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©1994-2020 Bill Armintrout
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Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP05 Jun 2020 11:27 p.m. PST

When I published my books, first Waterloo Betrayed, and next the 5 Volume Operations of the Armée du Nord : 1815, my goal was to find the great volume of French correspondence that had scattered after the defeat and fall of Napoleon's government.
Due to Waterloo Betrayed, we found a registry of d'Erlon, 2 registries of Soult and the existence of a 3rd, and a registry of Bertrand. This rewrote the French concentration.
Due to Operations, we have found over 1,000 new pieces of correspondence from a variety of collectors, including the descendants of one of the Corps commanders of the Armée du Nord – materials that had literally sat in a cupboard in the attic until late last year.
Awareness of the challenge is key – many collectors and descendants do not know the history and thus are unaware of the importance of materials they have.
This year, I am live tweeting the campaign from the French perspective, and am building a timeline on my website. One will be able to see transcriptions, translations, and the images of the orders from the originals, drafts/dictations, and registries. Sometimes I will share all 3 as it is very interesting to see the process in action.
For the tweets, search on #waterloocampaign
The timeline can be found here: link

And I will be sharing at least one of the new discoveries, because it is a nice one.
As of today, June 6, the entire army is in motion.

von Winterfeldt06 Jun 2020 4:10 a.m. PST

very interesting, though who are the traitors?
You could speak traitors or on the other hand officers and soldiers who stayed loyal to their King, the traitors being those betraying the Kings by running over to Boney.

USAFpilot06 Jun 2020 8:19 a.m. PST

Follow the money and you'll find your traitors.

dibble06 Jun 2020 9:33 a.m. PST

It's just so much more Napoleon fawning and revisionist rubbish.

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP06 Jun 2020 10:17 a.m. PST

@von Winterfeldt, throughout the correspondence, one finds the Corps commanders consistently dealing with officers in their ranks working for the King. I have a list of the known – anyone can email me for it. However, even more are listed in the latest batch of documents (over 1000 pages), and I have not culled them from it yet.

They could easily be called Spies as well – choose what language you prefer, but as they were French who were feigning allegiance, I use the term traitor. Unlike deserters from the ranks, which plagued all armies in all times (and the correspondence includes interrogations of Allied deserters), these were officers. The correspondence includes letters from these officers to Ghent providing intelligence.

For this timeline, the analysis will be backed by translation, transcription, and copious images of originals. One certainty is that detractors of my work will provide no evidence for any counter arguments, and they will ignore original documents to preserve their antiquated 19th century view of the campaign in order to preserve their cherished myths.

The King funded subterfuge was effective. It was a distraction and it eroded trust. And ultimately, provide the intelligence that spurred the Prussian army to concentrate. From Wellington's perspective, the intelligence coming from France was overwhelming, and mostly false, and thus not actionable. This may have been intentional, or not. But it is fascinating that Wellington received intelligence of an advance via Avesnes on Mons – a plan Napoleon would dictate on June 10. But this was interleaved with many reports of an imminent advance from multiple locations, and explains why Wellington didn't respond, nor did the Prussians until they received the very precise and credible intelligence of an attack.

von Winterfeldt06 Jun 2020 11:31 a.m. PST

I am not doubting your research, but I find it difficult to term such officers loyal to their King – as traitors – maybe royal spies.

This all indicates that the army was not in unison behind Boney as they were just a year before.

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP06 Jun 2020 12:40 p.m. PST

@von Winterfeldt – Spies are fine. When Spies for a foreign power are of the nationality of the country they are spying on, "traitors" is often used as well. (In united states, see 1953 and shamefully, Mumford in 1862.) The chosen term is not relevant to the point that you are correct in a very real sense.

The ranks, by all appearances, were ferociously for Napoleon – some regiments excepted.

The officers had a significant percentage that were either doubtful, indifferent, or hostile. This increased operational friction.

Some have implied I am trying to give Napoleon some excuse – far from it. He was well aware of this reality, and in the timeline, I will have pointed criticisms of Napoleon's conduct based on this awareness and actions he took. Maybe he felt like he didn't have a choice but deal with it, and he had plans to act on it after a victory… but he didn't have to combat it to take it more seriously.

The more I research, the less forgiving I am of Napoleon's conduct – and from the correspondence, one can see his loyal officers were trying to elevate this concern, and other concerns as well.

