Thumbing through the Napoleonic Wars: The Words of
Napoleon and Others Who May Have Influenced His Methods
'They will talk of his glory
Under the thatch, for a long time.
For fifty years, the humble cottage
Will know no other story.'
-Jean de Beranger
'There was an eye to see in this man,
and a soul to dare and do.
He rose naturally to be King.
All men saw that he was such.
'He either fears his fate too much,
or his deserts are small,
that puts it not unto the touch,
to win or lose it all.
-James Graham, Marquise of Montrose
'Cowards may fear to die; but courage stout,
Rather than live in snuff, will be put out.'
-Sir Walter Raleigh
The backbone of the Army is the noncommissioned
'A mysterious fraternity born out of smoke and
danger of death.'
'Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember with advantages
What feats he did that day
Emperor Napoleon I
There has probably never been another person in history
who has either more misquoted or have had more words put in
his mouth than Napoleon I, Emperor of the French. Because of
the highly suspect memoirs, ghostwritten or not, of such
people as Talleyrand, Bourrienne, Madame de Stael, Clare de
Remusat, the Duchesse d'Abrantes, and Marshal Auguste
Marmont, the French Emperor has had more and sundry
inaccurate and unfair labels laid at this door. He was
vilified by his enemies before and after his death, and has
been accused of everything from murder to incest; accused of
being a monster and psychopath, up to and including the
recent, horribly inaccurate biography of him by Alan
The best place to look for the actual spoken words of
Napoleon is in his multivolume Correspondence, which is
overflowing with letters, reports, and various and sundry
written records and what the Emperor actually thought on a
variety of subject. These are not the Bulletins issued by
Napoleon, which were intentional propaganda and never
intended as history. The term 'lie like a bulletin' was
actually coined by the Grande Armée-you generally can't fool
the veterans who do the marching and the killing.
On the Art of War
Napoleon was a well-educated man and soldier. He
undoubtedly had read the newer, pertinent works, such as
those by Bourcet and Guibert, on warfare and it was added to
his repertoire of knowledge. He was an expert artilleryman.
He could serve dutifully and skillfully on a gun crew; he
could build carriages, vehicles, and wheels; he had to
knowledge to cast guns. Artillery was indeed the 'final
argument of kings,' Napoleon, in the words of John Elting,
'was an artilleryman who made and unmade kings.' Here, then,
are some of his thoughts on the art of war.
'The most essential quality of a general is
firmness of character and the resolution to conquer at
'Activite, Activite, Vitesse!'
'The art of war is an immense study, which encompasses
'The art of war consists in bringing to bear with an
inferior army a superiority of force at the point at
which one attacks or is attacked.'
'The bayonet has always been the weapon of the brave
and the chief tool of victory.'
'Perhaps I should not insist on this bold maneuver,
but it is my style, my way of doing things.'
'War is composed of nothing but accidents
is but one favorable moment, the great art is to seize
'War is waged only with vigor, decision, and unshaken
will; one must not grope or hesitate.'
'I have destroyed the enemy merely by marches.'
'Many good generals exist in Europe, but they see too
many things at once; I see but one thing, and that is the
masses; I seek to destroy them, sure that the minor
matters will fall of themselves.'
'When once the offensive has been assumed, it must be
sustained to the last extremity.'
'In short, I think like Frederick, one should always
be the first to attack.'
Make war offensively; it is the sole means to become a
great captain and to fathom the secrets of the art.'
'Be audacious and cunning in your plans, firm and
persevering in their execution, determined to find a
'Never allow any rest either to the conqueror or the
'I may be accused of rashness but never of
'One always has enough troops when he knows how to use
'In order to smash, it is necessary to act
'It is very advantageous to rush unexpectedly on an
enemy who has erred, to attack him suddenly and come down
on him with thunder before he sees the lightning.'
'An army can march anywhere and at any time of he
year, wherever two men can place their feet.'
'An army of lions commanded by a deer will never be an
army of lions.'
'It is not sufficient that the soldier must shoot, but
he must shoot well.'
