Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)

Napoleon Bonaparte is known as the first French emperor and one of the greatest leaders and military commanders of all time. He quickly rose to fame in France because of his strong ability to lead his armies and conquer other lands. To his troops, Napoleon was nicknamed the "Little Corporal" because of his camaraderie with his soldiers and his amazing bravery and dedication to his troops he would often sleep on the earth with his troops to create a closer bond with them.Also he tried to create an atmosphere where the French troops trusted in napoleon and could follow him because they knew he came from were they did.finally was the concept of involvement from him as a commander with him fighting on the front lines with the rest of the troops it created a unique bonding expierence and improved morale. It was once said from a British naval officer that napoleon was worth 20,000 troops as a commander. All of this charisma combined with the simple fact that he was a military genius was a very scary combination and made him an almost impossible foe for his opposition to defeat. Some of his military tactics were to out run the enemy and get to the prime position first so they had the best place to fight the battle. He accomplished all of this even though he was only five foot two. This is the common history in actuality he was 5'4 which was the average height of the time period the reason he is thought of as so short is because he was often painted with his elite French guard and to become a member of the elite French guard you had to be at least 6 feet of height and often they were taller. This made napoleon look very short and changed the way history would view him.

Table Of Contents

I. LifeII. The First ConsulateIII. The Napoleonic EmpireIV. The Napoleonic CodeV. Military CareerVI. DeathVII. DatesVIII. Bibliography

I. Life

Napoleone di Buonaparte was born on August 15th, 1769 in Ajaccio, Corsica to his Corsican-Italian parents, Carlo Buonaparte and Letizia Ramolino. When he decided to pursue an army commission, he began his education at the French Military Academy were he would be faced with some of the most rigourous training in the world. After he graduated at age 16, he became second lieutenant in the French artillery where he then changed his last name to Bonaparte. He eventually dropped his last name altogether and became known as just Napoleon (Sieze the Night). Napoleon quickly rose through the ranks and became commander of the French artillery and became a politically active Jacobin. Napoleon's political beliefs reflected the increasingly radical public opinion. By the end of 1797, Napoleon had gained control of Italy and Austria. In 1799, Napoleon became the First Consul of France. In 1802, he was made the Consul for Life of France. In 1804 Napoleon changed the French Constitution and this time declared himself the emperor of France. Napoleon standardized civil law into what was called the Napoleonic code which instituted many of the rights and liberties won in the revolution, including the freedom of religion. In 1814, Russia, Prussia, Britain and Sweden allied against France, and Napoleon retreated into exile on the Isle of Elba. Napoleon escaped from exile in 1815, but soon after suffered the defeat at the famous Battle of Waterloo and was sent back into exile to the island of St. Helena (Seize the Night). Napoleon died a year later on May 5, 1821 at age 51. It has been debated whether Napoleon died of stomach cancer or arsenic poisoning, as there is evidence to both claims.

II. The First Consulate

Napoleon entered the French Revolution and gained much support early on for his relationship with other soldiers. Following a coup d'etat in July 1794, Napoleon was arrested and imprisoned. While imprisoned, he studied carefully and, with the help of Generals and Commanders in the army, he was released. France's government was in a serious crisis when Napoleon returned to Paris from battle in 1799. The people of France had lost faith in their current government, the Directory. The French were seeking a strong military leader and someone who could redefine their government. As a ploy to restore order within the French government, the French Constitution was changed and the Directory was replaced with a Consular government of three separate consuls. Napoleon was named the head of the First Consul of France in the hopes that he would be able to centralize and command the government. This essentially made Napoleon a military dictator, but this was better than having just anarchy in France (WSU). A few years later, in 1802, Napoleon was promoted to the Consul for Life of France. This was basically a way for napoleon to not quite call himself supreme ruler but still have all the powers as if he was the supremem ruler.

III. The Napoleonic Empire

By this time, Napoleon had gained much power in France as the consul for life and a military commander and was basically the monarch, although he had no title. Many people wanted him out of power and many attempts were made on his life. As a message to all of his enemies that he would stay in power, in 1804 Napoleon declared himself the first emperor of France by making a change in the French constitution. By instituting an empire in France, Napoleon had undone the things that had been changed in the French Revolution. Napoleon hoped to revert back to something like the Roman empire in which he would rule over all of Europe, and becoming emperor of France was his first step to achieving this (WSU). As emperor, Napoleon oversaw the centralization of government, the creation of the Bank of France, the reinstatement of Roman Catholicism as the state religion and law reform within the Napoleonic Code.

IV. The Napoleonic Code

The Napoleonic code was the set of laws by which the people of France were governed under Napoleon's rule. Under the code all men were created equal with all primogeniture, hereditary nobility and class privileges abolished. The first book of the code deals with the law of persons, such as the enjoyment of civil rights, guardianship, relations of parents and children, marriage, personal relations of spouses, and the dissolution of marriage by annulment or divorce. The code made women inferior to their fathers and husbands, who controlled all family property, determined the fate of children, and were favored in divorce proceedings. The second book deals with the law of things such as the regulation of property rights. The third book deals with the methods of acquiring rights either by succession, donation, marriage settlement, and obligations. In the last chapters, the code regulates limitations of actions, mortgages, contracts and prescriptions of rights. The Napoleonic Code is still in practice today, with several revisions. It has been the main influence in the civil codes of most countries of Europe and Latin America (Encyclopedia Britannica Online).

