Surrender of Napoleon
Captain F.L. Maitland
Frederick Lewis Maitland was born at Rankeillour,
near Cupar in Fife, on the 7th of September 1777, the third son of Captain
the Hon. Frederick Lewis Maitland and his wife Margaret Dick.
His career as Lieutenant of the Kingfisher
sloop of war started well, but ended in disaster. In January 1798 acting
as prize master he took the French privateer La Betsey safely
in to Lisbon, and out of the prize proceeds the Kingfishers crew
presented him with a sword. However in December of the same year he
had risen to the command of the Kingfisher, and was taking her
down the River Tagus, at Lisbon, when she ran aground and was wrecked.
On the 7th July 1799, while the French and Spanish
combined fleets were passing the Straits of Gibraltar, some of the ships
amused themselves with firing at two vessels belonging to the Algerines,
and then steering close in with the African shore.
Lord St.Vincent returned to England in August 1799,
accompanied by Maitland.
[The frigates offensive capability lay not only with its guns but also as a weapons platform, using its boats to launch attacks on coastal installations and "cutting" vessels out of harbours. A description of such an action is given by Maitland in the following dispatch.]
Loire, Muros Road, Spain, 4 June, 1805.
[As there is so great an interest in Napoleon I include the following lengthy extract which covers the details surrounding his surrender to Captain Maitland]
On Wednesday the 24th of May, 1815, I sailed from
Cawsand bay, in command of His Majesty’s ship Bellerophon, and
under the orders of Rear-Admiral Sir Henry Hotham, whose flag was hoisted
in the Superb. I received sealed instructions, part of which
were to be opened on getting to sea, and part only to be examined in
the event of my being separated from the Admiral. Those which I opened
contained directions to detain, and send into port, all armed vessels
belonging to the government of France.
Having sent every ship and vessel out from this bay,
to endeavour to intercept Buonaparte, I am obliged to send the chasse-mareer,
which has been employed in my communications with the Royalists, with
this letter, to acquaint you that the Ferret brought me information
last evening, after the Opossum had left me, from Lord Keith,
that Government had received, on the night of the 30th, an application
from the rulers of France, for a passport and safe conduct for Buonaparte
to America, which had been answered in the negative, and therefore,
directing an increase of vigilance to intercept him: but it remains
uncertain where he will embark; and, although it would appear by the
measures adopted at home, that its is expected he will sail from one
of the northern ports, I am of the opinion he will go from one of the
southern places, and I think the information I sent you yesterday by
the Opossum is very likely correct; namely, that he had taken
the road to Rochefort; and that he will probably embark in the frigates
at Isle d’Aix; for which reason I am very anxious you should have force
enough to stop them both, as the Bellerophon could only take
one, if they separated, and that might not be the one he would be on
board of. I have no frigate to send you; if one should join me in time,
I will send her to you, and I hope you will have two twenty gun ships
If you had ships enough to guard Basque Roads, and the Channel between Isle d’Oleron and the long sand (where a frigate may pass), you would be sure of keeping them in by anchoring; but that would afford you little chance of taking Buonaparte, which is the thing to be desired; therefore I think you would be better off the light-house, where I dare say you keep your-self; and on that particular subject I do not think it necessary to give you any instructions, as I depend on your using the best means that can be adopted to intercept the fugitive; on whose captivity the repose of Europe appears to depend. If he should be taken, he is to be brought to me in this bay as I have orders for his disposal; he is to be removed from the ship in which he may be found, to one of His Majesty’s ships.
Nothing of consequence occurred on the 9th; but on the 10th July at daylight, the officer of the watch informed me that a small schooner was standing out from the French squadron towards the ship: upon which I ordered everything to be ready for making sail in chase, supposing she might be sent for the purpose of reconnoitring. On approaching, she hoisted a flag of truce, and joined us at seven a.m. She proved to be the Mouche, tender to the ships of war at Isle d’Aix and had on board, General Savary Duc de Rovigo, and Count Las Cases, chamberlain to Buonaparte, charged with a letter from Count Bertrand (Grand Marechal de Palais) addressed to the Admiral commanding the British cruisers before the port of Rochefort.
Soon after the Mouche arrived, I was joined by the Falmouth, bringing me a letter from Sir Henry Hotham, some extracts from which I shall insert for the better understanding what follows, previous to entering into what passed with Buonaparte’s attendants. From Rear Admiral Henry Hotham to Captain Maitland HMS Bellerophon, undated, but must have been written, July 8, 1815. I sent a chasse-maree to you yesterday with a letter, and you will now receive by the Falmouth, officially, the orders which I therein made you acquainted with. I send you four late and very interesting French papers, by which you will see all that has been done and said on the subject of providing for Buonaparte’s escape from France: you will see that the Minister of Marine had been directed to prepare ships of war for that purpose; that they were placed at Buonaparte’s disposal; and that two frigates in particular had been provided for him: also that it was announced to the two Chambers, that he left Paris at four o’clock on the 29th; likewise that it was believed in Paris, he had taken the road by Orleans to Rochefort; and I have no doubt that the two frigates at Isle d’Aix are intended for him, and I hope you will think so too, and I am sure you will use your utmost endeavours to intercept him.
I am sorry I have not a frigate to send you; I have literally none but the Endymion under my orders. Captain Paterson is off Brest, by Lord Keith’s order; and the Phoebe is also ordered to that station, when the Hebrus arrives off the Gironde. The attention at home appears to be pain chiefly to ports in the Channel, but I have received no additional means whatever to guard those of the bay. I have long been expecting a frigate from the Irish station, but none has yet appeared; and I have written to Lord Keith for two frigates; but they cannot join me in time, I fear.
Order from Rear Admiral Henry Hotham to Captain Maitland HMS Bellerophon, dated Superb Quiberon Bay, July 8, 1815.
The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty having every reason to believe that Napoleon Buonaparte meditates his escape, with his family, from France to America, you are hereby required and directed, in pursuance of orders from their Lordships, signified to me by Admiral the Right Honourable Viscount Keith, to keep the most vigilant look-out for the purpose of intercepting him; and to make the strictest search of any vessel you may fall in with; and if you should be so fortunate as to intercept him, you are to transfer him and his family to the ship you command, and keeping him in careful custody, return to the nearest port in England (going into Torbay in preference to Plymouth) with all possible expedition; and on your arrival you are not to permit any communication whatever with the shore, except as herein after directed; and you will be held responsible for keeping the whole transaction a profound secret, until you receive their Lordship’s further orders.
In case you should arrive at a port where there is a flag-officer, you are to send to acquaint him with the circumstances, strictly charging the officer sent on shore with your letter, not to divulge its contents: and if there should be no flag-officer at the port where you arrive, you are to send one letter express to the Secretary of the Admiralty, and another to Admiral Lord Keith, with strict injunctions of secrecy to each officer who may be the bearer of them.
Messrs Savary and Las Cases, who came on board, from the schooner above mentioned, at seven o’clock on the 10th of July presented the following letter to me. Translation
The Emperor Napoleon having abdicated the throne of France, and chosen the United states of America as a retreat, is, with his suite, at present embarked on board the two frigates which are in this port, for the purpose of proceeding to his destination. He expects a passport from the British government, which has been promised to him, and which induces me to send the present flag of truce, to demand of you, Sir, if you have any knowledge of the above mentioned passport, or if you think it is the intention of the British Government to throw any impediment in the way of our voyage to the United States.
I shall feel much obliged by your giving me any information you may possess on the subject. I have directed the bearers of this letter to present to you my thanks, and to apologise for the trouble it may cause.
I have the honour to be,
Your Excellency’s most obedient, Grand Marschal Count Bertrand
The bearers of the letter had instructions to demand of me, whether I would prevent Buonaparte from proceeding in a neutral vessel, provided I could not permit the frigates to pass with him on board. Having received, in my orders, the strictest injunctions to secrecy, and feeling that the force on the coast, at my disposal, was insufficient to guard the different ports and passages from which an escape might be effected, particularly should the plan be adopted of putting to sea in a small vessel; I wrote the following reply to the above communication; hoping, by that means, to induce Napoleon to remain for the Admiral’s answer, which would give time for the arrival of reinforcements.
