Second coalition war

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The Second Coalition War (1798 / 99–1801 / 02) was waged by an alliance around Russia , Austria and Great Britain against the revolutionary France, which was successful in the First Coalition War . The most successful French general, Napoleon Bonaparte , was isolated in Egypt after the lost naval battle at Abukir . Because of this, too, the alliance was initially very successful and was able to control the French-dominated subsidiary republicssmashed in Italy and restore the old order. However, the allies were at odds and Russia left the alliance. After Napoleon returned from Egypt and took over rule in France with the consulate , he was victorious in Italy. The remaining allies made peace with France. The Peace of Lunéville (1801) essentially confirmed the provisions of Campo Formio . The defeat of the Allies was indirectly responsible for the complete reorganization of the Holy Roman Empire through the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss . With the Peace of Amiens (1802) between Great Britain and France the war was finally over.


The First Coalition War had brought about a considerable expansion of French influence, particularly through the victories of Napoleon. Numerous areas, such as the Dutch area and the Rhineland on the left bank of the Rhine, belonged to the French sphere of influence. Subsidiary republics had emerged in the Netherlands , Italy and Switzerland . The Kingdom of Sardinia was occupied. France had also taken possession of the Ionian Islands and was thus able to intervene in the Balkans . In Ireland , France supported the anti-British insurgents.

The Battle of Abukir (painting by Thomas Luny [1834])

The war against Great Britain was not over yet. Against this background, Napoleon's campaign in Egypt came about to threaten British rule in India with the conquest of Egypt and to secure French hegemony in the Mediterranean. On the way there, Napoleon conquered Malta , which was owned by the Order of Malta . Napoleon was successful on land. But since Horatio Nelson’s victory at Abukir (August 1 and 2, 1798), he and his army were isolated in the Middle East.

The Russian Emperor Paul I was the Grand Master of the Order of Malta and therefore took part in its fate. In particular, however, he wanted to prevent the French from advancing further into the Mediterranean. Despite continuing political differences, Russia concluded an alliance with the Ottoman Empire in December 1798 . France had already declared war on France because of the attack on Egypt, which was part of the empire. Shortly afterwards, an older Russian-British alliance was renewed. First, a provisional contract was signed on December 18th. In June of the next year a contract for a joint expedition to the Netherlands followed. In Austria, where the creation of French subsidiary republics was seen as a threat, an alliance with Russia was also beginning to be considered. At first only a Russian army of 60,000 men was allowed to march through Habsburg territory to Italy. The troops arrived in the Austrian sphere of influence in February. France saw this as a breach of the peace and declared war on Austria on March 12, 1799.

Also Portugal and the Papal States were part of the alliance. Prussia joined under its new King Friedrich Wilhelm III. but not on.

For the smaller imperial estates, especially in southern Germany, a new war seemed to offer the possibility of reversing the intentions of secularization and other resolutions that had come to light at the Rastatt Congress . After the Austrians and Russians had initially been successful, the imperial war against France was renewed, which had not formally ended. The Reichstag voted among others, the financing of 100 Romans months to. In contrast, the Prussian-dominated northern German imperial estates refused to break their neutrality and took part in the war neither financially nor with troops. Therefore, the success fell short of expectations. Of the imperial estates, in particular Kurbayern , Württemberg and Kurmainz took part .

The campaigns of 1799

The domestic political and military organizational situation in France was difficult. The army was numerically weaker than in 1793/94. There were also riots in some areas. The operational troops of 250,000 men were scattered along the long borders from Holland to Naples.

Location in southern Italy

The alliance of the coalition also joined the Kingdom of Naples , which saw itself threatened by the French expansion in Italy. At the insistence of Queen Maria Karolina , the country rose prematurely against the French in 1798. The Austrian General Mack marched on Rome with 80,000 men , the French commander Jacques MacDonald had to withdraw from the city with his 6,000 men. On December 5, 1798, however, the Neapolitans were defeated at Porto Fermo when they attacked the French at Civita Castellana. As a result, mutinies broke out among Mack's forces. On December 14th, MacDonald was again ruler of Rome. He was given command of the troops that captured Naples in early 1799, but was ordered to vacate the country again. The French troops remained successful in southern Italy, and the Parthenopean Republic was formed in January 1799 . King Ferdinand III. had to flee to the island of Sicily .

