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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Napoleon's Declaration to Madrid's Corregidor

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My research on American affairs led me to this primary source quotation, Napoleon's declaration to Madrid's Corregidor (Mayor) after his completely unlawful invasion in 1808. Check it out!

Napoleon's tyrranical declaration in Madrid:

"I am pleased with the sentiments of the city of Madrid. I regret the injuries she has suffered, and am particularly happy that, under the existing circumstances, I have been able to effect her deliverance, and to protect her from great calamities. I have hastened to adopt measures calculated to tranquillize all ranks of the citizens, knowing how painful the state of uncertainty is to all men collectively and individually. I have preserved the spiritual orders, but with a limitation of the number of monks. There is not a single intelligent person who is not of the opinion that they were too numerous. Those of them who are influenced by a divine call, shall remain in their cloisters. With regard to those whose call was doubtful, or influenced by temporal considerations, I have fixed their condition in the order of secular priests. Out of the surplus of the monastic property, I have provided for the maintenance of the pastors, that important and useful class of clergy. I have abolished that court which was a subject of complaint to Europe and the present age [i.e., the Inquisition]. Priests may guide the minds of men, but must exercise no temporal or corporeal jurisdiction over the citizens.

"I have accomplished what I owed to myself and my nation. Vengeance has had its due. It has fallen upon ten of the principal culprits: all the rest have entire and absolute forgiveness. I have abolished those privileges which the grandees usurped, during the times of civil war, when kings but too frequently are necessitated to surrender their rights, to purchase their tranquillity, and that of their people. I have abolished the feudal rights, and henceforth everyone may set up inns, ovens, mills, employ himself in fishing and rabbit hunting, and give free scope to his industry, provided he respects the laws and regulations of the police. The selfishness, wealth, and prosperity of a small number of individuals, were more injurious to your agriculture than the heat of the dog-days. As there is but one God, so should there be in a state but one judicial power. All peculiar jurisdictions were usurpations, and at variance with the rights of the nation; I have abolished them. I have also made known to every one what he may have to fear, and what he may have to hope. I shall expel the English army from the Peninsula. Saragossa, Valencia, Seville, shall be reduced to submission, either by persuasion, or the power of my arms. There is no obstacle which can long resist the execution of my resolutions. But what transcends my power is this Ð to consolidate the Spaniards as one nation, under the sway of one king, should they continue to be infected with these principles of aversion and hatred to France, which the partisans of the English and the enemies of the Continent have infused into the bosom of Spain. I can establish no nation, no king, no independence of the Spaniards, if the king be not assured of their attachment and fidelity.

"The Bourbons can no longer reign in Europe. The divisions in the royal family were contrived by the English. It was not the dethronement of king Charles [IV, the King of Spain], and the favourite (the Prince of the Peace [Manuel Godoy]), that the duke de Infatado [in whose villa at Chamartin Napoleon had made his headquarters], that tool of England, as is proved by the papers found in his house, had in view. The intention was to establish the predominant influence of England in Spain; a senseless project, the result of which would have been a perpetual Continental war, that would have caused the shedding of torrents of blood. No power under the influence of England can exist on the Continent. If there be any that entertain such a wish, their wish is absurd, and will sooner or later occasion their fall. It would be easy for me, should I be compelled to adopt that measure, to govern Spain, by establishing as many viceroys in it as there are provinces. Nevertheless, I do not refuse to abdicate my rights of conquest in favour of the king; and to establish him in Madrid, as soon as the 30,000 citizens which this capital contains, the clergy, nobility, merchants, and lawyers, shall have declared their sentiments and their fidelity, set an example to the provinces, enlightened the people, and made the nation sensible that their existence and prosperity essentially depended upon a king and a free constitution [Lovett translates this phrase as "a liberal king and constitution"], favourable to the people; and hostile only to the egoism and haughty passions of the grandees.

"If such be the sentiments of the inhabitants of the city of Madrid, let the 30,000 citizens assemble in the churches; let them, in the presence of the Holy Sacrament, take an oath, not only with their mouths, but also with their hearts, and without any jesuitical equivocation, that they promise support, attachment, and fidelity to their king; let the priests in the confessional and the pulpit, the mercantile class in their correspondence, the men of the law in their writings and speeches, infuse these sentiments into the people; then shall I surrender my right of conquest, place the king upon the throne, and make it my pleasing task to conduct myself as a true friend of the Spaniards. The present generation may differ in their opinion; the passions have been brought into action; but your grand-children will bless me as your renovator; they will reckon the day when I appeared among their memorable festivals; and from that will the happiness of Spain date its commencement. - 'You are thus, Monsieur le Corregidor,' added the emperor, 'informed of the whole of my determination. Consult with your fellow citizens, and consider what part you will choose; but whatever it be, make your choice with sincerity, and tell me only your genuine sentiments.'

