How Did the Undefeatable Napoleon ‘Meet His Waterloo’?

Fareeha Arshad

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The French general turned Emporer, Napolean BonapartePixabay

The French general turned Emporer, Napolean Bonaparte, was one of the greatest military generals to ever live in History. That is what makes Napoleon’s defeat at the hands of the Duke of Wellington in 1815 a historical one.

The rise of Napoleon

Napoleon’s rise in ranks came during the French revolution during the late 1790s. He became the first French consul in 1800, and a couple of years later, he successfully established a new system of French law — the Napoleonic Code. Another couple of years later, he was appointed as the French Emporer. His vast empire stretched from the River Elbe to Italy and the Pyrenees to the Dalmatian coast. His enormous success can be gauged by the fact that by 1812, he was in control of the majority of Europe.

After years of success, Napoleon faced one of his first defeats against the Russians. After that, he lost Spain to the Duke of Wellington and was exiled to Elba's island in the Mediterranean region. Napoleon then escaped to France in 1815, built an army from scratch, and headed towards Belgium. He first defeated the Prussians led by Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher.

The Doom’s Day: Battle of Waterloo

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A painting of the Battle of Waterloo showing Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of WellingtonWikimedia Commons

After his win, Napoleon and his 72,000 men army marched towards Duke of Wellington’s 68,000 men army near Waterloo. However, upon reaching the place, the French general discovered that the battleground was soaked due to the storm’s previous night. So instead of attacking immediately, he waited until the afternoon for the ground to dry. This change in plans gave the Duke enough time to join forces with the defeated Prussian army.

An unexpected increase in the army took Napoleon and his people by surprise. And that’s how their opponents crushed the French during the Battle of Waterloo. Over 25,000 men lost their lives from the French army, 9,000 were capture, and the rest were wounded. Napoleon fled the battleground. On the winning end, 23,000 men were killed.

After the crushing defeat

After the unexpected defeat, when Napoleon returned to Paris, he found that he was no longer the emperor and gave himself over to the British protection at Rochefort. From there, he was exiled to a remote island in the Atlantic, Saint Helena.

Six years after the events at Waterloo, Napoleon lost another battle — this time against cancer. Finally, at fifty-one, he was afflicted with a bad case of stomach cancer and suddenly passed away. His body was then returned to Paris, where a grand funeral ceremony was arranged.

Sources:

[1] “Why We’d Be Better Off if Napoleon Never Lost at Waterloo. Smithsonian Magazine”. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/we-better-off-napoleon-never-lost-waterloo-180955298/. Published 2015. Accessed June 16, 2021.

[2] “Why Did Napoleon Lose the Battle of Waterloo?” HowStuffWorks. https://history.howstuffworks.com/european-history/battle-waterloo.htm. Published 2020. Accessed June 16, 2021.

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I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I write about current affairs, history, science, and lifestyle.

Texas State
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