The rise of Napoleon Bonaparte

Before the French Revolution, France sought to reform its army and restore military power in Europe.

For this purpose, the army officer Jean-Baptiste de Gribeauval developed a new artillery system, with improved guns to implement the presented by Graf de Guibert warfare with fast and mobile armies. In addition, military academies were opened in France, which should also allow soldiers from the lower social strata to make career in the army. Due to the resistance of the nobles, who claimed the officer ranks only for themselves, the new military hierarchy could be used for the time being only in the less prestigious units of the artillery and the pioneers. One of the people who went through this new system and rose quickly in the French military for their services on the battlefield was Napoleon Bonaparte.


Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte


Napoleon managed to rise fast during the French Revolutionary Wars through his tactics and military successes. After the recapture of Toulon by the British in 1793, he was promoted to brigadier general with only 24 years. In 1795, he and his soldiers supported the coup to secure the republic from the supporters of the monarchs and occupied Paris. For this action he was promoted to Division General and entrusted the leadership of the French Army in the new campaign against Austria in 1796.




The campaign against Austria:

In 1796 France again declared war on Austria. The campaign against Austria was to take place over northern Italy, the supreme command of this "Italian army" of the French received Napoleon. The condition of his soldiers was catastrophic at the beginning of the campaign. There was a lack of provisions, boots, weapons and pay. Napoleon saw the only way he could reasonably equip his army to be to beat the enemy as fast as possible and to supply his own soldiers with the goods of the conquered territories.

Thus, he opposed the Austrian and their Sardinian allies not only in the equipment but also in the number of soldiers inferior. But Napoleon tactically used his soldiers and attacked the opponents individually to combat the enemy armies separately. With this tactic, he managed to beat the Sardinian troops and throw Sardinia out of the war. Then he beat the Austrian troops, forced them to retreat and occupied Milan. At the end of 1796 northern Italy was almost completely occupied by the French.

In January 1797 he succeeded in a decisive victory at Rivoli against the Austrians and his army was now able to attack over the Alps Austria from the south. Austria was forced to make peace with France.




The campaign in Egypt and the Middle East:

After the peace with Austria, the fighting on the European mainland was over. France was still at war with England, unable to invade England because of the superiority of the Royal Navy. It was therefore decided to attack Egypt to gain control of the eastern Mediterranean. The country was officially a province of the Ottoman Empire, but it was actually ruled by the Mamelukes, descendants of Turkish slave soldiers.

In May 1798, the French fleet launched from Toulon from Egypt. On the way there she escaped the English Mediterranean fleet under the command of Admiral Horatio Nelson and reached Egypt in July.


Die Schlacht bei den Pyramiden (Ölgemälde von Louis-François Lejeune von 1808)

The Battle of the Pyramids (oil painting by Louis-François Lejeune from 1808)


Due to the superiority of the French infantry card against the armored Mamelucken cavalry Napoleon Cairo was able to take quickly. But by the destruction of the French fleet by the English, the French troops were cut off from their supplies, also now took place the declaration of war of the Ottoman Empire to France.

Napoleon found himself forced to march northeast through Palestine in the spring of 1799, an area held by British and Ottoman forces. After the defeat at Akko and the outbreak of the plague within his army, Napoleon had to retreat back to Egypt. Subsequently, the Ottoman troops went on the offensive and landed with their troops in July in the Bay of Abukir. The numerically understaffing French troops made a loss and could beat the Ottoman troops back by this surprise maneuver.

In August 1799, Napoleon received news of the alliance between Austria, Britain and Russia and the military defeats of the French troops against the troops of the Alliance. He secretly traveled from Egypt back to France and had first to provide political stability.




Coup d'etat and establishment of political power:

The Directory (the last form of government of the French Revolution) was completely overwhelmed by the economic and military situation in the country. In addition, the population's confidence in the government has dwindled and the supporters of the monarchy have been boosted again.

After the return of Napoleon to France in November 1799, the members of the National Assembly were brought to the Castle of Saint-Cloud, on the grounds to protect them from a forthcoming coup. Napoleon was meanwhile commissioned with the security of Paris. Three of the five directors resigned, the other two members were arrested on the pretext that they were followers of the Jacobin Order. Thus, the country was de facto leadership-less.

The members of the Council of the Five Hundred, now assembled in the castle, were presented with a proposal for a constitutional amendment, which would allow a strong leadership of the country to enter into force. At first, the deputies refused to agree to the change, only when the Napoleon subordinated soldiers put pressure on the change was approved. Thus, the provisional new French government consisted of 3 consuls: Napoleon Bonaparte, Emmanuel Joseph Sieyès and Roger Ducos.


General Bonaparte vor dem Rat der Fünfhundert in Saint Cloud am 10. November 1799 (Gemälde von François Boucher aus dem Jahr 1840)

General Bonaparte before the Council of the Five Hundred in Saint Cloud on 10 November 1799 (painting by François Boucher from 1840)


The new constitution was then further amended at the insistence of Napoleon, which he could politically disable the other two consuls and later replaced by the devoted him Jean-Jacques Régis de Cambacérès and Charles-François Lebrun. On December 25, 1799, the new constitution came into force, with which Napoleon in fact ascended to sole ruler, since he could appoint ministers and adopt laws. The function of the two other consuls was lowered to the advice.




