Timeline of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars

(1780s to 1815) - The wars and revolutions that helped reshape Europe into how we understand it today.

European Theater

Storming of the Bastille

14 July 1789

Location: The Bastille, Paris, France
Attacker: French Revolutionaries under Hulin
Defender: French Monarchy under de Launay
Outcome: Bastille captured, French Revolution begins

Battle of Verdun

20 August 1792 - 2 September 1792

Location: Verdun, France
Attacker: Prussia under Brunswick
Defender: France under Beaurepaire
Outcome: Prussian Victory

Battle of Valmy

20 September 1792

Location: Valmy, France
Attacker: Prussia under Brunswick; Austria under Hohenlohe
Defender: France under Dumouriez
Outcome: Decisive French Victory

Battle of Jemappes

6 November 1792

Location: Jemappes, Belgium
Attacker: France under Dumouriez
Defender: Austria under Saxe-Teschen, Clerfayt
Outcome: French Victory

Battle of Neerwinden

18 March 1793

Location: Neerwinden, Austrian Netherlands
Attacker: France under Dumouriez
Defender: Austria under Saxe-Coburg
Outcome: Austrian Victory

Siege of Mainz

14 April 1793 - 23 July 1793

Location: Mainz, Republic of Mainz
Attacker: Coalition under von Kalckreuth, Brunswick
Defender: France under d'Oyré, de Beauharnais
Outcome: Coalition Victory

Battle of Raismes

8 May 1793

Location: Raismes, Austrian Netherlands
Attacker: Austria under Coburg, de Clerfayt; UK under York; Prussia under Knobelsdorff
Defender: France under Dampierre
Outcome: Coalition Victory

Siege of Valenciennes

25 May 1793 - 27 July 1793

Location: Valenciennes, France
Attacker: UK under York; Austria under de Ferrais
Defender: France under Ferrand
Outcome: Coalition Victory

Battle of 1st Arlon

9 June 1793

Location: Arlon, Austrian Netherlands
Attacker: France under Houchard, Delaage
Defender: Austria under von Schröder
Outcome: French Victory

Siege of Dunkirk

24 August 1793 - 8 September 1793

Location: Dunkirk, France
Attacker: UK under York
Defender: France under Souham
Outcome: French Victory

Battle of Hondschoote

6 September 1793 - 8 September 1793

Location: Hondschoote, France
Attacker: France under Houchard
Defender: UK under Frederick, German states under Freytag
Outcome: French Victory

Battle of 1st Wissembourg

13 October 1793

Location: Wissembourg, France
Attacker: Austria under Wurmser
Defender: France under Carlenc
Outcome: Austrian Victory

Battle of Wattignies

15 October 1793 - 16 October 1793

Location: Wattignies-la-Victoire, France
Attacker: France under Jourdan
Defender: Austria under Coburg
Outcome: French Victory

Battle of Kaiserslautern

28 November 1793 - 30 November 1793

Location: Kaiserslautern, Electoral Palatinate, Germany
Attacker: France under Hoche
Defender: Prussia under Brunswick
Outcome: Prussian Victory

Battle of 2nd Wissembourg

26 December 1793 - 29 December 1793

Location: Wissembourg, France
Attacker: France under Hoche
Defender: Austria under Wurmser; Prussia under von Rüchel; Bavaria under Minucci
Outcome: French Victory

Siege of Landrecies

17 April 1794 - 30 April 1794

Location: Landrecies, France
Attacker: Dutch Republic under William
Defender: France under Roulland
Outcome: Coalition Victory

Battle of Mouscron

26 April 1794

Location: Mouscron, Belgium
Attacker: France under Pichegru
Defender: Austria under Clerfayt
Outcome: French Victory

Battle of Tourcoing

18 May 1794

Location: Tourcoing, France
Attacker: France under Souham, Moreau
Defender: UK under York; Austria under Saxe-Coburg
Outcome: French Victory

Battle of Fleurus

26 June 1794

Location: Fleurus, Austria Netherlands
Attacker: France under Jourdan
Defender: Austria under Coburg, Dutch Republic under William
Outcome: Decisive French Victory

Battle of the Vosges

13 July 1794

Location: Eastern France
Attacker: France under Michaud
Defender: Prussia under von Möllendorf
Outcome: French Victory

Battle of Spirmont

17 September 1794 - 18 September 1794

Location: Spirmont, Austrian Netherlands
Attacker: France under Jourdan
Defender: Austria under Clerfayt
Outcome: French Victory, Annexation of the Austrian Netherlands

