Napoleon as Orator and Health at Waterloo …

Posted on January 3, 2009. Filed under: Personalities, The French Contribution |

Some one has written thus re the little Corsican. “One canot forget that Napoleon abandoned one army in Egypt, left the remnants of another in the snows of Russia and then strutted inot the dabacle of Waterloo”.  Well, here is what Houston Peterson, the noted authority on eloquence, says about this great leader of men.

“As a military orator, as a general addressing his troops, Napoleon was unsurpassed’. He invented a style of eloquence reminiscent of Caesar – brief, bold, declarative, familiar yet imperial in its bold sweep and cadence. It made an instant appeal to valor and the soldiers of the Republic died for him unquestioningly’. He spoke in a clipped, terse, passionate style, with an effect which  startled the world.

‘As a parliamentary speaker, confronted by a hostile or doubtful audience, he was a failure. His forte was not debate or eloquent persuasion but crisp proclamation, announcing his victories or his sovereign decisions. His genus rapidly put him in  a position where only the latter were needed”.

And now his Health at W;aterloo  –  Oroland  Barries

On February 26, 1815 Napoleon left Elba with one thousand of his devoted soldiers in seven small boats. They landed in Cannes three days later and began a march to Paris. However, Napoleon fell ill at Grasse, just after leaving Cannes. He had begun the march on horseback so he could be seen by everyone along the way, but his pain was so great he had to continue in a carriage. The bad roads and potholes made things worse. He rested for a while and then continued on horseback. Reports indicate that his “dysuria” had returned, undoubtedly a recurrence of the attack suffered at Borodino earlier. It has also been alleged that the attack was due to prolapsed hemorrhoids. The attack lasted two days, and then the march to Paris was resumed. Napoleon arrived in Paris on March 20th.

Napoleon was tired. After a few hours of work he needed rest, unlike his former vigor. He often sat silently and appeared sad. Between March and May his health grew much worse. He also had repeated attacks of dysuria. He recalled Dr Corvisart to his side, but the latter’s own health was failing too.

His condition was deteriorating rapidly as the showdown at Waterloo approached:

The night after the battle of Ligny on June 16-17, 1815, Napoleon fell seriously ill. He was at the castle of Fleurus near Charleroi. Napoleon was completely exhausted and was unable to rise from his bed for many hours. In the morning he was too weak to even issue important orders to Marshal Grouchy until well after 8am. Napoleon had become obese and was also suffering from another illness, much more immediately serious – prolapsed bleeding hemorrhoids. He had had hemorrhoids for many years, probably due to his chronic constipation and constant riding for long hours in the saddle.

On the night after Ligny however, Napoleon was suffering from seriously strangulated piles – prolapsed hemorrhoids pushed outside of his anal sphincter. He had spent most of the day during the battle of Ligny on horseback, which was certainly a credit to his endurance, but it must have been horrendous for him, certainly distracting. This “secret” was kept confidential until Adolph Thiers interviewed both Jerome and Marchand when authoring his Histoire du Consulat et de l’Empire. During the interview, Jerome was very unspecific, stating that Napoleon had a “little weakness of the blood vessels”. However, Jerome really spilled the beans just before his death in 1860 telling the whole truth about the incident.

A combination of stress, pain and his failing health probably was behind his defeat. His prodigious memory and ability to micromanage his forces weren’t there for him. For example, he left behind his best general, Louis-Nicolas Davout, back in Paris. He brought Michel Ney instead, whose cavalry failed to properly attack the British and take out their artillery.

A younger Napoleon, healthier and with a mind clear of pain wouldn’t have made  mistakes

Advertisements

Make a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...

%d bloggers like this: