Highlander of the 42nd regiment, 1808, by J. Smith
In 1807 Napoleon created a powerful outpost of his empire in Eastern Europe.
Poland had recently been partitioned by its three large neighbors, but Napoleon created the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, which depended on France from the very beginning. The Duchy consisted of lands seized in Russia, Austria, and Prussia; its Grand Duke was Napoleon’s ally the king of Saxony, but Napoleon appointed the intendants who ran the country.
The population of 4,3 million was released from occupation and by 1814 sent about 200,000 men to Napoleon’s armies. That included about 90,000 who marched with him to Moscow; few marched back. The Russians strongly opposed any move toward an independent Poland and one reason Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812 was to punish them.
The Grand Duchy was dissolved in 1815 and Poland would not be a state until 1918. However Napoleon’s impact on Poland was dramatic, including the Napoleonic legal code, the abolition of serfdom, and the introduction of modern middle class bureaucracies.
Major-General Sir Thomas Picton (1758 – 1815)
Born in 1758 in Pembrokeshire, Wales, he joined the 12th Suffolk Regiment of Foot in 1773 as an ensign. His initial army career ended in disillusionment when the 12th were disbanded in 1783.
He rejoined the Army some eleven years later, acting as an aide-de-camp in an expedition to the West Indies, which led to a colourful period of his life involving military expeditions, island governorship, slave trading and several court cases as a defendant. He was eventually acquitted, his reputation upheld, and he was promoted to Major-General in 1809 when he took part in the ill-fated Walcheren expedition. In 1810 he became a divisional commander in Spain, personally asked for by Wellington.
Picton became one of the ablest infantry commanders in Wellington‘s Army, capable of carrying out any task as long as it was clearly outlined to him. He was fiery-tempered and sometimes ill-mannered and uncouth. He was famed for favouring civilian clothes in war and fought the Battle of Bussaco in a night cap. Respected if not loved by his men of the 3rd Division, ‘the Fighting Third’, Picton was a valiant and decisive leader whose determination in the face of the enemy produced results time and time again.
His campaigning during the Peninsular War took a heavy toll on his health and mental state; causing him to leave the service in 1814, his nerves shot. He later reluctantly returned to Wellington‘s side for the Hundred Days’ campaign, despite premonitions of his own demise. Sadly these premonitions came true when he was shot in the temple whilst leading the 5th Division at Waterloo, after being wounded at Quatre Bras.
Why he was treated so lightly? After all, he had subjugated most parts of Continental Europe, threatened Britain with invasion, and burned Moscow. No effort was made either by the French or by the international community, to bring him to … Continue reading →
1821 British Cavalrymen.
Left to right: 10th Hussars, Royal Horse guards, Life Guards
By William Heath.