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The Memoirs of General the Baron de Marbot
Translated by Oliver C. Colt


Translated by Oliver C. Colt

Volume 1.

Table of contents

Chap. 1. Origins of my family. My father joins the bodyguard. The
de Certain family. Life at Lariviere. Episode in infancy.

Chap. 2. Outbreak of revolution. My father's attitude. He rejoins
the army. I go to Mlle. Mongalvi. My life as a boarder.

Chap. 3. My father is posted to Toulouse. He takes me with him.
The convoy of aristocrats. Life at Toulouse. I am taken to

Chap. 4. Life at Soreze. Early hardships. Visit of representative
of the people.

Chap. 5. I join my family in Paris. My father is given command of
the 17th division in Paris. He refuses to join with Sieyes and
hands the command to Lefebvre.

Chap. 6. My father is posted to Italy. How my career is begun. I
become a Hussar.

Chap. 7. My father leaves. Meeting with Bonaparte at Lyon. An
adventure on the Rhone. The cost of a Republican banquet. I am
presented to my commanding officer.

Chap. 8. Arrival at Nice. My mentor Pertelay. I become a true
Hussar. I join the "clique". My first duel. We rustle some
cattle. The "Clique".

Chap. 9. How I get immediate promotion. The capture of 17 enemy

Chap. 10. Campaign in Piedmont. General Macard. Capture of enemy
cannons. I am promoted to Sous-lieutenant. I become aide de camp
to my father.

Chap. 11. Retreat of the right wing of the army to Genoa. My
father wounded. The siege. My friend Trepano. Death of my father.
Famine and fighting.

Chap. 12. Episodes in the siege. Fate of Austrian captives.

Chap. 13. Napoleon crosses the St. Bernard. Massena yields.
Marengo. I return to my family. My extreme prostration.

Chap. 14. I am temporary aide de camp to Bernadotte. We go to

Chap. 15. At Brest and Rennes. I am posted to the 23rd Chasseurs,
in Portugal. Journey from Nantes to Salamanca. We form the right
wing of the Spanish army. Return to France.

Chap. 16. On the road from Bayonne to Toulouse. The inspection.

Chap. 17. The events at Rennes. My brother Adolphe is involved
and is sent to prison. Death of my brother Theodore.

Chap. 18. The school at Versailles. My mother's brothers.

Chap. 19. Preparations for invasion of Britain. I become aide de
camp to Augereau.

Chap. 20. Augereau.

Chap. 21. From Bayonne to Brest. 1804. Pichegru. Death of Duc
d'Enghien. Bonaparte becomes emperor.

Chap. 22. 1805. Institution of Legion of Honour. Camp at
Boulogne. I am made lieutenant. Death of my brother Felix.
Russia and Austria declare war.

Chap. 23. The army heads for the Rhine. Mission to Massena.
Jellachich surrenders. The Hungarian Colonel.

Chap. 24. The march to Vienna. The battle at Dirnstein. Lannes
and Murat bluff their way across the Danube.

Chap. 25. Hollabrunn. I bring the flags captured at Breganz to
the Emperor. The danger of a white lie.

Chap. 26. The Prussian Ambassador. Austerlitz. I save a Russian

Chap. 27. Meeting of the Emperors. Return to my unit. Darmstadt
and Frankfurt.

Chap. 28. Mission to Prussia. Situation in Prussia.

Chap. 29. State of Prussian army. Wurtzberg. Saalefeld and death
of Prince Louis. Augereau and his former companions.

Chap. 30. Jena. The Cure. Auerstadt. The behaviour of Bernadotte.

The entry into Berlin.

Chap. 31. Demoralisation of Prussians. Origin of the house of
Rothschild. With Duroc to the King of Prussia. Graudentz. The
army at the Vistula.

Chap. 32. Crossing of the Ukra. Various encounters. Cantonments
on the banks of the Vistula.

Chap. 33. 1807. Made Captain. Eylau. Destruction of Augereau's

Chap. 34. My part in the battle of Eylau. My mare Lisette. I
escape death by a miracle. Return to Warsaw and Paris.

Chap. 35. Missions for the Emperor. I join Marshal Lannes.
Hostilities resumed June 11th.

Chap. 36. Battle of Friedland. I escape from dangers. Treaty of

Chap. 37. Mission to Dresden. An unwitting smuggler. An incident
at Mainz. Paris and La Houssaye.

Introduction. General, later the Baron, Marbot, came from a
family which might be described as landed gentry. His father
served in the bodyguard of Louis XV and later in the Republican
army. Marbot himself was a soldier from the age of 17 and fought
in the wars of the Republic and the campaigns of Napoleon. His
memoirs were written for his family and his intimate circle,
without thought of publication, and it was not until after his
death in 1854 that his family were persuaded to offer the
manuscript to publishers.

This is not a meticulously researched historical document, but
the reminiscences of an old soldier, writing of events which took
place many years earlier and I suspect that like most of us when
we try to recall things that happened forty years ago his memory
was a trifle indistinct.

By far the greater part of his narrative has the ring of truth,
but in my opinion there are places where his imagination has
embroidered the facts. This is particularly so when it comes to
some of his personal adventures. He also,in my view, describes as
real, events in which he did not take part and which may be no
more than popular rumour.

It has to be remembered that there were no inquisitive war
correspondents attached to the "Grande Armee" and news was what
was written in Napoleon's bulletins.

As an example of the kind of thing which raises a question in my
mind, in his opening chapter he says that he was a very sturdy
infant and that the only illness he ever suffered from was
small-pox. This does not seem probable; an outbreak of small-pox
in the family would be a disastrous occurrence, it is a disease
with a high mortality and could not be dismissed as a childish
complaint. He also goes on to describe how his head got stuck in
the cat-hole, but in the original he claims that his face turned
blue and that he was being strangled when his father removed the
door from its hinges to extricate him. Anyone who has attempted
to remove a door from its hinges knows that you cannot do so
without opening the door and using at least a screwdriver. It is
also an operation which is difficult to perform single-handed and
with a small child stuck in it even more so. He says that he was
about three or four at the time, and the long-term memory does
not start developing in a child until around the age of four. I
think it more than likely that that good Baron has a false
recollection derived from being told of these goings on by his
mother and truly believes that he remembers them. A misdiagnosis
of small-pox would not be surprising given the inadequate state
of medical knowledge and practice of the time.

I do not doubt that he ran great danger and was seriously injured
at Eylau, but there are elements in his recital which although
they enhance the drama and would pass muster with the lay reader,
are open to criticism by anyone with a medical training. He says
that while he was attempting to release the "Eagle" from its
standard, a bullet passed through his hat without touching his
head. As a result of this he claims that he found himself
paralysed and unable to use his legs to urge his horse forward,
although he remained mentally perfectly clear. He says that the
passage of the bullet close to his head caused bleeding from his
nose and ears and even from his eyes, signs which a clinician
would regard as probably indicating a serious fracture of the
base of the skull.

I am not a neurologist, but I can think of no neurological injury
which would produce the type of paralysis which he describes
except a high lesion of the spinal cord. What is more, within a
few moments he is in the saddle of a galloping horse and I cannot
imagine that anyone suffering from a form of paralysis could
remain there for very long.

The thoughtful reader may also wonder how the soldier who robbed
him as he lay unconscious could suppose that he was dead, an
unconscious person is quite plainly breathing.

Could it be that having been rendered unconscious as a result of
the fall from his horse, he has some degree of retrograde amnesia
and has invented details to fill the gaps in his memory, or could
it be that writing, as he was, for his family and friends, he was
indulging in a little pardonable exaggeration.

In spite of these reservations the story he tells is full of life
and interest, and gives a vivid impression of war as it was
fought then, including all its horrors and disasters.

In this translation I have not deviated from the gist of events,
but I have taken the liberty of making a variety of omissions and
emendations, with the aim of adding credibility to some of the
events, such as those noted above. I have also prefaced some of
his anecdotes, which he retails as fact, with the words "It is
believed that..." or something to that effect.

The campaigns can be followed by the use of a good atlas, but
unfortunately the many upheavals which Europe has undergone since
those days has resulted in many of the names of places being
changed. The curious reader may well find maps dealing with the
Napoleonic wars in any well stocked public library.

All translation requires some degree of paraphrase. What sounds
well in one language may sound ridiculous if translated literally
into another. I have endeavoured to produce a version of these
memoirs acceptable to the English-speaking reader, whether I have
succeeded or not only the reader can say.

Oliver C. Colt


Translated by Oliver C. Colt

Chap. 1.

I was born on the 18th August 1782 at my father's Chateau of
Lariviere, in the beautiful valley of Beaulieu, on the borders of
Limousin and Quercy--now the department of Correze--where my
father owned a considerable property.

The family of Marbot was of noble origin, although for a long
time they had not preceded their name by any title. To use a then
current expression, they lived nobly, that is to say on the
income from their estates, without engaging in any form of
employment. They were allied to and joined in the society of
several of the important families of the district.

I mention this because, at a time when the nobility were so
haughty and powerful, it shows that the family had a social
position of considerable standing.

My father was born in 1753. He had a rather fiery temperament,
but he was so good-hearted that, after a first outburst, he
always sought to make one forget any hasty words which he might
have uttered. He was a fine figure of a man, very tall and well
built, with handsome, manly features.

My grandfather had become a widower when my father was still at
school. His house was run by one of his elderly cousins, the
oldest of the demoiselles Oudinet of Beaulieu. She gave
unstinting care to my grandfather, who, having become almost
blind as a result of a flash of lightning, which had struck near
him, no longer went out of his manor. Thus my father, when he
reached manhood, faced by an infirm old man and an aunt devoted
to his least wishes, could have played fast and loose with the
family fortune. He did not, however, abuse his position, but as
he had a great fancy for a military career, he accepted a
proposal which was made to him by colonel the Marquis d'Estresse,
a neighbour and close friend of the family, which was to have him
enrolled in the bodyguard of the king, Louis XV.

