War of the Fifth Coalition

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  • March 06, 2022
War of the Fifth Coalition
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The Fifth Coalition War was a European conflict that erupted in 1809 as part of the Napoleonic Wars and the Coalition Wars. The main struggle was between Francis I's Austrian Empire and Napoleon's French Empire in central Europe. Client states such as the Kingdom of Italy, the Confederation of the Rhine, and the Duchy of Warsaw backed the French. The Fifth Coalition, which included the United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain, and the Kingdoms of Sardinia and Sicily, but the latter two did not participate in the combat, backed Austria. By the beginning of 1809, the French army had committed a large portion of its forces to the Peninsular War against Britain, Spain, and Portugal. Following the withdrawal of 108,000 French troops from Germany, Austria launched an attack against France in an attempt to reclaim territory lost during the Third Coalition War of 1803–1806. The Austrians believed that Prussia, as a previous ally, would back them, but Prussia chose to remain neutral.

Austrian forces led by Archduke Charles breached the border of Bavaria, a French client state, on April 10, 1809. The French response under Louis-Alexandre Berthier was disorganized, but Napoleon's arrival on April 17 brought order. Napoleon marched an army to Landshut in the hopes of cutting off the Austrian retreat line and sweeping into their rear. Charles crossed the Danube at Regensburg, allowing him to retire eastwards, albeit he did not make it to Vienna, Austria's capital, before the French. At the Battle of Aspern-Essling on May 21–22, a French assault across the Danube was defeated, but a repeat attack in July was successful. Napoleon achieved a major victory at the Battle of Wagram on July 5–6, forcing the Austrians to sign the Znaim Armistice on July 12. Invasions of the Duchy of Warsaw and Saxony (where they fought alongside the Black Brunswickers) were repelled, and the Austrians were forced out of their Italian holdings. British forces landed in Walcheren, in the French client state of Holland, but were unable to capture Antwerp and were subsequently withdrawn.

The Treaty of Schönbrunn, which concluded the war and cost Austria her Mediterranean ports and 20% of her population, was widely seen as severe. Despite the French victory in the end, Napoleon's defeat at Aspern-Essling demonstrated that he might be defeated on the battlefield. The conflict sparked the Tyrolean Rebellion, the Gottscheer Rebellion of 1809, and other uprisings throughout Italy that, while subdued, foretold future nationalist and anti-French uprisings. Following Schönbrunn, Austria became a French ally, which was solidified by Napoleon's marriage to the Austrian princess Marie Louise.


Since 1792, Europe has been engulfed in combat, with revolutionary France pitted against a series of alliances in the Coalition Wars. Following the March 1802 Treaty of Amiens, there was a brief period of peace before British-French relations deteriorated, resulting in the Third Coalition War in May 1803. Sweden joined Britain's coalition in 1804 and Russia and Austria joined in 1805. The 200,000-strong French Grande Armée invaded Germany in August 1805, seeking to crush Austria before Russian forces arrived. At the Battle of Ulm, fought from October 15 to 20, Napoleon skillfully wheeled his army into the Austrian rear and crushed them. In November, the Austrian capital, Vienna, was taken, and a Russo-Austrian force was decisively defeated at the Battle of Austerlitz on December 2. Soon after, the Treaty of Pressburg was signed, thereby ending Austrian involvement in the war.

Austerlitz sparked a fundamental shift in Europe's power balance. Prussia, together with Russia, felt threatened in the region and declared war on France in the 1806 War of the Fourth Coalition. On 14 October, France invaded the Prussian capital, Berlin, following wins at the Battles of Jena and Auerstadt. In November, France attacked Poland and captured Warsaw, where Russian forces were stationed. In February 1807, Russian and French soldiers clashed in the bloody, indecisive Battle of Eylau. On June 14, 1807, the French beat Russia at the Battle of Friedland, bringing the conflict in Poland to a close. The Treaty of Tilsit, which was signed in July, established France as the dominating force in Western Europe, with a large number of client states, including the Duchy of Warsaw. As a result, Prussia was weakened, and Russia was able to advance into Finland and South-Eastern Europe.

Peninsular War

In 1807, France attempted to get Portugal to join the Continental System, a trade embargo imposed on the United Kingdom. Napoleon commanded General Junot to invade Portugal in 1807 when the Portuguese Prince Regent, John, declined to join, resulting in the six-year Peninsular War. The French Empire's military was damaged by the conflict, especially after Spanish forces and citizens revolted against France after Napoleon deposed the Spanish king. Napoleon took leadership of the French forces after the Battle of Bailén, defeating the Spanish armies before returning to France. In the Battle of Corunna in January 1809, Jean-de-Dieu Soult drove the British out of Spain.

The French client kingdom of Spain, headed by Napoleon's brother Joseph Bonaparte, controlled much of Spain and northern Portugal at the start of 1809. From Spring 1809, British and Portuguese forces led by Arthur Wellesley began new offensives. Regular Spanish soldiers continued to battle, particularly those headed by generals Miguel Ricardo de lava and Joaqun Blake, and guerilla action in the countryside made French operations dangerous. Throughout the Fifth Coalition War, a considerable French presence, estimated at 250,000 in June 1809, remained in the peninsula.

Many in Austria believed Napoleon could not be trusted after his seizure of France's own ally Spain, and that declaring war was the only way to prevent him from toppling the Habsburg empire. The Spanish guerrillas sparked widespread opposition to Napoleon, and the Austrians anticipated that France's concern with Spain would make defeating France easier.

Austria Plans for War

Austria spent three years reorganizing its army after being defeated in 1805. Austria desired another battle with France to revenge their defeats and reclaim lost territory and influence, buoyed by the events in Spain. In central Europe, Austria lacked allies; Russia, her main ally in 1805, had made peace with Napoleon at Tilsit and was fighting wars with former allies such as the United Kingdom in the Anglo-Russian War (1807–12), Sweden in the Finnish War, and the Ottoman Empire in the Russo-Turkish War (1806–1812). The Erfurt Congress of September–October 1808 attempted to strengthen France's alliance with Russia. Russia committed to support France if it was attacked by Austria under the terms of the treaty. Early in 1809, Austrian envoy Johann Philipp Stadion persuaded Russian Tsar Alexander I to pledge that any Russian march into Austria would be slow and avoid "every clash and every act of violence." At the same time, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, a French minister, covertly counseled Alexander to defy France. Even though they were allies with France, Russia remained neutral throughout the Fifth Coalition War.

Austria believed that Prussia would aid them in a conflict with France, but a letter from Prussian minister Baron von Stein describing the negotiations was intercepted by French operatives and published on September 8 in the Le Moniteur Universel. Napoleon seized Stein's property in Westphalia and forced Frederick to remove him, forcing Stein to flee to Austria. The Convention of Paris set a timeline for the evacuation of foreign troops from Prussia, where French garrisons had been in force since the end of the Fourth Coalition War, on the same day that Stein was compromised. The withdrawal was conditional on the payment of substantial reparations totaling 140 million francs over the course of 30 months. The Prussian army was likewise reduced to 42,000 troops, less than a sixth of its pre-war strength. The Prussian state's power to wage war was severely limited by the treaty. Despite this defeat, Stadion believed that Prussia would change its mind and that an Austrian advance into the French-controlled Confederation of the Rhine in Germany would result in popular uprisings that would divert French attention away from the French.

In October 1808, France withdrew 108,000 troops from Germany, more than half of its total, to reinforce the French army in Spain. Stadion's pro-war party at the Austrian court benefited from this. Stadion summoned his ambassador to Paris, Klemens von Metternich, to urge others to endorse his idea, and by December 1808, Emperor Francis I had agreed to join the war. Francis' backing was shaky, and the decision to proceed was decided during a meeting on February 8, 1809, attended by the Emperor, Archduke Charles, and Stadion. The decision was made with urgency due to the empire's terrible financial circumstances (it could only afford to keep its army on home soil until late Spring). Although Charles questioned the likelihood of victory, he approved Francis' decision to prepare for war, and the army was mobilized.

Austria and Prussia asked Britain to help pay their war efforts and to send a military expedition to Germany. Prussia received £20,000 in credit from the British Treasury in April 1809, with extra cash promised if Prussia declared war on France. Austria was awarded £250,000 in silver, with an additional £1 million set aside for future needs. Britain refused to send soldiers to Germany, but promised a trip to the Low Countries and a resumption of the Spanish campaign. The Fifth Coalition nominally consisted of Austria, Britain, Portugal, Spain, Sicily, and Sardinia after Prussia decided against war, though Austria led the fighting effort.

