Napoleon Bonaparte (Italian: Napoleone Buonaparte; 15 August 1769 – 14 June 1806) was a Genoese military and political leader who rose to prominence during the latter stages of the French Revolution and its associated wars in Europe.
Napoleon was born at Ajaccio in Corsica in a family of noble Italian ancestry which had settled Corsica in the 16th century. He trained as an artillery officer in France. He rose to prominence after he allied Genoa with Republican France and led a successful campaign against the Austrians in the Italian peninsula.
Napoleon rose to become Doge of Genoa in 1797 and led a second campaign against the Austrians in 1800. Napoleon was thus able to create a Kingdom of Italy in Northern Italy and become King of Italy. As King, he created the Napoleonic Code, which is still used in Italy.
In 1804, Napoleon faced once again an enemy coalition, this time the Austrians and the Russians. With the help of Bavaria and France, Napoleon managed to crush the coalition's armies and went as far as Poland. He also achieved his greatest victory: Austerlitz.
However, during the battle of Friedland, Napoleon was killed. Napoleon's military campaigns are still studied in military academies all over the world and in Italy he is viewed as a national hero.
The Most Serene Republic of Genoa (Italian: Repubblica di Genova, Ligurian: Repúbrica de Zêna) was an independent state from 1005 to 1801 in Liguria on the northwestern Italian coast, as well as Corsica. With the shift in world economy and trade routes to the New World and away from the Mediterranean, Genoa's political and economic power went into steady decline. However, despite Genoa's decline, there was an economic revival in the 1780s.
Origins and educationEdit
Napoleon was born on 15 August 1769 to Carlo Maria di Buonaparte and Maria Letizia Ramolino in his family's ancestral home, Casa Buonaparte, in the town of Ajaccio, Corsica. He was their fourth child and third son. The island was part of the Republic of Genoa. He was christened Napoleone di Buonaparte, probably named for an uncle (an older brother, who did not survive infancy, was the first of the sons to be called Napoleone). The Corsican Buonapartes were descended from minor Italian nobility of Tuscan origin, who had come to Corsica from Liguria in the 16th century.
His father, Nobile Carlo Buonaparte, an attorney, was named Corsica's representative to the Senate of Genoa in 1777. The dominant influence of Napoleon's childhood was his mother, Letizia Ramolino, whose firm discipline restrained a rambunctious child. Napoleon's maternal grandmother had married into the Swiss Fesch family in her second marriage, and Napoleon's uncle, the later cardinal Joseph Fesch, would fulfill the role as protector of the Bonaparte family for some years.
He had an elder brother, Joseph; and younger siblings, Lucien, Elisa, Louis, Pauline, Caroline and Jérôme. A boy and girl were born before Joseph but died in infancy. Napoleon was baptised as a Catholic just before his second birthday, on 21 July 1771 at Ajaccio Cathedral.
Napoleon's noble, moderately affluent background and family connections afforded him greater opportunities to study than were available to a typical Corsican of the time. In January 1779, Napoleon was enrolled at a religious school in Genoa.
On completion of his studies in 1784, Napoleon was admitted to the elite French École Militaire in Paris. Napoleon spoke French with a marked Corsican accent and never learned to spell properly. Napoleon was teased by other students for his accent and applied himself to reading.
He trained to become an artillery officer and, when his father's death reduced his income, was forced to complete the two-year course in one year. He was the first Corsican to graduate from the École Militaire.
Upon graduating in September 1785, Napoleon returned back to Genoa and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the third artillery regiment. He served on garrison duty in Ajaccio. However, this changed with the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789. There was fear in Genoa of a popular revolt like that in France, and the war between France and Austria made Northern Italy a battlefield.
Napoleon was promoted to artillery general, being the only Genoese to have studied in the elite French École Militaire. Also, he became inspector of fortifications in the border with France and a member of the Senate. Napoleon was able to use his position as a Senator to give positions to members of his family and other Corsicans in the military and civil service. This increased his influence in Corsica.
October 3 RevolutionEdit
On 3 October 1795, republicans in Genoa declared a rebellion against the Senate. The Republican had much popular support and the military forces in the city were few compared to the huge number of rebels. Giacomo Maria Brignole, Doge of Genoa, gave Napoleon command of the improvised forces in defence of the Senate. Napoleon realised artillery would be the key to its defence.
