- First Coalition
Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=War of the First Coalition
French Revolutionary Wars
caption=Napoleon at the
Battle of Rivoli, by Felix Philipoteaux
France, Central Europe, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain
Treaty of Campo Formio
combatant1=flagicon|Holy Roman Empire Austria [a]
flagicon|Prussia|1750 Prussia [b]
flagicon|United Kingdom|1606 Great Britain
combatant2=flagicon|France French Republic
flagicon|Napoleonic Italy|transpadana French satellite states
noflag Polish Legions [f]
- Nominally the
Holy Roman Empire, of which the Austrian Netherlandsand the Duchy of Milanwere under direct Austrian rule. Also encompassed many other Italian states, as well as other Habsburgstates such as the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
- Neutral following the
Peace of Baselin 1795.
- Allied with France in 1796 following the Peace of Basel.
- Virtually all of the Italian states, including the neutral
Papal Statesand the Republic of Venice, were conquered following Napoleon's invasion in 1796 and became French satellite states.
- Most forces fled rather than engaging the invading French army. Allied with France in 1795 as the
Batavian Republicfollowing the Peace of Basel.
- Arrived in France following the abolition of the
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealthafter the Third Partition in 1795.
The First Coalition (
1792– 1797) was the first major concerted effort of multiple European powers to contain Revolutionary France. It took shape after the French Revolutionary Warshad already begun.
After the stated aim of the
National Conventionto export revolution, the guillotining of Louis XVI of France(January 1793) and the French opening of the Scheldt, a military coalition was formed against France.
These powers initiated a series of invasions of France by land and sea, with Prussia and Austria attacking from the
Austrian Netherlandsand the Rhine, and Great Britain supporting revolts in provincial France and laying siege to Toulon. France suffered reverses (Battle of Neerwinden, 18 March1793) and internal strife ( Revolt in the Vendée), and responded with extreme measures: the Committee of Public Safetyformed ( 6 April1793) and the " levée en masse" drafted all potential soldiers aged 18 to 25 (August 1793). The new French armies counter-attacked, repelled the invaders, and moved beyond France. French arms established the Batavian Republicas a satellite state(May 1795) and gained the Prussian Rhinelandby the first Treaty of Basel. Spain made a separate peace accord with France (second Treaty of Basel) and the French Directorycarried out plans to conquer more of Germanyand northern Italy(1795).
North of the
Alps, Archduke Charles of Austriaredressed the situation in 1796, but Napoleon carried all before him against Sardinia and Austria in northern Italy (1796–1797) near the Po Valley, culminating in the peace of Leobenand the Treaty of Campo Formio(October 1797). The First Coalition collapsed, leaving only Britain in the field fighting against France.
As early as
1791, the other monarchies of Europe watched with alarm at the developments in France, and considered whether they should intervene, either in support of Louis XVI or to take advantage of the chaos in France. The key figure was Holy Roman EmperorLeopold II, brother to the French Queen Marie Antoinette, who had initially looked on the Revolution with equanimity, but became more and more disturbed as the Revolution became more radical, although he still hoped to avoid war. On August 27, Leopold and King Frederick William II of Prussia, in consultation with emigrant French nobles, issued the Declaration of Pilnitz, which declared the interest of the monarchs of Europe in the well-being of Louis and his family, and threatened vague but severe consequences if anything should befall them. Although Leopold saw the Pillnitz Declaration as a way of taking action that would enable him to avoid actually doing anything about France, at least for the moment, it was seen in France as a serious threat and was denounced by the revolutionary leaders.
In addition to the ideological differences between France and the monarchical powers of Europe, there were continuing disputes over the states of Imperial estates in
Alsace, and the French were becoming concerned about the agitation of emigrénobles abroad, especially in the Austrian Netherlandsand the minor states of Germany.
In the end, France declared war on Austria first, with the Assembly voting for war on
April 20, 1792, after a long list of grievances presented by foreign minister Dumouriez. Dumouriez prepared an immediate invasion of the Austrian Netherlands, where he expected the local population to rise against Austrian rule.However, the revolution had thoroughly disorganized the army, and the forces raised were insufficient for the invasion. The soldiers fled at the first sign of battle, deserting en masse and in one case, murdering their general.
