Blog category: Napoleonic Wars
October 1, 2021
Marshal Emmanuel de Grouchy was a skilled cavalry officer who had a long career of service in the French army. This record has been overshadowed by accusations – originating with Napoleon and his followers on Saint Helena – that Marshal Grouchy was in large part responsible for Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. After Waterloo, Grouchy went into exile in the United States, where he began the frustrating process of defending himself against allegations of incompetence, cowardice and treachery.
May 15, 2020
The telegraph used by France during the Napoleonic Wars was an optical system based on the use of semaphore signals. When the Chappe semaphore telegraph was introduced during the French Revolution, it revolutionized communications by dramatically reducing the length of time it took for messages to travel. Although the semaphore telegraph was costly and could not operate at night or during bad weather, it was used for over 60 years, and paved the way for the introduction of the more efficient electrical telegraph later in the 19th century.
October 4, 2019
In the Battle of Jena, fought on October 14, 1806, in what is today Germany, the French army led by Napoleon Bonaparte defeated the Prussian army led by the Prince of Hohenloe in a quick and decisive engagement. Further north, near Auerstädt, French marshal Louis Nicolas Davout dealt a similar blow to the Prussians under the Duke of Brunswick and King Frederick William III. Here are two accounts of the battle.
April 19, 2019
Napoleon Bonaparte wasn’t the first or the last leader to steal art from conquered territories, and he wasn’t the largest wartime looter, but he and his troops pillaged art on a vast scale. What did they take and what happened to Napoleon’s looted art?
October 19, 2018
The Battle of Leipzig, fought from October 16 to 19, 1813 in Saxony (Germany), was the largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars. Over half a million soldiers were involved. Napoleon Bonaparte and his army of roughly 200,000 men were defeated by over 300,000 soldiers from the armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria and Sweden, led by Russian Tsar Alexander I and Austrian field marshal Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg. Because of the number of countries involved, the Battle of Leipzig is also known as the Battle of the Nations. It was the biggest battle in Europe prior to World War I.
September 7, 2018
The Battle of Borodino, fought on September 7, 1812, was the bloodiest single day of fighting in the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon had marched his Grande Armée into Russia in June of 1812. He hoped to quickly engage the Russian army, win a decisive victory, and force Tsar Alexander I to agree to his terms. However, the Russians kept retreating, setting fire to military stores, crops, and towns along the way. Napoleon had counted on his troops being able to forage for sustenance, but as they were drawn further into Russia, they became increasingly reliant on overstretched supply lines. By September, Napoleon – who had entered Russia with more than 400,000 soldiers, one-third of them French, the rest from French-occupied or allied territories – had lost a third of his men to starvation, straggling, desertion and disease.
October 20, 2017
At the Battle of Trafalgar, fought off the southwest coast of Spain on October 21, 1805, a British fleet led by Vice Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson defeated a combined French and Spanish fleet under Vice Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve. It was the most decisive naval battle of the Napoleonic Wars. More than 4,800 people were killed, including Lord Nelson, and over 3,700 were wounded. The majority of the casualties were French and Spaniards. Traveller Robert Semple described the horrible scene at Cádiz, the closest Spanish port, a week after the battle.
August 25, 2017
In the Battle of Dresden, fought on August 26-27, 1813, French troops under Napoleon Bonaparte defeated a much larger Austrian, Prussian and Russian force commanded by Austrian Field Marshal Karl Philipp Schwarzenberg. The battle took place on the outskirts of Dresden, then capital of the Kingdom of Saxony, in what is today Germany. Captain Jean-Roch Coignet, a grenadier in Napoleon’s Imperial Guard, takes up the tale.
July 8, 2016
Somewhere in the range of 3.5 million to 6 million people died as a result of the Napoleonic Wars, which lasted from 1803 to 1815. This includes both military and civilian casualties, and encompasses death from war-related diseases and other causes. Estimates of the number of soldiers killed in battle range from 500,000 to almost 2 million. What happened to all of those bodies? What did Napoleonic battlefield cleanup entail?
June 19, 2015
Napoleon winning the Battle of Waterloo is one of the ten most popular scenarios in English-language alternate history, and the most popular one in French. The Waterloo “what if?” pops up repeatedly in alternate history forums and has been the subject of numerous books, stories and articles. Broadly speaking, exploring what might have happened if Napoleon had won at Waterloo involves pursuing one or more of the following questions.
June 5, 2015
On June 18, 1815, Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo by a coalition of British, German, Dutch-Belgian and Prussian forces led by the Duke of Wellington and Prussian Field Marshal Gebhard von Blücher. As a result of this defeat, Napoleon was removed from the throne of France and spent the rest of his life in exile on the remote South Atlantic island of St. Helena. There he had plenty of time to reflect on the last battle he ever fought. What did he say about it?
May 8, 2015
What happened to Napoleon’s officers after the Battle of Waterloo? In 1815-16, some 20,000 officers who had served under Napoleon were removed from active service, given reduced salaries and placed under tight restrictions. They became demi-soldes, France’s half-pay veterans of the Napoleonic Wars.
We must confess that fate, which sports with man, makes merry work with the affairs of this world.