Hundred Days

Hundred Days
Hundred Days
Part of the Napoleonic Wars
Sadler, Battle of Waterloo.jpg
The Battle of Waterloo, by William Sadler II
Date 20 March to 8 July 1815
Location France, present-day Belgium, present-day Italy
Result Coalition victory, Treaty of Paris, end of the Napoleonic Wars
Seventh Coalition:

 United Kingdom
 Austrian Empire
 Russian Empire
Province of Hanover Hanover
 United Netherlands
Portugal Portugal
Kingdom of the Two Sicilies Sicily
Tuscany Tuscany
Switzerland Switzerland
Kingdom of France French Royalists

France French Empire
Kingdom of the Two Sicilies Naples
Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom Duke of Wellington
Kingdom of Prussia Gebhard von Blücher
Austrian Empire Frederick Bianchi
France Napoleon I
France Marquis de Grouchy
Kingdom of the Two Sicilies Joachim Murat
800,000 – 1,000,000[1] 280,000[1]
Casualties and losses
45,825+ killed, wounded, or captured[citation needed] 68,000+ killed, wounded, captured, or missing[citation needed]

The Hundred Days,[2] sometimes known as the Hundred Days of Napoleon or Napoleon's Hundred Days for specificity, marked the period between Emperor Napoleon I of France's return from exile on Elba to Paris on 20 March 1815 and the second restoration of King Louis XVIII on 8 July 1815 (a period of 111 days).[3] This period saw the War of the Seventh Coalition, and includes the Waterloo Campaign[4] and the Neapolitan War. The phrase les Cent Jours was first used by the prefect of Paris, Gaspard, comte de Chabrol, in his speech welcoming the King.

Napoleon returned while the Congress of Vienna was sitting. On 13 March, seven days before Napoleon reached Paris, the powers at the Congress of Vienna declared him an outlaw, and on 25 March, five days after his arrival in Paris, Austria, Prussia, Russia and the United Kingdom, members of the Seventh Coalition, bound themselves to put 150,000 men each into the field to end his rule.[5] This set the stage for the last conflict in the Napoleonic Wars, the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo,[6] the restoration of the French monarchy for the second time and the permanent exile of Napoleon to the distant island of Saint Helena, where he died in May 1821.


Napoleon's Rise and Fall

The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars pitted France against various coalitions of other European nations nearly continuously from 1792 onward. The overthrow and subsequent execution of Louis XVI in France had greatly disturbed other European leaders, who vowed to crush the French Republic. Rather than leading to France’s defeat, the wars allowed the revolutionary regime to expand beyond its borders and create client republics. The success of the French forces made a hero out of their best commander, Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1799, Napoleon staged a successful coup d'état and became First Consul of the new French Consulate. Five years later, he crowned himself Emperor Napoleon I.

The rise of Napoleon troubled the other European powers as much as the earlier revolutionary regime had. Despite the formation of new coalitions against him, Napoleon’s forces continued to conquer much of Europe. The tide of war began to turn, however, after a disastrous French invasion of Russia in 1812 that caused Napoleon to lose much of his army. The following year, during the War of the Sixth Coalition, Coalition forces defeated the French in the Battle of Leipzig.

Following its victory at Leipzig, the Coalition vowed to press on to Paris and depose Napoleon. In the last week of February 1814, Prussian Field Marshal Blücher advanced on Paris. After multiple attacks, maneuvering, and reinforcements on both sides,[7][8] Blücher won the Battle of Laon in early March 1814; this victory prevented the Allied army from being pushed north out of France. The Battle of Reims went to Napoleon, but this victory was followed by successive defeats from increasingly overwhelming odds. Coalition forces entered Paris after the Battle of Montmartre on 30 March 1814.

On 6 April 1814, Napoleon abdicated his throne, leading to the accession of Louis XVIII and the first Bourbon Restoration a month later. The defeated Napoleon was exiled to the island of Elba, while the victorious Coalition sought to redraw the map of Europe at the Congress of Vienna.

Exile in Elba

The journey of a modern hero, to the island of Elba. Print shows Napoleon I seated backwards on a donkey on the road "to Elba" from Fontainebleau; he holds a broken sword in one hand and the donkey's tail in the other while two drummers follow him playing a farewell(?) march.
Napoleon with the Elba Squadron of volunteers from 1er régiment de chevau-légers lanciers polonais de la Garde impériale

Napoleon spent only nine months and 21 days in uneasy retirement on Elba (1814–1815), watching events in France with great interest as the Congress of Vienna gradually gathered. As he foresaw, the shrinkage of the great Empire into the realm of old France caused intense dissatisfaction among the French, a feeling fed by stories of the tactless way in which the Bourbon princes treated veterans of the Grande Armée and the returning royalist nobility treated the people at large. Equally threatening was the general situation in Europe which had been stressed and exhausted during the previous decades of near constant warfare.

The conflicting demands of major powers were for a time so exorbitant as to bring the Powers at the Congress of Vienna to the verge of war with each other.[9] Thus every scrap of news reaching remote Elba looked favorable to a place to retake power as he correctly reasoned the news of his return would cause a popular rising as he approached. He also reasoned that the return of French prisoners from Russia, Germany, Britain and Spain would furnish him instantly with a trained, veteran and patriotic army far larger than that which had won renown in the years before 1814. So threatening were the symptoms that the royalists at Paris and the plenipotentiaries at Vienna talked of deporting him to the Azores or to Saint Helena, while others hinted at assassination.[10]

Congress of Vienna

At the Congress of Vienna (November 1814 – June 1815) the various nations had very different and conflicting goals. Tsar Alexander of Russia had expected to absorb much of Poland and to leave a puppet state, the Duchy of Warsaw, as a buffer against further invasion from Europe. The renewed Prussian state was demanding all of the Kingdom of Saxony. Austria wanted to allow neither of these things, while it expected to regain control of northern Italy. Castlereagh, of the United Kingdom, supported France (represented by Talleyrand) and Austria and was at variance with his Parliament. This almost caused a war to break out when the Tsar pointed out to Castlereagh that Russia had 450,000 men near Poland and Saxony and he was welcome to try to remove them. Indeed he stated “I shall be the King of Poland and the King of Prussia will be the King of Saxony”.[11] The King of Prussia was approached by Castlereagh offering to back Prussia’s annexation of Saxony by Britain and Austria in return for Prussia’s backing of an independent Poland. Frederick repeated this offer in public and the Tsar was so offended he challenged Metternich of Austria to a duel. Only the intervention of the Austrian crown stopped it. This breach was avoided when members of Britain’s Parliament got word to the Russian Ambassador that Castlereagh had exceeded his authority.[12] The affair left Prussia deeply suspicious of anything Britain was involved in.

