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The Memoirs of General the Baron de Marbot

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brother, Bro and several of my friends were appointed. Marshal
Augereau took me with him, along with his secretary and Dr.
Raymond. I had to be lifted in and out of the carriage, but
otherwise I felt my health improve the further we got away from
those frozen wastes to a more friendly climate. My mare spent the
winter in the stables of M. de Launay, the administrator of army
forage supplies.

The marshal went by way of Rawa to Silesia. As long as we were in
dreadful Poland, where there are no metalled roads, it took
twelve and sometimes sixteen horses to drag the coach out of the
bogs and swamps through which we travelled. We went always at
walking pace and it was not until we reached Germany that we
found ourselves in a civilised country with proper roads. We
stopped at Dresden, and spent ten or twelve days at
Frankfurt-on-Main, from where we had marched the previous October
to attack Prussia.

We finally reached Paris about the 15th of March. I could walk
with much difficulty, and had my arm in a sling, and I still felt
the effects of what I had been through, but the pleasure of
seeing my mother once more, and the care she devoted to me,
combined with the gentle influence of the returning spring,
effected my cure.

Chap. 35.

I spent the end of March, all of April, and the first week of May
in Paris. It was during this time that I got to know the
Desbrieres, a family of which my marriage was soon to make me a
member. I had recovered my health, and I realised that I could
not stay any longer in Paris. Marshal Augereau sent me to Marshal
Lannes who took me willingly onto his staff.

The Emperor, in order to keep an eye on any moves which the enemy
might be tempted to make during the winter, had settled himself
in the middle of the cantonments of his troops, first at Osterode
and then at the chateau of Finkenstein, from where, while
planning a new campaign, he governed France and directed his
ministers, who, every week, sent him their reports. The
portfolios holding the various documents furnished by each
ministry were collected every Wednesday by M. Denniee the elder,
under-secretary of state for war, who sent them off on Thursdays
in the charge of a junior official whose duty it was to deliver
them into the hands of the Emperor. But this system worked very
badly because most of these officials had never been out of
France. They did not know a word of German, nor did they
understand the currency or the regulations regarding posting in
foreign countries, so they did not know how to manage matters
once they had crossed the Rhine. In addition, these gentlemen,
being unused to fatigue, soon found themselves overcome by that
of a journey of more than three hundred leagues, which lasted
continuously for ten days and ten nights. One of them was so
incompetent as to allow his despatches to be stolen. Napoleon was
so angry at this mishap that he sent a courier to Paris to tell
M. Denniee not to give the portfolios in future to officials
except those who knew Germany, and who, being able to support
fatigue and privation, could carry out their duties more

M. Denniee was having great difficulty in finding anyone to fill
the post, when I turned up with a letter ordering me to report to
Marshal Lannes. Delighted to have found someone to take the next
lot of despatches, he warned me to be ready to leave on the
coming Thursday, and gave me five thousand francs for expenses
and the purchase of a carriage, which suited me very well, as I
did not have much money to get me back to the army in the depths
of Poland.

We left Paris about the 10th of May. Both my servant and I were
armed, and if one of us left the coach the other remained on
guard. We knew enough German to keep the postilions up to the
mark, and as I was in uniform, they obeyed me with more alacrity
than they would a civilian official. So that instead of taking
the usual nine and a half or ten days over the journey, we made
it in eight and a half.

The Emperor was delighted to have his despatches twenty-four
hours earlier than expected, and after praising the keenness
which had led me to ask to return to duty in spite of my recent
wounds, he added that as I had been so efficient a courier, I
could leave for Paris that same night to take back some other
portfolios; a task which would not prevent me from taking part in
the campaign, which could not restart before the beginning of

Although I had spent nothing like the five thousand francs which
M. Denniee had given me, the marshal of the palace gave me the
same sum to return to Paris, which I did as quickly as possible.
I stayed no more than twenty-four hours in the capital, and left
once more for Poland; the minister again gave me five thousand
francs for this third journey; it was far more than was
necessary, but that was how Napoleon wanted it. It is true that
these trips were very tiring and very boring, even though the
weather was fine. I was on the road day and night for nearly a
month in the sole company of my servant.

I reported to the Emperor at Finkenstein, and was afraid that I
might have to continue as postman until fighting broke out, when
fortunately some replacements were found and the Emperor
authorised me to go to Marshal Lannes, to whom I reported at
Marienberg on the 25th May. He had with him Colonel Sicard,
Augereau's aide-de-camp, who had been kind enough to take charge
of my horses. It was with much pleasure that I saw once more my
mare Lisette, who was fit enough for more service.

The fortress of Danzig, besieged by the French during the winter,
had fallen into their hands. The return of the good weather soon
saw campaigning recommence. The Russians attacked our cantonments
on the 5th of June, and were sharply repulsed at every point. On
the 10th there was a fierce encounter at Heilsberg which some
historians describe as a battle. The enemy were once more
defeated. I shall not go into any detail about this affair, since
Marshal Lannes' corps took very little part in it, not having
arrived until nightfall. We did, however, come under some heavy
fire and Colonel Sicard was mortally wounded. He had already been
wounded at Eylau, and although scarcely recovered from his
injuries, had returned to take part in the renewed fighting.
Before he died, the good colonel requested me to say his farewell
to Marshal Augereau, and gave me a letter for his wife. I was
very much upset by this painful scene.

The army now being in pursuit of the Russians, we passed through
Eylau. The fields which we had left three months previously
covered with snow and dead bodies, were now overspread by a
delightful carpet of green, bedecked with flowers. What a
contrast! How many soldiers lay beneath those verdant meadows? I
went and sat at the place where I had fallen and been despoiled,
and where I also would have died, had not a truly providential
combination of circumstances come to my aid. Marshal Lannes
wanted to see the hillock which the 14th had so valiantly
defended. I took him there. Since the time of the battle, the
enemy had been in occupation of the place; however, we found,
still intact, the monument which all the corps of the French army
had erected to the memory of their dead comrades of the 14th,
thirty-six of whose officers had been buried in the same grave.
This respect for the dead reflected honour on the Russians. I
remained for a few moments on the spot where I had been hit by
the bullet and wounded by the bayonet, and thought of the brave
men who lay in the dust, and whose fate I had so nearly shared.

The Russians, having been defeated on the 10th of June at
Heilsberg, retreated hastily and got a day ahead of the French
who, by the evening of the 13th, were concentrated beyond Eylau,
on the left bank of the Alle. The Russians occupied Bartenstein
on the right bank of this river, which the two armies now
descended on opposite sides.

Benningsen, whose stores of food and ammunition were in
Konigsberg, where the Prussian corps was stationed, wanted to
reach this town before the arrival of the French, but to do so he
had to cross over onto the left bank of the Alle, where there
were the French troops. The Russian commander hoped to reach
Friedland sufficiently far ahead of the French to be able to
cross the river before they could oppose him. The same reasons
which made Benningsen wish to hold on to Konigsberg, made
Napoleon wish to capture it. He had for several days constantly
manoeuvred to out-flank the Russian left, and keep them away from
the place, in the direction of which he had sent Murat, Soult and
Davout to oppose the Russians if they arrived before us.

The Emperor, however, did not stick to this scheme, and
foreseeing that the Russians would attempt to cross the Alle at
Friedland, he aimed to occupy the town before they did, and on
the night of the 13th-14th June, he despatched towards it the
corps of Marshal Lannes and Mortier, and three divisions of
cavalry. The rest of the army was to follow.

Marshal Lannes, who was in the van, with the Oudinot Grenadiers
and a brigade of cavalry, having arrived at Posthenen, a league
from Friedland, sent the 9th Hussars to reconnoitre the latter
town. They were repulsed with losses, and daybreak revealed a
large part of the Russian army massed on the opposite bank of the
Alle on the high ground between Allenau and Friedland. They had
begun to cross the old town bridge, beside which they had
constructed two new ones.

The aim of the two armies was very easily understood. The
Russians wanted to cross the Alle to get to Konigsberg, and the
French wanted to stop them and drive them back across the river,
which had very steep banks. The only crossing point was at
Friedland. The Russians had difficulty in deploying from
Friedland onto the open ground of the left bank, owing to the
fact that the way out of the town was much restricted by a large
lake, and by a stream called the Mill Stream, which ran in a very
steep-sided ravine. To protect their crossing, the Russians had
placed two strong batteries of guns on the right bank, which
could cover the town and part of the land between Posthenen and

The Emperor was still at Eylau: the various corps marching
towards Friedland were still several leagues away, when Marshal
Lannes, having marched all night, arrived before the town. The
marshal would have liked to attack the enemy immediately; but
already they had thirty thousand men drawn up on the level ground
before Friedland, and their lines, the right of which was
opposite Heinrichsdorf, the centre at the mill stream, and the
left at the village of Sortlack, were being endlessly reinforced;
while Marshal Lannes had no more than ten thousand men; however,
he deployed them skillfully in the village of Posthenen and the
woods of Sortlack, from where he threatened the Russian's left
flank, while with two divisions of cavalry he tried to stop their
advance toward Heinrichsdorf, which lay on the route from
Friedland to Konigsberg. There was a brisk exchange of fire
before Mortier's corps arrived. Mortier, to dispute with the
Russians the road to Konigsberg, while waiting for fresh
reinforcements, occupied Heinrichsdorf and the area between this
village and Posthenen. However, it was not possible that Lannes
and Mortier with twenty-five thousand men could resist the
seventy thousand Russians who would soon face them. The situation
was becoming highly critical. Marshal Lannes sent a succession of
officers to warn the Emperor to hasten the arrival of the army
corps which he knew were coming up behind him. Mounted on my
swift Lisette, I was the first to go. I met the Emperor as he was
leaving Eylau; he was beaming with pleasure! He called me to his
side, and as we galloped along, I had to explain to him what had
happened before I left the battle. When I had finished my
recital, the Emperor said to me, smiling, "Have you a good
memory?" "Passable, Sir," I replied. "Well what anniversary is
this, the 14th of June?" "Marengo" I said "Yes! Yes! The
anniversary of Marengo," said the Emperor, "and I shall beat the
Russians as I beat the Austrians!"

Napoleon was so convinced about this, that as he went along the
columns, where the men greeted him with many cheers, he said to
them repeatedly "Today is a lucky day, it is the anniversary of

Chap. 36.

It was after eleven o'clock when Napoleon arrived on the
battlefield, where several corps had already come to join Lannes
and Mortier. The remainder, including the Guard, were arriving
one by one. Napoleon readjusted the line: Ney was on the right,
positioned in the wood at Sortlack; Lannes and Mortier formed the
centre, between Posthenen and Heinrichsdorf; the left stretched
out beyond this last village. The heat was overpowering. The
Emperor gave the troops an hour's rest, after which, at the
signal of a volley by twenty-five guns, a general attack would

Marshal Ney's corps had the most difficult task, for they were to
come out of their hiding place in the woods of Sortlack, fight
their way into Friedland, which was filled with the main forces
and reserves of the enemy, seize the bridges and thus cut off the
Russian's way of retreat.

