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Napoleon Bonaparte had been plotting a return to power in France after his exile to the island of Elba in 1814. In the spring of 1815, he returned to France, seeking to capitalize on discontent over the dissolution of the empire he had built during his rule over that country. Troops who had served under him flocked to rebuild his army.

However, the Congress of Vienna did not share the enthusiasm of the people of France for Napoleon’s return. The Congress of Vienna, ambassadors of European states seeking long-term peace, declared him an outlaw and called on members to provide troops to put down his resurgence. A military alliance known as the Seventh Coalition was formed against Napoleon as he began his campaign.

He planned to defeat the coalition before British forces could return from fighting in the War of 1812 in North America. To start his offensive, he began moving through Belgium, hoping to knock out weaker units. However, British and Prussian armies of the Seventh Coalition were able to bring forces together against Napoleon at Waterloo in Belgium.

On June 18, 1815, the Battle of Waterloo began. Napoleon’s troops fought well, but the British forces under the command of the Duke of Wellington held out until fresh Prussian and Dutch troops arrived. By the end of the day, the French forces were defeated. Napoleon would abdicate four days later, and within a month of his defeat at Waterloo would surrender to British forces. The 1815 Treaty of Paris would mark the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

Napoleon was exiled to the island of St. Helena in the middle of the South Atlantic, where he died in 1821.