Napoleon against Britain: 1800-1802

The contention among France and England, constantly at battle beginning around 1793, tends consistently towards impasse. While the two nations share a lot in common, their strengths are very different. 11 million people make up Britain’s population, compared to 27 million in France in 1801. Britain’s wealth, derived from a more developed economy and extensive overseas trade, and maritime superiority outweigh this disadvantage. France had 23 line ships in 1803; There are 34 in use and 77 in reserve in Britain.

Because of these factors, the majority of the British contribution to any war in continental Europe against France is limited to funding allied armies.

This strange naval conflict between France and Britain is more of a coast war than a sea war. The British navy, which is in charge of the seas, has always been concerned about causing harm to France and her allies by preventing merchant ships other than British ships from reaching continental ports. Additionally, preventing British ships from entering those very ports is a constant concern of the French armies, which command the land.

This type of economic warfare hurts third parties as much as everyone else, especially after Britain adopted the policy of seizing goods carried by ships of neutral nations that are headed for a blockaded harbor.

Russia, Sweden, and Denmark form the League of Armed Neutrality in December 1800 in response to their outrage over this British policy and the diplomatic pressure exerted by Napoleon. British ships are barred from entering the Baltic ports. When the Danes take Hamburg, the main port for British trade with the German states, the embargo gets even stronger.

England answers by sending a maritime armada into the Baltic. Nelson assumes command and sails into Copenhagen harbor’s shallow and well-defended waters. The fleet commander sends a signal for Nelson to withdraw during the intense fighting—the famous moment when he turns his blind eye to the world.

In this battle of Copenhagen, Nelson damages the shore defenses and destroys many of the ships in the harbor. His triumph prompts the Danes to wipe the slate clean in May. Sweden does as such around the same time, and Russia follows after accordingly in June.

Britain and France are the only two nations that are still fighting, just as they were after Campo Formio. According to the English perspective one insult actually should be corrected. In Walk 1801 an armada is sent through the Mediterranean to assist the Turks with ousting the French from Egypt. June sees the surrender of the French command in Cairo, and August sees the surrender of Alexandria.

Now, both sides are worn out. There find been provisional harmony talks since February. Terms are concurred in October, stopping threats. The harmony is endorsed in Amiens in Walk 1802.

Napoleon’s arbitrators in all actuality do well for France. All overseas territories that Britain has taken over the past nine years, including a number of West Indian islands, are given back to the French. In a similar manner, Minorca returns to Spain, and Holland takes over the Cape colony in South Africa. However, Britain retains Trinidad (previously Spanish) and Sri Lanka, which it acquired from the Dutch. Egypt is to be Turkish once more. The Knights of St. John will be given back Malta, which was taken by Britain in 1800 after Napoleon took it in 1798.

The peace of Amiens: 1802-1803

Harmony is enthusiastically welcomed by Europeans kept from the delights of movement – especially the English, cooped up in their island for a really long time, who presently run across the Channel to appreciate by and by the joys of Paris. But this is just to show that there is still time. The long rivalry between Britain and France has not been resolved, and each government soon has a lot to complain about in the other during the time of peace.

Napoleon bothers the English by neglecting to permit the soul of amicability into the commercial center. His refusal to concur a business deal implies that English shippers are punished by high duties in French and united ports. They come to the conclusion that war is not more profitable than peace.

In the mean time Napoleon cautions the English government by his expansionist conduct in locales not covered by the arrangement – for instance in his addition of Piedmont in 1802, to overcome any barrier among France and the Cisalpine republic.

By not adhering to the provisions of the Amiens Treaty, Britain provides France with additional grounds for complaint. She will withdraw from Malta as agreed upon. Her inability to do so would be legitimate in current eyes by the communicated perspectives on the Maltese. The local assembly passes a resolution inviting George III to become their sovereign on the condition that he upholds the Roman Catholic faith on the island. They are terrified at the thought of the Knights of St. John returning.

However, in diplomatic negotiations at the beginning of the 19th century, local residents’ wishes have little weight. Additionally, Britain is undoubtedly in violation of the treaty because it retains possession of the island.

Napoleon gripes yet tries not to press the issue really close to threats. Although he is not yet prepared for a return to war, it is likely that his long-term plans for Britain are not peaceful. He especially needs time to build up his fleet. Britain favors an early conflict renewal based on the same logic. In May 1803, the British government declares war on France for no very good reason other than long-term self-interest.

