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Napoleonic Wars

Series of wars between Napoleon's French Empire and the 2nd to the 7th coalition of European powers

Top 10 Napoleonic Wars related articles

Napoleonic Wars

Top: The Battle of Austerlitz (2 December 1805)
Bottom: The Battle of Waterloo (18 June 1815)
Date18 May 1803 – 20 November 1815 (1803-05-18 – 1815-11-20)
(12 years, 5 months and 4 weeks)
Location
Result Coalition victory
Congress of Vienna
Full results
Belligerents
France and allies:
French Republic (until 1804)
French Empire (from 1804)

Commanders and leaders
Strength
  • Russians: 900,000 regulars, Cossacks and militia at peak strength[17]
  • Prussians: 320,000 regulars and militia at peak strength[r]
  • British: 250,000 regulars and militia at peak strength[18]
  • Austrians, Spaniards, Portuguese, Swedish and other coalition members: 1,000,000 - 2,000,000 regulars and militia at peak strength
  • French: 1,200,000 regulars and militia at peak strength[19]
  • French clients and allies: 500,000 - 1,000,000 regulars and militia at peak strength
Casualties and losses
  • Austrians: 550,220 killed in action (1792–1815)[20][21] (total dead unknown)
  • Spanish: more than 300,000 killed in action[22] and more than 586,000 killed in total[23]
  • Russians: 289,000 killed in action[21] (total dead unknown)
  • Prussians: 134,000 killed in action[21] (total dead unknown)
  • British: 32,232 killed in action[24] and 279,574 killed by wounds, disease, accidents, and other causes[24]
  • Portuguese: up to 250,000 dead or missing[25]
  • Italians: 120,000 killed or missing[22]
  • Ottomans: 50,000 killed or missing[26]
    Total: 2,500,000 dead
  • 371,000 French killed in action[27]
  • 65,000 French allies killed in action[28]
  • 800,000 French and allies killed by wounds, accidents or disease (most in the French invasion of Russia)[28]
  • 600,000 civilians killed[28]
    Total: 1,800,000 dead[29]
  1. ^ 1805, 1809, 1813–1815
  2. ^ 1806–1807, 1813–1815
  3. ^ 1804–1807, 1812–1815
  4. ^ a b c 1813–1815
  5. ^ a b c d e 1815
  6. ^ 1809
  7. ^ 1806–1807, 1813–1814
  8. ^ a b c d 1807–1812
  9. ^ 1800–1807, 1809–1815
  10. ^ 1806–1815
  11. ^ 1808–1815
  12. ^ 1804–1809, 1812–1815
  13. ^ 1801
  14. ^ 1808–1813
  15. ^ 1809–1813
  16. ^ 1807–1814
  17. ^ 1804–1807, 1812–1813
  18. ^ 1803–1808
  19. ^ 1810–1812
  20. ^ 1798-1801
  21. ^ a b until the eve of the Battle of Leipzig, 1813
  22. ^ until 1813

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. It produced a brief period of French domination over most of continental Europe. 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 (1813–14), and the Seventh (1815).

Napoleon, upon ascending to First Consul of France in 1799, had inherited a republic in chaos; he subsequently created a state with stable finances, a strong bureaucracy, and a well-trained army. In 1805, Austria and Russia formed the Third Coalition and waged war against France. In response, Napoleon defeated the allied Russo-Austrian army at Austerlitz in December 1805, which is considered his greatest victory. At sea, the British severely defeated the joint Franco-Spanish navy in the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. This victory secured British control of the seas and prevented the invasion of Britain itself. Concerned about increasing French power, Prussia led the creation of the Fourth Coalition with Russia, Saxony, and Sweden, and the resumption of war in October 1806. Napoleon quickly defeated the Prussians at Jena and the Russians at Friedland, bringing an uneasy peace to the continent. The peace failed, though, as war broke out in 1809, when the badly prepared Fifth Coalition, led by Austria, was quickly defeated at Wagram.

