Texts

A few texts relating to Napoleon's 1796-7 campaign in Italy. Some of these are from Napoleon's collected correspondence, and others are from General Joubert's letters to his father. There is also an extract from the Memoirs of Marshal de Maillebois. 

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Napoleon's Correspondence

Napoleon's Correspondence title pageThe most important source for anyone studying Napoleon is his own correspondence. Much of this was published between 1858 and 1869 in an edition of 32 volumes, running to tens of thousands of letters, orders, and proclamations.

The items are printed in chronological order, and each of them is individually numbered to facilitate reference to them.

The title page to the first volume is shown here. A larger version (24k) may be loaded by clicking on the image.

It should be noted that not all of the letters included in this edition were of Napoleon's direct authorship. Indeed, many of them were drafted by Napoleon's chief of staff, Berthier, in accordance with Napoleon's instructions.

Some examples relating to the 1976 campaign in Italy are given below. The number placed before each item is that used in the 1858-69 edition. The words which follow the signature indicate the origin of the item.

37. -- To Citizen Multedo

HQ, Cairo, 2 vendémiaire Year III (23 September 1794)

For some weeks I have not received any reply at all to the several letters I have written to you. The Austrians threatened Savona, and to force, by taking that place, the neutrality of the Genoese people, by interrupting our commerce completely. They had already made great roads, laid out camps, and had some artillery advance. They did not think, in making their calculations, that the Republicans were there, watched their movements, and awaited the moment to catch them in the act. You know that the oligarchs of Genoa, who govern that republic, hate us, and only want an opportunity when they may betray us without danger.

The news from Genoa and the enemy’s movements left no doubt as to their plans. The Representatives, convinced that we only had the time to parry and to make vain their preparations, decreed that the Army of Italy should move forward to seek the enemy, beat him, and disrupt his intentions.

On the second day of the sans-culottides [18 September], we began our march with twelve thousand men, a division of mountain artillery and six hundred dragoons.

By marches devised with skill and executed with much unity, we obliged the enemy to abandon the positions where he had entrenched himself and which were very advantageous to him.

On the fourth day of the sans-culottides [20 September] in the morning, we found ourselves in the presence of the Austrian army. It was ranged in battle on the plain of Carcare, a town belonging to the Genoese. It had entrenched the heights and had good batteries placed there.

We occupied the heights of Biestro, Pallare, and Millesimo. As soon as we had reconnoitred the position of the enemy, we decided to begin the attack by capturing the old castle of Millesimo, and from there moving to the chapel between Carcare and Cairo, and attacking the enemy in the rear of his entrenchments. By this operation we would cut his retreat, upset his plan of battle, and ensure ourselves of complete victory. At three o’clock in the afternoon, we attacked the old castle of Millesimo. The enemy had a good Hungarian battalion there, which defended itself long enough to gain a few hours, and evacuate when it saw it was on the point of being surrounded. Field-Marshal Collardo [i.e. General Colloredo], when he saw that we were masters of Millesimo, ready to march on the chapel, gave the signal to retreat, which he executed with much order and great countenance on the part of his troops. He was moreover favoured by the night, all of which he employed in marching, and he did not stop until Dego, two leagues beyond Cairo. On the same night we entered Carcare. On the following day we marched to Cairo, a small Piedmontese town, of which the inhabitants brought us the keys.

About two o’clock in the afternoon, we discovered the enemy, from the village of Rocchetta. They had rested their left and their right on mountains which they esteemed to be very strong. Their centre was entrenched behind the Bormida, and supported by their artillery.

Their Uhlans, who were all their cavalry, performed evolutions in the plain. They only tried to hinder us.

If we had thought that they wished to wait for us on the morrow, we would willingly have postponed the engagement. But, certain that they would flee during the night, we immediately made our preparations for an attack.

Six battalions and some pieces of mountain artillery marched over the mountains on the right and had the order to turn the enemy left, take up a position on the road from Dego to Spigno, and by that operation completely intercept the retreat of the enemy.

Two battalions were sent to drive the enemy from the position that safeguarded his right.

The rest of the army ranged itself in line of battle behind the village of Rocchetta, with the cavalry and the artillery.

All these dispositions could only be completed very late. The left attacked, and, after having charged four times, captured the height which the enemy had occupied.

The fire was very lively on the right, where the enemy had placed much of his strength. We drove them from part of their positions, but the very dark night did not permit us to advance any longer and to arrive as far as Dego.

The centre attacked with great vivacity. The enemy retreated everywhere, and their cavalry, so brilliant in its evolutions, judged it prudent not to await the shock with our own.

Night separated us. We bivouacked on the field of battle. We placed our artillery in order to strike them down at the break of day, but the enemy did not judge that it should wait for us. They marched a night and a day without stopping.

His losses are estimated at a thousand or twelve hundred men. The field of battle, his magazines in Dego, and even his wounded remained in our hands.

Thus, his designs on Savona have been thwarted for a long time.

The combat at Dego would have been decisive for the Emperor in his territories of Lombardy, if we had had three more hours of daylight.

Due to this expedition, it seems that the enemy cannot for a long time consider any action against Savona. It only remains for us to deliver Corsica from English tyranny. The season is favourable, there is not a moment to lose; the Spanish have returned to their port; we have fresh news from Ajaccio, and, very far from having increased their means of defence in that interesting part of the island, they have, on the contrary, stripped the citadel of part of its munitions.

With eight or ten thousand men, twelve men-of-war, in this season, and the expedition to Corsica would only be a military stroll.

To drive the English from a position that makes them masters of the Mediterranean, drive them from the only department which they still occupy, punish the rogues who have betrayed the Republic, deliver a great number of good patriots who still live in this department, and return to their homes the good Republicans who have rendered themselves worthy of the solicitude of the country, by the generous manner in which they have all suffered for their principles: there, my friend, is the expedition which must entirely occupy the government, and particularly the deputies of this department and the deputations of the nearby departments.

Buonaparte.

Communicated by M. Multedo.

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87. -- To the Minister of War

HQ, Paris, 10 ventôse Year IV (29 February 1796)

The Executive Directory, Citizen Minister, has decreed that part of the troops and matériel composing the 9th, 10th, and 11th military divisions will be sent to the Army of Italy. You gave orders in consequence over a month ago. I have, however, been informed that there are still with these divisions effects of clothing, cantonment, transport, and artillery, that are of no use in the present circumstances of these divisions. I should wish you to order the generals commanding these three divisions to have sent to me without delay at Nice the strengths of all the troops of their divisions, and the three commanders of artillery to send me a return of the personnel and matériel composing their divisions, and the commissaries commanding the three divisions to have sent to me a return of the matériel of the different administrations which compose their divisions, and to have sent to me the objects that I believe necessary, unless they believe that the requests that I am making will compromise their service, and if so, order them to inform you immediately.

Buonaparte.

War Depot

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88. -- To the Minister of War

HQ, Paris, 10 ventôse Year IV (29 February 1796)

The Army of Italy furnished to the Army of the Alps the 5th regiment of cavalry and the 9th regiment of dragoons, in exchange for two other larger corps of cavalry.

The Army of the Alps having many other corps of cavalry, sufficient to police Lyon and Grenoble, I pray you, Citizen Minister, to order the General-in-Chief of the Army of the Alps to hold these two corps at the disposition of the General-in-Chief of the Army of Italy.

Buonaparte.

War Depot

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92. -- To Chauvet, Chief Commissary, at Genoa

HQ, Nice, 7 germinal Year IV (27 March 1796)

You will find here enclosed the list of the movement of the cavalry. You will see from this that on the 10th [30 March] and the following days regiments will be arriving.

The Company of Navarre, Roy and Barry, which I have seen, has assured me that beginning on the 11th it will supply 40,000 hundredweight of hay from Menton to Finale. Nice is provisioned. So, my cavalry's subsistence is assured.

The Company of Collot, which has arrived at Marseille, provides the meat.

The Company of La Porte provides the grain: its agents have reached the army.

I have 1,600 mules on the move for my artillery.

Come to Nice quickly, I need you. You should be on the road, after the letter I wrote you yesterday. Every day that you delay you take from my operations a chance of probability of success. There are measures which, in the present position, cannot be taken except from here. There is an initial movement that must be given from here, where my magazines and my artillery are.

