Battle of Waterloo
Overview
 
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo
Waterloo, Belgium
Waterloo is a Walloon municipality located in the province of Walloon Brabant, Belgium. On December 31, 2009, Waterloo had a total population of 29,573. The total area is 21.03 km² which gives a population density of 1,407 inhabitants per km²...

 in present-day Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands
United Kingdom of the Netherlands
United Kingdom of the Netherlands is the unofficial name used to refer to Kingdom of the Netherlands during the period after it was first created from part of the First French Empire and before the new kingdom of Belgium split out in 1830...

. An Imperial French
First French Empire
The First French Empire , also known as the Greater French Empire or Napoleonic Empire, was the empire of Napoleon I of France...

 army under the command of Emperor
Emperor of the French
The Emperor of the French was the title used by the Bonaparte Dynasty starting when Napoleon Bonaparte was given the title Emperor on 18 May 1804 by the French Senate and was crowned emperor of the French on 02 December 1804 at the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, in Paris with the Crown of...

 Napoleon
Napoleon I
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 was defeated by combined armies of the Seventh Coalition, an Anglo-Allied army under the command of the Duke of Wellington
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS , was an Irish-born British soldier and statesman, and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century...

 combined with a Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n army under the command of Gebhard von Blücher
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Fürst von Wahlstatt , Graf , later elevated to Fürst von Wahlstatt, was a Prussian Generalfeldmarschall who led his army against Napoleon I at the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig in 1813 and at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 with the Duke of Wellington.He is...

. It was the culminating battle of the Waterloo Campaign and Napoleon's last. The defeat at Waterloo put an end to Napoleon's rule as Emperor of the French and marked the end of his Hundred Days
Hundred Days
The Hundred Days, sometimes known as the Hundred Days of Napoleon or Napoleon's Hundred Days for specificity, marked the period between Emperor Napoleon I of France's return from exile on Elba to Paris on 20 March 1815 and the second restoration of King Louis XVIII on 8 July 1815...

 return from exile.

Upon Napoleon's return to power in 1815, many states that had opposed him formed the Seventh Coalition and began to mobilise armies.
Encyclopedia
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815 near Waterloo
Waterloo, Belgium
Waterloo is a Walloon municipality located in the province of Walloon Brabant, Belgium. On December 31, 2009, Waterloo had a total population of 29,573. The total area is 21.03 km² which gives a population density of 1,407 inhabitants per km²...

 in present-day Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands
United Kingdom of the Netherlands
United Kingdom of the Netherlands is the unofficial name used to refer to Kingdom of the Netherlands during the period after it was first created from part of the First French Empire and before the new kingdom of Belgium split out in 1830...

. An Imperial French
First French Empire
The First French Empire , also known as the Greater French Empire or Napoleonic Empire, was the empire of Napoleon I of France...

 army under the command of Emperor
Emperor of the French
The Emperor of the French was the title used by the Bonaparte Dynasty starting when Napoleon Bonaparte was given the title Emperor on 18 May 1804 by the French Senate and was crowned emperor of the French on 02 December 1804 at the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, in Paris with the Crown of...

 Napoleon
Napoleon I
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

 was defeated by combined armies of the Seventh Coalition, an Anglo-Allied army under the command of the Duke of Wellington
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington
Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS , was an Irish-born British soldier and statesman, and one of the leading military and political figures of the 19th century...

 combined with a Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n army under the command of Gebhard von Blücher
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher
Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Fürst von Wahlstatt , Graf , later elevated to Fürst von Wahlstatt, was a Prussian Generalfeldmarschall who led his army against Napoleon I at the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig in 1813 and at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 with the Duke of Wellington.He is...

. It was the culminating battle of the Waterloo Campaign and Napoleon's last. The defeat at Waterloo put an end to Napoleon's rule as Emperor of the French and marked the end of his Hundred Days
Hundred Days
The Hundred Days, sometimes known as the Hundred Days of Napoleon or Napoleon's Hundred Days for specificity, marked the period between Emperor Napoleon I of France's return from exile on Elba to Paris on 20 March 1815 and the second restoration of King Louis XVIII on 8 July 1815...

 return from exile.

Upon Napoleon's return to power in 1815, many states that had opposed him formed the Seventh Coalition and began to mobilise armies. Two large forces under Wellington and von Blücher assembled close to the north-eastern border of France. Napoleon chose to attack in the hope of destroying them before they could join in a coordinated invasion of France with other members of the coalition. The decisive engagement of this three-day Waterloo Campaign (16–19 June 1815) occurred at the Battle of Waterloo. According to Wellington, the battle was "the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life."

Napoleon delayed giving battle until noon on 18 June to allow the ground to dry. Wellington's army, positioned across the Brussels road on the Mont-Saint-Jean
Mont-Saint-Jean, Belgium
Mont-Saint-Jean is a hamlet located in the province of Walloon Brabant, Belgium, south of Waterloo located partly on Waterloo and partly on Braine-l'Alleud where the National road going from Brussels to Charleroi crosses the National road going from Nivelles to Leuven.-History:Mont-Saint-Jean is...

 escarpment
Escarpment
An escarpment is a steep slope or long cliff that occurs from erosion or faulting and separates two relatively level areas of differing elevations.-Description and variants:...

, withstood repeated attacks by the French, until, in the evening, the Prussians arrived in force and broke through Napoleon's right flank. At that moment, Wellington's Anglo-Allied army counter-attacked and drove the French army in disorder from the field. Pursuing coalition forces entered France and restored Louis XVIII
Louis XVIII of France
Louis XVIII , known as "the Unavoidable", was King of France and of Navarre from 1814 to 1824, omitting the Hundred Days in 1815...

 to the French throne. Napoleon abdicated, surrendered to the British, and was exiled to Saint Helena
Saint Helena
Saint Helena , named after St Helena of Constantinople, is an island of volcanic origin in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is part of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha which also includes Ascension Island and the islands of Tristan da Cunha...

, where he died in 1821.

The battlefield is in present-day Belgium, about 8 miles (12.9 km) south by south-east of Brussels
Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

, and about 1 miles (1.6 km) from the town of Waterloo
Waterloo, Belgium
Waterloo is a Walloon municipality located in the province of Walloon Brabant, Belgium. On December 31, 2009, Waterloo had a total population of 29,573. The total area is 21.03 km² which gives a population density of 1,407 inhabitants per km²...

. The site of the battlefield is today dominated by a large monument, the Lion Mound
Butte du Lion
The Lion's Mound is a large conical artificial hill raised on the battlefield of Waterloo to commemorate the location where William II of the Netherlands was knocked from his horse by a musket ball to the shoulder during the battle...

. As this mound used earth from the battlefield itself, the original topography of the part of the battlefield around the mound has not been preserved.

Prelude

On 13 March 1815, six days before Napoleon reached Paris, the powers at the Congress of Vienna
Congress of Vienna
The Congress of Vienna was a conference of ambassadors of European states chaired by Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, and held in Vienna from September, 1814 to June, 1815. The objective of the Congress was to settle the many issues arising from the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars,...

 declared him an outlaw. Four days later, the United Kingdom
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

, Russia
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

, Austria
Austrian Empire
The Austrian Empire was a modern era successor empire, which was centered on what is today's Austria and which officially lasted from 1804 to 1867. It was followed by the Empire of Austria-Hungary, whose proclamation was a diplomatic move that elevated Hungary's status within the Austrian Empire...

