Life Of Napoleon Bonaparte With A Sketch Of Josephine
Book: Life Of Napoleon
Author: Tarbell, Ida
Life Of Napoleon Bonaparte With A Sketch Of Josephine
Book: Life Of Napoleon
Author: Tarbell, Ida
The First Italian Campaign - Napoleon's Way Of Making War
But Napoleon had much to occupy him besides his separation from
Josephine. Extraordinary difficulties surrounded his new post. Neither
the generals nor the men knew anything of their new commander. "Who is
this General Bonaparte? Where has he served? No one knows anything about
him," wrote Junot's father when the latter at Toulon decided to follow his
In the Army of Italy they were asking the same questions, and the
Directory could only answer as Junot had done: "As far as I can judge, he
is one of those men of whom nature is avaricious, and that she permits
upon the earth only from age to age."
He was to replace a commander-in-chief who had sneered at his plans
for an Italian campaign and who might be expected to put obstacles in his
way. He was to take an army which was in the last stages of poverty and
discouragement. Their garments were in rags. Even the officers were so
nearly shoeless that when they reached Milan and one of them was invited
to dine at the palace of a marquise, he was obliged to go in shoes without
soles and tied on by cords carefully blacked. They had provisions for
only a month, and half rations at that. The Piedmontese called them the
Worse than their poverty was their inactivity. "For three years they
had fired off their guns in Italy only because war was going on, and not
for any especial object - only to satisfy their consciences." Discontent
was such that counter-revolution gained ground daily. One company had
even taken the name of "Dauphin," and royalist songs were heard in camp.
Napoleon saw at a glance all these difficulties, and set himself to
conquer them. With his generals he was reserved and severe. "It was
necessary," he explained afterward, "in order to command men so much older
than myself." His look and bearing quelled insubordination, restrained
familiarity, even inspired fear. "From his arrival," says Marmont, "his
attitude was that of a man born for power. It was plain to the least
clairvoyant eyes that he knew how to compel obedience, and scarcely was he
in authority before the line of a celebrated poet might have been applied
"'Des egaux? des longtemps Mahomet n'en a plus.'"
General Decres, who had known Napoleon well at Paris, hearing that he
was going to pass through Toulon, where he was stationed, offered to
present his comrades. "I run," he says, "full of eagerness and joy; the
salon opens; I am about to spring forward, when the attitude, the look,
the sound of his voice are sufficient to stop me. There was nothing rude
about him, but it was enough. From that time I was never tempted to pass
the line which had been drawn for me."
Lavalette says of his first interview with him: "He looked weak, but
his regard was so firm and so fixed that I felt myself turning pale when
he spoke to me." Augereau goes to see him at Albenga, full of contempt for
this favorite of Barras who has never known an action, determined on
insubordination. Bonaparte comes out, little, thin, round-shouldered, and
gives Augereau, a giant among the generals, his orders. The big man backs
out in a kind of terror. "He frightened me," he tells Massena. "His
first glance crushed me."
He quelled insubordination in the ranks by quick, severe punishment,
but it was not long that he had insubordination. The army asked nothing
but to act, and immediately they saw that they were to move. He had
reached his post on March 22d; nineteen days later operations began.
The theatre of action was along that portion of the maritime Alps
which runs parallel with the sea. Bonaparte held the coast and the
mountains; and north, in the foot-hills, stretched from the Tende to
Genoa, were the Austrians and their Sardinian allies. If the French were
fully ten thousand inferior in number, their position was the stronger,
for the enemy was scattered in a hilly country where it was difficult to
unite their divisions.
As Bonaparte faced his enemy, it was with a youthful zest and
anticipation which explains much of what follows. "The two armies are in
motion," he wrote Josephine, "each trying to outwit the other. The more
skilful will succeed. I am much pleased with Beaulieu. He manoeuvres
very well, and is superior to his predecessor. I shall beat him, I hope,
out of his boots."
The first step in the campaign was a skilful stratagem. He spread
rumors which made Beaulieu suspect that he intended marching on Genoa, and
he threw out his lines in that direction. The Austrian took the feint as
a genuine movement, and marched his left to the sea to cut off the French
advance. But Bonaparte was not marching to Genoa, and, rapidly collecting
his forces, he fell on the Austrian army at Montenotte on April 12th, and
defeated it. The right and left of the allies were divided, and the
By a series of clever feints, Bonaparte prevented the various
divisions of the enemy from reenforcing each other, and forced them
separately to battle. At Millesimo, on the 14th, he defeated one section;
on the same day, at Dego, another; the next morning, near Dego, another.
The Austrians were now driven back, but their Sardinian allies were still
at Ceva. To them Bonaparte now turned, and, driving them from their camp,
defeated them at Mondovi on the 22d.
It was phenomenal in Italy. In ten days the "rag heroes," at whom
they had been mocking for three years, had defeated two well-fed armies
ten thousand stronger than themselves, and might at any moment march on
Turin. The Sardinians sued for peace.
The victory was as bewildering to the French as it was terrifying to
the enemy, and Napoleon used it to stir his army to new conquests.
"Soldiers!" he said, "in fifteen days you have gained six victories,
taken twenty-one stands of colors, fifty-five pieces of cannon, and
several fortresses, and conquered the richest part of Piedmont. You have
made fifteen hundred prisoners, and killed or wounded ten thousand men.
"Hitherto, however, you have been fighting for barren rocks, made
memorable by your valor, but useless to the nation. Your exploits now
equal those of the conquering armies of Holland and the Rhine. You were
utterly destitute, and have supplied all your wants. You have gained
battles without cannons, passed rivers without bridges, performed forced
marches without shoes, bivouacked without brandy, and often without bread.
None but republican phalanxes - soldiers of liberty - could have borne
what you have endured. For this you have the thanks of your country.
"The two armies which lately attacked you in full confidence, now fly
before you in consternation. . . . But, soldiers, it must not be concealed
that you have done nothing, since there remains aught to do. Neither
Turin nor Milan is ours. . . . The greatest difficulties are no doubt
surmounted; but you have still battles to fight, towns to take, rivers to
cross. . . ."
Not less clever in diplomacy than in battle, Bonaparte, on his own
responsibility, concluded an armistice with the Sardinians, which left him
only the Austrians to fight, and at once set out to follow Beaulieu, who
had fled beyond the Po.
As adroitly as he had made Beaulieu believe, three weeks before, that
he was going to march on Genoa, he now deceives him as to the point where
he proposes to cross the Po, leading him to believe it is at Valenza.
When certain that Beaulieu had his eye on that point, Bonaparte marched
rapidly down the river, and crossed at Placentia. If an unforeseen delay
had not occurred in the passage, he would have been on the Austrian rear.
As it was, Beaulieu took alarm, and withdrew the body of his army, after a
slight resistance to the French advance, across the Adda, leaving but
twelve thousand men at Lodi.
Bonaparte was jubilant. "We have crossed the Po," he wrote the
directory. "The second campaign has commenced. Beaulieu is disconcerted;
he miscalculates, and continually falls into the snares I set for him.
Perhaps he wishes to give battle, for he has both audacity and energy, but
not genius. . . . Another victory, and we shall be masters of Italy."
Determined to leave no enemies behind him, Bonaparte now marched
against the twelve thousand men at Lodi. The town, lying on the right
bank of the Adda, was guarded by a small force of Austrians; but the mass
of the enemy was on the left bank, at the end of a bridge some three
hundred and fifty feet in length, and commanded by a score or more of
Rushing into the town on May 10th the French drove out the guarding
force, and arrived at the bridge before the Austrians had time to destroy
it. The French grenadiers pressed forward in a solid mass, but, when half
way over, the cannon at the opposite end poured such a storm of shot at
them that the column wavered and fell back. Several generals in the
ranks, Bonaparte at their head, rushed to the front of the force. The
presence of the officers was enough to inspire the soldiers, and they
swept across the bridge with such impetuosity that the Austrian line on
the opposite bank allowed its batteries to be taken, and in a few moments
was in retreat. "Of all the actions in which the soldiers under my
command have been engaged," wrote Bonaparte to the Directory, "none has
equalled the tremendous passage of the bridge at Lodi. If we have lost
but few soldiers, it was merely owing to the promptitude of our attacks
and the effect produced on the enemy by the formidable fire from our
invincible army. Were I to name all the officers who distinguished
themselves in this affair, I should be obliged to enumerate every
carabinier of the advanced guard, and almost every officer belonging to
The Austrians now withdrew beyond the Mincio, and on the 15th of May
the French entered Milan. The populace greeted their conquerors as
liberators, and for several days the army rejoiced in comforts which it
had not known for years. While it was being feted, Bonaparte was
instituting the Lombard Republic, and trying to conciliate or outwit, as
the case demanded, the nobles and clergy outraged at the introduction of
French ideas. It was not until the end of May that Lombardy was in a
situation to permit Bonaparte to follow the Austrians.
After Lodi, Beaulieu had led his army to the Mincio. As usual, his
force was divided, the right being near Lake Garda, the left at Mantua,
the centre about halfway between, at Valeggio. It was at this latter
point that Bonaparte decided to attack them. Feigning to march on their
right, he waited until his opponent had fallen into his trap, and then
sprang on the weakened centre, broke it to pieces, and drove all but
twelve thousand men, escaped to Mantua, into the Tyrol. In fifty days he
had swept all but a remnant of the Austrians away from Italy. Two weeks
later, having taken a strong position on the Adige, he began the siege of
The French were victorious, but their position was precarious.
