Napoleon Bonaparte was a highly accomplished and renowned French military and political leader. He rose to power and popularity during the French Revolution and played a significant role in the Revolutionary Wars. He was an astute and intelligent leader, who ruled as the Emperor of the French from 1804 -1814 and again in 1815. During his rule, he pushed the French rule and domination further in Europe than anyone else before and led a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars for more than a decade.
What’s even more impressive is that he won most of these wars and had built an empire that ruled over continental Europe before he was finally defeated in 1815.
He is still regarded as one of the best commanders in the history of the world and his military strategies and campaigns are studied in military schools worldwide, to this day. Despite the controversy surrounding his ideologies, he is still one of the most celebrated political figures in history.
Now, while most of us associate the name of Napoleon Bonaparte with the Battle of Waterloo and the ultimate defeat of the French army against the British armies of the Seventh Coalition, there’s another battle that Napoleon had lost which may not have been as glorious as one would expect from the great French commander.
- Eight years before the Battle of Waterloo, in July 1807, when Napoleon and the French were dominating the battlefield, Napoleon had just signed the Treaty of Tilsit (this treaty ended the war between the French Empire and Imperial Russia).
- As a way to celebrate the signing of the treaty and the oncoming age of peace, Napoleon proposed a rabbit hunt and assigned his Chief of Staff, Alexandre Berthier with the responsibility of organizing it.
- Berthier carefully organized an outdoor luncheon and invited the most decorated and well-respected soldiers and commanders of the French Military. It was an honour to be invited to such an event and it was planned to perfection. Or so he thought.
- In preparation for the rabbit hunt, Berthier had purchased a large number of rabbits; while some say it was in the hundred other historians claim the number may have been as high as 3000. Irrespective of the exact number, there were a lot of bunnies.
- Berthier and his men had the bunnies caged and ready along the perimeter of the field where the hunt was to commence. When Napoleon and his guests arrived at the field to begin the hunt, the bunnies were released, all at once, from their cages. Now, up until now, everything had been done in the exact correct manner and but what happened next was strange, to say the least.
- The bunnies, instead of running in fear from the armed men, began charging towards Napoleon and his men. The commander and his esteemed guests simply laughed it off – the sight of a hundred bunnies running towards them wasn’t really something to be worried about,.
- But surprisingly, the bunnies refused to budge and kept running at them and soon enough had swarmed Napoleon and his men completely. They climbed up his shoes and jacket and were relentless.
- The men started chasing them with sticks and cracked their bullwhip, in an attempt to scare the furry little animals away. But the humans were grossly outnumbered and surprisingly overpowered by the bunnies.
- Napoleon retreated to his carriage, but the bunnies did not let up and some even climbed on. Only when the carriages began to roll away did they finally succeed in leaving the bunnies behind them.
Turns out, Berthier had messed up pretty badly. Instead of wild hares, he had bought tame rabbits from local farmers. These domesticated rabbits hadn’t lived a day of their life in the wild and so the last thing they felt when they saw humans was terror. To them, Napoleon and his men were nothing but glorified feeders and when they didn’t see their beloved cabbage, they simply charged at them.