Hoping to isolate and weaken Britain economically through his Continental System, Napoleon launched an invasion of Portugal, the only remaining British ally in continental Europe. After occupying Lisbon in November 1807, and with the bulk of French troops present in Spain, Napoleon seized the opportunity to turn against his former ally, depose the reigning Spanish royal family and declare his brother King of Spain in 1808 as José I. The Spanish and Portuguese revolted with British support and expelled the French from Iberia in 1814 after six years of fighting.

Concurrently, Russia, unwilling to bear the economic consequences of reduced trade, routinely violated the Continental System, prompting Napoleon to launch a massive invasion of Russia in 1812. The resulting campaign ended in disaster and the near destruction of Napoleon's Grande Armée.

Encouraged by the defeat, Austria, Prussia, and Russia formed the Sixth Coalition and began a new campaign against France, decisively defeating Napoleon at Leipzig in October 1813 after several inconclusive engagements. The Allies then invaded France from the east, while the Peninsular War spilled over into southwestern France. Coalition troops captured Paris at the end of March 1814 and forced Napoleon to abdicate in April. He was exiled to the island of Elba, and the Bourbons were restored to power. But Napoleon escaped in February 1815, and reassumed control of France for around one hundred days. After forming the Seventh Coalition, the Allies defeated him permanently at Waterloo in June 1815 and exiled him to Saint Helena, where he died six years later.[30]

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 collapse of the Spanish Empire and Portuguese Empire, the fundamental reorganisation of German and Italian territories into larger states, and the introduction of radically new methods of conducting warfare, as well as civil law.

Napoleonic Wars Intro articles: 35

Overview

Napoleon seized power in 1799, creating a military dictatorship.[31] There are a number of opinions on the date to use as the formal beginning of the Napoleonic Wars; 18 May 1803 is often used, when Britain and France ended the only short period of peace between 1792 and 1814.[32] The Napoleonic Wars began with the War of the Third Coalition, which was the first of the Coalition Wars against the First French Republic after Napoleon's accession as leader of France.

Britain ended the Treaty of Amiens and declared war on France in May 1803. Among the reasons were Napoleon's changes to the international system in Western Europe, especially in Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. Historian Frederick Kagan argues that Britain was irritated in particular by Napoleon's assertion of control over Switzerland. Furthermore, Britons felt insulted when Napoleon stated that their country deserved no voice in European affairs, even though King George III was an elector of the Holy Roman Empire. For its part, Russia decided that the intervention in Switzerland indicated that Napoleon was not looking toward a peaceful resolution of his differences with the other European powers.[32]

The British hastily enforced a naval blockade of France to starve it of resources. Napoleon responded with economic embargoes against Britain, and sought to eliminate Britain's Continental allies to break the coalitions arrayed against him. The so-called Continental System formed a league of armed neutrality to disrupt the blockade and enforce free trade with France. The British responded by capturing the Danish fleet, breaking up the league, and later secured dominance over the seas, allowing it to freely continue its strategy. Napoleon won the War of the Third Coalition at Austerlitz, forcing the Austrian Empire out of the war and formally dissolving the Holy Roman Empire. Within months, Prussia declared war, triggering a War of the Fourth Coalition. This war ended disastrously for Prussia, defeated and occupied within 19 days of the beginning of the campaign. Napoleon subsequently defeated Russia at Friedland, creating powerful client states in Eastern Europe and ending the fourth coalition.

Concurrently, the refusal of Portugal to commit to the Continental System, and Spain's failure to maintain it, led to the Peninsular War and the outbreak of the War of the Fifth Coalition. The French occupied Spain and formed a Spanish client kingdom, ending the alliance between the two. Heavy British involvement in the Iberian Peninsula soon followed, while a British effort to capture Antwerp failed. Napoleon oversaw the situation in Iberia, defeating the Spanish, and expelling the British from the Peninsula. Austria, keen to recover territory lost during the War of the Third Coalition, invaded France's client states in Eastern Europe. Napoleon defeated the fifth coalition at Wagram.

