Napoleon's Victory Against All Odds

Shyrwinsteel Sia
Shyrwinsteel Sia Feb 6, 2022 · 2 min read

When Napoleon Bonaparte took over France after a successful coup d’etat in 1799, he faced a threat from the Austrians that imperils the country’s recovery from the previous conflict. The Austrian leadership being related to the powers he overthrew, did not take kindly his actions. They were hellbent in teaching Napoleon a lesson. He wanted time to recover but he knew they would not let him. In order to let the Austrians submit to his terms of peace, he has to go to war.

Napoleon spent many days alone holed in his office with maps across tables and walls while hundreds of reconnaissance reports were scattered across the floor. He only allowed food and water to be delivered along with updates to the reports. He did not accept any visitors or talk to anyone.

After this isolation, he emerged with a plan. He called for a meeting with his top generals to share the details of the campaign. As he shared his plan to them, he stuck a pin on a huge map. The pin was on a town in Italy called Marengo. He confidently declared: ‘I will fight him, here.’

The Austrians did a surprise attack. The French we caught off-guard and lost a few territories. The campaign was already off to a rocky start. One bad news after another came. His forces were decimated on the east, movements were predicted, misinformation got to him, his officers stepped into traps, he lost important cities and one of his generals refused to give reinforcements. Unforeseen circumstances, staff disobedience and incompetence challenged his plans, yet he took them calmly and made adjustments.

On June 14, 1800, the Austrians attacked a scattered French force. This time, it was Napoleon himself who made a mistake. At 3:00 pm in the afternoon, the Austrians broke the lines after a hours of intense fighting. Napoleon retreated.

As the retreat was happening, Napoleon was oddly excited with how the Austrians pursued them. He criticized their lack of discipline. He rallied the retreating force and prepared them for counterattack. The French forces thought he was crazy because they were already being pursued by the enemy and still thought they could counter-attack. He assured them that reinforcements will come within minutes.

And as he predicted, the reinforcements came at the right time. The well-timed counter-attack was successful and and the French overwhelmed the Austrians. He turned the tide of battle and won. This victory sealed his success in the campaign.

This battle was won in the town called Marengo.