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
Napoleon's Return To Paris - The Egyptian Campaign - The 18th Brumaire
In December, 1797, he returned to Paris. His whole family were
collected there, forming a "Bonaparte colony," as the Parisians called it.
There were Joseph and his wife; Lucien, now married to Christine Boyer,
his old landlord's daughter, a marriage Napoleon never forgave; Eliza, now
Madame Bacciochi; Pauline, now Madame Leclerc. Madame Letitia was in the
city, with Caroline; Louis and Jerome were still in school. Josephine had
her daughter Hortense, a girl of thirteen, with her. Her son Eugene,
though but fifteen years old, was away on a mission for Napoleon, who, in
spite of the boy's youth, had already taken him into his confidence.
According to Napoleon's express desire, all the family lived in great
The return to Paris of the commander-in-chief of the Army of Italy
was the signal for a popular ovation. The Directory gave him every honor,
changing the name of the street in which he lived to rue de la Victoire,
and making him a member of the Institute; but, conscious of its
feebleness, and inspired by that suspicion which since the Revolution
began had caused the ruin of so many men, it planned to get rid of him.
Of the coalition against France, formed in 1793, one member alone
remained in arms - England. Napoleon was to be sent against her. An
invasion of the island was first discussed, and he made an examination of
the north coast. His report was adverse, and he substituted a plan for
the invasion of Egypt - an old idea in the French government.
The Directory gladly accepted the change, and Napoleon was made
commander-in-chief of the Army of Egypt. On the 4th of May he left Paris
To Napoleon this expedition was a merciful escape. He once said to
"In Paris, and Paris is France, they never can take the smallest
interest in things, if they do not take it in persons. . . . The great
difficulty of the Directory was that no one cared about them, and that
people began to care too much about me. This was why I conceived the
happy idea of going to Egypt."
He was under the influence, too, of his imagination; the Orient had
always tempted him. It is certain that he went away with gigantic
projects - nothing less than to conquer the whole of the East, and to
become its ruler and lawgiver.
"I dreamed of all sorts of things, and I saw a way of carrying all my
projects into practical execution. I would create a new religion. I saw
myself in Asia, upon an elephant, wearing a turban, and holding in my hand
a new Koran which I had myself composed. I would have united in my
enterprise the experiences of two hemispheres, exploring for my benefit
and instruction all history, attacking the power of England in the Indies,
and renewing, by their conquest, my relations with old Europe. The time I
passed in Egypt was the most delightful period of my life, for it was the
His friends, watching his irritation during the days before the
campaign had been decided upon, said: "A free flight in space is what such
wings demand. He will die here. He must go." He himself said: "Paris
weighs on me like a leaden mantle."
Napoleon sailed from France on May 19, 1798; on June 9th he reached
Malta, and won for France "the strongest place in Europe." July 2d he
entered Alexandria. On July 23d he entered Cairo, after the famous battle
of the Pyramids.
The French fleet had remained in Aboukir Bay after landing the army,
and on August 1st was attacked by Nelson. Napoleon had not realized,
before this battle, the power of the English on the sea. He knew nothing
of Nelson's genius. The destruction of his fleet, and the consciousness
that he and his army were prisoners in the Orient, opened his eyes to the
greatest weakness of France.
The winter was spent in reorganizing the government of Egypt and in
scientific work. Over one hundred scientists had been added to the Army
of Egypt, including some of the most eminent men of the day: Monge,
Geoffroy-St.-Hilaire, Berthollet, Fourier, and Denon. From their arrival
every opportunity was given them to carry on their work. To stimulate
them, Napoleon founded the Institute of Egypt, in which membership was
granted as a reward for services.
These scientists went out in every direction, pushing their
investigations up the Nile as far as Philoe, tracing the bed of the old
canal from Suez to the Nile, unearthing ancient monuments, making
collections of the flora and fauna, examining in detail the arts and
industries of the people. Everything, from the inscription on the Rosetta
Stone to the incubation of chickens, received their attention. On the
return of the expedition, their researches were published in a magnificent
work called "Description de l'Egypte." The information gathered by the
French at this time gave a great impetus to the study of Egyptology, and
their investigations on the old Suez canal led directly to the modern
The peaceful work of science and law-giving which Napoleon was
conducting in Egypt was interrupted by the news that the Porte had
declared war against France, and that two Turkish armies were on their way
to Egypt. In March he set off to Syria to meet the first.