Austria was preparing a new army. Between the victors and France lay a
number of feeble Italian governments whose friendship could not be
depended upon. The populace of these states favored the French, for they
brought promises of liberal government, of equality and fraternity. The
nobles and clergy hated them for the same reason. It was evident that a
victory of the Austrians would set all these petty princes on Bonaparte's
heels. The Papal States to the south were plotting. Naples was an ally
of Austria. Venice was neutral, but she could not be trusted. The
English were off the coast, and might, at any moment, make an alliance
which would place a formidable enemy on the French rear.
While waiting for the arrival of the new Austrian army, Bonaparte set
himself to lessening these dangers. He concluded a peace with Naples.
Two divisions of the army were sent south, one to Bologna, the other into
Tuscany. The people received the French with such joy that Rome was glad
to purchase peace. Leghorn was taken. The malcontents in Milan were
silenced. By the time a fresh Austrian army of sixty thousand men, under
a new general, Wurmser, was ready to fight, Italy had been effectually
The Austrians advanced against the French in three columns, one to
the west of Lake Garda, under Quasdanovich, one on each side of the Adige,
east of the lake, under Wurmser. Their plan was to attack the French
outposts on each side of the lake simultaneously, and then envelop the
army. The first movements were successful. The French on each side of
the lake were driven back. Bonaparte's army was inferior to the one
coming against him, but the skill with which he handled his forces and
used the blunders of the enemy more than compensated for lack of numbers.
Raising the siege of Mantua, he concentrated his forces at the south of
the lake in such a way as to prevent the reunion of the Austrians. Then,
with unparalleled swiftness, he fell on the enemy piecemeal. Wherever he
could engage a division he did so, providing his own force was superior to
that of the Austrians at the moment of the battle. Thus, on July 31st, at
Lonato, he defeated Quasdanovich, though not so decisively but that the
Austrian collected his division and returned towards the same place,
hoping to unite there with Wurmser, who had foolishly divided his
divisions, sending one to Lonato and another to Castiglione, while he
himself went off to Mantua to relieve the garrison there, Bonaparte
engaged the forces at Lonato and at Castiglione on the same day (August
3d), defeating them both, and then turned his whole army against the body
of Austrians under Wurmser, who, by his time, had returned from his relief
expedition at Mantua. On August 5th, at Castiglione, Wurmser was beaten,
driven over the Mincio and into the Tyrol. In six days the campaign has
been finished. "The Austrian army has vanished like a dream," Bonaparte
It had vanished, true, but only for a day. Reenforcements were soon
sent, and a new campaign started early in September. Leaving Davidovich
in the Tyrol with twenty thousand men, Wurmser started down the Brenta
with twenty-six thousand men, intending to fall on Bonaparte's rear, cut
him to pieces, and relieve Mantua. But Bonaparte had a plan of his own
this time, and, without waiting to find out where Wurmser was going, he
started up the Adige, intending to attack the Austrians in the Tyrol, and
join the army of the Rhine, then on the upper Danube. As it happened,
Wurmser's plan was a happy one for Bonaparte. The French found less than
half the Austrian army opposing them, and, after they had beaten it,
discovered that they were actually on the rear of the other half. Of
course Bonaparte did not lose the opportunity. He sped down the Brenta
behind Wurmser, overtook him at Bassano on the 8th of September, and of
course defeated him. The Austrians fled in terrible demoralization.
Wurmser succeeded in reaching Mantua, where he united with the garrison.
The sturdy old Austrian had the courage, in spite of his losses, to come
out of Mantua and meet Bonaparte on the 15th, but he was defeated again,
and obliged to take refuge in the fortress. If the Austrians had been
beaten repeatedly, they had no idea of yielding, and, in fact, there was
apparently every reason to continue the struggle. The French army was in
a most desperate condition. Its number was reduced to barely forty
thousand, and this number was poorly supplied, and many of them were ill.
Though living in the richest of countries, the rapacity and dishonesty of
the army contractors were such that food reached the men half spoiled and
in insufficient quantities, while the clothing supplied was pure shoddy.
Many officers were laid up by wounds or fatigue; those who remained at
their posts were discouraged, and threatening to resign. The Directory
had tampered with Bonaparte's armistices and treaties until Naples and
Rome were ready to spring upon the French; and Venice, if not openly
hostile, was irritating the army in many ways.
Bonaparte, in face of these difficulties, was in genuine despair:
"Everything is being spoiled in Italy," he wrote the Directory. "The
prestige of our forces is being lost. A policy which will give you
friends among the princes as well as among the people, is necessary.
