Eyewitness accounts of Napoleon’s entry into Berlin

Author(s) : PAPOT Emmanuelle
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The official reports:

The Bulletins de la Grande armée: 21st Bulletin, 28 October, 1806, Berlin

«Yesterday, the 27th, the Emperor made a solemn entrance into Berlin. He was accompanied by the Prince de Neufchatel, the marshals Davout and Augereau, his Grand maréchal du Palais [Duroc], his Grand-écuyer and his ADCs. Marshal Lefebvre led the march with the imperial foot guard; the cuirassiers from Nansouty‘s division lined the route. The Emperor rode in between the grenadiers and the Chasseurs à cheval of his guard. He dismounted at the Palace at three in the afternoon; he was received by the Grand maréchal du palais, Duroc. A huge crowd lined the route, Charlottenburg Avenue in Berlin is very beautiful; the entrance by this gate is magnificent. The weather was superb. All the town officials, presented by general Hullin, military governor, came to the gate to offer the keys of the city to the Emperor. These officials then retired to the H.M.’s residence, General Prince d’Hatzfeld at their head… »

Bulletins de la Grande armée, Prieur Dumaine, 1844, t3, pp.399-400.

« Berlin, 27 October, 1806. H.M. the Emperor of the French and King of Italy entered this capital today, at three in the afternoon under the finest weather in the world. The emperor was preceded by his horse and foot guards, and was followed by a superb regiment of cuirassiers. All the inhabitants went before His Majesty; hats were thrown in the air on all sides; cries of Vive l’Empereur ! filled the air. This evening the entire town was illuminated; the streets were filled with people. To tell the truth, you would have thought you were in France, at a public ceremony».

Le Moniteur, 4 November, 1806

Memoirs of French Soldiers

Memoirs of commandant Parquin

«On the 25th, we arrived at the Berlin heights, having done several marches and not having met a single enemy sharpshooter. What had happened to that fine Prussian army which had waited for us so proudly on the battlefield of Jena, and whose lowliest officer thought himself a Frederick the Great?
It was in part destroyed, and the rest sought refuge in Prussian fortresses, who were to fall into French hands soon afterwards. […]
Our brigade, which was marching behind the third corps entered Berlin at two in the afternoon. It was a fine Autumn day. The city was beautiful but gloomy; all the shops were shut, no one at the windows, very few people in the streets; no carriages on the roads; the only noise you could hear in the street was produced by the artillery and baggage of our army.
We merely traversed the city, continuing further on so as to occupy some villages a few leagues beyond Berlin. The infantry of our army lodged there. The emperor, the headquarters, the imperial guard, the cavalry, infantry, and artillery arrived on the 27th; General Rapp was appointed military governor of the city.
In the village we occupied, the locals had deserted their houses. We found forage there in abundance: the harvest had just been gathered in. As for foodstuffs, meat, bread, beer, etc., not to mention barley, we had to get our supplies from the city of Berlin.
On the day after our arrival, the trumpet summoned the foragers: they had to go to Berlin, for four days, in order to get the food we lacked. After finding ourselves some carts, we left, we the foragers, all under the command of Adjudant Mozère, and we headed for Berlin. When our regiment crossed the city, we found it quiet and gloomy; on the following day it had a completely different aspect; it was like a little Paris. Everyone was out on their business.»

Souvenirs du  commandant Parquin, Bibliothèque napoléonienne, Tallandier, Paris, 1979 pp.82-83, published in English as Napoleon’s Army (London, 1969)

