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Napoleonic Wars
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Napoleonic Wars

The Napoleonic Wars lasted from 1803 until 1815. They were a continuation of the conflicts sparked by the French Revolution and covered the duration of the First French Empire.

Table of contents
1 The First and Second Coalitions
2 The Third Coalition
3 The Fourth Coalition
4 The Fifth Coalition
5 The Sixth Coalition
6 The Seventh Coalition
7 Political Effects of the Wars
8 Military Effects of the Wars
9 See also

The First and Second Coalitions

The First Coalition (1792-1797) of Austria, Prussia, Great Britain, Spain and Piedmont against France had been the first attempt to crush republicanism. It was defeated by the French efforts - levée en masse, military reform, total war.

The Second Coalition (1798-1801) of Russia, Great Britain, Austria, The Ottoman Empire, Portugal, Naples and the Papal States against France was no more effective. Napoleon Bonaparte had come to control the French state since 1796. But he was unable to invade Great Britain directly; "I do not say, my Lords, that the French will not come. I say only they will not come by sea" - Admiral Jervis; so boldly offered a double threat, invading Egypt in the summer of 1798 and mounting another expedition to Ireland. The French fleet was defeated by Horatio Nelson in the Battle of the Nile (August 1) at Aboukir (Abu Qir) and the Irish problem was quickly contained. Napoleon was trapped in Egypt and the old members of the First Coalition, excluding Prussia, quickly took advantage of this seeming lapse. Early victories in Switzerland and Italy were promising, but Russia withdrew; the British declined to engage and the Austrians were left to face the returning Napoleon at Marengo (June 14, 1800) and then at Hohenlinden (December 3). The bloodied Austrians temporarily left the conflict after the Treaty of Lunéville (February 1801).

The Treaty of Amiens (1802) made peace between Britain and France, marked the final collapse of the Second Coalition. The French "perfidy" led to Britain refusing to honour the treaty and the renewal of hostilities from May 18, 1803. The conflict changed over its course from a general desire to restore the French monarchy into an almost manichean struggle against Bonaparte.

Suppression of Robert Emmet's Irish rising of July, 1803

Bonaparte declared the empire on May 28 and was crowned Emperor at Notre-Dame on December 2, 1804.

See also: French Revolutionary Wars

The Third Coalition

The Third Coalition (1805) of Austria, Britain, Russia and Sweden against France.

William Pitt the Younger, back in office.

Napoleon planned an invasion of England, and massed 150,000 troops at Boulogne. However, he needed to achieve naval superiority to mount his invasion, or at least to pull the British navy away from the English Channel. His main fleet, under Pierre de Villeneuve, was blockaded in Cádiz. It left for Naples on October 19, but was caught and defeated at Trafalgar on October 22. By this time the French army had already left Boulogne to move against Austria.

In April of 1805, Britain and Russia signed a treaty to liberate Holland and Switzerland. Austria joined the alliance after the annexation of Genoa and the proclamation of Napoleon as King of Italy. The French army moved from Boulogne in late July, 1805. At the Ulm (September 25 - October 20) the French defeated 70,000 Austrians under Karl Mack von Lieberich. They continued on to occupy Austria and crush the joint Austrian-Russian army at the Austerlitz (December 2) in Bohemia. Austria signed the Treaty of Pressburg, leaving the coalition.

The Fourth Coalition

The Fourth Coalition (1806-1807) of Prussia, Saxony and Russia against France.

Germany, Confederation of the Rhine. Hanseatic towns. Prussians declare war alone. Defeated at Jena and Auerstädt (October 14, 1806). Napoleon in Berlin 27th.

Russians, 1806. Stalemate at Eylau (February 7-8), but routed at Friedland (June 14). Alexander I and Naopoleon made peace at Tilsit (July 7, 1807). Congress of Erfurt (1808). Napoleon and tsar Alexander I agreed that Russia should force Sweden to join the Continental System, which led to the Finnish War and the division of Sweden through the Gulf of Bothnia. The eastern part became the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland.

The Fifth Coalition

The Fifth Coalition (1809) of Britain and Austria against France.

