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. - (Concluded.) page 3

Pages: 1 2 <3> 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

The opposition which he had met with from the State, and the evident alienation of the people, must have added to this feeling immensely. Napoleon saw that it was his best policy to conciliate the French by concessions, but neither his natural temperament nor his necessities permitted him to do this liberally and fully. He gave nominal freedom to the press, but he bought up and secured the majority of the editors and proprietors; yet, not being able to do this wholly, the opposition spoke bitter things to him and of him, and damaged his cause seriously. He called on Sieyes, Carnot, and Fouché to assist in framing his promised constitution; and he gave peerages to Carnot and Sieyes, and those once stern republicans accepted them. But, even with their aid, he could not bring himself to give a free constitution. Nobody gave him credit for sincerity even in what he did give. The police were as strict as ever, and yet every night the walls of Paris were covered with proclamations of Louis XVIII., forbidding the payment of taxes, and announcing the approach of one million two hundred thousand men.

In all classes of society people now indignantly repelled his assumption of the name of freedom. " He is," they said, " the sworn enemy of liberty, the assassin of the republic, which has been so dearly purchased. The show of liberty which he now makes is a trick of legerdemain, executed under protection of his bayonets. Such was his notion of liberty when he destroyed the national representation at St. Cloud; such the freedom he gave when he established an oriental despotism in France; such, when abolishing all free communication of sentiments amongst Citizens, and pro- scribing every liberal and philosophical idea under the name of ' ideology.' Hell and heaven are not more irreconcilable ideas than Buonaparte and liberty. The word 'freedom' was proscribed beneath his iron reign, and only revived in the ears of Frenchmen, after twelve years' extinction, on the restoration of Louis XVIII. Ah! miserable impostor! when would he have spoken of freedom, had not the return of Louis familiarised us with it?"

The very dames des halles, the market women, took up the word against him. They sung a song with much vivacity - " Donnez nous nôtre paire de gants" equivalent in pronunciation to nôtre père de Ghent, that is, Louis, who was then residing at Ghent. None but the very lowest of the population retained the old illusions towards him. Under such circumstances, not even his new constitution could satisfy anybody. It was very much the same as Louis XVIII. had sworn to in 1814. It granted free election of the house of representatives, which was to be renewed every five years; the members to be paid; land and other, taxes to be voted once a-year; ministers were to be responsible; juries, right of petition, freedom of worship, inviolability of property, were all established. But Buonaparte destroyed the value of all these concessions by publishing this, not as a new constitution, but as "an additional act" to his former constitution. This word "additional" meant everything, for it proclaimed all the despotic decrees preceding it as still in force, and thus neutralising or reducing these concessions to a mere burlesque.

Napoleon, however, called his Champ-de-Mai together for the electors to swear to this anomalous document; but, to add to the incongruity, the assembly was held in the Champ- de-Mars, and not in May at ail, but on the 1st of June. There he and his brothers, even Lucien, who had been wiled back to his assistance, figured in fantastic robes as emperor and princes of the blood, and the electors swore to the constitution; but the whole was a dead and dreary failure. On the 4th the two chambers, that of peers and that of representatives, met. The peers, who were his own officers and picked men, readily agreed to the constitution; but not so the Chamber of representatives. They chose Lanjuinais président, who had been a zealous advocate of Louis XVI., and who had drawn up the list of crimes under which Buonaparte's forfeiture had been pronounced in 1814. They entered into a warm discussion on the propriety of abolishing all titles of honour in that Chamber. They threw out a proposition to bestow on Napoleon the title of Saviour of his Country, and they severely criticised the " additional act," declaring that " the nation would entertain no plans of aggrandisement; that not even the will of a victorious prince should lead them beyond the boundaries of self-defence." In this State of things Buonaparte was compelled to depart, leaving the refractory Chamber to discuss the articles of his new constitution.

