Wars: They bring out the worst and the best in people


Wars are terrible. They bring out the worst and the best in people. There are many lessons to be learned from wars. Take for instance the following two incidents. There are two famous incidents where armies crossed the Alps. 

The first one was Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps in 218 BC. It was one of the major events of the Second Punic War, and one of the most celebrated achievements of any military force in ancient warfare. The Carthaginian general Hannibal guided his army with 90,000 heavy infantry from various African and Iberian nations, 37 elephants and 12,000 cavalries, over the Alps and into Italy in just 16 days, conducting a military ambush against the Romans that was unprecedented in the history of warfare. He lost 13,000 men in his trek over the Alps.

The second one was Napoleon. Having taken power in France during the 18 Brumaire on 9 November 1799, Napoleon was determined to return to ~Italy to reinforce the French troops in the country and retake the territory seized by the Austrians in the preceding years. In the spring of 1800 he led the Reserve Army across the Alps through the Great St. Bernard Pass. The Austrian forces, under Michael von Melas, were laying siege to Masséng in Genoa and Napoleon hoped to gain the element of surprise by taking the trans-Alpine route. By the time Napoleon’s troops arrived, Genoa had fallen; but he pushed ahead, hoping to engage the Austrians before they could regroup. The Reserve Army fought a battle at Montebello on 9 June before eventually securing a decisive victory at the Battle of Marengo.

When General Morescat told Napoleon that the crossing of the Alps would be very difficult, the emperor asked, “But is it possible?” The general replied, “If you make an extraordinary effort.” “Then let us go,” said Napoleon.

About the author

Bennie Mostert
By Bennie Mostert