Napoleon Buonaparte, who was quite possibly the greatest military commander

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Napoleon Buonaparte, who was quite possibly the greatest military commander of all time, was born on August 15, 1769. His genius military mind made it possible for him to conquer much of Europe. Napoleon’s life was a brilliant story of his amazing rise in militarism and his tragic fall of his power due to his own flaws.

Napoleon was born in Abaci, Corsica to the parent’s of Carlo and Letizia Buonaparte. He was the second of eight children. France had annexed Corsica in 1768, which made Napoleon, technically, a French citizen. Although Napoleon and his family were of nobility and higher up on the social scale than most Europeans, his family was never very wealthy.

Napoleon was the first in his family to ever become a professional soldier. At age 16, Napoleon graduated from Brienne and the Ecole Militaire, in Paris, in 1785. That same year, he became an artillery officer in the French army.

Soon after the French revolution began, Napoleon quickly became a hero when he defeated the Austrian and Sardinian armies in Italy. This brought on the Treaty of Campo Formio, which stated that France keep most of its conquests. Also, in 1796, he married Josephine de Beauharnais, a widow and mother of two children.

After this defeat which led to the Treaty of Campo, he then turned to defeat the British, which, at this time, was the only country still actively fighting against the British. Napoleon decided to attack their trade, which was with the East. To do this, he attempted to conquer the Turkish-ruled Egypt, and although succeeded, his naval fleet was destroyed due to Admiral Horatio Nelson in the Battle of Aboukir on August 1, 1798, which foiled his whole plan. Because Russia was looking at obtaining land in Africa, this brought them into the war against France, allied with Britain.

One year after the Battle of Aboukir, Abbee Sieyes invited Napoleon to Paris to create a new constitution for Paris. The constitution was made up of three consuls, and, of course, must have a First Consul. The First Consul was taken up by Napoleon, which gave him the power of a dictator. Then, in 1802, Napoleon had the constitution revised to have him appointed Consul for Life, and in 1804, revised it to have him named Emperor.

Although before his all out thirst for power, he worked very hard in order to fix all of the problems of France. He did this by making peace with Austria and Britain. The Treaty of Amiens officially ended the war with Britain. He also allowed many politicians back into the country and appointed radical republicans as well as royalist aristocrats in his government. Another act of his attempt to heal France was to allow the Catholic Church back into the country, however, only under Napoleons conditions.

Because of how the power got to Napoleons head, he felt he needed to justify his strength as the Emperor. In order for him to do this, he crossed the Alps and defeated the Austrians at Marengo. Britain saw Napoleon’s aggressive behavior and decided to resume their war on the seas against France. Soon, two years later, Russia and Austria joined as allied with Britain once again, and Napoleon was back where he started. Napoleon then had to abandon his plan of invading England to put his forces towards defeating the Austro-Russian forces. He was successful at the Battle of Austerlitz on December 2, 1805.

Napoleon soon saw, however, that in order for him to create his future, as what he saw it as a United Europe, he saw that Great Britain was his biggest obstacle in accomplishing this. He began his mission of defeating Britain by issuing the Continental System, which forbade the importation of European goods into Europe. With the victory at the Battle of Austerlitz, he signed the Treaty of Tilsit, which allowed Napoleon to keep all land seized in Prussia and Russia, and also forced them to follow the Continental System and boycott all trade with Britain.

In 1808, Napoleon then invaded Spain with the hopes of defeating them and making them follow the Continental System as well. One major disadvantage to Napoleon was a tactic that the Spanish used; guerilla warfare. The French were very unaccustomed to this. Then in 1813, the Spanish, with much aid from the British, drove the French over the Spanish border.

Russia’s economy was failing due to the Continental System that they were forced into. They relied on trade with Britain because they gave them many of their manufactured goods. Tsar Alexander I allowed trade to proceed against Napoleon’s will and against many France’s protests. After four years of this, Napoleon had enough and, with the sole intention of teaching Tsar a lesson, marched six hundred thousand men into Russia. They advanced and advanced as Russia retreated deeper and deeper into Russia, until France reached Moscow, which they burned down. Approximately three hundred thousand soldiers died on the way back due to Russia’s cold winters.

Napoleon decided to return to France in 1814, and, waiting for him there, was Tsar Alexander I and King Frederick William III of Prussia. They forced Napoleon to Elba, a small island off of Italy. In 1815, he escaped Elba and made a triumphant return, to cheering crowds and a loyal army. He decided to attack the Low Countries of Belgium, and was utterly and finally defeated. He was then exiled to St. Helena, an island in the South Atlantic. He later died there on May 5, 1821 from a stomach cancer.

Napoleon’s own power finally got the best of him, and although he was probably the most important man in the French Revolution, his thirst for power and anxiousness defeated him. His army stayed loyal to him to the very end and many of his changes for the French Constitution are still remembered and active today.