It is difficult to understand why Benningsen had placed his
forces in front of the narrow exit from Friedland, and with their
backs to the Alle with its steep banks, in the presence of the
French who commanded the open country. The explanation given
later by the Russian general was that having been a day ahead of
Napoleon, he did not believe that the French troops could cover
in twelve hours a distance which had taken his men twenty-four
hours, and he had thought that Lannes' corps was an isolated
advance-guard of the French army, which he could easily crush.
When this illusion had been dissipated, it was too late to bring
his army back to the other bank because the narrow defile at
Friedland would have caused certain disaster, so he preferred to
stand and fight.

At about one in the afternoon, the twenty-five guns at Posthenen,
given the order by the Emperor, fired a volley, and battle was
joined all along the line. At first our left and our centre moved
very slowly to give the right, commanded by Ney, time to capture
the town. The marshal, emerging from Sortlack wood, took the
village of that name and advanced rapidly towards Friedland,
sweeping aside everything in his path; but as they moved forward
from the wood and the village of Sortlack to the first houses of
Friedland, Ney's troops were exposed to the fire of the Russian
batteries which, positioned behind the town on the heights of the
opposite bank, caused them severe losses. This fire was made more
dangerous by the fact that the gunners, separated from us by the
river, could aim their guns in safety, knowing that our infantry
could not attack them. This serious problem could have led to the
failure of the attack on Friedland, but Napoleon overcame it by
sending General Senarmont with fifty guns, which he placed on the
left bank of the Alle, and subjected the Russian batteries to
such heavy fire that they were soon silenced. As soon as the
enemy fire had ceased, Marshal Ney resumed his advance, driving
the Russians back into Friedland, and mingled in confusion with
them, entered the streets of the unfortunate town, where the
mortar bombs had started a huge fire.

A savage bayonet fight ensued in which the Russians, crammed
together and scarcely able to move, suffered enormous losses! ...
At last, in spite of their courage, they were compelled to
retreat in disorder and seek refuge by crossing the bridges to
the other bank; but General Senarmont had moved his guns into a
position from which he could fire on the bridges, which he soon
broke, after killing many of the Russians who were attempting to
escape across them. All those who remained in Friedland were
either killed, captured or drowned while trying to cross the

Up until this point, Napoleon had, so to speak, made his left and
his centre mark time; he now moved them rapidly forward. General
Gortschakoff, who commanded the centre and right wing of the
enemy, attempted, bravely, to recapture the town, (which would
have been of no use, because the bridges were down, although he
did not know that). He charged at the head of his men into the
burning Friedland; but driven out by Ney, who was occupying the
town, and forced back into the open, he found himself confronting
our centre, who drove him back to the Alle at Kloschenen. The
Russians defended themselves heroically and refused to surrender
although completely surrounded. Many of them were killed by our
bayonets, the remainder rolled down the steep banks into the
river, where a large number were drowned.

The extreme right of the enemy was composed mostly of cavalry who
tried during the battle to capture or outflank the village of
Heinrichsdorf; but driven off by our troops, they went back to
the banks of the Alle, under the command of General Lambert, who,
seeing that Friedland was in the hands of the French and that the
Russian left and centre were defeated, gathered all he could of
the regiments of the right wing and made off from the battlefield
down the side of the Alle. Nightfall prevented the French from
following, so his was the only body of Russian troops to escape
the disaster.

Our victory was one of the most complete; we captured all the
Russian guns; we did not take a many prisoners during the action,
but a great many of the enemy were killed or wounded, amounting
to more than twenty-six thousand; our losses were no more than
three thousand dead and four or five thousand wounded. Of all the
battles fought by the Emperor, this was the only one in which the
number of his troops exceeded that of the enemy. The French
strength was eighty thousand and the Russian's only seventy-five
thousand. The remnants of the Russian army marched in disorder
all night, and retired behind the River Pregal, having destroyed
the bridges.

Marshals Soult, Davout and Murat had not been involved in the
battle of Friedland, but their presence induced the Russians to
abandon Konigsberg, which town our troops entered. We found there
an immense store of all kinds of material.

I did not suffer any injury during the battle, though I ran into
a number of dangers. You saw how I left Posthenen in the morning,
on Marshal Lannes' orders, to go as quickly as possible to warm
the Emperor that the Russians were crossing the Alle, and that a
battle appeared imminent. Napoleon was at Eylau; I had therefore
to make a journy of about six leagues to reach him, which would
have presented no difficulty to my excellent mare if the road had
been clear, but as it was congested by the troops of various
units hurrying to the aid of Marshal Lannes at Friedland, there
was no way in which I could gallop along it. I therefore went
across country, which meant that Lisette, having had to jump
hedges, fences and ditches, was already very tired when I met the
Emperor, who was just leaving Eylau. However, I had, without a
moment of rest, to return with him to Friedland, and although
this time the troops moved to one side to let us pass, my poor
mare, having galloped over twelve leagues altogether, six of them
being across country, and in very hot weather, was utterly
exhausted by the time I had rejoined Marshal Lannes on the
battlefield. I realised that Lisette could not continue to carry
me during the action, so, taking advantage of the rest which
Napoleon allowed the troops, I set out to look for my servant, in
order to change horses; but in the middle of such a large
collection of troops there was not much hope of finding him. It
was, in fact, impossible, and I went back to the staff still
mounted on the weary Lisette.

Marshal Lannes and my comrades, who saw my problem, had advised
me to dismount and allow my mare a few hour's rest, when I caught
sight of a Hussar leading a horse which he had captured from the
enemy. I took it over, and gave Lisette to one of the troopers of
the marshal's escort, so that he could take her back behind the
lines, let her have some food and hand her over to my servant,
when he could find him. I then got astride my new mount, took my
place among the aides-de-camp, and when it came to my turn, I
went off.

I was, at first, very pleased with my fresh horse, until the time
came when, Marshal Ney having gone into Friedland, Marshal Lannes
sent me to warn him of an enemy movement. I had barely entered
the town when this devil of a horse, which had behaved so well in
the open country, finding itself in a little square, where all
the houses were on fire and the street covered with burning
planks and furniture, in the midst of which a number of bodies
were being roasted, was so frightened by the sight of the flames
and the smell of burning flesh that it would go neither forward
nor back, and, digging in its heels, it remained motionless,
snorting loudly, and no amount of spurring would persuade it to
move. Now the Russians, having gained a momentary advantage,
pushed our men back to the point where I was, and from the height
of a church and some neighbouring houses, they were raining down
bullets, while two guns which they carried with them fired
grape-shot at the soldiers among whom I was.

Many men were killed around me, which recalled to my mind the
position in which I had found myself at Eylau in the middle of
the 14th. As I was not anxious to be wounded again and in any
case, in staying where I was I was not carrying out my mission, I
simply dismounted, and abandoning my infernal mount, I slipped
through the houses to contact Marshal Ney at another spot, which
was pointed out by some officers.

I was with him for some fifteen minutes; there were some bullets
flying around, but nothing like so many as there had been at the
place where I had left my mount. The Russians were eventually
driven back at bayonet point and forced to retreat toward the
bridges, whereupon Marshal Ney sent me to take the good news to
Marshal Lannes. To get out of the town, I took the same route as
I had taken to get in, and went through the little square where I
had left my horse. It had been the scene of a fierce encounter
which had left many dead and dying, among whom I saw my stubborn
horse, its back broken by a cannon-ball, and its body riddled by
bullets!.... From there I made for the outskirts in something of
a hurry because the burning houses were collapsing on all sides
and I was afraid of being buried beneath the debris. At last I
got out of the town and reached the edge of the lake.

The heat of the day, added to that of the fire which was raging
in the streets through which I had passed, had bathed me in
sweat, and I was dropping with fatigue and hunger, for I had
spent a night on horseback to come from Eylau to Friedland, I had
galloped back to Eylau and returned to Friedland once more, and
had not eaten since the previous evening. I was not looking
forward, therefore, to crossing, under a blazing sun, the large
area covered with high standing corn which separated me from
Marshal Lannes. But once again I had a stroke of luck. General
Grouchy's division of dragoons had been engaged not far away in a
sharp encounter in which, although victorious, they had lost a
number of men, and the colonels had, as was usual, collected the
horses of the men who had been killed and put them in the hands
of a detachment which would lead them away. I saw this body of
men, of which every trooper was leading four or five horses and
was taking them to the lake to drink.

I spoke to the officer in charge who, encumbered by all these led
horses, was only too glad to let me have one, which I promised to
return to his regiment in the evening. He picked out for me an
excellent beast, which had been the mount of a sous-officier
killed during the charge; astride of this horse, I returned
rapidly to Posthenen.

I had hardly left the edge of the lake when it became the theatre
of the most savage encounter, which was due to the desperate
attempt made by Gortschakoff to reopen a way of retreat by
capturing the road to Friedland which was held by Marshal Ney.
Caught between the marshal's troops and those of our centre, who
were now advancing, Gortschakoff's Russians defended themselves
bravely amongst the houses bordering the lake; so that if I had
stayed there, where I had thought of resting for a while, I would
have landed in the middle of this fierce outbreak of fighting. I
rejoined Marshal Lannes at the moment when he was moving towards
the lake to attack the rear of the Russian troops whom Ney was
driving away from the front of the town, and I was able to give
him some useful information about the terrain on which we were

If the French army did not take many prisoners during the battle
of Friedland, it was a different matter the next day and the days
following; for the Russians, pursued with a bayonet at their
backs, thrown into complete disorder and utterly exhausted, were
abandoning their ranks and lying down in the fields, where we
captured a great number. We also collected a large quantity of
artillery. All those members of Benningsen's army who escaped
hurried back across the Nieman, behind which was the Russian
emperor who, perhaps recalling the danger to which he had been
exposed at Austerlitz, had judged it unwise to assist in person
at the battle of Friedland; and two days after our victory he
hastened to ask Napoleon for an armistice, to which Napoleon

Three days after the battle the French army reached the town of
Tilsit and the river Nieman, which at this point is only a few
leagues from the frontiers of the Russian empire.

The rear of a victorious army presents a most dismal spectacle.
The path of their advance is strewn with the dead, dying, and
wounded, while the survivors, soon forgetting those comrades who
have fallen in the fighting, rejoice in their success and go
forward cheerfully to new adventures. Our men were delighted to
see the Nieman, whose opposite bank was occupied by the remains
of that Russian army which they had defeated in so many
engagements; and where, in contrast to their own lighthearted
songs, there reigned a mournful silence. Napoleon established
himself at Tilsit, and his troops encamped around the town. The
Nieman separated the two armies; the French occupied the left
bank and the Russians the right.

The Emperor Alexander having requested a meeting with Napoleon,
this took place on the 25th of June, in a pavilion on a raft
anchored in the middle of the river, in sight of the two armies
which lined the banks. It was a most imposing spectacle. The two
emperors arrived, each from his own side, accompanied by only
five of the principal officers of their armies. Marshal Lannes,
who flattered himself that he should accompany the Emperor, saw
himself displaced by Marshal Bessieres, an intimate friend of
Prince Murat; and he never forgave the marshals for depriving him
of what he considered his right.

So Marshal Lannes stayed with us on the quay at Tilsit, from
where we saw the two emperors embrace on meeting, which
occasioned much cheering from both camps. The next day, the 26th,
in the course of a second interview which took place once more in
the pavilion on the Nieman, the Russian emperor presented to
Napoleon his unfortunate friend, the King of Prussia. This prince
whom the fortunes of war had stripped of a vast kingdom, leaving
him only the small town of Memel and some miserable villages,
maintained a bearing worthy of a descendant of Frederick the
Great: Napoleon greeted him politely but coolly, for he
considered that he had reason to complain of his conduct, and he
planned to confiscate the greater part of his states.