We also get this gem, when he begins his Tudela campaign:

"I am here with the soldiers who conquered at Austerlitz, at Jena, at Eylau. Who can withstand them? Certainly not your wretched Spanish troops who do not know how to fight. I shall conquer Spain in two months and acquire the rights of a conqueror."

Napoleon's Alexandria Declaration.

For those interested in my ongoing Discussion of the Egyptian campaign, here is a (poor) translation of some primary source material from that campaign:

(Careful, the smell of propaganda is strong)

"On behalf of the French nation based on freedom and equality, Bonaparte, the great general and leader of the French army, advised all the inhabitants of Egypt that for too long sanjaks governing the country to insult the French nation and its merchants cover all kinds of insults, the hour of their punishment has arrived.

But God, master of the universe and the Almighty, has directed that their empire should end. People of Egypt, they told you I only came here to destroy your religion this is a lie, do not believe it, tell the slanderers that I am come to you and pull your rights from the hands of tyrants and restore them, and that, more than the Mamluks, I love God and respects His Prophet and the Koran.

Tell them also that all men are equal before God: wisdom, virtues and talents are the only difference between them. However, among the Mamelukes, the wisdom and virtues, there is a great distance what is it that distinguishes them from others to take ownership and Egypt have only whatever is best among the beautiful slaves , fine horses, lavish homes?

If the land of Egypt is a farm Mamluks, they show us the lease that God has made. But the Master of the Universe is merciful, just and merciful, powerful and with His help, all Egyptians will hold the highest positions and get the highest grades. The wisest, most educated, most virtuous govern and the people will be happy.

There was formerly in Egypt major cities, large canals, a great trade. Who has destroyed everything except the tyranny and greed of the Mamluks?

Sheikhs, Kadis, imams, and significant chorbadjis nation, tell the people that the French are true Muslims. The proof is that they went to Rome and overthrew the government of the Pope, who kept urging Christians to make war on Muslims.

They were then destroyed in Malta and the Knights who claimed that God commanded them to make war on Muslims.

Historically, the French are the true friends of the Ottoman Sultan (God perpetuates his empire!) And the enemies of his enemies.

The Mamluk contrary are not subject to the Sultan and rebelled against his authority. they only follow their whims.

Happy! Blessed are those of the people of Egypt who will join us immediately. It will thrive in their wealth and rank. Blessed are those who still remain in their homes and be neutral. These, when we know, eager to join us with all my heart.

But woe! Woe to those who take up arms for the Mamluk and fight against us! There will be no door of salvation for them, they die and their traces disappear.

Article 1
Any village located three hours away from places of passage of the French army to send a delegation to General to inform him that people have submitted and have hoisted the French flag blue, white and red.

Article 2
Every village that revolts will be burned.

Article 3
Every village will submit to the French army will also fly the flag of the Ottoman Sultan (God perpetuates his life).

Article 4
The sheikhs of the villages should seal up all the property of Mamluk and ensure that nothing is lost.

Article 5
The sheiks, the scholars, the Kadis, imams will retain their duties, each resident to remain quiet at home, and prayers in the mosques will continue as usual. All Egyptians thank God for the destruction of the Mamluks, shouting "Glory to the Ottoman Sultan, glory to the French army! Curse of the Mamluk and happiness to the people of Egypt!

Manufactured to headquarters in Alexandria on 13 Messidor (April 6, 1798) Year VI of the French Republic, or end Moharran, 1213 AH.

Signed Bonaparte.

Monday, August 9, 2010

La Marsellaise: a Napoleonic Song?

We all know the familiar tune of France's now-famous Anthem, La Marsellaise (or "The Song of Marseille, for those of us who aren't Francophones). I even find myself humming it as I type this.

The song has certainly had a lasting impact, but why?

