The Hundred Days
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 to Liege.
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.