|Napoleon's invasion of England|
|Part of the War of the Third Coalition|
Napoleon distributing the first Imperial Légion d'honneur
at the Boulogne camps, on August 16, 1804
|Commanders and leaders|
|Casualties and losses|
|Many men were lost on the Boulogne flotilla during preparations|
Napoleon's planned invasion of the United Kingdom at the start of the War of the Third Coalition, although never carried out, was a major influence on British naval strategy and the fortification of the coast of southeast England. French attempts to invade Ireland in order to destabilise the United Kingdom or as a stepping-stone to Great Britain had already occurred in 1796. The first French Army of England had gathered on the Channel coast in 1798, but an invasion of England was sidelined by Napoleon's concentration on campaigns in Egypt and against Austria, and shelved in 1802 by the Peace of Amiens. Building on planning for mooted invasions under France's Ancien Régime in 1744, 1759 and 1779, preparations began again in earnest soon after the outbreak of war in 1803, and were finally called off in 1805. Contrary to popular belief, the invasion was called off before the Battle of Trafalgar.[ citation needed ]
Napoléon Bonaparte was a French statesman and military leader of Italian descent who rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the French Revolutionary Wars. He was Emperor of the French as Napoleon I from 1804 until 1814 and again briefly in 1815 during the Hundred Days. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over much of continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. He is considered one of the greatest commanders in history, and his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide. Napoleon's political and cultural legacy has endured as one of the most celebrated and controversial leaders in human history.
The War of the Third Coalition was a European conflict spanning the years 1803 to 1806. During the war, France and its client states under Napoleon I defeated an alliance, the Third Coalition, made up of the Holy Roman Empire, Russia, Britain and others.
The French expedition to Ireland, known in French as the Expédition d'Irlande, was an unsuccessful attempt by the First French Republic during the French Revolutionary Wars to assist the outlawed Society of United Irishmen, a popular rebel Irish republican group, in their planned rebellion against British rule. The French intended to land a large expeditionary force in Ireland during the winter of 1796–1797 which would join with the United Irishmen and drive the British out of Ireland. The French anticipated that this would be a major blow to British morale, prestige and military effectiveness, and was also intended to possibly be the first stage of an eventual invasion of Britain itself. To this end, the French Directory gathered a force of approximately 15,000 soldiers at Brest under General Lazare Hoche during late 1796, in readiness for a major landing at Bantry Bay in December.
From 1803 to 1805 a new army of 200,000 men, known as the Armée des côtes de l'Océan (Army of the Ocean Coasts) or the Armée d'Angleterre (Army of England), was gathered and trained at camps at Boulogne, Bruges and Montreuil. A large "National Flotilla"of invasion barges was built in Channel ports along the coasts of France and the Netherlands (then under French domination as the Batavian Republic), right from Étaples to Flushing, and gathered at Boulogne. This flotilla was initially under the energetic command of Eustache Bruix, but he soon had to return to Paris, where he died of tuberculosis in March 1805. The part of the flotilla built by the Batavian Navy was under the command of vice-admiral Carel Hendrik Ver Huell.
The Boulogne camp may designate two military camps around Boulogne-sur-Mer in France.
Bruges is the capital and largest city of the province of West Flanders in the Flemish Region of Belgium, in the northwest of the country.
Montreuil or Montreuil-sur-Mer is a sub-prefecture in the Pas-de-Calais department in northern France. It is located on the Canche river, not far from Étaples. The sea, however, is now some distance away.
Port facilities at Boulogne were improved (even though its tides made it unsuitable for such a role) and forts built, whilst the discontent and boredom that often threatened to overflow among the waiting troops was allayed by constant training and frequent ceremonial visits by Napoleon himself (including the first ever awards of the Imperial Légion d'honneur).A medal was struck and a triumphal column erected at Boulogne to celebrate the invasion's anticipated success. However, when Napoleon ordered a large-scale test of the invasion craft despite choppy weather and against the advice of his naval commanders such as Charles René Magon de Médine (commander of the flotilla's right wing), they were shown up as ill-designed for their task and, though Napoleon led rescue efforts in person, many men were lost.
Charles René Magon de Médine was a French contre-amiral killed at the battle of Trafalgar whilst commanding the ship-of-the-line Algésiras - his conduct in the battle is seen by French historians as one of the few redeeming features of that disaster, and his name appears on the Arc de Triomphe. He is also notable as a Grand Officer of the Masonic Grand Orient de France.
Napoleon also seriously considered using a fleet of troop-carrying balloons as part of his proposed invasion force and appointed Marie Madeline Sophie Blanchard as an air service chief, though she said the proposed aerial invasion would fail because of the winds.(France's first military balloon had been used in 1794 by Jean-Marie Coutelle. ) Though an aerial invasion proved a dead-end, the prospect of one captured the minds of the British print media and public.
