letter: jean lannes to napoleon bonaparte (1809)

Posted: January 8, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Ed. Note: In a small, intricately handcrafted wooden box our Trask Avenue archival staff discovered the following letter. Its wax seal was already compromised allowing convenient access to the contents. The letter was written to French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte by one of his most trusted military advisors, Jean Lannes. Among other achievements Lannes was part of the initial group of 18 officers anointed “Marshal of the Empire” by Napoleon in 1804. He commanded French troops with distinction during the early years of the Napoleonic Wars and in 1808 was bestowed the title of “Duc de Montebello,” the first Frenchman ever so honored.

This letter was written four days before Lannes suffered a severe wound during the Battle of Aspern-Essling, succumbing to complications from it on May 31, 1809. It is unknown if the letter ever reached Napoleon. What is known is Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812, a monumental strategic blunder which effectively destroyed his dream of European dominance. Within two years of failing in Russia Napoleon was disposed and exiled to the island of Elba.

18 May 1809
Near Lobau, Austria

Emperor Napoleon,

During our recent expansionist discussions we spoke excitedly of conquering the Great Bear to the North. I recall advising you, with abundant enthusiasm, to attack Russia within the next two or three years. Perhaps my effusiveness was sparked by the excellent Bordeaux you graciously shared, but now with my head clear I have doubts. I ask you reconsider any offensive to the east, now or in the future. Such a campaign would be suicide.

My troops are preparing to overrun Vienna within the next several days. Once this distraction is behind me I look forward to returning home to assist you in however you require so we can work together to map out the destiny of our great land.

With Full Allegiance,

Jean Lannes
Duc de Montebello

  1. munchow says:

    It makes you think doesn’t it? What if Napoleon had read the letter from Jean Lannes, and even followed his advise? The history would have looked quite different today. I wish you all the best for the new year, John.


  2. Everything seems like a good idea when you’re sloshed on good French wine. Shame the mail never reached Napoleon in time.


  3. Bummer for Napoleon.


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