On This Day in Napoleonic History – 18 of March 1815

Marshal Ney joins Napoleon’s side during Hundred Days

18Although only a short while previously Michel Ney had told Louis XVIII, ‘I will bring you Bonaparte in an iron cage,’ he deflected to Napoleon’s side with almost all his troops except for a few royalist officers. Ney’s loyalties were torn and it was by no means an easy decision. When Napoleon sent a message to Ney that read, ‘Should you decide to change sides, I will receive you like I did at the morrow of the Battle of the Moskova,’ the marshal couldn’t resist following his heart instead of his head.

Although he fully intended to fight Napoleon when he left Paris, he had no wish to start a civil war and the Bonapartist sentiment among his┬ámen was too strong. He later said that he couldn’t hold off the sea with his hands. Similarly, Marshal Soult stated that only a traitor would join Napoleon. And yet, the only two marshals to fight on Napoleon’s side at the Battle of Waterloo were Ney and Soult. ‘Only the Emperor Napoleon is entitled to rule over our beautiful country,’ Ney told his men. For his loyalty to his former commander Ney would face a firing squad when the royalists returned after the fiasco of Waterloo.

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