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The War of the Second Coalition

The Campaign in Germany 1800

The second of the two remaining campaigns in the War of the Second Coalition was the campaign in Germany, which began over Austria’s failure to give up the territory it had promised to France in the Treaty of Campo Formio following their defeat in the War of the First Coalition.

Between April and July 1800 General Moreau drove the Austrian forces back past the Rhine. On the 19th of June 1800 the French won a victory at the Battle of Hochstadt, in which they successfully pushed the allied forces back to the town of Ulm. This combined with the defeat at the hands of Napoleon at Marengo on the 14th of June forced the Austrians to sign an armistice that led to a brief peace lasting until November of that year. However, it did not result in a treaty, and so on the 22nd of November both sides resumed hostilities.

Five days later on the 27th of November 1800 100,000 Austrian troops crossed the River Inn, and successfully outflanking Moreau and his men. A French cavalry charge saved the situation at the Battle of Ampfing, as it allowed the French time to reorganise and counter attack. However, the superior numbers held by the Austrians meant that the French were gradually pushed back in an orderly retreat, until they reached open ground at Haag. Here they formed a defensive position and managed to secure a minor victory, then managed to gain the element of surprise by vanishing into the woods, contrary to the expectations of the Austrian generals who had thought that they would be involved at a major engagement the next day, and so wrongly assumed the enemy were taking flight.

The Battle of Hohenlinden was fought on the 3rd December 1800, and was a crushing victory for the French forces under General Moreau. It followed on from the Battle of Ampfing, and the Austrian defeat stemmed from the fact that they believed the French were retreating. As a result Archduke John ordered that his men would pursue Moreau’s troops through the heavily wooded Ebersberg forest in four columns, expecting only to meet the chastened rear guard. Instead, the French ambushed the Austrians as they emerged from the woods, successfully surrounding and wiping out the largest column of men. The result was a resounding victory for Moreau, one which when coupled with the allied defeat at Marengo forced the Austrians to concede defeat and sign the Treaty of Lunéville on the 9th of February, effectively ending the war of the second coalition.


The Treaty of Lunéville agreed that the Austrians would give up all their territory south of the Rhine and in Northern Italy to the French, and left the British as the only power still at war with Napoleon. In the light of this they agreed to negotiate a peace, and in 1802 Britain signed the Peace of Amiens thereby ending the war between themselves and France, and establishing peace in Europe that lasted for the next 14 months.

Background image: J.M.W. Turner, "Martello Towers near Bexhill, Sussex", 1811, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, from here

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