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Waterloo project


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A series of military maps showing events leading up to the Battle of Waterloo, depicting the main stages of the campaign.

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Waterloo project

  1. 1. The  Waterloo  Project   military  strategy  in  the  campaign  of  June  1815  
  2. 2. Aim   This  collec<on  of  military  maps  aims  to  convey  the  course  of  events   during  the  series  of  ba@les  that  culminated  in  the  ba@le  of   Waterloo,  which  ended  the  revolu<onary  era,  the  Napoleonic  wars   and  forced  peace  on  western  Europe  for  almost  half  a  century.   Without  it,  Britain  would  not  have  been  able  to  establish  her   prominence  in  world  affairs  and  the  course  of  the  European  colonial   period  might  have  been  very  different.   These  maps  will  therefore  tell  the  story  of  the  final  stages  of  the   struggle  between  two  generals;  Arthur  Wellesley,  1st  Duke  of   Wellington,  and  Napoleon  Bonaparte,  Emperor  of  France.   The  scale  used  does  not  permit  accurate  depic<on  of  individual   subsidiary  units  or  the  complex  interac<on  between  opposing  units   in  direct  contact.  
  3. 3. Military  symbols   Most  contemporary  military  maps  of  Waterloo  and  its  associated  ba@les   show  Allied  forces  in  red  and  the  French  in  blue.  Here  we  use  current  NATO   conven<on  that  iden<fies  enemy  forces  in  red,  and  friendly  units  in  blue.   Colours  such  as  orange  or  black  have  different  uses,  and  are  not  used  here  to   depict  Dutch  or  German  Allies.   Current  military  symbol  conven<on  (frames,  modifiers)  is  used  to  show  unit   type,  size,  posi<on  and  command.      
  4. 4. Prepara<ons   Wellington placed his three main corps to defend Brussels and his supply route to the ports of Ostend and Antwerp, west of a line of demarcation with Blucher’s army which ran along the Roman road from Maastricht to Ligny. He considered his long lines of supply the most likely target of Napoleon’s advance from his concentration point for the Army of the North near Mauberge. Wellington also prepared for a less likely French attack on Brussels.
  5. 5. Napoleon’s  first  move   The French entered the Netherlands at dawn on 15th June. They took Charleroi from its Prussian defenders by noon. Blucher had already decided to concentrate his forces around Sombreffe, near Ligny. Wellington wanted to be sure this was not a diversionary preparation for an attack via Mons on his supply lines, and waited for more news.
  6. 6. Napoleon’s  strategy  unveiled   Napoleon exploited Wellington’s hesitation and split the Army of the North into three with Marshal Ney commanding the left, and Marshal Grouchy taking the right. His aim was to defeat Blucher first, then take on Wellington. Napoleon brought up the rear with a strategic reserve in order to deliver the decisive blow to whichever of his opponents was left. Wellington ordered a general advance to Nivelles when he realised Napoleon was advancing on both sides of the Brussels road.
  7. 7. th  June   Quatre  Bras,  16 Two brigades of Perponcher’s Netherlands Division held their position until Wellington could bring up reinforcements from his 5th and 3rd Divisions. Marshal Ney hesitated, then only attacked with his Second Corps. Napoleon ordered Ney’s uncommitted reserve under d’Erlon to support Grouchy against Blucher in Ligny. But Ney recalled his reserve when he struggled to take Quatre Bras. D’Erlon arrived too late to take part in the battle from which Ney had already withdrawn.
  8. 8. th  June   Ligny,  16 Meanwhile, Blucher’s three corps came under heavy attack around Ligny from Grouchy’s units, starting with a fierce artillery barrage. His centre gave way. But the reinforcements Napoleon organised caused confusion by arriving on the French left, and then turning back to Quatre Bras on Ney’s orders. Grouchy was unable to turn victory into rout. Blucher, unhorsed in an unsuccessful cavalry charge, regained command and ordered a retreat northwards towards Wavre, on Wellington’s left.
