Publisher Information: Canstadt: 1806.
Percy, Pierre François (1754-1825). (1) Autograph letter signed to “Monsieur l’Intendant général” [Claude Louis Petiet]. Bifolium. 1 page. Canstadt, 7 September 1806. 231 x 193 mm. Small portion torn from upper margin of integral blank, but fine otherwise. Docketed. (2) Engraved portrait of Percy by an unidentified artist. N.p., n.d. 145 x 107 mm. Mounted. Very good.
Excellent letter from Percy, Inspector-General of Medical Services for Napoleon’s Grande Armée, who introduced numerous important innovations in military medicine including the concept of triage and the creation of teams of stretcher-bearers (brancardiers) devoted solely to the care and evacuation of the wounded. “It was Percy who first specified the idea that evacuation from the battlefield should be based upon the seriousness of the wound and chances of survival if treated early. Evacuation was therefore not based upon wealth or rank. The palpably Republican notion of triage at this time laid the basis of a system that is used in military and civil disaster medicine to the present day” (Baker et al., pp. 260-261).
Percy’s letter was written in Canstadt (modern-day Bad-Cannstatt) in the Kingdom of Württemberg, which had allied with Napoleon in his campaigns against Prussia, Austria and Russia. The date, 7 September 1806, was just a few weeks before the twin battles of Jena and Auerstedt (14 October 1806), in which Napoleon defeated the Prussian army and placed Prussia under the control of the French Empire. The letter suggests that Percy was helping to set up a treatment facility in anticipation of this major altercation, one of the bloodiest in the history of the Napoleonic Wars.
"Monsieur l’Intendant-général, Tout est prèt, dans la 5e Division militaire, pour recevoir les malades dont vous avez ordonné la prompte évacuation sur Strasbourg. M. l’Ordonnateur Lyautey est en mesure, à cet égard, depuis plusieurs mois, et je viens encore de lui envoyer 20 chirurgiens, en cas que ses confrères des divisions contigués en aient besoin.
"Je joins ici l’état de chirurgien de tous grades à la suite de la grande Armée, qui sont actuellement à Strasbourg, ou dans les hôpitaux de la Division, indépendamment de ceux que S. E. le Ministre Directeur a spécialement affectés au service de la rive gauche du Rhin.
"Je n’ai encore rien vu passer par Canstadt, ni […] d’artillerie, ni convois de malades. J’attends, j’éspère, je doute, je crains.
J’ai l’honneur de vous saluer respectuellement, P. Percy"
"[Mr. Intendant-General, Everything is ready in the 5th Military Division to receive the sick whose prompt evacuation you have ordered to Strasbourg. M. l’Ordinateur Lyautey has been able to do this for several months, and I have just sent him 20 surgeons, in case his colleagues in the adjoining divisions need them.
"I add here the state of surgeons of all ranks following the Grande Armée [not included here], who are currently in Strasbourg, or in the hospitals of the Division, independently of those that His Excellency the Minister Director has specially assigned to the service of the left bank of the Rhine.
"I haven’t seen anything pass through Canstadt yet, neither […] of artillery nor convoys of sick people. I wait, I hope, I doubt, I fear.
"I have the honor to respectfully greet you, P. Percy]"
D. Baker et al., “Larrey and Percy—A tale of two barons,” Resuscitation 66 (2005): 259-262.Book Id: 48908