I hope that some readers may possibly be interested in these little tales of the Napoleonic soldiers to the extent of following them up to the springs from which they flow. The age was rich in military material, some of it the most human and the most picturesque that I have ever read. Setting aside historical works or the biographies of the leaders there is a mass of evidence written by the actual fighting men themselves, which describes their feelings and their experiences, stated always from the point of view of the particular branch of the service to which they belonged. The Cavalry were particularly happy in their writers of memoirs. Thus De Rocca in his “Memoires sur la guerre des Francais en Espagne” has given the narrative of a Hussar, while De Naylies in his “Memoires sur la guerre d’Espagne” gives the same campaigns from the point of view of the Dragoon. Then we have the “Souvenirs Militaires du Colonel de Gonneville,” which treats a series of wars, including that of Spain, as seen from under the steel-brimmed hair-crested helmet of a Cuirassier. Pre-eminent among all these works, and among all military memoirs, are the famous reminiscences of Marbot, which can be obtained in an English form. Marbot was a Chasseur, so again we obtain the Cavalry point of view. Among other books which help one to an understanding of the Napoleonic soldier I would specially recommend “Les Cahiers du Capitaine Coignet,” which treat the wars from the point of view of the private of the Guards, and “Les Memoires du Sergeant Bourgoyne,” who was a non-commissioned officer in the same corps. The Journal of Sergeant Fricasse and the Recollections of de Fezenac and of de Segur complete the materials from which I have worked in my endeavour to give a true historical and military atmosphere to an imaginary figure.
ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:50