Napoleonic Literature
Napoleon in Captivity:
The Reports of Count Balmain
Russian Commissioner on the
Island of St. Helena 1816-1820

No. 1


January 20, 1820.

I have nothing new or interesting to communicate to the Imperial Ministry. Bonaparte's affairs are always the same. He leads a tranquil life, seems to enjoy good health, and is extremely busy with his garden. He is having big trees placed, and flowers planted, which he waters himself, in full view of every one. This morning the orderly officer wrote to Plantation House as follows:

I saw General Bonaparte this morning. He was amusing himself in one of his private flower gardens. His morning dress at present consists of a white gown, and straw hat with a very wide brim. In the afternoon he appears out in a cocked hat, green coat, and white breeches and stockings. He walks a good part of the afternoon in Longwood garden, accompanied by either Counts Montholon or Bertrand, and often pays a visit to the Bertrands in the evenings. Yesterday afternoon he walked around in the new garden and buildings.


Pursuant to an order from my Lord Bathurst, Sir H. Lowe has enlarged the second precincts of Longwood. He has added, toward Plantation House, a very pleasant promenade of seven or eight miles, and has just addressed to the Commissioners, in order to inform them of this new arrangement, the memorandum which your Excellency will find inclosed.

The fever and other inflammatory diseases continue to make great inroads among the garrison.

I have the honor, etc.

No. 2

January 28, 1820.

On the seventeenth I met Count and Countess Bertrand driving in a four-horse open carriage. They remarked, as we passed, that Bonaparte's health was good, that he was devoting himself entirely to gardening, and that he was quite satisfied with the present conduct of Sir Hudson Lowe. For four or five days he has been amusing himself with shooting chickens and other animals which enter his garden. Yesterday he killed Mme. Bertrand's favorite goat, believing it to belong to the orderly officer.

Lord Charles Somerset, Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, arrived on the twenty-fifth. He applied to M. de Montholon for an audience with Bonaparte but received no reply whatever. This morning his Lordship sailed away in very bad temper.

I have the honor, etc.

No. 3

February 10, 1820.

Bonaparte enjoys the best of health. He is in very good humor and works hard in his garden. I have copied two reports of the orderly officer, dated February 6 and 8:

General Bonaparte has been amusing himself this morning in shooting fowls; I understand he fired five shots, and killed three hens, one of which belonged to Novaray (his Swiss), who appeared much offended at having his fowls thus disposed of, particularly as this was not the first time they had suffered from the effects of the General's fowling-piece. I believe the fowls intrude rather too much in the General's favorite flower garden.

A few minutes after the Governor left Longwood this afternoon I saw General Bonaparte. He was crossing the garden to pay a visit to Count Bertrand. The General was accompanied by Count Montholon.

At the beginning of summer I had expected to resume my trips to Longwood in order to be entirely sure of what was happening. But I have been ill for about three months. I am much weakened and hardly go out of the town.

I have the honor, etc.

No. 4

February 18, 1820.

Blood is flowing at Longwood. Bonaparte has just bought a flock of goats and is doing considerable execution. It amuses him to fire on them one after another. To-day it is his favorite sport. For the rest, he is at peace with the English, and his health is excellent. The French attribute his recovery, almost miraculous, to the great skill of the surgeon Antommarchi.

I have the honor, etc.

No. 5

February 27, 1820.

The cholera morbus is making terrible ravages at present at the Ile de France. Already many have died of it at the Cape of Good Hope and some at St. Helena. The approach of this plague greatly upsets Sir Hudson Lowe. In order to preserve our little colony from its ravages he has submitted all vessels coming from India to the inspection of Mr. Arnott, 1 Surgeon of the Twentieth Regiment, and in addition has just published some sanitary regulations a printed copy of which Your Excellency will find inclosed. 2

I have the honor, etc.

No. 7

March 10, 1820.

On the seventh of this month I received the letter which your Excellency did me the honor to address me on September 12, 1819. In conformity with the gracious and kindly order of our August Master, his Majesty the Emperor, I shall leave as soon as it is practicable my sad and stormy post at St. Helena, to proceed to St. Petersburg. Those vessels of the East India Company which were not already loaded with troops or with sick have already gone by. However, five or six are expected toward the middle of the season, among them the Bombay, the Hertfordshire, the William Pitt, with whose Captains I am well acquainted, and which offer a comfortable passage. The moment of my departure will depend entirely on that of their arrival. Up to then I shall continue to send reports to the Imperial Ministry.

