Napoleon’s Strategy at Waterloo
Excerpt from How Wars Are Won: The 13 Rules of War—From Ancient Greece to the War on Terror, by Bevin Alexander, pages 131-32
Napoleon knew [the Austrian commander] Schwarzenberg, coming from Germany, would be slow. Thus he could ignore the Austrians for the moment. His greatest opportunity lay in Belgium. Wellington and Blücher would think he was going to defend, not attack, because French forces in the north amounted to only about 124,000 men, as opposed to 85,000 men in the British-Dutch army and 123,000 in the Prussian army. Napoleon thus could achieve strategic surprise. Moreover, the allied position in Belgium was in peril because the British and the Prussian armies were not concentrated. Wellington had posted his army in the vicinity of Brussels, Blücher around Namur, thirty-five miles southeast.
Napoleon saw that a potentially fatal gap lay between the two armies. If he could advance into southern Belgium to the crossroads of Quatre Bras (“Four Corners”), sixteen miles southeast of Brussels, he would be in the central position between the British and the Prussian armies. From there, he could beat in turn the British and the Prussians, then swing southeast to deal with the Austrians and Russians.<< More 'Napoleonic Wars' Excerpts << Back to top