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The French Revolutionary Wars began in April 1792.
From 1789 to early 1792, the French Revolution gradually radicalised, breaking with old institutions and practices as it went, and targeting defenders of the Ancien Régime. Some of these defenders, or people who were unintentionally caught in the crossfire, emigrated from France to avoid persecution. King Louis XVI himself attempted to escape with his family in June 1791, but this flight to Varennes failed. The French king was put under surveillance, and increasingly suspected of conspiring with other European monarchs, who wished to preserve the House of Bourbon in France and restore its pre-revolutionary authority. This was explicitly stated in the Declaration of Pillnitz (17 August 1791) by king Frederick William II of Prussia and emperor Francis II (Austria, Hungary and Bohemia), who called on all monarchs in Europe to 'liberate' Louis.Leading radical revolutionaries called for the complete abolition of the monarchy, but the republican movement was dealt a severe blow in the July 1791 Champs de Mars Massacre. Although this cleared the way for the establishment of the constitutional monarchy in September, it did not secure the Louis XVI's position. The uncertain future of the Bourbon monarchy caused tensions to rise between France and other European states.
The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.
The Ancien Régime was the political and social system of the Kingdom of France from the Late Middle Ages until 1789, when hereditary monarchy and the feudal system of French nobility were abolished by the French Revolution. The Ancien Régime was ruled by the late Valois and Bourbon dynasties. The term is occasionally used to refer to the similar feudal systems of the time elsewhere in Europe. The administrative and social structures of the Ancien Régime were the result of years of state-building, legislative acts, internal conflicts, and civil wars, but they remained and the Valois Dynasty's attempts at re-establishing control over the scattered political centres of the country were hindered by the Huguenot Wars. Much of the reigns of Henry IV and Louis XIII and the early years of Louis XIV were focused on administrative centralization. Despite, however, the notion of "absolute monarchy" and the efforts by the kings to create a centralized state, the Kingdom of France retained its irregularities: authority regularly overlapped and nobles struggled to retain autonomy.
French emigration from the years 1789 to 1815 refers to the mass movement of citizens from France to neighboring countries in reaction to the bloodshed and upheaval caused by the French Revolution and Napoleonic rule. Although the Revolution began in 1789 as a peaceful, bourgeois-led effort for increased political equality for the Third Estate, it soon turned into a violent, popular rebellion. To escape political tensions and save their lives, a number of individuals emigrated from France and settled in the neighboring countries, however quite a few also went to the United States.
In early 1792, conservative royalist Armées des Émigrés were forming just across the borders in cities such as Koblenz, readying themselves to invade and end Revolution with the help of other monarchies. The Girondin majority in the Legislative Assembly favored war, especially with Austria, in order to display the Revolution's strength and defend its achievements (such as the Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen of 1789 and the early beginnings of parliamentary democracy) against a possible return to an (Enlightened) absolutist regime.They cited the Declaration of Pillnitz to justify the urgent need to strike first. Many of the French revolutionaries wanted to spread their Revolution to other countries, and refugees from recently failed revolutions, such as Dutch Patriots and Belgian-Liégois rebels, urged their French comrades to 'liberate' the Low Countries. However, there was a real risk that France would be overwhelmed by foreign forces if a large anti-French coalition were to be formed. This is why many leftist deputies within the Assembly such as Robespierre opposed a war, arguing France was not ready for it and could lose all progress (as they saw it) made thus far during the Revolution.
Koblenz, spelled Coblenz before 1926, is a German city situated on both banks of the Rhine where it is joined by the Moselle.
The Legislative Assembly was the legislature of France from 1 October 1791 to 20 September 1792 during the years of the French Revolution. It provided the focus of political debate and revolutionary law-making between the periods of the National Constituent Assembly and of the National Convention.
Habsburg Monarchy is an umbrella term used by historians for the lands and kingdoms of the House of Habsburg, especially for those of the Austrian branch. Although from 1438 until 1806 the head of the House of Habsburg was also Holy Roman Emperor, the empire itself is not considered a part of the Habsburg Monarchy.
