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Research Paper On Napoleon Bonaparte History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

Napoleon Bonaparte was one of the most successful military minds to ever walk the battle fields. He is still looked at as a leader that revolutionized war and the strategy that goes along with it. Napoleon is one of the most famous generals in the history of France, he is known for his magnetic energy and his success as a leader. Not only was he a great leader on the battle fields but he was very well liked and always seemed to want what was best for his country. This could have been his downfall as a leader at times it seemed like he was to greedy and wanted to much for his country this is what led to his demise as a leader.

Due to Napoleon losing his father at such a young age him only being 15 he was thrusted into the spot as the head of the family. [1] This made him have to carry most of the burden for taking care of his mother and family. Being placed with these responsibilities at such a young age forced him to take grasp of a leadership role that he showed he was willing and able to do throughout his military career. He was showing a leadership role at such an early age. He was able to take charge and take care of his family in diverse situations which also showed his ability to handle hard situations that some leaders might not react well to.

Napoleon was Educated at Autun and Brienne, he separated himself from the rest of the class by sitting at the top of the class in mathematics and science. He entered the École Militaire in 1784 and after only a year he was moved into the artillery. [2] Napoleon started out as a second lieutenant in the French artillery. He showed promise that he would be a good leader from the beginning. He ran through the ranks up until the time that he staged a coup in 1799 that moved him to the First Consul of France.

When Bonaparte Landed at Fréjus on Oct. 9, 1799, Napoleon left straight for Paris, in Paris there was a political situation that was seasoned for a coup d’etat. [3] France started to become tired of the direction that they were heading in. Napoleon was working with Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, Joseph Fouché, and Talleyrand. Napoleon took over the government Nov. 9-10, 1799. [4] After the Coup Napoleon was named first consul and given virtually a complete dictatorship of powers. At the time there were only two bodies of legislation. The first legislation was Tribunate and the second one was Corps Legislatif – but the truth is that Napoleon as the first consul had all the power.

He led this coup like a natural born leader rallying the troops together to convince them that this was the best for them as an army as well as a nation. After the Coup was successful he was praised by many for being such a genius when it came to military strategies as well as what was best for the nation. The completion of this task quickly put him in the favor of many of the people in France.

In 1804 he took it up a step by making himself emperor. He led his armies to victory after victory, and by 1807 France had conquered territory that stretched from Portugal all the way through Italy and north to the river Elbe. Once Napoleon took over he started to try and fix the problems that France had. One of his first actions was to end the civil war in the Vendée. [5] Even though Napoleon was emperor at this time he still knew what he was best at which was being on the battle field. Bonaparte led the army that was able to conquer Grand-Saint-Bernard Pass into Italy which led to the defeat of the Austrians. [6] The Austrians declared war on France while Napoleon was in Egypt, at the Battle of Marengo on June 14, 1800. The victory of the Battle of Marengo was always considered one of his greatest achievements, had again put Italy under Frances control.

The French and Austrians had a ceasefire that lasted for only a few months and then the armies of France pushed Austria out of the war once again. This led to the Treaty of Lunéville in Feb. 9, 1801 and was solidified with the Treaty of Campoformio. [7] These treaties led to another one in March 25, 1802, this treaty was the Treaty of Amiens which was interrupted by the war with England. The agreement that Napoleon and Pope Pius VII signed in 1801 once again created a sense of peace between Rome and Paris. This also put the end to a religious dissention that had begun after the revolution.

After all this Napoleon wanted to make a change to France’s legal system which then led to him creating the Code of Napoleon. Before the Code France had very little if any true laws or regulations. The laws were more of a local idea that was most of the time for got about by the people. This really created somewhat of chaos because no one really had rules that they were required to follow nor did they really have recourse if they broke the rules. The kings or the Lords would often grant immunity to people that did break the rules. After the Revolution most of the different legal systems used all around France had been planned to be replaced by one legal code but this never really happened. This led to Napoleon making an executive decision to put these laws in place. He stepped up and tried to end the chaos of France’s political system.

