series of wars fought between France and a number of
European nations from 1799 to 1815. In 1799 France came under the domination of
Bonaparte, who later became Napoleon I, emperor of France,
in 1804. The Napoleonic
Wars were a continuation of the wars of the French Revolution (1789-1799), in
which the Habsburgs and other dynastic rulers of Europe combined in an
to overthrow the revolutionary government of France
and restore the rule of the
In the War of the
First Coalition (1793-1797), France
fought against an alliance consisting of Austria, Prussia, Great
Britain, Spain, the Netherlands, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. In 1796 Napoleon
was entrusted by the government
of France, the Directory, with
conducting military operations against Austrian forces in northern Italy. In less than a
year, Napoleon had led his troops
to victory over the larger Austrian army. In 1798, he was made the
leader of an
expedition to conquer Egypt as a base for
future attack against the British possession of India.
The invasion was ultimately
unsuccessful, and Napoleon returned to France. Although the two
took place before Napoleon's government, the Consulate, was established,
generally regarded as the opening phases of the Napoleonic Wars. The
were the first in which Napoleon displayed on a large scale his genius
commander; early battles of the War of the Second Coalition are also
in this category.
in his northern Italian campaign had put an end to the First Coalition.
his absence in Egypt,
however, a new alliance known as the Second Coalition was formed on
24, 1798. The alliance was composed of Russia, Great Britain, Austria, the kingdom
of Naples (see
Sicily: History), Portugal, and the Ottoman
Empire. The principal fighting of the War of the Second
Coalition, which broke
out at the end of 1798, took place during the following year in
northern Italy and
The Austrians and
Russians, under the leadership chiefly of the noted Russian general
were uniformly successful against the French in northern Italy.
defeated the French in the battles of Magnano (April 5, 1799), Cassano
27), the Trebbia (June 17-19), and Novi
(August 15). The coalition also captured Milan;
put an end to the Cisalpine Republic, which had
been formed under French auspices in 1797; occupied Turin;
and in general deprived the French of their previous victories in Italy.
matters went better for the French. After a defeat at Zьrich (June 4-7)
Louis John, archduke of Austria, French forces under General Andrй
a Russian army under General Alexander Korsakov on September 26. The
Suvorov led his forces from northern Italy
across the Alps to join those of Korsakov in Switzerland.
He found Korsakov's
forces already defeated and scattered; Suvorov was forced by the French
refuge in the mountains of the canton of Grisons, where, during the
his army was practically destroyed by cold and starvation. On October
alleging lack of cooperation by the Austrians, the Russians withdrew
returned to France
October 1799, he became leader of the Consulate and offered to make
the allies. The Coalition refused, and Napoleon planned a series of
German states in alliance with Austria,
for the spring of 1800. Napoleon crossed the Alps into northern Italy
newly raised army of 40,000 men and on June 14 defeated the Austrians
in the Battle of Marengo. In the meantime
French forces under General Jean Victor Moreau had
crossed the Rhine into southern Germany
and taken Munich.
Moreau had also defeated the Austrians under Archduke John of Austria in the Battle of Hohenlinden in
Bavaria on December 3, and had
advanced to the city of Linz, Austria.
These and other French successes caused Austria to capitulate. On
9, 1801, by the Treaty of Lunйville, Austria and its German allies
left bank of the Rhine River to France, recognized the Batavian,
Cisalpine, and Ligurian republics, and made other concessions. The
Lunйville also marked the breakup of the Second Coalition. The only
nation that continued fighting was Great Britain. British
unsuccessfully engaged the French on Dutch soil in 1799, but had made
territorial gains at the expense of France
in Asia and elsewhere. On March 27,
1802, Great Britain
made peace with France
however, turned out to be a mere truce. In 1803 a dispute
the two nations because of the treaty provision that Great Britain return the island of Malta
to its original possessors, the Knights of Saint
John of Jerusalem. The people of Malta
preferred the British crown, and the
British did not surrender the island, so war again broke out between Great Britain and France.
An important consequence of
this war was Napoleon's abandonment, because of the need to concentrate
resources in Europe, of his plan to establish a great French colonial
the region known as Louisiana in North America. Instead, he sold Louisiana
to the United States.
In 1805 Great Britain
joined in its new war by Austria,
Russia, and Sweden, and Spain
allied itself to France.
The ensuing war is known as the War of the Third Coalition.
Napoleon quickly moved against the new alliance.
Since 1798 he had exerted pressure on Great
Britain by keeping an army concentrated at Boulogne on the English Channel, ostensibly
During the dissensions leading to the outbreak of war in 1803, Napoleon
increased the French forces at Boulogne.
After the formation of the Third Coalition against France,
he moved his troops from Boulogne to
Austrians, who, under Ferdinand III, grand duke of Tuscany,
and General Karl Mack von Leiberich, had invaded Bavaria. A number of German states,
including Bavaria, Wьrttemberg, and
allied themselves with France.
