Description of events at Sottrum, North Germany, 1813-1814, after the French defeat in 1812

Scope and Content

The manuscript is entitled A Clegyman's house, 50 years ago. 1813-1814. It is written in ink and consists of 42 numbered pages (folded) with each of the 4-sides filled, making 168 pages. The manuscript is incomplete.

It opens with a description of the countryside around Sottrum, and during the course of the fighting it mentions historical notables and events including: General Carra St. Cyr; Prince Reuss; Frederick William Duke of Brunswick; General Montesquieu; the Battle of Cuelm, August 1813; Marshall Davoust; Colonel von Benkendorf; von Berg; von Pahlen; General Lettenborn; Lieutenant Wilke; and General Vandamme.

Original post wrappings have been preserved in the collection. The package had been addressed to Archibald Walker, Esqre, London, 19 Bishopsgate. The wrapping also has labels: '385 / aus J.E. Jburg's / German American Express's / German American Express / etc'

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1812, Napoleon had invaded Russia with the aim of forcing Tsar Alexander I to remain in the Continental System and to remove a threatened Russian invasion of Poland. His Grand Army crossed the River Niemen in June 1812 and the Battle of Borodino followed in September 1812 ending in a tactical defeat for the Russians and the opening of the road to Moscow for Napoleon. By 14 September, Moscow had been captured but the Russians had largely abandoned the city. The Tsar refused to capitulate and the city Governor ordered the burning of Moscow. Without a clear victory, Napoleon began the retreat from Moscow and a return to Paris.

In the Moscow Campaign, Napoleon had lost 380,000 men and another 100,000 had been captured, and seeing an opportunity, Prussia, Sweden, Austria and a number of German States re-entered the war. Major battles in Germany in 1813 included Luetzen and Bautzen in May 1813, Dresden in August 1813, and the Battle of Leipzig (the Battle of the Nations) in October 1813. Napoleon would subsequently lose the French Campaign in 1814, and go into exile on Elba briefly before being defeated finally at Waterloo in 1815.

The description of events near Sottrum, North Germany - between Ottersberg and Rotenburg, just to the southwest of Hamburg - which is the focus of the material of this collection, can be read in the context of events in Germany at the time, and just prior to the defeat of Napoleon in 1814. The description appears to have been written 50 years after the event and tells of the rout of between six thousand and eight thousand French troops by a handful of Hamburg volunteers and cossacks.

Access Information

Open to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance of visit.

Acquisition Information

Material acquired from Dr. Robert Pitcairn Robertson (1915-1993), MB, ChB. (Edin). Donated by Dr. Robertson in 1979 to Edinburgh University (the then History Department). Rediscovered at School of History, Classics and Archaeology, October 2010, and passed to Special Collections, Edinburgh University Library. Accession no: E2010.40

Archivist's Note

Compiled by Graeme D. Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections.