A Brief Analysis Of the Napoleonic Wars

Post by Zach G
(Image by shotput )

“The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos. The winner will be the one who controls that chaos, both his own and the enemies.” -Napoleon Bonaparte

Countless stories, myths, battles, years, and lives have been changed by what can be justly called the most influential figure in European history, Napoleon Bonaparte.  Small rebellious Corsican man becoming the first consul of France was thought to be impossible, it is.  Here, this paper will look at his life, battles, and how he changed Europe.


Born in Corsica, a small island nation off the coast of southern France in the Mediterranean, in 1769, this man would be raised in a French-Corsican rebellion aided by his father that was started to remove the French military presence and to win back independance.  It failed, and shortly after the fighting ended, Napoleon was sent to a French military academy to study and train.

While studying in France he gained knowledge and confidence as the long haired, artillery man called Bonaparte, he was fascinated by the guns and learned all he could. He was a foreign outcast, not accustom to the noble French ways of life at the time but was used to the fervor of the French revolts and hatred of the king.  Unliked by his blue blooded French classmates, Bonaparte studied.

Shortly after the American War of Independence, the French began their revolution to overthrow the king, Louis the XVI (16th).  With the revolution underway, Napoleon was given a battery of cannons to subdue a mob of royalists.  Knowing he had to prove himself and his belief in the power of artillery, he won with minimal casualties, and, after his defence won out the day, he was given command of the army of Italy.


In order to understand the genius of Napoleon, one must understand what he tried to accomplish, during the era, war was fought by cavalry and infantry, while they had cannons they were not used in mass.  Napoleons idea was that with a combined force of cavalry and artillery, you could win a battle.

With France still in flames Napoleon left and began his conquest of Italy, the mission was to remove the Austrian presence from Italy.  He began taking forts and beating the Austrians, with his quick victory over the Austrians, Napoleon was given higher ranks and higher standing the nobility, not much was gained from the invasion, except for the early French Austrian hate, which later on, would haunt Napoleon.

Upon returning home from Italy Napoleon was seen and treated like a hero ought to be.  With all of his new support and military might, Napoleon attempted something drastic, a traitorous plot to steal the crown and became First Consul of the new French Republic.  By leading a militant overthrow of the French government system and being voted in as ruler, Napoleon Bonaparte, a foreigner and war hero, became Ruler of France


Being close to the action, and yet not fighting in it directly, the British Isles were not involved fully until the later years of the Napoleonic Wars.  Led by the hero of the army, Lord Arthur Wellesley.  His involvement in Spain during the Peninsular war to remove the French from Spain, French forces led by none other than Napoleon’s brother. Gave him the title of Lord of Wellington after the battle of Talavera.  Also, Lord Horatio Nelson, naval commander won battles in Trafalgar, crippling the French navy and creating more problems for Napoleon and his followers.


Placed to the far east, they saw little action but when they did it was most notably at the battle of Austerlitz, a massive defeat for the Austrian – Russian forces to Napoleon, and the retreat from Moscow.  After Napoleon’s campaign to conquer Russia, the vacant and cold city was started on fire by supporters of the Tzar, and so, a food storage and retreat through the cold and harsh Russian wilderness began where Napoleon was ultimately defeated by losing nearly all but a handful of his Grand Army.


Being geographically closest to the fighting, the Austrians were first to face Napoleon on his Italian campaign and lost the Italian states to his forces, seeking revenge they fought and were in a consonant belligerent state with each other until his the end of the Napoleonic Wars.  Prussia, located just North of the Austrians and a major milit in the wars, was notable for its general, Von Blucher and his quick wrap up of the battle of Waterloo in 1815, the last Napoleonic War.


After becoming the emperor of France, and bringing glory to Italy and seizing Spain.  Surrounding countries realized the threat this manman posed to their stable monarchies, and formed coalitions.  Napoleon set out to conquer Russia and defeated the coalition, he won major victories at Austerlitz and the battle of Moscow, and also the epic retreat from Russia.  Shortly after the retreat, which is the sole reason Napoleon was defeated, France was assaulted and Napoleon surrendered, his punishment was being banished from France onto a small Island in  the Mediterranean called Elba.  But, he was restless, and the people wanted him back, so he came.


The massive battle of Waterloo was Napoleon last stand with Michael Ney, his closest friend and second in command.  It occurred in 1815 and saw the end of the Grand Army, Napoleon’s generals, and Consulship.  In brief, the massive battle was determined by the battles at Quatre Bras and when the retreating Prussian army led by none other than Von Blucher, and Arthur Wellesley on the main army, the British.

The battle was lost by the French, therefore ending Napoleon the I reign, and banishing him to the Atlantic where he died shortly after due to poor health.  After the wars, Europe became more controlling of the monarchies and the French revolution was officially over for every other nation, and all land was given back to the original rulers.

Napoleon is often seen as the most important and life changing European.  He in many ways was spreading ideas and glory.  Vive l’Empéreur (long live the emperor) would be sung by his soldiers before, after, and in cities after battles and his supporters forever recognizing one the only French Consul and what they thought was, master of Europe.


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3 thoughts on “A Brief Analysis Of the Napoleonic Wars

  1. Very detailed. Lots of time was spent on this.
    Question…In a historical world view is Napoleon considered by most to be good or evil?

    1. Well… From 1803-1815, the casualties of the wars were anywhere from 3,000,000 to 6,500,000. Leaders at the time probably thought he was the anti-Christ.

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