Napoleon: The early years
Napoleon Bonaparte, who is also known as the “little Corsican”, was born on August 15,1769 in Ajaccio, Corsica. He was known as the little Corsican because of his height of 5 feet 2 inches (which was measured as 5’ 6″ in the British system). He had 7 brothers and sisters. His original name was Napoleone Buonaparte in Corsica but it became Napoleon Bonaparte in French. His parents were Carlo (Charles) Buonaparte (1746-1785) and Letizia Ramolino Buonaparte (1750-1836). His original nationality was Corsican-Italian. He despised the Frrench. He thought they were oppressors of his native land. His father was a lawyer, and was also anti-French. One reason Napoleon may have been such a conqueror was he was raised in a family of radicals. When Napoleon was nine, his father sent him to a French military government school. He attended Brienne in Paris. While there, he was constantly teased by the French students. Because of this, Napoleon started having dreams of personal glory and triumph.
In 1784 to 17785, Napoleon attended Ecole, Militaire in Paris. That was the place where he received his military training. He studied to be an artillery man and an officer. He finished his training and joined the French army when he was 16 years old! Na
Napoleon soon took over France. His goal was to conquer all of Europe. Through out his lifetime he nearly succeeded in his goal. Napoleon was probably one of the greatest military leaders that ever lived.
After the French monarchy was overthrown on August 10, 1792, Napoleon decided to make his move up in the ranks. After this, Napoleon started becoming a recognized officer.
Napoleon’s Rise to Power and Conquests
In 1792, Napoleon was prompted to the rank of captain. In 1793, he was chosen to direct the artillery against the siege inn Toulon. He seized ground where he could get his guns in range of the British ships. Soon after that Toulon fell and Napoleon was promoted to the rank of brigadier general. In 1795, he saved the revolutionary government by dispersing a group of rioting citizens by using his famous “Whiff of grapeshot” – He loaded a bunch of pellets into a cannon and fired it at the crowd.
Napoleon was made commander of the French army in Italy. He defeated four Au
In 1796, Napoleon was appointed to put down a revolt in Paris. He calmly took complete control of the situation. He just had his men shoot all the rebels in the streets. The French government was saved, but they decided to form a new government called the Directory.
Under the new government, Napoleon was made commander of the French army in Italy. During this campaign, the French realized how smart Napoleon was. He developed a tactic that worked very efficiently. He would cut the enemy_s army in to two parts, then throw all his force on one side before the other side could rejoin them. This method was extremely effective against the Sardinian troops, because he defeated them five times in 11 days! This made the King of Sardinia to try to make peace with France. Napoleon could not be stopped. He was a fast thinker who mo
He started his attack on Austria. It was his first big campaign. During one attack, he showed his bravery by forcing his way across a burning bridge. After that his troops gave him the name “Petit Caporal” or in English “Little Corporal”. He then attacked the Austrians in Mantua. Austria sent troops there four times, and every time Napoleon crushed them. In 1797, he came within 80 miles of Vienna when Austria surrendered. Napoleon had won 14 pitched battles and 70 combats. He had made the rich lands he conquered feed and pay the French soldiers. Plus millions of francs were send tacks to France. This helped France_s poor economy tremendously. Napoleon negotiated a treaty called Campo Formio with Austria. Austria gave up Netherlands and Lombardy to France. Austria also recognized the Rhine as the eastern boundary of France. In return, France gave Austria most of the old Venetian Republic.
When Napoleon returned to Paris, he received a huge welcome. He then began thinking of pursuing political power and military power. He wanted to become the next Alexander th
Napoleon returned to find the Directory a mess. He, in his selfish way, saw this as the perfect time for self-advancement. Napoleon worked with Emmanuel Sieyes to overthrow the Directory, succeeding on 9 November 1799 — 18 Brumaire, by the Revolutionary calendar. Napoleon set up a government called the Consulate. He was the first of three consuls. About three years later the grateful French nation voted in a plebiscite to make him Consul for life. Everyone in France loved Napoleon at that time. Then he started increasing his power.
NAPOLEON THE EMPEROR
Napoleon became known as Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, instead of General Bonaparte. He had complete political and military power in France. But alas, he still hadn_t built up his great Eastern Empire. He wanted to recreate the empire Charlemagne was ruler of many years ago. The Austrians had been defeated at Marenegro. The German states and England were tired of fighting so they signed a peace treaty of Aimens in 1802. This was the first time since 1792 that France was at peace with the whole world! During the next 14 months of peace, Napoleon drastically altered Europe. He became president of the Italian Republic and reshaped Switzerland with France. He annexed Piedmont, Parma, and the island of Elba to France. Napoleon also reshaped a lot of France. He re-established the University of France, reformed the education system, and founded the Bank of France and the Legion of Honor. He also codified the Napoleonic Code: The first clear, compact statement of the French law. The Napoleonic Code has served as a base for legal systems around the world! Napoleon_s most lasting effect on France and much of the world was the set of civil laws that he instituted that still bears his name to this day. This code was so impressive that by 1960 over 70 different states either modeled their own laws after them or adopted them verbatim. The Code of Napoleon took the over 14,000 decrees that had been passed under the Revolutionary Government and simplified them into one unified set of laws. The Code had several key concepts at its core:
1. Equality of all in the eyes of the law
2. No recognition of privileges of birth (i.e. noble rights
inherited from ancestors)
3. Freedom of religion
4. Separation of the church and the state
5. Freedom to work in an occupation of one_s choice
6. Strengthening the family by:
NAPOLEON AND EDUCATION
Napoleon has been given much credit for modernizing France_s educational system. Among the institutions he set up and expanded were:
1. Primary schools in every commune under the general
supervision of the prefects or sub-prefects
2. Secondary or grammar schools that were under the control
of the central government
3. Lycees (high schools) in every important town, with
teachers appointed by the central government
4. Technical Schools, civil service schools, and military
schools were regulated by the State
5. Establishment of the University of France to maintain
uniformity in the education system
6. Centralized recruitment and training of teachers
Napoleon_s goals for improving education in France were not altruistic. After coming to power he discovered he did not have enough trained personnel to administer his empire. This included architects, engineers, and scientists. Additionally he viewed education as a means of indoctrinating the masses with the right principles. This meant removing education from the control of the church and placing it under state control. (This was something the Revolution had only partially achieved.) That being said, he expected two things from the schools. First was the training of middle-class boys to be civil and military leaders. Secondly, he wanted the educational system to be absolutely uniform. He wanted to be able to pull his watch out of his pocket at any time and tell what was going on at any school.
