From brumaire year VIII of the Republic, to prairial year XII.
(From November 1799, to June 1804.)
By the constitution of year VIII and the establishment of the Consulate, the Guard of the Directory, had to form the Consular Guard. Consequently, a decree of the consuls 7 frimaire year VIII (November 28, 1799) fixed the organization of this Guard in the following way:
“The consuls of the Republic”, it was said in the decree, “considering the need for giving to their Guard a suitable force and a state of dignity to the government of the French people, decree that the Guard of the consuls will henceforth be made up in the following manner, namely:”
ART. One general staff.”
* This company, which became the corps of the foot chasseurs of the Old Guard, was formed only later, though the officers who were to compose it had been appointed already by the first consul, whom this last had given the command of this company to the citizen Schonbert; this captain had as a lieutenant and second lieutenant the citizens Cairo and Bouzou.
** Instead of one company, two squadrons were created made up of two companies each. The majority of the men who formed part of it were recruited among the old guides of the armies of Italy and Egypt. Here was the origin of this regiment: after the passage of Mincio, in May 1796, Bonaparte had stopped at a castle located on the left bank. Suffering from a headache, he took a bath, when a detachment of Austrians misled by going up the river, arrived at this dwelling. Bonaparte was there almost alone; the duty sentinel at the door hardly had time to close it while shouting: to arms! and the General as a head of the army of Italy, hardly had time to dress, to escape as fast as possible through the gardens. The danger from which he had just escaped, a circumstance which, in his manner of operation, could often be repeated, made him organize a body which, under the denomination of Guides of General Bonaparte, was especially charged to take care of guarding his person.
*** The horse grenadiers soon expanded to three squadrons each made up of two companies.
Division General Commander in Chief and Inspector..
Consequently those named to compose the General Staff of the Consular Guard:
Division General LANNES, Commander-in-Chief.
Brigadier General BESSIÈRES, Second-in-Command.
Aides-de-camp of the Guard Commanding Generals:
RIVIÈRE. —BEAUMONT. —NOGUÈS. —DIDIER.
CASARELLI, Adjutant General.
DUBRETON, Fiscal Commissioner.—CHARAMOND, Commissioner of Wars.
“ART. 3. There will be for the two battalions of infantry and the light company:
And were named:
FRÈRE, Brigade Head.
“ART. 4. Each grenadier battalion will be composed of six companies and each company of:
Those named for the formation of these two battalions:
“ART. 5. The company of light infantry will be made up like that of the grenadiers.”
“ART. 6. The staff of the Horse Guard will be made up in the following way, i.e.:
And were named:
ORDENER, Brigade Head.
PERROT, Captain, Quartermaster-treasurer.
DALMANN, idem, Adjutant major.
PARISOT, idem, Instructor.
DAVID, Medical Officer of the first class.
DIÉCHÉ, idem of the second class.
“ART. 7. Each squadron will be composed of two companies, and each company of:
“ART. 8. The company of Horse Chasseurs will be made up like that of the Horse Grenadiers.”
Those named to the grenadiers and the chasseurs:
“ART 9. The light artillery company will be made up of:
And were named:
COIN, Commanding Captain
BERTHIER, Second lieutenant.
“ART. 10. The Consular Guard will thus be composed, in infantry as well as in cavalry and artillery, of:
“ART. 11. The Administrative Council of the Consular Guard will be composed of the Second in Command, and, in his stead, the General Adjutant particularly the one in charge of the administration. Of one senior officer of infantry; of one senior officer of cavalry; of one captain or lieutenant of infantry; of one captain or lieutenant of cavalry; of one captain or lieutenant of artillery, and three non-commissioned (sous) officers taken from each one of the different arms.”
“ART. 12. The fiscal commissioner or the commissioner of the wars will be held to attend the administrative council when required there for the execution of the laws and payments; but he will only be seen as an advisor.”
“ART. 13. The quartermaster treasurer of the cavalry will also be in charge of the details of artillery. The surgeon of the cavalry will in the same way be charged to look after the artillery.”
“ART. 14. The Consular Guard will be recruited only from men who will have distinguished themselves on the fields of battle.”
* This figure is not exact; it is far below the real number of men who successively formed part of the first organization of the Consular Guard. Nevertheless this figure of 2,089 is such as it had been in the decree of the consuls; we give it here only for completeness.
(Foot Grenadier and trumpeter of the Horse Grenadiers of the Consular Guard).
During the establishment of the consulate, the uniform that the infantry adopted was very nearly that which had been worn hitherto by the Guard of the Directory.
For the infantry, the grenadier coat (grande tenue-parade dress) was royal blue; blue collar, without edging; straightforward cut white reverses, without edging; scarlet facings, without edging; white three pointed closures (pattes); scarlet lining, without edging, turnbacks, fastened and furnished with four yellow wool grenades embroidered on white cloth; longitudinal pocket turns, piped by a scarlet braid; yellow buttons, embossed with a fasces of lictors, with this legend surrounding: Garde des Consuls.
Vest and breeches white; copper buttons on the vest.
Black gaiters going up above the knee; yellow buttons.
Red epaulettes and sword knots.
Bearskin cap, furnished with a plate carrying a grenade; on the top, a cross of yellow wool lace, twelve lines wide, on a background of scarlet; a yellow wool cord, with only one tassel; on the front of the cap, a hanging tassel above the plate.
Red plume and national cockade.
On the cartridge pouch, only one grenade out of copper.
The rifle furnished in iron.
On parade (en grande tenue) the officers wore a coat similar to that of the soldiers: grenades embroidered in gold spangles; epaulettes and sword knots of twisted gold cord; the body of the epaulettes embroidered on red, have spangled chevrons; in the half-circle of cords, a grenade in relief, also embroidered in gold spangles.
A gilded high collar, with the silver insignias of the Republic in relief.
The plate of the cap gilded; gold cord and cross.
An infantry saber, with the head of the first consul, out of silver, on the handle; white belt; white gloves; with boots turned down.
The petite tenue (walking out dress) of the officers consisted of a blue undress coat (surtout), with nine buttons on the front; blue collar and facings; two buttons on the sleeves; tails like those of the coat, it is called to be lined in scarlet, furnished by a border on the pouch, buttons and grenades.
In winter, blue trousers, and, in summer, trousers of nankeen; boots as are call in the style of Suvorov.
Hat trimmed with gold plaited cord, crossed with a black line; an eight lines wide gold lace, stripe (bâton), placed in the same direction and height in proportion to the hat; side opposed to the cord, two similar laces; and, behind the hat, two laces at the same height; finally inside, an end transverse lace, covering over the form; gold tassels with twists on each corner; the hat trimmed in black silk place, from the peak to the bâton, of a width of fifteen lines.