  9. 9. Calm  before  the  storm   The  17th  June  was  a  missed  opportunity  for  Napoleon.     Ney  did  not  return  to  Quatre  Bras  with  reinforcements.     Grouchy  went  a[er  Blucher,  who  managed  to  give  him  the  slip.     Wellington  used  the  <me  to  prepare  a  strong  defensive  posi<on  on  a  ridge   immediately  south  of  Mont  St  Jean.  A  narrow  front  allowed  him  to  defend  in  depth,   providing  he  protected  his  supply  lines  to  the  right  and  rear,  and  was  joined  by  Blucher   at  his  le[.     It  was  a  gamble  between  a  great  defensive  general,  and  his  opponent;  the  leading   offensive  strategist  of  his  day.  
  10. 10. The  Ba@le  of  Waterloo   As Sunday 18th June, 1815 dawned, the Allies and the French formed up on two ridges south of Mont St Jean. Wellington placed most of his army under shelter from French artillery on the reverse slope, but manned two forward strong points on his right and centre: the Chateau of Hougoument and the farmhouse of La Haye Sainte. A smaller position at Papelotte was on his left. Artillery was scattered among his divisions. Napoleon did not see the imbalance in the opposing forces and deployed two corps on either side of the Brussels road, with one corps in reserve at the rear. Most of his artillery formed up in a grand battery in the centre of his position.
  11. 11. Hougoument   The French attack began with an artillery barrage on Allied positions around the chateau, followed up by Reille’s 2nd Corps. The surrounding woods were cleared by Allied artillery, but the French pressed on and briefly entered the chateau before being pushed back. Though fewer in number, the troops holding the position were some of Wellington’s best. Hougoument never fell to French forces and became the anvil on which Wellington beat his opponent into a manageable shape.
  12. 12. La  Haye  Sainte   The Allied position at La Haye Sainte came under fire from the Grand Battery where a brigade from Perponcher’s Division was attacked by the leading units of d’Erlon’s First Corps. His instructions had been to attack the Allied left in echelon, leading from the right, but he did the opposite and missed an opportunity to expose the weaker Allied left. Instead he took La Haye Sainte and the outpost of Papelotte. The forward Netherlands brigade had to withdraw to a less isolated position.
  13. 13. Allied  cavalry  charge   Seeing the Allied centre weakening, Wellington’s second in command sent his Household and Union cavalry brigades to counterattack. Their charge routed several French infantry brigades, but overreached and got as far as the French artillery before a counter charge by French lancers and two light cavalry divisions. It was a costly action for the Allies who had significantly less cavalry than the French. This action put the Allied cavalry out of action for most of the remainder of the battle. Meanwhile, light horse units of Blucher’s Fourth Corps approached from the East.
  14. 14. Ney’s  cavalry  charge   Marshal Ney also saw an opportunity in the Allied centre and sent 5000 horse charging towards the gap between Hougoument and La Haye Sainte. But his cavalry advanced without infantry support. Wellington’s infantry formed squares and held their ground, his gunners firing at the French, then dashing for safety within the squares. Ney was unable to spike the Allied guns they overran during the charge. Meanwhile, the Prussians had entered Placenoit at the rear of the French right flank and were seen north of La Haie on the Allied left. Napoleon sent part of his reserve to protect his flank.
  15. 15. Napoleon’s  last  move   After his failed massed cavalry charge, Ney rallied the rest of Reille’s and d’Erlon’s Corps and some horse artillery for an all-out attack on the Allied centre, starting with La Haye Sainte. Faced with von Bulow’s Fourth Corps in Placenoit on his right flank, Napoleon sent additional Imperial Guard units to retake Placenoit from the Prussians. He personally led the remainder of his Guard towards La Haye Sainte where he handed them over for an all-ornothing attack on the Allied infantry before more Prussian reinforcements arrived. But Wellington had strengthened his centre-right with an Anglo-Dutch brigade from BraineL’Alleud, a cavalry brigade, and placed his guards units along the ridge. Here, the Imperial Guard were turned back.
  16. 16. Why  the  Allies  won   It  was  not  Wellington’s  greatest  victory.     He  started  the  campaign  badly.  He  was  indecisive  and  failed  to  read   Napoleon’s  intent.  He  did  not  trust  key  subordinates  like  Uxbridge;   his  cavalry  commander.  He  took  considerable  personal  risks  on  the   ba@lefield,  by  directly  supervising  troop  deployments  within  range   of  the  French.     But  he  chose  his  ground  well  so  that  he  could  defend  in  depth,   made  use  of  the  early  Allied  success  at  Quatre  Bras  to  regain  the   <me  he  lost  earlier  in  the  campaign,  and  kept  in  touch  with  the   Prussian  command.     On  the  field,  he  used  his  best  units  to  good  effect  and  made  his   opponent  pay  heavily  for  errors  of  judgment.     But  in  the  final  analysis,  none  of  this  would  have  been  enough   without  the  <mely  arrival  of  von  Bulow’s  IV  Corps  and  von  Ziethen’s   1  Corps.      