How successful was he at achieving these goals is questionable. By 1812, it was estimated that only one child in eight was enrolled in a primary school. The institutes of higher learning had a large percentage of its students in professional studies, with almost 30% studying medicine or science. However, “the difficulty of finding subordinates with the technical training to execute his industrial and engineering projects, and the bent of his own genius, led Napoleon to emphasize the training of the scientist as equally important with the training of the scholar, and his efforts helped to make France the home of scientific thought in the early years of the nineteenth century.” As an indoctrinating tool, it was more successful. In the latter years of the Empire, when manpower became scarce, French teenagers on the whole, enthusiastically responded to the call to arms even after almost twenty years of continual warfare.
RESUMPTION OF WAR IN EUROPE
In 1803, war broke out again, this time between France and England. Russia, Austria and Sweden allied with Britain forming The Third Coalition against the French. Napoleon didn_t have any trouble with this. He defeated Austria and Russia at Austerlitz on December 2, 1805. He crushed the Prussians at Pena and defeated more Russians at Friedland. He then created a peace treaty called the Peace of Tilsit that brought all of Europe to his feet. Napoleon had planned to invade England whom he called “a nation of shopkeepers” but the “right moment” never showed up. (or was it too late?) In preparation for that war, he sold Louisiana to the United States for $15 million dollars to raise funds for his wars. England_s navy, under the capable hands of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson,, crushed Napoleon’s sea power together wit the Spanish fleet at Trafalgar Cape on October 21, 1805. With his defeat at Trafalgar, Napoleon went back to the drawing board figure out how to defeat the British.
Meanwhile back in France, the people allowed Napoleon to remove the Consulate and turn it into an empire. He decided to hand the throne down to his descendants. But there was one problem: He had no descendants! He ended his marriage to Josephine de Beauharnais in 1809 and remarried in 1810. He married Hapsburg Archduchess Marie Louise, who was the daughter of the Austrian emperor. Well, he got what he wanted, a son. He named his son King of Rome. Napoleon had also made all the rulers of his kingdom either family members or good friends. This made him very secure. He wiped out most of the German states, which totally dissolved what was left of the Holy Roman Empire. By this time, he was the ruler of a huge empire. He had over 42 million people at his control.
THE DEFEAT OF THE ALLIES
A short time after napoleon’s victory at the Battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon finally defeated both the Austrian and the Prussian forces. Austria was defeated at Wagram and began to withdraw from their territories in France. After that, Napoleon eliminated the Prussians after he had defeated them at the battle of Jena-Auerstadt. Then, he annexed Prussia to his huge empire and stripped it of its dominions.
In 1807, Napoleon reached an agreement with the Russians after the Battle of Friedland which was a bloody but stalemate battle. However, Russia did not lose any of its territories and agreed to cooperate with Napoleon in the future. After a series of military victories, Bonaparte finally defeated the Holy Roman Empire that existed since 926 A. D.
THE WAR ON COMMERCE
By this time, Napoleon is getting closer and closer to his dream of world conquest. His last and unconquered foe was a nation due north of France – England.
The reason why he couldn’t conquer England is because he couldn’t cross the English Channel which was being defended by the mighty English naval fleet that once defeated him at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. In desperation, Bonaparte set on to strike England both on commerce and economy, their two most susceptible spots.
The Continental Blockade prohibited trade to all parts of England and with that, Napoleon closed all trading ports of Europe to all English ships and forbade any commercial activity between any country and England. But Napoleon is making a big mistake because England, Russia, Spain and other European nations had resented to this system because they need goods and products from Britain.
But in spite of all these decrees issued by Napoleon, Spain didn’t stop trading with England because they badly need goods from there. As soon as Napoleon heard about it, he and his troops marched to Madrid after calling Spanish soldiers “puny” and then occupied Lisbon on December 1, 1807.
Russia did not also like Napoleon_s continental system. The continental system basically cut off trade with Britain. Most of Europe disliked the system because they needed goods from Britain. Everyone had found ways to work around the continental system, but Russia finally decided to abandon it. Napoleon found out about this and decided to invade Russia. Napoleon picked a bad time to invade. His forces in Spain were being driven out. Napoleon put together a huge army with soldiers from 20 different nations. This event would be the worst campaign Napoleon ever led.
THE RUSSIAN INVASION:
NAPOLEON’S WORST CAMPAIGN
In June of 1812, Napoleon began his fatal Russian campaign, a landmark in the history of the destructive potential of warfare. Virtually all of continental Europe was under his control, and the invasion of Russia was an attempt to force Czar Alexander I to submit once again to the terms of a treaty that Napoleon had imposed upon him four years earlier. Having gathered nearly half a million soldiers, from France as well as all of the vassal states of Europe, Napoleon entered Russia at the head of the largest army ever seen. The Russians, under Marshal Kutuzov, could not realistically hope to defeat him in a direct confrontation. Instead, they begin a defensive campaign of strategic retreat, devastating the land as they fell back and harassing the flanks of the French. As the summer wore on, Napoleon_s massive supply lines were stretched ever thinner, and his force began to decline. By September, without having engaged in a single pitched battle, the French Army had been reduced by more than two thirds from fatigue, hunger, desertion, and raids by Russian forces.
Nonetheless, it was clear that unless the Russians engaged the French Army in a major battle, Moscow would be Napoleon_s in a matter of weeks. The Czar insisted upon an engagement, and on September 7, with winter closing in and the French army only 70 miles (110 km) from the city, the two armies met at Borodino Field. By the end of the day, 108,000 men had died–but neither side had gained a decisive victory. Kutuzov realized that any further defense of the city would be senseless, and he withdrew his forces, prompting the citizens of Moscow to begin a massive and panicked exodus. When Napoleon_s army arrived on September 14, they found a city depopulated and bereft of supplies, a meager comfort in the face of the oncoming winter. To make matters worse, fires broke out in the city that night, and by the next day, the French were lacking shelter as well.
After waiting in vain for Alexander to offer to negotiate, Napoleon ordered his troops to begin the march home. Because the route south was blocked by Kutuzov_s forces (and the French were in no shape for a battle) the retreat retraced the long, devastated route of the invasion. Having waited until mid-October to depart, the exhausted French army soon found itself in the midst of winter–in fact, in the midst of an unusually early and especially cold winter. Temperatures soon dropped well below freezing, cossacks attacked stragglers and isolated units, food was almost non-existent, and the march was five hundred miles. Ten thousand men survived. The campaign ensured Napoleon_s downfall and Russia_s status as a leading power in post-Napoleonic Europe. Yet even as Russia emerged more powerful than ever from the Napoleonic era, its internal tensions began to increase.