Being under the auspices of the Marquis d'Estresse, he was
received in a number of houses; notably that of
lieutenant-general the Comte de Schomberg, the inspector-general
of cavalry, who, recognising my father's worth, had him posted to
his regiment of dragoons as captain, and took him as his

On the death of my grandfather my father was still unmarried, and
his fortune, as well as his place in the Royal Bodyguard, put him
in a position to choose a wife, without the likelihood of being

There lived at that time, in the Chateau de Laval de Cere, about
a league from Lariviere, a family of noble rank but without much
money, named de Certain. The head of this house was stricken by
gout and so his affairs were managed by Madame de Certain, an
admirable woman, who came from the noble family of de Verdal, who
claim to have Saint Roch amongst the kinsfolk of their ancestors
on the distaff side, a Verdal, so they say, having married a
sister of the Saint at Montpellier. I do not know how much truth
there is in this claim, but before the Revolution of 1789, there
was, at the gateway of the old chateau of Gruniac, owned by the
de Verdals, a stone bench, which was greatly venerated by the
inhabitants of the nearby mountains, because, according to
tradition, St. Roch, when he came to visit his sister, used to
sit on this bench, from where one can view the countryside, which
one cannot do from the chateau, which is a sort of fortress of
the gloomiest kind.

The de Certains had three sons and a daughter, and as was the
custom at that time they added to their family name that of some
estate. Thus the eldest son was given the name Canrobert: this
eldest son was, at the time of which I write, Chevalier de St.
Louis and a captain in the infantry regiment of Penthievre; the
second son who was called de L'Isle was a lieutenant in the same
regiment; the third son, who had the surname La Coste served,
like my father, in the Royal Bodyguard; the daughter was called
Mlle. Du Puy,and she was my mother.

My father became a close friend of M. Certain de La Coste, and it
would have been difficult to do otherwise, for quite apart from
the three months which they spent in quarters at Versailles
during their period of duty, the journeys which they made
together, twice a year, were bound to make a bond between them.

At that time public coaches were very few in number, dirty,
uncomfortable, and travelled by very short stages; also it was
considered not at all fashionable to ride in them. So, gentry who
were old or in poor health travelled by carriage, while the young
and officers in the armed forces went on horseback. There was an
established custom among the Bodyguard, which today would seem
most peculiar. As these gentlemen did only three months on duty,
and as in consequence the corps was split into four almost equal
sections, those of them who lived in Brittany, the Auvergne,
Limousin and other parts of the country where there were good
small horses had bought a number of these at a price not
exceeding 100 francs, which included the saddle and bridle. On a
fixed day all the Bodyguards from the same province, who were
called to go and take up their duties, would meet, on horseback,
at an agreed spot and the cheerful caravanserai would take the
road for Versailles.

They made twelve to fifteen leagues each day, sure of finding
every evening, at an agreed and reasonable price, a good lodging
and a good supper at the inns previously arranged as stopping
places. They went happily on their way, talking, singing, putting
up with bad weather or heat as they did with accidents and
laughing at the stories which all, in turn, had to tell as they
rode along.

The group grew in size by the arrival of Bodyguards from the
provinces through which they passed until, at last, the various
parties arrived from all parts of France to enter Versailles on
the day on which their leave expired, and, in consequence, at the
moment of departure of those guards whom they had come to
relieve. Then each of these latter bought one of the ponies
brought by the new arrivals, for which they paid 100 francs, and
forming fresh groups they took to the road for their paternal
chateaux, where they turned the horses out to grass for nine
months, until they were taken back to Versailles and handed over
to other comrades-in-arms.

My father, then, was a close friend of M. Certain de La Coste,
who shared the same quarters and belonged, like him, to the
company de Noailles. On their return to the country they saw much
of each other, and he made the acquaintance of Mlle. Du Puy.
Mlle. Du Puy was pretty and high spirited, and although she would
have little in the way of dowry, and although several rich
matches were offered to my father, he preferred Mlle. Du Puy, and
he married her in 1776.

We were four brothers: the eldest Adolphe, myself the second,
Theodore the third and Felix the last. There was a gap of about
two years between our ages.

I was very sturdy and suffered only some minor illnesses, but
when I was about three, I had an accident which I can still

Because I had a rather turned-up nose and a round face, my father
called me "pussy-cat". It needed no more than this to give a
small child the desire to imitate a cat; so it was my greatest
pleasure to go about on all fours, mewing. I was also in the
habit of going up to the second floor of the chateau to join my
father in a library, where he spent the hottest hours of the day.
When he heard the "miaow" of his little cat, he came and opened
the door and gave me a picture-book to look at while he continued
his reading. These little sessions gave me infinite pleasure. One
day, however, my visit was not so well received as usual. My
father, perhaps absorbed in his book, did not open the door for
his little cat. In vain, I redoubled my "miaows" in the most
appealing tone which I could produce. The door remained closed.
Then I saw, at floor level, an opening called a cat-hole, which
is present in all the chateaux of the Midi, at the bottom of the
doors, to allow cats free access. This route seemed, naturally,
to be for me: I put my head through, but that was as far as I
could go. I then tried to withdraw my head, but my head was stuck
and I could go neither forward nor back, but I was so much
identified with my role as a cat that instead of speaking, to let
my father know my predicament, I "miaowed" at the top of my
voice, like a cat that is angry, and it appears that I did so in
such a natural tone that my father thought that I was playing,
but suddenly the "miaows" became weaker, and turned into crying
and you may imagine my father's concern when he realised what had
happened. It was only with great difficulty that I was freed and
carried, half unconscious, to my mother, who thinking I was
injured was much distressed.

A surgeon was sent for, who proceeded to bleed me, and the sight
of my own blood and the crowd of all the inhabitants of the
chateau, gathered about my mother and me, made such a vivid
impression on my young imagination that the event has remained
for ever fixed in my memory.

Chap. 2.

While my childhood was rolling by peacefully, the storm of
revolution which had been growling in the distance, drew ever
nearer, and it was not long before it broke. We were in 1789.

The assembly of the States General stirred up all manner of
passions, destroyed the tranquillity enjoyed by the province in
which we lived and introduced divisions into all families,
particularly into ours; for my father, who for a long time had
railed against the abuses to which France was subjected,
accepted, in principle, the improvements which were mooted,
without foreseeing the atrocities to which these changes were
going to lead; while his three brothers-in-law and all his
friends rejected any innovation. This gave rise to animated
discussions, of which I understood nothing, but which distressed
me because I saw my mother in tears as she tried to keep the
peace between her brothers and her husband. For my part, although
I did not understand what was going on, I naturally took sides
with my father.

The Constituent Assembly had revoked all feudal rents. My father
possessed some of these which his father had purchased. He was
the first to conform to the law. The peasantry who had been
waiting to make up their minds until my father gave them a lead,
refused to continue paying these rents once they knew what he had

Shortly after this, France having been divided into departments,
my father was named administrator for the Correze and then a
member of the Legislative Assembly.

My mother's three brothers, and nearly all the nobility of the
county had hurriedly emigrated. War seemed to be imminent, so, to
persuade all citizens to take up arms, and also, perhaps, to find
out up to what point they could count on the populace, the
government arranged for the rumour to be spread throughout all
the communes of France, that the "Brigands" led by the emigres,
were coming to destroy all the new institutions. The tocsin was
rung by all the churches; everyone armed themselves with whatever
they could lay hands upon; a National Guard was organised; the
country turned into an armed camp while it waited for these
imaginary "Brigands" who, in every commune, were said to be in
the one next door. Nothing ever appeared, but the effect
remained: France found herself in arms and had shown that she was
prepared to defend herself.

We children were then alone in the country with our mother. This
alert, which was called "The day of fear" surprised me and would
probably have alarmed me, had I not seen my mother remain so
calm. I have always thought that my father had discreetly warned
her of what was about to happen.

All went well at first, without any excess on the part of the
peasants, who, in our part of the country, retained much respect
for the ancient families; but soon, stirred up by demagogues from
the towns, the country-dwellers invaded the houses of the nobles,
under the pretext of looking for hidden emigres, but in fact to
exact money and to seize the title deeds of feudal rents, which
they burned in a big bonfire. From the height of our terrace, we
saw these ruffians, torches in their hands, running towards the
Chateau d'Estresse, from which all the men had emigrated and
which was occupied only by women. These were my mother's best
friends, and so she was greatly upset by this spectacle. Her
anxiety was redoubled by the arrival of her own aged mother, who
had been driven out of her chateau, which was declared national
property because of the emigration of her three sons...!

Up until then, my father's property had been respected; largely
because his patriotism was known, and because, to give further
proof of it, he had taken service in the army of the Pyrenees as
captain in the Chasseurs des Montagnes, at the end of his term in
the legislative assembly. But the revolutionary torrent swept
over everyone; the house at St. Cere, which my father had bought
ten years before, was confiscated and declared national property
because the deed of sale had been signed privately and the seller
had emigrated before ratifying the deal before a notary. My
mother was given a few days to remove her linen, then the house
was put up for auction and was bought by the president of the
district who had himself arranged for its confiscation!

At last, the peasants, stirred up by some agitators from
Beaulieu, came in a body to my father's chateau and insisted,
though with some politeness, that they had to burn the deeds of
feudal rents which we still had, and make sure that emigres were
not concealed in the chateau.

My mother received them with fortitude, handed over the deeds and
pointed out to them that, knowing her brothers to be sensible
people, they should not suppose that they would emigrate only
then to come back to France and hide in her chateau.

They accepted the correctness of this line of reasoning, ate and
drank and having burned the deeds in the centre of the courtyard,
they left without doing any further damage, shouting "Long live
France and citizen Marbot!" And charging my mother to write to
him to say that they liked him very much and that his family was
quite safe among them.

In spite of this assurance, my mother felt that her position as
the sister of emigres might expose her to a great deal of
unpleasantness from which even her position as the wife of a
defender of the country would not protect her. She decided to go
away for the time being. She told me later that she took this
step because she was convinced that the revolutionary storm would
last only for some months. There were many people who thought

My grandmother had had seven brothers, all of whom, as was usual
in the Verdal family had been soldiers and knights of St. Louis.
One of them, a former battalion commander in the infantry
regiment of Penthievre, had married, on retirement, the rich
widow of counsellor of the parliament of Rennes. My mother
decided to go and stay with her and was counting on taking me
with her, when I was smitten by a number of large and very
painful boils. It was impossible to travel with a child of eight
in such a state, and my mother was in great perplexity. She was
extricated by a worthy lady, Mlle. Mongalvi, who was much devoted
to her and whose memory will always be dear to me. Mlle.
Mongalvi lived at Turenne and ran boarding establishment for
young ladies of which my mother had been one of the first
occupants. She offered to take me into her house for the few
months of my mother's absence. My father's agreement having been
obtained, I left and was installed there. "What!" you may say, "A
boy amongst young ladies?" Well yes, but do not forget that I was
a quiet, peaceable, obedient child, and I was only eight years

The boarders who stayed with Mlle. Mongalvi, where my mother had
once been one of them, were young persons of some sixteen to
twenty years of age; the youngest being at least fourteen, and
were sensible enough to let me mingle with them.

On my arrival, all this little feminine flock gathered about me
and received me with such cries of pleasure and warm caresses
that, from the first instant, I thought myself lucky to have made
this trip. I figured that it would not last long and I believe
that, secretly, I even regretted that I would have only a short
time to spend with these nice young ladies, who did everything to
please me and argued as to who was to hold my hand.

However, my mother left and went to stay with my uncle. Events
moved forward rapidly. The terror bathed France in blood. Civil
war broke, out in the Vendee and in Brittany. Travel there became
absolutely impossible, so that my mother, who had thought to
spend two or three months at Rennes, found herself stuck there
for several years.

My father continued on active service in the Pyrenees and in
Spain, where his ability and courage had raised him to the rank
of divisional general; while I, having gone as a boarder for a
few months, stayed for some four years, which were for me years
of much happiness, clouded only, from time to time, by the memory
of my parents; but the good Mlles. Mongalvi and their boarders
would then redouble their kindness, to dispel those thoughts
which now and then saddened me. I was spoiled beyond belief by
the mistresses and the boarders; I had only to wish for something
to obtain it. There was nothing too good or too fine for me. My
health recovered completely. I was clean and fresh, so they vied
with one another to cuddle me. During recreation, which took
place in a vast enclosure, where there was a fine garden, with
paddocks, vines and arbours, the young ladies would crown me and
garland me with flowers, then placing me on a little litter
covered with roses, they would take it in turns to carry me while
they sang. At other times I would play prisoners base with them,
having the privilege of always catching but never being caught.
They would read stories to me and sing songs. They competed to do
something for me.

I recall, that on hearing of the horrible execution of Louis XVI,
Mlle. Mongalvi had all the boarders on their knees, to recite
prayers for the repose of the soul of the unfortunate king. The
indiscretion of any one of us could have brought down disaster on
her head, but all the pupils were of an age to understand, and I
felt that it was something I should not talk about; so no one
knew anything about it. I stayed in this pleasant retreat until
November 1793.

Chap. 3.

When I was eleven and a half years old, my father was given
command of a camp which was set up at Toulouse. He took advantage
of a few days leave to come and see me and to arrange his
affairs, which he had not been able to do for several years. He
came to Turenne, to the house of one of his friends, and hurried
to my lodging. He was in the uniform of a general officer, with a
big sabre, his hair cut short and unpowdered and sporting an
enormous moustache, which was in remarkable contrast to the
costume in which I was used to seeing him when we lived
peacefully at Lariviere.

I have said that my father, in spite of his stern masculine
looks, was a kind man, and particularly toward children, whom he
adored. I saw him again with the keenest transports of delight,
and he overwhelmed me with caresses. He stayed for several days
at Turenne; he warmly thanked the good mesdames Mongalvi for the
truly maternal care they had taken of me; but when he asked me a
few questions, it was easy for him to see that though I had a
good knowledge of prayers and litanies and lots of hymns, my
remaining education was limited to some notions of history,
geography, and spelling. He considered also, that, being now in
my twelfth year, it was not possible to leave me in a boarding
establishment for young ladies, and that it was time to give me
an education which was more masculine and more extensive. He had
resolved therefore, to take me with him to Toulouse, to where he
had also brought Adolphe, and to place us both in the military
college of Soreze, the sole great establishment of this kind
which the revolutionary turmoil had left standing.

I left, after bidding a tender farewell to my young friends. We
headed for Cressensac, where we were joined by Captain Gault, my
father's aide-de-camp. While the coach was being got ready,
Spire, my father's old servant, who knew that his master intended
to travel day and night, made up packages of food.

At this moment a new spectacle was presented to me: a mobile
column, composed of gendarmes, national guards and volunteers,
entered the town of Cressensac with a band playing at its head. I
had never seen anything like it, and it seemed to me quite
superb, but I was unable to understand why, in the midst of all
these soldiers, there was a dozen coaches filled with old men,
women and children, all of whom looked extremely sad. This sight
infuriated my father. He drew back from the window and, striding
about with his aide-de-camp, whom he could trust, I heard him
burst out, "These miserable members of the convention have ruined
the revolution which could have done so much good. There you see
yet more innocent people who are being thrown into gaol because
they are landowners or are related to emigres; it is disgusting!"

Why, you may ask, did my father continue to serve a government
which he despised? It was because he thought that to confront the
enemies of France was honourable, but did not mean that the
military condoned the atrocities which the convention committed
in the interior of the country.

What my father had said, had interested me in the people in the
coaches. I gathered that they had been, that morning, seized from
their chateaux and were being led away to the prisons of
Souilhac. They were old men, women and children, and I was
wondering to myself how these frail people could present any
danger to the country, when I heard several of the children
asking for food. One lady begged a national guard to let her get
out to go and buy something to eat. He refused her, rudely, and
when the lady produced an "assignat" and pleaded with him to go
and buy some bread, he replied, "Do you take me for one of your
former lackeys?" This brutality angered me. I had noticed that
Spire had placed in the pockets of the coach, a number of
bread-rolls in the centre of which was a sausage; I took two of
these rolls, and drawing near to the coach holding the child
prisoners, I threw them in, when the guards were not looking. The
mothers and the children made signs to me of such gratitude that
I resolved to give food to all the other prisoners, and piece by
piece, I gave them all the provisions which Spire had made for
the two days journey to Toulouse, which we were about to make. We
left, at last, without Spire having any suspicion of the
distribution which I had just made. The little prisoners blew me
kisses and their parents waved to me; but no sooner were we some
hundred paces from the post-house than my father, who had been in
haste to get away from a spectacle which distressed him, and had
not wished to eat at the inn, felt hungry, and asked for the
provisions. Spire pointed to the pockets in which he had placed
them. My father and M. Gault rummaged through all the interior of
the coach, but found nothing. My father grew angry with Spire,
who from the height of his seat, swore by all the saints that he
had stuffed the coach with food for two days. I was somewhat
embarrassed; however, I did not want poor Spire to be blamed any
longer, so I admitted what I had done. I expected to be scolded
for acting without authority, but my father put his arm round me
in the most affectionate manner, and many years after he still
spoke with pleasure of my conduct on this occasion.

From Cressensac to Toulouse the road was full of volunteers,
going to join the army of the Pyrenees, and making the air ring
with patriotic songs. I was charmed by this bustling spectacle
and would have been happy had it not been for my physical
suffering. I had never made a long journey by coach before, and I
was sea-sick throughout the trip, which decided my father to stop
every night to allow me some repose. I arrived at Toulouse
feeling very tired, but the sight of my brother, from whom I had
been parted for four or five years, gave me so much joy that I
very soon recovered.

My father, with the rank of divisional general, commanding the
camp situated at Miral, close to Toulouse, was entitled to a
billet, and the municipality had assigned to him the fine town
house of Resseguier, whose owner had emigrated. Madame de
Resseguier and her son had retreated to the most distant rooms,
and my father gave orders that the strictest regard was to be
given to their unhappy position.

My father's house was much frequented. Every day there were
visitors, and he had a great deal of expense, for although at
that time a divisional general received eighteen rations of all
kinds, and his aides-de-camp a similar amount, it was not enough.
He had to buy a host of things and as the state gave to a general
officer what it gave to a sous-lieutenant, that is eight francs a
month in cash, the rest being made up in assignats, the value of
which diminished daily, and as my father was very generous,
entertained many of the officers from the camp, had numerous
domestic servants (at that time called servitors), had eighteen
horses, a coach, a box at the theatre etc...He spent the savings
which he had accumulated at Lariviere, and it was from the time
of his re-entry into military service that the decline of his
fortune began.

Although the "Terror" was now at its height and class distinction
was greatly weakened in France, from whence all good manners
seemed to have removed themselves forever, my father knew so well
how to impose them on the many officers who came to his quarters,
that the most perfect politeness ruled in his salon and at his

Among the officers employed at the camp, my father had taken a
great liking to two, who were invited more often than the others.

One was named Augereau and was the adjutant-general, that is to
say colonel of the general staff, the other was Lannes, a
lieutenant of Grenadiers, in a battalion of volunteers from the
department of Gers.

They became Marshals of the Empire and I have been aide-de-camp
to both of them.

At this period Augereau, after escaping from the prison of the
Inquisition at Lisbon, had come to fight in the Vendee, where he
was noticed for his courage and his quality of leadership. He was
an excellent tactician, a skill which he had learned in Prussia,
where he had served for a considerable time in the Foot-guards of
Frederick the Great; hence his nick-name of "The Big Prussian."
He had an irreproachable military turn-out, spick and span,
curled and powdered, with a long pig-tail, big, highly polished
riding boots and withal, a very martial bearing. This smart
appearance was the more remarkable because, at this time it was
not something on which the French army could pride itself, being
almost entirely made up of volunteers not used to wearing uniform
and very careless of their grooming. However nobody made fun of
Augereau about this, for he was known to be a brave and
accomplished duelist, who had given even the celebrated
Saint-George, the finest swordsman in France, a run for his

I have said that Augereau was a good tactician; because of this,
my father had appointed him to direct the training of the
battalions of new levees, of which the division was largely
composed. These men came from Limousin, Auvergne, the Basque
country, Quercy, Gers and Languedoc. Augereau trained them well,
and in so doing he was unaware that he was laying the foundations
of his own future fame, for these troops, which my father then
commanded, formed later the famous Augereau division which did
such fine things in the Pyrenees and in Italy.

Augereau came almost daily to my father's house, and seeing that
he was appreciated, he devoted to him a friendship which never
wavered and of which I felt the benefit after the death of my

As for Lieutenant Lannes, he was a very lively young Gascon,
intelligent and cheerful, without education or training but
anxious to learn at a time when no one else was. He became a very
good instructor, and since he was very vain, he accepted with the
greatest delight the praises which my father lavished on him, and
which he deserved. By way of recompense, he spoiled, as much as
he could, his general's children.

One fine morning, my father received the order to strike his camp
at Miral and to lead his division to join the army corps of
General Dugommier, which was laying siege to Toulon, which the
English had captured in a surprise attack. My father then said to
me that it was not in a school for young ladies that I would
learn what I needed to know; that I needed more serious studies
and in consequence he was taking me, the next day, to the
military college of Soreze, where he had already arranged a place
for me and my brother. I was thunderstruck! Never to go back to
my friends with the Mesdames Mongalvi? That seemed impossible!