Sophie Blanchard, commonly referred to as Madame Blanchard and is also known by many combinations of her maiden and married names, including Madeleine-Sophie Blanchard, Marie Madeleine-Sophie Blanchard, Marie Sophie Armant and Madeleine-Sophie Armant Blanchard, was a French aeronaut and the wife of ballooning pioneer Jean-Pierre Blanchard. Blanchard was the first woman to work as a professional balloonist, and after her husband's death she continued ballooning, making more than 60 ascents. Known throughout Europe for her ballooning exploits, Blanchard entertained Napoleon Bonaparte, who promoted her to the role of "Aeronaut of the Official Festivals", replacing André-Jacques Garnerin. On the restoration of the monarchy in 1814 she performed for Louis XVIII, who named her "Official Aeronaut of the Restoration".
These preparations were financed by the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, whereby France ceded her huge North American territories to the United States in return for a payment of 50 million French francs ($11,250,000). The entire amount was spent on the projected invasion. The United States had partly funded the purchase by means of a loan from Baring Brothers, a British bank.
The Louisiana Purchase was the acquisition of the Louisiana territory of New France by the United States from France in 1803. The U.S. paid fifty million francs ($11,250,000) and a cancellation of debts worth eighteen million francs ($3,750,000) for a total of sixty-eight million francs. The Louisiana territory included land from fifteen present U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. The territory contained land that forms Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; the portion of Minnesota west of the Mississippi River; a large portion of North Dakota; a large portion of South Dakota; the northeastern section of New Mexico; the northern portion of Texas; the area of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Continental Divide; Louisiana west of the Mississippi River ; and small portions of land within the present Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Its non-native population was around 60,000 inhabitants, of whom half were African slaves.
The franc, also commonly distinguished as the French franc (FF), was a currency of France. Between 1360 and 1641, it was the name of coins worth 1 livre tournois and it remained in common parlance as a term for this amount of money. It was reintroduced in 1795. After two centuries of inflation, it was revalued in 1960, with each new franc (NF) being worth 100 old francs. The NF designation was continued for a few years before the currency returned to being simply the franc; some mostly older French continued to reference and value items in terms of the old franc until the introduction of the euro in 1999 and 2002. The French franc was a commonly held international reserve currency of reference in the 19th and 20th centuries.
For his planned subsidiary invasion of Ireland Napoleon had formed an Irish Legion in 1803, to create an indigenous part of his 20,000-man Corps d'Irelande.
Napoleon's Irish Legion was a French light infantry battalion established in 1803 for an anticipated invasion of Ireland. It was later expanded to a four battalion regiment with a depot and won distinction in the Walcheren Expedition and the Peninsular War. It was disbanded in 1815.
Though the fleet-test was unsuccessful, Britain continued to be on high alert with defences from invasion. With the flotilla and encampment at Boulogne visible from the south coast of England, Martello towers were built along the English coast to counter the invasion threat, and militias were raised. In the areas closest to France new fortifications were built and existing ones initiated against the 1779 invasion completed or improved. Dover Castle had underground tunnels added to garrison more troops, the Dover Western Heights were constructed (with a Grand Shaft to deploy its troops from its hilltop site to sea level rapidly should a landing occur), and the Royal Military Canal cut to impede Napoleon's progress into England should he land on Romney Marsh. Unfounded rumours of a massive flat French invasion raft powered by windmills and paddle-wheels, a secretly-dug channel tunnel and an invasion fleet of balloons spread via the print media, as did caricatures ridiculing the prospect of invasion. A naval raid on Boulogne was also carried out in October 1804 and British fleets continued to blockade the French and Spanish fleets that would be needed to gain naval superiority long enough for a crossing.
Before the flotilla could cross, however, Napoleon had to gain naval control of the English Channel – in his own words, "Let us be masters of the Channel for six hours and we are masters of the world." He envisaged doing this by having the Brest and Toulon Franco – Spanish fleets break out from the British blockade (led at Brest by Collingwood and Toulon by Nelson), and then sail across the Atlantic to threaten the West Indies. This, he hoped, would draw off the Royal Navy force under William Cornwallis defending the Western Approaches. The Toulon and Brest fleets (under Pierre-Charles Villeneuve and Honoré Joseph Antoine Ganteaume respectively) could then rendezvous at Martinique, quickly sail back across the Atlantic to Europe (losing both these pursuing British fleets en route), land a force in Ireland (as in the two French Revolutionary invasions of Ireland in 1796 and 1798) and, more importantly, defeat what parts of the Channel Fleet had remained in the Channel, take control of the Channel and defend and transport the invasion force, all before the pursuing fleets could return to stop them.
