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NAPOLEONICA LA REVUE

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ARTICLES

Napoleon and England (Part II) - translated from the Souvenir Napoleonien (vol. 400, 1995)

(Article by MASSON Philippe ,  from the Académie de Marine, Translated by Judith Rosenzweig )

 Bibliographical details


REBUILDING A NAVY
OUTMODED VESSELS AND LACK OF CREWS
THE "MILITARISATION" OF THE SAILORS
THE NAVAL COUNCILS
A CRITICAL AND INDEPENDENT MENTALITY
PARADE SQUADRONS
THE RENEWAL OF PRIVATEERING AND ITS DECADENCE
THE NAVAL EFFORTS FOR THE COLONIES
THE ISLE OF AIX DISASTER
A DECEPTIVE ASSESSMENT
UNREALISTIC PLANS FOR A REAL ACT OF BRAINWASHING
THE NAVY AS THE INSTRUMENT OF INDIRECT STRATEGY
THE ECONOMIC CRISIS IN ENGLAND
ENGLISH PERSISTENCE "WE MUST DESTROY FRANCE"

THE PERIPHERAL BRITISH STRATEGY
VITTORIA, AN UNDERRATED DEFEAT
THE FORTRESS OF EUROPE ENCIRCLED
BARON SANÉ
THE PURSUIT OF A DECISION IN THE EAST
SAILORS OF THE GUARD

PART II : ENGLISH NAVY AND ARMY AGAINST NAPOLEON (1805-1815)

Pursuant to his study into the strategy of Napoleon against England, Philippe Masson deals in this second part with the period from 1805 to 1815. After Trafalgar, the fight had been won by the Royal Navy. It was then master of the seas. The considerable effort by the Emperor to rebuild a fleet and the revival of privateering only served as an indirect and defensive strategy which obliged England to maintain its navy at a high and costly level with respect to ships and men. But, the naval disaster at the Isle of Aix and the battlefield defeat at Vittoria in Spain marked, among other things, the vigor of British aggression. To ruin England, the continental Blockade would not suffice and Napoleon would search for a solution in Russia in order to achieve his dominance over the continent. As the work of Philippe Masson justly puts forth : " By an irony of history, in the days following the defeat of the Battle of Britain during the summer of 1940, Hitler would come to exactly the same conclusion. In one case like in the other, the fate of the struggle between naval power and land power would play out in the immense expanses of the East in an enormous game of poker. "
It is good to underline that Trafalgar constituted a defining date in the history of the Empire, as well as for the whole of the French navy. Be it during the times of colonization or during the two World Wars, this navy has only seen minor engagements. The disaster of 1805 did not, however, put an end to the war with England. The struggle continued in fields other than that of the war squadrons associated with preparations for landings.
Certainly, it presented a hopeless struggle. In hindsight, it is true, of which Jacques Bainville has made one of the best interpretations. "Napoleon had to devote himself to this impossible task to oblige England, absolute power of the seas, to capitulate. All that he did proceeded from this impossibility. He would even go uselessly as far as Moscow, unable to pass Pas-de-Calais ". Much more recently, Jean Tulard arrived at the same conclusions. " After Trafalgar, the Emperor was defeated without yet knowing it. "
On this point, there is strong exaggeration. Certainly, Trafalgar dismissed any threat of a landing. Great Britain could not be defeated on its own soil and the Grande Armée would not march on London. It remains, nonetheless, that a maritime power cannot, by itself, extract a decision. The outcome of the struggle would depend on the continental coalitions whose final success was not at all assured.
One notices it starting from the autumn of 1805. The victories at Ulm and at Austerlitz put an end to the third coalition. England was isolated again and found itself overrun with discouragement. In keeping with this tradition, William Pitt would die of grief. " In what a state I leave my homeland ", he murmured on his deathbed.
One could believe in a new peace of Amiens. Immediately, London and Paris engaged in negotiations. The beginnings were promising. Napoleon agreed to restore Hanover and thus guarantee the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. He stopped insisting on the evacuation of Malta. On the other hand, he wished to conserve the Kingdom of Naples and reclaim the evacuation of Sicily. On its side, the British cabinet refused to abandon the Cape.
The breakdown of negotiations, in July 1806, did not come from an irreconcilable character of these expectations. It proceeded from the formation of the fourth coalition. Alexander I renounced an alliance with France. He took the decision to resort again to arms, assured of the support of Prussia and, soon after, the financial support of Great Britain.
There again, the hopes of London were disappointed. The crushing of Prussia, the victory of Friedland followed by the meeting of Tilsit and the alliance between France and Russia put an end to this new coalition and reinforced imperial hegemony for the majority of Europe. Wagram and the Peace of Vienna in 1809 seemed to seal this hegemony.
Even so, England did not give up. There would be no new overtures. For the British cabinet, this French preeminence would end up constituting a source of weakness and conceal the seed of its own destruction. France was running counter to the course of history. This is what is underlined by Channing. " Such a situation is too contrary to the very nature of those things which make power endure." The duel continued.