'Move upon the enemy in one mass on one line so that
when brought to battle you shall outnumber him, and from
such a direction that you compromise him.'
'There's a man for you! He is forced to flee from an
army that he dares not fight, but he puts eighty leagues
of devastation between himself and his pursuers. He slows
down the march of the pursuing army, he weakens it by all
kinds of privation-he knows how to ruin it without
fighting it. In all of Europe, only Wellington and I are
capable of carrying out such measures. But there is a
difference between him and myself: In France
be criticized, whereas England will praise him.'
'In war, everything depends on morale; and morale and
public opinion comprise the better part of reality.'
'One fights well when the heart is light.'
'It is not enough to give orders, they must be
'You must avoid countermanding orders: unless the
soldier can see a good reason for benefit, he becomes
discouraged and loses confidence.'
'Give your orders so that they cannot be
'As a rule it is easy to find officers, but it is
sometimes very hard to find non-commissioned
'I do not believe the proverb that in order to be able
to command one must know how to obey
may only be the evidence of a strong mind.'
'The greatest general is he who makes the fewest
'A soldier must learn to love his profession, must
look to it to satisfy all his tastes and his sense of
humor. That is why handsome uniforms are useful.'
'The success of a coup de main depends absolutely upon
luck rather than judgment.'
'Nothing in war is more important than unity of
command. Thus when war is waged against a single power
there must be but one army, acting on one line and led by
Better one bad general than two good
'Hesitation and half measures lose all in war.'
'What my enemies call a general peace is my
destruction. What I call peace is merely the rearmament
of my enemies. Am I not more moderate than they?'
Napoleon's comment on the allied (Metternich's) peace
proposals in 1813.
'If courage is the first characteristic of the
soldier, perseverance is the second.'
'To get information, it is necessary to seize the
letters in the postal system, to question travelers. In
one word, you have to look for it. Intelligence never
comes by itself.'
On Leadership and Men
Napoleon, contrary to many expressed opinions of him, was
a humane man. He felt grief for heavy losses (see his
correspondence after Eylau). He took good care of his
troops, and was genuinely concerned for their welfare. He
had a good, common sense soldier's approach to medical care.
He generously rewarded his best surgeons, Larrey and Percy
among them. The Grande Armee was his home, and he loved his
soldiers, but he used them as he saw fit. He also put
himself in the line of fire, which is one of the reasons his
soldiers followed him unhesitatingly into the fire.
Napoleon also had a sense of humor. Supposedly Savary
asked him once if he wanted to be God. Napoleon thought it
over and replied, 'No, it's a dead-end job.' Traveling with
his escort, one of the trooper's horses stumbled and the
trooper was thrown. Napoleon reined in, leaned over and
asked why the trooper was so clumsy. Later, as luck would
have it, Napoleon's horse stumbled, and he was thrown from
his saddle. The justified trooper reined in, leaned over,
and asked why Napoleon was so clumsy. Napoleon remounted,
and they continued on, the escort undoubtedly feeling much
satisfied by the justice of the situation.
'War is a serious game, in which one can
endanger his reputation and his country; a rational man
must feel and know whether or not he is cut out for this
'Peruse again and again the campaigns of Alexander,
Hannibal, Caesar, gustavus Adolphus, Turenne, Eugene, and
Frederick. Model yourself upon them. This is the only
means of becoming a great captain, and of acquiring the
secret of the art of war. Your own genius will be
enlightened and improved by this study, and you will
learn to reject all maxims foreign to the principles of
the great commanders.'
'The knowledge of higher leadership can only be
acquired by the study of military history and actual
experience. There are no hard and fast rules; everything
depends on the plans of the general, the condition of the
troops, the season of the year, and a thousand other
circumstances, which have the effect that no one case
will ever resemble another'
'But all that
he will learn will be of little use
to him if he does not have the sacred fire in the depths
of his heart, thus driving ambition which alone can
enable one to perform great deeds.'
'You must be a soldier, and then a soldier, and again
a soldier; bivouac with your advance guard, be in the
saddle night and day, march with your advance guard to
have the latest information, or else stay in your harem.
