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Provocative History - Napoleon #3 Plotting in Piedmont

    When we last left Napoleon, he had just finished murdering a bunch of rebels, and had expressed joy at this fact.

     Nevertheless, it seemed that Napoleon wasn't completely harmless. Soon after, he fell madly in love with one Josephine, called Rose. Hailing from a former French colony in the Caribbean, she had sailed to Paris when her husband had died.

     Rose was a woman of...questionable means. Napoleon, however, could not see anything wrong with the love of his life, and shortly thereafter proposed to her. Rose hesitated. She found him repugnant and ugly, pale and with a generally sick appearance.

     In the end, however, with 1796 drawing to a close, the two of them married. Each married for very different reasons: Napoleon, out of love, and Josephine because she needed money.

     It was not long after the marriage that Rose used her various political connection to secure Napoleon a position as the general of the French forces in Italy. The government and other officials don't expect much from Napoleon. They really just wanted to get Bonaparte out of Paris, and don't think that he, a man who has never commanded an army before, will get anything done.

     You see, at the time he was sent, the situation did not look good for the French. Austria and her subjects controlled the Alps and fertile valleys and hills of Northern Italy with an iron grasp, and the Pope managed his states in the South. France only controlled a small portion of Italy in the west, mainly the city of Nice and the surrounding area.

     Napoleon, however, is determined to prove his superiors wrong. From the moment he set foot in camp, everyone knew who was in charge. One officer commented at the time, "I don't know why, but the little man scares me." This shows another distinguished trait of this historical figure: authority. He could arrest anyone's attention with the most minute action.

     Regardless of how commanding he was, Napoleon knew how to convince and seem real to his men. He spoke to them thus: "Soldiers, you are naked and ill-fed. No fame shines before you. I will lead you into the most fertile plains in the world. Rich provinces and great cities will lie in your power; you will find there honor, glory, and riches."

     Besides speaking with such charisma, Bonaparte was a fantastic actor. Whatever emotion was necessary to convince his troops he performed it. He laughed and cried; felt joy at their triumphs and sadness at their mistakes. The French army loved him.

     With his army fully supportive of him, he now needed to make military miracles occur to back up his promises. Surrounded and outnumbered in Nice, Napoleon realized that the only way to defeat the enemy was if he could face them one at a time. Rapidly marching his troops, he quickly defeated the weak Piedmontese allies and then was able to turn around, face, and defeat the Austrians. Within two weeks, Bonaparte had won six battles and taken thousands of prisoners.

     This astonishing miracle had the Austrians tripping over themselves, trying to retreat to their homeland. Napoleon pursued them like a cunning fox, and upset the standard rules of warfare. The enemy had to fear ferocious opposition, and could never rest; for Napoleon attacked every day, regardless of time or weather.

     Finally, the Austrians managed to arrive at the strategic site of Lodi. Lodi sat in the middle of a river. Across this river stretched a bridge, the only way of passing over to the other side. The other side was guarded by the Austrian vanguard, and they placed cannons in such a way as to utterly destroy anyone who attempted to cross. They were sure that the French would not be so foolish as to attempt something so ridiculous.

     They underestimated the loyalty a man could command from his army. Hyped up by the genius of Napoleon and the unstoppable victories they had enjoyed, the French hurtled across the bridge with boundless enthusiasm. Bonaparte encouraged them, riding in his horse and fighting wherever he was needed.

     There were massive casualties. Napoleon and his men successfully captured the town of Lodi, but the Austrians had managed to retreat in the time it had taken for the French to win. Nevertheless, the French celebrated, and Bonaparte began to experience the first fruits of faith and inspiration from his soldiers. Wherever he walked in camp men cheered his name, and are convinced that Destiny has singled him out for great things. And maybe, just maybe, he thinks, that is true.

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