Tuesday, Apr. 26, 2011

Napoleon Leaves Elba

By the spring of 1814, the armies of France's continent-conquering Napoleon were a bedraggled mess, reeling from a disastrous campaign in the Russian winter. Surrounded and weakened, Napoleon was forced to abdicate his imperial throne and sent into exile on the tiny Mediterranean island of Elba. Now, you can say it's hardly a prison when you get to claim sovereignty over a whole island, keep a small navy and spend your days surveying land and ordering the construction of iron mines, but Napoleon knew his enemies would not tolerate his presence in Elba long and had plans to send him much further to St. Helena in the Atlantic. So Napoleon stealthily abandoned Elba with a small force and landed on French soil — in a famous encounter, the French regiment sent to intercept the Emperor on the run simply joined ranks with him. And soon the entire nation would rally around him once more. But in the summer of 1815 his luck ran out and his armies were defeated decisively at the famous battle of Waterloo. Napoleon was banished to St. Helena, a prison from which this time there was no escape.