Napoleon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a general
of the French Revolution; the ruler of France as First Consul (Premier
Consul) of the French Republic from 11 November 1799 to 18 May 1804;
then Emperor of the French (Empereur des Français) and King
of Italy under the name Napoleon I from 18 May 1804 to 6 April 1814;
and briefly restored as Emperor from March 20 to June 22 of 1815.
Napoleon himself developed few military innovations, apart from
the divisional squares employed in Egypt and the placement of
artillery into batteries, he used the superior quality of the
French army, as reformed under the various revolutionary governments,
to score some major victories. His campaigns are studied at military
academies all over the world and he is generally regarded as one
of the greatest commanders to have ever lived.
the course of little more than a decade, he fought virtually every
European power and acquired control of most of the western and
central mainland of Europe by conquest or alliance until his disastrous
invasion of Russia in 1812, followed by defeat at the Battle of
Leipzig in October 1813, which led to his abdication several months
later and his exile to the island of Elba.
staged a comeback known as the Hundred Days (les Cent Jours),
but was again defeated decisively at the Battle of Waterloo in
present day Belgium on June 18, 1815, followed shortly afterwards
by his surrender to the British and his exile to the island of
Saint Helena, where he died six years later.
from his military achievements, Napoleon is also remembered for
the establishment of the Napoleonic Code. He is considered by
some to have been one of the "enlightened despots".
appointed several members of the Bonaparte family and close friends
of his as monarchs of countries he conquered and as important
government figures (his brother Lucien became France's Minister
of Finance). Although their reigns did not survive his downfall,
a nephew, Napoleon III, ruled France later in the nineteenth century.
life and military career
He was born Napoleone Buonaparte (in Corsican, Nabolione or Nabulione)
in the town of Ajaccio on Corsica on 15 August 1769, only one
year after the island was transferred to France by the Republic
of Genoa. He later adopted the more French-sounding Napoléon
family were minor Italian nobility living in Corsica. His father,
Carlo Buonaparte, an attorney, was named Corsica's representative
to the court of Louis XVI of France in 1778, where he remained
for a number of years. The dominant influence of Napoleon's childhood
was his mother, Maria Letizia Ramolino. Her firm discipline helped
restrain the rambunctious Napoleon as a boy, nicknamed Rabullione
(the "meddler" or "disrupter").
noble, moderately affluent background and family connections afforded
him greater opportunities to study than were available to a typical
Corsican of the time. At the age of five he attended preschool.
At age nine, Napoleon was admitted to a French military school
at Brienne-le-Château, a small town near Troyes, on 15 May
1779. He had to learn to speak French before entering the school,
but he spoke with a marked Italian accent throughout his life
and never learned to spell properly.
earned high marks in mathematics and geography, and passable grades
in other subjects. Upon graduation from Brienne in 1784, Bonaparte
was admitted to the elite École Royale Militaire in Paris,
where he completed the two year course of study in only one year.
Although he had initially sought a naval assignment, he studied
artillery at the École Militaire. Upon graduation in September,
1785, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant of artillery,
and took up his new duties in January 1786, at the age of 16.
served on garrison duty in Valence and Auxonne until after the
outbreak of the Revolution in 1789 (although he took nearly two
years of leave in Corsica and Paris during this period). He spent
most of the next several years on Corsica, where a complex three-way
struggle was played out among royalists, revolutionaries, and
Corsican nationalists. Bonaparte supported the Jacobin faction,
and gained the position of lieutenant-colonel of a regiment of
volunteers. After coming into conflict with the increasingly conservative
nationalist leader, Pasquale Paoli, Bonaparte and his family were
forced to flee to France in June 1793.
the help of fellow Corsican Saliceti, he was appointed as artillery
commander in the French forces besieging Toulon, which had risen
in revolt against the Reign of Terror and was occupied by British
troops. He formulated a successful plan: he placed guns at Point
l'Eguillete, threatening the British ships in the harbour with
destruction, thereby forcing them to evacuate.
successful assault of the position, during which Bonaparte was
wounded in the thigh, led to the recapture of the city and a promotion
to brigadier-general. His actions brought him to the attention
of the Committee of Public Safety, and he became a close associate
of Augustin Robespierre, younger brother of the Revolutionary
leader Maximilien Robespierre. As a result, he was briefly imprisoned
following the fall of the elder Robespierre in 1794, but was released
within two weeks.
"whiff of grapeshot"
In 1795, Bonaparte was serving in Paris when royalists and counter-revolutionaries
organized an armed protest against the National Convention on
3 October. Bonaparte was given command of the improvised forces
defending the Convention in the Tuileries Palace. He seized artillery
pieces with the aid of a young cavalry officer, Joachim Murat,
who later became his brother-in-law.
utilized the artillery the following day to repel the attackers.
