How Well Do You Know the Battle of Waterloo?

John Miller

Image: Louis Dumoulin

About This Quiz

In early 19th-century Europe, France was ground zero for an empire spawned by Napoleon Bonaparte. With his military cunning and political savvy, Napoleon had quickly moved up through the ranks of the army during the French Revolution, becoming a general at the tender age of 24. From there, it was just a matter of time before he seized even more power in his home country. Do you think you know enough about his genius to beat our Battle of Waterloo quiz?

Napoleon roiled Europe with his warring ways. He wasn’t content to rule over France. He wanted other vast parts of the continent, too. For decades, he managed to get away with his power-hungry ways, but abruptly he was shoved from his violent path. Then, showing the tenacity of a true fanatic, he returned to power and set about building his army again. Do you know how he managed this miraculous feat?

With a retooled army and grim determination, Napoleon once again set fire to Europe. He had a dastardly plan in mind – divide the countries allied against him, conscript hundreds of thousands of soldiers, and put Europe in a death grip that it would never escape.

So, Napoleon and his men set off for war once again. This time, they were confronted at the Battle of Waterloo. An allied force of Europeans blocked the French path and refused to retreat, setting the stage for one of the most famous battles in history. Take our epic quiz and see if you know what really happened at the world-changing Battle of Waterloo!

The Battle of Waterloo was a fight that was part of which war?

The Battle of Waterloo was a major turning point of the Napoleonic Wars of the early 1800s. The wars tore apart Europe for about two decades.

The Battle of Waterloo pitted a British-led alliance against ______.

In 1815, a British-led coalition confronted a French army at the Battle of Waterloo. The fates of millions of Europeans were wrapped up in the battle's outcome.

Who was the famous commander of the French forces at this battle?

He's a man who is still regarded as one of the most powerful in world history: Napoleon Bonaparte. He had masterminded France's domination of Europe, and planned on yet another victory at Waterloo.

What was Napoleon's title in France?

Napoleon was a scrappy fighter and politician who pushed his way to the top of French society. In 1804, after a series of major military victories, he made himself emperor.

What happened to Napoleon in 1814?

In 1814, an alliance of Russian, Swedish, Austrian and Prussian troops beat Napoleon's armies and captured Paris. The iconic leader was forced to leave his throne and was exiled to a small Mediterranean island off of the coast of Italy.

In 1815, Napoleon escaped exile. Then what did he do?

After less than a year in exile, Napoleon escaped, seized control of his former armies, and began what was called the Hundred Days campaign. The mastermind was back in action and ready to rock Europe all over again.

What did other European countries do when Napoleon returned to power?

The European alliance that ousted Napoleon in 1814 once again banded together, this time in hopes of permanently putting a stop to the power-hungry Frenchman's ways.

What was the name of the European alliance that opposed Napoleon?

The British-led Seventh Coalition stood in the way of French domination in Europe. Napoleon planned a preemptive strike to put down the allies and make the Coaltion surrender.

On March 25, 1815, Russia, Austria, Prussia and Great Britain all agreed to keep at least _____ troops at war until Napoleon was finally defeated.

Each of the four major powers committed to keeping 150,000 troops at the ready until their French nemesis was finally gone. In other words, Napoleon had to make his move or risk being annihilated.

In June 1815, Napoleon marched his men into battle in ______ and won the fight.

Napoleon wasted no time attacking the Coalition. In June, he marched in to what's now called Belgium and defeated the Prussian army. The French general was back, and in a big way.

Why was Napoleon so eager to take the fight to the Seventh Coalition instead of biding his time and rebuilding his armies?

Upon Napoleon's return to power, the Coalition commited hundreds of thousands of troops to oust the French leader. Napoleon knew he would be outnumbered, so he chose to strike first.

The Battle of Waterloo took place in which country?

On June 18, 1815, British-led forces confronted the French army in what is now Belgium. If Napoleon won, he would have momentum in his return to power; lose, and his empire was on the ropes.

