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NAPOLEON I - An 1813 letter to General Duroc preparing for the campaign in Germany
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NAPOLEON I - An 1813 letter to General Duroc preparing for the campaign in Germany

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NAPOLEON I. (1769-1821). Military leader and Emperor of France. LS. (“Np”). 1p. 4to. Paris, January 17, 1813. To his trusted general, GERARD CHRISTOPHE MICHEL DUROC (1772-1813). In French with translation.


“Sir the Duke of Frioul, I am sending you the Status Report on the artillery of the guard, as it was sent to me by General Sorbier. I would like for you to let me know what it was at the start and what must be done to re-establish it. With that, I pray God that he has you in his holy care. Paris January 17, 1813”


An initialed note has been added at the bottom, possibly in the hand of Duroc:


“three hundred traced/ side one hundred fifty-five / 300


Following Napoléon’s retreat from Moscow in late 1812, Prussia, Russia, Britain, and Sweden united to form the Sixth Coalition against the emperor. He countered by massing an enormous force of his own throughout Germany. The Coalition, aware of Napoléon’s increased deployments, stationed lookouts along the Elbe River. Collecting intelligence across such vast territory was difficult for both sides but even more so for Napoléon’s troops as they were in enemy territory. Our letter is setting the stage for Napoléon’s spring campaign in Germany that culminated in Napoléon’s victories at Lützen and Bautzen in May 1813. This led to an armistice that lasted from June until August, allowing the Allies time to build up reinforcements and gain Austria’s support. With the return of hostilities, the Allies successfully implemented a strategy of attacking Napoléon’s supporting troops, rather than engaging the emperor directly. At the Battle of Nations at Leipzig on October 16-18, 1813 – the largest battle of the Napoléonic Wars – Napoléon was soundly defeated and forced to retreat, leading to the fall of Paris on March 30, 1814 and Napoléon’s abdication a week later.


Duroc was one of Napoléon’s most trusted generals and became the grand marshal of the palace, tasked with ensuring the emperor and his household’s personal safety. Duroc held this position until his death in 1813. In 1808, he was made Duke of Frioul in the Kingdom of Italy. Mortally wounded during the Battle of Bautzen, Napoléon was at Duroc’s side at his deathbed. His body was interred at the Invalides.


Our letter also mentions General Jean-Barthélemot Sorbier (1762-1827) who fought with the Grande Armée at the Battle of Austerlitz and commanded the artillery of the Army of Italy. After fighting in the War of the Fifth Coalition and the Russian Campaign, Sorbier was promoted to commander of the Grande Armée. Our letter’s note replying to the questions in the letter implies that the artillery of the guard stood at 300 men at the beginning of the conflict and that 155 men were needed to restore it to that level. “Napoleon was the first monarch in Europe and the first commander who appreciated artillery so much. In 1813 Napoleon wrote to Clarke, Minister of War: ‘In most battles the Guard artillery is the deciding factor since having it always at hand, I can take it wherever it is needed.’ The Emperor used massive number of guns in the decisive moment of battle, (“Artillery of the Imperial Guard,


Formerly in the collection of prominent bibliophile James Ludovic Lindsay, 26th Earl of Crawford (1847-1913), whose Bibliotheca Lindesiana was one of the most magnificent private collections of books and manuscripts in 19th-century Britain. Marked “complete” in the upper left corner. Folded with matte burn and some irregular toning. Bearing the ink stamp of the Bibliotheca Lindesiana in the upper left margin. Mounting traces on the blank integral leaf. In very good condition.



Item #19322


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