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Weston Cook
Weston Cook

Wars Of Napoleon

The Congress of Vienna redrew the borders of Europe and brought a period of relative peace. The wars had profound consequences on global history, including the spread of nationalism and liberalism, the rise of Britain as the world's foremost naval and economic power, the appearance of independence movements in Latin America and subsequent decline of the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, the fundamental reorganization of German and Italian territories into larger states, and the introduction of radically new methods of conducting warfare, as well as civil law. After the end of the Napoleonic Wars, there was a period of relative peace in continental Europe, lasting until the Crimean War in 1853.

Wars of Napoleon

The wars revolutionised European warfare; the application of mass conscription and total war led to campaigns of unprecedented scale, as whole nations committed all their economic and industrial resources to a collective war effort.[35] Tactically, the French Army redefined the role of artillery, while Napoleon emphasised mobility to offset numerical disadvantages,[36] and aerial surveillance was used for the first time in warfare.[37] The highly successful Spanish guerrillas demonstrated the capability of a people driven by fervent nationalism against an occupying force.[38][page range too broad]Due to the longevity of the wars, the extent of Napoleon's conquests, and the popularity of the ideals of the French Revolution, the period had a deep impact on European social culture. Many subsequent revolutions, such as that of Russia, looked to the French as their source of inspiration,[39] while its core founding tenets greatly expanded the arena of human rights and shaped modern political philosophies in use today.[40]

In Dutch historiography, it is common to refer to the seven major wars between 1792 and 1815 as the Coalition Wars (coalitieoorlogen), referring to the first two as the French Revolution Wars (Franse Revolutieoorlogen).[47]

The abdication of Kings Carlos IV and Fernando VII of Spain and the installation of Napoleon's brother as King José provoked civil wars and revolutions leading to the independence of most of Spain's mainland American colonies. In Spanish America many local elites formed juntas and set up mechanisms to rule in the name of Ferdinand VII, whom they considered the legitimate Spanish monarch. The outbreak of the Spanish American wars of independence in most of the empire was a result of Napoleon's destabilizing actions in Spain and led to the rise of strongmen in the wake of these wars.[99] The defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815 caused an exodus of French soldiers into Latin America where they joined ranks with the armies of the independence movements.[100] While these officials had a role in various victories such as the Capture of Valdivia (1820) some are held responsible for significant defeats at the hands of the royalist as is the case of Second Battle of Cancha Rayada (1818).[100]

The Napoleonic wars also played a key role in the independence of the Latin American colonies from Spain and Portugal. The conflict weakened the authority and military power of Spain, especially after the Battle of Trafalgar. There were many uprisings in Spanish America, leading to the wars of independence. In Portuguese America, Brazil experienced greater autonomy as it now served as seat of the Portuguese Empire and ascended politically to the status of Kingdom. These events also contributed to the Portuguese Liberal Revolution in 1820 and the Independence of Brazil in 1822.[34]

There are no consistent statistics for other major combatants. Austria's forces peaked at about 576,000 (during the War of the Sixth Coalition) and had little or no naval component yet never fielded more than 250,000 men in field armies. After Britain, Austria proved the most persistent enemy of France; more than a million Austrians served during the long wars. Its large army was overall quite homogeneous and solid and in 1813 operated in Germany (140,000 men), Italy and the Balkans (90,000 men at its peak, about 50,000 men during most of the campaigning on these fronts). Austria's manpower was becoming quite limited towards the end of the wars, leading its generals to favour cautious and conservative strategies, to limit their losses.

The semaphore system had allowed the French War-Minister, Carnot, to communicate with French forces on the frontiers throughout the 1790s. The French continued to use this system throughout the Napoleonic wars. Aerial surveillance was used for the first time when the French used a hot-air balloon to survey coalition positions before the Battle of Fleurus, on 26 June 1794.[37]

The methods of Intelligence during these wars were to include the formation of vast and complex networks of corresponding agents, codebreaking, and cryptanalysis. The greatest cipher to be used to hide military operations during this time was known as the Great Paris Cipher used by the French. However, thanks to the hard work of British codebreakers like George Scovell, the British were able to crack French ciphers and gain vast amounts of military intelligence on Napoleon and his armies.[135][page needed]

