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Research Subjects: Napoleon Himself


Address to the Army at the Beginning of the Italian Campain: March 1796

Napoleon's Proclamation to the Army, May, 1796

Letter to "The Directory": May 11, 1796

Letter to "The Directory": May 14, 1796

Proclamation to the Soldiers on Entering Milan: May 15, 1796

Proclamation to the Soldiers on Entering Brescia: May 28, 1796

Address to the Soldiers During the Siege of Mantua, Nov. 6, 1796

Address to the Troops on the Conclusion of the First Italian Campaign, March, 1797

Address to the Genoese, 1797

Extract from a Letter to the Directory, April, 1797

Address to Soldiers after the Signing of the Treaty of Campo Formio, October, 1797

Proclamation to the Cisalpine Republic, Nov. 17, 1797

Address to the Citizens after the Signing of the Treaty of Camp Formio, Dec. 10, 1797


Napoleon's Addresses: The Italian Campaigns

Compiled By Tom Holmberg

Napoleon's Address to the Army at the Beginning of the Italian Campaign, March, 1796

"Soldiers, you are naked and ill-fed! Government owes you much and can give you nothing. The patience and courage you have shown in the midst of these rocks are admirable; but they gain you no renown; no glory results to you from your endurance. It is my design to lead you into the most fertile plains of the world. Rich provinces and great cities will be in your power; there you will find honor, glory, and wealth. Soldiers of Italy! will you be wanting in courage or perseverance?"

Napoleon's Proclamation to the Army, May, 1796

"Soldiers: You have in fifteen days you have won six victories, taken twenty-one stand of colors, fifty-five pieces of cannon, and several fortresses, and overrun the richest part of Piedmont; you have made 15,000 prisoners, and killed or wounded upwards of 10,000 men. Hitherto you have been fighting for barren rocks, made memorable by your valor, though useless to your country, but your exploits now equal those of the armies of Holland and the Rhine. You were utterly destitute, and you have supplied all your wants. You have gained battles without cannon, passed rivers without bridges, performed forced marches without shoes, and bivouacked without strong liquors, and often without bread. None but Republican phalanxes, the soldiers of liberty, could have endured what you have done; thanks to you, soldiers, for your perseverance! Your grateful country owes its safety to you; and if the taking of Toulon was an earnest of the immortal campaign of 1794, your present victories foretell one more glorious. The two armies which lately attacked you in full confidence, now fly before you in consternation; the perverse men who laughed at your distress, and inwardly rejoiced at the triumph of your enemies, are now confounded and trembling. But, soldiers, you have yet done nothing, for their still remains much to do. Neither Turin nor Milan are yours; the ashes of the conquerors of Tarquin are still trodden underfoot by the assassins of Basseville.* It is said that there are some among you whose courage is shaken, and who would prefer returning to the summits of the Alps and Apennines. No, I cannot believe it. The victors of Montenotte, Millesimo, Dego, and Mondovi are eager to extend the glory of the French name!"

[*Nicolas-Jean-Hugon de Basseville (1753-1793) was a French diplomat killed by a Roman mob on 13 January 1793.]

Letter to "The Directory"

"Headquarters, Lodi,

May 11, 1796.

"Citizen Directors: I thought that the passage of the Po would be the most audacious performance of the campaign, the Battle of Millesimo the liveliest encounter, but I have yet to give you an account of the Battle of Lodi.

"At three o'clock on the morning of the 21st, we pitched our headquarters at Casal. At nine o'clock, our vanguard encountered the enemy defending the approaches to Lodi. I immediately ordered all the cavalry to mount with four pieces of light artillery which had just arrived, drawn by the carriage horses of the lords of Plaisance.

"The division of General Augereau, which had camped over night at Borghetto, and that of General Massna, which slept at Casal, were put in motion. Meantime, our vanguard had overturned all the posts of the enemy, and seized one of heir cannon. We pursued the enemy into Lodi, they having already crossed the Adda by the bridge. Beaulieu with all his army was drawn up in battle array. Thirty set cannon defended the passage of the bridge. I formed all my artillery into a battery. The cannonading was very lively for several hours.