This morning the orderly officer wrote to Plantation House as follows:

About six o'clock yesterday evening General Bonaparte undressed and plunged into the stone reservoir in the garden. Count Montholon was with him, and two servants attended to dry and assist the General in dressing. I saw him for some time in the garden this morning.

E. LUTYENS,      
Capt. 20th Regt.
I have the honor, etc.

No. 8

April 18, 1820.

All is perfectly tranquil and in good order at St. Helena. Bonaparte takes considerable exercise in his garden. His complexion is fresh and healthy, his air pleasant; in other words, quite another man. Count Montholon and Mme. Bertrand assure me that he is still having some trouble with his chronic disease, hepatitis, and often takes mercury, but that, thanks to the assiduous care of M. Antommarchi, it is no longer dangerous. Your Excellency will find inclosed three reports of the orderly officer.

Since March 13 twenty vessels of the India Company have anchored at St. Helena, all fully loaded both with passengers and merchandise. The Captains, anxious as they were to be of service to me, could only offer me a hammock in the common room. Dr. Verling, who like myself is under orders to return to Europe, has remained here for the same reason. Two very large vessels, coming from China, are hourly expected. On one of them we hope, and are almost sure, to find comfortable quarters.

I have the honor, etc.

Longwood, April 5th.

General Bonaparte remained out until two o'clock yesterday and finished the sod wall. The four Chinese, who have been constantly employed in the garden, got angry at the General having given a bottle of wine to each of the Chinese that are employed in the house and did not give them the same indulgence. They therefore refused doing what the General wanted them to do, which put him in a great rage, and he ordered them off instantly.

General Bonaparte is hard at work this morning in the same garden. He has cut a large hole like an embrasure in the sod wall facing my side window, in which they are now fixing a large tub, half up the wall, to form a sort of cascade into the long tank in the garden. The General is accompanied by Count Bertrand. Count Montholon was not out the whole of yesterday. I have not seen or heard of him this morning.

April 13

General Bonaparte was out with Count Montholon the whole of yesterday evening. He has been at work the whole of this morning, with Counts Bertrand and Montholon.

April 16

About seven o'clock last night General Bonaparte was walking in the gardens with Count Montholon, when he discovered some cattle belonging to the farm in the outer garden. He immediately ordered his two fowling-pieces to be brought, loaded with ball, both of which he fired, and killed one of the oxen. I believe there is another slightly wounded in the leg.

Count Montholon mentioned to me that he saw the cattle come in at the outer garden gate. The gates are the only way the cattle could enter, the fence being perfectly secure; and the gate must have been left open by some of the establishment, for they never think of closing them when they pass in or out. Count Montholon said the General was determined to adopt the same plan if he again saw the cattle in the garden. I told him that it was very dangerous firing ball in the garden, and that General Bonaparte might have killed one of the sentries; upon which he said the General took the precaution of going round, and firing toward the house. Which must have been the case, from the way the animal was wounded and fell. It lays upon its right side, at the foot of the little mound that is surrounded with a myrtle hedge.

Capt. 20th Regt.

P.S. This animal is a grievous loss at St. Helena. The employees of the India Company are much incensed and distressed. Any one other than Bonaparte after such a deed would be hailed before the King's Bench. 3 I had a Newfoundland dog which for having killed a sheep was condemned to death by the Magistrate at St. James and executed.

*      *      *

In March Count Balmain was married to Charlotte Johnson, Lowe's elder stepdaughter, and on May 3 they left St. Helena in the General Harris.


1.  Archibald Arnott came to St. Helena with his regiment in 1819, and on April 21, 1821, paid his first professional visit to Napoleon. He quickly established excellent relations and continued in constant attendance until the end. He attended the post-mortem and in 1822 published "An Account of the Last Illness of Napoleon."  Return to paragraph text.

2.  An original copy is inserted in the manuscript.  Return to paragraph text.

3.  The Lowe Papers mention a conversation with Balmain on the subject of the bullocks. Balmain remarked that he thought it a cruel kind of diversion to kill animals in this way, but that would not be the Corsican feeling. Pope Pius IX, another Italian prisoner, amused himself by shooting sparrows. Napoleon kept a carbine in his study at Malmaison and used to fire from inside the room at any birds which might come within range, including even some of Josephine's pets.  Return to paragraph text.

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