BEAUHARNAIS Alexandre de - Autograph Letter Signed 1792 from Strasbourg with the Army of the Rhine
Alexandre de BEAUHARNAIS (1760-1794)Autograph Letter Signed (“Alexandre Beauharnais”) as Commander of the Army of the Rhine to Citizen Xaintrailles, Adjutant-General of the camp at Hesingen, complaining of the lack of horses and cannon and hoping that supplies will soon be made available.
1 page folio in French, Headquarters, Strasbourg, 16 November 1792.
Trans: “I have seen with the greatest pleasure the 3 officers you sent me and I have spoken with General Biron [who was to be guilliotined for suspected treason in December 1793] about their requests. He told me that he had written to G[ener]al Ferriare that he saw no inconvenience in these 3 who were destined to join the service of chasseurs were to wear the decoration. As to the request of the chasseurs of the 21st Infantry Regiment he replied that hostilities which are planned . . . would bring about the desired junction between the Baron de Campagnon[?] . . . regardless of what happens . . . I will not fail to remind General Biron of this the next time I write to him.
I have sent a copy of the end of your letter dated 11 November to Gal. Duteil, commander of artillery supplies and asked him to give the orders to satisfy your demands.
Farewell, Citoyen, like you I suffer from our inactivity but the minister who endlessly sends us new recruits will not understand that men are not enough for an offensive, that one needs cavalry and especially cannon and horses to pull them and you are no doubt aware of the fact that, without taking account of a few depots which are useless, all that is left to the Army of the Rhine, including camps, cantonments and garrisons from Landau to Besancon are two campaign squadrons, your two Angouleme squadrons and nothing to harness four 4-horse gun carriages. Because of the lack of artillery horses the other armies have depleted our cavalry and our artillery and we have to replace them with battalions of new recruits. However the announcement of the Garde Nationale leads me to hope for supplies and I will make use of them with pleasure especially, Citizen, if they enable me to defend with you the interests of the republic.”
Earlier that year, French soldiers in Strasbourg had been the first to hear the new Marching Song of the Army of the Rhine. The rousing song was soon adopted by troops from Marseille and became known as La Marseillaise. Whether or not the song had any influence on morale, the Army of the Rhine won a series of battles between April and early November of that year, though it was the Armée du Nord that claimed the two outstanding and decisive victories of Valmy in September 1792 and Jemappes in November, just days before this letter.
The following months would prove more difficult for the Republic, with a royalist insurrection in the Vendée and victories for the Austrian and Prussian troops on its borders. In July 1793, Alexandre de Beauharnais failed to move his troops from Strasbourg to relieve the besieged town of Mainz, resulting in a French defeat. His inactivity on that occasion cost him his life, as he was arrested and later guillotined for this fatal error.
Vicomte Alexandre de Beauharnais, handsome, conceited and feckless, had consented to an arranged marriage with Josephine Tascher de la Pagerie in 1779 when he was 19 and she was only 16. He was habitually unfaithful and the couple separated six years later. He obtained his command of the Army of the Rhine through influence rather than ability, and was said at the time to lack the energy and strength necessary for a general of the Republic. In the brutal days of the nascent Republic, this proved fatal. His arrest warrant was signed by the artist Jacques-Louis David. His final, rather detached, message to Josephine assured her of his “fraternal attachment.”
The letter is rather dusty at the top, with a small pinhole at the top left corner, but is in clear and legible condition.
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