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Napoleon Bonaparte Signed Letter from Polish Campaign, War of the 4th Coalition: “once they arrive in Berlin … review them, let them rest several days, and give them coats and shoes.
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NAPOLEON BONAPARTE. Letter Signed, in French, signed as “Napol” at the top of the third page. Written at Osterode, Germany, March 11, 1807. 7.25 x 8.875 inches.

Inventory #25997       Price: $4,500

Translation from the French

Monsieur General Clarke, my intention is that the 2nd Italian regiment reports at Kolobrzeg, until the entire Italian division is present; that will permit us to return the 19th of the Line here. Marshall Kellermann writes me that the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th provisional regiments have left. The 5th has been at Kassel a long time. Write to Kassel requesting that they send you the 5th, it will be replaced by the 9th. The 6th must be at Magdeburg, the 7th must have returned by the 5th. The 8th will arrive there the 17th. My intention is that we leave no one at Magdeburg, and that you direct everyone to Szczecin or to Kostrzyn.

Maral Kellermann assures me that they are well armed and dressed. My managerial staff needs reinforcements for these eight provisional regts; I have thus ordered Mal Kellermann to have the last four regiments, that is, the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th, depart as soon as they are organized. My intention is that, once they arrive in Berlin, you review them, let them rest several days, and give them coats and shoes. You will do the same thing at Kostrzyn. The 31st Light Infantry must arrive at Berlin. Direct them towards Szczecin, after giving them a little rest, and reviewing them. I prefer that regiments pass by Szczecin rather than by Kostrzyn, because circumstances can render them exposed, and that they clear a passage from Marienberg to Torun...

The 45th of the Line arrives the 14th at Mainz and will proceed directly to Magdeburg. The 3rd Battalion of the 17th of the Line will begin marching March 2nd for Magdeburg. You will review them. If there are 800 mn, dash them off to this regiment, without leaving them any time at Magdeburg. The 3rd Battalion of the 21st of the Line will have arrived at Mainz. Ask Marshall Kellermann when he arrives. On this, I pray that God keeps you in his holy care. At Osterode March 11, 1807.


Historic Background

Napoleon Bonaparte—emperor, military commander, and master geopolitical strategist—addressed this lengthy missive to his Minister of War, Henri Jacques Guillaume Clarke (1765-1818), in early March 1807, from the last months of the War of the 4th Coalition (October 1806-July 1807), when Napoleon’s forces were marching east conquering modern day Poland. Napoleon won the war after forcing the surrender of Polish strongholds Szczecin in October 1806, Gdansk in May 1807, and Kolobrzeg in July 1807.

Napoleon personally commanded his Grande Armee of up to 1,000,000 soldiers. In this Polish campaign, Napoleon’s French forces joined German, Italian, and Polish troops against the coalition of Prussia, Russia, Great Britain, and Sweden.

As this letter shows, Napoleon was intimately involved in the minutest details; Napoleon berated subordinates if they did not report everything to him. This letter mentions the movements of 15 regiments to and from nine German and Polish cities.

Napoleon relied on General Clarke for inspection and provisioning, conscription and internal discipline. General Clarke was recognized with the title of Duc of Feltre in August, 1809.

Marshall Francois-Christophe de Kellermann (1735-1820) was a career soldier whose resistance against the Prussians at the Battle of Valmy (1792) earned him Napoleon’s great respect.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821). Born at Ajaccio, Corsica. He quickly rose through the ranks of the French Army to become Commander of the Army of Italy. After he defeated the Austrian army and conquered Italy in 1796, he was given command of the Army of England. Rather than attacking directly, he planned to wipe out her trade in the Indian subcontinent. Sailing from Toulon, he captured Malta, and in early July 1798, he captured Alexandria and advanced into Cairo. However, at the Battle of the Nile on August 1, 1798, the French fleet was practically annihilated by Admiral Nelson’s Royal Navy. Napoleon secretly returned to Paris in 1799, in time to join in the coup d’état that overthrew the Revolutionary government. He arranged a new constitution, and was to a ten-year term as First Consul. But, having secured peace with Austria and the Pope, he arranged an election that voted him Consul for life. On December 2, 1804, Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of France.

In 1805, he found himself at war with Prussia, Saxony, and soon Austria in addition to England, causing the fall of The Holy Roman Empire. He later set off the Peninsular War by sending armies into Portugal and Spain. Napoleon’s “Continental System” was undermined by Russia, which opened her ports to neutral shipping. In June of 1812, Napoleon invaded and attempted to conquer the Russian Empire. He defeated the Russian army at Borodino in September. However, Napoleon miscalculated the Russian winter, the strength and nationalism of the Russian people and the determination of Czar Alexander I to protect his empire at all costs; to deprive Napoleon’s troops of shelter and supplies, the Czar had Moscow burned. The disastrous defeat and retreat cost Napoleon more than 500,000 men, of the army of 600,000 he had set out with.

In 1813, Wellington routed the French and forced them out of Spain. Prussia, Saxony and Austria, had allied with Russia, and invaded France and stripped away much of her conquests. Napoleon was forced to abdicate in April, 1814; he was given sovereignty over the island of Elba, and allowed to retain the title of Emperor. Within a year, Napoleon returned to Paris, supported by his army and his people. Europe declared war. Wellington’s army in Belgium and Blucher’s on the Rhine joined forces to overwhelm Napoleon at Waterloo. Napoleon fled to Paris and surrendered in July, 1815. Exiled a second time, the man who ruled Europe spent his last six years on the small island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic. He died there six years later. His body wasn’t allowed to be repatriated until 1840.

Napoleon instituted political and social reforms that reined in the excesses of the French Revolution, pulled the nation out of bankruptcy, created a fair tax scheme, reorganized the French educational system, and instituted the Napoleonic Code, which provides the precedent for modern French law, combined the basic tenants of old Roman law with ideas from the Enlightenment. He thus planted the seeds of the modern middle class and created institutions that continue to shape our world.


On watermarked cream bifold paper in near fine condition, with light paper folds.


Ex-Marc-Arthur Kohn, “The Empire in Paris,” December 2, 2013 (Paris, France), part of lot 38.

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