Most historians would, however, agree that at the core of his philosophy was a belief in offensive action, aimed at a decisive clash with the enemy’s forces. Napoleon’s primary objective was the destruction of the opposing army rather than the seizure of territory or the capital city. This was demonstrated in the campaign of 1805, when he set out from France to crush the Austrian forces. In October, barely seven weeks after they left the camp at Boulogne, French forces surrounded General Mack’s army at Ulm in southern Germany, forcing its surrender almost without bloodshed. Five weeks later, after marching a further 500 miles to the east, the French defeated a combined Austro-Russian army at Austerlitz. These victories effectively gave control of central Europe to France.

Even though Napoleon had made many attempts to conquer all the rest of Europe had failed; the loss in Moscow in the year 1812 came very close to destroying his empire. After being sent away in 1814 to the island of Elba he returned in 1815 and went back to Paris and once again he was able to regain power, but his success was once again short-lived: the French army’s 1815 loss to the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo finished Napoleon for good. He was sent into exile on the island of St. Helena, where he died in 1821.

It is not hard to see why Napoleon has been numbered among the great commanders of history. A Napoleonic scholar, Gunther Rothenberg, has calculated that he personally commanded 34 battles between 1792 and 1815, of which he lost only six. For a period of ten years he dominated Europe, heading an empire that stretched from the Channel coast to the borders of Russia. The foremost military theorist of the age of Napoleon, Carl von Clausewitz, hailed him as ‘the god of War’, whilst in slightly more restrained fashion the modern historian Martin Van Creveld has described him as ‘the most competent human being who ever lived’. What were the distinctive qualities of leadership that brought such accolades?

Napoleon’s characteristic mode of operation was to have his army, divided into a number of self-contained corps consisting of infantry, cavalry and artillery, travel along separate but parallel routes. A cavalry screen ahead of the advancing army would gather intelligence whilst also confusing the enemy as to Napoleon’s intentions. The formation would close up in a loose quadrilateral, the bataillon carré, once the main enemy force had been located. The first corps to make contact would then seek to pin the enemy whilst the main French force would attack his rear, thereby threatening his line of communications — the so-called manoeuvre sur les derrières. The enemy would therefore face an unenviable choice between surrender and giving battle without a secure line of retreat. The Austrian capitulation at Ulm is a classic example of this technique in action. Another way in which Napoleon sought to isolate his opponents from their base camps was to use overwhelming force at one point in the enemy lines, punching a hole and then completing the encirclement from the rear.

An alternative method, used against an enemy who possessed superior numbers, was that of the ‘central position’. The object was to divide the opposing forces into several parts and to win local superiority over each in turn. Whilst a portion of Napoleon’s forces engaged one part of the enemy army, he would turn his main body against the other part and defeat it. The main force would then join the pinning force to finish off the second section of the opposing army. An early example of Napoleon’s use of this method was his response to the Austrians’ attempts to relieve the siege of Mantua, during his 1796 campaign in Italy. He dealt separately with the two Austrian columns that were converging on the city.

Mastery of grand tactics was not in itself sufficient to secure victory. It should be noted that the methods employed by Napoleon had been available to other generals of the French Revolutionary era. What distinguished Napoleon was his ability to grasp the essentials of a situation and to integrate all the elements of his response with speed and clarity. In this he was assisted by his effective intelligence gathering system, which informed him of enemy movements, and by his emphasis on the production of accurate and detailed maps. Added to these technical skills was a unique capacity to inspire and motivate his troops. This was achieved partly through staying close to them, as his nickname, le petit caporal (‘the little corporal’) testifies. The name derived from his performance at the Battle of Lodi in Italy in May 1796, when Napoleon drew on his own training as an artilleryman to site some of the French guns in person. Napoleon’s personal charisma communicated itself in the addresses that he directed to his troops. Before the Battle of the Pyramids in July 1798, for example, he dramatised the event in memorable fashion: ‘Soldiers, consider that from the summit of these pyramids, forty centuries look down upon you.’ The issuing of individual rewards and recognitions of collective achievement consolidated his hold on his men’s affections. It meant that he was able to make exceptional demands on them. The rapid reformation of Napoleon’s 200,000 strong Grande Armée in the spring of 1815, after he returned to France from exile on the island of Elba, is a tribute to his ability to project his personality.


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