Waterloo Campaign

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Waterloo Campaign
Part of War of the Seventh Coalition
Battle of Waterloo 1815.PNG
The Battle of Waterloo, by William Sadler II
Date 15 June to 8 July 1815
Location Present-day Belgium and France,
Result Coalition victory, Second Treaty of Paris
France French Empire Seventh Coalition:
 United Kingdom
Flag of Hanover (1692).svg Hanover
Commanders and leaders
France Napoleon
France Marquis de Grouchy
France Louis-Nicolas Davout
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Duke of Wellington
Kingdom of Prussia Gebhard von Blücher

The Waterloo Campaign (15 June - 8 July 1815) was fought Between the French Army of the North and two Seventh Coalition armies, An Anglo-allied army and a Prussian army. Initially the French army was commanded by Napoleon Bonaparte, but he left for Paris after the French defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. Command then rested on Marshals Soult and Grouchy, who were in turn replaced by Marshal Davout, who took command at the request of the French Provisional Government. The Anglo-Allied army was commanded by the Duke of Wellington and the Prussian army by Prince Blücher.

The war between France and the Seventh Coalition became inevitable when the other European Great Powers refused to recognise Napoleon as Emperor of the French on his return from exile on the Island of Elba. Rather than wait for the Coalition to invade France, Napoleon decided to attack his enemies and hope to defeat them in detail before they could launch their combined and coordinated invasion. He chose to launch his first attack against the two Coalition armies cantoned in modern day Belgium, then part of the Netherlands but until the year before part of the First French Empire.

Hostilities started on 15 June when the French drove the Prussian outposts in crossed the Sombre at Charleroi placing their forces at the juncture between the cantonment areas of Wellington's Army (to the west) and Blücher's army to the east. On 16 June the French prevailed with Marshal Ney commanding the left wing of the French army holding Wellington at the Battle of Quatre Bras and Napoleon defeating Blücher at the Battle of Ligny. On 17 June, Napoleon left Grouchy with the right wing of the French army to pursue the Prussians while he took the reserves and command of the right wing of the army to pursue Wellington towards Brussels.

On the night of 17 June the Anglo-allied army turned and prepared for battle on a gentle escarpment, about 1 mile (1.6 km) south of the village of Waterloo. The next day the Battle of Waterloo proved to be the decisive battle of the campaign. The Anglo-Allied army stood fast against repeated French attacks, until with the aid of several Prussian corps that arrived on the east of the battlefield in the early evening they managed to route the French Army. Grouchy with the right wing of the army engaged a Prussian rearguard at the simultaneous battle of Wavre, and although he won a tactical victory his failure to prevent the Prussians marching to Waterloo meant that his actions contributed to the French defeat at Waterloo. The next day (19 June) he left Wavre and started a long retreat back to Paris.

After the defeat at Waterloo Napoleon chose not to remain with the army and attempt to rally it, but returned to Paris to try to secure political support for further action. This he failed to do and was forced to resign. The two Coalition armies hotly pursued the French army to the gates of Paris, during which the French on occasion turned and fought some delaying actions, in which thousands of men were killed.

Initially the remnants of the French left wing and the reserves that were routed at Waterloo were commanded by Marshal Soult while Grouchy kept command of the left wing. However on 25 June Soult was relieved of his command by the Provisional Government and was replaced by Grouchy, who in turn was placed under the command of Davout.

When the French Provisional Government realised that the French army under Marshal Davout was unable to defend Paris, they authorised delegates to accept capitulation terms which led to the Convention of St. Cloud (the surrender of Paris) which ended hostilities between France and the armies of Blücher and Wellington.

The first Prussian troops entered Paris on 8 July. The same day Louis XVIII was restored to the French throne, and a week later on 15 July Napoleon surrendered to Captain Frederick Maitland of HMS Bellerophon. Napoleon was exiled to the island of Saint Helena where he died in May 1821.

Under the terms of the peace treaty of November 1815, Coalition forces remained in Northern France as an army of occupation under the command of the Duke of Wellington.


Main article: Hundred Days
Plenipotentiaries at the Congress of Vienna

Napoleon return from his exile on the Island of Elbe, King Louis XVIII fled Paris, and Napoleon took power. Far from recognising him as Emperor of the French, the Great Powers of Europe (Austria, Great Britain, Prussia and Russia) and their allies, who were assembled at Congress of Vienna, declared Napoleon an outlaw,[1] and with the signing of this declaration on 13 March 1815, so began the War of the Seventh Coalition. The hopes of peace that Napoleon had entertained were gone – war was now inevitable.

