Those Wascally Wabbits

To celebrate his victory over the Russians and the Prussians, resulting in the Treaty of Tilsit in 1807, Napoleon ordered a lovely hunting party in the country and had his chief of staff, Alexandre Berthier, arrange everything.

Berthier, a paragon of efficiency, had the coaches arrive at the Tuilleries on the stroke, a beautiful lunch was prepared, with music from a band on a lovely bandstand, and the party drank from crystal goblets and dined on delicacies. Then, led by the emperor, they set out for a day of shooting.

Berthier had arranged to have a thousand rabbits released, so the hunt was sure to be successful. The problem was, they were tame rabbits and they were used to being fed twice a day.

They mistook Napoleon for the guy with their food and they all came running at him. Berthier and his men tried to beat them back with horsewhips, but the rabbits executed a classic double envelopment and came at them from all sides. Napoleon had to fight his way back to his carriage, in which he promptly set off for his palace.

I picked up this nugget from the Oxford Book of Military Anecdotes, edited by Max Hastings, a wonderful volume I got for a dollar. The anecdote is attributed to A. G. Macdonell.