The road to Waterloo: Week 6 (30 Mar – 5 Apr 2015)

Wellington arrives in Brussels to take command of the Anglo-allied forces
The Treaty of Vienna was agreed on 25 March 1815, with Austria, Russia, Great Britain and Prussia each committing to put 150,000 men in the field against Napoleon. Wellington was commissioned to take command of the Allied forces and left Vienna on the morning of 29 March, arriving in Brussels on the evening of 4 April.

75 Days to Waterloo

In 1814 each of the Allied powers had agreed to keep 75,000 men on the Continent until a final settlement had been reached. However, over the course of the subsequent year, a significant portion of Britain’s forces, including those that had served with Wellington in the Peninsula, had either been disbanded or sent to America. As such, by the beginning of 1815, Britain had closer to 36,000 men in the Low Countries (more than a third of who were Hanoverians), with the troops being of generally poor quality.

Despite additional reinforcements and supplies being arranged prior to his arrival in Brussels, Wellington found the army under his command to be a far cry from the 150,000 men Britain had committed to. In a letter sent to Lord Bathurst, the British Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, on 6 April, Wellington voices his dissatisfaction with the situation, stating: “It appears to me that you have not taken in England a clear view of your situation, that you do not think war certain, and that a great effort must be made, if it is hoped that it shall be short […] as it is, we are in a bad way.” [MS 61 Wellington Papers 1/457/5]

Wellington’s complaints were heard and a significant number of additional men were raised in the subsequent two months. As both Britain and Ireland were stripped of their garrisons, a provision was made for Britain to pay for troops supplied by other powers through treaties of subsidy.

However, it was to prove an anxious time for the Allied powers. As preparations and negotiations were still underway, there were repeated reports of French movement on the frontier, together with warnings of an impending attack on Belgium. On the same day Wellington arrived in Brussels, Napoleon had written a letter to the European sovereigns announcing his restoration to the imperial throne, and expressing his desire for peace. The proposal was rejected and the bearers of the letter arrested. War had become unavoidable.

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