Battle of Paris (1814)

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Battle of Paris
Part of the War of the Sixth Coalition
Horace Vernet - La Barriere de Clichy.jpg
Defense of Clichy during the battle of Paris
Date30–31 March 1814
Location
Paris, France
Result

Decisive Coalition victory

Territorial
changes
Redrawing of the map of Europe later during the First Treaty of Paris and during the early stages of the Congress of Vienna
Belligerents
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg French Empire Flag of Russia.svg Russia
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Austria
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Prussia
Commanders and leaders
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Joseph Bonaparte
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Auguste Marmont
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Jeannot de Moncey
Flag of France (1794-1815).svg Édouard Mortier
Flag of Russia.svg Alexander I
Flag of Russia.svg Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly
Flag of Russia.svg Louis Alexandre Langeron
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Karl von Schwarzenberg
Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Ignaz Giulay
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Frederick William III
Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg Gebhard von Blücher
Strength
23,000 regulars
6,000 National Guards

155,000

  • 100,000 Russians
  • 40,000 Prussians
  • 15,000 Austrians and German allies
Casualties and losses
5,000 18,000
Battle of Paris 1814 Battle of Paris 1814.png
Battle of Paris 1814
Russian army enters Paris Russparis.jpg
Russian army enters Paris

The Battle of Paris was fought on March 30–31, 1814 between the Sixth Coalition, consisting of Russia, Austria, and Prussia, against the French Empire. After a day of fighting in the suburbs of Paris, the French surrendered on March 31, ending the War of the Sixth Coalition and forcing Emperor Napoleon to abdicate and go into exile.

Russian Empire former country, 1721–1917

The Russian Empire, also known as Imperial Russia or simply Russia, was an empire that existed across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.

Austrian Empire monarchy in Central Europe between 1804 and 1867

The Austrian Empire was a Central European multinational great power from 1804 to 1867, created by proclamation out of the realms of the Habsburgs. During its existence, it was the third most populous empire after the Russian Empire and the United Kingdom in Europe. Along with Prussia, it was one of the two major powers of the German Confederation. Geographically, it was the third largest empire in Europe after the Russian Empire and the First French Empire. Proclaimed in response to the First French Empire, it partially overlapped with the Holy Roman Empire until the latter's dissolution in 1806.

Kingdom of Prussia Former German state (1701–1918)

The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom that constituted the state of Prussia between 1701 and 1918. It was the driving force behind the unification of Germany in 1871 and was the leading state of the German Empire until its dissolution in 1918. Although it took its name from the region called Prussia, it was based in the Margraviate of Brandenburg, where its capital was Berlin.

Contents

Background

Napoleon was retreating from his failed invasion of Russia in 1812. With the Russian armies following up victory, the Sixth Coalition was formed with Russia, Austria, Prussia, Great Britain, Sweden, Spain and other nations hostile to the French Empire. Even though the French were victorious in the initial battles during their campaign in Germany, the Coalition armies eventually joined together and defeated them at the Battle of Leipzig in the autumn of 1813. After the battle, the Pro-French German Confederation of the Rhine collapsed, thereby losing Napoleon's hold on Germany east of the Rhine. The supreme commander of the Coalition forces in the theatre and the paramount monarch among the three main Coalition monarchs, the Russian Tsar Alexander I, then ordered all Coalition forces in Germany to cross the Rhine and invade France.

French invasion of Russia Napoleon Bonapartes attempted conquest of the Russian Empire

The French invasion of Russia, known in Russia as the Patriotic War of 1812 and in France as the Russian Campaign, began on 24 June 1812 when Napoleon's Grande Armée crossed the Neman River in an attempt to engage and defeat the Russian army. Napoleon hoped to compel Tsar Alexander I of Russia to cease trading with British merchants through proxies in an effort to pressure the United Kingdom to sue for peace. The official political aim of the campaign was to liberate Poland from the threat of Russia. Napoleon named the campaign the Second Polish War to gain favor with the Poles and provide a political pretext for his actions.

