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The letter of General Lallemand to General Slade

2 AUGUST 1815

Written on Board the Bellerophon in the roads of Plymouth

Monsieur le General,

Two military men who mutually esteemed each other when they were carrying arms seldom forget the remembrance of it, and if one of them should find himself in a difficult situation he must not hesitate to give to the other proofs of a confidence, which also binds each one to the other.

Having become the plaything of my country’s revolutionary happenings I find myself threatened by persecution even in England by passions and vengeance, when I thought that I had found rest on a free and hospitable soil. Considering this situation I very much wish that you would make known to your government some circumstances which have contributed to establish relations between ourselves.

In the campaign of Estramadura when the chances of war sometimes varied, I have been rather fortunate to be able to show to the British military by the display of consideration and loyalty all the esteem which their valour inspired in me.

Would you be kind enough to remind them that on the 11th of June 1812, after having collected a certain number of prisoners which, I think, belonged to the 1st Heavy Dragoons and the 3rd Heavy Dragoon Guards, and amongst whom there were 30-40 who were badly wounded and could not be transported without danger, after having attended to them I lodged them in the village of Maguilla, recommending them to the priest, the alcalde, the surgeon and the principal inhabitants. As this village, owing to the position I occupied found itself dependent on my patrols, I daily sent there a surgeon to visit them, to make sure of their daily state of health and of the attention which was given them. I had the honour, after a few days, to let you know that if you wished to send an English surgeon to attend to these wounded men he could establish himself near them and I would give him a ‘safe conduct’. I even offered to you to return them to you should your surgeon be of opinion that they could be moved and I added that in view of their wounds I would give them back to you without exchange, wishing nothing better but to contribute to preserve the existence of such brave fellows.

You accepted my proposals, you sent a surgeon with a detachment commanded by an officer, and there was a suspension of hostilities between this detachment and my troops. Your surgeon, after having examined the wounded, considered their state of health sufficiently improved to enable them to stand the strain of transport, and an officer of my brigade returned them to your detachment without exchange, as I had offered.

I seem to remember these circumstances too clearly so that I do not doubt that you will consent to certify the correctness of the occurrence. Dare I request you to bring this occurrence to the notice of H.R.H. the Prince Regent and the Ministry, as promptly as possible?

I voluntarily embarked on board of the Bellerophon on the coast of France, with the Emperor Napoleon, and full of confidence in the assurance given to me by Captain Maitland that having been received and transported to England, under the protection of the British flag, I would, on arrival, be under the protection of the government, and that under no circumstances, had I to fear of being sent back to France.

Now however, when one has just notified the Emperor that he would be sent to St. Helena, one withholds the names of General Savary and myself from the persons whom the Emperor may choose to accompany him. This exemption surprises us and alarms us, as it takes place at the same time as the military proscription pronounced against us in France. In spite of the fears which overwhelm us, we cannot believe that the British government would violate in such a palpable and in such an odious manner, the rights of men against us, and that the word of a sea captain may become a trap and a treachery which hand us over to vengeance, to the passions of our enemies who are always extreme under the stress of revolutionary disturbances.

It is in a circumstance as painful as this, as delicate as this, that I request you, Monsieur le General, to kindly make known to H.R.H. the Prince Regent and to the Ministry, the conduct I have shown towards British troops. I cannot believe that the government is going to refuse its hospitality to a man who has made use of his rights of a commander in war only for the purpose of saving as much as possible the lives of British subjects.

If you have the kindness of replying I request you to kindly address your letter to the Admiralty so that I receive it safely or to H.E. Admiral Keith at Plymouth.

Please accept the assurance of my high consideration with which I have the honour to be, Monsieur le General, your very humble and very obedient servant, Lallemand Lieutenant General.

This reference to wounded troops at Maguilla in June 1812 refers to a combat on 11 June 1812 at Maguilla near Llera when General Slade’s cavalry were worsted by the cavalry of General Lallemand. Indeed Oman describes the combat as ‘the most unlucky combat that was ever fought by the British cavalry during the Peninsular War’. Having broken Lallemand’s line of cavalry the dragoons of the 1st Royals and 3rd Dragoon Guards took over 100 French prisoners, but failed to control their charge or to maintain a reserve and were defeated in their turn by the French cavalry reserve, losing 166 men killed, wounded and prisoner. Wellington in writing to Lord Hill referred to it stating that:

‘It is occasioned entirely by the trick our officers of cavalry have acquired, of galloping at everything, and their galloping back as fast as they gallop on the enemy… they never keep nor provide for a reserve.’

But what evidence do we have to Lallemand’s generosity of spirit in the aftermath? General Robert Ballad Long, who was nearby gives a different event in a letter dated on 16 June, stating:

Having heard the same night that the enemy had left 15 of our wounded men at Maguilla (intending I suppose to send for them the next day) I detached the same night a squadron and brought off 12 of them, the other three having died. A detachment of heavy dragoons was directed on the 12th inst. To patrole to Maguilla for the above purpose, not aware that I had secured the object, and on their arrival there fell in with a superior force of the enemy, who was charged, routed, and one officer and 18 men and horses taken. On these two occasions General Lallemand lost his two aides de camp taken prisoners, but as he took two officers from us, a mutual exchange will take place.

What happened to this appeal? Unfortunately we do not know how Generals Slade or Long reacted.

However, the decision not to let them accompany Napoleon was not rescinded, but it was agreed that they could not be sent to their inevitable deaths by returning them to France. Lallemand and a number of others were sent onboard HMS Eurotas and interned at Malta. However they were only held at Malta a few months before they were released. Lallemand apparently arrived in Boston in the ship Triton, from Liverpool, under the assumed name of General Cotting. According to the New York Columbian of 29 April 1817, quoting from the Evening Post, he was smuggled on board the Triton at Liverpool. ‘On leaving the river, as the Custom House boat passed from ship to ship to examine the rolls, the General was passed in a boat to and from several ships, so as to evade the boarding officer.’ Lallemand went to Philadelphia, where he became President of the French Emigrant Association, an organization that gained a grant of four townships in what is now Alabama for a Vine and Olive Colony. The Alabama land grants were then sold to finance another colony in Texas. The planned Texas colony, Champ d’Asile (‘Field of Asylum’) was meant for Napoleonic veterans. Lallemand stated in public that the colony would have military men only for protection; otherwise it would concentrate on agriculture. Lallemand and his brother reached New Orleans, Louisiana on 2 February 1818, gathered new recruits and on 10 March left for Galveston with 120 volunteers.

However, the Mexican governor Antonio Maria Martinez sought to prevent this and Champ d’Asile was abandoned around 24 July 24. Lallemand returned to New Orleans.

Lallemand later became a United States citizen and Napoleon left him 100,000 francs in his will. After the Revolution of 1830, Lallemand returned to France. From 1837-1838, he served as military governor of Corsica and died in Paris in 1839.

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