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French general and emperor (1769-1821)

Top 10 Napoleon related articles

Emperor of the French
1st reign18 May 1804 – 6 April 1814
Coronation2 December 1804
Notre-Dame Cathedral
SuccessorLouis XVIII as king of France
2nd reign20 March 1815 – 22 June 1815
SuccessorNapoleon II (disputed)
King of Italy
Reign17 March 1805 – 11 April 1814
Coronation26 May 1805
Milan Cathedral
First Consul of France
In office10 November 1799 – 18 May 1804
Co-ConsulsJean Jacques Régis
Charles-François Lebrun
President of Italy
In office26 January 1802 – 17 March 1805
Vice-PresidentFrancesco Melzi d'Eril
BornNapoleone Bonaparte[1]
(1769-08-15)15 August 1769
Ajaccio, Corsica, Kingdom of France
Died5 May 1821(1821-05-05) (aged 51)
Longwood, Saint Helena , British Empire
Burial15 December 1840
(m. 1796; div. 1810)

(m. 1810)
Napoleon II
Napoléon Bonaparte
FatherCarlo Buonaparte
MotherLetizia Ramolino
ReligionRoman Catholicism
See details
Coat of arms

Napoléon Bonaparte[a] (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader. He rose to prominence during the French Revolution and led several successful campaigns during the Revolutionary Wars. As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 until 1814, and again in 1815. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. One of the greatest commanders in history, his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide. He remains one of the most celebrated and controversial political figures in human history.[3][4]

Napoleon had an extensive and powerful impact on the modern world, bringing liberal reforms to the numerous territories that he conquered and controlled, especially the Low Countries, Switzerland, and large parts of modern Italy and Germany. He implemented fundamental liberal policies in France and throughout Western Europe.[b] His lasting legal achievement, the Napoleonic Code, has been highly influential. Roberts says, "The ideas that underpin our modern world—meritocracy, equality before the law, property rights, religious toleration, modern secular education, sound finances, and so on—were championed, consolidated, codified and geographically extended by Napoleon. To them he added a rational and efficient local administration, an end to rural banditry, the encouragement of science and the arts, the abolition of feudalism and the greatest codification of laws since the fall of the Roman Empire."[11]

Napoleon was born in Corsica to a relatively modest family from minor Italian nobility. He supported the French Revolution in 1789 while serving in the French army, and tried to spread its ideals to his native Corsica. He rose rapidly in the Army after he saved the governing French Directory by firing on royalist insurgents. In April 1796, he began his first military campaign against the Austrians and their Italian allies, scoring a series of decisive victories and becoming a national hero. Two years later, he led a military expedition to Egypt that served as a springboard to political power.

He engineered a coup in November 1799 and became First Consul of the Republic. Intractable differences with the British meant that the French were facing the War of the Third Coalition by 1805. Napoleon shattered this coalition with decisive victories in the Ulm Campaign, and a historic triumph at the Battle of Austerlitz, which led to the elimination of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1806, the Fourth Coalition took up arms against him because Prussia became worried about growing French influence on the continent. Napoleon quickly knocked out Prussia at the battles of Jena and Auerstedt, then marched the Grand Army deep into Eastern Europe, annihilating the Russians in June 1807 at Friedland, and forcing the defeated nations of the Fourth Coalition to accept the Treaties of Tilsit. Two years later, the Austrians challenged the French again during the War of the Fifth Coalition, but Napoleon solidified his grip over Europe after triumphing at the Battle of Wagram.

Hoping to extend the Continental System (embargo of Britain), Napoleon invaded Iberia and declared his brother Joseph the King of Spain in 1808. The Spanish and the Portuguese revolted with British support. The Peninsular War lasted six years, featured brutal guerrilla warfare, and culminated in a defeat for Napoleon. Napoleon launched an invasion of Russia in the summer of 1812. The resulting campaign witnessed the catastrophic retreat of Napoleon's Grand Army, and encouraged his enemies. In 1813, Prussia and Austria joined Russian forces in a Sixth Coalition against France. A chaotic military campaign culminated in a large coalition army defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig in October 1813. The coalition invaded France and captured Paris, forcing Napoleon to abdicate in April 1814.

Napoleon was exiled to the island of Elba, between Corsica and Italy. In France, the Bourbons were restored to power. However, Napoleon escaped from Elba in February 1815 and took control of France. The Allies responded by forming a Seventh Coalition, which ultimately defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815. The British exiled him to the remote island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic. His death in 1821 at the age of 51 was received with shock and grief throughout Europe.

Napoleon Intro articles: 38

Early life

Napoleon's father, Carlo Buonaparte, was Corsica's representative to the court of Louis XVI.

Napoleon's family was of Italian origin: his paternal ancestors, the Buonapartes, descended from a minor Tuscan noble family that emigrated to Corsica in the 16th century; while his maternal ancestors, the Ramolinos, descended from a minor Genoese noble family.[12] The Buonapartes were also the relatives, by marriage and by birth, of the Pietrasentas, Costas, Paraviccinis, and Bonellis, all Corsican families of the interior.[13] His parents Carlo Maria di Buonaparte and Maria Letizia Ramolino maintained an ancestral home called "Casa Buonaparte" in Ajaccio. Napoleon was born there on 15 August 1769, their fourth child and third son. A boy and girl were born first but died in infancy. He had an elder brother, Joseph, and younger siblings Lucien, Elisa, Louis, Pauline, Caroline, and Jérôme. Napoleon was baptised as a Catholic, under the name Napoleone.[14] In his youth, his name was also spelled as Nabulione, Nabulio, Napolionne, and Napulione.[15]

Napoleon was born the same year the Republic of Genoa ceded Corsica to France.[16] The state sold sovereign rights a year before his birth in 1768, and the island was conquered by France during the year of his birth and formally incorporated as a province in 1770, after 500 years under Genoese rule and 14 years of independence.[c] Napoleon's parents joined the Corsican resistance and fought against the French to maintain independence, even when Maria was pregnant with him. His father was an attorney who went on to be named Corsica's representative to the court of Louis XVI in 1777.[20]

The dominant influence of Napoleon's childhood was his mother, whose firm discipline restrained a rambunctious child.[20] Later in life Napoleon stated, "The future destiny of the child is always the work of the mother."[21] Napoleon's maternal grandmother had married into the Swiss Fesch family in her second marriage, and Napoleon's uncle, the cardinal Joseph Fesch, would fulfill a role as protector of the Bonaparte family for some years. Napoleon's noble, moderately affluent background afforded him greater opportunities to study than were available to a typical Corsican of the time.[22]

Statue of Napoleon as a schoolboy in Brienne, aged 15

When he turned 9 years old,[23][24] he moved to the French mainland and enrolled at a religious school in Autun in January 1779. In May, he transferred with a scholarship to a military academy at Brienne-le-Château.[25] In his youth he was an outspoken Corsican nationalist and supported the state's independence from France.[23] Like many Corsicans, Napoleon spoke and read Corsican (as his mother tongue) and Italian (as the official language of Corsica).[26][27][28] He began learning French in school at around age 10.[29] Although he became fluent in French, he spoke with a distinctive Corsican accent and never learned how to spell French correctly.[30] He was, however, not an isolated case, as it was estimated in 1790 that fewer than 3 million people, out of France's population of 28 million, were able to speak standard French, and those who could write it were even fewer.[31]

Napoleon was routinely bullied by his peers for his accent, birthplace, short stature, mannerisms and inability to speak French quickly.[27] Bonaparte became reserved and melancholy applying himself to reading. An examiner observed that Napoleon "has always been distinguished for his application in mathematics. He is fairly well acquainted with history and geography ... This boy would make an excellent sailor".[d][33] In early adulthood, he briefly intended to become a writer; he authored a history of Corsica and a romantic novella.[23]

On completion of his studies at Brienne in 1784, Napoleon was admitted to the École Militaire in Paris. 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.[34] He was the first Corsican to graduate from the École Militaire.[34] He was examined by the famed scientist Pierre-Simon Laplace.[35]

Napoleon Early life articles: 32

Early career

Napoleon Bonaparte, aged 23, as lieutenant-colonel of a battalion of Corsican Republican volunteers. Portrait by Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux

Upon graduating in September 1785, Bonaparte was commissioned a second lieutenant in La Fère artillery regiment.[e][25] He served in Valence and Auxonne until after the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789. The young man still was a fervent Corsican nationalist during this period and asked for leave to join his mentor Pasquale Paoli, when the latter was allowed to return to Corsica by the National Assembly. Paoli had no sympathy for Napoleon however as he deemed his father a traitor for having deserted his cause for Corsican independence.

