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Napoleon I
Napoleon in his King of Italy gown, 1805. Painting by Andrea Appiani.
Gender Male
Birth 15 August 1769, Ajaccio, Corsica[1]
Death 5 May 1821, Saint Helena[1]
Nationality French[1]
Spouse Both
Father Carlo Buonaparte[1]
Mother Letizia Ramolino[1]
Burial Tomb of Napoleon I, Les Invalides, Paris, France[1]
Religion Roman Catholic

Napoleon Bonaparte, later known as Napoleon I, was a Corsican-born French political and military leader whose Empire dominated much of Europe during the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Napoleon was born to Carlo Buonaparte and Letizia Ramolino in Ajaccio, Corsica. He attended the military schools Brienne-le-Château and École Militaire, eventually enlisting in the French military during the outbreak of the French Revolution. Napoleon's military genius helped him to rapidly ascend in the ranks of the military during the final years of the First French Republic. Napoleon won France victories wherever he went, and was eventually coronated as Emperor of France. Napoleon's Empire and Grand Armée gathered enemies from all of Europe, sparking the Napoleonic Wars. Different nations, including England, Austria, and other superpowers around Europe opposed to the French Empire banded together in Coalitions to defeat the Emperor.

After many victories over the European powers, Napoleon invaded Russia, a disastrous decision, as it led to a slow retreat. From then on, Napoleon's power began to weaken, and he was defeated at the Battle of Leipzig. Napoleon was then exiled to the island of Elba. Napoleon, however, did not give up very quickly and made a hasty return to France. After the "Hundred Days," Napoleon was finally defeated by the combined might of the Anglo-Allied forces at Waterloo and sent into exile again, this time to the deeply isolated island of Saint Helena, where he supposedly died of stomach cancer.

Napoleon's contributions to the art of military strategy and tactics have forever secured him a place as one of the most brilliant commanders to have ever lived. At one point in the Emperor's career, he had not personally been defeated in a decade. Napoleon's iconic image - that of his bicorne, short stature, and hand in his grey coat - is depicted in almost all of the many paintings of him. As an important historical figure, Napoleon is also a recurring image in popular culture.

Early life and education

Carlo Buonaparte, Napoleon's father, and a Corsican politican and lawyer.

Napoleon was born on 15 August 1769 in Ajaccio, Corsica. He was descended from the Italian family of Bonaparte, of which the Corsican branch through him became the historic representative. Napoleon Bonaparte was the son of Carlo Buonaparte, an advocate of some repute, and of Letizia Ramolino, whose family were Florentines. Of 13 children born to them, he was the fourth, and was the second son. In 1779, at the age of 10, he was sent to a military school in Brienne-le-Château, where he remained until 1784.[1]

His school companions regarded him as quiet; but as he was Corsican, speaking very little French, and poor as well as proud, his conduct is doubtless to be ascribed as much to his circumstances as to his temperament. Toward those who, like Louis Antoine Fauvelet de Bourrienne, showed him sympathy, he was susceptible of strong and lasting attachments. From the annual report of the school, it appears that he distinguished himself in mathematics, was tolerably versed in history and geography, weak in Latin, general literature, and other accomplishments; of regular habits, well-behaved, studious, and enjoying excellent health.[1] His favorite authors were Plutarch and Polybius.[2]

Early career

French Revolution

Pasquale Paoli.

Meanwhile, the French Revolution was rapidly developing across France. Many of Napoleon's fellow officers at Valence openly favored the Royalists, but he chose the popular side, though in a quiet and undemonstrative way as he had little liking for the turbulence of mobs. On 6 February 1792, he became captain of artillery by seniority and, being in Paris the same year, he witnessed the insurrections of 20 June and 10 August. He was accompanied by his friend and biographer, Bourrienne, who relates that on one of these occasions, when Napoleon saw the mob break into the Tuileries Palace and force the king to don the red cap, he exclaimed, "It is all over with that poor man! A few discharges of grape would have sent all those despicable wretches fleeing!"[1]

Soon after, he left for his homeland of Corsica, where Paoli then held the chief command. The excesses of the Septembrists and Terrorists, however, induced Paoli to break with the Convention and seek the assistance of England. This brought him into conflict with Napoleon, who adhered to the Convention, which so exasperated the Corsicans against him that after a few skirmishes, he was driven from the island along with his whole family. He made a short stay at Marseilles, where he published a small pamphlet, Le Souper de Beaucaire, Republican in sentiment, but not Jacobinical, as has been asserted. He then set out for Paris, where he spent a part of the summer of 1793; and in September of that year was sent, with the commission of lieutenant colonel of artillery, to assist in the reduction of Toulon, then in the hands of the English. The place was captured, on 19 December, entirely through his strategic genius, and in the following February he was made a brigadier-general of artillery. Later in the year, he was sent to the Republic of Genoa to examine the state of the defenses of that city and to ascertain the political disposition of its inhabitants.[1]

