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, continued
at 11:30, Napoleons artillery opened fire. His battle
plan was simple. Wellingtons men occupied the outlying
farm buildings on both flanks, and the crest of a ridge in
the center near the village of Waterloo. To break them, Napoleon
ordered no elaborate maneuvers. He would stake everything
on a massive frontal attack.
He meant to attack Wellington first, and the quicker
the better. He thought Wellington would run for his ships.
Then he would turn around and blast Bluecher.
after midday, Napoleon ordered a barrage of his most powerful
cannon seventy-four guns steadily lobbed cannon balls
at Wellingtons center. But Wellington had ordered his
soldiers to take cover behind the crest of the ridge on which
they stood, beyond the reach of the French guns.
Napoleon motto was "Never attack a man in a prepared
position." But here, he has no choice. He's got to get
soldiers charged. The British counterattacked, driving the
French back in confusion.
The English were in a good position on the ridge, and
in spite of that, Napoleon launched a frontal assault.
This was perhaps not suicide, but it led to the loss of
a lot of soldiers.
You have the impression that he is issuing orders hoping
for a miracle. He was living in a dream.
his infantry regrouped, more bad news reached Napoleon. Advance
elements of the Prussian army were beginning to reach the
battlefield. Napoleon would have to break Wellingtons
center at once. The French cavalry charged on the order of
Marshal Michel Ney, known as "the bravest of the brave." Convinced
that the British line was weakening, he led his cavalry forward.
The British formed square and waited. With reckless abandon,
Ney led charge after charge. Napoleon was losing control of
They were just mowing them down. Sergeants went down and
ranks went down. Ney really thought if he could just [charge] one
more time he would break through. "Just one more time
will do it," you know, and they followed him.
They nearly broke through the British squares, very, very
close indeed, but Ney charged without the infantry behind
French cavalry was destroyed - but the English center appeared
on the verge of collapse. Desperate, Wellington rode through
the smoke and carnage, refusing to order retreat. One officer
heard him say: "Night or the Prussians must come."
Every hour, every minute almost was of paramount importance
sun hung low in the sky, glowing blood-red through the trees
and smoke. It was then that Napoleon saw them: Prussians soldiers
emerging from the smoke, still in the far-distance.
One of the Napoleon's aides notices that the hills
to the right seems to have gone dark and that the dark
was the black uniformed Prussians.
He sees dust over here on his right flank and he knows
the Prussians are coming. Now what he can do is he can
disengage, he can pull back. Or he can gamble and try
and defeat the British before the Prussians arrive. He
decides, "I can beat them."
called for the Imperial Guard, the most feared of all his
soldiers. Throughout the fighting he had held them in reserve.
Now he sent them forward.
The dreaded Guard
very fearsome body. They never,
never retreated. This is sort of the last chance. It was
fog and the smoke of cannon fire.
And these terrifying-looking automatons coming straight
at you fifty yards away.
were just forty paces away when the Duke gave the order to
fire. In less than a minute, four-hundred Frenchmen fell.
Still the Guard came on.
They were absolutely magnificent. He had nearly broken
through the British line, but it was too late. The first
time in the whole history of the Napoleonic wars the Guard
was seen to falter and then eventually fall back, shouting
"Sauve qui peut." "Every man for himself." And then
the word ran through the army, "La Guarde recule," "The
guard is retreating."
snapped shut his telescope, took off his hat, and waved it.
"No cheering, my lads," he said. "Forward and complete your
victory." As the Guard fell back, panic spread through the
ranks of Napoleon's army. And then disaster was upon them:
the Prussians were in the field.
The Prussians really were the last drop of water that
tipped the bucket over. Napoleon had to draw forces from
his center to deal with Bleucher. Bleucher won the battle.
If Bleucher hadnt been there, I dont think
Wellington would have made it.
damned nice thing," Wellington said later, "the nearest-run
thing you ever saw in your life." The battle had lasted less
than twelve hours a single Sunday afternoon. In a field
bloody with the wounded and the dead, Napoleon tried in vain
to rally his men, then turned his back on the catastrophe,
He began the battle too late, he gave orders that werent
clear, but in reality he lost the battle of Waterloo because
he didnt believe he could win it, because he didnt
believe he could win the campaign. Waterloo could have
been won, but the war would have been lost anyway.
all of Europe against him, Napoleon saw the futility of going
on. As allied armies closed in around him, he let events run
their course. He was a desperate man, totally confused.
June 22, 1815 four days after the Battle of Waterloo
he abdicated his throne for the second time. With no
hope of escape, he put himself at the mercy of Great Britain.
This time, they would take no chances; they exiled Napoleon
to the remote island of St. Helena, thousands of miles from
France. He would never hold power again.