How many armies of the Seventh Coalition clashed with Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo?

Two of the armies of the Coalition took the field. They were the Prussian army, led by Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, Prince of Wahlstatt, and the British allies, under the command of the Duke of Wellington.

True or false, did Napoleon's army actually outnumber the Coalition during this battle?

It's false, the French forces were outnumbered. Napoleon had just over 70,000 troops at his disposal, against nearly 120,000 Coalition troops.

What was the condition of the Prussian army at the beginning of the battle?

The Prussian army was made up of tens of thousands of conscripts, and many of them had never been in battle. Napoleon knew that he could knock the Prussians out of the war if he struck decisively.

Napoleon was so skilled as a field general that he was often called which nickname?

Napoleon's domination of his foes left him with a formidable reputation … and a nickname: "God of War." At the Battle of Waterloo, many Coalition troops undoubtedly figured they would be heading to early graves.

What was the weather like the night before the battle?

The night before the battle, troops slumbered under cloudy skies and heavy rain, an element that would eventually play a role in the battle's outcome.

Coalition commander Wellington knew battle was imminent on June 18. He knew that he needed ______.

Wellington led the British portion of the army and knew that the French were coming. He knew that the Prussians were still some ways off, and that he would need their help to defeat Napoleon.

How did both armies know a battle was brewing?

The French and the allies camped just 1,500 yards from each other the night of June 17. The next day, they all knew, the bullets would be flying.

Before the battle began, what was Napoleon's objective?

Napoleon wanted to capture the city of Brussels. His idea was to split the alliance, consolidate his territory and weather the storm while building a bigger and better army.

On the morning of June 18, Napoleon decided to delay his advance. Why?

The previous night's rain had saturated the ground. Napoleon delayed his advance to let the water dissipate a little, but that simple decision wound up having a major impact on the ensuing battle.

How did Napoleon plan to attack the Coalition at the beginning of the battle?

Napoleon loved to sweep his foes' flanks with envelopment attacks. And that was exactly his plan as the battle began around midday on June 18.

As the battle began, which force was rushing to help the Coalition?

As Napoleon belatedly started his attack at midday, the Prussians were on the march to assist the Coalition. If they arrived too late, the French would probably have already earned their triumph.

The British held a fortified area near La Haye Sainte. What happened at this garrison?

At La Haye Sainte, the French found their momentum, crushing the allies and pushing them back. Now, French artillery could launch their shells into the center of Coalition positions. The situation was indeed dire.

As the French advanced through the front lines, what surprise did Wellington have in store for them?

Using the rolling terrain and tall grasses, Wellington concealed his reinforcements. As Napoleon's troops quickly advanced, the Coalition men stood and fired at almost point-blank range.

As Wellington's men attacked, what else happened?

Just as Wellington's men shattered the French assault, the Prussian army arrived on the scene. What had moments before been a French rout suddenly began a Coalition counteroffensive. The French were defeated.

The Coalition won the battle, but many people were hurt. How many TOTAL combined casualities were there during this one-day battle?

The Battle of Waterloo was a bloody affair, especially considering that it lasted just a day. By the end, around 65,000 men were dead, wounded, missing or captured. But Napoleon's bloodthirsty reign was over.

Four days after his defeat at Waterloo, what did Napoleon do?

Four days after the battle, Napoleon left his throne for good. After 23 years, it was the long-anticipated end of the Napoleonic Wars.

What happened to Napoleon, anyway?

Once again, Napoleon was exiled, to a remote island in the South Atlantic. This time, there would be no escape. He died in 1821 at age 51, probably from cancer.

If an unstoppable force is miraculously halted, it is said to have _______.

Ever since Napoleon's miraculous defeat, the Battle of Waterloo has come to symbolize David vs. Goliath-type odds. If someone "meets his Waterloo," he's been defeated … even though he should have won.

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