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Waterloo & Beyond: 5 Mistakes That Doomed Napoleon

June 14, 2015 Topic: Politics Region: Europe Tags: NapoleonHistoryWaterloo

Waterloo & Beyond: 5 Mistakes That Doomed Napoleon

Two hundred years later, Napoleon continues to be relevant today.

The timing Napoleon chose for Waterloo is also thought to have been a major mistake. Instead of attacking British forces in the early morning, he waited several hours to commence the battle, reportedly breakfasting leisurely. He underestimated the skill of Wellington’s forces, despite knowing of their experience during the Peninsular War in Spain. He also underestimated how far away the Prussian forces of Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher were from Waterloo—these forces would arrive by the late afternoon. Had Napoleon attacked Wellington’s British forces earlier and finished them off—which was possible due to his initially superior numbers—he could have faced off against the smaller Prussian force and defeated them separately or used a British defeat to maneuver politically. However, the arrival of the Prussian force at Waterloo led to the tired French forces being decisively outnumbered and attacked on multiple sides.

Akhilesh Pillalamarri is an assistant editor at the National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter:@AkhiPill.

Image: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain (Napoleon's farewell to the Imperial Guard in the Cheval-Blanc courtyard of the Palace of Fontainebleau by Antoine-Alphonse Montfort)