A further treaty (the Treaty of Alliance against Napoleon) was ratified on 25 March in which each of the Great European Powers agreed to pledge 150,000 men for the coming conflict.[2] Such a number was not possible for Great Britain, as her standing army was smaller than the three of her peers.[3] Besides, her forces were scattered around the globe, with many units still in Canada, where the War of 1812 had recently ceased.[4] With this in mind she made up her numerical deficiencies by paying subsidies to the other Powers and to the other states of Europe that would contribute contingents.[3]

Some time after the allies began mobilising, it was agreed that the planned invasion of France was to commence on 1 July 1815,[5] much later than both Blücher and Wellington would have liked as both their armies were ready in June, ahead of the Austrians and Russians; the latter were still some distance away.[6] The advantage of this later invasion date was that it allowed all the invading Coalition armies a chance to be ready at the same time. Thus they could deploy their combined numerically superior forces against Napoleon's smaller, thinly spread forces, thus ensuring his defeat and avoiding a possible defeat within the borders of France. Yet this postponed invasion date allowed Napoleon more time to strengthen his forces and defences, which would make defeating him harder and more costly in lives, time and money.

Napoleon now had to decide whether to fight a defensive or offensive campaign.[7] Defence would entail repeating the 1814 campaign in France but with much larger numbers of troops at his disposal. France's chief cities, Paris and Lyon, would be fortified and two great French armies, the larger before Paris and the smaller before Lyon, would protect them; francs-tireurs would be encouraged, giving the Coalition armies their own taste of guerrilla warfare.[8]

Napoleon chose to attack, which entailed a pre-emptive strike at his enemies before they were all fully assembled and able to co-operate. By destroying some of the major Coalition armies, Napoleon believed he would then be able to bring the governments of the Seventh Coalition to the peace table[8] to discuss results favourable to himself, namely peace for France with himself remaining in power as its head. If peace were rejected by the allies despite any pre-emptive military success he might have achieved using the offensive military option available to him, then the war would continue and he could turn his attention to defeating the rest of the Coalition armies.

Napoleon's decision to attack in Belgium was supported by several considerations. First, he had learned that the British and Prussian armies were widely dispersed and might be defeated in detail.[9] Also, the British troops in Belgium were largely second-line troops; most of the veterans of the Peninsular War had been sent to America to fight the War of 1812.[10] And, politically, a French victory might trigger a friendly revolution in French-speaking Brussels.[9]


French forces[edit]

Strategic situation in Western Europe in 1815: 250,000 Frenchmen faced a coalition of about 850,000 soldiers on four fronts. In addition, Napoleon was forced to leave 20,000 men in Western France to reduce a royalist insurrection.

During the Hundred Days both the Coalition nations and Napoleon mobilised for war. Upon resumption of the throne, Napoleon found that he was left with little by Louis XVIII. There were 56,000 soldiers of which 46,000 were ready to campaign.[11] By the end of May the total armed forces available to Napoleon had reached 198,000 with 66,000 more in depots training up but not yet ready for deployment.[12]

Napoleon placed some corps of his armed forces at various strategic locations as armies of observations (see Military mobilisation during the Hundred Days), and Lamarque led the small Army of the West into La Vendée to quell a Royalist insurrection in that region.[13]

By the end of May Napoleon had formed L'Armée du Nord (the "Army of the North") which, led by himself, would participate in the Waterloo Campaign and had deployed the corps of this army as follows:[13]

Coalition forces[edit]

In the early days of June 1815, Wellington and Blücher's forces were disposed as follows:[14]

Wellington’s Anglo-allied army of 93,000 with headquarters at Brussels were cantoned:[15]

Blücher’s Prussian army of 116,000 men, with headquarters at Namur, was distributed as follows:[16]

The frontier in front of Binche, Charleroi and Dinant was watched by the Prussian outposts.[16]

Thus the Coalition front extended for nearly 900 miles across what is now Belgium, and the mean depth of their cantonments was 300 miles. To concentrate the whole army on either flank would take six days, and on the common centre, around Charleroi, three days.[16]

Start of hostilities (15 June)[edit]

Part of Belgium engraved by J. Kirkwood
A portion of Belgium with some places marked in colour to indicate the initial deployments of the armies just before the commencement of hostilities on 15 June 1815: red Anglo-allied, green Prussian, blue French.
Map of the Waterloo campaign.