Battle of Aldenhoven

2 October 1794

Location: Aldenhoven, Germany
Attacker: France under Jourdan
Defender: Austria under Clerfayt
Outcome: French Victory

Mediterranean Theater

Siege of Bellegarde

23 May 1793 - 24 June 1793

Location: Le Perthus, France
Attacker: Spain under Ricardos
Defender: France under Boisbrulé
Outcome: Spanish Victory

Assault on Sardinia

May 25, 1793

Location: San Pietro and Sant'Antioco, Sardinia
Attacker: Spain under de Borja y Poyo
Defender: France
Outcome: Spanish Victory

Battle of Peyrestortes

17 September 1793

Location: Peyrestortes, France
Attacker: France under d'Aoust
Defender: Spain under Ricardos
Outcome: French Victory

Siege of Toulon

18 September 1793 - 18 December 1793

Location: Toulon, France
Attacker: French Revolutionaries under Carteaux, Dugommier, Bonaparte
Defender: UK under Hood, O'Hara; Spain under de Lángara, Gravina; French Royalists under d'Imbert
Outcome: Republican Victory

Battle of Truillas

22 September 1793

Location: Truillas, France
Attacker: France under Dagobert
Defender: Spain under Ricardos
Outcome: Spanish Victory

Battle of the Tech

13 October 1793 - 15 October 1793

Location: Tech River, Northern Spain
Attacker: France under Turreau
Defender: Spain under Ricardos
Outcome: Spanish Victory

Battle of Villelongue

7 December 1793

Location: Villelongue-dels-Monts, France
Attacker: Spain under Ricardos; Portugal under Forbes
Defender: France under D'Aoust
Outcome: Spanish Victory

Siege of Saint-Florent

7 February 1794 - 18 February 1794

Location: Saint-Florent, France
Attacker: UK under Dundas, Hood, Nelson
Defender: France
Outcome: Anglo-Corsican Victory

Siege of Bastia

4 April 1794 - 19 May 1794

Location: Bastia, Corsica
Attacker: UK under Dundas, Hood, Nelson
Defender: France under St. Michel
Outcome: Anglo-Corsican Victory

Battle of Boulou

29 April 1794 - 1 May 1794

Location: Le Boulou, Pyrénées-Orientales, France
Attacker: France under Dugommier
Defender: Spain under de la Union
Outcome: French Victory

Siege of Calvi

July 1794 - 10 August 1794

Location: Calvi, Corsica
Attacker: UK under Hood, Stuart, Nelson; Corsica under Paoli
Defender: France
Outcome: Anglo-Corsican Victory

Battle of Batzan

23 July 1794 - 1 August 1794

Location: Baztan Valley, Spain
Attacker: France under Moncey
Defender: Spain under Caro
Outcome: French Victory

Battle of San Lorenzo

13 August 1794

Location: Sant Llorenç de la Muga, Catalonia, Spain
Attacker: France under Dugommier
Defender: Spain under de la Union
Outcome: French Victory

Battle of Orbaitzeta

15 October 1794 - 17 October 1794

Location: Orbaitzeta, Navarre, Spain
Attacker: France under Moncey
Defender: Spain under Osuna
Outcome: French Victory

Battle of Black Mountain

17 November 1794 - 20 November 1794

Location: Capmany, Catalonia, Spain
Attacker: France under Dugommier
Defender: Spain under de la Union; Portugal under Forbes
Outcome: French Victory

Siege of Roses

28 November 1794 - 4 February 1795

Location: Roses, Girona, Spain
Attacker: France under Pérignon
Defender: Spain under Izquierdo
Outcome: French Victory

Battle of the Gulf of Roses

14 February 1795

Location: Gulf of Roses, Spain
Attacker: Spain under de Lángara
Defender: France under Guet
Outcome: Spanish Victory

American/Colonial/Naval Theaters

Glorious First of June

1 June 1794

Location: Atlantic Sea, 400 Miles west of Ushant
Attacker: UK under Howe
Defender: France under Villaret-Joyeuse
Outcome: Inconclusive, British Tactical Victory

French Revolution/Home Front/Politics

France before the Revolution

Approx. 1789

While the exact causes of the French Revolution are far too numerous and complex to condense into a single bullet point, most explanations have to do with the sorry state of the French monarchy by the end of the 18th Century. The economy of the Ancien Régime, wracked by poor harvests, high food prices, inefficient transportation services had led France into a financial crisis that was exacerbated by the loss of the majority of French Colonial Empire in the Seven Year's War and debts gained from their war efforts in the American Revolution. At the same time, the philosophies of the Enlightenment, which had helped cause the American Revolution had firmly implanted itself into the minds of the growing urban bourgeoisie and the commoners of the Third Estate, leading to the resentment of the absolute monarchy. In response, finance minister Jacques Necker, a moderate liberal, suggested a slate of tax reforms that included removing tax exemptions from the clergy and nobility as well as standardizing taxes across the country. However, this was not received well by the regional parlements, and the Estates-General was called to help deal with the looming financial problem.

