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We often receive questions about Napoleon and other famous people and events of this period. After several years of accumulation, we've decided to post the most common questions along with some answers which will hopefully help you out the next time you're stranded on a quiz or pulled into a hot historical debate.
  1. Did Napoleon really stick his hand in his vest all the time?
    No, he did not. Napoleon does appear in many paintings with his hand in his vest, but this was a very common style at the time. A perfect example of this is the 1773 painting of George Washington which hangs at the Washington-Lee College in Virginia. In that painting, the future American president appears with his right hand tucked casually into his vest. Because Napoleon Bonaparte was a four-year old child living on the island of Corsica when the Washington painting was executed, it is impossible for him to have affected the styles which obviously were already "in" by that time.

    A short note about a genuine personal "quirk" of Napoleon's: He had the habit of constantly clasping his hands behind his back. He was so easily recognized by this habit, that any attempts at appearing incognito at gatherings were usually doomed to failure!

  2. Did Horatio Hornblower really serve in the British Navy?
    Sorry, Horatio Hornblower is a purely fictional character. Not only is he fictional, but he was not even invented until after World War Two, when the famous Hornblower novels were published by C.S. Forrester. As an added note, Horatio Hornblower's character is also not based on the life of British Admiral Horatio Nelson. Many of the events in the Hornblower novels were drawn from a variety of articles and stories published in old 19th century Naval Gazettes.

  3. Why did Napoleonic soldiers fight shoulder to shoulder?
    Contrary to popular belief, the practice of close order combat (close order was placing men with their shoulders touching) did not come into being because the soldier's muskets were so inaccurate. In reality, close order had been in fashion for several hundred years, and was considered necessary in order for officers to maintain control of their men. While their wildly inaccurate weapons did not cause close order to be used, they did allow close order to continue in use for many more years. In fact it was not until machine guns rang up such a horrible toll during World War One that European officers finally gave up on the idea of close order control of their men.

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