War of the Sixth Coalition

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War of the Sixth Coalition
Part of the Napoleonic Wars and the Coalition Wars
MoshkovVI SrazhLeypcigomGRM.jpg
The Battle of Leipzig
Date3 March 1813 – 30 May 1814
(1 year, 2 months, 3 weeks and 6 days)

Coalition victory

Original coalition

After the Armistice of Pläswitz

After the Battle of Leipzig

After January 1814

Flag of France (1794-1815).svg  France

Until January 1814


Flag of the United States (1795-1818).svg  United States (War of 1812)

Commanders and leaders
1813: 1,070,000 1813: 850,000
Casualties and losses

526,000 [1]

  • 391,000 killed and wounded
  • 135,000 captured and missing

668,900 [2] [1]

  • 103,300 killed
  • 320,600 wounded
  • 245,000 captured and missing
[Interactive fullscreen map]
Third Coalition: Germany 1803:...Austerlitz...
Fourth Coalition: Prussia 1806:...Jena...
Peninsular War: Portugal 1807...Torres Vedras...
Peninsular War: Spain 1808...Vitoria...
Fifth Coalition: Austria 1809:...Wagram...
French invasion of Russia 1812:...Moscow...
Sixth Coalition: Germany 1813:...Leipzig...
Sixth Coalition: France 1814:...Paris...
Hundred Days 1815:...Waterloo...

In the War of the Sixth Coalition (March 1813 – May 1814), sometimes known in Germany as the War of Liberation, a coalition of Austria, Prussia, Russia, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Sweden, Spain and a number of German States defeated France and drove Napoleon into exile on Elba. After the disastrous French invasion of Russia of 1812 in which they had been forced to support France, Prussia and Austria joined Russia, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Portugal and the rebels in Spain who were already at war with France.


The War of the Sixth Coalition saw major battles at Lützen, Bautzen, and Dresden. The even larger Battle of Leipzig (also known as the Battle of Nations) was the largest battle in European history before World War I. Ultimately, Napoleon's earlier setbacks in Portugal, Spain, and Russia proved to be the seeds of his undoing. With their armies reorganized, the allies drove Napoleon out of Germany in 1813 and invaded France in 1814. The Allies defeated the remaining French armies, occupied Paris, and forced Napoleon to abdicate and go into exile. The French monarchy was revived by the allies, who handed rule to the heir of the House of Bourbon in the Bourbon Restoration.

This was not, however, the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon subsequently escaped from his captivity and returned to power in France, sparking the War of the Seventh Coalition in 1815 (also known as the "Hundred Days"), until he was defeated again for the final time.

Background: Invasion of Russia

In June 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia to compel Emperor Alexander I to remain in the Continental System. The Grande Armée, consisting of as many as 650,000 men (roughly half of whom were French, with the remainder coming from allies or subject areas), crossed the Neman River on 23 June 1812. Russia proclaimed a Patriotic War, while Napoleon proclaimed a "Second Polish War". But against the expectations of the Poles, who supplied almost 100,000 troops for the invasion force, and having in mind further negotiations with Russia, he avoided any concessions toward Poland. Russian forces fell back, destroying everything potentially of use to the invaders until giving battle at Borodino (7 September) where the two armies fought a devastating battle. Despite the fact that France won a tactical victory, the battle was inconclusive. Following the battle the Russians withdrew, thus opening the road to Moscow. By 14 September, the French had occupied Moscow but found the city practically empty. Alexander I (despite having almost lost the war by Western European standards) refused to capitulate, leaving the French in the abandoned city of Moscow with little food or shelter (large parts of Moscow had burned down) and winter approaching. In these circumstances, and with no clear path to victory, Napoleon was forced to withdraw from Moscow.

So began the disastrous Great Retreat, during which the retreating army came under increasing pressure due to lack of food, desertions, and increasingly harsh winter weather, all while under continual attack by the Russian army led by Commander-in-Chief Mikhail Kutuzov, and other militias. Total losses of the Grand Army were at least 370,000 casualties as a result of fighting, starvation and the freezing weather conditions, and 200,000 captured. By November, only 27,000 fit soldiers re-crossed the Berezina River. Napoleon now left his army to return to Paris and prepare a defence of Poland against the advancing Russians. The situation was not as dire as it might at first have seemed; the Russians had also lost around 400,000 men, and their army was similarly depleted. However, they had the advantage of shorter supply lines and were able to replenish their armies with greater speed than the French, especially because Napoleon's losses of cavalry and wagons were irreplaceable.