Central Europe around 1800

War on the Upper Rhine, first battle for Zurich

French troops under General Masséna advanced over Swiss soil to the Rhine at the beginning of March . With 12,000 men, the French planned to penetrate the Montafon and pushed back the Austrians in Graubünden . On March 6, Masséna tried to force the crossing over the Rhine at several points between Bregenz and Maienfeld. At the same time, the French Danube Army under General Jourdan with 45,000 men crossed the Rhine at Kehl and Basel and invaded southern Germany, 77,000 Austrians under Archduke Karl opposed the enemy on the Upper Danube. After the lost battle near Ostrach (March 21), the French troops withdrew via Pfullendorf on a line Singen - Engen - Tuttlingen - the Austrian troops followed. On March 25, the battle of Stockach broke out , and again the main Austrian power was able to push back the French, who retreated to Villingen.

The French Helvetic Army under General Masséna had around 25,000 men at its disposal in the Zurich area, and its vanguard threatened Vorarlberg . On March 7, the Austrians under Field Marshal Lieutenant Baron Hotze tried to throw back the French division Oudinot , which was threatening Feldkirch . On March 22nd and 23rd, the French were successfully opposed by the Austrian Landsturm under General Jelačić in the Battle of Feldkirch . Archduke Karl united on the territory of the Helvetic Republic with the corps of Generals Bellegarde and Hotze and forced the outnumbered French to retreat to the western bank of the Limmat by June 7, 1799 in the First Battle of Zurich .

On August 14, 1799, a Russian auxiliary corps under General Korsakow arrived to reinforce the Austrians in Schaffhausen . Archduke Karl then tried to encircle the French in central Switzerland. In the second half of September, a French corps under Soult attacked Hotze's troops between Lake Zurich and Lake Walen . The French under Massena won the second battle of Zurich on September 26 and drove the remains of the coalition troops from the territory of the Confederation.

War in Northern Italy

Battle of Novi (painting by Alexander Kotzebue)

In northern Italy, the French under General Schérer took the offensive and threw back the Austrian vanguard in the battle at Pastrengo (March 6) and before Verona. On March 26th he planned to attack the opposing camp of Pastrengo with three divisions (Serrurier, Delmas and Grenier), at the same time two other divisions were to hold the Austrian forces at Verona , while the Montrichard division went on the offensive at Legnago ( Battle of Verona (1799 ) ). The Austrian commander, Baron Kray, passed the Adige near Verona on April 5th with the whole army and preceded Scherer with a counterattack in the battle of Magnano .

On April 8, the first corps of the Russian Army under General Rosenberg's infantry had arrived in Villach . He continued his march on the 11th and reached Valeggio on the 15th . After it had come to the union with the Austrian army under General Melas, the Russian field marshal Alexander Suvorov was entrusted with the general supreme command. Between April 25 and 27, the French army under Moreau was severely defeated in the Battle of Cassano on the Adda . After further skirmishes at Pozzo and Voprio, the surrender of Serrurier's division on April 28, the allied army moved into Milan on April 29 . The French had to go back partly over the Ticino , partly at Piacenza over the Po and only held a few fortresses. The Italian subsidiary republics collapsed.

To prevent Moreau from uniting with the French army under MacDonald, which was coming from southern Italy for reinforcement, Suworow turned to Tortona and was able to occupy Turin on May 26th . MacDonald's army was also defeated in the Battle of the Trebbia (June 17 and 20, 1799) and had to retreat to the Riviera . The Austrians under Baron Kray besieged the strategically important city of Mantua with insufficient forces . On the march to relieve this fortress, the French under General Joubert were defeated by Suvorov and Melas in the battle of Novi (August 15, 1799). Suvorov restored the Kingdom of Sardinia in contradiction to the Austrian war aims, but then withdrew to Switzerland to support Rimsky-Korsakov.