, and Prussia
Kingdom of Prussia
The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom from 1701 to 1918. Until the defeat of Germany in World War I, it comprised almost two-thirds of the area of the German Empire...

 mobilised armies to defeat Napoleon. Napoleon knew that once his attempts at dissuading one or more of the Seventh Coalition allies from invading France had failed, his only chance of remaining in power was to attack before the coalition mobilised. If he could destroy the existing coalition forces south of Brussels before they were reinforced, he might be able to drive the British back to the sea and knock the Prussians out of the war. An additional consideration was that there were many French-speaking sympathisers in Belgium and a French victory might trigger a friendly revolution there. Also, the British troops in Belgium were largely second-line troops; most of the veterans of the Peninsular War
Peninsular War
The Peninsular War was a war between France and the allied powers of Spain, the United Kingdom, and Portugal for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The war began when French and Spanish armies crossed Spain and invaded Portugal in 1807. Then, in 1808, France turned on its...

 had been sent to America to fight the War of 1812
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions because of Britain's ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant...

.
Wellington's initial dispositions were intended to counter the threat of Napoleon enveloping the Coalition armies by moving through Mons
Mons
Mons is a Walloon city and municipality located in the Belgian province of Hainaut, of which it is the capital. The Mons municipality includes the old communes of Cuesmes, Flénu, Ghlin, Hyon, Nimy, Obourg, Baudour , Jemappes, Ciply, Harmignies, Harveng, Havré, Maisières, Mesvin, Nouvelles,...

 to the south-west of Brussels. This would have cut Wellington's communications with his base at Ostend
Ostend
Ostend  is a Belgian city and municipality located in the Flemish province of West Flanders. It comprises the boroughs of Mariakerke , Stene and Zandvoorde, and the city of Ostend proper – the largest on the Belgian coast....

, but would have pushed his army closer to Blücher's. Napoleon manipulated Wellington's fear of this loss of his supply chain from the channel ports with false intelligence. He divided his army into a left wing commanded by Marshal Ney
Michel Ney
Michel Ney , 1st Duc d'Elchingen, 1st Prince de la Moskowa was a French soldier and military commander during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. He was one of the original 18 Marshals of France created by Napoleon I...

, a right wing commanded by Marshal Grouchy
Emmanuel, marquis de Grouchy
Emmanuel de Grouchy, 2ème Marquis de Grouchy was a French general and marshal.-Biography:Grouchy was born in Paris, the son of François-Jacques de Grouchy, 1st Marquis de Grouchy and intellectual wife Gilberte Fréteau de Pény . His sister was Sophie de Condorcet, a noted femininist...

, and a reserve, which he commanded personally (although all three elements remained close enough to support one another). Crossing the frontier near Charleroi
Charleroi
Charleroi is a city and a municipality of Wallonia, located in the province of Hainaut, Belgium. , the total population of Charleroi was 201,593. The metropolitan area, including the outer commuter zone, covers an area of and had a total population of 522,522 as of 1 January 2008, ranking it as...

 before dawn on 15 June, the French rapidly overran Coalition outposts, securing Napoleon's "central position" between Wellington's and Blücher's armies.

Only very late on the night of 15 June was Wellington certain that the Charleroi attack was the main French thrust. In the early hours of 16 June, at the Duchess of Richmond's ball
Duchess of Richmond's ball
The Duchess of Richmond's ball was held in Brussels on 15 June 1815, the night before the Battle of Quatre Bras. The Duchess's husband Charles Lennox, 4th Duke of Richmond was in command of a reserve force in Brussels, which was protecting that city in case Napoleon Bonaparte invaded.Elizabeth...

 in Brussels, he received a dispatch from the Prince of Orange
William II of the Netherlands
William II was King of the Netherlands, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and Duke of Limburg from 7 October 1840 until his death in 1849.- Early life and education :...

, and was shocked by the speed of Napoleon's advance. He hastily ordered his army to concentrate on Quatre Bras
Quatre Bras
Quatre Bras is a common name given to a crossroad in French.More specifically it refers to the crossroad of the Charleroi-Brussels road and the Nivelles-Namur road South of Genappe in Wallonia, Belgium...

, where the Prince of Orange, with the brigade of Prince Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar, was holding a tenuous position against the soldiers of Ney's left wing. Ney's orders were to secure the crossroads of Quatre Bras, so that, if necessary, he could later swing east and reinforce Napoleon.

Napoleon moved against the concentrated Prussian army first. On 16 June, with a part of the reserve and the right wing of the army, he attacked and defeated Blücher's Prussians at the Battle of Ligny
Battle of Ligny
The Battle of Ligny was the last victory of the military career of Napoleon I. In this battle, French troops of the Armée du Nord under Napoleon's command, defeated a Prussian army under Field Marshal Blücher, near Ligny in present-day Belgium. The bulk of the Prussian army survived, however, and...

. The Prussian centre gave way under more heavy French assaults, but the flanks held their ground. Ney, meanwhile, found the crossroads of Quatre Bras
Battle of Quatre Bras
The Battle of Quatre Bras, between Wellington's Anglo-Dutch army and the left wing of the Armée du Nord under Marshal Michel Ney, was fought near the strategic crossroads of Quatre Bras on 16 June 1815.- Prelude :...

 lightly held by the Prince of Orange, who successfully repelled Ney's initial attacks, but was gradually driven back by overwhelming numbers of French troops. First reinforcements and then Wellington himself arrived. He took command and drove Ney back, securing the crossroads by early evening, but too late to send help to the Prussians, who were defeated at the Battle of Ligny
Battle of Ligny
The Battle of Ligny was the last victory of the military career of Napoleon I. In this battle, French troops of the Armée du Nord under Napoleon's command, defeated a Prussian army under Field Marshal Blücher, near Ligny in present-day Belgium. The bulk of the Prussian army survived, however, and...

 on the same day. The Prussian defeat made Wellington's position at Quatre Bras untenable, so the next day he withdrew northwards, to a defensive position he had personally reconnoitred
Reconnaissance
Reconnaissance is the military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about enemy forces or features of the environment....

 the previous year—the low ridge
Ridge
A ridge is a geological feature consisting of a chain of mountains or hills that form a continuous elevated crest for some distance. Ridges are usually termed hills or mountains as well, depending on size. There are several main types of ridges:...

 of Mont-Saint-Jean, south of the village of Waterloo
Waterloo, Belgium
Waterloo is a Walloon municipality located in the province of Walloon Brabant, Belgium. On December 31, 2009, Waterloo had a total population of 29,573. The total area is 21.03 km² which gives a population density of 1,407 inhabitants per km²...

 and the Sonian Forest
Sonian Forest
The Sonian Forest is a forest that lies across the south-eastern part of Brussels, Belgium.The forest lies in the Flemish municipalities of Sint-Genesius-Rode, Hoeilaart, Overijse and Tervuren, in Uccle, Watermael-Boitsfort, Auderghem and Woluwe-Saint-Pierre in the Brussels-Capital Region and in...

.

The Prussian retreat from Ligny went uninterrupted, and seemingly unnoticed, by the French. The bulk of their rearguard units held their positions until about midnight, and some elements did not move out until the following morning, completely ignored by the French. 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 Von Bülow's
Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr von Bülow
Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr von Bülow, Graf von Dennewitz was a Prussian general of the Napoleonic Wars.-Early life:...

 IV Corps, which had not been engaged at Ligny, and was in a strong position south of Wavre
Wavre
Wavre is a town and municipality located in the Belgian province of Walloon Brabant, of which it is the capital.Wavre is located in the Dyle valley. Most of its inhabitants speak French as mother tongue and are called "Wavriens" and "Wavriennes"...

.

