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The Memoirs of General the Baron de Marbot

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Whatever his misgivings about the future, my father congratulated
himself on not having been in Paris on the 18th Brumaire, and I
believe that had he been there he might well have opposed the
actions of General Bonaparte, but in the army, at the head of a
division facing the enemy, he was content to adopt the passive
obedience of the soldier. He even rejected proposals, which were
made to him by a number of generals and colonels, to march on
Paris at the head of their troops. "Who," he said to them, "will
defend our frontiers if we abandon them? And what will become of
France if, to the war against foreigners, we add the calamity of
civil strife?" By these wise observations he calmed down the
hot-heads; but he was, nonetheless, very disturbed by the coup
which had just taken place: he adored his country and would have
greatly preferred that it could have been saved without being
submitted to the yoke of a dictator.

I have said that my father's principle reason for making me
enlist as a lowly Hussar had been to rid me of the simple notions
of a schoolboy, which had not been changed by my short
acquaintance with the world of Paris. The result exceeded his
expectations, for living amongst swaggering Hussars, and having
as a mentor a sort of brigand who laughed at my innocence, I
began to howl with the wolves, and for fear that I might be
mocked for my timidity, I became a real devil. This, however, was
not enough for me to be accepted into a sort of brotherhood,
which under the name of the clique, had members in all the
squadrons the 1st Hussars.

The clique was made up of all the biggest rogues, but, at the
same time, some of the bravest men in the regiment. The members
of the clique supported one another against all opposition,
particularly in the face of the enemy. They called themselves the
Jokers, and recognised one another by a notch cut into the metal
of the first button on the right hand row of the pelisse and
dolman. The officers were aware of the existence of the clique,
but as its worst crimes were limited to the adroit theft of
chickens or sheep, or some trick played on the local inhabitants,
and as the Jokers were always at the forefront in any action,
they turned a blind eye. I was young and feckless, and I longed
desperately to belong to this raffish society, which I thought
would raise my standing amongst my comrades; but it was in vain
that I frequented the salle-d'armes to practice swordsmanship and
the use of the pistol and carbine, and that I dug my elbows into
anyone who got in my way: allowed my sabre to trail on the ground
and tipped my shako over one ear, the members of the clique
regarded me as a child and refused to admit me to their society.
However, an unforeseen event led to my being accepted

The army of Italy was at this time in Liguria and spread out on a
front of more than sixty miles in length, the right of which was
in the Gulf of Spezzia, beyond Genoa, and the left at Nice and
Var, that is to say on the frontier of France. We had, therefore,
the sea at our backs, and we faced Piedmont, which was occupied
by the Austrian army, from which we were separated by that branch
of the Apennines which runs from Var to Gavi: a bad position, in
which the army ran the risk of being cut in two, which, in fact,
happened some months later.

My father, having been ordered to concentrate his division at
Savona, a small town, by the sea, ten leagues towards France from
Genoa, set up his headquarters in the bishop's palace. The
infantry was spread out among the market towns and villages of
the neighbourhood to keep watch on the valleys from which emerged
the roads which led to Piedmont. The 1st Hussars, who had come
from Nice to Savona, were encamped on a plain known as the
Madona. The outposts of the enemy were at Dego, four or five
leagues from us, on the forward slopes of the Apennines, whose
summits were covered in snow, whereas Savona and its surroundings
enjoyed the mildest of climates.

Our encampment would have been delightful if the rations had been
more plentiful; but there was at that time no main road from Nice
to Genoa; the sea was covered by English warships, so the army
had to live on what could be brought by detachments of mules
along the Corniche, or by small boat-loads, which could slip
unnoticed along the coast. These precarious supplies were
scarcely enough to provide, from day to day, sufficient food to
support the troops; but, happily, the country produced plenty of
wine, which enabled them to bear their privations with more

One fine day I was walking along the beach with my mentor when we
came on a "taverna," where there was a charming garden planted
with orange and lemon trees, under which were tables at which sat
soldiers of all kinds. He suggested that we went there, and
although I had never overcome my distaste for wine, I agreed,
simply to please him.

In those days the cavalryman's belt did not have a hook, so that
when we went on foot, it was necessary to hold up the scabbard of
the sabre with one's left hand, and one could allow the end to
trail on the ground. This made a noise on the pavement, and
looked rather dashing, so of course I had to adopt this way of
doing things. Thus it happened that as we went into this garden,
the end of my scabbard came in contact with the foot of an
enormous horse-gunner, who was sprawled on his chair with his
legs sticking out. The horse artillery had been formed at the
beginning of the revolutionary wars from men taken from the
companies of Grenadiers, who took advantage of the occasion to
get rid of their most troublesome characters. The men of the
flying artillery, as it was then called, were known for their
dash, but also for their love of quarreling.

The one whose foot the end of my scabbard had touched, shouted to
me in a very rude tone of voice, "Hussar, your sabre drags too
much!" I was going to walk on without saying any thing, when
master Pertelay, nudging me with his elbow, whispered, "Tell him
to come and lift it up." So I said to the gunner "Come and lift
it up then!" "That will be easy!" he replied. Then, at another
whisper from Pertelay, "I'd like to see you do it!" I said. On
these words, the gunner, or this Goliath, for he was at least six
feet tall, sat up straight with a threatening air... But my
mentor pushed himself between him and me. All the gunners who
were in the garden came to support their comrade, but a crowd of
Hussars gathered beside Pertelay and me. There was a lot of angry
shouting with everyone talking at once; I thought there was going
to be a general melee. However as the Hussars were in a majority
of at least two to one, they took the matter the more calmly,
while the gunners realised that if they started something they
would get the worst of it, so in the end the giant was made to
understand that in brushing his foot with my scabbard, I had in
no way insulted him, and that should be the end of the matter.

During the tumult, however, a trumpeter from the artillery, of
about twenty years of age, had offered me some insults, and in my
indignation I had pushed him so roughly that he had fallen into a
muddy ditch. It was agreed that this lad and I should fight a
duel with our sabres.

We left the garden, followed by all the assistants, and found
ourselves by the edge of the sea, on fine solid sand, ready for
battle. Pertelay knew that I was quite a good swordsman; however
he gave me some words of advice on how I should attack my
adversary, and fastened the hilt of my sabre to my hand with a
large handkerchief, which he rolled round my arm.

My father hated duelling. Not only because of his own conclusions
about this barbarous custom, but also, I believe, because in his
youth, when he was a member of the bodyguard, he had acted as
second for a comrade of whom he was very fond, and who was killed
in a duel over the most trivial matter. However that may be, when
my father took command, he ordered the police to arrest anyone
caught engaging in swordplay and bring them before him.

Although the trumpeter and I both knew of this order, we had,
nevertheless, taken off our dolmans and taken up our sabres. I
had my back to the town of Savona, my adversary was facing it,
and we were about to begin our combat when I saw the trumpeter
duck to one side, pick up his dolman and make off at top speed.

"Coward!....Runaway!" I shouted, and was about to, pursue him
when two iron hands grasped me by the collar. I turned my head
and found myself facing some eight to ten police! I understood
then why my antagonist had cleared off, followed by all the
assistants, including master Pertelay, whom I saw disappearing
into the distance, as fast as their legs could carry them, for
fear of being arrested and brought before the General.

There I was! Disarmed and a prisoner! I picked up my dolman, and
looking very sheepish, followed my captors, to whom I had not
given my name, as they led me to the Bishop's palace where my
father was installed. He was at that moment with General Suchet,
who had come to Savona to confer with him on service matters.
They were walking in a gallery which overlooked the courtyard.
The police put me up before General Marbot, without any idea that
I was his son. The sergeant explained why I had been arrested.
Then my father, looking very severe, gave me a lively dressing
down, after which admonition, he said to the sergeant, "Take this
Hussar to the citadel." I left without saying a word, and without
General Suchet, who did not know me, suspecting that the scene he
had just witnessed had taken place between a father and his son.
It was not until the next day that he learned the truth, and he
has often spoken to me since, with laughter, about the episode.

On my arrival at the citadel, an ancient Genoese building
situated near the harbour, I was locked into a big room lit by a
high window, which faced toward the sea. I recovered slowly from
my fright. The reprimand which I had received seemed to me to be
deserved; however I was less concerned at having disobeyed the
General than I was at having upset my father. I passed the rest
of the day sadly enough.

In the evening, an old ex-soldier of the Genoan force brought me
a jug of water, a piece of ration bread, and a bale of straw, on
which I lay down, without being able to eat. I could not go to
sleep; at first because I was too upset, and later because of the
arrival of some large rats, which ran about me and soon made off
with my piece of bread. I was lying in the dark, a prey to my sad
reflections, when, at about ten o'clock, I heard the bolts of my
prison being drawn and I saw Spire, my father's old and faithful
servant. He told me that after my despatch to the citadel, Capt.
Gault, Col. Menard, and all my father's officers had asked him to
pardon me. The General had agreed, and had sent him, Spire, to
find me and take the order for my release to the governor of the
fort. I was taken before the governor, General Buget, an
excellent man, who had lost an arm in battle. He knew me and was
very fond of my father. He felt it his duty, after giving me back
my sabre, to give me a long lecture, to which I listened
patiently, but which made me reflect that I would get a much
worse telling-off from my father. I did not have the courage to
face this and decided to evade it, if that were possible. At
last we were let out of the gates of the citadel. The night was
dark, and Spire went in front with a lantern. As we walked
through the narrow twisting streets, the good fellow, delighted
to be bringing me back, recounted all the comforts which would
await me at headquarters. "But," he said, "you must expect a
severe ticking-off from your father." This last remark put an end
to my doubts, and in order to let my father's anger cool off, I
decided it would be better not to appear before him for a few
days and that I would return to my bivouac at Madona. I could
easily have slipped away without playing any trick on poor Spire;
but fearing that he might be able to pursue me by the light of
his lantern, I gave it a kick which sent it flying ten paces from
him, and ran off while the good man, groping for his lantern,
shouted, "Ah...! You little blighter! I shall tell your father!"

After wandering for some time in the deserted streets, I found at
last the road to Madona, and made my way to the regimental camp.
All the Hussars thought I was in prison. As soon as one of them
recognised me by the light of the fires, I was surrounded and
questioned. There was much laughter when I described how I had
got away from Spire. The members of the clique were so satisfied
with my behaviour that they decided unanimously to admit me into
their society, which was preparing an expedition to go, that very
night, to the gates of Dego and steal a herd of cattle which
belonged to the Austrian army. The French Generals and even the
corps commanders were obliged to ignore these raids, which, in
the absence of regular rations, the soldiers carried out beyond
the advance posts in order to obtain food. In each regiment the
boldest soldiers had formed marauding bands who were marvellously
skilled at finding out where supplies were being assembled for
the enemy, and using ruse and audacity to lay hands on them.

A rascally horse-dealer had told the clique that a herd of cattle
which he had sold to the Austrians was in a meadow a quarter of a
league from Dego, and now sixty Hussars, armed only with their
carbines, were on their way to capture it. Avoiding the main
road, we went several leagues into the mountain by winding and
atrociously rough tracks. We surprised five Croats, who had been
left to guard the herd, asleep in a shed. To prevent them from
going to waken the garrison at Dego, we tied them up and left
them there. We drove away the herd without a shot being fired and
returned to the camp, tired out, but delighted to have played
such a successful trick on the enemy, and at the same time
acquired some food.

This event illustrates the already wretched condition of the army
of Italy, and demonstrates to what a state of disorganisation
such neglect will bring troops; whose officers are obliged not
only to tolerate these sort of expeditions, but to take advantage
of the supplies they procure without seeming to know whence they

Chap. 9.

Happy in my military career, I had not even reached the rank of
corporal when I was raised immediately to that of sergeant. This
is how it came about.

On the left of my father's division was that commanded by General
Seras, whose headquarters were at Finale. This division, which
occupied the part of Liguria where the mountains are steepest,
was composed solely of infantry, the cavalry being unable to
operate, except in small detachments, on the few open spaces
which at this point separate the shore of the Mediterranean from
the mountains of Piedmont. General Seras, having been ordered to
push forward with the greater part of his division to reconnoitre
the area of Mount Santa-Giacomo, beyond which there were several
valleys, wrote to my father requesting the loan of a detachment
of fifty Hussars for this expedition; a request which could not
be turned down. So my father agreed and named Lt.
Leisteinschneider as commander of this detachment, of which my
platoon was a part.

We left Madona to make our way to Finale. There was, at that
time, only a very bad road along the sea coast, known as the
Corniche. The lieutenant badly injured his foot as a result of a
fall from his horse, and so the command passed to the next in
seniority who was a sergeant named Canon, a handsome young man,
capable and well-trained, and full of self-assurance.

General Seras, at the head of his division, advanced next day
onto the snow-clad slopes of Mount Santa-Giacomo, where we
encamped. He had intended to go forward the next day, with he
almost certain expectation of making contact with the enemy; but
in how great a number? On this subject the General had absolutely
no information, and as his orders from the commander-in-chief
were to reconnoitre the Austrian positions at this point of the
line, but not to engage in combat if he found the enemy in
strength, General Seras reflected that if he advanced his
infantry division into the middle of the mountains, where often
one could not see enemy troops until one found oneself face to
face with them at a bend in a gorge, he might be led, in spite of
his wishes, into a major battle against superior forces, and
obliged to carry out a dangerous retreat.

He decided therefore to proceed with caution, and to push out,
three or four leagues in front of him, an advance party which
could probe the country and, most importantly, take some
prisoners, from whom he hoped to get some information; for the
peasantry either knew nothing or would not talk. As a small body
of infantry would be endangered if he advanced them too far, and
as, also, men on foot would take too long to return with the
information which he so urgently needed, it was to the fifty
Hussars that he gave the task of going ahead and exploring the
terrain. Then, as the country was very broken, he gave a map to
our sergeant, briefed him, in front of the detachment and sent us
off, two hours before daylight, repeating that it was essential
that we went ahead until we made contact with the enemy outposts,
from which he would very much like us to capture a few prisoners.

Sergeant Canon managed his detachment according to the book. He
sent out a small advance-guard, put scouts on the flanks and took
all the precautions usual in partisan warfare. When we had gone
some two leagues from the camp, we came on a large inn. Our
sergeant questioned the inn-keeper and was told that, a good
hour's march away, was a body of Austrian troops, the size of
which he did not know, though he knew that the leading regiment
contained some very unpleasant Hussars, who had maltreated a
number of the local inhabitants.

Having gathered this information, we set off once more, but
hardly had we gone a hundred paces, when Sergeant Canon, writhing
on his horse, declared that he had the most dreadful pain and
could not go any further. He handed the command to Sergeant
Pertelay, who was next in seniority. Pertelay, however pointed
out that he was an Alsatian and was unable to read French, and
could not, in consequence, understand the map or the written
instructions given by the general. He did not wish to accept the
command. All the other sergeants, old Bercheny Hussars, refused
for the same reason, as did the corporals. In vain, as a matter
of duty, I offered to read the general's instructions and explain
our route on the map for any of the sergeants who would take
over; they all refused anew; then, to my great surprise, these
old sweats turned to me and said "Take command yourself. We'll
follow you and obey all your orders."

The rest of the party expressed the same wish, and it was clear
that if I refused, we would go no further and the honour of the
regiment would be blemished; for it was essential that the
general's orders were carried out, above all when it was perhaps
a matter of avoiding a disaster for his division. So I accepted
the command, but not without asking Sergeant Canon if he felt
able to continue. At which point he began to complain once more,
left us and returned to the inn. I promise you I thought he was
really ill, but the men of the detachment, who knew him better,
made some very disparaging remarks about him.

I think I can say, without boasting, that nature has endowed me
with a good stock of courage. I might even add that there was a
time when I enjoyed facing danger. My military record and the
thirteen wounds I have received in the wars are, I believe,
sufficient proof. So, on taking command of fifty men, placed
under my orders in such extraordinary circumstances,--me, a
simple Hussar, seventeen years of age--I resolved to prove to my
comrades that if I had neither experience nor military talent, I
was at least brave; and placing myself resolutely at their head I
set off in the direction where I knew we would encounter the

We had been marching for a long time when our scouts spotted a
peasant who was trying to hide. They hastened to capture him and
bring him back. I questioned him. He came, it seemed, from four
or five leagues away, and claimed that he had not seen any
Austrian troops. I was sure he was lying, either from fear or
from cunning, because we were very close to the enemy
cantonments. I remembered then that I had read in a book about
partisan warfare, which my father had given me to study, that to
persuade the inhabitants of a country in which one is fighting to
talk, it is sometimes necessary to frighten them. So I roughened
my voice, and, trying to give my boyish face a ferocious look, I
shouted, "What! You rascal! You have been wandering about in a
country occupied by a great body of Austrian troops, and you
claim you have seen nothing? You are a spy! Come on lads, let's
shoot him right away."

I ordered four Hussars to dismount, indicating to them not to
harm the fellow, who, finding himself held by the troopers whose
carbines had just been loaded in front of him, was overcome by
such terror that he swore that he would tell me all he knew. He
was a servant in a monastery, who had been given a letter to take
to relatives of the Prior, and he had been told that if he ran
into the French, he was not to tell them where the Austrians
were; but now that he was forced to speak, he told us that a
league from us there were several regiments of the enemy billeted
in the villages, and that about a hundred of Barco's Hussars were
in a hamlet which was only a short distance away. Questioned
about the defensive precautions taken by these Hussars, he said
that before one reached the houses, they had posted a
picket-guard which was in a garden surrounded by hedges, and that
when he went through the hamlet, the remainder were preparing to
water their horses at a little pond on the far side of the

Having received this information, I had now to make a plan of
action. I wished to avoid passing the picket-guard who, being
entrenched behind hedges, could not be attacked by cavalry, while
the fire from their carbines would perhaps kill several of my men
and give warning of our approach. To do this required that we go
round the hamlet, so as to reach the pond, and fall,
unexpectedly, on our enemies. But how were we to pass without
being seen? I then ordered the peasant to lead us on a detour,
and promised to set him free as soon as we reached the other side
of the hamlet, which we could see: when he refused to do so, I
had him taken by the scruff of the neck by one Hussar while
another held a pistol to his ear, which made him change his mind.
He guided us very well; some large hedges hid our movements, and
we got completely round the village to see, at the edge of a
small pond, the Austrian squadron peacefully watering their
horses. All the riders were carrying their arms, which is the
usual practice for outposts, but those in command had neglected a
precaution which is essential in war, that is, to allow only one
troop at a time to unbridle their horses and enter the water,
while the remainder stay on the bank ready to repel any attack.
Confident that there were no French about and relying on the
watchfulness of the guard posted at the entry to the village, the
enemy commander had thought this precaution unnecessary. This was
to be his downfall.

When I was some five hundred paces from the pond, I ordered the
peasant to be released, who ran off as fast as his legs could
carry him; then, sabre in hand, and having forbidden my comrades
to utter any war-cry, I advanced at full gallop on the enemy
Hussars, who did not see us until a moment before we arrived at
the pond. The pond's banks were too high for the horses to climb
out, and there was only one practicable way in, which was the one
that served as the village drinking place. It is true that this
was a wide area, but there were more than a hundred horsemen
crowded together there, all with their bridles in their hands and
their carbines slung, so unconcerned that some of them were
singing. You may imagine their surprise!

I attacked them immediately with carbine fire, which killed
several, wounded many and knocked out a lot of their horses. The
confusion was total! Nevertheless, their captain, rallying some
men who were nearest to the outlet, tried to force a passage to
get out of the water, and opened fire on us, which although not
sustained, wounded two of my men; they then engaged us, but
Pertelay having killed the captain with a blow from his sabre,
the rest crowded back into the pond. To escape from the carbine
fire, many tried to reach the other bank; several lost their
footing and a good number of men and horses were floundering in
the water. Those who reached the other side found that their
horses could not clamber up the steep edge and so they abandoned
them, and pulling themselves up by the aid of trees growing along
the bank, they fled in disorder into the countryside.

The twelve men of the picket-guard came running at the sound of
firing. We attacked them with the sabre and they also took to
flight. However there remained about thirty men still in the
pond, afraid to try to escape because we occupied the only way
out. They shouted to us that they were surrendering; I accepted
this and as they came to the bank, made them throw down their
arms. Most of these men and horses were wounded, but as I wished
to have some trophy from our victory, I chose seventeen horses
and riders who were fit, and placing them in the middle of the
detachment,I abandoned the rest and went off at the gallop, going
round the village, as before.

It was just as well that I made a rapid retreat, for as I had
foreseen, the fugitives had run to warn the nearby troops who had
already been alerted by the sound of gunfire, and within half an
hour there were five hundred horsemen on the banks of the little
pond and some thousands of infantrymen close behind them. We,
however, were two leagues away, our wounded having been able to
sustain a full gallop. We stopped for a short time on top of a
hill to bandage their wounds, and we laughed to see in the
distance several enemy columns following our trail, since we knew
that they had no hope of catching us, because in their fear of
falling into an ambush they were feeling their way forward very
slowly. Being now out of danger, I gave Pertelay two of the
best-mounted troopers and sent him off post-haste to inform
general Seras of the success of our mission; then marshalling the
detachment into good order, with our prisoners in the centre and
well guarded, I set off at a slow trot down the road to the inn.

It would be impossible for me to describe the joy of my
companions and the praises which they heaped on me during this
journey. It could be summed up in these words, which in their
minds was the highest commendation, "You are truly worthy to
serve in Bercheny's Hussars, the finest regiment in the world."

Meanwhile, what had been happening at Santo-Giacomo during my
absence? After several hours of waiting, General Seras, impatient
for news, saw some smoke on the horizon; his aide-de-camp put his
ear to a drum placed on the ground, a common expedient in
wartime, and heard the distant sound of gunfire. General Seras
was uneasy, and having no doubt that the cavalry detachment was
at grips with the enemy, he took a regiment of infantry with him
as far as the inn. When he arrived there, he saw, under the
cart-shelter, a Hussar's horse tied up to the rail; it was
Sergeant Canon's. The inn-keeper appeared and was questioned. He
replied that the sergeant of Hussars had gone no further than the
inn, and had been, for several hours, in the dining room. The
General went in, and what did he find but Sergeant Canon asleep
by the fireside with, in front of him, an enormous ham, two empty
bottles and a coffee cup! The wretched sergeant was woken up; he
attempted once more to make the excuse of a sudden indisposition,
but the accusing remains of the formidable meal which he had just
eaten, gave the lie to his claims of illness, so General Seras
was very short with him. The General's anger was increasing at
the thought that a detachment of fifty cavalrymen handed over to
the command of a young soldier had probably been wiped out by the
enemy, when Pertelay and the two troopers who were with him
arrived at the gallop to announce our victory and the approaching
arrival of seventeen prisoners. As General Seras, in spite of
this happy outcome, continued to berate Sergeant Canon, Pertelay
said to him, in his bluff outspoken way, "Don't scold him, mon
General, he's such a coward that if he'd been in charge we
wouldn't have succeeded!" A remark which did nothing to improve
the awkward position of Sgt. Canon, who was now placed under

I arrived in the midst of these goings-on. General Seras broke
poor Sgt. Canon, and made him take off his chevrons in front of a
regiment of infantry and fifty Hussars. Then, coming to me, whose
name he did not know, he said, "You have carried out successfully
a mission which would normally be given only to an officer. I am
sorry that the powers of a divisional commander do not allow me
to promote you to sous-lieutenant, only the commander-in-chief
can do that, and I shall ask him to, do so, but in the meantime I
promote you to sergeant." He thereupon ordered his aide-de-camp
to announce this in front of the detachment. In order to carry
out this formality, the aide-de-camp had to ask my name, and it
was only then that General Seras learned that I was the son of
his comrade, General Marbot. I was very pleased about this,
because it demonstrated to my father that favouritism had nothing
to do with my promotion.

Chap. 10.

The information which General Seras obtained from the prisoners
having decided him to push forward, he ordered his division to
come down from the heights of Mont Santa-Giacomo, and to encamp
that evening near to the inn. The prisoners were sent to Finale,
and as for the horses they belonged by rights to the Hussars.
They were all of good quality, but, according to the custom of
the time, which was aimed at favouring poorly mounted officers,
captured horses were always sold for five louis. This was a fixed
price and was paid in cash. As soon as the camp was established
the sale began. General Seras, the officers of his staff, the
colonels and battalion commanders of the regiments in his
division soon took up our seventeen horses, which produced the
sum of 85 louis. This was handed over to my detachment, who, not
having had any pay for six months, were delighted with this
windfall, for which they gave me the credit.

I had some money, so I did not pocket my share from the sale of
the horses, but to celebrate my promotion, I bought from the
inn-keeper two sheep, an enormous cheese and a load of wine, with
which my detachment had a feast. This was one of the happiest
days of my life.

General Seras, in his report to General Championet included a
most flattering reference to my conduct, and said the same sort
of thing to my father; so when, several days later, I brought the
detachment back to Savona, my father welcomed me with the
greatest show of affection. I was highly delighted; I rejoined
the camp where all the regiment was united; my detachment had
arrived there before me and had told of what we had done, giving
me always the leading part in our success, so I was heartily
welcomed by the officers and soldiers and also by my new
comrades, the non-commissioned officers, who handed me my
sergeant's stripes.

It was on this day that I met the younger Pertelay for the first
time, he had come back from Genoa, where he had been stationed
for some months. I became friendly with this excellent man, and
regretted not having had him as my mentor at the beginning of my
career, for he gave me much good advice, which steadied me up and
made me break away from the wild men of the clique.

The commander-in-chief, Championet, intended to carry out some
operations in the interior of Piedmont, but having very little in
the way of cavalry, he ordered my father to send him the 1st
Hussars, who could no longer stay at Madon, in any case, because
of the shortage of fodder. I parted from my father with much
regret and left with the regiment.

We went along the Corniche as far as Albenga. We crossed the
Apennines, in spite of the snow, and entered the fertile plains
of Piedmont. The commander-in-chief fought a number of actions in
the area round Fossano, Novi and Mondovi, some of which were
successful and others not.

In one of these actions I had the opportunity of seeing
Brigadier-general Macard, a soldier of fortune whom the
revolutionary upheavals had carried almost straight from the rank
of trumpet-major to that of general! He was a good example of a
type of officer created by luck and their personal courage who,
although displaying much bravery before the enemy, were
nevertheless incapable of occupying effectively a senior position
because of their lack of education.

This extraordinary character, a veritable colossus, was well
known for one peculiarity. When about to lead his troops in a
charge against the enemy, it was his custom to shout "Let's go!
I'll put on my animal dress." Then he took off his uniform, his
jacket and shirt and retained only his plumed hat, his leather
breeches and his big boots! Thus, naked to the waist, he
displayed a torso almost as hairy as that of a bear, which gave
him a very strange appearance indeed. Once in his animal dress,
as he called it, General Macard, sabre in hand, hurled himself at
the enemy horsemen, swearing like a pagan; but it so happened
that he rarely reached any of them, for at the unexpected and
terrible sight of this kind of giant, half naked and covered in
hair rushing toward them uttering the most fearsome yells the
enemy often fled in all directions, not knowing if they had to
deal with a man or some extraordinary wild beast.

General Macord was entirely ignorant, which sometimes amused the
more educated officers under his command. One day one of them
came to ask permission to go into a neighbouring town to order a
pair of boots. "Parbleu!" said the general, "This has come at
just the right time; since you are going to the bootmaker, sit
down and take the measurements of my boots and order a new pair
for me." The officer, much surprised, said that he could not take
the measurements as he had no idea how to do this, having never
been a boot-maker. "What!" exclaimed the general loudly, "I see
you sometimes spend whole days sketching and drawing lines
opposite the mountains and when I ask what you are doing, you say
you are measuring the mountains. How is it that you can measure
objects which are more than a league away, and yet you cannot
measure a pair of boots which are under your nose? Come on, take
the measurements quickly and no more nonsense." The officer
assured him that this was impossible. The general insisted;
swore; got angry; and it was only with great difficulty that
other officers, attracted by the noise, were able to put an end
to this ridiculous scene. The general could never understand how
a man who could measure mountains could not measure a pair of
men's boots.

You should not think, as a result of this anecdote, that all the
general officers in the army of Italy were like the good general
Macord. Far from that, they contained in their number many men
distinguished by their education and manners; but at this time
there were still some senior officers who were completely out of
place in the higher ranks of the army. They were being weeded out
little by little.

The 1st Hussars took part in all the battles fought at this time
in Piedmont, and suffered many losses in encounters with the
Austrian heavy cavalry. After some marching and countermarching,
and a series of almost daily minor engagements, General
Championet, having concentrated the centre and left of his army
between Coni and Mondovi, attacked, at the end of December,
several divisions of the enemy army.

The encounter took place on a plain dotted with small hills and
clumps of trees. The 1st Hussars, attached to General Beaumont's
brigade, were positioned on the extreme right of the French army.
As the number of officers and men who make up a squadron is laid
down in the regulations, our regiment, having suffered casualties
in the previous affairs, instead of putting four squadrons into
the line could put only three; but having done this, there were
some thirty men left over, of which five were sergeants. I was
one of this number, as were both the Pertelays. We were formed
into two sections and Pertelay the younger was put in command.
General Beaumont merely instructed him to scout on the right
flank of the army, and act as the situation seemed to require. We
then left the regiment and went to explore the countryside.

In the meanwhile, a fierce battle commenced between the two
armies, and an hour later, when we were returning to our own
lines without having spotted anything on the flank, young
Pertelay saw, opposite us, and consequently on the extreme left
of the enemy line, a battery of eight guns whose fire was raking
the French ranks. Very unwisely, this Austrian battery, in order
to have a better field of fire, had advanced onto a small hillock
some seven or eight hundred paces in front of the infantry
division to which it belonged. The commander of this artillery
believed that he was quite safe because the position he occupied
dominated the whole French line, and he thought that if any
troops set out to attack him, he would see them and would have
time to regain the safety of the Austrian lines. He had not
considered that a little clump of trees, close to where he was,
could conceal a party of French troops, and had thought no more
about it. But young Pertelay resolved to lead his men there, and
from there to fall upon the Austrian battery.

Pertelay, knowing that on the battlefield no one takes much
notice of a single horseman, explained his plan to us, which was
for us to go individually, making a detour by a sunken road, to
arrive one by one behind the wood on the left of the enemy
battery, and from there to make a sudden assault on it, without
the fear of cannon-balls, because we would be approaching from
the side. We would capture the guns and take them to the French
lines. The first part of this plan was executed without the
Austrian gunners noticing; we reached the back of the little
wood, where we re-formed the sections. Pertelay put himself at
our head. We went through the wood, and sabre in hand, threw
ourselves on the enemy battery at the moment when it was
directing a murderous fire on our troops. We sabred some of the
gunners, but the rest hid under their ammunition wagons, where
our sabres could not reach them. As instructed by Pertelay, we
did not kill or wound the men on the limbers, but forced them at
sword point to make their horses pull the guns toward the French
lines. This order was obeyed in respect of six guns whose riders
had remained on horseback, but the riders for the two other guns
had dismounted, and although some of the Hussars took the horses
by the bridle, they refused to move.

The enemy infantry were running to the aid of their battery;
minutes seemed like hours to us; so young Pertelay, satisfied to
have captured six guns, ordered us to leave the others and to
head, with our booty, at the gallop, for the French lines.

This was a prudent measure, but it proved fatal to our leader,
for hardly had we begun our retreat, when the gunners and their
officers emerged from their hiding places under the wagons,
loaded the two guns which we had not taken with grape-shot and
discharged a hail of bullets into our backs.

You can well imagine that thirty horsemen and six artillery
pieces, each drawn by six horses and ridden by three transport
riders, all proceeding in a state of disorder, presented a target
which the grape-shot could hardly miss. We had two sergeants and
several Hussars killed or wounded, as well as two of the
transport riders. Some of the horses were also put out of action,
so that most of the teams were so disorganised that they could
not move. Pertelay, keeping perfectly cool, ordered the traces
of the dead or injured horses to be cut and Hussars to take the
place of the dead transport riders, and we continued quickly on
our way. However, the commander of the Austrian battery made use
of the few minutes we had taken to do this to direct a second
volley of grape-shot at us, which caused further casualties, but
we were so resolved not to abandon the six guns which we had
captured that we repaired the damage as well as we could, and
kept on the move. We were already in touch with the French lines
and out of the range of grape-shot, when the enemy artillery
officer changed projectiles and fired two cannon-balls at us, one
of which shattered the back of poor young Pertelay.

However, our attack on the Austrian battery and its outcome had
been seen by the French generals who moved the line forward. The
enemy drew back, which allowed the remnants of the 1st Hussars to
revisit the area where our unfortunate comrades had fallen.
Almost a third of the detachment were killed or wounded. There
were five sergeants at the beginning of the action; three had
perished; there remained only Pertelay the elder and myself. The
poor fellow was wounded but suffered almost more mentally, for he
adored his brother, whom we all bitterly regretted. While we were
paying him our last respects and picking up the wounded, General
Championet arrived with General Suchet, his chief-of-staff. The
commander-in-chief had witnessed the actions of the platoon. He
gathered us round the six guns which we had just captured, and
after praising the courage with which we had rid the French army
of a battery which was causing them the most grievous losses, he
added that to reward us for having saved the lives of so many of
our comrades, and contributed to the day's success, he intended
to use the power which a recent decree of the First Consul had
given him to award "Armes d'honneur" and that he would award
three sabres of honour and one promotion to sous-lieutenant to
the detachment, who should decide amongst themselves who the
recipients should be. We then regretted even more keenly the loss
of young Pertelay, who would have made such a fine officer.

