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The Battle of Waterloo was the final and decisive action of the Napoleonic Wars that effectively ended French domination of the European continent and brought about drastic changes in the political boundaries and the power balance of Europe Fought on June 18 1815 near Waterloo in what is now Belgium the battle ranks as a great turning point in modern history After raising France to a position of dominance in Europe from 1804 to 1813 Napoleon met defeat in 1814 by a alliance of major powers notably Prussia Russia Great Britain and Austria Napoleon was then deposed and exiled to the island of Elba and Louis XVIII was made ruler of France In September 1814 the Congress of Vienna with delegates from most of the nations of Europe got together to discuss problems arising from the defeat of France On February 26 1815 however while the congress was in session Napoleon escaped from Elba and returned to France In Paris Napoleon found out about the plan after that he was determined to attack the allies on their own ground before their army could take form With characteristic energy and decisiveness he mobilized within two months an army of 360000 trained soldiers He deployed half of these troops within France as a security force and grouped the remainder into attack units On June 14 1815 Napoleon moving with the highest speed and secrecy reached the Franco-Belgian border with 124000 of his troops Another 56000 men were left behind in secondary positions On June 15 1815 Napoleon moved across the border of Belgium and his sudden arrival caught the allied command unprepared After crossing the Sambre River the French routed a Prussian advance guard at Charleroi Napoleon then ordered his left wing under Marshal Michel Ney to attack a brigade of Wellingtons cavalry at Quatre-Bras 12 mi north of Charleroi He next ordered the right wing under General Emmanuel de Grouchy to move eastward
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