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, but the result was only a brief cavalry skirmish in Genappe
Genappe
Genappe is a Walloon municipality located in the Belgian province of Walloon Brabant. On 1 January 2006 Genappe had a total population of 14,136...

 just as torrential rain set in for the night. Before leaving Ligny, Napoleon ordered Grouchy, commander of the right wing, to follow up the retreating Prussians with 33,000 men. A late start, uncertainty about the direction the Prussians had taken, and the vagueness of the orders given to him meant that Grouchy was too late to prevent the Prussian army reaching Wavre
Wavre
Wavre is a town and municipality located in the Belgian province of Walloon Brabant, of which it is the capital.Wavre is located in the Dyle valley. Most of its inhabitants speak French as mother tongue and are called "Wavriens" and "Wavriennes"...

, from where it could march to support Wellington. By the end of 17 June, 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 (12.9 km) to the east of the city.

Armies


Three armies were involved in the battle: Napoleon's Armée du Nord; a multinational army under Wellington; and a Prussian army under Blücher. The French army of around 69,000 consisted of 48,000 infantry, 14,000 cavalry, and 7,000 artillery with 250 guns. Napoleon had used conscription to fill the ranks of the French army throughout his rule, but he did not conscript men for the 1815 campaign. All his troops were veterans of at least one campaign who had returned more or less voluntarily to the colours. The cavalry in particular was both numerous and formidable, and included fourteen regiments of armoured heavy cavalry
Heavy cavalry
Heavy cavalry is a class of cavalry whose primary role was to engage in direct combat with enemy forces . Although their equipment differed greatly depending on the region and historical period, they were generally mounted on large powerful horses, and were often equipped with some form of scale,...

 and seven of highly versatile lancers. Neither Coalition army had any armoured troops at all, and Wellington had only a handful of lancers.

Wellington claimed 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
King's German Legion
The King's German Legion was a British Army unit of expatriate German personnel, 1803–16. The Legion achieved the distinction of being the only German force to fight without interruption against the French during the Napoleonic Wars....

. All of the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 troops were regular soldiers but only 7,000 of them were Peninsular War
Peninsular War
The Peninsular War was a war between France and the allied powers of Spain, the United Kingdom, and Portugal for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The war began when French and Spanish armies crossed Spain and invaded Portugal in 1807. Then, in 1808, France turned on its...

 veterans. In addition, there were 17,000 Dutch and Belgian troops, 11,000 from Hanover
House of Hanover
The House of Hanover is a deposed German royal dynasty which has ruled the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg , the Kingdom of Hanover, the Kingdom of Great Britain, the Kingdom of Ireland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

, 6,000 from Brunswick, and 3,000 from Nassau.
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. Wellington was also acutely short of heavy cavalry, having only seven British and three Dutch regiments. The Duke of York
Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany
The Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany was a member of the Hanoverian and British Royal Family, the second eldest child, and second son, of King George III...

 imposed many of his staff officers on Wellington, including his second-in-command, the Earl of Uxbridge
Henry Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey
Field Marshal Henry William Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey, KG, GCB, GCH, PC , styled Lord Paget between 1784 and 1812 and known as The Earl of Uxbridge between 1812 and 1815, was a British military leader and politician, now chiefly remembered for leading the charge of the heavy cavalry against...

. 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
Halle, Belgium
Halle , is a Belgian city and municipality in the district Halle-Vilvoorde of the province Flemish Brabant. The city is located on the Brussels-Charleroi Canal and on the Flemish side of the language border that separates Flanders and Wallonia...

, 8 miles (12.9 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 William, Prince of Orange
William II of the Netherlands
William II was King of the Netherlands, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and Duke of Limburg from 7 October 1840 until his death in 1849.- Early life and education :...

's younger brother Prince Frederik of the Netherlands.

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
Landwehr
Landwehr, or Landeswehr, is a German language term used in referring to certain national armies, or militias found in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Europe. In different context it refers to large scale, low strength fortifications...

(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. Off-setting these handicaps, however, the Prussian Army did have 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 at 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 Friedrich von Bülow
Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr von Bülow
Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr von Bülow, Graf von Dennewitz was a Prussian general of the Napoleonic Wars.-Early life:...

, commander of IV Corps, attacked Lobau
Georges Mouton
Georges Mouton, comte de Lobau was a French soldier and political figure who rose to the rank of Marshal of France.-Biography:Born in Phalsbourg, Lorraine, he enlisted in the French Revolutionary Army in 1792...

 at 16:30, while Zieten's I Corps and parts of Georg von Pirch's II Corps engaged at about 18:00.

Battlefield

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
Ohain, Belgium
Ohain is a town in the Belgian municipality of Lasne, located in the province of Walloon Brabant.Marvin Gaye recorded his top selling album "Midnight Love" at Katy Studios in Ohain....

 road, a deep sunken lane
Sunken lane
A sunken lane is a road which has over time fallen significantly lower than the land on either side. They are created incrementally by erosion, by water and traffic...

. Near the crossroads with the Brussels road was a large elm tree that was roughly in the centre of Wellington's position and served as his command post for much of the day. Wellington deployed his infantry in a line just behind the crest of the ridge following the Ohain road. Using the reverse slope
Reverse slope defence
A reverse slope defence is a military tactic where a defending force is positioned on the slope of an elevated terrain feature such as a hill, ridge, or mountain, on the side opposite from the attacking force...

, 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 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
Braine-l'Alleud
Braine-l'Alleud is a Walloon municipality located in the Belgian province of Walloon Brabant, about 20 kilometers south of Brussels. The Braine-l'Alleud municipality includes the former municipalities of Braine-l'Alleud proper, Ophain-Bois-Seigneur-Isaac, and Lillois-Witterzée. It also includes...

, in the expectation that the Prussians would reinforce his left during the day.

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
Hougoumont (farmhouse)
Château d'Hougoumont is a large farmhouse situated at the bottom of an escarpment near the Nivelles road in Braine-l'Alleud, near Waterloo, Belgium. The escarpment is where British and other allied forces faced Napoleon's Army at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815.The name "Hougoumont" is...

. 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
La Haye Sainte
La Haye Sainte is a walled farmhouse compound at the foot of an escarpment on the Charleroi-Brussels road. It has changed very little since it played a very important part in the battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815...

, which was garrisoned with 400 light infantry of the King's German Legion
King's German Legion
The King's German Legion was a British Army unit of expatriate German personnel, 1803–16. The Legion achieved the distinction of being the only German force to fight without interruption against the French during the Napoleonic Wars....

. On the opposite side of the road was a disused sand quarry, where the 95th Rifles were posted as sharpshooters.
This position presented a formidable challenge to an attacker. 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
Enfilade and defilade
Enfilade and defilade are concepts in military tactics used to describe a military formation's exposure to enemy fire. A formation or position is "in enfilade" if weapons fire can be directed along its longest axis. A unit or position is "in defilade" if it uses natural or artificial obstacles to...

 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 streets and hedgerows of Papelotte, and some very wet ground.

The French army formed on the slopes of another ridge to the south. Napoleon could not see Wellington's positions, so he drew his forces up symmetrically about the Brussels road. On the right was I Corps under d'Erlon
Jean-Baptiste Drouet, Comte d'Erlon
Jean-Baptiste Drouet, comte d'Erlon was a marshal of France and a soldier in Napoleon's Army. D'Erlon notably commanded the I Corps of the Armée du Nord at the battle of Waterloo....

 with 16,000 infantry and 1,500 cavalry, plus a cavalry reserve of 4,700. On the left was II Corps under Reille
Honoré Charles Reille
Honoré Charles Michel Joseph Reille was a Marshal of France, born in Antibes.Reille served in the early campaigns of the French Revolutionary Wars under Dumouriez and Masséna, whose daughter Victoire he married. In 1800, Reille was appointed commander of the Italian city of Florence...

 with 13,000 infantry, and 1,300 cavalry, and a cavalry reserve of 4,600. In the centre about the road south of the inn La Belle Alliance
La Belle Alliance
La Belle Alliance is an inn situated a few miles south of Brussels in Belgium.On the morning of June 18, 1815 the inn became Napoleon Bonaparte's headquarters for the Battle of Waterloo....

were a reserve including Lobau's VI Corps with 6,000 men, the 13,000 infantry of the Imperial Guard, and a cavalry reserve of 2,000. In the right rear of the French position was the substantial village of Plancenoit
Plancenoit
Placenoit is a village in the commune of Lasne, Walloon Brabant, Belgium. The village was a key strategic point during the Battle of Waterloo as it was the main focal point of the Prussians' flank attack on Napoleon's army....