Old Peculiar06 Jun 2020 12:43 p.m. PST

Dibble – Revisionist rubbish? Really, is that your opinion about all original research?

Brechtel198 Supporting Member of TMP06 Jun 2020 12:46 p.m. PST

You could speak traitors or on the other hand officers and soldiers who stayed loyal to their King, the traitors being those betraying the Kings by running over to Boney.

The king ran away to Belgium and didn't fight for his throne. That tends to demonstrate that his 'kingship' wasn't legitimate.

Nine pound round06 Jun 2020 3:46 p.m. PST

I will await the presentation of evidence with interest- and one word of caution. "Traitor" is not a word to toss around lightly, and it suggests a pretty serious level of betrayal (and consequence). When you use terms like that, you need to clear the bar by a considerable margin. What do you have to show us?

nsolomon9906 Jun 2020 5:13 p.m. PST

Ahhh … hmmm … dibble … your bias is … um … showing there, at the top corner there, where you didn't paint over it!! Sort of diminishes the credibility of your contributions don't you see? Strange to be on a history forum yet not interested in historical research?

Thanks Stephen Beckett, great news, always interested in new perspectives.

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP06 Jun 2020 5:46 p.m. PST

traitor: one who betrays another's trust or is false to an obligation or duty

Was Bourmont a traitor? Hero?

Was any officer who served in the French army during Napoleon's reign yet was serving the King a traitor? A spy? Heroic? Dispicable?

In 1840, Bourmont returned from exile. Crowds attacked the family, one of his sons was badly injured by stones.

A newspaper recorded the event:
"Last night around eight o'clock, Bourmont and his friends were returning to the hotel, a few wretches could not help but applaud and even yell out, "Long live Bourmont! Long live the conqueror of Algiers!" A passerby, rightly offended, whistled, and a considerable number of legitimists rushed towards him, and he had to take refuge in the Commerce Cafe, where he was stolen away from the frantic spirits who probably wanted to
treat him as Brune was treated. (note: Brune was killed in 1815)
For the rest, the punishment followed the crime very closely; in less than an hour Beauveau street was filled with patriots, who spontaneously took up La Marseillaise, accompanied by cries of "Down with Bourmont! Down with the Waterloo traitor!" etc. All this, as you can imagine, stung the ears of the hero of legitimacy, and he feared actions would follow words. As for his supporters, those who could return home without danger did so; the others remained silent."

There is a lot more than this – but needless to say, the TRAITORS of 1815 had very tough sledding. Charles X, no traitor but aggressively anti Napoleon, is not even buried in France.

As previously discussed, these labels are loaded. But I use the term "traitor" as a matter of fact. France had a legitimate new government. Europe declared it not legitimate. Who is right? Were the Bourbons legitimate? Was Ghent the new capital? Are all Frenchman today traitors to their King?

After 1830 and the Bourbons were gone, France was able to reveal what it thought of those who served the King in 1815. I was told by a mentor that one cannot study the politics of Napoleon without studying the entire 19th century. The actions of those who aided the Bourbons was polarizing to the extreme, and those that left France or served the foreign armies were condemned. I was shocked, and I quote a long passage in my book, that even families that lost relatives fighting against Napoleon were disgusted by those that left France and returned among the foreign armies.

I would suggest that traitor should not be considered a derogatory term in an absolute fashion. We cheer traitors to Hitler's regime, for example. Some on this forum applaud the traitors of Napoleon.

@Nine pound round – my books document tens of traitors – I have stopped cataloging them or transcribing the correspondence because this is now a matter of demonstrable fact. I include one letter on my website, and one can download the master chronology that has 2000 document summaries to see the source for more. Email me if you want to see more evidence first hand.

I pursued this research because 19th century historians commented that it was a significant factor in the French defeat. This is generally ignored, other than anecdotally, in 20th/21st century accounts. I found that it was absolutely true – the royalists and opportunist were everywhere. They were paid well – anecdotally, Victor Hugo's father in-law was an informant in the Ministry of War (or it is a false boast in his biography.) As someone who is analyzing operations, it is a factor that was unique to 1815.

Handlebarbleep06 Jun 2020 9:20 p.m. PST

@Brechtel198

Choosing to not plunge your country into civil war, to place your own interests below that of your country sounds more like a patriot to me.

Going with their government into exile in the face of overwhelming force makes a sovereign illegitimate? Well, someone aught to tell the Dutch to get rid of Willem-Alexander and Norway likewise to eject Harald. By your reckoning they have no legal claim. They might find it difficult to find a descendant of Hitler for them to offer the thrones to though.

