Napoleon returns from Exile

After twenty-five years of war1, (16) on April 6th, (15) 1814 Napoleon (2,8) who had been Emperor of France (5,12) for 10 years (12) was made to abdicate. (2,8) He was exiled (2,5) to live out his life under guard (15) on the Isle of Elba (2,5) off Italy (15) in the Mediterranean. (12,16) La2 Petit Empereur (15) in fact 170cm or 5’7″ tall, which was the average height for a male at the time. (8) The Bourbons resumed their interrupted reign in France with (16) King Louis XVIII. (12,16) The other leaders of Europe met to (12,16) restore their continent to normality and peace (16) OR redraw the borders of their countries after the Napoleon upheaval of the last decade. (12) In early 1815 Britain and her allies – Austria, Prussia and Russia – thought Napoleon was finished. (8) Napoleon hated exile, (12) and was not yet ready to relinquish his dreams of conquest, (15) so in (12) 1814 (5) OR On February (8,15) 26th (8) OR 1st (16) March (6,12) 1815 (2,6) he escaped from Elba. (5,12) He came back to France (2,4) and marched on Paris, intent on reclaiming his throne (5) from King Louis XVIII. (5,12) Nineteen days later, Napoleon was in Paris and resumed his title of Emperor. (16) But his time was limited. (12) Napoleon only had one hundred days back in power. (12) The European powers (4,5) that had opposed him (6) were caught completely by surprise. (9) Britain, Prussia, (4,5) Russia (4) and the Netherlands (5) didn’t share Napoleon’s enthusiasm to see him back in power, (4,5) and declared war, (5,12) on Napoleon (not France) (12) making preparations for war together (4,5) as the Seventh (5,6) Coalition. (4,5) They stood united in their determination to prevent Napoleon—and France’s revolutionary anti-monarchy ideas—from threatening the old monarchies of Europe. (15) Austria, Prussia, Russia, and Great Britain united against him, with 450,000 troops they could bring to battle relatively quickly; potentially, they could deploy 700,000 in two months, all backed up by British gold for weapons, ammunition and other logistical concerns. (15)

The Waterloo Campaign begins

Napoleon’s strategy

What Napoleon needed now was a period of time to organize himself and the French army. (9) He raised a new army (4,9) of war-hardened French troops – mostly volunteers loyal to Napoleon. (5) Napoleon’s army rallied to him. (16) The many French soldiers, captured during the years of fighting up to 1814 and now released, enabled Napoleon to reform his powerful Grande Armée, (16) but it was not the army that had won great victories in the past. (15) On paper, he had perhaps 200,000 soldiers in March 1815, but over 30,000 were on furlough and some 85,000 had deserted. (15) There were not enough muskets to arm all the men. (15) At least 500,000 projectiles were needed for the artillery. (15) Shoes, uniforms, horses, harness—the list of shortages went on and on. (15) Perhaps most critical among those shortages were sufficient numbers of skilled military commanders at the highest levels. (15) Few of Napoleon’s trusted corps commanders remained. (15) Men who had only commanded divisions were placed over corps, but in these elevated positions they had not yet earned the respect of the men in the ranks. (15) The French Army’s formerly high morale sagged. (15) Napoleon decided on a further gamble. (9) He realised that his best chance of success was to move before the coalition could fully mobilise. (5,15) He decided to strike swiftly (15) He planned to strike pre-emptively, defeating the allied forces one by one before they could launch a united attack against him. (4,6) The European allies reassembled their armies and prepared to resume the war to overthrow the Emperor yet again. (16) He quickly committed his forces to attack the existing armies, (5) of the Seventh (5,6) Coalition. (5,6) He prepared a surprise attack on Wellington and Blucher (5,16) and the Belgian and Dutch armies (16) hoping to catch them unprepared, (5,16) and so break the lines of communication between them (15) Operating under tight secrecy, Napoleon assembled his force, the Army of the North, in the area of Maubeuge in early June. (15) Deserters warned his opponents that he planned to strike through Belgium toward The Netherlands, but both British and Prussian headquarters remained unconcerned about an immediate attack. (15) Deserters from the French army included a corps chief of staff and a division commander, further exacerbating its command problems. (15) In June 1815, (4) he astonished the allies (8) by marching (2,4) fast towards Brussels (8) in Belgium, (4,8) where separate armies, Wellington’s British (2,4) OR a British-led Allied army (6) and Prussian troops (4,6) were camped (4,6) close to the north-eastern border of France. (6) Napoleon’s plan was to seize Brussels and sever the Nivelles-Namur highway, which provided the only lateral road the British and Prussians could use to unite. (15) He sent his left wing—’not much less than 45 or 50,000 men,’ Napoleon wrote—under the command of Marshal Michel Ney toward the village of Quatre Bras. (15) Ney had commanded VI Corps in earlier campaigns was named commander of the left wing on June 13, five days before the Battle of Waterloo. (15) The right wing, of the same size as the left, was placed under Marshal Emmanuel Grouchy, who had repeatedly proven his courage in battle and his devotion to Napoleon, but he had never before had a command so many troops. (15) Neither Ney nor Grouchy advanced with the alacrity Napoleon needed from them. (15) In addition to the two wings of his army, Napoleon held back the Imperial Guard, elite troops of his old Grande Armee, as a reserve to commit as he saw fit. (15)

The Allies’ Response

They did not want another decade of blood-shed because a ‘power hungry maniac’ wanted their countries. (12) The Allies – that’s what historians call the four nations listed above, during this era – made a plan and raised armies of their own. (12) The Prussians, commanded by General Blucher, and the British, commanded by Arthur Wellesley: The Duke of Wellington, assembled in Belgium. (12) They faced Napoleon who had moved his army toward them. (12)

Preliminary Battles

The troops who fought at Waterloo had been engaged in manoeuvres, if not actions, over the preceding week: Waterloo, itself, was the culmination of direct engagements between the armies that began with Napoleon’s invasion of the Low Countries on 15 June. (14) Memoirs are clear that the forces that were lined up to fight on 18 June saw the battle as an inevitable conclusion to the engagements of the preceding days — and that they would continue to fight until their job was completed and victory achieved. (14) Napoleon tried to divide Wellington’s troops from their Prussian allies. (2) His plan was successful at first and he crossed the Belgian border before Wellington and Blucher could join forces. (9)


At the Battle of Ligny, on June 16th, (5,6) Napoleon (4,5) heavily (5) defeated (4,5) the Prussians under the command of Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher. (4,6) After a fierce day’s fighting, he forced the Prussians to retreat, (9,15) inflicting twice as many casualties as they suffered, (15) although he was unable to totally destroy the Prussian army. (4) The French failed to pursue rapidly, and both Napoleon and Grouchy could share the blame for that. (15) Inadequate information made Napoleon overly cautious the day after the fight, and his (15) orders to Grouchy to pursue the Prussians (15,16) would play a significant role in the defeat at Waterloo. (15) Blücher was injured leading a cavalry charge, but his chief of staff, General August W. A. Gneisenau, took over and boldly ordered the corps commanders to march northward toward Tilly—bringing them closer to Wellington’s force—instead of east to Liege. (15) OR the Prussians retreated away to the east. (13,16) Meanwhile Napoleon advanced on Wellington’s army. (16)


Thinking that Blucher would retreat back to Prussia, Napoleon turned his attention towards Wellington. (9) OR sent a third of his forces to pursue the Prussians, who had withdrawn parallel to Wellington (6) in a rout. (5) OR in good order. (6) This resulted in the Battle of Wavre with the Prussian rear-guard. (6) Grouchy had been ordered to seize Wavre and block the Prussians, but he moved slowly, and two corps had already passed through the town by the time his Frenchmen arrived. (15) However, the same mud that had caused Napoleon to favour a direct assault over an enveloping manoeuvre also slowed the Prussian march to reinforce the Anglo-Dutch at Waterloo. (15)

Quatre Bras

At the same time (6,15) a portion of the French army (6) led by Marshal Ney (16) attacked (6,16) the Duke of Wellington’s (16) Allied army at the (6,16) small (9) Battle of Quatre Bras (6,9) as Wellington tried to delay the French advance. (9) While the French and Prussians were going at each other around Ligny, approximately two miles (3.2 km) away at the tiny crossroads village of Quatre Bras Marshal Ney waited until 2:00 in the afternoon to attack. (15) Had he attacked in the morning, he would have faced only the 2nd Dutch-Belgian Infantry Division and enjoyed a 6-to-1 advantage. (15) (The Dutch-Belgian commander was Baron H. G. de Perponcher-Seinitzky, one of Napoleon’s former commanders. (15)) OR the Prince of Orange. (16) About an hour after the battle began, Allied reinforcements began arriving. (15) Ney’s I Corps under General J. B. D’Erlon received an order—it is uncertain from whom—to march to Ligny to support the French there. (15) When Ney learned of their departure, he sent orders demanding the corps return; it did but dispatched a portion of its infantry and cavalry to Ligny. (15) The entire corps could have been a decisive factor at either Ligny or Quatre Bras, but spent much of the day marching between the two battles. (15) After dark, the Allied force withdrew from the fields and woods around Quatre Bras. (15) It had taken approximately 4,800 casualties; Ney suffered 4,300. (15) Despite holding his ground at Quatre Bras, (6) the defeat of the Prussians forced Wellington to withdraw north to Waterloo (2,6) on the 17th (6) but the engagement at Quatre Bras had given Wellington enough time to prepare a full defensive position across the road leading to Brussels, near the village of Waterloo. (9) The name ‘Waterloo’ is of Dutch origin and probably meant a wet clearing in a forest. (3) The French army advanced towards them and set up their camp on a ridge facing the combined British and Dutch (Anglo-Dutch) army. (9) Heavy rain caused delays and confusion and both armies settled down for the night in the mud to await the dawn and the forthcoming battle. (9) At both Ligny and Quatre Bras, the French lost the chance to inflict a telling blow on the Allies on June 16th. (15) The stage was set for the bloodbath near Waterloo. (15)

