The New Student's Reference Work/Waterloo
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Wa′terloo′, a village in Belgium, nine and a half miles southeast of Brussels, which owes its fame to the great battle fought in its neighborhood between Napoleon and Wellington, June 18, 1815. The French army numbered about 72,000 men, and Wellington's army numbered about 67,000, made up of British, German and Dutch troops. Napoleon supposed he had only Wellington's army to fight, as the Prussians had retreated before Ney on the 16th. But their retreat was toward Waterloo, and their arrival on the battlefield on the afternoon of the 18th turned the battle against the French, who, finding themselves hemmed in between the British and Prussians, fled in disorder. The roads southward were crowded with fugitives fleeing from the pursuing cavalry. One regiment of the guard which had covered Napoleon's retreat was surrounded and ordered to surrender; but their general, making the well-known answer: "The guard dies; it does not surrender," charged upon the enemy, and they perished almost to a man. The combined losses of this battle were about 50,000 men. Victor Hugo says the defeat of Napoleon was brought about by a rain the night before, which delayed the attack in the morning, thus giving the Prussian troops time to reach Waterloo; while others ascribe it to Grouchy's failure to obey orders. For a description of the battle see Hugo's Les Miserables. See Napoleon and Wellington.