Captain Coignet
«On the 25th with we reached Potsdam; we spent the 26th and 27th at Charlottenburg, the splendid palace of the King of Prussia, which is opposite Berlin. The country here is covered with woods up to the very gates of this beautiful city; nothing could be prettier. The gateway is surmounted by a triumphal arch, and the streets are straight as a line. From the Charlottenburg gate to the palace. there is a broad walk, with benches on each side for those who wish to look on. The Emperor made his entrance on the 28th at the head of twenty thousand grenadiers and cuirassiers, and all our splendid foot and horse-guards. The uniform was as magnificent as at the Tuileries; the Emperor moved proudly along in his plain dress, with his small hat and his one-sou cockade. His staff was in full uniform, and it was a curious sight to see the worst-dressed man the master of such a splendid army. The people were gazing out of the windows as the Parisians did on the day we came back from Austerlitz. It was grand to see this great populace crowding the streets to see us, and following us wherever we went. We drew up in line of battle in front of the palace, which is isolated by beautiful squares in front and at the back of it, and a handsome square filled with trees, where the great Frederick stands on a pedestal with his little gaiters on.
We were lodged in private houses and fed at the expense of the inhabitants, with orders to give us a bottle of wine every day. This was hard upon the citizens, for the wine costs three francs a bottle. Not being able to procure wine, they begged us to take instead, beer, in little jugs. At roll-call, all the grenadiers spoke about it to their officers, who told us not to force them to give us wine, as the beer was excellent. […].
The Emperor reviewed his guard in front of the palace; he stood near some fine linden-trees, near the statue of Frederick the Great. […] We were formed up in line in front of the palace; the Emperor came up, ordered us to carry arms, and fix bayonets; our colonel repeated the command. The emperor ordered, “Right wheel!” The colonel repeated it. Then, “Forward, at the double, march.” […]
The corps of Marshal Davoust was the first to enter Berlin; and then marched on to the frontier of Poland, later to take up positions on the Elbe and Oder, so as to march on Posen. We learned, before leaving Berlin, that Magdeburg had surrendered and that we had taken fifty standards.
The notebooks of Captain Coignet, 1928, Peter Davis Limited, London. Online at Napoleonic Literature

An unexpected eyewitness: Stendhal

Henri Beyle better known as Stendhal (1783-1842), arrived in Paris just after the Brumaire coup d’état and after recommendations from family members was taken in at the war ministry under Daru (Stendhal’s and Daru’s fathers were cousins). After a period in Italy, he returned to Paris and (despite his dislike of the empire) accepted a posting from Daru who in 1806 had been appointed as Intendant of Finances in the Duchy of Brunswick. As a result of his links, Stendhal was made Intendant of the emperor’s domains in Brunswick. On 27 October, 1806, he was to enter Berlin in Napoleon’s entourage.

«I thank God for safely having entered Berlin, both pistols carefully loaded, on 27 October, 1806. For the entrance, Napoleon the dress uniform of a Général de division. It is perhaps the only time I ever saw him. He was riding about twenty pace in front of the soldiers; the silent crowd stood only about two paces from his horse; anybody could have fired a gun at him from any one of the windows. »

Stendhal, Correspondance, Gallimard, Paris, 1968.

«In all the places which are unpaved, your foot goes down up to the ankle; and sand has turned the outskirt of the city into a desert; they only grow trees and a little grass. I don’t know what gave them the idea to put a city in the middle of all this sand; they say that this town has one hundred and fifty-nine thousand inhabitants.»

Stendhal, Correspondance, Le divan, 1933. Letter of 3 November, 1806, to his sister Pauline.

The arrival of the French troops as recorded by a Prussian

«The first infantryman entered; he was tall and thin with a pale face, covered in black, scrubby hair […] We were amazed at his garb: he had a short cape covering his body, on his head was a small battered hat, of an indescribable shape, but pushed so far back and at such an insolent angle that the face and hat were for us the object of great amazement. The cloth trousers were dirty and exceedingly torn; his feet were bare in his worn out shoes; a small hairy dog watched his mouth very attentively as he bit off large chunks of bread to throw to him. Just imagine it! A soldier with a dog on a leash and half a loaf stuck on the end of his bayonet; from his musket hung a goose and on his hat, instead of insignia, gleamed a pewter spoon.»

George, Erinnerungen eines Preussen aus der Napoleonischen Zeit, Grima 1840.

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