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Battle Of Waterloo Napoleon's Last Battle


The Battle of Waterloo was the final and decisive action of the Napoleonic Wars, the wars that effectively ended French domination of the European continent and brought about drastic changes in the political boundaries and the power balance of Europe. Fought on June 18, 1815, near Waterloo, in modern Belgium, the battle ranks as a great turning point in European history.

After raising France to a position of preeminence in Europe , Napoleon met defeat in 1814 by a coalition of major powers, notably Prussia, Russia, Britain, and Austria. Napoleon was then deposed and exiled to the island of Elba1, and Louis XVIII was made ruler of France. In September 1814, the Congress of Vienna convened to discuss problems arising from the defeat of France. On February 26, 1815 while the congress was in session, Napoleon escaped from Elba and returned to France. Many veterans of his former campaigns flocked to his side, and on March 20, 1815, he again took the throne. The Congress of Vienna, alarmed by Napoleon's return to power, had reacted quickly to the crisis. On March 17 Austria, Great Britain, Prussia, and Russia each agreed to contribute 150,000 troops to an invasion force to be assembled in Belgium near the French border. A majority of other nations present at the congress also pledged troops for the invasion of France, which was to be launched on July 1, 1815.

Napoleon, learning of the invasion plan, was determined to attack the allies on their own ground before their army could form. He mobilized an army of 360,000 trained soldiers within two months. He deployed half of these troops within France as a security force and sent the remainder into attack units. On June 14, 1815, Napoleon, moving with speed and secrecy, reached the Franco-Belgian border with 124,000 of his troops. Another 56,000 men were left behind in supporting positions.

On June 15, 1815, Napoleon moved across the border of Belgium, and his sudden arrival caught the allied command unprepared. Napoleon ordered his left wing, under Marshal Michel Ney, to attack a brigade of Wellington's cavalry at Quatre-Bras, north of Charleroi. He next ordered the right wing, to move eastward against a Prussian brigade stationed in the town of Gilly. By nightfall on that first day of fighting, Napoleon's armies held the strategic advantage. The emperor had succeeded in placing his army between the advance...

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Category:   European

Length:   7 pages (1,498 words)

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