Austrian Army and Strategy

Despite the fact that Austria built the largest army in its history, its fighting quality was limited by a number of problems. Austrians, Hungarians, Czechs, Poles, Croats, and Serbs were among the men conscripted from around the Austrian Empire; others, such as the Hungarians, did not enthusiastically support their Austrian masters. Conscription targeted the poorer classes of society and private troops, with the majority of non-commissioned officers being illiterate. The army was well-trained in massed column formations, which were efficient against cavalry but vulnerable to artillery fire, causing it to struggle in some of the campaign's battles. Regular infantry were deemed to be too slow-witted to be trained in skirmishing; grenzer light infantry units had traditionally played this duty, but their quality had dropped since the prospective battles with the Ottoman Empire had ended. The gap was only partially filled by newly formed volunteer jäger units.

The Landwehr, an Austrian militia, was originally designed to serve as a home defense force but was transferred to the field army. The force had second-rate weapons, was under-trained, and was not allowed to hire officers from the landowning classes, resulting in weak leadership. Later in the war, they were used as cannon fodder to deflect French fire. The Austrian cavalry was of reasonable quality, however it was hampered in 1809 by the fact that many of its horses were only partially trained. Because it was put under infantry commanders in the field and lacked suitable horse artillery to manoeuvre swiftly, the artillery was not as dynamic as in some contemporary armies. A massive wagon train was expected to supply the Austrian army, limiting its maneuverability. Its senior officers were chosen for their aristocratic backgrounds and seniority more than their skill, resulting in old generals (the average age was 63). Archduke Charles, the field commander, was unable to remove any of his commanders. He preferred doctrine to flexibility, and he required his generals to adhere to a manual he had issued in 1806.

Charles and the Aulic Council disagreed over the best strategy for the upcoming war; Charles preferred an offensive launched from Bohemia, where there was a concentration of Austrian forces, and an attack could quickly isolate the French in northern Germany. The Aulic Council disapproved because the Danube would divide Charles' and his brother Archduke Johann of Austria's army. They proposed that the main offensive be launched south of the Danube to ensure that links with Vienna were not jeopardized. In the end, the Council triumphed, but the disagreement caused a month's delay in Austrian preparations. The Austrian plan planned for the I Corps, consisting of 38,000 troops under Heinrich Graf von Bellegarde, and the II Corps, consisting of 20,000 troops under Johann Kollowrat, to attack Regensburg (Ratisbon) via Cham from the Bohemian foothills. Through Scharding, the Austrian center and reserve, made up of 66,000 men from Hohenzollern's III Corps, Rosenberg's IV Corps, and Lichtenstein's I Reserve Corps, would march on the same target. The Archduke Louis' V Corps, Hiller's VI Corps, and Kienmayer's II Reserve Corps, totaling 61,000 soldiers, would advance toward Landshut and cover the army's flank. In Poland and Italy, two more theaters will open. Historian Steven Englund believes that if Austria had focused on Germany, it "may well have won the campaign."

French Preparations

The French army was primarily made up of veterans of Napoleon's earlier operations, while recent conscripts made up a significant portion of some divisions, reducing their fighting effectiveness. Under Napoleon's direct command, the army was ecstatic and eager to battle. Napoleon had his doubts about the Austrian plans and intentions. In the winter of 1808–09, he returned to Paris from his battles in Spain and briefed Louis Alexandre Berthier, the chief French military commander in southern Germany, on planned deployments and concentrations for this possible new second front. His rough plans for the forthcoming war included making the Danube valley the major theater of operations, as he had done in 1805, and putting part of his own forces under the leadership of Eugène de Beauharnais and Auguste Marmont to prevent Austrian forces from invading northern Italy. Napoleon was led to believe that the main Austrian attack would take place north of the Danube due to faulty intelligence. On the 30th of March, he addressed Berthier a letter outlining his plans to collect 140,000 troops near Regensburg (Ratisbon), far to the north of where the Austrians planned to assault. This repositioning was expected to take until mid-April, and Napoleon told Berthier that if the attack occurred before the 15th of April, he should fall back to the Lech.