Diminish your enemies. The influence of Rome is beyond calculation. It
was a great mistake to quarrel with that power. Had I been consulted I
should have delayed negotiations as I did with Genoa and Venice. Whenever
your general in Italy is not the centre of everything, you will run great
risks. This language is not that of ambition; I have only too many
honors, and my health is so impaired that I think I shall be forced to
demand a successor. I can no longer get on horse-back. My courage alone
remains, and that is not sufficient in a position like this."
It was in such a situation that Bonaparte saw the Austrian force
outside of Mantua, increased to fifty thousand men, and a new commander-
in-chief, Alvinzi, put at its head. The Austrians advanced in two
divisions, one down the Adige, the other by the Brenta. The French
division which met the enemy at Trent and Bassano were driven back. In
spite of his best efforts, Bonaparte was obliged to retire with his main
army to Verona. Things looked serious. Alvinzi was pressing close to
Verona, and the army on the Adige was slowly driving back the French
division sent to hold it in check. If Davidovich and Alvinzi united,
Bonaparte was lost.
"Perhaps we are on the point of losing Italy," wrote Bonaparte to the
Directory. "In a few days we shall make a last effort." On November 14th
this last effort was made. Alvinzi was close upon Verona, holding a
position shut in by rivers and mountains on every side, and from which
there was but one exit, a narrow pass at his rear. The French were in
On the night of the 14th of November Bonaparte went quietly into
camp. Early in the evening he gave orders to leave Verona, and took the
road westward. It looked like a retreat. The French army believed it to
be so, and began to say sorrowfully among themselves that Italy was lost.
When far enough from Verona to escape the attention of the enemy,
Bonaparte wheeled to the southeast. On the morning of the 15th he crossed
the Adige, intending, if possible, to reach the defile by which alone
Alvinzi could escape from his position. The country into which his army
marched was a morass crossed by two causeways. The points which it was
necessary to take to command the defile were the town of Arcola and a
bridge over the rapid stream on which the town day. The Austrians
discovered the plan, and hastened out to dispute Arcola and the bridge.
All day long the two armies fought desperately, Bonaparte and his generals
putting themselves at the head of their columns and doing the work of
common soldiers. But at night Arcola was not taken, and the French
retired to the right bank of the Adige, only to return on the 16th to
reengage Alvinzi, who, fearful lest his retreat be cut off, had withdrawn
his army from near Verona, and had taken a position at Arcola. For two
days the French struggled with the Austrians, wrenching the victory from
them before the close of the 17th, and sending them flying towards
Bassano. Bonaparte and his army returned to Verona, but this time it was
by the gate which the Austrians, three days before, were pointing out as
the place where they should enter.
It was a month and a half before the Austrians could collect a fifth
army to send against the French. Bonaparte, tormented on every side by
threatened uprisings in Italy; opposed by the Directory, who wanted to
make peace; and distressed by the condition of his army, worked
incessantly to strengthen his relations, quiet his enemies, and restore
his army. When the Austrians, some forty-five thousand strong, advanced
in January, 1797, against him, he had a force of about thirty-five
thousand men ready to meet them. Some ten thousand of his army were
watching Wurmser and twenty thousand Austrians shut up at Mantua.
Alvinzi had planned his attack skilfully. Advancing with twenty-
eight thousand men by the Adige, he sent seventeen thousand under Provera
to approach Verona from the east. The two divisions were to approach
secretly, and to strike simultaneously.
At first Bonaparte was uncertain of the position of the main body of
the enemy. Sending out feelers in every direction, he became convinced
that it must be that it approached Rivoli. Leaving a force at Verona to
hold back Provera, he concentrated his army in a single night on the
plateau of Rivoli, and on the morning of January 14th advanced to the
attack. The struggle at Rivoli lasted two days. Nothing but Bonaparte's
masterly tactics won it, for the odds were greatly against him. His
victory, however, was complete. Of the twenty-eight thousand Austrians
brought to the field, less than half escaped.
While his battle was waging, Bonaparte was also directing the fight
with Provera, who was intent upon reaching Mantua and attacking the French
besiegers on the rear, while Wurmser left the city and engaged them in
front. The attack had begun, but Bonaparte had foreseen the move, and
sent a division to the relief of his men. This battle, known as La
Favorita, destroyed Provera's division of the Austrian army, and so
discouraged Wurmser, whose army was terribly reduced by sickness and
starvation, that the he surrendered on February 2d.
