Monday, August 10, 2009

Frejus... Part 1... Napoleon..

I think "Vive l'Empreur" got it - or at least I think he/she did as the comments left always look like spam with my poor appreciation of French/Spanish!! Yes, the 'Steve the Wargamer road train' is pulling into Frejus this summer - and by way of a post let's touch on the Napoleon effect first... as usual, click on any of the following graphics for a bigger view.

Frejus was the port that Napoleon returned to after his abortive campaign in Egypt..
Napoleon's Arrival at Frejus on the return from the Egyptian campaign, 9th October 1799 (coloured engraving held in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France)

My research has turned up that Napoleon left Alexandria on the 22nd or 23rd August 1799, leaving Kleber in charge of the French "Army of the East" - the story is that Napoleon told him he had been ordered back by the French government but this was not the case. It was more to do I think with news reaching him from his brother of the poor state of affairs in France.

Anyway - he sailed in two French Venetian built frigates named the "Muiron" (that's a scale model of her to the right) and the "Carrere", accompanied by his staff (Murat, Berthier, Marmont, Andreossy, Duroc, Bessieres and Lavalette). Napoleon being on "Muiron", and most of the others on "Carrere".

Despite a few close calls (the British navy controlled the whole of the Mediterranean) he arrived safely in Frejus on October 8th or 9th (depending on the narrative) and was rowed ashore at St. Raphael...

The Muiron has an interesting history/provenance by the way (and yes, the following is not strictly related to research on Frejus but you know how easily distracted I am!)

Apparently the ship was named after Jean-Baptiste Muiron (1774-1796) who was one of the "big men" of the Napoleonic period. He was Bonaparte's ADC in Italy, and was killed in a hail of Austrian bullets at Arcole bridge on the 15th of November, using his body to protect his general*. Napoleon ordered the frigate to be named in homage...

"Muiron" was part of the fleet which sailed to Egypt in 1798, but managed to escape the catastrophe at the Battle of the Nile (Aboukir Bay).

After he had returned to Europe in her Bonaparte continued to give her special attention; in 1807, the emperor wrote to Decrès: «I wish this frigate, upon which I returned from Egypt, to be kept as a monument and preserved, if possible, for several hundred years. I would feel a superstitious pain were a misfortune to happen to this frigate».

In 1803 the First Consul commissioned a 1/72 scale model of the boat ("Trafalgar" rules do you think??! ) and while the actual ship was to be the object of daily ceremonial commemoration in Toulon, the model was to take pride of place in Napoleon's library at Malmaison.

(* At Saint Helena, Napoleon still remembered the companion who had sacrificed himself to save his life and made the last codicil in his will the bequest of «one hundred thousand francs to the widow, son, or grandson of my ADC Muiron, with me at Arcole and killed whilst covering me with his body»).

Good stuff! I look forward to visiting St. Raphael which is infeasibly close to where we'll be staying..

Stay tuned for:

1/. The next Frejus post which covers "Operation Dragoon"..
2/. A report on the finish of the Battle of Camsix....
3/. A small Sudan engagement - the rescue of "Captain Lucien Verbeek [click here]"


On the sailing front another beautiful day yesterday afternoon with a solo trip into the harbour, in the face of a wind that wherever I sailed seemed to be right on the nose!

Winds were fairly light however, the sun was warm, the sandwich was good (egg and sausage!), there were some pleasant tunes on the radio..... and all was definitely right with the world....!

Distance: 4 miles (82 miles year to date)
Wind: Light (Force 2 gusting 3)


  1. I'm looking forward to the account of the rescue of the Belgian captain.

    -- Jeff