Napoleon moved the 128,000 strong Army of the North up to the Belgian frontier.[17] The left wing (I and II Corps) was under the command of Marshal Ney, and the right wing (III and IV Corps) was under Marshal Grouchy. Napoleon was in direct command of the Reserve (Imperial Guard, VI Corps, and I, II, III, and IV Cavalry Corps). During the initial advance all three elements remained close enough to support each another.

Napoleon crossed the frontier at Thuin near Charleroi on 15 June 1815. The French drove in Coalition outposts and secured Napoleon's favoured "central position" – at the junction between Wellington's army to his north-west, and Blücher's Prussians to his north-east. Wellington had expected Napoleon to try to envelop the Coalition armies by moving through Mons and to the west of Brussels.[18] Wellington feared that such a move would cut his communications with the ports he relied on for supply. Napoleon encouraged this view with misinformation.[18] Wellington did not hear of the capture of Charleroi until 3 pm, because a message from Wellington's intelligence chief, Colquhoun Grant, was delayed by General Dörnberg. Confirmation swiftly followed in another message from the Prince of Orange. Wellington ordered his army to concentrate around the divisional headquarters, but was still unsure whether the attack in Charleroi was a feint and the main assault would come through Mons. Wellington only determined Napoleon’s intentions with certainty in the evening, and his orders for his army to muster near Nivelles and Quatre Bras were sent out just before midnight.[19]

The Prussian General Staff seem to have divined the French army's intent rather more accurately.[18][20] The Prussians were not taken unawares. General Ziethen noted the number of campfires as early as 13 June[21] and Blücher began to concentrate his forces.

Napoleon considered the Prussians the greater threat, and so moved against them first with the right wing of the Army of the North and the Reserves. Graf von Zieten's I Corps rearguard action on 15 June held up Napoleon's advance, giving Blücher the opportunity to concentrate his forces in the Sombreffe position, which had been selected earlier for its good defensive attributes.[22] Napoleon sent Marshal Ney, in charge of the French left wing, to secure the crossroads of Quatre Bras, towards which Wellington was hastily gathering his dispersed army. Ney's scouts reached Quatre Bras that evening.

16 June[edit]

Quatre Bras (west) and Ligny (south-east)

Quatre Bras[edit]

Main article: Battle of Quatre Bras

Ney, advancing on 16 June, found Quatre Bras lightly held by Dutch troops of Wellington's army, but despite outnumbering the Allies heavily throughout the day, he fought a cautious and desultory battle which failed to capture the crossroads. By the middle of the afternoon, Wellington had taken personal command of the Anglo-Allied forces at Quatre Bras. The position was reinforced steadily throughout the day as Anglo-Allied troops converged on the crossroads. The battle ended in a tactical draw. Later, the Allies ceded the field at Quatre Bras in order to consolidate their forces on more favourable ground to the north along the road to Brussels as a prelude to the Battle of Waterloo.[23]


Main article: Battle of Ligny

Napoleon, meanwhile, used the right wing of his army and the reserve to defeat the Prussians, under the command of General Blücher, at the Battle of Ligny on the same day. The Prussian centre gave way under heavy French attack, but the flanks held their ground.[24] Several heavy Prussian cavalry charges proved enough to discourage French pursuit and indeed they would not pursue the Prussians until the morning of 18 June. D'Erlon's I Corps wandered between both battles contributing to neither Quatre Bras nor to Ligny. Napoleon wrote to Ney warning him that allowing D'Erlon to wander so far away had crippled his attacks on Quatre Bras, but made no move to recall D'Erlon when he could easily have done so. The tone of his orders shows that he believed he had things well in hand at Ligny without assistance (as in fact he had).[25]

Interlude (17 June)[edit]

With the defeat of the Prussians Napoleon had the still and the initiative, for Ney's failure to take the Quatre Bras cross roads had actually placed the Anglo-allied army in a precarious position. So true is it that a tactical failure encountered in carrying out a sound strategical plan matters but little. Again Napoleon's plan of campaign had succeeded. He having beaten Blücher, the latter must fall back to rally and re-form, and call in Bülow's IV Corps, who had only reached the neighbourhood of Gembloux on June 16; whilst on the other flank Ney, reinforced by D'Erlon's fresh corps, lay in front of Wellington, and Ney could fasten upon the Anglo-allied army and hold it fast during the early morning of 17 June, sufficiently long to allow the emperor to close round his foe's open left flank and deal him a deathblow. But it was clearly essential to deal with Wellington on the morrow, ere Blücher could again appear on the scene.[26]

