On This Day in Napoleonic History – 2 March 1976

2Napoleon is appointed as the commander of the Army of Italy

Paul François Barras, the member of the Directory to whom Napoleon owed this command, later wrote that to persuade his colleagues to choose Bonaparte for the campaign, he told them that, as a Corsican and a highlander, he was accustomed since birth to scale mountains. Barras also said that Napoleon would lift the Army of Italy out of its lethargy. On that last point he was correct. Despite the prevalent opinion at the time that it was nothing but a political appointment received not for military ability but for taking Barras’ mistress Josephine off his hands, Napoleon, who inherited a demoralised, starving and discontented army, turned things around and led it to greatness. Before Napoleon embarked on his Italian campaign, someone mentioned to him that he was too young to lead an army, to which the general replied: ‘I will be old when I return.’

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