The War of the First Coalition
Between 1792 and 1797 a series of wars were fought between France and the European powers which under the guise of re-establishing the Bourbon Monarchy actually sought to acquire French territory. The War of the First Coalition was a major contributor to the economic chaos and internal strife in Revolutionary France and was itself one of a series of Coalitions formed by the Europeans against the French which would go on for more than twenty years. The War of the First Coalition saw the rise of a young Corsican general in the French service named Napoleon Bonaparte.
Germany was then not a unified Nation and a military leader from Brunswick-Wolfenbuttal, Charles Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick, took an Army of mostly Prussian troops into France in 1792. Austria and the Holy Roman Empire also declared war on France, as did England and what was then known as the Dutch Republic. The War of the First Coalition led the radicals in France to support the execution of the French King, and the Reign of Terror which followed was a major factor in the execution of his widow, Marie Antoinette. Many of the excesses of the French Revolution would likely not have occurred had it not been for the war with the rest of Europe.
Much of the senior military and naval officers from pre-revolutionary France had been descended from the nobility and had fled the country or fallen victim to the Terror and the events which preceded it, leaving France with a depleted leadership. Many young soldiers emerged during the War of the First Coalition as capable and spirited leaders. The enforced conscription in France and the laws which supported the war at the cost of the French civilian population allowed the Revolutionary armies to rapidly expand and defeat their enemies.
France sent Edmond-Charles Genet to the United States in an attempt to enlist the support of the young nation in the war. Genet argued that the Treaty of Alliance with the United States remained in effect, and in his position he found some support from the Americans. The rising Federalist faction in the United States disagreed, arguing that the Treaty had been made with a monarch and government which no longer existed and was thus void. The United States remained neutral throughout the war.
By 1797 the French armies had emerged victorious on nearly all fronts, although the British held an advantage at sea. Rather than invading armies carving off parts of France or French held territory it was the rest of Europe which found itself ceding territory to the French Republic, soon to become the French Empire. The civil war in France which had been largely isolated to the Vendee in Western France had been crushed in 1796. France was the closest it had been to being at peace since 1789, when the revolution began, though it remained at war with England.