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History Repeating Itself Over and Over Again

Fouche, Napoleon's dreaded Chief of Police
All of this talk about being under surveillance and privacy--please. We are mere amateurs when it comes to keeping track of what people say and do.

Here are two wonderful pieces of history from Alan Forrest:

What recourse did anyone have under the rule of law? None. And America is the originator of evil in the world? They used to say that about Napoleon as well. His enemies were everywhere and he knew it.

The police state is over two hundred years old, and counting. It certainly did not begin with Napoleon, but his chief of police, the dreaded Fouche, is the predecessor of so many bad men of history that it is impossible to count them all.


And so, we must conclude that even the President is being spied upon. And, remember. Only Americans do bad things to their people.

Napoleon on PBS


I'm not a huge fan of the PBS method of making documentaries. This informal language, which is meant to be relatable and entertaining, is not really how you want to describe the Napoleonic era. It's fine if you're talking about America, or America's wars, but it doesn't carry any weight when it comes to describing the carnage of the wars in Europe from 200 years ago.

Anyway, this piece is about the Battle of Ulm, and it makes me wonder if they didn't actually put a Legoland where the battle was fought (probably not). This is a wonderful part of Germany, and I wish I had been able to visit the actual battlefield.

The Importance of Little Details


Well, that's not a real cannon.

It's a picture of one taken at Disneyland Paris. You can see that it has been cast or fabricated to look real, but it isn't.

Or is it?

If you were going to go out and get a fake cannon, where would you go? And why wouldn't you just buy an old one and dress it up and make it look real.

This is the actual coat worn daily by Napoleon:



But, then again. What's genuine and what's fake?

The reason why this project has, literally, taken forever is that I have so much source material to go through and I'm doing this so that I can get most of this right.

To Sell or Donate


As the intrinsic value of artifacts and pieces of history skyrocket, the desires of the families who own those objects is beginning to come under scrutiny. Already, the British are seeing the effects of leaving no suitable heirs, debts, and crumbling fortunes to go with crumbling homes. This is the decline of an empire without the necessary war to finish off the ancestral homes and turn out the cousins and the uncles who are too far removed to make a legitimate claim.

And that really is the difference here. In centuries past, the conquering armies would walk off with the loot. In Britain, that hasn't happened for so long that there are, literally, homes overflowing with aged, squalid pseudo-treasures and, to be certain, more than a few legitimate ones. Where are the Russian hordes, ready to carry back to Novosibirsk the great treasures of a minor lord or prince?

No government should be expected to step in and buy every little trinket or doodad saved for two hundred years as the expected birthright of someone who now has few prospects in modern British society beyond a pension or a respectable middle class salary. How can you expect a person making less than sixty thousand pounds per year to run and maintain the costs of a multi-million pound estate when everything is in debt or arrears?

Let them sell these things into the marketplace. The real history will come out and be preserved if the price is correct.

The Chasseurs Writing Project


There are four writing projects that I am planning on completing this year. I would like to get them planned out and written well before the end of the year, but things do come up. However, I don't see any reason why they can't be finished up and ready to go for next Christmas.

I don't have any set order for completing them, although I am hoping to get The Easter Wolf up and running by Easter in order to give people an alternative history of the celebration of Easter from an American marketing perspective. Living in Germany has made me aware of the fact that not everyone celebrates the same holiday the same way. It's a much bigger deal here than it is in the United States. I have found a great vehicle for a new telling of the behind the scenes machinations of Easter that I thought was worthy of getting out there.

The oldest projects are the ones that center around Norman Rogers and his self-deluding trip through the popular culture. The two best stories I have are set in different times. I have a lot of source material for these projects.

The Chasseurs is at the full writing stage. There isn't much research left to do. I have enough source material to complete the project. All I need now is time. Because these portals exist as blogs, I have to keep adding material in order to maintain interest. Which is no problem--I have the chance to do this. But, really, these sites should be fully-realized websites, and not blogs. For now, Scribd is the preferred method of publication. I would expect that this will change in the future, although I would think that this would be because Scribd doesn't give me the flexibility to fully self-publish material as of yet.

Consider this the January update for these projects. More to follow.

The Daily Habits of Emperor Bonaparte


Having just visited Paris, I was surprised to learn that Napoleon used the Tuileries as his residence; I somehow had passed over that. In an event, I regret not going there. Oh well.

This was excerpted from a great piece about Napoleon's daily habits. I am now in the process of putting together a sequence for The Chasseurs where they will march to the first battle, and then on to Waterloo.

Chimney Sweeps and Rural France

The Chimney Sweep by Frederick Daniel Hardy


The excerpt, above, is snipped out of Honour and Violence by Anton Blok. In the early portion of The Chasseurs, I'll put a piece in there about a chimney sweep who is hired to clean out the chimneys and Ecarlet and Bretagne have a disagreement about who will watch him while he works. Ecarlet is convinced that all chimney sweeps are thieves and Bretagne is convinced that Ecarlet has been imagining things that are not there.

I don't know when further work on The Chasseurs will continue. A number of pieces are in place, and there is a great deal of work happening offline. But it has been the slowest of projects, to be certain.

Something I Might Employ


This is the famous robotic arm that is writing out the Bible in Gothic script outside of the cathedral in Trier.

I think if I were to use this thing, I might get somewhere with this project.

A lot of what I have done and organized has been scrapped. I am reorganizing the whole blog thing as well--having 12 or 13 blogs really isn't conducive to writing stories, but, then again, there is no down side to being busy and creative all of the time.

The Lion Hill at Waterloo


The high ground on any battlefield is always noted during an appraisal of what happened there. This high ground is famous for being created long after the Battle of Waterloo ended.
The lion hill, which is the main memorial monument of the Battle of Waterloo, indicates the spot where the Prince of Orange was wounded. A total of 226 stairs leads to the top of the monument where one can enjoy a beautiful view of the entire battlefield. 
King William I of the Netherlands ordered the construction of this monument in 1820, to commemorate bravoury of his son, the prince of Orange, who was wounded here during the battle. 
The construction started in 1824 and was finished in November 1826. The hill is the ideal place to have an overview over the entire surface of the battlefield. A total of 300.000 m³ of earth were moved to erect this (for its era ) imposing monument. The earth was taken out of the fields between the "Haie Sainte" farm and the sunken lane behind which the Duke of Wellington had strategically positioned his troops. 
The earth was poured into a hill by working women from the Cockerill company in Liège, where also the Lion statue was cast. The hill is 43 m high and at the basis the circumference measures 520 m. A total of 226 stairs lead to the top of the hill. The socle on which the lion stands has been build in brick throughout the entire hill. The Lion itself weighs 28 tons, is 4,45 m high and 4,50 m long.
Impressive, at least in terms of devotion and dedication.

Hegel's Man Crush on Napoleon

Did Hegel Have a Man Crush on Napoleon?

If it wasn't for all of this school work, I would have had some great posts this month.

Big, big sigh...

Artillery Makes More than Just Noise



One of the elements that I don't want to ignore is the effect that artillery had on Waterloo. I think the story doesn't work without all of the elements at work--smoke, confusion, sound, and danger have to be all around.


I think the descriptions of things have to work as well. How would you describe something like this?




Two horses pulling a cannon--a smaller one. Is it a four pounder? An eight pounder? I'm sure that these omissions are fatal in storytelling, but how important are they, really?


Here's a wonderful article about artillery at Waterloo:

During the Waterloo Campaign in 1815 the raising of artillery was beset by some frustrating difficulties, and there was very little time. Napoleon rebuilt the artillery of the Guard but did little to the rest of the artillery. There was no lack of cannons, but trained gunners and horses were in short supply. Despite the poor shape the French artillery still was able to impress even the enemy.

In the beginning of the battle Reille's artillery kept firing on all cylinders and several guns had been brought up as far as the Nivelles Road. Almost all the British eyewitness accounts confirm that the British and German infantry massed on the high ground beyond Hougoumont came under fire and suffered a steady attrition that gradually began to wear on the men's nerves. Most of the British battalions behind Hougoumont-La Haye Sainte line were formed in column of companies (not a "thin red line"). It was a deep formation with all 10 companies lined up one behind the other. It was easy to maneuver battalions so deployed and therefore ideal formation for waiting troops; but it certainly wasn't suitable for withstanding artillery bombardement. 
To lessen their casulaties from artillery fire the British, Dutch and German infantry out on the ground. 
This way Wellington saved many lives. The cavalry in the second line also got under atyillery fire. Sergeant Wheeler of the British 51st Light writes, "A shell now fell into the column of the [British] 15th Hussars and bursted. I saw a sword and scabbard fly out from the column ... grape and shells were dupping about like hell, this was devilish annoying. As we could not see the enemy, although they were giving us a pretty good sprinkling of musketry ..." A British officer wrote that one of the French batteries "was committing great devastation amongst our troops in and near Hougoumont." Bull's howitzer battery also got under fire, suffered losses in men, wagons and horses, and exhausted their own ammunition to such a point that, no more than 2 hours after the beginning of the battle, they were compelled to abandon the line of fire. The fire of the French artillery distracted the British gunners. Instead of targeting the French columns they got involved in counter-battery fire. Wellington had expressely forbade it but it was ignored. (Napoleon explained: "When gunners are under attack from an enemy battery, they can never be made to fire on massed infantry. It's natural cowardice, the violent instinct of self-preservation ...") 
The British artillery was also effective. Some battalions of Reille's corps remained stretched out on the ground in hollows and sunken lanes. Other battalions received the fire standing firm. "Between 2 and 3 PM, a [French] battery drew up on the right side of the buildings and began to bombard them heavily with cannons and howitzers. It did not take long to set them all alight." (- Major Busgen, Nassau Battalion)
Those "sunken lanes" and places where the fighting took place are things that have to be included. I have two short pieces up, and I want to set a goal of solidifying the first few pieces before the month is out. August, being the month of vacation here in Europe, is probably going to be a slow and lazy month if I don't get out ahead of these things.

