Hundred Days

Hundred Days

Hundred Days, name given to the period after the return of the deposed French emperor, Napoleon I, from Elba. The Hundred Days are counted from Mar. 20, 1815, when Napoleon arrived in Paris, to June 28, 1815, when Louis XVIII was restored for the second time as king, following Napoleon's disastrous Waterloo campaign.

The Hundred Days was the period between Napoleon Bonaparte's return from exile on Elba to Paris on 20 March 1815 and the restoration of King Louis XVIII on 8 July 1815 (a period of 111 days). This period is also known as the War of the Seventh Coalition, and includes the Waterloo Campaign and the Neapolitan War. The phrase les Cent Jours was first used by the prefect of Paris, the comte de Chabrol, in his speech welcoming the King.

Napoleon returned during the Congress of Vienna. On 13 March, seven days before Napoleon reached Paris, the powers at the Congress of Vienna declared him an outlaw; four days later the United Kingdom, Russia, Austria and Prussia, members of the Seventh Coalition, bound themselves to put 150,000 men each into the field to end his rule. This set the stage for the last conflict in the Napoleonic Wars, the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, the restoration of the French monarchy for the second time and the permanent exile of Napoleon to the island of Saint Helena, where he died in May 1821.


The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars pitted France against various coalitions of other European nations nearly continuously from 1792 onward. The overthrow and subsequent execution of Louis XVI in France had greatly disturbed other European leaders, who vowed to crush the French Republic. Rather than leading to France’s defeat, the wars allowed the revolutionary regime to expand beyond its borders and create client republics. The success of the French forces made a hero out of their best commander, Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1799, Napoleon staged a successful coup d'état and became France’s de facto dictator. Five years later, he crowned himself Emperor Napoleon I.

The rise of Napoleon troubled the other European powers as much as the earlier revolutionary regime had. Despite the formation of new coalitions against him, Napoleon’s forces continued to conquer much of Europe. The tide of war began to turn, however, after a disastrous French invasion of Russia in 1812 that caused Napoleon to lose much of his army. The following year, during the War of the Sixth Coalition, Coalition forces defeated the French in the Battle of Leipzig.

Following its victory at Leipzig, the Coalition vowed to press on to Paris and depose Napoleon. In the last week of February 1814, Prussian Field Marshal Blucher seized the initiative and advanced on Paris with his forces. Napoleon’s two marshals in the immediate vicinity, Édouard Mortier and Auguste Marmont, were covering the city with two detached corps, but they only had 10,000 men and would be unable to hold out against Blucher’s larger force. Napoleon hurried westwards to their rescue with around 30,000 troops, hoping to trap Blucher against the Marne river.

Blucher unsuccessfully attacked Marmont and Mortier along the Ourcq river in late February and early March and ordered a retreat north to regroup when he heard of Napoleon’s advance. Prussian troops crossed the swollen Aisne River and arrived at Soissons on 4 March. There they linked up with reinforcements that brought Blucher’s total force to 100,000. On 7 March, a clash ensued at the Battle of Craonne as Napoleon attacked westwards along the Chemin des Dames. Blucher’s outflanking manoeuvre did not materialize in time and the Prussians were forced to withdraw towards Laon, leading to the Battle of Laon and the defeat of Napoleon.

On 6 April 1814, Napoleon abdicated his throne, leading to the ascession of Louis XVIII of the House of Bourbon a month later. The defeated Napoleon was exiled to the island of Elba, while the victorious Coalition sought to redraw the map of Europe at the Congress of Vienna.

Exile in Elba

Napoleon spent only nine months and 21 days in uneasy retirement on Elba (1814–1815), watching events in France with great interest as the Congress of Vienna gradually gathered. As he foresaw, the shrinkage of the great Empire into the realm of old France caused intense dissatisfaction, a feeling fed by stories of the tactless way in which the Bourbon princes treated veterans of the Grande Armée and the returning royalist nobility treated the people at large. Equally threatening was the general situation in Europe which had been stressed and exhausted during the previous decades of near constant warfare.

The conflicting demands of major powers were for a time so exorbitant as to bring the powers at the Congress of Vienna to the verge of war with each other. Thus every scrap of news reaching remote Elba looked favorable to a bold move by Napoleon to retake power as he correctly reasoned the news of his return would cause a popular rising as he approached. He also reasoned that the return of French prisoners from Russia, Germany, Britain and Spain would furnish him instantly with a trained, veteran and patriotic army far larger than that which had won renown in the years before 1814. So threatening were the symptoms that the royalists at Paris and the plenipotentiaries at Vienna talked of deporting him to the Azores or to Saint Helena, while others hinted at assassination.