The strengths of the opposing forces

On June 18th, (2,4) Napoleon led his army of some (4,5) 125,000 (12), OR 72,000 (4,13) OR roughly 72,000 (15) OR 73,000 (5) OR 74,000 (16) troops (4,13) including 48,000 infantry, 11,000 cavalry (15) and 250 guns. (15,16) Some 1,500 yards away (15) were the roughly 67,000 (15,16) OR 68,000 (4,13) OR 92,000 (12) OR 118,000-man (5) British army (4,16) including 50,000 infantry, 11,000 cavalry and the crews for 150 (15) OR 160 (16) guns. (15,16) Around half of Wellington’s forces (11) OR 67% (44,000 troops with 23,000 British) (16) were from the German states (5,8) OR duchies (10) Nassau, (5) Hanover (5,15) and Brunswick, (5) with some units from the Netherlands. (5,8) (Belgians (4,10) and Dutch. (4,5) There were also more than 30,000 (4,5) OR 40,000 (5) OR 48,000 (15) OR 50,000 (10) OR more than 50,000 (11) OR 120,000 (12) with 135 guns (15) from Prussia (4,5) under the command of (5,11) Field (15) Marshal (11,15) Prince (15) Gebhard Leberecht von (5,11) Wahlstatt (15) Blücher. (5,11) The overall commanders at Waterloo were two of the greatest generals of all time. (8) The British commander was (4,5) Field Marshal (5) Arthur Wellesley, (4,15) 1st (15) Duke of Wellington, (4,5) who had performed admirably against French troops in Spain, (4,15) and never lost a battle in 12 years of war. (8) Unfortunately for the French military genius, these two commanders probably understood, appreciated and supported each other more than the leaders of any other coalition armies. (15) Wellington said, ‘I am inclined to believe that Blücher and I are so well united, and so strong, that the enemy cannot do us much mischief. (15) Napoleon Bonaparte had in his time crushed every army in Europe except Britain’s. (8) Napoleon’s soldiers were outnumbered by the Coalition (5) OR Wellington knew he was outnumbered. (13) But Napoleon’s soldiers were all veterans of at least one campaign. (5) Napoleon had another 33,000 men under the command of Marshal Emmanuel Grouchy at Wavre, south of Waterloo, who did not take part in the battle. (15) Compared with the French, his soldiers at Waterloo (4,5) were, in his own words, ‘very weak and ill-equipped’, (5) with the majority of Britain’s experienced troops (5,16) such as the 88th Foot, Connaught Rangers (16) already having been sent to the United States to fight the War of 1812. (5,16) Napoleon appeared hardly two months since Christmas Eve 1814, when the Treaty of Ghent had put an end to the British war of 1812 against the United States, (HN) and many battle hardened units of the British army were still on the far side of the Atlantic. (16) Wellington’s cavalry was inexperienced, with a severe shortage of heavy cavalry to call upon. (5) Waterloo was not just a British victory. (6,8) The ‘British’ army was in fact an ‘Anglo-allied’ army (6,8) OR ‘an Anglo-Dutch army’. (9,15) Less than half (8,10) Only a third (8,11) OR 36% (10) of Wellington’s army was British, (8) and the majority of those soldiers were Irish, Welsh and Scottish. (11) Wellington himself was born in Ireland and of Anglo-Irish ancestry. (11) The King’s German Legion (KGL) was the Hanoverian army in exile. (16) The KGL owed its allegiance to King George III of Great Britain, as the Elector of Hanover, and fought with the British army. (16)

British Tactics

The standard infantry weapon across all the armies was the (8,16) muzzle-loading (16) musket. (8,16) The musket could be fired three or four times a minute, throwing a heavy ball inaccurately (16) little more than 50 yards. (8) OR not much more than 100 yards. (14,16) Each infantryman carried a bayonet for hand-to-hand fighting, which fitted the muzzle end of his musket. (16) The British rifle battalions (60th and 95th Rifles) carried the Baker rifle, a more accurate weapon but slower to fire, and a sword bayonet. (16) Provided the infantry were able to form square, they were largely impervious to cavalry attack, as neither the British nor the French cavalry horses could be brought to ride through an unbroken infantry line and the infantry could not be attacked in flank. (16) While the French conscript infantry moved about the battle field in fast moving columns, the British trained to fight in line. (16) British drill manuals therefore set out how to deploy in line, to ensure that the greatest firepower might be concentrated on the enemy — marching in column until close at hand was one tactic, as it was much easier to advance in this way rather than in a long, extended line. (14) There has been an argument that, during the Napoleonic Wars, the British defeated the French by using continuous, well-ordered volleys of musket fire, with their troops lined up in two or three ranks, as opposed to a continuous fire (that has been associated with the Prussian army). (14) The Duke of Wellington reduced the number of ranks to two, to extend the line of the British infantry and to exploit fully the firepower of his regiments. (16) It is now believed that British success had another basis. (14) The evidence of military memoirs suggests it was a common practice for British soldiers to hold their fire until very close, firing a single volley and then charging with bayonets. (14) Sources are difficult to assess, but suggest that British infantry in fact used a wider range of different tactical practices, that they were characterised by an increased aggressiveness and a corresponding reluctance to fire — what musket fire there was, was either a response to the enemy’s fire or was a preparatory action before a charge with bayonets. (14) This reliance on a bayonet charge also seems to have been a departure from earlier practice, and distinctive to the British, even if not new to European warfare. (14) There was a simple tactic: to wait until the distance separating the two forces had been reduced to where, when the fire was finally delivered, it could not help but be effective, if not overpowering, and then to charge in with bayonets while the enemy was still recovering from the volley. (14) This was achieved by control: officers held back the aggression of their men until the very last minute. (14) By avoiding a prolonged exchange of fire, loss of control of command was minimised. (14) Many memoirs point to the coolness of the British infantry: their silence was no accident, and was the result of determined efforts by officers. (14) Precision in military manoeuvres was crucial to the armies of the early nineteenth century, especially to infantry, which formed the bulk of all the forces engaged. (14) This meant that (14) in the battles of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century opposing armies often fought at close quarters. (8,14) Waterloo was one of the last such battles. (8) It was hard to redeploy forces in the face of battle: movements of large bodies of men took time. (14)


Field guns fired a ball projectile, of limited use against troops in the field unless those troops were closely formed. (16) Guns also fired case shot or canister which fragmented and was highly effective against troops in the field over a short range. (16) Exploding shells fired by howitzers, yet in their infancy, were of particular use against buildings. (16) The British were developing shrapnel (named after the British officer who invented it) which increased the effectiveness of exploding shells against troops in the field, by exploding in the air and showering them with metal fragments. (16) Throughout the Peninsular War and the Waterloo campaign, the British army was plagued by a shortage of artillery. (16) The Army was sustained by volunteer recruitment and the Royal Artillery was not able to recruit sufficient gunners for its needs. (16) Napoleon exploited the advances in gunnery technology of the last years of the French Ancien Régime, to create his powerful and highly mobile artillery. (16) Many of his battles were won using a combination of the manoeuvrability and fire power of the French guns, with the speed of French columns of infantry, supported by the mass of French cavalry. (16)

French tactics

The French, on the other hand, had a different philosophy on how to manage the morale of their men. (14) They led them into battle, staking all on the ferocity of a first assault — whipping soldiers into a frenzy to exert themselves to their physical limits. (14) There was a psychological problem, however, everything was committed to the first assault — and if it were unsuccessful, the soldiers were more liable to break. (14) French success, however, came from Napoleon’s careful planning of operations and French tactical superiority. (14) He orchestrated the movement of large bodies of men so that the enemy frequently found itself facing vastly greater numbers of men either at the start of the battle or at a critical point. (14) French success was based on the impact of columns of infantry, preceded by swarms of skirmishers. (14) It is thought that French methods facilitated a furious initial attack; but they also allowed for more individualism, which increased the chances of an advance becoming a prolonged firefight — which was when officers were likely to lose control. (14)

Other contrasts between the armies

There were other crucial differences between British and French troops. (14) The British rank and file were mainly volunteers who had enlisted for a period of time. (14) British soldiers got paid about £20 a year but only saw about half that. (8) They were fed a pound of beef a day, and a pound-and-a-half of bread. (8) They got a daily ration of a pint of wine or a third of a pint of gin or rum. (8) The average age that we can calculate was around 27 – the youngest soldiers were 17; the oldest were 44. (8) The French filled their armies with conscripts: as each cohort reached 20, they were enlisted — although, when manpower became scarce, as in 1813, levies of younger men were imposed. (14) Napoleon’s army at Waterloo included many veterans who had returned to the flag; while the Anglo-Allied army, while having a core of experienced troops, had many, particularly from north Germany, who had only the most basic training. (14) It was for this reason that Wellington was to distribute experienced troops across the field, mixing up national contingents as well, in that the more seasoned forces could set an example to the others. (14)

The Battle


Assured by Blücher that the Prussians would join him for the conclusive battle against Napoleon, Wellington, (6,16) on the afternoon of 17th June 1815 (16) halted his army to give battle to the French, (6,16) in order to stop Napoleon’s advance towards the capital. (13) Before the battle, Wellington stayed at a Waterloo inn while Napoleon was three miles south. (13) Wellington knew success the next day rested heavily on the arrival of General Blucher and his Prussian reinforcements. (13) The Prussians were recuperating in Wavre, 18 miles east of Waterloo. (13) From here he could try to hold the ground until the Prussians arrived. (13) On the other side, with the Prussians and Allied armies separated, Napoleon was confident he could defeat Wellington and make his way to Brussels. (13) “He is a bad general and the English are breakfast!” he said. (13) Napoleon’s mind was also on the terrain. (13) It was sodden from the night’s rainfall, making it difficult to move his men and guns into position. (13) Napoleon decided to delay his first major attack until the ground had dried out. (13) Having the French infantry and cavalry wade through mud risked tiring them out in the early stages of the battle. (13)

