What topics do you research?

Spying: Part One of a Three Part Series

Research is the one avoidance behavior I don’t feel too guilty about. I find the most interesting information while researching for my books. While my time spent delving into Regency England informs my writing, I can’t put everything I find in the stories. For fun, I want to take a few weeks and share some stories I’ve found about spying during the Napoleonic war.

Both England and France collected information, discredited their enemy’s diplomats, and even planned assassinations. I hope you enjoy reading about a few Napoleonic era spies.

This week, meet Karl (Charles) Ludwig Schulmeister, Austrian double agent for France.

Karl Ludwig Schulmeister  Unknown artist – www.servimg.com

Charles was one of Napoleon’s most successful secret agents. His father was at various times a metalworker, grocer, shopkeeper, smuggler, and a Lutheran minister in Baden. Charles was raised as a shepherd, 3 but later became a smuggler in Strasbourg. One of the things he traded was information. 2

Charles gathered contacts among the French. One of his contacts, General Anne-Jean-Marie-Rene Savary, was aide-de-camp to Napoleon and recruited him to work for Napoleon. He was sent to Vienna to find out the plans of General Mack, the commander of the Austrian Army.4

Once in Austria, he claimed he was a Hungarian noble who had been exiled from France. He began to move in aristocratic circles and soon met General Baron Karl Mack von Leiberich. 4 He persuaded Mack that he represented royalist opposition to Napoleon and gave him secret data about the French army (Given to him by under Napoleon’s orders).

Now trusted by General Mack, Schulmeister was made chief of intelligence in Mack’s army.

Taking information from Schulmeister, Napoleon printed false newspapers and letters reporting unrest in the French army. Mack believed that the British were landing a force and that France was close to an uprising and were retreating. When Mack pursued the French, he was surrounded by their “retreating army.” He had no choice but to surrender. Napoleon won one of his most famous victories at the battle of Austerlitz. He captured Vienna and Schulmeister became chief of police. 1

At various times during the war, Schulmeister acted as a General in Napoleon’s army, was active in espionage in England and Ireland, and was director of the French Secret Service. 2

Schulmeister set up an effective cluster of spies from Napoleon’s enemies in the East. After Napoleon’s success at Austerlitz, he told his officers “Gentlemen, all respect to Charles, who I estimate highly, because he was worth an army corps of 40,000 men to me.”3  Schulmeister wanted to be awarded the Legion of Honor, but Napoleon later said that “gold is the only suitable reward for spies.” 1

After Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo and exiled, Schulmeister was arrested. He bought his freedom with his fortune. Nearly penniless, he received a a tobacco stand from an old friend in Strasbourg. He was able to earn a small income until he died of heart failure. 3

I thought it interesting that Napoleon used Schulmeister for his information but didn’t trust him or respect him. His death in poverty seems a just end.


  1.  https://www.encyclopedia.com/politics/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/napoleonic-wars-espionage-during
  2.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Schulmeister
  3. https://www.frenchempire.net/biographies/schulmeister/
  4. http://www.historynaked.com/karl-schulmeister-napoleons-dog/

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