This research paper summarizes the military career of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) and assesses his strengths and shortcomings as a military leader. Napoleon was an authentic military genius the lustre of whose accomplishments during the years (1796-1811) when his Grande Armee triumphed over all its opponents in Continental Europe was somewhat dimmed by his subsequent reverses in Russia and elsewhere during 1812-1815.
Napoleon possessed in abundance the skills of a great military strategist, tactician and commander --including sound professional training, wide-ranging but acute intelligence, extraordinary memory, strength of will and purpose, courage and boldness in taking risks, boundless energy, ruthless ambition and charismatic leadership abilities. As a strategist, he planned and organized his campaigns in order to win decisive victories. Napoleon was master of the battlefield and provided inspired leadership to France's revolutionary forces.
In his later years (1812-1815), Napoleon fought wars which often exceeded French military capabilities and made decisions which reflected his overweening imperial ambitions. His military prowess, while still formidable, declined as his own control over his key subordinates and operations waned.
Early Background, Successes and Rise to Power
The son of petty Corsican aristocrats, Napoleon attended military school from ages 9 to 16 in Brienne and as an artillery cadet at the Ecole Militaire in Paris. He served as an artillery officer for most of the next seven years (1785-1792). During this period, Marshall-Cornwall said he learned "the latest tactical and technical developments" pertaining to artillery and acquired "an unusually comprehensive wealth of professional knowledge" (23). Napoleon emerged as a national hero in late 1793 after he organized and directed the cannonade which drove a British fleet out of Toulon harbor.
Napoleon early embraced the ideals of the French Rev...