Napoleon And Wellington Essay

The careers of Napoleon Bonaparte and Arthur Wellesley, 1st duke of Wellington,
contrasted in many different ways. The manner in which both rose to glory was
quite dissimilar. Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Corsica on August 15, 1769 and
was thought to be the most formidable military commander since Alexander the
great. He was a bright, charismatic child of noble background. As a boy, he was
described as good ?willed and generous. At nine, through his father’s
influence, Napoleon went off to military school in Paris at the expense of King
Louis XVI. It was here that it was discovered that he had and amazing brain
capacity and was considered a genius, yet nobody could imagine his success and
all of the dead bodies he left in his wake for the sake of peace. Wellesley, on
the other hand, was born on May 1, 1769, in Dublin and was also of noble
background. As an adult, Wellesley would rise to rule the British empire, but as
a schoolboy his future looked grim and lacked the genius that Napoleon
possessed. His situation became so desperate that he was sent to military
school, where his metamorphosis was astonishing. He found that he enjoyed the
army and needed it to establish a career in life. He was given the title “1st
Duke of Wellington” due to his military successes. In school, Napoleon was
always the leader and could always win at games due to his strategies and his
impeccability at outwitting the other team. He was attracted to the military for
a number of reasons and he had secret weapons such as his extraordinary
intelligence. The military schools of Napoleon and Wellesley never engaged in
competition so they never met. Napoleon graduated military school in 1785, at
the age of 16, and joined the artillery as a second lieutenant. He studied
firepower and trained in the artillery, which would help Napoleon become a
genius in this field. Meanwhile, in 1787, Wellesley was commissioned to the
British army and, although he was extremely ambitious, his youth sometimes
showed. In 1790, Wellesley was elected to the Irish parliament and participated
in the unsuccessful campaign of 1794-95 against French forces in the
Netherlands. Upon returning to England in 1805, he was rewarded with knighthood.

After the Revolution began, Napoleon became a lieutenant colonel in the Corsican
National Guard but, in 1793, Corsica declared independence, and Bonaparte, a
French patriot and a Republican, fled to France with his family. He was
assigned, as a captain, to an army besieging Toulon, a naval base that, aided by
a British fleet, was in revolt against the republic. Replacing a wounded
artillery general, he drove the British fleet from the harbor, and Toulon fell.

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Napoleon was then promoted to brigadier general at the age of 24 and in 1796 he
married Josephine de Beauharnais, the widow of an aristocrat guillotined in the
Revolution and the mother of two children. Also in 1796, Bonaparte was made
commander of the French army in Italy and due to his victories, he became quite
well known and respected by the French. In the same year, Wellesley, now holding
the rank of colonel in the army, went to India, where he received his first
independent command. Wellesley’s brother was appointed governor-general of
India in 1797, and Arthur took part in several military campaigns and returned
to England in 1805. In 1798, Bonaparte led an expedition to Turkish-ruled Egypt,
which he conquered yet his fleet was destroyed. Undismayed, he reformed the
Egyptian government and law, abolishing serfdom and feudalism and guaranteeing
basic rights. In 1799, he won a smashing victory over the Turks but failed to
capture Syria. Napoleon then decided to leave his army and return to save
France, where he joined a conspiracy against the government. He and his
colleagues seized power in the coup d’etat of November 1799, and established a
new regime called the Consulate. Under its constitution, Bonaparte, as first
consul, had almost dictatorial powers. In 1802 the constitution was revised to
make Bonaparte consul for life and then in 1804 it made him emperor. He
reorganized the administration, simplified the court system, and all schools in
France were put under centralized control. He standardized French law in the
Napoleon Code and they guaranteed the rights and liberties won in the
Revolution, including equality before the law and freedom of religion. In 1806,
Napoleon conquered the kingdom of Naples and the Dutch republic and destroyed
the Prussian army. Napoleon made an ally of Czar Alexander I and greatly reduced
the size of Prussia and added many new states to his empire. In all his new
kingdoms, the Napoleon Code was established as law, feudalism and serfdom were
abolished, and freedom of religion was established. Wellesley was involved in
the struggle against Napoleon and he took part in military campaigns against
France. In 1809 Napoleon beat the Austrians (again) and abolished the Papal
States. He divorced Josephine because she hadn’t borne him an heir, and
married the Habsburg duchess Marie Louise, daughter of the Austrian emperor, who
gave birth to Napoleon’s son in 1811. In 1808, Wellesley was given command of
the British forces in Portugal and in the Peninsular War (1808-1814),
Wellesley’s troops won a series of victories. In 1812, Napoleon launched in
invasion of Russia that ended in a disastrous retreat from Moscow because half
of his troops were lost due to the severe winter and this was the first step to
Napoleon’s downfall. When Napoleon returned from Russia, his enemies awaited
him and Wellesley’s troops pushed Napoleon off the Iberian Peninsula. Even
though Wellesley was facing French troops in battle, he had never before come
face to face with Napoleon during this time. Napoleon had lost and Wellesley was
made 1st duke of Wellington. In April 1814, Napoleon’s marshals refused to
continue the struggle and Napoleon was exiled to the Mediterranean island of
Elba, and the monarch of the Bourbon family, Louis XVIII, returns to rule
France. Wellington had become the embodiment of the ideal knight after Napoleon
was conquered and was made British ambassador for France. Things went bad for
Louis XVIII after Napoleon’s banishment and Napoleon felt that if he could get
back to Paris he could exploit the situation. After 11 months of banishment,
Napoleon escaped from Elba and on March 1, 1815, he landed on the coast of
France and chose to take the long, hard route to Paris through the Alps.

