The Prussian Army
After Napoleon’s first defeat and abdication, the Prussians, in common with the rest of Europe, were in the process of reducing the number of men under arms. They were also carrying out a major re-
Two changes since 1806 served them well.
The Prussians were strongly motivated. Napoleon had humiliated them in 1806 at the battles of Jena and Auerstedt, subjugated them and bled their economy dry. The Prussians wanted revenge and a more prominent place in Europe.
The Prussians covered the frontier area around Charleroi and along the Sambre river where the French first invaded Belgium. They fell back on the 15th June and assembled at and around Ligny as agreed with Wellington. Unfortunately IV Corps was too far away to the north east to join them so they faced Napoleon on the 16th with three Corps and, after fierce fighting, were forced to withdraw. Rather than fall back east in the direction of their supply lines, most of the army went north and reassembled around Wavre from where about half the remaining army were able to reach the Waterloo battlefield and ensure Napoleon’s defeat.
The Prussian returns of 14th June show slightly over 130,000 men with 304 guns under Blϋcher's command. Although IV Corps was not engaged at all during the period 15-
The IV Corps under Bϋlow was the only Prussian corps to fight in its entirety at Waterloo. However, its leading units did not arrive on the edge of the battlefield until 4.30 p.m. As this corps was not in the area the French first invaded and was not at Ligny, it went into action at virtually full strength. It provided 31,000 men and 86 guns out of the total Prussian involvement of 49,000 and 134 guns.
II Corps provided 12,800 at around 6.30 p.m. and I Corps (the last to arrive at about 7.30 p.m.) a total of 5,000.
Strengths by Corps at Waterloo
Infantry: 7 battalions (11% of all Prussian infantry battalions). Cavalry: 4 regiments, 13 squadrons (21% of all cavalry squadrons). Artillery: 1 battery of foot artillery, 2 batteries of horse artillery (24 guns, 18% of the total).
Infantry: 21 battalions (34% of all battalions).
Cavalry: 3.5 regiments, 14 squadrons (23% of all cavalry squadrons).
Artillery: 2 batteries of foot artillery, 1 battery of horse artillery
(24 guns, 18% of the total).
Infantry: 34 battalions (55% of the total).
Cavalry: 10 regiments, 34 squadrons (56% of all cavalry squadrons).
Artillery: 8 batteries of foot artillery, 3 batteries of horse artillery (86 guns, 64% of the total).
Infantry: 62 battalions 38,000
Cavalry: 17.5 regiments, 61 squadrons 7,000
Artillery: 17 batteries, 134 guns 2,500
Others: staff, munitions columns, engineers, medical personnel, etc. 1,500
Grand total: 49,000 at Waterloo.
The average strength of a Prussian battalion was about 615 all ranks.