Major-general Charles François Dumouriez was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs in March 1792, and by mid-April had managed to obtain the neutrality of all European great powers except Austria and Prussia through his cunning diplomacy. Meanwhile, he organized plans to incite a rebellion in the Austrian Netherlands by cooperating with the Committee of United Belgians and Liégeois, who represented remnants of the rebel armies formed during the recently failed anti-Austrian Brabant Revolution and Liège Revolution (August 1789 – January 1791).
Charles-François du Périer Dumouriez was a French general during the French Revolutionary Wars. He shared the victory at Valmy with General François Christophe Kellermann, but later deserted the Revolutionary Army, and became a royalist intriguer during the reign of Napoleon as well as an adviser to the British government. Dumouriez is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 3.
The Austrian Netherlands was the larger part of the Southern Netherlands between 1714 and 1797. The period began with the Austrian acquisition of the former Spanish Netherlands under the Treaty of Rastatt in 1714 and lasted until Revolutionary France annexed the territory during the aftermath of the Battle of Sprimont in 1794 and the Peace of Basel in 1795. Austria, however, did not relinquish its claim over the province until 1797 in the Treaty of Campo Formio.
The Committee of United Belgians and Liégeois was a group of exiled rebel leaders from the failed Brabantine and Liège Revolutions who sought to create an independent Belgian republic.
Finally, France declared war on Austria on 20 April 1792. Dumouriez planned to defeat the Austrian army within 15 days to achieve a successful quick victory. From Dunkirk to Strasbourg, the French northern frontier comprised 164,000 soldiers, divided into three armies under the leadership of general Lafayette (Armée du Centre;targets: from Givet to Namur and Liège), marshal Luckner (Armée du Rhin; targets: Flemish cities such as Menen and Kortrijk) and marshal Rochambeau (Armée du Nord; targets: Quiévrain, Mons and Brussels).
The War of the First Coalition is the traditional name of the wars that several European powers fought between 1792 and 1797 against the French First Republic. Despite the collective strength of these nations compared with France, they were not really allied and fought without much apparent coordination or agreement. Each power had its eye on a different part of France it wanted to appropriate after a French defeat, which never occurred.
Dunkirk is a commune in Nord, a French department in northern France. It is the northernmost city in France, lying 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from the Belgian border. It has the third-largest French harbour. The population of the commune at the 2016 census was 91,412.
Strasbourg is the capital and largest city of the Grand Est region of France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located at the border with Germany in the historic region of Alsace, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin department.
The invasion heavily relied on the presumption that Belgian and Liégois patriotic rebellions would break out spontaneously the moment French troops crossed the border, aiding them in driving out the Habsburg forces as they had done themselves 2.5 years before. Dumouriez assured his fellow ministers:
As soon as the French army enters the Belgian provinces, it will be helped by the people, who are ashamed of their own futile revolutionary efforts of [1789–1790]. They will join forces with our troops and will easily drive the dispersed hordes of Austrian mercenaries from their towns or scatter them. Paris will be defended on the banks of the Meuse. For the Country of Liège, the one most worthy of freedom of all those who have raised its flag, our negotiators will depart to dictate a wise peace, which we will under no circumstances spoil by the spirit of conquest.
The French army was plagued by troubles: leading generals such as Lafayette and Rochambeau were moderate royalists, and had doubts about the republican minister's intentions as well as the feasibility of his strategies; the troops were poorly equipped, many of them untrained volunteers, and they distrusted their aristocratic officers; and finally, queen Marie Antoinette, who was Austrian and feared further republican radicalization would result in her execution, secretly passed war plans to the Austrian government in Brussels, with Louis XVI's approval.Moreover, Prussia soon joined Austria against France, later followed by other powers and the armies of émigrés, while the ferment of the Revolution caused political instability, and want of materiel and funds left France's armed forces disorganized.
