How Did Napoleon Escape From Elba?

His opponents thought they had silenced Napoleon for good.

Napoleon Bonaparte was crushingly defeated in the Battle of Nations at Leipzig in 1813 and exiled to Elba, an island between Italy and Corsica. His opponents thought they had silenced Napoleon for good. But he escaped after 300 days on the island, with the help of a mini-marine, which Napoleon had with him on Elba.

Why and when was Napoleon exiled to Elba?

Napoleon staged a military coup in 1799 and appointed himself emperor a few years later, in 1804. He made the Netherlands a French vassal state with his brother Louis Napoleon as king. The coalition armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden finally defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Nations at Leipzig in 1813. And they exiled him to the island of Elba.

Napoleon spent a total of about 300 days on Elba before he managed to escape. During those 10 months on Elba, Napoleon occupied himself with improving agriculture as well as inspecting his troops. Remarkably, the general who once kept half of Europe under his thumb was allowed to take 2,000 soldiers to the place of exile without any problems. His opponents thought they had tamed Napoleon for good. 'I begin to think that he is quite resigned to his abdication,' wrote the Briton Neil Campbell, who accompanied him to the island, in September 1814.

Napoleon escapes from Elba

Campbell was dead wrong. In 1815, Napoleon saw an opportunity in Elba. Campbell was gone, as were the British naval ships guarding the island. Napoleon decided to simply sail to the French coast and advance to Paris. The plan succeeded, and for a hundred days it seemed that old times would be revived. But at Waterloo, Napoleon suffered his final defeat. And this time he was exiled more thoroughly, to St. Helena, far in the Atlantic Ocean.