The French Revolution and Napoleon: A Sourcebook

By Philip G. Dwyer; Peter McPhee | Go to book overview

16

BONAPARTE

Proclamation to the Army of Italy, 26 April 1796

Seven days before his marriage with Josephine (2 March 1796), Napoleon was nominated commander-in-chief of the Army of Italy. He was only 27. He was given a limited objective-to contain the Austrians in Italy-while the main thrust of the campaign was to be carried out by Hoche in Germany. Legend has it that Napoleon went about transforming the Army of Italy, which was demoralised and lacking in matériel and discipline, into an outstanding fighting force, making Italy the main theatre of operations. This is true up to a point. As the following documents show, his troops were far less heroic than the image of the grenadiers portrayed in official propaganda and were largely motivated by plunder. Bonaparte's famous appeal supposedly launched on 27 March 1796 ('Soldiers, you are naked and badly nourished'), was an invitation to pillage and loot, but is probably apocryphal. More interesting from a political point of view is the proclamation of 7 Floréal which Bonaparte made before attacking the Austrians with only 30,000 troops. Bonaparte appealed to their sense of honour and glory to perform ever greater feats. At the same time, however, he attempted to reassure the Italian civilian population by pointing out how severely he would deal with looters. The French army had been looting indiscriminately and Bonaparte's orders two days previously to try and stem the pillage (Order of the Day, 24 April 1796) had proved ineffective.

Soldiers, in fifteen days you have won six victories, taken twenty-one flags, fifty-five pieces of canon, several fortresses, and conquered the richest part of Piedmont; you have taken 15,000 prisoners, killed or wounded more than 10,000.

Until now you have fought over barren rocks, distinguished yourselves by your bravery, but useless to the patrie. Today, your services are equal to those of

-128-

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The French Revolution and Napoleon: A Sourcebook
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations xi
  • Preface xiii
  • A Note on the Revolutionary Calendar xv
  • Chronology xvi
  • 1 - The Ancien RÉgime Challenged 1
  • 2 - Revolutionary Action 16
  • 3 - Creating a Regenerated France 24
  • 4 - Exclusions and Inclusions 35
  • 5 - The Church and the Revolutionary State 43
  • 6 - Monarchy and Revolution 51
  • 7 - The Revolution at War 60
  • 8 - The End of the Monarchy 68
  • 9 - The Peasantry and the Rural Environment 80
  • 10 - A New Civic Culture 84
  • 11 - The Republic at War 90
  • 12 - Revolt in the VendÉe 97
  • 13 - The Terror at Work 103
  • 14 - The Thermidorian Reaction 115
  • 15 - The Directory 121
  • 16 - Bonaparte 128
  • 17 - Law and Order 140
  • 18 - Rule by Plebiscite 149
  • 19 - Governing the Empire 155
  • 20 - Resistance and Repression 169
  • 21 - The Russian Catastrophe 175
  • 22 - Collapse 187
  • 23 - The Hundred Days 193
  • 24 - French Men and Women Reflect 202
  • Index 209
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