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Worlds Best Histories - France Vol 7 by M. Guizot and Madame Guizot De Witt

Part 8 out of 9

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address was voted by sitting and standing. The emperor did not show
himself satisfied. "The bishops are much, mistaken if they think to have
the last word with me," said he. The Bishop of Chambery alone found favor
in his eyes. "One is never to be blamed for asking for the freedom of his
chief," said Napoleon. He had an order sent to the Council to answer his
message on the subject of canonical institution within eight days, without
losing time in useless discussions. A few of the more moderate bishops
happened to be going out of the Tuileries from the imperial mass; the
emperor approached them. "I have desired to act by you as princes of the
Church," said he; "It is for you to say if you will henceforth be only
beadles, The Pope refuses to execute the Concordat; ah, well! I no longer
wish for the Concordat." "Sire," said Osmond, "your Majesty will not tear
with your own hands the finest page in your history." "The bishops have
acted like cowards!" cried Napoleon, with violence. "No, sire," again
replied the prelate, who had so lately accepted the Archbishopric of
Florence without waiting for canonical institution, "they are not cowards,
for they have taken the side of the most feeble." The emperor turned his
back on him.

"The only and exclusive object of the council of 1811," the Abbé de Pradt
has said in his "Histoire des quatre Concordats," "was to regulate the
order of Canonical Institution, and to provide that it should not
henceforth be hindered by any other cause than the objections urged
against the appointments by the Pope. In this lay the whole dispute
between the holy see and the princes. It was not only his own affairs that
Napoleon was attending to in this settlement, it was also those of other
sovereigns, whom he spared by his example the embarrassments which awaited
them." The Council felt the extreme importance of the question. After a
lively discussion, and in spite of the persistency of the prelates
favorable to the court, the commission appointed for this purpose would
not pronounce upon the message of his Majesty before sending a deputation
to the holy Father, who might set forth to him the deplorable state of the
churches in the empire of France and in the kingdom of Italy, and who
might confer with him on the means of remedying these evils. "The emperor
requires a decree of the Council before consenting to the sending of the
deputation," repeated Cardinal Fesch and his friends. "That would be a
sure method to make everything fail," cried the Bishop of Tournay, "for it
would be exactly like saying to the Pope: Your purse or your life; give us
the bulls and we shall be satisfied with you." Cardinal Fesch was
constrained to carry to Napoleon the vote of the commission.

The emperor did not think highly either of the skill or the character of
his uncle, and was not particular how he treated him. "He will not reject
you," said the cardinal to a lady with a petition, "I have been turned out
of doors, yes I, twice in a single day." He essayed vainly to explain to
Napoleon the canonical reasons which had determined the commission.

"Still more theology," replied the emperor; "hold your tongue; you are an
ignoramus. In six months I should get to know more than you. Ah! the
commission votes thus! I shall not get the worst of it. I shall dissolve
the Council and all will be finished. It is of small consequence what the
Council wishes or doesn't wish, I shall declare myself competent,
following the advice of the philosophers and lawyers. The prefects will
appoint the curés, the chapters, and the bishops. If the metropolitan does
not choose to institute them, I will shut up the seminaries, and religion
will have no more ministers." The violence of the insult and the grandeur
of the situation elevated the soul of Cardinal Fesch. "If you wish to make
martyrs, commence in your own family, sire," said he. "I am ready to give
my life to seal my faith. Be perfectly assured that unless the Pope shall
have approved this measure, I, the metropolitan, will never institute any
of my suffragans. I go even further: if one of them should bethink
himself, in my default, of instituting a bishop in my province, I would
excommunicate him immediately."

It was then that Napoleon recognized the advantages of the abortive
attempt at Savona. "You are all noodles," said he to his ecclesiastical
counsellors, "you do not understand your position. It will then be for me
to extricate you from the affair; I am about to arrange everything." He
dictated upon the spot the draft of a decree based upon the concessions at
first accepted by the Pope. "The deputation of bishops to the holy Father
has removed all difficulties," said he; "the Pope has condescended to
enter into the difficulties of the Church; the sole difference is to be
found in the length of the delay; the emperor wished for three months, the
Pope asked for six. This difference not being of a nature to break up the
arrangement already concluded, it became henceforth the duty of the
Council to enact it. The deputation to the holy Father should convey to
him the thanks of the prelates and the faithful."

At first the commission of the Council almost entirely fell into the trap.
Could it be doubted that the authorization given by the Pope appeared to
cut the question whilst reserving the rights of the holy see. The
Archbishop of Bordeaux alone protested in the first place; he soon rallied
to his side Broglie, Boulogne, and the Bishop of Tournay. In spite of the
most ardent efforts of the bishops favorable to the court the majority of
the commission ended by rejecting the decree. "You will answer for all the
future evils of the Church," said the Archbishop of Tours to the Bishop of
Ghent, "and I cite you before the tribunal of God." "I await you there
yourself," replied Broglie.

The emperor appeared to acquiesce without anger in the decision of the
commission. "What is it in the decree that most displeases the bishops?"
he asked of Cardinal Fesch. "It is the demand for it to be converted into
a law of the state," replied the Archbishop of Lyons. "If that hinders
them, they have only to take it out," replied Napoleon; "I can just as
well make it a law of the state when I please." Cardinal Fesch gave a
report of his mission; he promptly broke up the sitting (July 10th). On
the following morning the Council was dissolved. In the night the bishop
of Ghent, Troyes, and Tournay were arrested in their beds, taken to
Vincennes, and kept in secrecy. The Duc de Rovigo was opposed to the
arrest of the Archbishop of Bordeaux. "We must not touch M. d'Aviau," said
he; "he is a saint, and we shall have everybody against us."

The Marshal Gouvion St. Cyr had but recently given a peremptory reason
against select companies. "There are not many brave men in the world,"
said he; "when you collect them all in the same corps, there is not enough
leaven elsewhere to make the dough rise." Deprived of the most resolute of
its members, the Council found itself in the hands of Napoleon like dough,
soft and unresisting. The grand reasons, the elevated and powerful
arguments which the captive prelates had made so important, lost all
influence over the mass of their colleagues. "One is afraid of Vincennes
and one has no desire to loose one's revenues," replied Cardinal Fesch to
the entreaties of the persons who solicited the fathers of the Council to
use their efforts in favor of the prisoners. By fear or persuasion the
bishops, when personally urged and worked upon, bent one after another
under the imperial will. The news from Savona were that the Pope's health
was improved and that he was inclined to go back to the original
concessions. The Council, dissolved on the 11th of July, quietly assembled
again on the 5th August. The signature of about eighty bishops was
considered certain. The public discussion was not renewed; the Archbishop
of Bordeaux alone protested against sanctioning all the imperial claims by
a decree, thirteen or fourteen prelates joining their mute protest to
Aviau's declaration; and the votes were decided by sitting and rising.
Subject to a power which they durst not discuss, the Fathers of the
Council disliked to proclaim openly their personal subservience. The
decree drawn up by the Emperor Napoleon came back to his hands confirmed
by the approbation of the Council "Our wine was not considered good in the
wood," said Cardinal Maury cynically, "you will find it better in
bottles." A deputation of bishops set out for Savona.

A few months afterwards, under the pressure of the same arbitrary and
sovereign will, Pius VII., now alone at Fontainebleau as he had been in
his prison at Savona, had in his turn to yield in a certain measure to
Napoleon's demands. As it had recently been at Savona, he was destined to
see his concessions deformed and exaggerated in order to serve as a basis
for a convention which he never ratified. On the day after the Council he
showed no displeasure to the bishops who had come as delegates, but
promised the investiture of the twenty-seven prelates who were nominated,
and even gave to the deliberations of the Council a sort of sanction in a
brief which he reserved to himself the right of drawing up. The form of it
did not please the emperor, who sent it back to the Council of State for
examination. The bishops who still remained in Paris waiting for the
decisions of the holy Father were sent to their dioceses. "I don't wish to
have a meeting of saints always here," said the emperor to Rovigo. In
summoning the Council he had made the blunder of reckoning upon the easy
docility of an assembly. "To ask men questions is to acknowledge their
right to be deceived," said the Parisians on the day after the refractory
bishops were arrested; "why does he summon a Council to imprison
afterwards those who are not of his opinion?" The triumph obtained by
Napoleon over the terrified prelates did not add to his glory, though it
assisted in lessening for the moment his ecclesiastical difficulties. All
the dioceses were now provided with bishops, and order was restored to the
chapters. That was all the emperor then wished, his outrages upon the
independence of consciences and on personal liberty weighing nothing in
his balance. He was accustomed to set little value on rights which
prevented the accomplishment of his designs. He had brought the bishops to
submission, imposed upon the captive Pope a partial acceptance of his
will, loftily vindicated the heritage of Charlemagne, and proclaimed his
moral and religious supremacy: and now, leaving Pius VII. still at Savona
and the refractory prelates at Vincennes, there was nothing more to keep
him in Paris. The Russian campaign was already preparing.



It is painful to love one's country and see it advancing to defeat; it is
sad to see a great mind, whose good sense recently equalled his power,
dragged to ruin by his own faults and dragging after him a wearied nation.
In 1812, France began to judge the Emperor Napoleon: and long previously
Europe had denounced him as an insatiable conqueror who laid her waste
incessantly. She was about to learn once more that neither distance, nor
the rigors of climate, nor threatening armies, afforded sufficient
protection against the emperor's schemes. Whilst his armies were
struggling hard in Spain and Portugal against the insurgent population
assisted by England, and whilst still holding in Germany the pledges of
his conquests, Napoleon made preparations to attack the Emperor Alexander,
who was still officially honored with the name of "ally," and to whom he
thus wrote on the 6th April, 1811, when his armaments were already
everywhere being prepared: "Has your Majesty ever had reason to repent of
the confidence which you have shown me?"

Several reasons urged Napoleon to begin hostilities against the Emperor
Alexander--reasons which, though bad and insufficient, weighed in his
eyes, and, under the influence of his personal passions, with a decisive
weight in the balance. He wished to pursue, everywhere and by every means,
his struggle against England and her influence in Europe. Alexander had
refused to increase the rigors of the continental blockade. To this
infraction of the spirit of the treaties uniting the emperors, Alexander
had added, during the Austrian war, an attitude of indifference and
reserve which inspired confidence in the Emperor Francis and his advisers.
He had shown no eagerness for the family alliance which Napoleon twice
offered, while, at the same time, the latter was not deceived as to the
annoyance caused at St. Petersburg by the negotiations for the hand of the
grand-duchess being suddenly broken off. In short, Napoleon was convinced
that the Emperor Alexander was preparing for war, eager to recover his
liberty, and be freed from the conditions of the treaty of Tilsit. He, at
the same time, believed that the renewal of hostilities would be
signalized by important advantages for whichever of the two belligerents
could first enter on the campaign. His main efforts, therefore, in 1811,
were to hasten his warlike preparations, while using diplomatic artifices
to make his adversary sleep, and, at the same time, proving to Europe that
the rupture of the treaties was on the part of Alexander, and that the
Russians were the first to arm. On sending him Count Lauriston, who was
appointed to replace Caulaincourt, Napoleon wrote the Czar: "The man I
send you has no consummate skill in business, but he is true and upright,
as are the sentiments I bear towards you. Nevertheless I daily receive
from Russia news which are not pacific. Yesterday I learned from Stockholm
that the Russian divisions in Finland had left to go towards the frontiers
of the Grand Duchy. A few days ago I had instructions from Bucharest that
five divisions had left the Moldavian and Wallachian provinces for Poland,
and that only four divisions of your Majesty's troops remain on the
Danube. What is now taking place is a new proof that repetition is a
powerful figure of rhetoric. Your Majesty has so often been told that I
have a grudge against you, that your confidence has been shaken. The
Russians quit a frontier where they are necessary, to go to a point where
your Majesty has only friends. Nevertheless I had to think also of my
affairs, and consider my own position. The recoil of my preparations will
lead your Majesty to increase yours; and what you do, re-echoing here,
will make me raise new levies, and all that for mere phantoms! It is a
repetition of what I did in 1807 in Prussia, and in 1809 in Austria. As
for me, I shall remain your Majesty's friend even when that fatality which
rules Europe will one day compel our two nations to take sword in hand. I
shall regulate my conduct by your Majesty's; I shall never make the
attack: my troops will advance only when your Majesty has torn up the
treaty of Tilsit. I shall be the first to disarm, and restore everything
to the condition in which things were a year ago, if your Majesty will go
back to the same confidence."

The emperor spoke the truth, and his treatment of Russia was nothing new.
It had long been a clumsy artifice of his insatiable greed for war and
conquest to charge his enemies with taking the sword in hand on account of
their fears or expectations, the fear and expectations being usually
caused by his attitude and the projects with which he was credited.
Military reasons assisted at this time in encouraging him to dissimulate
and talk of peace. He had conceived the idea of occupying successively the
vast territories by which he was separated from Russia, and gaining first
the Oder and then the Vistula before the Russians were in motion to cross
the Niemen. The first links of this combination were already begun to be
forged; crowds of runaway conscripts were everywhere being dragged from
the woods and rocks where they hid themselves; and, by sending columns of
militia to scour the provinces, garrison the villages, and freely pillage
the houses of the young deserters, there were 50,000 or 60,000 men thus
compelled to give themselves up, whose hiding-places had not been
discovered. The emperor sent them in troops to the islands of Elba,
Corsica, Ré, Belle-Isle, and Walcheren, appointing the sea to keep his
deserters. Scarcely had they acquired the most rudimentary notions of
military discipline, when they were despatched in a body to Marshal
Davout, who was still stationed on the Elbe, with instructions to drill
and form them. They often arrived still clad in their peasant's dress,
their bodies ill, and their minds revolting against the existence thus
forced upon them far from their home and country. About one sixth of these
wretches escaped during the march, braving all the dangers and suffering
of flight across an unknown country rather than be soldiers. Recruits from
all the conquered nations filled up the gaps in the regiments of the ever-
increasing army. War supplies as well as soldiers were also constantly
accumulating in Germany. Napoleon resolved to collect at Dantzig the
resources necessary to support an army of 400,000 men for a year. The
marvellous fertility of his mind was entirely occupied in facilitating and
rendering certain the movements of that enormous mass of men and horses
during a long campaign and across vast spaces. The transport arrangements
were in charge of skilled lieutenants, who had been with him in all his
battles; and General Eblé was at the head of the engineer division for
bridge-construction. "With the means at our disposal, we shall eat up all
obstacles," said Napoleon, confidently.

