Coalition wars

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Memorial in honor of the fallen on Carinthian soil 1797 - 1809 - 1813, Tarvisio-Boscoverde

As Napoleonic Wars (excluding the first coalition war also Napoleonic Wars called), the permanent from 1792 to 1815 war between France and its European rival power referred. They form a series of conflicts originally created by the French Revolution . Changing alliances ( coalitions ) of European powers waged several wars (some of which merged into one another) against the French Republic or the Empire of Napoleon Bonapartes and its allies in different arenas . During this time, French troops held some areas permanently occupied ( Napoleonic occupation ).

With the coalition wars, the time of the cabinet war type came to an end.


The wars can be conceptually divided in the following way:

In GDR history books, even after Napoleon's takeover of power (1799, official end of the revolution) and the end of the First French Republic associated with his coronation as emperor , those wars up to the fall of Prussia continued to be referred to as revolutionary wars (i.e. up to the fourth coalition) because the The revolutionary achievements of the French rule still predominated until the Peace of Tilsit in 1807. With the resistance of the Spaniards, the wars of liberation began in 1808 .


Wiener Kongress Kontinentalsperre

Erstes Kaiserreich Französisches Konsulat Sommerfeldzug von 1815 Sommerfeldzug von 1815 Napoleonische Kriege auf der Iberischen Halbinsel Ägyptische Expedition Russlandfeldzug 1812 Russlandfeldzug 1812 Österreichischer Feldzug gegen das Herzogtum Warschau 1809 Österreichischer Feldzug gegen das Herzogtum Warschau 1809 Vierter Koalitionskrieg Vierter Koalitionskrieg Italienfeldzug Befreiungskriege

The first coalition

Germany in 1791 before the coalition wars

The first coalition (1792–1797) of European powers wanted to try to contain the French Revolution and its effects or even to reverse it entirely. However, it must be emphasized here that France began the war with the declaration of war on April 20, 1792.

The coalition began in 1791 with the Pillnitz Declaration , in which Austria and Prussia decided to take joint action against revolutionary France. The coalition was joined by other important European powers: first the Kingdom of Sardinia- Piedmont, after the execution of the French King Louis XVI. also the Kingdom of Great Britain , Spain and the Kingdom of Naples . The Netherlands received a French declaration of war in 1793 for their support for Great Britain.

France responded to external threats by means of levée en masse , internal terror and new techniques and tactics created by the upheavals in the army. The French warfare was largely successful. They succeeded in gradually excluding their opponents from the war by means of peace treaties: In May 1795, the Batavian Republic , which had emerged from the Netherlands, which had meanwhile been occupied by French, entered into an alliance with France; in the spring of 1795 Prussia and Spain made the Treaty of Basel with France ; In 1796, Sardinia-Piedmont was forced to peace by Napoleon Bonaparte during the Italian campaign .

On October 17, 1797, the peace of Campo Formio between France and the militarily defeated Austria ended the First Coalition War. The left bank of the Rhine was annexed by France. Great Britain was the only European power to remain at war with France. Due to the outbreak of the Second Coalition War , the peace agreement with the Roman-German Empire planned for the Rastatt Congress was no longer possible.

The second coalition

Louis-François Lejeune , Bataille de Marengo, 1802

The second coalition (1799–1802) made up of Great Britain, Austria, Russia , the Ottoman Empire , Portugal , Naples and the Papal States against France also failed. Prussia under its new King Friedrich Wilhelm III. remained neutral in this conflict. Napoleon ruled France since his return from the Egyptian expedition in 1799. While Napoleon fought the British and Ottomans in Egypt, several battles in Switzerland (occupation of Zurich) and in Italy had been won by the coalition, the French subsidiary republics in Italy and Switzerland faced collapse. However, Russia soon withdrew from the coalition and returned to armed neutrality ; British options for action were exhausted or still tied up in Egypt. The Austrians faced the returning Napoleon at the Battle of Marengo on June 14, 1800 and Moreau at the Battle of Hohenlinden on December 3, and were sensitive; on February 9, 1801, the Treaty of Lunéville was concluded between France and Austria and the Reich.

The Peace of Amiens (1802) also brought the end of the second coalition for the British, while the fighting between France and the United Kingdom resumed on May 18, 1803: instead of bringing about the restoration of the French monarchy, the fight was now against Napoleon in the foreground.

The French Senate proclaimed the Constitution for the target of Napoleon Bonaparte French Empire on 18 May 1804. The new monarch was crowned on December 2, 1804 in the Church of Notre-Dame de Paris to the Emperor of the French .

The third coalition

Louis-François Lejeune , La bataille d'Austerlitz, 1808

The third coalition against France (from Austria, the enlarged Great Britain , Russia and Sweden ) existed from 1805. On the French side, the plan was developed to invade England. Invasion troops of 150,000 men were assembled at Boulogne. Pierre de Villeneuve led the combined Franco-Spanish fleet to Cádiz and then left the town with his fleet for Naples on October 19th. At the Battle of Trafalgar on October 21, he was defeated by Horatio Nelson and taken prisoner. Great Britain thus secured almost unrestricted naval supremacy, which it would not lose until the end of the coalition wars.

On April 11, 1805, Great Britain and Russia had signed a treaty to liberate the Netherlands and Switzerland. Sweden joined the alliance. Austria joined this alliance on August 9th after Genoa was annexed and Napoleon was proclaimed King of Italy. The Kingdom of Naples supported the anti-Napoleonic alliance, while Prussia wanted to remain neutral.

In August France asked Austria to withdraw its garrisons from Tyrol and Veneto , which the Emperor refused in Vienna on August 27. Napoleon Bonaparte entered into alliances with Spain and southern German rulers (with Bavaria the Treaty of Bogenhausen on August 25, with Baden on September 5 the Treaty of Baden-Baden, with Württemberg the Treaty of Ludwigsburg on October 5). The French army moved from Boulogne to Germany in late August and crossed the Rhine with the main army on September 25th.

Meanwhile, on September 8, 1805, Austrian troops under Karl Mack von Leiberich had invaded Bavaria and were tasked with advancing to the Iller and fortifying Ulm. France declared war on Austria on September 23. In several skirmishes (e.g. the Battle of Elchingen ) in the greater Ulm area (October 8 - October 20) the French defeated 70,000 Austrians. The French army advanced on Vienna. The Battle of Austerlitz (the so-called Dreikaiserschlacht ) on December 2nd brought another heavy defeat for the united Russian and Austrian armies. The Bratislava peace was imposed on the losers .

The fourth coalition

Napoleon receives members of the French Senate in the Berlin City Palace , November 19, 1806, painting by René Théodore Berthon

The fourth coalition of Prussia and Russia, later expanded to include Great Britain and Sweden, existed from 1806 to 1807. After the end of the Third Coalition War, France was still at war with Great Britain and Russia. In order to win the British for peace, Napoleon offered them the return of the Electorate of Hanover, which had only recently been ceded to Prussia in the Treaty of Schönbrunn . In addition, in July 1806 sixteen German states had founded the Rhine Confederation on Napoleon's initiative , which included the exit from the Holy Roman Empire and a confederation with France. Following a French ultimatum, the Holy Roman Empire was formally dissolved on August 6, 1806 through the renunciation of Emperor Franz II . Prussia felt offended by these developments and decided to wage war against France even without tangible support - the allied Russia was not yet ready to go to war again. The ultimatum to France to withdraw its troops behind the Rhine was followed by the declaration of war on October 9, 1806. Napoleon had foreseen this and assembled a strong army on the border between Bavaria and Thuringia.