Formation of the Sixth Coalition

Russia, Britain and Sweden form an alliance

Map of Europe in August 1813:
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French Empire and allies
Sixth Coalition and allies War of the Sixth Coalition 1812.svg
Map of Europe in August 1813:
  French Empire and allies
  Sixth Coalition and allies

At the beginning of 1812 Britain had already been at war with France for eight years, and had been fighting alongside the Portuguese and Spanish in the Peninsular War for more than three years. Russia and Sweden, which had opposed Napoleon up to 1807 and 1810 respectively, had been forced to join his Continental System against Britain, but continued to trade secretly with her. On 9 January 1812, French troops occupied Swedish Pomerania to end the illegal trade with the United Kingdom from Sweden, which was in violation of the Continental System. Swedish estates were confiscated and Swedish officers and soldiers were taken as prisoners. In response, Sweden declared neutrality and signed the secret Treaty of Saint Petersburg with Russia against France and Denmark–Norway on 5 April. On 18 July, the Treaty of Örebro formally ended the wars between Britain and Sweden and Britain and Russia, forming an alliance between Russia, Britain, and Sweden. When Napoleon marched on Moscow in June 1812, neither Britain nor Sweden was able to give direct military support to Russia, though that same month the British and Spanish armies had advanced into central Spain, defeating the French at Salamanca and capturing Madrid, tying down a French army of 230,000. Britain also helped subsidize the Russian war effort while Swedish Crown Prince Charles John, formerly French Marshal Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, had struck up a friendship with Alexander, and gave him moral support, strategic and tactical advice on how to defeat the French, as well as valuable insights on Napoleon himself (having had much contact with Napoleon as a member of the extended Imperial Family). However Russia bore the brunt of the French onslaught on her territory alone. [3]

After the French Grande Armée retreated from Moscow on 18/19 October 1812 and suffered heavy casualties due to extreme cold, food shortages and repeated Russian attacks, Napoleon did not seem to be as invincible as before. On 14 December, the last French troops had left Russian soil, and Paris' allies were seriously considering rebellion and joining the Tsar's side.

Defection of Prussia

The Convention of Tauroggen was a truce signed 30 December 1812 at Tauroggen (now Tauragė, Lithuania), between Generalleutnant Ludwig Yorck von Wartenburg on behalf of his Prussian troops (who had been compelled to augment the Grande Armée during the invasion of Russia), and by General Hans Karl von Diebitsch of the Russian Army. According to the Treaty of Tilsit (9 July 1807), Prussia had to support Napoleon's invasion of Russia. This resulted in some Prussians leaving their army to avoid serving the French, like Carl von Clausewitz, who joined Russian service. When Yorck's immediate French superior Marshal MacDonald, retreated before the corps of Diebitsch, Yorck found himself isolated. As a soldier his duty was to break through, but as a Prussian patriot his position was more difficult. He had to judge whether the moment was favorable for starting a war of liberation; and, whatever might be the enthusiasm of his junior staff-officers, Yorck had no illusions as to the safety of his own head, and negotiated with Clausewitz. The Convention of Tauroggen armistice, signed by Diebitsch and Yorck, "neutralized" the Prussian corps without consent of their king. The news was received with the wildest enthusiasm in Prussia, but the Prussian Court dared not yet throw off the mask, and an order was despatched suspending Yorck from his command pending a court-martial. Diebitsch refused to let the bearer pass through his lines, and the general was finally absolved when the Treaty of Kalisch (28 February 1813) definitely ranged Prussia on the side of the Allies.

Meanwhile, Austria's alliance with France ended in February 1813, and Austria then moved to a position of armed neutrality. [4] It would not declare war on France until half a year later, in August 1813.

Declarations of war

On 3 March 1813, after the United Kingdom agreed to Swedish claims to Norway, Sweden entered an alliance with the United Kingdom and declared war against France, liberating Swedish Pomerania shortly thereafter. On 17 March, King Frederick William III of Prussia published a call to arms to his subjects, An Mein Volk , and declared war on France as well. The first armed conflict occurred on 5 April in the Battle of Möckern, where combined Prusso-Russian forces defeated French troops.

Meanwhile, Napoleon withdrew some 20,000 troops from the ongoing Peninsular War to reinforce his position in Central Europe, which left his Iberian forces weakened and vulnerable to Anglo–Spanish–Portuguese attacks. On 17 March 1813, his brother King Joseph Bonaparte of Spain withdrew from Madrid, a clear sign of losing control. Wellington led a 123,000-strong army across northern Spain, taking Burgos in late May, and decisively defeating Jourdan at the Battle of Vitoria on 21 June. Marshal Soult failed to turn the tide in his large-scale Battle of the Pyrenees (25 July to 2 August).

In June, the United Kingdom formally entered the coalition. [5] Initially, Austria remained loyal to France, and foreign minister Metternich aimed to mediate in good faith a peace between France and its continental enemies, but it became apparent that the price was to be the dismantling of the Confederation of the Rhine, the Napoleon-controlled union of all German states aside from Prussia and Austria, and the return to France's pre-Revolutionary borders. Napoleon was not interested in any such compromise that would in effect end his empire, so Austria joined the allies and declared war on France in August 1813.

