21eme Regiment de Ligne

News from the Grand Army

Thorn lst January 1813

My dear brother,
Be assured, I belong to those who have come back, my health is good. I have only some broken skin on my left heel, but this would nevertheless prevent me from leaving this town on foot, something which one is already talking about.

I do not intend to elaborate too much on how my fate during our retreat, the public bulletins will no doubt have sufficiently informed you. I will just confirm that we have born all the imaginable depravations and dangers, that hunger, tiredness and cold have made us suffer more than one could ever imagine, so much so that it is like a miracle to have escaped from it all. I would no doubt be in Russian hands if a protecting God had not been taking care of me the day we arrived at Vilna the cold was down to minus 25 degrees. I was lightly dressed and I had nothing to eat, but what became the greatest help was about 300 francs that I had found totally by chance,
and that was lucky as I was penniless. After a few  days my foot became worse, I could no longer walk and I was already behind the rear-guard and on the point of being taken prisoner by the dammed cossacks I then put this found money to good use: I had the joy to arrange to be brought here on a sled and everyday this cost me about 2 "Tallen" without counting my food.

At least I have escaped and this is all that I wished for. The rest of my money was used in buying neccessities. Nearly the whole army had lost its trunks and I too had lost my baggage which stayed in Russian hands, because we had no horses. The only thing that stayed with us was vermin so I have been obliged to burn every item of my clothing when I arrived here at Thorn.

You must not believe that having been beaten by the Russians once is the only misery and unhappiness which has destroyed our army, because all those who came back have some parts of their hands frozen, not only had I chillblains in my feet but also the tip of my nose and several of my fingers had been affected, but everything has healed already. We left Moscow 18th October and we arrived here 25th December which made 2 months continuous marching without entering a house, always sleeping in bivouacs and vithout provisions.
Impossible for us to obtain any food because the enemy that we are continuously followed by kept on our flanks which prevented us from going to any villages looking for food. We were therefore exposed for 6 weeks to the worst of illnesses: hunger. The only food we had were the horses that died along the way, and we were all fighting over the meat.

I shall stop otherwise I would be writing thoughts which appear unbelievable. It is enough to tell you that our
regiment started this camnaign with 3500 men, but only 200 approximately came back, and half of those disabled in some way.

I did write to you from Moscow but I fear that my letter did not reach you as several messengers were intercepted by the Russian army. If you have received it do mention it in the letter that I am waiting for, from you. I have not received any more letters from home since the one where you talked about the hurricane that occurred in July.

So dear brother, I beg you to give me details on everything interesting that has haDpened since. Tell me how are the family affairs. I will write to my mother Francois in a few days. If you have the opportunity to see her before then tell her that I am well except that my heel is still not fully healed.

Before bringing this letter to a close I wish you a happy New Year, hoping that before the end of it, I will have the
pleasure to kiss the best of all mothers, and until then I wish her very good health. Good bye dear brother, I kiss
you very affectionately and I remain your devoted brother


Please assure Monsieur le Cure and his niece, of my respect and tell them that I wish them a happy New Year with all their dearest wishes realised. Tell me too about my nephew Antoine, I had heard that the list for the 1783 (sic) conscription had been drawn.

My address: Doignon Adjutant lst battalion of the 2lst Line Regiment, 3rd Division, lst Corps of the Grand Army.

To Monsieur Doignon, Mayor of the Municipality of Havinmes,
near Tournay.
25th January 1813.

Translated by Madame Arlene Artis

Translation of Joannes de Meulenaere's
letter into English

Dear XXX(unreadable) this letter is enclosed in a letter of Lichtervelde with greetings from father and mother and the master and his wife and your uncle and aunt and I hope that you will attend the fair so that you can bring this letter back.

(The letter appears to have been passed onto other relatives or friends)

To Ardooie the 6th of July
Dear father and mother,
I am letting you know the state of my good health and I hope that you to are still in good health. And the money that you have sent, I have not received it yet and it is still yours. I am amazed that I have already sent four letters and still haven't received any reply and I hope that you will immediatly write back but I do not ask you for money because I am not in need of any money and if you over there could use money then put this in your letter and I will send you some money.

And we are lying in quarters with the peasants in the villages and we draw money from these peasants. And Prussia is a very "geus" (protestant) country because when they have three or four children they will divorce from eachother and divide the children and they will shortly after marry someone else . Many women have three or four husbands in their lives and many men have three or four wives in their lives. And if he goes to confession in this Prussian country upon some afternoon then he takes the priest by the hand and gives him a box (of money) and all the sins are forgiven for I am lying in quarters with a priest and this priest also had two wives in his life and the priests' wife had men in her life. That's the kind of country it is.

And my compliments to father and mothers' sisters and brothers and to all the family and good aqcuaintances. And compliments to Joannes de Puydt and his wife and children and to Ivo my confrater. And my compliments to the widow of Pieter Rolliegen and her children. And to Jan Maes and his wife and especially to
Francisca Maes, she is still in my thoughts day and night and I hope that she too will remain steadfast.


My adress is the 3 corps of the Grande Armee 21 de Liene (sic) 4th batalion 3rd company
And I ask you to let me know how the requistions go and you must immediatly write
back and you must pray for me .

Translated by Marcel Gerritsen
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Commanding Officer
Chris Perko
Algrave Hall
Hassock Lane North
Derbyshire DE75 7JB
The Adjutant
Chris Durkin
7 Lowcroft Crescent
Oldham OL9 9UU
Position of the Regiment
25th May
1790 Regiment Guyenne at Lyon
1792: Journal militaire:1st battalion arrived Besancon
1793 Landau, siege until 28th December.
1794 At Nice, General Kellerman formed a Polish battalion with men found in the 21eme demi-brigade, 9 companies of 3 officers and 70 men.
1796 Evening, Massena's division (21e) along left bank of the Ellero, from Mondovi to the Tanaro.
1798 Into garrison at Amiens, 2nd battalion at Nantes (formed March 1797), 3rd at Dunkirk
1799 Magnano, towards Brescia.
1800 Pas de Suse, and town of Suse.
1801 Battalion expeditionnaire formed on the Ile de Re, with 140 of the 21eme, 106 56th Line, 59 5th Light, 58 Colonial depot Ile de re, 28 legion Loire, 119 cannoniers 5th Foot artillery, on the frigate l'Africaine.
1803 Bruges Camp/Ostend, 3/4 battalions Flessigne until July 1804.
1804 3rd and 4th battalions to Cologne.
1805 Crossed the Danube at Pressberg, one battalion at Bruick, other in villages of Regelbrun, Arbestal, Collesbrunn, Willfersnauer, and Schadendorf, until 5th January 1806.
1806 Division Kreus Munster
1807 Division at the Hohenstein camp until 5th June.
1808 Juliers
1809 Division left Ebersdorf for Vienna
1810 Brunswick, until October.
1811 Stade
1812 Division Thorn
1813 Order to form 1st Corps, 1st division, 33rd Provisional demi-brigade (2/12, 2/21) forming near Erfurth, united into corps at Wittenberg.
1814 Bergen op Zoom
1815 Lille

1815 Between Quatre-Bras and Waterloo.
Waterloo 1985
Boulogne 1991 on the Video page.
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