Napoleonic Wars: Battle of Waterloo 1815

Napoleonic Wars: Battle of Waterloo 1815


April 1814. For ten years, one man has dominated Europe:
Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of the French. Under his military genius, France conquered
an empire that spanned the continent. But finally, he has been defeated by a grand coalition
of his enemies. Napoleon is forced to abdicate, and exiled
to the tiny island of Elba, while the Bourbon monarchy is restored to France in the corpulent
form of Louis XVIII. But rumours soon reach Napoleon that France
would welcome his return the French people have little love for the monarchy or its hangers-on,
the very people whose excesses led to the French Revolution 25 years before. He also learns that at the Congress of Vienna,
his enemies are locked in bitter dispute over the future of Europe. Napoleon decides to act. After just ten months
in exile, he returns to France, where the troops sent to arrest him rally to his cause
instead. Most of France soon follows suit. But in Vienna, the Coalition immediately put
their differences to one side. They declare Napoleon an outlaw, and mobilise their forces
for war. Napoleon knows he must act boldly, before
the Coalition launches a co-ordinated invasion of France. He counts on winning a quick victory,
and then negotiating peace from a position of strength. He targets the Coalition armies within easiest
reach: Prince Bl�cher’s Prussian army and the Duke of Wellington’s Anglo-Allied army,
both camped in Belgium. Napoleon’s force is a match for either Coalition
army on its own, but he’ll be heavily outnumbered if they’re able to join forces. So he must
keep them apart, and defeat each in turn. Napoleon’s army crosses the frontier near
Charleroi, intending to drive a wedge between the two Coalition armies. The next day, Napoleon sends his Left Wing
under Marshal Ney to take the crossroads at Quatre Bras. There Ney clashes with Wellington’s
army, still scrambling into position. The Allied troops fight off a series of French
attacks, and just manage to hold their ground. The same day, Napoleon attacks Blucher’s Prussian
army with his main force, near the village of Ligny. The battle is a brutal slugging
match, but the French emerge triumphant. The 72 year-old Blucher leads a calvary charge
in person, and has his horse killed under him. He only just escapes capture. The Prussian army retreats, but it is not
broken. Napoleon sends his Right Wing under Marshal
Grouchy to keep them on the run, and turns his own attention to Wellington’s army. The British general doesn’t receive news of
Blucher’s defeat until the next morning, at which point he orders a retreat, through heavy
summer showers, to a position 8 miles south of Brussels, near the village of Waterloo. There, he receives a promise from Blucher
that the Prussians will march to his aid the next morning, so Wellington decides to stand
and fight. Wellington has chosen his battlefield with
care. His troops are behind a gentle ridge, which will give them some shelter from French
cannon fire. His right flank is anchored on the farmhouse of Hougoumont, his centre on
the farm of La Haye Sainte, and his left on the farm of Papelotte. All three are fortified
and garrisoned with elite troops. Wellington’s men need every advantage they
can get. The opposing armies are roughly equal in size, but his is a ragtag mix of British,
Dutch and German troops, many of whom have never seen combat before. They will have to hold off Napoleon’s army
of veterans until Prussian reinforcements arrive, or the battle and probably the war
will be lost. Sunday dawns bright and fair. Napoleon has ordered Marshal Grouchy to pursue
the Prussians and keep them busy, while he defeats Wellington’s army at Waterloo, and
opens the road to Brussels. But it’s Grouchy who gets pinned down, fighting
the Prussian rearguard at Wavre: the main Prussian force eludes him, and is already
marching to Wellington’s aid. At Waterloo, Napoleon delays his attack, waiting
for the ground to dry which will make movement easier for his troops. But the lost hours
will later prove costly. The battle begins around 11am, when Napoleon
orders a feint against Wellington’s right flank, at Hougoumont. He hopes Wellington
will commit his reserves here, drawing them away from the centre where the main blow will
fall. But Hougoumont’s British and German defenders cling on desperately throughout
the day. At one point the French force their way through the main gate, but its shut behind
them and the intruders are all killed. Wellington later calls it the decisive moment of the
