Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte Military Signed Letter Regarding Surrender of Gdansk & Capture of "H.M.S. Dauntless"

Napoleon Bonaparte Military Signed Letter Regarding Surrender of Gdansk & Capture of "H.M.S. Dauntless"

 

1p LS in French inscribed in a clerical hand and signed by Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) as "Nap" at bottom. Written from Finkenstein Palace, in northern modern day Poland, on May 22, 1807. The cream paper is in near fine condition, with expected light paper folds and a few isolated pin pricks, measuring 7.25" x 8.875". From the Marc-Arthur Kohn sale, "The Empire in Paris," December 2, 2013 (Paris, France), part of Lot 40.

 

Napoleon Bonaparte--emperor, military commander, and master geopolitical strategist--addressed this letter to his Minister of War, Henri Jacques Guillaume Clarke (1765-1818), in late May 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 facing off against coalition forces Prussia, Russia, Great Britain, and Sweden.

 

Translation from the French:

 

“Monsieur General Clarke, I received your letter of the 19th. Army bulletins told us the happy news about the engagement against General Kamenski on the 15th, and the prize of a beautiful English warship. Today, at the very moment we were going to attack Hagelberg, Gdansk asked for surrender. It is thus probable that when you read this letter my troops will already have entered Gdansk. I suppose that the Boudet division has arrived in Berlin. You didn’t mention it in your letter. Don’t forgo reviewing the troops and giving me a complete account. On this, I pray that God keeps you in his holy care. Finckenstein May 22, 1807. Nap.”

 

A triumphant Napoleon revels in the "happy news about … General Kamenski" that forced the surrender of the besieged city of Gdansk. On May 10-15, General Nikolay Kamensky had attempted to ferry his 7,000-men Russian force to Gdansk, but he was intercepted by Marshall Francois Joseph Lefebvre (1755-1820). Kamensky lost 1,500 men and then retreated, and the defenseless Gdansk sued for peace around the same time that Napoleon was planning "to attack Hagelberg," the name of one of the city's redoubts.

 

Napoleon crowed about the capture of the "beautiful English warship" the H.M.S. Dauntless. This Royal Navy Combatant-class sloop constructed in 1804 had provided naval escort and military support to coalition allies in the Baltic. H.M.S. Dauntless was transporting gunpowder to Gdansk when she ran aground and was captured. Renamed the Sans Peur, she was possibly impressed into the service of the Prussians later that summer.

 

This letter illustrates Napoleon’s exacting leadership style. He was involved in the minutest details of his military campaigns, and the success of his military strategy depended on constant intelligence. Napoleon berated subordinates if they did not report everything to him, viz., "I suppose that the Boudet division has arrived in Berlin. You didn’t mention it in your letter. Don’t forgo reviewing the troops and giving me a complete account."

 

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.

 

Nikolay Kamensky (1776-1811) was a daring strategist who had already developed a reputation for bold risk-taking by the time he died of fever on the Turkish front at the age of 34.

 

Jean Boudet (1769-1809), mentioned here in the context of the "Boudet division," was another dashing military commander then fighting in Germany. He died shortly after losing his artillery at the Battle of Wagram, at age 40.

 

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Item: 64554

Price: $4,000.00
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