Research Subjects: Napoleon Himself


Each time a new war had been declared on France, the Grande Armée, having the ancient military habits restored by Napoleon, had always been pleased to hear its head tell him what it had to do, and remind them at the same time of what it had already done.

Confusing the glory of his soldiers with his own, the Emperor listed with an eloquent terseness the benefits it had obtain, peace treaties that had resulted by presenting these results as their common work.  This character appears as a whole in the following proclamation, in which he announced the opening of the campaign:

“Soldiers! He said, a third coalition has formed against us.  Austria has crossed the Inn, violated treaties, attacked and driven our ally from the capital ... We will no longer make peace without security; our generosity will not overcome our policy anymore ... You are the vanguard of a great people ... We will have to make forced marches, suffer fatigue, endure privations; some obstacles that oppose you, we can beat, and we will not rest until we have planted our victorious eagles in the territory of our enemies!”

After everything, Napoleon went to Saint-Cloud to go ahead of his troops.

He arrived in Strasbourg on 25 September 1805, and the next day the Great Army began to march over the bridge of Kehl.  Upon his arrival, the Emperor ordered most of the general officers that were on the river Rhine on the following day at six o'clock in the morning.  That day, one hour prior to this rendezvous, and despite the rain that fell in torrents, Napoleon traveled to the bridge head, to ensure the implementation of the orders he gave, and there he was continuously exposed to rain until the columns had crossed the bridge and were arranged by divisions on the other side of the river.  In this circumstance, it was so wet that the water that flowed from his clothes and met under the belly of his horse had come to form a small gutter.  His hat was so soaked with rain that the back fell onto his shoulders; one would have said it was one of the felt covers worn by charcoal carriers in Paris.  Soon the generals whom he had made the appointment circled him.  When he saw them gathered, he said:

—This is a great march against our enemies.

Then looking around him, he added with an air of surprise:

—But where is Vandamme? ... Why is he not here? ... Is he dead? ...

Nobody said a word.  General Chardon, very beloved by the Emperor, hazarded to speak:

—Sire, he said, it is possible that General Vandamme is asleep; yesterday we drank together, a few glasses of wine from the Rhine to the health of Your Majesty, and perhaps ...

—General, Napoleon severely interrupted, you did well to drink my health yesterday, but today Vandamme was wrong to sleep when he knows what I expect.

Chardon offered to send one of his aides-de-camp to his comrade.

—Allow Vandamme to sleep, Napoleon said in a moody tone; he might wake up! Then I want to talk to him.

At the same time Vandamme appeared; he was pale and appeared embarrassed.

—General, said Napoleon piercing him with a stern glance, it seems that you forgot the order I gave you yesterday?

Vandamme tried to apologize by answering:

—Sire, this is the first time it has happened; I can assure Your Majesty that I was still very uncomfortable this morning, because ...

—Because you were drunk as a German yesterday, interrupted Napoleon lividly, but he added immediately, fearing that it could happen a second time, you will fight under the flags of the King of Württemberg to give, if possible, a lesson in restraint to the Germans.

Vandamme retired, not without concealing the grief he was feeling from this disgrace; and on the same day, he joined the Württemberg Army Corps, at whose head he showed prodigious valor.  After the campaign he returned to find the Emperor.  His chest was covered with decorations, and he was responsible for delivering a letter signed by King Frederick.  Napoleon after reading this letter, said to Vandamme:

—General, never forget that while I value bravery, I do not like those who sleep when I wait; it will be spoken of no more.

Since his entry in the campaign, Napoleon astonished the Austrians by the speed of his marches and his ability to maneuver.  Every day he won a victory; the first was that of Wertinghen illustrated by the brilliant courage of Murat, who cut the road to Ulm at Augsburg.  After this brilliant beginning, Murat went through Zusmerhausen, where Napoleon arrived at the same time as him; and the first thing he did was to bear true witness to the troops of Murat of his satisfaction.

—I know that none can be more brave than you, he said to Excelmans at that time, when he presented the flags lifted from the Austrians.

The squadron leader Wuillemy, accompanied by one man, but pretending to be followed by a considerable body, convinced one hundred Austrians to put down their arms.  The Emperor had him enter his guard with his grade.  At the Lech bridge, Brigadier (corporal) Marente, broken the previous day by his captain for lack of discipline, saw this officer carried away by the river current; he leapt to his rescue and saved him.  Napoleon was presented to this soldier:

—You're a brave man, he said, your master had broken you, he had been right.  By saving his life as you did showed that you had no grudge.  That is good, both of you are even.  But I am not done with you: I will appoint you maréchal-des-logis (sergeant) and make you a Knight of the Legion of Honor.  It's through your captain that you have your earned this award. Go and thank him.

Meanwhile, Ney crushed the Archduke Ferdinand at the combat of Gruntburg; then Marshal Soult took Augsburg.  A few days later, Soult retook Memingen with four thousand prisoners, while Ney showed prodigious valor in the combat Elchingen and ensured the success of the campaign and the taking of Ulm.  Those victories made Napoleon say with a slight movement, not jealousy (who could he be jealous of?), but burning impatience:

—It is always the same: both men are insatiable for glory. I need play my part, however ... !

This part would be the lion.

The bad weather continued: the cold was great, the roads muddy; but the forced marches of the army were unrelenting.  On horse day and night, the Emperor was always in the midst of his troops, and he went everywhere he believed his presence was necessary.  The 17th of October alone, he went fourteen miles on horseback, going to bed fully clothed on a pile of straw in a barn at the entrance of a small village, without servant and without any kind of baggage.  The Bishop of Augsburg, however, had illuminated, a quarter of a league away, one of his chateaux, where they waited all night for him.  Meanwhile, General Mack, too slow to realize that he would be surrounded by the French, had decided to return to Ulm.  His situation became more critical every day; finally on 19 October, he agreed to give up with all its garrison, and wrote accordingly to the Emperor.  Berthier was immediately sent to him to deal with the conditions of surrender: it was agreed that the day after the Austrian troops would become prisoners with weapons and baggage, and that the town would be provided with all its supplies and ammunition.

