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The Memoirs of General the Baron de Marbot

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on the point of realisation. The presence of an English squadron
of about fifteen ships, cruising endlessly in the Channel, made
it impossible to transport a French army to England in boats and
barges which would have sunk on the least contact with a larger
vessel; but the Emperor could dispose of sixty ships of the line,
either French or foreign, dispersed in the harbours of Brest,
Lorient, Rochefort, Le Ferrol, and Cadiz; it was a matter of
concentrating them, unexpectedly, in the Channel, and crushing,
by a greatly superior force, the little English squadron, to
become masters of the passage, if only for three days.

To achieve this, the Emperor ordered Admiral Villeneuve, the
commander-in-chief of all these forces, to gather together, from
the French and Spanish ports whatever ships were available, and
head, not for Boulogne, but for Martinique, to where it was
certain the English fleet would follow him. While the English
were making their way to the Antilles, Villeneuve was to quit the
islands, and returning round the north of Scotland, was to enter
the eastern end of the channel with sixty ships, which would
easily overcome the fifteen which the English maintained before
Boulogne, and so put Napoleon in command of the crossing; while
the English, on their arrival at the Antilles, would search
around for Admiral Villeneuve's fleet, and thus waste valuable

A part of this fine plan was now put into action. Villeneuve
left, with not sixty, but some thirty ships. He reached
Martinique. The English, led astray, hurried to the Antilles,
which Admiral Villeneuve had left, but the French admiral,
instead of returning via Scotland, made for Cadiz in order to
pick up the Spanish fleet, as if thirty ships were not enough to
overcome or chase away the fifteen English vessels!

That, however, is not all. Having arrived at Cadiz, Villeneuve
spent a great deal of time repairing his ships; time during which
the enemy fleet also returned to Europe, and established a
patrolling force off Cadiz. In the end, the coming of the equinox
gales having made sailing from this port difficult, Villeneuve
found himself blockaded; so the ingenious plans of the Emperor
came to nothing, and he, realising that the English would not be
taken in a second time, gave up the idea of invading Britain, or
at least postponed it indefinitely, and turned his attention to
the continent.

Before I recount the principal events of this long war, and the
part which I played in it, I must describe a terrible misfortune
which befell the family.

My brother, Felix, who was at the military school of
Fontainebleau, was a little short-sighted; he had, therefore,
hesitated before taking up a military career; nevertheless, once
embarked on it, he worked with such enthusiasm that he soon
became a sergeant-major, a position difficult to maintain in a
school. The pupils, an unruly lot, were in the habit of burying
in the earth of the fortifications which they were digging, the
implements which had been issued to them for the work. General
Bellavene, the head of the school, a very strict man, ordered
that the implements should be issued to the sergeant-majors, who
would then be accountable for them.

One day, my brother, having seen a pupil bury a pick, rebuked
him. The pupil replied very rudely and added that in a few days
they would be leaving school, and being then the equal of his
sergeant-major, he would demand satisfaction for the reprimand.
My brother replied indignantly that there was no need to wait so

Lacking swords, they used compasses fixed to wooden batons:
Jacqueminot, who later became a lieutenant-general, was my
brother's second. My brother's poor eyesight put him at a
disadvantage, but he succeeded in wounding his opponent, though
he received in return a wound which penetrated his right arm. His
companions dressed it secretly.

By an unhappy coincidence, the Emperor had come to Fontainebleau,
and had decided to conduct manoeuvres for several hours, under a
blazing sun. My poor brother, compelled to run without rest, his
arm dragged down by the weight of his heavy musket, was overcome
by the heat and his wound re-opened! He should have fallen out on
the pretext of an indisposition, but he was in front of the
Emperor who, at the end of the session, would distribute the
commissions of sous-lieutenant, so eagerly desired. Felix made
superhuman efforts to resist, but at last his strength failed him
and he collapsed and was carried away in a most serious

General Bellavene sent an unfeeling message to my mother, saying
that if she wished to see her son, she must come immediately, for
he was dying. My mother was so distressed by this news, that she
was unable to make the journey. I posted there as quickly as I
could, but on my arrival I was told that my brother was dead.
Marshal Augereau did all that he could for us, in these unhappy
circumstances, and the Emperor sent the marshal of the palace,
Duroc, to convey his condolences to my mother.

All too soon another source of sadness would come to afflict her;
I would be forced to leave her, as war was about to break out on
the continent.

At a time when it might have been thought that the Emperor had
the greatest need to be at peace with the continental powers, in
order to execute his design for the invasion of England, he
issued a decree whereby he annexed the state of Genoa to France.
This was greatly to the advantage of the English, who profited
from this decision to frighten all the peoples of the continent,
to whom they represented Napoleon as aspiring to become the
master of the whole of Europe. Austria and Russia declared war
on us, Prussia, more circumspect, made preparations, but as yet,
said nothing.

The Emperor had no doubt foreseen these reactions, and a wish to
see hostilities break out perhaps underlay his seizure of Genoa;
for, despairing of ever seeing Villeneuve in control of the
channel, he wanted a continental war to deflect the ridicule to
which his proposed invasion, threatened for three years, but
never put into action, might have exposed him by displaying his
impotence in the face of England. The new coalition extricated
him nicely from an awkward situation.

Three years under arms had had an excellent effect on our
soldiers. France had never had an army so well trained, so well
organised, so keen for action, nor a leader in control of so much
power and such moral and material resources, who was so skillful
in their employment. So Napoleon accepted the outbreak of war
with pleasure, so confident was he of conquering his enemies, and
of making use of their defeat to strengthen his position on the
throne; for he knew the enthusiasm which the prospect of military
triumph always stirred up in the martial French spirit.

Chap. 23.

The great army which the Emperor was about to set in motion
against Austria, now had its back to that Empire, since the
forces deployed on the coasts of the North Sea, the Channel and
the Atlantic were facing England. On the right wing the 1st
Corps, commanded by Bernadotte, occupied Hanover; the 2nd, under
the orders of Marmont, was in Holland; the 3rd under Davout was
in Bruges; the 4th, 5th and 6th commanded by Soult, Lannes and
Ney, were encamped at Boulogne and in the surrounding district,
while finally the 7th commanded by Augereau was in Brest, and
formed the extreme left.

To break up this long cordon of troops and form them into a large
body which could march toward Austria, it was necessary to effect
an immense turn round from front to back. Each army had to make
an about turn, in order to face Germany, and form columns, to
march there by the shortest route. Thus the right wing became the
left, and the left the right.

Obviously, to go from Hanover or Holland to the Danube, the 1st
and 2nd Corps had a much shorter distance to travel than those
who came from Boulogne, and they in turn were nearer than
Augereau's corps, which, in order to go from Brest to the
frontiers of Switzerland on the upper Rhine, had to cross the
whole of France, a journey of some three hundred leagues. The
troops were on the road for two months, marching in several
columns; Marshal Augereau was the last to leave Brest, but he
then went on ahead, and stopped first at Rennes and then
successively at Alonon, Melun, Troyes and Langres, at which
stops he inspected the various regiments, whose morale was raised
by his presence. The weather was superb: I spent the two months
travelling endlessly in an open carriage, from one column to
another, carrying the marshal's orders to the generals, and was
able to stop twice at Paris to see my mother. Our equipment had
gone on in advance. I had a mediocre servant, but three excellent

While the Grande Armee was wending its way towards the Rhine and
the Danube, the French troops stationed in northern Italy, under
the command of Massena, concentrated in the Milan area in order
to attack the Austrians in the region of Venezia.

To transmit his orders to Massena, the Emperor was obliged to
send his aides-de-camp through Switzerland, which remained
neutral. Now it so happened that while Marshal Augereau was at
Langres, an officer who was carrying Napoleon's despatches was
thrown out of his carriage and broke his collar-bone. He was
taken to Marshal Augereau whom he told that he was unable to
continue his mission. The marshal, knowing how important it was
that the Emperor's despatches should arrive in Italy without
delay, entrusted me with the task of delivering them, and also of
going through Huningue, where I was to pass on his order to have
a bridge built over the Rhine at this spot. I was delighted to
have this mission, as it meant that I would have an interesting
journey and would be sure of rejoining 7th Corps before they were
in action against the Austrians.

It did not take me long to reach Huningue and Basle; I went from
there to Berne and on to Rapperschwill, where I left my carriage:
then, on horseback and not without some danger, I crossed the
Splugen pass, at that time almost impracticable. I entered Italy
at Chiavenna, and joined Marshal Massena near Verona. I went off
again without any delay, for Massena was as impatient to see me
go with his replies to the Emperor as I was to rejoin Marshal
Augereau before there was any fighting. However my return journey
was not as rapid as my journey out, because a very heavy fall of
snow had covered not only the mountains but also the valleys of
Switzerland; it had begun to freeze hard, and horses slipped and
fell at every step. It was only by offering 600 francs that I was
able to find two guides who were prepared to cross the Splugen
with me. It took us more than twelve hours to make the crossing,
walking through snow sometimes up to our knees. The guides were
on the point of refusing to go any further, saying that it was
too dangerous, but I was young and venturesome, and I knew the
importance of the despatches which the Emperor was awaiting.

I told my guides that even if they turned back, I would go on
without them. Every profession has its code of honour; that of
the guides consists principally in never abandoning the traveller
committed to their care. Mine then went forward, and after some
truly extraordinary exertions, we arrived at the large inn
situated at the foot of the Splugen as night was falling. We
would have undoubtedly died if we had been trapped on the
mountain, for the path, which was barely discernable, was edged
by precipices which the snow prevented us from seeing clearly. I
was exhausted, but a sleep restored my strength, so I left at
daybreak to reach Rapperschwill, where there were carriages and
passable roads.

The worst of the journey was over; so, in spite of the snow and
bitter cold, I reached Basle and then Heningue, where the 7th
Corps was stationed, on the 19th October. The next day we began
to cross the Rhine over a bridge of boats built for that purpose;
for although there was, less than half a league away in the town
of Basle, a stone bridge, the Emperor had ordered Marshal
Augereau to respect the neutrality of Switzerland, a neutrality
which they themselves broke, nine years later, by handing the
bridge to the enemies of France in 1814.

Here I was then, involved once more in a war. It was now 1805, a
year which for me heralded a long series of battles which lasted
continuously for ten years, for it did not end until ten years
later at Waterloo. However numerous the wars of the Empire might
be, nearly all French soldiers enjoyed one or even several years
of respite, either because they were in a garrison in France, or
they were stationed in Italy or Germany when we were at war with
Spain; but, as you will see, this did not happen to me; I was
continually sent from north to south, and south to north,
everywhere where there was fighting. I did not spend a single one
of these ten years without coming under fire and without shedding
my blood in some foreign country.

I do not intend to give, here, a detailed account of the campaign
of 1805. I shall limit myself to recalling the principal events.

The Russians, who were marching to the aid of Austria, were still
far away, when Field-marshal Mack, at the head of eighty thousand
men, advanced, unwisely, into Bavaria, where he was defeated by
Napoleon, who forced him to retreat to the fortress of Ulm, where
he surrendered with the greater part of his army, of which only
two corps escaped the disaster.

One of these, commanded by Prince Ferdinand, managed to reach
Bohemia; the other, commanded by the elderly Field-marshal
Jellachich, escaped into the Vorarlberg near Lake Constance,
where, flanked by neutral Switzerland, it guarded the narrow
passes of the Black Forest. It was these troops which Marshal
Augereau was about to attack.