Beginning of the March
By the 23rd of June 1812, all the troops had taken their positions. Napoleon_s main army was between Kovno and Pilviszki. Eugene_s army was around Kalvaria. Jerome with his VII Corps was near Novrogod. Macdonald with X Corps was at Tilsit. Swarzenberg_s Austrians were near Siedlice. All of these forces totaled up to 499,000 men, with 1146 guns. At the time, Russians had an army of 183,000 men and 15,000 Cossacks with 938 guns.
Napoleon_s main army reached Kovno after crossing the river Niemen between June 24-25 1812. At the same time, Macdonald went over Niemen at Tilsit, eighty miles downstream. Jerome did not cross Neimen until the June 30th at Grodno. Napoleon established headquarters at Kovno and remained in that town for three days. Until Kovno, everything had gone according to the plans, but the following days were to reveal much tougher challenges in terms of climate and road quality. Lieutenant Mertens from Wuerttemberg, who was with III Corps gives this account:
“Until Ianovo [a town north of the Kovno-Vilna road], the heat was oppressive and the dust stifling. In the afternoon, the thunder would roll and we were drenched to the skin. On 28 June, the rains settled in and the first order of the day was to build some huts. Our exertions on this and the days following were the reason for the outbreaks of dysentery and influenza, which soon ran through the rank without let-up and thinned them more effectively than enemy shot. The rain held on through the 29th and left us in dire straits. On the 30th, we left our swamp-camp at the crack of dawn and on the 1st of July, many more men and horses fell victim to the mud. On the 3rd, the sun greeted us again, but the dysentery raged so badly that several hundred sick had to be brought to Maliaty, where a field hospital had been hastily established.”
The march from the banks of Niemen to Vilna was much tougher than expected. The weather was either too hot, or too rainy. The rain would turn the poor quality roads into muddy tracks that rendered the carriages impossible to move. Horses started to die in hundreds. Several bridges on the way could not deal with the load and gave way.
Each soldier carried his own four-day ration but unfortunately, these rations were all consumed during the first day due to lack of discipline. The road did not offer any source of nutrition for the starving soldiers in the march. The wells had been polluted by dead horses thrown in by the Russians. The cattle had a hard time keeping up with the army_s march since the animals were not used to marching for 15 miles for 6 to seven hours.
The immense heat following the relentless rainstorms dried up the tracks but soon turned the muddy roads into clouds of dust which also hindered the army.
Vilna was captured on June 28, 1812. Unfortunately, Vilna provided little for the army_s needs. The Russians abandoning the town had destroyed Vilna’s stores and houses. The rest of the stores were exhausted within the first day. Napoleon remained in Vilna far too long (28 June to 16 July.)
“It would be foolish to go any further. Here we must halt and regain our strength.”
The trip from Vilna to Vitebsk claimed another 8000 horses and the cattle had a very hard time keeping up with the marching army. Several carriages were abandoned. Russians on the other hand did not seem to be suffering from the conditions. No dead horses, or abandoned carriages were found by the roadsides. Russians intended to leave nothing for the enemy so they had raid through the country destroying all the villages and all sources of resources. The peasants were just as afraid of the Russian army as they were of the French army.
All through this march, Napoleon seemed to make ambitious assumptions about the army_s ability to march on without proper food and shelter. He kept on promising the soldiers that they would get a good rest at Vitebsk.
Napoleon entered Vitebsk on July 29, 1812. There was still no indication of the Russian army that was constantly retreating deeper into Russian land. Conditions in Vitebsk were dire. There was a clear shortage of medical supplies and doctors and people with lost limbs dies first. Napoleon also seemed to show signs of psychological unbalance. He gave orders that were impossible to execute under the current conditions.
“I was maneuvering in a country which was as well disposed towards me as France itself; the population and authorities were on my side; I was able to obtain men, horses, provisions; and Smolensk is a fortified town”
Smolensk is an ancient city built on high bluffs each side of the Dnieper. The city was encircled by high seventeen-century brick walls, thirty feet high and fifteen feet thick at the base.
Russian army_s divisions had retreated to Smolensk. Napoleon decided that he had to attack the city frontally from south to northward. This was due to the placement of the Russian Troops. To the east was Russian army under command of Bagration, to the North was Barclay with his troops.
On August 16, 1812, French troops under the command of Murat. Napoleon deployed his four corps around the entire south perimeter of the city. The main battle took place on August 17.
Since the Russians were inside the city they had the advantage of using cannons on the approaching troops and soldiers were killed by the hundreds. The battle died down with the dusk, by now the French had control over the southern suburbs of the city and the Russians still had control over the town. The Russian troops started a retreat eastward abandoning the city. The retreat of the Russian troops was received with delight by Napoleon while the news stirred controversy in Moscow_s political circles. The Moscow crowd was shocked to hear that the Russian army had once again chosen to avoid further contact with the French army and had abandoned a holy city even after so many men had already died in the battle.
When the French troops entered the city, Smolensk was in ruins, streets were littered with dead and burnt bodies. Napoleon was so proud of his victory that he rushed a letter to Paris to inform his country of the victory. He dictated the following letter to Murat, his Minister of Foreign Affairs:
“I have this moment come in. The heat is intense, and there is a lot of dust, which we find rather drying. The enemy_s whole army was here. It was under orders to fight, but dared not. We captured Smolensk without the loss of a man. It is a very big town, with walls and pretty fortifications. We killed three to four thousand of the enemy, wounded thrice as many, and found plenty of guns here. According to all accounts, a number of their divisional generals were killed. The Russian army is marching towards Moscow in a very discouraged and discontented state.”
Only the last sentence was somewhat accurate for Napoleon had lost 8-9,000 men during the Smolensk war and had overall lost 100,000 men since he had left Niemen.
“Nothing is more dangerous to us than a prolonged war.”
The French Army entered Viasma on August 28, 1812. Although the Napoleon’s intentions were to save the town by rushing to get it, he was still too late. When the army arrived, the city was in flames. Although they found nothing in the city, Napoleon still wrote a letter to Paris, saying, “I am in a rather handsome city. There are thirty churches, 15,000 inhabitants, and many shops with vodka and other useful objects for the soldiers.”
The reality was quite the contrary, the further they penetrated into the Russian land, they met more terrified were the local people and more devastation.
Two days later Napoleon ordered the march to resume, and the French army set out on a trying journey to Gzatsk.
“Not one sick soldier or straggler, not a single courier or convoy, was lost in this campaign from Mentz to Moscow.”
