Part 5 out of 24
whom very extensive information was united with great courage and amiable
On the 10th of May; when an assault took place, Bonaparte proceeded at an
early hour to the trenches.
--[Sir Sidney Smith, in his Official report of the assault of the
8th of May, says that Napoleon was distinctly seen directing the
Croisier, who was mentioned on our arrival at Damanhour and on the
capture of Jaffa, had in vain courted death since the commencement of the
siege. Life had become insupportable to him since the unfortunate affair
at Jaffa. He as usual accompanied his General to the trenches.
Believing that the termination of the siege, which was supposed to be
near, would postpone indefinitely the death which he sought, he mounted a
battery. In this situation his tall figure uselessly provoked all, the
enemy's shots. "Croisier, come down, I command you; you have no business
there," cried Bonaparte, in a loud and imperative tone. Croisier
remained without making any reply. A moment after a ball passed through
his right leg. Amputation was not considered, indispensable. On the day
of our departure he was placed on a litters which was borne by sixteen
men alternately, eight at a time. I received his farewell between Gaza
and El-Arish, where, he died of tetanus. His modest tomb will not be
The siege of St. Jean d'Acre lasted sixty days. During that time eight-
assaults and-twelve sorties took place. In the assault of the 8th of May
more than 200 men penetrated into the town. Victory was already shouted;
but the breach having been taken in reverse by the Turks, it was not
approached without some degree of hesitation, and the men who had entered
were not supported. The streets were barricaded. The cries, the
howlings of the women, who ran trough the streets throwing, according to
the custom of the country, dust in the, air, excited the male inhabitants
to a desperate resistance, which rendered unavailing, this short
occupation of the town, by a handful of men, who, finding themselves left
without assistance, retreated towards the breach. Many who could not
reach it perished in the town.
During this assault Duroc, who was in the trench, was wounded in the
right thigh by the a splinter from a shell fired against the
fortifications. Fortunately this accident only carried away the flesh
from the bone, which remained untouched. He had a tent in common with
several other 'aides de camp'; but for his better accommodation I gave
him mine, and I scarcely ever quitted him. Entering his tent one day
about noon, I found him in a profound sleep. The excessive heat had
compelled him to throw off all covering, and part of his wound was
exposed. I perceived a scorpion which had crawled up the leg of the
camp-bed and approached very near to the wound. I was just in time to
hurl it to the ground. The sudden motion of my hand awoke Duroc.
We often bathed in the sea. Sometimes the English, perhaps after taking
a double allowance of grog, would fire at our heads, which appeared above
water. I am not aware that any accident was occasioned by their
cannonade; but as we were beyond reach of their guns, we paid scarcely
any attention to the firing. It was seen a subject of amusement to us.
Had our attack on St. Jean d'Acre been less precipitate, and had the
siege been undertaken according to the rules of war; the place would not
have held out three days; one assault, like that of the 8th of May, would
have been sufficient. If, in the situation in which we were on the day
when we first came in sight of the ramparts of Acre; we had made a less
inconsiderate estimate of the strength of the place; if we had likewise
taken into consideration the active co-operation of the English and the
Ottoman Porte; our absolute want of artillery of sufficient calibre; our
scarcity of gunpowder and the difficulty of procuring food; we certainly
should not have undertaken the siege; and that would have been by far the
Towards the end of the siege the General-in-Chief received intelligence
of some trifling insurrections in northern Egypt. An angel had excited
them, and the heavenly messenger, who had condescended to assume a name,
was called the Mahdi, or El Mohdy. This religious extravagance, however,
did not last long, and tranquillity was soon restored. All that the
fanatic Mahdi, who shrouded himself in mystery, succeeded in doing was to
attack our rear by some vagabonds, whose illusions were dissipated by a
few musket shots.
The siege of Acre raised--Attention to names is bulletins--Gigantic
project-- The Druses--Mount Caramel--The wounded and infected--
Order to march on foot--Loss of our cannon--A Nablousian fires at
Bonaparte--Return to Jaffa--Bonaparte visits the plague hospital--
A potion given to the sick--Bonaparte's statement at St. Helena.
The siege of St. Jean d'Acre was raised on the 20th of May. It cost us a
loss of nearly 3000 men, in killed, deaths by the plague, or wounds. A
great number were wounded mortally. In those veracious documents, the
bulletins, the French loss was made 500 killed, and 1000 wounded, and the
enemy's more than 15,000.
Our bulletins may form curious materials for history; but their value
certainly will not depend on the credit due to their details. Bonaparte
attached the greatest importance to those documents; generally drawing
them up himself, or correcting them, when written by another hand, if the
composition did not please him.
It must be confessed that at that time nothing so much flattered self-
love as being mentioned in a bulletin. Bonaparte was well aware of this;
he knew that to insert a name in a bulletin was conferring a great
honour, and that its exclusion was a severe disappointment. General
Berthier, to whom I had expressed a strong desire to examine the works of
the siege, took me over them; but notwithstanding his promise of secrecy;
he mentioned the circumstance to the General-in-Chief, who had desired me
not to approach the works. "What did you go there for?" said Bonaparte
to me, with some severity; "that is not your place." I replied that
Berthier told me that no assault would take place that day; and he
believed there would be no sortie, as the garrison had made one the
preceding evening. "What matters that? There might have been another.
Those who have nothing to do in such places are always the first victims.
Let every man mind his own business. Wounded or killed, I would not even
have noticed you in the bulletin. You could have been laughed at, and
Bonaparte; not having at this time experienced reverses, having
continually proceeded from triumph to triumph, confidently anticipated
the taking of St, Jean d'Acre. In his letters to the generals in Egypt
he fixed the 25th of April for the accomplishment of that event. He
reckoned that the grand assault against the tower could not be made
before that day; it took place, however, twenty-four hours sooner. He
wrote to Desaix on the 19th of April, "I count on being master of Acre in
six days." On the 2d of May he told Junot, "Our 18 and 24 pounders have
arrived. We hope to enter Acre in a few days. The fire of their
artillery is completely extinguished." Letters have been printed, dated
30th Floreal' (19th. May), in which he announces to, Dugua and to
Poussielque that they can rely on his being in Acre on 6th Floreal
(25th April). Some mistake has evidently been made. "The slightest
circumstances produce the greatest events," said Napoleon, according to
the Memorial of St. Helena; "had St. Jean d'Acre fallen, I should have
changed the face of the world." And again, "The fate of the East lay in
that small town."
This idea is not one which he first began to entertain at St. Helena; he
often repeated the very same words at St. Jean d'Acre. On the shore of
Ptolemes gigantic projects agitated him, as, doubtless, regret for not
having carried them into execution tormented him at St. Helena.
Almost every evening Bonaparte and myself used to walk together, at a
little distance from the sea-shore. The day after the unfortunate
assault of the 8th of May Bonaparte, afflicted at seeing the blood of so
many brave men uselessly shed, said to me, "Bourrienne, I see that this
wretched place has cost me a number of men, and wasted much time. But
things are too far advanced not to attempt a last effort. If I succeed,
as I expect, I shall find in the town the pasha's treasures, and arms for
300,000 men. I will stir up and arm the people of Syria, who are
disgusted at the ferocity of Djezzar, and who, as you know, pray for his
destruction at every assault. I shall then march upon Damascus and.
Aleppo. On advancing into the country, the discontented will flock round
my standard, and swell my army. I will announce to the people the
abolition of servitude and of the tyrannical governments of the pashas.
I shall arrive at Constantinople with large masses of soldiers. I shall
overturn the Turkish empire, and found in the East a new and grand
empire, which will fix my place in the records of posterity. Perhaps
I shall return to Paris by Adrianople, or by Vienna, after having
annihilated the house of Austria." After I had made some observations
which these grand projects naturally suggested, he replied, "What! do you
not see that the Druses only wait for the fall of Acre to rise in
rebellion? Have not the keys of Damascus already been offered me?
I only stay till these walls fall because until then I can derive no
advantage from this large town. By the operation which I meditate I
cutoff all kind of succour from the beys, and secure the conquest of
Egypt. I will have Desaix nominated commander-in-chief; but if I do
not succeed in the last assault I am about to attempt, I set off
directly. Time presses,--I shall not be at Cairo before the middle of
June; the winds will then lie favourable for ships bound to Egypt, from
the north. Constantinople will send troops to Alexandria and Rosetta.
I must be there. As for the army, which will arrive afterwards by land,
I do not fear it this year. I will cause everything to be destroyed, all
the way, to the entrance of the desert. I will render the passage of an
army impossible for two years. Troops cannot exist amoung ruins."
As soon as I returned to my tent I committed to paper this conversation,
which was then quite fresh in my memory, and, I may venture to say that
every word I put down is correct. I may add, that during the siege our
camp was, constantly filled with the inhabitants, who invoked Heaven to
favour our arms, and prayed fervently at every assaualt for our success,
many of them on their knees, with their faces to the city. The people of
Damascus, too, had offered the keys to Bonaparte. Thus everything
contributed to make him confident in his favourite plan.
The troops left St. Jean d'Acre on the 20th of May, taking advantage of
the night to avoid a sortie from the besieged, and to conceal the retreat
of the army, which had to march three leagues along the shore, exposed to
the fire of the English vessels lying in the roads of Mount Carmel. The
removal of the wounded and sick commenced on the. 18th and 19th of May.
Bonaparte then made a proclamation, which from one end to the other
offends against truth. It has been published in many works. The season of
the year for hostile landing is there very dexterously placed in the
foreground; all the rest is a deceitful exaggeration. It must be observed
that the proclamations which Bonaparte regarded as calculated to dazzle
an ever too credulous public were amplifications often ridiculous and
incomprehensible upon the spot, and which only excited the laughter of
men of common sense. In all Bonaparte's correspondence there is an
endeavour to disguise his reverses, and impose on the public, and even on
his own generals. For example, he wrote to General Dugua, commandant of
Cairo, on the 15th of February, "I will bring you plenty of prisoners and
flags! "One would almost be inclined to say that he had resolved, during
his stay in the East, thus to pay a tribute to the country of fables.
--[The prisoners and flags were sent. The Turkish flags were
entrusted by Berthier to the Adjutant-Commandant Boyer, who
conducted a convoy of sick and wounded to Egypt. Sidney Smith
acknowledges the loss of some flags by the Turks. The Turkish
prisoners were used as carriers of the litters for the wounded, and
were, for the most part, brought into Egypt. (Erreurs, tome i. pp.
47 and 160)]--
Thus terminated this disastrous expedition. I have read somewhere that
during this immortal campaign the two heroes Murat and Mourad had often
been in face of one another. There is only a little difficulty; Mourad
Bey never put his foot in Syria.
We proceeded along the coast, and passed Mount Carmel. Some of the
wounded were carried on litters, the remainder on horses, mules, and
camels. At a short distance from Mount Carmel we were informed that
three soldiers, ill of the plague, who were left in a convent (which
served for a hospital), and abandoned too confidently to the generosity
of the Turks, had been barbarously put to death.
A most intolerable thirst, the total want of water, an excessive heat,
and a fatiguing march over burning sand-hills, quite disheartened the
men, and made every generous sentiment give way to feelings of the
grossest selfishness and most shocking indifference. I saw officers, with
their limbs amputated, thrown off the litters, whose removal in that way
had been ordered, and who had themselves given money to recompense the
bearers. I saw the amputated, the wounded, the infected, or those only
suspected of infection, deserted and left to themselves. The march was
illumined by torches, lighted for the purpose of setting fire to the
little towns, villages, and hamlets which lay in the route, and the rich
crops with which the land was then covered. The whole country was in a
blaze. Those who were ordered to preside at this work of destruction
seemed eager to spread desolation on every side, as if they could thereby
avenge themselves for their reverses, and find in such dreadful havoc an
alleviation of their sufferings. We were constantly surrounded by
plunderers, incendiaries, and the dying, who, stretched on the sides of
the road, implored assistance in a feeble voice, saying, "I am not
infected--I am only wounded;" and to convince those whom they addressed,
they reopened their old wounds, or inflicted on themselves fresh ones.