After crossing the Rhine at Huningue, 7th Corps found itself in
the country of Baden, whose sovereign, along with those of
Bavaria and Wurtemberg, had just concluded an alliance with
Napoleon; so we were received as friends by the population of
Brisgau. Field-marshal Jellachich had not dared to oppose the
French in such open country, but awaited us beyond Freiburg, at
the entrance to the Black Forest, the passage through which he
expected us to effect only at the cost of much bloodshed. Above
all, he hoped to stop us at the Val d'Enfer, a very long and
narrow pass, dominated on both sides by sheer cliffs, and easy to
defend. But the men of 7th Corps had now heard of the successes
achieved by their comrades at Ulm and in Bavaria, and anxious to
emulate them, they advanced through the Black Forest with such
elan that they crossed through it in three days, in spite of the
natural obstacles, the enemy resistance and the difficulty in
finding food in this dreadful wilderness. The army finally broke
out into fertile country and made camp around Donauschingen, a
very pleasant town where there is the magnificent chateau of the
ancient line of the princes of Furstenburg.

The marshal and his aides-de-camp were billeted in the chateau,
in the courtyard of which is the source of the Danube; this great
river demonstrates its power at the moment of its birth, for at
the spot where it issues from the earth it already bears a boat.

The draught-horses for the guns and the supply wagons had been
greatly fatigued by the passage through the rough and mountainous
passes of the Black Forest, which a coating of frost had made
even more difficult. It was therefore necessary to give them
several days of rest; during which period the Austrian cavalry
came from time to time to probe our outposts, which were
positioned two leagues from the town; but this amounted to no
more than some ineffectual fire which kept us on our toes, gave
us some exercise in skirmishing, and allowed us to learn to
recognise the various uniforms of the enemy. I saw, for the
first time, the Uhlans of Prince Charles, Rosenberg's Dragoons
and Blankenstein's Hussars.

The horses having recovered their strength, the army continued
its march, and for several weeks we had a series of engagements
which left us masters of Engen and Stockach.

Although I was very much involved in these various actions, I had
only one accident, which, however, might have been serious. The
ground was covered by snow, particularly round Stockach, where
the enemy defended their position fiercely. The marshal ordered
me to go and reconnoitre a spot to which he wanted to direct a
column; I left at the gallop; the ground looked to me to be quite
level, the snow, driven by the wind having hidden all the
hollows, but suddenly my horse and I fell into a deep gully, up
to our necks in snow. I was trying to get out, when two enemy
Hussars appeared at the edge and fired their muskets at me.
Fortunately, the snow in which my horse and I were floundering
about prevented them from taking an accurate aim, and I came to
no harm; but they were about to fire once more when some
Chasseurs, which Marshal Augereau had sent to my aid, forced them
to depart hurriedly. With some help I was able to get out of the
ravine, but we had a great deal of difficulty in extricating my
horse. As we were both unhurt, my comrades had a laugh at the
strange appearance I presented after my bath of snow.

After we had gained control of the Vorarlberg, we captured
Bregen,and drove Jellachich's Austrian corps to Lake Constance
and the Tyrol. The enemy now sought the protection of the
fortress of Feldkirch and its celebrated gorge, behind which they
could defend themselves with advantage. We expected to have to
fight a murderous battle to take this position when, to our
astonishment, the Austrians offered to capitulate, an offer which
Marshal Augereau was quick to accept.

During the meeting between the two marshals, the Austrian
officers, humiliated by the reverse which their arms had just
suffered, took malicious pleasure in giving us some very bad news
which had been concealed up till this day, but which the Russians
and Austrians had learned of from English sources. The
Franco-Spanish fleet had been defeated by Lord Nelson on October
20th not far from Cadiz, at Cape Trafalgar. Villeneuve, our
infelicitous admiral, who had failed to carry out the precise
orders of Napoleon at a time when the appearance of a combined
fleet in the Channel could have secured a safe passage for the
troops assembled at Boulogne, learning that he was about to be
replaced by Admiral Rosily, passed suddenly from an excess of
circumspection to an excess of audacity. He left Cadiz and
engaged in a battle which, had it turned out in our favour, would
have been virtually useless, since the French army, instead of
being at Boulogne to take advantage of such a success to embark
for England, was two hundred leagues from the coast, fighting in

After a most desperate struggle, the fleets of France and Spain
had been defeated by that of England, whose admiral, the famous
Nelson, had been killed; taking to his grave a reputation as the
finest seaman of the epoch. On our side we lost Rear-admiral
Magon, a very fine officer. One of our vessels blew up;
seventeen, as many French as Spanish, were captured. A severe
storm which arose toward the end of the battle, lasted all night
and the days following, and was on the verge of overwhelming both
victors and vanquished, so that the English, concerned for their
own safety, were forced to abandon nearly all the ships which
they had captured from us; which were mostly taken back to Cadiz
by the remains of their brave but unfortunate crews, though some
were wrecked on the rock-bound coast.

It was during this battle that my excellent friend France
d'Houdetot received a wound to his thigh which has left him with
a limp. D'Houdetot, scarcely out of childhood was a naval cadet,
and attached to the staff of Admiral Magon, a friend of my
father. After the death of the admiral, the ship "The Algesiras,"
in which he served, was captured after a bloody encounter, and
the English placed on board a prize crew of sixty men. But the
storm separated the ship from the English fleet, and the prize
crew realised that it was very unlikely that they could reach
England, so they agreed to allow the French seamen to take the
ship into Cadiz, with the stipulation that they would not be held
as prisoners of war. The French flag was hoisted to identify the
ship and the badly damaged vessel managed to reach Cadiz, though
not without great difficulty. The ship which bore Admiral
Villeneuve was captured and the unlucky admiral was taken to
England, where he remained a prisoner for three years. Having
been released on exchange, he decided to go to Paris, but,
detained at Rennes, he committed suicide.

When Field-marshal Jellachich felt obliged to capitulate before
the 7th French army corps, this decision seemed the more
surprising since, even if defeated by us, he had the option of
retiring into the Tyrol which was behind him, and whose
inhabitants have for many centuries been greatly attached to the
house of Austria. The thick snow which covered the country no
doubt made movement difficult, but the difficulties presented
would have been much greater for us, enemies of Austria, than for
the troops of Jellachich, withdrawing through an Austrian
province. However, if the old and hide-bound Field-marshal could
not bring himself to campaign in winter, in the high mountains,
his attitude was not shared by the officers under his command;
for many of them condemned his pusillanimity, and spoke of
rebelling against his authority. The most ardent of his opponents
was General the Prince de Rohan, a French officer in the service
of Austria, a bold and competent soldier. Marshal Augereau,
fearing that Jellachich might take the advice offered by the
Prince and retreat into the Tyrol where pursuit would be almost
impossible, hastened to grant him all the conditions which he

The terms of the capitulation were that the Austrian troops
should lay down their arms, hand over their flags, standards,
cannons and horses, but should not themselves be taken to France,
and could withdraw to Bohemia after swearing not to bear arms
against France for one year.

When he announced the capitulation in one of his army bulletins,
the Emperor seemed a little disappointed that the Austrian
soldiers had not been made prisoners of war; but he changed his
mind when he realised that Marshal Augereau had no means of
retaining them, as escape was so easy. In fact, during the night
preceding the day when the Austrians were to lay down their arms,
a revolt broke out in several brigades against Field-marshal
Jellachich. The Prince de Rohan, refusing to accept the
capitulation, left with his infantry division, and joined by some
regiments from other divisions, he fled into the mountains, which
he crossed, despite the rigours of the season: then by an
audacious march, he bypassed the cantonments of Marshal Ney's
troops, who occupied the towns of the Tyrol, and arriving between
Verona and Venice, he fell on the rear of the French army of
Italy, while this force, commanded by Massena was following on
the tail of Prince Charles, who was retiring towards Friuli. The
arrival of the Prince de Rohan in Venetian territory, when
Massena was already in the far distance, could have had the most
grave consequences; but fortunately a French army, coming from
Naples, under the command of General Saint-Cyr, defeated the
Prince and took him prisoner. He had, at least, submitted only to
force, and was right in saying that if Jellachich had been there
with all his troops, the Austrians might have defeated Saint-Cyr
and opened a route for themselves back into Austria.

When a force capitulates, it is customary for the victor to send
to each division a staff officer to take charge, as it were, and
to conduct it on the day and at the hour appointed to the place
where it is to lay down its arms. Those of my comrades who were
sent to the Prince de Rohan were left behind by him in the camp
which he quitted, for he carried out his retreat from an area
behind the fortress of Feldkirch, and in a direction away from
the French camp, so that he had little fear of being stopped; but
the Austrian cavalry were not in a similar situation. They were
in bivouac on a small area of open ground in front of Feldkirch,
and opposite and a short distance from our outposts. I had been
detailed to go to the Austrian cavalry and lead them to the
agreed rendezvous; this brigade did not have a general, but was
commanded by a colonel of Blankenstein's Hussars, an elderly
Hungarian, brave and crafty, whose name, I regret, I cannot
remember, for I think highly of him although he played me a most
disagreeable trick.

On my arrival at the camp, the colonel had offered me the
hospitality of his hut for the night, and we had agreed to set
off at daybreak, to reach the spot indicated on the shore of Lake
Constance, between the town of Bregenz and Lindau, at a distance
of about three leagues. I was most astonished when, at about
midnight, I heard the officers mounting their horses. I hurried
out of the hut and saw that the squadrons were formed up and
ready to move. I asked the reason for this hasty departure, and
the old colonel replied, with cool deceit, that Field-marshal
Jellachich feared that some jeering directed at the Austrian
soldiers by the French, whose camp one would have to pass if one
took the shortest route to the beach at Lindau, might lead to
fighting between the troops of the two nations. Jellachich, in
consultation with Marshal Augereau, had ordered the Austrian
troops to make a long detour to the right so that they would
avoid our camp and the town of Breganz, and would not come into
contact with our soldiers. He added that as the route was very
long and the road bad, the two commanders had advanced the time
of departure by some hours; he was surprised that I had not been
informed of this, but suggested that the written instructions had
been held up at the advance posts, owing to some
misunderstanding; he carried this deception so far as to send an
officer to look for this despatch, wherever it might be. The
explanation given by the colonel of the Blankensteins sounded so
convincing that I did not say anything, although my instinct told
me that this was a little irregular; but, alone in the midst of
three thousand enemy cavalry, what could I do? It was better to
appear confident than to seem to doubt the good faith of the
Austrian brigade. As I was unaware of the flight of the Prince de
Rohan's division, it did not enter my head that the commander of
the cavalry intended to evade the capitulation. I rode alongside
him, at the head of the column. The Austrian had made his
arrangements for the avoidance of the French camps--whose fires
could be seen--so well that we did not pass near any of them. But
what the old colonel had not anticipated, and was unable to
avoid, was an encounter with a flying patrol, which the French
cavalry usually sent out into the countryside at night, some
distance from an encampment: for suddenly there was a challenge,
and we found ourselves in the presence of a large column of
French cavalry, which was clearly visible in the moonlight. The
Hungarian colonel, without seeming the least worried, said to me
"This is work for you, as an aide-de-camp; kindly come with me
and explain the situation to the commander of this French unit."
We went forward. I gave the pass-word, and found myself in the
presence of the 7th mounted Chasseurs, who, knowing that the
Austrian troops were expected for the laying down of arms, and
recognising me as one of Marshal Augereau's aides, made no
difficulty about the passage of the brigade which I was
conducting. The French commander, whose troops had their sabres
drawn, even took the trouble to have them sheathed, as witness to
the good-will existing between the two columns, which went on
their way for some distance, side by side. I closely questioned
the officer in charge of the Chasseurs about the change in the
time at which the Austrians were to move; but he knew nothing at
all about it, something which did not raise any suspicion in my
mind, for I knew that an order of this kind would not be
distributed by the staff down to regimental level. So I continued
to ride with the colonel for the rest of the night, finding,
however that the detour we were making was very long, and the
going very bad.

