Part 11 out of 15
overjoyed and out of breath from his race, exclaimed, "I have deceived
the admiral." This retrograde movement of the enemy was hard to
understand, when the opportunity to overwhelm us was within his reach;
and I doubt whether the Emperor, in spite of his apparent satisfaction,
was very sure of the happy consequences which this retreat of the enemy
might bring to us.
Before the bridge was finished, about four hundred men were carried part
of the way across the river on two miserable rafts, which could hardly
sustain themselves against the current; and we saw them from the bank
rudely shaken by the great blocks of ice which encumbered the river.
These blocks came to the very edge of the raft, where, finding an
obstacle, they remained stationary for some time, then were suddenly
ingulfed under these frail planks with a terrible shock, though the
soldiers stopped the largest with their bayonets, and turned their course
aside from the rafts.
The impatience of the army was at its height. The first who reached the
opposite bank were the brave Jacqueminot, aide-de-camp of Marshal
Oudinot, and Count Predzieczki, a brave Lithuanian, of whom the Emperor
was very fond, especially since he had shared our sufferings with such
fidelity and devotion. Both crossed the river on horseback, and the army
uttered shouts of admiration as they saw that the chiefs were the first
to set the example of intrepidity. They braved enough dangers to make
the strongest brain reel. The current forced their horses to swim
diagonally across, which doubled the length of the passage; and as they
swam, blocks of ice struck against their flanks and sides, making
At one o'clock General Legrand and his division were crossing the bridge
constructed for the infantry, while the Emperor sat on the opposite bank,
and some of the cannon becoming entangled had for an instant delayed the
march. The Emperor rushed on the bridge, put his hand to the work, and
assisted in separating the pieces. The enthusiasm of the soldiers was at
its height; and it was amid cries of "Vive l'Empereur" that the infantry
set foot on the opposite bank.
A short time after, the Emperor, learning that General Partonneaux had
laid down his arms, was deeply affected by this news, and gave vent to
reproaches which were somewhat unjust to the general. Later, when he had
received more correct information, he understood perfectly the part which
necessity and despair had played in this surrender.
It is a fact that the brave general did not come to this decision till he
had done all that a brave man could under the circumstances; for it is
permitted a man to recoil when there is nothing left but to let himself
be killed to no purpose.
When the artillery and baggage-wagons passed, the bridge was so
overloaded that it fell in; and instantly a retrograde movement took
place, which crowded together all the multitude of stragglers who were
advancing, like a flock being herded, in the rear of the artillery.
Another bridge had been constructed, as if the sad thought had occurred
that the first might give way. But the second was narrow and without a
railing; nevertheless, it at first seemed a very valuable makeshift in
such a calamity. But how disasters follow each other! The stragglers
rushed there in crowds. The artillery, the baggage-wagons, in a word,
all the army material, had been in the front on the first bridge when,
it was broken; and when, from the sudden panic which seized on those in
the rear of this multitude, the dreadful catastrophe was learned, the
last there found themselves first in gaining the other bridge. It was
urgent the artillery should pass first, consequently it rushed
impetuously towards the only road to safety which remained. No pen can
describe the scene of horror which now ensued; for it was literally over
a road of trampled human bodies that conveyances of all sorts reached the
bridge. On this occasion could be seen how much brutality, and even
cold-blooded ferocity, can be produced in the human mind by the instinct
of self-preservation. There were some stragglers most frantic of all,
who wounded, and even killed, with their bayonets, the unfortunate horses
which obeyed the lash of their guides; and several caissons were left on
the road in consequence of this slaughter.
As I have said, the bridge had no railing; and crowds of those who forced
their way across fell into the river and were ingulfed beneath the ice.
Others in their fall tried to stop themselves by grasping the planks of
the bridge, and remained suspended over the abyss until their hands,
crushed by the wheels of the vehicles, lost their grasp, and they went to
join their comrades as the' waves closed over them. Entire caissons,
with drivers and horse were precipitated into the water.
Poor women were seen holding their children out of the water in the
effort to delay for a few instants their death, and death in such a
frightful form, a truly admirable maternal incident, which the genius of
the painter has divined in painting scenes from the Deluge, and which we
saw in all its heartrending and frightful reality! The Emperor wished to
retrace his steps, believing that his presence might restore order; but
he was dissuaded from this project so earnestly, that he withstood the
promptings of his heart and remained, though certainly it was not his
elevated rank which kept him on the bank. All the suffering he endured
could be seen when he inquired every instant where the crossing was, if
they could still hear cannon rolling over the bridge, if the cries had
not ceased somewhat in that direction. "The reckless creatures! Why
could they not wait a little?" said he.
There were fine examples of devotion under these distressing
circumstances. A young artilleryman threw himself into the water to save
a poor mother with two children, who was attempting to gain the other
shore in a little canoe. The load was too heavy; an enormous block of
ice floated against and sunk the little boat. The cannoneer seized one
of the children, and, swimming vigorously, bore it to the bank; but the
mother and the other child perished. This kind young man adopted the
orphan as his son. I do not know if he had the happiness of regaining
Officers harnessed themselves to sleds to carry some of their companions
who were rendered helpless by their wounds. They wrapped these
unfortunates as warmly as possible, cheered them from time to time with a
glass of brandy when they could procure it, and lavished on them most
There were many who behaved in this manner, many of whose names we are
ignorant; and how few returned to enjoy in their own country the
remembrance of the most admirable deeds of their lives.
The bridge was burned at eight o'clock in the morning.
On the 29th the. Emperor quitted the banks of the Beresina, and we slept
at Kamen, where his Majesty occupied a poor wooden building which the icy
air penetrated from all sides through the windows; nearly all the glass
of which being broken, we closed the openings as well as we could with
bundles of hay. A short distance from us, in a large lot, were penned up
the wretched Russian prisoners whom the army drove before it. I had much
difficulty in comprehending this delusion of victory which our poor
soldiers still kept up by dragging after them this wretched luxury of
prisoners, who could only be an added burden, as they required their
When the conquerors are dying of famine, what becomes of the conquered?
These poor Russians, exhausted by marches and famine, nearly all perished
this night. In the morning they were found huddled pell-mell against
each other, striving thus to obtain a little warmth. The weakest had
succumbed; and their stiffened bodies were propped the whole night
against the living without their even being aware of it. Some in their
hunger ate their dead companions. The hardihood with which the Russians
endure pain has often been remarked. I can cite one instance which
surpasses belief. One of these fellows, after being separated from his
corps, had been struck by a cannonball which had cut off both his legs
and killed his horse. A French officer on a reconnoitering tour on the
bank of the river where this Russian had fallen, perceived at some
distance an object which appeared to be a dead horse, and yet he could
see that it moved.
He approached, and saw the bust of a man whose extremities were concealed
in the stomach of the horse.
This poor creature had been there four days, inclosing himself in his
horse as a shelter against the cold, and feeding upon infected morsels
torn from this horrible retreat.
On the 3d of December we arrived at Malodeczno. During the whole day the
Emperor appeared thoughtful. and anxious. He had frequent confidential
conversations with the grand equerry, M. de Caulaincourt, and I suspected
some extraordinary measure. I was not deceived in my conjectures. At
two leagues from Smorghoni, the Duke of Vicenza summoned me, and told me
to go on in front and give orders to have the six best horses harnessed
to my carriage, which was the lightest of all, and keep them in constant
readiness. I reached Smorghoni before the Emperor, who did not arrive
till the following night. The cold was excessive; and the Emperor
alighted in a poor house on a square, where he established his
headquarters. He took a light repast, wrote with his own hand the
twenty-ninth bulletin of the army, and ordered all the marshals to be
Nothing had yet transpired as to the Emperor's plans, but in great and
desperate measures there is always something unusual which does not
escape the most clear-sighted. The Emperor was never so amiable nor so
communicative, and one felt that he was endeavoring to prepare his most
devoted friends for some overwhelming news. He talked for some time on
indifferent subjects, then spoke of the great deeds performed during the
campaign, referring with pleasure to the retreat of General Ney whom they
had at last found.
Marshal Davoust appeared abstracted; and the Emperor said to him, "At
least say something, Marshal." There had been for some time a little
coolness between him and the Emperor, and his Majesty reproached him with
the rarity of his visits, but he could not dissipate the cloud which
darkened every brow; for the Emperor's secret had not been as well kept
as he had hoped. After supper the Emperor ordered Prince Eugene to read
the twenty-ninth bulletin, and spoke freely of his plan, saying that his
departure was essential in order to send help to the army. He gave his
orders to the marshals, all of whom appeared sad and discouraged. It was
ten o'clock when the Emperor, saying it was time to take some repose,
embraced all the marshals and retired. He felt the need of withdrawing;
for he had been oppressed by the constraint of this interview, as could
easily be seen by the extreme agitation his countenance manifested at its
close. About half an hour after, the Emperor called me into his room and
said, "Constant, I am about to leave; I thought I should be able to take
you with me, but I have taken into consideration the fact that several
carriages would attract attention; it is essential that I experience no
delay, and I have given orders that you are to set out immediately upon
the return of my horses, and you will consequently follow me at a short
distance." I was suffering greatly from my old malady; hence the Emperor
would not allow me to go with him on the boot as I requested, in order
that he should receive his customary attentions from me. He said, "No,
Constant, you will follow me in a carriage, and I hope that you will be
able to arrive not more than a day behind me." He departed with the Duke
of Vicenza, and Roustan on the box; my carriage was unharnessed, and I
remained to my great regret. The Emperor left in the night.
By daybreak the army had learned the news, and the impression it made
cannot be depicted. Discouragement was at its height; and many soldiers
cursed the Emperor, and reproached him for abandoning them. There was
universal indignation. The Prince of Neuchatel was very uneasy, and
asked news of every one, though he would naturally have been the first to
receive any information. He feared lest Napoleon, who had a feeble
escort, should be made prisoner by the Cossacks, who, if they had learned
his departure, would make the greatest efforts to carry him off.
This night, the 6th, the cold increased greatly; and its severity may be
imagined, as birds were found on the ground frozen stiff with the cold.
Soldiers who had seated themselves with their head in their hands, and
bodies bent forward in order to thus feel less the emptiness of their
stomachs, were found dead in this position. As we breathed, the vapor
from our lips froze on our eyebrows, little white icicles formed on the
mustaches and beards of the soldiers; and in order to melt them they
warmed their chins by the bivouac fire, and as may be imagined a large
number did not do this with impunity. Artillerymen held their hands to
the horses' nostrils to get a little warmth from the strong breathing of
these animals. Their flesh was the usual food of the soldiers. Large
slices of this meat were thrown on the coals; and when frozen by the
cold, it was carried without spoiling, like salted bacon, the powder from
the cartridge-boxes taking the place of salt.
This same night we had with us a young Parisian belonging to a very
wealthy family, who had endeavored to obtain employment in the Emperor's
household. He was very young, and had been received among the boys of
the apartments, and the poor child was taking his first journey. He was
seized with the fever as we left Moscow, and was so ill this evening that
we could not remove him from the wagon belonging to the wardrobe service
in which he had been made as comfortable as possible. He died there in
the night, much to be regretted by all who knew him. Poor Lapouriel was
a youth of charming character, fine education, the hope of his family,
and an only son. The ground was so hard that we could not dig a grave,
and experienced the chagrin of leaving his remains unburied.
I set out next day armed with an order from the Prince de Neuchatel that
all on the road should furnish me horses in preference to all others.
At the first post after leaving Smorghoni, whence the Emperor had set out
with the Duke of Vicenza, this order was of invaluable aid to me, for
there were horses for only one carriage. I found myself a rival to M.
the Count Daru, who arrived at the same time. It is useless to say that
without the Emperor's orders to rejoin him as quickly as possible I would
not have exercised my right to take precedence over the intendant general
of the army; but impelled by my duty I showed the order of the Prince de
Neuchatel to M. the Count Daru, and the latter, after examining it, said
to me, "You are right, M. Constant; take the horses, but I beg you send
them back as quickly as possible." How crowded with disasters was this
After much suffering and privation we arrived at Wilna, where it was
necessary to pass a long, narrow bridge before entering the town. The
artillery and wagons occupied the whole bridge so entirely that no other
carriage could pass; and it was useless to say "His Majesty's service,"
as we received only maledictions. Seeing the impossibility of advancing,
I alighted from my carriage, and found there the Prince of Aremberg,
ordnance officer of the Emperor, in a pitiable condition, his face, nose,
ears, and feet having been frozen. He was seated behind my carriage. I
was cut to the heart, and said to the prince that if he had informed me
of his condition I would have given him my place. He could hardly answer
me. I helped him for some time; but seeing how necessary it was that we
should both advance, I undertook to carry him. He was delicate, slender,
and about medium height. I took him in my arms; and with this burden,
elbowing, pushing, hurting some, being hurt by others, I at last reached
the headquarters of the King of Naples, and deposited the prince there,
recommending that he should receive every attention which his condition
required. After this I resumed my carriage.
Everything had failed us. Long before reaching Wilna, the horses being
dead, we had received orders to burn our carriages with all the contents.
I lost heavily in this journey, as I had purchased several valuable
articles which were burned with my baggage of which I always had a large
quantity on our journeys. A large part of the Emperor's baggage was lost
in the same manner.
A very handsome carriage of Prince Berthier, which had just arrived and
had not been used, was also burned. At these fires, four grenadiers were
stationed, who with fixed bayonet prevented any one from taking from the
fire what had been ordered to be sacrificed.
The next day the carriages which had been spared were visited in order to
be assured that nothing had been kept back. I was allowed to keep only
two shirts. We slept at Wilna; but the next day very early the alarm was
given that the Russians were at the gates of the town. Men rushed in,
beside themselves with terror, crying, "We are lost!" The King of Naples
was quickly aroused; sprang from his bed; and the order was instantly
given that the Emperor's service should leave at once. The confusion
made by all this can be imagined. There was no time for any
arrangements; we were obliged to start without delay. The Prince of
Aremberg was put into one of the king's carriages with what could be
secured for the most pressing needs; and we had hardly left the town
before we heard shouts behind us, and the thunder of cannon accompanied
by rapid firing. We had to climb a mountain of ice. The horses were
fatigued, and we made no progress. The wagon with the treasure-chest of
the army was abandoned; and a part of the money was pillaged by men who
had not gone a hundred steps before they were obliged to throw it away in
order to save their lives.
RECOLLECTIONS OF THE PRIVATE LIFE OF NAPOLEON, V10
PREMIER VALET DE CHAMBRE
TRANSLATED BY WALTER CLARK
During the whole Russian campaign, the Emperor was nearly always badly
lodged. It was necessary, however, to accommodate himself to
circumstances; though this was a somewhat difficult task to those who
were accustomed to lodge in palaces. The Emperor accepted the situation
bravely, and all his followers consequently did the same. In consequence
of the system of incendiarism adopted as the policy of Russia, the
wealthy part of the population withdrew into the country, abandoning to
the enemy their houses already ruined. In truth, on the whole road
leading to Moscow, with the exception of a few unimportant towns, the
dwellings were very wretched; and after long and fatiguing marches, we
were very happy if we found even a hut at the place the Emperor indicated
as headquarters. The owners of these miserable hovels on quitting them
left there sometimes two or three seats and wooden beds, in which were an
abundant supply of vermin that no invasion could drive out. The least
filthy place was chosen, which was usually the most airy; and we knew
when the cold came, icy breezes would not fail us. When the location had
been chosen, and we decided to halt there, a carpet was spread on the
ground, the Emperor's iron bedstead set up, and a dressing-case
containing everything necessary in a bedroom placed open on a small
table. This case also contained a breakfast service for several persons,
which luxury was displayed when the Emperor entertained his marshals. It
was necessary, at all events, to bring ourselves down to the habits of
the humblest citizens of the province. If the house had two rooms, one
served as sleeping and dining room, the other for his Majesty's cabinet.
The box of books, geographical maps, the portfolio, and a table covered
with green cloth, were the entire furniture. This was also the council
chamber; and from these beggarly huts were sent forth those prompt and
trenchant decisions which changed the order of battle and often the
fortunes of the day, and those strong and energetic proclamations which
so quickly reanimated the discouraged army. When our residence was
composed of three rooms,--an extremely rare occurrence, then the third
room, or closet, was occupied by the Prince de Neuchatel, who always
slept as near by as possible. We often found in these wretched dwellings
old decayed furniture of singular shapes, and little images in wood or
plaster of male or female saints which the proprietors had left.
Frequently, however, we found poor people in these dwellings, who, having
nothing to save from conquest, had remained. These good people seemed
much ashamed to entertain so badly the Emperor of the French, gave us
what they had, and were not, on that account, less badly esteemed by us.
More of the poor than rich received the Emperor into their houses; and
the Kremlin was the last of the foreign palaces in which the Emperor
slept during the Russian campaign.
When there were no houses to be found, we erected the Emperor's tent,
and, in order to divide it into three apartments curtains were hung; in
one of these apartments the Emperor slept, the next was the Emperor's
cabinet, and the third was occupied by his aides-de-camp and officers of
the service; this latter room being ordinarily used as the Emperor's
dining-room, his meals being prepared outside. I alone slept in his
room. Roustan, who accompanied his Majesty on horseback, slept in the
entrance room of the tent, in order that the sleep which was so necessary
to him should not be disturbed. The secretaries slept either in the
cabinet or the entrance room. The higher officers and those of the
service ate where and when they could, and, like the simple soldiers,
made no scruple of eating without tables.
Prince Berthier's tent was near that of the Emperor, and the prince
always breakfasted and dined with him. They were like two inseparable
friends. This attachment was very touching, and points of difference
rarely arose between them. Nevertheless, there was, I think, a little
coolness between him and the Emperor at the time his Majesty left the
army of Moscow. The old marshal wished to accompany him; but the Emperor
refused, and thereupon ensued an animated but fruitless discussion.
The meals were served on the campaign by M. Colin, controller of the
kitchen service, and Roustan, or a bedroom servant.
During this campaign more than any other the Emperor rose often in the
night, put on his dressing-gown, and worked in his cabinet: frequently he
had insomnia, which he could not overcome; and when the bed at last
became unbearable, he sprang from it suddenly, took a book and read,
walking back and forth, and when his head was somewhat relieved lay down
again. It was very rarely he slept the whole of two nights in
succession; but often he remained thus in the cabinet till the hour for
his toilet, when he returned to his room and I dressed him. The Emperor
took great care of his hands; but on this campaign he many times
neglected this species of coquetry, and during the excessive heat did not
wear gloves, as they inconvenienced him so greatly. He endured the cold
heroically, though it was easy to see he suffered much from it
At Witepsk the Emperor, finding the space in front of the house in which
he had his quarters too small to hold a review of the troops, had several
small buildings torn down in order to enlarge it. There was a small
dilapidated chapel which it was also necessary to destroy in order to
accomplish this, and it had been already partly torn down, when the
inhabitants assembled in large numbers, and loudly expressed their
disapprobation of this measure. But the Emperor having given his consent
to their removing the sacred objects contained in the chapel, they were
pacified; and, armed with this authority, several among them entered the
sacred place, and emerged bearing with great solemnity wooden images of
immense height, which they deposited in the other churches.
We were witnesses while in this town of a singular spectacle, and one
well calculated to shock our sense of decency. For many days during the
intense heat we saw the inhabitants, both men and women, rushing to the
banks of the river, removing their clothing with the greatest
indifference to spectators, and bathing together, most of them nearly
naked. The soldiers of the guard took pleasure in mingling with these
bathers of both sexes; but as the soldiers were not so decorous as the
inhabitants, and as the imprudencies committed by our men soon went too
far, these worthy people relinquished the pleasures of their bath, very
much displeased because sport was made of an exercise they had enjoyed
with so much gravity and seriousness.
One evening I was present at a grand review of the foot grenadiers of the
guard, in which all the regiments seemed to take much delight, since it
was in honor of the installation of General Friant
[Louis Friant, born in Picardy, 1758; brigadier-general, 1794;
served on the Rhine and in Italy; accompanied Napoleon to Egypt, and
became general of division; wounded at Austerlitz (1805), and was at
Jena and Wagram; commanded the grenadiers of the guard in Russian
campaign, and was severely wounded at Waterloo; died 1829]
as commander of the corps. The Emperor gave him the accolade, which was
the only occasion on which I saw this done during the campaign; and as
the general was much beloved by the army, it was amidst the acclamations
of all that he received this honor from the Emperor.
Promotions were usually welcomed by the soldiers with great enthusiasm,
for the Emperor required that they should take place with much pomp and
Many persons thought that to be near the Emperor was a proof of being
well provided for on the campaign. This is a great mistake, as even the
kings and princes who accompanied his Majesty on his campaigns could
easily prove; and if these great personages lacked absolute necessaries,
it may well be believed that the persons comprising the different
services fared badly. The Emperor himself often dispensed with ordinary
comforts which would have been very agreeable to him after the fatigues
of the day.
At the hour for the bivouac it was a general "lodge who can;" but the
poorest soldier never had in his deprivation the chagrin of seeing his
superiors enjoying abundance and scandalous luxury. The first generals
of the army often dined on ammunition-bread with as much pleasure as the
simple soldier, and on the retreat the misery could not have been more
general. This idea of deprivations shared by all did much to restore
hope and energy to the most discouraged; and, I may add, never has more
reciprocal sympathy between chiefs and soldiers been seen, in support of
which statement innumerable instances could be given.
When evening came the fires were kindled, and those foragers who had been
most successful invited their companions to share their good cheer. In
the worst times there was poor, yet still not the worst, fare to offer,
consisting of slices of broiled horse-flesh.
Many soldiers deprived themselves of some valuable booty to offer it to
their chief, and selfishness was not so general that this noble French
courtesy did not reappear from time to time to recall the happy days of
France. Straw was the bed of all; and those of the marshals who in Paris
slept on most luxurious beds of down did not find this couch too hard in
M. de Beausset has given me a very amusing account of one night, when
sleeping pell-mell on a little straw, in very narrow quarters, the aides-
de-camp attending upon the Emperor stepped mercilessly on the limbs of
their sleeping companions, who, fortunately, did not all suffer from gout
like M. Beausset, and were not injured by such sudden and oft-repeated
onslaughts. He cried, "What brutes!" and drawing his legs under him,
cowered down in his corner until this passing and repassing had ceased
for a while.
Picture to yourself large rooms, filthy, unfurnished, and open to the
wind, which entered through every window, nearly all the glass of which
was broken, with crumbling walls and fetid air, which we warmed as well
as possible with our breath, a vast litter of straw prepared as if for
horses, and on this litter men shivering with cold, throwing themselves
about, pressing against each other, murmuring, swearing, some unable to
close their eyes, others more fortunate snoring loudly, and in the midst
of this mass of legs and feet, a general awakening in the night when an
order from the Emperor arrived, and you may form an idea of the inn and
As for myself, during the entire campaign I did not a single time undress
to retire to bed, for I never found one anywhere. It was necessary to
supply this deficiency by some means; and as it is well known that
necessity is ever ready with inventions, we supplied deficiency in our
furnishings in the following manner: we had great bags of coarse cloth
made, into which we entered, and thus protected, threw ourselves on a
little straw, when we were fortunate enough to obtain it; and for several
months I took my rest during the night in this manner, and even this I
frequently could not enjoy for as many as five or six nights at a time,
so exacting were the requirements of my position.
