Charles William Sharpe
Wars and Conflicts:
H x W: 12 in. / 45 in.
Gift of Dayton S. Mak
From June 1980: The Army and Navy Club, gift of Dayton S. Mak
The etching was published by The Art Union of London in 1879, and is from the original painting by Irish historical artist Daniel Maclise from 1861, which resides in the Palace of Westminster.
The Battle of Waterloo, which took place in Belgium on June 18, 1815, marked the final defeat of French military leader and emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. It was here that Napoleon’s forces were defeated by the British and Prussians, signaling the end of his reign and the end of France’s domination in Europe. After Waterloo, Napoleon abdicated and later died in exile.
Napoleon led his army of some 72,000 troops against the 68,000-man British army commanded by Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington. In a critical blunder, Napoleon waited until midday to give the command to attack, in order to let the waterlogged ground dry after the previous night’s rainstorm. The delay gave Prussian Commander Gebhard von Blücher’s remaining troops time to march to Waterloo and join the British Army. Although Napoleon’s troops mounted a strong attack against the British, the arrival of the Prussians turned the tide against the French. This image shows the Duke and the Commander on horseback shaking hands beside a ruined inn, with cavalry behind them and surrounded by heaps of bodies and wounded soldiers, in what was surely a bittersweet moment of victory and mutual gratitude.