Year
1814

Napoleon exiled to Elba

On this day in 1814, Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of France and one of the greatest military leaders in history, abdicates the throne, and, in the Treaty of Fontainebleau, is banished to the Mediterranean island of Elba.

The future emperor was born in Ajaccio, Corsica, on August 15, 1769. After attending military school, he fought during the French Revolution of 1789 and rapidly rose through the military ranks, leading French troops in a number of successful campaigns throughout Europe in the late 1700s. By 1799, he had established himself at the top of a military dictatorship. In 1804, he became emperor of France and continued to consolidate power through his military campaigns, so that by 1810 much of Europe came under his rule. Although Napoleon developed a reputation for being power-hungry and insecure, he is also credited with enacting a series of important political and social reforms that had a lasting impact on European society, including judiciary systems, constitutions, voting rights for all men and the end of feudalism. Additionally, he supported education, science and literature. His Code Napoleon, which codified key freedoms gained during the French Revolution, such as religious tolerance, remains the foundation of French civil law.

In 1812, thinking that Russia was plotting an alliance with England, Napoleon launched an invasion against the Russians that eventually ended with his troops retreating from Moscow and much of Europe uniting against him. In 1814, Napoleon’s broken forces gave up and Napoleon offered to step down in favor of his son. When this offer was rejected, he abdicated and was sent to Elba. In March 1815, he escaped his island exile and returned to Paris, where he regained supporters and reclaimed his emperor title, Napoleon I, in a period known as the Hundred Days. However, in June 1815, he was defeated at the bloody Battle of Waterloo. Napoleon’s defeat ultimately signaled the end of France’s domination of Europe. He abdicated for a second time and was exiled to the remote island of Saint Helena, in the southern Atlantic Ocean, where he lived out the rest of his days. He died at age 52 on May 5, 1821, possibly from stomach cancer, although some theories contend he was poisoned.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Idi Amin overthrown

On April 11, 1979, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin flees the Ugandan capital of Kampala as Tanzanian troops and forces of the Uganda National Liberation Front close in. Two days later, Kampala fell and a coalition government of former exiles took power. Amin, chief of the Ugandan army ...read more

Apollo 13 launched to moon

On April 11, 1970, Apollo 13, the third lunar landing mission, is successfully launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying astronauts James A. Lovell, John L. Swigert, and Fred W. Haise. The spacecraft’s destination was the Fra Mauro highlands of the moon, where the ...read more

Henry Ford marries

On this day in 1888, 24-year-old Henry Ford marries Clara Jane Bryant on her 22nd birthday at her parent’s home in Greenfield Township, Michigan. Clara Ford would prove to be a big supporter of her husband’s business ideas: Fifty years later, Henry Ford–who by then had founded ...read more

International Labor Organization founded

On this day in 1919, in Paris, France, the International Labor Organization (ILO) is founded as an independent, affiliated agency of the League of Nations. The call for just and equal labor standards and improved working and living conditions for the world’s workers had begun to ...read more

Troops from Hawaii sent to South Vietnam

One hundred U.S. troops of the Hawaiian-based 25th Infantry Division are ordered to temporary duty with military units in South Vietnam to serve as machine gunners aboard Army H-21 helicopters. This was the first commitment of American combat troops to the war and represented a ...read more

B-52s strike North Vietnamese positions

On this day, B-52 strikes against communist forces attacking South Vietnamese positions in the Central Highlands near Kontum remove any immediate threat to that city. Air strikes against North Vietnam continued, but were hampered by poor weather. Also on this day, the Pentagon ...read more

Phil Mickelson wins first major at Masters

On this day in 2004, Phil Mickelson wins the Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, his first major championship in nearly 12 years as a professional golfer. A native of California, Mickelson graduated from Arizona State University, where he won three NCAA ...read more

Talleyrand offers to sell Louisiana

In one of the great surprises in diplomatic history, French Foreign Minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand makes an offer to sell all of Louisiana Territory to the United States. Talleyrand was no fool. As the foreign minister to French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, he was one of ...read more

Cher wins Best Actress Oscar for Moonstruck

On this day in 1988, at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, the actress and singer Cher collects the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Moonstruck (1988). Cherilyn Sarkasian, who was born on May 20, 1946, first became famous as the taller, female half of the ...read more

Last survivors of ferry accident rescued

Rescue workers pick up the last survivors of the Wahine ferry accident on this day in 1968. The ferry had capsized after hitting sharp rocks off the coast of Wellington, New Zealand, the previous day. Fifty-one of the more than 800 passengers and crew on board perished in the ...read more

War is narrowly averted

While visiting Marathon, Greece, Lord Muncaster of Britain is kidnapped by brigands, almost resulting in war. The pirates, led by Takos Arvanitakis, were experienced in kidnapping and had used it as a lucrative source of income for many years. However, their capture of Lord ...read more

Truman relieves MacArthur of duties in Korea

In perhaps the most famous civilian-military confrontation in the history of the United States, President Harry S. Truman relieves General Douglas MacArthur of command of the U.S. forces in Korea. The firing of MacArthur set off a brief uproar among the American public, but ...read more

Confederates surrender Fort Pulaski

The Confederates surrender Fort Pulaski, guarding the mouth of the Savannah River in Georgia, after a two-day Union bombardment tears great holes in the massive fort. Fort Pulaski was constructed in 1847 as part of the country’s coastal defense network. The imposing masonry ...read more