Still nobody attended to them. "It is all over with him," was the
observation applied to the unfortunate beings in succession, while every
one pressed onward. The sun, which shone in an unclouded sky in all its
brightness, was often darkened by our conflagrations. On our right lay
the sea; on our left, and behind us, the desert made by ourselves; before
were the privations and sufferings which awaited us. Such was our true
We reached Tentoura on the 20th of May, when a most oppressive heat
prevailed, and produced general dejection. We had nothing to sleep on but
the parched and burning sand; on our right lay a hostile sea; our losses
in wounded and sick were already considerable since leaving Acre; and
there was nothing consolatory in the future. The truly afflicting
condition in which the remains of an army called triumphant were plunged,
produced, as might well be expected, a corresponding impression on the
mind of the General-in-Chief. Scarcely had he arrived at Tentoura when
he ordered his tent to be pitched. He then called me, and with a mind
occupied by the calamities of our situation, dictated an order that every
one should march on foot; and that all the horses, mules, and camels
should be given up to the wounded, the sick, and infected who had been
removed, and who still showed signs of life. "Carry that to Berthier,"
said he; and the order was instantly despatched. Scarcely had I returned
to the tent when the elder Vigogne, the (General-in-Chief's groom),
entered, and raising his hand to his cap, said, "General, what horse do
you reserve for yourself?" In the state of excitement in which Bonaparte
wad this question irritated him so violently that, raising his whip, he
gave the man a severe blow on the head; saying in a terrible voice,
"Every-one must go on foot, you rascal--I the first--Do you not know the
order? Be off!"
Every one in parting with his horse was now anxious to avoid giving it to
any unfortunate individual supposed to be suffering from plague. Much
pains were taken to ascertain the nature of the diseases of the sick; and
no difficulty was made in accommodating the wounded of amputated. For my
part I had an excellent horse; a mule, and two camels, all which I gave
up with the greatest pleasure; but I confess that I directed my servant
to do all he could to prevent an infected person from getting my horse.
It was returned to me in a very short time. The same thing happened to
many others. The cause maybe easily conjectured.
The remains of our heavy artillery were lost in the moving sands of
Tentoura, from the want of horses, the small number that remained being
employed in more indispensable services. The soldiers seemed to forget
their own sufferings, plunged in grief at the loss of their bronze guns,
often the instruments of their triumphs, and which had made Europe
We halted at Caesarea on the 22d of May, and we marched all the following
night. Towards daybreak a man, concealed in a bush upon the left of the
road (the sea was two paces from us on the right), fired a musket almost
close to the head of the General-in-Chief, who was sleeping on his horse.
I was beside him. The wood being searched, the Nablousian was taken
without difficulty, and ordered to be shot on the spot. Four guides
pushed him towards the sea by thrusting their carbines against his back;
when close to the water's edge they drew the triggers, but all the four
muskets hung fire: a circumstance which was accounted for by the great
humidity of the night. The Nablousian threw himself into the water, and,
swimming with great agility and rapidity, gained a ridge of rocks so far
off that not a shot from the whole troop, which fired as it passed,
reached him. Bonaparte, who continued his march, desired me to wait for
Kleber, whose division formed the rear-guard, and to tell him not to
forget the Nablousian. He was, I believe, shot at last.
We returned to Jaffa on the 24th of May, and stopped there during the
25th, 26th, 27th, and 28th. This town had lately been the scene of a
horrible transaction, dictated by necessity, and it was again destined to
witness the exercise of the same dire law. Here I have a painful duty to
perform--I will perform it. I will state what I know, what I saw.
I have seen the following passage in a certain, work:--"Bonaparte,
having arrived at Jaffa, ordered three removals of the infected: one by
sea to Damietta, and also by land; the second to Gaza; and the third to
El-Arish!" So, many words, so many errors!
Some tents were pitched on an eminence near the gardens east of Jaffa.
Orders were given directly to undermine the fortifications and, blow them
up; and on the 27th of May, upon the signaling given, the town was in a
moment laid bare. An hour afterwards the General-in-Chief left his tent
and repaired to the town, accompanied by Berthier, some physicians and
surgeons, and his usual staff. I was also one of the party. A long and
sad deliberation took place on the question which now arose relative to
the men who were incurably ill of the plague, or who were at the point of
death. After a discussion of the most serious and conscientious kind it
was decided to accelerate a few moments, by a potion, a death which was
inevitable, and which would otherwise be painful and cruel.
Bonaparte took a rapid view of the destroyed ramparts of the town and
returned to the hospital, where there were men whose limbs had been
amputated, many wounded, many afflicted with ophthalmia, whose
lamentations were distressing, and some infected with the plague. The
beds of the last description of patients were to the right on entering
the first ward. I walked by the General's side, and I assert that I
never saw him touch any one of the infected. And why should he have done
so? They were in the last stage of the disease. Not one of them spoke a
word to him, and Bonaparte well knew that he possessed no protection
against the plague. Is Fortune to be again brought forward here? She
had, in truth, little favoured him during the last few months, when he
had trusted to her favours. I ask, why should he have exposed himself to
certain death, and have left his army in the midst of a desert created by
our ravages, in a desolate town, without succour, and without the hope of
ever receiving any? Would he have acted rightly in doing so--he who was
evidently so necessary, so indispensable to his army; he on whom depended
at that moment the lives of all who lead survived the last disaster, and
who had proved their attachment to him by their sufferings, their
privations, and their unshaken courage, and who had done all that he
could have required of men, and whose only trust was in him?
Bonaparte walked quickly through the rooms, tapping the yellow top of his
boot with a whip he held in his hand. As he passed along with hasty
steps he repeated these words: "The fortifications are destroyed.
Fortune was against me at St. Jean d'Acre. I must return to Egypt to
preserve it from the enemy, who will soon be there: In a few hours the
Turks will be here. Let all those who have strength enough rise and come
along with us. They shall be carried on litters and horses." There were
scarcely sixty cases of plague in the hospital; and all accounts stating
a greater number are exaggerated. The perfect silence, complete
dejection, and general stupor of the patients announced their approaching
end. To carry them away in the state in which they were would evidently
have been doing nothing else than inoculating the rest of the army with
the plague. I have, it is true, learned, since my return to Europe, that
some persons touched the infected with impunity; nay; that others went so
far as to inoculate themselves with the plague in order to learn how to
cure those whom it might attack. It certainly was a special protection
from Heaven to be preserved from it; but to cover in some degree the
absurdity of such a story, it is added that they knew how to elude the
danger, and that any one else who braved it without using precautions met
with death for their temerity. This is, in fact; the whole point of the
question. Either those privileged persons took indispensable
precautions; and in that case their boasted heroism is a mere juggler's
trick; or they touched the infected without using precautions, and
inoculated themselves with the plague, thus voluntarily encountering
death, and then the story is really a good one.
The infected were confided, it has been stated, to the head apothecary of
the army, Royer, who, dying in Egypt three years after, carried the
secret with him to the grave. But on a moment's reflection it will be
evident that the leaving of Royer alone in Jaffa would have been to
devote to certain death; and that a prompt and, cruel one, a man who was
extremely useful to the army, and who was at the time in perfect health.
It must be remembered that no guard could be left with him, and that the
Turks were close at our heels. Bonaparte truly said, while walking
through the rooms of the hospital, that the Turks would be at Jaffa in a
few hours. With this conviction, would he have left the head apothecary
in that town?
Recourse has been had to suppositions to support the contrary belief to
what I stag. For example, it is said that the infected patients were
embarked in ships of war. There were no such ships. Where had they
disembarked, who had received them; what had been done with them?
No one speaks of them. Others, not doubting that the infected men died
at Jaffa, say, that the rearguard under Kleber, by order of Bonaparte,
delayed its departure for three days, and only began its march when.
death had put an end to the sufferings of these unfortunate beings,
unshortened by any sacrifice. All this is incorrect. No rear-guard was
left--it could not be done. Pretence is made of forgetting that the
ramparts were destroyed, that the town--was as open and as defenceless as
any village, so this small rear-guard would have been left for certain
destruction. The dates themselves tell against these suppositions. It
is certain, as can be seen by the official account, that we arrived at
Jaffa on 24th May, and stayed there the 25th, 26th, and 27th. We left it
on the 28th. Thus the rear-guard, which, according to these writers;
left-on the 29th, did not remain, even according to their own hypothesis,
three days after the army to see the sick die. In reality it left on the
29th of May, the day after we did: Here are the very words of the Major-
General (Berthier) in his official account, written under the eye and
under the dictation of the Commander-in-Chief:--
The army arrived at Jaffa, 5th Prairial (24th May), and remained
there the 6th, 7th, and 8th (25th-27th May). This time was employed
in punishing the village, which had behaved badly. The
fortifications of Jaffa were blown up. All the iron guns of the
place were thrown into the sea. The wounded were removed by sea and
by land. There were only a few ships, and to give time to complete
the evacuation by land, the departure of the army had to be deferred
until the 9th (28th May). Klebers division formed the rear-guard,
and only left Jaffa, on the 10th (29th May).
The official report of what passed at Jaffa was drawn up by Berthier,
under the eye of Bonaparte. It has been published; but it may be
remarked that not a word about the infected, not a word of the visit to
the hospital, or the touching of the plague-patients with impunity, is
there mentioned. In no official report is anything said about the
matter. Why this silence? Bonaparte was not the man to conceal a fact
which would have afforded him so excellent and so allowable a text for
talking about his fortune. If the infected were removed, why not mention
it? Why be silent on so important an event? But it would have been
necessary to confess that being obliged to have recourse to so painful a
measure was the unavoidable consequence of this unfortunate expedition.
Very disagreeable details must have been entered into; and it was thought
more advisable to be silent on the subject.
But what did Napoleon, himself say on the subject at St. Helena? His
statement there was to the following, effect:--"I ordered a consultation
as to what was best to be done. The report which was made stated that
there were seven or eight men (the question is not about the number) so
dangerously ill that they could not live beyond twenty-four hours, and
would besides infect the rest of the army with the plague. It was
thought it would be an act of charity to anticipate their death a few,
Then comes the fable of the 500 men of the rear guard, who, it is
pretended, saw them die! I make no doubt that the story of the poisoning
was the invention of Den----. He was s babbler, who understood a story
badly, and repeated it worse. I do not think it would have been a crime
to have given opium to the infected. On the contrary, it would have been
obedience to the dictates of reason. Where is the man who would not, in
such a situation, have preferred a prompt death, to being exposed to the
lingering tortures inflicted by barbarians? If my child, and I believe I
love him as much as any father does his; had been in such a state; my
advice would have been the same; if I had been among the infected myself,
I should have demanded to be so treated.
Such was the reasoning at St. Helena, and such was the, view which he and
every one else took of the case twenty years ago at Jaffa.
Our little army arrived at Cairo on the 14th of June, after a painful and
harassing march of twenty-five days. The heats during the passage of the
desert between El-Arish and Belbeis exceeded thirty-three degrees. On
placing the bulb of the thermometer in the sand the mercury rose to
forty-five degrees. The deceitful mirage was even more vexatious than in
the plains of Bohahire'h. In spite of our experience an excessive
thirst, added to a perfect illusion, made us goad on our wearied horses
towards lakes which vanished at our approach; and left behind nothing but
salt and arid sand. In two days my cloak was completely covered with
salt, left on it after the evaporation of the moisture which held it in
solution. Our horses, who ran eagerly to the brackish springs of the
desert, perished in numbers; after travelling about a quarter of a league
from the spot where they drank the deleterious fluid.
Bonaparte preceded his entry into the capital of Egypt by one of those
lying bulletins which only imposed on fools. "I will bring with me,"
said he, "many prisoners and flags. I have razed the palace of the
Djezzar and the ramparts of Acre--not a stone remains upon another, All
the inhabitants have left the city, by sea. Djezzar is severely
I confess that I experienced a painful sensation in writing, by his
dictation, these official words, everyone of which was an imposition.
Excited by all I had just witnessed, it was difficult for me to refrain
from making the observation; but his constant reply was, "My dear fellow,
you are a simpleton: you do not understand this business." And he
observed, when signing the bulletin, that he would yet fill the world
with admiration, and inspire historians and poets.
