Monthly Archives: May 2015

The road to Waterloo: Week 14 (25 – 31 May 2015)

‘A fearful interval expecting the bursting out of the war.’ *

23 days to Waterloo

May 1815 was an anxious time of preparation and anticipation. Naples had capitulated; the Allies were gathering their forces; while Napoleon prepared the defences of Paris:

“The Emperor mounted his horse yesterday morning at six o’clock.  He made the tour of the works which are executing from Montmatre to the heights of Belleville and Charonne, and thence to Vincennes, where he visited the artillery establishments and the armouries… These works have been laid out with skill and there is reason to hope that they will be finished and armed within 20 days. All that part of the exterior of Paris will then be secured against attack.”

The same papers reported the strength and position of the Allies, noting that it might take Russian forces another five weeks to cross the Rhine: “Will the Emperor Napoleon wait patiently until all the preparations of the Allies are completed?” The Allied army lacked unity – with its diversity of interests, languages, and manners – compared to the French army “comprised of one people, united in common cause, and directed by one single genius.” [The Times, 30 May 1815 quoting the French papers, Paris, 26 May 1815]

The Duke of Wellington was also busy with preparations: his correspondence shows him accepting the services of officers, disposing troops, and organizing transport and subsistence.  He negotiated treaties of subsidy with foreign powers to settle the expenses of the war. Wellington’s letter of 26 May 1815 to Viscount Castlereagh, the Foreign Secretary, contains a rough sketch of the probable British, Hanoverian, and Brunswick forces:

“I enclose a rough memorandum of the state of our force at present, with a view to the calculation of subsidy. In this calculation I include officers, non-commissioned officers, men sick, absent, and present, and those absent on command, but not garrisons. I reckon the Hanoverian reserve, that is, those last arrived, which are called 10,000 men, as the contingent of Hanover; the remainder, or 15,867, as foreign troops in British pay will come into our numbers to make up our 150,000. I have not yet settled with the Duke of Brunswick, as the details of that settlement depend upon the settlement of Hanover, respecting which I am still in discussion; but taking his contingent at 3000 men; we shall have about 5000 to carry to our account, of which 500 will be cavalry.

You will see then that the demand which the Allies will have upon us for subsidy, on account of our deficiencies, will amount to about £1,800,000.”
[MS 61 Wellington Papers 1/465/77]

Meanwhile The Times derided the repeated postponements of the Champ de Mai – or “Field of May”, a great national assembly in Paris which Napoleon had summoned to approve the ‘Additional Act’ to the Constitutions of the Empire. Originally planned for the 26th May, it was then postponed to the 28th. The roads to the capital thronged as members of the electoral assemblies, and officers of each army regiment, were ordered to attend the ceremony. Wellington received regular intelligence:

“A gentleman.. who arrived here yesterday directly from Paris, says that it [the Champ de May] is to be this day the 26th and that he met on the road a great number of officers, all going there for that ceremony at which they are to receive the eagle’s for their respective regiments. He met also several depots, going to the interior. The National Guards from the interior are sent to the frontiers, and those from the frontier to the interior.”
[MS 61 Wellington Papers 1/463/12 Letter from General Dornberg to Lord FitzRoy Somerset, Military Secretary to the Duke of Wellington, 25 May 1815]

The following day, Lionel Harvey, the Duke’s secretary, informed him:

“Accounts received from Paris state that the assemblée du Champ de Mai is adjourned to the 28th instant, and that Buonaparte is losing ground every day. He has been to visit the catacombs, and they are in great dread of some desperate determination on his part to destroy the city, in case he should be obliged to abandon it.”
[MS 61 Wellington Papers 1/463/26, 26 May 1815]

The Champ de Mai finally took place on the 1st June – a piece of splendid pageantry – in the shadow of the darker theatre of war.

*[diary of William Wilberforce, M.P., 13 May 1815]

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The road to Waterloo: Week 13 (18 – 24 May 2015)

Treaty of Casalanza
The 20 May 1815 marks the end of the Neapolitan War with the signing of the Treaty of Casalanza.  This conflict, which had started on 15 March, was between the pro-Napoleon Kingdom of Naples on the one hand and the Austrian Empire on the other.

29 days to Waterloo

Prompted by Napoleon’s escape from Elba, Marshal Joachim Murat, Napoleon’s brother-in-law, had declared war on Austria.  He was concerned that the European Powers at the Congress of Vienna had plans to remove him and restore Ferdinand IV to the Neapolitan throne.

Murat did not sign the treaty; he had already fled to Corsica following the decisive defeats at the Battles of Tolentino and San Germano.

On the 20th, Edward Cooke, Under Secretary to Lord Castlereagh, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, writes to Wellington from Rome with “gratifying and important intelligence” that he “may consider the Neapolitan War as most successfully terminated”:

“The Neapolitans have hardly fought at all.  Officers and men desert almost by regiments; the whole country has risen against Murat who deserves his fate by his perfidy, his folly, his gasconades and his lies.

