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Source of the Napoleon “God/Devil/immortal” quote

Source of the Napoleon “God/Devil/immortal” quote

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I heard in a history lecture (I don't know who the lecturer was) the following quote about Napoleon:

Some say he's God (an angel?), some say he's the Devil, but everyone agrees he isn't mortal.

The above is not necessarily the exact words of the quote - it might have been simpler, e.g. "He was either God or the Devil, but definitely not mortal", or it might have used the word "man" instead of mortal. The exact words are immaterial, but the point was that it was discussing Napoleon's goodness and greatness - he was either very good or very bad but he was certainly exceptionally great. The contrast was made using the terminology of humans and divine beings.

I am wondering if anyone has heard such a quote before. I have not been able to find it written anywhere. Does anyone have a historical source for this?

(It is of course possible that the lecturer made it up).

Napoleon is widely described as either a demigod or a demon / devil, though, as Danila Smirnov mentioned, not immortal. Might you be misremembering this, or perhaps something like it:

Napoleon… [is] sometimes cast as a demigod, sometimes as a demon, practically always seen as a figure considerably larger than life. Probably no other mortal has received so much attention from historians and biographers, critics and enthusiasts.

Herold, J. Christopher. The Horizon Book of the Age of Napoleon. Harmony, 1983.

The "no other mortal" phrase that followed could well have caused a confusion in the memory.

On the note of angels; it's a different Napoleon, but Samuel Schmucker offered this formulation:

Louis Napoleon is neither on the one hand an idiot or a demon; nor is he on the other a demigod or an angel.

The Public and Private History of Napoleon the Third, 1858

Famous History Quotes

  • M.B.A, Human Resource Development and Management, Narsee Monjee Institution of Management Studies
  • B.S., University of Mumbai, Commerce, Accounting, and Finance

We marvel at the ancient architectural wonders that attract tourists the world over. But the essence lies in the history of the foundation. History's frozen music is like a mute sentinel who helps cultures survive. Victories and failures, traditions and heritage, make history ever changing. Yet history remains the same.

Dead bodies keep moving for more than a year after death, new study finds

So much for rest in peace.

  • Australian scientists found that bodies kept moving for 17 months after being pronounced dead.
  • Researchers used photography capture technology in 30-minute intervals every day to capture the movement.
  • This study could help better identify time of death.

We're learning more new things about death everyday. Much has been said and theorized about the great divide between life and the Great Beyond. While everyone and every culture has their own philosophies and unique ideas on the subject, we're beginning to learn a lot of new scientific facts about the deceased corporeal form.

An Australian scientist has found that human bodies move for more than a year after being pronounced dead. These findings could have implications for fields as diverse as pathology to criminology.

Dead bodies keep moving

Researcher Alyson Wilson studied and photographed the movements of corpses over a 17 month timeframe. She recently told Agence France Presse about the shocking details of her discovery.

Reportedly, she and her team focused a camera for 17 months at the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER), taking images of a corpse every 30 minutes during the day. For the entire 17 month duration, the corpse continually moved.

"What we found was that the arms were significantly moving, so that arms that started off down beside the body ended up out to the side of the body," Wilson said.

The researchers mostly expected some kind of movement during the very early stages of decomposition, but Wilson further explained that their continual movement completely surprised the team:

"We think the movements relate to the process of decomposition, as the body mummifies and the ligaments dry out."

During one of the studies, arms that had been next to the body eventually ended up akimbo on their side.

The team's subject was one of the bodies stored at the "body farm," which sits on the outskirts of Sydney. (Wilson took a flight every month to check in on the cadaver.)

Her findings were recently published in the journal, Forensic Science International: Synergy.

Implications of the study

The researchers believe that understanding these after death movements and decomposition rate could help better estimate the time of death. Police for example could benefit from this as they'd be able to give a timeframe to missing persons and link that up with an unidentified corpse. According to the team:

"Understanding decomposition rates for a human donor in the Australian environment is important for police, forensic anthropologists, and pathologists for the estimation of PMI to assist with the identification of unknown victims, as well as the investigation of criminal activity."

While scientists haven't found any evidence of necromancy. . . the discovery remains a curious new understanding about what happens with the body after we die.

Apparently, one of Napoleon’s least endearing habits was his penchant for singing (or humming and mumbling) whenever he became agitated. Unfortunately, pained accounts suggest that his singing voice was distinctly unmusical.

Oddly, a whole host of historic tyrants — Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Mussolini, Hitler and our man Napoleon — are reputed to have suffered from Ailurophobia, the fear of cats. It turns out, however, that there is little in the way of evidence to support the common claim that Napoleon was terrified of cats, although the fact that it’s become such a well-worn rumour is interesting. It is even claimed that his alleged fear stemmed from a wildcat attack when he was an infant.

Powerful Napoleon Bonaparte Quotes

50. “I base my calculation on the expectation that luck will be against me.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte

51. “Men who have changed the world never achieved their success by winning the chief citizens to their side, but always by stirring the masses.” –
Napoleon Bonaparte

52. “You become strong by defying defeat and by turning loss into gain and failure to success.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

53. “Better to have an open enemy, than hidden friends.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

54. “The world suffers a lot. Not because the violence of bad people. But because of the silence of the good people.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

55. “There are only two forces that unite men – fear and interest.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to read our collection of unity quotes about bringing people together.

56. “Strategy is the art of making use of time and space. I am less concerned about the later than the former. Space we can recover, lost time never.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

57. “A man is known by his conduct to his wife, to his family, and to those under him.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

58. “A man will fight harder for his interests than for his rights.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

59. “Never tell your enemy he is doing the wrong thing.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

60. “An order that can be misunderstood, will be misunderstood.” –
Napoleon Bonaparte

End of Lesson Assessment

The students will create “their history” of the immigration experience in Philadelphia. Their history should feature multiple histories which include multiple sources (primary and/or secondary), founding principles of the country, their own or anecdotal experiences as well as possibly the experiences of other ethnic groups. Students may choose the form in which they present this history, including but not limited to an essay, a political cartoon, a song or poem, an imagined newspaper article. The grading rubric is here.

Napoleon myths UNVEILED: Shock as Napoleon penis length, sex life and real love EXPOSED

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Napoleon Bonaparte 'loved power' says expert

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HE has been described as the greatest general in history. In fact the Duke of Wellington, who finally defeated him in 1815 at Waterloo, once said that "his presence on the field made the difference of forty thousand men".

But there are many myths about Napoleon Bonaparte - who rose from obscurity to conquer much of Europe in the early 19th century.

As the world marks 250 years since his birth on August 15, historians have been questioning many of the facts we think we know about "Old Boney" as the British nicknamed him.

For instance, we think of him as short. He even gave his name to the Napoleon Complex - the idea that people of short stature might compensate by becoming more aggressive.

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He was actually above average height for a man at the time, at 5ft 6-7in but often surrounded by soldiers from his Imperial Guard who tended to be tall. His moniker, "The Little Corporal", used by fellow military men is likely to have been a term of endearment.

At his autopsy, Napoleon is supposed to have measured 5ft2in. But many experts believe that though the metric system had been standardised in France in the 1790s, he had actually been measured in old French inches - larger than British ones - by his personal physician Francesco Antommarchi. Sir Henry Bunbury, who had met Napoleon, reckoned he was about "5ft 6in high" - taller than Lord Nelson.

British cartoonists such as James Gillray often mocked Boney, depicting him dwarfed by a cocked hat.

Napoleon rose from obscurity to conquer much of Europe (Image: GETTY)

Napoleon believed his true glory was not in battles but Civil Code (Image: GETTY)

Born on the island of Corsica on 15th August 1769 - the same year it was ceded from Genoa to France - he was christened Napoleone di Buonaparte, spoke Italian and only learned French aged 10. Once describing himself as "more Italian or Tuscan than Corsican", he even longed for LOVE AND WAR: with British premier Corsican independence before the Revolution.

But then, working his way up through the army he pulled off a succession of victories on the battlefield before seizing power to become France's First Consul in 1799 and being crowned emperor in 1804.

Napoleon has also gone down in history for his great love affair with wife Joséphine whom he married in 1796, when he was 26 and she a 32-year-old widow.

He did pen her passionate love letters, but both had affairs and on their wedding night Boney was even forced to share the bed with her dog - which bit him on the leg.


Napoleon boasted that power was an aphrodisiac and that "I take women and forget them". Yet a 2014 Channel 4 documentary suggests his penis, now owned by a US collector, measured just 1.5 inches long.

One of his lovers who also slept with the Duke of Wellington described the latter as better in bed.

Though still in love - her name would be his last word at his death - Napoleon divorced Joséphine in 1810 and married Austrian royal Marie Louise, to give him an heir. She did - but the son died aged 21.

It's often said Napoleon had ailurophobia, a phobia of cats, but there's no documentary evidence to support it. He didn't say "an army marches on its stomach" nor "a nation of shopkeepers" to refer to the English - that was economist Adam Smith.

Then there's his death on 5th May, the island of St Helena, having been exiled to this remote Atlantic outpost following Waterloo. Since the 1950s theories have abounded that he was killed by arsenic poisoning. These stem from descriptions of him in the diaries of his valet Louis Marchand and the fact his body was well preserved when later moved - a known effect of arsenic. Elevated levels were found in his hair.

Was he murdered by the British or was arsenic in the wallpaper of his St Helena home to blame? More recent studies say the fourinch tumour found at the time was probably fatal stomach cancer. Analysis of his hair from throughout his life suggests he was already contaminated with arsenic as a boy.

IRONICALLY, he appears to have tried to poison himself in 1814 faced with his first exile to the island of Elba. There were also a string of plots for escape from St Helena, including one to spirit him away on a primitive submarine.

More mundanely Napoleon was addicted to liquorice. It left his teeth blackened. He liked singing too - but was tone deaf. And he came up with the idea of a Channel Tunnel.

He didn't even like being styled as a general by the British after his capture, insisting he should have been credited as the sovereign of France. And he came to believe "My true glory is not to have won 40 battles. what will live forever is my Civil Code."

His legal system is still the basis of much of European law. Historian Andrew Roberts, author of Napoleon The Great, said that his "civil achievements equalled his military ones and far outlasted them".

Not least among his innovations - ensuring Napoleon would get his revenge on future generations of British travellers - was to pioneer the Continental habit of driving on the right!

Greek People Quotes

This section provides some famous Greek Quotes by famous people throughout Greek history.

From the ancient till modern times, Greece has been the homeland for many important historical events and people who have marked the history of the country and have influenced the course of the world. People with talent, inspiration, and vision have set the grounds of modern civilization.

You will find below a list of famous Greek quotes by famous people in Greece. After reading the most famous Greek quotes, you can also get informed about the famous Greek people.


Philosopher of the 5th century BC

One thing i know, that i know nothing. This is the source of my wisdom.


Philosopher of the 5th century BC

Good people do not need law to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.


Philosopher of the 4th century BC

Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.


Philosopher of the 4th century BC

You don't develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.


Philosopher of the 4th century BC

There is nothing permanent except change.


Philosopher of the 5th century BC

By all means, get married: if you find a good wife, you'll be happy if not, you'll become a philosopher.

Alexander the Great

Conqueror of the 4th century BC

I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.


Historian of the 1st century BC

The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits.


Philosopher of the 5th century BC

Nothing exists except atoms and empty space everything else is just opinion.


Philosopher of the 4th century BC

Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.


Philosopher of the 5th century BC

All men's souls are immortal, but the souls of the righteous are immortal and divine.


Philosopher of the 5th century BC

He who steals a little steals with the same wish as he who steals much, but with less power.


Philosopher of the 4th century BC

Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist.


Lawmaker of the 6th century BC

Let no man be called happy before his death. Till then, he is not happy, only lucky.


Historian of the 4th century BC

Excess of grief for the dead is madness for it is an injury to the living, and the dead know it not.


Historian of the 4th century BC

It is frequently a misfortune to have very brilliant men in charge of affairs. They expect too much of ordinary men.


Philosopher of the 5th century BC

By all means, get married: if you find a good wife, you'll be happy if not, you'll become a philosopher.


Orator of the 4th century BC

Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.


Statesman of the 5th century BC

Wait for the wisest of all counselors, time.


Philosopher of the 5th century BC

At his best, man is the noblest of all animals separated from law and justice he is the worst.


Philosopher of the 5th century BC

Man: a being in search of meaning.


Historian of the 1st century BC

I don't need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod my shadow does that much better.


Historian of the 5th century BC

Whatever comes from God is impossible for a man to turn back.


Historian of the 4th century BC

History is Philosophy teaching by examples.

Alexander the Great

Conqueror of the 4th century BC

I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.


Historian of the 4th century BC

Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.

Nikos Kazantzakis

Writer of the 20th century

Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.

Giannis Ritsos

Poet of the 20th century

I know that each one of us travels to love alone, alone to faith and to death. I know it. I've tried it. It doesn't help. Let me come with you.

Aristotle Onassis

Shipping magnate of the 20th century

If women didn't exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning.

Nikos Kazantzakis

Writer of the 20th century

There is only one woman in the world. One woman, with many faces.

Odysseus Elytis

Poet of the 20th century

You'll come to learn a great deal if you study the Insignificant in depth.

Maria Callas

Opera singer of the 20th century

It's a terrible thing to go through life thinking that you have a rock on your side when you haven't.

Aristotle Onassis

Shipping magnate of the 20th century

We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in high winds.

Who Was Napoleon's 'Black Devil'?

Editor's note: For those who are wondering about the retro title of this black-history series, please take a moment to learn about historian Joel A. Rogers , author of the 1934 book 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro With Complete Proof , to whom these "amazing facts" are an homage.

(The Root) — Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 47: Which French general under Napoleon had African ancestry, and was a forebear to two French literary greats?

