Blücher’s military career began in 1758 as a hussar in the Swedish Army. He was captured by the Prussians in 1760 during the Pomeranian Campaign and thereafter joined the Prussian Army, serving as a hussar officer for Prussia during the remainder of the Seven Years’ War. In 1773, Blücher was forced to resign by Frederick the Great for insubordination. Upon the death of Frederick in 1786, Blücher was reinstated and promoted to colonel. For his success in the French Revolutionary Wars, Blücher became a major general in 1794. He became a lieutenant general in 1801 and commanded the cavalry corps during the Napoleonic Wars in 1806.
War broke out between Prussia and France again in 1813 and Blücher returned to active service at the age of 71. He was appointed full general over the Prussian field forces and clashed with Napoleon at the Battles of Lützen and Bautzen. Later he won a critical victory over the French at the Battle of Katzbach. Blücher commanded the Prussian Army of Silesia at the Battle of the Nations where Napoleon was decisively defeated. For his role, Blücher was made a field marshal and received his title of Prince of Wahlstatt. After Napoleon’s return in 1815, Blücher took command of the Prussian Army of the Lower Rhine and co-ordinated his force with that of the British and Allied forces under the Duke of Wellington. At the Battle of Ligny he was severely injured, and the Prussians retreated. After recovering, Blücher resumed command and joined Wellington.
“Forwards!” he was quoted as saying when arriving on the field of Waterloo in the late afternoon. “I hear you say it’s impossible, but it has to be done! I have given my promise to Wellington, and you surely don’t want me to break it? Push yourselves, my children, and we’ll have victory!” With the battle hanging in the balance, Blücher’s army intervened with decisive and crushing effect, his vanguard drawing off Napoleon’s badly needed reserves, and his main body being instrumental in crushing French resistance at the Battle of Waterloo, with the intervention of Blücher’s army playing a decisive role in the final allied victory.