands, Nassau, and Brunswick) under Sir Arthur Wellesley the Duke of Wellington and Count Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher.
“It has been a damned serious business…the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.”
-The Duke of Wellington, after the battle.
“The Guard dies, it does not surrender!”
-The French Imperial Guard as the battle ended, probably apocryphal.
In the middle of the position occupied by the French army…is a farm called La Belle Alliance…It was there that Napoleon was during the battle; it was thence that he gave his orders, that he flattered himself with the hopes of victory; and it was there that his ruin was decided.
-General Augest Von Gneisenau
Napoleon was a guy who never knew when to quit.
In April 1814, his time in the limelight had apparently come to an end. A coalition of the most powerful nations in Europe moved against him from all directions, culminating in the fall of Paris and the Emperor’s abdication. Napoleon was exiled to the small Mediterranean island of Elba and, for the first time since the French Revolution began, peace came back to Europe.
The Council of Vienna, beginning shortly after and continuing on until post the time of Waterloo, was meant to consolidate and protect that peace, along with re-drawing the map of Europe in the aftermath of the French defeat. French Imperialism was, predictably, curtailed and combined with dissatisfaction with the return of the Bourbon monarchy and the treatment of grande armee veterans, the Council created intense dissatisfaction in France. Moreover, divides at the Council between former allies were creating conditions ripe for war, especially over the fate of Poland.
Napoleon, stuck on Elba, watched all these developments with great interest. He had his own plans, enacted as soon as the forces guarding him were unprepared.
Stealing away from Elba, Napoleon made landfall in southern France on March 1 1815, beginning the “Hundred Days”. Events moved rapidly from this point. Advancing north, the ranks of the men following him swelled day by day, former veterans and common people to whom he promised reform. According to popular belief, most of the troops sent against him, joined him, including numerous Generals. On the 19th March he entered Paris to popular acclaim. The workings of the French Empire were quickly restored and a new Parliamentary system was approved by referendum.
But Napoleon’s main focus was on remobilizing his military. By the end of May the standing army of France had swelled from 46’000 to close to 200’000, many of them former veterans, battle hardened and experienced. The largest part of this force, and the one that would take part in the Waterloo campaign, was L’Armee de Nord, the Army of the North, which consisted of circa 130’000 troops, nearly all veterans, with significant amounts of cavalry and artillery. It was easily the largest, strongest French army since the invasion of Russia several years earlier.
The nations of the Council of Vienna responded to these developments as quickly as they could. Napoleon’s hopes that his return would be recognised by his neighbours were dashed: by mid-March they had signed up for the Seventh Coalition, declared Napoleon an outlaw, and were pledged to provide military force to defeat him. The main players were the United Kingdom, Austria, Prussia and Russia, with numerous smaller Kingdoms and states involved.
They collectively pledged to invade France together by July 1st. This was much later then the Duke of Wellington, the appointed commander of a coalition army stationed in the Netherlands, and an advancing Prussian force under Field Marshal von Blücher, wanted as they were ready to attack France far sooner. But Austrian and Russian forces needed more time to assemble and travel, leaving Napoleon with the initiative.
For their part, the forces that Wellington and Blücher amassed were considerable: just over 200’000 troops of various nationalities, though only half of these would wind up taking part at Waterloo. Wellington’s force contained numerous veterans of his Peninsular War campaigns (though many of the British were not, their army being scattered all over the world at the time), elements of the Dutch Army, commanded by the Prince of Orange, and numerous regiments from German principalities.
Faced with the option of fighting a defensive conflict in France or attacking towards the Netherlands, Napoleon, naturally, choose attack. He did not want to be stuck fighting an internal war as he had in 1813 and 1814. He hoped that if he could successfully eliminate some of the coalition armies quickly, he would have a good chance of bringing them to the table, especially Austria, Russia and the German states. Open to the prospect of inciting revolt in Dutch controlled Belgium, and hoping to catch the coalition armies there while they were separated, Napoleon moved north.
Taking hold of the centre himself, with his left commanded by General Michel Ney and his right by General Emmanuel Grouchy, Napoleon crossed the frontier on the 15th of June. The Allied forces were indeed scattered, covering a near 90-mile front across Belgium, with Wellington centring his forces on Brussels and Blücher on Namur.
