Napoleon


     This essay will illustrate why Napoleon Bonaparte is regarded as one of the
greatest military masterminds in the history of mankind.
     It will show the life of Napoleon from when he was a young boy, till he died in

1821. It will show how he deceived the French into giving him power, and how he
used this power for his own interests. It will also reveal how he almost killed
of an entire generation of French people, and once again prove that all good
things must come to an end. Napoleon Bonaparte was born on August 15, 1769 in

Ajaccio on the island of Corsica. This was only a few months after France had
annexed the island. He had 7 brothers and sisters, and his father was a lawyer
whose family stemmed from the Florentine nobility. His original nationality was

Cursican-Italian. In 1779 Napoleon went to school at Brienne in France. There he
took a great interest in in history, especially in the lives of great ancient
generals. Napoleon was often badly treated at Brienne because he was not as
wealthy as his fellow classmates, and very short. He also did not speak French
well, because Italian was spoken on Corsica where he grew up. He studied very
hard so that he could do better then those who snubbed him. Napoleon attended
the Ecole Military School in Paris in 1784 after receiving a scholarship. This
is were he received his military training. He studied to be an artillery man and
an officer. Napoleon finished his training and joined the French army when he
was 16 years old. He was appointed to an artillery regiment , and commissioned
as a lieutenant. Once again he was not well liked by his fellow officers because
he was short, spoke with an Italian accent, and had little money. Napoleon spent
little time with his regiment. He was more concerned with trying to free his
home land of Corsica, witch had been taken with force by France. Soon after
being commissioned his father died, and he was forced to provide for his family.

Napoleon spent the next seven years reading the works of the philosophers, and
educating himself in military matters by studying the campaigns of the great
military leaders of the past. The French Revolution and the European war that
followed broadened his sights and presented him with new opportunities. Napoleon
was a supporter of the French Revolution . He went back and forth between Paris
and Ajaccio, working for the Republic. Napoleon rose quickly through the ranks
and became a captain in 1792. In 1793, Corsica revolted against the Republic,
and Napoleon's family had to Flee to France. The Republic was in danger. France
was at war with Austria, Prussia, England, Holland, and Spain. There was a
revolt in western France, and there was a great need for good officers. At the
age of 25, only one year after becoming captain, Napoleon performed so well that
he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. He was given command of the
artillery at Toulon, and in December of that same year, the French forced the

English out of Toulon. " The commander in chief wrote: "I Have no
words to describe the merit of Bonaparte. Much science, as much intelligence,
and too much bravery." "(pg.7 Britannica Junior Encyclopedia #11 N-O).

In August of 1794 Napoleon was arrested because he had been a supporter of

Maximilien Rosbespierre. He was accused of treason. Although he was released his
career seemed to be over. Then in October of 1795, the government was threatened
with a revolt in Paris. Paul Barras, commander of the home forces, appointed

Napoleon to defend the capital. "With amazing swiftness Napoleon massed men
and artillery at important places in Paris The attack of 30,000 national guards
was driven back by his men. About 200 men were killed on each side, but he had
saved France from civil war." (pg.7 Britannica Junior Encyclopedia #11

N-O). Napoleon saved the national convention from the Parisian mob and one year
later at the age of 26, was rewarded with the position of commander in chief of
the interior French army in Italy. When Napoleon accepted the position as the
commander of the French Army he received a chilly reception by his generals.

They thought Napoleon was no better than intriguer who owed everything to

Barras's favour. None of these men were to be easily cowed by a "wild
haired little runt "of only twenty six. Yet, as Augereau one of the
generals admitted , something about this Bonaparte frightened them. That day

Napoleon issued the following order, "Soldiers! You are badly fed, almost
naked. The government owes you a great deal, but it can do nothing for you. Your
patience and courage do you honor, but give you neither worldly goods nor glory.

