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Politics & War

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

• Napoleon Bonaparte was born on August 15, 1769, in Ajaccio, Corsica, France.
Napoleon was the fourth, and second surviving, child of Carlo Buonaparte, a lawyer, and his wife, Letizia Ramolino.
• He had an elder brother, Joseph, and younger siblings Lucien, Elisa, Louis, Pauline, Caroline, and Jérôme. Napoleon was baptized as a Catholic.
• His father was an attorney who went on to be named Corsica’s representative to the court of Louis XVI in 1777. The dominant influence of Napoleon’s childhood was his mother, whose firm discipline restrained a rambunctious child.


• As a child he was shy,moody and soft spoken but his parents had high hopes, He was routinely bullied by his peers for his accent, birthplace, short stature, mannerisms and inability to speak French. Bonaparte became reserved and melancholy applying himself to reading.
• When he turned 9 years old, he moved to the French mainland and enrolled at a religious school in Autun in January 1779. In May, he transferred with a scholarship to a military academy at Brienne-le-Château. he studied for five years, before moving on to the military academy in Paris.
• In 1785, while Napoleon was at the academy, his father died of stomach cancer. This propelled Napoleon to take the reins as the head of the family. Graduating early from the military academy, Napoleon, now second lieutenant of artillery, returned to Corsica in 1786.


• The turmoil of the French Revolution began in 1789 created opportunities for ambitious military leaders like Napoleon. In 1792, three years after the Revolution had begun, France was declared a republic; the following year, King Louis XVI was executed.
• Ultimately, these acts led to the rise of Maximilien de Robespierre and what became, essentially, the dictatorship of the Committee of Public Safety.
• The years of 1793 and 1794 came to be known as the Reign of Terror, in which many as 40,000 people were killed. Eventually the Jacobins fell from power and Robespierre was executed.
• Bonaparte was appointed artillery commander of the republican forces at the Siege of Toulon. He adopted a plan to capture a hill where republican guns could dominate the city’s harbour and force the British to evacuate.


• In 1795 the Directory took control of the country, a power it would it assume until 1799. . He was promoted to brigadier general at the age of 24. Catching the attention of the Committee of Public Safety, he was put in charge of the artillery of France’s Army of Italy.
• The army, just 30,000 strong, disgruntled and underfed, was soon turned around by the young military commander. He was romantically involved with Joséphine de Beauharnais, the former mistress of Barras. The couple married on 9 March 1796 in a civil ceremony.
• Under his direction the rebuilt army won numerous crucial victories against the Austrians, greatly expanded the French empire and squashed an internal threat by the royalists, who wished to return France to a monarchy. All of this helped make Napoleon the military’s brightest star.


• Two days after the marriage, Bonaparte left Paris to take command of the Army of Italy. He immediately went on the offensive, hoping to defeat the forces of Piedmont before their Austrian allies could intervene.
• The decisive French triumph at Rivoli in January 1797 led to the collapse of the Austrian position in Italy. At Rivoli, the Austrians lost up to 14,000 men while the French lost about 5,000.Peace treat was.
• The Treaty of Leoben, followed by the more comprehensive Treaty of Campo Formio, gave France control of most of northern Italy and the Low Countries.


• If he could not use his favourite envelopment strategy, he would take up the central position and attack two co-operating forces at their hinge, swing round to fight one until it fled, then turn to face the other.
• In this Italian campaign, Bonaparte’s army captured 150,000 prisoners, 540 cannons, and 170 standards.The French army fought 67 actions and won 18 pitched battles through superior artillery technology and Bonaparte’s tactics.

• The royalists attacked Bonaparte for looting Italy and warned that he might become a dictator. All told, Napoleon’s forces extracted an estimated $45 million in funds from Italy during their campaign there, another $12 million in precious metals and jewels; atop that, his forces confiscated more than three-hundred priceless paintings and sculptures.
• Bonaparte returned to Paris in December as a hero and they began to prepare for an invasion of Britain.


• July 1, 1798, Napoleon and his army traveled to the Middle East to undermine Great Britain’s empire by occupying Egypt and disrupting English trade routes to India. His military campaign proved disastrous.
• On August 1, 1798, Admiral Horatio Nelson’s fleet decimated Napoleon’s forces in the Battle of the Nile. Napoleon’s image was greatly harmed by the loss, and in a show of newfound confidence against the commander.
Britain, Austria, Russia and Turkey formed a new coalition against France.
• In the spring of 1799, French armies were defeated in Italy, forcing France to give up much of the peninsula. In October, Napoleon returned to
• He decided on a military expedition to seize Egypt and thereby undermine
Britain’s access to its trade interests in India. Bonaparte wished to
establish a French presence in the Middle East, linking with Tipu
Sultan, a Muslim enemy of the British in India.