Wellington was by no means so well acquainted with the details of the Prussian defeat at Ligny as he ought to have been. It is true that, before leading the final charge, Blücher dispatched an aide-de-camp to his colleague, to tell him that he was forced to retire; but this officer was shot and the message remained undelivered. To send a message of such vital importance by a single orderly was a piece of bad staff work. It should have been sent in triplicate at least, and it was Gneisenau's duty to repeat the message directly he assumed temporary command. Opposed as they were to Napoleon, Gneisenau's neglect involved them in an unnecessary and very grave risk.[26]

The Prussian defeat at Ligny made the Quatre Bras position untenable, but initially Wellington was not acquainted with the details of the Prussian defeat at Ligny as he ought to have been. It is true that, before leading the final charge (in which he fell under his horse, and being ridden over by French cavalry twice,[27]), Blücher dispatched an aide-de-camp to his colleague, to tell him that he was forced to retire; but this officer was shot and the message remained undelivered. To send a message of such vital importance by a single orderly was a piece of bad staff work. It should have been sent in triplicate at least, and it was General Gneisenau's duty to repeat the message directly he assumed temporary command. Opposed as they were to Napoleon, Gneisenau's neglect involved them in an unnecessary and very grave risk (Blücher survived his ordeal and reassumed command of the Prussian army at the Wave rendezvous[27]).[26]

Napoleon was unwell, and consequently was not in the saddle on 17 June as early as he would otherwise have been. In his absence neither Ney nor Soult made any serious arrangements for an advance, although every minute was now golden. During the night more reinforcements arrived for Wellington, and on the morning of 17 June Wellington had most of his army about Quatre Bras. But it was 24 hours too late, for Blücher's defeat had rendered the Anglo-allied position untenable.[26]

Early in the morning Wellington (still ignorant of the exact position of his Coalition partner) sent out an officer, with an adequate escort, to establish touch with the Prussians. This staff officer discovered and reported that the Prussians were drawing off northwards to rally at Wavre; and about 09:00 a Prussian orderly officer arrived from Gneisenau to explain the situation and learn Wellington's plans. Wellington replied that he should fall back on Mont-Saint-Jean, and would accept battle there, in a selected position to the south of the Forest of Soignes, provided he was assured of the support of one of Blücher's corps. Like the good soldier and loyal ally that he was, he now subordinated everything to the one essential of manoeuvring so as to remain in communication with Blücher. It was 02:00 on June 18 before he received the answer to his suggestion.[26]

Early on 17 June the Prussians drew off northwards on three roads, Thielemann covering the withdrawal and moving via Gembloux to join hands with Bülow. The French cavalry on the right, hearing troops in motion on the Namur road, dashed in pursuit down the turnpike road shortly after dawn, caught up the fugitives and captured them. They turned out to be stragglers; but their capture for a time helped to confirm the idea, prevalent in the French army, that Blücher was drawing off towards his base. Some delay too was necessary before Napoleon could finally settle on his plan for this day. The situation was still obscure, details as to what had happened on the French left were wanting, and the direction of Blücher's retreat was by no means certain. Orders, however, were sent to Ney, about 08:00, to take up his position at Quatre Bras, and if that was impossible he was to report at once and Napoleon would co-operate.[26]

Napoleon clearly meant that Ney should attack whatever happened to be in his front. If confronted by a rear-guard he would drive it off and occupy Quatre Bras; and if Wellington was still there Marshal Ney would promptly engage and hold fast the Anglo-allied army, and report to Napoleon. Napoleon would in this case hasten up with the Reserves and crush Wellington. Wellington in fact was there; but Ney did nothing whatever to retain him, and Wellington began his withdrawal to Mont-Saint-Jean about 10:00. The last best chance of bringing about a decisive French success was thus allowed to slip away.[26]

