Fought over the course of 12 long years, the Napoleonic Wars marked a period of relentless conflict between Napoleon’s France and a variety of coalitions that involved more or less every country in Europe at some stage.
Coming after from the War of the First Coalition (1793-97), and the start of the War of the Second Coalition in 1798, the Battle of Marengo was both a vital victory for France and a transformative moment in Napoleon’s military career. It makes for a fitting place to begin our timeline of the Napoleonic Wars.
14 June: Napoleon, then First Consul of the French Republic, lead France to an impressive and hard-fought victory over Austria at the Battle of Marengo. The outcome secured his military and civilian authority in Paris.
9 February: The Treaty of Lunéville, signed by the French Republic and Holy Roman Emperor Francis II, marked the end of France’s involvement in the War of the Second Coalition.
25 March: The Treaty of Amiens briefly ended hostilities between Britain and France.
2 August: Napoleon was made Consul for life.
3 May: The Louisiana Purchase saw France cede its North American territories to the United States in return for a payment of 50 million French Francs. The funds were supposedly allocated to a planned invasion of Britain.
18 May: Troubled by Napoleon’s actions, Britain declared war on France. The Napoleonic Wars are usually considered to have started on this date.
26 May: France invaded Hanover.
2 December: Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of France.
11 April: Britain and Russia ally, effectively beginning the formation of the Third Coalition.
26 May: Napoleon was crowned King of Italy.
9 August: Austria joined the Third Coalition.
19 October: The Battle of Ulm pit Napoleon’s French troops against the Austrian army, under the command of Karl Mack von Leiberich. Napoleon plotted an impressive victory, capturing 27,000 Austrians with very few losses.
21 October: The British Royal Navy were victorious over French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar, a naval engagement at Cape Trafalgar off the South-Western coast of Spain.
2 December: Napoleon lead the French army to a decisive victory over much larger Russian and Austrian armies at the Battle of Austerlitz.
4 December: A truce was agreed in the War of the Third Coalition
26 December: The Treaty of Pressburg was signed, establishing peace and amity and the retreat of Austria from the Third Coalition.
1 April: Joseph Bonaparte, an older brother of Napoleon, became King of Naples.
20 June: Louis Bonaparte, this time a younger brother of Napoleon, became King of Holland.
15 September: Prussia joined Britain and Russia in the fight against Napoleon.
14 October: Napoleon’s army won simultaneous victories at the Battle of Jena and the Battle of Auerstadt, inflicting significant losses on the Prussian Army.
26 October: Napoleon entered Berlin
6 November: The Battle of Lübeck saw Prussian forces, retreating from defeats at Jena and Auerstadt, suffer another heavy defeat.
21 November: Napoleon issued the Berlin Decree, beginning the so-called “Continental System” that effectively acted as an embargo on British trade.
14 June: Napoleon achieved a decisive victory against Count von Bennigsen’s Russian forces at the Battle of Friedland.
7 July and 9 July: The two Treaties of Tilsit were signed. First between France and Russia then between France and Prussia.
19 July: Napoleon instituted the Duchy of Warsaw, to be ruled by Frederick Augustus I of Saxony.
2-7 September: Britain attacked Copenhagen, destroying the Dano-Norwegian fleet, which Britain feared may have been used to bolster Napoleon’s own fleet.
27 October: The Treaty of Fontainebleu was signed between Napoleon and Charles IV of Spain. It effectively agreed to drive the House of Braganza from Portugal.
19-30 November: Jean-Andoche Junot lead an invasion of Portugal by French forces. Portugal offered little resistance and Lisbon was occupied on 30 November.
23 March: The French occupied Madrid following the deposal of King Charles IV, who was forced to abdicate. Charles was replaced by his son Ferdinand VII.
2 May: Spaniards rose up against France in Madrid. The rebellion, often referred to as the Dos de Mayo Uprising, was quickly suppressed by Joachim Murat’s Imperial Guard.
7 May: Joseph Bonaparte was also proclaimed King of Spain.
22 July: Following widespread uprisings across Spain, the Battle of Bailen saw the Spanish Army of Andalusia defeat the Imperial French Army.
17 August: The Battle of Roliça marked Britain’s first entry into the Peninsular War with an Arthur Wellesley-led victory over French forces en route to Lisbon.
21 August: Wellesley’s men defeated Junot’s French forces at the Battle of Vimeiro on the outskirts of Lisbon, putting an end to the first French invasion of Portugal.
1 December: Following decisive strikes against the Spanish uprising at Burgos, Tudelo, Espinosa and Somosierra, Napoleon regained control of Madrid. Joseph was returned to his throne.
16 January: Sir John Moore’s British troops repelled the French, led by Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult, at the Battle of Corunna — but lost the port city in the process. Moore was mortally wounded and died.
28 March: Soult lead his French corps to victory in the First Battle of Porto.
12 May: Wellesley’s Anglo-Portuguese army defeated the French at the Second Battle of Porto, taking back the city.
5-6 June: The Battle of Wagram saw the French win a decisive victory over Austria, ultimately leading to the break-up of the Fifth Coalition.
28-29 July: Anglo-Spanish troops led by Wellesley forced the French to retire at the Battle of Talavera.
14 October: The Treaty of Schönbrunn was signed between France and Austria, ending the War of the Fifth Coalition.
27 September: Wellesley’s Anglo-Portuguese army repelled Marshal André Masséna’s French forces at the Battle of Bussaco.
10 October: Wellesley’s men retreated behind the Lines of Torres Vedras — lines of forts built to defend Lisbon — and succeeded in holding off Masséna’s troops.
5 March: After several months of stalemate at the Lines of Torres Vedras, Masséna began to withdraw his troops.
7-20 January: Wellesley besieged Ciudad Rodrigo, ultimately capturing the city from the French.
5 March: The Treaty of Paris established a Franco-Prussian alliance against Russia.
16 March-6 April: The Siege of Badajoz. Wellesley’s army then moved south to capture the strategically important frontier town of Badajoz.
24 June: Napoleon’s army invaded Russia.
18 July: The Treaty of Örebro brought about the end of wars between Britain and Sweden and Britain and Russia, forming an alliance between Russia, Britain and Sweden.
22 June: Wellesley defeated Marshal Auguste Marmont’s French forces at the Battle of Salamanca.
7 September: The Battle of Borodino, one of the bloodiest of the Napoleonic Wars, saw Napoleon’s army clash with General Kutuzov’s Russian troops, who attempted to block their path to Moscow. Kutuzov’s men were eventually forced to retreat.
14 September: Napoleon arrived in Moscow, which was mostly abandoned. Fires then broke out in the city, all but destroying it.
19 October: Napoleon’s army began a retreat from Moscow.
26-28 November: Russian forces close in on the French Grande Armée as it retreats from Moscow. The Battle of the Berezina broke out as the French attempted to cross the Berezina River. Though they succeeded in crossing, Napoleon’s troops suffered massive losses.
14 December: The Grande Armée finally escaped Russia, having lost more than 400,000 men.
30 December: The Convention of Tauroggen, an armistice between Prussian General Ludwig Yorck and General Hans Karl von Diebitsch of the Imperial Russian Army, is signed.
3 March: Sweden entered into an alliance with Britain and declares war against France.
16 March: Prussia declared war on France.
2 May: The Battle of Lützen saw Napoleon’s French army force Russian and Prussian forces into retreat.
20-21 May: Napoleon’s troops attacked and defeated a combined Russian and Prussian army at the Battle of Bautzen.
4 June: The Truce of Pläswitz commenced.
12 June: The French evacuated Madrid.
21 June: Leading British, Portuguese and Spanish troops, Wellesley won a decisive victory against Joseph I at the Battle of Vitoria.
17 August: The Truce of Pläswitz ended.
23 August: A Prussian-Swedish army defeated the French at the Battle of Großbeeren, south of Berlin.
26 August: Over 200,000 troops are involved in the Battle of Katzbach, which resulted in a crushing Russo-Prussian victory over the French.
26-27 August: Napoleon oversaw an impressive victory over Sixth Coalition forces at the Battle of Dresden.
29-30 August: Following the Battle of Dresden, Napoleon sent troops in pursuit of the retreating Allies. The Battle of Kulm ensued and substantial Coalition forces — led by Alexander Ostermann-Tolstoy — prevaile, inflicting heavy losses on the French.
15-18 October: The Battle of Leipzig, also known as the “Battle of Nations”, inflicted brutally severe losses on the French army and more or less concluded France’s presence in Germany and Poland.
10-15 February: Outnumbered and on the defensive, Napoleon nonetheless masterminded a succession of unlikely victories in north-eastern France over a period that became known as the “Six Days’ Campaign.”
30-31 March: The Battle of Paris saw the Allies assault the French capital and storm Montmartre. Auguste Marmont surrendered and the Allies, led by Alexander I who was supported by the King of Prussia and Prince Schwarzenberg of Austria, took Paris.
4 April: Napoleon abdicated.
10 April: Wellesley defeated Soult at the Battle of Toulouse.
11 April: The Treaty of Fontainebleau formally sealed the end of Napoleon’s rule.
14 April: The Battle of Bayonne was the final sortie of the Peninsular War, continuing until April 27 despite news of Napoleon’s abdication.
4 May: Napoleon was exiled to Elba.
26 February: Napoleon escaped Elba.
1 March: Napoleon landed in France.
20 March: Napoleon arrived in Paris, marking the beginning of a period known as the “Hundred Days”.
16 June: The Battle of Ligny, the last victory of Napoleon’s military career, saw the French troops of the Armée du Nord, under his command, defeat part of Field Marshal Prince Blücher’s Prussian army.
18 June: The Battle of Waterloo marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars, inflicting a final defeat on Napoleon at the hands of two Seventh Coalition armies: a British-led force under the command of Wellesley and Field Marshal Prince Blücher’s Prussian army.
28 June: Louis XVIII was restored to power.
16 October: Napoleon was exiled to the island of Saint Helena.