As the Russians neared Borodino where they were to halt their retreat, the French kept chasing. Passing through Gzatsk the Russians absorbed reserves, totaling 15,589 men. The French army arrived in Gzatsk on September 1 1812. The town was quickly occupied.
The Russians had stripped the area of all the resources. There was meat but no salt, there was flour but no bread, and a general lack of water. The temperatures were around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The French army that numbered 149,075 at Smolensk was down to 133,819.
Napoleon and the French army remained in Gzatsk until September 4, 1812.
“After a victory there are no enemies, only men.”
“There was not the least sense in it. Its immediate result for the Russians was, and was bound to be, that we were brought a step further towards the destruction of Moscow, and for the French that they were brought nearer the destruction of their whole army”
-Tolstoy in War and Peace
Borodino lies seventy miles west of Moscow. The battlefield was open farmland from which the corn had just been harvested. There was a very dense forest behind the Russian forces , the Russian position was not very strong since the battlefield was flatland with no major obstacles. Napoleon however was not able to take advantage of the topography of the battlefield. The battle eventually turned into a “trial of mutual slaughter that could have taken place anywhere.” The armies took their positions on September 6, 1812. Napoleon_s army consisted of 100,000 infantry, 28,000 cavalry and 590 guns. Russian army under the command of Kutuzov consisted of 72,000 regular infantry, 10,000 semi-trained militia, 17,000 cavalry, 7,000 Cossacks and 640 guns. The different approaches of the commanders of the two armies is clear in their proclamations:
“Trusting in God we shall either win or die. Napoleon is His enemy. He will desecrate His churches. Think of your wives and children, who rely on your protection. Think of your Emperor, who is watching you. Before the sun has set tomorrow, you will have written on this field the record of your faith and patriotism in the blood of your enemy.”
This is the battle you have so long desired! Now victory depends on you. We have need of it. Victory will give us abundance of supplies, good winter quarters and a prompt return to our motherland. Conduct yourselves as you did at Austerlitz, Friedland, Vitebsk and Smolensk. Let distant posterity say of each of you, _He was present at the great battle beneath the walls of Moscow!_”
The battle began on September 7, 1812 at 6 am. The war ended with Kutuzov_s order to retreat at 3 am on September 8. Both sides had brutal losses. Russians lost around 44,000 men, the French lost at least 35,000 including fort-three generals. Russians did not consider themselves defeated, Kutuzov actually first decided to renew the battle the next day. Kutuzov actually remained behind during the Borodino war, and when he was told at the end of the day that they had lost their whole front-line, he refused to believe it.
“French attacks have been successfully repulsed everywhere, and tomorrow I shall put myself at the head of the army and drive the enemy from the sacred soil of Russia.”
Later on, Kutuzov accepted the inevitable conclusion that his men were too tired to face another attack and thus he gave orders for the retreat.
Napoleon himself was not very sure that what he had was a victory or not, but the sight of the retreating army reassured him.
“If Moscow had not been burnt, the Emperor Alexander would have been compelled to make peace.”
“We never suffered such losses. never had the army_s morale been so damaged. I no longer found the soldiers_ old gaiety. A gloomy silence has replaced the songs and amusing stories that previously had helped them forget the fatigues of the long marches. Even the officers appeared anxious, and they continued serving only from a sense of duty and honor. This depression, natural in a defeated army, was remarkable after a decisive action, after a victory which opened to us the gates of Moscow.”
–Colonel Fezensac on the state of the French army after Borodino
The Russians had withdrawn to Moscow unsure to do what next. Kutuzov did not want to hand over Moscow to the French without any sort of resistance. He thought this would be utmost disgraceful of him. A meeting was called and all commanders were present except for one who was in charge of the rearguard. The Russians had 70,000 men against napoleon_s 100,000. The council of war quite divided due to the shame and honor involved in the different possible tactics. Kutuzov finally decided to call for a retreat.
“You are afraid of falling back through Moscow, but I consider it the only way of saving the army. Napoleon is a torrent, which we are as yet unable to stem. Moscow will be the sponge that will suck him dry.”
–Russian Commander Kutuzov 1812
At the time, Moscow was quite a sizable city with a total inhabitant of 250,000. The city spread over large stretches of land with a mixture of palaces, rich homes, single storey cabins and huge bazaars. Moscow had six cathedrals and 1,500 churches, all of which were special due to their outlandish designs and unique architectural style. Although the denizens of Moscow were Francophile until 1812, and spoke French and watched French operas, they displayed a great sense of national pride in 1812 and left their homes.
Only 25,000 people had remained by the French arrived at Moscow. Napoleon entered Moscow on September 14, 1812.
Although the army had strict orders against pillage, the men could not be controlled and they forced themselves into the palaces and rich houses. Some time after Napoleon_s arrival in Moscow some fires started to show up in various locations in the city. At first these were though to be accidents but when the fires started swallowing large parts of the city, it was obvious that the Russian army was setting fire to the city to avoid the French raiding on the riches.
The fires spread to such extent that napoleon hardly escaped the torched city. The fire lasted from September 15-18. Four-fifths of the city burned down and the rest was saved by a sudden change of direction of wind and a following shower. Kremlin was saved since it stood above the city and the guards remaining in Kremlin extinguished and threatening fires nearby.
Napoleon experienced probably the most frustrating moments of his campaign at this time when his prize was taken away from him. Now that the city had burned down, there was not much left behind for the hope of establishing peace with Russia. The Russians had clearly indicated that they just did not want the French in the precious Russian land by going as far as destroying a large city.
Although Napoleon considered several quite far-fetched scenarios, he finally decided to go back to Paris. He first wanted to march to St. Petersburg, almost 350 miles away from Moscow. His generals told Napoleon that such a march was impossible due to the condition of the army after Smolensk and Borodino. There was the option of staying in Moscow until spring and then returning to Paris. The problem with staying in Moscow
was that the capital of Napoleon_s empire would not hear from him for another six months and this absence of authority could have drastic results. Finally, Napoleon decided to march to Kaluga, a city to the south of Moscow.
Napoleon left Moscow on October 19, 1812 with 87,500 infantry, 14,750 cavalry and 533 guns with a trail of some 40,000 carriages and wagons.
THE WAR OF
LIBERATION AND THE FALL AND ABDICATION OF NAPOLEON
After the Russian incident, Napoleon_s empire fell apart. England, Russia, Prussia, and Austria allied together to fight the French.
On June 13, 1813, Czar Alexander I, the head of the Russians, joined the Prussians and thus, the War of Liberation started. Lucky for Napoleon, he defeated the Russian and Prussian armies in Lutzen and Bautzen.