Thankfully International Law, even in our period, had got beyond of the playground notion of 'finders keepers'. Restoration is just that, restoring the rightful government.

Louis did not abdicate, he merely re-located.

There was only one illegal monarch in 1815, and he seized power by force, not once, but twice. No amount of disassembly and flim-flammery will absolve Napoleon of those charges, for which he ultimately paid the price on a tiny mid-atlantic rock. A disturber of the peace of nations indeed.

Gazzola07 Jun 2020 8:18 a.m. PST

Handlebarbleep

Louis would not have had to 're-locate', as you term it, had he had the support of the military and people. But he didn't, so he had to run for it – again! LOL

Using the fear of a civil war is just silly and unrealistic and a feeble excuse for Luis legging it – the troops going over to Napoleon proved that there would have been no chance of a civil war – he legged it and would need the help of the mercenary allies to defeat Napoleon and stick him back on the throne. Without the allies he would have remained just another exile.

MiniPigs07 Jun 2020 8:44 a.m. PST

@Dibble

It's just so much more Napoleon fawning and revisionist rubbish.

I believe that after Jesus, Napoleon is the most written about historical figure ever.

Bottom line is that Napoleon sells books.

Robert le Diable07 Jun 2020 9:03 a.m. PST

Thanks so very much for this wealth of information, Mr Beckett, and also Mapleflowerhouse Publishing for allowing it to be widely available. I'll be following this with interest and a perpetual awareness to run this new information alongside the most familiar accounts of this short period. Like all discoveries of significant new information and documents, this should prompt a fuller study (doesn't necessarily mean that broad conclusions will be changed).

With regard to disputed terms in the sideline opened up here, several thoughts occur. Wellington said (I don't even know the source, but am sure that someone on TMP can be specific), in response to a question about desertions from L'Armee du Nord, that he expected to pick up a Marshal or two, but not one from the rank-and-file. Remember old Hussar, and soldier of honour if not quite a gentleman, Blucher, on Bourmont: something about "Hundsfott"?

In a wider context, there's the issue of competing kinds of "Sovereignty". For the most part, now, it is accepted that this lies with the populace, not an individual monarch. Pity that throughout much of Europe, the armies of L'Ancien Regime were composed of "the swinish multitude" forced to fight against this "democratic" ideal (often financed by the British State, from sources that included Slavery and the pillaging of India, as has often been rehearsed). Again, though the years and centuries have passed, remember that it was stated explicitly at the time that the so-called "Principle of Legitimacy" logically meant that the Stuart line should have regained the Throne of Britain. But, as we all know, History is written by the victors, with regard both to bias and to what is even considered "history". Another relevant and familiar quotation (though it's not as often cited) would be "Might is Right".

Poetry is designed to be memorable:
"Treason doth never prosper. What's the reason?
Why, if it prosper, none dare call it Treason."
(Sir John Harington).

Good Luck. R le D.

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP07 Jun 2020 10:26 a.m. PST

@ R le D.
Mapleflowerhouse is me, and thanks, this study changes details specifically from June 10 – June 16. As it is operational in nature, it adds little to June 18. The 1st Corps diary found in d'Erlons registry has been polarizing – if it confirmed prior beliefs, such as relating to the Grand battery, it has been hailed as confirmation. If it disputed believed facts, it has been attacked as written long after the fact an in error. From my perspective, its a source, and Diégo Mané did a detailed analysis of its June 18 entry that can be downloaded here: PDF link

On his website, he also utilized the entire reference set to tweak 1815 orders of Battle, and also found transcription errors dealing with proper names and numbers.

Who must really be thanked are the private collectors who share materials.

France has become more aggressive seizing materials – see Oudinot's papers.

While this may seem ok – the state taking and protecting state papers, it has a devastating consequence… an already secret world of auctions and collecting has become even more so.

My team works with collectors to digitize items so that they are available for study and analysis. I'm not sure why I get so much criticism from some, but I do note that one fact has been 100% consistent, the loudest detractors have accomplished the least in this field. Maybe someone could recommend a wine that goes with crow?

dibble07 Jun 2020 2:23 p.m. PST

Old Peculiar:

Dibble – Revisionist rubbish? Really, is that your opinion about all original research?

Original research is one thing. Using it to fit a narrative is another. How much of that 'original research' is discounted because of it not fitting said narrative?

