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Napoleon & War Minister Duc de Feltre Signed Directive Re: Seizure of the Enemy's Military Archives from the War of the Fifth Coalition

A 1p document in French signed by French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) as "Np" in the left margin, and also signed by French War Minister Henri Jacques Guillaume Clarke (1765-1818) as "Duc du Feltre" at lower right. The partly printed and partly handwritten letter from the Duc of Feltre is dated February 23, 1810. Napoleon's signature, as well as the margin instructions "Return all that is relative to Austria," were recorded in Paris, France on February 24, 1810. Numbered and docketed. Expected paper folds and isolated chipped edges, else very good to near fine. Minor mounting traces visible verso. 8.125" x 11.5."

French War Minister the Duke of Feltre asked Napoleon for instructions regarding the seizure of military archives from Upper Austria. The French, who had just won the War of the Fifth Coalition, had requested that the military archives of their erstwhile opponents, the Austrians, be ceded to them for examination. The Austrians demurred. Austrian command, led by Franz Freiherr Mauroy de Merville (1759-1816), assured Napoleon's subordinates that Austrian military records could have no bearing on French military strategy. Napoleon disagreed. His terse command prevented any further protestation.

French forces and their German allies had clashed with Austrian, British, Spanish, and Portuguese allied forces during the War of the Fifth Coalition (April-October 1809), waging battles across central Europe that spring and summer. The French secured an important victory at the Battle of Wagram in July 1809. The Treaty of Vienna, signed at Schönbrunn Palace on October 14, 1809, ended the War of the Fifth Coalition. The Austrians were punished when valuable territory from the Hapsburg Empire was farmed out to the French, Polish, and Bavarian victors.

The indirect channels through which the Austrians conveyed their message suggests a level of almost unbearable bureaucracy. There were five people involved in this communication: the Austrian Baron de Merville wrote to French administrator/commissary Claude Gauderique Joseph Chambon (1757-1833), who passed it along to French Intendant General of the Armée d'Allemagne [France's Army in Germany, literally "German Army"] Jacques-Pierre Orillard de Villemanzy (1751-1830). Villemanzy talked with French War Minister the Duc of Feltre, who then told the Emperor!

Translated in part:

"I have the honor of informing the Emperor, according to the opinion given to me by Mr. Villemanzy, Intendant General of the Army of Germany, that the Genl Baron de Merville, Commander of Austrian Troops in Upper Austria, asked, by a note addressed to the Administrative Commissioner Chambon, that he would return to His Government the archives of the military command in Upper Austria, which was removed to Lintz [Linz in modern day Austria], in the last Campaign, and transported by Passau, to Strasbourg.

M. the Baron de Merville, in his note, a copy of which is attached, [not included in this lot] observes, that these Archives do not concern the particular Administration of the Regiments of Upper Austria, and can be of absolutely no usefulness to France.

I request, on this matter, the Emperor's orders.

Minister of War

Duc de Feltre."

Henri Jacques Guillaume Clarke served as Napoleon's 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.

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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