At last, at daybreak, the old colonel, seeing a patch of level
ground, said to me, in a conversational tone of voice, that
although he would soon be obliged to hand over the horses of the
three regiments to the French, he wished to care for the poor
animals up to the last, and to deliver them in good condition; In
consequence he had ordered that they should be given a feed of
oats. The brigade halted, formed up and dismounted; and when the
horses had been tethered, the colonel, who alone remained on
horseback, gathered in a circle around him the officers and men
of the three regiments, and in a ringing voice which made the old
warrior seem quite superb, he announced that the Prince de
Rohan's division, preferring honour to a shameful safety, had
refused to subscribe to the disgraceful capitulation whereby
Field-marshal Jellachich had promised to hand over to the French,
the flags and the arms of the Austrian troops, and had fled into
the Tyrol; where he too would have led the brigade were it not
for the fact that he feared that in that barren mountain country,
there would not be enough fodder for so many horses. But now they
had open country in front of them and having, by a ruse of which
he was proud, gained a lead of six leagues over the French
troops, he invited all those who had truly Austrian hearts to
follow him across Germany to Moravia, where they could rejoin the
army of their August sovereign, Francis II. Blankenstein's
Hussars responded to this speech by their colonel with a
resounding cheer of approval; but Rosenberg's Dragoons and the
Uhlans of Prince Charles maintained a gloomy silence. As for me,
although I did not yet know enough German to follow the colonel's
words exactly, what I did understand, together with the tone of
the orator and the position in which he found himself, allowed me
to guess what was afoot, and I can promise you that I felt very
crestfallen at having, although unwittingly, furthered the plans
of this diabolical Hungarian.

A fearful tumult now arose in the immense circle by which I was
surrounded, and I was able to appreciate the inconvenience
stemming from the heterogeneous amalgamation of different peoples
which makes up the Austrian Empire, and in consequence, the
Austrian army. All the Hussars were Hungarian; the Blankensteins
therefore approved the proposal made by a leader of their own
nationality, but the Dragoons were German and the Uhlans were
Polish; the Hungarian could make no nationalistic appeal to them,
who, in this difficult situation listened only to their own
officers; these officers declared that they thought themselves
bound by the capitulation which Field-marshal Jellachich had
signed and did not wish, by their departure, to worsen his
position or that of their comrades who were already the hands of
the French, who would be within their rights to send them all
back to France as prisoners of war, if a part of the Austrian
forces violated the agreement. To this the colonel replied that
when the Commander-in-Chief of an army looses his head, fails in
his duty and delivers his troops to the enemy, his juniors have
no need to consult anything but their courage and their devotion
to their country. Then the colonel, brandishing his sabre in one
hand, while with the other he seized the regimental standard,
cried out, "Go then Dragoons! Go! Go! Yield to the French your
dishonoured standards, and the arms which the Emperor gave us for
his defence. As for us, the bold Hussars, we are off to rejoin
our sovereign, to whom we can once more show with honour our
unstained colours, and the swords of fearless soldiers!" Then,
drawing close to me, and casting a look of disdain on the Uhlans
and Dragoons, he added, "I am sure that if this young Frenchman
found himself in our position and had to choose between your
conduct and mine, he would take the more courageous course; for
the French love honour and reputation as much as their country."
Having said this, the old Hungarian sheathed his sabre, dug in
his spurs, and leading his regiment at the gallop, he careered
into the distance, where he soon disappeared. There was some
truth in both the arguments which I had heard, but that of the
old Hungarian seemed the more valid because it was in conformity
with the interests of his country; I then secretly approved of
his behaviour, but I could not, of course advise the Dragoons and
Uhlans to follow his example; that would have been to step out of
my role and fail in my duty. I maintained a strict neutrality in
this discussion, and when the Hussars had left, I asked the
colonels of the other two regiments to follow me, and we took the
road for Lindau.

On the beach beside the lake, we found Marshals Augereau and
Jellachich, as well as the French forces and the Austrian
infantry regiments which had not followed the Prince de Rohan. On
learning from me that the Blankenstein Hussars, having refused to
recognise the capitulation, were heading for Moravia both
marshals flew into a rage: Marshal Augereau because he feared
that these Hussars might cause havoc in the rear of the French
army, since the route which they would follow would take them
through areas where the Emperor, in the course of his march on
Vienna, had left many dressing stations full of wounded;
artillery parks, etc. But the Hungarian colonel did not think it
was part of his duty to advertise his presence by any surprise
attack, as he was only too anxious to get out of a country
bristling with French arms. By avoiding all our positions, moving
always on minor roads, hiding by day in the woods and marching
rapidly at night, he managed to reach the frontier of Moravia
without trouble, and joined an Austrian army corps which occupied
the area. As for the troops who remained with Field-marshal
Jellachich, having laid down their arms, surrendered their flags
and standards and handed over their horses, they became prisoners
on parole for one year, and made off in dismal silence for the
interior of Germany, to make their way sadly to Bohemia. I
remembered, when I saw them, the valiant words of the old
colonel, and I think I saw on the faces of many of these Uhlans
and Dragoons a regret that they had not followed the old warrior,
and an unhappiness when they compared the heroic position of the
Blankensteins with their own humiliation.

Among the trophies which Jellachich's corps was forced to hand
over were seventeen flags and two standards, which Marshal
Augereau, as was usual, hastened to send to the Emperor, in the
care of two aides-de-camp. Major Massy and I were detailed for
this task, and we left the same evening in a fine carriage with,
in front of us, a wagon containing the flags and standards, in
the charge of an N.C.O. We headed for Vienna via Kempten,
Brauneau, Munich, Lenz and Saint-Poelten. Some leagues before
this last town, following the banks of the Danube, we admired the
superb Abbey of Mlk, one of the richest in the world. It was
here, four years later that I ran the greatest danger, and earned
the praise of the Emperor, for having performed before his eyes
the finest feat of arms of my military career; as you will see
when we come to the campaign of 1809.

Chap. 24

In September 1805, the seven corps which made up the Grande Armee
were on the march from their positions on the coast to the banks
of the Danube. They were already in the countries of Baden and
Wurtemberg when, on the 1st October, Napoleon, in person, crossed
the Rhine at Strasburg. A part of the large force which the
Russians were sending to the aid of Austria had at that moment
arrived in Moravia, and the cabinet at Vienna should, with
prudence, have waited until this powerful reinforcement had
joined the Austrian army; but, carried away by an enthusiasm
which they did not usually display, and which was inspired by
Field-marshal Mack, it had despatched him, at the head of eighty
thousand men, to attack Bavaria; the possession of which had been
coveted by Austria for several centuries, and which French policy
had always protected from invasion. The Elector of Bavaria,
forced to abandon his state, took refuge with his family and his
troops in Wurtzburg, from where he begged Napoleon for
assistance. Napoleon entered into an alliance with him and with
the rulers of Baden and Wurtzburg.

The Austrian army, under Mack, had already occupied Ulm, when
Napoleon, having crossed the Danube at Donauwerth seized Augsburg
and Munich. The French were now in the rear of Mack's force and
had cut his communication with the Russians, who having reached
Vienna, were advancing towards him by forced marches. The
Field-marshal realised then, but too late, the error he had made
in allowing himself to be encircled by French troops. He tried to
break out, but was defeated successively in the battles of
Wertingen, Gunzberg, and Elchingen, where Marshal Ney won fame.
Under increasing pressure, Mack was forced to shut himself up in
Ulm with all his army, less the corps of the Archduke Ferdinand
and Jellachich who escaped, the former into Bohemia, and the
latter to the region round Lake Constance. Ulm was then besieged
by the Emperor. It was a place which, though not heavily
fortified, could nevertheless have held out for a long time
thanks to its position and its large garrison, and so given the
Russians time to come to its relief. But Field-marshal Mack,
passing from exalted over-confidence to a profound
disheartenment, surrendered to Napoleon, who had now, in three
weeks, scattered, captured, or destroyed eighty thousand
Austrians and freed Bavaria, where he reinstalled the Elector. We
shall see, in 1813, this favour repaid by the most odious

Being now the master of Bavaria, and rid of the presence of
Mack's army, the Emperor increased the pace of his advance, down
the right bank of the Danube towards Vienna. He captured Passau
and then Linz, where he learned that 50,000 Russians, commanded
by General Koutousoff, reinforced by 40,000 Austrians, whom
General Kienmayer had collected, had crossed the Danube at Vienna
and had taken up a position between Mlk and St. Poelten. He was
told at the same time that the Austrian army commanded by Prince
Charles had been defeated by Massena in the Venetian district and
was retreating via the Friuli in the direction of Vienna; and
lastly that the Archduke Jean was occupying the Tyrol with
several divisions. Those two princes were therefore threatening
the right of the French army, while it had the Russians in front
of it. To protect himself against a flank attack, the Emperor,
who already had Marshal Augereau's corps in the region of
Bregenz, sent Marshal Ney to attack Innsbruk and the Tyrol, and
moved Marmont's corps to Loeben, in order to block Prince
Charles' route from Italy. Having taken these wise precautions to
protect his right flank, Napoleon, before advancing to meet the
Russians, whose advance-guard had already clashed with ours at
Amstetten, near to Steyer, wished to protect his left flank from
any attack from those Austrians who had taken refuge in Bohemia,
under the command of Archduke Ferdinand. To effect this he gave
Marshal Mortier the infantry divisions of Generals Dupont and
Gazan, and ordered him to cross the Danube by the bridges at
Passau and Linz, and then proceed down the left bank of the
river, while the bulk of the army went down the right. However,
in order not to leave Marshal Mortier too isolated, Napoleon
conceived the idea of gathering together on the Danube a great
number of boats, which had been captured on the tributaries of
the river, and forming a flotilla which, manned by men from the
guard, could move down the river, keeping level with Mortier and
making a link between the troops on both banks.

You may think it a little presumptuous of me to criticise one of
the operations of a great captain, but I cannot refrain from
commenting that the sending of Mortier to the left bank was a
move which had not been sufficiently considered, and was an error
which could have had very serious consequences. The Danube,
Europe's largest river, is, after Passau, so wide in winter that
from one bank one cannot discern a man standing on the other; it
is also very deep and very fast-flowing, and it therefore
provided a guarantee of perfect safety for the left flank of the
French army as it marched down the right bank. Furthermore, any
attack could be made only by the Archduke Ferdinand, coming from
Bohemia; but he, very pleased to have escaped from the French
before Ulm, had only a few troops, and they were mostly cavalry.
Even if he had wished to do so, he had not the means to mount an
attack which involved crossing an obstacle such as the Danube,
into which he might be driven back. Whereas, by detaching two of
his divisions and allowing them to be isolated across this
immense river, Napoleon exposed them to the risk of being
captured or exterminated. A disaster which might have been
foreseen and which very nearly came about.

Field-marshal Koutousoff, had been awaiting the French with
confidence, in a strong position at St. Poelten, because he
believed that they were being pursued by the army of Mack; but
when he heard of the surrender of this army at Ulm, he no longer
felt himself strong enough to face Napoleon alone, and being
unwilling to risk his troops to save the city of Vienna, he
decided to put the barrier of the Danube between himself and the
victor, so he crossed the river by the bridge at Krems, which he
burned behind him.

