Bonaparte was given command of the improvised forces defending the Convention in the Tuileries Palace. He seized artillery pieces with the aid of a young cavalry officer, Joachim Murat, who later became his brother-in-law. He utilized the artillery the following day to repel the attackers. He later boasted that he had cleared the streets with a "whiff of grapeshot" musket balls fired in cloth bags from the cannon, a devastating anti-personnel munitions , although the fighting had been vicious throughout Paris.
Within weeks he was romantically attached to Barras's former mistress, Josephine de Beauharnais, whom he married on March 9, Days after his marriage, Bonaparte took command of the French "Army of Italy," leading it on a successful invasion of Italy. At the Lodi, he gained the nickname of "The Little Corporal" le petit caporal , a term reflecting his camaraderie with his soldiers, many of whom he knew by name. He drove the Austrians out of Lombardy and defeated the army of the Papal States.
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Bonaparte ignored the Directory's order to march on Rome and dethrone the Pope. The pope died of illness while in captivity. In early , Bonaparte led his army into Austria and forced that power to sue for peace. Bonaparte then marched on Venice and forced its surrender, ending over one thousand years of independence.
Later in , Bonaparte organized many of the French dominated territories in Italy into the Cisalpine Republic. His remarkable series of military triumphs were a result of his ability to apply his encyclopedic knowledge of conventional military thought to real-world situations, as demonstrated by his creative use of artillery tactics, using it as a mobile force to support his infantry. As he described it: "I have fought sixty battles and I have learned nothing which I did not know at the beginning. He was also a master of both intelligence and deception and had an uncanny sense of when to strike.
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He often won battles by concentrating his forces on an unsuspecting enemy by using spies to gather information about opposing forces and by concealing his own troop deployments. In this campaign, often considered his greatest, Napoleon's army captured , prisoners, two thousand cannons, and standards. A year of campaigning had witnessed major breaks with the traditional norms of eighteenth-century warfare and marked a new era in military history.
While campaigning in Italy, General Bonaparte became increasingly influential in French politics. He published two newspapers, ostensibly for the troops in his army, but widely circulated within France as well. In May he founded a third newspaper, published in Paris, entitled Le Journal de Bonaparte et des hommes vertueux.
Elections in mid gave the royalist party increased power, alarming Barras and his allies on the Directory. The royalists, in turn, began attacking Bonaparte for looting Italy and overstepping his authority in dealings with the Austrians. This left Barras and his Republican allies in firm control again, but dependent on Bonaparte's military command to stay there.
Bonaparte himself proceeded to the peace negotiations with Austria, and then returned to Paris in December as the conquering hero and the dominant force in government, far more popular than any of the Directors. In March , Bonaparte proposed a military expedition to seize Egypt , then a province of the Ottoman Empire , seeking to protect French trade interests and undermine Britain's access to India , although the real reason for this invasion remains under debate.
The Directory, although troubled by the scope and cost of the enterprise, readily agreed to the plan in order to remove the popular general from the center of power. An unusual aspect of the Egyptian expedition was the inclusion of a large group of scientists assigned to the invading French force: among the other discoveries that resulted, the Rosetta Stone was found. Some consider this deployment of intellectual resources an indication of Bonaparte's devotion to the principles of the Enlightenment , and by others as a masterstroke of propaganda obfuscating the true imperialist motives of the invasion.
In a largely unsuccessful effort to gain the support of the Egyptian populace, Bonaparte also issued proclamations casting himself as a liberator of the people from Ottoman oppression, and praising the precepts of Islam. Bonaparte's expedition seized Malta from the Knights of Saint John on June 9 and then landed successfully at Alexandria on July 1, eluding temporarily pursuit by the British Royal Navy. After landing on the coast of Egypt, the first battle to take place was against the Mamluks , an old power in the Middle East, approximately four miles from the pyramids. Bonaparte's forces were greatly outnumbered by the advanced cavalry, about 25, to ,, but Bonaparte came out on top, mainly due to his strategy.