In a three-day battle at Leipzig, also known as the Battle of the Nations, the French were outnumbered in every way. The French had to retreat. Then on March 30, 1814 the allies captured Paris. Even Napoleon_s generals realized it was a lost fight and gave up. Napoleon was forced to abdicate the throne on April 6, 1814.
Napoleon was exiled from France. He took a few soldiers to his new “empire” – the small island of Elba, a small island within sight of Corsica. He was allowed to keep his title of emperor and promised to pay two million francs every year to France.
THE ESCAPE and THE CONGRESS OF VIENNA
After Napoleon’s Exile, European leaders quarreled upon the division of spoils of Napoleon’s empire. The work of deciding the fate of Europe was done at the Congress of Vienna.
The congress was hosted by Austria and presided over by Prince Klemens von Metternich, the guiding genius of the conference.
Meanwhile, Napoleon has been in Elba for 10 months and in the midst of the squabbles of the quarreling Congress, he had escaped from the island set forth back to France.
THE CAMPAIGN OF THE HUNDRED DAYS AND THE BATTLE OFWATERLOO
Napoleon_s return and preparations for war
“I reign only through the fear I inspire.”
On February 26, 1815 Napoleon Bonaparte, some generals and about a thousand soldiers of his personal guard boarded ship for their voyage from the island of Elba back to France. On this little island not very far from Corsica, the Emperor had stayed since his abdication. Napoleon Bonaparte considered it was time for his return. He was ready to put everything on the line in one last, big gamble.
The situation in France
The French were very displeased with the political leadership of King Louis XVIII. Although the King meant well, he proved to be incompetent. In the King_s wake, the “émigrés” had returned to France: nobles and members of the clergy that had fled the country during the French revolution. Now they where back and they claimed, with a loud voice, their former privileges and the lands the owned before the revolution. The peasants who bought these lands for very low prices where of course very suspicious of a possible division of the lands amongst these “émigrés”. France was mainly an agrarian nation in those days and the mistrust of the largest part of the population undermined the King_s position. The mediocre attempts of the Bourbons to revive the unstable economy had no effects. The situation was far from good; the prices of food were sky-high because of a hard winter and a dry and very hot summer. The middle-class, that did so well under Napoleon_s rule, was complaining about the bad economic situation and the poor and the needy had to live trough some very rough times. Another large group of malcontents was the ex-soldiers. After their demobilization in 1814, many of these men were able to continue their normal civilian lives. For a sizeable group of veterans, officers on half pay and ex-professional soldiers there was no place in the with inflation stricken society. Once they were conquering hero_s bringing glory to France, now many of them were starving to death, deserted by that same France. It_s only logical that they where unhappy and agitated. On the international scene, everything looked favorable also. At the Vienna congress the understanding among the Powers was far from good and none of them really liked the French Bourbon government.
Napoleon_s march to Paris
On March 1, 1815, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte sets again foot on French soil at Golfe-Juan, between Cannes and Antibes. A more appropriate place to land would have been the valley of the Rhine River. From there, the march to Paris would have been far easier and a lot faster. Bonaparte feared the royalist sentiments of the inhabitants of that region so he took the more difficult road through the Alps to Grenoble. His arrival took the French authorities by total surprise. It took four days for the news to reach Paris. The irresolution of the local authorities gave Napoleon the time to act without interference. The population, on whose reaction everything depended, reacted with calm and resignation. On March 7, 1815, the small Imperial column met the 5th Regiment of the Line, not far from Grenoble. Napoleon stepped forward and faced the muskets alone. With a remarkable mixture of exaggerations and lies and by using his charisma and personal power over soldiers, he managed to persuade the Regiment. With the cry: “Vive L_Empéreur” the 5th changed sides as one man. The gates of Grenoble opened and the Emperor received a warm welcome. On March 8, the 7th Regiment of the Line and its commander, Napoleon_s future Aide de Camps: Colonel Charles Huchet, Count de la Bédoyčre changed sides too. On every stop on his march to Paris, Napoleon addressed the people. He promised everybody exactly what they wanted to have being the opportunist that he was. Peasants he assured that they would not lose their lands to the émigrés, city people he seduced with promises of fiscal reforms. Everywhere he went he promised peace and prosperity. In the mean time, the Bourbons issued a warrant for his arrest. They send increasing numbers of troops to intercept him. Marshal Ney promised Louis XVIII he would bring Napoleon to Paris “in an iron cage”. When he met his former master eye to eye on March 18, 1815 the attraction proved to be too great and he defected together with the 6.000 men in his command. In Paris, a practical joker had put up a message on the Place Vendōme. It read: “From Napoleon to Louis XVIII: my dear brother, it is not necessary to send me more troops, I already have enough of them!” Meanwhile, the mob became very restless. Revolutionary song_s and slogans began to reappear. On March 19, 1815, Louis XVIII took the safe way out. Pressured by Napoleon_s unstoppable march to Paris and the growing anti-royalist mood in Paris he ran in the middle of the night to Gent, Belgium (then still the Netherlands). Here he started a voluntary exile that would last for more than a hundred days.
The Emperor back in power
Napoleon made his great entrance at the Tuilleries palace in Paris on March 20, 1815. Was his return this easy? No of course not: Napoleon knew that war was inevitable but he did not proclaim a general mobilization as off yet. It would only be a matter of time before his former enemies would turn on him but he desperately needed to get the French public opinion behind him so he pleaded for peace. He had hoped that at least some of the Powers would accept the fact that he was once again in charge in France, but that did not happen. The representatives of the Powers met in Vienna on March 13; seven days before the Emperor reached Paris. They declared him an outlaw and an enemy of world peace. They pledged to assemble armies to take care of him for once and for all. On March 25, the Seventh Coalition was formed with the signing of a formal defense treaty between Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia. While Britain and Prussia had already troops in the field, the other nations prepared themselves. All Powers broke of their official relations with Napoleon_s France. In France, Napoleon_s position was a very weak one. He had to make lots of compromises to maintain himself. He nominated several members of the old nobility and even people that betrayed him in 1814 in high positions to get their much needed support. Off the about 730 députées in the chamber of representatives, only about 100 were on his side. The others watched his every move with eagle_s eyes. This of course, limited his freedom of actions a lot. In large parts of France, rebellion ruled. In the department of the Vendée, an armed uprising broke out.
