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Napoleon The People's General Essay

2009 words - 8 pages

Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon I (1769-1821), emperor of the France, who made reforms after the French Revolution. One of the greatest military commanders of all time, he conquered the larger part of Europe and did much to modernize the nations he conquered. Perhaps the most interesting of all his achievements and exploits was the fact that he was able to maintain his status throughout one of the most turbulent periods of French and World history. In a time when regimes came and went with the seasons, Napoleon's loyalty was always to the country of France never to her newest despot. He often won the favour of the people and this can be considered a major factor in his ability to maintain his status.

Napoleon Bonaparte was born on August 15, 1769 in Ajaccio on the island of Corsica (Johnson 1); this was only a few months after France had annexed the small Mediterranean island. He was the second of eight children of Carlo Bonaparte and Letizia Ramolino Buonaparte, both of the Corsican-Italian ancestry (Johnson 2). Napoleon's father was a lawyer who had fought for Corsican independence, but after the French occupied the island in 1768, he served as a prosecutor and a judge and entered the French nobility as a count (Schom 2); therefore Napoleon's original nationality was Corsican-Italian. In 1779 Napoleon went to a military-college at Brienne in France (Schom 3). There he took a great interest in history, especially in warfare and the lives of great ancient generals. Napoleon was often badly treated at Brienne because he was not from a true French background like his fellow classmates (American Heritage 32). He did not speak French well, because Italian was mainly spoken on his home island of Corsica. He studied very hard so that he could do better then those who snubbed him. However it was a Brienne where his true leadership first appeared; he was known to lead his classmates in snowball fights much like a general (American Heritage 32). Through his father's influence, Napoleon was educated at the expense of King Louis XVI, in Paris. Napoleon attended the Ecolé Military School in 1784. This is where he received his military training; he studied to be an artillery man and an officer. Napoleon graduated in 1785, at the age of 16, and joined the artillery as a second lieutenant (Marshall-Cornwall 16).

The Revolution of 1789 provided the perfect opportunity for men like Napoleon to advance in this new political landscape. After Louis XVI tried to flee France in 1791 all military officers were to swear an oath allegiance to the assembly; Napoleon took the oath and was consequently promoted to captain when France declared war on Austria in 1792 (Johnson 18). Napoleon's first big chance came in 1793; he was assigned, as a captain, to an army besieging Toulon, a naval base that, aided by a British fleet, was in revolt against the republic(Marshall-Cornwall 37). Replacing a wounded artillery general, he seized ground where his guns could drive the...

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