By Marie-Cecile Thoral
Drawing on a variety of fundamental resources, this publication investigates the standard human adventure of the innovative and Napoleonic wars by means of French army and civilians, the effect of those wars at the French kingdom and society, and the increase of a brand new form of conflict within the West on the flip of the 19th century.
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Extra info for From Valmy to Waterloo: France at War, 1792-1815 (War, Culture and Society, 1750-1850)
I was still shaking but now it was from rage . . I wanted to mow them all down, avenge my brothers, and I spurred my horse into the midst of the enemy . . 80 In his memoirs Bourgogne relates with equal openness his killing of a Russian at point-blank range in the battle of Krasnoë in 1813. We fought furiously, man-to-man. The slaughter was appalling, we were split up, each man was fighting on his own . . A Russian soldier stopped me at two paces from the end of his musket barrel and fired.
What characterizes a ‘total’ or ‘terrorist’ war, to use the expression employed by Bertaud, is an ambition to exterminate, to annihilate the enemy, civilian as well as military. To this end, they were to be shown no mercy: no prisoners should be taken, and enemy wounded should either be killed where they lay or left without medical care. But while it is true that this corresponded to a number of orders issued by the political and military hierarchy, accounts written by men present on the ground make it clear that such extreme measures were hardly ever applied in reality.
It had affected his character, and indeed at times he told me that he had a great pain in the head, that it was not the result of the wound from the Cossack’s pistol shot but a thing he could not explain to me . . 71 The psychological trauma or shell shock induced by war can also have the effect of making violence and death appear unremarkable and of numbing individuals’ response to them. Many soldiers, like Robert Guillemard,72 refer to this phenomenon in their writings. Octave Levavasseur observed it during the campaign of 1807 and the battles of Eylau and Friedland: The feeling of indifference had spread to the entire army, down to the last soldier.
From Valmy to Waterloo: France at War, 1792-1815 (War, Culture and Society, 1750-1850) by Marie-Cecile Thoral