Military Review

Napoleon Bonaparte as a factor in the epidemic process


The lull after the brilliant successes of the Italian campaign of 1796-1797 did not correspond to the political plans of General Bonaparte. After the first victories, Napoleon began to claim an independent role. He needed a series of victorious events that would strike the imagination of the nation and make him the favorite hero of the army.

He worked out a very adventurous expedition plan to capture Egypt in order to get in the way of England’s communications with India, and easily convinced the Directory (the government of the first French Republic under the constitution of the III year adopted by the National Convention in 1795) of the need for France to have a colony on the Red Sea from where the shortest way to reach India.

As you can see, the idea of ​​"washing soldiers' boots with the waters of the Indian Ocean" came to mind Napoleon Karlovich a little earlier than Vladimir Volfovich ...

So, the Government of the Directory, fearing the popularity of Bonaparte, decided to get rid of its presence in Paris and put at its disposal the Italian army and navy.

The expeditionary army was assigned 24 thousand infantry with 4 thousand cavalry and 300 horses (the remaining horses were supposed to be purchased in Egypt), 16 companies of artillery, 8 companies of sappers, miners and workers, 4 park companies; total 32 people. The troops were 300 divisions.

To transport these troops, 309 vessels were prepared with a total displacement of 47 tons (300 in Marseille, 58 in Toulon, 72 in Genoa, 73 in Civita-Vecchia and 56 in Corsica).

Intended for escorting the expedition flotilla of 55 vessels (13 battleships, 6 frigates, 1 corvette, 9 flutes, 8 brig and messenger ships, 4 mortar ships and 12 gunboats and 2 feluks). Most of the troops stationed in Toulon and Marseille were to be deployed on military ships. The flotilla crew consisted of 10 thousand sailors. The expedition was attended by many scientists, researchers, engineers, technicians and artists (up to 100 people in total) in order to study the ancient country.

More information about this venture can be found at VO in very worthy and informative articles by Alexander Samsonov:

Battle of the pyramids. Egyptian campaign of Bonaparte.

Battle of the pyramids. Egyptian campaign Bonaparte. Part of 2.

Battle of the pyramids. Egyptian campaign Bonaparte. Part of 3.

I will focus only on a few key episodes of the events of those old days.

After the successful conquest of Egypt, Napoleon Bonaparte continued to attack the Ottoman territories in the Middle East.

Napoleon Bonaparte as a factor in the epidemic process

Literaryhistorical sources eloquently tell about these events:

“The trip was difficult, especially due to lack of water. City after city, starting from El Arish, surrendered to Bonaparte. Crossing the Isthmus of Suez, he moved to Jaffa and on March 4, 1799 besieged her. The city did not give up. Bonaparte ordered the population of Jaffa to be declared that if the city was taken by attack, then all the inhabitants would be exterminated, they would not be taken prisoner. Jaffa did not give up. On March 6, an assault followed, and bursting into the city, the soldiers began to destroy literally everyone who came to hand. Houses and shops were given for plunder. ”

4 thousand people were captured. Napoleon had neither supplies for their food, nor ships to send them by sea from Jaffa to Egypt, nor enough free troops to escort thousands of selected and strong soldiers through all the Egyptian deserts to Alexandria or Cairo. All prisoners were shot ...

In the houses, and on the streets, and on the roofs, and in the cellars, and in the gardens, and the gardens, the unsuitable corpses of the slaughtered population rotted, and on the shore there were thousands of prisoners. There is nothing surprising in the outbreak of the plague in the city ....

Immediately after this Bonaparte moved on to the fortress of Acre, or, as the French often call it, Saint-Jean d'Acre. The Turks called her Akka. There was no particular delay: the plague was on the heels of the French army. Staying in Jaffa was extremely dangerous.

The siege of Acre lasted exactly two months and ended in failure.

Bonaparte did not have siege artillery; the defense was led by the Englishman Sydney Smith; the British brought supplies from the sea and weaponThe Turkish garrison was great. After several failed attacks, May 20, 1799 had to lift the siege, during which the French lost 3 thousand people. True, the besieged lost even more. After that, the French went back to Egypt.

