The War of 1812 BeginsEdit
"Men of France, today we stand on the cusp of total victory! Centuries from now, your grandchildren will say of you that never since the days of Rome, the Millennium Empire, had the world seen such resplendent glory. Glory, gentlemen of France! Glory for you! Glory for me! Glory for France! And Glory Eternal to Caesar Napoleon, and glory to the Eternal Empire! Gloire à César! Vive César Napoléon!"
Napoleon had declared that the War of 1812 would be the climax of his conquering career. This would be the true beginning of the Pax Napoleonica, as his admirers had christened his 1810 promise. Everything begun at that riot a young artillery officer had put down so many years before and all the deaths and lives ruined and all the money spent since would finally pay off. The annihilation of France's immortal foe, the Kingdom-Empire of Great Britain, was supposedly at hand.
Britain, at this stage of the game, was completely and utterly bankrupt. It was running on fumes, and all of Europe knew it. Britain had been their ally against the Corsican Ogre, but they didn't feel any remorse seeing the broken-down English Royal Family lose power. Spain was particularly smug, satisfied revenge was coming for the Armada's Destruction centuries before. Really, England and its successor-state empire had repeatedly spat in the eyes of Napoleon's rivals in years past. Now, it was coming back to haunt them. Napoleon had long been regarded as a "whelp" and "impish boy-emperor," but the truth was that was how England had been viewed when it started flexing its muscles a century prior.
But Britain had a large army.
Britain's army was so large by this point, many soldiers were buying their own food and wearing homemade uniforms. The various territories and colonies were extremely far-flung, ranging from fairly safe locales such as Southern India to wildly volatile places like Jamaica and the Bahamas, which were barely fighting off repeated Franco-Georgian attacks. The need for manpower was huge. Britain came out with several improved ways of making cloth and ammunition (both of which were immediately stolen), and also started using women and children in factories. Everyone was bracing itself for the Invasion of Canada.
The deployment of so many troops to Canada, and the cost to equip them, was exactly what Napoleon had engineered. The coast of England was still well fortified, of course, as William would never let his guard down so close to his own keep, but Ireland was drastically exposed. In fact, a good percentage of the troops shipped to Canada were shipped from the Emerald Island. To top it off, Denmark, allied with France, had Iceland, which was a great place to hide French ships on the backside of Britain. Indeed, Napoleon was planning his greatest offensive ever.
The combined Franco-Spanish-Russian Armada was to challenge the Royal Navy to do battle. The plan would not work unless William's ships were defeated then and there. The Armada would then barrage the English coast and feign an assault, with troops in smaller landing boats arriving to attack Truro, Cornwall. Meanwhile, a small fleet from Iceland would attack Scotland's coast, confusing the British as to where to expect the main landing. Had they been tricked, and a bizarre invasion was coming from Scotland? Or was that a diversion, with the Frogs in the English Channel being the real threat? The answer was neither: a huge Imperial pan-European invasion army would land at Cork, Waterford, and areas south of Dublin. The simmering Irish revolutionaries would take up arms once more and assist in the total takeover of Ireland. Joseph Bonaparte would take "power" as the King of Ireland, answering directly to his brother the French Emperor. If necessary, assaults would be launched into Scotland across the Irish Sea. By that point, Wales, which had long had a pro-French underground movement, would be promised independence if it seceded. After all that, England would be forced to accept Napoleon's terms. No fantastic invasion of "the White Cliffs of Dover" would be necessary. It would be a final, brutal extermination of Britain's power. A war of attrition.
On May 1, 1812, the Armada joined up and challenged the Royal Navy, under Nelson's successor Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, 1st Baron Collingwood. It was another seemingly pro-French "Act of God" that the British had just suffered a terrible storm which had damaged many vessels. Suchet's words about God being French rang true again, claimed the Empire. Over the next grueling two and a half days, dozens of ships sank to the bottom of the ocean in what one historian labeled "Armageddon on the Atlantic." It was the final test of British strength.Early in the morning of May 3, Collingwood stood on the deck of his flagship the HMS Morpeth surveying the enemy's movements. A Russian frigate, the Nevsky, appeared suddenly alongside the Morpeth, its approach having been hidden by morning mist and battle smoke from guns and the many burning ships. The Russians opened fire with canister shot, and the main boom of the British ship was destroyed. The large log fell directly on Collingwood, breaking his spine (paralyzing him) and removing him from the battle. The Russians kept the barrage up, and then rammed the burning flagship, sinking it. Collingwood was accepted as a prisoner and was removed from the battle to go to a French hospital at Calais. Collingwood had had a good chance at winning, but with him gone, and news that King William had supposedly collapsed in London following a mental fit, the morale of the Royal Navy was destroyed, and at noon Commander Hickory Godfrey Hoover surrendered, having witnessed the annihilation of most of the fleet. It was a bloody, hard-won victory, and the French, Russians, and the other allies had suffered huge losses. Russia had lost half their ships. The entire fleet from Italy was sleeping with the fishes. But as soon as the British survivors were escorted back to France and word sent to Paris, the Armada continued on, to barrage the English Coast and send fireships (captured English vessels beyond repair) up the Thames. They might not have a triumphal assault on Buckingham Palace, but they were going to make sure they psychologically traumatized the entire English population.