Our return to Cairo has been attributed to the insurrections which broke
out during the unfortunate expedition into Syria. Nothing is more
incorrect. The term insurrection cannot be properly applied to the
foolish enterprises of the angel El-Mahdi in the Bohahire'h, or to the
less important disturbances in the Charkyeh. The reverses experienced
before St. Jean d'Acre, the fear, or rather the prudent anticipation of a
hostile landing, were sufficient motives, and the only ones, for our
return to Egypt. What more could we do in Syria but lose men and time,
neither of which the General had to spare?
Murat and Moarad Bey at the Natron Lakes--Bonapartes departure for
the Pyramids--Sudden appearance of an Arab messenger--News of
the landing of the Turks at Aboukir--Bonaparte marches against
them--They are immediately attacked and destroyed in the battle of
Aboukir--Interchange of communication with the English--Sudden
determination to return to Europe--Outfit of two frigates--
Bonaparte's dissimulation--His pretended journey to the Delta--
Generous behaviour of Lanusee--Bonaparte's artifice--His bad
treatment of General Kleber.
Bonaparte had hardly set foot in Cairo when he was, informed that the
brave and indefatigable Mourad Bey was descending by the Fayoum, in order
to form a junction with reinforcements which had been for some time past
collected in the Bohahire'h. In all probability this movement of Mourad
Bey was the result of news he had received respecting plans formed at
Constantinople, and the landing which took place a short time after in
the roads of Aboukir. Mourad had selected the Natron Lakes for his place
of rendezvous. To these lakes Murat was despatched. The Bey no sooner
got notice of Murat's presence than he determined to retreat and to
proceed by the desert to Gizeh and the great Pyramids. I certainly never
heard, until I returned to France, that Mourad had ascended to the summit
of the great Pyramid for the propose of passing his time in contemplating
Napoleon said at St. Helena that Murat might have taken Mourad Bey had
the latter remained four-and-twenty hours longer in the Natron Lakes: Now
the fact is, that as soon as the Bey heard of Murat's arrival he was off
The Arabian spies were far more serviceable to our enemies than to us; we
had not, indeed, a single friend in Egypt. Mourad Bey, on being informed
by the Arabs, who acted as couriers for him, that General Desaix was
despatching a column from the south of Egypt against him, that the
General-in-Chief was also about to follow his footsteps along the
frontier of Gizeh, and that the Natron Lakes and the Bohahire'h were
occupied by forces superior to his own, retired into Fayoum.
Bonaparte attached great importance to the destruction of Mourad, whom he
looked upon as the bravest, the most active, and most dangerous of his
enemies in Egypt. As all accounts concurred in stating that Mourad,
supported by the Arabs, was hovering about the skirts of the desert of
the province of Gizeh, Bonaparte proceeded to the Pyramids, there to
direct different corps against that able and dangerous partisan. He,
indeed, reckoned him so redoubtable that lie wrote to Murat, saying he
wished fortune might reserve for him the honour of putting the seal on
the conquest of Egypt by the destruction of this opponent.
On the 14th of July Bonaparte left Cairo for the Pyramids. He intended
spending three or four days in examining the ruins of the ancient
necropolis of Memphis; but he was suddenly obliged to alter his plan.
This journey to the Pyramids, occasioned by the course of war, has given
an opportunity for the invention of a little piece of romance. Some
ingenious people have related that Bonaparte gave audiences to the mufti
and ulemas, and that on entering one of the great Pyramids he cried out,
"Glory to Allah! God only is God, and Mahomet is his prophet!" Now the
fact is, that Bonaparte never even entered the great Pyramid. He never
had any thought of entering it:--I certainly should have accompanied him
had he done so for I never quitted his side a single moment in the desert
He caused some person to enter into one of the great Pyramids while he
remained outside, and received from them, on their return, an account of
what they had seen. In other words, they informed him there was nothing,
to be seen!
On the evening of the 15th of July, while we were taking a walk, we
perceived, on the road leading from Alexandria, an Arab riding up to us
in all haste. He brought to the General-in-Chief a despatch from General
Marmont, who was entrusted with the command of Alexandria, and who had
conducted himself so well, especially during the dreadful ravages of the
plague, that he had gained the unqualified approbation of Bonaparte. The
Turks had landed on the 11th of July at Aboukir, under the escort and
protection of English ships of war. The news of the landing of from
fifteen to sixteen thousand men did not surprise Bonaparte, who had for
some time expected it. It was, not so, however, with the generals most in
his favor; whose apprehensions, for reasons which may be conjectured, he
had endeavoured to calm. He had even written to Marmont, who, being in
the most exposed situation, had the more reason to be vigilant, in these
The army which was to have appeared before Alexandria, and which
left Constantinople on the 1st of the Ramadhan, has been destroyed
under the walls of Acre. If, however, that mad Englishman (Smith)
has embarked the remains of that army in order to convey them to
Aboukir, I do not believe there can be more than 2000 men.
He wrote in the following strain to General Dugua, who had the command of
The English Commander, who has summoned Damietta, is a madman. The
combined army they speak of has been destroyed before Acre, where it
arrived a fortnight before we left that place.
As soon as he arrived at Cairo, in a letter he despatched to Desaix, he
The time has now arrived when disembarkations have become
practicable. I shall lose no time in getting ready. The
probabilities, however, are, that none will take place this year.
What other language could he hold, when he had proclaimed when after, the
raising of the siege of Acre, that he had destroyed those 15,000 men who
two months after landed at Aboukir?
No sooner had Bonaparte perused the contents of Marmont's letter than he
retired into his tent and dictated to me, until three in the morning, his
orders for the departure of the troops, and for the routes he wished to
be pursued during his absence by the troops who should remain in the
interior. At this moment I observed in him the development of that
vigorous character of mind which was excited by obstacles until he
overcame them--that celerity of thought which foresaw everything. He was
all action, and never for a moment hesitated. On the 16th of July, at
four in the morning, he was on horseback and the army in full march.
I cannot help doing justice to the presence of mind, promptitude of
decision, and rapidity of execution which at this period of his life
never deserted him on great occasions.
We reached Ouardan, to the north of Gizeh, on the evening of the 16th;
on the 19th we arrived at Rahmalianie'h, and on the 23d at Alexandria,
where every preparation was made for that memorable battle which, though
it did not repair the immense losses and fatal consequences of the naval
conflict of the same name, will always recall to the memory of Frenchmen
one of the most brilliant achievements of their arms.
--[As M. de Bourrienne gives no details of the battle, the
following extract from the Due do Rovigo's Memoirs, tome i, p. 167,
will supply the deficiency:
"General Bonaparte left Cairo in the utmost haste to place himself
at the head of the troops which he had ordered to quit their
cantonments and march down to the coast.
"Whilst the General was making these arrangements and coming in
person from Cairo, the troops on board the Turkish fleet had
effected a landing and taken possession of the fort of Aboukir, and
of a redoubt placed behind the village of that name which ought to
have been put into a state of defence six months before, but had
been completely neglected.
"The Turks had nearly destroyed the weak garrisons that occupied
those two military points when General Marmont (who commanded at
Alexandria) came to their relief. This general, seeing the two
posts in the power of the Turks, returned to shut himself up in
Alexandria, where he would probably have been blockaded by the
Turkish army had it not been for the arrival of General Bonaparte
with his forces, who was very angry when he saw that the fort and
redoubt had been taken; but he did not blame Marmont for retreating
to Alexandria with the forces at his disposal.
"General Bonaparte arrived at midnight with his guides and the
remaining part of his army, and ordered the Turks to be attacked the
next morning. In this battle, as in the preceding ones, the attack,
the encounter, and the rout were occurrences of a moment, and the
result of a single movement on the part of our troops. The whole
Turkish army plunged into the sea to regain its ships, leaving
behind them everything they had brought on shore.
"Whilst this event was occurring on the seashore a pasha had left
the field of battle with a corps of about 3000 men in order to throw
himself, into the fort of Aboukir. They soon felt the extremities
of thirst, which compelled them, after the lapse of a few days, to
surrender unconditionally to General Menou, who was left to close,
the operations connected with the recently defeated Turkish army."]
After the-battle, which took place on the 25th of July, Bonaparte sent a
flag of truce on board the English Admiral's ship. Our intercourse was
full of politeness, such as might be expected in the communications of
the people of two civilised nations. The English Admiral gave the flag
of truce some presents in exchange for some we sent, and likewise a copy
of the French Gazette of Frankfort, dated 10th of June 1799. For ten
months we had received no news from France. Bonaparte glanced over this
journal with an eagerness which may easily be conceived.
--[The French, on their return from St. Jean d'Acre were totally
ignorant of all that had taken place in Europe far several months.
Napoleon, eager to obtain Intelligence, sent a flag of trace on
board the Turkish admiral's ship, under the pretence of treating for
the ransom of the Prisoners taken at Aboukir, not doubting but the
envoy would be stopped by Sir Sidney Smith, who carefully prevented
all direct communication between the French and the Turks.
Accordingly the French flag of truce received directions from Sir
Sidney to go on board his ship. He experienced the handsomest
treatment; and the English commander having, among other things,
ascertained that the disasters of Italy were quite unknown to
Napoleon, indulged in the malicious pleasure of sending him a file
of newspapers. Napoleon spent the whole night in his tent perusing
the papers; and he came to the determination of immediately
proceeding to Europe to repair the disasters of France; and if
possible, to save her from destruction (Memorial de Sainte Helene)].
"Heavens!" said he to me, "my presentiment is verified: the fools have
lost Italy. All the fruits of our victories are gone! I must leave
He sent for Berthier, to whom he communicated the news, adding that
things were going on very badly in France--that he wished to return home
--that he (Berthier) should go along with him, and that, for the present,
only he, Gantheaume, and I were in the secret. He recommended Berthier
to be prudent, not to betray any symptoms of joy, nor to purchase or sell
anything, and concluded by assuring him that he depended on him. "I can
answer," said he, "for myself and for Bourrienne." Berthier promised to
be secret, and he kept his word. He had had enough of Egypt, and he so
ardently longed to return to France, that there was little reason to fear
he would disappoint himself by any indiscretion.
Gantheaume arrived, and Bonaparte gave him orders to fit out the two
frigates, the 'Muiron' and the 'Carree', and the two small vessels, the
'Revanche' and the 'Fortune', with a two months' supply of provisions for
from four to five hundred men. He enjoined his secrecy as to the object
of these preparations, and desired him to act with such circumspection
that the English cruisers might have no knowledge of what was going on.
He afterwards arranged with Gantheaume the course he wished to take. No
details escaped his attention.
Bonaparte concealed his preparations with much care, but still some vague
rumours crept abroad. General Dueua, the commandant of Cairo, whom he
had just left for the purpose of embarking, wrote to him on the 18th of
August to the following effect:
I have this moment heard that it is reported at the Institute you
are about to return to France, taking with you Monge, Berthollet,
Berthier, Lannes, and Murat. This news has spread like lightning
through the city, and I should not be at all surprised if it produce
an unfavourable effect, which, however, I hope you will obviate.
Bonaparte embarked five days after the receipt of Dugua's letter, and, as
may be supposed; without replying to it.
On the 18th of August he wrote to the divan of Cairo as follows:
I set out to-morrow for Menouf, whence I intend to make various
excursions in the Delta, in order that I may myself witness the acts
of oppression which are committed there, and acquire some knowledge
of the people.
He told the army but half the truth:
The news from Europe (said he) has determined me to proceed to
France. I leave the command of the army to General Kleber. The
army shall hear from me forthwith. At present I can say no more.