At two o'clock in the afternoon, when the formality would be so painful fulfilled by the Austrians, the French army was placed in battle order on the heights, a quarter of a league around Ulm, in the full splendor of their military parade dress.  Napoleon slightly ahead of his brilliant staff and surrounded by his Guard was placed on a small hill formed by a block of rock.  Beside him was a great campfire, near which he had advanced the musicians of his First Regiment of Foot Grenadiers.  As soon as the gates of the town opened, the drums, accompanied by fifes, beat the march, then the music was heard.  Then the Austrian army began to parade in silence, and with arms under their left arms.  It went corps by corps, disposing of its weapons in a huge crevasse that had expressly widened at the bottom of the mound where Napoleon was standing.  Thirty-three thousand men, including two thousand cavalry, with nineteen general, forty flags and sixty pieces of cannon followed their attached caissons, passed in front of the Grand Army.  The Austrian cavalry, having dismounted, gave their horses to Horse Chasseurs of the Guard.  In disposing of their weapons the soldiers shouted: "Long live Emperor Napoleon!"  Mack was there: he replied to these officers of the guard who had addressed him without knowing it:

—You see before you the unfortunate Mack.

To other generals he said:

—Gentlemen, it is impossible to resist the maneuvers of your Emperor: his ingenuity caused our loss.

Meanwhile, Napoleon, always calm, slumped on his white horse, the hand that held the reins poised on the bow of his saddle, the other placed on the right haunch, maintaining an appearance of the coldest impassivity; but he had in his glance a fire that could push back an entire army.  But then he heard behind him something which made him wrinkle his brows: a general officer of his staff, who liked to speak his mind, recounted in a loud voice to those surrounding him the alleged witticisms of one of the soldiers of his division:  “I passed, he said, among the ranks there was a moment, and I told the soldiers: Well my friends, are there enough prisoners?  —It’s true, my general, said one of them, we have never seen so many ... rascals (farceurs) at one time.”  The Emperor, who had listened to all, immediately turned around and said to the officer-general in a tone that pierced all with his discontent:

—Silence, Sir! Don’t slander your soldiers, who have always been able to combine generosity with bravery.

Then he added in a lower voice speaking to his aides-de-camp:

—He must show respect by insulting very little men as unhappy as those we see before us ... Savary, will say on my part to General *** to withdraw.

The operation of this surrender of arms lasted from three o’clock in the afternoon until seven o'clock in the evening.  When the garrison had entirely paraded from Ulm, Napoleon made his appeal to the Austrian generals, who all seemed very saddened, and said kindly but in short tone:

—Gentlemen, your master conducted an unjust war.  Frankly, I do not know why he fights against me; I do not know what he wants.  That he says a word, and one hundred and fifty thousand are led to slaughter who could return safely to their homes.

—Sire, said Mack, the German Emperor, my master, did not want war, but was forced by Russia .

—Who 's to say, forced ... said Napoleon in straightening up on his horse; what can force a power?  So therefore what role did your Emperor agree to play?  Is there a human power that can force me, (and he stressed that word again) to do what I do not want?  Also, I think I'm a power ... but him ... !

The taking of Ulm struck the people and kings of Europe with amazement; but it did not, however, complete the defeat of the Austrians, and Archduke Ferdinand, who was able to rally the scattered remnants of his army, showing up again to fight.  “We are going to exterminate them,” said Napoleon on learning this news; and new triumphs came to justify these words.  The victory, true to the old flag of the Republic, was now attached to the eagles of the Empire.  Already, after the battle of Nuremberg, Napoleon said:

—It is their coup de grace; I hope that after such a long time I can enter into negotiations with the Austrians.  Now, Russians gentlemen, I am all yours.

Indeed, he went sharply in front of them, crushing them at several points, chasing them in front of him, and on 13 November 1805, he made his triumphal entry into the capital of Austria , at the head of his Old Guard.  While marching, a grenadier, appalled at the amount of mud that the bad weather, the continual rains and the lack of care had accumulated in the main street of Vienna, said in a tone of contempt to one of his comrades, pointing to him in turn at some random Viennese that had been attracted by curiosity in their wake:

—And they have the effrontery to call it a home! It’s nothing but dirt.

Napoleon did not stayed long in Vienna. Continuing to pursue the Russians hard, he reached them at Brunn, seized that post and took a position at Wischau before an army of a hundred thousand men commanded by many emperors and skilled generals.  It was the 1st of December, the eve of the battle of Austerlitz. In the morning, Napoleon went to his horse through all the bends of the ground in front of the position he had occupied with his troops. He stopped at every height and made measurements of distances:

—Gentlemen, he said to his aides-de-camp and officers of his staff, I can only recommend that you examine the ground, because tomorrow you'll have to travel it more than once.

Then he immediately put, by his own hand, a series of twelve campaign pieces (cannon) on a small isolated knoll overlooking the front of the Russian army; as he was unable to bring up the caissons, he wanted to amass behind each of these pieces two hundred bags (gargousses) saying:

—It will not be too much, because I have entrusted them with the tablature.

Then he got down from his horse to rest, and returned on foot to the first post of infantry.  He talked with Savary, who for the second time, had returned from the headquarters of the Emperor Alexander, to which Napoleon had sent him to try one last effort to negotiate.

—In truth, he said to the aide-de-camp, it must be that these people have gone mad!  They ask me, you told me, to evacuate Italy , then are unable to pull me from Vienna; they want that I should volunteer to cede my beautiful crown of iron to ... that King of Sardinia ...

Napoleon did not complete his sentence and shrugged.

—Eh! What would they do with France then, he said lifting his head with pride, if we were to be beaten ... But it's impossible, is not it? ... By my faith! That which pleases God will take place, but for twenty-four hours I will give them a good lesson.