General Championnet was appointed the new commander of the French Italian army at the end of August. On September 1, the previously independent command under General Grenier was designated to lead the left wing of the independent Corpes des Alpes . The goal of the French was to secure the connection from the Rivera to the fortress Cuneo for the supplies. Championnet arrived in Genoa on September 22nd, attempted a counter-attack, but was defeated by the Austrians in the Battle of Genola (November 4th). On the evening of November 26th the siege of Coni opened; which surrendered after a short bombardment on December 3rd. Austrian troops under Klenau and Hohenzollern advanced via Chiavari on the Ligurian coast and on December 15 attempted a failed coup on the French garrison of Genoa near Albano.

Suvorov's Alpine march, Second Battle of Zurich

Second battle near Zurich (painting by François Bouchot [1837])
Suworow crossed the Panixer Pass in 1799

As a result, Suvorov was to support the Second Russian Army under Alexander Rimsky-Korsakov in the conquest of the rest of Switzerland and to unite with it. On September 25, Suworow still had his troops on the Gotthard and near Andermatt and had to fight his way further against Lecourbe and his generals Gudin and Loison . But on September 25 and 26, Rimsky-Korsakov and Hotze were crushed by Massena in the Second Battle of Zurich . The remnants of their armies fled across the Rhine.

There was no getting through for Suworow on Lake Lucerne near Flüelen . So he crossed the Kinzigpass into the Muotathal , where the rushing Massena blocked his way. Only then did Suvorov receive news of Rimsky-Korsakov's defeat.

The Russian vanguard under Bagration fought their way over the Pragel Pass towards Glarus and Niederurnen . At that time, however, no more merger with the Austrians could be established at Weesen . The Russian troops in Graubünden were not only exhausted, but since the French had reoccupied the Gotthard, Suvorov had to expect a possible encirclement. So on October 5th he decided to cross over Elm and the Panixer Pass , from where he withdrew to Austria with the remains of his army. The Russian Alpine march ended with no military or political benefit, although the achievements made by Suvorov's army in its course have made military history.

British-Russian invasion of Holland

Under the command of the Duke of York , about 20,000 British landed at Callantsoog on August 27, 1799 under Lieutenant General Sir Ralph Abercromby . The invasion troops were landed on the transport fleet under Admiral Popham and covered by ships of the line under Admiral Duncan . The aim was to neutralize the Batavian fleet, which was already poorly capable of war, and to rebel the supporters of the former governor William V of Orange, who was present with the landing troops .

The Batavian defense under Herman Willem Daendels could not hold out long against the British naval artillery on the fortifications of Den Helder and had to withdraw. The promises of the Duke of York succeeded on 30 August 1799, the surrender in Vlieter , the majority of the Dutch fleet to take over after Rear Admiral story the Batavian Texel -Geschwader with 3,700 men and 632 guns in the Zuiderzee without a fight to Admiral Andrew Mitchell passed would have.

The French commander-in-chief, General Brune , had quickly brought the division under Vandamme from Friesland and ordered the Dumonceau division to initiate the counterattack at Alkmaar on 9 September . The French-Batavian army was now superior with around 23,000 troops, although that changed after the Russian auxiliary corps under Lieutenant General Hermann von Fersen had reinforced the British to around 40,000 men, but an attempt to break out near Krabbendam near Alkmaar failed on 10. September. The Batavian-French troops succeeded in taking back positions they had already lost in the Battle of Bergen op Zoom on September 19 . Its flank was secured by floods. The area between Alkmaar and Zuiderzee could thus be defended with a small number of troops. The rest of the army, reinforced with fresh troops, was concentrated between Langedijk and the sea. Schoorldam , Oudkarspel and Koedijk were also fortified.

When, on October 6, 1799, the Battle of Castricum failed to force a breakthrough, the Duke of York decided to retreat. He saw no possibility of stable winter quarters in the landing area and signed the Alkmaar Convention with General Brune on October 18 , an armistice on free withdrawal. After the prisoners of war had been exchanged, the allied troops were embarked again by November 19.

Political changes

The coalition's main problem was its different interests and goals: Great Britain wanted to prevent Russia from penetrating the Mediterranean Sea, and Austria saw its position of power in northern Italy threatened by the successes of Suvorov. The Russian leadership felt that the Austrians were only using Russian military successes for their own interests. Paul I attributed the defeat of the Russian troops to a lack of Austrian support. The Russian alliance with Great Britain fell apart over disagreements over Malta . Therefore, Russia left the alliance in October 1799.

