Despite a series of startling and heroic victories, the Grande Armee were gradually forced back by overwhelming Allied forces converging on PARIS. In desperation, Napoleon struck Eastwards, aiming at the Allied communications and hoping to distract them into retiring. Partly due to captured dispatches, the bluff failed and the two main Allied armies moved inexorably towards the French capital.
Realising his plan had backfired, the Emperor rode back to PARIS, collecting Mortier and Victor on the way. When he arrived via St MAUR and CHARENTON, he found total confusion in the city. Joseph had spent more time negotiating peace terms with the Allies than preparing the capital’s defences. A few hasty earthworks had been thrown up on the outskirts, but only the formidable St DENIS Fort had been properly equipped. There were thousands of National Guard recruits and volunteers milling around the streets, but without any leaders or organization.
With only a few hours before the Allies would be ready to attack, Napoleon had little time to use his formidable organizational skills. After calling in nearby militia forces to augment the garrison, little could be done except to ensure that the cities batteries had sufficient ammunition.
As the sun rose on a fine early April day, the Allied batteries on the heights South of PARIS opened fire. A desperate defence had begun.