The road to Waterloo: Week 2 (2 – 8 Mar 2015)

News of Napoleon’s landing reaches Paris
Having slipped away from the island of Elba on 26 February 1815, Napoleon, together with some 1,000 men, landed in the south of France, between Cannes and Fréjus, on the 1 March.

roadtowaterloo105

News of his landing reached King Louis XIII in Paris on 5 March. Marshal Soult, the French Minister of War, advised the King that the 60,000 troops already stationed in the south would be sufficient to deal with Napoleon, with 120,000 reservists available to be called up and stationed south of Paris if required. Meanwhile, Marshal Ney left Paris with 6,000 men, promising to bring Napoleon back in an “iron cage”.

As Napoleon marched inland the number of his followers grew, with soldiers sent to arrest him instead joining his cause. At Laffrey, on 7 March, he was confronted by a battalion of the nominally royalist 5th Regiment. After a brief moment of tension (in which Napoleon is alleged to have called out “Soldiers of the 5th, will you fire on your Emperor?”) the soldiers began to cheer him as a hero. Arriving at Grenoble that evening, the inhabitants demanded the gates be opened to the Bonapartists, with the garrison of the city adding yet more numbers to his growing force.

In an accompanying dispatch sent to Lord Castlereagh, the British Foreign Secretary, on 12 March 1815, Wellington affirms his view that Napoleon’s forces will be unable to hold out against the united efforts of the allied sovereigns of Europe:

“It is my opinion that Bonaparte has acted upon false or no information, and that the King will destroy him without difficulty, and in a short time. If he does not, the affair will be a serious one, and a great and immediate effort must be made, which will doubtless be successful.”

MS 61 Wellington Papers 1/453/8

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