If it is remembered that all these sufferings continued in their petty
details each day, and that when night came we had not even a bed on which
to stretch our weary limbs, some idea may be formed of the privations we
endured on this campaign. The Emperor never uttered a word of complaint
when beset by such discomforts, and his example inspired us with courage;
and at last we became so accustomed to this fatiguing and wandering
existence, that, in spite of the cold and privations of every sort to
which we were subjected, we often jested about the dainty arrangements of
our apartments. The Emperor on the campaign was affected only by the
sufferings of others, though his health was sometimes so much impaired as
to cause anxiety, especially when he denied himself all rest not
absolutely required; and yet I heard him constantly inquiring if there
were lodgings for all, and he would not be satisfied until fully informed
of every particular.
Although the Emperor nearly always had a bed, the poor quarters in which
it was set up were often so filthy, that in spite of all the care taken
to clean it, I more than once found on his clothing a kind of vermin very
disagreeable, and very common in Russia. We suffered more than the
Emperor from this inconvenience, being deprived as we were of proper
linen and other changes of clothing, since the greater part of our
effects had been burned with the wagons containing them. This extreme
measure had been taken, as I have said, for good reasons, all the horses
having died from cold or famine.
We were little better lodged in the palace of the Czars than on the
bivouac. For several days we had only mattresses; but as a large number
of wounded officers had none, the Emperor ordered ours to be given them.
We made the sacrifice willingly, and the thought that we were assisting
others more unfortunate than ourselves would have made the hardest bed
endurable. Besides, in this war we had more than one opportunity to
learn how to put aside all feelings of egotism and narrow personality;
and had we been guilty of such forgetfulness, the Emperor was ever ready
to recall us to this plain and simple duty.
The only too famous twenty-ninth bulletin of the grand army was not
published in Paris, where the consternation it spread through all classes
is well known, until the 16th of December; and the Emperor, following
close upon the heels of this solemn manifesto of our disasters, arrived
in his capital forty-eight hours after, as if endeavoring to annul by his
presence the evil effects which this communication might produce. On the
28th, at half past eleven in the evening, his Majesty alighted at the
palace of the Tuileries. This was the first time since his accession to
the consulate that Paris had witnessed his return from a campaign without
announcing a new peace conquered by the glory of our arms. Under these
circumstances, the numerous persons who from attachment to the Empress
Josephine had always seen or imagined they saw in her a kind of
protecting talisman of the success of the Emperor, did not fail to remark
that the campaign of Russia was the first which had been undertaken since
the Emperor's marriage to Marie Louise. Without any superstition, it
could not be denied that, although the Emperor was always great even when
fortune was contrary to him, there was a very marked difference between
the reign of the two Empresses. The one witnessed only victories
followed by peace. And the other, only wars, not devoid of glory, but
devoid of results, until the grand and fatal conclusion in the abdication
But it is anticipating too much to describe here events which few men
dared to predict directly after the disasters of Moscow. All the world
knows that the cold and a freezing temperature contributed more to our
reverses than the enemy, whom we had pursued even into the heart of his
burning capital. France still offered immense resources; and the Emperor
was now there in person to direct their employment and increase their
value. Besides, no defection was as yet apparent; and, with the
exception of Spain, Sweden, and Russia, the Emperor considered all the
European powers as allies. It is true the moment was approaching when
General Yorck would give the signal,--for as well as I can recall, the
first news came to the Emperor on the 10th of the following January,--and
it was easy to see that his Majesty was profoundly affected by it, as he
saw that Prussia would have many imitators in the other corps of the
At Smorghoni, where the Emperor had left me setting out, as I have before
related, with the Duke of Vicenza in the coach which had been destined
for me, scarcely anything was thought of but how to extricate ourselves
from the frightful situation in which we found ourselves placed. I well
remember that after a few regrets that the Emperor was not in the midst
of his lieutenants, the idea of being assured that he had escaped from
all danger became the dominant sentiment, so much confidence did all
place in his genius. Moreover, in departing, he had given the command to
the King of Naples, whose valor the whole army admired, although it is
said that a few marshals were secretly jealous of his royal crown. I
have learned since, that the Emperor reached Warsaw on the 10th, having
avoided passing through Wilna by making a circuit through the suburbs;
and at last, after passing through Silesia, he had arrived at Dresden,
where the good and faithful King of Saxony, although very ill, had
himself borne to the Emperor. From this place his Majesty had followed
the road by Nassau and Mayence.
I followed also the same route, but not with the same rapidity, although
I lost no time. Everywhere, and above all in Poland at the places where
I stopped, I was astonished to find the feeling of security I saw
manifested. From all directions I heard the report that the Emperor was
to return at the head of an army of three hundred thousand men. The
Emperor had been known to do such surprising things, that nothing seemed
impossible; and I learned that he himself had spread these reports on his
passage, in order to restore the courage of the population. In several
places I could procure no horses; and consequently, in spite of all my
zeal, I did not reach Paris until six or eight days after the Emperor.
I had hardly alighted from my carriage, when the Emperor, who had been
informed of my arrival, had me summoned. I observed to the messenger
that I was not in a condition which would allow me to present myself
before his Majesty. "That makes no difference," replied he; "the Emperor
wishes you to come immediately, just as you are." I obeyed instantly;
and went, or rather ran, to the Emperor's cabinet, where I found him with
the Empress, Queen Hortense, and another person whose name I do not
perfectly recall. The Emperor deigned to give me a most cordial welcome;
and as the Empress seemed to pay no attention to me, said to her in a
manner whose kindness I shall never forget, "Louise, do you not recognize
"I perceived him." [Elsewhere Constant has stated her reply was, "I had
not perceived him."] This was the only reply of her Majesty the
Empress; but such was not the case with Queen Hortense, who welcomed me
as kindly as her adorable mother had always done.
The Emperor was very gay, and seemed to have forgotten all his fatigue.
I was about to retire respectfully; but his Majesty said to me, "No,
Constant, remain a minute longer, and tell me what you saw on your road."
Even if I had any intention to conceal from the Emperor a part of the
truth, taken thus unawares I should have lacked the time to prepare an
agreeable falsehood; so I said to him that everywhere, even in Silesia,
my eyes had been struck by the same frightful spectacle, for everywhere I
had seen the dead and the dying, and poor unfortunates struggling
hopelessly against cold and hunger. "That is true, that is true," he
said; "go and rest, my poor boy, you must be in need of it. To-morrow
you will resume your service."
The next day, in fact, I resumed my duties near the Emperor, and I found
him exactly the same as he had been before entering on the campaign; the
same placidity was evident on his countenance. It would have been said
that the past was no longer anything to him; and living ever in the
future, he already saw victory perched again on our banner, and his
enemies humiliated and vanquished. It is true that the numerous
addresses he received, and discourses which were pronounced in his
presence by the presidents of the senate and the council of state, were
no less flattering than formerly; but it was very evident in his replies
that if he pretended to forget this disastrous experience in Russia, he
was more deeply concerned about the affair of General Malet than anything
[In the reply of the Emperor to the council of state occurred the
following remarkable passage, which it may not be amiss to repeat at
this period as very singular:
"It is to idealism and that gloomy species of metaphysics which,
seeking subtilely for first causes, wishes to place on such
foundations the legislation of a people, instead of adapting the
laws to their knowledge of the human heart, and to the lessons of
history, that it is necessary to attribute all the misfortunes our
beautiful France has experienced. These errors have necessarily led
to the rule of the men of blood. In fact, who has proclaimed the
principle of insurrection as a duty? Who has paid adulation to the
nation while claiming for it a sovereignty which it was incapable of
exercising? Who has destroyed the sanctity and respect for the
laws, in making them depend, not on the sacred principles of
justice, or the nature of things and on civil justice, but simply on
the will of an assembly of men strangers to the knowledge of civil,
criminal, administrative, political, and military law? When one is
called on to regenerate a state, there are directly opposite
principles by which one must necessarily be guided."--NOTE BY THE
EDITOR of FRENCH EDITION.
Claude Francois de Malet, born at Dole, 1754. In 1806 was a general
officer, and was dismissed the service. Plotting against the
Emperor, he was imprisoned from 1808 to 1812. On October 24 he
issued a proclamation that the Emperor had died in Russia, and that
he (Malet) had been appointed Governor of Paris by the senate. He
made Savary prisoner, and shot General Hullin. He was made prisoner
in turn by General Laborde, and summarily shot.-TRANS. (See "The
Memoirs" by Bourrienne for the detail of this plot. D.W.)]
As for myself I cannot deny the painful feelings I experienced the first
time I went out in Paris, and passed through the public promenades during
my hours of leisure; for I was struck with the large number of persons in
mourning whom I met,--the wives and sisters of our brave soldiers mowed
down on the fields of Russia; but I kept these disagreeable impressions
A few days after my return to Paris their Majesties were present at the
opera where 'Jerusalem Delivered' was presented. I occupied a box which
Count de Remusat had the kindness to lend me for that evening (he was
first chamberlain of the Emperor, and superintendent of theaters), and
witnessed the reception given the Emperor and Empress. Never have I seen
more enthusiasm displayed, and I must avow that the transition seemed to
me most sudden from the recent passage of the Beresina to those truly
magical scenes. It was on Sunday, and I left the theater a little before
the close in order to reach the palace before the Emperor's return. I
was there in time to undress him, and I well remember that his Majesty
spoke to me that evening of the quarrel between Talma and Geoffroy which
had occurred a few days before his arrival. The Emperor, although he had
a high opinion of Talma, thought him completely in the wrong, and
repeated several times, "A man of his age! A man of his age! that is
inexcusable. Zounds !" added he, smiling, "do not people speak evil of
me also? Have I not also critics who do not spare me? He should not be
more sensitive than I" This affair, however, had no disagreeable result
for Talma; for the Emperor was much attached to him, and overwhelmed him
with pensions and presents.
Talma in this respect was among the very privileged few; for giving
presents was not in his Majesty's role, especially to those in his
private service. It was then near the 1st of January; but we built no
air castles at this period, for the Emperor never made gifts. We knew
that we could not expect any emoluments; though I, especially, could
exercise no economy, for the Emperor required that my toilet should
always be extremely elegant. It was something really extraordinary to
see the master of half of Europe not disdaining to occupy himself with
the toilet of his valet de chambre; even going so far that when he saw me
in a new coat which pleased him he never failed to compliment me on it,
adding, "You are very handsome, Monsieur Constant."
Even on the occasion of the marriage of the Emperor and Marie Louise, and
that of the birth of the King of Rome, those composing the private
service of his Majesty received no present, and the Emperor thought the
expenses of these ceremonies too great. On one occasion, however, but
not in consequence of any unusual circumstance, the Emperor said to me
one morning as I finished dressing him, "Constant, go to M. Meneval; I
have given him orders to allow you eighteen hundred livres of income."
Now, it happened that the funds had gone up in the interval between the
order and its execution; and instead of receiving eighteen hundred livres
of rent, I received only seventeen, which I sold a short time after, and
with the product of this sale bought a modest piece of property in the
forest of Fontainebleau.
Sometimes the Emperor made presents to the princes and princesses of his
family, of which I was nearly always the bearer; and I can assert that
with two or three rare exceptions this duty was perfectly gratuitous, a
circumstance which I recall here simply as a recollection. Queen
Hortense and Prince Eugene were never included, according to my
recollection, in the distribution of Imperial gifts, and the Princess
Pauline was most often favored.