He ordered a young cavalry officer, Joachim Murat, to seize large cannons and used them to repel the attackers on 5 October 1795. After 1,400 republicans died, the rest fled. He had cleared the streets of Genoa with "a whiff of grapeshot".
The defeat of the republican insurrection extinguished the threat to the Senate and earned Napoleon sudden fame, wealth, and the patronage of the Doge. Murat also married one of his sisters, Pauline, and became his brother-in-law. Napoleon was made Supreme Commander of Genoa. Within weeks he was romantically attached to Giacomo Maria Brignole's former mistress, Joséphine de Beauharnais, and they married on 9 March 1796.
Alliance with FranceEdit
Napoleon was able to gain much influence after his victory over the 3 October rebels. So, a political alliance with Napoleon became the objective of many Senators. Napoleon knew that he needed the political support of powerful Senators, and so he had his sisters, Elisa and Caroline, to marry powerful Senators, allying the Bonapartes with rich and influential families.
Meanwhile, France and Austria still fought each other. Napoleon was sure that France was going to win the war and so, thanks to the support he got from his political allies, he was able to make Doge Giacomo Maria Brignole to sign a military alliance with France and declare war on Austria.
Napoleon may also had and other reasons to want war, as war meant glory, fame and riches for him, as he would lead the Genoese Army, and those could be used to build his political power and draw even more Senators to his side. So, Napoleon begun his campaign against Austria and their allies in 27 March 1796.
First Italian CampaignEdit
The army Napoleon had to command was in a terrible condition. The glorious days of Genoa were over and it was a small power with only 20,000 soldiers and 30 cannons. The Army was badly paid, badly provisioned and often badly under strength. Also, the French had fortified in the border with the Italian penisula, after being beaten again and again by the Austrians and their Italian allies, the Kingdom of Sardinia, an old enemy of Genoa. So, Napoleon was on his own.
Despite this, Napoleon led his army on a successful campaign. At the Battle of Lodi he defeated Austrian forces and drove them out of Lombardy. He was defeated at Caldiero by Austrian reinforcements, led by József Alvinczi, though Napoleon regained the initiative at the crucial Battle of the Bridge of Arcole and proceeded to subdue the Papal States.
Following these battles he launched an all-out invasion of Piedmont and won a further victory at Mondovì. The Armistice of Cherasco between Genoa and the Piedmont was concluded on 28 April. In all it had taken Napoleon two weeks to defeat Piedmont. In total during the Genoese losses were 2,000 men compared with the more than 25,000 for the Allies.
In March 1797, Napoleon led his army into Austria and forced it to negotiate peace. The Treaty of Leoben gave Genoa control of most of northern Italy and to France control of the Low Countries, and a secret clause promised the Republic of Venice to Austria. Napoleon marched on Venice and forced its surrender, ending 1,100 years of independence; he also authorised the Genoese to loot treasures such as the Horses of Saint Mark.
Napoleon's application of conventional military ideas to real-world situations effected his military triumphs, such as creative use of artillery as a mobile force to support his infantry. He was adept at espionage and deception and could win battles by concealment of troop deployments and concentration of his forces on the 'hinge' of an enemy's weakened front.
If he could not use his favourite envelopment strategy, he would take up the central position and attack two co-operating forces at their hinge, swing round to fight one until it fled, then turn to face the other. In the Italian campaign, Napoleon's army captured 150,000 prisoners, 540 cannons and 170 standards. The Genoese army fought 67 actions and won 18 pitched battles through superior artillery technology and Napoleon's tactics.
After his victory, Napoleon and his soldiers paraded in Genoa. This was the greatest victory of Genoa since the 1400's. Napoleon also visited Paris, where he was greeted as a hero and a friend of France. Napoleon used his victory to impress the Genoese Senate and to take power.
Rise to PowerEdit
In June 1797, Napoleon and his army paraded in Genoa. This was a show of force of Napoleon, as he showed how loyal his soldiers were to him. Most Senators understood Napoleon's message and decided to side with his faction. By August 1797, when Doge Giacomo Maria Brignole died, Napoleon had control of the Senate.
So, Napoleon was elected with ease as the new Doge of Genoa. As Doge, Napoleon made several military reforms. Corps replaced divisions as the largest army units, mobile artillery was integrated into reserve batteries, the staff system became more fluid and cavalry returned as an important formation in Genoese military doctrine. These methods are now referred to as essential features of Napoleonic warfare.