The road was covered with troops and guns, which my father passed
in review at Castelnaudary. This spectacle, which a few days
earlier would have delighted me, now failed to lessen the anxiety
which I felt about the teachers in whose presence I was about to
find myself.

We stayed overnight at Castelnaudary, where my father learned of
the evacuation of Toulon by the English (18th Dec 1793), and was
ordered to go with his division, to the eastern Pyrenees.
Whereupon he decided to deposit us, the very next day, at Soreze,
to stay there for a few hours only, and to set off immediately
for Perpignon.

On leaving Castelnaudary, my father ordered the coach to stop at
a famous tree under which the Constable Montmorency had been
taken prisoner by the troops of Louis XIII, following the defeat
of the supporters of Gaston d'Orleans, who had rebelled against
his brother. He chatted about this event with his aides-de-camp,
and my brother-- who was already well informed--took part in the
conversation. As for me, I had only the vaguest notions of the
general history of France and knew nothing of the details. It was
the first time I had heard of the battle of Castelnaudary, of
Gaston, of his revolt and of the capture and execution of the
Constable de Montmorency. I realised that my father did not ask
me any question on the subject because he was quite certain that
I would be unable to reply. This made me feel ashamed, and I
concluded that my father was right in taking me to the college to
be educated. My regrets then changed into a resolution to learn
all that I needed to know.

Nevertheless, my heart sank at the sight of the high sombre walls
of the cloister in which I was to be enclosed. I was eleven years
and four months old when I entered this establishment.

Chap. 4.

I shall now give you a brief history of the college of Soreze, as
I had it from Dom Abal, a former vice principal, whom I saw often
in Paris during the Empire.

When, under Louis XV, it was resolved to clear the Jesuits out of
France, their defenders claimed that they alone knew how to
educate children. The Benedictines, sworn enemies of the Jesuits,
wished to prove that this was not so; but as it did not suit
them, although they were studious and learned, to turn themselves
into schoolmasters, they selected four of their houses to be
turned into colleges, among which was Soreze. There they placed
those members of the order who had the most aptitude for
teaching, and who could, after working for several years, retire
to other monasteries of the order. The new colleges prospered,
Soreze in particular stood out, and the crowd of pupils, who
hurried there from all parts, made a larger number of teachers
necessary. The Benedictines attracted there many learned laymen,
who established themselves, with their families, in the little
town in which the monastery was situated. The children of these
lay teachers, who attended the college free as day pupils,
formed, later, a nursery of masters of all the arts and sciences.
Eventually the ability to give lessons at a very reasonable cost
led to the setting up of several boarding houses for young
ladies, and the little town became remarkable in that its
citizens, even the simple merchants, had an extended education
and practised all the fine arts. A crowd of foreigners,
principally English, Spanish and American, came to stay there, in
order to be near their sons and daughters during their education.

The Benedictine order was, in general, made up of very easy-going
men; they mixed with the world and entertained often, so they
were well liked; something that was very useful to those at
Soreze when the revolution broke out.

The Principal at that time was Dom Despaulx, a man of the highest
integrity, but who, being unwilling to subscribe to the "civic
oath" then exacted from the clergy, retired and spent several
years in retreat, from where he was later called by the Emperor
to fill one of the highest positions in the university.

All the other Benedictines at Soreze took the oath: Dom Ferlus
became Principal and Dom Abal Vice-Principal, and the college, in
spite of the revolutionary upheavals, continued to operate,
following the excellent start which it had been given by Dom

Later, however, a law having been passed requiring the
secularising of the monks and the sale of their property, the
days of the college seemed numbered; but many of the most
important men in the country had been educated there, and they
wanted it to be there for their children; the inhabitants of the
town, even the labourers and peasants, respected the good fathers
and realised that the destruction of the college would result in
the ruin of the area. So an arrangement was made whereby Dom
Ferlus would become the owner of the college and the immense
property which belonged to it. Nobody attended the auction, and
the Principal became, at a very modest price, the owner of the
huge monastery and the land which it owned. The administrators
of the department gave him plenty of time to pay. Everyone lent
him assignats which he repaid with some loads of wood; the vast
farms of the estate furnished food for the college and, lacking
money, Dom Ferlus paid the external teachers in provisions, which
suited them very well at a time when famine was rife in France.

On the death of Dom Ferlus, the college passed into the hands of
his brother Raymond Ferlus, a former Oration, now married, a
third-rate poet and man of little capacity. The college went into
decline when the restoration of 1814 allowed back the Jesuits,
who were determined to wreak revenge on the Benedictines by
destroying the edifice which the latter had erected on the ruins
of their order.

The university took sides with the Jesuits. M. Raymond Ferlus
handed over the college to his son-in-law, M. Bernard, a former
artillery officer who had been one of my contempories. He knew
nothing about running such an establishment, and, besides that, a
host of other good colleges sprang up as rivals, and Soreze,
losing its importance from day to day, became one of the most
mediocre institutions of learning.

I return now to the time when I was at Soreze. I have told you
how Dom Ferlus saved the college from ruin, and how, upheld by
the care of this enlightened man, it was the only great
establishment of its kind left standing by the revolution. The
monks adopted lay clothing and the appellation "Citizen" replaced
that of "Dom." Apart from that, nothing essential was changed in
the college and it continued to exist peacefully in a corner of
France, while the country was most cruelly being torn to pieces.
I say that nothing essential had changed because the studies
followed their usual course, and there was no breakdown of order,
but it was impossible that the feverish agitation which reigned
outside should not be felt in the college. I will say also that
Dom Ferlus, with diplomatic skill, presented the appearance of
approving of what he could not prevent. The walls therefore were
covered with Republican slogans. It was forbidden to use the word
"Monsieur". The pupils went to the dining hall or on walks,
singing the Marseillaise or other Republican hymns; and as they
heard continually of the achievements of our armies, in which
some of the older pupils were even enrolled as volunteers, and as
they were brought up in a military atmosphere, (since, even
before the revolution, Soreze was a military college, where one
learned drill, horse-riding, fortification, and so on), all this
youth had, for some time, adopted a warrior-like stance and
spirit which had led to a slackening of good manners. Added to
which the uniform contributed greatly to give them a very strange
aspect. The scholars wore big shoes, which were cleaned only
every ten days, stockings of grey thread, plain brown trousers
and jacket, no waistcoat, shirts undone, and covered with stains
of ink and red pencil, no tie, nothing on the head, the hair in a
pig-tail, often undone, and the hands....! Like those of a

Imagine me, clean, polished, dressed in clothes of fine cloth,
neat and tidy, thrown into the midst of seven hundred urchins,
got up as imps, and who, on hearing a shout of "Here are some new
ones!" left their games and came, in a mob to gather round us,
staring as if we were strange animals.

My father embraced us and left...! I was in a state of utter
despair! Here I was, alone, alone for the first time in my life,
my brother being in the upper school while I was in the lower. We
were in the middle of winter. It was very cold, but according to
school rules, the pupils were never allowed a fire!

Nevertheless, the pupils at Soreze were well fed, especially for
that time; for in spite of the famine which was sweeping France,
the good administration of Dom Ferlus provided an abundance of
food. The everyday fare was certainly all that could be desired
for school-children. However the supper seemed to me to be most
niggardly, and the sight of the dishes put before me disgusted
me: but had I been offered ortolans, I would not have been
tempted, my heart was so full. The meal finished as it had begun,
with a patriotic song. We knelt down at the couplet of the
Marseillaise which begins "Amour sacre de la patrie"...Then we
filed out, as we had come in, to the sound of a drum, and we went
to the dormitories.

The pupils of the upper school had each his own room, in which he
was shut in for the night; those of the lower school slept four
to a room, of which each angle contained a bed. I was put with
Guiraud, Romestan and Lagarde, who were my companions at table,
and almost as new as I was. I was quite happy with this. They had
seemed to me to be nice children, which, in fact, they were. But
I was taken aback when I saw the smallness of my bed, the
thinness of the mattress, and what displeased me most, the iron
bed-stead. I had never seen anything like it. However everything
was very clean, and in spite of my dismay I slept soundly, worn
out by the shocks to my system which I had suffered on this
fateful day.

The next morning, the drum beat reveille, making a horrible noise
in the dormitories, which I thought was quite atrocious; but how
do you think I felt when I saw that, while I was asleep, someone
had removed my beautiful clothes, my fine stockings and my pretty
shoes, and had replaced them by the coarse garments and heavy
footwear of the school? I wept with rage.

Having told you of the first impressions which I experienced on
my entry into the college, I shall spare you the recital of all
the torments to which I was exposed during the next six months. I
had been too pampered by the mesdames Mongalvi not to suffer
mentally and physically in my new position. I became very
depressed, and had my constitution been less robust, I should
have become ill. This period was one of the most unhappy in my
life. In the long run, however, work and familiarity enabled me
to cope with the situation. I was very fond of the lessons in
French literature, in geography, and above all, in history, and I
made progress in these subjects. I became passable at Latin and
mathematics and at horsemanship and fencing. I was an expert at
fire-arms drill and took much pleasure in the manoeuvres of the
school battalion which was commanded by a retired captain.

At the time when I entered the college, the convention was
imposing its blood-stained sceptre over France. Representatives
of the people, on various missions, infested the provinces, and
almost all of these who were of any importance in the Midi came
to visit Soreze, whose title of "Military Academy" sounded
pleasing to their ears.

Citizen Ferlus had a particular talent for persuading them that
they must maintain an establishment devoted to educating a
numerous youth, "The hope of the country". So he obtained all
that he wanted. Often they would send us great bundles of
brushwood, destined to supply the army, our Principal having
persuaded them that we were a part of it, and were, in effect,
its nursery.

These Representatives were received and fąted like Sovereigns. On
their arrival, all the pupils were dressed in their military
uniforms; the battalion was paraded before them; a guard was
mounted at every gate as if in a military barracks. Little
tableaux were enacted which exuded the purest patriotism; one
sang national hymns, and when they visited the classes,
particularly those of history, an occasion was always found to
produce some tirade on the excellence of Republican government
and the patriotic virtues which derived from it. I can remember,
in this regard, an occasion when Representative Chabot, a former
Capuchin, questioned me on Roman history. He asked me what I
thought of Coriolanus, who finding himself wronged by his fellow
citizens, forgetful of his former services, withdrew to the
country of the Volscians, sworn enemies of the Romans. Dom Ferlus
and the teachers feared greatly that I might approve of the
Roman's conduct, but I blamed him, saying that a good citizen
must never bear arms against his country, nor dream of any
vengeance against her, no matter how justified his discontent.
The representative was so pleased with my answer that he patted
me on the back, and complemented the head of the college and the
teachers on the sound principles which they inculcated in their

This little success did not diminish the dislike I had for these
representatives. The actions of the convention filled me with
horror. Young as I was, I had, already, enough sense to realise
that it was not necessary to wallow in French blood in order to
save the country, and that the guillotinades and massacres were
appalling crimes.

