WATERLOO, Napoleon found himself again facing referat






WATERLOO


In the summer of 1815, Napoleon found himself again facing Wellington, this time in Belgium. He intended to divide the Prussian and British armies and destroy them in detail. On June 16th, Napoleon led half his army into battle against the Prussians at Ligny while Ney led the other half against the British at Quatre Bras. Two days later, Napoleon faced Wellington for the last time. After the battle of Ligny and Quatre Bras, Napoleon advanced on the British army which was concentrated at Mont St. Jean, Belgium. The British had arrayed their forces in a defensive posture on a slight ridge that overlooked a marshy valley. Wellington had anchored his right flank on a stone farmhouse called Chateau de Hougoumont. In the center of his line was another farmhouse know as La Haye Saint. Both of these farmhouses had almost been converted into fortresses, giving the British excellent defensive strongpoints. On the day of the battle, Napoleon launched a three pronged attack on the Anglo-Dutch positions. Fearing that any sort of a flanking assault would bog down in the Valley, Napoleon decided to concentrate the majority of his forces in an attempt to break Wellington’s center and intended to launch only pinning attacks on the British left and right wings. The French offensive began on the British right flank at the Chateau. Held by only 4 light companies of British guards, the Chateau became the focal point of vicious, close-range fighting. Desperate attack followed desperate attack until virtually all of Prince Jerome’s division, and almost half of the rest of Reille’s corps, was involved in the fight. Wellington, seeing the mass of uncommitted French troops opposite his center, resisted the temptation to reinforce the Chateau’s defenders and chose to save his reserves for the upcoming frontal assault.At 1:30 that afternoon, the main French assault began. Under the cover of an 80 gun barrage, 3 French divisions charged through the valley and up the slope of the ridge. When the French reached the crest of the hill, they were met with withering musket fire at point-blank range. In order to keep his units intact through the bombardment, Wellington had ordered his men to lie down on the concealed side of the ridge. So, when the 16,000 men of D’Erlon’s Ist corps reached the top of the rise, they were confronted with a mass of organized and determined British regulars. Nevertheless, the French fought fiercely and succeeded in forcing a hole in the Allied center. Before the French could exploit this weakness, however, General Picton and a brigade of his peninsular veterans charged into the fray and stopped the French breakthrough. D’Erlon could move no further. Wellington, seeing the French stalled on the ridge, called his cavalry to the attack. Under Lord Uxbridge’s command, Lord Somerset’s Household cavalry and Ponsonby’s Union Brigade Charged into the disordered French and threw them off the ridge. D’Erlon’s men were put to flight and badly mauled by the elite British heavy cavalry. Spurred on by their success, the British cavalry continued their chase until they reached the main French lines. Without infantry support, they were all but annihilated by French artillery and cavalry counter-charges. At this point, Marshal Ney was ordered to take La Haye Saint, the farmhouse that so nicely reinforced the Allied center. He led the rallied remnants of D’Erlon’s Ist corps forward under cover of an intense bombardment and was repulsed by the dug in defenders. Ney, thinking that the Allies were ready to crack, called for a massive cavalry charge. He led forward no less than 5,000 cavalrymen, many of them elite heavy cavalry, in a charge against the ridge between La Haye Saint and Hougoumont. Upon reaching the crest, the French were confronted with an awesome spectacle, 20 British squares drawn up on the reverse slope ofpar the hill, waiting with gleaming bayonets for the gallant French horsemen. The French cavalry circled the invincible squares, but without artillery or infantry support the charge was doomed to failure. The survivors fled back through the valley while Ney tried in vain to rally them. After a brief lull in the battle, Ney again formed an assault force out of the remnants of his cavalry and again charged the ridge. He was once more repulsed, but this time only barely. Wellington’s troops were becoming weary and he was running out of reserves. After another lull in the battle, Ney decided to try again. This time, however, he used a proper combinationpar of artillery, infantry, and cavalry and he took La Haye Saint. Despite heavy casualties, the French managed to storm the farmhouse and the nearby orchard. The British line was about to crack and Ney could sense it. He called to Napoleon for more reserves, but due to the Prussian arrival on the French right flank, there were none left as the Imperial Guard was being committed against the Prussians. Ney was forced to give up his gains and pulled back across the valley. The battle quieted for a short time, during which the Imperial Guard was placed back in reserve. Wellington brought up the last of his reserves and prepared for the final onslaught. At 7:00 PM the Imperial Guard were released to Ney and were ordered to take the British held positions on the ridge between La Haye Saint and Hougoumont. The Guard, 11 battalions of the most disciplined and experienced troops in Europe, marched up the ridge. Upon reaching the crest, an entire brigade of British troops rose up from a cornfield and poured withering fire into the French columns. For the first time, the Guard broke and ran before the enemy. With the cry of, “La Guard recule!”, the French army began to disintegrate. Wellington seized the moment and counterattacked, putting the rest of the army to flight. Napoleon’s last desperate gamble for victory had failed, and with it his dreams of rebuilding his empire.









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