First Italian Campaign |
The Egyptian Campaign |
Second Italian Campaign |
The Ulm-Austerlitz Campaign |
The Prussian Campaign |
The Peninsular War |
The Austrian War |
The Russian Campaign |
From Lützen to Elba |
The Waterloo Campaign
Waterloo Campaign, 1815
the last months of 1814, Napoleon grew bored playing
at Emperor of Elba. He never took his eye off France,
where the Allies had made the mistake of restoring an
eager but weak Bourbon king to the throne. King Louis
XVIII had neither Napoleons charm nor his charisma.
France had a constitutional monarchy now, but with royalists
threatening to abolish the gains of the revolution,
and the economy floundering, the King soon became unpopular.
WOLOCH: The Bourbons basically
blow it. If the Bourbons had performed more effectively
and shrewdly I think Napoleon would have stayed
ten months, Napoleon watched and waited. Then, on February
26, 1815, he slipped off of Elba with a handful of soldiers
and eluded the British fleet. "After making a mistake
or suffering a misfortune," he said, "the man of genius
always gets back on his feet."
ashore, only the Kings army would stand between
Napoleon and Paris. Six days after landing in France,
he confronted a regiment of infantry ordered to bar
his way. Napoleon advanced alone to meet them: "Soldiers,"
he cried, "if there is one among you who wants to kill
his general, his Emperor, here I am." Suddenly, the
soldiers began cheering wildly, "Long live the Emperor.
Long live the Emperor."
The soldiers welcomed him as a god. "The glory
is going to start again. Were going to fight
again. We're going to be happy."
ten days, Napoleon said, "we will be in Paris
The eagle will fly from steeple to steeple until it
reaches the towers of Notre Dame." Two
weeks later, Napoleon was in the French capital, and
Louis XVIII had fled. The news hit Europe like a bombshell.
Devil," his enemies said, "has been unchained."
Again, the mystique of Napoleon. Here's the Emperor.
"Vive la Emperor," they shouted all the way to Paris.
But it was really sort of crazy. He hasn't got a
months after Napoleon's abdication, the Allies had been
at odds with one another as they met in Vienna to hammer
out an agreement to determine the shape of post-war
Europe. Now Great Britain, Prussia, Austria, and Russia
united once again to declare Napoleon an outlaw
"an enemy and a disturber of the tranquility
of the world" and readied their armies for
All of Europe was against him. There was not
a chance of France beating this coalition arrayed
against it. No one thinks the war can be won.
The ruling classes, the bourgeoisie, the elite,
dont have confidence. Napoleon understands
that its no longer like it was.
certainty of success which had made him so confident
in the past," his secretary wrote, "that faith in his
star which had inspired him to venture on the hazardous
enterprise of returning from Elba deserted him from
the moment he reached Paris."
the end of May, the British and Prussians had two armies
in Belgium. Austrian and Russian soldiers were on the
way. Napoleon's only hope for survival was one last,
desperate gamble. He planned to drive a wedge between
the British and the Prussians, and defeat them before
the Austrians and the Russians could arrive. Napoleon
raised an army, and marched toward Waterloo.
fate would be decided on a field of clover and rye,
one mile long and three miles wide. Waiting for him
was Great Britains most formidable soldier, the
Duke of Wellington.
Tall, aristocratic, rather arrogant, disdainful,
not an enormous amount of imagination, but totally
unflinching, nerves of steel. He knew his army and
he knew what they would take and he knew how to
deploy them, and he was superlative on the defense.
commanded 68,000 men, but he was counting on 72,000
more - the Prussians, led by Marshal Bleucher von Wahlstatt.
Bleuchers greatest wish was to capture Napoleon
and have him shot.
The Prussian troops idolize him. He's old, getting
a little feeble especially above the eyebrows. He
likes his bottle. But he loved to fight and he hated
by Napoleon at the village of Ligny on June 16, Bleucher
withdrew his troops. Unsure if Wellington would stand,
Bleucher hesitated to send his troops into Napoleon's
path again. But, with Bleucher and the Prussians by
his side, Wellington would outnumber Napoleon two to
one. The Duke impatiently waited for the Prussians to
Wellington said to Bleucher, "For the love
of God, come as fast as you can, well fight
to the last moment, to the last man."
Bleucher was still many miles from the battlefield,
and Napoleon had sent a sizeable force of his own to
intercept him. It was not clear whether Bleucher would
get there on time, or at all. The night before the battle,
the soldiers on both sides caught what sleep they could
under a heavy downpour. The next morning, Sunday, June
18, they were sopping wet. So was the field on which
they were to fight, now dotted with puddles and caked
took a strong, defensive position, well aware of Napoleons
genius on the attack. As the sun rose higher in the
sky, the Duke and his soldiers braced themselves. But
Waterloo remained silent. Nearly five hours had passed
since daybreak, yet Napoleon had not given the order
to attack. He said he was waiting for the ground to
dry so he could maneuver his cannon.
Certainly the ground was so wet that he wasnt
able to move his artillery, but he wasnt stopped
by this kind of thing before. He attacked when he
decided to attack. He lost the certainty that he still
had his guiding star.
felt that Fortune was abandoning me," Napoleon said.
"I no longer had the feeling that I was sure to succeed."