Sergeant Bourgogne is Robbed of his Bread too

Sergeant Bourgogne also had a run-in where he had bread stolen right out of his hand: “There was a dense fog that day, November 6th, and more than twenty-two degrees of frost [10 degrees Fahrenheit).  Our lips were frozen, our brains too; the whole atmosphere was icy.  There was a fearful wind, and the snow fell in enormous flakes.”

“We lost sight not only of the sky, but of the men in front of us.  As we approached a wretched village [Mickalowka], a horseman came at full speed, asking for the Emperor.  We heard afterwards that it was a general bringing news of Malet’s conspiracy in Paris.”

“We were just then packed very closely together near a wood, and had a long time to wait before we could resume our march, as the road was narrow.  As several of us sat together beating with our feet to keep warm, and talking of the fearful hunger we felt, all at once I became aware of the smell of warm bread.  I turned round and behind me saw a man wrapped in a great fur cape, from which came the smell I had noticed.  I spoke to him at once, saying, ‘Sir, you have some bread; you must sell it to me.’  As he moved away, I caught him by the arm, and, seeing that he could not get rid of me, he drew out from under his cloak a cake still warm.  With one hand I seized the cake, while with the other I gave him five francs.  But hardly had I the cake in my hand, when my companions threw themselves on it like madmen, and tore it from me.  I only had the little bit I held between my thumb and two first fingers.”

“While this was going on, the Surgeon-Major (for it was he) went off, and well for him he did so, as he might have been killed for the sake of the rest of the cake.  He had probably found some flour in the village, and had had time to make the cake while waiting for us.”

“During this half-hour several men had lain down and died; many more had fallen in the column while marching.  Our ranks were getting thinned already, and this was only the very beginning of our troubles.”

Sergeant Bourgogne: With Napoleon’s Imperial Guard in the Russian Campaign and on the Retreat from Moscow 1812 – 1813, Adrien Bourgogne

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