War of the Sixth Coalition

War of the Sixth Coalition
Part of the Napoleonic Wars and the Coalition Wars
MoshkovVI SrazhLeypcigomGRM.jpg
The Battle of Leipzig
Date3 March 1813 – 30 May 1814
Location
Europe
Result

Coalition victory, Treaty of Fontainebleau, Treaty of Kiel, First Treaty of Paris

Belligerents
Original coalition

After Battle of Leipzig

After January 1814

 French Empire

Until January 1814

Commanders and leaders
Strength
1813: 1,070,0001813: 850,000
Casualties and losses

526,000[1]

  • 391,000 killed and wounded
  • 135,000 captured and missing

668,900[2][1]

  • 103,300 killed
  • 320,600 wounded
  • 245,000 captured and missing

In the War of the Sixth Coalition (March 1813 – May 1814), sometimes known in Germany as the War of Liberation, a coalition of Austria, Prussia, Russia, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Sweden, Spain and a number of German States defeated France and drove Napoleon into exile on Elba. After the disastrous French invasion of Russia of 1812, the continental powers joined Russia, the United Kingdom, Portugal and the rebels in Spain who were already at war with France.

The War of the Sixth Coalition saw major battles at Lützen, Bautzen, and Dresden. The even larger Battle of Leipzig (also known as the Battle of Nations) was the largest battle in European history before World War I. Ultimately, Napoleon's earlier setbacks in Russia and Germany proved to be the seeds of his undoing. With their armies reorganized, the allies drove Napoleon out of Germany in 1813 and invaded France in 1814. The Allies defeated the remaining French armies, occupied Paris, and forced Napoleon to abdicate and go into exile. The French monarchy was revived by the allies, who handed rule to the heir of the House of Bourbon in the Bourbon Restoration.

This was not, however, the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon subsequently escaped from his captivity and returned to power in France, sparking the War of the Seventh Coalition in 1815 (also known as the "Hundred Days"), until he was defeated again for the final time.

Invasion of Russia

In June 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia to compel Emperor Alexander I to remain in the Continental System. The Grande Armée, consisting of as many as 650,000 men (roughly half of whom were French, with the remainder coming from allies or subject areas), crossed the Neman River on 23 June 1812. Russia proclaimed a Patriotic War, while Napoleon proclaimed a "Second Polish War". But against the expectations of the Poles, who supplied almost 100,000 troops for the invasion force, and having in mind further negotiations with Russia, he avoided any concessions toward Poland. Russian forces fell back, destroying everything potentially of use to the invaders until giving battle at Borodino (7 September) where the two armies fought a devastating battle. Despite the fact that France won a tactical victory, the battle was inconclusive. Following the battle the Russians withdrew, thus opening the road to Moscow. By 14 September, the French had occupied Moscow but found the city practically empty. Alexander I (despite having almost lost the war by Western European standards) refused to capitulate, leaving the French in the abandoned city of Moscow with little food or shelter (large parts of Moscow had burned down) and winter approaching. In these circumstances, and with no clear path to victory, Napoleon was forced to withdraw from Moscow.

So began the disastrous Great Retreat, during which the retreating army came under increasing pressure due to lack of food, desertions, and increasingly harsh winter weather, all while under continual attack by the Russian army led by Commander-in-Chief Mikhail Kutuzov, and other militias. Total losses of the Grand Army were at least 370,000 casualties as a result of fighting, starvation and the freezing weather conditions, and 200,000 captured. By November, only 27,000 fit soldiers re-crossed the Berezina River. Napoleon now left his army to return to Paris and prepare a defence of Poland against the advancing Russians. The situation was not as dire as it might at first have seemed; the Russians had also lost around 400,000 men and their army was similarly depleted. However, they had the advantage of shorter supply lines and were able to replenish their armies with greater speed than the French, especially because Napoleon's losses of cavalry and wagons were irreplaceable.