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The Battle Of Waterloo Essay, Research Paper

The Battle of Waterloo

The Battle of Waterloo was the final and decisive action of the Napoleonic Wars that effectively ended the French domination of the European continent and brought about drastic changes in the political boundaries and power of Europe. Fought on June 18, 1814, near Waterloo, in what is now Belgium, the battle ranks as a great turning point in modern history. There are many reasons as to why Napoleon lost this battle. Most importantly it was due to his generals. Napoleon himself abandoned his troops and his throne after his defeat.

The main problem as to why Napoleon lost the Battle of Waterloo is because he selected an ill-equipped group of generals to lead his army. He didn t have much control over this though. Berthier was dead; Mortier was ill; Andre Massena showed no interest in joining this conflict, and Baron Jomini was with the Allies. If this was not enough he placed the generals he had in places not suited for them. He put Soult as chief of staff, Ney on his left wing, and Grouchy on his right. A disastrous mistake was putting Ney in charge of the attack on Wellington. Napoleon seemed sluggish and waterloo and this was due to his illness. He failed to follow up on opportunities here and this was fatal due to his steady adversaries, Wellington and Blucher. Fault can be put to Napoleon too. He delayed in attacking Blucher at Ligny, failed to use Lobau in crushing him, neglected to pursue hi after he was beaten, been to attack Wellington on June 18, and failed to assign Ney the Imperial Guard as reinforcements when they could have made a major difference. Soult had been a disaster as chief of staff, neglecting to coordinate the border crossing and, along with Napoleon, failed to send out orders to subordinates promptly and coherently. As well, Vandamme delayed at Gilly, Drouet wasted a day marching between Quatre Bras and Ligny, while Grouchy s tortoise like pursuit of the Prussians was a key to the French defeat. Ney had committed numerous errors. His sluggishness in attacking at Quatre Bras allowed Wellington to plan his brilliant defense of Waterloo. He failed to support his infantry with cavalry then failed to support his cavalry with infantry. And along with Drouet he neglected to spike the British guns they had overrun (Pietrusza 75-850.

Other factors that led to the downfall of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo included time, weather, and his sickness. For Napoleon, time was not on his side. He had very little time to gather proper troops and such which was the reason for the abundance of inexperienced soldiers. Another important factor was the weather. During the battle it was raining. This made it hard for troops to be maneuvered quickly. It was the rain that slowed him down when it was vital to move quickly. Being sick was yet but another reason to slow down Napoleon. His sickness during the Battle of Waterloo could have made it hard to make decisions clearly and efficiently when needed. All three of these factors were keys as to why Napoleon lost. Somewhat like the problem with his generals these problems were out of Napoleons control (Glover 212-218).

The Battle of Waterloo was a major turning point for the map of Europe. With Napoleon defeated, the Congress of Vienna reconvened and completed its work. France s borders were reduced to those of 1789, and it was made to play a compensation of 700,000 francs to the victorious Allies. Although few French and fewer Allies wished to restore Louis XVIII to the throne, the British did, and Louis reigned as king and subdues Spain. The Congress of Vienna drew up a map of Europe based on old dynasties rather than new nationalist feelings. Germany, composed of a large number of independent states of which Austria and Prussia were the largest, and Italy, divided into such areas as the Papal States, the Kingdom of Sardinia and the kingdom of the Two Sicilies, remained disunited. Belgium was given to the Netherlands; Norway, to Sweden; Finland, to Russia. Poland remained divided among Prussia, Russia, and Austria. Austria ruled over numerous nationalities beside the Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Italians, Croats, and Slovenes. Russia similarly ruled over such groups as the Ukrainians, Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians. This one battle was responsible for massive changes in Europe (Howarth 116-119).

After the battle where Napoleon narrowly escaped capture by Blucher s Prussians, who would have shot him on sight, he gave up the throne of France for the second time. At Rochefort on the West Coast of France, he took refuge in a British warship, the Bellerophon. Upon arriving he was treated like a prisoner of war and was transferred to another ship, the Northumberland. The Allies agreed that he should be exiled to the rocky island of St. Helena in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. It was here that he wrote his memoirs. In them he boasted about his achievements. Had I succeeded, I would have died with the reputation of the greatest man that ever existed. As it is, although I have failed, I shall be considered as an extraordinary man. I have fought fifty pitched battles, almost all of which I have won. I raised myself from nothing to be the most powerful monarch in the world. Europe was at my feet. Wellington said that his presence on the field mad the difference of forty thousand men. After living here for six years he died there in 1821 at the age of fifty-one (Sauvain 28-29).

The Battle of Waterloo was the final and decisive action of the Napoleonic Wars that effectively ended the French domination of the European continent and brought about drastic changes in the political boundaries and power of Europe. It is a battle that will not be forgotten due to its historical importance. Fought on June 18, 1814, near Waterloo, in what is now Belgium, the battle ranks as a great turning point in modern history, and it greatly affected the map of Europe during its time.


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