Winner of the 2009 Literary Award, sponsored by the International Napoleonic Society/La Societe Napoleonienne Internationale of Montreal, Quebec's Literary Committee Napoleon’s last campaign didn’t end at Waterloo. After that fateful day on June 1815, hundreds if not thousands of veterans of Napoleon’s army emigrated to America. Many went farther south and joined the rebels fighting for independence in the Spanish colonies, from Mexico to Buenos Aires. The Bonapartists roiled the Western World as they sought fortune, fame, and glory in the expanding United States and in the tumultuous Spanish Americas suffering from repression and civil disorder, and even in the states of Europe. They were joined by adventurers from other nations who shared their admiration for the fallen emperor. This is the first full-length examination of the Bonapartists who emigrated from France after Napoleon’s defeat and exile, who formed a loose confederation with adventurers and romantics, and who contemplated a new empire in the Western Hemisphere. The scheme had the support and encouragement of the fallen emperor himself and his brother Joseph, former King of Spain, who lived in exile in the United States. Emilio Ocampo has examined archives on three continents and sources in several languages to ferret out the evidence—a monumental task considering that conspirators tried to leave no evidence of their plans, and that a failed plot, like failure in general, leaves few claimants. Ocampo reinterprets Latin American independence as an international event that drew in all the major powers. By illuminating the complex connections between the shattered France of the Bourbon restoration; an England threatened by radical politician inspired by the French Revolution; Napoleon in exile at St. Helena; the United States, where home-grown adventurers and French émigrés alike saw opportunity; and the collapsing Spanish colonial empire, where revolutionaries were allying themselves with the veterans of Napoleon’s Grande Armée, Ocampo brings together two bodies of scholarship: Napoleonic history and Latin American independence. He does so by tracing the steps of four of the most fascinating characters of the era: two Britons disaffected with their own government—Lord Thomas Cochrane and Sir Robert Wilson—and two former generals of Napolean’s army named Charles Lallemand and Michel Brayer. The Emperor’s Last Campaign is a fascinating story, well told, and peopled with all sorts of improbable characters and schemes that perhaps just missed coming to full fruition but that in the process contributed to one of the most important events of the nineteenth century: the breakdown of the Spanish empire in America and the rise of the United States as a world power.
“Ocampo provides a fascinating if necessarily disjointed account of efforts to free Napoleon and establish him as ruler somewhere in the Western Hemisphere, asserting that many of the revolutionary movements in colonial Spanish America were enmeshed in these intrigues. Men like Bernardo O’Higgins, José de San Martín, and Simón Bolivar alternatively utilized or sought to thwart these plots. Ocampo has researched widely and well--it is a pity the publisher chose not to include the full bibliography that apparently appeared in the 2007 Spanish edition to this work—and his extensive footnotes illustrate his diligent research in a large number of archives and other primary sources. The author convincingly links all this activity to the greater diplomatic concerns of the era and argues that fears of Napoleon’s escape were an important consideration for all the powers. If the book has a weakness, it is perhaps to attribute too much coherence to the activities of so disparate a group of veterans, admirers, adventurers, and entrepreneurs. Ocampo’s efforts merit further investigation. Bottom line: important for grad students, researchers, and specialists. Highly recommended.”
“[Ocampo] traces the conspiracies, political enthusiasms, and political consequences that animated the Atlantic world following the abdication of Napoleon and his confinement in St. Helena. He convincingly argues that Napoleonic veterans and the Bonaparte family acted in ways that roiled the political environments of both Europe and the Americas until Napoleon’s death.”—Lyman L. Johnson, coauthor of Colonial Latin America
“This work is original and makes a contribution to our knowledge and understanding of the last years of Napoleon. . . . [It] focuses on the efforts and plans to rescue him from St. Helena during the years 1815-1821 . . . and provides many interesting biographies of the people who played an important role in trying to free Napoleon.”
—Alexander Grab, author of Napoleon and the Transformation of Europe