Preparations for war
Now that he could put the blame for the coming war on his enemies, Napoleon dropped his “angel of peace” act. He ordered a general mobilization on April 8 but hesitated to reinstall the conscription. Louis XVIII had abolished this hated system when he came in power after Napoleon_s first abdication. There were big shortages on every possible kind of military equipment but with a lot of tremendous efforts, most of them were, to some extent, resolved. The biggest problem however was the shortage of soldiers. The Royal Army that Napoleon inherited after Louis XVIII fled for Gent was about 200,000 troops strong. Some 75,000 former soldiers and some 15,000 new volunteers responded to their Emperor_s call to arms. Police, Customs and Navy units changed into infantry and artillery regiments. Veterans and the battalions of the National Guard “Gardes Nationaux” entered active service. With these units an auxiliary army of some 220,000 men was formed, an army that provided the garrisons for the “places fortes” (fortresses) and the camps. These and other measures supplied Napoleon with a force of some 290,000 troops. He had a prospect of some 150,000 more troops within 6 months, the militia class of 1815. These conscripts, put on extended leave when the conscription was abolished, would be recalled into active service.
The Allied plan of attack
Despite his efforts, Napoleon_s position was still far from favorable. In time, the Allies could send between 800,000 and 1,200,000 soldiers in the field against him. They could freely choose their directions of attack along France_s long borders. The Allied commanders were very aware of this last advantage. Starting from April 1, their troops would march on Paris from different directions and in great strength. They hoped to crush the smaller French armies with their superior numbers. Wellington and Blucher with about 110,000 Anglo-Dutch troops and some 117,000 Prussians would attack France from the Netherlands (Belgium since 1830). General Kleist von Nollensdorf would join Blucher with his 20,000 Prussians, stationed in Luxembourg. Schwarzenberg and about 210,000 Austrians would attack from the Black Forest. An army of 50,000 Austrians and 25,000 Piedmonts under the command of General Frimont threatened Lyons and the Rivičra and in Switzerland Bachmann and 37,000 Swiss were standing by. A Spanish-Portuguese army was still forming but would attack as soon as possible in the south and a Neapolitan army under Onasca would invade Southeast France. Barclay de Tolly_s 150,000 Russians, which had the longest distance to travel, would stay in reserve in the central Rhine area after their arrival. This was a pretty impressive set-up on paper but the implementation of it on the field did not go as planned. Late May 1815 only the armies of Wellington and Blücher were in place. The Austrians could not reach the Rhine before early July and the Russians would reach their positions much later than planned.
Napoleon could adopt two strategies to counter the Allied attack. His first option was to take a defensive posture. Assuming that the Allies would not reach Paris before mid-August, he could use the extra time to recruit and train more combat troops. He would than be able to concentrate his forces around Paris and meet the advancing Allied armies with numerical superior forces. But this strategy meant that large parts of France would be lost to the enemy with very little or no resistance at all. This would look very bad to the French people and Napoleon still very much needed to get the population behind him. His second option was to attack the Allied troops in the Netherlands with the forces he already had. The disadvantage of this strategy was that he could only bring about 125,000 troops in the field against more than 200,000 Allied troops commanded by the Coalition_s best generals. The possible advantages of a victory over these generals however were huge: An Allied defeat would make the Seventh Coalition shake on its foundations. The French would rally as one person behind Napoleon and this would give him the much-needed freedom of action. There was also a very real possibility of a pro-French revolt in the Netherlands once the Allied powers in those regions were defeated. This would give Napoleon an extra source of manpower: there were large numbers of seasoned veterans of the former Napoleonic armies in the Netherlands and lots of new recruits. Wellington_s defeat would probably provoke the fall of the British Tory government. With a new Whig government, it would be much easier to talk about peace. A French victory in the Netherlands would secure the north-north-east border so Napoleon would be able to wheel to the right and attack, reinforced by his observation Corps, the enemy at his eastern border. Napoleon chose the offensive strategy. While he would attack in the Netherlands with the “Armée du Nord”, his observation Corps would guard the French borders. The “Armée du Rhine” of General Jean Rapp (23,000 troops) was in position to stop the Austrians of Schwarzenberg once they started their advance. The 8,400 soldiers of General Lecourbe_s “Armée du Jura” faced Bachmann_s 37,000 Swiss. Marshal Suchet_s 23,500 strong “Armée des Alpes” was ready to protect Lyons against the Austrian-Piedmonts army. Marshal Brune_s “Armée du Var” (5,500) observed the Neapolitan army of Onasco. In the rebellious department of the Vendée, General Lamarque and his 10,000 troops were supposed to end the uprising or at least to keep it under control. Napoleon sent two armies in the field against the Spanish-Portuguese threat. The “Armée des Pyrinees Orientales” (7,600) de Decaen at Toulouse and the “Armée des Pyrinees Occidentales” (6,800) de Clausel at Bordeaux. The minister of war, Marshal Davout disposed of 20,000 troops to protect Paris with. Early in June 1815 the first preliminary orders were given. Soon after this, the first, very concealed, troop movements to the “Belgian” border commenced.
The French advance into Belgium
When Napoleon decided to attack the Allied forces in Belgium, he set his General Staff to work. Napoleon selected the Beaumont-Philippeville region on the French-Belgian border as the assembly area for his Armée du Nord (Army of the North). In early June 1815, the only large unit of this Army already stationed in this area was the I Corps of General Drouet d_Erlon. The Imperial Guard was still in Paris and the rest of the French Army was scattered over France and in the midst of a reorganization. Under the utmost secrecy troop movements to the French-Belgian border had begun. Napoleon had embarked on his last campaign.
The concentration of the Army
On June 7, very strict security measures took effect: all borders were closed, the mail was no longer delivered and no ships were allowed to leave French ports. The French started a huge misinformation campaign with its primary weapon being a flow of false rumors. One of these rumors was that the impending French attack would take place in the Lille region. Large units of the National Guard performed a series of maneuvers in this region to give credibility to this rumor. The secret troop movements that started on June 6 were not an easy enterprise. Five Army corps, the Imperial Guard and the Cavalry Reserve moved from as far away as Paris, Metz, Lille, Valenciennes, Laon and Mezičres. They assembled in an area with a frontage of 30 km and all of this without the enemy noticing it. Whenever an active unit left garrison to proceed to the assembly area, a National Guard unit (Gardes Nationaux) very discreetly took its place. The concentration of the Armee du Nord was as good as finished when Napoleon arrived at his forward HQ at Beaumont on June 14. This concentration was a very fine military achievement and the French General Staff had every right to be proud of itself. Although this unnoticed concentration of troops gave the French Army a big advantage, there was still cause to worry because a number of its senior officers were not up to the task that lay ahead.