What is the Third Estate?

Approx. February 1789

After Jacques Necker asked for recommendations on how the Estates-General should be organized, Abbé Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, a clergyman and pamphleteer responded by publishing What is the Third Estate? in early 1789. In the publication, Sieyès argues that the Third Estate (the people) are the true representatives of the nation, without the need of the dead weight of the other two Estates of the clergy and nobility. It revolves around three hypothetical questions and Sieyès' responses: "What is the Third Estate? Everything. What has it been until now in the political order? Nothing. What does it ask? To become something." The pamphlet had a major impact upon the thought of the French Revolution by helping to establish the nobility as an independent, self-serving body that acted outside of the general will.

Estates-General of 1789

5 May 1789

The first meeting of the Estates-General, the representative body of pre-revolutionary France (which consisted of the clergy, nobility, and lastly the people), since 1614. It was called to deal with the widespread financial crisis in and widespread agitation in France. It opened with festivities, but the archaic setup did not hold well with the Third Estate (the people), who were disregarded by the clergy and the nobility. In response, the Third Estate walked out and proclaimed the much more radical National Assembly via the Tennis Court Oath.

Tennis Court Oath

20 June 1789

Following finding a meeting of the Estates-General locked and guarded and fearing the worst, the Third Estate relocated to a nearby tennis court and signed the Tennis Court Oath. It was a solemn collective that binded 576 out of 577 members of the newly-formed National Assembly that they were "not to separate, and to reassemble wherever circumstances require, until the constitution of the kingdom is established". This was the first time in French history that it was asserted that political authority rested on the people, and not the monarch.

Great Fear

17 July 1789 - 3 August 1789

Caused by increasingly rural unrest due to famine and grain shortages and the fear of an aristocratic plot to starve out the peasantry, the Great Fear was a mass peasant revolt across rural France in the late summer of 1789. In response to rumors, many peasants started to arm themselves in self defense, and, in some cases, attacked manor houses. The fear of a mass peasant uprising proved to a major deciding factor in the decision of the National Assembly to abolish feudalism as part of the August Decrees.

August Decrees

11 August 1789

Following the Fall of the Bastille in June and the Great Fear, the National Constituent Assembly decided to publish a series of motions designed to change the social order of the nation. Among its effects included the abolition of feudalism, noble and clerical privileges, tithes, the guarantee of equality to political and military posts, and the equity of taxation across all of France. Thus, in a manner of weeks in August 1789, the institutional pillars of the Ancien Régime disappeared.

Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

26 August 1789

The fundimental document of the French Revolution, and arguably modern democracy, was passed by the National Constituent Assembly in August 1789. Drafted largely by the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, who were influenced by previous documents such as the Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776) and the English Bill of Rights (1689), the Declaration consisted of 17 articles and stressed the importance of popular sovereignty as opposed to the divine right of kings as the source of power for a government, as well as the natural rights of man.

Women's March on Versailles

5 October 1789

On the morning of October 5th, 1789, a large group of Parisian women gathered in the marketplace with the intention of marching on Versailles to forceably lower bread prices so they could their families. The march on the palace, the ultimate symbol of royal decadence and luxury, became intertwined with liberal agitators and quickly became violent. Several royal guards were killed in the attack on the palace, and ended only after the King and the rest of the royal family agreed to provision the markets and return to Paris from Versailles.

Creation of the Départements

4 March 1790

Part of the de-feudalization of France during the Revolution, the medieval provinces of France were abolished in 1790. They were replaced by spiffy new départements, and were the product of being assimilated into France from being semi-independent fiefs.

Civil Constitution of the Clergy

12 July 1790

A law passed by the National Assembly in 1790, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy was the final nail in the proverbial coffin for the Roman Catholic Church in Revolutionary France. It subordinated the Church to the State, and made all clergymen in France employees of the state. While supported by many people, it also succeeded in alienating many other people towards the Revolution.