Napoleon and his army was beaten and beaten bad. His vaunted Guard suffered its worst drubbing, being smashed and running away with many, many deserting. There were no traitors to France other than those who flocked to the Corse's illegal cause. And anyway, the Corse should have stayed at home in his little kingdom instead of causing yet more death and misery.

‘Tis said his form is tiny, yet
All human ills he can subdue,
Or with a bauble or medal
Can win man's heart for you;
And many a blessing know to stew
To make a megalomaniac bright;
Give honour to the dainty Corse,
The Pixie, the little sh1te.

MarbotsChasseurs07 Jun 2020 4:59 p.m. PST

Stephen,

I agree 100% that these documents should be available online for all to search and enjoy. I have been researching controles de troupe on this website link

It is a great starting point even though it does not have any Light regiments, but I was lucky enough to get some SHD documents to research as well. The correspondence you found is a great find and I have enjoyed your post!

Michael

Robert le Diable07 Jun 2020 5:18 p.m. PST

@Mapleflowerhouse/Stephen Beckett-
Then the expression of thanks was doubly due! The point about "auction houses" I hadn't considered, having just a disinterested position with regard to historical information, preferably with images of primary sources, being universally accessible.

With regard to original documents, might I enquire of dibble the source of that elegant effusion in what is nearly verse?

""*[//]) {> ::::

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP07 Jun 2020 5:54 p.m. PST

@MarbotsChasseurs – I was not aware of that link. Presently, my team is grinding through the personalities of 1815 and writing descendants of both veterans and others who may have materials. In the next few weeks, a collection at a library will be reviewed – you just don't know when something is hiding in plain sight such as Bertrand's registry, and the registry of Soult in Nantes. If you are interested in joining the effort, feel free to email me. I am overwhelmed with the effort presently, and it is a constant sick feeling that something great will appear online and I just missed it.

@Robert le Diable – Auctions provide us insight into the existence of collections. They are also a source as well. I have bids outstanding all the time, including now. But frustratingly, I was not aware of this when the lots in the early 2000s sold – I will be documenting the most impressive materials that we are aware of in my timeline.

Handlebarbleep07 Jun 2020 7:23 p.m. PST

@Gazzola

History panning out as it did, almost pre-ordained, is a beguiling illusion. Napoleon's return to power would not have been as inevitable as it might seem. Yes, forces sent against him had a snowball effect, but most of the French army was merely effectively 'handed over' by Louis when he went into exile. It would be interesting to consider how a Louis holed up in the Vendee would fair. It would certainly allow the Allies time to commence their advance whilst Napoleon's back was turned.

Many areas of France were pro-royalist, and as the steady stream of officer's desertions indicates, even in his striking force not everything was as dependable as Napoleon would have liked. Most of the treason though was Napoleon's. "Voila Grouchy!" betrayed the army's trust.

In the end though, being usurped in a military coup or invasion does not make a sovereign illegitimate.

42flanker08 Jun 2020 1:11 a.m. PST

"Nous sommes trahis"

link

dibble08 Jun 2020 3:07 a.m. PST

Robert le Diable:

With regard to original documents, might I enquire of dibble the source of that elegant effusion in what is nearly verse?

It's a 'play' on 19th century ode to the Pixie by this bloke:

link

The original goes like this:

"Tis said their forms are tiny, yet
All human ills they can subdue,
Or with a wand or amulet
Can win a maiden's heart for you;
And many a blessing know to stew
To make to wedlock bright;
Give honour to the dainty crew,
The Pixies are abroad tonight."

Mini Pigs:

I believe that after Jesus, Napoleon is the most written about historical figure ever.

Bottom line is that Napoleon sells books.

That as maybe but like Jesus, Napoleon also spawns wodges of myth and hero-worship 'much of it irrational'…:)

Nine pound round08 Jun 2020 8:39 a.m. PST

Thanks for the offer, but I would prefer to see it posted here. I don't have time for more correspondence, and this forum seems like a good place to discuss every point you have raised.

