Napoleon Bonaparte Research Paper

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Long Essay: Why was Napoleon so successful as a military commander until 1806? Napoleon was born on 15th August 1769 and died on 5th May 1821. He was considered by most historians as one of the greatest military minds in the history of warfare. However his success as a military commander was limited by his personality and his choice of generals. He expanded the conquests of France from her revolutionary borders to that of an Empire that stretched from Spain to the steppes of Russia. Napoleon's genius lay not in the revolutionizing of warfare itself, but in the refinement of existing weaponry and warfare tactics. Napoleon established himself as a great leader of men during the revolutionary period with the siege of Toulon and his triumphs…show more content…
During the campaign of 1796 in Italy, General Bonaparte introduced the reorganization of his cavalry and artillery forces which he would adapt later throughout the French army. Napoleon streamlined the existing system, distributing a cavalry division to each army corps and forming the remainder, principally the heavy cavalry, into a virtual corps of its own as a part of the army reserve. This corps was held exclusively under his command for commitment at the decisive point on the day of battle. These changes greatly improved the cavalry's efficiency. One of the most famous of French cavalry officers of the period, General Marbot, regarded Napoleon as the " light cavalry officer in any European army... Both in irregular warfare and major operations he was a most remarkable officer." Like the cavalry Napoleon also organized an artillery reserve under his personal command to commit at the decisive moment on the battle field. The most outstanding feature of the Napoleonic system of warfare was undoubtedly its flexibility and limitless variation. The insistence on speed and mobility were the basic features of his campaigns from Italy in 1796 to Waterloo in 1815. It was this emphasis on speed and mobility that also contributed greatly to the confusion and unsettling of his opponents. This aspect of Napoleonic warfare is best summed up by a French infantryman, "the Emperor has…show more content…
He tried to enforce a commercial quarantine making it illegal for any European country to trade with Britain. Portugal could not afford to comply with this and in 1807 a French army passed through Spain and into Portugal. The weak Spanish monarchy had been pressurized into helping the French and was removed in 1808. With Spain occupied, Napoleon placed his brother Joseph on the throne. This was one of Napoleon’s greatest mistakes and would ultimately be a major factor in his downfall. The Spanish rose in revolt in what was to be called a Guerrilla War with the major conflict becoming known as the Peninsular Wars which were to last from 1808-1814. The Spanish Guerrillas were blood thirsty and brutal and tied up increasing numbers of French forces only to disappear like mist when threatened by battle. Spain gave the British an arena to fight the French and the Spanish uprising became a beacon of hope to all the Europeans under their French masters. Napoleon himself played little part in the war, only being involved in 1808 in the Iberian Peninsula. The war was a constant sap on French resources and troops. The later successes of Lord Wellington shattered the myth of French invincibility and British and Portuguese forces were later to invade France from Spain. French difficulties in Spain encouraged the Austrians to once more go to war against Napoleon. Napoleon's spies

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