Austria–Bavaria Front

Austria Strikes First

The first sign of an Austrian attack came on April 9th, when Archduke Charles wrote a formal communication to French Marsal François Joseph Lefebvre. According to the document, Charles was given orders by Francis to attack Bavaria, a French client state ruled by Maximilian I. Leading forces of the Austrian army crossed the Inn River into Bavaria early on April 10th; there was no formal declaration of war. The Austrian advance was hindered in the first week by bad roads and freezing rain, but the opposing Bavarian forces of Lefebvre's corps progressively retreated. In anticipation of orders to concentrate with other French forces, Davout's III Corps moved westwards towards Ingolstadt. The Austrian onslaught came about a week before Napoleon expected it, throwing a wrench in his plans. Napoleon ordered a major French concentration near Donauwörth and Augsburg in the west in response to an Austrian offensive before 15 April, but his orders arrived fractured and out of sequence, and Berthier, who was more accustomed to staff tasks than military command, misinterpreted them. Berthier focused on an uncertain line ordering Davout to position his III Corps around Regensburg "whatever occurs"; it's likely that Napoleon meant this to apply only if the Austrians attacked after April 15th. Berthier ordered Davout's army, as well as those of Lefebvre and Oudinot, to march on Regensburg, which Davout had just left.

The marching and countermarching left the Armée d'Allemagne with two wings separated by 75 miles (121 kilometers) and a narrow perimeter of Bavarian infantry. By the evening of the same day, the Austrian advance guard had defeated the Bavarians in Landshut and secured a suitable crossing point over the Isar. In a double-pincer maneuver, Charles aimed to eliminate Davout's and Lefebvre's isolated corps. On April 17, Napoleon arrived in Donauwörth and assumed command from Berthier. Napoleon commanded that the entire French army deploy behind the Ilm River in a bataillon carré in 48 hours after learning that many Austrian forces had crossed the Isar and were heading towards the Danube. Napoleon's orders were unreasonable because he misjudged the amount of Austrian troops coming for Davout; he thought Charles only had a single corps crossing the Isar, but the Austrians had five corps, totaling 80,000 men, advancing towards Regensburg.

Landshut Maneuver

Davout evacuated most of his forces, leaving 2,000 soldiers in Regensburg, anticipating overwhelming forces. In the early hours of April 19, the northern Austrian columns in the Kelheim–Abbach zone intercepted four columns of Davout's soldiers travelling west towards Neustadt. The Austrian attacks were slow and unorganized, and the French III Corps easily repelled them. While the Austrians struck to the north, Napoleon planned a new strategy to destroy the Austrians: André Masséna's corps, augmented by Oudinot's soldiers, would move southeast towards Freising and Landshut in the hopes of threatening the Austrian flank and relieving the pressure on Davout. Napoleon planned to tie the Austrians with the corps of Davout and Lefebvre while his other forces surged into the Austrian rear.

The Battle of Abensberg saw the core Austrian V Corps crushed, allowing the French to advance. Napoleon was working under incorrect assumptions, which made achieving his objectives difficult. Massena's march to Landshut took too long, allowing Hiller to flee south across the Isar. The east bank and the Danube bridge, which allowed convenient access to Regensburg, had not been dismantled. This enabled Austrians to cross the river, preventing France from annihilating their forces. The Austrians had lost 10,000 men, 30 guns, 600 caissons, and 7,000 other vehicles by the 20th of April, but they were still a formidable fighting force. With Napoleon's main army approaching Landshut, Charles could have annihilated Davout's corps and fallen on the rear of Napoleon's force if he had assaulted him. He kept the Regensburg bridge and the road to Straubing and Vienna as escape routes.

Napoleon received a telegram from Davout on April 21st, informing him of the Battle of Teugen-Hausen. Despite Napoleon's reinforcements, Davout held his post; roughly 36,000 French forces were pitted against 75,000 Austrians. When Napoleon discovered that Charles would not retreat to the east, he adjusted the axis of the Armée d'Allemagne in the Landshut Maneuver. Except for 20,000 troops under Jean-Baptiste Bessières who were chasing Hiller, all of the French forces stormed Eckmühl to trap the Austrians and release their besieged friends. On the 22nd of April, Charles dispatched 40,000 men under Rosenburg and Hohenzollern to assault Davout and Lefebvre, while two corps under Kollowrat and Lichtenstein marched to Abbach and took uncontested possession of the river bank. While the conflict raged on, Napoleon arrived at 1:30 p.m. Despite their numerical disadvantage, Davout ordered an attack along the entire line, and the 10th Light Infantry Regiment stormed the settlement of Leuchling and conquered the Unter-Leuchling woods with significant casualties. Recognizing the threat posed by Napoleon's army on his left flank, Charles ordered a retreat to Regensburg, allowing France to take the field.

Napoleon dispatched Massena to capture Straubing, anticipating an Austrian retreat along that path. Charles moved his army over the Danube at Regensburg, leaving 6,000 troops in the stronghold to prevent a chase. In the Battle of Ratisbon, Napoleon ordered Marshal Jean Lannes to storm the walls because he didn't have time for a siege. He succeeded on his second try and captured the town by 5 p.m. Napoleon marched on Vienna with the Austrian army safely in Bohemia. Hiller engaged in a series of delaying tactics in an attempt to buy time for the Vienna defense. Hiller collected 40,000 troops at the Ebersberg bridge after a brief battle at Wels on May 2. At the Battle of Ebersberg, Massena conducted a costly frontal assault and took the stronghold on 3 May, with Hiller retreating along the Danube. Napoleon surpassed Charles in moving his force to defend Vienna, and the city was seized on May 13th. The garrison retreated north of the Danube, destroying the bridges in their wake.


The main Austrian army, led by Charles, arrived at the Marchfeld, a plain northeast of Vienna just over the Danube that served as a training area for Austrian military forces, on the 16th and 17th of May. The majority of Charles' men were stationed many miles away from the riverbank in the hopes of concentrating them at the place where Napoleon intended to cross. On the 20th, Charles learnt via his Bissam hill watchers that the French were constructing a bridge to the Marchfeld at Kaiser-Ebersdorf, directly southwest of the Lobau island. On the 21st of May, after concluding that the French were crossing at Kaiser-Ebersdorf, Charles ordered a broad advance of 98,000 troops and 292 guns in five columns. To the west, Aspern, and to the east, Essling, the French bridgehead rested. The bridges connecting the French troops at Aspern-Essling and Lobau were not defended by palisades, leaving them open to Austrian barges that had been set ablaze.

On May 21, at 2:30 p.m., the Battle of Aspern-Essling began. The first three columns launched attacks on Aspern and the Gemeinde Au forests, but they were poorly organized and failed. Later assaults were successful in capturing and keeping the village's western section. Because the fourth and fifth columns had longer marching routes, the Austrians did not attack Essling until 6 p.m. Throughout the day, the French successfully repelled raids on Essling. Fighting began at 3 a.m. on May 22nd, and the French had retaken Aspern four hours later. On the other side of the river, Napoleon had 71,000 soldiers and 152 guns, but the French were still outmanned. Napoleon ordered a strong assault on the Austrian center in order to give the III Corps ample time to cross and secure a victory. Lannes advanced with three infantry divisions for a mile before the Austrians, spurred on by Charles' personal presence, who rallied the Zach Infantry Regiment, launched a heavy fire on the French, forcing them to retreat. The French bridge collapsed again around 9 a.m. An hour later, Charles launched another major assault, capturing Aspern for the final time, but failing to seize Essling. The Austrians returned a few hours later and seized everything of Essling except the fortified granary. The Imperial Guard, led by Jean Rapp, was ordered by Napoleon to support a departure from the granary. Rapp defied orders and led a bayonet attack that drove the Austrians out of Essling, for which Napoleon later praised him. When Napoleon realized his bridgehead was untenable, he ordered a retreat and handed command to Lannes. Lannes was mortally wounded when he was struck by a cannonball. By dark, the French had retreated to Lobau, bringing their pontoons bridge in behind them. Although Charles had dealt Napoleon his first significant military loss and killed one of his marshals, his tired army was unable to pursue the French.


Napoleon took more than six weeks after his defeat at Aspern-Essling to plan and prepare contingencies before attempting to cross the Danube again. To secure the success of the next crossing, the French supplied more troops, more cannons, and improved defensive measures. The French recrossed the Danube from June 30 to July 1, with about 188,000 men moving over the Marchfeld towards the Austrians. The outpost divisions of Nordmann and Johann von Klenau provided immediate resistance to the French advance; the main Habsburg force was stationed five miles (8 kilometers) away, centered on the hamlet of Wagram. At midday on July 5, Napoleon ordered a general offensive; an early attack on the left flank by Massena seized Leopold and Süssenbrunn, but the French were held off elsewhere by a strong Austrian defense.

On the 6th of July, Charles planned a double-envelopment that would necessitate a rapid march from his brother John's army, who were stationed a few kilometers east of the battlefield. Napoleon's plan called for Davout's III Corps to encircle the Austrian left while the rest of the army pressed them down. On the second day, at 4 a.m., Klenau's VI Corps, supported by Kollowrat's III Corps, launched a crushing assault against the French left, forcing the latter to surrender both Aspern and Essling. Meanwhile, Bernadotte had ordered his forces out of Aderklaa, a central village in the Netherlands, citing intense artillery shelling, putting the French position in jeopardy. [89] Napoleon was furious, and he dispatched two divisions of Massena's corps, backed by cavalry, to retake the crucial settlement. After a difficult first phase, Massena brought in Molitor's reserve division, which progressively reclaimed Aderklaa for the French, only to lose it again after powerful Austrian counterattacks and bombardments. Napoleon dispatched 4,000 cuirassiers under Nansouty against the Austrian lines in order to delay Davout's impending assault. Napoleon erected a 112-gun grand battery in the center of his fortifications to deter the Austrians from assaulting. Napoleon organized the three tiny divisions of MacDonald into a hollow, rectangular shape that marched into the Austrian center as Davout's soldiers advanced on the Austrian left. Despite being shelled by Austrian artillery, the ponderous phalanx managed to burst through the Austrian lines. Oudinot was able to capture Wagram and split the Austrian army because the Austrians at Wagram were weakened by the necessity to reinforce their left against Davout. Charles ordered a withdrawal at 2.30 p.m. after realizing that his brother's men would not arrive until the evening. The Austrians retreated in good order, with the main force heading west and the left flank heading north.

The French lost roughly 32,000 troops, with their commanders bearing the brunt of the losses, with around 40 French generals killed or injured; the Austrians lost around 35,000 men. On the 10th and 11th of July, fighting resumed in Znaim. The Armistice of Znaim, signed on July 12, led to lengthy peace discussions between Napoleon and Metternich.

Other Threats

Italian Front

Archduke John fought Napoleon's stepson Eugène in Italy. At the Battle of Sacile in April, the Austrians held off three failed French assaults, forcing Eugène to retreat to Verona and the Adige River. While John removed men to support Charles, Eugène was able to concentrate his forces. Although John won the Battle of Caldiero on April 30, he was compelled to retreat due to Eugène's growing dominance and operations on the Austria-Bavaria front. In the Battle of the Piave River on May 8, John was defeated and forced out of Italy. Eugène sent MacDonald after John and joined Napoleon and the rest of his army in Vienna.

Marmont, under the nominal command of Eugène, was battling an Austrian invasion led by General Stoichewich in the Dalmatian Campaign. On April 30, Marmont launched a counteroffensive in the highlands, but the Grenzer forces repelled it. In May, more attacks resulted in a series of successes over a fragmented Austrian force. Marmont was able to march with the majority of his forces to join the emperor in Vienna before the end of the month.

Failed British Feint Operation

The British started the Walcheren Campaign in the Netherlands in July 1809 to relieve Austrian pressure and weaken French naval supremacy. The aim was to land a force at Walcheren and move up the Western Scheldt to the French naval port of Antwerp. Patrols by the Royal Navy into the Western Scheldt and a dockyard strike in Antwerp alerted the French to the area's vulnerability, and attempts were undertaken to strengthen the area's defenses and garrisons. On July 30, John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, landed in Walcheren with a force of about 39,000 men, a larger army than that serving in the Iberian Peninsula and the largest British Expeditionary Force of the Napoleonic Wars. Due to a paucity of boats, the expedition was unable to land enough troops on the southern side of the Western Scheldt to conquer the strengthened fortress at Cadzand. The conquest of Flushing on the northern side, which would allow Royal Navy boats to travel across the Western Scheldt, was critical to an advance on Antwerp. The siege cannons were not built up until August 13th, and Flushing did not capitulate until August 16th. Meanwhile, the British forces were suffering from "Walcheren Fever," a malady considered to be a combination of Malaria and Typhus, which claimed the lives of 4,000 men during the battle. In comparison, only 106 men died in battle. By the 24th of August, Chatham had decided that the illness had depleted his force too severely, and that the Antwerp defenses were too powerful to attack. The campaign came to a close without the British accomplishing their principal goal of diminishing France's naval supremacy. The first British troops left on September 7, however a disease-ravaged garrison remained until December 9. The Duke of Portland, the British prime minister, resigned as a result of the campaign's defeat, and was replaced by Spencer Perceval.

Austro-Polish War

With initial success, Austria invaded the Duchy of Warsaw. On April 19, Poniatowski defeated the Austrians in the Battle of Raszyn. This made it impossible for Austrian forces to cross the Vistula River, forcing them to flee captured Warsaw. With considerable success, the Poles invaded Galicia, but the advance quickly faltered due to significant fatalities. The Austrians won a few fights as well, but they were hampered by Russian troops whose aims were unclear and who refused to let them advance.