To facilitate the meetings of the two Emperors, the town of
Tilsit was declared neutral, and Napoleon handed over half of it
to the Russian emperor, who set himself up there with his Guard.
The two sovereigns spent some twenty days together, during which
time they decided the fate of Europe. During these proceedings,
the King of Prussia was relegated to the right bank, and had no
quarters in Tilsit, which he visited but rarely. One day Napoleon
went to call on the Queen of Prussia, who was said to be greatly
distressed. He invited her to dine with him on the following day.
She accepted the invitation, no doubt with little pleasure, but
realising that at a time when peace was being sought it was
necessary to take every measure to soften the heart of the

Napoleon and the Queen of Prussia thoroughly detested one
another: she had grossly insulted him in several proclamations,
and he had returned the complement in his bulletins. Their
meeting, however, did not display their mutual hatred; Napoleon
was respectful and attentive, the queen gracious in her attempts
to captivate her former enemy; attempts made all the more
determinedly as she was not unaware that the peace treaty
created--under the name of the kingdom of Westphalia--a new
state, whose territory was to be provided by the electorate of
Hesse, and by Prussia itself.

The Queen was resigned to the loss of several provinces, but she
could not accept the loss of the fortified city of Magdeberg,
possession of which was needed for the security of Prussia. For
his part, Napoleon, who planned to nominate his brother Jerome as
King of Westphalia, intended to add Magdeberg to this new state.
It appears that, during the meal, the Queen deployed her not
inconsiderable charms, and when Napoleon, to change the
conversation, praised a superb rose which the Queen was wearing,
she said to him, "Would your majesty not accept this rose in
return for Magdeberg?" A more chivalrous person might have
accepted, but Napoleon was too much of a realist to be won over
by a pretty proposition. One may be sure that he restricted
himself to admiring the beauty of the rose and also of the hand
which proffered it, but he did not take the flower, which brought
tears to the Queen's eyes. The conqueror, however, did not seem
to notice. He kept Magdeberg and politely conducted the Queen to
the boat which was to carry her to the opposite bank.

During our stay at Tilsit, Napoleon held a review of his Guard
and the army in the presence of Alexander, who was impressed by
the martial air and bearing of these troops. The Russian Emperor,
in his turn, put on display some fine battalions of his Guard,
but he did not dare to parade his line regiments, whose numbers
had been so greatly reduced at Heilsberg and Friedland. As for
the King of Prussia, of whose regiments there remained only the
broken debris, he did not exhibit them at all.

Napoleon drew up, with Russia and Prussia, a peace treaty in
which the principal articles related to the creation of the
kingdom of Westphalia for the benefit of Jerome Bonaparte. The
elector of Saxony, now an ally and friend of France, was elevated
to the dignity of king, and was awarded, in addition, the Grand
Duchy of Warsaw, composed of a vast province of the former
Poland, which was recovered from the Russians. I shall not go
into the less important articles of the treaty, which resulted in
the re-establishment of peace between the great powers of
continental Europe.

In elevating his brother to the throne of Westphalia, Napoleon
added to the mistakes he had already made in awarding the kingdom
of Naples to Joseph and that of Holland, Louis. The people of
these countries felt humiliated at being ruled by foreigners who
had not themselves done anything of importance and who were, in
fact, nonentities, who had no merit except that of being
Napoleon's brothers. The dislike and distrust which these new
kings attracted contributed largely to the Emperor's downfall.
The conduct of the King of Westphalia in particular made very
many enemies for Napoleon.

Having concluded the treaty, the two Emperors parted with mutual
assurances of friendship, which at the time seemed sincere.

Chap. 37.

The French army was spread out into the various provinces of
Germany and Poland under the command of five marshals, in whose
number Lannes had asked not to be included, since his ill-health
required his return to France. If I had been his permanent
aide-de-camp, I would have had to return with him, but I had an
even better reason for going, and that was to rejoin Marshal
Augereau, to whose staff I had not ceased to belong, my
attachment to Marshal Lannes being only temporary. I made ready
to return to Paris: I sold, as well as possible, my two horses,
and I sent Lisette to the registrar-general, M. de Launey, who,
having taken a liking to her, had asked me to let him have her
when I had no further use for her. Her injuries and hard work
had calmed her down, and I lent her to him for an indefinite
period; he mounted his wife on her, and kept her for seven or
eight years until she died a natural death.

During the twenty days which the Emperor had spent at Tilsit, he
had despatched a great many officers, some to Paris, some to
other parts of the empire, so that there were hardly any left
available for duty. Napoleon did not want to take officers from
their regiments, so he ordered a list to be made of all those who
had joined the campaign voluntarily and those who did not belong
to any army corps nor to the staff of any of the five marshals
who were in command. I was included in this list, and felt sure
that the Emperor, for whom I had already carried despatches,
would choose me in preference to officers whom he did not know;
and indeed, the Emperor sent for me on the 9th of July, and
having given me some voluminous portfolios and some despatches
for the King of Saxony, ordered me to go to Dresden and await him
there. The Emperor intended to leave Tilsit that same day, but
was going on a long detour to visit Konigsberg, Marienwerder, and
Silesia, so that I would be several days ahead of him.

I crossed Prussia once more, and saw again several of our
battlefields; I went through Berlin and arrived at Dresden two
days before the Emperor. The court of Saxony was aware that a
peace had been agreed, and that it raised the elector to the rank
of king, and awarded him the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, but they did
not yet know that the Emperor was to pass through Dresden on his
way to Paris; it was I who gave this information to the new king.

You may imagine the result of this! ...Immediately the court, the
town, and the army were thrown into a turmoil to organise a grand
reception for the great Emperor who, after having so generously
restored to liberty the Saxon troops captured at Jena, had loaded
their sovereign with honours! I was received with enthusiasm; I
was lodged in the chateau in a fine apartment, where I was
magnificently cared for, and the king's aides-de-camp showed me
round all the interesting sights of the palace and the town.
Eventually the Emperor arrived, and in accordance with the
protocol, which I already knew, I hurried to hand over the
portfolios to M. Meneval, and to ask for the Emperor's further
orders. These I found agreeable, for I was instructed to carry
some fresh portfolios to Paris, and the Emperor gave me a letter
which I was to deliver personally to the Empress Josephine. The
marshal of the palace, M. Duroc, gave me eight thousand francs to
cover the expense of the journey from Tilsit to Dresden and from
Dresden to Paris. I took to the road in high spirits: I had just
taken part in three fine campaigns, during which I had been
promoted to captain, and had been noticed by the Emperor; we were
about to enjoy the delights of peace, which would allow me to
spend a long time with my mother; I was fully recovered; I had
never had so much money; everything conspired to make me happy,
and I was very happy.

I arrived at Frankfurt-on-main, where a lieutenant colonel of the
Imperial Guard named M. de L... was in command. The Emperor had
given me a letter for this officer, from whom he wanted, I think,
some confidential information, for M. de L... was in touch with
M. Savary, who ran the secret police. This colonel invited me to
dine with him, after which he conducted me back to my coach; but
as I got in I noticed a fair sized package which was not part of
my despatches. I was about to call for my batman to get an
explanation for this, when Colonel de L... stopped me, and told
me, in an undertone, that the package contained some dresses in
Berlin knitwear and other materials banned in France, and was
destined for the Empress Josephine, who would be much obliged to
me for bringing them to her! I recalled only too well the cruel
anxieties I had suffered as a result of the false report which I
had been persuaded to give the Emperor regarding the numerical
strength of the "Chasseurs a Cheval" at Austerlitz, to consent to
be engaged once more in some underhand business: so I flatly
refused. To be sure I would have liked to please the Empress, but
I was aware of the inflexible severity with which Napoleon
treated those found guilty of smuggling, and after facing so many
dangers, and shedding so much of my blood in battle, I had no
wish to sacrifice whatever merit I had gained in the eyes of the
Emperor by transgressing his laws in order to draw a smile of
thanks from the Empress. To overcome my objections Colonel de
L... pointed out that the package had several wrappings, of which
the outermost, addressed to the minister for war, bore the seal
of the 7th Light Infantry and the designation "Record of
accounts." He was sure that the customs would not dare open such
a package, the outer covering of which I could remove when I
reached Paris and deliver the stuff to the Empress without being
compromised; but in spite of all this fine reasoning, I
absolutely refused to take part in this transaction and ordered
the postilion to set off. When we arrived at the post-house, half
way between Frankfurt and Mainz, I took my batman to task for
having taken into the coach this extra package; he replied that
during dinner time, M. de L... himself had put these packages
into the coach: he had supposed that they contained more
despatches, and had not thought that he could refuse to accept
them from the hands of the commanding officer in person. "Did you
say packages?" I cried, "were there then several? He took away
only one." And now, rummaging amongst the Emperor's portfolios, I
found a second package of contraband which the colonel had put
into my trunk without my knowledge. I was taken aback by this
trickery and was tempted to throw the dresses onto the highway.
However I did not dare, and I continued my journey, determined
that if the contraband was seized I would explain how it had been
put into my coach, and by whom the stamp of the 7th Light
Infantry had been put on the wrapping; for I had no wish to face
the anger of Napoleon; but as this defence would have compromised
the Empress,I decided that I would use it only as a last resort,
and that I would make every effort to avoid my coach being
examined. A stroke of luck and a little subterfuge got me out of
this dilemma.

I arrived, very worried, at the bridge over the Rhine at Mainz,
which separates Germany from France, and my anxiety was increased
by the sight of the great collection of customs officers and
soldiers in unifor, who were waiting round this frontier. When my
carriage was stopped, in the usual manner, two men arrived
simultaneously at the door; one was a customs officer, to carry
out a search, and the other was an aide-de-camp to Marshal
Kellerman, who was in command of the station, and who wanted to
know if the Emperor was on his way. This is my chance! I thought
to myself, and pretending not to notice the customs officer, I
replied to the aide-de-camp, "The Emperor is coming behind me."
This was no lie, he was indeed following me, but at an interval
of two days...which I did not think it necessary to add.

My words were heard by all around me and threw them into a state
of frenzied activity. The aide-de-camp went off across the bridge
at the gallop, at risk of tumbling into the Rhine in his haste to
warn Marshal Kellerman. The guard took up their arms. The customs
men and their superiors tried to arrange themselves in the most
military manner possible in order to look good in front of the
Emperor and, as my carriage got in their way, they told the
postilion to clear off....So there I was! Freed from their

I went on to the posting-house and quickly changed horses; but
while this was being done, a violent storm broke over Mainz and
the rain began to fall in torrents. It was five o'clock in the
afternoon, dinner time; but on the news of the approaching
arrival of the Emperor, the general alarm was beaten throughout
the town; on which signal the marshal, generals, prefect, mayor,
civil and military authorities, all threw down their napkins, and
hastily donning their best clothes, they went in the pouring rain
through the streams of water running in the streets to take up
their posts; while I, who was the cause of all this commotion,
was laughing my head off as I made off at full speed drawn by
three good post-horses.

