Napoleon's Nemesis, The Battle of Waterloo(1815)

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Waterloo conjures  up a vision of a great battle. In fact it ranks as one of the greatest  battles in world History and is an education fora student Military History. Waterloo is  small nondescript village close to Belgium.This was the scene where the last nail was driven into the coffin of Napoleon I and his empire.

The setting for the battle was the escape from the island of Elbe by Napoleon( Where he had been kept imprisoned by the British). Napoleon entered Paris as the victor and promptly began to cobble another army. The allies led by England, Prussia and Russia issued an ultimatum to Napoleon to abdicate the crown . Napoleon decided to meet the allied armies head on and the scene was set for the battle of Waterloo. Suffice it to say the Napoleon Bonaparte ruled for exactly 100 days after his escape from Elbe. The command of the allies was in the hands of the Duke of Wellington and Marshal Gebhard Von Blucher.

The battle was fought on 18 jun 1815 and sealed napoleon’s fate.  However an analysis of the battle shows that perhaps the elements did not favor Napoleon and played a hand in his defeat. In case the weather had not worsened, Napoleon may very well have carried the day. On the day of battle there was heavy rain all around and the battle field had become a slush with knee deep mud. Napoleon had to wait for the ground to dry to make his charge as he had a smaller number of troops compared to the allies. Napoleon had about 75000 soldiers compared to the allies who had over 1,20,000. Thus the principle of war of ‘concentration of Force’ favored the allies.

Napoleon ordered  Marshal Ney the French commander to attack the allies as to drive a wedge between the Russian and their allies. The charge was delayed as the entire ground was sodden and wet. This was a crucial factor and had Ney struck earlier he could have achieved the desired result .  In addition the French generals showed lack of initiative. But over all the defeat at Waterloo must be pinned on Napoleon, though weather did play a part.

After the battle France was occupied and Napoleon exiled to the island of St Helena, where he died in 1821

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