The war at sea: 1803-1805

After the resumption of hostilities in May 1803, only Britain and France are at war for two years. Napoleon resumes his plan for an invasion across the Channel from 1798, but this time on a much larger scale.

In ports from Brest to Antwerp he accumulates an armada of almost 2000 specialty for the vehicle of men, ponies and mounted guns. In 1803, he forms what would later be known as the Grand Army, which consisted of approximately 150,000 men who camped out (to avoid being noticed) in four camps that were far apart, but were prepared to meet at any time at Boulogne for embarkation. In the mean time the English, very much aware of the danger, are spotting their south coast with the round fortresses known as Martello towers.

The initial strategy of Napoleon’s fleet was to launch on a single tide and cross the Channel unnoticed, perhaps in fog, to evade the British navy. In any case, this is unrealistic for such huge numbers. He requires a fleet that can defend the invaders.

In December 1804, Napoleon convinces Spain to join him in the war against Britain, gaining the Spanish navy’s support. The British fleet, or at least a portion of it, must now be diverted from guard duty in the Channel as part of his strategy.

French and British squadrons crisscrossed the Atlantic between the West Indies and the European coast in 1805 in an effort to outwit and second-guess each other. This led to a maritime game of cat and mouse. With the crude correspondences of the day, it is troublesome in any event, for united armadas to accomplish an expected meeting in far off waters. Definitely Napoleon’s to some degree elaborate plans go uncontrolled.

In August the consolidated French and Spanish armada, under the order of Villeneuve, pulls out to Cadiz. However, three British liner ships are already keeping an eye on the port. The urgent request for reinforcements is sent. Nelson arrives at the end of September to assume command.

Villeneuve sets sail from Cadiz on October 19 with the intention of traveling south and entering the Mediterranean. He has 33 boats of the line. Nelson follows his movements from a distance of several miles out to sea, keeping his 27 line ships out of sight and receiving information from his frigates via signal.

Nelson shut in, off Cape Trafalgar, on the morning of October 21. Just before noon, the battle begins. Nineteen Spanish and French ships have surrendered or been destroyed five hours later, with no British losses. However, Nelson is dead; a sniper shot from the Redoutable’s topmast killed him on the Victory’s deck.

Although Napoleon maintains ships of the line in readiness in French harbors, forcing Britain to incur the significant expense of establishing permanent blockades, Trafalgar confirms Britain’s reputation on the sea and prevents the French fleet from playing a significant role in the remaining years of the war.

Napoleon now resorts to the longer-term strategy of securing the continent against British goods in the policy that comes to be known as the Continental System in his battle with Britain. However, in the meantime, some of his previous foes are retaliating with violence, and he is back in his element on the European battlefields.

The Continental System: 1806-1807

By preventing British goods from reaching any market in continental Europe, Napoleon’s Continental System aimed to ruin Britain’s economy. It is not an attempt to starve an island enemy into submission, as in modern warfare.

Taught in the eighteenth century mercantilist school of financial matters, Napoleon accepts that countries flourish fundamentally through abundance procured abroad. Therefore, despite the fact that a shortage is already posing a significant challenge to his adversary in the form of high bread prices, he allows surplus French corn to be sold to Britain in 1809 and 1810. However, if it were possible to make it watertight, a complete blockade of British exports would be extremely detrimental in and of itself.

Napoleon starts to construct his framework when he is wintering in Berlin in the wake of overcoming the Prussians at Jena. He issues the Berlin Decree in November 1806, prohibiting ships coming from Britain or a British colony from entering the ports of France and her allies.

Because it does not stop a neutral ship from bringing British goods in, this proves to be insufficient. At Fontainebleau in October 1807, and in Milan a month after the fact, Napoleon adds additional provisions: Unless some other certificate of origin is presented, all colonial goods entering a port will be considered British; If seized at sea, any ship that complies with British council orders or is sailing to or from Britain will be considered a legal prize.

Britain’s response to the decrees that established the Continental System were the orders in council, which were issued in January and November 1807. The British government states in them that any port considered to be under blockade now has to be closed by this system; furthermore, that any vessel exchanging into such a port must initially get a permit from England, paying traditions of 20% or more on its freight. These measures and countermeasures have a particularly negative impact on neutral ships, which now run the risk of being captured by the British at sea and by the French at port.

In the meantime, from Napoleon’s perspective, the immediate practical issue is ensuring that every coastal European nation joins his plan.

Denmark, Russia, Prussia, and Austria had done so by the end of 1807. Sweden, a British ally since the beginning of the Third Coalition, refuses to comply, so Russia invades her in February 1808, as planned at Tilsit.