I shall not discuss here the system of oppression which ruled,
then, in our unhappy country; this is a matter of history; but I
may say that however strong the colours used to paint the horrors
of which these terrorists were capable, the picture will be less
lurid than the reality. Perhaps the most surprising thing is the
stupidity of the masses, who allowed themselves to be dominated
by men, the greater part of whom lacked any ability: for whatever
may have been said, almost all the members of the convention were
of more than ordinary mediocrity and their boasted unanimity
arose from the fear they had of one another, since in their
anxiety to avoid being guillotined themselves, they agreed with
anything which the ringleaders proposed.

I saw, during my exile in 1815, many members of the convention
who like me were forced to leave France. They were completely
lacking in back-bone, and assured me that they voted for the
death of Louis XVI and a host of odious decrees solely to save
their own skins. The memory of these times has convinced me that
the worst form of government is that by the masses.

Chap. 5.

I reached the age of sixteen in August 1798. Six months later,
towards the end of February, I left the college of Soreze.

My father had a friend named M. Dorignac, who offered to take me
with him to the capital. It took us eight days to reach Paris,
where we arrived in March 1799, on the day when the Odeon theatre
was burned down for the first time. The flames were visible far
off on the Orleans road, and I thought, in my simplicity, that
the light came from furnaces operating in the city. My father, at
that time, occupied a fine mansion in the Faubourg-St-Honore
road, number 87, on the corner with the little Rue Vert. I
arrived there at dinner time: all the family were gathered there.
It would be impossible for me to describe the joy which I felt at
seeing them all together! This was one of the happiest days of my

We were now in the spring of 1799. The Republic still existed,
and the government was now composed of the Directorate of five
members, and two chambers, one of which was called the Council of
Elders, and the other the Council of Five Hundred

My father entertained many members of society. There I made the
acquaintance of his intimate friend, General Bernadotte, and some
of the outstanding men of the period, such as Joseph and Lucien
Bonaparte, and also Napper-Tandy, the Irish leader, who had taken
refuge in France. At my mother's house I frequently saw Madame
Bonaparte and sometimes Madame De StaČl, already celebrated for
her literary works.

I had been in Paris for only about a month, when the term of the
legislature expired. It was necessary to hold new elections. My
father, fed up with the constant wrangling of political life, and
regretting that he was not taking any part in the army's
achievements, declared that he would no longer accept nomination
as a deputy, and that he wished to return to active service.
Events turned out in his favour. On the assembly of the new
Chambers there was a change of minister. General Bernadotte
became minister for war. He had promised my father that he would
send him to the army of the Rhine, and my father was about to set
off for Mainz, when the directory, learning of the defeat
suffered by the army of Italy, commanded by Scherer, appointed as
his successor, General Joubert, who commanded the 17th division,
(now the 1st,) in Paris.

This post having now become vacant, the directory, realising that
its great political importance required that it should be filled
by someone of capacity and determination, instructed the minister
for war to offer it to my father. My father who had resigned from
the legislature only to resume active service, turned the offer
down; but on Bernadotte showing him the letter of appointment,
already signed, and saying that as a friend, he begged him to
accept, and as a minister, he ordered him, my father gave in, and
the next day he went to install himself in the headquarters of
the Paris division, situated, at that time in the Quai Voltaire,
at the corner of the Rue de Saint-Peres, and which has since been
demolished. My father took as his chief of staff his old friend
Col. Menard. I was delighted by all the military suite with which
my father was surrounded. His headquarters were never empty of
officers of all ranks. A squadron of cavalry, a battalion of
infantry and six field-guns were stationed before his portals,
and one saw a crowd of orderlies coming and going. This seemed to
me much more entertaining than the exercises and translations of

France, and in particular Paris, were, at this time, in a state
of much agitation. We were on the brink of catastrophe. The
Russians, commanded by the celebrated Souwaroff, had just entered
Italy, where our army had suffered a major defeat at Novi, where
General Joubert had been killed. The victor, Souwaroff, was
heading for our army of Switzerland, commanded by Massena.

We had few troops on the Rhine. The peace conference begun at
Rastadt had broken down and our ambassadors had been
assassinated; now all Germany was arming once more against us,
and the Directory, fallen into disfavour, had neither troops nor
the money to raise them. In order to procure funds it decreed a
forced loan, which had the effect of turning everyone against it.
All hopes were pinned on Massena's ability to stop the Russians
and prevent them from entering France. The directory, impatient,
sent him courier after courier, ordering him to join battle; but
this latter-day Fabius, unwilling to risk the safety of his
country, was waiting for some false move, on the part of his
impetuous adversary, to give him the opportunity for victory.

At this point, I shall relate an anecdote which demonstrates on
how fine a thread sometimes hangs the destiny of states and the
reputation of generals. The directory, exasperated to see that
Massena did not obey the repeated commands to engage in battle,
resolved to relieve him of his post; but, as it was feared that
this general would take no notice of the order and simply stuff
it in his pocket, if it was sent by an ordinary courier, the
minister for war was ordered to send a staff-officer, charged to
deliver, publicly, to Massena his demotion, and to give to his
chief of staff, Cherin, the official letter which would confirm
him as commander-in-chief of the army.

When the minister told my father, in confidence, about these
plans, my father disapproved, saying that it would be dangerous,
on the eve of a decisive action, to deprive the army of
Switzerland of a general in whom it had confidence, and give the
command to a general who was more used to administration than the
direction of troops in the field. In addition, the position of
the armies might change; and he thought it essential that the
mission was given to a man with enough wisdom to assess the state
of affairs, and who would not hand Massena his dismissal on the
eve of, or in the middle of a battle.

My father, eventually persuaded the minister to give the task to
M. Gault, his aide-de-camp, who, under the ostensible pretext of
going to see if the suppliers had delivered the number of horses
stipulated in their contract, would proceed to Switzerland with
the authority to retain or to hand out the order for the
dismissal of Massena, and the installing of general Cherin,
according to the circumstances which might lead him to judge
whether this would be useful or dangerous. This was an enormous
responsibility to confide to the prudence of a simple captain,
but M. Gault fully justified the faith my father had in him.

Arriving at the headquarters of the army of Switzerland five days
before the battle of Zurich, he found the troops so full of
confidence in Massena, and Massena himself so calm and
determined, that he had no doubts of success, and, maintaining
the deepest silence about his secret powers, he took part in the
battle of Zurich and then returned to Paris, without Massena
suspecting that this modest captain had in his hands the
authority which could have deprived him of the glory of one of
the finest victories of the century.

Had Massena been rashly dismissed, this would probably have led
to the defeat of General Cherin and the invasion of France by the
Russians, followed by the Germans, and perhaps finally to the
overrunning of Europe. General Cherin was killed at Zurich,
without being aware of the intentions of the government towards

The victory of Zurich, although, it prevented the advance of the
enemy into the country, gave the Directory only a momentary
respite. The government was everywhere crumbling; no one had
confidence in it. The treasury was bankrupt; the Vendee and
Brittany were in open revolt; the interior stripped of troops;
the Midi in turmoil; the chamber of deputies squabbling among
themselves, and with the executive. In short, the state was on
the verge of disaster.

Everyone in politics recognised that a major change was necessary
and inevitable; but although all agreed on this point, opinions
differed as to the remedy to be employed. The old Republicans,
who upheld the constitution of year III, then still in force,
believed that it would be sufficient to change several members of
the Directory. Two of them were removed and replaced by MM.
Gohier and Moulins; but this was the feeblest of palliatives for
the calamities which afflicted the country, and it continued to
be shaken by anarchy.

It was then that several members of the Directory, amongst whom
was the well-known Sieyes, thought, as did many of the deputies
and the great majority of the public, that to save France it was
necessary to put the reins of government in the hands of someone
resolute and already distinguished by services given to the
state. It was realised, also, that this would have to be a
soldier who had great influence in the army, and who was able, by
re-arousing national enthusiasm, to lead our banners to victory
and chase away the foreigners who were preparing to cross our

To speak like this was to point to General Bonaparte, but at this
moment he was in Egypt, and the need was pressing. Joubert had
been killed in Italy. Messena, though famous for several
victories, was an excellent general at the head of an army in the
field, but in no way a politician. Bernadotte did not seem to
have the capacity or the wisdom to repair the country's fortunes.
The eyes of the reformers then turned to General Moreau; although
the weakness of his character and his indecisive conduct on the
18th Fructidor raised some fears about his ability to govern. It
is certain, however, that lacking an alternative, he was asked to
head the party which intended to overthrow the Directory, and was
offered the title of President or Consul. Moreau, a good fighting
soldier, lacked political courage, and perhaps doubted his own
ability to cope with affairs in such a mess as were those of
France. Also he was self-centered and indolent and worried little
about the future of the country, preferring the repose of private
life to the agitation of politics. He refused the offer and
retired to his estate of Grosbois, to devote himself to hunting,
of which he was passionately fond.

Abandoned by the man of their choice, Sieyes and those with him,
who wished to change the form of the government, not feeling
themselves to be sufficiently strong or popular to achieve their
aim without the support of a general whose name would rally the
army to their side, were forced to turn their thoughts to General
Bonaparte. The leader of this enterprise, Sieyes, flattered
himself that, having been placed in power, Bonaparte would busy
himself with the management and re-organising of the army, and
leave to him the conduct of the government, of which he would be
the master and Bonaparte but the nominal head. Events showed how
badly he was mistaken.

Imbued with this notion, Sieyes, through the intermission of the
Corsican deputy, Salicetti, sent a reliable secret agent to
Egypt, to inform General Bonaparte of the troubled state of
France, and propose to him that he should come back and place
himself at the head of the government. Having no doubt that
Bonaparte would accept readily and return promptly to Europe,
Sieyes put everything in motion to assure the execution of the
coup d'etat which he was planning.

It was easy for him to convince his fellow director,
Roger-Duclos, that their power was slipping away daily, and that
the country being on the brink of complete disorganisation, the
public welfare, and their personal interests, demanded that they
should take part in the establishment of a strong government, in
which they would contrive to place themselves in a less
precarious and more advantageous position.