Meanwhile Napoleon paid a personal visit about 10:00 to the Ligny battlefield, and about 11:00 he came to a decision. He determined to send the two cavalry corps of Pajol and Exelmans, and the corps of Vandamme and Gerard, with Teste's division (VI. Corps), a force of 33,000 men and 110 guns, to follow the Prussians, discover their intentions and discover if they intend to unite with Wellington in front of Brussels. As Exelmans' dragoons had already gained touch of the Prussian III Corps at Gembloux, Napoleon directed Marshal Grouchy, to whom he handed over the command of this force, to "proceed to Gembloux." This order the marshal only too literally obeyed. After an inconceivably slow and wearisome march, in one badly arranged column moving on one road, he only reached Gembloux on June 17, and halted there for the night. His cavalry gained contact before noon with Thielemann's corps, which was resting at Gembloux, but the enemy was allowed to slip away and contact was lost for want of a serious effort to keep it. The historian Archibald Becke, the author or the Encyclopædia Britannica's article on the Waterloo Campaign (1911), sates that Grouchy did not proceed to the front, and entirely failed to appreciate the situation at this critical juncture. Pressing danger could only exist if Blücher had gone northwards, and northwards, therefore, in the Dyle valley, he should have diligently sought for traces of the Prussian retreat, but, according to Becke, there appears to be no reason to believe that Grouchy pushed any reconnaissance to the northward and westward of Gentinnes on June 17; had he done so, touch with Blücher's retiring columns must have been established, and the direction of the Prussian retreat made clear. However Chesney writing in 1868 states that Marshal Grouchy assimilating intelligence provided him by his outpost services that three Prussian corps were believed to be concentrating near Brussels in and around Wavre and so were in a position to support Wellington, and that this information was collected and sent in a despatch to Napoleon by Grouchy at 22:00 on the night of 17 June.[28] Also the right of Milhaud's cuirassier corps, whilst marching from Marbais to Quatre Bras, saw a column of Prussian infantry retiring towards Wavre, and Milhaud reported this fact about 21:00 to Napoleon, who, however, attached little weight to it.[26]

Marshal Grouchy moved to Grannape with the right wing of the Army of the North, assimilating intelligence provided him by his outpost services. Three Prussian corps had moved through the area and were believed to be concentrating near Brussels to support Wellington.[28] This information was collected and sent by Marshal Grouchy at 22:00 on the night of 17 June. In this letter Grouchy noted the concentration of the Prussians in and around Wavre.[28] This was of concern to both Grouchy and Napoleon because the Prussians could use the road through Wavre straight to the assembled armies of Wellington.

Had Blücher gone eastwards, Grouchy, holding the Dyle, could easily have held back any future Prussian advance towards Wellington. Grouchy, however, went to Gembloux as ordered. By nightfall the situation was all in favour of the coalition; for Grouchy was now actually outside the four Prussian corps, who were by this time concentrated astride the Dyle at Wavre. Their retreat having been unmolested, the Prussians were ready once more to take the field, quite twenty-four hours before Napoleon deemed it possible for the foe defeated at Ligny.[26]

On the other flank, too, things had gone all in favour of Wellington. Although Napoleon wrote to Ney again at noon, from Ligny, that troops had now been placed in position at Marbais to second the marshal's attack on Quatre Bras, yet Ney remained quiescent, and Wellington effected so rapid and skilful a retreat that, on Napoleon's arrival at the head of his supporting corps,[26] be found only Wellington's cavalry screen and some horse artillery still in position.[29]

On learning of Ney's lethargy Napoleon angrily declared that Ney had ruined France. This was the fatal mistake of the campaign, and Fortune turned now against her former favourite. Although the smouldering fires of his old energy flamed out once more and Napoleon began a rapid pursuit of the cavalry screen, which crumpled up and decamped as he advanced, yet all his efforts were powerless to entangle the Anglo-allied rearguard in such a way as to hamper the retreat of Wellington's infantry. The pursuit, too, was carried out in the midst of a thunderstorm of monsoon intensity which broke at the roar of the opening cannonade, and very considerably retarded the French pursuit. It was not until the light was failing that Napoleon reached the heights of Rossomme opposite to Wellington's position and, by a masterly reconnaissance in force, compelled Wellington to disclose the presence of practically the whole Anglo-allied army.[29]

The French halted, somewhat loosened by pursuit, between Rossomme and Genappe and spent a wretched night in the sodden fields. During the night Wellington received the reassuring news that Blücher would bring two corps certainly, and possibly four, to Waterloo, and determined to accept battle.[29]