At that point, a small fleet of Dutch ships landed at Truro, Cornwall, and set up shop. The bizarre landing made the British believe the assault was going to try to break Cornwall away and set it up as a police state. The British soldiers at Cornwall were led by an incompetent General Wilbur Whiteham. He so bungled the counter-assault on the city that French Marshal Laurent de Gouvion Saint-Cyr, 1st Marquis of Gouvion-Saint-Cyr, said that "God has put a hex on England this day." Saint-Cyr actually requested allowance to press the assault inland, to take all of Cornwall. Instead, he was instructed to await reinforcements.Up to the north, an uncoordinated battle was being fought by shocked Scottish sailors against the Franco-Danish fleet that had arrived from Iceland. Neither side knew for sure what had happened on the Channel, and they had no idea the British Navy had been defeated, and they fought against only each other. The French and Danes were defeated, but the Scots thoroughly shaken. They immediately called up forces from deeper inside Scotland, which infuriated the British Command when they needed troops to send down to Truro and London. The French laughed gleefully at their enemies hysterical amount of bad luck and poor decisions as the real invasion army hit Cork and Crosshaven.
Then they stopped laughing.There were not as many British troops in Ireland as there should have been, since so many were in Canada, but the fighting was still intense. Ballycotton and Ardmore were absolute bloodbaths, with thousands dead and wounded. General Arthur Wellesley, a native Irishman, was in command of the Army of Ireland, and he was determined to hold the line. Royal ships at Rosslare Harbor, on the south-eastern corner of Ireland, put up a good fight but were sunk by the French and Russians. The Irish Sea became a huge battlefield. Several marshals, generals, and admirals tried to coordinate the massive assault from a select number of ships. It was almost impossible. Catholic priests were assembling their congregations in France, praying for "God Almighty to smite the British devils."
Wellesley fell back to Killarney with his officer staff and his personal regiments. The rest he spread out, attempting to create an impenetrable wall "from Kenmare to Wicklow." This worked for the time being, but Irish miltias were forming in Derry, Donegal, Monaghan, and multiple other locations behind his lines. The Allies were trying to strike rapidly, and when Marshal Ney arrived to take command on land, he made an immediate thrust at Clonmel with several thousand Imperial troops, including some Russian horse regiments that utterly terrified the British.In late May, just three weeks after the decisive Battle of the Channel, William's generals realized the entire plan all along had been to invade Ireland. They tried to recall some Canadian troops, but it was too late, and several regiments were sunk by an allied American fleet around Nova Scotia. Wellesley had been forced to start fighting on both his front and rear, against the French and Irish respectively. He forced his way into Limerick to set up a new headquarters. London instructed him to make his stand there while Scottish General Thomas Graham tried to fight his way in from Scotland and take Derry from the rebels.
Despite huge losses, the Allied army was confident. Private Jean-Paul Christophe Nicolas Napoleon Sarkozy, in an example of the spirit of the time, wrote in his diary (on a page dated June 18th, 1812) that, "Victory is so close I can almost taste it. All the other men in my regiment say the same. They say Marshal Ney is preparing to take Thurles and Newcastle West, and if he does that, Wellesley will be trapped like the rat he is."
The French, under trigger-happy Ney, were defeated and pushed back on June 25, after Ney attempted that assault. Thomas Graham was not given enough men to use the momentum to take Derry, however, as London insisted on fortifying the national capital and plugging up the Cornwall Front before Saint-Cyr invaded Wales, which was beginning to show a desire for independence.King William was in the pits of a health crisis, and no one was left to inspire the public to fight on. Defeat started seeming inevitable, until an anonymous songwriter created a tune that circulated morale throughout the country and became a battlefield anthem for the Redcoats. "There Will Always be an England" became the most famous song in the History of the British Isles.
Wellesley handed Ney a dual defeat at the Battles of Cashel and Callan. After that, though, he had no choice but to abandon Limerick and head toward Derry to join Graham on a siege of that rebellious city.
Napoleon was pleased. Everything was going more or less to plan. He still had enough troops to keep his mainland territory in check, and did not really worry about other Europeans attacking since Britain was all but gone.
The thing the emperor did not realize, though, was that British people were among the most stubborn on earth. The French Empire was about to enter a war against the corner newspaper boy and local miller. A resistance movement of sorts had already cropped up among loyalists in southern Ireland, and There Will Always be an England was being sung in the streets of England and Canada. If the British were chased into Scotland, a total war of attrition would be waged. It was about to get really ugly, and it was the beginning of the very violent Pax Napoleonica.