In the beginning of 1795, he was again in Paris in search of employment, but in spite of his known abilities was not at first successful. In his letters to his brother Joseph, written about this time, he complains of poverty and ennui, and seems to have thought of offering his services to the sultan of Turkey. On the 13th Vendemiaire IV, when the sections of Paris had risen against the Convention, Napoleon, named by Barras, was commander of the 5,000 troops provided for its defense. Although he had had but a night in which to make arrangements for the dispersion of the populace, when the National Guards, as the defenders of the sections were called, advanced to the number of 30,000 along the quays of the Seine, the Rue Saint Honore and the other approaches to the Tuileries, they found every point securely guarded. To their feeble musketry fire Napoleon replied by murderous discharges of grape. In less than an hour of actual fighting victory was secured for the Convention, which recognized the value of the young victor's services by appointing him to the command of the Army of the Interior. About this time he made the acquaintance of Joséphine de Beauharnais, to whom he proposed marriage and was accepted. The ceremony took place 9 March 1796, and, less than a week afterward, he had to depart to assume the command of the Army of Italy, which for three or four years had been carrying on a desultory warfare against the Sardinians and the Austrians amid the defiles of the Alps and the Ligurian Apennines.[1]

Army of Italy

His army consisted of only 40,000 men, and even those were badly fed and clothed, while the Allies could oppose him with a much larger force. In the end of March he set out from Nice and came up with the Allies at Montenotte, and inflicted on them a disastrous defeat. This victory separated the Sardinian from the Austrian army, and Napoleon, determined to crush them in detail, pursued the former and beat them at Millesimo, and then fell on the latter at Dego.[1]

The Battle of Castiglione.

This opened up for him both the route to Turin and to Milan. Napoleon lost no time; the Sardinians who were retiring upon Turin, were overtaken and beaten at Mondovi, and compelled to sue for peace; and the Austrians, who were falling back on Milan, were signally defeated at Lodi. On the 15th he entered Milan, where heavy contributions were levied on the state, and the principal works of art were seized and sent to Paris. The Kingdom of Naples hastened to conclude a peace; the Pope was compelled to sign an armistice; and the whole of northern Italy was in the hands of the French. Mantua was the next object of attack. Wurmser, at the head of large Austrian reinforcements, advanced through the Tyrol to its defense; he was defeated at Castiglione and again at Bassano, which compelled him to take refuge behind the walls of Mantua. Not yet disheartened, Austria sent a third army in two divisions under Marshal József Alvinczi and General Paul Davidovich.[1]

This for a while held the French in check, but a battle was begun at Arcole, which, after three days of hard fighting, gave the victory again to the French, and decided the result of the campaign. In January 1797, Alvinczi opened a fresh campaign by advancing at the head of 50,000 troops from Roveredo to the relief of Mantua, but this last attempt was completely routed by Napoleon at Rivoli Veronese; and Wurmser was eventually compelled by famine to surrender at Mantua.[1]

On the same day Napoleon put an end to the armistice with the Pope, and invaded the states of the Church, beat the papal troops on the Senio, and took in quick succession the towns of Faenza, Ancona, Loretto and Tolentinor. The Pope was compelled to conclude a peace by which he surrendered Avignon, Bologna, Ferrara and the Romagna to France. Napoleon next entered the Tyrol, driving before him the Archduke Charles, who had undertaken another invasion of Italy. The Treaty of Leoben was agreed upon and Austria gave territory and indemnity to France, receiving Venetia in return. This closed the great Italian campaigns, in which Napoleon, by ingenuity of plan, celerity of movement and audacity in assault, far outgeneraled all his antagonists.[1]

Invasion of Egypt

Main article.png Main article: French campaign in Egypt and Syria

In December 1797, Napoleon returned to Paris. The enthusiasm of the Parisians was immense, and the festivals in his honor innumerable. About this time the Directory seems to have had the intention of invading England, and had brought an army together for that purpose. The command was conferred on Napoleon, who at first professed to favor the design, but who well knew its impracticability.[1]