, and at the extreme right, the Bois de Paris wood. Napoleon initially commanded the battle from Rossomme farm, where he could see the entire battlefield, but moved to a position near La Belle Alliance early in the afternoon. Command on the battlefield (which was largely hidden from his view) was delegated to Ney.

Battle

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
Battle of Ligny
The Battle of Ligny was the last victory of the military career of Napoleon I. In this battle, French troops of the Armée du Nord under Napoleon's command, defeated a Prussian army under Field Marshal Blücher, near Ligny in present-day Belgium. The bulk of the Prussian army survived, however, and...

. Although they had not taken casualties, IV Corps had been marching for two days, covering the retreat of the three other corps of the Prussian army from the battlefield of Ligny. They had been posted farthest away from the battlefield, and progress was very slow. The roads were in poor condition after the night's heavy rain, and Bülow's men had to pass through the congested streets of Wavre and move up 88 artillery pieces. Matters were not helped by a fire which broke out in Wavre and blocked several streets along Bülow's intended route. As a result, the last part of the corps left at 10:00, six hours after the leading elements had moved out towards Waterloo. Bülow's men were followed to Waterloo first by I Corps and then by II Corps.

Napoleon breakfasted off silver plate at Le Caillou, the house where he had spent the night. When Soult suggested that Grouchy should be recalled to join the main force, Napoleon said, "Just because you have all been beaten by Wellington, you think he's a good general. I tell you Wellington is a bad general, the English are bad troops, and this affair is nothing more than eating breakfast." However, Napoleon's surprisingly dismissive statements should not be taken at face value, given the Emperor's maxim that "in war, morale is everything" and that praising the enemy is always wrong, as it reduces one's morale. Indeed, he had been seen engaging in such pre-battle, morale-boosting harangues on a number of occasions in the past and on the morning of the battle of Waterloo he had to deal with his chief of staff's pessimism and nervousness and had to respond to several persistent and almost defeatist objections from some of his senior generals. Later on, being told by his brother, Jerome
Jérôme Bonaparte
Jérôme-Napoléon Bonaparte, French Prince, King of Westphalia, 1st Prince of Montfort was the youngest brother of Napoleon, who made him king of Westphalia...

, 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 Wavre, Napoleon declared that the Prussians would need at least two days to recover and would be dealt with by Grouchy. Surprisingly, Jerome's overheard gossip aside, the French commanders present at the pre-battle conference at Le Caillou had no information about the alarming proximity of the Prussians and did not suspect that Blücher's men would start irrupting onto the field of battle in great numbers just five hours later.

Napoleon had delayed the start of the battle owing to the sodden ground, which would have made manoeuvring cavalry and artillery difficult. In addition, many of his forces had bivouacked
Bivouac shelter
A bivouac traditionally refers to a military encampment made with tents or improvised shelters, usually without shelter or protection from enemy fire or such a site where a camp may be built. It is also commonly used to describe a variety of improvised camp sites such as those used in scouting and...

 well to the south of La Belle Alliance. At 10:00, in response to a dispatch he had received from Grouchy six hours earlier, he sent a reply telling Grouchy to "head for Wavre [to Grouchy's north] in order to draw near to us [to the west of Grouchy]" and then "push before him" the Prussians to arrive at Waterloo "as soon as possible".

At 11:00, Napoleon drafted his general order: Reille's Corps on the left and d'Erlon's Corps to the right were to attack the village of Mont-Saint-Jean and keep abreast of one another. This order assumed Wellington's battle-line was in the village, rather than at the more forward position on the ridge. To enable this, Jerome's division would make an initial attack on Hougoumont, which Napoleon expected would draw in Wellington's reserves, since its loss would threaten his communications with the sea. A grande batterie
Grand Battery
Grand Battery was a French artillery tactic of the Napoleonic wars. It involved massing all available batteries into a single large, temporary one, and concentrating the firepower of their guns at a single point in the enemy's lines.Substituting volume of fire for accuracy, rate of fire and rapid...

 of the reserve artillery of I, II, and VI Corps was to then bombard the centre of Wellington's position from about 13:00. D'Erlon's corps would then attack Wellington's left, break through, and roll up his line from east to west. In his memoirs, Napoleon wrote that his intention was to separate Wellington's army from the Prussians and drive it back towards the sea.

Hougoumont



The historian Andrew Roberts notes that "It is a curious fact about the Battle of Waterloo that no one is absolutely certain when it actually began". Wellington recorded in his dispatches that at "about ten o'clock [Napoleon] commenced a furious attack upon our post at Hougoumont". Other sources state that the attack began around 11:30. The house and its immediate environs were defended by four light companies of Guards
Foot Guards
-British Army:The Foot Guards are the Regular Infantry regiments of the Household Division of the British Army. There have been six regiments of foot guards, five of which still exist. The Royal Guards Reserve Regiment was a reserve formation of the Household Brigade in existence from 1900-1901...

, and the wood and park by Hanoverian Jäger
Jäger (military)
Jäger is a term that was adopted in the Enlightenment era in German-speaking states and others influenced by German military practice to describe a kind of light infantry, and it has continued in that use since then....

 and the 1/2nd Nassau. 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. Some French troops managed to enter its courtyard before the gate was resecured. The 2nd Coldstream Guards
Coldstream Guards
Her Majesty's Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards, also known officially as the Coldstream Guards , is a regiment of the British Army, part of the Guards Division or Household Division....

 and 2/3rd Foot Guards then arrived and repulsed the attack.
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 the afternoon, Napoleon personally ordered the house to be shelled to set it on fire, Seeing the flames, Wellington sent a note to the house's commander stating that he must hold his position whatever the cost, resulting in the destruction of all but the chapel. Du Plat's brigade of the King's German Legion was brought forward to defend the hollow way, which they had to do without senior officers. Eventually they were relieved by the 71st Foot
71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot
The 71st Regiment of Foot was a Highland regiment in the British Army, which in 1881 became the 1st Battalion, Highland Light Infantry .- First formation :...

, a British infantry regiment. Adam's brigade was further reinforced by Hugh Halkett's
Hugh Halkett
General Baron Hugh Halkett, GCH, CB, was a British soldier during the Napoleonic Wars and later a general of infantry in the Hanoverian service.-Early career:...

 3rd Hanoverian Brigade, and successfully repulsed further infantry and cavalry attacks sent by Reille. Hougoumont held out until the end of the battle.

The fighting at Hougoumont has often been characterised as a diversionary attack to draw in Wellington's reserves but which escalated into an all-day battle and drew in French reserves instead. In fact there is a good case to believe that both Napoleon and Wellington thought that holding Hougoumont was key to winning the battle. Hougoumont was a part of the battlefield that Napoleon could see clearly, and he continued to direct resources towards it and its surroundings all afternoon (33 battalions in all, 14,000 troops). Similarly, though the house never contained a large number of troops, Wellington devoted 21 battalions (12,000 troops) over the course of the afternoon in keeping the hollow way open to allow fresh troops and ammunition to reach the buildings. He moved several artillery batteries from his hard-pressed centre to support Hougoumont, and later stated that "the success of the battle turned upon closing the gates at Hougoumont".