The Austrians were driven utterly from Italy, but Bonaparte had no
time to rest. The Papal States and the various aristocratic parties of
southern Italy were threatening to rise against the French. The spirit of
independence and revolt which the invaders were bringing into the country
could not but weaken clerical and monarchical institutions. An active
enemy to the south would have been a serious hindrance to Napoleon, and he
marched into the Papal States. A fortnight was sufficient to silence the
threats of his enemies, and on February 19, 1797, he signed with the Pope
the treaty of Tolentino. The peace was no sooner made than he started
again against the Austrians.
When Mantua fell, and Austria saw herself driven from Italy, she had
called her ablest general, the Archduke Charles, from the Rhine, and given
him an army of over one hundred thousand men to lead against Bonaparte.
The French had been reenforced to some seventy thousand, and though twenty
thousand were necessary to keep Italy quiet, Bonaparte had a fine army,
and he led it confidently to meet the main body of the enemy, which had
been sent south to protect Trieste. Early in March he crossed the
Tagliamento, and in a series of contests, in which he was uniformly
successful, he drove his opponent back, step by step, until Vienna itself
was in sight, and in April an armistice was signed. In May the French
took possession of Venice, which had refused a French alliance, and which
was playing a perfidious part, in Bonaparte's judgment, and a republic on
the French model was established.
Italy and Austria, worn out and discouraged by this "war of
principle," as Napoleon called it, at last compromised, and on October
17th, one year, seven months, and seven days after he left Paris, Napoleon
signed the treaty of Campo Formio. By this treaty France gained the
frontier of the Rhine and the Low Countries to the mouth of the Scheldt.
Austria was given Venice, and a republic called the Cisalpine was formed
from Reggio, Modena, Lombardy, and a part of the States of the Pope.
The military genius that this twenty-seven-year-old commander had
shown in the campaign in Italy bewildered his enemies and thrilled his
"Things go on very badly," said an Austrian veteran taken at Lodi.
"No one seems to know what he is about. The French general is a young
blockhead who knows nothing of the regular rules of war. Sometimes he is
on our right, at others on our left; now in front, and presently in our
rear. This mode of warfare is contrary to all system, and utterly
It is certain that if Napoleon's opponents never knew what he was
going to do, if his generals themselves were frequently uncertain, it
being his practice to hold his peace about his plans, he himself had
definite rules of warfare. The most important of these were:
"Attacks should not be scattered, but should be concentrated."
"Always be superior to the enemy at the point of attack."
"Time is everything."
To these formulated rules he joined marvelous fertility in stratagem.
The feint by which, at the beginning of the campaign, he had enticed
Beaulieu to march on Genoa, and that by which, a few days later, he had
induced him to place his army near Valenza, were masterpieces in their
His quick-wittedness in emergency frequently saved him from disaster.
Thus, on August 4th, in the midst of the excitement of the contest,
Bonaparte went to Lonato to see what troops could be drawn from there. On
entering he was greatly surprised to receive an Austrian parlementaire,
who called on the commandant of Lonato to surrender, because the French
were surrounded. Bonaparte saw at once that the Austrians could be
nothing but a division which had been cut off and was seeking escape; but
he was embarrassed, for there were only twelve hundred men at Lonato.
Sending for the man, he had his eyes unbandaged, and told him that if his
commander had the presumption to capture the general-in-chief of the army
of Italy he might advance; that the Austrian division ought to have known
that he was at Lonato with his whole army; and he added that if they did
not lay down their arms in eight minutes he would not spare a man. This
audacity saved Bonaparte, and won him four thousand prisoners with guns
His fertility in stratagem, his rapidity of action, his audacity in
attack, bewildered and demoralized the enemy, but it raised the enthusiasm
of his imaginative Southern troops to the highest pitch.
He insisted in this campaign on one other rule: "Unity of command is
necessary to assure success." After his defeat of the Piedmontese, the
Directory ordered him, May 7, 1796, to divide his command with Kellermann.
"I believe it most impolitic to divide the army of Italy in two
parts. It is quite as much against the interests of the republic to place
two different generals over it. . . .
"A single general is not only necessary, but also it is essential
that nothing trouble him in his march and operations. I have conducted
this campaign without consulting any one. I should have done nothing of
value if I had been obliged to reconcile my plans with those of another.
I have gained advantage over superior forces and when stripped of
everything myself, because persuaded that your confidence was in me. My
action has been as prompt as my thought.
"If you impose hindrances of all sorts upon me, if I must refer every
step to government commissioners, if they have the right to change my
movements, of taking from me or of sending me troops, expect no more of
any value. If you enfeeble your means by dividing your forces, if you
break the unity of military thought in Italy, I tell you sorrowfully you
will lose the happiest opportunity of imposing laws on Italy.
"In the condition of the affairs of the republic in Italy, it is
indispensable that you have a general that has your entire confidence. If
it is not I, I am sorry for it, but I shall redouble my zeal to merit your
esteem in the post you confide to me. Each one has his own way of
carrying on war. General Kellermann has more experience and will do it
better than I, but both together will do it very badly.
