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Napoleonic Friendship: Military Fraternity, Intimacy, and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century France

Military Fraternity, Intimacy, and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century France

Brian Joseph Martin

Publication Year: 2011

Following the French Revolution, radical military reforms created conditions for new physical and emotional intimacy between soldiers, establishing a model of fraternal affection that would persist from the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars through the Franco-Prussian War and World War I.

Based on extensive research in French and American archives, and enriched by his reading of Napoleonic military memoirs and French military fiction from Hugo and Balzac to Zola and Proust, Brian Joseph Martin's view encompasses a broad range of emotional and erotic relationships in French armies from 1789 to 1916. He argues that the French Revolution's emphasis on military fraternity evolved into an unprecedented sense of camaraderie among soldiers in the armies of Napoleon. For many soldiers, the hardships of combat led to intimate friendships. For some, the homosociality of military life inspired mutual affection, lifelong commitment, and homoerotic desire.

Published by: University of New Hampshire Press

Series: Becoming Modern: New Nineteenth-Century Studies


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Title Page, Copyright, Frontispiece, Series Information

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xx

Amid the early debates on what came to be known as ‘‘Gays in the Military,’’ General Colin Powell was invited to be the honorary commencement speaker at Harvard University in June 1993. Many graduating students were angered by the university’s decision to invite the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of...

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pp. 1-16

Napoleon wept. On the eve of the battle of Wagram, during his Austrian Campaign in the spring of 1809, the Emperor received word that his longtime friend Marshal Jean Lannes had been gravely wounded on the battlefield at Essling. Following the gruesome amputation of his shattered left leg...

I: Revolution to Empire, 1789-1815

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pp. 17-18

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1: Military Fraternity from the Revolution to Napoleon

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pp. 19-39

The rain fell and the soldiers swore. On July 14, 1790, in celebration of the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille and the beginning of the French Revolution, General Lafayette stood before almost half a million soldiers and citizens gathered on the Champ de Mars in Paris for the Fête de la...

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2: Napoleonic Friendship at the Top - Marshal Lannes, General Duroc, General Junot

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pp. 40-67

Alone in his tent, Napoleon sobbed into his soup. A seasoned soldier and military commander, Napoleon had seen thousands of men die in battle during his many bloody campaigns across Europe. Yet his grief over the death of Marshal Jean Lannes during the Austrian Campaign in 1809 was inconsolable...

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3: Napoleonic Friendship in the Ranks - General Marbot, Captain Coignet, Sergeant Bourgogne

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pp. 68-100

His beard was caked with ice and his hands had gone numb. During the disastrous retreat of Napoleon’s armies from Russia in the winter of 1812, a weary French soldier trudged across a frozen bridge in the blinding snow. Wrapped in the great white coat of the Imperial Guard, the old grenadier had...

II: Waterloo, 1815

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pp. 101-102

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4: Wannabes & Waterloo - Stendhal’s Napoleonic Latecomers

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pp. 103-125

In the spring of 1800, amid the snowcapped peaks of the western Swiss Alps, seventeen-year-old Henry Brulard prepared to cross the St. Bernard Pass in the footsteps of his hero Napoleon. As the invading French army descended into Italy, streaming down the mountains like alpine meltwater, the naive young...

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5: Grave Friendship - Hugo’s Miserable Waterloo

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pp. 126-147

In March 1811, shortly after his ninth birthday, Victor Hugo set out from Paris with his mother, Sophie, and brothers Abel and Eugène on a journey across France and Spain to join their father, General Léopold Hugo, in Frenchoccupied Madrid. For his service as an exemplary aide-de-camp to Joseph...

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6: An Army of Bachelors - Napoleonic Veterans from Blaze to Balzac

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pp. 148-170

After many long years of service in the armies of Napoleon, a battleweary captain in the French imperial cavalry dismounted his horse and proposed to his regimental bugler. Following the defeat at Waterloo, the collapse of the Empire, and the hardships of the Restoration, this gallant officer made what...

III: Restoration to Second Empire, 1815-70

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pp. 171-172

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7: Combat Companions & Veteran Bedfellows - Balzac’s Major Hulot and Colonel Chabert

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pp. 173-199

Distinguished, wealthy, and handsome, the veteran had died a bachelor. An imperial count, military marshal, and royal peer of France, Marshal Hulot had served for more than forty years in the armies of the Revolution, Empire, Restoration, and July Monarchy. When he died in 1841, Hulot was...

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8: Military Daddies & Veteran Rogues - Balzac’s Major Genestas and Colonel Bridau

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pp. 200-228

In the lamplight of a country barn, an old veteran listened to his buddy’s tall tales. For almost fifteen years following Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, these two veteran friends had shared the same home, meager pension, and rural life in an isolated Alpine village. One brawny and quiet, the other animated and...

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9: Neo-Napoleonic Friendship - Maupassant, Zola, and the War of 1870

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pp. 229-254

Deep in the woods, wrapped in his comrade’s arms, the soldier kissed his corporal. Newly escaped from a German prison camp, these euphoric French soldiers hold one another and exchange a passionate embrace. Fleeing for their lives but thrilled to be free, they are overwhelmed with emotion. After...

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Conclusion: Homo Military Modernity - Proust and the First World War

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pp. 255-270

An o≈cer came out of the brothel and went back to his men at the front. On leave from the war in the spring of 1916, this infantry officer had retreated to Paris where, on a darkened street in a remote part of town, he had entered an inconspicuous hotel in search of corporal comfort. Inside, young...

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Epilogue: Unknown Soldiers

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pp. 271-272

At the center of Paris, on the Champs-Élysées, under the Arc de Triomphe lies the tomb of the soldat inconnu. Like Napoleon, who ordered the arch’s construction in 1805 and whose funeral procession passed under the monument in 1840, this unknown soldier occupies one of the most honored...


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pp. 273-328


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pp. 329-350


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pp. 351-379

Library of Congress Data

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pp. 380-380

E-ISBN-13: 9781584659440
E-ISBN-10: 1584659440
Print-ISBN-13: 9781584659235

Page Count: 400
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Becoming Modern: New Nineteenth-Century Studies
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 694600733
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Napoleonic Friendship: Military Fraternity, Intimacy, and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century France

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Sociology, Military -- France -- History -- 19th century.
  • France -- History, Military -- 19th century.
  • Male friendship -- France -- History -- 19th century.
  • Soldiers -- France -- History -- 19th century.
  • Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, 1769-1821 -- Relations with soldiers.
  • French literature -- 19th century -- History and criticism.
  • Homosexuality in literature.
  • Male friendship in literature.
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