He had scarcely arrived on the left bank with all his army, when
he ran into the scouts of the Gazan division, which was
proceeding from Dirnstein to Krems, with Marshal Mortier at its
head. Koutousoff, having discovered the presence of a French
corps isolated on the left bank, resolved to crush it, and to
achieve this aim he attacked it head to head on the narrow road
which ran along the river bank, while seizing control of the
escarpments which overlook the Danube. He sent light troops to
occupy Dirnstein to cut off the retreat of the Gazan division.
The position of the division was made even more critical by the
fact that the flotilla of boats had dropped back and there were
only two little boats available, which made it impossible to
bring reinforcements from the other bank.

Attacked in front and in the rear and on one of their flanks by
enemies six times their number; shut in between the rocky
escarpment occupied by the Russians and the depths of the Danube,
the French soldiers, crowded on the narrow roadway, did not
despair. The gallant Marshal Mortier set them an example, for,
when it was suggested that he should take one of the boats and go
over to the right bank, where he would be with the Grande Armee,
and avoid giving the Russians the glory of capturing a marshal,
he replied that he would die with his men, or escape over the
dead bodies of the Russians!

A savage bayonet fight ensued: five thousand French were up
against thirty thousand Russians: night came to add to the
horrors of the combat: Gazan's division, massed in column,
managed to regain Dirnstein at a moment when Dupont's division,
which had remained behind opposite Mlk, alerted by the sound of
gunfire, was running to their aid. Eventually the battlefield
remained in French hands.

In this hand to hand fighting, where the bayonet was almost the
only weapon used, our men, more adroit and agile than the giant
Russians, had a great advantage; so the enemy losses amounted to
some four thousand five hundred men, while ours were three
thousand only. But had our divisions not been made up of
seasoned soldiers, Mortier's corps would probably have been
destroyed. The Emperor was well aware of this, and hastened to
recall it to the right bank. What seems to me to be proof that
he realised the mistake he had made in sending this corps across
the river, is the fact that, although he generously rewarded the
brave regiments which had fought at Dirnstein, the official
bulletins scarcely mention this sanguinary affair, and it is as
if one wished to conceal the results of this operation because
one could find no military justification for it.

What further confirms me in the opinion which I have taken the
liberty of expressing, is that in the campaign of 1809, the
Emperor, when he found himself in a similar situation, did not
send any troops across the river, but, keeping all his force
together, he went with it to Vienna.

But let us return to the mission with which Major Massy and I
were charged.

When we arrived in Vienna, Napoleon and the bulk of the army had
already left the city, which they had seized without a shot being
fired. The crossing of the Danube which it was necessary to
effect in order to pursue the Russians and the Austrians who were
retreating into Moravia, had not been disputed, thanks to a
perhaps culpable deception which was carried out by Marshals
Lannes and Murat. This incident, which had such a profound effect
on this well-known campaign, deserves recounting.

The city of Vienna is situated on the right bank of the Danube: a
small branch of that immense river passes through the city, but
the main stream is half a league away; there the Danube contains
a large number of islands which are connected by a long series of
wooden bridges, terminated by one which, spanning the main arm of
the river, reaches the left bank at a place named Spitz. The road
to Moravia runs along this series of bridges. When the Austrians
are opposing the crossing of a river, they have a very bad habit
of leaving the bridges intact up to the very last moment, to give
them a means of mounting a counter-attack against the enemy, who
almost always does not allow them time to do so and takes from
them the bridges which they have neglected to burn. This is what
the French did during the campaign in Italy in 1796 at the
memorable affairs of Lodi and Arcoli. But these examples had not
served to correct the Austrians, for on leaving Vienna, which is
not suited to defence, they retired to the other side of the
Danube without destroying a single one of the bridges spanning
this vast watercourse, and limited themselves to placing
inflammable material on the platform of the main bridge, in order
to set it alight when the French appeared. They had also
established on the left bank, at the end of the bridge at Spitz,
a powerful battery of artillery, as well as a division of six
thousand men under the command of Prince D'Auersperg, a brave but
not very intelligent officer. Now I must tell you that some days
before the entry of the French into Vienna, the Emperor had
received the Austrian general, Comte de Guilay, who came as an
envoy to make peace overtures, which came to nothing. But hardly
had the Emperor settled in the palace of Schoenbrunn, when
General Guilay again appeared and spent more than an hour
tte-a-tte with Napoleon. From this a rumour arose that an
armistice had been arranged, a rumour which spread amongst the
French regiments which were entering Vienna and the Austrians who
were leaving to cross the Danube.

Murat and Lannes, whom the Emperor had ordered to secure the
crossing of the Danube, placed Oudinot's Grenadiers behind a
bushy plantation and went forward, accompanied only by some
German-speaking officers. The enemy outposts withdrew, firing as
they went. The French officers called out that there was an
armistice, and continuing their progress, they crossed all the
small bridges, without being held up. When they arrived at the
main bridge, they renewed their assertion to the commander at
Spitz, who did not dare to fire on two marshals, almost alone,
who claimed that hostilities were suspended. However, before
allowing them to go any further, he wanted to go and ask General
Auersperg for orders, and while he did so, he left the post in
charge of a sergeant. Lannes and Murat persuaded the sergeant
that under the terms of the cease-fire, the bridge should be
handed over to them, and that he should go with his men to join
his officer on the left bank. The poor sergeant hesitated, he was
edged back gently while the conversation continued, and by a slow
but steady advance they reached, eventually, the end of the main

At this point an Austrian officer endeavored to set light to the
incendiary material, but the torch was snatched from his hand,
and he was told that he would be in serious trouble if he did any
such thing. Next, the column of Oudinot's Grenadiers appeared and
began to cross the bridge.... The Austrian gunners prepared to
open fire, but the French marshals ran to the commander of the
artillery and assured him that an armistice was in force, then,
seating themselves on the guns, they requested the gunners to go
and inform General Auersperg of their presence. General Auersperg
eventually arrived and was about to order the gunners to open
fire, although by now they and the Austrian troops were
surrounded by the French Grenadiers, when the two marshals
managed to convince him that there was a cease-fire, a principal
condition of which was that the French should occupy the bridge.
The unhappy general, fearing to compromise himself by the useless
shedding of blood, lost his head to the point of leading away all
the troops which he had been given to defend the bridges.

Without this error on the part of General Auersperg, the passage
of the Danube could only have been carried out with great
difficulty, and might even have been impossible; in which case
Napoleon would have been unable to pursue the Russians and
Austrians into Moravia, and would have failed in his campaign.
That was the opinion at the time, and it was confirmed three
years later when, the Austrians having burned the bridges, to
secure a passage we were forced to fight the two battles of
Essling and Wagram, which cost us more than thirty thousand men,
whereas in 1805 Marshals Lannes and Murat took possession of the
bridges without there being a single man wounded.

Was the stratagem they employed admissible? I have my doubts. I
know that in war one eases one's conscience, and that any means
may be employed to ensure victory and reduce loss of life, but in
spite of these weighty considerations, I do not think that one
can approve of the method used to seize the bridge at Spitz, and
for my part I would not care to do the same in similar

To conclude this episode, the credulity of General Auersperg was
very severely punished. A court-martial condemned him to be
cashiered, dragged through the streets of Vienna on a hurdle and
finally put to death at the hands of the public executioner...! A
similar sentence was passed on Field-marshal Mack, to punish him
for his conduct at Ulm. But in both cases the death sentence was
commuted to life imprisonment. They served ten years and were
then released, but deprived of their position, expelled from the
ranks of the nobility and rejected by their families, they died,
both of them, shortly after they had been set at liberty.

The stratagem employed by Marshals Lannes and Murat having
secured the crossing of the Danube, the Emperor Napoleon directed
his army in pursuit of the Russians and the Austrians. Thus began
the second phase of the campaign.

Chap. 25.

The Russian marshal Koutousoff was heading via Hollabrunn for
Brno in Moravia, in order to join the second army which was led
by the Emperor Alexander in person; but on approaching
Hollabrunn, he was alarmed to discover that the troops of Lannes
and Murat were already occupying the town and cutting off his
means of retreat. To get out of this fix, the aged marshal,
making use, in his turn, of trickery, sent General Prince
Bagration as an envoy to Marshal Murat, whom he assured that an
aide-de-camp of the Emperor was on his way to Napoleon in order
to conclude an armistice, and that, without doubt, peace would
shortly follow.

Prince Bagration was a very amiable man, he knew exactly how to
flatter Murat, so that he in turn was deceived into accepting an
armistice, in spite of the observations of Lannes, who wished to
fight but had to obey Murat, who was his superior officer.

The truce lasted for thirty-six hours; and while Murat was
inhaling the incense which the crafty Russian lavished on him,
Koutousoff's army made a detour and concealing its movement
behind a screen of low hills, escaped from danger, and went on to
take up, beyond Hollabrunn, a strong position which opened the
road to Moravia and assured his retreat and his junction with the
second Russian army which was encamped between Znaim and Brno.
Napoleon was still in the palace of Schoenbrunn, and was
furiously angry when he heard that Murat had allowed himself to
be bamboozled by Prince Bagration, and had accepted an armistice
without his orders, and he commanded him to attack Koutousoff

Now the situation of the Russians had changed greatly to their
advantage, so they repelled the French most vigorously. The town
of Hollabrunn, taken and re-taken several times, set on fire by
the mortars, filled with the dead and dying, remained finally in
French possession. The Russians retired in the direction of Brno;
our troops followed them and took possession of this town without
a fight, although it was fortified and dominated by the
well-known citadel of Spielberg.

The Russian armies and the remains of the Austrian troops were
united in Moravia; the Emperor Napoleon, in order to deliver the
final blow, arrived in Brno, the capital of the province.

My comrade Massy and I followed after him, but we moved slowly
and with much difficulty, firstly because the post-horses were on
their last legs, and then because of the great quantity of
troops, guns, ammunition wagons, baggage, etc. with which the
roads were obstructed. We were obliged to stop for twenty-four
hours at Hollabrunn, while we waited for a passage to be cleared
through the streets, destroyed by fire and littered with planks
and beams and the debris of furniture, still alight. This
unfortunate town had been so completely burned that we were
unable to find a single house to provide shelter!

During our enforced stay, we were confronted and distressed by
the most horrible and shocking spectacle. The wounded, mainly
Russians, had taken refuge during the fighting in the houses
which were soon set ablaze. All who could walk fled at the
approach of this new danger, but the crippled and gravely injured
were burned alive in the ruins! Many had attempted to escape the
fire by crawling along the ground, but the flames had followed
them into the streets,where one could see a multitude of these
wretched victims half consumed by fire, some of them still
breathing! The bodies of the men and horses killed in the battle
had also been roasted, so that for several leagues around the
town there was a sickening stench of burning flesh! ... There are
countrysides and towns which because of their situation are
destined to serve as battlefields, and Hollabrun is one of them,
because it offers an excellent military position; thus it was
that the damage done by the fire of 1805 had scarcely been
repaired, when I saw the place again, four years later, once more
on fire and littered with the half-roasted bodies of the dead and
dying; as you will see from my description of the campaign of

Major Massy and I left this pestilential spot as soon as we
could, and went on to Znaim, where, four years later I was to be
wounded; and at last we reached the Emperor at Brunn (Brno), on
November 22nd, ten days before the Battle of Austerlitz.

The day after our arrival, we completed our mission and handed
over the flags with the ceremony laid down by the Emperor for
solemn occasions of this kind; for he missed no opportunity of
displaying to the troops anything which could raise their morale
and enthusiasm.