Roger-Duclos promised his agreement to the proposed changes; but
the other three directors, Barras, Gohier and Moulins were
unwilling to give up their positions, so Sieyes and the leaders
of his party resolved to go over their heads, and to sacrifice
them after the event.

However, it would be difficult, not to say dangerous, even with
the presence of General Bonaparte, to overthrow the Directorate,
change the constitution and establish a new government, without
the support of the army, and, above all, that of the division
which occupied Paris. To be able to rely on this, it was
necessary to be sure of the co-operation of the minister for war
and of the general commanding the 17th division.

President Sieyes then sought to win over Bernadotte and my
father, by having them sounded out by several deputies who were
their friends and also supporters of Sieyes's plans. I have
learned since that my father replied to the vague overtures which
were put to him on behalf of the crafty Sieyes by saying that he
agreed that the country's misfortunes demanded a drastic remedy,
but that, having sworn to maintain the constitution of year III,
he would not use the authority he had over his troops to lead
them to its overthrow. He then went to Sieyes and handed in his
resignation as commander of the Paris division, and requested a
posting to a division on active service. Sieyes hastened to fall
in with his wishes, being only too glad to get rid of a man whose
devotion to what he saw as his duty, might abort the projected
coup. The minister, Bernadotte followed my father's example, and
was replaced by Dubois-Crance.

President Sieyes was, for some days, at a loss to find a
successor to my father. In the end, he gave the command to
general Lefebvre, who, having recently been wounded in the army
of the Rhine, was at that moment in the capital. Lefebvre was a
former sergeant in the Guards, a brave soldier, a good,
workmanlike general, provided that he was closely supervised, but
credulous in the extreme, with no understanding of the political
situation in France. So, by careful use of the words "Glory,"
"Motherland," and " Victory, " One could be sure of making him do
whatever one wished. This was just the sort of commander that
Sieyes was looking for. He did not even take the trouble to win
him over, or to warn him of what was about to happen, so sure was
he that on the day Lefebvre would not resist the influence of
General Bonaparte, and the cajoleries of the president of the

He had made an accurate assessment of Lefebvre, for on the 18th
Brumaire, he placed himself and all his troops under the command
of General Bonaparte, to march against the Directorate and the
Councillors, to throw down the established government and create
the Consulate. This action made him, later, one of the Emperor's
greatest favourites. He was made a marshal, Duke of Danzig and
senator and was showered with riches.

I have rapidly outlined these events, because they explain some
of the reasons which led my father to Italy: a move which had
such a profound effect on his destiny and mine.

Chap. 6.

After handing over his command to General Lefebvre, my father
returned to his house in the Faubourg St. Honore and busied
himself with preparations for his departure to Italy.

A man's destiny is often influenced by the smallest of events. My
father and mother were very friendly with M. Barairon, the
director of registration, and one day, when they were going to
dine with him, they took me along. The talk was of my father's
coming departure, and the progress of my two younger brothers. At
last, M. Barairon asked, "And Marcellin, what are you going to
make of him?" "A sailor," replied my father, "Captain Sibille has
agreed to take him with him to Toulon." Then the good Mme.
Barairon, towards whom I have always felt the warmest gratitude,
observed to my father that the French navy was in complete
disarray, that the poor state of the country's finances would not
allow its rapid refurbishment, and, furthermore, its inferiority
vis-Ö-vis the English navy was such that it would spend most of
its time in harbour. She said that she could not think why he, a
divisional general, would put his son into the navy, instead of
placing him in a regiment, where the name and services of his
father would make him welcome. She ended by saying, "Take him to
Italy, sooner than send him to die of boredom, in a vessel shut
up in Toulon harbour."

My father, who had been briefly enticed by Capt. Sibille's
proposition, was too intelligent not to appreciate Mme.
Barairon's reasoning. "Well then," he asked me, "Do you want to
come to Italy with me and serve in the army?" I put my arms round
him and accepted, with a joy which my mother shared, for she had
not been in favour of my father's first idea.

As, at that time, there was no military academy, and one could
join the army only as a private soldier, my father took me right
away to the municipality of the first arrondissment, in the Place
Beauvau, and had me enlisted in the 1st Hussars, (formerly the
Bercheny), who were part of the division which he was going to
command in Italy. It was September the 3rd, 1799.

My father took me to a tailor, who had the job of making official
army uniforms, and ordered for me a complete outfit for a Hussar
of the 1st. As well as all the arms and equipment.

There I was!....A soldier!.....And was I not happy? But my
happiness was somewhat lessened when I reflected that this was
going to upset my brother Adolphe, two years older than me, and
still stuck in college. I then had the idea that I would not tell
Adolphe about my enlistment without telling him, at the same
time, that I wanted to spend with him the period which would have
to pass before my departure. I then asked my father if he would
allow me to be installed close to Adolphe, at Sainte-Barbe, until
the day when we would take the road for Italy. My father
understood the reason for my asking, and thought well of me for
it. He took me, the next day to stay with a M. Lanneau.

Can you imagine my arrival at college?...It was a recreation
period. All games stopped. All the pupils, big and small,
surrounded me. They vied with each other to touch part of my
equipment....In short, the Hussar was a complete success!

The day of the departure arrived....I said farewell to my mother
and my three brothers with the greatest sadness, in spite of the
pleasure I felt on starting a military career.

Chap. 7.

After my father had accepted a command in Italy, a division
became vacant in the army of the Rhine, which he would have
preferred; but an inescapable fate drew him towards the country
where he would find his grave.

One of his compatriots, and a personal friend, M. Lacheze, whom I
might call his evil genius, had for a long time been French
consul at Leghorn and Genoa, where he had business interests.
This wretched man, in order to lure my father to Italy, was
forever painting the most exaggerated picture of the country's
beauties, and pointing out the credit which might be gained by
dealing successfully with the difficult situation in the army
there, whereas there would be little opportunity to acquire
distinction in the army of the Rhine, where all was well. My
father was swayed by this specious reasoning, and believing that
there was more merit in going to the more dangerous post, he
persisted in his intention of going to Italy, in spite of the
objections of my mother, who had a secret presentiment which made
her wish for my father to go to the Rhine. This presentiment was
not false. She never saw her husband again!

To his present aide-de-camp, Captain Gault, my father now added
another officer, M. R*** who had come to him from his friend
General Augereau. M. R*** had the rank of major. He was a member
of a Maintenon family and had some ability and some education,
which he very rarely employed; for in a stupid manner, which was
then quite common, he swaggered about, forever cursing and
swearing, and talking of running people through with his sabre.
This bully-boy had only one virtue, very rare at this time: he
was always turned out with the greatest elegance. My father, who
had taken on M. R*** without knowing anything about him, now much
regretted it; but he could not send him back without upsetting
his old friend, Augereau. Although my father disliked him, he
thought, perhaps rightly, that a general should make use of the
military qualities of an officer, without worrying too much about
his personal manners; but, as he did not care to have the company
of M. R*** on a long journey, he had given him the job of taking
his coaches and horses from Paris to Nice, having under his
orders the old stud-groom, Spire, a highly responsible man, used
to the management of stables. The stable was large: my father had
fifteen horses, which with those of his aide-de-camp and of his
chief-of-staff and his assistants, together with those for the
wagons and so on, made up a fairly large group of which R*** was
the leader.

They left a month before we did.

My father took in his coach the fatal M. Lacheze, Captain Gault
and me. Colonel Menard, the chief-of- staff, followed, with one
of his assistants, in a post-chaise. A big rascal, my father's
valet, went ahead as a courier. We travelled in uniform. I had a
fine forage cap which pleased me so much that I wore it all the
time, but, as I put my head out of the coach window frequently,
because the coach made me travel-sick, it so happened that during
the night, when my companions were asleep, the cap fell into the
road. The coach, drawn by six vigourous horses, was going at top
speed. I did not dare have it stopped and so I lost my cap. A bad
omen! But I was to suffer far worse things in the terrible
campaign which we were about to undertake. This incident upset me
a good deal, but I said nothing about it for fear of being
chaffed about the way the new soldier was looking after his kit.

My father stopped at Macon, at the house of an old friend. We
spent twenty-four hours there and then continued our journey to
Lyons. We were not more than a few leagues from there, and were
changing horses at the post-house of Limonest, when we noticed
that all the postilions had decorated their hats with tricolour
ribbons, and that there were flags of the same colours hanging
from all the windows. We asked the reason for this demonstration,
and were told that General Bonaparte had just arrived in

My father, who was certain that Bonaparte was still in the depths
of Egypt, treated this news as absurd, but he was taken aback
when, having sent for the post master, who had just returned from
Lyons, he was told, "I saw General Bonaparte, whom I know very
well, because I served under his command in Italy. He is staying
in some hotel in Lyon, and has with him his brother Louis,
Generals Berthier, Lannes and Murat, as well as a great, number
of officers, and a Mameluke."

This could hardly have been more positive; however the revolution
had given rise to so many falsehoods, and factions had been so
cunning in inventing stories which would serve their ends, that
my father was still in doubt when we entered the suburbs of Lyon.
All the houses were draped with flags. Fireworks were going off.
The crowd filled the streets to the point of preventing our coach
from moving. There was dancing in the public squares and the air
rang with cries of "Vive Bonaparte. Saviour of the country!" It
was evident that Bonaparte was indeed in Lyon. My father said, "I
was well aware that he was to be sent for, but I did not think it
would be so soon. The coup has been well organised, and there are
great events to come. I feel sure that I was right to leave
Paris. At least, in the army I can serve the country without
taking part in a coup, which, however necessary, I find
repugnant." Having said this, he fell into a deep reverie, which
lasted for the long time it took us to work our way through the
crowds to the hotel where our rooms had been prepared.

The nearer we got to the hotel, the thicker the crowd became, and
when we reached the door we saw that it was hung about with
Chinese lanterns and guarded by Grenadiers. It was here that
General Bonaparte was staying, in rooms that had been booked a
week before for my father.

Although quick-tempered, my father did not say a word when the
hotelier, who had been compelled to obey the orders of the
municipality, came with some embarrassment to make his excuses.
The inn-keeper having added that he had arranged for our
accommodation at another hotel....very good, though of second
grade....and run by one of his relatives, my father simply asked
Capt. Gault to tell the postilion to take us there.

When we arrived, we were met by our courier, a lively fellow,
who, heated by the long journey he had just made and the numerous
drinks he had downed at each post-house had complained most
loudly when he found that the rooms booked for his master had
been given to General Bonaparte. The latter's aides-de-camp
hearing this uproar and learning the cause, went to warn their
master that General Marbot had been displaced to make room for
him, and, at the same time, General Bonaparte saw through his
open window my father's two coaches pull up at the door.

