Final battle of the Napoleonic Wars on 18 June 1815 in which a coalition force of British, Prussian, and Dutch troops under the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon near the village of Waterloo, 13 km/8 mi south of Brussels, Belgium. Napoleon found Wellington's army isolated from his allies and began a direct offensive to smash them, but the British held on until joined by the Prussians under Marshal Gebhard von Blücher. Four days later Napoleon abdicated for the second and final time.
Wellington had 67,000 soldiers (of whom 24,000 were British, the remainder being German, Dutch, and Belgian) and Napoleon had 74,000. The French casualties numbered about 37,000; coalition casualties were similar including some 13,000 British troops.
Napoleon's 120,000-strong army was amassed on the French–Belgian frontier on 12 June; Wellington had about 90,000 troops at Brussels, of whom 30,000 were British, and was expecting Napoleon to march on Brussels to attack him. However, on their way to attack Wellington, the French fought the Prussians at Ligny, and also fought a combined Dutch–Belgian army at Quatre Bras, all of which delayed Napoleon and enabled Wellington to concentrate his forces at Waterloo, in anticipation of the arrival of Marshal Blücher with the Prussian army. Napoleon despatched the Marquis de Grouchy with 33,000 troops to block the road upon which the Prussians were expected to arrive and took the rest of his army to face the Allies.
The forces actually facing each other on the field were 67,000 Allies and 74,000 French, the latter being stronger in artillery and cavalry. The French opened the battle at 11.30 a.m. on 18 June, and a fierce struggle developed for Hougoumont Farm. On the left, a long bombardment by French artillery, followed by an infantry assault, forced the Dutch and Belgians to give way, but the situation was saved by a charge of British cavalry under General Thomas Picton. In the centre, the action revolved around the farmhouse of La Haye Sainte, where the British stubbornly beat off the French until about 6 p.m., when the French managed to seize the farmhouse, although they were evicted from it shortly afterwards. The French cavalry, meanwhile, was expending its energy against the British infantry squares: they failed to break the formations but inflicted heavy casualties. The first elements of Blücher's Prussians arrived in the afternoon, but Grouchy managed to push them back. Napoleon then made his last attempt, ordering the Guard, under Marshal Michel Ney, to advance against the British Guards division. These stood firm until the French were very close, then at Wellington's orders fired a devastating volley, followed by a bayonet charge. The French attack was thrown into confusion, and at this moment Blücher's main force thrust Grouchy aside and came onto the field. British cavalry charged forward, the French broke, and were pursued off the field by the Prussians.
Duke of Wellington's Correspondence
Napoleon Series – Life and Times of Napoleon Bonaparte
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