The procedure was as follows:--Half an hour before the daily
parade,--which took place at eleven o'clock outside whatever
residence was serving as the Emperor's palace,--General Duroc,
the Grand Marshal, sent to our billet a company of Grenadiers of
the Guard, with bandsmen and drummers. The town of Brunn was full
of French troops, and the soldiers, as we passed, celebrated with
much cheering the victory of their comrades of 7th Corps. All the
guard-posts accorded us military honours, and on our entry to the
courtyard of the Emperor's quarters, the units formed up for the
parade beat a salute, presented arms, and cried repeatedly "Vive

The aide-de-camp on duty came to receive us and to present us to
Napoleon, to whom we were introduced, accompanied always by the
N.C.O.s carrying the Austrian flags. The Emperor examined these
various trophies, and after dismissing the N.C.O.s. he questioned
us closely about the various actions which had been fought by
Marshal Augereau and on all we had seen or learned on our long
journey through a countryside which had been the theatre of war.
Then he told us to await his instructions, and to join the
imperial suite. The Grand Marshal Duroc took charge of the
flags, for which he gave us a receipt in the regular manner,
informed us that horses would be placed at our disposal and
invited us, for the duration of our stay, to the table over which
he presided.

The French army was now massed around and before Brunn. The
Russian advance-guard occupied Austerlitz, while the bulk of
their army was positioned round the town of Olmutz, where were
also the Emperor Alexander of Russia and the Emperor of Austria.
A battle seemed inevitable, but both sides being well aware that
the outcome would have an immense bearing on the destiny of
Europe, each hesitated to make a decisive move. Napoleon, usually
so swift to act, waited for eleven days at Brunn before launching
a major attack. It is, however, true that every day of waiting
increased his forces by the arrival of great numbers of soldiers
who had lagged behind because of illness or fatigue, and who
having now recovered, hastened to rejoin their units. I recall
that, in these circumstances, I told a white lie which could have
ruined my military career.

Napoleon usually treated his officers with kindness, but there
was one point on which he was perhaps too strict, for he held
colonels responsible for keeping their units up to full strength,
something it is very difficult to do during a campaign. It was in
this matter that the Emperor was most often deceived, for the
corps commanders were so afraid of displeasing him that they
risked being committed to facing an enemy force disproportionate
to their own numbers, rather than admit that sickness, fatigue
and the need to forage for food had caused many soldiers to drop
out. So Napoleon, in spite of his authority, never knew the exact
number of combatants available to him on the day of battle.

Now it so happened that the Emperor, in the course of one of the
endless trips he made to visit the various corps of the army, saw
the mounted Chasseurs of his guard, who were moving to a
different position. He was particularly fond of this regiment, of
which his "guides" from Italy and Egypt formed the nucleus. The
Emperor, whose experienced eye could estimate very exactly the
strength of a column, noticing that their numbers were much
reduced, took out of his pocket a little notebook, and, calling
for General Morland, the commander of the mounted Chasseurs, he
said to him in a stern voice, "Your regiment is down in my notes
as having 1200 men, and although you have not been in action, you
have no more than 800; what has happened to the others?" General
Morland was a fine, brave fighting soldier, but he did not have a
ready tongue, and being quite nonplussed, he said in his
Franco-Alsatian dialect that he was short of only a small number
of men. The Emperor maintained that he was about four hundred
short, and to get to the truth of the matter he wanted to have an
immediate count; but knowing that General Morland was very much
liked by the officers of the imperial staff, he feared a
cover-up, and thought he would be more likely to discover the
truth by choosing an officer who did not belong to his entourage
nor to the Chasseurs; so, seeing me, he ordered me to count the
Chasseurs and to deliver to him personally a record of their
numbers; having said which, he made off at the gallop. I began my
task, which was made more easy because the troopers were riding
past four abreast at walking pace.

Poor General Morland, who knew how close Napoleon's estimate was
to the reality, was in a state of great agitation, for he foresaw
that my report would call down on his head a severe reprimand. He
hardly knew me, and did not dare to suggest that I might
compromise myself to get him out of trouble. He was then sitting
silently on his horse beside me, when, fortunately for him, his
adjutant came to join him. This officer, named Fournier, had
started his military career as an assistant surgeon, then, having
become a surgeon-major, he felt that he had more of a vocation
for the sabre than for the lancet, and had asked for and obtained
permission to join the ranks of the combatant officers, and
Morland, with whom he had served previously, arranged for him to
join the Guard.

I had known Captain Fournier very well when he was still
surgeon-major, and I was very much obliged to him, for not only
had he dressed my father's wound when it was inflicted, but he
had gone, like him, to Genoa, where, as long as my father lived,
he had come several times a day to care for him: if the doctors
charged with the duty of fighting the typhus epidemic had been as
assiduous and zealous as Fournier, my father, perhaps, would not
have died. I had often thought this, so I gave the warmest of
welcomes to Fournier, whom I did not at first recognise in the
pelisse of a captain of Chasseurs.

General Morland, seeing the pleasure we had in meeting one
another, thought he might profit from our mutual friendship to
persuade me not to reveal to the Emperor by how many men he was
short. He took his adjutant aside and conferred with him for a
time; then Fournier came, and in the name of our former
friendship, he begged me to extricate General Morland from a most
unpleasant situation by concealing from the Emperor the extent to
which the regiment was under strength. I refused firmly and
continued to count. The Emperor's estimate was very close, for
there were only a few over eight hundred Chasseurs present, four
hundred were missing.

I was about to leave to make my report, when General Morland and
Captain Fournier renewed their pleas pointing out that the
greater part of the men who had dropped behind for various
reasons would rejoin them very shortly, and that it was not
likely that Napoleon would engage in battle before the arrival of
the divisions of Friant and Gudin, who were still at the gates of
Vienna, thirty-six leagues from us and would take several days to
reach us. In the interval more laggards would rejoin the unit.
They added that the Emperor would be too busy to check my report.
I could not pretend to myself that I was not being asked to
deceive the Emperor, which was very wrong, but I felt also that I
was under a great obligation to Captain Fournier for the truly
tender care he had given to my dying father, I allowed myself
therefore to be swayed and promised to conceal a large part of
the truth.

I was scarcely alone when I realised the enormity of my error,
but it was too late; the essential object now was to get out of
the situation with the least harm possible. With this aim in
view, I kept out of the way of the Emperor as long as he was on
horseback, in case he went back to the bivouac of the Chasseurs,
where their shortage of numbers striking him anew would give the
lie to my report. I craftily did not return to the imperial
quarters until night was approaching and Napoleon, having
dismounted had gone to his apartment. Brought before him in order
to make my report, I found him lying at full length on an immense
map which was spread on the floor. As soon as he saw me, he
called out "Well now! Marbot, how many Chasseurs are there in my
guard? Are there twelve hundred as Morland claims?" "No sire" I
replied."I counted only eleven hundred and twenty, that is a
shortfall of eighty." "I was sure that there was a lot missing."
said the Emperor, in a tone of voice which made it plain that he
had expected a much larger deficit; and to be sure if there were
no more than eighty men missing from a regiment of twelve hundred
which had just come five hundred leagues in winter, sleeping
almost every night in bivouac, that was a very small loss. So
when, on going to dinner, the Emperor passed through the room
where the senior officers of the guard were gathered, all he said
to Morland was, "Now you see...you are short of eighty troopers;
that is almost a squadron. With eighty of these men one could
stop a Russian regiment! You must take care to see that men do
not drop behind." Then, passing to the commander of the foot
guards, whose numbers were also much reduced, Napoleon gave him a
sharp reprimand. Morland, who thought himself lucky to have got
away with no more than a few observations, came over to me, as
soon as the Emperor was seated at table, and thanked me warmly.
He told me that some thirty troopers had just arrived, and that a
courier from Vienna had met more than a hundred between Znaim and
Brunn, and many more this side of Hollabrunn, which meant that
within forty-eight hours the regiment would have made up most of
its deficiency. I wished for this as fervently as he did, for I
was well aware of the difficult spot I had landed myself in out
of my consideration for Fournier. I could not sleep that night
for fear of the justifiable wrath of the Emperor, if he found out
that I had lied to him.

I was even more dismayed the next day when Napoleon, in the
course of his usual visit to his troops, started off in the
direction of the Chasseur's bivouac, for a simple question put to
an officer could expose everything; but just when I thought that
I was done for, I heard the sound of the band of the Russian
force, camped on the high ground of the Pratzen half a league
from our position. I urged my horse forward towards the head of
the numerous staff by whom the Emperor was accompanied, and
getting as close to him as possible, I said in a loud voice, "I
am sure there is something going on in the Russian camp, their
band is playing a march".... The Emperor, who heard my remark,
suddenly left the path which led to the Chasseur's bivouac, and
headed towards Pratzen to see what was happening in the enemy
advance-guard. He stayed a long time watching, and as night was
approaching, he went back to Brunn without visiting the
Chasseurs. For several days I was in a mortal panic, although I
learned of the arrival of successive detachments of men, but at
last the coming battle and the many preoccupations of the Emperor
drove from his mind the idea of making the check which I so much
feared. But I had learned my lesson; so when I became a colonel
and was asked by the Emperor how many men were present in the
squadrons of my regiment, I always gave the exact number.

Chap. 26.

If Napoleon was often deceived, he also used deception himself to
further his projects, as can be shown by the tale of this
diplomatic-military comedy, in which I played a part.

In order to understand this affair, which will give you the key
to the intrigues which, the following year, gave rise to the war
between Napoleon and the King of Prussia, we have to go back two
months to the time when the French troops, having left the coast,
were proceeding by rapid marches to the Danube. The shortest
route which the first corps, commanded by Bernadotte, could take
to reach Hanover, on the upper Danube, lay through Anspach. This
little country belonged to Prussia, but as it was quite a long
way from there, from which it was separated by a number of minor
principalities, it had always been regarded in previous wars as
being neutral territory, through which either party could pass,
provided that they paid for any goods they required and refrained
from any hostile action.

Things having been established on this footing, Austrian and
French armies had often passed through the Margravate of Anspach,
since the time of the Directory, without informing Prussia and
without the latter raising any objection. Napoleon then, taking
advantage of this convention, ordered Bernadotte to go through
Anspach, which he did. However, the Queen of Prussia and her
court, who detested Napoleon, on hearing of this, raised an
outcry, claiming that Prussian territory had been violated, and
took advantage of this event to rouse the nation and call loudly
for war. The King of Prussia and his minister, Count Haugwitz,
alone resisted the general clamour for action. This was in
October 1805, when hostilities were about to break out between
France and Austria, and the Russian armies were on their way to
reinforce the latter. The queen and the young Prince Louis, the
king's nephew, in an attempt to persuade the king to make common
cause with the Austrians and Russians, arranged for the Emperor
Alexander to come to Berlin, in the hope that his presence would
influence Frederick-William.

Alexander arrived in the capital of Prussia on the 25th October.
He was greeted with enthusiasm by the queen, Prince Louis and the
supporters of war against France. The king, besieged on all
sides, allowed himself to be persuaded, but only on the
condition--advised by the old Prince of Brunswick, and Count
Haugwitz--that his army should not be committed to a campaign
until the outcome of the conflict between the French and the
Austrians on the Danube had been determined. This partial
adherence to their cause pleased neither Alexander nor the queen,
but for the time being they could obtain nothing more explicit. A
melodramatic scene was played out at Potsdam, where the Emperor
of Russia and the King of Prussia, having descended, by the light
of torches, into the sepulchral vaults of the palace, swore, in
the presence of the court, eternal friendship, on the tomb of
Frederick the Great; (an oath which did not prevent Alexander
from incorporating into the Russian Empire, eighteen months
later, one of the Prussian provinces, which Napoleon awarded him
under the treaty of Tilsit, and this in the presence of his
friend Frederick-William.) The Russian Emperor now went back to
Moravia, to place himself at the head of his army, for Napoleon
was advancing rapidly towards Vienna, which he shortly occupied.

