1805 - Review by Napoléon of his army embarking


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1805 British and French Fleets - Channel 316

The first four grand divisions only had a regular organization : each was separated into two portions, called " escadrilles ; " and each of the latter was to embark a division of the army, composed of four regiments of the line, and one of light infantry, with its cavalry, artillery, and baggage. It would be entering too much into detail, to explain all the regulations that contributed to perfect the system of this armament : suffice it that every thing was adopted which ingenuity could devise and ability execute, without much regard to the labour or the expense.

Anxious to have ocular proof of the degree of celerity with which the army could be embarked, Napoléon, who arrived at Boulogne on the 3d of August, ordered the operation to be executed twice in his presence. The result surpassed his belief. Although the troops had to march from camps, the extremities of which were more than two miles from the point of embarkation, one hour and a half after the beating of the générale, men and horses, all were on board,

This, as well it might, excited the admiration of the generals and other officers present, and all were elated at the prospect it held out ; all, save the prime mover himself, and he, although he did not appear so, was filled with regret. His fleets were not in the Channel, and without them, he knew full well, that his plan could not succeed. Could he, by any means, have drawn away England's ships from England's coast, he considered England's fate as depending upon his nod. "Je ne sais pas, en vérité," says the French emperor, in one of his letters, of date June 9 in this year, to his minister of marine, " quelle espèce de précaution elle peut prendre pour la mettre à l'abri de la terrible chance qu'elle court. Une nation est bien folle, lorsqu'elle n'a point de fortifications, point d'armée de terre, de se mettre dans le cas de voir arriver dans son sein une armée de cent mille hommes d'élite et aguerris. Voilà le chef-d'oeuvre de la flottille ; elle coûte de l'argent, mais il ne faut être maître de la mer que six heures pour que l'Angleterre cesse d'exister. " *

Even admitting that the Channel, Mediterranean, and North Sea fleets of England were away, were no other ships to check the course of the flotilla ? Let but a breeze have blown from any point of the compass, and innumerable frigates, heavy frigates too, sloops, bombs, gun-brigs, and cutters, would soon have been on the spot. No shoals or shore-batteries would then have interposed to prevent the guns of the British from producing their full effect. The more numerous the French troops, the greater would have been the slaughter amongst them, the greater the difficulty for the sailors to manœuvre the vessels. Confusion would have ensued ; and the destruction or flight of a part of the flotilla would ; in the end, have compromised the safety of

* Précis des Evènemens, tome xi., p. 270.

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