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.

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Gebhard von Blücher in Bautzen 1813
Painting by Bogdan Willewalde (German), 1810, depicting Gebhard von Blücher in Bautzen. Napoleon I defeated a Prusso-Russian army there in May 1813.

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Battle of Ulm

The Battle of Ulm (October 16–19, 1805) was a series of minor skirmishes at the end of Napoleon Bonaparte's Ulm Campaign, culminating in the surrender of an entire Austrian army near Ulm in Württemberg.

In 1805, the United Kingdom, the Austrian Empire, Sweden, and the Russian Empire formed the Third Coalition to overthrow the French Empire. When Bavaria sided with Napoleon, the Austrians, 72,000 strong under General Mack von Leiberich, prematurely invaded while the Russians were still marching through Poland. The Austrians expected the main battles of the war to take place in northern Italy, not Germany, and intended only to protect the Alps from French forces.

A popular but apocryphal legend has it that the Austrians used the Gregorian calendar, the Russians were still using the Julian calendar. This meant that their dates did not correspond, and the Austrians were brought into conflict with the French before the Russians could come into line. This simple but implausible explanation for the Russian army being far behind the Austrian is dismissed by scholar Frederick W. Kagain as "a bizarre myth". In reality, the Austrians expected that northern Italy, rather than Germany, would be the site of major battles.

Napoleon had 177,000 troops of the Grande Armée at Boulogne, ready to invade England. They marched south on August 27 and by September 24 were in position facing General Mack, around Ulm, from Strasbourg to Weißenburg in Bayern. On October 7, Mack learned that Napoleon planned to march round his right flank so as to cut him off from the Russians who were marching via Vienna. He accordingly changed front, placing his left at Ulm and his right at Rain, but the French went on and crossed the Danube at Neuburg.

Trying to extricate himself, Mack attempted to cross the Danube at Günzburg, but clashed with the French VI Corps at Elchingen on October 14 in the Battle of Elchingen. The Austrians lost 2,000 men and returned to Ulm. By October 16, Napoleon had surrounded Mack's entire army at Ulm, and three days later Mack surrendered with 30,000 men, 18 generals, 65 guns, and 40 standards.

Some 20,000 escaped, 10,000 were killed or wounded, and the rest made prisoner. About 6,000 French were killed or wounded. At the surrender, Mack offered his sword and presented himself to Napoleon as "The unfortunate General Mack." Bonaparte smiled and replied, "I give back to the unfortunate General his sword and his freedom, along with my regards to give to his Emperor". Francis II was not as kind, however. Mack was court-martialed and sentenced to two years' imprisonment.

The Ulm Campaign is considered one of the finest examples of a strategic turning movement in military history.

• • • Selected biography • • •

Sir John Moore
Lieutenant-General Sir John Moore, KB (13 November 1761 – 16 January 1809) was a British soldier and General. He is best known for his military training reforms and for his death at the Battle of Corunna, in which his force was defeated but gained a tactical advantage over a French army under Marshal Soult during the Peninsular War.

Like Nelson he was mortally wounded in battle, and also like the admiral lived long enough to be assured that he had gained a victory. He said to his old friend Colonel Anderson "You know I always wished to die this way". His last words were "I hope the people of England will be satisfied! I hope my country will do me justice!"

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• • • Did you know? • • •

Did You Know? ... that Sweden, present in Stralsund since 1628, lost the town in 1807 to Napoleon Bonaparte?

Did You Know? ... that the head of the rebellious Ferdinand von Schill was publicly displayed in Leyden after he lost a street fight with Napoleon's troops in 1809?

Did You Know? ... that Sergeant James Graham was declared the "bravest man at Waterloo" for closing the North Gate at Hougoumont, an act which Wellington claimed saved the battle?

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