  REBUILDING A NAVY

In the course of this huge struggle, Napoleon experienced first of all a sense of discouragement. He was tempted to abandon the fight on the sea. He would recognize it at Saint-Helena : " Myself, I threw in my hand after the Trafalgar disaster. I could not be everywhere. I had too much to do with the continental armies ". In reality, from 1807 the Emperor seized the opportunity and undertook the rebuilding of a navy. During a seven year period, he would accomplish an enormous feat too often neglected, if not unknown, by historians. In this task, he would benefit by an inestimable collaboration, that of Vice-Admiral Decrès, Minister of the Navy without interruption until 1814 and again during the Cent Jours. The man was, however, the subject of some contradictory judgments which were not always flattering. Courageous under fire, remarkable administrator, skilled courtier, Decrès appeared nevertheless brutal, indeed vulgar. " As a sailor, underlined Lecomte, very surly, of a strongly uneven temper, prone to making rude comments to his subordinates. Also, while giving him his due, he was hardly liked in the navy". The principal shortcoming of Decrès is not there. Like all the general officers of the old navy, the minister was a profound skeptic. He did not believe in the straightening of the fleet in the middle of a war. He did not believe anymore in the success of the extraordinary imperial adventure. He explained one day to a dumbfounded Marmont. "Very well ! Marmont, there you are all content because you were just made marshal. Everything looks beautiful to you. Do you want me to tell you the truth, that I unveil the future for you ? The Emperor is mad, completely mad, and will sacrifice us, all of us, regardless of who we are and everything will finish in a dreadful catastrophe". In the meantime, by virtue of the directives of the Emperor, Decrès undertook an enormous effort of new construction on the scale of an ever-expanding Empire. On the Atlantic, Brest submitted to a stifling British blockade and, plagued by a shortage of raw materials, only constituted a base of operations. The construction applied to Rochefort, to Lorient joined with Nantes, to Cherbourg in the process of a close arrangement with Le Havre where the flow of provisions came by water from the entire Parisien basin. But, the great question of the reign concerned Antwerp. Napoleon wanted to make it a construction dockyard, a base of operations, " an essential point of attack for the enemy " and in the case of a reversal, " a point of national security ", that is to say, a retreat camp which could well accommodate an army and resist for a year. The final results achieved would prove mediocre, not at all in line with the enormous investment. Starting with 8 primitive slips, followed by 6 more, the launches, not necessarily successful, were limited to 19 vessels and 3 frigates. Numerous of these newly built ships, constructed of " fresh cut " wood from the forests of Ardenne or Rhénanie, would have extremely short service lives. In 1812, Kersaint was forced to point out that the vessels of less than five years old were already semi-porous. The city is 50 miles further from the sea and the navigation on the two branches of the Scheldt was carried out by the intermediary of a winding channel, sinuous and filled with sand banks. It was therefore necessary to undertake, at Flessingue, the construction of an outer harbor whose access to the sea, by a 20 mile passage, appeared equally delicate. In spite of these weaknesses, the English did not hide their admiration at the time of the occupation of Antwerp in 1814. Admiral Martin wrote then to Castelreagh : " We have remarked that the naval establishment in Antwerp has attained a development of which, although warned, we could have had no idea. This establishment, by its continuous progression, has quickly given such an augmentation to the French fleet that it would have been impossible for England to match it. We can say that the peace which will reduce this port to a simple role of commerce is an event as important to us as any other in history". In the Mediterranean, Toulon, well supplied by the Rhodanian corridor, registered more than honorable results. Two or three vessels were completed per year, including the quasi-totality of three deckers. Napoleon also undertook the organization of a great arsenal at La Spezia, far from its termination however, in 1814. He made construction in Venice despite the shallowness of the waterways which obliged them to resort to floating docks or " chameaux ". In the mind of the Emperor, Trieste and Raguse (Dubrovnik) constituted the bases of operations for the Adriatic. His interest was equally to be found in Tarente. In total, a construction effort not at all negligible. In 1814, at the fall of the Empire, the navy numbered 70 vessels and 45 frigates, despite considerable losses evaluated, including Trafalgar, at 80 large units. In reality, if the ships which were too old or too rapidly constructed are eliminated, one arrives at a total of only 55 vessels. This is far from the Royal Navy which, at its peak, in 1812, strung together 125 vessels, 145 frigates and more than 400 light craft. In fact, in reference to previous periods, there was a mere maintenance of French naval strength.

  OUTMODED VESSELS AND LACK OF CREWS

If there was stability, it was unfortunately accompanied by a qualitative regression. On the eve of the Revolution, French naval construction was as good as that of the other naval powers, including Great Britain. At the time of the fall of the Empire, the French fleet, isolated in its ports, had regressed compared with the great navies of the times such as those of England or the United States. This regression concerned equally the shape of the hull as well as the interior design and the firepower. In 1819, Jurien de la Gravière, although commanding the new vessel, the Centaure, would make the bitter conclusion at the time of the visit in the Baleares of the British ship Rochefort. Obviously, the low battery was not half submerged, the upper decks had been advantageously modified and it was difficult to hide his admiration of the conveniences of the interior chambers, the presentation of the artillery pieces, the new cannon shells... Compared with the Rochefort, the Colosse left the impression of antiquity. " With its stone ballast, its lines of hemp drying in the batteries or rotting in the hold, its wooden barrels where the water only drains tainted, its long, wobbly topmasts under a disproportionate sail, with its bridge cut from one quarterdeck to the other, its poulaine at a height of the second battery, its mythological horse monster at the edge of its "guibre", the Colosse resembled a ship of Joseph Vernet ". This fleet also suffered from another major handicap, the lack of confirmed crews. At the resumption of war in 1803, it was obvious once again that there was insufficient maritime enlistment which could only worsen. The British blockade paralyzed large trade. The resort to privateering, the desperate efforts to prolong the defense of the colonies translated into, as we will see, too many captures. Thousands of sailors found themselves prisoners on board sinister British pontoons. Starting in 1807, the district of Brest counted more than 30% captured. It was necessary to fall back on coastal fishermen or small coastal navigators, who felt completely out of place on board the giant warships. Decrès had thus to resort to more classic expedients, with the forced enlistment of the poor, the down-and-out, the leftovers from the battalions, or abandoned children, which raised brutal reactions from a portion of the people who denounced the "slaughter of innocents". The navy had proceeded with recruitment in all of the recently annexed regions. The Netherlands, Hanseatic Provinces. The enrollments concerned as well the Danish, Dalmatians, and Italians. On the whole, the internationally composed crews had serious initial language and dietary problems. On the eve of casting off for the Indian Ocean, a frigate armed at Le Havre embarked Normands, Britons, Flemish, Genoans, Spanish, Portuguese, Americans, and even Black sailors. Starting from 1812, the comportment of these foreigners began to seriously degrade. Insubordinations, mutinies, and desertions multiplied, at the same pace as the military setbacks to the Empire.

  THE "MILITARISATION" OF THE SAILORS




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In the meantime, in an attempt to amalgamate the composite crews, with enlistees, conscripts, foreigners, and soldiers, Napoleon decided in 1808 to create 50 marine battalions and 25 flotilla battalions. Each battalion had to constitute a permanent crew for a 74-cannon vessel. It carried 450 men, of which about one hundred soldiers would constitute the ship's " garrison ". Capable of " basic maneuvers ", these soldiers had to, like the British marines, participate in combat and maintain on-board discipline.
 
