Nature and illness have a way of thwarting events.
As Napoleon well learned.
First in what led Napoleon to sell the Louisiana Territory so cheaply to the United States. The other the cause of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo.
Napoleon was a busy man in 1802 and 1803. He was waging battles all over Europe. A war was contemplated against the United Kingdom. A slave revolution was taking place on the French island of Haiti in the Caribbean. Thirty thousand French troops were headed for New Orleans. Napoleon intended to land in New Orleans and move out to establish a French presence in the Mississippi Valley.
Napoleon’s plate was full.
He sent his brother-in-law General Victor Emanuel LeClerc to New Orleans to do the necessary to make North Americans aware that France was a player on the continent. LeClerc led a force of 30,000 crack French troops.
A slave mutiny was underway on Haiti. Napoleon told LeClerc to stop at Haiti first and put down the insurrection. Napoleon viewed the uprising as a fly on his arm. It could quickly be put down. He thought it would take 2-3 months. Then on to New Orleans.
At the time, there was a small garrison of French troops on the island guarding French planters and colonists.
Napoleon and LeClerc failed to take into account another Haitian enemy. A small one. The mosquito. Whose bite caused yellow fever.
Note that the Haitian slaves in rebellion had come from Africa. They had a built in immunity to yellow fever. Those white colonists born on Haiti developed an immunity after suffering a mild yellow fever attack in their youth.
Within a year, most of LeClerc’s troops were dead or dying. LeClerc himself died.
Napoleon sent General Rochambeau to Haiti with 20,000 additional troops. In less than a year, those troops were laid low by yellow fever. Rochambeau returned to France late in 1803 with only 3,000 survivors of the 50,000 troops sent.
Interestingly, twice as many French troops were felled by yellow fever on Haiti than were killed in the Battle of Waterloo years later.
Medical science did not know how to deal with yellow fever at the time. The best remedial/preventive activity engaged in was the burning of Haitian cities and villages to the ground.
Napoleon was infuriated. His response in effect was screw the Americas! He was not going to waste one more French life in Haiti, New Orleans or the Mississippi Valley.
Thomas Jefferson was President at the time. He had envoys in Paris negotiating with the French to purchase New Orleans. All of a sudden, France was offering to sell all the Louisiana Territory to the United States. Cheap. Dirt cheap.
Four cents an acre. Total price $15 million. A give away.
Jefferson jumped on the opportunity. Bought it all. Eight hundred twenty seven square miles of land. The purchase doubled the size of the United States. Opened the country to westward expansion.
Jefferson had to work hard to get Congress to agree to the Louisiana purchase. A major effort. History gives Jefferson credit for the purchase.
Few historians mention Napoleon, Haiti, or the mosquitoes. Few tell the story set forth herein.
Twelve years later, the Battle of Waterloo. June 18, 1815. Napoleon’s final fall from grace.
Historians again tell only a part of the story. Fail also to give credit to the actual cause of Napoleon’s defeat. His hemorrhoids.
The night before, Napoleon’s hemorrhoids were killing him. On top of which he had a bladder infection.
In order to relieve the pain and help him to sleep, Napoleon took a dose of opium. It worked. Worked so well that he failed to wake in the morning . Slept till just before one in the afternoon.
Napoleon’s delay in getting to the battlefield gave opposing armies time to change their positions. To more favorable ones. Such would never have occurred had Napoleon been on the job early that morning. The opposition moves assisted them greatly in countering Napoleon’s actions.
Napoleon had another problem. He had difficulty mounting and riding his horse. The hemorrhoids again.
Napoleon’s habit was to ride around the battlefield while the fighting was ongoing. Based on his personal observations, he would make tactical determinations to redeploy his forces.
Such reconnaissances were not possible that day.
Napoleon continued taking opium during the day. It is thought the opium affected his judgment.
In spite of these negatives confronting Napoleon, victory did not come to either side till late in the day.
Credit for the victory is generally given to the Duke of Wellington, leader of the allied forces. Prussians were part of that force. However the Prussians did not arrive on the battlefield till late in the day. Some historians give the Prussians credit because victory was achieved only after they arrived.
No one gives Napoleon’s hemorrhoids credit, expect for a handful of historians.
Historians look for flesh and blood heroes. Human ones. Rather than mosquitoes and hemorrhoids.
People want heroes, people need heroes.