He spent the early years of the Revolution in Corsica, fighting in a complex three-way struggle among royalists, revolutionaries, and Corsican nationalists. Napoleon, however, came to embrace the ideals of the Revolution, becoming a supporter of the Jacobins and joining the pro-French Corsican Republicans who opposed Paoli's policy and his aspirations of secession.[37] He was given command over a battalion of volunteers and was promoted to captain in the regular army in July 1792, despite exceeding his leave of absence and leading a riot against French troops.[38] When Corsica declared formal secession from France and requested the protection of the British government Napoleon and his commitment to the French Revolution came into conflict with Paoli, who had decided to sabotage the Corsican contribution to the Expédition de Sardaigne, by preventing a French assault on the Sardinian island of La Maddalena.[39] Bonaparte and his family were compelled to flee to Toulon on the French mainland in June 1793 because of the split with Paoli.[40] Although he was born "Napoleone di Buonaparte", it was after this that Napoleon began styling himself "Napoléon Bonaparte" but his family did not drop the name Buonaparte until 1796. The first known record of him signing his name as Bonaparte was at the age of 27 (in 1796).[41][14][42]

Siege of Toulon

Bonaparte at the Siege of Toulon

In July 1793, Bonaparte published a pro-republican pamphlet entitled Le souper de Beaucaire (Supper at Beaucaire) which gained him the support of Augustin Robespierre, younger brother of the Revolutionary leader Maximilien Robespierre. With the help of his fellow Corsican Antoine Christophe Saliceti, Bonaparte was appointed senior gunner and artillery commander of the republican forces which arrived on 8 September at Toulon.[43][44]

He adopted a plan to capture a hill where republican guns could dominate the city's harbour and force the British to evacuate. The assault on the position led to the capture of the city, but during it Bonaparte was wounded in the thigh on 16 December. Catching the attention of the Committee of Public Safety, he was put in charge of the artillery of France's Army of Italy.[45] On 22 December he was on his way to his new post in Nice, promoted from the rank of colonel to brigadier general at the age of 24. He devised plans for attacking the Kingdom of Sardinia as part of France's campaign against the First Coalition.

The French army carried out Bonaparte's plan in the Battle of Saorgio in April 1794, and then advanced to seize Ormea in the mountains. From Ormea, they headed west to outflank the Austro-Sardinian positions around Saorge. After this campaign, Augustin Robespierre sent Bonaparte on a mission to the Republic of Genoa to determine that country's intentions towards France.[46]

13 Vendémiaire

Some contemporaries alleged that Bonaparte was put under house arrest at Nice for his association with the Robespierres following their fall in the Thermidorian Reaction in July 1794, but Napoleon's secretary Bourrienne disputed the allegation in his memoirs. According to Bourrienne, jealousy was responsible, between the Army of the Alps and the Army of Italy (with whom Napoleon was seconded at the time).[47] Bonaparte dispatched an impassioned defence in a letter to the commissar Saliceti, and he was subsequently acquitted of any wrongdoing.[48] He was released within two weeks (on 20 August) and, due to his technical skills, was asked to draw up plans to attack Italian positions in the context of France's war with Austria. He also took part in an expedition to take back Corsica from the British, but the French were repulsed by the British Royal Navy.[49]

By 1795, Bonaparte had become engaged to Désirée Clary, daughter of François Clary. Désirée's sister Julie Clary had married Bonaparte's elder brother Joseph.[50] In April 1795, he was assigned to the Army of the West, which was engaged in the War in the Vendée—a civil war and royalist counter-revolution in Vendée, a region in west central France on the Atlantic Ocean. As an infantry command, it was a demotion from artillery general—for which the army already had a full quota—and he pleaded poor health to avoid the posting.[51]

Journée du 13 Vendémiaire, artillery fire in front of the Church of Saint-Roch, Paris, Rue Saint-Honoré

He was moved to the Bureau of Topography of the Committee of Public Safety and sought unsuccessfully to be transferred to Constantinople in order to offer his services to the Sultan.[52] During this period, he wrote the romantic novella Clisson et Eugénie, about a soldier and his lover, in a clear parallel to Bonaparte's own relationship with Désirée.[53] On 15 September, Bonaparte was removed from the list of generals in regular service for his refusal to serve in the Vendée campaign. He faced a difficult financial situation and reduced career prospects.[54]

On 3 October, royalists in Paris declared a rebellion against the National Convention.[55] Paul Barras, a leader of the Thermidorian Reaction, knew of Bonaparte's military exploits at Toulon and gave him command of the improvised forces in defence of the convention in the Tuileries Palace. Napoleon had seen the massacre of the King's Swiss Guard there three years earlier and realized that artillery would be the key to its defence.[25]

He ordered a young cavalry officer named Joachim Murat to seize large cannons and used them to repel the attackers on 5 October 1795—13 Vendémiaire An IV in the French Republican Calendar; 1,400 royalists died and the rest fled.[55] He had cleared the streets with "a whiff of grapeshot", according to 19th-century historian Thomas Carlyle in The French Revolution: A History.[56][57]