In 1810, these battalions took the name "crews of the haut bord" and of the flotilla. A final reorganization intervened in 1813 with the suppression of the flotilla crews whose elements would be sent on board the vessels. At the peak of the system, each crew comprised 5 or 6 companies, or 700 to 900 men. One crew was previewed for the armament of one vessel or two frigates. Independently of the merger of the two diverse elements, Napoleon, with the creation of these crews, pursued a double objective. He attempted first of all to crush reluctance and to develop in the sailors a feeling of loyalty to his person, so profoundly fixed in the ranks of the army. Like the regiments, the haut bord crews received eagles and pledged to defend them. The best sailors, destined to serve as models, were sent to the naval battalions of the Guard assigned to the most important ships and to certain ports. The Emperor wanted equally to militarize the navy. The sailors received the same uniform as the soldiers with greatcoat and shako, which was quickly replaced, it is true, by a round, boiled leather hat with a cockade. The sailors received the same training. In principle, they were competent to fight as well on water as on land. Until Saint-Helena, Napoleon never ceased to praise this reform. " What more joyous idea than to have the two services for a single payroll. They were not less capable sailors and were shown to be better soldiers. " In reality, this reform would be very poorly welcomed as underlined by one young sailor. " The new organization has made me completely disgusted with the navy. We are paid like the military, they make deductions for our clothes, our shoes, which takes our final salary. We do nothing else militarily any more, to the point where we forget now that we are sailors. In wanting to restore his navy, our Emperor has made his final coup, because in wanting to make sailors and soldiers, he has succeeded in making neither one nor the other ".

  THE NAVAL COUNCILS




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It was during the period when the navy stood blocked in its ports and lost all chances to win over the Royal Navy that it saw the endowment of excellent institutions. July 22, 1906, a Council of the Navy was created to judge the conduct of general or superior officers having received a command, in the domain of operations such as that of spending. Another council of the navy was enacted July 24, 1810. It was formed with four officers, senior members of the Council of State, who were placed under the authority of the minister and charged with general and financial administration with the exception of military problems. A council of naval construction was created on March 29, 1811, and was composed of four people (one admiral and three engineers). They were in charge of all fleet construction and repairs. These three councils were added to the council of naval works created February 7, 1800, in charge with the ports and to the council of captures, March 27 of the same year. Dissolved in 1814, these institutions which were inspired more or less from their precursors of the Ancien Régime were soon re-established

  A CRITICAL AND INDEPENDENT MENTALITY




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Napoleon recognized this repugnance, without ever wanting to admit mitigated effects of his reform. " What willpower I had to use to give a uniform to our poor sailors, to record them, to exercise them ". In fact, the sailors deplored not being able to dress to their liking. The pride of the topmen, in particular, was to show it by wearing earrings, long hair tied on top by a large bow of black ribbon, a beaver hat, blue pants flared at the bottom, a black silk tie, a scarlet waistcoat and pointed shoes adorned with a silver buckle. The elite sailor knew how to dance, walk with his toes out and take a cunning pleasure in provoking a duel with the gunners or with the soldiers of the garrisons of the vessels. The results were also mitigated in the officers' corps. As ever, the officers of the navy did not feel for the person of the Emperor the almost mystical attachment of their comrades in the land forces. The persistent critical spirit, the defamation, and even the unruliness were inherited from the old navy. According to Lecomte, " the officers, all from different backgrounds, have little love among them ; they did not have an esprit de corps. From the most ignorant to the most educated, there reigned a sort of self-complacency, presumptuousness, and arrogance which was more than ridiculous. Subordination was more than jeopardized, each one, no matter how inferior was his grade, believed himself more clever, not only than his most immediate boss but also the officer more elevated in rank... It was, I think, with reason that one generally attributes this spirit of insubordination the lack of unity in the battles of our squadrons which principally caused our naval disasters ". This lack of discipline resurfaced in the disorder of dress. The decree imposing the wearing of the uniform was ignored " Fashion reigned in the navy, continued Lecomte, and each dressed according to the taste given by others ; also, the aspect of an officers' meeting was bizarre. Some wore on their heads an enormous opera hat, others in a uniform hat worn indifferently be it pointed or in battle mode... Some wore knickers while others trousers ; one wore boots according to one's taste or according to the leg, be they with yellow cuffs, or as well Russian boots which were the most elegant. There were just as many who adopted riding boots ! We detested the English and wanted to create anglo mania ! " A major component explained, as much as heredity, this spirit of revolt and this will to make oneself conspicuous. While the army, at least until 1812, accumulated victories, the navy knew nothing but repeated defeats, or even morose inaction of the harbors or tasks no more exhilarating than escorting coastal convoys.

  PARADE SQUADRONS




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The last weakness, finally, was the artificial character of training, which was done almost exclusively in a harbor. Certainly, the results were, in appearance, brilliant. In Toulon, followed by Baudin, the movements of casting off for the whole squadron were done all at once, " whatever was the direction of the wind ". " The squadron came back the same way for mooring, thirty vessels and frigates crossing in every direction ". At Brest, Admiral Hamelin, said Tourmentin, achieved results of the same kind. According to Jurien de la Gravière, " one came to not take account of wind or current... All the vessels left at once like a flock of partridges : all returned to take their mooring lines with a magnificent self-assurance ! The English, for sure, would not have done better ". This virtuosity must not delude oneself. They acted only as parade squadrons. Nobody would have risked a confrontation with the British blockade. At Brest, Hamelin did not get past Bertheaume and avoided attacking the harbor of Douarnenez where the English dropped anchor in all tranquility. At Toulon, the departures were only effected during the day and exercises were carried out in the harbor of the Hyères Islands, under the cover of the powerful coastal batteries. At the end of the Empire, the Antwerp squadron had not yet finished exploring the channel of Scheldt and had not once reached the high seas. Therefore, one could not be astonished that, independent of the emergency operations in the colonies, the smallest departure ended in serious disappointment. In October 1809, while attempting to link Toulon to Barcelona, the Baudin division lost two vessels. In March 1811, on course for an Adriatic crossing, leaving from Ancône, the Dubourdieu division lost 4 out of 6 frigates. In February of the same year, scarcely departed from the docks of Venice, the vessel Rivoli was captured by the Victorious. One could multiply the examples.