Battle of Leipzig 1813 Napoleonic battle

The Battle of Leipzig or Battle of the Nations was fought from 16 to 19 October 1813, at Leipzig, Saxony. The coalition armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden, led by Tsar Alexander I of Russia and Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg, decisively defeated the French army of Napoleon I, Emperor of the French. Napoleon's army also contained Polish and Italian troops, as well as Germans from the Confederation of the Rhine. The battle was the culmination of the German campaign of 1813 and involved 600,000 soldiers, 2,200 artillery pieces, the expenditure of 200,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and 127,000 casualties, making it the largest battle in Europe prior to World War I.

Confederation of the Rhine confederation of client states of the First French Empire

The Confederation of the Rhine was a confederation of client states of the First French Empire. It was formed initially from 16 German states by Napoleon after he defeated Austria and Russia at the Battle of Austerlitz. The Treaty of Pressburg, in effect, led to the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine, which lasted from 1806 to 1813.

Prelude

Campaign in northeastern France

The Coalition forces, numbering more than 400,000 [1] and divided into three groups, finally entered northeastern France in January 1814. Facing them in the theatre are the French forces numbering only about 70,000 men, but they had the advantage of fighting in friendly territory, shorter supply lines, and more secure lines of communication.

Campaign in north-east France (1814)

The 1814 campaign in north-east France was Napoleon's final campaign of the War of the Sixth Coalition. Following their victory at Leipzig (1813), Russian, Austrian and other German armies of the Sixth Coalition invaded France. Despite the disproportionate forces in favour of the Coalition, Napoleon managed to inflict many defeats, especially during the Six Days Campaign. However, the Coalition kept advancing towards Paris, which capitulated in late March 1814. As a result, Napoleon was deposed and exiled to Elba and the victorious powers started to redraw the map of Europe during the First Treaty of Paris and during the early stages of the Congress of Vienna.

Utilizing his advantages, Napoleon defeated the divided Coalition forces in detail, starting with the battles at Brienne and La Rothière, but could not stop the latter's advance. He then launched his brilliant Six Days' Campaign against the huge Coalition army, under Blücher, threatening Paris to its northeast at the Aisne River. He successfully defeated and halted it, but could not seize the strategic initiative back in their favor as Blücher's forces were still largely intact.

Defeat in detail, or divide and conquer, is a military tactic of bringing a large portion of one's own force to bear on small enemy units in sequence, rather than engaging the bulk of the enemy force all at once. This exposes one's own units to many small risks but allows for the eventual destruction of an entire enemy force.

Battle of Brienne 1814 battle between Napoleon and Prussian and Russian forces

The Battle of Brienne saw an Imperial French army led by Emperor Napoleon attack Prussian and Russian forces commanded by Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. After heavy fighting that went on into the night, the French seized the château, nearly capturing Blücher. However, the French were unable to dislodge the Russians from the town of Brienne-le-Château. Napoleon himself, making his first appearance on a battlefield in 1814, was also nearly captured. Very early the next morning, Blücher's troops quietly abandoned the town and retreated to the south, conceding the field to the French.

Battle of La Rothière battle

The Battle of La Rothière was fought on 1 February 1814 between the French Empire and allied army of Austria, Prussia, Russia, and German States previously allies with France. The French were led by Emperor Napoleon and the coalition army was under the command of Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. The battle took place in severe weather conditions. The French were defeated but managed to hold until they could retreat under cover of darkness.

The Austrian emperor Francis I and King Frederick William III of Prussia felt very demoralized upon hearing the setbacks brought about by Napoleon's victories since the start of the campaign. They even considered ordering a general retreat. But the Tsar Alexander I was far more determined than ever to victoriously enter Paris whatever the cost, imposing his will upon Schwarzenberg and the wavering monarchs.

Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor also known as Francis I, Emperor of Austria

Francis II was the last Holy Roman Emperor, ruling from 1792 until 6 August 1806, when he dissolved the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation after the decisive defeat at the hands of the First French Empire led by Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz. In 1804, he had founded the Austrian Empire and became Francis I, the first Emperor of Austria, ruling from 1804 to 1835, so later he was named the one and only Doppelkaiser in history. For the two years between 1804 and 1806, Francis used the title and style by the Grace of God elected Roman Emperor, ever Augustus, hereditary Emperor of Austria and he was called the Emperor of both the Holy Roman Empire and Austria. He was also Apostolic King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia as Francis I. He also served as the first president of the German Confederation following its establishment in 1815.