Marie Antoinette was the last Queen of France before the French Revolution. She was born an Archduchess of Austria and was the penultimate child and youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. She became Dauphine of France in May 1770 at age 14 upon her marriage to Louis-Auguste, heir apparent to the French throne. On 10 May 1774, her husband ascended the throne as Louis XVI and she assumed the title Queen of France and Navarre, which she held until September 1791, when she became Queen of the French as the French Revolution proceeded, a title that she held until 21 September 1792.
Prussia was a historically prominent German state that originated in 1525 with a duchy centred on the region of Prussia on the southeast coast of the Baltic Sea. It was de facto dissolved by an emergency decree transferring powers of the Prussian government to German Chancellor Franz von Papen in 1932 and de jure by an Allied decree in 1947. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organised and effective army. Prussia, with its capital first in Königsberg and then, in 1701, in Berlin, decisively shaped the history of Germany.
More than 50% of the army's officers, which consisted solely of noblemen, had fled the country in the past three years of revolutionary upheaval. It took time to replace these by non-commissioned officers and volunteers from the middle class. There was also animosity between the old regulars (the "whites", from their uniform) and the new soldiers who joined the army as volunteers in 1791–2 (the so-called "blues"). And because of the revolutionary egalitarian ideas penetrating the ranks of the military, there was distrust against the remaining noble officers; their loyalty to the cause of the Revolution and their orders were questioned.
One lasting morale-boosting effect was the composition of the battle hymn Chant de guerre pour l'armée du Rhin ("War Song for the Rhine Army") by Rouget de Lisle in April 1792. It became popular among French soldiers nationwide, and was soon identified with a battalion from Marseille. Thus, the song became known as La Marseillaise , and on 26 Messidor III (14 July 1795) and again on 14 February 1879 it was officially recognized as the national anthem of France.
Despite protesting that the army was not in condition to fight, Rochambeau obeyed his orders.He departed Paris and moved towards Valenciennes on 21 April to assume command of the northern army, and make final preparations for the invasion. Rochambeau's subordinate general Biron and maréchal du camp Théobald Dillon would lead the invasion.
The French army performed poorly in the first engagements. At the Battle of Marquain near Tournai (29 April), French soldiers fled almost at first sight of the Austrian outposts and murdered their general Théobald Dillon, whom they accused of treason. Meanwhile, general Biron suffered a defeat at Quiévrain near Mons. On 30 April, the Dunkirk column marched 15 miles to Veurne, but encountered no enemy and retreated back to Dunkirk.
When both his subordinates Dillon and Biron failed in their missions, Rochambeau resigned. On 30 April, Lafayette heard of the defeats and Rochambeau's resignation, cancelled his assault on Namur and Liège as well and awaited new orders from Paris. The Belgian-Liégois Committee was disappointed and felt betrayed, claiming Lafayette could have easily taken both cities by sheer superior numbers.
The commanders-in-chief of the armies became political "suspects"; and before a serious action had been fought, the three armies commanded respectively by Rochambeau, Lafayette and Luckner had been reorganized into two commanded by Dumouriez and Kellermann. Thus the disciplined soldiers of the Allies had apparently good reason to expect an easy campaign.[ citation needed ]
On 9 June, a 20,000 strong force commanded by Luckner invaded the Austrian Netherlands again, this time capturing Menen and Kortrijk (19 June). The Austrian troops under Johann Peter Beaulieu counter-attacked, however, blocking further advance. The French withdrew back to Lille on 30 June, effectively putting an end to their second northward incursion.
On the Rhine, a combined army of Prussians, Austrians, Hessians and French émigrés under the Duke of Brunswick was formed for the invasion of France, flanked by two smaller armies on its right and left, all three being under the supreme command of King Frederick William II of Prussia. In the Southern Netherlands, plans called for the Austrians to besiege Lille, and in the south the Piedmontese also took the field.[ citation needed ] Observing the enemy coalition gathering at its borders, the Assembly declared the 'nation in danger', and commanded 100,000 National Guards (Fédérés) to strengthen the defence of Paris; the king vetoed the decision, but he was ignored.