He had not been aware, until then, of the shabby way in which my
father had been treated; and as General Marbot, recently
commandant of Paris, and now a divisional commander in Italy was
too important a man to be treated unceremoniously, and also as
General Bonaparte had good reason to make himself popular with
everybody, he ordered one of his officers to go down straight
away and ask General Marbot to come, as a fellow soldier, and
share his accommodation. Then, seeing the coaches leave before
his aide-de-camp could speak to my father, Bonaparte went
immediately, on foot, to offer his regrets in person.

The crowd which followed him set up a great noise of cheering,
which, as it drew near our hotel, should have warned us, but we
had heard so much since coming to the town that it did not occur
to one of us to look out of the window. We were all in the
drawing-room where my father was striding up and down, deep in
thought, when the valet-de-chambre, opening the double doors,
announced, "The General Bonaparte."

On entering, he hurried to embrace my father, who received him
very politely, but coolly. They had known each other for a long

The explanations about the lodgings could be disposed of in a few
words between two such people, and so they were. They had much
else to talk about; so they went alone into the bedroom, where
they remained in conference for more than an hour.

During this time, the officers who had come with General
Bonaparte chatted with us in the drawing-room. I never tired of
examining their martial appearance, their sun-bronzed faces,
their strange uniforms and their Turkish sabres, hung from cords.
I listened with interest to their stories of the campaign in
Egypt, and the battles which were fought there. I took pleasure
in hearing them talk of such celebrated places as the Pyramids,
the Nile, Cairo, Alexandria, Acre, the desert and so on. What
delighted me most, however, was the sight of the young Mameluke,
Rustum. He had stayed in the ante-chamber, where I went several
times to admire his costume, which he showed me willingly. He
already spoke reasonable French, and I never wearied of asking
him questions.

General Lannes recalled having let me fire his pistols, when, in
1793, he was serving under my father in the camp at Miral. He was
very friendly toward me, and neither of us then foresaw that one
day I should be his aide-de-camp, and that he would die in my
arms at Essling. General Murat came from the same region as we
did, and as he had been a shop-assistant to a silk merchant at
Saint-Cere during the period when my family spent the winter
there, he had often come to the house, bringing purchases to my
mother. My father, also, had rendered him a number of services,
for which he was always grateful. He gave me a hug, and reminded
me that he had often held me in his arms, when I was an infant.

General Bonaparte and my father having come back into the room,
they presented to one another the members of their suites.
Generals Lannes and Murat were old acquaintances of my father,
who welcomed them with great affability. He was a little distant
with General Berthier, whom, however he had seen before, when he
was in the bodyguard and Berthier was an engineer.

General Bonaparte, who knew my mother, asked me, very politely,
for news of her. He complimented me most warmly on having, while
yet so young, taken up a military career, and taking me gently by
the ear, which was always the most flattering caress which he
bestowed on those with whom he was pleased, he said to my father,
"One day this will be a second General Marbot." This prediction
came true, although at that time I had no expectation of it.
However I was very proud of these words. It takes so very little
to make a child feel pleased with himself.

When the visit was over, my father disclosed nothing of what had
been said between him and General Bonaparte; but I learned later
that Bonaparte, without stating his objectives clearly, had
sought, by the most adroit cajolements, to win my father over to
his side, and that, my father had always dodged the issue.

Disgusted at seeing the people of Lyon running in front of
Bonaparte, as if he was already the sovereign of France, my
father declared that he wanted to leave at dawn the next day; but
as his coaches needed some repairs, he was forced to spend an
entire day at Lyon. I profited from this to have a new forage cap
made, and, enchanted with this purchase, I took no notice of the
political conversations, about which, to tell the truth, I
understood little.

My father went to return the visit he had received from General
Bonaparte. They walked alone for a very long time in the hotel's
little garden, while their suites remained respectfully at a
distance. We saw them sometimes gesture with warmth, and at other
times speak more calmly; then Bonaparte, with a wheedling look,
went up to my father and put his arm through his in a friendly
fashion, probably so that the officials who were in the courtyard
and the many spectators who hung out of neighbouring windows
might conclude that General Marbot agreed with the plans of
General Bonaparte; for this crafty man neglected nothing to
achieve his aims.

My father came away from this second conversation even more
pensive than he had been after the first, and on coming back to
the hotel, he ordered our departure for the next day.
Unfortunately, the next day, General Bonaparte was to make an
excursion round the town to inspect the heights suitable for
fortification, and all the post-horses were reserved for him. I
thought that at this blow my father would become angry, but he
contented himself by saying, "There is the beginning of
omnipotence." And told his staff to see if they could hire any
horses, so keen was he to get away from the town and from the
sights which offended him. No spare horses could be found. Then
Col. Menard, who was born in the Midi, and knew the district
perfectly, observed that the road from Lyon to Avignon was in
such a poor state of repair that the coaches might be badly
damaged if they attempted it, and it would be better to embark
them on the Rhone, the descent of which would offer us an
enchanting spectacle. My father, who was no great lover of the
picturesque, would, at any other time, have rejected this advice,
but as it gave him the opportunity to leave the town a day
earlier, he agreed to take to the Rhone.

Col. Menard then hired a large boat, the coaches were put on
board, and the next day, early in the morning, we all embarked: a
decision which was very nearly the end of us.

It was autumn. The water was very low. All the time the boat
touched and scraped along the bottom. One feared that it might be
torn open. We slept the first night at Saint-Peray, next at Tain,
and took two days to get as far down as the junction with the
Drome. There we had much more water, and went along rapidly; but
a dangerous high wind called the Mistral hit us when we were
about a quarter league above the bridge known as Pont
Saint-Esprit. The boatmen were unable to reach the bank. They
lost their heads, and set themselves to praying instead of
working, while a furious wind and a strong current were driving
the boat towards the bridge! We were about to crash against the
pier of the bridge and be sunk, when my father and all of us,
taking up boat-hooks, hurried forward to fend off from the pier
which we were about to strike.

The shock was so severe that it knocked us into the thwarts, but
the push had changed the direction of the boat, which, by a
miraculous piece of good fortune, shot through under the arch.
The boatmen then recovered a little from their terror and resumed
some sort of control of their boat; but the Mistral continued,
and the two coaches offering a resistance to the wind made any
manoeuvre almost impossible. At last, six leagues above Avignon,
we went aground on a very large island, where the bow of the boat
dug into the sand in such a way that it would not be possible to
get it out without a gang of labourers, and we were listing over
so far that we feared being swamped at any moment. We put some
planks between the boat and the shore and, with the help of some
rope, we all got ashore without accident, though with some

There could be no thought of re-embarking in the very high
wind,(although without rain), and so we pushed on into the
interior of the island, which we thought at first was
uninhabited; but eventually we came across a sort of farm, where
we found some good folk who made us very welcome. We were dying
of hunger, but it was impossible to go back to the boat for food,
and all we had was a little bread.

We were told that the island was full of poultry, which was
allowed to run wild, and which the peasants shot, when they
wanted some. My father was very fond of shooting, and he needed
some relaxation from his problems, so we borrowed guns from the
peasants, some pitch-forks and sticks, and we set off on a hen
shoot. We shot several, though it was not easy to hit them as
they flew like pheasants. We also picked up many of their eggs in
the woods. When we returned to the farm, we lit a big fire in the
middle of a field, around which we set up a bivouac, while the
valet, helped by the farmer, prepared the eggs and the chickens
in a variety of ways. We supped well and then bedded down on
some hay, no one daring to accept the beds which the good
peasants offered us, as they seemed to us to be far from clean.

By day-break the wind had dropped, so all the peasants and the
boatmen took spades and picks, and after several hours of hard
work they got the boat afloat, enabling us to continue our
journey towards Avignon, which we reached without any further
accidents. Those that had befallen us were so embroidered in the
telling, that the rumour reached Paris that my father and all his
staff had been drowned.

The approach to Avignon, particularly when one comes down the
Rhone, is very picturesque. The old Papal Chateau; the ramparts
by which the city is surrounded; its numerous steeples and the
Chateau de Villeneuve rising opposite, combine to make a fine
prospect. At Avignon we met Mme. Menard and one of her nieces,
and we spent three days in the town, visiting the charming
outskirts, including the fountain of Vaucluse. My father was in
no hurry to leave, because M. R*** h d written to say that the
very hot weather,still persisting in the Midi,had forced him to
slow the pace of his march and my father did not wish to arrive
before his horses.

From Avignon we headed for Aix, but when we reached Bompart, on
the banks of the Durance, which, at that time, was crossed by a
ferry, we found the river so swollen by flood, that it would not
be possible to cross for at least five or six hours. We were
debating whether to return to Avignon, when the operator of the
ferry, a gentlemanly sort of person, who owned a charming little
castle on the height some five hundred paces from the river bank,
came and begged my father to rest there until the coaches could
be embarked. He accepted, hoping that it would be for a few hours
only; but it appeared that there had been heavy storms in the
Alps, where the Durance has its source, for the river continued
to rise all day, and we were compelled to accept lodging for the
night, which was offered most cordially by the owner of the
castle. The weather being fine we spent the day walking. It was a
break in our travels which I enjoyed.

The next day, seeing that the flood-water was running even more
rapidly than the evening before, our host, who was a devout
Republican, and who knew the river well enough to judge that we
would not be able to cross for twenty-four hours, hurried off,
unknown to us, to the little town of Cavaillon, which is about
two leagues from Bompart, on the same bank of the river. He had
gone to inform all the "Patriots" of the locality that he had in
his house divisional General Marbot. He then returned to the
castle, where, an hour or so later, we saw the arrival of a
cavalcade composed of the keenest "Patriots" of Cavaillon, who
had come to beg my father to accept an invitation to a banquet,
which they offered him in the name of all the notables of the
town, "Always so staunchly Republican."

My father, who found these sort of occasions far from agreeable,
at first refused; but these "Citoyens" were so insistent, saying
that everything had been organised and that the guests had
gathered, that my father gave in and went off to Cavaillon.

The best hotel had been decked with garlands, and was graced by
the presence of the local dignitaries from the town and its
outskirts. After an interminable number of compliments, we took
our places at a table laden with the most exclusive dishes. Above
all, there were ortolans, birds which thrive well in this part of
the country.

