An Audience of One: Sir Neil Campbell on Napoleon

As an exile, writes D.S. Gray, the Emperor had many conversations with a Scottish officer, which ‘left no doubt of his expecting that circumstances might yet call him to the throne of France’.

At noon on May 20th, 1813, before the smoke of the opening artillery salvos of the Battle of Bautzen could becloud the spring air, a Scottish officer serving as military attaché to the Russian corps was able to make a memorable observation.

He could perceive two men standing slightly in front of the poised French army less than half a mile away. Raising a telescope to his eye, the officer could easily recognize that one of the figures, the man with a black bicorn and hands clasped behind his back, was Napoleon.

The Scottish officer, Colonel Neil Campbell of Duntroon, was a thirty-seven-year-old veteran of combats in the West Indies, the Peninsula, and Germany. Little did he foresee that within the year he would view Napoleon again, but from a unique and different vantage point.

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