Napoleon at Toulon


Napoleon at Toulon 1793


Figure 1 Napoleon at the Siege of Toulon


Napoleon’s Early Career

After leaving school in 1785, Napoleon entered an artillery regiment. (6) He was therefore an officer in the royal army. (6,12) and was stationed in the town of Valence. (6) Writings from 1786 reveal a homesick Napoleon feeling ‘always alone in the midst of men’. (6) Despondent about the cause of Corsican independence, he wondered why he should continue living when life was a burden that offered him no pleasure. (6) Napoleon’s years at Brienne and then at the École Militaire in Paris (near where the Eiffel Tower is today) taught him the essence of modern warcraft. (2)

Napoleon joins the Jacobins

From King’s officer to revolutionary Napoleon’s career – like that of many other young officers – took him from being a member of the King’s army to becoming a member of the French revolutionary army. (12)The French Revolution caused much fighting and disorder in France. (4) In these French Revolutionary Wars, (4) several opportunities arose to prove his skills, (6) but it was not until 1793 (6,12) during the siege of Toulon (6) that Napoleon was first able to demonstrate (6,12) his new loyalty (3) and ability (6,12) to grasp the significant moment, to devise the successful strategy, to lead from the front and by example. (12) In 1793 Napoleon was in the south of France, (11,12) in a unit of the army hostile to the Revolution. (11,12) He was involved in the process of sending envoys to the Spanish and British fleets in the hope of obtaining their support against the Convention’s troops. (11) On July 1st, 1793, after setting up his family in La Valette, near Toulon, Napoleon rejoined his artillery regiment in Nice. (13) The city of Marseille had risen up against the Convention. (13) Toulon, under the Royalist influence, was on the point of following suit. (13) The English fleet was cruising offshore, ready to support the insurrection. (13) On July 3rd, 1793 Napoleon wrote to the Minister of War to propose a plan for a furnace that could heat cannonballs red-hot “to set enemy vessels alight.” (13) On July 29th, 1793 he travelled to Beaucaire in Gard to ensure reception of and organize a convoy of artillery ammunition. (13) He enthusiastically embraced the extreme, left-wing ‘Jacobin’ faction of the revolution. (12,13) In two nights, (13) in July 1793 (8,13) he wrote (8,11) a caustic (11) a play (13) [OR] pro-republican pamphlet entitled (8) “Souper de Beaucaire” (8,11) “Beaucaire Dinner” (11) [OR]Supper’. (8) It was a friendly dialogue between a Republican and a Royalist in which, through the verbal exchanges, it clearly emerges that the Republican form of government is superior to any other. (13) The play was read very widely, and was greeted with enormous praise by ministers, workers, peasants and soldiers. (13) The French revolutionary army – like the Russian and Chinese Red Armies two centuries later – was monitored by powerful political ‘advisors’ (12) called ‘representatives on mission’. (8,10) Napoleon’s political activism (8,12) gave him the ear of these advisers, (12) especially that of a fellow Corsican called (8,10) Antoine Christophe (8) Saliceti; a Deputy to the National Convention (a later political derivation of the first revolutionary National Assembly) and an enthusiastic supporter of the Terror. (12) Saliceti’s colleague (12) was Augustin Robespierre, younger brother of the (8,12) infamous (12) Revolutionary leader (8) Maximilien (8,12) François Marie Isadore de (12) Robespierre (8,12) – the austere and terrifying member of the Committee of Public Safety and, many would argue, the intellectual father of the Terror. (12) He left the his position in the royal army (11,12) and allied himself with a radical group of the revolutionaries called the Jacobins, (5,8) and was connected to those in power, (4,5) though at other times, he was in jail! (4) ) He was fortunate that his Corsican ancestry, though undoubtedly ‘aristocratic’, was too obscurely provincial to alarm the political sensibilities of the new revolutionary government in Paris. (12) A similar ancestry on mainland France might have cost Napoleon his head, once the extreme wing of the revolution began executing large numbers of its fellow citizens with that recently-invented, modern and humane killing machine, the Guillotine. (12)

The Revolution provokes opposition

The French Revolution transformed almost every aspect of French public life, and grew more radical as the years passed (turning into terror). (10) However, these changes were far from universally popular, and as many French citizens fled revolutionary areas, others decided to rebel against a revolution they saw as increasingly Parisian and extreme. (10) By 1793 these rebellions had turned into widespread, open and violent revolt. (10) There were significant pockets of royalist insurrection against the revolution throughout the provinces, especially in the western Vendée region and in the South East. (12) France was, in effect, engaging in a civil war at the same time as countries surrounding France looked to intervene and force a counter revolution. (10) The situation was, at times, desperate. (10) Revolutionary armies were sent out to crush these enemies within. (10) The surge of anti-Republicanism in southern France during 1793, (9) involved rebellion at Toulon, a port on the south coast of France. (10)

The situation in Toulon

Since the beginning of the Revolution, there had been frequent conflicts in Toulon between the workers at the arsenal and the naval officers. (11) In Toulon, the revolutionaries evicted the existing Jacobin faction but were soon supplanted by the more numerous royalists. (14) Even though their number of officers had be reduced by the emigrations, they had succeeded in taking control of the leadership of the federalist movement in the city and giving it a more and more overt monarchist tone. (11) On July 18th, 1793, a Central Committee for Toulon was created. (11) In response to the ongoing events in Paris, it was decided that the Parisian representatives in the city should be arrested. (11) Pierre Baille was caught, but Charles Beauvais and Stanislas Fréron quickly evaded capture. (11) Upon the announcement of the recapture of Marseille and of the reprisals which had taken place there at the hands of the revolutionaries, (14) the royalist forces, (11,14) directed by the Baron d’Imbert, (14) called for aid from the Anglo-Spanish fleet. (11,14) Beginning talks with the English Admiral Samuel Hood who commanded the fleet in the Mediterranean. (11) These negotiations were at first unsuccessful due to the opposition of moderate federalists from the Gironde who regarded it as treason. (11)

Events in Marseilles

After the arrest of the Girondist deputies on the 2 June 1793, there followed a series of insurrections within the French cities of Lyon, Avignon, Nîmes and Marseille. (14) The federalists in Marseilles revolted against the Convention on June 22nd. (11) They were now led by a royalist and had created a ‘committee for public safety’. (11) They were also alarmed by the military setbacks encountered by their ‘army’, which was the one that Napoleon had left in disgust. (11) An English frigate arrived in Marseilles on August 22nd, 1793 officially to exchange prisoners, but in reality to restart the talks with the royalists. (11) Its arrival, coupled with the royalist White Terror sweeping the city and the advancing Republican Armies, solicited a sharp reaction from the local Jacobins. (11) On August 23rd and 24th, the city streets were the site of violent clashes. (11) The Republican troops arrived on August 25th with Jean-François Carteaux, (11) a former house painter, (13) at their head. (11) They quickly captured Marseilles, (11,13) renamed the ‘City-Without-a-Name’, (11) and returned the Jacobins to authority. (11,12) They committed appalling reprisals. (12) The leaders of the federalist movement barely escaped the ensuing repression by fleeing to Toulon by sea. (11) They continued their discussions with the Spanish and English fleets, now their last resort. (11)

The English occupy Toulon

On August 23rd, the inhabitants of Toulon, with the agreement of Admiral Jean-Honoré de Trogoff, the commander of the French fleet in the city, (11) [OR] The royalist (3,4) counterrevolutionary (7,9) leaders called on the British Royal Navy to help them, along with their Spanish and other allies. (12) Britain had been at war with France since the formation of the ‘First Coalition’ of European allies against revolutionary France, formed earlier that year after the execution of Louis XVI. (12) The royalists (4,11) surrendered Toulon to the English, (13) asking that foreign troops occupy the city and port. (11) They welcomed a British (3,4) [OR] Anglo-Spanish (9) fleet (4,5) and troops (3,4) under the command of (7,9) Rear (12) Admiral (7,9) Sir Samuel (14) Lord Hood (7,9) and Admiral Juan de Lángara. (9,14) The English fleet anchored in the harbour at Toulon. (12) It was France’s most important Mediterranean naval base. (12) The royalists handed the strategically important (3,7) port (3,5) and arsenal (9) over to them (3,5) on August 27-28th (9) [OR] On 1st October. (14)This was a serious blow to the arms of the republic, as it was a key naval arsenal of the country, with 26 ships of the line based there at the time (about one third of the total available to the French Navy). (14) Baron d’Imbert (14) proclaimed the young Louis XVII to be king of France, (11,14) and hoisted the French royalist flag of the fleur de lys, delivering the town of Toulon to the British navy: (14) the English continued to exercise power. (11) Their force consisted of, including (7) British, Spanish (7,11) Sardinian, (11) Neapolitan (11,14) Piedmontese (14) and Émigré French (7) numbered 13,000 (14) [OR] about 16,000 (7) There were 6,000 men of the Alpine Maritime Army, commanded by General Jean François Cornu de La Poype, who had just taken La Valette-du-Var, and sought to take the forts of Mont Faron, which dominated the city to the East. (14) They were reinforced by 3,000 sailors under the orders of Admiral de Saint Julien, who refused to serve the British with his chief, Trogoff. (14) A further 5,000 soldiers under General La Poype were attached to the army to retake Toulon from the Army of Italy. (14) Captain Horatio Nelson was with Hood’s fleet, in command of the 64-gun ‘third-rater’ Agamemnon. (12) First- second- and, indeed, third-raters ‘Ships of the line’, that is to say, ships of the line of battle, were rated by size. (12) A ‘first rate’ ship of the line had more than one hundred guns, typically on three decks; a third-rate, like Nelson’s Agamemnon, had between sixty-four and eighty guns, usually on two gun-decks. (12) The terminology, as you will have noticed, has taken on an unfairly derogatory popular meaning: to be considered ‘second rate’ is now unfortunate, whereas there was nothing ‘second-rate’ about a second rate – a fearsome fighting ship with some ninety or more guns on three decks, which was merely a slightly smaller (and slightly cheaper) version of a first rate. (12) The third rate Agamemnon had 64 guns on two decks; such ships could be argued to offer the best compromise between speed, handling, fire power and cost. (12) The British fleet seized more than 70 French ships, almost half of the French Navy. (9)1 The Royal Naval fleet now anchored in the harbour landed hundreds of soldiers, who with the support of their huge naval cannons, bolstered the already impressive defences; the combined fortifications formed what some thought to be an impregnable fortress. (13) The situation was critical to the revolutionary government: (10,12) France was engaged in wars against many of the monarchist states of Europe. (10,12) The occupation of Toulon (3,5) [OR] Toulouse (12) was a threat to the whole revolution. (10,12) If France were to lose this port, there was no hope for her naval ambitions. (14) As a result, any ambition to challenge the Allies, and specifically the British, for control of the seas would be out of the question. (14) In addition, its loss could set a dangerous precedent for other areas that menaced the republic with revolt. (14) The survival of the Republic was at stake. (14) It was essential that the town (3,9) and its forts (9) be recaptured. (3,9) The damage suffered to the prestige of the Revolution was just as significant. (3,9)

Napoleon arrives in Toulon

Once Marseilles had been brought back into the Republican fold, the Revolutionary Army marched on Toulon in order to lay siege to the city. (11) The troops of the army said to be of the “Carmagnoles”, under the command of General Jean François Carteaux, arrived at Toulon on 8th September, after those troops had recovered Avignon and Marseille, (14) and then Ollioules. (13,14) Carteaux was accompanied by a ‘representative on mission’, basically a political officer designed to make sure he was being sufficiently ‘patriotic’. (10) Bonaparte had been present in the army since the Avignon insurrection. (14) Napoleon helped the Republic (2,4) against the French anti-government forces, (3) at the Battle of Toulon. (2) It was the year in which Louis XVI had been guillotined, at the beginning of what was to become ‘The Terror’. (12) The effects of the revolution on the army had been severe, as many of the officers had been nobility and as they were persecuted they fled the country. (10) Consequently, there were many open spaces and plenty of promotion from lower ranks based on ability rather than birth rank. (10) Napoleon was at the time escorting a cargo of gunpowder from Avignon (12,14) to Nice for (14) the revolutionary army of Italy. (12) On September 16th, 1793, (13) en route from Marseille to Nice, Napoleon (12) having learned that Salicetti2 – the commissar of the Convention whom he had supported in Corsica at the time of the confrontation with Paoli – was at Carteaux’s headquarters, decided to pay him a visit (13) to pay his respects. (12,14) It was a shrewd move. (12) The Chief of Carteaux’ artillery, (10,12) commander Elzéar Auguste de (14) Dommartin, had been wounded at Ollioules (13,14) and had had to leave in September. (4,10) The commander of Carteaux’s artillery had been wounded (10,12) Salicetti greeted him with open arms and said: “You couldn’t have come at a better moment. Dommartin, who was commanding the siege artillery, was wounded while we were taking Ollioules, and we need a skilled officer to replace him. Let’s go and see Carteaux together.” (13) Carteaux, proud of showing the “educated captain” the emplacements that he himself had chosen for the artillery, took Napoleon to visit the positions. (13) At the first battery, which was in fact well protected by an earthen levée, Carteaux explained: “The cannonfire from the English ships will not interfere with ours. We will sink them one after another.” (13) Napoleon, who instantly saw that the battery was way too far from the harbour to reach the ships, requested a demonstration. (13) With the maximum charge of powder, the cannonball did not travel half the distance. (13) Napoleon, just as any competent leader must do in a time of war, dispassionately demonstrated the uselessness of the entire set-up, and asked Salicetti to give him full power in all matters relating to artillery. (13) Thanks to his connection with the Jacobins via Saliceti, young Bonaparte was appointed as the wounded officer’s replacement, (4,5) despite the reluctance of the military general in charge of the siege. (12,13) [OR] imposed on Dommartin in this way despite the mutual antipathy between the two men. (14) Carteaux was angered, but he had to acquiesce; not however, without retorting to the young captain who told him that the fate of Toulon passed by the fort of l’Éguillette: “Young man, I see that you are ignorant of geography.” (13) [OR] without reference to General Carteaux. (10) He thus became the commander of (4,5) a brigade (4) of artillery at the Siege of Toulon (4,5) in September (4) 1793. (1,2)

