The French Revolutionary Wars and the Rise of Revolutionary France

The French Revolutionary Wars and the Rise of Revolutionary France


The article discusses the military campaign of Revolutionary France that took place during the 1790s, focusing on the Battle of Valmy and the subsequent advance. It examines the political situation in France during this period, including the rise of the National Convention and the implementation of conscription. The article also explores the military successes and failures of both France and its enemies. The text ends with a description of the dire situation in France by the spring of 1793 and a decree calling on French men, women, and even children to make sacrifices in the face of danger.

Table of Contents

  • Revolutionary France
  • The Levée en Masse
  • Aggressive Tactics and the Polish Influence
  • The War Against Great Britain
  • The Rise of Austria and the Conquest of Italy


Q: What were some of the military successes of Revolutionary France during the 1790s?

A: Revolutionary France achieved significant military victories during the 1790s, most notably in their campaign against Austria. At the Battle of Valmy in 1792, the French army, though outnumbered, was able to repel the Prussian invasion and secure a vital victory that halted the enemy’s advance. Another significant success was the French conquest of Belgium, which was completed by early 1793.

Q: How did the French Revolution impact the military tactics of Revolutionary France?

A: The French Revolution brought about a change in military tactics, with the adoption of aggressive tactics that aimed to take the fight to the enemy. This was evident in the implementation of the ‘levée en masse’, which called for the conscription of every available resource, including men, women, and children, to create the largest army in Europe at the time. Additionally, the use of commissars on the front lines to terrorize generals out of defeatism and into offensive action was a key strategy.

Q: How did the Polish influence help France in the war?

A: The Poles helped France by ensuring that both Austria and Prussia went to war with one eye looking behind them and one hand tied behind their backs, creating dissension between the two German allies and keeping Russia out of the war altogether. Prussia abandoned its alliance with Austria, withdrew from the war, and agreed that France should occupy the left bank of the Rhine.

Q: How did the British fare in the war against Revolutionary France?

A: The British focused on their naval superiority, which was secured when the surrender of Toulon in August 1793 allowed them to destroy France’s stock of timber and cripple their navy. While the British had success in the Caribbean, they struggled to hold captured French islands due to disease and revolts. Additionally, Admiral Lord Howe captured or wrecked a dozen French ships of the line without loss but failed to seize a French convoy. The British secured the Cape of Good Hope and the Dutch port of Trincomalee, allowing them to consolidate and expand their possessions.

Q: How did the French Revolution impact the political situation in France during the 1790s?

A: The French Revolution resulted in significant political changes, including the rise of the National Convention, which declared war on the European monarchies and implemented conscription. The implementation of the ‘levée en masse’ was a crucial aspect of the revolution’s military effectiveness.

Q: What was the outcome of the French campaign against Austria in 1796?

A: The French launched a three-pronged assault on Austria and conquered Italy, imposing puppet regimes and a partition treaty with Austria. This allowed France to secure Belgium, most of the left bank, Lombardy, the Ionian Islands, and Venetian Albania. Austria was left with Venice and the ecclesiastical land. The Emperor’s abandonment of the Holy Roman Empire was an act of self-mutilation if not suicide, and nine years after Campo Formio Francis II abdicated as Holy Roman Emperor and became Francis I Emperor of Austria.


Revolutionary France, with its new aggressive tactics and ‘levée en masse’, was able to secure significant military victories against the European monarchies during the period of the 1790s. The revolution also brought about significant political changes in France, including the rise of the National Convention and the implementation of conscription. However, the war against Great Britain would eventually be lost in the Atlantic. Austria emerged as the final challenge for Revolutionary France, with the French conquering Italy and imposing puppet regimes. The outcome of the war created dissension between the two German allies and left France and Russia as great victors. In the end, the French Revolution forever changed the landscape of Europe and its military tactics, political institutions, and ideas reverberated throughout the world.

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