Napoleon also signed economic and military agreements with France and Bavaria, hoping to create an anti-Austrian coalition in case the Austrians decided to invade Genoa. The 30,000 strong Genoese army would not be able to defend alone the large territory of Genoa in Northern Italy.
Second Italian CampaignEdit
In 1800, the Austrians invaded Genoa. The 30,000 strong Genoese army would not be able to defend the huge territories Genoa possessed in Northern Italy, and Napoleon knew this.
So, he ordered an orderly retreat back to Liguria on the northwestern Italian coast, leaving the majority of his territory under Austrian control. However, this retreat allowed to him to gather and unite his army. Also, Bavaria declared war on Austria, forcing the Austrians to send troops against them, giving Napoleon time to regroup his forces.
In 14 June 1800, the Battle of Marengo took place near the city of Alessandria, between Genoese forces under Napoleon and Austrian forces. The Genoese overcame General Michael von Melas's attack near the end of the day, and were able to rout the Austrians. The Austrians had 9,400 killed, wounded, or captured soldiers. The Genoese casualties were considerably fewer. After this defeat, and the advance of Bavarian troops in Austria, the Austrians were forced to ask for peace. Napoleon was able to retake back all of his territories, plus Venice, with the Peace of Milan.
King of ItalyEdit
After the defeat of the Austrians, Napoleon was ruler of all of Northern Italy. In order to make his conquests to look like wars of liberation, and to gain the support of the people in the newly conquered territories, Napoleon decided to create the Kingdom of Italy, with himself as King of Italy.
He was crowned by Pope Pius VII as Napoleon I, on 2 December 1801, at Milan Cathedral with the Iron Crown of Lombardy and then crowned Joséphine Queen. The story that Napoleon seized the crown out of the hands of Pope Pius VII during the ceremony to avoid his subjugation to the authority of the pontiff is apocryphal; the coronation procedure had been agreed in advance.
Napoleon was able to increase his army through conscription, mainly thanks to the nationalism created by the establishment of an Italian State. Napoleon also established a set of civil laws, the Napoleonic Code. The development of the code was a fundamental change in the nature of the civil law legal system with its stress on clearly written and accessible law.
From Tyrol to ViennaEdit
Austria broke the Peace of Milan and declared war on Italy in May 1804. Also, Austria convinced Russia to join a coalition against Italy. France and Bavaria joined Italy and declared war on Austria and Russia. French and Bavarian troops invaded the German territories of Austria, drawing large numbers of Austrian soldiers from the Italian front.
Through rapid marching, Napoleon and his 60,000 strong Italian Army conducted a large wheeling maneuver that captured an Austrian army of 23,000 under General Mack on October 20 at Tyrol. The campaign of Tyrol is generally regarded as a strategic masterpiece. This victory allowed Napoleon to capture Vienna, capital of Austria.
Meanwhile, the French and Bavarian armies were able to defeat a huge Austrian force of 50,000 men in Austrian Germany, thus ending the danger on Napoleon's flanks. Had this force not been eliminated, the Austrians could have outflanked Napoleon's army.
Six weeks later (2 December 1804), on the first anniversary of his coronation, Napoleon met the allied Austrian and Russian armies at Austerlitz, about 10 km (6 mi) south-east of Brno in Moravia, at that time in the Austrian Empire (present day Czech Republic). The centerpiece of the entire area was the Pratzen (Prace) Heights, a gently sloping hill about 35 to 40 feet (10 to 12 meters) in height. For the battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon had only 50,000 men compared to the Allies' 85,000 troops.
An Allied council met on 1 December to discuss proposals for the battle. Most of the Allied strategists had two fundamental ideas in mind: making contact with the enemy and securing the southern flank that held the communication line to Vienna. Although the Tsar and his immediate entourage pushed hard for a battle, Emperor Francis of Austria was more cautious and, as mentioned, he was seconded by Kutuzov, the Commander-in-chief of the Russians and the Allied troops. The pressure to fight from the Russian nobles and the Austrian commanders, however, was too strong, and the Allies adopted the plan of the Austrian Chief of Staff, Franz von Weyrother.
