So says a coded letter written by Napoleon Bonaparte during his ill-fated Russian campaign. The letter is up for auction at Fontainebleau, near Paris next month and it's expected to fetch between €10,000 and €15,000 (($13,000-$20,000) at auction.
The coded letter is just over 200 years old, dating from October 20, 1812 and was written during the French invasion of Russia reports The Australian. It is written in numerical code and addressed to Napoleon’s external relations minister Hugues-Bernard Maret. Code-breakers have deciphered the code and the text of the letter reads, “I will blow up the Kremlin on the 22nd at 3 a.m.” The letter is signed “Nap” reports The Gulf Times.
Napoleon wrote the letter the day after he ordered a retreat from the centre of Moscow. His orders were carried out by Marshal Mortier, but rather than the whole of the Kremlin being destroyed, damage was restricted to several towers and a few sections of wall.
Wikimedia Commons - Christophe Meneboeuf
Red Square and the Kremlin in Moscow
In 1812, the Kremlin, so often associated with the Soviet Politburo and the Communist Party in the 20th century, was used as a Russian Imperial palace and a military fortress. After the French invaders had done their worst, the Kremlin’s towers were rebuild as they had stood before removing a vestige of Napoleon’s disastrous Russian campaign.
“Letters written by Napoleon from Russia are rare,” said Alain Nicolas, expert from the auction house Osenat at Fontainebleau reports RFI France. “Many were lost, probably intercepted by the Russians.”
The letter is being auctioned on behalf of a private owner and in it Napoleon asks his minister, Maret, to source supplies and fresh horses for his army. Much of Napoleon’s invading French forces had perished, not at the hands of Russians, but as a result of the unremitting freezing cold of a Russian winter. Napoleon’s army had entered Moscow on September 14, 1812, by which time most of the population had fled. There was to be no French victory over Russian emperor Alexander I and French armies were further decimated as they retreated westwards from Moscow during an unforgiving winter.
In another lot coming up for auction in the same sale, Napoleon reflects on the outcome of his ill-starred invasion of Russia. An “Essay on campaign fortification” was dictated and annotated by Napoleon when he was in exile on the British island of Saint Helena. Napoleon was convinced that he had been beaten only by the Russian winter and that, had the French invasion of Russia taken place three months earlier, the outcome of the campaign would have been different.
Earlier this year, as reported in Digital Journal, a rare letter penned by Napoleon in English in 1816 sold at auction for $400,000.