Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Battle of Paris

The Battle of Paris was fought during the Napoleonic Wars in 1814. The French defeat led directly to the abdication of Napoleon I.
In 1813 Napoleon I was retreating from his failed invasion of Russia. Coalition armies were joined together and defeated the French at the Battle of Leipzig. Austrian emperor Francis I was interested in seeking peace with the French, but both Tsar Alexander I of Russia and Frederick William III of Prussia wished to invade France. Just as Napoleon had entered Moscow, so did Tsar Alexander wish to enter Paris. Until this battle no foreign army had entered Paris in nearly 400 years.
The Austrian, Prussian and Russian armies were joined together and put under the command of Field Marshal Prince Karl von Schwarzenberg, but the driving force behind the army was the Russian Tsar and King of Prussia moving with the army. The Coalition army totaled about 100,000 troops. Napoleon had left his brother Joseph Bonaparte in defense of Paris with about 20,000 regular troops under Marshal Auguste Marmont along with an additional 30,000 National Guards and a small force of the Imperial Guard under Marshals Bon Adrien Jeannot de Moncey and Édouard Mortier.
The Coalition army arrived outside Paris in late March. Nearing the city, Russian troops broke rank and ran forwards to get their first glimpse of Paris. Camping outside the city on the 29th the Coalition forces were to assault next morning. Early in the morning of March 30 the Coalition attack began when the Russians attacked and drove back the Young Guard near Romainville in the center of the French lines. A few hours later the Prussians, under Blücher, attacked north of the city and carried the French position around Aubervilliers, but did not press their attack.
The Württemberg troops seized the positions at Saint-Maur to the southwest. The Russians attempted to press their attack but became caught up by trenches and artillery before falling back before a counterattack of the Imperial Guard. They continued to hold back the Russians in the center until the Prussian forces appeared to their rear.
The Russian forces then assailed the Montmartre Heights, where Joseph's headquarters had been at the beginning of the battle. Control of the heights was severely contested, and Joseph fled the city. Marmont contacted the Coalition and reached a secret agreement with them. Shortly afterwards, he marched his soldiers to a position, where they were quickly surrounded by Coalition troops; Marmont then surrendered, as had been agreed.
The Russian tsar sent an envoy to meet with the French to hasten the surrender. The tsar offered generous terms to the French and declared himself to be bringing peace to France rather than its destruction. On March 31 Talleyrand gave the key of the city to the tsar. Later that day the Coalition armies entered the city with the tsar at the head of the army followed by the king of Prussia and Schwarzenberg. Napoleon was outraged by the surrender of Paris. He was forced to abdicate on April 6. The terms of his abdication, which included his exile to the Isle of Elba, were settled in the Treaty of Fontainebleau on April 11. A reluctant Napoleon ratified it two days later.

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