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October 26, 2007

Primary Eyewitness Account of Napoleonic Exiles in Texas
With an Early Engraving of a Scene in Texas

35. [CHAMP D’ASILE]. HARTMANN, L[ouis] & [Jean-Baptiste] Millard. Le Texas, ou notice historique sur le Champ d’Asile, comprenant tout ce qui s’est passé depuis la formation jusqu’à la dissolution de cette Colonie, les causes qui l’ont amenée, et la liste de tous les Colons français, avec des renseignements utiles à leurs familles, et le plan du camp, Dédié a Messieurs les Souscripteurs en favcur [sic] des Réfugiés; par MM. Hartmann et Millard, Membres du Champ d’Asile, nouvellement de retour en France. Paris: Béguin, Béchet, Delaunay, et a Gand, Houdin, Juin 1819. [10], ix, [1], [11]-135 [1 blank] pp., folding copper-engraved frontispiece plan of the French settlement in Texas: Champ d’Asile (neat line to neat line: 16.5 x 23.8 cm). 8vo (20.5 x 13.5 cm), recent half green and tan mottled sheep over blue and red marbled paper, gilt-decorated spine with gilt-lettered maroon morocco label, marbled endpapers, later lilac wrappers, marbled edges. Title slightly creased and with one small ink spot (not affecting any letters), mild to moderate foxing to text. Half title with contemporary ink number (“1057”), title with contemporary ink notations (“Barbet” and “1057”). Small blindstamped monogram (“AB”) on title at lower right (repeated occasionally in text). Overall a very good copy, from the library of Louis-Alexandre Barbet (1850-1931), railroad engineer, author of L’air comprimé appliqué à la traction des tramways (Paris, 1896), and collector (Bibliothèque de M.L.A. Barbet, Paris, 1932, auction catalogue of his collection).

            First edition. Basic Texas Books 85: “Best contemporary account of the ill-fated colony of Napoleonic refugees in Texas.” Braislin 920. Brinley Sale 4725. Eberstadt, Texas 162:386. Fifty Texas Rarities 6. Holliday 490. Howes H270. Kelsey, Engraved Prints of Texas, p. 18. Library of Congress, Texas Centennial Exhibition 62. Monaghan 792. Rader 1807. Raines, p. 109. Rich, Bibliotheca Americana Nova I:66. Sabin 30706. Sibley, Travelers in Texas 1761-1860, pp. 207-208. Streeter 1069: “This is the second of the three books relating to the Champ d’Asile published in Paris in 1819.... Le Texas, which is in the form of two diaries, the first at pages [11]-111 by Hartmann and the second, pages 112-132, by Millard, is the only one of the three to give a brief but more or less consecutive account of the founding of the colony, the life there, the retreat to Galveston, and the dispersal of the colonists to the four winds.”

            Handbook of Texas Online (Champ d’Asile): “Although Champ d’Asile, a colony of Bonapartist refugees founded on the Trinity River in 1818, endured barely six months, its impact on the future of Texas was strong. The concern aroused among United States and Spanish diplomats over this intrusion into disputed territory caused two immediate results. United States pressure forced pirate Jean Laffite and his men, who had assisted the French colonists, to leave Galveston. And French presence at Champ d’Asile precipitated the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819, which eliminated the Neutral Ground agreement and established the Sabine River as the Louisiana-Texas boundary and the border between the United States and New Spain. The body of thought, art, and literature evoked in Paris around Champ d’Asile also had important long-term effects on Texas.” See also Handbook of Texas (first edition): “Garneray Family”, where Champ d’Asile is characterized as “a motley mingling of French exiles, Spaniards, Poles, Mexicans, and Americans, with a sprinkling of former pirates...more occupied with military exercises and hunting than with cultivation of the soil,” a characterization suppressed in later editions.