Name and location of the Battle

When Napoleon met his Waterloo, he wasn’t actually in Waterloo. (11) In spite of its name, the battle was waged three miles (11) OR 1.2 miles (6) south of the town of Waterloo (6,11) in the villages of Braine l’Alleud, (3,6) and Lasne (6) OR and Plancenoit (11) near Mont St. Jean (15) OR along the Mont Saint Jean Ridge, (6,11) about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) (6) south of Brussels, (6,12) The centre of the battle ran north-south along the Brussels road, (15) behind a ridge (6,13) across (6,13) the Charleroi- (15) Brussels road. (6,13) Wellington had a habit of naming battles after the place he had spent the previous night (3) OR it was the dateline written on the official report Wellington sent back to Britain. (11,15) ‘Napoleon never set a foot in Waterloo—it’s a fact,’ Belgian historian and former Waterloo resident Bernard Coppens told the Wall Street Journal. (11) OR It’s easy to know that the Battle was fought at Waterloo. (12) The French referred to Waterloo as the ‘Battle of Mont Saint-Jean’. (11,15) Blücher favored calling it the battle of (15) ‘La Belle Alliance,’ the name of a farmhouse where Napoleon had his headquarters (15,16) and where the British and Prussian commanders met following the battle. (15) La Belle Alliance could be taken to refer to the multinational alliance that defeated the French Emperor, but the farm’s name, which predated the battle, is said to have originated with a ‘belle alliance’ between the mistress of the house and one of her farmhands following the death of her second husband. (15)

Disposition of the armies at the start of the battle

The Duke of Wellington took up a position on the Brussels road, where it emerges from the woods of Soignies, south of the village of Waterloo. (16) The road crosses a low ridge, behind which Wellington positioned his army facing south, and descends into a valley before rising on the other side to a further ridge. (16) To the north of the first crest, the Namur road crossed the Brussels road. (16) The main British, German, Belgian and Dutch positions lay along the Namur road, behind the first crest. (16) In this area the land masks hollows and ravines where forces could be hidden until an enemy is close enough to be confronted by troops that seemed to rise from the very earth before them. (15) It was land well suited to the tactics the Duke of Wellington had perfected in Spain. (15) The combination of the incline, fields of high corn and well-placed garrisons meant Wellington had both a good vantage point and cover to shield his troops. (13) The allied army was deployed over a front of some two to three miles, in great density, perhaps 24,000 men to the mile. (14) In the valley, below the first crest, (16) across the space between the two armies were (12) three (12,14) garrisoned farms: (12,13) from east to west Papelotte (13) OR Hougoumont (12) La Haye Sainte (12,13) OR Sante and La Haire (12) OR Hougoumont. (13,15) OR Chateau (15,16) de Groumont (Hougomont). (15) The small château of Hougoumont stood before the extreme right of the Allied position. (16) Fully enclosed by brick-and-stone (15) walls, (13,15) and further protected by ditches, an orchard and hedges, (15) Hougoumont was a strong fortress. (13,15) Wellington formed the view that the château was the key to his flank, and garrisoned it with the light companies of the Coldstream and 3rd Foot Guards under Lieutenant Colonel James MacDonnell of the Coldstream Guards. (16) Nassauers and guardsmen held the woods to the front of the building. (16) The British troops took over the range of château buildings on 17th June 1815 and spent the night fortifying them, building fire steps and loop holing the walls. (16) All the gates were blocked, other than the main gate on the northern side to provide access. (16) At 11am on 18th June, Prince Jerome’s division began the battle with his attack on Hougoumont, the French driving the Nassauers out of the woods and attacking the château. (16) The French surged around the buildings and charged the main gate, in the face of a rush of British guardsmen, headed by Colonel MacDonnell, to keep them out. (16) The British were able to fire through holes in the walls at the French who were sitting targets. (13) La Haye Sainte, directly to his front, was a similar mini-fortress, (15,16) The farm of La Haye Sainte stands on the west side of the main Brussels road, beneath the ridge, two hundred metres in front of the centre of the Allied position. (16) The King’s German Legion expected only to spend the night in the farm, and did not discover until the morning that they were required to hold it for the battle. (16) By then, the main gates had been burnt on the soldiers’ camp fires and little could be done to put the farm in a state of defence in the short time before the battle began. (16) As the Emperor Napoleon urged on Marshal Ney, La Haye Sainte was the key to the Allied line and had to be taken at all costs. (16) The garrison, to whom it fell to resist the French attack, that began soon after D’Erlon’s assault, was from Major Baring’s 2nd Light Battalion of Colonel Baron Ompteda’s 2nd King’s German Legion Brigade. (16) No similar fortifications existed on his left, or eastern flank, though there were smaller strongholds scattered about. (15) This was the direction from which the Prussians would be arriving to reinforce Wellington’s Anglo-Dutch force, so he was less concerned about his left. (15) He placed his reserves and part of his main force behind the slopes of the plateau (9,15) he had chosen to make his stand on; they would be concealed from view (9,15) and largely protected from (15) the French massed (9) artillery. (15) 362 years after the British lost the First Hundred Years’ War to massed French artillery at Castillon, they adopted superior defensive tactics and won the Second Hundred Years’ War. (HN)

Late start

Accordingly, on Sunday (6) 18th June 1815, Napoleon’s army attacked (2,5) near Waterloo (now in present day Belgium). (3,5) At the time of the battle Waterloo was in the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. (3,6) Napoleon was a shadow of his former self at Waterloo. (8) He was not in good health, and his leadership was poor. (4,8) Reportedly fatigued during the Belgian campaign, Napoleon committed tactical errors and acted indecisively. (4) He also was blamed for appointing inadequate commanders. (4)

Weather and artillery

On the afternoon of June 17th, heavy rains began and (15) continued (4,11) throughout the night (12,13) before the battle. (4,11) All the soldiers involved, on either side, suffered from the weather: (12) The soldiers slept out. (13) The roads became bogs, and the battlefield turned to mud. (12) The muddy ground did indeed drastically reduce the artillery effect. (12) In those days, round shot was commonly used, and it was supposed to bounce through enemy lines. (12) At Waterloo the round shot was just ploughing nice long, muddy trenches. (12) The French artillery commanders insisted to Napoleon that the French attack did not begin until the ground had dried out sufficiently for the guns to manoeuvre without sticking in the mud. (16)

Weather and time

The morning of Sunday, June 18th, arrived sunny and clear. (15) Hoping that the ground would dry, Napoleon waited until midday to launch his attack. (4,11) The delay would prove costly as it ultimately allowed Blucher’s Prussian army to join the fight before the French could defeat Wellington’s forces. (11,13) In the Duke’s centre stood the farm of Mont St Jean, used as a headquarters and hospital. (16) The British artillery on the ridge behind the farm replied, cannonading the French infantry massed for the attack on the far side of the valley. (16)

Napoleon’s Health

It has been alleged that Napoleon suffered a painful bout of haemorrhoids on the morning of the Battle of Waterloo that prevented him from riding his horse to survey the battlefield as was his custom and could have contributed to his defeat. (11) However, Waterloo expert Alasdair White told the New York Times that the story is ‘an absolute myth’ concocted by Napoleon boosters because they ‘cannot believe that the great man lost, so there must have been something wrong with him. (11)

Initial French attacks

At 11.00 (9,16) OR 11:30 (13) OR around noon (15) Napoleon ordered his guns to open fire (9,13) on Hougoumont Farm. (16) Napoleon’s favoured tactic was envelopment, swinging around his enemy’s flanks, but the heavy rains had left the low ground muddy between the plateau where his forces awaited their orders and the plateau where the Anglo-Dutch had their line. (15) The mud would slow his cavalry and artillery in any envelopment attempt. (15) He chose, therefore, to make a direct attack on Wellington’s centre. (15) Throughout the afternoon (6) Napoleon’s troops then mounted (2,4) a strong attack (4) OR repeated attacks (2,6) against the British, (4,12) defensive squares with cavalry and infantry attacks. (12) At first the French seemed to be winning, but (2) Victor Hugo in ‘Les Miserables’ says that their first attack came to grief because of a road in a deep, unsuspected cutting crossing the battlefield, into which many of the French cavalrymen plunged to their deaths. (HN) Wellington withstood the French. (2,6) The British held onto their position and their cavalry did retaliate with some semi-glorious charges. (12) The French approach to the battle was from the country to the South of La Belle Alliance and across the valley. (16) In the valley to the front of the right wing of the Allied line, stood Hougoumont Farm, the key to Wellington’s right flank. (16)


