BIRTH AND FAMILY
Napoleon was born in Corsica. Corsica is an island in the Mediterranean between Italy and France. France conquered the island of Corsica in 1769. Napoleon was born in the same year  Napoleon said, “I was born when Corsica was dying”. His mother was Letizia, and his father was Carlo Buenoparte. They were an aristocratic family but they were poor. They had 8 children.
Napoleon loved and respected his mother. She was a strong-willed woman. Napoleon said, “she has the head of a man on the body of a woman”
Carlo visited Paris and admired its riches and beauty. He wanted his children to be rich and powerful French citizens. He found a military school for Napoleon.
In 1778, Napoleon set foot in France. He was a student at royal military college. He was nine years old. He looked thin and unhealthy. He also looked poor. But his schoolmates were rich. They were the children of the French nobility. Napoleon could hardly speak French, that is, his French wasn’t very good at the time. He didn’t have friends. (www.bebekce.gen.tr) He was a loner, that is, he preferred to be alone, and he didn’t want friends. He thought he was a Corsican, not French. He didn’t have holiday for five years, that is, he didn’t go home to see his family for five years.
When he was 15 years old, he went to the royal military academy in Paris. One teacher at the academy said, “Napoleon is proud, and ambitious” His school report said, “Napoleon can be a great man” When he was 16, he was a second lieutenant in an artillery unit. He was pessimistic about his military career because top military ranks were reserved for the nobility.
Napoleon wanted to be a great man but was pessimistic about his career as a soldier because the top military positions were reserved for the nobility. In other words, he could not be a general. Only French noblemen could be generals. However, the French Revolution changed this system. On 14 July 1789, Paris erupted like a volcano. Big angry crowds were on the streets, crying, “liberty, equality, brotherhood” French people rebelled against monarchy. They killed the king. The monarchy was abolished. The Republic was proclaimed. The nobility lost their privileges. This was good for Napoleon because now top military positions were available to everyone. So, he liked the revolution.
SIEGE OF TOULON
In 1794, Napoleon was an artillery captain. At that time, France was at war with most of Europe. Monarchy was the political regime in these countries. The kings didn’t like the French Revolution because they didn’t want to lose their crowns and heads. The French king Louis XVI, had lost first his crown, and then his head because of the Revolution. They didn’t want to lose theirs. So, they wanted to destroy the French Republic and the revolutionary ideas.
Toulon was a city on the southern coast of France. It rebelled against the Republic and opened its port to the British fleet. Napoleon was ordered to Toulon to take the city. He went to Toulon. He said, “if we take that hill, we can bombard the British fleet and take the city” This was Napoleon’s first test as a commander. It was also an opportunity because aristocratic generals had fled the country and there was a vacuum. Napoleon fought bravely and proved himself a good commander. Ten British ships were in flames. The British fled. Napoleon was victorious. He was promoted. He was made a brigadier general. He was 25 years old.
In 1795 Napoleon went to Paris. He wanted to rise higher.
He visited the salons of fashionable Parisian women because women were powerful in French society. In a letter to his brother Napoleon wrote, “Women here are the center of importance”
People didn’t care about him much because he was just another ambitious young soldier. In other words, there were many young soldiers at the time who wanted to rise. Josephine was one of the fashionable women in Paris society. She was a 33-year-old-widow with two children. Her first husband, a nobleman and general before the revolution, had been guillotined. She was an important woman in Paris society. She could help Napoleon rise. She was older than him. But, he fell in love with her. They got married.
In 1795 there was a rebellion in Paris. Angry crowds took to the streets. They wanted to restore monarchy. The government called Napoleon to crush the rebellion. He used great cannons against the people. 300 rebellions were killed and the rest fled. The rebellion was crushed. Napoleon was promoted to full general. He was only 26 years old.
In 1796, Napoleon was made the commander of the French army in Italy. This army was fighting the Austrian and Italian forces. It wasn’t a successful army. When Napoleon arrived, their morale was low. They didn’t have enough food. They didn’t have shoes. Napoleon encouraged them. He said, “Soldiers, you are naked and hungry. I will lead you to rich places. Rich provinces and great cities will be in your power.” He improved their morale.
The French army was outnumbered. 37.000 soldiers of the French army faced 52.0000 enemy soldiers. Napoleon made a plan. Napoleon’s plan was to isolate the Italians from the Austrians, and then fight them separately. First he fought the Italians. The battle began on April 2. (www.bebekce.gen.tr) In 2 weeks Napoleon’s army won 6 battles, and destroyed the Italian army. On April 26, the Italian army surrendered. Napoleon demanded gold and silver and paid his soldiers.
Napoleon never stopped thinking of his wife, Josephine. He wrote her letter after letter.
He met them at the bridge Lodi. On one side of the bridge were the Austrians. On the other were the French. Napoleon’s soldiers were enthusiastic. They risked death because Napoleon risked it, too. He was always beside his soldiers. So, his soldiers loved and admired him. After bitter fighting, the French crossed the bridge. The Austrians escaped. With this campaign, Napoleon won the respect and confidence of his soldiers.
END OF PART I