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The Memoirs of General the Baron de Marbot

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made use of these turbulent emotions to persuade the king to make
war on France by allying himself with Russia who, though
abandoned by Austria, still hoped to take revenge for its defeat
at Austerlitz. The Emperor of Russia was further encouraged in
his plans by a Pole, his favourite aide-de-camp, Prince

The anti-French party, which was growing daily, was not yet able
to persuade the king to break with Napoleon; but aware that it
was supported by Russia, this party redoubled its efforts, and
profited adroitly from the mistakes made by Napoleon in placing
his brother Louis on the throne of Holland, and nominating
himself as protector of the confederacy of the Rhine: acts which
were represented to the Prussian king as being steps on the path
to the re-establishment of the empire of Charlemagne. Napoleon,
it was said, wanted finally to reduce all the sovereigns of
Germany to the status of vassals.

These assertions, though greatly exaggerated, had had a
considerable influence on the king's thinking. His conduct toward
France became from this time, more and more equivocal, and it was
this that decided Napoleon to write to him personally, without
going through the usual diplomatic channels, to ask "Are you for
me or against me?" This was the tenor of the letter which I had
given the king. His councillors who wished to gain time for the
completion of their re-armament, delayed the reply, which was the
reason for my long stay in Berlin.

At last, in August, there was a general explosion of ill-feeling
towards France, and one saw the queen, Prince Louis, the
nobility, the army and the general populace, noisily demanding
war. The king allowed himself to become involved but, although
determined to end the peace he still hoped to avoid hostilities,
and it seems that in his reply to the Emperor he undertook to
disarm if the latter would take back to France all the troops he
had in Germany, which Napoleon was unwilling to do until Prussia
had disarmed. So we were in a vicious circle which could be
broken only by a war.

Before I left Berlin, I witnessed the frenzy to which hatred of
Napoleon raised this normally placid people. The officers whom I
knew no longer dared to speak to me or even to greet me. Several
French people were insulted by the populace, and finally soldiers
of the Royal Guard came boastfully to sharpen their sabres on the
stone steps of the French embassy. I left hurriedly for Paris,
taking with me much information on what was going on in Prussia.
Passing through Frankfurt, I found Marshal Augereau very sad at
having heard of the death of his wife, a good, excellent woman
whose loss he felt deeply, and who was mourned by all the general
staff, for she had been very kind to us.

On my arrival in Paris, I delivered to the Emperor the
hand-written reply from the King of Prussia. After reading it, he
questioned me on what I had seen in Berlin. When I told him that
the soldiers of the guard had come to sharpen their sabres on the
steps of the French embassy, he clapped his hand firmly on the
hilt of his sword, exclaiming indignantly, "The insolent
braggarts will soon learn that our arms are in good order!"

My mission now being over, I returned to Marshal Augereau, and
spent all of September in Frankfurt where, while preparing
ourselves for war, we entertained ourselves as best we could, for
we thought that as nothing could be more uncertain than the life
of a soldier, one should enjoy it as much as is possible.

Chap. 29.

While the different corps of the French army were approaching the
banks of the Main, the Emperor arrived at Wurtzburg and crossed
the Rhine with his Guard. The Prussians, for their part, were on
the march, and going through Saxony, they compelled the elector
to join forces with them. This enforced, and therefore unstable,
alliance was the only one which the King of Prussia had in
Germany. He was, it is true, expecting the arrival of the
Russians, but their army was still in Poland behind the Niemen,
more than one hundred and fifty leagues from the country where
the destiny of Prussia was to be decided.

It is hard to believe the incompetence displayed, for seven
years, by our enemies' governments. We saw, in 1805, the
Austrians attack us on the Danube, and be defeated in isolation
at Ulm, instead of waiting for Russia to join them and for
Prussia to declare war on Napoleon. Now, in 1806, those same
Prussians who, a year before, could have prevented the defeat of
the Austro-Russians by joining them, not only declared war on us
when we were at peace with Vienna, but repeated the mistake of
attacking us without waiting for the Russians! Finally, in 1809,
the Austrians renewed the war against Napoleon on their own, at a
time when we were at peace with both Prussia and Russia! This
lack of co-operation ensured a French victory. Sadly it was not
so in 1813, when we were crushed by a coalition of our enemies.

In 1806 the King of Prussia was even more mistaken in taking to
the field against Napoleon in the absence of the Russians, in
that his troops, although well trained, were in no condition to
be pitted against ours, because their composition and
organisation were so bad.

In effect, at this time, Prussian captains were the owners of
their company or squadron: men, horses, arms and clothing all
belonged to them and the whole unit was hired out to the
government for a fixed fee. Obviously, since all losses fell to
their account, the captains had a great interest in sparing their
companies, not only on the march but on the field of battle. As
the number of men they were obliged to have was fixed and there
was no conscription, they enrolled for money, first any Prussians
who came forward, and then all the vagabonds of Europe, whom
their recruiters enlisted in neighbouring states. But this was
not enough, and the Prussian recruiters pressed many men into
service, who having become soldiers against their will, were
compelled to serve until they were too old to bear arms; then
they were given a permit to beg, for Prussia could not afford to
provide a home for old soldiers or a retirement pension. For the
duration of their service these men had to be mixed with true
Prussians, who had to constitute at least half of each company to
prevent mutiny.

To maintain an army composed of such heterogeneous parts required
an iron discipline; so the least fault was punished by beating. A
large number of N.C.O.s, all of them Prussian, carried canes
which they made use of frequently, and according to the current
expression there was a cane for every seven men. The penalty for
desertion by a foreign soldier was inevitably death. You can
imagine the frightful position of these foreigners, who having
enlisted in a moment of drunkenness, or been taken by force,
found themselves far from their native land, under a glacial sky,
condemned to be Prussian soldiers, that is slaves, for the rest
of their lives! And what a life it was! Given scarcely enough to
eat. Sleeping on straw. Thinly clad. Without greatcoats, even in
the coldest winter, and paid a sum insufficient for their needs;
they did not wait to beg until they had been given a permit on
their discharge, for when they were not under the eyes of their
superiors, they held out their hands, and there were several
occasions both at Potsdam and Berlin when Grenadiers, even those
at the palace gate, begged me for alms!

The Prussian-born officers were, in general, educated men, who
performed their duties very well; but half of the officers, born
outside the kingdom, were poor gentlemen from almost every
country in Europe who had joined the army only to have a living,
and lacking patriotism, were in no way devoted to Prussia, which
the majority abandoned when there was any adversity. Finally, as
promotion was only by length of service, the great majority of
senior Prussian officers were old and infirm, and in no state to
support the fatigues of war. It was an army thus composed and
commanded which was to confront the victors of Italy, Egypt,
Germany and Austerlitz. This was folly. But the cabinet in
Berlin, recalling the victories which Frederick the Great had won
with mercenary troops, hoped things would be the same. They
forgot that times had changed.

On the 6th of October Marshal Augereau and 7th Corps left
Frankfurt to head, with the rest of the Grande Armee, for the
frontiers of Saxony, already occupied by the Prussians. The
autumn was superb; it froze a little during the night, but by day
there was brilliant sunshine. My little troupe was well
organised; I had a good batman, Francois Woirland, a former
soldier in the black legion, a real rascal and a great scrounger,
but these are the best servants on a campaign, for with one of
them one lacks for nothing. I had three excellent horses, good
weapons, a little money and good health; so I stepped out gaily
to face whatever the future might bring.

We went first to Aschaffenburg and from there to Wurtzburg, where
we caught up with the Emperor, who ordered a march-past by the
troops of 7th Corps, who were in good heart. Napoleon who kept a
dossier about all the regiments, and who skillfully used to
employ extracts from it to flatter the self-esteem of each unit,
said when he saw the 44th line regiment, "Of all the units of the
army you are the one with the most long service chevrons, so your
three battalions I count as six!"...an announcement which was
greeted by cheers. To the 7th, composed mostly of men from the
lower Languedoc and the Pyrenees, the Emperor said, "There are
the best marchers in the army, one never sees anyone fall behind,
particularly when there is a battle to be fought." Then he added,
laughingly, "But, to do you justice, I must say that you are the
most brawling, thieving unit in the army!" "It's true! It's
true!" replied the soldiers, each of whom had a duck, a chicken
or a goose in his knapsack, an abuse which had to be tolerated,
because, as I have told you, Napoleon's armies, once in the
field, rarely received any rations, and had to live off the
country as well as they could. This system had without doubt many
defects, but it had one huge benefit, that of allowing us to move
forward without being held up by convoys and supply lines, which
gave us a great advantage over an enemy whose movements were
subordinated to the cook-house, or the arrival of bread, and to
the progress of herds of cattle, etc...etc.

From Wurtzburg, 7th Corps went to Coburg, where the marshal was
lodged in the prince's palace. All his family had fled on our
approach, except the celebrated Austrian Field-marshal, the
Prince of Coburg. This old warrior, although he had fought for
many years against the French, had enough confidence in the
French character to await their coming, a confidence which was
not misplaced, for Marshal Augereau sent him a guard of honour,
returned promptly a visit he had received, and ordered that he
was to be treated with the utmost respect.

We were not very far from the Prussians, whose king was at
Erfurt. The queen was with him and rode up and down the ranks of
the army on horseback, endeavouring to excite their ardour by her
presence. Napoleon did not think that this was behaviour
befitting a princess, and his bulletins made some wounding
comments on the subject. The French and Prussian advance-guards
met eventually, at Schleitz: where there took place, in view of
the Emperor, a minor action in which the enemy were defeated; it
was for them an ill-omened beginning.

That same day, Prince Louis, with a body of ten thousand men,
found himself stationed in Saalfeld. This town is on the bank of
the River Saale, in the middle of a plain which we could reach
only by crossing some steep mountains. While Marshals Lannes' and
Augereau's corps were moving toward Saalfeld through these
mountains, Prince Louis, who had decided to await the French,
should have occupied positions in this difficult country, full of
narrow passes, where a few men could hold up a much greater
number, but he failed to do this, probably because he was
convinced that the Prussian soldiers were infinitely better than
the French. He carried this scorn for all precautions so far as
to place part of his force in front of a marshy stream, which
would make their retreat very difficult in the event of a
reverse. Old General Muller, a Swiss in the service of Prussia,
whom the king had attached to his nephew as a steadying
influence, made some observations which the prince took very
badly, adding that there was no need to take precautions to beat
the French, all that was needed was to fall on them the moment
they appeared.

They appeared in the morning on the 10th; Marshal Lannes' corps
leading and Marshal Augereau's behind him. This last did not
arrive in time to take part in the action where, as it happened,
their presence was not needed, for Marshal Lannes' troops were
more than sufficient.

While waiting for his corps to emerge onto the plain, Marshal
Augereau, accompanied by his staff, went up onto a little hill
which overlooked the open country, from where we could follow all
stages of the action.

Prince Louis could still have retreated to join the Prussian
corps which occupied Jena; but having been the leading instigator
of the war he perhaps felt he should not do so without a fight.
He was most cruelly punished for his temerity. Marshal Lannes,
making use of the heights, at the foot of which Prince Louis had
imprudently deployed his troops, first raked them with grape-shot
from his artillery, and when this had demoralised them, he
advanced several masses of infantry, which descending rapidly
from the high ground, swept like a torrent onto the Prussian
battalions and instantly overwhelmed them! Prince Louis, aghast,
and probably aware of his mistake, hoped to repair it by putting
himself at the head of his cavalry and impetuously attacking the
9th and 10th Hussars. He had at first some success, but our
Hussars having made a new and furious charge, drove the Prussians
back into the marshes, while their infantry fled in disorder.

