These men are no longer of the Army of Italy

Sunday, May 26th, 2024

Napoleon by Andrew Roberts With his acute sense for what would energize and what demoralize a unit, Andrew Roberts explains (in Napoleon: A Life), Napoleon harangued Vaubois’ men after their defeat at Davidovich’s hands over five days of skirmishes in the villages of Cembra and Calliano:

‘Soldiers of the 39th and 85th Infantry, you are no longer fit to belong to the French Army. You have shown neither discipline nor courage; you have allowed the enemy to dislodge you from a position where a handful of brave men could have stopped an army. The chief-of-staff will cause to be inscribed upon your flags: “These men are no longer of the Army of Italy”.’

The disgraced Vaubois contained Davidovich at Rivoli.

Napoleon wrote a despairing letter to the Directory from Verona, effectively blaming them for his predicament:

Perhaps we are on the verge of losing Italy. None of the relief I was waiting for has arrived … I am doing my duty, the army is doing its duty. My soul is in tatters, but my conscience is at peace … The weather continues to be bad; the entire army is excessively tired and without boots … The wounded are the elite of the army; all our superior officers, all our best generals are hors de combat. Everyone who comes to me is so inept and doesn’t even have a soldier’s confidence! … We have been abandoned to the depths of Italy … Perhaps my hour … has come. I no longer dare expose myself as my death would discourage the troops.

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