Napoleon's plan being to penetrate between the allies and then defeat them successively, the left was really the threatened flank of the Anglo-Dutch army.[29][30] Yet so far was Wellington from divining Napoleon's object that he stationed 17,000 men (including Colville's British division) at Hal and Tubize, 8 miles (13 km) away to his right, to repel the turning movement that he groundlessly anticipated and to form a rallying point for his right in case his centre was broken. By deliberately depriving himself of this detachment, on June 18, Wellington ran a very grave risk. With the 67,600 men whom he had in hand, however, he took up a truly admirable "Wellingtonian" position astride the Nivelles-Brussels and Charlcroi-Brussels roads which meet at Mont-Saint-Jean. He used a low ridge to screen his main defensive position, exposing comparatively few troops in front of the crest. Of his 156 guns, 78 belonged to the British artillery; but of his 67,600 men only 29,800 were British or King's German Legion troops, whereas all Napoleon's were Frenchmen and veterans.[29]

Wellington occupied Hougoumont in strength, chiefly with detachments of the British Guards; and he also placed a garrison of the K.G.L. in La Haye Sainte, the tactical key of the allied position. Both these farms were strengthened; but, still nervous about his right flank, Wellington occupied Hougoumont in much greater force than La Haye Sainte, and massed the bulk of his troops on his right. The main position was very skilfully taken up, and care was taken to distribute the troops so that the indifferent and immature were closely supported by those who were "better disciplined and more accustomed to war". Owing to a misconception, one Dutch-Belgian brigade formed up in front of the ridge. Full arrangements were made for Blücher's co-operation through General Müffling, the Prussian attaché on Wellington's staff.[29]

Wellington was to stand fast to receive the attack, whilst the Prussians should close round Napoleon's exposed right and support Wellington's left. The Prussians were thus the real general reserve, and it was Wellington's task to receive Napoleon's attack and prepare him for the decisive counter-stroke.[29]

Waterloo (18 June)[edit]

Main article: Battle of Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo

It was at Waterloo on 18 June 1815 that the decisive battle of the campaign took place. The start of the battle was delayed for several hours as Napoleon waited until the ground had dried from the previous night’s rain. By late afternoon the French army had not succeeded in driving Wellington's forces from the escarpment on which they stood. Once the Prussians arrived, attacking the French right flank in ever increasing numbers, Napoleon's key strategy of keeping the Seventh Coalition armies divided had failed and his army was driven from the field in confusion, by a combined coalition general advance.

On the morning of 18 June 1815 Napoleon sent orders to Marshal Grouchy, commander of the right wing of the Army of the North, to harass the Prussians to stop them reforming. These orders arrived at around 06:00 and his corps began to move out at 08:00; by 12:00 the cannon from the Battle of Waterloo could be heard. Grouchy's corps commanders, especially Gérard, advised that they should "march to the sound of the guns".[31] As this was contrary to Napoleon's orders ("you will be the sword against the Prussians' back driving them through Wavre and join me here") Grouchy decided not to take the advice. It became apparent that neither Napoleon nor Marshal Grouchy understood that the Prussian army was no longer either routed or disorganised.[32] Any thoughts of joining Napoleon were dashed when a second order repeating the same instructions arrived around 16:00.

Wavre (18–19 June)[edit]

Main article: Battle of Wavre

Following Napoleon's orders Grouchy attacked the Prussian III Corps under the command of General Johann von Thielmann near the village of Wavre. Grouchy believed that he was engaging the rearguard of a still-retreating Prussian force. However only one Corps remained; the other three Prussian Corps (I, II and the still fresh IV) had regrouped after their defeat at Ligny and were marching toward Waterloo.

The next morning the Battle of Wavre ended in a hollow French victory. Grouchy's wing of the Army of the North withdrew in good order and other elements of the French army were able to reassemble around it. However, the army was not strong enough to resist the combined coalition forces, so it retreated toward Paris.

Counter attack and the invasion of France[edit]

Napoleon abdicates[edit]

Invasion of France by the Seventh Coalition armies in 1815.

On arriving at Paris, three days after Waterloo, Napoleon still clung to the hope of concerted national resistance; but the temper of the chambers and of the public generally forbade any such attempt. Napoleon and his brother Lucien Bonaparte were almost alone in believing that, by dissolving the chambers and declaring Napoleon dictator, they could save France from the armies of the powers now converging on Paris. Even Davout, minister of war, advised Napoleon that the destinies of France rested solely with the chambers. Clearly, it was time to safeguard what remained; and that could best be done under Talleyrand's shield of legitimacy.