In the middle of the melee, Prince Louis found himself engaged
with a sous-officier of the 10th Hussars named Guindet, who
summoned him to surrender; the prince replied with a slash of his
sword which cut the sous-officier's face, who thereupon ran the
prince through and killed him.

After the fight and the complete rout of the enemy, the prince's
body having been recognised, Marshal Lannes had it carried with
honour to the chateau of Saalfeld, where it was handed to the
princely family of that name, who were allied to the royal house
of Prussia, and in whose residence the prince had spent the
previous day and evening, looking forward to the coming of the
French, and even, it is said, giving a ball for the local ladies.
Now he was returned to them, vanquished and dead!... The next
morning I saw the prince's body, laid out on a marble table, all
traces of blood had been cleaned away, he was naked to the waist,
still wearing his leather britches and his boots. He seemed to be
asleep. He was a truly fine looking man, and I could not help
indulging in some sad reflections on the uncertainty of human
affairs, when I saw the remains of this young man, born on the
steps of a throne, and, but lately, so loved, so courted and so

The news of the prince's death spread consternation in the enemy
army, and also throughout Prussia, where he was highly popular.

7th Corps spent the day of the 11th at Saalfeld. On the 12th we
went to Neustadt, and on the 13th to Kehla, where we encountered
some remains of the Prussian troops defeated at Saalfeld. When
Marshal Augereau attacked them, they put up little resistance and
laid down their arms. Amongst those captured was the regiment of
Prince Henry in which Augereau had once served as a soldier, and
since, unless one was of high birth, it was very difficult to
become a senior officer in the Prussian army, and as sergeants
never became second lieutenants, his former company still had the
same captain and the same sergeant-major. Placed by a quirk of
fate in the presence of his one-time soldier, now a marshal, the
Prussian captain, who remembered Augereau perfectly well, acted
as a man of discretion and spoke always to the marshal as if he
had never seen him before. Augereau invited him to dinner and
seated him next to himself, then, learning that the officer's
baggage had been seized, he lent him all the money he needed and
gave him letters of introduction to take to France. What must
have passed through the captain's mind! But nothing can describe
the astonishment of the old Prussian sergeant-major at seeing his
former soldier covered with decorations, surrounded by a numerous
staff and in command of an army corps! All of which seemed like a
dream! The marshal was more expansive toward this man than he had
been toward the captain. Addressing the sergeant by name, he
shook him by the hand, and arranged for him to be given
twenty-five louis for himself and two for every soldier who had
been in the ranks with him and was still there. We thought this
behaviour was in the best of taste.

The marshal had expected to sleep at Kehla, which is only three
leagues from Jena; but just as night was falling 7th Corps was
ordered to go immediately to this last town which the Emperor had
just entered, at the head of his guard and the troops of Marshal
Lannes, without striking a blow.

The Prussians had abandoned Jena in silence, but some candles,
forgotten in the stables, had probably started the fire, the
spreading flames of which were consuming part of the unfortunate
town when Marshal Augereau's corps entered it at about midnight.
It was a sorry spectacle to see the inhabitants, women and old
people, half naked, carrying their children and seeking to escape
by flight from the scene of destruction, while our soldiers, kept
in their ranks by discipline and the nearness of the enemy,
remained unmoved, their arms at the ready, regarding the fire as
a small matter in comparison to the dangers they would soon have
to face.

The part of the town through which our troops arrived was not
affected by the fire and so they could move around freely, and
while they were gathering in the squares and main streets, the
marshal set up his headquarters in a nice looking mansion. I was
about to enter, on returning from delivering an order, when I
heard loud shrieks coming from a nearby house, the door of which
was open. I hurried there and guided by the cries I found my way
to a well-appointed apartment where I saw two charming girls, of
about eighteen to twenty years of age, dressed only in their
chemises, struggling against the advances of four or five
soldiers from Hesse-Darmstadt, belonging to the regiments which
the landgrave had attached to the French troops of 7th Corps.
Although these men, who were drunk, understood not a word of
French, and I spoke little German, my appearance and my threats
took them aback, and being used to beatings from their own
officers, they made no retaliation to the kicks and cuffs which
in my indignation I distributed freely in driving them
downstairs. In this I was perhaps a little imprudent, for in the
middle of the night, in a town in utter confusion there was a
risk that they might turn on me and even kill me; but they ran
away, and I put a platoon of the marshal's escort in one of the
lower rooms.

I went up to the apartment where the two young girls had
hurriedly dressed themselves, and was rewarded by their warmest
expressions of gratitude. They were the daughters of a university
professor, who had gone with his wife and the domestic staff to
the aid of one of their sisters, who had recently given birth in
that part of the town where the fire was raging, and they had
been alone when the Hessian soldiers arrived. One of these young
ladies said to me with great emotion, "You are going into battle
at a time when you have just saved our honour. God will reward
you, you may be sure that no harm will come to you." The father
and the mother, who came back at this moment with the new mother
and her child were at first much surprised to find me there; but
when they learned the reason for my presence they too showered me
with blessings. I tore myself away from the thanks of this
grateful family to rejoin Marshal Augereau, who was reposing in
the nearby mansion, awaiting the Emperor's orders.

Chap. 30.

The town of Jena is dominated by a height called the
Landgrafenberg, at the foot of which runs the Saale River. The
approaches to Jena are very precipitous, and at that time there
was only one road, which ran to Wiemar via Muhlthal, a long and
difficult pass, the outlet of which was covered by a small wood
and guarded by Saxon troops, allies of the Prussians; a part of
whose army was drawn up in line behind them at the distance of a
cannon shot.

The Emperor, having only this one route by which he could reach
his enemies, expected to suffer heavy losses in a frontal attack,
for there seemed to be no way in which they could be outflanked.
But Napoleon's lucky star once more came to his aid, in an
unexpected way, which I do not believe has been related by any
historian, although I can vouch for the truth of it happening.

We have seen that the King of Prussia compelled the elector of
Saxony to join forces with him. The people of Saxony saw
themselves, with regret, drawn into a war which could procure
them no advantage in the future, and which for the present
brought desolation to the countryside, which was the theatre for
the hostilities. The Prussians were therefore detested in Saxony;
and Jena, a Saxon town, shared in this detestation.

A priest who belonged to the town, angered at the fire which was
consuming it, and regarding the Prussians as enemies of his king
and fatherland, believed he could give Napoleon the means of
clearing them out of the country, by showing him a little pathway
by which a body of infantrymen might climb the steep slopes of
the Landgrafenberg. He led there a platoon of light infantry and
some officers of the general staff. The Prussians, who thought
this pathway impracticable, had not bothered to guard it, but
Napoleon thought differently. As a result of the report given him
by his officers, he went up himself, guided by the Saxon cure,
and accompanied by Marshal Lannes; he saw that, between the
heights of the path and the plain occupied by the enemy, there
was a small stony plateau, and he decided to concentrate there a
body of troops who would sally from it, as if from a citadel, to
attack the Prussians.

The undertaking would have been of unsurmountable difficulty for
anyone but a Napoleon in command of French soldiers; but he
ordered the tools used by the pioneers to be taken from the
wagons of the engineers and the artillery and distributed to the
infantry battalions, who worked in rotation for one hour each at
widening and levelling the pathway, and when they had finished
their task, each battalion formed up in silence on the
Landgrafenberg, while another took its place. The work was
carried on by the light of torches, whose flames were confused in
the eyes of the enemy with the fires in Jena.

The nights are very long at this time of year, so that we were
able to make the path accessible not only for foot-soldiers but
also for the wagons of the artillery, with the result that,
before daybreak, the corps of Marshals Lannes and Soult, the
first division of Augereau's, as well as the foot guards, were
massed on the Landgrafenberg. Never has the term massed been used
with more exactitude, for the chest of each man was almost
touching the back of the man in front of him; but the troops were
so well disciplined that, in spite of the darkness and the
crowding together of more than forty thousand men, there was not
the least disorder; and although the enemy were occupying
villages less than half a cannon shot away, they heard nothing.

On the morning of October 14th, a thick mist covered the
countryside, which favoured our movements; Augereau's second
division, making a diversionary attack, advanced from Jena via
Muhlthal on the road to Weimar. As the enemy believed that this
was the only way by which we could come from Jena, they had
placed a considerable force there; but while they prepared to
conduct a vigourous defence of this pass, Napoleon, bringing down
from the Landgrafenberg the troops which he had accumulated there
during the night, drew them up in battle order on the plain. A
light breeze having dispersed the mist, which was followed by
brilliant sunshine, the Prussians were stupefied to see the lines
of the French army deployed opposite them and advancing to engage
them in battle. They could not understand how we had got there
when they thought we were down in the valley of Jena, with no
other means of reaching them but the road to Wiemar, which they
were guarding so thoroughly.

The battle began immediately and the first lines of the Prussians
and Saxons, commanded by Prince Hohenlohe, were forced to
retreat. They advanced their reserves, but we received a
powerful reinforcement. Marshal Ney's corps and Murat's cavalry
which had been held up in the pass, burst out into the plain and
took part in the action. However a Prussian army corps commanded
by General Ruchel stopped our columns for a time; but charged by
French cavalry it was almost entirely wiped out and General
Ruchel was killed.

Marshal Augereau's 1st division, coming down from the
Landgrafenberg, joined with the 2nd, arriving from Muhlthal, and
with the troops of Marshals Lannes and Soult, they proceeded down
the road to Wiemar, capturing enemy positions as they went.

The Prussian infantry, whose poor composition I have already
described, fought very badly, and the cavalry not much better.
One saw them on several occasions advance, with loud shouts,
towards our battalions; but, intimidated by their calm bearing,
they never dared charge home; at a distance of fifty paces from
our line they shamefully turned about, amid a hail of bullets and
the jeers of our men.

The Saxons fought with courage; they resisted Marshal Augereau's
corps for a long time, and it was not until after the retreat of
the Prussian troops that, having formed themselves into two large
squares, they began to withdraw while continuing to fire. Marshal
Augereau admired the courage of the Saxons, and to prevent
further loss of life, he had just sent an envoy to persuade them
to surrender, since they had no longer any hope of relief, when
Prince Murat arrived with his cavalry and mounted an attack with
his Cuirassiers and dragoons, who charging impetuously the Saxon
squares, overwhelmed them and forced them to lay down their arms.
The next day, however, the Emperor set them at liberty and
restored them to their sovereign, with whom he hastened to make

All the Prussian troops who had fought before Jena, retreated in
a complete rout along the road to Weimar, at whose gates the
fugitives, their baggage and artillery had piled up, when
suddenly the squadrons of the French cavalry appeared! At the
sight of them, panic spread through the crowd of Prussians, who
fled in utter disorder, leaving us with a great number of
prisoners, flags, guns and baggage.

The town of Weimar, called by some the new Athens, was inhabited
at this period by a great number of scholars, artists and
distinguished authors, who had gathered there under the patronage
of the ruling duke, an enlightened protector of the arts and
sciences. The noise of guns, the passage of the fugitives and
the entry of the victors caused a great stir in this peaceful and
studious population; but Marshals Lannes and Soult maintained a
firm discipline, and apart from having to provide food for the
soldiers, the town suffered no outrage. The Prince of Weimar
served in the Prussian army, nevertheless his palace, where the
princess, his wife, was living, was respected and none of the
marshals took up residence there.