Another Great Example of Reenactors in Action


Now, that's a first--reenactors out in the snow.

I won't vouch for it, but there's a website dedicated to the art of reenacting history. A lot of what I stumble across when researching the various pieces that I'm finally able to put together shows the dedication and craft of reenactors all over the world.

Brilliant Stuff


Just when you think you've found all of the wonderful sites and blogs and archives of Napoleonic Era stuff, bam! You come across a site like Iron Mitten.

The above is an illustration by Secondus. Absolutely marvelous stuff.

The style here is so well conceived and realized. This is why this project has taken so long. When you deal with Napoleonic Era subject matters, you have to get it right.

A Great Idea For a Character

An arctic fox, not an albino fox, of course

Well, there are several issues at work here.

I've already gotten an established sort of home lair for The Chasseurs--a den that has been dug out under an apple tree that has fallen over near where they live above ground in their "regular life."

The den is sort of a meeting room where they cannot bring girlfriends. An old albino fox has decided to let them use the den, temporarily, while he makes a new den several hundred yards away. Now, finding a picture of an albino fox would be, I would think, pretty easy, except that when you type in the word "fox" and search images now, Megan Fox, the actress, brings back half of the hits and even when you specify an "albino fox," you still get back a slew of photos.

I settled on a great photo of an arctic fox. Why an albino fox? I dunno. Just being weird.

Anyway, this old fox is a great idea for a character. He's kind of a possessive landlord type, and the four dogs have to make certain that they don't upset his decor while they go over the things they need to remember.

1. Always stay in sight of one another
2. Stop, sniff, and bark once or bark twice. Hopefully, barking twice happens more often than barking once.
3. When there's a boom, duck.
4. When there's a whoosh, duck.
5. When it's quiet, wait for a boom or a whoosh.
6. Never stop moving.

Inspired by The Brothers Grimm

Terry Gilliam on the set of "The Brothers Grimm" (2005)

Terry Gilliam is the master of everything visual.

I am looking to The Brothers Grimm (2005) for some help with the period surrounding The Chasseurs. Given that what I'm doing is much simpler and more of an animated piece, I suppose I won't get much. I do think that, in the beginning, when the Brothers Grimm are riding on horseback into the town of Karlstadt, that the wreckage and devastation of the Napoleonic Wars are very much a theme that I will try to adopt.

I thought the overturned cannon in the river was a bit much; unless the cannon was spiked, there would be someone trying to raise it up out of the water. A cannon contains too much metal and too much value to abandon. Splintered, broken wheels and caissons, sure. I can see that. And dead horses everywhere, too. Although, granted, I'm not going to show dead horses all over the place.

This is a very complex, very visually arresting film. It'll probably take a few viewings before I have any kind of a framework of reference.
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The Bivouac


Sometimes a painting like this just tells the story for you.

We know that the night before Waterloo, the rains made the battlefield wet. I know that, in my story, the sorts of things that you see in this painting will be details that will make The Chasseurs react to what they find when they arrive. They will have spent days shadowing the armies, trying to avoid the confusion of calvary scouts and wayward units and deserters. They will find these rifles stacked everywhere and smell who owns them.

The way that dogs smell will mean a lot in this story. What a narrator or an all-knowing narrative might say can really be summed up by the fact that these dogs know what the Prussians, British, French and whoever else smelled like.

Storytelling tricks. You have to have them.