Napoleon confounded Allied expectation by taking Charleroi, leaving Wellington in a dangerous position. Not knowing whether the attack on this position was a feint, or if the French would instead wheel around through Mons and attempt to cut the coalition off from their naval supply line, Wellington hesitated. He eventually ordered the forces near him to move south-east, towards the crossroads of Quatre Bras, 20 miles from Brussels. On the other side, coming from the east, the Prussians advanced having learned the location of the French earlier than Wellington.
Napoleon was now faced with enemies advancing from both sides. He remained committed to stopping the two forces from meeting and to defeating the two armies separately. On the 16 June two battles were fought. At Quatre Bras the French left wing, under Ney, attacked the Anglo-Allied forces. Though they had a large advantage at the beginning of the day, with the crossroads only held by a relatively small amount of Dutch troops, constant reinforcement from more of Wellington’s force, including the Duke himself, prevented the French from achieving a decisive victory. In the end both sides broke off: the Allied force later withdrew to the north. Both sides had suffered around 4’000 casualties.
Meanwhile, to the east, the French right wing under Grochy met the Prussians at Ligny. The French successfully forced the Prussian centre to retreat, but the flanks held firm; a number of Prussian cavalry charges prevented the French from further capitalizing on their success. Blücher’s force retreated in good order though they had taken heavy casualties – one of them was Blücher himself, knocked unconscious as the battle came to a close.
The Prussian withdrawal, northwards, left Wellington in an untenable position, necessitating his withdrawal from the Quartre Bras crossroad. The two coalition armies were now moving parallel to each other, less than 10 miles apart. Napoleon watched this development with concern, having failed to destroy either force and fearful of the two combining. Having fought two battles to make the two armies retreat in opposite directions, he had instead kept them in the same area. He ordered the armies right flank, under Grouchy, to continue pursuit of the Prussians, who were marshalling around Wavre though none of them seemed to realise that the Prussians were not routing by any stretch of the imagination. Napoleon meanwhile, joined the forces under his command with Ney and pursued Wellington.
Wellington had been moving towards Brussels, but elected to stop at a strong defensive position just to the south of the small village of Waterloo and the hamlet of Mont-Saint-Jean. It was the 17th of June and rain fell torrentially.
The position Wellington had chosen consisted of a long ridge running along a sunken lane road. Concealing the majority of his force behind this ridge, a favourite tactic of his, Wellington focused on strengthening the centre and right of his two and a half mile long line hoping that the Prussians, who had reformed and were now moving west to join him, would strengthen his left flank.
Three crucial positions marked the Allied front. On the right, the large farmhouse of Hougoumont, on the left, the small hamlet of Papelotte, and in the centre, the farmhouse Le Haye Sainte and a nearby sand quarry. All these positions were fortified, with Wellington using some of his best troops for the job.
As night fell and the 17th became the 18th, Napoleon formed his own army up on a ridge to the south. Choosing an inn called La Belle Alliance as his HQ, he positioned his troops opposite the Anglo-Allied line: I Corps under Jean-Baptiste Drouet, comte d’Erlon (16’000 infantry, circa 5’000 cavalry) on the right, II Corps under Honore Reille (13’000 infantry, circa 5’000 cavalry) to the left and VI Corps under Georges Mouton, compte de Lobau (19’000 infantry, 2’000 cavalry) in the centre as a reserve.
Napoleon’s plan was to first drive the coalition forces from Hougoumont, then bombard the main line with artillery, before rolling Wellington’s army up with an attack from d’Erlon’s flank. Wellington aimed to hold his line long enough for the Prussians to arrive from the east, and then to attack and rout the French from the front and the side. Napoleon delayed the start of the battle until the ground had dried enough from the previous days downpour, and it was not until around 10 AM that the battle began. Wellington used this precious time well, communicating with the Prussians and deploying his forces from the early hours of the 18th.
The battle opened with an attack by French troops on Hougoumont. Probably intended as a divisionary attack, meant to lure more of Wellington’s troops in, the fight here escalated rapidly, eventually drawing in far more French. The farm was defended by the British Foot Guards, backed up by Hannoverian and Nassau regiments at first, and these repelled the first attacks with the aid of direct artillery fire, killing the French officer leading the charge. A second attack pushed into the farm, but reinforcement of Coldstream and more Foot Guards soon had the area cleared. At the same time opposing artillery regiments began to blast at each other in a duel, creating a maelstrom of smoke and fire.