Marshal Augereau's headquarters were established at the town
gates, in the house of the prince's head gardener. All the
inhabitants of the house having taken flight, the general staff
found nothing to eat, and had to sup on some pineapples and plums
from the hot-houses. This was a very light diet for people who,
without food for twenty-four hours, had spent the preceding night
on foot and all day fighting! But we were the victors, and that
magical word enabled us to support all our privations.

The Emperor went back to sleep at Jena, where he learned of a
success no less great than that which he had just achieved
himself. The battle of Jena was a double battle, if one may use
the expression, for neither the French nor the Prussian armies
were united at Jena, they were each divided into two parts and
fought two different battles: so that while the Emperor, at the
head of the corps of Augereau, Lannes, Soult and Ney, his guard
and the cavalry of Murat, was defeating the corps of Prince
Hohenlohe and General Ruchel. The King of Prussia, at the head of
his main army, commanded by the celebrated Prince of Brunswick,
Marshals Mollendorf and Kalkreuth had left Weimar, and on their
way to Naumburg had settled for the night at the village of
Auerstadt, not far from the French corps of Davout and
Bernadotte, who were in the villages around Naumburg. In order to
rejoin the Emperor, who was at Apolda, in the plain beyond Jena,
Davout and Bernadotte had to cross the Saale before Naumburg and
traverse the narrow hilly pass of Kosen. Although Davout thought
that the King of Prussia with the main body of his army was
facing the Emperor, and not so close to him at Auerstadt, this
vigilant warrior secured, during the night, the Kosen pass and
its steep slopes which the King of Prussia and his marshals had
neglected to occupy, thus making the same mistake as Prince
Hohenlohe made at Jena in failing to guard the Landgrafenberg.
The combined forces of Bernadotte and Davout did not amount to
more than forty-four thousand men, while the King of Prussia had
eighty thousand at Auerstadt.

From daybreak on the 14th, the two French marshals realised that
they had to face much superior numbers; it was their duty then to
act in unison. Davout, aware of this necessity, volunteered to
put himself under the command of Bernadotte, but the latter
jibbed at the idea of a shared victory, and unwilling to
subordinate his personal interests to the welfare of his country,
he decided to act on his own; and on the pretext that the Emperor
had ordered him to be at Dornburg on the 13th, he decided to make
his way there on the 14th, although Napoleon had written to him
during the night to say that, if he was still in Naumburg, he
should stay there and support Davout. Not finding the situation
to his liking, Bernadotte left Davout to defend himself as best
he could and, going down the Saale, he settled himself at
Dornburg where, although he came across no enemies, he could see
from the elevated position which he occupied, the desperate
battle being fought by the gallant Davout some two leagues away.
Meanwhile he ordered his men to set up their bivouacs and to
start preparing a meal. His generals complained to him in vain at
this culpable inaction; Bernadotte would not budge, so that
Marshal Davout, with no more than twenty-five thousand men,
comprising the divisions of Friant, Morland and Gudin, faced
almost eighty thousand Prussians animated by the presence of
their king.

The French, after emerging from the narrow pass of Kosen, formed
up near the village of Hassenhausen; it was here that the real
battle took place, because the Emperor was mistaken when he
thought that he had before him at Jena the king and the bulk of
the Prussian army. The action fought by Davout's men was one of
the most terrible in our annals. His divisions, having
successfully resisted all the attacks of the enemy infantry,
formed into squares and repelled numerous cavalry charges, and
not content with this, they advanced with such resolution that
the Prussians fell back at every point leaving the ground strewn
with dead and wounded. The Prince of Brunswick and General
Schmettau were killed, Marshal Mollendorf was seriously wounded
and taken prisoner.

The King of Prussia and his troops at first carried out their
retreat towards Weimar in reasonably good order, hoping to rally
there behind the forces of Prince Hohenlohe and General Ruchel,
whom they supposed to have been victorious, while the latter,
having been defeated by Napoleon, were for their part, on their
way to seek support from the troops led by the king. Those two
enormous masses of soldiers, beaten and demoralised, met on the
road to Erfurt; it needed only the appearance of some French
regiments to throw them into utter confusion. The rout was total,
and was a just punishment for the bragging of the Prussian
officers. The results of this victory were incalculable, and made
us masters of almost all Prussia.

The Emperor showed his great satisfaction with Marshal Davout and
with the divisions of Morand, Friant and Gudin by an order of the
day, which was read out to all companies and even in the
ambulances carrying the wounded. The following year Napoleon
created Davout Duke of Auerstadt, although he had fought less
there than in the village of Hassenhausen; but the King of
Prussia had had his headquarters at Auerstadt, and the Prussians
had given this name to the battle which the French called the
battle of Jena.

The army expected to see Bernadotte severely punished, but he got
away with a sharp reprimand; Napoleon was afraid of upsetting his
brother Joseph, whose sister-in-law, Mlle. Clary, Bernadotte had
just married. We shall see later how Bernadotte's behaviour
during the battle of Auerstadt served, in a way, as a first step
towards mounting the throne of Sweden.

I was not wounded at Jena, but I was tricked in a way that still
rankles after forty years. At a time when Augereau's corps was
attacking the Saxons, the marshal sent me to carry a message to
General Durosnel, who commanded a brigade of Chasseurs, ordering
him to charge the enemy cavalry. It was my job to guide the
brigade along a route which I had already reconnoitred. I hurried
away and put myself at the head of our Chasseurs, who threw
themselves on the Saxon squadrons. The Saxons put up a stiff
resistance and there was a general melee, but eventually our
adversaries were forced to retreat with losses. Towards the end
of the fighting, I found myself facing an officer of Hussars,
wearing the white uniform of Prince Albert of Saxony's regiment.
I held the point of my sabre against him and called on him to
surrender, which he did, handing me his sword. As the fighting
was over, I generously gave it back to him, as was the usual
practice among officers in these circumstances, and I added that
although his horse, under the conventions of war, belonged to me,
I did not wish to deprive him of it. He gave me many thanks for
this kind treatment and followed me as I returned to the marshal,
very pleased with myself for bringing back a prisoner. But when
we were about five hundred paces from the Chasseurs, this
confounded Saxon officer, who was on my left, drew his sabre,
wounded my horse on the shoulder and was about to strike me if I
had not thrown myself on him. Although I had no sabre in my hand,
our bodies were so close that he did not have room to swing his
sabre at me, so he grabbed my epaulet, and pulled me off balance,
my saddle slipped under my horse's belly and there I was with one
leg in the air and my head hanging down, while the Saxon made off
at full speed to rejoin the remains of the enemy army. I was
furious, partly at the position I was in, and partly at the
ingratitude with which this foreigner had repaid my courtesy. So
when the Saxon army had been made prisoners, I went to look for
my Hussar officer, to teach him a lesson, but he had disappeared.

I have said that the Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt, our new ally, had
joined his troops to the Emperor's. This brigade had uniforms
exactly like those of the Prussians, so several of their soldiers
were killed or wounded mistakenly during the action. The young
Lieutenant De Stoch, my friend, was on the point of meeting the
same fate, and had already been seized by our Hussars, when,
having seen me, he called out to me and I had him released.

The Emperor rewarded most generously the priest of Jena, and the
elector of Saxony, having become king as a result of the
victories of his ally Napoleon, rewarded him also; so that he
lived very comfortably until 1814 when he took refuge in France
to escape from the vengeance of the Prussians. They, however, had
him taken up and shut away in a fortress where he spent two or
three years. Eventually, the King of Saxony having interceded on
his behalf with Louis XVIII, the latter reclaimed the priest on
the grounds that he had been arrested without proper authority,
and the Prussians having released him, he came to live in Paris.
After the victory at Jena, the Emperor ordered a general pursuit
of our enemies, and our columns took an enormous number of

The King of Prussia had great difficulty in reaching Magdeburg
and getting from there to Berlin, and it was said that the queen
nearly fell into the hands of the scouts of our advance-guard.

It would take too long to detail all the disasters which befell
the Prussian army; it is enough to say that of those troops who
marched to attack the French, not a battalion escaped; they were
all captured before the end of the month. The fortresses of
Torgau, Erfurt and Wittemburg opened their gates to the victors
who, having crossed the Elbe at several points--Augereau's corps
crossing near Dessau--headed for Berlin.

Napoleon stopped at Potsdam, where he visited the tomb of
Frederick the Great; then he went to Berlin where, contrary to
his usual practice, he wished to make a triumphal entry. Marshal
Davout's corps headed the procession; an honour to which it was
entitled as it had done more fighting than the others. Then came
Augereau's corps and then the guard.

Chap. 31.

On my return to Berlin which, when I had left it not long ago,
had been so brilliant, I could not help having some sad
reflections. The populace, then so self-confident, was now
gloomy, downcast, and much afflicted, for the Prussians are very
patriotic: they felt humiliated by the defeat of their army and
the occupation of their country by the French; besides which
almost every family had to mourn a relative or friend killed or
captured in battle. I had every sympathy with their feelings; but
I must confess that I experienced quite a different sentiment
when I saw, entering Berlin as prisoners of war, walking sadly,
dismounted and disarmed, the regiment of the so-called Noble
Gendarmes; those same arrogant young officers who had so
insolently come to sharpen their sabres on the steps of the
French embassy!....Nothing could depict their shame and abasement
at finding themselves defeated by those same Frenchmen whom they
had boasted they would put to flight by their mere presence. They
had asked that they might go round Berlin without entering it, to
avoid the painful experience of filing as prisoners through the
town where they were so well known and where the inhabitants had
witnessed their bragging; but this is precisely why the Emperor
ordered them to pass between two lines of French soldiers, who
directed them down the road in which stood the French embassy.
The inhabitants of Berlin did not disapprove of this little act
of revenge, since they greatly disliked the Noble Gendarmes whom
they accused of having pushed the king into the war.

Marshal Augereau was billeted outside the town, in the chateau of
Bellevue, which belonged to Prince Ferdinand, the only one of
Frederick the Great's brothers who was still living. This
venerable old man, the father of Prince Louis who was recently
killed at Saalefeld, was afflicted by grief made even more bitter
by the fact that, against the opinion of all the court and also
that of the son whom he mourned, he had strongly opposed the war,
and had predicted the misfortunes which it would bring upon
Prussia. Marshal Augereau thought it his duty to visit the
prince, who had withdrawn to a dwelling in the town. He was
received most politely; the unhappy father told the marshal that
he had learned that his young son, Prince Auguste, the only one
left to him, was at the town gate in a column of prisoners, and
that he longed to embrace him before he was sent off to France.
Since Prince Ferdinand's great age prevented him from going to
look for his son, the marshal, sure that Napoleon would not
object, told me to mount my horse right away, to go and find
Prince Auguste, and to bring him back. Which I did.

The arrival of the young prince gave rise to the most moving
scene. His elderly parents could not stop embracing this son, who
recalled to them the loss of the other. To console them as much
as lay within his power, the good marshal went to the Emperor's
quarters and came back with authority for the young prince to
remain, on parole, in the bosom of his family. A favour for which
Prince Ferdinand was infinitely grateful.

The victory at Jena had had the most profound effect. Complete
demoralisation had gripped not only the troops in the field, but
the garrisons of the fortresses. Magdeburg surrendered without
making any attempt at resistance; Spandau did the same; Stettin
opened its gates to a division of cavalry, and the governor of
Custrin sent boats across the Oder to fetch the French troops;
who without this help would not have been able to take the place
without several months of siege. Every day one heard of the
surrender of some unit of the army or the capitulation of some
fortress. The faulty organisation of the Prussian army became
more evident than ever; the foreigners, in particular those who
had been enlisted against their will, took the occasion to
recover their liberty, and deserted in droves, or stayed behind
to give themselves up to the French.

