question: did napoleon ever have a diary?

Jul 2019
5
Wayne
hello, I am curious if napoleon ever had a diary, and if he did, is it available too the public for reading? if not, are any of his written letters online available too read?
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
5,145
Australia
IFAIK there are no diaries but he wrote a memoir while he was St Helena. There is plenty of other correspondence such as letters and military dispatches if you want info about his daily activities.
 
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Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,995
Dispargum
There is a story told in the US military, possibly apocryphal, that Napoleon kept a notebook. If after the Battle of Austerlitz, he pinned a medal on Sgt LeClerc of the 5th Regiment who had been wounded in the face, Napoleon would write it in his notebook. Seven years later, before inspecting the 5th Regiment, he would review his notes. While walking up and down the ranks he would spot a sergeant, with a scar on his face, wearing that medal, and he would say, "Hey, Sgt LeClerc, it's been a long time since Austerlizt!" and LeClerc and everyone around him would think that Napoleon had remembered. In fact, he just pulled it out of his notebook. The military tells this story to justify why supervisors and commanders should keep card files on their troops. Of course, now that everyone knows the secret, it doesn't fool anyone any longer. My own attitude about bosses who keep card files is shown in the movie "Falling Down."
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,979
There is a story told in the US military, possibly apocryphal, that Napoleon kept a notebook. If after the Battle of Austerlitz, he pinned a medal on Sgt LeClerc of the 5th Regiment who had been wounded in the face, Napoleon would write it in his notebook. Seven years later, before inspecting the 5th Regiment, he would review his notes. While walking up and down the ranks he would spot a sergeant, with a scar on his face, wearing that medal, and he would say, "Hey, Sgt LeClerc, it's been a long time since Austerlizt!" and LeClerc and everyone around him would think that Napoleon had remembered. In fact, he just pulled it out of his notebook. The military tells this story to justify why supervisors and commanders should keep card files on their troops. Of course, now that everyone knows the secret, it doesn't fool anyone any longer. My own attitude about bosses who keep card files is shown in the movie "Falling Down."
Napoloen was worded up by the Colonel and other officers about the unit being expected, Napoleon would then "recognise" a veteran of Austerlitz or whatever.

There was no notebook. Napoleon decrorated very large numbers of troops. The Note book would have to so lareg as to be unwieldly and be filled mostly with soldiers long scince dead or invalided, or deserted. Just asking the senoir officers before teh inspection (Which several accounst have him doing) works without the unnesscary and insanely bulkly book with it's own carriage.

the same fakery but much more easily done..
 
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Feb 2019
1,144
Serbia
He didn't have a diary. He wrote something of a memoir while he was on St. Helena, recollecting and commenting on his marshals, campaigns and other events of his life. He wrote several letters, dispatches etc. which are scattered across several dozen different sources and records. There are some compilations of these documents such as J. Christopher Herold's Mind of Napoleon.
 
Last edited:
Aug 2019
10
Belgium
On St.Helena the Emperor dictated the "Memorial de St.Helene" to the Comte de las Casas. It became the second bestselling book of the 19th. century, in French, being surpassed only by the children's tales of the Comtesse de Segur. She had married the son of one of Napoleon's aids, the comte de Segur, and was the daughter of count Rostopchine. He was the one who burned down Mocow in 1812.

There is popular expression in French that is still in use today : "mentir comme un bulletin". It refers to the "Bulletins de la Grande armée" published by Napoleon's staff. So, of course he manipulated the truth all the time.
The Memorial was an attempt by Napoleon to rewrite history, but also to influence the French poltics of the time , If you intend to read it ( there was a new annotated edition published last year), make sure that you buy an annotated edition, and best read up on the annotater first. Napoleon is not dead history, it's politics of 2020.

Napoleon started out as a lowly professional artillery officer, he understood how to handle soldiers and motivate them ,- better than anyone else. He really had a phenomenal memory and did recognise veterans and old timers. And yes, of course he used many tricks and had his aides prepare his visits to the troops by talking to the chef de battalion. Which forced the colonel to actually engage with his footsloggers.. And when he sat down with common soldiers at their campfire, to eat their soup, as he often did, he had always had his aides packing saddle bags full of food, so that he effectively contributed to the marmite. So yes, it was a gimmick, and every man in the army knew it was, but it was also totally genuine. I don't remember if it was Schwarzenberg or Jomini who wrote that Napoleon's, presence on the battlefield was worth 50.000 men, and everyone on that battlefield, friend or foe, prrivate or general, believed it to be true.
It was not about his notebook, his handwriting was so awfull that he couldn't read his own notes anyway.

The greatest captain oif all times !