OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 3


Pages: 1 2 <3> 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Immediately on the rejection of his terms, Frederick William concluded a treaty with Alexander on the 28th of February, and Austria was invited to join the league. Alexander had joined his army himself on the 22nd of December, and had marched along with it through that horrible winter. On the 1st of March Prussia concluded its alliance with Alexander, offensive and defensive. On the 15th Alexander arrived at Breslau, and there was an affecting meeting of the two sovereigns, who had been placed in outward hostility by the power of Buonaparte, but who had never ceased to be friends at heart. The king of Prussia was moved to tears. " Courage, my brother," said Alexander; "these are the last tears that Napoleon shall cause you."

The next day the war against France was proclaimed, and for the righteous cause of restoring the independence of the nations. Prussia, and indeed all Germany, had now been trampled on sufficiently to crush the effeminacy out of all classes - to rouse the true soul of liberty in them.

Men of every rank offered themselves as the defenders and avengers of their country; the students at this moment not only sung, but aided freedom. The volunteers were formed into Black Bands, and others assumed the dress and arms of the Cossacks, who had won much admiration. They were disciplined in the system of Scharnhorst, and soon became effective soldiers. A leader was found for them after their own heart - the brave and patriotic Blücher, who had been reserving himself for this day, and Scharnhorst and Gneisau, better tacticians than himself, were appointed to assist him, and carry out all the strategic movements; whilst Blücher, never depressed by difficulties, never daunted by defeat, led them on with the cheer from which he derived his most common appellation of marshal Forwards - " Forwards! my children, forwards! "

All classes hastened to contribute the utmost amount possible to the necessary funds for this sacred war. The ladies gave in their gold chains and bracelets, their diamonds and rubies, and wore as Ornaments chains and bracelets of beautifully wrought iron.

Austria stood in a hesitating position. On the one hand, she felt reluctant to join the allies and assist in destroying the throne of the emperor's son-in-law; but at the same time she was anxious to strengthen her own position by giving more strength to her neighbour, Prussia. For this purpose Austria offered her mediation for a peace on terms that would restore Prussia to a more becoming position, and such proposals of mediation were made by the Austrian minister to England. But these entirely failed. On the one hand, Napoleon would concede nothing, but declared that he would entirely annihilate Prussia, and would give to Austria Silesia for her assistance in the war; on the other hand, England declared that there could be no peace without France disgorging the great bulk of her usurpations.

On the 15th of April Buonaparte quitted Paris, for the last time as a permanent abode; on the 16th he was at Mainz, and on the 25th at Erfurt. Before quitting Paris he had appointed Maria Louisa regent in his absence. This he deemed a stroke of policy likely to conciliate the emperor of Austria. But the empress's power was merely nominal. She could appear at the council board, but it was only as the instrument of the emperor; he carried all active power along with him, and ruled France from his camp. He had still upwards of fifty thousand troops in the garrisons of Prussia, commanded by Eugene, the viceroy of Italy; and he advanced at the head of three hundred thousand men. Eugene Beauharnais had been compelled necessarily to evacuate Dantzic, Berlin, and Dresden as the Russians and Prussians advanced, and retreated upon the Elbe. In the month of May Bernadotte, according to concert, crossed over to Stralsund with thirty-five thousand men, and awaited the reinforcements of Russians and Germans which were to raise his division to eighty thousand men, with which he was to co-operate with the allies, and protect Hamburg. The allies, under Tetterborn, Czernicheff, and Winzengerode, spread along both sides of the Elbe, the Germans rising enthusiastically wherever they came. Hamburg, Lübeck, and other towns threw open their gates to them. The French general, Morand, endeavouring to quell the rising of the people of Lunenburg, was surprised by the Russians, and his detachment of four thousand men was cut to pieces, or taken prisoners. Eugene marched from Magdeburg to surprise Berlin, but was met at Möckern, defeated, and driven back to Magdeburg. Such was the success of the allies, and the exulting support of the people, that even Denmark and Saxony began to contemplate going over to the allies. Blucher entered Dresden on the 27th of March, driving Davoust before him, who blew up an arch of the fine bridge to cover his retreat. The emperor of Russia and king of Prussia entered Dresden soon after, and were received by the inhabitants with acclamations. At this time died the old Russian general, Koutousoff, at Bautzen, and was succeeded by general Wittgenstein.

At the approach of the new French levies, Eugene Beauharnais retreated from Magdeburg, and joined them on the Saale. The allies and Napoleon now lay face to face, the allies cutting off his advance towards Leipsic and thence to Dresden. He resolved to make a determined attack upon them, and demoralise them by a blow which should make him master of Leipsic, Dresden, and Berlin at once, and give its impression to the whole campaign. In the skirmishes which took place previous to the general engagement at Weissenfels and Poserna on the 29th of April and the 1st of May, Buonaparte gained some advantages; but in the latter action his old commander of the imperial guard, marshal Bessieres, was killed. His death was deeply lamented, both by his men, who had served under him from the very commencement of Buonaparte's career, and by Buonaparte him- self. " Fate," says Savary, " began to deprive Napoleon of his friends, as if to prepare him for the severe losses she had yet in store."

