27-RECRUITING BONAPARTE

 

1n late 1793, news arrived regarding the Vendean genocide that had claimed another 6000 Catholic mothers, fathers and children, and the Toulon massacre where another 1000 innocent were massacred. This was very hard for Gretel to swallow, for she hadn’t yet gotten over Marie-Antoinette’s execution on Oct. 14th of that same year. If her man was the most powerful banker in the world, and he was, he just had to do something about stopping the Illuminati from venting their hatred on the people.

Mayer agreed to do something. The time had come to put an end to the terror. He wrote to Ouvrard telling him to finance Barras when the latter arrived in Paris. He was to give him all the means necessary to put an end to the Paris Commune working out of Paris City Hall. Not only was Robespierre running the guillotine at full speed, but he had set up procedures for mass trials where 50-60 were executed at a time.

Barras became very affluent in a very short period of time, and he took charge of the Convention. He was named commander of the Paris military forces and charged with protecting the Convention. In July, 1794, he pushed a vote through for the execution of Robespierre and all the other lunatics. The French Revolution ended overnight. When the Royalists threatened to take control of the Convention, Barras readied his military forces to stop them, which they did on October 5, 1795. It was on this occasion that he employed an idle Bonaparte who had long sought from the revolutionary government to be reinstated as brigadier general. Barras employed him in the most useful way possible, he gave him command of his forces. After the massacre of 300 royalist parliamentarians on the steps of St. Roch Church, the young general received all the honors of victory. Barras praised him highly in the presence of the assembly, and his appointment to the rank of general of division was voted by acclamation while his protector, Barras, settled in the Luxembourg Palace.

Barras was much less concerned with business than with pleasure. He soon had horses, hounds, servants, and a court full of beautiful mistresses in his different estates, and he maintained his authority over his fellow directors by the violence of his character. While he seriously lacked in eloquence, he made up for it by dominating discussions with boldness and crudeness.

However, careful not to show blatant greed, Barras was more disposed to accept huge sums of money from military suppliers and big business in a covert way. Ouvrard himself gave him a contract to supply the Navy. To his many friends, he handed out huge quantities of worthless Assignats along with confiscated national properties such as the Hotel de la Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, the Hotel de la Rue de Babylone, and the Castle of Ruel. He kept for himself the Castle of Grosbois which became both his summer headquarters and his hunting lodge. Suppliers, solicitors, horses, and adventurers of all kinds, accompanied Barras wherever he went. Barras was the most popular of the five directors even though his government was composed of many nobles. His court presented a singular mixture of the biggest names of old aristocratic France and of ‘nouveaux riches’. He could afford to do so, being indirectly financed by Mayer, and having the full support of Bonaparte to whom he had given his mistress, the widow of General Beauharnais.

From his headquarters in Luxemburg Palace, Barras became known as the rotten king. Of course, this dictatorship wasn’t meant to please the Royalists who were almost totally excluded from power, but they weren’t about to demonstrate in the streets of Paris again, especially since Bonaparte, the ruthless one, was in charge of the Paris garrison and was protected by Barras. After the Toulon massacre, when Barras had asked him to take charge of the Paris Garrison and protect the Convention, Bonaparte had warned Barras, “Once my sword is drawn, it will not be sheathed until order is restored”.

On March 9, 1796, Bonaparte married Josephine de Beauharnais. Two days after his marriage, Barras sent him off to take charge of the Army of Italy. It was quite a promotion, but what he found was an army that was weak, hungry, tired, and running out of supplies. Nonetheless, in less than one year, he had recruited one hundred and fifty thousand soldiers, five hundred and forty cannons, not to mention horses, uniforms and weapons for all.

When he went to Italy, he was quite aware that his future rested on his grognards’ shoulders, and he set about turning them into soldiers. In no time, he had them eating out of his hand, and if they called him “Petit Caporal,” it was not because of his rank or his size, it was an affectionate term they used in addressing a great General who spoke their language. He made them feel he was one of them by showing great familiarity without ever jeopardizing his commander status. He was a man of stature who treated them with respect.

Bonaparte authorized his soldiers to take what they needed in an orderly way, and because northern Italy was such a rich region, the conquering army soon started looking like one. As Bonaparte’s fame and fortune grew, so did his soldiers’ self-esteem, for they were the recipients of many promotions and decorations and they basked in glory, as well. In no time at all, the “grumblers” were draped in well-fitting uniforms, had shining weaponry, and the officers were riding spirited horses. The medals that were handed out in profusion made the spectacular uniforms even more striking. It was only natural for Bonaparte to make Italy his home base, where he accumulated victories and worked on his propaganda machine, for he had Italian blood and spoke Italian.

While he ruled in Italy, Bonaparte never stopped chasing the Austrians. Throughout the autumn of 1796, he whittled away at the Austrian army with victories at Castiglione, Bassano and Arcole. In March 1797, just two months after routing the enemy at Rivoli and driving them from northern Italy, he crossed the Alps into Austria itself, and by April 7, 1797, was within seventy-five miles of Vienna. Stunned by the advancing French armies, the Austrian Emperor sued for peace. Bonaparte personally negotiated with the Austrian diplomats.

His way of fighting was like no other before him, he made great use of artillery, moved his army with lightning speed, and never satisfied with just winning a battle, he always went in for the kill. He was a ruthless foe, using tactics unknown until then to Ancien Regime field commanders.

Each victory was not only related in detail, often in advance, but embellished as well. In every French village, it was a common occurrence to hear the church bells heralding a news bulletin describing the great exploits of Bonaparte, the crier never failing to stress the General’s great courage and prowess. The fact that these bulletins were more often than not written by the great man himself didn’t seem to bother anybody. The French were a battered people and they couldn’t get enough of these great military feats involving brave Frenchmen. Bonaparte was building a solid reputation that no one in metropolitan France would dare attack, not even the newly-entrenched landed gentry. Understandably, when he returned to France in 1797, he was acclaimed as a hero.

Because Bonaparte was popular and a nuisance, Talleyrand and Barras encouraged him to go to Egypt. Mayer had told Ouvrard to agree to the financing, and Bonaparte was quick to go and seek glory. Bonaparte didn’t know that the bankers in the City wanted to destroy a redundant French Navy which happened to be a Royalist power house. After Bonaparte unloaded his troops along the Egyptian coast, the French Fleet would naturally find a place to lay at anchor while waiting for the troops to return. Ouvrard would then inform the Goldsmid Bros. who in turn would leak the information to the Admiralty in London, and the British Navy would naturally be rushed to the spot in order to sink the French Navy. A new war tactic was being created, that of financing both sides in order to get the desired results.

When Bonaparte went off to Egypt in early 1798, the Directorate had chosen Admiral de Brueys to command the fleet. Bonaparte had no choice but to accept this incompetent, boot-licking coward, but he wasn’t overly concerned, for all he wanted was to get as many men as he could to the other side of the Mediterranean. Bonaparte even sacrificed space and sailors aboard the ships in order to transport more soldiers. Bonaparte was quite eager to go to the Middle East. He must have dreamt of riches and glory by reclaiming Palestine and constructing the Suez Canal in order to dominate trade with India. Pillaging Egypt was no doubt in the back of his mind.

Admiral Horatio Nelson was the one chosen by the English Admiralty to command the English Fleet. Nelson was taking the looming battle very personally and very seriously. Like most of his countrymen, he wanted to settle the score for what had happened at Yorktown. The English Naval defeat in America had not gone down well, and Nelson had taken off with fourteen ships filled with hooligans hell-bent on killing frogs. Meanwhile, unsuspectingly, after unloading Bonaparte’s army, De Brueys anchored down in the Bay of Aboukir.

Although his naval force was inferior to that of Admiral de Brueys, Nelson was itching for a fight. When the English fleet was spotted in early afternoon on August 1st, 1798 by the artillery unit deployed on the heights dominating the entrance to the Bay of Aboukir, the Commandant of the French unit duly gave the alert, but there was no reaction on the part of Admiral de Brueys. His ships were at anchor, chained together from bow to stern, thus forming an impenetrable line of defense… or so he thought. Many of his more intrepid officers, Vice-Admiral Cheyla and others, insisted he recall the sailors who were on shore and immediately take the offensive, for the favorable winds would have given them a decisive advantage. But he chose to do nothing as fourteen ships filled with vengeful, bloodthirsty Englishmen came bearing down on him.

Admiral de Brueys reasoned that it was 5:00 pm and was too late in the day for the English to attack. Not only did he not recall the men on shore, but he didn’t even see the need to position frigates at the head of his anchored fleet to stop Nelson from sailing behind his position. It was as though he had decided to self-destruct. The great admiral kept repeating that Nelson would not attack on that day. So, the canons were not in position and the decks were cluttered with everything except cannon balls, powder, and artificers.

Upon seeing the French fleet in such a vulnerable position, Nelson kept on going and attacked the ships on both port and starboard sides simultaneously. The French fleet was blown out of the water, while Nelson’s ships remained unscathed. Admiral Villeneuve, who commanded the flotilla at the head of the line and who could have used the favorable winds to counterattack, courageously escaped, thus saving two ships of the line and two frigates.

The Egyptian campaign thus began in defeat. The only good thing that came out of the whole campaign was due to the great number of scientists he had brought along with him. They, at least, were responsible for some major scientific discoveries. Politically, Bonaparte did leave behind a more efficient Egyptian governing body. However, with regards to the survey of the proposed Suez Canal, the plan to connect the Mediterranean with the Red Sea was stopped dead in its tracks. Because it was wrongly concluded that the waterway would require locks to operate and would be very expensive and take a long time to construct, it was abandoned. The survey report made clear that the Red Sea was 33ft higher than the Mediterranean, an error of monumental proportion.

Bonaparte had several costly victories in Palestine, but they all went for naught. And although he had accumulated tons of artifacts, he had no ships to bring them back to France. Leaving his army behind in Egypt, he took off for Paris. But his propaganda machine had again worked wonders, and when he arrived in Paris, he was again acclaimed as a hero. Barras quietly retired, while Sieyes was given the responsibility of working on the Civil Code with Cambaceres, and Bonaparte casually assumed power by becoming 1st Consul.

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