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Foreign Policy

The Second War of the Coalition, 1799-1803

A.) The Diplomatic Pre-History of the War

After the PEACE OF CAMPO FORMIO, France had continued to expand; it had established control, as well as satellite republics modelled after the French Republic, in Switzerland and the territory of the Papal State (the pope himself being abducted to France).
AUSTRIA, RUSSIA, the OTTOMAN EMPIRE, PORTUGAL and NAPLES formed a coalition against France, which was joined by BRITAIN (June 22nd 1799).
Napoleon Bonaparte, at that time, was stuck with his army in Egypt. The British fleet, under Lord Nelson, had destroyed the French fleet at ABOUKIR, thus cutting off Napoleon's communication with France.

B.) The Military Course of Events

First Phase : Italian Front : A Russian fleet occupied the IONIAN ISLANDS except Corfu, to which the French held on.
A Neapolitan army took Rome, but was expelled again soon after. Naples mutinied against the Austrian commander of her own army; the commander surrendered himself to the French, who took Naples, establishing the short-lived PARTHENOPEAN REPUBLIC. This satellite republic, however, was very short-lived, as the French troops were needed in the north and rebels under CARDINAL RUFFO, assisted by the British Navy (Nelson), expelled the republicans/French.
In Northern Italy, the main theatre of operation, the French faced Austrian and Russian forces, the latter commanded by ALEXANDER SUVOROV. The coalition forces gained victories at MAGNANO (April 5th 1799), CASSANO (April 25th-27th 1799), they took Milan, Torino, defeated the French at the TREBBIA (June 17-20), at NOVI (August 15th 1799). Then French general MASSENA defeated a Russian foce near ZURICH (Sept. 26th-27th 1799) and reoccupied Switzerland for France. CZAR PAUL I. then signed peace.
First Phase : Holland Campaign : A British-Russian force landed unopposed, as the Batavian Navy remained inactive - the Dutch sailors refused to fight against an orange flag (Russia's Czarist flag was orange with a black diagonal cross over it; Prince William of Orange supported the allies). Yet poor coordination and poor logistics resulted in defeat at BERGEN AAN ZEE and CASTRICUM (Oct. 6th 1799). When the coalition force failed in achieving its prime objective - seizing the Dutch fleet - the campaign was aborted; in the CONVENTION OF ALKMAAR Oct. 18th 1799, the withdrawal of the Anglo-Russian force was agreed upon.
Napoleon, without his army, returned to France and staged a coup d'etat Nov. 9th/10th 1799. Then he reorganized the French strategy, the war being simplified by Russia not only having withdrawn from the coalition, but an Anglo-Russian rift developing.
Second Phase : Italian theatre. Napoleon crossed the Alps and defeated the Austrians at MARENGO (June 14th 1800).
Second Phase : German theatre. French forces defeated the Austrians at STOCKACH (May 3rd), HOECHSTAEDT (June 19th), HOHENLINDEN (Dec. 3rd 1800). Then Austria and France signed the PEACE OF LUNEVILLE ending the war (Feb. 9th 1801). Napoleon then signed a CONCORDATE with the pope (July 15th). Second Phase : war on the seas : MALTA surrendered to the British Sept. 5th 1800; on March 22nd 1801 the SECOND BATTLE OF ABOUKIR was fought (Napoleon's army was still trapped in Egypt). On March 25th Britain and France signed the PEACE OF AMIENS.

C.) An Analysis of the War

The allies lacked a common strategy. Britain seemed intent on using the coalition wars to eliminate the fleets of potential rivals on the world's oceans; Austria and Russia wanted to crush the revolutionary armies instead. British action caused the Russians to withdraw from the coalition.
French political leadership had learned from the mistakes of the FIRST WAR OF THE COALITION; its generals were only rarely replaced, none ended up under the guillotine.

D.) Legacy

Because of the fragility of the coalition, France now clearly established her hegemony over western central Europe (Italy, Switzerland, western Germany, the Netherlands), gaining even Spain as an ally. Russia, now suspicious of British aims, attempted to establish a Baltic alliance (with Prussia, Denmark) which provoked the British to attack COPENHAGEN (1801); for the time being the emergence of another anti-French alliance was rather unlikely. The Anglo-French rivalry continued, Britain controlling the seas, France the land.

Anglo-Russian invasion of North Holland (1799), from William Loney RN - Victorian naval surgeon, sloppy language
Noord Holland 1799, from KRA, in Dutch (Koninklijke Rijdende Artillerie)
The Age of George III : The Second Coalition 1799-1801, from A Web of English History
The Second Coalition, from The Napoleonic Guide Charles Francis Atkinson, French Revolutionary Wars, from Encyclopedia Britannica 1910 edition posted by Xenophon
Robert Markley : The Peace of Amiens 1802, from Napoleon Series
Campaigns, Battles and Events of the Napoleonic Wars : 1799 - 1815, from
Der 2. Koalitionskrieg 1799-1803, from Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz, in German
DOCUMENTS Medal : Peace pof Luneville 1801, from Napoleonic Medals
Medal : Peace of Amiens 1802, from British Historic Medals; Preliminaries to the Peace of Amiens, from BHM

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on November 19th 2004

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