Toughest Battle


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There he arrayed his defenses on high ground at Mount St. Jean to meet the northward-marching French.

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By the morning of June 18, Napoleon had arrived at Mount St. Jean and deployed his army on high ground only yards from the enemy defenses. Napoleon's army of 70,, including 15, cavalrymen and artillery pieces, faced Wellington's allied force of about 65,, including 12, cavalry and guns, in a three-mile line. Both commanders sent word to their other armies to rejoin the main force.

A hard rain drenched the battlefield, causing Napoleon to delay his attack as late as possible on June 18 so that the boggy ground could dry and not impair his cavalry and artillery. After ordering a sustained artillery bombardment, Napoleon ordered a diversionary attack against the allied right flank in the west in hopes of getting Wellington to commit his reserve. The British defenders on the west flank, including the Scots and Coldstream Guards, remained on the reverse slope of the ridge during the artillery bombardment and then came forward when the French advanced.

The attack against the Allied right flank failed to force Wellington to commit his reserve, but Napoleon pressed on with his main assault against the enemy center.


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As the attack progressed, Napoleon spotted the rising dust of Bluecher's approaching army, which had eluded Grouchy's, closing on the battlefield. Napoleon, disdainful of British fighting ability, and overly confident of his own leadership and the abilities of his men, continued the attack in the belief that he could defeat Wellington before the Prussians joined the fight or that Grouchy would arrive in time to support the assault. For three hours, the French and the British fought, often with bayonets. The French finally secured a commanding position at the center at La Haye Sainte, but the Allied lines held.

Late in the afternoon, Bluecher arrived and seized the village of Plancenoit in Napoleon's rear, which forced the French to fall back. After a brutal battle decided by bayonets, the French forced the Prussians to withdraw. Napoleon then turned back against Wellington. Napoleon ordered his most experienced battalions forward from their reserve position for another assault against the Allied center.

The attack almost breached the Allied defenses before Wellington committed his own reserves. When the survivors of Napoleon's best battalions began to withdraw from the fight, other units joined the retreat. The Prussians, who had regrouped, attacked the French flank, sending the remainder running in disorder to the south. Napoleon's last few reserve battalions led him to the rear where he attempted, without success, to regroup his scattered army.

Although defeated, the French refused to give up. More than 26, French were killed or wounded and another 9, captured at Waterloo. Allied casualties totaled 22, At the end of the one-day fight, more than 45, men lay dead or wounded within the three-square-mile battlefield. Thousands more on both sides were killed or wounded in the campaign that led to Waterloo.

Napoleon agreed once again to abdicate on June 22, and two weeks later, the Allies returned Louis to power. Napoleon and his hundred days were over. This time, the British took no chances; they imprisoned Napoleon on remote St. Helena Island in the south Atlantic, where he died in Even if Napoleon had somehow won the battle, he had too few friends and too many enemies to continue. He and his country were doomed before his return from Elba. France never recovered its greatness after Waterloo. It returned territory and resumed its pre-Napoleon borders. With Napoleon banished, Britain, Russia, Prussia, and Austria maintained a balance of power that brought European peace for more than four decades--an unusually long period in a region where war was much more common than peace.

While a period of peace in itself is enough to distinguish Waterloo as an influential battle, it and Napoleon had a much more important effect on world events. While the Allies fought to replace the king of France on his throne, their leaders and individual soldiers saw and appreciated the accomplishments of a country that respected individual rights and liberties.

After Waterloo, as the common people demanded a say in their way of life and government, constitutional monarchies took the place of absolute rule. Although there was post-war economic depression in some areas, the general plight of the common French citizen improved in the postwar years. Through the passage of time, the name Waterloo has become synonymous with total defeat.

Napoleon and France did indeed meet their Waterloo in southern Belgium in , but while the battle brought an end to one age, it introduced another. Although the French lost, the spirit of their revolution. No kingdom or country would again be the same.


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  • At the end of the battle, more than half a million KMT soldiers were dead, captured, or converted to the other side, placing China in the hands of the Communists who continue to govern today. Struggles for the control of China and its provinces date back to the beginnings of recorded history. While some dynasties endured for many years and others for only short periods of time, the Chinese had fought among themselves and against foreign invaders throughout history only to find themselves divided once again at the start of the twentieth century.

    Political ideologies centered in Peking and Canton. Divisions in the country widened when the Japanese invaded in When World War I finally ended, the Chinese continued their internal struggles with local dictators fighting to control small regions. The two sides had little in common, and in less than five years, the shaky alliance had come apart when their leaders' views on support from the Soviet Union clashed. Mao encouraged Soviet support while Chiang opposed it. By , the two parties were directly competing for control of China and its people.

