It was no surprise to the people who knew Napoleon Bonaparte that he would stage a coup d'etat and elect himself First Consul of France in 1799. Five years later the embattled French Senate proclaimed him emperor.
Napoleon thrived on battles. His background as a military artillery officer conditioned him as well as trained him in the art of war. He rose to prominence by leading successful campaigns against the First and Second Coalitions, which sought to rid France of Napoleon's Empire. The First and Second Coalitions actually were the start of the Napoleonic Wars, which raged from 1799 to 1815. The Napoleonic Wars were bloody struggles that spilled over into America, Egypt and South America. Even though warfare was not constant in those 16 years, it had a dramatic impact on the nature of war.
Before the Napoleonic Wars, war was the Sport of Kings. It rarely involved the concept of Total War since the weaponry was primitive and the desire to continue to fight vacillated as new monarchs were crowned. But, Napoleon changed that image forever when weaponry began to evolve, and the conscription to serve in war became the norm.
By the end of these battles, Britain had the technology to make Congreve rockets and every army in Europe had riflemen that could hit long-range targets. The bright colored uniforms of those sporty wars disappeared, and they were replaced with drab green or dark blue uniforms, which signified the utilitarian massacres to which the generals now aspired.
While Napoleon was fighting the British in Egypt, a new coalition formed against the French in 1798. That coalition consisted of Russia, The Ottoman Empire, Austria, Portugal, Great Britain and the Kingdom of Naples. Most of the fighting took place in Switzerland and Northern Italy. The Russians originally seemed to be victorious over the French, but the French won and the Russians pulled out of the coalition.
Napoleon offered the coalition a peace proposal, but the group was set on defeating Napoleon and his army so they refused. In 1800, Napoleon crossed the Alps and entered Austria and made the Austrian army cry uncle in the Battle of Marengo in 1800. The French continued to defeat coalition forces, but the British remained steadfast and continued to fight the French until a failed attack in Holland put them in dire military straits. The British finally made peace in 1802, but it didn't last very long.
In 1805, a third coalition was formed between Britain, Sweden, Austria and Russia. Napoleon taught the Austrians another lesson at the Battle of Ulm in 1805, but it took the Battle of Austerlitz to convince the Austrians that Napoleon was a 19th century war machine with staying power.
A fourth coalition was formed in 1806. Prussia replaced Austria in that coalition. Prussia was no match for Napoleon and he confirmed that fact when he crushed the Prussian army at the Battle of Jena in 1806. Napoleon proved that big things come in small packages when he became the master of all Europe in 1808, but his reign was a short one. Since his ego was much bigger than his body, he began to make a series of strategic mistakes, which ultimately lead to his demise.
When Napoleon made his brother King of Spain, after dethroning King Charles IV, a major revolt took place and it evolved into a Guerrilla War in Spain. Napoleon underestimated these Spanish Guerrillas. They formed a coalition with Britain and Portugal during the Peninsular War, which lasted from 1808 to 1813. The French were driven out of Spain and Portugal and the battle spread to Southern France.
A fifth coalition was formed in 1809, but the Austrians didn't fare too well in that fiasco, either. They were defeated at the Battle of Aspern and again in the Battle of Wagram. Napoleon dedicated a large number of his troops to the battle in Spain, but decided to invade Russia in 1812 with 500,000 men. He won the Battle of Borodino and took control of Moscow but the weather forced him to retreat. He lost most of his army due to sickness and cold weather. That was the beginning of the end for Napoleon.
Napoleon was surrounded on all sides by his enemies. His army was decimated so he was forced to abdicate in 1814. The Fifth Coalition started to restage Europe after Napoleon's bloody reign, but they found out that the great military leader had one last fight in him. He made a valiant attempt to regain power at Waterloo in June 1815, but his remaining elite guards were destroyed and he was exiled to St. Helena.
That exit marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars but not the swirl of controversy around Napoleon. Some say Anglosphere Money Power financed Napoleon's remarkable career and that the wars that he represented were planned ones, designed to create maximum wealth via funding and armaments for the powers-that-be. While this is not a popular view of Napoleon, were more research put into his career one might turn up numerous surprising facts.