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The Coalition Forces of the Napoleonic Wars were composed of Napoleon Bonaparte's enemies: the United Kingdom,the Austrian Empire, Kingdom of Prussia, Kingdom of Spain, Kingdom of Naples and Sicily, Kingdom of Sardinia, Dutch Republic, Russian Empire, the Ottoman Empire, Kingdom of Portugal, Kingdom of Sweden, various Confederation of the Rhine and Italian states at differing times in the wars. At their height, the Coalition could field formidable combined forces of about 1,740,000 strong. This outnumbered the 1.1 million French soldiers. The breakdown of the more active armies are: Austria, 570,000; Britain, 250,000; Prussia, 300,000; and Russia, 600,000.
The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major conflicts pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of European powers formed into various coalitions, financed and usually led by the United Kingdom. The wars stemmed from the unresolved disputes associated with the French Revolution and its resultant conflict. The wars are often categorised into five conflicts, each termed after the coalition that fought Napoleon: the Third Coalition (1805), the Fourth (1806–07), the Fifth (1809), the Sixth (1813), and the Seventh (1815).
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was a sovereign state established by the Acts of Union 1800, which merged the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland.
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.
The British Army forces consisted of 250,000 troops at their height. This is notable as it consisted of 2% of the entire British population during that time. Integral divisions of the British army were the King's German Legion (18,000 men), the Brunswick troops, and several other troops from France, Switzerland and the Netherlands. While Great Britain played a major role in various campaigns on land, at sea the Royal Navy was the dominant part of the allied naval power, and succeeded in destroying French naval power in a series of major sea battles culminating in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years' War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.
The Battle of Trafalgar was a naval engagement fought by the British Royal Navy against the combined fleets of the French and Spanish Navies during the War of the Third Coalition of the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815).
Gaining experience under the Duke of Wellington in the Peninsular War and forged into a disciplined, honed weapon of war, they advanced to become a very prominent force in the Napoleonic Wars. The redcoats, as they were called, principally employed tactics such as disciplined platoon fire and (sometimes) bayonet charges and saw much success through these methods.
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, was an Anglo-Irish soldier and Tory statesman who was one of the leading military and political figures of 19th-century Britain, serving twice as Prime Minister. He won a notable victory against Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
The Peninsular War (1807–1814) was a military conflict between Napoleon's empire and Bourbon Spain, for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars. The war began when the French and Spanish armies invaded and occupied Portugal in 1807, and escalated in 1808 when France turned on Spain, previously its ally. The war on the peninsula lasted until the Sixth Coalition defeated Napoleon in 1814, and is regarded as one of the first wars of national liberation, significant for the emergence of large-scale guerrilla warfare.
These foot soldiers were typically equipped with the tower-pattern musket, or 'Brown Bess', whose inaccuracy was compensated by the technique of mass firing by platoons.
The British and German elite light infantry held a distinct advantage over their counterparts on the battlefield as they were equipped with Baker rifles. Having grooved barrels, these rifles achieved great target accuracy over a considerable distance and in this respect were superior to the muskets used by the French voltigeurs. Napoleon Bonaparte's rationale for choosing to equip his soldiers with muskets was their faster loading speed, a decision not without consequence for battlefield strategy. The British and German light battalions were deployed in pairs of two soldiers, forming a skirmish curtain, fighting quite independently and using all the cover they could find. These were new tactics, frowned on by more conservative officers, but very effective against enemy officers, who were often the first targets of the skirmishers.
The Baker rifle was a flintlock rifle used by the rifle regiments of the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars. It was the first standard-issue, British-made rifle accepted by the British armed forces.
The line, column and square formations were the most recognised tactical formations in use during the Napoleonic era.Each of these formations had its own unique purpose in attacking or counter-attacking and no doubt played a large role in battlefield tactics. The line formation was the most favoured amongst the British infantry. Lined up in this way, all men were able to fire at the same time, reaching a maximum firepower of about 1000 to 1500 bullets per minute. The column formation, favoured by the French, was unable to achieve any such output since only the men in the first row of the column (about 60) were able to fire their rifles at once. While the line formation worked well in engagements with infantry, it was very vulnerable whenever the enemy employed cavalry to attack the formation from the rear or at force, causing chaos and horrendous casualties. In the event of cavalry involvement, battalions would therefore hasten to reorganise their lines to square formation to cover their back against a much more mobile force.
The line formation is a standard tactical formation which was used in early modern warfare. It continued the phalanx formation or shield wall of infantry armed with polearms in use during antiquity and the Middle Ages.
A military column is a formation of soldiers marching together in one or more files in which the file is significantly longer than the width of ranks in the formation. The column formation allowed the unit rapid movement and a very effective charge, and it could quickly form square to resist cavalry attacks, but by its nature only a fraction of its muskets would be able to open fire.
A tactical formation is the arrangement or deployment of moving military forces such as infantry, cavalry, AFVs, military aircraft, or naval vessels. Formations were found in tribal societies such as the "pua rere" of the Māori, and ancient or medieval formations which include shield walls, phalanxes, Testudo formation and skirmishers. Tactical formations include:
The square formation seems to have been the best protection against cavalry as horses were very reluctant to push into a row of bayonets three or more lines deep. We know of only a few battles during which square formations were overrun by cavalry, one being the Battle of Salamanca, during which three French squares were broken up by the King's German Legion's heavy dragoons.
In Battle of Salamanca an Anglo-Portuguese army under the Duke of Wellington defeated Marshal Auguste Marmont's French forces among the hills around Arapiles, south of Salamanca, Spain on 22 July 1812 during the Peninsular War. A Spanish division was also present but took no part in the battle.
The King's German Legion was a British Army unit of mostly expatriate German personnel during the period 1803–16. The Legion achieved the distinction of being the only German force to fight without interruption against the French during the Napoleonic Wars.
The bayonet was used to finish off actions brought to near completion by the musketry and also in skirmishes, as reported by contemporary observers: opposing regiments when formed in line and charging with fixed bayonets, 'never' meet a struggle hand to hand and foot to foot; and this for the best possible reason, that one side turns and runs away as soon as the other comes close enough to do mischief.Here, fear of the bayonet, it seems, rather than the bayonet itself tended to be seen as the deciding factor in the outcome of a battle. On occasion, however, the bayonet could be used extensively as was the case during the Battle of Fuentes de Onoro.
The British infantry pay rates ranged from 22 shillings six pence per day for a colonel to as low as one shilling per day for a private.
Britain's war effort against France was always hampered by a shortage of cavalry. Its lack of numbers accompanied by poor leadership and indiscipline wasted not only good opportunities but also lives. The cavalry consisted of a few important ranks. Each played a different role in ensuring the army was an effective and formidable war machine.
The British cavalry developed a few crucial tactics to out-do these opponents. Against infantry the British planned a cavalry charge just after the enemy's infantry volley. This would minimise the number of muskets available to shoot at the cavalry as the infantry would be busy reloading. The infantry square formation was the best formation for outmaneuvering the cavalry.
Britain had a small but highly effective artillery arm (the Royal Artillery) that was exceedingly well trained but suffered from having only light guns. British cannon barrels were made of brass, with the carriages, wheels, and timbers painted grey and metal pieces painted black. The basic guns were from three to six pounders, and the British found themselves at a distinct disadvantage against French cannon. In fact, the Duke of Wellington forbade his gunners to engage in counter-battery fire against the superior French weapons and ordered them to focus on firing at enemy troops. The artillery was divided in horse artillery and foot artillery. Each cannon was manned by five gunners.
The anti-personnel bias of British artillery was boosted by the invention of a fused spherical case-shot, designed by General Sir Henry Shrapnel to explode over the heads of enemy troops and shower them with musket balls.
|Gun Type (caliber)||Maximum (metres)||Effective (metres)||Firing Canister|
|Gun Type (caliber)||Maximum (metres)||Effective (metres)||Firing Canister|
Another British invention was the Congreve Rocket, which was intended to shoot a barrage of 12-pounder explosives in the general direction of the enemy.
