Why did Napoleon attack at Waterloo

May 2018
539
Michigan
#31
Again I have a problem with the theory that Napoleon had to fight right there and right then.... Attacking a strong position (especially when you do not have the advantage of numbers) is never a very good idea... If time was so much against him that even a day made a huge difference then the whole concept of his campaign (not only the Waterloo battle) was wrong.....
Alternatively he could have simply used his grand batterie to batter the anglo allied forces until they either crumbled or their position was revealed to be too strong, thus not risking french troops....
He didn't have to attack Wellington, but I can understand why he did. Hindsight is always 20/20.
 
Jan 2011
12,779
#32
Napoleon used the Grande Battery bombartment on Anglo-Dutch positions during Battle of Waterloo. But it was not that effective due to muddy ground where cannon balls stuck AND Wellington's reverse slope tactic which protected British and Dutch infantry from most of the French artillery fire. Besides French artillery cooperation and coordination with other arms of French army (cavalry and infantry) was not that good due to Ney's erratic orders. British Household and Union Cavalry charge on French Grande battery (they took out 16 guns , unlike Frnch , British cavalrymen brought nails with them) also reduce effectiveness of French guns.
Well muddy ground would have been another factor that spoke against attacking on that day
 
Aug 2015
2,359
uk
#33
Well muddy ground would have been another factor that spoke against attacking on that day

An early start and the need of effective cannon was vital for Napoleon to beat Wellington quickly, with the minimum of losses and ensuring that it would be impossible for Blucher to get there. The rain-sodden muddy ground was perfect for Wellington and a disaster for Napoleon.

He should never have split his army after Ligny. He would have stood a much better chance having his full army including Grouchy together , even if it meant facing the combined forces of Blucher and Wellington.
 
Jan 2017
3,587
Sydney
#34
Napoleon though that he had the situation well in hand ,
the Allied forces in Belgium had been dispersed before they could coalesce their forces

the Prussians had received a drubbing and were falling back Eastward to their reinforcement on the Rhine
the Anglo-Germans had been checked at Quatre-bras , they were making a defensive retreat .

all was well , no need to rush , If Wellington didn't skedaddle back to England , he would be crushed

The only problem was that the Prussians were moving North not East
Wellington had decided on using good defensive ground to make Napoleon bleed
Maybe , just maybe if Blucher could turn up .....!!
Time was not in Napoleon favor , and he didn't know it
 
Jan 2011
12,779
#35
He didn't have to attack Wellington, but I can understand why he did. Hindsight is always 20/20.
Its not hindsight

  • Attacking a well defended position
  • Ennemy numbers roughly equal to your own
  • Absence of reliable info on where the ennemy reinforcements (and the French reinforcements as well) were

That is what Napoleon knew at the time, so his decision seems to be ill advised
 
Jan 2017
3,587
Sydney
#36
Of course but he had the initiative ,
Austrians , Prussians and Russians units were coming at forced marches to join battle with him

since he had dispersed the forces in front of him , ensuring they couldn't make a stand and advance toward Paris if he moved to the Rhine
it was imperative , hence the order to Grouchy , to push them in a pursuit in force ( he knew Blucher army was only wounded )
giving Grouchy sufficient troops to steamroll any attempt at a stand
forcing the British /German army to retreat beyond Bruxelles would neutralize them while he got into the real battle against the approaching forces