Louis Bro in the West Indies

Louis Bro sailed to Saint Domingue as part of the expedition to help recapture the colony for France. A soldier in the cavalry, serving in a theatre quite unsuited to mounted troops, he left a colourful account of his adventures in the West Indies. As with all memoirs, it should be treated with some caution. Nevertheless, it doesn’t appear to be overly fabricated and the dates and timing seem to align with those from other accounts. He survives the voyage, survives his first battle (at Le Cap) and ends up guarding Pauline Bonaparte (wife of his commanding officer) before disaster takes hold:

For us, Bonaparte was nearly divine. Once, in December 1797, following his triumphal passage through the Luxembourg, I was so close that I was able to reach out and touch his hand. He fixed me with a menacing stare and I cried out “Long Live Bonaparte!”. “Young man,” he said, “you better shout ‘Long Live the Republic’” and, saying that, he smiled. When I told all this to my father he said that I should enrol in the staff if war broke out again. So it was that when I came of age I tried to arrange things so that I had a passable familiarity with life as a soldier. My first steps were unfortunate. Nestor Dessole, cousin of the general of the same name, tried to dissuade me from my plan as he had seen countless well-educated men perish of misery in the field. His warnings were most fearful – “Young man, do you not know that our victories in Italy cost us 100 000 men, now lying buried on the other side of the Alps. You need to understand that the pedestal which supports the statue of a great captain is made from piles of corpses.” This did not weaken my resolve. What I read and what I heard strengthened my resolve. Bonaparte was in Egypt and I requested that I be allowed to form part of the reinforcements that were being gathered at Toulon. At the office where recruits were being enrolled, I was told, on 6 December 1798, that an English fleet was preventing our ships from sailing and that I could not be sent to my requested destination. In truth, I could have gone to Italy, where war had once again broken out, but my aim was to follow Bonaparte and he was not there. I went back to my studies but failed at the polytechnic exams and had to spend even more time working for a lawyer. Meanwhile, however, Bonaparte was back and the political events of 18 Brumaire turned him from a victorious general into First Consul and a magistrate destined to bring order back to a country which had been so torn apart by revolution. Whilst Bonaparte was marching towards Marengo, and forcing his way across the Alps, I was suffering painfully from a fall from a horse and I had only just recovered by the time I was called up as a conscript. I was a conscript of the 1801 class and my father managed to obtain from the governor of Paris, a certain Junot, permission for me to enter the 1st Hussars, then in garrison at Saumur. Dessole thought that this unit was to be sent to the colonies, which didn’t trouble me at all as war in Germany or war in America was, after all, war. My departure was fixed for 16 October and my mother in law threw me a lavish party the night before. My two brothers and two sisters were there and my youngest sister  burst into tears, thinking that I was going off to die in the West Indies. Dessole, who had been our companion for many years, turned to her and said “Do not worry, dear Adelaide, Louis will bring you back diamonds from the tropics and a little black child who will carry your train at the ball when you are a fine lady”. So I took orders for six blacks and two ladies requested plumage from some rare birds. Then we had a great deal of fun with music and dancing.
One hour before I was due to depart I had to listen to my father’s advice, a man who was the enemy of any kind of dissipation. He granted me an allowance of 150 livres a month, with an immediate gift of six months’  advance. This allowance would be withdrawn at the slightest fault. I was a man, he said, and, as such my conduct had to be unimpeachable. He added that, with his help, and with opportunities created by the war, that I should become an officer relatively quickly and, at that stage, he would make funds available so that I could be kept at a level in keeping with my rank.

I left Paris and began a long and painful journey between a milliner and a sailor to Rennes. I reached that town on 20 October 1801 and went to the barracks. There, the officer commanding a detachment of 30 men from the 1st Hussars, issued me with my uniform and weapon, and got me a billet in a monastery. So it was that by the evening I was a veritable hussar, ready to lash out at anyone who should dare to provoke me. I received  the same daily ration as the soldiers, and it wasn’t a lot. My corporal, a man called Turlot, recommended that I didn’t try and substitute this diet by buying additional food.

On 6 November my company was ordered off towards Brest. It was raining dreadfully and, when we reached the city, we found that it was bursting with troops and equipment. The hotels were full of women who were accompanying their officer or official husbands, and a bed could not be had even if you offered to pay in gold. I had to go and camp in the fields, not something that should come as a surprise for a soldier, and I slept on the hay. My reward was to catch a heavy cold, which deprived me of my voice for a few days.

