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A Monument to the Triumph of Napoleon in Plaster

Don't tell anyone but there is a plaster elephant, 78 feet tall, standing in the middle of the plaza in Paris. The plaza is the former site of the Bastille, the prison that became the symbol of tyranny and sparked a popular uprising against the French monarchy known as the French Revolution. The Bastille was torn down and replaced with a fountain, but somehow the statue of a woman with water pouring forth from her breasts didn't seem appropriate so Napoleon decreed that a monument of triumph be built, but the Arc de Triomphe isn't going to work there, so Napoleon decides on a bronze elephant with a hollow leg so that people can enter and climb to the top. At this point in the construction, the base of the monument is complete, but a new architect is hired. He decides to build a full-size model of the elephant in wood and plaster to give people an idea of what the final product will be like. It looks magnificent in drawings, but in person it is less than magnificent. With the turn in Napoleon's fortunes this year, the delivery of the bronze is quietly cancelled. The plaster model will remain on display for several years and become the home for rats and a hiding place for a fictional character in Victor Hugo's novel, Les Misérables. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5][6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Some historians use the Elephant of the Bastille as a metaphor for the crumbling of the French Revolution. After Napoleon's failed incursion into Russia, several nations joined forces to push him back across the Rhine. So many people were killed in that battle in 1813 that they were still finding bodies a year later. A monument to Napoleon's failure and the triumph of his adversaries was built in Leipzig, Germany. It is called the Monument to the Battle of the Nations and it is magnificent. As far as Les Misérables is concerned, it is a fictional account, but the events that take place begin after the fall of Napoleon in 1814. I've not read the book, and I walked out of the movie about a third of the way through. However, Anne Hathaway gave a magnificent performance. [7]

'Don't Give Up the Ship!' The Battle Flag of Lake Erie

This is the War of 1812 and the British have blockaded Lake Erie with two war ships they already had on site. They cut off the supply line to Detroit while British forces cross the Detroit River. They capture a United States ship named the Adams in port. The US forces need more gun ships on Lake Erie to challenge the British, but the only effective way to do that is to build new ships, so they do. The facilities for building ships is inadequate, but they have a master ship builder and the iron will of Captain Oliver Perry. (He is the older brother of Matthew Perry who will open up the ports of Japan for American shipping whether they like it or not.) Captain Perry will challenge the British on the Lake, but first, he wants a new battle flag. His friend suggests the dying words of Captain James Lawrence of the frigate USS Chesapeake be written across the flag, "Don't Give Up the Ship." With a shortage of experienced sailors on both sides, Captain Perry sets out to challenge the British on his flagship, the Lawrence. Perry catches the best wind called the "weather gauge". He sails right into the British squadron and pounds away with cannon fire. Ships become entangled as their rigging crashes all around. It soon becomes a melee. The damage to Perry's ship, the Lawrence is horrifying, but in the end, the British surrender control of the Lake. [8] [9]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Captain Perry got all the best lines in this story. He said, "If a victory is to be gained, I will gain it," and he wrote to General William Harrison, "We have met the enemy and they are ours." The Congress awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal inscribed with words in Latin that read in English, "Valor finds or makes a way. Between the Fleets of America and Britain September 10, 1813.". He was thereafter known as the Hero of Lake Erie. And for clarity's sake, there is no "Congressional Medal of Honor". The Medal of Honor is awarded by the President of the United States on behalf of the military for bravery above and beyond the call of duty. The Congressional Gold Medal is awarded by an act of Congress for whatever reason they deem appropriate and it is sometimes presented by the President of the United States. [10]

In Other News

  • Mexico declares its independence from Spain. [11]
  • Jane Austen publishes "Pride and Prejudice" [11]
  • The waltz becomes the most popular dance in Europe. [11]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1813, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Lost Paris: The Elephant on the Place de la Bastille. Culture&Stuff (May 24, 2011). Retrieved on 22 June 2016. “Of all the strange monuments that ever appeared on the Parisian skyline (and there have been a few), one of the most outlandish is surely the Elephant that occupied the Place de la Bastille in the wake of the Revolution.”
  2. Elephant of the Bastille - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  3. Napoleon - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  4. Gavroche - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 22 June 2016. “Due to a freak accident, the two boys are separated from Magnon without identification, and encounter Gavroche purely by chance. They are unaware of their identities, but Gavroche invites them to live with him and takes care of them. They reside in the hollow cavity of a giant elephant statue, the Elephant of the Bastille conceived by Napoleon as a fountain, but abandoned unfinished.”
  5. Place de la Bastille, Paris (Part 5). discoverfrance.net (2016). Retrieved on 22 June 2016. “Between 1813 and 1846, Parisians were treated to the sight of a larger-than-life elephant at the Place de la Bastille, very close to the location of the present opera house. (It is visible in the 1880 Hoffbauer painting, to the left of the July Column.)”
  6. The Fountain of Regeneration. chnm.gmu.edu (2016). Retrieved on 22 June 2016. “In this engraving of the Festival of Reunion or Unity of 10 August 1793, a female statue of Nature in the form of the Egyptian goddess Isis represents the regeneration of the French people. It sits on the site of the Bastille prison, whose fall signaled the beginning of the Revolution. The engraving depicts the statue as made of stone, but in fact it was hastily constructed of papier mache.”
  7. Monument to the Battle of the Nations - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 22 June 2016. “The monument commemorates Napoleon's defeat at Leipzig, a crucial step towards the end of hostilities in the War of the Sixth Coalition, which was seen[by whom?] as a victory for the German people, although Germany as we know it did not begin to exist until 1870. There were German speakers fighting on both sides, as Napoleon's troops also included conscripted Germans from the French-occupied left bank of the Rhine as well as from the Confederation of the Rhine.”
  8. Weather gage - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 22 June 2016. “The weather gage (sometimes spelled weather gauge) is the advantageous position of a fighting sailing vessel relative to another.”
  9. Battle of Lake Erie - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 22 June 2016. “When the last gun on Lawrence became unusable, Perry decided to transfer his flag. He was rowed a half mile (1 km) through heavy gunfire to Niagara while Lawrence was surrendered. (It was later alleged that he left Lawrence after the surrender, but Perry had actually taken down only his personal pennant, in blue bearing the motto, 'Don't give up the ship'.)”
  10. Congressional Gold Medal - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 22 June 2016. “When a Congressional Gold Medal has been deemed appropriate, Congress has, by legislative action, provided for the creation of a medal on an ad hoc basis.'”
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 386-387. 

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