Robert le Diable11 Jun 2020 7:13 a.m. PST

@dibble, My thanks not just for responding to my (genuine) request, couched as it was in exaggeratedly "diplomatic" terms, but also for the Link. I must acknowledge that I'd never heard of Peck, though I'm going to see if I can find any of his songs set to music; his assessment re. Simplicity, Sublimity and so on is especially relevant to short lyrics, of course, and there may well be something pleasant and nowadays forgotten. I would imagine, initially, that SCFoster would be an influence on him, despite the lapse of years, and some of his songs are always welcomed.
To tell the truth, I actually took the verse for an imperfectly remembered contemporary "squib", or perhaps accurately transcribed from a fragmentary/corrupt version (I had thought the rhyme in line three would have been "set", something about jewels in a crown maybe, rather than "amulet" as it is), and am in a way disappointed that such a cheerfully reductive jest isn't authentic in that way; one of Cruikshank's pictures of a frenetic little Boney would accord very well.
That's quite a bit of "drifting", but the principal matter of this Thread is far, far above this…
Good Luck.

Handlebarbleep19 Jun 2020 2:47 p.m. PST

@Stephen Beckett

I applaud your dedication to etymology when it comes to the word traitor. I just wish the same courtesy could be extended to the label narcissist, but that is an argument on another thread.

"I would suggest that traitor should not be considered a derogatory term in an absolute fashion. We cheer traitors to Hitler's regime, for example. Some on this forum applaud the traitors of Napoleon."

The use of this language does however colour historical enquiry with accusations of an agenda. To illustrate what I mean, imagine if part of a posting related to the 4th of July I include the following list of "traitors":

1. John Hancock
2. Josiah Bartlett
3. William Whipple
4. Matthew Thornton
5. Samuel Adams
6. John Adams
7. Robert Treat Paine
8. Elbridge Gerry
9. Stephen Hopkins
10. William Ellery
11. Roger Sherman
12. Samuel Huntington
13. William Williams
14. Oliver Wolcott
15. William Floyd
16. Philip Livingston
17. Francis Lewis
18. Lewis Morris
19. Richard Stockton
20. John Witherspoon
21. Francis Hopkinson
22. John Hart
23. Abraham Clark
24. Robert Morris
25. Benjamin Rush
26. Benjamin Franklin
27. John Morton
28. George Clymer
29. James Smith
30. George Taylor
31. James Wilson
32. George Ross
33. Caesar Rodney
34. George Read
35. Thomas McKean
36. Samuel Chase
37. William Paca
38. Thomas Stone
39. Charles Carroll
40. George Wythe
41. Richard Henry Lee
42. Thomas Jefferson
43. Benjamin Harrison
44. Thomas Nelson, Jr.
45. Francis Lightfoot Lee
46. Carter Braxton
47. William Hooper
48. Joseph Hewes
49. John Penn
50. Edward Rutledge
51. Thomas Heyward, Jr.
52. Thomas Lynch, Jr.
53. Arthur Middleton
54. Button Gwinnett
55. Lyman Hall
56. George Walton

Every single one of them by your working definition a traitor to their lawfully constituted monarch and in direct contravention to their oaths of allegience. This did not just condemn them before the law but also before God. They all carried out sedition by putting their names to a mutinous document, which by due legal process should have led to their hanging and post mortem beheading.

Unsurprisingly, if I described their Founding Fathers in this way some Americans might not unreasonably accuse me of a tinsy-winsy bit of bias. I don't think even the most spirited etymylogical defence would do much good in that regard.

Words matter.

In official reports and returns, those who resigned or left their posts are usually described as "admirers" or of having an "attachment" to the Bourbon dynasty rather than traitors. Perhaps the authors were well aware that their reports may have to pass through the hands of officers who shared their feelings? Perhaps mindful of the fragility of Napoleon's position they were not wanting to commit to paper something that could have later consequences? If so, this might give further credence to the theories around distrust and lack of unit cohesion that go some way to explain the rout on the 18th.

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2020 2:53 p.m. PST

@handlebarbleep

Narcissism vs Traitor can both be thrown around casually, while at same time can have strict application. In the strict sense, Traitor is easy to apply to say Bourmont who around midnight on June 14th wrote Gérard and essentially said, "I found the road we can follow on our advance" and a few hours later led his staff across the border. When Bourmont wrote that final communication to Gérard, what was Bourmont acting as – please say.

A clinical diagnosis of any personality disorder cannot be applied to any dead historical figure. Even the accounts of these individuals tend to the extreme – either for or against. Further, as already discussed, it isn't even a strict science as the DSM changes over time. Napoleon had such an impact on the world, so many volumes written, even an age named after him that he could not possibly have illusions of grandeur. No one alive has ever met the man, and anyone who thinks they "know" him via the dated words of others is foolish. We don't know him – we have some form of caricature, maybe positive, maybe negative, but only a public facade drawing from words written during an incredibly polarized time.