To the conquest of the Prussians, Napoleon added the confiscation
of the states of the Elector of Hesse-Cassel, whose duplicity had
earned him this punishment. This prince, who had been requested
some time before the war to declare himself a supporter of either
France or Prussia, lulled both parties with promises, with the
intention of coming down on the side of the victor. An avaricious
sovereign, the Elector had amassed a great fortune by selling his
own people to the English, who used them to fight against the
Americans in the War of Independence, in which many of them
perished. Careless of his people's welfare, he had offered to
join his troops to the French force on condition that the Emperor
would cede to him the French American states. So no one was very
sorry for the Elector, whose precipitous departure occasioned an
event which is still not generally known.

Compelled to leave Hesse in a hurry, to take refuge in England,
the Elector, who was regarded as one of the richest people in
Europe, was unable to take with him all his wealth. So he sent
for a Jew from Frankfurt by the name of Rothschild, a small-time
banker and not well known, but respected for the scrupulous
devotion with which he practised his religion: and it was this
that decided the Elector to confide to his care some fifteen
million in specie. The interest earned on this money was to
belong to the banker, who was obliged to return only the capital.

When the palace of Cassel was occupied by our troops, agents of
the French treasury seized a considerable quantity of valuables,
mainly pictures, but did not find any money. It seemed
impossible, however, that the Elector, in his hurried flight, had
been able to take with him all his immense fortune. Now, as
according to what are called the laws of war, the monies found in
an enemy country belong to the victor, one wished to find out
what had become of the treasure of Cassel. Information gathered
on the subject disclosed that, before his departure, the Elector
had spent a whole day with the Jew Rothschild. An imperial
commission went to the latter's house, where his account books
and his strong-boxes were minutely examined; but in vain, for no
trace could be found of a deposit made by the Elector. Threats
and intimidation produced no result, so the commission, convinced
that no material interest would persuade a man so religious to
perjure himself, wished to put him on oath. This he refused to
accept. His arrest was considered but the Emperor was opposed to
this act of violence because he thought it would be useless.
Resort was then had to less honourable methods; it was proposed
to the banker that he might retain half of the treasure if he
would deliver the other half to the French administration; they
would then give him a receipt for the full amount, accompanied by
an order of seizure, proving that he had given way only to force
and was thus shielded from any claim for restitution; but the
upright Jew rejected this suggestion, and, tired of the struggle,
they left him alone.

So the fifteen million remained in the hands of Rothschild from
1806 to the fall of the empire in 1814. Then, when the Elector
had returned to his state, the Frankfurt banker handed over to
him the exact sum which he had deposited. You may imagine how
much interest might be earned by the sum of fifteen millions left
in the hands of a Jewish Frankfurt banker for a period of eight
years! It is from this time that dates the opulence of the House
of the Brothers Rothschild, who owe to the probity of their
founder the high financial standing which they enjoy today.

The Emperor, who was staying in the palace in Berlin, every day
passed in revue the troops who arrived in succession in the town,
to march from there to the Oder in pursuit of the enemy. It was
while he was in Berlin that he performed a well known act of
magnanimity in pardoning, for the Princess of Hatzfeld, her
husband, who had used his position as burgomaster of Berlin to
give the Prussian generals information about the movement of
French troops; an act of espionage punishable by death. The
generosity displayed by the Emperor on this occasion had a very
good effect on the feelings of the Prussians.

During our stay in Berlin, I was pleasantly surprised by the
arrival of my brother Adolphe, who, on learning of the fresh
outbreak of hostilities on the continent of Europe had asked for
and obtained from General Decaen, who commanded the French troops
in India, permission to return to France, where he joined the
Grande Armee. He was offered a position by General Lefebvre, but,
mistakenly, in my opinion, he chose to serve as a supernumerary
on the staff of Marshal Augereau, of which I was a member, a move
which did neither of us any good.

I had also in Berlin another unexpected encounter. I was walking
one evening with some friends along the Boulevard de Tilleuls,
when I saw coming towards me a group of sous-officiers of the 1st
Hussars. One of them broke away and ran to fall on my neck. It
was my former tutor, the elder Pertelay who, with tears of joy
cried "Te voil, mon petit!" The officers with whom I was, were
at first astonished to see a sergeant-major so familiar with an
officer; but their surprise vanished when I told them of my
former relations with this old soldier, who, putting his arm
round me, said to his companions, "It is I who made him what you
now see before you!" And the good fellow was really convinced
that I owed my present position to his teaching. So at dinner,
which I stood him the next day, he overwhelmed me with
inconsequential advice, which he believed to be very sensible and
just the thing to perfect my military education. We shall meet
this type of old Hussar again in Spain.

Napoleon, who was still in Berlin, was told of the surrender of
the Prince Hohenlohe who, with sixteen thousand men, had laid
down his arms at Prenzlow before the troops of Marshal Lannes and
the cavalry of Murat. There was no other enemy corps in the field
except that of General Blucher. This general, hard pressed by the
divisions of Marshals Soult and Bernadotte, violated the
neutrality of Lubeck, where he sought refuge; but the French
pursued him, and Blucher, one of the most ardent supporters of
the war against Napoleon, was forced to give himself up as a
prisoner together with the sixteen thousand men under his

I must here tell you something remarkable, which shows how
greatly chance influences the affairs of men and empires. We have
seen Marshal Bernadotte failing in his duty and standing aside at
Jena when Marshal Davout was fighting, not far from him, against
infinitely superior forces. Well! This disgraceful conduct served
to place him on the throne of Sweden. This is how it came about.

After the battle of Jena, the Emperor, although furious with
Bernadotte, ordered him to pursue the enemy because the corps
which he commanded, not having fired a shot, was in better shape
for battle than those who had suffered losses. Bernadotte then
set out on the track of the Prussians whom he defeated first at
Halle and then at Lubeck, with the help of Marshal Soult. Now as
chance would have it, at the very hour when the French were
attacking Lubeck, some ships carrying a division of infantry
which King Gustave IV of Sweden had sent to the aid of the
Prussians entered the harbour. The Swedish troops had scarcely
disembarked when, attacked by the French and abandoned by the
Prussians, they were obliged to surrender to Bernadotte.
Bernadotte, I can assure you, had, when he wished, the most
engaging manner and very much wanted to appear before foreigners
as a "Gentleman." To this end, he treated the Swedish officers in
the most benevolent manner. After according them an honourable
capitulation, he returned to them their horses and their baggage,
saw to their needs and invited to his quarters the
commander-in-chief, Count Moerner, as well as the generals and
senior officers; he loaded them with kindnesses and courtesies to
such an extent that, on their return to their country, they
spread everywhere praise for the magnanimity of Marshal

Some years later a revolution broke out in Sweden; King Gustave,
whom a mental disorder had rendered unfit to rule, was removed
from the throne and replaced by his aged uncle, the Duke of
Sudermanie. As this new monarch had no children, the States
Assembly, in order to designate a successor, chose the Prince of
Holstein-Augustenburg, who took the title of Prince Royal. But he
did not long enjoy this dignity, for he died in 1811 after a
short illness, which was put down to poison. The states gathered
once more to elect a new heir to the throne. They were hesitating
between several German princes who put themselves forward as
candidates when Count Moerner, one of the most influential
members of the states, and the former commander of the Swedish
division captured at Lubeck in 1806 by the French, proposed
General Bernadotte, whose generous conduct he recalled. He
praised also Bernadotte's military talents, and observed that the
marshal was allied, through his wife, to Napoleon, whose support
could be most useful to Sweden. A crowd of officers who had also
been captured at Lubeck, joined their voices to that of General
Moerner, and Bernadotte was elected almost unanimously as
successor to the King of Sweden, and mounted the throne a few
years later.

We shall see, further on, how Bernadotte, carried to the steps of
a foreign throne by the fame which he had acquired at the head of
French troops, displayed a lack of gratitude towards his native
country. But now let us return to Prussia.

In one month the main forces of this kingdom, formerly in such a
flourishing condition, had been destroyed by Napoleon, whose
armies occupied the capital and the greater part of the
provinces, and had already reached the Vistula, that great
barrier between northern and central Europe. Marshal Augereau's
corps remained for a fortnight in Berlin to reinforce the Guard
during the long stay which the Emperor made in the town, and left
about the middle of November, heading first for the Oder, which
we crossed at Kostrzyn, and then on to the Vistula whose bank we
reached at Bromburg (?Bydgoszcz). We were now in Poland, the
poorest and nastiest country in Europe...! After the Oder, no
more made roads: we marched on loose gravel or appalling mud.
Most of the land was uncultivated and the few inhabitants we came
across were dirty to a degree which defies the imagination. The
weather which had been magnificent during October and the first
part of November became frightful. We no longer saw the sun, it
rained or snowed continually; food became short; no more wine,
almost never any beer, and what there was atrociously bad; muddy
water, no bread, and billets we had to share with cattle and
pigs. The soldiers used to say, "How dare the Poles call this a

The Emperor himself was disillusioned, for having come intending
to rebuild Poland, he had hoped that the whole population of this
vast country would rise as one man at the approach of the French
army. But nobody budged...! In a vain attempt to rouse some
Polish enthusiasm, the Emperor had invited the famous General
Kosciusko, the leader of the last insurrection, to come and join
him, but Kosciusko stayed peacefully in Switzerland, to where he
had retired, and to the reproaches which were addressed to him,
he replied that he knew the heedless and unstable character of
his compatriots too well to hope that they would ever free
themselves, even with French help. Unable to attract Kosciusko,
the Emperor tried to make use of his renown by addressing to the
Poles a proclamation in the name of this old warrior. Not one of
them took up arms, although our troops occupied several provinces
and even the capital. The Poles were not willing to rebel until
Napoleon had declared the re-establishment of Poland, and he was
not willing to do this until they had risen against their
oppressors, which they did not do.

While 7th Corps was in Bromburg, Duroc, the grand marshal of the
palace, arrived in the middle of the night at Marshal Augereau's
headquarters. I was sent for and told to prepare myself to
accompany Marshal Duroc, who was going as an envoy to the King of
Prussia at Graudentz, and who needed an officer to replace his
aide-de-camp, whom he had just sent to Posnan with despatches for
the Emperor. I had been chosen because it was remembered that the
previous August I had been on a mission to the Prussian court and
that I knew almost all the officers and the court usages.

I was soon ready. The marshal of the palace took me in his
carriage and we went down the left bank of the Vistula, occupied
by French troops, to cross the river by ferry opposite Graudentz.
We took lodgings in the town and then presented ourselves at the
citadel, where all the royal family of Prussia had taken refuge
after loosing four fifths of their state. The Vistula separated
the two armies. The king seemed calm and resigned; the queen,
whom I had seen not long ago looking so lovely, was greatly
changed and seemed overcome by grief. She could not conceal from
herself the fact that having urged the king to declare war, she
was the principal cause of the misfortunes of her country, whose
citizens raised their voices against her. The Emperor could not
have sent a more acceptable envoy to the king than Marshal Duroc,
who had held the post of ambassador in Berlin, and was well known
to both the king and queen who appreciated his pleasant
personality. I was too small a personage to be of any account;
however the king and queen recognised me and greeted me with a
few polite words.

