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The Life of Napoleon I (Volume 1 of 2) by Rose

My hopes are frustrated Daru


These,

then, were probably the last instructions he received from Napoleon before setting sail from the roads of Corunna on August 13th. The censures passed on his retreat to Cadiz are therefore based on the supposition that he received instructions which he did not receive.[335] He expressly based his move to Cadiz on Napoleon's orders of July 16th. The mishaps which the Emperor then contemplated as necessitating such a step had, in Villeneuve's eyes, actually happened. The admiral considered the fight of July 22nd _la malheureuse affaire;_ his ships were encumbered with sick; they worked badly; on August 15th a north-east gale carried away the top-mast of a Spanish ship; and having heard from a Danish merchantman the news--false news, as it afterwards appeared--that Cornwallis with twenty-five ships was to the north, he turned and scudded before the wind. He could not divine the disastrous influence of his conduct on the plan of invasion. He did not know that his master was even then beginning to hesitate between a dash on London or a campaign on the Danube, and that the events of the next few days were destined to tilt the fortunes of the world. Doubtless he ought to have disregarded the Emperor's words about Cadiz and to have struggled on to Brest, as his earlier and wider orders enjoined. But the Emperor's instructions pointed to Cadiz as the rendezvous in case of misfortune or great difficulty. As a matter of fact, Napoleon on July 26th ordered the Rochefort squadron to _meet Villeneuve
at Cadiz;_ and it is clear that by that date Napoleon had decided on that rendezvous, apparently because it could be more easily entered and cleared than Ferrol, and was safer from attack. But, as it happened, the Rochefort squadron had already set sail and failed to sight an enemy or friend for several weeks.

Such are the risks of naval warfare, in which even the greatest geniuses at times groped but blindly. Nelson was not afraid to confess the truth. The French Emperor, however, seems never to have made an admission which would mar his claim to strategic infallibility. Even now, when the Spanish ships were proved to clog the enterprise, he persisted in merely counting numbers, and in asserting that Villeneuve might still neutralize the force of Calder and Cornwallis. These hopes he cherished up to August 23rd, when, as the next chapter will show, he faced right about to confront Austria. His Minister of Marine, who had more truly gauged the difficulties of all parts of the naval enterprise, continued earnestly to warn him of the terrible risk of burdening Villeneuve's ships with the unseaworthy craft of Spain and of trusting to this ill-assorted armada to cover the invasion now that their foes had divined its secret. The Emperor bitterly upbraided his Minister for his timidity, and in the presence of Daru, Intendant General of the army, indulged in a dramatic soliloquy against Villeneuve for his violation of orders: "What a navy! What an admiral! What sacrifices for nothing! My hopes are frustrated--- Daru, sit down and write"--whereupon it is said that he traced out the plans of the campaign which was to culminate at Ulm and Austerlitz.[336]


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