Following the Austrian invasion of the Duchy of Warsaw, Russia unwillingly entered the war against Austria in order to fulfill an alliance agreement with France. On June 3, 1809, the Russian army, led by General Sergei Golitsyn, crossed into Galicia. With orders to avoid any significant confrontations with the Austrians, Golitsyn approached as gently as possible. Minor clashes occurred between Russian and Austrian troops, with only minor casualties. The Austrian and Russian commanders corresponded frequently and exchanged operational intelligence. The Poles intercepted a friendly letter addressed by a Russian divisional commander, General Andrey Gorchakov, to Archduke Ferdinand, and sent an original to Emperor Napoleon and a copy to Tsar Alexander, culminating in Gorchakov's dismissal from command by Alexander. Golitsyn and Poniatowski, with whom the Russians were expected to cooperate in Galicia, were constantly at odds. Russia received the Galician region of Tarnopol as a result of the Treaty of Schönbrunn.

Naval Battles between Britain and France

Since the start of the Napoleonic War, British fleets have made several raids on French fleets, ports, and colonies, and the battle between the British and French navies continued in 1809. Following the French defeats at the Trafalgar Campaign and the Atlantic Campaign of 1806, Britain dominated the Atlantic, with the remnants of the French fleet stationed at bases in the Bay of Biscay. The French colonies in the Caribbean and the Atlantic served as safe havens for the British fleet while also posing a serious danger. A British force led by James Gambier blockaded the French Atlantic Fleet in Brest, but the French were eager to interfere in the Caribbean following the British assault of Martinique in January 1809. In February, a storm dispersed Gambier's fleet, allowing the French, led by Jean-Baptiste Philibert Willaumez, to set sail and anchor in the Basque Roads. In the Battle of Les Sables-d'Olonne on February 23, three French frigates attempting to join the main fleet were damaged. The French were anchored under the guns of coastal batteries but were blockaded by the British, resulting in a stalemate. On March 16, Willaumez was succeeded by Zacharie Allemand, who strengthened the anchorage defenses. Captain Lord Cochrane was dispatched by the British Admiralty to spearhead an attack on the French. The French fleet was shaken by Cochrane's fireship assault on April 11th, and many ships ran aground. Gambier was unable to take advantage of the situation by dispatching the main British fleet, but Cochrane's smaller force was able to sink a number of vessels during the next few days. The engagement anchored the French fleet, allowing the British and Spanish to evict the French from Haiti later that year and invade Guadeloupe in early 1810.

Rebellions against French Rule

Italian Rebellions

In April 1809, Archduke John made proclamations urging the people of Veneto to rise up against the French in the name of Italian nationality. A group of Venetians, including many criminals, rose up and took control of state buildings, destroying tax and conscription records in the process. After the Austrian army withdrew in May, the insurrection continued and spread throughout Veneto. The Tyrolean Rebellion motivated the insurgents. The French garrison and militia were unable to suppress the insurgents, and the elimination of French taxes on bread, meat, and wine left them unemployed. Many cities in Veneto fell under rebel control, while insurgents invaded Emilia-Romagna, threatening Bologna and sieging Ferrara for ten days. When the uprising ended in November 1809, Napoleon retaliated forcefully, dispatching 4,000 troops from Naples to Bologna and arresting 675 civilians, 150 of whom were slain. Until the end of the French occupation, some rebels lingered in the region's mountains and marshes, acting as brigands.

Rebellion in Tyrol

Andreas Hofer led a revolt against Bavarian sovereignty and French dominance in Tyrol, which resulted in early isolated successes at the Battles of Bergisel. By late August, Hofer had liberated the Tyrol from Bavarian rule, but on September 29, an Italian force led by Luigi Gaspare Peyri took Trento, though they were unable to go any farther. The next month, with forces made available by the Treaty of Schönbrunn, Comte d'Erlon led a Bavarian force led by Jean-Baptiste Drouet to put a stop to the uprising. A three-pronged offensive, backed by Franco-Italian forces, captured the province with 45,000 troops by early November. Hofer went into hiding, but was betrayed by one of his men and executed by the French in January 1810.

Gottscheer Rebellion

One of the counties ceded to France was Gottschee (in modern-day Slovenia), which was to form part of the Illyrian Provinces. The ethnic German population, the Gottscheers, led by Johann Erker, rebelled against the French garrison. Rebels were quickly defeated and the French intended to burn down the city of Gottschee. After petitions from local clergy this was not carried out, but the city was looted for a period of three days from 16 October.