"I can only render the services essential to the country when
invested entirely and absolutely with your confidence."
He remained in charge, and throughout the rest of the campaign
continued to act more and more independently of the Directory, even
dictating terms of peace to please himself.
It was in this Italian campaign that the almost superstitious
adoration which Napoleon's soldiers and most of his generals felt for him
began. Brilliant generalship was not the only reason for this. It was
due largely to his personal courage, which they had discovered at Lodi. A
charge had been ordered across a wooden bridge swept by thirty pieces of
cannon, and beyond was the Austrian army. The men hesitated, Napoleon
sprang to their head and led them into the thickest of the fire. From
that day he was known among them as the "Little Corporal." He had won them
by the quality which appeals most deeply to a soldier in the ranks -
contempt of death. Such was their devotion to him that they gladly
exposed their lives if they saw him in danger. There were several such
cases in the battle of Arcola. The first day, when Bonaparte was exposing
himself in an advance, his aide-de-camp, Colonel Muiron, saw that he was
in imminent danger. Throwing himself before Bonaparte, the colonel
covered him with his body, receiving a wound which was destined for the
general. The brave fellow's blood spurted into Bonaparte's face. He
literally gave his life to save his commander's. The same day, in a final
effort to take Arcola, Bonaparte seized a flag, rushed on the bridge, and
planted it there. His column reached the middle of the bridge, but there
it was broken by the enemy's flanking fire. The grenadiers at the head,
finding themselves deserted by the rear, were compelled to retreat; but,
critical as their position was, they refused to abandon their general.
They seized him by his arms, by his clothes, and dragged him with them
through shot and smoke. When one fell out wounded, another pressed to his
place. Precipitated into the morass, Bonaparte sank. The enemy were
surrounding him when the grenadiers perceived his danger. A cry was
raised, "Forward, soldiers, to save the General!" and immediately they
fell upon the Austrians with such fury that they drove them off, dragged
out their hero, and bore him to a safe place.
His addresses never failed to stir them to action and enthusiasm.
They were oratorical, prophetic, and abounded in phrases which the
soldiers never forgot. Such was his address at Milan:
"Soldiers! you have precipitated yourselves like a torrent from the
summit of the Apennines; you have driven back and dispersed all that
opposed your march. Piedmont, liberated from Austrian tyranny, has
yielded to her natural sentiments of peace and amity towards France.
Milan is yours, and the Republican flag floats throughout Lombardy, while
the Dukes of Modena and Parma owe their political existence solely to your
generosity. The army which so haughtily menaced you, finds no barrier to
secure it from your courage. The Po, the Ticino, and the Adda have been
unable to arrest your courage for a single day. Those boasted ramparts of
Italy proved insufficient. You have surmounted them as rapidly as you
cleared the Apennines. So much success has diffused joy through the bosom
of your country. Yes, soldiers, you have done well; but is there nothing
more for you to accomplish? Shall it be said of us that we knew how to
conquer, but knew not now to profit by victory? Shall posterity reproach
us with having found a Capua in Lombardy? But I see you rush to arms;
unmanly repose wearies you, and the days lost to glory are lost to
"Let us set forward. We have still forced marches to perform,
enemies to conquer, laurels to gather, and injuries to avenge. Let those
tremble who have whetted the poniards of civil war in France; who have,
like dastards, assassinated our ministers, and burned our ships in Toulon.
The hour of vengeance is arrived, but let the people be tranquil. We are
the friends of all nations, particularly the descendants of the Brutuses,
the Scipios, and those illustrious persons we have chosen for our models.
To restore the Capitol, replace with honor the statues of the heroes who
rendered it renowned, and rouse the Roman people, become torpid by so many
ages of slavery - shall, will, be the fruit of your victories. You will
then return to your homes, and your fellow-citizens when pointing to you
will say, 'He was of the army of Italy.'"
Such was his address in March, before the final campaign against the
"You have been victorious in fourteen pitched battles and sixty-six
combats; you have taken one hundred thousand prisoners, five hundred
pieces of large cannon and two thousand pieces of smaller, four equipages
for bridge pontoons. The country has nourished you, paid you during your
campaign, and you have beside that sent thirty millions from the public
treasury to Paris. You have enriched the Museum of Paris with three
hundred chefs-'aeuvre of ancient and modern Italy, which it has taken
thirty ages to produce. You have conquered the most beautiful country of
Europe. The French colors float for the first time upon the borders of
the Adriatic. The kings of Sardinia and Naples, the Pope, the Duke of
Parma have become allies. You have chased the English from Leghorn,
Genoa, and Corsica. You have yet to march against the Emperor of
His approval was their greatest joy. Let him speak a word of praise
to a regiment, and they embroidered it on their banners. "I was at ease,
the Thirty-second was there," was on the flag of that regiment. Over the
Fifty-seventh floated a name Napoleon had called them by, "The terrible
His displeasure was a greater spur than his approval. He said to a
corps which had retreated in disorder: "Soldiers, you have displeased me.
