•Napoleon Bonaparte•

Napoleon Bonaparte was born on August 15, 1769, to Carlo and Letizia Buonaparte at Ajaccio, Corsica. Napoleon’s family was Italian, but he later dropped the “u” in his name to make it appear more French. Napoleon was the second of eight children that reached adulthood. As a child, Napoleon was small and puny. His oversized head often threw him off balance and he had a terrible temper.

At the age of 10, Napoleon was accepted at the military academy of Brienne, in northern France. All the students at this school belonged to aristocratic families, and Napoleon was the son of a petty noble in Corsica. He tried very hard to learn the French language, but never learned to spell. His handwriting was so atrocious that he himself could not read it. Since he had no friends he worked very hard studying and was accepted at the Ecole Militaire in Paris.

It was at the Ecole Militaire that Napoleon really came up against snobbery. His fellow students mocked his Corsican accent and his unfashionable clothes. Napoleon read all the time and was outstanding in history, mathematics, and science. He was planning on joining the navy. But in 1785, examinations for the navy were canceled. Since Napoleon was about to graduate, he decided to join the artillery. At age 16 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant, ranking 42nd out of 58 students.

After completing school, Napoleon was sent to a regiment in Valence. He stayed for six months then took a leave of absence to help his family. After 22 months he returned, and impressed the commanding officers with his brilliant, detailed plans. It was during this time that the French Revolution was starting. Napoleon was overjoyed to hear of the abolition of laws that kept petty nobles confined to the ranks. This meant he could rise as high as he wanted in the French army.



Napoleon took another series of leaves and joined the Corsican revolutionary movement. He did not return to the French army in time and was charged with desertion. Napoleon pleaded his case with the minister of war and was let off without punishment and made a captain. Once again he returned to Corsica and fought with the Corsicans again. When Corsica plunged into civil war in April 1793 Napoleon went to France with his family. During his seven and a half years in the French service he had only been on duty for 30 months.


When the king was beheaded in January 1793, his followers were horrified. In Toulon, royalist supporters called in the British to help them fight the revolutionary government. When Napoleon was on his way to Italy he stopped in Toulon to see a friend. The officer in charge of the French artillery had been wounded and Napoleon was offered the command. He took over the situation and modified the attack. He pushed the British out of their strongest position and was promoted to major. By the end of this siege he had gone from captain to general.

After Napoleon’s success in Toulon he was assigned to France’s Army of Italy as inspector of the coast. He met a girl named Desiree Clary and the two became engaged. Her parents did not approve of the marriage, but the two remained engaged in case they changed their minds. When Napoleon travelled to Nice he came under the attention of Maximilien Robespierre. Robespierre was in charge of executing any suspected enemies of the revolution. He considered Napoleon a true patriot for his actions in Toulon. When Napoleon was dispatched to Genoa he thought his troubles were over. He soon found out that his friend Robespierre had been guillotined. Napoleon was thrown in prison for being friends with Robespierre and almost executed.

Napoleon travelled to Paris to express is disgust in his new assignment, the Vendee. He then told the minister of war about his plan to use the French Army of Italy against Austria. The committee thought he was brilliant and assigned him to work on maps. It was during this period that Napoleon met Josephine, his soon to be wife. Napoleon forgot about Desiree and fell for Josephine.

On October 5, 1795 a revolt broke out in Paris, protesting the implementing of the new constitution introduced by the National Convention.