Battle of Valmy
Levée en masse
Siege of Toulon
Reign of Terror
War of the First Coalition
The War of the First Coalition was a set of wars that several European powers fought between 1792 and 1797 against initially the constitutional Kingdom of France and then the French Republic that succeeded it. They were only loosely allied and fought without much apparent coordination or agreement; each power had its eye on a different part of France it wanted to appropriate after a French defeat, which never occurred.
Flight to VarennesVarennes-en-Argonne, France
The royal Flight to Varennes during the night of 20–21 June 1791 was a significant episode in the French Revolution in which King Louis XVI of France, Queen Marie Antoinette, and their immediate family unsuccessfully attempted to escape from Paris in order to initiate a counter-revolution at the head of loyal troops under royalist officers concentrated at Montmédy near the frontier. They escaped only as far as the small town of Varennes-en-Argonne, where they were arrested after having been recognized at their previous stop in Sainte-Menehould.
Haitian RevolutionPort-au-Prince, Haiti
The Haitian Revolution was a successful insurrection by self-liberated slaves against French colonial rule in Saint-Domingue, now the sovereign state of Haiti. The revolt began on 22 August 1791, and ended in 1804 with the former colony's independence. It involved blacks, mulattoes, French, Spanish, British, and Polish participants—with the ex-slave Toussaint Louverture emerging as Haiti's most charismatic hero. The revolution was the only slave uprising that led to the founding of a state which was both free from slavery (though not from forced labour), and ruled by non-whites and former captives. It is now widely seen as a defining moment in the history of the Atlantic World.
Declaration of PillnitzDresden, Germany
The Declaration of Pillnitz, was a statement issued on 27 August 1791 at Pillnitz Castle near Dresden (Saxony) by Frederick William II of Prussia and the Habsburg Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II who was Marie Antoinette's brother. It declared the joint support of the Holy Roman Empire and of Prussia for King Louis XVI of France against the French Revolution. Since the French Revolution of 1789, Leopold had become increasingly concerned about the safety of his sister, Marie-Antoinette, and her family but felt that any intervention in French affairs would only increase their danger. At the same time, many French aristocrats were fleeing France and taking up residence in neighbouring countries, spreading fear of the Revolution and agitating for foreign support to Louis XVI. After Louis and his family had fled Paris in the hopes of inciting a counter-revolution, known as the Flight to Varennes in June 1791, Louis had been apprehended and was returned to Paris and kept under armed guard. On 6 July 1791, Leopold issued the Padua Circular, calling on the sovereigns of Europe to join him in demanding Louis' freedom.
France invades Netherlands unsuccessfullyMarquain, Belgium
The French authorities became concerned about the agitation of émigré nobles abroad, especially in the Austrian Netherlands and in the minor states of Germany. In the end, France declared war on Austria first, with the Assembly voting for war on 20 April 1792. The newly appointed foreign minister Charles François Dumouriez prepared an invasion of the Austrian Netherlands, where he expected the local population to rise against Austrian rule. However, the revolution had thoroughly disorganized the French army, which had insufficient forces for the invasion. Its soldiers fled at the first sign of battle(Battle of Marquain), deserting en masse, in one case murdering General Théobald Dillon.
Brunswick ManifestoParis, France
The Brunswick Manifesto was a proclamation issued by Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick, commander of the Allied Army (principally Austrian and Prussian), on 25 July 1792 to the population of Paris, France during the War of the First Coalition. The manifesto threatened that if the French royal family were harmed, then French civilians would be harmed. It was said to have been a measure intended to intimidate Paris, but rather helped further spur the increasingly radical French Revolution and finally led to the war between revolutionary France and counter-revolutionary monarchies.
Insurrection of 10 August 1792Tuileries, Paris, France
The Insurrection of 10 August 1792 was a defining event of the French Revolution, when armed revolutionaries in Paris, increasingly in conflict with the French monarchy, stormed the Tuileries Palace. The conflict led France to abolish the monarchy and establish a republic. Conflict between King Louis XVI of France and the country's new revolutionary Legislative Assembly increased through the spring and summer of 1792 as Louis vetoed radical measures voted upon by the Assembly. Tensions accelerated dramatically on August 1 when news reached Paris that the commander of the allied Prussian and Austrian armies had issued the Brunswick Manifesto, threatening "unforgettable vengeance" on Paris should harm be done to the French Monarchy. On August 10th, the National Guard of the Paris Commune and fédérés from Marseille and Brittany stormed the King's residence in the Tuileries Palace in Paris, which was defended by the Swiss Guards. Hundreds of Swiss guardsmen and 400 revolutionaries were killed in the battle, and Louis and the royal family took shelter with the Legislative Assembly. The formal end of the monarchy occurred six weeks later on September 21st as one of the first acts of the new National Convention, which established a Republic on the next day.