Napoleon decided to draw out the British and make a dent in their defensive position. (13) He ordered an attack in the direction of Groumont (Hougomont). (15) At midday (16) 5,000 (13) French infantry, (9,13) led by Napoleon’s brother (13) Prince Jerome (16) OR General H.C.M.J. Reille (15) began a (9,13) diversionary (13,15) attack against (9,13) the 1,500 British holed up inside (13) the Château (9) OR farmhouse (13) of Hougoumont, (9,13) defended by the British Foot Guards, (9,13) the light companies of the British Coldstream and Third Guards. (16) It was Wellington’s best-defended garrison. (13) The entrance was damaged and there ensued a struggle by the British to shut the gate and by the French to force it open. (16) Colonel MacDonnell and his party of officers and sergeants forced the gate shut and Sergeant Graham of the Coldstream Guards put the bar in place. (16) The few French soldiers who had penetrated the entrance were hunted through the farm buildings. (16) During the rest of the day, Hougoumont was subject to sustained attack by Jerome’s troops, with assistance from a further French division. (16) The château garrison was reinforced with more companies from the two Foot Guards battalions of Byng’s Guards Brigade, 2nd /2nd and 2nd /3rd Guards. (16) When, during the afternoon the supply of ammunition in the château became critically low, Sergeant Fraser of the 3rd Guards went to the main line and returned with a wagon of cartridges, thereby enabling the defence to continue. (16) By the end of the battle, the château had been set ablaze by howitzer shells and the buildings were heaped with British casualties. (16) The French attack was intended to be a limited, supporting attack launched a half-hour before the main effort, but the commander of Reille’s lead division, after driving the enemy from some woods around the chateau, decided to assault the chateau itself. (15) Napoleon launched attacks at Hougoumont all day, (13,16) committing more and more troops to the bitter fighting around the (9,15) farm (13) OR château. (9,15) At 12.30 the French broke open the gates but the British quickly closed them again, trapping 40 French soldiers inside. (13) They slaughtered all but one – an 11-year-old drummer boy. (13) At 3 pm there was a lull in the battle, the only active fighting being the continuing attack on Hougoumont at the western end of the line, (16) sucking in more and more of Reille’s French corps. (15,16) By early evening the French attack at Hougoumont, intended as a diversion, was now having the opposite effect, (9) drawing in nearly half of Reille’s corps in a battle for a position of questionable value to the French; Napoleon had not ordered that it be taken. (15) The French were unable to capture Hougoumont, and their casualties filled the woods and fields around it. (16) The two battalions that defended Hougoumont suffered 500 dead and wounded out of a strength of 2,000 men. (16) Some years after the Battle of Waterloo, an English clergyman bequeathed £500 to be given to the bravest Briton from the battle. (16) The selection was referred to the Duke of Wellington, who nominated Lieutenant Colonel McDonnell of the Coldstream Guards, for his defence of the Château of Hougoumont. (16) Colonel McDonnell gave half the sum to Sergeant Graham, the soldier who put the gate bar in place. (16) Annually, the Coldstream Guards celebrate the defence of Hougoumont, with the ceremony of the hanging of the brick. (16) “No troops but the British could have held Hougoumont and only the best of them at that”, said Wellington of the fight. (13)

La Haye Sainte

If Napoleon took La Haye Sainte, he could attack the remaining British troops at close range. (9,13) At 13.30 (9) OR about 1.30 pm (16) OR 13:00, (13) with Wellington’s right flank busy defending Hougoumont, Napoleon seized the opportunity to do some damage to the centre of the British line. (13), Marshal Ney (16) brought forward (15,16) 74 (16) OR 80 (15) French guns (15,16) over the ridge opposite La Haye Sainte, to begin the attack on the Duke of Wellington’s centre and left. (16) The French cannonade began (15,16) and was later described by Allied veterans as the heaviest they had experienced. (16) For a half-hour they bombarded their enemy with 80 guns, but because Wellington had positioned much of his force on the downside of slopes away from the French artillery, (15) OR had ordered his infantry battalions to move back behind the ridge and to lie down, (16) the bombardment’s effect was diminished, (15,16) since it had the effect of shielding them from the worst of the cannonade. (16) Only Bilandt’s Belgian-Dutch Brigade was left on the exposed slope and suffered heavily. (16) Napoleon ordered Ney to capture La Haye Sainte, considering the farm to be the key to the Allied position. (16) After half an hour, the barrage stopped, giving way to the roar of drums as Ney’s columns advanced to the attack. (16) Napoleon sent 18,000 (13) OR 17,000 (16) infantry (9,13) of D’Erlon’s corps (16) along the road to Brussels to strike a decisive blow. (9,13) They marched up to the crest of the ridge, where Picton’s 5th division was positioned. (16) As the French infantry approached the hedge at the top of the ridge, the line of British infantry stood up, fired a volley and charged, driving back the massed French columns. (16) Napoleon ordered Marshal Ney to capture La Haye Sainte, Wellington’s central stronghold. (13) At half past three, (13) as part of the French advance, a furious assault began on La Haye Sainte (9,16) OR Sante (16) held by the Men of the King’s German Legion (9,16) who resolutely defended it, (9) serving to disrupt the French attack, (9) but the French captured the farm of Papelpotte and made territorial gains in the area surrounding La Haye Sainte. (13)

Napoleon sights the Prussians

It looked like victory was now within Napoleon’s grasp, but at around 13:00, peering through his telescope, Napoleon had spotted movement in fields to the east. (13) He ordered a troop of cavalry to go and investigate. (13) It was indeed the Prussians but they were still far off. (13) Knowing that the two enemy forces would soon unite, Napoleon faced the choice of withdrawing to fight another day on ground of his choosing, or commit the rest of his force and hope to break Wellington’s line before Blücher’s full force arrived. (15) Weighing against a retreat was the knowledge that an army of 250,000 Austrians were advancing toward Paris, and Napoleon felt that retreating would cost him support of the French people. (15) He chose to decide the issue there, on the rolling plateaus around Mont St. Jean, south of Waterloo. (15)

British Cavalry attack misfires

Lord Uxbridge, Wellington’s cavalry commander, had two brigades of cavalry over the ridge. (13) With Napoleon’s men advancing towards the British line, now was their moment. (13) At around 2 pm, Major General Ponsonby’s Union Brigade of heavy dragoons, 1st Royal Dragoons, 2nd Royal Scots Greys and 6th Inniskilling Dragoons, charged D’Erlon’s infantry columns as they reached the British line. (16) As the Greys passed the 92nd Gordon Highlanders, the Gordons attempted to advance with them, holding the trooper’ stirrups. (16) The allied cavalry formations, mostly British regiments, were ordered to charge in support of the infantry attack; the units involved were the Household Brigade (1st and 2nd Life Guards and Royal Horse Guards), the Union Brigade (Royals, Scots Greys and Inniskillings) and Vivian’s Hussar Brigade (10th and 18th Hussars and 1st Hussars, King’s German Legion). (16) They charged and hit the French infantry, slicing through the soldiers on the ground. (13) OR British Household Union heavy cavalry brigades charged after the retreating Frenchmen. (9,13) The charge built up momentum and the British ‘Heavies’ launched themselves on the French infantry, the Greys shouting ‘Scotland for ever’. (16) Sergeant Charles Ewart of the Greys rode at the officer of the 45th Infantry carrying the regimental standard, incorporating an Imperial Eagle at the top of the staff. (16) Ewart cut down the four escorts and the standard bearer and bore the standard and eagle away. (16) It is notoriously difficult to pull up cavalry committed to a charge, and the British regiments did not readily respond to recall orders. (16) Elated by their success, they pursued their enemy too far (9,16) across the valley. (16) The Union Brigade cut through the French infantry and, now out of control, continued the charge across the valley and up the far incline to the French guns on the far ridge, where they sabred a number of gunners. (16) There they were counter-attacked by French Lancers and overwhelmed in their turn, (16) suffering terrible casualties, (9,16) so heavy as to eliminate the brigade from the battle. (16) The brigade commander, General Ponsonby, commanding the Union Brigade was killed. (16) Throughout this encounter, Ewart defended his captured French standard and eagle against repeated attacks by French cavalrymen, attempting to recover the lost emblem. (16) The Greys adopted the captured French eagle as the regiment’s badge. (16) It is still the badge of the present regiment, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. (16) The Emperor Napoleon is said to have commented of the regiment, ‘Ah ces terribles chevaux gris’. (16) Napoleon’s line had been brutally weakened but Wellington’s left flank was also damaged – he couldn’t afford to launch another attack without reinforcements. (13) As the Duke of Wellington grumblingly complained, ‘the British cavalry never know when to stop charging’. (16)

Ney’s Cavalry attack

By four o’clock Napoleon was increasingly stretched – his men were fighting on both the west and east sides of the battlefield. (13) Both sides began heavy artillery bombardments. (15) By this time, Wellington’s centre began to disintegrate under the repeated French attacks and started to fall back. (15) At three o’clock (9) OR Around 4:00 p.m. Marshal Ney, believed the Anglo-Dutch army were retreating after the heavy bombardment they had received all day. (9,15) It is likely that the movements he saw were casualties or prisoners moving to the rear. (16) It was on this impetuous assumption that Ney launched (16) a massed French cavalry attack (9,15) with two battalions he found to hand (16) against Wellington’s centre (9) unsupported by infantry or artillery. (15) Initially the attacking force was Milhaud’s French Cavalry Corps of Cuirassiers. (16)

The British form squares

The horsemen thundered forward3, the ground shaking beneath the hooves of their mounts, and crested the hill, to find that, (15) before the French could reach the Allied line (16) it had changed formation into squares, (9,13) interlaced with artillery batteries, (16) the most effective (15) OR an impregnable (9) defensive formation against cavalry. (15) For the next two hours, wave after wave of heavily armoured French soldiers on horseback charged at the Allied line. (13) The French(15,16) cuirassiers (16) swept around the squares, trying to find a way to penetrate them. (15,16) The squares fended off the (9,13) 4,000-strong (15) French cavalry (9,13) but their new formation made them vulnerable to Napoleon’s heavy artillery fire. (13) One British battalion, the 27th Regiment, lost nearly 500 of its 747 men. (13) A counterattack by British cavalry drove the Frenchmen back, but reinforced, they came on again. (15) Napoleon, while deprecating the initial attack as premature, felt bound to commit increasing numbers of cavalry to support the assault. (16) During the next three hours, they charged (15,16) twelve (16) OR four times and four times they were repulsed. (15) Unable to penetrate them, (16) their momentum was broken. (15) They took terrible casualties as they circled these formations of infantrymen. (9) At around 5.30pm, Ney launched the final French cavalry charge. (16) There were too many regiments, fresh mingled with exhausted. (16) The attack failed yet again. (16) Wellington said “By God, those fellows deserve Bonaparte: they fight so nobly for him!” (13)