I shall lead you into the most fertile plains in the world where you will find
big cities and wealthy provinces. You will win honor, fame and riches. Soldiers
of the Army of Italy! Could courage and constancy possibly fail you?" Once

Napoleon took over it didn't take long for him to turn the group of ill
disciplined soldiers into an effective fighting force. In a series of stunning
victories, Napoleon defeated four Austrian generals in succession, each army he
fought got bigger and bigger. This forced Austria and its allies to make peace
with France. "Throughout his Italian campaigns, Napoleon won the confidence
of his men by his energy, charm, and ability to comprehend complex issues
quickly and make decisions rapidly. These qualities, combined with his keen
intelligence, ease with words, and supreme confidence in himself, enabled him
throughout the rest of his life to influence people and win their firm
support" (pg. 697 - 698 Western Civilization volume II). "No longer
was Napoleon a poor Corsican with shabby clothes and cheap boots. He dressed
well, took part in the gay life of Paris, and often visited the grand house of

Barras. There he met Josephine de Beauharnais, the widow of a French
nobleman." (pg.7 Britannica Junior Encyclopedia #11 N-O). On March 9, 1796,

Napoleon married Josephine and two days later left to command the army that was
fighting the Austrians in Italy. On April 10 he started a new campaign, and with
a series of clever movements he split the opposing Austrian army into three
separate groups. Napoleon then defeated each one of them. This was first example
of his rules of war, "Always be superior to the enemy at the point of
attack." Three weeks later he crossed the Po River. Napoleon lead an attack
and attempted to storm the bridge over the Adda River. "He charged right
into the blast of the Austrian guns. The army went wild with enthusiasm and
nicknamed him the "Little Corporal." " (pg.7 Britannica Junior

Encyclopedia #11 N-O). Napoleon formed three republics in northern Italy, and
made peace with Naples without even telling the government in Pairs. In July the

Austrians sent three powerful waves of men through the Alps. In only six days,

Napoleon and his men attacked each wave of soldiers, and defeated each one
separately. When the third was defeated in a two days' battle at Rivoli on

January 14th and 15th, 1797, he invaded Austria. In October of 1797, he signed a
treaty of Campo-Formio. With this treaty France was given Belgium and lands
along the Rhine River. "Napoleon's speed and his cleverness baffled his
enemies. Besides the fighting, this 28-year-old general made his own treaties,
and conducted his own diplomacy, He kept the Directory ( The French executive
body ) happy by sending home all the money and works of art which he could
seize." (pg.7 Britannica Junior Encyclopedia #11 N-O). In December, 1797,

Napoleon returned to Paris as a conquering hero. When he returned he received a
huge welcome. At this time he began thinking of pursuing more political power
and military power. He wanted to become the next Alexander the Great. The

Director wanted to get rid of Napoleon as soon as possible. He felt that

Napoleon was getting too popular and too powerful in Paris. He was given command
of an army in training to invade England, but believing that the French were
unready for such an invasion, Napoleon instead asked the Director if he could
take a large army to Egypt. He proposed that by attacking Egypt, it would
threaten England hold on India, a major source of British wealth. The Director
gladly let him go. In May, 1798, Napoleon sailed to Egypt, and won the Battle of
the Pyramids. On July 23 he entered the city of Cairo. But the British
controlled the sea, and on August 1 Horatio Nelson, a English admiral, lead an
attack that destroyed the French Navy in Aboukir Bay. Napoleon could no longer
keep in touch with France. The British had successfully cut off supplies from

Napoleon's men in Egypt. Napoleon then advanced in to Syria, but was stopped by
the British defense of Acre. With no way of getting supplies from France,

Napoleon's men started dying from disease and heat. With his dreams of the

Asiatic empire ended he retreated to Egypt. On his way back to Egypt he came
across the first French papers he had seen in ten months. He learned that Italy
had been lost to the Austrians, and the Directory was unpopular. Seeing no
future and certain defeat, Napoleon did not hesitate to abandon his army and
return to Pairs. He left his army in the hands of General Jean Kleber. Napoleon
sailed home along with three other ships, and on October 16, 1799 he arrived in

Paris. Napoleon then participated in the coup d'etat that ultimately led to his
virtual dictatorship of France. Barley thirty years old, he became First Consul
of France. As First Consul, Napoleon directly controlled the entire executive
authority of the government. Napoleon had overwhelming influence over the
legislature. He appointed members of the bureaucrach, controlled the army, and
conducted foreign affairs. In may 1800 Napoleon invaded Italy. He crossed the
path known as "Great Saint Bernard" , and occupied Milan. The

Austrians had guarded every Pass in to Italy but this one. It was said to be
impossible far an arm to cross this pass, but Napoleon proved this theory wrong.

On June 14 the Austrians attacked him in the plains of Marengo where he only had
a portion of his army. At four in the afternoon the French had seemed to have
been beaten, but Napoleon remained perfectly calm. Then his reinforcements came,
and he lead a final charge to win the Battle of Marengo. Napoleon them
reorganized almost everything- roads, factories, harbors- that had been
destroyed by the Revolution. He now controlled every part of the French life. He
invited the Nobles back who had fled abroad. He wrote laws that are still in use
today. He reorganized the treasury department, forming the Bank of France, and
regulating taxation. He also setup an education system with secondary and
technical schools. A Council of State was set up to give him advise, and help
him write laws. France became one of the first efficiently organized modern
states. In 1801, Napoleon made an agreement with the pope that made Catholicism
the state religion, but all religions were tolerated. "My policy is to
govern men as the greatest number wish to be governed," said Napoleon.
"I established myself in Egypt by becoming a Mussulman; I won over the
priests in Italy by becoming ultramontane (a supporter of the authority of the

Pope). If I governed the Jews I should have reestablished the temple of

Solomon." (pg.8 Britannica Junior Encyclopedia #11 N-O). In 1802, Napoleon
was made First Council for life. Two years later, Napoleon not content with
being First Council, crowned him self Emperor of France. At this time France was
no longer a republic. Napoleon invited the Pope Pius VII to crown him Emperor,
but when it came time to be crowned Napoleon took the crown from the Pope and
placed it upon is own head. Meanwhile in 1812 war had broken out with England
once again. Napoleon organized a huge army at Boulogne for the invasion of

England. When Russia and Austria joined England Napoleon decided not to invade

England. Instead he marched his army in to Germany. They surrounded the Austrian
army at Ulm, and forced them to surrender. Two days later Admiral Nelson, the
same man to defeat the French navy in Egypt, once again destroyed the French
navy at the battle of Trafalgar. This forever ended Napoleon's hopes of invading

England. Napoleon's armies kept fighting, capturing Vienna, the Austrian
capital. On December 2 1805, Napoleon met the Austro-Russian army at Austerlitz.

This was one of his best planed battles. When the morning light came he saw that
the enemy had lined up in the exact order he had said they would. The victory
was decisive, Napoleon made himself king of Italy, his brother Joseph, king of

Naples, and another brother Louis king of Holland. In October of 1806 Napoleon
when to war again. He defeated the Prussians in the battle of Jena, and captured
, Berlin. The Prussian king fled to Russia and Napoleon advanced through Poland.

While away he was in constant communications with Paris. He received word every
day of its internal affairs even though he was 1500 miles away. On February 8,

1997, Napoleon fought an even battle with the Russians at Eylan, Germany, and on

June 14 he destroyed the Russian army at Friedland, Germany. After this battle

Napoleon and Alexander I, the Czar of Russia meet at Tilsit. Together they
divided Europe, all except for Austria and Prussia. The whole of western Europe
was now ruled by the Bonaparte family. Napoleon told them who to marry and what
they were to do. The Bonapartes made many improvements to the laws of the
countries the governed. However, Napoleon was not a nice man. In fact he was a
tyrant, he charged high taxes and refused to allow freedom of speech and press.

