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What were the Napoleonic Wars?

Napoleon plans battle tactics.Napoleon plans battle tactics.The Napoleonic Wars (1799–15) were a series of battles between France under Napoleon Bonaparte on one side, and several European powers, including Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia, on the other. Napoleon wanted to expand the French Empire across Europe and overseas, and Britain wanted to stop him. Napoleon made plans to invade and defeat Britain, but first he needed to defeat the British Royal Navy. Otherwise, he dare not allow his invasion force to sail across the English Channel.

French troops during the Napoleonic WarsFrench troops during the Napoleonic Wars

Napoleon inspects his troops of the Grand Army.Napoleon inspects his troops of the Grand Army.

Threat of invasion

By the end of 1803, Napoleon's Grand Army was assembled on the northern coast of France ready to invade Britain. The Royal Navy, meanwhile, had blockaded (stopped ships entering or leaving) French ports and those of France's ally, Spain. Napoleon urged the French and Spanish fleets to break out of these blockades and together drive the Royal Navy away from the English Channel. This would then ensure a safe passage for his invasion force.

A total of 103 Martello towers were built along the southeastern coast of England between 1804 and 1812. They were to defend against a possible invasion by Napoleon. Some 47 survive today.

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