War in Germany

Spring campaign of 1813

Napoleon vowed that he would create a new army as large as that he had sent into Russia, and quickly built up his forces in the east from 30,000 to 130,000 and eventually to 400,000. Napoleon inflicted 40,000 casualties on the Allies at Lützen (near Leipzig, 2 May) and Bautzen (20–21 May 1813) but his army lost about the same number of men during those encounters. Both battles involved total forces of over 250,000 – making them among the largest battles of the Napoleonic Wars to that point in time. The lack of horses for Napoleon's cavalry did not allow him to follow-up his victories with a vigorous pursuit, robbing him of decisive results. [6]

Despite losing as many men as the Allies, Napoleon's victories had greatly demoralized the Prussians and Russians. Losses were heavy, and the Russian and Prussian forces were in shambles. Both Allied armies were in dire need of substantial reinforcements en route from the east and from Prussian recruiting depots. Many Russian officers yearned to return to Russia having achieved their goal of ridding Russia of the French. Frederick William of Prussia had always viewed a renewed war with France as dubious, and the two defeats at Lützen and Bautzen had led him to reconsider peace. Moreover, the Prussians and the Russians were hopeful of bringing the Austrians into the war and a break in the fighting would give them time to negotiate with Vienna. Another victory by Napoleon may very well have led to a favorable peace as not only were the Russians and Prussians at their nadir, but the Austrians, with their 150,000 troops would have seen a decisive French victory as ample proof that another war with France would be most undesirable. [7]

However, despite the two victories over the Prussians and Russians, French losses had been heavy and a chronic lack of horses for his cavalry meant that Napoleon could not fully exploit his victories and inflict a decisive defeat in the same vein as Austerlitz or Friedland. Napoleon's new army was filled with fresh conscripts, lacked many necessities and was exhausted from their long march from France and Napoleon's rapid maneuvering. The French were "in dire need of a period of reconstruction and recuperation" and Napoleon needed time to acquire horses for his depleted cavalry and bring up more reinforcements. Therefore, Napoleon was amiable to the armistice offered by the Allies despite the Allies being in a grave condition. During the armistice, a disastrous interview with Austrian Chancellor Metternich, in which Napoleon heaped recriminations on the Austrians and threw his hat to the ground and stamped it with his foot, ensured that Austria would join the coalition against France. [8] Napoleon did not know it at the time, but the armistice would turn out to be a grave mistake as the Allies gained far more from the suspension of hostilities than he did. [9]

Meanwhile, on 19 May 1813, a Swedish corps of 15,000 occupied Hamburg without orders from Bernadotte, following a Danish declaration that they would hold the city for Napoleon, irrevocably binding Denmark to France, an action that would guarantee full Swedish cooperation in North Germany. The Swedish occupation of Hamburg came as welcome news to the Allies, insofar as holding a wealthy center of finance was a blow against Napoleon. However, Bernadotte's initial misgivings at extending his troops so far from the Allied lines were validated when Marshal Davout approached Hamburg with a large French force, intent on retaking the city. The Swedes quietly withdrew on 26 May and Davout would occupy the city until after Napoleon's abdication in 1814. It would be the last major action of the Spring before the Armistice of Pläswitz. [10]

The Battle of Hanau Vernet-Battle of Hanau.jpg
The Battle of Hanau

Armistice of Pläswitz; Austria joins the coalition

The belligerents declared an armistice from 4 June 1813 which lasted until 13 August, during which time both sides attempted to recover from approximately a quarter of a million losses since April. During this time Allied negotiations finally brought Austria out in open opposition to France (like Prussia, Austria had moved from nominal ally of France in 1812 to armed neutral in 1813). Two principal Austrian armies deployed in Bohemia and Northern Italy, adding 300,000 troops to the Allied armies. In total the Allies now had around 800,000 frontline troops in the German theatre, with a strategic reserve of 350,000. As a consequence of the armistice, the French lost their initial advantage in numbers as the Austrians, and Russia's huge manpower reserves, were brought to the front. [11]

Napoleon succeeded in bringing the total imperial forces in the region up to around 650,000 (although only 250,000 were under his direct command, with another 120,000 under Nicolas Charles Oudinot and 30,000 under Davout). The Confederation of the Rhine furnished Napoleon with the bulk of the remainder of the forces, with Saxony and Bavaria as principal contributors. In addition, to the south, Murat's Kingdom of Naples and Eugène de Beauharnais's Kingdom of Italy had a combined total of 100,000 men under arms. In Spain an additional 150–200,000 French troops were being steadily beaten back by Spanish and British forces numbering around 150,000. Thus in total around 900,000 French troops were opposed in all theatres by somewhere around a million Allied troops (not including the strategic reserve being formed in Germany).

During the armistice, three Allied sovereigns, Alexander of Russia, Frederick Wilhelm of Prussia, and Bernadotte of Sweden (by then Regent of the Kingdom due to his adoptive father's illness) met at Trachenberg Castle in Silesia to coordinate the war effort. Allied staffs began creating a plan for the campaign wherein Bernadotte once again put to use his fifteen years of experience as a French general as well as his familiarity with Napoleon. [12] The result was the Trachenberg Plan, authored primarily by Bernadotte and the Austrian Chief of Staff, Field-Marshal Lieutenant Joseph Radetzky, that sought to wear down the French using a Fabian Strategy, avoiding direct combat with Napoleon, engaging and defeating his marshals whenever possible and slowly encircling the French with three independent armies until the French Emperor could be cornered and brought to battle against vastly superior numbers. [13]