The first step was the issue of the Brunswick Manifesto (25 July), a proclamation which, couched in terms most insulting to the French nation, generated the spirit that was afterwards to find expression in the "armed nation" of 1793–1794, and sealed the fate of King Louis. It was issued against the advice of Brunswick himself, whose signature appeared on it; the duke, a model sovereign in his own principality, sympathised with the constitutional side of the French Revolution, while as a soldier he had no confidence in the success of the enterprise.[ citation needed ] Brunswick stressed that civilians would not be harmed or looted, unless they harmed the royal family: "If the least violence, the least outrage, be done to their majesties... [my troops] will take... unforgettable vengeance [on] the city of Paris...". The Brunswick Manifesto reached Paris on 1 August and was posted in numerous places across the capital, and received much hostility and mockery. Instead of intimidating the Parisians, it confirmed their determinacy to oppose any foreign invasion, and to get rid of the royals who were increasingly, and with ever more evidence, suspected of treason against the Revolution, the Assembly and the French people.
With the imminent invasion of the allied European monarchies against it, radical revolutionaries in Paris could no longer tolerate the king's rule, as his foreign friends might soon restore his former powers and crush the Revolution. In the night of 9 to 10 August, the insurrectional Paris Commune was formed at the Hôtel de Ville under the leadership of Georges Danton, Camille Desmoulins and Jacques Hébert from the ranks of radical Jacobins, the sans-culottes and a patriot regiment from Marsaille. In a complicated series of actions by various groups, king Louis was isolated within his Tuileries Palace and gradually abandoned its defence until he and the royal family left it when Roederer persuaded him to seek 'safety' in the building of the Legislative Assembly instead. Most of the National Guard defected to the rebels and eventually the Tuileries were successfully stormed and most of the remaining Swiss guards slaughtered. Louis became a de facto prisoner of the Assembly, was stripped from his kingship and the royal family was imprisoned in the Temple on 13 August. The monarchy was not abolished yet, however; the question of which form of government the country should install was postponed for five more weeks. For the revolutionaries, the most important issue was quelling possible treason from within, to avoid being stabbed in the back while the armies were fighting the monarchist forces on the frontiers.
After completing its preparations in the leisurely manner of the previous generation, Brunswick's army crossed the French frontier on 19 August 1792. The Allies readily captured Longwy (23 August) and slowly marched on to besiege Verdun (29 August), which appeared more indefensible even than Longwy. The commandant there, Colonel Beaurepaire, shot himself in despair, and the place surrendered on 2 September 1792. Radical revolutionaries in Paris and other cities panicked, and started the September Massacres (2–7 September), killing hundreds of prisoners suspected of royalist sympathies and being in league with the enemy.
Brunswick now began his march on Paris and approached the defiles of the Argonne Forest. But Dumouriez, who had been training his raw troops at Valenciennes in constant small engagements, with the purpose of invading Belgium, now threw himself into the Argonne by a rapid and daring flank march, almost under the eyes of the Prussian advance guard. He barred all five road to Paris through the Argonne.Although Clerfayt seized one of the five roads and outflanked Dumouriez at Grandpré, Brunswick did not attack, instead camping for three days at Landres (15–17 September). The majority of his troops were plagued by dysentery, likely due to eating green apples in the Argonne, and needed to recover first. War Minister Servan ordered Kellermann to Dumouriez' assistance from Metz to Sainte-Menehould. Although having only 16,000 men from the Armée du Centre, these were the most professional. Kellermann moved but slowly, reaching Dampierre-le-Château on 18 September, and before he arrived the northern part of the line of defence had been forced. Dumouriez, undaunted, changed front so as to face north, with his right wing on the Argonne and his left stretching towards Châlons (where Luckner camped ), and in this position Kellermann joined him at Sainte-Menehould on 19 September 1792.