In spite of the numerous occupations of the Emperor, who after his return
from the army spent much time during the day, and most of the nights,
working in his cabinet, he showed himself more frequently in public than
heretofore, going out almost without escort. On the 2d of January, 1813,
for instance, I remember he went, accompanied only by Marshal Duroc, to
visit the basilica of Notre Dame, the works of the archbishopric, those
of the central depot of wines, and then, crossing the bridge of
Austerlitz, the granaries, the fountain of the elephant, and finally the
palace of the Bourse, which his Majesty often said was the handsomest
building then existing in Europe. Next to his passion for war, that for
monuments was strongest in the Emperor's heart. The cold was quite
severe while his Majesty was taking these solitary excursions; but in
fact the cold weather in Paris seemed a very mild temperature to all who
had just returned from Russia.
I remarked at this time, that is to say at the end of 1812 and the
beginning of 1813, that the Emperor had never hunted so frequently. Two
or three times a week I assisted him to don his hunting-costume, which
he, like all persons of his suite, wore in accordance with the recently
revived usage of the ancient monarchy.
The Empress often accompanied him in a coach, although the cold was
intense; but when he gave an order there was nothing to be said. Knowing
how distasteful the pleasures of the chase ordinarily were to his
Majesty, I was surprised at this recent fondness he manifested, but soon
learned that he was acting purely from political motives. One day
Marshal Duroc was in his room, while he was putting on his green coat
with gold lace; and I heard the Emperor say to the marshal, "It is very
necessary that I should be in motion, and have the journals speak of it;
for the imbeciles who write for the English journals repeat every day
that I am sick, that I cannot move, and am no longer good for anything.
Have patience! I will soon show them that I have as much strength of
body as of mind." Besides all this, I think that the exercise of hunting
in moderation was very good for the Emperor's health; for I never saw him
in better condition than during the very time the English journals took
pleasure in describing him as ill, and perhaps by these false statements
were contributing to still further improve his health.
On the 19th of January the Emperor sent to inform the Empress that he was
to hunt in the wood of Grosbois, and would breakfast with the Princess de
Neuchatel, and requested that her Majesty would accompany him. The
Emperor ordered me also to be at Grosbois in order to assist him in
changing his linen after the hunt. This hunting-party took place
according to announcement; but to the unbounded amazement of the entire
suite of the Emperor, just as we were on the point of re-entering our
carriages, instead of taking the road to Paris, his Majesty gave orders
to proceed to Fontainebleau. The Empress and the ladies who accompanied
her had nothing except their hunting costumes, and the Emperor was much
diverted by the tribulations their vanity underwent in being unexpectedly
engaged in a campaign without toilet equipments. Before leaving Paris
the Emperor had given orders that there should be sent in all haste to
Fontainebleau all that the "Empress could need; but her ladies found
themselves totally unprovided for, and it was very amusing to see them
immediately on their arrival expedite express after express for objects
of prime necessity which they ordered should be sent posthaste.
Nevertheless, it was soon evident that the hunting-party and breakfast at
Grosbois had been simply a pretext, and that the Emperor's object had
been to put an end to the differences which had for some time existed
between his Holiness and his Majesty. Everything having been settled and
prearranged, the Emperor and the Pope signed on the 25th an agreement
under the name of Concordat, of which this is the purport:
"His Majesty, the Emperor and King, and his Holiness, wishing
to settle the differences which had arisen between them, and provide
for difficulties which have unexpectedly arisen in regard to various
affairs of the church, have agreed on the following articles as
forming a basis for a definite arrangement:
ART. 1. His Holiness will exercise the pontificate in France, and
in the Kingdom of Italy, in the same manner and under the same
regulations as his predecessors.
2. The ambassadors, ministers, and charges d'affaires to the Holy
Father, and the ambassadors, ministers, and charges d'affaires from
him to foreign powers, will enjoy the immunities and privileges of
members of the diplomatic corps.
3. The domains possessed by the Holy Father, and which have not
been alienated, shall be exempt from all kinds of impost; they shall
be administered by his agents or representatives. Those which have
been alienated shall be replaced to the value of two million francs
4. During the six months which usually follow the notification of
appointments made by the Emperor to the archbishoprics and
bishoprics of the Empire and the Kingdom of Italy the Pope shall
perform the canonical institution in conformity with the Concordat,
and by virtue of the present agreement; previous information
concerning which shall be given by the archbishop. If six months
shall expire without the Pope having performed this institution, the
archbishop, and in his absence, where his duties are concerned, the
senior bishop of the province, shall proceed to the institution of
the aforementioned bishop, to the end that a see shall never be
vacant more than one year.
5. The Pope shall appoint in France and in the Kingdom of Italy to
ten bishoprics, which shall later be designated by mutual agreement.
6. The six suburban bishoprics shall be re-established, and shall
be appointed to by the Pope. The property now held shall be
restored, and similar measures taken in regard to that already sold.
On the death of the bishops of Anagni and Rieti, their dioceses
shall be united with that of the six bishops aforesaid, in
conformity with the agreement between his Majesty and the Holy
7. In respect to the bishops of the Roman States, unavoidably
absent from their dioceses, the Holy Father shall exercise his right
of bestowing bishoprics 'in partibus'. He shall give them a pension
equal to the revenue they formerly enjoyed, and their places in the
sees thus vacated shall be supplied, both in the Empire and the
Kingdom of Italy.
8. His Majesty and His Holiness will agree on some opportune
occasion as to the reduction to be made in the bishoprics of
Tuscany, and the province of Genoa, as well as those to be
established in Holland, and the Hanseatic departments.
9. The propaganda, the penitential court, and the court of
archives shall be established in the place of residence of the Holy
10. His Majesty pardons freely the cardinals, bishops, priests, and
laity who have incurred his disgrace in consequence of certain
11. The Holy Father agrees to the above resolutions in
consideration of the existing condition of the church, and his
confidence that his Majesty will grant his powerful assistance to
the needs of the church, which are so numerous in the times in which
"NAPOLEON." "PIUS VII."
"Fontainebleau, 25 January, 1813."
It has been attempted by every possible means to throw odium on the
conduct of the Emperor in this affair. He has been accused of having
insulted the Pope, and even of having threatened him, all of which is
most signally false. Everything was arranged in the most agreeable
manner. M. Devoisin, bishop of Nantes, an ecclesiastic who was highly
esteemed by the Emperor, and was his favorite mediator, in the frequent
points of difference which arose between the Pope and his Majesty, had
come to the Tuileries on the 19th of January, and after being closeted
with the Emperor for two hours, had left for Fontainebleau. And it was
immediately after this interview that the Emperor entered his carriage
with the Empress in hunting costume, followed by the whole suite,
The Pope, forewarned by the Bishop of Nantes, awaited his Majesty; and as
the most important points had been discussed and arranged in advance, and
only a few clauses accessory to the main body of the Concordat remained
to be decided, it was impossible that the interview should have been
otherwise than amicable, a truth which is still more evident when we
reflect on the kind feelings of the Holy Father towards the Emperor,
their friendship for each other, and the admiration inspired in the Pope
by the great genius of Napoleon. I affirm then, and I think with good
reason, that the affair was conducted in a most honorable manner, and
that the Concordat was signed freely and without compulsion by his
Holiness, in presence of the cardinals assembled at Fontainebleau. It is
an atrocious calumny which some one has dared to make that, on the
reiterated refusal of the Pope, the Emperor placed in his hand a pen
dipped in ink, and seizing him by the arm and hair, forced him to sign,
saying that he ordered it, and that his disobedience would be punished by
perpetual imprisonment. The one who invented this absurd fabrication
must have known little of the Emperor's character. A person who was
present at this interview, the circumstances of which have been so
falsified, related them to me, and is my authority on the subject.
Immediately on his arrival at Fontainebleau, the Emperor paid a visit to
the Holy Father, who returned it next day, remaining two hours at least;
and during this time his Majesty's manner was calm and firm, it is true,
but full of respect and kind feeling for the person of the venerable
Pope. A few stipulations of the proposed treaty alarmed the conscience
of the Holy Father, which the Emperor perceived; and without waiting for
any arguments declared that he would renounce them, and every scruple
remaining in the mind of the Holy Father being thus satisfied, a
secretary was called, who drew up the articles, which the Pope approved
one by one, with most paternal benignity.
On the 25th of January, after the Concordat was definitely settled, the
Holy Father repaired to the apartments of her Majesty the Empress; and
both of the contracting parties appeared equally well satisfied, which is
a sufficient proof that neither treachery nor violence had been used.
The Concordat was signed by the august parties in the midst of a
magnificent assemblage of cardinals, bishops, soldiers, etc. Cardinal
Doria performed the duties of grand master of ceremonies, and it was he
who received the signatures.
A countless number of congratulations were given and received, pardons
asked and obtained, and relics, decorations, chaplets, and tobacco-boxes
distributed by both parties. Cardinal Doria received from his Majesty
the gold eagle of the Legion of Honor. The great eagle was also given to
Cardinal Fabricio Ruffo; Cardinal Maury, the Bishop of Nantes, and the
Archbishop of Tours received the grand cross of the order of the Reunion;
the Bishops of Evreux and Treves, the cross of officers of the Legion of
Honor; and finally the Cardinal of Bayonne and the Bishop of Evreux were
made senators by his Majesty. Doctor Porta, the Pope's physician, was
presented with a pension of twelve thousand francs, and the
ecclesiastical secretary who entered the cabinet to copy the articles of
the Concordat received a present of a magnificent ring set with
His Holiness had hardly signed the Concordat before he repented of it.
The following was related to Marshal Kellerman by the Emperor at Mayence
the last of April:
"The day after the signing of the famous Concordat of Fontainebleau, the
Pope dined in public with me; but in the night he was ill, or pretended
to be. He was a lamblike, honest, and truly good man, whom I highly
esteemed and loved, and who had some regard for me I am sure. Would you
believe it, he wrote me a week after signing the Concordat that he much
regretted having done so, that his conscience reproached him for it, and
urged me earnestly to consider it as of no effect. This was owing to the
fact that immediately after leaving me he had fallen into the hands of
his usual advisers, who made a scarecrow out of what had just occurred.
If we had been together I could easily have reassured him. I replied
that what he demanded was contrary to the interests of France; and
moreover, being infallible, he could not have made a mistake, and his
conscience was too quick to take the alarm for him to have done wrong.
"In fact, compare the condition of Rome formerly with what it is to-day.
Paralyzed by the necessary consequences of the Revolution, could she have
risen again and maintained her position? A vicious government as to
political matters has taken the place of the former Roman legislation,
which, without being perfect, nevertheless contributed to form great men
of every kind. Modern Rome has applied to its political government
principles better suited to a religious order, and has carried them out
in a manner fatal to the happiness of the people.
"Thus charity is the most perfect of Christian virtues; it is necessary
to give charity to all who ask it. This form of reasoning has rendered
Rome the receptacle of the dregs of all nations. One sees collected
there (so I am told, for I have never visited it) all the idlers of the
earth, who come thither to take refuge, assured of finding an abundant
support with much to spare. And thus the papal territory, which nature
has destined to produce immense wealth from its situation under a
favorable sky, from the multiplicity of streams with which it is watered,
and above all from the fertility of the soil, languishes for want of
cultivation. Berthier has often told me that large tracts of country may
be traversed without perceiving the impress of the hand of man. The
women even, who are regarded as the most beautiful of Italy, are
indolent, and their minds evince no activity even in the ordinary duties
of life. The inhabitants have all the languor of Asiatic manners.