Calling the founding fathers of the USA traitors to the Crown is undoubtedly true, I know no one who denies it, and its something many citizens of the USA are quite proud of – I know I am. Those that were executed, who sacrificed their wealth and lives, for what was a self described revolution following a declaration of independence, are some of our biggest heroes.

What is particularly great about the founders is how they self identified – thanks for pointing that out.

Bourmont also signed a document, a June 14 letter to Gérard while acting as General in Napoleon's army.

Handlebarbleep22 Jun 2020 5:48 p.m. PST

@Stephen Beckett

I beg to differ. In cases of suspected suicides clinical opinions (not diagnosis) in the form of reports to the coroner are routinely given. Coroners courts make post-mortem determinations on states of mind all the time. Often the subject had no contact with the medical profession, so all they have to go on is what they wrote or said, or was reported to have said. Coroners courts make their determination based on burden of proof on balance of probability, not beyond reasonable doubt.

The US profession bans the diagnosis based on this type of evidence only of living subjects, to provide for their rights. It does not extend that protection to the dead, or on the grounds that is ineffective.

Circumstances and societies change, but what it means to be human does not. Neither does neuropathy, although the modern labels we put on it does not. The autistic spectrum affected people before Asperger came along, he merely described it. Narcissists existed then and exist now, and unsurprisingly continue to act in a narcissistic way. If you talk like a narcissist, act like a narcissist and describe yourself like you are a narcissist does, then, well, you functionally are one.

What is the point of collecting the order books, reading the orders and constructing the timeline if we do not try to use it to undrstand a commander's intention? What use of the biographies, if not to understand the background that formed them? How can we seek to understand all that if we don't examine the individual's character and thinking processes?

I'd argue that there are few Generals that don't display at least some narcissistic traits, they are not uncommon. Narcissists can be very charming and charismatic. That can sometimes make them extremely successful, but also warp their perception. I believe that for Napoleon this could be a factor. It seems rather strange for us to agonise over the weather, the state of the ground and the width of the bridges and not at least entertain the notion.

What is strange is that some of those that will not consider the Emperor are more than willing to comment on the PTSD of Ney, the competence of Grouchy, the senility of Blucher or the aloofness of Wellington. I can only conclude that Napoleon's star shines still for them.

I would counter one of your statements. No one was in "Napoleon's Army". Such a thing did not really exist, outside of perhaps the Guard, which was at least 'Imperial'. They were in the French Army. What we don't know is how many were motivated by La Patrie rather than "Vivre L'Empereur". These men need not necessarily have been pro-Bourbon, just see Bonapartism as no longer compatible with the interests of France. Strange that we are so willing to place a label on them, on very little direct evidence, yet poo-poo a simple opinion on the neurotype of one of the most written about men on the planet.

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2020 8:06 p.m. PST

You are absolutely correct, it was not Napoleon's army, and I admit my characterization was wrong.

von Winterfeldt23 Jun 2020 1:30 a.m. PST

+1 Handlebarbleep

Handlebarbleep24 Jun 2020 2:05 a.m. PST

@ Stephen Beckett

Thank you, that is most gracious of you.

We can only speculate, but I think we could make a pretty good case for Napoleon making too much reliance after Grenoble of it being "his" army, it may have been the biggest factor in his downfall?

Some units were apparently more reliable than others, and perhaps the rank and file more so than the officers?

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP24 Jun 2020 10:53 p.m. PST

There were known regiments in 1815 with royalist leanings, and others have documented this quite well. The correspondence is rife with accusations of this colonel or that being suspect.

But I don't think the army's morale or loyalty was a significant factor – I believe it performed quite well. And, I think suggesting it was fragile or otherwise malformed does a disservice to its foes which met it with equal tenacity but greater numbers. The royalist/spies/traitors/peeps were concentrated in the officers, and specifically the staffs. And I believe they played a tremendous role in the campaign.

From June 12 – the end of hostilities, major operational mistakes every.single.day. Soult fumbled – but Napoleon did as well… a French friend of mine who is quite knowledgeable believes that one reason Soult was spared Napoleon's scorn was that to give Soult too much responsibility for the failure of 1815 would likewise potentially give Berthier too much credit for past success. Either way, it seems to me that Napoleon had a new major-général yet did not adjust his own behavior sufficiently.

