Military Life in Bivouac, Camp, Garrison, Barracks, &c.by Pickle Partners Publishing
Many memoirs of the Napoleonic period are recounting, more or less interesting dependant on the author, of the events of their service interspersed by anecdotes of interesting events, Elzéar Blaze
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Many memoirs of the Napoleonic period are recounting, more or less interesting dependant on the author, of the events of their service interspersed by anecdotes of interesting events, Elzéar Blaze eschewed that style of reminiscence and left a singular view of his time in the Grande Armée. His memoirs are highly stylised, divided into the ‘themes’ of military life, and eruditely written by an educated man of the era, who combined wit with a eye for an anecdote. He covers the different aspects of his military career with amusing stories and vivid recollections of the men with which he served, a number of the generals who commanded them, and the enemies that they were fought and were billeted on if they were in occupation; he covers the school of the Vélites, his military training, the marches, camp-life, bivouacs, active campaigning, and the battles fought under Napoleon. Referring to the bravery of some troops in battle he said;
“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)
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