Return to France

Napoleon leaving Elba, painted by Joseph Beaume

While the Allies were distracted, Napoleon solved his problem in characteristic fashion. On 26 February 1815, when the British and French guard ships were absent, he slipped away from Portoferraio with some 600 men and landed at Golfe-Juan near Antibes on 1 March 1815. Except in royalist Provence, he received everywhere a welcome that attested to the attractive power of his personality and the nullity of the Bourbons. He avoided much of Provence by taking a route through the Alps, marked to this day as the Route Napoléon. Firing no shot in his defense, his little troop swelled day by day until it became an army. On 5 March, the nominally royalist 5th Infantry Regiment went over to Napoleon en masse. The next day they were joined by the 7th Infantry Regiment under its colonel Charles-Angélique-François Huchet de la Bedoyère, who was executed by the Bourbons for treason after the campaign ended. An old anecdote illustrates Napoleon’s charisma or popularity. When royalist troops deployed to stop the march of Napoleon's force at Lyon, Napoleon stepped out in front of them, ripped open his coat and said “If any of you will shoot your Emperor, shoot him now.” The men all joined his cause.[13]

Marshal Ney, now one of Louis' key commanders, had said that Napoleon ought to be brought to Paris in an iron cage, but on 14 March, Ney joined Napoleon with 6,000 men. Five days later, after proceeding through the countryside promising constitutional reform and direct elections to an assembly, to the acclaim of gathered crowds the Emperor triumphantly entered the capital, whence Louis XVIII had recently fled.

The royalists were of no concern: the duc d'Angoulême raised a small force in the south, but at Valence it melted away in front of Grouchy’s command;[citation needed] and the duke, on 9 April 1815, signed a convention whereby they received a free pardon from the Emperor. The royalists of the Vendée moved later and caused more trouble.

Napoleon's health

The evidence as to Napoleon's health is somewhat conflicting. Carnot, Pasquier, Lavalette, Thiébault, and others thought him prematurely aged and enfeebled. For much of his public life, Napoleon was troubled by hemorrhoids, which made sitting on a horse for long periods of time difficult and painful. This condition had disastrous results at Waterloo; during the battle, his inability to sit on his horse for other than very short periods of time interfered with his ability to survey his troops in combat, and thus exercise command.[14] Others saw no marked change in him; while Mollien, who knew the emperor well, attributed the lassitude which now and then came over him to a feeling of perplexity caused by his changed circumstances.[citation needed]

Constitutional reform

At Lyon, on 13 March 1815, Napoleon issued an edict dissolving the existing chambers and ordering the convocation of a national mass meeting, or Champ de Mai, for the purpose of modifying the constitution of the Napoleonic empire.[15] He reportedly told Benjamin Constant "I am growing old. The repose of a constitutional king may suit me. It will more surely suit my son."[citation needed]

That work was carried out by Benjamin Constant in concert with the Emperor. The resulting Acte additionel (supplementary to the constitutions of the Empire) bestowed on France a hereditary Chamber of Peers, and a Chamber of Representatives elected by the "electoral colleges" of the empire.

According to Châteaubriand, in reference to Louis XVIII’s constitutional charter, the new constitution – La Benjamine, it was dubbed – was merely a "slightly improved" version of the charter associated with Louis XVIII's administration; however, later historians, including Agatha Ramm, have pointed out that this constitution permitted the extension of the franchise and explicitly guaranteed press freedom.[15] In the Republican manner, the Constitution was put to the people of France in a plebiscite, but whether due to lack of enthusiasm, or because the nation was suddenly thrown into military preparation, only 1,532,527 votes were cast, less than half of the vote in the plebiscites of the Consulat; however, the benefit of a 'large majority' meant that Napoleon felt he had constitutional sanction.[15]

Napoleon was with difficulty dissuaded from quashing the 3 June election of Lanjuinais, the staunch liberal who had so often opposed the Emperor, as president of the Chamber of Representatives. In his last communication to them, Napoleon warned them not to imitate the Greeks of the late Byzantine Empire, who engaged in subtle discussions when the ram was battering at their gates.[citation needed]

Military mobilisation

During the Hundred Days both the Coalition nations and Napoleon Bonaparte mobilised for war. Upon reassumption of the throne, Bonaparte found that he was left with little by Louis XVIII. There were 56,000 soldiers of which 46,000 were ready to campaign.[16] By the end of May the total armed forces available to Bonaparte had reached 198,000 with 66,000 more in depots training up but not yet ready for deployment.[17]

By the end of May Napoleon Bonaparte had formed L'Armée du Nord (the "Army of the North") which, led by Bonaparte, would participate in the Waterloo Campaign.

For the defence of France, Bonaparte deployed his remaining forces within France with the intention of delaying his foreign enemies while he suppressed his domestic ones. By June the forces were organised thus:

  • V Corps, – L'Armée du Rhin – commanded by Rapp, cantoned near Strassburg;[18]
  • VII Corps – L'Armée des Alpes – commanded by Suchet,[19] cantoned at Lyon;
  • I Corps of Observation – L'Armée du Jura – commanded by Lecourbe,[19] cantoned at Belfort;
  • II Corps of Observation[20]L'Armée du Var – commanded by Brune, based at Toulon;[21]
  • III Corps of Observation[20] – Army of the Pyrenees orientales[22] – commanded by Decaen, based at Toulouse;
  • IV Corps of Observation[20] – Army of the Pyrenees occidentales[22] – commanded by Clauzel, based at Bordeaux;
  • Army of the West,[20]Armée de l'Ouest[22] (also known as the Army of the Vendee and the Army of the Loire) – commanded by Lamarque, was formed to suppress the Royalist insurrection in the Vendée region of France which remained loyal to King Louis XVIII during the Hundred Days.

