History of Germany - H. E. Marshall

The Downfall of Napoleon

Peace had come to Germany and to Europe. But Napoleon had caused such confusions among all the states of Europe, that to bring them into order again a congress was called at Vienna. It was a great meeting of princes and rulers, for besides the Czar, the Emperor of Austria, and the King of Prussia, there were the rulers, or the representatives of every state in Europe, except Turkey.

But to bring order into Europe again, and to content each ruler, was no easy matter, and so the Congress soon found. Russia wanted the whole of Poland, Prussia the whole of Saxony. To this the other powers would not agree, and so bitter did the quarrel become that it seemed as if there would be war once more.

The suddenly came the news that Napoleon had left Elba, and had landed in Europe. At once the quarrelling ceased, and all the rulers of Europe joined against the common foe.

In vain Napoleon declared that he only wished to rule France in peace, and that he had no wish to conquer any other country. No one believed him. Armies were gathered with all speed, and from every side marched toward France. Britain and Prussia were the first to be ready for war. Wellington commanded the British, Blücher the Prussian army, and they joined forces in Belgium. But it must be remembered that less than half Wellington's army were British. The rest were Dutch and German. Among them was the Duke of Brunswick with his Black Brunswickers.

It was in Belgium, between the British and German forces on the one side and the French on the other, that this long struggle against Napoleon was fought to an end.

On June 16 the French attacked Blücher, and defeated him at Ligny, he himself narrowly escaping with his life. As he rode forward cheering his men on, his horse was killed under him. It fell, pinning him to the ground. There he lay, helpless and in agony, in danger of being pounded to death by the hoofs of the charging horses. But at length he was rescued by his soldiers, who carried him to a safe place.

On the same day another battle was fought at Quatre Bras, between the French on the one side and the allies on the other. In this the French were defeated. Two days later the last great battle was fought, La Belle Alliance, the Germans call it, we Waterloo.

It was upon the allies under Wellington that the brunt of the fighting fell. Blücher had promised to come to his aid, but his men were weary with fighting, the roads were deep in mud from the heavy rains, and his march was slow and painful. The cannon stuck fast in the mud, the men weary, hungry, and soaked to the skin, stumbled and fell by the way. "We can go no farther," they cried.

But tough old Blücher cheered them on. He was wounded, and in pain himself. Yet he rode his horse. "I would rather be tied on to my horse," he said, "than miss this battle." And when the men grumbled and cried out that they could go no farther, he answered cheerfully, "It is no good saying you can't. You must, my children," he cried. "I have given my word to my brother Wellington. You would not have me break my word." And so the wearied men pressed onward.

At length, late in the afternoon, the Prussian army reached the field where since twelve o'clock a desperate struggle had been carried on.

Napoleon saw them come and thought they were French troops. "It is Grouchy!" he said.

It was not Grouchy but Blücher, and Blücher's coming settled the day. One more effort Napoleon made. It was in vain. His old Guard was shattered, the French fled in confusion, their Emperor with them.

Not till the victory was won did Blücher and Wellington meet. The old General threw his arms round the Duke and kissed him in German fashion, so great was his delight at the victory.

"I shall sleep to-night in Napoleon's last night's quarters," said Wellington, triumphantly.

"And I will drive him out of his present ones," cried Blücher.

And the Prussians, forgetting their weariness, turned to pursue the fleeing foe. Throughout the moonlit night the pursuit and flight lasted. The wearied French sought shelter in the farmhouses and villages on the way. The Prussians, thirsting for revenge, hunted them forth again. So furious was the pursuit that Napoleon himself was nearly captured. He only saved himself by fleeing from his carriage, leaving everything behind him, even his hat and sword. These, with his jewelled star, Blücher sent to the King of Prussia as tokens of his triumph.

Eleven days after the great battle the allies once more stood before Paris. Napoleon had already abdicated and fled, but, unable to escape, he gave himself up to the British, and by order of the combined powers he was sent a prisoner to the island of St. Helena. There, a Napoleon few years later, he died.

Meanwhile, on November 20, 1815, the Second Peace of Paris was signed. By this peace the German states tried hard to recover Alsace and Lorraine, but the other powers were afraid that Germany would become too powerful, and they refused to agree. Instead, France had to pay a large sum of money, and give back all the works of art which Napoleon had stolen from the countries he had conquered.

At length everything was settled, and Europe was once more at peace.