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Discover the armies and their commanders at Waterloo

The core of an army from the Napoleonic era was mainly composed of infantry, equipped with muskets and rifles. Depending on their battlefield function, infantry was divided into light infantry, line infantry, line grenadiers, and guard infantry. Artillery, with their ability to hit enemy targets from a distance, and cavalry, used for flanking, breaking enemy lines, and other intelligence operations, supported the infantry.

Light infantry 

Light infantry was historically used as the first wave of attack, causing disorder in opposing forces with their more accurate rifles than the muskets used by line infantry. With their long range, they were able to target officers and other essential units to maintain order and command when desperation set in. Light infantry usually operated in loose formation, making them less susceptible to musket and cannon fire. Although very effective and lethal, they were vulnerable and an easy target for cavalry. To ensure their safety, it is best to keep light cavalry close to your light infantry.

Line and elite infantry

Line infantry played an important role in the Napoleonic period as they were used to form the main line of attack and defence. This infantry was trained to hold their ground and form a line of fire als known as volleys. Line infantries were also used to march in close formation to deliver a volley of fire upon enemy ranks. The line infantry was usually divided into two sections- the militia and the infantry of the line. The militia was made up of armed citizens with basic training and equipment whereas the infantry of the line was made up of professional soldiers. They were skilled shooters and well equipped. The elite units of line infantry such as the grenadiers and the Imperial Guard of Napoleon were feared by the enemy. The Imperial Guard were so famous that their name is still remembered today. Unfortunately, this same fame sealed the fate of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo when the Imperial Guard started to withdraw.

Napoleonic cavalry 

Marshal Murad, one of the greatest cavalry commanders in history, led a charge of 9000 cavalrymen in three waves. He broke the Russian centre at the Battle of Eyleau in 1807, resulting in a Russian army retreat and a victory for Napoleon. The cavalry was made up of three different classes: light cavalry (hussars, chasseurs à cheval, lancers and light dragoons), medium cavalry (heavy dragoons and carabiniers) and heavy cavalry (cuirassiers, guard carabiniers, grenadier à cheval and lifeguards). Each type of cavalry had its own roles on and off the battlefield. Light cavalries were used to screen enemy lines, intercept messages and support infantry. The medium and heavy cavalry were deployed to spread fear and break enemy lines with their close and tight formations.

Napoleonic artillery

Artillery cannons used during the Napoleonic Wars had a long fire range, making them deadly on the battlefield. Mortars were used to siege buildings, while 4-6 and 12 pounder guns were used as field artillery. However, these cannons were vulnerable to cavalry attacks, so they were often protected by nearby field constructions or support units.