"Modern Rome limits itself to preserving a certain pre-eminence by virtue
of the marvelous works of art which it contains; but we have greatly
weakened this claim. Our museum is enriched by all the masterpieces
which were a source of so much pride, and soon the magnificent edifice of
the Bourse which is to be erected at Paris will eclipse all those of
Europe, either ancient or modern.
"France before all.
"Viewed from a political standpoint, how would the papal government in
these days appear compared with the great kingdoms of Europe? Formerly
mediocre men succeeded to the pontifical throne at an age in which one
breathes well only after resting. At this period of life routine and
habit are everything; and nothing is considered but the elevated
position, and how to make it redound to the advantage of his family.
A pope now arrives at sovereign power with a mind sharpened by being
accustomed to intrigue, and with a fear of making powerful enemies who
may hereafter revenge themselves on his family, since his successor is
always unknown. In fine, he cares for nothing but to live and die in
peace. In the seat of Sixtus V.
[Sixtus V., originally Felix Peretti, born at Montalto, 1525, and
in 1585 succeeded Gregory XIII. as pope. He was distinguished by
his energy and munificence. He constructed the Vatican Library, the
great aqueduct, and other public works, and placed the obelisk
before St. Peter's. Died 1589.]
how many popes have there been who have occupied themselves only with
frivolous subjects, as little advantageous to the best interests of
religion as fruitful in inspiring scorn for such a government! But that
would lead us too far."
From the time of his return from Moscow, his Majesty occupied himself
with unequaled activity in seeking means to arrest the invasion of the
Russians, who, having united with the Prussians since General Yorck's
defection, constituted a most formidable mass. New levies had been
ordered. For two months he had received and utilized the innumerable
offers of horses and cavalry made by all the towns of the Empire, by
official bodies, and by rich individuals holding positions near the
court, etc. The Imperial Guard was reorganized under the brave Duke de
Frioul, who was alas! a few months later to be torn from his numerous
In the midst of these grave occupations his Majesty did not for a moment
lose sight of his cherished plan of making Paris the most beautiful city
of the world; and not a week passed without interviews with architects
and engineers, who presented estimates, made reports, etc.
"It is a shame," said the Emperor one day, while inspecting the barracks
of the guard, a species of black and smoke-begrimed shed, "it is a
shame," said he to M. Fontaine, "to make buildings as frightful as those
of Moscow. I should never have allowed such a building to be erected.
Are you not my chief architect?"
M. Fontaine excused himself by pointing out to his Majesty that he was
not responsible for the buildings of Paris, as although he had the honor
of being chief architect of the Emperor, it was for the Tuileries and the
"That is true," replied his Majesty; "but could there not be built here,"
pointing to the quay, "in place of this wooden dockyard, which produces
such a bad effect, a residence for the Italian minister?"
M. Fontaine replied that the plan was very feasible, but that it would
require three or four millions.
The Emperor then seemed to abandon this idea, and turning his attention
to the garden of the Tuileries, perhaps in consequence of the conspiracy
of General Malet,gave orders to arrange all the entrances to the palace
so that the same key might serve for all the locks; "and this key," his
Majesty added, "should be put in charge of the grand marshal after the
doors were closed for the night."
A few days after this conversation with M. Fontaine, the Emperor sent to
him and M. Costaz the following note, a copy of which fell into my hands.
His Majesty had that morning visited the buildings of Chaillot.
"There is yet ample time to discuss the construction of the palace
for the King of Rome.
I do not wish to be led into foolish expenditures; I should like a
palace not so large as Saint-Cloud, but larger than the Luxemburg.
I wish to be able to occupy it after the sixteenth million has been
expended; then it will be a practicable affair. But if a more
expensive building is attempted, it will result like the Louvre,
which has never been finished.
The parks are first to be considered, their boundaries determined
I wish this new palace to be somewhat handsomer than the Elysee; and
although that cost less than eight millions, it is one of the most
beautiful palaces of Paris.
That of the King of Rome will rank next to the Louvre, which is
itself a magnificent palace. It will be, so to speak, only a
country seat for one residing in Paris, for of course the winters
would be passed at the Louvre or the Tuileries.
I can with difficulty believe that Saint-Cloud cost sixteen
millions. Before inspecting the plan, I wish it to be carefully
examined and discussed by the committee on buildings, so that I may
have the assurance that the sum of sixteen millions will not be
exceeded. I do not wish an ideal residence, but one constructed for
my own enjoyment, and not for the pleasure of the architect alone.
Finishing the Louvre will suffice for his glory; and when the plan
is once adopted, I will see that it is executed.
The Elysee does not suit me, and the Tuileries is barely
inhabitable. Nothing will please me unless it is perfectly simple,
and constructed according to my tastes and manner of living, for
then the palace will be useful to me. I wish it constructed in such
a manner that it may be a complete 'Sans Souci'; [Frederick the
Great's palace in the country near Berlin.] and I especially
desire that it may be an agreeable palace rather than a handsome
garden,--two conditions which are incompatible. Let there be
something between a court and a garden, like the Tuileries, that
from my apartments I may promenade in the garden and the park, as at
Saint-Cloud, though Saint-Cloud has the inconvenience of having no
park for the household.
It is necessary also to study the location, so that my apartments
may face north and south, in order that I may change my residence
according to the season.
I wish the apartments I occupy to be as handsomely furnished as my
small apartments at Fontainebleau.
I wish my apartments to be very near those of the Empress, and on
the same floor.
Finally, I wish a palace that would be comfortable for a
convalescent, or for a man as age approaches. I wish a small
theater, a small chapel, etc.; and above all great care should be
taken that there be no stagnant water around the palace."
The Emperor carried his passion for building to excess, and seemed more
active, more eager in the execution of his plans, and more tenacious of
his ideas, than any architect I have ever known. Nevertheless, the idea
of putting the palace of the King of Rome on the heights of Chaillot was
not entirely his own, and M. Fontaine might well claim to have originated
It was mentioned the first time while discussing the palace of Lyons,
which in order to present a handsome appearance M. Fontaine remarked
should be situated on an elevation overlooking the city, as, for example,
the heights of Chaillot overlooked Paris. The Emperor did not appear to
notice M. Fontaine's remark, and had two or three days previously given
orders that the chateau of Meudon should be put in a condition to receive
his son, when one morning he summoned the architect, and ordered him to
present a plan for embellishing the Bois de Boulogne, by adding a country
house on the summit of Chaillot. "What do you think of it?" added he,
smiling; "does the site appear well chosen?"
One morning in the month of March, the Emperor brought his son to a
review on the Champ-de-Mars; he was received with indescribable
enthusiasm, the sincerity of which was undoubted; and it could easily be
seen that these acclamations came from the heart.
The Emperor was deeply moved by this reception, and returned to the
Tuileries in a most charming frame of mind, caressed the King of Rome,
covered him with kisses, and dilated to M. Fontaine and myself on the
precocious intelligence displayed by this beloved child. "He was not at
all frightened; he seemed to know that all those brave men were my
friends." On that day he held a long conversation with M. Fontaine,
while amusing himself with his son, whom he held in his arms; and when
the conversation turned on Rome and its monuments, M. Fontaine spoke of
the Pantheon with the most profound admiration. The Emperor asked if he
had ever lived at Rome; and M. Fontaine having replied that he remained
there three years on his first visit, his Majesty remarked, "It is a city
I have not seen; I shall certainly go there some day. It is the city
whose people formerly were the sovereigns of the world." And his eyes
were fixed on the King of Rome with paternal pride.
When M. Fontaine had left, the Emperor made me a sign to approach, and
began by pulling my ears, according to custom when in good humor. After
a few personal questions, he asked me what was my salary. "Sire, six
thousand francs."--"And Monsieur Colin, how much has he?"--"Twelve
thousand francs."--"Twelve thousand francs! that is not right; you should
not have less than M. Colin. I will attend to that." And his Majesty
was kind enough to make immediate inquiries, but was told that the
accounts for the year were made out; whereupon the Emperor informed me
that till the end of the year, M. le Baron Fain
[Born in Paris, 1778; attended Napoleon in his campaigns as
Secretary of the Records; wrote memoirs of the last three years of
Napoleon's reign; died 1837.]
would give me each month out of his privy purse five hundred francs, as
he wished that my salary should equal that of M. Colin.
After the Emperor left the army and committed, as we have seen, the
command to the King of Naples, his Sicilian Majesty also abandoned the
command intrusted to him, and set out for his states, leaving Prince
Eugene at the head of the forces. The Emperor was deeply interested in
the news he received from Posen, where the general headquarters were in
the latter part of February and beginning of March, and where the prince
vice-king had under his orders only the remains of different corps, some
of which were represented by a very small number of men.
Moreover, each time that the Russians appeared in force, there was
nothing to be done but to fall back; and each day during the month of
March the news became more and more depressing. The Emperor consequently
decided at the end of March to set out at an early day for the army.
For some time previous the Emperor, much impressed by Malet's conspiracy
during his last absence, had expressed the opinion that it was dangerous
to leave his government without a head; and the journals had been filled
with information relative to the ceremonies required when the regency of
the kingdom had been left in the hands of queens in times past. As the
public well knew the means frequently adopted by his Majesty to foster in
advance opinions favorable to any course of conduct he intended to
pursue, no one was surprised to see him before leaving confide the
regency to the Empress Marie Louise, circumstances not having yet
furnished him the opportunity of having her crowned, as he had long
desired. The Empress took the solemn oath at the palace of the Elysee,
in presence of the princes, great dignitaries, and ministers. The Duke
of Cadore was made secretary of the regency, as counselor to her Majesty
the Empress, together with the arch-chancellor; and the command of the
guard was confided to General Caffarelli.
The Emperor left Saint-Cloud on the 15th of April, at four o'clock in the
morning, and at midnight of the 16th entered Mayence. On his arrival his
Majesty learned that Erfurt and the whole of Westphalia were in a state
of the deepest alarm. This news added incredible speed to his march, and
in eight hours he was at Erfurt. His Majesty remained but a short while
in that town, as the information that he there received set his mind at
rest as to the result of the campaign. On leaving Erfurt the Emperor
wished to pass through Weimar in order to salute the grand duchess, and
made his visit on the same day and at the same hour that the Emperor
Alexander went from Dresden to Toeplitz in order to visit another Duchess
of Weimar (the hereditary princess, her sister).
The grand duchess received the Emperor with a grace which enchanted him,
and their conversation lasted nearly half an hour. On leaving, his
Majesty said to the Prince de Neuchatel, "That is an astonishing woman;
she has the intellect of a great man." The Duke accompanied the Emperor
as far as the borough of Eckhartsberg, where his Majesty detained him to
NOTE BY CONSTANT.--His Majesty's household, reorganized in part for this
campaign of 1813, was composed of the following persons:
Grand marshal of the palace, the Duke of Frioul.
Grand equerry, the Duke of Vicenza.
Aides-de-camp: Generals Mouton, Count de Lobau; Lebrun, Duke de
Plaisance; Generals Drouot, Flahaut, Dejean, Corbineau, Bernard,
Durosnel, and Aogendorp.
First ordinance officer, Colonel Gourgaud.
Ordinance officers: Baron de Mortemart, Baron Athalin, M. Beranger, M. de
Lauriston; Messieurs Barons Desaix, Laplace, and de Caraman; Messieurs de
Saint Marsan, de Lamezan, Pretet, and Pailhou; there was also M.
d'Aremberg, but at this time he was a prisoner in the town of Dantzic.
First chamberlain and master of the wardrobe, the Count of Turenne.
Prefect of the palace, Baron de Beausset.
Quartermaster of the palace, Baron de Canouville.
Equerries, Barons Van Lenneps, Montaran, and de Mesgrigny.
Private secretaries, Baron Mounier and Baron Fain.