“The return trip was even harder than the offensive, because it was already the end of May and June was approaching, when the terrible heat in these places was intensifying to a completely unbearable degree. It is curious to note that during this difficult return trip from Syria to Egypt, the commander-in-chief shared with the army all the difficulties of this campaign, not giving himself and his higher commanders any concessions. The plague pressed more and more. They left the plague, but the wounded and sick were not taken with the plague further. Bonaparte ordered everyone to dismount, and to provide horses, all carts and crews for the sick and wounded. When, after this order, his chief stable manager, convinced that he should make an exception for the commander in chief, asked which horse to leave him, Bonaparte became furious, hit the questioner with a whip in the face and shouted: “Everyone should walk! I’ll go first! What, you don't know the order? Get out! " For this and similar acts, the soldiers loved more and, in old age, more often recalled Napoleon than for all his victories and conquests. He knew this very well and never in such cases hesitated; and none of those who watched him could subsequently decide what and when there was direct movement, and what was played and considered. It could be both that and the other, as happens with great actors. And Napoleon in acting was really great, although at the dawn of his activity, in Toulon, in Italy, in Egypt, his property began to be revealed so far only to very few, only the most penetrating of the closest. And among his relatives there were then few shrewd ones. ”

(E.V. Tarle. Napoleon. ZhZL. 1936.)

Meanwhile, in Ramla (about 20 km from Jaffa), where the French headquarters were located, a plague epidemic also broke out, literally mowing down the inhabitants of the city and the French troops.

“The hospital opened in the monastery of the monks of the Order of the Holy Land was not enough. The number of patients reached 700, corridors, cells, dormitories, the yard was jammed with them. Chief Surgeon Larrey did not hide his worries; several people died a day after admission to the hospital; their disease progressed with great speed, symptoms of the plague were detected. The disease began with vomiting; the temperature rose very high, the patients raved terribly; in the groin, buboes appeared in them, and if immediately the latter did not break through, the patient died. The monks of the Order of the Holy Land locked themselves up and did not want to communicate with the sick anymore, the orderlies deserted, the hospital was abandoned to such an extent that there was not enough food, and the medical officers had to do everything themselves. In vain did they refute those who wanted to see the symptoms of the plague in what they said was only a known malignant fever called "bubo". In vain did they set an example, doubling care and zeal; fear swept through the army. One of the characteristics of the plague is that it is more dangerous for those who fear it; almost all who allowed fear to control themselves died from it. The Commander-in-Chief got rid of the monks of the Order of the Holy Land, sending them to Jerusalem and Nazareth; he personally went to the hospital, his presence brought comfort to the sick; he ordered the operation of several patients in his presence, the buboes were pierced to facilitate the onset of the crisis; he touched those who seemed the most spiritless to prove to them that they were suffering from a common, non-contagious disease. The result of all the measures taken was the preservation by the army of confidence that this was not a plague; only a few months later did I still have to agree that it was a plague. However, they did not neglect the usual precautions; it was strictly ordered to indiscriminately burn everything captured during the looting of the city; however, such precautions are resorted to in hospitals whenever an epidemic of malignant fever begins. ”

(Napoleon. Selected Works. Moscow: Military Publishing House, 1956)

Antoine Jean Gros. Napoleon Bonaparte visiting plague patients in Jaffa March 11, 1799

Dominic Jean Larrey (1766-1842) was a renowned practicing surgeon in Paris. In 1792 he was drafted into the army and sent to the Rhine, where there were then serious battles and the troops suffered heavy losses. Larrey became the chief surgeon of Napoleon's armies. From 1797 to 1815, he did a lot to improve the military-sanitary business - in particular, Larrey actively introduced modern methods of military field surgery in the army, and also significantly increased his mobility and improved the organization of field hospitals with his innovations. So, they were introduced "flying hospitals", ambulances, to provide operational assistance to the wounded. These were light, well-moving two-wheeled carts, each of which was harnessed by two horses. Following the advancing troops, they could quickly get to the battlefield, collect the wounded (this was done by specially trained assistant surgeons) and provide them with the necessary assistance in the field hospital.

Looking ahead, I’ll say that already in 1793, at the Battle of Limburg (war of the First Coalition), Larrey’s “ambulances” proved to be excellent; many of the soldiers wounded in this battle were saved precisely because of the timely medical assistance provided. Soon, “flying ambulances” were organized throughout the French army, which markedly reduced irretrievable losses.

He introduced the practice of triage, that is, sorting the wounded according to the severity of the injuries received in battle. He also worked on improving sanitation, providing food to patients, and also trained medical personnel.

