This is a book I found while browsing in Fisher Library. It was published in 1913, and I can't find reference to it in any of my sources. The original is in French, but I have taken the liberty of applying my schoolgirl French to part of it.
Nicolas Marcel was born in 1786 to the owner of a small vinyard. As a child he worked the vinyard with his parents, but the directorate brought economic depression and financial disaster and he was sent to Paris to work for a wine merchant. Here he learned to read and write and picked up the rudiments of an education.
The wine bar was frequented by soldiers and young Nicolas was captivated by their tales of valour and glory. He joined the army in October 1806 as a private in a centre company of the 69th Regiment of the Line. Within three months he was a corporal and by the time the Regiment was ordered to Spain at the end of 1808 he was sergeant of the elite Voltigeur company of his battalion.
He and his regiment were transferred to Spain during Napoleon's reaction to the capitulation at Baylen, marching across Europe in the middle of winter. The 69th were part of Ney's 6th Corps, who supported Soult in Galicia and formed part of Massena's "Army of Portugal" during the third French invasion of Portugal. With the 6th Corps acting as the vanguard during the advance and the rearguard during the retreat, Marcel saw action at Bussaco, Redinha and Foz do Arouce. He was distinctly unimpressed by Massena!
The 69th stayed in Spain after Ney's recall, and Marcel fought at both Salamanca and in the Pyrenees, before playing his part in Soult's defence of southern France, where he collected a British bullet he was to keep for the rest of his life. Napoleon's abdication saw the army downsized, and Marcel was the 25th Captain in a regiment which now needed 24. As a result he was not with his regiment and saw no action during the "100 Days". After the war he retired to his home town, but kept in written touch with many old comrades from generals to privates. He died in 1845.
His memoirs were annotated by Commandant Var of Belley and published in 1913. Full of praise for this voice from the ranks, Var unfortunately gives little detail on the original manuscript, so we have little idea of when Marcel actually wrote it, or whether it was based on a journal or just memory. This detracts somewhat from its historical value, as we do not know what other books may have influenced Marcel's thinking between the end of the war and the writing of the memoirs. Nevertheless, it is an enjoyable and interesting read (at least what I can understand of it!)
|Chapitre V||Chapter 5|
|Services de M. Marcel|
|Table des Matières|
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