Friday, December 14, 2012

Napoleonic Battles 1796 to 1815 Overlay Map

Napoleon is infamous for his battles, of which there seem to be millions, so I thought they would make a great overlay map project. By the way, did you know that his battles were defensive in nature? He kept seeking peace with Britain, who repeatedly refused tranquility. Instead Britain kept making alliances with European countries with the intent to squash the French Republic and restore the monarchy. They did not like Napoleon bringing the rights of man to the common people. The monarchs did not want revolution to come to their countries. Also Napoleon gave freedom for religion to all the people, Catholic, Protestant and Jew, which further angered the surrounding countries. Unfortunately none of the European monarchs liked Jews having religious freedom. Catholic European countries did not like Protestants having religious freedoms and vice versa. So the nations allied to conquer Napoleon and restore the Bourbons to the French throne before they lost their own necks at the hands of their own people who might possibly be influenced by the French revolutionists.

As I looked through possibilities for a European base map for this era, my son stumbled upon a historic map in French. He insisted we use that one. But it's in French! He was determined, he wanted the French map! We copied it to Word and readjusted settings in order to fill the page in landscape format. We allowed a bit of space to the right and bottom so my young conqueror could extend Russia and add Moscow to the map. He also included Egypt to the map.

Here is the version of the map my son designed, which we used for the base map.
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My initial goal was to design the overlays in such a way as to see the growth of Napoleon's Empire over the years, however I could not find any maps like that. We decided to break down each of the overlays into the various coalitions, which constantly formed against Napoleon, necessitating his defensive battle formations. My son used The Napoleonic Wars by Gunther Rothenberg, which I found at a used bookstore. Although the author is anti-Napoleon, the book is full of primary source paintings, renderings, battle charts, battle maps, etc. The author, at least, conceded to Napoleon's brilliant battle strategy and explained how that changed the course of war for all time. It was interesting to read how Napoleon's genius has been applied over the years, including in modern warfare with airplanes.

My son decided to start with the First Coalition so he could trace all of Napoleon's battles, even before he led France. The first three coalitions, which include Toulon and the Italian Campaign, Egypt and the Syrian Campaign, the battle of Marengo, the battle of Austerlitz and scores of others were added to the base map he started of the French Revolution. The Fourth Coalition picks up with the new map he designed, pictured above.

Here is the War of the Fourth Coalition (1806-1807) which includes the infamous battle of Jena. In the legend he indicates his markings for the battles, victories and the presence of Napoleon, Nelson, etc.
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The Peninsular War (1807-1814)...in the key on the bottom left he indicates battles, victories, and presence of famous people.
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The War of the Fifth Coalition (1809).
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The War of the Sixth Coalition (1812-1814) which includes the famed battle of Borodino and the invasion of Russia.
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The War of the Sixth Coalition focusing on Napoleon's final battles leading to abdication (which my son argued that Napoleon was actually doing well enough to have pursued preserving France. If it weren't for his marshalls and generals who gave up too quickly...)
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The War of the Seventh Coalition (1815), The Hundred Days.

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Through the process my son's geography skills of Europe increased enormously. He even exclaimed he can keep better track of some of Napoleon's key battles. I'm a bit better at it too. The actor/historian that we know who portrays Napoleon in Europe can enumerate every single detail of Napoleon's battles in rapid stacatto formation. If we ever get to meet Napoleon again, perhaps we can keep up with his quick discourse even better than before.

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