Corsica under English threat. File 1: the attack on Sagone

Corsica under English threat. File 1: the attack on Sagone

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  • Combat de Sagone, May 1, 1811 - Print 1: At 6 a.m., the squadron being towed ...

    HAVELL Robert (1769 - 1832)

  • Combat de Sagone, May 1, 1811 - Print 2: At half past six, the engagement ...

    HAVELL Robert (1769 - 1832)

  • Combat de Sagone, May 1, 1811 - Print 3: At half past eight, the departure ...

    HAVELL Robert (1769 - 1832)

  • Police bulletin of May 25, 1811

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Title: Combat de Sagone, May 1, 1811 - Print 1: At 6 a.m., the squadron being towed ...

Author : HAVELL Robert (1769 - 1832)

Creation date : 1811

Date shown: 01 May 1811

Dimensions: Height 54.2 - Width 77.8

Technique and other indications: Engraving Published by George Andrews

Storage location: Royal Military College Museum website

Contact copyright: © Royal Military College Museum, Kingston (Canada)

Combat de Sagone, May 1, 1811 - Print 1: At 6 a.m., the squadron being towed ...

© Royal Military College Museum, Kingston (Canada)

To close

Title: Combat de Sagone, May 1, 1811 - Print 2: At half past six, the engagement ...

Author : HAVELL Robert (1769 - 1832)

Creation date : 1811

Date shown: 01 May 1811

Dimensions: Height 54.2 - Width 77.8

Technique and other indications: Engraving Published by George Andrews

Storage location: Royal Military College Museum website

Contact copyright: © Royal Military College Museum, Kingston (Canada)

Combat de Sagone, May 1, 1811 - Print 2: At half past six, the engagement ...

© Royal Military College Museum, Kingston (Canada)

To close

Title: Combat de Sagone, May 1, 1811 - Print 3: At half past eight, the departure ...

Author : HAVELL Robert (1769 - 1832)

Creation date : 1811

Date shown: 01 May 1811

Dimensions: Height 54.2 - Width 77.8

Technique and other indications: Engraving Published by Georges Andrews

Storage location: Royal Military College Museum website

Contact copyright: © Royal Military College Museum, Kingston (Canada)

Combat de Sagone, May 1, 1811 - Print 3: At half past eight, the departure ...

© Royal Military College Museum, Kingston (Canada)

To close

Title: Police bulletin of May 25, 1811

Author :

Creation date : 1811

Date shown: May 25, 1811

Dimensions: Height 23.5 - Width 35.5

Storage location: Historic Center of the National Archives website

Contact copyright: © Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

Police bulletin of May 25, 1811

© Historic Center of the National Archives - Photography workshop

Publication date: November 2003

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Corsica under English threat. File 1: the attack on Sagone

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Historical context

The English fleet on the outskirts of the Empire

After Trafalgar, the English, who never fortified their coasts, consider more than ever that "the borders of England lie on the coasts of her enemies". The English sailors increased their attacks and commando operations against the coasts: they seized French merchant ships, ruining all trade, removed patrols, attacked the batteries. Frigates and light ships even control fishing and try to hinder cabotage, which was essential for supplying many ports.

Corsica then lives permanently under the English threat. But the Corsicans live in a context of shortage while the customs periodically proceed, according to the law, to burns of seized goods, which strongly impress the populations.

Image Analysis

An English squadron attack

On the English side, three large colored engravings, published by George Andrews in the tradition of naval combat, proudly celebrate the three phases of the Navy's success.

The brothers Robert and Daniel Havell, talented landscapers, evoke the Gulf of Sagone with such accuracy that one might think they worked from eyewitness testimony. Three English vessels, immobilized by the lack of wind, set off on the attack with rare audacity: the two heavy frigates were towed by lines of rowboats, and the brig's sailors activated long oars through the portholes. At the end of the bay, two French frigates [1], the Giraffe and the Nurse, like an armed merchant ship, embossed themselves on land. What protection can they expect from the guns installed on the old beach defenses, and from the troops on the heights which insufficient artillery deprives of the advantages of their dominant position? Do they know that Captain Barrie [2] commands the Pomona ? Near the mainland, are the French less afraid of being taken prisoner? English pontoons have a grim reputation ...

