The year was 1815 and Napoleon Bonaparte was up to his old tricks. He had been exiled to the island of Elba, but in February he escaped and returned to France. Upon his return, his small army grew with soldiers who had already had enough of the recently returned Bourbon king, Louis XVIII. The 100 Days Campaign had begun. Opting to strike first rather than wait for Allied forces to descend upon him, Napoleon moved his forces north to Belgium in an effort to split the more numerous Allied forces. After several costly battles on both sides, he met the Allied forces at Waterloo, where he was defeated in a bloody battle that killed 40,000 soldiers (25,000 French troops and 15,000 Allied). Napoleon was once again exiled, this time to the tiny island of St. Helena, where he would live out his days.
Napoleon’s brother-in-law, Joachim Murat, also met with ruin that year. Murat was of humble origins, but rose through the ranks, serving with Napoleon and eventually marrying his sister Caroline. He was given the crown of Naples in 1808 and continued to fight with Napoleon until his abdication. Seeking to retain his throne, he switched sides for a time and signed an agreement with Austria, but when Napoleon returned from Elba, he declared war on Austria. The Neapolitan War was short-lived and Murat fled to Corsica where he gathered a small army in the hope that he would be able to regain his crown, but as soon as he landed, he was arrested and executed.
The War of 1812 ended on Christmas Eve in 1814 with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, but word of the agreement came too late to stop the Battle of New Orleans. On 8 January British forces attacked American fortifications, but the American troops led by General Andrew Jackson defeated the British troops decisively. The American troops had been outnumbered, but with help from the French pirate Jean Lafitte, a group of former Haitian slaves, and frontier riflemen from Kentucky and Tennessee, they helped restore the confidence of the American people and made Andrew Jackson into a well-known hero–a status that would help in his bid for the presidency in 1828.Â
In Indonesia, Mount Tambora erupted, killing an estimated 83,000 people with lava and hot gases. But the devastation from this volcano lasted well beyond the immediate eruption and was felt around the world. So much gas was released that it filtered the sun and created a colder than usual climate in the northern hemisphere in 1816. Snows and freezes in summer months led to famine in Europe and North America. (For more on “The Year Without a Summer” see The Year Was 1816.
Nasty weather also hit New England that year when the worst hurricane in 180 years hit in September. “The Great September Gale of 1815” moved across Long Island, New York, and up through New England on a northeasterly track. The eleven-foot storm surge flooded Providence, Rhode Island, and destroyed five hundred houses and thirty-five ships.Â