On This Day in Napoleonic History – 16 June 1815

16Napoleon splits his force before the Battle of Waterloo

‘Now then, Grouchy, follow up those Prussians. Give them a touch of cold steel in their kidneys,’ said Napoleon to Marshal Emmanuel de Grouchy, thereby committing one of his gravest mistakes at Waterloo. Grouchy was sent away with 33,000 men and 96 guns to follow the Prussian army.

By splitting his force a day before he anticipated a major battle against Wellington, Napoleon broke one of his own military maxims:  ‘No force should be detached on the eve of battle because affairs may change during the night either by the retreat of the enemy or by the arrival of fresh reinforcements.’ It had certainly proved a devastating decision for the French.

Leave a Reply