12 January 1814, the Russian troops led by Tsar Alexander Pavlovich entered France from Switzerland, in the Basel area. Other troops of the Allied army also invaded French territory. Thus began the 1814 campaign of the year, which led to the fall of the French Empire and the renunciation of Napoleon Bonaparte and his heirs. France was returned to the 1792 borders of the year, and the Bourbon dynasty was restored there. Throne received Louis XVIII.
The 1813 campaign of the year ended with a complete victory for the Allied army. After the defeat at Leipzig, Napoleon with the remnants of the army retreated to France. The Rhine Union, which was under the protectorate of Napoleon, collapsed, its participants opposed France. Germany was liberated from the French. The French troops held several fortresses behind them, but they were blocked and did not play any role in further events. Napoleon only lost significant forces that remained in the fortresses and could not help in the defense of France.
At the end of 1813, Napoleon lost his last ally, Denmark. The Danes were forced to surrender to the British fleet and the Swedish army of Bernadotte. January 14 1814 Denmark was to pass over Norway to Sweden.
In Italy, Murat betrayed Napoleon and went over to the side of the anti-French coalition and, together with the Austrians, launched an offensive against the forces of Prince Eugene. True, Murat did it hesitantly, avoiding active actions. Eugene Beauharnais continued to fight in the north of Italy until the fall of Napoleon. In Spain, British and Spanish troops, supported by partisans, also launched an offensive. Soult and Suchet left the area behind the area. The French were expelled from Spain. Wellington began to prepare the invasion of the south of France. The French garrisons remaining in Spain, under the general command of Marshal Xusche, were blocked in Catalonia and had no effect on the outcome of the war. Marshal Sulte limited forces (about 35 thousand soldiers) successfully restrained the methodical advance of the Anglo-Spanish-Portuguese troops (up to 100 thousand people). By the time of the renunciation of Napoleon, Soult successfully repulsed the assault of Toulouse.
Napoleon retreated over the Rhine with 70 thousand soldiers, but a large part of the army squatted typhus. France in the endless wars lost the color of the nation. The 1813 campaign of the year finally undermined the country's demographic capabilities. Tens of thousands of people died in battles, they were killed by disease and deprivation. Many were captured or deserted. The people wanted peace. Napoleon’s associates, worldly marshals and generals, desired peace and were fed up with honors and glory, tired of fighting. The generals wanted in peacetime to reap the fruits of their success. Before the 1813 campaign, Napoleon used the human resources of countries and regions subject to him. So, during the Russian campaign 1812, up to half of his army was not the French. Now this source is dry. In addition to the French, there were few - like the Poles, who continued to remain loyal to the emperor.
Napoleon had neither soldiers nor means of warfare. The fortresses left in Germany cost France up to 140 thousand soldiers, hundreds of guns and huge sums. France now had no garrisons and weapons for the defense of border fortresses. The country's finances were exhausted. The morale of the population was depressed. The troops were loyal to the emperor, but they grumbled openly. There was no unity between the people and the army that saved the country in 1792 and 1800. Indifference and apathy swept everyone, people wanted peace.
However, even in such critical conditions, Napoleon did not want to retreat and buy the world at the cost of important political concessions. Defeat in the war struck his throne. Any concession to the allies would strengthen the parties hostile to him in France. Besides, Napoleon still hoped for a split in the ranks of an ally. The anti-French coalition was not a monolith, all its members had their own goals, which often contradicted the interests of other members of the union. He could no longer hope that an agreement could be reached with Alexander. But he hoped that family ties would help him reach an agreement with the Vienna Court. There were also some hopes for Bernadot, who, by his passivity in the 1813 campaign of the year, raised doubts of the allies in their commitment to the common cause. It seemed that Bernadot was more interested in the victory over Denmark and the seizure of Norway than the war in France. In addition, Napoleon tried to return Murat. Murat avoided engaging in active hostilities against the French-Italian troops, in fact helping Godharna to restrain the advance of the Austrians and the British.
Napoleon launched a stormy activity to create a new army. In this campaign, he acted with amazing energy. Even during his departure from Dresden, he instructed his spouse to demand that the Senate issue a resolution calling the 1815 conscription of the year (a method of recruiting troops based on the principle of universal military service) 160 thousand people. Moreover, an emergency recruitment was announced in 120 by thousands of people who were subject to conscription in 1812, 1813 and 1814, as well as those who had already been dismissed from military service. Decrees promulgated. But in fact, to fulfill them was very difficult. The 1815 conquers were young and of little service. Therefore, Napoleon ordered them to form garrisons and spare troops. The emergency recruitment to 120 of thousands of people from the conscripts of previous years could have caused popular anger. The emperor dismissed from service all married and all considered necessary workers for their families. This reduced the emergency recruitment to 60 thousand. To equip the army, Napoleon ordered the call to the service of all single people of all the former conscriptions. This could give Napoleon 300 thousand people, and together with the previous set - about 500 thousand people. But this calculation was exaggerated. The country was depleted by the sets of previous years. In addition, Napoleon simply did not have time to gather and train people before the outbreak of hostilities. By the beginning of the Allied invasion, Napoleon had on hand up to 70 thousands of soldiers against more than 200-thousand enemy army. Poorly trained recruits arrived only to cover losses.
In the ranks of the allies there was no agreement. It was clear that the situation of France is hopeless. Many believed that Napoleon could not be left at the head of France, since many European rulers would not be able to sleep well while this man was in Paris. The “war party” wanted to finish the job. However, more cautious people advised to limit themselves to already achieved success and make peace. The war brought a lot of grief to Europe. In addition, the former power of Napoleon scared many, like a formidable ghost. It was obvious that Napoleon would fight for France without sparing his life. There was a threat of a new revolutionary movement, if the French ruler lifted all the people to fight against the monarchist armies.