The military situation in Toulon


Toulon had some of the thickest and most advanced defences, not just in France, but in Europe, and would have to be retaken by the revolutionary forces to help secure the nation. (10) It was no easy task, but had to be done quickly. (10) The Revolutionary forces numbered about 11,000. (7) Without a fleet, they were only able to blockade land routes into the city. (11) The siege began on 27th (7) [OR] 28th (9) August. (7) [OR] on September 8th. (9) The previously unknown (9) Napoleon (9,10) who was only an artillery (7) captain (7,11) [OR] Major, (10) now showed great skill in increasing and deploying his resources, using a keen understanding of terrain to slowly take key areas. (10) He carried out a reconnaissance and quickly sized up the strategic situation. (12,14) Napoleon put his knowledge to invaluable use (2,5) and came up with a plan. (5,8) He would capture (7,8) the small (11) forts of l’Eguillette and Balaguier, (11,14) on the hill (7,8) of Cairo, (11,14) which stood on a promontory overlooking Toulon’s harbour, rather than on the city itself. (12) Situated at the extremity of the peninsula that formed a bottleneck at the mouth of the harbour, the Fort of l’Éguillette was a key position (13) from which cannons could control the passage of ships (11,13) between the inner and outer harbour (11) [OR] between the small and large harbours. (14) By this he would destroy anyone attempting to set up a position in the harbour. (13) This was the goal towards which Napoleon concentrated all his efforts. (13) From there republican guns could dominate the city’s harbour and force the British to evacuate. (7,8) He could see that capturing the British position (11,12) at Eguillette and Balaguier, (11) would make the harbour indefensible for the enemy (11,12) and so drive out the British fleet. (12) This would leave the defenders without a supply-line from the sea. (11,12) and so undermine the British hold on Toulon. (10) Bonaparte was dissatisfied by the sole battery—called the “Mountain”, positioned on the height of Saint-Laurent since 19th September. (14) On that day he was recommended for the rank of major. (13) He established another battery, on the shore of Brégallion, called the “sans-culottes”. (14) Hood attempted to silence it, without success, but the British fleet was obliged to harden its resolve along the coast anew, because of the high seabed of Mourillon and la Tour Royale. (14)

Napoleon prepares his plan

In order to capture the fort, Napoleon had to remove several solidly defended positions one after the other. (13) He had to deal with two incompetent superiors: (9,12) one of them was General Carteaux.(10,11) Carteaux was a fine patriot but a terrible general. (13) On September 22nd (11,14) Carteaux made a half-hearted (12) uninspired (11) attempt on the British encampment on the promontory (12) between the inner and outer harbour. (11) Carteaux sent only a weak detachment under Major General Delaborde, (14) which failed to reach its objective. (11,12) It succeeded only in alerting the British to their danger: (12,14) They reinforced the promontory heavily (11,12) constructing a series of fortifications around the summit of the hill: a large redoubt called ‘Fort Mulgrave’ (11,14) so christened in honour of the British commander, Henry Phipps, 1st Earl of Mulgrave, (14) and three smaller ones called ‘Saint-Philippe’, ‘Saint-Côme’ and ‘Saint-Charles’. (11,14) They dominated Toulon’s two harbours (9) and were thought to be unassailable. (11,14) The position was dubbed ‘Little Gibraltar’ (9,11) by the English sailors, (9,11) [OR] by the French. (14) Napoleon had been denied what was to become one of his later trade-mark routes to success: acting with great speed to surprise the enemy, exploiting a weakness that they had not recognised. (12) Denied this, his next move represented another classic Napoleonic strategy: apply overwhelming force. (12) On the first of October, after the failure of General La Poype against the “Eastern Fort” of Faron, Bonaparte was asked to bombard the large fort of Malbousquet, whose fall would be required to enable the capture of the city. (14) Napoleon was promoted to major (13) [OR] Chief of Battalion (14) on 19th October. (13,14) Despite the mutual dislike between Bonaparte and the chief of artillery, the young artillery officer (14) was able to requisition equipment and cannon from the surrounding area, (12,14) from Marseille, Avignon and the Army of Italy, holding the power of fifty batteries of six cannon apiece. (14) He collected 100 (14) [OR] over 300 cannons3 in total, (11) and established a series of batteries. (12) It was an artillery force that was worthy of a siege of Toulon and the fortresses that were quickly built by the British in its immediate environs. (14) With the help of his friends, the deputies Saliceti and Augustin Robespierre, who held power of life and death, Napoleon was able to compel retired artillery officers from the area to re-enlist. (14) The problem of manning the guns was not remedied by this solution alone, and under Bonaparte’s intensive training he instructed much of the infantry in the practice of employing, deploying and firing the artillery that his efforts had recently acquired. (14) However, in spite of this effort, Bonaparte was not as confident about this operation as was later his custom. (14) The officers serving with him in the siege were incompetent, and he was becoming concerned about the needless delays due to these officers’ mistakes. (14) He was so concerned that he wrote a letter of appeal to the Committee of Public Safety requesting assistance. (14) To deal with his superiors who were wanting in skill, he proposed the appointment of a general for command of the artillery, succeeding himself, so that “… (they could) command respect and deal with a crowd of fools on the staff with whom one has constantly to argue and lay down the law in order to overcome their prejudices and make them take steps which theory and practice alike have shown to be axiomatic to any trained officer of this corps”. (14) The local populace, which was eager to prove its loyalty to the republic which it had recently rebelled against, was blackmailed into supplying the besieging force with animals and supplies. (14) He positioned a large artillery battery, called the ‘Convention’, (11,12) on the hill of Arènes (14) in front of Fort Mulgrave. (11) This main position was supported by smaller batteries located on the surrounding hills, (11,12) that were given stirring patriotic names – (12) ‘Camp of the Republicans’ (12,14) on the hill of Dumonceau (14) ‘The Jacobins’, (12) the “Farinière” on the hill of Gaux, and the “Poudrière” at Lagoubran. (14) Naming a battery ‘‘The Men Without Fear’, was itself a clever piece of leadership, demonstrating Napoleon’s instinctive grasp of motivation. (12) The battery of ‘The Men without Fear’ was indeed sited in a very exposed and dangerous position, but it never lacked for volunteers, keen to prove their bravery. (12) Napoleon knew how to talk to men. (13) He knew how to transform cowardly privates, perennially dissatisfied with their fate, into pure, hard soldiers, proud of their lot, however miserable. (13) “I’m going to create a battery of fearless men”, he told them. (13) “I need men, real men, men with balls, certainly not sissies. (13) I would never ask them to take an enemy position, but I insist that they follow me to that position. (13) If you are one of those men, raise your hand.” (13) They all raised their hands, then lifted both arms into the air and shouted “Vive Bonaparte!” (13) Legend has it that Napoleon himself worked on this battery, wielding a ramrod alongside his gunners. (12) He probably did. (12) Together, their mission was to repel the enemy fleet during the attack on the fort. (11) Carteaux, jealous of the ascendance that “Captain Cannon” (the nickname he gave to Napoleon) was daily gaining, attempted to thwart his plans. (13) He denied him the infantry support he needed to advance his batteries. (13) The siege came to a standstill. (13) On October 14th, Napoleon demonstrated to Barras, another Convention commissar, the importance of getting rid of Carteaux if they were to retake Toulon. (13)