  THE RENEWAL OF PRIVATEERING AND ITS DECADENCE




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Despite its weaknesses, this navy was in huge demand for duty. The Emperor did not use it sparingly. He attached, from the beginning, an extreme importance to privateering, with the goal of striking serious blows to British commerce and to make things harder for the Royal Navy. This privateering put into service isolated warships, light squadrons composed mainly of frigates, indeed several vessels. These units acted in connection with "private" privateering. Since 1803, one sees thus the reappearance in the Indian Ocean of men like François Lemême, Dutertre, Courson, and above all Robert Surcouf. At the head of the 18 cannon Revenant (Ghost), whose name did not follow by chance, Surcouf effected from 1807 to 1809 a beautiful campaign in the Indian Ocean before returning to Saint-Malo. Just as in the past, the principal theaters of operation were the Channel and the North Seas, including the Baltic thanks to the possibilities offered by the ports of occupied Prussia. Prussia benefitted from the support of Danish corsairs, after the second bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807. From 1812, American corsairs operated their tours north of the British Isles. The privateering applied equally to British traffic in the Mediterranean starting from French and Italian ports, such as Naples or Ancône, the Ionian Islands, indeed from certain North African bases, like Tarifa or Ceuta. The West Indies also represented a active sector in the war of commerce. Starting from Martinique and Guadeloupe, small armed ships intensely attacked local traffic which transported British possessions. The Indian Ocean constituted a privileged zone of action. Starting in 1803, Admiral Linois' division operated out of Reunion or the Ile de France. It was joined in 1808 by Hamelin's division, composed of young officers, enterprising like himself, like Baudin, Bouvet, and Duperré. This privateering enjoyed brilliant success in the Bay of Bengal. With crews well seasoned by the cruises, these forces were ready to confront the English successfully. August 23, 1810, the Hamelin division, four frigates strong, inflicted a severe lesson on the equal strength Willoughby division which had dared to enter the harbor of Ile de France. Two English frigates had to surrender and were burned. A third dropped its flag. As for the fourth, it was intercepted and captured by two French ships waiting in the open sea. This Battle of Grand Port, enviously celebrated throughout the 19th century, represented the only victory of the Imperial Navy. French privateering, whether military or private, reached its apex in 1810 with more than 600 conquests against less than 400 in 1804. The figures must not, however, create any illusion. It concerned a merchant navy, imposing for the epoch 2.5 million tons, with 24,000 ships and 164,000 sailors. In ten years, the value of the take did not surpass [[sterling]]13 million of a trading volume of [[sterling]]2,350 million. The relative weakness of the results translated into a drop in insurance rates to 6% in 1810 down from 12% in 1801 and 50% during the American war. Starting in 1812, it collapsed. The seizures fell to 371 in 1813. This fall is explained by the protective measures taken by the Royal Navy. In intensive traffic zones like the Channel, the British navy patrolled the routes. On the great commercial routes, the Admiralty, had a system of protected convoys. The importance of the convoys varied extremely, from 100 to 1000 sails. Their frequencies varied as well. From a weekly schedule for the North Sea, every fortnight for the Baltic, monthly for faraway destinations, North America, West Indies, Iberian Peninsula, and the Far East. The fall in results stemmed as well from the dearth of sailors. Imperial privateering translated into the loss of 450 ships and the capture of 27,000 sailors. By reason of this exhaustion of naval capital, the number of armed corsairs passed from 200 in 1810 to only 93 by 1812. Last handicap, the loss of support points overseas. The English seized Saint-Pierre et Miquelon, and the Cape in 1806, Curaçao in 1807, and the Danish base of Anhalt in 1809. The decisive results were obtained the following year with the complete occupation of Guadeloupe and Martinique, Reunion and the Ile de France.

  THE NAVAL EFFORTS FOR THE COLONIES




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Nevertheless, the Emperor expected a considerable effort on the part of the navy to assure the survival of the colonies, in particular the West Indies. On several occasions, divisions which were packed with men and materials cast off from Brest, Lorient, or Rochefort. The results were most often disastrous. February 6th, 1806, the Leissègues division, 5 vessels strong, was destroyed within several hours in the open seas off Saint-Domingue by the seven ships of Duckworth which had barely superior firepower. With regard to the Willaumez division, which cast off simultaneously from Brest, it succeeded in disembarking troops on Martinique. But, on its return voyage, it was scattered in a storm at sea August 19, 1806, and attacked by the Cochrane squadron. One vessel was captured, two others managed to make it to the United States where they were sold. However, three ships reached Brest. As for the fourth, the Vétéran commanded by Jérôme Bonaparte, it was intercepted by a British cruiser. He managed, however, to find refuge in the tiny port of Concarneau where it remained blocked until 1814. In total, the sending of these two divisions ended up with the loss of nine vessels. Despite this disaster, three more divisions were sent in 1806 out of Lorient, Cadix, and Rochefort to resupply Senegal and the West Indies. At the cost of two frigates, the first two missions succeeded in reaching their objectives. On the other hand, the captain of the vessel Soleil's division, 4 frigates strong, was intercepted as soon as its departure from Rochefort and completely destroyed. With that, the link with the West Indies were not more assured than by isolated light ships. Nonetheless, in 1809 Napoleon attempted a final all-out effort to save Martinique and Guadeloupe. The operation was to bring into play all the forces of the Atlantic. But, at Rochefort, Willaumez and Bergeret, who were in charge of 8 vessels, dared not confront the English crossing. The cast-off did not take place. On the other hand, in Lorient, Troude decided to go out. A first engagement off the coast of Vendée resulted in a loss of three frigates. Troude succeeded however in attaining the West Indies, but too late. Martinique had just capitulated and Guadeloupe was inaccessible. On the return trip, he lost another vessel but finished by reaching Brest with the final two. The same year, three more frigates navigated in isolation were intercepted and destroyed.

  THE ISLE OF AIX DISASTER




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Not at all discouraged, the Emperor regrouped at Rochefort all the forces of the Atlantic under the command of Admiral Allemand, having 11 vessels and 4 frigates at his disposal. The plan of operation was to be nipped in the bud by the English. During the night of September 11-12, Admiral Gambier, commander of the British blockade, launched an attack of fire ships against the harbor of the Isle of Aix.

The attack provoked an immense panic. Losing their minds, the commanders cut their mooring lines, letting their ships drift and collide into one another. The artillery was let fly from the top deck. Certain ships were deserted by their crews. Dawn broke on a scene of desolation. Most of the ships were run aground, abandoned. Four vessels and one frigate were burned down. In France, the repercussions of the affair were enormous and contributed, even more perhaps because of Trafalgar, to the aggravation of the general discouragement. According to Jurien de la Gravière, " this damage to morale was the biggest harm done to us by the English. For the first time, perhaps, since 1793, one heard the crews speak highly of the audacity of our enemies ".

  A DECEPTIVE ASSESSMENT




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Eventually, the training exercises, privateering, the operations to support the colonies, were discounted by prohibitive losses. From 1805 to 1810, independently of Trafalgar, the Cape of Ortegal or the surrender of Cadix linked with the Spanish affair, the French navy lost in combat 20 vessels, 50 frigates and more than 40 light craft. During the same period, the Royal Navy saw only 7 frigates and 33 light ships disappear! The causes of these losses held nothing original about them. All the operational reports show the lack of cohesion and training of the crews, the insufficient training of officers whose command was often ignored. Everyone complained also of the total inefficiency of cannon fire. This major flaw was explained by insufficient training. The instruction gave priority to navigation and to manoeuvering at the detriment of firing. As the evidence of the instruction manual of 1811 shows, the use of the cannons was still inspired by out-dated concepts. When the English practiced " full wood " firing, extremely lethal for the personnel, the French labored away at shooting to demast. As the prince of Joinville stressed, " to the English cannonballs which would kill twenty men, the French cannonballs responded by cutting a rigging line or putting a hole in the sails ". French artillery suffered again from outmoded materials which ignored British innovations, such as flint percussion caps and flannel cannon shells which nevertheless dated back a half a century. In all the encounters, the asymmetry of losses was overwhelming. At the time of the battle of Saint-Domingue, in February 1806, the English counted but 338 killed and wounded against 1,510 for the French, not forgetting 1,530 prisoners. The battle between the Rivoli and the Victorious reduced personnel by 140 dead and 208 wounded on the French side against 25 and 90 on the adversary's side. In total, during five years, the colonial operations alone produced the loss of 25,000 sailors.

  UNREALISTIC PLANS FOR A REAL ACT OF BRAINWASHING




Increase

Despite all the setbacks, Napoleon, starting in 1808, insisted on multiplying plans for wide-ranging operations. Every year, considerable armaments concerning the principal squadrons with reuniting and embarkment of troops. During 1810-1811, while peace was reestablished on the continent, the Emperor counted on setting in motion all the scattered naval forces from Texel to Naples. With 30,000 men on board, the Toulon squadron launched combined operations against Sicily and Egypt. That of Brest headed for the reconquest of the Cape. As for the Antwerp squadron, with 30,000 troops, it left from Scheldt, threatened Ireland, operated next in the West Indies, before retaking Dutch Guyana and attacking British possessions. As for the plan for the campaign anticipated for 1812, it was of the same ink. From the North Sea to the Mediterranean, he had to put into play 104 vessels supported by the flotillas of the English Channel, transport fleets reassembled at Texel, in the Scheldt, in Cherbourg and in the Mediterranean and capable of carrying 200,000 men. " This deployment of forces, " underlined the Emperor, " will put England in a position very different from that of today ". At Saint-Helena, he would not be able to stop himself from evoking this grandiose combination, which would have been able to send 100,000 men into Ireland or even into England. " My purpose was to be able to concentrate at Cherbourg all our maritime forces and, with time, they would have been immense in order to be able to bring a grand coup upon the enemy. " I established the terrain in such a way that the two nations would be able to, so to speak, fight face to face. And the issue should not have been doubtful, because we were to be 40 million French against 15 million English. I would have terminated by a battle of Actium ". These plans for armament perplex the mind. They did not correspond at all to the available forces. In 1812, all the reunited squadrons did not line up 100 vessels, but scarcely half. Armaments of such a magnitude posed virtually insurmountable problems, concerning as much the bringing together of provisions as it did the mobilization of crews, without speaking of training deficiencies and combative weakness. In reality, Napoleon was not duped. The armament plans were nothing but a giant bluff, an enormous manoeuver of brainwashing. By increasing these projects, the Emperor attempted to keep the squadrons in suspense, to avoid for the crews the deadly inaction of the harbors. But, the principal objective was not there. By these preparations, these remote expeditions, he wanted to oblige England to keep up, to even reinforce a particularly expensive naval force, in spite of a mastery of the sea which was a theoretical asset. Once given the impulse, Napoleon turned his attention elsewhere to other projects and did not follow through with the execution. The concentration of troops anticipated for 1811 did not occur and the clearest part of the affair was manifested by the nomination of Marshal Ney to the command of the Pas-de-Calais sector. Correspondence betrayed, in fact, the true intentions of the Emperor. " It must not happen," he underlined in 1807, " that my squadrons rest like cadavers, they must always carry on in a situation of cast-off (...) They must by the month of August double their navy here, spend money, rush the sailors and growth of dangers ". " I hope ", he explains to Decrès, " that you understand my system of war. England this year has borrowed a billion, it is necessary to exhaust her with expenses and fatigue ". An already ancient tactic, evoked at the time of the Egyptian campaign. At the moment of the great armament of 1811, the discourse remained the same " I do not want that my squadrons go out, but that they be supplied as if they should. I wish to do everything necessary to give to the fleets of Scheldt and Toulon a threatening aspect ". To convince the executives of the reality of his projects, Napoleon insisted that courriers bring to the commanders sealed orders that were only to be opened at sea. The vessels had to have six months worth of provisions and the loading of these provisions had to be made at least two times per year, so that the squadrons truly believed in the cast-offs.

  THE NAVY AS THE INSTRUMENT OF INDIRECT STRATEGY

In the end, the navy integrated itself into a role of indirect strategy. It became one of the tools of the system or of the continental Blockade. With its imaginary armaments, it was to contribute to the weight of the charges to the British treasury, the weight of the debt and participate in the ruining of an economy of which Napoleon never ceased denouncing its fragility and which relied on exchanges and credits. What was the result of these imposing demonstrations ? Certainly not negligible. From 1793 to 1814, British military expenditures did not cease to increase, passing from [[sterling]]7.2 to [[sterling]]72.5 million, a considerable sum for the times, funded by severe taxation, considerable indebtedness, and very high inflation. Despite repeated victories, the Royal Navy pursued its development between 1810-1812, to the point of reaching, as one has already seen, 125 vessels and 145 frigates, a collection which had never been reached during the preceding conflicts and one that it would not see again in the times of sailing ships. From 1805 to 1809, this rapid expansion carried with it a notable augmentation of credits for the Royal Navy passing from [[sterling]]12.5 to [[sterling]]19.5 million. The Emperor's armament plans collided with the skepticism of the British sailors. Certainly, in the unofficial study of 1811 inspired by the Admiralty, the Naval Register stressed the enormous effort accomplished by the Imperial regime who had constructed a fleet " of formidable appearance ". " But, up until now ", it adds, " this fleet has shown none of the qualities necessary for the infinitely delicate task of measuring up with the powerful master of the seas. Never, since the beginning of the war, has the French navy exhibited such little audacity and, in the rare encounters which have taken place, it has proven that it does not yet constitute an adversary worthy of the name ".

  THE ECONOMIC CRISIS IN ENGLAND




Increase

Eventually, starting in 1809-1810, the French naval effort became integrated into the economic warfare launched by Napoleon and whose effect were severe. On two occasions at least, the continental Blocus shook the British economy. These crises were produced during the periods where peace had been reestablished in Europe and the times of war had translated into a recovery for England.

