Thursday, July 26, 2007

Napoleon Bonaparte/ Joseph Bonaparte, spring 1798

In late spring of 1798, Bonaparte made preparations to invade Egypt from Toulon. He took 36,000 soldiers and another 15,000 or so sailors and other personnel with him, some of whom joined his fleet from Marseilles, Corsica and Italy. His flagship was The Orient. He took Malta first, then proceeded to Alexandria. These are letters on the way to his brother, Joseph. The undated letter from Cairo, below, which must have been written around July 24, shows that Bonaparte was at that time thinking of the conquest of Egypt as a potential bargaining chip in French peace negotiations with other European Powers. His wife, Josephine, wanted to go with him to Egypt. He disagreed, deciding to take it and make sure the conquest went smoothly first. She went to take the waters at Plombieres and to wait for him. In one of these letters, he signals that she should make preparations to sail to Alexandria, a sign of his confidence in his invasion force.

Napoleon I, The Confidential Correspondence of Napoleon Bonaparte with His Brother Joseph (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1856).


Head-quarters, Toulon, May 4,1798.

The courier who takes this letter will leave Paris on the 9th, in order to inform me who is the retiring director. Pray write by him, and send me the newspapers from the time of my departure. I have desired all my couriers to call on you. Send them all to me at Toulon, particularly Moustache and Le Simple.


Head-quarters, on board l'Orient, Toulon Roads, May 19,1798.

We are just setting sail. I shall not touch at Ajaccio. If Lucien is not elected deputy, he may come hither. He will always find here opportunities. A frigate sails in a fortnight.


Head-quarters, on board l'Orient, May 25,1798.

We have joined the convoy from Genoa. We have had good and bad weather and calms. We are going on steadily for Elba. This evening we pass Bastia. I was not sick on the open sea.

Pray tell me about my affairs. I sent to you instructions from Toulon. Your part of our arrangement goes on well.

P.S. My wife will wait in Toulon till she hears that we have Sicily; then she goes to a watering-place [Plombières-les-Bains].


Head-quarters, on board l'Orient, May 25,1798.

The convoy from Civita Vecchia is joining us. That from Ajaccio joined us yesterday. We are in full sail for our destination. I am well. All goes on well here. I am anxious to hear that you have settled my little affairs about Rise and in Burgundy.


Head-quarters, Malta, May 29,1798.

General Baraguay d'Hilliers is going to Paris. He was unwell. I use him to carry parcels and flags. I hear nothing from you about Rise or Burgundy. I write to my wife to come out to me. Be kind to her if she is near you. My health is good. Malta cost us a cannonade of two days : it is the strongest place in Europe. I leave Vaubois there. I did not touch Corsica. I have had no French news for a month.

We write by a ship of war.


Cairo (no date)[July 24, 1798?].

M. Calmebet has 100,000 francs in my name in the Mont de Piete. Tell him to re-invest the interest, and to spend as little as possible.

As for my own plans, I wait for news from Constantinople and from France. If the Congress of Radstadt [Rastatt](1) does not end, if the Irish are beaten, we ought to make peace, and to use Egypt to obtain a brilliant and permanent one. Be kind to my wife; see her sometimes. I beg Louis to give her good advice. I have received from you only one letter by Le Simple. I hope that Desiree, if she marries Bernadotte, will be happy; she deserves it. A thousand kisses to your wife and to Lucien; I send to her a handsome shawl. She is an excellent woman: make her happy.

1)For more on Rastatt, French-speaking readers should see Lentz Thierry, "Campo Formio : un traité nécessaire mais imparfait".

No comments: