Portal:Napoleonic Wars

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The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to the application of modern mass conscription. French power rose quickly as Napoleon's armies conquered much of Europe but collapsed rapidly after France's disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812. Napoleon's empire ultimately suffered complete military defeat resulting in the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in France. The wars resulted in the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and sowed the seeds of nascent nationalism in Germany and Italy that would lead to the internal consolidation of both nations later in the century. Meanwhile, the global Spanish Empire began to unravel as French occupation of Spain weakened Spain's hold over its colonies, providing an opening for nationalist revolutions in Spanish America. As a direct result of the Napoleonic wars, the British Empire became the foremost world power for the next century, thus beginning Pax Britannica.

No consensus exists as to when the French Revolutionary Wars ended and the Napoleonic Wars began. An early candidate is 9 November 1799, when Bonaparte seized power in France with the coup of 18 Brumaire. 18 May 1803 is the most commonly used date, as this was when a renewed declaration of war between Britain and France (resulting from the collapse of the Treaty of Amiens), ended the only period of general peace in Europe between 1792 and 1814.

The Napoleonic Wars ended following Napoleon's final defeat at Waterloo on 18 June 1815 and the Second Treaty of Paris.

Napoleon Bonaparte receives the Queen of Prussia
"Napoleon Bonaparte receives the Queen of Prussia at Tilsit", by Nicolas Gosse

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The Battle of Quatre Bras
Painted by Elizabeth Thompson in 1875, this artwork depicts the Battle of Quatre Bras, showing British redcoats in an infantry square formation whilst defending against French cavalry attacks.

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Battle of Leipzig
The Battle of Leipzig or Battle of the Nations, on 16–19 October 1813, was fought by the coalition armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria and Sweden against the French army of Napoleon. Napoleon's army also contained Polish and Italian troops as well as Germans from the Confederation of the Rhine. The battle involved over 600,000 soldiers, making it the largest battle in Europe prior to World War I.

In total, the French had around 190,000 soldiers and the Allies almost 330,000 with both sides having significant artillery—in total there were over 2,500 pieces of ordnance on the field. The battle began on 16 October with an attack by 78,000 Allied troops from the south and 54,000 from the north, with Napoleon using the bulk of his army in the south. The allied offensives achieved little and were soon forced back, but Napoleon's outnumbered forces were unable to break the allied lines, resulting in a hard fought stalemate.

There were only two actions on 17 October: an attack by the Russian General Sacken on General Dabrowski's Polish Division at the village of Gohlis. In the end, the numbers and determination of the Russians prevailed and the Poles retired to Pfaffendorf. Blücher, who was made a field marshal the day before, ordered General Lanskoi's 2nd Hussar Division (Russian) to attack General Arrighi's III Cavalry corps. As they had the day before the Sixth Coalition's cavalry proved to be superior, driving the French away with great loss.

On 18 October, the Allies launched a huge assault from all sides. In over nine hours of fighting, in which both sides suffered heavy casualties, the French troops prevented a breakthrough but were slowly forced back towards Leipzig. The Sixth Coalition had Field Marshal Blücher (Prussian) and Prince Charles John of Sweden to the north, the Generals Barclay De Tolly, Bennigsen (both Russian) and Prince von Hessen-Homburg (Austrian) to the south, and Ignaz Gyulai (Austrian) to the west.

Defeated, Napoleon was compelled to return to France while the Allies hurried to keep their momentum, invading France early the next year. Napoleon was forced to abdicate, and was exiled to Elba that spring.

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Mikhail Kutuzov
Mikhail Illarionovich Golenishchev-Kutuzov (16 September 1745 – 28 April 1813) was a Field Marshal of the Russian Empire. He served as one of the finest military officer and diplomat of Russia under the reign of three Romanov Tsar: Catherine II, Paul I and Alexander I. His military career closely associated with the rising period Russia from the end of 18th century to the beginning of the 19th century. Kutuzov paid a considerable portion to the military history of Russia and is considered to be one of the best Russian generals under the reign of Catherine II. He took part in the suppression of the Bar Confederation's uprising, in three of the Russo-Turkish Wars and in Napoleonic War, including two major battles at Austerlitz and Borodino.

However, Kutuzov is credited most with his brilliant leadership in Patriotic war of 1812. Under Kutuzov's command, the Russian army stopped the Grande Armée at Battle of Borodino and then counter-attacked, pushing the French out of the Russians' homeland. With this merit, Kutuzov was awarded the title of Prince of Smolensk. A memorial was built at Moskva in 1973 to commemorate the 1812 war and Kutuzov's leadership. An order of the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation is also named after him. And, Kutuzov was highly regarded in the works of the Russian and Soviet's historians.

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• • • Did you know? • • •

Did You Know? ... that Yakov Kulnev, a Russian general killed in action during Napoleon's invasion of Russia, was reputed to live in poverty, in order to emulate the soldiers of Roman antiquity that were his ideal?

Did You Know? ... that Eugène de Beauharnais returned the territories of the Napoleonic Italy to provisional Austrian rule in 1814 by the Convention of Mantua?

Did You Know? ... that British rifleman William Green's memoir is one of the few accounts by an enlisted man of life in the Duke of Wellington's army, and as such, has provided source material for many historians?

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