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The Man and the MythNapoleon and JoesphinePolitics in Napoleon's TimesNapoleon at War

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Campaigns and Battles

Napoleon remounts
First Italian Campaign | The Egyptian Campaign | Second Italian Campaign | The Ulm-Austerlitz Campaign | The Prussian Campaign | The Peninsular War | The Austrian War | The Russian Campaign | From Lützen to Elba | The Waterloo Campaign


Second Italian Campaign, 1800

War had catapulted Bonaparte into power — his victories in Italy and Egypt paved the way for him to become First Consul. Now war would help him secure his position as the uncontested leader of his nation. France was still fighting Great Britain and Austria, and Bonaparte conceived a daring plan to catch the Austrians by surprise.

In the Spring of 1800, he took his soldiers over the Alps — 40,000 men, field artillery, trekking across treacherous layers of snow and ice through the Great St. Bernard Pass. Not since the Carthaginian general Hannibal had an army attempted such an outlandish offensive.

HORWARD: It’s 10,500 feet high… They dragged their guns in pine trees they’d hollowed out like canoes. And they took off across the mountains. On May 20, Bonaparte made the crossing himself, riding a sure-footed mule. It took the General and his armies just 6 days.

On the morning of June 14, he faced the Austrians at Marengo, just forty-five miles from Milan. By the end of the day, there were 6,000 French casualties, but nearly twice as many Austrians had been killed or wounded. The French had won.

Few would know just how close Bonaparte had come to being defeated at Marengo. Nearly routed by the Austrians, Bonaparte was saved from catastrophe only by the dedication and skill of his corp commanders. Bonaparte rewrote the official report of the battle, presenting it as having gone precisely as planned. "My power depends on my glory," Bonaparte said, "and my glory on my victories."

KERATRAUNT: Bonaparte had only been in power for six months. And the people of France had seen other political regimes which had only lasted a year. And they said, well Bonaparte might not last either. After Marengo, things changed. Ordinary people as well as people in the ruling class now thought Bonaparte would last.

Early the next year, the Emperor of Austria ordered a halt to the fighting and signed a treaty with France. Great Britain followed the year after. For the first time in ten years, all of Europe was at peace.

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