Napoleon Bonaparte was not only a military general but the first emperor of France. In Western history, he was among the most remembered and famous leaders. In the course of his reign, he imposed numerous changes, which included feudalism eradication, sponsoring the Napoleonic Code, reorganized education system, revolutionized the military and instituted a long-lived accord with the papacy. His skillfulness, popularity and ambition helped him ascend to power. Napoleon died while in Exile in Saint Helena Island. He will always be remember for having led France against a couple of coalitions in the course of Napoleonic Wars.
Napoleon Bonaparte was born on 15th August, 1769 in Corsica, France. He was the second son of Carlo Bonaparte (Fremonth-Barnes 5). By that period, things in Corsica were changing and his father was on the side that rebelled against Genoese Rule. However, when the rebels were defeated by France, Bonaparte’s father changed his allegiance in support of the French. The change favored him, since he got a job which made it possible for him to ensure his sons were educated. Napoleon showed great proficiency in mathematics and his ambitions never failed his teachers. Napoleon also learned French in a religious school in order to replace his Corsican accent.
For 5 years, Napoleon joined a military college then later, military academy. His father passed away while he was in military academic. Once he graduated, he served in Auxonne and Valence as garrison attendant between 1785 and 1791 (Fremont-Barnes 5). He was promoted to the position of a lieutenant then later a captain. He spent a couple of years in Corsica and after revolted against his father’s allies such that he and his family opted to go back to France.
Rise to Power
Napoleon relocated to France where he served in the French military. He was a solid supporter of Jacobinism, a popular political movement influencing the French Revolution. During that period, the French Revolution had started. The first real chance for him to acquire recognition came when French troops were sent to drive away the British forces from Mediterranean port of Toulon in 1793 (Welsh). Bonaparte, during the campaign formulated a successful plan to reclaim the city, making him rise to the rank of brigadier general. The triumph at Toulon is what made him a reliable man within the new government, which was renamed as the Directory. When Royalist troops made the attempt to topple Republican Government, he outwitted them by deploying guns around the city. The Italian campaign lead him to defeat the Italian forces though they outnumbered his forces 4 times.
His triumph over the royalist uprising led him to get promoted to a Commander. He was awarded power to lead Italian Army. A couple of days after his marriage, Bonaparte led the Italian army to invade Italy. His next assignment was Austria, where Austrian troops were corned in Mantua through powerful fortress, even upon getting reinforcement from the Germans (Fremont-Barnes 11). Austria permitted France to take Belgium, Luxembourg and Habsburg, turning France into a major power, with Britain being the major rival in Europe.
In order to strengthen the French naval power against the Royal Navy, Bonaparte made plans for an expedition to conquer Egypt with aim of gaining a trade route to the Middle East and India. The Egyptian army was overpowered since they lacked equipment’s. Though his army was weakened by Egyptian terrain, Napoleon was able to defeat the Syrian and Turkish forces. Napoleon, in 1799 with the aid of Sieyes, staged a coup in order to remove the Directory and instead, institute the Consulate (Clingan 96). Bonaparte became the first consul and managed to establish Bank of France, Napoleonic Code and signed the concordat of 1801 with the Roman Catholic Church (98).
Most regions that fell under Napoleon since he strengthened his empire. Austria lost a lot of control while Prussia lost half of its territory. The complete map of Europe was redrawn as Bonaparte made allies kings. Disbandment of the Roman Empire took place while some new kingdoms (Holla and Westphalia) got accomplished in order to accommodate Napoleon’s brothers. Others members of his family as well were made viceroys and kings.
Fall of Napoleon
His decision to attack Russia is what led to his gradual fall. Napoleon assembled a Grand Army of 611,000 soldiers who embarked on Moscow (Clingan 107). However, because of lack of enough resources, most his soldiers died and the Russians captured over 100,000 soldiers. Only a few of his troops ever returned home. Once the battle became worse, he left his troops and went back home only to find Prussian and British opposition waiting for him. However, he was able to escape from Elba where he was exiled by the Allies after the invasion. The Waterloo campaign is what lead to defeat of the French Army while he was forced to retreat and surrender to British soldiers, who shipped him as a prisoner of war to an isolated island of St. Helena (111) Bonaparte died while in exile, and his physician made the announcement that just like his father, he had died of stomach cancer.
There is no commander in history who could challenge Bonaparte’s position. He won several battles and transformed the course of modernity in Europe. He also won several battles since his troops were mobile and well trained. French troops always outnumbered opponents and has strong nationalistic morale. He also devised exceptional attack plans on his enemies. Always, Napoleon will be remembered because of his sound style of management, establishment of banks, legal codes as well as good relationship with the papacy. However, it is his greed for power that led to his downfall to the Prussian and British forces, who forced him into surrendering.
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Clingan, Edmund. Century of Revolution: A World History, 1770-1870. Bloomington: iUniverse, 2013. Print.
Fremont-Barnes, Gregory. Napoleon Bonaparte: Leadership, Strategy, Conflict. Oxford: Osprey Pub, 2010. Print.
Rapport, Michael. “Napoleon’s Rise to Power. (Cover Story).” History Today 48.1 (1998): 13. Academic Search Premier. Web. 24 Jan. 2014.
Welsh, William E. “Napoleon Bonaparte’s Coronation 200 Years Ago Split His Life into Two Separate Chapters.” Military History 12 2004: 10,10,12,14,16. ProQuest. Web. 24 Jan. 2014 .