This Syrian expedition was a failure, ending in a retreat made
horrible not only by the enemy in the rear, but by pestilence and heat.
The disaster was a terrible disillusion for Napoleon. It ended his
dream of an Oriental realm for himself, of a kingdom embracing the whole
Mediterranean for France. "I missed my fortune at St. Jean d'Acre," he
told his brother Lucien afterward; and again, "I think my imagination died
at St. Jean d'Acre." The words are those of the man whose discouragement
at a failure was as profound as his hope at success was high.
As Napoleon entered Egypt from Syria, he learned that the second
Turkish army was near the Bay of Aboukir. He turned against it and
defeated it completely. In the exchange of prisoners made after the
battle, a bundle of French papers fell into his hands. It was the first
news he had had for ten months from France, and sad news it was: Italy
lost, an invasion of Austrians and Russians threatening, the Directory
discredited and tottering.
If the Oriental empire of his imagination had fallen, might it not be
that in Europe a kingdom awaited him? He decided to leave Egypt at once,
and with the greatest secrecy prepared for his departure. The army was
turned over to Kleber, and with four small vessels he sailed for France on
the night of August 22, 1799. On October 16th he was in Paris.
For a long time nothing had been heard of Napoleon in France. The
people said he had been exiled by the jealous Directory. His
disappearance into the Orient had all the mystery and fascination of an
Eastern tale. His sudden reappearance had something of the heroic in it.
He came like a god from Olympus, unheralded, but at the critical moment.
The joy of the people, who at that day certainly preferred a hero to
suffrage, was spontaneous and sincere. His journey from the coast to
Paris was a triumphal march. Le retour du heros was the word in
everybody's mouth. On every side the people cried: "You alone can save
the country. It is perishing without you. Take the reins of government."
At Paris he found the government waiting to be overthrown. "A brain
and a sword" was all that was needed to carry out a coup d'etat organized
while he was still in Africa. Everybody recognized him as the man for the
hour. A large part of the military force in Paris was devoted to him.
His two brothers, Lucien and Joseph, were in positions of influence, the
former president of the Five Hundred, as one of the two chambers was
called. All that was most distinguished in the political, military,
legal, and artistic circles of Paris rallied to him. Among the men who
supported him were Talleyrand, Sieyes, Chenier, Roederer, Monge,
Cambaceres, Moreau, Berthier, Murat.
On the 18th Brumaire (the 9th of November), 1799, the plot
culminated, and Napoleon was recognized as the temporary Dictator of
The private sorrow to which Napoleon returned, was as great as the
public glory. During the campaign in Egypt he had learned beyond a doubt
that Josephine's coquetry had become open folly, and that a young officer,
Hippolyte Charles, whom he had dismissed from the Army of Italy two years
before, was installed at Malmaison. The liaison was so scandalous that
Gohier, the president of the Directory, advised Josephine to get a divorce
from Napoleon and marry Charles.
These rumors reached Egypt, and Napoleon, in despair, even talked
them over with Eugene de Beauharnais. The boy defended his mother, and
for a time succeeded in quieting Napoleon's resentment. At last, however,
he learned in a talk with Junot that the gossip was true. He lost all
control of himself, and declared he would have a divorce. The idea was
abandoned, but the love and reverence he had given Josephine were dead.
From that time she had no empire over his heart, no power to inspire him
to action or to enthusiasm.