Napoleon was at Vervins, on the 12th of June, with his guard, and on the 14th he had joined five divisions of infantry and four of cavalry at Beaumont. The triple line of strong fortresses on the Belgian frontiers enabled him to assemble his forces unobserved by the allies, whilst he was perfectly informed by spies of their arrangements. "Wellington had arrived at Brussels, and had thrown strong garrisons into Ostend, Antwerp, Nieuport, Ypres, Tournay, Mons, and Ath. He had about thirty thousand English, but not his famous Peninsula troops, who had been sent to America. Yet he had the celebrated German legion, eight thousand strong, which had won so many laurels in Spain; fifteen thousand Hanoverians; five thousand Brunswickers, under their brave duke, the hereditary mortal foe of Napoleon; and seventeen thousand men, Belgians, Dutch, and troops of Nassau, under the prince of Orange. Great doubts were entertained of the reliability of the Belgians, who had fought under Napoleon, and who had shown much . discontent of late; and Napoleon confidently calculated on them, and had Belgian officers with him to lead them when they should come over to him. But, on the whole, the Belgians behaved well; for, like all others, their country had felt severely the tyranny of Napoleon. On the whole, Wellington's army amounted to about seventy-five thousand men. He occupied with his advanced division, under the prince of Orange, Enghien, Braine le Comte, and Nivelles; with his second, under lord Hill, Hall, Oudenarde, and Grammont; and with his reserve, under Picton, Brussels and Ghent. What he had most to complain of was the very defective manner in which he had been sup- plied with cannon on so momentous au occasion, being able to muster only eighty-four pieces of artillery, though he had applied for a hundred and fifty, and though there were cannons enough at Woolwich to have supplied the whole of the allied armies.

Blucher's head-quarters were at Namur, his right extending to Charleroi, near the left of Wellington, and his left and reserves covering Gevil and Liege. His force amounted to eighty thousand men, supplied with two hundred cannon. On the 15th Buonaparte addressed his army, telling them that the enemies arrayed against them were the same that they had so often beaten, and whom they must beat again if they were the men they had been. " Madmen! " he ex- claimed; " the moment of prosperity has blinded them. The oppression and humiliation of the French people are beyond their power. If they enter France, they will there find their tomb! " This address had such an effect, that the French advanced with all the spirit of their former days. They swept the western bank of the Sambre of the Prussian outposts; they advanced to Charleroi, drove out the Prussians under Ziethen, and compelled them to fall back on the village of Gosselies, and thence to Ligny and St. Amand. It was now seen that the object of Buonaparte was to cut off the communication betwixt the Prussians and British, and defeat the Prussians first, instead of having to fight the two armies at once. To complete this Ney had been dispatched to attack and drive back the English advance at Quatre-Bras and Frasnes; but, hearing firing in the direction of Charleroi, which was the engagement with Ziethen, he sent a division to support the French there, and thus found his main body too weak to move the English at Quatre-Bras. For doing this without Orders, Buonaparte reprimanded Ney, as he afterwards did Grouchy, for too implicitly following his Orders in pursuit of Blücher.

The duke of Wellington was informed, at Brussels, on the same day, of this attack of Napoleon on the Prussians at Ligny, and of the English advance, under the prince of Orange, at Quatre-Bras. It has been said that he was taken by surprise. Quite the contrary. He was waiting in the most suitable position for the movement of Buonaparte. This was announced to him by a Prussian officer of high rank, said to be baron Muffling, who arrived at half-past one at his hotel in Brussels. Wellington immediately dispatched Orders to all the cantonments of his army to break up and concentrate on Quatre-Bras, his intention being that his whole force should be there by eleven o'clock the next night, Friday, the 16th. At three o'clock his grace sate down to dinner, and it was at first proposed that notice should be sent to the duchess of Richmond to put off a ball which she was going to give at her hotel that evening; but, on further consideration, it was concluded to let the ball proceed, and that the duke and his officers should attend it, as though nothing was about to occur, by which the great inconvenience of having the whole city in confusion during their preparations for departure would be avoided. Accordingly, every officer received Orders to quit the ball-room, and as quietly as possible, at ten o'clock, and proceed to his respective division en route. This arrangement was carried out, and the duke himself remained at the ball till twelve o'clock, and left Brussels the next morning at six o'clock for Quatre- Bras. Such were the facts which gave rise to the wide- spread report that the duke knew nothing of the attack of Napoleon till the thunder of his cannon was heard by the duke of Brunswick in the ball-room.

