The Fall of Napoleon: Volume 1, The Allied Invasion of France, 1813-1814

Overview

This book tells the story of the invasion of France at the twilight of Napoleon’s empire. With over a million men under arms throughout central Europe, Coalition forces poured over the Rhine River to invade France between late November 1813 and early January 1814. Three principle army groups drove across the great German landmark, smashing the exhausted French forces that attempted to defend the eastern frontier. In less than a month, French forces ingloriously retreated from the Rhine to the Marne; Allied forces...
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Overview

This book tells the story of the invasion of France at the twilight of Napoleon’s empire. With over a million men under arms throughout central Europe, Coalition forces poured over the Rhine River to invade France between late November 1813 and early January 1814. Three principle army groups drove across the great German landmark, smashing the exhausted French forces that attempted to defend the eastern frontier. In less than a month, French forces ingloriously retreated from the Rhine to the Marne; Allied forces were within one week of reaching Paris. This book provides the first complete, English-language study of the invasion of France along a front that extended from Holland to Switzerland.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Leggiere has made a significant contribution to Cambridge's 'Military Histories' series. His book belongs in every military history collection, especially those that concentrate on the Napoleonic era."
- Library Journal

"The Fall of Napoleon is already a major work on the subject, and there's every reason to believe Volume 2 will be just as good."
- www.europeanhistory.about.com

"...Leggiere has set the bar quite high." -Ralph Ashby, H-France

Library Journal

Here is the first English language-authored account of the military campaign that brought Napoleon to his knees. In December 1813, the once powerful French legions were ensconced on the west bank of the Rhine. Dual defeats in Russia and at Leipzig had left the Grande Armée in disarray. Napoleon struggled to refurbish his ranks. Along the east bank of the Rhine, over 300,000 Prussian, Austrian, Russian and English troops were poised to strike at the heart of the French Empire. Thus begins Leggiere's re-creation of a complex series of maneuvers that placed Coalition troops at the gates of Paris by the end of January 1814. Through the impressive use of archival materials (including private collections), Leggiere (history, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport; Napoleon and Berlin) unravels troop movements that ranged from Holland to Switzerland and reveals the indecision and conflicting strategies that often plagued both sides. When French forces were finally cornered at Chalons-en-Champagne the overconfident Allies began bickering over their plans for a defeated France. They failed to take into consideration the military genius of Napoleon, who by the end of February was to teach his opponents a lesson in humility that will be the subject of the next volume in this superb study of Napoleon's fall. Leggiere has made a significant contribution to Cambridge's "Military Histories" series. His book belongs in every military history collection, especially those that concentrate on the Napoleonic era.
—Jim Doyle

From the Publisher
"Leggiere has made a significant contribution to Cambridge's 'Military Histories' series. His book belongs in every military history collection, especially those that concentrate on the Napoleonic era."
- Library Journal

"The Fall of Napoleon is already a major work on the subject, and there's every reason to believe Volume 2 will be just as good."
- www.europeanhistory.about.com

"...Leggiere has set the bar quite high." -Ralph Ashby, H-France

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781107683501
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2014
  • Series: Cambridge Military Histories Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 704
  • Sales rank: 420,778
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 1.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr Michael V. Leggiere is an Associate Professor of History at Louisiana State University in Shreveport. He received his PhD from Florida State University in April 1997 after studying at the Institute of the French Revolution and Napoleon under the direction of D. D. Howard. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Strategy and Policy for the United States Naval War College's Distance Education program, where he teaches strategy and policy during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras. His book, Napoleon and Berlin: The Franco-Prussian War in North Germany, 1813 (2002), the first volume of the Campaigns and Commanders series, won the Société Napoléonienne Internationale's 2002 Literary Award. Dr Leggiere has published numerous essays on various aspects of Napoleonic history, Prussian military history, and the German Wars of Liberation. His article, “From Berlin to Leipzig: Napoleon's Gamble in North Germany, 1813,” which appeared in the January 2003 volume of the Journal of Military History, won the Society for Military History's 2004 Moncado Prize for Excellence in the Writing of Military History. In 2005 he received la Société Napoléonienne Internationale Legion of Merit Award for Outstanding Contributions to Napoleonic Sciences.
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Read an Excerpt


