May 9, 2006 cameron

#5 – The Army of Italy (part one)

Napoleon is made Commander-In-Chief of the Army of France in Italy by Paul Barras in March 1796 (one week before he married Josephine). A couple of days later, he leaves to join his new command.

In this episode, we talk about:

Building a winning army

  • His key team Berthier, Murat
  • The generals he inherited, Massena, Augereau, how he got them onside
  • The army he inheried the condition they were in, their track record to date
  • How he inspired the troops
  • Who he was fighting and why
  • The first victory Montenotte
  • The lesson of Dego
  • The victory at Mondovi and the Armistice of Cherasco, his first peace treaty
  • And that was all in the first month!


  •  guess this is a good time to start talking about the major recurrent themes in Napoleon’s strategy.
  • Fast movements, the advantage of surprise
  • Flexible strategy, changing tact mid-stream if needed versus slow, rigid opponents
  • Attack the center, split the opposing force, then attack the wings

Napoleon in Victory
You can tell a lot about the man from how he acted towards his opponents after a victory
In the next show, we’ll continue the Italian Campaign of 1796 as Napoleon wins the Battle of Lodi and starts to fully comprehend that he has a special destiny!



Comments (16)

  1. Ub122

    Hello Cameron, I’m following all the episodes you are doing with David, and enjoying every single one of them. Waiting for the next one,hopefully you will record it soon!
    Good job!

  2. Chris O'Riley

    Gidday guys.

    Love your work and good on you both for making the effort. One suggestion. An alternative to the 1812 overture (which celebrates the Russian victory) that you could consider for the intro music is Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat Opus 73 – also known as “The Emperor”. At one time Beethoven was an admirer of Napoleon.
    If you don’t have a copy might I suggest that you get the DVD from ABC Classics. It has Gerard Willems from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music playing a Stuart and Sons Piano (made of Huon pine) with Sinfonia Australis conducted by Antony Walker. Apart from getting a DVD of the year award last year I would suggest that its one of the best renditions of this absolutely imperial piece of music.

    HTH and Keep up the good work

  3. Thanks Chris! We’ve never been happy with the history behind the 1812 Overture either, it just seemed to fit easily. 🙂

    Next episode I’ll try The Emperor (can’t promise it’ll be the Willems version though) and see how it works!

  4. Mike

    Hi there Cameron. Just wanted to say a huge thanks. Please also pass this on to David.
    End of the last podcast David & yourself mentioned slightly apologetically about the time overrun.
    From me : Don’t worry, you’re both doing fine.
    Yoy guys take as long as you want – nobody’s forcing me to listen after all.
    I play my own little inner game, where I imagine you two sat in armchairs by a fire, glasses of wine in hand, friends chatting about Napoleon. I’m also sat silently in a nearby chair, enjoying it & learning along the way – good enough for me.
    I’m in no rush to leave this imaginary fireside so you two gentlemen take as long as you want.

  5. Thanks Mike! Really appreciate the feedback mate. Tell your friends! 🙂

    BTW, we’re due to do another episode in the next couple of days.

  6. Tim Van Dyck

    Dear Cameron and David,

    I am sorry I didn’t left a reply earlier…It was only today that I saw episode 4 and 5 (I had them already saved a long time ago). Again they are great. I really like your description of incomparable Josephine and the end of the episode when you say that the Emperor has always loved her (the most), it is something which many people do not know, this ‘lovely Emperor’…Episode 5 was also very good, a good description of this brilliant Man and a good start of this fabulous Italian campaign…

    Until the next one,

    Vive L’Empereur and thanks again!

  7. Lovely stuff, feel free to stretch this out into as many episodes as you like! The more, the better!

  8. Louis

    Hi Guys

    Enjoyin this podcast immensely you guys take as much time as you want for each episode 🙂

    In the last episode their was some debate between David and his friend to who was the best Marshal.In my own humble opinon it would have to be the ‘iron marshal’ Davout eventhough my own favourite is Lannes, Auerstadt was immense, damn shame he wasn’t given a field command at Waterloo.

    Vive L’Empereur and i look foward to the next episode.

  9. Anna from NC

    Another excellent episode, installment, show, whichever word fits a podcast better. Great story about Bonaparte’s intimidating glare in response to the disrespectful lack of removing hats upon entry. I can just picture the holes he burned into those guys.

    With regard to your running over your expected time slot, keep in mind that your avid listeners aren’t minding one bit if your knowledge spills over. All the better. Kudos.

  10. FrankJ

    What is that gorgeous vocal version of Tchaikovki’s Ouverture? Thanks for letting it linger. Thanks also for this series; you’ve gained another fan!

  11. Pete V

    I really wish I found these years ago. I hope you’re still making them, they’re excellent. I listen to a LOT of audio lectures (TTC for example) and these are much, much better. Fantastic job.

  12. Jose

    This is excellent but I have one question what is that that is hear in the background a Bird???

    • Cameron

      The occasional noise in the background in early episodes is David’s smoke alarm, warning that the battery needs replacing. 🙂

  13. Cameron and David

    I have always loved history and Napoleon – but didn’t always find a “source” that “fed” my love.

    You guys do it in spades! Never before have I enjoyed hours and hours of discussion by two well informed teachers. Plus you are both quite honest and transparent. You say “I don’t know” when you don’t.

    Your work is greatly appreciated. I can not say enough about how great your podcasts are and what they do for me.

    Keep it up – don’t forget how much we all enjoy your work and knowledge – to share is the best payment for being so talented.


    • cameron

      Hi Brad! Thanks for the feedback! It’s always great to know that people are continuing to enjoy the show, especially all these years later!

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