I wrote to Saliceti yesterday. The government expects great things from this army. They must be achieved, and the country pulled out of the crisis it finds itself in.

Bonaparte.

De Coston

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94. -- To the Executive Directory

HQ, Nice, 8 germinal Year IV (28 March 1796)

I have been, for some days, within the circle of the army. Yesterday, I took command.

I have to speak to you about three essential things:

1st Of the departments of Vaucluse, the Bouches-du-Rhône, the Var, and the Basses-Alpes;

2nd Of the situation of the army;

3rd Of our political position with Genoa.

The four departments of the district of the army have not paid the forced loan, nor the contributions in grain, nor effected the delivery of the forage required by the law of 7 vendémiaire, nor begun the levy of every thirtieth horse. There is much slowness in the working of these administrations. I have written to them, I have seen them, and they made me hope for some activity on these objects which are so essential to the army.

The administrative situation of the army is bad, but not desperate. I am compelled to threaten the agents who have stolen much and who have credit, and I take great advantage of it, in the end by caressing them. From now on the army will eat good bread and will have meat, and it has already had considerable advances on its back-pay. The stages on the road from the Rhone to the Var are provisioned, and my cavalry, transport and artillery have already been in movement for five days. Citizen Directors, your intentions will be fulfilled. I shall march in a short while. I expressed to the army in your name your satisfaction with its good conduct and its patience. This infinitely flattered the soldiers and above all the officers. A battalion has mutinied. It did not wish to leave Nice, on the pretext of not having shoes or money. I had all the grenadiers arrested. I had the battalion leave, and when it was a league from Nice, I sent a countermanding order, and I had it pass to the rear. My intention is to dissolve this corps and incorporate the soldiers into the other battalions, the officers not having shown enough nerve.

This battalion is two hundred strong and known for its mutinous spirit.

I was received in the army with demonstrations of happiness and confidence that should be accorded to one who is known to have merited your confidence, under your gaze, for five months.

I was particularly satisfied with the frankness and honesty of General Schérer. By his loyal conduct and by his eagerness to give me all the information that could be useful to me, he has gained the right to my recognition. His health seems indeed a little impaired. He joins to a great facility for talking, moral and political knowledge that perhaps will render him useful to you in some essential employment.

Our position with Genoa is very critical. We have behaved badly: we have done too much or not enough, but happily this will have no other consequences.

The government of Genoa has more firmness and strength than we think. There are only two ways with it: take Genoa by a prompt coup de main, but that is contrary to your intentions and the rights of peoples; or rather to live in good friendship, and not try to get their money from them, which is the only thing they value.

In four days I shall transfer my HQ to Albenga.

Bonaparte.

War Depot

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95. -- To Citizen Carnot, member of the Executive Directory.

HQ, Nice, 8 germinal Year IV (28 March 1796)

I have been very well received by the army, which shows a confidence in me which obliges me to a lively recognition.

It seemed to me that I saw in Schérer a pure and enlightened man. He seemed tired of the war, which has affected his health. Could you not employ him as ambassador? He knows men and has moral extension.

I had, while I was in Paris, in conformity with what you accorded to me, had a company of light artillery sent to Nice, but Milet-Mureau has taken umbrage and has countermanded the order. This company would have been useful, having conducted the war with distinction.

The engineers have not arrived, and, among those that Milet-Mureau is sending me, there is only Chasseloup from the old corps. I do not have here, out of fifteen engineers, a single one out of Mézières [the school for engineer officers]. I beg you to send me two other good ones.

The treasury is having some [gold] Louis bought at Lyon. If the cashiers do not pay out the assignats that they have in the treasury, the assignats will have more value. I think it will be necessary to order a check on the treasury by an official delegated purposely; you will find many speculators here, and that will serve as a lesson to them. What I am telling you now is certain.

There are great obstacles, but the greatest have been overcome. The forage is assured for a month, the stages have been provisioned, the cavalry and part of the transport have been on the road for five days. I shall get going soon, vigorously. I hope that before the end of the month there will be more than a thousand spare hats among the enemy.