It has been thought by many that this proposal was merely a feint to cover the real design of the Directory, namely, the invasion of Egypt, as a preliminary step to the conquest of British India. An army of 36,000 men was collected and embarked at Toulon in a fleet commanded by François-Paul Brueys d'Aigalliers. A body of scientific and artistic explorers accompanied it. Later, the French landed at Malta on 9 June 1798, and the next day took possession of the island, in which they left a garrison. Ten days after the fleet resumed its voyage, they reached Alexandria. With that city being taken, Napoleon and the army advanced on Cairo. Here they encountered a large body of Mamluks, which, after a long and bloody struggle, known as the battle of the Pyramids, they repulsed. Many of the surrounding tribes thereupon submitted to the French, who thus for a while held a possession of the whole of Egypt. Thinking himself secure in his conquest, Napoleon immediately set about reorganizing the civil and military government of the country; but fortune was preparing for him a terrible reverse. The English admiral Horatio Nelson, who had long been in pursuit of his fleet, found it moored in the Bay of Aboukir, and, with the exception of four vessels which contrived to escape, utterly destroyed it.[1]

Napoleon before the Sphinx.

All means of return to Europe for the French were thus cut off, and to add to their misfortunes, the sultan declared war against them, and a short time after serious disturbances broke out in Cairo, which were only suppressed by horrible massacres. Napoleon resolved to meet the Turkish forces assembling in Syria. In February 1799 he crossed the desert with about 13,000 men; took Arish and Gaza, and stormed Jaffa, where a great number of Turkish prisoners were deliberately massacred. He attacked Acre, which was defended by a Turkish garrison under Jezzar Pasha, assisted by Sir William Sidney Smith and a small body of English sailors and marines. After 60 days of numerous failed attempts, he gave up the siege and returned to Egypt, leaving the whole country on fire behind him. He reentered Cairo on 14 June, having lost about 4,000 men in the Syrian expedition. About the middle of July the sultan landed a force of 18,000 at Abukir, which Napoleon attacked and almost annihilated. His position was far from agreeable, however; he had signally failed in the great objects of his expedition, and besides news had reached him of disaster to the French arms in Italy and of confusion in Paris.[1]

On 22 August he embarked in a frigate, and, on 9 October, landed at Fréjus, having narrowly escaped capture several times by British cruisers. He arrived in Paris in time to take advantage of the political intrigues then rife. The credit of the government was wholly gone and its authority over its generals impaired. A revolution in the government had not made new directors more competent than their predecessors. Another change became necessary. Napoleon secured the co-operation of Jean Victor Marie Moreau and the other generals then in the capital, and abolished the Directory. A new constitution was then drawn up, chiefly by Abbé Sieyès, under which Napoleon was made First Consul. As, however, he had the power of appointing to all public offices, of proposing all public measures in peace and in war, and the entire command of all administrative affairs, both civil and military, he was virtually ruler of France.[1]

Reign as Ruler of France

Early policies and laws

From this time Napoleon's policy developed itself more distinctly. Its objects were to establish order at home and to humiliate the enemies of the nation; but personal glorification was an end scarcely less conspicuous. With sagacity, activity, and boldness, he undertook to reform civil affairs. He recruited the National Treasury by various expedients, repealed the more violent laws passed during the Revolution, such as punishment for matters of opinion, reopened the churches and suppressed the Vendean insurrection by a series of decided but conciliatory measures. But he was well aware that his genius was essentially military, and that his most striking triumphs were those won on the battlefield. He offered Austria, England and Turkey, in theatrical phrases, terms of peace, but were rejected.[1]

War of the Second Coalition

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Napoleon crosses the Great St. Bernard Pass.

He resolved to strike a blow first at Austria by a renewal of the glories of his former Italian campaign. An army of 36,000 men was concentrated with unparalleled rapidity and secrecy on the shores of the Lake of Geneva. On 13 May 1800 he began his daring march across the Great St. Bernard Pass, and, almost before the Austrian General Michael von Melas was aware, had entered Milan on 2 June. After several unimportant skirmishes, he encountered the Austrians at Marengo on 14 June, where he achieved another brilliant victory, which put all the Piedmontese fortresses, for the second time, in possession of the French. Having established provisional government at Milan, Turin, and Genoa, he returned to Paris on 3 July. As his general, Jean Victor Marie Moreau, had defeated the Archduke John of Austria in the decisive battle of Hohenlinden on the 3 December, Austria was reduced to sue for peace. On 9 February 1801, Austria signed the Treaty of Lunéville. Treaties were subsequently concluded with Spain, Naples, the Pope, Bavaria, Portugal, Russia, Turkey, and, on 27 March 1802, the Treaty of Amiens.[1]

Thus it seemed as if a universal cessation of hostilities were about to mark the history of Europe, and allow Napoleon the opportunity to crush the Haitian Revolution of slaves in Saint-Domingue. An army was sent out under Charles Leclerc, some 20,000 of which were swept away by disease, principally Yellow Fever, or the Hatian opposition. The slaves were provoked by brutal cruelties to still more fearful massacres, in which about 60,000 whites perished. Toussaint l'Ouverture, an able and courageous former slave who had made himself the leader of his unfortunate countrymen, was seized during a truce and carried to France, where he died at Fort-de-Joux.[1]

French rule and Coronation as Emperor

But the great occupation of Napoleon was the improvement of the interior affairs of the nation. The Legion of Honour, a new order of knighthood, was established in 1802. Considerable attention was paid to such departments of education as tended to promote efficiency in the public service. Mathematics and physical science were encouraged at the expense of philosophy, ethics and social and political science. All prefects of departments and all mayors of cities were appointed by Napoleon, so that not a vestige of provincial or municipal freedom remained. On 2 August 1802, Napoleon was proclaimed by a decree of the French Senate consul for life, a step confirmed by a plebiscite of 3,000,000 votes. A senatus consultum issued some days after, reconstructing the electoral bodies and reducing the tribunate to 50 members, showed, however, that Napoleon was not yet satisfied with the authority he was clothed with, and many persons saw in the movement a step toward still more absolute power. It is to this period that the greatest of his services to France belongs. He assembled the first lawyers in the nation, under the presidency of Jean Jacques Régis de Cambacérès, to draw up a code of civil laws, now known as the Napoleonic code.[1]

The Coronation of Napoleon I.

Meanwhile the state of Europe was beginning to look serious. Disturbances in Switzerland in the early part of 1802 induced Napoleon to resort to an armed mediation in its affairs. In August of the same year, Elba was incorporated with France, Piedmont on 11 September, and Parma in October. England regarded these proceedings an an infringement of the Treaty of Amiens, and, as objections were ineffectual, there was in a short time a resumption of hostilities. On 18 May 1803, England declared war against France, having laid an embargo on all French ships in British ports. France retaliated by a decree that all Englishmen found on her territory should be detained as prisoners of war. General Mortier was sent to occupy Hanover, as belonging to Great Britain. While these events were taking place a conspiracy for the overthrow of the First Consul and the re-establishment of the House of Bourbon was discovered and thwarted. Napoleon pretended to see an accomplice of the conspirators, Louis Antoine, Duke of Enghien, and caused him to be arrested in neutral territory, brought to Château de Vincennes, and, after a mock trial, shot.[1]

Napoleon now seemed to have thought it necessary that he should assume the Imperial dignity. An appeal was made to the nation, and upward of 3,000,000 votes were given in favor of conferring on him the title and prerogatives of Emperor, while less than 3,000 were against it. On 18 May 1804, Napoleon assumed the Imperial title; and in order that due solemnity should not be wanting, he requested Pope Pius VII to perform the ceremony of his coronation. The Pope agreed and went to Paris on 2 December. He was only allowed to perform part of the ceremony, however, as Napoleon snatched the crown from the pontiff's hands and placed it on his own head, performing a like office for his consort, Josephine. On 26 May 1805, he was also crowned King of Italy in the cathedral of Milan; and Eugène de Beauharnais, his stepson, was appointed viceroy. He created a nobility with sounding titles, surrounded himself with a brilliant court, established all the etiquette of royalty, and introduced many practices marked by splendor and parade.[1]

War of the Third Coalition

Main article.png Main article: War of the Third Coalition

Meanwhile, the Northern powers of Europe listened to the solicitations of England, and united in a coalition against the new emperor. Russia, Austria and Sweden all joined in the charges of aggrandization laid against Napoleon by the English government; but Prussia, tempted by him with the promise of Hanover, could not be brought to enter the coalition. The emperor abandoned his design of making a descent on England and broke up the camp at Boulogne-sur-Mer. Concentrating his widely scattered forces at Mainz in September 1805, he marched at once across Bavaria at the head of 180,000 men, and compelled the Austrian general Karl Mack von Leiberich to capitulate at Ulm, with 23,000 men. On 13 November he had reached Schönbrunn, near Vienna, where he received news of the victory of Nelson at Cape Trafalgar, over the united fleets of France and Spain. Entering the Austrian capital, he made rapid preparations to meet the combined armies of Russia and Austria.[1]

The Battle of Austerlitz.

On 2 December the three armies, each commanded by an emperor, met at the Battle of Austerlitz, giving the famous battle the nickname "Battle of the Three Emperors." The struggle was desperate and long but at last the decisive victory was won by Napoleon. The rout of the Allies was complete. The Austrian emperor instantly sued for peace, giving up to France all his Italian and Adriatic territories. The Russian emperor retired behind his own frontiers, and Hanover was handed over to Prussia. As the king of Naples had received English and Russian troops into his dominions, Napoleon construed this act into one of direct hostility. In February 1806 a French army occupied the Continental part of the Neapolitan States, of which Joseph Bonaparte was declared king on the deposition of their former sovereign. The Bavarian republic was transformed into a kingdom dependent on France and given to another brother of the emperor, Louis, who took the title of king of Holland. Various districts in Germany and Italy were erected by the conqueror into dukedoms and bestowed on his most successful generals. But the most important change of all was the formation of the Confederation of the Rhine on 12 July, and the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire.[1]

War of the Fourth Coalition

Main article.png Main article: War of the Fourth Coalition

On the death of the English Minister, William Pitt, and the accession of Charles James Fox, negotiations were entered into for the cessation of hostilities between France and England, and as propositions were entertained toward the restoration of Hanover, the eyes of the Prussians were at once opened and war, however hazardous, was declared on 8 October, the emperor being already at Bamberg directing the movements of his troops, which had remained in Germany. On the 14th Napoleon met the enemy at Jena, and inflicted on them a severe defeat; while his general, Louis-Nicolas Davout, added on the same day to the French triumph by the brilliant victory of Auerstedt.[1]

On the 27th Napoleon entered the Prussian capital. After garrisoning all the important fortresses and reducing such towns as made a show of resistance, he issued the celebrated Berlin Decree, directed against English commerce. This policy nearly ruined the commerce of France and the other European nations, while it increased the prosperity of England. Her fleets and cruisers swept the seas; nothing could be obtained from the colonies save through her, and the Continental merchants engaged in an extensive smuggling trade with the British, which was impossible to prevent.[1]

After the capture of Berlin, Napoleon traveled north against the Russians, who were advancing to assist the Prussians. He called on the Poles to rise, but was answered with little enthusiasm. At Pultusk, 28 December 1806, and at Eylau, 8 February 1807, he met with severe checks, and retired on the line of the Vistula. In the course of a few months, however, having received heavy reinforcements, he once more took the offensive. On 14 June was fought the Battle of Friedland, which was so disastrous to the Russian arms that Alexander was compelled to sue for an armistice. The Treaty of Tilsit was concluded on 7-9 July, and by it the king of Prussia received back half of his dominions, and Russia undertook to close her ports against British vessels. The Duchy of Warsaw was erected into a kingdom and given to the King Frederick Augustus I of Saxony. Out of the Prussian territories west of the Elbe, the Kingdom of Westphalia was formed and bestowed on Jérôme, Napoleon's youngest brother. Russia obtained a part of Prussian Poland, and by secret articles was allowed to take Finland from Sweden.[1]

Peninsular War

Main article.png Main article: Peninsular War

Soon after the Treaty of Tilsit was signed, Napoleon entered into a war against Portugal, as that nation had refused to respect the Berlin Decree. French General Jean-Andoche Junot was sent to occupy Lisbon on 30 November 1807. The Pope refused to carry out the Continental blockade and to recognize Joseph Bonaparte as King of Naples; Rome was occupied 2 February 1808. The administrative affairs of Spain having fallen into inextricable confusion, Napoleon sent into that kingdom an army under Murat, who, with difficulty, took possession of the capital. Charles IV resigned the Spanish crown, which was given to Joseph Bonaparte, Murat receiving the vacant sovereignty of Naples. The great body of the Spanish people rose against this summary disposal of the national crown, and England assisted them with immense supplies. Thus began the Peninsular War, which lasted seven years. The Spaniards were at first successful; a French squadron was captured by the English at Cádiz on 14 June. General Pierre Dupont surrendered at Bailén, on 22 July, with 18,000 men, while Junot was defeated on 21 August by Sir Arthur Wellesley at Vimeiro. But Napoleon rushed to the scene of action in October at the head of 180,000 men, and entered Madrid in spite of all resistance by the Spaniards on 2 December. The British troops which had advanced to the aid of the Spaniards were driven back on Corunna, where they made a successful stand, but lost their general, Sir John Moore, on 16 January 1809.[1]

War of the Fifth Coalition

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The Battle of Wagram.

