The Congress of Vienna is
interrupted with the news that Napoleon has escaped from Elba, landed in France and the French King,
Louis XVIII, has
taken refuge in Brussels. A general invasion of France is agreed. The British, under Wellington, and the Prussians, under Blucher are to advance from
Belgium, and the other allies from the Rhine. Organising the allies takes some time and Napoleon is able to make the first move
by attacking Belgium.
The allied troops
need to be spread over a long line of frontier, the British from Antwerp
to Charleroi and the Prussians from Charleroi
June 15 - Napoleon collects his army on the Sambre, attacks the Prussians at Charleroi and drives
them back towards Ligny.
June 16 - 17 - The Prussians are able to concentrate at Ligny and the British at Quatre Bras. Napoleon is slow to attack and appears to
wait until midday. Ney just
manages to hold his
own against the British and Napoleon succeeds in forcing the Prussians from Ligny. The
success would be decisive except that both the Emperor
and Ney summon d'Erlon's Corps of
20,000. D'Erlon is confused by the contradictory orders and stays put. Napoleon makes a fatal error in the
direction of the Prussian
retreat . He sends Grouchy with 30,000 men to Namur, but Blucher has retreated
to Wavre. The British and Belgians retire to Waterloo, ground that Wellington has selected.
June 18 - The Battle of Waterloo
The British troops are posted on high ground
from Hougemont, behind La Haye Sainte to Papelotte. The French are on the hills opposite, from Hougemont, past La Belle
Alliance, to Frichermont.
There has been heavy
rain overnight and Napoleon chooses not to attack until almost midday. The lost hours
prove to be important as Grouchy has not held the Prussians
and three quarters of
their force is now marching from Wavre towards Waterloo.
Napoleon directs his first assault
against the Chateau of Hougemont. He believes capturing this is a preliminary to the main
attack. He did not take into account British
stubborness in it's
defence and troops are engaged there all day. In the end, the French fail
to capture the Chateau.
At half past one, d'Erlon leads an attack on the British
left between Papelotte and La Haye Sainte. The French are driven back with heavy losses.
From four o'clock to six o'clock,
assaults, led by Marshal Ney, are directed against the British right centre (to the west
of the Charleroi Road).
Now the approach of the
Prussians towards Plancenoit was clear and
Napoleon has to cover his line of retreat. He sends some battalions
of the Imperial Guard against the Prussians, troops that
would be invaluable
to Ney. Ney's cavalry has spent
itself against British infantry squares to little effect.
Between seven o'clock and eight
o'clock Napoleon orders a general assault on the British position. Ney leads the Old Guard, but
is repulsed, The battle is over!
About nine o'clock Wellington and Blucher meet at La Belle Alliance.
There are heavy losses on all sides: British 13,000, Prussians 7,000, French 25 - 30,000.
There is nothing to
stop the allied advance to Paris,
which they reach on July 7th.
After abdicating in Paris on June 22nd, Napoleon flees to Rochefort and
surrenders to the Captain of the British Man of War Bellerophon. Later he
is exiled to St Helena
in the South Atlantic where he eventually dies in 1821.