Waterloo: Counting the Cost.

Waterloo is actually a battle that, despite it’s fame has many mysteries, not least of which is how many men became casualties.

Records are most complete for the British and Hanoverian losses. The Prussian figures also seem to be quite firm. The French vary from a colossal 40,000+ to 25,000+ killed and wounded. Now given the amount of debate surrounding the roles played by the multi national force Wellington commanded I am quite stunned that I cannot find a list breaking down casualties by nationality. This is my attempt to count the cost of defeating Napoleon, and the cost of fighting for him.
(Please note that all figures are approximate and based only on the available sources at time of writing)

The Field of Waterloo by Turner.
The Field of Waterloo by Turner.

I’ll begin with the Numbers present to give a feel of the toll. And to do this I need to break down Wellington’s famously international Allied force. It is usually stated as being made up of:

British 36%
KGL 10%
Nassau 10%
Brunswick 8%
Dutch 13%
Belgian 6%
(Source Adkin, Waterloo Companion)

In numbers I find that in “The Battle”, Barbero Puts the allied forces at:
British: 25,000  (+ 6,000 King’s German Legion)
Netherlands,: 20,000 (inc Dutch Belgian & Nassau)
Hanover: 11,000 (excluding KGL)
Brunswick: 6,000.

By the end of the day Prussia, is estimated to have put a hefty 50,000, into the struggle (Blucher’s losses at Ligny are not put here, nor are Wellington’s from Quatre Bras, nor are Napoleon’s from both, but all are included in the overall campaign tally at the end). Napoleon deployed something like 71,000 men.

It’s been tough to compute the casualties for the Dutch and Belgians, and I fear that this, because of poor documentation and my own less than stellar maths skill, (Huzzah for calculators) is a very poor effort. Please note that this is not an exact result rather a conglomeration of numbers found in sources that roughly correspond. Here goes.

Adkin states that Wellington lost approximately 17,000 men in total (killed wounded & missing), this is broken down to:
3,500 killed,
10,200 wounded,
3,300 missing. (Adkin says half of the missing were “Netherlands” and German speaking troops, and the numbers below roughly tally to this.)

British: Wellington’s casualty returns for the British and Hanoverian army, noted in his dispatches was estimated at, (KGL usually included in British numbers, but can’t be sure )
1,759 killed
5,892 wounded
807 missing
8,458, total.

Hanoverian (Wellington’s casualty return)
288 killed
1,124 wounded
816 missing
Total 2,228

Netherlands (Inc Belgian & Nassau) A Waterloo Orders of Battle Wikipedia article referencing Glover and Haythornthwaight Puts Netherlands losses at:
killed 544
Wounded 2,471
Missing 1,906
Total 4,920

Brunswick (Wiki article sited above)
269 Killed
978 wounded
279 missing
Total 1,596

Prussia: (Barbero)
1,200 killed
4,400 wounded
1,400 missing.
7,000 total.

France: (Barbero)
24,000 to 26,000 killed & wounded. (including 6,000 to 7,000 captured during battle and in following days, probably less than 11,000 killed)
15,000 missing.
41,000 total.

As a postscript to show how the numbers differs from source to source, while still remaining in the ballpark:
Allied losses at Waterloo
Greenhill Napoleonic Wars Data Book. Sourcing Siborne, Martinien and Plotho.

British 7,460 KWM
Prussians 7,223 KWM
Dutch-Belgians 4,154 KWM
Hanoverian 2,084 KWM
KGL 1,704 KWM
Brunswick 733 KWM
Nassauers 724 KWM

Horses from all nations are approximated at 7-10,000 killed, (O’Keefe). Over 2,000 of which is accounted for by the Allies. So far I have only read isolated and uncompiled references in separate accounts, to 21 confirmed wounded horses that survived, there is doubtless more, but it show’s that it will not be a great number due to the nature of horse medicine, especially in 1815, and their wounds would be unlikely to have been life threatening if they did survive, unfortunately no one seems to have taken down the numbers.

So the reaper at last arrived on a price for Napoleon’s downfall. It cost 68,000 men killed wounded and missing from all sides. Over the entire campaign in Belgium from the 15th to the 20th of June well over 107,117 casualties.
Truly “Next to a battle lost the greatest misery is a battle gained”


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