Liberation, War of

Liberation, War of
   The latter half of the War of the Sixth Coalition, following Napoleon’s disastrous campaign of 1812 in Russia. The latent nationalism that had blossomed since Prussia’s humiliation in 1806 finally exploded, bringing King Frederick William III into alliance with Tsar Alexander I of Russia. The theater of operations shifted to Germany, where Napoleon rapidly cobbled together a new army of raw recruits, reservists, and the remnants of his Grande Armée. The Russians and Prussians confronted the French in Saxony, one of the principal states of the French-allied Confederation of the Rhine which continued to maintain its links with Napoleon. After driving back a Russian attack at Lützen on May 2, Napoleon went in pursuit of the Allies, defeating them at Bautzen on May 20. By a two-month armistice agreed to at Plaswitz on June 4, both sides sought to recover their strength in anticipation of further fighting in the autumn. The Allies strengthened their alliance by the treaties of Reichenbach on June 14–15, binding Britain, which would offer substantial subsidies to her allies, with Russia and Prussia in exchange for the mutual promise of no separate peace with France.
   Napoleon met Emperor Francis of Austria on June 26 but refused Habsburg mediation, after which Austria joined the Allies and declared war on France on August 11. In his last major victory, Napoleon defeated the Allies at the Saxon capital of Dresden on August 27, but his corps commanders, operating independently thereafter lost a succession of minor, although collectively significant, actions at Grossbeeren, Kulm, and Dennewitz. As a result of these setbacks, Napoleon was obliged to withdraw and concentrate most of his troops around Leipzig, where the largest battle of the Napoleonic Wars - involving over half a million combatants and fought over several days in mid-October - left the French decisively defeated and obliged to retreat to the Rhine. All of Napoleon’s German allies abandoned him and French control in central Europe collapsed as the Allies marched west. A Bavarian force failed to halt Napoleon at Hanau October 30, and the French reached Mainz on November 5. By the end of the year the Allies were poised along the Rhine for the invasion of France.
   See also <>.
    Fremont-Barnes, Gregory. The Napoleonic Wars, vol. 4: The Fall of the French Empire, 1813–1815. Oxford: Osprey, 2001;
    Lawford, James. Napoleon ’ s Last Campaigns, 1813–15. New York: Crown Publishers, 1977;
    Petre, F. Loraine. Napoleon ’ s Last Campaign in Germany, 1813. London: Greenhill Books, 1992.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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