A year later Russia formed an alliance of "armed sea neutrality" directed against Great Britain with the Nordic states and Prussia. In this context, Prussia annexed the Electorate of Hanover, which was in personal union with England . The British fleet under Admiral Nelson destroyed the Danish fleet on April 2, 1801 in the naval battle of Copenhagen .

General Bonaparte before the Council of Five Hundred at Saint-Cloud on November 10, 1799 (painting by François Bouchot from 1840)

With the departure of Russia, the war on land weighed on Austria as well as on Bavaria and Württemberg.

In the meantime Napoleon Bonaparte had returned to France from Egypt . With the coup d'état of 18th Brumaire VIII (November 9th 1799) he succeeded in seizing power in France and establishing the consulate as a new form of government. He made unsuccessful offers of peace based on the peace of Campo Formio. Austria did not want to go into this because it should have given back territories regained from the first phase of the war. The then leading Austrian politician Johann Amadeus Franz von Thugut misjudged the situation and expected a domestic political crisis in France. Despite warnings, he stuck to the war course in view of the favorable military situation.

The 1800 campaigns

Battle of Marengo (painting by Louis-François Lejeune [1802])

Campaign to Marengo

In May 1800 Napoléon crossed the Alps with his army at the Great St. Bernhard Pass and reached the Po Valley at the end of May. While the Austrian commander-in-chief General Michael von Melas stood with the main power on the upper Po and occupied Turin , the corps of Field Marshal Lieutenant Ott maintained the siege of Genoa , where a French garrison under General Masséna was defending. In the meantime Napoleon turned east, crossed the Ticino and occupied Milan on June 2nd . A counterattack by the Austrians on Casteggio was repulsed by General Lannes in the battle of Montebello (June 9th), at Stradella the main French power initially took a firm position. On June 13, Napoleon Bonaparte advanced into the Tanaro plain near Alessandria , and two divisions under General Victor occupied the village of Marengo. The French defeated the Austrians under Melas on June 14, 1800 in the Battle of Marengo and forced the enemy to conclude the Convention of Alessandria, which led to the evacuation of the Cisalpine Republic by the Allies.

Battle of Hohenlinden (painting by Henri-Frédéric Schopin (1835))

Campaign to Hohenlinden

From mid-February 1800 the French tried again to cross the Rhine and threatened Vorarlberg . Archduke Karl was replaced in March 1800 as Commander-in-Chief in southern Germany by General Pal Kray , who left Vienna on March 5 and arrived at his headquarters in Donaueschingen on March 17 . The main Austrian army still in assembly was about 95,000 strong and was concentrated in positions between Liptingen and Stockach . The 120,000-strong army under General Moreau crossed the Rhine from April 25 to 28 at Strasbourg , Breisach and Basel . After the French troops had crossed the Rhine, the Austrians withdrew from Singen on May 1 , units of the French Vandamme division occupied the Württemberg fortress of Hohentwiel . On May 3, Kray's troops were defeated in the battles of Engen and Stockach , a little later after the defeats at Meßkirch and in the second battle at Biberach , Kray was forced to cross the Danube back to Ulm .

By July 14th, the French occupied Chur and all of Graubünden again . At the beginning of June they began to advance across a width from Strasbourg to Lake Constance with about 120,000 men to southern Germany. On June 18, French troops took Munich , the Austro-Bavarian troops under Baron Kray withdrew behind the Inn , only Wasserburg , Mühldorf , Kraiburg and a few other places on the Inn and Salzach were held and fortified as bridgeheads. Around 105,000 French soldiers took up positions between Erding and Ebersberg . Defeated again in the Battle of Höchstädt on June 19, General Kray was finally replaced by Archduke Johann on July 31.

The French commander -in- chief Jean-Victor Moreau concluded the Parsdorf armistice with Kray on July 15 . But since there was no result of the peace negotiations despite the extension of the armistice, Moreau took up the fight again. A newly formed Austrian army under Archduke Johann was defeated on December 3, 1800 in the Battle of Hohenlinden and on December 14, 1800 in the Battle of Walserfeld (also known as the Battle of Salzburg). As a result, the Steyr armistice (December 25, 1800) was concluded. Austria was completely defeated, England isolated, and Russia had already moved closer to France.