Congress of Vienna

At the Congress of Vienna the various nations had very different and conflicting goals. The Tsar of Russia had expected to absorb much of Poland and to leave a puppet state Duchy of Warsaw as a buffer against further invasion from Europe. The renewed Prussian state was demanding all of the Kingdom of Saxony. Austria wanted neither of these things to happen while it expected to regain control of northern Italy. Castlereagh, of the United Kingdom, supported France and Austria and was at variance with his Parliament. This almost caused a war to break out when the Tsar pointed out to Castlereagh that Russia had 450,000 men near Poland and Saxony and he was welcome to try and remove them. Indeed he stated “I shall be the King of Poland and the King of Prussia will be the King of Saxony”. The King of Prussia was approached by Castlereagh offering to back Prussia’s annexation of Saxony by Britain and Austria in return for Prussia’s backing of an independent Poland. Frederick repeated this offer in public and the Tsar was so offended he challenged Metternich of Austria to a duel. Only the intervention of the Austrian crown stopped this. This breach was avoided when members of Britain’s Parliament got word to the Russian Ambassador that Castlereagh had exceeded his authority. The affair left Prussia deeply suspicious of anything Britain was involved in.

Return to France

Napoleon solved the problem in characteristic fashion. On 26 February 1815, when the British and French guardships were absent, he slipped away from Portoferraio with some 600 men and landed near Antibes on 1 March 1815. Except in royalist Provence, he received everywhere a welcome that attested to the attractive power of his personality and the nullity of the Bourbons. He avoided much of Provence by taking a route through the Alps. Firing no shot in his defence, his little troop swelled day by day until it became an army. On 5 March, the nominally royalist 5th Infantry Regiment went over to Napoleon, transferring its strength en masse from one army to the other. The next day they were joined by the 7th Infantry Regiment under its colonel Charles-Angélique-François Huchet de la Bedoyère, who would be executed by the Bourbons for treason after the campaign ended. An old anecdote illustrates either Napoleon’s charisma or popularity, or (if untrue) the propaganda that operated in his lifetime and ever since: his army was confronted by troops sent by the king to stop him; the men on each side formed into lines and prepared to fire. Before fighting began, Napoleon walked between the two forces, faced the king’s men, ripped open his coat and said “If any of you will shoot your Emperor, shoot him now.” The men supposedly all joined his cause. This occurred at Leon and it would seem the “opposing” troops were too loudly cheering him for Napoleon to have actually said anything that could be heard.

One of his key commanders, Marshal Ney, who had said that Napoleon ought to be brought to Paris in an iron cage, joined him with 6,000 men on 14 March; five days later, after proceeding through the countryside promising constitutional reform and direct elections to an assembly, the emperor triumphantly entered the capital to the acclaim of gathered crowds, whence Louis XVIII had recently fled.

The royalists were of no concern: the duc d'Angoulême raised a small force for Louis XVIII in the south, but at Valence it melted away in front of Grouchy’s command; and the duke, on 9 April 1815, signed a convention whereby they received a free pardon from the emperor. The royalists of the Vendée moved later and caused more trouble.

Napoleon's health

The evidence as to his health is somewhat conflicting. Carnot, Pasquier, Lavalette Thiéhault and others thought him prematurely aged and enfeebled. For much of his public life, Napoleon was troubled by ill health, which made sitting on a horse for long periods of time difficult and painful. This condition would have disastrous results when he fought at Waterloo; during the battle, his inability to sit on his horse for other than very short periods of time interfered with his ability to survey, and thus exercise command of, his troops in combat. Others again saw no marked change in him; while Mollien, who knew the emperor well, attributed the lassitude which now and then came over him to a feeling of perplexity caused by his changed circumstances.

Constitutional Reform

At Lyon, on 13 March 1815, Napoleon issued an edict dissolving the existing chambers and ordering the convocation of a national mass meeting, or Champ de Mai, for the purpose of modifying the constitution of the Napoleonic empire. He reportedly told Benjamin Constant "I am growing old. The repose of a constitutional king may suit me. It will more surely suit my son".

That work was carried out by Benjamin Constant in concert with the emperor. The resulting Acte additionel (supplementary to the constitutions of the empire) bestowed on France an hereditary chamber of peers and a chamber of representatives elected by the "electoral colleges" of the empire.