In an National Archives, Davout's response to Gérard on June 9 (responding to Gérard's orders of June 5, received on June 7) was just located (by me, maybe others knew of it, but I've never seen it or seen it referenced.) There are many nooks within France, many different collections, many different regional libraries/archives, and we are grinding through them. They reopen next week, and soon we'll see it and hopefully we'll get some insight into Gérard's thinking since he did not interpret the orders he received correctly – but note, we only have a draft of what was sent him. The registry entry has no detail, which is not uncommon. Maybe Gérard received something different? Will his words demonstrate a clear misunderstanding of the urgency, or will they reveal a Soult failure, and if so, in what manner.

Its another piece in the Mons/Charleroi tale – de Wit/Regnault who have both studied the concentration in detail believe it was Gérard's delays which led to the target swinging east – which makes perfect sense. When such a major decision still has missing data of such importance, and we know it existed at one time, like we knew this letter did, I believe the priority has to be to find it.

Murvihill25 Jun 2020 8:52 a.m. PST

A soldier takes an oath that includes swearing loyalty to their sovereign. They may then renounce that oath, and whether that renunciation is accepted by the sovereign or not it is at least honest and aboveboard. If they do not renounce that oath and work in secret against the sovereign they have sworn to serve, that is treason.
Of course, to the sovereign who does not accept a public renunciation those men are traitors too, but there is a difference between open and secret disloyalty, proven by the fact that spies and saboteurs are not protected by the laws of war.
Oaths are still taken by military personnel. In the USA the oath is sworn to the constitution, not a person.

Handlebarbleep25 Jun 2020 4:42 p.m. PST

@Stephen Beckett

Thank you for that considered response. I agree, just as Gareth Glover has obtained much useful correspondance from the British perspective by reawling the local archives, there is probably even greater treasures still unfound.

What has always fascinated me is the collapse at Waterloo. The oft repeated anecdote of cries of "Nous sommes trahis!". Who did they think had betrayed them, and how? Does it display the ultimate gamble of the "Voila Grouchy!" lie? The rout was sudden and dramatic, and I'm unsure it can be explained away by numbers alone. Effective rearguard actions have been fought against greater odds in more trying circumstances. What was required was cohesiveness and bonds of trust in the leaders of that rearguard. None of these seem to be in evidence.

Handlebarbleep25 Jun 2020 4:50 p.m. PST

@Murvihill

The argument rther depends on whether you consider Napoleon a duly and legally constituted monarch in 1815. The allies had declared him a usurper and an outlaw. Oaths that were essentially said by force of circumstance might easily be regarded as having little validity.

In the period there was the notion of La Patrie, which transcends who may or may not be in power. Napoleon had already renaged on his coronation oath in 1814 by abdicating and deserting France. In those circumstance we might see how some officers may have set more store in their loyalty to France than to Napoleon?

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP25 Jun 2020 11:09 p.m. PST

The rout on the 18th is easily explained, as is the attitude of the soldiers. If you are not comfortable with this, give the analysis a go.

Any rules humanity follows is only as valid as they are enforceable. If the Duchy of Grand Fenwick conquers the USA, and Mountjoy seizes my property, its done. Any artifact I have from the preexisting governments would become invalid the moment of their demise. An example of this type of event happens to be the 1st Restoration in France – check it out.

Why does UK have domain over the Falklands – its not because the international community recognizes this and makes it legal/legitimate, its because they have it and enforce it, and no one more powerful intervenes.

The UN disapproves of Russia's possession of the Crimea, and Putin uses their maps to roll his cigarettes.

Doesn't matter what the rule-book says…

Handlebarbleep26 Jun 2020 4:06 a.m. PST

@Stephen Beckett

I'm not talking about the rules, just the attitude of the players to them. Both times Napoleon came to power it was at the head of an army, ie by force. The second time after he had publically and legally renounced all title for both himself, his family and heirs. It is unsurprising therefore that the allies insisted France return to that position, rather than admit an infant with a Bonapartist regency. Complete fantasy on his part, never going to happen. Even suggesting it is only a sop to a narcisstic ego, and reveals the loss of a grip on reality and the echo chamber into which he had by then descended. A zombie emperor refusing to recognise the death of the his empire. Quite a tragic figure really.