The 25 messidor year X (July 14, 1802), the parade dress of summer was changed for the officers and the soldiers, who assumed a vest, breeches, and gaiters of white dimity.
The cord of the cap, which was of yellow wool, was replaced by a cord in white yarn, as well as the cross on top of the bonnet, which was changed from the yellow lace, that it had been, to white.
Rifles were furnished in copper.
The non-commissioned officers and the sappers took on mixed cap cords of gold and red wool.
The petite tenue of grenadiers consisted of an undress coat (surtout) with a tricorne hat: both were of the same form as those of the officers. The hat was trimmed with yellow wool lace of six lines, with red tufts (macrons) at each corner, and red pompom, in a pine cone shape; the overcoat furnished, on the reverse of the coat tail, with four red wool grenades; shoulder straps (passants) in red wool lace of six lines width.
The laces of non-commissioned officers were in gold; epaulettes of the sergeant majors, red, bordered with gold; the fringe covered in gold; and gold cords.
The sergeants and the blacksmiths did not have a fringe of gold on their epaulettes; but the sword knot of their saber was of mixed red gold wool.
Article 2 of the decree of the consuls of 13 nivôse year VIII (January 3, 1800), regulated pay of their Guard in the following way:
**St. Hilaire has 1,040 x 210 = 436,800 an error. 436,800 divided by 1,040 = 410, which is more in keeping with other salaries and salaries of cavalry listed.
***St. Hilaire has 871,140, which is neither the total of the infantry pay columns as he lists them, nor as I have listed them. This number is not used in his final statement.
*St. Hilaire has 5 x 650 = 3,350. It is equal to 3,250.
**St. Hilaire has a total of 388,250. It adds to 387,750.
***St. Hilaire has 52 x 460 =23,900. It is equal to 23,920.
****St. Hilaire has a total of 69,200. It adds to 69,220.
*****These are the numbers, and sum as listed in St. Hilaire, corrected figures would be 185,000 + 721,880 + 387,750 + 69,220 = 1,197,350 francs.
This pay was allotted each month by the national treasury in a twelfth portion, and according to methods prescribed per the laws for the other army corps.
Article 16 of the same decree said: “the salaries of the officers will be paid at the end of each month, as well as the housing allowance to those who are not placed in national buildings.”
“Troop earnings will be paid per decade*; complementary days will be added to the last decade of fructidor”
“The salaries as paid will be regulated according to the tariff annexed to the present decree.”
*i.e. every ten days.
The allowances indicated hereafter will be paid every month, and in advance. They will be regulated in the proportions hereafter, namely:
“The bakery allowance will be at a rate of 19 c. per day for non-commissioned (sous) officers, guards and children of the corps for all arms, or 68 fr. 40 c. per annum.”
“The heating allowance at 8 c. per day in winter, and at 4 c. per day in summer; the non-commissioned officers, quartermasters (fourriers), musicians and head artisans (ouvriers) will be paid double.”
Body of the Guard.
“The allowance for heating, lighting and maintenance of utensils of the body of the guard, at a rate of 4 fr. 50 c. from 15 vendémaire to 15 germinal (from October 6 to April 4), and 60 c. during the other six months of the year.”
“The captain of the engineers, or the commissioner of wars, will give an accounting of these allowances every month to the reviewing inspector, for him to review.”
“The allowance for fodder will be paid at a rate of 1 fr. 39 c. per day, for horse officers, soldiers and those from the other services, or 500 fr. 40 c. per annum.”
“The allowance for remounts will be paid at a rate of 27 c. three quarters per day, per horse, or 100 fr. per annum.”
Shoeing and Medications.
“The allowance for shoeing and medications, at a rate of 8 c. a quarter per day, per horse, for a cavalryman, or 29 fr. 70 c. per annum; and 15 c. two thirds per day, per horse of the train, or 60 fr. per annum, not including officers’ horses that are included in different allowances for this.”
The Administrative Council of each body was in charge of the administration of these allowances; it ordered and paid for the purchases of any type; the making and the maintenance of the clothing effects, and finally the use of the funds which entered the unit’s cash box, according to the principles established in the decree of 8 floréal year VIII (April 28, 1800); without allowing any change nor innovation in the uniform; unless by a written command of the first consul.
The Administrative Councils were to go to the markets, the most economical possible, for all the supplies for which it could require, other than those indicated in the following article. These markets were never put to use until after having received the approval of the General commanding the arm, as well as the stamp of the reviewing inspector and that of the commissioner of wars.
“The markets for the supply of bread, fluids, wood and fodder, will have passed through a special administrative council, composed of the Generals, of the reviewing inspector, the commissioner of wars and the president of each administrative council, so that these supplies are of the same quality for all the units of the Consular Guard.”
The Administrative Council was to do a provisional check of the accounts of their respective bodies every month; the Reviewing Inspector would check this accountancy every three months in the presence of the general of that arm, and had, moreover, each year, to give a general account of their management to the assembled Administrative Council under the terms of orders emanating from the first consul.
“No individual associated with the corps of the Consular Guard will be able to claim any portion of the funds coming from the allowances. The council will not be able to have these funds without the authorization of the first consul; the remainder will have to be carried over into receipt for the following year.”
The government paymaster paid earnings (solde) and the allowances (masses), which we have just mentioned in accordance with the equipping article, on the reviews or statements of the administrative councils’ accounts by the Reviewing Inspector. He fed the cashboxes from that of the General Paymaster of War, in proportion to the needs for his service.
“All the officers without troops, included in the present organization, will be paid every month by the government paymaster according to the statements which will be drawn up by the heads of each body, and will be checked by the Reviewing Inspector.”
“All the sums which the paymaster will distribute, either under the terms of the statements of the administrative councils, or according to the statements of the officers without troops, or finally to balance the extracts of reviews, will be registered on their particular pay records.”
“Independent of the pay and the allowances, the administrative councils of the bodies will allocate the amount of clothing, equipment, armament and harnessing of the horses of each officer or soldier lately allowed in the Guard, and paid at the times of the reviews of the body, in the following proportions, namely:
“The officers will have to be mounted, while entering to the body, at a rate of two horses each, whatever their rank; they will take part in any increases in allowances, because of the number of horses allotted to their rank.”
A sum of six hundred francs was allocated to the senior officers for each increase of a horse; but this increase could take place only according to the authorization of the first consul.
In this case the Administrative Council formed the statement for the number of these horses, and the amount at a rate of six hundred francs each; this statement sent via the general officer of the cavalry and the Reviewing Inspector, and addressed to the Minister of War, who submitted his report to the first consul and then authorized the reimbursement.
It fell on the markets, as we said, to provide the extraordinary distributions of wine, brandy, of vinegar, which the Generals of the Guard judged appropriate for ordering. The administrative councils formed statements for these supplies every quarter, depositing the receipts of the commanders of companies, which they then gave for checking to the Commissioner of Wars, then with the approving requisition (visa) to the Reviewing Inspector; these statements were addressed to the Minister of War, who authorized its refunding to the administrative councils.