Meanwhile, Brunswick had left Landres on 18 September, passed the northern defiles and then swung round to cut off Dumouriez from Châlons. He himself wanted to fight Dumouriez at Sainte-Menehould, but Prussian king Frederick William II, misled by false news that Dumouriez was withdrawing to Paris, ordered Brunswick to cut the retreat.At the moment when the Prussian manoeuvre was nearly completed, Kellermann, commanding in Dumouriez's momentary absence, advanced his left wing and took up a position between Sainte-Menehould and Valmy. The result was the Cannonade of Valmy (20 September 1792). Kellermann’s infantry, nearly all regulars, stood steady. The French artillery justified its reputation as the best in Europe, and eventually, with no more than a half-hearted infantry attack, the duke broke off the action and retired.
This seemingly minor engagement proved the turning point of the campaign. Ten days later, without firing another shot, the invading army began its retreat (30 September). Dumouriez did not press the pursuit seriously; he occupied himself chiefly with a series of subtle and curious negotiations which, with the general advance of the French troops, brought about the complete withdrawal of the enemy from the soil of France. Once gone, Dumouriez refocused his military efforts on the 'liberation' of Belgium.
In the north, the Austrian siege of Lille had completely failed by 8 October, and Dumouriez now resumed his interrupted scheme for the invasion of the Southern Netherlands. He took commanded of the newly formed Armée de la Belgique – comprising 40,000 soldiers from the Valmy campaign – at Valenciennes on 20 October.Controlling enormously superior forces, ten days later he made his advance to Mons, late in the season and surprising the Austrians. On 6 November, he won the first great victory of the war at Jemappes near Mons and, this time advancing boldly, he overran the whole country from Namur to Antwerp within a month. He began planning the invasion of the Dutch Republic.
Meanwhile, the French forces in the south had driven back the Piedmontese and had conquered Savoy and Nice in September, annexing them in November. Army of the Var commander Anselme invaded the county of Nice on 28 September, and forced the city of Nice to surrender the next day at 4 pm. On 7 November, the army was renamed Army of Italy.
Another French success was the daring expedition from Alsace into Germany made by Custine, leading the newly created 14,300 strong Armée des Vosges from 19 September onward.He attacked Speyer on 29 September and conquered it the next day. He went on the occupy Worms and Philippsburg without a fight. Custine captured Mainz on 21 October 1792 and penetrated as far as Frankfurt, which surrendered on 31 October.
The Battle of Jemappes took place near the town of Jemappes in Hainaut, Austrian Netherlands, near Mons during the War of the First Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars. One of the first major offensive battles of the war, it was a victory for the armies of the infant French Republic, and saw the French Armée du Nord, which included many inexperienced volunteers, defeat a substantially smaller regular Austrian army.
François Christophe Kellermann or de Kellermann, 1st Duc de Valmy was a French military commander, later the Général d'Armée, a Marshal of France and a freemason. Marshal Kellermann served in varying roles throughout the entirety of two epochal conflicts, the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. Kellermann is one of the names inscribed under the Arc de Triomphe, on Column 3.
The Battle of Valmy was the first major victory by the army of France during the Revolutionary Wars that followed the French Revolution. The action took place on 20 September 1792 as Prussian troops commanded by the Duke of Brunswick attempted to march on Paris. Generals François Kellermann and Charles Dumouriez stopped the advance near the northern village of Valmy in Champagne-Ardenne.
The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of sweeping military conflicts lasting from 1792 until 1802 and resulting from the French Revolution. They pitted France against Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia and several other monarchies. They are divided in two periods: the War of the First Coalition (1792–97) and the War of the Second Coalition (1798–1802). Initially confined to Europe, the fighting gradually assumed a global dimension. After a decade of constant warfare and aggressive diplomacy, France had conquered a wide array of territories, from the Italian Peninsula and the Low Countries in Europe to the Louisiana Territory in North America. French success in these conflicts ensured the spread of revolutionary principles over much of Europe.