The timing of when officers reported to Napoleon when he took power is instructive, and often determined their fate at the subsequent restoration. Take Napoleon's reaction to General Colbert when reviewing the Red Lancers on March 23rd "Ahah! There you are General Colbert; you are arriving quite late!" a comment on his cautious approach. "Sire, I could come no sooner" he replied. When pressed with ""You're late – what kept you?" His reply is somewhat ambiguous, and has been used against him by both sides "Sire, not as late as Your Majesty – I have been waiting for you for a year."

The Bourbons interpreted it as evidence of fermenting a plot. This is not borne out by the facts though, he had the messenger who tried to bring him and his regiment over to Napoleon arrested! An alternative interpretation would be a gentle rebuke against being deserted by the 1814 abdication in the firstplace. That may have weighed heavily for some and played a part in their mixed feelings. If Napoleon had run out on them once, if things went badly, what would stop him doing it again? Some of the rank and file appear to have retained their blind faith in the infallibility of the Emperor, but for others I think we need to see the loyalty/betrayal issues in the light of the trauma of 1814?

Handlebarbleep26 Jun 2020 6:41 a.m. PST

@Stephen Beckett

I won't engage in a modern discussion, but as the various claims to the Falklands has kept diplomats and international lawyers occupied for over two centuries. The US Supremem Court dismissed the claims of Buenos Ayres as early as 1839 for example. I don't think there is much either of us can add. I would only point out that there has only been one full blown military invasion and occupation, it was not done by Britain and it was in contravention of a UN resolution.

The other examples you use are invasions and territory grabs. The issue we have here is one of national loyalty, abdications ursupation, coups and regime change. In that respect it was much closer to a civil or dynastical conflict such as the Wars of the Roses. However, this is post-enlightenment and with a notion of nationhood that can transcend any particular power block.

I suppose that in opposing Napoleon's unsound military adventure they could reasonably cast themselves as true patriots, putting their duty to La Patrie before all and only having the interests of France and it's people in mind.

Also, do you regard those who accompanied the King also as traitors? If not, when would you say the cutoff date was?

Stephen Beckett Supporting Member of TMP26 Jun 2020 10:23 p.m. PST

@handlebarbleep – you have already answered your own questions and there is no possibility for any productive discussion.

von Winterfeldt27 Jun 2020 4:40 a.m. PST

so Berthier was a "traitor" as well, first he is with the King, then he joins his wife in Bavaria and hand in his resignation to the King due to his bad health, no communication with Boney – a traitor of la patrie – ever.

Mccarthy Mor27 Jun 2020 6:16 p.m. PST

Coppens pdf discusses the extract from Ire Corps Operations Journal for 18 June, in particular that fact that d'Erlon was ordered to form his divisions in "Colonne par Bataillon"

I'd like to follow up on that. Years ago I read a book that described a pencilled order to similar effect that may have been misinterpreted so as to form each battalion in line, one behind the other.

Does anyone recall what was that book? It could have been in English or French.

What matters to me is not whether the order was misinterpreted but locating that book. It also had some interesting information on communications betwwen Nap & Grouchy throughout the morning of 18 June.

Handlebarbleep28 Jun 2020 3:05 a.m. PST

@Stephen Beckett

Sorry Stephen, I was answering your earlier point. I'm still confused though. My question still stands. What was the cutover point for being a traitor?

Was it binary, up until this date and time an officer had to remain loyal to the King, and all who joined Napoleon were traitors until he was reinstated, when their position was regularised or absolved in some way?

If so, was this shared by either side, or did they operate different effective dates?

Or was it a duplex condition, an officer could be a loyal Bonarpartist (or Royalist) whilst being a traitor to the other? If so, how long would you regard this transition period?

Or was it only possible to be a traitor to Napoleon, the only one who was betrayed?

Or do you allow for someone to be a true patriot who owed allegiance to France, but to no particular leader? Or would you regard anyone expressing that position as just a position of psychological safety, covering up their betrayal from themselves?

Do you think that these internalised notion of loyalty had any relationship with externalised concepts of betrayal?

These were heady times. Within the space of 437 days (a little over 14 months) a soldier would have to go from shouting "Vivre L'Empereur" to "Vivre L'Roi" to "Vivre L'Empereur" to "Vivre L'Roi" again. And not just the individuals, but the entire dynasties and political systems. To those of us who come from stable democracies, that might be a little difficult to deal with, as someone who served 26 years knowing only one monarch all my life, perhaps doubly so.

As someone who has forensically analysed this, I would welcome your thoughts and definitions.

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