When he heard of the King of Prussia's reluctance and the compact
made at Potsdam, Napoleon, in order to deal with the Russians
before the Prussians had made up their minds, installed himself
for the encounter with the former in Brunn, where we now were.

It is said, quite rightly, that ambassadors are privileged spies.

The King of Prussia, who heard daily of fresh victories won by
Napoleon, was anxious to find out what the true position was
between the warring parties; so he decided to send Count
Haugwitz, his minister, to the French headquarters, with
instructions to assess the situation. Now it was necessary to
find an excuse for doing this, so he entrusted Count Haugwitz
with a reply to a letter which Napoleon had sent to him,
complaining about the agreement concluded between the Prussians
and the Russians at Potsdam. Count Haugwitz arrived at Brunn some
days before the Battle of Austerlitz, and would dearly have liked
to stay there until he knew the result of the major engagement
which was in prospect, in order to advise his sovereign to do
nothing if we were victorious, or to attack us if we should be
defeated. You do not have to be a soldier to see from a map what
damage a Prussian army, coming from Breslau in Silesia, could do
by going through Bohemia to fall on our rear around Regansberg.

As Napoleon knew that Count Haugwitz sent a courier every evening
to Berlin, he decided that it would be by this means that he
would inform the Prussians of the defeat of Field-marshal
Jellachich's army corps, news of which had not yet reached them.
This is how it was done.

Marshal of the Palace Duroc, after telling us what we were to do,
had all the Austrian flags which we had brought from Bregenz
secretly replaced in the lodgings which Massy and I occupied;
then, some hours later, when the Emperor was in conversation with
Count Haugwitz in his study, we re-enacted the ceremony of the
handover of the flags in exactly the same way as it had been done
on the first occasion. The Emperor hearing the band playing in
the courtyard, feigned astonishment, and went to the windows
followed by the ambassador. Seeing the flags carried by the
N.C.O.s. he called for the duty aide-de-camp and asked him what
was going on. The aide-de-camp having told him that we were two
of Marshal Augereau's aides who had come to hand over to him the
flags of Jellachich's Austrian corps captured at Bregenz, we were
led inside; there Napoleon, without blinking an eyelid, and as if
he had never seen us before, took the letter from Augereau,which
had been re-sealed, and read it, although he had been aware of
its contents for four days. Then he questioned us, making us go
into the smallest details. Duroc had warned us to speak out
loudly, as the ambassador was a little hard of hearing, this
advice was of no use to Major Massy, who was the leader of the
mission, since he was suffering from a cold and had almost
completely lost his voice, so it was I who replied to the
Emperor, and taking a lead from him, I painted in the most vivid
colours the defeat of the Austrians, their despondency, and the
enthusiasm of the French. Then, presenting the trophies one
after the other, I named the Austrian regiments to which they had
once belonged. I laid particular stress on two of them, because I
knew that their capture would have a powerful effect on the
ambassador, "Here," I said "is the flag of the infantry regiment
of his Majesty the Emperor of Austria, and there is the standard
of the Uhlans, commanded by the Archduke Charles, his brother."
Napoleon's eyes twinkled, and he seemed to say, "Well done young
man!" At last he dismissed us, and as we left we heard him say to
the ambassador, "You see, monsieur le Comte, my armies are
everywhere triumphant.... The Austrian army is no more, and soon
the same fate will befall the Russians." Count Haugwitz seemed
deeply impressed, and Duroc said to us, after we had left the
room, "The count will write tonight to Berlin, to tell his
government of the destruction of Jellachich's force, which will
put a damper on the war party, and give the king new reasons for
holding off. Which is what the Emperor very much wants."

This comedy having been played out, The Emperor, to be rid of a
dangerous onlooker who could give an account of the disposition
of his forces, suggested to Count Haugwitz that it was not very
safe for him to remain between two armies which were about to
come to blows, and persuaded him to go to Vienna to M. Tallyrand,
his minister for foreign affairs, which he did that same evening.

The following day the Emperor said nothing to us about the scene
which had been enacted the previous evening, but wishing, no
doubt, to give some sign of his satisfaction with the manner in
which we had played our parts, he asked Major Massy, kindly,
about the progress of his cold, and he pinched my ear, which with
him was a sort of caress.

Now the denouement of the great drama was approaching and both
sides were preparing for the coming struggle. Nearly all military
authors so overload their narrative with details that they
confuse the mind of the reader, to the extent that, in most of
the published works on the wars of the Empire which I have read,
I have been unable to understand the description of several of
the battles in which I myself have taken part, and the various
phases of which I know. I think that to preserve clarity in the
description of an action, one needs to limit oneself to
indicating the respective positions of the two armies, prior to
the engagement, and to recounting only the principal and decisive
events in the combat. This is what I shall attempt to do.

The coming battle is known as the Battle of Austerlitz, although
it took place some distance from the village of that name: the
reason for this is that, on the eve of the battle, the Emperors
of Austria and Russia had slept in the Chateau of Austerlitz, out
of which Napoleon drove them.

You will see on the map that a stream, the Goldbach, which rises
on the far side of the road to Olmutz, flows into a pool called
Menitz. This stream, which runs in a little valley with quite
steep banks, separated the two armies. The right of the
Austro-Russian forces lay on a wooded escarpment, situated behind
the post-house of Posoritz, on the far side of the Olmutz road;
their centre occupied Pratzen and the vast plateau of that name,
and their left was near the meres of Satschan and the
neighbouring marshes. The Emperor placed his left flank on a
little hill, very difficult of access, which our men who had been
in Egypt called the Santon (a holy man's grave) because it was
surmounted by a small chapel, the roof of which had the
appearance of a minaret. The French centre was near the pool of
Kobolnitz, and the right was at Telnitz. The Emperor had put very
few troops there in order to tempt the Russians into the marshy
ground, where he had prepared their defeat by concealing in
Gross-Raigern, on the road to Vienna, the corps of Marshal

On the 1st December, the eve of the battle, Napoleon left Brunn
in the morning and spent all day examining the positions; in the
evening he set up his headquarters behind the French centre, at a
spot from where could be seen the camps of both armies and the
area which would form their battlefield the next day. There was
no building in the vicinity but a dilapidated barn, and it was
there that were placed the Emperor's tables and maps, while he
himself took up a position by a huge fire, surrounded by his
numerous staff and his guards. Happily there was no snow,
although it was very cold. I bedded down on the ground and fell
into a deep sleep; but soon we had to remount our horses to
accompany the Emperor, who was about to visit his troops. There
was no moon, and the obscurity of the night was increased by a
thick mist which made progress difficult. The troopers of the
Emperor's escort had the idea of lighting torches made of
pinewood and straw which were most useful. The soldiers, seeing
the approach of a group of mounted men thus illuminated, could
easily distinguish the imperial staff, and in an instant, as if
by magic, one saw all our camp lit up by torches carried by the
men who greeted the Emperor with cheer, made all the louder
because the next day would be the anniversary of his coronation,
a coincidence which seemed to them to be a good augury. The enemy
must have been greatly astonished when, from the height of the
neighbouring slope, they saw in the middle of the night, the
light of sixty thousand torches and heard the repeated cheers of
"Vive l'Empereur!" mingled with the sound of the regimental
bands. All was gaiety, light and movement in our camp, while, on
the Austro-Russian side, all was dark and silent.

The next day, the 2nd December, the cannons were heard at
daybreak. We have seen that the Emperor had deployed few troops
on his right wing; a bait which he dangled before the enemy, who
would see the apparent possibility of taking Telnitz easily, and
then crossing the Goldbach and going on to Gross-Raigern in order
to control the road from Brunn to Vienna and so cut off our line
of retreat. The Austro-Russians fell headlong into the trap, and,
thinning out the rest of their line, they clumsily piled up a
considerable force in the lower part of Telnitz, and in the
narrow, marshy defiles around the meres of Satschan and Menitz.
They thought, for some unknown reason, that Napoleon was
considering withdrawing, without facing a battle, so to hasten
this move they decided to attack us at the Santon on our left and
at our centre before Puntowitz, so that, being defeated at these
two points, and forced to retreat, we would find the road to
Vienna cut by the Russian troops. But on our left Marshal Lannes
not only repelled all the enemy attacks on the Santon, but drove
them back across the Olmutz road as far as Blasiowitz, where the
more level ground allowed Murat's cavalry to make several very
effective charges, which compelled the Russians to retire
hurriedly to the village of Austerlitz.

While our left was achieving this brilliant success, the centre,
consisting of the troops of Marshals Soult and Bernadotte, who
had been placed by the Emperor in the valley of the Goldbach
where they were hidden by a thick mist, advanced towards the
slope on which stood the village of Pratzen. It was at this
moment that the bright "Sunshine of Austerlitz" appeared, the
memory of which Napoleon was pleased so frequently to recall.
Marshal Soult took not only the village of Pratzen but also the
great plateau of that name, which is the high point of the
surrounding country, and, in consequence, the key to the
battlefield. Here took place, before the eyes of the Emperor, a
very sharp engagement in which the Russians were defeated; but a
battalion of the 4th Line regiment, commanded by Prince Joseph,
Napoleon's brother, went too far in pursuit of the enemy and was
charged and over-run by the horse-guards and Cuirassiers of the
Grand-duke Constantin, the brother of Alexander, who captured
their Eagle. A force of Russian cavalry advanced rapidly to
support the momentary success of the horse-guards; but Napoleon
sent against them the Mamelukes, the light cavalry and the
mounted Grenadiers of his guard, led by Marshal Bessieres and
General Rapp, and a most sanguinary melee ensued. The Russian
squadrons were overcome and driven back beyond the village of
Austerlitz with great losses. Our cavalry captured many standards
and prisoners, among whom was Prince Repnin, the commander of the
horse-guards. This regiment, made up of the most glittering youth
of the Russian nobility, suffered many casualties. The boastful
threats which they had made concerning the French were known to
our men, who in reply said that they would give the ladies of St.
Petersburg something to cry about.

The painter Gerard, in his picture of the Battle of Austerlitz,
has taken as his subject the moment when General Rapp, leaving
the battle, wounded and covered in his own and the enemies'
blood, is presenting to the Emperor the flags which have been
captured as well as Prince Repnin, his prisoner. I was present at
this memorable scene, which the painter has reproduced with
remarkable exactness. All the heads are portraits, even that of
the brave trooper, who without complaining, though shot through
the body, fell dead at the feet of the Emperor as he presented
the standard which he had just captured. Napoleon, to honour the
memory of this brave Chasseur, ordered the painter to include him
in his composition. One can see also in this picture a Mameluke,
who carries in one hand an enemy flag, and with the other holds
the bridle of his wounded horse. This man, named Mustapha, known
in the guards for his courage and ferocity, had set off, during
the charge, in pursuit of the Grand-duke Constantin, who was only
able to get rid of him by firing a pistol shot which mortally
wounded his horse. Mustapha, grieved at having only a standard to
offer the Emperor, said in his broken French, when he presented
it, "Ah! If me catch Prince Constantin, me cut off head and bring
to Emperor!" Napoleon replied indignantly, "You be quiet! You
wicked savage!"

