The author of these reminiscences was Jean Gazzola, born in Piedmont, northern Italy, who, at the age of sixteen or thereabouts took up dancing and fencing which were considered indispensable to the education of a gentleman. He was also, quite clearly, very susceptible to the charms of the fair sex as he describes taking up with a ballerina who “lit up a flame in my bosom” and whom he used to walk home and then spent hours with her in “soft dalliance”. After one night she lit out with his money, his watch and his clothes reducing him to such rage at being duped that he “gnashed his teeth and tore his hair” – and joined the army. It was 1796 and Napoleon’s Italian campaign was in full swing but the army our hero joined was the French one, not the Italian.
This is an entertaining account by one who saw plenty of action. Soon after joining he was a member of the “folorn hope” at the siege of Mantua and was rewarded for his gallantry. He fought in Egypt, at Marengo, Austerlitz and in the ill-fated Russian campaign in which he was taken prisoner at the battle of the river Beresina in November 1812, suffering from frost bite. He remained in captivity till Napoleon went into exile in 1814. But he saw action in many other engagements all of which he describes. He does not leave out his other activities, gambling, a duel, and still more affairs of the heart…. “eyes bright as the starry firmament, soft, liquid, and blue as the vault of heaven…”
SCENES IN THE LIFE OF A SOLDIER OF FORTUNE
Reminiscences of a Piedmontese who fought in Napoleon’s armies as a cavalry officer, serving from 1796 till taken prisoner in the retreat from Moscow in November 1812. He saw plenty of action including Mantua, Egypt, Marengo and Austerlitz.