Cambridge University Press
978-0-521-87542-4 - The Fall of Napoleon - Volume I The Allied Invasion of France, 1813–1814 - by Michael V. Leggiere
Excerpt



1

The New Charlemagne



Starting in 1797 with his first conquest of a great power, Austria, Napoleon Bonaparte built an empire greater than those of Caesar, Charlemagne, and Hitler. When he crowned himself emperor of the French in 1804, he was master of a France that dominated Italy, Switzerland, the left bank of the Rhine, and the Low Countries. Whether conquered by him or by the forces that Revolutionary France unleashed on Europe while Bonaparte was a mere junior officer, Napoleon presented himself to the French people as the guarantor of the gains of the Revolution, be it territory or equality before the law. By the beginning of 1806, he had defeated the European powers in no less than three coalition wars. His aggrandizement, partly the cause of these wars and partly the result of them, brought Napoleon new laurels. He was king of Italy, protector of the Confederation of the Rhine, and mediator of the Swiss. Ancient and historic cities such as Rome, Geneva, Brussels, Antwerp, and Amsterdam belonged to France proper, and Naples, Milan, Venice, Mainz, Frankfurt, and Hamburg were among those of the Grand Empire. Following another victorious war in 1806–7, Napoleon distributed the crowns of Europe to his siblings. Joseph became the king of Spain, Caroline the queen of Naples, Louis theking of Holland, and Jerome the king of Westphalia. By 1808, Napoleon was master of Europe.

   Of his rivals, Bonaparte defeated Austria in 1797, 1801, and 1805 – worse was yet to come for Vienna in 1809 after a fourth war with France ended in failure. Prussia challenged the French emperor only once, lost, and was almost erased from the map of Europe. After feeling the bite of three failed wars against France, Russia also made peace with the self-proclaimed child of the Revolution. In July 1807, Napoleon met with Tsar Alexander I to negotiate an end to the War of the Fourth Coalition. During the many talks that produced the monumental Treaty of Tilsit, the two monarchs established a general entente, which to the rest of Europe appeared to be an unholy alliance. Essentially, the two emperors agreed to divide Europe between Russia and France, and each pledged to help the other pursue foreign policy objectives. For Napoleon, this meant Russian assistance in his perpetual struggle with Great Britain.

   Napoleon inherited an Anglo–French rivalry that had locked the two countries at war since early 1793. After a short truce in 1802, London continued its policy of financing Bonaparte’s enemies to wage war against him. Seemingly, the British wanted to restore the balance of power in Europe by forcing France to surrender conquests such as the Low Countries. Yet London wanted a balance of power that left Great Britain master of the seas and with a clear monopoly on global trade. By destroying Bonaparte’s fleet in October 1805, the British slammed the door on Napoleon’s dreams of ever defeating the Royal Navy and invading Great Britain. Thus, Napoleon had to devise another strategy to defeat his great foe. By all accounts a genius, the French emperor understood the essence of his problem. He realized that as long as the British continued to buy allies on the Continent, he would be forced to fight enemy coalitions every few years. Although he could not defeat the British militarily, he planned to crush them financially. Waging economic warfare to destroy the British economy became his strategy in late 1806. If he could wreck British finances, London would be denied the funds to pay the Continental powers to wage war against France. Ideally, the British merchants would be so hurt they would demand a change from a pro-war, anti-French cabinet to a pro-peace government that might be willing to cut cards with Bonaparte. He thus formulated the Continental System – a mammoth plan and undertaking. Accordingly, all European ports would be closed to British goods in an economic boycott. Any British goods found on the Continent would be seized as contraband. To make this ambitious plan work, Napoleon needed tight control of Europe’s ports. Pursuit of this objective led him down the path of committing his two greatest mistakes: the Peninsular War in Iberia and the invasion of Russia.

