A young Napoléon from
Corsica supported the Jacobin faction
as a Lieutenant-Colonel over the militia. In July 1793 AD, he commanded republican artillery at the
Siege of Toulon, which British
troops had occupied. Due to other successes (such as at Le Mans and
Fleurus) Napoléon became a general and gained the favor of
Maximilien de Robespierre, key leader of
the French Revolution. In 1795 AD, the Committee of Public Safety removed Napoléon for his refusal to
accept a demotional posting during War in the Vendée.
He gained sudden fame for quashing a royalist insurrection in Paris, thus becoming Commander of the Interior
and general over the Army of Italy. He also married Joséphine de Bauharnais.
Two days after his marriage on 9 March 1796 AD, Napoléon took command in Italy and later defeated
Austrian forces at the Battle of Lodi,
driving them out of Lombardy. He also won a battle at the
Bridge of Arcole, which allowed Napoléon to subdue the
Papal States. In 1797 AD, he forced Austria to negotiate peace
and conquered the Republic of Venice, thus ending
1,100 years of its independence. He later quashed a royalist uprising in Paris, returning as a hero.
Napoléon returned to Paris in October 1799 AD and effectively became ruler of France in November.
In May 1803 AD, Britain broke the Peace of Amiens and declared war with France. Austria and
Russia joined a coalition against France and
Spain. Plans to invade England ended with defeat of a
French fleet at Cape Finisterre in July 1805 AD.
Napoléon triumphed at Ulm but a British fleet won the following
day at Trafalgar. Six weeks later Napoléon
gained a spectacular victory at Austerlitz. He likewise
succeeded in dismembering the Habsburg Empire and signed
alliances with Emperor Selim III of the
Ottoman Empire and
Fat'h-Ali Shah Qajar of Persia
against Russia. It was short-lived when Napoléon chose to ally with Russia in 1809 AD.
FOURTH COALITION & PENINSULAR WAR:
Napoléon formed a Fourth Coalition in 1806 AD and defeated Prussia.
He then marched through Poland to fight a stalemate
with Russian troops at Eylau in East Prussia. Following a victory at
Friedland, Napoléon installed puppet rulers over Prussia
and other German states. Czar Alexander I of Russia and France
also divided continental Europe into spheres of influence.
Napoléon considered his experiences in Spain to be a major mistake, including the placement of his brother
on the Spanish throne and an invasion of Portugal in
1807 AD. His army faced guerrilla warfare even after defeating the Spanish army, taking
Madrid, and driving a
British army to the coast. Napoléon left 300,000 troops to occupy the region, while he
confronted a resurgent Austrian war. British and Portuguese
troops defeated the French at Salamanca in July 1812 AD.
Despite a defeat at Aspern-Essling, Napoléon later triumphed
at Wagram and forced a peace treaty with Austria. French forces later
suffered defeat in 1813 AD at Dennewitz. Napoléon also
annexed the Papal States and accepted excommunication from Pope Pius VII. French soldiers seized the
Pope, who endured imprisonment until May 1814 AD. Napoléon likewise imprisoned 13 Catholic cardinals for not
attending his marriage to Austrian Archduchess Marie Louise
(after divorcing Joséphine).
INVASION OF RUSSIA:
In June 1812 AD, Napoléon committed his most disastrous error by invading Russia after Russian
nobles convinced Czar Alexander I to break its treaty with France.
Napoléon won a costly battle near Moscow
at Borodino. Russian forces withdrew and the French entered a capital
burned at the order of Moscow's mayor, Fyodor Rostopchin. Fearing a
loss of control back in France, Napoléon ordered a disastrous winter retreat
that reduced his original army of over 400,000 to fewer than 40,000 troops. He further exacerbated the dire situation
because he earlier refused to manumit Russian serfs, who later attacked the withdrawing troops.
Emboldened by the Russia debacle, a new anti-French coalition formed that included: Austria; Britain; Portugal; Prussia;
Russia; Spain; and Sweden.
Napoléon triumphed at Dresden, lost at
Leipzig, and withdrew his weakened forces back to France. Coalition forces
captured Paris in March 1814 AD despite Napoléon's victories in a Six Days' Campaign.
The allies exiled Napoléon to the Italian
island of Elba.
On 26 February 1815 AD, Napoléon escaped from Elba and took command of France for 100 days. He
launched an attack against British and Prussian armies commanded by Wellington
and Blücher. French cuirassiers
repulsed an initially successful attack from British cavalry, but failed against strong
British squares and the ever-valient
Highlanders. In a final attempt to wrest a victory, Napoléon
ordered the previously undefeated Imperial Guard forward in a doomed attack. Their
decimated ranks refused to surrender.
Allies again exiled Napoléon -- to the small British island of
where he allegedly died on 5 May 1821 AD. Although one report claimed that Napoléon did escape but
died from a gunshot wound while attempting to enter a home in Paris.