As I said in my last Historic Travels post, the French Revolution did not follow the model set by the American Revolution. When the America Revolution ended the new government formed with no blood shed. Not a small feat when comparing most revolutions. The French Revolution is on the other side of the spectrum. In 1789 after the king, queen, and most of the nobility were beheaded, the French people set up a new democratic government. However, running a nation, let alone a revolution, is not easy and soon the revolution turned on itself in what became known as the Reign of Terror. The revolution turned into chaos until finally a young military officer named Napoleon Bonaparte led a coup de ta and established himself an emperor. Sure, democracy was gone, but so was the chaos. Napoleon then led the French against the rest of Europe who were still upset with France killing their king and queen who were related to the rest of the royalty around Europe. Napoleon’s reign was the watershed moment in the nation’s military history as he got close to conquering most of Europe. Today I would argue that Napoleon is Frances’ greatest general and probably its most famous/important figure next to only a Louis XIV.
While in Paris, I was able to see several important buildings connected to Napoleon. The first picture is of the Military Academy of Paris where Napoleon trained for his military service. The next are of Napoleon’s greatest architectural feat, the Arc de Triomphe. Not completed until after his death, it marks the western edge of the Champs-Élysées and today is not only for parades but the end of the Tour de France. It is an impressive structure. Then the chapel of the Invalides is where Napoleon was eventually brought back for permanent burial. It is a grand church and dominates the region. Finally, even though he never lived in Versailles, there is one room which has a copy of the Coronation of Napoleon.
Napoleon is important to American history for a couple reasons. First, he sold the U.S. the Louisiana Purchase. Second, his wars with England partially led the U.S. to declare war against England a second time with the War of 1812. Finally, he was considered the greatest general of his age and it was his tactics studies by American generals at West Point who fought in the Civil War. Unfortunately, by the time of the Civil War the weapons technology had improved so much that using Napoleonic tactics with new rifles that shot longer and more accurate led the largest American loss of any war.