Let's start with a look at the Song's beginnings in the Era of the Revolution and of Napoleon (This shouldn't surprise you; it's one of my favorite periods and I discuss it frequently). The creation of the song is credited to Claude de Lisle, and first showed up in 1792. Now, '92 is a hugely important year for Napoleonic purposes, because it's the beginning of the War of the First Coalition, and in a larger sense, the French Revolutionary Wars.

Early Republican armies were defeated at an alarmingly constant rate, as the leadership was exceptionally poor, especially against some of Europe's oldest and most well respected armies, mainly Prussians and Austrians, but also the oft forgotten early British and Spanish involvement, plus many minor Italian and German States. And all this is just during the first Coalition.

Despite these losses, the French Republic's victory at Valmy definitely struck a chord, and soon, La Marsellaise, which had first been sung by oe of the many National Guard units that had hastily been formed, soon found it's way into the army as a marching song, and to the civilian populace as well.

The song had a practical purpose for the politicians who ran the war as well; it served as an amazing source of propaganda, something that was urgently needed for the French revolutionary generals, some of whom were massively ignorant of military matters, so they had a new source of troops for the meat grinder which was the early war.

When, in 1793, levee en masse (Mass conscription, for those who haven't had the [dis]pleasure of hearing me rant at length about the French Revolutionary Army) was finally established, the song served as a rallying cry, insuring that, in a sense, the conscription was not even needed. The songs bombastic verses, which reflected invasion by foreign powers, prompted an upsurge in patriotism which inflated the army's size to the point where it greatly outnumbered the forces invading France.

Now, when we consider all of thi, there'sone thing that we forget, and it's a huge misconception the English speaking world has about La Marsellaise, and that's its association with Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of the French.

Probably thanks to Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture , we tend to play the song in our minds whenever we see the little corporal on TV or read about him.

This is Wrong. I repeat, Wrong. I'm sorry to say, but this idea is just plain inaccurate.

La Marsellaise was, believe it or not, banned under the First French Empire. Probably because Napoleon (Or more likely Berthier, his Chief of Staff) thought the song was just too revolutionary. The leaders of the Empire had gone to a great deal of trouble to create stability, so why risk that by allowing a song so steeped in Revolutionary tradition?

That's not to say, however, that the Song wasn't sung during his reign. It most certinly was. Most of you know my favorite Napoleonic Sub-topic, the Peninsular conflict, and so I'll provide my example from there.

According to the Venerable Oman's History of the Peninsular War, and David Gates' The Spanish Ulcer, even one of Napoleon's Marshals liked to hear it.

The account goes that Marshal Victor, at the 1811 Battle of Barrosa in Spain, called for the Grande Armee's band to play the song. It was late in the battle, and Victor was hoping his converged Grenadier battalions could tip the scales in the French's favor, and so disreguarded the rules in order to play La Marsellaise. It's not particularly important, but Victor lost the battle, thus becoming the latest in the line of the Marshals to sully his reputation in the Peninsula.

(Hehe, since I'm a nationalist mood, that's what they get for going up against my Spaniard ancestors. Viva Fernando VII!)

It just goes to show you that you can't keep a catchy tune down, especially on the battlefield.

For your enjoyment, I've included the 1812 Overture so you can listen for the sequence that includes La Marsellaise.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Conquest of the Nile: The Egyptian Campaign Part 2 - Rule Brittania

British Involvement in Egypt: Trade and Naval Supremacy

Capt. Jack Aubrey: Do you want to see a guillotine in Piccadilly?
Crew: No!
Capt. Jack Aubrey: Want to call that raggedy-ass Napoleon your king?
Crew: No!

Capt. Jack Aubrey: You want your children to sing the "La Marseillaise?"

Crew: NO!

- Russell Crowe, Master and Commander (2003)

The Egyptian campaign' s most obvious purpose, besides bringing additional notoriety to the attention-craving Bonaparte, was attempting to cripple the trading power of Great Britain. This was easier said than done, however, as Britain wielded the most powerful Naval force in the world at the time.

After the early victory against the Mamluks at the Battle of the Pyramids, Napoleon looked to continue towards Cairo and crush the seat of Mamluk power. The British, unnerved at this point, were determined to stop him in his tracks.

The French fleet which had delivered the army lay in waiting along the Epyptian coast, acting as a supply line for the army. While they'd managed to slip past the Royal Navy, their actions had not gone completely unnoticed.