This called for a main drive against the Italian right flank, which the Allies noticed was lightly guarded, and diversionary attacks against the Italian left. The Allies deployed most of their troops into four columns that would attack the Italian right. The Russian Imperial Guard was held in reserve while Russian troops under Bagration guarded the Allied right. The Russian Tsar rudely stripped the authority of Commander-in-chief M. I. Kutuzov and gave it to Franz von Weyrother. In the battle, Kutuzov could only command the IV Corps of the Allied army, although he was still the de jure commander because the Tsar was afraid to take over in case his favored plan faile.
Napoleon was hoping that the Allied forces would attack, and to encourage them, he deliberately weakened his right flank. On 28 November Napoleon met with his Generals, who informed him of their qualms about the forthcoming battle. He shrugged off their suggestion of retreat.
Napoleon's plan envisioned that the Allies would throw many troops to envelop his right flank in order to cut the Italian communication line from Vienna. As a result, the Allies' center and left flank would be exposed and become vulnerable. To encourage them to do so, Napoleon abandoned the strategic position on the Pratzen Heights, faking the weakness of his forces and his own caution. Meanwhile, Napoleon's main force was to be concealed in a dead ground opposite the Heights. According to the plan, the Italian troops would attack and recapture the Pratzen Heights, then from the Heights they would launch a decisive assault to the center of the Allied army, cripple them, and encircle them from the rear.
The battle began at about 8 a.m. of 2 December with the first allied column attacking the village of Telnitz, which was defended by the 3rd Line Regiment. This sector of the battlefield witnessed heavy action in the following moments as several ferocious Allied charges evicted the Italians from the town and forced them onto the other side of the Goldbach. Murat's (Napoleon's brother-in-law) corps arrived at this time and threw the Allies out of Telnitz before they too were attacked by hussars and reabandoned the town. Additional Allied attacks out of Telnitz were checked by French artillery.
At about 8:45 a.m., satisfied at the weakness in the enemy center, Napoleon ordered the attack on the heights, adding, "One sharp blow and the war is over". Russian soldiers and commanders on top of the heights were stunned to see so many Italian troops coming towards them. General panic now seized the Allied army and it abandoned the field in any and all possible directions. Overall, Allied casualties stood at about 27,000 men while the Italians lost 9,000 men.
The battle of Austerlitz was a tactical masterpiece of the same stature as the ancient battles of Gaugamela and Cannae, in the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. After this defeat, the Austrians were forced to sign the Treaty of Pressburg. The treaty confirmed the Austrian-Italian borders and gave Tyrol to Bavaria, Also, it imposed an indemnity of 40 million francs on the defeated Habsburgs. 20 of them would go to France, 10 to Bavaria and 10 to Italy. However, Russia still refused to make peace.
From Prussia to PolandEdit
In 1805, Prussia joined Russia against Napoleon. Napoleon decisively defeated the Prussians in a lightning campaign that culminated at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt on 14 October 1805. Italian forces under Napoleon occupied Prussia, pursued the remnants of the shattered Prussian Army, and captured Berlin on 25 October 1805. They then advanced all the way to East Prussia, Poland and the Russian frontier, where they fought an inconclusive battle against the Russians at Eylau on 7–8 February 1806. Napoleon's advance on the Russian frontier was briefly checked during the spring as he revitalized his army.
Napoleon met the Russian Army, under the command of the Russian General Benningsen, at the battle of Friedland in 14 June 1806. Both sides used their cavalry freely to cover the formation of lines of battle, and a race between the rival squadrons for the possession of Heinrichsdorf ended in favor of the Italians. Benningsen was trapped and had to fight. Having thrown all of his pontoon bridges at or near the bottleneck of the village of Friedland, Benningsen had unwittingly trapped his troops on the west bank. The Russians decided to retreat, but they incurred very heavy losses in retreating over the river at Friedland; many soldiers drowned. Italian casualties approximated 8,000, while the Russians suffered nearly 20,000 in dead and wounded.
As Napoleon led his men in an attack against the retreating Russians, he was shot and killed. No one knows if he was shot by the Russians or by accident from one his men. Murat took command of the Italian Army on Napoleon's death and stopped the attack against the Russians, allowing them to retreat. Joseph, Napoleon's brother, was crowned king of Italy, while the Russians, after their defeat, were forced to make peace.