Your Grace knows that a Treaty is signed between Austria and Ferdinand the 4th.  The most liberal terms are offered both in Austria and Sicilian, proclamations to all who deserting Murat join the cause of their ancient legitimate sovereign.”
[MS 61 Wellington Papers 1/462/24]

Ferdinand IV was restored to the Neapolitan throne on 23 May.

Perkins Agricultural Library Digitisation Project

Although well-known in agricultural history circles the Perkins Agricultural Library remains something of a hidden treasure within the Hartley Library’s Special Collections. The Perkins Digitisation Project aims to remedy this by both increasing awareness of the collection and improving access. Catalogue records for the books are being added to WebCat, and these will contain links to freely available digital copies. Where none can be found, the Perkins books will be assessed by Conservation staff, and condition permitting, digitised by the Library Digitisation Unit. The online copies will be made available through WebCat and the Internet Archive’s Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Wild White Cattle of Great Britain

John Storer
Wild White Cattle of Great Britain
London: Cassell, [1879]
Rare Books Perkins SF 199.W4

Consisting of 2,000 books on British and Irish agriculture printed before 1900, the collection was presented to the University College of Southampton in 1946 by Walter Frank Perkins, an Honorary Treasurer of the College and a former M.P. for the New Forest. Perkins collected a wide range of books on farming, including practical handbooks, textbooks, studies of crops and livestock as well as books on the development of agricultural chemistry.

General View of the Agriculture of Berkshire

William Mavor
General View of the Agriculture of Berkshire …
London: Printed for Richard Phillips, 1809
Rare Books Perkins S 453

Initially the digitisation project will focus on nineteenth-century publications, online access to earlier titles already being available through the subscription services Early English Books Online and Eighteenth Century Collections Online. The areas to be targeted have been identified with the help of Dr Malcom Hudson and Dr Nazmul Haq from the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, and include pamphlets on the economic aspects of farming and studies of individual crops. Many of the books contain information of potential interest today on crop varieties, yields achieved and environmental conditions of the time. The agricultural handbooks also have value as historical sources, describing contemporary agricultural practices and various aspects of rural life. The series of county agricultural surveys sponsored by the Board of Agriculture between 1793 and 1817 is especially important in this respect.

The Skelton at the Plough, or, The Poor Farm Labourers of the West

George Mitchell
The Skelton at the Plough, or, The Poor Farm Labourers of the West
London: G.Potter, [187-]
Rare Books Perkins HD 1534

Perkins clearly preferred to collect books in a pristine condition, but some still show traces of their previous owners – annotations include recommendations of the best cider apples to grow and recipes for horse powders. Samples of alpaca wool are the most unusual find to date. They accompany a letter dated 1846, from William Danson of Liverpool, asking the recipient to consider using alpaca in the manufacture of velvet, and are found within William Walton’s A Memoir Addressed to Proprietors of Mountain and other Waste Lands, … on the Naturalization of the Alpaca (1843).

For information about the collection and how to access it see the Library website and the digitised books can be seen on Internet Archive.

Elections and electioneering

With the 2015 General Election on 7 May, it seems timely to consider how elections and electioneering were practiced in earlier times. The Special Collections holds a range of material relating to politicians and politics. Below is a piece discussing the Southampton Poll Books which form part of the Cope Collection rare books.

MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR95 Photograph of the aftermath of an election speech by Evelyn Ashley at the Shanklin Institute, 1880

MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR95 Photograph of the aftermath of an election speech by Evelyn Ashley at the Shanklin Institute, 1880

Major manuscript collections relating to politics from the eighteenth century onwards include the archives of the first Duke of Wellington; the Congleton Archive —with material for the Parnell family, which provides a fascinating insight into politics in Ireland; the papers of Lord Thorneycroft of Dunstan, who was a Conservative MP and Minister; and the Broadlands Archives.  Within the vast array of material in the Broadlands Archives are sections of papers that tell specific stories: such as the correspondence relating to endeavours to secure a seat for Henry Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, in the House of Commons in 1805-7, or the photographs documenting the violent aftermath of an election address by Evelyn Ashley in Shanklin Institute in 1880.

MS 134 AJ33/43 Leaflet for the Cheetham Ward Municipal election featuring Mrs Sarah Laski as a candidate, Nov 1933

MS 134 AJ33/43 Leaflet for the Cheetham Ward Municipal election featuring Mrs Sarah Laski as a candidate, Nov 1933

Amongst the Anglo-Jewish Archives are papers of a number of individuals who were involved in politics on a local, national and European level, this ranges from the leaflets produced by Sarah Laski during her election campaigns as a local councillor in Cheetham from the 1920s, to those of Fred Tuckman who was both a councillor for Camden in London and a MEP for Leicester.

Southampton Poll Books
As you cast your vote in the General Election, you can be reasonably sure that your decision will remain private and certain that it will not become a matter of public record, open to the scrutiny of all. But the set of Southampton poll books in the Cope Collection shows that in earlier parliamentary elections this was not always the case.

From 1696 until the Ballot Act of 1872 there was a legal requirement that returning officers should be able to provide a copy of the poll if requested, the aim being to prevent electoral fraud. As printing became more widely established in the provinces, it became customary for poll books to be published by local printers and booksellers, rival businesses sometimes publishing their own copies of the same poll.