The invasion of France was delayed because of the need to replenish the troops and occupy the flanks - the Netherlands and Switzerland. Many of the generals believed that in the winter you should not start a campaign and you should postpone it until spring. By the spring to prepare large stocks and prepare transport means. Cautious Prussian king believed that the invasion of France will not bring success at all and offered to make peace. The border along the Rhine was considered an acceptable solution.
The Viennese courtyard believed that Napoleon was sufficiently weakened and it was possible to obtain his former lands in Germany and a considerable part of Italy at the conclusion of peace. Moreover, Austrian politicians and the military feared that a victory over France, in which the Russian army would play a decisive role, would lead to an excessive strengthening of the role of Russia in Europe. The Prussian king Friedrich-Wilhelm, who owed Russia everything, at that time certainly supported Alexander, which further strengthened the Russian position. Alexander Pavlovich had the first voice. Under such circumstances, the continuation of the war was unprofitable for the Vienna Court. The Austrians were ready to end the war to counter Russia and Prussia. In addition, Vienna did not want to strengthen Berlin, its main competitor in the struggle for the German states.
The South German states desired peace even more. True, their voices were worth little. They feared the restoration of the German Empire, which would curtail their rights, or the division of Germany into the Austrian and Prussian spheres of influence. The new division of Europe led to the loss of land and reduced autonomy. So, there were plans to abolish a number of secondary Germanic monarchies altogether, transferring their powers to the Central Commission, which governed the areas conquered by the Allied forces. In addition, the continuation of the war could cause a manifestation of the revolutionary spirit, which the German monarchs feared. Some German monarchs were even ready to spread back to Napoleon if his opponents could not succeed in fighting him. So, after the first victories of Napoleon in the 1814 campaign of the year, King Frederick of Württemberg expressed his readiness to once again stand under his banners. Other German monarchs also doubted. In case of failure of the invasion of the Rhine, some German lands could once again be on the side of Napoleon. As the saying goes, "" nothing personal, only business. "
It should be noted that some Russian generals believed that the war must be ended. On the one hand, Napoleon after the loss of two huge armies in 1812-1813. was no longer dangerous for Russia. However, he could remain a deterrent fact for England, Prussia and Austria. On the other hand, the generals doubted the allies. They did not hope for the friendly efforts of the German states in the war with France. Russia at the end of the 1813 of the year and even earlier - after the destruction of the Great Army of Napoleon in the 1812 of the year - could receive all the fruits of victory. It was necessary only to agree with Napoleon, and he himself more than once expressed his readiness to get along with the Russians. Napoleon at this time would agree to meet all the requirements of Alexander, since it cost France nothing. Germany has been liberated. In the need for the release of Holland were doubts. This could take advantage of England. However, all these reasonable arguments outweighed the firm conviction of Emperor Alexander I of the need for the complete defeat of Napoleon. Only in this way, the Russian monarch believed, can calmness be restored in Europe. He was wrong, but his opinion was more important than the opinion of almost all the military council.
War also thirst and almost all of Prussia. Most of its statesmen and all the military were eager for revenge. Blucher and his associates wanted to avenge the previous defeats, for Berlin, capturing Paris, to humiliate the French. In addition, Prussia could not hope for significant territorial increments, while Napoleon owned the left side of the Rhine. True, the Prussian king was more cautious. Frederick William was ready to support Alexander in continuing the war. But he believed that Napoleon, acting on his territory, could put up desperate resistance, raise the people, and therefore should not put to chance the wars of the already expensive price of success.
England and without continuing the war has already achieved what she wanted. Europe was ravaged by a long and difficult war. All major competitors are weak. At the end of 1813, legal dynasties in Spain, Holland, Piedmont and Naples were restored, the most important French colonies were brought under control. England destroyed the continental system that threatened its economy. The French fleet has ceased to be a threat. Moreover, British forces under the leadership of Wellington were the first to invade southern France in November 1813. This made it possible for the British to call themselves the "liberators of Europe", while the other allied armies continued to remain inactive beyond the Rhine. Thus, the glory of the "winners of Napoleon", and the main mercantile benefits were on the side of England.
Bernadot, the ruler of Sweden, knowing that both royalists and republicans are ready to speak out against Napoleon in France itself, he expressed his readiness to take the French throne. Bernadot outlined his plans to the king of Prussia and relied on the assistance of Emperor Alexander. Hoping to become the king of France, Bernadot tried to dissuade the Allies from crossing the Rhine, which, in his opinion, would cause universal resistance of the population. Therefore, he proposed to limit the message that the war is being fought not against France, but against Napoleon, causing an internal coup in the country.
Allied proposals to Napoleon
The “peace party” prevailed in the Allied Council. The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Austrian Empire Metternich, who believed that peace negotiations would be more profitable for Vienna than the continuation of the war, used such a favorable arrangement of forces. Metternich, the Russian Foreign Minister Nesselrode, and the British Minister Lord Eberdin, through the French diplomat Baron Saint-Aignan, captured under Leipzig, brought Napoleon his conditions.
France was asked to limit the natural limits - the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Rhine. The independence of Germany and the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty in Spain were unchanged conditions of the peace agreement. Italy and Holland are independent from France and from other powers. The form of government of Italy and Holland, as well as the borders of Austrian possessions in Italy, were to be determined at the negotiations.
To be continued ...