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Michel Ney, Napoleon's On- & Off-Again General, ALS Re: French Republican Troop Movements in Flanders During the War of the First Coalition, Ex-Nicholson Napoleon Collection

A 1p autograph letter signed in French by military commander Michel Ney (1769-1815). Ney signed it as "Ney" at lower right. Written in Diest, in the province of Flemish Brabant in modern day northeastern Belgium, on 22 Thermidor Year 4 (August 9, 1794). On a single sheet of watermarked laid paper. Overall light toning, and isolated foxing and edge darkening near the bottom. Minor chipped edges, else near fine. 7.75" x 12.25." Ex-Nicholson Napoleon Collection.

Michel Ney wrote this letter to Jean-Baptiste Kléber (1753-1800), a fellow military commander of the French Republican Armies. Ney had been transferred to the Armée du Sambre-et-Meuse just two months earlier, in June 1794, while Kléber had been assigned to the same fighting force in April 1794.

The Armée du Sambre-et-Meuse was massed near France's eastern frontiers during the War of the First Coalition (1792-1797). In this conflict, the newly minted French Republic repulsed numerous invasion attempts by neighboring European powers, all of whom rejected its political ideology, and coveted its territories. Prussia, Austria, and Great Britain attacked--and fomented rebellion within--the French Republic. The French armies not only successfully combatted these advances, but even pushed past its traditional national boundaries.

Translated in full below. Any lack of or unusual usage of punctuation or capitalization has been silently corrected to improve reading comprehension.


Or Death

Diest, 22. Thermidor. Year 4th of the Fr[ench] Republic, one and indivisible

at 1:30 pm in the afternoon

I review at this instant, General, the letter that you have sent me by the deputy Langlaise. I leave tomorrow at first light of day to Begin the reconnaissance that you ordered me to undertake [using] all care and possible Celerity. I arrive here with only Twenty Five Cavalrymen; I left the rest, very tired, in two squadrons at Herck [possibly Herk-de-Stad, approximately 11 km southeast of Diest]. I summoned the Commander of these two Squadrons to return here tomorrow at daybreak in order to finish your new arrangements. I write the Commander of the Squadron of the 22nd Cavalry Regiment, which is at Cortenaecken [Kortenaken, approximately 12 km south of Diest], to leave tomorrow and report to his first destination of St. Margarita Lauthern.

I send you a certificate of the Magistrates of Diest which shows the inaccuracy of the Report that you made regarding the movements of the Enemy.

Following the information, I was able to take the position occupied by the right wing of the Armée du Nord; in result, it extends from the villages of Veerle [Veerle, about 11 km northwest of Diest] in back of the Lack River [Grote Laak, a tributary of the Grote Nete] - Vesterloo [Westerlo, approximately 18 km northwest of Diest], Tongerloo [Tongerlo, approximately 20 km northwest of Diest], Dolez-oevel [possibly near Oevel, about 25 km northwest of Diest] and Herenthals [Herentals, about 30 km northwest of Diest].

Greetings and fraternity,

[signed] Ney

To Division Gen. Kleber, Comdr left wing of the Armée de Sambre et Meuse."

Michel Ney would serve as one of Napoleon Bonaparte's most faithful and devoted generals, at least until 1814. One of the 18 original Marshals of the Empire, Ney was heralded by Napoleon as "the Bravest of the Brave" during the ill-fated invasion of Russia. Yet, by April 1814, Ney was clamoring for the abdication of his Emperor; after Napoleon's disgrace and exile, Ney changed sides and served Louis XVIII. And when Napoleon escaped from Elba, Ney vowed to return Napoleon to Paris in an iron cage. During the Hundred Days, however, Ney went back into Napoleon's fold. He was executed for treason in December 1815. Kléber's fate was little better; he was assassinated in Cairo in 1800.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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