The first serious tremble took place in 1807-1808, not long after Tilsit. At that time, Napoleon succeeded in setting the virtual totality of Europe against England, from Portugal all the way to Russia. British exports fell from [[sterling]]41 million to [[sterling]]35 million. The vital Baltic commerce with imports of grain and naval munitions (wood, pitch, hemp), in exchange for tropical foodstuffs and manufactured products, literally collapsed. The decline in traffic provoked an industrial crisis, notably in the textile industry. Simultaneously, the French economy experienced a boom and developed its exports across the entire continent. England resisted nevertheless. It maintained its positions in the Mediterranean. With the second bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807, it obliged Denmark to uphold freedom of passage in its straits. The British retort equally developed enormous contraband operations from depots installed in Helgoland, Göteborg, Malta and Lissa. In the Channel, certain contrabanders, the smogglers, unloaded their merchandise on the French coast despite tight surveillance. With the return of war in 1808-1809 - the Spanish affair and the Austrian campaign - the British crisis was overcome, the losses mended and one saw a spectacular rebound in exports which surpassed the results of 1806. Great Britain marvelously exploited the relaxation of French vigilance. The return to peace after Wagram translated into a new crisis, much more severe than the preceding one, accordingly increased by the breakdown in relations between England and the United States. Exports collapsed, falling from [[sterling]]61 million in 1810 to less than [[sterling]]43 million the following year. For the time being, Austria and Russia respected the Blockade. It was the same for Sweden with the accession of Bernadotte. The collapse of trade resulted in a renewed industrial crisis. All the manufacturing regions were touched. Unemployment, a fall in salaries caused riots, factory burnings and " ludditism " - the destruction of machines accused of suppressing employment. The army had to intervene. Inflation flared up and attained the new record of [[sterling]]860 million.

  ENGLISH PERSISTENCE "WE MUST DESTROY FRANCE"




Increase

The will to fight did not diminish, as General Pillet observed, while a prisoner in England. " I saw all their factories without work, the people wrought by famine and overwhelmed by taxes, its paper money devalued each day by the necessity to buy gold to cover its primary needs and to pay the armies ; I saw its shores threatened... I saw its armies merge in Spain, and the English government obliged, to prevent their total annihilation, to destroy the population of the Three Kingdoms, in a proportion much more frightening than any of the calls made to our population ; finally to create, in its own bosom, riots, to augment by terror the number of its recruits. And I saw the English people, in the midst of all these calamities. I saw this people who knew how to make war only by the burning ambition to seize the commerce of the entire world, of which political stability could not, by any means, be put in danger by peace, exclaim from all sides : " We must destroy France ; the last of its inhabitants must perish ; to achieve this end, we must spend our last man and our last guinea ".




Increase

This will to fight excessively against the Revolution and the continental troublemaker went hand in hand with a ferocious hatred for the French. This hatred was painstakingly maintained by the government, the Parliament, the press and the church. Bishops and Protestant ministers launched a thousand curses against the French from their pulpits. The same observation can be made of the surgeon Betin, charged with an inspection mission into the care of French prisoners of war : " The English themselves give us lessons in patriotism... I insist particularly in these respects, because I wish that they be able to contribute to the uprooting of the apathy, this grievous numbing which weighs heavy particularly in our great cities where, whilst our brave defenders spill their blood to win peace and to assure for France the supremacy which is challenged by the House of Austria, one sees too many people learn with the same indifference of our successes and of our reversals." This contrast was overheard again from prisoners who had escaped from England, on their return to France, like the baron Bonnefoux : " That which astonished me was the absolute discontentment of spirits which I believed to be found under the magical spell of the exploits of Napoleon. My dissolution was not delayed : everywhere, crushing taxes which reproduced in a thousand forms ; unbridled despotism ; drafting of men which left nobody behind except old men, women, or children ; finally, a police force which cracked down on everything, denounced everything, punished everything. One does not complain of anything, because one dares not complain, but one whines as if smothered between two mattresses." In the meantime, Great Britain attacked. Certain markets were stressed. Canada, the West Indies, and above all Latin America were given special emphasis after the French operations in Portugal and Spain. It profited equally from the crisis which gripped the French Empire, unlike the preceding period. Because of the English blockade, factories lacked raw materials; cotton and raw silk in particular. Their production, judged too expensive and of inferior quality, were boycotted by buyers elsewhere in Europe. This rejection facilitated British smuggling. Napoleon reacted. The Banque de France awarded credits. They tried, without success, to create substitue industries. By an irony of history, Napoleon had to infringe on the Blockade by the Trianon Accords of 1810. Licenses authorized British importations of cotton, raw and finished silk, iron products, even coffee and sugar. In the mind of the Emperor, this system should aggravate the outflow of British precious metals, driving a mercantile economy which had been judged fragile to the brink. In reality, the anticipated collapse never occurred and the French Empire was, after a brief recovery, thrown again into crisis starting in 1812.

  THE PERIPHERAL BRITISH STRATEGY

The indirect war waged against England had as well some adverse effects. It forced the Emperor to increase annexations and to rupture relations with the Pope, a break badly resented by Catholics. This had its origins in the unfortunate intervention in 1808 on the Iberian Peninsula. Napoleon wanted to integrate Portugal into the continental Blockade. On the fringe of familial politics, he attempted to regenerate, to reorganize Spain. It was inspired by the intention, as underlined by Fugier, " to push for a better financial and maritime yield above all from the old ally of which we had already produced so much and which could give so much more ". By ending disagreement and waste, Napoleon harbored the illusion of disposing of 30 vessels and 30,000 sailors. He also counted on relieving the rest of the Villeneuve fleet, refugees at Cadix. An enormous miscalculation, which would emerge in a popular uprising, the humiliating surrenders of Cintra and of Baïlen and the campaign aborted in the winter of 1808-1809, interrupted by military preparations of Austria. Spain would eventually give England a platform. In fact, since Trafalgar, thanks to the overwhelming superiority of the Royal Navy and the freedom of maritime routes, London played the indirect strategy in all its aspects like a virtuoso. A solid unit, 15,000 men in the Anglo-Norman isles, 50,000 in England, would provide a threat of landing on the coast of France. The display of strength of 15,000 "red coats" in the Baltic obliged Napoleon in 1808 to keep important forces in northern Germany. The failure of the Walcheren affair the following year, which did not permit the capture of Antwerp, produced a similarly considerable feeling in France, at a moment when the Emperor was engaged in Austria. Fouché proceeded with a massive draft of national guard troops. In fear of a " raid ", Napoleon fortified all the ports of the Channel and North Sea, in particular Le Havre, and even the port of Paris. The output of the British at this time appeared excellent. " With 30,000 men, the enemy can immobilize my 300,000 ", underlined the Emperor. In fact, 100,000 regular soldiers, without mentioning the national guard and gendarmes, seemed hardly enough to protect the most risky points. It was with huge apprehension that Napoleon would see fit, in 1813, to weaken these positions, all the while reducing the vessel garrisons. In Spain, finally, Great Britain found the occasion to open a veritable second front. Thanks to support from the sea, the army of Moore, then that of Wellesley, the future Lord Wellington, would launch a clever campaign in Portugal, resist assaults at Masséna in 1810-1811 on the Torres Vedras line, close to Lisbon, before taking the offensive in the north of Spain and to carry off, July 21, 1813, a victory at Vittoria.