“The officers, non-commissioned officers and guards who obtained brevets of honor, or who were proposed for one, will be paid their honorary reward and their pay, according to their rank, at the time when they obtained them, and, for that, included in the review of the inspector.”
The sums which were due for postponed of pay for the newly allowed pay for the Consular Guard, were regulated by the Reviewing Inspector, on the pieces of communication with him by the respective administrative councils: the amount of these allowances was added to that of the reviews.
On leaving the Luxembourg to go live at the Tuileries *, the first thing which the First Consul did was to review the Consular Guard and the demi-brigades which were then quartered in Paris. He passed through all the ranks, addressed flattering words to the heads of corps, and then placed himself in front of the clock house, having Murat on his right, Lannes on his left, and behind him a number of staff of young warriors browned by the sun of Italy and Egypt, which all had taken part in more engagements than they were years old. When Bonaparte saw passing in front of him the flags of the 96th, 43rd and 30th demi-brigades, as these flags did not present any more than a stick surmounted with some rags pierced by grapeshot and blackened by powder, he took off his hat and bowed himself as a sign of respect. Each one of these signs of respect of a grand captain to ensigns mutilated on the battlefield, was saluted by thousands of cheers, and the troops having completed defiling in front of him, the First Consul boldly climbed the grand stairway of the Tuileries to take possession of the palace which at one time had been inhabited by the descendant of Louis XIV.
*The 30 pluviose year VII (19 February 1800).
At a few days after this, the government received the news of death of Washington who had modestly died in his small country house of Virginia. This death was announced to the Consular Guard by the following order:
“Washington is dead! This great man fought the tyrants and consolidated the freedom of his fatherland. His memory will be always dear to the French people, as to all free men of the two worlds, and especially to the French soldiers who, just as the American soldiers, fight for equality and freedom. Consequently, the first Consul orders that for ten days black crepes will be suspended on the flags and guidons of the Consular Guards.”
The institution of the weapons of honor in favor of those who already had obtained brevets of honor, dates about from the same time: it was a prelude to the creation of the Legion of Honor.
A grenadier sergeant who had distinguished himself by several brilliant deeds, having been included in the first distribution of these weapons (he had received a saber), wrote directly to the first Consul the following letter, to thank him for what, in his naive modesty, this brave man called a favor.
grenadier sergeant of the 32nd demi-brigade,
Toulon, the 16 frimaire year VIII*
CITIZEN FIRST COUNSUL,
Your arrival on the territory of the republic comforted all the pure hearts, mainly mine. Not having more hope than in you, I come to you as to my guardian God, to ask you to give a place in your good memory to Leon, that you filled so many times with favors on the battle fields.
Not having been able to embark for Egypt and to gather there new laurels under your command, I am with the depot of the 32nd demi-brigade in the capacity of sergeant. Having learned, by my comrades that you had often spoken about me in Egypt, please do not abandon me, by making me know that you remember me. It is useless to point out to you the affairs where I showed myself like a true republican, and where I deserved the regard of my superiors; nevertheless you will not have forgotten that affair at Montenotte where I saved the life of General Rampon with the Brigade Head Masse, as they attested to it to you themselves. In the affair at Dego, I took a flag from the engineer in charge of the enemy army; at the affair of Lodi, I was the first to mount the attack and I opened the gates with our brothers in arms; at the affair at Borghetto, I was one of the first to cross the bridge: the bridge being broken, I fell into the enemy, and made captive the commander of this station; made captive myself later, I killed the enemy commander, and by this action, four hundred men, prisoners like me, could join their respective corps. Moreover, I have five wounds on my body; I thus dare all to hope for you, and am easily persuaded that you will always have regards for the brave men who have so well served their fatherland.
Salute and respect. Léon AUNE.”
*7 December 1799.
Bonaparte wanted to answer the Sergeant Aune openly; and, the 1st ventose year VIII (20 February 1800), he dictated for him, through his secretary Bourrienne; the following letter:
“I received your letter, my brave comrade, you do not need to speak to me about your recognition, you are the bravest grenadier of the Republic since the death of the intrepid Bénézete. You have one of the sabers, which I distribute to the army. All the soldiers—your comrades agreed that it was you who deserve it most. I wish much to see you; the Minister for War sends the order for you to come to Paris. *
This letter could not miss being circulated through the army. A sergeant that the first Consul, that the greatest captain of modern times called my brave comrade! What more could be necessary to fill the army with enthusiasm? But as of this moment, the privileged body of the Consular Guard caused, on behalf of the other regiments of the army, jealous murmurs, which soon degenerated into quarrels and provocations.
*As soon as he arrived in the capital, Sergeant Aune , enrolled in the foot grenadiers of the Consular Guard, at the rank of a second lieutenant.
One day a corporal trumpeter of the horse chasseurs of the Consular Guard * * chatted at the door of the quarters (the Babylon Barracks) with some of his comrades, non-commissioned (sous) officers like him, when several fencing masters belonging to the troops of line approached while asking this last, in an arrogant tone, about speaking with their colleagues about the regiment, i.e. with the fencing masters of the horse chasseurs.
—They died in Egypt, the trumpeter answered them, measuring them with an evil eye, because he had judged first of all why these professional fighters wanted to come from there.
—But, trumpeter, said again one of them rolling up his moustache, you must, have some remaining among you?
On the negative response of the corporal trumpeter, the fencing masters so clearly revealed their intention to engage in a bad quarrel that this one (the trumpeter), impatient in his tenacity, finally says to them:
—Ah well! Messrs, go into the quarters, shut your eyes, put your hand on the first among us, and you will find a private individual who will prove to you that, if the masters and the provosts of the regiment remained in Egypt, all the good blades did not leave their bones there!
—Then I put my hand on you! He exclaimed who already had challenged him.
—Your decision could not be more flattering the trumpeter began again in a scoffing tone. Let’s go!
Each fencing master having made the choice of a champion, they went to the grounds where saber was put to hand, and, in a few minutes, four of the provoking fencing masters were put out of combat.
Eugène Beauharnais, who was yet only a squadron head of the horse chasseurs of the Consular Guard, having learned that the corporal trumpeter, his protégé, had been one of principal leaders in this meeting, called him and sharply addressed reproaches on him. This one sought justification by proving to his commander that he and his comrades had done nothing but maintained the bounds of self-defense.
—I hate the hired killers, interrupted Eugene, in a tone, which did not allow any more contradiction. I do not want any similar scandal among you again; and, as for you, he added, if he still comes to you, I will have a wooden blade put in you saber scabbard.
This idea seemed original to the trumpeter, who answered smiling:
—My commander, there will still be some dusting of the coats of those who seek spotting ours.