Battle of ValmyValmy, France
The Battle of Valmy, also known as the Cannonade of Valmy, was the first major victory by the army of France during the Revolutionary Wars that followed the French Revolution. The battle took place on 20 September 1792 as Prussian troops commanded by the Duke of Brunswick attempted to march on Paris. Generals François Kellermann and Charles Dumouriez stopped the advance near the northern village of Valmy in Champagne-Ardenne. In this early part of the Revolutionary Wars—known as the War of the First Coalition—the new French government was in almost every way unproven, and thus the small, localized victory at Valmy became a huge psychological victory for the Revolution at large. The outcome was thoroughly unexpected by contemporary observers—a vindication for the French revolutionaries and a stunning defeat for the vaunted Prussian army. The victory emboldened the newly assembled National Convention to formally declare the end of monarchy in France and to establish the French Republic. Valmy permitted the development of the Revolution and all its resultant ripple effects, and for that it is regarded by historians as one of the most significant battles in history.
Battle of JemappesJemappes
The Battle of Jemappes took place near the town of Jemappes in Hainaut, Austrian Netherlands (now Belgium), near Mons during the War of the First Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars. One of the first major offensive battles of the war, it was a victory for the armies of the infant French Republic, and saw the French Armée du Nord, which included many inexperienced volunteers, defeat a substantially smaller regular Austrian army.
1793 CampaignHondschoote, France
The French Revolutionary Wars re-esclated as 1793 began. New powers entered the First Coalition days after the execution of King Louis XVI on 21 January. Spain and Portugal were among these. Then, on 1 February France declared war on Great Britain and the Netherlands. Three other powers made inroads into overwhelmingly French-speaking territory in the following months prompting France to amass, domestically, an army of 1,200,000 soldiers. The very ascendant Jacobins executed thousands of proven and suspected dissenters, in the final, climactic phase of the Reign of Terror. Counter-revolutionary forces turned Toulon over to Britain and Spain on 29 August, capturing much of the French navy, a port not retaken by Dugommier (with the assistance of the young Napoleon Bonaparte) until 19 December. Between these months a battle on the northern frontier, in September, was won by France, which saw the mainly British siege of Dunkirk lifted. The Year ended with France's government, the National Convention, who laid the foundations for the First French Republic, launched the next Year, having rebuffed attacks from the south and south-east but having made an unsuccessful counter into Piedmont (toward Turin).
French First Republic, Louis XVI excutedPlace de la Concorde, Paris, F
War in the VendéeMaine-et-Loire, France
The War in the Vendée was a counter-revolution in the Vendée region of France during the French Revolution. The Vendée is a coastal region, located immediately south of the Loire River in Western France. Initially, the war was similar to the 14th-century Jacquerie peasant uprising, but quickly acquired themes considered by the Jacobin government in Paris to be counter-revolutionary and Royalist. The uprising headed by the newly formed Catholic and Royal Army was comparable to the Chouannerie, which took place in the area north of the Loire.
Levée en masseParis, France
Siege of ToulonToulon, France
The Siege of Toulon (29 August – 19 December 1793) was a military engagement that took place during the Federalist revolts of the French Revolutionary Wars. It was undertaken by Republican forces against Royalist rebels supported by Anglo-Spanish forces in the southern French city of Toulon. It was during this siege that young Napoleon Bonaparte first won fame and promotion when his plan, involving the capture of fortifications above the harbor, was credited with forcing the city to capitulate and the Anglo-Spanish fleet to withdraw. The British siege of 1793 marked the first involvement of the Royal Navy with the French Revolution.