In view of the fact that the Empress was willing to disobey her
august spouse by wearing clothes made of prohibited material, and
that a colonel was willing to slip contraband into my coach
without my knowledge, the trick which I had played seemed to me
to be excusable. In any case, since it was June, the soaking
which I had caused these Mainz officials to undergo would do no
harm except to their clothes. When I was far from Mainz, I could
still hear the sound of drums, and I learned afterwards that they
had stayed up all night. The Emperor arrived two days later, but
as he had had an accident to his coach, the good citizens of
Mainz blamed that for the delay of which their fine clothes were
the victims. I was heading swiftly and happily towards Paris,
when a most disagreeable accident interrupted my progress, and
turned my happiness to annoyance. You will understand that when a
sovereign travels, it would be impossible to supply a change of
horses for the numerous carriages which precede and follow him,
if the staging posts were not reinforced by horses, known as "de
tournee", brought from posts established on other routes. Now, as
I was leaving Dombasle, a little town this side of Verdun, a
confounded postilion "de tournee" who had arrived the night
before, not having noticed a steep hill which one encounters
after leaving the staging post, lost control of his horses during
the descent and overturned my carriage, breaking the springs and
the bodywork. To make matters worse, it was a Sunday and all the
population had gone to a fete in a neighbouring village, so that
I could not find a workman. Those that I found the next day were
so unskillful that I had to spend two mortal days in this
miserable place.

I was about to set out again when an outrider having announced
the arrival of the Emperor, I took the liberty of stopping his
coach to tell him of the accident which I had suffered. He
laughed, took back the letter for the Empress which he had given
me, and went on his way. I followed him to St. Cloud, from where,
after giving the portfolios to the cabinet secretary, I went to
my mother's home in Paris.

I took up once more my position as aide-de-camp to Marshal
Augereau, a very easy task, as it consisted of going every month
to spend one or two weeks at La Houssaye, where daily life was
always so amusing. Thus rolled by the end of the summer and the
autumn; during which time the Emperor's policies were leading
towards fresh events and storms whose terrible commotions would
nearly swallow me up; me, a very small personage, who, in his
carefree youth, thought of nothing but enjoying life, after
having seen death at such close quarters.

It has been rightly said that the Emperor was never so great and
powerful as in 1807, when, after defeating the Austrians, the
Russians and the Prussians, he had concluded a peace so
favourable to France and to himself. But scarcely had Napoleon
ended his war against the northern powers, when his evil genius
drove him to undertake one even more terrible, in the south of
Europe, in the Iberian peninsula.

End of Volume 1, The Memoirs of General the Baron de Marbot.
Translated by Oliver C. Colt

The Memoirs of General the Baron de Marbot. Translated by
Oliver C. Colt

Contents of Volume 2.

Chap. 1. My marriage. Farewell to Massena.

Chap. 2. Biography of Massena.

Chap. 3. 1812. Appointed to 23rd Chasseurs. The intrigues of
Count Czernicheff.

Chap. 4. War becomes inevitable. Warnings given to Napoleon. The
Imperial court at Dresden. Faulty composition of army.

Chap. 5. Review by the Emperor. The army at the Nieman. Notes on
historians of the 1812 campaign. Bernadotte's attitude. The

Chap. 6. Crossing of Nieman. Entry into Wilna. I meet the enemy.
The 23rd at Wilkomir. Problems in Lithuania. The advance.

Chap. 7. The Russian army split. Bagration escapes from Jerome.
Fruitless attack on Dvinaberg. I defeat two of Wittgenstein's
units. We leave the Grande Armee. Composition of 2nd Corps.

Chap. 8. Jakobovo and Kliastitsoui. I am wounded.

Chap. 9. The marsh at Sebej. Retreat. The ford at Sivotschina.
Death of Koulnieff. A last farewell.

Chap. 10. Fresh withdrawal by Oudinot. Marches and
countermarches. Retreat to Polotsk. General St. Cyr. Oudinot is
wounded. St. Cyr takes over.

Chap. 11. Surprise attack on the enemy. Various incidents. We
settle in Polotsk.

Chap. 12. The advance of the Grande Armee. Capture of Smolensk.
The battle for Moscow.

Chap. 13. Bad news from Spain. Rostopschine. The fire of Moscow.
Revival of the Russian army. Koutousoff's treachery.

Chap. 14. Decision to retreat. Napoleon forced to change route. I
become a Colonel. Bravery of Ney as rearguard.

Chap. 15. Situation of 2nd Corps. Bavarian demoralisation.
Mission to Count Lubenski.

Chap. 16. The Austrians defect. The defence of Polotsk.
Wittgenstein captured but escapes. The Bavarians leave us. We
join Marshal Victor.

Chap. 17. Oudinet returns and separates from Victor. Grave
situation of the army. Loss and recapture of Borisoff. The bridge
over the Beresina burnt. We collect much booty from Borisoff.

Chap. 18. Corbineau rejoins 2nd Corps. The enemy are deceived.

Chap. 19. Loss of Partouneaux's division. The catastrophe at the
Beresina. 2nd Corps forms the rearguard. I am wounded again.

Chap. 20.Intense cold. Thieving in the army. Arrival at Wilna.
Using sledges. Arrival at Kovno. Crossing the Vistula.

Chap. 21. Causes of our disaster.

Chap. 22. Worrying general situation. Incompetent administration.
Question the retention of fortresses. The state of France. I go
to the depot at Mons.

Chap. 23. New hostilities on the Elbe. Battles of Lutzen and
Bautzen. An armistice. I rejoin the regiment. The state of the
army. Napoleon should negotiate.

Chap. 24. The armistice broken. Treachery of Jomeni. A painful

Chap. 25. The battle of Dresden. Vandamme at Kulm.

Chap. 26. Oudinot and Macdonald both suffer defeat. The plateau
of Jaur. We recross the Katzbach.

Chap. 27. Forces concentrate at Dresden. The Baskirs.

Chap. 28. The battle of Leipzig.

Chap. 29. Vain attempt at armistice. Battle of 18th October.
Bernadotte fights against us. Indecisive result of fighting.

Chap. 30. A critical situation. Lack of preparation for a
retreat. The allies enter Leipzig. Premature destruction of the
bridge over the Elster.

Chap. 31. I gather the remnants of our army at the Elster. The
retreat to the Saale. Erfurt. The army reached Hanau.

Chap. 32. The battle of Hanau. The retreat continues.

Chap. 33. The last events of 1813. Dresden surrendered. Disasters
in Spain. The situation in Italy and the Tyrol.

Chap. 34. I am nominated commandant of the department of
Jemmapes. A difficult position. Our troops are recalled to Paris.

Chap. 35. Napoleon's last stand. Resistance becomes impossible.
Inadequate measures taken to defend Paris. Belated return of the
Emperor to the capital. Paris should have been held. Underhand
plotting against Napoleon.

Volume 2.

Chap. 1.

My brother and the rest of Massena's aides-de-camp made haste to
leave Spain and come to join us in Paris, where I remained all
summer and the following autumn. I went each month to spend some
days at the Chateau de Bonneuil, the home of M. and Mme.
Desbrieres. During my absence the Desbrieres had been most
friendly towards my mother, and on my return the affection I had
felt for a long time for their daughter was increased, and I was
shortly permitted to ask for her hand in marriage. The marriage
was agreed, and I even had, for a time, the hope of being
promoted to colonel before this important ceremony took place.

It was the accepted thing for the Emperor to sign the marriage
contract of any of the colonels in the army, but he only very
rarely accorded this favour to officers of lower rank, and they
were required to inform the minister for war of the reasons which
led them to ask for this distinction. I based my request on what
the Emperor had said to me when I saw him on the eve of the
battle of Marengo. He had said to me, speaking of my father who
had died during the siege of Genoa, "If you behave yourself and
follow in his footsteps, I, myself, will be your father." I added
that since that day I had been wounded eight times, and was
conscious that I had always done my duty.

The minister, Clarke, a very stern character, who almost always
rejected requests of this sort, agreed that mine merited
consideration, and promised me that he would submit it to his
majesty. He kept his word, for a few days later I was ordered to
report to the Emperor at the chateau of Compiegne, and to bring
with me the notary who held the contract of marriage; this was
the good M. Mailand, with whom I set off in a post carriage.

When we arrived, the Emperor had gone hunting: not that he much
enjoyed the sport, but he thought that he should copy the former
kings of France. The signing was therefore put off until the next
day, which greatly upset M. Mailand who was awaited in Paris. But
what could one do?

On the following day we were presented to the Emperor, whom we
found in the apartment where, twenty years later, I have so often
served as aide-de-camp to princes of the House of Orleans. My
contract was signed in the salon where later was signed that of
the King of Belgium with Princess Louise, the daughter of King
Louis-Phillipe of France.

During these short interviews, Napoleon was always very affable.
He addressed some questions to the notary, asked me if my fiancee
was pretty, what was her dowry, etc. etc. On dismissing me he
said that he would like to see me in a good position, and that he
would soon reward me for my good services. For a moment I saw
myself as a colonel, and this hope was reinforced when, on
leaving the Imperial presence, I was accosted by General Mouton,
Comte de Lobau, who assured me confidentially that the Emperor
had put my name on a list of officers to whom he wished to give
the command of a regiment. My pleasure on hearing this was
increased by my knowledge that the Comte de Lobau, an
aide-de-camp to Napoleon, was responsible under the minister for
war, for military promotions. I returned to Paris full of joy and
hope! I was married on the 14th November following.

I was happy in the bosom of my family, and expected every day my
brevet as colonel, when I was told by the minister for war that I
was to be posted as Major to the 1st regiment of Mounted
Chasseurs, then in garrison in the depths of Germany. I was much
downcast at this news, for it seemed to me most hurtful that I
should be sent once more to serve as a simple squadron commander,
a rank in which I had been wounded three times and had campaigned
from Wagram to Portugal. I could not understand why I was being
treated like this, after what the Emperor and the Comte de Lobau
had said to me. It was the latter who gave me the key to this

Massena, on his entry into Portugal, had fourteen aides-de-camp,
of whom six were senior officers. Two of these, MM. Pelet and
Casabianca, were made colonels during the campaign; they were
senior to me and had amply fulfilled their duties. Their
promotion seemed to make mine the more certain since I now became
the most senior squadron commander on the staff. The man in the
fifth place was M. Barain, who was a captain when I joined the
staff. M. Barain had lost a hand at Wagram, and was promoted to
major, which was fair; however, the Emperor in advancing him to
this rank had designated him for work in the arsenals, work which
can easily be done with an arm missing. Massena had expected that
M. Barain would remove himself, but the latter insisted on going
with him to Portugal, although he could not carry out any mission
in such difficult country. No one thought therefore that he would
get any further promotion.

It so happened, however, that M. Barain was a nephew of M.
Francois de Nantes, the director of legal codification, who had
found numerous positions for members of Massena's family. M.
Francois de Nantes demanded in return that his nephew, Barain,
should be recommended for the rank of colonel. The marshal,
forced to choose between me and Barain, chose Barain. I learned
from the Comte de Lobau that the Emperor was reluctant to sign,
but that he eventually yielded to the insistence of the worthy
director who had come to add weight personally to the only
request he had yet made on the behalf of his family. So Barain
was promoted to colonel.

