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1805-1806 - War of the Third Coalition

France had lost her colonial empire in the eighteenth century, and it was the fond hope of Bonaparte that he might restore it and thus rival England in commerce and upon the seas. To this end Bonaparte began a series of enterprises which embraced every quarter of the globe North and South America, Africa, India and the East, and Australia. He secured the cession of Louisiana from Spain, and sent an army to recover Haiti, where the blacks had'successfully risen against their oppressors.

In all these schemes he was checkmated by England, but on the continent of Europe he was hindered by nothing more serious than protests in reaping the fruit of the wars of the French Revolution. He reconstituted upon the new French lines the Batavian Republic, the Cisalpine Republic (which became the Italian Republic), and the Ligurian Republic (1801-02). He extended the bounds of France, which already had the Rhine, the Pyrenees, and the Alps as her frontiers, by the annexation of Piedmont and Parma in 1802. He was actively concerned in the reorganization of Switzerland and of Germany in 1803. The Treaty of Aranjuez (March 21, 1801) bound Spain to France, while Portugal, the faithful ally of England, was humbled by the Treaty of Badajoz (Sept. 29, 1801).

Bonaparte's colonial schemes were frustrated by yellow fever, which destroyed General Leclerc and his army in Haiti and forced the Consul to sacrifice Louisiana to the United States (1803) and abandon his dream of empire beyond the seas.

Pique at this disappointment hastened Bonaparte into the predetermined rupture with England. A casus belli was found in the question of Malta, which England refused to surrender in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Amiens. Mortier occupied Hanover, of which George III was King. Gen. Gouvion Saint-Cyr was ordered to occupy the Kingdom of Naples, an ally of England, to offset the occupation of Malta. The French army was mobilized in six divisions and stationed along the Channel from Ostend to Brest.

War existed from May 16, 1803, but actual hostilities did not begin until over two years later. In the meantime England recalled Pitt to office (May 1804). Pitt's great service consisted in securing allies and in forming the Third Coalition against France. In this work he was aided by Bonaparte's blunders, the most notable of which was the execution of the Due d'Enghien (March 21, 1804), in retaliation for the Royalist plots of Pichegru and Georges Cadoudal. On the day of Pitt's return to power Bonaparte was offered the title of Emperor by the French Senate, and on Dec. 2, 1804, he was crowned Emperor as Napoleon I at Paris in the presence of Pope Pius VII. On May 26, 1805, he was crowned at Milan King of Italy.

A few days later followed the last of his series of aggressions, which provoked Austria and Russia into the alliance with England, the annexation to France of the Ligurian Republic (June 4). A month later Russia and England signed their alliance against Napoleon, and on August 9 they were secretly joined by Austria. Sweden, Portugal, andf Naples were practically, though not formally, parties to this coalition.

For two years Napoleon had been dallying with a scheme for the invasion of England. In the camps along the Channel he had organized, equipped, and drilled his famous Grand Army, composed largely of veterans of the wars of the Revolution, and at Boulogne special preparations had long been under way for an attack upon England. The summer of 1805 seemed the propitious time for the attack, and Napoleon made elaborate dispositions for obtaining naval control of the Channel and for the transportation of an army of 160,000 men from Boulogne to the Kentish* coast. The French fleet under Villeneuve, however, was outmanoeuvred and outfought by the English under Cornwallis, Calder, and Nelson.

By the middle of August, 1805, the scheme had become impossible of execution. Napoleon, however, had foreseen this possibility; his other acts had already provided him with another chance to employ his army, and he had worked out in his mind the plan of his most brilliantly successful campaign, that of Austerlitz. On August 29 the Army of England was officially denominated the Grand Army and divided into seven corps under Bernadotte, Marmont, Davout, Soult, Lannes, Ney, and Augereau, with the cavalry under Murat and the Imperial Guard under Bessiercs, in all about 220,000 men under the personal command of the Emperor, with Berthier as chief of staff. War was declared against Austria on September 25, and the next day the movement of the Grand Army into southern Germany began.

On the part of Austria the Archduke Charles, with over 90,000 men, the best general and the largest army, was intrusted with operations in Italy, where 50,000 French troops were under the command of Massena, while the smaller Austrian army, under the command of the Archduke Ferdinand and General Mack, invaded Bavaria and occupied the untenable line of the Danube and the Iller with headquarters at Ulm. This move left Austria almost bare of troops. Making a feint at repeating Moreau's tactics of 1796 in attempting to turn Mack's left, Napoleon ordered the actual attack to be made on the right. Bernadotte and Marmont occupied Munich, Davout and Soult seized Augsburg, while Ney and Lannes occupied Giinzburg and operated to the north of Ulm. Mack made three fruitless attempts to extricate himself, but after defeats at Wertingen, Memmingen, and Elchingen (October 14), he was forced to capitulate with 33,000 men on October 20.

Though the Archduke Ferdinand escaped, Napoleon's forces were thus able to advance directly to Vienna, which he occupied on November 13. The Russian forces which had been advancing to support Mack were forced to fall back into Bohemia, where the various divisions were united under the command of Kutusoff and joined by part of the Austrian forces. Napoleon marched northward to meet them, and on December 2 won his greatest victory, Austerlitz. The campaign of Ulm and Austerlitz was won by Napoleon's knowledge of the value of time, the whirlwind rapidity of his movements, and the precision of his combinations. The battle of Austerlitz was won by a masterly use of artillery. The vanquished Emperor Francis I of Austria humbled himself before Napoleon in the Treaty of Pressburg (December 26) and consented to large cessions of territory, including the former Venetian dominions, Tirol (given to Bavaria), etc. The overthrow of Austria resulted in the formal dissolution of the old Holy Roman Empire (Aug. 6, 1806).

What Austerlitz was for Napoleon on land, Trafalgar was for England on the sea. After a brief rest at home, Nelson had been ordered out to attack Villeneuve, who with the combined, French and Spanish fleets sailed out of Cadiz and met Nelson off Cape Trafalgar. England's greatest sea fighter won the greatest naval battle of the century, but lost his life (Oct. 21, 1805). After this the French were able to do nothing at sea, and the ports of both France and her allies were generally blockaded by the English fleets.

England was undisputed mistress of the seas, while Napoleon began to remake the map of Europe as though he were the undisputed master of the Continent. The most important changes during the year 1806 were the formation under his protection of the Confederation of the Rhine, the establishment of his brother Joseph as King of Naples and of his brother Louis as King of Holland, and the creation of the Grand Duchy of Berg for his brother-in-law Murat.

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Page last modified: 13-09-2012 19:13:16 ZULU