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 8


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

He next attacked and took Montereau from the allies, but at a terrible cost of life. Finding then that the Austrians and Prussians were once more contemplating a junction, he sent an answer to the letter of the allied sovereigns, but it was addressed only to the emperor of Austria, and its tenor was to persuade the emperor to make a separate peace. " Only gain the Austrians," he had said to Caulaincourt, on sending him to Chatillon, "and the mischief is at an end." The emperor sent prince Wenceslaus of Liechtenstein to Napoleon's head-quarters, and it was agreed that a conference should be held at Lusigny, between him and count Flahault, on the 24th of February. But Buonaparte did not cease for a moment his offensive movements. On the night of the 23rd he bombarded Troyes, and entered the place the next day. On this occasion he disgraced himself by having all the sick and wounded left behind by the allies dragged out to grace his triumph; and worse, the chevalier de Gouault, who, with a few other royalists, had mounted the white cockade on the entry of the allies into France, being found in the town, he was arrested and shot. He died shouting, " Vive le Roi! " Buonaparte. moreover, showed his apprehension of the Bourbons by issuing a stern decree of death against any one wearing Bourbon decorations.

The movements and counter-movements of these hostile armies inflicted the most direful calamities on the country and the peasantry. The villages and farms were burnt and plundered by the Cossacks, Prussians, and Russians, who were glad to repay on these innocent people the barbarities that their countrymen had inflicted on them and their nations. The French peasantry, in revenge, and also for sustenance, attacked the convoys and foraging parties, killed them, and carried off the stores. The horrors of the Russian campaign were thus brought home, by the proceedings of Buonaparte, to his own empire, and to within' a few leagues of his own capital. The women and children fled to woods and quarries for concealment, and many of them perished there; and wolves prowled over the desolated and wintry plains.

The congress at Chatillon still continued to sit, Caulaincourt amusing the sovereigns and the ambassador of England, lord Aberdeen, with one discussion after another, but having secret instructions from Buonaparte to sign nothing. At length he wrote to him, on the 17th of February, saying, " that when he gave him his carte-blanche it was for the purpose of saving Paris, but that Paris was now saved, and he revoked the powers which he had given him." The allies, however, continued till the 10th of March their offer of leaving France its ancient limits, and then, the time being expired, they broke up the conference. It is said that as Caulaincourt left Chatillon he met the secretary of Buonaparte bringing fresh powers for treating, but it was now too late. It was well for Europe that he did not accept the terms of the allies, for they would have had all their work to do over again as soon as Buonaparte had recovered sufficient strength. It was now the will of Providence soon to close the great drama of his sanguinary career, and that in a new and complete manner.

A succession of battles now took place with varying success, but still leaving the allies nearer to Paris than before. If Buonaparte turned against Blücher, Schwarzenberg made an advance towards the capital; if against Schwartzenberg, Blücher progressed a stage. To check Schwartzenberg whilst he attacked Blücher, Napoleon sent Oudinot, Macdonald, and Gerard against Schwartzenberg; but they were defeated, and Napoleon himself was repulsed with severe loss from Craonne and the heights of Laon. But Buonaparte getting between the two allied armies, and occupying Rheims, the Austrians were so discouraged, that Schwartzenberg gave Orders to retreat. The emperor Alexander strenuously opposed retreat; but the effectual argument was advanced by lord Castlereagh, who declared that the moment the retreat commenced the British subsidies should cease. A sharp battle was fought on the 20th of March, betwixt Schwartzenberg and Napoleon, at Arcis-sur-Aube, and Napoleon was compelled to retreat. Blücher, who had received the order to retreat from Schwartzenberg, had treated it with contempt, and replied to it by his favourite word, " Forwards! " Napoleon had now to weigh the anxious question, whether it was better to push on, and stand a battle under the walls of Paris, with his small, much-reduced force, against the allies, and with the capital in a state of uncertainty towards him - or to follow and harass the rear of the enemy. He seems to have shrunk from the chance of a defeat under the eyes of his metropolis, and he therefore, finding a Prussian force in Vitry, crossed the Marne on the 22nd of March, and held away towards his eastern frontiere, as if with some faint, fond hope that the peasantry of Franche Compte and Alsace might rise and fly to his support. But no such movement was likely; all parts of France were mortally sick of his interminable wars, and glad to see a close put to them. The allies had now taken the bold resolve to march on Paris, and summon it to surrender.

The emperor Francis determined to remain at Aube, with the division under general Ducca, not thinking it becoming him to join in the attack of the French capital where his daughter ruled as empress-regent; and a body of ten thou- sand cavalry was ordered to watch the motions of Napoleon, under command of Winzengerode and Czernicheff; to intercept his communications with Paris, whilst the Russian and Prussian light troops scoured the roads in advance, stopping all couriers; and Blücher, at the same time, having thrown open the gates of Rheims, was moving on Chalons and Vitry, to form a junction with the army of Schwartzenberg. The flying parties fell in with and captured, near Sommepuix, a convoy of artillery and ammunition; and, on another occasion, with a Courier bearing a budget of the most melancholy intelligence to the emperor - that the English had made a descent on Italy; that the Austrians had defeated Augereau, and were in possession of Lyons; that Bourdeaux had declared for Louis XVIII.; and that Wellington was at Toulouse. These tidings gave immense confidence to the allies. Near Fère-Champenoise the allies met, finding Blücher in the act of stopping a body of infantry, five thousand in number, which was bearing provisions and ammunition to the army of Napoleon. The column consisted of young conscripts and national guards, who had never been in action, but they bravely defended their charge till they were surrounded by the mingling forces of the two armies, and compelled to surrender.

The allies now advanced in rapid march. They put to flight the divisions of Mortier and Marmont, whom Buonaparte had posted to give them a check. These divisions lost eight thousand men, besides a vast quantity of guns, baggage, and ammunition. A similar fate awaited a body of ten thousand national guards. At Meaux, Mortier and Marmont blew up a great powder-magazine as Blücher approached, and then retired beneath the walls of Paris. The allies, in three days, had marched seventy miles. On the 28th of March the allies were in full view of Paris, and had driven Marmont and Mortier close under its walls. The north-east side of Paris, on which they were approaching, was the only one then fortified. A ridge of hill running along that side, including the heights of Belleville, Romainville, and Montmartre, was defended by an old wall, and there the French authorities had placed the de- fenders of the city - the shattered forces of the two retreating marshals, bodies of national guards, and the youths from the Polytechnic schools, many of them mere boys of from twelve to sixteen years old, some of whom served the guns on the batteries. The whole of the forces left to defend the great and wealthy city of Paris amounted to between thirty and forty thousand men.

The other side of the city was only defended by the Seine; but the allies, who had first to cross that river, feared that Buonaparte might come up and attack their rear while they were doing so. They determined, therefore, to attack the line of fortifications. The most lying proclamations were issued by the ex-king Joseph to assure the inhabitants that the bodies of the enemy who came in view were only stragglers who had managed to get past the army of the emperor, who was cutting up and dispersing the allies most triumphantly. The forces in Paris - eight thousand troops of the line and thirty thousand national guards - were reviewed in front of the Tuileries on a Sunday, to impress the people with a sense of security; but on the morning of the 29th the empress and her child quitted the palace, attended by a regiment of seven hundred men, and fled to Blois, carrying with her the crown jewels and much public treasure, and followed by nearly ail the members of government. The population - unlike their fathers, who stopped Marie Antoinette in her attempt to escape - suffered this departure with murmurs, but without any attempt to prevent it. When she was gone, they began heartily to curse Buonaparte for the trouble and disgrace he had brought upon them. That very morning Joseph issued a most flaming proclamation, assuring the Parisians that the emperor was at hand, and would annihilate the last traces of the audacious enemy. But already the assault had commenced, and the next day, the 30th of March, it was general ail along the line. The Parisians fought bravely, especially the boys from the Polytechnic schools; and as the allies had to attack stone walls and batteries, their slaughter was great. Joseph rode along the line to encourage them in this useless, because utterly hopeless, waste of life. The allied monarchs had, before commencing the assault, issued a proclamation, promising that ail life and property should be strictly protected if the city quietly opened its gates; and, in the midst of the storming, they sent in again, by a French prisoner, the same offer, adding that, should the city be carried by assault, no power on earth could prevent it being ruthlessly sacked by the enraged soldiers, and probably destroyed. Yet Joseph did not give the order for capitulation till the whole line was in the hands of the allies, except Montmartre. The Cossacks were already in the Faubourg St. Antoine, and bombs wing into the Chaussée d'Antin. Then king Joseph, whose lying proclamation was still selling on the boulevards at a sous each, ordered Marmont to capitulate; and though he had vowed in his proclamation to stand by the Parisians to the last gasp, he then fled after the empress to Blois. In this wicked, because useless, defence, four thousand French were killed and wounded, and double that number of the allies, as they had, in full exposure, to face the towers and batteries crowded with soldiers, and to fight their way up-hill.