Let us now finish the story of the battle. While Marshals Lannes,
Soult and Murat attacked the centre and right of the
Austro-Russians and drove them back beyond the village of
Austerlitz, the enemy left, having fallen into the trap which the
Emperor had prepared for them, attacked the village of Telnitz
and took possession of it, then, crossing the Goldbach, they
prepared to occupy the road to Vienna; but they had greatly
underestimated the skill of Napoleon in thinking that he would
neglect to defend his route of retreat in case of misfortune.
Marshal Davout's divisions were concealed in Gross-Regairn and
from that point he fell on the Russians as soon as he saw that
their massed troops were held up in the defiles between the meres
of Telnitz, Menitz and the rivulet.

The Emperor, whom we left on the plateau of Pratzen, free of the
right and centre of the enemy, who were retreating in disorder
beyond Austerlitz, came down from the heights of Pratzen and
hurried with Marshal Soult's corps and all his guard, infantry,
cavalry and artillery, towards Telnitz; where he attacked in the
rear the enemy columns which Marshal Davout was attacking in
front. From this moment, the cumbersome masses of the
Austro-Russians, crammed together on the narrow pathways which
ran alongside the Goldbach, finding themselves between two fires,
fell into indescribable confusion. The ranks broke down and each
man sought his own safety in flight. Some rushed into the marshes
around the meres, but our infantry followed them; others tried to
escape down the road which runs between the two meres, but our
cavalry charged them with fearful slaughter; the largest body of
men, principally Russians, tried to get across the frozen meres,
and already a great number were on the ice of Lake Satschan when
Napoleon ordered his gunners to fire on them. The ice broke in
many places with a loud cracking sound and we saw a host of
Russians with their horses wagons and guns slide slowly into the
depths. The surface of the lake was covered with men and horses
struggling amid the ice and water. A few were saved, helped by
poles and ropes which our men held out to them from the bank, but
many were drowned.

The number of combatants at the Emperor's disposal in this battle
was sixty-eight thousand men. The Austro-Russians had ninety-two
thousand. Our losses in killed and wounded were about eight
thousand, the enemy stated that their losses in killed wounded
and drowned amounted to fourteen thousand. We took eighteen
thousand prisoners and captured one hundred and fifty cannons, as
well as a great number of flags, standards, etc.

After giving orders to pursue the enemy in all directions, the
Emperor went to his new headquarters in the post-house at
Posoritz, on the Olmutz road. He was highly delighted as you may
imagine, although he several times expressed regret that the only
Eagle we had lost was that of the fourth line regiment, of which
his brother, Prince Joseph, was colonel. The fact that this had
been captured by the regiment of the Grand-duke Constantin, the
Emperor of Russia's brother, made the loss even more annoying.

Napoleon soon had a great consolation; Prince Jean of
Lichtenstein came, on behalf of the Emperor of Austria, to
request a meeting, and Napoleon, realising that this would lead
to peace and remove the fear of having the Prussians attack the
French rear before he had rid himself of his present enemies,
readily agreed to the proposal.

Of all the units of the Imperial Guard, the regiment of Mounted
Chasseurs was the one which suffered the most casualties in the
great charge made on the Pratzen plateau against the Russian
Guard. My poor friend Fournier was killed, as was General
Morland. It is said that Napoleon intended to have the body of
General Morland interred in a mausoleum which he meant to have
built in the centre of the Esplanade des Invalides, and that it
was preserved in a cask of rum for that reason. But the mausoleum
was never built, and it is alleged that the general's body was
still in a room in the school of medicine when Napoleon lost his
Empire in 1814.

I was not wounded at Austerlitz, although I was often exposed to
danger, notably during the melee with the Russian cavalry on the
Pratzen plateau. The Emperor had sent me to take some orders to
General Rapp, whom I found it very difficult to reach amid the
appalling confusion of the embattled soldiery. My horse was
crushed up against that of a Russian horse-guard and our sabres
were about to clash when we were separated by other combatants; I
came away with a large bruise. However, the next day I ran into a
more serious danger, one that one does not expect to meet on the
field of battle.

On the morning of the 3rd of December, the day after the battle,
the Emperor mounted his horse and went round all the places where
action had taken place on the previous day. Having arrived at the
mere of Satschan, Napoleon dismounted and was chatting round a
fire with a number of marshals, when we saw, some hundred paces
from the bank, a large slab of ice on which lay a poor Russian
sergeant, who was unable to help himself because of a bullet
wound in his thigh. Seeing the large group on the bank, the
soldier raised his voice and pleaded for help, saying that when
the fighting was over we were all brother soldiers. When his
interpreter translated this, Napoleon was touched and ordered
General Bertrand to do what he could to rescue the wretched

Several men of the escort, and even two staff officers, attempted
to reach the Russian using two tree trunks which they pushed into
the water, but they ended up by falling in with all their clothes
on, and having difficulty in getting out. It then occurred to me
to say that they should have entered the water naked, so that
their movements would not be hampered, and they would not have to
wear wet clothing. This observation was repeated to the Emperor,
who said that I was right, and that the others had shown zeal
without forethought. I have no wish to make myself out to be
better than I am; I can assure you that, having just taken part
in a battle where I had seen thousands of dead and dying, my
emotions were blunted, I did not feel sufficiently philanthropic
to risk pneumonia by struggling amongst the ice floes to save the
life of an enemy soldier, however much I deplored his unhappy
lot; but the Emperor's remark stung me into action, it seemed to
me ridiculous that I should offer advice which I was not prepared
to put into action. I jumped off my horse, stripped off my
clothes and leapt into the lake.

I had been very active during the day, and was warm; the water
felt bitterly cold, but I was young and vigourous, a very good
swimmer, and encouraged by the presence of the Emperor, I was
making towards the Russian, when my example and probably the
praise I received from the Emperor, persuaded a lieutenant of
artillery named Roumestain to come after me.

While he was undressing, I pushed on, but I had more difficulty
than I had foreseen in forcing my way through the thin layer of
new ice which was forming on the water, the sharp edges of which
inflicted many scrapes and scratches. The officer who followed me
was able to make use of the sort of path which I had made, and
when he reached me, he volunteered to take the lead, to give me
some relief. We eventually reached the large block of ice on
which the Russian lay, but it was only with the greatest
difficulty that we managed to push it near enough to the shore
for the man to be rescued. We were both so cold and exhausted
that we had to be lifted out of the water, and we were hardly
able to stand. My good comrade Massy, who had watched me with
much anxiety during this swim, had had the forethought to warm
his horse's blanket before the fire, which he wrapped round me as
soon as I was out of the water. After I had dried myself and
dressed, I wanted to lie beside the fire, but Doctor Larrey was
against this and told me to walk around, something I was unable
to do without the aid of two troopers. The Emperor came to
congratulate the two of us on the courage with which we had
undertaken the rescue of the wounded Russian, and calling for his
Mameluke, Roustan, whose horse was always loaded with provisions,
he poured out for us a tot of rum each, and asked us, laughing,
how we had enjoyed the bath.

As for the Russian sergeant, after his wound had been dressed by
Doctor Larrey, Napoleon gave him several gold coins. He was
wrapped in warm coverings and put in one of the houses of Telnitz
which was acting as a dressing station; the next day he was taken
to the hospital at Brunn. The poor lad blessed the Emperor as
well as Roumestain and me, and wanted to kiss our hands. He was a
Lithuanian, that is to say, born in a former province of Poland,
which is now part of Russia. As soon as he had recovered, he
announced that he wished now to serve no one but Napoleon. He was
sent back to France with our own wounded and subsequently joined
the Polish legion. In the end he became a sergeant in the lancers
of the guard, and each time I met him, he gave me a warm

The ice-cold bath which I had taken and the almost superhuman
efforts I had made to rescue the Russian could have cost me dear
had I been less young and strongly built; for Lieutenant
Roumestain, who did not possess the latter of these two
advantages to the same extent, was taken that same evening with a
severe chest infection. He had to be taken to the hospital at
Brunn, where he spent several months between life and death. He
never recovered completely, and his poor health forced him to
resign from the service some years later.

As for me, although I felt very weak, I mounted my horse when the
Emperor left to go to the chateau of Austerlitz, where his
headquarters had been set up. Napoleon never went anywhere except
at the gallop; in my bruised state this pace was hardly suitable,
however I followed on, since night was approaching, and I feared
to be left behind, and anyway, if I had ridden at a walk, I would
have been overcome by the cold.

When I arrived at the courtyard of the chateau of Austerlitz, I
had to be helped off my horse. A violent shivering took me, my
teeth chattered and I felt very ill. Colonel Dahlmann, a major in
the Mounted Chasseurs, who had just been promoted to replace
Colonel Morland, remembering, no doubt, the service I had
rendered to the latter, took, me into one of the chateau's barns,
where he had established himself with his officers. There, after
giving me some hot tea, his medical officer massaged me with warm
oil, I was wrapped in several blankets and put into an enormous
pile of hay with only my face exposed. A gentle warmth crept
slowly back into my benumbed limbs; I slept very soundly and
thanks to these ministrations and my twenty-three years, I awoke
the next day fully recovered and able to mount my horse and to
observe a spectacle of great interest.

Chap. 27.

The defeat suffered by the Russians had thrown their army into
such confusion that all those who had escaped from the disaster
of Austerlitz, hastened to Galicia to get out of reach of the
victor. The rout was complete: the French took a great number of
prisoners, and found the roads covered with cannons and abandoned
baggage. The Emperor of Russia, who had believed he was marching
to certain victory, withdrew, stricken with grief, and authorised
his ally, Francis II to treat with Napoleon. In the evening
following the battle, the Austrian Emperor, in order to save his
country from total ruin, had sent a request for an interview to
the French Emperor, and when Napoleon had agreed to this, he went
to the village of Nasiedlowitz. The meeting took place on the 4th
of December, near the Poleny mill, between the lines of the
French and the Austrian outposts. I was at this memorable

Napoleon left the chateau of Austerlitz early in the morning,
accompanied by his large staff. He arrived first at the
rendezvous, dismounted and strolled around until he saw the
Emperor of Austria arrive. He went over to him and embraced him
warmly.... A spectacle which might well inspire some
philosophical reflection! A German Emperor coming to humble
himself and solicit peace from a little Corsican gentleman,
recently a second lieutenant of artillery, whose talents, good
fortune and the courage of the French armies had raised to the
pinnacle of power and made arbiter of the destiny of Europe.

Napoleon did not abuse the position in which the Austrian Emperor
found himself; he was attentive and extremely polite, as far as
could be judged from the distance which was respectfully
maintained by the two general staffs. An armistice was arranged
between the two sovereigns which stipulated that both parties
should send plenipotentiaries to Brunn in order to negotiate a
peace treaty between France and Austria. The two Emperors
embraced once more on parting; the Germans returned to
Nasiedlowitz, and Napoleon returned to spend the night at
Austerlitz. He spent two days there, during which time he gave
Major Massy and me our final audience, and charged us to tell
Marshal Augereau all that we had seen; he gave us at the same
time some despatches for the court of Bavaria, which had returned
to Munich, and informed us that Marshal Augereau had left Bregenz
and that we would find him at Ulm. We went back to Vienna and
continued our journey, travelling day and night in spite of the
heavy falls of snow.

I shall not go into any details of the political changes which
resulted from the Battle of Austerlitz and the Peace of Presburg.