Following the conference, the Allies stood up their three armies: The Army of Silesia, with 95,000 Prussians and Russians, commanded by Field Marshal Gebhard von Blücher, the Army of the North, 120,000 Swedes, Russians, Prussians, and German troops from Mecklenburg, the Hanseatic region and North Germany, under the independent command of Sweden's Crown Prince Bernadotte, and the primary Allied force in the field, with which the Allied sovereigns Alexander, Francis and Frederick William oversaw the Campaign, numbering 225,000 Austrians and Russians commanded by Prince Karl von Schwarzenberg. [14] [15] [16]

Renewal of hostilities; French losses and defecting allies

Following the end of the armistice, Napoleon seemed to have regained the initiative at Dresden (26–27 August 1813), where he inflicted one of the most lop-sided losses of the era on the Prussian-Russian-Austrian forces. On 26 August, the Allies under Prince von Schwarzenberg attacked the French garrison in Dresden. Napoleon arrived on the battlefield in the early hours of 27 August with the Guard and other reinforcements and despite being severely outnumbered having only 135,000 men to the Coalition's 215,000, Napoleon chose to attack the Allies. Napoleon turned the Allied Left Flank, and in skillful use of terrain, pinned it against the flooded Weißeritz River and isolated it from the rest of the Coalition Army. He then gave his famed cavalry commander, and King of Naples, Joachim Murat leave to destroy the surrounded Austrians. The day's torrential rain had dampened gunpowder, rendering the Austrians' muskets and cannon useless against the sabers and lances of Murat's Cuirassiers and Lancers who tore the Austrians to shreds, capturing 15 standards and forcing the balance of three divisions, 13,000 men, to surrender.

The Allies were forced to retreat in some disorder having lost nearly 40,000 men to only 10,000 French. However, Napoleon's forces were also hampered by the weather and unable to close the encirclement the Emperor had planned before the Allies narrowly slipped the noose. So while Napoleon had struck a heavy blow against the Allies, several tactical errors had allowed the Allies to withdraw, thus ruining Napoleon's best chance at ending the war in a single battle. Nonetheless, Napoleon had once again inflicted a heavy loss on the primary Allied Army despite being outnumbered and for some weeks after Dresden Schwarzenberg declined to take offensive action. [17]

However at about the same time the French sustained several serious defeats, first at the hands of Bernadotte's Army of the North on 23 August, with Oudinot's thrust towards Berlin beaten back by the Prussians, at Großbeeren. At the Katzbach the Prussians, commanded by Blücher, took advantage of Napoleon's march toward Dresden to attack Marshal MacDonald's Army of the Bober. During a torrential rainstorm on 26 August, and due to conflicting orders and a breakdown of communications, MacDonald's several corps found themselves isolated from one another with many bridges over the Katzback and Neisse rivers destroyed by surging waters. 200,000 Prussians and French collided in a confused battle that degenerated into hand-to-hand combat. However, Blucher and the Prussians rallied their scattered units and attacked an isolated French corps and pinned it against the Katzbach, annihilating it; forcing the French into the raging waters where many drowned. The French suffered 13,000 killed and wounded and 20,000 captured. The Prussians lost but 4,000 men. [18]

Napoleon himself, lacking reliable and numerous cavalry, was unable to prevent the destruction of a whole army corps, which had isolated itself pursuing the enemy following the Battle of Dresden without support, at the Battle of Kulm (29–30 August 1813), losing 13,000 men further weakening his army. Realizing that the Allies would continue to defeat his subordinates, Napoleon began to consolidate his troops to force a decisive battle. [19]

The French then suffered another grievous loss at the hands of Bernadotte's army on 6 September at Dennewitz where Ney was now in command, with Oudinot now as his deputy. The French were once again attempting to capture Berlin, the loss of which Napoleon believed would knock Prussia out of the War. However, Ney blundered into a trap set by Bernadotte and was stopped cold by the Prussians, and then routed when the Crown Prince arrived with his Swedes and a Russian corps on their open flank. [20] [21] This second defeat at the hands of Napoleon's ex-Marshal was catastrophic for the French, with them losing 50 cannon, four Eagles and over 20,000 men. [22] [23] Further losses occurred during the pursuit that evening, and into the following day, as the Swedish and Prussian cavalry took a further 13,000–14,000 French prisoners. [24] [25] Ney retreated to Wittenberg with the remains of his command and made no further attempt at capturing Berlin. Napoleon's bid to knock Prussia out of the War had failed; as had his operational plan to fight the battle of the central position. Having lost the initiative, he was now forced to concentrate his army and seek a decisive battle at Leipzig. [26]

Compounding the heavy military losses suffered at Dennewitz, the French were now losing the support of their German vassal states as well. News of Bernadotte's victory at Dennewitz sent shock waves across Germany, where French rule had become unpopular, inducing Tyrol to rise in rebellion and was the signal for the King of Bavaria to proclaim neutrality and begin negotiations with the Austrians (on the basis of territorial guarantees and Maximillian's retention of his crown) in preparation of joining the Allied cause. [27] A body of Saxon troops had defected to Bernadotte's Army during the battle and Westphalian troops were now deserting King Jerome's army in large numbers. Following a proclamation by the Swedish Crown Prince urging the Saxon Army (Bernadotte had commanded the Saxon Army at the Battle of Wagram and was well liked by them) to come over to the Allied cause, Saxon generals could no longer answer for the fidelity of their troops and the French now considered their remaining German allies unreliable. Later, on 8 October 1813, Bavaria officially ranged itself against Napoleon as a member of the Coalition. [28]