Clerks, Messieurs Jouanne and Provost.
Secretary interpreters, Messieurs Lelorgue, Dideville, and Vouzowitch.
Director of the topographical bureau, Baron Bacler d'Albe.
Geographical engineers, Messieurs Lameau and Duvivier.
Pages, Messieurs Montarieu, Devienne, Sainte Perne, and Ferreri.
The Emperor had his headquarters on the square of Eckhartsberg. He had
only two rooms, and his suite slept on the landing and the steps of the
staircase. This little town, transformed in a few hours into
headquarters, presented a most extraordinary spectacle. On a square
surrounded by camps, bivouacs, and military parks, in the midst of more
than a thousand vehicles, which crossed each other from every direction,
mingled together, became entangled in every way, could be seen slowly
defiling regiments, convoys, artillery trains, baggage wagons, etc.
Following them came herds of cattle, preceded or divided by the little
carts of the canteen women and sutlers,--such light, frail vehicles that
the least jolt endangered them; with these were marauders returning with
their booty, peasants pulling vehicles by their own strength, cursing and
swearing amid the laughter of our soldiers; and couriers, ordinance
officers, and aides-de-camp, galloping through all this wonderfully
variegated and diversified multitude of men and beasts.
And when to this is added the neighing of horses, bellowing of cattle,
rumbling of wheels over the stones, cries of the soldiers, sounds from
trumpets, drums, fifes, and the complaints of the inhabitants, with
hundreds of persons all together asking questions at the same time,
speaking German to the Italians, and French to the Germans, how could it
be possible that his Majesty should be as tranquil and as much at his
ease in the midst of this fearful uproar as in his cabinet at Saint-Cloud
or the Tuileries? This was nevertheless the case; and the Emperor,
seated before a miserable table covered with a kind of cloth, a map
spread before him, compass and pen in hand, entirely given up to
meditation, showed not the least impatience; and it would have been said
that no exterior noise reached his ears. But let a cry of pain be heard
in any direction, the Emperor instantly raised his head, and gave orders
to go and ascertain what had happened.
The power of thus isolating one's self completely from all the
surrounding world is very difficult to acquire, and no one possessed it
to the same degree as his Majesty.
On the 1st of May the Emperor was at Lutzen, though the battle did not
occur till next day. On that day, at six o'clock in the evening, the
brave Marshal Bessieres, Duke of Istria, was killed by a cannon-ball,
just at the moment when, mounted on a height, wrapped in a long cloak
which he had put on in order not to be remarked, he had just given orders
for the burial of a sergeant of his escort, whom a ball had just slain a
few steps in front of him.
From the first campaigns in Italy the Duke of Istria had hardly left the
Emperor at all; had followed him in all his campaigns; had taken part in
all his battles, and was always distinguished for his well-proved
bravery, and a frankness and candor very rare among the high personages
by whom his Majesty was surrounded. He had passed through almost all
grades up to the command of the Imperial Guard; and his great experience,
excellent character, good heart, and unalterable attachment to the
Emperor, had rendered him very dear to his Majesty.
The Emperor was much moved on learning of the death of the marshal, and
remained some time silent with bent head, and eyes fastened on the
ground. At last he said, "He has died like Turenne; his fate is to be
envied." He then passed his hand over his eyes and withdrew.
The body of the marshal was embalmed and carried to Paris, and the
Emperor wrote the following letter to the Duchess of Istria:
Your husband has died on the field of honor. The loss sustained by
you and your children is doubtless great, but mine is greater still.
The Duke of Istria has died a most glorious death, and without
suffering. He leaves a stainless reputation, the richest heritage
he could have left his children. My protection is assured, and they
will also inherit the affection I bore their father. Find in all
these considerations some source of consolation in your distress,
and never doubt my sentiments towards you.
This letter having no other object, I pray that God, my cousin, may
have you in his holy keeping.
The King of Saxony reared a monument to the Duke of Istria on the exact
spot where he fell. The victory so long disputed in this battle of
Lutzen was on that account only the more glorious for the Emperor, and
was gained principally by the young conscripts, who fought like lions.
Marshal Ney expected this of them; for before the battle he said to his
Majesty, "Sire, give me a good many of those young men, I will lead them
wherever I wish. The old bearded fellows know as much as we, they
reflect, they are too cold blooded; but these intrepid children know no
difficulties, they look straight before them, and neither to the right
In fact, in the midst of the battle, the Prussians, commanded by the king
in person, attacked the corps of Marshal Ney with such fury that it fell
back, but the conscripts did not take flight. They withstood the fire,
rallied by platoons, and flanked the enemy, crying with all their might,
"Vive l'Empereur." The Emperor appeared; and recovering from the
terrible shock they had sustained, and electrified by the presence of
their hero, they attacked in their turn with incredible violence. His
Majesty was astonished. "In the twenty years," said he, "I have
commanded French armies I have never witnessed such remarkable bravery
It was indeed a touching sight to see those youthful soldiers, although
grievously wounded, some without an arm, some without a leg, with but a
few moments of life remaining, making a last effort, as the Emperor
approached, to rise from the ground, and shout with their latest breath,
"Vive l'Empereur." Tears fill my eyes as I think of those youths, so
brilliant, so strong, and so courageous.
The enemy displayed the same bravery and enthusiasm. The light infantry
of the Prussian guard were almost all young men who saw fire for the
first time; they exposed themselves to every hazard, and fell by hundreds
before they would recoil a step.
In no other battle, I think, was the Emperor so visibly protected by his
destiny. Balls whistled around his ears, carrying away as they passed
pieces of the trappings of his horse, shells and grenades rolled at his
feet, but nothing touched him. The soldiers observed this, and their
enthusiasm rose to the highest pitch.
At the beginning of the battle, the Emperor saw a battalion advancing
whose chief had been suspended from his office two or three days before
for some slight breach of discipline. The disgraced officer marched in
the second rank with his soldiers, by whom he was adored. The Emperor
saw him, and halting the battalion, took the officer by the hand, and
placed him again at the head of his troop. The effect produced by this
scene was indescribable.
On the 8th of May, at seven o'clock in the evening, the Emperor entered
Dresden, and took possession of the palace, which the Emperor of Russia
and King of Prussia had quitted that very evening. A short distance from
the barriers the Emperor was saluted by a deputation from the
municipality of that town.
"You deserve," said he to these deputies, "that I should treat you
as a conquered country. I know all that you have done while the
allies occupied your town; I have a statement of the number of
volunteers whom you have clothed, equipped, and armed against me,
with a generosity which has astonished even the enemy. I know the
insults you have heaped on France, and how many shameless libels you
have to suppress or to burn today. I am fully aware with what
transports of joy you received the Emperor of Russia and the King of
Prussia within your walls. Your houses are still decorated with the
garlands, and we still see lying on the earth the flowers which the
young girls scattered in their path. Nevertheless, I am willing to
pardon everything. Thank your king for this; it is he who saves
you, and I pardon you only from love of him. Send a deputation to
entreat him to return to you. My aide-de-camp, General Durosnel,
will be your governor. Your good king himself could not make a
As soon as he entered the city the Emperor was informed that a part of
the Russian rear-guard sought to hold its ground in the new town,
separated from the old by the river Elbe, and had fallen into the power
of our army.
His Majesty immediately ordered that everything should be done in order
to drive out this remnant of the enemy; and during an entire day there
was a continued cannonading and shooting in the town from one bank to the
other. Bullets and shell fell like hail on the spot occupied by the
Emperor. A shell struck the walls of a powder-magazine not far from him,
and scattered the pieces around his head, but fortunately the powder did
not ignite. A few moments after another shell fell between his Majesty
and several Italians; they bent to avoid the explosion. The Emperor saw
this movement, and laughingly said to them, "Ah, coglioni! non fa male."
["Ah, scamps! don't behave badly."]
On the 11th of May, in the morning, the Russians were put to flight and
pursued, the French army entering the city from all sides. The Emperor
remained on the bridge the whole day, watching his troops as they filed
in. The next day at ten o'clock the Imperial Guard under arms were
placed in line of battle on the road from Pirna to Gross Garten. The
Emperor reviewed it, and ordered General Flahaut to advance.
The King of Saxony arrived about noon. On meeting again, the two
sovereigns alighted from their horses and embraced each other, and then
entered Dresden amid general acclamations.
General Flahaut, who had gone to meet the King of Saxony with a part of
the imperial Guard, received from this good king the most flattering
testimonials of appreciation and gratitude. It is impossible to show
more cordiality and friendliness than the King of Saxony displayed. The
Emperor said of him and his family that they were a patriarchal family,
and that all who comprised it joined to striking virtues an expansive
kindness of manner which made them adored by their subjects. His Majesty
paid this royal personage the most affectionate attentions, and as long
as the war lasted sent couriers each day to keep the king informed of the
least circumstance: He came himself as often as possible, and, in fact,
constantly treated him with that cordiality he so well knew how to
display and to render irresistible when he chose.
A few days after his arrival at Dresden his Majesty held a long
conversation with the King of Saxony, in which the Emperor Alexander was
the principal subject of conversation.
The characteristics and faults of this prince were fully analyzed; and
the conclusion drawn from this conversation was that the Emperor
Alexander had been sincere in the interview at Erfurt, and that it must
have been very complicated intrigues which had thus led to the rupture of
all their treaties of friendship. "Sovereigns are most unfortunate,"
said his Majesty; "always deceived, always surrounded by flatterers or
treacherous counselors, whose greatest desire is to prevent the truth
from reaching the ears of their masters, who have so much interest in
The two sovereigns next spoke of the Emperor of Austria. His Majesty
appeared profoundly grieved that his union with the Archduchess Marie
Louise, whom he did all in his power to render the happiest of women,
should have failed in producing the result he had anticipated, of
obtaining for him the confidence and friendship of her father. "It is
perhaps because I was not born a sovereign," said the Emperor; "and
nevertheless, I should think that this would be an additional inducement
to the friendship of my father-in-law. I shall never be convinced that
such ties are not strong enough to obtain the alliance of the Emperor of
Austria; for, in fact, I am his son-in-law, my son is his grandson, he
loves his daughter, and she is happy; how, then, can he be my enemy?"
On learning of the victory of Lutzen, and the entrance of the Emperor into
Dresden, the Emperor of Austria hastened to send M. de Bubna to his son-
in-law. He arrived on the evening of the 16th; and the interview, which
his Majesty immediately granted, lasted until two hours after midnight.
This led us to hope that peace was about to be concluded, and we
consequently formed a thousand conjectures, each more encouraging than
the other; but when two or three days had passed away, and we still
witnessed only preparations for war, we saw that our hopes were cruelly
deceived. Then it was I heard the unfortunate Marshal Duroc exclaim,
"This is lasting too long! We will none of us outlive it!" He had a
presentiment of his own death.
During the whole of this campaign the Emperor had not a moment of repose.
The days passed away in combats or marches, always on horseback; the
nights in labors in the cabinet. I never comprehended how his body could
endure such fatigue, and yet he enjoyed almost continuously the most
perfect health. The evening before the battle of Bautzen he retired very
late, after visiting all the military posts, and, having given all
necessary orders, slept profoundly. Early next morning, the 20th of May,
movements began, and we awaited at headquarters with eager impatience the
results of this day. But the battle was not over even then; and after a
succession of encounters, always ending in our favor, although hotly
contested, the Emperor, at nine o'clock in the evening, returned to
headquarters, took a light repast, and remained with Prince Berthier
until midnight. The remainder of the night was passed in work, and at
five o'clock in the morning he was on his feet and ready to return to the
combat. Three or four hours after his arrival on the battlefield the
Emperor was overcome by an irresistible desire for sleep, and, foreseeing
the issue of the day, slept on the side of a ravine, in the midst of the
batteries of the Duke of Ragusa, until he was awaked with the information
that the battle was gained.