He later boasted that he had cleared the streets with a "whiff
of grapeshot" (small pellets fired out of a cannon), although
the fighting had been vicious throughout Paris. This triumph earned
him sudden fame, wealth, and the patronage of the new Directory,
particularly that of its leader, Barras. Within weeks he was romantically
attached to Barras's former mistress, Josephine de Beauharnais,
whom he married on March 9, 1796.
Italian campaign of 1796–97
Days after his marriage, Bonaparte took command of the French
"Army of Italy", leading it on a successful invasion
of Italy. At the Lodi, he gained the nickname of "The Little
Corporal" (le petit caporal), a term reflecting his camaraderie
with his soldiers, all of whom he knew by name. He drove the Austrians
out of Lombardy and defeated the army of the Papal States. Because
Pope Pius VI had protested the execution of Louis XVI, France
retaliated by annexing two small papal territories.
ignored the Directory's order to march on Rome and dethrone the
Pope. It was not until the next year that General Berthier captured
Rome and took Pius VI prisoner on February 20. The pope died of
illness while in captivity. In early 1797, Bonaparte led his army
into Austria and forced that power to sue for peace. The resulting
Treaty of Campo Formio gave France control of most of northern
Italy, along with the Low Countries and Rhineland, but a secret
clause promised Venice to Austria. Bonaparte then marched on Venice
and forced its surrender, ending over 1,000 years of independence.
Later in 1797, Bonaparte organized many of the French dominated
territories in Italy into the Cisalpine Republic.
remarkable series of military triumphs were a result of his ability
to apply his encyclopedic knowledge of conventional military thought
to real-world situations, as demonstrated by his creative use
of artillery tactics, using it as a mobile force to support his
infantry. As he described it: "I have fought sixty battles
and I have learned nothing which I did not know at the beginning."
Contemporary paintings of his headquarters during the Italian
campaign depict his use of the world's first telecommunications
system, the Chappe semaphore line, first implemented in 1792.
was also a master of both intelligence and deception and had an
uncanny sense of when to strike. He often won battles by concentrating
his forces on an unsuspecting enemy by using spies to gather information
about opposing forces and by concealing his own troop deployments.
In this campaign, often considered his greatest, Napoleon's army
captured 160,000 prisoners, 2,000 cannon, and 170 standards. A
year of campaigning had witnessed major breaks with the traditional
norms of 18th century warfare and marked a new era in military
campaigning in Italy, General Bonaparte became increasingly influential
in French politics. He published two newspapers, ostensibly for
the troops in his army, but widely circulated within France as
well. In May 1797 he founded a third newspaper, published in Paris,
entitled Le Journal de Bonaparte et des hommes vertueux. Elections
in mid-1797 gave the royalist party increased power, alarming
Barras and his allies on the Directory.
royalists, in turn, began attacking Bonaparte for looting Italy
and overstepping his authority in dealings with the Austrians.
Bonaparte sent General Augereau to Paris to lead a coup d'etat
and purge the royalists on 4 September (18 Fructidor). This left
Barras and his Republican allies in firm control again, but dependent
on Bonaparte's military command to stay there. Bonaparte himself
proceeded to the peace negotiations with Austria, then returned
to Paris in December as the conquering hero and the dominant force
in government, far more popular than any of the Directors.
Egyptian expedition of 1798–99
In March 1798, Bonaparte proposed an expedition to seize Egypt,
then a province of the Ottoman Empire, seeking to protect French
trade interests and undermine Britain's access to India. The Directory,
although troubled by the scope and cost of the enterprise, readily
agreed to the plan in order to remove the popular general from
the center of power.
unusual aspect of the Egyptian expedition was the inclusion of
a large group of scientists assigned to the invading French force:
among the other discoveries that resulted, the Rosetta Stone was
found. This deployment of intellectual resources is considered
by some an indication of Bonaparte's devotion to the principles
of the Enlightenment, and by others as a masterstroke of propaganda
obfuscating the true imperialist motives of the invasion. In a
largely unsuccessful effort to gain the support of the Egyptian
populace, Bonaparte also issued proclamations casting himself
as a liberator of the people from Ottoman oppression, and praising
the precepts of Islam.
expedition seized Malta from the Knights of Saint John on June
9 and then landed successfully at Alexandria on July 1, eluding
(temporarily) pursuit by the Royal Navy.
landing on the coast of Egypt, the first battle to take place
was against the Mamelukes, an old power in the Middle East, approximately
4 miles from the pyramids. This battle would wipe out their power
altogether. Napoleon's forces were greatly outnumbered by the
advanced cavalry, about 25,000 to 100,000, and the battle was
quick. Napoleon came out on top, mainly due to his strategy; men
formed hollow squares, each side facing out. This made it possible
to keep cannons and supplies safely on the inside, while the soldiers
could fire in every direction on the outside. This made a very
strong defense, but left it possible for many soldiers to escape
to fight again. In all only 300 French were killed, while approximately
6,000 native Egyptians were killed.
the battle on land was a resounding victory for the French, the
British navy managed to compensate at sea. The ships that had
dropped off Napoleon and his army had sailed back to France, but
a fleet of battleships that had come with them stayed and supported
the army along the coast. On August 1, The British fleet found
these battleships anchored in a strong defensive position in the
bay of Abukir.