Fête de la Fédération

14 July 1790

Celebrating the first anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille, the Fête de la Fédération was a festival celebrating the supposed unity of the French Nation. It was largely improvised and featured a popular feast, the reconciliation of the Three Estates after the Estates-General of the previous year. This was also the first time that the new royal styling, the King of the French, was used as opposed to the King of France. Notables include the Royal Family, the Marquis de Lafayette, and de Talleyrand.

Flight to Varennes

20 June 1791 - 21 June 1791

Becoming increasingly dismayed at the radical direction that the revolution was taking, Louis XVI and the royal family attempted to escape to Austria to allegedly start a counter-revolution. However, the escape only went as far as the small town of Varennes, where they were arrested. The attempted escape shocked the French people, and more radical steps such as the abolition of the monarchy became more and more likely.

Champ de Mars Massacre

17 July 1791

On the day of 17 July 1791, following a decree that Louis XVI would remain the king, a large crowd of anti-royalists gathered in the Champs de Mars to sign a petition. This was following the royal family's attempt to escape the previous month, and the crowd turned violent. The National Guard, under the command of the Marquis de Lafayette, then fired into the crowd and killed/ injured from a dozen to fifty people.

Constitution of 1791

13 September 1791

The first written constitution of France, the Constitution of 1791 was reluctantly accepted by King Louis XVI in September. It was drafted during a time period following the Declaration of the Rights of Man, and was partially modeled after the United States Constitution of a few years earlier. However, it did not last long, as it was ended less than year during the 10th of August coup in 1792.

Legislative Assembly

1 October 1791

Replacing the National Constituent Assembly, the Legislative Assembly became legislature of Revolutionary France in October 1792. It was divided into "Left" and "Right" factions, representing various viewpoints. The Right faction was composed of Feuillants, representing members of the wealthy middle class (the bourgeoisie) who favored a constitutional monarchy. The Left faction was comprised of Jacobins (radical revolutionaries), Girondists (slightly less radical than the Jacobins), and Cordeliers (Populists). The Legislative Assembly was replaced by the National Convention in late 1792.

10 August

10 August 1792

On the 10th of August in 1792, the already tense relations between the king and the revolutionaries came to a head when Republican militias and the National Guard besieged and sacked the Tuileries. The increasingly radical revolutionaries were angered by losses in the war with the other European powers and egged on by inflammatory speeches in the Legislative Assembly. It is no surprise then, that the 10th of August insurrection occurred, and ended with the massacre of the King's Swiss Guards and the effective end of the French Monarchy. Just six weeks later, the Kingdom of the French would give way to the First French Republic.

September Massacres

2 September 1792 - 3 September 1792

Spurring from a overwhelming fear that prisoners were going to revolt and massacre the population during the advance on Paris from the Allies and general paranoia following the 10 August Insurrection, the September Massacres were a wave of killings conducted by French radicals. They targeted mostly criminals and Catholic priests, and were one of the most dividing moments of the revolution. It represented the divide between the will of the people and the will of the political elite, as the killings were mostly done by mobs. The "official" terror would come later, after the Jacobins came to power in 1793.

Abolition of the Monarchy

22 September 1792

Three years after the Storming of the Bastille, the Kingdom of France finally came to a close. Following the 10 August insurrection and the September Massacres, France was declared a Republic for the first time on September 1792. The Republic would characterized with constant power squabbles, from the Jacobin Reign of Terror to the ineffective Directory, to the Napoleonic Consulate, and would end with the declaration of the French Empire in 1804.

Execution of Louis XVI

21 January 1793

Taking place a few months after the abolition of the monarchy, the former king was executed after a trial in the Place de la Révolution in January 1793. The first victim of the Reign of Terror, he was led from his captivity in the Temple Prison to the guilltine, where he was decapitated as "Citizen Louis Capet".

War in the Vendée

Approx. March 1793 - 15 February 1795

Location: Western France
Attacker: French Royalists
Defender: French Republic under Canclaux, de Gontaut, Rossignol, etc.
Outcome: Republican Victory

Fall of the Girondists

31 May 1793 - 2 June 1793

The last of the three popular insurrections during the Revolution, after the Storming of the Bastille and 10 August, the Insurrection of 31 May-2 June 1793 resulted in the fall and later execution of the Girondns in power. Again, it was carried out by the Jacobins and partially incited by Jean-Paul Marat. Following the trial in the Revolutionary Tribunal, 31 Girondins were executed.

Levée en masse

16 August 1793

To combat the invasion of France by the armies of the First Coalition, the new Jacobin regime instituted the Levée en masse, which was the mass conscription of originally 300,000 French men. All able-bodied men from 18 to 25 were drafted, which raised the size of the army to 1,500,000 in the September of 1794.