   By 1808, only Portugal, a staunch British satellite, continued to trade with Great Britain. Despite numerous French threats, Portuguese ports remained open to British shipping. Napoleon responded by invading Portugal. After securing Spain’s agreement to assist the French with the conquest of Portugal in return for a slice of the Atlantic state, Napoleon unleashed his legions. Early in the war, his generals reported that the Spaniards were not complying with their treaty obligations. No friend of the Bourbon dynasty, a branch of which still ruled Spain, Napoleon arranged for the arrest and forced abdication of Spain’s royal family. In the aftermath of what amounted to abduction and highway robbery, Napoleon awarded the Spanish crown to his older brother, Joseph. The Spanish reacted violently not so much to the usurpation of their throne but to fears the French would place restrictions on the Catholic Church of Spain. Rioting that French troops failed to quell erupted in Madrid. Soon a guerilla war spread throughout the country. Meanwhile, the French army reached Portugal, marching into Lisbon just as the Portuguese royal family sailed away with the state’s treasury.

   Taken together, the invasion of Portugal and the suppression of Spain are known as the Peninsular War. A broad range of insurmountable problems confronted Napoleon during this bloody conflict, which consumed the flower of his Grande Armée between the years 1808 and 1814. First and foremost, the emperor could not conduct the war personally. Concern over central Europe kept Bonaparte at Paris for most of the first year of the war, but French reverses eventually forced him to venture across the Pyrenees. Second, he never fully grasped the brutal nature of the guerilla war in Spain, which he referred to as his “bleeding ulcer.” Third, the British ultimately changed policy and committed their small but highly trained army to the Continent. Supported by the Royal Navy, British land forces established a foothold in Portugal, united with the Portuguese army, and eventually drove out the French. Under the command of Arthur Wellesley, the duke of Wellington, the Anglo–Portuguese army crossed the Spanish frontier to add to the French military’s deplorable situation. Finally, French defeats in Spain and Portugal brought hope to the conquered peoples of central Europe. Napoleon’s setbacks in Iberia eroded the belief of French invulnerability. Russia and Prussia remained neutral, but Austria made another attempt to restore its shattered power in the 1809 War of the Fifth Coalition. Although another French victory, the conflict proved Napoleon could not turn his back on the rest of Europe to wage war in Spain – his marshals and generals would have to get the job done.

   As the war raged in Iberia, Franco–Russian relations steadily deteriorated. Before departing for Spain in the fall of 1808, Napoleon hosted the Erfurt Conference from 27 September to 14 October. He hoped to bolster the 1807 agreements made with his ally, Alexander, and gain the tsar’s assurance that the Russian court would do everything in its power to maintain the status quo in central Europe. Alexander insincerely agreed. The Russians neither participated in the War of the Fifth Coalition as France’s ally nor did they attempt to stop the Austrians through diplomacy. A few strong words to the Prussian court sufficed to keep Berlin from intervening, but that was the extent of Russia’s involvement.

   Other issues widened the rift between the emperors of the West and East. The Russian imperial family snubbed Napoleon when he came calling for a Romanov princess to be his second wife. Not forgetting the affront, he simply moved on to the Habsburgs, who gratefully offered Marie Louis, the daughter of Kaiser Francis I. Because of the Austrian marriage, it appeared Vienna would replace St. Petersburg in Bonaparte’s power-sharing structure. Nagging complaints by the tsar over the mistreatment of relatives whom Napoleon had driven from the thrones of minor German states as well as insincere efforts on the part of the French to assist Russia in its perpetual war with the Ottoman Empire kept the embers of Franco–Russian relations smoldering. The final issue came when Alexander announced that he would pull Russia out of the Continental System, which had become the bane of Europe. Although the economic warfare hurt the British, it ruined the economies of Napoleon’s satellites and allies. Domestic unrest over its financial hardships prompted Alexander to open Russia’s ports to British trade. Despite Napoleon’s warning that this would constitute an act of war, the Russian tsar followed through with his plan. In 1811, both Napoleon and Alexander prepared for war.