The Emperor went to Vienna and from there to Munich, where he had
to assist at the marriage of his step-son, Eugene de Beauharnais
to the daughter of the King of Bavaria. It seems that the
despatches which we carried to this court were concerning this
marriage; for we could not have had a better reception. However,
we stayed only a few hours in Munich and went on to Ulm, where we
found Marshal Augereau and 7th Corps, and where we stayed for a

In order to move 7th Corps gradually nearer to the electorate of
Hesse, a close ally of Prussia, Napoleon ordered it to move to
Heidelburg, where we arrived about the end of December and saw
the beginning of the year 1806. After a short stay in this town,
7th Corps went to Darmstadt, the capital of the landgrave of
Hesse-Darmstadt, a prince much attached to the King of Prussia by
family ties as well as politics. Although this prince had, on
accepting Hanover, concluded a treaty of alliance with Napoleon,
he had done so with reluctance, and was suspicious of the
approach of the French army.

Marshal Augereau, before taking his troops into the country of
Darmstadt, considered it his duty to inform the landgrave, by
letter, of his intentions, and he chose me to effect its
delivery. The journey was one of only fifteen leagues; I made it
in a night; but on my arrival at Darmstadt I found that the
landgrave, to whom it had been suggested that the French intended
to make him a prisoner, had left his residence and retired to
another part of his state from where he could easily take refuge
in Prussia. This created a difficulty for me, however, having
heard that his wife was still in the palace, I asked to be
presented to her.

The princess, whose person greatly resembled the portraits of the
Empress Catherine of Russia, had, like her, a masculine
character, great capability, and all the qualities necessary to
control a vast empire. She also governed her husband as she did
her states; she was a masterful woman, and when she saw the
letter in my hands, addressed to the landgrave, she took it
without further ado, as if it had been addressed her. She then
told me quite frankly, that it had been on her advice that her
husband had left on the approach of the French, but that she
would arrange for him to come back if the marshal would give her
an assurance that he did not have any orders to make an attempt
on the liberty of the prince. I understood that the arrest and
death of the Duc d'Enghien had frightened all those princes who
thought that Napoleon might have some reason to complain about
their alliances. I protested, as much as I could, the innocence
of the French government's intentions, and offered to go back to
Heidelburg and ask Marshal Augereau for the assurances which she
required, an offer which she accepted.

I left, and returned the next day with a letter from the marshal,
couched in such conciliatory terms that the landgravine, after
saying that she relied on the honour of a French marshal, went
immediately to Giessen, where the landgrave was, and brought him
back to Darmstadt, where they both received Marshal Augereau most
graciously, when he came to set up his headquarters in the town.
The marshal was so grateful for the confidence which they had
placed in him that several months later, when the Emperor
gathered up all the little European states and reduced their
number to thirty-two, out of which he formed the confederation of
the Rhine, he not only contrived to preserve the landgravate but
gained for the landgrave the title of Grand-Duke and an
enlargement of his state which increased the population from
scarcely five hundred thousand to over one million. Some months
later, the new Grand-Duke allied his army to ours to combat the
Russians, and requested that they should serve in Marshal
Augereau's corps. The prince owed not only his preservation but
his elevation to his wife's courage.

Although I was still very young, I thought that Napoleon had made
a mistake in reducing the number of the little German

The fact is that in previous wars against France, the eight
hundred princes of the Germanic region had been unable to act in
unison; there were some who provided no more than a company,
others only a platoon, and some just one soldier; so that a
combination of all these different contingents made up an army
wholly lacking cohesion, which broke up at the first reverse. But
when Napoleon had reduced the number of the principalities to
thirty-two, centralisation began to appear in the German forces.
Those rulers who remained, with states increased in size, formed
a small well-organised army. This result was what the Emperor had
intended, in the expectation of using for his own ends all the
military resources of the country; something which he was in fact
able to do as long as we were successful. But on the first
setback, the thirty-two sovereigns, by agreement among
themselves, united in opposition to France, and their coalition
with the Russians overthrew the Emperor Napoleon, who was thus
punished for not following the ancient policies of the kings of

We spent part of the winter at Darmstadt, where there were ftes,
balls and galas. The grand-duke's troops were commanded by a
competent general named De Stoch. He had a son of my age, a
charming young man with whom I struck up a close friendship, and
to whom I shall refer again.

We were only some ten leagues from Frankfurt-on-main. This town,
still free, and immensely rich as a result of its commerce, had
been for a long time a hot-bed of all the plots contrived against
France, and the place of origin of all the false stories about us
which circulated in Germany. So that, the day after Austerlitz,
and while the news was spreading that there had been an
engagement, the result of which was not yet known, the
inhabitants of Frankfurt were sure that the Russians had won, and
several papers indulged their hatred to the point of saying that
the disaster which had overtaken our army was so great that not a
single Frenchman had survived!... The Emperor, to whom all this
was reported, appeared to take no notice until, seeing the
likelihood of a break with Prussia, he gradually moved his armies
to the frontiers of that kingdom. Then, to punish the
impertinence of the Frankfurters, he ordered Marshal Augereau to
leave Darmstadt without warning, and to establish himself with
his army corps in Frankfurt and its surroundings.

The Emperor decreed that the city, on the entry of our troops,
should give, as a welcome, a louis d'or to each soldier, two to
the corporals, three to the sergeants, ten to second lieutenants
and so on! The inhabitants were also to lodge and feed the
soldiers and pay messing expenses of six hundred francs daily for
the marshal, four hundred for a divisional general, three hundred
for a brigadier-general and two hundred for the colonels. The
senate was instructed to pay every month, one million francs into
the treasury in Paris. The authorities of Frankfurt, appalled by
these exorbitant demands, hurried to the French envoy; but he
replied "You claimed that not a single Frenchman escaped from the
arms of the Russians; the Emperor Napoleon wishes to put you in a
position to count the number making up a single corps of his
army. There are six more of the same size, and the guard to
follow." This reply plunged the inhabitants into consternation,
for however great their wealth, they would be ruined if this
state of affairs continued for any length of time. But Marshal
Augereau made an appeal for clemency on behalf of the citizens,
and he was told he could act as he thought best; so he took it on
himself to station in the town only his general staff and one
battalion. The remaining troops were spread around other
neighbouring principalities. The Frankfurters were greatly
relieved by this, and to show their gratitude to Marshal Augereau
they treated him to a great number of ftes. I was billeted with
a rich merchant named M. Chamot. I spent nearly eight months
there, during which time he and his family looked after me very

Chap. 28.

While we were in Frankfurt, a very distressing event affecting an
officer of 7th Corps, landed me with a double mission, the first
part of which was very unpleasant and the second most agreeable,
indeed brilliantly so.

As a result of a brain fever, Lieutenant N... of the 7th
Chasseurs became completely childish. Marshal Augereau detailed
me to take him to Paris, first to Marshal Murat, who had an
interest in the matter, and then, if I was asked to do so, to the
Quercy. As I had not seen my mother since leaving for the
campaign of Austerlitz, and I knew that she was not far from St.
Cere, in the Chateau de Bras, which my father had bought shortly
before his death, I welcomed with pleasure a mission which would
allow me not only to be of service to Marshal Murat but also to
go and spend several days with my mother. Marshal Augereau lent
me a fine carriage and I set off on the road to Paris. But the
heat and insomnia so excited my poor companion that he went from
a state of idiocy to one of mania and nearly killed me with a
blow from a coach spanner. I have never made a more disagreeable
journey. I arrived at last in Paris, and I took Lieutenant N...
to Murat, who was staying for the summer at the Chateau de
Neuilly. The marshal asked me to take the lieutenant to Quercy. I
agreed to do so, in the hope of being able to see my mother
again, but I pointed out that I could not leave for twenty-four
hours, because Marshal Augereau had given me some despatches for
the Emperor, whom I was going to meet at Rambouillet, to where I
reported officially the same day.

I do not know what was in the despatches which I was carrying,
but they made the Emperor very thoughtful. He sent for M. de
Tallyrand and left with him for Paris to where he ordered me to
follow him and present myself to Marshal Duroc that evening.

I waited for a long time in one of the salons of the Tuileries,
until Marshal Duroc, coming out of the Emperor's study, the door
of which was left half open, called for an orderly officer to get
ready set off on a long mission. But Napoleon called out, "Duroc,
that will not be necessary; we have Marbot here, who is going to
rejoin Augereau; he can push on to Berlin. Frankfurt is half way
there." So Marshal Duroc told me to prepare to go to Berlin with
the Emperor's despatches. This was disappointing as it meant that
I had to give up all hope of seeing my mother; but I had to
resign myself. I hurried to Neuilly to tell Murat what had
happened and as I believed that my new mission was very urgent, I
returned to the Tuileries; but Marshal Duroc dismissed me until
the next day. I was there at dawn: I was dismissed until evening;
then the evening of the next day, and so on for more than a week.
However, I remained patient, because each time I presented
myself, Marshal Duroc kept me for only a minute, which allowed me
time to get around Paris. I had been given quite a large sum of
money for the purpose of buying myself new uniform, so as to
appear well turned out before the king of Prussia, into whose
hands I was personally to deliver a letter from the Emperor. You
will understand that Napoleon neglected no detail when it came to
enhancing the standing of the French army in the eyes of

I left at last, after taking the despatches from the Emperor, who
advised me that I should make sure that I carefully examined the
Prussian troops, their bearing, their arms, their horses, etc. M.
de Tallyrand gave me a packet for M. Laforest, the French
ambassador in Berlin, to whose embassy I was to go. On my arrival
at Maintz, which at that time was still part of French territory,
I was told that Marshal Augereau was at Wiesbaden. I reported to
him there and greatly surprised him by telling him that I was
going to Berlin on the Emperor's orders. He congratulated me and
told me to continue my journey. I travelled night and day, in
superb July weather, and arrived in Berlin somewhat weary. At
this period the Prussian roads were not yet metalled, one went
almost always at walking pace over loose soil into which the
coaches sank deeply, raising clouds of unbearable dust.

I was given a warm welcome by M. Laforest, at whose embassy I
stayed. I was presented to the king and queen, and also to the
princes and princesses. When the king received the letter from
Napoleon, he seemed much affected. He was a fine figure of a man,
with a benevolent expression, but lacking that animation which
suggests a decisive character. The queen was really very pretty;
she had only one blemish, she always wore a large scarf, in
order, it was said, to conceal an ulcerated swelling on her neck.
For the rest, she was graceful and her expression, calm and
spiritual, was evidence of a firm personality.

I was very well received, and since the reply which I was to take
back to the Emperor seemed so difficult to draft that it took
more than a month, the queen was pleased to invite me to the
balls and ftes which she gave during my stay.

Of all the members of the royal family, the one who treated me in
the most friendly manner, or so it seemed, was Prince Louis, the
king's nephew.

I had been warned that he hated the French, and in particular,
their Emperor, but as he was passionately interested in military
matters, he questioned me endlessly about the siege of Genoa, the
battles of Marengo and Austerlitz and also about the organisation
of our army. Prince Louis was a most handsome man, and in respect
of spirit, ability and character, the only one of the royal
family who bore any resemblance to Frederick the Great. I made
the acquaintance of several members of the court, mainly with the
officers whom I followed daily to parades and manoeuvres. I spent
my time in Berlin very pleasantly. The ambassador showed me much
attention; but in the end I discovered that he wanted me to play,
in a delicate affair, a role for which I was unsuited, so I
became very reserved.

Now, let us examine the position of Prussia vis--vis France. The
despatches which I had brought concerned this matter, as I later
found out.

In accepting from Napoleon the gift of the electorate of Hanover,
the patrimony of the English royal family, the cabinet in Berlin
had alienated not only the anti-French party but almost all of
the Prussian nation. Germanic pride was wounded by the victories
won by the French over the Austrians, and Prussia feared that its
commerce would be ruined by the war which had just been declared
against it by the cabinet in London. The queen and Prince Louis

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