According to Châteaubriand, in reference to Louis XVIII’s constitutional charter, the new constitution — La Benjamine, it was dubbed — was merely a "slightly improved" version of the charter associated with Louis XVIII's administration; however, later historians, including Agatha Ramm, have pointed out that this constitution permitted the extension of the franchise and explicitly guaranteed press freedom. In the Republican manner, the Constitution was put to the people of France in a plebiscite, but whether due to lack of enthusiasm, or the fact that the nation was suddenly thrown into military preparation, only 1,532,527 votes were cast in the plebiscite, less than half of those of the plebiscites of the Consulate; however, the benefit of a 'large majority' meant that Napoleon felt he had constitutional sanction.

Napoleon was with difficulty dissuaded from quashing the 3 June election of Lanjuinais, the staunch liberal who had so often opposed the emperor, as president of the chamber of deputies. In his last communication to them, Napoleon warned them not to imitate the Greeks of the later Empire, who engaged in subtle discussions when the ram was battering at their gates.

Military mobilisation

During the Hundred Days both the Coalition nations and Napoleon Bonaparte mobilised for war. Upon reassumption of the throne, Bonaparte found that he was left with little by Louis XVIII. There were 56,000 soldiers of which 46,000 were ready to campaign. By the end of May the total armed forces available to Bonaparte had reached 198,000 with 66,000 more in depots training up but not yet ready for deployment.

By the end of May Napoleon Bonaparte had formed L'Armée du Nord (the "Army of the North") which, led by Bonaparte would participate in the Waterloo Campaign.

For the defence of France, Bonaparte deployed his remaining forces within France observing his enemies, foreign and domestic, intending to delay the former and suppress the latter. By June they were organised thus:

  • V Corps, – L'Armée du Rhin – commanded by Rapp, cantoned near Strassburg;
  • VII Corps – L'Armée des Alpes – commanded by Suchet, cantoned at Lyon;
  • I Corps of Observation – L'Armée du Jura – commanded by Lecourbe, cantoned at Belfort;
  • II Corps of Observation – L'Armée du Var – commanded by Brune, based at Toulon;
  • III Corps of Observation – Army of the Pyrenees orientales – commanded by Decaen, based at Toulouse;
  • IV Corps of Observation – Army of the Pyrenees occidentales – commanded by Clauzel, based at Bordeaux;
  • Army of the West, – Armée de l'Ouest (also know as the Army of the Vendee and the Army of the Loire) – commanded by Lamarque, was formed to suppress the Royalist insurrection in the Vendée region of France which remained loyal to King Louis XVIII during the Hundred Days.

Opposing Coalition forces:

Archduke Charles gathered Austrian and allied German states, while the Prince of Schwartzenberg formed another Austrian army. King Ferdinand VII of Spain summoned English officers to lead his troops against France. Tsar Alexander I of Russia mustered an army of 250,000 troops and sent these rolling toward the Rhine. Prussia mustered two armies, one under Blucher that sat aside Wellington’s British army and its allies. The other was the North German Corps under General Kleist.

  • Assessed as an immediate threat by Napoleon Bonaparte:
    • Anglo-Allied, commanded by Wellington, cantoned south west Brussels, headquartered at Brussels.
    • Prussian Army commanded by Blücher, cantoned south of east of Brussels, headquartered at Namur.
  • Close to the borders of France but assessed to be less of a threat by Napoleon Bonaparte:
  • Other coalition forces which were either converging on France, mobilised to defend the homelands, or in the process of mobilisation included:
    • A Russian Army, commanded by Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly, and marching towards France
    • A Reserve Russian Army to support de Tolly if required.
    • A Reserve Prussian Army stationed at home in order to defend its borders.
    • An Anglo-Sicilian Army under General Sir Hudson Lowe, which was to be landed by the Royal Navy on the southern French coast.
    • Two Spanish Armies were assembling and planning to invade over the Pyrenees.
    • A Netherlands Corps, under Prince Frederick of the Netherlands, was not present at Waterloo but like the German Corps, but as a corps in Wellington's army it did take part in minor military actions during the Coalition's invasion of France.
    • A Danish contingent known as the Royal Danish Auxiliary Corps commanded by General Prince Frederick of Hessen-Kassel and a Hanseatic contingent (from the free cities of Bremen, Lubeck and Hamburg) commanded by the British Colonel Sir Neil Campbell, were on their way to join Wellington, both however, joined the army in July having missed the conflict.
    • A Portuguese contingent, which due to the speed of events never assembled.

War begins

At the Congress of Vienna, the powers of Europe and their allies Declaration at the Congress of Vienna, and with the signing of this declaration on 13 March 1815, so began the War of the Seventh Coalition. The hopes of peace that Napoleon had entertained were gone – war was now inevitable.