At a few days after, new provocations were addressed to the horse chasseurs of the Consular Guard: they were defied to dare go to Field-of-Mars. Despite the warning of their minds, many of them answered the challenge, and without giving time to explain, more than fifty men appeared saber in the hand and fought on line. This arranged battle started to become more fatal for the two parties, when suddenly General Lefebvre, commanding the town of Paris, and who undoubtedly had been warned, emerged from the military building at the head of a squadron of horse grenadiers which started to charge indiscriminately at both provoker and provoked. Lefebvre
could not think to find a better means for reestablishing order, and to make each return to duty. Several regiments left Paris immediately, and these quarrels of the corps finished the quarrelers’ fault; however the corporal-trumpeter of the chasseurs failed to re-ignite all these collisions. Sitting at table with some comrades and the drum major of a line regiment lately arrived in Paris, in one of the beer gardens which border the Military School, where, glass with the hand, one swore to ratify the peace treaty, this drum major, of a colossal size, had already agreed, but unnecessarily, to touch the trumpeter, whose reputation in the art of the fencing had come even to him; but this last had answered the provocations of the fencing master with only gibes.
—My faith! trumpeter, the drum major had told him, it is extremely advantageous for you not to have fallen under my hand on Field-of-Mars, because had I killed you infallibly, it would have caused me a sensitive displeasure.
At these words, the trumpeter looked fixedly at the interlocutor and answered him with a sly air:
—Let’s go then, major! do you believe that I had been afraid of you? It is I on the contrary who if I had killed you, would have been made so sad... To your health, major!
And the trumpeted presented his glass.
—You! Cried the Master at Arms pale with anger at once holding his glass on the table to not clink glasses.
—Yes, me! began the trumpeter again calmly. You see, though you are quite tall, I would flank you in this bottle, you and your baton.
With these words, the exasperated drum major drew up himself to his full height; but becoming charming suddenly, he took a bottle, and presenting it to the always impassive trumpeter:
—Ah well! he cried out at him, thus out flanks me in that one?
The trumpeter, without moving, took the bottle, raised it up to eye level, leaned it horizontally and putting it then on the table:
—I do not want to, he said coldly; it is empty and you will weary yourselves too much... To your health, major!
A burst of laughter accompanied these words and put an end to the provocation of the fencing master, who agreed, not without sorrow, to clink glasses with the corporal trumpeter of the horse chasseurs of the Consular Guard. These details will appear perhaps more than puerile and well below the dignity of history; but all that can be made known of the men and the things of this time is worthy of history, because all that can inform belongs to it.
SUMMARY OF THE CAMPAIGN OF THE CONSULAR GUARD IN ITALY.
BATTLE OF MARENGO
Fought 25 prairial year VIII (14 June 1800).
Order, in France, had succeeded anarchy. Trade, industry and agriculture reappeared; but peace, this peace so desired by all, could be obtained only by victories. The First Consul had thus decided to place for the moment the reins of government in the hands of his colleagues, Cambacérès and Lebrun, to again take up his general’s sword.
When Bonaparte took command of the Army of Italy in 1796 he found it had fallen into a state of want. France did not have any more possessions in Italy. To be able to make this region the theatre of a new war, it would be necessary to sustain an army on the Rhine, and all the forces of the Republic did not exceed 150,000 men. However, on the word of the Consul, all of France is moved and Italy also, because it understood that it was going to be delivered once again from the yoke of the Austrians. A decree of the consuls had ordered the formation of an army known as the reserve, who General Alexander Berthier was named as commander in chief; but Bonaparte was only proposed to direct their operations; and, after having declared publicly at the Senate and the Legislative Body that the formation and organization of this new army would be in Dijon, after having sent to this old capital of Burgundy many staff, and having announced that he would review the troops there, he restricted himself to direct to this town five to six thousand conscripts and retired soldiers. The majority of the latter being disabled, or, by their age, out of shape to be eligible for active service, it was not long before this reserve army became an object of mocking in Vienna, Berlin, London and even Italy; one would consider that it did not in fact exist, and one believed that the noise that arose was only a trick to act as diversion to the operations of the Austrian army which blockaded Genoa, and that was precisely what the first Consul wished.
Admittedly this army did not exist in Dijon; but the true army was moving on Switzerland, where it was to concentrate its corps, which had been formed on the way. Divisions had been organized separately and without noise in various places of appointment. The troops that the pacification of the Vendée left available, the garrison of Paris, and best of all, the new Consular Guard, had formed the core. This army seemed to arise as if by enchantment and, even if this army were not French any more, never was a head also so popular any more.
Towards the beginning of May 1800, the reserve army was joined together at the foot of the Alps. It was divided into three columns. The first, thirty five thousand men strong, including the Consular Guard, with which Bonaparte went, was to cross great Saint-Bernard; the second, of four thousand men, commanded by General Chabran, had to pass small Saint-Bernard; the third, of only two thousand men, under the command of General Bethencourt, had the mission of moving on Domo d' Ossola, while passing by the Simplon. Moreover, and to better hide the movements of our troops from the Austrians, the first Consul had given the order to General Turreau (Thureau) to gather four to five thousand men drawn from the towns of Dauphiné, and to come out at Suza, by the Mount Cénis and the Mount Genèvre.
May 13, the First Consul passed in review his troops, and entered into conference with the officers close to him whom he had called to give an account of what they had done, and to receive their last orders from him. General Marescot, in charge of the reconnaissance of the Alps, was whom Bonaparte was most impatient to hear. Comparing all the passes, this engineer officer had decided upon Saint-Bernard, while noting that the operation would be very-difficult.
—Difficult, you say, objected the Consul; but is it possible?
—I believe so, answered Marescot, but only with extraordinary efforts.
—Eh well! We will pass there! Was the only response of Bonaparte.
The French Advanced Guard commanded by General Lannes, began its movement May 17: from the burg of Saint Pierre, it went through the great Saint-Bernard. The carts of luggage and the artillery boxes had been dismounted; the mountings and the wheels were carried on mule back; the guns, placed on a type of sledges, made with dug out tree trunks, were pulled by hand. The grandeur of the company, the presence of Bonaparte, animated the troops. It was an army of young people: Consul, generals, soldiers all, still had the fire, enthusiasm and the cheerfulness of youth. To such men nothing was impossible. This painful climb was a merry march; with the patriotic songs of the soldiers mixing in accord with the warlike music of the regiments; in the difficult places, the drums, by beating the charge, gave renewed strength to those who had weakened with tiredness. Surrounded by the service squadrons of the Consular Guard, Bonaparte climbed Saint-Bernard on a beautiful mule, which belonged to rich proprietor of the valley; it was led by a vigorous peasant, of whom he liked to confide in.
