What Happened at Waterloo?


Quick Answer

The Battle of Waterloo, fought in modern-day Belgium in 1815, was a major military defeat for Napoleon Bonaparte and his French troops. Waterloo marked the end of the First French Empire and ushered in a period of peace and prosperity for all of Europe.

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Full Answer

Napoleon's skilled army was defeated at Waterloo by two members of the Seventh Coalition: an army commanded by the Duke of Wellington and a Prussian army under the command of General Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. Both of Napoleon's adversaries were highly decorated soldiers, allied together to annihilate the First French Empire and Napoleon's second rise to power as Emperor.

The battle began early in the morning on June 18, 1815, on an especially wet and miserable day. Napoleon's artillery and cavalry struggled against the weather, which greatly impacted their performance in battle. The first bought of fighting occurred near Hougoumont, a post established by Wellington. Though French light cavalry made repeated attacks on the post, it remained firmly under English control until Napoleon's surrender.

The French infantry made their first attack against Prussian troops sometime around noon, effectively pushing back Blücher's men and turning the tide of war in Napoleon's favor. However, clashes between the British heavy cavalry and Napoleon's Imperial Guard resulted in a weakening of Napoleon's defenses. By dusk, his forces retreated and surrendered to Wellington's and Blücher's rallying troops, thus drawing a close to the Battle of Waterloo. Less than a month later, Napoleon Bonaparte would abdicate from the French Empire (for the second time) and end the Napoleonic Wars.

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