At the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, a mixed-race child born in the French colony of Saint-Domingue in the Caribbean grows up to cast aside his white father's noble heritage — and his family name — to join the French military. With strength and courage in battle, he is eventually promoted to its highest ranks. Over time, the future emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, comes to resent this outsized "black devil," but it is the soldier's son, a novelist, who will have the last word. By immortalizing his father in legend, the son not only makes the family name immortal he becomes one of the most celebrated French writers in history.

Prepared to be amazed, as Joel A. Rogers might have put it. "The real Count of Monte Cristo," Thomas Alexandre-Dumas, was "a black man who rose to be a four-star general — the highest rank for a man of color in an all-white army before Colin Powell," Dumas' biographer, Tom Reiss, told The Root last November. When asked to describe the experience of researching his book, The Black Count : Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo, which won the Pulitzer Prize this year, Reiss responded, "mind-blowing." Rogers couldn't have put it better.

A Nobleman's Son, a Slave's Name

Dumas was born Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie ("Alex" for short) on March 25, 1762, in Jérémie, Saint-Domingue, a French colony occupying the west of Hispaniola island in the Caribbean Sea (in the country that we know as Haiti today). Alex's mother was a black or mulatto slave, Marie Cessette Dumas. His father was the French nobleman, Alexandre Antoine Davy, whose title was the Marquis de la Pailleterie. The marquis (known as Antoine) had ventured to Saint-Domingue to live with his brother, Charles, a prosperous sugar planter. When the two brothers had a falling-out, Antoine fled to the countryside, taking three of Charles' slaves with him.

Though no record exists indicating they ever married, Antoine and Marie Cessette had four children, all of them "mulattoes and mulatresses," as a detective for Antoine's brother's family reported, according to Reiss. (To be sure, Alex's mother was not one of the slaves his father plundered, but one for whom he paid "an exorbitant price," the detective noted.) Given the blending of his parents, Reiss writes, Alex "had the unique perspective of being from the highest and lowest ranks of society at once."

It didn't last long, however. In order to finance his trip back to France, Antoine ended up selling Marie Cessette and three of his four children into slavery (it is also possible Marie had died three years earlier, perhaps in a hurricane, Reiss notes, but no solid evidence of her passing has been found). Antoine's favorite child, Alex, he eventually sold, too, at Port au Prince, but only "conditionally," Reiss explains when Antoine assumed control of his family's chateau in Normandy, France, in 1775, he bought Alex back (but not the others) so that he could come and live with him.

On this score, Joel Rogers was too charitable toward Alex's father, romanticizing him as a French "nobleman" who "shunned" the planter class "to live among the Negroes, little knowing at the time that in so doing he was to add a thousand glories to his name" ( World's Great Men of Color, Volume 2 ). Incidentally, Rogers also was wrong about the "thousand glories to his name" part, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

In 1776, the year of America's Declaration of Independence, Alex Dumas found himself heading east across the Atlantic, to the Old World, where, as a member of his father's household, he received an excellent education and embraced the nobleman's lifestyle with extravagant clothing, expensive dinners, hunting, horseback riding, dancing, dueling and the company of women. Whatever domestic bliss there was, however, ended in 1786 when Alex's father, by then 71, married his 33-year-old housekeeper and, in doing so, cut back on his contributions to Alex's lifestyle.

With no resume to speak of and few apparent options, Alex decided to join the military, even though that meant starting at the bottom as a lowly private. If Alex's future son Alexandre Dumas, père, is to be believed (the label père, which means "father" in French, can be confusing, given that he was a son — but more about that later), Antoine Davy was so appalled he told Alex, "I don't intend for you to drag my name through the lowest ranks of the army," according to Reiss. In response, a defiant Alex, without knowing it, changed the course of literary history by dropping his father's noble name in favor of his slave mother's name. Thenceforth, he would be known as Alex Dumas — not Davy — a break from his father that proved permanent three weeks later when Antoine Davy died.

La Légion Noire

Once in the army, Dumas joined a group of dragoons, light cavalry, which, according to Reiss, "did the toughest and dirtiest jobs." Whatever his playboy past, soldier Dumas established himself as the "consummate warrior," Reiss writes, "and a man of great conviction and moral courage … renowned for his strength, his swordsmanship, his bravery and his knack for pulling victory out of the toughest situations." Rogers was also right on this count, though in his comic book Your History , he leapt from history into tall tales when he wrote that Dumas "was so strong that while sitting on a horse he could hold on to a beam over head and then lift the horse with his legs." An impressive feat, but when you consider warhorses averaged more than a thousand pounds, according to Reiss, this claim was more than a little exaggerated. (My editor Sheryl Huggins Salomon, though, tells me that she once saw a cyclist who was training for Olympic team trials leg-press more than 900 pounds!)

Reiss also notes that Dumas "was known … for his profane back talk and his problems with authority." In other words, if there had been a French prequel to Patton, it might have been about Dumas. But while that general was consumed with fighting Nazis in North Africa, Italy and France, this earlier general had to wade through the excessively bloody French Revolution, noble as its calls for liberty, equality and fraternity were.

For Dumas, it was a critical turning point. In fact, in the year of revolution, 1789, he met his wife, Marie Louise Labouret, while stationed with her family at Villers-Cotterêts. They married in 1792 — the same year Dumas was promoted to corporal after leading a group of four dragoons to capture 12 Austrian raiders along the Belgian frontier.

1792 was important for another reason as well: It was the year King Louis XVI was deposed and France became a republic. As the country mobilized, new military units formed. Among them was la Légion Noire (the Black Legion), a coalition of free and mixed-race blacks from the French colonies under the command of another mixed-race man, Joseph Boulogne, the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Hearing of Corporal Dumas' daring, Saint-Georges tried to recruit him, but Dumas' notoriety had spread so far that he became the object of a fierce bidding war until Saint-Georges offered him the rank of lieutenant colonel — second in command. As historian John G. Gallaher writes in his book, General Alexandre Dumas : Soldier of the French Revolution , "[t]he transition for Dumas must have been a shock. Almost overnight he was catapulted from a corporal leading patrols of five or six men on reconnaissance missions to commanding a legion that quickly reached battalion strength." Yet Dumas continued to demonstrate his valor in battle and in 1793 was promoted again, this time to general of division in charge of 10,000 men.

More good news followed when the National Convention in France decreed that slavery in its colonies was to be abolished and that all men, regardless of color, were to become citizens under the French constitution. In a letter of exhortation to his soldiers on March 6, 1794, Dumas conveyed his swelling feelings in the third person. As Reiss quotes him: "Sincere lover of liberty and equality, convinced that all free men are equals, he will be proud to march out before you, to aid you in your efforts, and the coalition of tyrants will learn that they are loathed equally by men of all colors."


Marching out before the Army of the Alps in 1794, Dumas engaged in a series of furious, frozen mountain battles against the Austrians. By this point, he had risen to commander-in-chief, which, as Reiss pointed out in Harvard Magazine, was the equivalent of a four-star general today. The number of men under his command: 53,000.