The French Revolutionary Wars continued from 1792, with new powers entering the First Coalition after the execution of King Louis XVI. Spain and Portugal entered the coalition in January 1793, and on 1 February France declared war on Great Britain and the Netherlands.
The Army of the North or Armée du Nord is a name given to several historical units of the French Army. The first was one of the French Revolutionary Armies that fought with distinction against the First Coalition from 1792 to 1795. Others existed during the Peninsular War, the Hundred Days and the Franco-Prussian War.
The French Revolutionary Army was the French force that fought the French Revolutionary Wars from 1792 to 1802. These armies were characterised by their revolutionary fervour, their poor equipment and their great numbers. Although they experienced early disastrous defeats, the revolutionary armies successfully expelled foreign forces from French soil and then overran many neighboring countries, establishing client republics. Leading generals included Jourdan, Bonaparte, Masséna and Moreau.
The Brunswick Manifesto was a proclamation issued by Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick, commander of the Allied Army, on 25 July 1792 to the population of Paris, France during the War of the First Coalition. The Brunswick Manifesto threatened that if the French royal family were harmed, then French civilians would be harmed. It was said to have been a measure intended to intimidate Paris, but rather helped further spur the increasingly radical French Revolution and finally led to the war between revolutionary France and counter-revolutionary monarchies.
Auguste Marie Henri Picot de Dampierre, styled the Marquis de Dampierre and usually known as Dampierre, was a French general during the time of the French Revolution. He served in many of the early battles of the French Revolutionary Wars, and was killed in action in 1793. For him, the name Dampierre is among those inscribed on the Arc de Triomphe.
Arthur Dillon was an Irish Catholic aristocrat born in England who inherited the leadership of a French army regiment, serving both the Ancien Régime during the American Revolutionary War and the French First Republic during the War of the First Coalition. After serving in political positions during the early years of the revolution, he was executed in Paris as a royalist during the Reign of Terror, in 1794.
The Army of the Centre was one of the first French Revolutionary Armies, named after the location it was set up, the Centre region. It was created by order of king Louis XVI of France on 14 December 1791 and attached to Champagne. It had only an ephemeral existence after the battle of Valmy and the Prussians' evacuation of the territory.
The Army of the Ardennes was a French Revolutionary Army formed on the first of October 1792 by splitting off the right wing of the Army of the North, commanded from July to August that year by La Fayette. From July to September 1792 General Dumouriez also misused the name Army of the Ardennes for the right wing of what was left of the Army of the North after the split, encamped at Sedan and the name of Army of the North for the left flank of the army.
Jean-Baptiste Cyrus de Timbrune de Thiembronne, Comte de Valence commanded French troops during the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. A nobleman, he joined the French Royal Army as a captain of cavalry in 1778. By the time of the French Revolution he commanded a cavalry regiment. Valence led troops at Valmy in 1792 and was soon appointed to command the Army of the Ardennes. He led the right wing at Neerwinden. Becoming involved in Charles Francois Dumouriez's failed plot to seize control of the army, he defected in April 1793.
The Battle of Marquain was a conflict between Austria and the Kingdom of France during the War of the First Coalition. It took place on 29 April 1792 and ended in a French defeat.
Jean Étienne Philibert de Prez de Crassier or Étienne Desprez-Crassier was a French political and military leader in the early years of the French Revolutionary Wars. Despite being from the minor nobility, he entered the French Royal Army as a cadet at the age of 12 because of his family's poverty. He fought in the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War, becoming a colonel in 1785 and retiring two years later. Voltaire lent him the money needed to recover the Deprez family property. He was elected to the Estates General as a nobleman in 1789. After being promoted to lieutenant general he led a division at Valmy in 1792. He became commander of the Army of the Rhine and Army of the Western Pyrenees. Imprisoned during the Reign of Terror, he was released and restored to his former rank but retired in 1796.
The Battle of Quiévrain refers to two events of conflict between the Archduchy of Austria and the Kingdom of France in late April 1792 during the War of the First Coalition.
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