  17. 17. Why  the  Allies  won   So  it  was  not  just  Wellington’s  victory.  It  was  also  Blucher’s.     The  elderly  Prussian  general  suffered  a  serious  setback  at  Ligny  but   was  able  to  retreat  in  good  order,  regroup  at  Wavre  and  keep  the   French  under  Marshal  Grouchy  away  from  Waterloo  long  enough  to   deny  Napoleon  the  reinforcements  he  needed.   Blucher’s  Corps  commanders,  par<cularly  von  Bulow  (IV)  and  von   Ziethen  (I)  took  ba@le  to  the  French.  While  von  Ziethen  reinforced   the  weak  Allied  le[,  Von  Bulow  threatened  to  turn  the  French  right   flank.  These  coordinated  ac<ons  started  to  close  the  jaws  of  a   gigan<c  trap.       Grouchy  squeezed  a  victory  against  the  Prussians  at  Wavre,  but  it   was  too  late  to  be  of  any  use  to  Napoleon.  
  18. 18. Why  Napoleon  lost   Napoleon  was  well  below  his  usual  form  at  Waterloo.   He  opened  hos<li<es  late  in  the  morning  in  order  to  let  the  ground  dry  for  heavy   ar<llery  and  cavalry.  He  therefore  ran  out  of  <me  when  the  Prussians  approached  on   his  right.   Napoleon  was  absent  at  key  stages  of  the  ba@le,  leaving  cri<cal  decisions  to  his  staff.   His  subordinates  were  not  the  best  from  his  previous  campaigns.  His  able  Chief-­‐of-­‐ staff,  Berthier,  was  already  dead  and  his  replacement,  Soult,  issued  ambiguous  orders   at  cri<cal  stages  in  the  ba@le.  Napoleon  delegated  much  of  the  decision-­‐making  to   Ney  who  made  a  series  of  tac<cal  errors  culmina<ng  in  his  wasteful  mass  cavalry   charge.  Grouchy  was  outmanoeuvred  by  Blucher  when  it  most  ma@ered.  D’Erlon   changed  his  axis  of  advance,  missing  a  cri<cal  opportunity  to  expose  the  weak  Allied   le[.  Taken  together,  these  tac<cal  errors  placed  Napoleon  at  a  disadvantage.   Napoleon’s  ar<llery  concentra<on  in  a  Grand  Ba@ery  lacked  the  mobility  and   flexibility  he  needed  to  press  home  the  advantage  of  early  successes.     He  overes<mated  Wellington,  didn’t  see  his  uneven  deployment  or  exploit  the  weak   Allied  le[  while  he  had  the  opportunity.   He  underes<mated  Blucher.  
  19. 19. Sources   Informa<on  used  in  this  account  came  from  a  long  list  of  accounts  of  the  Waterloo  Campaign,  of   which  Saul  David’s  excellent  All  The  King’s  Men,  ISBN  978-­‐0-­‐141-­‐02793-­‐7,  Penguin  2013,   deserves  special  men<on.     Websites:  h@p://;  Wikipedia  -­‐  Ba@les  of  Waterloo,  Quatre  Bras  and  Ligny   Maps  were  drawn  from  contemporary  military  maps  of  the  ba@le,  civilian  poli<cal  maps  and   current  digital  maps  including  Google  Maps.  The  maps  included  here  are  meant  to  illustrate  key   stages  in  the  evolu<on  of  the  campaign  and  are  not  necessarily  accurate  in  geographic  detail.   They  do  not  depict  all  units  engaged  in  simultaneous  ac<ons.     This  presenta<on  is  circulated  for  educa<on  and  entertainment.  It  may  be  copied  and  distributed   on  a  not-­‐for-­‐profit  basis  without  further  permission,  providing  its  source  has  been   acknowledged.   The  Waterloo  Project;  TJJ  Inglis,  January,  2014.