Battle of Ligny

From Academic Kids

Template:Battlebox The Battle of Ligny, fought June 16, 1815, was a French victory under Napoleon against the Prussian army under Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher in the Napoleonic Wars. It was Napoleon's last victory.



The Prussians had deployed along the Ligny Brook. They held all the farmhouses, and looked in a more or less good defensive position. However, Blücher had overstretched his left flank, and exposed his right to the French artillery.

Map of the Waterloo campaign
Map of the Waterloo campaign


Between 1430 hours to 1500 hours, Napoleon started his attack. He ordered his 3rd and a some of 2nd Corps to attack St. Amaund, a farmhouse, and attacked Ligny itself.

The first attacks on Ligny were not successful at first, but the French eventually got through. The St. Amaund attack was more successful. The French broke through, but were still resisted by the Prussians. They rid the place of Prussians at 1700 hours.

Some troops were spotted on approaching the French left flank. Napoleon paused his attack while he sent an aides-de-camp (ADC) to see whether they were French or Prussian. They turned out to be French, d'Erlon's 1st Corps. But just as they were about to enter the battle, to the Napoleon's rage, they turned around. Marshal Ney had called them to aid him at the Battle of Quatre Bras. In the end, the 1st Corp's did not fight in either engagement.

Due to the confusion, it was about an hour before Napoleon resumed his attack, in the mean while the Prussians regrouped and tried one last counterattack. It didn't work. In the end the Prussians were routed and the centre fled when Napoleon committed his Imperial Guard to smash it, however the stubborn defence put up by the two wings of the Prussian army and a cavalry charge lead by Blücher (an old hussar) prevented it from becoming a total rout. By nightfall, at about 2100, all of the Prussian formations had left the field. On the Prussian right Lieutenant-General Ziethen's I Corps retreated slowly with most of its artillery, leaving a rearguard at close to Brye to slow the French pursuit. On the left Lieutenant-General Thielemann's III Corps retreated unharmed, leaving a strong rearguard at Sombreffe. The rearguard held their positions until about midnight before following the rest of the retreating army.


If Ney's 2nd Corps and 3rd Cavalry Corps had not blocked the Allied army at Battle of Quatre Bras on the same day, then units of the Allied army would have arrived down the Nivelles-Namur road on the right hand side of the Prussian position much as the Prussians arrived on the left flank of the Allied lines at the Battle of Waterloo two days later. This is why Napoleon sent Ney to block the road at the Quatre Bras cross roads. It had been his strategy to cross the border in secret and attack the Allied armies before they could combine, because if they combined then they would outnumber his army. If he was able to engage them separately then his army outnumbered theirs in the individual engagements. In Wellington's words "he [has] humbugged me". In driving the Prussians back onto their lines of communications and sending Grouchy's with a corps to pursue them, to stop them reforming and coming to the aid of Wellington's allied formations, he judged that he had done enough to prevent this happening.

There has been much debate of what would have happened if d'Erlon's 1st Corps had engaged at either Ligny or Quatre Bras, but he did not and Napoleon went on to his meet his destiny at Waterloo.

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