End of war

Austria and the Holy Roman Empire

On February 9, 1801, the Peace of Lunéville ended the war between France, Austria and the Holy Roman Empire. The peace essentially meant a return to the Peace of Campo Formio, that is, the restoration of French supremacy in Italy. Austria was forced to officially recognize the subsidiary republics and the earlier French acquisitions (such as the areas on the left bank of the Rhine and the Austrian Netherlands). In addition, the Habsburg secundogenitures in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Duchy of Modena came under French control. Replacement for the previous rulers should be created from secularizations .


Russia had officially made peace with France as early as the autumn of 1801. It came to agreements on a territorial reorganization in Germany. The Prussian-Austrian dualism made it easier for the two powers to implement fundamental changes in the structure of the empire. Both wanted to strengthen the middle states at the expense of the two German great powers. The changes were negotiated at the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss . The main results have already been anticipated through treaties between France and the various German states. Russia and France agreed on a compensation plan. The deputation of the Reichstag could no longer change anything essential. Thus the secularization of the Germania Sacra and the mediatization of the small imperial estates in favor of the middle states were a consequence of the Second Coalition War.


In September 1800, besieged Malta fell to the British. After the defeat at Siena on January 14, 1801, Naples had to make peace. Portugal was attacked by Spain in May 1801 and had to surrender.

In England the government was pushed to peace against the backdrop of economic problems. In February 1801, the Pitt government was overthrown . The next Whig Prime Minister , Henry Addington , began peace negotiations. The British forced the remnants of the French army in Egypt to surrender. General Menou had the supreme command of the French troops after the murder of Kléber , but was completely defeated on May 21 at Alexandria by the English general Ralph Abercromby and had to sign the surrender on August 30.

The Second Coalition War finally ended with the Peace of Amiens between France and England on March 27, 1802. Both parties renounced. England promised to give up Egypt and Malta and recognized the "natural borders" of France. France renounced future colonial acquisitions. The peace did not last long. War broke out again between Great Britain and France as early as 1803, and the Third Coalition War followed in 1805 .


  • Arthur Dürst (Hrsg.): Atlas Suworow  : Atlas of the campaign of the imperial Russian troops in Switzerland until 1799 . Werd, Zurich 2000, ISBN 978-3-85932-313-1 (= facsimile).
  • Katja Frehland-Wildeboer: Loyal friends? The Alliance in Europe, 1714–1914 (= Studies on International History , Volume 25). Oldenbourg, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-486-59652-6 , p. 30f. (Revised dissertation University of Heidelberg 2007, 478 pages).
  • Jürg Stüssi-Lauterburg et al .: World history in the high mountains . Merker Effingerhof, Lenzburg 2010
  • Charles J. Esdaile: The French Wars, 1792-1815. New York 2001, pp. 17-24
  • Francis Smith: The Wars from Antiquity to the Present. Berlin et al. 1911, pp. 517-523
  • Karl Otmar von Aretin : The Old Empire. Vol. 3. The Reich and the Austro-Prussian dualism. Stuttgart 1997
  • Manfred Botzenhart: Reform, Restoration and Crisis. Germany 1789–1847. Pp. 24-27
  • Elisabeth Fehrenbach : From the Ancien Regime to the Congress of Vienna. Munich 2001
  • Gerhard Taddey (ed.): Lexicon of German history . People, events, institutions. From the turn of the times to the end of World War II. 2nd, revised edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 1983, ISBN 3-520-81302-5 , pp. 666-667.

Web links

Commons : War of the Second Coalition  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Katja Frehland-Wildeboer: Loyal friends? The Alliance in Europe 1714–1914. Munich 2010, p. 171
  2. Karl Otmar Aretin: The Old Empire. Vol. 3. The Reich and the Austro-Prussian dualism. Stuttgart 1997, p. 469
  3. Karl Otmar von Aretin : The Old Empire. Vol. 3. The Reich and the Austro-Prussian dualism. Stuttgart 1997, p. 472