El PLAN SECRETO para rescatar a NAPOLEÓN de la isla de Santa Elena
Welcome, curious minds! Do you know the incredible story of the submarine with which they wanted to rescue Napoleon from his exile on the island of Santa Elena? The first thing we have to clarify is that the inventor of the modern submarine was the Spaniard Narciso Monturiol, recognized along with Isaac Peral, Cosme García Sáez and Antonio Sanjurjo as a pioneer of world submarine navigation. Monturiol's first submarine, called Ictíneo I, was launched for the first time in the port of Barcelona in June 1859. The Catalan engineer, who was also a politician, managed to make his fish boat sail completely submerged for two hours and 20 minutes at a depth of 20 meters and then brought it back to the surface. Five years later, Monturiol launched the Ictíneo II, for which the Spanish army was already interested. Unlike the Ictíneo I, which advanced
thanks to a flat-finned propeller powered by the four crew members, this new submarine had an anaerobic steam combustion engine and it worked successfully, but... the company of the Spanish engineer He ended up going bankrupt due to lack of financial support and was forced to put his project aside. Despite everything, we still have the writings that Monturiol left us while he was developing it and also his 'Essay on the art of navigating under water'. At the same time, another Spanish engineer and inventor, Cosme García Sáez from Logroño, of humble origins and self-taught training, also developed a submersible.
And it was a couple of decades later, in 1888, when the Cartagena soldier Isaac Peral created a revolutionary submarine, with electric propulsion and a torpedo tube that allowed him to fire without having to surface. It was launched in Cádiz with great success. And the official tests began in 1889. Peral's ship managed to remain underwater for an hour and also hit a target located 300 meters away. A year later,
he managed to navigate underwater for 9 kilometers and at a depth of 10 meters. Inexplicably, his project, which could have influenced the development of the 1998 war between Spain and the United States, was paralyzed because the authorities did not give Isaac Peral permission to continue developing his prototype. And, furthermore, the inventor suffered a smear campaign and was the victim of conspiracies. I 'm sure we'll talk about all of this in a future video, because it's a story that deserves to be told. By
the way, Antonio Sanjurjo from A Coruña designed his submarine device against the clock in 1898, called a torpedo-buoy and capable of planting maritime mines, precisely because of the Spanish-American war, in case American ships visited the Galician coasts. But it was never used because the same day that Sanjurjo tested his submersible in the sea, on August 12, the war between the two countries ended. But long before Monturiol, García Sáez, Peral and Sanjurjo, in 1775, American David Bushnell, a student at Yale University, built a small manual submarine called the Turtle during the American War of Independence. It had a
spherical shape, with a diameter of about 2 meters, and was a single-seater. The pilot traveled seated and propelled the ship thanks to a pair of propellers that he moved with his arms and legs. Inside, he had enough oxygen for about 30 minutes; after that time, he had to return to the surface to renew the air, which limited the autonomy of the submarine. It also had a compass and a manometer that reported the depth. It was intended to be used as an offensive military weapon, but it failed in the missions assigned to it in 1776, which consisted of placing explosives on the bottom of British warships to blow them up. That same year, the Turtle is believed to have sunk along with the ship that was carrying it. But... the most important thing about Bushnell's contraption is that it gave other inventors the idea of developing an underwater ship.