Opposing Coalition forces:

Archduke Charles gathered Austrian and allied German states, while the Prince of Schwartzenberg formed another Austrian army. King Ferdinand VII of Spain summoned British officers to lead his troops against France. Tsar Alexander I of Russia mustered an army of 250,000 troops and sent these rolling toward the Rhine. Prussia mustered two armies. One under Blücher took post alongside Wellington’s British army and its allies. The other was the North German Corps under General Kleist.[23]

  • Assessed as an immediate threat by Napoleon Bonaparte:
    • Anglo-Allied, commanded by Wellington, cantoned south west Brussels, headquartered at Brussels.
    • Prussian Army commanded by Blücher, cantoned south east of Brussels, headquartered at Namur.
  • Close to the borders of France but assessed to be less of a threat by Napoleon Bonaparte:
  • Other coalition forces which were either converging on France, mobilised to defend the homelands, or in the process of mobilisation included:
    • A Russian Army, commanded by Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly, and marching towards France
    • A Reserve Russian Army to support de Tolly if required.
    • A Reserve Prussian Army stationed at home in order to defend its borders.
    • An Anglo-Sicilian Army under General Sir Hudson Lowe, which was to be landed by the Royal Navy on the southern French coast.
    • Two Spanish Armies were assembling and planning to invade over the Pyrenees.
    • A Netherlands Corps, under Prince Frederick of the Netherlands, was not present at Waterloo but as a corps in Wellington's army it did take part in minor military actions during the Coalition's invasion of France.
    • A Danish contingent known as the Royal Danish Auxiliary Corps commanded by General Prince Frederik of Hesse and a Hanseatic contingent (from the free cities of Bremen, Lubeck and Hamburg) commanded by the British Colonel Sir Neil Campbell, were on their way to join Wellington;[24] both however, joined the army in July having missed the conflict.[25][26]
    • A Portuguese contingent, which due to the speed of events never assembled.

War begins

At the Congress of Vienna, the Great Powers of Europe (Austria, Great Britain, Prussia and Russia) and their allies declared Napoleon an outlaw,[27][28] and with the signing of this declaration on 13 March 1815, so began the War of the Seventh Coalition. The hopes of peace that Napoleon had entertained were gone – war was now inevitable.

A further treaty (the Treaty of Alliance against Bonaparte) was ratified on 25 March in which each of the Great European Powers agreed to pledge 150,000 men for the coming conflict.[29] Such a number was not possible for Great Britain, as her standing army was smaller than the three of her peers.[30] Besides, her forces were scattered around the globe, with many units still in Canada, where the War of 1812 had recently ceased.[31] With this in mind she made up her numerical deficiencies by paying subsidies to the other Powers and to the other states of Europe that would contribute contingents.[30]

Some time after the allies began mobilising, it was agreed that the planned invasion of France was to commence on 1 July 1815,[32] much later than both Blücher and Wellington would have liked as both their armies were ready in June, ahead of the Austrians and Russians; the latter were still some distance away.[33] The advantage of this later invasion date was that it allowed all the invading Coalition armies a chance to be ready at the same time. Thus they could deploy their combined numerically superior forces against Napoleon's smaller, thinly spread forces, thus ensuring his defeat and avoiding a possible defeat within the borders of France. Yet this postponed invasion date allowed Napoleon more time to strengthen his forces and defences, which would make defeating him harder and more costly in lives, time and money.

Waterloo, Battle array

Napoleon now had to decide whether to fight a defensive or offensive campaign.[34] Defence would entail repeating the 1814 campaign in France but with much larger numbers of troops at his disposal. France's chief cities, Paris and Lyon, would be fortified and two great French armies, the larger before Paris and the smaller before Lyon, would protect them; francs-tireurs would be encouraged, giving the Coalition armies their own taste of guerrilla warfare.[35]

Napoleon chose to attack, which entailed a pre-emptive strike at his enemies before they were all fully assembled and able to co-operate. By destroying some of the major Coalition armies, Napoleon believed he would then be able to bring the governments of the Seventh Coalition to the peace table[35] to discuss results favourable to himself, namely peace for France with himself remaining in power as its head. If peace were rejected by the allies despite any pre-emptive military success he might have achieved using the offensive military option available to him, then the war would continue and he could turn his attention to defeating the rest of the Coalition armies.

Napoleon's decision to attack in Belgium was supported by several considerations. First, he had learned that the British and Prussian armies were widely dispersed and might be defeated in detail.[36] Also, the British troops in Belgium were largely second-line troops; most of the veterans of the Peninsular War had been sent to America to fight the War of 1812.[37] And, politically, a French victory might trigger a friendly revolution in French-speaking Brussels.[38]

Waterloo Campaign


French forces

Upon assumption of the throne, Napoleon found that he was left with little by the Bourbons and that the state of the Army was 56,000 troops of which 46,000 were ready to campaign.[16]

By the end of May Napoleon had deployed his forces as follows:[4]

As more troops guarded the other frontiers of France and Lamarque led the small Army of the West into La Vendée to quell a Royalist insurrection in that region.[4] By June 1, the total armed forces available to Napoleon had reached 198,000 with 66,000 more in depots training up but not yet ready for deployment.[17]

Coalition forces

In the early days of June 1815, Wellington and Blücher's forces were disposed as follows:[4]

Wellington’s Anglo-allied army of 93,000 with headquarters at Brussels were cantoned:

Blücher’s Prussian army of 116,000 men, with headquarters at Namur, was distributed as follows:

The frontier in front of Binche, Charleroi and Dinant was watched by the Prussian outposts.

