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St-Martin-de-Vers 1804

May 1805, the peace of Amiens has now been broken for 2 years. On 11th April 1805, the Treaty of St.Petersburg confirms an alliance between Great Britain and the Russian Empire. With war now inevitable, a detachement of soldiers and recruits has been formed at Cahors and is marching towards Paris to rejoin their respective regiments. On the way, the soldiers are going to get used to the rigours of campaigning after this long period of peace.

The die is cast, with the veterans taking care of the recruits and teaching them the skills they will need to use in their new profession.

Let's listen to recruit "La Boussole" narrate this adventure...

8th May 1805
After a long march, we have arrived in the Lot department near to a little village called Saint-Martin-de-Vers. We have received orders to stop here for a few days in order to train the new recruits and get our strength back for the rest of the march to Paris and then to war. Our sergeant and quartermaster, a debonnaire and lying corporal but full of resources, has decided to set our bivouac not far from the village within a wood. We have constructed a shelter made of branches and a large piece of cloth which one of us had in his backpack. This shelter could accommodate 10 men. Completely shattered, we quickly ate some rations and then settled down for the night.

9th May 1805
The following morning, after getting the fire going again, we drank some foul beverage and quickly got our equipement ready for the day's patrol. We were to help the local gendarmes with their law-enforcement duties but didn't know the exact details of our mission. Our quartermaster distributed our rations (some rice, alittle salted porc or duck and some bread) that we put into linen bags which we strapped to our backpacks. After our inspection by the sergeant and roll-call, we departed at 10am. We marched through the wood and some fields before halting to eat and rest in a clearing. One of our comrades had lost part of the soul of his shoes...and passed the time desperately trying to repair the damage. We sent off again, passing some small farms. During our march, the sergeant asked the quartermaster and two soldiers to inspect a strange-looking house whilst the rest of us waited behind.

Our advanced party then fell nose to nose with a curious fellow who was hurryingly filling a hole in the ground. Upon seeing our comrades, the fellow let off his hunting musket and fled. We immediately rushed to our comrades' aid and the area was secured within moments. Upon inspecting the hole, we found plenty of cases filled with wine. Was this ill-gotten product? Contraband? We cared not a fig and filled our backpacks with bottles and some vegetables we found in the farm yard! We returned to our bivouac a few hours later. Night fell quickly and we had a fine evening enjoying our newly liberated find!

10th May 1805
This morning was difficult as it had rained during the night and our limbs were suffering from the humidity. Our first duty was to clean our arms, which had rusted slightly in the rain. First of all, we prepared some hot water and then, having disassembled our muskets, rubbed all the metal pieces with pieces of cloths that we had prevously dipped into olive oil and brick dust. We cleaned the inside of our barrels with the hot water, which flushed out all the impurities and then dried them using pieces of dried cloths which we fixed to our ramrods.

Once this duty finished, our sergeant inspected our muskets. After breakfast, we began our drilling exercises. Manual of arms and marching were practised over and over again until the sergeant was satisfied with our work. A man then appeared with an order from the local prefect to go and collect wine and bread at the local bakery where the baker invited us to supper with him and his family.

11th May 1805
We had to go an patrol in the countryside today. To get to this place, we had a long march cross country that was littered with small but steep hillocks. The weather was hot, which didn't improve things but we managed to get to our destination, a small hamlet not far from St-Martin-de-Vers. The villagers welcomed us, curious to find out what we were doing there. There were alot of people for such a small hamlet...perhaps it was market day? We then proceeded to St-Martin-de-Vers, which was a pleasant village made up of houses of wood and stones and inhabited by several farming families. Being that it was saturday, we were to carry out our toilette. We went to the village wash house and whilst the water was cold, we were happy to clean our bodies and dirty linen. We then returned to the bivouac, under a shower of rain, but singing hearty songs to give each other strength. Tomorrow, we will be set-out once more to Paris and will have the time to dream about this mystical city and future imperial glory.

The detachement is on the move.

First night in a bivouac.

In the morning, it's time for a pipe...

...and the march starts again.

Wear and tear starts to take it's toll.

The soldiers bed down for another night under the stars.

The rain during the night means the soldiers have to clean their muskets.

And the sergeant decides to go over some exercises too.

For their third night, the soldiers find themselves in a village.

They therefore take the opportunity to make themselves at home...

...and plunder the produce that the peasants have painfully hidden.

The next day, the soldiers bath themselves in the river...

...for they know that today...

...they will arrive in their new garrison.



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