One such inventor was Robert Fulton, born on a Pennsylvania farm in 1765. Fulton, as we shall see, went down in history as the inventor of the steamboat, and was even a painter of some prestige, but the great passion of his life was, as naval researcher David Whittet Thomson points out in an article published by the United States Naval Institute, "nullifying sea power through submarine warfare." Thus, in 1797, at the age of 22, he traveled to France. In Paris he tried to raise the money
to finance his own submarine, the design of which was an improvement on Bushnell's Turtle. Fulton believed in free trade, which was very important to his country, the United States, and he thought that the European naval forces were an impediment to that free trade, so he was betting on disabling those powerful fleets... with a new weapon of war the submarines . He thought that these underwater machines would become the terror of sailors and that, therefore, nations would no longer want to have a navy. From our present perspective we know that he was wrong. The fact is that Fulton presented his submarine project to the French authorities, to the Directory, as a powerful weapon to annihilate the navy of his great enemy, the Royal Navy: the idea was that this underwater vessel would be capable of going underwater and diving, as well as towing an underwater bomb, which he called a torpedo, to be placed on the keel of enemy ships. As you can see, when we talk about Fulton's torpedoes we are not referring to the self-propelled torpedoes, which arrived years later. At first Fulton's project was well received. For while effective submarines
did not come until the invention of battery-powered motors, Fulton's proposal for a mechanical submarine was by far the most advanced of its time. In any case, when I was going to start building it, the French government canceled the project. It did not look chivalrous to hide underwater to attack the enemy: it violated the laws of war, and increasing tensions with England could be dangerous since there were many French prisoners in the hands of the English. By the way, the submarine was going to be called Nautilus. And, in case you are wondering, yes, it is possible that it is related to the Nautilus that appears in the novels 'Twenty Thousand Languages Under the Sea' and 'The Mysterious Island' by Jules Verne. Normally it is said that
the French writer named Nemo's submarine after the 'Nautilus pompilius', a species of cephalopod mollusk; but other sources believe that it took its name from the machine built by Robert Fulton. The American inventor did not give up and, when Napoleon Bonaparte carried out a coup at the end of 1799 and seized power in France as first consul, he again proposed to the French the construction of the Nautilus. He sold Napoleon the idea that a French submarine would be able to put an end to the war in the seas, since it would make the sailors of the Royal Navy tremble. Although he had not yet received the go-ahead from the
French statesman, at the beginning of 1800 Fulton began to build the Nautilus, with a capacity for three crew members and with a sail that also allowed him to navigate on the surface of the water. Like those built before, it depended on human strength. He put it to the test and succeeded. So in 1801, Napoleon agreed to pay Fulton a substantial sum of money to upgrade his submarine in the Brittany port city of Brest . It was cigar-shaped and twenty feet long, with a diameter of almost seven feet. By the way, this submarine did not have a periscope,
since it was invented almost half a century later. It was invented by a woman, the American Sarah Mather. But let's get back to Fulton. When he wrote to Napoleon months later to inform him that his trials with the Nautilus had once again been successful... he got no reply. Napoleon withdrew his support soon after, perhaps because he had already signed the Peace of Amiens, which had ended the war against the British and Irish. But it only took a year for them to face each other again, in the so-called war of the Third Coalition, which united the United Kingdom, Austria, Russia, Sweden and Naples against France with the aim of overthrowing Napoleon.
And by then the London authorities already knew about the tests that Fulton had been doing with his submarine and they were interested in the invention. So the American, given the little interest shown by the French, went to the English capital in search of financing to continue developing his submarine and his torpedo system. And in 1804 he even signed a contract with the English Prime Minister, William Pitt, who was not interested in the Nautilus, but was interested in torpedoes, since the British saw an interesting idea of being able to attack enemy fleets with underwater bombs. Fulton planned to work on both projects, since for him they were inseparable. It is believed that it was then that the American began working with an Irish sailor and smuggler named Thomas Johnson (or Johnstone, it is not clear what his real last name was), which we will talk about later. In 1805 Fulton managed to blow up a brig with one of his torpedoes. But the Admiralty wanted to win the water battles, as
Nelson had just done at Trafalgar, against the French and Spanish, a victory that also made Fulton's torpedoes unnecessary. And, unfortunately for the American inventor, Pitt, his main champion in the British Government, died after a few months. So Fulton lost the financial support of the British government and, disappointed, returned to New York. In his country he continued working on the development of torpedoes and submarines,
but above all on the steamboat. And, although 20 years earlier another American, John Fitch, had sailed the first prototype steamboat down the Delaware River, in 1807 it was Fulton who built the first commercial steamboat in history, the North River Steamboat -which later known as the Clermont, which carried passengers between New York City and Albany and became a great commercial success. In the early stages of the War of 1812 between the United States and England, the British government asked Thomas Johnson – remember, the sailor and smuggler who is believed to have been working with Fulton – to build a torpedo system and… .a submarine
. They wanted an underwater machine that could be steered, submerged and raised to the surface by its crew, and capable of placing torpedoes on the keel of enemy ships. A bootlegger since the tender age of 12, Johnson seemed well acquainted with Fulton's designs; although it is not known if because he really worked with him or because he stole them or they came into his hands in another way. The fact is that two years later, in 1814, there was a finished submersible of these characteristics in London. It was capable of sailing like a normal ship and also under water,
like Fulton's submarine. But it is not known for sure if this new ship was the work of Johnson. In the end, both the Americans and the British ended up giving up on submarines as a weapon of war... until a few decades later. But now let us return to Napoleon, who in 1804 had proclaimed himself Emperor of France and had gone on to conquer much of continental Europe. As you know, he ended up defeated in 1814 and the victorious powers restored the Bourbon monarchy in France and the emperor was exiled to a small island in the Mediterranean, Elba. Although his enemies there allowed him to reign as a prince, with his own court and
personal guard, Napoleon decided to flee in February of the following year, returned to Paris and managed to regain power. Thus began the period known as 'the Hundred Days', which was the period he ruled before his troops were definitively defeated at Waterloo. This time his enemies, the British, decided to send him to a remote island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, halfway between Africa and South America, more than 1,900 kilometers from the mainland: Santa Elena. And on this occasion neither personal guard nor court accompanied him; only his guardians and some fellow exiles, such as Charles Tristan, Marquis de Montholon, who would later be one of the main economic beneficiaries of Napoleon's will. The privateer landed in Santa Elena in October 1815. The years began to pass and Bonaparte's health worsened. He lived in a place called Longwood
House, a house in the interior of the island, isolated and located on a plain that was constantly buffeted by the winds. The conditions of confinement to which his jailers subjected Napoleon were harsh, probably because they feared a new escape attempt, so they did not take any rumors about a possible plan to rescue the French statesman as a joke. Because there were Bonapartists in the world who wanted to free the privateering, and more with the revolutionary spirit that was plaguing Europe at that time. Thus, for example, his brother José Bonaparte, who had reigned in Spain, had become rich after fleeing to the United States, so that he had the necessary resources to finance a rescue operation. But it was not easy at all, because his brother's island-prison was guarded by 2,800 men, including officers and soldiers, 500 cannons, sentinels in the few landing areas that there were, and, in addition... 11 ships -three frigates, two warships and six brigantines - were constantly patrolling the waters surrounding Santa Elena.