La Haye Sainte Falls

Lying by the road leading to the centre of Wellington’s position, the capture of La Haye (16) Sainte (9,13) OR Sante (16) was a crucial goal for the French army. (13,16) The KGL soldiers of the farm garrison were largely spectators as D’Erlon’s attack swept past and up the ridge to the main Allied position, to be pursued back to their lines by the British cavalry counter-attack. (16) At about 5.30, launched a sustained infantry assault on La Haye Sainte on the orders of the Emperor Napoleon. (16) From that moment, the King’s German Legion troops fought for their lives until late in the afternoon, when, with their ammunition finished and the farm in flames, the garrison was annihilated or driven out. (16) In the evening (9,13) at quarter pas six, (13) OR By 6:00 (15) French at last succeeded in capturing La Haye Sainte, only a short distance from Wellington’s centre. (9,13) Wellington had lost his prize garrison. (13) 39 of some 360 soldiers survived the battle. (16) It was a crushing blow, (13,16) as Napoleon was now able to bring the French artillery forward and attack the Allied centre with devastating results. (13) OR It was too late to change the outcome of the battle, as the Prussian assault in the south-east, on Plancenoit, was seriously threatening the French position. (16)

Assault on British Centre

All Wellington could do was defend from behind the ridge and hope for the Prussian’s swift arrival with reinforcements. (13) In the closing moments of the battle, a cannon ball struck (7,16) One of the great cavalry commanders on the British side (7) the Earl of Uxbridge as he rode with the Duke of Wellington. (7,16) On realising he was badly injured, he turned to the Duke of Wellington and reportedly said, ‘By God sir, I’ve lost my leg!’ (7) To which Wellington replied, ‘By God, sir, so you have!’ (7) OR The Duke said ‘By God you’ve lost your leg’. (16) The Earl said ‘By God, so I have’. (16) At seven o’clock, with the Allied centre weakened, Napoleon knew Wellington desperately needed Prussian support. (13) He wasted no further time. (13) He sent 6,000 French soldiers across the field up towards Wellington on the ridge, marching between Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte. (13) On the left, they suffered fire from the British-held garrison of Hougoumont but those on the right, facing the French-held garrison of La Haye Sainte, made it up over the ridge unhindered. (13)

The Prussians arrive

The Prussian troops had been defeated by Napoleon’s army two days previously, (5,6) and could not get to the battlefield until the early evening. (5) Napoleon’s delay gave the Prussians time to march to Waterloo (4) and join the battle later that day, (4,6) which they progressively did. (6) Blücher, bruised and aching from his horse falling on him during the charge at Quatre Bras, urged his men on with the plea, ‘Forward, lads! I have promised my brother Wellington: you don’t want to cause me to break my promise, do you?’ Wellington, as the day wore on, was muttering, (15) ‘night or the Prussians must come’. (5) OR ‘Give me Blücher or give me night’. (15) The Duke of Wellington would have been hard pressed to win without the timely assault of the Prussians. (8) Come the Prussians did, however: (2,4) Wellington could hear the cannon fire in the distance – he knew Blucher had formed his own formidable front line, as promised. (13) Their arrival (2,4) in mid-afternoon, OR at 16.30 (9) OR in the late afternoon (11) OR in the early evening (5) turned the tide against the French. (4,11) They threatened the French rear by assaulting (9,15) Papelotte, another farm that would be the centre of a ferocious struggle, and (16) Plancenoit, (9,15) a sizeable (15) village (5,15) with a stone church and stone-walled cemetery that could serve as strongpoints for either side. (15) 5 miles east of the battlefield, (13) to his rear (9) OR right flank (8) More French were being sent to meet the Prussian threat. (9,16) Napoleon sent (9,13) another battalion (13) OR the corps of the Count of Lobau, reinforced by two battalions of (15) the Guard (15,16) from his reserves (9) to meet the Prussians in the east (9,13) and drive them back from Plancenoit. (16) The counterattack gradually forced the Prussians back, but it had taken 10,000 French away from the central battle area, where they could have been used to break through Wellington’s weakened centre. (15) Had Grouchy not followed the letter of his orders and marched to the sound of the guns, as some of his subordinates encouraged him to do, Blücher’s men would have been caught between two strong forces, and that could have swung the day’s advantage to Napoleon. (15) Grouchy, however, was not a particularly imaginative commander, and existing military practices weighed in favour of staying where he had been ordered to go, so he spent the afternoon confronting less than 20,000 men of the Prussian III Corps around Wavre with his 30,000-plus force. (15) Napoleon’s cavalry at last reached Blucher’s troops near Plancenoit, but the Prussians soon captured the high ground north-east of the village. (13) This was decisive in enabling the Allies to win the Battle of Waterloo. (16) The Battle of Waterloo could not have been won if Marshal Blücher had not fulfilled his promise to the Duke of Wellington and delivered his devastating attack on Napoleon’s right flank around Plancenoit. (16) They attacked the French hard: Napoleon was forced to commit more troops over the course of the afternoon as the territory changed hands several times. (13) Although Blucher was unable to reach Wellington at the main battle, his efforts meant the French were under pressure and had to split their resources. (13)

The Imperial Guard

In the evening (6,9) at approximately 19.30 (9) OR at 19:15 (13) the Prussian were arriving to bolster Wellington’s flank. (9,15) Sure that the Allied line was at breaking point, (16) the impulsive, hot-headed (15) Ney (15,16) sent desperately to the Emperor for more troops to attack. (16) Once this had been achieved, Napoleon resolved to launch the Guard at the main Allied line. (16) Napoleon committed his last reserves in a final effort to obtain victory, (6,9) but by the time the Guard was available to carry out the attack on the ridge, Wellington had reorganised his forces, and the opportunity, that Ney had this time correctly identified, had passed. (16) Napoleon stood aside and left the command of the attack to Ney. (16) OR While Napoleon’s attention was focused on the Prussian threat to his rear, Ney took command of the rest of the (15) French Imperial Guard (6,9) Napoleon’s most trusted soldiers (12) and some of the finest infantry in the world at the time (15) and led them in a futile attack against the strongest point of Wellington’s line. (15,16) They advanced (6,9) swords drawn. (13) As the Guard began its advance on the ridge, a deserting French cavalry officer galloped up to the Allied line and warned of the Guard’s approach. (16) The Guard marched up to La Belle Alliance, and Ney led the five battalions up the left-hand side of the Brussels road. (16) The Middle Guard threw back the British battalions of Halkett’s Brigade, but were assaulted by the Belgian and Dutch troops of General Chassé and Colonel Detmers, who drove them back down the hill. (16) As they climbed the ridge, (16) OR When they reached the ridge (13) the columns came under fire from a curve of Allied batteries assembled to meet them. (16) OR Wellington’s men waited in the long grass behind the ridge. (13) The 3rd Regiment of Chasseurs approached the ridge opposite Maitland’s Brigade of Foot Guards (2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 1st Foot Guards). (16) At last, the French had broken through the Allied front line. (13) Wellington called to the brigade commander ‘Now Maitland. Now’s your time’. (16) One authority had Wellington saying ‘Up Guards, ready’. (16) Wellington gave the order to stand and fire. (13) The British infantry, exhausted from the continuous cannonade they had received all day, rose to meet them. (9) The musketry (9,13) of the British Guards Brigade (9) fired at almost point blank range tore through the French soldiers. (13) The 1st Foot Guards stood, fired a volley and charged with the bayonet. (16) The last of the French Guard regiments, the 4th Chasseurs, came up in support as the British Guards withdrew over the ridge. (16) Sir John Colborne brought the 52nd Foot round to outflank the French column, as it passed his brigade, fired a destructive volley into the left flank of the Chasseurs and attacked with the bayonet. (16) They defeated Napoleon’s finest troops, (9,13) forcing them back. (6,13) At last, Blucher’s forces were now arriving on Wellington’s left. (6,13) Within fifteen minutes, Wellington appeared on the skyline and waved his hat to give the signal for (16) a general attack in pursuit of the French troops. (9,16) Wellington’s army counter-attacked in the centre. (6,13) pursuing the Imperial Guard. (13,16) The whole of the Guard was driven back down the hill and the French army began a general retreat to the cry of ‘La Garde recule’. (16) The French right flank finally caved,. (15) The British, Belgian, Dutch and German troops poured forward and the French retreat became a route4. (16) Still, Napoleon remained calm. (15) He ordered what was left of the Old Guard to form squares across the road south of La Haye Sainte while he withdrew his battered army. (15) The Imperial Guard fled. (9,12) OR Even when the Guard ran out of ammunition, they held to their posts as their beloved emperor had commanded. (15) General Cambronne is reputed to have answered a call to surrender with the words ‘The Guard dies but does not surrender’. (16) The whole (9) outnumbered (4) French army was chased from the field (9) by the Prussians (12) and fled (9) in chaotic (4,6) retreat. (4,9) Wellington had a chance to kill Napoleon but ordered his men to hold fire. (13) Three battalions of the Old Guard fought to the end, (16) shielding the Emperor (13) so that he could escape from the battlefield. (13,16) By 8.30 that evening (5) the allies had defeated the French (1,2) on this day marked by mud, incomplete information, indecision, and impetuous orders that threw away French lives to little or no advantage. (15) The Battle of Waterloo ended with an historic meeting between the Duke of Wellington and Marshal Blücher, who had kept his promise to Wellington to come to his assistance. (16)

After the Battle


According to Wellington, the battle was ‘the nearest-run thing you ever saw in your life’. (1,3) It was a horrible, bloody battle. (8,12) Surveying his ‘field of victory’, the Duke of Wellington remarked, ‘Next to a battle lost, the greatest misery is a battle won.’ (12) After the last decisive Prussian assault, the field was strewn with tens of thousands of bodies. (13) It was a small battlefield to begin with, (12) and, by the end of the fighting, there were about (4,12) 55,000 (4) OR 65,000 (12) casualties, (4,12) and that may be a low estimate. (12) A veteran eyewitness said he had never seen ‘carcasses so heaped upon each other’. (8) Many were dead, others badly wounded and left to die. (13) The 27th Regiment, was not the only one to lose two thirds of their men. (8,13) Overall, the British (8) OR The British, Belgians, Dutch and Germans lost 15,000 (16) OR 17,000 (8) OR more than 22,000 (4) OR 44,000 (5) OR 55,000 (4) men and 12,000 horses had been killed or wounded. (5) The Prussians lost 7,000 men killed and wounded. (16) This was around a quarter of the army. (8,16) Napoleon may have lost as much as a third of his men. (8) and 220 guns. (16) By some estimates, the French suffered more than 33,000 casualties (including dead, wounded or taken prisoner) (4,16) The slow, gory task of disposing of thousands of dead bodies fell to surviving soldiers and local peasants, who dragged and dumped them into huge pits. (7) Dead horses had their metal shoes ripped off for re-selling before being arranged in vast pyres and set alight. (7) The scene was made even more hellish by the stacks of unburied human bodies that lay around for days afterwards, literally going black in the scorching heat of the June sun. (7) The only thing to do was burn the men just as they did the horses – according to one source, ‘they have been obliged to burn upwards of a thousand carcasses, an awful holocaust to the War-Demon’. (7) Uxbridge’s leg was amputated (7,16) in a house nearby (16) without anaesthetic. (7) Instead of going mad from the pain, he simply observed that ‘the knives appear somewhat blunt’. (7) After it was removed, Uxbridge worried that he’d lost it unnecessarily, and asked a friend to go check its condition. (7) The friend checked the shattered limb and reassured him it was ‘better off than on’. (7) The owner of the house (16) in Waterloo buried the leg (7,16) in his garden, (16) and remained a place of interest for some years. (7,16) thanks to its very own tombstone, which read ‘Here lies the leg of the illustrious and valiant Earl Uxbridge’. (7)

Waterloo teeth

For canny businessmen, corpses meant a bonanza of teeth. (7) Dentistry was a booming trade in the 19th Century, with poor people even selling their teeth to be used in dentures for the rich. (7) So it’s not surprising that, (7) within hours of the battle’s end (11) local (7) Scavengers harvested ‘Waterloo teeth’. (7,11) They knew there was easy money to be made from the killing fields of Waterloo, and used (7) pliers (7,11) as well as small hammers and chisels (11) to yank thousands of teeth from the dead bodies (7,11) of British, French and Prussian soldiers. (7) These were then sold to dentists (11) carefully sorted according to shape and size (7) to create full sets of teeth. (7,11) The flood of dentures that resulted became known as ‘Waterloo teeth’. (7,11) According to England’s National Army Museum, English dentists did nothing to conceal their sources, advertising the teeth as ‘Waterloo teeth’ or ‘Waterloo ivory. (11) Even by the time of the American Civil War, English dentists were still doing a brisk trade importing the teeth of fallen soldiers, still referred to as ‘Waterloo teeth. (11) It wasn’t just teeth that were taken from Waterloo. (7) Looting was widespread and immediate. (7) In the actual heat of battle, as shots from cannons whizzed lethally around them, soldiers would scramble to swipe whatever they could from men dying. (7) To give just one example, when British officer General Picton (described as a ‘foul-mouthed devil’ by Wellington) was shot from his horse, a member of his own infantry division quickly nabbed a purse and spectacles from his fresh corpse. (7) There are even accounts of soldiers going so far as to steal the gold lacing from the uniforms of the dead. (7) The Waterloo medal was issued to every officer and soldier who had taken part in the Battle of Waterloo, the Battle of Quatre Bras or the Battle of Ligny. (16) In addition, two years seniority and pay was awarded. (16) Each medal was inscribed with the recipient’s name around the rim. (16)


Napoleon’s Flight and Capture

Napoleon reportedly rode away from the battle in tears (4) He considered an escape to the United States. (11) four days after the Battle of Waterloo, (1,6) Napoleon returned to Paris, where he was forced to abdicate (11,15) on June 22nd, 1815. (11) On 7th July coalition forces entered Paris. (1,6) Napoleon fled (11,12) to the coastal city of Rochefort, from where he likely intended to sail to the United States, which had just concluded its own war with Great Britain. (11) ‘You must have heard of the new misfortune of the emperor,’ wrote one of Napoleon’s relatives to another in the wake of his abdication. ‘He’s going to the United States, where we shall all join him.’ (11) British ships, however, had blockaded Rochefort, and the former emperor did not want to risk the potential embarrassment of being caught hiding on board a vessel. (11)


With his passage to the United States blocked, (11,15) Napoleon threw himself on the mercy of the British, (15) and surrendered (5,11) almost a month later to (11) OR aboard (5,15) a British warship (5,11) HMS Bellerophon (5) on July 15th. (5,11) The British got him out of France aboard one of their ships. (15) Three months later (11,12) the former emperor and military genius (12) was exiled (11,12) to the remote South (11,15) Atlantic island of St. Helena (11,12) between Africa and South America. (12) There he remained, dictating his memoirs, (15) for his final six years until his death in 1821. (11,12) He died two days after receiving an extremely strong dose of calomel for symptoms that probably were due to early stages of stomach cancer, an illness that had also claimed his father and his sister, Pauline. (15) Theories have long existed, however, that he was poisoned with arsenic. (15) For a detailed examination of the conflicting evidence, see ‘Arsenic and the Emperor,’ by Barbara Krajewska at Napoleon.org. (15) His brother Joseph, the deposed king of Spain, was able to make safe passage to the United States from another French port and lived in New Jersey for 15 years. (11) Fleeing Bonapartists also established the short-lived Vine and Olive Colony in Alabama as a safe haven. (11) Emmanuel Grouchy fled to America but returned to France in 1821, when King Louis XVIII re-instated him with all titles but that of marshal. (15) That title was later returned to him by Louis-Philippe, who also named him a Peer of France. (15) Grouchy died in 1847 at the age of 80. (15) Michel Ney became the only French field marshal of the 1815 campaign to be executed. (15) When Napoleon returned to France from exile Ney, in the service of the king, swore to ‘bring the adventurer back to Paris in an iron cage.’ (15) Instead, swayed by Napoleon’s personality and memories of their earlier victories, he chose to serve the Little Emperor. (15) For this, he was executed by firing squad on December 7th, 1815, little more than a month shy of his 46th birthday. (15) Von Blücher, already a highly respected combat commander though no great master of strategy or tactics, returned home from the field of Waterloo a national hero. (15) He had been in his 70s (4,15) and retired when Napoleon returned from exile. (15) After the defeat of his old enemy, the Prussian marshal again retired to his estate in Silesia and continued to enjoy alcohol, tobacco and other vices for which he had always shown a great capacity until his death in 1819. (15) Wellington was a hero, (13) and ranks among the most influential military leaders of all time, not for any innovations, but for his ability to master maneuver, artillery support, and use of terrain to display tactical and strategic genius. (15) Nicknamed the ‘Iron Duke,’ after Waterloo he spent 30 years in the cabinet and parliament of Britain. (15) He went on to serve as British prime minister, (4,13) in 1828 (13,15) and commander in chief of the British Army in 1842. (15) He pocketed a sizable tribute. (11) In recognition of his service, Parliament awarded the Duke of Wellington 200,000 British pounds, equivalent to 15 million British pounds today, according to the Royal Engineers Museum. (11) in 1852 he died at Walmer Castle, Kent, at the age of 83. (15) He was buried in London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. (15)

Historical Significance of the Battle

Short term

The defeat at Waterloo (4) brought the War of the Seventh Coalition to a close, (5) and marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars (6,8) that had raged on and off for more than 20 years (8) and taken the lives of 5 million people. (10) Nine hours of bloodshed on a field near the Belgian town of Waterloo changed the course of history. (10) It ended Napoleon’s storied (sic?) military career, (4) his attempts of European domination, (10,13) his rule as Emperor of the French (1,5) and his Hundred Days’ return from exile. (1) It came to be a defining moment in European history. (5) It was the end of the Napoleonic era. (5) For now, there was peace in Europe. (13) The peace treaty agreed to between France and the European powers in November 1815 reduced the size of French territory and required the defeated country to pay an enormous indemnity over the course of five years. (11) France had decisively lost the struggle for global mastery. (8) Victorious Britain went on to be a key player in Europe, (13) and to build the largest empire the world has ever seen. (8) Waterloo Bridge across the Thames in London was built on the site of an earlier toll bridge originally called the ‘Strand Bridge’. (3) It was opened on June 18th, 1817 and renamed in honour of Wellington’s victory at Waterloo. (3) Waterloo Station in London was called ‘Waterloo Bridge Station’ when it opened in 1848, but its name was officially changed in 1886. (3) Today, the Belgian battlefield is home to the Lion’s Mound, (5,6) erected by King William I of the Netherlands, marking the spot where his son, the Prince of Orange, was wounded during the battle. (5) As this mound was constructed from earth taken from the battlefield itself, the contemporary topography of the battlefield near the mound has not been preserved. (6)