Frederick William III of Prussia King of Prussia

Frederick William III was king of Prussia from 1797 to 1840. He ruled Prussia during the difficult times of the Napoleonic Wars and the end of the Holy Roman Empire. Steering a careful course between France and her enemies, after a major military defeat in 1806, he eventually and reluctantly joined the coalition against Napoleon in the Befreiungskriege. Following Napoleon's defeat he was King of Prussia during the Congress of Vienna, which assembled to settle the political questions arising from the new, post-Napoleonic order in Europe. He was determined to unify the Protestant churches, to homogenize their liturgy, their organization and even their architecture. The long-term goal was to have fully centralized royal control of all the Protestant churches in the Prussian Union of Churches.

Meanwhile, shifting his forces from the Aisne to this sector, Napoleon and his army engaged another Coalition army, under Schwarzenberg, which was also threatening Paris to its southeast near the Aube River, at the Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube on 20 March. He was successful in defeating this army, but it was not enough to halt it in time, as it later linked up with Blücher's army at Meaux on 28 March. After this the Coalition forces advanced yet again towards Paris.

Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube 1814 battle between French and Allied forces

The Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube saw an Imperial French army under Napoleon face a much larger Allied army led by Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg during the War of the Sixth Coalition. On the second day of fighting, Emperor Napoleon suddenly realized the long odds against him and hurriedly ordered a retreat. The French were able to disengage and withdraw to the north because of the hesitations of the Austrian Field Marshal Schwarzenberg. This was Napoleon's penultimate battle before his abdication and exile to Elba, the last being the Battle of Saint-Dizier.

Meaux Subprefecture and commune in Île-de-France, France

Meaux is a commune in the Seine-et-Marne department in the Île-de-France region in the metropolitan area of Paris, France. It is 41.1 km (25.5 mi) east-northeast of the center of Paris.

Until this battle it had been nearly 400 years since a foreign army had entered Paris, during the Hundred Years' War.

French war-weariness

Since the disaster in Russia and the start of the war, the French populace had been increasingly becoming war-weary. [2] France had been exhausting itself at war for 25 years, and many of its men had died during the wars Napoleon had fought until then, making conscription there increasingly unpopular. Once the Coalition forces entered the country of France, the leaders were astonished and relieved upon seeing that against their expectations and fears the populace never staged a popular uprising against them, in the scale of the popular guerrilla war in Spain or Russia's patriotic resistance against the Grande Armée in 1812. Even Napoleon's own ex-foreign minister, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand, sent a letter to the Coalition monarchs stating that the Parisians are already becoming angry against their Emperor and would even welcome the Coalition armies if they were to enter the city.

Tsar Alexander I's subterfuge

Alexander I of Russia, leader of the coalition Alexander I of Russia by G.Dawe (1826, Peterhof) crop.jpg
Alexander I of Russia, leader of the coalition

The leaders of the Coalition decided that Paris, and not Napoleon himself, was now the main objective. For the plan, some generals proposed their respective plans, but one, that of the Russian general Toll, fitted precisely what Tsar Alexander I had in mind; attack Paris head-on with the main Coalition army while redirecting Napoleon as far away from the city as possible.

The Tsar intended to ride out to meet the Prussian king and Schwarzenberg. They met on a road leading directly to Paris and the Tsar proposed his intentions. He brought a map and spread it to the ground for all of them to see as they talked about the plan. The plan was for the entire main Coalition army to stop pursuing Napoleon and his army and instead march directly to Paris. The exception was Wintzingerode's 10,000-strong cavalry detachment and eight horse batteries which were to follow and mislead Napoleon that the Coalition army was still pursuing him southwards. As was usual, the king agreed as did Schwarzenberg. The main Coalition army began its march towards Paris on 28 March, and at the same day Wintzingerode's unit was now performing his task.

The deception campaign worked. While the main Coalition army attacked Paris, Wintzingerode's unit hotly pursued Napoleon and his rag-tag army to the southeast, but was later beaten back by the latter. However, by the time the emperor knew of the subterfuge, he was already too far away to the southeast of Paris, which by this time was now faced with Coalition forces. He would never reach the city in time, thus he also could not participate in the upcoming battle for the city.

Forces

Field Marshal Count Barclay de Tolly, commander of the joint forces Barclay de Tolly (Dawe).jpg
Field Marshal Count Barclay de Tolly, commander of the joint forces

The Austrian, Prussian and Russian armies were joined together and put under the command of Field Marshal Count Barclay de Tolly who would also be responsible for the taking of the city, but the driving force behind the army was the Tsar of Russia and the King of Prussia, moving with the army. The Coalition army totaled about 150,000 troops. Napoleon had left his brother Joseph Bonaparte in defense of Paris with about 23,000 [3] regular troops under Marshal Auguste Marmont along with an additional 6,000 National Guards and a small force of the Imperial Guard under Marshals Bon Adrien Jeannot de Moncey and Édouard Mortier. Assisting the French were the incomplete trenches and other defenses in and around the city.

Battle

The Coalition army arrived outside Paris in late March. Nearing the city, Russian troops broke rank and ran forward to get their first glimpse of the city. Camping outside the city on March 29, the Coalition forces were to assault the city from its northern and eastern sides the next morning on March 30. The battle started that same morning with intense artillery bombardment from the Coalition army. Early in the morning the Coalition attack began when the Russians attacked and drove back the French skirmishers near Belleville [4] before themselves driven back by French cavalry from the city's eastern suburbs. By 7:00 a.m. the Russians attacked the Young Guard near Romainville in the center of the French lines and after some time and hard fighting pushed them back. A few hours later the Prussians, under Blücher, attacked north of the city and carried the French position around Aubervilliers, but did not press their attack.

The Württemberg troops seized the positions at Saint-Maur to the southwest, with Austrian troops in support. The Russians attempted to press their attack but became caught up by trenches and artillery before falling back before a counterattack of the Imperial Guard. The Imperial Guard continued to hold back the Russians in the center until the Prussian forces appeared to their rear.

The Russian forces then assailed the Montmartre Heights in the city's northeast, where Joseph's headquarters had been at the beginning of the battle, which was defended by Brigadier-general Baron Christiani. Control of the heights was severely contested, and Joseph fled the city. Marmont contacted the Coalition and reached a secret agreement with them. Shortly afterwards, he marched his soldiers to a position where they were quickly surrounded by Coalition troops; Marmont then surrendered, as had been agreed.

Capitulation

The Abdication of Napoleon
(Painted by Francois Bouchot in 1843) Bouchot - Napoleon signe son abdication a Fontainebleau 4 avril 1814.jpg
The Abdication of Napoleon
(Painted by François Bouchot in 1843)

Alexander sent an envoy to meet with the French to hasten the surrender. He offered generous terms to the French and, although willing to avenge Moscow more than a year earlier, declared himself to be bringing peace to France rather than its destruction. On March 31 Talleyrand gave the key of the city to the Tsar. Later that day the Coalition armies triumphantly entered the city with the Tsar at the head of the army followed by the King of Prussia and Prince Schwarzenberg. On April 2, the Senate passed the Acte de déchéance de l'Empereur , which declared Napoleon deposed.

Napoleon had advanced as far as Fontainebleau when he heard that Paris had surrendered. Outraged, he wanted to march on the capital, but his marshals would not fight for him and repeatedly urged him to surrender. He abdicated in favour of his son on 4 April. The Allies rejected this out of hand, forcing Napoleon to abdicate unconditionally on April 6. The terms of his abdication, which included his exile to the Isle of Elba, were settled in the Treaty of Fontainebleau on April 11. A reluctant Napoleon ratified it two days later. The War of the Sixth Coalition was over.

See also

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References

  1. Maude 1911, p. 232.
  2. Merriman, John (1996). A History of Modern Europe. W. W. Norton. p. 579. ISBN   0-393-96888-X.
  3. Chandler. p.286.
  4. Mikhailofsky-Danilefsky A. – History of the Campaign in France London; Smith, Elder, and Co. Cornhill, 1839; p. 356

Sources

Coordinates: 48°51′24″N2°21′06″E / 48.8566°N 2.3518°E / 48.8566; 2.3518