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Account for the initial successes in land warfare of Napoleon as first consul and then Emperor and for his eventual defeat by the European great powers

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Account for the initial successes in land warfare of Napoleon as first consul and then Emperor and for his eventual defeat by the European great powers. Napoleon Bonaparte was an ambitious and clever man. His strengths were the ability to look at a map and picture the land, his marvelous memory, and his motivational speeches. Also he had the ability to improvise when a battle was not going according to plan. However his ambition drove him to discard the welfare of his troops and put his own ambition first. This caused his eventual defeat by the European great powers. On becoming first consul, Napoleon made lycées, which would strengthen his army in the future, as there would be more trained soldiers. In 1803 he sold all of the Louisiana territory for $15 million to the U.S. giving him money to finance his wars. On December 2 1805 Napoleon had his greatest success, the battle of Austerlitiz, in which he defeated the Allied Russian, Prussian and Austrian forces. ...read more.


His marvelous memory also helped him retain knowledge from the military books he read as a student and take these tactics and use them in battles such as the battle of Austerlitiz. His downfall started in November 1806 when he set up a blockade between Great Britain and other European nations, as he controlled most of Europe save Britain. Napoleon called this the Continental System. However the French navy could not enforce this and smuggling began. Even Napoleon?s own army had to smuggle to get uniform for the army. Angered by this Britain responded with its own blockade, which was much stronger. This limited many supplies for the French army. In 1808 Napoleon sent an invasion through Spain in an effort to get Portugal to accept the Continental System. The Spanish protested so Napoleon removed the Spanish king and put his own brother on the throne. This evoked Spanish Nationalism and caused bands of peasant fighters, guerrillas, to attack the French army by ambushing their camps at night. ...read more.


The remaining troops marched through the bitter winter, many dying from exhaustion, hunger, and cold. Finally in the middle of December 1812, the French army made it back to France, but only 10,000 remained, most of who could not fight again, due to frostbite. With limited troops Napoleon decided to raise another army. However this new army was ill trained and unprepared for battle. Taking advantage of his weakness, the European powers attacked and easily defeated Napoleon?s army. In April 1814 Napoleon accepted the terms of surrender and was banished to Elba, a tiny island off the Italian coast. Louis XVIII was put on the throne but was not popular. Hearing this Napoleon returned to France and became Emperor again. In response the European allies prepared for battle. Napoleon?s army was still not very experienced and was defeated once again by the British and Prussian forces. This time Napoleon was sent to St. Helena, a remote island in the South Atlantic. Napoleon was a military genius, however his ambition got the better of him. A French writer Alexis Tocqueville summed him up as ?He was as great a man can be without virtue.? ...read more.

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