The definitve account of Napoleon’s rise to power by one of our greatest historians.
On June 25, 1807, Napoleon met and embraced his recent foe, Tsar Alexander I of Russia, on a raft in the middle of the River Niemen near Tilsit. This theatrical but historic occasion represented the pinnacle of Napoleon’s glory. The Tsar was forced to accept an alliance dividing Europe into two spheres of influence, and Napoleon became supreme ruler of the continent of Europe west of Russia.
Alistair Horne traces Napoleon’s ascent to power in the years preceding this climax to his political and military career: the success of the “peace machine,” the formation of the impressive Grande Armee and the abortive plan to invade England. The author examines in detail the strategic success of the Ulm-Austerlitz campaign in 1805 – “the first great battle of modern history” – in which Napoleon decisively defeated the Austro-Russian army. With the ensuing double victory of Jena-Auerstadt in 1806 and the defeat of the Prussians, Napoleon became undisputed master of Central Europe. In 1807, the Battle of Eylau, resulting in a draw – after which he admitted that his “soul was oppressed to see so many victims” – led to his crushing victory at Friedland which set the seal on the campaigns begun two years previously.