• Napoleon assured the Directory that “as soon as he had conquered Egypt, he will establish relations with the Indian princes and, together with them, attack the English in their possessions”.
• The Directory agreed in order to secure a trade route to India. May 1798, Bonaparte was elected a member of the French Academy of Sciences. His Egyptian expedition included a group of 167 scientists, with mathematicians, naturalists, chemists, and geodesists among them.
• The Battle of the Pyramids, fought on 21 July, about 24 km from the pyramids and approximately 2,000 Egyptians were killed. The victory boosted the morale of the French army.
• On 1 August 1798, the British fleet under Sir Horatio Nelson captured or destroyed all but two French vessels in the Battle of the Nile, defeating Bonaparte’s goal to strengthen the French position in the Mediterranean.


• While in Egypt, Bonaparte stayed informed of European affairs. He learned that France had suffered a series of defeats in the War of the Second Coalition.
• The Republic, however, was bankrupt and the ineffective Directory was unpopular with the French population. The Directory discussed Bonaparte’s “desertion” but was too weak to punish him.
• He overthrew the Directory by a coup d’état on 9 November 1799. . His power was confirmed by the new “Constitution of the Year VIII“. The constitution preserved the appearance of a republic but in reality established a dictatorship.
• He drafted the Constitution of the Year VIII and secured his own election as First Consul, taking up residence at the Tuileries.


• After a decade of constant warfare, France and Britain signed the Treaty of Amiens in March 1802, bringing the Revolutionary Wars to an end.
With Europe at peace and the economy recovering, Napoleon’s popularity soared to its highest levels under the Consulate, both domestically and abroad.
• Napoleon’s coronation took place on 2 December 1804. He created eighteen Marshals of the Empire from amongst his top generals to secure the allegiance of the army on 18 May 1804, the official start of the Empire.
• Under his direction, Napoleon turned his reforms to the country’s economy, legal system and education, and even the Church, as he reinstated Roman Catholicism as the state religion On March 21, 1804, Napoleon instituted the Napoleonic Code, otherwise known as the
French Civil Code.


• The Napoleonic Wars were a series of European wars lasting from 1803 to Napoleon’s second abdication of power in 1815.
• Great Britain had broken the Peace of Amiens by declaring war on France in May 1803. Britain had also signed an alliance with Russia. Austria had been defeated by France twice in recent memory and wanted revenge, so it joined the coalition a few months later.
• In 1803, in part to raise funds for war, France sold its North American Louisiana Territory to the United States for $15 million, a transaction known as the Louisiana Purchase. Napoleon then returned to war with Britain, Russia and Austria.
• In 1805, The British registered an important naval victory against France at the Battle of Trafalgar, which led Napoleon to scrap his plans to invade England. Instead he set his sights on Austria and Russia, and beat back both paramilitaries in the Battle of Austerlitz. Other victories soon followed, allowing Napoleon to greatly expand the French empire.


• The Battle of Ulm(1805) had just 2,000 French casualties, Napoleon had managed to capture a total of 60,000 Austrian soldiers through his army’s rapid marching.
• Following the Ulm Campaign, French forces managed to capture Vienna in November. The fall of Vienna provided the French a huge bounty as they captured 100,000 muskets, 500 cannons, and the intact bridges across the Danube.
• At the Battle of Austerlitz, in Moravia on 2 December(1805), he deployed the French army below the Pratzen Heights and deliberately weakened his right flank, enticing the Allies to launch a major assault there in the hopes of rolling up the whole French line.


• France and Austria agreed to an armistice immediately and the Treaty of Pressburg followed shortly after on 26 December. The treaty confirmed the Austrian loss of lands to France in Italy and Bavaria, and lands in Germany.
• He embodied the ambitions of thirty million Frenchmen.Napoleon continued to entertain a grand scheme to establish a French presence in the Middle East in order to put pressure on Britain and Russia, and perhaps form an alliance with the Ottoman Empire.
• In February 1806, Ottoman Emperor Selim III finally recognized Napoleon as Emperor. He also opted for an alliance with France, calling France “our sincere and natural ally”.
when France and Russia themselves formed an unexpected alliance. In the end, Napoleon had made no effective alliances in the Middle East.