Dumas' reputation as a strong-willed leader at times landed him in hot water with his superiors. According to Reiss, in one crucial instance, in January 1794, he balked at the Committee of Public Safety's order to seize mountain passes in "conquest of Mont Cenis and Petit Saint Bernard without delay." "Offensive war suits the character of the French," Dumas replied, "but it is the responsibility of the man in charge of leading them to prepare with caution and wisdom everything that leads to victory."

But, remember, this was the powerful and much-feared Committee of Public Safety, so even though General Dumas captured Petit Saint Bernard and Mount Cenis later that spring — operations that vaulted him to the status of war hero — the committee, led by Maximilien Robespierre, wanted to see him back in Paris. Backed by a law empowering the committee to execute all "enemies of the people," its members read into Dumas' battle delays defiance, not wisdom. Fortunately for him (and all future lovers of French literature), history intervened when the French executed Robespierre and the committee's terror reign under him ended. As a result, Gallaher writes, "The charges against Dumas … were simply thrown out or forgotten."

Back in the saddle, Dumas assumed command of the Army of the West in Vendeé, where he earned plaudits for imposing order on an army that had grown too fond of plunder, even murdering peasants. In the summer of 1795, Dumas then teamed up with the Army of the Rhine to attack Austria's positions in the always coveted (thus contested) Rhineland. Injured in the battle, Dumas spent the rest of the year on France's Eastern frontier and at home with his pregnant wife and child.

Napoleon and the ɻlack Devil'

In November 1796, Dumas traveled to Milan, in Italy, where he formed a bond with a man who would one day control his fate: Napoleon Bonaparte. Dumas served under Napoleon in two major campaigns, Italy in 1796-1797 and Egypt in 1798-1799. Eisenhower and Patton they were not.

Reiss argues that ideological differences played a key role in the tensions between them: "Dumas saw himself as a fighter for world liberation, not world domination." Reiss also believes Napoleon became jealous of Dumas' towering size. You've heard of "the Napoleon complex" — well, this is the guy! And it couldn't have made him (at 5 feet 7 inches) too happy when the chief medical officer of the French invasion of Egypt wrote (as quoted by Reiss) that Dumas, at more than 6 feet tall, "look[ed] like a centaur," so that "when [the troops] saw him ride his horse over the trenches, going to ransom prisoners, all of them believed that he was the leader of the expedition" — not Napoleon. Let's just say that Napoleon was not amused.

The feeling was mutual. Dumas disliked Napoleon for advancing his own political agenda and criticized him for not doing more to keep his troops from exploiting local populations and his generals from whipping up a cult of personality around him. At the same time, Dumas was convinced Napoleon was going out of his way to diminish Dumas' military accomplishments. And on January 18, 1787, Dumas let Napoleon know it obliquely in a letter that Reiss quotes: "I have learned that the jack ass whose business it is to report to you upon the battle … stated that I stayed in observation throughout the battle. I don't wish any such observation on him, since he would have shit in his pants." Here Dumas was dumping on Napoleon's messenger, but his message to the future emperor was clear: Don't mess with the facts!

In battle, Dumas continued attracting attention — and acclaim — for his courage. In fact, after leading small groups of soldiers against the Austrians in Italy, the Austrians started calling Dumas der schwarze Teufel, "the black devil," according to Reiss. Napoleon, too, was bedeviled by Dumas' battlefield prowess. Acknowledging them, he coined his own nickname for Dumas: "the Horatius Cocles of the Tyrol," a reference to the man who had protected ancient Rome from the Barbarians. Actually, Dumas should have been doing more to protect himself from Napoleon.

Their relationship suffered a fatal rupture after Napoleon launched his Egypt campaign in 1798. French soldiers and officers found themselves fighting in a sweltering climate without sufficient supplies, or even water, for a cause many of them did not support or understand. In the field with them, Dumas only felt more resentful of Napoleon's ambition. This time, however, he went too far in venting.

Unbeknownst to Dumas, Napoleon had an informant shadow a meeting Dumas was having with his fellow officers, and when word traveled back, Reiss writes, Napoleon (I imagine him looking up!) confronted Dumas with explosive accusations of mutiny and sedition. Napoleon even threatened to shoot Dumas if it continued. Not one to back down, Dumas reiterated his desire to fight for his country, and not for the selfish goals of one man. With that, he asked for a leave to return to France. Adding to the mix, Reiss notes, were Dumas' frustrations that Napoleon had no apparent intention of abolishing slavery in Egypt. Remember, Dumas' last name had been that of a slave, his mother.

General Dumas departed Egypt in 1799 — months after Napoleon's own unannounced exit. The sailing was less smooth for Dumas, however. When the ship Belle Maltaise sprung a leak, the crew of 120 men was forced to make an unplanned stopover in Italy. Thinking they would land among friends, they were sorry to discover Taranto had fallen to the anti-French insurgency, the Holy Faith Army, and in the confusion, Dumas was seized as a prisoner of war and imprisoned in a fortress dungeon. It was only when Dumas' wife persuaded French officials to intervene that the general gained his release — two years later.

And where was Napoleon during all of this? He was governing France now, having made himself head of a three-member council after staging a coup to topple the directorate. In his new role as first consul, Napoleon eroded much of the egalitarian spirit of the early French Revolution. In particular, new, more restrictive laws were passed to undermine free black people living within France, while slavery and the slave trade were reopened in its colonies. (Anyone who's heard of the Haitian Revolution knows this came back to haunt Napoleon, but that's for a future column in this series.) In a move that must have caused great personal pain to Dumas, Napoleon also ordered the capture or killing of any black Saint-Dominguan caught wearing the uniform of a military officer.

Reiss writes that when Dumas' former soldiers asked Napoleon to provide assistance to the retired general (his finances were in disarray after his imprisonment), Napoleon scoffed, "I forbid you to ever speak to me of that man!" Not long after, Dumas died of cancer. It was 1806, the year the French under Napoleon defeated the Prussians and took Warsaw, while in America, the explorers Lewis and Clark finished surveying the Louisiana territory. To the south, Saint-Domingue was in its second year of independence as the Republic of Haiti, but its 43-year-old native son, Alex Dumas, would never have the chance to see it.

The Legends of 'the Black Count'

Responsibility for General Dumas' legacy fell to his son, Alexandre Dumas, père (1802-1870), one of the most illustrious novelists in French — indeed, world — literature, and a man keenly aware of his own African ancestry, as we shall see in another column. (His name can be confusing. Because Alex Dumas was really Thomas-Alexandre, his son was not a junior but became the senior Alexandre Dumas, père to his own son, Alexandre Dumas, fils, also a writer, who lived between 1824 and 1895.) Although the young Alexandre, père, was only 3 when his father died, the stories of General Dumas' accomplishments stayed with him his entire life and lent inspiration to his legendary stories.