The French sent more and more men at the building, and Wellington sent more and more men to defend it. Unable to take the house by direct attack, the French attempted to surround it, attacking those troops stationed just to the north of the position. But Wellington refused to allow Hougoumont to be cut off or surrendered. Elements of the Kings German Legion, then the 71st Foot, then further Hanoverian units were sent in. Napoleon, who could see the farmhouse from his position, ordered artillery to fire on the building around noon, eventually destroying most of it, but the Coalition forces could not be dislodged. Wellington spared more and more of his own artillery in the centre of the battlefield to the defence; the result was a cannonade that was “belching forth fire and death from both sides”. Further infantry and cavalry attacks were repulsed.
The Hougoumont position held, thanks largely to the fact that the path north was kept open for resupply and relief forces (something that would not be repeated at Le Haye Sainte later). By the end of the day, 14’000 French infantry had been flung at it, and 12’000 Allies sent to its defence. Wellington’s right flank stood firm, and Napoleon could make no attack on the main body of the army that way.
In the centre, 80 French Guns opened up around 11.30 AM. The combination of extreme range, wet ground and the lack of targets (most of the Allied army being out of sight behind the slope) meant that they did little actual damage, with their bombardment being meant more as a morale testing exercise.
With the first elements of the Prussian army approaching the battlefield from the east, Grouchey’s forces engaging only the Prussian rearguard left at Wavre, Napoleon moved as fast as he could. At 13.00 the attack of I Corps, under d’Erlon, began. Aware of Wellington’s favoured tactics of massed infantry fire on French columns, they deployed in battalion lines in order to concentrate their own firepower. This attack took place on a front of close to a mile.
The position at La Haye Sainte came under attack first, was surrounded, and cut off from the main force. Of special use here was the French cuirassiers, armoured cavalry. The Prince of Orange, seeing this development, sent a Hanoverian regiment to assist, but that was ambushed and annihilated before it could reach the châteaux. Le Haye Sainte, garrisoned by the Kings German Legion and Nassau regiment, and supported be elements of the famous 95th Rifles, held out for the time being.
With the left of his force covered, d’Erlon moved forward his main attack. 14’000 French advanced against a line of 6’000 or so Allied troops – Dutch, Belgian and British. Under the command of Sir Thomas Picton, most of these units had suffered badly at Quatre Bras, and were unable to hold their ground. The French faced the disadvantage of attacking up a hill, but their firepower, Dutch inexperience and the death of Picton as he attempted to order a counter-attack, saw them gain ground.
At this moment Lord Uxbridge, more or less the British second in command, ordered a charge of two heavy cavalry brigades in support of Picton’s troops. The two Brigades – the Household under Edward Somerset and the Union under William Ponsonby – were among the finest cavalry units left in Europe after the decades of war in terms of quality of horses and weapons training. They did have serious deficiencies though, as was to become clear.
Scotland Forever by Lady Elizabeth Butler
The Household Brigade charged down through the centre of the Allied lines, smashing into the disorganised French cuirassiers that were ahead of the Le Haye Sainte position. With support from the soldiers in the farmhouse, the brigade routed the French here. Further left, the Union Brigade passed through their own soldiers to smash into d’Erlon’s infantry, to great effect. The French were scattered, with only a small number of units retaining the cohesion to form squares to defend themselves.
Battle of Mont-Saint-Jean by Vernet and Swebach
The cavalry had done well, but then went too far. Undisciplined and lacking cohesion of their own, they charged recklessly onwards towards the French positions, some of them reaching the grande batterie which they had neither the means nor the time to disable. The British cavalry was scattered all across the field and Napoleon took full advantage, sending in more cuirassiers and Lancers. This counter-attack caused huge casualties to the both the Household and Union brigades, which fell back in disarray. Only the intervention of British light cavalry and Dutch carabiniers (cavalry that fought with guns) prevented a complete reversal. The two brigades would continue to fight for the rest of the day, but by the close of fighting, could muster only a few squadrons between them.
Charge of the French Cuirassiers at Waterloo by Henri Philippoteaux
But the French infantry attack had been beaten back. Napoleon took heavy losses and, with the exception of his Imperial Guard reserve, all his infantry were now in play. Worse, the Prussians now began to seriously harry his right.
Around 16.00, Ney saw what he thought might have been a retreat in the Allied centre. It was actually the removal of casualties to the rear, but the French General believed it might be the beginning of a full-scale withdrawal and moved to take advantage. But he had pitiful infantry support, most of them still engaged at Hougoumont, so he was left with horse. Gathering regiments of cuirassiers, light and heavy cavalry, over 9’000 horses in all, he attacked. One of the regimental commanders was Francois de Kellerman, namesake of his father, the victor of Valmy 20 years before.
Wellington’s troops responded the only way they could, bar retreat: forming square. These formations, where troops arranged themselves in a hollow box shape, four ranks deep, was one of the only effective infantry responses to cavalry, though it was vulnerable to artillery and opposing infantry. With a hedge of bayonets at all sides, even charging horses would balk at engaging.
According to witnesses, over 12 cavalry attacks were made on the positions. It all came to down to psychology: the French hoped to plant fear in the hearts of the Allies with their charges, making them break and run, while the Allied infantry did their best to stay in formation and hold their ground, knowing that if they could do so, the French cavalry could not defeat them. A smattering of French artillery attempted to disrupt the squares, but could not do so effectively at distance.
La bataille du Waterloo by Clement-Auguste Andrieux
With the cavalry taking horrendous losses Ney stopped, and brought up what infantry he could to join them. The Household cavalry, now led directly by Lord Uxbridge (who would lose a leg later) counter-attacked. The fighting here devolved into bloody slaughter, as the opposing sides, both suffering from weakened cavalry, charged and counter-charged. The French infantry was able to cause immense damage to Uxbridge’s troops, causing some squadrons to flee the field.
Wellington at Waterloo by Robert Alexander Hillingford
While all that was going on, more attacks were launched on Le Haye Sainte, to the right of the cavalry battle. Having run out of ammunition from the days fighting, the defenders were obliged to retreat, though only after a last gasp defence, fighting hand to hand. With the farmhouse captured, Ney was able to call up horse artillery to engage the dogged squares at closer range. Some regiments, such as the 27th Inniskilling, were all but wiped out with reduced units merging to form more effective squares. The killing might have been worse but for the 95th Sharpshooters who, well positioned in the sand pit, continued harassing fire on the gunners.
Le Haye Sainte today.
While Wellington’s men were being hard-pressed, the Prussians finally began to exert themselves on the battle. The Prussian IV Corps, under Karl von Bulow, attacked towards the hamlet of Frichermont driving the French, under Lobau, from this position back towards the village of Plancenoit, near the rear of their lines. Suddenly faced with the very real possibility of encirclement, Napoleon sent all of the Young Guards that he could to assist. Ferocious fighting continued around this village, which would change hands no less than five times before the battle was finished. After sending even more reinforcements from his reserves, the French held it, but more and more Prussians were arriving on the battlefield, outnumbering the French defenders.
Prussian Attack on Plancenoit by Adolf Northern
The Prussian I Corps had also arrived on the field by this time, approaching from the north-east. This allowed Wellington to move troops from his left to his battered centre, which held thanks to the reinforcements. Ney’s combined attack had failed to make the breakthrough needed. Furthermore the French positions at Papelotte were also captured by a combined Prussian/British assault leaving the French line in a horseshoe shape from Hougoumont on the left to Plancenoit on the right and desperately thin.
With a small amount of time bought with the recapture of Plancenoit and the front stabilised temporarily around Le Haye Sainte, Napoleon played his final card – his hitherto undefeated Imperial Guard, his best troops. At 19.30, over 3’000 of them attacked the British centre, advancing through a hail of musket and canister fire, one of the most famous attacks of the period. They moved in three groups.
Two Battalions of Grenadiers breached the Allied lines despite heavy artillery fire, only to be flung into retreat by a last-gasp bayonet charge from a Dutch regiment. Two Battalions of Chasseurs’ advance was met by 1’500 troops of the Foot Guards, previously concealed due to the French artillery, who poured musket fire onto the Guard before scattering them with a bayonet charge, this incident being the source of the famous Wellington quotation “Up Guards at them again!”. The last group of Imperial Guard, a fresh Chasseur battalion, forced the Foot Guards back, only to be turned around themselves by the fire of the 52nd Light Regiment.
The Imperial Guard breaking had an electric effect on the rest of the army. Widespread panic ensued as Wellington signalled a general advance by all troops. The Imperial Guard rallied as best it could south of Le Haye Sainte eliciting its famous (but probably fictional) rallying cry (see above).
While the French were breaking on their left and centre, the Prussians were making their final moves at Plancenoit. The village was strewn with dead at this stage and the French, outgunned, outnumbered and exhausted, were outflanked and pushed out of the area for the last time. Initially retreating in good order, they ran into the rest of the army, panicked and running south, and were swept up in the un-coordinated retreat. Some French units were reporting 96% casualties.
The final stable force were two battalions of Imperial Guard around La Belle Alliance, Napoleon’s bodyguard. Pressed on all sides, these withdrew with their Emperor, moving south, leaving behind artillery, supplies and even a number of diamonds in Napoleon’s possession.
Wellington and Blücher met at La Belle Alliance sometime around 21.00, signifying the end of the battle, and with it, Napoleon. 15’000 of Wellington’s force were casualties, 7’000 of Blücher’s and 25’000 French, not including 8’000 prisoners.
Why It’s Decisive – Effect On That War
It signalled the end of that war and the French Wars. The Prussian army that was in Wavre was actually defeated by Grouchy’s forces the following day but the 33’000 French troops engaged there had won a hollow victory. Thier absence from the Waterloo battlefield was crucial. Grouchy was forced to join up with the remnants of the forces under Napoleon’s command, now retreating back over the border towards Paris.
Events moved rapidly. Napoleon, upon entering Paris, found the government and the people turning against him. With the Allied armies advancing through France, he had to face the inevitable. On the 22 June, four days after his defeat, he abdicated for the second time. After brief attempts to escape, he surrendered to the British. Exiled to the tiny Atlantic isle of St Helana, he died in 1821. The Bourban dynasty was restored.
Wellington was a national hero and went on to serve as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Blucher, 72 at the time of the battle, died in 1819, a German icon. The Council of Vienna made its final act just before the battle took place. Not all of its provisions were without controversy or dispute, but its decisions did create a general peace on the continent that would last (with a few, relatively brief, exceptions) for nearly a century.
The Great French Wars, that had lasted since the beginning of the Revolution in 1789, were finally over. Waterloo, while not the last clash, was the last of consequence.
Waterloo is the classic demonstration of tactics of the period. The strength and weaknesses of infantry, cavalry, artillery, cuirassiers, squares, command communications, defensive positions, columns, lines, attacks uphill, flanking and urban war were all demonstrated throughout the days events.
Wellington’s favored tactics – hiding his forces, massing his fire, using local buildings as fortifications – all worked out. Napoleon, obsessed with the offensive, lost out. With a large portion of his force not on the field, his constant attacks on the Allied line were futile and led to his downfall. If even the Imperial Guard couldn’t break through, nobody could.
In a larger sense, Waterloo can be seen as responsible for the “decisive battle” doctrine, that is, that wars could be decided by one gigantic battle where the majority of one force is neutralised. The idea had some merit – the Franco-Prussian War seemed to support it – but as Generals would find again and again – in the American Civil War, in the Crimea, in South Africa and in the First World War – the doctrine did not apply to the reality of what war had become. Waterloo was a noticeable exception, in that the result of the war was pretty much decided by it. But, armies had become too large and too technologically advanced, to be wiped out in a single engagement.
With the fall of Napoleon, Imperial France came to an end. Soon Britain and France were allies, reversing centuries of conflict between the two, fighting together in Crimea, the First and the Second World War. The fallout from the Napoleonic Wars also began the process of German unification, which would lead to the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. The UK cemented its place as the World’s great power and would spend most of the following century expanding its Empire.
If the result had been reversed? If Hougoumont had fallen early? If one of the infantry attacks had broken through? If Grouchy’s men had been at the battlefield?
It’s very hard to tell. Best case scenario, for France, would have been the neutralisation of the Allied armies in the Low Countries, revolution in Belgium and a cessation in hostilities from the Council of Vienna. Perhaps they would, after so much war, have given peace a chance through recognition of Napoleon.