   On 24 June 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia with his multinational Grande Armée – almost 600,000 strong with contingents from every continental European state west of the Russian frontier, including Austria and Prussia. Bonaparte personally led the main force toward Moscow. One week after the badly mauled Russian army limped away from the fields of Borodino, French forces entered the Russian capital. Napoleon attempted to negotiate a peace, but Alexander ignored him. Faced with the onset of winter, Napoleon ordered the fateful retreat to begin on 19 October. His main army finally staggered toward the Prussian frontier with barely 7,000 men under arms; over two-thirds of the Grande Armée had perished in six months. The emperor left the army on 5 December and raced back to Paris to rebuild his decimated forces and rehabilitate his shattered prestige.

   Tsar Alexander was committed to carrying the war into central Europe and building a Russian-dominated coalition to liberate Europe, reestablish the balance of power, and expand his own empire.1 Ever since Napoleon created the Grand Duchy of Warsaw in 1807, the tsar had eyed the rump Polish state with covetous intentions. He secretly desired to annex the majority of Poland by way of a personal union with Russia. Napoleon’s disaster provided the opportunity to pursue this dream. He acknowledged the tremendous ramifications these plans would have on Europe, especially because the other eastern powers would undoubtedly object and Napoleon would seek revenge. “Making public my intentions on Poland will certainly drive Austria and Prussia into the arms of France,” he noted on 13 January 1813.2 Consequently, Alexander needed to weaken Napoleon’s influence as much as possible to eliminate French resistance to a Romanov Poland. His designs required Russia to wage war to reduce French power. Because of the losses his own army suffered, he needed allies: Prussia seemed the logical choice.

   Although indecision seized the Prussian government, the army acted. General Hans David Ludwig von Yorck, the commander of the Prussian contingent of the Grande Armée, negotiated the Convention of Tauroggen on 30 December 1812 with the Russians. By doing so, Yorck neutralized his corps and personally took the first step in breaking Prussia’s alliance with France. Moreover, the East Prussian frontier now lay open to the advancing Russian army. According to all serious accounts, Yorck proceeded without Berlin’s authorization, and King Frederick William Ⅲ was quick to renounce his general’s rebellious act. Regardless of the royal repudiation, forces the Hohenzollern monarch could not control were at work. An East Prussian provincial assembly convened, declared war on France, and issued a call for recruits. Caught between France and Russia, Prussian State Chancellor Karl von Hardenberg engaged in damage control. Initially he hoped to negotiate with Napoleon to restore Prussia’s independence, but Tauroggen and the events in East Prussia tied his hands. Not averse to war with Napoleon, Hardenberg first sought to place Prussia in the best possible situation before taking that fateful step. Uncertain of the tsar’s intentions and apprehensive over the price the Russians would demand to liberate Prussia, Hardenberg feared Prussia would become a Russian satellite, merely exchanging one foreign overlord for another. As a result, he requested Austria join Prussia in an armed neutrality to mediate between France and Russia. Should the Austrians refuse, the Prussians wanted Austria’s formal support of a Russo–Prussian alliance in a desperate attempt to somehow commit Vienna to Berlin. However, Austrian Foreign Minister Clemens von Metternich recognized that an Austro–Prussian bloc would frustrate his own plans to arbitrate between Napoleon and Alexander. Metternich rejected an Austro–Prussian partnership and merely encouraged a Russo–Prussian alliance without offering Austria’s formal support. After this failure, Hardenberg turned to the Russians, hoping for fair alliance terms.3

   Although the tsar needed a Continental ally, he held the advantage when direct negotiations opened with the Prussians. From the start, the Russians made it very clear that they would be the senior partner in any Russo–Prussian alliance. After Alexander divulged his intentions regarding Poland, the fate of Prussia’s Polish provinces became a point of contention. Concessions from both sides finally cleared the way for the signing of the Treaty of Kalisch on 28 February 1813. According to the terms, Alexander vowed to restore Prussia’s pre-1806 material strength, and Frederick William acknowledged he would cede much of his Polish territory to Russia in return for compensation in Germany. The British did their part to bolster the new alliance by promptly dispatching material aid.