A further treaty was ratified on 25 March whereby each of the powers of Europe (Austria, Great Britain, Prussia and Russia) agreed to pledge 150,000 men for the forthcoming conflict. Such a number was not possible for Great Britain as her standing army was smaller than the three of her ‘Big Four’ peers. Besides this her forces were scattered around the globe, many units of which were still in Canada where the War of 1812 had recently ceased. With this in mind she made up her numerical deficiencies by paying subsidies to the other powers and to the other states of Europe that would contribute contingents.

Sometime after the allies began mobilising it was eventually agreed that the planned invasion of France was to commence on July 1st 1815, much later than both Blucher and Wellington would have liked as both their armies were more or less ready in June, ahead of the Austrians and Russians, the latter whose army was still some distance away. The advantage of this later invasion date was that it allowed all of the invading Coalition armies a chance to be ready at the same time, in order that they may bring their combined numerically superior forces against Napoleon's smaller thinly spread forces, thus ensuring his defeat and avoiding themselves being defeated in detail within the borders of France. The drawback of this postponed invasion date was that it allowed Napoleon more time to build and strengthen his forces and defences which would make it harder and more costly in terms of lives, time and money for the allies to defeat him.

Napoleon now had two military options. Fight a defensive war or fight an offensive one. A defensive war would entail repeating the 1814 campaign in France but with much larger numbers of troops at his disposal. France's chief cities, Paris and Lyons, would be fortified and two great French armies, the larger before Paris and the smaller before Lyons, would protect these and francs-tireurs would be encouraged giving the Coalition armies their very own taste of guerrilla warfare courtesy of the French.

Napoleon chose the latter option, which entailed a pre-emptive strike at his enemies before they were all fully assembled and able to co-operate and aid one another. By destroying some of the major Coalition armies, Napoleon believed he would then be able to bring the governments of the Seventh Coalition to the peace table to discuss results favourable to himself, namely peace for France with himself remaining in power as its head. If peace was rejected by the allies despite any pre-emptive military success he may have achieved using the offensive military option available to him, then the war would continue, and as far as Napoleon's military situation would be concerned, half the job would have already been accomplished and he would then turn his attention to defeating the rest of the Coalition armies.

Waterloo Campaign


French forces

Upon assumption of the throne, Napoleon found that he was left with little by the Bourbons and that the state of the Army was 56,000 troops of which 46,000 were ready to campaign.

By the end of May Napoleon had deployed his forces as follows:

A more troops guarded the other frontiers of France and Lamarque led the small Army of the West into La Vendee to quell a Royalist insurrection in that region.

By the 1 June the total armed forces available to Napoleon had reached 198,000 with 66,000 more in depots training up but not yet ready for deployment.

Coalition forces

In the early days of June 1815, Wellington and Blucher forces were disposed as follows:

Wellington’s Anglo-allied army of 93,000 with headquarters at Brussels were cantoned:

Blucher’s Prussian army of 116,000 men, with headquarters at Namur, was distributed as follows:

The frontier in front of Binche, Charleroi and Dinant was watched by the Prussian outposts.

Thus the Coalition front extended for nearly 90 miles across what is now Belgium, and the mean depth of their cantonments was 30 miles. To concentrate the whole army on either flank would take six days, and on the common centre, around Charleroi, three days.


Napoleon moved the 128,000 strong Army of the North, up to the French Belgium frontier. The left wing of the Army of the North (I and II corps) was under the command of Marshal Ney, and the right wing (III and IV corps) under the command of Marshal Grouchy. Napoleon was in direct command of the Reserve (French Imperial Guard, VI Corps, and the I, II, III, and IV cavalry corps). During the initial advance all three elements remained close enough to support each another.

Napoleon crossed the frontier at Thuin near Charleroi, the French drove in Coalition outposts and secured Napoleon’s favoured “central position” – at the junction between Wellington’s army to his north-west, and Blücher’s Prussian to his north-east. Wellington had expected Napoleon to try to envelop the Coalition armies by moving through Mons to the west of Brussels. Napoleon encouraged this view with false intelligence. A message from Wellington’s intelligence chief, Sir Colquhoun Grant, was delayed by General Dörnberg, and Wellington first heard of the capture of Charleroi at 15:00 shortly followed by another message from the Prince of Orange. Wellington ordered his army to collect at their divisional headquarters, but was still unsure whether the attack in Charleroi was a feint and the main assault would come from Mons, and Wellington only found out with certainty Napoleon’s intentions and sent out orders for the mustering of his army near Nivelles and Quatre Bras just before midnight on the 15 June.

In all the allies had built up a fairly accurate intelligence picture of the French deployments with counter-intelligence operations having a greater effect upon the Wellington's army which feared a drive along the coast via Mons servering from the supplying ports, while the Prussian General Staff seems to have divined the French armies intent rather more accurately.