French believed that they were open to attack only on one side,
the other side being protected by the shore. However, the arriving
British fleet under Horatio Nelson managed to slip half of their
ships in between the land and the French line, thus attacking
from both sides. All but two of the French vessels were captured
or destroyed. Only the Guillaume Tell with rear admiral Pierre-Charles
Villeneuve and the Généreux escaped. The Guillaume
Tell was caught not much later in the course of the British conquest
blame the French loss in this Battle of the Nile on the French
admiral Francois-Paul Brueys, who came up with the failed defensive
strategy. However, the French ships were also undermanned and
the troops were “young and insubordinate”. In all,
about 250 British and 1,700 French were killed. Bonaparte became
land-bound. His goal of strengthening the French position in the
Mediterranean Sea was thus frustrated, but his army nonetheless
succeeded in consolidating power in Egypt, although it faced repeated
early 1799 he led the army into the Ottoman province of Syria,
now modern Israel, and defeated numerically superior Ottoman forces
in several battles, but his army was weakened by disease and poor
supplies. He was unable to reduce the fortress of Acre, and was
forced to retreat to Egypt in May. On 25 July, he defeated an
Ottoman amphibious invasion at Abukir. Eventually Bonaparte was
forced to withdraw from Egypt in 1799, leaving his troops behind,
under constant British and Ottoman attacks. The remaining troops
eventually surrendered to British forces but not before one out
of every three men had died.
The coup of 18 Brumaire
While in Egypt, Bonaparte had kept a close eye on European affairs,
relying largely on newspapers and dispatches that arrived only
irregularly. On 23 August 1799, he abruptly set sail for France,
taking advantage of the temporary departure of British ships blockading
French coastal ports.
he was later accused by political opponents of abandoning his
troops, his departure actually had been authorized by the Directory,
which had suffered a series of military defeats to the forces
of the Second Coalition, and feared an invasion.
the time he returned to Paris in October, the military situation
had improved thanks to several French victories. The Republic
was bankrupt, however, and the corrupt and inefficient Directory
was more unpopular with the French public than ever.
was approached by one of the Directors, Sieyès, seeking
his support for a coup to overthrow the constitution. The plot
included Bonaparte's brother Lucien, then serving as speaker of
the Council of Five Hundred, Roger Ducos, another Director, and
Talleyrand. On 9 November (18 Brumaire), and the following day,
troops led by Bonaparte seized control and dispersed the legislative
councils, leaving a rump to name Bonaparte, Sieyès, and
Ducos as provisional Consuls to administer the government.
Sieyès expected to dominate the new regime, he was outmaneuvered
by Bonaparte, who drafted the Constitution of the Year VIII and
secured his own election as First Consul. This made him the most
powerful person in France, a power that was increased by the Constitution
of the Year X, which made him First Consul for life.
Bonaparte instituted several lasting reforms including centralized
administration of the départements, higher education, a
tax system, a central bank, law codes, and road and sewer systems.
He negotiated the Concordat of 1801 with the Catholic Church,
seeking to reconcile the mostly Catholic population with his regime.
His set of civil laws, the Napoleonic Code or Civil Code, has
importance to this day in many countries. The Code was prepared
by committees of legal experts under the supervision of Jean Jacques
Régis de Cambacérès, who held the office
Second Consul from 1799 to 1804; Bonaparte, however, participated
actively in the sessions of the Council of State that revised
codes were commissioned by Bonaparte to codify criminal and commerce
law. In 1808, a Code of Criminal Instruction was published, which
enacted precise rules of judicial procedure. Although contemporary
standards may consider these procedures as favoring the prosecution,
when enacted they sought to preserve personal freedoms and to
remedy the prosecutorial abuses commonplace in European courts.
interlude of peace
In 1800, Bonaparte returned to Italy, which the Austrians had
reconquered during his absence in Egypt. He and his troops crossed
the Alps in spring (although he actually rode a mule, not the
white charger on which David famously depicted him). While the
campaign began badly, the Austrians were eventually routed in
June at Marengo, leading to an armistice. Napoleon's brother Joseph,
who was leading the peace negotiations in Lunéville, reported
that due to British backing for Austria, Austria would not recognize
France's newly gained territory.
negotiations became more and more fractious, Bonaparte gave orders
to his general Moreau to strike Austria once more. Moreau led
France to victory at Hohenlinden. As a result the Treaty of Lunéville
was signed in February 1801, under which the French gains of the
Treaty of Campo Formio were reaffirmed and increased; the British
signed the Treaty of Amiens in March 1802, which set terms for
peace, including the division of several colonial territories.
peace between France and Britain was uneasy and short-lived. The
"legitimate" monarchies of Europe were reluctant to
recognize a republic, fearing that the ideas of the revolution
might be exported to them. In Britain, the brother of Louis XVI
was welcomed as a state guest although officially Britain recognized
France as a republic. Britain failed to evacuate Malta and Egypt
as promised, and protested against France's annexation of Piedmont,
and Napoleon's Act of Mediation in Switzerland (although neither
of these areas was covered by the Treaty of Amiens).
1803, Bonaparte faced a major setback when an army he sent to
reconquer Haiti and establish a base was destroyed by a combination
of yellow fever and fierce resistance led by Toussaint L'Ouverture.
Recognizing that the French possessions on the mainland of North
America would now be indefensible, and facing imminent war with
Britain, he sold them to the United States —the Louisiana
Purchase—for less than three cents per acre ($7.40/km²).
The dispute over Malta provided the pretext for Britain to declare
war on France in 1803 to support French royalists.
of the French
In January 1804, Bonaparte's police uncovered an assassination
plot against him, ostensibly sponsored by the Bourbons. In retaliation,
Bonaparte ordered the arrest of the Duc d'Enghien, in a violation
of the sovereignty of Baden. After a hurried secret trial, the
Duke was executed on 21 March. Bonaparte then used this incident
to justify the re-creation of a hereditary monarchy in France,
with himself as Emperor, on the theory that a Bourbon restoration
would be impossible once the Bonapartist succession was entrenched
in the constitution.
crowned himself Holy Roman Emperor on 2 December 1804 at Notre-Dame
Cathedral. Claims that he seized the crown out of the hands of
Pope Pius VII during the ceremony in order to avoid subjecting
himself to the authority of the pontiff are apocryphal; in fact,
the coronation procedure had been agreed upon in advance.
the Imperial regalia had been blessed by the Pope, Napoleon crowned
himself before crowning his wife Joséphine as Empress (the
moment depicted in David's famous painting, illustrated at right).
It is said that he playfully placed the crown atop her head, lifted
it, then finally placed it. Then at Milan's cathedral on 26 May
1805, Napoleon was crowned King of Italy with the Iron Crown of
Britain instigated a Third Coalition against Napoleon. Napoleon
knew the French fleet could not defeat the Royal Navy and therefore
arranged to lure the British fleet away from the English Channel
so that a joint Spanish and French fleet could regain control
of the Channel for twenty-four hours, enough for French armies
to cross to England. However, with Austria and Russia preparing
an invasion of France and its allies, he had to change his plans
and turn his attention to the continent.
newly born Grande Armée secretly marched towards Germany.
On 20 October 1805 it surprised the Austrians at Ulm. The next
day, however, at the decisive Battle of Trafalgar (21 October
1805), Britain gained lasting control of the seas. A few weeks
later, Napoleon secured a major victory against Austria and Russia
at Austerlitz (2 December), forcing Austria yet again to sue for
would forever recount this as his grandest military achievement.
The Battle of Austerlitz was a testament to his military genius
portraying a decisive battle in which he lured the enemy into
a carefully laid trap that caused the battle to proceed on Napoleon’s
terms. In fortification of his belief in his lucky star, the battle
was fought and won around the first anniversary of his coronation.
Fourth Coalition was assembled the following year, and Napoleon
defeated Prussia at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt (14 October 1806).
He marched on against advancing Russian armies through Poland,
and was attacked at the bloody Battle of Eylau on 6 February 1807.
After a decisive victory at Friedland he signed a treaty at Tilsit
in East Prussia with Tsar Alexander I of Russia, dividing Europe
between the two powers. He placed puppet rulers on the thrones
of German states, including his brother Jerome as king of the
new state of Westphalia. In the French-controlled part of Poland,
he established the Duchy of Warsaw with King Frederick Augustus
I of Saxony as ruler. Between 1809 and 1813 Napoleon also served
as Regent of the Grand Duchy of Berg for his brother Louis Bonaparte.
van Beethoven initially dedicated his third symphony, the Eroica
(Italian for "heroic"), to Napoleon in the belief that
the general would sustain the democratic and republican ideals
of the French Revolution, but in 1804, as Napoleon's imperial
ambitions became clear, renamed the symphony as the "Sinfonia
Eroica, composta per festeggiare il Sovvenire di un grand'Uomo",
or in English, "composed to celebrate the memory of a great
Peninsular War and the War of the Fifth Coalition
addition to military endeavors against Britain, Napoleon also
waged economic war, attempting to enforce a Europe-wide commercial
boycott of Britain called the "Continental System".