In the meantime, Austria, alarmed at the aggressive policy of Napoleon, who had seized Tuscany and the Papal states, and determined to profit by his absence in Spain, again declared war, and got together an effective army under the Archduke Charles. Napoleon hurried into Bavaria, encountered the Archduke at Eckmühl on 22 April, and completely defeated him; then, on 13 May, he again entered Vienna. Reorganizing his shattered army, Charles likewise advanced toward Vienna on the opposite bank of the Danube. The French seized the island of Lobau, threw a bridge across the river and attacked the enemy at Aspern-Essling on the 21-22 May, but were repulsed and thrown back on the island, which they proceeded to fortify, waiting the arrival of Eugène de Beauharnais with Army of Italy. On 5 July, they debouched on the left bank of the Danube, and on the 6th the Austrians were crushed at Wagram. This enabled Napoleon to dictate his own terms of peace, the Treaty of Schönbrunn, which were agreed to on 14 October at Schönbrunn Palace. On the preceding day an unsuccessful attempt was made to assassinate him by a young German enthusiast named Friedrich Staps.[1]

Whether the subsequent marriage with the daughter of the Austrian emperor was in course of negotiation at Schönbrunn is doubtful, but soon after his return to Paris, Napoleon informed Josephine of his determination to divorce her. He seems to have arrived at the conclusion that he could only put an end to the machinations of the old legitimate dynasties by intermarriage. Josephine, too, had given him no children, and he was ambitious of perpetuating his power in his family. On 16 December, an act of divorce was passed by the commissioners of the Senate, and, on 11 March 1810, he was married to Marie Louise. The fruit of this union was a son; Napoleon Francois Charles Joseph, born 20 March 1811, and proclaimed in his cradle King of Rome.[1]

Invasion of Russia

Main article.png Main article: French invasion of Russia

The years 1810 and 1811 were the period in which Napoleon's power reached its greatest zenith in Europe. On the north he had annexed Holland, Friesland, Oldenburg, Bremen, and all the coast-line as far as Hamburg, and on the south Rome and the Papal states. His empire thus extended from the frontiers of Denmark to those of Naples, with Paris, Rome and Amsterdam as its first, second and third capitals, and it was divided into 130 provinces, having a total population of 42,000,000. He may also be said to have exercised almost unlimited control in Spain, the Italian kingdoms, Switzerland and the Confederation of the Rhine. But now the tide began to turn, as Russia found it impossible to carry out the Continental blockade without permanent injury to her great landowners; Sweden, which had accepted Bernadotte, one of Napoleon's generals, as King, was in a like predicament. The Berlin decree was frequently evaded, and Russia began an inevitable alliance with Sweden.[1]

In May 1812, Napoleon declared war against Russia, and determined in spite of the dissuasion of his most prudent generals to invade the country. On 16 May, Napoleon was in Dresden making arrangements for the great Russian campaign. The army he organized for it has been estimated at from 640,000 to 680,000 men, inclusive of Prussian, Austrian, German, Polish and Swiss auxiliaries. An army of 300,000 Russians, under Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly and Pyotr Bagration, assembled on the banks of the Nieman River to oppose him. On 24 June he crossed the Nieman at Kovno, and the Russians retired step by step before him, deliberately wasting the country, carrying off all supplies and avoiding as far as possible general engagements. The French, however, pushed rapidly forward, overtook and routed the rear guard of Barclay's army at Ostrovno, 25 July, and on the 28th occupied Vitebsk. On 16 August, the Russians made a stand at Smolensk against an advanced division of the French army, and when the latter entered the city on the 18th it was in ruins.[1]

The French retreat from Russia in the harsh winter.

Both the opposing armies now took up their march toward Moscow. Russian marshal Mikhail Kutuzov, who had succeeded Barclay, resolved to dispute the passage of the Grande Armee by offering battle at Borodino. A furious battle thus ensued on 7 September, which cost the French at least 35,000 men, and their opponents maybe 44,000. Both sides could claim a victory, but the Russian's retired, handing Napoleon a costly victory. Nonetheless, the road to Moscow lay open and subsequently on the 15th, Napoleon entered Moscow which had been deserted by its inhabitants, and which was nearly destroyed by a fire that began on the same night and lasted five days. The baffled French were compelled to seek shelter in the desolate surrounding country. Napoleon attempted to negotiate with Czar Alexander I of Russia; it was impossible to pursue the Russians farther; nothing remained but retreat. The French army was now reduced below 120,000 men. For some time the weather was favorable, but the winter set in earlier than usual, and with extraordinary severity. The line of retreat, too, led through the very districts which had been wasted on the advance. Swarms of mounted Cossacks incessantly harassed the French, now sadly demoralized by cold, famine, disease, and fatigue. When the invaders left Smolensk on 14 November, they numbered 40,000 fighting men, and when they had fought their way over the Berezina, there remained but 25,000. At Smorgoni, Napoleon quitted the army on 5 December, leaving Joachim Murat in command.[1]

War of the Sixth Coalition

Main article.png Main article: War of the Sixth Coalition

The Battle of Leipzig.

