Napoleonic Wars: Most Important Keys and Battles

The Napoleonic wars (1799 and 1815) were a series of armed conflicts between France, under the leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte and different European nations. These campaigns followed the War of the First Coalition (1792-97).

Almost all European nations were involved in a bloody struggle that also spread to Egypt, America and South America. During wartime periods (warfare was not constant), warfare tactics were shifting to advancing towards modern war strategy, thus abandoning the idea of ​​war as a sport of kings, to adhere to the concept of total war and nations in arms.

Napoleonic Wars: Most Important Keys and Battles The Napoleonic Empire

Armament also evolved, albeit at a much slower pace than the nation's ideas on weapons and recruitment.

At the end of the period, most European armies had riflemen (soldiers with rifles) and the British, for the first time in Europe, used Congreve rockets on a large scale.

In principle, the uniforms were a deep blue or dark green. Then the military camouflage uniform was introduced. This period also illuminated the heyday of the British army under the leadership of the Duke of Wellington, recognized like the best one of all Europe.

Napoleon Bonaparte, the man

Napoleon Bonaparte Was born on August 15, 1769 in Ajaccio, the capital of present-day Corsica, in the bosom of a large family of eight brothers (five males and three females).

Thanks to the greatness of who would later become general and emperor of France, his family would enjoy honors, fame and wealth.

The family had suffered many hardships, since the father was not able to excel in the profession of lawyer.

The mother, Maria Leticia Ramolino was a woman of great personality, to whom Stendhal He would praise for his firm and ardent character in his book Life of Napoleon (1829).

At the age of ten, Napoleon left his native Corsica. School merits made it easier for him to enter military school in Brienne, France. To the seventeen years with the degree of second lieutenant and a destiny in the city of Valence.

He observed the fall of the Bastille (1789) with approval, but did not participate in the facts. For family matters, he asked to be discharged and returned to Corsica. But he had to flee from there with his family because of political problems.

Again in France, he received the protection of Robespierre's brother and managed to rejoin in ranks with the rank of captain. He acquired renown when he succeeded in stifling a counterrevolutionary uprising supported by the English, at the naval base of Toulon (1793).

He was then promoted to brigadier general, traveled on a mission to Genoa. His relationship with Robespierre, once prosperous, brought him problems; Was imprisoned and finally released thanks to the intervention of a Corsican commissary, to resume his career in an operations department.

This office enabled him to deal directly with officials who gave him access to the halls where the most influential people of France met.

There, Napoleon met Josefina de Beauharnais (brilliant and very influential), with whom he married. She was a Creole lady from Martinique, a widow with two children; Their relations favored Bonaparte's career. From his triumphs in Italy (1796-97) defeating the Austrians, he began to arouse the admiration of all. It was the beginning of a successful career.

Napoleonic Wars: Most Important Keys and Battles 1 Napoleon Bonaparte (portrait of Jacques-Louis David, 1812) Josephine Bonaparte (detail of a portrait of François Gérard, 1801)



In 1793 commanded a successful attack against the British and realistic troops, reason why was promoted to Brigadier General. He was thus commanded by the French army in Italy (1794).

During that year, he spent time in prison for his relationship with Robespierre and his name was removed from the list of officers. But at the beginning of October of 1795, Napoleón successfully smothered a revolt against the revolutionary government.

The new government, the Directory, promoted him to commander of the Army of the Interior in 1796. Napoleon initiated a series of campaigns against the Austrians and the Sardines in Italy, gaining in record time, Savoy, Nice, Lombardy and Mantua.

In 1797 he crossed the Alps and in Vienna he negotiated the Treaty of Campo Formio, putting an end to the first phase of the Revolution.

In 1798 he commanded 35,000 soldiers in Egypt to check the interests of England in India. On the way, he seized Malta, occupied Cairo and Alexandria, while founding institutions dedicated to the study of ancient Egypt and wrote Egypt Overview (18 volumes, 1808-1825).

But the fleet of Napoleon was attacked by the troops of Horacio Nelson And had to return to France in 1799. Once in France, he worked with Emmanuel Sieyes to overthrow the Directory, a fact that occurred on November 9, 1799.

He became commander of the garrison of Paris and first consul of the new government, the Consulate. This place of power allowed him to centralize and consolidate the government, and to codify civil law in the Napoleonic Code.

Napoleonic Wars: Most Important Keys and Battles 2 Brumario's coup: Napoleon dissolves the Council of Five Hundreds (oil of François Bouchot)


The first campaign of the Napoleonic Wars was the War of the Second Coalition, organized against France in 1798, while Bonaparte was in Egypt fighting against the British.

The coalition was composed of Russia, Great Britain, Austria, Portugal, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Naples. The fighting took place mainly in northern Italy and Switzerland. The French defeated the Russians who withdrew from the coalition.

Bonaparte offered peace but the coalition rejected it. In 1800, crossed the Alps and defeated the Austrians in the battle of Marengo (1800). Other victories ensued, and only Britain remained in combat against the French.

After a failed attack in Holland, Britain agreed to peace (1802), which would not last long. Napoleon continued to seek glory.

In 1800, he defeated the Austrians, and signed the Treaty of Luneville (1801). It extended the French control over the Helvetic Republic (Switzerland), the Republic of Batavia (Holland) and Savoy-Piedmont. The war with Great Britain, which ended with the Treaty of Amiens (1802), broke out again the following year.

While preparing for a massive invasion of England, much of the French fleet was destroyed by Horace Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

In 1805 the War of the Third Coalition broke out, with Great Britain, Russia, Austria and Sweden, united. Napoleon defeated the Austrians at Ulm (1805) and finally at Austerlitz, on December 2, 1805, known as the Battle of the Three Emperors.

Once again, the Fourth Coalition was rearmament in 1806, this time with Prussia, but without Austria. Napoleon quickly moved against the Prussians and crushed them at the Battle of Jena in 1806.

In 1808 Napoleon was the master of all Europe, but now he would begin to make mistakes that would lead him to defeat. Once dethroned Charles IV of Spain, he crowned his brother Joseph, causing a revolt and what was to become known in Spain as a guerrilla war.

During the Peninsular War (1808-1813) the Spanish guerrillas aided by the British troops of Wellington and the Portuguese allies, expelled the French and finally invaded the south of France. A fifth coalition was formed, but the Austrians were defeated in the battles of Aspern and Wagram in 1809.

Napoleonic Wars: Most Important Keys and Battles 3 The coronation of Napoleon (oil of Jacques-Louis David)


The Peninsular War (1807-1814) was a military conflict between the empire of Napoleon and the allied powers of Spain, Great Britain and Portugal, for the control of the Iberian Peninsula.

The war began when the French and Spanish armies invaded and occupied Portugal in 1807, and intensified in 1808 when France turned against Spain, until then its ally.

The war on the peninsula lasted until the Sixth Coalition defeated Napoleon in 1814. In September 1812, Napoleon led an attack on Russia and arrived in Moscow with an army of 500,000 men.

Although he defeated the Russians at the Battle of Borodino in 1812 and took Moscow, Alexander I refused to surrender. With the city in flames, Bonaparte was forced to retire, the climate had ravaged his troops.

This epic marked the beginning of the end. The blatant military failure resulted in the Prussian rupture with France. They joined Russia, Great Britain, Sweden, and then Austria, in the Sixth Coalition in 1813. The French army was defeated at the Battle of Nations in Leipzig.

Napoleon retired to Paris and fought several Allied attacks in Paris, but the city fell in March of 1814. The dynasty of the Bourbons was restored and Napoleón was exiled to the island of Elba, where it conserved some political but not military authority. Surrounded by enemies, with his troops devastated, Napoleon was forced to abdicate in 1814.

When the members of the Fifth Coalition decided the fate of Europe, Napoleon led a daring return to power. He arrived triumphantly in March 1815 and brought Louis XVIII into exile, occupying Paris at the beginning of a period known as the One Hundred Days.

He tried to reverse the outcome of the war at the Battle of Waterloo (June 18, 1815), but his enemies came together to defeat him. He finally fell to the forces of the Duke of Wellington and Gebhard von Blucher in the bloody Battle of Waterloo.

Napoleon exiled himself on the island of St. Helena from where he would never return, marking the end of the Napoleonic wars. Napoleon Bonaparte died on May 5, 1821.

Napoleonic Wars: Most Important Keys and Battles 4 The Battle of Waterloo (1815)


  1. Napoleon. Taken from Retrieved on 8/1/2017.
  2. Napoleon Bonaparte. Taken from Retrieved on 8/1/2017.

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