Saturday, August 9, 2008

Napoleon After Arcole


It Was Then That His Imperious Spirit Began to Develop.

The two months between the middle of November, 1796, and the middle of January, 1797, display a marked change in Bonaparte's character and conduct. After Arcolo he was a man very different from the novice he had been before Montenotte. Twice his fortunes had hung by a single hair, having been rescued by the desperate bravery of Rampon and his soldiers at Monte Legino and again by Augereau's daring at Lonato. Twice he had barely escaped being made a prisoner — once at Valeggio, once at Lonato. Twice his life had been spared in the heat of battle as if by a miracle, once at Lodi, once again at Arcole.

These facts had apparently left a deep impression on his mind, for they were turned to the best account in making good a new step in social advancement. So far he had been as adventurous as the greatest daredevil among the subalterns, staking his life in every new venture. Hereafter he seemed to appreciate his own value, and to calculate not only the exposures of his person, but the intimacy of his intercourse, with nice adaptation to some great result. Gradually and informally a kind of bodyguard was organized, which, as the idea grew familiar, was skillfully developed into a picked corps, the best officers and finest soldiers being made to feel honored in its membership. The constant attendance of such men necessarily secluded the general in chief from those colleagues who had hitherto been familiar comrades.

Something in the nature of formal etiquette once established, it was easy to extend its rules and confirm them. The generals were thus further and further separated from their superior, and before the new year they had insensibly adopted habits of address which displayed a high outward respect, and virtually terminated all comradeship with one who had so recently been merely the first among equals. Bonaparte's innate tendency to command was under such circumstances hardened into a habit of imperious dictation. In view of what had been accomplished, it would have been impossible, even for the most stubborn democrat, to check the progress. Not one of Bonaparte's principles had failed to secure triumphant vindication. — Professor W. M. Sloane in Century.

No comments: