Hoffman, William Henry, 1867-1916

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Napoleon Bonparte was born in Ajaccio, Corsica, on August 15,1769, the second of Carlo (Charles) and Letizia Bonaparte's eight children. In 1778, Napoleon began his education at Autun and later attended school in Brienne, excelling in mathematics and science. Following a year's study at the Ecole Militaire in Paris, he was commissioned in the artillery in 1785. The year 1789 saw the outbreak of the French revolution, which created an atmosphere of opportunity that would not have existed under the Bourbons, and Napoleon was to make the most of it.

The first opportunity came in 1793, when Napoleon was promoted to brigadier general for the decisive part he played in the siege of Toulon, which ousted the British from mainland France. After Maximilien de Robespierre's fall from power in 1794, Napoleon fell out of favor and was imprisoned. After his release he ended up saving the new government from an insurgent mob with artillery fire. A grateful government later appointed Napoleon to command of the Army of Italy. Before his departure, Napoleon married Josephine de Beauharnais on March 9, 1796.

Campaigning in Italy in 1796 and 1797, he inspired the impoverished army with the promise of "honor, glory, and riches," and enjoyed a succession of victories, which resulted in Austria signing the Peace of Campo Formio. His display of bravery, intelligence, and leadership proved an inspiration to the common soldier and formed an enduring bond. Returning to France, he was given charge of an expedition to Egypt, control of which would threaten English possessions in India. Victory in Egypt gave France control of Cairo, but the destruction of the French squadron anchored in Abu Qir Bay by British Admiral Horatio Nelson's fleet stranded Napoleon. After some unsuccessful campaigning in Syria, he departed by ship with a small group of friends and sailed to France, abandoning his Army.

In 1799 public sentiment had swung against the government. Following a coup d'etat by Napoleon and Emmanuel Sieyès, Napoleon became the defacto ruler of France. The country was still at war however, and after a dramatic crossing of the Alps, Napoleon defeated the Austrians at the battle of Marengo on June 14, 1800. This victory solidified his reputation of invincibility, and combined with other successes, led to a general European peace.

After a decade of war, a grateful France made Napoleon Consul for Life and effective sovereign of the nation. Napoleon proved to be an equally skilled statesman and remodelled the country's economy and administration. He signed a Concordat with the Pope in 1801 that restored religion to France, but his greatest achievement was the Code Napoléon, or civil code, which in part is still used today. His growing popularity resulted in his being proclaimed Emperor in 1804. At the coronation, Napoleon crowned himself, taking the crown from the Pope in a symbolic manner to show that power stemmed from the state and not the church as with previous monarchs.

It was an uneasy peace however, and plans were made to invade Britain by crossing the English Channel, but these were abandoned when Napoleon marched his highly trained Grand Armée into central Europe to meet the converging forces of Austria and Russia. Capturing a large part of the Austrian army at Ulm, Napoleon crossed the Danube to face the remaining Austrians and the Russians at Austerlitz. The result was a decisive victory on December 2, 1805. Austria sued for peace, but a new coalition was formed of Britain, Russia and Prussia. Napoleon defeated the Prussians at Jena in 1806, and the Russians at Friedland in 1807.

Following these victories, Napoleon was at the pinnacle of his career. With a great display of pomp he met the Russian Emperor Alexander I at Tilsit and a new Franco/Russian alliance was born. Portions of Prussia were divided into new states, and Napoleon later announced a new policy of economic warfare, the Continental System. Its goal was to destroy Britain's economic dominance by closing all continental ports to British trade. In pursuit of this policy, Napoleon sent troops to conquer Britain's ally Portugal and close the port of Lisbon. Following that success, he used those same troops to bully the Spanish King into abdicating in favor of his brother Joseph. The Spanish revolted and Britain landed an army in Portugal to support them. Napoleon marched the Grand Armée to the Peninsula, defeated the Spaniards and drove the British to the coast.

In 1809, another coalition was formed between Britain and Austria, forcing Napoleon to return and wage a campaign in Germany before Spain was pacified. Successful battles resulted in the French occupation of Vienna, but Napoleon suffered his first clear defeat against an Austrian army led by Archduke Charles in an attempt to cross the Danube. A later crossing led to victory at Wagram on July 5-6, 1809, and the signing of the Treaty of Schonbrunn.

Napoleon, still legally childless and desiring an heir for his growing empire, reluctantly divorced Josephine and arranged a marriage with the daughter of the Austrian Emperor, Marie Louise. She soon bore him a son, Napoleon II, in March 1811.

Most of Europe was then an ally or under the direct control of France, but Spain and Portugal remained openly contested and large portions of the French army became embroiled in a long war. Relations with Russia also deteriorated when the Alexander I broke with the Continental System and in 1812 Napoleon invaded with a multinational army of 600,000 men. The battle of Borodino resulted in Napoleon's occupation of Moscow, but he was unable to bring Alexander I to terms, and was soon forced to retreat. The ’scorched earth’ policy employed by the Russians combined with extreme weather caused the Grand Armée to disintegrate and the campaign ended in disaster. The defeat in Russia prompted Prussia, Sweden, and Austria to declare war on France. Napoleon raised another army but was decisively defeated at the Battle of Leipzig, or Battle of Nations, on October 16-19, 1813. Napoleon fought a last brilliant campaign in France to defend Paris, but in April 1814 abdicated and went into exile on the island of Elba. The Bourbon king was restored to the French throne.

While the Allies debated a realignment of the map of Europe in Vienna, Napoleon planned his return, and in March 1815, he landed in France and regained his throne in a bloodless coup. Rather than await another invasion, Napoleon surprised Allied forces in Belgium. After initial success, Napoleon fought an Anglo/Allied army led by the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo, and was decisively defeated on June 18, 1815. Napoleon was exiled to the island of St. Helena situated in the South Atlantic Ocean, where he resided until his death on May 5, 1821. His remains were removed from St. Helena in 1840 and his body now rests at les Invalides in Paris.