Horatio Nelson, Admiral of the British fleet, finally managed to catch up with the French at the bay of Aboukir. This began the second most famous naval engagement of the Napoleonic Era, the Battle of the Nile.

Battle of the Nile

Off the coast of Alexandria, French Vice-Admiral François-Paul Brueys d'Aigalliers had been hard at work preparing a defensive position, granting France a favorable position in the mediterranean theatre. With French Influence in Egypt, Napoleon had grand ambitions for a Franco-Indian Campaign to oust the British from their newfound imperial colonies in India.

In truth, Vice-Admiral Brueys' presence there may have been a complete accident. Allegedly, Napoleon had sent orders for Brueys to sail North in order to begin a landing on the island of Corfu, but the messenger had been shot by one of the local Bedoiun raiders.

Brueys faced problems keeping his men's morale up. With a shortage of food and water, Brueys was forced to send a party ashore to gather supplies. The party needed to be protected by armed guards against raiders, which further decreased the number of sailors who remained on-duty.

On August 1st, the British spotted the French fleet anchored in the Bay. When French spotters underestimated the size of the British fleet, Brueys called the captains aboard his Flagship, the L'Orient. This was an incredibly bad move, as would be seen when most of the captains hadn't made it back to their ships by the time the battle began.

Nelson decided to attack at night. He had each ship light 4 torches on their main mast in order to distinguish them from French ships in the dark. He also hoisted a variant of the British Naval ensign that was more distinct from the French Ensign.

With that, the battle commenced. The HMS Goliath was the first ship to be fired upon, leading the charge along with the HMS Zealous. The French ships Guerrier and Coquerant were the rst to respond.

The remainder of the British fleet followed suit, engaging the conveniently lined up, and in some cases anchored, French fleet.

Nearby, the French frigate Vanguard was forced to surrender after a fierce close-range engagement. This was the first of many British victories during the battle.

The most famous point of the engagement was the point blank duel between the British ships Alexander and Swiftsure and the French Flagship, L'Orient. Bypassing the majority of the battle, Swiftsure raced up towards the very center of the fleet, followed by Alexander.

L'Orient, a massive 118-gun Ship of the Line, had been pounding away at the lighter British ships that had been approaching it up until that point, even managing to disable the British frigate Bellerophon. Admiral Brueys, taking personal command of the ship, was struck by a cannonball early on in the fighting. He managed to survive, but was killed by a musket shot a few minutes later.

The wounded Orion, backed up by the Swiftsure and Alexander, approached L'Orient, firing their guns at the monstrous flagship. No one knows exactly how, but a fire broke out aboard L'Orient. A few minutes later, L'Orient, and France's hopes of controlling the Mediterranean Sea, exploded in a ball of flame that was supposedly felt in Alexandria.

That morning, 9 French ships were captured, 4 destroyed, and 3000 French sailors lay dead, along with Vice-Admiral Brueys himself. The British naval supremacy that Napoleon believed he could challenge remained intact, and Napoleon saw his dreams of an Indian conquest die, blown to pieces symbolically alongside L'Orient.

When Napoleon got news of the defeat, he is reported to have exclaimed, "Unfortunate Brueys, what have you done!"

Later that day, he announced to his officers:

"Nous n'avrons plus de flotte: eh bien. il faut rester en ses contrées, ou en sortie grands comme les anciens"

"We no longer have a fleet: well, we must either remain in this country or quit it as great as the ancients."

Napoleon was now cut off from France. There would be no reinforcements.

(Next: Part 3; The continuing Campaign, and why Bonaparte left)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Conquest of the Nile: The 1798 Egypt Campaign: Part 1

The 1798 Invasion of Egypt by then-general Napoleon Bonaparte is a provacative and sometimes divisive topic. Napoleonic apologists tend to glorify it as a 'War of Liberation', and historians with a bone to pick with Bonaparte (pun intended) tend to view it as an early example of his imperialistic nature.

While the main cause of the invasion is often identified as disrupting British trade, there are several underlying reasons for this gesture.

-Napoleon brought with him a group of French scientists who were instructed to perform research. These scientists made many important discoveries during the campaign, including:

a) Pierre Bouchard discovered the Rosetta Stone,which would serve as a translation tool for linguists hoping to decode ancient dialects.

b) Joseph Fourier develops a new theory of heat.

