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100 Days (Waterloo) Campaign

1815

Battlefield Tour Suggestions for Belgium
Documentary on the campaign

This was the last campaign of the Napoleonic Wars and finally ended Napoleon Bonaparte's dreams of remaining emperor of France.

It began with Bonaparte's now legendary escape from his exile on the island of Elba to a France that had quickly become disenchanted with the returned Bourbon king Louis XVIII.

The former emperor landed near Cannes with 600 guardsmen of his bodyguard and moved towards Grenoble where he was confronted by men of the 5th Regiment, which had been sent to arrest him.

Advancing alone Bonaparte said: "Soldiers of the 5th. You can shoot your emperor if you dare." None did.

As he advanced on Paris his military force grew with thousands of old soldiers and regular troops flocking to his banner. So many, in fact, that a notice appeared in the Place Vendome in Paris: "From Napoleon to Louis XVIII. My good brother - there is no need to send any more troops - I have enough."

On March 19, the Bourbons fled for Belgium and a day later Bonaparte took government and began preparations for the Allied military onslaught he knew would come.

Two months after his return to France Bonaparte had an army of 280,000 men, with half again due within another two months. Impressive though that force was, it would be moved upon by Allied armies filled with almost 1,000,000 men.

Initially, however, only England's Duke of Wellington (110,000 men) and Prussia's Field Marshal Blucher (120,000) were close enough to threaten France and so Bonaparte decided to strike before the numbers told against him.

Moving with stunning speed, he invaded Belgium with 125,000 men in a bid to split Wellington and Blucher's armies and defeat each separately.

The strategic plan worked brilliantly and, picking the Prussians as his first target, he despatched Marshal Ney to hold off the Anglo-Allied force.

 
 
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