   Frederick William issued a formal declaration of war against France on 16 March 1813. Three days later, on 19 March 1813, the Russians and Prussians signed the Treaty of Breslau in which Alexander affirmed his agreement to restore Prussia to its pre-1806 status and renounced his plans to annex East Prussia as stated in the 1812 Russo–Swedish Convention of Abo. He also relinquished his dream of reuniting all of Poland under the Russian monarchy. As for now, the tsar promised Frederick William enough Polish territory to connect East Prussia with Silesia. Prussia would be compensated in Germany for the loss of other Polish territory: Saxony became the target.

   As for the Austrians, Prince Karl Philip zu Schwarzenberg, the commander of the Austrian Auxiliary Corps attached to the Grande Armée during the Russian campaign, signed an agreement with the Russians on 30 January 1813. Similar to the Russo–Prussian Convention of Tauroggen, the pact neutralized Schwarzenberg’s corps and allowed it to withdraw through the Grand Duchy of Warsaw to the Austrian province of Galicia. Schwarzenberg had opened negotiations with the Russians on 20 December, but, unlike the Prussians, Metternich directed the entire affair from Vienna. Both he and Schwarzenberg properly notified the French High Command that Austria was withdrawing from the war.4 Although bitter, the French could do nothing, and the Austro–Russian agreement, although long in coming, was no surprise. For the moment, Austria stood as an armed neutral, endeavoring to mediate between Napoleon and Alexander. Metternich’s complex national security objectives meant Austria remained a wildcard; neither side could count on Vienna’s support. He initially wanted to keep war far from Austria’s frontiers until the army completed an extensive rearmament. Austria’s treaty with France, solidified by the marriage of the emperor’s daughter to Napoleon, also influenced decision making in Vienna. Although not bound to Bonaparte because of the marriage, Metternich felt Austria had to pursue a peaceful resolution before breaking a treaty with France because, according to German historian Thomas Nipperdey, “Austria’s whole existence rested on the ‘sanctity’ of treaties.” Thus, Metternich carefully extricated the Austrian Auxiliary Corps from its treaty obligations with France. In addition, the popular undertones of the Prussian mobilization and nationalist agitation in Germany alarmed the foreign minister. As far as he was concerned, the war would not be a “people’s war, not a revolutionary nationalist war of patriots and emancipators, and certainly not a crusade. It would be a war of states to restore the balance of power in Europe…a war fought by politicians and diplomats with rational and clearly limited goals.” Any “revolutionary nationalist sentiments” had to be harnessed and directed to serve the purposes of a cabinet war. “Only this,” concludes Nipperdey, “would serve the security and power interests of the dynastic, artificial state of Austria.” Agreement over war aims and the future European order were more important to Metternich than throwing the resources of Austria behind either belligerent to achieve victory.5

   Because of the dynastic ties between France and Austria, the French emperor hoped Vienna would remain neutral or even ally with him. A decisive French victory over the Russians and Prussians certainly would impress Kaiser Francis, whose multinational state had been ravished by Napoleon’s treaties on four previous occasions. As for the Russians, their councils of war had been divided for some time. Although Alexander fashioned himself the liberator of Europe, many Russian commanders opposed carrying the war into central Europe and expressed concerns over their tenuous supply lines. Crushing the Russian army on the battlefield amid so much disagreement would have put them to flight, similar to the aftermath of Napoleon’s great victory over them at Austerlitz in 1805. Little question surrounded Prussia’s fate: Frederick William would lose his throne and perhaps see Prussia partitioned in the event of another disastrous war against Bonaparte.

