Soon after the Republic was declared, Corsica became embroiled in civil strife. One faction of Corsicans wanted to join the new Republic, and the other faction wanted an independent Corsica. The Bonaparte family had always been pro-French, and they were leaders of the pro-Republic faction. Napoleon himself was a member of the Jacobin club in Corsica, which favored a constitutional monarchy. Ultimately fearing for their lives, the Bonapartes fled to France in June 1793.

Napoleon finally returned to military duty in 1793, now in the Republic's army, and became a captain. His task was to help suppress the anti-Republic insurrections sweeping the French countryside. Also, various European armies were violating the French border during the revolutionary period of confusion. Under General Carteaux, Napoleon served as an artillery captain in the Siege of Toulon, in which France recaptured Toulon from British pro-Royalist forces on September 22, 1793. Nappoleon handled his artillery units so well in this battle that he was promoted to Brigadier-General, and caught the eye of Maximilien Robespierre, who in 1794 made Napoleon the commandant of artillery in the French Army in Italy, which was controlled by Austria at the time.

In the month of "Thermidor" (July) 1794, the more moderate factions of revolutionaries brought down and executed Robespierre. Napoleon, whose promotion by Robespierre had established his reputation as the dictator's protégé, was temporarily thrown in jail for being a Jacobin. However, because he was so valuable as a military commander, Napoleon was released in September, though he was not given the Italian command, as many still feared he was ambitious and dangerous. Napoleon went to Paris to complain to the authorities.

Fearing dictatorship such as produced Robespierre's "Reign of Terror," the new French government set up the Directory, a five-person executive council. Paul Francois Barras, a member of the Directory, had control of the army, and sought to use it to restore order against the resurgent royalist forces that were threatening to attack the National Assembly. On October 8, 1795, Barras made Napoleon second-in-command of the Army of the Interior. Napoleon defeated the royalists, preserved order in Paris, and saved the Directory's government. The Directory was profoundly grateful to Napoleon.

At a party at Barras' home, Napoleon met Marie Josèphe Rose de Beauharnais. Later, she would be called Josephine. They married on March 9, 1796.

By 1795, the anti-French coalition was dissolving, and only Austria and England remained at war with France. Napoleon convinced the Directory to let him attack Austria's position in Northern Italy, and on March 2, 1796, the Directory, still owing its existence to him, made him commander of the Army of Italy. Using lightning attacks and the advantage of surprise, Napoleon first defeated Austria's allies in the region (Piedmont and Sardinia). On May 10, Napoleon inflicted an embarrassing defeat on the Austrians at the Battle of Lodi. Soon the various republics of Italy, from Naples to Rome, surrendered to French control.

Popular pages: Napoleon Bonaparte