The Prussians were not taken unaware, (General Zeithen noting the number of campfires as early as the 13th) and Blücher began to Concentrate his forces, so Napoleon considered the Prussians the greater threat, and so he moved against them first with the right wing of the Army of the North and the Reserves, attacking their outposts at Thuin near Charleroi, before advancing through Charleroi. His scouts reached Quatre Bras that evening. Graf von Zieten’s I Corps rearguard action held up Napoleon’s advance, giving Blücher the opportunity to concentrate his forces in the Sombreffe position, which had been selected earlier for its good defensive attributes. Napoleon sent Marshal Ney, in charge of the French left wing, to secure the crossroads of Quatre Bras, towards which Wellington was hastily gathering his dispersed army.

Quatre Bras

Ney, advancing on 16 June, found Quatre Bras lightly held by Dutch troops of Wellington's army, but despite outnumbering the Allies heavily throughout the day, he fought a cautious and desultory battle which failed to capture the crossroads. By the middle of the afternoon, Wellington had taken personal command of the Anglo-allied forces at Quatre Bras. The position was reinforced steadily throughout the day as Anglo-allied troops converged on the crossroads. The battle ended in a tactical draw. Later, the Allies ceded the field at Quatre Bras in order to consolidate their forces on more favourable ground to the north along the road to Brussels as a prelude to the Battle of Waterloo.


Napoleon, meanwhile, the right wing of the army and the reserve and defeated the Prussians, under the command of General Blücher, at the Battle of Ligny on the same day. The Prussian centre gave way under heavy French attack, but the flanks held their ground. Several heavy Prussian cavalry charges proved enough to dissuade the French pursuit and indeed they would not pursue the Prussians until the morning of, 18 June. D'Erlon’s I Corps wandered between both battles contributing to neither Quatre Bras nor to Ligny. Napoleon wrote to Ney warning him that allowing D'Erlon to wander so far away had crippled his attacks on Quatre Bras and made no move to recall D'Erlon when he could have easily done so. The tone of his orders leave it that he believed he had things well in hand at Ligny without assistance (as in fact he did).


The Prussian defeat at Ligny made the Quatre Bras position untenable. On 17 June Wellington duly fell back to the north. His control of Quatre Bras enabled the Prussians to fall back parallel to his line of retreat and not, as Napoleon had hoped, away from him.

This was part of Napoleon’s strategy to split the much larger Coalition force into pieces that he could outnumber and attack separately. His theory was based on the assumption that an attack through the centre of the Coalition forces would force the two main armies to retreat in the direction of their respective supply bases, which were in opposite directions.

The general retreat of the Prussian army took it to the town of Wavre, and this by default became the marshalling point of the army. The Prussian chief of staff, General August von Gneisenau, planned to rally the Prussian Army at Tilly, from where it could move to support Wellington, but control was lost, with part of the army retreating toward the Rhine, but the majority rallied at Wavre. General Blücher arrived at Wavre, after having fallen under his horse whilst leading a counter charge at Ligny, then being ridden over by French cavalry twice. After a meeting, Gneisenau was persuaded to march upon Wellington’s left flank at dawn with the I, II and IV Corps. The IV Corps, under the command of General Bülow von Dennewitz, had not been present at Ligny, but arrived to reinforce the Prussian army during the nights of the 17th and 18th. III Corps formed the rearguard, to hinder the pursuing French.

Napoleon set off via Quatre Bras with the Reserves and combined his forces with the left wing of the Army of the North to pursue Wellington’s forces, which were retreating toward Brussels. Just before the small village of Waterloo, Wellington deployed most of his forces on the rear side of an escarpment. He placed some of his forces in front of the main deployment in two fortified farmhouses at the base of the escarpment, which guarded the two roads to Brussels.

Marshal Grouchy with the right wing of the Army of the North moved to Grannape and assimilating intelligence provided him by his outpost services. Indications that three Prussian corps had moved through the area were received were believed to be concentrating near Brussels to support Wellington. This information was collected and sent by Marshal Grouchy at 22:00 on the night of 17 June. In this letter Grouchy noted the collection of the Prussians in and around Warve. This was of concern to both Grouchy and Napoleon because the Prussians could use the road through Wavre straight to the assembled armies of Wellington.


It was at Waterloo on 18 June 1815 that the decisive battle of the campaign took place. The start of the battle was delayed for several hours as Napoleon waited until the ground had dried from the previous night’s rain. By late afternoon the French army had not succeeded in driving Wellington’s forces from the escarpment on which they stood. Once the Prussians arrived, attacking the French right flank in ever increasing numbers, Napoleon’s key strategy of keeping the Seventh Coalition armies divided had failed and his army was driven from the field in confusion, by a combined coalition general advance.

On the morning of 18 June 1815 Napoleon sent orders to Marshal Grouchy, commander of the right wing of the Army of the North, to harass the Prussians to stop them reforming. These orders arrived at around 06:00 and his corps began to move out at 08:00; by 12:00 the cannons from the Battle of Waterloo could be heard. Grouchy’s corps commanders, especially Gérard, advised that they should "march to the sound of the guns". As this was contrary to Napoleon’s orders ("you will be the sword against the Prussians’ back driving them through Wavre and join me here") Grouchy decided not to take the advice. It became apparent that neither Napoleon nor Marshal Grouchy understood that the Prussian army was no longer either routed nor disorganised. Any thoughts of joining Napoleon were dashed when a second order repeating the same instructions arrived around 16:00.


Following Napoleon’s orders Grouchy attacked the Prussian III Corps under the command of General Johann von Thielmann near village of Wavre. Grouchy believed that he was engaging the rearguard of a still-retreating Prussian force. However only one Corps remained — the other three, Prussian Corps (I, II and the still fresh IV) had regrouped after the Prussians defeat at Ligny and were marching toward Waterloo.

The next morning the Battle of Wavre ended in a hollow French victory. Grouchy’s wing of the Army of the North withdrew in good order and other elements of the French army were able to reassemble around it. However, the army was not strong enough to resist the combined coalition forces, so it retreated toward Paris.

Napoleon surrenders

On arriving at Paris, three days after Waterloo, Napoleon still clung to the hope of concerting national resistance; but the temper of the chambers and of the public generally forbade any such attempt. Napoleon and his brother Lucien Bonaparte were almost alone in believing that, by dissolving the chambers and declaring Napoleon dictator, they could save France from the armies of the powers now converging on Paris. Even Davout, minister of war, advised Napoleon that the destinies of France rested solely with the chambers. Clearly, it was time to safeguard what remained; and that could best be done under Talleyrand’s shield of legitimacy.

Napoleon himself at last recognised the truth. When Lucien pressed him to “dare”, he replied, “Alas, I have dared only too much already”. On 22 June 1815 he abdicated in favour of his son, Napoléon Francis Joseph Charles Bonaparte, well knowing that it was a formality, as his son was in Austria. On 25 June he received from Fouché, the president of the newly-appointed provisional government, an intimation that he must leave Paris. He retired to Malmaison, the former home of Josephine, where she had died shortly after his first abdication.

On 29 June the near approach of the Prussians, who had orders to seize him, dead or alive, caused him to retire westwards toward Rochefort, whence he hoped to reach the United States. The presence of blockading Royal Navy warships with orders to prevent his escape forestalled this plan.

Finally, unable to remain in France or escape from it, he surrendered himself to Captain Maitland of HMS Bellerophon and was transported to England. The full restoration of Louis XVIII followed the emperor’s departure. Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to the island of Saint Helena where he died in May 1821.

Prussians enter Paris

With the abdication of Napoleon the provisional government led by Fouché appointed Davout, Napoleon’s minister of war, as General in Chief. French troops concentrated in Paris had as many soldiers as the invaders and more cannons.

There were two major skirmishes and a few minor ones near Paris during the first few days of July. In the first major skirmish, on 1 July French dragoons supported by infantry and commanded by General Exelmans destroyed a Prussian brigade of hussars under the command of Colonel von Sohr (who was severely wounded and taken prisoner during the skirmish). In the second, on 3 July, General Dominique Vandamme (under Davout's command) was defeated by General Graf von Zieten (under Blucher's command) at the Battle of Issy, forcing the French to retreat into Paris. With this defeat, all hope of holding Paris faded and it was agreed that the French Army would withdraw south of the Loire River and on 7 July Graf von Zieten's Prussian I Corps entered Paris.

Other campaigns and wars

While Napoleon had assessed that the Coalition forces in and around Brussels on the borders of north west France posed the greatest threat because Tolly's Russian army of 150,000 were still not in the theatre, Spain was slow to mobilise, Prince Schwarzenberg's Austrian army of 210,000 were slow to cross the Rhine, and another Austrian force menaced the south eastern frontier of France was still not a direct threat, Napoleon still had to place some badly needed forces in positions where they could defend France against other Coalition forces whatever the outcome of the Waterloo campaign.

Neapolitan War

The Neapolitan War between the Napoleonic Kingdom of Naples and the Austrian Empire, started on 15 March 1815 when Joachim Murat declared war on Austria and ended on 20 May 1815 with the signing of the Treaty of Casalanza. The war occurred between Napoleon's return from exile and before he left Paris to be decisively defeated at the Battle of Waterloo.

Napoleon had arranged for his brother-in-law, Joachim Murat, to become King of Naples on August 1, 1808. After France's defeat at the Battle of Leipzig, Murat reached an agreement with the Austrian Empire in order to save his own throne. However he realized that the European Powers, meeting as the Congress of Vienna, planned to remove him and give back the Kingdom of Naples to its pre-Napoleonic rulers. So, after issuing a proclamation to the Italian patriots in Rimini, Murat moved north to fight against the Austrians to strengthen his rule in Italy by military means.

The war was triggered by a pro-Napoleon uprising in Naples, after which Murat declared war on Austria on 15 March 1815, five days before Napoleon return to Paris. The Austrians were prepared for war, after their suspicions were raised when Murat applied for permission weeks earlier to move his troops through Austrian land in order to attack the south of France. Austria had reinforced her armies in Lombardy under the command of Bellegarde prior to war being declared.

The war ended after a decisive Austrian victory at the Battle of Tolentino and Ferdinand IV was reinstated as King of Naples. In the immediate aftermath of the war, Ferdinand sent Neapolitan force under the command of General Onasco to help the Austrian army in Italy to invade southern France. In the long term, the intervention by Austria caused resentment in Italy, which further spurred on the drive towards Italian unification.

Civil war

Provence and Brittany which were known to contain many royalist sympathisers did not rise in open revolt, but the La Vendée did. The Vendée Royalists successfully took Bressuire and Cholet before they were defeated by General Lamarque at the Battle of Rocheserviere on 20 June. They signed the Treaty of Cholet five days later on 25 June.

Austrian campaign

Rhine frontier

In early June General Rapp's Army of the Rhine of about 23,000 men, with a leavening of experience troops, advanced towards Germersheim to block Schwarzenberg expected advance, but on hearing the news of the French defeat at Waterloo, Rapp withdrew towards Strasbourg turning on June 28 to check the 40,000 men of General Württenberg's Austrian III Corps at the battle of La Suffel — the last pitch battle of the Napoleonic Wars and a French victory. Having done so, the next day Rapp continued to retreat to Strasbourg and also sent a garrison to defend Colmar . He and his men took no further active part in the campaign and eventually submitted to the Bourbons.

To the north of Württenberg's III Corps, General Wrede's Austrian (Bavarian) IV Corps also crossed the French frontier and then swung south and captured Nancy against some local popular resistance on the 27 June. Attached to his command was a Russian detachment under the command of General Count Lambert that was charged with keeping Wrede's lines of communication open. In early July Schwarzenberg having received a request from Wellington and Blucher, ordered Wrede to act as the Austrian vanguard and advance on Paris and by the 5 July the main body of Wrede's IV Corps had reached Châlons. On 6 July the advance guard made contact with the Prussians and on 7 July Wrede received intelligence of the Paris Convention and a request to move to the Loire. By 10 July Wrede's headquarters were at Ferté-sous-Jouarre and his corps positioned between the Seine and the Marne

Further south General Colloredo's Austrian I Corps was hindered by General Lecourbe's Armée du Jura that was largely made up of National Guardsmen and other reserves. Lecourbe fought four delaying actions between 30 June and 8 July at Foussemague, Bourogne, Chévremont and Bavilliers before agreeing to an armistice on 11 June. Archduke Ferdinand's Reserve Corps together with Hohenzollern-Hechingen's II Corps laid siege to the fortresses of Huningen and Muhlhausen, with two Swiss brigades from the Swiss Army of General Niklaus Franz von Bachmann, aiding with the siege of the former place. Like other Austrian forces, these too were pestered by francs-tireurs.

Italian frontier

Like Rapp further north, Marshal Suchet with the Armée des Alps initially took the initiative, and on the 14 June invaded Savoy. Facing him was General Frimont with an Austro-Sardinian army of 75,000 men based in Italy. However, on hearing of the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, Suchet negotiated an armistice and fell back to Lyons where on the 12 July he surrendered the city to the Frimont's army.

The Liguria coast was defended by French forces under Marshal Brune who fell back slowly into the fortress city of Toulon after retreating from Marseilles before the Austrian 'Army of Naples' under the command of General Bianchi, the Anglo-Sicilian forces of Sir Hudson Lowe supported by the British Mediterranean fleet of Lord Exmouth and the Sardinian forces of the Sardinian General d'Osasca, the forces of the latter being drawn from the garrison of Nice. Brune did not surrender the city and its naval arsenal contained within until 31 July.

