Military career of Napoleon Bonaparte

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1801 Antoine-Jean Gros - Bonaparte on the Bridge at Arcole.jpg
Napoleon Bonaparte at the Bridge of the Arcole, by Baron Antoine-Jean Gros, (ca. 1801), Louvre, Paris
Nickname(s)General Vendémiaire, The Little Corporal, Napoleon the Great
Born(1769-08-15)August 15, 1769
Ajaccio, Corsica
DiedMay 5, 1821(1821-05-05) (aged 51)
Longwood, St. Helena
Service/branchTrained as an artillerist
Years of service1779–1815
RankCommander in Chief (Head of State)
Commands heldArmy of Italy
Army of the Orient
French Army
Grande Armée
Battles/warsFrench Revolutionary Wars

Napoleonic Wars

AwardsGrand Master of the Legion of Honour
Grand Master of the Order of the Reunion
Grand Master of the Order of the Iron Crown
Grand Master of the Order of the Three Golden Fleeces
RelationsHouse of Bonaparte
Other workSovereign of Elba, Writer

The military career of Napoleon Bonaparte spanned over 20 years. As emperor, he led the French Armies in the Napoleonic Wars. He is widely regarded as a military genius and one of the finest commanders in world history. He fought 60 battles, losing only eight, mostly at the end.[1] The great French dominion collapsed rapidly after the disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812. Napoleon was defeated in 1814; he returned and was finally defeated in 1815 at Waterloo. He spent his remaining days in British custody on the remote island of St. Helena.[2]

Early career[edit]

Napoleon's early career is well covered.[3][4] The most thorough coverage of his campaigns is by David G. Chandler.[5]


August 15 – Napoleon born Nabulione di Buonaparte in Ajaccio, Corsica.


December 15 – Napoleon leaves Corsica for mainland France.


January 1 – Napoleon enters religious school at Autun.

May 15 – Napoleon enters cadet school at Brienne-le-Château.


October 30 – Napoleon enters École Militaire in Paris.


September 1 – Napoleon graduates from École Militaire and is commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant of Artillery.

October 30 – Napoleon reports to first posting with the La Fère Artillery Regiment at Valence-sur-Rhône.


September 1 – Napoleon goes to Corsica on long furlough until June 1788.


June – Napoleon rejoins his regiment at Auxonne, attached to School of Artillery.


September 15 – Napoleon goes on second leave to Corsica, becomes involved in revolutionary activities and attempts to gain favour with Pasquale Paoli.


February 10 – Napoleon returns from Corsica to regimental duty at Auxonne.

April 1 – Napoleon promoted to 1st Lieutenant.

September 1 – Napoleon's third furlough to Corsica.


February 6 – Napoleon promoted to Captain (antedated).

April 1 – Napoleon is elected Lieutenant Colonel, 2nd Battalion, Corsican Volunteers. Is implicated in a riot in Ajaccio.

May 28 – Napoleon returns to Paris, instead of rejoining his regiment.

September 15 – Napoleon escorts his sister, Elisa, back to Corsica.


February 22–25 – Napoleon commands artillery during an abortive French landing on Maddalena Island, Sardinia.

March 3 – Napoleon breaks with Paoli, blaming the failed landing on him.

June 13 – Napoleon and his family arrive in Toulon, having been banished from Corsica by Paoli.

August 27 – Toulon handed over to the British by Royalists.

September 16 – Napoleon given command of artillery besieging Toulon.

October 18 – Napoleon promoted to Major.

December 17–19 – Successful recapture of Toulon from British and Royalists.

December 22 – Napoleon promoted to Brigadier General.


For comprehensive coverage, see Chandler (1973).[6] For an overall view of the military history of the era see Trevor N. Dupuy and R. Ernest Dupuy, The Encyclopedia of Military History (2nd ed., 1970) pp. 730–770.