We were hearing all manner of rumours as to what our ultimate destination might be. Some said we were to go to subdue Portugal. A commissary officer, who had been in Egypt, thought that we were to destroy the pirates nest that was Algiers. But Bonaparte had made his decision and soon sent us his son in law. This was General Leclerc, from Pontoise, and he and his very pretty wife, Pauline (or Paulette) arrived with a considerable entourage on 19 November. They were given a splendid civic reception and, two days later, they embarked on L’Ocean, an eighty-gun ship which also accommodated Admiral Villaret Joyeuse. Leclerc was surrounded by a crowd of officers and civilian employees and these leaked out the news that we were to go off an conquer the Americas.

Five of my comrades were sick in hospital and so it was that 26 hussars were embarked aboard the Cisalpin, a ship commanded by Captain Bergevin. He was a real character and he would gladly clap a man in irons for the slightest transgression. Between these bouts of severity, he cracked vulgar jokes, mostly revolving around his obsession with nicknames. He labelled our officer the “double decker” on account of his long legs, something which earned the captain a smack with a riding crop.

We were treated as passengers and, as such, we slept between the masts on the deck. Our horses were better provided for, being stabled amongst the guns in the battery. At six in the morning we were issued some awful brandy and two biscuits. At noon some twenty men gathered hopefully around a cauldron containing vegetables and slithers of meat. The strongest pushed the weakest aside. At seven in the evening, the cauldron reappeared, this time full of rice or potatoes. Each man received a litre of water a day, and a sutler sold bad wine or liqueur at an exorbitant price.

Contrary winds kept us in the harbour for a month. The sailors joked about shipwrecks in an attempt to scare us. This seemed to work as a few men deserted when they were sent ashore to collect supplies.  Finally, on the night of 13 to 14 December, some twenty ships began to leave the Brest roads to the accompaniment of salvoes and we were away towards belle-Isle. The men were unaware of our destination, as Bonaparte’s instructions were sealed, it was said, and were only to be opened once we were well underway. In actual fact we were anchored off the Canaries, waiting for the Rochefort, Lorient, Toulon and Cadiz fleets, when it was revealed to us that we were being sent to Saint-Domingue. Our lieutenant sought to complete our education by informing us that in 1789 the French had owned the western half of this Caribbean island, whilst the Spanish held the eastern part. There were around half a million blacks in our territories, 40,000 blacks and as many coloureds. The blacks, who were slaves, had pulled down the royal flag and proclaimed a republic, aided by the crew of the Leopard, commanded by Galissonniere. This officer had been mistreated and the entire island had collapsed into anarchy. Only the arrival of General Rochambeau’s troops from Martinique had put an end to the turmoil. In 1794 the English began to support the black rebels but they were beaten back by General Lavaux in 1798. Around that time, a former slave called Toussaint Louverture had managed to have himself accorded extraordinary powers on behalf of the French government. His authority was excessive and t now seemed imperative that he be defeated if we did not wish to be entirely deprived of our rights.

The fleets we were waiting for did not materialise and General Leclerc resolved to push on to Saint-Domingue with the 12000 men he had with him. We were told there had been some altercations between him and the admiral. A naval officer had deliberately knocked over an aide de camp and he, in turn, had complained to Bonaparte’s brother in law. He sent word to Villaret Joyeuse that the guilty party should be punished. But the admiral took offense, making it known that “General Leclerc is considered merely as a passenger aboard this vessel”. This was too much for the general who angrily sent along some witnesses to the event. Villaret showed them the door to his cabin, saying “Go and warn your master that if he wishes to provoke a scandal onboard this vessel, I will have him put upon a boat and taken back to France. I will then answer to the First Consul”. Lelcerc was forced to compromise and his apparent submission seemed, to some, to be an act of weakness.