Russian campaign

The main body of the Russian Army, commanded by Field Marshal Count Tolly, and amounting to 167,950 men, crossed the Rhine at Mannheim, on 25 June — after Napoleon had abdicated for the second time — and although there was a light resistance around Mannerheim it was over by the time the vanguard had advanced as far as Landau. The greater portion of Tolly's army reached Paris and its vicinity by the middle of July.

Treaty of Paris

Issy was the last field engagement of the 100 days. There was a campaign against hold out French fortresses that ended with the capitulation of Longwy on 13 September 1815. The Treaty of Paris was signed on 20 November, 1815 bringing the Napoleonic Wars a formal end.

Under the 1815 Paris treaty the previous year's Treaty of Paris, and the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna, of June 9, 1815, were confirmed. France was reduced to its 1790 boundaries; it lost the territorial gains of the Revolutionary armies in 1790–92, which the previous Paris treaty had allowed France to keep. France was now also ordered to pay 700 million francs in indemnities, in five yearly instalments, and to maintain at its own expense a Coalition army of occupation of 150,000 soldiersin the eastern border territories of France, from the English Channel to the border with Switzerland, for a maximum of five years. The two-fold purpose of the military occupation was rendered self-evident by the convention annexed to the treaty outlining the incremental terms by which France would issue negotiable bonds covering the indemnity: in addition to safeguarding the neighbouring states from a revival of revolution in France, it guaranteed fulfilment of the treaty's financial clauses.

On the same day, in a separate document, Great Britain, Russia, Austria, and Prussia renewed the Quadruple Alliance. The princes and free towns who were not signatories were invited to accede to its terms, whereby the treaty became a part of the public law by which Europe, with the exclusion of Ottoman Turkey, established "relations from which a system of real and permanent balance of power in Europe is to be derived.


See also Timeline of the Napoleonic era

Dates Synopsis of key events
26 February Napoleon Bonaparte slipped away from Elba.
1 March Napoleon Bonaparte landed near Antibes.
13 March The powers at the Congress of Vienna declared Napoleon Bonaparte an outlaw.
14 March Marshal Ney, who had said that Napoleon ought to be brought to Paris in an iron cage, joined him with 6,000 men.
15 March After he had received word of Napoleon's escape, Joachim Murat, Napoleon's brother-in-law and the King of Naples, declared war on Austria in a bid to save his crown.
17 March The United Kingdom, Russia, Austria and Prussia, members of the Seventh Coalition, bound themselves to put 150,000 men each into the field to end Napoleon Bonaparte's rule.
20 March Napoleon Bonaparte entered Paris — The start of the One Hundred Days.
9 April The high point for the Neapolitans as Murat attempted to force a crossing of the River Po. However, he is defeated at the Battle of Occhiobello and for the remainder of the war, the Neapolitans would be in full retreat.
3 May General Bianchi's Austrian I Corps decisively defeated Murat at the Battle of Tolentino.
20 May The Neapolitans signed the Treaty of Casalanza with the Austrians after Murat had fled to Corsica and his generals had sued for peace.
23 May Ferdinand IV was restored to the Neapolitan throne.
15 June French Army of the North crossed the frontier into the United Netherlands (in modern day Belgium).
16 June Napoleon Bonaparte beat Field Marshal Blucher at the Battle of Ligny. Simultaneously Marshal Ney and The Duke of Wellington fought the Battle of Quatre Bras at the end of which there was no clear victor.
18 June After the close, hard-fought Battle of Waterloo, the combined armies of Wellington and Blucher decisively defeated Napoleon Bonaparte's French Army of the North. The concurrent Battle of Wavre continued until the next day when Marshal Grouchy won a hollow victory against General Johann von Thielmann.
21 June Napoleon Bonaparte arrived back in Paris.
22 June Napoleon Bonaparte abdicated in favour of his son Napoléon Francis Joseph Charles Bonaparte.
29 June Napoleon Bonaparte left Paris for the west of France.
7 July Graf von Zieten's Prussian I Corps entered Paris.
8 July Louis XVIII was restored to the French throne — The end of the One Hundred Days.
15 July Napoleon Bonaparte surrendered to Captain Maitland of HMS Bellerophon.
13 October Joachim Murat is executed in Pizzo after he had landed there five days earlier hoping to regain his kingdom.
20 November Treaty of Paris signed.



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Further reading

  • Cordingly, David, The Billy Ruffian: The Bellerophon and the Downfall of Napoleon, Bloomsbury, 2003 ISBN 1-58234-468-X
  • Hofschroer, Peter, 1815: The Waterloo Campaign (Vol.2): The German victory, from Waterloo to the fall of Napoleon, Greenhill Books, 1999 ISBN 1853673684

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