The Emperor was annoyed; he showed his bad mood by hitting the tip of his whip against small clumps of clay scattered along the way.  The sentry of the post he had to pass had listened without affectation.  He remained motionless after presenting arms, and Napoleon had paid so little attention to this movement that he had not even given his usual salutation, something he never forgot. He continued on the same tone.

—But, to believe them, it seems they have to swallow us!

—Oh! oh! The old soldier grumbled then without changing position; we’ll choke them (nous nous mettrons en travers).

This word has become history, Napoleon was smiling and calm.

—You're right! He said to the sentry with a nod of approval, yes ... we’ll choke them.

Arriving at headquarters, he made no more arrangements for the battle that he had planned for the next day and at night he published the following proclamation, which electrified the entire army:

“Soldiers! The Russian army comes to you to avenge the Austrian army of Ulm.  These are the same battalions you've beaten at Hollabrunn, and you have constantly defeated since.  Soldiers!  I myself will lead your battalions; I will be kept away from the fire, with your customary bravery, you will bring chaos and death into the enemy ranks; but if victory is undecided for a moment, you will see your Emperor exposed to the first blows, because on this particular day, we go for the honor of the French infantry.  Do not use the empty pretext of taking back the wounded, we must not strip the ranks, and everyone must be filled with this thought, that he must finally overcome these lackeys of England who are driven to a great hatred against our nation.  A victory will end the campaign, and then the peace I will make will be worthy of my people, you and me.”

A little before midnight, Napoleon, wishing to judge the effect that had been made by his proclamation, addressed Duroc and Junot, telling them:

—Put an overcoat on your uniform and come with me: I want to see if everything is in order ... Gentlemen, on great occasions, nothing is like the eye of the master.

It was the 1st of December, as we said; it was a freezing cold of several wolves, to use the expression of Junot, whose original gaiety had not diminished since the siege of Toulon; but nobody was worried about the severity of the season.  The bivouac fires were surrounded by those valiant soldiers that later you would have to qualify with the name grognard, considered today the first and bravest in the world.  The old grenadiers chatted or sang while polishing their equipment for the next day.  Some told of the beautiful campaigns of Italy and spoke of Marengo, and the solemnity of the coronation, which took place last year at the same time, and none of them had ever forgotten the extraordinary distributions of food and drink that had been made on this occasion.  As for Napoleon, wrapped in his gray frock coat, he had already passed and repassed unnoticed behind these groups, in listening to the conversations and frequently taking tobacco, when all at once, near a camp fire which shone more brightly on his pale and tired face, a corporal busy placing a new flint in his fusil, saw him and cried out taking two steps back:

—You! The Little Corporal!

At this exclamation, all raise their heads: The Emperor ... he repeated. Vive l'Empereur! Responded the soldiers of the neighboring bivouac.

And along the whole line, in the tents and up to the outposts, everywhere the deep cries of long live the Emperor! were carried, in echoes of echoes, to the center of the Russian military, for whom this hurrah was a sinister warning.  Every soldier wanted to see the Emperor; the fires were left in the darkness and went out; the darkest night of doubt was succeeded by clarity where Napoleon was able to make his way; but by a general and instant inspiration, the soldiers to make his march clear, thought to roll up the straw on which they slept, and attach it as a torch upon their bayonets.  As soon as some had carried out this plan, all the camps imitate this example and more than fifty thousand lanterns appear in front of him; while blazing torches stirred in the air, enthusiastic cheers of welcome continued on his course.  It was then that one of the oldest grenadiers of the first regiment went to Napoleon, and alluding to his proclamation, said looking fixedly at him:

—Sire, you will not need to expose yourself I promise you, on behalf of all my friends you will only fight with your eyes and tomorrow we lay out for you the Russian flags to celebrate the anniversary of your coronation.

—This will be our bouquet! said a noncommissioned officer.

—Yes! yes ... Vive l'Empereur! Was repeated with heartfelt emphasis by all the soldiers around him.

—Ah! you want glory! said another; well! tomorrow we’ll  ... throw them out for you.  Rest easy,  we’ll throw them out for you  ....

Napoleon, deeply moved, not trying to look away, because it was easy to read in his eyes the proof of how precious this love was to him.

—Enough, my friends; enough, my brave men, he said.  I’ve known for a long time I can count on you.

As for Duroc and Junot, they could only cry, on looking to shake both of the hands of the general officers he found that they were tense.

—What groundhog are you down there? asked Napoleon slowly approaching an old grenadier, which pulled on a mustache that may not have been cut since the crossing of the Alps.

The soldier took from his comrades a torch of straw, which illuminated his brown face crossed horizontally by a huge scar:

—I say ... I say ...

—Repeat for me what you said, I command it.

Then the soldier, trampling on his fiery brand of straw to extinguish it quicker, said with a tone of mixed with comic rage.

—Well! my Emperor, I said that it would be a great misfortune if I am not killed for you tomorrow to oblige you...

Napoleon made a movement.

—At least, however, because the order of the day prohibited getting killed, because then, you see, Sire, all shaking ... no matter what ... the Russians ... well ...

The soldier eyes aflame, his hands convulsed in shudder, did not know what to say.  Napoleon, who had let loose of his mustache, took his ear and, with that smile of ineffable goodness that belonged to him interrupted, saying:

—Shut up ... You will not be killed, I say to you ... I do not want you to be killed, I will prohibit it.

And new cheers came from all sides.

The night was already advanced, but the starry sky was splendid.  Napoleon returned to his miserable shack the grenadiers had built; before taking a rest, he said with emotion to the heads of this corps which surrounded him:

—Gentlemen, this evening is the most beautiful of my life.