The first great battle was destined to be fought on the very ground where Gustavus Adolphus fell, 1632: Buonaparte marched upon Leipsic, expecting to find the allies posted there; but he was suddenly brought to a stand by them at Lützen. The allies, who were on the left bank of the Elster, crossed to the right, and impetuously attacked the French, whose centre was at the village of Kaya, under the command of Ney, supported by the imperial guard, and their fine artillery drawn up in front of the town of Lützen; the right wing, commanded by Marmont, extending as far as the defile of Poserna, and the left stretching from Kaya to the Elster. Napoleon did not expect to have met the allies on that side of Leipsic, and was pressing briskly for ward when the attack commenced. Ney was first stopped at Gross-Görschen. Had Wittgenstein made a decided charge with his whole column, instead of attacking by small brigades, he would assuredly have broken the French lines. But Buonaparte rode up, and galloped from place to place to throw fresh troops on the point of attack, and to wheel up both of his wings so as to inclose, if possible, both flanks of the allies.

The conflict lasted some hours, during which it was uncertain whether the allies would break the centre of the French, or the French would be able to outflank the allies. The young German volunteers - a great proportion of them students from the university, flowers of the rising generation - here came hand to hand into conflict with the young French conscripts, and they fought with a gallantry which justified the enthusiasm they had shown in chanting the "Sword-Song" of Körner, and his " Men and Cowards." It is to the eternal honour of the student-youth of Germany that at this period they sympathised with the young volunteer, Jäger Körner, and not with the cold, sneering, unpatriotic Gœthe, who, meeting Körner and Moritz Arndt at Dresden, just before this battle, said, " Well, well, shake your chains; the man (Napoleon) is too strong for you; you will not break them! "

Blucher was late on the field; the officer who was sent over- night to him with Orders from Wittgenstein was said to have put them under his pillow and slept on them till awoke by the cannon. At length, after a desperate attack by Napoleon to recover the village of Kaya, out of which he had been forced, the allies observing that the firing of Macdonald and Bertrand, who commanded the two wings, was fast extending along their flanks, skilfully extricated themselves from the combat, and led back their columns so as to escape being out-flanked by the French. Yet they did not even then give up the struggle for the day. The allied cavalry made a general attack in the dark, but it failed from the mighty masses of the French on which they had to act. The allies captured some cannon, the French none. The division of Miloradorvitch, from some mistake in the Orders, never was engaged. The loss of the allies was twenty thousand men, killed and wounded; that of the French was equally severe. Seven or eight French generals were killed or wounded. On the side of the allies fell general Scharnhorst - an irreparable loss, for no man had done more to organise the Prussian landwehr and volunteers. The prince Leopold of Hesse- Homburg and the prince of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, both allied to the royal family of England, were slain, and Blucher him- self wounded; but he had his wounds dressed on the field, and would not quit it till the last moment.

Napoleon, who had every need of success to regain his former position in the opinion of France, sent off in all haste to Paris the most exaggerated account of the battle of Lützen, as one of the most decisive victories that he had ever won, and that it had totally scattered the allies, and neutralised all the hopes and schemes of England. The empress went in procession to Notre Dame, where Te Deum was celebrated by cardinal Maury, who drew the most extravagant picture of Napoleon's invincible genius. The same false statements were sent also to every friendly court in Europe, even to Constantinople. The stratagem had its effect. The wavering German princes, who were ready to go over to their own countrymen, stopped, and still ranged their banners with the French. The king of Saxony had gone to Prague as a place whence he might negotiate his return to the ranks of his own fatherland; but he now hastened back again, and was in Dresden on the 12th with Napoleon, who conducted him in a kind of triumph through his capital, parading his adhesion before his subjects who had hailed the allies just before with acclamations. The Saxon king, in fresh token of amity to Napoleon, ceded to him the fortress of Torgau, much to the disgust of his subjects.