• Beginning in 1806, Napoleon sought to wage large-scale economic warfare against Britain with the establishment of the so-called Continental System of European port blockades against British trade.
• In 1807, following Napoleon’s defeat of the Russians at Fried land in Prussia, Alexander I (1777-1825) was forced to sign a peace settlement, the Treaty of Tilsit. In 1809, the French defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Wagram, resulting in further gains for Napoleon.
• In 1810, Russia withdrew from the Continental System. In retaliation, Napoleon led a massive army into Russia in the summer of 1812. Rather than engaging the French in a full-scale battle.the Russians adopted a strategy of retreating whenever Napoleon’s forces attempted to attack. As a result, Napoleon’s troops trekked deeper into Russia despite being ill-prepared for
an extended campaign.


• In September, both sides suffered heavy casualties in the indecisive Battle of Borodin(7 SEPT-1812). Napoleon’s forces marched on to Moscow, only to discover almost the entire population evacuated. Retreating Russians set fires across the city in an effort to deprive enemy troops of supplies.
• After waiting a month for a surrender that never came, Napoleon, faced with the onset of the Russian winter, was forced to order his starving, exhausted army out of Moscow.
• During the disastrous retreat, his army suffered continual harassment from a suddenly aggressive and merciless Russian army. Of Napoleon’s 600,000 troops who began the campaign, only an estimated 100,000 made it out of Russia.


• At the same time as the catastrophic Russian invasion, French forces were engaged in the Peninsular War (1808-1814)which resulted in the Spanish and Portuguese, with assistance from the British, driving the French from the Iberian Peninsula.
• This loss was followed in 1813 by the Battle of Leipzig, also known as the Battle of Nations, in which Napoleon’s forces were defeated by a coalition that included Austrian, Prussian, Russian and Swedish troops. Napoleon then retreated to France, and in March 1814 coalition forces captured Paris.
• On April 6, 1814, Napoleon, then in his mid-40s, was forced to abdicate the throne. With the Treaty of Fontainebleau, he was exiled to Elba, a Mediterranean island off the coast of Italy. He was given sovereignty over the small island, while his wife and son went to Austria.


• On February 26, 1815, after less than a year in exile, Napoleon escaped Elba and sailed to the French mainland with a group of more than 1,000 supporters. On March 20, he returned to Paris, where he was welcomed by cheering crowds. The new king, Louis XVIII (1755-1824), fled, and Napoleon began what came to be known as his Hundred Days campaign.

• Upon Napoleon’s return to France, a coalition of allies–the Austrians, British, Prussians and Russians–who considered the French emperor an enemy began to prepare for war. Napoleon raised a new army and planned to strike preemptively, defeating the allied forces one by one before they could launch a united attack against him.
• In June 1815, his forces invaded Belgium, where British and Prussian troops were stationed. On June 16, Napoleon’s troops defeated the Prussians at the Battle of Ligny. However, two days later, on June 18, at the Battle of Waterloo near Brussels, the French were crushed by the British, with assistance from the Prussians.
• On June 22, 1815, Napoleon was once again forced to abdicate.


• 1796, Napoleon married Josephine de Beauharnais (1763-1814), a stylish widow six years his senior who had two teenage children.
• More than a decade later, in 1809, after Napoleon had no offspring of his own with Josephine, he had their marriage annulled so he could find a new wife and produce an heir.
• In 1810, he wed Marie Louise (1791-1847), the daughter of the emperor of Austria. The following year, she gave birth to their son, Napoleon François Joseph Charles Bonaparte (1811-1832), who became known as Napoleon II and was given the title king of Rome.
• In addition to his son with Marie Louise, Napoleon had several illegitimate children.


• October 1815, Napoleon was exiled to the remote, British-held island of Saint Helena, in the South Atlantic Ocean.
• He died there on May 5, 1821, at age 51, most likely from stomach cancer. (During his time in power, Napoleon often posed for paintings with his hand in his vest, leading to some speculation after his death that he had been plagued by stomach pain for years.)
• Napoleon was buried on the island despite his request to be laid to rest “on the banks of the Seine, among the French people I have loved so much.” In 1840, his remains were returned to France and entombed in a crypt at Les Invalides in Paris, where other French
military leaders are interred.