The defeat of the royalist insurrection extinguished the threat to the Convention and earned Bonaparte sudden fame, wealth, and the patronage of the new government, the Directory. Murat married one of Napoleon's sisters, becoming his brother-in-law; he also served under Napoleon as one of his generals. Bonaparte was promoted to Commander of the Interior and given command of the Army of Italy.[40]

Within weeks, he was romantically involved with Joséphine de Beauharnais, the former mistress of Barras. The couple married on 9 March 1796 in a civil ceremony.[58]

First Italian campaign

Two days after the marriage, Bonaparte left Paris to take command of the Army of Italy. He immediately went on the offensive, hoping to defeat the forces of Piedmont before their Austrian allies could intervene. In a series of rapid victories during the Montenotte Campaign, he knocked Piedmont out of the war in two weeks. The French then focused on the Austrians for the remainder of the war, the highlight of which became the protracted struggle for Mantua. The Austrians launched a series of offensives against the French to break the siege, but Napoleon defeated every relief effort, scoring victories at the battles of Castiglione, Bassano, Arcole, and Rivoli. The decisive French triumph at Rivoli in January 1797 led to the collapse of the Austrian position in Italy. At Rivoli, the Austrians lost up to 14,000 men while the French lost about 5,000.[59]

The next phase of the campaign featured the French invasion of the Habsburg heartlands. French forces in Southern Germany had been defeated by the Archduke Charles in 1796, but the Archduke withdrew his forces to protect Vienna after learning about Napoleon's assault. In the first encounter between the two commanders, Napoleon pushed back his opponent and advanced deep into Austrian territory after winning at the Battle of Tarvis in March 1797. The Austrians were alarmed by the French thrust that reached all the way to Leoben, about 100 km from Vienna, and finally decided to sue for peace.[60] The Treaty of Leoben, followed by the more comprehensive Treaty of Campo Formio, gave France control of most of northern Italy and the Low Countries, and a secret clause promised the Republic of Venice to Austria. Bonaparte marched on Venice and forced its surrender, ending 1,100 years of Venetian independence. He also authorized the French to loot treasures such as the Horses of Saint Mark.[61] On the journey Bonaparte conversed much about the warriors of antiquity especially Alexander, Caesar, Scipio and Hannibal. He studied their strategy and combined it with his own. In a question from Bourrienne, asking whether he gave his preference to Alexander or Caesar, Napoleon said that he places Alexander The Great in the first rank, the main reason being his campaign on Asia.[62]

Bonaparte during the Italian campaign in 1797

His application of conventional military ideas to real-world situations enabled his military triumphs, such as creative use of artillery as a mobile force to support his infantry. He stated later in life: "I have fought sixty battles and I have learned nothing which I did not know at the beginning. Look at Caesar; he fought the first like the last".[63]

Bonaparte 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.[64] In this Italian campaign, Bonaparte's army captured 150,000 prisoners, 540 cannons, and 170 standards.[65] The French army fought 67 actions and won 18 pitched battles through superior artillery technology and Bonaparte's tactics.[66]

During the campaign, Bonaparte became increasingly influential in French politics. He founded two newspapers: one for the troops in his army and another for circulation in France.[67] The royalists attacked Bonaparte for looting Italy and warned that he might become a dictator.[68] Napoleon's forces extracted an estimated $45 million in funds from Italy during their campaign there, another $12 million in precious metals and jewels. His forces also confiscated more than three-hundred priceless paintings and sculptures.[69]

Bonaparte sent General Pierre Augereau to Paris to lead a coup d'état and purge the royalists on 4 September—Coup of 18 Fructidor. This left Barras and his Republican allies in control again but dependent on Bonaparte, who proceeded to peace negotiations with Austria. These negotiations resulted in the Treaty of Campo Formio, and Bonaparte returned to Paris in December as a hero.[70] He met Talleyrand, France's new Foreign Minister—who served in the same capacity for Emperor Napoleon—and they began to prepare for an invasion of Britain.[40]

Egyptian expedition

Battle of the Pyramids on 21 July 1798 by Louis-François, Baron Lejeune, 1808

After two months of planning, Bonaparte decided that France's naval strength was not yet sufficient enough to confront the British Royal Navy. He decided on a military expedition to seize Egypt and thereby undermine Britain's access to its trade interests in India.[40] Bonaparte wished to establish a French presence in the Middle East and join forces with Tipu Sultan, the Sultan of Mysore who was an enemy of the British.[71] Napoleon assured the Directory that "as soon as he had conquered Egypt, he will establish relations with the Indian princes and, together with them, attack the English in their possessions".[72] The Directory agreed in order to secure a trade route to the Indian subcontinent.[73]