Although this action hurt the British economy, it also damaged
the French economy and was not a decisive factor.
did not comply with this Continental System and in 1807 Napoleon
sought Spain's support for an invasion of Portugal. When Spain
refused, Napoleon invaded Spain as well. After mixed results were
produced by his generals, Napoleon himself took command and defeated
the Spanish army, retook Madrid and then defeated a British army
sent to support the Spanish, driving it to the coast and forcing
withdrawal from Iberia (in which its commander, Sir John Moore,
was killed). Napoleon installed one of his marshals and brother-in-law,
Joachim Murat, as the King of Naples, and his brother Joseph Bonaparte,
as King of Spain.
Spanish, inspired by nationalism and the Catholic Church, and
angry over atrocities committed by French troops, rose in revolt.
At the same time, Austria unexpectedly broke its alliance with
France and Napoleon was forced to assume command of forces on
the Danube and German fronts. A bloody draw ensued at Aspern-Essling
(May 21–22, 1809) near Vienna, which was the closest Napoleon
ever came to a defeat in a battle with more or less equal numbers
on each side. After a two month interval, the principal French
and Austrian armies engaged again near Vienna resulting in a French
victory at Battle of Wagram (6 July).
this a new peace was signed between Austria and France and in
the following year the Austrian Archduchess Marie-Louise married
Napoleon, following his divorce of Josephine.
Although the Congress of Erfurt had sought to preserve the Russo-French
alliance, by 1811 tensions were again increasing between the two
nations. Although Alexander and Napoleon had a friendly personal
relationship since their first meeting in 1807, Alexander had
been under strong pressure from the Russian aristocracy to break
off the alliance with France.
first sign that the alliance was deteriorating was the easing
of the application of the Continental System in Russia, angering
Napoleon. By 1812, advisors to Alexander suggested the possibility
of an invasion of the French Empire (and the recapture of Poland).
numbers of troops were deployed to the Polish borders (reaching
over 300,000 out of the total Russian army strength of 410,000).
After receiving the initial reports of Russian war preparations,
Napoleon began expanding his Grande Armée to a massive
force of over 450,000-600,000 men (despite already having over
300,000 men deployed in Iberia). Napoleon ignored repeated advice
against an invasion of the vast Russian heartland, and prepared
his forces for an offensive campaign.
June 23, 1812, Napoleon's invasion of Russia commenced.
in an attempt to gain increased support from Polish nationalists
and patriots, termed the war the "Second Polish War"
(the first Polish war being the liberation of Poland from Russia,
Prussia and Austria). Polish patriots wanted the Russian part
of partitioned Poland to be incorporated into the Grand Duchy
of Warsaw and a new Kingdom of Poland created, although this was
rejected by Napoleon, who feared it would bring Prussia and Austria
into the war against France. Napoleon also rejected requests to
free the Russian serfs, fearing this might provoke a conservative
reaction in his rear.
Russians under Mikhail Bogdanovich Barclay de Tolly ingeniously
avoided a decisive engagement which Napoleon longed for, preferring
to retreat ever deeper into the heart of Russia. A brief attempt
at resistance was offered at Smolensk (August 16-17), but the
Russians were defeated in a series of battles in the area and
Napoleon resumed the advance.
Russians then repeatedly avoided battle with the Grande Armée,
although in a few cases only because Napoleon uncharacteristically
hesitated to attack when the opportunity presented itself. The
Russians during their strategic retreat, used the scorched earth
tactic. They burned crops and slaughtered livestock so the French
would have nothing to eat. Along with the hunger, the French also
had to face the harsh Russian winter.
American military study has concluded that the winter only had
an effect when Napoleon was already in full retreat. "However,
in regard to the claims of "General Winter," it should
be noted that the main body of Napoleon's Grande Armée
diminished by half during the first eight weeks of his invasion
before the major battle of the campaign. This decrease was partly
due to garrisoning supply centers, but disease, desertions, and
casualties sustained in various minor actions caused thousands
Borodino on 7 September 1812 - the only major engagement fought
in Russia-Napoleon could muster no more than 135,000 troops, and
he lost at least 30,000 of them to gain a narrow and Pyrrhic victory
almost 600 miles deep in hostile territory. The sequels were his
uncontested and self-defeating occupation of Moscow and his humiliating
retreat, which began on 19 October, before the first severe frosts
later that month and the first snow on 5 November."
over his tentative strategy of continual retreat, Barclay was
replaced by Kutuzov, although he continued Barclay's strategy.
Kutuzov eventually offered battle outside Moscow on 7 September.
Losses were nearly even for both armies, with slightly more casualties
on the Russian side, after what may have been the bloodiest day
of battle in history - the Battle of Borodino (see article for
comparisons to the first day of the Battle of the Somme). Although
Napoleon was far from defeated, the Russian army had accepted,
and withstood, the major battle the French hoped would be decisive.
After the battle, the Russian army withdrew, and retreated past
Russians retreated and Napoleon was able to enter Moscow, assuming
that the fall of Moscow would end the war and that Alexander I
would negotiate peace. However, on orders of the city's military
governor and commander-in-chief, Fyodor Rostopchin, rather than
capitulating, Moscow was ordered burned. Within the month, fearing
loss of control back in France, Napoleon left Moscow.
French suffered greatly in the course of a ruinous retreat; the
Army had begun as over 650,000 frontline troops, but in the end
fewer than 40,000 crossed the Berezina River (November 1812) to
escape. In total French losses in the campaign were 570,000 against
about 400,000 Russian casualties and several hundred thousand
War of the Sixth Coalition
There was a lull in fighting over the winter of 1812–13
whilst both the Russians and the French recovered from their massive
losses. A small Russian army harassed the French in Poland and
eventually 30,000 French troops there withdrew to the German states
to rejoin the expanding force there - numbering 130,000 with the
reinforcements from Poland. This force continued to expand, with
Napoleon aiming for a force of 400,000 French troops supported
by a quarter of a million German troops.
by Napoleon's losses in Russia, Prussia soon rejoined the Coalition
that now included Russia, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal.
Napoleon assumed command in Germany and soon inflicted a series
of defeats on the Allies culminating in the Battle of Dresden
on August 26-27, 1813 causing almost 100,000 casualties to the
Coalition forces (the French sustaining only around 30,000).
these initial successes, however, the numbers continued to mount
against Napoleon as Sweden and Austria joined the Coalition. Eventually
the French army was pinned down by a force twice its size at the
Battle of Nations (October 16-19) at Leipzig. Some of the German
states switched sides in the midst of the battle, further undermining
the French position. This was by far the largest battle of the
Napoleonic Wars and cost both sides a combined total of over 120,000
this Napoleon withdrew in an orderly fashion back into France,
but his army was now reduced to less than 100,000 against more
than half a million Allied troops. The French were now surrounded
(with British armies pressing from the south in addition to the
Coalition forces moving in from the German states) and vastly
outnumbered. The French armies could only delay an inevitable
in Elba, Les Cent-Jours (The Hundred Days) and Waterloo
Paris was occupied on March 31, 1814. At the urging of his marshals,
Napoleon abdicated on 6 April in favour of his son. The Allies,
however, demanded unconditional surrender and Napoleon abdicated
again, unconditionally, on 11 April. In the Treaty of Fontainebleau
the victors exiled him to Elba, a small island in the Mediterranean
20 km off the coast of Italy.
France, the royalists had taken over and restored King Louis XVIII
to power. Separated from his wife and son (who had come under
Austrian control), cut off from the allowance guaranteed to him
by the Treaty of Fontainebleau, and aware of rumours that he was
about to be banished to a remote island in the Atlantic, Napoleon
escaped from Elba on 26 February 1815 and returned to the mainland
on 1 March 1815. King Louis XVIII sent the Fifth Regiment, led
by Marshal Michel Ney who had formerly served under Napoleon in
Russia, to meet him at Grenoble on March 7, 1815.
approached the regiment alone, dismounted his horse and, when
he was within earshot of Ney's forces, shouted "Soldiers
of the Fifth, you recognize me. If any man would shoot his emperor,
he may do so now". Following a brief silence, the soldiers
shouted "Vive L'Empereur!" and marched with Napoleon
to Paris. He arrived on 20 March, quickly raising a regular army
of 140,000 and a volunteer force of around 200,000 and governed
for a Hundred Days.
final defeat came at the hands of the Duke of Wellington and Gebhard
Leberecht von Blücher at the Battle of Waterloo in present-day
Belgium on 18 June 1815.
the port of Rochefort, Napoléon made his formal surrender
while on board HMS Bellerophon on 15 July 1815.
Exile in Saint Helena
Napoleon was imprisoned and then exiled by the British to the
island of Saint Helena (2,800 km off the Bight of Guinea) from
15 October 1815. Whilst there, with a small cadre of followers,
he dictated his memoirs and criticized his captors. Sick for much
his time on Saint Helena, Napoleon died, on 5 May 1821. His last
words were: "France, the Army, head of the Army, Josephine".
His heritage was distributed to his close followers like the General
Marbot, whom he asked to continue his writings on the "Grandeur
de la France".
had asked in his will to be buried on the banks of the Seine,
but was buried on Saint Helena. In 1840, his remains were taken
to France in the frigate Belle-Poule and entombed in Les Invalides,
Paris. Hundreds of millions have visited his tomb since that date.