Russia may be in charge of protecting the Baltic, but France is clearly in charge of protecting the Iberian Peninsula. Spain is a weak ally of France and typically acts only under pressure. Portugal is best described as a neutral nation that adores Britain. Napoleon is tempted by this unfavorable circumstance to undertake a task that is detrimental to his cause in the Iberian peninsula and ultimately contributes to his downfall.

Vimeiro to Corunna: 1808-1809

There are two reasons why the Peninsular War of 1808-1814 is significant in British history: Until the final campaign in 1815, this was the only significant land-based involvement of British troops in the Napoleonic Wars; Additionally, it is the platform on which the Duke of Wellington rises to national prominence. However, in the grand scheme of the European conflict, it is merely a sideshow that has no impact on the outcome beyond the fact that it ties up French troops that Napoleon would prefer to use elsewhere.

Napoleon’s invasion of Portugal in 1807 and the French takeover of Madrid in March 1808 set off the war.

On August 1, 1808, a British army led by Wellington—at the time simply known as Sir Arthur Wellesley—arrives in Portugal. There, they defeat the French at Vimeiro, near Lisbon. Hew Dalrymple, a superior officer who arrives shortly after the battle to take charge of the campaign, prevents Wellington from pursuing and further harming the French army.

By an arrangement made at Sintra on August 31, Dalrymple permits the French armed force to pull out from Portugal. The British will be able to free Lisbon without having to fight again, which is a benefit. However, Wellington returns home infuriated to resume his political career in Britain.

In the meantime, French forces are fighting Spanish forces in northern Spain. John Moore, who recently assumed command of the British army in Portugal, marches north to aid them in October. On November 6, Napoleon himself arrives to oversee the campaign because the situation for the French in Spain appears to be so critical.

Moore’s army near Burgos is in danger of being surrounded by the end of December. Moore beats a rushed retreat of exactly 250 miles through snowclad mountains to Corunna (or La Coruña). A French armed force shows up there in no time before the English armada shipped off clear the soldiers. Moore himself bites the dust in January 1809 in the rearguard activity to cover the embarkation, however his military escapes securely back to Britain.

Wellington in the ascendant: 1809-1814

The British government launches a new campaign in Portugal despite the defeat at Corunna. Returning to his command is Wellington, who has won the only victory there thus far. When he arrives in Lisbon in April 1809, he discovers that the French have retreated southward into Portugal in the face of decreasing opposition from the Portuguese and Spanish and have captured Oporto.

In 1809, Wellington led an aggressive march eastward against Madrid and successful sorties northward in Portugal. This comes to an end on July 27 with a fierce battle at Talavera, where Wellington defeats powerful French attacks and is able to retreat to Portugal relatively unscathed.

It is abundantly clear that the British hold a tenuous position on the peninsula. Wellington’s reaction to this reality is the most inventive vital move of the Peninsular Conflict. He transforms the district north of Lisbon into an enormous stronghold by building the lines of Torres Vedras – a nonstop fortress extending 25 miles from the Atlantic coast through Torres Vedras to the wide Tagus waterway.

With British naval power guarding the port of Lisbon, Wellington’s army now has a substantial territory behind these impenetrable lines from which it can reliably receive supplies from the sea.

In subsequent campaigns, Portugal and Madrid fought for a long time over the fortified towns; In 1812, Wellington ultimately conquers both Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo. He wins a big game at Salamanca later that year and briefly takes Madrid.

The decisive campaign begins in 1813, when Wellington moves north from Portugal and meets Napoleon’s brother Joseph Bonaparte’s army at Vitoria on June 21. Bonaparte was technically king of Spain at the time. Wellington catches the whole French cannons train, of approximately 150 weapons, and all the stuff – including Joseph’s noteworthy assortment of craftsmanship, which currently graces Apsley House (Wellington’s home in London).

In October, Wellington is able to cross the border into France for the first time since the 1792-93 campaign, when he carried out successful operations in northern Spain.

An intriguing illustration of how to advance through the English peerage is provided by Wellington’s succession of titles, which he obtained during the Peninsular War. After Talavera in 1809 Sir Arthur Wellesley is made Viscount Wellington; He becomes an earl in 1812, following the fall of Ciudad Rodgrio, and a marquess later that same year, following Salamanca. The final step is taken in May 1814, when peace is reached. As Britain’s representative, the duke of Wellington attends the Vienna congress and rushes back to Waterloo.