Napoleon had doubts as to whether he could take over France once more but as he
marched through the Alps his doubts went away. The people of France welcomed him
back and men began to march with Napoleon through the Alps. Louis XVIII sent
troops to put a stop to Napoleon but Napoleon, unarmed, walked out in front of
the king’s army and addressed. Afterwards, one thousand men including a sea of
soldiers marched to Paris behind Napoleon and Louis XVIII fled the country. When
Napoleon arrived in Paris, jubilant crowds surrounded him. He has conquered the
entire country of France without a drop of blood spilled. Napoleon made
overtures to his neighbors, expressing his desires for peace, but they didn’t
want to hear of it. By June 1, three months after reclaiming the throne,
Napoleon had a standing army in place and complete control. On March 17 many
European countries each agreed to contribute troops for an invasion to be
assembled in Belgium near the French border and Wellington was put in command of
the British troops. Napoleon learned of this invasion, which was to be launched
on July 1, 1815, and he quickly determined to attack the allies on their own
ground before their army could take shape. On June 16, he defeated most of the
Prussian troops led by Prussian field marshal Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher. On
June 17, Napoleon went in pursuit of Wellington’s army but the day of the big
battle was forced to the 18th because of muddy roads and the rain. During the
stormy night of the seventeenth, Wellington had received assurances from Blucher
that strong reinforcements from his army would arrive during the day. Wellington
then decided to resist Napoleon until Blucher’s forces would arrive, but the
muddy roads made it difficult to travel so the battle started before the arrival
of the Prussian troops. After a night of rain, the British and French troops met
at Waterloo and it was one of the greatest ironies of life that Wellington was
already acquainted with the land and knew its attributes. To the French, who
didn’t thoroughly examine the battlefield, it looked flat, but Wellington knew
that it actually consisted of a series of rolling hills and wasn’t, in
actuality, flat at all. On June 18, 1815, after 46 years, the two military
geniuses came face to face. Napoleon was confident that he would win and it
never crossed his mind that Wellington had never lost a major campaign. Because
the ground was saturated with water, the French artillery wouldn’t work well
so Napoleon decided to wait for the ground to dry while the two armies faced
each other. At 11:25 a.m., Napoleon ordered his artillery to open fire, yet
Wellington was ready for it and ordered half his army to hide under the rolling
hills of Waterloo. The French armies then crossed British lines to “divide and
conquer” but the British cavalry charged through them and Wellington was
prepared for this. Napoleon then received word that the Prussians were coming to
aid the English. He figured that if he were able to defeat the British, he could
defeat the Prussians in the same day but Napoleon knew he wouldn’t be able to
defeat both armies simultaneously and was becoming anxious. Napoleon ordered a
massive cavalry charge against the British with no artillery, yet it was a
mistake. Wellington carefully formed his troops into a porcupine attach and shot
at the French. The battlefield was now a mass of dead bodies. Wellington had so
far been able to block all of the French maneuvers and for the first time,
Napoleon was indecisive about what he was going to do on the battlefield. The
British then lost control of a farmhouse that was on the battlegrounds, which
was Napoleon’s smartest move and the British were now in trouble. Napoleon was
faced with a decision and didn’t allow the Imperial guard to attack at first.

Later, with the expected arrival of the Prussians at any time, Napoleon led the
Imperial Guard himself. The future of the French was on the line with this
decision but the British remained where they were. The French Imperial Guard
attacked in columns and as long as they remained in columns, Wellington felt
they still had a chance at defeating the French. The British troops fired and
attacked the Imperial Guard. The Imperial Guard retreated for the first time in
history and the French army was disintegrating. The British cavalry then
attacked, the Prussians arrived and Napoleon fled to Paris with the Imperial
Guard. Napoleon was exiled for the second and last time. He was sent to the
island of St. Helena, where he spent the remainder of his life. Wellington
remained in France for the next three years as head of the allied army of
occupation and returned to become prime minister of England.


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