I found the Prussian officers attached to the court had greatly
modified the arrogant attitude they had displayed in August.
Their recent defeat had changed their opinion of the French army;
nevertheless I did not wish to take advantage of this and I
carefully avoided mentioning Jena and our other victories. The
affairs which Marshal Duroc had to discuss with the King of
Prussia related to a letter which this monarch had sent to
Napoleon, requesting a peace. The meeting lasted for two days
which I occupied in reading, and walking on the gloomy parade
ground of the fortress. I did not wish to go up onto the
ramparts, although one enjoys from there an admirable view of the
Vistula, for fear that I might be suspected of examining the
defence works and armaments.

In the battles which had taken place from Jena to the Vistula,
the Prussians had taken about a hundred of our men prisoner, whom
they employed on the earthworks of the fortress in which they
were confined. Marshal Duroc had charged me with the task of
distributing some aid to these poor devils, who were doubly
unhappy in that they could see from the height of the fortress
the French troops from whom they were separated only by the
Vistula. This proximity, and the comparison of their position
with that of their comrades, free and happy on the left bank, led
a French prisoner, one of the elite cavalrymen of the 3rd
Dragoons by the name of Harpin, to attempt to escape. This was no
easy matter, for one had first to get out of the fortress and
then to cross the Vistula; but what cannot be achieved by a
determined man? Harpin, who was employed by the master carpenter
to pile timber, had made, secretly, a little raft; he had taken a
long rope and, at night, had lowered the raft to the foot of the
rampart, and had then descended himself by the same means. He had
already put his raft in the water and was preparing to embark
when he was surprised by a patrol, taken back to the fort and
confined to a dungeon. The next day the Prussian commandant, in
accordance with the common custom of the Prussian army, condemned
Harpin to fifty strokes of the cane. It was useless for Harpin to
claim that as a Frenchman he should not be subject to Prussian
regulations, his status as a prisoner made this complaint void.
He had already been taken to the wooden frame to which he was to
be attached, and two soldiers were preparing to administer the
flogging when, having gone to fetch a book from Marshal Duroc's
coach, which was standing in the parade ground, I saw Harpin
struggling with some Prussians who were trying to tie him up.

Indignant at the sight of a French soldier about to be subjected
to a flogging, I ran towards him, my sabre in my hand, and
threatened to kill the first man to strike a blow! ... Marshal
Duroc's coach was guarded by one of Napoleon's couriers, known in
every post house in Europe as "Moustache." This man, of herculean
strength and the courage to face anything, had accompanied the
Emperor on twenty fields of battle. When he saw me in the middle
of the Prussians he hurried to me, and on my instructions, he
fetched four loaded pistols which were in the coach. We untied
Harpin; I armed him with two of the pistols and put him in the
coach, where I placed "Moustache" next to him. I then told the
commandant that as this coach belonged to the Emperor, whose arms
it bore, it was a sacred place of safety for the French Dragoon,
entry to which was forbidden to all Prussians under penalty of a
bullet in the head, and I told Harpin and "Moustache" to fire on
anyone who attempted to get into the coach. The commandant,
seeing me so determined, abandoned his prisoner for the moment to
go and get orders from his superiors. Then, leaving Harpin and
"Moustache" in the coach with pistols in their hands, I went to
the king's quarters and begged one of the aides-de-camp to go and
tell Marshal Duroc that I needed to speak to him about a matter
which could not wait. Duroc came out and I told him what had

When he heard that they wanted to flog a French soldier, he
shared my indignation. He returned to the king to whom he
protested warmly, adding that if the sentence were to be carried
out, the Emperor by way of reprisal would flog not only the
soldiers but also the Prussian officers who were his prisoners.
The king was a humane man; he ordered that the dragoon Harpin
should be released, and to please Napoleon, from whom he was at
that moment asking peace, he offered to Marshal Duroc to release
to him all the prisoners if he would undertake to send back a
similar number of Prussians. Duroc having accepted this offer, I
went with one of the aides-de-camp to announce the news to the
prisoners, who were overjoyed. We embarked them straight away and
an hour later they were across the Vistula and amongst their
brothers in arms.

Marshal Duroc and I left Graudentz the next night; he approved of
my conduct and told me later that he had given an account of it
to the Emperor, who also approved, and who warned the Prussians
that if they flogged French soldiers he would have all Prussian
officers who fell into his hands, shot!

I rejoined 7th Corps at Bromburg, and we went up the left bank of
the Vistula towards Warsaw. Marshal Augereau's headquarters were
established at Mallochiche. The Emperor arrived at Warsaw on the
19th December, and prepared to cross the Vistula. 7th Corps then
went down the left bank once more to Utrata, where for the first
time on this campaign we saw the Russian outposts on the opposite

Chap. 32

The River Vistula is fast-flowing and very wide; one expected,
because of this that the Emperor would halt his winter operations
there and, protected by the river, would put his troops into
winter quarters until the spring. This however was not to be.
Marshal Davout's and Marshal Lannes' corps crossed the river at
Warsaw, Marshal Augereau and his men crossed at Utrate, from
where we went on to the banks of the Ukra, a tributary of the Bug
and the Vistula. The entire French army having crossed this last
river, found itself face to face with the Russians, against whom
the Emperor ordered an attack on the 24th December. A thaw and
rain made movement extremely difficult on the clay soil, for
there are no metalled roads in this country.

I shall not describe all the actions which were fought that day
to force a passage across the Bug; I shall restrict myself to
saying that Marshal Augereau, given the task of securing the
crossing of the Ukra, ordered General Desjardins to attack with
his division, Kolozomb, and General Heudelet to attack Sochocyzn.
The marshal directed the attack on Kolozomb in person. The
Russians, after burning the bridge which had existed at this
spot, had raised earthworks on the opposite bank which they
defended with cannons and numerous infantry; but they had
neglected to destroy a store of planks and beams which was on the
right bank, at which we had arrived. Our sappers made use of this
material to construct a temporary bridge in spite of a lively
fire which killed several men of the 14th Line regiment, which
was at the head of our columns.

The planks of the bridge were not yet fastened and were wobbling
under the feet of our infantrymen, when the colonel of the 14th,
M. Savary, brother of the Emperor's aide-de-camp, risked crossing
on horseback, in order to put himself at the head of his men; but
he had scarcely reached the bank when a Cossack, arriving at the
gallop, plunged a lance into his heart and disappeared into the
woods! This was the fifth colonel of the 14th who had been killed
by the enemy! You will see later the fatal destiny which always
accompanied this unfortunate regiment. The passage of the Ukra
was secured, the guns captured and the Russians put to flight.
Desjardins' division occupied Sochoczyn, where the enemy had
repulsed the attack by Heudelet's division, a repulse which was
of no consequence, as it was necessary only to secure one
crossing. General Heudelet however, out of misplaced pride, had
ordered the attack to be renewed and was once more driven off
with the loss of some thirty men killed or wounded, among them a
highly thought of engineer officer. I have always disapproved of
the contempt for men's lives which sometimes leads generals to
sacrifice them to their desire to see their names in the

On the 25th of December, the day following the crossing of the
Ukra, the Emperor, pushing the Russians before him, headed for
Golymin, having with him the Guard, Murat's cavalry and the corps
of Davout and Augereau, the last of whom led the column. Marshal
Lannes went off in the direction of Pultusk. There were on this
day some minor encounters with the enemy who were retreating with
all speed. We slept in bivouac amongst the trees.

On the 26th, 7th Corps set out once more in pursuit of the
Russians. We were at a time of year when the days are at their
shortest, and in this part of Poland at the end of December, it
starts to get dark about two-thirty in the afternoon. It was made
more gloomy as we approached Golymin by a fall of snow mixed with
rain. We had not seen the enemy since morning when, on our
arrival at the village of Kuskowo, very close to Golymin, our
scouts, who had seen in the obscurity a large body of troops
which a marsh prevented them from approaching, came to warn
Marshal Augereau, who ordered Colonel Albert to go and
reconnoitre, escorted by twenty-five mounted Chasseurs, whom he
placed under my command.

The mission was difficult for we were in the middle of a huge,
bare plain where one could easily become lost. The ground,
already muddy, was intersected by areas of bog which the poor
light prevented us from seeing clearly; so we advanced with
caution, and found ourselves within twenty-five paces of a line
of troops. We thought at first that this must be Davout's corps,
which we knew was in the neighbourhood, but as no one answered
our challenge, we had no doubt that these were enemy troops.
However, to make quite sure, Colonel Albert ordered me to send
one of my best-mounted troopers up to the line which we could
distinguish in the murk: for this task I picked a bemedalled
corporal named Schmit, a man of proven courage. He, having gone
alone to within ten paces of a regiment whose headgear he
recognised as Russian, fired a shot from his carbine into the
middle of it and came back smartly.

To account for the silence which the Russians had maintained up
till then, I must tell you that this unit had become separated
from the main body of the army, which it was trying to rejoin,
and had lost its way in the vast plains, which it knew to be
occupied by French troops who were heading for Golymin. The
Russian generals, in the hope that they might pass close to us in
the obscurity without being recognised, had forbidden their men
to speak, and in the event of an attack, even the wounded were to
make no outcry. This was an order which only Russian troops would
have obeyed so punctiliously that when Colonel Albert, to warn
Marshal Augereau that we were in the presence of the enemy,
ordered the twenty-five troopers to fire, not a cry nor a word
was heard, and no one fired back!

We then saw, in spite of the poor light, a body of about a
hundred horsemen who were advancing silently to cut off our
retreat. We should have made off at the gallop to rejoin our
columns, but some of our troopers having become stuck in the mud,
we were forced to proceed less rapidly, although pursued by the
Russians, who fortunately had the same trouble as we did. A fire
which had broken out in a nearby farm lit up the ground and the
Russians began to gallop, which compelled us to do likewise. A
new danger arose in that we had left from General Desjardins'
division and were returning to General Heudelet's, who had not
seen us leave and opened fire on us; so that we were being driven
from behind by the Russians, while a hail of bullets in front
wounded several of our men and some horses. It was no use
shouting "We are French. Don't shoot!" The firing continued, and
one cannot blame the officers who took us for the advance guard
of a Russian column who were using French, which is widely
understood among foreigners, in order to deceive them in the
darkness which had now fallen. We were having a bad time, when it
occurred to me to call out by name to the generals, colonels and
battalion commanders of Heudelet's division, names which they
would know could not be known to the enemy. This was a success
and we were at last received into the French line.

The Russian generals, seeing that they were discovered and
wishing to continue their retreat, took a measure of which I
heartily approve, and one which in similar circumstances the
French have never attempted to imitate. The Russians pointed all
their guns at us, and having led away all the horses, they opened
a violent fire to keep us at a distance. During this time they
marched off their columns, and when the ammunition was finished,
the gunners withdrew and left the guns to us. Was not this better
than losing many men in an effort to save the guns, which would
have been continually bogged down and slowed the retreat?

The fierce Russian cannonade became increasingly harmful when it
started several fires in the villages, the spreading light of
which enabled the Russian gunners to pick out the masses of our
troops; in particular the dragoons and Cuirassiers led by Prince
Murat, whose white cloaks made them a target. These units
suffered more losses than the others, and one of our generals of
the Dragoons was cut in two by a cannon-ball. Marshal Augereau,
after taking Kuskowa, entered Golymin, which Marshal Davout was
attacking from the other side. This town was being traversed at
the time by the Russian columns, who, knowing that Marshal Lannes
was marching to cut off their retreat by taking Pultusk, three
leagues from there, were trying to reach that spot before he did
at no matter what cost. So although our soldiers were firing on
them at close range, they did not reply. To do so they would have
had to stop, and minutes were too precious.