When he landed in France from Egypt, Josephine, foreseeing a storm,
started out to meet him at Lyons. Unfortunately she took one road and
Napoleon another, and when he reached Paris at six o'clock in the morning
he found no one at home. When Josephine arrived Napoleon refused to see
her, and it was three days before he relented. Then his forgiveness was
due to the intercession of Hortense and Eugene, to both of whom he was
But if he consented to pardon, he could never give again the
passionate affection which he once had felt for her. He ceased to be a
lover, and became a commonplace, tolerant, indulgent, bourgeois husband,
upon whom his wife, in matters of importance, had no influence. Josephine
was hereafter the suppliant, but she never regained the noble kingdom she
Napoleon's domestic sorrow weakened in no way his activity and vigor
in public affairs. He realized that, if he would keep his place in the
hearts and confidence of the people, he must do something to show his
strength, and peace was the gift he proposed to make to the nation. When
he returned he found a civil war raging in La Vendee. Before February he
had ended it. All over France brigandage had made life and property
uncertain. It was stopped by his new regime.
Two foreign enemies only remained at war with France - Austria and
England. He offered them peace. It was refused. Nothing remained but to
compel it. The Austrians were first engaged. They had two armies in the
field; one on the Rhine, against which Moreau was sent, the other in Italy
- now lost to France - besieging the French shut up in Genoa.
Moreau conducted the campaign in the Rhine countries with skill,
fighting two successful battles, and driving his opponent from Ulm.
Napoleon decided that he would himself carry on the Italian campaign,
but of that he said nothing in Paris. His army was quietly brought
together as a reserve force; then suddenly, on May 6, 1800, he left Paris
for Geneva. Immediately his plan became evident. It was nothing else
than to cross the Alps and fall upon the rear of the Austrians, then
Such an undertaking was a veritable coup de theatre. Its
accomplishment was not less brilliant than its conception. Three
principal passes lead from Switzerland into Italy: Mont Cenis, the Great
Saint Bernard, and the Mount Saint Gothard. The last was already held by
the Austrians. The first is the westernmost, and here Napoleon directed
the attention of General Melas, the Austrian commander. The central, or
Mount Saint Bernard, Pass was left almost defenceless, and here the French
army was led across, a passage surrounded by enormous difficulties,
particularly for the artillery, which had to be taken to pieces and
carried or dragged by the men.
Save the delay which the enemy caused the French at Fort Bard, where
five hundred men stopped the entire army, Napoleon met with no serious
resistance in entering Italy. Indeed, the Austrians treated the force
with contempt, declaring that it was not the First Consul who led it, but
an adventurer, and that the army was not made up of French, but of refugee
This rumor was soon known to be false. On June 2d Napoleon entered
Milan. It was evident that a conflict was imminent, and to prepare his
soldiers Bonaparte addressed them:
"Soldiers, one of our departments was in the power of the enemy;
consternation was in the south of France; the greatest part of the
Ligurian territory, the most faithful friends of the Republic, had been
invaded. The Cisalpine Republic had again become the grotesque plaything
of the feudal regime. Soldiers, you march - and already the French
territory is delivered! Joy and hope have succeeded in your country to
consternation and fear.
"You give back liberty and independence to the people of Genoa. You
have delivered them from their eternal enemies. You are in the capital of
the Cisalpine. The enemy, terrified, no longer hopes for anything, except
to regain its frontiers. You have taken possession of its hospitals, its
magazines, its resources.
"The first act of the campaign is terminated. Every day you hear
millions of men thanking you for your deeds.
"But shall it be said that French territory has been violated with
impunity? Shall we allow an army which has carried fear into our families
to return to its firesides? Will you run with your arms? Very well,
march to the battle; forbid their retreat; tear from them the laurels of
which they have taken possession; and so teach the world that the curse of
destiny is on the rash who dare insult the territory of the Great People.
The result of all our efforts will be spotless glory, solid peace."
Melas, the Austrian commander, had lost much time; but finally
convinced that it was really Bonaparte who had invaded Italy, and that he
had actually reached Milan, he advanced into the plain of Marengo. He had
with him an army of from fifty to sixty thousand men well supplied with
Bonaparte, ignorant that so large a force was at Marengo, advanced
into the plain with only a portion of his army. On June 14th Melas
attacked him. Before noon the French saw that they had to do with the
entire Austrian army. For hours the battle was waged furiously, but with
constant loss on the side of the French. In spite of the most intrepid
fighting the army gave way. "At four o'clock in the afternoon," says a
soldier who was present, "there remained in a radius of two leagues not
over six thousand infantry, a thousand horse, and six pieces of cannon. A
third of our army was not in condition for battle. The lack of carriages
to transport the sick made another third necessary for this painful task.