This fact, which was related to me in the evening, did not astonish me in
the least; for I have already remarked that when he was compelled to
yield to the necessity of sleep, that imperious want of nature, the
Emperor took the repose which was so necessary to him when and where he
could, like a true soldier.
Although the result was decided, the battle was continued until five
o'clock in the evening. At six o'clock the Emperor had his tent erected
near a solitary inn, which had served as headquarters for the Emperor
Alexander during the two preceding days. I received orders to attend him
there, and did so with all speed; but his Majesty, nevertheless, passed
the whole night receiving and congratulating the chief generals, and
working with his secretaries.
All the wounded who were able to march were already on the road to
Dresden, where all necessary help awaited them. But on the field of
battle were stretched more than ten thousand men, Frenchmen, Russians,
Prussians, etc.,--hardly able to breathe, mutilated, and in a most
pitiable condition. The unremitting labors of the kind and indefatigable
Baron Larrey and the multitude of surgeons encouraged by his heroic
example did not suffice even to dress their wounds. And what means could
be found to remove the wounded in this desolate country, where all the
villages had been sacked and burned, and where it was no longer possible
to find either horses or conveyances? Must they then let all these men
perish after most horrible sufferings, for lack of means to convey them
It was then that this population of Saxon villagers, who it might have
been thought must be embittered by the horrors of war,--in seeing their
dwellings burned, their fields ravaged,--furnished to the army an example
of the sublime sentiments which pity can inspire in the heart of man.
They perceived the cruel anxiety which M. Larrey and his companions
suffered concerning the fate of so many unfortunate wounded, and
immediately men, women, children, and even old men, hastily brought
wheelbarrows. The wounded were lifted, and placed on these frail
conveyances. Two or three persons accompanied each wheelbarrow all the
way to Dresden, halting if by a cry or gesture even, the wounded
indicated a desire to rest, stopping to replace the bandages which the
motion had displaced, or near a spring to give them water to allay the
fever which devoured them. I have never seen a more touching sight.
Baron Larrey had an animated discussion with the Emperor. Among the
wounded, there were found a large number of young soldiers with two
fingers of their right hand torn off; and his Majesty thought that these
poor young fellows had done it purposely to keep from serving. Having
said this to M. Larrey, the latter vehemently exclaimed that it was an
impossibility, and that such baseness was not in keeping with the
character of these brave young conscripts. As the Emperor still
maintained his position, Larrey at length became so angry that he went so
far as to tax the Emperor with injustice. Things were in this condition
when it was positively proved that these uniform wounds came from the
haste with which these young soldiers loaded and discharged their guns,
not being accustomed to handling them. Whereupon his Majesty saw that M.
de Larrey was right, and praised him for his firmness in maintaining what
he, knew to be the truth. "You are a thoroughly good man, M. de Larrey,"
said the Emperor. "I wish I could be surrounded only with men like you;
but such men are very rare."
We had now reached the eve of the day on which the Emperor, still deeply
affected by the loss he had sustained in the death of the Duke of Istria,
was to receive a blow which he felt perhaps most keenly of all those
which struck deep into his heart as he saw his old companions in arms
fall around him. The day following that on which the Emperor had, with
Baron Larrey, the discussion which I related at the end of the preceding
chapter was made memorable by the irreparable loss of Marshal Duroc. The
Emperor's heart was crushed; and indeed not one of us failed to shed
sincere tears--so just and good was he, although grave and severe in his
manner towards persons whom the nature of their duties brought into
contact with him. It was a loss not only to the Emperor, who possessed
in him a true friend, but, I dare to assert, also to the whole of France.
He loved the Emperor with a passionate devotion, and never failed to
bestow on him his faithful admonitions, although they were not always
heeded. The death of Marshal Duroc was an event so grievous and so
totally unexpected, that we remained for some time uncertain whether to
believe it, even when the only too evident reality no longer permitted us
to remain under any delusion.
These are the circumstances under which this fatal event occurred which
spread consternation throughout the army: The Emperor was pursuing the
rear guard of the Russians, who continually eluded him, and had just
escaped for the tenth time since the morning, after having killed and
taken prisoners large numbers of our brave soldiers, when two or three
shells dug up the ground at the Emperor's feet, and caused him to
exclaim, "What! after such butchery no result! no prisoners! those men
there will not leave me a nail." Hardly had he finished speaking when a
shell passed, and threw a chasseur of the cavalry escort almost under the
legs of his Majesty's horse. "Ah, Duroc," added he, turning towards the
grand marshal, "fortune protects us to-day."--"Sire," said an aide-
decamp, rushing, up at a gallop, "General Bruyeres has just been killed."
"My poor comrade of Italy! Is it possible? Ah! it is necessary to push
on, nevertheless." And noticing on the left an elevation from which he
could better observe what was passing, the Emperor started in that
direction amidst a cloud of dust. The Duke of Vicenza, the Duke of
Treviso, Marshal Duroc, and general of engineers Kirgener followed his
Majesty closely; but the wind raised such a cloud of dust and smoke that
they could hardly see each other. Suddenly a tree near which the Emperor
passed was struck by a shell and cut in half. His Majesty, on reaching
the plateau, turned to ask for his field-glass, and saw no one near him
except the Duke of Vicenza. Duke Charles de Plaisance came up, his face
showing a mortal pallor, leaned towards the grand equerry, and said a few
words in his ear. "What is it?" vehemently inquired the Emperor; "what
has happened?"--"Sire," said the Duke of Plaisance, weeping, "the grand
marshal is dead!"--"Duroc? But you must be mistaken. He was here a
moment ago by my side." Several aides-de-camp arrived, and a page with
his Majesty's field-glass. The fatal news was confirmed, in part at
least. The Grand Duke of Frioul was not yet dead; but the shell had
wounded him in the stomach, and all surgical aid would be useless. The
shell after breaking the tree had glanced, first striking General
Kirgener, who was instantly killed, and then the Duke of Frioul.
Monsieurs Yvan and Larrey were with the wounded marshal, who had been
carried into a house at Markersdorf. There was no hope of saving him.
The consternation of the army and his Majesty's grief on this deplorable
event were indescribable. He mechanically gave a few orders and returned
to camp, and when he had reached the encampment of the guard, seated
himself on a bench in front of his tent, with lowered head and clasped
hands, and remained thus for nearly an hour without uttering a word.
Since it was nevertheless essential that orders should be given for the
next day, General Drouot approached,
[Count Antoine Drouot, chief of artillery of the guard, born at
Nancy, 1774; fought as captain at Hohenlinden,1800; distinguished
himself at Wagram (1809) and Borodino (1812); made general of
division at Bautzen, 1813; went to Elba as commander of the guard,
and was by the Emperor's side at Waterloo; died in 1847. He was a
Protestant, and was often seen during heavy firing reading his
and in a voice interrupted by sobs asked what should be done. "To-
morrow, everything," replied the Emperor, and said not a word more.
"Poor man!" exclaimed the old watchdogs of the guard; "he has lost one of
his children." Night closed in. The enemy was in full retreat; and the
army having taken its position, the Emperor left the camp, and,
accompanied by the Prince de Neuchatel, M. Yvan, and the Duke of Vicenza,
repaired to the house where the grand marshal had been conveyed. The
scene was terrible. The Emperor, distracted with grief, repeatedly
embraced this faithful friend, endeavoring to cheer him; but the duke,
who was perfectly conscious of his condition, replied only by entreaties
to have opium given him. At these words the Emperor left the room; he
could no longer control his emotions.
The Duke de Frioul died next morning; and the Emperor ordered that his
body should be conveyed to Paris, and paced under the dome of the
[On either side of the entrance to the sarcophagus of porphyry
which holds the mortal remains of the great Emperor, rest Duroc and
Bertrand, who in life watched over him as marshals of his Palace.-
He bought the house in which the grand marshal died, and charged the
pastor of the village to have a stone placed in the spot where his bed
had stood, and these words engraved thereon:
"HERE GENERAL DUROC, DUKE OF FRIOUL,
GRAND MARSHAL OF THE PALACE OF THE EMPEROR NAPOLEON,
MORTALLY WOUNDED BY A SHELL,
DIED IN THE ARMS OF HIS FRIEND, THE EMPEROR."
The preservation of this monument was imposed as an obligation on the
occupant of the house, who received it as a gift with this condition
annexed. The pastor, the magistrate of the village, and the one who
accepted this gift, were summoned to his Majesty's presence; and he made
known to them his wishes, which they solemnly engaged to fulfill. His
Majesty then drew from his privy purse the necessary funds, and handed
them to these gentlemen.
It is well that the reader should know how this agreement so solemnly
made was executed. This order of the Russian staff will inform him.
"A copy of a receipt dated the 16th (28th) of March states that the
Emperor Napoleon handed to Hermann, pastor of the church at
Markersdorf, the sum of two hundred gold napoleons for the purpose
of erecting a monument to the memory of Marshal Duroc, who died on
the field of battle. His Excellency Prince Repnin, Governor-General
of Saxony, having ordered that a deputy from my office be sent to
Markersdorf in order to bring the said sum and deposit it with me
until it is finally disposed of, my secretary, Meyerheim, is charged
with this mission, and consequently will go at once to Dlarkersdorf,
and, as an evidence of his authority, will present to Minister
Hermann the accompanying order, and take possession of the above
mentioned sum of two hundred gold napoleons. The secretary
Meyerheim will account to me alone for the execution of this order.
At Dresden this 20th of March (1st of April), 1814.
"(Signed) BARON DE ROSEN."
This order needs no comment. After the battles of Bautzen and Wurschen,
the Emperor entered Silesia. He saw on every occasion combined armies of
the allies put to flight before his own in every encounter; and this
sight, while flattering his vanity exceedingly, also greatly strengthened
him in the belief that he would soon find himself master of a rich and
fertile country, where the abundant means of subsistence would be of much
advantage in all his undertakings. Many times a day he exclaimed, "How
far are we from such a town? When do we arrive at Breslau? "His
impatience did not prevent him meanwhile from" occupying his mind with
every object which struck his attention, as if he were free from all
care. He examined the houses, one by one, as he passed through each
village, remarked the direction of rivers and mountain ranges, and
collected the most minute information which the inhabitants could or
would give him. On the 27th of May, his Majesty, when not more than
three days march from Breslau, met in front of a little town called
Michelsdorf several regiments of Russian cavalry who held the road. They
were quite near the Emperor and his staff before his Majesty had even
perceived them. The Prince de Neuchatel, seeing the enemy so near,
hastened to the Emperor, and said, "Sire, they are still advancing."--
"Well, we will advance also," replied his Majesty, smiling. "Look behind
you-" And he showed the prince the French infantry approaching in close
columns. A few discharges soon drove the Russians from this position;
but half a league or a league farther we found them again, and this
maneuver was again and again repeated. The Emperor, perceiving this,
maneuvered accordingly, and in person directed with the greatest
precision the troops as they advanced. He went from one height to
another, and thoroughly inspected the towns and villages on the route in
order to reconnoiter their position, and ascertain what resources he
could obtain from the country; and, as a result of his attentive care and
indefatigable oversight, the scene changed ten times a day. If a column
emerged from a deep ravine, a wood, or a village, it could take immediate
possession of a height, since a battery was found already in position to
defend it. The Emperor indicated every movement with admirable tact, and
in such a manner that it was impossible to be taken at a disadvantage.
