“He gave them each a glass of wine”

A random tidbit I figured I’d toss up here as I continue working my way through translating Murat’s letters in Louise’s memoirs. I first came across this little anecdote–an observation of Murat by Sergeant Adrien Bourgogne in the aftermath of the Battle of Borodino–paraphrased in a couple biographies of Murat, but this morning I found the primary source of it for myself. It’s always stuck with me as such a poignant glimpse of Murat’s character, and must have likewise left a strong impression on the sergeant who recounted it in his memoirs.

Source: Adrien Bourgogne, Memoirs of Sergeant Bourgogne, 1812-1813 (English translation, compiled from the original manuscript, by Paul Cottin)


The battle ended with the day, and we remained on the field all night, and all the next day (the 8th). I spent that day in walking over the field–a sad and terrible spectacle. Grangier was with me, and we went as far as the ravine, the position so hotly disputed during the battle. Murat had ordered his tents to be pitched there. Just as we arrived we saw him superintend the amputation by his own surgeon of the legs of two gunners of the Imperial Russian Guard. When the operation was over, he gave them each a glass of wine. Afterwards, he walked on the edge of the ravine, examining the plain which lies on the other side, fringed by a wood. There, on the preceding day, he had made more than one Muscovite bite the dust while he and his cavalry charged the retreating enemy. He was splendid to look at–so distinguished by his gallantry, his cool courage, and his handsome appearance–giving his orders to those under his command, and raining blows on his enemies. He was easily picked out by his cap, his white aigrette, and his floating cloak.

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