Napoleon Forges an Empire 7.3
Setting the Stage: Napoleon Bonaparte came to be recognized as one of the world’s greatest military geniuses along with Alexander the Great of Macedonia, Hannibal of Carthage and Julius Caesar of Rome. In four years, from 1795 to 1799, Napoleon rose from a relatively obscure position as an officer in the French army to become master of France.
Napoleon Seizes Power
Napoleon Bonaparte was born in 1769 on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. At age 9 he was sent to military school by his parents. At age 16, he finishes school and became a lieutenant in the artillery. When the Revolution broke out, Napoleon joined the army of the new government.
Hero of the Hour
In October 1795, fate handed the young officer a chance for glory. Napoleon and his gunners greeted thousands of royalists with a cannonade. The attackers fled. Napoleon Bonaparte became the hero of the hour and was hailed throughout Paris as the savior of the French republic.
In 1796, the Directory appointed Napoleon Bonaparte to lead a French army against the forces of the Austria and the kingdom of Sardinia. Crossing the Alps, the young general swept into Italy and won a series of victories. Next, in attempt to protect French trade interests and to disrupt British trade with India, Napoleon led an expedition to Egypt. He was not successful in Egypt. However, he managed to keep stories about his setbacks out of the newspapers and thereby remained a great hero to the people of France.
By 1799, the Directory had lost control of the political situation and the confidence of the French people. Napoleon’s friends urged him to seize political power. Napoleon’s troops surrounded national legislature and drove out most of its members. The remaining lawmakers voted to dissolve the Directory. In its place, they established a group of three consuls, one of whom was Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon took the title of first consul and assumed the powers of a dictator. A...