“The history of a battle is not unlike the history of a ball. Some individuals may recollect all the little events of which the great result is the battle won or lost, but no individual can recollect the order in which, or the exact moment at which, they occurred, which makes all the difference as to their value or importance. — Wellington quoted in Bering (see bibliography)

“Never did I see such a pounding match. Both were what the boxers call gluttons [for punishment]” — Wellington, quoted in Bering

April 11, 1815

. Wellington takes command of an army of 110,000 men, which included troops from the U.K., Netherlands, and what is now Germany. Less than half were British.

June 18, 1815

67,000 British and allied troops held a defensive position as Napoleon makes a frontal attack with 74,000 men. Soggy ground makes moving the French artillery difficult.

Mistakes by French generals: (1) Prince Jerome attacks the castle of Hugoumont in order to divert the allied troops from their main defensive position, but the attack ends up weakening the French. (2) Count d’Erlon attacks Wellington’s center-left exposing his men to heavy fire from British artillery. (3) Marshal Ney orders the heavy cavalry to attack the British infantry, which form a hollow square formation creating heavy fire that devastates Ney’s horses and men.

June 18, 1815. 6 PM. The French army overwhelms Wellington’s forward bastion, the farm at La Haye Sainte, but Napoleon denies Marshall Ney’s request for reinforcements because the Prussian forces under Marshall von Blücher arrive at last.

“Down to his last card, Napoleon finally releases the Imperial Guard. The British Foot Guards, hidden on the reverse slope, suddenly get up and let fly. Stunned, the Imperial Guard wavers, panic breaks out and the Guard retreats, whereupon Wellington gives the signal for a general advance” (Bering).

Related Materials


Bering, Henrik. “The Road from Waterloo.” Wall Street Journal (25-26 July 2015): c6.

Muir, Percy. Wellington: The Path or Victory. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.

Muir, Percy. Wellington: Waterloo and the Fortunes of Peace. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015.

Last modified 26 September 2015