Napoleon Bonaparte begins his final Six Days’ Campaign

Today on February 10th 1814, Napoleon achieves his last string of impressive victories during the Six Days’ Campaign against the advancing coalition armies.

The once mighty and unstoppable Napoleon Bonaparte was now on the defensive. His European rivals recently formed the Sixth Coalition to defeat him. The alliance consisted of Austria, Britain, Prussia, Spain and Russia. The ultimate goal was to force the French Emperor into submission and significantly reduce his tight grip over the continent. Only a few months earlier, Napoleon suffered a major defeat at the Battle of Leipzig in Saxony (present day Germany). He managed to tactically retreat back to France with his remaining soldiers and attempted to defend his homeland. However, the defeat of Leipzig was largely overshadowed by the entire collapse of Napoleon’s Grande Armee in the failed Invasion of Russia in 1812.

The Six Days’ Campaign was a last string of victories for the French Emperor, as he desperately tried to fend off his advancing enemies. The Prussian forces under General von Blucher led the initial advance into northwestern France and were rapidly closing in on Paris. Napoleon miraculously managed to defeat Blucher’s army four times at the Battles of Champaubert, Montmirail, Château-Thierry and Vauchamps. His heavily outnumbered army of only 30,000 soldiers inflicted almost 20,000 casualties on the Prussian army. Generally speaking, military historians consider this to be a masterful display of meticulously tactical maneuvering.

Napoleon had hoped his enemies would be forced into winter quarters and eventually negotiate for peace terms. However, their resolve to crush him was unwavering. A combined Russian and Prussian force continued marching directly on Paris. As a last stand, he ordered the entire city to rise up against the invaders and defend the French capital. Since Paris was an open city with minimal fortifications, it quickly fell into enemy hands. Napoleon was forced to announce his unconditional abdication and sign the Treaty of Fontainebleau on April 11, 1814. He was immediately exiled to the island of Elba.

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