The new organisation is producing many malcontents. I will try to place some officers, as far as I can, in the administration and to govern the country of Oneglia, in order to earn some bread for some old officers who have no other resources.

I am with respect, etc.

Bonaparte.

War Depot

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96. -- To General of Division Berthier,

Chief of Staff

HQ, Nice, 8 germinal Year IV (28 March 1796)

My intention, Citizen General, is to leave Nice on 12 germinal, to establish my HQ at Albenga. Will you kindly give orders so that everyone leaves Nice and lodges in that place in accordance with his rank and the military regime. It is indispensable for everyone to arrive by the 17th [germinal].

Bonaparte.

War Depot

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97. -- To General Berthier

HQ, Nice, 9 germinal Year IV (29 March 1796)

The 3rd battalion of the 209th demi-brigade has rendered itself culpable of disobedience. It has dishonoured itself by its mutinous spirit, by refusing to march to the active divisions. The officers have behaved badly: the commander, Captain Duvernay, has shown bad intentions. You will kindly have citizen Duvernay arrested and have him brought before a court-martial in Toulon, where you will address the complaint, which will be brought by the commander of the place.

You will have brought before a court-martial, in Nice, the grenadiers accused of being the ring-leaders of the mutiny. You will have the other grenadiers removed, whom you will distribute, in fives, in the other battalions of the army.

The officers and NCOs, not having shown an intention to march and thereby give a good example, and having remained in the ranks without speaking, all are culpable. They will immediately be dismissed and sent back home.

The soldiers of the battalion will be incorporated with the 83rd demi-brigade in Marseille.

The present letter will be placed in the orders of the army.

Bonaparte.

War Depot

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98. -- To General Berthier

HQ, Nice, 9 germinal Year IV (29 March 1796)

You will give orders to the commander of the engineers for the company of miners, with the necessary equipment, to go to Finale. It will leave on the 13th [germinal].

You will give orders to form a workshop of 110 workmen, and to have them leave on the 13th [germinal] for Finale. There will be an officer of engineers at the head of these workmen. They will be provided with all the tools necessary to them. There will be workmen of the different trades, in proportion.

The commander of the engineers, the director of the [artillery] park, and all the officers of the engineers who are in Nice will go to the HQ. Only one officer commanding the place will remain in Nice, and an officer charged with the administration of the workshop which is in Nice.

Bonaparte.

War Depot

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99. -- To General Berthier

HQ, Nice, 9 germinal Year IV (29 March 1796)

The cavalry will be divided into two divisions.

 

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1st regiment of hussars

 

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10th regiment of chasseurs

The first will be composed of

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22nd regiment of chasseurs

 

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25th regiment of chasseurs

 

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5th regiment of dragoons

 

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20th regiment of dragoons

 

The 1st regiment of hussars will go via Menton, San Remo, Oneglia, and Albenga to Toirano;

The 10th regiment of chasseurs, to Albenga.

The 22nd regiment of chasseurs will follow the same stages; two squadrons will go to Pietra, and the two others will go to Loano.

The 25th regiment of chasseurs will also take the same route. Two squadrons will go to Borghetto, and the two others to Ceriale.

The 5th dragoons will stay at Albenga.

The 20th dragoons will go to Alassio.

The second division will be composed:

Of the 7th regiment of hussars, which will go to Pieve. It will depart from Nice on 15 germinal.

Of the 13th regiment of chasseurs, which will go to Diano [Marina];

Of the 24th chasseurs, who will go to Oneglia;

Of the 8th dragoons, who will go to Porto Maurizio;

Of the 15th dragoons, who will go to Arma, near the Taggia.

You will order General of Brigade Saint-Hilaire to go through the towns destined for the first cavalry division, and tell you if there are enough stables to lodge the horses.

You will order General Sérurier to send a general of brigade to inspect the villages where the second division is to lodge. You will recommend these generals to be discreet in this inspection, and not to do anything that might reveal our plan.

Bonaparte.

War Depot

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115. -- Order of the Day. --(Extract)

Menton, 14 germinal Year IV (3 April 1796)

The general in chief renews the order to the generals commanding the divisions to accelerate, as much as is possible, the work relative to the new organisation. The generals of division will inspect the troops that are under their command, in order to examine, with care, the state of the armament. They will replace the muskets that are unserviceable. The generals and adjutant generals must not lose a single moment in providing the troops with the objects that may be necessary to them. The general in chief is informed that some employees of the forage service have taken it upon themselves to change arbitrarily the rations on the pretext that the magazines are empty. They are expressly forbidden to deliver rations that are under the proportion determined without a written order from a commissioner of war, who may not give it until he has found, by a check, the state of the magazines, and motivated the urgency. They will be held responsible for the measures they have prescribed. The adjutant generals charged with the administration of the divisions will send with the greatest exactitude to the chief of staff, at Albenga, the ten-day return of the position and the state of the troops belonging to their divisions. In the execution of some of the troops movements which have been ordered, several generals have forgotten to have detachments relieved. They are ordered to pay more attention to the dispositions which they are to make, so that no detachment remains isolated from a corps that receives orders to change its destination.

By order of the General in Chief.

War Depot

Napoleon. Correspondance de Napoléon Ier publiée par ordre de l'empereur Napoléon III, 1858-69, vol I

 

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Joubert's Letters

One of the most important participants in Napoleon's 1796 campaign was General Barthélemy Catherine Joubert, and the letters he wrote home provide a fascinating view of events, as well as providing an insight into the daily life and experiences of officers and soldiers which is mostly lacking in Napoleon's official correspondence. Joubert was not a regular soldier, like Napoleon, but was a young volunteer with the Revolutionary army when he had his first taste of action. Here he describes his first serious engagement, which took place at Lescarena.

Nice, 24 November 1792, 1st Year of the Republic.

The critical situation in which you find yourselves in the interior makes me share your disquiet. But we must hope that our victories will bring back the confidence and the good order. Your last letter found me in bed, where I was kept by the excessive fatigues that I suffered in an expedition where I suffered more from cold and hunger than from the fire of the enemy. On the 18th, a celebration was being given for the commissioners of the Assembly. During this celebration, some orderlies arrived with news that 6,000 Piedmontese had attacked General Brunet, who had been forced to retire on Lescarena. We left with 1,000 men at 9 o'clock in the evening.

(Joubert then recounts how some badly commanded troops, receiving the order to beat a retreat, were seized by one of those panics so common at the beginning of the Wars of the Revolution.)

Some Marseillais volunteers ran like hares, without however knowing where, crying out "treason", as if they had not done everything themselves by their cowardice. I had 40 men of my regiment and a captain. We were coming down without hurrying. The enemy fire on us was lively and accurate. In the middle of the rout, forgetting that I was only a lieutenant, because I saw no commander capable of making himself heard, I exclaimed: "A hundred men of good will with me, and I undertake to push back the enemy." I had hardly said these words when all the regular soldiers, who were only awaiting a command, pressed around me, and more than 300 volunteers. The others fled as fast as their legs would carry them. The multitude of men embarrassed me. However, I managed to divide them into several platoons, and, advancing with only two on the reverse slope of a mountain, we executed with coolness two volleys by platoon and two volleys by files, which soon silenced those of our enemies. Then M. Rigaud appeared, the lieutenant-colonel of the Drôme, who commanded us. This brave man had preferred death to dishonour, and had retired last of all. If he escaped, it was a miracle. Seeing the influence that I had just gained over the troops, he prayed me to use it to re-establish order. They wished to victimise him for having obeyed the general's orders ... These Piedmontese rogues roughen up their musket-balls, and the least wound is dangerous ... Our soldiers took courage again, and constructed a redoubt before night. On the following day, the general came and found our dispositions good. M. Rigaud told him everything that I had done. He had also written to Nice to reassure the people against the panic of the fugitives. These had told the captain that I was dead. Judge the joy of my comrades in embracing me after having mourned me. -- On the following day, our columns re-took the offensive, the enemy de-camped from Bera. It is impossible to recount the horrors that the Marseillais have committed, even against women. The regular troops, not wishing to partake of the dishonour of this action, retired. The general sent M. Dagobert to restore order there. He told me to follow him with 20 men. It was not without difficulty that he achieved his goal, and not without having himself run some risks. It was the same battalion of Marseillais that on the previous day had abandoned its post.

