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1798 NAPOLEON BONAPARTE LETTER SIGNED (LS)

NAPOLEON PREPARES FOR HIS
INVASION OF MALTA & EGYPT

He calls upon his forces to be ready for
"final marching orders for all the expedition"

     

An important historical document relating to France, Malta and Egypt. Here is the aspiring Bonaparte placing final orders as he prepares to launch one of his most audacious and successful campaigns. It was an expedition of Science as well as Arms and laid the foundation for Napoleon's rise to First Consul in 1799.

 

In 1797, the young general Napoleon Bonaparte, fresh from the conquest of the substantial Austrian territories in the Netherlands and northern Italy, proposed to the Directory (the French government) an expedition to seize Malta and Egypt, then a province of the Ottoman Empire. His purpose was to protect French trade interests, obtain influence in the Middle East, and undermine Britain's access to its rich colony of India. The Directory, although troubled by the scope and cost of the enterprise, agreed to the plan in March 1798, in part to remove the popular Napoleon from the center of power but also because the idea of an assault on England had been rejected as premature. The invasions of Malta & Egypt were, the Directory stipulated, to be kept as a closely guarded secret.

Bonaparte moved quickly to set his plan in action and wrote the Mediterranean Armaments Commission (in charge of naval military affairs in the Mediterranean) on March 21 that all must be ready for sail on April 9. This seemed not practicable, however, as transport and escort vessels were lacking, the fleet was not properly prepared for the invasion, and the ships were not in place. Nonetheless, on March 30, the energetic Napoleon proceeded anyway, and informed the Chief Army Quartermaster that the expeditionary force to Malta & Egypt would be comprised of five army divisions, each division embarking for Egypt from one of five ports: Toulon, Marseilles, Genoa, Ajaccio [Corsica], and Cittavecchia. General Dommartin was to take command of the artillery, General Vaubois would lead the expedition from Corsica, and Admiral Bruey would lead the transport and naval operations for the entire expedition. All hinged all the arrival of vessels to transport his army from Europe to Africa.

On April 2, nine large vessels under the command of Admiral Bruey arrived in Toulon, and his arrival was an indication that things were ready. News was immediately sent to Napoleon, who, after obtaining the formal consent of the Directory's Navy Minister (in whose name he had to act), responded with this letter to the Mediterranean Armaments Commission, setting in motion the tactical movements that would soon see him conquering Malta and Egypt. Here he marshals his forces to strengthen and prepare his main points of embarkation while simultaneously managing the preparation at his three principal points of embarkation.

 

 

Letter Signed "Bonaparte," April 10, 1798, Paris, at 1 am, to the Mediterranean Armaments Commission,
 the members of which he addressed with the Revolutionary greeting of "Citizens" :


A la Commission chargée de Armament de la Mediterrannée

Paris the 21st Germinal (10 April) 1 in the morning

"The Minister of the Marine orders, Citizens, a frigate to hasten to Genoa to escort the Convoy which must embark there, as well as the general who commands it. The Minister also orders nine of the large transport vessels now at Toulon to head for Ajaccio [Corsica] to take on board the troops set to embark from there. I anxiously await my messenger, LeSimple, in order to send the final marching orders for all the expedition. Please forward to General Vaubois in Corsica the enclosed letter by postal boat. Three million in silver have arrived in Lyon and are headed to Toulon to cover the remaining expenses. General Dommartin must not forget to include in his plans the number of carts necessary."

                                                                      I salute you
                                                                             Bonaparte

 

 

 

Docketed by the commission: "Received the 28 [17th April] at 6pm."

Napoleon set sail on May 19 with 50,000 soldiers; but as a member of the French Academy of Sciences, he also took a group of 167 scientists and scholars, including mathematicians, naturalists, earth scientists, chemists, historians and linguists. He captured Malta on June 11 and landed in Alexandria on July 1, soundly defeating the Ottoman army a week later at the Battle of the Pyramids. Three days later the French entered Cairo. They were to control Egypt for three years, during which time they spread French influence, but of perhaps even greater significance, discovered the Rosetta Stone (leading to the deciphering of hieroglyphics), and found and brought to public attention a priceless hoard of Egyptian antiquities (starting the fashion for Egyptian art, architecture and dress). In the midst of this, on November 9, 1799, Napoleon successfully took over France in a coup d'état in which the Directory was replaced by a three member Consulate, with Napoleon as First Consul.

I

"General Dommartin must not forget to include in his plans the number of carts necessary."
B[onaparte]

NOTES: We have correlated dates from the Napoleonic dating system to the more common Western dating system.

PROVENANCE: This document bears the seal & docketing of the "Bibliotheca Lindesiana". Of the several thousand noble libraries founded in family houses throughout the British Isles in the last three or four hundred years, only a few dozen or so may be said to have achieved a lasting public reputation. Among them the Bibliotheca Lindesiana is distinguished not only because of the remarkable collection formed, but because its dispersal began ninety-five years ago and it no longer exists. The library's origins may be said to go back to the late sixteenth century with the establishment of the Lindsay family at Balcarres in Fife by Lord Menmuir. Its status was significantly enhanced in the mid-nineteenth century with the appearance of Alexander William, twenty-fifth earl of Crawford and eighth earl of Balcarres (1812-1880) - called Lord Lindsay for most of his life. The library was subsequently managed by his successor, James Ludovic (1847-1913), who continued aggregations of importance in astronomy, broadsides, ballads, including documents of the French Revolution and Napoleonic period.

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