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Napoleon's Role at the Battle of Waterloo

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Napoleon's Role at the Battle of Waterloo

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The Battle of Waterloo was the final and decisive action of the Napoleonic Wars, that effectively ended French domination of the European continent and brought about drastic changes in the political boundaries and the power balance of Europe. Fought on June 18, 1815, near Waterloo, in what is now Belgium, the battle ranks as a great turning point in modern history.

After raising France to a position of dominance in Europe from 1804 to 1813, Napoleon met defeat in 1814 by a alliance of major powers, notably Prussia, Russia, Great Britain, and Austria . Napoleon was then deposed and exiled to the island of Elba, and Louis XVIII was made ruler of France. In September 1814, the Congress of Vienna, with delegates from most of the nations of Europe, got together to discuss problems arising from the defeat of France. On February 26, 1815, however, while the congress was in session, Napoleon escaped from Elba and returned to France .

In Paris, Napoleon, found out about the plan, after that he was determined to attack the allies on their own ground before their army could take form. With characteristic energy and decisiveness, he mobilized within two months an army of 360,000 trained soldiers. He deployed half of these troops within France as a security force and grouped the remainder into attack units. On June 14, 1815, Napoleon, moving with the highest speed and secrecy, reached the Franco-Belgian border with 124,000 of his troops . Another 56,000 men were left behind in secondary positions.

On June 15, 1815, Napoleon moved across the border of Belgium, and his sudden arrival caught the allied command unprepared. After crossing the Sambre River, the French routed a Prussian advance guard at Charleroi. Napoleon then ordered his left wing, under Marshal Michel Ney, to attack a brigade of Wellington's cavalry at Quatre-Bras, 12 mi north of Charleroi. He next ordered the right wing, under General Emmanuel de Grouchy, to move eastward against a Prussian brigade...