Barrie gauged the fire capacity of the few guns retained by the ships (twenty-six for the Giraffe and twenty-eight for the Nurse) and batteries on the coast. On the French side, we can see the entry into action of the artillery installed on the upper platform of the tower and the battery built at the foot of it. At half past six, Barrie started fire. Less than two hours of artillery rounds pulverized French resistance.

According to English sources, as soon as the French ships were on fire, the English withdrew, to avoid the fallout from the explosion of the Giraffe and the burning of ships and batteries. There is no doubt that English public opinion must have appreciated this vision of the apocalypse triggered by an oar attack!

On the French side, the police bulletin of May 25, 1811 indicates that the crew "attacked at midday" themselves set fire "towards evening" then "withdrew", under "continual fire by pieces of fire. 24 and shells, without we having any means on this point to respond ”. There was relief, however: the English did not land and seize the cargo!

The story communicated to the Emperor
The Emperor learned of this important matter in an exceptional way. He reacted, on May 21, with a letter to the Minister of Marine criticizing the maritime prefect of Toulon for not having built the necessary batteries [3] to protect the timber embarkation. He will not let this matter go on. On August 23, he demanded energetic and punitive measures, after having acquired proof of an insufficient defense on the French side [4]. Order is given to recover the loading and arming of the Nurse, with divers. Execution no doubt followed, as recent underwater archaeological research revealed that only one wreck, that of the Giraffe, now lies at the bottom of the Gulf of Sagone.

This May 25 bulletin, which recounts the events of the 1st - a three-week transmission delay - shows how Napoleon was informed of current events of less strategic importance. Under the Empire, no official, even of high rank, corresponded directly with the Emperor. All the information is condensed and provided to him daily, in the form of such a newsletter. Each copy consists of a notebook whose pages are assembled by a green ribbon tied at the top and bottom of the pages; the cover has a printed frame divided into several sections, with the summary of the news. Among the frequent topics such as the posts of Paris (movements of travelers), the state of the prisons, the internal and foreign trade, the stock market prices, one regularly finds mention of the English incursions on the coasts. A bulletin (press review) of foreign newspapers is also included every day.

Interpretation

Naval and psychological harassment

This type of attack reveals how the pugnacity of the English navy operated under the Empire: at Sagone, it hampered the reconstruction of the French fleet by depriving it of timber until the next season and, beyond that, was detrimental to the French navy. military and economic activities.

These constant incursions demoralize the French. Despite their apparently dominant position, we see them in Sagone waiting for a whole day for the enemy attack without being able to find an effective counter!

The continual movement of English attacks along the coasts requires a dispersal of resources in men and materials which consumes a significant portion of the Empire's resources.

  • Corsica
  • Sagone
  • Bonaparte (Napoleon)
  • UK
  • sea
  • information
  • naval combat
  • english navy
  • artillery
  • Genoese tower
  • frigate
  • brig
  • Gulf of Sagone
  • beach
  • customs

Bibliography

Nicole GOTTERI, The Secret Police of the First Empire. Daily bulletins sent by Savary to the Emperor, volume II (from January to June 1811) Paris, Honoré Champion, 1997.Philippe MASSON "Napoleon and England. The English navy and army against Napoleon (1805-1815)" in Napoleonic remembrance review, n ° 401, 1995. Jean TULARD (dir.)Napoleon dictionaryParis, Fayard, 1987.Correspondence of Napoleon I, published by order of the Emperor Napoleon IIIParis, Imperial Printing, 1858-1869, volume XXII.

File on the Giraffe wreck in the Mediterranean Archaeological Wrecks database of the Naval Archeology Research Group

To cite this article

Luce-Marie ALBIGÈS and Alain VENTURINI, “Corsica under the English threat. File 1: the attack on Sagone ”


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