Another Napoleon

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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.