Each division and each regiment marched through our fusillade
without a word and without slowing their pace for a moment...!
The streets of Golymin were full of wounded and dying men, yet
one did not hear a sound. It was forbidden! We might have been
shooting at shadows, and it was only when our soldiers attacked
with the bayonet that they convinced themselves that they were
dealing with men. We took thousands of prisoners, while the
remainder marched into the distance.

The marshals deliberated as to whether they should pursue the
enemy, but the weather was so horrible and the night so dark once
one left the neighbourhood of the fires, the men so soaked and
exhausted, that it was decided that they should rest until the
next day.

Golymin being crowded with dead, wounded, and discarded baggage,
Marshals Murat and Augereau, together with some generals and
their staffs, looking for somewhere to shelter from the glacial
rain, established themselves in a huge stable which was near the
town. There, those who could, lay on the dung heap in an attempt
to get warm and to sleep, for we had been on horseback in the
most frightful weather for twenty four hours or more. The
marshals and all the colonels and brass-hats were naturally in
the depths of the stable where it was warmer; as for me, a humble
lieutenant, who came in last, I had to bed down near the doorway,
where I was more or less sheltered from the rain, but exposed to
the freezing wind, since the doorway had no door. The position
was most uncomfortable and added to this I was dying of hunger,
not having eaten since the previous evening. But my lucky star
came once more to my aid. While the well sheltered senior
officers were sleeping in the warm part of the stable, and the
cold was preventing us lieutenants near the doorway from doing
the same, one of Prince Murat's servants arrived. I told him, in
a low voice that his master was asleep; upon this he gave me a
basket containing a roast goose, some bread and some wine, to
give to the prince when he woke, and asked me to tell him that
the mules with the provisions were expected to arrive in an
hour's time. Having said which, he went off to await them.

Loaded with these provisions, I held council in undertones with
Bro, Mainville, and Stoch, who, as badly placed as I, were
shivering with cold and just as hungry. The conclusion reached in
this deliberation was that as Prince Murat was asleep and as his
provisions were due to arrive shortly, he would be able to have a
meal when he woke; while we would be set on horseback and sent
off in all directions without anyone asking if we had eaten or
not; so without straining our consciences too much, we decided to
demolish the contents of the basket, which we did with great
rapidity. I don't know if this was pardonable, but what I do know
is that I have had few meals which I enjoyed more.

While the troops who had been engaged at Golymin were resting,
Napoleon, with all his Guard was wandering about on the plain,
because, alerted by the sound of gunfire, the Emperor had
hurriedly left the chateau where he was installed some two
leagues from Golymin, with the intention of joining us by
marching as the crow flies in the direction of the fires. But the
ground was so soaked, the plain so intersected by bogs and the
weather so awful, that it took him all night to make those two
leagues, and he did not arrive on the field of battle until the
fighting was long over.

On the same day as the fight at Golymin, Marshal Lannes, with no
more than twenty thousand men, attacked at Pultusk some forty
thousand Russians who were retreating, and inflicted immense
losses on them without being able to stop them, so great was
their superiority in numbers.

For the Emperor to have been able to pursue the Russians it would
have required a frost to harden the ground which, on the
contrary, was now so soft and sodden that one sank in at every
step, and several men, notably the batman of an officer in 7th
Corps, were drowned with their horses in the mud. It had now
become impossible to move the artillery and to venture further
into this unknown territory; besides which the troops lacked food
and even boots, and they were extremely tired. These
considerations decided Napoleon to place the whole army in
cantonment in front of the Vistula, from the outskirts of Warsaw
to the gates of Danzig. The soldiers, billeted in the villages,
were at last sheltered from the weather, received some rations
and were able to repair their equipment.

The Emperor returned to Warsaw to prepare for a new campaign.
The divisions of Augereau's corps were spread in the villages
around Plock, if one can give that name to a confused heap of
lowly shacks, inhabited by unwashed Jews; but almost all the
so-called towns in Poland are built like this and have similar
inhabitants. The landowners, great and small, live in the country
where they employ their peasants to cultivate their estates.

The marshal was lodged in Christka, a sort of chateau built of
wood, as was customary in the country. He found in this manor
some reasonable accommodation, while the aides-de-camp settled
wherever they could in the rooms and barns. As for me, by
ferreting around I found in the gardener's quarters a fairly good
room with a fireplace; I settled in there with two friends, and
leaving to the gardener and his family their very unsavoury beds,
we made some out of planks and straw, on which we were very

Chap. 33.

We celebrated at Christka the new year of 1807, which was very
nearly the last year of my life. It, however, began very
pleasantly for me, since the Emperor, who had not shown any
favour to Augereau's staff during the Austerlitz campaign, fully
repaired this oversight by heaping us with rewards. Colonel
Albert was promoted to brigadier-general, Major Massy to
lieutenant-colonel of the 44th Line regiment; several
aides-de-camp were decorated; and finally the lieutenants, Bro,
Mainville, and I, were made captains. This promotion gave me more
than usual pleasure, since I had done nothing remarkable to earn
it, and I was only twenty-four years old. Marshal Augereau, when
he gave us our brevets of captain, said to Mainville, Bro, and
me, "Let's see which of you three is the first to become a
colonel." It was in fact I, who six years later commanded a
regiment, while my comrades were still only captains: it is also
true that in this period I had been wounded six times!

Once we had taken up winter quarters the enemy did the same,
opposite to us but a considerable distance away. The Emperor
expected that they would let us pass the winter in peace;
however, our rest lasted only for a month; this sufficed but was
not really enough.

The Russians, seeing the ground covered by snow and hardened by a
very sharp frost, thought that this frigid weather would give the
men from the north a great advantage over those from the south,
unaccustomed to the severe cold. They resolved therefore to
attack us, and in order to do this they moved, screened by the
immense forest which lay between us, the greater part of the
troops who faced us before Warsaw, down to the lower Vistula,
opposite the cantonments of Bernadotte and Ney, whom they hoped
to surprise and overrun by weight of numbers before the Emperor
with the other army corps could come to their aid. But Bernadotte
and Ney put up a stiff resistance, and the Emperor had sufficient
time to mount an attack with a considerable force on the enemy
rear who, seeing themselves at risk of being cut off from their
operational base, retreated towards Konigsberg (Kaliningrad). We
had therefore, on the 1st of February, to quit our billets where
we were reasonably comfortable, and restarting the war, to go and
sleep in the snow.

At the head of the central column, commanded by the Emperor in
person, was Prince Murat's cavalry, then came Marshal Soult's
corps, supported by that of Augereau, finally came the Imperial
Guard. Marshal Davout's corps marched on the right flank of this
huge column, and Marshal Ney's on the left. Such an agglomeration
of troops heading for the same place soon strips the countryside
of whatever food supplies are available, so we suffered much from
hunger; only the Guard had wagons which carried food for
distribution, the other corps lived on whatever they could find,
that is to say they lacked practically everything.

I am not going to give any details of the actions which preceded
the battle of Eylau, because Augereau's corps, which was in the
second line, took no part in these various contacts, of which the
most important occurred at Mohrungen, Bergfried, Guttstadt, and
Valtersdorf. But at last, before the little town of Landsberg,
the Russians, who had been chased for a week with a sword at
their backs, decided to halt and make a stand. To do this, they
placed eight elite battalions in an advantageous position, their
right bounded by a village by the name of Hoff, their left by a
thick wood, and their centre protected by a very steep-sided
ravine, which could be crossed only by a narrow bridge. Eight
cannons were placed in front of this line.

When the Emperor arrived opposite this position, he did not think
it necessary to wait for the infantry of Marshal Soult, which was
still several leagues behind, and attacked the Russians with some
regiments of light cavalry who, dashing bravely over the bridge,
crossed the ravine; but, assailed by gunfire and grapeshot, our
squadrons were driven back in disorder into the gulch, from which
they emerged with much difficulty. The Emperor, seeing the light
cavalry repulsed, replaced them by a division of Dragoons, whose
attack, received in the same manner as before, had a similar
outcome. The Emperor then ordered the advance of General
D'Hautpoul's terrible Cuirassiers, who crossed the bridge under a
hail of grapeshot and fell on the Russian line with such ferocity
that they literally flattened it. There then ensued the most
frightful butchery; the Cuirassiers, enraged at the losses
suffered by their comrades of the Hussars and Dragoons, almost
entirely exterminated the eight Russian battalions, All were
either killed or captured! The battlefield was a scene of horror.
Never has a cavalry charge had such a devastating result. The
Emperor demonstrated his satisfaction with the Cuirassiers by
embracing their general before the whole division. General
D'Hautpoul exclaimed, "To show myself worthy of this honour, I
shall dedicate my life to your majesty." He kept his word, for
the next day he was killed on the battlefield of Eylau. What an
epoch! And what men!

The enemy army which, from a plateau beyond Landsberg, had
witnessed the destruction of its rearguard, retired promptly
towards Eylau, and we took possession of Landsberg. On the 7th
February the Russian commander-in-chief, Benningsen, having
decided to give battle, concentrated his army around Eylau,
mainly in positions between us and the town. Murat's cavalry and
Soult's infantry took these positions after fierce fighting, for
the Russians held tenaciously to Ziegelhof, which dominates
Eylau, as they wanted to make it the centre point of their line
for the battle on the following day; but they were forced to
retreat from the town. Night seemed to have put an end to this
fighting, the prelude to the coming general action, when a
fusillade of shots rang out in the streets of Eylau.

I know that military authors who have written about this
campaign, claim that Napoleon ordered an attack because he did
not want the town to remain in Russian hands; but I am sure that
they are mistaken, and for the following reason:--

When the head of Marshal Augereau's column, coming down the road
from Landsberg, drew near to Ziegelhof, the marshal climbed onto
the plateau where the Emperor was already stationed, and I
actually heard Napoleon say to Augereau, "It has been suggested
to me that we should take Eylau this evening; but, apart from the
fact that I don't like fighting at night, I do not wish to push
my centre too far forward before the arrival of Davout on my
right flank and Ney on my left. So I am going to wait for them
until tomorrow on this plateau which, furbished with artillery,
will provide a fine position for our infantry; then, when Davout
and Ney are in the line, we shall march, together, against the
enemy." Having said this, the Emperor ordered his bivouac to be
set up at the foot of the Ziegelhof, and his guard to encamp
around it.

But while Napoleon was explaining his plans to Marshal Augereau,
who greatly approved of his prudence, the staff of the imperial
palace, coming from Landsberg with their baggage and servants,
arrived at our outposts, which were at the gates of Eylau,
without anyone telling them to stop at Ziegelhof. These
employees, used to seeing the imperial quarters very well
guarded, and not having been warned that they were almost on top
of the Russians, were interested only in selecting a good lodging
for their master, and they set themselves up in the post-house,
where they unpacked their equipment, stabled their horses, and
began to cook. In the midst of these preparations they were
attacked by a Russian patrol and would have been captured had it
not been for the intervention of the guard which always
accompanied the Emperor's baggage. At the sound of this outbreak
of firing, the troops who were in position at the gates of the
town ran to the rescue of Napoleon's equipment, which was already
being pillaged by the Russian soldiers. The Russian generals,
thinking that the French were attempting to seize Eylau, sent
reinforcements to their side, and so a sanguinary battle was
fought in the streets of the town, which ended up in our hands.

Although this attack had not been ordered by the Emperor, he saw
no reason not to profit by it, and he set himself up in the Eylau
post-house. The Guard and Soult's troops occupied the town which
was surrounded by Murat's cavalry. Augereau's troops were
positioned in Zehen, a little hamlet in which we hoped to find
some provisions, but the Russians had taken everything with them
as they withdrew, so that our unhappy regiment, which had
received no rations for eight days, had to make do with some
potatoes and water. The equipment of the staff having been left
at Landsberg, our supper was not as good as that of the soldiers,
for we had no potatoes. Eventually, on the morning of the 8th,
when we were about to mount our horses, one of the marshal's
servants brought him some bread, and he, always generous, shared
it out amongst his aides-de-camp. After this frugal meal, which
for several of us was to be our last, the corps moved to the post
to which it had been assigned by the Emperor.

In accordance with the plan which I explained when I started
these memoirs, I shall not weary you with too detailed a
description of the various phases of this terrible battle of
Eylau, but will limit myself to the principal events.

On the morning of the 8th, the position of the two armies was as
follows. The Russians had their left at Serpallen, their centre
in front of Auklapen and their right at Schmoditten. They were
awaiting the arrival of eight thousand Prussians, who were
expected to go to Althoff where they would form the extreme right
wing. The enemy's front line was protected by five hundred
artillery pieces, of which a third at least were of large
calibre. The French situation was much less favourable, since
their two wings had not yet arrived. The Emperor had, at the
start of the action, only a part of the force with which he had
expected to do battle. Marshal Soult's corps was placed on the
right and left of Eylau, the Guard in the town itself, and
Augereau's corps between Eylau and Rothenen, opposite Serpellen.
The enemy formed almost a semicircle about us, and the two armies
occupied a terrain in which there were numerous ponds covered by
snow, which neither side could see.

Neither Marshal Davout, who should have been on our right,
towards Molwitten, nor Marshal Ney, who should have been on our
left around Althoff, had yet appeared, when at daybreak, about
eight in the morning, the Russians began the attack by a violent
cannonade to which our gunners, though fewer in numbers, replied.
Though fewer, they had the advantage, however of being much
better trained than the Russians, and also of directing their
fire at masses of men who had no cover, while the Russian
cannon-balls mainly hit the walls of Eylau and Rothenen. Soon a
strong enemy column advanced with the intention of capturing the
town; it was vigourously repelled by the Guard and Marshal
Soult's troops. At this moment, the Emperor heard, with much
pleasure, that from the top of the church tower could be seen
Davout's men arriving via Molwitten and marching towards
Serpallen, from where they expelled the Russians and drove them
back to Klein-Sausgarten.

The Russian commander, Benningsen, seeing his left beaten and his
rear menaced by the audacious Davout, resolved to crush him, and
directed the greater part of his force against him. It was then
that Napoleon, with the object of preventing this movement by
creating a diversion against the enemy centre, ordered Augereau
to attack, although he foresaw the difficulties of this

There are on the field of battle, circumstances when one must
sacrifice some troops in order to preserve the great majority and
ensure victory. General Corbineau, the Emperor's aide-de-camp,
was killed by a cannon shot near to us while bringing to Marshal
Augereau the order to advance. The marshal passed between Eylau
and Rothenen and led his two divisions boldly against the enemy
centre, and already the 14th Line regiment who made up our
advance guard had seized the position which the Emperor had
ordered to be taken and held at all costs, when the guns which
formed a semi-circle about Augereau hurled out a storm of ball
and grape-shot of hitherto unprecedented ferocity. In an instant,
our two divisions were pulverised under this rain of iron!
General Desjardins was killed and General Heudelet gravely
wounded; however, they stood firm until the corps having been
almost entirely destroyed, the remnants were compelled to retire
to the cemetery of Eylau, with the exception of the 14th, who
almost entirely surrounded by the enemy, remained on the little
hill which they had occupied. The situation was made even worse
by a gale of wind which blew a heavy snowfall into our faces, and
reduced visibility to about fifteen paces, so that several French
batteries opened fire on us, as well as the Russians. Marshal
Augereau was wounded by a bullet.

The devotion of 7th Corps, however, produced a good result, for,
relieved by our attack, Marshal Davout was able not only to
maintain his position, but to take Klein-Sausgarten and even push
his advance-guard as far as Kuschitten, in the enemy's rear.
Then, in an attempt to deliver a knock-out blow, Napoleon
despatched, between Eylau and Rothenen, the squadrons commanded
by Murat. This terrifying mass fell on the Russian centre,
overwhelming them, cutting them down with their sabres and
throwing them into the greatest confusion. The valiant General
D'Hautpoul was killed at the head of his Cuirassiers, as was
General Dahlmann, who had succeeded General Morland in the
command of the Chasseurs of the Guard. The success of our cavalry
allowed us to carry the day. Eight thousand Prussians, escaped
from pursuit by Marshal Ney, and arriving at Althoff, tried to
mount a new attack by advancing, one does not quite know why, on
Kuschitten instead of Eylau, but Davout drove them off, and the
arrival of Ney's corps at Schmoditten towards the end of the day,
made Benningsen fear that his line of communication would be cut,
and so he ordered a retreat in the direction of Konigsberg,
leaving the French masters of the horrible battlefield covered
with dead and dying. Since the invention of gunpowder one has not
seen such a terrible effect, for in relation to the numbers
engaged at Eylau, in comparison to all the battles, ancient or
modern, the proportion of losses was highest. The Russians had
twenty-five thousand casualties, and although the figure for
French losses has been given as ten thousand, it is my belief
that it was at least twenty thousand. A total of forty-five
thousand men, of whom more than half died!

Augereau's corps was almost entirely destroyed. Out of fifteen
thousand combatants under arms at the beginning of the action,
there remained by evening only three thousand, under the command
of Lieutenant colonel Massy: the marshal, all the generals and
all the colonels had been either killed or wounded.

It is difficult to understand why Benningsen, knowing that Davout
and Ney had not yet arrived, did not take advantage of their
absence to attack Eylau at daybreak with the numerous troops of
the centre of his army, instead of using precious time in
bombarding us; for his superior strength would certainly have
made him master of the town before the arrival of Davout, and the
Emperor would then have regretted having moved so far forward
instead of consolidating his position on the plateau of Ziegelhof
and awaiting the arrival of his flank forces, as he had intended
the evening before.

The day after the battle the Emperor followed the Russians to the
gates of Konigsberg; but that town was fortified and it was
thought unwise to attack it with troops weakened by a sanguinary
battle, and what is more, almost all the Russian army was in
Konigsberg and the surrounding country.

Napoleon spent several days at Eylau, partly to collect the
wounded and partly to reorganise his forces. The survivors of
Augereau's corps were spread amongst other units and the marshal
was given leave to return to France for the treatment of his
wound. The Emperor, seeing that the bulk of the Russian army was
now at a distance, put his troops into billets in the towns and
villages in front of the lower Vistula. There was no interesting
event during the rest of the winter, except the taking of Danzig
by our troops. Hostilities in the open country would not begin
again until the month of june, as we shall see later.

Chap. 34.

I did not want to interrupt the story of the battle of Eylau to
tell you what happened to me in this terrible conflict; a sad
tale, to understand which we must go back to the autumn of 1805
when the officers of the Grande Armee were equipping themselves
in preparation for the Battle of Austerlitz. I had two good
horses and was looking for a third of a better quality, a
charger. This was something difficult to find, for although
horses were infinitely cheaper than they are today, they were
still expensive, and I did not have much money; but I had a piece
of very good luck.

I ran into a German scholar, named M. d'Aister, whom I had known
when he was teaching at Soreze; he was now tutor to the children
of a rich Swiss banker, M. Scherer, who lived in Paris and was an
associate of M. Finguerlin, who was a very wealthy man who kept
up great state, and had a stable of many horses, amongst which
was a charming mare called Lisette, an excellent animal from
Mecklemberg, good-looking, swift as a stag, and so well schooled
that a child could ride her. But this mare had a dreadful and
fortunately rare vice: she bit like a bulldog, and attacked
furiously anyone who displeased her, which decided M. Finguerlin
to sell her. She was bought by Mme. de Lauriston, whose husband,
an aide-de-camp to the Emperor, had written to her to ask her to
buy him a charger.

M. Finguerlin, when he sold the mare, had omitted to mention her
behaviour, and on the evening of her purchase, a groom, whom she
had torn open, was found lying at her feet. Mme. de Lauriston was
justly alarmed and demanded cancellation of the sale. Not only
was this done, but the police, in order to prevent another such
accident, required that a notice be fixed to Lisette's loose-box
informing any potential buyer of her ferocity, and that any sale
would be null and void unless the buyer declared in writing that
he was aware of this notice.

As you may imagine, with such a recommendation, the mare was very
difficult to sell; M. d'Aister told me that her owner was
prepared to let her go for whatever was offered. I offered a
thousand francs and M. Finguerlin handed Lisette over to me,
although she had cost five thousand. For several months she gave
me a great deal of trouble; it took four or five men to saddle
her, and she could not be bridled without being blindfolded and
having all four legs tied; but once on her back one found her a
matchless ride.

However, since during the time I had owned her she had bitten
several people, including me, I was thinking of getting rid of
her, when, having taken into my service a man called Francis
Woirland, who was scared of nothing, he, before approaching
Lisette, about whose bad character I had warned him, armed
himself with a very hot leg of roast mutton, and when she
attempted to bite him, he offered this to her, which she seized
in her teeth; but having burned her mouth and her tongue, the
mare gave a cry and dropped the gigot, and from that moment she
submitted herself to Woirland, whom she no longer dared to bite.
I tried the same trick and achieved the same result. Lisette, as
docile as a dog, allowed herself to be handled by myself and my
servant; she even became a little more tractable with the grooms
whom she saw every day, but woe betide any stranger passing too
close to her. I could give many examples of her ferocity, but I
shall limit myself to one.

While Marshal Augereau was staying at the chateau of Bellevue,
near Berlin, the servants, having noticed that while they were at
diner, someone was coming to steal the sacks of oats from the
stable, asked Woirland to leave Lisette loose near the door. The
thief arrived, slipped into the stable and was already carrying
off one of the sacks when the mare grabbed him by the neck,
dragged him into the yard and broke two of his ribs by trampling
on him. People came running to the cries of the terrified thief,
whom Lisette was unwilling to abandon until my servant and I
persuaded her, for in her rage she would have savaged anyone
else. The wickedness of this animal had got worse since the
officer of the Saxon Hussars had treacherously stabbed her in the
shoulder on the battlefield of Jena.

It was this mare that I was riding at the time when the remains
of Marshal Augereau's corps, shattered by a hail of cannon and
grape shot, were attempting to re-form in the area of the
cemetery. You will recall that the 14th Line regiment had stayed
alone on the little hill, which it might leave only if ordered to
do so by the Emperor. The snow having stopped for a moment, one
could see this gallant regiment almost completely surrounded by
the enemy, waving its Eagle aloft to show that it still stood
fast and needed help. The Emperor, touched by the devotion to
duty of these brave men, decided to attempt their rescue; he told
Marshal Augereau to send an officer with orders to them to quit
the hillock, form a small square and withdraw towards us; while a
brigade of cavalry would go to meet them and second their

This was before the great charge made by Murat and his cavalry,
and it was almost impossible to carry out the Emperor's command
because a swarm of Cossacks separated us from the 14th. It was
clear that any officer sent towards the unfortunate regiment
would be killed or captured before he got there. Nevertheless, an
order is an order; and the marshal had to obey.