Not to mention that the island was surrounded by natural defenses in the form of cliffs. No one could approach without being sighted. The Irishman Sir Hudson Lowe, governor of the island and better known as 'Napoleon's jailer', had everything well under control. There was no way to cross that barrier of ships without being seen... Or was there? A submarine like the one devised by Fulton could be an ideal means of transportation in a hypothetical rescue operation. Well, we find quite reliable historical references to a liberation attempt that the Bonapartists planned to carry out in late 1820 or early 1821.
And how do we know about that plot? Through a great Anglo-Saxon literature, Sir Walter Scott, considered the father of the historical novel. The Scottish writer was the first to tell us about this rescue attempt, and he did so in 1827, the year in which he published one of the first biographies in English about the Corsican soldier, entitled 'The life of Napoleon Bonaparte'. Among the sources that Sir Walter Scott used to document himself was the Duke of Wellington himself. The most feasible plan was to reach the area with a steamer that remained far enough from the island to be undetected by the British and then, in the middle of the night, use a submarine to reach land – Prosperous Bay, Three miles from Longwood House, it seemed like the most easily accessible enclave on the St. Helena coast. Later they would take Napoleon out of there in the submarine and he would end up boarding the steamboat, which would take him to America, where the general's popularity was enormous. But if the first part of the escape project – manufacturing a submarine that would make the plan viable and that neither this submersible nor the ship would be detected by the British – already had its complexity, the second was not any easier, because, once on land , they had to arrive at Longwood House, where Napoleon lived, and the house was guarded by British soldiers, so no one was allowed to enter or leave there after sunset.
The jailers had to be especially vigilant at night, since they guessed that it was during those hours that an escape attempt could take place. And who to entrust such a complex mission? Sir Walter Scott tells us in his biography about Bonaparte by... Thomas Johnson. In the words of the Scottish writer, "a smuggler of an extraordinarily determined character, and whose life had been a fabric of desperate risks." According to the author of 'Ivanhoe', Johnson had memorably escaped from London's Newgate prison, "and then had piloted Lord Nelson's ship to the attack on Copenhagen", a battle in which Nelson had faced a fleet Danish-Norwegian. Apparently this last piece of information, that Johnson had piloted Nelson's boat in Copenhagen, could be a mistake by Sir Walter Scott. Johnson was an adventurer, an experienced sailor and a smuggler, so he was used to outwitting the authorities. In fact, he had managed to escape from several prisons. And,
as we said, he was familiar with building submarines. So in 1820, when he was 48 years old, he accepted the task of rescuing the former Emperor of France. Johnson came to design a submarine that measured about 12 meters in length, called Etna. Its design was primitive, and the sails were responsible for propelling it on the surface, like Fulton's. In a very interesting article by the Argentine historian Emilio Ocampo, published by the magazine 'Napoleonica. La revue', from the Napoleon Foundation, and entitled 'The attempt to rescue Napoleon with a submarine: fact or fiction?', it is explained that Johnson sent us his version of the plan through some memoirs published by a writer and journalist named Frederic William Naylor Bayley eight years after Sir Walter Scott first spoke of this submarine plot to free Napoleon.