It costs me much pain to quit troops to whom I am so strongly
attached. But my absence will be but temporary, and the general I
leave in command has the confidence of the Government as well as
I have now shown the true cause of General Bonaparte's departure for
Europe. This circumstance, in itself perfectly natural, has been the
subject of the most ridiculous conjectures to those who always wish to
assign extraordinary causes for simple events. There is no truth
whatever in the assertion of his having planned his departure before the
battle of Aboukir. Such an idea never crossed his mind. He had no
thought whatever of his departure for France when he made the journey to
the Pyramids, nor even when he received the news of the landing of the
At the end of December 1798 Bonaparte thus wrote to the Directory: "We
are without any news from France. No courier has arrived since the month
Some writers have stated that we received news by the way of Tunis,
Algiers, or Morocco; but there is no contradicting a positive fact. At
that period I had been with Bonaparte more than two years, and during
that time not a single despatch on any occasion arrived of the contents
of which I was ignorant. How then should the news alluded to have
--[Details on the question of the correspondence of Napoleon with
France while he was to Egypt will be found in Colonel Iung's work,
Lucien Bonaparte (Paris. Charpentler, 1882), tome i. pp. 251-274.
It seems most probable that Napoleon was in occasional communication
with his family and with some of the Directors byway of Tunis and
Tripoli. It would not be his interest to let his army or perhaps
even Bourrienne know of the disasters in Italy till he found that
they were sure to hear of them through the English. This would
explain his affected ignorance till such a late date. On the 11th
of April Barras received a despatch by which Napoleon stated his
intention of returning to France if the news brought by Hamelin was
confirmed. On the 26th of May 1799 three of the Directors, Barras,
Rewbell, and La Reveillier-Lepeaux, wrote to Napoleon that Admiral
Bruix had been ordered to attempt every means of bringing back his
army. On the 15th of July Napoleon seems to have received this and
other letters. On the 20th of July he warns Admiral Gantheaume to
be ready to start. On the 11th of September the Directors formally
approved the recall of the army from Egypt. Thus at the time
Napoleon landed in France (on the 8th October), his intended return
had been long known to and approved by the majority of the
Directors, and had at last been formally ordered by the Directory.
At the most he anticipated the order. He cannot be said to have
deserted his post. Lantrey (tome i. p. 411) remarks that the
existence and receipt of the letter from Joseph denied by Bourrienne
is proved by Miot (the commissary, the brother of Miot de Melito)
and by Joseph himself. Talleyrand thanks the French Consul at
Tripoli for sending news from Egypt, and for letting Bonaparte know
what passed in Europe. See also Ragusa (Marmont), tome i. p. 441,
writing on 24th December 1798: "I have found an Arab of whom I am
sure, and who shall start to-morrow for Derne . . . . This means
can be need to send a letter to Tripoli, for boats often go there."]
Almost all those who endeavour to avert from Bonaparte the reproach of
desertion quote a letter from the Directory, dated the 26th of May 1799.
This letter may certainly have been written, but it never reached its
destination. Why then should it be put upon record?
The circumstance I have stated above determined the resolution of
Bonaparte, and made him look upon Egypt as, an exhausted field of glory,
which it was high time he had quitted, to play another part in France.
On his departure from Europe Bonaparte felt that his reputation was
tottering. He wished to do something to raise up his glory, and to fix
upon him the attention of the world. This object he had in great part
accomplished; for, in spite of serious disasters, the French flag waved
over the cataracts of the Nile and the ruins of Memphis, and the battles
of the Pyramids, and Aboukir were calculated in no small degree to
dazzle; the imagination. Cairo and Alexandria too were ours. Finding.
that the glory of his arms no longer supported the feeble power of the
Directory, he was anxious to see whether: he could not share it, or
appropriate it to himself.
A great deal has been said about letters and Secret communications from
the Directory, but Bonaparte needed no such thing. He could do what he
pleased: there was no power to check him; such had been the nature of
his arrangements an leaving France. He followed only the dictates of his
own will, and probably, had not the fleet been destroyed; he would have
departed from Egypt much sooner. To will and to do were with him one and
the same thing. The latitude he enjoyed was the result of his verbal
agreement with the Directory, whose instructions and plans he did not
wish should impede his operations.
Bonaparte left Alexandria on the 5th of August, and on the 10th arrived
at Cairo. He at first circulated the report of a journey to Upper Egypt.
This seemed so much the more reasonable, as he had really entertained
that design before he went to the Pyramids, and the fact was known to the
army and the inhabitants of Cairo. Up to this time our secret had been
studiously kept. However, General Lanusse, the commandant at Menouf,
where we arrived on the 20th of August, suspected it. "You are going to
France," said he to me. My negative reply confirmed his suspicion. This
almost induced me to believe the General-in-Chief had been the first to
make the disclosure. General Lanusse, though he envied our good fortune,
made no complaints. He expressed his sincere wishes for our prosperous
voyage, but never opened his mouth on the subject to any one.
On the 21st of August we reached the wells of Birkett. The Arabs had
rendered the water unfit for use, but the General-in-Chief was resolved
to quench his thirst, and for this purpose squeezed the juice of several
lemons into a glass of the water; but he could not swallow it without
holding his nose and exhibiting strong feelings of disgust.
The next day we reached Alexandria, where the General informed all those,
who had accompanied him from Cairo that France was their destination.
At this announcement joy was pictured in every countenance.
General Kleber, to whose command Bonaparte had resigned the army, was
invited to come from Damietta to Rosette to confer with the General-in-
Chief on affairs of extreme importance. Bonaparte, in making an
appointment which he never intended to keep, hoped to escape the
unwelcome freedom of Kleber's reproaches. He afterwards wrote to him all
he had to say; and the cause he assigned for not keeping his appointment
was, that his fear of being observed by the English cruisers had forced
him to depart three days earlier than he intended. But when he wrote
Bonaparte well knew that he would be at sea before Kleber could receive
his letter. Kleber, in his letter to the Directory, complained bitterly
of this deception. The singular fate that befell this letter will be
seen by and by.
Our departure from Egypt--Nocturnal embarkation--M. Parseval
Grandmaison--On course--Adverse winds--Fear of the English--
Favourable weather--Vingt-et-un-Chess--We land at Ajaccio--
Bonaparte's pretended relations--Family domains--Want of money--
Battle of Novi--Death of Joubert--Visionary schemes--Purchase of a
boat--Departure from Corsica--The English squadron--Our escape--
The roads of Frejus--Our landing in France--The plague or the
Austrians--Joy of the people--The sanitary laws--Bonaparte falsely
We were now to return to our country--again to cross the sea, to us so
pregnant with danger--Caesar and his fortune were once more to embark.
But Caesar was not now advancing to the East to add Egypt to the
conquests of the Republic. He was revolving in his mind vast schemes,
unawed by the idea of venturing everything to chance in his own favour
the Government for which he had fought. The hope of conquering the most
celebrated country of the East no longer excited the imagination, as on
our departure from France. Our last visionary dream had vanished before
the walls of St. Jean d'Acre, and we were leaving on the burning sands of
Egypt most of our companions in arms. An inconceivable destiny seemed to
urge us on, and we were obliged to obey its decrees.
On the 23d of August we embarked on board two frigates, the 'Muiron'
--[Named after Bonaparte's aide de camp filled in the Italian
and 'Carrere'. Our number was between four and five hundred. Such was
our squadron, and such the formidable army with which Bonaparte had
resolved, as he wrote to the divan of Cairo, "to annihilate all his
enemies." This boasting might impose on those who did not see the real
state of things; but what were we to think of it? What Bonaparte himself
thought the day after.
The night was dark when we embarked in the frigates which lay at a
considerable distance from the port of Alexandria; but by the faint light
of the stars we perceived a corvette, which appeared to be observing our
silent nocturnal embarkation.
--[The horses of the escort had been left to run loose on the beach,
and all was perfect stillness in Alexandria, when the advanced posts
of the town were alarmed by the wild galloping of horses, which from
a natural instinct, were returning to Alexandria through the desert.
The picket ran to arms on seeing horses ready saddled and bridled,
which were soon discovered to belong to the regiment of guides.
They at first thought that a misfortune had happened to some
detachment in its pursuit of the Arabs. With these horses came also
those of the generals who had embarked with General Bonaparte; so
that Alexandria was for a time in considerable alarm. The cavalry
was ordered to proceed in all haste in the direction whence the
horses came, and every one was giving himself up to the most gloomy
conjectures, when the cavalry returned to the city with the Turkish
groom, who was bringing back General Bonaparte's horse to Alexandria
(Memoirs of the Due de Rovigo, tome i. p. 182).]--
Next morning, just as we were on the point of setting sail, we saw.
coming from the port of Alexandria a boat, on board of which was M.
Parseval Grandmaison. This excellent man, who was beloved by all of us,
was not included among the persons whose, return to France had been
determined by the General-in-Chief. In his anxiety to get off Bonaparte
would not hear of taking him on board. It will readily be conceived how
urgent were the entreaties of Parseval; but he would have sued in vain
had not Gantheaume, Bionge, Berthollet, and I interceded for him. With
some difficulty we overcame Bonaparte's resistance, and our colleague of
the Egyptian Institute got on board after the wind had filled our sails.
It has been erroneously said that Admiral Gantheaume had full control of
the frigates, as if any one could command when Bonaparte was present.
On the contrary, Bonaparte declared to the admiral, in my hearing, that
he would not take the ordinary course and get into the open sea. "Keep
close along the coast of the Mediterranean," said he, "on the, African
side, until you get south of Sardinia. I have here a handful of brave
fellows and a few pieces of artillery; if the. English should appear I
will run ashore, and with my, party, make my way by land to Oran, Tunis,
or some other port, whence we may find an opportunity of getting home."
This, was his irrevocable determination.
For twenty-one days adverse winds, blowing from west or north-west, drove
us continually on the coast of Syria, or in the direction of Alexandria.
At one time it was even proposed that we should again put into the port;
but Bonaparte declared he would rather, brave every danger than do so.
During the day we tacked to a certain distance northward, and in the
evening we stood towards Africa, until we came within, sight of the
coast. Finally after no less than twenty-one days of impatience and
disappointment, a favourable east wind carried us past that point of
Africa on which Carthage formerly stood, and we soon doubled Sardinia.
We kept very near the western coast of that island, where Bonaparte had
determined to land in case of our falling in with the English, squadron.
From, thence his plan was to reach Corsica, and there to await a
favourable opportunity of returning to France.
Everything had contributed to render our voyage dull and monotonous; and,
besides, we were not entirely without uneasiness as to the steps which
might be taken by the Directory, for it was certain that the publication
of the intercepted correspondence must have occasioned many unpleasant
disclosures. Bonaparte used often to walk on deck to superintend the
execution of his orders. The smallest sail that appeared in view excited
The fear of falling into the hands of the English never forsook him.
That was what he dreaded most of all, and yet, at a subsequent period, he
trusted to the generosity of his enemies.
However, in spite of our well-founded alarm, there were some moments in
which we sought to amuse ourselves, or, to use a common expression, to
kill time. Cards afforded us s source of recreation, and even this
frivolous amusement served to develop the character of Bonaparte. In
general he was not fond of cards; but if he did play, vingt-et-un was his
favourite game, because it is more rapid than many others, and because,
in short, it afforded him an opportunity of cheating. For example, he
would ask for a card; if it proved a bad one he would say nothing, but
lay it down on the table and wait till the dealer had drawn his. If the
dealer produced a good card, then Bonaparte would throw aside his hand,
without showing it, and give up his stake. If, on the contrary, the
dealer's card made him exceed twenty-one, Bonaparte also threw his cards
aside without showing them, and asked for the payment of his stake. He
was much diverted by these little tricks, especially when they were
played off undetected; and I confess that even then we were courtiers
enough to humour him, and wink at his cheating. I must, however, mention
that he never appropriated to himself the fruit of these little
dishonesties, for at the end of the game he gave up all his winnings, and
they were equally divided. Gain, as may readily be supposed, was not his
object; but he always expected that fortune would grant him an ace or a
ten at the right moment with the same confidence with which he looked for
fine weather on the day of battle. If he were disappointed he wished
nobody to know it.
Bonaparte also played at chess, but very seldom, because he was only a
third-rate player, and he did not like to be beaten at that game, which,
I know not why, is said to bear a resemblance to the grand game of war.
At this latter game Bonaparte certainly feared no adversary. This
reminds me that when we were leaving Passeriano he announced his
intention of passing through Mantua.
He was told that the commandant of that town, I believe General Beauvoir,
was a great chess-player, and he expressed a wish to play a game with
him: General Beauvoir asked him to point out any particular pawn with
which he would be checkmated; adding, that if the pawn were taken, he,
Bonaparte, should be declared the winner. Bonaparte pointed out the last
pawn on the left of his adversary. A mark was put upon it, and it turned
out that he actually was checkmated with that very pawn. Bonaparte was
not very well pleased at this. He liked to play with me because, though
rather a better player than himself, I was not always able to beat him.
As soon as a game was decided in his favour he declined playing any
longer; preferring to rest on his laurels.
The favourable wind which had constantly prevailed after the first twenty
days of our voyage still continued while we kept along the coast of
Sardinia; but after we had passed that island the wind again blew
violently from the west, and on the 1st of October we were forced to
enter the Gulf of Ajaccio. We sailed again next day but we found it
impossible to work our way out of the gulf. We were therefore obliged to
put into the port and land at Ajaccio. Adverse winds obliged us to
remain there until the 7th of October. It may readily be imagined how
much this delay annoyed Bonaparte. He sometimes expressed his
impatience, as if he could enforce the obedience of the elements as well
as of men. He was losing time, and time was everything to him.
There was one circumstance which seemed to annoy him as much as any of
his more serious vexations. "What will become of me," said he, "if the
English, who are cruising hereabout, should learn that I have landed in
Corsica? I shall be forced to stay here. That I could never endure. I
have a torrent of relations pouring upon me." His great reputation had
certainly prodigiously augmented the number of his family. He was over
whelmed with visits, congratulations, and requests. The whole town was
in a commotion. Every one of its inhabitants wished to claim him as
their cousin; and from the-prodigious number of his pretended godsons and
goddaughters, it might have been supposed that he had held one-fourth of
the children of Ajaccio at the baptismal font.
Bonaparte frequently walked with us in the neighbourhood of Ajaccio; and
when in all the plenitude of his power he did not count his crowns with
greater pleasure than he evinced in pointing out to us the little domains
of his ancestors.
While we were at, Ajaccio M. Fesch gave Bonaparte French money in,
exchange for a number of Turkish sequins, amounting in value to 17,000
francs: This sum was all that the General brought with him from Egypt.
I mention this fact because he was unjustly calumniated in letters
written after his departure, and which were intercepted and published by
the English: I ought also to add, that as he would never for his own
private use resort to the money-chest of the army, the contents of which
were, indeed, never half sufficient to defray the necessary expenses, he
several times drew on Genoa, through M. James, and on the funds he
possessed in the house of Clary, 16,000, 25,000, and up to 33,000 francs.
I can bear witness that in Egypt I never saw him touch any money beyond
his pay; and that he left the country poorer than he had entered it is a
fact that cannot be denied. In his notes on Egypt it appears that in one
year 12,600,000 francs were received. In this sum were included at least
2,000,000 of contributions, which were levied at the expense of many
decapitations. Bonaparte was fourteen months in Egypt, and he is said to
have brought away with him 20,000,000. Calumny may be very gratifying to
certain persons, but they should at least give it a colouring of
probability. The fact is, that Bonaparte had scarcely enough to maintain
himself at Ajaccio and to defray our posting expenses to Paris.
On our arrival at Ajaccio we learnt the death of Joubert, and the loss of
the battle of Novi, which was fought on the 15th of August. Bonaparte
was tormented by anxiety; he was in a state of utter uncertainty as to
the future. From the time we left Alexandria till our arrival in Corsica
he had frequently talked of what he should do during the quarantine,
which he supposed he would be required to observe on reaching Toulon, the
port at which he had determined to land.
Even then he cherished some illusions respecting the state of affairs;
and he often said to me, "But for that confounded quarantine, I would
hasten ashore, and place myself at the head of the army of Italy. All is
not over; and I am sure that there is not a general who would refuse me
the command. The news of a victory gained by me would reach Paris as
soon as the battle of Aboukir; that, indeed, would be excellent."
In Corsica his language was very different. When he was informed of our
reverses, and saw the full extent of the evil, he was for a moment
overwhelmed. His grand projects then gave way to the consideration of
matters of minor import, and he thought about his detention in the
Lazaretto of Toulon. He spoke of the Directory, of intrigues, and of
what would be said of him. He accounted his enemies those who envied
him, and those who could not be reconciled to his glory and the influence
of his name. Amidst all these anxieties Bonaparte was outwardly calm,
though he was moody and reflective.
Providing against every chance of danger, he had purchased at Ajaccio a
large launch which was intended to be towed by the 'Hetciron', and it was
manned by twelve of the best sailors the island could--furnish. His
resolution was, in case of inevitable danger, to jump into this boat and
get ashore. This precaution had well-nigh proved useful.
--[Sir Walter Scott, at the commencement of his Life of Napoleon,
says that Bonaparte did not see his native City after 1793.
Probably to avoid contradicting himself, the Scottish historian
observes that Bonaparte was near Ajaccio on his return from Egypt.
He spent eight days there.--Bourrienne.]--
After leaving the Gulf of Ajaccio the voyage was prosperous and
undisturbed for one day; but on the second day, just at sunset, an
English squadron of fourteen sail hove in sight. The English, having
advantage of the lights which we had in our faces, saw us better than we
could see them. They recognised our two frigates as Venetian built; but
luckily for us, night came on, for we were not far apart. We saw the
signals of the English for a long time, and heard the report of the guns
more and more to our left, and we thought it was the intention of the
cruisers to intercept us on the south-east. Under these circumstances
Bonaparte had reason to thank fortune; for it is very evident that had
the English suspected our two frigates of coming from the East and going
to France, they would have shut us out from land by running between us
and it, which to them was very easy. Probably they took us for a convoy
of provisions going from Toulon to Genoa; and it was to this error and
the darkness that we were indebted for escaping with no worse consequence
than a fright.
--[Here Bourrienne says in a note "Where did Sir Walter Scott learn
that we were neither seen nor recognised? We were not recognised,
but certainly seen," This is corroborated by the testimony of the
Due de Rovigo, who, in his Memoirs, says, "I have met officers of
the English navy who assured me that the two frigates had been seen
but were considered by the Admiral to belong to his squadron, as
they steered their course towards him; and as he knew we had only
one frigate in the Mediterranean, and one in Toulon harbour, he was
far from supposing that the frigates which he had descried could
have General Bonaparte on board " (Savary, tome i. p. 226).]--
During the remainder of the night the utmost agitation prevailed on board
the Muiron. Gantheaume especially was in a state of anxiety which it is
impossible to describe, and which it was painful to witness: he was quite
beside himself, for a disaster appeared inevitable. He proposed to
return to Corsica. "No, no!" replied Bonaparte imperiously. "No!
Spread all sail! Every man at his post! To the north-west! To the
north-west!" This order saved us; and I am enabled to affirm that in the
midst of almost general alarm Bonaparte was solely occupied in giving
orders. The rapidity of his judgment seemed to grow in the face of
danger. The remembrance of that night will never be effaced from my
mind. The hours lingered on; and none of us could guess upon what new
dangers the morrow's sun would shine.
However, Bonaparte's resolution was taken: his orders were given, his
arrangements made. During the evening he had resolved upon throwing
himself into the long boat; he had already fixed on the persons who were
to share his fate, and had already named to me the papers which he
thought it most important to save. Happily our terrors were vain and our
arrangements useless. By the first rays of the sun we discovered the
English fleet sailing to the north-east, and we stood for the wished-for
coast of France.
The 8th of October, at eight in the morning, we entered the roads of
Frejus. The sailors not having recognised the coast during the night, we
did not know where we were. There was, at first, some hesitation whether
we should advance. We were by no means expected, and did not know how to
answer the signals, which has been changed during our absence. Some guns
were even fired upon us by the batteries on the coast; but our bold entry
into the roads, the crowd upon the decks of the two frigates, and our
signs of joy, speedily banished all doubt of our being friends. We were
in the port, and approaching the landing-place, when the rumour spread
that Bonaparte was on board one of the frigates. In an instant the sea
was covered with boats. In vain we begged them to keep at a distance; we
were carried ashore, and when we told the crowd, both of men and women
who were pressing about us, the risk they ran, they all exclaimed, "We
prefer the plague to the Austrians!"
What were our feelings when we again set foot on the soil of France
I will not attempt to describe. Our escape from the dangers that
threatened us seemed almost miraculous. We had lost twenty days at the
beginning of our voyage, and at its close the had been almost taken by an
English squadron. Under these circumstances, how rapturously we inhaled
the balmy, air of Provence! Such was our joy, that we were scarcely
sensible of the disheartening news which arrived from all quarters. At
the first moment of our arrival, by a spontaneous impulse, we all
repeated, with tears in our eyes, the beautiful lines which Voltaire has
put into the mouth of the exile of Sicily.
Bonaparte has been reproached with having violated the sanitary laws;
but, after what I have already stated respecting his intentions, I
presume there can remain no doubt of the falsehood of this accusation.
All the blame must rest with the inhabitants of Frejus, who on this
occasion found the law of necessity more imperious than the sanitary
laws. Yet when it is considered that four or five hundred persons, and a
quantity of effects, were landed from Alexandria, where the plague had
been raging during the summer, it is almost a miracle that France, and
indeed Europe escaped the scourge.
Effect produced by Bonaparte's return--His justification--
Melancholy letter to my wife--Bonaparte's intended dinner at Sens--
Louis Bonaparte and Josephine--He changes his intended route--
Melancholy situation of the provinces--Necessity of a change--
Bonaparte's ambitious views--Influence of popular applause--
Arrival in Paris--His reception of Josephine--Their reconciliation--
Bonaparte's visit to the Directory--His contemptuous treatment of
Tim effect produced in France and throughout Europe by the mere
intelligence of Bonaparte's return is well known. I shall not yet speak
of the vast train of consequences which that event entailed. I must,
however, notice some accusations which were brought against him from the
time of our landing to the 9th of November. He was reproached for having
left Egypt, and it was alleged that his departure was the result of long
premeditation. But I, who was constantly with him, am enabled positively
to affirm that his return to France was merely the effect of a sudden
resolution. Of this the following fact is in itself sufficient evidence.
While we were at Cairo, a few days before we heard of the landing of the
Anglo-Turkish fleet, and at the moment when we were on the point of
setting off to encamp at the Pyramids, Bonaparte despatched a courier to
France. I took advantage of this opportunity to write to my wife. I
almost bade her an eternal adieu: My letter breathed expressions of grief
such as I had not before evinced. I said, among other things, that we.
knew not when or how it would be possible for us to return to France. If
Bonaparte had then entertained any thought of a speedy return I must have
known it, and in that case I should not certainly have distressed my
family by a desponding letter, when I had not had an opportunity of
writing for seven months before.
Two days after the receipt of my letter my wife was awoke very early in
the morning to be informed of our arrival in France. The courier who
brought this intelligence was the bearer of a second letter from me,
which I had written on board ship, and dated from Frejus. In this letter
I mentioned that Bonaparte would pass through Seas and dine with my
In fulfilment of my directions Madame de Bourrienne set off for Paris at
five in the morning. Having passed the first post-house she met a Berlin
containing four travellers, among whom she recognised Louis Bonaparte
going to meet the General on the Lyons road. On seeing Madame de
Bourrienne Louis desired the postillion to stop, and asked her whether
she had heard from me. She informed him that we should pass through
Sens, where the General wished to dine with my mother, who had made every
preparation for receiving him. Louis then continued his journey. About
nine o'clock my wife met another Berlin, in which were Madame Bonaparte
and her daughter. As they were asleep, and both carriages were driving
at a very rapid rate, Madame de Bourrienne did not stop them. Josephine
followed the route taken by Louis. Both missed the General, who changed
his mind at Lyons, and proceeded by way of Bourbonnais. He arrived
fifteen hours after my wife; and those who had taken the Burgundy road
proceeded to Lyons uselessly.