We see the general's reflection especially clear in two of his son's most famous works, The Count of Monte Cristo (1844) and The Three Musketeers (serialized in 1844). In The Count of Monte Cristo, Dumas tells the story of a man named Edmond Dantès imprisoned in a dungeon, an obvious reference to his father's experiences in Italy, Reiss explains. And in The Three Musketeers, one of General Dumas' most famous rumored exploits inspired a whole scene. Drawing the connection, Reiss writes that "multiple histories relate[d] that [Dumas] once fought three duels in one day, winning all three despite being gashed in the head — almost certainly the basis for one of the best-known and most comic scenes in Three Musketeers in which, dɺrtagnana challenges Porthos, Athos, and Aramis to duels on the same afternoon. (The scene ends happily — ɺll for one and one for all!' — as a real enemy appears.)"

It's true what they say about the pen being mightier than the sword. Despite his father's capture and trashing by Napoleon, Alexandre Dumas, père, the novelist, lovingly immortalized his father in the history of French literature.

As always, you can find more " Amazing Facts About the Negro " on The Root, and check back each week as we count to 100.

Source of the Napoleon &ldquoGod/Devil/immortal&rdquo quote - History

'They will talk of his glory

Under the thatch, for a long time.

For fifty years, the humble cottage

'There was an eye to see in this man,

and a soul to dare and do.

He rose naturally to be King.

All men saw that he was such.

'He either fears his fate too much,

that puts it not unto the touch,

-James Graham, Marquise of Montrose

'Cowards may fear to die but courage stout,

Rather than live in snuff, will be put out.'

The backbone of the Army is the noncommissioned man.'

'A mysterious fraternity born out of smoke and danger of death.'

'Old men forget yet all shall be forgot,

But he'll remember with advantages

What feats he did that day…'

There has probably never been another person in history who has either more misquoted or have had more words put in his mouth than Napoleon I, Emperor of the French. Because of the highly suspect memoirs, ghostwritten or not, of such people as Talleyrand, Bourrienne, Madame de Stael, Clare de Remusat, the Duchesse d'Abrantes, and Marshal Auguste Marmont, the French Emperor has had more and sundry inaccurate and unfair labels laid at this door. He was vilified by his enemies before and after his death, and has been accused of everything from murder to incest accused of being a monster and psychopath, up to and including the recent, horribly inaccurate biography of him by Alan Schom.

The best place to look for the actual spoken words of Napoleon is in his multivolume Correspondence, which is overflowing with letters, reports, and various and sundry written records and what the Emperor actually thought on a variety of subject. These are not the Bulletins issued by Napoleon, which were intentional propaganda and never intended as history. The term 'lie like a bulletin' was actually coined by the Grande Armée -you generally can't fool the veterans who do the marching and the killing.

On the Art of War

Napoleon was a well-educated man and soldier. He undoubtedly had read the newer, pertinent works, such as those by Bourcet and Guibert, on warfare and it was added to his repertoire of knowledge. He was an expert artilleryman. He could serve dutifully and skillfully on a gun crew he could build carriages, vehicles, and wheels he had to knowledge to cast guns. Artillery was indeed the 'final argument of kings,' Napoleon, in the words of John Elting, 'was an artilleryman who made and unmade kings.' Here, then, are some of his thoughts on the art of war.

'The most essential quality of a general is firmness of character and the resolution to conquer at any price.'

'Activite, Activite, Vitesse!'

'The art of war is an immense study, which encompasses all others.'

'The art of war consists in bringing to bear with an inferior army a superiority of force at the point at which one attacks or is attacked.'

'The bayonet has always been the weapon of the brave and the chief tool of victory.'

'Perhaps I should not insist on this bold maneuver, but it is my style, my way of doing things.'

'War is composed of nothing but accidents…there is but one favorable moment, the great art is to seize it.'

'War is waged only with vigor, decision, and unshaken will one must not grope or hesitate.'

'I have destroyed the enemy merely by marches.'

'Many good generals exist in Europe, but they see too many things at once I see but one thing, and that is the masses I seek to destroy them, sure that the minor matters will fall of themselves.'

'When once the offensive has been assumed, it must be sustained to the last extremity.'

'In short, I think like Frederick, one should always be the first to attack.'

Make war offensively it is the sole means to become a great captain and to fathom the secrets of the art.'

'Be audacious and cunning in your plans, firm and persevering in their execution, determined to find a glorious end.'

'Never allow any rest either to the conqueror or the conquered.'

'I may be accused of rashness but never of sluggishness.'

'One always has enough troops when he knows how to use them.'

'In order to smash, it is necessary to act suddenly.'

'It is very advantageous to rush unexpectedly on an enemy who has erred, to attack him suddenly and come down on him with thunder before he sees the lightning.'

'An army can march anywhere and at any time of he year, wherever two men can place their feet.'

'An army of lions commanded by a deer will never be an army of lions.'

'It is not sufficient that the soldier must shoot, but he must shoot well.'

'Move upon the enemy in one mass on one line so that when brought to battle you shall outnumber him, and from such a direction that you compromise him.'

'There's a man for you! He is forced to flee from an army that he dares not fight, but he puts eighty leagues of devastation between himself and his pursuers. He slows down the march of the pursuing army, he weakens it by all kinds of privation-he knows how to ruin it without fighting it. In all of Europe, only Wellington and I are capable of carrying out such measures. But there is a difference between him and myself: In France…I would be criticized, whereas England will praise him.'

'In war, everything depends on morale and morale and public opinion comprise the better part of reality.'

'One fights well when the heart is light.'

'It is not enough to give orders, they must be obeyed.'

'You must avoid countermanding orders: unless the soldier can see a good reason for benefit, he becomes discouraged and loses confidence.'

'Give your orders so that they cannot be disobeyed.'

'As a rule it is easy to find officers, but it is sometimes very hard to find non-commissioned officers.'

'I do not believe the proverb that in order to be able to command one must know how to obey…Insubordination may only be the evidence of a strong mind.'

'The greatest general is he who makes the fewest mistakes.'

'A soldier must learn to love his profession, must look to it to satisfy all his tastes and his sense of humor. That is why handsome uniforms are useful.'

'The success of a coup de main depends absolutely upon luck rather than judgment.'

'Nothing in war is more important than unity of command. Thus when war is waged against a single power there must be but one army, acting on one line and led by one chief…Better one bad general than two good ones.'

'Hesitation and half measures lose all in war.'

'What my enemies call a general peace is my destruction. What I call peace is merely the rearmament of my enemies. Am I not more moderate than they?'

Napoleon's comment on the allied (Metternich's) peace proposals in 1813.

'If courage is the first characteristic of the soldier, perseverance is the second.'

'To get information, it is necessary to seize the letters in the postal system, to question travelers. In one word, you have to look for it. Intelligence never comes by itself.'

On Leadership and Men

Napoleon, contrary to many expressed opinions of him, was a humane man. He felt grief for heavy losses (see his correspondence after Eylau). He took good care of his troops, and was genuinely concerned for their welfare. He had a good, common sense soldier's approach to medical care. He generously rewarded his best surgeons, Larrey and Percy among them. The Grande Armee was his home, and he loved his soldiers, but he used them as he saw fit. He also put himself in the line of fire, which is one of the reasons his soldiers followed him unhesitatingly into the fire.

Napoleon also had a sense of humor. Supposedly Savary asked him once if he wanted to be God. Napoleon thought it over and replied, 'No, it's a dead-end job.' Traveling with his escort, one of the trooper's horses stumbled and the trooper was thrown. Napoleon reined in, leaned over and asked why the trooper was so clumsy. Later, as luck would have it, Napoleon's horse stumbled, and he was thrown from his saddle. The justified trooper reined in, leaned over, and asked why Napoleon was so clumsy. Napoleon remounted, and they continued on, the escort undoubtedly feeling much satisfied by the justice of the situation.

'War is a serious game, in which one can endanger his reputation and his country a rational man must feel and know whether or not he is cut out for this profession.'

'Peruse again and again the campaigns of Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, gustavus Adolphus, Turenne, Eugene, and Frederick. Model yourself upon them. This is the only means of becoming a great captain, and of acquiring the secret of the art of war. Your own genius will be enlightened and improved by this study, and you will learn to reject all maxims foreign to the principles of the great commanders.'

'The knowledge of higher leadership can only be acquired by the study of military history and actual experience. There are no hard and fast rules everything depends on the plans of the general, the condition of the troops, the season of the year, and a thousand other circumstances, which have the effect that no one case will ever resemble another'

'But all that…he will learn will be of little use to him if he does not have the sacred fire in the depths of his heart, thus driving ambition which alone can enable one to perform great deeds.'

'You must be a soldier, and then a soldier, and again a soldier bivouac with your advance guard, be in the saddle night and day, march with your advance guard to have the latest information, or else stay in your harem. You make war like a satrap. Good God, is it from me that you have learned that? From me who, with an army of 200,000 men, am at the head of my skirmishers?

-Napoleon to Jerome

'The ideal army would be the one in which every officer would know what he ought to do in every contingency the best possible army is the one that comes closest to this. I give myself only half the credit for the battles I have won, and a general gets enough credit when he is named at all, for the fact is that a battle is won by the army.'

'It was a beautiful, calm, moonlight night. Suddenly a dog, which had been hiding under the clothes of a dead man, came up to us with a mournful howl, and then disappeared again immediately into his hiding place. He would lick his master's face, then run up to us again, only to return once more to his master. Whether it was the mood of the moment, whether it was the place, the time, the weather, or the action itself, or whatever it was, it is certainly true that nothing on any battlefield ever made such an impression on me. I involuntarily remained still, to observe the spectacle. This dead man, I said to myself, has perhaps friends, and he is lying there abandoned by all but his dog! What a lesson nature teaches us by means of an animal.'

'A military leader must possess as much character as intellect. Men who have a great deal of intellect and little character are the least suited they are like a ship whose masts are out of proportion to the ballast it is preferable to have much character and little intellect. Those men whose intellect is mediocre and whose character is in proportion are likely to succeed in their profession. The base must equal the height.'

'In my campaigns Berthier was always to be found in my carriage. During the journey I used to study the plans of the situation and the reports sent in, sketch out my plans for battle from them, and arrange the necessary moves. Berthier would watch me at work, and at the first stopping-place or rest, whether it was day or night, he made out the orders and arrangements with a method and an exactness that was truly admirable. For this work he was always ready and untiring. That was Berthier's special merit. It was very great and valuable, and no one else could have replaced Berthier.'

'The conduct of a general in a conquered country is full of difficulties. If severe, he irritates and increases the number of his enemies. If lenient, he gives birth to expectations which only render the abuses and vexations inseparable from the war the more intolerable. A victorious general must know how to employ severity, justice, and mildness by turns, if he would allay sedition, or prevent it.'

'Friends, I promise you this conquest but there is one condition you must swear to fulfill-to respect the people whom you liberate, to repress the horrible pillaging committed by scoundrels incited by our enemies. Otherwise you would not be the liberators of the people you would be their scourge…Plunderers will be shot without mercy already, several have been…'

To the Armee d'Italie in 1796

'If you wage war, do it energetically and with severity. This is the only way to make it shorter, and consequently less inhuman.'

'You must not needlessly fatigue the troops.'

'A general's principal talent consists in knowing the mentality of the soldier and in gaining his confidence.'

'When asked one day how, after so many years, he could recollect the names and numbers of the units engaged in one of his early combats, Napoleon responded, 'Madam, this is a lover's recollection of his former mistresses.''

'Man, not men, is the most important consideration.'

'Sentiment rules the world, and he who fails to take that into account can never hope to lead.'

'A general's principle talent consists in knowing the mentality of the soldier and in winning his confidence. And, in these two respects, the French soldier is more difficult to lead than any other. He is not a machine to be put in motion but a reasonable being that must be directed.'

'A leader is a dealer in hope.'

'You medical people will have more lives to answer for in the other world than even we do.'

'The Greeks in the service of the Great King were not enthusiastic in his cause. The Swiss in French, Spanish, and Italian service were not enthusiastic in their causes. The troops of Frederick the Great, mostly foreigners, were not enthusiastic in his cause. A good general, good training, and good discipline make good troops independently of the cause in which they fight. It is true, however, that fanaticism, love of fatherland, and national glory can inspire fresh troops to good advantage.'

'Instead of the lash, I would lead them by the stimulus of honor. I would instill a degree of emulation into their minds. I would promote every deserving soldier, as I did in France…What might not be expected of the English army if every soldier hoped to be made a general provided he showed ability? Bingham says, however, that most of your soldiers are brutes and must be driven by the stick. But surely the English soldiers must be possessed of sentiments sufficient to put them at least upon a level with the soldiers of other countries, where the degrading system of the lash is not used. Whatever debases man cannot be serviceable.'

'A man does not have himself killed for a halfpence a day of for a petty distinction. You must speak to the soul inorder to electrify him.'

'Great men are never cruel without necessity.'

'Praise from enemies is suspicious it cannot flatter an honorable man unless it is given after the cessation of hostilities.'

'We are here to guide public opinion, not to discuss it.'

'Barere still believes that the masses must be stirred. On the contrary, they must be guided without noticing it.'

'Instead of all the stupidness with which the daily press is filled, why do you not send commissioners to visit the districts from which we hve expelled the enemy and make them collect the details of the crimes that have been committed there? Nothing more powerful could be found to stir the minds than a recital of the details. What we need at this moment is real and serious things, not wit in prose and verse. My hair stands on end when I hear of the crimes committed by the enemy, and the police have not even thought of obtaining a single account of these happenings…A picture drawn in larger strokes will not convince the people. With ink and paper you can draw any pictures you like. Only by telling the facts simply and with detail can we convince them."

'There are no greater patriots than those good men who have been maimed in the service of their country.'

'The man who cannot look upon the battlefield dry-eyed will allow many men to be killed uselessly.'

'I received your letter in a tumble-down farm house where I have the mud, the wind, and some straw for my bed.'

'A general in the power of the enemy has no orders to give. Whoever obeys him is a criminal.'

'When ignorance has gotten ten men killed where it should have cost two, is it not responsible for the blood of the other eight?'

'A man has his day in war as in other things I myself shall be good for it another six years, after which even I shall have to stop.' Napoleon said this in 1805 in 1812 he invaded Russia, seven years after the quote.

'A people who have been brought up on victories often do not know how to accept defeat.'

'Pay attention to the sick and wounded. Sacrifice your baggage, everything for them. Let the wagons be devoted to their use, and if necessary your own saddles…'

'Force is only justifiable in extremes when we have the upper hand, justice is preferable.'

'Nothing will disorganize an army more or ruin it more completely than pillage.'

'Get your principles straight the rest is a matter of detail.'

Words of wisdom from Napoleon on a variety of subjects. Napoleon wrote and dictated literally volumes of correspondence, sometimes dictating to multiple clerks at the same time. It was said that only Berthier could decipher his handwriting.

On Time:

'In military operations, hours determine success and campaigns.'

'Go sir, gallop, and don't forget that the world was made in six days. You can ask me for anything you like, except time.'

'The loss of time is irretrievable in war the excuses that are advanced are always bad ones, for operations go wrong only through delays.'

'The good condition of my armies comes from the fact that I devote an hour or two every day to them, and when I am sent the returns of my troops and my ships each month, which fills twenty large volumes, I set every other occupation aside to read them in detail in order to discern yhe difference yhay exists from one month to another. I take greater pleasure in this than a young lady would get from reading a novel.'

On Glory, Defeat, Honor, & Discipline:

''Victory and disaster establish indestructible bonds between armies and their commanders.'

'Pay not attention to those who would keep you far from fire: you want to prove yourself a man of courage. If there are opportunities, expose yourself conspicuously. As for real danger, it is everywhere in war.'

'Remember, gentlemen, what a Roman emperor said: 'The corpse of an enemy always smells sweet.'

'Death is nothing but to live defeated and without glory is to die everyday.'

'To imagine that it is possible to perform great military deeds without fighting is just empty dreams.'

'Unhappy the general who comes on the field of battle with a system.'

'What I want you to preserve is honor, not a few planks of wood.'

'Whoever prefers death to ignominity will save his life and live in honor, but he who prefers life will die and cover himself with disgrace.'

'The honor of a general consists in obeying, in keeping subalterns under his orders on the honest path, in maintaining good discipline, devoting oneself solely to the interest of the State and the sovereign, and in scorning completely private interests.'

'When defending itself against another country, a nation never lacks men, but too often, soldiers.'

'Hardship, blood, and death create enthusiasts and martyrs and give birth to bold and desperate resolutions.'

'Great extremities require extraordinary resolution. The more obstinate the resistance of an army, the greater the chances of success. How many seemingly impossibilities have been accomplished by men whose only resolve was death!'

'In time of revolution, with perseverance and courage, a soldier should think nothing impossible.'

'In decisive cases there are moments when victory demands sacrifices and when it becomes necessary to burn your own warships. If military art consisted of always taking a safe position, then glory would become the property of mediocre people.'

'The art of war is like everything else that is beautiful and simple. The simplest moves are the best.'

'The first qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only the second hardship, poverty, and want are the best school of the soldier.'

'At the head of an army, nothing is more becoming than simplicity.'

'To be defeated is pardonable to be surprised-never!'

'There is no security for any sovereign, for any nation, or for any general, if officers are permitted to capitulate in the open field, and to lay down their arms in virtue of conditions, favorable to the contracting party, but contrary to the interests of the army at large. To withdraw from danger, and thereby to involve their comrades in greater perils, is the height of cowardice. Such conduct should be proscribed, declared infamous, and made punishable with death. All generals, officers, and soldiers, who capitulate in battle to save their own lives, should be decimated. He who gives the order, and those who obey are alike traitors, and deserve capital punishment.'

'Treaties are observed as long as they are in harmony with interests.'

'War justifies everything.'

'It is not against me, exactly, that the powers make war. It is against the revolution. They have never seen in me anything but the representative, the man of the Revolution.'

Words by other Soldiers:

Here are some of the appropriate renderings by his subordinates, contemporaries, and predecessors: Some, like Clausewitz fought him and the terrible Grande Armee for years others, such as Haydon were mere observers and were awestruck by Napoleon and his grumblers. Still others, had military talents of their own and put them down on paper.

'You have to have seen the steadfastness of one of the forces trained and led by Bonaparte…seen them under fierce and unrelenting fire-to get some sense of what can be accomplished by troops steeled by long experience in danger, in whom a proud record of victories has instilled the noble principle of placing the highest demands on themselves. As an idea alone it is unbelievable.'


'In the career of glory one gains many things the gout and medals, a pension and rheumatism…And also frozen feet, an arm or leg the less, a bullet lodged between two bones which the surgeon cannot extract…All of those bivouacs in the rain and snow, all the privations, all those fatigues experienced in your youth, you pay for when you grow old. Because one has suffered in years gone by, it is necessary to suffer more, which does not seem exactly fair.'

-Elzéar Blaze

'With all [Amiel's] faults, the Emperor appreciated in him one quality which he possessed in the highest degree he was undoubtedly the best light cavalry officer in any European army. A finer instinct or equal judgment in exploring a country with a glance was never seen. Before riding through a district, he divined the obstacles which the maps did not show, foresaw the points where streams, roads, or the smallest paths must emerge, and could draw from the enemy's movements inferences which nearly always proved correct. Both in irregular warfare and in major operations he was a most remarkable officer.'


'[Conscription] is an ineluctable consequence of political equality. If you demand equality, then accept the consequences.'


'The crash of the Imperial drums, beating with the harsh unity that stamped them as the voices of veterans in war, woke me from my reverie and made my heart throb with their stony rattle. Never did I hear such drums and never shall again: there were years of battle and blood in every sound.'

-Benjamin Haydon

'Faithful to our oath, we have not abandoned your eagles, and we are now without a country!…Sire, I beg of you, give us back our weapons.'

-Jose Fernando

'If the Cossacks attack during the night, it is to keep you awake, to wear you out…you seldom have to do anything more than look alert. If the Prussian cavalry attacks during the night, that is more serious you must not only be ready, but maneuver to meet them. If the Austrian cavalry attack at night they probably have their infantry with them. If the English cavalry understood war, they might be…the most terrible in Europe… If you have ridden over them, the Austrian infantry throws down its weapons, each soldier claims to be a Pole, they obey you honestly. The Prussian infantry throws down its arms, but will grab them up promptly if they see help coming. The Russian infantry falls flat, lets you pass, gets up, and starts shooting again.'

-Antoine de Brack

'Providence and courage never abandon the good soldier…Never punished, always present at roll call, indefatigable in all the marches and countermarches I took whatever came without complaint.'


'Order, counterorder, disorder.'

-French Military Proverb

'More dreadful looking fellows than Napoleon's guard I had never seen. They had the look of thoroughbred, veteran, disciplined banditti. Depravity, recklessness, and bloodthirstiness were burned into their faces…Black mustachios, gigantic bearskins, and a ferocious expression were their characteristics.'

