The Finger of Providence: The Battle of Waterloo

battle of waterlooEmperor Napoleon Bonaparte was one of the great scourges to humanity. Close to three and a half million soldiers died in his wars alone, without counting a single civilian causality. Everywhere he went, death followed. To take a quote from Warren Carroll, in The Revolution Against Christendom:

“Metternich had met Napoleon on June 26th, 1813, and talked with him for a full nine hours. Napoleon threatened him with his enormous armies. “I have seen your soldiers” Metternich said to him calmly.” They are no more than children. And when these infants have been wiped out, what will you have left?” Napoleon flung his famous cocked hat across the room and screamed:” You are not a soldier. You know nothing of what goes on in a soldiers mind. I grew up on the field of battle and a man such as I cares little for the life of a million men.”

For all his evil, Napoleon was one of the greatest generals of all time. He ought to have won at the battle of Waterloo. He estimated his chances at 90%, and it was a pretty accurate guess. Let’s review the various factors that led to the outcome of the battle of Waterloo.

First, the deeply Catholic region of the Vendee revolted against Napoleon, forcing him to send troops to put the rebellion down. Had Napoleon had those troops, he may very well have won at Waterloo.

Second, in the prelude to Waterloo, the French delayed attacking the Prussians at the battle of Ligny for 6 hours, which turned what ought to have been the destruction of the Prussian forces into merely pushing them back. Had the Prussians been destroyed, Napoleon would have won at Waterloo.

Third, it rained all night before the battle of Waterloo. This meant that the battle started later than it ought to have, since the artillery could not move. Had the battle started earlier, Napoleon would have won long before the Prussians came to aid the British, and Napoleon would have won.

Fourth, Napoleon had a master battle plan that involved shifting the British army to left, where he could destroy them. Unfortunately for him, the 5 British battalions holding the British left stood their ground under incredible pressure, more than anyone would have calculated possible. This threw Napoleon’s plan into discord, for had he drawn the British to the left, he would have won the battle of Waterloo.

Fifth, Napoleon ordered a massive charge of his heaviest and best Cavalry, The Cuirassiers, against a weak point of the British line. However, there was a trench in the middle of the battlefield, difficult to see, into which Napoleon lost nearly 1,000 of his elite heavy Cavalry. It caused the charge to fail, and is known as the biggest event which lost Napoleon the Battle of Waterloo.

Sixth, The Prussian army was headed along a route that led to a dead-end. However, a peasant redirected them, so they were able to join the fight in time to beat Napoleon.

Seventh, unexpected delays caused the 15,000 men under Marshall Grouchy to be unable to join the fight, the loss of which proved to be too great for Napoleon.

With all these tiny incidences coming together to ensure the defeat of one of history’s greatest generals, (Second to Scipio, but that’s for another time.) can there be any doubt in the mind of a Catholic that, as Wellington himself said, “The finger of Providence was on me”? Can we look at the dramatic defeat of so great a general and still think that God will not bring good out of all things, no matter how desperate the situation is?

Henry B.

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