  VITTORIA, AN UNDERRATED DEFEAT

The success of the British is explained by the solidity of the English army, logistical support of the Royal Navy, the support of the guerillas and the obligation of Napoleon's marshals, separate from their disputes, to devote two-thirds of their personnel, close to 150,000 men, to the defense of their lines of communication and the protection of the coasts permanently threatened by landings. In spite of a general tendency to neglect or minimize the event, Vittoria constituted one of the most decisive battles in history. Its repercussions were enormous throughout the whole of Europe. Beethoven devoted one of his symphonies to it. Associated with the intransigence of Napoleon, the victory of Wellington contributed to the breakdown of the negotiations of Prague. It stirred up passions in Prussia and in Russia and incited Sweden and Austria to take up arms. After the Russian disaster, Vittoria constituted the catalyst which drove a general coalition and the final act in the drama.


  THE FORTRESS OF EUROPE ENCIRCLED

Simultaneously, the Royal Navy exerted constant pressure on all the coastal points of the Empire. Meanwhile, the troops of Napoleon marched their standards to victories across Europe and made sensational entries into Vienna, Berlin, Madrid, and Moscow. The " front ", if one could describe it as such, stood at less than 200 km from Paris and spanned the immense periphery of the Empire. In front of all the great ports of war, the squadrons applied a close guard, permanent and humiliating. This blockade equally concerned the secondary ports. During the last years of the regime, Julien de la Gravière would note that " the British no longer left a port of the Mediterranean or of the ocean which was not sealed. Their divisions spread across all our coastal points from Dunkerque to Bayonne, from Spain to Sicily... ". In mockery, starting from 1808, the English frigates along the coast flew the French colors under the Spanish flag. The English ended up feeling at home and installing themselves comfortably. Their ships dropped anchor in all security in the harbor of the Basques, under Groix, at Belle-Ile. They set their moorings at Quiberon and the bay of Douarnenez took the name " Bay of the English ". At Glénans, they set up their tents, grew vegetables, dug wells. Their crews went ashore to resupply on the continent. The Pellew fleet found excellent shelter in the Gulf of Fos where it proceeded in peace to make repairs. At the same moment, taking lessons from the Rochefort affair, the Toulon squadron retrenched behind a triple line of " estacades ". The marines increased their raids and commando operations against the coasts. They captured patrols, attacked the artillery batteries and attacked the new winged semaphore network installed since 1808 across the coastal points and which comprised 260 posts instead of 469 with the old system. These often successful raids obliged the changing several times of the secret code. The English then cut, in 1812 and 1813, communications between Toulon and Marseille and between Brindisi and Otrante. Turning boldness into impudence, small craft began to remount the Rhône, to train in the estuary of the Seine, and to sound the Scheldt under the nose of the flotilla. In 1810, the British fleet practically drove out of the sea all the French merchant ships and great fishing boats. Some ships restarted, in 1812-1813, trade with America, but most were intercepted in the Gulf of Gascony by frigates detached from the Channel squadron. The repercussions of this situation were considerable. The ruin of the ports was total. Nantes, Bordeaux, and Marseille were depopulated. It was not by chance that Bordeaux would be the first city of France to raise a white flag. Stagnation continued in Italy and in the newly annexed territories. The Dutch economy was totally paralyzed. The quays of Hamburg and Bremen were empty; the Rhineland and Switzerland were not spared.

  BARON SANÉ

Jacques Sané, buried in 1831 at the age of 91, was one of the greatest naval engineers in maritime history. As a young engineer, his ships quickly built a reputation for their nautical quality. Advocate of material standardization, he contributed to the adoption of uniform vessels. Before 1789, thanks to him in particular, French naval construction had attained a high reputation. A technician, removed of all political activity, he was appointed Inspector General of maritime engineering from 1800 to 1817. He has been reproached for not having anticipating the arrival of steam power but would it be possible for a man born in 1740 and ingenious designer of more than 150 ships at the peak of the time of sailing ships?

The Royal Navy did not content itself to block the ports of war and to paralyze sea traffic. Frigates and light boats controlled fishing and endeavored to hinder coastal navigation. The English used the fishermen as assistants to its politics. They obliged them to distribute pamphlets and lampoons and to embark parcels of merchandise. In 1808, the fishermen were even systematically taken prisoner. Worried, the French authorities prohibited night fishing, confiscated the small fishing boats and imprisoned those who had contact with the enemy. Starting from 1810, to avoid the coastal population sinking into huge misery, night fishing was once again authorized, but the outings could not last beyond midnight and the fishermen had to navigate in groups under the direction of reliable men called " prudhommes ". The attacks against coastal navigation had still more serious economic and social consequences. Because of the lack of a road network, life in Normandy and above all in Brittany depended on coastal navigation. Brittany exported by coastal navigation butter, grain and flax and received wood, salt, minerals and manufactured products. Brest and Cherbourg depended all the more on the sea for supplies and was on the verge of suffocation. Le Havre piled up considerable quantities of supplies which the convoys were forced to forward with great difficulty to the ocean dockyards. An entire system of protection was put in place. Protected by the coastal batteries, gunboats, " chasse-marées " and " stationnaires " which patrolled the length of certain routes, the convoys progressed from shelter to shelter along the coast, by cover of night, in poor weather and especially in wintertime. Thirteen months were necessary, however, for 63 transports to reach Cherbourg from the mouth of the Scheldt. In the Mediterranean, the protection of convoys was equally difficult and required as ports of refuge, La Spézia, Gênes, Villefranche, Golfe Juan, Saint-Raphaël and Saint-Tropez. The situation was worsened by a pirate attack in service to the English. An intensive use of interior waterways intended to loosen the strangulation of maritime communication. The canals of the north linked up the Scheldt to the basins of the Seine and the Loire. To put an end to the blockade of Brittany, the Emperor undertook the construction of a canal from Nantes to Brest. According to Las Cases, he had imagined to link the Hanseatic and Dutch ports, where construction materials abounded, to the north of France by a system of navigable passages with the aid of the Elba, the Weser, and Ems. This system would have " permitted communication in complete security and a simple internal navigation from Bordeaux to the Mediterranean with the northern powers. We would have received all the naval production we wanted from each of our ports ". Unfortunately, we must admire the extraordinary effort accomplished by the British navy during more than ten years, with the support of Wellington's army and the permanent blockade of the shores of the Empire. The success of this effort stemmed, in great part, from the revolution which had occurred in the field of naval health. A regular resupply of fresh provisions, systematic consumption of lemon juice and meticulous cleanliness permitted the almost complete eradication of scurvy and to considerably reduce the effects of great naval epidemics like typhus. In 1811, the annual mortality rate per disease was not more than one man in 32 as opposed to one in 8 in 1779. Without this revolution in sanitary conditions, the Royal Navy would not have been able to maintain a fleet of 1,000 ships of all tonnages armed by 145,000 men. The result was nonetheless quite severe. From 1793 to 1815, by far the heaviest losses were due to accidents and disease. Over the course of this period, limited to ships of more than 28 cannons, the British navy lost only 10 vessels and frigates against 377 for its adversaries (French, Spanish, Dutch, Danish...). On the other hand, it counted 84 disappearances by perils of the sea and accidents (shipwrecks, fires, explosions) against 24 for the opposing fleets, which demonstrates to which extent they (opposing fleets) were clustered in their harbors. In total, of the 103,000 dead registered in twenty years, disease and individual accidents, falls and accidents, accounted for 81.5%, perils of the sea 12.2%, combat only 6.3%. Eventually, the " silent pressure of the squadrons " cost dearly, much more than battle. An observation which justified to a certain extent the calculations of Napoleon.


  THE PURSUIT OF A DECISION IN THE EAST




Increase

Starting from 1811, the system on the continent cracked. Sweden and Russia, gripped by serious internal discontent, refused to enforce the Blockade and the great English convoy of the Baltic, to the fury of the Emperor, again found access to the Russian ports. Some weeks later, British goods flowed to the market of Leipzig. At that time, the dice were rolled. Napoleon dismissed all compromise, any idea of negotiation with London. To get out of the impasse provoked by British naval and commercial power, there remained only one solution, battle Russia, achieve domination over the continent, isolate, and thus ruin, Great Britain. By an irony of history, in the days after the defeat of the Battle of Britain in 1940, Hitler arrived at exactly the same conclusion. In one case as with the other, the fate of the fight between a naval power and a land power would play out on the immense expanses of the East in an enormous game of poker. Eventually, the conducting of war adapted by Napoleon appeared resolutely classic. It was only a repeat of the components already used under Louis XIV in the 18th century and that one finds again in the Germany of William II and of Hitler. Being unable to envision a squadron war, the mission of the navy of a continental power is reduced to privateering, the support of colonies, the enactment of large-scale operations, slowing down the build-up of power of a naval adversary and to increasing its burdens. The imperial strategy consisted essentially of the use of economic weapons and the closure of the continent along with intimidation of the powers by military means. It worked by suffocating and isolating and aimed at discouraging the enemy and to force them to come to terms. Unfortunately, the imperial politics were harmed by a fundamental contradiction. Napoleon could have played to the wills of a large part of European society to topple the absolutism of the old monarchies, to emancipate themselves from the last feudal constraints, to liberate themselves from the commercial tyranny of England. But, the Emperor could not resist the desire to impose a political and economic hegemony. As Bourrienne stressed, the continental Blockade had political effects which were more pernicious than the fall of twenty thrones. By the deprivation, the vexation which they imposed, it kindled popular unrest. It contributed in a decisive manner to the awakening of national sentiments. Napoleon, despite the Civil Code, appeared no longer as a liberator, but as an oppressor. The Blockade was identified as the most unbearable aspect of imperial despotism. The Emperor was harmed as well by his own impatience. The irreparable had occurred in 1810-1811. Napoleon was not able to bring himself to fix the unfortunate affair in Spain, which was not compulsory. His haste brought him to want to fight against Russia in one campaign instead of the three which were originally anticipated. In 1813, finally, his intransigence brought him again to dismiss the rules carrying considerable advantages for France. All along his prodigious career, the Emperor did not know how to resist the demon of his own willpower and the dialectic of thundering success at all cost. One resounding victory in Spain in 1810-1811, one methodical campaign in Russia would very probably have had as its consequence the collapse of one England, victim of a severe economic crisis, obliged to wage a second war in America. Contrary to what has been written by Jacques Bainville, nothing was settled. The behavior of Great Britain was the opposite of that of Napoleon. It was inspired by prudence, patience and tenacity which demand admiration.

  SAILORS OF THE GUARD

The "militarisation" of sailors would find its ultimate expression in the creation of the Sailors of the Guard comprising five crews corresponding to close to five companies. Their number would grow to eight in 1810 and ten by 1811. Drawings by Christian-Henri Tavard. Arch. JAS The British Admiralty Council. "The microcosm of London" by Rowlandson and Pujin, 1808. At the high point of Napoleonic power, it was from the Admiralty Council that all decisions concerning the navy on which rested all the hopes of Great Britain.(Photo Tallandier). Having failed to vanquish the English military fleet, Napoleon sought to achieve victory through its economy and its marine trade through the continental Blockade. George III King of England (1738-1820). He acceded to the throne at the age of twenty-two and gave up the regency to his son in 1811. Which does not prevent this English engraving to mention the 59th year of his reign at the age of eighty-one. Seriously ill since the age of twenty-six, he left the field open to his ministers and the Parliament. This very long reign of a very diminished sovereign saw the English navy (here symbolized by Nelson's ship) victorious during the Seven Year War and assure for a whole century to come its supremacy over all the seas of the world. The invalid soldiers of Chelsea listening to the reading of the Waterloo victory. Painting by sir David Wilkin (1785-1841). Wallington museum, Apsley house (Photo Taillandier)

 
     
 
 

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 Bibliographical details

Author :

MASSON Philippe

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Revue du Souvenir Napoléonien

 

 
 

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