The elder Pertelay, a corporal and a Hussar were awarded the
sabres of honour, which, three years later gave the right to the
Cross of the Legion of Honour. It remained to be decided which of
us would be sous-lieutenant. All my comrades put my name forward,
and the commander-in-chief, recalling that General Seras had
written to him about my conduct at Santa-Giacomo, designated me
sous-lieutenant...! I had been a sergeant for only a month! I
have to admit, however, that during the capture of the guns, I
had done no more than the rest of my companions; but as I have
already said, these good Alsatians did not feel that they had the
qualities to take command and become officers. They were
unanimous in choosing me, and General Championet, as well as
noting the favourable comments of General Seras, was perhaps also
glad to be able to please my father.

My father, however, was less than pleased with what he considered
to be my over-rapid promotion, and he wrote to me instructing me
to refuse it. I would have obeyed; but my father had written in
the same strain to General Suchet, the chief-of-staff, and this
latter had replied that the commander-in-chief would be very put
out to find that one of his divisional generals had taken it upon
himself to disapprove of a promotion which he had made. My father
then authorised me to accept, and I was gazetted sous-Lieutenant
in December 1799.

I was one of the last officers promoted by General Championet,
who, not being able to remain in Piedmont in the face of superior
forces, was compelled to re-cross the Apennines and lead his army
back to Liguria. He was greatly distressed to see his force
breaking down, because he was not given enough supplies to
support it, and he died two weeks after he had made me an
officer. My father, who was now the most senior divisional
general, was made provisional commander-in-chief of the army of
Italy, whose headquarters were at Nice. He therefore went there
and immediately sent back to Provence the few remaining cavalry,
as there was no longer any fodder in Liguria. So the 1st Hussars
went back to France, but my father kept me behind to become his

While we were at Nice, my father received an order from the war
ministry to go and take command of the advance guard of the army
of the Rhine, where his chief-of-staff Col. Menard would join
him. We were very pleased at this, since want of supplies had
reduced the army of Italy to such a state of disorder that it
seemed impossible that it could be kept in Liguria. My father was
not sorry to be leaving an army which was disintegrating, and was
likely to be pushed back across the Var and into France. He
prepared to move as soon as General Massena, who had been
nominated to replace him, had arrived. He sent M. Gault, his
aide-de-camp, to Paris to buy maps and make various preparations
for our operations on the Rhine. But fate had decreed otherwise,
and my unfortunate father's grave was destined to be in Italy.

When Massena arrived he found no more than the shadow of an army:
the soldiers, without pay and almost without clothing and
footwear, existing on a quarter of the normal ration, were dying
of malnutrition as well as an epidemic of disease, the result of
the intolerable privations which they were suffering. The
hospitals were full but had no medicines. Some groups of
soldiers, and even whole regiments, were daily abandoning their
posts and heading for the bridge across the Var, where they
forced a passage to get into France and spread themselves over
Provence, although saying that they were willing to return if
they were given food! The generals were unable to remedy this
appalling state of affairs. They became, daily more discouraged,
and all were requesting leave or retiring on the grounds of
ill-health. Massena had expected that he would be joined in Italy
by several of the generals who had helped him to defeat the
Russians in Switzerland, among them, Soult, Oudinot and Gazan,
but none of them had yet arrived, and it was essential to do
something about the serious situation.

Massena, who was born in La Turbie, a village in the little
principality of Monaco, was one of the most crafty Italians that
ever existed. He did not know my father, but he decided on their
first meeting that he was a big-hearted man who loved his
country, and, to persuade him to stay, he played on these
sensitive areas, his generosity and his patriotism, suggesting to
him how much nobler it would be for him to continue to serve in
the unhappy army of Italy rather than go to the Rhine. He said
that he would take the responsibility for the failure to carry
out the orders given to my father by the government if he would
agree to stay. My father, beguiled by these speeches and not
wishing to leave the new commander in a mess, consented to remain
with him. He did not doubt that his chief-of-staff, Col. Menard,
his friend, would also give up the idea of going to the Rhine;
but this was not to be. Menard stuck to the order he had been
given, although he was assured that it would be cancelled if he
wished. My father felt very badly about this desertion. Menard
hurried off to Paris, where he took the job of chief-of-staff to
general Lefebvre.

My father went to Genoa, where he took command of the three
divisions which composed the right wing of the army. Despite all
the shortages, the winter carnival was quite gay in the town, the
Italians being so pleasure-loving! We were lodged in the
Centurione Palace, where we spent the end of the winter
1799-1800. My father had left Spire at Nice with the greater part
of his baggage. He now took on Col. Sacleux as his
chief-of-staff, an admirable man, a good soldier, with a very
pleasant personality, if somewhat solemn and serious-minded. He
had as his secretary a young man by the name of Colindo, the son
of a banker, Signor Trepano of Parma, whom he had picked up after
a series of adventures too long to relate here, who became my
very good friend.

Early in the spring of 1800, my father was told that General
Massena intended to give the command of the right wing to General
Soult, who had just arrived, and was much my father's junior, and
he was ordered to go back to Savona and head his old division,
the third. My father obeyed, though his pride was hurt by this
new posting.

Chap. 11.

A serious situation was developing in Italy. Massena had received
some reinforcements; he had established a little order in his
army, and the campaign of 1800, which led to the memorable siege
of Genoa and the battle of Marengo, was about to begin.

The snows which covered the mountains separating the two armies
having melted, the Austrians attacked us, and their first efforts
were directed upon my father's division, the third, stationed at
the right of the French line, which they wished to separate from
the centre and the left by driving them back from Savona to

As soon as hostilities commenced, my father and Col. Sacleux sent
all the non-combatants to Genoa; Colindo was among them. As for
me, I was thoroughly enjoying myself, exhilarated as I was by the
sight of marching troops, the noisy movements of artillery and
the excitement of a young soldier at the prospect of action. I
was far from suspecting that this war would become so terrible
and would cost me so dear.

My father's division, fiercely attacked by greatly superior
forces, defended for two days positions at Cadibone and
Montenotte, but eventually, seeing themselves on the point of
being outflanked, they had to retire to Voltri, and from there to
Genoa, where they shut themselves in, together with the two other
divisions of the right wing.

I had heard all the well-informed generals deploring the
circumstances which forced our separation from the centre and the
left, but I had at that time so little understanding of the
principles of warfare that I took no notice. I understood well
enough that we had been defeated, but as I personally had
overcome, before Montenotte, an officer of Burco's Hussars, and
taking the plume from his shako, had fastened it proudly to the
head-band of my bridle, it seemed to me that I was like a knight
of the middle-ages returning laden with the spoils of the

My childish vanity was soon crushed by a dreadful event. During
the retreat, and at a moment when my father was giving me an
order to take, he was hit by a bullet in the left leg, which had
been wounded once before, in the army of the Pyrenees. The injury
was serious, and my father would have fallen from his horse if he
had not leaned on me. I took him out of the battle area. His
wound was dressed. I shed tears as I saw his blood flow, but he
tried to calm me, saying that a soldier should have more courage.
My father was carried to the Centurione Palace in Genoa, where he
had lived during the preceding winter. Our three divisions having
entered Genoa, the Austrians blockaded it by land, and the
English by sea.

I can hardly bring myself to describe the sufferings of the
garrison and the population of Genoa during the two months for
which this siege lasted. Famine, fighting and an epidemic of
typhus did immense damage. The garrison lost ten thousand men out
of sixteen thousand, and there were collected from the streets,
every day, seven or eight hundred of the bodies of the
inhabitants, of every age, sex, and condition, which were taken
behind the church of Carignan to an immense pit filled with
quick-lime. The number of victims rose to more than thirty

For you to understand just how badly the lack of food was felt by
the inhabitants, I should explain that the ancient rulers of
Genoa, in order to control the populace, had from time immemorial
exercised a monopoly over grain, flour and bread, which was
operated by a vast establishment protected by cannons and guarded
by soldiers, so that when the Doge or the Senate wished to
prevent or put down a revolt, they closed the state ovens and
reduced the people to starvation. Although by this time the
constitution of Genoa had been greatly modified and the
aristocracy now had very little influence, there was not, however
a single private bakery, and the old system of making bread in
the public ovens was still in operation. Now, these public
bakeries, which normally provided for a population of a hundred
and twenty thousand souls, were closed for forty-five days out of
the sixty for which the siege lasted. Neither rich nor poor could
buy bread. The little in the way of dried vegetables and rice
which was in the shops had been bought up at the beginning of the
siege at greatly inflated prices. The troops alone were given a
small ration of a quarter of a pound of horse flesh and a quarter
of a pound of what was called bread. This was a horrible mixture
of various flours, bran, starch, chalk, linseed, oatmeal, rancid
nuts and other evil substances. General Thibauld in his diary of
the siege described as "Turf mixed with oil."

For forty five days neither bread nor meat was on sale to the
public. The richest were able (at the start the siege only,) to
buy some dried cod, figs and some other dried goods such as
sugar. There was never any shortage of wine, oil and salt, but
what use are they without solid food? All the dogs and cats in
the town were eaten. A rat could fetch a high price! In the end
the starvation became so appalling that when the French troops
made a sortie, the inhabitants would follow them in a crowd out
of the gates, and rich and poor, women, children and the old
would start collecting grass, nettles, and leaves, which they
would then cook with some salt. The Genoese government mowed the
grass which grew on the ramparts, which was then cooked in the
public squares and distributed to the wretched invalids, who had
not the strength to go and find for themselves and prepare this
crude dish. Even the soldiers cooked nettles and all sorts of
herbage with their horse flesh. The richest and most
distinguished families in the town envied them this meat,
disgusting as it was, for the shortage of fodder had made nearly
all the horses sick and even the flesh of those dying of disease
was distributed.

During the latter part of the siege, the desperation of the
people was something to fear. There were cries that, as in 1756
their fathers had massacred an Austrian army, they should now try
to get rid of the French army in the same way; and that it was
better to die fighting than to starve to death, after watching
their wives and children perish. These threats of revolt were
made more serious by the fact that if they were carried out, the
English by sea and the Austrians by land would have rushed to
join their efforts to those of the insurgents, and would have
overwhelmed us.

Amid such dangers and calamities of all sorts, Massena remained
immovable and calm, and to prevent any attempt at an uprising, he
issued a proclamation that French troops had orders to open fire
on any gathering of more than four people. Regiments camped in
the squares and the principal streets. The avenues were occupied
by cannon loaded with grape-shot. It being impossible for them to
come together, the Genoese were unable to revolt.