Reign of TerrorParis, France
Throughout the winter of 1792 and spring of 1793, Paris was plagued by food riots and mass hunger. The new Convention did little to remedy the problem until late spring of 1793, occupied instead with matters of war. Finally, on 6 April 1793, the Convention created the Committee of Public Safety, and was given a monumental task: "To deal with the radical movements of the Enragés, food shortages and riots, the revolt in the Vendée and in Brittany, recent defeats of its armies, and the desertion of its commanding general." Most notably, the Committee of Public Safety instated a policy of terror, and the guillotine began to fall on perceived enemies of the republic at an ever-increasing rate, beginning the period known today as the Reign of Terror. There was a sense of emergency among leading politicians in France in the summer of 1793 between the widespread civil war and counter-revolution. Bertrand Barère exclaimed on 5 September 1793 in the convention: "Let's make terror the order of the day!" This quote has frequently been interpreted as the beginning of a supposed "system of Terror", an interpretation no longer retained by historians today. By then, 16,594 official death sentences had been dispensed throughout France since June 1793, of which 2,639 were in Paris alone; and an additional 10,000 died in prison, without trial, or under both of these circumstances. Claiming at 20,000 lives, the Terror saved the Revolution.
On the Alpine frontier, there was little change, with the French invasion of Piedmont failing. On the Spanish border, the French under General Dugommier rallied from their defensive positions at Bayonne and Perpignan, driving the Spanish out of Roussillon and invading Catalonia. Dugommier was killed in the Battle of the Black Mountain in November. On the northern front in the Flanders Campaign, the Austrians and French both prepared offensives in Belgium, with the Austrians besieging Landrecies and advancing towards Mons and Maubeuge. The French prepared an offensive on multiple fronts, with two armies in Flanders under Pichegru and Moreau, and Jourdan attacking from the German border. On the middle Rhine front in July General Michaud's Army of the Rhine attempted two offensives in July in the Vosges, the second of which was successful, but not followed up allowing for a Prussian counter-attack in September. Otherwise this sector of the front was largely quiet over the course of the Year. At sea, the French Atlantic Fleet succeeded in holding off a British attempt to interdict a vital cereal convoy from the United States on the First of June, though at the cost of one quarter of its strength. In the Caribbean, the British fleet landed in Martinique in February, taking the whole island by 24 March and holding it until the Peace of Amiens, and in Guadeloupe in April. By the end of the Year French armies had won victories on all fronts, and as the Year closed they began advancing into the Netherlands.
Battle of FleurusFleurus, Belgium
The Battle of Fleurus, on 26 June 1794, was an engagement between the army of the First French Republic, under General Jean-Baptiste Jourdan, and the Coalition Army (Britain, Hanover, Dutch Republic, and Habsburg Monarchy), commanded by Prince Josias of Coburg, in the most significant battle of the Flanders Campaign in the Low Countries during the French Revolutionary Wars. Both sides had forces in the area of around 80,000 men but the French were able to concentrate their troops and defeat the First Coalition. The Allied defeat led to the permanent loss of the Austrian Netherlands and to the destruction of the Dutch Republic. The battle marked a turning point for the French army, which remained ascendant for the rest of the War of the First Coalition. The French use of the reconnaissance balloon l'Entreprenant was the first military use of an aircraft that influenced the result of a battle.
Fall of Maximilien RobespierreHôtel de Ville, Paris
Battle of the Black MountainCapmany, Spain
The Battle of the Black Mountain between the army of the First French Republic and the allied armies of the Kingdom of Spain and the Kingdom of Portugal. The French, led by Jacques François Dugommier defeated the Allies, who were commanded by Luis Firmín de Carvajal, Conde de la Unión. The French victory led to the capture of Figueres and the Siege of Roses (Rosas), a port in Catalonia.
The Year opened with French forces in the process of attacking the Dutch Republic in the middle of winter. The Dutch people rallied to the French call and started the Batavian Revolution. With the Netherlands falling, Prussia also decided to leave the coalition, signing the Peace of Basel on 6 April, ceding the west bank of the Rhine to France. This freed Prussia to finish the occupation of Poland.
The French army in Spain advanced, advancing in Catalonia while taking Bilbao and Vitoria and marching toward Castile. By 10 July, Spain also decided to make peace, recognizing the revolutionary government and ceding the territory of Santo Domingo, but returning to the pre-war borders in Europe. This left the armies on the Pyrenees free to march east and reinforce the armies on the Alps, and the combined army overran Piedmont.
