Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte Signed Letter fr: Polish Campaign, War of the 4th Coalition: "… once they arrive in Berlin … review them, let them rest several days, and give them coats and shoes."

Napoleon Bonaparte Signed Letter from Polish Campaign, War of the 4th Coalition: "… once they arrive in Berlin … review them, let them rest several days, and give them coats and shoes."

 

3pp LS in French inscribed in a clerical hand and signed by Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) as "Napol" at the top of the third page. Written in Osterode, Germany on March 11, 1807. The watermarked cream bifold paper is in near fine condition, with expected light paper folds, each page measuring 7.25" x 8.875". From the Marc-Arthur Kohn sale, "The Empire in Paris,"  December 2, 2013 (Paris, France), part of Lot 38.

 

Napoleon Bonaparte--emperor, military commander, and master geopolitical strategist--addressed this lengthy missive to his Minister of War, Henri Jacques Guillaume Clarke (1765-1818), in early March 1807. It dates from the waning months of the War of the 4th Coalition (October 1806-July 1807), when Napoleon's forces were inexorably marching east conquering modern day Poland. Napoleon won the war after forcing the surrender of Polish strongholds Szczecin in October 1806, Gdansk in May 1807, and Kolobrzeg in July 1807.

 

Napoleon personally commanded his Grande Armee, comprised of 1,000,000 soldiers at its greatest extent, while invading and incorporating European territories into his ever-expanding empire. In this Polish campaign, Napoleon's French forces joined German, Italian, and Polish troops and faced off against coalition forces Prussia, Russia, Great Britain, and Sweden. His memorandum to General Clarke illustrates Napoleon’s direct style of leadership.

 

Translation from the French; page breaks have been added for improved legibility.

 

“Monsieur General Clarke, my intention is that the 2nd Italian regiment reports at Kolobrzeg, until the entire Italian division is present; that will permit us to return the 19th of the Line here. Marshall Kellermann writes me that the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th provisional regiments have left. The 5th has been at Kassel a long time. Write to Kassel requesting that they send you the 5th, it will be replaced by the 9th. The 6th must be at Magdeburg, the 7th must have returned by the 5th. The 8th will arrive there the 17th. My intention is that we leave no one at Magdeburg, and that you direct everyone to Szczecin or to Kostrzyn.

 

Maral Kellermann assures me that they are well armed and dressed. My managerial staff needs reinforcements for these eight provisional regts; I have thus ordered Mal Kellermann to have the last four regiments, that is, the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th, depart as soon as they are organized. My intention is that, once they arrive in Berlin, you review them, let them rest several days, and give them coats and shoes. You will do the same thing at Kostrzyn. The 31st Light Infantry must arrive at Berlin. Direct them towards Szczecin, after giving them a little rest, and reviewing them. I prefer that regiments pass by Szczecin rather than by Kostrzyn, because circumstances can render them exposed, and that they clear a passage from Marienberg to Torun...

 

The 45th of the Line arrives the 14th at Mainz and will proceed directly to Magdeburg. The 3rd Battalion of the 17th of the Line will begin marching March 2nd for Magdeburg. You will review them. If there are 800 mn, dash them off to this regiment, without leaving them any time at Magdeburg. The 3rd Battalion of the 21st of the Line will have arrived at Mainz. Ask Marshall Kellermann when he arrives. On this, I pray that God keeps you in his holy care. At Osterode March 11, 1807.

 

Napol.”

 

As this letter shows, Napoleon was intimately involved in the minutest details of his military campaigns. The success of his military strategy depended on constant intelligence; Napoleon berated subordinates if they did not report everything to him. There was certainly a lot to keep track of. This letter, for example, mentions the movements of 15 regiments to and from no fewer than nine German and Polish cities.

 

Napoleon was in part able to accomplish all he did by relying on General Clarke, who handled military matters ranging from inspection and provisioning, to conscription and internal discipline. General Clarke was recognized for his great service when he was granted the honorary title of Duc of Feltre in August 1809.

 

"Marshall Kellermann" refers to Francois-Christophe de Kellermann (1735-1820). Kellermann was a career soldier whose resistance against the Prussians at the Battle of Valmy (1792) earned him Napoleon's greatest respect. The aging Marshall was one of Napoleon's most reliable generals and served in support roles during the late Napoleonic Wars.

 

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Item: 64552

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