Carteaux Succeeded by Doppet and Dugommier

Carteaux (9,11) was dismissed by the politicos. (12) This was done by November 11th, (13,14) but his replacement, General Doppet, (13) a former physician (12,13) had one serious shortcoming: (13) indecision (14) [OR] he could not stand the sight of blood. (13) During an attack (13,14) against Fort Mulgrave on the 16th, (14) which was on the point of succeeding, he saw a soldier cut in two by a cannonball and cried out “Stop, turn back. I won’t see any more!” (13) This caused the attack to fail. (14) Doppet was an honest man (13) and recognized that he was not cut out for warfare. (13,14) It was a classic example of the danger of letting political cadres take control of an army. (12) Aware of his own incompetence, he resigned. (14) Nevertheless, he sang the praises of Napoleon: “He was extraordinarily active and demonstrated an uncommon degree of fearlessness. He was always with his men and if he needed a moment’s rest, he took it on the ground, wrapped on his overcoat. He never left his batteries.” (13) Doppet (13) resigned in recognition of his own incompetence (12) and was replaced on November 16th (9,11) by General Jacques (7,9) [OR] Jean-François (13) Dugommier, (7,9) a more competent (11) and experienced (12) career (14) soldier. (11,12) immediately recognized the virtue of Bonaparte’s plan, and prepared for the capture of Little Gibraltar. (14) Dugommier recognized the genius of Bonaparte’s plan. (9,11) He understood that the artillery major belonged to an entirely exceptional class of officer, whose opinions should be followed and who should be supported in all his actions. (13) He energetically undertook its execution. (11,14) On the 20th November, as soon as he arrived, the battery “Jacobins” was established, on the ridge of l’Evescat. (14) Then, on the left, on 28th November, the battery of the “Men Without Fear”, and then on 14th December, the “Chasse Coquins” were constructed between the two. (14) Two other batteries were organized to repel the eventual intervention of the allied ships, they were called “The Great Harbour” and the “Four Windmills”. (14) Pressured by the bombardment (14) on November 30th (11) the Anglo-Neapolitans executed a sortie, (11,14) against the French gun emplacements. (12,13) They momentarily captured the ‘Convention’ artillery. (11,14), A counter-attack, headed by Dugommier and Bonaparte, (12,14) [OR] by Napoleon (1,9) pushed them back. (11,14) During the engagement Napoleon captured General O’Hara, the British commanding officer. (12,13) O’Hara recognized the value, courage and the intrepidness of the “fearless men”; declaring “with an army of soldiers like these, you could conquer the world.” (13) Napoleon was promoted to Colonel. (12) O’Hara initiated surrender negotiations with Robespierre the Younger and Antoine Louis Albitte and the Federalist and Royalist battalions were disarmed. (14)

The plan succeeds

Between December 11th and 16th the artillery was preparing the way for the attack on the forts of l’Éguillette and du Balaguier, which commanded the channel. (13) The enemy replied with counterbattery fire. (13) Sergeant Juno was writing down the orders that Napoleon was dictating when a cannonball landed less than a metre away, covering the written page with dirt “Good”. Juno remarked mildly. (13) “I won’t need any sand to dry my ink.” (13) Napoleon smiled; he loved such shows of pure courage and Sergeant Juno later became the Duc d’Abrantès. (13) Following O’Hara’s capture, Dugommier, La Poype, and Bonaparte (now a colonel) launched a general assault during the night of 16 December. (14) The Republicans seized the outer forts overlooking the port, before preparing for the main attack on the Little Gibraltar fort. (9) After months of preparations, the revolutionary troops, under cover of intense bombardment, successfully assaulted the allied-held forts commanding the anchorage. (9) The assault on ‘Little Gibraltar’ began (9,11) at midnight (11,13) on December 16th 1793. (11) The fighting continued throughout the night: (11,14) Napoleon led the final, successful, attack on the British position. (12,13) on the heights of Caire. (13) During the attack he was bayoneted in the thigh (8,9) [OR] in the calf (13) by a British soldier, (9,14) (a sergeant), (14) but although his shoe soon filled with blood, nothing would stop him. (13) He went doggedly on. (13) It was, astoundingly, the only wound that he was ever to receive in battle, despite his legendary insouciance about exposing himself to enemy fire. (12) As his career progressed, this insouciance (or bravery) seemed to come from a genuine fatalism: he believed that he would not be killed until he had fulfilled his destiny. (12) The (8,13) small Gibraltar-like (9,11) fort was captured. (8,13) The English, (13,14) panic-stricken, (13) evacuated both (13,14) l’Eguillette and Balaguier (14) forts, leaving behind their cannons intact. (13,14) [OR] The French fortified it with artillery. (11,14) The fearless artillerymen of the battery used them right away against the ships in the harbour. (13) [OR] by late afternoon of December 18th, (9) Lieutenant (13) Marmont, (13,14) the future marshal, (13) turned the English cannons against the Forts. (9,13) The infantry, again led by Napoleon, now (13) attacked l’Éguillette (11,13) and le Balaguir (13) [OR] Balaguier (11) under torrential rain and a storm that broke out as if it sought to unite with the violence of an attack that was sweeping away everything in its passage. (13) Napoleon and his men threw themselves against the fort of Malbosquet, gained entrance, took control of the cannons and once more turned them against the enemy vessels. (13) The French government forces captured Fort Mulgrave and the promontory of L’Eguillette. (7,13) The assault on the position led to the capture of the city. (8) During this time, Lapoype finally was able to take the forts of Faron and Malbousquet. (14) The allies then decided to evacuate by their maritime route. (14) By the end of the next day, (11) all of the forts surrounding Toulon had fallen into the hands of the Republicans (7,11) either by force or because the British had retreated. (11) Its success gave the French their commanding artillery position and the Allies withdrew. (7) By mid-December (3,4) his tactics had forced the British to evacuate (1,3) This was on December 17th, (4) [OR] 19th (7,9) 1793. (4,7) [OR] The royalists were successfully ejected the next morning. (9) Everyone was looking for Napoleon to congratulate him and carry him off in triumph. (13) He, however, apparently insensitive to the glory, was meanwhile sleeping in the rain with a drum for a pillow, confident of the protection of the fearless men who would not have hesitated to tear to pieces anyone foolish enough to wake him. (13)

The British evacuate Toulon

Commodore Sydney Smith was instructed by Hood to have the delivery fleet and the arsenal burnt. (14) After British and Spanish troops (9,11) blew up (9) [OR] burned (11) the arsenal (9,11) and that evening (9) they burned (9,13) 42 (9) French ships (9,13) that had greeted them4 as friends only four months earlier. (13) Admiral Sir Samuel Hood who commanded the British naval forces defending the city. (14) Lángara ordered Don Pedro Cotiella to take three boats into the arsenal to destroy the French fleet. (14) Sir Sidney Smith, who had recently arrived, volunteered to accompany him with his ship Swallow and three British boats. (14) Cotiella was tasked with sinking Toulon’s powder hulks; one was a disarmed former British frigate captured during the American Revolutionary War, Montréal, and the other was the French frigate Iris. (14) These ships contained the gunpowder stores for the entire fleet and due to the danger of explosion were anchored in the outer roads, some distance from the city. (14) He was then instructed to enter the Old Arsenal and destroy the ships there. (14) The dock gates, which had been barred against attack and manned by 800 former galley slaves freed during the retreat. (14) Their sympathies were with the advancing Republicans so to ensure that they did not interfere, Smith kept his guns trained on them throughout the operation. (14) His boats were spotted by the Republican batteries on the heights and cannonballs and shells landed in the arsenal, although none struck Smith’s men. (14) As darkness fell Republican troops reached the shoreline and contributed musketry to the fusillade; Smith replied with grape shot from his boat’s guns. (14) At 20:00 Captain Charles Hare brought the fireship HMS Vulcan into the New Arsenal. (14) Smith halted the ship across the row of anchored French ships of the line, and lit the fuses at 22:00. (14) Hare was badly wounded by an early detonation as he attempted to leave his ship. (14) Simultaneously, fire parties set alight the warehouses and stores ashore, including the mast house and the hemp and timber stores, creating an inferno across the harbour as Vulcan’s cannons fired a last salvo at the French positions on the shore. (14) With the fires spreading through the dockyards and New Arsenal, Smith began to withdraw. (14) His force was illuminated by the flames, making an inviting target for the Republican batteries. (14) As his boats passed the Iris however the powder ship suddenly and unexpectedly exploded, blasting debris in a wide circle and sinking two of the British boats. (14) On Britannia all of the crew survived, but the blast killed the master and three men on Union. (14) With the New Arsenal in flames, Smith realised that the Old Arsenal appeared intact; only a few small fires marked the Spanish effort to destroy the French ships anchored within. (14) He immediately led Swallow back towards the arsenal but found that Republican soldiers had captured it intact, their heavy musketry driving him back. (14) Instead he turned to two disarmed ships of the line, Héros and Thémistocle, which lay in the inner roads as prison hulks. (14) The French Republican prisoners on board had initially resisted British efforts to burn the ships, but with the evidence of the destruction in the arsenal before them they consented to be safely conveyed to shore as Smith’s men set the empty hulls on fire. (14) With all the available targets on fire or in French hands, Smith withdrew once more, accompanied by dozens of small watercraft packed with Toulonnais refugees and Neapolitan soldiers separated during the retreat. (14) As he passed the second powder hulk, Montréal, she also exploded unexpectedly. (14) Although his force was well within the blast radius, on this occasion none of Smith’s men were struck by falling debris and his boats retired to the waiting British fleet without further incident. (14) Lord Hood immediately evacuated the inner harbour. (9,12) As Smith’s boats had gone about their work Hood had ordered HMS Robust under Captain George Elphinstone and HMS Leviathan under Captain Benjamin Hallowell to evacuate the allied troops from the waterfront. (14) They were joined by HMS Courageux under Captain William Waldegrave, which had been undergoing repairs in the Arsenal to replace a damaged rudder. (14) Despite this handicap, Courageux was able to participate in the evacuation and warp out of the harbour with the replacement rudder following behind, suspended between two ship’s boats. (14) The fireship HMS Conflagration, also undergoing repairs, was unable to sail and was destroyed during the evacuation. (14) On December 17th, (13) [OR] By the morning of 19th (14) aided by a providential breeze, most of the English ships managed to escape. (13) Elphinstone’s squadron had retrieved all of the Allied soldiers from the city without losing a single man. (14) Hood sailed from Toulon and took with him as many of the royalist citizens as his ships could carry. (9,14) In addition to the soldiery, the British squadron and their boats took on board thousands of French Royalist refugees, who had flocked to the waterfront when it became clear that the city would fall to the Republicans. (14) Robust, the last to leave, carried more than 3,000 civilians from the harbour and another 4,000 were recorded on board Princess Royal out in the roads. (14) In total the British fleet rescued (9,11) 14,877 (14) [OR] Some 15,000 (9,11) Toulonnais from the city. (9,11) They left behind them a city in chaos: (9) witnesses on board the retreating ships reported scenes of panic on the waterfront (9,11) as stampeding civilians were crushed or drowned (14) in their haste to escape the advancing Republican soldiers, (9,14) who fired indiscriminately into the fleeing populace. (14) The Convention’s army retook Toulon (9,11) on December 19th (9) [OR] 18th (11) and briefly renamed it “Port-la-Montagne”. (11) In the days that followed, Paul Barras (11) a member of the National Convention and Commissioner of the French Army, (12) and Stanislas Fréron directed (11) a bloody repression (9,11) taking vicious revenge on the remaining royalists. (9) A massacre ensued, during which some 600-700 royalists were shot or bayonetted to death. (9) Napoleon Bonaparte did not participate in this. (11) He had been promoted (11,13) to the rank of General (13) on December 22nd, (11) [OR] 24th (13) [OR] in February, 1794, (4) and was en route to the Italian Army. (11)