We arrived off Saint-Domingue having sighted Le Cap Republicain (formerly Cap Français) on the morning of 4 February. A black general, Chistophe, occupied the forts and the town and no longer recognised the French flag. He also held Captain Georges Lebrun, who had been sent in  order to request permission to disembark. That was refused and the transports sailed off to Port Margot and began to unload on the 5th. As conditions were calm, two thousand men were able to land. On the 6th, General Leclerc  mounted his horse, placed himself in the middle of the hussars and we all rode off towards Le Cap. As we made our way along the poor tracks, and across the 12 miles of beautiful countryside, we only encountered a handful of enemy and the occasional volley of shots. We sabred them without quarter and, I have to say, I was quite bold in this my first battle. I remember seeing a black, covered in wounds, and with his shoulder having been stabbed with the point of a sword, crying out that “You French, you will all die!”. The hussar behind me sliced his head off but his threat, or prediction, made a singular impression on me.

Towards eleven we began to sense that there was a huge fire up ahead. It was Le Cap, set on fire by Christophe. Only some hundred buildings survived and we were obliged to camp between the ruins. We were guarded by sailors and they had come ashore and managed to save  part of the town from the flames.

On the 7th General Dugua, chief of staff, established Leclerc’s Guard. All the hussars were incorporated into it and we had Chef d’escadron Abbé as commander. He told us: “My children, you are an elite unit and I do not wish to have to question your zeal. I will be a great friend to brave soldiers, and I will terrorise the ill disciplined.“ He was particularly kind towards me, and promised me promotion.

Our people had proclamations posted up declaring that we, the French, came with good will towards all people. We might have well have gone into the deserts of Arabia to sing the Marseillaise to the Bedouin nomads, for Toussaint Louverture had had all the whites massacred. His son and son-in-law, Isaac and Placide, had been brought over from Paris and were accompanied by Citizen Colsnon, director of the La Marche College, and were now sent off to him to persuade him to listen to the voice of reason. But he declared himself dictator and sent us threats and defiance.

General Leclerc resided at Le Cap at the Destaing house. A cargo of food and Bordeaux wine meant that he lived in some luxury. Madame Leclerc had surrounded herself with quite a household and she seemed quite gracious. Her rather coquettish way of behaving meant that there was a steady stream of admirers and it seems that Bonaparte’s sister was not beyond the reach of slander. It also seems that he husband was insanely jealous and he hadn’t forgiven her for having wanted to marry the Jacobin Fréron. She was good and kind, to the extent that she even distributed wine to the soldiers standing guard at headquarters. Once I was on the receiving end of her attentions and, after learning that I was the son of a lawyer, and from Paris, she leaned over and whispered conspiratorially that “when we have left this island, I’ll have you placed into my brother’s own Guard.” Whilst I would  have been grateful for such patronage, I was not actually promoted to corporal on 10 February 1802 because of her assistance.

The Guard exercised on the beach every day and I was soon adept in leading the men under my command. There were actually quite a few bad characters amongst the ranks. Among the latter was an inveterate gambler who was terribly frustrated by an order which read that “All gambling houses are expressly forbidden from opening. Commandants are charged with the arrest of any individual who attempts to run one. Such individuals will be exposed to public view with a sign with  the inscription “swindler” hung around their neck. They will then be sent back to France to face the full force of the law”. My trooper, however, gambled with one of the civilian employees, was caught cheating and received a pistol shot which put him in hospital for a month.

On  16 February 1802 the 4000 men at Le Cap were told to prepare for operations within  the interior of the island. This would be a real war and we were all aware how brutal it would be as we knew that the blacks had sworn not to take any of us prisoner. The conscripts made their fears known whilst some of the veterans, who had served in Germany and Egypt, and had wounds to prove it, were quite impatient to get on with things and vowed that they would treat their black foes pitilessly. We actually had a few blacks in our ranks. They were easy-going, obedient and brave. The only thing they really cared about was rum.

We got underway on the 17th, 24 hours after being told to get ready. The infantry went off before us to Dennery, hilly country in which Toussaint was supposed to be massing his troops. It was a really special landscape, covered in ferns or, in places, stunning trees. The farms and estates were restricted to the valleys or lower slopes and the otherwise isolated houses were linked by a few stray paths. Our train, which was composed of long, low wagons on four wheels, and which were drawn by mules, found movement along such roads highly problematic.

That night we camped beside a stream and the officers took the opportunity to remind the soldiers, many of whom had a tendency to ignore instruction, about how they should behave in this tropical climate. They were told “not to go about bare footed in order to avoid scorpion stings; to drink lemonade and a little rum if they were really thirsty; to avoid certain kinds of fish in the river which were bad for you; to grill bananas that were not quite ripe; and that women should be avoided.”