Battle of Nations and the Frankfurt peace proposals

Napoleon withdrew with around 175,000 troops to Leipzig in Saxony where he thought he could fight a defensive action against the Allied armies converging on him. There, at the so-called Battle of Nations (16–19 October 1813) a French army, ultimately reinforced to 191,000, found itself faced by three Allied armies converging on it, ultimately totalling more than 430,000 troops. Over the following days the battle resulted in a defeat for Napoleon, who however was still able to manage a relatively orderly retreat westwards. However, as the French forces were pulling across the White Elster, the bridge was prematurely blown and 30,000 troops were stranded to be taken prisoner by the Allied forces.

The charge of the Life Guards Cossacks at Leipzig The Charge of the Life Guards Cossacks by C Rechlin 1845.jpg
The charge of the Life Guards Cossacks at Leipzig

Napoleon defeated an army of his former ally Bavaria at the Battle of Hanau (30–31 October 1813) before pulling what was left of his forces back into France. Meanwhile, Davout's corps continued to hold out in its siege of Hamburg, where it became the last Imperial force east of the Rhine.

The Allies offered peace terms in the Frankfurt proposals in November 1813. Napoleon would remain as Emperor of France, but it would be reduced to its "natural frontiers". That meant that France could retain control of Belgium, Savoy and the Rhineland (the west bank of the Rhine River), while giving up control of all the rest, including all of Poland, Spain and the Netherlands, and most of Italy and Germany. Metternich told Napoleon these were the best terms the Allies were likely to offer; after further victories, the terms would be harsher and harsher. Metternich aimed to maintain France as a balance against Russian threats, while ending the highly destabilizing series of wars. [29]

Napoleon, expecting to win the war, delayed too long and lost this opportunity; by December the Allies had withdrawn the offer. When his back was to the wall in 1814 he tried to reopen peace negotiations on the basis of accepting the Frankfurt proposals. The Allies now had new, harsher terms that included the retreat of France to its 1791 boundaries, which meant the loss of Belgium and the Rhineland (in Germany). Napoleon adamantly refused. [30]

War in Denmark and Norway

Following the Battle of Leipzig, Bernadotte and his Army of the North parted ways with the rest of the Coalition armies, determined to see the guarantees over the Danish cession of Norway to Sweden enforced. In December 1813, Bernadotte's Army, now some 65,000, composed only of Swedish and Russian troops following the secondment of the Prussian troops to Blücher's army, attacked the Danish Army in Holstein. [31] In a lightning campaign of only two weeks the Swedes subdued the Danes. General Anders Skjöldebrand defeated the Danes at Bornhöved on 7 December 1813. Three days later, the Danish Auxiliary Corps scored a minor victory at Sehested.

However, while the Danish victory managed to ensure the retreat of the main Danish army from immediate destruction, and brought about a three-week armistice, it could not change the course of war. Following a break-down of negotiations, the armistice concluded and on 14 January 1814 Bernadotte invaded Schleswig, swiftly invested and reduced its fortresses and occupied the entire province. The Danes, heavily outnumbered, could not prevent an Allied advance on Jutland or Copenhagen, and sued for peace. It would be the final chapter in the long and bloody history of conflicts between Sweden and Denmark with the former definitively victorious.

On 14 January 1814, the Treaty of Kiel was concluded between Sweden and Denmark–Norway. By the terms of the treaty, the Kingdom of Norway was to be ceded to the King of Sweden. However, the Norwegians rejected this, declaring independence and adopting their own constitution on 17 May. On 27 July, Bernadotte and his Swedish forces (the Russians parted ways after the Danish Campaign) invaded Norway with 70,000 well-trained, well-equipped men, many of whom were veterans of the Leipzig Campaign. Facing them were 30,000 Norwegian militia, who were short on equipment and training but full of patriotic ardor and acquitted themselves well in the face of overwhelming odds. [32] Following a short war, where the Norwegians fought well, winning battles at Lier and Matrand, but could not stop the Swedes from advancing, an armistice (the Convention of Moss) was concluded on 14 August. The terms of Union were generous to the Norwegians as Bernadotte and the Swedes had no wish to inaugurate the union of Sweden and Norway with further bloodshed. [33] Norway agreed to enter into a personal union with Sweden as a separate state with its own constitution and institutions, except for the common king and foreign service. The Union between Sweden and Norway was formally established on 4 November 1814, when the Parliament of Norway adopted the necessary constitutional amendments, and elected Charles XIII of Sweden as King of Norway.

