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Introduction Prelude Aftermath Battle of Ligny Battle of Quatre Bras Battle of Wavre Battle of Waterloo

The Battle of Waterloo

The Battle of Waterloo was fought between the main body of the Emperor Napoleon's L?Arm?e du Nord and the Duke of Wellington's Anglo-Dutch Army supported by Field Marshal Bl?cher's Prussians on 18th June 1815 just south of Mont St Jean. It was to be Napoleon's final battle when his Grande Arme? was defeated and with it any hope that he had of consolidating his position as the Emperor of the French and undisputed ruler of France. It was to involve 72,000 of Napoleon's Frenchmen, 68,000 of Wellington's Anglo-Dutch and 48,000 of Bl?cher's Prussians.

On the 17th June 1815 following the retreat of the Prussians Napoleon had moved his main body and Right Wing towards the Anglo-Dutch at Quatre Bras. He delayed issuing orders to Marshal Grouchy commanding the Right Wing to pursue the Prussians with his 30,000 men. Marshal Grouchy started the pursuit after receiving these orders late on 17th June 1815, but by then the Prussian Army had been able to disengage. The French lost precious time relocating the main body of the Prussian Army, by which time it was too late to prevent it reaching Wavre.

Upon learning of Field Marshal Bl?cher's defeat at Ligny the Duke of Wellington realised that his position at Quatre Bras was untenable and withdrew his Anglo-Dutch Army northwards closer to Brussels. He halted them astride the Charleroi to Brussels road to the south of Mont St Jean and just to the southeast of the village of Waterloo in an area that the Duke had visited the previous summer when passing through Belgium. He had looked at the area then with a tactician's eye and noted the strength of the location. It has been said that the Duke even remarked to those with him that should he ever have to fight a battle in the area to protect Brussels he would endeavour to do so on this field.

On the extreme right was Hougoumont Chateau/Farm. Between Hougoumont and the village of Papelotte on the extreme left of the battlefield was a low ridge running west to east. Where the main road bisected the ridge was the La Haye Sainte Farm opposite which was a large sand quarry, the farm on the western side of the road and the quarry to the east. Behind this first ridge to the north ran the Namur road and behind the road was the extensive forest of Soignies, which consisted of tall beech trees. These trees were relatively well spaced and passable to men and horses and there was a wide track along which artillery could readily easily traverse. Further south was a second ridge running west to east, almost parallel to the first, and where the Charleroi to Brussels road crossed this ridge stood the La Belle Alliance.

Wellington had both Hougoumont and Papelotte fortified and garrisoned to anchor his line and secure his flanks. Papelotte had the additional advantage of commanding the road to Wavre down which the Prussians intended to reinforce Wellington's position. Unlike Bl?cher at Ligny, Wellington deployed the bulk of his men where the advancing French could not see them.

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