Napoleon exiled to Elba, the beginning of the hundred days campaign                                


Napoleon exiled to Elba and the beginning of his last military achievements the hundred days campaign. The Emperor Napoleon escaped from his exile the island of Elba and returned to France at the  beginning of March 1815. He reformed his army with astonishing speed, and determined to conquer Belgium and Holland as a first step to the rebuilding of his empire.  And so begun Napoleons the hundred days campagn. The powers which were meeting at the Congress of Vienna mobilized their armies to stop him, but only two could be brought to Belgium in time: the Prussian army commanded by Marshal Blucher, and a mixed army of British, Belgian, Dutch and German troops under the command of the Duke of Wellington. Most of Wellington's British army, which had been victorious against the French in Spain, had been dispersed overseas, and he had a low opinion of his new forces. Inevitably, they were divided in their languages, loyalties, and expenence.


Napoleon crossed the frontier beyond Charleroi on 15 June. Blucher fought hirn at Ligny, a smal1 village 15 km north east of Charleroi on the 16th, but was forced to retreat towards Wavre. On the same day Wellington fought with what forces he could assemble at

Quatre Bras, the crossroads of the Brussels-Charleroi and Nivelles-Namur roads, 13 km south of Waterloo. Whether or not he could have held Napoleon there, he had to retire in step with the Prussians, and on the 17th he drew back in a fighting retreat to the valley south of Waterloo which he had chosen some time before as the strongest position for the defence of Brussels.

Blucher's army at Ligny had, in Wellington's words, been 'damnably mauled', but the intrepid old Marshal promised to march across from Wavre and join Wellington as soon as he could. Wellington received this message at 2 a.m. on 18 June in the inn in the village of Waterloo, and it was only then that he decided to stand and fight that day.

When, however, it became clear that the Prussians could not arrive until the evening, Wellington's mixed army,bad to face Napoleon's attack. By that same evening, Napoleon's army was fleeing in dreadful disorder down the road to France by which it had come. Twenty-two years of war which had ravaged Europe had been brought to an end.

Four weeks later, Napoleon himself surrendered on board a British ship-of-the-line off the west coast of France, to go to his final exile in St Helena and so ends the hundred days campaign

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