With his primary goal of detaching Norway from Denmark and binding it with Sweden achieved, Bernadotte and his Army of the North played no further major role in the war against the French beyond occupying the Low Countries and masking the French forces still garrisoned in Fortresses throughout northern Germany. [34]

Peninsular War

While events unfolded in the East, the Peninsular War in Iberia continued to be Napoleon's "Spanish ulcer" tying down hundreds of thousands of French soldiers. [35] In 1813, Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, finally broke the French power in Spain and forced the French to retreat. In a strategic move, Wellington planned to move his supply base from Lisbon to Santander. The Anglo-Portuguese forces swept northwards in late May and seized Burgos; they then outflanked the French army, forcing Joseph Bonaparte into the valley of the River Zadorra. At the Battle of Vitoria, 21 June, the 65,000 French under Joseph were routed by 53,000 British, 27,000 Portuguese and 19,000 Spaniards. Wellington pursued and dislodged the French from San Sebastián, which was sacked and burnt.

The allies chased the retreating French, reaching the Pyrenees in early July. Marshal Soult was given command of the French forces and began a counter-offensive, dealing the allied generals two sharp defeats at the Battle of Maya and the Battle of Roncesvalles. Yet, he was put again onto the defensive by the British army and its Portuguese allies, lost momentum, and finally fled after the allied victory at the Battle of Sorauren (28 and 30 July).

In the Battle of the Pyrenees Wellington fought far from his supply line but won with a mixture of manoeuvre, shock and persistent hounding of the French forces.

On 7 October, after Wellington received news of the reopening of hostilities in Germany, the Coalition allies finally crossed into France, fording the Bidasoa river. On 11 December, a beleaguered and desperate Napoleon agreed to a separate peace with Spain under the Treaty of Valençay, under which he would release and recognize Ferdinand VII as King of Spain in exchange for a complete cessation of hostilities. But the Spanish had no intention of trusting Napoleon, and the fighting continued on into France.

War in France

The Battle of Toulouse, 10 April 1814 by Fonds Ancely Battle of Toulouse - April 10th 1814 - Fonds Ancely - B315556101 A HEATH 015.jpg
The Battle of Toulouse, 10 April 1814 by Fonds Ancely

During the last months of 1813 and into 1814 Wellington led the Peninsular army into south-west France and fought a number of battles against Marshals Soult and Suchet. The Peninsular army gained victories at Vera pass, the Battle of Nivelle, the Battle of Nive near Bayonne (10–14 December 1813), the Battle of Orthez (27 February 1814) and the Battle of Toulouse (10 April). [36] [note 2]

After retreating from Germany, Napoleon fought a series of battles, including the Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube, in France, but was steadily forced back against overwhelming odds. During the campaign he had issued a decree for 900,000 fresh conscripts, but only a fraction of these were ever raised. In early February Napoleon fought his Six Days' Campaign, in which he won multiple battles against numerically superior enemy forces marching on Paris. [38] However, he fielded less than 80,000 soldiers during this entire campaign against a Coalition force of between 370,000 and 405,000 engaged in the campaign. [38] [note 3] At the Treaty of Chaumont (9 March) the Allies agreed to preserve the Coalition until Napoleon's total defeat. After defeating the French on the outskirts of Paris, on 31 March the Coalition armies entered the city with the Tsar Alexander I at the head of the army followed by the King of Prussia and Prince Schwarzenberg. On 2 April the French Senate passed the Acte de déchéance de l'Empereur , which declared Napoleon deposed.

Abdication and peace

Napoleon was determined to fight on, proposing to march on Paris. His soldiers and regimental officers were eager to fight on. But Napoleon's marshals and senior officers mutinied. On 4 April, Napoleon was confronted by his marshals and senior officers, led by Ney. They told the Emperor that they refused to march. Napoleon asserted that the army would follow him. Ney replied, "The army will follow its chiefs".[ citation needed ]

Napoleon abdicated on 11 April 1814 and the war officially ended soon after, although some fighting continued until May. The Treaty of Fontainebleau was signed on 11 April 1814 between the continental powers and Napoleon, followed by the Treaty of Paris on 30 May 1814 between France and the Great Powers including Britain. The victors exiled Napoleon to the island of Elba, and restored the Bourbon monarchy in the person of Louis XVIII. The Allied leaders attended Peace Celebrations in England in June, before progressing to the Congress of Vienna (between September 1814 and June 1815), which was held to redraw the map of Europe.

See also


  1. Duchy of Warsaw as a state was in effect fully occupied by Russian and Prussian forces by May 1813, although most Poles remained loyal to Napoleon.
  2. There was one last bloody engagement in southwest France, when under the orders of Thouvenot, the French sortied from Toulouse and fought the Battle of Bayonne (14 April 1814). [37]
  3. Hodgson gives no size for the Army of the North but estimates the Austrian Grand Army have 10,000 and the Army of Silesia 25,000 more men than Maud. [39]

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The Battle of Austerlitz, also known as the Battle of the Three Emperors, was one of the most important and decisive engagements of the Napoleonic Wars. In what is widely regarded as the greatest victory achieved by Napoleon, the Grande Armée of France defeated a larger Russian and Austrian army led by Emperor Alexander I and Holy Roman Emperor Francis II. The battle occurred near the town of Austerlitz in the Austrian Empire. Austerlitz brought the War of the Third Coalition to a rapid end, with the Treaty of Pressburg signed by the Austrians later in the month. The battle is often cited as a tactical masterpiece, in the same league as other historic engagements like Cannae or Gaugamela.

