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The Life of Napoleon I (Volume 1 of 2) by Rose

And replaced him by Buonaparte


He

had seen and pondered over the plan of campaign which Buonaparte had designed for the Army of Italy; and the vigour of the conception, the masterly appreciation of topographical details which it displayed, and the trenchant energy of its style had struck conviction to his strategic genius. Buonaparte owed his command, not to a backstairs intrigue, as was currently believed in the army, but rather to his own commanding powers. While serving with the Army of Italy in 1794, he had carefully studied the coast-line and the passes leading inland; and, according to the well-known savant, Volney, the young officer, shortly after his release from imprisonment, sketched out to him and to a Commissioner of the Convention the details of the very plan of campaign which was to carry him victoriously from the Genoese Riviera into the heart of Austria.[35] While describing this masterpiece of strategy, says Volney, Buonaparte spoke as if inspired. We can fancy the wasted form dilating with a sense of power, the thin sallow cheeks aglow with enthusiasm, the hawk-like eyes flashing at the sight of the helpless Imperial quarry, as he pointed out on the map of Piedmont and Lombardy the features which would favour a dashing invader and carry him to the very gates of Vienna. The splendours of the Imperial Court at the Tuileries seem tawdry and insipid when compared with the intellectual grandeur which lit up that humble lodging at Nice with the first rays that heralded the dawn of Italian liberation.

style="text-align: justify;">With the fuller knowledge which he had recently acquired, he now in January, 1796, elaborated this plan of campaign, so that it at once gained Carnot's admiration. The Directors forwarded it to General Scherer, who was in command of the Army of Italy, but promptly received the "brutal" reply that the man who had drafted the plan ought to come and carry it out. Long dissatisfied with Scherer's inactivity and constant complaints, the Directory now took him at his word, and replaced him by Buonaparte. Such is the truth about Buonaparte's appointment to the Army of Italy.

To Nice, then, the young general set out (March 21st) accompanied, or speedily followed, by his faithful friends, Marmont and Junot, as well as by other officers of whose energy he was assured, Berthier, Murat, and Duroc. How much had happened since the early summer of 1795, when he had barely the means to pay his way to Paris! A sure instinct had drawn him to that hot-bed of intrigues. He had played a desperate game, risking his commission in order that he might keep in close touch with the central authority. His reward for this almost superhuman confidence in his own powers was correspondingly great; and now, though he knew nothing of the handling of cavalry and infantry save from books, he determined to lead the Army of Italy to a series of conquests that would rival those of Caesar. In presence of a will so stubborn and genius so fervid, what wonder that a friend prophesied that his halting-place would be either the throne or the scaffold?

* * * * *

CHAPTER V

THE ITALIAN CAMPAIGN

(1796)

In the personality of Napoleon nothing is more remarkable than the combination of gifts which in most natures are mutually exclusive; his instincts were both political and military; his survey of a land took in not only the geographical environment but also the material welfare of the people. Facts, which his foes ignored, offered a firm fulcrum for the leverage of his will: and their political edifice or their military policy crumbled to ruin under an assault planned with consummate skill and pressed home with relentless force.


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