The 1814 Campaign for France


Having managed to survive through both the disastrous 1812 and 1813 campaigns in Russia and Germany, Napoleon Bonaparte made the politically fatal error of not agreeing to peace terms set by the Allied Powers.

The ever-strengthening Allies wanted to restrict France to borders based on the Rhine and the Alps but Bonaparte felt, as he had done before, that he would be able to best the combined forces ranged against him.

This time, however, his inexperienced troops would be assailed from all sides and by seasoned and numerous soldiers led by the likes of the Duke of Wellington, Field Marshal Blucher and a former French marshal, now Crown Prince of Sweden, Jean-Baptiste Bernadotte.

Despite the odds, an energised Bonaparte performed brilliantly and handed out defeat after defeat to his enemies.

Victories at Brienne, La Rothiere, Champaubert, Montmirail, Chateau Thierry, Vauchamps, Montereau and Craonne had the Allies reeling, but the losses by Marshal Macdonald at Bar-sur-Aube, and marshals Mortier and Marmont at La Fere-Champenoise did not help the cause.

Despite being greatly outnumbered, Bonaparte was forced to take increasingly desperate actions and launched a high-risk assault on Blucher at Laon. He lost and then moved to attack Austria's Field Marshal Karl Schwarzenberg at Arcis-sur-Aube. Again he lost and, before he could reinforce Marmont and Mortier near Paris, the former surrendered his army.

Paris was occupied on 31 March and within a week his marshals had forced Bonaparte to abdicate. The Allies, however, would accept nothing less than unconditional surrender and so the emperor agreed on 11 April.

Ahead lay exile on the island of Elba.




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