Alliances would have been difficult and few in Napoleon's case, if he had
insisted on having genuine sympathy and hearty assistance; but he did not
ask so much from Prussia, nor even from the Emperor Francis, whose
daughter he had just married. Fear was enough for the accomplishment of
his wishes, and in that he reckoned rightly. King Frederick William asked
for Napoleon's alliance, because he dreaded seeing himself suddenly hemmed
in by the attack against Russia. After leaving him for a long time
unanswered, and at last bringing his preparations as far forward as he had
beforehand determined, the emperor accepted the offers of the King of
Prussia and his minister Hardenberg. In their anxiety to close the
bargain, the Prussian diplomatist had gone so far as to say that their
sovereign could place 100,000 men at the service of France. By skilful
system of rotation in their military service, the King of Prussia had been
able to exercise all his subjects who were of age to bear arms without
appearing to exceed the narrow limits allowed to his army by Napoleon.
Thus, under the weight of unjust restriction, were sown the seeds of that
military organization which afterwards proved several times so fatal to
us. In 1812, Napoleon let the King of Prussia know that he had observed
the state of his military resources. By the treaty of alliance, concluded
in February, 1812, the Prussian contingent in the war then preparing
amounted only to 20,000 soldiers. Large supplies of provisions were to be
received in part payment of the war contributions which Prussia still owed
France; and on this condition the emperor guaranteed the security of the
territory of his new ally--recently his mangled victim. Some hopes were
also allowed him of several ulterior advantages; but Napoleon refused to
restore Glogau, in spite of the entreaties of King Frederick William.

Austria would have wished to avoid the necessity of joining in the war and
allying herself to Napoleon; but the situation of the daughter of the
Emperor Francis upon the throne of France, and the eagerness which the
Austrian court had shown for the union, prevented any refusal. In his
negotiations Metternich insisted that the treaty should be kept secret:
"There are only two of us in Austria who wish for a French alliance," said
he; "the emperor is the first, and I am the second; but Russia must not
know of our feeling towards you." Some regiments were being secretly
prepared in Galicia.

In a famous conversation which Napoleon had, on 15th August, 1811, with
Prince Kourakin, the Russian ambassador at Paris, he said, "Is it on
Austria that you reckon? You made war upon her in 1809, and deprived her
of a province during peace. Is it Sweden, from whom you took Finland? Is
it Prussia, whose spoils you accepted at Tilsit after being her ally?" The
same reproaches could with more justice have been applied to France--or
rather, to her ruler. He was soon to understand that truth, and weigh the
value of the alliances which he had imposed. On the eve of the Russian
campaign he was, and seemed, more formidable than the Czar; and fear made
the weak cling to his side, while they still concealed their secret hatred
and long-cherished rancor.

Russia, nevertheless, was also negotiating, relying upon her rival's
natural and declared enemies. The treaties were not new when they were
published, on the 20th July, 1812, between the Czar and the Spanish
insurgents, the 1st August with England, and on the 5th April with Sweden.

The powers hostile to France were astonished to hear of the advances made
by the new Prince Royal of Sweden. From recollection of the republican
enthusiasm of his youth, as well as personal antipathy, Bernadotte had
never liked General Bonaparte when they were comrades and rivals for
military fame. The fortune of Napoleon had dug a gulf between them. Raised
to the throne by a curious freak of destiny, Bernadotte had brought to his
new country no attachment for Napoleon, nor the enthusiastic recollections
of France with which he was generally credited. He had asked the emperor
to grant him Norway; but Napoleon did not wish to rob Denmark, and a
contemptuous silence was the reply to the court of Sweden. Bernadotte
pursued in another direction the same views of ambition and
aggrandizement; and in allying himself to Russia he asked for Norway,
urging the importance of the personal and national assistance which he
could contribute to the coalition. England was not a stranger to this
arrangement. Two months afterwards, disregarding his engagements with
Russia, and alarmed at the huge display of Napoleon's power, the Prince
Royal of Sweden proceeded to make fresh overtures to France. Norway was to
remain as the price of his alliance, together with a subsidy of
20,000,000. Napoleon was extremely angry. Bernadotte had never possessed
his good graces; and he, not unnaturally, felt indignant at the manoeuvres
of a Frenchman who had so soon forgot his country. "The wretch!" exclaimed
he; "he is true neither to his reputation, to Sweden, or his native land,
but is preparing bitter remorse for himself. When Russia wants the Sound,
her soldiers have only to cross the ice from Aland to Stockholm. The
present opportunity of humbling Russia is unique, and he will never have
such another. Never again will a man like me be seen marching against the
North with 600,000 men! He is not worth thinking about; let nobody mention
him again to me; I forbid sending any communication to him, formal or
informal." Thus repulsed, Bernadotte remained faithful to his engagements
with Russia, and was soon after to make others, which were still more
disastrous to his native country.

Soon after the official publication of the treaty uniting Sweden to the
enemies of France, the Emperor Alexander concluded a war which had long
occupied the greater part of his forces. The hostilities so long waged
between Russia and Turkey had not contributed to the glory of Alexander's
generals. "Your soldiers are very brave," said Napoleon once to the Czar's
ambassador, "but your generals are not worthy of them. It is impossible
not to see that they have managed their movements very badly, and acted
against all the rules." The fear inspired by the Emperor Napoleon had been
of still greater use to the Turks than the bad generalship of the
Russians, Alexander being eager to conclude the peace, in order to
concentrate his forces against an enemy more formidable than the Sultan.
Admiral Tchitchakoff, at the head of the army of the Danube, was empowered
to finish the war or negotiate peace. The Czar renounced part of his
former claims, contenting himself with Bessarabia, and proposing the Pruth
as the boundary for both empires, on condition that Turkey became an
active ally. The influence of the English diplomatists turned the balance,
and Mahmoud, yielding to the desire for peace, the Treaty of Bucharest was
signed on the 28th May, 1812.

Napoleon was afraid of this peace, and had tried to prevent it.
Perpetually trying to gain time, he succeeded in throwing off the scent
Nesselrode, who had been sent with instructions to put the question of
peace or war simply. Lauriston was directed to dwell constantly upon the
emperor's friendly feeling towards the Czar. Napoleon was at the trouble
of conversing for a long time with a Russian of position who was visiting
Paris. Czernicheff was sent to gather information as to the importance of
our armament, and had learned much, when the emperor sent for him to come
to the Elysée, to unfold his intentions with regard to Poland. He had
formerly said to Prince Kourakin, "I shall give you nothing in Poland--
nothing! nothing!" Now he declared his resolution never to restore to
Poland its national independence. "I had no wish to engage in the
convention which was proposed to me," said he, "because that engagement
was not compatible with my dignity; but I am well resolved on that point.
I have no other reason for arming except the notoriously unkind
disposition of the Russian court towards me. She is deceived as to my
intentions; she serves England, whose commerce extends to all parts of her
territory. I only ask her to come closer; by ourselves we two shall crush
all our enemies." Napoleon gave Czernicheff a letter for the Emperor
Alexander, which made him a sort of accredited agent at the Russian court.
"My brother, after the arrival of the courier sent by Count Lauriston on
the 6th instant, I laid down my views of the troublesome events of the
last fifteen months in a conversation with Colonel Czernicheff. It only
depends on your Majesty to finish it all."

At the same time a despatch of the Duke of Bassano (Maret), who had
succeeded the Duke of Cadore (Champagny) as minister of foreign affairs,
informed Lauriston of the importance of the mission. "The emperor is
anxious," said he, "that the troops should gradually advance upon the
Vistula, rest there, settle there, strengthen their position, fortify
their bridges; in short, make use of every advantage, and be certain of
taking the initiative in military movements. The emperor has shown great
kindness to Colonel Czernicheff, but I must tell you that officer has used
his time in Paris intriguing and disseminating corruption. The emperor
knew it without interfering. The preparations of his Majesty are really
enormous, and the more they are known it will only be the better for him.
The Emperor Alexander will, no doubt, show you the letter sent him by his
Majesty; it is very simple.... The emperor has no wish for an interview,
or even a negotiation which should take place out of Paris. He has no
confidence in a negotiation of any sort, unless the 450,000 men whom his
Majesty has put in movement, and their enormous mass of war apparatus,
should have caused the cabinet of St. Petersburg to reflect seriously,
and, by loyally restoring the system established at Tilsit, place Russia
again in the state of inferiority in which she then was. Your single aim
must be to gain time. The head of the army of Italy is already at Munich,
and the general movement is being everywhere declared. Maintain on all
occasions that, should war take place, it is Russia who wished for it."

It was no longer from Paris that the emperor dictated his diplomatic
orders and directed the movements of his armies. Since March he had lived
at St. Cloud, to avoid an opposition Which vexed him to the bottom of his
heart, and which he had in vain attempted to disarm. The Parisians, long
enthusiastic in favor of his glory, were showing discontent, aversion, and
complaint. After the long drought of the summer of 1811, bread was dear;
and the financial measures which had been tried to reduce the prices in
the capital were extremely onerous for the Treasury without acting
successfully upon trade. Corn was scarce, and the threat of an arbitrary
tariff kept back the supply of provisions. The strain upon all the
commercial relations caused by the continental blockade reacted
unfavorably on the necessary resources during a dearth. The Food Council
appointed by the emperor tried in vain to supply by artificial means the
beneficent action of commercial freedom and confidence.

Other causes contributed to the agitation and ill-temper of the Parisians;
and the discontent, as well as the suffering caused by the dearness of
corn, was not confined to the capital. Too clear-sighted, in spite of the
mad impulses of his ambition, not to feel what risks he was running, and
making France run, Napoleon wished to provide some protection. Though long
inexhaustible in men and devotion, the country was becoming tired, and
about to be deprived of its means of defence at the very moment when a new
European conflagration was bursting forth. The emperor had therefore
ordered the formation of a certain number of cohorts of the national
guard, under the name of "First Ban" (Body of Defence). Thus 120,000 men,
borrowed from the "sedentary contingents" of 1809 to 1812, had been formed
into regiments, on the assurance that they should not have to leave their
departments. Their families, however, were deprived of them, and the
present hardships combining with their fear of the future, there was great
dissatisfaction in the country. The number of deserters having increased,
the columns of militia recommenced their hateful work: and in the
conquered countries, Holland and the territory of the Hanse towns, the
conscription was violently resisted. Insurrections took place, followed by
executions. Several of the regiments raised in the ancient free towns had
mutinied, and kept themselves for several days in the isle of Heligoland.
These troops were incorporated with Marshal Davout's army, and put under
the most rigid guard. In Italy itself, and even in the army of Prince
Eugène, the discontent and fatigue were unmistakable. The hard service of
Napoleon had become a slavery. His severity towards the Pope also assisted
in alienating the Italians, and throughout the Roman States he was hated
by the population.

His pacific protestations, however, deceived nobody. The Czar had no wish
for war; he dreaded it, and his people had also long dreaded it; but now
he felt it to be inevitable, and the patriotic passion of defending their
soil took possession of the Russian nation. Lauriston was besieged with
attentions, but he lived alone, having no intercourse with the Russian
upper classes, who were now urging the emperor forward. "Everything will
be against us in this war," said Napoleon boldly to some of those about
him who knew Russia well, especially Caulaincourt and Ségur. "On their
side, love of country and independence; all private and public interests,
even to the secret wishes of our allies! On our side, against so many
obstacles, glory alone, even without the hope of plunder, since the
frightful poverty of those regions renders it impossible."

The events proved, in a startling manner, the justice of what the military
diplomatists anticipated. From the history of the secret negotiations we
learn that advices and promises were largely bestowed by Austria and
Prussia upon the Emperor Alexander. The leaders of our armies, which had
for several months occupied Germany and Poland, could not pretend not to
see the increasing hatred which was silently brooding under the disguises
of popular submission and princely attentions. General Rapp, who commanded
at Dantzig, felt it his duty to inform Marshal Davout of the precarious
state in which our rule in Europe then stood. "If the French army has a
single check," wrote the general, "there will quickly be from the Rhine to
the Niemen only one single insurrection." Davout, in transmitting this
information to Napoleon, made only one remark: "I recollect, sire, true
enough, that in 1809, without the miracles wrought by you at Ratisbon our
situation in Germany would have been very difficult."

It was upon those miracles of his genius, and upon a destiny which he
justly considered superhuman, that the Emperor Napoleon always reckoned.
The information brought vexed him without persuading him, and made him
somewhat distrust those who ventured to give it him. The brilliant renown
of Marshal Davout, the justice and consistency of his administration in
Poland, and the admirable order which reigned in his army, had made
Napoleon somewhat displeased and gloomy. The rivals and enemies of Davout
skilfully utilized the occasion. "One would think that the Prince of
Eckmühl commanded the army," they said constantly in the emperor's
presence. Some even accused him of aiming at the throne of Poland.
Napoleon had dispensed with Masséna's services; and now he showed a
coolness towards Davout, as if he were jealous of his glory and power, and
at the moment of engaging in the supreme struggle wished to be surrounded
with servants only!