It may seem surprising that Massena was so determined to hold on
to a place where he could not feed the inhabitants and could
scarcely maintain his own troops; but Genoa was, at that time, of
great importance. Our army had been cut in two. The centre and
the left wing had retired behind the Var. As long as Massena
occupied Genoa, he kept part of the Austrian army occupied in
besieging him and prevented them from employing all their forces
against Provence.

Massena knew also that the First Consul was assembling at Dijon,
Lyon, and Geneva, an army of reserve, with which he proposed to
cross the Alps by the St. Bernard pass, to enter Italy and to
surprise the Austrians by falling on their rear while they were
directing their efforts at taking Genoa. We therefore had the
greatest interest in holding the town for as long as possible.
These were the orders of the First Consul, and were subsequently
justified by events.

To return to the siege. When he heard that my father had been
brought to Genoa, Colindo Trepano hurried to his bedside, and it
was there that we met once more. He helped me most tenderly to
care for my father, for which I am even more beholden to him
because, in the midst of these calamities my father had no one
about him. All his staff officers had been ordered to go and
attend the commander-in-chief; soon rations were refused to our
servants, who were forced to go and take up a musket and line up
with the combatants to have a right to the miserable ration which
was distributed to the soldiers. No exception was made, apart
from a young valet, named Oudin, and a young stable-lad, who
looked after the horses; but Oudin deserted us as soon as he knew
that my father had typhus.

My father fell ill with this dreadful disease, and at a time when
he was in the greatest need of care, there was no one with him
except me, Colindo and the stable lad Bastide. We did our best to
follow the doctor's instructions, we hardly slept, being
endlessly busy massaging my father with camphorated oil and
changing his bedclothes and linen.

My father could take no nourishment except soup and I had nothing
with which to make it but rotten horse-meat. My heart was

Providence sent us some help. The huge buildings of the public
ovens were next to the walls of the palace where we were living.
The terraces were almost touching. It was on the immense terraces
of the public ovens that the crushing and mixing took place of
all sorts of chicken food which was added to the rotten flour to
make the garrison's bread. The stable lad Bastide had noticed
that when the workmen of the bakery left the terraces, they were
invaded by horde of pigeons who had their nests in the various
church towers of the town, and were in the habit of coming to
pick up the small amounts of grain which had spilled onto the
flagstones. Bastide, who was a very clever lad, crossed the
narrow space which separated the terraces, and on that of the
public ovens he set up snares and other devices with which he
captured pigeons which we used to make soup for my father, who
found it excellent, compared to that made from horse.

To the horrors of famine and typhus were added those of a
merciless and unceasing war, for the French troops fought all day
on land against the Austrians, and when nightfall put an end to
the Austrian assaults, the English, Turkish, and Neapolitan
fleets, which were protected by darkness from the port's cannons
and the batteries on the coast, drew close to the town, into
which they hurled a great number of bombs which did fearful

The noise of the guns and the cries of the wounded and dying
reached my father and greatly disturbed him. He lamented his
inability to place himself at the head of the men of his
division. This state of mind worsened his condition. He became
more gravely ill from day to day, and progressively weaker.
Colindo and I did not leave him for a moment. Eventually, one
night when I was on my knees by his bedside, sponging his wound,
he spoke to me, perfectly lucidly, and placed his hand
caressingly on my head, saying, "Poor child, what will happen to
him, alone and without support in the horrors of this terrible
siege?" Then he mumbled some words, among which I could
distinguish the name of my mother, dropped his arms and closed
his eyes...

Although very young and without much length of service, I had
seen many dead on various battlefields, and above all on the
streets of Genoa; but they had fallen in the open, still in their
clothes, which gave them a very different appearance to someone
who had died in bed. I had never witnessed this last sad
spectacle and I believed that my father had fallen asleep.
Colindo knew the truth but had not the heart to tell me, so I was
not aware of my error until some time later, when M. Lacheze
arrived and I saw him pull the sheet over my father's face,
saying, "This is a dreadful loss for his family and friends".
Only then did I understand that my father was dead.

My grief was so heartbroken that it touched even General Massena,
a man not easily moved, particularly in the present situation
when he had need of such resolution. The critical position in
which he found himself drove him to behave toward me in a way
which I thought atrocious, although now I would do the same in
the same circumstances.

To avoid anything that could lower the morale of the troops,
Massena had forbidden any funeral ceremonies, and as he knew that
I had been unwilling to desert the mortal remains of my
much-loved father, and thought it was my intention to go with him
to his graveside, he feared that his troops might be adversely
affected by the sight of a young officer, scarcely more than a
boy, following, in tears, his father's bier. So he came the next
day before dawn to the room where my father lay, and taking me by
the hand, he led me under some pretext or other to a distant
room, while, on his orders, twelve Grenadiers, accompanied only
by one officer and Col. Sacleux, took the body in silence, and
placed it in a provisional grave on the rampart facing the sea.
It was only after this mournful ceremony was over that General
Massena told me of it and explained his motives for this
decision. I was overcome by misery. It seemed to me that I had
lost my poor father for a second time; that he had been deprived
of my last services. My protests were in vain and there was
nothing I could do but go and pray by my father's grave. I did
not know where it was, but Colindo had followed the burial party,
and he led me there. This good young man gave me the most
touching evidences of sympathy, and this at a time when everyone
thought only of themselves.

Nearly all the officers of my father's staff had been killed or
carried off by typhus. Out of the eleven which we were at the
start of the campaign, there remained only two; the commandant
R*** and me! But R*** was interested only in himself, and instead
of offering support to his general's son, he lived alone in the
town. M. Lacheze abandoned me also. Only the good Col. Sacleux
showed any interest in me, but having been given the command of a
brigade, he was constantly outside the walls combatting the
enemy. I stayed alone in the huge Centurione Palace with Colindo,
Bastide, and the ancient concierge.

A week had scarcely passed since my father's death when General
Massena, who needed a large number of officers in attendance
because some were killed or wounded almost every day, ordered me
to come and serve as aide-de-camp, as did R*** and all the
officers on the staff of those generals who were dead or unable
to mount a horse. I obeyed. I followed the general all day in
battle, and when I was not detained at headquarters, I went back
to the Palace, and at nightfall, Colindo and I, passing among the
dying and the dead bodies of men, women, and children which
littered the streets, went to pray at my father's tomb.

The famine in the town continued to worsen. An order went out
forbidding any officer from having more than one horse, the rest
were to be butchered. There were several of my father's left and
I was most unhappy at the thought of these poor beasts being
killed. I managed to save their lives by proposing that I should
give them to officers of the general staff in exchange for their
worn out mounts, which I then sent to the butchery. These horses
were later paid for by the state, on production of an order for
their delivery. I have kept one of these orders as a curiosity;
it bears the signature of General Oudinot, Massena's

The cruel loss which I had just suffered, the position in which I
found myself, and the sight of the truly horrible scenes in which
I was involved every day, taught me more in a short time than I
would have learned in a number of happier years. I realised that
the starvation and disaster of the siege had made egoists of all
those who a few months before had been smothering my father with

I had to find within myself the courage and resource not only for
my own needs but to look after Colindo and Bastide. The most
pressing requirement was to find something for them to eat, since
they were given no food from the army stores. I had, it is true,
as an officer, two rations of horse meat and two rations of
bread, but all this added together did not amount to more than a
pounds weight of very bad food, and we were three! We very rarely
caught pigeons now, for their numbers had infinitely diminished.

In my position as aide-de-camp to the commander-in- chief, I was
entitled to a place at his table, where once a day was served
some bread, some roast horse and some chick peas; but I was so
embittered at General Massena having deprived me of the sad
consolation of attending my father's burial, that I could not
bring myself to sit down at his table, although all my comrades
were there and a place was reserved for me. But at last the wish
to help my two unfortunate companions decided me to go and eat
with the commander-in-chief. From then on Colindo and Bastide had
each a quarter of a pound of horse meat and the same amount of
bread. As for me, I did not have enough to eat, for the portions
served at the general's table were exceedingly small, and I was
worked hard. Often I had to lie on the ground to stop myself from

Providence came once more to our aid. Bastide had been born in
the region of Cantal, and he had met, the previous winter,
another Auvergnian whom he knew, and who was living in Genoa
where he had a small business. Bastide went to visit this friend,
and was surprised, on entering the house, to smell the odour
which floats around a grocer's shop. Bastide remarked on this and
asked his friend if he had some food. His friend admitted that he
had, and begged Bastide to keep this a secret, since all food
found in private hands was confiscated and taken to the army
stores. The shrewd Bastide then offered to arrange the purchase
of any surplus provisions by someone who would pay cash and would
keep the secret inviolate. He came to tell me of his discovery.
My father had left me some thousands of francs, so I bought, and
brought back to our dwelling at night, a quantity of dried cod,
cheese, figs, sugar, chocolate etc. All of which was extremely
expensive, and the Auvergnian had most of my money. However I was
happy to pay whatever he asked, for I heard daily at general
headquarters suggestions that the siege would continue and the
famine get worse. Sadly, this in fact happened. My joy at having
procured some food was increased by the thought that I had
thereby saved the life of my friend Colindo, who, without it,
would have assuredly died of starvation, for he knew no one in
the army except me and Col. Sacleux, who was shortly to be struck
down by a dreadful misfortune.

Massena, attacked on all sides, seeing his troops worn down by
continual battle and famine, forced to hold down a large
population, driven to despair by hunger, found himself in a most
critical position, and believed that to maintain good order in
the army he needed to impose iron discipline. So any officer who
did not execute his orders immediately was dismissed, under the
power which the law gave at that time to the commander-in-chief.

Several examples of this kind had already been made when, during
a sortie which we had pushed forward some six leagues from the
town, the brigade commanded by Col. Sacleux was not in position
at the time ordered in a valley where it was meant to block the
passage of the Austrians, who thus escaped.

The commander-in-chief, furious at seeing his plans come to
nothing, dismissed poor Col. Sacleux by publishing his dismissal
in an order of the day. Sacleux may well not have understood what
was expected of him, but he was a very brave man. Assuredly he
would have blown his brains out, had he not been determined to
restore his honour. He took up a musket and joined the ranks as a
private soldier! He came to see us one day, Colindo and I were
sore at heart to see this excellent man dressed as a simple
infantryman. We said our good-byes to Sacleux who, after the
surrender of the town, was restored to his rank of colonel at the
request of Massena himself, who had been impressed by Sacleux's
courage. But the following year, when peace had been made in
Europe, Sacleux, perhaps wishing to rid himself completely of the
stigma with which he had been so unjustly branded, asked to be
posted to the war in Santa-Dominica, where he was killed at the
moment when he was about to be promoted to brigadier-general!
There are men who, in spite of their merits, have a cruel
destiny; of which he was an example.

Chap. 12.