If the Russians had been able to witness what had happened, they probably would have lost their boastfulness, and they wouldn’t have spoken so lightly as they did of this grand army, they would, they said destroy the first wave and lead the prisoners into Russia .  But their fortune was the terrible lesson they received the next day.  Moreover, Savary had witnessed the smugness of their young officers.  He had reported to the Emperor, who had himself received the Russian aide-de-camp Dolgorowski, whose impropriety would have probably shocked him if he did not pity him; but he was careful not to destroy the confidence of the Russians in their superiority.  Demonstrations of fear had been cleverly made in the presence of this envoy of Alexander.

Having dismissed the major part of his world, Napoleon had extended himself on three chairs and had slept deeply.  The service people gathered around the fire outside his bivouac that had been lying on the icy ground, wrapped up their coats.  For five days none of them had closed their eyes, and Constant, the First Valet of the Chamber of the Emperor, slept at last for few moments, when at the half past three, his master called him for punch.  Constance would have gladly given up on the Empires of Austria and Russia in exchange for an hour more of sleep, and yet ten minutes after he provided the punch he had made up the bivouac fire.  Napoleon offered some to the grand marshal, to Berthier and his aides-de-camp; but for himself half a glass; the rest was shared among the service people.

At four o'clock in the morning, 2 December, he was mounted and traveling to the positions.

He inquired about what the grand guard had learned from the army: he learned that the Russians have spent the night in drink; they had felt the deepest contempt for how few Austrians escaped the disaster of Ulm, and they had however been advised to act with greater caution and circumspection.  Finally the sun rose.  Soon the fog would dissipate in the morning; each of the heads of the corps approached the Emperor, receiving from his mouth his final instructions, and then left at once at full gallop to join the troops.

Lannes shortly took command of the army left; he had with him and Suchet and Caffarelli.  Bernadotte must run the center; generals Rivaud and Drouet are under his command.  Finally, Napoleon gave the right of his army to Marshal Soult, whose corps was composed of the divisions of Vandamme, Saint-Hilaire and Legrand.  Murat, who united all the cavalry under his command, took position between the left and center.  The Emperor, with Berthier, Junot and his staff, remained in reserve with ten battalions of the Old Guard, ten battalions of General Oudinot and forty pieces of cannon.  Soon he swung himself to review the front regiments:

—Soldiers, he said, this must finish the campaign by a thunderbolt that crushes the pride of our enemies.

Then addressing the 28th Line, composed almost entirely of conscripts of Calvados:

—I hope that the Normans will be distinguished this day!

Finally approaching the 47th:

—And you, he added, I have nicknamed you the Terrible! Do not forget it!

Everywhere cries of vive l'Empereur! responded to him.  A battery of the guard gave the signal for the fight.  Immediately Soult advanced and hit the right of the enemy.  Lannes marched on the left en echelon by regiments like a day of a grand parade.  Murat launched with his cavalry.  A cannonade of two hundred pieces engaged across the board; two hundred thousand men come to grips; it was a horrible noise, a huge shock, a terrible struggle.  But a battalion of the 4th Line was overwhelmed by the cuirassiers of the Russian Imperial Guard, the Emperor saw it:

—Bessières, he exclaimed quickly passing before him, move your invincible grenadiers to your right.

And, with a word of Napoleon, Rapp was placed at their head, in a few moments the two imperial horse guards were face to face.  It was only a matter of a moment: after a few minutes, soldiers, flags, artillery, everything was under Rapp’s control.  The French Old Guard saw the feat, it murmured.  Four times it asked loudly to be brought forward; but with a hand gesture, Napoleon contained them; the murmurs continued.

—Silence! Napoleon exclaimed with a clear voice.

So, despite their affection for him, his grenadiers made their bitter complaints known:

—There is nothing for us! cried an old soldier in tears; and in rage he threw his gun to the ground.

Napoleon saw and smiled without anger.

—You're more greedy than the others! he said while launching a look of reproach.

In the meantime, Rapp returned.  His sword was broken, he was covered with powder and blood; he was leading before him Prince Repnin who he had taken prisoner.

—Sire, this artillery general cried, addressing Napoleon, have me shot: I lost my pieces.

—Prince, the Emperor replied, I appreciate your regrets; but one can be beaten by my army without ceasing to be a brave soldier and having my esteem ... Rapp! The sword of Prince Repnin: return it to him.

On the heights of Austerlitz, the Emperors of Austria and Russia saw the defeat of their guards, and attempted to send relief; but Bernadotte advanced in turn, and victory was no longer in doubt.  A considerable body of the Russian army, which had in turn been driven from all its positions, was at this time in a hollow, driven onto a frozen lake.  Napoleon moved to this side with the light artillery of the guard:

—Sire, will it be grapeshot? Berthier requested.

—It must destroy them all, answered the Emperor.

Immediately the pieces, instead of being directed at the mass of soldiers, were pointed at the ice. Soon cannon balls and shells broke this into the large pieces on which whole companies were floating a moment and then disappeared.  More than ten thousand men thus perished amid horrible screaming and cursing the unwary sovereigns who had exposed them to the anger of France .  Meanwhile Berthier said to the Emperor what a terrible evil that artillery was to the enemy.  Napoleon murmured in a low voice:

—I will never forget that it is in this corps that I started my career.  Artillery will be the first weapon of the French army, but it is an unfortunate plight for these brave men, who deserved to have more skilled leaders.

Just as he finished speaking, men, horses, guns, caissons were sunk.  Thus ended the battle, a real battle of giants, to use the expression of the 30th Bulletin of the Grand Army; a battle that soldiers have long called the Battle of Three Emperors, as others called the Battle of the Anniversary, and which has retained the name Battle of Austerlitz, as Napoleon himself called it.  On receiving the reports from all the heads of the corps, the Emperor exclaimed in the overwhelming delight:

—It would take more power and human dignity for me to reward all those brave men!