—What would be necessary for you to be happy? He asked him at the time they reached the top of the mountain.
—Oh! Stated the modest villager; my fortune would be made, if the mule that you came up on were mine.
The Consul was caught laughing and did not answer; but after the campaign, he ordered that the most beautiful mule which one could find was bought, joining it with a cottage with some acres of ground, and putting his guide in possession of this small fortune. The young peasant, who had already forgotten his adventure, knew only then, whom he had guided in the perilous processions of Saint-Bernard.
Bonaparte had taken the most meticulous precautions to maintain order among the corps, and to prevent the men from leaving their columns during the painful march, which they would have to make through the Alps. Independently of what the soldier carried with him, he had acted to amass considerable provisions at the monastery located at the top of great Saint-Bernard. Each soldier received while passing, from the hand of the monks, bread, cheese and a measure of wine (an amount of one half-bottle). The bread and the cheese were cut, the wine was used only at the moment when the corps defiled; never was a distribution made with more order. Each one appreciating the caution that was required of him, nobody left his rank, no straggler was seen. Later the Consul provided his recognition to the monks, in giving 100,000 francs to the monastery, in remembrance of the services, which they had rendered.
The 28 floréal year VIII (May 18, 1800), Bonaparte wrote to the Minister of the Interior Department the following letter dated from the headquarters at Martigny, where he had arrived the day before:
“Citizen minister, I arrived at the foot of the great Alps, in the midst of Valais. Great Saint-Bernard offered many obstacles which were all surmounted with this heroic courage which distinguishes the troops of the Republic in all circumstances. One third of the artillery is already in Italy; the army goes down in force; Berthier is in Piedmont; in three days the whole army will be joined together.”
By one of these rare chances of fate, General Desaix, who was to determine the victory at Marengo, arrived at Toulon, returning from Egypt, the very same day that Bonaparte left Paris to go to Dijon. While debarking, this General had written Bourrienne, the intimate Secretary of the First Consul, intending to start out for Paris. Bourrienne having received this letter only at Martigny, had shown it to Bonaparte who said to his secretary:
—Ah! Well, yes in Paris! Write to Desaix to go at once to my Headquarters; I will have need of him.
Consequently, Desaix arrived at Stradella on June 11, where Bonaparte received him with the greatest friendship; but it was only in Martigny that an agenda was made known with the army in the presence of Desaix, to whom the First Consul gave the command of a division.
The passage of Great Saint-Bernard took four days (from 17 to 20 May). The cold was still acute. The descent was more difficult for the horses than had been the ascent; nevertheless, except for some beasts of burden, which rolled with their load into the chasms, there were few accidents to regret. However an unforeseen obstacle almost stopped the army at the beginning of its march. It descended the valley while following the fast and sinuous course of the Doria, arriving in front of the fort of Bard, located in an inexpugnable position; the passage was suddenly barred to them. The garrison, four thousand men strong, resisted all summons to surrender; an assault tried by General Lannes did not have any more success. However the march of the army always continuing, the valleys were encumbered: it was necessary to pass by it. Bonaparte, on his arrival, recognized to the left of the mountain a small path by which the infantry could flank the fort by defiling single file; this true goat path, soon widened by the sappers of the engineers, was used in the passing of the cavalry; but there remained the guns and the caissons: the intelligence of the artillery officers and the audacity of the gunners surmounted all the obstacles. We were masters of the town, which the road threaded in a single street, covered by the fort guns. This way was covered in grass and manure, the wheels of the carts were surrounded by straw, the guns covered with sheets and branches; and, during the night, the soldiers harnessing themselves with breast harnesses in greatest silence, thus passed in rifle range of enemy batteries: this perilous passage lasted two nights. The fort was taken a few days afterwards.
The Chief Austrian General had not understood the operations of the reserve army. By seeing it move on Geneva, he had thought that Bonaparte had only wanted to make a strong diversion to the north of Piedmont to relieve pressure on Genoa. He thus believed it sufficient to initially detach a corps of seven thousand men to cover Turin, where he then held his headquarters with the a second division, but always leaving his largest forces in front of Genoa. During this time, Bonaparte had established its headquarters at Ivrea (Yvrée); General Turreau had forced the pass of Suza and had established in Bossolino. General Bethencourt, after having triumphed over obstacles larger than those which the army had had to surmount in Great Saint-Bernard, had taken the fort of Arena; General Moncey, with fifteen thousand men of the Army of Germany, descended the Saint-Gothard and penetrated into the Italian gaps. The plan of the Consul, so learnedly combined, developed little by little and majestically, while the General Mélas always remained in the ignorance of these great movements.
Bonaparte let it be known he wanted to cross the Pô to move on the capital of Piedmont; but his true goal was to maneuver on Milan. The seizure of this capital was a brilliant deed, which was to influence the opinion of the people of Italy, to revive the audacity of the partisans of the French Republic, and to spread amazement in the enemy army. In consequence, while Mélas made his provisions to defend the passage of the Pô, Bonaparte gave the order to General Lannes commanding the advanced guard, to become the rear-guard, to mask his conduct to move, through Vercelli (Verceil) and Novara (Novare), by the Tésin; and on May 31, the true advance-guard, commanded by Murat, forced the passage of this river at Turbigo, and crushed the Austrians at all points, who, after having left in the castle of Milan a garrison of two thousand men, fell back themselves upon the edges of the Mincio.
One can only paint with difficulty the astonishment and enthusiasm of the Milanese when seeing the French arriving. The rumor had been widespread in Milan that Bonaparte had died in Egypt, and that the army was commanded by one of his brothers. The Consul, preceded by part of the Consular Guard, marched with the advance guard of Murat; so that he was the first offered to look upon by the curious Milanese attracted by the advance of our troops. The intoxication caused by his presence appeared at once with this promptness, which the Italians put in the expression of their feelings.
Bonaparte entered Milan on June 2. During the short stay, which he made in this city, he was only occupied by receiving the delegations and at public appearances. Shortly after his arrival, a spy, who he had been very well used during the first campaigns as Italy, was announced, Bonaparte remembering him, placed him in his cabinet.
—There you are, said he while smiling, you haven’t been shot yet?
—General, he answered, when the war started again, I took a resolution to serve the Austrians, because you were far from Europe; I stick preferably to those who are happiest, and I have always done well; however I start to weary of my trade, I want to finish and complete my already started small fortune and to live quietly from it. Sent to your lines by General Mélas, I then will render a great service to you by giving you the exact state of his forces, of the position of his corps as well as the names of all the heads that command them. You know me, I rely on you, and you will rely on me, because I will not mislead you; but for that it is necessary for me to bring something back to my General. You are strong enough to pass some true information to me, which I will share with him.
—That's no problem, the Consul answered him, it little matters to me what Mr. Mélas knows of my forces and my position, provided that I know his as well and that he is unaware of my project. You will be content, but do not mislead me. You ask of me a thousand Louis, you will have them, and I then give my word, if you are useful to me.