This plan was typical of Napoleon in its dash and reliance on fast movement and surprise, but such a style was more suited to land than to sea warfare, with the vagaries of tide and wind and the effective British blockade making it ever more impractical and unlikely to succeed as more and more time passed. Only the Toulon force eventually broke out (on 29 March 1805) and, though it managed to cross the Atlantic, it did not find the Brest fleet at the rendezvous and so sailed back to Europe alone, where it was met by the force blockading Rochefort and Ferrol (where invasion vessels had been prepared), were defeated at the Battle of Cape Finisterre and forced back into port. Therefore, on 27 August 1805 Napoleon used the invasion army as the core of the new Grande Armée and had it break camp and march eastwards to begin the Ulm Campaign. Thus, by the time of the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October, the invasion had already been called off, and so this battle further guaranteed British control of the Channel rather than preventing the invasion. The comment attributed to First Lord of the Admiralty Lord St. Vincent – "I do not say they [the French] cannot come – I only say they cannot come by sea" – had been proved right.
Today, the Boulogne camp's site is marked by a 53-metre-high column (the tallest of such columns in France), built in the 1850s, with a statue of Napoleon on top, panels on the base showing him presenting medals of the Légion d'Honneur to his troops and surrounded by railings decorated with the golden French Imperial eagle. The arsenal from the camp is preserved.
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 (1796–1815).
Pierre-Charles-Jean-Baptiste-Silvestre de Villeneuve was a French naval officer during the Napoleonic Wars. He was in command of the French and the Spanish fleets that were defeated by Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Admiral Sir William Sidney Smith, GCB, GCTE, KmstkSO, FRS was a British naval officer. Serving in the American and French revolutionary wars, he later rose to the rank of admiral. Napoleon Bonaparte, reminiscing later in his life, said of him: "That man made me miss my destiny".
In the Battle of Cape Finisterre off Galicia, Spain, the British fleet under Admiral Robert Calder fought an indecisive naval battle against the combined Franco-Spanish fleet which was returning from the West Indies. Failing to prevent the joining of French Admiral Pierre de Villeneuve's fleet to the squadron of Ferrol and to strike the shattering blow that would have freed Great Britain from the danger of an invasion, Calder was later court-martialled and severely reprimanded for his failure and for avoiding the renewal of the engagement on 23 and 24 July. At the same time, in the aftermath Villeneuve elected not to continue on to Brest, where his fleet could have joined with other French ships to clear the English Channel for an invasion of Great Britain.
Admiral Sir Robert Calder, 1st Baronet, was a British naval officer who served in the Seven Years' War, the American Revolutionary War, the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.
Étienne Eustache Bruix was a French Navy admiral.
Laurent Truguet was a French admiral.
The Battle of Tory Island, was a naval action fought on 12 October 1798 off the north coast of Ireland. The battle contested an attempted French invasion of Donegal in support of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, with a French squadron under Jean-Baptiste-François Bompart facing a hastily assembled Royal Navy blockade squadron under Sir John Borlase Warren. Bompart's force had been dispatched from Brest the month before with orders to reinforce a French army under Jean Humbert which had landed two months earlier.
A French invasion of Great Britain was planned to take place in 1759 during the Seven Years' War, but due to various factors was never launched. The French planned to land 100,000 French soldiers in Britain to end British involvement in the war. The invasion was one of several failed and defeated French attempts during the 18th century to invade Britain.
The Raid on Boulogne in 1804 was a naval assault by elements of the Royal Navy on the fortified French port of Boulogne, during the Napoleonic Wars. It differed from the conventional tactics of naval assaults of the period by utilizing a wide range of new equipment produced by the American-born inventor Robert Fulton, with the backing of the Admiralty. Despite its ambitious aims the assault produced little material damage to the French fleet anchored in the harbour, but did perhaps contribute to a growing sense of defeatism amongst the French as to their chances of crossing the English Channel in the face of the Royal Navy and launching a successful invasion of the United Kingdom.
François Étienne de Rosily-Mesros was a French naval commander of the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars. He is notable as being chosen by Napoleon to succeed Villeneuve as commander of the combined Franco-Spanish fleet at Cádiz fleet, arriving to take up his appointment just after its defeat at Trafalgar. His name is inscribed on the east side of the Arc de Triomphe.
The Trafalgar Campaign was a long and complicated series of fleet manoeuvres carried out by the combined French and Spanish fleets; and the opposing moves of the Royal Navy during much of 1805. These were the culmination of French plans to force a passage through the English Channel, and so achieve a successful invasion of the United Kingdom. The plans were extremely complicated and proved to be impractical. Much of the detail was due to the personal intervention of Napoleon, who as a soldier rather than a sailor failed to consider the effects of weather, difficulties in communication, and the Royal Navy. Despite limited successes in achieving some elements of the plan the French commanders were unable to follow the main objective through to execution. The campaign, which took place over thousands of miles of ocean, was marked by several naval engagements, most significantly at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October, where the combined fleet was decisively defeated, and from which the campaign takes its name. A final mopping up action at the Battle of Cape Ortegal on 4 November completed the destruction of the combined fleet, and secured the supremacy of the Royal Navy at sea.
L'Hermite's expedition was a French naval operation launched in 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars. The operation was intended as both a commerce raiding operation against the British trading posts of West Africa and as a diversion to the Trafalgar campaign. Sailing from Lorient in October 1805 with one ship of the line, two frigates and a corvette, Commodore Jean-Marthe-Adrien L'Hermite was under orders to intercept and destroy British traders and slave ships off the West African coast and await reinforcements under Jérôme Bonaparte which were to be used in the invasion and capture of one of the British trading forts for use as a permanent French naval base from which further raiding operations could be conducted. It was also hoped by the French naval command that L'Hermite might draw some of the large British fleet maintained off Cadiz away from the blockade to allow the French and Spanish allied fleet trapped in the harbour to escape.
British anti-invasion preparations of 1803–05 were the military and civilian responses in the United Kingdom to Napoleon's planned invasion of the United Kingdom. They included mobilization of the population on a scale not previously attempted in Britain, with a combined military force of over 615,000 in December 1803. Much of the southern English coast was fortified to repel a French landing. However Napoleon never attempted his planned invasion and so the preparations were never put to the test.
The Battle of the Îles Saint-Marcouf was an engagement fought off the Îles Saint-Marcouf near the Cotentin peninsula on the Normandy coast of France in May 1798 during the French Revolutionary Wars. In 1795 a British garrison was placed on the islands, which operated as a resupply base for Royal Navy ships cruising off the coast of Northern France. Seeking to eliminate the British presence on the islands and simultaneously test the equipment and tactics then being developed in France for a projected invasion of Britain, the French launched a massed amphibious assault on the southern island using over 50 landing ships and thousands of troops on 7 May 1798. Although significant Royal Navy forces were in the area, a combination of wind and tide prevented them from intervening and the island's 500-strong garrison was left to resist the attack alone.
Ganteaume's expeditions of 1801 were three connected major French Navy operations of the spring of 1801 during the French Revolutionary Wars. A French naval squadron from Brest under Contre-amiral Honoré Ganteaume, seeking to reinforce the besieged French garrison in Egypt, made three separate but futile efforts to reach the Eastern Mediterranean. The French army in Egypt had been trapped there shortly after the start of the Napoleonic campaign in Egypt in 1798, when the French Mediterranean Fleet was destroyed at the Battle of the Nile. Since that defeat, the French Navy had maintained only a minimal presence in the Mediterranean Sea, while the more numerous British and their allies had succeeded in blockading and defeating several French bases almost unopposed.
The Croisière de Bruix was the principal naval campaign of the year 1799 during the French Revolutionary Wars. The expedition began in April 1799 when the bulk of the French Atlantic Fleet under Vice-Admiral Étienne Eustache Bruix departed the base at Brest, evading the British Channel Fleet which was blockading the port and tricking the commander Admiral Lord Bridport into believing their true destination was Ireland. Passing southwards, the French fleet narrowly missed joining with an allied Spanish Navy squadron at Ferrol and was prevented by an easterly gale from uniting with the main Spanish fleet at Cádiz before entering the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean was under British control following the destruction of the French Mediterranean Fleet at the Battle of the Nile in August 1798, and a British fleet nominally under Admiral Earl St Vincent was stationed there. Due however to St. Vincent's ill-health, operational control rested with Vice-Admiral Lord Keith. As Keith sought to chase down the French, the Spanish fleet followed Bruix into the Mediterranean before being badly damaged in a gale and sheltering in Cartagena.
Créole was a 40-gun frigate of the French Navy, a one-off design by Jacques-Augustin Lamothe. The French Navy loaned her to a privateer in 1797. Later, she served in the Brest squadron, took part in Ganteaume's expeditions of 1801 to Egypt, and was involved in the French acquisition of Santo Domingo and briefly detained Toussaint Louverture before he was brought to France. The 74-gun ships HMS Vanguard and HMS Cumberland captured her Santo Domingo on 30 June 1803. The Royal Navy took her into service but she foundered soon afterwards during an attempt to sail to Britain; her crew were rescued.
The Flottille de Boulogne was a large fleet of small gunboats, brigs and barges built in Boulogne on the orders of First Consul Napoléon Bonaparte from 1801. It was a key component of Napoleon's planned invasion of the United Kingdom.