battle. Around noon, 80 French cannon open fire against
the main Allied line. Most of Wellington’s men are out of sight on the reverse slope,
but many cannonballs still find their mark, smashing bloody holes in the Allied ranks. At 1.30pm, Napoleon sends in his infantry.
The French columns are met by disciplined musket fire, and then charged by British heavy
cavalry. The French attack disintegrates, as Napoleon’s
men try to save themselves from the crushing hooves and flashing sabres. Scores of Frenchmen
are ridden down, and two of their famous Eagle standards are captured. But the British cavalry, exhilarated by success,
charge too far. They become scattered, their horses blown. At their most vulnerable, they’re
counter-charged by French cavalry and suffer terrible losses. Among the dead, Major General
Sir William Ponsonby, commander of the Union Brigade. Around 4pm, Marshal Ney thinks he sees the
Allies begin to retreat, and leads a mass cavalry charge to drive home the advantage.
But Ney is wrong. The Allied infantry are ready, formed in hollow squares with bayonets
fixed. The French cavalry can’t break into these impregnable formations; they can only
circle impotently, until they retreat or are shot from the saddle. Ney’s failure to support this attack with
either infantry or artillery is a serious blunder. Meanwhile Blucher’s Prussians have begun to
arrive: they capture the village of Plancenoit, threatening Napoleon’s flank, and forcing
him to send reserves to recapture it. Around 6pm French infantry finally capture
the farmhouse of La Haye Sainte in the centre of the battlefield. It allows the French to bring forward artillery
and blast the Allied squares from close range. They can’t miss the closely-packed formations,
and casualties quickly mount. It begins to seem that if Wellington’s army doesn’t retreat,
it will be killed where it stands. But the situation for Napoleon is also desperate.
The Prussians are arriving in force. And he’s running out of men to throw against Wellington’s
army. So he turns to his ultimate reserve, the elite Imperial Guard the most feared troops
in Europe. At 7.30pm, 3,000 of these battle-hardened
veterans march past their Emperor and across the corpse-strewn battlefield towards the
Allied centre. Wellington’s redcoats rise to meet them, and pour devastating volleys
of musket fire into their ranks. When the Allies fix bayonets and prepare to
charge, the Imperial Guard wavers, and then retreats. Wellington, sensing victory, orders a general
advance. About the same time, the Prussians recapture
Plancenoit. News of the Imperial Guard’s defeat, and rumours
of encirclement by the Prussians, sweep through the French ranks. Panic breaks out, and the
French army flees the battlefield. Only Napoleon’s Old Guard maintain their discipline,
mounting a heroic but doomed rearguard action. Napoleon himself is forced to abandon his
carriage, and barely escapes the pursuing Prussian cavalry. The battle is won. The Duke of Wellington
and Prince Blucher meet and congratulate each other outside Napoleon’s former headquarters,
an inn called La Belle Alliance. Blucher thinks it’s the perfect name for their shared victory
but Wellington prefers the more English-sounding ‘Waterloo’, where he has his own headquarters. The Battle of Waterloo was, in the words of
the Duke of Wellington, ‘a damned near run thing’. It was also one of the bloodiest battles
of the age. Around 50,000 men were killed or wounded: 23,000 Coalition casualties, 27,000
French. Due to an appalling shortage of medical care, many of the wounded were left lying
on the battlefield for several days. Napoleon was utterly defeated. Unable to raise
another army, he surrendered to the British. They transported him to a second exile, on
the tiny, remote Atlantic island of Saint Helena. This time there was no escape. He
died there six years later. Waterloo marked the beginning of a period
of relative peace in Europe – there were no wars between the great powers for 40 years.
And the British would not fight on the Continent for another hundred years, until the summer
of 1914. Forty years after the battle, a pioneer in
the new art of photography captured these remarkable images. They are veterans of Napoleon’s
armies, by then all old men in their seventies and eighties… Among them, Sergeant Tania, of the Imperial
Guard. Moret, of the 2nd Regiment of Hussars. And Verline, of the 2nd Guard Lancers. These faces are a tantalising link to the
dramatic events that shaped the course of history two centuries ago.

