The Continental System backfired. Great Britain was able to produce goods cheaper and better than any country. The ban on British goods only resulted in economic instability in Europe.
On December 31, 1810, Alexander I of Russia withdrew from the Continental System. Feeling betrayed and needing a scapegoat, Napoleon blamed Alexander I for the failure of the Continental System. He raised an army of 600,000 men and prepared to attack Russia.
Napoleon crossed the Neman River into Russia in June 1812. The Russians just kept on retreating, denying Napoleon any decisive battles. In September, Napoleon fought the Russians at Borodino. Casualties were high, but there was no victor. Once again the Russians retreated.
Napoleon pushed on to Moscow only to find the city empty. Parts of the city were also on fire, set by the retreating Russian army. Napoleon waited in Moscow for Alexander to offer peace, but no offer came. In mid-October, Napoleon ordered the retreat.
The retreat was devastating. The bitter winter killed many troops. Russian soldiers, Cossacks, cut down the French. Many soldiers couldnít stand the conditions and committed suicide. Of the 600,000 men in Napoleonís army, only 30,000 made it back alive.
Napoleon deserted his army to come back and raise another one. In his famous 29th Bulletin, Napoleon admitted the disaster. His subjects stood by him, but his enemies rejoiced throughout Europe.
Seeing their opportunity, Austria, Britain, Russia, Prussia, and Sweden allied against Napoleon.
Meternich, foreign minister of Austria, offered Napoleon a peace treaty if France was reduced to its original size. Napoleon refused.
Napoleon accomplished a miracle. By April of 1814, he had replaced all of the equipment lost during the attack on Moscow. Old veterans and young children joined the military to form his army.
In April 1813, Napoleon won at Lützen, Bautzen, and Dresden. However, Napoleonís forces were outnumbered. In October, Napoleon lost at the Battle of Nations at Leipzig. Napoleon retreated to Paris with the Coalition close behind.
In March, Napoleon took a desperate gamble. He decided to go around the enemy and destroy its supply lines, leaving them high and dry. After he left, the enemy marched into Paris as it surrendered.
When Napoleon came back from his victorious destruction of the enemy supply lines, he found his generals outside the city. Learning of the fall of Paris and the unwillingness of the army to fight on, Napoleon abdicated at Fontainebleau on April 11, 1814.
The allies restored the Bourbon dynasty to the French throne. They gave Napoleon the island of Elba, an island Napoleon looked at from Corsica as a child, to rule and his toy army of 400 men. He was even allowed to keep his imperial title and was given a yearly income of 2 million francs.
Napoleon never saw his son or wife again. Once on Elba, Napoleon planned his return to France.
This is the detailed biography.
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