In my series of German cities and their Napoleonic history I start with Mainz. We just had a short one-day excursion to Mainz, and I had to check out the history of the city. I knew it was a French possession after the Revolutionary Wars, but that was just about it. In fact, the French revolutionary army occupied Mainz in 1792, and the local Jacobins proclaimed the Republic of Mainz. It was a short-lived affair: The city was subsequently besieged by Prussian forces, and by July 1793 the French had surrendered.
The Napoleonic phase of the city starts properly after the Treaty of Campo Formio. (Signed October 18 1797, this treaty was the direct result of General Bonaparte’s victorious efforts against the Austrians in Italy.) One of the terms of the Treaty was an extension of French borders to the Rhine River. This marked the end of Mainz as an electorate in the Holy Roman Empire, and soon after Mainz became part of a new French département called Mont-Tonnerre.
Mainz were to become a major rallying point for eastward bound French regiments, and because of its tactical location on the Rhine, it had a garrison of at least 10 000. Napoleon inspected the city himself on several occasions, and arranged for expansions of the Festung Mainz. Not an idle project it turned out, as the French later became besieged in Mainz after the Battle of Nations. A typhus epidemic broke out, killing 17 000 French soldiers before the siege ended with the surrender of Paris.
I hadn’t really done my homework properly, however. If I had, I wouldn’t have missed the fact that it’s possible to visit Napoleon’s residence in Mainz. That will hopefully be the second installment of this post.