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The Campaigns of Alexander

Sabre and Foil Fighting

The Fourth Leonaur Book of Ghost and Horror Stories

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The Recollections of Constant--Volume 1: 1790 - 1809

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The Recollections of Constant--Volume 1: 1790 - 1809
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Author(s): Louis Constant Wairy
Date Published: 2009/09
Page Count: 372
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-817-9
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-818-6

Valet to the Emperor Napoleon

“Attached to the person of the Emperor Napoleon for fifteen years, I have seen all the men, and witnessed all the important events, which centred around him. I have seen far more than that; for I have had under my eyes all the circumstances of his life, the least as well as the greatest, the most secret as well as those which are known to history,—I have had, I repeat, incessantly under my eyes the man whose name, solitary and alone, fills the most glorious pages of our history. Fifteen years I followed him in his travels and his campaigns, was at his court, and saw him in the privacy of his family. Whatever step he wished to take, whatever order he gave, it was necessarily very difficult for the Emperor not to admit me, even though involuntarily, into his confidence; so that without desiring it, I have more than once found myself in the possession of secrets I should have preferred not to know. What wonderful things happened during those fifteen years! I had been an eye-witness, had seen everything, and could say, ‘I was there.’”

Women not residing in Boulogne were prohibited from remaining there without a special permit from the minister of police. This measure had been judged necessary on account of the army; for otherwise each soldier perhaps would have brought a woman to Boulogne, and the disorder would have been indescribable. Strangers were admitted into the town with great difficulty. <br>
In spite of all these precautions, spies from the English fleet each day penetrated into Boulogne. When they were discovered no quarter was given; and notwithstanding this, emissaries who had landed, no one knew where, came each evening to the theatre, and carried their imprudence so far as to write their opinion of the actors and actresses, whom they designated by name, and to post these writings on the walls of the theatre, thus defying the police. One day there were found on the shore two little boats covered with tarpaulin, which these gentry probably used in their clandestine excursions.<br>
In June, 1804, eight Englishmen, perfectly well dressed, in white silk stockings, etc., were arrested, and on them was found sulphurated apparatus with which they had intended to burn the fleet. They were shot within an hour, without any form of trial.<br>
There were also traitors in Boulogne. A schoolmaster, the secret agent of Lords Keith and Melville, was surprised one morning on the cliff above the camp of the right wing, making telegraphic signals with his arms; and being arrested almost in the act by the sentinels, he protested his innocence, and tried to turn the incident into a jest, but his papers were searched, and correspondence with the English found, which clearly proved his guilt. He was delivered to the council of war, and shot the next day.<br>
One evening between eleven o’clock and midnight, a fire-ship, rigged like a French ship, flying French colours, and in every respect resembling a gunboat, advanced towards the line of battle and passed through. By unpardonable negligence the chain had not been stretched that evening. This fire-ship was followed by a second, which exploded, striking a sloop, which went down with it. This explosion gave the alarm to the whole fleet; and lights instantly shone in every direction, revealing the first fire-ship advancing between the jetties, a sight which was witnessed with inexpressible anxiety. Three or four pieces of wood connected by cables fortunately stopped her progress; but she blew up with such a shock that the glasses of all the windows in town were shattered, and a great number of the inhabitants, who for want of beds were sleeping upon tables, were thrown to the floor, and awakened by the fall without comprehending what had happened. In ten minutes everybody was stirring, as it was thought that the English were in the port; and there ensued such confusion, such a mingled tumult of noises and screams, that no one could make himself understood, until criers preceded by drums were sent through the town to reassure the inhabitants, and inform them that all danger was past.<br>
The next day songs were composed on this nocturnal alarm, and were soon in every mouth.<br>
Another alarm, but of an entirely different kind, upset all Boulogne in the autumn of 1804. About eight o’clock in the evening a chimney caught fire on the right of the port; and the light of this fire, shining through the masts of the flotilla, alarmed the commandant of a post on the opposite shore. At this time all the vessels had powder and ammunition on board; and the poor commandant, beside himself with terror, cried, “Boys, the fleet is on fire;” and immediately had the alarm beaten. The frightful news spread like lightning; and in less than half an hour more than sixty thousand men appeared upon the wharves, the tocsin was sounded in all the churches, the forts fired alarm guns, while drums and trumpets sounded along the streets, the whole making an infernal tumult.<br>
The Emperor was at headquarters when this terrible cry, “The fleet is on fire,” came to his ears. “It is impossible!” he immediately exclaimed, but, nevertheless, rushed out instantly.<br>
On entering the town, what a frightful spectacle we beheld. Women in tears, holding their children in their arms, ran like lunatics, uttering cries of despair, while men abandoned their houses, carrying off whatever was most valuable, running against and knocking each other over in the darkness. On all sides was heard, “Mauve qui peat; we are going to be blown up, we are all lost;” and the maledictions, lamentations, blasphemies, were sufficient to make your hair stand on end.<br>
The aides-de-camp of his Majesty and those of Marshal Soult galloped in every direction, forcing their way through the crowds, stopping the drummers, and asking them, “Why do you beat the alarm? Who has ordered you to beat the alarm?”<br>
“We don’t know,” they replied; and the drums continued to beat, while the tumult kept on increasing, and the crowd rushed to the gates, struck by a terror which a moment’s reflection would have dissipated. But, unfortunately, fear gives no time for reflection.
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