The cause of Napoleon's death has been disputed on numerous occasions,
and the controversy remains to this day. Francesco Antommarchi,
Napoleon's personal physician, gave stomach cancer as a reason
for Napoleon's death in his death certificate.
1955, the diaries of Louis Marchand, Napoléon's valet,
appeared in print. He describes Napoléon in the months
leading up to his death, and led many, most notably Sten Forshufvud
and Ben Weider, to conclude that he had been killed by arsenic
poisoning. Arsenic was at the time sometimes used as a poison
as it was undetectable when administered over a long period of
was also used in some wallpaper, as a green pigment, and even
in some patent medicines. It would also help to explain the reported
preservation of his corpse. In 2001, Pascal Kintz, of the Strasbourg
Forensic Institute in France, added credence to this claim with
a study of arsenic levels found in a lock of Napoleon's hair preserved
after his death: they were seven to thirty-eight times higher
up hairs into short segments and analysing each segment individually
provides a histogram of arsenic concentration in the body. This
analysis on hair from Napoléon suggests that large but
non-lethal doses were absorbed at random intervals. The arsenic
severely weakened Napoléon and remained in his system.
recent analysis on behalf of the magazine Science et Vie showed
that similar concentrations of arsenic can be found in Napoleon's
hair in samples taken from 1805, 1814 and 1821. The lead investigator,
Ivan Ricordel (head of toxicology for the Paris Police), stated
that if arsenic had been the cause, Napoléon would have
died years earlier. The group suggested that the most likely source
in this case was a hair tonic. Prior to the discovery of antibiotics,
arsenic was also a widely used, but ineffective, treatment for
syphilis. This has led to speculation that Napoleon might have
suffered from that disease.
medical regime imposed on Napoleon by his doctors included treatment
with antimony potassium tartrate, regular enemas and a 600 milligram
dose of mercuric chloride to purge his intestines in the days
immediately prior to his death. A group of researchers from the
San Francisco Medical Examiner's Department speculate that this
treatment may have led to Napoleon's death by causing a serious
May, 2005 a team of Swiss physicians claimed that the reason for
Napoleon's death was stomach cancer, which was also the cause
of his father's death. From a multitude of forensic reports they
derive that Napoleon at his death weighed approx. 76 kg (168 lb)
while a year earlier he weighed approx. 91 kg (200 lb), confirming
the autopsy result reported by Antommarchi. A team of physicians
from the University of Monterspertoli led by Professor Biondi
recently confirmed this.
October, 2005, a document was unearthed in Scotland that presented
an account of the autopsy, which again seems to confirm Antommarchi's
Napoleon was married twice:
9, 1796 to Joséphine de Beauharnais. He formally adopted
her son Eugène and cousin Stéphanie after assuming
the throne to arrange "dynastic" marriages for them.
He had her daughter Hortense marry his brother, Louis. Though
their marriage was unconventional, and both were known to have
many affairs, they were ulimately devoted to each other and when
Joséphine agreed to divorce so he could remarry in the
hopes of producing an heir, it was devastating for both. It was
also the first under the Napoleonic Code.
11, 1810 by proxy to Archduchess Marie Louise of Austria to legitimize
the impending birth of their child, then in a ceremony on April
1. They remained married until his death, although she did not
join him in his exile.
Napoleon Francis Joseph Charles (March 20, 1811 – July 22,
1832), King of Rome. Known as Napoleon II of France although he
never ruled. Was later known as the Duke of Reichstadt. Did not
two illegitimate children, both of whom had issue:
Count Léon, (1806 – 1881), by Louise Catherine Eléonore
Denuelle de la Plaigne (1787 – 1868).
Alexandre Joseph Colonna, Count Walewski, (May 4, 1810 –
October 27, 1868), by Marie, Countess Walewski (1789 – 1817).
May have had further illegitimate issue:
Louise Marie Françoise Joséphine Pellapra, by Françoise-Marie
Karl Eugin von Mühlfeld, by Victoria Kraus.
Hélène Napoleone Bonaparte, by Countess Montholon.
Jules Barthélemy-Saint-Hilaire (August 19, 1805 –
November 24, 1895) whose mother remains unknown.
Napoleon is credited with introducing the concept of the modern
professional conscript army to Europe, an innovation which other
states eventually followed. He did not introduce many new concepts
into the French military system, borrowing mostly from previous
theorists and the implementations of preceding French governments,
but he did expand or develop much of what was already in place.