Black Brunswickers

The Duchy of Brunswick had been absorbed into the Kingdom of Westphalia's French client state, but its duke, Frederick William, sided with the Austrians in 1809. In Saxony, a French client state governed by Frederick Augustus I, his force of a few thousand voluntary Brunswickers fought with Austrian troops under General Kienmayer. At the Battle of Gefrees, they were victorious, defeating a corps led by Junot. The Austrians virtually controlled all of Saxony after seizing the Saxon capital, Dresden, and beating back an army led by Napoleon's brother, Jérôme Bonaparte. The main Austrian force had been beaten at Wagram by this time, and the armistice of Znaim had been arranged. The Duke of Brunswick refused to be bound by the ceasefire, leading his corps on a combat march across Germany to the Weser's mouth, from where they sailed to England and entered British service.


According to historian Charles Esdaile, the nation's armies disintegrated after the main Austrian force was destroyed at Wagram, and Emperor Francis was compelled to plead for peace. Englund feels that Austria could have continued to fight had it not been for "diplomatic considerations." The Treaty of Schönbrunn, which was signed on October 14, 1809, exacted a severe political price from the Austrians. Most of the hereditary Habsburg territories were saved thanks to Metternich and Charles' success in negotiating better terms in exchange for Austrian cooperation. Carinthia, Carniola, and the Adriatic ports were among the regions surrendered to the French, thereby cutting off Austria's access to the Mediterranean. Galicia was granted to the Warsaw Duchy. The territory of the short-lived Duchy of Salzburg were handed to Bavaria as territorial restitution for Austria's losses on the Adriatic Coast and the loss of Tyrol in the Pressburg Peace. The district of Tarnopol was given to Russia. Over three million Austrian subjects died, accounting for roughly 20% of the kingdom's total population. Emperor Francis consented to pay an indemnity of about 85 million francs, recognized Napoleon's brother Joseph as King of Spain, and confirmed the ban on British trade in his remaining territories. Napoleon married Marie Louise, Emperor Francis's daughter, after the Austrian defeat. Napoleon anticipated that the marriage would strengthen the Franco-Austrian alliance and give his regime legitimacy. The alliance allowed Austria a break from its ten-year war with France and restored Austria's reputation as a major European power; marital connections did not prevent Francis from resuming war on France in 1813.

From the standpoint of the French, the conflict had a mixed consequence. During the battle, there were revolts in Tyrol and the Kingdom of Westphalia, indicating that the German population was dissatisfied with French control. An 18-year-old German named Friedrich Staps approached Napoleon during an army review a few days before the Treaty of Schönbrunn was signed and attempted to stab the emperor, but he was stopped by General Rapp. By this time, the nascent forces of German nationalism were well-entrenched, and the War of the Fifth Coalition aided their development. Anti-French uprisings and spontaneous guerilla activity occurred in 1813 during the War of the Sixth Coalition, however historians disagree whether this was fueled by pan-German nationalism or patriotism for the existing order; a united Germany would not occur until 1871.

The war tarnished France's military might and tarnished Napoleon's image. The Battle of Aspern-Essling was Napoleon's first major setback, and it was widely celebrated across Europe. The Austrians had demonstrated that strategic vision and tactical ability were no longer just the domain of the French. The French infantry's tactical expertise deteriorated, resulting in increasingly massive columns of foot soldiers forsaking movements and relying on sheer numbers to burst through, as MacDonald's onslaught at Wagram exemplified. Because raw conscripts replaced many of the veterans of Austerlitz and Jena, the Armée d'Allemagne lacked the qualitative edge of the Grande Armée, diminishing tactical flexibility. Napoleon's army were increasingly made up of non-French troops, which lowered morale. Although Napoleon's maneuvers were effective, as indicated by his overturning of the disastrous French position, his armies grew in bulk, making military methods more difficult to handle. The scope of battle grew too big for Napoleon to properly manage, as evidenced by the French invasion of Russia in 1812, the second Napoleonic conflict.

The war was dubbed "the first modern war" by Englund because it had "symmetrical conscript forces of unusually great size," separated into corps, and commanded decentralized across theaters. "It was a war of size and maneuver more than previously, and attrition was the determining factor rather than dramatic one-(or two-)day pitched battles," he concludes.