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Battle of Waterloo

Jun 18th 1815
French Empire
Strength: 73000Casualties: 41000
Seventh Coalition
Strength: 118000Casualties: 24000

Armies

Three armies were involved in the battle: Napoleon's Armée du Nord, a multinational army under Wellington, and a Prussian army under Blücher.

The French army of around 69,000 consisted of 48,000 infantry, 14,000 cavalry, and 7,000 artillery with 250 guns. Napoleon had used conscription to fill the ranks of the French army throughout his rule, but he did not conscript men for the 1815 campaign. His troops were mainly veterans with considerable experience and a fierce devotion to their Emperor.[24] The cavalry in particular was both numerous and formidable, and included fourteen regiments of armoured heavy cavalry, and seven of highly versatile lancers who were armed with lances, sabres and firearms.

Wellington later said that he had 'an infamous army, very weak and ill-equipped, and a very inexperienced Staff'. His troops consisted of 67,000 men: 50,000 infantry, 11,000 cavalry, and 6,000 artillery with 150 guns. Of these, 25,000 were British, with another 6,000 from the King's German Legion (KGL). All of the British Army troops were regular soldiers, but only 7,000 of them were Peninsular War veterans. In addition, there were 17,000 Dutch and Belgian troops, 11,000 from Hanover, 6,000 from Brunswick, and 3,000 from Nassau.

The Prussian army was in the throes of reorganisation. In 1815, the former Reserve regiments, Legions, and Freikorps volunteer formations from the wars of 1813–1814 were in the process of being absorbed into the line, along with many Landwehr (militia) regiments. The Landwehr were mostly untrained and unequipped when they arrived in Belgium. The Prussian cavalry were in a similar state. Its artillery was also reorganising and did not give its best performance – guns and equipment continued to arrive during and after the battle.

After Ligny, the Prussian army, although defeated, was able to realign its supply train, reorganise itself, and intervene decisively on the Waterloo battlefield within 48 hours. Two and a half Prussian army corps, or 48,000 men, were engaged at Waterloo; two brigades under Bülow, commander of IV Corps, attacked Lobau at 16:30, while Zieten's I Corps and parts of Pirch I's II Corps engaged at about 18:00.