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Vanity Fair - WATERLOO ILLUSTRATED

Decades after Napoleon left France for the last time, Sir William Quiller Orchardson imagined what the scene might have been like aboard ship as Bonaparte watched the French shoreline receding in the distance. Orchardson's painting, owned by the Tate Britain, is called "Napoleon on Board the Bellerophon." Click on the image for a better view.

 

Waterloo—one of the most important battles in the history of warfare—took place fourteen years before the world’s first photograph (called a heliograph) was made by a Frenchman, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. Although we don't have pictures of battles in progress, we have other illustrative sources.

The U.S. Military Academy’s annotated maps, for example, reconstruct events as they occurred on the various fields leading up-to (and including) Waterloo.  Drawings and paintings, recreating the battle scenes, permit us a trip back in time to view the maneuvers and witness the carnage.

  • Situation on 1 June 1815 - depicts location and strength of opposing forces.

  • Troops in and around Brussels on 16 June 1815 - shows movements after June 1st.

  • Situation at 8 p.m. on the 16th of June 1815 - reflects major action at Quatre-Bras and Ligny.

  • Midnight (on June 17-18) - Wellington, Blücher and Napoleon are moving into battle positions in the vicinity of Brussels.

  • 10 a.m. on June 18th - opposing forces are largely in position on the Waterloo Battlefield.

  • Battlefield positions at 4 p.m. on the 18th of June - Napoleon still thinks he will win.

  • Battlefield positions at 7:30 p.m. on the evening of June 18 - Napoleon has “met his Waterloo.”

At the end of the battle, the casualties were staggering. Although he lived, Napoleon himself was a casualty.

Not wanting to "have Paris run with blood," Napoleon abdicated—for the second time—on June 22, 1815. A month later, he was aboard a British ship, enroute to a remote island in the South Atlantic called St. Helena.

He would spend the rest of his life there, in exile.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5124stories and lessons created

Original Release: Sep 01, 2004

Updated Last Revision: Mar 16, 2017


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