In 1799, at the battle of Abukir, he had, as contemporaries noted, to render assistance to almost two thousand wounded, and many operations (mainly amputations) were performed by him on the battlefield under enemy fire.

Among other innovations, he introduced into practice the use of lightweight bandages, pads and tampons made of thin cotton fabric. For this purpose, he used fabric, which in those days was called the "Gaza fabric." Since the Middle Ages, it was produced by Jewish weavers in the Gaza region. In fact, this fabric in a very starched form was transported to Europe for a long time, where it was used for lining fluffy skirts. Until that time, dense and rigid clothes were used for dressings. No one made special dressings. Larrey first saw her in a natural soft form. Today we know this fabric as gauze.

Larrey provided the necessary assistance to the wounded soldiers of the enemy. A case was described when, during a trip to Russia, upon entering the city of Vitebsk, 350 Russians were found abandoned in solitude and dirt, unable to move: they were all gathered, dressed, transferred to a hospital, where they received the same help as the French.

In 1812, during the battle of Borodino, he spent 200 amputations, spending an average of 7,2 minutes for each, about which he recalled:
“The wounds received in this battle were severe, since almost all of them were caused by artillery fire, wounds from gun bullets were received point-blank and at a very close distance. In addition, as we have repeatedly noticed, Russian bullets were much larger than ours. Most of the artillery wounds required the amputation of one or two members. ”

Larrey amputates Colonel Rebsomen's arm and leg in Hanau

During the Battle of Waterloo, the courage of Larrey, personally participating in helping the wounded under fire, was noticed by the Duke of Wellington, who at one point in the battle ordered his soldiers to cease fire in his direction, giving Larrey the opportunity to collect the wounded.

Larrey was captured by the troops of Prussia and was initially sentenced to death, but was pardoned and sent under escort to France.

For his services, Larrey was awarded the Legion of Honor three times.

On June 14, 1799, Bonaparte's army returned to Cairo.

And then a sudden, unpredictable event occurred. Long months cut off from any communication with Europe, Bonaparte from the newspapers that accidentally fell into his hands recognized the amazing news: he learned that while he conquered Egypt, Austria, England, Russia and the Kingdom of Naples renewed the war against France, that Suvorov appeared in Italy, defeated the French, destroyed the Cisalpine Republic, moved to the Alps, threatened the invasion of France; in France itself - robberies, unrest, complete frustration; The directory is hated by the majority, weak and confused. "Scoundrels! Italy is lost! All the fruits of my victories are lost! I need to go!" He said as soon as he read the newspaper.

He transferred the high command of the army to General Kleber, ordered to hastily and rigorously equip four vessels, put about 500 people selected by them on them and sailed to France on August 23, 1799.

The plague remained on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Napoleon left the Levant, leaving her with a nose. However, that was not all ...

Napoleon’s troops who returned from the Egyptian campaign brought to France and then spread epidemics of eye diseases throughout Europe: trachoma, which was joined by bacterial purulent conjunctivitis. The disease was called "Egyptian inflammation." These were the first epidemics of eye diseases in Europe. There was no cure for an unknown infection at that time. The disease led to the defeat of not only the conjunctiva, but also the cornea. The infection through the cornea inside the eye ended in blindness and even death of the eye. Moreover, it was a rather insidious disease: even once cured, a person was not protected from reinfection, since the body did not develop immunity to infection. But the worst thing in this disease is the speed of its spread. The source that arose in one place in a short time covered the masses, and such outbreaks constantly occurred.

Thus, trachoma appeared first among the military, and then among the civilian population. In 1801, the disease was discovered on the island of Malta and in Genoa, in 1802 in England, in 1813 in Germany.

At this stage, Karl-Ferdinand Grefe (1787-1840) joined in the fight against trachoma. At one time, he was the personal physician of the Duke Alexius of Anhalt-Bernburg.

In 1811, at the age of 24, Karl-Ferdinand was awarded the title of Ordinary Professor of Surgery and Eye Diseases. He was the director of the eye clinic at the University of Berlin and became one of the founders of German ophthalmology.

In 1813, during the sixth coalition of European powers against Napoleonic France, he was appointed head of military hospitals with the rank of General Staff Doctor of the Prussian Army, where, among other things, he rendered ophthalmological assistance to soldiers suffering from "Egyptian eye inflammation."