A True copy of the Poll at the Election of Two Burgesses to Serve in Parliament for the Town of Southampton

A True copy of the Poll at the Election of Two Burgesses to Serve in Parliament for the Town of Southampton … 1774
Southampton: T. Baker, 1774
Rare Books Cope SOU 31

For Southampton, there are nineteen locally printed poll books running from 1774, shortly after the first printer appeared in the town, to 1865. They record the names of the voters and identify the candidates for whom they voted. In many cases addresses and occupations are also included, information which is of value to researchers today, despite the limited nature of the franchise. The books vary in arrangement, some listing the voters in the order in which they voted – the poll usually being held over several days, and others by alphabetical order or with the names grouped by candidate.

Alphabetical List of the Voters who Polled at the Election of Two Burgesses to Serve in Parliament for the Town of Southampton … June 1818

Alphabetical List of the Voters who Polled at the Election of Two Burgesses to Serve in Parliament for the Town of Southampton … June 1818
Southampton: E. Skelton, [1818]
Rare Books Cope SOU 31

The 1818 poll book records the votes cast for William Chamberlayne of Weston Grove, Lord Ashtown, of Chessel House and Sir William Champion de Crespigny of Anspach House at the end of a particularly divisive campaign which had seen the swearing in of 100 special constables in order to keep the peace. Most of the abuse had been directed towards Lord Ashtown, an Irish peer, who failed in his attempt to secure one of the two seats on offer for the town.

List of the Voters who Polled at the Election of Two Members to Serve in Parliament … for the Town of Southampton … August 1842

List of the Voters who Polled at the Election of Two Members to Serve in Parliament … for the Town of Southampton … August 1842
Southampton: Best & Snowden, [1842]
Rare Books Cope SOU 31

The presentation copy of the poll book of 1842 shows the newly elected M.P.s, Humphrey St. John Mildmay and George William Hope, rewarding Thomas Wood, one of their voters, with a printed copy of the poll. That Southampton’s voters were often more lavishly rewarded is suggested by the fact that this vote was held only because the poll in the previous year’s general election had been declared void, the two successful candidates having been found guilty of bribery.

The road to Waterloo: Week 10 (27 Apr – 3 May 2015)

Battle of Tolentino
The Battle of Tolentino, fought on 2 and 3 May 1815, was the decisive battle of the Neapolitan War.

46 Days to Waterloo

After their defeat to the Austrians at Occhiobello on 9 April 1815, Murat’s Neapolitan army had been forced to retreat towards their headquarters at Ancona. In a letter to Wellington, on 25 April 1815, Lord Stewart outlines the Austrian strategy for decisively ending the Neapolitan campaign:

“General Frimont’s further plan, as far as I can learn, is to have Murat followed on his retreat to Ancona by General Neipperg, whose advanced corps consists of not more than 10,000 men, while a corps of 60,000 is to march under Bianchi to Foligno, thus placing a considerable force between Murat and Naples, and giving the chance of annihilating the Neapolitan corps retiring from Florence by being before it.”
[MS 61 Wellington Papers 1/456/2]

However, the Austrian corps under Bianchi and Neipperg became separated on either side of the Apennine Mountains. In an attempt to take advantage of the situation, Murat planned to use the main part of his force to defeat Bianchi at the town of Tolentino, while dispatching a smaller force to delay Neipperg. Unfortunately for Murat, Bianchi successfully routed the Neapolitan garrison at Tolentino on 29 April. Establishing a defensive position in the town, Bianchi aimed to delay Murat for as long as possible. With time running out, Murat was finally forced to march on Tolentino on 2 May.

The first day of the battle ended favourably for the Neapolitans. As fighting recommenced on 3 May they pressed forward. Anticipating a cavalry counterattack, Murat ordered two of his infantry divisions to advance in squares. However, no cavalry emerged and his troops were instead devastated by heavy musket fire. The situation was made worse when Murat was informed that Neipperg’s corps, having defeated the Neapolitan force sent to delay it, was now on the approach. On receiving further information that a Sicilian army had landed in the south of Italy, Murat sounded the retreat.

With their defeat at Tolentino, the Neapolitan army was no longer able to resist the Austrian advance through Italy and Murat was ultimately forced to flee to Corsica. In the postscript of a letter to the Earl of Uxbridge, on 19 May, Wellington mentions the possibility of Murat now commanding the French cavalry:

“I have a most formidable account of the French cavalry. They have now 16,000 grosse cavalerie, of which 6000 are cuirassiers. They are getting horses to mount 42,000 cavalry, heavy and light.

It is reported that Murat has fled from Italy by sea; and by other reports it appears that he has arrived at Paris. He will probably command them.”
[MS 61 Wellington Papers 1/465/35]

However, Napoleon, enraged by Murat’s premature actions and defeat, refused to receive him, and his offer to command the French cavalry was rejected. Not only did Murat’s actions and defeat at Tolentino mean that Austrian troops were now available for operations against France, it also meant that Napoleon would be robbed of his best cavalry commander at the battle of Waterloo.