Determined to repair in all haste to Paris, Bonaparte had left Frejus on
the afternoon of the day of our landing. He himself had despatched the
courier to Sens to inform my mother of his intended visit to her; and it
was not until he got to Lyons that he determined to take the Bourbonnais
road. His reason for doing so will presently be seen. All along the
road, at Aix, at Lyons, in every town and village, he was received, as at
Frejus, with the most rapturous demonstrations of joy.
--[From Frejus to, Aix a crowd of men kindly escorted us, carrying
torches alongside the carriage of the General, not so much to show
their enthusiasm as to ensure our safety (Bourrienne) These brigands
became so bad in France that at one time soldiers were placed in the
imperials of all the diligences, receiving from the wits the
curiously anticipative name of "imperial armies".]--
Only those who witnessed his triumphal journey can form any notion of it;
and it required no great discernment to foresee something like the 18th
The provinces, a prey to anarchy and civil war, were continually
threatened with foreign invasion. Almost all the south presented the
melancholy spectacle of one-vast arena of conflicting factions. The
nation groaned beneath the yoke of tyrannical laws; despotism was
systematically established; the law of hostages struck a blow at personal
liberty, and forced loans menaced every man's property. The generality
of the citizens had declared themselves against a pentarchy devoid of
power, justice, and morality, and which had become the sport of faction
and intrigue. Disorder was general; but in the provinces abuses were
felt more sensibly than elsewhere. In great cities it was found more
easy to elude the hand of despotism and oppression.
A change so earnestly wished for could not fail to be realised, and to be
received with transport. The majority of the French people longed to be
relieved from the situation in which they then stood. There were two
dangers bar to cope with--anarchy and the Bourbons. Every one felt the
urgent and indispensable necessity of concentrating the power of the
Government in a single hand; at the same time maintaining the
institutions which the spirit of the age demanded, and which France,
after having so dearly purchased, was now about to lose. The country
looked for a man who was capable of restoring her to tranquillity; but as
yet no such man had appeared. A soldier of fortune presented himself,
covered with glory; he had planted the standard of France on the Capitol
and on the Pyramids. The whole world acknowledged his superior talent;
his character, his courage, and his victories had raised him to the very
highest rank. His great works, his gallant actions, his speeches, and
his proclamations ever since he had risen to eminence left no doubt of
his wish to secure happiness and freedom to France, his adopted country.
At that critical moment the necessity of a temporary dictatorship, which
sometimes secures the safety of a state, banished all reflections on the
consequences of such a power, and nobody seemed to think glory
incompatible with personal liberty. All eyes were therefore directed on
the General, whose past conduct guaranteed his capability of defending
the Republic abroad, and liberty at home,--on the General whom his
flatterers, and indeed some of his sincere friends, styled, "the hero of
liberal ideas," the title to which he aspired.
Under, every point of view, therefore, he was naturally chosen as the
chief of a generous nation, confiding to him her destiny, in preference
to a troop of mean and fanatical hypocrites, who, under the names of
republicanism and liberty, had reduced France to the most abject slavery.
Among the schemes which Bonaparte was incessantly revolving in his mind
may undoubtedly be ranked the project of attaining the head of the French
Government; but it would be a mistake to suppose that on his return from
Egypt he had formed any fixed plan. There was something vague in his
ambitious aspirations; and he was, if I may so express myself, fond of
building those imaginary edifices called castles in the air. The current
of events was in accordance with his wishes; and it may truly be said
that the whole French nation smoothed for Bonaparte the road which led.
to power. Certainly the unanimous plaudits and universal joy which
accompanied him along a journey of more than 200 leagues must have
induced him to regard as a national mission that step which was at first
prompted merely by his wish of meddling with the affairs of the Republic.
This spontaneous burst of popular feeling, unordered and unpaid for,
loudly proclaimed the grievances of the people, and their hope that the
man of victory would become their deliverer. The general enthusiasm
excited by the return of the conqueror of Egypt delighted him to a degree
which I cannot express, and was, as he has often assured me, a powerful
stimulus in urging him to the object to which the wishes of France seemed
to direct him.
Among people of all classes and opinions an 18th Brumaire was desired and
expected. Many royalists even believed that a change would prove
favourable to the King. So ready are we to persuade ourselves of the
reality of what we wish.
As soon as it was suspected that Bonaparte would accept the power offered
him, an outcry was raised about a conspiracy against the Republic, and
measures were sought for preserving it. But necessity, and indeed, it
must be confessed, the general feeling of the people, consigned the
execution of those measures to him who was to subvert the Republic. On
his return to Paris Bonaparte spoke and acted like a man who felt his own
power; he cared neither for flattery, dinners, nor balls,--his mind took
a higher flight.
We arrived in Paris on the 24th Vendemiaire (the 16th of October).
As yet he knew nothing of what was going on; for he had seen neither his
wife nor his brothers, who were looking for him on the Burgundy road.
The news of our landing at Frejus had reached Paris by a telegraphic
despatch. Madame Bonaparte, who was dining with M. Gohier when that
despatch was communicated to him, as president of the Directory,
immediately set off to meet her husband, well knowing how important it
was that her first interview with him should not be anticipated by his
The imprudent communications of Junot at the fountains of Messoudiah will
be remembered, but, after the first ebullition of jealous rage, all
traces of that feeling had apparently disappeared. Bonaparte however,
was still harassed by secret suspicion, and the painful impressions
produced by Junot were either not entirely effaced or were revived after
our arrival in Paris. We reached the capital before Josephine returned.
The recollection of the past; the ill-natured reports of his brothers,
--[Joseph Bonaparte remarks on this that Napoleon met Josephine at
Paris before his brothers arrived there, (Compare d'Abrantis,
vol. 1, pp. 260-262 and Rumusat, tome i. pp. 147-148.)]--
and the exaggeration of facts had irritated Napoleon to the very highest
pitch, and he received Josephine with studied coldness, and with an air
of the most cruel indifference. He had no communication with her for
three days, during which time he frequently spoke to me of suspicions
which his imagination converted into certainty; and threats of divorce
escaped his lips with no less vehemence than when we were on the confines
of Syria. I took upon me the office of conciliator, which I had before
discharged with success. I represented to him the dangers to be
apprehended from the publicity and scandal of such an affair; and that
the moment when his grand views might possibly be realized was not the
fit time to entertain France and Europe with the details of a charge of
adultery. I spoke to him of Hortense and Eugene, to whom he was much
attached. Reflection, seconded by his ardent affection for Josephine,
brought about a complete reconciliation. After these three days of
conjugal misunderstanding their happiness was never afterwards disturbed
by a similar cause.
--[In speaking of the unexpected arrival of Bonaparte and of the
meeting between him and Josephine, Madame Junot says: "On the 10th
October Josephine set off to meet her husband, but without knowing
exactly what road he would take. She thought it likely he would
come by way of Burgundy, and therefore Louis and she set off for
"Madame Bonaparte was a prey to great and well-founded aspersions.
Whether she was guilty or only imprudent, she was strongly accused
by the Bonaparte family, who were desirous that Napoleon should
obtain a divorce, The elder M. de Caulaincourt stated to us his
apprehensions on this point; but whenever the subject was introduced
my mother changed the conversation, because, knowing as she did the
sentiments of the Bonaparte family, she could not reply without
either committing them or having recourse to falsehood. She knew,
moreover, the truth of many circumstances which M. de Caulaincourt
seemed to doubt, and which her situation with respect to Bonaparte
prevented her from communicating to him.
"Madame Bonaparte committed a great fault in neglecting at this
juncture to conciliate her mother-in-law, who might have protected
her again those who sought her ruin and effected it nine years
later; for the divorce in 1809 was brought about by the joint
efforts of all the members of the Bonaparte family, aided by some of
Napoleon's most confidential servants, whom Josephine, either as
Madame Bonaparte or as Empress, had done nothing to make her
"Bonaparte, on his arrival in Paris, found his house deserted: but
his mother, sisters, and sisters-in-law, and, in short, every member
of his family, except Louis, who had attended Madame Bonaparte to
Lyons, came to him immediately. The impression made upon him by the
solitude of his home and its desertion by its mistress was profound
and terrible, and nine years afterwards, when the ties between him
and Josephine were severed for ever, he showed that it was not
effaced. From not finding her with his family he inferred that she
felt herself unworthy of their presence, and feared to meet the man
she had wronged. He considered her journey to Lyons as a mere
"M. de Bourrienne says that for some days after Josephine's return
Bonaparte treated her with extreme coldness. As he was an
eyewitness, why does he not state the whole truth, and say that on
her return Bonaparte refused to see her and did not see her? It was
to the earnest entreaties of her children that she owed the
recovery, not of her husband's love, for that had long ceased, but
of that tenderness acquired by habit, and that intimate intercourse
which made her still retain the rank of consort to the greatest man
of his age. Bonaparte was at this period much attached to Eugene
Beauharnais, who, to do him justice, was a charming youth. He knew
less of Hortense; but her youth and sweetness of temper, and the
protection of which, as his adopted daughter, she besought him not
to deprive her, proved powerful advocates, and overcame his
"In this delicate negotiation it was good policy not to bring any
other person into play, whatever might be their influence with
Bonaparte, and Madame Bonaparte did not, therefore, have recourse
either to Barras, Bourrienne, or Berthier. It was expedient that
they who interceded for her should be able to say something without
the possibility of a reply. Now Bonaparte could not with any degree
of propriety explain to such children as Eugene or Hortense the
particulars of their mother's conduct. He was therefore constrained
to silence, and had no argument to combat the tears of two innocent
creatures at his feet exclaiming, 'Do not abandon our mother; she
will break her heart! and ought injustice to take from us, poor
orphans, whose natural protector the scaffold has already deprived
us of, the support of one whom Providence has sent to replace him!'
"The scene, as Bonaparte has since stated, was long and painful, and
the two children at length introduced their mother, and placed her
in his arms. The unhappy woman had awaited his decision at the door
of a small back staircase, extended at almost full length upon the
stairs, suffering the acutest pangs of mental torture.
"Whatever might be his wife's errors, Bonaparte appeared entirely to
forget them, and the reconciliation was complete. Of all the
members of the family Madame Leclerc was most vexed at the pardon
which Napoleon had granted to his wife. Bonaparte's mother was also
very ill pleased; but she said nothing. Madame Joseph Bonaparte,
who was always very amiable, took no part in these family quarrels;
therefore she could easily determine what part to take when fortune
smiled on Josephine. As to Madame Bacciocchi, she gave free vent to
her ill-humour and disdain; the consequence was that her sister-in-
law could never endure her. Christine who was a beautiful creature,
followed the example of Madame Joseph, and Caroline was so young
that her opinion could have no weight in such an affair. As to
Bonaparte's brothers, they were at open war with Josephine."]--
On the day after hid arrival Bonaparte visited the Directors.
--[The Directors at this time were Barras, Sieyes, Moulins, Gohier,
and Roger Ducos.]--
The interview was cold. On the 24th of October he said to me, "I dined
yesterday at Gohier's; Sieyes was present, and I pretended not to see
him. I observed how much he was enraged at this mark of disrespect."--
"But are you sure he is against you?" inquired I. "I know nothing yet;
but he is a scheming man, and I don't like him." Even at that time
Bonaparte had thoughts of getting himself elected a member of the
Directory in the room of Sieyes.
Moreau and Bernadotte--Bonaparte's opinion of Bernadotte--False
report--The crown of Sweden and the Constitution of the year III.--
Intrigues of Bonaparte's brothers--Angry conversation between
Bonaparte and Bernadotte--Bonaparte's version--Josephine's version--
An unexpected visit--The Manege Club--Salicetti and Joseph Bonaparte
--Bonaparte invites himself to breakfast with Bernadotte--Country
excursion--Bernadotte dines with Bonaparte--The plot and conspiracy
--Conduct of Lucien--Dinner given to Bonaparte by the Council of the
Five Hundred--Bonaparte's wish to be chosen a member of the
Directory--His reconciliation with Sieyes--Offer made by the
Directory to Bonaparte--He is falsely accused by Barras.
