Napoleon's Empire Falls Peyton Robbins

This is a map showing the Continental Blockade of Europe by France

The Continental System, in the Napoleonic wars, the blockade designed by Napoleon to paralyze Great Britain through the destruction of British commerce. The decrees of Berlin (November 21, 1806) and Milan (December 17, 1807) proclaimed a blockade: neutrals and French allies were not to trade with the British.

May 3, 1808 by Francisco Goya depicts French soldiers executing Spanish Guerrilla Fighters

The Peninsular war, Spanish Guerra de la Independencia (“War of Independence”), that part of the Napoleonic Wars fought in the Iberian Peninsula, where the French were opposed by British, Spanish, and Portuguese forces. Napoleon’s peninsula struggle contributed considerably to his eventual downfall; but until 1813 the conflict in Spain and Portugal, though costly, exercised only an indirect effect upon the progress of French affairs in central and eastern Europe. The war in the Peninsula did interest the British, because their army made no other important contribution to the war on the continent between 1793 and 1814; the war, too, made the fortunes of the British commander Arthur Wellesley, afterward duke of Wellington. Napoleon lost around 300,000 men in this conflict and would ultimately be forced out of the Iberian.

This Painting depicts Napoleon's retreat in the Winter of 1812

The Napoleonic Invasion of Russia, In 1812 Napoleon made his most disastrous mistake when he Invaded Russia. Napoleon's reasoning for invading Russia was that the Russian Czar even thought allied with France, was still selling grain to Britain and over the future of Poland. In June of 1812 Napoleon and his Grand Army of 420,000 invaded Russia. As Napoleon advanced, Alexander I kept retreating his troops refusing to be lured into a unequal battle. The Russians practiced a Scorched Earth policy, destroying everything that could be useful to the advancing Grand Army. The two armies finally met at the Battle of Borodino After several hours of indecisive fighting, the Russians fell back and After several hours of indecisive fighting, the Russians fell back, allowing Napoleon to move on Moscow. When Napoleon entered Moscow seven days later, the city was in flames. Rather than surrender Russia's "holy city" to the French, Alexander had destroyed it. Napoleon stayed in the ruined city until the middle of October, when he decided to run back toward France. As the snows—and the temperature—began to fall in early November, Russian raiders mercilessly attacked Napoleon's ragged, retreating army. Many soldiers were killed in these clashes or died of their wounds. Still more dropped in their tracks from exhaustion, hunger, and cold. Finally, in the middle of December, the last survivors straggled out of Russia. The retreat from Moscow had devastated the Grand Army—only 10,000 soldiers were left to fight.

This Picture depicts the Battle of Waterloo in 1815

Napoleon's Downfall, In only a few months, Napoleon raised another army, but this army was untrained and ill prepared. Napoleon met the armies of the Coalition outside of the of German city of Leipzig in 1813. This army was easily defeated and Coalition armies were marching toward Paris in January, 1814. Napoleon was forced to surrender and was exiled to Elba. The Hundred Days, Louis XVIII was king of France again but was extremely unpopular with the people. In 1815Napoleon escaped from Elba and was welcomed back into Paris. Volunteers for the army swelled and Napoleon once again marched against the Coalition. Napoleon met the Allies at the village of Waterloo in Belgium. Napoleon was defeated by the Coalition and shipped to the island of St. Helena in the Atlantic where he died in 1821.

Important Dates

  • November, 1806-Napoleon setup blockade around Europe Preventing Britain from trading with the main land
  • 1808-The Peninsular War began when Napoleon removed the Spanish King from power and sent an invasion force into the Iberian
  • June, 1812-Napoleon and His Grand Army invaded Russia
  • October, 1813-Napoleon defeated at Leipzig
  • June 18, 1815-Napoleon defeated at The Battle of Waterloo

Important People

  • Napoleon Bonaparte-The Emperor of the First French Empire, conquered or controlled most of Western Europe until 1813. Excellent battlefield commander. Napoleon is the main reason for French domination of Europe in the first decade of the nineteenth Century.
  • Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington-Commander of the British Expeditionary force in the Peninsular war and commanded the Anglo-Dutch force that defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.

Terms and Names

  • Blockade-The use of troops or ships to prevent commercial traffic from entering or leaving a city or region.
  • Continental System-Napoleon's policy of preventing trade between Great Britain and continental Europe, intended to destroy Great Britain's economy.
  • Guerrilla-A member of a loosely organized fighting force that makes surprise attacks on enemy troops occupying his or her country.
  • Peninsular War-A conflict, lasting from 1808 to 1813, in which Spanish rebels, with the aid of British forces, fought to drive Napoleon's French troops out of Spain.
  • Scorched-earth policy-The practice of burning crops and killing livestock during wartime so that the enemy cannot live off the land.
  • Waterloo-The battle in which the Coalition under The Duke of Wellington and Prince Blucher defeated Napoleon during the Hundred Days.
  • Hundred Days-The brief period during 1815 when Napoleon made his last bid for power, deposing the French king and again becoming emperor of France.

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