SOULT Marshal Nicolas Jean de Dieu - Letter Signed 1801 requesting ammunition in Italy
Nicolas Jean de Dieu SOULT, duc de Dalmatie (1769-1851)
Letter Signed (“Soult”) as General of the Armée d’Observation du Midi, to Adjutant Commander Dampierre in Naples.
2½ pages large folio in French, Taranto, 28 messidor an 9 [17 July 1801].
Trans: “I learned with great pleasure, Citizen adjutant-commander, of your return to Naples; you were much too helpful to us during your first residence there for me not to expect the greatest results to any new requests which, through your intercession, we will, in future, have reason to make.
I entirely share the feelings of the commander in chief; we must keep our requests to that which is strictly essential and indispensable: therefore I have decided not to make any further requests regarding the artillery; but I must demand the fulfillment of that which, before your departure from Naples, you had placed before the Minister to his Sicilian Majesty. The fourth shipment which you had told me had left on the 3rd of this month has not only not arrived, but I have received notification that it had been withdrawn, and so we are still reduced to compromises. Request, I beg you, that it be re-sent promptly, and that all necessary security measures be taken to ensure it reaches us.
I would ask you also to insist that the munitions be complete, if not to the extent of 1,000 charges per piece, as the commander in chief had expected, then at least 500 charges, and 300 bombs per mortar if you can get them: we are on the point of needing to use many, and I don’t see any other source for them.
Remember that at one time I requested 200 milivres of shot; if these were not included in the first shipment, I ask you to have them included, we do not have a single livre.
During your absence, I sent the Neapolitan minister, through the intermediary of Don Ferdinandé, Lieutenant-Colonel of the Engineers, a report on the different types of artillery to supply a siege and for the manufacture of the necessary articles. I ask you to demand these be furnished, it is indispensable for the purpose which has been announced and for the works at the arsenal which we must execute.
In order to save on the expense which would be incurred in the construction of various shelters which would have to be built on the isles of St. Paul, St. Pierre and on the coast wherever there are batteries, in order to house the guards and the garrison which would have to guard them, sheltering from the inclement season, I have asked for tents; I very much wish that they will be given to us, by this means we will achieve greater speed in establishing our base and a considerable saving in the expense, as I have already said. Explain this to the Neapolitan minister.
I count on you to obtain all of these things, but please note that most of these things were in the original request which you presented which was not fulfilled.
You would particularly oblige me by sending me any news which you might obtain regarding what is happening in the Neapolitan government. I believe it is important, under the circumstances, to try to find out. They say here that the English squadron, made up of 20 sails, is at Syracuse, and that engineers of that nation have landed in Sicily in order to build some fortifications and to repair others.
In your letter, you speak of Portugal, has peace been declared with that country? I would be grateful if you would let me know the articles [of the peace] if you know them.”
France and Naples had signed a peace treaty in March of 1801, a treaty which Ferdinand IV of Naples signed under some pressure, as he had little choice following the French victory at Marengo the previous year and France’s relentless progress in Italy. He did, at least, remain King of Naples, but France gained the island of Elba and, most importantly, Naples was forced to close its ports to the British. Soult’s complaints about the lack of supplies may demonstrate something of the Neapolitan reluctance to be particularly helpful to the French.
Britain still controlled nearby Malta at the time, too close to Sicily for France’s security in the area.
Soult would not yet have heard news of the treaty between France and Portugal, signed a month earlier, by which Portugal was obliged to close its ports to British ships. Britain soon occupied the Portuguese island of Madeira, an occupation which the Portuguese government found satisfactory.
The letter is rather dust soiled at the top right-hand corner, and has a very slight tear at the fold, but it is otherwise in very good, clear condition.
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