H.M.S. Bellerophon off Rochefort, July 10th 1815.
I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of yesterday’s date, addressed to the Admiral commanding the English cruisers before Rochefort, acquainting me that the Emperor, having abdicated the throne of France, and chosen the United States of America as an asylum, is now embarked on board the frigates, to proceed for that destination, and awaits a passport from the English Government; and requesting to know if I have any knowledge of such passport; or if I think it is the intention of the English Government to prevent the Emperor’s voyage.
In reply, I have to acquaint you, that I cannot say what the intentions of my Government may be; but, the two countries being at present in a state of war, it is impossible for me to permit any ship of war to put to sea from the port of Rochefort.
As to the proposal made by the Duc de Rovigo and Count Las Cases, of allowing the Emperor to proceed in a merchant vessel; it is out of my power, - without the sanction of my commanding officer, Sir Henry Hotham, who is at present in Quiberon bay, and to whom I have forwarded your despatch, - to allow any vessel, under whatever flag she may be, to pass with a personage of such consequence. I have the honour to be.
Your very humble servant,
Captain Fred. L, Maitland,
Captain of HMS Bellerophon
The Duke of Rovigo and Count Las Cases remained on board between two and three hours, during which time I had a great deal of conversation with them, on the state of affairs in France; in which they did all they could to impress me with the idea that Buonaparte was not reduced to the necessity of quitting Europe; but that, in doing so, he was actuated solely by motives of humanity; being unwilling, they said, that any further effusion of blood should take place on his account.
They declared also, that his party was still very formidable in the centre and south of France, and that, if he chose to protract the war, he might still give a great deal of trouble; and that, although his ultimate success might not be probable, there was still a possibility of fortune turning in his favour, and therefore they argued it was in the interest of England to allow him to proceed to America.
To all this I could give little or no reply, being quite ignorant of what had occurred in France, further than the decisive victory obtained by the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo. During the time the Frenchmen were with me, I received some French newspapers from Sir Henry Hotham; but my time was so fully occupied in writing to him. And in discussions with my visitors, that it was not in my power to read them; I therefore drew them back to the subject that occasioned their visit, and said "Supposing the British Government should be induced to grant a passport for Buonaparte’s going to America, what pledge could he give that he would not return, and put England, as well as all Europe, to the same expense of blood and treasure that has just been incurred?"
General Savary made the following reply:
"When the Emperor first abdicated the throne of France, his removal was brought about by a faction, at the head of which was Talleyrand, and the sense of the nation was not consulted: but in the present instance he has voluntarily resigned the power. The influence he once had over the French people is past; a very considerable change has taken place in their sentiments towards him since he went to Elba; and he could never again regain the power he had over their minds: therefore he would prefer retiring into obscurity, where he might end his days in peace and tranquillity; and where he solicited to ascend the throne again, he would decline it." "If that is the case", I said "why not ask an asylum in England?" he answered, "There are many reasons for his not wishing to reside in England: the climate is too damp and cold; it is too near France; he would be, as it were, in the centre of every change and revolution that might take place there, and would be subject to suspicion; he has been accustomed to consider the English as his most inveterate enemies, and they have been induced to look upon him as a monster, without one of the virtues of a human being."
This conversation took place while I was writing my despatches to Sir Henry Hotham; and the Frenchmen were walking in the cabin, frequently interrupting me, to enforce their statement of Buonaparte’s situation being by no means so desperate as might be supposed; from which I took the liberty of drawing a conclusion directly opposite to the one they were desirous of impressing on my mind. Captain Knight, of Falmouth, who carried my despatches to the Admiral, was present during the whole of this conversation, but did not join in it.
This was the first certain information I had received of Buonaparte’s position since the battle of Waterloo.