Napoleon reached his capital on the 18th and immediately ordered a fresh conscription, still determined on prosecuting the war. But the spirit of Europe was now fairly roused; Kings, Ecclesiastics and people rose unanimously against the devastator of the Continent, the terror of whose name had been destroyed by his disastrous reverse. A Sixth Coalition, consisting of Prussia, Russia, England, Sweden and Spain was formed, which early in 1813 sent its forces toward the Elbe. Napoleon had still an army of 350,000 at large in Germany. For some months he was everywhere victorious. On 2 May he defeated the Coalition at Lützen, and on the 21st at Bautzen.[1]

He reached Breslau on 1 June, and on the 4th concluded a six weeks' armistice, which gave the Allies time to reorganize and concentrate their forces and, what was of equal consequence, to gain over Austria. The campaign was reopened 16 August. The Allies advanced on Dresden, where Napoleon had his headquarters. The battle which ensued on 26-27 August was another dearly bought victory for the French, who were now so outnumbered that their chief was compelled to fall back on Leipzig. There he was completely hemmed in, and in the great "Battle of the Nations," as this Battle of Leipzig is called, fought 16-19 October, he was completely defeated. The retreat across the Rhine was almost as disastrous as that from Moscow.[1]

Final Days

Exile to Elba and Return to France

Main article.png Main article: Hundred Days
Main article.png Main article: Waterloo campaign

On Napoleon's arrival at Paris, on 9 November, he succeeded in obtaining from the Senate, in spite of the opposition in the legislative body and the prevalent discontent of the people, a decree for a conscription of 300,000 men. With a fertility of resource and a genius for combination almost miraculous, he was able to enter on another campaign, which was this time to be conducted in France. From January to March he confronted the combined hosts of the Allies, inflicting defeat after defeat on them. But numbers were against him; a new and formidable enemy, the Duke of Wellington, was rapidly advancing on the capital from the south. On 30 March the Allies, after a severe engagement, captured the fortifications of Paris, and on the 31st, Alexander and Wellington entered the city amid the acclamations of the people.[1]

On 6 April, Napoleon abdicated at Fontainebleau in favor of his son. He was allowed the sovereignty of the island of Elba, with the title of Emperor, and a revenue of 6,000,000 francs. After bidding his army adieu he departed for his new abode, landing from the British frigate Undaunted at Ferrajo on 4 May, and Louis XVIII was restored to the throne. After a residence of 10 months, most of which was spent in intriguing with the Republicans and his own adherents, he made his escape from the island, and landed at Fréjus on 1 March 1815, with an escort of 1,000 of his old guard.[1]

Napoleon arrives in Paris after his exile on Elba.

As soon as his arrival was known, Marshal Michel Ney and a large part of the army joined him, and he made a triumphal march on Paris, which he reached on the 20th. Louis was driven from his throne without a shot having been fired. The Allies were startled at the astounding event. Their armies once more marched toward the French frontier. Napoleon, hastily reorganizing the government on a rather more liberal basis than that of the empire, and having made vain attempts to open negotiations for peace, advanced to meet them. On 15 June, he crossed the Sambre at the head of 122,721 men to attack the Anglo-Allied, Prussian forces under Wellington and Blücher. On the 16th, he defeated Blücher at Ligny, while at Quatre Bras, the English were held in check by Ney. The Prussians made an orderly and leisurely retreat, pursued by a division of the French army.[1]

In order to preserve his communication with the Prussians, Wellington fell back upon Waterloo, where he was attacked by Napoleon on the 18th. The British held their ground obstinately during the greater part of the day. Later, in the evening, when Blücher, who had outmaneuvered Grouchy, came up, the French were completely crushed, and Napoleon's power was forever broken. The retreat was a disorderly flight. The Allies marched without opposition on Paris. On the 22nd, Napoleon again abdicated in favor of his son; but, being threatened by Joseph Fouché, who had assumed the direction of the government, and seeing no hope of escape from France, he surrendered at Rochefort to Captain Frederick Lewis Maitland of the British warship HMS Bellerophon, claiming the hospitality and protection of the British government, and finally ending the Napoleonic Wars.[1]

Exile at Saint Helena

Napoleon on exile at Saint Helena.