The secretary of the first consul then wrote under the dictation of this spy the names of the Austrian corps and their generals, their forces, their locations; and Bonaparte marked with pins on a chart all the information, which was given to him on the localities; then Berthier, who had resigned his functions as commander in chief to take those of chief of staff of the army, who continued to fill this position in all the wars of the Empire, Berthier, we say, was authorized to give to the spy of Mélas, an almost exact note of our position. The information given by this man was so exact and served Bonaparte so well, that with his return from Marengo to Paris, he had him paid the price in gold that had been agreed upon by them.
Before leaving Milan on 17 prairial (June 6), the First Consul addressed the Consular Guard and the army a proclamation in these terms:
“Soldiers! One of our departments was in the hands of the enemy; consternation reigned in all the south of France; most of the territory of the Ligurian people, the most faithful friend of the Republic, was invaded. The Cisalpine Republic, destroyed as in the campaign passed, had become the toy of feudalism. You marched, and already the joy and the hope take the place, in our fatherland and in Italy, of consternation and fear.”
“Soldiers! You will restore freedom and independence to the people of Genoa, which will always be delivered from its eternal enemies.”
“You are in the capital of Cisalpine! The terrified enemy does not aspire to regain his borders any more but; you removed its stores and its reserve parks from him: The first act of the campaign is finished!”
“Soldiers! From a million men, you hear every day, words addressing your recognition. Will the French territory thus have been violated with impunity? Will you let the army, which struck fear in your families return to their homes? You ran to the arms!... Eh well! Now, to the chasing of our enemies, oppose them from flying in retreat; tear off the laurels, which you’ve taken from them... You will thus teach the world that the curse of God is on the foolish ones who dare to insult the territory of a great people.”
“Soldiers! The result of our efforts will be glory without a cloud and a solid peace!”
However the Austrian army gathered in the surroundings of Alessandria (Alexandre); the Consul started himself to go to this meeting. At the same time, Masséna, after having supported with a heroic constancy sixty days of rigorous blockade, and a horrible famine, had been forced to capitulate; Suchet, who had again taken the offensive on the Var, and beaten the enemy at the mouth of the Tenda (Tende); was too late to prevent this capitulation. As for Mélas, being finally informed of the force of the French Army in Lombardy, he had given the command to General Ott to go down again into Piedmont, by the valley of Tanart, to defend the passage of Pô; but he arrived too late: this river had been crossed, June 6, at two different points, in Noceto (Nocetta), by Murat, and in Belgiojoso (Belgiososo), by Lannes, who had with him only eight thousand men, but Victor’s division was only three miles away. Ott, trusting in his numerical superiority (this Austrian corps was thirty battalions strong, from with eighteen thousand men, among whom were the elite grenadiers of the Austrian army), decided to begin the attack. The action was bloody; Lannes covered himself with glory there and his troops created wonders; the borough of Casteggio, the head of the position, was taken and retaken again several times. The Austrians fought in desperation; the obstinacy of the attack equal to that of the defense; but finally the enemy was successively crushed in five different positions; and, about midday, the arrival of Victor’s division decided the victory. Such was this famous combat of Montebello, which later was to give to Lannes and his family the glorious title which distinguishes it among the French families from the time of the Empire: a glorious title that sons must be proud to carry.
After the combat, Ott had thrown two thousand men in the citadel of Tortona (Tortone), and had been forced back upon Alessandria. But the result of the beautiful feat of arms of Montebello was of the highest importance at the beginning of the campaign, in that it weakened the enemy and heightened the French Army morale, though the outcome of conquest was already decided.
Mélas, by the occupation of Lombardy and the passage of the French army onto the right bank of Pô, was consequently blocked. He did not have any recourse to avoid a capitulation except to open a passage with the arms at hand; the number of the Austrian troops at this gathering at Alessandria rose to forty-five thousand men, while the French army placed in line only twenty-eight thousand combatants. Field Marshal Mélas was an officer of merit and full of bravery; he was at the battles of Trebia and Novi; he had taken Coni, and beaten Championnet with Genola; and, if he had not had Bonaparte for an adversary, he would undoubtedly have been preserved in posterity with the reputation of great general which he had acquired. In a council of war held in Alessandria, it had been decided, after a long discussion, that the Austrian army would give battle to the Republican army, and would try, by a victory, to reopen its communications with Austria. Consequently, June 14, at the break of the day, Mélas crossed the Bormida on three bridges, which he had laid out, and the Austrian army attacked in force the French troops. Gardanne’s division, placed opposite the bridge heads, was obliged to beat a retreat and to take over the Chambarlhac division, which was on a line between Marengo and Bormida, supporting the left on the river. The line and the reserve of the enemy, commanded by Haddick and Elsnitz, were spread on two lines, opposite the position of Victor. The center, under the orders of Kaim, was posed obliquely on the right; Ott, with the left, was thrown towards Castel-Cériolo.
Lannes had been given the position on the right of Marengo, in order to contain the center of the enemy. The Consul, after having sent the order to General Desaix, who was half a march behind, to return with his corps to San Guiliano, came himself onto the battlefield. He arrived there at ten o'clock in the morning. The action was begun disadvantageously for the French Army. Lannes supported the effort at the center of the Austrians; but, on the left, after an obstinate defense, the village of Marengo had been carried, and Victor’s division, which had defended it, was in full retreat; these soldiers throwing the battalions, which had preserved their ranks into disorder. Ott threatened to overwhelm us. It was here that Bonaparte gave the order for the Foot Grenadiers of the Consular Guard to oppose this movement. These eight hundred brave men were formed on the plain, between Villa-Nova and Castel-Cériolo, in a square which, similar one fears to be inexpugnable, or rather similar to a granite column, for us to use the beautiful expression of the Consul in drafting the bulletin on Marengo, supported and broke the repeated efforts of the Austrian squadrons. Benefiting from the glorious resistance of this elite troop, Bonaparte directed on Castel-Cériolo the reserve brigade of Carra Saint-Cyr, while he with the remainder of Monnier’s division went to the aid of Lannes.
However, through smoke and dust, the army recognized Bonaparte, surrounded by his Staff and the horse chasseurs of the Consular Guard; this sight alone was enough to return the hope victory to the troops; confidence reappeared. The fugitives reformed at San-Juliano, behind the left of Lannes, while he, attacked by the major part of the enemy army, conducted his retirement in the midst of this vast plain, with an admirable order and coolness. His corps, exposed to a fire of grapeshot maintained by eighty pieces of canon, took four hours to make, while retrogressing, three quarters of miles.