To throw a clear light on the course of the great events which will
presently be developed it is necessary to state briefly what intrigues
had been hatched and what ambitious hopes had risen up while we were in
Egypt. When in Egypt Bonaparte was entirely deprived of any means of
knowing what was going on in France; and in our rapid journey from Frejus
to Paris we had no opportunity of collecting much information. Yet it
was very important that we should know the real state of affairs, and the
sentiments of those whom Bonaparte had counted among his rivals in glory,
and whom he might now meet among his rivals in ambition.
Moreau's military reputation stood very high, and Bernadotte's firmness
appeared inflexible. Generally speaking, Bonaparte might have reckoned
among his devoted partisans the companions of his glory in Italy, and
also those whom he subsequently denominated "his Egyptians." But brave
men had distinguished themselves in the army of the Rhine; and if they
did not withhold their admiration from the conqueror of Italy, they felt
at least more personally interested in the admiration which they lavished
on him who had repaired the disaster of Scherer. Besides, it must be
borne in mind that a republican spirit prevailed, almost without
exception, in the army, and that the Directory appeared to be a
Government invented expressly to afford patronage to intriguers. All
this planted difficulties in our way, and rendered it indispensably
necessary that we should know our ground. We had, it is true, been
greeted by the fullest measure of popular enthusiasm on our arrival; but
this was not enough. We wanted suffrages of a more solid kind.
During the campaign of Egypt, Bernadotte, who was a zealous republican,
had been War Minister,
--[Bernadotte was Minister of war from 2d July 1799 to 14th
September 1799, when, as he himself wrote to the Directory, they
"accepted" the resignation he had not offered.]--
but be had resigned the portfolio to Dubois-Crance three weeks before
Bonaparte's return to France. Some partisans of the old Minister were
endeavouring to get him recalled, and it was very important to
Bonaparte's interests that he should prevent the success of this design.
I recollect that on the second day of our arrival Bonaparte said to me,
"I have learned many things; but we shall see what will happen.
Bernadotte is a singular man. When he was War Minister Augereau,
Salicetti, and some others informed him that the Constitution was in
danger, and that it was necessary to get rid of Sieyes, Barras, and
Fouche, who were at the head of a plot. What did Bernadotte do?
Nothing. He asked for proofs. None could be produced. He asked for
powers. Who could grant them? Nobody. He should have taken them; but
he would not venture on that. He wavered. He said be could not enter
into the schemes which were proposed to him. He only promised to be
silent on condition that they were renounced. Bernadotte is not a help;
he is an obstacle, I have heard from good authority that a great number
of influential persons wished to invest him with extensive power for the
public good; but he was obstinate, and would listen to nothing."
After a brief interval of silence, during which Bonaparte rubbed his
forehead with his right hand, he then resumed:
"I believe I shall have Bernadotte and Moreau against me. But I do not
fear Moreau. He is devoid of energy. I know he would prefer military to
political power. The promise of the command of an army would gain him
over. But Bernadotte has Moorish blood in his veins. He is bold and
enterprising. He is allied to my brothers.
--[Joseph Bonaparte and Bernadotte had married sisters. Mario-Julie
and Eugenie Bernardine-Desiree Clary. The feeling of Bourrienne for
Bernadotte makes this passage doubtful. It is to be noticed that in
the same conversation he makes Napoleon describe Bernadotte as not
venturing to act without powers and as enterprising. The stern
republican becoming Prince de Monte Carlo and King of Sweden, in a
way compatible with his fidelity to the Constitution of the year
III., is good. Lanfrey attributes Bernadotte's refusal to join more
to rivalry than to principle (Lanfrey, tome i. p. 440). But in any
case Napoleon did not dread Bernadotte, and was soon threatening to
shoot him; see Lucien, tome ii. p. 107.]--
"He does not like me, and I am almost certain that be will oppose me. If
he should become ambitious he will venture anything. And yet, you
recollect in what a lukewarm way he acted on the 18th Fructidor, when I
sent him to second Augereau. This devil of a fellow is not to be
seduced. He is disinterested and clever. But; after all, we have but
just arrived, and know not what may happen."
Bernadotte, it was reported, had advised that Bonaparte should be brought
to a court-martial, an the two-fold charge of having abandoned his army
and violated the quarantine laws. This report came to the ear of
Bonaparte; but he refused to believe it and he was right. Bernadotte
thought himself bound to the Constitution which he had sworn to defend.
Hence the opposition he manifested to the measures of the 18th Brumaire.
But he cherished no personal animosity against Bonaparte as long as he
was ignorant of his ambitious designs. The extraordinary and complicated
nature of subsequent events rendered his possession of the crown of
Sweden in no way incompatible with his fidelity to the Constitution of
the year III.
On our first arrival in Paris, though I was almost constantly with the
General, yet, as our routine of occupation was not yet settled, I was
enabled now and then to snatch an hour or two from business. This
leisure time I spent in the society of my family and a few friends, and
in collecting information as to what had happened during our absence, for
which purpose I consulted old newspapers and pamphlets. I was not
surprised to learn that Bonaparte's brothers--that is to say, Joseph and
Lucien--had been engaged in many intrigues. I was told that Sieyes had
for a moment thought of calling the Duke of Brunswick to the head of the
Government; that Barras would not have been very averse to favouring the
return of the Bourbons; and that Moulins, Roger Ducos, and Gohier alone
believed or affected to believe, in the possibility of preserving the
existing form of government. From what I heard at the time I have good
reasons for believing that Joseph and Lucien made all sorts of endeavours
to inveigle Bernadotte into their brother's party, and in the hope of
accomplishing that object they had assisted in getting him appointed War
Minister. However, I cannot vouch for the truth of this. I was told
that Bernadotte had at first submitted to the influence of Bonaparte's
two brothers; but that their urgent interference in their client's behalf
induced him to shake them off, to proceed freely in the exercise of his
duties, and to open the eyes of the Directory on what the Republic might
have to apprehend from the enterprising character of Bonaparte. It is
certain that what I have to relate respecting the conduct of Bernadotte
to Bonaparte is calculated to give credit to these assertions.
All the generals who were in Paris, with the exception of Bernadotte,
had visited Bonaparte during the first three days which succeeded his
arrival. Bernadotte's absence was the more remarkable because he had
served under Bonaparte in Italy. It was not until a fortnight had
elapsed, and then only on the reiterated entreaties of Joseph and Madame
Joseph Bonaparte (his sister-in-law), that he determined to go and see
his old General-in-Chief. I was not present at their interview, being at
that moment occupied in the little cabinet of the Rue Chantereine. But I
soon discovered that their conversation had been long and warm; for as
soon as it was ended Bonaparte entered the cabinet exceedingly agitated,
and said to me, "Bourrienne, how do you think Bernadotte has behaved?
You have traversed France with me--you witnessed the enthusiasm which my
return excited--you yourself told me that you saw in that enthusiasm the
desire of the French people to be relieved from the disastrous position
in which our reverses have placed them. Well! would you believe it?
Bernadotte boasts, with ridiculous exaggeration, of the brilliant and
victorious situation of France! He talks about the defeat of the
Russians, the occupation of Genoa, the innumerable armies that are rising
up everywhere. In short, I know not what nonsense he has got in his
head."--"What can all this mean?" said I. "Did he speak about Egypt?"--
"Oh, yes! Now you remind me. He actually reproached me for not having
brought the army back with me! 'But,' observed I, 'have you not just
told me that you are absolutely overrun with troops; that all your
frontiers are secure, that immense levies are going on, and that you will
have 200,000 infantry?--If this be true, what do you want with a few
thousand men who may ensure the preservation of Egypt?' He could make no
answer to this. But he is quite elated by the honour of having been War
Minister, and he told me boldly that he looked upon the army of Egypt as
lost nay, more. He made insinuations. He spoke of enemies abroad and
enemies at home; and as he uttered these last words he looked
significantly at me. I too gave him a glance! But stay a little.
The pear will soon be ripe! You know Josephine's grace and address. She
was present. The scrutinising glance of Bernadotte did not escape her,
and she adroitly turned the conversation. Bernadotte saw from my
countenance that I had had enough of it, and he took his leave. But
don't let me interrupt you farther. I am going back to speak to
I must confess that this strange story made me very impatient to find
myself alone with Madame Bonaparte, for I wished to hear her account of
the scene. An opportunity occurred that very evening. I repeated to her
what I had heard from the General, and all that she told me tended to
confirm its accuracy. She added that Bernadotte seemed to take the
utmost pains to exhibit to the General a flattering picture of the
prosperity of France; and she reported to me, as follows, that part of
the conversation which was peculiarly calculated to irritate Bonaparte:--
"'I do not despair of the safety of the Republic, which I am certain can
restrain her enemies both abroad and at home.' As Bernadotte uttered
these last words,'" continued Josephine, "his glance made me shudder.
One word more and Bonaparte could have commanded himself no longer! It
is true," added she, "that it was in some degree his own fault, for it
was he who turned the conversation on politics; and Bernadotte, in
describing the flourishing condition of France, was only replying to the
General, who had drawn a very opposite picture of the state of things.
You know, my dear Bourrienne, that Bonaparte is not always very prudent.
I fear he has said too much to Bernadotte about the necessity of changes
in the Government." Josephine had not yet recovered from the agitation
into which this violent scene had thrown her. After I took leave of her;
I made notes of what she had told me.
A few days after, when Bonaparte, Josephine, Hortense, Eugene, and I were
together in the drawing-room, Bernadotte unexpectedly entered. His
appearance, after what had passed, was calculated to surprise us. He was
accompanied by a person whom he requested permission to introduce to
Bonaparte. I have forgotten his name, but he was, I think, secretary-
general while Bernadotte was in office. Bonaparte betrayed no appearance
of astonishment. He received Bernadotte with perfect ease, and they soon
entered into conversation. Bonaparte, who seemed to acquire confidence
from the presence of those who were about him, said a great deal about
the agitation which prevailed among the republicans, and expressed
himself in very decided terms against the Manege Club.'
--[The Manege Club, the last resort of the Jacobins, formed in 1799,
and closed seven or eight months afterwards. Joseph Bonaparte
(Erreurs, time i. p. 251) denies that he or Lucien--for whom the
allusion is meant--were members of this club, and he disputes this
conversation ever having taken place. Lucien (tome i. p. 219)
treats this club as opposed to his party.]--
I seconded him by observing that M. Moreau de Worms of my department, who
was a member of that club, had himself complained to me of the violence
that prevailed in it. "But, General," said Bernadotte, "your brothers
were its most active originators. Yet," added he in a tone of firmness,
"you accuse me of having favoured that club, and I repel the charge. It
cannot be otherwise than false. When I came into office I found
everything in the greatest disorder. I had no leisure to think about any
club to which my duties did not call me. You know well that your friend
Salicetti, and that your brother, who is in your confidence, are both
leading men in the Manege Club. To the instructions of I know not whom
is to be attributed the violence of which you complain." At these words,
and especially the tone in which Bernadotte uttered 'I know not whom,'
Bonaparte could no longer restrain himself. "Well, General," exclaimed
he furiously, "I tell you plainly, I would rather live wild in the woods
than in a state of society which affords no security." Bernadotte then
said, with great dignity of manner, "Good God! General, what security
would you have?" From the warmth evinced by Bonaparte I saw plainly that
the conversation would soon be converted into a dispute, and in a whisper
I requested Madame Bonaparte to change the conversation, which she
immediately did by addressing a question to some one present.
Bernadotte, observing Madame Bonaparte's design, checked his warmth. The
subject of conversation was changed, and it became general Bernadotte
soon took up his hat and departed.