Captain Maitland was instructed to detain him as a prisoner, and then transfer him to the HMS Northumberland, which was to convey him to the island of Saint Helena, where he was to be confined for the rest of his life, according to a convention signed at Paris, 20 August, between Great Britain, Austria, Russia and Prussia.[1]

Napoleon landed at the isolated island on 16 October. In July 1816, Sir Hudson Lowe was sent out as governor of the island. From the very first Napoleon seems to have quarreled with that officer, and he appealed to the sympathy of the world through reports of the ill treatment he was subjected to. The governor had no power to remedy the chief causes of the prisoner's complaint. In September 1818, Napoleon's health began to fail. He refused medicine, would not ride, and, toward the end of 1820, he grew worse. The former Emperor died at last of stomach cancer, though there are controversial theories he was poisoned with arsenic. On 8 May 1821 he was buried on the island; but in 1840, in accordance with his own wishes, his remains were removed to Paris, and there, under the dome of L'Hôtel national des Invalides,[1] they were placed in a beautiful red quartzite tomb.[3]



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Popular culture

Main article.png Main article: Napoleon I in popular culture

As an important historical figure, Napoleon has made many appearances in popular culture.[4] He is often characterized the same way (see section "Image" below).


Main article.png Main article: Image of Napoleon I

Napoleon as he is usually depicted.

Napoleon is often depicted as a small, arrogant general in films, books, shows, and other fictional literature.[4]

There are conflicting sources for Napoleon's height, though he was commonly depicted as a short man in British propaganda against the French emperor. Claude François Méneval, Napoleon's private secretary, described him as 5 feet 2 inches. However, Captain Maitland of the HMS Bellerophon describes Napoleon as quite taller, at 5 feet 7 inches high.[5]

Napoleon was also known for wearing a bicorne. The hat is widely associated with Napoleon.[6]


Military strategy

Napoleonic code

Main article.png Main article: Napoleonic code

The Napoleonic code was adopted throughout much of Europe, though only in the lands he conquered, and remained in force after Napoleon's defeat. Napoleon said: "My true glory is not to have won 40 battles...Waterloo will erase the memory of so many victories. ... But...what will live forever, is my Civil Code." The Code still has importance today in a quarter of the world's jurisdictions including in Europe, the Americas and Africa. Dieter Langewiesche described the code as a "revolutionary project" which spurred the development of bourgeois society in Germany by the extension of the right to own property and an acceleration towards the end of feudalism. Napoleon reorganised what had been the Holy Roman Empire, made up of more than a thousand entities, into a more streamlined forty-state Confederation of the Rhine; this provided the basis for the German Confederation and the unification of Germany in 1871. The movement toward national unification in Italy was similarly precipitated by Napoleonic rule These changes contributed to the development of nationalism and the nation state.


Main article.png Main article: Bonapartism

Napoleon, like many influential leaders in history, developed a unique way of governing his Empire. The ideology behind Napoleon's government came to be known as Bonapartism. The guiding principle of Bonapartism was autocracy founded on popular consent, safeguarding social order and social equality.[7] In French political history, Bonapartism has two meanings. The term can refer to people who restored the French Empire under the House of Bonaparte including Napoleon's Corsican family and his nephew Louis. Napoleon left a Bonapartist dynasty which ruled France again; Louis became Napoleon III, Emperor of the Second French Empire and was the first President of France. In a wider sense, Bonapartism refers to a broad centrist or center-right political movement that advocates the idea of a strong and centralised state, based on populism.[8]



This article or section is under construction. Check back later to see the revised edition.



This article or section is under construction. Check back later to see the revised edition.


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 1.23 1.24 1.25 1.26 1.27 1.28 1.29 1.30 1.31 1.32 1.33 1.34 1.35 1.36 1.37 1.38 1.39 1.40 1.41 1.42 1.43 1.44 1.45 The Encyclopedia Americana Corporation. "Napoleon I." Encyclopedia Americana. Vol. 19. New York: Encyclopedia Americana, 1919. 695-700. Print.
  2. Esdaile, Charles J. Napoleon's Wars: an International History, 1803-1815. New York: Viking, 2008. Print.
  3. The Dôme Des Invalides. Musée De L'Armée. Hotel Des Invalides. Web. Retrieved 9 Aug. 2015.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Napoleon Bonaparte (Character)". IMDB. Retrieved 12 October 2008.
  5. "His Slight Physique." Stories of Napoleon and the Men and Women of His Time. New York: New York Recorder, 1895. 255. Print.
  6. Richardson, Hubert N.B. A Dictionary of Napoleon and His times. London: Cassell and, 1920. Print.
  7. Fisher, H. A. L. Bonapartism. Oxford: Clarendon, 1908. Print.
  8. Outhwaite, William. The Blackwell Dictionary of Modern Social Thought. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003. Print.

External links


Napoleon Bonaparte Wiki has a gallery of images related to Napoleon I:

Images of Napoleon I

Napoleon Bonaparte Wiki has a collection of quotes related to Napoleon I:

Quotes of Napoleon I