The year was 1813 and the Napoleonic Wars were coming to a violent close. Under Napoleon the French Army had won two victories earlier in the year at Lutzen and Bautzen, but after so many years of battles throughout Europe, the army had been weakened. In the fall of 1813, Napoleon’s army met a coalition of Austrian, Prussian, Russian, and Swedish troops at Leipzig. After three days Napoleon was forced to retreat through the streets. Also known as “The Battle of Nations,” the Battle of Leipzig engaged an estimated 500,000 men and was regarded as the largest battle in history until World War I. It left the city in ruins and a typhus epidemic in its wake. It was also the beginning of the end for Napoleon as he and what was left of his once mighty army retreated back to France.
Further south in Spain and Portugal, things weren’t going well for Napoleon either. In 1808 Napoleon had placed his brother Joseph on the Spanish throne, which began the Peninsular War, where Spain and Portugal allied themselves with the British in an effort to rid the region of the French. Sir Arthur Wellesley, who was to become the Duke of Wellington, was in charge of the British troops that were on the offensive and the later battles of 1813 were fought on French soil.
The British were also engaged in the War of 1812 with the United States. After a rough year in 1812, American forces successfully invaded and then burned York (now Toronto), which was the capital of Upper Canada. While the British still had much of the Atlantic coast under blockade, Americans under the leadership of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry won the Battle of Lake Erie. Following the victory, Commodore Perry sent his famous message to William Henry Harrison:
We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop.
Yours with great respect and esteem,
The British retreated from Fort Malden and were pursued and defeated by General Harrison at the Battle of the Thames. Lake Erie was now in control of the Americans. Hurricanes hampered naval operations for both sides as storms hit Charleston, South Carolina, and St. Mary’s, Georgia.Â The year wouldn’t end well for the Americans. In December of 1913, the British burned the city of Buffalo, New York.Â
(For a list of War of 1812 battles by state click here.)
In less destructive news, Jane Austen’s literary classic, “Pride and Prejudice” was first published in 1813, some sixteen years after its original completion. The work was originally rejected sight unseen, but following her success with “Sense and Sensibility” in 1811, she revised it for publication in 1813.