One morning, when I entered Bonaparte's chamber--it was, I believe, three
or four days after the second visit of Bernadotte--he said:
"Well, Bourrienne, I wager you will not guess with whom I am going to
breakfast this morning?"--"Really, General, I ------"--"With Bernadotte;
and the best of the joke is, that I have invited myself. You would have
seen how it was all brought about if you had been with us at the Theatre
Francais, yesterday evening. You know we are going to visit Joseph today
at Mortfontaine. Well, as we were coming out of the theatre last night,
finding myself side by aide with Bernadotte and not knowing what to talk
about, I asked him whether he was to be of our party to-day? He replied
in the affirmative; and as we were passing his house in the Rue
--[Joseph Bonaparte lays great stress on the fact that Napoleon
world not have passed this house, which was far from the theatre
(Erreurs, tome i, p. 251).]--
"I told him, without any ceremony, that I should be happy to come and take
a cup of coffee with him in the morning. He seemed pleased. What do you
think of that, Bourrienne?"--"Why, General, I hope you may have reason on
your part to be pleased with him."--" Never fear, never fear. I know
what I am about. This will compromise him with Gohier. Remember, you
must always meet your enemies with a bold face, otherwise they think they
are feared, and that gives them confidence."
Bonaparte stepped into the carriage with Josephine, who was always ready
when she had to go out with him, for he did not like to wait. They
proceeded first to Bernadotte's to breakfast, and from thence to
Mortfontaine. On his return Bonaparte told me very little about what had
passed during the day, and I could see that he was not in the best of
humours. I afterwards learned that Bonaparte had conversed a good deal
with Bernadotte, and that he had made every effort to render himself
agreeable, which he very well knew how to do when he chose! but that, in
spite of all his conversational talent; and supported as he was by the
presence of his three brothers, and Regnault de St. Jean d'Angely, he
could not withstand the republican firmness of Bernadotte. However, the
number of his partisans daily augmented; for all had not the
uncompromising spirit of Bernadotte; and it will soon be seen that Moreau
himself undertook charge of the Directors who were made prisoners on the
Bernadotte's shrewd penetration made him one of the first to see clearly
into Bonaparte's designs. He was well convinced of his determination to
overthrow the constitution and possess himself of power. He saw the
Directory divided into two parties; the one duped by the promises and
assurances of Bonaparte, and the other conniving with him for the
accomplishment of his plans. In these circumstances Bernadotte offered
his services to all persons connected with the Government who, like
himself, were averse to the change which he saw good reason to apprehend.
But Bonaparte was not the man to be outdone in cunning or activity; and
every moment swelled the ranks of his adherents.
On the 16th Brumaire I dined in the Rue de la Victoire. Bernadotte was
present, and I believe General Jourdan also. While the grand conspiracy
was hastening to its accomplishment Madame Bonaparte and I had contrived
a little plot of a more innocent kind. We let no one into our secret,
and our 16th Brumaire was crowned with complete success. We had agreed
to be on the alert to prevent any fresh exchange of angry words. All
succeeded to the utmost of our wishes. The conversation languished
during dinner; but it was not dulness that we were afraid of. It turned
on the subject of war, and in that vast field Bonaparte's superiority
over his interlocutors was undeniable.
When we retired to the drawing-rooms a great number of evening visitors
poured in, and the conversation then became animated, and even gay.
Bonaparte was in high spirits. He said to some one, smiling, and
pointing to Bernadotte, "You are not aware that the General yonder is a
Chouan."--"A Chouan?" repeated Bernadotte, also in a tone of pleasantry.
"Ah! General you contradict yourself. Only the other day you taxed me
with favouring the violence of the friends of the Republic, and now you
accuse me of protecting the Chouans.
--[The "Chouans," so called from their use of the cry of the
screech-owl (chathouan) as a signal, were the revolted peasants of
Brittany and of Maine.]--
"You should at least be consistent." A few moments after, availing
himself of the confusion occasioned by the throng of visitors, Bernadotte
As a mark of respect to Bonaparte the Council of the Five Hundred
appointed Lucien its president. The event proved how important this
nomination was to Napoleon. Up to the 19th Brumaire, and especially on
that day, Lucien evinced a degree of activity, intelligence, courage, and
presence of mind which are rarely found united in one individual I have
no hesitation in stating that to Lucien's nomination and exertions must
be attributed the success of the 19th Brumaire.
The General had laid down a plan of conduct from which he never deviated
during the twenty-three days which intervened between his arrival in
Paris and the 18th Brumaire. He refused almost all private invitations,
in order to avoid indiscreet questions, unacceptable offers, and answers
which might compromise him.
It was not without some degree of hesitation that he yielded to a project
started by Lucien, who, by all sorts of manoeuvring, had succeeded in
prevailing on a great number of his colleagues to be present at a grand
subscription dinner to be given to Bonaparte by the Council of the
The disorder which unavoidably prevailed in a party amounting to upwards
of 250 persons, animated by a diversity of opinions and sentiments; the
anxiety and distrust arising in the minds of those who were not in the
grand plot, rendered this meeting one of the moat disagreeable I ever
witnessed. It was all restraint and dulness. Bonaparte's countenance
sufficiently betrayed his dissatisfaction; besides, the success of his
schemes demanded his presence elsewhere. Almost as soon as he had
finished his dinner he rose, saying to Berthier and me, "I am tired: let
us be, gone." He went round to the different tables, addressing to the
company compliments and trifling remarks, and departed, leaving at table
the persons by whom he had been invited.
This short political crisis was marked by nothing more grand, dignified,
or noble than the previous revolutionary commotions. All these plots
were so contemptible, and were accompanied by so much trickery,
falsehood, and treachery, that, for the honour of human nature, it is
desirable to cover them with a veil.
General Bonaparte's thoughts were first occupied with the idea he had
conceived even when in Italy, namely, to be chosen a Director. Nobody
dared yet to accuse him of being a deserter from the army of the East.
The only difficulty was to obtain a dispensation on the score of age.
And was this not to be obtained? No sooner was he installed in his
humble abode in the Rue de la Victoire than he was assured that, on the
retirement of Rewbell, the majority of suffrages would have devolved on
him had he been in France, and had not the fundamental law required the
age of forty; but that not even his warmest partisans were disposed to
violate the yet infant Constitution of the year III.
Bonaparte soon perceived that no efforts would succeed in overcoming this
difficulty, and he easily resolved to possess himself wholly of an office
of which he would nominally have had only a fifth part had he been a
member of the Directory.
As soon as his intentions became manifest he found himself surrounded by
all those who recognised in him the man they had long looked for. These
persons, who were able and influential in their own circles, endeavoured
to convert into friendship the animosity which existed between Sieyes and
Bonaparte. This angry feeling had been increased by a remark made by
Sieyes, and reported to Bonaparte. He had said, after the dinner at
which Bonaparte treated him so disrespectfully, "Do you see how that
little insolent fellow behaves to a member of a Government which would do
well to order him to be SHOT?"
But all was changed when able mediators pointed out to Bonaparte the
advantage of uniting with Sieye's for the purpose of overthrowing a
Constitution which he did not like. He was assured how vain it would be
to think of superseding him, and that it would be better to flatter him
with the hope of helping to subvert the constitution and raising up a new
one. One day some one said to Bonaparte in my hearing, "Seek for support
among the party who call the friends of the Republic Jacobins, and be
assured that Sieyes is at the head of that party."
On the 25th Vendemiaire (17th of October) the Directory summoned General
Bonaparte to a private sitting. "They offered me the choice of any army
I would command," said he to me the next morning. "I would not refuse,
but I asked to be allowed a little time for the recovery of my health;
and, to avoid any other embarrassing offers, I withdrew. I shall go to
no more of their sittings." (He attended only one after this.) "I am
determined to join Sieyes' party. It includes a greater diversity of
opinions than that of the profligate Barras. He proclaims everywhere
that he is the author of my fortune. He will never be content to play an
inferior part, and I will never bend to such a man. He cherishes the mad
ambition of being the support of the Republic. What would he. do with
me? Sieyes, on the contrary, has no political ambition."
No sooner did Sieyes begin to grow friendly with Bonaparte than the
latter learned from him that Barras had said, "The 'little corporal' has
made his fortune in Italy and does not want to go back again." Bonaparte
repaired to the Directory for the sole purpose of contradicting this
allegation. He complained to the Directors of its falsehood, boldly
affirmed that the fortune he was supposed to possess had no existence,
and that even if he had made his fortune it was not, at all events, at
the expense of the Republic "You know," said he to me, "that the mines of
Hydria have furnished the greater part of what I possess."--"Is it
possible," said I, "that Barras could have said so, when you know so well
of all the peculations of which he has been guilty since your return?"
Bonaparte had confided the secret of his plans to very few persons--to
those only whose assistance he wanted. The rest mechanically followed
their leaders and the impulse which was given to them; they passively
awaited the realisation of the promises they had received, and on the
faith of which they had pledged themselves.
Cambaceres and Lebrun--Gohier deceived--My nocturnal visit to Barras
--The command of the army given to Bonaparte--The morning of the
18th Brumaire--Meeting of the generals at Bonaparte's house--
Bernadotte's firmness--Josephine's interest, for Madame Gohier--
Disappointment of the Directors--Review in the gardens of the
Tuileries--Bonaparte's harangue--Proclamation of the Ancients--
Moreau, jailer of the Luxembourg--My conversation with La Pallette--
Bonaparte at St. Cloud.
The parts of the great drama which was shortly to be enacted were well
distributed. During the three days preceding the 18th Brumaire every one
was at his post. Lucien, with equal activity and intelligence, forwarded
the conspiracy in the two Councils; Sieyes had the management of the
--[Pierre Francois Real (1757-1834); public accuser before the
revolutionary criminal tribunal; became, under Napoleon, Conseiller
d'Etat and Comte, and was charged with the affairs of the "haute
under the instructions of Fouche,
--[Joseph Fouche (1754-1820); Conventionalist; member of extreme
Jacobin party; Minister of Police under the Directory, August 1799;
retained by Napoleon in that Ministry till 1802, and again from 1801
to 1810; became Duc d'Otrante in 1809; disgraced m 1810, and sent in
1813 as governor of the Illyrian Provinces; Minister of Police
during the 'Cent Jours'; President of the Provisional Government,
1815; and for a short time Minister of Police under second
negotiated with the departments, and dexterously managed, without
compromising Fouche, to ruin those from whom that Minister had received
his power. There was no time to lose; and Fouche said to me on the 14th
Brumaire, "Tell your General to be speedy; if he delays, he is lost."
On the 17th, Regnault de St. Jean d'Angely told Bonaparte that the
overtures made to Cambaceres and Lebrun had not been received in a very
decided way. "I will have no tergiversation," replied Bonaparte with
warmth. "Let them not flatter themselves that I stand in need of them.
They must decide to-day; to-morrow will be too late. I feel myself
strong enough now to stand alone."
--[Cambaceres (J. J. Regis de) (1763-1824) Conventionalist; Minister
of Justice under Directory, 1799; second Consul, 25th December 1799;
Arch-Chancellor of the Empire, 1804; Duc de Parma, 1806; Minister of
Justice during the 'Cent Jours': took great part in all the legal
and administrative projects of the Consulate and Empire.]--
--[Charles Francois Lebrun (1757-1824). Deputy to the National
Assembly, and member of the Council of the Five Hundred; Third
Consul, 25th December 1799; Arch-Treasurer of the Empire, 1804; Duc
de Plaisance, 1806; Governor-General of Holland, 1806; Lieutenant-
Governor of Holland, 1810 to 1813; chiefly engaged in financial
were, almost utter strangers to the intrigues which preceded the 18th
Brumaire. Bonaparte had cast his eyes on the Minister of Justice to be
one of his colleagues when he should be at liberty to name them, because
his previous conduct had pledged him as a partisan of the Revolution.
To him Bonaparte added Lebrun, to counterbalance the first choice.
Lebrun was distinguished for honourable conduct and moderate principles.
By selecting these two men Bonaparte hoped to please every one; besides,
neither of them were able to contend against his fixed determination and
What petty intrigues marked the 17th Brumaire! On that day I dined with
Bonaparte; and after dinner he said, "I have promised to dine to-morrow
with Gohier; but, as you may readily suppose, I do not intend going.
However, I am very sorry for his obstinacy. By way of restoring his
confidence Josephine is going to invite him to breakfast with us to-
morrow. It will be impossible for him to suspect anything. I saw Barras
this morning, and left him much disturbed. He asked me to return and
visit him to-night. I promised to do so, but I shall not go. To-morrow
all will be over. There is but little time; he expects me at eleven