Nevertheless, the victors of Austerlitz did not complain about the recognition of their sovereign; Napoleon beautifully acquitted his and the country’s debt; pensions were granted to widows of the generals, officers and soldiers killed on the field of glory; he adopted their children, taking care of their education, employing the sons and providing a dowry for the girls.  All the injured received a bonus of three months' pay; but the decoration of the Legion of Honor was given to those who were distinguished by an extraordinary feat of arms or a spectacular action. Finally, wishing to testify to the army en masse his high satisfaction, he put on the plan of the day, the next day, the famous proclamation that he wrote himself:

“Soldiers of the Grand Army! He said, I'm happy with you!  You have, on the day of Austerlitz, justified what I expected from your fearlessness.  You've decorated your eagles with an immortal glory.  An army of a hundred thousand men, commissioned by the Emperors of Russia and Austria, was, in less than four hours, cut up, scattered, defeated; those that escaped the fire, drowned in the lake.  Forty flags, banners of the Imperial Guard of Russia, one hundred and twenty pieces of cannon, twenty generals, and more than thirty thousand prisoners are the result of this forever memorable day.  Soldiers! when the French people put on my head the imperial crown, I told you that I would always keep it in the high brightness of glory which was the only reward in my eyes; and this Iron Crown won by the blood of so many French, others would have required me to put on the head of our cruel enemies! ... Reckless and foolish projects, that the same day as the anniversary of the coronation of your Emperor you have destroyed and confused ... You've learned that it is easier for us to be brave than to be defeated.  Soldiers! when all that is necessary to ensure the happiness and prosperity of our great motherland has been achieved, I will bring you home to France .  There, you'll always be the object of my concern.  My people will revere you with joy, and it will be sufficient for you to say: —I was at Austerlitz, for one to respond: —There is a brave man!”

Among those who distinguished themselves in the memorable day of Austerlitz, one could cite, in the corps of Marshal Lannes, the generals of division Suchet and Caffarelli; that of Bernadotte, Rivaud and Drouet, and in that of Soult, Legrand and this honorable and valiant Saint-Hilaire, who was injured at the beginning of the action, but nonetheless did not rest the whole day on the battlefield; and in that of Davoust, Friant and Gudin.  For the cavalry, commanded, as we know, by Murat, one would name all the generals and colonels; but one must distinguish Kellermann, Walther, Beaumont, d’Hautpoul and Nansouty.  Valhubert alone died of his injuries.  “I would have done more for you,  he wrote in his last moments to Napoleon, in an hour I will be no more.  I do not need to commend my wife and my children to your care.”

The recommendation was in fact unnecessary: this kind of debt had always been sacred to Napoleon. General Valhubert, thrown down by shrapnel which shattered his thigh, seeing soldiers who were hastening up to remove him, had shouted:

—Stop! My friends, remember the order of the day: you can carry me away after the victory.

The fusilier Carpentier, of the 41st Line, mortally wounded, never wanted his comrades to bring him to the ambulance:

—You do not think about it, he told them, I would rather die on a battlefield in the hands of carabineers: at least I'll be sure not to be buried in pieces.

Grenadier Trigaud, of the 47th,who was struck with grapeshot that passed through his chest from one side to the other, asked at the end of the day, the surgeon who was preparing to care for him, if he believed he would live until the next day.  From the undecided reply of the latter, who did not dare to tell the whole truth, Trigaud added in a philosophic tone:

Goddamn! It is frustrating to die today: tomorrow I’ll feel the same.

The evening of the Battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon had sent to the Empress the courier of his cabinet, Moustache, to tell her the news.  Josephine was at the Tuileries.  Suddenly, at eleven o'clock in the evening, one heard the distant sound of bells mingled with the popping of a whip.

—It 's a courier sent to me by Bonaparte! exclaimed Josephine reaching towards a window to open it hastily.  At the same time, the words of victory, of Emperor, of Austerlitz, were repeated by a host of servants of the palace, and rang in her ear.  Impatient, she rushed out and arrived almost alone on the balcony of the large hall.  There Moustache covered ice, his face tense with cold, handed her a note from Napoleon and instructed her of the great news. Drunk with joy, Josephine had him repeat it.

—Yes, Madam, Moustache resumed, with emphasis, that is it.  His Majesty the Emperor and King defeated and beat down all the emperors of the world, all the fortresses, all the flags possible, their cannons with weapons and baggage and anything of importance...!

The Empress smiled; and took from her finger a beautiful brilliant and gave it Moustache, saying in a voice filled with emotion:

—Look, this is for you.   France will be very happy.  Go to rest, you must greatly need it.

—Impossible!  Madam; S. M. the Emperor and King ordered me to join him in Vienna, saying:  “Moustache go without stopping to the Tuileries and come back here to the same place, because I have something  for you to take to Constantinople afterwards: Go! I say, you can embrace your wife another time.”

Josephine smiled again, and giving to the scrupulous messenger a nod of kindness:

—Farewell then, she said, because it is crucial that the orders of the Emperor be executed.

The brave Moustache, a former corporal of the Guides in Italy and Egypt , had come three hundred and sixty miles in one go; from Austerlitz, he had not left the stirrups.  When changing mounts four men ran off with his saddle and thus came to the Island of Barataria, like Sancho Panza, and on another horse he galloped away.  There was a moment while he took leave of the Empress, when one heard him complain and utter imprecations.

—If I even rest a quarter hour in Paris, he cried, I am a disgraced man; it will scorch my brain forever!

And, in despair, pulling his hair, Josephine troubled by the noise sent someone to find out what had happened.  It soon became calm.  It was Moustache: he had gone to saddle the horse held by the sentry guard of the pavilion of the Horloge, and as this one was probably spared less than the others, the animal had fallen stone dead, on its first steps into the courtyard of the Tuileries.

The evening of the battle, Napoleon had told the general officers of his staff:

—I've already lived through thirty battles like this, but I have seen no where a victory that was so complete and the outcomes so uneven.

The army had been set in motion to monitor the enemy in its retreat; Napoleon, always on horseback and accompanied by some of the cavalry of the Guard, returned on the path to Austerlitz.  Arriving in this town, he came down to a house belonging to Prince Kaunitz, brother of Metternich, and established his headquarters for the night. A large fire was lit in a great room on the ground floor; a small table was set in front of the fireplace, and Napoleon sat down for lunch, because, except for the half-glass of punch he had drank in the morning the day before he had taken nothing for twenty-four hours.  As he devoured a leg of cold chicken that had not even had time to thaw, an announcement came to say that the general officers taken prisoner during the battle which had followed the headquarters had arrived.

—Bring them to me, I want to see them and tell them my way of thinking.

These prisoners were brought into the room, there were about nine.  Napoleon spoke softly and tried to make them forget their misery.  He who was irritated so easily by obstacles, and who dealt sometimes with such haughtiness anyone who dared to resist his unyielding will, was no longer the same man when the victor, he was in the presence of his vanquished enemies.  He consoled and the consolations, we can be assured, did not the result from a feeling of pride concealed under the outside feint of generosity; they were, with him, the natural effect of the magnanimity of his character.  Moreover, these foreign generals were hard to look at:  without sword, clothes in disarray, they respectfully bowed before him and held a bleak silence; it was Napoleon who first broke the silence:

—Gentlemen he said with kindness, I know how a general is unhappy after losing a battle; myself I have experienced it six years ago, when I was forced to lift the siege of Saint-Jean-d'Acre.  If I managed to take the place by an assault, I think I would have strangled with my hands the fierce Djezzar; but if he had fallen, I would have dealt him with distinction ... as one deals with yourselves, gentlemen, he said with an emotion full of dignity; because I suffered from your pain; I respect and appreciate it.

His prisoners were named one after the other.  Among them was General Langeron, French, and who, like Napoleon, had been brought to the Military School in Paris.  After emigrating, at the beginning of the Revolution, with part of his family, originally to the old province of Burgundy, he went to Russia , where he was accepted into service.  Later, Napoleon, First Consul, had offered to return the goods of his family, on condition that he return to France , but the Count of Langeron had refused his generous offer.  Also, when the Emperor heard the name of this fugitive pronounced, he wrinkled a smile:

—This one is more to be pitied than the others, he said in half-voice and turning his head; he spoke to him in the following way:

—Who commanded your army this morning? he asked him in a tone of indifference.

—Sire, it was the Emperor Alexander.

Napoleon let a sign of impatience escape.

—I asked you the name of the commander-in-chief of the Russian army, he repeated to him.

—General Kutuzov, Sire.

—A good thing, as the Emperor Alexander is too young to lead the operations of such a large army as was yours; I do not believe that he has ever received a baptism of fire before day.

—Sire, the General replied respectfully, believing perhaps to flatter the self-esteem of the winner, Your Majesty is a little older than my master the Emperor (Napoleon raised his head), and yet he has already won more than twenty battles.

—Sir, say forty, Napoleon interrupted with a half-smile, and you cannot go wrong.  Your master, because you like to call him that, is eight years younger than me (Napoleon was thirty-six and Alexander twenty-eight), but even if I was a century older than him; it is true that he was not raised in the same school as you and me.

Then, suddenly the conversation broke off and wine was pouring into silver cups that he had before him, he presented it to the general, saying:

—M. de Langeron, drink: this can only do you good.

As the prisoner, having bowed as a sign of submission and thanks, took the cup to his lips ...

—One moment, M. de Langeron, said the Emperor by launching an unspeakable glance: I must warn you that this is wine of France ... a wine of Burgundy, he said stressing the word.

A silence followed this little revenge, although forgiven by a ruler who had before his eyes a subject who had taken up arms and fought against his country.  Finally, Napoleon took the floor and said to the companions of the general, with an incisive emphasis and brevity so that none of his words were lost:

—Gentlemen, I feel that such brave people as you are the victim of a cabinet (the English cabinet) that is not afraid of compromising the dignity of nations by trafficking in its generals.  Now that I know your names, I would say that with the exception of one (here the Emperor threw a look to the side of Count Langeron), you have all fought honorably.  But look at the conduct of those who have abused you: is there nothing more unjust than coming without a declaration of war, and suddenly take me by the throat?  Is this not being guilty of the crime of throwing her to hordes of Barbarians ... yes, the Barbarians, for scratch the Russian and you will soon find the Tartar ... In just politics, the Emperor of Austria rather than attack me, should have sought an alliance to send them back to the North.

His pact with my enemies will go down in history a monstrous thing to which we believe will have a penalty; It is the alliance of dogs, shepherds and wolves against sheep ... It is very fortunate for you that I have not failed in this unjust fight where I was provoked.  Maybe your masters will pay a heavy price, one day, for this campaign against me.

With these words, Napoleon gave a sign to the staff officer of the guard who the prisoners had been given; he came up, and there the Emperor recommended in a low voice to show these foreigners great respect, and ensuring that they lacked for nothing.  It was nearly midnight.  The officers d’ordonnance reported that they had discovered the enemy had withdrawn on Goedings.  At half past midnight, several reports came to the Emperor; he read them all; then Junot came to announce the arrival of M. de Haugwitz, sent by the King of Prussia.

—I was waiting for him! Napoleon said, have him enter.

The minister presented to the Emperor sealed papers he pulled out of the pockets of his coat with some difficulty.  On receiving the letter from his brother of Prussia, Napoleon smiled, read for a second time, and on fixing his gaze on the Prussian envoy that seemed to search the bottom of his conscience, he said by folding the letter:

—Mr. Baron, this is a compliment which Fortune has changed the address of, it is good.

And with a polite gesture he made a signal to withdraw.

—He has one of those figures I do not like, said Napoleon soon after the departure of the minister.

—Sire, said Junot, it is true that M. de Haugwitz made a singular grimace taking leave of Your Majesty.