Hunger, thirst, fatigue, had forced a great number to withdraw. The sharp
shooters for the most part had lost the direction of their regiments."
"He who in these frightful circumstances would have said, 'In two
hours we shall have gained the battle, made ten thousand prisoners, taken
several generals, fifteen flags, forty cannons; the enemy shall have
delivered to us eleven fortified places and all the territory of beautiful
Italy; they will soon defile shamefaced before our ranks; an armistice
will suspend the plague of war and bring back peace into our country,' -
he, I say, who would have said that, would have seemed to insult our
The battle was won finally by the French through the fortunate
arrival of Desaix with reenforcements and the imperturbable courage of the
commander-in-chief. Bonaparte's coolness was the marvel of those who
"At the moment when the dead and the dying covered the earth, the
Consul was constantly braving death. He gave his orders with his
accustomed coolness, and saw the storm approach without seeming to fear
it. Those who saw him, forgetting the danger that menaced them, said:
'What if he should be killed? Why does he not go back?' It is said that
General Berthier begged him to do so.
"Once General Berthier came to him to tell him that the army was
giving way and that the retreat had commenced. Bonaparte said to him:
'General, you do not tell me that with sufficient coolness'.' This
greatness of soul, this firmness, did not leave him in the greatest
dangers. When the Fifty-ninth Brigade reached the battle-field the action
was the hottest. The First Consul advanced toward them and cried: 'Come,
my brave soldiers, spread your banners; the moment has come to distinguish
yourselves. I count on your courage to avenge your comrades." At the
moment that he pronounced these words, five men were struck down near him.
He turned with a tranquil air towards the enemy, and said: 'Come, my
friends, charge them.'
"I had curiosity enough to listen attentively to his voice, to
examine his features. The most courageous man, the hero the most eager
for glory, might have been overcome in his situation without any one
blaming him. But he was not. In these frightful moments, when fortune
seemed to desert him, he was still the Bonaparte of Arcola and Aboukir."
When Desaix came up with his division, Bonaparte took an hour to
arrange for the final charge. During this time the Austrian artillery was
thundering upon the army, each volley carrying away whole lines. The men
received death without moving from their places, and the ranks closed over
the bodies of their comrades. This deadly artillery even reached the
cavalry, drawn up behind, as well as a large number of infantry who,
encouraged by Desaix's arrival, had hastened back to the field of honor.
In spite of the horror of this preparation Bonaparte did not falter. When
he was ready he led his army in an impetuous charge which overwhelmed the
Austrians completely, though it cost the French one of their bravest
generals, Desaix. It was a frightful struggle, but the perfection with
which the final attack was planned, won the battle of Marengo and drove
the Austrians from Italy.
The Parisians were dazzled by the campaign. Of the passage of the
Alps they said, "It is an achievement greater than Hannibal's;" and they
repeated how "the First Consul had pointed his finger at the frozen
summits, and they had bowed their heads." At the news of Marengo the
streets were lit with "joy fires," and from wall to wall rang the cries of
Vive la republique! Vive le premier consul! Vive l'armee!
The campaign against the Austrians was finished December 3, 1800, by
the battle of Hohenlinden, won by Moreau, and in February the treaty of
Luneville established peace. England was slower in coming to terms, it
not being until March, 1802, that she signed the treaty of Amiens.
At last France was at peace with all the world. She hailed Napoleon
as her savior, and ordered that the 18th Brumaire be celebrated throughout
the republic as a solemn fete in his honor.
The country saw in him something greater than a peacemaker. She was
discovering that he was to be her law giver, for, while ending the wars,
he had begun to bring order into the interior chaos which had so long
tormented the French people, to reestablish the finances, the laws, the
industries, to restore public works, to encourage the arts and sciences,
even to harmonize the interests of rich and poor, of church and state.