The Battle of Waterloo
(Information taken from 'Waterloo' by Charles Labour.
Before the Battle
In 1814 Napoleon had been exiled to the Island of Elba, but escaped to France in March 1815. Very quickly he managed to form a new army with which he wanted to reconquer his lost empire. The first part that he wanted to reconquer was Belgium and Holland. The European powers, at Congress in Vienna, mobilized their armies to defeat Napoleon. Two major armies made their way to Belgium. The first one was an army consisting of divisions from different countries (Belgian, Dutch, British) under the command of the Duke of Wellington. The second army came from Prussia and was led by Marshal Blücher.
Battles at Ligny and Quatre Bras
The armies already clashed before the actual battle took place. Blücher and the Prussian army fought Napoleon at Ligny, a village north east of Charleroi on the 16th of June. However, Blücher and his troops were forced to retreat. A part of the army of the Duke of Wellington tried to drive the French army back at Quatre Bras, the crossroads of the Brussels-Charleroi and Namur-Nivelles roads. Also Wellington did not succeed and he had to retire to the plains south of Waterloo where he waited for the big confrontation on the 18th. Blücher managed to send a message to Wellington that he would be able to join him on the battlefield at Waterloo, but probably only later in the day. Napoleon thought that the Prussian army had been defeated and that he would only have to face the Wellington troops.
The Battle of Waterloo
On the night before the battle it had rained heavily and both the French and Allied armies had spent the night in the mud and the pouring rain. The troops of Wellington occupied the northern part of the plains of Mont-Saint-Jean and were situated behind a sunken lane, which later proved to be a strategic advantage for the Duke, because the French infantry and cavalry kept falling inside this sunken land and thereby hindering each other to move further north.
The battlefield was situated around three large farmhouses . On the far left was the HOUGOMONT chateau/farm, in the middle the HAIE SAINTE farm and at the extreme right was the PAPELLOTTE farm. The French offensive started at 12 0'clock when the farm of Hougomont was taken. Later during the day heavy fights took place around the farms of Haie Sainte and Papellote. By the late afternoon the chances for both armies were still fifty-fifty. But, around that time the Blücher's troops started to arrive coming from Wavre to assist the army of Wellington. By then, the French army was surrounded by the two forces and could no longer withstand the joint attacks of allied troops. By the beginning of the evening Napoleon had to withdraw his troops from the battlefield and start the escape back to France. Later, Blücher and Wellington met each other near the BELLE ALLIANCE farmhouse and congratulated each other with the final victory over Napoleon.
On the 18th of June 191,300 soldiers fought one of the most decisive battles in the history of Europe in only one day. The Wellington army had 67,000 soldiers, Blücher's army 52.300 and Napoleon's army 72,000. A total of 48,500 men fell or were severely wounded.
After the battle, the territory of the battlefield was given to the Wellington family by the newly formed state of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. Later several monuments were erected in commemoration of the different army divisions who fought the battle of Waterloo.