Napoleon and the Battle of Waterloo Part 2

About the battle of Waterloo between the French Empire led by Napoleon and the Prussian and English armies led by Marshal Blucher in 1815, tactics and strategy of Napoleon.


On the final day, Napoleon, after starting a diversionary feint at the Chateau Hougoumont, sent Ney into an all-out assault at the farm, La Haye Saint, which Wellington had fortified. Ney's troops, the ill-fated division of D'Erlon, charged in long columns, the worst possible attacking formation that could be chosen, and they were decimated. When Wellington pulled back to the reverse side of the slope to escape the French cannonading, Ney mistook the action and ordered cavalry charges that he did not support by infantry. He lost thousands in 13 repetitive attacks on the solid British squares, riding between and around the compact defense units but unable to break them.

After day-long debilitating assaults, Napoleon finally captured La Haye Saint. He mustered his forces for a final attack on Wellington, but failed, chiefly because the duke had been warned by a French traitor of Napoleon's exact movements. The initiative was finally gained, decisively, at 8 P.M., when Zieten's Prussian troops, coming from Wavre to support Wellington, fell upon the French line and drove it back. When Napoleon's most trusted and dependable Imperial Guard also recoiled under Wellington's counterattack, the French soldiers panicked and fled. The British called for the guard to surrender, and received the short, obscene reply from its General Cambronne, "Merde!" (The Frenchman's answer is sometimes translated as "The guard dies but never surrenders.")

The dead and dying lay on the battlefield for nearly a week. The duke lost 15,000 and the Prussians, 7,000. Of 74,000 brought to Waterloo by Napoleon, over 25,000 became casualties, with another 8,000 captured. The 3 sq. mi. of rolling farmland were carpeted with almost 50,000 fallen soldiers. With the more than 40,000 casualties from Ligny and Quatre-Bras, the 2-day total reached almost 90,000 men. In the week that followed, sightseers came down from Brussels to picnic among the carnage, scavenging through the bodies for valuables. They killed the wounded who resisted the robbery.

Ironically, Grouchy--whose inexperience in field command kept Napoleon from utilizing another 33,000 men, an action that might have turned the battle in his favor--scored a useless victory over the Prussian rear guard, which he had finally caught. He defeated Thielemann's small force decisively. But his triumph came too late, after Wellington had won.

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