Napoleonic War

Napoleonic War was a period of 22 years, from 1793 to 1815 Britain waged war with France.

For a period of 22 years, from 1793 to 1815 Britain waged war with France. There were two brief respites, in 1802-3 and 1814. What began as a war to check Franceís avowed intention of carrying her revolutionary aims beyond her frontiers, had became, by 1800, a war to check the grandiose ambitions of her self-crowned Emperor, Napoleon I.

Napoleon Bonaparte, or 'Boney' as the British quickly nicknamed him, not only changed the map of Europe during the years of his ascendancy, he also challenged all the great orthodoxies and established ideas and attitudes of his time. He sought to humble the crowned heads of Europe and to become its sole master; but for the British sea-power, the grit and determination of Wellington's Peninsular army, and Napoleonís own folly in marching into the great wilderness of Russia in 1812, he would undoubtedly have succeeded.

A general at the age of 26, an Emperor at 30, Napoleon was a strategist of genius, shrewd in politics and bold in military situations, who achieved his success by consistently defeating his enemies on the battlefield. By 1802 only Britain thwarted his schemes for European domination. So, in that year he signed a treaty with the British government (The peace of Amiens) whilst secretly making plans for an invasion of Britain.

Thousands of flat-bottomed boats were made ready to transport his crack troops across the English Channel but even after hostilities had reopened (Addingtonís government finally realising the folly of trusting Napoleonís proffered friendship), the invasion never came. The French fleet could not break the stranglehold, which the British navy had over operations in the channel. Finally, he broke up his invasion camp near Boulogne, where 150,000 men awaited embarkation, and turned his intentions eastwards.

Shortly afterwards, the British Mediterranean Fleet, commanded by Lord Nelson, put an end once and for all to Napoleonís dream of invading Britain when it destroyed the French and Spanish Mediterranean fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805.

Thereafter, Napoleon sought to bring Britain to her knees by destroying her foreign trade. In 1806 he issued the Berlin Decrees forbidding all countries under his control to trade with Britain, or accepts foods from any ship that had visited a British Port. Britain retaliated by claiming the right to seize any ships believed to be bound for French ports; this led to bad feelings developing between Britain and the United States of America, which culminated in short, but bitter, war between the two countries (1812-14).

Napoleonís decision to invade Russia in the summer of 1812 and his subsequent retreat from Moscow through the bleak mid-winter snows, cast the lives of some 450,000 French troops and, ultimately cost napoleon his Empire. By the winter of 1813 Wellingtonís Peninsular army was battling its way doggedly through Spain and towards the French border (which it finally crossed early in 1814), and the armies of Britainís allies were closing in for the kill from the east.

Napoleon abdicated in 1814, and was banished to the island of Elba. The 'little Corsican' had finally been put in his place: the congress of Vienna set out to restore some kind of order and stability to the European political scene. Then came news that Napoleon was once again on French soil and raising an army, having made one of the most remarkable comebacks in history.

The Battle of Waterloo, described by the Duke of Wellington, commander of the allied army, as "the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life", finally sealed Napoleonís fate. He was exiled to St.Helena, and there died in 1821.


1793 - Toulon
1793-1795 - The Campaign in Flanders
1793-1797 - The Campaigns in the West Indies
1798 - The Irish Rebellion
1799 The Helder Campaign
1799-1806 - The Campaigns in India
1801-1802 - The Campaign in Egypt
1806-1807 - Buenos Aires
1808-1814 - The Peninsular War
1809 - Walcheren
1812-1815 - War in America
1815 - The Battle of Waterloo

Prince's, Duke's, Commander's, etc.

Napoleon Bonaparte
Sir Arthur Wellesley 'The Duke of Wellington'
Sir John Moore
The Prince of Orange
Marshal Blucher