From perspective of 2015

Waterloo decisively saw the end of 26 years of fighting between the European powers and France. (16) It brought decades of peace in Europe (5) OR shaped the continent during a hundred years of relative peace until 1914. (8) The French star was eclipsed and the German began its ascendancy. (16) The anniversary is being celebrated in Europe by heads of states and the ancestors of some of the protagonists but the repercussions of the battle are still being felt today. (10) It laid the groundwork for NATO and the United Nations. (10) Then there was the Prussian army (Prussia later became a part of Germany), which worked in alliance with Wellington’s forces to defeat the French, which explains why U.K.’s former defence chief Lord Bramall called Waterloo ‘the first Nato operation.’ In Lord Byron’s poem, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, ‘united nations’ was mentioned in the Waterloo Passage. (10) This was picked up by Winston Churchill when discussing the allied war aims after Pearl Harbor and the term was eventually used to name the famous global organisation. (10) It paved the way for the U.K. to become a global power The Vienna Treaty that followed Waterloo didn’t give the U.K. land in Europe, but it did hand over territorial possessions, such as modern day South Africa, Trinidad and Sri Lanka. (10) These become the strategic naval bases the U.K. subsequently used to control its vast colonial empire. (10) France had been the world’s superpower for centuries, with it out of the way, there was no one to compete with Britain until the U.S. emerged as a power in the 20th century: it laid the foundations for the eventual emergence of the U.S. as the world’s superpower. (10) With war disrupting European industry, demand for American products increased massively during the Napoleonic Wars, with its neutrality allowing it to sell to both sides. (10) Although trade was occasionally disrupted by British and French blockades and navies, (and the 1812 Anglo-American War) in the end need for American grain and cotton trumped other considerations. (10) The battle heralded an age of German nationalism, eventually leading to World War II. (10) The Prussians’ contribution to the defeat of the French Army at Waterloo entered the mythology of the Prussian state, creating a sense of nationalism which then played a key part in the formation of the new German Empire after 1870. (10) Ultimately, this led to the hyper-nationalism which enabled the rise of the Nazi party and the Third Reich. (10) OR It was the end of the ‘tyrant’ and state ministers began to allow more freedom throughout their countries. (12) It has implications for the future of the European Union Waterloo was not just a military battle. (10) It was also a battle between the concepts of the nation state and the supranational state. (10) The U.K. and its allies were fighting Napoleon’s desire to impose a single state in Europe, which he would control. (10) Napoleon’s defeat meant the victory of the nation state over other concepts such as Napoleon’s French Revolutionary Empire and Holy Roman Empire before it. (10) OR democracy was coming to Europe. (12) Two hundred years later, the idea of a pan-European state has become more fashionable but is resisted by many. (10) The French are, understandably, still a little prickly about that day. (10) Earlier this year, the French tried to block the Belgians from minting a Battle of Waterloo euro coin. (10) The French government has also shown little interest in the week’s anniversary events. (10) While the U.K. and the Netherlands sent members of their royal family to the commemoration ceremony on Wednesday, the only French representative was their ambassador to Belgium. (10) It inspired a series of famous quotes: (10) ‘His presence on the field made the difference of forty thousand men.’ Wellington describing Napoleon. (10,13) ‘It has been a damned nice thing — the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.’ (10) Wellington ‘Waterloo is not a battle; it is the changing face of the universe.’ (10) Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables ‘The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.’ A quote that is commonly misattributed to Lord Wellington, but was in fact said by George Orwell. (10)

Appendix 1 – Orders

Copy of a memorandum for the Deputy Quartermaster General: Movements of the army, Brussels, 15 June 1815 General Dornberg’s brigade of cavalry and the Cumberland Hussars to march this night upon Vilvorde [Vilvoorde] and to bivouac on the high road near to that town. The Earl of Uxbridge will be pleased to collect the cavalry right upon Ninhove [Ninove], leaving the 2nd Hussars looking out between the Scheldt and the Lys. The 1st division of infantry to remain in its present situation but in readiness to march in a moment’s notice. The 2nd division of infantry will collect this night at Ath and adjacents and to be in readiness to move at a moment’s notice. The 3rd division to collect this night at Braine le Comte and to be in readiness to move at the shortest notice. The 4th division to be collected this night at Granmont with the exception of the troops beyond the Scheldt which are to be moved to Audenarde [Oudenaarde]. The 5th division, the 81st Regiment and the Hanoverian Brigade of the 6th division to be in readiness at Bruxelles [Brussels] to march at a moment’s notice. The Duke of Brunswick’s corps to collect this night on the high road from Bruxelles to Vilvorde. The Nassau troops to collect at day light tomorrow morning on the Louvain road and to be in readiness to move at a moment’s notice. The Hanoverian brigade of the 5th division to collect this night at Hal [Halle] and to be in readiness at daylight tomorrow morning to move towards Bruxelles and to halt on the high road between Alost and Assche [Asse] for further orders. The Prince of Orange is requested to collect at Nivelles the 2nd and 3rd divisions of the army of the Low Countries and should that point have been attacked this day to move the 3rd division of British infantry upon Nivelles as soon as alerted. This movement is not to take place until it is quite certain that the enemy’s attack is upon the right of the Prussian army and the left of the British army. Lord Hill will be so good as to order Prince Frederick of Orange to occupy Audenarde with 500 men and to collect the 1st division of the army of the Low Countries and the Indian brigade at Sottenghem [Zottegem] so as to be ready to march in the morning at daylight. The reserve artillery to be in readiness to move at daylight.

[University of Southampton Library MS 61 Wellington Papers 8/2/4, with some additions from Wellington Papers 8/2/5. Crown copyright: reproduced by courtesy of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.] (14)

Appendix 2: – Wellington looks back

In this letter from Wellington to Lieutenant Colonel John Gurwood, the editor of his Dispatches, 28 August 1842, the Duke writes about Waterloo. ‘I wish to add a word about the initiative, about which I think that I have not expressed myself clearly. All acquainted with military operations are aware that the initiative of the operations between two armies en presence [facing each other] is a great advantage, of which each party would endeavour to avail himself. We the allies in the Netherlands and on the Meuse in 1815 were necessarily on the defensive! We were waiting for the junction and co-operation of other large armies to attain our object. But our defensive position did not necessarily preclude all idea or plan of attack upon the enemy. The enemy might have so placed himself as to have rendered the attack of his army adviseable and even necessary. In that case we must and we should have taken the initiative! But in the case actually existing in 1815 the enemy did not take such a position. On the contrary he took a position … in which his numbers, his movements, his designs would be concealed, protected and supported up to the last moment previous to their execution, by his formidable fortresses on the frontier. We could not attack this position without being prepared to attack this superior army so posted, and to carry on at least two sieges at the same period of time. We could not have the initiative therefore in the way of attack. We could have it and we had it in the way of defensive movement. But … such movement must have been founded upon hypothesis: our original position having been so calculated for the defence and protection of certain objects confided to our care, any alteration previous to the first movement of the enemy, and the certainty that it was a real movement, which is much more than an hypothesis, must have exposed to injury some important interest. Therefore no movement was made till the initiative was taken by the enemy and the design of his movement was obvious. If any movement had been previously made it would have been what is commonly called a false movement! And whatever people may think of Bonaparte, of all the chiefs of armies in the world, he was the one perhaps in whose presence it was least safe to make a false movement! … Therefore I did not desire or order a movement till I knew on the 15th that a movement had been made, and its direction, although I knew for days before that the whole army with Bonaparte at its head was on the frontier. When I was certain of the movement and its direction, I ordered the march and it is obvious that I was in time! And if foolish accidents had not occurred, upon which I ought not to have reckoned, the whole army would have been at Quatre Bras on the 16th before the battle commenced in that part of our position.’ (14)

Appendix 3 – Uniforms

The British infantry wore red waist jackets, grey trousers, and stovepipe shakos. Fusilier regiments wore bearskin caps. The two rifle regiments wore dark green jackets. British heavy cavalry wore red tunics and roman-style crested helmets. The British light cavalry wore either the light blue of light dragoons or hussar uniforms of shabrach, dolman and busby. The Royal Horse Guards and Royal Artillery wore blue tunics. The Royal Horse Artillery wore blue uniforms with the old light dragoon style crested helmet. Highland regiments wore the kilt with red tunics and tall black ostrich feather caps. The KGL comprised both cavalry and infantry regiments. KGL uniforms mirrored the British, as did the regiments of the re-constituted Hanoverian army. Belgians and Dutch wore dark blue. The Brunswickers wore black uniforms. The French army wore a variety of uniforms. The basic infantry uniform was dark blue. The French cavalry comprised Cuirassiers, wearing heavy burnished metal breastplates and crested helmets, Dragoons, largely in green, Hussars, in the conventional uniform worn by this arm across Europe, and Chasseurs à Cheval, dressed as hussars. The Grenadiers of the Guard wore the characteristic tall bearskin that the British Foot Guards were to adopt after the battle. The French foot artillery wore uniforms similar to the infantry, the horse artillery wore hussar uniforms. (16)

Appendix 4 – Organisation of the two sides

The three armies at Waterloo — the French under the overall command of Napoleon, the Anglo-Allied forces commanded by Wellington, and the Prussian forces commanded by Field Marshal Blücher — were broadly organised along similar lines. The largest independent military unit was the corps: at Waterloo Wellington had three infantry and one cavalry corps, Napoleon four infantry and two cavalry corps, and Blücher eventually brought one whole infantry corps and parts of two others onto the field. These corps were composed of divisions (usually two or more brigades), brigades, regiments and battalions, although the Prussian army used large brigades rather than divisions. Normally corps were commanded by generals or lieutenant generals within the British army and by a général de division in the French; the divisions were led by major generals, brigades by brigadier generals and regiments and battalions by lieutenant colonels or majors. There were some differences at Waterloo, with the divisions in the British army commanded by lieutenant generals. In the eighteenth century, it was understood that a division would have forces of all arms — infantry, cavalry, artillery; the French, however, concentrate either infantry or cavalry in their divisions, linking them up into larger corps d’armée. The basic unit in these armies was the regiment. In the British army, regiments were led by a colonel. The regiment varied in size — a consequence of the way the army had been expanded in the early 1800s — but with two battalions, and officers, on active service it might total some 2,250 men. The first battalion, the stronger of the two, was composed of about 1,000 men, made up of 10 companies of 100; the second battalion might only put in the field about 700 men (as the less able soldiers, those deemed ineffective for various reasons, would have been transferred to it from the first battalion). Warfare depleted the ranks and regiments took time to return to full strength. The chain of command stretched from the commander in chief of the army to the general in the field, and down to his non-commissioned officers in the field. Staff officers were link across this chain, the channel of communication by which a commander controlled and commanded his army. Staff officers of the French army were more numerous at Waterloo, partly because Napoleon needed to keep in touch with not only the Armée du Nord but also with other armies on the frontier and with the government in Paris. The French army, like that of the Prussians, had staff officers at every regimental headquarters. The staff around Wellington usually numbered 40 or more, although his personal staff consisted only of his military secretary, Lord Fitzroy Somerset, and his aides-de-camp. Communications between commanders Wellington and Blücher had met in Brussels in May when they had discussed a strategy for the campaign and agreed the disposition of their respective forces. To facilitate communication between the two armies, liaison officers were placed at their headquarters and the communication links across the forces were carefully maintained. (14)

