Of Napoleon Essay, Research Paper
Three wars that led to the defeat of Napoleon
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Napoleon Bonaparte was one of the most powerful men ever to walk the face of the
earth. Many believe him to be the first anti-christ, just as Nostradamus predicted. To
the troops he commanded, he was known as the “friendly little corporal” , and to the
monarchs and kings that he overthrew, he was the “Corsican Ogre” (”Napoleon
Bonaparte” ). Some thought him to be a great reformer. Others thought that he was a
monster. However, friend and foe alike could both agree on one thing; Napoleon I,
Emperor of France and leader of most of Europe for sixteen years, was one of the
greatest and boldest military geniuses of all time(”Napoleon Bonaparte”). However, like
every great leader, Napoleon too had his downfall. Napoleon participated in three wars
that led to his downfall: “The Attack on Russia”, “The War of Nations”, and “Waterloo”.
Napoleon was once quoted as saying,
“A battle is a dramatic action which has a beginning,
a middle, and an end. The order of battle which
the two armies take, the first movements to come
to blows- this is the exposition; the counter-
movement of the army under attack form the
complication, which requires dispositions and
and brings on crisis from which springs the
result or Denouement (Gray 6)”.
Napoleon thought himself to be invincible and God-like. He felt that he had a destiny to
be one of the greatest military leaders to ever live. The man thought that he could not
be killed on the battle field, he was right. He went from a soldier to the Emperor of
France in just ten short years; he fell in less than three.
Napoleon led an army of six-hundred-thousand men into Russia (Reihn 159). Napoleon
was always very concerned about his soldiers and made sure that they were well taken
care of (Segur 58 ). Napoleon attacked Russia from the Neims River on June 24, 1812.
As soon as they crossed the Neims, a Cossack surprised them and questioned them.
They said they were French and that they had come to make war with Russia. Some of
the soldiers chased the Cossack into the forest and fired at him (Segur 68). This made
Napoleon very angry. They slept on the bank of the Neims with their weapons in hand.
Napoleon also issued a fire ban so that they would be undetected by their enemy.
There was a great thunder-storm and they took shelter. From there he traveled to
Kovno. From Kovno they pushed the Russians further into Russia. They kept on the
Russians trail for a month (Segur 74). The Russians kept retreating back into the
country, burning all supplies that Napoleon could use, be!
cause the Russians knew that Napoleon’s supplies would not last very long (Reihn 159).
After about a month they saw the enemy and immediately started firing their cannons
at the enemy.
The French won the first battle at Ostrovna. Napoleon’s brother-in-law Murat drove the
remaining Russians into the woods. The Russians took new positions. The Russians
came out of the woods yelling and screaming. The French beat them down, and the
Russians retreated back into the woods. Napoleon ordered the fighting to stop so he
could survey the land and plan the next battle (Segur 89).
By mid-summer the soldiers began to get worn out and the supplies broke down. The
oxen and horses died and the soldiers had to marsh through the waterlogged soil. The
Russians kept retreating and after a while one-hundred and fifty-thousand French
soldiers had died. He attacked a walled city called Smolensk, hoping to force the
Russians to fight there, but his army was beaten down. Napoleon had trouble sleeping
and he tried to devise a plan to defeat the Russians. The Russians lost a third of their
men. When Napoleon finally reached Moscow, it was on fire. All supplies and shelter
were gone and he had no choice but to return back home with his remaining 100,000
men (Reihn 229). The attack on Russia had failed.
Once Napoleon knew that he had lost in Russia he went back to France to raise a new
army. He arrived before Christmas in 1812. He knew that Alexander would try to crush
(Corley 117). Alexander wanted to settle the score with France. In the spring of 1813
the fighting began. Napoleon and the Tsar reached a breathing point allowing both to
build up their armies. Napoleon’s army grew to four-hundred-fifty-thousand. He said he
would lead as General, not a Emperor. Disease dealt a great deal of damage to
Napoleons army, Ninty thousand French soldiers were out at once due to sickness. “The
Battle of Nations” began at Leipzig with 190,000 French soldiers against 300,000 allies.
On the third day, Napoleon started a retreat. Sixty thousand French soldiers fell or
were captured in the retreat. All of his armies broke up, and he returned to Paris in
hopes of getting more men and funds, but the French had given their all (Corley 124).
The Tsar personally accepted the surrender of France. The agreement said that the old
dynasty of kings would return. Napoleon thought he could expel the enemy from Paris
but his supporters ordered him to abdicate. He was exiled to a small island called Elba
where he would be allowed to keep the title of Emperor. Napoleon swallowed a vile of
poison in order to prove his immortality. His body did not absorb it, and the poison had
no effect. He was destined to fight in one more battle (Corley 127).
Well settled in Elba, Napoleon had accepted the change in his fortune until visitors
started coming, telling him how unhappy France was under Louis the fifteenth’s brother.
Napoleon was very curious about what happened at the Congress of Vienna, the
conference at which the Allies were setting Europe to rights after all the disturbances
over the past twenty-five years. Napoleon sailed back to France in a brig repainted like
a British warship. An opportunity had come; the Allied officer that had been put on Elba
to monitor Napoleon had to go to the mainland for a day or two. After Napoleon set
sail, he was in good spirits. He instructed not one shot should be fired because he
wanted to reclaim his crown without bloodshed. As he went inland, the country-folk
began to notice that their great Emperor was once again in their midst, and they
rushed in to welcome his return. Napoleon approached a battalion of royal troops. They
were ordered to fire at him, instead they yelled and cheered him and joined his army
(Becke 174). Many of his old officers rushed to his side.
However in Vienna the Allies decided to make the Duke of Wellington the Supreme
Commander, and Napoleon was named an outlaw instead of a sovereign. As a result,
Napoleon decided he would attack Wellington with quick offense. Wellington believed
that Napoleon would repeat the same game that he played last year in the campaign of
1814. The French advance guards attacked the Allies a little inward of the frontier, but
Wellington was still unsure of Napoleon’s plans. Wellington decided that he would join
with the Prussians (Becke 213-227). It was raining very strongly. Wellington’s army
along with the Prussians met Napoleon at dawn. Napoleon boasted he would bring a
sound defeat. It was mid-day before Napoleon’s cannons opened fire. The Allies were
being pressed hard by the French, but by the afternoon the Prussians were still coming
(Becke 2: 20-43). Napoleon sent in the imperial guard as a final effort to smash the
allied front line. When they were twenty yards away, Napoleon ordered them to open
fire. The Duke of Wellington ordered the line to counter-attack the shattered French
Defeated, Napoleon rode toward the frontier(Becke2: 70-97). He planned to form
another army and begin a new campaign, but Napoleon was caught by the British army
at Waterloo. He tried to persuade them to let him go to America(Becke 2: 132-189).
Napoleon said he would abdicate only if his son were proclaimed Napoleon II Emperor of
the French. This idea was brushed aside by the British, but Napoleon surrendered
anyway. He had earned immortality and fame, but he could not pass that to his
son(Thompson 214). Napoleon was exiled to a small island called St. Helena.
Napoleon had this to say about Waterloo:
“The plan of the battle will not, in the eyes of
historians, reflect any credit on Lord Wellington
as a general. The glory of such a victory is a
great thing; but in the eye of the historian
his reputation will gain nothing by it(Gray 100).”
Napoleon died on the island of St. Helena in the company of a few of his friends with
his secretary by his side. The immortal general had been brought to his death on May
5, 1821(Chevalier 201) in a small chateau. Napoleon had gained immortality and
fame(Thompson 214). He died a hero. Despite his failures, he will always be regarded as
one of the greatest military masterminds in the history of mankind.