The northern German states and the Hanseatic cities behaved neutrally. Only the Electorate of Saxony and the Duchy of Saxony-Weimar joined Prussia. Prussia alone declared war. This led to a heavy defeat for Prussia in the battle of Jena and Auerstedt on October 14, 1806. On October 27th, Napoleon entered Berlin , while the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III. was on the way to East Prussia with his farm and family . Saxony dissolved its alliance with Prussia in December and joined the Confederation of the Rhine at the same time that it was elevated to a kingdom. His troops, like the Sachsen-Weimar, fought against Prussia in the spring of 1807.

At the end of 1806, Russian troops intervened in the war. After a few insignificant skirmishes ( Battle of Pultusk ) and the extremely harsh onset of winter, the troops faced each other in southern East Prussia. The territories gained by the Prussian state during the second and third partition of Poland had fallen away after the Wielkopolska uprising in November 1806. There, initiated by Napoleon, a new state structure was established with its own military associations, which intervened in the fighting against Prussia in 1807 under French command.

After the undecided battle at Preussisch Eylau (February 7th and 8th, 1807), the Treaty of Bartenstein was signed on April 26th, 1807 , in which Prussia and Russia undertook to stick together for better or for worse until the victory over Napoleon. Shortly thereafter, the United Kingdom and Sweden joined the treaty. After Napoleon had won the Battle of Friedland on June 14th, the Russian side began to negotiate an armistice on June 19, without Prussia being involved. On July 7, 1807, Tsar Alexander I and Napoleon signed the Treaty of Tilsit , in which an alliance against Great Britain emerged. The peace treaty concluded between France and Prussia on July 9, 1807 was a dictated peace . Prussia lost half of its territory, had to recognize the resulting French satellite states, including the Duchy of Warsaw , and initially remained largely French occupied. The defeat resulted in fundamental modernizations in Prussia, the Prussian reforms .

With the Berlin decree of November 21, 1806, Napoleon imposed the continental block on Great Britain, which Russia had joined in the Peace of Tilsit. Great Britain saw its naval supremacy endangered by a possible Franco-Russian-Danish alliance, sent an army to Zealand and in early September 1807 forced the surrender of the Danish fleet through a bombardment of Copenhagen . The Erfurt Congress in 1808 led to the agreement between Napoleon and Tsar Alexander I that Russia put pressure on Sweden to join the continental system. This led to the Russo-Swedish War from 1808 to 1809 and the partition of Sweden on the Gulf of Bothnia. The eastern part became the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland . British humanitarian aid also failed to keep Sweden on its anti-Napoleonic line.

The war on the Iberian Peninsula

Siege of Santa Engracia Monastery, Saragossa, February 8, 1809 (painting by Louis-François Lejeune )

With the French expedition to Portugal at the end of 1807, with which the country was to be forced to participate in the trade blockade against Great Britain, the armed conflicts began in the Iberian theater of war. In May 1808 a popular uprising against the French broke out in Spain . The elevation of Joseph Bonaparte to King of Spain in July 1808 by Napoleon triggered a guerrilla war .

From August 1808, a British expeditionary force under the leadership of Wellington operated in Portugal and Spain and supported the Portuguese and Spanish forces in the fight against the French occupation forces and their allies. German contingents were represented on both the French and British sides ( KGL ). The clashes lasted until 1813/14.

The Spanish War, also known as the Spanish War of Independence, is considered to be the first “war of liberation” against Napoleon's supremacy in Europe. It had a psychological effect that should not be underestimated on the populations of the other areas that were under French control when it broke out.

The fifth coalition

The fifth coalition against France existed between Great Britain and Austria in 1809. While France and the troops of its satellite states were devoting themselves to suppressing the People's War in Spain ( see above ), Austria opened the war on April 9, 1809. The aim was to eliminate Napoleon's supremacy in Europe. Austria wanted its war to be understood as a liberation action based on the Spanish model and hoped for the emergence of a popular movement that would force Napoleon to withdraw from Germany. The main theater of war was therefore initially southern Germany. At the same time offensives against the Kingdom of Italy and against the Duchy of Warsaw took place. Secondary theaters of war were the Dalmatian coast, Franconia and Saxony . In addition to the Tyrolean people's uprising , in which Tyrol was defended against the Bavarian-French occupation from spring to autumn 1809, there were isolated uprisings in northern Germany and Schill and the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg's free marches . However, the latter events did not have any influence on the course of the war.