"As soon as the army arrived it formed into a close column with the second battalion of rifles at its head, followed by all the battalions of grenadiers. On the run, with cries of Vive la Rpublique, they appeared on the bridge, which is over six hundred feet long. The enemy kept up a terrible fire. The head of the column almost seemed to waver. A moment's hesitation and all would have been lost. The Generals Berthier, Massna, Cervoni, Dallemagne, the Brigadier-General Lannes, the Battalion-Commander Dupas felt this, and rushing to the front, decided the fate of the day.

"This redoubtable column overrode all opposition, breaking Beaulieu's order of battle, capturing all his artillery, and sowing on all sides seeds of terror, flight, and death. In the twinkling of an eye the enemy's army was dispersed. The Generals Rusca, Augereau, and Beyrand crossed as soon as their divisions arrived, and completed the victory. The cavalry crossed the Adda at a ford; but the ford proving extremely bad, there was much delay, which prevented an engagement.

"The enemy's cavalry tried charging our troops, in order to protect the retreat of their infantry, but our men were hard to frighten.

"Nightfall and the extreme fatigue of the troops, many of whom had made more than ten leagues during the day, forced us to forego the pleasure of pursuit.

"The enemy lost twenty pieces of cannon, and from two to three thousand killed, wounded or prisoners. We lost but 150 men, dead and wounded.

"Citizen Latour, General Massna's captain aide-de-camp, received several sabre cuts. I want the place of battalion commander for this brave officer.

"Citizen Marmont, my aide-de-camp brigadier-general, had a horse shot under him.

"Citizen Lemarois, my captain aide-de-camp, had his clothes riddled by balls. The courage of this young officer is equal to his activity.

"If called upon to name all the soldiers who distinguished themselves on that extraordinary day, I should be obliged to name all the riflemen and grenadiers of the vanguard, and nearly all the officers of the staff. But I must not forget the intrepid Berthier, who was, in one day, gunner, cavalier, and grenadier. Brigadier-General Sugny, commanding the artillery, conducted himself creditably.

"Beaulieu fled with the remains of his army. Already Normandy may be considered as belonging to the Republic. At this moment Beaulieu is passing through the Venetian States, many of whose cities have closed their doors upon him.

"I hope soon to send you the keys of Milan and Pavia.

"Although, since the beginning of the campaign, we have had some pretty hot encounters, which the army of the French Republic have met with audacity, not one of them has approached the terrible passage of the bridge at Lodi.

"If we have lost but few good men it is due to promptness of execution, and to the sudden effect produced upon the opposing army by the size and formidable fire of our intrepid column."

Letter to "The Directory"

"Headquarters, Lodi.

May 14, 1796.

"Citizen Directors:I think it most impolitic to divide the Italian army into two sections; it is equally contrary to the interests of the Republic to put two generals in command.

"The expedition against Livourne, Rome, and Naples is a small affair; it can be accomplished bt arranging the divisions in echelon in such a manner as to enable them, by a retrograde march, to appear in force against the Austrians, and threaten to hem them in at the slightest movement on their part.

"For this it is not only necessary to have one general, but he should have nothing to hinder him in his march or in his operations. I have conducted the campaign without consulting anyone. I should have accomplished nothing worth the trouble had I been obliged to reconcile my ideas with those of another. I have gained some advantages over very superior forces while in an almost destitute condition; because I was persuaded of your entire confidence in me, my moves were as prompt as my thoughts.

"If you fetter me on all sides; if it is necessary for me to confer with the commissioners of the Government regarding each step; if they have the right to change my movements, to send me troops or withdraw them at their will, then look for no good.

"If you reduce your power by dividing your forces, if you break the unity of the military outline in Italy, with grief I tell you, you will have lost the most favorable occasion for bringing Italy to terms.

"In the present condition of the affairs of the Republic in Italy, it is indispensable for you to have a general in whom you have entire confidence. If it is not I, I make no complaint, I shall only strive to redouble my zeal in order to merit your esteem in the past that you may confide in me. Every one has his own manner of conducting war. General Kellerman has had more experience and will do better than I, but together we would make a dire failure.