Thus the Coalition front extended for nearly 90 miles across what is now Belgium, and the mean depth of their cantonments was 30 miles. To concentrate the whole army on either flank would take six days, and on the common centre, around Charleroi, three days.[4]


Map of the Waterloo campaign.

Napoleon moved the 128,000 strong Army of the North up to the Belgian frontier.[40] The left wing (I and II Corps) was under the command of Marshal Ney, and the right wing (III and IV Corps) was under Marshal Grouchy. Napoleon was in direct command of the Reserve (Imperial Guard, VI Corps, and I, II, III, and IV Cavalry Corps). During the initial advance all three elements remained close enough to support each another.

Napoleon crossed the frontier at Thuin near Charleroi on 15 June 1815. The French drove in Coalition outposts and secured Napoleon’s favoured “central position” – at the junction between Wellington’s army to his north-west, and Blücher’s Prussians to his north-east. Wellington had expected Napoleon to try to envelop the Coalition armies by moving through Mons and to the west of Brussels.[41] Wellington feared that such a move would cut his communications with the ports he relied on for supply. Napoleon encouraged this view with misinformation.[41] Wellington did not hear of the capture of Charleroi until 3 pm, because a message from Wellington’s intelligence chief, Colquhoun Grant, was delayed by General Dörnberg. Confirmation swiftly followed in another message from the Prince of Orange. Wellington ordered his army to concentrate around the divisional headquarters, but was still unsure whether the attack in Charleroi was a feint and the main assault would come through Mons. Wellington only determined Napoleon’s intentions with certainty in the evening, and his orders for his army to muster near Nivelles and Quatre Bras were sent out just before midnight.[42]

The Prussian General Staff seem to have divined the French army's intent rather more accurately.[41][43] The Prussians were not taken unawares. General Ziethen noted the number of campfires as early as 13 June[44] and Blücher began to concentrate his forces.

Napoleon considered the Prussians the greater threat, and so moved against them first with the right wing of the Army of the North and the Reserves. Graf von Zieten’s I Corps rearguard action on 15 June held up Napoleon’s advance, giving Blücher the opportunity to concentrate his forces in the Sombreffe position, which had been selected earlier for its good defensive attributes.[45] Napoleon sent Marshal Ney, in charge of the French left wing, to secure the crossroads of Quatre Bras, towards which Wellington was hastily gathering his dispersed army. Ney's scouts reached Quatre Bras that evening.

Quatre Bras

Ney, advancing on 16 June, found Quatre Bras lightly held by Dutch troops of Wellington's army, but despite outnumbering the Allies heavily throughout the day, he fought a cautious and desultory battle which failed to capture the crossroads. By the middle of the afternoon, Wellington had taken personal command of the Anglo-Allied forces at Quatre Bras. The position was reinforced steadily throughout the day as Anglo-Allied troops converged on the crossroads. The battle ended in a tactical draw. Later, the Allies ceded the field at Quatre Bras in order to consolidate their forces on more favourable ground to the north along the road to Brussels as a prelude to the Battle of Waterloo.[46]


Napoleon, meanwhile, used the right wing of his army and the reserve to defeat the Prussians, under the command of General Blücher, at the Battle of Ligny on the same day. The Prussian centre gave way under heavy French attack, but the flanks held their ground.[4] Several heavy Prussian cavalry charges proved enough to discourage French pursuit and indeed they would not pursue the Prussians until the morning of 18 June. D'Erlon’s I Corps wandered between both battles contributing to neither Quatre Bras nor to Ligny. Napoleon wrote to Ney warning him that allowing D'Erlon to wander so far away had crippled his attacks on Quatre Bras, but made no move to recall D'Erlon when he could easily have done so. The tone of his orders shows that he believed he had things well in hand at Ligny without assistance (as in fact he had).[47]


The Prussian defeat at Ligny made the Quatre Bras position untenable. On 17 June Wellington duly fell back to the north. His control of Quatre Bras enabled the Prussians to fall back parallel to his line of retreat and not, as Napoleon had hoped, away from him.

This was part of Napoleon’s strategy to split the much larger Coalition force into pieces that he could outnumber and attack separately. His theory was based on the assumption that an attack through the centre of the Coalition forces would force the two main armies to retreat in the direction of their respective supply bases, which were in opposite directions.[48]

The general retreat of the Prussian army took it to the town of Wavre, and this by default became the marshalling point of the army. The Prussian chief of staff, General August von Gneisenau, planned to rally the Prussian Army at Tilly,[49] from where it could move to support Wellington, but control was lost, with part of the army retreating toward the Rhine, but the majority rallying at Wavre. General Blücher arrived at Wavre, after falling under his horse whilst leading a counter charge at Ligny, then being ridden over by French cavalry twice.[50] After a meeting, Gneisenau was persuaded to march towards Wellington’s left flank at dawn with the I, II and IV Corps. The IV Corps, under the command of General Bülow von Dennewitz, had not been present at Ligny, but arrived to reinforce the Prussian army during the nights of the 17th and 18th. III Corps formed the rearguard, to hinder the pursuing French.

Napoleon set off via Quatre Bras with the Reserves and combined his forces with the left wing of the Army of the North to pursue Wellington’s forces, which were retreating toward Brussels. Just before the small village of Waterloo, Wellington deployed most of his forces on the rear side of an escarpment. He placed some of his forces in front of the main deployment in two fortified farmhouses at the base of the escarpment, which guarded the two roads to Brussels.

Marshal Grouchy moved to Grannape with the right wing of the Army of the North, assimilating intelligence provided him by his outpost services. Three Prussian corps had moved through the area and were believed to be concentrating near Brussels to support Wellington.[51] This information was collected and sent by Marshal Grouchy at 22:00 on the night of 17 June. In this letter Grouchy noted the concentration of the Prussians in and around Wavre.[51] This was of concern to both Grouchy and Napoleon because the Prussians could use the road through Wavre straight to the assembled armies of Wellington.


It was at Waterloo on 18 June 1815 that the decisive battle of the campaign took place. The start of the battle was delayed for several hours as Napoleon waited until the ground had dried from the previous night’s rain. By late afternoon the French army had not succeeded in driving Wellington’s forces from the escarpment on which they stood. Once the Prussians arrived, attacking the French right flank in ever increasing numbers, Napoleon’s key strategy of keeping the Seventh Coalition armies divided had failed and his army was driven from the field in confusion, by a combined coalition general advance.

On the morning of 18 June 1815 Napoleon sent orders to Marshal Grouchy, commander of the right wing of the Army of the North, to harass the Prussians to stop them reforming. These orders arrived at around 06:00 and his corps began to move out at 08:00; by 12:00 the cannons from the Battle of Waterloo could be heard. Grouchy’s corps commanders, especially Gérard, advised that they should "march to the sound of the guns".[52] As this was contrary to Napoleon’s orders ("you will be the sword against the Prussians’ back driving them through Wavre and join me here") Grouchy decided not to take the advice. It became apparent that neither Napoleon nor Marshal Grouchy understood that the Prussian army was no longer either routed or disorganised.[53] Any thoughts of joining Napoleon were dashed when a second order repeating the same instructions arrived around 16:00.


Following Napoleon’s orders Grouchy attacked the Prussian III Corps under the command of General Johann von Thielmann near the village of Wavre. Grouchy believed that he was engaging the rearguard of a still-retreating Prussian force. However only one Corps remained; the other three Prussian Corps (I, II and the still fresh IV) had regrouped after their defeat at Ligny and were marching toward Waterloo.

The next morning the Battle of Wavre ended in a hollow French victory. Grouchy’s wing of the Army of the North withdrew in good order and other elements of the French army were able to reassemble around it. However, the army was not strong enough to resist the combined coalition forces, so it retreated toward Paris.

Napoleon surrenders

On arriving at Paris, three days after Waterloo, Napoleon still clung to the hope of concerting national resistance; but the temper of the chambers and of the public generally forbade any such attempt. Napoleon and his brother Lucien Bonaparte were almost alone in believing that, by dissolving the chambers and declaring Napoleon dictator, they could save France from the armies of the powers now converging on Paris. Even Davout, minister of war, advised Napoleon that the destinies of France rested solely with the chambers. Clearly, it was time to safeguard what remained; and that could best be done under Talleyrand’s shield of legitimacy.

Napoleon himself at last recognised the truth. When Lucien pressed him to “dare”, he replied, “Alas, I have dared only too much already”. On 22 June 1815 he abdicated in favour of his son, Napoléon Francis Joseph Charles Bonaparte, well knowing that it was a formality, as his four-year-old son was in Austria. On 25 June he received from Fouché, the president of the newly appointed provisional government (and Napoleon's former police chief), an intimation that he must leave Paris. He retired to Malmaison, the former home of Josephine, where she had died shortly after his first abdication.

On 29 June the near approach of the Prussians, who had orders to seize him, dead or alive, caused him to retire westwards toward Rochefort, whence he hoped to reach the United States. The presence of blockading Royal Navy warships with orders to prevent his escape forestalled this plan.

Finally, unable to remain in France or escape from it, he surrendered himself to Captain Maitland of HMS Bellerophon and was transported to England. The full restoration of Louis XVIII followed the emperor’s departure. Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to the island of Saint Helena where he died in May 1821.

Prussians enter Paris

With the abdication of Napoleon the provisional government led by Fouché appointed Davout, Napoleon’s minister of war, as General in Chief. French troops concentrated in Paris had as many soldiers as the invaders and more cannons.[citation needed]

There were two major skirmishes and a few minor ones near Paris during the first few days of July. In the first major skirmish, the Battle of Rocquencourt, on 1 July French dragoons supported by infantry and commanded by General Exelmans destroyed a Prussian brigade of hussars under the command of Colonel von Sohr (who was severely wounded and taken prisoner during the skirmish). In the second, on 3 July, General Dominique Vandamme (under Davout's command) was defeated by General Graf von Zieten (under Blücher's command) at the Battle of Issy, forcing the French to retreat into Paris.[54] With this defeat, all hope of holding Paris faded and it was agreed that the French Army would withdraw south of the Loire River and on 7 July Graf von Zieten's Prussian I Corps entered Paris.[55]

Other campaigns and wars

While Napoleon had assessed that the Coalition forces in and around Brussels on the borders of north east France posed the greatest threat because Tolly's Russian army of 150,000 were still not in the theatre, Spain was slow to mobilise, Prince Schwarzenberg's Austrian army of 210,000 were slow to cross the Rhine, and another Austrian force menacing the south eastern frontier of France was still not a direct threat, Napoleon still had to place some badly needed forces in positions where they could defend France against other Coalition forces whatever the outcome of the Waterloo campaign.[4][18]

Neapolitan War

The Neapolitan War between the Napoleonic Kingdom of Naples and the Austrian Empire, started on 15 March 1815 when Joachim Murat declared war on Austria and ended on 20 May 1815 with the signing of the Treaty of Casalanza.

Napoleon had made his brother-in-law, Joachim Murat, King of Naples on 1 August 1808. After Napoleon's defeat in 1813, Murat reached an agreement with Austria to save his own throne. However he realized that the European Powers, meeting as the Congress of Vienna, planned to remove him and return Naples to its Bourbon rulers. So, after issuing a proclamation to "Italian patriots" in Rimini, Murat moved north to fight against the Austrians to strengthen his rule in Italy by military means.

The war was triggered by a pro-Napoleon uprising in Naples, after which Murat declared war on Austria on 15 March 1815, five days before Napoleon's return to Paris. The Austrians were prepared for war. Their suspicions were aroused weeks earlier, when Murat applied for permission to march through Austrian territory to attack the south of France. Austria had reinforced her armies in Lombardy under the command of Bellegarde prior to war being declared.

The war ended after a decisive Austrian victory at the Battle of Tolentino. Ferdinand IV was reinstated as King of Naples. Ferdinand then sent Neapolitan troops under General Onasco to help the Austrian army in Italy attack southern France. In the long term, the intervention by Austria caused resentment in Italy, which further spurred on the drive towards Italian unification.

Civil war

Provence and Brittany which were known to contain many royalist sympathisers did not rise in open revolt, but La Vendée did. The Vendée Royalists successfully took Bressuire and Cholet before they were defeated by General Lamarque at the Battle of Rocheserviere on 20 June. They signed the Treaty of Cholet five days later on 25 June.[19]

Austrian campaign

Rhine frontier

In early June General Rapp's Army of the Rhine of about 23,000 men, with a leavening of experienced troops, advanced towards Germersheim to block Schwarzenberg expected advance, but on hearing the news of the French defeat at Waterloo, Rapp withdrew towards Strasbourg turning on 28 June to check the 40,000 men of General Württenberg's Austrian III Corps at the battle of La Suffel – the last pitched battle of the Napoleonic Wars and a French victory. The next day Rapp continued to retreat to Strasbourg and also sent a garrison to defend Colmar. He and his men took no further active part in the campaign and eventually submitted to the Bourbons.[18][56]

To the north of Württenberg's III Corps, General Wrede's Austrian (Bavarian) IV Corps also crossed the French frontier and then swung south and captured Nancy against some local popular resistance on the 27 June. Attached to his command was a Russian detachment under the command of General Count Lambert that was charged with keeping Wrede's lines of communication open. In early July Schwarzenberg, having received a request from Wellington and Blücher, ordered Wrede to act as the Austrian vanguard and advance on Paris and by the 5 July the main body of Wrede's IV Corps had reached Châlons. On 6 July the advance guard made contact with the Prussians and on 7 July Wrede received intelligence of the Paris Convention and a request to move to the Loire. By 10 July Wrede's headquarters were at Ferté-sous-Jouarre and his corps positioned between the Seine and the Marne[19][57]

Further south General Colloredo's Austrian I Corps was hindered by General Lecourbe's Armée du Jura that was largely made up of National Guardsmen and other reserves. Lecourbe fought four delaying actions between 30 June and 8 July at Foussemagne, Bourogne, Chèvremont and Bavilliers before agreeing to an armistice on 11 July. Archduke Ferdinand's Reserve Corps together with Hohenzollern-Hechingen's II Corps laid siege to the fortresses of Huningen and Muhlhausen, with two Swiss brigades[58] from the Swiss Army of General Niklaus Franz von Bachmann, aiding with the siege of the former place. Like other Austrian forces, these too were pestered by francs-tireurs.[19][59]

Italian frontier

Like Rapp further north, Marshal Suchet with the Armée des Alps initially took the initiative, and on the 14 June invaded Savoy. Facing him was General Frimont with an Austro-Sardinian army of 75,000 men based in Italy. However, on hearing of the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, Suchet negotiated an armistice and fell back to Lyons where on the 12 July he surrendered the city to the Frimont's army.

The Liguria coast was defended by French forces under Marshal Brune who fell back slowly into the fortress city of Toulon after retreating from Marseilles before the Austrian 'Army of Naples' under the command of General Bianchi, the Anglo-Sicilian forces of Sir Hudson Lowe supported by the British Mediterranean fleet of Lord Exmouth and the Sardinian forces of the Sardinian General d'Osasco, the forces of the latter being drawn from the garrison of Nice. Brune did not surrender the city and its naval arsenal until 31 July.[19]

Russian campaign

The main body of the Russian Army, commanded by Field Marshal Count Tolly, and amounting to 167,950 men, crossed the Rhine at Mannheim, on 25 June – after Napoleon had abdicated for the second time – and although there was a light resistance around Mannerheim it was over by the time the vanguard had advanced as far as Landau. The greater portion of Tolly's army reached Paris and its vicinity by the middle of July.[19][60]

Treaty of Paris

All the participants of the War of the Seventh Coalition. Blue: The Coalition and their colonies and allies. Green: The First French Empire, its protectorates, colonies and allies.

Issy was the last field engagement of the Hundred Days. There was a campaign against continuing Napoleonic strongpoints that ended with the capitulation of Longwy on 13 September 1815. The Treaty of Paris was signed on 20 November 1815 bringing the Napoleonic Wars to a formal end.

Under the 1815 Paris treaty the previous year's Treaty of Paris, and the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna, of 9 June 1815, were confirmed. France was reduced to its 1790 boundaries; it lost the territorial gains of the Revolutionary armies in 1790–92, which the previous Paris treaty had allowed France to keep. France was now also ordered to pay 700 million francs in indemnities, in five yearly instalments,[61] and to maintain at its own expense a Coalition army of occupation of 150,000 soldiers[62] in the eastern border territories of France, from the English Channel to the border with Switzerland, for a maximum of five years.[63] The two-fold purpose of the military occupation was made clear by the convention annexed to the treaty outlining the incremental terms by which France would issue negotiable bonds covering the indemnity: in addition to safeguarding the neighbouring states from a revival of revolution in France, it guaranteed fulfilment of the treaty's financial clauses.[64]

On the same day, in a separate document, Great Britain, Russia, Austria, and Prussia renewed the Quadruple Alliance. The princes and free towns who were not signatories were invited to accede to its terms,[65] whereby the treaty became a part of the public law according to which Europe, with the exception of Ottoman Turkey[66] established "relations from which a system of real and permanent balance of power in Europe is to be derived."[67]