You make war like a satrap. Good God, is it from me that
you have learned that? From me who, with an army of
200,000 men, am at the head of my skirmishers?
-Napoleon to Jerome
'The ideal army would be the one in which every
officer would know what he ought to do in every
contingency; the best possible army is the one that comes
closest to this. I give myself only half the credit for
the battles I have won, and a general gets enough credit
when he is named at all, for the fact is that a battle is
won by the army.'
'It was a beautiful, calm, moonlight night. Suddenly a
dog, which had been hiding under the clothes of a dead
man, came up to us with a mournful howl, and then
disappeared again immediately into his hiding place. He
would lick his master's face, then run up to us again,
only to return once more to his master. Whether it was
the mood of the moment, whether it was the place, the
time, the weather, or the action itself, or whatever it
was, it is certainly true that nothing on any battlefield
ever made such an impression on me. I involuntarily
remained still, to observe the spectacle. This dead man,
I said to myself, has perhaps friends, and he is lying
there abandoned by all but his dog! What a lesson nature
teaches us by means of an animal.'
'A military leader must possess as much character as
intellect. Men who have a great deal of intellect and
little character are the least suited; they are like a
ship whose masts are out of proportion to the ballast; it
is preferable to have much character and little
intellect. Those men whose intellect is mediocre and
whose character is in proportion are likely to succeed in
their profession. The base must equal the height.'
'In my campaigns Berthier was always to be found in my
carriage. During the journey I used to study the plans of
the situation and the reports sent in, sketch out my
plans for battle from them, and arrange the necessary
moves. Berthier would watch me at work, and at the first
stopping-place or rest, whether it was day or night, he
made out the orders and arrangements with a method and an
exactness that was truly admirable. For this work he was
always ready and untiring. That was Berthier's special
merit. It was very great and valuable, and no one else
could have replaced Berthier.'
'The conduct of a general in a conquered country is
full of difficulties. If severe, he irritates and
increases the number of his enemies. If lenient, he gives
birth to expectations which only render the abuses and
vexations inseparable from the war the more intolerable.
A victorious general must know how to employ severity,
justice, and mildness by turns, if he would allay
sedition, or prevent it.'
'Friends, I promise you this conquest; but there is
one condition you must swear to fulfill-to respect the
people whom you liberate, to repress the horrible
pillaging committed by scoundrels incited by our enemies.
Otherwise you would not be the liberators of the people;
you would be their scourge
Plunderers will be shot
without mercy; already, several have been
To the Armee d'Italie in 1796
'If you wage war, do it energetically and with
severity. This is the only way to make it shorter, and
consequently less inhuman.'
'You must not needlessly fatigue the troops.'
'A general's principal talent consists in knowing the
mentality of the soldier and in gaining his
'When asked one day how, after so many years, he could
recollect the names and numbers of the units engaged in
one of his early combats, Napoleon responded, 'Madam,
this is a lover's recollection of his former
'Man, not men, is the most important
'Sentiment rules the world, and he who fails to take
that into account can never hope to lead.'
'A general's principle talent consists in knowing the
mentality of the soldier and in winning his confidence.
And, in these two respects, the French soldier is more
difficult to lead than any other. He is not a machine to
be put in motion but a reasonable being that must be
'A leader is a dealer in hope.'
'You medical people will have more lives to answer for
in the other world than even we do.'
'The Greeks in the service of the Great King were not
enthusiastic in his cause. The Swiss in French, Spanish,
and Italian service were not enthusiastic in their
causes. The troops of Frederick the Great, mostly
foreigners, were not enthusiastic in his cause. A good
general, good training, and good discipline make good
troops independently of the cause in which they fight. It
is true, however, that fanaticism, love of fatherland,
and national glory can inspire fresh troops to good
'Instead of the lash, I would lead them by the
stimulus of honor. I would instill a degree of emulation
into their minds. I would promote every deserving
soldier, as I did in France
What might not be
expected of the English army if every soldier hoped to be
made a general provided he showed ability? Bingham says,
however, that most of your soldiers are brutes and must
be driven by the stick. But surely the English soldiers
must be possessed of sentiments sufficient to put them at
least upon a level with the soldiers of other countries,
where the degrading system of the lash is not used.