In all, only three hundred French were killed, while approximately six thousand native Egyptians were killed. While the battle on land was a resounding victory for the French, the British navy managed to compensate at sea. The ships that had dropped off Bonaparte and his army had sailed back to France, but a fleet of battleships that had come with them stayed and supported the army along the coast. On August 1, The British fleet found these battleships anchored in a strong defensive position in the bay of Abukir.
The French believed that they were open to attack only on one side, the other side being protected by the shore. However, the arriving British fleet under Horatio Nelson managed to slip half of their ships in between the land and the French line, thus attacking from both sides. All but two of the French vessels were captured or destroyed.
The Guillaume Tell was caught not much later in the course of the British conquest of Malta.
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Many blame the French loss in this Battle of the Nile on the French admiral Francois-Paul Brueys, who came up with the failed defensive strategy. However, the French ships were also undermanned, the officers were demoralized, and Nelson's attack was a surprise. In all, about British and 1, French were killed. Bonaparte became land-bound. His goal of strengthening the French position in the Mediterranean Sea was thus frustrated, but his army nonetheless succeeded in consolidating power in Egypt, although it faced repeated nationalist uprisings.
In early he led the army into the Ottoman province of Syria , now modern Israel , and defeated numerically superior Ottoman forces in several battles, but his army was weakened by disease and poor supplies. He was unable to reduce the fortress of Acre, and was forced to return to Egypt in May. In order to speed up the retreat, Bonaparte took the controversial step of killing prisoners and plague-stricken men along the way.
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His supporters have argued that this decision was necessary given the continuing harassment of stragglers by Ottoman forces. This partially redressed his reputation from the naval defeat there a year earlier. It has been suggested that Sir Sidney Smith and other British commanders in the Mediterranean helped Bonaparte evade the British blockade, thinking that he might act as a Royalist element back in France, but there's no solid evidence in support of this argument.
The remaining troops, angry at Bonaparte and the French government for having left them behind, were supposed to be honorably evacuated under the terms of a treaty Kleber had negotiated with Smith in early However, British Admiral Keith reneged on this treaty and sent an amphibious assault force of 30, Mamelukes against Kleber. The Mamelukes were defeated at the battle of Heliopolis in March , and Kleber then suppressed an insurrection in Cairo. But Kleber was assassinated in June by a Syrian student, and command of the French army went to general Menou.
Menou held command until August , when, under continual harassment by British and Ottoman forces, and after the loss of 13, men mostly to disease , he eventually capitulated to the British. Under the terms of his surrender, the French army was repatriated in British ships, along with a priceless hoard of Egyptian antiquities. While in Egypt, Bonaparte tried to keep a close eye on European affairs, relying largely on newspapers and dispatches that arrived only irregularly.
On August 23, , he abruptly set sail for France, taking advantage of the temporary departure of British ships blockading French coastal ports. Although he was later accused by political opponents of abandoning his troops, his departure actually had been ordered by the Directory, which had suffered a series of military defeats to the forces of the Second Coalition, and feared an invasion.
By the time he returned to Paris in October, the military situation had improved due to several French victories. The Republic was bankrupt, however, and the corrupt and inefficient Directory was more unpopular with the French public than ever. This made him the most powerful person in France, a power that was increased by the Constitution of the Year X, which made him first consul for life. His set of civil laws, the Napoleonic Code or Civil Code, has importance to this day in many countries.
Other codes were commissioned by Bonaparte to codify criminal and commerce law. In a Code of Criminal Instruction was published, which enacted precise rules of judicial procedure. Although contemporary standards may consider these procedures as favoring the prosecution, when enacted they sought to preserve personal freedoms and to remedy the prosecutorial abuses commonplace in European courts. Napoleon negotiated the Concordat of with the papacy, seeking to reconcile the mostly Catholic population with his regime. The French Revolution had established a secular regime, replaced the Gregorian calendar, and embarked on a policy of de-Christianization.
Fifty anti-government bishops were in exile in England, and what was left of the church in France was alienated or hostile—yet most common citizens were believers. Napoleon believed that religion was necessary for social order and sought to strike a deal to the papacy that would bring the bishops in line. He saw restoration of the church as politically expedient, he said he was a Muslim when he ruled Egypt, and proclaimed himself a Catholic in France.