The French commanding officers
The Chief of Staff, Marshal Soult, was a very fine general officer but had no experience in this very demanding function. Although he did his best he was responsible for some of Napoleon_s problems in the days to come. The Emperor_s choice of his highest troop commanders was also very peculiar to say the least. When Marshal Ney joined Napoleon on June 15, he was given command of the left wing of the Army. Ney never had been very intelligent and always depended very much on his Staff. His courage on the battlefield, however was legendary. In 1815 he was no longer capable of acting as an independent commander. The Prince of the Moskova never fully recovered of the battle fatigue he had suffered during the Russian campaign. The Emperor knew this but entrusted Ney with this important command. Following Napoleon_s first abdication in 1814, Ney had been given a high-ranking position in the Royal Army of Louis XVIII; thus his appointment as commander of the Army_s left wing would most certainly win the support of some Royalists. Grouchy, just promoted to Marshal, was given command of the right wing of the Army. Grouchy was one of the finest cavalry generals in Europe at the moment but had little experience in commanding an infantry corps. Of course, Napoleon had little choice. Of the 26 Marshals of the Empire he had only 5 left in 1815. Amongst them were Davout and Suchet, two very fine officers. In stead of using them in the coming offensive he gave them other assignments. He sent Suchet to Lyon to protect to Piedmont border. Certainly an important task in 1815 but insubordinate to the invasion of Belgium. Suchet would have been a far better chief of staff than Soult. He left Davout, the Minister of War and Governor of Paris, in Paris because he wanted to have a strong man in the capital during his absence. Napoleon therefore had robbed himself of the services of two of the finest Marshals of 1815. With Suchet as chief of staff, Soult and Davout could have been given command of the Army _s wings, assignments for which they were eminently suited, and Grouchy could have been given command of the cavalry, the thing he did best. Napoleon probably had good reasons for his choice of commanding officers. The responsibility however for the things that went wrong during the following days lies with him and not with them as some parties implied after the defeat. These officers all performed to the best of their abilities during the campaign.
The French plan
Napoleon knew that it was impossible to achieve a total surprise, but he hoped that his forces would be able to attack and hold vital crossroads while the enemy was still concentrating his own forces. That is why speed was of the utmost importance. On June 15, at 0300, the Armée du Nord would advance in three columns. On the left flank General Reille_s II Corps would start to advance in the direction of Thuin and Marchienne-au-pont. D_Erlon_s I Corps would be right behind it. D_Erlon had orders to leave a cavalry brigade behind to observe the city of Mons and a division to guard the bridges at Thuin when they got there. In the center, the cavalry corps of Pajol – reinforced with Domon_s cavalry – would advance from Beaumont to Charleroi at 0230. General Vandamme_s III Corps would follow – under cover of Pajol_s cavalry screen – with Lobau_s VI Corps and the Guard right behind it. At 0530, Grouchy_s cavalry would advance through fields and along small roads on Vandamme_s right flank. On the Army_s right flank, General Gerard_s division – protected by one of Milhaud_s Cuirassier divisions – would start to march on Charleroi at 0300. Gerard_s orders also stated that he had to send reconnaissance detachments to Namur. Napoleon himself would join Vandamme_s vanguard when the attack started. He would have the Marines and the Engineers of the Guard with him. The field trains of the Army had to follow Vandamme_s Corps. The three leading corps had orders to send their own engineer units in front of their advancing corps to immediately clear all obstacles. Speed was of the essence! Napoleon ordered that the connection between the corps had to be maintained at all time and that they had to continuously send intelligence reports. If everything went according to the plan, the Army would be concentrated around Charleroi no later than the afternoon of the 15th.
Blücher and Wellington had only made vague mutual support agreements because they were persuaded that Napoleon wouldn_t dare to launch an offensive against them. Wellington_s Army was dispersed over a wide area. He counted on his cavalry screen and espionage network to warn him in time of possible French movements. It would not be before the afternoon of the 15th that he would fully understand what was going on and by then it was almost too late. The Prussians under Blücher were more concentrated. Every corps was able to concentrate itself in less than 12 hours around his headquarters. General Zieten_s corps was stationed along the border as a protective force but Zieten neglected to prepare the defense of the bridges over the Sambre river. His orders were to withdraw to Fleurus in case of a heavy French attack. If that would happen the other three corps would advance to Fleurus.
The Allied reaction
Blucher received the first intelligence reports on French activities only on June 14. Zieten_s force had apprehended a French deserter in the night of June 12. This deserter informed them about the coming offensive but Zieten only forwarded this information to Blücher on the morning of the 14th. The number of rumors augmented and Bülow and Thielman were told to prepare their corps. At 1500, General Dörnberg – the commander of a cavalry brigade – reported that the French were concentrating between Mabeuge and Philippeville and that Napoleon was probably present. Two more French deserters were captured in the night of June 14. These two claimed that the offensive would start the next morning. Blücher was asleep when this message arrived. Gneisenau, his chief of staff didn_t want to wake him up and issued a number of orders on his own responsibility. He ordered Thielman to concentrate his corps around Namur, Pirch between Namur and Sombreffe and Zieten to cover these movements by delaying the French as much as possible. Bülow who was told to move to Hannut, thought that it was only a routine movement and decided not to move before June 16.
At 0230 on June 15, the first French troops left their bivouacs. There was a very precise timetable to avoid problems but even from this point on things were already going wrong. Vandamme had not received his orders because the officer who was carrying them had had a riding accident and never delivered the orders. It was 0700 before Vandamme received orders to advance. In the meantime, Lobau_s VI Corps which was behind Vandamme_s III Corps, advanced on schedule which cause the two corps to become ensnarled. Napoleon ordered Gerard to cross the Sambre in Chātelet to avoid this “traffic jam” but it didn_t help much. The commanding officer of Gerard_s leading division, General Bourmont deserted early in the morning of the 15th. His division, very demoralized by this betrayal of their general, delayed Gerard_s advance considerably. Reille_s II Corps – the only one on schedule – destroyed a Prussian battalion at Thuin. However bad roads and the fierce resistance of a Prussian brigade at Marchienne-au-Pont delayed its further advance. Pajol reached Charleroi with his cavalry corps at about 0800 but couldn_t take the bridges there without infantry support. His supporting infantry, the III Corps was still stuck in the “traffic jam” with VI Corps. Napoleon himself arrived there at 1100 with his Guard detachment. The Guard swiftly drove the Prussians out of Charleroi so Pajol could resume his advance to Gilly. Napoleon set up headquarters north of Charleroi and issued some orders. General Duhesme and some units of the Young Guard were to support Pajol and General Lefebvre-Desnoėttes had to lead the light cavalry of the Guard up the Brussels road. Reille, who had just captured Machienne-au-Pont was ordered to advance on Gosselies and to occupy this city.
