Synopsis: In 1804, Napoleon was crowned Emperor of the French. The next year, the Napoleonic Wars began as Napoleon planned an invasion of Britain. However, due to the superiority of the British navy, he was never able to mount this invasion force. Instead, he turned them against the Austrian and Russian Empires, crushing their armies at the Battle of Austerlitz. By 1810, when his empire was at its greatest extent, Napoleon held control from Spain to the Duchy of Warsaw, and had forced his former enemies of Prussia and Austria into allies. However, it was at this point that Napoleon made his grandest folly by invading Russia. The Russian forces implemented a scorched-earth policy and avoiding most military conflict with the French army. During the winter of 1812, Napoleon was forced to retreat from Russia, losing most of his forces along the way to starvation and the Russian winter. In 1813, Napoleon was defeated in the Battle of Leipzig ("the Battle of the Nations") and several months later forced into exile on the island of Elba. In 1815, he returned to France to resume power one more time. His reign would only last for a hundred days, as he would defeated for the final time at the Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon was sent into exile again, this time to the island of St. Helena. Meanwhile, the Congress of Vienna met to redraw the borders of Europe and achieve a balance of power between the various states.
Scorched-earth- a military tactic which involved destroying anything which might be useful to the enemy, including crops, livestock, shelter, weapons, and industrial resources.
Exile- a forced departure from one's home while being refused permission to return.
NCSS Standards Connection: III. People, Places, and Environment
The armies of Napoleon covered long distances, stretching from Spain to the Russian frontier. As they moved, they conquered many different groups and nations. Even though Napoleon held the title of Emperor of the French, his empire included Spanish, Italian, Swiss, Dutch, German, Polish, and other nationalities. In the end though, it was Napoleon's lack of knowledge of the Russian environment, in particular its winter, that led to his eventual downfall.