Hi, guys! My name is Thomas, and this is the first of one of many articles I will write about history. I’m not all about history; I’m interested in Math and Ocean Biology, but today I’d like to discuss what led to the battle of Waterloo.
Napoleon Buonaparte, as his real name was, had inspired the French people with his genius and stunning victories, having won many of them in the space of 20 years. The so-called “Napoleonic wars” didn’t actually last for 20 years; they started in 1803 and ended in 1815. That’s only a dozen years, but still quite a long time. Napoleon, however, won many impressive and amazing victories before this, during the French Revolutionary wars (1792-1802).
In 1812, he ordered His Grand Army (Armee in French) to invade Russia. Up to this time, every invasion launched against Russia had been poorly planned and had always failed. Only Genghis Khan had managed to conquer Russia. 600,000 French and many other nationalities from other states marched into Russia. Sadly, only 50,000 would survive.
Horrified by his defeat, Napoleon rushed back to Paris to gather new armies, but Europe was tired of war. Napoleon knew that his old enemies would reunite now that his myth of invincibility was destroyed. Austria, Prussia, Britain, and Russia formed the Sixth Coalition and quickly took the initiative. Despite winning some impressive victories, such as Dresden, Napoleon was just postponing his defeat. In 1814, cornered on all sides, Napoleon abdicated and went into exile on the island of Elba. He was allowed to take 400 of his best Old Guard men (an elite unit of French infantry) and was made the king of Elba. But after ten months, he left Elba and invaded southern France. His exact reasons are unclear, although there are loads of theories. I’ll only go through one of the most considered theories. Napoleon was granted an annual pension of 2 million francs a year. But the newly restored King Louis XVIII refused to pay his pension, and there was even rumor that Napoleon would probably be transferred to a far distant island.
On March 1st Napoleon landed at Golfe-Jaun with 1,000 men,intent on marching to Paris. Marshal Michel Ney was ordered by King Louis to arrest Napoleon. Ney famously replied that he would bring him “in an iron cage.” Ney’s 6,000 troops soon came in contact with Napoleon’s force. Instead of fighting they joined him! Napoleon famously said to them, “If you are going to kill your Emperor, here I am.” Every force sent to stop Napoleon instead joined him. With a huge army he marched into Paris without a shot fired. King Louis fled. Europe now declared war, not on France but on Napoleon. They formed the Seventh Coalition. Napoleon needed a victory–a battle which he hoped would scare the Coalition into suing for peace. With only 224,000 men in the French Army and conscription abolished, it looked hopeless.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about the three battles in the Waterloo Campaign: Ligny, Quatras-Bras, and, finally, Waterloo.