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"How Napoleon Lost Paris" Topic

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277 hits since 4 Jul 2018
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP05 Jul 2018 2:42 p.m. PST

"IN EARLY NOVEMBER 1813, several weeks after his crushing defeat at Leipzig, Napoleon led fewer than 60,000 soldiers back into France and then continued on to Paris to oversee the mobilization of a new army. Meanwhile, his shattered marshals prepared to defend France's Rhine frontier against a looming Allied invasion. They did not have to wait long. On December 20 the Grand Army of Bohemia, led by Field-Marshal Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg, crossed the Upper Rhine at Basel. Twelve days later, a smaller Allied force, Field Marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher's Army of Silesia, crossed the Rhine near Mainz. Schwarzenberg and Blücher had planned to reach their respective objectives of Langres and Metz by January 15.

The Allies' ultimate target, of course, was Paris, though the specifics of such an offensive were left unsettled. Longstanding differences had become enmities among the members of Napoleon's Coalition as they considered whether France should be invaded and whether Napoleon, in turn, should be dethroned. The Austrians did not want to invade France and desperately hoped to reach a diplomatic settlement that would keep Napoleon on the throne to counter Russia's growing power. Tsar Alexander I of Russia wanted to be rid of Napoleon altogether

Napoleon made his first appearance in the field on January 29, just in time to strike the rear of Blücher's army at Brienne in northeast France. Each side sustained 3,000 or so casualties; each claimed victory. Three days later Blücher, now joined by Schwarzenberg's forces, handed Napoleon a humiliating defeat at La Rothière about eight kilometers south of Brienne. Although Napoleon lost just 6,000 of his 45,000 combatants, he was forced to retreat in the face of the Coalition's overwhelming numbers. The Allies might have ended the war with a general pursuit, but Blücher lacked fresh reserves and Schwarzenberg's rearward units remained too distant to participate. Nonetheless, as long as their armies stayed together, a victory for Napoleon seemed impossible…"
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