Although he had received more than enough warning, Zieten was surprised by the French attack. He ordered a retreat to Fleures at 0430 and dispatched messengers to Blücher and Wellington. Blücher ordered Zieten to continue to observe the French and to retreat fighting to delay them. Zieten received this order a few minutes after 1100, at the exact moment that the Guard drove him out of Charleroi. He reported that he was under attack by 120,000 French but that he would try to hold Gosselies, Gilly and Fleurus. Blücher answered that Fleurus had to be held because the whole Prussian Army would be concentrating around Sombreffe . Ney, who had just arrived and reported to Napoleon received command of the left wing on the spot. He received the verbal order to advance on the Charleroi-Brussels road with I and II Corps and the light cavalry of the Guard. It is not sure if Napoleon ordered him at this point to take Quatre-Bras. Grouchy received orders to advance to Sombreffe. In the meantime, 8,000 Prussians had stopped Pajol_s advance at Gilly. Napoleon ordered Vandamme to attack them with a frontal assault and Pajol and Exelmans to attack their flanks. The Emperor then left to ride north and check on Ney_s advance.
Ney stands before Quatre-Bras
Gosselies felt into French hands at about 1600 when the Prussian garrison retreated to Fleurus. Ney and Lefebvre-Desnoėttes chased a small Allied unit out of Frasnes and followed it until about 2 km of Quatre-Bras. There they meet with elements of Perponcher_s infantry division and some artillery. Ney, who had 2,000 cavalry with him at the time did not attack because he thought that he was facing a far superior force. He therefore waited for the rest of his troops to straggle up. At 2000, Ney decided to take the prudent approach and issued orders to go into bivouac for the night. Meanwhile, Vandamme_s attack on Gilly was going on in a very slow pace and without any progress at all. Napoleon rode over to Vandamme_s location. As usual, his appearance on the scene helped the situation. The Prussians pulled back and started a delaying action in the direction of Fleurus. Grouchy initiated a skillful cavalry pursuit that was stopped by Zieten_s reserves. Vandamme refused to send his infantry to Grouchy_s assistance because he didn_t know at that time that Napoleon has issued a verbal order appointing Grouchy as commander of the French right wing. Because of Vandamme_s refusal Zieten was able to hold Fleurus until 0500 on the 16th. By nightfall the French right wing also sets up bivouac for the night. At 2100 on the 15th, Napoleon rode back to his headquarters at Charleroi. Although many things went wrong during that first day, most of his troops are in bivouac in three compact columns near the initial objectives of the day.
During all of June 14, nothing but unconfirmed messages reached the Duke of Wellington. Partly because of the lack of information coming from Blücher and partly because he was still under the assumption that the French were concentrating near Lille, Wellington concluded that they would attempt to cut his line of communication to the coast. He therefore issued his first orders. He directed his forces to concentrate west and southwest of Brussels under the cover of a cavalry screen. The corps commanded by the Prince of Orange received the order to concentrate in the Enghien, Soignis, and Nivelles region. Lord Hill_s corps is ordered to concentrate in the vicinity of the river Dender and Lord Uxbridge_s cavalry is ordered to Ninove. The Army Reserve, stationed in Brussels is ordered to prepare to march. Wellington had made an agreement with Blücher well before the 15th that he would concentrate to the southeast of Brussels in case of a French attack. With this concentration to the west-southwest, he actually increases the distance between his army and Blücher_s; thus unwittingly assisting napoleon to defeat them in detail. Luckily for Wellington, two Dutch-Belgian generals correctly assessed the situation. At about 1400 Constant-Rebecque, the Prince of Orange_s chief of staff began concentrating Orange_s corps around Quatre-Bras. General Perponcher, one of Orange_s division commanders decided that it would be much wiser to defend the strategically important crossroads at Quatre-Bras instead of concentrating near Nivelles as ordered by Wellington. With this act of insubordination he saved Wellington_s reputation and Blücher_s army because it prevented Ney from taking Quatre-Bras and marching on Blücher the next day. It was only at about 1500 on June 15, when the French offensive was already going on for more than 9 hours that Wellington received word of the attacks on the Prussians outposts. At about 1800 his Prussian liaison officer, General Muffling informed him that the attack was not a diversion and that the Prussians were concentrating near Sombreffe. With this information in mind Wellington issued new orders. Leaving a small portion of his army to protect his line of communication to Ostend, he orders the rest to concentrate around Nivelles thus shifting his disposition a little to the south. Rebecque_s report that the French are threatening Quatre-Bras reaches Wellington at the Ball of the Duchess of Richmond in Brussels. At about 0100 on the 16th, the Duke ordered his officers to very discreetly join their troops and start concentrating them at Quatre-Bras.
In the early hours of June 15, it was already clear that some French commanders were not up to their task. Stupid mistakes were made and the lack of initiative of some of them was great. Lucky for the French none of the Allied commanders had even thought of blowing up or of heavily defending the bridges over the river Sambre. If they had, the situation would have been very different.
When the sun went under on June 15, the French were where they wanted to be that day and the Allies were getting into position. The two battles that would be fought on the next day, 16 June would be of the utmost importance for the rest of the campaign. But on the eve of June 15, 1815, that was still in the future .
The Battle of Quatre-Bras
Despite the delays of the previous day, Napoleon found himself in an excellent position on the morning of 16 June 1815. He faced Blucher at Ligny with a more than large enough force and Marshall Ney faced a small Allied force at Quatre-Bras with far superior numbers. Napoleon could have won the campaign that day; however, several things went wrong, as you will find out for yourself here.
The battle was fought around the crossroads of Quatre-Bras, a small hamlet with only four houses. This crossroads marked the junction between the Charleroi-Brussels Road and the Nivelles-Namur Road. To the southwest of the junction was the Bossu wood. South of the wood were the farms Petit-and Grand-Pierrepoint. South of the crossroads the ground fell away to the Gemioncourt farm, which lay next to a small stream in the valley. The ground then rose again to the south. Southeast of Quatre-Bras, on the Namur Road, was the hamlet of Paradis (also called Thyle of which it was a part). Southwest of that was the hamlet of Piraumont and further south, the Hutte wood. North of Quatre-Bras the ground dropped into a reverse slope.
On the morning of the 16th, Marshall Ney deployed several units of Reille_s II Corps and the Guard Light Cavalry Division, commanded by Lefebvre-Desnoėttes. D_Erlon_s