-Benjamin Haydon

At Tilsit, in a review for the the sovereigns, Tsar Alexander, while viewing the Old Guard pass in review, asked Marshal Ney where were the men who had given the Guardsmen such terrible scars. Neys reply was blunt and succinct: 'Sire, they are all dead.'

At the same review, Drum Major Senot of the Grenadiers a pied remarked to his drummers when passing by Frederick William of Prussia, 'Don't beat so loud, he's only a king.'

'These reports, as you know, Monsieur le Marechal, are not for my personal benefit for I am nothing in the army. I receive in the Emperor's name the reports of the marshals and I sign on his behalf, so personally I have no axe to grind. But His Majesty stipulates that detailed reports on everything which occurs are to be sent to me for better or worse, nothing should be concealed from the Emperor. I require you therefore to be so kind as to keep me advised of all that occurs in your corps, in the same way as the other marshals.'

Berthier to Soult

'The Emperor, for the general direction of the operations, is in no need of advice, nor does he wish to have outlined to him any operation plans. No one knows his intentions, and it is our duty to obey him. His Majesty was all the less prepared for your movements, sonce you have been warned repeatedly not to take any action without orders. You can judge for yourself that partial measures will merely injure the operations as a whole and that they may even prove disastrous for the entire army.'

-Berthier to Ney

Marshal Ney

'Nothing should be concealed from the Emperor, either good or bad to deceive him, even about things that are likely to be disagreeable to him is a crime.'

Berthier to Lannes

'Besides the confidence of the general officers, of which the aides-de-camp render themselves worthy by indefatigable zeal, it is necessary that they should be acquainted with the different corps of the brigade or division to which they belong, the names of the several officers in command, and those of the commissaries, that they may be able to transmit orders with precision, and superintend their execution.'


'It is admitted by all military men that infantry is the great lever of war, and that the artillery and cavalry are only indispensable accessories. Two essential conditions constitute the strength of infantry: that the men be good walkers and inured to fatigue. That the firing be well executed. The physical constitution, and the national composition of the French armies, fulfill the former most advantageously the vivacity and intelligence of the soldiers ensure the success of the latter.'


'People who think of retreating before a battle has been fought ought to have stayed home.'


'If we are defeated, we can think about retreating then, and in any case, I shall be dead, so why should I worry?


'Make your preparation for attack or defense instantly on the enemy's approach should you even be obliged to execute them with disadvantage, do not hesitate.'


'We come to give you liberty and equality, but don't lose your heads about it-the first person who stirs without permission will be shot.'


'To look over a battlefield, to take in at the first instance the advantages and disadvantages is the great quality of a general."


'War is a trade for the ignorant and a science for the expert.'


'Just as lightning has already struck when the flash is seen, so where the enemy discovers the head of the army, the whole should be there, and leave them no time to counteract dispositions.'


'The object of artillery should not consist of killing men on the whole of the enemy's front, but to overthrow it, to destroy parts of this front…then they obtain decisive effects they make a gap.'


'A man may cease to be lucky, for that is beyond his control but he should never cease to be honest.'

-Charles XII

'Pay well, command well, hang well.'

-Sir Ralph Hopton

'When a man has committed no faults in war, he can only have been engaged in it but a short time.'


'I speak harshly to no one, but I will have your head off the instant you refuse to obey me.'


'I shall treat neutrality as equivalent to a declaration of war against me.'

-Gustavus Adolphus

'As long as there are a few veterans, you can do what you want with the rest.'

-de Saxe

'A well-dressed soldier has more respect for himself. He also appears more redoubtable to the enemy and dominates him for a good appearance is itself a force.'


'Remember, soldiers, that first and foremost you are citizens. Let us not become a greater scourge to our country than the enemy themselves.'


'As for the cavalry, it should never be touched old troopers and old horses are good, and recruits of either are absolutely useless. It is a burden, it is an expense, but it is indispensable. In regard to the infantry, as long as there are a few old heads you can do what you want with the tails they are the greatest number, and the return of these men in peace is a noticeable benefit to the nation, without a serious diminution of the military forces.

-de Saxe

'Here I am sitting at al comfortable table loaded heavily with books, with one eye on my typewriter and the other on Licorice the cat, who has a great fondness for carbon paper, and I am telling you that the Emperor Napoleon was a most contemptible person. But should I happen to look out of the window, down on Seventh Avenue, and should the endless procession of trucks and carts come to a sudden halt, and should I hear the sound of the heavy drums and see the little man on his white horse, in his old and much worn green uniform, then I don't know, but I am afraid that I would leave my books and the kitten and my home and everything else to follow him wherever he cared to lead. My own grandfather did this and Heaven knows he was not born to be a soldier.'

-Hendrik Willem van Loon

'But when the Tsar of all the Russias, the commander-in-chief of three million horse-guards, foot-guards, life-guards, and Cossacks, begins to talk sweetly of brotherly love, it is time for decent people to look to their guns.'

-Hendrik Willem van Loon

'A man is not a soldier until he is no longer homesick, until he considers his regiment's colors as he would his village steeple until he loves his colors, and is ready to put hand to sword every time the honor of the regiment is attacked.'


'Never forget that no military leader has ever become great without audacity.'


'For great aims we must dare great things.'


'The Grande Armée fought hard, seldom cheered, and always bitched.'

-Elzear Blaze

On Bureaucrats

I end with the quote from m'lord the Dike of Wellington because it is a fitting statement summing up what professional soldiers have to deal with in the bureaucrat.


Whilst marching to Portugal to a position which commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying with you request which has been sent to HM ship from London to Lisbon and then by dispatch rider to our headquarters.

We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents, and tent poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His Majesty's government holds me accountable. I have dispatched reports on the character, wit, spleen of every officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted for, with two regrettable exceptions for which I beg you indulgence.

Unfortunately, the sum of one shilling and ninepence remains unaccounted for in one infantry battalion's petty cash and there has been a hideous confusion as to the number of jars of raspberry jam issued to one cavalry regiment during a sandstorm in western Spain. This reprehensive carelessness may be related to the pressure of circumstances since we are at war with France, a fact which may have come as a bit of a surprise to you gentlemen in Whitehall.

This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty's Government, so that I may better understand why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe that perforce it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below. I shall pursue one with the best of my ability but I cannot do both.

1. To train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of the accountants and copy-boys in London, or perchance

2. To see to it that the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.

Your most obedient servant,



Chandler, David G. The Military Maxims of Napoleon New York : Macmillan 1997.

Elting, John R. Swords Around A Throne: Napoleon's Grande Armee New York : The Free Press1988.

Esposito, Vincent J., and John R. Elting. A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars London : Greenhill Books1999.

Tsouras, Peter G. Warrior's Words: A Quotation Book London : Arms and Armour Press 1992.

Note: While all quotes used in this article were generally found in the above-mentioned books, they are to be originally found in either Napoleon's Correspondence or his Maxims.

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