For merits and courage in the treatment of soldiers of the Union Army, the Russian Emperor Nicholas I granted Karl Gref in 1826 the noble title and inheritance right to the prefix "background". Thus, the German family Gref became Russian nobles. His son, Albrecht von Graefe, will also become an ophthalmologist, and with a worldwide reputation, he will do a lot in the future for the development of ophthalmology in Russia.

In 1817-18, an epidemic erupted among the Russian troops occupying France, and was brought by them to Russia. First trachoma spread in the Kingdom of Poland (1818-1820).

In St. Petersburg, the first cases were noted in 1832.

The initial epidemics caused a lot of diseases and were terrible in their consequences. In the English army in 1818 there were 5000 disabled people who were blinded by this disease, in the Russian army in the 20s and 30s, about 80 people fell ill, in Belgium in 000 every fifth soldier suffered from trachoma, the number of people who were completely blind or partially lost their eyesight, in the tens of thousands.

In 1823, Ivan Petrovich Butkov (1782-1856), doctor of medicine and senior doctor of the Guards Infantry, was ordered to take measures to end the epidemic raging in Crimea among the soldiers of the Russian Imperial Army. He studied in detail the causes of the spread of the disease, improved the sanitary condition of the troops and managed to stop the epidemic. For this, he was rewarded, among other signs of the highest mercy, with the Order of St. Anna of the 2nd degree with diamonds, the Order of St. Vladimir of the 3rd degree and an all-merciful gift. Butkov described his observations on the epidemic in a scientific paper, "A Brief Description of Eye Inflammation Appearing in the Crimea in the Troops Participating in the Turkish Campaign of 1824."

At the end of the XNUMXth century, an epidemic of trachoma swept the Kazan province and the Volga region. In conditions of low hygiene, trachoma infected hundreds of thousands of people, mainly representatives of the poor. Tatar villages of pre-revolutionary Russia were completely covered by an epidemic.

November 14, 1922 in Kazan was founded the first in Russia scientific medical institution to combat trachoma.

Wards for trachoma patients (1930s)

Trachoma began to recede only in the postwar years. Effective methods of treating this disease were found, measures were taken to alert the population, informational work, and discussions were organized among schoolchildren. Effective chemicals were used - albucides, later tetracycline and other antibiotics will appear. In 1964, a complete victory over the trachoma was declared on the territory of the TASSR.

Napoleon. Selected works. M .: Military Publishing House, 1956
Tarle E.V. Napoleon. ZHZL. 1936.
Articles from the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary.
Wikipedia et al.
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  1. Cowbra
    Cowbra April 9 2020 07: 52 New
    Well, also Larrey - "the father of the ambulance" and his phrase - "the wounds of the winners heal faster"))) And the soldiers wanted to slap him at Waterloo simply because he was a French officer. He was stupidly not recognized at first
  2. Snail N9
    Snail N9 April 9 2020 07: 55 New
    The history of epidemics and diseases on the territory of Russia and the USSR still, in many cases, does not have any kind of popularization, I mean collected in some kind of publicly available study. Those research results and articles written by microbiologists-virologists, doctors and the military on this topic still do not have wide access - are secret or particleboard. Well, an example, few people know that the territory of Anapa, where we go to rest, is actually an unfavorable area in the epidemic sense - there, besides all known intestinal infections (probably everyone, especially children, got them when they were resting), there were foci in the past malaria, anthrax, Crimean hemorrhagic fever, zoonoses, etc. Cases of infection with anthrax still occur - anthrax burial sites are scattered there in many places, and many already do not have a designation and they carry out either business or cottage construction.
    1. Cowbra
      Cowbra April 9 2020 11: 10 New
      First, few people are interested in it. You can collect, who will read? Besides, yes figs with her with Anapa. Do you see the dove? Source of psittacosis, heavier toadstool COVID, then what? But what conclusion will be drawn NOT by a physician, but by such a storyteller "from the 80s in the operating room"? "Ah-ah! We will all die. And shoot the pigeons. Ducks and chickens, by the way, too."
      Even medical students have this "third-year syndrome" - when they understand that everything around is dangerous, you can die at any moment. But there, a little later, the head falls into place and you understand that it is possible to do something, it is banal to observe the rules - and the risk is small. But in order to understand this it takes MEDICAN about a year. And how many hysterics about COVID, given that they do not even have a primary medical, and they passed biology at school ... But by?
  3. EvilLion
    EvilLion April 9 2020 08: 34 New
    A case was described when, during a trip to Russia, upon entering the city of Vitebsk, 350 Russians were found abandoned in solitude and dirt, unable to move: they were all gathered, dressed, transferred to a hospital, where they received the same help as the French.

