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Facts We Just Learned About Napoleon Bonaparte That Made Us Say 'Really?'

August 27, 2020 7.7k votes 970 voters 24.1k views14 items

List RulesVote up the facts about Napoleon you're excited to know now.

Napoleon Bonaparte is well known today as one of the greatest conquerors of the past, but he may even be more well known for his rumored short height. His alleged stunted stature even spurred the "Napoleon complex" that is said to afflict those who also suffer from being shorter than the average and aren't too happy about it. But what if this Napoleon fun fact isn't actually true? In reality, a lot of interesting Napoleon facts we think we know have been altered, misremembered, or transformed by history. The truth may actually make him even more interesting! 

Vote up the facts about Napoleon Bonaparte people just learned that you're excited to know now.

  • Photo: davehalb / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    He Commissioned A 'New Language' That Today We Know As Braille

    From Redditor u/Kladinov:

    TIL That Napoleon commissioned the development of a system that would allow his troops to communicate at night in the front lines, which was eventually taught to and perfected by 12 year old student Louis Braille.

    Context: While at war, soldiers who lit lanterns to read orders and letters at night were often targeted. To combat this, Napoleon wanted to come up with a way to communicate in the dark without giving up their location. A member of his army, Charles Barbier, came up with a raised dot system that communicated general words or sounds so the soldiers could effectively communicate necessities at night. That system was later refined to make what we know today as braille.

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  • Photo: Northfielder / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Napoleon Ordered 10 Days Of Grieving When George Washington Passed

    From a former Redditor:

    TIL that when President George Washington died, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte ordered ten days of mourning in France.

    Context: George Washington passed away in Mount Vernon in 1799, and when he did, tens of thousands of people mourned the loss. Among those saddened was Napoleon Bonaparte. To honor the American revolutionary Napoleon declared 10 days of official mourning in France.

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  • Photo: Henri Félix Emmanuel Philippoteaux / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Young Napoleon Applied To Be A Part Of A Lost French Expedition

    From Redditor u/ABannedUser:

    TIL a young Napoleon Bonaparte applied to be a member of a French expedition aimed at sailing the world. His application was rejected. While traveling around Australia everyone on the expedition disappeared, presumed dead.

    Context: Louis XVI desperately wanted to commission a trip around the world to better equip his maritime forces in the wake of the American Revolution, and in 1785 he appointed two ships to take on the task. Each ship would have about 100 personnel on board including scientists, sailors, and officers. A young Napoleon Bonaparte did indeed apply to be one of the seamen on the expedition but was turned down. The ships lost contact and went missing at some point, and all the men are believed to have perished.

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  • Photo: Evgenii / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Napoleon Made It To Moscow But Had To Retreat Shortly After

    From Redditor u/beocoyote:

    TIL Napoleon actually made it all the way [to] Moscow, and even captured the city. He thought this victory would force Russia to negotiate peace. But the retreating Russian army burned the city down rather than capitulate to Napoleon. Napoleon retreated back to France shortly after.

    Context: Yes, Napoleon's Grande Armeé made it all the way to Moscow, but the whole way there they were faced with a retreating Russian army that burned everything in their path, so they found essentially nothing but desolation on their way. When Napoleon and his men did make it to Moscow, the city was completely evacuated and had been lit on fire by Russian patriots. Napoleon eventually had to order his troops back home to avoid starving and freezing due to the upcoming winter.

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