On This Day in Napoleonic History – 28 October 1785

23Napoleon graduates from École Militaire with the rank of Second Lieutenant in the artillery

When his studies at École Militaire finished, Napoleon wanted to return to Corsica to attend to family matters but it was impossible. The sixteen-year old officer (the term he much preferred to the lowly Second Lieutenant) was assigned to the La Fère Artillery Regiment at Valence-sur-Rhône, in the south of France, where he reported at the end of October.

He would spend ten months at Valence in relative solitude, rarely going out for the lack of means. He divided his time between learning practical artillery and reading everything he could get his hands on. To afford books he often had to skip meals. He was particularly interested in politics and history but the main area of his concern was the Corsican independence. He missed his homeland and longed to go back. ‘Elsewhere they see you rich, noble or learned but in Corsica you brag about your relatives, they are what makes a man praiseworthy or feared,’ he would say.

In September 1786 Napoleon would receive his first of five prolonged leaves of absence to Corsica. Overall he would spend three out of the next seven years on the island of his birth.


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