Corps replaced divisions as the largest army units, artillery
was integrated into reserve batteries, the staff system became
more fluid, and cavalry once again became a crucial formation
in French military doctrine.
biggest influence in the military sphere was in the conduct of
warfare. Weapons and technology remained largely static through
the Revolutionary and Napoleonic eras, but 18th century operational
strategy underwent massive restructuring. Sieges became infrequent
to the point of near-irrelevance, a new emphasis towards the destruction,
not just outmaneuvering, of enemy armies emerged, and invasions
of enemy territory occurred over broader fronts, thus introducing
a plethora of strategic opportunities that made wars costlier
and, just as importantly, more decisive.
for a European power now meant much more than losing isolated
enclaves; near-Carthaginian peaces intertwined whole national
efforts, sociopolitical, economic, and militaristic, into gargantuan
collisions that severely upset international conventions as understood
at the time. It can be argued that Napoleon's initial success
sowed the seeds for his downfall. Not used to such catastrophic
defeats in the rigid power system of 18th century Europe, many
nations found existence under the French yoke difficult, sparking
revolts, wars, and general instability that plagued the continent
France, Napoleon is seen by some as having ended lawlessness and
disorder in France, and that the Napoleonic Wars also served to
export the Revolution to the rest of Europe; the movements of
national unification and the rise of the nation state, notably
in Italy and Germany, may have been precipitated by the Napoleonic
rule of those areas.
Napoleonic Code was adopted throughout much of Europe and remained
in force after Napoleon's defeat. Professor Dieter Langewiesche
of the University of Tübingen describes the code as a "revolutionary
project" which spurred the development of bourgeois society
in Germany by expanding the right to own property and breaking
the back of feudalism. Langewiesche also credits Napoleon with
reorganizing what had been the Holy Roman Empire made up of more
than 1,000 entities into a more streamlined network of 40 states
providing the basis for the German Confederation and the future
unification of Germany under the German Empire in 1871.
mathematics Napoleon is traditionally given credit for discovering
and proving Napoleon's theorem, although there is no specific
evidence that he did so. The theorem states that if equilateral
triangles are constructed on the sides of any triangle (all outward
or all inward), the centres of those equilateral triangles themselves
form an equilateral triangle. There has been discussion about
the significance of the theorem.
of Napoleon argue that his true legacy was a loss of status for
France and many needless deaths:
all, the military record is unquestioned—17 years of wars,
perhaps six million Europeans dead, France bankrupt, her overseas
colonies lost. And it was all such a great waste, for when the
self-proclaimed tête d'armée was done, France's "losses
were permanent" and she "began to slip from her position
as the leading power in Europe to second-class status—that
was Bonaparte's true legacy."
many in the international community still admire the many accomplishments
of the emperor as evidenced by the International Napoleonic Congress
held in Dinard, France in July 2005 that included participation
by members of the French and American military, French politicians,
scholars from as far away as Israel and Russia, and a parade recreating
the Grand Army.
many probably wish Napoleon would have achieved his unrealized
make it a law that only those lawyers and attorneys should receive
fees who had won their cases. How much litigation would have been
prevented by such a measure! For it is quite obvious that there
is not a lawyer who, after a first look at the case, would not
turn it down if it seemed doubtful. It need not be feared that
a man who earns his living from his work might take on a case
for the simple pleasure of hearing himself talk; yet even if he
did, he would harm no one but himself. . . . I am convinced to
this day that the idea is brilliant.’
about Napoleon's height
Contrary to popular belief (perpetuated by the above-mentioned
caricatures), Napoleon was not especially short. After his death
in 1821, the French emperor's height was recorded as 5 feet 2
inches in French feet. This corresponds to 5 feet 6.5 inches in
Imperial (British) feet, or 1.686 metres, making him slightly
taller than an average Frenchman of the 19th century. The metric
system was introduced during his lifetime, so it was natural that
he would be measured in feet and inches for much of his life.
A French inch was 2.71 centimetres, an Imperial inch is 2.54 centimetres.
In addition to this miscalculation, his nickname le petit caporal
adds to the confusion, as non-francophones mistakenly take petit
literally as meaning "small"; in fact, it is an affectionate
term reflecting on his camaraderie with ordinary soldiers. He
also surrounded himself with soldiers, his elite guard, who were
always six feet tall or taller.
I had to choose a religion, the sun as the universal giver of
life would be my god."
for myself, I do not believe that such a person as Jesus Christ
ever existed; but as the people are inclined to superstition,
it is proper not to oppose them."
am surrounded by priests who repeat incessantly that their kingdom
is not of this world, and yet they lay their hands on everything
they can get."
is more or less organized matter. To think so is against religion,
but I think so just the same."
religions have been made by men."
is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet."
can you have order in a state without religion? For, when one
man is dying of hunger near another who is ill of surfeit, he
cannot resign himself to this difference unless there is an authority
which declares, "God wills it thus." Religion is excellent
stuff for keeping common people quiet."
what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."