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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 7


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This campaign was closed in this quarter by one of the most disgraceful acts on the part of the French which ever took place in any war. The abdication of Buonaparte, and the establishment of the provisional government, had been communicated to Sir John Hope, who had sate down before Bayonne, and by him to general Thouvenel, who commanded the garrison within. Supposing, therefore, that all war was at an end, the British were quietly sleeping in their cantonments, when Thouvenel made a sortie long before it was light. This wanton and useless attack, which could only be made from a feeling of savage spite that the usurper was put down and his legions altogether defeated, cost the allies in killed and wounded eight hundred men. A rush was made upon the village of St. Etienne, and the pickets and the surprised soldiers were bayoneted. Sir John Hope galloped up to the spot in the dark only to have his horse killed under him, and to be severely wounded and made prisoner. There was a confused scuffle in the dark; but the allies were soon under arms, and drove back the ruffians at the point of the bayonet. Major-general Hay, colonel Sir H. Sullivan, and captain Croker were killed, and major-general Stopford was wounded. The brutal Thouvenel, who thus killed men for the mere sake of killing them - no other purpose whatever being possible to be served by it - was as barbarous in his conduct throughout. He refused to admit any British officer to attend on their wounded general, Sir John Hope, until after he had been compelled to submit to the provisional government by Soult's orders. Yet this man was one of those upon whom Louis XVIII. was advised to confer the cross of St. Louis; he also confirmed him in the command of Bayonne. Thouvenel had been one of the bloody revolutionists; he had then fought under Dumouriez; and he ended by breaking his oath to Louis XVIII., and declaring for Buonaparte on his return from Elba.

In preparing to meet the invasion of the allies, Napoleon had to encounter the most formidable difficulties. In Russia and in this German campaign he had seen the bulk of his veteran army dissipated - nay, destroyed. After all his years of incessant drafts on the life-blood of France, six hundred thousand men could not be readily replaced. To replace a fourth of that number with well-disciplined troops was impossible. He could draw none from Germany, for his boasted confederation of the Rhine had disappeared as a summer cloud, and the very princes on whom he had relied were marching against him in the vast army of the allies. He could draw none from Italy; for there Eugene Beau- harnais was contending, with only about forty-five thousand men, against the much more numerous Austrians; whilst his brother-in-law, Murat, his dashing cavalry general, w^ gone over to the enemy. Poland could send him no more gallant regiments - for he had grievously deceived Poland; and his trusty ally of Denmark lay trodden under foot by his former companion-in-arms, Bernadotte. When he turned his eyes over France, which had so long sent forth her hordes to desolate Europe at his command, he beheld a prospect not much more cheering. The male population, almost to a man, was drained off, and their bones lay bleaching in the torrid sands of Egypt and Syria, the rugged sierras of Spain and Portugal, in the fens of Holland and the sandy flats of Belgium, on many a heath and plain in Germany, and far away amid the mocking snows of frozen Muscovy. The fields of "la belle France" were being cultivated by old men, by women, and mere boys. Those who had been so long buoyed up under the loss of husbands, fathers, and children, by the delusive mirage of the glory of the grand nation, now cursed the tyrant whose insane ambition had led such millions of the sons of France to the great slaughter-house of war. The conscriptions, therefore, were very little attended to. Besides this, Buonaparte was well aware that there remained a strong leaven of jacobinism in Paris and the large towns, and he was afraid of calling out city guards to set at liberty other soldiers, lest, in the hour of his absence and weakness, they should rise and renounce his authority.

Buonaparte, therefore, insisted passionately on the conscriptions, and that they should be of men, not boys. Alas f the men no longer existed. When a senator doubted the necessity of such a large conscription, and that the allies would dare to invade France, Buonaparte, breaking through all his usual mists of falsehood, exclaimed - " And wherefore should not the whole truth be told? Wellington has entered the south; the Russians menace the northern frontier; the Prussians, Austrians, and Bavarians threaten the east. Shame! Wellington is in France, and we have not risen in mass to drive him back. All my allies have deserted me. The Bavarians have betrayed me; they threw themselves on my rear to cut off my retreat; but they have been slaughtered for their pains. No peace now till we have burned Munich. A triumvirate is formed in the north - the same which made a partition of Poland. I demand of France three hundred thousand men. I will form a camp at Bourdeaux - another at Metz - another at Lyons. With the present levy, and what remains of the last, I will have a million of men. But I must have grown men, not these boy-conscripts, to encumber the hospitals, and die of fatigue upon the highways. I can reckon no soldiers now save those of France itself."