Battle of Lützen (1813)

In the Battle of Lützen, Napoleon I of France halted the advances of the Sixth Coalition after the French invasion of Russia and the massive French losses in the campaign. The Russian commander, Prince Peter Wittgenstein, attempting to forestall Napoleon's capture of Leipzig, attacked the French right wing near Lützen, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. After a day of heavy fighting, the combined Prussian and Russian force retreated; due to French losses and a shortage of French cavalry, Napoleon was unable to conduct a pursuit.

Battle of Leipzig 1813 battle in the Napoleonic Wars

The Battle of Leipzig, contemporaneously called the Battle of Leipsic(French: Bataille de Leipsick; German: Völkerschlacht bei Leipzig ; Swedish: Slaget vid Leipzig) and later the Battle of the Nations, was fought from 16 to 19 October 1813 at Leipzig, Saxony.

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 Bautzen (1813) 1813 battle of the War of the Sixth Coalition

In the Battle of Bautzen, a combined Prusso–Russian army, that was massively outnumbered, was pushed back by Napoleon but escaped destruction, with some sources claiming that Marshal Michel Ney failed to block their retreat. The Prussians under General Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher and Russians under General Peter Wittgenstein, retreating after their defeat at Lützen were attacked by French forces under Napoleon.

Battle of Dresden Part of the War of the Sixth Coalition

The Battle of Dresden was a major engagement of the Napoleonic Wars. The battle took place around the city of Dresden in modern-day Germany. With the recent addition of Austria, the Sixth Coalition felt emboldened in their quest to expel the French from Central Europe. Despite being heavily outnumbered, French forces under Napoleon scored a victory against the Army of Bohemia led by Field Marshal Karl von Schwarzenberg. However, Napoleon's victory did not lead to the collapse of the coalition, and the weather and the uncommitted Russian reserves who formed an effective rear-guard precluded a major pursuit. Three days after the battle, the Allies surrounded and destroyed a French corps advancing into their line of withdrawal at the Battle of Kulm.

Hundred Days War of the 7th Coalition, 20 March to 8 July 1815

The Hundred Days War, also known as the War of the Seventh Coalition, marked the period between Napoleon's return from eleven months of exile on the island of Elba to Paris on 20 March 1815 and the second restoration of King Louis XVIII on 8 July 1815. This period saw the War of the Seventh Coalition, and includes the Waterloo Campaign, the Neapolitan War as well as several other minor campaigns. The phrase les Cent Jours was first used by the prefect of Paris, Gaspard, comte de Chabrol, in his speech welcoming the king back to Paris on 8 July.

Franco-Swedish War

The Franco-Swedish War or Pomeranian War was the first involvement by Sweden in the Napoleonic Wars. The country joined the Third Coalition in an effort to defeat France under Napoleon Bonaparte.

Battle of Jena–Auerstedt Pair of major battles during the War of the Fourth Coalition

The twin battles of Jena and Auerstedt were fought on 14 October 1806 on the plateau west of the river Saale in today's Germany, between the forces of Napoleon I of France and Frederick William III of Prussia. The decisive defeat suffered by the Prussian Army subjugated the Kingdom of Prussia to the French Empire until the Sixth Coalition was formed in 1813.

War of the Fourth Coalition Part of the Napoleonic Wars

The Fourth Coalition fought against Napoleon's French Empire and were defeated in a war spanning 1806–1807. The main coalition partners were Prussia and Russia with Saxony, Sweden, and Great Britain also contributing. Excluding Prussia, some members of the coalition had previously been fighting France as part of the Third Coalition, and there was no intervening period of general peace. On 9 October 1806, Prussia joined a renewed coalition, fearing the rise in French power after the defeat of Austria and establishment of the French-sponsored Confederation of the Rhine. Prussia and Russia mobilized for a fresh campaign with Prussia massing troops in Saxony.

Six Days Campaign

The Six Days Campaign was a final series of victories by the forces of Napoleon I of France as the Sixth Coalition closed in on Paris.

Battle of Dennewitz

The Battle of Dennewitz (German: Schlacht von Dennewitz took place on 6 September 1813 between French forces commanded by Marshal Michel Ney and the Allied Army of the North consisting of Prussia, Russia, and Sweden of the Sixth Coalition commanded by Crown Prince Charles John of Sweden and Friedrich Wilhelm von Bülow. It occurred in Dennewitz, a village in the Prussian province of Brandenburg, near Jüterbog, 40 kilometres southwest of Berlin. The battle marked a turning point in the German Campaign of 1813 as not only did the Allied victory end Napoleon's hopes of capturing Berlin and knocking Prussia out of the war, but the severity of the French defeat was also the catalyst for the defection of Napoleon's primary German ally Bavaria and the erosion of fidelity in the Saxon Army toward the Napoleonic cause.

Battle of Großbeeren

The Battle of Großbeeren occurred on 23 August 1813 in neighboring Blankenfelde and Sputendorf between the Allied Army of the North under Crown Prince Charles John – formerly Marshal Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte – and the French under Marshal Nicolas Oudinot. Napoleon had hoped to drive the Prussians out of the Sixth Coalition by capturing their capital, but the swamps south of Berlin combined with rain and the marshal's ill health all contributed to the French defeat.