Napoleon defeated the Austrians at Ulm, taking 23,000 prisoners, and then marched his
troops along the Danube River and captured Vienna. Russian armies under General Mikhail Illarionovich
Kutuzov and Alexander I, emperor of Russia,
reinforced the Austrians, but Napoleon
crushed the combined Austro-Russian forces in the Battle
of Austerlitz, sometimes known as the Battle of the Three Emperors. Austria
capitulated, signing the Treaty of Pressburg on December 26, 1805.
terms of this treaty
was the concession
by Austria to France of territory in northern Italy and to Bavaria
of territory in Austria
itself; in addition, Austria
recognized the duchies of Wьrttemberg and Baden
of the Rhine
In Italy, where French forces under
defeated the Austrians under Charles Louis John, Napoleon made his
brother, Joseph Bonaparte, king of Naples
in 1806. Elsewhere in Europe, he made his third brother, Louis Bonaparte, king of Holland
(the former Batavian Republic); and on July 12 he
established the Confederation of the Rhine, which eventually
consisted of all the states of
Germany except Austria, Prussia, Brunswick, and Hessen. The formation
Confederation put an end to the Holy Roman Empire and brought most
under Napoleon's control.
His continental successes, however, were largely offset by the victory
October 21, 1805, off Cape Trafalgar, of the British under Admiral Horatio Nelson over the combined
fleets of France
This victory gave Great
Britain mastery of the sea throughout
remainder of the Napoleonic era. In 1806 economic warfare between Great Britain and France
was initiated. Napoleon
formulated his so-called Continental
issuing decrees, in 1806 and later,
forbidding British trade with all European nations. Great Britain
retaliated with the
Orders of Council, which in effect prohibited neutrals from trading
ports of any nations obeying Napoleon's decrees. British mastery of the
made it difficult for Napoleon to enforce the Continental System and
eventually in the failure of his economic policy for Europe.
Before the effect
of British sea power could be manifest, however, Napoleon increased his
over the Continent. In 1806 Prussia,
aroused by Napoleon's growing strength in Germany,
joined in a Fourth Coalition with Great
Russia, and Sweden.
Napoleon badly defeated the Prussians in the Battle of Jena on October 14,
captured Berlin. He then
defeated the Russians in the Battle of
Friedland and forced Alexander I to
make peace. By the principal terms of the Treaty of Tilsit, Russia gave up its Polish possessions
an ally of France,
reduced to the status of a third-rate power, deprived of almost half
territory and crippled by heavy indemnity payments and severe
the size of its standing army. Through military action against Sweden on the part of Russia
and Denmark, Gustav IV Adolph of Sweden
was forced to abdicate in favor of his uncle, Charles XIII, on the condition
latter name as his heir General Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte, one of
Napoleon's marshals. Bernadotte became king in 1818, as Charles XIV John, founding the
present royal line.
In 1808 Napoleon
was master of all Europe except Russia
and Great Britain,
but from this time on his power began to decline. The chief reasons for
decline were the rise of a nationalistic spirit in the various defeated
of Europe and the persistent opposition of Great Britain,
which, safe from
invasion because of its superior navy, never ceased to organize and
new coalitions against Napoleon.
first encountered the nationalistic spirit that led to his downfall. In
after dethroning King Charles IV of Spain,
Napoleon made his brother Joseph Bonaparte king of the country. The
revolted and drove Joseph out of Madrid.
A violent struggle known as the Peninsular War (1808-1814) then
took place between the French,
intent on restoring Joseph as king, and the Spaniards, aided by British
Wellesley, 1st duke of Wellington. The French were
eventually defeated, suffering
losses in manpower that severely handicapped Napoleon when he was later
to meet new enemies in the east and north of Europe.
The first of these new enemies was Austria,
which, inflamed by patriotic feeling, entered the Fifth Coalition, with
in 1809. Napoleon defeated the Austrians at Wagram (July 1809), and
on them the Treaty of Vienna, by which Austria lost Salzburg, part of Galicia, and a
large part of its southern European territory. He also divorced his
and married the daughter of Francis II of Austria
in the vain hope of keeping Austria
out of further coalitions against him.
The turning point
of Napoleon's career came in 1812, when war again broke out between France and Russia
because of Alexander's
refusal to enforce the Continental System. With one large army already
down by the “Spanish ulcer,” Napoleon invaded Russia
with an army of 500,000. He
defeated the Russians at Borodino and took Moscow on September 14, 1812. The
burned the city, making it impossible for Napoleon's troops to
quarters there. The French retreated across Russia
suffering the loss of most of their men through cold, starvation, and
guerrilla attacks. Russia
then joined the Fifth Coalition, which also included Prussia,
Great Britain, and Sweden.
In 1813, in
a burst of
patriotic fervor caused by the political and economic reforms that had
place since its defeat at Jena,
the War of Liberation against Napoleon. He defeated the Prussians at
achieved his last important victory at the Battle of Dresden, where on August
27, 1813, a
French force of about 100,000 defeated a combined Austrian, Prussian,
force of about 150,000. The following October, however, Napoleon was
of Leipzig to retreat across the Rhine, thus freeing Germany.
The following year the
Russians, Austrians, and Prussians invaded France
from the north. In March 1814
they took Paris, whereupon Napoleon
and was sent into exile on the island
of Elba in the Mediterranean Sea.
The members of the
Fifth Coalition assembled at the Congress of
to restore in Europe
the monarchies Napoleon had overthrown. During their deliberations
escaped from Elba to France,
quickly raised an army, and marched into Belgium
to meet the forces of Great Britain,
Prussia, Russia, and Austria.
He defeated his enemies at
Ligny, but was defeated by them at Quatre-Bras. Napoleon met final
June 18, 1815, at the Battle of
which marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars.
Initially the Napoleonic Wars perpetuated the
ideological conflict between revolutionary France
and monarchical Europe. At some
however, the elusive