Sources: The Napoleon Series and Encyclopaedia Britannica

From the guide to the William Henry Hoffman Collection on Napoleon I, Napoleon I, William Henry Hoffman Collection on, (bulk 1789-1821), 1585-1913, (John Hay Library Special Collections)

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associatedWith Robespierre, Maximilien Marie Isidore person
associatedWith Rocca, Albert Jean Michel person
associatedWith Rochambeau, Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur person
associatedWith Rochefontaine, Étienne person
associatedWith Rochefoucauld-Liancourt, François Alexandre Frédéric de la person
associatedWith Roger, B. person
associatedWith Roland, Madame person
associatedWith Rome, King of person
associatedWith Ropes, John Codman person
associatedWith Roseberry, Archibald Philip Primrose, 5th earl of person
associatedWith Rose, John Holland person
associatedWith Rosetti, Dante Gabriel person
associatedWith Rousil, Monsieur person
associatedWith Rovigo, Anne Jean Marie René Savary, duc de person
associatedWith Rovigo, Duc de Anne Jean Marie René Savary person
associatedWith Roy? -Collow, Monsieur person
associatedWith Rugendas, L. person
associatedWith Runciman, Sir Walter person
associatedWith Ruotte person
associatedWith Sahn?, Citoyen person
associatedWith Salvage, Madame person
associatedWith Sarrazin, Jean person
associatedWith Sarrazin, Jean, general person
associatedWith Sautereau, Jean person
associatedWith Savary, Anne Jean Marie René person
associatedWith Say, Jean Baptiste person
associatedWith Schérer, Barthélemy Louis Joseph person
associatedWith Schomberg, Henri person
associatedWith Scott, Sir Walter person
associatedWith Sebastiani, Horace Françcois Bastien person
associatedWith Seeley, Sir John Robert person
associatedWith Ségur, Louis Philippe person
associatedWith Ségur, Philippe Paul, comte de person
associatedWith Sérurier, Jean-Mathieu-Philibert, comte de, 1742-1819 person
associatedWith Siborne, William, captain person
associatedWith Sieyès, Emmanuel Joseph person
associatedWith Simeon, S. L. person
associatedWith Skinner, Madame person
associatedWith Sloane, William Milligan person
associatedWith Smith, Huntington person
associatedWith Son Excellence Monseigneur Ministre des Finances person
associatedWith Soulange-Bodin, Monsieur person
associatedWith Soult, Nicolas Jean de Dieu person
associatedWith Soult, Nicolas-Jean de Dieu, 1769-1851 person
associatedWith Spaen ?, Baron de person
associatedWith Staël, Madame de person
associatedWith Stawell, Mrs. Rudolph person
associatedWith Stewarton person
associatedWith Stiegler, Gaston person
associatedWith Stoëlting, Baron person
associatedWith Stokoe, E. S. person
associatedWith Stuart, Christine Alexandrine Egypta person
associatedWith Suchet, Louis-Gabriel, duc d'Albufera, 1770-1826 person
associatedWith Sutherland, T. person
associatedWith Swift, Jonathan person
associatedWith Syntax, Doctor person
associatedWith Talleyrand-Périgord, Archambault Joseph person
associatedWith Talleyrand-Périgord, Charles Maurice person
associatedWith Talleyrand-Périgord, Charles Maurice de, prince de Bénévent, 1754-1838 person
associatedWith Talleyrand, Prince person
associatedWith Talma, François Joseph person
associatedWith Tardieu person
associatedWith Tazet person
associatedWith Teixeira de Mattos, Alexander person
associatedWith Tennyson, Alfred Tennyson, first baron person
associatedWith Thiebault, Paul Charles François Adrien Henri Dieudonné person
associatedWith Thiebaut person
associatedWith Thuriot person
associatedWith Tolstoi, Lev Nikolaevich, count person
associatedWith Toussaint Louverture person
associatedWith Toussaint Louverture, 1743? -1803 person
associatedWith Turgis person
associatedWith Turquan, Joseph person
associatedWith Ussher, Sir Thomas person
associatedWith Vachée, Jean Baptiste Modeste Eugène, colonel person
associatedWith Valmy, François-Christophe-Edouard de Kellermann, duc de, 1802-1868 person
associatedWith Vandamme, Dominique René person
associatedWith Vendamme, Dominique René person
associatedWith Vernet, Horace person
associatedWith Vernet, Madame Horace person
associatedWith Vernetti, Capitaine person
associatedWith Vice Grand Electeur person
associatedWith Victor Perrin, Claude person
associatedWith Vieusseux, André person
associatedWith Villain person
associatedWith Wagner, Monsieur person
associatedWith Wagstaff, E. C. person
associatedWith Walewska, Madame person
associatedWith Walker, Benjamin person
associatedWith Warner, Mrs. person
associatedWith Wellington, Arthur Wellesley person
associatedWith Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, Duke of, 1769-1852 person
associatedWith Wellington, Duke of person
associatedWith Westermann, François Joseph person
associatedWith Wexelberg person
associatedWith Wheeler, Harold Felix Baker person
associatedWith William I, Emperor of Germany person
associatedWith Wilson, Sir Arthur person
associatedWith Woodward person
correspondedWith Yonge, C. M. person
associatedWith Yorck von Wartenburg, Hans Ludwig David Maximilian, count von person
associatedWith Zaehnsdorf, Joseph William person
associatedWith Zignani person
associatedWith Zuliani, Felice person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1867

Death 1916

Related Descriptions
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Permalink: http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w6cq1tb8

Ark ID: w6cq1tb8

SNAC ID: 62353008