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    Napoleon Bonaparte Collection of Nineteen Letters Signed "Bonaparte". All are dated between October 1796 and April 1798, during Napoleon's Italian Campaign, and are handwritten in French (with English translations). Fifteen of the documents are written on letterhead that reads, "République Françoise Liberté Egalité . . . Bonaparte Général en Chef de L'Armée d'Italie". Most letters in the collection are orders addressed specifically to General Baraguay d'Hilliers, many concerning the French occupation of Venice.

    A native of Paris, Baraguay d'Hilliers (1764-1813) joined the French Army when he was twenty years old. Barely escaping the guillotine during the French Revolution (there were royalist suspicions about him), he served with Bonaparte's Army of Italy during the Italian Campaign. In 1797, he was promoted to divisional general and appointed governor of Venice. After the campaign, he went with Bonaparte to Egypt and, during the Napoleonic Wars, disgraced himself in Napoleon's eyes by surrendering his division to the Russians.

    On March 11, 1797, two days after Napoleon's marriage to Josephine, the twenty-six-year-old set out to invade Italy as the commanding general of the Army of Italy. He was a young general with much to prove to his older, more experienced generals. That situation, though, did not hinder him from issuing orders to his generals and then impatiently waiting for them to be followed. This characteristic can be seen in many of these letters. For example, on October 30, 1796, he wrote d'Hilliers "I wrote you, Citizen General, to have the different agents of the army come, especially the agents in charge of foraging and artillery transportation. I ask you to reiterate the order for them to report immediately to the General Headquarters, it is surprising that the artillery transport agent hasn't yet come by." Later on November 1, 1796, Napoleon testily wrote, "You haven't yet told me if the 1st Batallion of the 40 ½ Brigade, which was supposed to arrive the 10th, has done so. Give me a report on the situation."

    Twenty days before the capture of Venice, Napoleon wrote d'Hilliers concerning the rebellious Venetians: "The march of the three divisions of Tyrol in Germany is about to reconnoiter in Italy. The treachery of the Venetians made the inhabitants rise against us. It is essential to take measures to assure our flank and reestablish order. In Italy, the division of General Victor is 5000 men strong. . . . Smash the Venetians if they dare move. My intention is that you replace the General Wilmaine if he becomes so sick that he can no longer command. . . . Let the Commander of the Germans in Venice know by express of your arrival, and having taken care of your forces, tell him that you have come to marshal the Venetians to their duties. If the German Citizen has left Venice; if you learn that they've already begun fighting against the Venetian troops on solid ground, make sure of Tyrol, in managing the inhabitants. Arrest and disarm the Venetian Garrisons and use terror and gentleness to submit to the Republic all the country between the Isonzo and the Brenta. . . . You will take care to correspond with me every day so that, when the time comes, I can give you the order to rejoin the army."

    On May 20, 1797, eight days after the city fell, Napoleon, who was not with the conquering force, wrote the following letter to congratulate d'Hilliers on the victory and to impress on the general the importance of following his directions: "I congratulate you, Citizen General, on your entrance into the city of Venice. I had recommended for you not to do anything on your own and not to take any step in an undertaking so essential. All you had to do was make sure that nothing leave the port. The result of your proclamation, for example, with regards the Die of Madene is inadmissible. . . . I reiterated the order that nothing be printed in Venice and to not take any measure without first having submitted it to me, in circumstances as complicated as these, where words themselves are passed to all corners of Europe, it is essential that no operation be hazarded and that everything lead towards the goal of one general system."

    Later in 1797, d'Hilliers was appointed governor of Venice. As governor, Napoleon expected him to rule carefully and not upset Venice's important commerce: "the necessity of not upsetting the commerce of Venice and of not letting any ostensible proceeding occur which could serve as pretext for foreign powers to lodge complaint against us . . . not to meddle in anything handled by the Government of the city . . . maintain a low profile." When the occupying army needed supplies, Napoleon authorized d'Hilliers to "consult with the Government of Venice in order to procure the supplies necessary for the uniforming and armament of your Division." Control of the harbor was also important: "My intention is that you let no Venetian warship leave, only French frigates from Trieste." In need of warships later in July, Napoleon issued "an order to activate the construction of the three warships which the government of Venice must supply." The French occupation of Venice ended after Napoleon and Austria signed the Treaty of Campo Formio in October 1797, which ceded Venice to the Austrians.

    This collection also contains an interesting assortment of letters containing more routine orders, such as those which concerned individuals (arrests and deportations) and those which asked for intelligence about troop strength and locations. In other letters, Napoleon coordinated the movements of his troops and sought to insure that d'Hilliers kept the troops supplied ("consult with the Commission auditor to procure for the army what it needs, mainly shoes and uniforms, make sure the army lacks nothing"). In the final letter of the collection, Napoleon had returned to Paris, where he was eager to use the influence he had gained from his successful Italian Campaign.

    Auction Info

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    June, 2010
    8th-9th Tuesday-Wednesday
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