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"Louis Bro in the West Indies" Topic


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142 hits since 4 Sep 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP05 Sep 2018 1:42 p.m. PST

"Louis Bro sailed to Saint Domingue as part of the expedition to help recapture the colony for France. A soldier in the cavalry, serving in a theatre quite unsuited to mounted troops, he left a colourful account of his adventures in the West Indies. As with all memoirs, it should be treated with some caution. Nevertheless, it doesn't appear to be overly fabricated and the dates and timing seem to align with those from other accounts. He survives the voyage, survives his first battle (at Le Cap) and ends up guarding Pauline Bonaparte (wife of his commanding officer) before disaster takes hold:

For us, Bonaparte was nearly divine. Once, in December 1797, following his triumphal passage through the Luxembourg, I was so close that I was able to reach out and touch his hand. He fixed me with a menacing stare and I cried out "Long Live Bonaparte!". "Young man," he said, "you better shout ‘Long Live the Republic'" and, saying that, he smiled. When I told all this to my father he said that I should enrol in the staff if war broke out again. So it was that when I came of age I tried to arrange things so that I had a passable familiarity with life as a soldier. My first steps were unfortunate. Nestor Dessole, cousin of the general of the same name, tried to dissuade me from my plan as he had seen countless well-educated men perish of misery in the field. His warnings were most fearful – "Young man, do you not know that our victories in Italy cost us 100 000 men, now lying buried on the other side of the Alps. You need to understand that the pedestal which supports the statue of a great captain is made from piles of corpses." This did not weaken my resolve. What I read and what I heard strengthened my resolve. Bonaparte was in Egypt and I requested that I be allowed to form part of the reinforcements that were being gathered at Toulon. At the office where recruits were being enrolled, I was told, on 6 December 1798, that an English fleet was preventing our ships from sailing and that I could not be sent to my requested destination. In truth, I could have gone to Italy, where war had once again broken out, but my aim was to follow Bonaparte and he was not there. I went back to my studies but failed at the polytechnic exams and had to spend even more time working for a lawyer. Meanwhile, however, Bonaparte was back and the political events of 18 Brumaire turned him from a victorious general into First Consul and a magistrate destined to bring order back to a country which had been so torn apart by revolution. Whilst Bonaparte was marching towards Marengo, and forcing his way across the Alps, I was suffering painfully from a fall from a horse and I had only just recovered by the time I was called up as a conscript. I was a conscript of the 1801 class and my father managed to obtain from the governor of Paris, a certain Junot, permission for me to enter the 1st Hussars, then in garrison at Saumur. Dessole thought that this unit was to be sent to the colonies, which didn't trouble me at all as war in Germany or war in America was, after all, war. My departure was fixed for 16 October and my mother in law threw me a lavish party the night before. My two brothers and two sisters were there and my youngest sister burst into tears, thinking that I was going off to die in the West Indies. Dessole, who had been our companion for many years, turned to her and said "Do not worry, dear Adelaide, Louis will bring you back diamonds from the tropics and a little black child who will carry your train at the ball when you are a fine lady". So I took orders for six blacks and two ladies requested plumage from some rare birds. Then we had a great deal of fun with music and dancing…"
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