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“There are men, however, who, endued with extraordinary strength of mind, can coolly face the greatest dangers. Murat, the bravest of the brave, always charged at the head of his cavalry, and never returned without having his sabre stained with blood. This one may easily comprehend; but an extraordinary thing, which I have seen done by General Dorsenne, and by him alone, is to stand immovable, turning his back to the enemy, facing his regiment, riddled with balls, crying, "Close your ranks!" without once looking behind him. In other circumstances I have tried to imitate him, and turned my back too; but I could not remain in that position: curiosity always obliged me to look the way from which the balls proceeded.”
Blaze, like his brother sought out a military life under the eagles of Napoleon, he enlisting in the Vélites of the Imperial Guard, his brother into the medical services of the army. The Vélites were founded as part of Napoleon’s further, ultimately unsuccessful, attempts to sway the aristocracy to fall in line and support his rule. The military tutelage in the Vélites was to be supported by private means, which translated into their ranks being filled with the scions of the nobility and wealthy bourgeoisie. Blaze fought as part of Napoleon’s invincibles from 1807 until the end of the empire, but continued his service under the returned Bourbons and retired as captain in 1828.
An interesting and different view of the Grande Armée.
Text taken, from Lights and Shades of Military life it is a translation of La Vie Militaire Sous Le Premier Empire, second edition 1850, published in London, Henry Colbourn.
Original – 197 of 428 pages
Author – Elzéar Blaze– (1786-1848)
Translator and Editor – Lieutenant-General Sir Charles J. Napier, G.C.B. – (1782-1853)