For the bicentenary of the Napoleonic disaster in Russia, France Empire editions are repeating the story of the Count of Ségur : « The Russian Campaign: 1812 ", Prefaced (" as usual "we could almost say ...) by Jean Tulard, tenor of the History of the First Empire. In a passionate and fluid style, the Comte de Ségur completed in 1824 this narrative of the tragedy so he was a witness.
Idle and fascinated at the same time, he feels the need to write this memorial, dedicated " to those of you who have been disarmed by the ice of the North, and who can no longer serve the country except through the memories of your misfortunes and your glory! Arrested in your noble career, you still exist more in the past than in the present; but when the memories are so great, it is permissible to live only on memories. So I will not be afraid, in reminding you of your most fatal deeds of arms, to disturb a rest so dearly bought. Who among us does not know that, from the bosom of his obscurity, the gazes of fallen man involuntarily turn to the brightness of his past existence, even when this gleam shines on the reef where his fortune was broken, and when it shines the debris of the largest of the shipwrecks? "... Reading this nostalgic tirade, how can we fail to understand that the aftermath of Empire was fertile ground for romantic feathers? Greatness and misery were intertwined in a near past much more passionate than its ancient models.
Philippe-Paul de Ségur (1780 - 1873)
Philippe-Paul de Ségur is the grandson of Maréchal de Ségur, and the son of Louis-Philippe, Count of Ségur (1753 - 1830) who participated in the American War of Independence, was Louis XVI's ambassador to Russia, then with the Pope and in Berlin at the beginning of the Revolution, senator under the Consulate and the Empire, great eagle, great officer of the Emperor's palace, count of the Empire… This did not prevent him from voting for the downfall of Napoleon in 1814 then to join him in 1815 ... Member of the French Academy, Ségur father is also a man of Letters who in his youth rubbed shoulders with salons, met Voltaire, and never ceased to write historical works, tales , fables, songs, comedies ...
It was perhaps this habit that prompted his son Philippe-Paul to follow a parallel career where he sought to distinguish himself with pen and sword. Enlisted in 1800 as a hussar in the Army of the Rhine Philippe-Paul de Ségur was aide-de-camp to General Macdonald. Under the Empire he joined the staff of the Grande Armée in 1805 and participated in the Battle of Ulm. He then served as a squadron leader in Naples in Joseph's army. In 1806 he was recalled to serve in Germany and was wounded twice with a lance at the Battle of Nasielsk (December 24, 1806). Taken prisoner, he finds his freedom only in the peace of Tilsit. Deputy of Duroc he obtained (like his father the previous year) the title of Count of the Empire in 1809. The year 1812 marked for him the obtaining of the rank of brigadier general, but also the participation in the disastrous campaign of Russia. Surviving, he continued the fight during the campaign of 1813, in particular in Leipzig, then during the campaign of France during which he was again wounded in Reims. The Restoration put an end to his career and he did not hesitate to join Napoleon during the Hundred Days in 1815. After the disaster of Waterloo he only had his memories and his pen to serve France in his own way. perpetuating the memory of the exceptional events in which he participated. However, the memory is still warm and raises some disputes from some of his comrades in arms. This is particularly the case with Gourgaud who goes so far as to duel. Nonetheless, his memoirs and this history of the Russian campaign have continued to be reissued from 1824 to the present day, still infusing two hundred years after that epic breath of the imperial epic ...
« East, south, west sparkled with enemy fire; one breathed only from one side which was still free, that of the north and of the Dnieper, towards an eminence, at the foot of which were the main road and the Emperor. It was believed then that she was covering herself with cannons. They were there on the head of Napoleon; they would have run over him at point blank range. We warn him; he glanced at it for a moment, and said these one words: "Well, let a battalion of my hunters take it! Then immediately, without caring more, his gaze and attention turned to Mortier's peril. »
The eagle's gaze, indicating the objectives, despising death and danger, serene in the worst moments ... From page to page, from chapter to chapter, the image of the Emperor emerges in this work, this stone laid on the building of imperial legend called to shine through centuries and regimes.
What a great initiative, then, is this re-edition of the French Empire Edition, proof that the history of the First Empire is certainly one of the most successful. With a vast market of enthusiasts, the Editors do not hesitate to publish works on this period, offering victory to Napoleon in his last battle… That of memory!
Comte de Ségur, "The Russian campaign 1812", Editions France-Empire Monde, 2012 (reissue), 305p.