"Ah, sire," said one of the senators, "that ancient France must remain inviolate."

" And Holland!" answered Buonaparte, fiercely - " abandon Holland? Sooner abandon it to the sea. Counsellors, there must be an impulse given. All must march. You are fathers of families, the heads of the nation; it is for you to set the example. They speak of peace; I hear of nothing but peace, when all around should echo the cry of war."

This demand for peace, the reluctance of the public for more bloodshed, these conscript-boys Coming up, and coming up thinly, should have opened his eyes at last to the fact, that France was sick of war; but nothing could ever teach that man, drunk with human blood - that haughty soul which could brook no idea of surrendering anything - the lesson of moderation. Had he chosen now to make peace, the allies, after all they had suffered, were ready to grant it, and with it a France bounded only by the Rhine, the Alps, and the Pyrenees; but he spurned these terms, which would have given him an empire such as no French monarch had ever ruled over from the days of Charlemagne. The legislative body, in reply to his call for soldiers, presented him a report, advising that he should satisfy the allied monarchs by making a solemn renunciation of all Iiis ambitious schemes, and an engagement to confine his forces to France. He dismissed them in wrath, and shut the door upon them.

Finding that there remained no other means of reinforc- ing his army, he drained the garrisons all over France, and drew what soldiers he could from Soult and Suchet in the south. He was busy daily drilling and reviewing, and nightly engaged in sending dispatches to urge on the provinces to send up their men. The Moniteur and other newspapers represented all France as wing to arms; but the truth was they looked with profound apathy on the progress of the allies. These issued proclamation after proclamation, assuring the people that it was not against France that they made war, but solely against the man who would give no peace either to France or any of his neighbours; and the French had come to the conclusion that it was time that Buonaparte should be brought to submit to the dictation of force, as he was insensible to that of reason.

On the 25th of January Buonaparte conferred the regency again on Maria Louisa, appointed king Joseph his lieutenant in Paris - the poor man who could not take care of the capital which had been conferred on himself - and quitted Paris to put himself at the head of his army. This army, spite of all his exertions, did not exceed eighty thousand men; whilst the allies were already in France with at least a hundred and fifty thousand, and fresh bodies marching up in succession from the north. He arrived the next day at Chalons, where his army lay, commanded by Marmont, Macdonald, Victor, and Ney. The Austrians, under Schwartzenberg, had entered France on the 21st of December by the Upper Rhine, and directed their march on Lyons. On the 19th of January, a few days before Buonaparte quitted Paris, they had already taken Dijon, and were advancing on Lyons, where, how- ever, they received a repulse. Blücher, at the head of forty thousand's men, called the army of Silesia, about the same time entered France lower down, betwixt Manheim and Coblentz, at four différent points, and pushed for ward for Joinville, Vitry, and St. Dizier. Another army of Swedes, Russians, and Germans, under the crown prince of Sweden, was directed to assist in clearing Holland and Belgium, as the crown prince naturally wished to take no part in the invasion of his native soil. Whilst, therefore, Bernadotte remained to protect Belgium, Sir Thomas Graham, who, with general Bulow, had cleared Holland of the French, except such as occupied the fortress of Bergen- op-Zoom, remained to invest that stronghold, and Bülow and Winzengerode entered France by its northern frontier.

As Blücher was, as usual, much a head of the other divisions of the allies, Buonaparte resolved to attack him before he could form a junction with Schwartzenberg. Blücher, informed of his purpose, concentrated his forces at Brienne, on the Aube, fourteen miles below Bar. Brienne is but a small village, having but two streets, one of them ascending to the château - occupied as a military academy, and where Napoleon himself received his military education - the other leading to Arcis-sur-Aube. Blücher had quartered himself in the chateau, and was at dinner with his staff, on the 27th of January, when he was astonished to find that Buonaparte was already upon him. The chateau being surrounded by a woody park; under cover of that Napoleon had approached, and suddenly drove in two thousand Russians posted there, and was rushing on to capture the general and all his staff. A most miserable look-out must have been kept by the Prussian outposts. Blucher and his generals, startled by the horrible uproar, had only time to escape by a postern, and by leading their horses down a flight of steps. Recovered, however, from their surprise, the Russians, under general Alsusieff, turned on the French, and were soon supported by the Prussians. The Cossacks galloped forward, and nearly succeeded in capturing Buonaparte at the head of his troops. One man was laying hands on the Man in the Grey Coat, when Gourgaud shot him with a pistol. In the midst of the fray, Buonaparte suddenly recognised a tree under which, as a boy, he used to read Tasso's " Jerusalem Delivered." Buonaparte gained possession of Brienne, but, like Moscow, it was burned over his head, and it was not till eleven o'clock at night that Blücher, who had only twenty thousand men engaged, retired, and took up a position at La Rothière. It could scarcely be styled a victory, yet Napoleon proclaimed it a brilliant one; asserting that he had taken fifteen thousand prisoners and forty pieces of cannon, when he had taken no cannon whatever, and only a hundred prisoners.

