Napoleon by Felix Markham

There is a great deal the can be found about the life of Napoleon and the complexity of all that he accomplished. The book, Napoleon by Felix Markham, is a short, easy to read, biography about Napoleon Bonaparte, the French leader who pronounced himself emperor and conquered much of Europe in the early 19th century.

Napoleon was born in 1769 and in 1785 he joined the French Army. In 1793 he went to the war in Tulon where he assumed the place of a wounded commander and with victory became a brigadier general at the age of 24.

The British were aligned with Turkey and then with Russia and they declared war on France. In 1799 Napoleon learned that a Turkish Army was planning to invade Egypt, so he attacked and defeated the Turks. When he returned to France he took complete control of the French government. With many years of revolution, the French people wanted one strong leader, so Napoleon ruled France as a dictator. In June 1800, Napoleon led the French to defeat the Austrians and then they signed a Treaty with them.

In 1802 the French people made Napoleon first consul for life. He believed that Brittan and France would eventually be at war, so he sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States to get money needed.

Napoleon crowed himself emperor in 1804 with his Senate’s approval, and he dominated Europe.   In 1805 Austria, Russia, and Sweden formed an alliance against France, but later that year Napoleon defeated the Austrian and Russian armies at Austerlitz in Austria. In 1806, Prussia joined Russia in a new coalition, but they were crushed as Napoleon overwhelmed Russian armies at Friedland and then again in 1809 at Wagram. He eventually added Holland and Northern Germany and seemed unstoppable.

Napoleon felt France was threatened by actions of Russia and in 1812 he sent 600,000 men into Russia, but the Russians only retreated.  Napoleon pushed on to Moscow only to find the city nearly empty. Much of the city had been destroyed by fires, set by retreating Russians. Napoleon waited with bitter cold coming expecting Alexander to return, but he never did. The winter brought starvation and exposure causing 500,000 of Napoleon’s men to perish. He returned to France and surprisingly the people still supported him, but his enemies had been encouraged.

After his return in 1809 he married Josephine de Beauharnais who was 46 years old. He felt his biggest problem was not having an heir so in April of 1810 he divorced Josephine and married Marie Louise who was 18 years old. In 1811 they had a son and named him Napoleon.

Napoleon took his armies to Germany to fight the alliance again, but this time his troops were outnumbered and defeated. This loss was the cause of eventual collapse of the Napoleonic Empire. The enemy alliance pursued him and in March 1814, they captured Paris and Napoleon was exiled from France.

One more time Napoleon gathered some troops marched into Belgium where he hoped to defeat Britain’s separate armies of the Duke of Wellington and Blucher of Prussia. Napoleon defeated Blucher and attacked Wellington at Waterloo, but he was beaten, and Napoleon fled to Paris but he was captured and sent to the barren British island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic where he died on May 5th 1821.

If Napoleon is a historical figure you may have wanted to learn more about you will find Felix Markham has brought his life and the many events that he touched into focus.  It was really surprising to see the full scope of his ambition.

Quotes

"Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."  

"Ten people who speak make more noise than ten thousand who are silent." 

"Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."

"Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence."

Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."