I have perhaps dwelt a little overmuch on this regrettable
affair, but to assess my disappointment it is necessary to think
back to the period in question and recall the important position
occupied by battalion commanders in the imperial army, which
resulted in several instances of colonels who refused promotion
to general and asked only to be left in command of their

Massena sent me the following letter, the only reward for three
campaigns fought and three wounds recieved under his command.

Paris. 24th November. 1811

My dear Marbot, I send you the service order which I have
received on your behalf. I asked for promotion for you, as you
are aware, and I am doubly disappointed that you did not obtain
this and that I am also to lose you. I have been very satisfied
with your services; a satisfaction which you are entitled to
feel, regardless of any rewards which this may bring. Your record
will always do you credit in the eyes of those under whose orders
you may find yourself. Please believe, my dear Marbot, in my
appreciation, my regrets and my sincere good wishes for you.


I had not expected to meet Massena again, but his wife wrote to
me saying that she wished to meet my wife, and inviting us both
to dinner. I had always had the highest regard for the conduct of
Madame Massena, particularly at Antibes, her home territory,
where I met her for the first time, on my return from Genoa. So I
accepted the invitation. Massena came up to me and once more
expressed his regrets, and suggested that he might ask for my
nomination as an officer of the Legion of Honour. I replied that
as he had been unable to do anything for me when I was on his
staff, and wounded before his eyes, I would not like to expose
him to any further embarrassment, and that I would now seek
advancement by my own efforts; then I lost myself in the crowd of

This was my last contact with Massena, though I continued to
visit his wife and his son, both of them my firm friends.

Chap. 2.

I shall now give you some details of Massena's career. Andre
Massena was born on the 6th of May 1758 at La Turbie, a village
in the little state of Monaco. His paternal grandfather was a
respected tanner who had three sons: Jules, the father of the
marshal, Augustin and Marcel. The first two of these went to
Nice, where they set up a soap-works. Marcel went to France where
he enlisted in the Royal-Italian regiment. When Jules died,
leaving very little money and five children, three of them,
amongst whom was the young Andre, were taken in charge by their
uncle Augustin, who having taught them no more than to read and
write, employed them in soap-making.

Andre, who was active and adventurous, could not adjust to the
monotonous and laborious work of the factory, and at the age of
thirteen he abandoned his uncle's home and embarked, secretly, as
a cabin-boy, in a merchant ship; accompanied by one of his
cousins named Bavastro, who became, during the wars of the
empire, the most celebrated corsaire of the Mediterranean. As for
Andre, having spent two years at sea and even made a voyage to
America, he rebelled against the hard life and harsh treatment
which were the lot of the seaman, and enlisted as a private
soldier in the Royal-Italian regiment, under the auspices of his
uncle Marcel, who had reached the rank of sergeant-major, and was
soon to be commissioned. This Marcel Massena, whom I met in 1800,
when he was commandant of the fortress at Antibes, was a serious
and capable man, highly thought of by his Colonel, M. Chauvet
d'Arlon. To help his nephew, he had him taught to speak and write
reasonable French, and, in spite of some escapades, had him
promoted to the rank of warrant-officer. He even held out some
hope of a commission in the mounted constabulary, but Andre,
tired of waiting, left at the end of his engagement.

Having gone back to civilian life, without any money, Andre
joined forces once more once more with his cousin Bavastro, and
taking advantage of the close proximity of the frontiers of
France, Piedmont, the State of Genoa, and the sea, they embarked
on smuggling on a grand scale, not only along the coast but
across the mountains, the various passes through which he got to
know extremely well; knowledge which he later found most useful
when he was in command of troops in this part of the country.
Hardened by the rough trade of smuggling, and compelled always to
keep one jump ahead of the customs officers, Massena acquired,
without being aware of it, an understanding of the principles of
warfare, as well as the vigilance and activity without which one
cannot become a good officer. Having by this means got together
some capital, he married a French woman, Mlle. Lamarre, the
daughter of an Antibes surgeon, and settled in this town, where
he had built up a small business in olive oil and dried Provencal
fruit, when the Revolution of 1789 broke out.

Influenced by his taste for arms, Massena left his wife and his
shop and enrolled in the 1st battalion of volunteers from Var.
His practical and theoretical knowledge of military matters
earned him the rank of captain, and shortly after, that of major.
Fighting soon broke out, and the courage and skill displayed by
Massena elevated him rapidly to the ranks of colonel and
brigadier-general. He was put in command of a camp called "the
camp of a thousand pitchforks," in part of which was the 4th
artillery company, commanded by Captain Napoleon Bonaparte, under
whose orders he would serve later in Italy. Entrusted with the
command of a column at the siege of Toulon, he distinguished
himself by the capture of the forts Lartigues and
Sainte-Catherine, which led to his promotion to divisional
general. After the town had fallen, he joined his troops to the
army of Italy where he was prominent in all the engagements which
took place in the area between the shores of the Mediterranean
and Piedmont; country which he knew so well. Intelligent,
ceaselessly active, and of boundless courage, Massena, after some
years of success, had already a high reputation, when a grave
mistake nearly brought his career to an end.

At the beginning of the campaign of 1796, General Bonaparte had
just become commander-in-chief of the army, which placed Massena,
once his senior in rank, under his command. Massena, who always
led the advance-guard, having defeated near Cairo (Cairo in
Piedmont, not Cairo in Egypt. Ed.) an Austrian unit, learned that
the enemy officers had planned a celebratory dinner in the inn of
a nearby village which they had been forced to abandon. He
conceived the notion, together with some brother officers, of
taking advantage of this windfall, and left his division camped
on the top of a fairly high mountain.

However the Austrians recovered their nerve, and charging back,
they fell on the French camp at daybreak. Our soldiers, although
taken by surprise, defended themselves bravely, but with no
general in control, they were driven back to the edge of the
plateau where they had spent the night, and, attacked by greatly
superior forces, looked certain to suffer a major defeat when
Massena, having with his sabre cut his way through the Austrian
scouts, ran up a path which he knew of old and appeared in front
of his troops who, in their indignation, received him with
well-deserved cat-calls. The general, without taking too much
notice, resumed command and proceeded to march his division to
rejoin the main body of the army. It was then seen that a
battalion placed the night before on an isolated hillock could
not come down by any practicable route without coming under
enfilading fire from the enemy. Massena scrambled quickly up the
hillside on his hands and knees and went alone to the battalion
where he addressed the men and assured them that he would get
then out of this fix if they would follow his example. Ordering
them to sheathe their bayonets, he sat on the snow at the edge of
slope, and pushing himself by his hands, he slid to the bottom of
the valley....All our soldiers, in fits of laughter, did the
same, and in no time the whole battalion was gathered together,
out of the range of the baffled Austrians. This method of
descent, used by the peasants and mountain guides of Switzerland,
had surely never before been used by a battalion of troops of the
line. I have been assured by generals who were in Massena's
division at the time that this incident actually occurred, and,
nine years later, I was at the chateau of La Houssaye, when
Marshal Augereau entertained the Emperor and all the marshals and
I heard them joking with Massena about the new method of retreat
which he had used on this occasion.

It seems that on the day that Massena was making use of this odd
expedient, which he had often used in the days when he was a
smuggler, Bonaparte, realising that he was very young to be
appointed commander-in-chief, and feeling on that account that he
should come down hard on any officer who failed in his duty,
ordered Massena to be brought before a court-martial and accused
of abandoning his post, which could result in a sentence of death
or at the least cashiering!... But at the moment when the general
was about to be arrested there began the famous battle of
Montenotte, in which Massena's and Augereau's divisions took two
thousand prisoners, four flags and five artillery pieces, and
completely routed the Austrian army. After this triumph, to which
Massena had largely contributed, there could not be any question
of putting him on trial. His misdeeds were forgotten, and he was
able to continue his splendid career.

Massena distinguished himself at Lodi, Milan, Verona, and Arcoli,
in fact everywhere that he was in action, and in particular at
the battle of Rivoli. When the preliminaries of a peace had been
signed at Leoben, Massena who had contributed so much to our
victories, was entrusted with the task of taking the draft treaty
to the government. Paris welcomed him with the most lively
expressions of admiration, wherever he went people crowded round
him to gaze on the features of this famous warrior. But this
triumph was soon eclipsed by his exaggerated love of money, which
was always his principal weakness.

General Duphot, the French ambassador in Rome, had been
assassinated in that city. A part of the army of Italy, under the
command of Berthier was ordered to go and exact vengeance; but
Berthier was recalled by Bonaparte who wanted to take him to
Egypt, and his place as commander of the army in Rome was taken
by Massena. Soon after the arrival of this general, who was
already accused of procuring a great deal of money during the
Italian campaigns of the previous year, the army complained that
it was in a state of destitution, without clothing and almost
without bread, while the administration, drawing millions from
the Papal states, lived in luxury and abundance. The army turned
against him and sent a deputation of one hundred officers to
demand from Massena an account for the expenditure of this money.
Whether he was unable to account for it or whether he refused to
do so as a matter of discipline Massena would not give any
explanation, and as the troops persisted in their demand, he was
forced to leave Rome and give up his command.

As soon as he had returned to France, he put out a memorandum
justifying his conduct, which was badly received by the public
and by his colleagues to whom he had addressed it. What upset him
most was that General Bonaparte left for Egypt without replying
to a letter which he had written to him concerning the matter.

However, a new coalition of Russia, Austria, and England having
declared war on France, hostilities recommenced. In such
circumstances, Massena, although he had not cleared himself from
the accusations brought against him, could not remain in
obscurity; so the Directory, in order to make use of his military
talents, hurriedly gave him command of the French army whose duty
it was to defend Switzerland. Massena at first did very well; but
having rashly attacked the dangerous defile of Feldkirch, in the
Vorarlberg, he was driven off with losses by the Austrians.

This was a time when our army of the Rhine, commanded by Jourdan,
had just been defeated at Stockach by Prince Charles of Austria,
and the forces which we had in Italy, defeated at Novi by the
Russians under Souvarow, had lost their commander-in-chief,
Joubert, killed on the field of battle. The Austrians, ready to
cross the Rhine, threatened Alsace and Lorraine; Italy was in the
hands of the Russians, whom Souvarow was leading into Switzerland
through the Saint-Gothard pass. France, on the point of being
invaded over both its frontiers, at the Rhine and at the Alps,
pinned all its hopes on Massena, and was not disappointed in her

As you already know, the Directory, impatient for action,
threatened Massena with dismissal unless he engaged the enemy;
but he was determined not to do so until circumstances gave him a
superiority, however brief, over his opponent. At last this
moment arrived. The maladroit General Korsakoff, a former
favourite of Catherine II, had unwisely pushed on towards Zurich
at the head of 50,000 Russians and Bavarians to await his
commander-in-chief, Souvarow, who was on his way from Italy with
55,000 men. Before the arrival of Souvarow, Massena pounced like
a lion on Korsakoff, surprising him in his camp at Zurich and
driving him back to the Rhine after inflicting tremendous losses!
Then, turning on Souvarow, whom the heroic resistance of General
Molitor had held up for three days in the Saint-Gothard, he
defeated him as he had defeated his lieutenant, Korsakoff.

As a result of these various engagements 30,000 of the enemy were
killed or taken prisoner, fifteen flags and sixty guns were
captured, the independence of Switzerland was secured, and France
was delivered from an imminent invasion. This was Massena's
finest (and cleanest) hour.

I have already told how Massena took charge of the disorganised
army of Italy, which, after the death of General Championnet, had
been briefly commanded by my father, and described his conduct of
the defence of Genoa, which gave Napoleon the time to collect a
force together, cross the Alps, and fight the battle of Marengo.

After this victory the First Consul, on his return to France,
thought he could not commit the command of the army of Italy to a
more illustrious officer than Massena; but in a few months there
were complaints similar to those made by the army in Rome. The
dissatisfaction was widespread, new taxes were levied and
frequent requisitions made on a variety of pretexts, and yet the
troops were unpaid! The First Consul, when he learned of this
state of affairs, immediately and without explanation withdrew
the command of the army from Massena, who returned to private
life, where he showed his annoyance by refusing to vote in favour
of Napoleon's life-consulship. He also did not present himself at
the new court.

When Bonaparte mounted the imperial throne and rewarded the
generals who had done most for the country, he included Massena
in the first list of marshals, awarded him the grand cordon of
the Legion of Honour, and created him head of the fourteenth
cohort of the order, which he had just established. These
dignities and the enormous emoluments which were attached to them
overcame the resistance put up by Massena since he was deprived
of the command of the army of Italy. He voted for the empire,
went to the Tuileries and assisted at the coronation ceremony.

When a third coalition menaced France, in 1805, the Emperor gave
Messena the task of defending, with forty thousand men, the
northern part of Ital, against the attacks of the Archduke
Charles of Austria, who had eighty thousand. This was a difficult
operation; but not only did Massena hold Lombardy, but he pushed
the enemy back beyond the Tagliamento, and by forcing Prince
Charles to turn and face him at frequent intervals, he so delayed
the Austrian general's progress that he was unable to arrive in
time to save Vienna, nor to join the Russian army which Napoleon
defeated at Austerlitz. Napoleon, however, did not seem to
appreciate the services rendered by Massena on this campaign; he
reproached him for not having acted with his usual vigour, which
did not prevent him, after the treaty of Presberg, from
instructing him to go and conquer the kingdom of Naples, on whose
throne he wished to place his brother, Prince Joseph.

Within a month the French occupied the whole of the country
except the fortified town of Gaete, which Massena took after a
siege. But while he was directing the attack against this town,
he suffered a loss which rendered him inconsolable. An enormous
sum, which Massena claimed belonged to him, was confiscated by
the Emperor!

Napoleon, who believed that the best way of forcing the English
to ask for peace was to ruin their trade, to prevent their goods
from entering the continent, ordered them to be seized and burned
in all the countries under his control, that is to say more than
half of Europe. But the desire for money is very powerful and
business men are very crafty. A fool-proof system of smuggling
had been devised. English merchants who were in the scheme, sent
off a ship or ships full of merchandise which allowed themselves
to be captured by one of our corsairs, who would then take it to
one of the ports occupied by our troops, from Swedish Pomerania
to the end of the kingdom of Naples. This first act having been
carried out, it remained to get the goods ashore without
confiscation, this had already been arranged. The immensely long
coastline presented by the conquered countries could not be
watched in its entirety by customs officers, so this function was
carried out by soldiers under the command of the generals who
were in charge of the kingdom or province occupied by our troops.
So it required only an authorisation from one of them to permit
the goods to be landed, after which the traders negotiated with
the "protector." This was called a "licence."

The origin of this new form of commerce goes back to the days
when Bernadotte was occupying Hamburg and a part of Denmark. He
made a considerable amount of money in this way, and when he
wanted to reward someone, he would give the person a licence,
which could then be sold to a merchant. This practice spread,
little by little, to all the coasts of Germany, Spain and mainly
to Italy. It even got as far as the Emperor's court, where ladies
and chamberlains were given licences by ministers. Napoleon was
not told of this, but he knew, or suspected, that it went on.
Nevertheless, in order not to interfere too drastically with the
usages of the conquered countries, he tolerated this abuse
outside France as long as it was carried on clandestinely, but if
he discovered that someone had made immoderate profits from the
illicit trade, he made them cough up. For example, when the
Emperor heard that M. Michaux, the administrative head of
Bernadotte's army, had lost, in one evening, 300,000 francs, in a
Paris gaming house, he directed an aide-de-camp to write to him
saying that the Invalides was in need of money, and that he was
ordered to pay 300,000 francs into their account; which Michaux,
who had made so much money from licences, hastened to do.

As you may imagine, Massena was not the last to engage in the
business of selling licences. Together with General Solignac, his
chief of staff, he flooded all the ports of Naples with them.
When the Emperor was informed that Massena had deposited the sum
of three million with a banker at Leghorn, who had taken at the
same time 600,000 from General Solignac, he had a request sent to
Massena for a loan of one million, and one for 200,000 francs
from his chief of staff. Just one third of their illegal gains,
which was not fleecing them too greatly. However, at the sight of
this demand, Massena, bellowing as if he were being
disembowelled, replied to Napoleon that as the poorest of the
marshals, with a numerous family and crippling debts, he
profoundly regretted that he could not send him anything! And
general replied in similar terms.

They were congratulating themselves on having evaded these
requests when, during the siege of Gaeta, the son of the Leghorn
banker arrived to say that a French treasury inspector, escorted
by a commissioner of police and a number of gendarmes, had
arrived at his father's establishment and had demanded to see the
accounts in which were recorded the deposits made by the marshal
and general Solignac, stating that these sums belonged to the
army, and had been entrusted to the two officers concerned, and
that the Emperor demanded their immediate return, either in cash
or negotiable bonds, and the cancellation of the receipts given
to Massena and Solignac. A legal endorsement was given to this
seizure which the banker, having nothing to lose, did not oppose.

It is impossible to describe Massena's fury on finding that he
had been deprived of his fortune. It made him quite ill, but he
did not dare to make any complaint when the Emperor, who was then
in Poland, sent for him.

After the peace of Tilsit, the title of Duke of Rivoli and an
award of 300,000 francs of income were a recompense for his
services, but did not console him for what had been taken from
him at Leghorn, for, in spite of his usual caution, he was heard
to say on a number of occasions "I think it cruel that, while I
was fighting in his interest, he had the gall to take the small
savings I had banked at Leghorn!"

The invasion of Spain having sparked off a new war with Austria,
the Emperor, threatened by these considerable forces, hurried
back from the peninsula to go to Germany, to where he had already
sent Massena. I have already described the part played by the
marshal in the campaign of 1809. As a reward for his conduct at
Essling and Wagram, the Emperor created him Prince of Essling and
gave him an additional income of 500,000 francs, which was added
to his previous award of 300,000 francs and his salary of 200,000
as marshal and army commander. The new prince had no more than

The campaigns of 1810 and 1811 in Spain and Portugal were
Massena's last. They were not very happy; his morale had gone
down and the two campaigns, instead of adding to his fame,
lowered his reputation. The "Enfant cheri de la victoire," as he
had been named, suffered reverses where he could and should have
been successful.

Massena was thin and bony, and of less than average height. His
Italian features were full of expression. The bad sides to his
character were hypocrisy, spite, harshness, and avarice. He had
plenty of natural intelligence but his adventurous youth and the
lowly position of his family had not encouraged him to study; he
was totally lacking in what one calls education. In the heyday of
his career he had a keen eye and a decisive mind and was not
dismayed by a reverse. As he aged his caution began to verge on
timidity, so anxious was he not to besmirch the reputation he had
acquired. He hated reading, so he had no idea of what had been
written on the principles of warfare, he acted intuitively, and
Napoleon summed him up accurately when he said the Massena
arrived on the battlefield without knowing what he was going to
do, his actions were determined by circumstances.

It has been wrongly said that Massena was a stranger to flattery,
and spoke his mind fearlessly even to the Emperor. Beneath his
rough exterior Massena was a shrewd courtier. When in the course
of a pheasant shoot, Napoleon had the misfortune to pepper
Massena, injuring one of his eyes, Massena laid the blame on
Berthier, although only Napoleon had fired a shot. Everyone
understood perfectly the discretion of the courtier, and Massena
was overwhelmed by attentions from the Emperor.

Although very miserly, the victor of Zurich would have given half
his fortune to have been born in the France of the "Ancien
Regime" rather than on the left bank of the Var. Nothing
displeased him more than the Italian termination to his name, of
which he transformed the "a" to "e" in his signature. However the
public did not adopt this change, and Massena he remained in
spite of his efforts. The campaign in Portugal had so much
weakened Massena physically and mentally, that he was obliged to
seek rest and recuperation in the gentle climate of Nice, where
he stayed for the whole of 1812; but Napoleon, returning from the
disastrous invasion of Russia, and scouring Europe for further
resources, thought that the name of Massena could still be of
service, particularly in Provence. So he appointed him governor
of the 8th military division.

When, in 1814, enemy forces invaded France, Massena, who, in any
case, had few troops at his disposal, did nothing to arrest their
progress, and on the 15th April he surrendered to the Duc
d'Angoulme, who created him a Commander of Saint Louis, but
would not elevate him to the peerage, on the pretext that he had
been born abroad, and had never become a naturalised French
citizen! ... As if the victories of Rivoli, Zurich, the defence
of Genoa, and a series of other successful actions on the behalf
of France were not worth as much as naturalisation papers, given
often to scheming foreigners for cash. The treatment given to
Massena in these circumstances had a very adverse effect on
sentiment in the public and the army, and was an additional
source of the disenchantment of the nation with the government of
Louis XVIII, which led to the return of the Emperor.

Napoleon disembarked near to Cannes on 1st March 1815 and set off
immediately for Paris at the head of about a thousand Grenadiers
of his Guard. The unexpectedness and swiftness of this invasion
threw Massena into confusion. Nevertheless, he tried to stem the
torrent by calling together some line regiments and activating
the national guard of Marseilles and district; but having learned
that the Duc d'Angoulme had surrendered and left the country, he
sent his son to inform Louis XVIII that he could no longer rely
on his support, and rallying to the imperial government, he
hoisted the tricolour throughout the area and locked up the
prefect of Var, who still wanted to resist. By this conduct
Massena alienated both the Royalists and the Bonapartists; so
when the Emperor hurriedly summoned him to Paris, he greeted him
very coolly.

When, soon afterwards, Napoleon made the great mistake of
abdicating for the second time, following the battle of Waterloo,
the Chamber of Representatives seized power and formed a
provisional government whose first act was to invest Massena with
the command of the national guard of Paris. It was hoped that,
although his infirmities prevented him playing any active role,
his name would inspire the populace to support the army in the
defence of the capital, but when a council of war was assembled,
Massena gave it as his opinion that Paris could not be defended!
As a consequence an armistice was agreed with the enemy generals
and the French army withdrew across the Loire, where it was

Once the allies were masters of France, Louis XVIII, to punish
Massena for having abandoned his cause after March 20th, included
him among the judges who were to try Marshal Ney, hoping that out
of enmity he would condemn his former colleague and so besmirch
his good name; but Massena recused himself on the grounds that
there had been disagreements between him and Marshal Ney in
Portugal, and when this measure failed he joined with those
judges who wanted Ney brought before the House of Peers. They had
hoped to save him, but it would have been better if they had had
the political courage to try him and acquit him....They did not
dare! Ney was condemned and shot, but his blood did not pacify
the Royalists, they became more implacable and soon pursued
Massena himself.

