The weird arms race between Napoleon and England
If you were a higher-up in the British Empire in the late 1790s, you were probably a little freaked out, and understandably so. You’d just said goodbye to the American colonies and watched the French populace rise up in bloody revolution against their monarchic government—and now French general Napoleon Bonaparte was seizing territory all over Europe and even beyond. You wouldn’t be crazy to think that the general had his eye on the British Isles next. But exactly how you expected the French armies to land on British shores… let’s just say the Brits let their imaginations run away with them a little bit.
For your viewing pleasure, we’ve collected a series of slightly bonkers popular engravings of imaginary invasion methods dating between 1798 and 1805, when the Napoleon’s troops seemed to be looming on the horizon.
Napoleon’s moving castle
This slightly histrionic plan from 1798 shows perhaps the most visually striking paranoid fantasy to come out of the period. In it, a massive windmill-propelled barge carries not only 60,000 men but also an entire castle across the English Channel.
Similarly relying on windmills for power, this illustration of an invasion raft described by a French prisoner of war (who we assume got a kick out of the credulous Brits) somehow makes even less sense than the barge above. It’s basically a fortress on a floating island. Not the most hydrodynamic contraption—and what happens if the water is choppy?
This… thing, part 2
Also from 1798 is this intricate engraving of the imaginary “Raft St. Malo,” which was likely based on the same false information as the last raft. It allegedly “was 600 feet long by 300 broad, mounts 500 pieces of cannon, 36 and 48-pounders, and is to convey 15,000 troops for the invasion of England. In the midst is a bomb-proof, metal-sheathed citadel.”
Oh look, a real boat
Dating to 1803, when hostilities broke out again after a hiatus, this print showing “A Correct VIEW of the FRENCH FLAT-BOTTOM BOATS intended to convey their TROOPS for the INVASION of ENGLAND” is a little more realistic. As the National Maritime Museum explains,
Unlike the earlier prints… with their monstrous and bizarre ‘rafts’ for transporting huge numbers of troops, this shows much more feasible vessels and appears to be based on much better founded information.
“My ass in a band box”
Not all Brits bought into the technological hype, however. The cartoon above shows a small-statured Napoleon on a donkey, sailing over to the British Isles in a decidedly non-threatening box labeled “Invasion.”
Balloons, ships, and a tunnel
Perhaps the craziest idea came from Napoleon himself, who imagined a three-pronged approach to invading Britain using hot air balloons, ships, and foot soldiers via a tunnel dug under the English Channel, as illustrated in this 1803 French engraving.
So what actually happened? None of the above. Urged on by fears of French innovation, the British government invested heavily in defense measures, including a number of forts and a massive naval blockade of the Channel. Napoleon’s attempt to piece together a big enough flotilla to break through the blockade ended up being a major flop.
- The Ancient Romans Punished Dad-Killers In a Really Weird Way
- The History of Islam's Golden Age: Part 3
- France Has Her Own Lady Liberty, and Her Name is Marianne
- 5 Times Carrie Fisher Made Hollywood History
- This Philosopher Chose Relationships with Poodles Over People
- The History of Hanukkah Gelt
Follow @historybuffcom on Twitter .
Why marijuana's potential benefits for vets outweigh the risks
Marijuana may get more use as a treatment for PTSD and other medical issues as more than 90 percent of veterans support marjuana use and development.
7 holiday classics you should send to deployed troops
The next time you visit a department store that sells DVDs, toss these films into your cart and send them to your favorite troop serving overseas.
A Boeing 757 was hacked and the Department of Homeland Security is concerned
In 2016 the Department of Homeland Security hacked a 757 remotely, using only objects that would normally pass through security without an issue.
Why Ranger Up needs to be under your tree this Christmas
The Holidays, like a hyped-up drill sergeant, are upon you. Don't you wish you had a 12-day guide to the best vet-made gifts around? Ho! Ho! Hoorah!
How dead civilians were listed as 'ISIS fighters' in Iraq
A year and a half long investigation by the New York Times revealed that the US had reported civilian casualties in combat as enemy combatant casualties.
The Marines are training an F-35 squadron to fight in nuclear war
The Marines are training on how to fight through a nuclear war and under the strains of nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological hazards.
Why a drunk traffic fatality was the last straw for US troops in Japan
Early in the morning, a Marine drove while impaired, ran a red light, and drove into oncoming traffic. He struck another truck, killing its driver.
History's 7 outstanding military leaders, according to Napoleon
Napoleon Bonaparte, considered one of the most memorable military leaders of all time, held these 7 military predecessors in great esteem.
6 ways Austin Powers is way more operator than you
In 1997, Britain's biggest playboy and best special agent Austin Powers rocked movie-goers with his bad teeth, groovy personality, and judo chop.