V. Military Career

Napoleon's first real military opportunity as the second lieutenant of the artillery was in 1793 at the Seige of Toulon where they battled against the British and were able to lay siege to their naval and land forces, forcing them to retreat. In 1795, when mobs tried to attack the ruling National Convention, Napoleon regained control over the situation by firing at the mob at point blank range. This crisis became famously known as the "Whiff of Grapeshot", because the grapeshot cannon wielded by Napoleon sent the mobs running (WSU). After this incident Napoleon was promoted to Major General.
From 1792 France had been at war with Austria, and in 1797 Napoleon won the final battle by threatening Vienna and finally getting control of Austria. They were forced to sign the Treaty of Campoformio which enlarged France's territory, and when Napoleon returned to France he was hailed as a hero. Napoleon then decided to invade Egypt so as to sever Britain's trade route to the Middle East. There, he defeated the Mamelukes, Egypt's military rulers, in the Battle of the Pyramids near Cairo. However, the French fleet anchored in Abu Qir Bay was destroyed in the Battle of the Nile by a British fleet commanded by Lord Horatio Nelson and as a result, Napoleon's army was stranded in Egypt. Turkey then formed an alliance with Great Britain and Russia and declared war on France. Having learned this, Napoleon went back to France to defend his country. Several conflicts and battles ensued for many years after this .
In 1800, France beat Austria yet again in the Battle of Marengo, which forced the Austrians to sign the Treaty of Luneville which reafffirmed the Treaty of Campoformio. At around this time the British also signed a peace treaty with France. Because Russia had dropped out of the coalition against France in 1799, all of Europe was finally at peace for the first time in 10 years (Maximillian Genealogy).
By 1805, a new coalition composed of Austria, Russia, Sweden and Britain had formed against France. In December, he demolished the Austrian and Russian armies at Austerlitz. However, earlier that year, France's naval fleets were destroyed which gave Britain control of the seas and ended any chance of France invading Britain.
By 1810, Napoleon brought his empire to the height of it's powers by taking control of most of Holland, Germany, Westphalia, Italy and Austria. He also carved provinces of Germany and Italy into principalities and dukedoms, and gave them to friends and relatives.
In 1810 after Tsar Alexander I withdrew from Russia, Napoleon invaded with 600,000 men. Because of the extreme weather conditions and lack of resources on the land because of the Russian's "slash and burn" technique, many french soldiers perished and less than 100,000 managed to make it back to France. Napoleon admitted his defeat on return to France, which marked the beginning of his downfall (Maximillian Genealogy). In 1813 Napoleon decided to attack Germany and won a few initial victories at Lutzen, Bautzen, and Dresden, but was ultimately defeated in the Battle of Leipzig, als o known as the Battle of Nations. The allies pursued Napoleon and captured Paris in 1814 ( Napoleon was then sent into exile on the Island of Elba.
Napoleon returned to France from his exile, and again waged war against the allies. Napoleon advanced into Belgium with about 125,000 men, hoping to defeat the separate armies of Britain's Duke of Wellington and the Prussian Marshal Gebhard von Blucher. Badly outnumbered, Napoleon was defeated at the famous Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon was forced to surrender and was again sent into exile on the barren island of St. Helena. The period in which he returned from his exile on the Island of Elba to his defeat at Waterloo is known as the Hundred Days.

VI. Death

Although still debatable, Napoleons personal physician diagnoses him with stomach cancer. On May 5, 1821 he died. Some continue to believe that Napoleon was slowly poisoned by medicine treating him for a “gastrointestinal complaint” (Current Science). A resent study conducted by a team ofbonaparte_napoleon.jpg international doctors claims that the original diagnosis of cancer was correct. According to records, Napoleon lost 22 to 33 pounds in the last six month of his life (Current Science). An autopsy claims that Napoleon’s stomach contained dark black material, inferring a sudden bleeding to death. It also describes the spotting of damaged or diseased tissues in his stomach (Current Science). In comparisons with current stomach cancer cases, Napoleon's evidence correlates. Also, Napoleon had a history of cancer in his family. However, there is a logical case to state that Napoleon was killed by a poison. While it is said that arsenic was a cause of his death, Historian Ben Weider, who wrote the book The Murder of Napoleon, claims that arsenic was given to him in order to weaken his immune system. Weider believes the the production of mercury cyanide in his stomach proved to be fatal.

VII. Dates

Born: 15th August 1769 in Ajaccio, Corsica
Married (Josephine): 9th March 1796 in Paris, France
Married (Marie-Louise): 2nd April 1810 in Paris, France
Died: 5th May 1821 on St. Helena
First Consul of France: 1799 - 1804
Emperor of the French: 1804 - 1814, 1815
Exile to Island of Elba: 20th April 1814
Exile to St. Helena: 25th June 1815

VIII. Bibliography

1) Hooker, Richard. "Revolution and After." WSU. 6 June 1999. 3 Dec. 2007 <>.

2) Markham, J. David. Napoleon's Road to Glory: Triumphs, Defeats, and Immortality. London, England: Brassey's, 2003

3) "Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 - 1821)." . BBC. 28 Nov. 2007

4) "Napoleonic Code." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 5 Dec. 2007 <>.

5) "Napoleon Died of Cancer." Current Science 92 (2007): 14. EBSCO Host. 3 Dec. 2007

6) "Napoleon I." Seize the Night. June 2004. 28 Nov. 2007 <>.

7) "Napoleon I (1769-1821)." Maximillian Genealogy. 5 Dec. 2007 <>.

8) Wilde, Robert. "Napoleon Bonaparte." About.Com. 2003. New York Times Company. 3 Dec. 2007 <>.

9) Weider, Ben, and David Hapgood. The Murder of Napoleon. 1st edition.