Chevrier, E. Le général Joubert d'après sa correspondance, 1884, p.p. 5-7

In a letter to his father, dated 26 May 1793, Joubert describes an action against Barbets, and the capture of Isola:

… At the end of April, I was given the mission of chasing from their rocks and caverns some Barbets who were murdering our orderly dragoons. With 50 grenadiers, I pursued them for a day and a night, in the most abominable places. We could only reach their rocks after having a hundred times risked breaking our necks. Often one had to drag oneself on one’s belly. Several times I found myself with one or two grenadiers at the most. We killed a Barbet and captured eight. On returning from this expedition, I had a fever for four days. On the fifth, the cannon thundered at Belvedere, help was needed, and we left. My captain did not want to let me go, but I found enough strength to go to Belvedere. The general ordered us to outflank the Piedmontese. We climbed for six hours in succession and crossed two streams. But we had taken the wrong route, and our five companies of grenadiers found themselves in the presence of 2,000 men, who forced us to retreat. My weakness was such that I had been forced to stop to vomit. I was two hundred paces behind my comrades when I saw them fall back. I dashed forward straight at the enemy. The balls, of both sides, passed over my head, and we found ourselves cut off from our side, me and a volunteer who was wounded in the leg. But by rushing up a very steep slope, we crossed the Piedmontese line, and we were saved. Some grenadiers of my company had wished to retrace their steps to disengage me, and it took an order from the commander to prevent them. My illness passed due to this forced exercise of 1 May.

On the 18th, General Sérurier gathered his division, consisting of our battalion of grenadiers, the 1st Hussars, eight companies of light infantry, a battalion of volunteers, 1,200 of Kellermann’s men, and two four-pdrs, at Saint-Martin [-Vesubie?]. We had to take Isola, which was defended by 12 or 1,500 men in entrenchments. We were in two columns. That on the left where there was the artillery, which followed the river, that on the right, where I was. The column on the left could not advance, not being able to tow its cannons, or rather to carry them in their arms. There remained 1,500 men of the elite, our column of 1,500 grenadiers or chasseurs, for the attack. We climbed for twelve hours in succession, and at five o’clock in the evening we were in the clouds. Soon the clouds thickened, the hail fell, the thunder rumbled, and, something which is not rare in this terrible country, the snow fell in abundance and blotted out all the paths. The general, who had been led astray by the roguery of the guide, arrived at the moment when the cold gripped us, and when we demanded to fight, preferring to die by gunfire than in the anguish of the cold by passing the night on the mountains. We filed one by one across precipices, doing three quarters of a league in three hours. At eight o’clock in the evening we saw the enemy. The captain, two grenadiers and I, rushed forward through snow up to the shoulders. All the grenadiers followed crying "Vive la nation!" Three times I was swallowed up by the snow, and three times I got up again. Finally we reached the bottom of the mountain. Isola is in the bottom, leant against the mountain. We were separated from it by a stream which up until then had been judged not fordable. Behind the stream were the entrenchments. To defend them there were 1,000 men of troops of the line, two Swiss companies and 500 militia. Our cries, our audacity, rather than our musket shots (almost all had their barrels full of snow, only just 200 had been able to fire) froze the militia with fear. We flushed the enemy from two small entrenchments. We hurried among musket-balls up to the stream. There we were stopped, exposed to the fire that came from the entrenchment and the houses of the village. We remained uncertain for a moment, soaking muskets in our hands. Our fire was weak. Finally, our commander, Miollis, followed by six officers of the 51st (I was one of the six), two officers of volunteers, and about sixty grenadiers, ran along the river, sabre in hand, and heading straight for the bridge, through a rain of lead. Some fires burning near the bank exposed us to the shots of the enemy. The bridge was cut. We went straight to the stream. Another uncertainty. I entered first. At the first step I was up to my navel. I retired. I took captain Morangis by the hand, and rushed with him into the middle of the stream. De Morangis, a vigorous lad, fell. I picked him up. Twice more I picked him up. We were at the bank. Our brave commander followed us. Our 60 brave men threw themselves after us, and we pushed to the village crying "Vive la nation! Ça ira!" Our temerity froze the enemy with fear, who fled. Our comrades, hearing our cries, tried to cross, but courage was needed. At nine o’clock we had passed first. At midnight, only just 400 were in the village. Night prevented us from following the enemy. We only made 20 prisoners of the laziest, with 8 or 10 wounded, among whom a Swiss captain of Courten, who had his thigh broken. We took much ammunition, and exchanged almost all the muskets with those of the Piedmontese. We bivouacked, soaked by the snow, the rain, and the stream. We had 3 grenadiers drowned in the stream, 6 lost in the snow, 2 dead, 30 wounded. A god must have seconded us to have had so few killed, less than our enemies, who made a hellish fire. "My God but this fire is fine!" said my captain Morangis to me, who had been in the wars in Canada.