You have shown neither courage nor constancy, but have yielded positions
where a handful of men might have defied an army. You are no longer
French soldiers. Let it be written on their colors, 'They no longer form
part of the Army of Italy.'" A veteran pleaded that they be placed in the
van, and during the rest of the campaign no regiment was more
The effect of his genius was as great on his generals as on his
troops. They were dazzled by his stratagems and manoeuvres, inspired by
his imagination. "There was so much of the future in him," is Marmont's
expressive explanation. They could believe anything of him. A remarkable
set of men they were to have as followers and friends - Augereau, Massena,
Berthier, Marmont, Junot.
The people and the government in Paris had begun to believe in him,
as did the Army of Italy. He not only sent flags and reports of victory;
he sent money and works of art. Impoverished as the Directory was, the
sums which came from Italy were a reason for not interfering with the high
hand the young general carried in his campaigns and treaties.
Never before had France received such letters from a general. Now he
announces that he has sent "twenty first masters, from Correggio to
Michael Angelo;" now, "a dozen millions of money;" now, two or three
millions in jewels and diamonds to be sold in Paris. In return he asks
only for men and officers "who have fire and a firm resolution not to make
The entry into Paris of the first art acquisitions made a profound
impression on the people:
"The procession of enormous cars, drawn by richly caparisoned horses,
was divided into four sections. First came trunks filled with books,
manuscripts, . . . including the antiques of Josephus, on papyrus, with
works in the handwriting of Galileo. . . . Then followed collections of
mineral products. . . . For the occasion were added wagons laden with iron
cages containing lions, tigers, panthers, over which waved enormous palm
branches and all kinds of exotic shrubs. Afterwards rolled along chariots
bearing pictures carefully packed, but with the names of the most
important inscribed in large letters on the outside, as, The
Transfiguration, by Raphael; The Christ, by Titian. The number was great,
the value greater. When these trophies had passed, amid the applause of
an excited crowd, a heavy rumbling announced the approach of massive carts
bearing statues and marble groups: the Apollo Belvidere; the Nine Muses;
the Laocoon. . . . The Venus de Medici was eventually added, decked with
bouquets, crowns of flowers, flags taken from the enemy, and French,
Italian, and Greek inscriptions. Detachments of cavalry and infantry,
colors flying, drums beating, music playing, marched at intervals; the
members of the newly established Institute fell into line; artists and
savants; and the singers of the theatres made the air ring with national
hymns. This procession marched through all Paris, and at the Champ de
Mars defiled before the five members of the Directory surrounded by their
The practice of sending home works of art, begun in the Italian
campaign, Napoleon continued throughout his military career, and the art
of France owes much to the education thus given the artists of the first
part of this century. His agents ransacked Italy, Spain, Germany, and
Flanders for chefs-d'oeuvre. When entering a country one of the first
things he did was to collect information about its chief art objects, in
order to demand them in case of victory, for it was by treaty that they
were usually obtained. Among the works of art which Napoleon sent to
Paris were twenty-five Raphaels, twenty-three Titians, fifty-three
Rubenses, thirty-three Van Dykes, thirty-one Rembrandts.
In Italy rose Napoleon's "star," that mysterious guide which he
followed from Lodi to Waterloo. Here was born that faith in him and his
future, that belief that he "marched under the protection of the goddess
of fortune and of war," that confidence that he was endowed with a "good
He called Lodi the birthplace of his faith. "Vendemiaire and even
Montenotte did not make me believe myself a superior man. It was only
after Lodi that it came into my head that I could become a decisive actor
on our political field. Then was born the first spark of high ambition."
Trained in a religion full of mysticism, taught to believe in signs,
guided by a "star," there is a tinge of superstition throughout his
active, practical, hardworking life. Marmont tells that one day while in
Italy the glass over the portrait of his wife, which he always wore, was
"He turned frightfully pale, and the impression upon him was most
sorrowful. 'Marmont,' he said, 'my wife is very ill or she is
unfaithful.'" There are many similar anecdotes to show his dependence upon
and confidence in omens.
In a campaign of such achievements as that in Italy there seems to be
no time for love, and yet love was never more imperative, more absorbing,
in Napoleon's life than during this period.