            The motives of the colony’s founder, Baron Charles François Antoine Lallemand (1774-1839), remain ambiguous. The Baron claimed the Texas settlement was agricultural, but it was rumored the group was a military colony organized to rescue Napoleon and reinstate his empire abroad. After the Battle of Waterloo, Lallemand accompanied Napoleon to surrender at Rochefort and attempted to follow him into exile. The British refused and imprisoned Lallemand in Malta for two months before he escaped. Lallemand and his Bonapartist officers were condemned to death in absentia. Upon arrival in 1817 in Philadelphia, Lallemand became president of the French Emigrant Association and obtained grants in present-day Alabama, but these grants were sold, and the 150 colonists sailed to Galveston. The initial utopian stage of energetic fort-building and munitions manufacture unraveled as summer on the Trinity arrived. The colonists suffered in uncomfortably hot, fancy wool uniforms, battled swarms of mosquitoes, and harvested meager crops. French, German, Italian, Belgian, Spanish, Polish, Mexican, and Swiss colonists engaged in sometimes violent dissentions. Initially friendly Indians began pilfering, and Karankawas slaughtered and supposedly devoured two colonists on a hunting expedition (bon appétit, and so much for the Noble Savage hypothesis). In July, upon gathering intelligence that Spanish troops were being dispatched to their fort, the colonists hastily retreated to Galveston with the assistance of pirate Jean Laffite. In August, 1818, the final blow came on the winds of a ferocious hurricane that inundated their Galveston Island refuge with water four feet deep, whereupon most of the colonists proceeded to New Orleans.

            Hartmann and Millard published this account immediately upon their return to Paris. Despite whatever realistic problems may have beset the colony, they are not on display here or even rarely alluded to, except to say that they were generally all solved with the greatest mutual cooperation and friendliness. Hartmann’s account, especially, is suffused with a wildly Romantic view of Texas, the colonists, their situation, and their mutual amity. Despite the military organization of the colony, Hartmann’s description contains so many levelling remarks that the enterprise is depicted as almost beyond ideal and seems closer to nineteenth-century communism. It was the breakdown of military organization, however, that led to the colony’s demise. After the colony moved to Galveston, Lallemand was gone over thirty days to New Orleans seeking relief supplies, and given the hurricane’s destruction, the basically leaderless colonists apparently decided more or less by popular consent to all make their separate ways to New Orleans as best they could.

            The quixotic myth of the colony captured the popular imagination, and two other books on the colony plagiarized from the present work quickly appeared: Le Champ d’Asile and Le Héroine du Texas (the latter thought to be the first novel with Texas as a setting). Subsequently, other authors, including Honoré de Balzac (La Rabouilleuse, 1842) incorporated Champ d’Asile in creative fiction. Contemporary music, purely imaginary and highly Romantic prints, wallpaper, and even labels for liquor bottles celebrated the tragic, short-sighted colonists’ sense of dauntless spirit. Publication of Lallemand’s manifesto in France prompted liberals to characterize the filibustering colonists as heroes and to raise money for their aid, most notably through the newspaper Minerve (see next entry). See also: All the Banners Wave: Art and War in the Romantic Era, 1792-1851 (exhibition catalog, Brown University Department of Art, 1982); Franc?ois Lagarde, The French in Texas: History, Migration, Culture (University of Texas Press, 2003); René Rémond, Les États-Unis devant l’opinion française, 1815-1852 (2 vols., Paris: Armand Colin, 1962); Jesse S. Reeves, The Napoleonic Exiles in America (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 1905).

            Finally, a petite footnote to women’s history in Texas-although the Champ d’Asile colony was composed mostly of bachelor soldiers, the colony included four women, whose names are listed on p. 57. Both diaries, but especially Hartmann’s, contain glowing, idealized accounts of the women’s demeanor and activities and reiterate the enormous esteem in which they were held by others. Again, those views are thoroughly romanticized, although in reality they probably do reflect to some degree the actual functioning of the colony’s female members, given that the roles described are conventional ones to be expected at the time. Adrienne and Edouard, a married couple, are especially idealized, and the depiction of their mutual struggle to survive the Galveston hurricane reflects both deep admiration and glorification. Here is a most unusual morsel in women’s history in Texas that is apparently the first such depiction since the late seventeenth-century publications concerning La Salle’s ill-fated colony. A less than ideal situation is also described by the anonymous colonist whose tale is transcribed by Jack Autrey Dabbs in “Additional Notes on the Champ-d’Asile” in Southwestern Historical Quarterly 54 (1950-1951), pp. 347-358. ($3,000-5,000)

Sold. Hammer: $3,000.00; Price Realized: $3,525.00

Auction 21 Abstracts

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