The citizens of Marseilles, on whose behalf Massena had used his
influence to obtain the freedom of their port, now denounced him
to the Chamber of Deputies on the grounds of peculation. There
was no evidence to support this charge, as Massena had never
exacted any money in Provence, and the chamber, although known
for its hatred of the leading figures of the empire, rejected the
petition out of hand.

Massena, having escaped from the wave of reaction which was now
sweeping the country, abandoned the stage on which he had played
so brilliant a part, and retired to his chateau of Rueil, which
had once belonged to Cardinal Richelieu, to end his splendid
career in solitude and disgrace. He died on the 4th April 1817,
at the age of fifty-nine.

At his death, the government had not sent the baton which is by
custom placed on the bier of a marshal, so his son-in-law,
General Reille, claimed this insignia from the minister for war,
a fervent Royalist. When he received no reply to this reasonable
request, in an act of courage, rare at the time, he let it be
known to the court that if a baton did not arrive in time for his
father-in-law's funeral, he would place ostentatiously on his
coffin, the baton awarded to him by the Emperor. The government
then decided that they would supply a baton after all.

I have touched on some of the blemishes which mar his career, but
Massena more than compensated for them by the remarkable and
heroic services he rendered to France. He will be remembered as
one of the great captains of an era which produced so many.

Chap. 3.

At the beginning of 1812, I was in Paris, with my young wife and
our families. But the happiness which I enjoyed was lessened by
the thought of my imminent departure. I was due to join the 1st
Chasseurs Cheval as a squadron commander with the rank of
Major. The chagrin which I felt at not having been promoted to
Colonel, which I thought I deserved, was somewhat relieved when,
having gone to the Tuileries to pay my new year respects, the
Emperor sent an aide-de-camp to command my presence in his
private quarters, where I found General Mouton, Comte de Lobau,
who had always been on my side.

Napoleon appeared and told me in the most friendly manner that he
had intended to give me a regiment, but that there were certain
reasons which had led him to nominate Major Barain. He said that
having promoted three of Massena's aides to Colonel he could not
accord any more promotions to one general staff, but that he had
not forgotten me and although he could not give me the nominal
command, he would put me in the position of being, in effect, a
regimental commander. "The commanding officer of the 23rd Mounted
Chasseurs, M. de La Nougarede, has become so afflicted by gout
that he can hardly mount a horse", the Emperor said, "but he is
an excellent officer who has fought several campaigns with me,
and I have a high regard for him. He has begged me to let him try
to go once more on campaign and I do not wish to remove him from
his regiment. However, I hear that this fine unit is going down
hill in his hands so I am sending you as "Coadjutor" to M. de La
Nougarede. You will be working for yourself, for if the Colonel
recovers his health I shall promote him to general, and if not I
shall transfer him to the gendarmes. In either case he will leave
his regiment and you will become their colonel; so I repeat you
will be working for your own benefit." This promise gave me
renewed hope, and I was making ready to leave when the minister
for war extended my leave until the end of March, which I found
very acceptable.

The 23rd Chasseurs were stationed in Swedish Pomerania, so I had
an enormous distance to travel, and as I wished to arrive before
the expiration of my leave, I left Paris on the 15th of March,
parting with much regret from my dear wife. I had bought a good
barouche, in which, at the request of Marshal Mortier, I gave a
seat to his nephew, Lieutenant Durbach, who belonged to the
regiment which I was about to join. As my former servant,
Woirland, had asked if he might stay in Spain, where he hoped to
make his fortune running a canteen, I had replaced him, on my
leaving Salamanca, by a Pole named Lorentz Schilkowski. This man,
at one time an Austrian Uhlan, was not lacking intelligence, but,
like all Poles he was a drunkard, and unlike the soldiers of that
nation, he was as timid as a hare. Lorentz, however, as well as
his native language, spoke passable French and fluent German and
Russian, and for this reason he was most valuable to me in my
travelling and campaigning in the north. I was nearing the
Rhenish provinces, when on leaving Kaiserslauten at night, the
postilion tipped my barouche into a pothole, where it was
damaged. No one was hurt, but both M. Durbach and I agreed that
this was a bad omen for soldiers who were about to face the
enemy. However, after spending a day waiting for repairs to be
made, we were able to get under way once more. Unfortunately the
accident had so weakened the springs and the wheels that they
broke six times during our journey, which delayed us
considerably, and on occasions forced us to walk for several
leagues in the snow. We arrived at last at the shores of the
Baltic sea, where the 23rd Chasseurs were in garrison at
Stralsund and Greifswald.

I found Colonel de La Nougarede to be an excellent officer,
well-informed and capable, but so prematurely aged by gout that
he was hardly able to sit on a horse, and went everywhere in a
carriage, a most unsuitable method of transport for the commander
of a regiment of light cavalry! He gave me an enthusiastic
welcome, and after explaining the reasons which, in the interest
of his career, made him stay with the regiment, he showed me a
letter in which the Comte de Lobau informed him of the motives
which had led the Emperor to attach me to him. M. de La
Nougarede, far from being offended, saw this as another kindness
on the part of the Emperor, and looked forward to being promoted
to general or heading the gendarmerie. He counted, with my help,
on completing at least part of the campaign, and on the
realisation of his hopes at the first imperial revue. To make it
clear that I shared the command, which was not in keeping with my
rank as Major, he called together all the officers, in front of
whom he provisionally delegated all his powers to me, until such
time as he recovered his health, and instructed them to obey my
orders without referring to him, since his illness often made it
impossible for him to follow the regiment sufficiently closely to
command it in person. An order of the day was issued along these
lines, and from that day forward, except for the rank,I was
virtually the commander of the regiment, and the regiment soon
got into the habit of looking on me as their real leader.

Since that time, I have commanded several cavalry regiments,
either as colonel or general. And I was for a long time inspector
of this branch of the service; I can say with certainty that if I
have seen units as good as the 23rd Chasseurs, I have never seen
one better. It was not that the unit contained any outstanding
personalities, such as I have seen sometimes in other regiments,
but if there was not in the 23rd any one of remarkable talents,
there was no one who did not maintain a high standard in carrying
out his duties. There were no peaks, but there were no troughs;
everyone kept in step. The officers were intelligent, well
trained and well behaved. They lived together as true
brothers-in-arms. The same applied to the N.C.O.s. And the
troopers followed this good example. They were almost all old
soldiers, veterans of Austerlitz, Jena, Friedland, Wagram, a fine
body of men who came mostly from Normandy, Alsace, Lorraine and
Franche-comte, provinces known for their martial spirit and their
love of horses. The build and strength of these men was noticed
by General Bourcier, who was in charge of remounts, and he
supplied the regiment with horses which were bigger and more
lively than the usual issue. A period of several years spent in
the fertile land of Germany, had left both men and horses in
splendid condition, and the regiment, when I took over, consisted
of a thousand officers and men, well disciplined, calm and quiet
in the face of the enemy.

I did not yet have a horse, so I went to Stralsund in the isle of
Rugen, where they have excellent horses, and I bought several; I
got some others from Rostock and ended with a stable of seven
good beasts, which was not too many, as war with Russia appeared
imminent. I had already forecast this during the summer of 1811,
when I saw the great number of old soldiers whom the Emperor was
taking from the regiments in the peninsula to reinforce his Old
Guard. I had been confirmed in this opinion during my stay in
Paris. There were, at first, some distant rumours of a rupture,
which vanished quickly amid the entertainments and festivities of
winter, but soon returned with increased insistence; and became
almost certainties as a result of a serious event, the echoes of
which reverberated throughout Europe.

The Emperor Alexander had had, since boyhood, a companion who was
a young Russian nobleman, named Czernicheff, of whom he was very
fond, and whom, when he came to the throne, he took as

In 1809, when Alexander, who was then an ally of Napoleon, was
pretending, without actually doing so, to make war against
Austria, whose country Napoleon had invaded, there arrived in
Vienna Colonel the Comte de Czernicheff, on the ostensible
mission to cement good relations between Napoleon and Alexander,
but in reality to inform his sovereign of our success or failure,
so that he could continue or break off his alliance with France
according to circumstances.

Alexander's favourite received the friendliest of welcomes from
Napoleon, whose side he never left during the parades and
manoeuvres which preceded the battle of Essling, but when this
bloody affair appeared to be in the balance, and a hail of
bullets descended on the imperial general staff, M. de
Czernicheff turned tail rapidly, and crossing the bridges over
the Danube, he sought the safety of the palace of Schoenbrunn;
and the day after the battle he took to the road for Petersburg,
to announce, no doubt, the failure of our enterprise. Napoleon
thought this behaviour most unbecoming, and made some jeering
comments on the "bravery" of the Russian colonel. Nevertheless,
after peace had been made with Austria, M. de Czernicheff came
very often to Paris, where he spent part of the years 1810 and
1811. Handsome, courteous, likeable, highly deceitful and
exquisitely polite, his title of aide-de-camp to the Russian
emperor gave him entry not only to the court but also to the
salons of high society, where he never discussed politics, and
appeared to be interested only in the pursuit of women, where he
was said to have considerable success. But toward the end of
1811, when new rumours of war began to circulate, the Paris
police were informed that while appearing to be solely interested
in pleasure, the Russian colonel was mixed up in some dubious
political schemes, and he was put under close surveillance, when
it was discovered that he had frequent meetings with M. X..., an
employee of the ministry for war who had special responsibility
for the situation reports concerning all the personel and
material of the army, which were given to Napoleon every ten
days. Not only had M. de Czernicheff been seen walking after
midnight in the most secluded part of the Champs-Elysees with
this man, but he had been observed, plainly dressed, slipping
into the place where M. X... lived and spending several hours

The intimacy of someone so highly placed with a poor devil of
clerk in the ministry for war being clear evidence that the
former had seduced the latter to betray state secrets, the
Emperor, highly indignant, ordered the arrest of M.Czernicheff,
but Czernicheff, warned, it is said, by a woman, fled from Paris,
and reached a nearby "relais" from where, taking unfrequented
roads, he managed to reach the frontier, avoiding Maintz and
Cologne to where the telegraph had transmitted the order for his
seizure. As for the wretched clerk, he was apprehended at the
moment when he was counting out the 300,000 francs which he had
received for his act of treason. Compelled by the evidence to
admit to his crime, he stated that another employee had also
given information to the Russian, this man too was arrested, and
the two of them were tried, convicted and shot. They died cursing
Czernicheff, who they claimed had come to their attics to tempt
them with a heap of gold which he increased whenever they
hesitated. The Emperor had published in all the French newspapers
a virulent denunciation of M. de Czernicheff, with some wounding
observations which, although indirect, pointed to the emperor of
Russia himself, for they recalled that the assassins of his
father, Paul I, had not been punished by Alexander.

After these events, it was no longer possible to doubt that war
was imminent, and although it had not been declared, both sides
were openly preparing for it. The conduct of M. de Czernicheff
was, in general, loudly denounced, but it had its secret
supporters among the diplomatic community, who recalled that
although Napoleon justly punished French citizens who sold their
country's secrets to its enemies, he was not above corrupting
foreign nationals who could give him useful information,
particularly of a military nature.