He also drafted many men from all over Europe. Most of these men did not want to
serve in his armies, but the had no choice. With all this power, Napoleon's most
hated enemy was still untouchable. At Austerlitz he said to his men:
"Remember tomorrow that you are fighting against the allies of

England!" By the Berlin Decree of November 1806, Napoleon had closed all
the ports of the continent against English trade. This became known as the

Continental System. Napoleon figured that if he could not beat England in a
battle, he would just cut off there supplies and force them to make a treaty
with France. This strategy did not goes as planed. In Spain, Napoleon forced
king Charles IV to abdicate and set up his brother Joseph as king. The Spanish
people rebelled , and an English army landed in Portugal. Napoleon himself took
command, but early in 1809 the Austrians again declared war. Napoleon rushed
back to France, and in May he went to Vienna and on July 5-6 fought at the

Battle of Wagram. It was a hard fight, but he won it and peace was once again
made. Napoleon wanted a son. Not having produced one, Napoleon divorced

Josephine. On March 11, 1810, Napoleon married Marie Louise, daughter of the
emperor of Austria. But this did not get peace. The constitutional system was
hurting Russia and Sweden. Finally, Russia started trading with England again.

Napoleon gathered the " Grand Army" of about 500,000 men. In June

1812, Napoleon endeavored on a new campaign. This was one of the worst mistakes
he ever made. This would ultimately lead to the death of an entire generation of

French men. Napoleon and his 500,000 men marched into Russia. Napoleon believed
that after a few quick victorious battles, he would be able to convince

Alexander to return to the Continental System. He also decided that if he could
take Moscow, the Russian government would crumble and ask for peace. Napoleon
was quoted as saying, "A single blow to the heart of the Russian Empire, at

Moscow the Great, at Moscow the Holly, will instantly put this whole blind,
apathetic mass at my mercy", (pg6, 1812 Napoleon's Defeat in Russia).

Napoleon would soon learn how wrong he was. At the beginning of Napoleon's
campaign he was fabulously victorious, but when he reached Moscow he found the
city in ruins. Instead of giving in to Napoleon, Alexander had burned Moscow to
the ground. Alexander knew that the winter was coming , and with no refuge

Napoleon and his troops would be in grave danger. Alexander was right,

Napoleon's lost many men to frost bite and other such related winter ailments.

This single strategy killed almost half a million men. This was the beginning of
the end for Napoleon. Out of the 500,000 troops that he brought, only 40,000 of
his men managed to straggle back to Poland. This became known as the "Great

Retreat". The campaigns of 1813 were hopeless from the start. Prussia and

Austria joined Russia. Napoleon started by winning the Battle of Leipzig in May,
but could not follow it up. No longer being the super power, some of his German
allies joined the Russians, and Napoleon lost the Battle of Leipzig. Soon the

Austrians, Prussians, and Bavarians were in northern France. The English in

Spain were marching over the Pyrenees. France tired of fighting, out of money,
and out of men could no longer support Napoleon. For all the time it took

Napoleon to conquer Europe, it was almost over night that he lost it all. On

April 11, 1814 Napoleon was abdicated. With the overthrow of Napoleon, the

Countries of Europe came to Vienna to remake the map. Most of the old kings were
given back there lands and France was reduced. They also decided to exile

Napoleon to the island of Elba. Even there he was a king. He organized an army
and made roads. But all the while still had his eyes on France. On June 18, 1815

Napoleon with his new army once again attacked the English, led by the Duke of

Wellington, at Waterloo. This battle was short lived and Napoleon was quickly
defeated, and he was once again abdicated. But this time they sent him to live
on the Island of St. Helena, where he died in may 1821. As you can see Napoleon

Bonaparte was one of the greatest military masterminds of all times, but as is
with all good thing, they must come to an end. For all his intelligence and
skill he was a terrible man. He killed almost half a million of his men, not to
mention the men he kill that were not his enemies.