100 Comments

  1. I’ve studied Waterloo, read a lot about it etc and if someone with no real knowledge of the battle wanted to quickly get a rough overall view of what happened this is the channel to watch, in my opinion this short documentary is very well done & all in less than 15 minutes.

  2. It's ironic that when Wellington and Blucher met they had to speak using French as they couldn't speak in each other's languages

  3. Thank you for your documents Last June 2019 I visited the memorial park of Waterloo battle. From Brussels airport you may take about 45 minutes by taxi to get it. You may see Napoleon flying on his horse at the top of beautiful green hill.

  4. Where is History of England? Nothing!! This is really Poms behaviour talking and blaming everyone but keep yourself clean/This Epic History TV is full of rubbish and not true information!!

  5. One of the five who closed the gates of Hougoumont was a Henry Wyndham.

    Years later, his niece, sitting in a draught and asked why she didn't do something about it, replied that no Wyndham had ever closed a door since Hougoumont.

  6. The Waterloo campaign is one of the most extraordinary in history. Vigny – a decisive Napoleonic attacking victory in the old style, separating the enemy forces. Quatre Bras – a tactical victory, because Wellington had to retreat. Two days later – dust and ashes, with all effective resistance gone. I can't think of a parallel.

    It is definitely the most over-analysed. I have a strong suspicion that the battles of e.g. Gaugamela, Cannae and Zama were not as free from error by the victorious generals as the chronicles might suggest.

  7. The French having the most feared troops in Europe? pmsl. That probably spurred the Brits on to become the greatest empire on Earth.

  8. Waterloo est une victoire germanique isn't it ?, c'est bien un délire de rosbeef d"appeler une de ses principales gare "Waterloo". Cela doit être de l'humour British ou bien de l'arrogance..

  9. Is it just me or does anybody think Napoleon was a bit sloppy here, it just doesn't look like it's him compared to his other battles, of course I know In heinsight we can see what could have been done but what were the major factors that shaped his decisions, and how could he have done better?

  10. Duke of Wellington is just overrated.British enter the war after prussia,austria,russia and france fought each other half dead.Beitish just a parasite among the allies.Napoleon enter all his enemies capital except london

  11. The Battle of Belle Alliance was much more of a German victory than British. All of Blucher's Prussian army were German and a third of Wellington's army were German.
    Many of the British were guarding the escape route to the sea if the battle was lost, and were not involved in the battle.
    Wellingtons battle army was made up about in equal parts of Germans, Netherlanders and British.
    The Germans were the first to fight Napoleone at Ligny while Wellington was partying up in Brussels.
    Napoleone was the first to run away, but his carriage got stuck in the mud. The Prussians found a bag of diamonds in the carriage, which were later included in the Prussian royal crown.

  12. Napoleon was no Alexander the Great but, he was better than any English and German barbarian, indeed. Napoleon executed the Royal families, he understood the greed and corruption of a Queen and King from Russia and England. Imagine all the evil past deeds of the British Empire would have not been able to do. If Napoleon won and condemned to death the English Royals. The world would have been a better place, if England and British English never existed, indeed.

  13. So it was French who tried to take over other europe before the Nazi. Damn… I thought Napoleon was a good guy all these years.

  14. Even if Napoleon had won it would had been a Pyrrhic victory. He would had to contend next with the Austrians and Russians with very limited forces.

  15. Can sometime tell me if Napoleon ever faced a rated general before Wellington ? Furthermore, his loss of troops on the Russian Campaign was nothing less than a disgrace.

  16. One minor error in this otherwise excellent summary doco on Waterloo is that the first painting used late in the doco to illustrate the famous British square does not refer to the battle of Waterloo. It was painted to illustrate a scene from the smaller engagement at Quatre Bras on Friday 16 June two days before Waterloo.

  17. Its so sad to saw that each christian fighting each other…what if both of them joining allies and invade ottoman empire and re capture Constantinople it maybe good there will be no ISIS now

  18. The redcoats didn't resist and break the old guard, that honor was for the Allied reserve force of Dutch-Belgian troops led by men who formerly served in said Old Guard. But Wellington carefully wrote around this part to make his English seem tougher then they realy where. According to Dutch General Chassé they were close to breaking afther fighting all day it it was his reserves who gave them their second wind.
    I realy don't want to dismiss the English, but credit is due where it is due… The fresh Dutch-Belgian reserves who Wellington didn't fully trust helped turning the tide.

  19. I wonder what happens is Napoleon keeps his army together and puts out a screening force on his right flank. Would he have used Grouchy to attack Wellington's left and push him away from Blucher and try to get him to route. If the British make a move for the coast the Prussians may disengage, losing heart.

  20. Thought brucker withdrew north not north east keeping them close to the allied army. Your narration and map shows them separate.

  21. Im not really sure why history keeps portraying Napoleon as such a "Brilliant" General and "Strategist. Virtually all of his early success in battle occurred against an opponent that was not prepared, not expecting conflict. Most countries did what they could do to avoid it. It was Napoleon who in his megalomania knew that he wanted to conquer Europe and, like Hitler later, expanded his military forces somewhat secretly. He then invaded his neighboring countries, virtually without warning. Not giving his "neighboring countries" time to expand and prepare their own armies. Pretty much catching everyone off guard. But when his "enemies" finally recovered and build up their forces and develop effective strategies, he got his ass kicked. I.E. Waterloo and Russia.. Same with Hitler at Normandy and for that matter…Lee at Gettysburg. They weren't really all that great. Just betrayed the peace.

  22. i really hope this video will be remade one day with the assistance of History Marche! Epic narration as well as unbeatable animations and graphics!