Anger at British naval actions led the United States to declare war on Britain in the War of 1812, but it did not become an ally of France. Grievances over control of Poland, and Russia's withdrawal from the Continental System, led to Napoleon invading Russia in June 1812. The invasion was an unmitigated disaster for Napoleon; scorched earth tactics, desertion, French strategic failures and the onset of the Russian winter compelled Napoleon to retreat with massive losses. Napoleon suffered further setbacks; French power in the Iberian Peninsula was broken at Battle of Vitoria the following summer, and a new coalition began the War of the Sixth Coalition.

The coalition defeated Napoleon at Leipzig, precipitating his fall from power and eventual abdication on 6 April 1814. The victors exiled Napoleon to Elba and restored the Bourbon monarchy. Napoleon escaped from Elba in 1815, gathering enough support to overthrow the monarchy of Louis XVIII, triggering a seventh, and final, coalition against him. Napoleon was decisively defeated at Waterloo, and he abdicated again on 22 June. On 15 July, he surrendered to the British at Rochefort, and was permanently exiled to remote Saint Helena. The Treaty of Paris, signed on 20 November 1815, formally ended the war.

The Bourbon monarchy was restored once more, and the victors began the Congress of Vienna, to restore peace to the continent. As a direct result of the war, the Kingdom of Prussia rose to become a great power on the continent,[33] while Great Britain, with its unequalled Royal Navy and growing Empire became the world's dominant superpower, beginning the Pax Britannica.[34] The Holy Roman Empire was dissolved, and the philosophy of nationalism, that emerged early in the war, greatly contributed to the later unification of the German states, and those of the Italian peninsula. The war in Iberia greatly weakened Spanish power, and the Spanish Empire began to unravel; Spain would lose nearly all of its American possessions by 1833. The Portuguese Empire shrank, with Brazil declaring independence in 1822.[35]

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.[36] Tactically, the French Army redefined the role of artillery, while Napoleon emphasised mobility to offset numerical disadvantages,[37] and aerial surveillance was used for the first time in warfare.[38] The highly successful Spanish guerrillas demonstrated the capability of a people driven by fervent nationalism against an occupying force.[39] Due to the longevity of the wars, the extent of Napoleon's conquests, and the popularity of the ideals of the French Revolution, the ideals 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,[40][41] while its core founding tenets greatly expanded the arena of Human rights and shaped modern political philosophies in use today.[42]

Napoleonic Wars Overview articles: 43

Background

French victory over the Prussians at the Battle of Valmy in 1792

The outbreak of the French Revolution had been received with great alarm by the rulers of Europe's continental powers, which had been further exacerbated by the execution of Louis XVI of France, and the overthrow of the French monarchy. In 1793, the Austrian Empire, the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Kingdom of Naples, Prussia, the Spanish Empire, and the Kingdom of Great Britain formed the First Coalition to curtail the growing unrest in France. Measures such as mass conscription, military reforms, and total war allowed France to defeat the coalition, despite the concurrent civil war in France. Napoleon, then a general in the French army, forced the Austrians to sign the Treaty of Campo Formio, leaving only Great Britain opposed to the fledgeling French Republic.

A Second Coalition was formed in 1798 by Great Britain, Austria, Naples, the Ottoman Empire, the Papal States, Portugal, Russia, and Sweden. The French Republic, under the Directory, suffered from heavy levels of corruption and internal strife. The new republic also lacked funds, and no longer enjoyed the services of Lazare Carnot, the minister of war who had guided France to its victories during the early stages of the Revolution. Bonaparte, commander of the Armée d'Italie in the latter stages of the First Coalition, had launched a campaign in Egypt, intending to disrupt the British economic powerhouse of India. Pressed from all sides, the Republic suffered a string of successive defeats against revitalised enemies, supported by Britain's financial help.

Bonaparte defeating the Austrians at the Battle of Rivoli in 1797

Bonaparte returned to France from Egypt on 23 August 1799, his campaign there having failed. He seized control of the French government on 9 November, in a bloodless coup d'état, replacing the Directory with the Consulate and transforming the republic into a de facto dictatorship.[31] He further reorganised the French military forces, establishing a large reserve army positioned to support campaigns on the Rhine or in Italy. Russia had already been knocked out of the war, and, under Napoleon's leadership, the French decisively defeated the Austrians in June 1800, crippling Austrian capabilities in Italy. Austria was definitively defeated that December, by Moreau's forces in Bavaria. The Austrian defeat was sealed by the Treaty of Lunéville early the following year, further compelling the British to sign the Treaty of Amiens with France, establishing a tenuous peace.