It was three hours after noon, all the Generals looked on the battle as lost; Mélas believed the victory so unquestionable that, overpowered of tiredness and suffering from a horse fall, he had again crossed the bridges and had returned to Alessandria, leaving General Zach, his chief of staff, the responsibility to chase us. —Bonaparte alone did not despair; he counted on the arrival of Desaix, who had six thousand fresh troops. This honest division arrived finally: the situation was most critical.
—You see the state of the things, said Bonaparte to Desaix.
This General drew his watch and, after having raising his eyes up, answered coldly:
—The battle is lost; but it is only three o’clock, we still have time to fight a second battle and, this one, we
At once Desaix deployed his troops on the roadway, in front of San-Guiliano. Victor had rejoined his battalions; all the French army was reformed in line, the right at Castel-Cériolo, and the left at San-Guiliano. Bonaparte passed through the ranks, he is sure of victory; he addresses to the soldiers:
—French! He exclaimed, we have taken too many steps back; the moment has arrived to take a decisive
step ahead; remember that my habit is to rest on the battle field!
Persuaded that the defeat of the French army was assured, Zach maneuvered to strike the retreat by the roadway of Tortone. He had formed a column of six thousand grenadiers, which he launched forward to turn our left; the remainder of the army followed in column, by intervals, extremely far from each other. The leading Austrian column arrived at the height of San-Guiliano... It is the moment that the Consul had waited for,
At once he gives the order to go ahead; the artillery is uncovered; it creates during ten minutes a terrible fire; the astonished enemy stops; the charge is beaten at the same time all along the line; and this spirit which is spread like the flame in the hearts of the brave men, adds more to the ardor than the presence of a Head who so many times inspired them to victory. The Desaix division, which had not fought yet, approaches the first enemy: it seems proud to follow a General whose position was always one of danger and glory. A light rise in the ground, and a glaze of vines, concealed from this General part of the ground. Impatient, he springs to cover it; the intrepid 9th Light follows him at a racing pace; the fray becomes terrible, dreadful carnage; Desaix is cut down by one of the first blows... Atop his horse behind the 9th Regiment, a ball passes through his heart; he perishes at the time when he decided the victory.
—Hide my death; he says exhaling his last sigh to General Boudet, because that could shake the troops....
These words were the only ones that Desaix pronounced while dying; but this precaution of the hero was useless; the soldiers seeing him falling, like those of Turenne, called out great cries to avenge their chief: The 9th Light acquired this day the title of the incomparable which it carried until the end of the wars of the Empire.
Desaix’s division passing under the command of General Boudet, charged impetuously at the enemy, who, in spite of its sharp resistance, were not able to hold against our bayonets, falling back upon themselves into the grenadier column which followed it, and which had already arrived at Gallina-Grassa, where it attacked our scouts. The Austrians, surprised, halted themselves shaken. At this point was demonstrated for all time the skill of the provisions previously made by Bonaparte.
The enemy who had outflanked our left at the farm of Ventolina, and which was believed at the time to be cutting our line of retreat, was outflanked itself on his left; divisions which extend from Castel-Cériolo to San-Guiliano took its lines on the flank; its battalions hearing the shooting on all sides at the same time, started to retreat; at the same moment, the First Consul ordered the cavalry, which he had held behind Desaix’s division, to pass at a gallop through the intervals and to impetuously charge the formidable column of grenadiers. This bold maneuver was carried out at once with as much resolution as skill. General Kellermann coming out of the vineyards, deployed at the gallop on the left side of the enemy column, and, by a quarter wheel to the left, dashed on with half of his brigade, while leaving the other half to contend with in battle the body of enemy cavalry, that he had opposite them, and to mask his bold blow. During this time, the grenadiers and the chasseurs of the Consular Guard threw back on their line all that was in front of them. On his side, General Watrin attacked with a new audacity, and General Carra Saint-Cyr, sent to Castel-Cériolo riflemen along the brook and the marshes, up to at Marengo. In this manner, the French army crosses in three quarters of an hour the great space that it had defended for four hours.
The enemy cavalry, pressed by General Rivaud, hastened to the help its infantry; the enemy unites, and arrives at Marengo with the intention to hold this village; but Boudet’s division, which wants to have the glory of retaking Marengo again, makes a last attack with the strength which had marked the first. Forced to give up to defeat, the enemy wants at least to prove that it was worthy, and shows, in this last combat, all the energy, which honor can give; but already victory had been determined in our ranks. The Austrians, tired and weakened, had to yield, and our troops entered pell-mell among them in Marengo, so that they soon evacuated across the Bormida.
At this time a corps of the Austrian cavalry held in the reserve was prepared to charge the line of Boudet’s division, when General Bessières, commander in chief of the horse grenadiers and chasseurs of the Consular Guard, seized this occasion for glory, and, jealously wanting to give to the elite troop which he commands the honor of the last charge, this cavalry prevents, springs, crushes, and throws it in disorder on the brook, and thus insures a general retreat while carrying disorder and fear in the enemy ranks.*
The evening of the battle, returning to his Headquarters, the First Consul, in the presence of the heads of corps which had accompanied him, highly testified to the deep regrets that he felt at the loss of Desaix**, then addressing Kellerman, he said to him:
—General, you did well by the way: France owes you much.
And then addressing himself to Bessières:
—Bessières, he began again in an animated tone, the Consular Guard who you commanded is covered in glory.
The following day, by dawn, our grenadiers had already attacked the outposts, which the enemy had left at the bridgeheads of Bormida, when an Austrian officer presented himself, and announced that General Mélas asked to send a parley member to the First Consul. After the preliminary conferences, Berthier accepted from Bonaparte the treaty instructions, and this last wrote to his colleagues in Paris, the following letter:
“At the Headquarters of Torre-de Garofolo, 27 prairial year VIII (June 16, 1800).”
“Shortly after the Battle of Marengo, citizen consuls, General Mélas has asked the outposts that he be allowed to convey to me General Sekal. I have decreed, in the course of the day, the convention of which you will find copy herewith.. *** General Berthier and General Mélas signed it in the night. I hope that the French people are content with their army!”
Here were the principal provisions of this armistice: the Austrian army was to be withdrawn behind Mincio; it kept the towns of Peschiera, of Mantoue and Borgoforte, Toscanne and Ancone. The French remained masters of the countries ranging between Chiesa, Oglio and Pô. Tortone, Alexandria, Milan, Turin, Pizzighitone, Arona, Pleasure, Ceva Coni, Savone, Genoa, and the fort of Urbin, were to be given to us.
Ten days after this battle, General Suchet returned to Genoa; and the towns of the Piedmont and Lombardy were successively given to the French army. The Austrian army, in accordance with the convention of Alessandria, was directed by division on Mantoue.
The Consul had returned to Milan, June 17, during the night; he had found the city illuminated and given up to joy. The joy of the Italians was inexpressible; they were seen returning to freedom without having had to support the horrors of a long war that the first victories of the French deferred beyond their borders.
