Sunday, September 16, 2012
Bonaparte Book 11. A Coalition of Enemies
“Allies in adversity, enemies in prosperity”…The Stock Monster
And so the Fourth Coalition, comprising of Spain, Russia, Prussia, and Sweden, joined forces against Napoleon. Prussia was badly injured nation, and Sweden was small, but the other two nations still had a mighty army. Once again, the odds were in favor of the enemy, but also once again, we were supremely confident of Napoleon’s ability to win the war for us.
Before the war, Emperor Napoleon summoned me to his audience.
Emperor Napoleon: “Ah, so t’is the hero of Trafalgar.”
I looked at my foot in shame and replied, “Your Majesty, Trafalgar was a defeat. There were no heroes.”
Napoleon beamed and said, “Nonsense, Colonel Allian Juppe. You killed Nelson with your own gun. You avenged the defeat on my behalf.”
I still did not lift my face from the floor, “Sire, I am but a Major, and besides, Nelson was a great man. I am sorry to say he spared my life.”
Napoleon: “Ah, not anymore. Henceforth, you have been promoted to full Colonel, and Nelson is right to spare you. A great man you are, Allian Juppe.”
No one had ever called me a “Great man.” It lifted my spirits and at last, I was able to face the Emperor.”
Napoleon beckoned a tall man from behind and introduced him to me, “This is Marshal Bernadotte. You will command his artillery and invade Sweden. I have already briefed him on the overall plan and strategy.” The Emperor then looked at Bernadotte and said, “This good man, Allian Juppe, is a skilled veteran of the artillery. Use his experience and ask him for advice when needed.”
Bernadotte smirked slightly at the word “advice”. He certainly deemed it beneath his arrogant self to ask advice from a lowly officer as myself, but then, he re-composed himself and replied, “Yes, your Majesty.” And with that, Bernadotte, myself, and ten thousand French soldiers were dispatched to invade Sweden by land.
While Bernadotte led us to the cold north, Emperor Napoleon and Murat, now king of Milan, invaded Spain in earnest. Once again, Ferdinand was at the head of the Spanish army. His army, an ally of Napoleon, had opposed to idea of Spain going to war against France, but was clearly overruled by his wayward son. It was true that the French army outnumbered Spain in this war and that Alatriste was now dead, but truth be told, the Spanish knew Catalonia better than us, and it was a great risk we took that day.
As usual, Napoleon’s intelligence was superior to that of his enemies. Through our professional scouts, he had learned the exact route through which they would relay food supplies to Catalonia, where the Spanish army was stationed. Immediately, he ordered the Second Cavalry led by Murat to cut off their lines.
Ferdinand was not a skilled commander, and the Spaniard soldiers were amateurs at best. Murat’s lightning strike on their supply lines instantly destroyed the morale and will to fight. Soon, the Spanish army was crushed by Napoleon’s army. Napoleon captured Ferdinand himself, overran the great city of Barcelona, and entered Madrid in triumph. Now, he confronted his former ally Charles, king of Spain.
Napoleon: “I’ve always treated you as a friend, Charles, Bourbon though you may be. Yet, this is how you repay my friendship, by joining forces with my enemies.”
A frightened king of Spain could see anger in Napoleon as he replied, “I too have always held the friendship of France close and dear to my heart, but it is my unruly and foolish son, Ferdinand, who doth raise his hand against you, my brother Napoleon.”
By this time, however, Napoleon had become impossible to placate, so he replied sarcastically, “If a man canst not even control his own son, then perhaps, he is unworthy to be king of Spain.”
And with this, the Bourbons were deposed and deported. Napoleon set up the Kingdom of Westphalia, which was to rule all of Spain and Portugal. He then installed his elder brother, Joseph, as king of Spain and elevated Murat to king of Milan in Joseph’s place. By conquering Spain, Napoleon also gained control of all of South America.
The conquest would prove controversial. Many in France opposed colonialism, given their own views of the Revolution. In fact, many of the revolutionaries in Venezuela, most notably Simon Bolivar, were actually admirers of the French Revolution. Now, the French had become colonial masters themselves. Yet, the war between the South American revolutionaries against the pro-French Spanish governors would continue.
Even as the war raged on in the New World, Napoleon marched north to face the challenge posed by Prussia and Russia in the Confederation of Rhine.
