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Napoleon letter from Moscow for sale in US for $55,000

‘He thought he had won, and was enjoying the Tsar’s wine’

The letter was dictated to a scribe but signed by the Emperor Pic: The Raab Collection

A letter that Napoleon Bonaparte sent from the Kremlin in 1812 is being sold for $55,000.

The Raab Collection, a US based historical document dealer, is selling 11 of Napoleon’s letters, including this one that came at a pivotal moment in European history.

The French Emperor had seized Moscow after a bloody battle and entered the Kremlin, the palace of the Tsars.

The Russian Empire’s second city, abandoned by its inhabitants, had been set ablaze by saboteurs. 

However, Napoleon initially thought that it would still make for a good place for his Grande Armée to spend the winter.

In this letter, dated September 18, 1812, the Emperor described the situation to his advisor Jean-Jacques Régis de Cambacérès:

“The fire in this city begins to calm. Today I toured the main quarters. It was a spectacular city; I say ‘was’ because today more than half has been consumed by fire. 

“We have found cellars full of wine and eau de vie (liquor), which will be of great need to us. I have taken up lodging in the residence of the Tsars, the Kremlin, which is a form of citadel surrounded by high walls built to a height of 15 to 1800 fathoms…”

‘A prolific correspondent’

Napoleon is known to have sent around 37,000 letters during his storied life, however letters from Moscow are extremely rare.

“Some days he would dictate up to 50 letters to his scribes,” Nathan Raab, from the Raab collection, told The Connexion. “He would sign or put his monogram on them.”

“But what is surprising is his charm - his correspondence is particularly vivid, which almost makes it seem like you are there with him, raiding the Tsar’s wine cellars!”

By October 19, it had become clear to Napoleon that remaining in Moscow all winter was not viable.

After the first snow fell on the city, the Emperor and his 500,000 strong Grande Armée would begin to trudge westwards through rising drifts of snow, starvation, disease and elusive Cossack raids.

Only 92,000 of his men survived.

Napoleon would never regain the level of power and prestige he had in 1812.

Mr Raab added that he expected the letters, which are priced between $5,000 and $75,000, to sell.

“We acquired them over a year ago from a private seller. They are the originals, not later copies.

“These letters have always been in the historical record. I think they will sell well.”

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