Start date and nomenclature

No consensus exists as to when the French Revolutionary Wars ended and the Napoleonic Wars began. Possible dates include 9 November 1799, when Bonaparte seized power on 18 Brumaire, the date according to the Republican Calendar then in use;[43] 18 May 1803, when Britain and France ended the one short period of peace between 1792 and 1814; or 2 December 1804, when Bonaparte crowned himself Emperor.[44]

British historians occasionally refer to the nearly continuous period of warfare from 1792 to 1815 as the Great French War, or as the final phase of the Anglo-French Second Hundred Years' War, spanning the period 1689 to 1815.[45] Historian Mike Rapport (2013) suggested using the term "French Wars" to unambiguously describe the entire period from 1792 to 1815.[46]

In France, the Napoleonic Wars are generally integrated with the French Revolutionary Wars: Les guerres de la Révolution et de l'Empire.[47]

German historiography may count the War of the Second Coalition (1798/9–1801/2), during which Napoleon seized power, as the Erster Napoleonischer Krieg ("First Napoleonic War").[48]

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).[49]

Napoleon's tactics

Napoleon was, and remains, famous for his battlefield victories, and historians have spent enormous attention in analysing them.[50] In 2008, Donald Sutherland wrote:

The ideal Napoleonic battle was to manipulate the enemy into an unfavourable position through manoeuvre and deception, force him to commit his main forces and reserve to the main battle and then undertake an enveloping attack with uncommitted or reserve troops on the flank or rear. Such a surprise attack would either produce a devastating effect on morale or force him to weaken his main battle line. Either way, the enemy's own impulsiveness began the process by which even a smaller French army could defeat the enemy's forces one by one.[51]

After 1807, Napoleon's creation of a highly mobile, well-armed artillery force gave artillery usage increased tactical importance. Napoleon, rather than relying on infantry to wear away the enemy's defences, could now use massed artillery as a spearhead to pound a break in the enemy's line. Once that was achieved he sent in infantry and cavalry.[52]

Napoleonic Wars Background articles: 29

Prelude

French victory over the Austrians and Russians at the Second Battle of Zürich

Britain was irritated by several French actions following the Treaty of Amiens. Bonaparte had annexed Piedmont and Elba, made himself President of the Italian Republic, a state in northern Italy that France had set up, and failed to evacuate Holland, as it had agreed to do in the treaty. France continued to interfere with British trade despite peace having been made and complained about Britain harbouring certain individuals and not cracking down on the anti-French press.[53]:220–239

Malta had been captured by Britain during the war and was subject to a complex arrangement in the 10th article of the Treaty of Amiens where it was to be restored to the Knights of St. John with a Neapolitan garrison and placed under the guarantee of third powers. The weakening of the Knights of St. John by the confiscation of their assets in France and Spain along with delays in obtaining guarantees prevented the British from evacuating it after three months as stipulated in the treaty.[53]:239–247

The British victory over the French at the Battle of Alexandria, resulted in the end of Napoleon's military presence in Egypt.

The Helvetic Republic had been set up by France when it invaded Switzerland in 1798. France had withdrawn its troops, but violent strife broke out against the government, which many Swiss saw as overly centralised. Bonaparte reoccupied the country in October 1802 and imposed a compromise settlement. This caused widespread outrage in Britain, which protested that this was a violation of the Treaty of Lunéville. Although continental powers were unprepared to act, the British decided to send an agent to help the Swiss obtain supplies, and also ordered their military not to return Cape Colony to Holland as they had committed to do in the Treaty of Amiens.[53]:248–252