Britain alone, again. British military activity was reduced to a succession of small victories in the French colonies and another naval victory at Copenhagen (September 2, 1807). On land only the disastrous Walcheren Expedition (1809) was attempted. The struggle then centred over economic warfare - Continental System vs. naval blockade. Both sides entered conflicts trying to enforce their blockade - the British the Anglo-American War (1812-1814) and the French the much more serious Peninsular War (1808-1814); Portugal, Bayonne (April), guerillas, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington).

Industrial Revolution.

1809 Austria attacks into Duchy of Warsaw. Defeated at Battle of Radzyn April 19 1809. Polish army captures West Galicia. Austria attacks into Bavaria. Defeated at Wagram, July 5-6. Treaty of Schönbrunn (October 14, 1809).

1810 French empire reaches its greatest extent. Naopoleon marries Marie-Louise. As well as the French empire, Napoleon controlled the Swiss Confederation, the Confederation of the Rhine, and the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. Allied territories included: the Kingdom of Spain (Joseph Bonaparte); Kingdom of Westphalia (Jerome Bonaparte); the Kingdom of Italy (Eugčne de Beauharnais, son of Joséphine (Napoleon was king)); the Kingdom of Naples (Joachim Murat, brother-in-law); Principality of Lucca and Piombino (Felix Bacciochi, brother-in-law).

The Sixth Coalition

See Napoleon's invasion of Russia

The Sixth Coalition (1812-1814) of Britain and Russia, Prussia, Sweden, Austria and a number of German States against France.

Russia. 1812. Grande Armée, 600,000 men (270,000 French), crossed the Niemen River June 23, 1812. Russia proclaims Patriotic War, Napoleon proclaims Second Polish war, but against expectations of Poles that consisted 30% of his army he avoids any concessions toward Poland having in mind further negotations with Russia. Russian policy of retreat and scorched earth. Borodino (September 7), bloody but indecisive. September 14 Moscow captured and largely burned. Alexander I refused to capitulate. Great Retreat, 275,000 casualties, 200,000 captured. By November only 10,000 fit soldiers were among those who crossed the Berezina River. Napoleon returned to Paris in December.

At Vitoria (June 21, 1813) the French power in Spain was finally broken. Arthur Wellesley vs. Joseph Bonaparte. French forced to retreat out of Spain, over the Pyrenees.

Austria and Prussia re-enter the war. France had small victories at Lützen (May 2) and Bautzen (May 20-21) over Russo-Prussian forces. Battle of Leipzig (October 16-19, 1813), "Battle of the Nations": 195,000 French, 350,000 Allies; 110,000 casualties. Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube. Treaty of Chaumont (March 9). Allies enter Paris, March 30, 1814. Napoleon abdicated April 6. Treaty of Fontainebleau. Congress of Vienna.

Elba. Bourbon Restoration.

The Seventh Coalition

See: War of the Seventh Coalition

The Seventh Coalition (1815) of Britain, Russia, Prussia, Sweden, Austria and a number of German States against France.

Hundred Days. Napoleon landed at Cannes, March 1, 1815. He raised 280,000 men and attacked the Allies in Belgium, intending to take Wellington and Blücher in turn. At the Ligny (June 15), he defeated the Prussians who retreated to Wavre. At Quatre Bras on the same day Wellington was held. Battle of Waterloo (June 18). Napoleon abdicated again in June 22, 1815 at Saint Helena.

Political Effects of the Wars

The Napoleonic Wars had two great resounding effects upon the face of Europe. 1) France was no longer a dominating power over Europe as it had been since the times of Louis XIV. 2) A new and potentially powerful movement had been sprung; Nationalism. Nationalism was forever going to re-shape the course of European History. It was the force that spelled the beginning of Nations, and the end of others. The map of Europe was going to be re-drawn in the next hundred years following Napoleon's wars, not based on fiefs and aristocracy, but on the basis of human culture, origin, and ideology.

Military Effects of the Wars

The Napoleonic Wars also had profound military impact. Until the time of Napoleon, armies had been relatively small. However, the use of nationalism allowed for the formation of huge conscript armies.

See also