The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Third Coalition

In the Napoleonic Wars, the Third Coalition against Napoléon emerged in 1805, and consisted of an alliance of Britain, Austria, Russia, Naples, and Sweden against France.

Napoleon had been planning an invasion of Britain since the end of the Peace of Amiens in 1803, and had massed 150,000 troops at Boulogne. However, he needed to achieve naval superiority to mount his invasion, or at least to pull the British navy away from the English Channel. A complex plan to distract the British by threatening their possessions in the West Indies failed when a Franco-Spanish fleet under Admiral Villeneuve turned back after an inconclusive action off Cape Finisterre. Villeneuve was blockaded in Cádiz until he left for Naples on October 19, but was caught and defeated at the battle of Trafalgar on October 21 by Lord Nelson. By this time, however, Napoleon had already all but abandoned plans to invade Britain and turned his attention to enemies on the Continent once again.

The coalition, seeking to take advantage of the concentration of Napoléon's forces at Boulogne, made plans to attack Italy and Bavaria. The allied armies organized in Germany and Italy, with Karl Mack von Lieberich mounting an invasion of Bavaria while waiting for the Russian army under Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov to reinforce him. The Bavarian army, allied to Napoléon, was forced to retreat northward, abandoning Munich.

Napoléon left Boulogne in August, marching his army rapidly to the Rhine. Crossing the Rhine in late September, he marched around Mack's right, surrounding the Austrian army at Ulm. Pushing back Austrian attenpts to regroup, he cut off Ulm from Austria, forcing Mack to capitulate in October. Kutuzov, on the Austrian-Bavarian border, was forced to retreat into Vienna, and then north into Moravia to meet reinforcements, abandoning Vienna on November 13. Napoleon marched north to meet the allied armies, finding them at a defensive position at Austerlitz. In the Battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon lured the Austrians into an assault by a feigned retreat, then stormed the heights they had left, surrounding and destroying all but the right wing under Bagration.

The Austrian army in Italy under Archduke Charles was forced to retreat without a battle by the French victories in Germany, and allied landings in northern Germany and Naples were abortive. Austria was eliminated from the coalition and evicted from Italy by the Treaty of Pressburg.

Napoléon had defeated Russia in battle but it remained in the war, and Prussia entered the war in 1806, in protest at French violation of its territory in the 1805 campaign. This was the War of the Fourth Coalition.

See also

Last updated: 05-07-2005 13:24:16
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04