Unfortunately, the rockets were not very accurate and although they did see action in Iberia as well as in Germany during the Battle of the Goerhde and the Battle of Leipzig, they were not viewed as being particularly effective. Mostly they effected terror in the enemy troops, who were unfamiliar with this kind of weapon. The French initially thought that the rocket troops were lancers, as the firing device seemed from a distance to be a lance.
|Duke of Wellington||Sir Henry Paget|
|Sir Rowland Hill||Sir John Moore|
At the beginning of the wars the tactics of the allied forces were different from the British tactics. For example, they tried to use the column, but as they almost always lost against the French, they had to develop another system. Their approach became more and more similar to the British systems, although with some differences: the Prussian line was three man deep, in contrast to the two man deep line of the British army.
The army of Portugal was in great need of modernisation. Quite a number of British officers joined the Portuguese army for that reason, rising in rank. They formed the army after the example of the British army and formed a force with great fighting spirit and skills. The caçadores were as effective as the British light infantry and fought side by side with their allies. The Portuguese units were attached to the British regiments, the Duke of Wellington being the commander of the joint forces.
Commanders included :
After the defeat of Spain and the deportation of the king and his family to France, the Spanish army was divided in several parts between 1812 and 1814.
The Spanish troops included about 160,000 men in 1813. Also very active were the Spanish guerilla troops, which in 1812 were the strongest Spanish forces.They fought most independently of the time, but were also co-ordinated by the British. There was a guerilla force on the British right flank in the Battle of Fuentes de Onoro.
Commanders included :
Dragoons originally were a class of mounted infantry, who used horses for mobility, but dismounted to fight on foot. From the early 18th century onward, dragoons were increasingly also employed as conventional cavalry, trained for combat with swords from horseback.
A hussar was a member of a class of light cavalry, originating in Central Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries. The title and distinctive dress of these horsemen were subsequently widely adopted by light cavalry regiments in European armies in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
The Grande Armée was the army commanded by Napoleon I during the Napoleonic Wars. From 1805 to 1809, the Grande Armée scored a series of historic victories that gave the French Empire an unprecedented grip on power over the European continent. Widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest fighting forces ever assembled, it suffered terrible losses during the French invasion of Russia in 1812 and never recovered its tactical superiority after that campaign.
A charge is a maneuver in battle in which combatants advance towards their enemy at their best speed in an attempt to engage in close combat, most commonly a melee. The charge is the dominant shock attack and has been the key tactic and decisive moment of many battles throughout history. Modern charges more usually involve small groups of fireteams equipped with high-rate of fire weapons striking against individual defensive positions, instead of large groups of combatants charging another group or a fortified line.
Line infantry was the type of infantry that composed the basis of European land armies from the middle of the 17th century to the middle of the 19th century. For both battle and parade drill, it consisted of two to four ranks of foot soldiers drawn up side by side in rigid alignment, and thereby maximizing the effect of their firepower. By extension, the term came to be applied to the regular regiments "of the line" as opposed to light infantry, skirmishers, militia, support personnel, plus some other special categories of infantry not focused on heavy front line combat.
The Light Division was a light infantry division of the British Army. Its origins lay in "Light Companies" formed during the late 18th century, to move at speed over inhospitable terrain and protect a main force with skirmishing tactics. These units took advantage of then-new technology in the form of rifles, which allowed it to emphasise marksmanship, and were aimed primarily at disrupting and harassing enemy forces, in skirmishes before the main forces clashed.
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 Combat of the Côa was a skirmish that occurred during the Peninsular War period of the Napoleonic Wars. It took place in the valley of the Côa River and it was the first significant battle for the new army of 65,000 men controlled by Marshal André Masséna, as the French prepared for their third invasion of Portugal.
The 1st Cavalry Division was a regular Division of the British Army during the First World War where it fought on the Western Front. During the Second World War it was a first line formation, formed from Yeomanry Regiments. It fought in the Middle East before being converted to the 10th Armoured Division.
The Voltigeurs were French military skirmish units created in 1804 by Emperor Napoleon I. It officially replaced the second company of fusiliers, which were also chasseurs.
The 5th Cavalry Brigade was a cavalry brigade of the British Army. It served in the Napoleonic Wars, in the First World War on the Western Front where it was initially independent before being assigned to the 2nd Cavalry Division, and with the 1st Cavalry Division during the Second World War.
The British Army during the Napoleonic Wars experienced a time of rapid change. At the beginning of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1793, the army was a small, awkwardly administered force of barely 40,000 men. By the end of the period, the numbers had vastly increased. At its peak, in 1813, the regular army contained over 250,000 men. The British infantry was "the only military force not to suffer a major reverse at the hands of Napoleonic France."
The types of military forces in the Napoleonic Wars represented the unique tactical use of distinct military units, or their origin within different European regions. By and large the military forces during the period had not changed significantly from those of the 18th century, although their employment would differ significantly.
Horses were widely used during the Napoleonic Wars for combat, patrol and reconnaissance, and for logistical support. Vast numbers were used throughout the wars. During the War of the Sixth Coalition, depletion of the French cavalry arm through attrition and loss of horse-producing allies to provide remounts contributed significantly to the gradual French defeat and downfall of the French Empire. During the Waterloo Campaign, the Armee du Nord had 47,000 horses: 25,000 cavalry, 12,000 for artillery, 10,000 for infantry and supply columns.
Napoleonic tactics describe certain battlefield strategies used by national armies from the late 18th century until the invention and adoption of the rifled musket in the mid 19th century. Napoleonic tactics are characterized by intense drilling of the soldiers, speedy battlefield movement, combined arms assaults between infantry, cavalry, and artillery, relatively small numbers of cannon, short-range musket fire, and bayonet charges. Napoleon I is considered by military historians to have been a master of this particular form of warfare. Napoleonic tactics continued to be used after they had become technologically impractical, leading to large-scale slaughters during the American Civil War, Austro-Prussian War and the Franco-Prussian War.
II Cavalry Corps was a French military formation during the Napoleonic Wars. It was first formed in December 1806, but only enjoyed a brief existence under Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bessières. The II Cavalry Corps was reconstituted for the French invasion of Russia in 1812 and commanded by General of Division Louis-Pierre Montbrun who was killed in battle, as was his successor a few hours later. In the War of the Sixth Coalition, General of Division Horace François Bastien Sébastiani de La Porta led the corps in 1813. General of Division Antoine-Louis Decrest de Saint-Germain directed the corps in 1814. During the Hundred Days, Napoleon raised the corps again and entrusted it to General of Division Rémi Joseph Isidore Exelmans.
The British cavalry were the first British Army units to see action during the First World War. Captain Hornby of the 4th Dragoon Guards is reputed to have been the first British soldier to kill a German soldier, using his sword, and Drummer Edward Thomas of the same regiment is reputed to have fired the first British shot shortly after 06:30 on 22 August 1914, near the Belgian village of Casteau. The following Battle of Mons was the first engagement fought by British soldiers in Western Europe since the Battle of Waterloo, ninety-nine years earlier. In the first year of the war in France nine cavalry brigades were formed for three British cavalry divisions. Other regiments served in six brigades of the two British Indian Army cavalry divisions that were formed for service on the Western Front. Three regiments also fought in the campaign in Mesopotamia, the only other theatre of the First World War where British cavalry served.
The III Cavalry Corps was a French military formation that fought during the Napoleonic Wars. The corps was created in 1812 and reconstituted in 1813 and 1815. Emperor Napoleon first mobilized the corps for the French invasion of Russia. Commanded by General of Division Emmanuel Grouchy, two divisions of the corps fought at Borodino, Tarutino, and Vyazma. A third division fought at First and Second Polotsk and the Berezina. During the War of the Sixth Coalition in 1813, General of Division Jean-Toussaint Arrighi de Casanova led the corps at Grossbeeren, Dennewitz, Leipzig, and Hanau. During the Hundred Days in 1815, Napoleon reorganized the corps and appointed General of Division François Étienne de Kellermann to lead it. One brigade of the corps was engaged at Quatre Bras and both divisions fought at Waterloo.