Swiss resistance collapsed before anything could be accomplished, and after a month Britain countermanded the orders not to restore Cape Colony. At the same time Russia finally joined the guarantee with regards to Malta. Concerned that there would be hostilities when Bonaparte found out that Cape Colony had been retained, the British began to procrastinate on the evacuation of Malta.[53]:252–258 In January 1803 a government paper in France published a report from a commercial agent which noted the ease with which Egypt could be conquered. The British seized on this to demand satisfaction and security before evacuating Malta, which was a convenient stepping stone to Egypt. France disclaimed any desire to seize Egypt and asked what sort of satisfaction was required but the British were unable to give a response.[53]:258–264 There was still no thought of going to war; Prime Minister Addington publicly affirmed that Britain was in a state of peace.[53]:265

In early March 1803 the Addington ministry received word that Cape Colony had been re-occupied by the British army in accordance with the orders which had subsequently been countermanded. On 8 March they ordered military preparations to guard against possible French retaliation, and justified them by falsely claiming that it was only in response to French preparations and that they were conducting serious negotiations with France. In a few days it was known that Cape Colony had been surrendered in accordance with the counter-orders, but it was too late. Bonaparte berated the British ambassador in front of 200 spectators over the military preparations.[53]:264–268

The Addington ministry realised they would face an inquiry over their false reasons for the military preparations, and during April unsuccessfully attempted to secure the support of William Pitt the Younger to shield them from damage.[53]:277 In the same month the ministry issued an ultimatum to France demanding the retention of Malta for at least ten years, the permanent acquisition of the island of Lampedusa from the Kingdom of Sicily, and the evacuation of Holland. They also offered to recognise French gains in Italy if they evacuated Switzerland and compensated the King of Sardinia for his territorial losses. France offered to place Malta in the hands of Russia to satisfy British concerns, pull out of Holland when Malta was evacuated, and form a convention to give satisfaction to Britain on other issues. The British falsely denied that Russia had made an offer and their ambassador left Paris.[53]:268–278 Desperate to avoid war, Bonaparte sent a secret offer where he agreed to let Britain retain Malta if France could occupy the Otranto peninsula in Naples.[54] All efforts were futile and Britain declared war on 18 May 1803.

Napoleonic Wars Prelude articles: 14

War between Britain and France, 1803–1814

British motivations

Britain ended the uneasy truce created by the Treaty of Amiens when it declared war on France in May 1803. The British were increasingly angered by Napoleon's reordering of the international system in Western Europe, especially in Switzerland, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. Kagan argues that Britain was especially alarmed by Napoleon's assertion of control over Switzerland. The British felt insulted when Napoleon said it deserved no voice in European affairs (even though King George was an elector of the Holy Roman Empire), and sought to restrict the London newspapers that were vilifying him.[32]

"Maniac-raving's-or-Little Boney in a strong fit" by James Gillray. His caricatures ridiculing Napoleon greatly annoyed the Frenchman, who wanted them suppressed by the British government.[55]

Britain had a sense of loss of control, as well as loss of markets, and was worried by Napoleon's possible threat to its overseas colonies. McLynn argues that Britain went to war in 1803 out of a "mixture of economic motives and national neuroses – an irrational anxiety about Napoleon's motives and intentions." McLynn concludes that it proved to be the right choice for Britain, because in the long run Napoleon's intentions were hostile to the British national interest. Napoleon was not ready for war and so this was the best time for Britain to stop them. Britain seized upon the Malta issue, refusing to follow the terms of the Treaty of Amiens and evacuate the island.[56]

The deeper British grievance was their perception that Napoleon was taking personal control of Europe, making the international system unstable, and forcing Britain to the sidelines.[57][58][59][60] Numerous scholars have argued that Napoleon's aggressive posture made him enemies and cost him potential allies.[61] As late as 1808, the continental powers affirmed most of his gains and titles, but the continuing conflict with Britain led him to start the Peninsular War and the invasion of Russia, which many scholars see as a dramatic miscalculation.[62][63][64][65][66]

