1814 campaign in France
|1814 campaign in northern France|
|Part of the War of the Sixth Coalition|
1814 campaign in France by Meissonier
The 1814 campaign in northern France involved Coalition armies fighting a series of battles against Napoleon Bonaparte on French territory after his defeat at the 1813 Battle of Leipzig. At the campaign's conclusion, the Coalition captured Paris and exiled Napoleon to Elba.
The Coalition crossed the Rhine with a three-part force, aiming to take Paris:
- The Army of Bohemia or the Grand Army, with 210,000 Austrian soldiers under Schwarzenberg, passed through Swiss territory and crossed the Rhine between Basel and Schafhausen on 20 December 1813.
- The Army of Silesia, with 75,000 Prussians and Russians under Blücher, crossed the Rhine between Rastadt and Koblenz on 1 January 1814.
- The Army of the North, with Prussian and Russian corps under the command of Wintzingerode and Bülow, and Dutch troops under Bernadotte, "quickly followed".
Napoleon attempted to counter the incursion of the Army of Silesia shortly after their crossing but arrived too late. Engaging in pursuit, he met the force at Brienne on 29 January 1814. Blücher and Schwarzenberg's forces combined three days later to engage Napoleon in the Battle of La-Rothière. Napoleon retreated and the Coalition continued their three-part advance towards Paris. On 10 February Napoleon won a victory in the Battle of Champaubert. He thus took a central position between divisions of the Army of Silesia, winning further victories in the battles of Montmirail and Vauchamps to complete his Six Days' Campaign.
However, by this time the Grand Army was forcing a retreat of Napoleon's troops southeast of Paris. Napoleon arrived to fight the Battle of Montereau on 18 February 1814. Blücher led another advance towards Paris on 24 February before being forced to withdraw on 2 March under pursuit by Napoleon. Napoleon tried to march towards Laon but was confronted by Blücher's forces in the Battle of Craonne, where he lost over 6000 men. On 9 March the Battle of Laon began; Napoleon's forces were severely outnumbered in this fight, and many of his marshals were defeated in conflicts elsewhere around Paris. Nevertheless, he gained a quick victory in a skirmish near Reims on 13/14 March and began pursuing Schwarzenberg's forces. Napoleon won a very narrow victory against the Grand Army in the Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube, but withdrew. A letter outlining his plan to move on the Marne was intercepted by the Coalition, which prepared to attack Paris in his absence.
On 2 April, the Sénat passed the Acte de déchéance de l'Empereur ("Emperor's Demise Act"), which declared Napoleon deposed. Napoleon had advanced as far as Fontainebleau when he learned that Paris had surrendered. When Napoleon proposed the army march on the capital, his marshals decided to mutiny. On 4 April, Napoleon abdicated in favour of his son, with Marie-Louise as regent. However, the Coalition refused to accept this. Napoleon was then forced to announce his unconditional abdication only two days later and sign the Treaty of Fontainebleau. Napoleon was sent into exile on the island of Elba, from which he would escape the following year for his Hundred Days, and Louis XVIII became king. The Treaty of Paris formally ended the War of the Sixth Coalition on 30 May 1814, returning France to its 1792 boundaries in advance of the Congress of Vienna.
- Hodgson 1841, p. 504.
- Fremont-Barnes 2002, p. 12.
- Connelly 2012, p. 195.
- Traveling the French Campaign of 1814, University of Guelph
- Avril 1814, le Sénat-Conservateur prononce la déchéance de Napoléon 1er, Sénat
- Gates 2003, p. 259.
- Alison 1860, p. 197.
- Lamartine 1854, pp. 202–207.
- McLynn 1998, p. 604.
- Turk 1999, p. 68.
- Alison, Archibald (1860), History of Europe from the Commencement of the French Revolution to the Restoration of the Bourbons in 1815 (10th ed.), W. Blackwood Alison
- Connelly, Owen (2012), The Wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon, 1792–1815, Routledge, ISBN 9781134552894
- Fremont-Barnes, Gregory (2002), The Napoleonic Wars: The Fall of the French Imperium, 1813–1815, Osprey Publishing, ISBN 9781841764313
- Gates, David (2003), The Napoleonic Wars, 1803–1815, Pimlico, ISBN 0-7126-0719-6
- Hodgson, William (1841), The life of Napoleon Bonaparte, once Emperor of the French, who died in exile, at St. Helena, after a captivity of six years' duration, Orlando Hodgson
- Lamartine, Alphonse de (1854), The History of the Restoration of Monarchy in France, H. G. Bohn
- McLynn, Frank (1998), Napoleon, Pimlico, ISBN 0-7126-6247-2
- Turk, Eleanor (1999), The History of Germany (illustrated ed.), Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 9780313302749