After the Battle of Quatre Bras, Wellington withdrew from Quatre Bras to Waterloo. After the simultaneous Battle of Ligny the Prussians withdrew parallel to Wellington, drawing a third part of Napoleon's forces away from Waterloo to the separate and simultaneous Battle of Wavre. Upon learning that the Prussian army was able to support him, Wellington decided to offer battle on the Mont-Saint-Jean escarpment, across the Brussels road. Here he withstood repeated attacks by the French throughout the afternoon, aided by the progressively arriving Prussians. In the evening Napoleon committed his last reserves to a desperate final attack, which was narrowly beaten back. With the Prussians breaking through on the French right flank Wellington's Anglo-allied army counter-attacked in the centre, and the French army was routed.
Napoleon’s return and the allied response
ordered to mustering points, and Napoleon hoped to have more than 500,000 men under arms before autumn.
By April 27 Napoleon had decided to attack Wellington and Blücher in the southern Netherlands (now Belgium), in the hope of defeating them before the Austrians and Russians could bring
their forces to bear.
|Prince of Orange|
The allied campaign against Napoleon began in earnest in early June, but the armies that had assembled in Belgium were of dubious quality. Blücher’s four corps included many inexperienced conscripts among their 120,000 men. Wellington, whose forces numbered more than 93,000 before the campaign began, characterized his own army as “infamous.” Of the 31,000 British troops under his command, most had never been under fire. Many of the 29,000 Netherlanders under William, Prince of Orange (later William II), were unreliable, having served under Napoleon little more than a year before. The remainder of that polyglot army was made up of some 16,000 Hanoverians, roughly 6,800 Brunswickers, and the 6,300 men of George III’s German Legion. Only the last contingent, veterans of the Peninsular War, could be safely trusted in a crisis. Thus, the majority of the troops arrayed against Napoleon were no match for the highly enthusiastic and largely veteran French force. Wellington and Blücher had agreed to come to each other’s assistance should either be attacked, but the lack of any real preparation prior to June 15 shows that little serious attention had been given to such a possibility.
On 15 June 1815, Napoleon appointed Marshal Michel Ney commander of the left wing of the Army of the North. On 16 June Napoleon's forces split up into two wings to fight two separate battles simultaneously. Ney attacked Wellington at Quatre Bras (and received criticism for attacking slowly, while Napoleon attacked Blücher's Prussians at Ligny
Although Napoleon’s troops mounted a strong attack against the British, the arrival of the Prussians turned the tide against the French. The French emperor’s outnumbered army retreated in chaos. By some estimates, the French suffered more than 33,000 casualties (including dead, wounded or taken prisoner), while British and Prussian casualties numbered more than 22,000.
Reportedly fatigued and in poor health during the Belgian campaign, Napoleon committed tactical errors and acted indecisively. He also was blamed for appointing inadequate commanders. Ultimately, the Battle of Waterloo marked the end of Napoleon’s storied military career. He reportedly rode away from the battle in tears.
Wellington went on to serve as British prime minister, while Blucher, in his 70s at the time of the Waterloo battle, died a few years later.
Napoleon’s Final Years
On June 22, 1815, Napoleon once again abdicated. That October, he was exiled to the remote, British-held island of Saint Helena, in the South Atlantic Ocean. He died there on May 5, 1821, at age 51, most likely from stomach cancer. Napoleon was buried on the island; however, in 1840, his remains were returned to France and entombed in a crypt at Les Invalides in Paris, where other French military leaders are interred.