   To achieve this victory, Napoleon rapidly rebuilt his army. Of the 600,000 men and 1,300 guns of the Grande Armée of 1812, only 93,000 men and 250 pieces returned from Russia. With remarkable speed, Bonaparte fielded the 140,000-man Army of the Main. Together with the Army of the Elbe, French forces amounted to 202,000 combatants by the end of April 1813. Napoleon began his counteroffensive on 30 April by leading 120,000 men across the Saale River to confront the Allied army in Saxony, where he achieved victories on 2 May at Lützen and 22 May at Bautzen.

   Austria finally acted in early June. Instead of entering the war, Vienna proposed an armistice, which the belligerents signed at Pläswitz on 4 June. Subsequent negotiations extended the cease-fire to 10 August with a further six-day suspension of hostilities. Napoleon hoped the respite would allow him to rebuild his cavalry and rest his exhausted army, whose sick list numbered 90,000 men. He also sought a diplomatic coup by either splitting the allies or convincing Kaiser Francis to support France. The Allies, too, needed time to rest, reorganize, secure more subsidies from London, and court the Austrians.

   Diplomatically, the armistice proved disastrous for Napoleon. London used gold to cement a new coalition – the Sixth. British granted subsidies to the Prussians and Russians amounting to £7,000,000. In return, Alexander and Frederick William pledged not to sign a separate peace with Napoleon. To increase Allied combat power, the British also ratified a generous subsidy treaty with Sweden. For 30,000 Swedes to fight on the continent, London granted Sweden a £1,000,000 subsidy, naval support in Sweden’s war against Denmark for possession of Norway, and held out the possibility of Stockholm’s acquisition of Guadeloupe.

   Although willing to negotiate with Napoleon, the Allies demanded harsh terms. On 16 May, Hardenberg and Russian Foreign Minister Karl Robert von Nesselrode had expanded the Kalisch–Breslau war aims to include the dissolution of the Confederation of the Rhine (known as the Rheinbund) and the liberation of Spain, Holland, and Italy. Metternich agreed in principle with these terms yet believed the Allies would have to offer a minimum program to attract Napoleon to the peace table. Moreover, he sought to undermine the cornerstone of the Russo–Prussian alliance – the exchange of Prussian Poland for Saxony – which challenged Austria’s national security objectives of limiting Prussia’s influence in Germany and restraining Russian expansion in central Europe. Although unaware of the details, the Austrians knew of the tsar’s desire for Poland. Metternich feared the Russians planned to make extensive changes to the map of central Europe that would destroy the balance of power and threaten Austrian national security more than Napoleonic France. He suspected Alexander would offer Francis conquered French provinces in return for his Polish provinces: specifically, Alsace for Galicia, which the Austrians would not accept.

   Metternich used this opportunity to push his own peace plan, which not only added perplexing questions concerning Italy and Illyria but jeopardized the compromise between Russia, Prussia, and Great Britain. His blueprint called for Russia and France to retire behind their respective frontiers of the Vistula and the Rhine Rivers and remain separated by an independent and strengthened central Europe. Metternich wanted to weaken Napoleon and force him to relinquish control of Italy and Germany. Conversely, the Austrian statesman would demand that Napoleon cede territory to restore Austria and Prussia to their respective 1805–6 material status. In this way, no provinces would remain to compensate either for the cession of their Polish provinces to Russia. In Metternich’s opinion, France had to remain strong enough to counter Russian ambition. He did not think the twin goals of destroying the French Empire and preventing Russian hegemony could be achieved. As a result, Austrian politics during the War of the Sixth Coalition sought to reduce French predominance and prevent Russian preponderance. This produced friction between Russia and Austria throughout the war and determined the various factions within the Allied camp. Alexander emerged as the leader of the hawks, and Metternich stood as master of the bloc that favored peace.