In pages of that work, entitled 'Scenes and stories of a clergyman in debt', Johnson, who apparently met Bayley in a debtor's prison, corrected some of the information that the Scottish writer had provided; Thus, the sailor explained that they actually planned to carry out the escape plan with two submarines, the Etna and the Eagle. He also acknowledged that the conversations to carry out the mission had been held with Barry Edward O'Meara, who for three years had been Napoleon's doctor in Santa Elena and therefore knew very well the security surrounding the general. And we know that Sir Hudson Lowe had driven O'Meara off the island early in 1818 precisely because he was too sympathetic to the prisoner. In fact, a few months later the Irish doctor wrote a letter to the Lords of the Admiralty in which he suggested that Lowe might try to assassinate Napoleon. Johnson also explained in Bayley's book that the idea was to go to rescue Napoleon and that, once they found him, they planned to dress him up as a footman in order to mislead the troops guarding Longwood House. To lower Napoleon down a steep cliff,
they planned to use a kind of bosun's chair or boatswain's chair, a horizontal plank that was used on ships to suspend a person from a rope when it was necessary to carry out, for example, work on the ships. sides of the ships. Thus they would reach the bottom of the cliff, where, on the coast, the Etna submarine would wait for them. Next to them would sail the Eagle. The final destination would be the United States. And if a British ship approached them in their escape plan , it was planned to use a torpedo to destroy it. As reflected in his article Emilio Ocampo, this Bonaparte rescue plan directed by Johnson was also referred to in his 'Memories from beyond the grave' by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs during the reign of Louis XVIII, the Viscount of Chateaubriand, who, By the way, he was one of those who voted in favor of the death penalty for Marshal Ney, who we are talking about in this other video. And also Count Montholon,
Napoleon's fellow exile, claimed that a group of French officers spent a fortune building a submarine to free the general from his exile. And what happened? Well, the whole plan went to hell because on May 5, 1821 Napoleon Bonaparte, after spending six years in exile..., died in Santa Elena. He was 51 years old. It is curious, because it has always been believed that the Corsican ruler could have lost his life poisoned by his enemies with arsenic, but recent studies consider correct the diagnosis of the autopsy that was carried out the day after his death and which ruled that Bonaparte died of stomach cancer , the same disease that took his father at just 39 years old and one of his sisters. Both Napoleon and his captors had requested that such an autopsy be carried out if he died: Bonaparte because he wanted to confirm if he had died of the same stomach disease as his father, in case that information was useful to his only son, Napoleon II; his jailer, the Governor of Saint Helena, Sir Hudson Lowe, to show that the prisoner's terminal illness had nothing to do with his conditions of captivity. They had even been building a new house for him to improve the conditions in which he lived, but Napoleon never occupied it. By the way, we have mentioned Napoleon's son: in case
the doubt arises, despite being his father's heir he never came to rule, and he died at only 21 years old, but not from the stomach, but from tuberculosis. Another curiosity of the autopsy of the Corsican general, as explained by the French historian Pierre Branda, is that the 17 people present took a piece of sheet stained with Napoleon's blood, and they are considered the first Napoleonic relics. Some have doubts, and rightly so, about whether or not this story of the waterboarding to rescue Napoleon from his forced exile on the island of Saint Helena is true, but according to Sir Walter Scott, Johnson "certainly participated" in a plan to free the former emperor. And
Johnson himself confirmed the news through Bayley's memoirs, although it could well be a story that was the fruit of the smuggler's fantasy or, according to some sources, this Bayley could have lied and that the words he put into Johnson's mouth were a lie or a joke. As you can see, there are quite a few shadows about it and we will probably never know what happened, but it is a story that deserves to be told, don't you think? What is certain is that, as we have said, the plan, if it existed, was not carried out due to the early death of Napoleon. In addition, experts on Napoleon such as Ocampo consider it unlikely that the general would have accepted such an escape attempt, because Bonaparte had always said that he would not accept a plan that required him to disguise himself or flee like a criminal. "If he left Santa Elena," Ocampo explains, "he would do it 'with his hat on his head and his sword at his side,' as befitted his status."
By the way, the French statesman and soldier was buried in a beautiful place called Valle del Geranio in Santa Elena, located near a spring, but he left a written wish that his ashes rest on the banks of the Seine, in the middle of that French town that had loved so much. And after being buried on the Atlantic island for 19 years, his wish came true: his remains were transferred to Paris, which were received as those of a true hero by the French people and today they rest in Les Invalides. In 2021, 200 years have passed since the death of this man who was an unparalleled military genius and came to dominate much of the world. And you? What do you think of the story of Napoleon's submarine? Do you think that the supporters of the French statesman were about to carry out this rescue plan? I would like you to tell us below, in the comments. And if you want to know more interesting stories, subscribe to our
channel. Thank you very much for being there, curious minds! See you in the next video!