Tag Archives: bread

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.”

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

Jakob Walter is Robbed of his Bread

Early in the retreat, Jakob Walter was invited to attach himself to a major as an attendant.  Somehow he became separated from the major after a few days.  Walter managed to secure a horse and then took a small sled from a peasant.  After fashioning a harness from a sack and two ropes, he rode the sled “…through the burned cities of Viasma, Semlevo, and Dorogobush without finding my master.  Once, while I was eating some of my aforementioned bread, several Frenchmen saw me.  These inhuman men surrounded me with the pretext of buying bread; and, when the word ‘bread’ was mentioned, everyone bolted at me, so that I thought my death was near; but through an extraordinary chance there came along some Germans, whom I now called to my aid.  They struck at my horse so that most of the Frenchmen fell back from me and then were entirely beaten off.”

“Among these Germans were two sergeants from my regiment called N. and N.  After I was free, they took my bread and walked away.  Not they, I could see now, but rather their hunger and my bread were both my redeemers and, at the same time, my robbers.  Although I had already given them a loaf, they robbed me!  But this, my dear readers, is to be judged otherwise than you think.  There are stories in which people have murdered and eaten each other on account of hunger, but certainly this incident was still a long way from murder.  Since starvation had risen to a high degree, why could not such a thing happen?  And, besides that, much of the humanity of man had already vanished because of hunger.”

Source:
The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier, Jakob Walter, pp 65 – 66

Pleased To See Her Countrymen… Initially

On 28th June, the Countess de Choiseul-Gouffier, who had recently been at the ball held in honour of General Levin-Bennigsen that was attended by the Czar, witnessed the entry of the lead elements of la Grande Armée into Vilna:

“I can find no words to describe my emotions when I saw some Polish troops! Poles who were galloping at full speed, sabres drawn and laughing, waving their lance pennants, which were in the national colours. I was wearing these for the first time! I stood at an open window, and they saluted me as they passed. The sight of these real compatriots set my heart racing. I felt that I was Polish by birth, that I was going to to become Polish again. Tears of joy and enthusiasm streamed down my face. This was a delicious moment , but it was not to last long.”

She continued:

“The French army who entered Vilna had not had bread for three days… The country through which the Grande Armée had passed had been ravaged and pillaged and its corn had been cut green for cavalry; it could not, therefore, supply the needs of the capital, and the people dared not even expose their convoys on the roads which were infested by marauders.

Besides, the disorderly behaviour of the army was a consequence of the sentiment of the chief, for after having crossed the Nieman Napoleon in an order of the day declared to the troops that they were about to set foot on Russian territory. It was like this that the liberator of Poland, so much desired, announced himself to the Lithuanians. In consequence of this Proclamation Lithuania was considered and treated as a hostile country, while its inhabitants, animated by patriotic enthusiasm flew to welcome the French. They were soon to be desported and outraged by those who they regarded as the instruments of the deliverance of their country and compelled to abandon their homes and their property to pillage. Many took refuge in the depths of the forest, carrying with them that which they hold the most dear—honour of their wives and children.

Each day brought the recital of new excesses committed by the French soldier in the country. Vilna seemed to have become a seat of war, soldiers bivouacked in the streets, which resounded with the clash of arms, the blare of trumpets, the neighing of horses and the confusion of many languages.”

Taken from Spring, L (2009) 1812: Russia’s Patriotic War. The History Press, Stroud Gloucestershire, UK. pp. 26 & 27.  Thank  you to James Fisher for providing this post.

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.”

Jakob Walter is Robbed of his Bread

Early in the retreat, Jakob Walter was invited to attach himself to a major as the major’s attendant.  Somehow he became separated from the major after a few days.  Walter managed to secure a horse and then took a small sled from a peasant.  After fashioning a harness from a sack and two ropes, he rode the sled “…through the burned cities of Viasma, Semlevo, and Dorogobush without finding my master.  Once, while I was eating some of my aforementioned bread, several Frenchmen saw me.  These inhuman men surrounded me with the pretext of buying bread; and, when the word ‘bread’ was mentioned, everyone bolted at me, so that I thought my death was near; but through an extraordinary chance there came along some Germans, whom I now called to my aid.  They struck at my horse so that most of the Frenchmen fell back from me and then were entirely beaten off.”

“Among these Germans were two sergeants from my regiment called N. and N.  After I was free, they took my bread and walked away.  Not they, I could see now, but rather their hunger and my bread were both my redeemers and, at the same time, my robbers.  Although I had already given them a loaf, they robbed me!  But this, my dear readers, is to be judged otherwise than you think.  There are stories in which people have murdered and eaten each other on account of hunger, but certainly this incident was still a long way from murder.  Since starvation had risen to a high degree, why could not such a thing happen?  And, besides that, much of the humanity of man had already vanished because of hunger.”