On the 18th, after a good night’s rest, we cam up against a few hundred blacks entrenched at the foot of the Boispin hill.. They had a red flag flying and sent back the words “War to the Death!” when we offered to treat with them. General Hardy’s infantry went straight for them whilst the Guard, passing up a small gulley, sought to turn their left and fall upon a company acting as their reserve. We made short work of them with our sabres and pursued the fugitives right up to the Marmelade fort. We had a mass of food to eat that evening, dining off everything we had taken from the enemy.

The following day we set off again, escorting General Leclerc towards some fortified heights known as Crête à Pierrot. It was a slow and difficult march past ruins, and braving ambushes. It continued until 2 March when we reached a hideous region known as Les Cahos. The Guard was sent into action around the Coupe hill, and we lost 27 men. We did however put an end to some blacks who had burned eight villages and massacred a few hundred whites. They were shot and put to bed in a long ditch which was soon covered over, the proper punishment for such assassins. Afterwards, as we recovered, the unfortunate whites who had hidden in the caves in order to avoid the massacre came out to implore our protection. They followed on behind our columns as far as Crête à Pierrot where there was a real setpiece battle on 25 March. Leclerc was wounded and I had my neck grazed by a musket ball. The black who fired it at me at point-blank range was, however, knocked down by my horse and killed by a shot from my pistol. Toussaint’s men withdrew that night and, the following morning, we started to receive offers of capitulation. Toussaint was now himself speaking words of peace but he had, secretly, prepared another revolt. Learning of this, Leclerc had General Brunet arrest Toussaint on 8 April. The dictator, sent to France, died from the cold in the fortress of Mont-Joux. Thus he paid for the crimes which had drenched the colony in blood.

We had to follow Leclerc into the west of the island but once the tour of inspection was over, we returned to Le Cap on 17 April. We were received like heroes who had won 20 battles. Madame Leclerc was there to receive us, crying out to her husband “my bonny lad!”. He was, I suppose, quite handsome, with a wisp of a moustache, blond hair and short stature. Our joy was augmented by the distribution of a large amount of wine, although we were troubled by the lamentations of two women who had lost their husbands. One threw herself into the sea, but the other managed to find, after a few days, someone to console her. I spent my time settling in, trying to make my quarters habitable, only for the Guard to be ordered to Port-au-Prince. It was there that I left Leclerc as this report dated 20 April 1803 to my father shows:

“For the first time since arriving in the Americas, the departure of a close friend has allowed me to send you a precise account of the way I have been spending the last year. I can also be frank about writing about public affairs and avoid offending against the law which says that one should not discuss such matters in a letter that can become public knowledge. Things are very different here, and I can write openly without any risk.

As you already know from my previous letters, after the campaign ended with the surrender of Toussaint and the other black generals, we returned to Port-au-Prince where Leclerc had established his capital. It was then that fate or my guardian angel brought Monsieur Dalvimare to headquarters. He is one of those people (unfortunately all too rare in our armies) who combines the talents of a soldier with the skills of a diplomat. He had come back from Havana, where he had been sent on a mission to try and obtain funds. He had succeeded brilliantly and was therefore very much in favour with Leclerc. He had asked about me and invited me to come and see him and invited me to join him in his next mission on behalf of Leclerc. He was being sent to meet the government of the province of Venezuela in the hope of obtaining 2,000 mules for the use of the army in Saint-Domingue. His proposal was most welcome, and I didn’t hesitate in accepting although it wasn’t quite clear in what capacity I would be participating in the mission. I was agreeably surprised when he informed me that he had permission to take an officer of his choice with him and that it was inevitable that I would be promoted.