See also Timeline of the Napoleonic era

Dates Synopsis of key events
26 February Napoleon Bonaparte slipped away from Elba.
1 March Napoleon Bonaparte landed near Antibes.
13 March The powers at the Congress of Vienna declared Napoleon Bonaparte an outlaw.
14 March Marshal Ney, who had said that Napoleon ought to be brought to Paris in an iron cage, joined him with 6,000 men.
15 March After he had received word of Napoleon's escape, Joachim Murat, Napoleon's brother-in-law and the King of Naples, declared war on Austria in a bid to save his crown.
20 March Napoleon Bonaparte entered Paris – The start of the One Hundred Days.
25 March The United Kingdom, Russia, Austria and Prussia, members of the Seventh Coalition, bound themselves to put 150,000 men each into the field to end Napoleon Bonaparte's rule.
9 April The high point for the Neapolitans as Murat attempted to force a crossing of the River Po. However, he is defeated at the Battle of Occhiobello and for the remainder of the war, the Neapolitans would be in full retreat.
3 May General Bianchi's Austrian I Corps decisively defeated Murat at the Battle of Tolentino.
20 May The Neapolitans signed the Treaty of Casalanza with the Austrians after Murat had fled to Corsica and his generals had sued for peace.
23 May Ferdinand IV was restored to the Neapolitan throne.
15 June French Army of the North crossed the frontier into the United Netherlands (in modern day Belgium).
16 June Napoleon Bonaparte beat Field Marshal Blücher at the Battle of Ligny. Simultaneously Marshal Ney and The Duke of Wellington fought the Battle of Quatre Bras at the end of which there was no clear victor.
18 June After the close, hard-fought Battle of Waterloo, the combined armies of Wellington and Blücher decisively defeated Napoleon Bonaparte's French Army of the North. The concurrent Battle of Wavre continued until the next day when Marshal Grouchy won a hollow victory against General Johann von Thielmann.
21 June Napoleon Bonaparte arrived back in Paris.
22 June Napoleon Bonaparte abdicated in favour of his son Napoléon Francis Joseph Charles Bonaparte.
29 June Napoleon Bonaparte left Paris for the west of France.
7 July Graf von Zieten's Prussian I Corps entered Paris.
8 July Louis XVIII was restored to the French throne – The end of the One Hundred Days.
15 July Napoleon Bonaparte surrendered to Captain Maitland of HMS Bellerophon.
13 October Joachim Murat is executed in Pizzo after he had landed there five days earlier hoping to regain his kingdom.
20 November Treaty of Paris signed.


  1. ^ a b Chandler (1966), p. 1015
  2. ^ French: les Cent-Jours, IPA: [le sɑ̃ ʒuʁ]
  3. ^ Histories differ over the start and end dates of the Hundred Days; another popular period is from 1 March, when Napoleon Bonaparte landed in France, to his defeat at Waterloo on 18 June.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Encyclopaedia Britannica Eleventh Edition "Waterloo Campaign"
  5. ^ Hamilton-Williams, David p. 59
  6. ^ one of the most famous battles in history
  7. ^ Uffindell, Andrew. p. 198
  8. ^ Andrew Uffindell, p. 200
  9. ^ Hamilton-Williams, David, pp. 44,45
  10. ^ Hamilton-Williams, David, p. 43
  11. ^ Hamilton-Williams, David, p. 45
  12. ^ Hamilton-Williams, David, p. 48
  13. ^ Hamilton-Williams, David, p. 42
  14. ^ Hibbert, Christopher, pp. 143–144
  15. ^ a b c Ramm, Agatha. pp. 132–134.
  16. ^ a b Charles Chesney. p. 34
  17. ^ a b Charles Chesney. p. 35
  18. ^ a b c d Chandler, Waterloo p.180
  19. ^ a b c d e f g Chandler, Waterloo p.181
  20. ^ a b c d Chalfont p. 205
  21. ^ Siborne, William. (Fourth Edition (1894)). pp. 775,779
  22. ^ a b c Chandler, Waterloo p. 30
  23. ^ Chesney, Charles C.:Waterloo Lectures, A Study of the Campaign of 1815 P-36
  24. ^ Plotho, Carl appendix pp. 34,35
  25. ^ Hofschroer, Peter (Vol.1) pp. 82,83
  26. ^ Sorensen pp. 360–367
  27. ^ Baines, Edward p. 433
  28. ^ The Gentleman's Magazine 1815 p. 251
  29. ^ Barbero, Alessandro. p. 2
  30. ^ a b Glover, Michael, p. 178
  31. ^ Chartrand, Rene pp. 9,10
  32. ^ Houssaye, Henry p. 327
  33. ^ Houssaye, Henry p. 53
  34. ^ Chandler, Waterloo p. 25
  35. ^ a b Houssaye, Henry, pp. 54–56
  36. ^ Chandler, Campaigns, p. 1016
  37. ^ Chandler, Campaigns, p. 1093.
  38. ^ Chandler, Campaigns, pp. 1016.
  39. ^ Georg Dubislav Ludwig von Pirch: 'Pirch I', the use of Roman numerals being used in Prussian service to distinguish officers of the same name, in this case from his brother, seven years his junior, Otto Karl Lorenz 'Pirch II'
  40. ^ Chesney p. 51
  41. ^ a b c Hofschroer, Peter. (Vol. 1) p.152–157
  42. ^ Longford, Elizabeth p. 501
  43. ^ Chesney, Charles pp. 66–67
  44. ^ Chesney, Charles, p. 66
  45. ^ Hofschroer, Peter (Vol.1) pp. 172–180
  46. ^ Pierre de Wit. The campaign of 1815: a study, Part 5: The last Anglo-Dutch-German reinforcements and the Anglo-Dutch-German advance p.3
  47. ^ Chesney, Charles p.126–129
  48. ^ Chesney, Charles, p.134–135
  49. ^ Hofschroer, Peter, (Vol.1) p.326
  50. ^ Hofschroer, Peter (Vol.1) p.321
  51. ^ a b Chesney, Charles, p.144
  52. ^ Chandler, David. Dictionary of the Napoleonic wars.[page needed]
  53. ^ Chesney, Charles. p. 157
  54. ^ Nuttal Encyclopaedia: Issy
  55. ^ Prussian Army During the Napoleonic Wars: The Race to Paris
  56. ^ Siborne, William (Adamant Media Corporation). p. 515
  57. ^ Siborne, William (Adamant Media Corporation) pp. 513–515
  58. ^ Chapuisat, Edouard Table III
  59. ^ Siborne, William (Adamant Media Corporation) p. 516
  60. ^ Siborne, William (Adamant Media Corporation). pp. 516,517
  61. ^ Article 9; the 1814 treaty had required only that France honor public and private debts incurred by the Napoleonic regime; see André Nicolle, "The Problem of Reparations after the Hundred Days" The Journal of Modern History 25.4 (December 1953:343–354)
  62. ^ Articles 4 and 5.
  63. ^ The army of occupation and the Duke of Wellington's moderating transformation from soldier to statesman are discussed in Thomas Dwight Veve, The Duke of Wellington and the British Army of Occupation in France, 1815–1818 (Westport CT: Greenwood Press) 1992.
  64. ^ A point made by Nicolle 1953:344.
  65. ^ Act of the Congress of Vienna, Article 119.
  66. ^ Turkey, which had been excluded from the Congress of Vienna by the express wish of Russia (Strupp, Wörterbuch des Völkerrechts, s.v. "Wiener Knogress").
  67. ^ The wording is from the 20 May 1814 treaty, quoted in Hugh McKinnon Wood, "The Treaty of Paris and Turkey's Status in International Law" The American Journal of International Law 37.2 (April 1943:262–274) p 263 and note 6; Wood's main subject is the Treaty of Paris (1856), terminating the Crimean War.