I fell into the bed of the Piedmontese commander, whose fine shirts, overcoat, fine trousers, sabre, portfolio, and correspondence I found. I sent everything to the general, apart from the fine trousers (mine were torn), the sabre, and some hams. You will see the account of this action in the papers. It is the most brilliant and that which does us the greatest honour in the Alps. 60 determined men did everything. …

Many good wishes to all the family. In my dangers, I am always with you. I labour for my family, and if I acquire honour, it only for the family. If I was isolated, I should have no courage; but for one’s father, for one’s brothers, one’s sisters, we can only be lions.

Your most obedient and affectionate son,

Joubert.

Chevrier, E. Le général Joubert d'après sa correspondance, 1884, p. 8-11

 

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The Memoirs of Marshal de Maillebois

Napoleon read a great deal of history when he was planning his campaigns. One of the works he must have consulted frequently when preparing for his operations in Italy in the 1790s must have been the memoirs of de Maillebois (he is known to have taken a copy with him to Italy in 1796). A short extract from the work will give an idea of how it must have influenced Napoleon's thinking about the initial phase of his 1796 campaign:

[De Maillebois] had more than one motive for preferring the advance on the Riviera of Genoa. This route placed him close enough to carry out the clauses of the alliance by covering the territory of the Genoese, but he also wished, by entering Piedmont, to profit swiftly from his superiority of numbers to engage the King of Sardinia, and force him, if it was possible, to retreat towards Turin. Marshal de Maillebois therefore planned to conduct the sieges of Ceva, Mondovì, and all the small places on the Bormida and in the mountains, behind him and by detachments, while he attacked Tortona and Alessandria in force, and opened the gates of Monferrato. Finally, this truly military plan gave reason to hope, with the aid of some favourable circumstances, that he would soon be able to force the King of Sardinia to renounce his alliance with the Queen of Hungary [Maria Theresa]. It became at least very probable that the King would soon find himself unable to give the princess the help that was indispensable to her to remain in Italy.

The lines of communication from the [River] Var to the Tanaro were long. The expected success itself would add to the problem, as the army made progress and advanced into Piedmont. Marshal de Maillebois therefore had the idea of establishing a shorter line of communication through the valley of the Oulx [due west of Turin]. The French battalions which had been left in the Dauphiné and those of Spain left in Savoy, both commanded by M. Count de Lautrec, were originally charged with this operation, of which the siege of Exilles was a necessary part.

The success of this operation would make the lines of communication secure by shortening them; moreover it placed the corps of the army remaining along the Western Riviera in a position to continue their march. In effect, this route became of no value if the valley of the Oulx was freed. The capture of Ceva, Mondovì, Acqui, Serravalle, that of all the forts of the Bormida, the Scrivia and Tanaro, was enough to ensure the security of the frontiers of the [Genoese] Republic; the French general could then concentrate his forces, crush the King of Sardinia, or oblige him to make peace separately, and in either case, drive the Austrians from Piacenza, Parma, the Milanese, and push them as far as the mountains of the Tyrol.

Pezay, A.-F.-J. M., marquis de. Histoire des campagnes de M. le Maréchal de Maillebois en Italie pendant les années 1745 et 1746, 1775, vol II, p. 103-4

 

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Other Sources of Texts

There are several other sources of Napoleonic texts on the internet. One of the most useful is:

John Schneider's Napoleonic Literature (includes Captain Coignet's memoirs)

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