During the battle, says the author of " Memorable Events," the Boulevards des Italiens and the Café Tortoni were thronged with fashionable loungers of both sexes, sitting, as usual, on the chairs placed there, and appearing almost uninterested spectators of the number of wounded French and the prisoners of the allies who were brought in. About two o'clock, a general cry of "Sauve qui peut! " was heard on the Boulevards, and then took place a general and confused flight, which spread, like the undulations of a wave, even beyond the Pont Neuf. The Moniteur of this day was a full sheet, but containing no notice whatever of the war or the army. Four columns were occupied by an article on the dramatic works of Denis, and the rest with a dissertation on the existence of Troy!

During the following night, republicans, Napoleonists, and royalists, held anxious consultations as to what was to be done. As morning dawned, throngs of wild and ferocious-looking objects, such as burst on the broad daylight in the first days of the revolution, began to gather in the streets and on the Boulevards. Paris was alarmed. The Buonapartists used every means to excite these wretches in favour of the emperor, but they did not move. The Buonapartists placarded the walls with the assurances that Napoleon was at hand; that he had taken the king of Prussia, and the like fables; but they were pulled down by the tradesmen, who trembled for their shops, as fast as they were put up. The royalists exerted themselves; Chateaubriand issued a tract, ready prepared, on " Buonaparte and the Bourbons," comparing France in peace under her old monarchs, and in eternal war under Buonaparte; while the comtesse Chateaubriand, the princess de Leon, the comtesse Choiseul, and other ladies of rank, distributed it, and the white cockade, lilies, and other emblems of the old régime. A deputation was sent to the allied monarchs, who replied that they had no quarrel with France, but only with the man who oppressed it. The city was reassured, with the sudden impulse of Frenchmen; and as the allies and their troops marched into the city that morning, they were surrounded by vast crushing crowds, shouting, " Vive l'Empereur Alexandre!" " Vive le Roi de Prusse!'1'' " Vive Louis XVIII.!" " Vive les Bourbons!" Fifty thousand allied troops filed along the Boulevards; the cavalry, fifteen abreast; the artillery, five; the infantry, thirty - all clean, well-c10thed, healthy, and orderly, as if they had only come for holiday parade. When the people saw the prodigious number of troops, they repeatedly exclaimed, " Oh! how we have been deceived!" The allied sovereigns halted their troops in the Champs Elysées, and dismissed them to their different quarters, but bivouacked the Cossacks on the spot - a Scythian camp in the most fashionable park of Paris, and under the very windows of the Tuileries!

Meantime, Buonaparte, at St. Dizier, had taken the route for Troyes and Dijon, ignorant of the rapid advance of the allies on Paris. Never in any of his campaigns does he seem to have been so ill-informed of the motions of the enemy as at this most momentous juncture. As he marched he captured several persons of consequence, who did not expect him on that route. Amongst these was baron Weissemberg, who had long been the Austrian ambassador at London. He also nearly surprised the emperor Francis, which might have been a fortunate capture for him. On the 26th of March he was attacked by the flying squadrons of Winzengerode. At Doulaincourt he was startled by learning that Paris was on the point of being assaulted by the allies. From this point he dispatched one courier after another to command the forces in Paris to hold out, and, ordering the army to march with all speed, he himself entered his carriage, and was driven in all haste to Fontainebleau. Thence he was driving to Paris, when, at an inn called La Cour de France, he met general Belliard with his cavalry, who gave him the confounding information that the empress, king. Joseph, and the court had fled; that the allies were in Paris, and a convention was signed. At this news he began to rave like an insane man, blamed Marmont and Mortier - as, during his defeats, he had often bitterly upbraided his generals - blamed Joseph, and everybody but himself, and insisted on going to Paris, and seeing the allies himself, but was at length persuaded to return to Fontainebleau, and ordered his army to assemble, as it came up on the heights of Longjumeau, behind the little river Essonne.

<<< 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 8

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