In May 1798, Bonaparte was elected a member of the French Academy of Sciences. His Egyptian expedition included a group of 167 scientists, with mathematicians, naturalists, chemists, and geodesists among them. Their discoveries included the Rosetta Stone, and their work was published in the Description de l'Égypte in 1809.[74]

En route to Egypt, Bonaparte reached Malta on 9 June 1798, then controlled by the Knights Hospitaller. Grand Master Ferdinand von Hompesch zu Bolheim surrendered after token resistance, and Bonaparte captured an important naval base with the loss of only three men.[75]

Bonaparte and his expedition eluded pursuit by the Royal Navy and landed at Alexandria on 1 July.[40] He fought the Battle of Shubra Khit against the Mamluks, Egypt's ruling military caste. This helped the French practise their defensive tactic for the Battle of the Pyramids, fought on 21 July, about 24 km (15 mi) from the pyramids. General Bonaparte's forces of 25,000 roughly equalled those of the Mamluks' Egyptian cavalry. Twenty-nine French[76] and approximately 2,000 Egyptians were killed. The victory boosted the morale of the French army.[77]

On 1 August 1798, the British fleet under Sir Horatio Nelson captured or destroyed all but two vessels of the French fleet in the Battle of the Nile, defeating Bonaparte's goal to strengthen the French position in the Mediterranean.[78] His army had succeeded in a temporary increase of French power in Egypt, though it faced repeated uprisings.[79] In early 1799, he moved an army into the Ottoman province of Damascus (Syria and Galilee). Bonaparte led these 13,000 French soldiers in the conquest of the coastal towns of Arish, Gaza, Jaffa, and Haifa.[80] The attack on Jaffa was particularly brutal. Bonaparte discovered that many of the defenders were former prisoners of war, ostensibly on parole, so he ordered the garrison and 1,400 prisoners to be executed by bayonet or drowning to save bullets.[78] Men, women, and children were robbed and murdered for three days.[81]

Bonaparte began with an army of 13,000 men; 1,500 were reported missing, 1,200 died in combat, and thousands perished from disease—mostly bubonic plague. He failed to reduce the fortress of Acre, so he marched his army back to Egypt in May. To speed up the retreat, Bonaparte ordered plague-stricken men to be poisoned with opium; the number who died remains disputed, ranging from a low of 30 to a high of 580. He also brought out 1,000 wounded men.[82] Back in Egypt on 25 July, Bonaparte defeated an Ottoman amphibious invasion at Abukir.[83]

Napoleon Early career articles: 113

Ruler of France

General Bonaparte surrounded by members of the Council of Five Hundred during the Coup of 18 Brumaire, by François Bouchot

While in Egypt, Bonaparte stayed informed of European affairs. He learned that France had suffered a series of defeats in the War of the Second Coalition.[84] On 24 August 1799, he took advantage of the temporary departure of British ships from French coastal ports and set sail for France, despite the fact that he had received no explicit orders from Paris.[78] The army was left in the charge of Jean-Baptiste Kléber.[85]

Unknown to Bonaparte, the Directory had sent him orders to return to ward off possible invasions of French soil, but poor lines of communication prevented the delivery of these messages.[84] By the time that he reached Paris in October, France's situation had been improved by a series of victories. The Republic, however, was bankrupt and the ineffective Directory was unpopular with the French population.[86] The Directory discussed Bonaparte's "desertion" but was too weak to punish him.[84]

Despite the failures in Egypt, Napoleon returned to a hero's welcome. He drew together an alliance with director Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès, his brother Lucien, speaker of the Council of Five Hundred Roger Ducos, director Joseph Fouché, and Talleyrand, and they overthrew the Directory by a coup d'état on 9 November 1799 ("the 18th Brumaire" according to the revolutionary calendar), closing down the Council of Five Hundred. Napoleon became "first consul" for ten years, with two consuls appointed by him who had consultative voices only. His power was confirmed by the new "Constitution of the Year VIII", originally devised by Sieyès to give Napoleon a minor role, but rewritten by Napoleon, and accepted by direct popular vote (3,000,000 in favour, 1,567 opposed). The constitution preserved the appearance of a republic but in reality established a dictatorship.[87][88]

French Consulate

Bonaparte, First Consul, by Ingres. Posing the hand inside the waistcoat was often used in portraits of rulers to indicate calm and stable leadership.