But the allies had only fallen back behind the Elbe, and taken up a strong position at Bautzen, on the Spree, about twelve leagues from Dresden, whilst an army under Bulow covered Berlin. No sooner did the allies fall back to the right bank of the Elbe than Davoust attacked Hamburg on the 9th of May with five thousand men, and vowed vengeance on the city for having admitted the allies. To their surprise the Citizens found themselves defended by a body of Danes, from Altona, "who were the allies of France, but had been just then thinking of abandoning Napoleon. But the fate of the battle of Lützen changed their views, and they retired in the evening of that day, leaving Hamburg to the attacks of the French. Bernadotte, not having received the promised reinforcements, did not venture to cover Hamburg. Davoust entered the place like a devil. He shot twelve of the principal Citizens, and drove twenty-five thousand of the inhabitants out of the city, pulled down their houses, compelling the most distinguished men of the town to work at this demolition and at raising the materials into fortifications. The people had long been subjected by the French to every possible kind of pillage and indignity; no women, however distinguished, had been allowed to pass the gate without being subjected to the most indecent examinations. But now the fury of the French commander passed all bounds. He levied a contribution of eighteen millions of dollars; and not satisfied with that, he robbed the great Hamburg bank, and declared all his doings to be by Orders of the emperor.

Napoleon, reinforced by a number of French, Bavarian, Wurtemberg, and Saxon troops, moved off to attack the allies at Bautzen, on the 19thof May. He had detached Lauriston and Ney towards Berlin to rout Bulow, but they were stopped by Barclay de Tolly and Yorck at Königswartha and at Weissig, and compelled to retreat. On the 21st Ney combined with Napoleon, and they made a united attack on Blucher's position on the fortified heights of Klein and Klein-Bautzen. In this battle German fought against German, the Bavarians against Bavarians, for they took both sides, such was the dislocated state of that nation. It was not till after a long and desperately-fought battle that the allies were compelled to give ground, and then they retired, without the loss of a single gun, towards the Riesen Gebirge, and posted themselves strongly behind the fortress of Schweidnitz, so famous in the campaigns of Frederick of Prussia.

In this battle the allies lost in killed and wounded ten thousand men, the French not less than fifteen thousand. The French generals Bruyeres, Kirchner, and Duroc were amongst the killed. Duroc had long been one of the most intimate friends and attendants of Buonaparte, who was so much cut up by his loss, that he, for the first time in all his terrible campaigns, became unable to attend to further details, but answered every call for Orders with " Everything tomorrow!" When he came to find that not a gun, not a prisoner was left behind by the Germans and Russians, Napoleon seemed to comprehend the stern spirit in which they were now contending, and exclaimed, " How! no result after such a massacre? No prisoners? They leave me not even a nail! " He advanced to Breslau, various slight conflicts taking place on the way, and on the 1st of June he entered that city, the princesses of Prussia removing thence into Bohemia.

An armistice was now demanded by the allies - it is said at the instance of Austria, who desired to act as mediator - and gladly assented to by Napoleon, who was desirous of completing his preparations for a more determined attack. The armistice was signed on the 4th of June at the village of Pleisswitz.

At the time of this armistice, Napoleon, by the great battles of Lützen and Bautzen, had recovered his prestige sufficiently to induce the German confederates of the Rhine to stand by him; but he was by no means what he had been. The opinion of his invincibility had been irreparably damaged by the Russian campaign, and the success in these battles was not of a character to give confidence to his own army. They saw that the allies had lost all superstitious fear of him. To assist in the negotiations of this armistice, Buonaparte sent for his two ablest heads, Fouché and Talleyrand, whom he had so long thrown from him for their sound advice. This showed that he felt the great importance of the occasion. As Fouché was at Mainz, on his way, Augereau said to him, " Alas! our sun is set! How little do the two actions, of which they make so much in Paris, resemble our victories in Italy! How much labour has been thrown away only to win a few marches onward! At Lützen our centre was broken, several regiments dispersed, and all had been lost but for the young guard. We have taught the allies to beat us. After such a butchery as that of Bautzen, there were no results, no cannon taken, no prisoners. The enemy everywhere opposed us with ad- vantage. We were roughly handled at Reichenbach the day after the battle. Then one ball strikes off Bessières, another Duroc - Duroc, the only friend he had in the world. Bruyeres and Kirchner are killed by spent bullets. What a war! it will make an end of us all! He will not make peace. You know him as well as I do. He will cause himself to be surrounded by half a million men - for, believe me, Austria will not be more faithful than Prussia. Yes, he will remain inflexible, and unless he be killed - as killed he will not be - there is an end of us ail! "

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 <3> 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 3

French forces near Kaya
French forces near Kaya >>>>
Alicante
Alicante >>>>
Battle of Tarragona.
Battle of Tarragona. >>>>
Dividing the spoils
Dividing the spoils >>>>
English forces in France
English forces in France >>>>
Lord Castlereagh
Lord Castlereagh >>>>
Napoleon at Fontainebleau
Napoleon at Fontainebleau >>>>
Oak of Heney IV
Oak of Heney IV >>>>
Marshal Bulow
Marshal Bulow >>>>
Escurial
Escurial >>>>
Banquet given to the Emperor of Russia
Banquet given to the Emperor of Russia >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About