After the lost battle of Abensberg and the battle of Eggmühl and the unfortunate battles near Regensburg , Archduke Karl's army had withdrawn to Bohemia and the French moved into Vienna on May 13th. They stood with about 90,000 men on the right bank of the Danube. Archduke Karl and his army stood on the left bank, having returned to the Danube after his retreat to Bohemia. In the following battle near Aspern this was able to prevent the French from advancing further. The Austrian victory at Aspern was also made possible by the resistance of the Austrian defenders in Malborgeth and the Predil Pass , which prevented the viceroy Eugen Beauharnais' troops from advancing quickly . The subsequent battle of Raab ( Győr ) and the final defeat of the Austrians in the battle of Wagram led to the Znojmo armistice in July . Two weeks later, a British army, unaware of the armistice, began the Walcheren expedition, which was terminated in late autumn due to apparent hopelessness after initial successes. On October 14, 1809, Austria and France signed the Treaty of Schönbrunn .

Germany 1812

Great Britain, with its army on the Iberian Peninsula, was Napoleon's last opponent on the European continent. The sea routes of Europe and the one to India ( Mauritius campaign ) were ruled by the British fleet, while France tried to enforce the economic blockade against England by controlling all European mainland ports.

The sixth coalition

Napoleon's Russian campaign and the wars of liberation can be summarized as the Sixth Coalition War (1812-1814) , although at the beginning of the Russian campaign not all coalition partners (Great Britain, Russia, Prussia, Sweden, Austria and numerous small German states) were involved as opponents of France.

Russian campaign

The Grande Armée crossed the Memel on June 23, 1812 with around 600,000 men (including 150,000 soldiers from Prussia, Austria, Bavaria and the Rhine Confederation) . The Russian troops retreated deep inland, leaving scorched earth behind , while Napoleon's supply routes became longer and more vulnerable to partisans. The Battle of Borodino on September 7th brought heavy casualties on both sides, but no decision. Even after the capture of Moscow on September 14th, Alexander I refused to conclude a peace agreement.

In mid-October, Napoleon ordered the withdrawal of his severely shrunken army, which by then had already recorded 275,000 dead and 200,000 prisoners. The remaining soldiers, forced back onto the devastated Smolensk Route by the Russians, faced constant attacks, which further decimated their numbers; in the end the army numbered only around 10,000 men. In December Napoleon returned to Paris. The Russian victory over the French was artistically processed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in the 1812 overture .

The loss of Spain

In the battle of Vitoria on June 21, 1813, French rule over Spain was finally broken. The French had to retreat across the Pyrenees.

Wars of Liberation in Central Europe

Course of the campaign in spring 1813
View of the battlefield near Leipzig (painting by Ernst Wilhelm Straßberger )
Battle of Paris on March 25, 1814 (painting by Bogdan Willewalde , 1834)

After the defeat of the Grande Armée in Russia, the wars of liberation began . At the end of December 1812, Prussia broke its alliance with France in the Tauroggen Convention , allied itself with Russia in the Treaty of Kalisch in February 1813 and openly took up the fight against France and the Rhine Confederation in March. A little later Sweden joined the Alliance under Crown Prince Karl Johann .

In the meantime, a vehemently anti-French mood had spread in northern Germany, starting in East Prussia , from January 1813, which turned into an open rebellion when Russian equestrian associations swarmed across the Oder. At the end of February, the Hanseatic departments annexed by France in 1810 were also included . In March the French evacuated Hamburg before the advancing Russians. In May Napoleon defeated the Russian-Prussian troops in the Battle of Großgörschen and the Battle of Bautzen . The result was the Pläswitz armistice at the beginning of June , which gave Austria the opportunity to broker a peace at the Prague Peace Congress . After this failed due to Napoleon's resistance, Austria joined the Prussian-Russian-Swedish alliance. The four allies in the Trachenberg Plan had already agreed on a common strategy in July . In the autumn campaign of 1813, Central Germany again became a theater of war.