"I cannot render our country any essential service unless invested with your absolute and entire confidence. It requires much courage on my part to write you in this way, I could so easily be accused of pride and ambition. But I owe the expression of all my opinions on the subject to one whose many tokens of esteem I shall never forget."

Proclamation to the Soldiers on Entering Milan, May 15, 1796

"Soldiers: You have rushed like a torrent from the top of the Apennines; you have overthrown and scattered all that opposed your march. Piedmont, delivered from Austrian tyranny, indulges her natural sentiments of peace and friendship toward France. Milan is yours, and the Republican flag waves throughout Lombardy. The Dukes of Parma and Modena owe their political existence to your generosity alone. The army which so proudly threatened you can find no barrier to protect it against your courage; neither the Po, the Ticino, nor the Adda could stop you for a single day. These vaunted bulwarks of Italy opposed you in vain; you passed them as rapidly as the Apennines. These great successes have filled the heart of your country with joy. Your representatives have ordered a festival to commemorate your victories, which has been held in every district of the Republic. There your fathers, your wives, sisters, and mistresses rejoiced in your good fortune and proudly boasted of belonging to you. Yes, soldiers, you have done much,but remains there nothing more to do? Shall it be said us that we how to conquer, but not how to make use of victory? Shall posterity reproach us with having found Capau in Lombardy? But I see you already hasten to arms. An effeminate response is tedious to you; the days which are lost to glory are lost to your happiness. Well, then, let us set forth! We have still forced marches to make, enemies to subdue, laurels to gather, injuries to revenge. Let those who have sharpened the daggers of civil war in France, who have basely murdered our ministers, and burnt our ships at Toulon, tremble! The hour of vengeance has struck; but let the people of all countries be free from apprehension; we are the friends of the people everywhere, and those great men whom we have taken for our models. To restore the capitol, to replace the statues of the heroes who rendered it illustrious, to rouse the Roman people, stupefied by several ages of slavery,such will be the fruit of our victories; they will form an era for posterity, you will have the immortal glory of changing the face of the finest part of Europe. The French people, free and respected by the whole world, will give to Europe a glorious peace, which will indemnify them for the sacrifices of every kind which for last six years they have been making. You will then return to your homes and your country. Men will say, as they point you out, 'He belonged to the army of Italy.'"

Proclamation to the Troops on Entering Brescia, May 28, 1796

"It is to deliver the finest country in Europe from the iron yoke of the proud House of Austria, that the French army has braved the most formidable obstacles. Victory, siding with justice, has crowned its efforts with success, the wreck of the enemy's army has retreated behind the Mincio. In order to pursue them, the French army enters the territory of the Republic of Venice; but it will not forget that the two Republics are united by ancient friendship. Religion, government, and customs shall be respected. Let the people be free from apprehension, the severest discipline will be kept up; whatever the army is supplied with shall be punctually paid for in money. The general-in-chief invites the officers of the Republic of Venice, the magistrates, and priests to make known his sentiments to the people, in order that the friendship which has so long subsisted between the two nations may be cemented by confidence. Faithful in the path of honor as in that of victory, the French soldier is terrible only to the enemies of his liberty and his government."

Address to the Soldiers During the Siege of Mantua, Nov. 6, 1796

"Soldiers: I am not satisfied with you; you have shown neither bravery, discipline, nor perseverance; no position could rally you; you abandoned yourselves to a panic-terror; you suffered yourselves to be driven from situations where a handful of brave men might have stopped an army. Soldiers of the 39th and 85th, you are not French soldiers. Quartermaster-general, let it be inscribed on their colors, 'They no longer form part of the Army of Italy!'"

Address to the Troops on the Conclusion of the First Italian Campaign, March, 1797

"Soldiers: The campaign just ended has given you imperishable renown. You have been victorious in fourteen pitched battles and seventy actions. You have taken more than a hundred thousand prisoners, five hundred field-pieces, two thousand heavy guns, and four pontoon trains. You have maintained the army during the whole campaign. In addition to this, you have sent six millions of dollars to the public treasury, and have enriched the National Museum with three hundred masterpieces of the arts of ancient and modern Italy, which it has required thirty centuries to produce. You have conquered the finest countries in Europe. The French flag waves for he first time upon the Adriatic opposite to Macedon, the native country of Alexander [the Great]. Still higher destinies await you. I know that you will not prove unworthy of them. Of all the foes that conspired to stifle the Republic in its birth, The Austrian Emperor alone remains before you. To obtain peace we must seek it in the heart of his hereditary State. You will there find a brave people, whose religion and customs you will respect, and whose prosperity you will hold sacred. Remember that it is liberty you carry to the brave Hungarian nation."