In France and in Paris especially, the news of the victory of Marengo appeared incredible. The first dispatches, which were brought to the capital the news of the battle, had left the army about midday, at the moment when the outcome of the action was in sharp doubt. The joy was only more complete when one learned in an unquestionable way the new triumph of Bonaparte, and all that his advantageous contributions that they had for the Republic.
*At the head of the horse chasseurs of the Consular Guard, the young Eugene de Beauharnais himself was noted for his coolness and courage. Mrs. Bonaparte had on this occasion the pleasure, if small for a mother, to hear it said by the First Consul himself: “Madam, your son quickly goes in posterity; he is covered in glory for all the actions in which we dealt in Italy: he will develop into one of the greatest captains of Europe.”
**“Lost up to three o’clock in the afternoon, the Battle of Marengo was completely won by six o'clock in the evening. The dispersed Austrian column, I had left to the cavalry of General Kellerman, and I came to join General Desaix, when the colonel of the 9th Light informed me that he no longer existed. I was not within a hundred steps of the place where I had left him; I ran to it... I found him on the ground, in the midst of the dead and already stripped; I recognized it with his bulky hair, which even the ribbon that bound it had not been saved. I was attached to him too much to leave him there, where it would have been buried, without distinction, with the corpses that lay around us. I took from a dead horse’s furnishings beside him, a blanket that was still attached to the saddle; I wrapped the body of my General inside; a stray hussar, on the battlefield, helped me in this sad duty. This hussar agreed to carry him on his horse, and to lead by the reins up to Gorofollo, while I would relate this misfortune to the First Consul, who said for me to follow him to Gorofollo, where he ordered to me to transport the body of Desaix to Milan, so that it could be embalmed there." (The Duke of Rovigo, Mêmoires, tom. 1., chap. XVII, p. 277.)
* It was the famous capitulation known as that of Alessandria.
In a decree of the consuls of 23 brumaire year X (November 14, 1801), it was called for:
“ART. 1st. The Consular Guard will be commanded by four general officers.”
“ART. 2. These Generals will always take orders directly from the First Consul.”
“ART. 3. Nothing is changed, for present, concerning the artillery of the Consular Guard.”
“ART. 4. There will be a governor of the palace to the government, who will take orders directly from the first consul.” * This governor will have under his command six senior adjutants ** and six adjutant captains.”
“ART. 5. One of the six senior adjutants will be named commander of arms at Saint-Cloud, another, commander of arms at the Military School in Paris.”
“ART. 6. One of the four general officers, commanding the Consular Guard, will be constantly at service near the consuls for one decade. He will attend to the parades, will make inspections of the troops, and will command the procession.”
“ART. 7. The distribution of the stations, the instructions and the reports relating to the service and the police force of the palace of the government, will be the responsibility of the governor of the palace.”
Consequently, the commanders in chief of the Consular Guard were named:
General Davoust, for the foot grenadiers.
General Soult, for the foot chasseurs.
General Bessières, for the cavalry.
General Mortier, for artillery and the sailors. * * *
According to these nominations, General Lannes lost command as head of the Consular Guard, which Bonaparte had given him on his return from the Marengo campaign, in reward for the valuable wonders that he had achieved, in particular with the combat of Montebello.
Thibaudeau **** claims that Lannes lost his command because of a miscalculation in the payrolls. “The General, adds the historian, bitterly criticized the steps of the government of the First Consul, and spoke sometimes too freely to Bonaparte.”
In fact it was because Lannes had managed the payroll of the Consular Guard with the utmost care of his instincts, that the First Consul, for us to use a vulgar expression, had given him carte blanche on this article. A richly paid for hotel was used by the staff; Lannes held an open table for all its comrades; and there, in dinners with little army rabble, sometimes repudiated himself in sarcastic remarks and criticisms against the steps of the new government. Napoleon did not have to fear that the devotion of his soldiers, idlers since the return from Marengo, had faded in his relationship. With the first sure signal it would be discovered, and by Lannes, more than any other. However it was dangerous to allow these young heads to go on further with this ill-considered language: he mandated thus to Lannes at the Tuileries. This one, accustomed to a great familiarity with his former General in Chief, let go in an angry outburst soon suppressed by the quiet superiority of the First Consul; but as it always is, in a case of an honest mistake, he wanted to pay for expenditures which had cost the payroll of the Guard. But then, this General, who had made war in Italy so much, did not have anything. Augereau, also finding fault, lent him the sum necessary, saying to him:
—Yours! Take this money, find the ungrateful one for whom we poured out our blood, return to him what is due the cashbox and we are no longer be obliging any more.
The Consul, who did not want to allow his former comrades in arms to lose their affections towards him and one another, believed it his duty to move them away from each other. Lannes was sent to an embassy, and Augereau received orders to return to his army.
The following fact which is guaranteed to us by a man whose honorable character and the veracity could not be questioned *****, would come in support of this assertion.
* To fill this significant station, Bonaparte made the choice of General Duroc, one of his aides-de-camp. During the creation of the Empire, the title of Grand Marshal of the Palace was substituted for that of Governor.
** Fuzy, Tortel, Dupas, Laplanche Mortières, Dériot and Macon, were selected among the officers of the Consular Guard. Bonaparte named them, at the same time, as all the six brigade heads.
*** This body was formed only later.
**** In his History of France and of Napoleon Bonaparte: Consulate, tom. 2, year X, chap. xxviii, pag. 61.
***** Mr. the Baron de Méneval, secretary of the particular cabinet of the Emperor.
In the time of which we speak, the very military practices, the Republican manners all, inspired by the spirit of equality, had allowed freedoms which from now on became incompatible with the dignity of the First Consul and the respect due to his authority; also he had to give up the type of friendship which existed between him and his first lieutenants because it degenerated sometimes into a license; thus when General Lannes proposed to Napoleon in the court of Malmaison that they play billiards for a prize named by the winner, the Consul accepted. He wanted and was to lose: indeed his adversary played the part.
—I beat you, said Lannes to Napoleon, because he had kept the practice of addressing him as tu, therefore I have the right of chose my prize. And without awaiting for an authorization which he did not ask for, the General ran to examine the horses, made a choice of the most beautiful, saddled it, put on its bridle, mounted it and left at a gallop, while saying:
—Good-bye, Bonaparte, I will not dine here today, because if I remained, you would be able to retake your horse.
Napoleon did not have time to respond to him, because he was already far off. To prevent the recurrence of similar scenes, he felt the need to move temporarily away from General Lannes, but by entrusting to him to a station of a high distinction: he appointed him Ambassador in Lisbon, without his regard and his friendship for this general officer being decreased by it.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: May 2005
© Copyright 1995-2007, The Napoleon Series, All Rights Reserved.