A great many toasts were drunk. Virulent speeches were made,
denouncing the "Enemies of liberty" and the dinner did not end
until ten o'clock in the evening. It was a little late to return
to Bompart, and anyway, my father could not with politeness leave
his hosts the moment the meal was over. He decided then to spend
the night at Cavaillon, and the rest of the evening was passed in
rather noisy talk. Eventually, one by one, the guests went home
and we were left alone.

The next morning, M. Gault asked the inn-keeper how much my
father owed for his part in the immense feast of the night
before, which he assumed was a communal meal in which each paid
for his own share. The inn-keeper presented him with a bill of
more than 1500 francs. The good "Patriots" not having paid a
single sou!...We were told that though some had expressed a wish
to pay, the great majority had replied that this would be "An
insult to General Marbot"....!

Capt. Gault was furious at this procedure, but my father, who at
first could not get over his astonishment, burst into laughter,
and told the inn-keeper to go and collect the money at Bompart,
to where we returned straight away, without saying a word of this
to the chatelaine; whose servants we tipped handsomely, and then,
taking advantage of the fall in the water level, we at last
crossed the Durance and made our way to Aix.

Although I might not yet be of an age to discuss politics with my
father, what I had heard him say led me to believe that his
Republican ideas had been much modified over the preceding two
years, and what he had experienced as a supposed guest of honour
at Cavaillon had severely shaken them, but he did not display any
ill-feeling on the subject of this banquet, and was even amused
at the anger of M. Gault, who said repeatedly, "I am not
surprised that, in spite of their cost, these scoundrels produced
so many ortolans, and ordered so many bottles of good wine! "

After spending a night at Aix, we left for Nice. This was the
last stage of our journey. While we were travelling through the
mountain and the beautiful forest of Esterel, we encountered the
Colonel of the 1st Hussars, who, escorted by an officer and
several troopers, was taking some lame horses, returned by the
army, back to the depot at Puy-en-Velay. This colonel was named
M. Picart and had been given his command because of his
administrative ability. He was sent frequently to the depot to
arrange for the equipment of men and horses, which he then
forwarded to the fighting units, where he appeared but rarely and
did not stay for long.

When he saw Col. Picart, my father had the coach stopped and got
out, and after presenting me to my colonel, he took him on one
side, and asked him to name an intelligent and well educated
non-commissioned officer who might be made my mentor. The Colonel
named Sergeant Pertelay. My father made a note of the name, and
we continued on our way to Nice; where we found M.R*** settled in
an excellent hotel, with our coaches and horses in first-class

Chap. 8.

The town of Nice was full of troops, among which was a squadron
of the 1st Hussars, to which regiment I belonged. In the absence
of its colonel, the regiment was commanded by a Major Muller. On
learning that the divisional general had arrived, Muller came to
see my father, and it was agreed between them that, after a few
days rest, I should begin my service in the seventh company,
commanded by Capt. Mathis.

Although my father was very good to me, I was so much in awe of
him that I was very shy in his presence, a shyness which he
thought was greater than was really the case; he said I should
have been a girl, and often called me madamoiselle Marcellin,
which annoyed me very much, especially now that I was a Hussar.
It was to overcome this shyness, that my father wished me to
serve in the ranks, and in any case, as I have already said, one
could not join the army except as a private soldier. My father,
it is true, could have attached me to his personal staff, since
my regiment was part of his division, but, quite apart from the
notion which I have described above, he wanted me to learn how to
saddle and bridle my own horse and to look after my arms and
equipment; also, he did not want his son to enjoy the least
privilege, as this would have had a bad effect on the rest of the
troops. It was already enough that I was to be allowed to join a
squadron without undergoing a long and wearisome period of
training at the depot. I passed several days with my father and
his staff, travelling about the district round Nice, which was
very beautiful, but the moment for my entry into the squadron
having arrived, my father asked Major Muller to send him Sergeant

Now, there were two brothers of this name in the regiment, both
of them sergeants, but having nothing else, physically or
mentally in common, the elder being something of a scamp, while
the younger was thoroughly respectable. It was this latter whom
the colonel had intended to appoint as my mentor, but in the
short time which he and my father had spent together, Col. Picart
had forgotten, when naming Pertelay, to add the younger:
furthermore, this Pertelay was not in the part of the squadron
which was stationed in Nice, while the elder was in the very
company, the seventh, which I was about to join.

Major Muller believed that the colonel had named the elder to my
father and that this wild character had been chosen to open the
eyes of an innocent and shy young man, which I then was. So he
sent us the elder Pertelay.

This example of the old type of Hussar was a rowdy, quarrelsome,
swashbuckling, tippler, but also brave to the point of
foolhardiness; for the rest, he was completely ignorant of
anything that was not connected with his horse, his arms and his
duties in the face of the enemy. Pertelay the younger, on the
other hand, was quiet, polite, and well-educated. He was a
handsome man and just as brave as his brother, and would surely
have gone far had he not, while still very young, been killed in

Now to return to the elder. He arrived at my father's quarters,
and what did we see? A fine fellow, very well turned out it is
true, but with his shako tipped over one ear, his sabre trailing
on the ground, his red face slashed by an immense scar,
moustaches six inches long, which, stiffened by wax, curled up
into his ears, two big plaits of hair, braided from his temples,
which, escaping from his shako, hung down to his chest, and with
all this an air...! An air of rakishness which was increased by
his speech, which was rattled out in a sort of Franco-Alsatian
patois. This last did not surprise my father, as he knew that the
1st Hussars were the former regiment of Bercheny, which in
earlier days recruited only Germans, and where, until 1793, all
the orders were given in German, which was the language generally
used by the officers and men, almost all of whom came from the
provinces bordering the Rhine. My father was however exceedingly
surprised by the style and manner of my proposed mentor.

I learned later that he had hesitated to put me in the hands of
this bravo, but M. Gault having reminded him that Colonel Picart
had described him as the best N.C.O.in the squadron, he decided
to try it. So off I went with Pertelay, who, taking me by the arm
without ceremony, came to my room, showed me how to pack my kit
into my valise, and conducted me to a small barracks, situated in
a former monastery, and now occupied by a squadron of the 1st

My mentor made me saddle and unsaddle the pretty little horse
which my father had bought me; then he showed me how to put on my
cloak and my arms, giving me a complete demonstration, and having
decided that he had explained to me all that was necessary, he
thought it time to go for dinner. My father, who wished me to eat
with my mentor, had given us extra money to meet the expense.

Pertelay took me to a small inn, which was crammed with Hussars,
Grenadiers and soldiers of every sort. We were served with a
meal, and on the table was placed an enormous bottle of red wine
of the most violent nature. Pertelay poured me a glassful. We
clinked glasses. My man emptied his and I raised mine without
putting it to my lips, for I had never drunk undiluted wine and I
found the smell of this liquid disagreeable. I admitted this to
my mentor, who shouted, in a stentorian voice, "Waiter! Bring
some lemonade for this boy who never drinks wine." A gale of
laughter swept through the room. I was mortified, but I could not
bring myself to taste this wine, and as I did not dare to ask for
water, I dined without a drink.

A soldier's apprenticeship has always been hard going. It was
particularly so at the time of which I write. I had, therefore,
some unhappy experiences to suffer. A thing I found unbearable
was the requirement to share my bed with another Hussar. The
regulations allotted only one bed for two soldiers. N.C.O.s alone
were allowed to have a bed each. On the first night which I spent
in the barracks, I had already gone to my bed when a tall,
ungainly Hussar, who arrived an hour after the others, approached
it, and seeing that it was occupied, he unhooked a lantern and
stuck it under my nose to examine me more closely. Then he got
undressed. As I watched him, I had no idea that he intended to
get in beside me; but I was soon disillusioned, when he said to
me roughly, "Shove over, conscript!" And got into the bed, taking
up three-quarters of it, and began to snore loudly. I was unable
to sleep a wink, largely because of the revolting odour arising
from a large package which my comrade had placed under the
bolster, to raise his head. I could not think what this could be,
so to find out, I slid my hand gently toward this object and
found it to be a leather apron impregnated with cobbler's wax,
which shoemakers use to treat their thread. My amiable bed
companion was one of the men employed by the regimental
bootmaker. I was so disgusted that I got up, got dressed, and
went to the stables where I bedded down on a heap of straw. The
next day I told Pertelay of my misadventure, and he reported it
to the sub-lieutenant commanding the platoon. He was a
well-educated man named Leisteinschneider (in German, a
stone-worker) who was later killed in action. He understood how
painful it must be for me to have to sleep with a bootmaker, and
he took it on himself to arrange for me to have a bed in the
N.C.O's room, something which pleased me greatly.

Although the revolution had produced a great relaxation in the
general turn-out of troops, the 1st Hussars had kept theirs
exactly as it was when they were Bercheny's Hussars; so except
for the physical differences imposed by nature, all troopers had
to resemble one another in their appearance, and as the regiments
of Hussars of that period had not only pig-tails, but long
plaited tresses which hung from their temples and turned-up
moustaches, it was the rule that everyone belonging to the
regiment must have moustache, pig-tail and tresses. Now, as I had
none of these things, my mentor took me to the regimental
wig-maker where I bought a false pig-tail and tresses, which were
attached to my own hair, already fairly long, as I had let it
grow since my enlistment. These embellishments embarrassed me at
first but I got used to them in a few days, and it pleased me to
imagine that they gave me the appearance of a seasoned trooper.
It was a different matter when it came to the moustache I had no
more of a moustache than a girl, and as a hairless face would
have spoiled the ranks of the squadron, Pertelay, as was the
custom of Bercheny, took a pot of black wax, and with his thumb
he gave me an enormous curling moustache, which covered my upper
lip and reached almost to, my eyes. The shakos of the time did
not have a vizor, so that, when I was on guard duty, or during an
inspection, when one has to remain perfectly still, the Italian
sun, shining hotly onto my face, sucked the moisture out of the
wax of which my moustache was made, and, as it dried it pulled at
my skin in a most disagreeable manner. However, I did not blink.
I was a Hussar! A word that had for me an almost magical
significance; besides which, having engaged in a military career,
I understood very well that my first duty was to obey the

My father and part of his division were still in Nice, when we
heard of the events of the 18th Brumaire, the overthrow of the
Directorate and the establishment of the Consulate. My father had
too much contempt for the Directorate to regret its downfall, but
he feared that, intoxicated by power, General Bonaparte, after
re-establishing order in France, would not restrict himself to
the modest title of consul, and he predicted to us that in a
short time he would aim to become king. My father was mistaken
only in the title, four years later Napoleon made himself

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