Another Napoleon

Most historians portray Napoleon\'s return to France as an
example of his disregard for hundreds of thousands of lives
in order to satisfy his outsized ambition. We at Napoleon on
the Net, however, view the \'Hundred Days\' as an example
of the Emperor\'s superior charisma and the love for him that
it inspired. The support of the common people of France
was the basis of Napoleonic rule. The generals and the
politicians did not rush to support Napoleon\'s new
adventure, but, as we will show, the front-line soldiers and
the common people were determined to uphold the basic
principle the Revolution: that it is the people\'s right to decide
the form of their government. Vincent Cronin, in his
acclaimed biography of Napoleon, entitled Napoleon
Bonaparte: An Intimate Biography (William Morrow &
Company, 1972, pp. 391-392), describes Napoleon\'s first
major confrontation with French troops sent by the Bourbon
regime to kill or capture him. "Napoleon had 1,100 men
against about 700. But he did not want bloodshed. The
abhorrence of civil war he had felt twenty years before in
Provence remained as strong as ever and, on landing, he had
given Cambronne strict orders that not a shot was to be
fired. What he did now ws to order his hundred Polish
lancers to advance slowly. At this Delessart withdrew his
men, in good order, to new positions. The Polish lancers
were told to wheel and come back. Napoleon then had the
tricolour unfolded and told the Guards\' band to play the
Marseillaise, which he had described in Elba as \'the greatest
general of the Revolution\'. Forbidden since the return of the
Bourbons, the stirring tune had the effect, said one observor,
of \'electrifying\' the Grenoble soldiers. Napoleon started
riding towards the men of the 5th. At pistol-shot range he
dismounted and walked towards the 700 loaded muskets.
He was wearing his grey campaigning overcoat, familiar to
every Frenchman. Captain Randon, twenty years old, of
Grenoble, called to his men, \'There he is! Fire!\' After taking
a few steps, Napoleon stopped and drew apart the lapels of
his overcoat, exposing his white waistcoat. \'If you want to
kill your Emperor,\' he called in loud voice, \'here I am!\' Back
came a tremendous shout of \'Long live the Emperor!\' The
men of the 5th, waving their shakos on bayonets, rushed
cheering towards him. \'Just see if we want to kill you,\'
shouted one soldier, rattling his ramrod up and down the
barrel of his empty musket. In a matter of minutes the
soldiers had whipped from their haversacks the old tricolour
ribbons they had been obliged to remove eleven months
before and stuck them into their hats, while on the grass fell a
litter of white cockades. As the line soldiers fraternized with
the Guard, Napoleon expressed his sense of relief in a short
speech. \'The Bourbons,\' he added, \'have no legal right to
their throne, because it wasn\'t given them (sic) by the nation
as a whole...\'" News of the army\'s defection at Grenoble
inspired the rest of the French army to abandon the royalist
cause and to return to their fallen Emperor\'s embrace.
Needless to say, Louis XVIII and his entourage fled the
country.

Category: History