|Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
||British and French Fleets - Channel
known in England has exhibited, in a single act of Napoléon's, arising out of the circumstances above stated, a most extraordinary instance of his transcendent genius. " At the time I was writing this passage " (one in which M. Dupin has given it as his opinion that, before any thing could be effected against England, the combined fleet must be in possession of the Channel), " I was unacquainted with a very remarkable fact, which deserves a place in history. I am indebted for the knowledge of it to the Count Daru, whose able history of Venice we have already cited. In 1805 M. Daru was at Boulogne, the intendant general of the army. One morning the emperor sent for him into his closet. Daru found him transported with rage, striding up and down his apartment, and only breaking a sullen silence by the abrupt and sudden exclamations - " What a navy ! - what an admiral ! - what sacrifices lost ! - my hopes are frustrated ! - this Villeneuve ! Instead of being in the Channel he has put into Ferrol ! - I see it clearly ! he will be blockaded. - Daru, sit down there, listen and write. " The emperor had, early that morning, received advices of the arrival of Villeneuve in a port of Spain ; he saw at once that the conquest of England had miscarried ; that the immense expense of the fleet and the flotilla was lost for a long time, perhaps for ever ! Then, in the violence of a rage which would scarcely suffer another man to retain his senses, he adopted one of the boldest resolutions, traced one of the most admirable plans of a campaign, that any conqueror could have conceived, even when at leisure and perfectly composed. Without hesitating, without stopping, he dictated the whole plan of the campaign of Austerlitz, the departure of the different corps of the army, as well from Hanover and Holland, as from the western and southern boundaries of France. The order of the routes, their duration, the points of convergence and reunion of the columns ; the attacks by surprise and by open force, the various movements of the enemy, the whole is provided for : victory is assured in every one of the hypotheses. Such was the accuracy of this plan, and the immense foresight it displayed, that upon a line of march of 200 leagues, lines of operations of 300 leagues in length were conducted according to the original design, day by day, and league by league, all the way to Munich. Beyond that capital the time alone underwent some alteration ; but the points were reached, and the ensemble of the plan crowned with success. Such, then, was the military talent of this man, not less terrible to his enemies by the mightiness of his genius, than to his countrymen by the severity of his despotism." * The truth of this anecdote is corroborated by the author of the Précis des Evènemens, who states, that he himself also heard it related by the Comte Daru. †
* For the original passage, see Appendix, No. 35.
† Précis des Evénemens, tome xii, p. 118.
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