Meanwhile, Britain's attempt to reinforce the rebels in the Vendée by landing troops at Quiberon failed, and a conspiracy to overthrow the republican government from within ended when Napoleon Bonaparte's garrison used cannon to fire grapeshot into the attacking mob (which led to the establishment of the Directory). In northern Italy victory at the Battle of Loano in November gave France access to the Italian peninsula.
Batavian RepublicAmsterdam, Netherlands
After seizing the Low Countries in a surprise winter attack, France established the Batavian Republic as a puppet state. In early 1795, intervention by the French Republic led to the downfall of the old Dutch Republic. The new Republic enjoyed widespread support from the Dutch populace and was the product of a genuine popular revolution. Nevertheless, it clearly was founded with the armed support of the French revolutionary forces. The Batavian Republic became a client state, the first of the "sister-republics", and later part of the French Empire of Napoleon. Its politics were deeply influenced by the French, who supported no fewer than three coups d'état to bring the different political factions to power that France favored at different moments in its own political development. Nevertheless, the process of creating a written Dutch constitution was mainly driven by internal political factors, not by French influence, until Napoleon forced the Dutch government to accept his brother, Louis Bonaparte, as monarch.
Prussia and Spain leave the warBasel, Switzerland
Even before the close of 1794 the king of Prussia retired from any active part in the war, and on 5 April 1795 he concluded with France the Peace of Basel, which recognized France's occupation of the left bank of the Rhine.The new French-dominated Dutch government bought peace by surrendering Dutch territory to the south of that river. A treaty of peace between France and Spain followed in July. The grand duke of Tuscany had been admitted to terms in February. The coalition thus fell into ruin and France proper would be free from invasion for many years. With great diplomatic cunning, the treaties enabled France to placate and divide its enemies of the First Coalition, one by one. Thereafter, Revolutionary France emerged as a major European power.
Enter NapoleonSaint-Roch, Paris
The Comte d'Artois landed at Île d'Yeu with 1,000 émigrés and 2,000 British troops. Bolstered by this force, the Royalist troops began marching on Paris in early October 1795. This number would balloon as it got closer to the capital. Général Menou was given command of the defence of the capital, but he was severely outnumbered with only 5,000 troops on hand to resist the 30,000-man Royalist Army. Young General Napoléon Bonaparte was aware of the commotion, and he arrived at the Convention around this time to find out what was happening. Bonaparte accepted, but only on the condition that he was granted complete freedom of movement. Bonaparte commanded throughout the two-hour engagement, and survived unscathed despite having his horse shot from under him. The effect of the grapeshot and the volleys from the patriot forces caused the Royalist attack to waver. Bonaparte ordered a counterattack led by Murat's squadron of Chasseurs. The defeat of the Royalist insurrection extinguished the threat to the Convention. Bonaparte became a national hero, and was quickly promoted to Général de Division. Within five months, he was given command of the French army conducting operations in Italy.
The DirectorySt. Cloud, France
The Directory was the governing five-member committee in the French First Republic from 2 November 1795 until 9 November 1799, when it was overthrown by Napoleon Bonaparte in the Coup of 18 Brumaire and replaced by the Consulate.
Napoleon invades ItalyGenoa, Italy
The French prepared a great advance on three fronts, with Jourdan and Jean Victor Marie Moreau on the Rhine and the newly promoted Napoleon Bonaparte in Italy. The three armies were to link up in Tyrol and march on Vienna. In the Rhine Campaign of 1796, Jourdan and Moreau crossed the Rhine River and advanced into Germany. Jourdan advanced as far as Amberg in late August while Moreau reached Bavaria and the edge of Tyrol by September. However Jourdan was defeated by Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen and both armies were forced to retreat back across the Rhine. Napoleon, on the other hand, was successful in a daring invasion of Italy. In the Montenotte Campaign, he separated the armies of Sardinia and Austria, defeating each one in turn, and then forced a peace on Sardinia. Following this, his army captured Milan and started the Siege of Mantua. Bonaparte defeated successive Austrian armies sent against him under Johann Peter Beaulieu, Dagobert Sigmund von Wurmser and József Alvinczi while continuing the siege.
Rhine campaign of 1796Würzburg, Germany
In the Rhine campaign of 1796 (June 1796 to February 1797), two First Coalition armies under the overall command of Archduke Charles outmaneuvered and defeated two French Republican armies. This was the last campaign of the War of the First Coalition, part of the French Revolutionary Wars. The French military strategy against Austria called for a three-pronged invasion to surround Vienna, ideally capturing the city and forcing the Holy Roman Emperor to surrender and accept French Revolutionary territorial integrity. The French assembled the Army of Sambre and Meuse commanded by Jean-Baptiste Jourdan against the Austrian Army of the Lower Rhine in the north. The Army of the Rhine and Moselle, led by Jean Victor Marie Moreau, opposed the Austrian Army of the Upper Rhine in the south. A third army, the Army of Italy, commanded by Napoleon Bonaparte, approached Vienna through northern Italy.
French expedition to IrelandBantry Bay, Ireland
Austria sues for peaceMantua, Italy
On 2 February Napoleon finally captured Mantua, with the Austrians surrendering 18,000 men. Archduke Charles of Austria was unable to stop Napoleon from invading the Tyrol, and the Austrian government sued for peace in April. At the same time there was a new French invasion of Germany under Moreau and Hoche.
Battle of Cape St VincentCape St. Vincent
After the signing of the Treaty of San Ildefonso in 1796 allying Spanish and French forces against Great Britain, the British navy blockaded Spain in 1797, impairing communications with its Spanish Empire. The Spanish declaration of war on Britain and Portugal in October 1796 made the British position in the Mediterranean untenable. The combined Franco-Spanish fleet of 38 ships of the line heavily outnumbered the British Mediterranean Fleet of fifteen ships of the line, forcing the British to evacuate their positions in first Corsica and then Elba. It was a great and welcome victory for the Royal Navy – fifteen British ships had defeated a Spanish fleet of 27, and the Spanish ships had a greater number of guns and men. But, Admiral Jervis had trained a highly disciplined force and this was pitted against an inexperienced Spanish navy under Don José Córdoba. The Spanish men fought fiercely but without direction. After the San José was captured it was found that some of her guns still had their tampions in the muzzles. The confusion amongst the Spanish fleet was so great that they were unable to use their guns without causing more damage to their own ships than to the British. Jervis resumed his blockade of the Spanish fleet in Cadiz. The continuation of the blockade for most of the following three years, largely curtailed the operations of the Spanish fleet until the Peace of Amiens in 1802. The containment of the Spanish threat, and the further reinforcement of his command, enabled Jervis to send a squadron under Nelson back into the Mediterranean the following Year.
The Treaty of Campo Formio was signed on 17 October 1797 by Napoleon Bonaparte and Count Philipp von Cobenzl as representatives of the French Republic and the Austrian monarchy, respectively. The treaty followed the armistice of Leoben (18 April 1797), which had been forced on the Habsburgs by Napoleon's victorious campaign in Italy. It ended the War of the First Coalition and left Great Britain fighting alone against revolutionary France.
- The French Revolution is secured against foreign threats - French territorial gains: Austrian Netherlands (Belgium), territories left of the Rhine, Savoy, Nice, Haiti, Ionian Islands
- Expansion of French sphere of influence: Batavian Republic in Netherlands, Daughter republics in Italy & Switzerland, naval supremacy in the mediterranean - Spain becomes an ally of France
- Territories of the Republic of Venice were divided between the Austria and France.
- In addition, the states of the Kingdom of Italy formally ceased to owe fealty to the Holy Roman Emperor, finally ending the formal existence of that Kingdom (the Kingdom of Italy), which, as a personal holding of the Emperor, had existed de jure but not de facto since at least the 14th century.
Key Figures for War of the First Coalition
William Pitt the Younger
Prime Minister of Great Britain
Charles François Dumouriez
Jacques Pierre Brissot
Member of the National Convention
Member of the Committee of Public Safety
President of the National Convention
King of France
François Christophe de Kellermann
Marshal of the Empire
President of the Directory
Charles William Ferdinand
Duke of Brunswick
Book Recommenations for War of the First Coalition
- Fremont-Barnes, Gregory. The French Revolutionary Wars (2013)
- Gardiner, Robert. Fleet Battle And Blockade: The French Revolutionary War 1793–1797 (2006)
- Hannay, David (1911). "French Revolutionary Wars" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Holland, Arthur William (1911). "French Revolution, The" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Lefebvre, Georges. The French Revolution Volume II: from 1793 to 1799 (1964).