Tuesday, the 11th.[July] About noon, a small boat came off from the Island of Oleron, to where the ship was at anchor in Basque Roads, rowed by four men, in which sat two respectable-looking countrymen, who asked for the Captain; and upon my being pointed out to them, requested to speak to me in private. When shown into the cabin, where I went accompanied by Captain Gambier, of the Myrmidon, they acquainted me, that a message had been sent from Isle d’Aix, early that morning, for a man who was considered the best pilot on the island for the Mamusson passage, being the only person that had ever taken a frigate through; that a large sum of money had been offered to him to pilot a vessel to sea from that passage, and that it certainly was Buonaparte’s intention to escape from thence; either in the corvette, which had moved down some days before, or in a Danish brig, which was then lying at anchor near the entrance.
On receiving this information, I immediately got under weigh, and though the flood-tide had just made in, beat the ships out of the Pertuis d’Antioche before it was dark, when I sent the Myrmidon off the Mamusson, with orders to anchor close in with the entrance, when the weather would admit of it; while I remained with the Bellerophon and Slaney, which rejoined me that evening, under weigh between the light-houses.
On the 12th of July, the Cyrus being seen in the offing, I ordered her by telegraph to take a position close in with the Baleine light-house, and to examine strictly every vessel that might attempt to put to sea from the Pertuis de Breton, as Buonaparte was on the spot, endeavouring to escape to America. The same evening, the white flag made its appearance for the first time on the towers of Rochelle; on seeing which, I felt it my duty to run into Basque Roads, accompanied by the Slaney; and having anchored, I hoisted the Bourbon colours at the main-top-gallant mast-head, and fired a royal salute.
During the whole of this afternoon, however, two tri-coloured flags were kept flying in Rochelle; and before sun-set all the white flags were struck and every where replaced by those of Buonaparte. On the 13th July, nothing of importance occurred, except the white flag being once more hoisted all over Rochelle, as well as on the Isle of Oleron, to the entire exclusion of the tri-coloured ensign.
We could plainly perceive, that the frigates, from whom we were distant about three miles, were perfectly ready to put to sea, should an opportunity offer; having their sterns covered with vegetables, their top-gallant yards across, studding sail gear rove, and numerous boats passing between them and the island the whole day:- all indications, well known to professional men, of preparing for sea.
The ships under my command were accordingly kept with slip buoys on their cables, and, as soon as it was dark, the top-sail and top-gallant yards were swayed to the mast-heads, the sails stopt with rope yarns, and every thing kept ready to make sail at a moment's warning. Guard-boats were also kept rowing all night, as near the frigates as they could venture, having signals established to show in the enemy getting under sail.
On the 14th of July, at day-break, the officer of the watch informed me, that the Mouche was standing out from the Isle d’Aix, bearing a flag of truce, which I ordered to be accepted.
Here it is necessary to mention, that the British flag of truce, being a white flag at the fore-top-gallant mast-head, which was also hoisted as a matter of course when Buonaparte was received on board, has by some persons been construed as the Bourbon flag, and thence into an intentional insult to him. It never was my intention, nor do I believe it could have been that of any British officer, to treat with insult any fallen enemy, much less one who had shown such confidence as to throw himself on the protection of his former foe.
When the schooner, the Mouche, reached the ship, Count Las Cases came on board, attended by General Count Lallemand.
This meeting was highly interesting to me, as Lallemand had been a prisoner for three weeks in the Camelion under my command in Egypt, with Junot, whose Aid-de-Camp he then was; and General Savary, who accompanied Count Las Cases in his first visit to the Bellerophon, had lived nearly as long at Sir Sydney Smith’s table with me, at the Turkish camp at El Arish, when the convention, which takes its name from that place, was under discussion, being Aid-de-Camp to General Desaix, who negotiated on the part of the French.