Battle of La Rothière

The Battle of La Rothière was fought on the 1st of February 1814 between the French Empire and allied army of Austria, Prussia, Russia, and German States previously allied 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.

Battle of Schleiz

The Battle of Schleiz took place on October 9, 1806 in Schleiz, Germany between a Prussian-Saxon division under Bogislav Friedrich Emanuel von Tauentzien and a part of Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte's I Corps under the command of Jean-Baptiste Drouet, Comte d'Erlon. It was the first clash of the War of the Fourth Coalition, part of the Napoleonic Wars. As Emperor Napoleon I of France's Grande Armée advanced north through the Frankenwald it struck the left wing of the armies belonging to the Kingdom of Prussia and the Electorate of Saxony, which were deployed on a long front. Schleiz is located 30 kilometers north of Hof and 145 kilometers southwest of Dresden at the intersection of Routes 2 and 94.

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 in 1813, the Austrian, Prussian, Russian, and other German armies of the Sixth Coalition invaded France. Despite the disproportionate forces in favour of the Coalition, Napoleon managed to inflict some defeats, especially during the Six Days' Campaign. However, the campaign ended in total defeat for Napoleon as the Coalition kept advancing towards Paris as Napoleon was out of position to defend the capital, which capitulated in late March 1814. When Napoleon proposed the army march on Paris, his Marshals decided to unanimously overrule Napoleon in order to save Paris from further destruction. 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.

German campaign of 1813 Conflict between France and an alliance

The German campaign was fought in 1813. Members of the Sixth Coalition, including the German states of Austria and Prussia, plus Russia and Sweden, fought a series of battles in Germany against the French Emperor Napoleon, his marshals, and the armies of the Confederation of the Rhine - an alliance of most of the other German states - which ended the domination of the First French Empire.

The Treaty of Troyes was an agreement of 22 February 1814 by Austria, Russia and Prussia following a council of war with senior generals, Tsar Alexander I of Russia and King Frederick William III of Prussia. The treaty determined the movements of the Austrian and Prussian-Russian armies following a series of defeats during the invasion of north-east France. Despite dissent from the Russian and Prussian leaders, Austrian General Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg secured support for a withdrawal ahead of the French forces of Emperor Napoleon I who was seeking to bring the allies to battle.



  1. 1 2 Bodart 1916, p. 46.
  2. Bodart 1916, pp. 130–131.
  3. Barton, D. Plunkett (1925) Pp. 44–47.
  4. Palmer, Alan (1972). Metternich: Councillor of Europe (1997 reprint ed.), p. 86–92. London: Orion. ISBN   978-1-85799-868-9.
  5. Merriman 1996, p. 579.
  6. Chandler, David. (1991) The Campaigns of Napoleon. Pp. 880–891.
  7. Chandler, David. (1991) The Campaigns of Napoleon. Pp. 898–901.
  8. Castelot, Andre (1991) Napoleon. P. 460. Easton Press, Norwalk.
  9. Chandler (1991) Pp. 898–901.
  10. Scott, Franklin D. (1935) Bernadotte and the Fall of Napoleon. Pp. 67–73. Harvard University Press, Boston.
  11. Chandler (1991) P.901.
  12. Barton, D. Plunket (1925). Page 74.
  13. Leggiere, Michael V (2015). Pp. 52–55.
  14. Barton D. Plunket (1925). Pp 76–77
  15. Chandler, David G. (1966). Pp. 900–901
  16. Leggiere, Michael V (2015). Pp. 52–53.
  17. Chandler, Pp. 908–912.
  18. Chandler, Pp.
  19. Chandler, P. 912.
  20. Barton, D. Plunket (1925). Pp. 89–92
  21. Leggiere, Michael V (2015). Pp. 8–10
  22. Wencker-Wildberg, Friedrich. (1936) Bernadotte: A Biography. P. 296. Jarrolds Publishers, London.
  23. Kléber, Hans (1910) Marschall Bernadotte, Kornprinz von Schweden. Pp. 469–479. Perthes, Gotha.
  24. Tingsten, Lars (1924) Huvuddragen av Sveriges Krig och Yttre Politik, Augusti 1813 – Januari 1814. Pp. 112–143. Stockholm.
  25. Scott, Franklin D. (1935) Bernadotte and the Fall of Napoleon. P. 100. Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
  26. Chandler, Pp. 908–913.
  27. Chandler, Pp. 916–917.
  28. Barton, Pp.94–95.
  29. Riley 2013, p. 206.
  30. Ross 1969, pp. 342–344.
  31. Barton, D. Plunket (1925). Pp.113–116
  32. Scott, Franklin D (1988) Pp. 313–314.
  33. Barton, D. Plunket (1925). Pp. 136–137
  34. Barton, D. Plunket (1925). Pp. 115–116.
  35. "Spanish Ulcer" Ellis 2014 , p. 100 cites Owen Connelly (ed), "peninsular War", Historical Dictionary, p. 387.
  36. Robinson 1911, pp. 95–97.
  37. Robinson 1911, p. 97.
  38. 1 2 Maude 1911, p. 232.
  39. Hodgson 1841, p. 504.


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Further reading