—And then we must admit that it is not so wonderful.  I bet he had two letters in his pocket.  Had you noticed how long he took to find which of the two packages that spoke to the battle this morning being won?

Junot concurred with him.

—I would have had a good laugh, said Napoleon rubbing his hands; if he had been wrong, instead of giving me this one, which is a track of congratulations on my victory, he had given the other, being a declaration of war.  In my place, a Turk would have been fooled.

—Thanks to God, Sire, we know that Your Majesty is not a Turk, said Junot, smiling.

—Yes, but we know, these gentlemen then, do we not, my brave Junot?  You above all, see through them.

In saying these words, the Emperor took the cheek of his aide-de-camp and pinched it in a friendly manner.

—Moreover, he added, I'm curious to know what I will tell the Emperor of Austria tomorrow; you know he asked me for an interview a few miles from here. Go and rest, my old friend, I will do the same.  If something happens, you wake me, I wish it.

Junot left the Emperor, wiping a tear that had escaped from his eyes.

The next day, 3 December, at eight o'clock in the morning with a beautiful sun, but also with a chill of twelve degrees, Napoleon came out of the chateau of Prince Kaunitz, following the great road of Hollitsch, to go to a mill at the advanced posts of Bernadotte, three and a half miles from Austerlitz; it was the place that had been assigned for the meeting.  The Emperor was not alone on his horse, because he wanted all of his guard to accompany him.  On dismounting, he had fires built, and began to walk, both hands in the pockets of his gray frock coat, and hitting his feet on the ground hardened by a continuing frost, until the warning came of the arrival of the Emperor of Austria.  The guard, two hundred steps back, was in battle formation, with shouldered arms and the soldiers had followed the example of Little Corporal, and marked time by stamping their feet.  It was not long before the announcement of the Austrian monarch, who came to him in a good Berlin well closed.  He was accompanied by the Princes John and Maurice of Lichtenstein, Generals Kienmayer, Bubna and Sutterheim and several senior officers of the uhlans who joined an escort of Hungarian hussars.  The latter, as well as the escort of guides, remained two hundred paces outside the place of the interview.  Napoleon went on foot to meet the Emperor Francis and embraced him on approaching.  Prince Jean Lichtenstein followed his sovereign just up to the fire of Napoleon, and remained there throughout the conference.  Marshal Berthier remained with Napoleon, who spoke with Francis, while taking in the vast plain that was around him.

—Sire, forgive me for receiving you in this way; but that's the only palace that I lived in for three months.

—My faith, my brother Sire, said Francis, smiling, you will certainly be pleased when you can leave this house.

Napoleon did not respond except with a slight nod of the head.

At the moment, Berthier and the Prince of Lichtenstein were a little far away, as much out of respect as discretion, leaving it up to the two emperors to provide the story for the bulletins that Napoleon as we know, always dictated itself.  Freeing everyone to believe what they wanted; above all that the two monarchs agreed to an armistice.  The Emperor of Austria asked for a second for the debris of the Russian army, which was granted.  The interview lasted more than two hours.  Both rulers left embracing again.  All Austrian and French officers rushed where duty called.  They distinctly heard Napoleon say to Francis, on returning him to his carriage:

—I agree to everything, provided that Your Majesty promises me not to make war.

—I swear to you Francis responded, and I will keep my word.

The day began to decline when Napoleon joined his army on foot. The Emperor of Austria went to Berlin as he came.

—How is it, said Napoleon on his way to those of his aides-de-camp who walked at his side, that the Emperor of Austria, who has around him such wise and great men of distinction, leaves the conduct of his business to fools and intriguers?

Arriving at his camp fire, he seemed very concerned and unsure of what he wanted to do, when suddenly something seemed to come to mind, letting out these words, which probably still applied to Francis:

—Surely this man made me make a mistake, because I could follow my victory and take all the Russian army with the rest of the Austrian army, where else ... But finally, both! few tears will be shed for less.

The first task of Napoleon on returning to Austerlitz, was to assign the work that the ministers that he sent every day by riders; then he said with a kind of excitement to the small number of those who were present, while walking in the salon, hands crossed behind his back:

—Ah! ah! Gentlemen what peace for the Allies!  It will give them the dissolution of the great German empire, the recognition of the power of the Kings of Bavaria and Württemberg, the reunification in my kingdom of Italy, and thus to the French Empire, by Duchy of Parma and Piacenza, of Tuscany, of Genoa and of Venice; which will be the reward for this shameful Russian army which had advanced by exclaiming cries of victory.  What an incredible example of the power of fighting!

These old bands of Paul Ist who had once trained in the school that vanquished Charles XII, will go under the yoke like timid children!  I want it to be erect in the middle of the Place Vendome in my good city of Paris, a column in the manner of Trajan’s column, fully covered with the bronze won from the enemies of France .  I want represented by this bronze bas-reliefs arranged in a spiral everything about glorious campaign from the raising of the Camp of Boulogne  up to the time I sign in Vienna.  This is not all, now I must express my gratitude to all my brothers in arms.  And addressed to the Chief of Staff: —Berthier, go there and write the decree that I dictate to you:

“Napoleon by the grace of God, the will of the people and the strength of his arms, the French Emperor, King of Italy, etc.

Art. 1st.  The widows of generals killed in the battle of Austerlitz will enjoy a pension of 6,000 fr. for the rest of their lives; widows of colonels and majors, a pension of 2,400 fr.; widows of captains , a pension of 1,200 fr.; widows lieutenants and sub-lieutenants, a pension of 800 fr.; the widows of soldiers, a pension of 200 fr.

Art. 2. We adopt all the children of the generals, officers and French soldiers killed in the battle of Austerlitz, and they will all be maintained and raised at our expense, our boys in the Imperial Palace of Rambouillet, and girls in our Imperial Palace in Saint-Germain, boys will be positioned, and the girls married by us.

Art. 3. Regardless of their names from baptism and family, they have the right to join that of Napoleon.”

The same decree in one celebrates the anniversary of the coronation and the battle of Austerlitz.

As the work of war or a combination of foreign policy were not lost sight of by Napoleon, meticulous care was taken to provide for the needs of his subjects, he dictated immediately after to one of his secretaries the following letter to the Minister of the Interior. This letter is curious, especially the recommendation by the end:

“Mr. de Champagny, there are the National Library of many precious stones.  They must be distributed with order to the good engravers of Paris, to engrave the various figures that they represent.  Half the price of that work, which will be estimated by Denon, will be advanced to the artist; the other half will not be provided until the work is fully completed and he has restored the stone which has been entrusted to him.  This will encourage the industry and will provide work to those engravers who have not had any.  Do you pay in advance for all of this work to any of them, and to avoid paying for those who have done nothing at all, or at least nothing good.  It is like this for other reasons, I pray God, Monsieur de Champagny, will find you have always in his dignified custody.

From my camp of Austerlitz, 4 December 1805,


The Emperor passed in this way part of the night of the 3rd to 4th;  it was always the activity of the battlefield of succeeded by the activity of the cabinet; and when Savary entered:

—By the way, Mr. Ambassador, Napoleon said in a light tone to Savary, have you acquitted yourself of your mission?  Have you finally brought me the accession of the Emperor of Russia?  It seems to me you have been long absent?

Then having to repeat twice once after another and word for word by his aide-de-camp the conversation he had with Alexander, he said:

—And he gave you his word?

—Yes, Sire.

—Russian-speaking, said Napoleon in shaking his head in a tone of disbelief.

—Sire, I found His Majesty the Emperor of Russia is as a man of heart and meaning.

—I would like best to have a word of his hand, it would have been more appropriate. The Russians ... The Russians, again they are today what the Greeks were to the Roman Empire of the past, moreover, we'll see ... And you say that M. Dolgorowski was there?

—Yes, Sire, but he did not take part in our conversation.

—Parbleu! So he had better things to do!  I will never forget the cockiness of this young man, one the eve of the battle, daring to present to me a letter from his master with this superscription: to head of the French Government ... I leave Austerlitz today, he added.  Savary, you come with me: I'm happy with you; go and relax.

The Emperor moved that evening to Brunn.  He remained there only a few days, during which he noted the losses that had affected his army.  He sent his aides-de-camp to visit the hospital and to give from him 40 fr. to each wounded; then a bonus of 3,000 fr. to each general officer wounded, and subsequently 2,000, 1,500 and 500 fr. to  officers of different ranks below who were in the same situation.  One judged whether the aid was needed and they had to bless the hand that gave them.

Napoleon did not want to pass through Vienna at night, and went right to Schoenbrunn.  There, the day after his installation, he received M. de Haugwitz, who was the same complimentary who came from the King of Prussia on the eve of the battle.  The minister, who was the last few days in Vienna, where he was negotiating with M. de Talleyrand and the Minister of Austria, was, admittedly, in the most critical position one could be placed as a diplomat.  Napoleon placed by the victory in the brightest situation, dealt with the Prussian baron severely. Therefore he did nothing to reproach him in the beginning; but as he proved he was not fooled by the intentions in which he had been sent for, he heated up, spoke of passage of the Russian army through Warsaw and its arrival in Breslau, where it remained; finally, when he came to ask the ambassador what the significance of the other Russian corps was in Hanover and communicating through Prussia with the Austrian army, he spoke so highly and with such vehemence that he was distinctly heard, by parts of his cabinet next door, saying:

—... Is this a frank conduct for your master with me?  It would have been more honorable to me to make war, though he had no reason for it!  At least you have used your supposed allies, because of that I would have looked twice before doing battle with them.  I understand you want to be allies of the entire world, it is more convenient; but it is not possible. In the times in which we live, we must choose between them and me.  If you side with these gentlemen, I will not oppose you; but if you want to keep mine with me, I want sincerity, or I will separate myself from you.  I prefer the frank enemies to false friends.  If your credentials are not extensive enough to address this issue, ask for a ruling; in the meantime, it will also save me marching on my enemies, whoever they are; even from the heights of Montmartre, I will respond with gun shots to their diplomatic notes.

Finishing these words, Napoleon had suddenly turned his back on Mr. de Haugwitz, which he had not even left time to recognize. These last words of Napoleon are more remarkable bearing in mind 1814 that they were prophetic.

The arrival of Rapp, whose injury was beginning to scar over became a diversion and changed the nature of the feelings of exhilaration and frustration that seemed to plagued him; he received this favorite aide-de-camp in a very gracious manner, and after seeking news of his health with the most touching interest:

—About time! He added, the last time I saw you, I forgot to tell you that I had appointed you division general; going to add a star on your shoulder.

Rapp bowed in a sign of thanks, was about to leave when the Emperor rejoined.

—It's not all, my man, he said, work on not getting wounded every time you take part in an affair; it becomes ridiculous. You're like Murat, you run like a blind man; you go! you go! you go ... and then you are forced to stay in bed ... Are you finally able to travel a bit?

—Yes, Sire, I am still able to do whatever Your Majesty orders me to show him my gratitude.

—In this case, go and tell the details of the Battle of Austerlitz to Marmont, to do so angry will not allow the truth; that will be your entertainment; and you can judge the effect that the news will have on the Italians.  You leave from here tonight. Goodbye, mister general of division Rapp!  Take care that you keep your health, so I do not hear of it first.

And the Emperor took his hand and shook it several times, said with effusion and a special tone:

—Adieu, my good man ... I'll send you all your instructions within an hour, wait in the service lounge.

An hour later, the General received instructions dictated by the Emperor himself, for the Grand Ribbon of the Legion of Honor, which was attached to the certificate with an allocation of a 12,000 fr. mortgage on the Mount of Milan.



Placed on the Napoleon Series: February 2009


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