On their coming on board, I made the signal for the captain of the Slaney, being desirous of having a witness to any conversation that might pass, as our communications were chiefly verbal: he arrived while we were at breakfast. When Count Las Cases came on the quarter-deck, he informed me that he was sent off to learn wheter I had received a answer from the Admiral to the letter he had brought off on the 10th instant. I told him I had not, but, in consequence of the despatch which I had forwarded to him, I had not a doubt he would immediately repair here in person, and I was hourly in expectation of seeing him, adding, "If that was the only reason you had for sending off a flag of truce, it was quite unnecessary, as I informed you, when last here, that the Admiral’s answer, when it arrived, should be forwarded to the frigates by one of the Bellerophon’s boats; and I did not approve of frequent communications with an enemy by means of flags of truce" I then went into the cabin and ordered breakfast, to prevent further disussion until the arrival of Captain Sartorius.
When breakfast was over, we retired to the after cabin. Count Las Cases then said, "The Emperor is so anxious to spare the further effusion of human blood, that he will proceed to America in any way the British Government chooses to sanction, either in a French ship of war, a vessel arned en flute, a merchant vessel, or even in a Britsih ship of war." To this I answered, "I have no authority to agree to any arrangement of that sort, nor do I believe my Government would consent to it; but I think I may venture to receive him into this ship, and convey him to England: if, however, "I added," he adopts that plan, I cannot enter into any promise, as to the reception he may meet with, as even in the case I have mentioned, I shall be acting on my own responsibility , and cannot be sure that it would meet with the approbation of the British Government."
There was a great deal of conversation on this subject, in the course Lucien Buonaparte’s name was mentioned, and the manner in which he had lived in England alluded to; but I invariably assured Las Cases most explicitly, that I had no authority to make conditions of any sort, as to Napoleon’s reception in England.
In fact I could not have done otherwise, since, with the exception of the order inserted at page 24, [see earlier], I had no instructions for my guidance, and was, of course, in total ignorance of the intentions of His Majesty’s ministers as to his future disposal.
One of the last observations Las Cases made before quitting the ship was, "Under all circumstances, I have little doubt that you will see the Emperor on board the Bellerophon;" and, in fact, Buonaparte must have determined on that step before Las Cases came on board, as his letter to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent is dated the 13th of July, the day before this conversation.
During the above-mentioned conversation, I asked Las Cases where Buonaparte then was ? He replied, "At Rochefort; I left him there yesterday evening". Generral Lallemand then said, "The Emperor lives at the Hotel in the Grand Palace, and is now so popular there, that the inhabitants assemble every evening in front of the house, for the purpose of seeing him," and crying "Vive L’Empereur!" I then asked how long it would take to go there: Las Cases answered, "As the tide will be against us, it will require five or six hours."
Why these false statements were made, I cannot pretend to say; but it is very certain that Buonaparte never quitted the frigates or Isle d’Aix, after his arrival there on the 3rd of July.
General Lallemand took occasion to ask me if I thought there would be any risk of the people, who might accompany Buonaparte, being given up to the Government of France: I replied, "Certainly not; the British Government never could think of doing so, under the circumstances contemplated in the present arrangement."
They left me about half-past nine A.M. In the course of the day, I was joined by the Myrmidon, Captain Gambier, who had been sent to me by Captain Green, of the Daphne, with a letter he had received from Captain Aylmer, of Pactolus, in the Grionde, bringing information that it was the intention of Buonaparte to escape from Rochefort in a Danish sloop, concealed in a cask stowed in the ballast, with tubes so constructed as to convey air for his breathing.
I afterwards inquired of General Savary, if there had been any foundation for such a report; when he informed me that the plan had been thought of, and the vessel in some measure prepared; but it was considered too hazardous; for had we detained the vessel for a day or two, he would have been obliged to make his situation known, and thereby forfeited all claims to the good treatment he hoped to ensure by a voluntary surrender.
The two Captains dined with me, and afterwards went on board the Myrmidon, to take up position to the north-east of the Bellerophon, to prevent vessels from passing close inshore, and thus to render the blockade of the port more complete.