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Waterloo Campaign". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  • Barbero, Alessandro. The Battle: a New History of Waterloo, Walker & Company, 2006 ISBN 0-8027-1453-6
  • Baines, Edward , History of the Wars of the French Revolution, from the breaking out of the wars in 1792, to, the restoration of general peace in 1815, volume II (of II), Longman, Rees, Orme and Brown, 1818
  • Bowden, Scott, Armies at Waterloo: a Detailed Analysis of the Armies That Fought History's Greatest Battle, Empire Games Press, 1983 ISBN 0913037028
  • Chandler, David. The Campaigns of Napoleon, New York: Macmillan, 1966
  • Chandler, David (1981). Waterloo: The Hundred Days, Osprey Publishing (original edition 1980)
  • Chandler, David (1999) [1979]. Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars. Wordsworth editions. ISBN 1840222034. 
  • Chalfont, Lord, et al., Waterloo: Battle of Three Armies, London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1979
  • Chapuisat, Édouard, Der Weg zur Neutralität und Unabhängigkeit 1814 und 1815, Bern: Oberkriegskommissariat, 1921 (Switzerland's position)
  • Chartrand, Rene, British Forces in North America 1793–1815, Osprey Publishing, 1998
  • Chesney, Charles Cornwallis, Waterloo Lectures: a Study of the Campaign Of 1815, Longmans Green and Co., London, 1869 ISBN 1428649883
  • Glover, Michael, Wellington as Military Commander, Sphere Books, London, 1973
  • Gurwood, Lt. Colonel, ed. The Dispatches of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington, Volume 12, 1838
  • Hamilton-Williams, David, Waterloo New Perspectives: the Great Battle Reappraised, Wiley, 1996 ISBN 0471-05225-6
  • Hibbert, Christopher. Waterloo. Wordsworth Editions. ISBN 1853266876.,M1. Retrieved 2008. 
  • Hofschroer, Peter, 1815 The Waterloo Campaign (Vol.1): Wellington, his German Allies and the Battles of Ligny and Quatre Bras, London: Greenhill Books, 2006
  • Houssaye, Henri, Napoleon and the Campaign of 1815: Waterloo, Naval & Military Press Ltd, 2005
  • Longford, Elizabeth (1971), Wellington: the Years of the Sword, Panther
  • Lucas, F. L., "Long Lives the Emperor", an essay on The Hundred Days, The Historical Journal, Vol.8, No.1, Cambridge, 1965 [1]
  • Plotho, Carl von, Der Krieg des verbündeten Europa gegen Frankreich im Jahre 1815, Bei Karl Friedrich Umelang, Berlin, 1818 [2]
  • Ramm, Agatha (1984). Europe in the Nineteenth Century, Longman, London
  • Schom, Alan, One Hundred Days: Napoleon's Road to Waterloo, New York: Atheneum, 1992
  • Siborne, William. The Waterloo Campaign, 1815. 4th Edition (1894), Birmingham, 34 Wheeleys Road
  • Siborne, William. History of the War in France and Belgium, in 1815. Adamant Media Corporation. ISBN 1402171536.
  • Smith, Digby, The Greenhill Napoleonic Wars Data Book, London: Greenhill Books, 1998
  • Sørensen, Carl. Kampen om Norge i Aarene 1813 og 1814. Volume II. Kjøbenhavn, 1871.
  • Uffindell, Andrew. Great Generals of the Napoleonic Wars. Staplehurst: Spellmount
  • Vaudoncourt, Guillaume de, Histoire des Campagnes de 1814 et 1815 en France, Tome II, Paris: A. de Gastel, 1826
  • Wellesley, Arthur, 2nd Duke of Wellington, (1862 ed.). Supplementary Despatches, Correspondence and Memoranda of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington; Vol. 10. United Services, John Murray, London.
  • Zamoyski, Adam, Rites of Peace: the Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna, Harper Collins 2007.
  • Zins, Ronald, 1815: L'armée des Alpes et Les Cent-Jours à Lyon, Reyrieux: H. Cardon, 2003

Further reading

  • Alexander, Robert S. _Bonapartism and Revolutionary Tradition in France: The Federes of 1815. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
  • Cordingly, David, The Billy Ruffian: The Bellerophon and the Downfall of Napoleon, Bloomsbury, 2003 ISBN 1-58234-468-X
  • Hofschroer, Peter, 1815: The Waterloo Campaign (Vol.2): The German victory, from Waterloo to the fall of Napoleon, Greenhill Books, 1999 ISBN 1853673684
  • LeGallo, Emile. Les Cent-Jours. Paris: Felix Alcan, 1924.
  • Mackenzie, Norman. The Escape from Elba. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984.
  • Tulard, Jean. Les Vingts Jours. Paris: Fayard, 2001.
  • Waresquiel, Emmanuel de. Les Cent-Jours. Paris: Fayard, 2008.

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