Handwritten manuscript fragment in French, unsigned, one page, 7.75 x 2, no date but circa 1818. A five-line excerpt from a draft of Napoleon’s memoirs, concerning a military campaign by two of his greatest marshals, Messena and Augereau. In full (translated): “From the same night of the 8th to the 9th the commander in chief moved with the Messena and Augereau divisions by Cadibone sur Montinotte and at break of day Argenteau, surrounded on every side was attacked in front.” Napoleon’s writing is confined to the left half of the page, with his secretary Louis Marchand writing in the other column. The reverse bears a transcription of Napoleon’s notes penned by Emmanuel de Las Cases. Inlaid into a larger sheet. A few vertical folds, scattered creases, and light show-through from writing to opposing sides, otherwise fine condition.
This remarkable piece concerns the Battle of Montenotte during Napoleon’s Italian Campaign in April 1796, which marked his first victory as commander-in-chief. Fighting against a coalition of Austria and Sardinia, Napoleon led his army against an Austrian corps under Count Eugene-Guillaume Argenteau in combat beginning on April 10. Pierre Augereau led one of the divisions in Napoleon’s command, and Andre Massena’s forces formed their advance guard. Massena led an attack that overwhelmed Argenteau’s troops on April 12, which ultimately secured the French victory. Realizing his strategic advantage, Bonaparte issued orders to thrust west toward Millesimo and north toward Dego, widening the gap between the weakened Austrian and Sardinian armies. In isolating them from each other, Bonaparte was able to defeat each army and forced Sardinia to withdraw from the war. Napoleon dictated his memoirs to his small cadre of followers while exiled on the island of St. Helena; Louis Joseph Marchand, whose writing also appears on this piece, was Napoleon’s main valet and most faithful servant. Within its historical context, this is an extremely significant handwritten piece from Napoleon’s draft of his memoirs. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA.
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