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Napoleonic Wars: timeline, facts, history

The French Revolution made France many enemies in Europe and resulted in a series of wars which lasted with hardly a break from 1792 until 1815. During these wars France found a brilliant general in Napoleon Bonaparte. He won many victories, became sole ruler of France, and crowned himself emperor in 1804. But Napoleon's ambitions did not stop with the crown of France; he dreamed of ruling the rest of Europe as well. Consequently, the wars became a struggle against the ambitions of one man and for this reason are known as the Napoleonic Wars.

The French bivouac - Napoleonic Wars timeline The meeting of Napoleon - Napoleonic Wars timeline

Napoleonic Wars: timeline, facts, history

The French bivouac on the eve of the battle of Austerlitz. This was possibly the most conclusive of all Napoleon's battles. By brilliant tactics he crushed a combined Russian and Austrian army, and caused the break-up of the Holy Roman Empire

The meeting of Napoleon and Francis II after Austerlitz; Francis was the Holy Roman Emperor, and had taken the title of Emperor of Austria. Napoleon created the Confederation of the Rhine in 1806. This deprived Francis of his German title, but was a major step in the creation of modern Germany

The chief enemies of France were Austria, Prussia, Russia, Britain and Spain. The French armies were large, well-led and well-trained.

They won many battles, the most important being at Marengo and Hohenlinden (1800), at Austerlitz (1805) and at Jena (1806). These victories gave Napoleon control over most of Europe. However, the British navy was very powerful and in Lord Nelson Britain had an outstanding admiral. Nelson destroyed a French fleet at the battle of the Nile (1798) and so dashed Napoleon's hopes of conquering the East. Seven years later, Nelson defeated the main French fleet at Trafalgar and ended Napoleon's plans to invade Britain.

Napoleon next tried to ruin Britain by stopping all her trade with Europe. But the people of Europe needed British products and grew restless when goods became scarce and expensive. In 1808 the Spanish rebelled against Napoleon. A small British army, commanded by Arthur Wellesley, later Duke of Wellington, was sent to help them. Wellington won a number of battles and this persuaded Russia to re-enter the conflict. Napoleon led a huge army into Russia in 1812, but most of his 600,000 soldiers were killed in battle or perished in the bitter conditions of the Russian winter.

Maps - Napoleonic Wars timeline Battle with British naval - Napoleonic Wars timeline

Napoleonic Wars: timeline, facts, history

Europe in 1812. At this period Napoleon was virtually master of Europe, with the only effective opposition coming from Britain and Russia, who were eventually joined by Prussia, Austria and Sweden. 1812 was the year of Napoleon's fateful Russian Campaign, which heavily depleted his forces and marked the beginning of his downfall

Early in Napoleon's career he had dreams of an Eastern empire. But his fleet was destroyed by Nelson at the Battle of the Nile. From that point onwards Napoleon was severely hampered by British naval supremacy

Encouraged by this disaster, Britain, Prussia, Russia, Austria and Sweden united against Napoleon. Their armies drove deep into France and occupied Paris (1814). Napoleon was banished to the island of Elba. In 1815 he escaped and rallied the French armies but was finally defeated on the battlefield of Waterloo by British and Prussian forces. Peace had come at last to Europe. Napoleon was exiled to St Helena, and the countries of Europe were handed back to their traditional rulers.

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