Address to the Genoese, 1797

"I will respond, citizens, to the confidence you have reposed in me. It is not enough that you refrain from hostility to religion. You should do nothing which can cause inquietude to tender consciences. To exclude the nobles from any public office, is an act of extreme injustice. You thus repeat the wrong which you condemn in them. Why are you people of Genoa so changed? Their first impulses of fraternal kindness have been succeeded by terror and fear. Remember that the priests were the first who rallied around the tree of liberty. They first told you that the morality of the gospel is democratic. Men have taken advantage of the faults, perhaps the crimes of individual priests, to unite against Christianity. You have proscribed without discrimination. When a State becomes accustomed to condemn without hearing, to applaud a discourse because it is impassioned; when exaggeration and madness are called virtue, moderation and equity designated as crimes, that State is near its ruin. Believe me, I shall consider that one of the happiest moments of my life in which I hear that the people of Genoa are united among themselves and live happily."

Extract from a Letter to the Directory, April, 1797

"From these different posts we shall command the Mediterranean, we shall keep an eye on the Ottoman Empire, which is crumbling to pieces, and we shall have it in our power to render the dominion of the ocean almost useless to the English. They have possession of the Cape of Good Hope. We can do without it. Let us occupy Egypt. We shall be in the direct road for India. It will be easy for us to found there one of the finest colonies in the world. It is in Egypt that we must attack England."

Address to Soldiers after the Signing of the Treaty of Campo Formio, October, 1797

"Soldiers: I set out to-morrow for Germany. Separated from the army, I shall sigh for the moment of my rejoining it, and brave fresh dangers. Whatever post Government may assign to the soldiers of the Army of Italy, they will always be the worthy supporters of liberty and of the glory of the French name. Soldiers, when you talk of the Princes you have conquered, of the nations you have set free, and the battles you have fought in two campaigns, say: In the next two we shall do still more!"

Proclamation to the Cisalpine Republic, Nov. 17, 1797

"We have given you liberty. Take care you preserve it. To be worthy of your destiny make only discreet and honorable laws, and cause them to be executed with energy. Favor the diffusion of knowledge, and respect religion. Compose your battalions not of disreputable men, but with citizens imbued with the principles of the Republic, and closely linked with the prosperity. You have need to impress yourselves with the feelings of your strength, and with the dignity which befits the free man. Divided and bowed by ages of tyranny, you could not alone have achieved your independence. In a few years, if true to yourselves, no nation will be strong enough to wrest liberty from you. Till then the great nation will protect you."

Address to the Citizens after the Signing of the Treaty of Camp Formio, Dec. 10, 1797

"Citizens: The French people, in order to be free, had kings to combat. To obtain a constitution founded on reason it had the prejudices of eighteen centuries to overcome. Priestcraft, feudalism, despotism, have successively, for two thousand years, governed Europe. From the peace you have just concluded dates the era of representative governments. You have succeeded in organizing the great nation, whose vast territory is circumscribed only because nature herself has fixed its limits. You have done more. The two finest countries in Europe, formerly as renowned for the arts, the sciences, and the illustrious men, whose cradle they were, see with the greatest hopes genius and freedom issuing from the tomb of their ancestors. I have the honor to deliver to you the treaty signed at Camp Formio, and ratified by the Emperor. Peace secures the liberty, the prosperity, and the glory of the Republic. As soon as the happiness of France is secured by the best organic laws, the whole of Europe will be free."


Napoleon's Addresses: Selections from the Proclamations, Speeches and Correspondence of Napoleon Bonaparte. Edited by Ida M. Tarbell. (Boston: Joseph Knight, 1896.)

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