In October 1813, the allied Russian, Austrian, Prussian and Swedish troops inflicted a defeat on Napoleon in the decisive battle of the Nations near Leipzig . While the Confederation of the Rhine was falling apart, the French withdrew to France. The Treaty of Chaumont came about on March 9, 1814, in which the allies vowed never to make peace with Napoleon and to put the Bourbons back on the French throne.

On March 31, the allied troops took Paris . Napoleon abdicated on April 6th. The Treaty of Fontainebleau followed . Bourbon rule was restored and Napoleon banished to Elba . After the end of Napoleonic rule, the victorious powers called the Congress of Vienna to restore order in Europe according to old, pre-revolutionary standards ( restoration ).

Return and final defeat of Napoleon

There was a brief aftermath of the Wars of Liberation in 1815 (while the Congress was already underway), prompted by Napoleon's unauthorized return from exile (" Rule of the Hundred Days "). After a rapid reorganization of the Grande Armée and a final victory in the Battle of Ligny , Napoleon's rule became through his defeat against the Allied army composed of British, Dutch and Germans under Arthur Wellesley , the Duke of Wellington and the allied armed force of Prussia under Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher finally ended at the Battle of Waterloo . Napoleon was exiled to the British island of St. Helena for life .


The European countries conquered by Napoleon on his campaigns were converted to right-hand traffic - and some, like Germany, stayed with them. The countries of the Danube Monarchy, on the other hand, reverted to the left-hand traffic they were used to at the time after Napoleon's retreat , until the connection in 1938 . The Napoleonic Wars were the scene of the first major humanitarian aid operation in history with a transnational civil society character.


  • Gunther E. Rothenberg : The Napoleonic Wars . Brandenburgisches Verlagshaus, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-89488-134-8 .
  • Gerhard Bauer , Gorch Pieken , Matthias Rogg : Bloody romance. 200 years of wars of liberation. Essays. Military History Museum of the Bundeswehr, Sandstein Verlag, Dresden 2013, ISBN 978-3-95498-035-2 .
  • Gerhard Bauer, Gorch Pieken, Matthias Rogg: Bloody romance. 200 years of wars of liberation. Catalog / exhibition September 6, 2013 to February 16, 2014. Military History Museum of the Bundeswehr, Sandstein Verlag, Dresden 2013, ISBN 978-3-95498-036-9 .
  • Frank Bauer : Small series history of the wars of liberation , 40 booklets, Potsdam-Altenburg 2003-2015 (Edition König und Vaterland).
  • Ulrich Pfister: Violence, Institutional Shocks and Development. Economic consequences of the coalition and Napoleonic wars (1792–1815) in Germany. In: Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte , Vol. 107, 2020, Issue 1, pp. 9–46.

Web links

Commons : Napoleonic Wars  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Coalition Wars  - Sources and Full Texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Norbert Götz: The Good Plumpuddings' Belief: British Voluntary Aid to Sweden During the Napoleonic Wars. In: International History Review . 37 (2015) 3: 519-539. doi : 10.1080 / 07075332.2014.918559 .
  2. Left-hand traffic and its history. Left shift with lash of the whip . Sü . May 22, 2010. Retrieved January 20, 2017.
  3. ^ Norbert Götz: Rationales of Humanitarianism: The Case of British Relief to Germany, 1805-1815. In: Journal of Modern European History . 12 (2014) 2: 186-199.
  4. ^ Norbert Götz, Frank Palmowski: Humanitarian aid in the age of Napoleon: Civil society and transnational resources using the example of Erfurt. In: Historische Zeitschrift 305 (2017): 362–392. doi : 10.1515 / hzhz-2017-0029 .