The first campaign of the Napoleonic wars was the War of the second Coalition - with Bonaparte absent in Egypt fighting the British a new coalition formed against the French in 1798. This consisted of Russia, Great Britain, Austria, Portugal, The Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Naples. The fighting took place mainly in Northern Italy and Switzerland, with the Russians under General Aleksandr Suvorov being successful at first undoing the damage done by Napoleon's victories in Italy. The French defeated the Russians who pulled out of the coalition. Bonaparte offered peace but the coalition refused and in 1800 he crossed the Alps and defeated the Austrians at the battle of Marengo 1800. Other French victories followed and soon only Britain remained to stand against the French. After a failed attack in Holland, Britain made peace (1802). this was not to last long.

In 1805 the War of the Third Coalition broke out, with Britain joined by Russia, Austria and Sweden. Napoleon defeated the Austrians at Ulm (1805) and finally at Austerlitz in 1805 (known as the battle of the three Emperors). Once again the coalition reformed this time with Prussia but without Austria in 1806. Napoleon quickly moved against the Prussians and crushed them at the battle of Jena in 1806. By 1808 Napoleon was master of all Europe but he was now to begin a series of mistakes that would lead to his defeat. Dethroning King Charles IV of Spain he made his brother Joseph Bonaparte King, causing a revolt and what was to be known as a Guerrilla war in Spain. During the Peninsular war (1808-1813) the Spanish Guerillas aided by British troops under Wellington and Portuguese allies drove the French out and eventually invaded southern France. A fifth Coalition formed but the Austrians were defeated at the battle of Aspern and Wagram in 1809. With large numbers of his troops tied down in Spain, Napoleon decide to invade Russia in 1812 with an Army of 500,000 men and although he defeated the Russians at the battle of Borodino in 1812 and took Moscow he was forced to retreat due to weather, costing him most of his army and marking the beginning of the end. Surrounded by enemies on all sides with his best troops dead Napoleon was forced to abdicate in 1814. As the members of the Fifth coalition decided the fate of Europe, Napoleon staged a daring return to power and tried to reverse the outcome of the war at the battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815). Waterloo was a bloody battle which saw his remaining elite guard destroyed and Napoleon exiled to St Helena from where he was never to return, marking the end of the Napoleonic wars.

The wars of the eighteenth century were fought for dynastic interests. Viewed in terms of state power, the continental and colonial wars represented the unfolding of European conflicts on a global scale. In most cases, European wars extended to several continents.5 Indeed the French and Indian War (1754) escalated into the general European conflict of the Seven Years' War. The consequences of increasing European global power meant that resources had to be carefully allocated, and alliances cultivated to permit the pursuit of dynastic claims in Europe. Even temporary coalitions, such as between Russia, Austria and Prussia in 1772, or between Russia and Austria in 1787, did not create permanent relationships in regions of Europe that offered enormous territorial opportunities. Coalitions were marriages of convenience in the eighteenth century. The only alliances that lasted beyond the duration of any particular conflict were the dynastic arrangements between France and Spain at the beginning of the eighteenth century, and between France and Austria at mid-century. Britain, Prussia, Russia and Austria only interpreted alliances in the short term, and this subsequently severely hampered their ability to provide a united front against Napoleonic France.

The War of the First Coalition had taken the form of previous European wars. Although the French overran Belgium and western Germany, the coalition retained the capacity to withstand the French until the diplomatic settlements of 1795. Even with French reinforcements, the coalition seemed capable of keeping the French at bay in Germany and Italy. Napoleon's campaign in Italy in 1796, however, broke the back of the coalition.22

For want of something better, the totals estimated (no-one knows how) in the 19th century have been accepted as gospel, and yet they can for the most part be challenged. The French historian, Hippolyte Taine proposed, for example, a figure of 3.1 million French deaths in the wars of the Revolution and Empire, 1.7 million of which during the Napoleonic period alone. But if you compare these numbers with the number of men actually mobilised (1.35 million during the Revolution, 1.47 million during the Empire, plus 0.8 million recalled), the conclusion would be that almost all French soldiers were killed. Now, we know from the preliminary census performed to establish the number of surviving veteran recipients of the St Helena medal, that nearly 450,000 old soldiers were still alive in the 1850s, more than forty years after Waterloo. 041b061a72


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