Had I remained in the grand army of the Emperor I would feel perfectly safe

Posted by | March 21, 2013

There died in Logan County, in June, 1885, Christopher Stahley, aged 104 years and 10 months. He was a last survivor of the Grand Army of Napoleon; a native of Alsace; a typical veteran of the wars, scarred and crippled. He was a man of culture, and grew eloquent when describing his campaigns; and, like all of Napoleon’s soldiers, adored his leader and worshipped his memory. We give herewith extracts from Stahley’s story, as related to the correspondent of the Cincinnati Enquirer:

“I became a soldier at fifteen, and was one of the thirty thousand men who went with Napoleon to Egypt, and was one of the first to enter the city of Malta. I was with my command at the Pyramids, and participated in the terrible conflict with the Mamelukes. Thence across the desert and through the Isthmus of Suez to Gaza and Jaffa, and saw the 1,500 put to death for breaking their parole, and helped to annihilate the allied army of 18,000 at Aboukir.

Foot grenadier of Napoleon's old guard.Foot grenadier of Napoleon’s old guard.

“It was in 1804 that we helped to proclaim him Emperor, and saw the preparations made to invade England. But England was spared and Austria punished instead.

“Three years of preparation and we were on the road to the Capital of Russia in that memorable campaign of 1812. There were 480,000 of us who went forth to glory. Less than half that number returned, and the most of them after being detained as prisoners. I saw them fall by battalions at Smolensk and Borodino, and perish by grand divisions on the retreat from Moscow to Smorgoni. I personally attended the Emperor to France, when he bade adieu to his soldiers at the latter city.

“I was one of the Old Guard. There is a blank in my memory, and I do not know how I got back to Paris; but I found myself there, and learned that my old commander was a prisoner at St. Helena. Then came the news of his death. I had taken part in fifty engagements, great and small, and had seen men die by the thousand; but that death affected me more than all the rest put together.

“In 1822, in company with my wife, I emigrated to America. We reached Pittsburg by stage. From there we floated down the Ohio on a flat-boat to the mouth of the Muskingum, and ascended that river to Zanesville in a canoe. From Zanesville I trundled all my earthly possessions in a wheelbarrow to St. Joseph’s, near Somerset, where I bought a farm and settled down.

“Then began my disasters. My oldest son was with me in the forest hewing logs for a barn, and by a false stroke of the broad axe cut off my thumb and finger. A few years later a vicious horse kicked me in the forehead and left this scar that looks like a sabre cut. The next year I fell from a tobacco-house I was helping to raise, and broke four ribs and my collar-bone. Ten years later I slipped and fell into a threshing-machine, and I had my foot torn off. A few years ago I was on my way to church, and my horse ran away, threw me out of the carriage, shattered my elbow, and left me with a stiff arm.

“I am in constant dread of meeting a fatal accident. Had I remained in the grand army of the Emperor I would feel perfectly safe.”

Historical Collections of Ohio, Vol. I, by Henry Howe, 1888
online at: http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~henryhowesbook/hocking.html

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