    Mao focused on the rural areas while Chiang looked to the urban and industrial areas for his power. From to , the two sides engaged in a civil war in which Chiang gained the upper hand through a series of successful offensives.

    Chiang almost destroyed the CCP army in , but Mao and , men escaped before he could do so. For the next year, the Communists retreated from the Nationalists across 6, miles of China to Yenan, a retreat that became known as the Long March. Only 20, survived. In , Chiang and Mao once again put their differences aside to unite against another invasion by Japan.

    Mao and his army fought in the rural northern provinces, primarily employing guerrilla warfare. Mao also used this opportunity to solidify his support from the local peasants while stockpiling weapons provided by the Allies and captured from the Japanese. His army actually gained strength during the fighting. Meanwhile Chiang faced stronger Japanese opposition in the south, which weakened his army.

    Despite efforts by the United States to mediate an agreement, the Communists and Nationalists resumed their armed conflict soon after the conclusion of World War II. In contrast to their weaker position prior to the war, the Communists now were stronger than the Nationalists. On October 10, , Mao called for the overthrow of the Nationalist administration.

    Mao, a student of Washington, Napoleon, and Sun Tzu, began to push his army south into the Nationalist zone. Whereas the Nationalists often looted the cities they occupied and punished their residents, the Communists took little retribution, especially against towns that did not resist. Now the Communists steadily achieved victories over the Nationalists. During the summer of , the Communists experienced a series of victories that pushed the major portion of the Nationalist army into a cross-shaped area extending from Nanking north to Tsinan and from Kaifeng east through Soochow to the sea.

    Mao decided that it was time to achieve a total victory.

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    On October 11, , he issued orders for a methodical campaign to surround, separate, and destroy the half-million-man Nationalist army between the Huai River and the Lung Hai Railway--the locations that gave the resulting battle its name. Mao divided his battle plan into three phases, all of which his army accomplished more smoothly and efficiently than anticipated.

    The Communists divided the Nationalist-held territory into three areas. Then beginning in November, they attacked each in turn. Early in the campaign, many Nationalists, seeing no hope for their own survival, much less a Nationalist victory, defected to the Communists. Chiang, who also was encountering internal divisions within his party, attempted to reinforce each battle area, but poor leadership by the Nationalist generals, combined with Communist guerrilla activities, made his efforts ineffective.

    Chiang even had air superiority during the entire battle but was unable to coordinate ground and air actions to secure any advantage. Over a period of two months, the Communists destroyed each of the three Nationalist forces. Support for Chiang from inside and outside China dwindled with each successive Communist victory.

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    The United States, which had been a primary supporter, providing arms and supplies to the Nationalists, suspended all aid on December 20, Secretary of State George C. Marshall stated, "The present regime has lost the confidence of the people, reflected in the refusal of soldiers to fight and the refusal of the people to cooperate in economic reforms. Within weeks of the U. Of the six highest-ranking Nationalist generals in the battle, two were killed in the fighting and two captured.

    The remaining two were among the few who escaped. By January 10, , the half-million members of the Nationalist army had disappeared. Within weeks, Tientsin and Peking fell to the Communists. On January 20, Chiang resigned his leadership of the Nationalists. The remaining Nationalist army and government continued to retreat until they finally withdrew to the island of Formosa.

    On Formosa, renamed Taiwan, Chiang regained power and developed the island into an Asian economic power.


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    Mainland China, however, remained under the control of Mao and his Communists, who are still in power today. The Communist takeover of China achieved by the Battle of Huai-Hai greatly influenced not only that country but the entire world. Over the next two decades, Mao focused almost exclusively on wielding complete control over his country. He ruthlessly put down any opposition and either executed or starved to death more than 20 million of his countrymen in order to bring to China the "joys" and "advantages" of Communism.

    Fortunately for the rest of the world, Mao remained focused on his own country. He disagreed with the Soviets on political and philosophical aspects of Communism, and the two nations viewed each other as possible opponents rather than allies. China's internal struggles and its conflicts with its neighbors have restricted its active world influence. Even though it remains today the largest and strongest Communist nation and the only potential major Communist threat to the West, China remains a passive player, more interested in internal and neighboring disputes than in international matters.

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    Had the Nationalists been victorious at Huai-Hai, China would have played a different role in subsequent world events. Had Chiang, with his outward views and Western ties, been the victor, China might have taken a much more assertive role in world events. Instead, the Battle of Huai-Hai would keep China locked in its internal world rather than opening it to the external.

    Although it would be the first, and to date the only, actual use of such weapons of "mass destruction," the mushroom clouds have hung over every military and political policy since. Less than five months after the sneak attack by the Japanese against Pearl Harbor, the Americans launched a small carrier-based bomber raid against Tokyo.

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