The Battle Of Waterloo Analysis Essay

Length: 7 pages Sources: 5 Subject: American History Type: Essay Paper: #37301901 Related Topics: Veterans, Richard Iii, Poland, Monarchy
Excerpt from Essay :

Battle of Waterloo took place on the 18th of June 1815, when the allied European forces teamed up with the Prussian forces to bring down the French forces under the command of Napoleon. The battle brought to an end Napoleon's dream of conquering and establishing his empire in continental Europe. This text analyzes the causes of, and events surrounding the battle.

Battle Analysis Outline

The Battle of Waterloo

Define the Subject

a) Who fought the battle?

The Battle of Waterloo was fought by three armies -- the French Army (Armee de Nord) under the command of Napoleon, the multinational army under General Wellington's command, and the Prussian army under Gebhard Blucher.

The French Army: the French army was by far the most equipped of the three, consisting of approximately 74,000 soldiers; 48,000 infantries; 14,000 cavalries; 7,000 artilleries and 250 guns[footnoteRef:2]. It consisted primarily of veteran soldiers, a majority of whom had already taken part in one or more campaigns for Napoleon in the past. Differently from their counterparts, the French's cavalries were numerous and formidable, and included 14 regiments of armored and heavy cavalry and 7 highly versatile lancers[footnoteRef:3] [2: Richard Evans, "Waterloo: Causes,. Courses and Consequences," Gresham University, accessed September 16, 2015, ] [3: Evans, "Waterloo: Causes, Courses and Consequences."]

ii) The multinational army: this was largely inexperienced and ill-equipped, consisting of 68,000 soldiers; 50,000 infantries; 11,000 cavalries; 6,000 artilleries and 150 guns[footnoteRef:4]. Approximately 6,000 soldiers were from the King's German Legion, whereas 23,000 were British[footnoteRef:5]. The British troops were composed primarily of regular soldiers, and only 7,000 were veterans, having fought in the Peninsular War[footnoteRef:6]. In addition to the British and German troops, Wellington's army also included 17,000 Dutch troops; 11, 000 troops from Hanover; 6,000 troops from Brunswick and 3,000 troops from Nassau[footnoteRef:7]. The alliance army was, however, short of regiments of heavy cavalry, with only seven British regimens and 3 Dutch regimens[footnoteRef:8]. [4: Ibid ] [5: Ibid] [6: Ibid] [7: Evans, "Waterloo: Causes, Courses and Consequences."] [8: Ibid]

iii) The Prussian Army: this consisted of 50,000 men from four brigades[footnoteRef:9]. It consisted mainly of veterans, although there also was a sizeable number of recruits[footnoteRef:10]. [9: Rupert Matthews, The Battle of Waterloo: Europe in the Balance (London, UK: Acturus Publishing, 2015), n.pag. ] [10: Matthews, The Battle of Waterloo: Europe in the Balance, n.pag]

b) When did they fight? The battle was fought on Sunday 18th June, 1815[footnoteRef:11]. However, the historic Waterloo Campaign ran for approximately four days between the 14th and the 17th of June before the actual battle took place on the 18th[footnoteRef:12]. As the sun set on the evening of 14th June, the men of the I Corp of the Prussian Army were ordered to sleep with their weapons within reach, and their uniforms on, and at dawn, the first shots were fired by French advanced scouts[footnoteRef:13]. c) Where did the battle take place? The battle took place on a battleground located in present-day Belgium, near the town of Waterloo and approximately 12 km south of Brussels[footnoteRef:14]. Belgium then was part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. [11: Andrew Roberts, Napoleon and Wellington: The Battle of Waterloo and the Great Commanders who Fought it (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2001), xxix] [12: Matthews, The Battle of Waterloo: Europe in the Balance, n.pag] [13: Ibid] [14: Ibid]

II. Review the Strategic Setting

a) What caused the battle: the Battle of Waterloo was caused primarily by Napoleon's return to France from exile in February, 1815. During the 1814 battle, a number of European states had formed an alliance, whose combined troops had defeated the French army and sent Napoleon, their emperor, into abdication in Elba, off the Italian coast to prevent him from gaining control over continental Europe[footnoteRef:15]. Napoleon is said to have, however, got bored at Elba and organized his return to France to reclaim his grander title[footnoteRef:16]. Upon Napoleon's unexpected return to Paris, the European states that had opposed and fought against him in the 1814 battle feared that he had returned to continue his vision of conquering the greater continental Europe. As such, they reorganized their forces, and were prepared to stop him at all costs. It was this conflict between Napoleon and his former conquerors that led to the Battle of Waterloo. The allies who had ganged up against him before reassembled their forces...


