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Item:  BSL - NAPOLEON-12 MAY 1815


1815 - NAPOLEON SEEKS TO CODIFY HIS VERSION
OF THE AUSTERLITZ VICTORY

 
Napoleon sends to the Secretary of State what he considered
“One of the most important documents of the history of this war.”

A Rare Napoleon signed Document relating to
the French Victory over the Austrians and Russians at Austerlitz

 
 
 

As General of the People, Napoleon writes: "...We honor all the Grande Armée"


Napoléon, the French EmperorOn December 4, 1805, Napoleon, having defeated the combined armies of Austria and Russia at Austerlitz, set out to meet Emperor Francis II of Austria to negotiate an armistice. Napoleon granted conditions of peace to Francis, conditions that the Austrian insisted should extend also to the Russians. These Bonaparte accepted, provided the Russians leave Germany and Poland and return to Russia.

The condition of the Russian army was weak. Surrounded on all sides, it fled; its leader, Emperor Alexander, became separated from his followers. He was pursued by Marshal Louis Nicolas Davout, a hot head and favorite of Napoleon, though often maligned by his fellow generals. Russian General Merveldt, whose vanguard had been routed by Davout's soldiers, sent the Marshal the following note, written in pencil:

"
Colonel Count Walmoden [messenger in this case] will go with a bugler to the French general in command of the third division of the Corps l’Armée [Davout] and will inform him that there is an armistice lasting from six o'clock this morning till six o'clock to-morrow morning, H.M. the Emperor of Germany being in conference with the Emperor of the French at Auschwitz. By order of H.M. the Emperor of Russia” (Signed) Meerfeld, Lieutenant General.”

Davout, having seen battlefield ruses, answered Merveldt that his note did not seem sufficient. He required a written assurance from Emperor Alexander. Colonel Walmoden set out to find the Emperor, but did not know, in the current confusion, where to look. At last, he saw, afar off, some mounted guards. Alexander declared that he could not write this note, and ordered Prince Czartoryski [with whom he was riding] to write it in his name. Colonel Walmoden pointed out to him that Marshal Davout would not stop his movement unless an assurance was given in the Emperor's own writing. Alexander, in order to avoid being taken prisoner by the French troops, who were approaching, consented to write the letter:

General Meerfeld is authorized to tell Marshal Davout from me that a truce of twenty-four hours has been agreed upon for the interview which the two supreme chiefs of their nations will hold together to-day at Auschwitz. (Signed) Alexander.”

Davout took up his position at Josephsdorf, where he happened to be, sending word to the Russian commander-in-chief Kutusoff, who had also written to him, that hostilities would be suspended until six o'clock on the following morning. The Emperor Alexander took refuge at Holitch, on the left bank of the March.
 
As Claude Francois Meneval, secretary to Napoleon, wrote in his lauded book, Memoirs illustrating the History of Napoleon I from 1802 to 1815:

“An armistice between the Austrian and French armies had certainly been agreed upon by the Emperor Napoleon and the Emperor of Austria, but the truce, as far as the Russian army was concerned, though consented to in principle, had not yet been notified. Another hour's march and Davout would have made the Czar his prisoner.”

The Russian Army was allowed to retreat to Russia, only to be ready to meet Napoleon's attack on that nation in 1812. After 1812, the question of whether the Russians should have been allowed to escape from Austerlitz became quite controversial. Napoleon and Marshal Davout both bore some responsibility for this, and both believed their actions were right at the time. So both were on the same side of the question.

Meneval’s book takes up this issue next:

“The Marshal, to clear himself, sent the note on to the Emperor, who ordered me to preserve it in his portfolio as one of the most important documents of the history of this war.

The contents of Davout’s report, cited extensively in Meneval’s account, were sent by Napoleon to be recorded as official history in this letter. Marshal Davout would serve as Secretary of War during the "100 days" of 1815 and would be the first to notify Napoleon of his banishment after Waterloo.

This is the letter in which Napoleon orders the Inspector General to preserve and record his preferred version of his and Alexander's actions and reasons [as documented by Alexander's included handwritten pencil note] following Austerlitz.
Letter Signed (LS), Paris May 12, 1815, signed "Nap[oleon]" to General Savary, Duc de Rovigo, Premier Inspector General of the Gendarmerie:



"
Monsieur le Duc de Rovigo, I would like there to appear a brief review of what happened at Austerlitz with Emperor Alexander when he was cut off by Davout. I have included a signed copy of a small recitation he wrote in pencil and which ought to be in the archives of the secretary of state. As no one is in a better position than you to do this, please do so with the most possible detail. Paris the 12th of May 1815."

                                                                                                Napoleon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anne Jean Marie René Savary, 1st Duc de Rovigo (26 April 1774 - June, 1833), French general and diplomat,  born at Marcq in the Ardennes.:
Educated at the college of St Louis at Metz, Savary entered the royal army in 1790. He became chef d'escadron in 1797, and in 1798 served under General Louis Desaix, in the Egyptian campaign, of which he left an interesting and valuable account. He also distinguished himself under Desaix at Marengo (14 June 1800). His fidelity and address while serving under Desaix, who was killed at Marengo, secured him the confidence of Napoleon Bonaparte, who appointed him to command the special body of Gendarmes charged with the duty of guarding the First Consul.

In February 1805 he was raised to the rank of general of division. Shortly before the battle of Austerlitz (2 December 1805) he was sent by Napoleon with a message to the emperor Alexander I with a request for an armistice, a device which caused that monarch all the more eagerly to strike the blow which brought disaster to the Russians. After the battle Savary again took a message to Alexander, which induced him to treat for an armistice. In the campaign of 1806 Savary showed signal daring in the pursuit of the Prussians after the battle of Jena. Early in the next year he received command of a corps, and with it gained an important success at Ostrolenka (16 February 1807). After the treaty of Tilsit (7 July 1807) Savary proceeded to St Petersburg as the French ambassador.

Napoleon awarded him the duché grand-fief (a rare, nominal but hereditary honor; extinguished in 1872) of Rovigo, in his own Kingdom of Italy. He was among the last to desert the emperor at the time of his abdication (11 April 1814) and among the first to welcome his abortive return ("100 Days" or "Cent Jours") from Elba in 1815, when he became Inspector-General of Gendarmerie and a Peer of France. After the battle of Waterloo he accompanied the emperor to Rochefort and sailed with him to Plymouth on H.M.S. "Bellerophon." He was not allowed to accompany him to St Helena, but underwent several months' "internment" at Malta. Escaping thence, he proceeded to Smyrna, where he settled for a time. Afterwards he travelled about in more or less distress, but finally was allowed to return to France and regained civic rights; later he settled at Rome.

 

 
 

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