I shall discuss only briefly the conduct of the siege or blockade
which we sustained. The fortifications of Genoa consisted at that
time of a plain wall, flanked by towers; but what made the place
well suited for defence was the fact that it is surrounded at a
short distance by mountains, the summits and flanks of which are
dotted with forts and strong-points. The Austrians continually
attacked these positions. When they took one, we went to retake
it, and the next day they came to take it again. If they managed
to do so, we went to chase them out once more. There was an
endless shuttling back and forth, with varying results, but in
the end, we remained in control of the terrain. These encounters
were often very fierce. In one of them, General Soult, who was
General Massena's right hand man, was climbing up Monte Corona at
the head of his men to retake a fort of that name, which we had
lost the day before, when his knee was struck by a bullet at a
moment when the enemy, who greatly outnumbered his party, were
running down from the top of the mountain. It was impossible with
the few troops we had at this point to resist the avalanche, and
a retreat was called for. The soldiers carried General Soult for
some way, on their muskets, but the intolerable pain which he
suffered decided them that he should be left at the foot of a
tree, where his brother and one of his aides-de-camp stayed with
him to protect him from being attacked by the first enemy troops
to arrive. Luckily there were among these some officers who had
much respect for their illustrious prisoner.

The capture of General Soult having encouraged the Austrians,
they pushed us back to the city wall, which they were preparing
to attack when a heavy storm darkened the blue sky, which we had
had since the beginning of the siege. The rain fell in torrents.
The Austrians halted and most of them sought shelter in the
blockhouses or under the trees. Then General Massena, one of
whose principal gifts was the ability to turn to advantage the
unforeseen incidents of warfare, addressed his men, rekindled
their spirit, and having reinforced them with some troops from
the town, he ordered them to fix bayonets and led them, at the
height of the storm, against the erstwhile victorious Austrians
who, taken by surprise, retired in disorder. Massena pursued them
with such effect that he cut off some three thousand Grenadiers,
who laid down their arms.

This was not the first time that we had taken numerous prisoners,
for the total of those we had captured since the beginning of the
siege amounted to more than eight thousand; but having no food
for them, Massena had always sent them back, on the condition
that they would not be used against us for a period of six
months. Although the officers held religiously to their promise,
the wretched soldiers, who went back to the Austrian camp
ignorant of the undertaking that their leaders had made on their
behalf, were transferred to other regiments and forced to fight
against us once more. If they fell again into our hands,
something that often happened, they were once more sent back and
transferred anew; so that there were very many of these men who,
on their own admission, had been captured four or five times.
Massena, angered at the lack of good faith on the part of the
Austrian generals, decided that this time he would retain both
officers and men of the three thousand Grenadiers whom he had
captured; and so that the duty of guarding them would not fall on
his troops, he had the unfortunate prisoners loaded into floating
hulks moored in the middle of the harbour with the guns of the
harbour mole aimed at them. He then sent an envoy to General Ott,
who commanded the Austrian troops before Genoa, to reproach him
for his failure to keep his word, and to warn him that he did not
consider himself bound to give the prisoners more than half the
ration of the French soldier; but that he would agree to an
arrangement which the Austrians might make with the British,
whereby vessels might bring, every day, food for the prisoners,
and not leave until they had seen it eaten, so that it could not
be thought that Massena was using this pretext to bring in food
for his own men. The Austrian general who may have hoped that a
refusal would compel Massena to send back the three thousand
soldiers, whom he probably intended to use again, turned down
this philanthropic proposal, and Massena then carried out his

The French ration was composed of a quarter of a pound of
disgusting bread and an equal amount of horse flesh; the
prisoners were given only half this amount! This was fifteen days
before the end of the siege. For fifteen days, these poor devils
remained on this regime!. Every two or three days Messena renewed
his offer to the enemy general; he never accepted, perhaps out of
obstinacy, or perhaps because the English admiral, Lord Kieth,
was unwilling to employ his long-boats for fear, it is said, that
they would bring typhus back to the fleet. However that may be,
the wretched Austrians were left howling with rage and hunger in
their floating prison. It was truly appalling! In the end, having
eaten their boots and packs, and perhaps some dead bodies, they
nearly all died of starvation! There were hardly more than seven
or eight hundred left when the place was surrendered to our
enemies. The Austrian soldiers, when they entered the town,
hurried to the harbour and gave food to their compatriots with so
little caution that many of them died as a result.

I have described this horrible episode, firstly as an example of
the sort of ghastly event which war brings in its train, but
principally to brand with shame the conduct and lack of good
faith of the Austrian general, who forced soldiers who had been
captured and released on parole, to take up arms against us once
more, although he had promised to send them back to Germany.

In the course of the fighting which took place during the siege,
I ran into a number of dangers but I shall limit myself to
mentioning two of the more serious.

I have already said that the Austrians and the English took it in
turns to keep us constantly in action. The first attacked us at
dawn, on the landward side, and we fought them all day; at night,
Lord Kieth's fleet would begin its bombardment, and try, under
cover of darkness, to seize the harbour; which forced the
garrison to keep a keen look-out on the seaward side, and
prevented it from having any rest or relaxation. Now, one night,
when the bombardment was more violent than usual, the
commander-in-chief was warned that the light of Bengal flares
burning on the beach had disclosed numerous boat loads of English
soldiers heading for the harbour breakwater. Massena, his staff,
and the squadron of guides which went everywhere with him,
immediately mounted their horses. We were about a hundred and
fifty to two hundred horsemen when, passing through a little
square called Campetto, the general stopped to speak to an
officer who was returning from the harbour. Someone shouted "Look
out for bombs!" And at that moment, one fell onto the crowded

I and several others had pushed our horses under a balcony which
overhung the door of an hotel, and it was on this balcony that
the bomb fell. It reduced the balcony to rubble, and bounced onto
the road, where it exploded with a fearful bang in the middle of
the square, which was lit for an instant by its malevolent light,
after which there was complete darkness. One expected many
casualties. There was the most profound silence, which was
broken by the voice of General Massena, asking if anyone was
hurt. There was no reply, for by some miracle, not one of the
horses or men had been hit by the flying fragments. As for those
who, like me, had been under the balcony, we were covered with
dust and bits of building material, but nobody was injured.

I have said that the English bombarded us only at night. However,
one day, when they were celebrating some occasion or other, their
ships, dressed overall, approached the town in broad daylight,
and amused themselves by hurling at us a large number of
projectiles. Those of our batteries which were in the best
position to reply to this fire, were located near the breakwater
on a big bastion in the form of a tower, known as the Lanterne.
The general ordered me to take a message to the officer in charge
of this battery, instructing him to direct all his efforts on an
English brig, which had insolently anchored a short distance from
the Lanterne. Our gunners fired with such accuracy that one of
our large bombs fell on the English brig, piercing it from deck
to keel so that it sank almost immediately. This so infuriated
the English admiral that he had all his guns trained on the
Lanterne, on which they now opened a violent fire. My mission
being completed, I should have returned to Massena; but it is
rightly said that young soldiers, not recognising danger,
confront it more coolly than those with more experience. The
spectacle of which I was a witness, I found very interesting. The
platform of the Lanterne was floored with flagstones and was the
size of a small courtyard. It was equipped with twelve cannons on
enormous wooden mountings. Although it may be very difficult for
ship at sea to aim its fire with sufficient accuracy to hit such
a small target as was the platform of the Lanterne, the English
managed to land several bombs there. As these bombs descended,
the gunners took shelter behind or underneath the massive timbers
of the gun mountings. I did the same; but this shelter was not
entirely safe, because the flagstones presented a great
resistance to the bombs, which, being unable to bury themselves,
rolled unpredictably about the platform in all directions, and
the fragments from their explosion could pass under or behind the
mountings. It was, therefore, absurd to stay there when, like me,
one was not obliged to do so. But I experienced a fearful
pleasure, if one can describe it thus, in running here and there
with the gunners whenever a bomb fell, and emerging with them as
soon as the fragments from its explosion had settled. It was a
game which could have cost me dear. One gunner had his legs
broken, others were wounded by bomb fragments, lumps of metal
which did terrible damage to anything they hit. One of them
sliced through the thick timber baulk of a mounting behind which
I was sheltering. However, I remained on the platform until Col.
Mouton, who later became Marshal the Comte de Lobeau, and who,
having served under my father, took an interest in me, while
passing, caught sight of me. He came over to the Lanterne and
ordered me sharply to come down and return to my post beside
General Massena. He added, "You are still very young, but you
should realise that, in war, it is stupid to expose yourself to
needless danger. Would you be any better off if you had a leg
smashed for no good reason?"

I never forgot this lesson, and I have often thought of the
difference it would have made to my life, if I had lost a leg at
the age of seventeen.

Chap. 13.

The courage and tenacity with which Massena had defended Genoa
would have very important results. Major Franceschi, sent by
Massena to contact the First Consul, had managed to slip through
the enemy fleet at night, both in going and coming. On arriving
back in Genoa he said that he had left Bonaparte descending the
St. Bernard at the head of the army of reserve. Field-marshal
Melas was so convinced of the impossibility of bringing an army
across the Alps, that while part of his force, under General Ott
was blockading us, he had gone with the remainder fifty leagues
away, to attack General Suchet on the Var. This gave the First
Consul the opportunity to enter Italy without resistance, so that
the army of reserve had reached Milan before the Austrians had
ceased to regard its existence as imaginary. The First Consul,
once in Italy, would have liked to go straight away to the aid of
the town's brave garrison, but to do that it was necessary for
him to unite all the elements of his force, such as the artillery
and military supplies, whose passage across the Alps had proved
extremely difficult. This delay gave Marshal Melas the time to
hurry with his main force from Nice in order to oppose Bonaparte,
who was then unable to continue his march towards Genoa without
defeating the Austrian army.

While Bonaparte and Melas were engaged in marches and
countermarches in preparation for a battle which would decide the
destiny of France and Italy, the garrison of Genoa found itself
reduced to its last extremity. The typhus epidemic was raging.
The hospitals had become ghastly charnel houses; starvation was
at its worst. Nearly all the horses had been eaten, and though
for a long time the soldiers had had no more than half a pound of
rotten food daily, the distribution for the following day was not
assured. There was absolutely nothing left when, on the 15th
Prairial Massena gathered all his generals and colonels together
and announced that he had decided to attempt a breakout with
those remaining men who were fit for duty, to try to reach
Livorno; but his officers declared unanimously that the troops
were no longer in a state to engage in combat, or even a simple
march, unless they were given sufficient food to restore their
strength, and the stores were completely empty! General Massena
then considered that, having carried out the orders of the First
Consul and facilitated his entry into Italy, that it was his duty
to save the remains of a garrison which had fought so valiantly,
and which it was in the country's interest to preserve. He
therefore resolved to treat for the evacuation of the place, for
he would not allow the word capitulation to be uttered. The
English admiral and General Ott had, for more than a month, been
making proposals for a parley, which Massena had always turned
down; but now, compelled by circumstance, he told them that he
would accept. The conference took place in the little chapel
which is situated in the middle of the bridge of Conegliano, and
which is, as a result, between the sea and the French and
Austrian lines. The French, English, and Austrian staffs occupied
each end of the bridge. I was present at this most interesting

The foreign generals treated Massena with much respect and
consideration, and although he demanded favourable conditions,
Admiral Kieth said more than once that the defense had been so
heroic that they did not wish to refuse them. It was then agreed
that the garrison would not be made prisoners, that they could
retain their weapons and could go to Nice, and that having
reached there they would be free to engage in further

Massena, who realised how important it was that the First Consul
should not be led into making any false move because of his
anxiety to go to the aid of Genoa, asked that the negotiations
should permit the safe passage of two officers through the
Austrian lines, whom he proposed to send to Bonaparte to inform
him of the evacuation of the town by the French. General Ott
opposed this because he intended to leave with some twenty-five
thousand men of the blockading force to go and join Field-marshal
Melas, and he did not want these French officers to warn General
Bonaparte of his movements. But Admiral Kieth overruled this
objection. The treaty was about to be signed when, from far away,
in the midst of the mountains, came the distant sound of gunfire.
Massena held up his pen, saying, "That is the First Consul, who
has arrived with his army." The foreign commanders were much
taken aback, but after a long pause it was realised that the
sound was that of thunder, and Massena appended his signature.