[15: Evans, "Waterloo: Causes, Courses and Consequences."] [16: Ibid] [17: Ibid]

b) What specific events led to this battle? This could be examined based on the specific events that facilitated Napoleon's return to France, and the factors that made it relatively easy for him to reconstitute his army.

i) King Louis XVIII's Loss of Popularity among the French Public: upon successfully sending Napoleon to exile in 1814, the European allies that had fought against him put King Louis XVIII in control of the French monarchy[footnoteRef:18]. Louis, however, fell out with the French public and army almost immediately. He embarked on a mission to pay for the legacy of the war that had sent Napoleon to exile. For this reason, he instituted a number of policies that sought to raise finances for the same at the expense of the public[footnoteRef:19]. For instance, contrary to his followers' expectations, he opted to retain the unpopular taxes that had been imposed by Napoleon, cut down on the army's expenditure, laid out almost half of its members, and imposed 50% pay cuts on 12,000 army officials[footnoteRef:20]. These moves caused him to fall-out with the French public and influential army officials. He further lost favor with the educated French owing to his proclamation of militant Catholicism as the country's religion[footnoteRef:21]. These factors all caused Louis to become unpopular, with most people perceiving him as unable to fit into Napoleon's boots[footnoteRef:22]. This loss of popularity made it relatively easy for Napoleon to win the hearts of the French public upon his return and to also reconstitute his army from the disgruntled veterans in King Louis' army. King Louis' right-hand man, Marshall Ney, whom he sent to conquer Napoleon's troops as they tried to force their way into Paris, was one of those who crossed to their former emperor's side[footnoteRef:23]. [18: Ibid] [19: Ibid] [20: Evans, "Waterloo: Causes, Courses and Consequences."] [21: Ibid] [22: Ibid] [23: Ibid]

ii) Disunity among the Allies in the Vienna Conference: the allies' conflicting interests had driven them to engage in numerous quarrels with each other in Vienna, and this provided ample opportunity for Napoleon to take advantage of their distraction from Paris[footnoteRef:24]. Russia and Poland, for instance, were in conflict owing to the former's intention to absorb a sizeable portion of the latter and leave it a puppet state. The case was no different between Austria and Prussia, where the latter demanded the entire Kingdom of Saxony, but the former would have none of this[footnoteRef:25]. These conflicting goals caused disunity among the allied nations of continental Europe, making it relatively easy for Napoleon to slip through and reorganize his forces[footnoteRef:26]. [24: Ibid] [25: William Siborne, History of the War in France and Belgium in 1815: Containing Minute Details of the Battles of Quatre-Bas, Ligny, Wavre and Waterloo (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 17] [26: Ibid]

iii) The Return of French Prisoners: the authority of the Congress in Vienna had opted to have French soldiers who had been captured during the 1814 battle and held as prisoners in Britain, Spain, Germany, and Austria returned to their country. These men provide ample platforms for Napoleon to reconstitute a strong army and regain his pre-exile position in Paris[footnoteRef:27]. [27: Evans, "Waterloo: Causes, Courses and Consequences."]

III. Compare military systems

The military systems for the two sides differed significantly in terms of the availability of equipment and artillery, and the overall level of experience. The French troops were better-equipped, with heavier artillery and more experienced soldiers (all of Napoleon's soldiers during the battle were veterans, having taken part in other campaigns in the past. Wellington's camp, on the other hand, was highly inexperienced, composed mainly of regular soldiers, with only a handful of veterans. The Prussian army was no different -- it consisted mainly of poorly-trained militia as most of its veteran soldiers had been injured in the defeat to Napoleon at Ligny[footnoteRef:28]. The battle at Ligny had drained Blucher's camp significantly, and equipment, ammunition, and guns were, therefore, in short supply. Although the Wellington and Prussian forces combined outnumbered the French troops, they were still largely inferior to the latter in terms of the level of experience, the number of veterans, and the availability of artillery. [28: Ibid]

IV. Describe each side's plan:

i) Napoleon's Plan: before Napoleon and his forces invaded Paris, the powers at the Congress of Vienna made an open declaration that he was an outlaw, and would be fought by the combined action of the allies[footnoteRef:29]. Following this declaration, Prussia, Austria, Russia and the United Kingdom began to prepare their armies for the invasion…

Sources Used in Documents:


Evans, Richard. "Waterloo: Causes,. Courses and Consequences." Gresham University, accessed September 16, 2015 from

Hibbert, Christopher. Waterloo: Napoleon's Last Campaign. Hertfordshire, UK: Wordsworth Publishers, 1998.

Matthews, Rupert. The Battle of Waterloo: Europe in the Balance. London, UK: Acturus Publishing, 2015.

Roberts, Andrew. Napoleon and Wellington: The Battle of Waterloo and the Great Commanders who Fought it. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2001.

Cite this Document:

"The Battle Of Waterloo Analysis" (2015, September 16) Retrieved January 20, 2022, from

"The Battle Of Waterloo Analysis" 16 September 2015. Web.20 January. 2022. <>

"The Battle Of Waterloo Analysis", 16 September 2015, Accessed.20 January. 2022,

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