Toulon in Napoleon’s career

The siege of Toulon in 1793 might have blended into the many other actions of the French Revolutionary War were it not for the later career of one man, (10) as the siege marked the first notable military action of Napoleon Bonaparte (3,10), later French Emperor and one of the greatest generals in history. (10) It was the first major military victory of his career, and days later, (3) Napoleon’s skill at Toulon was recognized by (5,7) the Committee of Public Safety (7,12) the government of France, (5,7) [OR] “While who played the key role in the final act is debated, but Napoleon definitely played a vital role, and he was able to take full credit when the port fell.” (10) It was to start him on the path of greatness. (7) It also brought him to the attention of Paul Barras. (12) His name was now known by key figures in the revolutionary government (10,11) as his name was reported to the Convention for the first time in a letter from Dugommier. (11) ““I have no words to describe Bonaparte’s merit: much technical skill, an equal degree of intelligence, and too much gallantry… (14) He was suddenly and substantially (11) promoted (1,2) to brigadier general (1,3) [OR] a generalship (2,12) at the age of 24. (2,3) He was put in charge of the artillery (7,10) of the French army in Italy (4,7) His rise to power was to be incredibly rapid, (7) as he would soon leverage this early fame into greater command, and use that opportunity to take power in France, (10) though an oft-cited letter of 1795 to his brother Joseph again reveals that he still felt ‘little attached to life’, finding himself as though ‘constantly on the eve of battle.’ (6) He despaired that he would end up ‘by not moving aside when a carriage goes by’. (6) Toulon made Napoleon Bonaparte famous. (11) He had also met some of his future Grand Officers: Auguste Frédéric Louis Viesse de (11) Marmont (11,14) Jean-Andoche Junot, André Masséna, Claude-Victor Perrin and Louis-Gabriel Suchet. (11) He would use the military to establish his name in history, and it began at Toulon. (10)

1 9 says there were more than 70. 14 says there were 26 ships of the line and 13 says ’42 had greeted them when they arrived’.

2 sic

3 Source 11 called them ‘canons’!

4 14 says there were only 26 there when they arrived!


%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close