  23. Great Historical documentary of Napoleons Wars thru out Europe. And he also had time to meddle in Canada, Colonized half of what is today the U.S. ,..the Louisiana Purchase. Amazing Battle Tactician of the time. Sad to see FRANCE lead today by the nose by Liberals. Invaded from with in by they're own doing. Moslems.

  24. The men that formed the last stand at the end of the battle were just to godam tuff and stubborn to accept defeat their will never be men of those kind ever again

  25. I think you forgot the attack of Reille, between the cavalry charge and the Imperial guard attack. Many Times people forget it, but I think they were 8’000 men attacking the right center of Wellington

  26. Fun fact, when Napoleon fought the coalition in 1815 , there was a big eruption in Indonesia that caused poor weather for Napoleon. ( nature has chosen its side! )

  27. Obviously the French back then were as pigheaded , obstinate , fanatical , nationalistic , delusional , self destructive , and just plain thick as Pig Shit as the Germans decades later .

  28. Why did the military of the day dress so haughty and over the top like this? It seems people should have been smart enough by 1800s to prefer function over form in war

  29. The victory would have been won with or without the arrival of Blucher. The battle raged from morning till early evening and the Prussians didn’t start to arrive in any large strength till around 1700 hrs by which time all the main actions of the day were done and the general advance by wellington ordered.
    We must deal in reality and stop trying to make this an all inclusive equality fest.
    The Great victory was British.

  30. They should have hanged Napoleon. His greed for power and territory led to the deaths of countless soldiers and civilians.

  31. Excellent stuff, but there’s one, very odd error: Crimea is definitely in Europe and British troops definitely fought there!

  32. Our world has such a tapestry of history just impossible to weave. So many lives lost senselessly at the whim and fancy of men seeking their own self righteous glory. Such a shame!! They shall all rise in judgement……

  33. You have totaly forgot the big role of the prince of Orange and his troops at Quatre Bras.
    Wellington was at a ball in Brussels when the prince of Orange left the ball to fight with his troops at the front line.
    At Waterloo he got wounded while leading the infantery.
    Wellington always stayed in the far back.

  34. The British still have the French Eagle Standards in London, you can see them on display at the National Army Museum. Napoleon met his match with Wellington.

  35. Paris newspaper headlines in 1815: "The Monster Has Escaped Elba," then, "The Usurper Has Taken Toulon," then, "The Former Emperor Is In Lyon," and finally, "His Majesty Arrives In Paris Tomorrow."

  36. C'est la moyenne Garde qui monte sur Wellington au mont Saint Jean , et elle ne recule pas !!! elle se fait canonner à la mitraille , mais elle réussit à prend les canons, et enfonce un régiment, mais elle plie sous le nombre et redescend, se reforme, puis remonte à la baïonnette, empêtrée dans la boue elle se trouve avec la mousqueterie Anglaise énormément élément plus nombreuse, Français et Anglais se fusillent face à face, un soldat Anglais dira plus tard; "c’était à qui tuait le plus". Avec des pertes terribles la moyenne Garde est encore repoussés vers le bas de la pente, épuisées par des efforts surhumains , il y a énormément de boue et de cadavres à enjamber subissant la pression elle ne peut plus remonter. Les soldats de la ligne qui arrivent en renfort trop loin derriere , croient que la Garde recule, alors qu'elle a fait tout ce qui était possible. "Les Anglais aiment raconter qu'ils ont fait reculer la Garde". La vieille garde ne s'est pas battue elle est restée avec l'Empereur à Rossomme, il y a le 1er grenadier et le 1er chasseur, deux immenses et régiments impressionnants , "se sont les fameux", il y a des hommes de 1 mètre 90, beaucoup portent la légion d'honneur, c'est l'Elite de l'Elite, ils portent la moustache à la Gauloise, ils ont étés de toutes les Campagnes derriere Napoleon ; Des guerres de la révolution, en passant par l'Italie, l'Egypte, l'Espagne, toute l'Europe à pieds, jusqu'en Russie ils étaient là ….. Tous les combattants qui les observent "Anglais ou Prussiens ", savent que ces Géants là, se feront tuer jusqu'aux derniers pour leur Empereur, et en plus se sont les meilleurs à la baïonnette, la vieille Garde est la seule unité qui reste soudée et personne ce soir là n'ose la défier, d'ailleurs personne ne se lance à sa poursuite quand elle quitte le champ de Bataille seulement sur ordre de Napoleon . Le dernier carré sera fait par la jeune Garde avec un Bataillon des chasseurs de la vieille Garde venu pour aider, commandé par le fameux Cambronne en personne !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!

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