"Oh, my adorable wife," he wrote Josephine in April, "I do not know
what fate awaits me, but if it keeps me longer from you, I shall not be
able to endure it; my courage will not hold out to that point. There was
a time when I was proud of my courage; and when I thought of the harm that
men might do me, of the lot that my destiny might reserve for me, I looked
at the most terrible misfortunes without a quiver, with no surprise. But
now, the thought that my Josephine may be in trouble, that she may be ill,
and, above all, the cruel, fatal thought that she may love me less,
inflicts torture in my soul, stops the beating of my heart, makes me sad
and dejected, robs me of even the courage of fury and despair. I often
used to say, 'Man can do no harm to one who is willing to die;' but now,
to die without being loved by you, to die without this certainty, is the
torture of hell; it is the vivid and crushing image of total annihilation.
It seems to me as if I were choking. My only companion, you who have been
chosen by fate to make with me the painful journey of life, the day when I
shall no longer possess your heart will be that when for me the world
shall have lost all warmth and all its vegetation. . . . I will stop, my
sweet pet; my soul is sad. I am very tired, my mind is worn out, I am
sick of men. I have good reason for hating them. They separate me from
Josephine was indifferent to this strong passion. "How queer
Bonaparte is!" she said coldly at the evidences of his affection which he
poured upon her; and when, after a few weeks separation, he began to
implore her to join him she hesitated, made excuses, tried in every
possible way to evade his wish. It was not strange that a woman of her
indolent nature, loving flattery, having no passion but for amusement,
reckless expenditure, and her own ease, should prefer life in Paris.
There she shared with Madame Tallien the adoration which the Parisian
world is always bestowing on some fair woman. At opera and ball she was
the centre of attraction; even in the street the people knew her. Notre
Dame des Victoires was the name they gave her.
In desperation at her indifference, Napoleon finally wrote her, in
June, from Tortona:
"My life is a perpetual nightmare. A black presentiment makes
breathing difficult. I am no longer alive; I have lost more than life,
more than happiness, more than peace; I am almost without hope I am
sending you a courier. He will stay only four hours in Paris, and then
will bring me your answer. Write to me ten pages; that is the only thing
that can console me in the least. You are ill; you love me; I have
distressed you; you are with child; and I do not see you. . . . I have
treated you so ill that I do not know how to set myself right in your
eyes. I have been blaming you for staying in Paris, and you have been ill
there. Forgive me, my dear; the love with which you have filled me has
robbed me of my reason, and I shall never recover it. It is a malady from
which there is no recovery. My forebodings are so gloomy that all I ask
is to see you, to hold you in my arms for two hours, and that we may die
together. Who is taking care of you? I suppose that you have sent for
Hortense; I love the dear child a thousand times better since I think that
she may console you a little. As for me, I am without consolation, rest,
and hope until I see again the messenger whom I am sending to you, and
until you explain to me in a long letter just what is the matter with you,
and how serious it is. If there were any danger, I warn you that I should
start at once for Paris. . . . You! you! - and the rest of the world will
not exist for me any more than if it had been annihilated. I care for
honor because you care for it; for victory, because it brings you
pleasure; otherwise, I should abandon everything to throw myself at your
After this letter Josephine consented to go to Italy, but she left
Paris weeping as if going to her execution. Once at Milan, where she held
almost a court, she recovered her gayety, and the two were very happy for
a time. But it did not last. Napoleon, obliged to be on the march, would
implore Josephine to come to him here and there, and once she narrowly
escaped with her life when trying to get away from the army.
Wherever she was installed she had a circle of adorers about her, and
as a result she neglected writing to her husband. Reproaches and
entreaties filled his letters. He begged her for only a line, and he
implored her that she be less cold.
"Your letters are as cold as fifty years of age; one would think they
had been written after we had been married fifteen years. They are full
of the friendliness and feelings of life's winter, . . . What more can you
do to distress me? Stop loving me? That you have already done. Hate me?
Well, I wish you would; everything degrades me except hatred; but
indifference, with a calm pulse, fixed eyes, monotonous walk! . . . A
thousand kisses, tender, like my heart."
It was not merely indolence and indifference that caused Josephine's
neglect. It was coquetry frequently, and Napoleon, informed by his
couriers as to whom she received at Milan or Genoa, and of the pleasures
she enjoyed, was jealous with all the force of his nature. More than one
young officer who dared pay homage to Josephine in this campaign was
banished "by order of the commander-in-chief." Reaching Milan once,
unexpectedly, he found her gone. His disappointment was bitter.
"I reached Milan, rushed to your rooms, having thrown up everything
to see you, to press you to my heart - you were not there; you are
traveling about from one town to another, amusing yourself with balls. . .
. My unhappiness is inconceivable. . . . Don't put yourself out; pursue
your pleasure; happiness is made for you."
It was between such extremes of triumphant love and black despair
that Napoleon lived throughout the Italian campaign