Napoleon Bonaparte’s conquests in Europe

Napoleon had not only made a name for himself during the Revolutionary Wars as a brilliant tactician in dozens of battles, but always directed his troops to the extent that he could determine the course of the battles according to his ideas. Thus, after his rise to sole ruler in France, he was able to defeat the other major European powers, Austria and Russia, and re-establish France as a major power.

But after peace with Austria in 1801 and England in 1802, his aspirations were far from satisfied with subjecting Europe to his will.




The beginning of the conquest of Europe:

After peace with Russia and Austria, France was able to make peace with England in March 1802. At this time, no other European country was militarily able to face France. The peace with England, however, only lasted until May 1803, and so Napoleon, after his coronation as emperor in December 1804, had his great Grande Armée excavated and assembled at Boulogne for an invasion of England. However, Napoleon was also aware that an invasion of England was possible only with the rule over the English Channel, so his troops remained idle for the time being, but were greatly expanded by new soldiers and equipment.


Napoleons Krönung in Notre Dame (1804) (Gemälde von Jacques-Louis David 1805–1807)

Napoleon's Coronation in Notre Dame (1804) (Painting by Jacques-Louis David 1805-1807)


In August 1805, the defeated powers Austria and Russia united with the countries of Sweden and Naples under the financial support of England to form a coalition against France. As a result, Napoleon left his army to withdraw from Boulogne marched across the German small states along the Rhine to prevent a union between the Austrian and the Russian army.

Here was Napoleon's new military tactics effectively bear. His army had a total strength of about 200,000 men, divided into seven army corps subordinate to a marshal and allowed to operate independently. The supply was not made dependent on long and slow supply trains, but the army was to provide itself from the conquered territories. With this tactic, the French army was able to cover the long distance in a relatively short time. Thus, the Austrian General Mack, who moved his troops from Bavaria to Ulm, was surprised by the French, included and had to capitulate without a fight with his 25,000 men. Already in November 1805 Napoleon invaded Vienna unhindered.

Although Napoleon was able to drive his opponents eastwards during this period, the winter made the vulnerability of his military supply tactics noticeable. So it was hardly possible to provide the soldiers and horses with sufficient food and the advance faltered.

The Austrians and Russians took advantage of this and were able to unite their armies. Napoleon was now forced to strive for a devastating battle, which occurred on December 2, 1805 at Austerlitz as well. In this so-called "Three Emperors Battle" (Emperor Napoleon, Emperor Franz and Tsar Alexander), the coalition's offensive was slowed down and Napoleon himself was able to take the initiative. After this defeat Austria had to ask for peace and the Russian army withdrew to Poland.


Napoleon in der Schlacht bei Austerlitz (Gemälde von François Pascal Simon Gérard)

Napoleon in the Battle of Austerlitz (painting by François Pascal Simon Gérard)




Prussia's entry into the war:

Until the peace with Austria, Prussia had so far kept out of the conflict. This changed, however, because the Prussian leadership feared that Napoleon would not stop at Prussia and make military use of political isolation. This is how Prussia declared war on France.

However, it soon became clear that the former admired Prussian army could not withstand the attack of the French. The Russian support in Poland was too far away to intervene when the French defeated the Prussians at Jena and Auerstedt in October 1806. Shortly thereafter, Napoleon invaded Berlin.


Napoleon zieht am 27. Oktober 1806 an der Spitze seiner Truppen in Berlin ein (Historiengemälde von Charles Meynier, 1810)

Napoleon moves in on October 27, 1806 at the head of his troops in Berlin (History painting by Charles Meynier, 1810)




The Subjugation of Europe:

Peace had already been concluded with Austria in 1805, Prussia was defeated militarily, Berlin was occupied. For Napoleon, there was only the Russian army, which was in eastern Prussia in the former Poland.

At the beginning of 1807 he marched with his soldiers to East Prussia, where he gathered his armies and in February met Eylau for the Russian and the remaining Prussian soldiers. The battle became one of the most brutal of the campaign, especially the continuing blizzard that troubled the soldiers and many died from death by freezing, not combat. It was not until the massive deployment of his cavalry, which simply drove down the Russian soldiers and artillery operating crews, that Napoleon won the victory. At the end of the battle alone, the French had to mourn the 25,000 dead.

Despite the defeat, the Russians managed to regroup their army further east. But after the defeat at Friedberg, south of Königsberg, Russia had to agree to the peace of Tilsit. Thus Napoleon dominated most of Europe.




Renewed war with Austria:

In 1809 Austria again declared war on France, albeit on its own. In May 1809, the Austrian troops at Aspern - Essling succeeded in repulsing the French army, which had already crossed over half of the Danube.

In July Napoleon was able to win at Wagram in return, but with high losses. Nevertheless, Austria had to ask for a truce, this time on worse terms than 1805.


3. Koalitionskrieg von 1805

3rd Coalition War of 1805






You can find the right literature here:


Napoleon's Army

Napoleon's Army Paperback – November 2, 2005

Many books have been written about Napoleon and his campaigns, but very little about the soldiers of his armies and of the organization and conditions under which they lived and served.

In this classic study, now reissued in paperback, H.C.B. Rogers examines Napoleon's army in terms of its staff systems, its arms and its supporting services as it existed and changed during the long period that separated the battles of Valmy and Waterloo.

This is not another history of Napoleon's campaigns. Apart from the brief narrative of the opening chapter designed to serve as an aide-memoire, military operations are only cited to illustrate organization, tactics, equipment and administration.

The author seeks to show how, as Lord Wavell put it, Napoleon inspired 'a ragged, mutinous, half-starved army and made it fight as it did'.

Click here!



Forging Napoleon's Grande Armée: Motivation, Military Culture, and Masculinity in the French Army, 1800-1808

Forging Napoleon's Grande Armée: Motivation, Military Culture, and Masculinity in the French Army, 1800-1808 (Warfare and Culture) Hardcover – May 7, 2012

The men who fought in Napoleon’s Grande Armée built a new empire that changed the world. Remarkably, the same men raised arms during the French Revolution for liberté, égalité, and fraternité. In just over a decade, these freedom fighters, who had once struggled to overthrow tyrants, rallied to the side of a man who wanted to dominate Europe. What was behind this drastic change of heart?

In this ground-breaking study, Michael J. Hughes shows how Napoleonic military culture shaped the motivation of Napoleon’s soldiers. Relying on extensive archival research and blending cultural and military history, Hughes demonstrates that the Napoleonic regime incorporated elements from both the Old Regime and French Revolutionary military culture to craft a new military culture, characterized by loyalty to both Napoleon and the preservation of French hegemony in Europe. Underscoring this new, hybrid military culture were five sources of motivation: honor, patriotism, a martial and virile masculinity, devotion to Napoleon, and coercion. Forging Napoleon's Grande Armée vividly illustrates how this many-pronged culture gave Napoleon’s soldiers reasons to fight.

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Napoleon: A Life From Beginning To End (Military Biographies)

Napoleon: A Life From Beginning To End (Military Biographies) Paperback – May 13, 2019

This book is for anyone that enjoys crucial turning points in history. Napoleon was an unremarkable man who managed to change the entire landscape of the world 200 years ago. He has been hailed as a military genius and his victories are still studied by international armed forces to this day.

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The Campaigns of Napoleon

The Campaigns of Napoleon Hardcover – March 1, 1973

Napoleonic war was nothing if not complex—an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of moves and intentions, which by themselves went a long way towards baffling and dazing his conventionally-minded opponents into that state of disconcerting moral disequilibrium which so often resulted in their catastrophic defeat.

The Campaigns of Napoleon is an exhaustive analysis and critique of Napoleon's art of war as he himself developed and perfected it in the major military campaigns of his career. Napoleon disavowed any suggestion that he worked from formula (“Je n'ai jamais eu un plan d'opérations”), but military historian David Chandler demonstrates this was at best only a half-truth. To be sure, every operation Napoleon conducted contained unique improvisatory features. But there were from the first to the last certain basic principles of strategic maneuver and battlefield planning that he almost invariably put into practice. To clarify these underlying methods, as well as the style of Napoleon's fabulous intellect, Mr. Chandler examines in detail each campaign mounted and personally conducted by Napoleon, analyzing the strategies employed, revealing wherever possible the probable sources of his subject's military ideas.

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