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Vanity Fair - WATERLOO OVERVIEW

WATERLOO OVERVIEW (Illustration) Famous Historical Events Famous People Film Geography Nineteenth Century Life Social Studies World History Fiction

A French 6-pounder field gun—cast in Metz during 1813, which the Duke of Wellington captured during the Battle of Waterloo—is now displayed at the Tower of London. Photo by Uploadalt; license: CC BY-SA 3.0

  
Napoleon once said of Britain:
 

Masters of the Channel for six hours, we are masters of the world.

His boasting was exaggerated (since he never ruled the world), his underestimating of Britain and her allies was misguided (as he soon found out), although his fearlessness in battle (“He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat”) was respected.

In 1810, when Napoleon was at the height of his power, his empire included countries directly under his control (like The Netherlands), countries which his forces occupied (like Spain) and countries with whom he had treaty agreements (like Austria).

By 1815, when Napoleon was in exile on Elba, monarchies throughout Europe had been restored and life (in the sense of who ruled what country) was essentially back to normal. So when the former ruler escaped from Elba, it is little wonder why the monarchies of Europe quickly marshaled their forces against him.

History records the events after Napoleon fled Elba as "The Hundred Days." As he traveled to Paris, picking up support along the way, Napoleon must have been formulating his plan of action:

  • When he arrived in Paris, he overthrew Louis XVIII. Perhaps he thought the chance of empire once again belonged to him.
  • He raised an army of 280,000 men and went on the offensive in Belgium.
  • On June 15th, he defeated the Prussians at the Ligny.

At Waterloo, a village south of Brussels, Napoleon’s quest for empire ended forever. Wellington held all day against Napoleon’s attack (this is an interactive battle simulator) until the Prussian Gebhard von Blücher (the lesser-known hero of Waterloo) returned to rout the French.  

By the 18th of June, 1815, the battle was over.  The combined Allied Forces had ended Napoleon's quest for a "come back."

One of Napoleon’s personal aids - his equerry, Jardin Ainé - left an insightful eyewitness account of the battle. His descriptions of the battle’s end, and the effects of the defeat on Napoleon, are revealing:

Napoleon towards eight o'clock in the evening, seeing that his army was almost beaten, commenced to despair of the success which two hours before he believed to be assured. He remained on the battlefield until half-past nine when it was absolutely necessary to leave.

Assured of a good guide, we passed to the right of Genappes and through the fields; we marched all the night without knowing too well where we were going until the morning. Towards four o'clock in the morning we came to Charleroi where Napoleon, owing to the onrush of the army in beating a retreat, had much difficulty in proceeding.

At last after he had left the town, he found in a little meadow on the right a small bivouac fire made by some soldiers. He stopped by it to warm himself and said to General Corbineau, “Et bien Monsieur, we have done a fine thing.”

General Corbineau saluted him and replied, “Sire, it is the utter ruin of France.”

Napoleon turned round, shrugged his shoulders and remained absorbed for some moments. He was at this time extremely pale and haggard and much changed.

He took a small glass of wine and a morsel of bread which one of his equerries had in his pocket, and some moments later mounted, asking if the horse galloped well. He went as far as Philippeville where he arrived at mid-day and took some wine to revive himself. He again set out at two o'clock in a mail carriage towards Paris where he arrived on the 21st at 7 a.m. at the Elysée whence he departed on the 12th, in the same month.

Napoleon abdicated again - this time on 22 June 1815. He was exiled again - this time to the small island of Saint Helena (a British Protectorate off the western coast of Africa.)

He did not escape again, but after he died (in 1821) Napoleon's body was returned to Paris where it remains interred at the Hotel des Invalides.

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

Original Release: Sep 01, 2004

Updated Last Revision: Jul 02, 2015


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"WATERLOO OVERVIEW" AwesomeStories.com. Sep 01, 2004. Dec 13, 2017.
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