Marshal Davout, nevertheless, went on his way, executing the emperor's
instructions with consummate skill and prudence. There were now 450,000
men marching against Russia; an army of reserve of 150,000 men was about
to be formed in Germany from the recruits sent from all parts of France;
120,000 men of the national guard were to protect the French soil, in
combination with 150,000 soldiers, sick or new, who were still in the
military depots. According to the "cadres," which were often deceptive,
there were 300,000 men engaged in Spain. On leaving Italy to march to
Germany, Prince Eugène had left about 50,000 soldiers in the strongholds.
Thus for one man's quarrel, and in his name, there were under arms more
than 1,200,000 soldiers. The Russian army did not exceed 300,000 men: on
their side they had the weather, extent of country, and climate. "Don't
come into collision with the Emperor Napoleon," said Knesebek, the
Prussian envoy to the Czar; "draw the French into the interior of Russia.
Let fatigue and hunger do the rest." The Emperor Alexander had just learnt
that Davout had appeared at Elbing: having crossed the Vistula, he was on
his way to the Niemen. The feeling of the people as well as the ardor of
the court called the Czar to head-quarters, but he still hesitated, having
a repugnance to give the sign of general conflagration; and at last, on
the 21st, set out for Wilna after telling Lauriston that there was still
time for negotiations. The population of St. Petersburg were all present
at his departure, earnest and full of interest, and the churches were
crowded with people praying at the altars. "I go with you. God will be
against the aggressor." Such was the Czar's proclamation on reaching his

Europe was no more deceived than Russia and France herself; in spite of
Napoleon's precautions, nobody was ignorant as to the real aggressor. The
emperor remained at St. Cloud till 9th May, 1812, waiting till an act of
the Czar's should give him the liberty of his movements. Before leaving
France, and as a last indication of his pacific intentions, he despatched
Narbonne to Wilna, with instructions to propose to the Czar an interview
and armed negotiation, on the Niemen. "My aide-de-camp, Count Narbonne,
who is the bearer of this letter to your Majesty, has at the same time
important communications for Count Romanzoff," wrote Napoleon on the 25th
April; "they will prove to your Majesty my desire to avoid war, and my
constancy to the sentiments of Tilsit and Erfurt. In any case your Majesty
will allow me to assure you, that if fate renders this war inevitable
between us, it will make no change in the sentiments with which your
Majesty has inspired me, and which are safe from all vicissitude or

It was at Dresden, whither he had gone on leaving France, that Napoleon
received the refusal to negotiate, brought by Narbonne from the Czar.
England had replied by a similar refusal to the pacific manifesto which
the emperor, as usual, had addressed to her before recommencing new
hostilities in Europe. The orders for the positions of the troops were
already given. Davout was to concentrate between Marienwerder, Marienburg,
and Elbing; the Prussians had been appointed to the advance-guard, and
still remained on their right, advancing to the banks of the Niemen.
Marshal Oudinot occupied the suburbs of Dantzig, forming Davout's right;
while Ney's body, at Thorn, supported his left. Prince Eugène, with the
Bavarians, advanced to Plock, on the Vistula; the Poles, Saxons, and
Westphalians were united at Warsaw, under the orders of King Jerome; and
the guard, who held Posen, were commanded by Mortier and Lefebvre. General
St. Cyr was appointed to lead the Bavarians in the field, and General
Régnier was responsible for the Saxons. The Austrians were to invade
Volhynia. Already wherever the troops passed there was raised a chorus of
complaints from the pillaged and ill-treated populations, and from the
King of Prussia, who had seen Spandau and Pillau occupied by the French
troops, on pretext of depositing the war-material there. King Frederick
William had set out for Dresden, to present his claims personally to the

In the sight of the crowned crowd which at Dresden thronged around
Napoleon, there was something at once brilliant and sad. Amongst the
sovereigns who claimed the honor of presenting their homages, there were
very few who did not cherish against him some secret grievance or bitter
rancor. All dreaded some new misfortunes, and were endeavoring to charm
them away by servile flatteries. The Empress Marie Louise accompanied her
husband, showing her delight and want of tact in displaying her splendor
so near her native country, before the eyes of her father and mother-in-
law, who had just met her in Dresden. All purely military display had been
forbidden at the magnificent court around Napoleon. Murat and King Jerome
themselves had been ordered to their head-quarters, yet the couriers
followed each other night and day, frequently disturbing the brilliant
_fêtes_ by the fear of the first cannon-shot ready to go off. At Paris,
Prince Kourakin, discontented and uneasy, had asked for his passports,
thus anticipating the official rupture. At St. Petersburg, Lauriston
received the order to join the Emperor Alexander at Wilna, and again lay
before him the proposals of peace. It was necessary to let the grass grow
--to let the sun dry the roads--to give Napoleon's emissaries the
opportunity of acting on the minds of the Poles, and stirring up amongst
them a national movement in favor of France, a mission to which Abbé
Pradt, afterwards Bishop of Malines, had been appointed. Talleyrand, of
whom the emperor at first thought, did not then enjoy his good graces.
"Set out, my lord," said Napoleon to the bishop, "set out at once; spare
no expense; rouse their enthusiasm; set Poland a-going without embroiling
me with Austria, and you will have well understood and fulfilled your
mission." The prelate's vanity was fired, surrounded as he was by the
apparatus of his new grandeur. He set out to stir up Poland in the name of

The work was more difficult then than it had been in 1807, when Napoleon
had personally remarked the distrust of the great lords and the apathetic
indifference of the peasantry. The formation of the grand-duchy of Warsaw
did not please the Poles, who had already seen their hopes vanish. They
were poor, and a large number of their best soldiers were serving under
Napoleon. The continental blockade had ruined the trade of the Jews, who
had always been numerous and influential in Poland. The Abbé Pradt had to
use his efforts in the midst of an excited people, who wished for the
future something different from promises. His mission was to produce but
trifling results, because the penetration of the Poles guessed Napoleon's
thoughts, and his resolution to wage no decisive battle in their favor. He
set no great value on the political spirit of the race, their patriotic
passions meeting with scarcely any response in him. He wished to drag the
living force of Poland in his train, in order to support him in his
struggle; but it was in vain that he gave to the new aggression which he
was about to attempt the name of a second Polish war--the public voice was
no more deceived than history. The campaign of Russia was about to begin.

On leaving Dresden, Napoleon at last urged forward the advance of his
armies. In spite of the precautions he had taken, the transports moved
slowly and with difficulty, the staff officers dragging after them much
useless baggage, and on reaching Thorn he ordered some important
reductions. When pushing on towards Marienburg and Dantzig he was attended
by Davout and Murat. Cold in his manner to Davout, who was perpetually
quarrelling with Marshal Berthier, he was uncivil to Murat, who was tired
and ill. "Are you not satisfied with being king?" he asked, dryly. "I
scarcely am king, sire," retorted Murat. "I did not make you kings, you
and your brothers, to reign as you liked, but as I liked," returned the
emperor; "to follow my policy, and remain French on foreign thrones."
Napoleon had given orders for the last supply of provisions for the
strongholds, and completed the organization of inland navigation by
streams and rivers. On the 17th June he arrived at Intersburg, having
resolved to cross the Niemen at Kowno, in order to direct his march upon
the Dwina and Dnieper by the road leading to Moscow, passing first by
Wilna, the capital of Lithuania. It was, in fact, upon those two rivers,
the real frontiers of the Russian empire, that the Emperor Alexander had
concentrated his forces. The army of the Dwina was commanded by General
Barclay de Tolly; the army of the Dnieper marched under the orders of
Prince Bagration. The emperor went straight towards the enemy, hoping to
open the campaign by one of those brilliant strokes by which he had been
accustomed to terrify Europe. He reckoned upon passing the Niemen on the
22nd or 23rd, and on the 16th wrote from Koenigsberg, authorizing
Lauriston to ask his passports. The despatch was dated the 12th, from
Thorn, the ambassador having been told of the artifice. Napoleon soon
learned that Lauriston had not been allowed to leave Wilna. It mattered
little now; having reached the banks of the Niemen, his proclamation was
everywhere read to the troops:--

"Soldiers! The second Polish war is begun. The first finished at Friedland
and Tilsit! At Tilsit Russia swore an eternal alliance with France, and
war with England. To-day she is violating her oaths. She will give no
explanation of her strange conduct unless the French eagles recross the
Rhine, thus leaving our allies to her discretion. Russia is drawn on by
fate; her destiny must be accomplished. Why does she think we are
degenerated? Are we no longer the soldiers of Austerlitz? She places us
between dishonor and war. Our choice cannot be doubtful! Let us march
forward; let us pass the Niemen; let us carry war into her territory. The
second Polish war will be glorious to French arms; but the peace which we
shall conclude will bring with it its guarantee; it will bring to a close
the fatal influence which for fifty years Russia has exercised upon the
affairs of Europe."

The river was there, rolling at Napoleon's feet, like a natural and
majestic barrier, fulfilling its function of holding him back from ruin;
the enormous mass of his army surrounded him; on the opposite bank reigned
silence and solitude. Several sappers who had crossed in a small boat,
having landed, a Cossack came up to them, in charge of a patrol, who
followed him at a short distance. "Who are you? and what do you want
here?" he asked. "We are Frenchmen, and we are come to make war upon you,"
replied one of the sappers. The Cossack turned his horse round, and
disappeared in the forest, unhurt by the bullets which they fired after
him. They were there to throw a bridge across.

On the morning of the 25th, Napoleon himself crossed the river on
horseback, galloping as if he wished to find the enemy, still absent and
invisible. The light cavalry had already taken possession of Kowno. The
emperor wishing bridges to be thrown over the Vilia, ordered a squadron of
Polish lancers to cross the river, in order to sound the depth, and a
large number of the unfortunate men perished in the attempt. When they
felt themselves carried away by the current, they turned round to shout
"Long live the emperor!" Meanwhile the army was still defiling across the
Niemen, and it was only on the 30th June that it had entirely reached the
left bank.

After a violent discussion among the Czar's advisers, Alexander decided to
evacuate Wilna, the minister of police being appointed for the last time
to carry a conciliatory message to Napoleon. A detachment of cavalry
disputed for a moment with the French the gates of the capital of
Lithuania, the passage being forced by Murat. On the 28th June, about mid-
day, Napoleon made his entry into Wilna, annoyed at not meeting the enemy,
whom he would have liked to fight, overcome, and crush on the first day.
The Lithuanians received him eagerly, as in expectation of freedom. The
same day the Diet assembled at Warsaw proclaimed the re-establishment of
the kingdom of Poland, and several members of the Senate hastened to
Wilna, to announce officially to Napoleon the resurrection of their
country. "The Poles have never been subjected by either peace or war,"
said they, "but by treason! They are therefore free _de jure_ before God
as well as before men, and to-day they can be so _de facto;_ and their
right becomes a duty. We demand the independence of our Lithuanian
brothers, and their union to the centre of all the Polish family. It is
from Napoleon the Great that we ask this word, 'The Kingdom of Poland
exists!' It will then exist if all the Poles devote themselves ardently to
the orders of the chief of the fourth French race, before whom the ages
are but a moment, and space an infinitesimal point."

Napoleon did not believe in the restoration of Poland, and was resolved
not to create beforehand an insurmountable obstacle to peace by forming
engagements with the Poles. He received the deputies of the Diet coldly,
and did not yield to their desire of seeing Lithuania at once joined to
Poland. A special government had just been organized, which seemed to be
entrusted to the great Lithuanian lords, but was practically administered
by young "auditors" of the Council of State. Distrust had already secretly
begun, and mutual recriminations; the Lithuanians dreaded the vengeance of
Russia, not being certain of having permanently got rid of her government;
robbery was scandalously common; the weather was bad, and many soldiers
were ill. Everywhere throughout the province, corn, cattle, and forage
were requisitioned for the army, and a dearth threatened Lithuania as soon
as the French entered upon their soil. Half of the carriages, a third of
the horse, and a fourth of those in charge of the transports, had already
perished on the roads from the Elbe to Wilna. Napoleon had ordered a levy
of four regiments of infantry in Lithuania, and five regiments of cavalry;
but the money and military outfits were both wanting. It was necessary to
organize some columns of militia, to pursue those who pillaged, and
protect the peaceful inhabitants. Our soldiers were ordered to look after
the burial of the dead. From the reports of chiefs of divisions the
emperor was fully informed of some of the wretched consequences. The Duke
of Trevisa wrote:--"From the Niemen to the Vilia I saw nothing but houses
in ruins, wagons and carriages abandoned; we found them scattered on the
roads and in the fields; some upset, others open, with their contents
strewed here and there, and pillaged, as if they had been taken by the
enemy. I thought I was following a routed army. Ten thousand horses were
killed by the cold stormy rains and the green rye, which is their only
food, and new to them. They lie on the roads and encumber them; their
bodies exhale a poisonous smell--a new plague, which some compare to
famine, though the latter is much more terrible. Several soldiers of the
young guard have already died of hunger."

The necessity for a speedy victory was being already felt. The Russian
army had been cut in two by the rapid march of the French, Prince
Bagration being isolated on the Dnieper, where Marshal Davout was already
hemming him in, and soon after gained an important victory, at Mohilew,
23rd July, 1812. The Czar, with General Barclay de Tolly, had fixed
himself in the intrenched camp at Drissa before the Dwina; and it was upon
this principal division that Napoleon directed his march when he left
Wilna, on the evening of the 16th July. Murat commanded the advanced
guard, followed first by Ney, and then by Oudinot; Prince Eugène, who
advanced towards the right, was to join Marshal Davout. The forces of King
Jerome and Prince Poniatowski remained in the rear. Desertion and fatigue
were already decimating the soldiers. The King of Westphalia, placed under
Marshal Davout's orders, had with difficulty accepted that secondary
position. Difficulties having arisen, the prince returned towards Germany,
and thus lessened the marshal's success at Mohilew.

Before leaving Wilna the emperor had dismissed, without satisfying him,
Balachoff, the bearer of the Czar's last offers. Napoleon repeated his
former complaints, going back bitterly to the happy future which was
unrolled before Russia when her emperor walked in harmony with France.
"What an admirable reign he might have had, if he had liked!" repeated
Napoleon; "all that was necessary was to keep on good terms with me. I
gave him Finland, and promised him Moldavia and Wallachia, which he was
about to obtain, when all at once he allowed himself to be surrounded by
my enemies, and turned against me the arms he ought to have reserved for
the Turks; and now his gain will be having neither Wallachia nor Moldavia.
And now, what is your object in coming here? What are the Emperor
Alexander's intentions? He is only general on parade: whom will he put
against me? Kutusof, whom he does not like, because he is too Russian?
Benningsen, who is old and only recalls to him frightful memories?
Barclay, who can manoeuvre, who is brave, who knows war, but who is a
superannuated general? Bagration is the best soldier; he has no
imagination; but he has experience, quickness of vision, and decision; he
cannot prevent my throwing you beyond the Dnieper and Dwina. These are the
results of your rupture with me. When I think of the reign which your
master might have had!" Napoleon summed up by a demand to occupy
Lithuania, Russia to undertake to resume permanently her alliance against
England. Balachoff set out again, assuring Napoleon that if the sentiment
of religious patriotism had disappeared throughout Europe, it still
remained in Spain and Russia. The bitterness of the discussion envenomed
several wounds already deep enough. When Balachoff rejoined the Czar in
order to give account of his mission, Alexander was no longer at Drissa.
Waiting in an entrenched camp tired and humiliated the Russians. The plan
of campaign was the work of Pfuhl, a German general, high in the emperor's
favor; but the feeling of the whole army was expressed so emphatically
against the tactics at first adopted, that the Czar agreed to quit head-
quarters, and fall back with his staff upon Moscow. There, they assured
him, the mere fact of his presence was enough to animate the national
enthusiasm of the old Russians, and stir up the whole country against the
invader. General Barclay, henceforward free in his movements, began on the
10th July to march up the Dwina as far as Vitebsk, hoping to be joined by
Bagration opposite Smolensk. Our road to Moscow was thus intercepted; and
Count Wittgenstein, with 25,000 or 30,000 men, was to cover St. Petersburg
between Polotsk and Riga. Marshal Macdonald, at the head of the left wing
of the French army, threatened the coasts of the Baltic.

Napoleon guessed this movement of the Russian general, and determined to
push forward, prevent the junction of the two armies of the enemy, attack
them by suddenly crossing the Dwina, and thus render impossible the
continuous retreat of the Russians, who were now drawing him in their
pursuit into the interior of the empire, without giving him an opportunity
of striking the blow which was to be their destruction. He therefore left
Gloubokoé on the 23rd July, advancing upon Vitebsk; and two brilliant
engagements of the advance-guard, by Murat and Ney, on the 25th and 26th,
redoubled the ardor of our troops. On reaching Vitebsk after another
engagement, the Russian army was seen, drawn up in order of battle, beyond
a small tributary of the Dwina. Napoleon urged forward the march of all
his forces. The Russian forces seemed to count about 90,000 or 100,000
men. The French army was reduced by illness, by the desertion of some
Poles and Germans, and by the death of young recruits who could not endure
the heat, fatigue, and bad food. The body accompanying the emperor,
however, still amounted to 125,000 men, excellent troops. Napoleon felt
certain of success.

Barclay de Tolly was of the same opinion. At first he had resolved to give
battle, in order to keep the roads open for Prince Bagration, with whom he
had made an appointment to meet at Babinowiczi; but the news of the check
received by the Russian army at Mohilew convinced him that their junction
must now be delayed, and that his colleague felt himself compelled to look
forward to a long movement before succeeding in passing the Dnieper. A
battle was no longer necessary, and, on the night of the 27th, Barclay
raised his camp, to advance upon Poreczie, behind the Kasplia. Thus the
St. Petersburg and Moscow roads were covered by the Russian army, and the
two main divisions might look forward to a junction in the neighborhood of

Napoleon was excessively annoyed on learning of the enemy's retreat, and
in spite of the overpowering heat ordered immediate pursuit. Count Pahlen,
however, at the head of the Russian cavalry, protected their main body,
while at the same time retiring before us. After a day's work as fatiguing
for the troops as a long engagement, Napoleon returned to Vitebsk, where
he encamped several days, in order to rest his soldiers, and rebuild the
store-houses, everywhere overthrown by the Russians, who also destroyed
the crops and every kind of forage. Up to this point, in spite of his able
combinations, the plan of campaign decided upon by Napoleon at Wilna was a
complete failure; and by the persistent retreat of the Russians, the
circle of his operations had to be constantly increased. The immense space
spread out before us, solitary and vacant; and for the future it was
impossible to prevent the junction of the enemy's forces. On our side
Marshal Davout had just joined the great army; and the emperor took
advantage of this combination of the greater part of our forces to inspect
his troops. In every regiment, except the old guard, the leaders were
struck with consternation at the results ascertained by the roll-call.

It is a good thing to know the cost of enterprises begun in folly and
pursued through excessive difficulties, whatever may have been the
superior genius, the consummate foresight and experience, of the general.
Ney counted 36,000 men as they crossed the Niemen, but only 22,000 were in
line at Vitebsk. The King of Naples had lost 7000 men out of 28,000. The
young guard had seen 10,000 men disappear out of 28,000. Prince Eugène
reckoned 45,000 on the banks of the Dwina, and entered Kowno with 40,000.
Even Davout, the most skilful in drilling and managing his soldiers, saw
his 72,000 men diminished by 20,000. In King Jerome's division, 22,000
were wanting, the number formerly being nearly 100,000 men. The emperor
still had at his disposition 255,000 soldiers; but Macdonald on the
Baltic, and Oudinot at Polotsk, ought still to have 60,000, and General
Reynier remained on the Dnieper with a body of 20,000 soldiers. Napoleon
already spoke of calling Marshal Victor, with his 30,000 men of reserve,
cantoned between the Niemen and the Rhine. Thirty thousand Austrians
advanced towards Minsk under the orders of Prince Schwartzenberg. The
emperor sent orders to Paris to despatch all his guard still left in the
depots. He rejected the idea of an establishment on the Dnieper and Dwina
being a sufficient result of the campaign. Better than all his lieutenants
he at last foresaw the dangers and difficulties of the work which he had
undertaken, which he still wished, but which he was anxious to finish in a
brilliant manner. Europe was waiting for the news of a victory. Napoleon
had reached the centre of the Russian empire, but without a battle. The
prestige of his glory and his power demanded a decisive blow; and the
emperor prepared for it at Vitebsk.

Marshal Macdonald, however, had taken possession of Courland, after one
battle before Mittau. The Russians everywhere retreated before him,
evacuating even the stronghold of Dunaburg. The marshal laid siege to
Riga, but his forces were insufficient to guard this vast territory, and
he in vain asked for reinforcements. Everywhere the men succumbed under
the extent of the task imposed upon them. Marshal Oudinot, who formerly
supported Macdonald at Polotsk, had crossed the Dwina, and was advancing,
by the emperor's orders, against Count Wittgenstein. After a brilliant
engagement at Jakoubowo on the 20th July, he found it prudent to retreat
upon the Drissa. On the 1st August there was another successful battle,
but the troops were tired, and had lost many men; the enemy were
threatening. Oudinot returned to Polotsk, requiring rest and more
soldiers, like Macdonald. The marshal did not succeed in demolishing the
entrenched camp at Drissa, as he had been instructed to do.

On the south-east, in the upper part of the course of the Bug, General
Reynier found himself at last obliged to retreat, in order to protect the
grand duchy of Warsaw, and invade Volhynia. This expedition was at first
intended for the Austrians, but the will of the Emperor Francis, as well
as that of Napoleon, called them to head-quarters; and Reynier's forces
were to replace them in the posts which they held.

Nevertheless, the Russian General Tormazoff threatened the grand duchy,
after taking possession of Kobrin, which was badly defended by the Saxons.
The Diet of Warsaw took alarm. A large number of wealthy Poles collected
their most valuable property, and crossed to the left bank of the Vistula.
They asked assistance from the Abbé Pradt, who was as disturbed as the
Poles. He wrote to Wilna, where Bassano was installed as the emperor's
representative, and at the same time addressed himself to General Reynier.
The latter having called Prince Swartzenberg to his assistance, they both
advanced upon the Bug, thus protecting the grand duchy, without being able
to rejoin the grand army or support the general movement. Admiral
Tchitchakoff had just signed the peace with the Turks, and was expected to
come to Tormazoff's assistance.

Following Marshal Davout's advice, after mature consideration the emperor
resolved at Vitebsk to advance with his main body from the banks of the
Dwina upon those of the Dnieper, cross the latter at Rassasna, and ascend
quickly to Smolensk. He reckoned upon finding the town without defence,
and then by a sudden movement taking the Russian in flank, and so at last
inflicting upon his enemies a great military disaster. The movements of
the French army were to be concealed from the enemy behind the forests
abounding everywhere. It was important to conceal our march from the
Russians, who were about to form their junction at Smolensk.

The Emperor Napoleon was not alone in his enthusiastic ardor for battle.
Prince Bagration was, like him, fervently wishing for the moment of
conflict. The soldiers of high rank who were of Russian birth and manners,
were greatly vexed and prejudiced against Barclay de Tolly, and his
prudent tactics, every day accusing him of cowardice, and suspecting his
patriotism. Born of a Scottish family which had long been settled in
Russia, Barclay was ardently devoted to his adopted country, and could
scarcely endure their unjust reproaches. The passion of the Russian
generals at last gained the day, and the council of war resolved to take
the offensive against the French cantonments. The projected march of our
armies was unknown to the enemy when, on the 9th August, their vanguard
made an attack upon General Sebastiani, who was badly defended. He at once
called General Montbrun, and they both charged the Russian squadrons forty
times in the course of the day, and then fell back upon Marshal Ney's
forces. The Russians observed the solidity of our lines, saw the large
force under Prince Eugène, and believed there were indications of a march
towards St. Petersburg. Barclay took advantage of the uneasiness which he
saw around him, and fell back upon Smolensk. The Emperor Napoleon now
commenced the march.

On the morning of the 14th August, the whole army had crossed the Dnieper.
With 175,000 men under the flags, an immense artillery, wagons and
innumerable troops, the vast solitude of the ancient Borysthenes was
suddenly transformed into a camp. The march continued towards Smolensk:
before Krasnoe, after a rather keen fight, General Névéroffskoi was driven
back to the town of Korytnia. Nearly all the corps had rejoined the
emperor when, on the 16th August, the advance guard debouched before
Smolensk. At a single glance of the eye, the generals were convinced that
the town was in a state of defence. A useless attempt was made to take the
citadel by storm; Ney, who had imprudently advanced, fell into an ambush,
and was only with difficulty rescued by his light cavalry. The Russians
were already seen occupying the heights on the right bank of the Dnieper,
in the suburbs, and above the new town. Barclay had taken up his position
there, and a large force occupied the old town on the left bank, both
parts of the town being connected by a bridge. Prince Bagration had
advanced beyond Smolensk, to protect the banks of the Dnieper, and prevent
Napoleon, on crossing the river, from attacking the town and its defenders
from behind.

Though the taking of Smolensk formed no part of his original plan,
Napoleon was obliged to make the attack. The possession of that ancient
and venerable town had great importance in the eyes of Russians.
Nevertheless the emperor had the river sounded some distance off, hoping
to find a ford which would allow of a surprise. It was impossible to throw
over bridges, on account of the nearness of Prince Bagration, whose troops
lay on the banks of the Kolodnia, a tributary of the Dnieper; and, so far
as these observations were taken, the river was not fordable. Napoleon
waited for a day, hoping that Barclay would leave the heights of the new
town to offer him battle; and, on the Russian making no movement, the
assault was ordered.

The fighting was continued a whole day on the 17th. The suburbs of the old
town were in our hands, but the old enclosure, with its irregular brick
towers, still resisted our attack. The Russians no longer made sallies,
but defended themselves heroically behind the walls. Most of the emperor's
lieutenants had been opposed to the siege, and Murat, it is said, wished
to be killed. He went to a part which was incessantly battered by the guns
from the ramparts, and said to his aides-de-camp, "Leave me alone here."
Napoleon gave orders to cease the assault. Marshal Davout sent a party to
reconnoitre, General Haxo braving a storm of fire to discover the weak
point of the enclosure: and the attack was to begin again next morning at
daybreak. "I must have Smolensk," said the emperor.

The Russians had already seen Napoleon's obstinacy, and felt that they
could no longer repulse the efforts of our arms. The bombshells had
already set fire to several parts, and during the night the whole of the
town was in flames, kindled by the Russians. Their battalions were
withdrawn, and the old town gradually evacuated. Barclay de Tolly prepared
to follow their example. At sunrise Davout entered without difficulty into
Smolensk in flames. The women and children, collected in the ancient
Byzantine cathedral, seemed the mere remnant of a wretched population.
Many men had fled; and the bridge, which joined both banks, being cut, the
Russian army had started before us on the road to Moscow, without any
possibility of our at once pursuing them. Napoleon passed on horseback
through the smoking and blood-stained streets. Surgeon Larrey, faithful to
the sentiments of humanity which always distinguished him, had the Russian
wounded collected as well as the French.

The emperor looked gloomy and discontented. Though victorious, the army
was depressed: the first town taken by assault, burnt before them by the
determined hatred of its defenders, seemed to the soldiers a sinister
omen. They were all tired of a war which imposed upon them unheard-of
efforts without any glory coming to console them with its accustomed
intoxication. "The war is not a national one," said Count Daru recently at
Vitebsk; "the importation of a few English goods into Russia, or even the
rising of the Polish nation, is not a sufficient reason for so remote an
enterprise. Neither your troops nor your generals understand the necessity
of it. Let us stop while at least there is still time."

The same advice was repeated at Smolensk, on that bank of the river gained
by such bravery, and difficult to leave without danger, in order to plunge
into an unknown and hostile country, far from the reinforcements which
were still being prepared in Germany. Before attacking Smolensk, Napoleon
said to Prince Eugène, "We are going to give battle, and then we shall see
Moscow." "Always Moscow! Moscow will be our ruin," muttered the Viceroy of
Italy as he left the emperor. Nearly all the military leaders felt the
same fears.

Marshal Ney rushed with his troops in pursuit of Barclay, and overtook two
Russian columns on the plain of Valoutina behind a small muddy stream,
over which they had to throw a bridge. Here a keenly contested fight cost
us the life of General Gudin, when obstinately carrying the passage at the
point of the bayonet. Our columns were embarrassed in their attack by the
marshy ground. The Russians kept their positions till night; and when at
last obliged to quit the plateau more than 13,000 to 14,000 of both sides
lay dead on the field of battle. The enemy's columns resumed their
retreat, and continued to intercept our route to Moscow.

Thus, without a single check to diminish the prestige of our arms--after
constantly defeating the Russians in the partial engagements which had
taken place--after occupying, without fighting or taking by assault, every
place in our way, we found ourselves, after two months' campaigning, with
an army less by a half, in the very heart of Russia, unable to reach the
enemy, who were retreating without running away--further than when at
Wilna from that peace, desired by all, which Napoleon wished to impose
under glorious circumstances immediately after a victory. The pacific
messages of the Emperor Alexander had long accompanied our invasion of his
states. Now they ceased, and the sudden summer of the north was soon about
to disappear. "That would make a fine station for a cantonment," said
Count Lobau, the heroic General Mouton, as he looked at the position and
old walls of Smolensk. The emperor made no reply.

He was hesitating or reflecting, because he waited. On our right, General
Reynier and Prince Schwartzenberg, with the Saxons and Austrians, had
dislodged the Russians from the important position of Gorodeczna at
several leagues from Kobrin; thus opening, with considerable difficulty,
the intercepted road to the grand duchy. On the left, Marshal Oudinot,
hurt at the emperor severely blaming him because when victorious he took
the position of the conquered, had advanced against Count Wittgenstein,
although the Russians would not accept battle. The marshal again fell back
on the Drissa and Polota; a strong detachment, however, covered the latter
river, and on the Russians presenting themselves for the attack they were
repulsed. Oudinot was wounded, and the command devolved upon General
Gouvion St. Cyr, who was also slightly wounded. On the 18th August, having
resolved to give battle, he directed his troops from a small Polish
carriage, which was overturned in the thick of the conflict, and the
general was trodden under foot. In spite of the exhaustion of the
soldiers, and their leader's pain and ill-health, the feigned retreat
which had deceived the Russians, as well as the battle itself, were
crowned with brilliant success. After the battle of Polotsk, Wittgenstein
was compelled to withdraw, and Gouvion St. Cyr received at last his
marshal's baton. His instructions were to guard the Dwina, while Macdonald
was kept before Riga, unable to take it or raise the siege. The two corps
were now deprived of communication, as soon as the main body was still
further removed from its wings, now isolated on the right and left. The
emperor was resolved to leave Smolensk, and at every cost pursue the
battle which was running from him. Davout and Murat, always at the head of
the army, and perpetually at strife in their military operations, agreed,
however, in affirming that the Russians certainly showed a real intention
of fighting. Napoleon went himself towards Dorogobouje.

A last effort was attempted by those about him to make him stop at
Smolensk. General Rapp, just arrived from Germany, could not conceal his
emotion and astonishment. "The army has only marched a hundred leagues
since the Niemen," said he. "I saw it before crossing, and already
everything is changed. The officers, arriving by posting from the interior
of France, are frightened at the sight which meets their eyes. They had no
conception that a victorious march without battles could leave behind it
more ruins than a defeat." "You have left Europe, as it were, have you
not?" said Murat and Berthier. "Should Europe rise against your Majesty,
you will only have your soldiers for subjects, and your camp for empire;
nay, the third of that even being foreign, will become hostile." Napoleon
granted the truth of the facts. "I am well aware that the state of the
army is frightful. From Wilna half of them could not keep up, or were left
behind; and today there are two thirds. There is therefore no more time to
lose. Peace must be had at any cost, and it is in Moscow. Besides, this
army cannot now halt; its composition and disorganization are now such
that it is kept up by movement alone. One can advance at its head, but
cannot stop or retreat. It is an army of attack, not of defence; an army
of operation, not of position. I shall strike a great blow, and all will

When leaving Smolensk, on the 24th August, with his guard, the emperor had
not yet come to a final decision as to his advance, but all his measures
were taken with that result in view, and his skilful lieutenants were not
deceived. Marshal Victor was already on his way to Wilna, and Napoleon
sent him orders to march at once towards Smolensk. Two divisions of the
army of reserve, left in Germany under the orders of Marshal Augereau,
were summoned to Lithuania. When the emperor learned, on arriving at
Dorogobouje, that the enemy was again escaping from him, he concluded that
General Barclay was ready to fight him, and was seeking for a favorable
position. "We are told that he awaits us at Wiazma," wrote Napoleon to the
Duke of Bassano on 26th August; "we shall be there in a few days. We shall
then be half-way between Smolensk and Moscow, and forty leagues, I
believe, from Moscow. If the enemy is beaten there, nothing can protect
that great capital, and I shall be there on the 5th September."

The day was in fact come, and the battle which Napoleon had so long
desired was at last to be offered, given, and gained--with no other result
except more deeply involving us in a desperate enterprise and consummating
our ruin. The Russians having evacuated Wiazma, it was only at Ghjat that
the emperor at last felt certain of encountering the enemy. The command of
the Muscovite armies had changed hands: the cry raised since the beginning
of the campaign against Barclay's prudent tactics, at last overbore the
Czar's confidence in that able general, and old Kutusof had been placed at
the head of the troops. Keenly patriotic, and long engaged in the struggle
against the man who had conquered him at Austerlitz, the new general-in-
chief appealed to all the national and religious passions by which his
soldiers were animated. "It is in the faith," said he, "that I wish to
fight and conquer; it is in the faith that I wish to conquer or die, and
that my eyes shall see victory. Soldiers, think of your wives and children
who claim your protection; think of your emperor who is looking upon you;
and before to-morrow's sun has disappeared, you shall have written your
piety and fidelity upon the fields of your country with the blood of the
aggressor and his legions." The priests, clothed in their most sumptuous
robes, were already carrying the holy images at the head of the regiments,
while the soldiers knelt down to receive absolution. The French army was

The emperor having been ill for several days, his assistants found him
depressed and undecided at the very moment when he was at last attaining
the object of his desires. There was still a constant quarrel between
Murat and Davout. The marshal blamed the King of Naples for imposing too
much work upon the cavalry, and forbade the infantry of the advanced guard
to manoeuvre without his express orders. The complaints of his lieutenants
reached Napoleon, but he made no more efforts to reconcile them. Having a
fixed ill-will against Davout, he compelled him to place under Murat's
orders one of his divisions which had been refused to the King of Naples.
The emperor had shown more ill-temper than usual; and on one occasion he
said to Berthier himself, the most devoted of his old friends "And you,
too, are you one of those who wish to stop? As you are only an old woman,
you may go back to Paris. I can do very well without you." For several
days the Prince of Neuchâtel refused to appear at the emperor's table.

The imperial staff had now left Wiazma. When occupying that small town,
Napoleon had himself run after and horsewhipped some soldiers who were
pillaging and destroying a shop. He pursued his journey under the blue sky
and an exhausting heat, listening to the simple talk of a young Cossack,
who had been taken prisoner that very morning amongst the Russian soldiers
who had lagged behind. Lelorgne d'Ideville, the excellent interpreter who
attended the emperor, put questions to the soldier. "Nobody wishes to keep
Barclay," said the young Cossack; "they say that there is another general.
They would all have been beaten long ago but for the Cossacks. No matter,
there is going to be a great battle. If it takes place within three days,
the French will gain it; but, if it is delayed longer, God only knows what
will happen. It seems the French have a general called Bonaparte, who has
always conquered all his enemies. Perhaps he will not be so fortunate this
time; they are waiting for large reinforcements in order to make a stand."
The emperor having made a sign, Lelorgne leant over towards the young
Cossack's saddle and said, "That is General Bonaparte beside you--the
Emperor Napoleon." The soldier opened his eyes and looked at the face of
the great conqueror whose name had, like some tale of wonder, reached even
his savage tribe: he said nothing, when Napoleon gave orders that he
should be restored to liberty.

The weather becoming bad, the rain fell in torrents, and rendering the
march of the army difficult, many soldiers left the ranks to pillage,
their provisions being short; and the emperor bitterly reproached his
lieutenants with a state of things which they could not prevent. "The army
is in that way threatened with destruction," wrote Napoleon, "even from
Ghjat. The number of prisoners made by the enemy amounts every day to
several hundred. Let the Duke of Elchingen know that he is daily losing
more men than if we were fighting, and that it is therefore necessary that
the foraging expeditions should be better managed, and the men should not
go so far away."

Order was not restored in the army when, on the 5th September, it
debouched upon the plain of Borodino. Following the table-lands extending
between the Baltic and Black Sea, we descended the slopes by which the
Moskwa on the left, and the Protwa on the right, flow towards the Oka, a
tributary of the Volga. The rain ceasing, Napoleon was encouraged by the
appearance of the sky to hope for fine weather. At one time he thought of
returning towards Smolensk; but when the sun reappeared he cried, "The lot
is cast; let us set out." He at last found himself face to face with the

General Kutusof had taken advantage of the natural position. Entrenched on
the left behind the river Kolocza, he had raised a series of earthen
redoubts, furnished with a formidable artillery, to defend the small
heights at the foot of which were extended the Russian battalions. The
course of the river changing its direction at the point where the village
of Borodino was placed, the heights were there protected only by hollows.
It was this position which Napoleon first gave orders to attack, in order
to carry a detached redoubt placed on a mamelon. Our troops had scarcely
arrived, and night was approaching, but after a very severe engagement the
advanced work of Schwardino remained in our power. The whole of the 6th of
September was spent in reconnoitring. Several of the corps had not yet
joined the main body. Marshal Davout proposed to cross the thick curtain
of forest extending on the left of the Russian army, and by taking the old
Moscow road, turn the enemy's positions and seize their troops between two
fires. Napoleon refused, thinking this movement too dangerous. He himself
seemed disturbed and ill at ease; with his head in hand, and deeply
plunged in thought, he all at once tore himself from his meditations to
make sure of the execution of some orders. "Are you confident of victory?"
he asked General Rapp, abruptly. "Certainly," replied he, "but with much
bloodshed." "Ah! that is true," said the emperor. "But I have 80,000 men;
if I lose 20,000, I shall enter Moscow with 60,000; the soldiers who have
fallen behind will join us, and then the marching battalion. We shall be
stronger than before the battle." In enumerating his forces, Napoleon did
not reckon his cavalry or the guard. He was still ill, being under an
attack of fever, but it was with a voice of the greatest firmness that he
again harangued his troops. "Soldiers!" said he, "this is the battle which
you have so much wished for. The victory now depends upon yourselves. It
is necessary for you; it will give us abundance, good quarters in winter,
and a ready return to our own country. Behave as you did at Austerlitz,
Friedland, Vitebsk, and Smolensk, and so that the most remote posterity
may quote your conduct this day. Let them say of you, 'He was at that
great battle under the walls of Moscow!'"

On the 7th, before daybreak, Napoleon was already on the battlefield, near
the redoubt which had been gained on the evening of the 5th. The troops
had received orders to look their very best. Stretching his hand towards
the sky the emperor exclaimed, "See! it is an Austerlitz scene!" The
bright rays, however, were in the soldiers' faces, and the Russians had
more advantage from their brilliancy than we. At seven o'clock the combat
broke out on the left: Prince Eugène carried the village of Borodino, but
his troops, being too eager, crossed the bridge instead of breaking it
down, and were crushed under the fire of the enemy's artillery, placed on
the heights of Gorki. The attack became general--so passionate and
violent, that on both sides they scarcely took time to manoeuvre. For the
first time in his long career as head of an army, the emperor remained in
the rear, looking on the struggle without taking part in it, yet opposing
the eager demands of his generals for reinforcements. "If there is a
second battle to-morrow, what troops shall I give it with?" he replied to
Berthier, who entreated him to send assistance to Murat and Ney, on their
carrying the enemy's redoubts. Generals fell on every side, dead or
severely wounded. They hurriedly bound up the wounds of Marshal Davout,
who was seriously hurt; and Rapp, wounded for the twenty-second time in
his life, was carried before the emperor. "Always Rapp!" said Napoleon;
"and what is going on over there?" "Sire, they want the guard, in order to
put an end to it," replied the general's aide-de-camp. "No," retorted the
emperor, "I won't have them destroyed. It is not when 800 leagues from
home that one risks his last resource."

During this long day this was Napoleon's constant reply to all the leaders
of divisions who believed they held in their hands the foretaste of
victory, or who saw officers and soldiers slaughtered around them.
Napoleon was waiting for a propitious moment, to decide himself the
success of the day. "It is too soon," he repeated several times; "the hour
for me to join in the fight personally is not yet come; I must see the
whole chess-board more clearly." The reserve artillery, however, had been
authorized to advance, and crowned the heights which had just been taken
from the Russians. The enemy's cavalry came to dash against that
unsurmountable obstacle; their infantry fell in dense files, without
withdrawing or breaking. For two hours the Russian regiments remained
exposed to this terrible fire. Marshal Ney at last turned what were left
of this heroic corps, commanded by Prince Bagration. The struggle
gradually ceased in the plain; the heights remained partially in the hands
of the Russians; Prince Eugène used his utmost endeavors to take the great
redoubt; and Prince Poniatowski was unable to force the old Moscow road.
In vain did Murat and Ney demand loudly for the advance of the guard,
still remaining motionless. For a moment the arguments of General Belliard
seemed to take effect, and the order to march was given to the young
guard. Count Lobau was already putting them in motion under the pretext of
rectifying their lines, but Kutuzoff, till then motionless and inactive,
had anticipated Napoleon in his final determination, and throwing forward
his cavalry of reserve, the forces again formed in the plain, and a charge
of the enemy, came pouring upon the divisions which held it. The emperor
stopped the guard, forbidding an operation which, though recently likely
to be successful, was now dangerous from the delay. The gap made in the
centre of the Russian army by the untiring efforts of Murat and Ney was
now closed up; the Russians again occupied their outer works; their ardor
and courage never slackened under the fire of our artillery. The great
redoubt, however, having been carried, and the Moscow road being
abandoned, the generals who still miraculously survived after having a
hundred times exposed their lives, asked to try a supreme effort to throw
back the enemy and drive him into the Moskwa. Napoleon left his post, and
came to inspect himself the point of attack. Marshal Bessières was not
disposed to risk the guard; and Napoleon once more resisted all urgent
demands. He instructed Marshal Mortier to occupy the field of battle with
the young guard; and night being come, the battle at last ceased. "I do
not ask you to advance, or commence any engagement," repeated Napoleon
twice; and calling back the Marshal as he was going off, "You thoroughly
understand? Keep the battle-field, without advancing or retreating,
whatever may happen." The Russians had not yet evacuated all their
positions, and the conquered and conquerors, both equally heroic, were
extended in confusion on the plain. Several Russian detachments threw up a
rampart of dead bodies. When on the morrow General Kutuzoff effected his
brave retreat, he left no soldiers lagging behind, and the wounded who
died on the march were religiously buried. The Emperor Alexander's army
left 60,000 dead or dying on the plain of Borodino--or the battle-field of
the Moskwa, as Napoleon himself named that terrible day. Prince Bagration
was killed.

The battle of the Moskwa caused in our ranks 30,000 dead and wounded. Ten
generals had succumbed, including Montbrun and Caulaincourt, brother of
the Duke of Vicenza. Thirty-nine general officers were wounded: and ten
colonels killed, and twenty-seven wounded. Three days were scarcely
sufficient to attend to the dead and wounded. The abbey of Kolotskoi and
the neighboring villages were converted into provisional hospitals, under
the direction of General Junot, commandant of the Westphalians. The
emperor had advanced towards Mojaisk, and Murat followed with his
decimated regiments. Napoleon refused Davout the command of the advanced
guard. The town was attacked on the 9th: some attempts had been made to
set it on fire, but the walls and houses were still standing when the
emperor fixed his abode there for several days. It was there that he
reviewed the state of his losses on the 7th. He had gone over the
battlefield, showing more emotion and compunction than usual at the sight
of the frightful carnage which had signalized the battle. Only 800
prisoners remained in our hands. The soldiers well knew that the number of
captives was an indisputable sign of the importance of a victory. They
beheld with terror the heaps of their enemies' corpses. "They all prefer
death to being taken!" said they. "Eight days of Moscow," exclaimed the
emperor, "and the enemy will not be seen again." He still remained ill and
moody, however; and on the previous evening wrote to Marshal Victor, "The
enemy when attacked in the heart no longer attends to his extremities;
tell the Duke of Belluna to direct everything, battalions, squadrons,
artillery, and isolated men, upon Smolensk, so that he may come from there
to Moscow."

It was indeed upon Holy Moscow, the traditional capital of old Russia,
that the hopes of Napoleon were now concentrated, hoping there to conclude
a peace, and finish a war which he himself felt to be above human
strength. Several weeks previously the Czar had left Moscow and returned
to St. Petersburg, whence he watched at a distance, and without military
skill, the defence of his empire. He upheld the courage of his subjects,
however, and had personally obtained from them great sacrifices. The lords
assembled round him, in the cradle and tomb of nobility, as they called
Moscow, had voted the levy of every tenth serf, armed, equipped, and
supplied with three months' provisions. The merchants offered the emperor
half their wealth. On the approach of the French, and while waiting for
the defence of the old capital, the orders of Rostopchin, the governor,
forbade the evacuation of the town. Women, children, old men, on carts and
carriages, loaded with goods, money, and furniture, slowly removed from
the town, where their husbands, sons and brothers still remained. "The
less fear the less danger," said the governor. Kutuzoff's proclamations at
first represented the battle of Borodino as a disputed combat, which left
the Russian army standing, and capable of defending Moscow; but when their
battalions appeared before the gates of the capital the sad truth struck
the eyes of all. Whatever it might cost the invader, the national army was
beaten, and Moscow could not repulse an attack. There was an immediate and
constantly-increasing rush to leave the place. Popular rumor described the
French as fierce monsters, worthy of that emperor whom Alexander himself
had portrayed as a "Moloch, with treason in his heart and loyalty on his
lips, come to efface Russia from the surface of the world."

In his real heart Kutuzoff had decided what to do. Skilful and cunning,
without presence of mind or great courage on the field of battle, he could
direct the operations of a campaign, and choose the proper mode of leading
his country's enemies to their downfall. Nevertheless, he held a council
of war, being determined to make the other generals share the weight of a
terrible responsibility. Must they defend Moscow by a second battle in
open field, wait for the enemy behind the walls, and dispute with him,
foot by foot, the possession of the town? Must they abandon the capital,
and, as it was recommended by Barclay de Tolly, always bravely true to his
original purpose, retreat to Vladimir, and thus cover the road to St.
Petersburg? All these proposals were proposed, and keenly discussed.
Several spoke in favor of immediate and unflinching resistance, who would
have bitterly regretted the adoption of their advice. At last the old
general rose: he had listened to all their speeches without speaking, and
only shook his head, to signify, as it were, his strong conviction that
whether his head were good or bad, it had to make the final decision of
the question.

He gave his orders, which showed great skill and prudence. The army was to
pass through Moscow without halting, without assisting in any preparation
for resistance, or joining in any skirmish even when on the rearguard;
then falling back upon Riazan, it was, after several days, to occupy the
road to Kalouga, and thus intercept the way to the French, while
preserving communication with the provinces in the south of the empire,
which are the richest and most fertile. The troops at once began to
defile. Behind them long convoys hurried to escape the French. Five sixths
of the population had quitted the town when the columns of those wounded
in the battle of Borodino appeared at their doors, and they were obliged
to crowd their hospitals and churches with 15,000. By abandoning their
capital the Russians entrusted these wretches to the pity of their

The governor of Moscow, Count Rostopchin, had not yet left the town. On
the previous evening he trusted to the assurances of Kutuzoff, that the
capital would be keenly defended. "There will be fighting in the streets,"
said he, in his proclamations. "The courts are already closed, but that
does not matter; there is no need of courts to do justice to ruffians. I
shall soon give you the signal; take care to provide yourselves with
hatchets, and especially three-pronged forks, for a Frenchman does not
weigh more than a sheaf of corn. I shall have mass said for the wounded,
and holy water to hasten their cure. I shall then join General Kutuzoff,
and we shall soon set about sending those guests to the devil, forcing
them to give up the ghost, and reducing them to powder."

Kutuzoff, nevertheless, withdrew, not less resolute, but more skilful than
Count Rostopchin. It was then that the latter conceived an idea, the
responsibility of which, as well as the honor, rests entirely upon him.
Nobody was consulted; and it is not known whether the Emperor Alexander,
with some anticipation of gloomy fate crossing his mind, may not have
beforehand granted the dread authority to the governor of his capital. For
several days inflammable substances had been collected in the garden of
his palace. At the moment of leaving the town, Rostopchin ordered the
prisons to be opened, and the hideous crowd of condemned prisoners jostled
and mixed with the half-frantic citizens who were fleeing before the
French. The governor retained two prisoners--one a Frenchman, lately come
to Moscow to earn a living; the other, a Russian, and both accused of
having acted as agents of the enemy. "Go," said Rostopchin to the
Frenchman, "you have been ungrateful but you have the right to prefer your
country; you are now again free, go back to your own people. As for you,"
he added, turning to the Russian, "let even your own father be your
judge." An old merchant came near, tottering under the weight of his
grief. "You may speak to him and bless him," said the governor. "Me bless
a traitor!" exclaimed the old man; and, raising his hands to heaven, he
cursed his son, who was immediately beheaded. The mob showed their keen
vindictiveness in their treatment of his body.

Count Rostopchin at last left Moscow, letting all precede him, like the
captain who hesitates to abandon the sinking ship. He had given all his
instructions. All the baggage all the wealth, he took with him, were the
fire engines of that great city, which was nearly entirely built of wood.
"Of what use are those in the country?" asked Colonel Wolzogen, with
astonishment. "I have my reasons," replied the governor; then, leaving the
last friends who still accompanied him, he turned round, and pointing with
his finger to Moscow, and then touching the sleeve of his coat, he said,
"I take away nothing except what is on my back." He went towards his
country house at Voronovo.

Meantime, however, the French advanced guard were approaching Moscow.
Several slight skirmishes had taken place during the march, and Kutuzoff
succeeded in protecting his retreat. When Murat appeared at the head of
the first columns, General Miloradovitch, who commanded the Russian
rearguard, made a verbal agreement with the King of Naples to suspend
hostilities for several hours, for the protection of the troops, and the
safety of the citizens. Murat agreed to it, limiting himself to the
pursuit of the Russians when they should have completed their evacuation
of Moscow.

The soldiers, as well as the generals and Napoleon himself, were delighted
at the distant sight of that town, illuminated by the rays of the setting
sun, which brought into full relief the Oriental brilliance of its palaces
and churches. "Moscow! Moscow!" they repeated from one end of the ranks to
the other. The emperor added to the enthusiastic expression of his troops
another thought: "Not a moment too soon!" he muttered.

The great conqueror was deceived, and divine justice punished more
completely than he anticipated his guilty ambition and insatiable pride.
The dense ranks of the French soldiers presented themselves before the
gates of the capital, without any one coming to open them. Several ragged
wretches, with gloomy looks appeared on the turrets of the Kremlin and
fired a few shots; but while passing along the streets of Moscow, among
palaces mixed with cottages--before golden-domed churches, adorned with
paintings of a thousand colors--our soldiers wondered, and felt uneasy at
the solitude which reigned around them. "What is become of them?" they
asked. It was not thus that the French army had entered Berlin or Vienna.
"Let the head men of the town be brought to me!" ordered the emperor. The
population of Moscow had no longer any head men. Those who hid themselves
in terror in the houses, or wept in the churches, felt themselves at the
mercy of the ruffians whom the governor, by quitting Moscow, had let loose
upon them. The door of the Kremlin had to be burst open with cannon-balls
before the old palace of the Czars could be rid of the wretches who had
shut themselves up in it. Napoleon took possession of it, without at first
fixing his abode there, curious to admire its barbarous magnificence, not
yet subjected to the influence of French elegance like the houses of the
rich merchants already occupied by his generals. The whole army gazed with
delight upon this strange and long-anticipated sight. On the 15th
September, 1812, the Emperor Napoleon and his soldiers passed through the
streets of Moscow, deserted, but still standing. They examined the
concentric quarters, like a series of ramparts round the Kremlin; the old
or Chinese town, the centre of Oriental commerce; the white town, with its
broad streets and gilt palaces, the quarter of the great nobles and rich
merchants; and all round the privileged districts: the "land town,"
composed of villages and gardens, interspersed with magnificent houses.

All the military posts were chosen, On the north-west, south-west, and
south-east, between the roads to Riazan and Vladimir, the forces of Prince
Eugène, Davout, Poniatowski, and Ney had taken their quarters. The guard
occupied the Kremlin. Soldiers and generals enjoyed the luxury which had
been preceded by the cruel privation of the months immediately preceding.
"We have provisions for six months," said the soldiers.

On the morning of the 16th fire broke out in a spirit-warehouse, and some
hours afterwards in a magnificent bazaar which was filled with valuable
goods. The officers blamed for it the stupidity of a drunken soldier. They
at once battled with the fire, but the wind was contrary, and the wealth
heaped up in the warehouses became a prey to the flames and pillage, which
it was impossible to prevent. The fire soon spread even to the
neighborhood of the Kremlin, and the sparks, carried by the equinoctial
breeze, fell from all parts on the gilded roofs. The courts of the palace
being crowded with artillery wagons, and the cellars heaped up with
ammunition which the Russians had neglected to take with them, a horrible
catastrophe seemed imminent. The generals had great difficulty in
persuading Napoleon to leave the Kremlin. The imperial guard, acting as
firemen, inundated incessantly the roofs and walls. The fire-engines of
the city were searched for in vain. Soon there was a rumor spread that
incendiaries had been arrested in several quarters.

The emperor ordered these wretches to be brought before him. They were
proud of the terrible mission with which they had been entrusted, taking a
delight in the fatal disorder produced under their hands, pillaging and
murdering in the houses which they delivered up to the flames. They all
made a bold declaration of the orders they had received, and underwent
unflinchingly the extremest punishment. The poor population, who had
remained concealed in the lowest haunts of the capital, now fled in
terror, the women carrying with them their children, the men dragging
behind them the most valuable of their household goods, or the shameful
results of pillaging the shops. The flames extended from street to street,
house to house, church to church: thrice the wind seemed to fall, and
thrice it changed its direction, driving the fire into quarters previously
untouched. The Kremlin remained always surrounded by fire. The imperial
guard had not quitted the palace. The army carried their cantonments
outside the town. When scarcely fallen into the hands of the conquerors,
Moscow succumbed before a more powerful enemy, enrolled for the defence of
the country. Palaces and huts were both become uninhabitable, and the
hospitals, filled with wounded Russians, had perished in the flames. The
emperor quitted Moscow, and took up his quarters at Petrowskoi. For three
days the conflagration remained alone in possession of the capital.

The wind falling, was succeeded by rain. The fire everywhere brooded under
the dead ashes, ready to burst out afresh at the contact of air; but the
spectacle had lost its avenging beauty. The roofs left standing were
relieved against the columns of smoke. The Kremlin still rose majestic,
and almost untouched, as if protecting the city against its various
enemies. The soldiers soon began to steal from their cantonments into the
streets; and in the cellars of the houses, under heaps of rubbish,
protected by walls blackened with the flames, they found provisions
collected by households for the winter; valuable clothes; plate which had
been carefully concealed in hiding-places which no longer existed; objects
of art, of which the finders did not know the value; strong drink, which
they madly used to intoxicate themselves. After the fire, in spite of the
efforts of the officers, Moscow was delivered up to pillage.

So much disorder and mad prodigality shocked all the Emperor Napoleon's
instincts of order and government. Returning hastily to Moscow, he
repressed by his mere presence the outrages of the soldiers. Regular
search was everywhere organized for the collection of provisions buried
under the ruins, and bringing them into stores. The resources collected in
a few days were sufficient to supply the troops for a long time. Forage
alone was wanting, and companies were formed for the purpose of scouring
the country round Moscow. The prices offered to the peasantry for their
stock was expected to encourage them to supply the markets of the capital.
Napoleon even considered the interests of the wretches who wandered,
defenceless and houseless, in the streets of Moscow, or timidly glided
into the town at the opening of the gates to look for those they had been
compelled to abandon, and the remainder of their property concealed under
ruined walls. Huts were erected to shelter them.

The desire for peace daily took stronger possession of Napoleon's mind,
and he had already authorized several indirect overtures. On the 20th
September he thus wrote the Czar:

"My brother, having learned that the brother of your Imperial Majesty's
minister was at Moscow, I sent for him, and had some conversation with
him. I requested him to wait upon your Majesty, and acquaint you with my
sentiments. The handsome and superb city of Moscow no longer exists.
Rostopchin has had it burnt. Four hundred incendiaries were taken in the
act; and having all declared that they had lighted the fire by order of
that governor and the director of police, they were shot. The fire at last
seems to have ceased. Three fourths of the houses are burnt, and one
fourth remain. Such conduct is atrocious, and serves no purpose. Was the
intention to deprive us of some resources? But those resources were in the
cellars, which the fire could not reach. Besides, why destroy one of the
finest towns of the world, and the work of ages, to accomplish so paltry
an object? It is the procedure followed since Smolensk, and it has reduced
600,000 families to beggary. The fire-engines of Moscow were broken or
carried off, and some arms from the arsenal given to ruffians, who could
not be driven from the Kremlin without using cannon. Humanity, the
interests of your Majesty and this great city, demanded that it should
have been entrusted to my keeping, since it was deserted by the Russian
army. They ought to have left administrations, magistrates, and civil
guards. That is what was done at Vienna twice, at Berlin, and Madrid; and
what we have ourselves done at Milan, when Souwarof entered. Incendiarism
causes pillage, the soldier abandoning himself to it to rescue what is
left from the flames. If I thought such things were done by your Majesty's
orders, I should not write you this letter; but I consider it impossible
that, with your principles, heart, and sense of justice, you have
authorized such excesses, unworthy of a great sovereign and a great
nation. While carrying away the fire-engines from Moscow, they left 150
field cannon, 60,000 new muskets, 1,600,000 infantry cartridges, more than
200 tons of powder, 150 tons of saltpetre, and also of sulphur, etc.

"I made war upon your Majesty without animosity. A letter from you before
or after the last battle would have stopped my march, and I should have
been ready to forego the advantage of entering Moscow. If your Majesty
still retains aught of your former sentiments, you will take this letter
in good part. In any case, you must feel indebted to me for giving an
account of what is taking place in Moscow."

When thus writing to the Emperor Alexander, Napoleon well knew that the
material disasters of the burning of Moscow were exceeded by the moral
results, and that the ruins of the capital were a proclamation to the
French army, to Russia, and to the whole of Europe, of the implacable
resolution of the old Muscovites. Rostopchin himself had written on the
iron door of his splendid country-house at Voronovo: "For eight years I
have been improving this estate, and have lived here happy in the bosom of
my family. The inhabitants of this estate, to the number of 1720, leave it
at your approach, and I set fire to my house that it may not be polluted
by your presence. Frenchmen, I have left you my two houses in Moscow, with
contents worth half a million of roubles. Here you will find nothing but

The hatred which he had excited against the invader was afterwards to fall
back upon himself. Count Rostopchin driven from Russia by the execration
of all those whom he had ruined, was compelled to take refuge in France,
where he died in peace, honored by his former enemies. He had nevertheless
rendered to Russia one of those terrible services excused by a state still
half barbarous, and that violent patriotism by which the soul is possessed
in presence of foreign invasion. He revived in the Russian people the
unconquerable ardor of resistance. Moscow on fire was an appeal to the
eyes and hearts of all.

Napoleon understood this well. Besides, other difficulties were becoming
extreme. Time was passing; no reply arrived from St. Petersburg, and the
emperor's overtures made to Kutuzoff by Lauriston remained without result.
The attempt to continue hostilities was unsuccessful, General Sebastiani
having been deceived as to the direction taken by Kutuzoff, and, after
following him in vain for two or three days, compelled to return to
Moscow. Murat being again put in command of the advanced guard, met the
enemy on the Pakra, after being joined by Marshal Bessières. In spite of
the cries of his army, who were furious at the burning of Moscow, and
wished to march to battle, Kutuzoff slowly retreated before the French
generals, and finally pitched his camp at Taroutino on the road to Kaluga.
Two cavalry engagements terminated successfully for our arms. Napoleon's
lieutenants waited for his orders. A sort of armistice reigned between the
two armies. Murat had several times seen Kutuzoff; and the Russian
officers overwhelmed him with attentions. He showed himself in favor of
peace, concluded by him and through his exertions. The Cossack chiefs
celebrated his exploits, one of them surnaming him the "hetmann." Kutuzoff
had sent Prince Wolkonsky to St. Petersburg, with instructions to
communicate to the Czar the pacific advances which had been made.
Alexander replied on the 21st October: "All the opinions which you have
received from me, all the determinations expressed in the orders addressed
to you by me--everything ought to convince you that my resolution is
immovable, and that at the present moment no proposal of the enemy can
make me think of terminating the war, and so failing in the sacred duty of
avenging our outraged country."

Before the Emperor Alexander thus expressed his resolution of listening to
no offers of peace, his enemy had already evacuated Moscow--beginning,
whatever pain it cost him and whatever care he took to conceal it, a
retrograde movement, which was soon to be the consummation of his ruin.
Napoleon long hesitated as to what route he should take. By advancing upon
Kaluga in pursuit of Kutuzoff he should plunge further into Russia,
towards regions where he should be without winter-quarters and
communication with the rear. By resuming the road to Poland, as all his
lieutenants wished, he should tacitly admit his defeat. He conceived the
idea of making the Duke of Belluna march upon St. Petersburg, reckoning
that, on his arrival and while threatening the capital and court, he could
effect an oblique movement northwards by Woskresensk, Wolokolamsk, and
Bieloi, and then concentrate all his forces at Smolensk. Winter being
past, Napoleon would then be in a position to attack St. Petersburg in
earnest. To satisfy his own mind, the emperor wrote out this plan before
speaking of it to the generals, who were waiting, full of serious thought,
to know his determination.

They all opposed Napoleon's new plans; all repeating that he did not take
into account the hardships of the army, that he over-reckoned the strength
of the corps, that the soldiers were incapable of any fresh effort. He
went over, with Count Lobau, the statistics of the different regiments and
the detachments in charge of generals at a distance. "There, six
thousand." "Four thousand, sire," said the general. "Ten thousand here."
"Five at the most." "You are perhaps right," the emperor admitted. But on
coming to sum up the total of his resources, he always went back to his
first inaccurate reckoning, the truthful and blunt obstinacy of Lobau
being unable to overcome his master's voluntary illusions. Nevertheless,
Napoleon understood that he could now no longer, by the mere superiority
of his genius, take his lieutenants along with him without discussion or
hesitation. He did not insist upon marching northwards. Count Daru's
proposal was to spend the winter in Moscow. From his administrative
experience, he concluded that their supplies were sufficient for the army,
while the troops should thus be spared all the hardships and difficulties
of travelling. In spring, all the army corps would be again brought
together, there would be a rising in Lithuania, and the emperor could
complete his conquest. Napoleon turned toward his faithful servant, and
looked upon his energetic features, his robust figure, and the resolution
which shone in his looks. "My dear Daru," said he, "that advice is lion-
like, but I should require lions to put it in execution. You are right,
Moscow is not a military position, it is a political position. Yet what
would be said in Paris? what would become of France during that long
absence, without possible communication? No, it is impossible. Austria and
Prussia would take advantage of it to betray me."

The emperor came back to the idea of marching upon Kaluga, and driving
Kutuzoff from the camp of Taroutino, summoning the Duke of Belluna to join
him in order to keep up communications with Smolensk, at the same time
leaving Marshal Mortier in the Kremlin with 10,000 men to occupy and
preserve Moscow. Preparations were being made for this purpose, when, on
the 18th of October, cannon were heard on the road which Napoleon was
making ready to follow, and speedily one of Murat's aides-de-camp
appeared. The King of Naples, who had long complained of the isolation in
which he was left, was careless in his guard, and had been attacked by
Kutuzoff at Winkowo. The Russian army taking advantage of all the delays
which gradually diminished our forces, had increased theirs; and their
general had 100,000 men at his disposal, when he yielded to the urgent
request of his lieutenants, and all at once made an attack with two corps
upon our positions. Murat's personal courage and skill in the field partly
compensated for the faults of his imprudence. He repulsed the enemy's
attack, and fell back upon Voronovo, continuing to cover the road to
Moscow. Kutuzoff, however, held our positions, and the King of Naples lost
the greater part of his cavalry. Napoleon immediately resolved to march to
the enemy. According to the plan already decided upon, Mortier fixed his
quarters at the Kremlin, over the mines laid ready to blow up the citadel
and palace of the Czars. All the rest of the army defiled through the open
gates of the city, recently so eagerly longed for, and now only occupied
for thirty-seven days, which had been full of agitation and terror. The
long trains of carriages, the soldiers' booty heaped upon the wagons or
their shoulders, the furs fastened to their haversacks or arms, were all
proof enough that the troops were no more deceived than the generals as to
the possibility of a return to Moscow. The Duke of Trevisa's friends and
comrades looked upon him as a man condemned beforehand to death, and
sorrowfully bade him adieu without shaking his courage. The French
families formerly settled in Moscow fled from the anger of the Russians,
and joined the march of their fellow-countrymen. The long train on its
march seemed more like a convoy defiling, than the progress of an army
advancing against the enemy. Napoleon, however, had not yet said anything
to imply that the evacuation was final; he was marching against Kutuzoff,
whom he wished to chastise, and, if possible, crush. Before leaving
Moscow, his last instructions were devoted to the defence of the Kremlin.

It was on the morning of the 20th October that the emperor left the city,
in fine autumnal weather which prevented any one from yet anticipating the
rigors of winter. On reaching the castle of Troitskoi, he was struck with
a new idea; Kutuzoff held the old Kaluga road, and a battle was necessary
to dislodge him; and the French, even if victorious, would lose men and be
encumbered with a crowd of wounded. The new road to Kaluga was protected
by Broussier's division, and had not been cut up by the passage of troops;
if it were possible to deceive Kutuzoff by a sudden detour to the right,
and to gain the new road, Kaluga would be reached without a battle, and
the positions for winter secured. The occupation of Moscow must now no
longer be insisted upon, and Mortier immediately instructed to leave
Moscow and join them. Having made up his mind, the emperor in the evening
sent his orders to the Duke of Trevisa: "My cousin," said Napoleon to the
Marshal Berthier, "give orders to the Duke of Trevisa to put on march, to-
morrow, at daybreak, all the tired and lame soldiers of the corps of
Prince Eckmühl and the viceroy, of the foot-cavalry, and the young guard,
and to direct the whole upon Mojaisk. On the 22nd or 23rd, at two o'clock
in the morning, he will set fire to the brandy storehouse, the barracks,
and the public buildings, except the Foundling Hospital. [Footnote: This
establishment, founded by the dowager empress, had been patronized by
Napoleon. The governor General Toutelmine, had been one of the agents of
his communications with St. Petersburg.] He will have the palace of the
Kremlin set on fire. He will take care that all the guns are broken into
pieces, that powder is placed under the towers of the Kremlin, that all
the gun-carriages are broken, as well as the wagon wheels.

"When these orders are attended to, and the Kremlin is on fire in several
places, the duke will leave the Kremlin, and advance on the Mojaisk road.
At four o'clock, the officer of artillery appointed to that duty will blow
up the Kremlin, according to instructions.

"On the march he will burn all carriages left behind, use every endeavor
to bury all the dead, and burn all the muskets he can find. On reaching
the Gallitzin palace, he will take the Spanish and Bavarians stationed
there, and put fire to the ammunition wagons, and everything which cannot
be removed. He will collect all the commanders of posts, and order the
garrisons to fall back.

"He will reach Mojaisk on the 25th or 26th, and there receive further
orders to put himself in communication with the army. He will naturally
leave a strong advanced guard of cavalry on the Mojaisk road.

"He will be particular in remaining in Moscow till he has himself seen the
Kremlin blown up; and also in setting fire to the governor's two houses
and that of Rasomowsky."