Napoleon established a political system that historian Martyn Lyons called "dictatorship by plebiscite".[89] Worried by the democratic forces unleashed by the Revolution, but unwilling to ignore them entirely, Napoleon resorted to regular electoral consultations with the French people on his road to imperial power.[89] He drafted the Constitution of the Year VIII and secured his own election as First Consul, taking up residence at the Tuileries. The constitution was approved in a rigged plebiscite held the following January, with 99.94 percent officially listed as voting "yes".[90]

Napoleon's brother, Lucien, had falsified the returns to show that 3 million people had participated in the plebiscite. The real number was 1.5 million.[89] Political observers at the time assumed the eligible French voting public numbered about 5 million people, so the regime artificially doubled the participation rate to indicate popular enthusiasm for the consulate.[89] In the first few months of the consulate, with war in Europe still raging and internal instability still plaguing the country, Napoleon's grip on power remained very tenuous.[91]

In the spring of 1800, Napoleon and his troops crossed the Swiss Alps into Italy, aiming to surprise the Austrian armies that had reoccupied the peninsula when Napoleon was still in Egypt.[f] After a difficult crossing over the Alps, the French army entered the plains of Northern Italy virtually unopposed.[93] While one French army approached from the north, the Austrians were busy with another stationed in Genoa, which was besieged by a substantial force. The fierce resistance of this French army, under André Masséna, gave the northern force some time to carry out their operations with little interference.[94]

The Battle of Marengo was Napoleon's first great victory as head of state.

After spending several days looking for each other, the two armies collided at the Battle of Marengo on 14 June. General Melas had a numerical advantage, fielding about 30,000 Austrian soldiers while Napoleon commanded 24,000 French troops.[95] The battle began favourably for the Austrians as their initial attack surprised the French and gradually drove them back. Melas stated that he had won the battle and retired to his headquarters around 3 pm, leaving his subordinates in charge of pursuing the French.[96] The French lines never broke during their tactical retreat. Napoleon constantly rode out among the troops urging them to stand and fight.[97]

Late in the afternoon, a full division under Desaix arrived on the field and reversed the tide of the battle. A series of artillery barrages and cavalry charges decimated the Austrian army, which fled over the Bormida River back to Alessandria, leaving behind 14,000 casualties.[97] The following day, the Austrian army agreed to abandon Northern Italy once more with the Convention of Alessandria, which granted them safe passage to friendly soil in exchange for their fortresses throughout the region.[97]

Although critics have blamed Napoleon for several tactical mistakes preceding the battle, they have also praised his audacity for selecting a risky campaign strategy, choosing to invade the Italian peninsula from the north when the vast majority of French invasions came from the west, near or along the coastline.[98] As Chandler points out, Napoleon spent almost a year getting the Austrians out of Italy in his first campaign. In 1800, it took him only a month to achieve the same goal.[98] German strategist and field marshal Alfred von Schlieffen concluded that "Bonaparte did not annihilate his enemy but eliminated him and rendered him harmless" while "[attaining] the object of the campaign: the conquest of North Italy".[99]

Napoleon's triumph at Marengo secured his political authority and boosted his popularity back home, but it did not lead to an immediate peace. Bonaparte's brother, Joseph, led the complex negotiations in Lunéville and reported that Austria, emboldened by British support, would not acknowledge the new territory that France had acquired. As negotiations became increasingly fractious, Bonaparte gave orders to his general Moreau to strike Austria once more. Moreau and the French swept through Bavaria and scored an overwhelming victory at Hohenlinden in December 1800. As a result, the Austrians capitulated and signed the Treaty of Lunéville in February 1801. The treaty reaffirmed and expanded earlier French gains at Campo Formio.[100]

Temporary peace in Europe

After a decade of constant warfare, France and Britain signed the Treaty of Amiens in March 1802, bringing the Revolutionary Wars to an end. Amiens called for the withdrawal of British troops from recently conquered colonial territories as well as for assurances to curtail the expansionary goals of the French Republic.[94] With Europe at peace and the economy recovering, Napoleon's popularity soared to its highest levels under the consulate, both domestically and abroad.[101] In a new plebiscite during the spring of 1802, the French public came out in huge numbers to approve a constitution that made the Consulate permanent, essentially elevating Napoleon to dictator for life.[101]

Whereas the plebiscite two years earlier had brought out 1.5 million people to the polls, the new referendum enticed 3.6 million to go and vote (72 percent of all eligible voters).[102] There was no secret ballot in 1802 and few people wanted to openly defy the regime. The constitution gained approval with over 99% of the vote.[102] His broad powers were spelled out in the new constitution: Article 1. The French people name, and the Senate proclaims Napoleon-Bonaparte First Consul for Life.[103] After 1802, he was generally referred to as Napoleon rather than Bonaparte.[36]

The 1803 Louisiana Purchase totalled 2,144,480 square kilometres (827,987 square miles), doubling the size of the United States.