It is to be regretted that the garrison and its commander were
deprived of the fame which would have been theirs if they had
been able to hold Genoa until the arrival of Bonaparte; and
furthermore, Massena would have liked to hold out for a few more
days, to delay the departure of General Ott's men to join in the
battle, which was inevitable, between the First Consul and
Field-marshal Melas. In the event, General Ott was unable to join
the main Austrian army until the day after the battle of Marengo,
the result of which might have been very different if the
Austrians, whom we had great difficulty in overcoming, had had
twenty-five thousand more men with which to oppose us. The
Austrians took possession of Genoa on the 16th Prairial(May)
after a siege which had lasted two whole months.

Massena, as has been said, considered it so important that the
First Consul was informed immediately about the situation that he
had demanded a safe conduct for two aides-de-camp, so that if any
thing untoward befell one of them, the other could carry his
despatch. As it would be useful if an officer going on such a
mission spoke Italian, Massena chose a Major Graziani, an Italian
who was in the French service, but being a most suspicious man,
Massena feared that a foreigner might be corrupted by the
Austrians and delay his journey, so he sent me to make sure that
he made all possible haste. This precaution was unnecessary as
Major Graziani was a man of probity who knew the urgency of his

On the 16th Prairial we departed from Genoa where I left Colindo,
whom I expected to collect in a few days time, as we knew that
the First Consul's army was not very far away. Major Graziani and
I reached it the next day at Milan.

General Bonaparte spoke to me with sympathy about the loss which
I had suffered, and promised that he would be a father to me if I
behaved myself well, a promise which he kept. He asked us endless
questions about the events which had occurred in Genoa, and about
the strength and movements of the Austrian forces we had come
through to reach Milan; he kept us by him, and had horses
provided for us from his stable, since we had travelled on post

We followed the First Consul to Montebello and then to the
battlefield of Marengo, where we were employed to carry his
orders. I shall not go into any details about this battle, where
I ran into no danger; one knows that we were on the brink of
defeat, and might have fallen if General Ott's men had arrived in
time to take part in the action. The First Consul, who feared
that he might see them appear at any moment, was very anxious,
and did not relax until our cavalry and the infantry of General
Desaix, of whose death he was still unaware, had ensured victory
by overwhelming the Grenadiers of General Zach. Seeing that the
horse which I was riding was slightly wounded on a leg, he took
me by the ear, and said, laughing, "I lend you my horses, and
look what happens to them!" Major Graziani having died in 1812, I
am the only French officer who was present at the siege of Genoa
and the battle of Marengo.

After this memorable affair, I went back to Genoa, which the
Austrians had left as a result of our victory at Marengo. There I
rejoined Colindo and Major R***. I visited my father's grave,
then we embarked on a French brig, which in twenty-four hours
carried us to Nice. Some days later, a ship from Leghorn brought
Colindo's mother, who had come in search of her son. This fine
young man and I had come through some very rough times together,
which had strengthened the friendship between us, but our paths
were divergent and we had to part, albeit with much regret.

I have said earlier, that about the middle of the siege,
Franceschi, carrying despatches from General Massena to the First
Consul, had reached France by passing through the enemy fleet at
night. He took with him the news of my father's death. My mother
had thereupon nominated a council of guardians, who sent to the
aged Spire, who was at Nice with the coach and my father's
baggage, an order to sell everything and return to Paris, which
he then did. There was now nothing to detain me on the banks of
the Var, and I was in a hurry to rejoin my dear mother; but this
was not so easy; public coaches were, at the time, very scarce;
the one that ran from Nice to Lyon went only every second day and
was booked up for several weeks by sick or wounded officers,
coming, like me, from Genoa.

To overcome this difficulty, Major R***, two colonels, a dozen
officers and I decided to form a group to go to Grenoble on foot,
crossing the foothills of the Alps by way of Grasse, Sisteron,
Digne and Gap. Mules would carry our small amount of baggage,
which would allow us to cover eight to ten leagues every day.
Bastide was with me and was a great help to me, for I was not
accustomed to making such long journeys on foot, and it was very
hot. After eight days of very difficult walking, we reached
Grenoble, from where we were able to take coaches to Lyon. It was
with sorrow that I saw once more the town and the hotel where I
had stayed with my father in happier times. I longed for and yet
dreaded the reunion with my mother and my brothers. I fancied
that they would ask me to account for what I had done with her
husband and their father! I was returning alone, and had left him
in his grave in a foreign land! I was very unhappy and had need
of a friend who would understand and share my grief, while Major
R***, happy, after so much privation, to enjoy once more,
abundance and good living, was madly jolly, which I found most
wounding; so I decided to leave for Paris without him; but he
claimed, now that I had no need of him, that it was his duty to
deliver me to the arms of my mother, and I was forced to put up
with his company as far as Paris, to where we went by mail coach.

There are scenes which are perhaps better left to the
imagination, so I shall not attempt to describe my first
heartbreaking meeting with my widowed mother and my brothers. You
can picture it for yourselves.

My mother had a rather pretty country house at Carriere, near the
forest of Saint-Germain. I spent two months there with her, my
uncle Canrobert, who had returned from emigration, and an old
knight of Malta, M. d'Estresse, a friend of my late father.
Adolphe was not in Paris, he was in Rennes with Bernadotte, the
commander-in-chief of the army of the west, but my younger
brothers and M. Gault came to see us from time to time. In spite
of the kindness and shows of affection which were lavished on me,
I fell into a state of sombre melancholy, and my health
deteriorated. I had suffered so much, physically and mentally! I
became incapable of doing any work. Reading which I had always
loved became insupportable. I spent the greater part of the day
alone in the forest, where I lay in the shade absorbed in my
sorrowful reflections. In the evenings, I accompanied my mother,
my uncle, and the old knight on their usual walk along the bank
of the Seine; but I took very little part in the conversation,
and hid from them my sad thoughts, which revolved always about my
poor father, dying for want of proper care. Although my condition
alarmed my mother, Canrobert, and M. d'Estresse, they had the
good sense not to make matters worse by any remarks which would
have only irritated a sick mind, but they sought gradually to
chase away the unhappy memories which were so affecting me by
bringing forward the holidays of my two younger brothers, who
came to live with us in the country. The presence of these two
children, whom I dearly loved, eased my mind of its sorrows, by
the care I took to make their stay at Carriere a happy one. I
took them to Versailles, to Maisons and to Marly, and their
childish happiness slowly brought back to life my spirits which
had been so cruelly crushed by misfortune. Who could have thought
that these two children, so lovely and full of life would soon be
no more?

Chap. 14.

The end of the autumn of 1800 was approaching; my mother went
back to Paris, my young brothers went back to school, and I was
ordered to join Bernadotte at Rennes.

Bernadotte had been my father's best friend, and my father had
helped him in various ways on many occasions. In recognition of
the debt owed to my family, he had written to me saying that he
had reserved a place for me as his aide-de-camp. I received this
letter at Nice when I returned from Genoa, and on the strength of
it, I refused an offer from General Massena to take me on as a
permanent aide-de-camp, and to allow me to spend several months
with my mother before joining him and the army of Italy.

My father had arranged that my brother Adolphe should continue
his studies in order to enter the polytechnic; so he was not a
soldier when my father died; but on hearing this sad news, he
rebelled at the thought that his younger brother was already an
officer, and had been in action, while he was still on a school
bench. He gave up the studies required for the technical arms,
and opted to join the infantry instead, which allowed him to
leave school.

He was presented with a good opportunity. The government had
ordered a new regiment to be raised in the department of the
Seine. The officers for this regiment were to be selected by
General Lefebvre, who, as you know, had replaced my father in
command of the Paris division. General Lefebvre was only too
pleased to do something for the son of one of his old companions
who had died in the service of his country; he therefore awarded
my brother the rank of sous-lieutenant in this new unit. So far,
so good! But instead of going to join his company, and without
waiting for my return from Genoa, Adolphe hurried off to General
Bernadotte, who, without further ado, handed the vacant post to
the first brother to arrive, as if it was the prize in a race! So
when I went to join the general staff at Rennes, I learned that
my brother had been gazetted as permanent aide-de-camp, and I was
only a supernumerary, that is to say temporary. I was very
disappointed, because, had I expected this, I would have accepted
the proposal made by General Massena. But this opportunity had
now passed. It was in vain that General Bernadotte assured me
that he would obtain an increase in the establishment of his
aides-de-camp, I did not think this likely, and was convinced
that I would soon be moved elsewhere.

Bernadotte's staff was made up of officers who nearly all reached
senior positions; four were already colonels. The most
outstanding was, undoubtedly, Gerard. He was very clever, brave
and had a natural talent for warfare. He was under the command of
Marshal Grouchy at Waterloo, and gave him some sound advice,
which could have led us to victory. Out of the eleven
aides-de-camp attached to Bernadotte's staff, two became
marshals, three lieutenant-generals, four were brigadiers and one
was killed in action.

In the winter of 1800, Portugal, backed by the English, had
declared war on Spain, and the French government had resolved to
support the latter. In consequence, troops were sent to Bayonne
and Bordeaux, and the companies of Grenadiers who belonged to
various regiments scattered throughout Brittany and the Vendee
were gathered together at Tours. This corps d'elite was intended
to be the nucleus of the so-called army of Portugal, which
Bernadotte was destined to command. The general had to move his
headquarters to Tours; to where had to be sent all his horses and
equipment, as well all that was required for the officers
attached to his service. But the general, partly to receive his
final orders from the First Consul and partly to take Madame
Bernadotte back, had to go to Paris; and as it was customary in
these circumstances during the absence of the general for the
officers of his staff to be permitted to go and take leave of
their families, it was decided that all the permanent aides could
go to Paris, and that the supernumeraries would go to Tours with
the baggage to supervise the servants, pay them every month,
arrange with the supply commission for the distribution of
forage, and the allotment of lodgings for the great number of men
and horses. This disagreeable duty fell to me and my fellow
supernumerary Lieutenant Maurin.

In the depths of winter and the most atrocious weather, we made
on horseback the long eight days journey from Rennes to Tours,
where we had all sorts of difficulties in setting up the
headquarters. We had been told that we would not be there for
much more than a fortnight, but we stayed there, bored stiff, for
six weary months, while our comrades were disporting themselves
in the capital. That was a foretaste of the unpleasant duties
which fell to me as a supernumerary aide-de-camp. So ended the
year 1800, during which I had undergone so much mental and
physical suffering.

The town of Tours had many inhabitants, and there were many
diversions; but although I received many invitations I did not
accept any of them. Fortunately my time was fully occupied in
looking after the large collection of men and horses, without
which the isolation in which I lived would have been
insupportable. The number of horses belonging to the
commander-in-chief and the officers of his staff amounted to more
than eighty, and all were at my disposal. I rode two or three
every day, and went for some long rides round Tours, which
although solitary, had for me much charm, and gave me gentle

Chap. 15.

The First Consul now changed his mind about the army of Portugal.

He gave the command to his brother-in-law, General Leclerc, and
kept General Bernadotte in command of the army of the west. In
consequence, the general staff, which my brother and the other
aides-de-camp had just joined at Tours, was ordered to return to
Brittany and betake itself to Brest, where the commander-in-chief
was to be stationed. It is a long way from Tours to Brest, but
the weather was fair, we were a young crowd, and the trip was
great fun. I was unable to ride on horseback, because of an
accidental injury to my hindquarters, so I rode in one of the
commander-in-chief's coaches. We found him awaiting us at Brest.

The harbour at Brest held at that time not only a great number of
French vessels, but also the Spanish fleet, commanded by Admiral
Gravina, who was later killed at Trafalgar. When we arrived in
Brest, the two allied fleets were expected to take to Ireland,
General Bernadotte and a large invading force of French and
Spanish troops; but while we awaited this expedition,--which
never actually took place--the presence of so many army and naval
officers greatly animated the town of Brest. The
commander-in-chief, the admirals and several of the generals
entertained daily. The troops of the two nations mingled on the
best of terms, and I made the acquaintance of several Spanish

We were thoroughly enjoying ourselves at Brest, when the
commander-in-chief decided it would be a good idea to move his
headquarters to Rennes, a dismal town, but more in the centre of
his command. We had hardly arrived there when what I had foreseen
happened. The First Consul cut the number of aides-de-camp
allotted to the commander-in-chief. He was allowed only one
colonel, five officers of lower rank and no additional officers.
As a result I was told that I was to be posted to a regiment of
light cavalry. I would have resigned myself to this, if it had
been to return to the first Hussars, where I was known and whose
uniform I wore; but it was more than a year since I had left the
regiment, and I had been replaced, so I was ordered to join the
25th Chasseurs, who had just gone to Spain and were on the
frontier with Portugal around Salamanca and Zamora. I felt
increasingly bitter about the way I had been treated by General
Bernadotte, for without his false promises I would have been an
aide-de-camp to Messena and regained my place in the 1st Hussars.

So I was much discontented....But one must obey. Once I had got
over my resentment--which does not last long at that age--I could
not wait to get on the road and leave General Bernadotte, of whom
I thought I had good reason to complain. I had very little money.
My father had often lent money to Bernadotte, in particular when
he bought the estate of Lagrange; but although he knew that,
scarcely recovered from an injury, I was about to cross a large
part of France and all of Spain and, what is more, had to buy a
new uniform, he never offered to advance me a sou; and not for
anything in the world would I have asked him to do so. Very
luckily for me my mother had, at Rennes, an elderly uncle, M. de
Verdal of Gruniac, a former major in the infantry of Ponthievre,
with whom she had spent the first years of the revolution. This
old man was a little eccentric, but very good-hearted; not only
did he advance me the money which I desperately needed, but he
gave it to me out of his own pocket.

Although, at this period, the Chasseurs wore the same dolman as
the Hussars, theirs was green. I was foolish enough to shed a few
tears when I had to discard the Bercheny uniform, and renounce
the name of Hussar to become a Chasseur!

My farewell to General Bernadotte was somewhat cool; however he
gave me letters of introduction to Lucien Bonaparte, our
ambassador at Madrid, and to General Leclerc, our commander in

On the day of my departure, all the aides-de-camp joined me in a
farewell luncheon; then I set out with a heavy heart. I arrived
at Nantes after two days of travel, dog tired, with a pain in my
side, and quite sure that I would not be able to stand riding on
horseback the four hundred and fifty leagues which I had to cover
to reach the frontier of Portugal. By chance, however, I met in
the house of an old acquaintance from Soreze, who lived in
Nantes, a Spanish officer named Don Raphael, who was on his way
to join his regimental depot at Estramadura. We agreed to travel
together, and that I would be guide as far as the Pyrenees, after
which he would take over.

We went by stage-coach through the Vendee, where almost all the
market towns and villages still bore the marks of fire although
the civil war had been over for two years. These ruins made a
sorry spectacle. We passed through La Rochelle, Rochefort and
Bordeaux. From Bordeaux to Bayonne we rode in a sort of "Berlin"
which never went at faster than a walking pace over the sands of
Landes, so we often got out and walked alongside until we would
stop to rest under a group of pine trees. Then, sitting in the
shade, Don Raphael would take up his mandolin and sing. In this
way we took six days to reach Bayonne.

Before crossing the Pyrenees, I had to report to the general
commanding Bayonne. His name was General Ducos, an excellent man,
who had served under my father. Out of concern for my safety, he
wished to delay my entry into Spain for a few days, because he
had just heard that a gang of robbers had plundered some
travellers not far from the frontier. Even before the War of
Independence and the Civil Wars, the Spanish character, at once
both adventurous and lazy, had given them a noticeable taste for
brigandage, and this taste was encouraged by the splitting up of
the country into several kingdoms which once formed independent
states, each with its own laws, usages, and frontiers. Some of
these states imposed customs duties, some, such as Biscay and
Navarre, did not; and the result was that the inhabitants of the
customs-free countries constantly tried to smuggle dutiable goods
into those whose frontiers were guarded by lines of armed and
active customs officers. The smugglers, on their part, had, from
time immemorial, formed bands, which employed force when cunning
was insufficient, and whose occupation was not considered in any
way dishonourable by the majority of Spaniards, who saw it as a
just war against the imposition of customs. Preparing their
expeditions, collecting intelligence, posting armed guards,
hiding in the mountains, where they lie about smoking and
sleeping, such is the life of the smugglers, who, as a result of
the large profits to be made from a single operation, can live in
comfortable idleness for several months. However, when the
customs officers, with whom they have frequent skirmishes, have
been victorious and confiscated their goods, these Spanish
smugglers, reduced to extremes, think nothing of becoming
highwaymen, a profession which they pursue with a certain
magnanimity, since they never kill travellers, and always leave
them the means to continue their journey. They had just done as
much to an English family, and General Ducos, who wished to spare
us the disagreeable experience of being robbed, had for this
reason decided to delay our departure; but Don Raphael assured
him that he knew enough about the habits of Spanish robbers to be
certain that the safest time to travel in a province was just
after a gang had committed some offence, because they then
cleared off and hid for a while. So general Ducos allowed us to

Draught-horses were at this time unknown in Spain, where all
coaches, even the king's, were drawn by mules. There were no
stage-coaches, and in the post-houses nothing but saddle horses.
So that even the greatest of noblemen, who had their own coaches,
were forced when they travelled to hire harness mules and go by
short stages. The comfortably off took light carriages, which did
not go more than ten leagues a day. The ordinary people attached
themselves to caravanserais of donkey-men, who carried baggage in
the same way as our carters, but no one travelled alone, partly
for fear of robbers, and partly because of the mistrust with
which a solitary traveller was regarded. After our arrival in
Bayonne, Don Raphael, who was now in charge, said to me that as
we were not such grandees that we could hire a coach, nor so poor
that we had to join the donkey-men, there remained only two
possibilities, either we rode on horseback or we took a seat in a
carriage. Travelling on horseback, of which I have done so much,
did not seem suitable, as we would have no means of carrying our
baggage, so it was decided that we should go by carriage.

Don Raphael bargained with an individual who agreed to take us to
Salamanca for 800 francs a head, and to lodge us and feed us on
the way, at his own expense. This was double what a similar
journey would have cost in France, and I had already spent a lot
of money to get to Bayonne; but that was the price, and as there,
was no other way for me to join my new regiment, I had to accept.

We left in an enormous and ancient four-wheeled carriage, in
which three of the seats were occupied by a citizen of Cadiz, his
wife and daughter, while a Benedictine Prior from the university
of Salamanca completed the party.

Everything was new to me on this trip. Firstly, the harnessing,
which greatly surprised me. The team consisted of six splendid
mules, of which, to my astonishment, only the two on the shaft
had bridles and reins, the remaining four went freely, guided
only by the voices of the coachman and his "Zagal" who, agile as
a squirrel, sometimes went for more than a league on foot,
running beside his mules, which were at full trot, then, in a
blink of an eye he would climb up on to the seat beside his
master, only to get down and then up again; which he did twenty
times a day; going round the coach and the harness to make sure
that nothing was out of order, and while doing all this, singing
to encourage his mules, each one of which he called by name. He
never struck them, his voice alone being enough to urge on any
mule which was not pulling its weight.

These activities, and in particular the man's singing, I found
most entertaining. I also took a lively interest in what was said
in the coach, for, although I did not speak Spanish, what I knew
of Italian and Latin enabled me to understand much of what my
fellow passengers were saying, to whom I replied in French, which
they understood reasonably well. I did not smoke, but the five
Spaniards, even the two ladies and the monk, soon lit up their
cigars. We were all in good spirits. Don Raphael, the ladies, and
even the fat monk sang together.

Normally we left in the morning. We stopped from one o'clock to
three, to dine, rest the mules, and allow the heat of the day to
pass, during which time one slept; what the Spanish call the
siesta. Then we went on to our night stop. The meals were
sufficiently plentiful, but the Spanish cuisine seemed to me, at
first, to taste awful, however I got used to it; but I could
never have got used to the horrible beds which we were offered at
night in the pousadas or inns. They were really disgusting, and
Don Raphael, who had just spent a year in France was forced to
agree. To avoid this unpleasantness, on the first day of my
arrival in Spain, I asked if I could sleep on a bale of straw.
Sadly, I discovered that such a thing as a bale of straw was
unknown in Spain, because, instead of threshing the sheaves of
corn they have them trampled under foot by mules, which breaks
the straw into short bits, scarcely as long as a finger. But I
had the bright idea of filling a large cloth sack with this short
straw, which I placed in a barn and slept on covered by my cloak;
thus avoiding the vermin with which the beds and the rooms were
infested. In the morning I emptied the sack and put it in the
coach and each evening I refilled it so that I had a clean
palliasse. Don Raphael followed my example.

We crossed the provinces of Navarre, Biscay and Alava, country of
high mountains; then we crossed the Ebro and entered the immense
plains of Castile. We passed through Burgos and Valladolid, and
arrived, at last, after a journey lasting fifteen days, at

There, not without regret I parted from my good travelling
companion, whom I was to meet once more in the same part of the
world, during the War of Independence. General Leclerc was at
Salamanca. He received me kindly, and even proposed that I should
stay with him as a supernumerary aide-de-camp, but my recent
experience had taught me that although the post of aide-de-camp
offers one more freedom and comfort than regimental duty, this is
only when one is on the establishment. As a supernumerary you are
landed with all the unpleasant jobs, and you have only a very
precarious position. I therefore turned down the favour which I
was offered and asked to go and join my regiment. It was a good
thing that I took this step, because, the following year, the
general, having been given the command of the expedition to Santa
Dominica, took with him, on his general staff, a lieutenant who
had accepted the post which I had turned down, and all these

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