The campaign against the Alliance:

After Napoleon was able to prevail over the sole ruler of France, turned the tide for the French army.

A unified Russian-British invasion of France allied with the Netherlands was thwarted. In Switzerland, the Russian army also suffered a heavy defeat and retire in the winter of 1799 across the Alps. Subsequently, Russia stepped out of the Alliance and the war against France.

In May 1800, Napoleon again led a campaign against Austria. He let his troops march from Switzerland across the Alps to Italy and was thus able to stab the Austrian General Michael von Melas in the back. This picked up the siege of Genoa and attacked on June 14, the French troops at Marengo. The troops of Napoleon were at the time of the attack unfavorably positioned and divided, so that a defeat would have been likely if General Louis Desaix had heard the battle noise and Napoleon had come to the rescue. Although Desaix fell in battle, but his troops brought the French victory.


Bonaparte beim Überschreiten der Alpen am Großen Sankt Bernhard (Gemälde von Jacques-Louis David, 1800)

Bonaparte crossing the Alps at the Great Saint Bernard (painting by Jacques-Louis David, 1800)


Another decisive victory was achieved by the French army commander Jean-Victor Moreau, whose Rhine Army defeated the Austrians on 3 December 1800 at Hohenlinden in Bavaria. Austria now saw itself threatened by the West and the South and had to agree in February 1801 to a peace. In March 1802, England followed with the Peace of Amiens.

For the time being, all fighting in Europe was over.


2. Koalitionskrieg von 1798 bis 1802

2nd Coalition War from 1798 to 1802






You can find the right literature here:


Napoleon's Army

Napoleon's Army Paperback – November 2, 2005

Many books have been written about Napoleon and his campaigns, but very little about the soldiers of his armies and of the organization and conditions under which they lived and served.

In this classic study, now reissued in paperback, H.C.B. Rogers examines Napoleon's army in terms of its staff systems, its arms and its supporting services as it existed and changed during the long period that separated the battles of Valmy and Waterloo.

This is not another history of Napoleon's campaigns. Apart from the brief narrative of the opening chapter designed to serve as an aide-memoire, military operations are only cited to illustrate organization, tactics, equipment and administration.

The author seeks to show how, as Lord Wavell put it, Napoleon inspired 'a ragged, mutinous, half-starved army and made it fight as it did'.

Click here!



Forging Napoleon's Grande Armée: Motivation, Military Culture, and Masculinity in the French Army, 1800-1808

Forging Napoleon's Grande Armée: Motivation, Military Culture, and Masculinity in the French Army, 1800-1808 (Warfare and Culture) Hardcover – May 7, 2012

The men who fought in Napoleon’s Grande Armée built a new empire that changed the world. Remarkably, the same men raised arms during the French Revolution for liberté, égalité, and fraternité. In just over a decade, these freedom fighters, who had once struggled to overthrow tyrants, rallied to the side of a man who wanted to dominate Europe. What was behind this drastic change of heart?

In this ground-breaking study, Michael J. Hughes shows how Napoleonic military culture shaped the motivation of Napoleon’s soldiers. Relying on extensive archival research and blending cultural and military history, Hughes demonstrates that the Napoleonic regime incorporated elements from both the Old Regime and French Revolutionary military culture to craft a new military culture, characterized by loyalty to both Napoleon and the preservation of French hegemony in Europe. Underscoring this new, hybrid military culture were five sources of motivation: honor, patriotism, a martial and virile masculinity, devotion to Napoleon, and coercion. Forging Napoleon's Grande Armée vividly illustrates how this many-pronged culture gave Napoleon’s soldiers reasons to fight.

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Napoleon: A Life From Beginning To End (Military Biographies)

Napoleon: A Life From Beginning To End (Military Biographies) Paperback – May 13, 2019

This book is for anyone that enjoys crucial turning points in history. Napoleon was an unremarkable man who managed to change the entire landscape of the world 200 years ago. He has been hailed as a military genius and his victories are still studied by international armed forces to this day.

Click here!



The Campaigns of Napoleon

The Campaigns of Napoleon Hardcover – March 1, 1973

Napoleonic war was nothing if not complex—an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of moves and intentions, which by themselves went a long way towards baffling and dazing his conventionally-minded opponents into that state of disconcerting moral disequilibrium which so often resulted in their catastrophic defeat.

The Campaigns of Napoleon is an exhaustive analysis and critique of Napoleon's art of war as he himself developed and perfected it in the major military campaigns of his career. Napoleon disavowed any suggestion that he worked from formula (“Je n'ai jamais eu un plan d'opérations”), but military historian David Chandler demonstrates this was at best only a half-truth. To be sure, every operation Napoleon conducted contained unique improvisatory features. But there were from the first to the last certain basic principles of strategic maneuver and battlefield planning that he almost invariably put into practice. To clarify these underlying methods, as well as the style of Napoleon's fabulous intellect, Mr. Chandler examines in detail each campaign mounted and personally conducted by Napoleon, analyzing the strategies employed, revealing wherever possible the probable sources of his subject's military ideas.

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