He commanded only the troops as a whole, transmitting either personally,
or through his staff officers, his orders to the commander of the corps
and divisions, who in their turn transmitted or had them transmitted to
the chiefs of battalions. All orders given by his Majesty were short,
precise, and so clear that it was never necessary to ask explanations.
On the 29th of May, not knowing how far on the road to Breslau it was
prudent to advance, his Majesty established himself on a little farm
called Rosnig, which had been pillaged, and presented a most miserable
aspect. As there could be found in the house only a small apartment with
a closet suitable for the Emperor's use, the Prince de Neuchatel and his
suite established themselves as well as they could in the surrounding
cottages, barns, and even in the gardens, since there was not sufficient
shelter for all. The next day a fire broke out in a stable near the
lodging of the Emperor. There were fourteen or fifteen wagons in this
barn, which were all burned. One of these wagons contained the traveling
treasury chest; in another were the clothes and linen belonging to the
Emperor, as well as jewelry, rings, tobacco boxes, and other valuable
objects. We saved very few things from this fire; and if the reserve
corps had not arrived promptly, his Majesty would have been obliged to
change his customary toilet rules for want of stockings and shirts. The
Saxon Major d'Odeleben, who has written some interesting articles on this
campaign, states that everything belonging to his Majesty was burned; and
that it was necessary to have him some pantaloons made in the greatest
haste at Breslau. This is a mistake. I do not think that the baggage-
wagon was burned; but even if it had been, the Emperor would not on that
account have needed clothing, since there were always four or five
complete suits either in advance or in the rear of the headquarters.
In Russia, when the order was given to burn all carriages which lacked
horses, this order was rigorously executed in regard to the persons of
the household, and they were consequently left with almost nothing; but
everything was reserved which might be considered indispensable to his
At length on the 1st of June, at six o'clock in the morning, the advance
guard entered Breslau, having at its head General Lauriston, and General
Hogendorp, whom his Majesty had invested in advance with the functions of
governor of this town, which was the capital of Silesia. Thus was
fulfilled in part the promise the Emperor had made in passing through
Warsaw on his return from Russia: "I go to seek three hundred thousand
men. Success will render the Russians bold. I will deliver two battles
between the Elbe and the Oder, and in six months I will be again on the
These two battles fought and gained by conscripts, and without cavalry,
had re-established the reputation of the French army. The King of Saxony
had been brought back in triumph to his capital. The headquarters of the
Emperor were at Breslau; one of the corps of the grand army was at the
gates of Berlin, and the enemy driven from Hamburg. Russia was about to
be forced to withdraw into its own boundaries, when the Emperor of
Austria, acting as mediator in the affairs of the two allied sovereigns,
advised them to propose an armistice. They followed this advice; and as
the Emperor had the weakness to consent to their demands, the armistice
was granted and signed on the fourth of June, and his Majesty at once set
out on his return to Dresden. An hour after his departure he said, "If
the allies do not in good faith desire peace, this armistice may become
very fatal to us."
On the evening of the 8th of June, his Majesty reached Gorlitz. On that
night fire broke out in the faubourg where the guard had established its
quarters; and at one o'clock one of the officials of the town came to the
headquarters of the Emperor to give the alarm, saying that all was lost.
The troops extinguished the fire, and an account was rendered the Emperor
of what had occurred. I dressed him in all haste, as he wished to set
out at break of day. "To how much does the loss amount?" demanded the
Emperor. "Sire, to seven or eight thousand francs at least for the cases
of greatest need."--"Let ten thousand be given, and let it be distributed
immediately." The inhabitants were immediately informed of the
generosity of the Emperor; and as he left the village an hour or two
after, he was saluted with unanimous acclamations.
On the morning of the 10th we returned from Dresden. The Emperor's
arrival put an end to most singular rumors which had been circulated
there since the remains of Grand Marshal Duroc had passed through the
city. It was asserted that the coffin contained the body of the Emperor;
that he had been killed in the last battle, and his body mysteriously
concealed in a room of the chateau, through the windows of which lights
could be seen burning all night. When he arrived, some persons perfectly
infatuated with this idea went so far as to repeat what had already been
reported, with the added circumstance that it was not the Emperor who was
seen in his carriage, but a figure made of wax. Nevertheless, when next
day he appeared before the eyes of all on horseback in a meadow in front
of the gates of the city, they were compelled to admit that he still
The Emperor alighted at the Marcolini palace, a charming summer residence
situated in the faubourg of Friedrichstadt. An immense garden, the
beautiful meadows of Osterwise on the banks of the Elbe, in addition to
an extremely fine landscape, rendered this sojourn much more attractive
than that of the winter palace; and consequently the Emperor was most
grateful to the King of Saxony for having prepared it for him. There he
led the same life as at Schoenbrunn; reviews every morning, much work
during the day, and few distractions in the evening; in fact, more
simplicity than display. The middle of the day was spent in cabinet
labors; and during that time such perfect tranquillity reigned in the
palace, that except for the presence of two sentinels on horseback and
videttes, which showed that it was the dwelling of a sovereign, it would
have been difficult to imagine that this beautiful residence was
inhabited even by the simplest private citizen.
The Emperor had chosen for his apartments the right wing of the palace;
the left was occupied by the Prince de Neuchatel. In the center of the
building were a large saloon and two smaller ones which served as
Two days after his return, his Majesty sent orders to Paris that the
actors of the "Comedy" Theater from Paris should spend the time of the
armistice at Dresden. The Duke of Vicenza, charged in the interim with
the duties of grand marshal of the palace, was ordered to make all
necessary preparations to receive them. He committed this duty to the
care of Messieurs de Beausset and de Turenne, to whom the Emperor gave
the superintendence of the theater; and a hall to be used for this
purpose was erected in the orangery of the Marcolini palace. This hall
communicated with the apartments, and could seat about two hundred
persons. It was erected as if by magic, and was opened, while awaiting
the arrival of the French troupe, with two or three representations given
by the Italian comedians of the King of Saxony.
The actors from Paris were: For tragedy, Messieurs Saint-Prix and Talma
and Mademoiselle Georges.
For comedy: Messieurs Fleury, Saint-Fal, Baptiste the younger, Armand,
Thenard, Michot, Devigny, Michelot and Barbier; Mesdames Mars, Bourgoin,
Thenard, Emilie Contat, and Mezeray.
The management of the theater was given to M. Despres.
All these actors arrived on the 19th of June, and found every arrangement
made for their comfort,--tastefully furnished lodgings, carriages,
servants, everything which could enable them to agreeably endure the
ennui of a residence in a foreign land, and prove to them at the same
time how highly his Majesty appreciated their talents; an appreciation
which most of them richly merited, both on account of their excellent
social qualities, and the nobility and refinement of their manners.
The debut of the French troupe at the theater of the Orangery took place
on the 22d of June, in the 'Gageure Imprevue', and another piece, then
much in vogue at Paris, and which has often since been witnessed with
much pleasure, 'La Suite d'un Bal Masque'.
As the theater of the Orangery would have been too small for the
representation of tragedy, that was reserved for the grand theater of the
city; and persons were admitted on those occasions only by cards from the
Count of Turenne, no admission fee being charged.
At the grand theater on the days of the French play, and also in the
theater at the Marcolini palace, the footmen of his Majesty attended upon
the boxes, and served refreshments while the piece was being played.
This is how the days were spent after the arrival of the actors of the
Everything was quiet until eight o'clock in the morning, unless a courier
arrived, or some aide-de-camp was unexpectedly summoned. At eight
o'clock I dressed the Emperor; at nine he held his levee, which all could
attend who held as high a rank as colonel. The civil and military
authorities of the country were also admitted; the Dukes of Weimar and
d'Anhalt, the brothers and nephews of the King of Saxony, sometimes
attended. Next came breakfast; then the parade in the meadows of
Osterwise, about one hundred paces distant from the palace, to which the
Emperor always went on horseback, and dismounted on arriving; the troops
filed before him, and cheered him three times with their customary
enthusiasm. The evolutions were commanded sometimes by the Emperor,
sometimes by the Count of Lobau. As soon as the cavalry began to defile,
his majesty re-entered the palace and began to work. Then began that
perfect stillness of which I have spoken; and dinner was not served until
late,--seven or eight o'clock. The Emperor often dined alone with the
Prince de Neuchatel, unless there were guests from the royal family of
Saxony. After dinner they attended the theater, when there was a play;
and afterwards the Emperor returned to his cabinet to work again, either
alone or with his secretaries.
Each day it was the same thing, unless, which was very rarely the case,
fatigued beyond measure by the labors of the day, the Emperor took a
fancy to send for Madame Georges after the tragedy. Then she passed two
or three hours in his apartment, but never more.
Sometimes the Emperor invited Talma or Mademoiselle Mars to breakfast.
One day, in a conversation with this admirable actress, the Emperor spoke
to her concerning her debut. "Sire," said she, in that graceful manner
which every one remembers, "I began very young. I slipped in without
being perceived."--"Without being perceived!" replied his Majesty
quickly; "you are mistaken. Be assured moreover, Mademoiselle, that I
have always, in common with all France, highly appreciated your wonderful
The Emperor's stay at Dresden brought wealth and abundance. More than
six million francs of foreign money were spent in this city between the
8th of May and 16th of November, if one can believe the statements
published on Saxon authority of the number of lodgings distributed. This
sojourn was a harvest of gold, which keepers of boarding-houses, hotels,
and merchants carefully reaped. Those in charge of military lodgings
furnished by the inhabitants also made large profits. At Dresden could
be seen Parisian tailors and bootmakers, teaching the natives to work in
the French style. Even bootblacks were found on the bridges over the
Elbe, crying, as they had cried on the bridges of the Seine, "Shine your
Around the city numerous camps had been established for the wounded,
convalescents, etc. One of these, called the Westphalian camp, presented
a most beautiful scene. It was a succession of beautiful small gardens;
there a fortress made of turf, its bastions crowned with hortensias; here
a plot had been converted into a terrace, its walks ornamented with
flowers, like the most carefully tended parterre; on a third was seen a
statue of Pallas. The whole barrack was decked with moss, and decorated
with boughs and garlands which were renewed each day.
As the armistice would end on the 15th of August, the fete of his Majesty
was advanced five days. The army, the town, and the court had made
extensive preparations in order that the ceremony might be worthy of him
in whose honor it was given. All the richest and most distinguished
inhabitants of Dresden vied with each other in balls, concerts,
festivities, and rejoicings of all sorts. The morning before the day of
the review, the King of Saxony came to the residence of the Emperor with
all his family, and the two sovereigns manifested the warmest friendship
for each other. They breakfasted together, after which his Majesty,
accompanied by the King of Saxony, his brothers and nephews, repaired to
the meadow behind the palace, where fifteen thousand men of the guard
awaited him in as fine condition as on the most brilliant parades on the
After the review, the French and Saxon troops dispersed through the
various churches to hear the Te Deum; and at the close of the religious
ceremony, all these brave soldiers seated themselves at banqueting tables
already prepared, and their joyous shouts with music and dancing were
prolonged far into the night.
The entire duration of the armistice was employed in negotiations tending
to a treaty of peace, which the Emperor ardently desired, especially
since he had seen the honor of his army restored on the fields of Lutzen
and Bautzen; but unfortunately he desired it only on conditions to which
the enemy would not consent, and soon the second series of our disasters
recommenced, and rendered peace more and more impossible. Besides, from
the beginning of negotiations relative to the armistice, whose limit we
had now nearly reached, the emperor Alexander, notwithstanding the three
battles won by Napoleon, would listen to no direct proposals from France,
except on the sole condition that Austria should act as mediator. This
distrust, as might be expected, did not tend to produce a final.
reconciliation, and, being the conquering party, the Emperor was
naturally irritated by it; nevertheless, under these grave circumstances