Whatever debases man cannot be serviceable.'
'A man does not have himself killed for a halfpence a
day of for a petty distinction. You must speak to the
soul inorder to electrify him.'
'Great men are never cruel without necessity.'
'Praise from enemies is suspicious; it cannot flatter
an honorable man unless it is given after the cessation
'We are here to guide public opinion, not to discuss
'Barere still believes that the masses must be
stirred. On the contrary, they must be guided without
'Instead of all the stupidness with which the daily
press is filled, why do you not send commissioners to
visit the districts from which we hve expelled the enemy
and make them collect the details of the crimes that have
been committed there? Nothing more powerful could be
found to stir the minds than a recital of the details.
What we need at this moment is real and serious things,
not wit in prose and verse. My hair stands on end when I
hear of the crimes committed by the enemy, and the police
have not even thought of obtaining a single account of
A picture drawn in larger strokes
will not convince the people. With ink and paper you can
draw any pictures you like. Only by telling the facts
simply and with detail can we convince them."
'There are no greater patriots than those good men who
have been maimed in the service of their country.'
'The man who cannot look upon the battlefield dry-eyed
will allow many men to be killed uselessly.'
'I received your letter in a tumble-down farm house
where I have the mud, the wind, and some straw for my
'A general in the power of the enemy has no orders to
give. Whoever obeys him is a criminal.'
'When ignorance has gotten ten men killed where it
should have cost two, is it not responsible for the blood
of the other eight?'
'A man has his day in war as in other things; I myself
shall be good for it another six years, after which even
I shall have to stop.' Napoleon said this in 1805; in
1812 he invaded Russia, seven years after the quote.
'A people who have been brought up on victories often
do not know how to accept defeat.'
'Pay attention to the sick and wounded. Sacrifice your
baggage, everything for them. Let the wagons be devoted
to their use, and if necessary your own
'Force is only justifiable in extremes; when we have
the upper hand, justice is preferable.'
'Nothing will disorganize an army more or ruin it more
completely than pillage.'
'Get your principles straight; the rest is a matter of
Words of wisdom from Napoleon on a variety of subjects.
Napoleon wrote and dictated literally volumes of
correspondence, sometimes dictating to multiple clerks at
the same time. It was said that only Berthier could decipher
'In military operations, hours determine success
'Go sir, gallop, and don't forget that the world was
made in six days. You can ask me for anything you like,
'The loss of time is irretrievable in war; the excuses
that are advanced are always bad ones, for operations go
wrong only through delays.'
'The good condition of my armies comes from the fact
that I devote an hour or two every day to them, and when
I am sent the returns of my troops and my ships each
month, which fills twenty large volumes, I set every
other occupation aside to read them in detail in order to
discern yhe difference yhay exists from one month to
another. I take greater pleasure in this than a young
lady would get from reading a novel.'
On Glory, Defeat, Honor,
''Victory and disaster establish indestructible
bonds between armies and their commanders.'
'Pay not attention to those who would keep you far
from fire: you want to prove yourself a man of courage.
If there are opportunities, expose yourself
conspicuously. As for real danger, it is everywhere in
'Remember, gentlemen, what a Roman emperor said: 'The
corpse of an enemy always smells sweet.'
'Death is nothing; but to live defeated and without
glory is to die everyday.'
'To imagine that it is possible to perform great
military deeds without fighting is just empty
'Unhappy the general who comes on the field of battle
with a system.'
'What I want you to preserve is honor, not a few
planks of wood.'
'Whoever prefers death to ignominity will save his
life and live in honor, but he who prefers life will die
and cover himself with disgrace.'
'The honor of a general consists in obeying, in
keeping subalterns under his orders on the honest path,
in maintaining good discipline, devoting oneself solely
to the interest of the State and the sovereign, and in
scorning completely private interests.'