While the revolutionary government frantically raised fresh troops and reorganized its armies, a mostly Prussian allied army under
Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswickassembled at Koblenzon the Rhine. In July, the invasion commenced, with Brunswick's army easily taking the fortresses of Longwyand Verdun. Brunswick then issued a proclamation, written by the émigré Prince de Condé, declaring their intent to restore the King to his full powers and to treat any person or town who opposed them as rebels to be condemned to death by martial-law. This had the effect of motivating the revolutionary army and government to oppose them by any means necessary, and led almost immediately to the overthrow of the King by a crowd which stormed the Tuileries Palace.
The invaders continued, but at Valmy on
September 20, they came to a stalemate against Dumouriez and Kellermann in which the highly professional French artillerydistinguished itself. Although the battle was a tactical draw, it gave a great boost to French morale. Further, the Prussians, finding that the campaign had been longer and more costly than predicted, decided that the cost and risk of continued fighting was too great, and they decided to retreat from France to preserve their army.
Meanwhile, the French had been successful on several other fronts, occupying
Savoyand Nicein Italy, while General Custine invaded Germany, several German towns along the Rhine, and reaching as far as Frankfurt. Dumouriez went on the offensive in Belgium once again, winning a great victory over the Austrians at Jemappes on November 6, and occupying the entire country by the beginning of winter.
January 21, the revolutionary government executed Louis XVI after a trial. This united all Europe, including Spain, Naples, and the Netherlandsagainst the revolution. Even Great Britain, initially sympathetic to the assembly, had by now joined the First Coalition against France, and armies were raised against France on all its borders.
France responded by declaring a new levy of hundreds of thousands of men, beginning a French policy of using mass
conscriptionto deploy more of its manpower than the aristocratic states could, and remaining on the offensive so that these mass armies could commandeer war material from the territory of their enemies.
France suffered severe reverses at first, being driven out of
Belgiumand suffering revolts in the west and south. By the end of the year, the new large armies and a fierce policy of internal repression including mass executions had repelled the invasions and suppressed the revolts. The year ended with French forces in the ascendant, but still close to France's pre-war borders.
1794 brought increased success to the revolutionary armies. Although an invasion of Piedmont failed, an invasion of
Spainacross the Pyreneestook San Sebastián, and the French won a victory at the Battle of Fleurus, occupying all of Belgium and the Rhineland.
After seizing the
Netherlandsin a surprise winter attack, France established the Batavian Republicas a puppet state. Further, Prussia and Spain both decided to make peace, in the Peace of Baselceding the left bank of the Rhine to France and freeing French armies from the Pyrenees. This ended the main crisis phase of the Revolution and France proper would be free from invasion for many years.
Britain attempted to reinforce the rebels in the
Vendéeby landing French Royalist troops at Quiberon, but failed, and attempts to overthrow the government at Paris by force were foiled by the military garrison led by Napoleon Bonaparte, leading to the establishment of the Directory.
The French prepared a great advance on three fronts, with Jourdan and Moreau on the Rhine, and Bonaparte in Italy. The three armies were to link up in the
Tyroland march on Vienna.
Jourdan and Moreau advanced rapidly into Germany, and Moreau had reached
Bavariaand the edge of Tyrol by September, but Jourdan was defeated by Archduke Charles, and both armies were forced to retreat back across the Rhine.
Napoleon, on the other hand, was completely successful in a daring invasion of Italy. He separated the armies of Sardinia and Austria, defeating them in detail, and forced a peace on Sardinia while capturing
Milanand besieging Mantua. He defeated successive Austrian armies sent against him under Wurmser and Alvintzywhile continuing the siege.
The rebellion in the
Vendéewas also finally crushed in 1796 by Hoche, but Hoche's attempt to land a large invasion force in Irelandwas unsuccessful.
Napoleon finally captured Mantua, with the Austrians surrendering 18,000 men.
Archduke Charles of Austriawas unable to stop Napoleon from invading the Tyrol, and the Austrian government sued for peace in April, simultaneous with a new French invasion of Germany under Moreau and Hoche.
Austria signed the
Treaty of Campo Formioin October, ceding Belgium to France and recognizing French control of the Rhineland and much of Italy. The ancient republic of Venicewas partitioned between Austria and France. This ended the War of the First Coalition, although Great Britain remained in the war.
"Original text from
1911 Encyclopædia Britannica"
- Nominally the
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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