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Napoleon Approves Sons Request For his 4x Battle Wounded Legion of Honor-Awarded Father. A Lovely Letter!

A 1p manuscript letter in French addressed to French military commander Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), boldly signed by Napoleon in the left margin as "Napole." The letter was written by a young officer stationed at Camp Pru-Austerlitz, and dated September 16, 1809. There are numerous handwritten notations in the left margin, including an unidentified possible general's signature. Stamped, numbered, and docketed. Expected light paper folds and a few darkened or gently chipped edges. Minor mounting traces verso, and an unobtrusive discolored patch in the left hand corner recto. Else near fine. 9.5" x 15.375."

The letter concerns a father and son who served with the 108th Regiment of Infantry of the French Army. The son, 22-year-old Lieutenant Masson, wrote on behalf of his father, 51-year-old Captain Masson. The elder Masson was a 20-year veteran who had been injured four times during various military engagements, twice presumably at the Battle of Austerlitz. The younger Masson himself already had a lengthy military record, suggesting he had enlisted as an adolescent. While Captain Masson's injuries prevented him from fulfilling active military duty, his son believed that he could serve in reserve or even perform a desk job.

Napoleon evidently agreed; above his signature in the left margin, he dictated in October 1809 from Schönbrunn Palace, "Approved / Send this to the War Minister." An update on October 24, 1809 located further down the left margin indicates that veteran soldiers would be offered employment in a reserve company pending Napoleon's further instructions.

The majority of Lieutenant Masson's letter to the Emperor has been translated and transcribed below so that one can get a sense of his humble tone and flattering language.

Translated in part below:

"108th = Regiment

Lieutenant Masson of the 108th Regiment Requests a Departmental Company for His Father, A Former Soldier, Retired to his Home

To HIS MAJESTY THE EMPEROR & KING, Protector of the Rhine Confederation.


My Father, Aged Fifty & one years, Decorated with the Cross of the Legion of Honor, Having Twenty years of Consecutive Service in the 108th Regiment, Twelve in the Grade of Captain, who participated in all of the Campaigns, Received four wounds, Two of Which were [received] on the same field where his son today Enjoys the most pleasant favor a Soldier of the Grande Armée [can enjoy], that of Contemplating His God-beloved Sovereign!...

My Father, I was saying, Received from Your Imperial & Royal Majesty, His Retirement at Ratisbonne, his strength no longer corresponding to his Zeal, and his Wounds and infirmities rendering him incapable of Continuing his Service, His Pension was fixed at Eight hundred francs.

Father of a numerous family, he dares to hope in the fraternal benevolence of Your Imperial & Royal Majesty, that it will deign to grant him a Departmental Company, or an ordinary employment in the interior, or [?] a pension, which would enable him to gift to his other sons the necessary education for them to pursue with honor, the Career which he Himself merits: the Esteem of his Chiefs & the friendship of his Comrades.

Aged Twenty-Two years, being in Service since Year 7 [1798], having engaged in Campaigns on all Sides of the ocean, including those of Austria in 1805, & 1806, of Prussia [and] of Poland, and those today against Austria again, disposed to Serve Your Imperial & Royal Majesty all the Rest of my Life, I would count myself very happy if my poor services & those that I would hope to render again to my country are near her and of some consideration, in order to obtain for my Father the object of his Solicitude.

I have the honor of being,


The very humble & very obedient devoted subject
of Your Imperial & Royal Majesty

[signed] Masson."

This supplication crossed Napoleon's desk around the same time that two important personal and political events also occurred: an aborted assassination attempt on Napoleon's life by a young German man named Frederick Staps at Schönbrunn Palace on October 12, 1809; and Napoleon's signing of the Treaty of Vienna, which ceded considerable territory to French forces, on October 14, 1809.

Napoleon directed this letter to Henri Jacques Guillaume Clarke (1765-1818), his War Minister between 1807-1814. Napoleon was in part able to accomplish all he did by relying on General Clarke, who handled military matters ranging from inspection and provisioning to conscription and internal discipline. General Clark was recognized for his great service when he was granted the honorary title of Duc of Feltre in August 1809.

The historical record does not reveal any information about Captain Masson, but he very well could have been one of the nearly 7,000 French soldiers wounded at the Battle of Austerlitz on December 2, 1805. Napoleon defeated Russian and Austrian forces in what was considered a huge French victory and a turning point in the Napoleonic Wars. Lieutenant Masson mentions that his father retired at "Ratisbonne," the French name for the Bavarian city of Regensburg and also the site of a major battle on April 23, 1809 against the Austrians. One wonders whether Captain Masson retired shortly after this engagement.

The 108th Regiment of Infantry was reorganized in 1792 and served throughout the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars in significant engagements throughout western and eastern Europe, including modern day Germany, Austria, Poland, Russia, the Czech Republic, and Belgium.

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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