'When defending itself against another country, a
nation never lacks men, but too often, soldiers.'
'Hardship, blood, and death create enthusiasts and
martyrs and give birth to bold and desperate
'Great extremities require extraordinary resolution.
The more obstinate the resistance of an army, the greater
the chances of success. How many seemingly
impossibilities have been accomplished by men whose only
resolve was death!'
'In time of revolution, with perseverance and courage,
a soldier should think nothing impossible.'
'In decisive cases there are moments when victory
demands sacrifices and when it becomes necessary to burn
your own warships. If military art consisted of always
taking a safe position, then glory would become the
property of mediocre people.'
'The art of war is like everything else that is
beautiful and simple. The simplest moves are the
'The first qualification of a soldier is fortitude
under fatigue and privation. Courage is only the second;
hardship, poverty, and want are the best school of the
'At the head of an army, nothing is more becoming than
'To be defeated is pardonable; to be
'There is no security for any sovereign, for any
nation, or for any general, if officers are permitted to
capitulate in the open field, and to lay down their arms
in virtue of conditions, favorable to the contracting
party, but contrary to the interests of the army at
large. To withdraw from danger, and thereby to involve
their comrades in greater perils, is the height of
cowardice. Such conduct should be proscribed, declared
infamous, and made punishable with death. All generals,
officers, and soldiers, who capitulate in battle to save
their own lives, should be decimated. He who gives the
order, and those who obey are alike traitors, and deserve
'Treaties are observed as long as they are in harmony
'War justifies everything.'
'It is not against me, exactly, that the powers make
war. It is against the revolution. They have never seen
in me anything but the representative, the man of the
Words by other Soldiers:
Here are some of the appropriate renderings by his
subordinates, contemporaries, and predecessors: Some, like
Clausewitz fought him and the terrible Grande Armee for
years; others, such as Haydon were mere observers and were
awestruck by Napoleon and his grumblers. Still others, had
military talents of their own and put them down on
'You have to have seen the steadfastness of one
of the forces trained and led by Bonaparte
under fierce and unrelenting fire-to get some sense of
what can be accomplished by troops steeled by long
experience in danger, in whom a proud record of victories
has instilled the noble principle of placing the highest
demands on themselves. As an idea alone it is
'In the career of glory one gains many things; the
gout and medals, a pension and rheumatism
frozen feet, an arm or leg the less, a bullet lodged
between two bones which the surgeon cannot
All of those bivouacs in the rain and snow,
all the privations, all those fatigues experienced in
your youth, you pay for when you grow old. Because one
has suffered in years gone by, it is necessary to suffer
more, which does not seem exactly fair.'
'With all [Amiel's] faults, the Emperor
appreciated in him one quality which he possessed in the
highest degree; he was undoubtedly the best light cavalry
officer in any European army. A finer instinct or equal
judgment in exploring a country with a glance was never
seen. Before riding through a district, he divined the
obstacles which the maps did not show, foresaw the points
where streams, roads, or the smallest paths must emerge,
and could draw from the enemy's movements inferences
which nearly always proved correct. Both in irregular
warfare and in major operations he was a most remarkable
'[Conscription] is an ineluctable consequence
of political equality. If you demand equality, then
accept the consequences.'
'The crash of the Imperial drums, beating with the
harsh unity that stamped them as the voices of veterans
in war, woke me from my reverie and made my heart throb
with their stony rattle. Never did I hear such drums and
never shall again: there were years of battle and blood
in every sound.'
'Faithful to our oath, we have not abandoned your
eagles, and we are now without a country!
beg of you, give us back our weapons.'
'If the Cossacks attack during the night, it is to
keep you awake, to wear you out
you seldom have to
do anything more than look alert. If the Prussian cavalry
attacks during the night, that is more serious; you must
not only be ready, but maneuver to meet them. If the
Austrian cavalry attack at night they probably have their
infantry with them. If the English cavalry understood
war, they might be
the most terrible in Europe
If you have ridden over them, the Austrian infantry
throws down its weapons, each soldier claims to be a
Pole, they obey you honestly. The Prussian infantry
throws down its arms, but will grab them up promptly if
they see help coming. The Russian infantry falls flat,
lets you pass, gets up, and starts shooting again.'