    Standard practice at a time when the wounded, when it is impossible to evacuate, are left in front of the enemy, and provide honey. help, as it were. The rules of war were then those. Captured officers were generally kept on a salary, according to the salaries of similar posts in their army. And for our officers, for example, to be captured by the French was a very good idea to live in Paris. The soldiers were simply attached somewhere to wave a shovel, and local girls to be satisfied, while their own Jacques somewhere near Smolensk or in Africa.

    In general, if you fight throughout Europe for more than 20 years and chase tens of thousands of people over it, it would be strange if there were a lot of side corpses, including from epidemics, per one person who was shot or hacked onto the battlefield.
  4. Free wind
    Free wind April 9 2020 08: 41 New
    I didn’t understand anything, but very interesting! And what does the French, Napolion, and the Tatar SSR have to do with it? During the siege of Jaffa, Napoleon sent parliamentarians there, an hour later the besieged were put up on the peaks, and the scalped bodies were thrown away, and the residents actually sailed. But Napoleon did not know how to take fortresses, Suvorov and without artillery, with much smaller forces, Ishmael took. Napoleon did not use bacteriological weapons either. It was necessary that there were a dozen archers, and 5-10 plague corpses. Stick arrows into the corpses and shoot behind the wall of the fortress, even if it scratches a few defenders, in a couple of weeks there would be no one left there. Arabs, Persians, Chinese, Mongols used this more than once. Shake hands with the plague man, oh well, nafig, I have to get very drunk to agree to this, and then fall. I wanted .... but could not, oh give me a beer. Traumatology, of course, was ....... The toe knocked out, the foot is amputated. The elbow is bruised, the arm is cut off to the very shirt. There was truth and anesthesia. uncle is not frail with a club, and a very respected specialist, you need to drive in the kumpol with a bat so that you don't break your head and calm the client for 5 minutes. The mortality rate from treatment reached 70%. By the way, people sometimes swore "trachoma", I thought it was some kind of derivative from the words, it turns out that there was such a disease.
  5. Marine engineer
    Marine engineer April 9 2020 11: 00 New
    It is not clear why the Europeans from the Crusades did not bring this trachoma to Europe before?
    1. A. Privalov
      April 9 2020 13: 35 New
      Quote: Marine engineer
      It is not clear why the Europeans from the Crusades did not bring this trachoma to Europe before?

      It is possible that they brought. However, it was in the 11th-13th centuries and it might not have been recognized as a separate disease against the background of an already bad epidemic background in those days. The journey from the Middle East to Europe took years. Even swimming was very long, many died along the way, and therefore returned a little. For 200 - 300 years, the epidemic could fade away. The level of medicine was the same, no one left clear descriptions, respectively, by the end of the 18th century, nobody really knew anything about trachoma in Europe. Trachoma became a problem when people began to gather in crowded settlements or cities. That's when they talked about her in full voice.
  6. faterdom
    faterdom April 9 2020 11: 06 New
    The Napoleonic Wars eventually ravaged France, and generally brought a lot of grief and destruction. But they also gave a giant leap in many areas: from archeology and Egyptology, to the "Code of Napoleon" and military field medicine.
    At the same time, to think that there would be no Napoleon - there would be no 20-year series of wars wrong. She would be anyway - the conditions are ripe.
  7. Caretaker
    Caretaker April 9 2020 19: 28 New
    In the houses, and on the streets, and on the roofs, and in the cellars, and in the gardens, and the gardens, the unsuitable corpses of the slaughtered population rotted, and on the shore there were thousands of prisoners. There is nothing surprising in the outbreak of the plague in the city ....
    If everyone was destroyed, then who got the plague?
  8. Aviator_
    Aviator_ April 9 2020 19: 41 New
    The article, of course, is somewhat chaotic, but informative. In the Egyptian campaign, Napoleon took a whole team of academicians - Monge, Berthollet, and others. He left Laplace at the Academy. And during the dust storms there was an order: "camels and academicians to the center of the caravan" as the most valuable. One Rosette stone, which was accidentally dug up by a soldier during excavation work, which is worth it - Frnçois Champollion later deciphered ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs from it. Respect to the author.