Wellington arrived early in the forenoon at Quatre-Bras, and then rode to Bric, to consult with Blucher. It appeared as if it was the intention of Buonaparte to bear down with his whole force on Blucher; and though Bulow's division, stationed between Liege and Hainault, was too far off to arrive in time, Blucher resolved to stand battle; and it was agreed that Wellington should, if possible, march to his assistance, and vice versâ, should the attack be on Wellington. And we have read some severe reflections on Wellington by German historians, because he did not afford Blücher assistance, but allowed him to be beaten. But any one who had paid any attention to the events of this day must have known that both the generals were attacked at the same time. Ney, with a division of forty-five thousand, attacked the English at Quatre-Bras and Frasnes, whilst Napoleon directed the rest of his force on Blücher, at Ligny, and general d'Erlon lay with ten thousand men near Marchiennes, to act in favour of either French force, as might be required. Buonaparte did not attack Blücher till about three o'clock, and then he continued the battle with the utmost fury for two hours along his whole line. Buonaparte, finding that he could not break the Prussian line, sent for the division of d'Erlon, and then, contriving to get into the rear of Blucher's position at Ligny, threw the Prussians into disorder. Blücher made a desperate charge, at the head of his cavalry, to repel the French, but his horse was killed under him; and the French cuirassiers galloped over him, a Prussian officer having flung a cloak over him. He escaped with his life, and, remounting, led the retreat towards Tilly. The loss of the French in this battle is stated by general Gourgaud at seven thousand, but is supposed to exceed ten thousand. The Prussians admit the loss of as many, and the French declare that they lost fifteen thousand. It was, however, a severe blow for the allies; and had Ney managed to defeat Wellington, the consequences would have been momentous. But Ney found that the British had evacuated Frasnes that morning, and lay across four roads at Quatre- Bras - one leading to St. Amand, the Prussian position. On another, leading from Charleroi to Brussels, was a wood, called the Bois de Bossu; and here the attack commenced on the Belgians. The wood was sharply contested; and, about three o'clock, the Belgians were driven out by the French, who, in their turn, were expelled by the British guards. The battle then became general and severe; the 42nd Highlanders suffered greatly. Ney endeavoured to cut through the English by a furious charge of cavalry; but these were repelled by such a deadly fire as heaped the causeway with men and horses. Ney then sent for the division of d'Erlon, but that had been already summoned by Buonaparte. The battle was continued till it was dark, and the English remained on the field, hoping that the Prussians had also maintained their ground, and that they might form a junction in the morning. But the Prussians had retreated in the night to Wavre, about six leagues in the rear of Ligny, and had gone off in such silence that Napoleon was not even aware of it. But Wellington was aware of it, and, on the morning of the 17th, began a retreat also on Waterloo, where he and Blücher had concerted to form a junction and give battle. Blücher had made his retreat so artfully, that the French were at a loss to know which way he had taken. It appeared as if he had directed his march for Namur, and, about three o'clock on the 17th, Grouchy received Orders to pursue Blücher, wherever he might have gone. This dispatch of Grouchy with thirty- two thousand men to deal with Blücher proved a serious mischief to Napoleon, who, not having Grouchy's division to support him at the battle of Waterloo, severely blamed him, and charged his own defeat upon him. But it was the ungenerous practice of Buonaparte, whenever he was defeated, to charge it upon some of his generals, even when they had been acting most meritoriously. This he did in Russia, and this he repeated in the retreat on Paris in 1814, and this we shall find him doing again in the battle o£ Waterloo, to the undaunted and indefatigable Ney. Grouchy has shown satisfactorily that he himself first brought to Napoleon the news of Blucher's retreat, and requested Orders to pursue him with his cavalry, but that he could not obtain such Order till noon on the 17th, and then the order was to follow him wherever he went. We shall soon see that Thielemann, by Blücher's Orders, kept Grouchy well employed, and took care to prevent his return to Waterloo.