First French infantry attack

The 80 guns of Napoleon's grande batterie drew up in the centre. These opened fire at 11:50, according to Lord Hill
Rowland Hill, 1st Viscount Hill
General Rowland Hill, 1st Viscount Hill of Almaraz GCB, GCH served in the Napoleonic Wars as a trusted brigade, division and corps commander under the command of the Duke of Wellington. He became Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in 1829.-Early career:Educated at a school in Chester, Hill was...

 (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 part of the Dutch division (the others were employing Wellington's characteristic "reverse slope defence
Reverse slope defence
A reverse slope defence is a military tactic where a defending force is positioned on the slope of an elevated terrain feature such as a hill, ridge, or mountain, on the side opposite from the attacking force...

"). In addition, the soft ground prevented the cannon balls from bouncing far, and the French gunners covered Wellington's entire deployment, so the density of hits was low. The idea was not to cause a large amount of physical damage, however, but in the words of Napoleon's orders, "to astonish the enemy and shake his morale".

At about 13:00, Napoleon saw the first columns of Prussians around the village of Lasne-Chapelle-Saint-Lambert, four or five miles (three hours march for an army) away from his right flank. Napoleon's reaction was to have Marshal Soult send a message to Grouchy telling him to come towards the battlefield and attack the arriving Prussians. Grouchy, however, had been executing Napoleon's previous orders to follow the Prussians "with your sword against his back" towards Wavre, and was by then too far away to reach Waterloo. Grouchy was advised by his subordinate, Gérard
Étienne Maurice Gérard
Étienne Maurice Gérard, comte Gérard was a French general and statesman. He served under a succession of French governments including the ancien regime monarchy, the Revolutionary governments, the Restorations, the July Monarchy, the First and Second Republics, and the First Empire , becoming...

, to "march to the sound of the guns", but stuck to his orders and engaged the Prussian III Corps rear guard under the command of Lieutenant-General Baron
Baron
Baron is a title of nobility. The word baron comes from Old French baron, itself from Old High German and Latin baro meaning " man, warrior"; it merged with cognate Old English beorn meaning "nobleman"...

 Johann von Thielmann
Johann von Thielmann
Johann Adolf Freiherr von Thielmann was a Saxon soldier who served with Saxony, Prussia and France during the Napoleonic Wars.-Biography:...

 at the Battle of Wavre
Battle of Wavre
The Battle of Wavre was the final major military action of the Hundred Days campaign and the Napoleonic Wars. It was fought on 18-19 June 1815 between the Prussian rearguard under the command of General Johann von Thielmann and three corps of the French army under the command of Marshal Grouchy. A...

. Moreover, Soult's letter ordering Grouchy to move quickly to join Napoleon and attack Bulow wouldn't actually reach Grouchy until after 18:00.

A little after 13:00, I Corps' attack began. D'Erlon, like Ney, had encountered Wellington in Spain, and was aware of the British commander's favoured tactic of using massed short-range musketry to drive off infantry columns. Rather than use the usual nine-deep French columns deployed abreast of one another, therefore, each division advanced in closely spaced battalion lines behind one another. This allowed them to concentrate their fire, but it did not leave room for them to change formation.

The formation was initially effective. Its leftmost division, under François-Xavier Donzelot
François-Xavier Donzelot
Baron François-Xavier Donzelot was a French general and a Governor of the Ionian Islands and Martinique. He was the son of François Donzelot and Jeanne–Baptiste Maire and had a brother named Joseph. He became a general of the French army in March 1801. Months later, he signed the surrender...

, advanced on La Haye Sainte. While one 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 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 line. Cuirassiers concealed in a fold in the ground caught and destroyed it in minutes, and then rode on past La Haye Sainte almost to the crest of the ridge, where they covered d'Erlon's left flank as his attack developed.

At about 13:30, d'Erlon started to advance his three other divisions, some 14,000 men over a front of about against Wellington's left wing. They faced 6,000 men: the first line consisted of the Dutch 1st "Van Bijlandt" brigade (Bijlandt
Willem Frederik van Bylandt
Willem Frederik count of Bylandt or Bijlandt was a Dutch lieutenant-general who as a major-general commanded a Belgian-Dutch infantry brigade at the Battle of Quatre Bras and the Battle of Waterloo.-Family Life:Bylandt was the son of major-general Alexander count of Bylandt and Anne, baroness Van...

) of the 2nd Dutch division. 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, posted towards the centre of the battlefield, 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, where they were ordered to earlier that day at 09:00 hours (they camped the previous night on the forward slope).

As the French advanced, Bijlandt's skirmishers withdrew to the sunken lane, to their parent battalions.

As these skirmishers were retreating through the British skirmish lines they were booed by some British troops, thinking they were leaving the field. At the moment these skirmishers were joining their parent battalions the brigade was ordered to its feet and started to return fire. Their fire was "little and not well maintained".
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" (original quotes of Van Zuylen, the chief of staff of the Dutch 2nd division).

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 Van Bijlandt brigade (8th Dutch militia and Dutch 7th Line Battalion (which was manned by Belgian soldiers)) 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 and general Constant-de-Rebeque. A moment later the Prince of Orange ordered a counterattack, which actually occurred around 10 minutes later.

In the mean time, d'Erlon's men began to ascend the slope, and as they did so, Picton's men stood up and opened fire. The French infantry returned fire and successfully pressured the British troops; although the attack faltered at the centre, the line in front of d'Erlon's left started to crumble. Picton was killed after ordering the counter-attack and the British and Hanoverian troops also began to give way under the pressure of numbers.

Charge of the British heavy cavalry

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
Lord Edward Somerset
General Lord Robert Edward Henry Somerset GCB was a British soldier.He was the third son of the 5th duke of Beaufort, and elder brother of Lord Raglan....

, consisted of guards regiments: the 1st
1st Regiment of Life Guards
The 1st Regiment of Life Guards was a cavalry regiment in the British Army, part of the Household Cavalry. It was formed in 1788 by the union of the 1st Troop of Horse Guards and 1st Troop of Horse Grenadier Guards. In 1922, it was amalgamated with the 2nd Regiment of Life Guards to form the Life...

 and 2nd Life Guards
2nd Regiment of Life Guards
The 2nd Regiment of Life Guards was a cavalry regiment in the British Army, part of the Household Cavalry. It was formed in 1788 by the union of the 2nd Troop of Horse Guards and 2nd Troop of Horse Grenadier Guards. In 1922, it was amalgamated with the 1st Life Guards to form the Life...

, the Royal Horse Guards
Royal Horse Guards
The Royal Horse Guards was a cavalry regiment of the British Army, part of the Household Cavalry.Founded August 1650 in Newcastle Upon Tyne by Sir Arthur Haselrig on the orders of Oliver Cromwell as the Regiment of Cuirassiers, the regiment became the Earl of Oxford's Regiment during the reign of...

 (the Blues), and the 1st (King's) Dragoon Guards
1st King's Dragoon Guards
The 1st King's Dragoon Guards was a cavalry regiment in the British Army. The regiment was formed in 1685 as The Queen's Regiment of Horse, named in honour of Queen Mary, consort of King James II. It was renamed The King's Own Regiment of Horse in 1714 in honour of George I...

