Napoleon Series Archive 2015

Re: Macdonald's reliability.
In Response To: Macdonald's reliability. ()

It appears that Col Elting is not the only Napoleonic scholar who is critical of Macdonald and his memoirs. The following excerpts are from an excellent volume on Prince Eugene's campaign in Italy in 1809 and his involvement in the overall campaign, and the actual role that Macdonald played as Eugene's subordinate instead of the wishful thinking in Macdonald's Recollections.

From Prince Eugene at War 1809 by Robert Epstein:

The following information and conclusions are based on Professor Epstein’s work using the memoirs of General Jean Pelet-Memoires sur la guerre de 1809; the Recollections of Marshal Macdonald; the biography of Prince Eugene by General Frederic Vaudoncourt-Histoire politique et militaire du Prince Eugene Napoleon and the publication of Eugene’s Correspondence by Andre du Casse-Memoires et Correspondence politique et militaire du Prince Eugene.

Based on these and other reference material, Professor Epstein drew definite conclusions regarding Eugene’s relationship with then General Macdonald and the reliability of Macdonald’s memoir in general.

‘Macdonal was a subordinate of Eugene in 1809, and he deliberately tried to enhance his own reputation at the Viceroy’s expense.’-10.

‘A lot of ink has been spilled over Macdonald’s role in Eugene’s army. In 1825 Macdonald published his memoirs, The Recollections of Marshal Macdonald, in which he pictured himself as the de facto Commander-in-Chief of the army. As will be seen in the course of this study, Macdonald claimed that it was he who served as the military instructor to a confused, inexperienced, and immature Eugene. In Macdonald’s version, all of the Viceroy’s successes in the campaign were due to his calm, firm, and expert advice. Macdonald’s Recollections have often been considered an accurate historical source and have been used as a basis for many of the military histories of the 1809 war. Among those historians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries who uncritically relied on Macdonald’s memoirs were L. Adolphe Thiers in his Histoire de Consulate et de l’Empire and F. Lorraine Petre in his Napoleon and the Archduke Charles. Thiers and Petre were consequently highly critical of Eugene’s performance as a military commander and credit any of the successes of the campaign to Macdonald’s presence. The writings of all three-Macdonald, Thiers, and Petre-in conjunction with the writing of another critic, Pelet, established the anti-Eugene school of thought, arguing that Eugene was a well-meaning but incompetent military commander.’-38.

‘This school is opposed by Andre du Casse, the editor of Eugene’s papers. According to du Casse, Macdonald was to serve as a wing commander, nothing more and nothing less, and Eugene was free to dispense with any advice that Macdonald offered. An examination of Napoleon’s correspondence proves that Macdonald was sent merely as a corps commander and not as any sort of deputy Commander-in-chief. Napoleon informed Eugene of Macdonald’s appointment in a letter dated April 2 in which the Emperor wrote the following:

‘My son, I have given orders for General Macdonald to serve in the Army of Italy; he is going there immediately…I suppose that he will serve you to his utmost, and that he will serve in areas that call upon his talents and previous services. I have said nothing to him. He will be employed as a general of division, but he will be given command of a wing. This favor he will receive from you will tie him to you entirely.’

This letter proves that Macdonald and those who relied only on his recollections were wrong about his intended role in the War of 1809. As will be shown in subsequent chapters, Macdonald would act as a corps commander and have the same influence as the other corps leaders.’-39-40.

A footnote to the chapter states:

‘The Recollections were not published until the 1890s, but they were written in 1825 and the manuscript was used by Thiers. Macdonald’s Recollections were written for the purpose of self-aggrandizement. Naturally he belittled the role of any rival.’-42.

‘Macdonald’s memoirs were prejudicial to Eugene, as the former wanted to discredit the Viceroy to glorify his own actions.’-142

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Macdonald's reliability.
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Esposito/Elting Atlas
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Self serving? - Service Record
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Some further referencing required ...
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Refernce for Clarke's recommendation
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Jean-Jacques Germain Pelet-Clozeau
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Reliability of Pelet's conclusions ...
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Horward's views ..
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MacDonald
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