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The Napoleonic Wars 1792-1815

Napoleon on Looting and Pillaging

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Re: Napoleon on Looting and Pillaging

Postby Josh&Historyland » October 1st, 2016, 12:47 pm

Senarmont198 wrote:The reported exchange between Vandamme and the Tsar is most probably apocryphal. Vandamme mentions in his own account of the 'incident' that he was 'treated with great courtesy.'


I had a suspicion you'd say that ;)

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Re: Napoleon on Looting and Pillaging

Postby Senarmont198 » October 1st, 2016, 3:39 pm

You can find it in John Elting's Swords Around a Throne, page 731, Note #8.

The civil exchange between Vandamme and Alexander can be found in John Gallaher's Napoleon's Enfant Terrible: General Dominique Vandamme, pages 252-253.
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Re: Napoleon on Looting and Pillaging

Postby jf42 » October 1st, 2016, 7:11 pm

Having consulted that very book, Gallagher doesn't appear to me to be too reliable.
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Re: Napoleon on Looting and Pillaging

Postby Senarmont198 » October 1st, 2016, 10:52 pm

Perhaps you could amplify your criticism?

Gallaher has done extensive archival research on Vandamme-see the note in his bibliography on pages 339-340.

Further the author has a solid reputation with his books on the Irish Legion, Davout, and Alexandre Dumas. So, unless you have specific material to post that supports your criticism, I would submit that the point is moot.
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Re: Napoleon on Looting and Pillaging

Postby jf42 » October 2nd, 2016, 1:14 am

I had reason to consult Chapter 2 'Revolutionary General.' From the middle of p.35 to the top of p.39, just over three pages, I noted numerous errors, innaccuracies and misrepresentations as well as toponymical errors- 'Vento' for Venlo, 'Ubrecht' for Utrecht 'Bethuve' for Betuwe, which suggests perhaps a hasty reading of manuscripts, an insufficient acquaintance with the geography of the campaign, or both, although these are possibly typographical errors. His mangling of the historical narrative is unmistakable however.

The worst concentration of mistakes I noted relates to principally to one page (p.38) dealing with a period of which I have some knowledge. What does such sloppiness say about the chapters that cover areas with which I am less well aquainted? Why should I trust them more?

Perhaps the author was more interested in the Napoleonic section of Vandamme's service and didn't bother to do much research for the earlier years, relating to an unglamorous campaign, and relied mainly on quoting from correspondence to cover the period. If so, it would have been more honest to start his book at a later point.
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Re: Napoleon on Looting and Pillaging

Postby Senarmont198 » October 2nd, 2016, 12:36 pm

And it is material in the Napoleonic period of the book, specifically Vandamme's capture at Kulm in 1813 and his comments to the Tsar, that is the subject being discussed regarding Vandamme.

Whether or not you like the book is irrelevant. The research conducted and the material used to support the author's contention is quite extensive.

The bottom line is, using the two sources named, is that the story of Vandamme's conversation with the Tsar upon his capture is probably apocryphal. Interesting to note is that the Tsar graciously returned Vandamme's sword and it is in Vandamme's own narrative of the incident in question that the discussion was neither insulting by either side nor contentious.

Now, if you have evidence to the contrary, please post it. And if you disagree with the author, then post information, other than spelling, on what you believe the author to be wrong.

It is worthy of note that the author stated this in his preface to the book on page xiii:

'All translations from French and German are mine unless otherwise noted. The spellings of the names of individuals, towns, rivers, mountain ranges, and so on vary greatly in the archival documents and memoirs as well as in secondary works of the nineteenth century. I have tried to select one spelling and stay with it. Any inconsistencies or mistakes are mine alone.'

I would also comment that all authors err in some areas, and the author here is being honest in his presentation. Reading and researching hand-written material from the period 1792-1815 can be challenging and takes some time and effort to do it. All of the correspondence would be handwritten, and, depending on the education level of the correspondent, as well as his ability to spell everything correctly, makes that process even more difficult.

By the way, what works have you produced on the period?
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Re: Napoleon on Looting and Pillaging

Postby TheBibliophile » October 2nd, 2016, 1:05 pm

Napoleon certainly "personally looted" Malta prior to sailing on to defeat at the Battle of the Nile. His plunder was stored in the hold of the French flagship L'orient and consists of a fortune in gold, silver and religious artifacts. It now all lies at the bottom of Aboukir Bay.
He personally didnt practice what he seems to have preached.
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Re: Napoleon on Looting and Pillaging

Postby jf42 » October 2nd, 2016, 1:17 pm

Senarmont198 wrote:

Whether or not you like the book is irrelevant.


Absolutely so. Which is why I made no comment to that effect.
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Re: Napoleon on Looting and Pillaging

Postby Senarmont198 » October 2nd, 2016, 4:24 pm

TheBibliophile wrote:Napoleon certainly "personally looted" Malta prior to sailing on to defeat at the Battle of the Nile. His plunder was stored in the hold of the French flagship L'orient and consists of a fortune in gold, silver and religious artifacts. It now all lies at the bottom of Aboukir Bay.
He personally didnt practice what he seems to have preached.


Do you have a source that the 'fortune' taken from Malta was done to enrich Napoleon? Or was it done to support the army. The two are not the same thing.
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Re: Napoleon on Looting and Pillaging

Postby Senarmont198 » October 2nd, 2016, 5:58 pm

TheBibliophile wrote:Napoleon certainly "personally looted" Malta prior to sailing on to defeat at the Battle of the Nile. His plunder was stored in the hold of the French flagship L'orient and consists of a fortune in gold, silver and religious artifacts. It now all lies at the bottom of Aboukir Bay.
He personally didnt practice what he seems to have preached.


Perhaps this will help. From Bonaparte in Egypt by JC Herold:

About 7 million francs worth of 'bullion and precious objects' were taken from the coffers of the Knights of Malta and were 'transferred, after inventory, to the French paymaster.'-47. That doesn't seem like personal looting by Napoleon but taken in order to pay the troops as well as finance the expedition.

On Malta, before leaving for Egypt, Napoleon also abolished slavery, freed 2,000 slaves belonging to the Knights of Malta, promised French citizenship to those who 'showed sufficient patriotic zeal', formed native National Guard battalions, established a military hospital, reorganized both the hospital and postal systems on the island, limited the authority of the Bishop of Malta to ecclesiastical matters, had the Russian and British consuls deported, ordered that sixty boys between nine and fourteen years of age chosen from the wealthiest Maltese families be sent to Paris to be educated at the expense of the French Republic, established new primary and secondary schools on the island, among other reforms for the good of the Maltese population.-48-49.
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