-Antoine de Brack
'Providence and courage never abandon the good
Never punished, always present at roll call,
indefatigable in all the marches and countermarches; I
took whatever came without complaint.'
'Order, counterorder, disorder.'
-French Military Proverb
'More dreadful looking fellows than Napoleon's guard I
had never seen. They had the look of thoroughbred,
veteran, disciplined banditti. Depravity, recklessness,
and bloodthirstiness were burned into their
Black mustachios, gigantic bearskins, and a
ferocious expression were their characteristics.'
At Tilsit, in a review for the the sovereigns, Tsar
Alexander, while viewing the Old Guard pass in review,
asked Marshal Ney where were the men who had given the
Guardsmen such terrible scars. Neys reply was blunt and
succinct: 'Sire, they are all dead.'
At the same review, Drum Major Senot of the Grenadiers
a pied remarked to his drummers when passing by Frederick
William of Prussia, 'Don't beat so loud, he's only a
'These reports, as you know, Monsieur le Marechal, are
not for my personal benefit; for I am nothing in the
army. I receive in the Emperor's name the reports of the
marshals and I sign on his behalf, so personally I have
no axe to grind. But His Majesty stipulates that detailed
reports on everything which occurs are to be sent to me;
for better or worse, nothing should be concealed from the
Emperor. I require you therefore to be so kind as to keep
me advised of all that occurs in your corps, in the same
way as the other marshals.'
Berthier to Soult
'The Emperor, for the general direction of the
operations, is in no need of advice, nor does he wish to
have outlined to him any operation plans. No one knows
his intentions, and it is our duty to obey him. His
Majesty was all the less prepared for your movements,
sonce you have been warned repeatedly not to take any
action without orders. You can judge for yourself that
partial measures will merely injure the operations as a
whole and that they may even prove disastrous for the
-Berthier to Ney
'Nothing should be concealed from the Emperor, either
good or bad; to deceive him, even about things that are
likely to be disagreeable to him is a crime.'
Berthier to Lannes
'Besides the confidence of the general officers, of
which the aides-de-camp render themselves worthy by
indefatigable zeal, it is necessary that they should be
acquainted with the different corps of the brigade or
division to which they belong, the names of the several
officers in command, and those of the commissaries, that
they may be able to transmit orders with precision, and
superintend their execution.'
'It is admitted by all military men that infantry is
the great lever of war, and that the artillery and
cavalry are only indispensable accessories...Two
essential conditions constitute the strength of infantry:
that the men be good walkers and inured to fatigue. That
the firing be well executed. The physical constitution,
and the national composition of the French armies,
fulfill the former most advantageously; the vivacity and
intelligence of the soldiers ensure the success of the
'People who think of retreating before a battle has
been fought ought to have stayed home.'
'If we are defeated, we can think about retreating
then, and in any case, I shall be dead, so why should I
'Make your preparation for attack or defense instantly
on the enemy's approach; should you even be obliged to
execute them with disadvantage, do not hesitate.'
'We come to give you liberty and equality, but don't
lose your heads about it-the first person who stirs
without permission will be shot.'
'To look over a battlefield, to take in at the first
instance the advantages and disadvantages is the great
quality of a general."
'War is a trade for the ignorant and a science for the
'Just as lightning has already struck when the flash
is seen, so where the enemy discovers the head of the
army, the whole should be there, and leave them no time
to counteract dispositions.'
'The object of artillery should not consist of killing
men on the whole of the enemy's front, but to overthrow
it, to destroy parts of this front
then they obtain
decisive effects; they make a gap.'
'A man may cease to be lucky, for that is beyond his
control; but he should never cease to be honest.'
'Pay well, command well, hang well.'