Marshal Lannes told me,that in Vienna,in 1809, when hostilities
were about to break out between France and Austria, whose armies
were to be commanded by the Archduke Charles, this prince was
warned anonymously that a Major-general for whom he had a high
regard and whom he was about to take on to his staff, had been
bought by the French ambassador, General Andreossi, with whom he
had frequent night-time meetings in a lonely house in the vast
suburb of Leopoldstadt, the number of which was disclosed. Prince
Charles thought so highly of this officer that he dismissed as an
infamous calumny the anonymous accusation, and took no measures
to determine the truth. The French ambassador had already asked
for his passport and was due to leave Vienna in forty-eight hours
time, when a second anonymous note informed the archduke that his
assistant chief-of-staff, after working alone in his office,
which contained the order of battle for the army, was going to
have, on the following night, a last meeting with General
Andreossi. The archduke, who wished to clear his mind of any
suspicions which he might have, in spite of himself, about an
officer of whom he was fond, decided that he would prove beyond
doubt that he was innocent. So, dressed very simply and
accompanied by only one aide-de-camp, he waited, after midnight,
in the darkest part of the lane where the house in question was
situated. After a short time the prince and his aide saw, with
sadness, a man who in spite of his disguise was easily recognised
as the assistant chief-of-staff, for whom, after an agreed
signal, the door was opened. Soon he was followed by General
Andreossi, who was admitted in the same way. The meeting lasted
for some hours, during which the archduke, no longer able to
doubt the treachery of his assistant chief-of-staff, waited
patiently outside the house, and when the door opened for General
Andreossi and the Austrian general, who, came out together, they
found themselves face to face with Prince Charles, who said
aloud, "Good evening, Mr.Ambassador", and refraining from
speaking to the assistant chief-of-staff, he shone the light from
a lantern in his face.

The ambassador hurried away without saying a word, and as for the
assistant chief-of-staff, seeing that he was caught in the act
and knowing the fate which awaited him, he went to his house and
blew his brains out with a pistol shot. This tragic event was
hushed up by the Austrian government and not many people knew
about it; it was announced that the assistant chief-of-staff had
died of apoplexy. The French ambassador was said to have paid
him two million.

While Napoleon was complaining bitterly about the means by which
Colonel Czernicheff obtained information about our armies,
General Lauriston, our ambassador in Petersburg, bought not only
the most detailed information about the disposition of the
Russian forces, but also the copper plates on which were engraved
the immense map of the Muscovite empire. In spite of the great
difficulties presented by the transport of this heavy mass of
metal, the betrayal was so well organised and so lavishly paid
for that these plates, stolen from the Russian archives, were
taken from St. Petersburg to France without their disappearance
being discovered by the police or the Russian customs. When the
plates arrived in Paris the minister for war, when all the
writing had been changed from Russian characters into French, had
this fine map printed, and Napoleon ordered a copy to be sent to
all the generals and commanders of light cavalry regiments. It
was in this latter rank that I received one, which I contrived,
with much difficulty to save during the retreat, for it forms a
very big roll. Few people brought theirs back, but I still have

Chap. 4.

The principal reason which led the Emperor to declare war on
Russia was his desire to see the implementation of the treaty of
Tilsit, whereby the Emperor Alexander agreed to close all the
ports of his country to English traders, an undertaking which had
never been properly carried out. Napoleon thought, rightly, that
he could ruin the English, a manufacturing and trading nation, by
preventing their commerce with the European continent; but the
execution of this gigantic project offered so much difficulty,
that it was only in France that the restrictions were enforced,
and there the use of licences, to which I have referred above,
made an enormous breach in the regulations. As for Italy, Germany
and the Adriatic provinces, although the continental system was
established by imperial decree, it was only implemented in
theory, partly because of the extent of the coastline, and partly
because of connivance and lack of surveillance by those
responsible for the administration of these vast areas. So the
Russian Emperor replied to the demands made by France by pointing
to the state of affairs which was almost universal in Europe. The
true cause, however, of the refusal of Alexander to accede to the
demands of Napoleon, was that he feared that he would be
assassinated in the same manner as his father, the Emperor Paul,
who was accused firstly of having sullied the nation's reputation
by allying himself to France and secondly of having destroyed
Russian trade by declaring war on Britain. Alexander was aware
that he had already given offence by the deference and
friendliness which he had shown towards Napoleon at Tilsit and
Erfurt, and he was anxious not to arouse more anger by cutting
off all trade with England, the sole outlet whereby the Russian
nobility could dispose of the products of their vast estates, and
acquire a monetary income. The death of the Emperor Paul clearly
showed the danger faced by Alexander, if he followed his father's
example. An additional cause of fear was the fact that he was
surrounded by the same officers who had surrounded his father,
amongst whom was his chief-of-staff, Benningsen.

Napoleon did not take sufficiently into consideration these
difficulties, when he threatened Alexander with war, unless he
fell in with his wishes; although, when he learned of the losses
and reverses suffered in Spain and Portugal, he seemed hesitant
to engage in a conflict the outcome of which he deemed uncertain.

According to General Bertrand, Napoleon, on St. Helena said
repeatedly that his only intention, to begin with, was to
frighten Alexander into carrying out the terms of the treaty: "We
were," he said, "like two opponents of equal ability, who are
well able to fight, but being reluctant to do so, menace each
other by threats and sabre-rattling, edging slowly forward, each
hoping that his adversary will retreat rather than do battle."
But the Emperor's comparison was not exact, for one of these
swordsmen had behind him a bottomless pit, ready to engulf him at
the first backward step, so that having to choose between an
ignominious death and a combat in which he might be successful he
had to choose the latter. This was the situation in which
Alexander found himself, a situation made worse by the influence
exerted by the Englishman Wilson on General Benningsen and the
officers of his staff. The Emperor Napoleon was still hesitant
and seemed anxious to consult the sage opinions of Caulincourt,
his former ambassador at St. Petersburg and those of a group of
French officers who had lived for some time in Russia.

Among the latter was Lieutenant-colonel de Ponthon, who had been
among a number of engineer officers who, after the Treaty of
Tilsit had been posted, at the request of Alexander, to Russia,
where they had spent several years. De Ponthon was a highly
competent, but withal a very modest officer, he was attached to
the topographic service, and did not think it was his place to
offer his advice unasked, on the problems which would face an
army at war in the Russian empire; but when he was questioned by
the Emperor he felt it was his duty to tell the whole truth to
the head of state, even at risk of displeasing him, so he
described all the obstacles which would face this enterprise. The
principal ones were the apathy and lack of co-operation between
the Lithuanian states, subject for many years to Russia; the
fanatical resistance to be expected from the people of Moscow;
the scarcity of food and forage; the almost uninhabited areas
which would have to be crossed; roads impassable for artillery
after several hours of rain; but above all he stressed the rigour
of the winter and the physical impossibility of conducting a war
once the snow had begun to fall, which might be as early as the
first days of October. Finally, at risk of giving offence and
jeopardising his career, he begged Napoleon, for the sake of
France and his own reputation, not to undertake this dangerous
expedition, the calamitous outcome of which he now predicted.
Having listened quietly to M. de Ponthon, the Emperor dismissed
him without making any comment. For some days he appeared
withdrawn and contemplative, and the rumour spread that the
undertaking was off, but then M. Maret, duc de Bassano, persuaded
him to go back to his original intention, and assured him that
Marshal Davout would be happy to move his large army of Germany
to the banks of the Nieman, on the frontier of the Russian
empire, in order to galvanise Alexander into action.

From this time on, although M. de Ponthon was in constant
attendance as a member of the cabinet, the Emperor did not
address a word to him during the advance from the Nieman to
Moscow, and when, during the retreat, Napoleon was forced to
admit to himself that the predictions of this admirable officer
had been only too accurate, he avoided catching his eye.
Nevertheless, he promoted him to the rank of colonel.

To return to the preparations which Napoleon was making to force
the Russians, by hook or by crook, to comply with his wishes:
from the month of April, the French troops stationed in Germany,
as well as those of various princes of the Germanic confederation
allied to France, were put into motion, and their march towards
Poland was delayed only by the difficulty of finding forage for
their numerous horses; the grass, and even the corn, being
scarcely out of the ground at this time in these northern
countries. However, the Emperor left Paris on the 9th of May, and
accompanied by the Empress, went to Dresden, where, awaiting him,
were his father-in-law the Emperor of Austria, and almost all the
German princes; attracted there, in some cases by the hope of
having their domains extended, and in others by the fear of
displeasing the arbiter of their destiny. The only absentee was
the King of Prussia, who, not being included in the confederation
of the Rhine, was not invited to this reunion and dared not turn
up without the permission of Napoleon. He humbly requested this,
and when it was obtained he hurried to Dresden to pay court to
the all-powerful conqueror of Europe.

The protestations of fidelity and devotion which were lavished on
Napoleon misled him into making a most serious error in the
organisation of the contingents which were to make up the great
army destined for the war against Russia. Instead of weakening
the governments of Austria and Prussia, his former enemies, by
demanding from them the greater part of their available troops,
which, prudence would suggest should be placed in the van, not
only to spare French lives, but to allow a watch to be kept on
these new and undependable allies, Napoleon required no more than
30,000 men from each of these powers, and placed them on the two
wings of his force. The Austrians under Prince Schwartzenberg on
the right in Volhynie, and the Prussians, to whom he appointed as
commander the French Marshal Macdonald, on the left, near the
mouth of the Nieman. The centre was composed of French troops and
those members of the German federation whose loyalty had been
proved at Jena and Wagram.

There were discerning observers who were dismayed to see the
wings of the army made up of foreigners, who, in the event of a
reverse, could form two hostile armies in our rear, while the
centre was embroiled in the heart of Russia. Not only that,
Austria who had an army of 200,000, placed only 30,000 at the
disposal of Napoleon, and had 170,000 left with which to attack
us in the event of failure, while Prussia, though less powerful,
still had 60,000 men in reserve.

One is astonished that the Emperor was so little concerned about
what he was leaving behind him; but his confidence was so great
that when the King of Prussia requested him to allow his eldest
son to join in the campaign as an imperial aide-de-camp, Napoleon
turned him down, although the young prince would have been a
valuable hostage to ensure the fidelity of his father.

While there was a succession of entertainments at Dresden,
Napoleon's troops were wending their way through northern
Germany. Already the army of Italy, having crossed the mountains
of the Tyrol, was heading for Warsaw. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd Corps
commanded by Davout, Oudinot and Ney, were passing through
Prussia on their march to the Vistula. The states comprising the
confederation of the Rhine had supplied their contingents, as had
Austria and Prussia; it was noticeable, however that although the
Austrian generals were happy to unite their flags with ours, the
junior officers and the soldiers were reluctant to attack Russia,
while the situation was reversed in the Prussian army, where the
generals and Colonels felt humiliated by being compelled to serve
under the command of their conqueror, while officers of lower
rank and the soldiers, were pleased to have the opportunity of
fighting alongside the French, and hoped to show that if they
were defeated at Jena, it was not through any lack of courage on
their part, but due to poor leadership by their superiors.

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