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What Napoleon Bonaparte Had To Say About The Military And War

Who doesn’t know Napoleon Bonaparte? Being a symbol of bravery, good leadership, and courage, this French military leader and emperor was able to conquer much of Europe in the early 19th century. With his success in his battles and good governance, it’s no wonder why he became an icon for the military, war, politics, and civic revolutions. Let’s have a snap of his life’s milestones as we likewise learn his thoughts and even secrets for “winning most of his battles”.

Bonaparte’s Successes and Struggles

Napoleon had a sharp mind, limitless ambition and tactical and strategic acumen to match any of his peers. Despite constantly fighting against coalitions of his enemies, he not only fended them off but even managed to expand the French Empire. His rise to power came at the final days of the French Revolution, through a combination of military and political skills. He was Emperor of France from 1804 to 1814, and again in 1815.

Although mostly known as a conqueror and war leader, the reforms he implemented still resonate today. Napoleon abolished the last vestiges of feudalism, codified freedom of religion and through the Napoleonic Code formed the basis for civil law across the Western World. It may seem counterintuitive, but this Emperor was in fact a liberal force. While there are many heated discussion about whether he was a force of good or not, few dispute that Napoleon was a great military leader, something exemplified by the fact that military officers around the world still study his campaigns.

It all came crashing down in 1812, when he invaded Russia and learned the hard way not to do that. Two years and an abdication later, he was sent to the island of Elba as an exile. He made another grab for power in 1815 with the so-called Hundred Days Campaign, which ended with the notorious Battle of Waterloo. Thoroughly beaten, he was exiled once more, to the island of Saint Helena this time, where he died six years later.

His Marriages and Children

Napoleon’s first marriage took place in 1796, when Josephine de Beauharnais became his wife. Josephine was older than him by six years and already had two children, who were in their teens! But after ten years without any children of their own, Napoleon had his marriage to Josephine annulled, as he needed to produce an heir to the throne. His next wife and the one to give him that heir was Marie Louise. She was the daughter of Emperor Francis II of Austria and her son with Napoleon, whom they named Napoleon François Joseph Charles Bonaparte, would take the title of King of Rome. Of course, Napoleon, being an Emperor, was not quite faithful and he fathered a number of children out of wedlock.

His Final Years and Death

In 1815, Napoleon, defeated, was sent to Saint Helena, a British-controlled island. It was there, on that little island in the South Atlantic, that he died on the 5th of May, 1821. He was 51 at the time and historians speculate the cause of death was stomach cancer, something supported by the many portraits where he is seen holding his belly, perhaps due to pain. Although he had requested for his body to be returned to his beloved France, they buried him in Saint Helena and it was only in 1840 that his final wish was granted and his remains were brought back to Paris. He was laid at Les Invalides, a common interment place for French military leaders.

Sharing Some Pieces of His Wit

Since he has left an impact on the lives of many people around the globe, it’s only fair to share some of the most famous quotes that he once said about war, soldiering, revolution, and leadership.
  • You must not fight too often with one enemy, or you will teach him all your art of war.
  • Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.
  • The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos. The winner will be the one who controls that chaos, both his own and the enemies.
  • A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.
  • The first virtue in a soldier is endurance of fatigue; courage is only the second virtue.
  • The army is the true nobility of our country.
  • War is the business of barbarians. And such victory belongs to the most persevering.
  • Revolutions are good times for soldiers of talent and courage.
  • Two armies are two bodies which meet and try to frighten each other.
  • I love a brave soldier who has undergone the baptism of fire.
  • The secret of war lies in the communications.
  • To have good soldiers, a nation must always be at war.
  • There are only two forces in the world, the sword, and the spirit. In the long run, the sword will always be conquered by the spirit.
  • In war, there is but one favorable moment; the great art is to seize it!
  • One bad general is worth two good ones.
  • Soldiers generally win battles; generals get credit for them.
  • The strategy is the art of making use of time and space. I am less concerned about the latter than the former. Space we can recover lost time never.
  • Much shedding of blood, many great actions, and triumphs, toil and perseverance are the ends of all things human.
  • We should always go before our enemies with confidence, otherwise, our apparent uneasiness inspires them with greater boldness.
  • An army’s effectiveness depends on its size, training, experience, and morale, and morale is worth more than any of the other factors combined.
Well-said, sir! Well, how do you rate him as a leader? Do you wish we had such leaders today?

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