Immediately after this engagement Blücher was joined by part of the grand army, under the prince of Würtemberg; he therefore determined to attack Napoleon, and on the 1st of February drew out his forces. Napoleon would have declined the engagement, but he had the deep river Aube in his rear, and only the bridge of Lesmont by which to pass it. He preferred, on this account, to risk the battle, rather than a retreat under such circumstances. Blücher attacked at once from the villages of La Rothière, Dienville, and Chaumont. The battle was severely contested for the whole day; the prince of Würtemberg greatly distinguishing himself in it. In the end Buonaparte was wholly defeated - lost four thousand prisoners and seventy- three guns, and must have been captured himself, had not the Austrians, by a surprising slowness, allowed him to escape over the bridge. He then retreated towards Troyes, where he was joined by his imperial guard - but his losses had been very heavy. Had Blücher and Schwartzenberg, who had now joined, marched on united, they must have been in Paris in a very short time; but, with the German fatality of dividing, they had no sooner experienced the benefit of a powerful union, than they called a council at the chateau of Brienne, and agreed to separate again. Blücher, uniting to his own the divisions of Yorck and Kleist, proceeded towards Paris by the Marne, and prince Schwartzenberg followed the course of the Seine.

Buonaparte saw his opportunity, and, making a movement by a body of troops on Bar-sur-Seine, he alarmed Schwartzenberg, who thought he was intending to attack him in full force, and therefore changed his route, separating farther from Blücher. This point gained, Buonaparte marched after Blücher. That general had driven Macdonald from chateau Thierry, and had established his head- quarters at Vertus. Sacken was in advance as far as Ferté sous Jouarre,. and Yorck at Meaux, much nearer Paris than Buonaparte himself. Paris was in great alarm. But Napoleon, taking a cross-country road, and dragging his artillery by enormous exertions over hedges, ditches, and marshes, came upon Blucher's rear, to his astonishment, at Champbaubert. Driving in the Russians, under Alsusieff, Napoleon defeated him, taking two thousand prisoners, and most of his artillery; and being thus posted betwixt Sacken and Blucher, he first attacked and defeated Sacken, destroying or squandering five thousand men - about one-fourth of his division - and then turned to attack Blücher himself, who was marching rapidly up to support Sacken. Blücher, finding himself suddenly in face of the whole army of Buonaparte, in an open country, fell back, and conducted his retreat so admirably, that he cut his way through two strong bodies of French, who had posted themselves on the line of his march, and brought off his troops and artillery safe to Chalons. Napoleon then turned against Schwartzenberg, and on the 17th of February he met and defeated him at Nangis. Such were the immediate consequences of the folly of dividing the allied forces. In these movements Napoleon displayed a military ability equal to that of any part of his career.

The Parisians were now afforded proofs that Napoleon was once more victorious. The prisoners, banners, and cannon which he had taken were sent forward rapidly to the capital, and ostentatiously paraded through the streets. Meantime, the allies were so alarmed, that the sovereigns wrote to Buonaparte, expressing their surprise at his attacks, as they had ordered their plenipotentiaries to accept the terms offered by his ambassador, Caulaincourt. These terms had indeed been offered by Caulaincourt, duke of Vicenza, at a congress held at Chatillon-sur-Seine on the "5th of February, and which was still sitting; but the allies had never, in fact, accepted them, and now, as he was again in the ascendant, Napoleon was not likely to listen to them. He therefore left the letter unanswered till he should have thoroughly defeated the allies, and then he would dictate his reply.

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Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 7

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