National Geographic : 1982 Feb
TIKE NO MAN since Caesar, SNapoleon held the reins of power over most of Europe for more than a decade. A leader of iron will and far-ranging intellect, he could recall campaign details and soldiers'recordsfor years. And he could muster the energy to work 20-hour days, dictating to four secretariesat once. Most of all, he seized opportunities.The French Revolution had imbued Frenchmenwith a new spirit of liberty, egalite, frateritd. They formed citizen armies to fight royalists within France and abroad,giving young .'onaparte the instrumenthe needed. After French troops ousted English and Spanish forces from Toulon, Napoleon was opmotetfrom artillery captain to brigadiergeneral. Thereafterhe was ready to \ challenge the regimes of I powerful neighbors-Austria, Prussia,and Russia. Victories in the first Italian campaign againstAustrian forces in 1796-97 gave Napoleon the conviction that he was "a superior being," and he undertook a grandiose expedition to Egypt, a conquest made untenable by a British naval blockade. His second campaigninto Italy against a resurgentAustrian army in 1800 assured his absolute control of France. Through his usual-and masterful-strategy and battlefield tactics, he shatteredyet anotherAustrian army at Austerlitz in 1805, the Prussiansat Jena in 1806, the Russians at Friedland in 1807. Never fully understanding naval warfare, however, he could not beat hated England, to him "a nationof shopkeepers." At the mouth of the Nile and at Trafalgar, Admiral Nelson's fleet retained British mastery of the sea. In retaliation,Napoleon declaredthe Continent off limits to British trade, but he could not enforce the blockade. Even Josdphine ignored it-to import English riding horses and fine muslins. A genius at war, Napoleon failed to negotiatea lasting peace; to him "every peace treaty means no more than a briefarmistice." Gradually Francegrew war weary. The emperor's judgment wavered. Brooking no rivals, he neglected to trainsubordinates * I II)9 i -*.'