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

000 men held the hills between Toulon and Ollioules


Buonaparte was alive to the miseries of the situation. He was weary of civil strifes, in which it seemed that no glory could be won. He must hew his way to fortune, if only in order to support his family, which was now drifting about from village to village of Provence and subsisting on the slender sums doled out by the Republic to Corsican exiles.

He therefore applied, though without success, for a regimental exchange to the army of the Rhine. But while toiling through his administrative drudgery in Provence, his duties brought him near to Toulon, where the Republic was face to face with triumphant royalism. The hour had struck: the man now appeared.

In July, 1793, Toulon joined other towns of the south in declaring against Jacobin tyranny; and the royalists of the town, despairing of making headway against the troops of the Convention, admitted English and Spanish squadrons to the harbour to hold the town for Louis XVII, (August 28th). This event shot an electric thrill through France. It was the climax of a long series of disasters. Lyons had hoisted the white flag of the Bourbons, and was making a desperate defence against the forces of the Convention: the royalist peasants of La Vendee had several times scattered the National Guards in utter rout: the Spaniards were crossing the Eastern Pyrenees: the Piedmontese were before the gates of Grenoble; and in the north and on the Rhine a doubtful contest was


Such was the condition of France when Buonaparte drew near to the republican forces encamped near Ollioules, to the north-west of Toulon. He found them in disorder: their commander, Carteaux, had left the easel to learn the art of war, and was ignorant of the range of his few cannon; Dommartin, their artillery commander, had been disabled by a wound; and the Commissioners of the Convention, who were charged to put new vigour into the operations, were at their wits' end for lack of men and munitions. One of them was Salicetti, who hailed his coming as a godsend, and urged him to take Dommartin's place. Thus, on September 16th, the thin, sallow, threadbare figure took command of the artillery.

The republicans menaced the town on two sides. Carteaux with some 8,000 men held the hills between Toulon and Ollioules, while a corps 3,000 strong, under Lapoype, observed the fortress on the side of La Valette. Badly led though they were, they wrested the valley north of Mount Faron from the allied outposts, and nearly completed the besiegers' lines (September 18th). In fact, the garrison, which comprised only 2,000 British troops, 4,000 Spaniards, 1,500 French royalists, together with some Neapolitans and Piedmontese, was insufficient to defend the many positions around the city on which its safety depended. Indeed, General Grey wrote to Pitt that 50,000 men were needed to garrison the place; but, as that was double the strength of the British regular army then, the English Minister could only hold out hopes of the arrival of an Austrian corps and a few hundred British.[21]

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