   Napoleon’s victory at Bautzen strengthened the Austrian position. Over the next month, Metternich worked to convince the Allies to offer Bonaparte a program of minimum demands as the basis for opening peace negotiations. On 27 June, the Austrians, Prussians, and Russians signed the Convention of Reichenbach, which authorized the Austrian minister to present a minimum program to Napoleon as the conditions for a peace conference. The Reichenbach Protocol demanded the end of French control over the Grand Duchy of Warsaw and its partition, Prussia’s expansion eastward, the return of the Adriatic coast (Illyria) to Austria, and the independence of the Hanseatic cities in North Germany. Should Napoleon refuse these terms, Austria would join the Sixth Coalition with at least 150,000 men and fight for the harsher, maximum program as formulated by Hardenberg and Nesselrode. In July, Metternich presented the Reichenbach Protocol to Napoleon, who refused to make any major concessions for peace after defeating the Russo–Prussian army twice. During the course of a nine-hour discussion, Napoleon confessed to Metternich that he, the self-proclaimed son of the Revolution and a nonlegitimate monarch, simply could not present himself to the French people as a defeated man. With the collapse of their self-serving diplomatic initiative, the Austrians joined the Sixth Coalition in August. For the first time in Napoleon’s career, France faced the combined efforts of Europe’s other great powers.6

   Metternich secured the supreme command of all Allied forces for his compatriot, the forty-two-year-old Schwarzenberg. Besides serving as Allied commander in chief, Schwarzenberg also commanded the main Allied army: the 252,200 men of the Army of Bohemia. Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte, the former French marshal and adopted crown prince of Sweden, received command of the 150,000-man Army of North Germany. The Prussian Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher led the 87,000 soldiers of the Army of Silesia.7 Subsequent negotiations produced the Trachenberg Plan. Accordingly, the three Allied armies would form a wide arc around French forces in Saxony and only engage detached enemy corps; pitched battles with Napoleon were to be avoided. Should the emperor concentrate against any one army, it would retreat while the other two converged on his flanks and communications. The plan sought to overcome Napoleon’s advantage of interior lines by splitting and exhausting French forces. Initial agreements called for Schwarzenberg’s army to concentrate in the Bohemian mountains and confront French forces in either Saxony or Silesia. Bernadotte’s army would assemble south of Berlin, cross the Elbe River at the end of the armistice, and march on Leipzig; Blücher would lead his army from Silesia into Saxony.

   With 77,000 soldiers garrisoned in fortresses on the Elbe, Oder, and Vistula Rivers, Napoleon still managed to field an army of 422,000 men to face 530,500 Allied soldiers. He planned to open the campaign with an operation against Berlin. Napoleon assigned the task of capturing the Prussian capital to Marshal Nicolas-Charles Oudinot, who received command of the 70,000-man Army of Berlin. To facilitate Oudinot’s operations, the emperor placed 130,000 men under the command of Marshal Etienne-Jacques-Joseph-Alexandre Macdonald. Situated in two lines on the Katzbach and Bober Rivers, this force, later christened the Army of the Bober, shielded Oudinot’s right flank. The emperor himself led his remaining forces east to destroy Blücher. Although anxious to grapple with Napoleon, Blücher honored the Trachenberg Plan and withdrew into Silesia. After the Silesian Army eluded him, the emperor learned Schwarzenberg was advancing on Dresden. He instructed Macdonald to hold the Silesian Army east of the Bober River and immediately departed for Dresden. Despite the emperor’s orders, Macdonald continued the offensive. On 26 August, Blücher smashed the marshal’s army as it attempted to cross the rain-swollen Katzbach. Macdonald lost 15,000 men, and his army collapsed in the aftermath.

   Meanwhile, Oudinot’s army advanced toward Berlin along three roads that prevented mutual support. Despite Bernadotte’s willingness to sacrifice the city, his corps commanders stopped the French army on 23 August a few miles south of the Prussian capital. A disheartened Oudinot retreated fifty-five miles south to Wittenberg. His headlong retreat exposed Macdonald’s communications and limited Napoleon’s operations by uncovering the rear of the Grande Armée. A disgusted Napoleon commented that few could be as stupid as Oudinot; he relieved the luckless marshal and placed Marshal Michel Ney in command of the Army of Berlin.

