This Day in History (26-Feb-1815) – Napoleon Bonaparte Escapes from Elba

Defeat in Russia forced Napolean to return to France, when all the european nations jointly attacked him and defeated him in April 1814. The post war treaty provided Napolean with 2 million francs a year, and allowed him to retain the title of Emperor. But Napoleon was of course distraught, and tried unsuccessfully to poison himself. Finally he accepted exile on the island of Elba in the Mediterranean Sea, six miles off the western coast of Italy. Napoleon was allowed to rule Elba, which had 12,000 inhabitants. Napoleon actually worked hard to improve Elba, and to all observers, it seemed as though Napoleon was content to a life of relative retirement. All the while, however, he was plotting his return.

On Elba, Napoleon was under the constant watch of Austrian and French guards. Nonetheless, he was not isolated: he received thousands of letters from all over Europe and read major newspapers that kept him abreast of events. Napoleon organized and trained a small navy, instructed work crews on the manufacture of mines and created a small regiment of loyal troops. He gathered approximately 1,000 men and slipped away from his palace on Elba during the night of February 26, 1815, a little more than ten months after his arrival.

Two days later, he arrived on the French coast and brought his force ashore with designs on a march to Paris. Passing through the southeast of France without much in the way of resistance, Napoleon and his men finally stood before resolute opposition at Laffrey. The soldiers realized it was their former commander and could not believe their eyes — Napoleon stood within range of their pistols and yelled, “Let him that has the heart kill his Emperor!” Amazed, the men are said to have lowered their weapons and shouted, “Vive l’Empereur!” before joining the ranks behind him. As the days passed, battalion after battalion lined up with Napoleon. Less than a month after setting foot on French soil again, Napoleon was in control of Paris on March 20th and Louis XVIII, the new king, fled to Belgium. However within next hundred days, Napolean was defeated at Waterloo and was sent to exile to the remote island of Saint Helena, in the South Pacific where he died due to poor health.

 

Reference:

http://www.mapsofworld.com/on-this-day/february-26-1815-napoleon-bonaparte-escapes-from-elba

http://www.sparknotes.com/biography/napoleon/section8.rhtml

http://www.sparknotes.com/biography/napoleon/section9.rhtml

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