The Battle of San Domingo, 6 February 1806
The Battle of the Pyrenees, July 1813

There was one serious attempt to negotiate peace with France during the war, made by Charles James Fox in 1806. The British wanted to retain their overseas conquests and have Hanover restored to George III in exchange for accepting French conquests on the continent. The French were willing to cede Malta, Cape Colony, Tobago, and French Indian posts to Britain but wanted to obtain Sicily in exchange for the restoration of Hanover, a condition the British refused.[67]

Unlike its many coalition partners, Britain remained at war throughout the period of the Napoleonic Wars. Protected by naval supremacy (in the words of Admiral Jervis to the House of Lords "I do not say, my Lords, that the French will not come. I say only they will not come by sea"), Britain did not have to spend the entire war defending itself and could therefore focus on supporting its embattled allies, maintaining low-intensity land warfare on a global scale for over a decade. The British government paid out large sums of money to other European states, so that they could pay armies in the field against France. These payments are colloquially known as the Golden Cavalry of St George. The British Army provided long-term support to the Spanish rebellion in the Peninsular War of 1808–1814, assisted by Spanish guerrilla ('little war') tactics. Anglo-Portuguese forces under Arthur Wellesley supported the Spanish, which campaigned successfully against the French armies, eventually driving them from Spain and allowing Britain to invade southern France. By 1815, the British Army played the central role in the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.

The British managed to occupy and take control of Cape Colony, British Guiana, Malta, Mauritius and Ceylon during the Napoleonic Wars.

Beyond minor naval actions against British imperial interests, the Napoleonic Wars were much less global in scope than preceding conflicts such as the Seven Years' War, which historians term a "world war".

Economic warfare

In response to the naval blockade of the French coasts enacted by the British government on 16 May 1806, Napoleon issued the Berlin Decree on 21 November 1806, which brought into effect the Continental System.[68] This policy aimed to eliminate the threat from Britain by closing French-controlled territory to its trade. Britain maintained a standing army of 220,000 at the height of the Napoleonic Wars, of whom less than half were available for campaigning. The rest were necessary for garrisoning Ireland and the colonies, and providing security for Britain. France's strength peaked at around 2,500,000 full-time and part-time soldiers including several hundred thousand National Guardsmen whom Napoleon could draft into the military if necessary. Both nations enlisted large numbers of sedentary militia who were unsuited for campaigning, and were mostly employed to release regular forces for active duty.[69]

The Royal Navy disrupted France's extra-continental trade by seizing and threatening French shipping and colonial possessions, but could do nothing about France's trade with the major continental economies and posed little threat to French territory in Europe. France's population and agricultural capacity far outstripped that of Britain. Britain had the greatest industrial capacity in Europe, and its mastery of the seas allowed it to build up considerable economic strength through trade. This ensured that France could never consolidate its control over Europe in peace. Many in the French government believed that cutting Britain off from the Continent would end its economic influence over Europe and isolate it.

Financing the war

A key element in British success was its ability to mobilise the nation's industrial and financial resources and apply them to defeating France. Although the UK had a population of approximately 16 million against France's 30 million, the French numerical advantage was offset by British subsidies that paid for many of the Austrian and Russian soldiers, peaking at about 450,000 men in 1813.[69][70] Under the Anglo-Russian agreement of 1803, Britain paid a subsidy of £1.5 million for every 100,000 Russian soldiers in the field.[71]

British national output remained strong, and the well-organised business sector channeled products into what the military needed. Britain used its economic power to expand the Royal Navy, doubling the number of frigates, adding 50% more large ships of the line, and increasing the number of sailors from 15,000 to 133,000 in eight years after the war began in 1793. France saw its navy shrink by more than half.[72] The smuggling of finished products into the continent undermined French efforts to weaken the British economy by cutting off markets. Subsidies to Russia and Austria kept them in the war. The British budget in 1814 reached £98 million, including £10 million for the Royal Navy, £40 million for the army, £10 million for the allies, and £38 million as interest on the national debt, which soared to £679 million, more than double the GDP. This debt was supported by hundreds of thousands of investors and taxpayers, despite the higher taxes on land and a new income tax. The cost of the war came to £831 million.[t] In contrast, the French financial system was inadequate and Napoleon's forces had to rely in part on requisitions from conquered lands.[74][75][76]

From London in 1813 to 1815, Nathan Mayer Rothschild was instrumental in almost single-handedly financing the British war effort, organising the shipment of bullion to the Duke of Wellington's armies across Europe, as well as arranging the payment of British financial subsidies to their continental allies.[77]

Napoleonic Wars War between Britain and France, 1803–1814 articles: 21

War of the Third Coalition 1805

The British HMS Sandwich fires at the French flagship Bucentaure (completely dismasted) in the battle of Trafalgar. Bucentaure also fights HMS Victory (behind her) and HMS Temeraire (left side of the picture). HMS Sandwich did not fight at Trafalgar and her depiction is a mistake by the painter.[78]

Britain gathered together allies to form the Third Coalition against The French Empire.[79][80] In response, Napoleon seriously considered an invasion of Great Britain,[81][82] and massed 180,000 troops at Boulogne. Before he could invade, he needed to achieve naval superiority—or at least to pull the British fleet away from the English Channel. A complex plan to distract the British by threatening their possessions in the West Indies failed when a Franco-Spanish fleet under Admiral Villeneuve turned back after an indecisive action off Cape Finisterre on 22 July 1805. The Royal Navy blockaded Villeneuve in Cádiz until he left for Naples on 19 October; the British squadron caught and overwhelmingly defeated the combined enemy fleet in the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October (the British commander, Lord Nelson, died in the battle). Napoleon never again had the opportunity to challenge the British at sea, nor to threaten an invasion. He again turned his attention to enemies on the Continent.

European strategic situation in 1805 before the War of the Third Coalition

In April 1805, Britain and Russia signed a treaty with the aim of removing the French from the Batavian Republic (roughly present-day Netherlands) and the Swiss Confederation. Austria joined the alliance after the annexation of Genoa and the proclamation of Napoleon as King of Italy on 17 March 1805. Sweden, which had already agreed to lease Swedish Pomerania as a military base for British troops against France, entered the coalition on 9 August.

The Austrians began the war by invading Bavaria on 8 September[83] 1805 with an army of about 70,000 under Karl Mack von Leiberich, and the French army marched out from Boulogne in late July 1805 to confront them. At Ulm (25 September – 20 October) Napoleon surrounded Mack's army, forcing its surrender without significant losses.

With the main Austrian army north of the Alps defeated (another army under Archduke Charles fought against André Masséna's French army in Italy), Napoleon occupied Vienna on 13 November. Far from his supply lines, he faced a larger Austro-Russian army under the command of Mikhail Kutuzov, with the Emperor Alexander I of Russia personally present. On 2 December, Napoleon crushed the Austro-Russian force in Moravia at Austerlitz (usually considered his greatest victory). He inflicted 25,000 casualties on a numerically superior enemy army while sustaining fewer than 7,000 in his own force.

Surrender of the town of Ulm, 20 October 1805
The French entering Vienna on 13 November 1805

Austria signed the Treaty of Pressburg (26 December 1805) and left the coalition. The treaty required the Austrians to give up Venetia to the French-dominated Kingdom of Italy and the Tyrol to Bavaria. With the withdrawal of Austria from the war, stalemate ensued. Napoleon's army had a record of continuous unbroken victories on land, but the full force of the Russian army had not yet come into play. Napoleon had now consolidated his hold on France, had taken control of Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and most of Western Germany and northern Italy. His admirers say that Napoleon wanted to stop now, but was forced to continue in order to gain greater security from the countries that refused to accept his conquests. Esdaille rejects that explanation and instead says that it was a good time to stop expansion, for the major powers were ready to accept Napoleon as he was:

in 1806 both Russia and Britain had been positively eager to make peace, and they might well have agreed to terms that would have left the Napoleonic imperium almost completely intact. As for Austria and Prussia, they simply wanted to be left alone. To have secured a compromise peace, then, would have been comparatively easy. But Napoleon was prepared to make no concessions.[84]

Napoleonic Wars War of the Third Coalition 1805 articles: 26