War of The Third Coalition

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated


One of the Napoleonic wars, the War of the Third Coalition, occurred between 1805 and 1807. Russia first participated in the conflicts arising from France's efforts to expand its dominance over continental Europe and the Middle East in 1798, in the War of the Second Coalition, along with Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, and the Ottoman Empire. Most of the direct Russian involvement was in the Eastern and Northern Mediterranean, with Admiral Fedor Ushakov occupying the Ionian Islands and General Alexander Suvorov campaigning through Italy. Emperor Paul, however, became annoyed with his allies, especially Britain. In 1800 he withdrew and formed an alliance with France, led by Napoleon Bonaparte. This dramatic reversal contributed to a reaction and the assassination of Paul in March 1801.

His successor, Alexander I, influenced by pro-British and anti-French advisers such as Adam Czartoryski, signed an alliance with Britain in April 1805. This was the linchpin of a third coalition war against Napoleon that also included Austria, Naples, and Prussia. Russian action again centered on the Mediterranean, with a fleet under Admiral Dmitri Seniavin sent from the Baltic to assure dominance of the Adriatic Sea and curb French expansion into the Balkans, especially at the fortress-stronghold of Ragusa (Dubrovnik). Though the British reaffirmed their supremacy over the French at sea at the Battle of Trafalgar (September 1805), poor Russian and Austrian leadership on land in Central Europe led to Napoleon's decisive victories, especially at Austerlitz in December 1805. Austria was forced to sign a peace treaty, while Russia suffered additional defeats. Finally, at a historic meeting between Napoleon and Alexander I at Tilsit in July 1807, Russia agreed to peace terms that abandoned its Mediterranean positions to Napoleon and joined the French Continental System against Britain, thus leaving all of Europe except Russia under French dominance. Napoleon's effort to expand that dominance to Russia in 1812 provoked another coalition war that led to his eventual defeat.

See also: alexander i; austerlitz, battle of; napoleon i; tilist, treaty of


Mackesy, Piers. (1957). The War in the Mediterranean, 18031810. London: Longmans, Green.

Saul, Norman E. (1970). Russia and the Mediterranean, 17971807. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Norman E. Saul