Bernadotte did well in Sweden, though in my personal opinion, he could have done better. Expenses in the French Third Infantry under Bernadotte was high, even though campaigning against Sweden (a small country) was not a hard thing. They had prided themselves as the world’s first modern army under King Gustav Adolphus II, who hath challenged the might of the Hapsburgs, but they were no match compared to us. In a period of seven weeks, the Swedish army was utterly crushed by France.
Though the Swedes fought bravely, they were clearly outclassed by the French Third Infantry. Bernadotte pompously marched into Stockholm and deposed the House of Palatinate which had ruled Sweden for centuries. Then, he installed himself as King Charles XIV of Sweden. Bernadotte’s audacity irked me. I felt that he should have consulted Napoleon first, but he simply overruled my advice.
Napoleon, however, realized that French prestige was at stake and was also wary of Bernadotte’s treachery and betrayal, so he chose to ratify the new dynasty of Sweden. In order to bribe off my cooperation, Bernadotte promoted me to full general and even appointed me as Governor of Jutland, but it didn’t reduce my contempt for the self-serving man who held his own interest above the benefits of France.
Now, the armies of Napoleon, Murat, and Bernadotte converged on the Rhine, where we met the massive army of Russia and a decrepit one led by Frederick of Prussia.
The three armies met the Prussians and Russians at Auerstadt. Though the French had travelled far and wide, Napoleon’s quick thrust into Frederick’s left wing quickly destroyed the Prussian will to fight, and soon the cowardly king was on flight from the battlefield. In no war were there so many kings on Napoleon’s side. Even his youngest brother, Jerome, then king of Kassel, took the field with his Hessians, limited though his abilities were.
The Russians however were different. Tsar Alexander I believed he could defeat Napoleon and ambushed him after he pursued Frederick. Bernadotte failed in his duty, and the Swedish mercenaries did not come to help the Emperor in time. I was much frustrated, so I led a contingent of my men to join the Second Cavalry led by Murat in saving the Emperor.
Although the Russians outnumbered us French and Swedish mercenaries combined, they were forced to fight against us on two sides. Murat’s command of cavalry was superior to all, even the great Russian Cossacks would be cut down by his agility and finesse. I opened fire on some of the Tsar’s Imperial bodyguard and wore him down. Although Mother Russia was never utterly defeated, Tsar Alexander sued for peace. At Talleyrand’s advice, Napoleon decided to be lenient to Russia and harsh to Prussia.
At the Treaty of Tilsit, Napoleon literally reduced King Frederick of Prussia to tears. The Prussian empire built by his father Frederick the Great was deprived of half of its territory and reduced to a third rate power. However, Napoleon dealt with Tsar Alexander more even handedly. The Tsar and the Emperor met on a raft in the middle of the river, the figurative “middle ground”.
During that conversation that would end the War of Fourth Coalition, the young Alexander and a middle-aged Napoleon shared their idealistic views, many of which were common between the two great men. They agreed to become allies. The Franco-Russian axis would now dominate Europe. Napoleon knew that it would be impossible for him to conquer Russia with its vast expanse of land, and so, it made more sense for him to befriend Alexander. Alexander, in turn, showed his sincerity by agreeing in principle to cooperate with the Continental System of blockading goods against Britain, the sworn enemy of France.
With the formality done and peace restored to Europe, Napoleon decided to confront Bernadotte for his tardiness.
Napoleon: “You have failed me, Bernadotte. I have this report from General Allian Juppe, Governor of Jutland. It is also clear that you have overspent the budget allotted to you by the Commissioner, Marhsal Berthier. What do you have to say for yourself?”
But the unrepentant Bernadotte was haughty in his tone, “Would you shoot the king of Sweden like a common vagabound, Lord Emperor? Imagine how that would look like to the other kings of Europe who think that we are at peace.”
Napoleon was angry with Bernadotte’s impertinent tone, but he also realized that there was some truth in the treacherous man’s words. Ever since his accession to the throne of Sweden, King Charles XIV Bernadotte hath showed great charity and care for his people, and now they loved him. There was no way to dispatch him without bloodshed.
Angrily, Napoleon withdrew from his reprimand. Bernadotte was not a man of honor, but the gods were with him for now. And so, for once, a tired Napoleon allowed things to go its own course without altering it. As I would one day fear, Bernadotte was never truly loyal to France.