It was the custom, in the imperial army, for the aides to line up
a few paces from their general, and the one in front went off
first; when he had completed his mission, he joined the back of
the queue, so that as each took his turn to carry orders, the
dangers were shared equally. A brave captain of engineers, named
Froissart, who, although not an aide-de-camp, was attached to the
marshal's staff, was nearest to him and was sent off to carry the
order to the 14th. He left at the gallop; we lost sight of him
in the midst of the Cossacks and never saw him again, nor did we
know what became of him.

The marshal, seeing that the 14th did not budge, sent another
officer, named David. He suffered the same fate as Froissart, and
we heard no more of him. It is likely that they were both killed,
and having been stripped of their clothing their bodies were not
recognisable among the many dead who covered the ground. For the
third time the marshal called out "An officer to take orders
"!...It was my turn.

When he saw before him the son of his old friend, and, I think I
may dare to say, his favourite aide-de-camp, the good marshal's
face fell and his eyes filled with tears, for he could not
disguise from himself that he was sending me to an almost certain
death; but the Emperor's order had to be obeyed; I was a soldier;
no one else could take my place, I would not have allowed
something so dishonourable. So I took off! Now, while prepared
to sacrifice my life, I thought it my duty to take every
precaution which might save it. I had noticed that the two
officers who had gone before me had left with drawn sabres, which
made me think that they intended to defend themselves against the
Cossacks who would attack them during the ride. This intention
was in my opinion ill-advised, for they would have been forced to
stop and fight a multitude of enemies who, in the end, had
overwhelmed them. I adopted a different approach, and leaving my
sabre in its scabbard, I thought of myself as a rider who, to win
the prize in a race, goes as fast as possible by the shortest
route towards the winning post without taking any notice of what
is to right or left of him during his passage. Now, my winning
post being the hillock occupied by the 14th, I resolved to get
there without paying any attention to the Cossacks, whom I
blotted out of my thoughts.

This system worked perfectly. Lisette, light as a swallow, and
flying rather than galloping, rushed through space, leaping over
the piled up bodies of men and horses, over ditches and the
broken mountings of guns, as well as the half-extinguished
bivouac fires. Thousands of Cossacks were scattered about the
plain. The first ones to see me behaved like hunters who, having
raised a hare, mark its presence by shouts of "Yours! Yours!" But
none of them tried to stop me, firstly because I was going so
fast, and also perhaps because each one thought I would be caught
by his comrades who were further on. In this way I escaped from
them all and arrived at the 14th without either I or my excellent
mare having suffered a scratch.

I found the 14th formed in a square on top of the hillock; but
the slope of the ground was so gentle that the enemy cavalry had
been able to carry out a number of charges, which had been
vigourously repelled, so that they were surrounded by heap of the
dead bodies of horses and Russian Dragoons, which formed a sort
of rampart, and now made the position almost inaccessible to
cavalry; for even with the aid of our infantrymen, I had great
difficulty in getting over this bloody and frightful defence
work, but at last I was inside the square.

Since the death of Colonel Savary, killed during the crossing of
the Ukra, the 14th had been commanded by a battalion commander;
when I gave this officer the order which I carried, for him to
leave his position and try to rejoin the army corps, he replied
that the enemy artillery which had been firing at them for an
hour had occasioned such heavy losses that the handful of
soldiers which he had left would inevitably be exterminated if
they went down onto the level ground; and anyway there was no
time to prepare for the execution of this movement, since a
Russian column, coming to attack, was now close to us. "I can see
no way of saving the regiment," said the battalion commander. "Go
back to the Emperor and say good-bye to him from the 14th; and
take back the Eagle which we can no longer defend."

The Eagles of the infantry were very heavy, and their weight was
increased by the long thick pole of oak on which they were
mounted. I was bending forward and attempting to detach the
Eagle from its pole, when one of the many bullets which the
Russians were firing at us went through the back part of my hat,
very close to my head. The shock was made worse by the fact that
the hat was held on by a strong leather strap which went under my
chin, and so offered more resistance to the blow. I was partially
stunned by this, and found myself unable to move.

However the column of Russian infantry was now climbing the
hillock; they were Grenadiers, whose headgear, garnished with
metal, looked like mitres. These men, full of liquor, flung
themselves on the feeble remnants of the 14th, who defended
themselves bravely with their bayonets, and even when the square
was broken, formed themselves into little groups and continued
for a long time the unequal struggle. In my confused state, I was
unable to react in any way; I was attacked by a drunken Russian
soldier, who thrust his bayonet into my left arm, and then,
aiming another blow at me, lost his balance and missing his mark,
he slashed Lisette's haunch.

The pain of this injury aroused her ferocious instincts, she
grabbed the soldier with her teeth and tore away the greater part
of his face,then, kicking and biting, she forced her way through
the melee and taking the path by which we had come, she went off
at the gallop in the direction of the Eylau cemetery while,
thanks to the Hussar's saddle in which I was seated, I remained
on her back.

As we approached Eylau a new danger arose. The snow had started
to fall again and in the poor visibility a battalion of the Guard
took me for a Russian and opened fire on me, but although my
cloak and my saddle were hit, both I and my mare were untouched.
Lisette, continuing to gallop, went through the three lines of
infantry like a grass-snake through a hedge, but this last burst
of speed drained her resources, she was losing a lot of blood
because one of the big veins in her haunch had been cut, she
collapsed suddenly and fell, throwing me to the ground, where I
was rendered unconscious.

I must have remained in this state for about four hours, and I
was not aroused by the great charge of Murat's ninety squadrons
of cavalry, which went past me and perhaps over me. When I came
to, this is the dreadful position in which I found myself. I was
completely naked except for my hat and my right boot. A soldier
of the transport section, believing me to be dead, had despoiled
me, as was customary, and in an attempt to remove my boot, was
dragging at my leg, with one foot on my stomach. I was able to
raise the upper part of my body and to spit out some clots of
blood, my face, shoulders and chest were badly bruised, and blood
from my wounded arm reddened the rest of my body. I gazed around
with haggard eyes, and must have been a horrible spectacle. The
transport driver made off with my possessions before I could
summon my wits and address a word to him. I was too dazed and
weak to move, and unable to call for help. The cold was
increasing and I had little hope of surviving without some form
of miracle, and something like a miracle took place.

Marshal Augereau had a valet de chambre, named Pierre Dannel, a
very intelligent boy, loyal, but inclined to be cheeky; and it so
happened that while we were at Houssaye, Dannel, having spoken
back to his master, had been given his notice. Desolated, Dannel
begged me to intercede for him, which I did with so much zeal
that he was reinstated in the marshal's good graces; since when
the valet had been devoted to me. Dannel had taken it on himself
to come from Landsberg, on the day of the battle, to bring some
victuals to his master, which he had put in a very light wagon,
able to go anywhere, and containing all the things that the
marshal used most frequently. This little wagon was driven by a
soldier who had served in the same transport unit as the man who
had stripped me. This fellow, carrying my effects, was passing
the wagon which was standing at the Eylau cemetery when,
recognising his old friend, he went up to him to show him the
lovely booty he had taken from a dead man.

Now, while we were in cantonments by the Vistula, the marshal
having told Dannel to go to Warsaw to get some provisions, I
asked him to take my pelisse and have the black astrakhan with
which it was trimmed, removed and replaced by grey; a style newly
adopted by the aides-de-camp of Prince Berthier, who set the
fashion in the army. I was still the only one of Marshal
Augereau's officers who had grey astrakhan.

Dannel, who was present when the transport driver displayed his
booty, easily recognised my pelisse, which made him look more
closely at the other belongings of the alleged dead man, amongst
which he saw my watch, marked with my father's initials, for it
had been his. The valet de chambre had no doubt that I had been
killed, but mourning my death, he wished to see me for the last
time, and having been led there by the transport driver, he found
me alive!

This good fellow, to whom I owe my life, was overjoyed. He
hurried to fetch my own servant and some orderlies, who carried
me into a barn where they rubbed me down with rum, while they
sent for Dr. Raymond. When he at last arrived, he dressed the
wound in my arm and declared that the blood which I had lost
would save me.

Soon I was surrounded by my comrades including my brother. A
reward was given to the transport rider who had taken my clothes,
which he handed over with good grace; but as they were soaked
with blood and water, Marshal Augereau had me wrapped up in
clothes of his own.

The Emperor had given permission for Augereau to return to
Landsberg, but his wound made it impossible for him to ride a
horse; so his aides-de-camp got hold of a sledge on which they
mounted the body of a carriage. The marshal, who had decided not
to abandon me, had me strapped in beside him, for I was too weak
to sit upright.

Before I was picked up from the battlefield, I had seen my poor
Lisette near to me. Her wound had stopped bleeding and she was
back on her feet, eating some straw which had been used by
soldiers in their bivouacs, the previous night. My servant, who
was very fond of Lisette, returned to look for her; he cut strips
of clothing from a dead soldier and dressed the wound on her
haunch, and got her fit enough to walk to Landsberg.

The commandant of the little garrison of the town, had had the
good sense to prepare quarters for the wounded. The officers of
the staff were put into a large and comfortable inn, so that
instead of spending the night lying naked in the snow, I was
tucked into a good bed and being looked after by my brother, my
companions and the worthy Dr. Raymond. The doctor had to cut the
boot which the soldier had tried to pull off, and even so, he had
difficulty in getting it off because my foot had swollen so much.
You will see, later that this could have cost me my leg, and
perhaps even my life.

We stayed in Landsberg for thirty-six hours. The rest and the
care given me restored my ability to move, and when, on the
second day after the battle, Marshal Augereau set off for Warsaw,
I was able, though still very weak, to travel on the sledge. The
journey took eight days, because we moved only in short stages; I
was recovering my strength little by little, but I was aware of
an icy cold in my right foot.

On our arrival at Warsaw, I was put in a large house which had
been reserved for the marshal, which suited me very well, as I
was unable to get out of bed. The wound of my arm was healing,
the bruising of my upper body was dispersing, and my skin was
resuming its normal colour, however the doctor did not know why I
could not get up, and hearing me complain about my leg, he
decided to have a look at it, and what do you suppose he found?
My foot had become gangrenous! An accident which had occurred
many years ago was the cause of this. While I was at Soreze, my
right foot had been pierced by the foil of a fencing opponent,
which had lost its button. It seems that this injury had made my
foot more sensitive to cold, and while I was lying on the snow it
had become frostbitten, and not having been treated in time,
gangrene had set in at the site of the old fencing injury, the
area was covered by a scar the size of a five franc piece. The
doctor looked with alarm at my foot, then, taking a bistoury, and
having me held down by four servants, he picked off the scab and
dug into my foot to remove the dead flesh, just as one would cut
out the rotten part of an apple.

I suffered greatly, at first without complaining, though it was a
different matter when the bistoury, having reached live tissue,
exposed the muscles and bones, which one could see. The doctor
then stood on a chair and having soaked a sponge in warm
sweetened wine, he allowed it to fall, drop by drop into the hole
he had made in my foot. The pain was intolerable! Nevertheless I
had to endure for a week this fearful torture, but my leg was

Today, when one is so prodigal with decorations and promotions,
an officer who ran the risks which I had run in reaching the 14th
regiment, would certainly be rewarded; but under the Empire this
sort of devotion to duty was regarded as so normal that I was
given no medal, and never thought of asking for one.

A long rest having been judged necessary for the cure of Marshal
Augereau's wound, the Emperor instructed him to go to France for
treatment, and brought Marshal Massena from Italy; to whom my

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