-Napoleon also hoped to oust the Mamluks(or Mamelukes), a group who had splintered from the Ottoman Empire in an attempt to control all of Egypt. This allowed Napoleon to appear as a liberator, preaching the values of the Koran (Quran). He heralded himself as a believer in the principles of Islam. This kind of propaganda wasn't as successful as he would have hoped, but nonetheless gave him another tool for his conquest, and shifted public opinion in his favor.

When Napoleon arrived in Egypt, he forced a garrison at Malta to surrender. This garrison was manned by the famous Knights Hospitilier, or Knights of St. John, who had held the land since the Crusades. This was more a political tactic, as it was humiliating to Tsar Paul I of Russia, recently declared Grandmaster of the Knights.

Tsar Paul I of Russia

-The Mamuluks were waiting. The leadership at the time was strangely bicameral, split between Murad Bey and Ibrahim Bey, two Mamluk chieftains. They chose to meet Bonaparte at the first major engagement of the invasion, the Battle of the Pyramids.

Murad Bey, Mamluk Chieftain

The Name 'Battle of the Pyramids' itself is a bit misleading, as the Pyramids were only visible over the horizon during the battle. The battle itself was, however, site of a completely new phenomena in the history of conflict. To see this, we must examine the situation.

-Battle of the Pyramids

"Forward! Remember that from those monuments yonder forty centuries look down upon you." - Napoleon, at the Battle

The French Republican Army, largely composed of civilians conscripted via levee en masse, numbered around 20,000. The Mamluk force, almost entirely composed of the cavalry they had become so well known for, numbered about 21,000.

Outnumbered from the start, and with the terrain not on his side, Napoleon needed to think quickly. Generally speaking, cavalry like those employed by the Mamluks would tear his men apart, running them down before they could retreat to a safe distance. To make matters worse, the Mamluks were apt to deal with the sandy terrain, while the French were likely to get bogged down in it.

Napoleon quickly hatched a plan. Under normal circumstances, when men were faced with a company of cavalry, they would form into what was called a square: a tightly packed square formation, with the front row of men kneeling down with their bayonets pointing up, and the men behind the holding their bayonets at a 45 degree angle. Essentially, the square would form a near impenetrable wall of sharp bayonets. The officer would stand in the middle of the square, directing the men's movements.

The effectiveness of the square lied in that horses would under no circumstances charge into it. Even if their riders directed them towards a square, the sharp bayonets would scare them off at the last minute. Taking advantage of the riders' lack of control, the officer inside the square would order his men to fire a volley into the now-disorganized horsemen. This tactic had become a staple in the warfare of the day.

But what about Napoleon's situation? He was facing an entire army of cavalry, armed to the teeth. He eventually decided to risk an incredibly unusual idea. Why not use the "Square" tactic on a larger scale?

When the Mameluks came hurtling at the French that day, Napoleon had formed the bulk of his army into 3 gigantic "Divisional-Size Squares." The Mamluk force was torn to pieces.

At the end of the day, Napoleon had lost only 29 men (with 260 wounded), but his army had managed to kill or wound approximately 2000 Mamluks. The legendary Mamluk Cavalry had been forever humbled.

To Be continued in Part 2 (British involvement in the Egypt Campaign)


Ah, the beginning. The first in a series of crisp, wittily written entries concerning the Wonders of History, given to you in an (admittedly biased) setting, my own personal realm.

Herein, I'll speak about:

-General History
-Political/Diplomatic History
-Cultural History
-Military History

My Specialties lie in the Napoleonic Era, The American Revolution, The Middle Ages, World War I, and the Geopolitical History of Major European states. I'm a Spaniard by origin, abnd thus will always speak favorably of the glorious Empire of Spain!

I'm currently a student, and thus shouldn't be taken as too much of an authority, but I assure you, I'll be quite truthful.

I'm an avid boardgame guy, and will occasionally mention how much I happen to love Risk. Great wargame for anyone with a pulse, if you ask me.

The content of the articles in this blog will be pretty varied, and I'd like to say interesting. I'll have mostly articles, with pictures, videos, and all such wonderful things. I'm even working on a big project, a video documentary of the battle of Waterloo. Should be interesting.

Anyhoo, I'll get a-workin on my first article straightaway. This first Article will be a submission, when completed, to the International Napoleonic Society.

Until then,

Emperador Carlos Cardozo, Comandante de la infantaria de Espana.