The last war of Napoleon

Nov 2017
Geneva, Switzerland
The last war of Napoleon
Napoleon was almost kidnapped from Santa Helena to lead a revolution in South America and become the '' South American Emperor ''

Action took place in 1817 and had a multimillion-dollar budget

In the early 19th century, there seemed to be no limits to the human imagination. In the midst of one of the most revolutionary and troubled periods in history, anything was possible. Brazil at that time was also the scene of dreams and plans. One of them was to kidnap Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) on the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic, where the Emperor of the French was imprisoned by the English since his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. From there he was transferred to America of the South, where it would reign again on a vast territory constituted by the old colonies of Spain and Portugal. The project was discussed seriously on different occasions and with different authors. He had the sympathy of Napoleon himself and only failed because circumstances did not allow it to materialize.

Napoleon was a man of unreasonable ambitions. For him, it was not enough to rule France or even Europe. At the height of his power, in 1808, he came to lead more than 60 million people. This was at a time when the human population was infinitely small. In that year, with the virtual annexation of Spain and Portugal, it practically doubled the size of the original territory of France. His dominions included Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy. Later he tried to incorporate Russia as well. Before, he had already invaded Egypt. From his point of view, being the emperor of South America was therefore a reasonable and doable project. Moreover, its reforming action in Europe, putting an end to the old regimes of absolute monarchy, relied on the sympathy of many revolutionaries in America. Among them were the leaders of the Pernambuco Revolution of 1817.

In early 1817, the merchant Antonio Gonçalves Cruz, the Cabugá, was sent by the Pernambuco revolutionaries to Philadelphia, former US capital. He had $ 800,000 in his luggage, a staggering amount for the time. Cabugá had three missions. The first was to buy weapons to combat the troops of King Dom João VI (1767-1826). The second is to persuade the US government to support the creation of an independent republic in the Brazilian Northeast. The third and most spectacular of all goals was to recruit some French revolutionaries former exiles on American soil for, with their help, to free Napoleon in St. Helena. By plane, it would be removed in the dead of night and transported to Recife, Pernambuco where command the revolution to then return to Paris and resume the emperor's throne of France.

Cabugá's designs were miraculous and doomed to failure before they were even put into practice. When he arrived in the United States, with the money collected among planters, cotton producers and merchants who favored the proclamation of the republic, Pernambuco's revolutionaries were already under siege by troops loyal to Dom João VI. Surrender was inevitable. Unaware of this, Cabugá was able to recruit four veterans of the Napoleonic armies: Count Pontellecoulant, Colonel Latapie, Ordnance Artong and Private Roulet. All arrived in Brazil long after the revolution was over and were arrested before disembarking.

A new plan to liberate Napoleon was conceived the following year by Admiral Thomas Cochrane (1775-1860). Lord English, a member of the British Parliament and hero of the war against Napoleon, Cochrane was a legend of the seas. Hired as a mercenary in South America, he helped to make the independence of Chile, Peru and Brazil, fighting the naval forces of Spain and Portugal.

In August 1818 Cochrane and his wife, Kitty, were in Boulogne, France, waiting for the steamship Rising Star, which he had built in England to fight in Chile. On the voyage to South America, Cochrane intended to call St. Helena and steal Napoleon from the English. He would then try to persuade him to take the throne of an empire to be built in South America, capable of opposing the weight of the United States to the north of the continent. Again in that case the plan failed. The construction of the ship delayed and, before the news that the Spaniards were gaining ground against the Chileans, Cochrane decided to continue to its final destination, without stopping in Saint Helena.

Napoleon's kidnapping was also planned in New Orleans, a city of French colonization in the southern United States. There, in 1821, a group of friends and officers of the emperor even promoted a fund-raising campaign to buy ships and regiment soldiers who would try to free him. The project was taken so seriously that Nicholas Girod (1747-1840), a descendant of French immigrants and former mayor of the city between 1812 and 1815, offered his own residence as a refuge in American territory. The operation was not even executed because Napoleon died that same year.

The cause of the death of the French emperor was, for a long time, the subject of controversy. At first it was suspected that he had been slowly poisoned by the addition of arsenic to the food the English served in prison. Examinations of his hair, deposited in an urn at the monument Les Invalides, in Paris, showed traces of this product above normal, but not in quantity capable of killing it. Other research indicates that the most likely cause would be stomach cancer.

link of the story