Appendix 5 – Styles of Command

Unlike Napoleon who was prepared to delegate to Marshal Ney — commander of the left wing of Armée du Nord and tasked with overseeing the initial attack on Wellington’s lines — or his corps commanders, Wellington rarely if ever delegated. The exception at Waterloo was the control of the cavalry, which he delegated to his nominal second-in-command, Lord Uxbridge. All day at Waterloo Wellington gave orders to the infantry and artillery units as he saw fit, but left the cavalry to Uxbridge. Wellington did not use the corps as tactical entities — and we do not necessarily hear of the corps commanders. Instead, following his usual practice of issuing orders directly to divisional and other commanders, Wellington expected to move around the battlefield, with his staff in his wake, to wherever his presence was needed. While this allowed his commanders less scope for initiative, this type of leadership was perfectly feasible for a commander overseeing a defensive strategy — as Wellington was — but it would have been difficult to sustain if the Anglo-Allied force had been fighting an offensive battle. Napoleon had the initiative. Even on such a small battlefield as Waterloo, Napoleon could not, even if he had been inclined, lead and encourage every assault, making delegation to his commanders essential. Careful drill, however, enabled lines of British infantry and others to form squares rapidly, an effective defence against cavalry. Under conditions of battle, the normal systems used by the British army were no longer appropriate. The general commanding issued, through his Adjutant General, orders to regimental officers, who came each day to headquarters to receive them — and they were then read or relayed to the men of regiments as they assembled. The Quartermaster General was responsible for issuing orders for the movement of troops — although during the press of battle, orders would come direct from the commanders. We have very few orders actually written on the field of battle: one, by Wellington, relates to Hougoumont and is typical of the way in which he did this. In the circumstances of battle, he wrote, in pencil, on small squares of parchment — which might then be carried by his aides-de-camp or others with sufficient authority to commanders. Other orders must have been given verbally. (14)

Appendix 6 – Military trivia

The rest of the British Army wryly gave the Royal Scots Greys the nickname of ‘the Bird Catchers’. (16) After the battle, Sergeant Ewart was promoted ensign. (16) The capture of the eagle was a powerful image in Victorian Scotland. (16) Ewart died in England in 1846. (16) His remains were buried in Edinburgh Castle. (16) The Royal Dragoons captured the eagle of the French 105th of the Line, in the charge of the Union Brigade, and subsequently adopted the eagle as its badge. (16) The eagle is now worn as an arm badge by the Blues and Royals, the successor regiment. (16) As with the Greys the regiment was given the nickname of the ‘Bird catchers’. (16) After the Battle of Waterloo, the 1st Foot Guards was given the title ‘the Grenadier Guards’, to commemorate the regiment’s role in overthrowing the French Grenadiers of the Old Guard. (16) All ranks were given the bearskin cap to wear. (16) 14th Foot: The 3rd Battalion of the regiment fought at Waterloo. (16) The battalion had been newly raised and was awaiting disbandment, having seen no service, when Napoleon escaped from Elba. (16) The battalion crossed to Belgium and won the battle honour for the regiment. (16) Most of the soldiers were under 20 years of age. (16) The Emperor Napoleon, some years before Waterloo, presented to each of his marshals a silver snuff box. (16) Marshal Ney’s snuffbox was looted from his carriage after the battle by a British officer. (16) Some years later the snuffbox was presented to the officers of the 19th Foot, the Green Howards, who used it in their mess for formal occasions. (16) The 27th Inniskilling Fusiliers, in the course of Ney’s cavalry attacks, was bombarded by a French horse artillery battery. (16) By the end of the battle, the battalion had suffered 478 casualties from a pre-battle strength of 750. (16) An officer from a nearby battalion, Captain Kincaid, commented that the 27th seemed to be lying dead in its square. (16) Kincaid, a veteran of the Peninsular War, said ‘I had never thought there would be a battle where everyone was killed. (16) This seemed to be it.’ (16) Corporal John Shaw of the 2nd Life Guards was a noted prize fighter and skilled swordsman. (16) During the Regiment’s repeated charges at the Battle of Waterloo, Shaw was separated from his comrades and attacked by several French cuirassiers. (16) Shaw is reputed to have killed ten of them, before being wounded by a colonel of cuirassiers. (16) Shaw killed the colonel, fighting after his sword broke with his helmet as a bludgeon. (16) Shaw crawled away and died during the night of his extensive injuries. (16) Sir Walter Scott obtained a plaster cast of Shaw’s skull. (16) The cast is now in the Household Cavalry Museum. (16) The 71st Highland Light Infantry captured a French cannon and fired the last shot of the Battle of Waterloo at the retreating French army. (16) The Duke of Wellington spent his early army service as the lieutenant colonel of the 33rd Foot. (16) After the Duke’s death, Queen Victoria permitted the 33rd to adopt the title ‘the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment’, a fitting attribution for one of the army’s most persistently successful regiments of foot. (16): As the French cavalry approached for the attack, the 79th Cameron Highlanders formed square. (16) Piper Mackay marched around the square playing the pibroch ‘Peace or War’. (16) The King subsequently presented Mackay with silver mounted pipes as a reward. (16) After the battle the regiment was given the title of the ‘Rifle Brigade’ in place of its number, which was reallocated to a newly raised infantry regiment. (16) Every year after 1815, the Duke of Wellington held a ‘Waterloo’ banquet for his officers. (16) The banquet is still held. (16) Captain Mercer of the British Horse Artillery described the miserable night he and his troop spent on the field of Waterloo before the battle: ‘My companion (the troop’s second captain) had an umbrella, which by the way afforded some merriment to our people on the march, this we planted against the sloping bank of the hedge, and seating ourselves under it, he on the one side of the stick, me on the other side, we lighted cigars and became-comfortable’. (16) The Duke, usually indifferent to the way his officers chose to dress, drew the line at umbrellas. (16) ‘At Bayonne, in December 1814,’ wrote Captain Gronow of the 1st Foot Guards, ‘His Grace, on looking round, saw, to his surprise, a great many umbrellas, with which the officers protected themselves from the rain that was then falling. (16) Arthur Hill came galloping up to us saying, Lord Wellington does not approve of the use of umbrellas during the enemy’s firing, and will not allow the ‘gentlemen’s sons’ to make themselves ridiculous in the eyes of the army.’ (16) Colonel Tynling, a few days afterwards, received a wigging from Lord Wellington for suffering his officers to carry umbrellas in the face of the enemy; His Lordship observing, ‘The Guards may in uniform, when on duty at St. James’, carry umbrellas if they please, but in the field it is not only ridiculous but unmilitary.’ (16) Standing orders for the army in the Peninsular War and in the Waterloo campaign stated categorically ‘Umbrellas will not be opened in the presence of the enemy.’ (16) However, the surgeon of Captain Mercer’s troop of Horse Artillery was seen to be sheltering under the forbidden item during the early part of the Battle of Waterloo. (16) Between 1830 and 1838, Captain William Siborne, after extensive research with veterans from the battle, produced a model of the Battle of Waterloo as at 7pm on 17th June 1815. (16) This model is in the National Army Museum in London. (16)


  1. https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=battle+of+waterloo+facts&rlz=1C1CHBF_frGB762GB762&oq=Battle+of+Waterloo&aqs=chrome.2.0l6.7058j0j4&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

  2. https://www.theschoolrun.com/homework-help/wellington-and-the-battle-of-waterloo

  3. https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/top10facts/585140/Top-facts-Waterloo

  4. https://www.history.com/topics/british-history/battle-of-waterloo

  5. https://blog.findmypast.co.uk/the-battle-of-waterloo-a-brief-summary-1406487340.html

  6. Wikipedia summary

  7. https://yesterday.uktv.co.uk/blogs/article/5-grisly-facts-about-battle-waterloo/

  8. https://www.historyrevealed.com/eras/19th-century/the-battle-of-waterloo-peter-and-dan-snow-answer-10-key-questions/

  9. https://wiki.kidzsearch.com/wiki/Battle_of_Waterloo

  10. http://time.com/3924075/battle-of-waterloo-importance/

  11. https://www.history.com/news/7-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-battle-of-waterloo

  12. https://gazette665.com/2015/06/05/10-things-to-know-about-the-battle-of-waterloo/

  13. https://www.bbc.com/timelines/zwtf34j

  14. https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/wellington-and-waterloo/0/steps/24850

  15. http://www.historynet.com/battle-of-waterloo

  16. https://www.britishbattles.com/napoleonic-wars/battle-of-waterloo/

1 22. Fighting started in 1792.

2 Horrendous error of French – should be ‘Le’.

3 This seems to be they moment when they fell into the sunken road.

4 ‘rout’


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