Thus Napoleon himself put hands to that burning of Moscow with which he
had recently blamed the Russians, and the originator of which he did not
forget to punish even then! The march upon Kaluga was already begun, and
one of Prince Eugène's divisions, being in advance, had already occupied
Malo-Jaroslawetz, on the Lougea. General Delzons, who was in command, was
engaged in repairing the bridges, when Kutuzoff was informed of the
direction which the French seemed to take. General Doctoroff at once
advanced with a large body, and Kutuzoff raised his cantonments to follow

The small town of Malo-Jaroslawetz was built on a chain of heights, of
which the Russians at once took possession, cannonading the French, who in
their turn dislodged them. Six times was the town taken and retaken, the
fire of the burning houses combining with the cannon-balls to repulse the
combatants on both sides. Seven French generals fell on the field towards
evening; yet, in spite of the keen determination of the Russian recruits,
who had scarcely arms or clothes, the ruins of the town remained in our
hands. When the emperor arrived on the banks of the Lougea with the main
army, he beheld a sight as painful in proportion to its extent as had been
the plain of Borodino. Many of the corpses were scorched by the fire. Ten
thousand men fell on both sides. The emperor saw that all future movements
implied new and terrible battles. The generals appointed to reconnoitre,
considered the enemy's positions impregnable; and on Napoleon himself
going to take observations he narrowly escaped being taken by a body of
Cossacks, who surprised him when crossing the Lougea. General Rapp had
only time to get him out of the way of those troublesome enemies, bands of
whom incessantly harassed the army. A council was held in a ruined hut on
the banks of the small river.

The emperor was still inclined to attempt a march towards Kaluga, for the
sake of the battle, victory, and consequent rest in a rich district not
yet exhausted. The generals were as confident as their chief in the
success of our arms, but they thought that the loss of 20,000 men and a
charge of 10,000 wounded would themselves constitute a check in presence
of the Russian army, constantly recruited by new forces. A retreat to
Mojaisk, and thence to Smolensk, was decided upon. The attempt on Kaluga
had cost ten days, and exhausted the greater part of the provisions
brought from Moscow, and it was now necessary to submit to a retreat pure
and simple. Marshal Davout proposed to effect this by a new road, which
should still supply some resources for the troops; but his advice was not
listened to. A passionate desire for return, and terror of the frightful
evils which threatened the army, had seized all those men who were
recently so daring, and ready to try any danger. Napoleon still hesitated.
"What do you think about it, Mouton?" he asked Count Lobau, standing
beside him. "That as quickly as possible, and by the shortest road, we
must get out of a country where we have stayed too long," was the
immediate reply of the hero of so many battles. The emperor hung down his
head. In his inmost soul he felt himself beaten.

The whole army also felt itself beaten, and every heart was filled with
dejection. Already, during the march from Moscow to Malo-Jaroslawetz, many
carriages and badly harnessed wagons were left behind; but the train was
still enormous, accompanied by defenceless women and children. The wounded
of the last battle had been distributed amongst the different wagons and
carts. The dying were abandoned to their wretched fate on the battle-
field, under the cold rain which began to fall, or in the huts to which
they had been carried. The army left Malo-Jaroslawetz on the 27th October,
marching to Vereja, where Marshal Mortier rejoined them after
accomplishing his terrible mission. The ground was still quaking under his
feet when he left Moscow, bringing with him all the wounded. Such was the
emperor's express order, though the army convoys were already insufficient
for that necessary duty.

Mortier brought to Napoleon a prisoner, Count Wintzingerod, who had fallen
into his hands during the second burning of Moscow. That general was in
command of a body of partisans, and believed the French had evacuated the
capital. The emperor's anger burst forth against this German on finding
him in the Russian ranks. "You belong to no country!" he exclaimed
excitedly. "I have always found you among my enemies--with the Austrians
when I fought with Austria, with the Russians when Austria became my ally.
Yet by birth you belong to the Rhenish Confederation; you are a traitor--I
have the right to judge you. You will be tried by court-martial." Then
pointing to Count Narischkin, Wintzingerod's aide-de-camp, "This young man
does you too much honor by serving with you."

The general made no reply, even by the slightest movement or gesture. The
emperor's staff looked on in silence, and the French officers tried by
their attentions to make the prisoner forget the treatment. Every one knew
the cause of so much bitterness rising from Napoleon's heart to his lips.
For the first time in his life the conqueror was retreating.

He was retreating, and every day of their march made them feel more and
more the terrible difficulty, while proving its necessity. Napoleon
marched at the head of his army with his staff, without joining the main
body of the troops, or troubling himself about the fatigue and difficulty
experienced at every step by Marshal Davout, who had been appointed to
command the rear-guard and protect the retreat. General Grouchy's cavalry
were already exhausted, and could not assist him in this painful duty. The
marshal's old foot-soldiers alone remained--those who had so long fought
under his orders, having been formed under his strict and severe
discipline, and loving him while they feared him. At every stage Davout
found some carriage or cart had disappeared, left behind by the exhausted
horses and drivers, and he heard the cries of the wretched wounded men,
henceforward delivered up to the lances of the Cossacks or the severities
of the approaching winter. He saw unrolling and lengthening out before him
that train behind the army, despised by the soldiers remaining under arms,
and reinforced every day by laggards from all the corps. He was the last
to arrive at the hindmost posts after the troops defiling past had eaten
up all the resources of the villages and farms, burnt the shelters, and
sacked what they were unable to carry off. The complaints and demands of
the distinguished chief of his rear-guard made no impression on Napoleon.
"March quicker!" he kept repeating, without admitting the marshal to see
him, without ever going himself towards the rear of his army--apparently
indifferent to the sufferings he had produced, absorbed in gloomy silence,
surrounded by his lieutenants equally dejected. When passing Borodino,
where the battle-field was still covered with the corpses, of which savage
beasts were in undisputed possession, the rear-guard were still further
encumbered by the transport of the wounded, who had formerly been left at
Kolotskoi. Those whose wounds did not allow them to be removed were
entrusted by Dr. Larrey to the cares of the Russians, whom he had cured.
The army left Ghjat on the 1st November.

In spite of what was constantly being left behind from the baggage train,
the difficulty of the march daily increased on account of fatigue, the
want of horses, and the rigor of the climate. Marshal Davout often found
himself compelled to blow up artillery wagons which he could not take
further with him; and the cannon which were still dragged on became for
the most part useless. Immediately before him marched Prince Eugène's
forces. The viceroy, young and courageous, had not yet gained consummate
experience of war: the marshal urged him to make haste first in crossing
the Czarewo-Zaimitché and afterwards in the suburbs of Wiazma. Kutuzoff,
at first deceived as to our movements, had advanced southwards after the
battle of Malo-Jaroslawetz, but soon changed his direction and marched
upon Wiazma. A preliminary engagement near the bridge of Czarewo had
opened a passage for us. Then the march was again interrupted before
Wiazma. The Russian army occupied the ground on the left of the road.
Prince Eugène's forces, embarrassed by the convoy, had an engagement with
the enemy on the morning of the 2nd November, and the cannon were making
havoc in his ranks when Davout came to his assistance, and General Gerard
making a dash at the enemy's artillery, quickly cleared the road again. At
the noise of the cannon Marshal Ney halted in his march, and advanced
behind a small tributary of the Wiazma. The battle began so vigorously on
the part of our old soldiers that General Miloradowitch, who commanded the
Russians, did not dare longer to intercept their retreat. The regiments
defiled into Wiazma, but still continued firing. General Morand, who was
in command of the last battalions, was not rid of the pursuing enemy till
he reached the very camp, his soldiers presenting their bayonets. The
troops, who had thus gained another victory, encamped in the woods, with
no resource except the dying horses, which they slaughtered as they
required them, roasting the joints at the bivouac fires. The exhausted
soldiers slept.

Marshal Ney, in his turn, had charge of the rear-guard. The emperor felt
himself condemned by the stern and impassible judgment of Davout, whom he
had left alone to bear the heaviest burden; and he blamed the slowness of
his movements for the unfortunate battle of Wiazma, and the responsibility
of all the hardships undergone by the rear-guard. Like Massena in
Portugal, Davout found himself in disgrace because he was blamed with
faults which he had not committed, and which he was unable to rectify.

Meantime they had approached Smolensk. Alarming news awaited Napoleon at
Dorogobouje. He had long reckoned on the assistance of the 9th corps,
which Marshal Victor was bringing him from Germany. Scarcely had the new
troops arrived at Smolensk, according to the emperor's order, than they
found themselves obliged to go to the assistance of our left wing, which
was threatened by Count Wittgenstein. A large reinforcement had joined the
Russian army at this point. After a conference at Abo, in Finland (28th
August, 1812), between the Prince Royal of Sweden and the Emperor
Alexander, the Russian forces promised to Bernadotte for the conquest of
Norway had advanced from Finland into Livonia. Marshal Macdonald was
compelled to abandon the siege of Riga in order to support the Prussians
on the lower Dwina. Marshal St. Cyr, in his turn, found himself threatened
on the 18th October by forces superior to his own, and had fought a second
battle before Polotsk, and successfully defended the town; but when
attacked by Wittgenstein and the forces arrived from Finland, on both
banks of the Dwina, he was compelled to withdraw behind the Oula
(connected with the Berezina by the Lepel canal). Being severely wounded
in the last engagement, he had given up the command to Marshal Oudinot,
who was anxiously waiting for Marshal Victor's arrival. The approach of
Admiral Tchitchakoff was already announced; returned from Turkey with a
large army, the negotiator of the treaty of Bucharest had, with
Tormazoff's assistance, driven General Reynier and Prince Schwartzenberg
behind the marshes of Pinsk; and, after leaving General Sacken with 25,000
men to keep the allies in check, was now advancing towards the upper
Berezina, to support Count Wittgenstein. Thus, on reaching Smolensk,
Napoleon was about to find the place almost destitute of troops, while the
left wing was in very great danger, attacked at the same time by
Wittgenstein, the Finland troops, and Tchitchakoff. The supplies even were
smaller than was expected, on account of the difficulty of conveyance. The
soldiers were delighted as they came near Smolensk. The emperor knew that
the halt must be short; nevertheless, he ordered Victor to join Oudinot
immediately in order to make a joint attack upon Wittgenstein; and wrote
General Reynier and the Austrians to pursue Admiral Tchitchakoff. He also
asked for one of the divisions of Marshal Augereau to be sent from
Germany; and separating the troops which still remained, in order to
facilitate the food-supply during their journey, he continued his march
upon Smolensk, whilst Prince Eugène took the road for Doukhowtchina, with
instructions to protect Vitebsk if necessary.

The main army resumed its march on the 6th November. On the 7th and 8th
the cold became so keen, and the ice on the roads so dangerous, that the
horses could not advance, and it was necessary to leave behind some
cannon. On the 9th the viceroy reached the banks of the Vop, a small
stream which in winter becomes a rapid torrent, its channel being already
choked with ice. Before the engineers had completed a bridge, the crowd of
the soldiers and runaways rushed headlong upon it and broke it down. The
cavalry forded the stream, the troops following them with the water up to
their shoulders. The field-pieces, the baggage, and ammunition-wagons, one
after another crushed down the banks and ploughed through the channel,
frequently plunging into the mire, and being left there. It became
impossible to cross; and the wretches who were following the army found
themselves left behind, and delivered up to the vengeance of the Russians
or the cruelties of the Cossacks, who ran up in eager hordes. In despair
and terror, they struggled to cross the river, leaving behind them the
wagons which still afforded them some supplies, and many perished. Even
the soldiers who had fallen behind the army pillaged the baggage which had
been abandoned on the bank. Blood flowed also in the midst of this
horrible confusion, for the Cossacks, eager for booty, joined with the
disbanded soldiers. Some brave men several times braved the dangers of
crossing the stream to save the lives of the defenceless women and

On reaching Doukhowtchina, Prince Eugène learned that Vitebsk had fallen
into the hands of Wittgenstein. Thus the cruel day's march just made by
the army of Italy proved useless. The viceroy set fire to the small town
where he found temporary shelter and a few supplies, and then advanced
towards Smolensk, where Napoleon had arrived on the evening of the 9th.

There also there was nothing but discontent, dejection, and, for a short
time, disorder. The emperor had only allowed the guard to enter the town,
and both lodgings and provisions were reserved for this favorite corps,
the only remnant saved from shipwreck, who had only undergone the
hardships of the campaign without any share in the battles. The mob of
camp-followers, deaf to discipline, forced open the gates, and general
pillage had commenced when the emperor's order was modified. The troops
lay down in the streets and squares, overpowered by fatigue, and fell down
exhausted beside the fires which had been lighted. Then arrived Prince
Eugène's troops, more decimated than all the others by the frightful
disaster on the banks of the Vop. Marshal Ney had been fighting since they
left Dorogobouje, sustaining all his soldiers by his indomitable courage
and the steadiness of his physical and mental energy, playing in turns the
part of general, captain, and soldier, seizing the musket as it fell from
the hands of a dying grenadier to fire, himself, upon the enemy, and
purposely slackening the march of the rear-guard in order to give time to
all to reach Smolensk. The news brought there from all quarters, like
bulletins of some deadly agony, no longer allowed even the soldiers the
vain hope of several days of rest. General Hilliers, who had advanced
according to orders on the Jelnia road, was surprised by the Russians, and
having lost 2000 men, returned to Smolensk, to find himself degraded in
the eyes of all the army, and was sent back to France, to be tried there
by court-martial. Prince Schwartzenberg was doubtful, he said, about
leaving Warsaw unprotected; and Admiral Tchitchakoff advanced unchecked,
and was already threatening Minsk, where the great bulk of our supplies
was collected together. Victor and Oudinot had not dared to risk a
decisive engagement; and the two Russian armies were about to combine in
order to bar our passage over the Berezina, the only way of safety to
return to Poland. There was not a moment more to be lost in effecting that
fatal junction. The emperor resolved to march immediately towards Vilna,

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