Battle of Waterloo summary
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday, 18 June 1815 near Waterloo in present-day Belgium. The Imperial French army under the command of Emperor Napoleon was defeated by an Anglo-Allied army under the command of the Duke of Wellington combined with a Prussian army under the command of Gebhard von Blücher.
- Napoleon delayed giving battle until noon on 18 June to allow the ground to dry. Wellington concealed his strength from the French, with the exception of his skirmishers and artillery. Wellington kept most of his forces in the centre and on the right in the expectation that the Prussians would reinforce his left during the day. Napoleon could not see Wellington's positions, so he drew his forces up symmetrically.
- The battle commenced with a French attack upon Hougoumont house. It was driven back by heavy British artillery fire. Meanwhile the Prussians sent three Corps to Wellington but for various reasons they started late and moved very slowly.
- A second attack at Hougoumont succeeded in reaching the north gate of the house. Some French troops managed to enter its courtyard before the gate was re-secured.
- The 2nd Hougoumont attack is repulsed but fighting continued around it all afternoon. The main French artillery bombardment begins and causes a large number of casualties.
- French infantry supported by cavalry attacks and surrounds La Haye Sainte. Napoleon sees the first columns of Prussians approaching his right flank but they are still 6-8 km away.
- British cavalry counter attacks successfully but advances past La Haye Sainte too deep inside French lines. Napoleon ordered a counter-attack by his cuirassiers. The result was very heavy losses for the British cavalry.
- The Prussians now begin to appear on the field. Napoleon sends all his cavalry and infantry reserves to this right to stop them. The only reserve left to him now is the Imperial Guard.
- French marshal Ney mistakes movement of casualties in the British center for a retreat and attacks with cavalry alone (there are no infantry reserves left).
- Wellington's infantry forms squares and repulses multiple attacks.
- The French renewed the attack on La Haye Sainte, and this time were successful (partly because the defenders' ammunition ran out). Ney moves artillery there and causes a large number of casualties to the British.
- The Prussians attack and capture Plancenoit. They are driven off but recapture it.
- The French retake Plancenoit but their right flank is exposed to the Prussians who attack Papelotte.
- The Imperial Guard attacks on the British center.
- The Guard retreats. This has never happened before and moral plummets in the French army.
- Plancenoit is captured by the Prussians and the French army disintegrates.