But, its unlikely. For the very reason that there had been so much war, the Seventh Coaltion was unlikely to to throw all that loss away and accept Napoleon’s return. The French might have beaten the British and the Prussians but Austrian and Russian armies were already on the march. Napoleon would still have been outnumbered. Maybe he could have pulled off some more of his tactical genius, but the nations of Europe had fought seven wars against France since 1789. They were committed to bringing the nation to heel and there is nothing to suggest that the sentiment was about to change.
Of course, its possible such a result, and a prolongation of the French Wars, would have meant no future French-British alliance and no German moves towards unification. That would have made the political picture in Europe throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries very different.
In National Consciousness
Pretty huge. The battle is a major part of British and French military history, naturally. For Britain, it is on the same level as Trafalgar, Agincourt and the Somme. A great deal of romantic sentiment has arisen from the battle, especially from the doomed cavalry charges and the last attack of the Imperial Guard. Numerous British regiments trace some of their most famous moments to the campaign. The very name of the battle has entered the English language: to face one’s “Waterloo” meaning to face a final defeat.
Many locations, towns, villages, islands, ships, bridges and roads throughout Britain, its Empire and the United States have taken the name of the battle. Probably the most well-known is London’s Waterloo train station which is now the terminus of a line to Paris.
The Waterloo Medal, the first of its kind to be distributed to all soldiers present at a military engagement, was awarded to all 39’000 British soldiers present on the field, an indication of the immense importance of it and the prestige attachted to having been there.
Waterloo, as you would expect, holds a huge place in fiction, from Victor Hugo to Arthur Conan Doyle. The famous Sharpe series of Bernard Cornwall climaxes with the battle, where the titular hero fights in the Dutch Army and leads the general advance at the end of the battle.
In terms of film, the 1970 epic Waterloo is the most famous visual adaptation, but others include ITN’s adaptation of the Cornwall novel and The Battle of Waterloo, made in 1913, one of the first British movies.
Numerous famous paintings of the battle, some displayed here, have been made. The battle has been the subject and inspiration of many different songs and melodies across different genres. The 1974 Eurovision winner, from Swedish group ABBA, took the name of the battle, but had nothing to do with it (shockingly). The battle features in some video games and was the final choice of Edward Creasy in his Decisive Battles, the inspiration of this post series. John Keegan, the noted military historian and theorist, considered Waterloo, along with the first day of the Somme and Agincourt, to be one of the three seminal battles worthy of study in his groundbreaking treatise The Face of Battle one of the most well-regarded texts on battle study ever written.
The battlefield itself, in modern-day Belgium, is a major tourist attraction of the region. The Butte du Lion, a man-made conical hill with a gigantic lion statue at its summit, is the primary commemoration on the site itself. It is supposedly the site where the Prince of Orange was wounded towards the end of the battle. Hougoumont, Le Haye Sainte and La Belle Alliance all still stand. Monuments mark the site of the battles dead, separated by nationality, as well as L’aigle Blesse, the Wounded Eagle, the apparent site where the last of the Imperial Guard rallied.
On the subject of monuments, Victor Hugo wrote:
“The elevation of this escarpment can still be measured by the height of the two knolls of the two great sepulchres which enclose the road from Genappe to Brussels: one, the English tomb, is on the left; the other, the German tomb, is on the right. There is no French tomb. The whole of that plain is a sepulchre for France.”
The statement may sum up the French feelings of the battle.
Somewhere between 4 and 8 million people were killed in the French Wars. What started as a revolutionary movement, aiming at the introduction of liberty and equality, became a clash of empires, one of the most crucial periods in French, British, European and military history. The heroes of the age – Napoleon, Ney, Kellerman, Wellington, Blucher, Barclay, Nelson – clashed in places whose names have gone into legend – Talavera, Trafalgar, Austerlitz, Borodino and Waterloo.
It is a strange thing, about the French Wars and Waterloo. They had apparently ended in 1813 in a mess: Napoleon hounded down in Paris, his armies gone. Then, this epic series of conflicts got an ending worthy of the greatest Hollywood blockbuster: a gigantic clash of armies, perhaps the best Generals of the period against each other, a defining moment that ended 20 years of war in one single bloody day.
Is it any wonder that Waterloo is considered as important as it is? It is one of the moments of history of our continent, of warfare and of the world.
The Battle of Waterloo by Mary Evans
For more of NFB’s Decisive Battles check out the index here.