Toulon 1793: Napoleon’s first great victory (Campaign, by Robert Forczyk

By Robert Forczyk

In August 1793 of the French innovative Wars (1792-1802), Republican France teetered near to cave in. On each entrance her enemies' armies swept ahead throughout her borders – the very survival of the Revolution itself was once at stake. In Toulon, the strategically very important domestic port of France's Mediterranean fleet, a coup had overthrown the Republican executive and passed over town to the blocking off British army. during this, probably her darkest hour, France's saviour used to be to hand within the form of a Captain of Artillery whose identify all Europe may quickly recognize - Napoleon Bonaparte. This name describes the Republican victory at Toulon that not just kept the Revolution but additionally observed the younger Napoleon Bonaparte start his meteoric upward push to power.

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Only a summary was shared. One result was that many British and French generals went on regarding the German plans in Belgian hands as a plant. And some of these commanders shrugged off the plans on grounds that nothing much could be done about them even if they were real. Nor were the Allies as yet doing much of anything else to ward off the fearful and imminent danger that threatened them. Although their High Command gave an outward impression of extreme activity and bustle, shuffling papers from early morning until late at night, they actually were mired in a profound intellectual lethargy.

In any case, the two German officers clearly had no business where they were. They were taken to the nearby town of Mechelen-sur-Meuse for questioning. It quickly became clear to the Belgian officials that they had stumbled onto something extraordinary. At first, they believed the two majors might be on a spy mission. Then, when they examined the papers, they thought that the plans might be a plant, a false alarm to induce both the Belgians and the Western Allies to rush to arms and give away their own plans for troop movements at the outbreak of hostilities.

Amazingly, neither of the men was badly hurt. As they pulled themselves out of the wreck, some peasants came up to see what had happened. They spoke no German. Hoenmanns’ worst fears were realized. The river he had sighted was not the Rhine but the Meuse; they were down in Belgium. Reinberger had the presence of mind to duck behind a hedge and set fire to his precious papers, but he was too late. He had barely set a match to the files when Belgian border guards came up to investigate and put out the flames before they could do much more than scorch a few of the documents.

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