Battle of Wavre

Battle of Wavre
Part of the Waterloo Campaign
Date 18–19 June 1815
Location 50°43′N 04°36′E / 50°43′N 04°36′E / Battle of Wavre)
Wavre, present-day Belgium
Result French tactical victory
Prussian strategic victory
Belligerents
France French Empire Kingdom of Prussia Prussia
Commanders and leaders
France Marshal Grouchy Kingdom of Prussia Johann von Thielmann
Strength
33,000 infantry
80 cannon [1]
17,000 infantry
48 cannon [1]
Casualties and losses
2,500 dead and wounded [1] 2,500 dead and wounded [1]
Map of the Waterloo Campaign

The Battle of Wavre was the final major military action of the Hundred Days campaign and the Napoleonic Wars. It was fought on 18–19 June 1815 between the Prussian rearguard, consisting of the Prussian III Corps under the command of General Johann von Thielmann (whose chief-of-staff was Carl von Clausewitz) and three corps of the French army under the command of Marshal Grouchy. A blocking action, this battle kept 33,000 French soldiers from reaching the Battle of Waterloo and so helping in the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.

Background

Following defeat at the Battle of Ligny two days earlier, the Prussian army retreated north in some disorder, exposing the eastern flank of Wellington's Anglo-allied army at Quatre Bras, who also retreated northwards, to a defensive position at Waterloo. Napoleon moved the bulk of his army off in pursuit of Wellington, and sent Grouchy in pursuit of the retreating Prussians with the right wing (aile droite) of the Army of the North ( L'Armée du Nord), a force consisting of 33,000 men and 80 guns. [1]

The French units in the order of battle were: [a]

  • III Corps (General Dominique Vandamme)
    • 17,099 infantry – 38 guns
  • IV Corps (General Étienne Maurice Gérard)
    • 15,013 infantry – 38 guns
  • II Cavalry Corps (General Remy Exelmans)
    • 3,392 infantry – 12 guns
  • IV (Hussars) Cavalry Division (General Pierre Soult)
    • 1,485 infantry – 8 guns detached from the I Cavalry Corps
    • 5,000 cavalry from the Reserve Army

Grouchy was slow in taking up the pursuit after Ligny, which allowed Prince Blücher to fall back largely unmolested to Wavre, regroup his army, and then execute a flank march with three of his four corps to join up with Wellington's Anglo-allied army at Waterloo. The remaining corps, the III Prussian Corps (Thielmann's) of 17,000 men and 48 guns, was to follow the other three corps leaving a small rearguard in Wavre, unless the French appeared in force in which case he was to oppose any French attempt to close on the main body of the Prussian army. [a]

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