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Bonaparte letter goes for 150,000 euros

A 200-year-old letter by Napoleon Bonaparte in which he promises to blow up the Kremlin has been sold for 150,000 euros. The 1812 letter was bought by the Museum of Letters and Manuscripts in Paris. The letter is written in code and was sold with a deciphered transcript. The original estimate for the item was about 15,000 euro. In the letter Bonaparte said to his Foreign Minister Hugues-Bernard Maret: "On the 22nd at 3am I will be blowing up the Kremlin." It also shows Napoleon's frustration at the campaign, with his army ravaged by disease, cold and hunger: "My cavalry is in tatters, a lot of horses are dying. Make sure we buy more as soon as possible." Napoleon kept the promise to blow up the Moscow Kremlin, destroying the Kremlin's walls and towers before retreating with his army on its fatal march home.

No Jewish officers

While more than 35,000 Jews served in the Austrian army during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, none were allowed to officially become officers until 1815.

Austrian moustaches

In keeping with the great European tradition of hussars wearing moustaches, Austria's generals who came from the light-cavalry regiments kept them throughout their careers. The most notable being Dagobert Wurmser and Peter Vecsey.

Never Give Up

It's doubtful that courage has ever been more impressively shown than that by Frenchman Aristide-Aubert Dupetit Thouars, captain of the Tonnant, during the Battle of the Nile. Thouars had his right arm shot away, then the left and finally one of his legs was taken off by a cannonball. Refusing to give up command, he insisted on being put in a tub of bran that was on deck and led his men until he collapsed from blood loss. One of his final orders was to nail the Tricolour to the mast so it could not be taken down in surrender.

Ups and downs

The slow velocity of musketballs meant the projectiles climbed quickly in flight. Of course they dropped quickly as well and so French infantrymen were told to aim for the head at 140-200 metres, the waist at 100 metres and at the knees at 50.

Gunpowder Plot

French gunpowder was coarse and that meant the barrel needed to be thoroughly cleaned after 40 to 50 shots. Failure to do so resulted in loading times being drastically increased and there was a danger of the weapon exploding. This is because the build up of powder residue made it difficult to ram home the next round. It was also the build up of powder that could cause a ball to jam in the barrel after the weapon was fired with the resultant pressure build up causing the weapon to explode.

Skin Flints

To save wear and tear on both firing mechanisms and precious flints, French recruits practised musket drills with pierre de bois - or false flints made of wood, or a piece of cow's hoof. During the Napoleonic Wars flints became difficult to get and so soldiers were ordered to take them from the dead and wounded on a battlefield.

Napoleon's Height

Although known as the Little Corporal, Napoleon Bonaparte was in fact of average height for the era. In French measure he stood 5 foot two inches (or 5 foot six inches in the British equivalent). This is about 168 centimetres.

French Muskets

The regular musket of French Napoleonic infantry was the Charleville, named after the gunworks at which it was produced. It weighed 4.5 kilos (10 pounds) and was about five feet (1.5 metres) long.

Napoleon's Hand

Many people want to know what was the reason Napoleon Bonaparte kept his hand in his vest and the answer is easy. It was fashionable at the time for gentlemen to stand in that way.

Road Hogs

A column of cavalry troopers certainly filled the roadways of Napoleonic Europe as these figures indicate. Each cavalryman would take up a width of 0.75 metres (2.5 feet) and, if riding four abreast, the columns would completely take up the narrow roads. The width of the columns, however, pales when matched with the fact a column of 1000 men and horses would tail back 750 metres (2500 feet).

Easy Really

France's 17th Century expert in fortifications and sieges, Marshal Vauban (1633-1707), believed there was no fortress in the world that could hold out longer than a month. The proviso was that the attacking force needed to have 60,000 troops (with 2500 tonnes of supplies) and 132 heavy cannons with 16,000 rounds of shot (consuming a paltry 132 tonnes of ball and powder). Add to that 20,000 supply animals and 80,000 tonnes of fodder and it's all rather easy really.

Poor Prussians

Pay was so appalling in the Prussian army of the Napoleonic Wars that Helmuth von Moltke, a young officer who would become the architect of German military success in the Franco-Prussian (1870) and Austro-Prussian (1866) wars, had to translate The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire to make enough extra money to make ends meet.

Most Wounded

France's Marshal Nicolas Oudinot was celebrated as the senior officer most wounded during the long campaigns. Oudinot was injured by the enemy on no fewer than 24 occasions and averaged 1.14 wounds per year of his Napoleonic service. In 1795 and 1796 he was shot twice and suffered nine sword cuts.

... and the Runners-up

General Jean Rapp rivalled Oudinot for wounds - two dozen counted - while Marshal Emmanuel Grouchy suffered 18 wounds. Mind you, several - one report up of 14 - of those came during the fight before Grouchy was captured following Novi.

Fiery Flags

As Allied forces closed in on Paris in late March 1814, Marshal Jean Serurier, governor of Les Invalides, oversaw the mass burning of battle flags taken from enemy units over hundreds of years. Some 1500 of the battle trophies were burned.

Captured Eagles

The first French eagles captured by British forces during the Napoleonic Wars were those of the 26th and 82nd line regiments taken on Martinque in 1809.

Lucky City

When Napoleon Bonaparte marched into Venice in 1797 he was at the head of the first army to have entered the Italian city since it was founded some 1350 years before.

Last Battleship

The last wooden battleship to slip beneath the waves was HMS Implacable in 1947. The Implacable was captured by the Royal Navy from France in 1805 when it was known as Duguay-Trouin.

No Turkey

Despite finding himself at a disadvantage against the modern armies of France, the Ottoman Empire's ruler Sultan Selim was a dab hand with older weapons. In 1798, the sultan let fly with the longest two shots ever from a bow when he sent arrows flying 899 metres (974 yards).

Bad Egg

A tale is told of how the Duke of Wellington was so disinterested in his meals that he once ate a rotten egg - without noticing he had done so!

Victory Cost

As the banker of France's enemies during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the British paid a pretty penny for defeating Napoleon Bonaparte. It is estimated the bill for the eventual victory was close to £700million, or 90 years of peacetime military spending.

Last Survivor

The last veteran of the War of 1812 to die was Hiram Cronk, who was 105 when he passed on in 1905.

Man Overboard

Until the mid-17th Century, warships still required their men to load the cannons from outside the vessel. Britain first adopted the practice of actually having the guns reloaded after being run-in and dramatically boosted its naval firepower.

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