-Sir Ralph Hopton
'When a man has committed no faults in war, he can
only have been engaged in it but a short time.'
'I speak harshly to no one, but I will have your head
off the instant you refuse to obey me.'
'I shall treat neutrality as equivalent to a
declaration of war against me.'
'As long as there are a few veterans, you can do what
you want with the rest.'
'A well-dressed soldier has more respect for himself.
He also appears more redoubtable to the enemy and
dominates him; for a good appearance is itself a
'Remember, soldiers, that first and foremost you are
citizens. Let us not become a greater scourge to our
country than the enemy themselves.'
'As for the cavalry, it should never be touched; old
troopers and old horses are good, and recruits of either
are absolutely useless. It is a burden, it is an expense,
but it is indispensable. In regard to the infantry, as
long as there are a few old heads you can do what you
want with the tails; they are the greatest number, and
the return of these men in peace is a noticeable benefit
to the nation, without a serious diminution of the
'Here I am sitting at al comfortable table loaded
heavily with books, with one eye on my typewriter and the
other on Licorice the cat, who has a great fondness for
carbon paper, and I am telling you that the Emperor
Napoleon was a most contemptible person. But should I
happen to look out of the window, down on Seventh Avenue,
and should the endless procession of trucks and carts
come to a sudden halt, and should I hear the sound of the
heavy drums and see the little man on his white horse, in
his old and much worn green uniform, then I don't know,
but I am afraid that I would leave my books and the
kitten and my home and everything else to follow him
wherever he cared to lead. My own grandfather did this
and Heaven knows he was not born to be a soldier.'
-Hendrik Willem van Loon
'But when the Tsar of all the Russias, the
commander-in-chief of three million horse-guards,
foot-guards, life-guards, and Cossacks, begins to talk
sweetly of brotherly love, it is time for decent people
to look to their guns.'
-Hendrik Willem van Loon
'A man is not a soldier until he is no longer
homesick, until he considers his regiment's colors as he
would his village steeple; until he loves his colors, and
is ready to put hand to sword every time the honor of the
regiment is attacked.'
'Never forget that no military leader has ever become
great without audacity.'
'For great aims we must dare great things.'
'The Grande Armée fought hard, seldom cheered, and
I end with the quote from m'lord the Dike of Wellington
because it is a fitting statement summing up what
professional soldiers have to deal with in the
Whilst marching to Portugal to a position which
commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my
officers have been diligently complying with you request
which has been sent to HM ship from London to Lisbon and
then by dispatch rider to our headquarters.
We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents, and
tent poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His
Majesty's government holds me accountable. I have
dispatched reports on the character, wit, spleen of every
officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted
for, with two regrettable exceptions for which I beg you
Unfortunately, the sum of one shilling and ninepence
remains unaccounted for in one infantry battalion's petty
cash and there has been a hideous confusion as to the
number of jars of raspberry jam issued to one cavalry
regiment during a sandstorm in western Spain. This
reprehensive carelessness may be related to the pressure
of circumstances since we are at war with France, a fact
which may have come as a bit of a surprise to you
gentlemen in Whitehall.
This brings me to my present purpose, which is to
request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty's
Government, so that I may better understand why I am
dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe
that perforce it must be one of two alternative duties,
as given below. I shall pursue one with the best of my
ability but I cannot do both.
1. To train an army of uniformed British clerks in
Spain for the benefit of the accountants and copy-boys in
London, or perchance
2. To see to it that the forces of Napoleon are driven
out of Spain.
Your most obedient servant,
Chandler, David G. The Military Maxims of Napoleon
New York : Macmillan; 1997.
Elting, John R. Swords Around A Throne: Napoleon's
Grande Armee New York : The Free Press;1988.
Esposito, Vincent J., and John R. Elting. A Military
History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars London :
Tsouras, Peter G. Warrior's Words: A Quotation
Book London : Arms and Armour Press; 1992.
Note: While all quotes used in this article were
generally found in the above-mentioned books, they are to be
originally found in either Napoleon's Correspondence or his
[ Napoleon Himself Index ]