   Upon reaching Dresden, Napoleon found the entire Bohemian Army stretched before the Saxon capital. At Frederick William’s urging, Schwarzenberg elected to accept battle rather than retreat. During two days of heavy fighting on 26 and 27 August, the emperor inflicted 35,000 casualties on the main Allied army. Schwarzenberg retreated into the mountains of Bohemia during the night of 30 August pursued by General Dominique-Joseph-René Vandamme’s I Corps. As Vandamme engaged the Russians, General Friedrich Heinrich von Kleist’s Prussian Ⅱ Corps surprised the French at Kulm. Vandamme, himself taken prisoner, lost approximately 15,000 men.

   East of Dresden, Blücher pursued Macdonald’s beleaguered army. His pressure required Napoleon’s personal intervention to save the marshal. Bonaparte repulsed the Silesian Army’s advance guard on 4 September and monitored Blücher’s movements throughout the next day. Realizing Napoleon himself commanded the attack on the 4th, Blücher again withdrew eastward. Sensing his adversary had escaped, Napoleon ordered the Ⅵ Infantry and I Cavalry Corps to begin the march to Berlin. Although he had hoped to unite with Ney and personally command the offensive against the Prussian capital, Napoleon was forced to abandon these plans after reports arrived of Schwarzenberg’s renewed advance toward Dresden. Napoleon recalled the two corps and sped back to the Saxon capital; Ney continued the operation against Berlin. On 6 September, the fiery marshal attempted to smash through the Prussian Ⅲ and Ⅳ Corps at Dennewitz, forty miles south of the Prussian capital. This battle proved to be a disaster for the Army of Berlin. Ney’s losses amounted to 21,500 men. Although the Prussians lost 9,700, Ney’s army collapsed during the ensuing retreat across the Elbe.

   These Allied victories further cemented the alliance against France. On 7 September, the three eastern powers signed the Teplitz Accords. The general terms called for the material restoration of Austria and Prussia to their pre–1805–6 material status; the restoration of the states of northwestern Europe to their 1803 status; the dissolution of the Rheinbund; the independence of the German states between the Rhine and the western frontiers of Austria and Prussia; and the partition of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw along lines that would be determined later. All three governments vowed not to make a separate peace with Napoleon, and each agreed to keep an army in the field until the end of the war.8

   Although something could be found in the Teplitz Accords that satisfied each eastern power, Metternich achieved another victory. The stated goal of the alliance was not the ultimate destruction of France. For Austria’s geopolitical interests, Metternich needed to retain a powerful and preferably Napoleonic France to help contain Russia. The accords ignored Italy, Holland, and Spain; Metternich figured he could use these issues later to coerce the British into accepting his designs for central Europe. More important, the people’s war now had become a cabinet war, a war of the great powers. “The aim of the war,” contends Nipperdey, “was not emancipation, freedom, or even national unity; it was order and the restoration of a balance of power. This was possible, of course, because in the last analysis, Russia and Prussia were also antirevolutionary powers.”9 Yet Teplitz was not a total victory for the Austrians, and Tsar Alexander recovered some of the diplomatic initiative he lost to Metternich during the armistice.10 Both Prussia and Austria remained dependent on Russia to secure their postwar objectives. For Prussia, Frederick William could take comfort in the fact that as long as he remained loyal to the tsar, Prussian influence in Germany would increase, despite the Austrians.





© Cambridge University Press
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Table of Contents

1. The new Charlemagne; 2. Barbarians at the gate; 3. The Frankfurt proposals; 4. Napoleon and the French; 5. The left bank; 6. The right bank; 7. The lower Rhine; 8. The upper Rhine; 9. The middle Rhine; 10. Alsace and Franche-Comté; 11. The Vosges and the Saône; 12. Lorraine; 13. The Saar and the Moselle; 14. Belgium; 15. The Marne; 16. The Aube, Bourgogne, and the Rhône; 17. The protocols of Langres.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2010

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