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Napoleon forced to abdicate

Napoleon was forced to abdicate in April 1814 after his unsuccessful invasion of Russia resulted in a broad European alliance against him. In the Treaty of Fontainebleau, Napoleon abdicated the throne and renounced his heirs' claim to any future throne in France. He was then exiled to the island of Elba off the coast of Italy. ​​​. Created by Sal Khan.

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Video transcript

In the last video, we saw Napoleon's army get decimated, especially as they tried to retreat from Russia. The numbers I threw out in that video as he started off were on the order of 450,000 soldiers under his command. And then when he retreated, it was on the order of 10,000 soldiers. I just want to take a little aside here. These numbers aren't firm. Historians aren't even sure on the exact numbers. And sometimes you'll see accounts of 500,000 to 600,000 entering and 30,000 to 40,000 leaving. I went with these numbers just because on Minard's map, these were pretty close to those numbers. Right here he has 422,000. Leaving he has 10,000 right there. But I just want to make sure you realize that these aren't exact numbers. And depending on, I guess, how you account for his troops, whether you're talking about troops directly under Napoleon's command, whether they are troops that are directly involved in the offensive invasion of Russia. Or they're just troops that are maybe supporting it. You're going to get different numbers. And depending on whether you view troops and how you count the casualties. So it's all about how you count. But needless to say, the French grand army was decimated after invading Russia. And I even told you, at the end of the last video, that after that, the rest of Europe, these other countries that kept forming and reforming coalitions against Napoleon, began to smell blood. So you can already view the invasion of Russia as the beginning of the Sixth Coalition. You already had Great Britain. Great Britain throughout this entire time period, throughout the Napoleonic Wars, and even during the French Revolution, was in a constant state of war with the French and Napoleon. Obviously, you have Russia now is also a belligerent, is also an antagonist against Napoleon. Just because he retreated doesn't mean the war with Russia is over. Prussia had been humiliated multiple times by Napoleon. And now they jump on the bandwagon after hearing about Napoleon getting decimated. And so they, a combined Russian and Prussian forces, engage Napoleon. But as much as Napoleon's forces seem to have gotten decimated-- So if you look at that Minard map up here that we went over in some detail in the last video, that covers right here. The invasion of Russia started right about here, and it went right about in that direction right there. So Napoleon, he's now retreating back. You might say, gee, he only has 10,000 or 20,000 or 30,000 troops. That's nothing. He's just going to be put out very quickly by the combined allied forces. But Napoleon, as we kind of say, regardless of what you think of him as a person, he was no dummy. And he was good at raising forces. And he was a very, very, very good military tactition. He was very quickly able to raise, to take his 30,000 soldier army, get it to 130,000. And eventually he's able to get it to 400,000. Although this force right here, it's not going to be the same quality of 400,000 as the 400,000 that he might have had, say, entering the Russian campaign. And there were other troops also that were allied with Napoleon. German troops from the Confederacy of the Rhine that were sympathetic to the French Empire. But once again, they weren't as disciplined or under as direct control of Napoleon. But, it's needless to say, he was able to very quickly get up to some reasonable force that could maybe withstand a Sixth Coalition. But the Sixth Coalition was much larger. It's on the order of, depending on the account you look at, they amassed forces mainly in what's now Germany-- but at that time, the Confederation of the Rhine. And before that, the Holy Roman Empire-- of on the order of 1 million troops. Not $1 million. One million soldiers. So even though Napoleon was able to raise a force, he was still out numbered in what's now Germany, or the Germanic kingdoms. He was still out numbered by a factor of 2:1. But despite that, the first several engagements with the combined Russian and Prussian army, Napoleon was victorious. Or I shouldn't say victorious, because that implies too much. He won those battles. And these are at Lutzen, at Bautzen. And then at Dresden, he had a very significant victory. And these are all right about here, just so you have a sense of the geography. You can actually see Dresden on the map there. And after these defeats, the Coalition said gee, this Napoleon character, even though we outnumber him, even though he had to kind of very quickly get these troops, he's a really good military tactition. And he's still kind of kicking our butt on the battlefield. They then issued what's called the-- let me write this down--the Trachtenberg Plan. Although it's not clear that they really had to. The Trachtenberg Plan, which essentially says, try not to engage forces that Napoleon is in command of directly. Try to engage his people that Napoleon has had to delegate to. His marshalls, the other generals. So don't engage Napoleon. One day I'd like to make more detailed videos on the actual kind of-- you have to say-- the actual genius of Napoleon on the battlefield. And go battle by battle and see why people consider Napoleon to be a great military commander. But his enemies definitely appreciated the fact that, despite being outnumbered, he was very tricky and very wily, and was always able to kind of snatch victory from the defeat. So they had this plan, let's just not engage Napoleon. We have so many troops, let's just try to incur losses on the French on other commanders other than Napoleon. But needless to say, they hugely outnumbered the French. All of the fighting was going on in this general area at the time. And at Leipzig, and just so you get a sense of time. Remember, the invasion of Russia was at the end of 18-- So let me write this down. So the Russian invasion-- let me do this in another color. Do it right here. So the Russian invasion, that was at the end of 1812. That was really kind of the beginning of winter in 1812 that really decimated Napoleon's troops. Then we go to 1813, you're looking at Lutzen and Bautzen. That's in May of 1813. So after that winter, that gave Napoleon some time to get his troops together. And things happened slower this day and age. People didn't have perfect intelligence in terms of what was going on in the battlefield. And it actually took time for just information to travel, and for armies to travel. They were traveling mainly on foot at that time. And then August 1813, you had Napoleon's significant victory at Dresden. But then finally, 1813, in October-- and at this point the Coalition had convinced Austria to also join in. So this is kind of the ultimate coalition. If you look at most of the coalitions, they seldom had bold Austria and Prussia and Russia and all of these guys. But now they're all piling on. So now you have Austria. Austria is part of the Coalition. And Sweden. And of course, you can't forget what's happening in the Iberian Peninsula. You have all of the rebels in Spain and Portugal. So you pretty much have every major power in Europe is now allied against Napoleon. And in October of 1813, especially the Austrians, Prussians, and Russians, they meet him at Leipzig. Which is right over here. And at Leipzig, they outnumber him 2:1. And they were able to take care of him and force him to retreat. So then Leipzig happens, first really major defeat. This is actually an image of the Battle of Leipzig. They call it the Battle of the Nations. Because so many belligerents were involved in this battle. People estimate that there were 600,000 soldiers involved. 400,000 thousand on the side of the Sixth Coalition. 200,000 on the side of Napoleon. And they estimate on the order of a 100,000 dead or wounded. So this was a major, major, super bloody battle. And it forced Napoleon to retreat. So he had to retreat from Russia before. And now he's retreating from the Confederation of the Rhine, Which was essentially French-controlled territory. So Napoleon is really on his heels. He now is going to defend France. And now remember, at the same time as this, you had that you had all this stuff going on in the peninsula. You had Arthur Wellesley. You remember him right here. He's the British general leading, you could view them as the rebels in Spain and Portugal. At the end of 1813, he's winning a series of victories against the French. And he's pushing into France. This is the Pyrenees Mountains right here. He's crossing, he's winning a series of battles in the Pyrenees. And then in a last-ditch effort, Napoleon once again, he's hugely outnumbered. He engages his enemies in battles in northeast France, right around that area. And there's actually a period, there's this six day campaign. And this now, we are in 1814. So Leipzig was at the end of 1813. He retreats. Now we're in 1814. And at the beginning of 1814 in February, you have the Six Day Campaign. And this was kind of Napoleon's final shot at really showing his military genius. Despite the fact that he was hugely outnumbered, there were four significant battles where he was essentially able to, at least in those battles, route the Coalition, despite being hugely outnumbered. So he kept showing his military genius. But at some point, the numbers just became overwhelming. And the French troops just couldn't handle the Coalition, especially after being decimated in Russia. And then losing significant troops even in some of their victories in what is now Germany, or the Confederation of the Rhine then. And then the allies, the Coalition, eventually in March of 1814, the Sixth Coalition, marches into Paris. And this right here is an image of the Russians marching into Paris, around March of 1814. But Napoleon didn't want to give up. In April Napoleon is telling his generals, let's go retake Paris. But finally, the generals are ready to give up on Napoleon, and they refused to follow him. And then Napoleon says hey, then I'm going to tell the troops to follow me. And they're like, well you could try, but they're not going to follow you. So they essentially don't agree to do anything that Napoleon wants. Forcing Napoleon, and it was going to happen one way or the other, this way was just less bloody. In April of 1814-- super important time in history-- Napoleon is forced to abdicate. And not only does he abdicate-- maybe I'll do a future video on it-- but he also has to rescind any claim that any of his son or any of his future-- not the word ancestors, what's the opposite of ancestors? Descendants, any of his future descendants might have claim as Emperor of France or King of France. So he's forced to abdicate. Super important time, 1814. So if you think about when Napoleon ruled. Remember, he was able to take power at the end of 1799. So it's been on the order of 13 or 14 years where Napoleon has just been the absolute ruler of France. And has been able to really kind of wreak a lot of havoc on Europe. And now, it all comes to an end. And we'll see, it's kind of temporary now. But we're getting near the end of hearing about Napoleon. They force them to abdicate by the Treaty of Fontainebleau. And they exile him to Elba. So this is-- just so you know where Elba is-- a little island off the Italian coast right here. This is where Napoleon was forced to stay. Doesn't seem like that bad of a place. And they actually let him keep the title of Emperor. And they allowed him to rule over Elba. And he was actually able to do something reasonably constructive things with the island. You're going to see he leaves the island very shortly. But it wasn't that bad. In modern days, if someone was indirectly responsible, or directly responsible, for butchering millions of your civilians or soldiers, you wouldn't send him to a place with a nice climate and give him a nice house like this. And allow them actually rule over the island. But I think at this time, all of these generals and kings, they all viewed each other as gentlemen. And they never wanted to be too vicious to each other, just in case things were to come back around to them, I guess. But he got exiled to Elba in, as I just said, April of 1814. And then, the Coalition, we'll talk more about this, they put Louis XVI-- you remember Louis XVI, with the whole French Revolution and the Estates-General-- they put his younger brother, they restore him to the crown. This is right here is Louis XVIII. This is Louis XVI's younger brother. They make him King of France. So after all that business about the French Revolution, and then Napoleon comes to power, and all the Rights of Man and all that. When everything is said and done, they put a king back in power. This guy, with the satin robes again. Doesn't look too different than his older brother. And just in case you're wondering, hid older brother is Louis XVI. He's Louis XVIII. Who was Louis XVII? This is Louis XVII. Right here. This is Louis XVI's son, he was actually next in line to the thrown before his uncle, or Louis XVI's younger brother, Louis XVIII. But he died while he was in prison. If you were a Royalist, you would have considered him king after the beheading, the decapitation of his dad. And actually, there's a hugely fascinating story here where people say that he died in 1795. But many, many people think that he escaped and was able to live a normal life. And who knows what? But needless to say, he wasn't anywhere to be found. So they made Louis XVIII-- Louis XVI's younger brother-- King of France. But, we're going to see, this isn't the last we hear of Napoleon.