Napoleon: A Life by Paul Johnson

As a boy Bonaparte was distinguished by his gift to mathematics, which remained with him throughout his life and was of inestimable value in his profession.

His calculating approach to war made Bonaparte more than a tactician. He had the makings of a strategist - indeed, a geostrategist.

Bonaparte began to pay constant attention to the role of calculation in war: distanced to be covered; speed and route of march; quantities of supplies and animals, and the vehicles required for their transport; rates at which ammunition was used in various engagements; replacement rates of men and animals; wastage figures from disease, battle, and desertion.

He made a habit of working the above things out in his head.

He was the opportunist incarnate.

He wanted to play a modern Alexander the Great.

Bonaparte cared nothing for the lives of his soldiers. He disregarded losses, provided his objectives were secured.

No man lost more armies than he did.

The soldiers liked his high-risk approach. In their calculations, they were as likely to be killed by a defensive and cautious commander as by an attacking one, and with little chance of loot to balance the risk. Soldiers like action.

The French army, under Bonaparte at his best, had an enviable corporate arrogance. It knew it was the finest.

Bonaparte rarely raised his hat to anyone.

He tended to be conservative. He ignored steam power. He hated the idea of sea warfare.

One of his wives complained that in bed, he was quick and selfish.

He could work 18 hours at a stretch on one or on several subjects. I never saw him tired. I never saw him lacking in inspiration, even when weary in body, nor when violently exercised, nor when angry.

He had not a good memory for proper names, words and dates, but it was prodigious for facts and localities.

He had the ability to swiftly detach and go to sleep and then get back to work.

He was really ignorant, having read very little and always hastily.

There were few of his officers he could trust to do anything efficiently, or indeed at all. Necessity forced him to do all, at times.

He was not lively or pleasant in conversation, but now and then he comes out with a thing you will remember for the rest of your life.

Bonaparte was by birth a quasi-Italian, but by national adoption he became a French cultural racist.

The greatest soldier who ever lived.