Soon after they left me, a barge was perceived rowing off from the frigates towards the Bellerophon with a flag-of-truce up; on which I recalled Captains Sartorius and Gambier, by signal, that they might be present at any communication that was made. The boat got along-side about seven P.M and brought Count Las Cases, accompanied by General Baron Gourgaud, one of Buonaparte’s Aid-de-Camps.
On their coming on deck, I immediately addressed Las Cases, saying, "It is impossible you could have been at Rochefort, and returned, since you left me this morning." He replied, "No; it was not necessary; I found the Emperor at Isle d’Aix, on my arrival there." He then told me, he was charged with a letter from General Bertrand. We walked into the cabin, when he delivered it to me; it was as follows:- Translation.
Count Las Cases has reported to the Emperor the conversation which he had with you this morning. His Majesty will proceed on board your ship with the ebb tide to-morrow morning, between four and five o’clock.
I send the Count Las Cases, Counsellor of State, doing the duty of Marchel de Logis, with the list of persons composing His majesty’s suite. If the Admiral, in consequence of the despatch you forwarded to him, should send the passport for the United States therein demanded, His Majesty will be happy to repair to America; but should the passport be withheld, he will willingly proceed to England, as a private individual, there to enjoy the protection of the laws of your country.
His Majesty has despatched Major-General Baron Gourgaud to the Prince Regent with a letter, a copy of which I have the honour to enclose, requesting that you will forward it to such one of the ministers as you may think it necessary to send that general officer, that he may have the honour of delivering the letter with which he is charged to the Prince Regent.
I have the honour to be,
Sir, Your humble servant,
Count Bertrand [list of those who comprised the suite]
Enclosed was likewise a copy of the well-known letter addressed by Buonaparte to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent.
Rochefort, July 13th, 1815.
Your Royal highness,
A victim to the factions which distract my country, and to the enmity of the greatest powers of Europe, I have terminated my political career, and I come, like Themistocles, to throw myself upon the hospitality of the British people.
I put myself under the protection of their laws; which I claim from your Royal Highness, as the most powerful, the most constant, and the most generous of my enemies.
On reading the above, I told Monsieur Las Cases that I would receive Buonaparte on board, and immediately forward General Gourgaud to England by the Slaney, along with my despatches to the Admiralty; but that he would not be allowed to land until permission was received from London, or the sanction of the Admiral at the port he might arrive obtained.
I assured him, however, that the copy of the letter with which he was charged would be forwarded without loss of time, and presented by the Ministers to His Royal highness, Count Las Cases then asked fro paper, that he might communicate by letter to Bertrand my acquiescence in the proposal he had brought, for my receiving, and conveying to England, Buonaparte and his suite.
When General Gourgaud was about to write the letter, to prevent any future misunderstanding, I said, "Monsieur Las Cases, you will recollect that I am not authorised to stipulate as to the reception of Buonaparte in England, but that he must consider himself entirely at the disposal of His Royal Highness the Prince Regent." He answered, "I am perfectly aware of that, and have already acquainted the Emperor with what you said on that subject".
It might, perhaps, have been better if this declaration had been given in an official written form; and could I have foreseen the discussions which afterwards took place, and which will appear in the sequel, I undoubtedly should have done so; but as I repeatedly made it in the presence of witnesses, it did not occur to me as being necessary; and how could a stronger proof be adduced, that no stipulations were agreed to respecting the reception of Buonaparte in England, than the fact of their not being in writing? Which certainly would have been the case had any favourable terms been demanded on the part of Monsieur Las Cases, and agreed to by me.
The French boat was soon after despatched with the letter from Bertrand, in charge of a French naval officer, who had attended Las Cases on board; and as soon as I had finished the following despatch to the Secretary of the Admiralty, I sent Captain Sartorious, of the Slaney, to England, accompanied by General Gourgaud.
Extract of a letter from Captain Maitland, of His Majesty’s ship Bellerophon, addressed to the Secretary of the Admiralty, dated in Basque Roads, 14th July, 1815.