  1. ^ Roberts says his losses came at Siege of Acre (1799), Battle of Aspern-Essling (1809), Battle of Leipzig (1813), Battle of La Rothière (1814), Battle of Laon (1814), Battle of Arcis-sur-Aube (1814), and Battle of Waterloo (1815). Andrew Roberts, "Why Napoleon merits the title 'the Great,'" BBC History Magazine (1 November 2014)
  2. ^ Andrew Roberts, Napoleon: A Life (2014)
  3. ^ Andrew Roberts, Napoleon: A Life (2014)
  4. ^ Frank McLynn, Napoleon: A Biography (1997)
  5. ^ David G. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon (1973) 1172 pp; a detailed guide to all major battles excerpt and text search
  6. ^ David G. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon (1973) excerpt and text search
  7. ^ Jean Tranié et Juan-Carlos Carmigniani, Napoléon : 1814 - La campagne de France, Pygmalion/Gérard Watelet, 1989, 315 p.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bell, David A. The First Total War: Napoleon's Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It (2008) excerpt and text search
  • Bruce, Robert B. et al. Fighting Techniques of the Napoleonic Age 1792–1815: Equipment, Combat Skills, and Tactics (2008) excerpt and text search
  • Chandler, David G. The Campaigns of Napoleon (1973) 1172 pp; a detailed guide to all major battles excerpt and text search
  • Crowdy, Terry. Napoleon's Infantry Handbook (2015)
  • Delderfield, R.F. //Imperial Sunset: The Fall of Napoleon, 1813-14 (2014)
  • Dupuy, Trevor N. and Dupuy, R. Ernest. The Encyclopedia of Military History (2nd ed. 1970) pp 730–770
  • Dwyer, Philip. Napoleon: The Path to Power (2008) excerpt vol 1; Citizen Emperor: Napoleon in Power (2013) excerpt and text search v 2; most recent scholarly biography
  • Elting, John R. Swords Around a Throne: Napoleon's Grand Armee (1988)
  • Esdaile, Charles. Napoleon's Wars: An International History 1803-1815 (2008), 621pp
  • Gates, David. The Napoleonic Wars 1803-1815 (NY: Random House, 2011)
  • Griffith, Paddy. The Art of War of Revolutionary France, 1789–1802 (1998) excerpt and text search
  • Harvey, Robert (2013). The War of Wars. Constable & Robinson. p. 328., well-written popular survey of these wars
  • Haythornthwaite, Philip J. Napoleon's Military Machine (1995) excerpt and text search
  • Hazen, Charles Downer. The French Revolution and Napoleon (1917) online free
  • Kagan, Frederick W. The End of the Old Order: Napoleon and Europe, 1801-1805 (2007)
  • McLynn, Frank. Napoleon: A Biography (1997)
  • Nafziger, George F. The End of Empire: Napoleon's 1814 Campaign (2014)
  • Parker, Harold T. "Why Did Napoleon Invade Russia? A Study in Motivation and the Interrelations of Personality and Social Structure," Journal of Military History (1990) 54#2 pp 131–46 in JSTOR.
  • Pope, Stephen (1999). The Cassel Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars. Cassel. ISBN 0-304-35229-2.
  • Rapport, Mike. The Napoleonic Wars: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford UP, 2013)
  • Riley, Jonathon P. Napoleon as a General (Hambledon Press, 2007)
  • Roberts, Andrew. Napoleon: A Life (2014) Major new biography by a leading British historian; 926 pp
  • Rothenberg, Gunther E. (1988). "The Origins, Causes, and Extension of the Wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon". Journal of Interdisciplinary History. 18 (4): 771–793. JSTOR 204824. JSTOR 204824
  • Rothenberg, E. Gunther. The Art of Warfare in the Age of Napoleon (1977)
  • Schneid, Frederick C. (2011). The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Mainz: Institute of European History.
  • Schneid, Frederick C. Napoleon's Conquest of Europe: The War of the Third Coalition (2005) excerpt and text search
  • Shoffner, Thomas A. Napoleon's Cavalry: A Key Element to Decisive Victory (2014)
  • Smith, Digby George. The Greenhill Napoleonic Wars Data Book: Actions and Losses in Personnel, Colours, Standards and Artillery (1998)