'I tell you Wellington is a bad General and the English bad soldiers. We'll settle this by lunchtime' - Napoleon
The Napoleon of Austerlitz might have settled the matter with Wellington by lunchtime, but not the thoroughly cynical Napoleon of ten years later who in the summer of 1815 squared off with the seventh and last of the coalitions he faced in his illustrious career.
The culmination of a lightning-quick 3 day campaign for Napoleon's Army of the North, a veteran army of highly motivated men and one of his best ever, the battle fought in Belgium at Mont St. Jean near the tiny village of Waterloo on June 18, 1815, was one of the bloodiest and most decisive in history. Few battles, Cannae and Borodino among them, rivaled the human carnage of Waterloo.
This titanic struggle of wills ranks as a great turning point in modern history, for it effectively ended French domination of the European continent and brought about drastic changes in the political boundaries and the balance of power in Europe. It would not be until the Crimean War nearly 40 years later that the flower of European youth was again ready to march off to war with the kind of cavalier attitude and thirst for glory so typical of the period of the Napoleonic Wars. And not until the disastrous Somme offensives of 1916 would such losses as those at Waterloo again be seen on a European battlefield.
The first shots being fired around 11:30 on Sunday morning, 18 June 1815, and the last shots being fired well into the evening, after a full day of battle nearly 50,000 men and 10,000 horses ended up dead, dying or wounded on a plot of ground barely 1 mile wide and 3 miles long. Today, Waterloo is a household word synonymous with a final, crushing defeat, and for good reasons. Here is the incredible story behind Napoleon's last great gamble.
Phase I: Napoleon Escapes From Elba
Phase II: Europe Prepares for War
Phase III: Action at Ligny & Quatre Bras
Phase IV: Waterloo: The Final Agony