May 25, 1812
Somewhere in Poland, en route to Warsaw
Today is the third rainy day in a row & heaviest yet. You know, I tend to like the over- cast days with promise of rain and the smells that follow and even these days, I quite like the pattern & drama of nature. The troops grumble and I don’t share my comfort as unlike most, of course I ride in the wagon assigned to our small unit. In fact, as I write I ride on the front-board with Maurice who I mentioned earlier, he drives the horses and I hunker down trying to keep my notes to you dry – aside from my tears!
I am kidding somewhat, but I admit my longing to be entwined with your long white fingers, watching your tiny, almost round ears bounce as you laugh. You are to me the essence of the modern woman, free to be, strong and taken the effort to educate your- self rather than idly gossiping in salons with boorish and trite crones who act as though they alone run the Republic! But you, my sweet, not only do you thrill me with your beauty but also your humor, the way you make me laugh no matter my malaise. The way you instinctively know how to make me whole in spirit, to believe in our chances – ours and our world’s, France’s and our corner of Paris, my shop, your school, the museums, the theatres, the libraries, the cafes.
As promised – per your request – I will include more observations of the day to day routine of military life. As you know, my role is unique and my duty not typical of these men. But it being what I know – and for that matter, no one else knows my experiences – I’ll put forth a few notes to try to show you my moving world while the images are still fairly fresh ~ like blank paper.
First, I am surprised by the quick pace and progress by which we move across the countryside. The marches are long but the soldiers and the supply caravans et al seem to move as a single unit with a sort of collective consciousness moving the head. Of course, there are orders and officers and marshals directing the flow on a specific schedule, but to my vantage point, I feel the army would move on its own volition and end up in the same place at about the appointed time, without any direction. You could conjecture a comparison to water finding a mountain drainage, or the heart pumping blood, but will have such consideration to you.
Next, the sheer size of moving this many men to do battle elsewhere seems like an un- productive effort considering the expenses and effort. I can’t help but wonder how
this vast number of men will be needed for a battle and how no other option was devised of that eliminate this parade of lost potential. How could this massive swarm be put to better use building some device or method to better humankind? Do such advances in science or design of mechanism not spirit liberal reforms the way a revolution might? I think that leisure and time to learn begets the seeds of revolutionary thought. The method of the revolutionary action however, must be chosen with a sense of what is best for a greater number of people. With this in mind, we should seek to enter as friends if we hope to benefit from the great cost of lives already expended.
This leads to a third brief topic of the wisdom of the blockades of British goods at ports in the greater French Empire. Any parent will tell you that as soon as you in- struct a child not to do something, immediately they wonder how they might do this condemned action. When ports are closed, several things occur, … 1) a black-market develops for English goods whether brought in English boats in quasi-secrecy on ex- changed offshore on local ships, and 2) the closer of the ports (N. in this case) leaves a gaping hole in which his resolve & power can be tested. The moral sentiment can erode & change flow quickly when people are denied items to which they are accustomed or are denied the freedom to exchange their labor (in form of goods) which whom they choose.
The point I don’t mention is the boost to the sanctioned economy, providers in France and its environs may well sell an increase in demand. But this is a panacea and as artificial supported, will collapse. To close my observations, I suggest that open trade in goods results in increased knowledge, understanding, communication & trade, ultimately resulting in (hopefully) peaceful progressive reform.
As ever, Henri