We made our way to Caracas, residence of the governor of the province, as quickly as possible and we were very graciously received. I enjoyed all the pleasures that life has to offer whilst on this mission. I stress the ‘I’ because I had very few duties to perform and as corporal of the Horse Guards all I had to do was saunter out of the barracks and tuck my legs beneath the provincial governor’s tables. After about a month, the negotiations drew to a close and the resulting agreement was one which would certainly exceed Leclerc’s expectations. Leclerc had asked for 2000 mules but Monsieur Dalvimare managed to obtain permission to export 20000 mules, all at the expense of His Catholic Majesty’s(the king of Spain’s) treasury. He sent me off to Leclerc clutching the treaty and, as you can imagine, I was very warmly welcomed. I came across my friend Bachelu and it was he who presented me to the general. He treated me very generously and I was accommodated in the Destaing residence, the place where headquarters had been based since the fever epidemic began. By the time I was ordered back to Monsieur Dalvimare, I had been promoted to Sergeant Major. Among the papers I carried was a letter which informed Dalvimare that it was left to his discretion whether to appoint me second lieutenant, on condition that he be satisfied with my service. Leclerc’s new orders required Monsieur Dalvimare to undertake a more dangerous mission but one which, if successful, could reap considerable rewards. He was being asked to go to Bogota, capital of the province of New Grenada, to seek financial assistance from the viceroy. So it was that we set off for Carthagena, one of the ports of New Grenada, and, when we arrived, we were well received. Dalvimare put on such airs about the importance of his mission that he managed to convince the governor of the port that the purpose of his mission was quite different from our true purpose, and we were duly hurried on to Bogota. Our journey there was so difficult, and it was so problematic to get the Spanish to help, that it took us two and a half months to get to our destination, and only a few days less on the return leg. They were surprised to see us back at Carthagena with instructions to issue Dalvimare with 2400000 Francs and to supply him with a boat to carry it all over to Saint Domingue. But their surprise was much less than mine when I went aboard the Bayonnaise, a French corvette, which had come into port two days earlier carrying despatches for Dalvimare. I was placed under arrest as the captain had been told to seize Dalvimare and any of his retinue and to take us back to Saint-Domingue. It was then that I heard that Leclerc had died and that the blacks had once again risen up and were now at war with Rochambeau, the new commander-in-chief. I had been under arrest on the vessel for about a month, when the governor, finally, regretting the protection he had accorded to Dalvimare, had him seized and escorted onto the boat. We set sail for Port-au-Prince a few days later, reaching there 45 days later.

The scandal suddenly seemed to be less intense and the orders regarding him were indeed less severe. The officer who is carrying this letter is Monsieur Dalvimare’s brother, and I’m very much obliged to him. One of the brothers managed to have General Leclerc promote me to second lieutenant, whilst the other, upon my return, issued me with my brevet and managed to have me reinstated in the Guard at my new rank. In addition, he also leant me 250 piastres to pay off my debts I had incurred in equipping myself and finding a mount. By doing this gracious service, largely because I haven’t been paid and only had a few small sums about my person. Without Monsieur Dalvimare I would have been absolutely without resource and wouldn’t even have been able to go out, due to lack of decent clothes. My dear father, I know it is presumptuous to ask you to repay this debt which, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a debt of honour.”

I added a few details to the letter, which are so specific that they don’t need to be cited here. I spelt out that Monsieur Dalvimare, General Leclerc’s agent, had been accused of usury for the profit of the general and the agent. General Rochambeau thought he had caught a thief, whereas, in fact, he had  arrested an honourable man who could vouch for this own conduct. Rochambeau, after having interrogated me, released me and told me of Captain Dalvimare’s high regard. He had been in English service, in the York Corps,  but when the Peace of Amiens was concluded, he offered General Leclerc his services and returned to French service. Bonaparte could rely on a man like that. If Leclerc could overawe the blacks, Rochambeau lacked the means to keep them obedient. The expeditionary force, decimated by yellow fever, had been reduced to five or six thousand effectives. The veterans from the Army of the Rhine were dismissive of their new commander and, one morning, the following notice was found pinned to his door: “Rochambeau from the parade in America, to the ramble in Saint Domingue, you are a dandy and the comrades of the Tour D’Auvergne spit on you”.

Dessalines the terrible was now campaigning against us with, inevitably, English support as the peace treaty was breaking down. Everywhere, it seemed, we were being betrayed by the blacks and nothing but corpses were leaving the hospitals. The final battle between the blacks and the French army took place on 16 November 1803 in plain view of Le Cap. We fought from dawn until dusk, one of ours against four of theirs. Rochambeau managed to find time for a copious lunch, just as Mayenne had done at the battle of Ivry. His Guard, now reduced to 200 effectives, was decimated. I was wounded by the tannery as I tried to force my way into a black battalion. I was hit by a bullet in the shoulder just after I had cut down a mulatto officer who was rallying his men. The bullet broke my right arm below the elbow and then plunged into my chest and I felt a tremendous  shock. Almost lifeless, but still in the saddle, I returned to our lines and fainted. That night some infantrymen took me to a house and abandoned me on the floor tiles. I was soon covered in huge ants and my shouts brought some mulattos over who brought me some water to quench my thirst. It was only after midnight that I was carried over to the hospital. There, Surgeon Laforgue, operated on me and extracted the ball that had hit me in the morning.