. 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)
6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons
The 6th Dragoons was a cavalry regiment in the British Army, first raised in 1689. It saw service for three centuries, before being amalgamated into the 5th/6th Dragoons in 1922.The 'Skins' are one of the four ancestor regiments of the Royal Dragoon...

; regiment of heavy dragoons. 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. They 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 had scant experience of warfare. According to Wellington, they had little tactical ability or common sense. 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 Vandeleur, 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.
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 sunken lane acted as a trap which funnelled the flight of the French cavalry to their own right, away from the British cavalry. Some of the cuirassiers then found themselves hemmed in by the steep sides of the sunken lane, with a confused mass of their own infantry in front of them, the 95th Rifles firing at them from the north side of the lane, and Somerset's heavy cavalry still pressing them from behind. The novelty of fighting armoured foes impressed the British cavalrymen, as was recorded by the commander of the Household Brigade.
Continuing their attack, the squadrons on the left of the Household Brigade then destroyed Aulard's brigade. Despite attempts to recall them, however, 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
Infantry square
An infantry square is a combat formation an infantry unit forms in close order when threatened with cavalry attack.-Very early history:The formation was described by Plutarch and used by the Romans, and was developed from an earlier circular formation...

.

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
92nd (Gordon Highlanders) Regiment of Foot
The 92nd Regiment of Foot was a British Army infantry regiment. It was granted Royal Warrant on 10 February 1794, and first paraded on 24 June 1794, originally being numbered the 100th Regiment of Foot...

 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 Greys destroyed most of Nogue's brigade, capturing the eagle of the 45th Ligne. On Wellington's extreme left, Durutte
Pierre François Joseph Durutte
Pierre François Joseph Durutte joined the French army at the beginning of the French Revolutionary Wars. Rapidly promoted for feats of bravery under fire at Jemappes in 1792 and Hondschoote in 1793, he found himself appointed to serve as a staff officer...

's division had time to form squares and fend off groups of Greys.

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. James Hamilton
James Inglis (Anderson) Hamilton
Lieutenant colonel James Inglis Hamilton was a Colonel in the British Army killed at the Battle of Waterloo.- Early life :...

, commander of the Greys (who were supposed to form a reserve) ordered a continuation of the charge to the French grande batterie. 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.

Napoleon promptly responded by ordering a counter-attack by the cuirassier brigades of Farine and Travers and Jaquinot's two lancer regiments in the I Corps light cavalry
Light cavalry
Light cavalry refers to lightly armed and lightly armored troops mounted on horses, as opposed to heavy cavalry, where the riders are heavily armored...

 division. The result was very heavy losses for the British 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 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. A counter-charge, by British and Dutch light dragoons and hussar
Hussar
Hussar refers to a number of types of light cavalry which originated in Hungary in the 14th century, tracing its roots from Serbian medieval cavalry tradition, brought to Hungary in the course of the Serb migrations, which began in the late 14th century....

s on the left wing and Dutch carabinier
Carabinier
A Carabinier was originally a cavalry soldier armed with a carbine...

s
in the centre, repelled the French cavalry.

Many popular histories suggest that the British heavy cavalry were destroyed as a viable force following their first, epic charge. Examination of eyewitness accounts reveal, however, that far from being ineffective, they continued to provide very valuable services. They counter-charged 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 the end of the fighting the two brigades, by this time combined, could muster only a few composite squadrons.

Some 20,000 French troops had been committed to this attack. Its failure cost Napoleon not only heavy casualties – 3,000 prisoners were taken – but valuable time, as the Prussians now began to appear on the field to his right. Napoleon sent his reserve, Lobau's VI corps and two cavalry divisions, some 15,000 troops, to hold them back. With this, Napoleon had committed all of his infantry reserves, except the Guard, and he now had to beat Wellington not only quickly, but with inferior numbers.

The French cavalry attack

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 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
Édouard Jean Baptiste Milhaud
Édouard Jean-Baptiste Milhaud was a French politician, Général de Division, and comte d'Empire.-French Revolutionary wars:...

 reserve cavalry corps of cuirassiers and Lefebvre-Desnoëttes'
Charles, comte Lefebvre-Desnouettes
Charles, comte Lefebvre-Desnouettes or Lefèbvre-Desnoëttes became a French officer during the French Revolutionary Wars and a general during the Napoleonic Wars...

 light cavalry division of the Imperial Guard, some 4,800 sabres, were committed. When these were repulsed, Kellermann's
François Étienne de Kellermann
Francois Étienne de Kellermann, 2nd Duc de Valmy was a French cavalry general noted for his daring and skillful exploits during the Napoleonic Wars...

 heavy cavalry corps and Guyot's
Claude-Étienne Guyot
Claude-Étienne Guyot, count of the Empire, was a French general of the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars, noted for commanding cavalry.-Early career during the Revolutionary Wars:...

 heavy cavalry of the Guard were added to the massed assault, a total of around 9,000 cavalry in 67 squadrons.

Wellington's infantry responded by forming squares
Infantry square
An infantry square is a combat formation an infantry unit forms in close order when threatened with cavalry attack.-Very early history:The formation was described by Plutarch and used by the Romans, and was developed from an earlier circular formation...

 (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. Vulnerable to artillery or infantry, squares that stood their ground were deadly to cavalry, because they could not be outflanked and because horses would not charge into a hedge of bayonets. 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
Carabiniers-à-Cheval
The Carabiniers-à-Cheval were mounted troops in the service of France.Their origins date back to the mid-16th century, when they were created as elite elements of the French light cavalry, armed with carbines but then gradually evolved towards semi-independent status during the XVIIIth century...

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:
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 counter-charges 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
Royal Horse Artillery
The regiments of the Royal Horse Artillery , dating from 1793, are part of the Royal Regiment of Artillery of the British Army...

, 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:
For reasons that remain unclear, no attempt was made to spike
Touch hole
A touch hole is a small hole, through which the propellant charge of a cannon or muzzleloading gun is ignited. In small arms, the flash from a charge of priming held in the flash pan is enough to ignite the charge within...

 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 percent of its strength.

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. 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
Albert Dominicus Trip van Zoudtlandt
Jonkheer Albert Dominicus Trip van Zoudtlandt was a Dutch lieutenant-general of cavalry who headed the Dutch-Belgian heavy cavalry brigade at the Battle of Waterloo.-Family life:...

, 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.
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 defenders' ammunition ran out). Ney then moved horse artillery
Horse artillery
Horse artillery was a type of light, fast-moving and fast-firing artillery which provided highly mobile fire support to European and American armies from the 17th to the early 20th century...

 up towards Wellington's centre and began to pulverise the infantry squares at short-range with canister
Canister shot
Canister shot is a kind of anti-personnel ammunition used in cannons. It was similar to the naval grapeshot, but fired smaller and more numerous balls, which did not have to punch through the wooden hull of a ship...

. This all but destroyed the 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment, and the 30th and 73rd Regiments suffered such heavy losses that they had to combine to form a viable square.

Arrival of the Prussian IV Corps: Plancenoit

The first Prussian corps to arrive was Bülow's IV Corps. His 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 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, as the French cavalry attack was in full spate, 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. Napoleon sent Lobau's corps to intercept the rest of Bülow's IV Corps proceeding to Plancenoit. The 15th Brigade threw Lobau's troops out of Frichermont with a determined bayonet charge, then proceeded up the Frichermont heights, battering French Chasseurs with 12-pounder artillery fire, and pushed on to Plancenoit. This sent Lobau's corps into retreat to the Plancenoit area, and in effect drove Lobau past the rear of the Armee Du Nord's right flank and directly threatened its only line of retreat. Hiller's 16th Brigade also pushed forward with six battalions against Plancenoit. Napoleon had dispatched all eight battalions of the Young Guard to reinforce Lobau, who was now seriously pressed. The Young Guard counter-attacked and, after very hard fighting, secured Plancenoit, but were themselves counter-attacked and driven out. Napoleon sent two battalions of the Middle/Old Guard into Plancenoit and after ferocious bayonet fighting – they did not deign to fire their muskets – this force recaptured the village. The dogged Prussians were still not beaten, and approximately 30,000 troops of IV and II Corps, under Bülow and Pirch, attacked Plancenoit again. It was defended by 20,000 Frenchmen in and around the village.

