Ligny, Battle of

Ligny, Battle of
   Part of Napoleon’s Waterloo campaign during the Hundred Days that witnessed his return from exile and final defeat. Returning from exile at Elba, Napoleon realized that there was no hope of a negotiated settlement with the Allied coalition. The emperor decided to strike first and marched to the French border at Charleroi, hoping to defeat the combined British-Prussian army. Crossing into Belgium, Napoleon sent Marshal Michel Ney to deal with the Duke of Wellington at the crossroads of Quatre Bras, as Marshal Emmanuel de Grouchy marched toward Field Marshal Gebhard von Blücher at Ligny. Napoleon brought forward the Imperial Guard behind Grouchy when he realized an opportunity to defeat the Prussians existed. Napoleon attacked Blücher on the afternoon of June 16. When the Prussians appeared near breaking, Napoleon launched the guard forward in the early evening hours, and the Prussians finally gave way. Blücher himself tried to check the rout and was, for a period of time, lost to his army.
   General Augustus Gneisenau reorganized the Prussian Army for a retreat north toward Wavre, rather than toward the east. This decision eventually proved fatal to Napoleon. Although Napoleon dispatched Grouchy to prevent the Prussians from rallying to the Duke of Wellington, Grouchy instead lost contact with Blücher’s forces. When Blücher resumed command, he moved quickly to support Wellington on the afternoon of June 18, during the climactic Battle of Waterloo.
   See also <>; <>.
    Hofschröer, Peter. The Waterloo Campaign. Mechanicsville, PA: Stackpole Books, 1998.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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