The fall Napoleon

After the victories against the Prussians, Austrians and Russians, Napoleon dominated Central Europe and was able to enforce its political objectives without resistance. From former opponents Frankrich he forced ally, so with Russia after the Peace of Tilsit in July 1807. But Tsar Alexander I considered it a shame to be only a secondary ally of Napoleon, also set his country imposed by France continental block to import British goods to the mainland economically. Politically, Russia also had to contend with the Duchy of Warsaw created by Napoleon in 1807, which threatened Russian interests in Poland.

In 1811, Alexander decided to withdraw from the agreements with France, Napoleon was now determined to declare war on Russia once again and forcefully subjugate the country this time.


Europa in der Zeit von 1804 bis 1815

Europe in the period from 1804 to 1815




Preparations for war:

After the termination of Russian agreements with France, Napoleon began to build his army for his campaign. In the summer of 1812, he maintained, for the then conditions unique, about 600,000 soldiers. This army was made up of Frenchmen and soldiers of the recently annexed territories as well as soldiers of satellite states such as the German Confederation of the Rhine, Italy and Warsaw. Even the Austrians and Prussians used as compulsory allies had to confront soldiers against their former ally Russia. Next came about 200,000 horses added to the soldiers.

Napoleon's military tactics, designed to supply his army through the occupied territories with such a mass of soldiers only for a short time, so he bet on a fast and aggressive campaign against Russia in order not to get into supply difficulties.




The beginning of the campaign:

In June 1812, the Russian campaign began by Napoleon. But Napoleon's concept of a brief but devastating campaign did not work out. The Russian army leadership continued to drop its troops and avoided the direct confrontation with the French. These were now forced to march after the Russian troops in the vastness of the Russian area. When the first real battle took place in Smolensk in August, the concept of orderly Russian withdrawal was already noticeable. The French supply lines were too long and the supply of the troops collapsed. Many thousands of soldiers died from starvation, exhaustion or disease. The battle did not bring Napoleon the hoped for breakthrough but ended in a draw and the Russian troops began to withdraw again in an orderly manner.




The attack on Moscow:

After the Battle of Smolensk Napoleon left despite his supply difficulties, his troops continue east to march Moscow. He was under the assumption that the Russians would defend their capital to the last man and finally agree to a peace after a defeat.

But even before Moscow, the Russian troops put Napoleon in the way. Under the leadership of General Kutuzov, his troops built strong fortifications in the village of Borodino. On September 7, 1812 Napoleon let his troops perform a charge on the defensive positions. With high losses, about 70,000 men fell on both sides that day, the French were able to take the positions. But General Kutuzov quickly rebuilt his army, but the decision had still not been made for Napoleon.

Even after the invasion of Moscow, Napoleon was unable to persuade Tsar Alexander I to capitulate. He was forced to withdraw from Russia in order not to completely lose his army, which was already decimated by the poor supply.




The retreat from Russia:

In mid-October 1812, the French withdrawal from Russia began, which was to inflict greater suffering on the soldiers than the battles themselves.

Already marked by hunger, exhaustion and disease, the soldiers on the way back from the Russian winters were hard hit. The soldiers collapsed by the thousands on the way, remained lying and died. In addition, the constant skirmishes with the Cossacks, who carried out rapid surprise attacks with their horses, brought further losses to the French soldiers. Injured and wounded were left behind in the villages and towns and were often killed, abused or abducted when the civilian army withdrew.

The last victory on Russian soil was recorded by the French at the Battle of Beresina from 26 to 28 November 1812. The Russian troops tried to encircle the French troops crossing the Beresina and destroy them, in a final battle, the French managed to break out of the cauldron and continue to march west.


Der Rückzug über die Beresina

The retreat over the Beresina


On December 8, 1812, Napoleon decided in Smorgon to rush ahead of his troops and build a new army in France and unite them with its current one in Central Europe.


Napoleon auf dem Rückzug aus Russland (Gemälde von Adolf Northern)

Napoleon on the retreat from Russia (painting of Adolf Northern)




Napoleon's attempt to turn the war:

Once back in France, Napoleon and French conscripts, Poles and Germans built a new army to fight against Russia and its allies Prussia, Austrians and Swedes. The beginning of the new campaign gave rise to new hope in Napoleon to be able to decide the war still in his favor. But at the Battle of Leipzig in October 1813, where his army was defeated 2 to 1 of the coalition, he had to retreat under heavy losses again and then could no longer go on the offensive.




The occupation of France:

In December 1813, the rulers of Prussia, Austria and Russia agreed on the occupation of France and the complete overthrow of Napoleon. The British contributed their share through the victories in Spain and the advance to southern France.

In the meantime, Napoleon succeeded in rebuilding a new army. But due to the now widespread doubts of the population in the war, only about 100,000 conscripts came together.

Napoleon was still able to win one or the other victory, but against the now invading army of the coalition, he had nothing to oppose. In March 1814 Paris was occupied and Napoleon was forced to abdicate.


Napoleons Abschied von der Kaiserlichen Garde in Fontainebleau (Gemälde von Antoine Alphonse Montfort)

Napoleon's Farewell to the Imperial Guard in Fontainebleau (Paintings by Antoine Alphonse Montfort)




Napoleon's exile and short return:

After the occupation of Paris, Napoleon had become aware that he was no longer up to the coalition military. These in turn granted him a dignified departure as emperor of the Mediterranean island of Elba, where he should stay until his death.

However, since Napoleon's abdication failed to bring about the desired reintroduction of the monarchy, Napoleon was confirmed in his belief that only he could lead the country and prepared his return. Euphorically celebrated by the soldiers, he arrived in Paris in March 1815 and restored his political status prior to his abdication. Immediately, he also began with the formation of a new army to again against the coalition to go to war.

Already in June 1815, the campaign took place in Belgium where he encountered the British-Dutch army of Wellington and a Prussian army under General Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. In the battles of June 16 at Quatre-Bras and Ligny, he was able to fight back his old tactics faithfully both armies separately. But in the Battle of Waterloo, the armies could unite and exist together against Napoleon.




The Battle of Waterloo:

On June 16, 1815, the British-Dutch army under the leadership of Herog von Wellington, after a clash with the French troops at Quatre-Bras, had to retreat to a ridge near Mont St. Jean, south of Waterloo. His army consisted of about 68,000 soldiers, the French, although only slightly stronger with 72,000 soldiers, but the French were far more battle-tested and equipped with significantly more cannons.

Wellington left most of his army behind the hill to protect them from the French cannons. After the artillery fire Napoleon let his infantry march in a broad line on the opponents. The musket fire and the cannons of Wellington's soldiers, meanwhile, caused a veritable bloodbath among the French, who continued to march on. Only when Wellington let his heavy cavalry charge the French did they retreat. Unfortunately, the British cavalry hurried after the retreating French soldiers and themselves fell into the fire of the counter-artillery. Then, when the French cavalry came out to counterattack, the British suffered heavy casualties.


Schlacht bei Waterloo Gemälde von William Sadler (1782–1839)

Battle of Waterloo Painting by William Sadler (1782-1839)


Assuming that the loss would bring the British to collapse, the French Marshall Ney ordered his riders to make a direct attack. However, this could not break the defensive tactics of the British with their bayonet reinforced squares and had to be stopped after the bombardment by the muskets with heavy losses.

In the course of the fighting, the French succeeded in conquering the farms below the hill, but support for Wellington in the form of the approximately 50,000 -strong Prussian army came closer and closer. An unification would have meant defeat for Napoleon, so he tried to keep the Prussians separate from the British and launched a direct attack on the British with his imperial guard. The attack fell victim to the shelling of the British muskets and so broke even the guard during the fighting on.

The French had to retreat and were pursued by the Prussian cavalry, which also led to heavy losses. Overall, Napoleon lost in this battle about 25,000 soldiers, another 8,000 were captured. With that, the French military was finally defeated.




Napoleon's end:

After the victory at Waterloo and the subsequent Congress of Vienna, the old monarchist conditions were restored in France and Napoleon, who capitulated in July 1815 aboard the English ship HMS Bellerophon, was exiled to St. Helena. There he wrote his memoirs and died in 1821.


Europa nach dem Wiener Kongress 1815

Europe after the Congress of Vienna in 1815






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'.

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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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1812 Paperback – April 4, 2005

The Sunday Times bestselling account of Napoleon's invasion of Russia and eventual retreat from Moscow, events that had a profound effect on the subsequent course of Russian and European history. Moscow has both fascinated military historians and captured the imagination of millions on an emotional and human level. 1812 tells the story of how the most powerful man on earth met his doom, and how the greatest fighting force ever assembled was wiped out. Over 400,000 French and Allied troops died on the disastrous Russian campaign, with the vast majority of the casualties occuring during the frigid winter retreat. Adam Zamoyski tells their story with incredible detail and sympathy, drawing on a wealth of first-hand accounts of the tragedy to create a vivid portrait of an unimaginable catastrophe. power. His intention was to destroy Britain through a total blockade, the Continental System. But Tsar Alexander of Russia refused to apply the blockade, and Napoleon decided to bring him to heel. ramifications on Russian, French, German and, indeed, European history and culture cannot be understated. Adam Zamoyski's epic, enthralling narrative is the definitive account of the events of that dramatic year.

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Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles

Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles Hardcover – May 5, 2015

From the New York Times bestselling author and master of martial fiction comes the definitive, illustrated history of one of the greatest battles ever fought—a riveting nonfiction chronicle published to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s last stand.

On June 18, 1815 the armies of France, Britain and Prussia descended upon a quiet valley south of Brussels. In the previous three days, the French army had beaten the Prussians at Ligny and fought the British to a standstill at Quatre-Bras. The Allies were in retreat. The little village north of where they turned to fight the French army was called Waterloo. The blood-soaked battle to which it gave its name would become a landmark in European history.

In his first work of nonfiction, Bernard Cornwell combines his storytelling skills with a meticulously researched history to give a riveting chronicle of every dramatic moment, from Napoleon’s daring escape from Elba to the smoke and gore of the three battlefields and their aftermath. Through quotes from the letters and diaries of Emperor Napoleon, the Duke of Wellington, and the ordinary officers and soldiers, he brings to life how it actually felt to fight those famous battles—as well as the moments of amazing bravery on both sides that left the actual outcome hanging in the balance until the bitter end.

Published to coincide with the battle’s bicentennial in 2015, Waterloo is a tense and gripping story of heroism and tragedy—and of the final battle that determined the fate of nineteenth-century Europe.

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