Battle of Waterloo
Episode #7 of the course “Battles of All Time”
Date: June 18, 1815
The French were not always successful against the English. In the Battle of Waterloo, for example, the French suffered a crushing defeat, marking the end of Napoleon Bonaparte’s era. The battle itself took place on June 18, 1815 in Belgium.
Napoleon Bonaparte was involved in the French Revolution that took place from 1789 to 1799. He took control of the French government in 1799 and became emperor just five short years later; he marched his troops across Europe to further expand his empire. There was one attempted invasion of Russia that went terribly wrong, and a few other defeats brought about his exile in 1814. In 1815, however, he briefly returned and resumed power. Despite this, the Battle of Waterloo marked the true end of his reign.
In the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon led roughly 72,000 troops against the British army numbering about 62,000—an army that included Belgian, German, and Dutch troops as well. Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, led the British army. A delay in beginning the battle allowed the British to gain an additional 30,000 troops, so although the French began strong, they just could not handle the numbers. Nearly 33,000 French troops were killed while the British/Prussian troops lost about 22,000.
Apparently Napoleon was in poor health at the time of the battle, so he made serious strategic errors and was indecisive in leading his army. Some historical accounts also indicate that he may have appointed poor commanders. All of these factors combined resulted in the fall of one of the greatest armies in history. Napoleon was exiled again in 1815, where he died just six years later at age 51. He may have suffered from some form of stomach cancer.
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