Napoleon, finding Blücher gone, turned his attentions to Wellington, expecting to find him still at Quatre-Bras; but, as we have seen, the duke was now on his retreat to Waterloo. Buonaparte dispatched his cavalry in hot haste after him, and they came up with his rear at Genappes, where the English had to pass through a narrow street, and over a narrow bridge across the Dyle. There the French came with such impetus that they threw the light cavalry into confusion; but the heavy dragoons soon rode back, and drove the French with such effect before them, that they made no further interruption of the march. Without au enemy at their rear the march was repugnant enough to the soldiers. English soldiers abominate anything like a retreat. They had heard of the defeat of the Prussians at Ligny; and this retrograde movement looked too muck of the same character to please them. Besides, it was raining torrents all the way; and they had to march across fields up to the knees in mud. At five in the evening, however, the duke commanded a halt, and took up his position on ground which thenceforth was to be immortal. He was on the field of Waterloo! Long before this the position had attracted his attention, and he had thought that had he to fight a battle any where in that part of the country, it should be on that ground. Such numbers of our countrymen, as well as men of all countries, have visited Waterloo, that the plan of the battle becomes easy of conception. About two miles beyond the village of Waterloo, which has been chosen to bear the name of this famous battle, and about a mile beyond the hamlet of Mont St. Jean, stretches across the Charleroi road a ridge of some elevation in the open fields. On this Wellington posted his army, his left extending to a hamlet called Ter la Haye, and his right across the Nivelles road, to a village and ravine called Braine Merbes. These two roads united in the highway to Brussels, just behind the hamlet of Mont St. Jean, and close behind the centre of Wellingtons position was the farm of Mont St. Jean; a little below his centre, on the Charleroi road or causeway, leading through Genappes to Quatre-Bras, whence they had come, was another farm-house, called La Haye Sainte. On Wellingtons right, but down in the valley near the Nivelles road, lay an old château, with its walled orchard, and a wood beyond it, called Hougomont - a contraction of Château-Gomont. Below this position ran Valley, and from it ascended opposite other rising grounds, chiefly open cornfields; and along this ascent, at about half a mile distant, Buonaparte posted his army, inclosing by his right the château Hougomont, and commanding it from the high ground. Nearly opposite to Wellingtons centre stood a warm-house, enclosed in its orchards, called La Belle Alliance. There Buonaparte took his stand, and kept it during the whole fight - each commander being able to command the view of the whole field. Close behind Wellington, the ground again descended towards Mont St. Jean, which gave a considerable protection to his reserves, and kept them wholly out of the observation of the French. To make the situation of Wellingtons army clear, we have only to say that behind the village of Waterloo extended the beech wood of Soigne, along the road to Brussels, for the greater part of the way.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 <3> 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

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

Elba >>>>
Buonapartes return
Buonapartes return >>>>
Battle of Waterloo
Battle of Waterloo >>>>
Attack on the Chateau Hougomont
Attack on the Chateau Hougomont >>>>
Duke of Wellington
Duke of Wellington >>>>
Napoleons old guard
Napoleons old guard >>>>
Chateau Hougomont
Chateau Hougomont >>>>
Lord Somersets heavy brigade at Waterloo
Lord Somersets heavy brigade at Waterloo >>>>
General Bernadotte
General Bernadotte >>>>
Marshal Blucher
Marshal Blucher >>>>
Napoleons surrendering to Captain Maitland
Napoleons surrendering to Captain Maitland >>>>
Kingston, Canada
Kingston, Canada >>>>
Church of the Invalides
Church of the Invalides >>>>
Signing the treat of peace.
Signing the treat of peace. >>>>
Tomb of Napoleon
Tomb of Napoleon >>>>
The oasis in the desert.
The oasis in the desert. >>>>
William Cobbett
William Cobbett >>>>
Marriage of the Princess Charlotte with Prince Leopold
Marriage of the Princess Charlotte with Prince Leopold >>>>
George Frederick
George Frederick >>>>
Cawnpore, India
Cawnpore, India >>>>
Officers of the Bengal infantry.
Officers of the Bengal infantry. >>>>
Officers of the Bombay army
Officers of the Bombay army >>>>
Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle >>>>
Henry Hunt
Henry Hunt >>>>
Hunt and people at Manchester.
Hunt and people at Manchester. >>>>
Death of George III
Death of George III >>>>
Royal Vault
Royal Vault >>>>
Brighton Pavilion
Brighton Pavilion >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About