On This Day in Napoleonic History – 7 March 1815

7Napoleon encounters soldiers of the 5th on his return from Elba

Napoleon met the battalion of the 5th Line a few hundred yards south of the town of Laffrey, on what today is known as La Prairie de la Rencontre. For Napoleon, it was the moment of truth. It was his first encounter with the French army since he left Elba. Were they still loyal to him? He was about to find out.

The commander ordered the troops to fire on Napoleon but no one obeyed. Standing within musket shot, Napoleon opened his iconic overcoat and addressed the troops: ‘Soldiers of the 5th! I’ve come back to see you. Do some of you want to kill me?’ The troops threw down their muskets and embraced their Emperor. This incident demonstrated Napoleon’s incredible bravery, since a single shot from a royalist officer could have brought everything to an end. There is a monume

Napoleon reached Grenoble at 11 PM, after having travelled 119 miles in 6 days on foot and on horseback. When the town officials refused to open the city gates, the townspeople tore them down and presented them to Napoleon as a sign of their loyalty. Napoleon was deeply touched. ‘On my march from Cannes to Grenoble, I was an adventurer. In Grenoble, I once again became a sovereign,’ he said.

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