Master Snowball Tactician

I’m submitting this for Illustration Friday’s topic “Surrender.”

Nap and the gang

I’ve never been a history buff, but I am beginning to enjoy it more and more.  I’m reading a biography of Napoleon by Felix Markham and I encountered something fascinating.  Apparently, as a schoolboy in Brienne France, Napoleon enthusiastically organized mock battles.  In the unusually cold winter of 1797 Napoleon designed snow fortifications to  serve as the battleground for snowball fights amongst the students.  During his exile on the Island of Saint Helena, he said, “I have fought sixty battles, and I have learnt nothing which I did not know in the beginning.”

I’m amazed to ponder the poor students that had to exchange snowballs with a military genius who conquered practically all of Europe.  After reading that bit, my mind wandered for the next ten pages.  In my imagination, I constructed some middling student who marshaled the best of his resources to lead his gang of boys against Napoleon’s snow fortress, and years later as the London Times spat imprecatory statements against the “Thief of Europe” this man–this moderate man, this shoe salesman, reminisced about his day of glory when he and his fellows defeated Napoleon on the field of snow.


Perhaps, no such thing happened.  Possibly Napoleon, stranded on Saint Helena, fallen from grace–“but yesterday a King!/ And armed with Kings to strive,” prone toward introspection–possibly he began to rehearse his greatest battles in his mind: The Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, the Battle of Austerlitz, the Battle of Lodi, and possibly amongst these great battles he remembered some bit of tactical genius he displayed during the winter of 1797 in the battles that raged between the schoolboys at Brienne.

Here is a modest tribute to the Great Emperor as a young man persisting to victory at the end of a long day.


Published by Zach

I'm a writer and illustrator living in Creedmoor NC.

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  1. Nicely done. Very imaginative.

    If you haven’t read Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels, I imagine you would really enjoy them. Excellent stuff from the Napoleonic era, from the English navy perspective. Master and Commander begins the series.

  2. I love the pictures. It must have been instinct that made him organise his mates like that. He was probably the strongest character there, so they just followed him…so sweet, do you know who the artist is?
    Thanks for the post, Napoleon rules Europe!! I have been a buff for 3 years, yay! I hate the English for defeating him though. But when they exiled him…that’s evil. How can they just do that and think that its appropriate?
    Vive L’Empereur!

  3. an interesting alleged quotation from the bonaparte himself: “i am the instrument of providence, she will use me as long as I accomplish her designs, then she will break me like a glass…”

  4. Fabulous illustration! I really like the dramatic composition, and marvelous light, as well as all the boys themselves. Interesting contemplations as well. It is funny to think about those boys who “fought” against him in battle as children.and what they might think later….

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