Napoleon Bonaparte was born in the town of Ajaccio on Corsica, France, on 15 August 1769, only one year after the island was transferred to France by the Republic of Genoa.
His father, Carlo Buonaparte, born 1746 in Republic of Genoa; later attorney, was named Corsica's representative to the court of Louis XVI in 1778, where he remained for a number of years. The dominant influence of Napoleon's childhood was his mother, Maria Letizia Ramolino.
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. On 15 May 1779, at age nine, Napoleon was admitted to a French military school at Brienne-le-Château, a small town near Troyes. He had to learn French before entering the school, but he spoke with a marked Italian accent throughout his life and never learned to spell properly. Upon graduation from Brienne in 1784, Bonaparte was admitted to the elite École Royale Militaire in Paris, where he completed the two-year course of study in only one year. Although he had initially sought a naval assignment, he studied artillery at the École Militaire. Upon graduation in September 1785, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant of artillery and took up his new duties in January 1786 at the age of 16.
Napoleon served on garrison duty in Valence and Auxonne until after the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789 (although he took nearly two years of leave in Corsica and Paris during this period). He spent most of the next several years on Corsica, where a complex three-way struggle was playing out between royalists, revolutionaries, and Corsican nationalists. Bonaparte supported the Jacobin faction and gained the rank of lieutenant-colonel of a regiment of volunteers. After coming into conflict with the increasingly conservative nationalist leader, Pasquale Paoli, Bonaparte and his family were forced to flee to France in June 1793.
It was a combination of strategic brilliance and good fortune.
His military campaigns guaranteed the survival of social and political ideals at home and the spread of revolutionary ideals across the continent.
Napoleon was born in Corsica.
He joined the army in 1785.
The army used conscription to fill its ranks. Officers had promotions based on actual merit rather than aristocratic birth. The army used massive troop concentrations and flexible tactics.
He defeated Austria in a northern Italian campaign in 1796-1797 and he established the Cisalpine Republic. Then he negotiated the transfer of the Austrian Netherlands to France in the Treaty of Campio Formo. He thus acted in the dual role of soldier and politician
There was political unrest due to a weak and ineffective government. They relied on the military to suppress dissent. Napoleon was asked to lead a coup against the government and he was named First Consul as leader of the new triumvirate. A month later, a new constitution confirmed his position for a term of ten years. He had the power to control foreign affairs and the courts and to control all legislation.
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Napoleon reorganized the state. Administrative procedures were streamlined, banking and coinage were centralized and the government budget was balanced. The legal system was also modernized.
The Napoleonic code reflected the ideals of the revolution. A number of things were guaranteed as absolute rights
Roman Catholic Church released all claims to lands confiscated during the revolution. It also gave up its power to collect tithes (dues). The government obtained the right to appoint bishops and paid the salaries of the clergy.
France was at war with Britain, Austria, Russia and Naples.
Napoleon gained control of Holland and Switzerland. The British felt threatened by the strategic and economic threat and blockaded French ports, cutting France off from its colonies. Napoleon sent his armies to French ports on the English Channel, getting ready to invade England.
The French fleet was destroyed by Lord Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar and the invasion had to be cancelled.
He had to deal with military threats from Russia, Austria, and Prussia.
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All British trade and subjects were banned from the continent.
Napoleon needed to control the east so he seized Hanover and forced Prussia to join the boycott. He brought Russia in with the Treaty of Tilsit and he tried to control Spain.
Holland, Switzerland, Italy and Austria all staged revolts.
The Russians withdrew from the Continental system and began to trade with Britain again.
Napoleons’ army went deep into Russia and ran short of supplies, largely because of the Russian “scorched earth” policy. Even though they occupied the Russian capital – Moscow – it was abandoned and in flames. They could not winter there so they had to turn back. The retreating army suffered from shortages, the harshness of the Russian winter and the harassing activities of the Russian forces. The size of the army was reduced from 600,000 to less than 30,000.
Napoleon was defeated by the combined forces of Prussia, Russia and Austria along with a British invasion in the south. The allies forced him to abdicate and he was sent to exile in Elba.
A liberal, constitutional monarchy under Louis XVIII was established.
When Napoleon returned to France he was supported by the citizens and the army. Many people were not happy with the monarchy of Louis XVIII because it seemed that the revolution had been in vain.
Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo by the combined forces of Britain and their ally Prussia. The Prussian army was led by Blucher. The British Duke of Wellington was the leader of the combined force.
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