For the information of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty,
I have to acquaint you that the Count Las Cases and General Lallemand this day came on board His Majesty’s ship under my command, with a proposal from Count Bertrand for me to receive on board Napoleon Buonaparte, for the purpose of throwing himself on the generosity of the Prince Regent.
Conceiving myself authorised by their Lordships’ secret order, I have accede to the proposal, and he is embark on board this ship tomorrow morning.
That no misunderstanding should arise, I have explicitly and clearly explained to Count Las Cases, that I have no authority whatever for granting terms of any sort, but that all I can do is to carry him and his suite to England, to be received in such a manner as his Royal Highness may deem expedient.
At Napoleon Buonaparte’s request, and that their Lordships may be in possesion of the transaction at as early a period as possible, I despatch the Slaney ( with General Gourgaud, his Aid de Camp), directing Capatin Sartorious to put into the nearest port, and forward this letter by his first lieutenant, and shall in compliance with their Lordships’ orders proceed to Torbay, to await such directions as the Admiralty shall think proper to give. Enclosed, I transmit a copy of the letter with which General Gourgaud is charged, to his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, and request that you will acquaint their Lordships, that the General informs me, he is entrusted with further particulars, which he is anxious to communicate to his Royal Highness.
When these gentlemen had left the ship, as well as the Slaney’s barge, I said to Monsieur Las Cases, I propose dividing the after-cabin in two, that the ladies may have the use of part of it. "If you allow me to give an opinion," said he, "the Emperor will be better pleased to have the whole after cabin to himself, as he is fond of walking about, and will by that means be able to take more exercise." I answered, "As it is my wish to treat him with every possible consideration while he is on board the ship I command, I shall make any arrangement you think will be most agreeable to him."
This is the only conversation that ever passed on the subject of the cabin; and I am the more particular in stating it, as Buonaparte has been described, in some public Journals, as having taken possession of it in the most brutal way, saying, "Tout ou rien pour moi:"- All or nothing for me.
I here therefore, once for all, beg to state most distinctly, that, from the time of his coming on board my ship, to the period of his quitting her, his conduct was invariably that of a gentleman; and in no one instance do I recollect him to have made use of a rude expression, or to have been guilty of ill-breeding.
As the ship had for some time been kept clear for action, with all the bulkheads down, it became necessary to prepare for the reception of so many guests, by putting the cabins up again: inconsequence of making the requisite arrangements, it was past one o’clock in the morning before I could get to bed.
About ten at night, the officer of the watch informed me that a boat from the shore had asked permission to come alongside. A man being allowed to come on board from her; "I am sent off from Rochelle," said he, "to inform you that Buonaparte this morning passed that town in a chassee-maree, with another in company, for the purpose of escaping to sea by the Pertuis de Breton: he is now in that passage, and means to set sail this night." I told him, "that I doubted his information, having at that moment one of his attendants on board, who had come with a proposal for me to receive him into the ship.
I then asked him how he came by his intelligence ? he answered, "The vessels passed close to a boat I was in; and I saw a man wrapped up in a sailor’s great coat, whom one of the people with me asserted to be him: for my part, I am not aquatinted with his appearance, never having seen him; but when the owner of the vessels attempted to go on board one of them, he was kept off, and told that they would be required for two or three days, when they would be restored with ample payment."
He told his story so circumstantially, and with such confidence, that I feared there must be just grounds for what he stated; and the anxiety of my situation can easily be conceived, when it is recollected that I had sent off a ship for England with despatches, announcing the intention of Buonaparte to embark the following morning in the Bellerophon.
After a little consideration, I determined to inform Las Cases abruptly of the intelligence I had received, and endeavour to judge by the effect it had on his countenance, whether there was any truth in the report or not. I accordingly went into the cabin and did so; he seemed perfectly calm and collected, saying, "pray at what hour does your informant state the Emperor to have passed Rochelle ?" "At ten A.M." "Then I can safely assert, on my honour, that he was not in either of these vessels. I left him at half-past five this evening, when it was his full intention to come on board this ship tomorrow morning; what he may have done since that hour, I cannot be responsible for." I answered, "As you give your word of honour that Buonaparte had not left the Isle d’Aix when you quitted it, I shall trust to what you say, and take no steps in consequence of the information that has been brought to me, but concluded it has originated in some mistake."
About three in the morning, the officer of the watch awoke me, and said that another boat wished to come alongside. I rose and found that she brought the same intelligence from another quarter; and they both eventually proved correct, to a certain extent; for two chasee-marees, as I was afterwards informed, had been prepared, manned, and officered from the frigates, to be used as a last resource to attempt an escape in, in the event of Las Cases’ mission to the Bellerophon not being successful; and they had actually passed Rochelle, in their way to Pointeau d’Aguillon, at the hour specified, and were there to wait his joining them should it prove necessary.
After I had determined to abide by Las Cases’ evening, assurance, that Buonaparte had not quitted Isle’dAix, I enquired of the person who brought off the information in the evening "What was the state of Rochelle, and whether I might with safety send a boat there to purchase refreshments ?" as the white flag was then hoisted all over the town; he said, "he would not rccomend it, as, though the towns people were well inclined towards the Bourbon family, the garrison, consisting of four thousand men, were all attached to Buonaparte; but if he were once on board the ship, there would be no risk in doing so, as their fear of his meeting with bad treatment would keep the soldier in awe."
At break of day, on the 15th July, 1815, L’Epervier French brig of war was discovered under sail, standing out towards the ship, with a flag of truce up; and at the same time the Superb, bearing Henry Hotham’s flag, was seen in the offing.
By half-past five the ebb-tide failed, the wind was blowing right in, and the brig, which was within a mile of us, made no further progress; whilst the Superb was advancing with the wind and tide in her favour.
Thus situated, and being most anxious to terminate the affair I had brought so near to conclusion, previous to the Admiral’s arrival, I sent off Mr Mott, the first lieutenant, in the barge, who returned soon after six o’clock, bringing Napoleon with him.
On coming on board the Bellerophon, he was received without any of the honours generally paid to persons of high rank; the guard was drawn out on the break of the poop, but did no present arms.
His Majesty’s Government had merely given directions, in the event of his being captured, for his being removed into any one of his Majesty’s ships that might fall in with him; but no instructions had been given as to the light in which he was to be viewed. As it is not customary, however, on board a British ship of war, to pay any such honours before the colours are hoisted at eight o’clock in the morning, or after sunset, I made the early hour an excuse for with-holding them upon this occasion.
Buonaparte’s dress was an olive-coloured great coat over a green uniform, with scarlet cape and cuffs, green lapels turned back and edged with scarlet, skirts hooked back with bugle horns embroidered in gold, plain sugar-loaf buttons and gold epaulettes; being the uniform of the Chasseur a Cheval of the Imperial Guard. He wore the star or grand cross of the legion of Honour, and the small cross of that order; the iron Crown; and the Union, appended to the button-hole of his left lapel. He had on a small cocked hat, with a tri-coloured cockade; plain gold-hilted sword, military boots, and white waistcoat and breeches.
The following day he appeared in shoes, with gold buckles, and silk stocking -the dress he always wore afterwards, while with me.
On leaving the Epervier, he was cheered by her ship’s company as long as the boat was in hearing; and Mr Mott informed me that most of the officers and men had tears in their eyes.
[The narrative continues with details of the period spent on board the Bellerophon prior to Napoleon being transferred to the Northumberland for the passage to St Helena. There is considerable detail concerning the views of Napoleon’s suite particularly concerning the rumour of exile to St. Helena. However for that I recommend the reader to the volume from which this extract has been taken:
The Surrender of Napoleon: being the narrative of the surrender of Buonaparte, and of his residence on board H.M.S. Bellerophon, with a detail of the principal events that occurred in that ship between the 24th of May and the 8th August 1815.
Author: Rear Admiral Sir Frederick Lewis Maitland , K.C.B. a new edition edited, with a memoir of the author, by William Kirk Dickson.
Published: Edinburgh and London, 1904.]