Zieten's flank march

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. Müffling saw this movement away and persuaded Zieten to support Wellington's left flank. 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. 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. I Corps then advanced to the Brussels road and the only line of retreat available to the French.

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. 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 is 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 Guard.
Three 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. Marching through a hail of canister and skirmisher fire, the 3,000 or so Middle Guardsmen advanced to the west of La Haye Sainte, and in so doing, separated into three distinct attack forces. One, consisting of two battalions of Grenadiers, defeated Wellington's first line of British, Brunswick and Nassau troops and marched on. Chassé
David Hendrik Chassé
David Hendrik, Baron Chassé was a Dutch soldier who fought both for and against Napoleon. He commanded the Third Netherlands Division that intervened at a crucial moment in the Battle of Waterloo...

's relatively fresh Dutch division was sent against them and Allied artillery fired into the victorious Grenadiers' flank. This still could not stop the Guard's advance, so Chassé ordered his first brigade to charge the outnumbered French, who faltered and broke.

Further to the west, 1,500 British Foot Guards under Maitland
Peregrine Maitland
Sir Peregrine Maitland, KCB, GCB was a British soldier and colonial administrator who played first-class cricket from 1798 to 1808....

 were lying down to protect themselves from the French artillery. As two battalions of Chasseurs approached, the second prong of the Imperial Guard's attack, Maitland's guardsmen rose and devastated them with point-blank volleys. The Chasseurs deployed to answer the fire, but began to waver. A bayonet charge by the Foot Guards then broke them. The third prong, a fresh Chasseur battalion, now came up in support. The British guardsmen retired with these Chasseurs in pursuit, but the latter were halted as the 52nd Light Infantry
52nd (Oxfordshire) Regiment of Foot
The 52nd Regiment of Foot was a light infantry regiment of the British Army throughout much of the 18th and 19th centuries. The regiment first saw active service during the American War of Independence, and were posted to India during the Anglo-Mysore Wars...

 wheeled in line onto their flank and poured a devastating fire into them and then charged. Under this onslaught they too broke.

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 retreats. Save yourself if you can!"). 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.

The surviving Imperial Guard rallied on their three reserve battalions (some sources say four) just south of La Haye Sainte, for a last stand
Last stand
Last stand is a loose military term used to describe a body of troops holding a defensive position in the face of overwhelming odds. The defensive force usually takes very heavy casualties or is completely destroyed, as happened in "Custer's Last Stand" at the Battle of Little Big HornBryan Perrett...

. A charge from Adam's
Frederick Adam
General Sir Frederick Adam GCB GCMG was a Scottish major-general at the Battle of Waterloo, in command of the 3rd Brigade. He was the fourth son of William Adam of Blair Adam and his wife Eleanora, the daughter of Charles Elphinstone, 10th Lord Elphinstone.-Military career:At the age of fourteen...

 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!").

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 from British pursuit in disorder. 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 percent casualties, and two-thirds of Lobau's Corps ceased to exist.

Disintegration

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; the final reserve and personal bodyguard for Napoleon. He hoped to rally the French army behind them, but as retreat turned into rout, they too were forced to withdraw, one on either side of La Belle Alliance, in square as protection against Coalition cavalry. Until persuaded that the battle was lost and he should leave, Napoleon commanded the square to the left of the inn. Adam's Brigade charged and forced back this square, while the Prussians engaged the other. As dusk fell, both squares withdrew in relatively good order, but the French artillery and everything else fell into the hands of the allies. 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 diamonds left in the rush. These became part of King Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia's crown jewels; one Major Keller of the F/15th received the Pour le Mérite
Pour le Mérite
The Pour le Mérite, known informally as the Blue Max , was the Kingdom of Prussia's highest military order for German soldiers until the end of World War I....

 with oak leaves for the feat. By this time 78 guns and 2,000 prisoners had also been taken, including more generals.

Aftermath

Historian Peter Hofschröer
Peter Hofschröer
Peter Hofschröer is a historian who specialises in the Napoleonic Wars. He is a graduate of King's College London and currently lives in Austria....

 has written that Wellington and Blücher met at Genappe around 22:00, signifying the end of the battle. Other sources have recorded that the meeting took place around 21:00 near Napoleon's former headquarters at La Belle Alliance. 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 Bulow's 15th Brigade, had fought at both Fichermont and Plancenoit, and won 33 Iron Cross
Iron Cross
The Iron Cross is a cross symbol typically in black with a white or silver outline that originated after 1219 when the Kingdom of Jerusalem granted the Teutonic Order the right to combine the Teutonic Black Cross placed above a silver Cross of Jerusalem....

es). Napoleon lost 25,000 dead or wounded, with 8,000 taken prisoner.
At 10:30 on 19 June General Grouchy, still following his orders, defeated General Thielemann at Wavre
Battle of Wavre
The Battle of Wavre was the final major military action of the Hundred Days campaign and the Napoleonic Wars. It was fought on 18-19 June 1815 between the Prussian rearguard under the command of General Johann von Thielmann and three corps of the French army under the command of Marshal Grouchy. A...

 and withdrew in good order though at the cost of 33,000 French troops that never reached the Waterloo battlefield. Wellington sent his official despatch describing the battle to England on 19 June 1815, and it arrived in London on 21 June 1815 and was published as a London Gazette Extraordinary
London Gazette
The London Gazette is one of the official journals of record of the British government, and the most important among such official journals in the United Kingdom, in which certain statutory notices are required to be published...

 on 22 June. Wellington, Blücher and other Coalition forces advanced upon Paris. Napoleon announced his second abdication on 24 June 1815. In the final skirmish of the Napoleonic Wars, Marshal Davout, Napoleon's minister of war, was defeated by Blücher at Issy
Battle of Issy
The Battle of Issy was a skirmish fought on 3 July 1815 at the village of Issy, a short distance south west of Paris. The result was a victory for Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher over a French army defending Paris.-Prelude:...

 on 3 July 1815. Allegedly, Napoleon tried to escape to North America, but the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 was blockading French ports to forestall such a move. He finally surrendered to Captain
Captain (Royal Navy)
Captain is a senior officer rank of the Royal Navy. It ranks above Commander and below Commodore and has a NATO ranking code of OF-5. The rank is equivalent to a Colonel in the British Army or Royal Marines and to a Group Captain in the Royal Air Force. The rank of Group Captain is based on the...

 Frederick Maitland
Frederick Lewis Maitland (Rear Admiral)
Rear Admiral Sir Frederick Lewis Maitland, KCB was an officer in the Royal Navy during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. He rose to the rank of rear admiral and held a number of commands...

 of HMS
Her Majesty's Ship
Her or His Majesty's Ship is the ship prefix used for ships of the navy in some monarchies, either formally or informally.-HMS:* In the British Royal Navy, it refers to the king or queen of the United Kingdom as appropriate at the time...

 Bellerophon
HMS Bellerophon (1786)
The first HMS Bellerophon of the Royal Navy was a 74-gun third-rate ship of the line launched on 6 October 1786 at Frindsbury on the River Medway, near Chatham. She was built at the shipyard of Edward Greaves to the specifications of the Arrogant, designed by Sir Thomas Slade in 1758, the lead ship...

 on 15 July. There was a campaign against French fortresses that still held out; Longwy
Longwy
Longwy is a commune in the Meurthe-et-Moselle department in north-eastern France.The inhabitants are known as Longoviciens.-Economy:Longwy has historically been an industrial center of the Lorraine iron mining district. The town is known for its artistic glazed pottery.-History:Longwy initially...

 capitulated on 13 September 1815, the last to do so. The Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Paris (1815)
Treaty of Paris of 1815, was signed on 20 November 1815 following the defeat and second abdication of Napoleon Bonaparte. In February, Napoleon had escaped from his exile on Elba; he entered Paris on 20 March, beginning the Hundred Days of his restored rule. Four days after France's defeat in the...

 was signed on 20 November 1815. Louis XVIII was restored to the throne of France, and Napoleon was exiled to Saint Helena
Saint Helena
Saint Helena , named after St Helena of Constantinople, is an island of volcanic origin in the South Atlantic Ocean. It is part of the British overseas territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha which also includes Ascension Island and the islands of Tristan da Cunha...

, where he died in 1821.
Maitland's 1st Foot Guards, who had defeated the Chasseurs of the Guard, were thought to have defeated the Grenadiers; they were awarded the title of Grenadier Guards
Grenadier Guards
The Grenadier Guards is an infantry regiment of the British Army. It is the most senior regiment of the Guards Division and, as such, is the most senior regiment of infantry. It is not, however, the most senior regiment of the Army, this position being attributed to the Life Guards...

 in recognition of their feat, and adopted bearskins in the style of the Grenadiers. Britain's Household Cavalry likewise adopted the cuirass in 1821 in recognition of their success against their armoured French counterparts. The effectiveness of the lance was noted by all participants and this weapon subsequently became more widespread throughout Europe; the British converted their first light cavalry regiment to lancers in 1816.

Waterloo was a decisive battle in more than one sense. It definitively ended the series of wars that had convulsed Europe, and involved many other regions of the world, since the French Revolution of the early 1790s. It also ended the political and military career of Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the greatest commanders and statesmen in history. Finally, it ushered in almost half a century of international peace in Europe; no further major conflict occurred until the Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

.

The word Waterloo has entered the English vocabulary as a slang term: one who has met with defeat (after a string of successes) is said to have "met his Waterloo".

A French view of the reasons for Napoleon's defeat

General Baron Jomini
Antoine-Henri Jomini
Antoine-Henri, baron Jomini was a general in the French and later in the Russian service, and one of the most celebrated writers on the Napoleonic art of war...

, one of the leading military writers on the Napoleonic art of war had a number of very cogent explanations of the reasons behind Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo.

The battlefield today

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
William I of the Netherlands
William I Frederick, born Willem Frederik Prins van Oranje-Nassau , was a Prince of Orange and the first King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg....

 ordered the construction of a monument on the spot where it was believed his son, the Prince of Orange
William II of the Netherlands
William II was King of the Netherlands, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and Duke of Limburg from 7 October 1840 until his death in 1849.- Early life and education :...

, had been wounded. The Lion's Hillock, a giant mound, was constructed here, using 300000 cubic metres (392,385.2 cu yd) of earth taken from the ridge at the centre of the British line which effectively removed the southern bank of Wellington's sunken road.
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-Charleroi Road as well as the buildings at Hougoumont, La Haye Sainte, and La Belle Alliance.

Apart from the Lion Mound, there are several more conventional but noteworthy monuments scattered throughout the battlefield. A cluster of monuments at the Brussels-Charleroi and Braine L'Alleud-Ohain crossroads mark the mass graves of British, Dutch, Hanoverian and KGL troops. A monument to the French dead entitled The Wounded Eagle (L'aigle Blessé) marks the location where it is believed one of the French guard units formed square during the closing moments of the battle. A monument to the Prussian dead is located in the village of Placenoit on the site where one of their artillery batteries took position. The Duhesme
Guillaume Philibert Duhesme
Guillaume Philibert, 1st Count Duhesme was a French general during the Napoleonic Wars.-Revolution:...

 mausoleum is one among the few graves of Waterloo fallen fighters. It is located at the side of the Saint Martin's church in Ways, a hamlet in the municipality of Genappe
Genappe
Genappe is a Walloon municipality located in the Belgian province of Walloon Brabant. On 1 January 2006 Genappe had a total population of 14,136...

. Seventeen Waterloo fallen officers are buried in the crypt of a large grave in the Brussel's cemetery in Evere.



See also

  • Lord Uxbridge's leg
    Lord Uxbridge's leg
    Lord Uxbridge's leg was shattered by a cannon shot at the Battle of Waterloo and removed by a surgeon. The amputated limb went on to lead a somewhat macabre after-life as a tourist attraction in the village of Waterloo in Belgium, where it had been removed and interred.-Waterloo:Henry Paget, 2nd...

     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.
  • Napoleonic Wars
    Napoleonic Wars
    The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

     (1803–1815): involved Napoleon Bonaparte's French Empire and a shifting set of European allies and opposing coalitions.
  • Timeline of the Napoleonic era
    Timeline of the Napoleonic era
    Timeline of the Napoleonic era . The Napoleonic era began in 1799 with Napoleon Bonaparte's coup d'état, that overthrew the Directory and established the French Consulate...

  • Waterloo in popular culture
    Waterloo in popular culture
    Because of its pivotal role in European and world history the Battle of Waterloo has a prominent place in military history and is frequently mentioned in popular culture.-Commemorative memorials and places:...

    : describes the cultural impact of the battle.
  • Waterloo Medal
    Waterloo Medal
    The Waterloo Medal was awarded to any soldier of the British Army who took part in one or more of the following battles: Battle of Ligny , Battle of Quatre Bras , and the Battle of Waterloo ....

     awarded to those soldiers of the British Army
    British Army
    The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

     who fought at the battle.

Further reading

Articles
  • 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)
  • Timeline of the Napoleonic era
    Timeline of the Napoleonic era
    Timeline of the Napoleonic era . The Napoleonic era began in 1799 with Napoleon Bonaparte's coup d'état, that overthrew the Directory and established the French Consulate...

  • Lichfield, John. Waterloo's significance to the French and British – including proportions of soldiers by nation The Independent
    The Independent
    The Independent is a British national morning newspaper published in London by Independent Print Limited, owned by Alexander Lebedev since 2010. It is nicknamed the Indy, while the Sunday edition, The Independent on Sunday, is the Sindy. Launched in 1986, it is one of the youngest UK national daily...

    , 17 November 2004
  • Staff, Battle of Waterloo a British regimental account on the The Rifles
    The Rifles
    The Rifles is the largest regiment of the British Army. Formed in 2007, it consists of five regular and two territorial battalions, plus a number of companies in other TA battalions, Each battalion of the Rifles was formerly an individual battalion of one of the two large regiments of the Light...

     web site
  • Staff, Empire and Sea Power: The Battle of Waterloo BBC History, 9 June 2006
  • Muilwijk, Erwin. Contribution of the Netherlands Mobile Army during the 1815 campaign. Gives full account of the Dutch troops that fought at Quatre-Bras, based on many unknown primary sources.
  • de Wit, Pierre. The campaign of 1815: a study. Study of the campaign of 1815, based on sources from all participating armies.


Books;

Maps
Primary sources The published version of Wellington's initial despatch describing the battle. Casualty returns.
Uniforms
  • French, Prussian and Anglo-allies uniforms during the Battle of Waterloo : Mont-Saint-Jean (FR)
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