The brief peace in Europe allowed Napoleon to focus on French colonies abroad. Saint-Domingue had managed to acquire a high level of political autonomy during the Revolutionary Wars, with Toussaint L'Ouverture installing himself as de facto dictator by 1801. Napoleon saw a chance to reestablish control over the colony when he signed the Treaty of Amiens. In the 18th century, Saint-Domingue had been France's most profitable colony, producing more sugar than all the British West Indies colonies combined. However, during the Revolution, the National Convention voted to abolish slavery in February 1794.[104] Aware of the expenses required to fund his wars in Europe, Napoleon made the decision to reinstate slavery in all French Caribbean colonies. The 1794 decree had only affected the colonies of Saint-Domingue, Guadeloupe and Guiana, and did not take effect in Mauritius, Reunion and Martinique, the last of which had been captured by the British and as such remained unaffected by French law.[105]

In Guadeloupe, slavery had been abolished and (violently enforced) by Victor Hugues against opposition from slaveholders thanks to the 1794 law. However, when slavery was reinstated in 1802, a slave revolt broke out under the leadership Louis Delgres.[106] The resulting Law of 20 May had the express purpose of reinstating slavery in Saint-Domingue, Guadeloupe and French Guiana, and restored slavery throughout the French colonial empire (including its Caribbean colonies) for another half a century, while the French transatlantic slave trade continued for another twenty years.[107][108][109][110][111]

Napoleon sent an expedition under his brother-in-law General Leclerc to reassert control over Saint-Domingue. Although the French managed to capture Toussaint Louverture, the expedition failed when high rates of disease crippled the French army, and Jean-Jacques Dessalines won a string of victories, first against Leclerc, and when he died from yellow fever, then against Donatien-Marie-Joseph de Vimeur, vicomte de Rochambeau, whom Napoleon sent to relieve Leclerc with another 20,000 men. In May 1803, Napoleon acknowledged defeat, and the last 8,000 French troops left the island and the slaves proclaimed an independent republic that they called Haiti in 1804. In the process, Dessalines became arguably the most successful military commander in the struggle against Napoleonic France.[112][113] Seeing the failure of his efforts in Haiti, Napoleon decided in 1803 to sell the Louisiana Territory to the United States, instantly doubling the size of the U.S. The selling price in the Louisiana Purchase was less than three cents per acre, a total of $15 million.[3][114]

The peace with Britain proved to be uneasy and controversial.[115] Britain did not evacuate Malta as promised and protested against Bonaparte's annexation of Piedmont and his Act of Mediation, which established a new Swiss Confederation. Neither of these territories were covered by Amiens, but they inflamed tensions significantly.[116] The dispute culminated in a declaration of war by Britain in May 1803; Napoleon responded by reassembling the invasion camp at Boulogne.[78]

French Empire

During the consulate, Napoleon faced several royalist and Jacobin assassination plots, including the Conspiration des poignards (Dagger plot) in October 1800 and the Plot of the Rue Saint-Nicaise (also known as the Infernal Machine) two months later.[117] In January 1804, his police uncovered an assassination plot against him that involved Moreau and which was ostensibly sponsored by the Bourbon family, the former rulers of France. On the advice of Talleyrand, Napoleon ordered the kidnapping of the Duke of Enghien, violating the sovereignty of Baden. The Duke was quickly executed after a secret military trial, even though he had not been involved in the plot.[118] Enghien's execution infuriated royal courts throughout Europe, becoming one of the contributing political factors for the outbreak of the Napoleonic Wars.

To expand his power, Napoleon used these assassination plots to justify the creation of an imperial system based on the Roman model. He believed that a Bourbon restoration would be more difficult if his family's succession was entrenched in the constitution.[119] Launching yet another referendum, Napoleon was elected as Emperor of the French by a tally exceeding 99%.[102] As with the Life Consulate two years earlier, this referendum produced heavy participation, bringing out almost 3.6 million voters to the polls.[102]

A keen observer of Bonaparte's rise to absolute power, Madame de Rémusat, explains that "men worn out by the turmoil of the Revolution […] looked for the domination of an able ruler" and that "people believed quite sincerely that Bonaparte, whether as consul or emperor, would exert his authority and save [them] from the perils of anarchy.[120]"

Napoleon's throne room at Fontainebleau

Napoleon's coronation, at which Pope Pius VII officiated, took place at Notre Dame de Paris, on 2 December 1804. Two separate crowns were brought for the ceremony: a golden laurel wreath recalling the Roman Empire and a replica of Charlemagne's crown.[121] Napoleon entered the ceremony wearing the laurel wreath and kept it on his head throughout the proceedings.[121] For the official coronation, he raised the Charlemagne crown over his own head in a symbolic gesture, but never placed it on top because he was already wearing the golden wreath.[121] Instead he placed the crown on Josephine's head, the event commemorated in the officially sanctioned painting by Jacques-Louis David.[121] Napoleon was also crowned King of Italy, with the Iron Crown of Lombardy, at the Cathedral of Milan on 26 May 1805. He created eighteen Marshals of the Empire from among his top generals to secure the allegiance of the army on 18 May 1804, the official start of the Empire.[122]

War of the Third Coalition

Napoleon and the Grande Armée receive the surrender of Austrian General Mack after the Battle of Ulm in October 1805. The decisive finale of the Ulm Campaign raised the tally of captured Austrian soldiers to 60,000. With the Austrian army destroyed, Vienna would fall to the French in November.

Great Britain had broken the Peace of Amiens by declaring war on France in May 1803.[123] In December 1804, an Anglo-Swedish agreement became the first step towards the creation of the Third Coalition. By April 1805, Britain had also signed an alliance with Russia.[124] Austria had been defeated by France twice in recent memory and wanted revenge, so it joined the coalition a few months later.[125]

Before the formation of the Third Coalition, Napoleon had assembled an invasion force, the Armée d'Angleterre, around six camps at Boulogne in Northern France. He intended to use this invasion force to strike at England. They never invaded, but Napoleon's troops received careful and invaluable training for future military operations.[126] The men at Boulogne formed the core for what Napoleon later called La Grande Armée. At the start, this French army had about 200,000 men organized into seven corps, which were large field units that contained 36–40 cannons each and were capable of independent action until other corps could come to the rescue.[127]

A single corps properly situated in a strong defensive position could survive at least a day without support, giving the Grande Armée countless strategic and tactical options on every campaign. On top of these forces, Napoleon created a cavalry reserve of 22,000 organized into two cuirassier divisions, four mounted dragoon divisions, one division of dismounted dragoons, and one of light cavalry, all supported by 24 artillery pieces.[128] By 1805, the Grande Armée had grown to a force of 350,000 men,[128] who were well equipped, well trained, and led by competent officers.[129]

Napoleon knew that the French fleet could not defeat the Royal Navy in a head-to-head battle, so he planned to lure it away from the English Channel through diversionary tactics.[130] The main strategic idea involved the French Navy escaping from the British blockades of Toulon and Brest and threatening to attack the West Indies. In the face of this attack, it was hoped, the British would weaken their defence of the Western Approaches by sending ships to the Caribbean, allowing a combined Franco-Spanish fleet to take control of the channel long enough for French armies to cross and invade.[130] However, the plan unravelled after the British victory at the Battle of Cape Finisterre in July 1805. French Admiral Villeneuve then retreated to Cádiz instead of linking up with French naval forces at Brest for an attack on the English Channel.[131]

By August 1805, Napoleon had realized that the strategic situation had changed fundamentally. Facing a potential invasion from his continental enemies, he decided to strike first and turned his army's sights from the English Channel to the Rhine. His basic objective was to destroy the isolated Austrian armies in Southern Germany before their Russian allies could arrive. On 25 September, after great secrecy and feverish marching, 200,000 French troops began to cross the Rhine on a front of 260 km (160 mi).[132][133]

Austrian commander Karl Mack had gathered the greater part of the Austrian army at the fortress of Ulm in Swabia. Napoleon swung his forces to the southeast and the Grande Armée performed an elaborate wheeling movement that outflanked the Austrian positions. The Ulm Maneuver completely surprised General Mack, who belatedly understood that his army had been cut off. After some minor engagements that culminated in the Battle of Ulm, Mack finally surrendered after realizing that there was no way to break out of the French encirclement. For just 2,000 French casualties, Napoleon had managed to capture a total of 60,000 Austrian soldiers through his army's rapid marching.[134]

The Ulm Campaign is generally regarded as a strategic masterpiece and was influential in the development of the Schlieffen Plan in the late 19th century.[135] For the French, this spectacular victory on land was soured by the decisive victory that the Royal Navy attained at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October. After Trafalgar, Britain had total domination of the seas for the duration of the Napoleonic Wars.