Sunday, June 22, 2008


After several hard kicks to the head at the Outpost last week, I took Saturday off. Sometimes you just have to.

I barbecued a chicken and watched a movie and drank a couple of beers, but spent most of the day curled up with an old war game and a stack of books about Napoleon. He is an endlessly fascinating character who has lots to teach about dealing with adversity. Late in his life, when he was in final exile, he told a visitor that he should have died in battle in Moscow. The visitor dissented: That, he said, would have deprived the world of the sublime spectacle of seeing Napoleon return from earlier exile and raise another massive army to challenge the world one last time.

Napoleon had to admit he had a point. Instead, he said, he should have died at Waterloo.

I made a half-hearted search for one of my favorite Napoleon anecdotes, which I finally turned up this morning through Google in "War and Peace." There, Napoleon met with a Russian adjutant general who delivered a letter from the czar after the invasion of Russia had commenced. Napoleon, an astute student of military history, would have been well aware of the Swedish disaster at Poltava when it had invaded Russia during the Great Northern War in 1709.

After discussing the war and dim prospects for peace, Napoleon casually asked what cities the road to Moscow passed through. The Russian general replied that many roads led to Moscow, "among them the road through Poltava."

If words were truly mightier than the sword, Napoleon would have surrendered on the spot.

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