Reign of Terror

5 September 1793 - 27 July 1794

A period of violence from 1793 to 1794, the Reign of Terror was conducted by Jacobins under the influence of Maximilien Robespierre and Antoine Saint-Just. The guillotine was the weapon of choice, who decapitated all "threats" to the Republic, such as the royal family, other royalists, Girondins, clergymen, and others deemed enemies of the people. By the end of the Terror at the hands of Thermadorian Reaction, 16,594 people died by the guillotine and roughly another 25,000 people died in summary executions, such as the ones carried out by Jean-Baptiste Cartier in Nantes.

Law of Suspects

17 September 1793

Passed by the Committee of Public Safety at the beginning of the Reign of Terror, the Law of Suspects was decree that limited many personal freedoms of French citizens. It allowed the Jacobins to arrest and execute anybody who was thought to be an enemy of the revolution, which also happened to include their political rivals. It was officially abolished in October 1795.

French Republican Calendar

24 October 1793

A new, secular calendar commissioned by the National Convention in 1793. It featured such additions as decimal time (each day was 10 hours, which were 100 decimal minutes each, which were 100 decimal seconds); new dechristianized months such as Vendémiaire, Brumiare, Prairial, and Thermidor; and 10 day weeks with 30 day months. It was abolished by Napoleon in 1806.

Festival of the Supreme Being

8 June 1794

Occuting on 8 June 1794 (or 20 Prairial of the Year II), the Festival of the Supreme Being was the inauguration of Robespierre's new "revolutionary religion," the Cult of the Supreme Being. The Cult was a form of deism devised by Robespierre to become the new state religion of France, following the anti-clerical laws that had banned the worship of God the previous year. The Cult of the Supreme Being, along with the Law of 22 Prairial, was thought to have been the final straw that ended in the deposition of Robespierre and the Jacobin dictatorship on 9 Thermidor.

Law of 22 Prairial

10 June 1794

Enacted on 10 June 1794 (22 Prairial of the Year II), the loi de la Grande Terreur was passed by the National Convention under the support of Georges Couthon and Robespierre. It simplified the judicial process by limiting the abilty of the accused to defend himself, and that every citizen was "empowered to seize conspirators and counterrevolutionaries, and to bring them before the magistrates. He is required to denounce them as soon as he knows of them." Thus, the Law of 22 Prairial allowed the Revolutionary Tribunal to sentence people death just by mere accusation, rather than with an actual trial. It was repeal less than two months later, on 1 August 1794.

Thermidorian Reaction

27 July 1794

On 9 Thermidor Year II (or 27 July 1794), the Reign of Terror finally came to end. The Jacobin radicals who had dominated the political scene for a little less than a year of the Fall of the Girondists were ordered to be outlaws by the National Convention. It was the result of several conspiracies coming together, such as the surviving Dantonists and Hébertists, after Robespierre was left the only remaining revolutionary strongman after the deaths of Marat, Danton, Desmoulins, and Hébert. Other members of the Left and of the Montagnards came together under the leadership of Tallien, who attacked Saint-Just and Robespierre, along with other leading members of the terror. In the end, the men who had perpetrated the Reign were executed and the Revolution went a path of moderation, especially religiously.

Batavian Revolution

18 January 1795

With the successes of the French and their Batavian (Dutch Revolutionary) allies at Fleurus and others in 1794, the Dutch patriots were emboldened enough to plan an armed insurrection against the stadtholder. The Batavian Revolutionary Committee, afraid of annexation by the French, struck while the iron was hot and took over the city of Amsterdam on the morning of 19 January 1795. The Batavian Republic would become the first of the French puppet republics, and would become a puppet kingdom in 1806, before being annexed into the French Empire in 1810.

Coalition and Other Home Fronts/Politics

Declaration of Pillnitz

27 August 1791

A carefully-worded statement issued by Holy Roman (Austrian) Emperor Leopold II and Frederick William II of Prussia at Pillnitz Castle in Saxony against the French Revolution. It called for the other European powers to intervene if King Louis was threatened and was meant to be a warning against the French Revolutionaries. However, the French took it as a declaration of war, and helped lead to the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars of the following year.

Brunswick Manifesto

July 25 1792

A proclamation issued by the commander of the Allied Army, the Duke of Brunswick, that declared that if the royal family was harmed, the population of France would be harmed. It was intended to intimidate Paris, but only succeeded in widening the gap between the French Revolutionaries and the counter-revolutionaries of Europe.