Rochambeau now agreed to evacuate Le Cap. After agreeing with Dessalines, he began negotiations with Commodore Lorring to have the troops repatriated and these would, in truth, be kept as prisoners until they could be exchanged. The English man was aboard the Bellerophon. In ten days some 8000 men were sent away and there were still some 1700 wounded still in the town but they were being dealt with separately. Barbarity raised its ugly head when a certain Instamont, calling himself medical officer temporarily in command of the northern division, wrote, on 2 December, that “I have to warn you, my comrades, that, according to orders issued by the commander of the indigenous army, the French wounded must be evacuated and that medical officers, orderlies and assistants should also depart. Your zeal, and your humanity, assures me that you will do all you can to have this process conducted as quickly as possible. I salute you in friendship.”

Instamont personally specified the five ships which would transport the 1200 wounded who consented to depart. They left on 7 December, at five in the evening, and made away from the coast so that these unfortunates could be thrown overboard and drowned. Those who remained in the hospitals were massacred. Only three officers escaped as they were saved by mulatto women and got away on American ships.

The English commodore had agreed to treat us well, for according to Article IV of the Convention “the sick who are aboard the Nouvelle Sophie and the Justice, shall be carried to France and the English engage to provide them with all that might be necessary by way of provisions and medicine.” I had been put onboard the Justice, which had set sail on 1 December 1803 and, that same day, at four in the evening, some fifty sailors boarded our vessel, mistreated us and pillaged us. My feeble resistance, as I was exhausted, meant that I lost the dressing on my wound. The surgeon washed my wound with some sea water. On the 2nd I was interned with 300 of my colleagues at Port Royal in Jamaica. We were lodged in the basement of a fort, and insulted. An English official promised he’d send any one who got well to the hulks of Plymouth. We only escaped from this unenviable situation on 24 when we were carried to a hospital on planks. Smith, the deputy medical officer, then began to visit us regularly and, on 10 January, surprised us by giving us Dessalines proclamation to the population of Saint-Domingue. I remarked to an English officer how it was that Dessalines, who could neither read nor write, could pen such a missive and that he must have some blood-thirsty advisors and would end up a tyrant. He replied by threatening me with prison. The subjects of King George do not like it when one speaks frankly.  I resolved to be more careful as my unhappy situation depended upon them entirely.

The severe regime administered by our gaolers increased when news that General Noailles, colonel of a French regiment, had boarded and seized an English ship, then subsequently evaded capture by an enemy squadron. Such an act of heroism consoled us in our distress.

My wound, which had not received proper medical attention, began to worry the surgeon. He took pity on my youth and used what French he had to console me during the pain and my fever. By paying a guinea a month I managed to obtain some books, and I read Paul et Virginie when I began to feel a little better. I also managed to communicate with Monsieur Dalvimare. Dalton, the surgeon, was a friend of the captain, Dalvimare’s brother. These friends in common managed to obtain permission for me to visit the surgeon’s house. His wife was very pretty, and spoke perfect French. She only hated one Frenchman, Bonaparte, the one I admired the most. This lead to some lively discussions. It was from her that I heard the most delightful news – that Lorring had been criticised by the Admiralty for his treatment of the French wounded and that the governor of Jamaica was now instructed to repatriate all those who were incapable of taking up arms. Dalton said that I was incapable and I was one of the 157 sent home on an American ship (the Potomac), which was to leave Port Royal on 17 June.

The night before my departure, I approached Mrs Dalton in order to present her with a precious stone from Bogota as a souvenir. She said she would only accept the flowers I had brought, taking one of the roses from the bouquet and placing it inside her Bible. As she did so she said “Sir, I shall open this book every day and every day will remind me that you were the friend of my husband.”

What can be said about the crossing? Only that it was quick and without incident. The most difficult episode was the quarantine we had to endure on the French coast. On 6 July 1804 we disembarked at Bordeaux and learnt that the Consul Bonaparte had been named as Emperor of the French. This caused some surprise amongst those men  who had served the Republic. On Saturday 7 July we presented ourselves to the military authorities. I was granted two months’ leave and permission to go to Paris.