Napoleon himself at last recognised the truth. When Lucien pressed him to "dare", he replied, "Alas, I have dared only too much already". On 22 June 1815 he abdicated in favour of his son, Napoléon Francis Joseph Charles Bonaparte, well knowing that it was a formality, as his four-year-old son was in Austria. On 25 June he received from Fouché, the president of the newly appointed provisional government (and Napoleon's former police chief), an intimation that he must leave Paris. He retired to Malmaison, the former home of Joséphine, where she had died shortly after his first abdication.

On 29 June the near approach of the Prussians, who had orders to seize him, dead or alive, caused him to retire westwards toward Rochefort, whence he hoped to reach the United States. The presence of blockading Royal Navy warships under Vice Admiral Henry Hotham with orders to prevent his escape forestalled this plan.

Finally, unable to remain in France or escape from it, he surrendered himself to Captain Frederick Maitland of HMS Bellerophon early in the morning of 15 July and was transported to England. The full restoration of Louis XVIII followed the emperor’s departure. Napoleon was exiled to the island of Saint Helena where he died in May 1821.

Prussians enter Paris[edit]

With the abdication of Napoleon the provisional government led by Fouché appointed Davout, Napoleon’s minister of war, as General in Chief. French troops concentrated in Paris had as many soldiers as the invaders and more cannons.[citation needed]

There were two major skirmishes and a few minor ones near Paris during the first few days of July. In the first major skirmish, the Battle of Rocquencourt, on 1 July French dragoons supported by infantry and commanded by General Exelmans destroyed a Prussian brigade of hussars under the command of Colonel von Sohr (who was severely wounded and taken prisoner during the skirmish), before retreating. In the second, on 3 July, General Dominique Vandamme (under Davout's command) was decisively defeated by General Graf von Zieten (under Blücher's command) at the Battle of Issy, forcing the French to retreat into Paris.[33] With this defeat, all hope of holding Paris faded and it was agreed that the French Army would withdraw south of the Loire River and on 7 July Graf von Zieten's Prussian I Corps entered Paris.[34]


See also Timeline of the Napoleonic era

Dates Synopsis of key events
26 February Napoleon slipped away from Elba.
1 March Napoleon landed near Antibes.
13 March The powers at the Congress of Vienna declared Napoleon an outlaw.
14 March Marshal Ney, who had said that Napoleon ought to be brought to Paris in an iron cage, joined him with 6,000 men.
15 March After he had received word of Napoleon's escape, Joachim Murat, Napoleon's brother-in-law and the King of Naples, declared war on Austria in a bid to save his crown.
20 March Napoleon entered Paris – The start of the One Hundred Days.
25 March The United Kingdom, Russia, Austria and Prussia, members of the Seventh Coalition, bound themselves to put 150,000 men each into the field to end Napoleon's rule.
9 April The high point for the Neapolitans as Murat attempted to force a crossing of the River Po. However, he is defeated at the Battle of Occhiobello and for the remainder of the war, the Neapolitans would be in full retreat.
3 May General Bianchi's Austrian I Corps decisively defeated Murat at the Battle of Tolentino.
20 May The Neapolitans signed the Treaty of Casalanza with the Austrians after Murat had fled to Corsica and his generals had sued for peace.
23 May Ferdinand IV was restored to the Neapolitan throne.
15 June French Army of the North crossed the frontier into the United Netherlands (in modern day Belgium).
16 June Napoleon beat Field Marshal Blücher at the Battle of Ligny. Simultaneously Marshal Ney and The Duke of Wellington fought the Battle of Quatre Bras at the end of which there was no clear victor.
18 June After the close, hard-fought Battle of Waterloo, the combined armies of Wellington and Blücher decisively defeated Napoleon's French Army of the North. The concurrent Battle of Wavre continued until the next day when Marshal Grouchy won a hollow victory against General Johann von Thielmann.
21 June Napoleon arrived back in Paris.
22 June Napoleon abdicated in favour of his son Napoléon Francis Joseph Charles Bonaparte.
29 June Napoleon left Paris for the west of France.
3 July French requested a ceasefire following the Battle of Issy. The Convention of St. Cloud (the surrender of Paris) ended hostilities between France and the armies of Blücher and Wellington.
7 July Graf von Zieten's Prussian I Corps entered Paris.
8 July Louis XVIII was restored to the French throne – The end of the One Hundred Days.
15 July Napoleon surrendered to Captain Maitland of HMS Bellerophon.
13 October Joachim Murat is executed in Pizzo after he had landed there five days earlier hoping to regain his kingdom.
16 October Napoleon is exiled to St. Helena.
20 November Treaty of Paris signed.
7 December After being condemned by the Chamber of Peers, Marshal Ney is executed by firing squad in Paris near the Luxembourg Garden.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Georg Dubislav Ludwig von Pirch: 'Pirch I', the use of Roman numerals being used in Prussian service to distinguish officers of the same name, in this case from his brother, seven years his junior, Otto Karl Lorenz 'Pirch II'
  1. ^ Baines 1818, p. 433.
  2. ^ Barbero 2006, p. 2.
  3. ^ a b Glover 1973, p. 178.
  4. ^ Chartrand 1998, pp. 9,10.
  5. ^ Houssaye 2005, p. 327.
  6. ^ Houssaye 2005, p. 53.
  7. ^ Chandler 1981, p. 25.
  8. ^ a b Houssaye 2005, pp. 54–56.
  9. ^ a b Chandler 1966, p. 1016.
  10. ^ Chandler 1966, p. 1093.
  11. ^ Chesney 1868, p. 34.
  12. ^ Chesney 1868, p. 35.
  13. ^ a b Beck 1911, p. 371.
  14. ^ Beck 1911, pp. 372, 373.
  15. ^ Beck 1911, pp. 372.
  16. ^ a b c Beck 1911, pp. 373.
  17. ^ Chesney 1868, p. 51.
  18. ^ a b c Hofschroer 2006, pp. 152–157.
  19. ^ Longford 1971, p. 501.
  20. ^ Chesney 1868, pp. 66–67.
  21. ^ Chesney 1868, p. 66.
  22. ^ Hofschroer 2006, pp. 172–180.
  23. ^ Wit, p. 3.
  24. ^ Beck 1911, "Waterloo Campaign".
  25. ^ Chesney 1868, pp. 126–129.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Beck 1911, p. 378.
  27. ^ a b Hofschroer 2006, p. 321.
  28. ^ a b c Chesney 1868, p. 144.
  29. ^ a b c d e f g Beck 1911, p. 379.
  30. ^ Chesney 1868, pp. 135–136.
  31. ^ Chandler 1999, p. [page needed].
  32. ^ Chesney 1868, p. 157.
  33. ^ Nuttal Encyclopaedia: Issy
  34. ^ Prussian Army During the Napoleonic Wars: The Race to Paris


  • Baines, Edward (1818). History of the Wars of the French Revolution, from the breaking out of the wars in 1792, to, the restoration of general peace in 1815 (in 2 volumes) 2. Longman, Rees, Orme and Brown. p. 433. 
  • Barbero, Alessandro (2006). The Battle: a new history of Waterloo. Walker & Company. ISBN 0-8027-1453-6. 
  • Chandler, David (1966). The Campaigns of Napoleon. New York: Macmillan. 
  • Chandler, David (1981) [1980]. Waterloo: The Hundred Days. Osprey Publishing. 
  • Chandler, David (1999) [1979]. Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars. Wordsworth editions. ISBN 1-84022-203-4. 
  • Chartrand, Rene (1998). British Forces in North America 1793–1815. Osprey Publishing. 
  • Chesney, Charles Cornwallis (1868). Waterloo Lectures: a study of the Campaign of 1815. London: Longmans Green and Co. 
  • Glover, Michael (1973). Wellington as Military Commander. London: Sphere Books. 
  • Hofschroer, Peter (2006). 1815 The Waterloo Campaign: Wellington, his German allies and the Battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras 1. Greenhill Books. 
  • Houssaye, Henri (2005). Napoleon and the Campaign of 1815: Waterloo. Naval & Military Press Ltd. 
  • Longford, Elizabeth (1971). Wellington: the Years of the Sword. Panther. 
  • Wit, Pierre de. "Part 5: The last Anglo-Dutch-German reinforcements and the Anglo-Dutch-German advance". The campaign of 1815: a study,. p. 3. Retrieved June 2012. 

Further reading[edit]