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 5

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 28

But the loss of the allies had also been perfectly awful. The Prussians, besides the great slaughter at Ligny, had been engaged in a bloody struggle at Planchenoit, and the English and their allies had lost in the battle of Waterloo two thousand four hundred and thirty-two killed, and nine thousand five hundred and twenty-eight wounded; these, added to the numbers killed and wounded at Quatre-Bras, raised the amount to fifteen thousand. Of British and Hanoverian officers alone six hundred were killed or wounded at Waterloo. Generals Picton and Ponsonby were killed, and Sir Frederick Ponsonby was shot through the body by a Frenchman, ridden over by the charging cavalry, speared by a Polish lancer as he lay bleeding on the ground, and yet survived and lived many years. Colonel de Lancey, Wellington's quartermaster-general, was killed. The duke of Brunswick fell at the head of his troops at Quatre-Bras, without having the satisfaction to witness the final ruin of Buonaparte. The earl of Uxbridge lost a leg, and generals Cooke, Halket, Barnes, Alton, the prince of Orange, and lieutenant-general lord Fitzroy Somerset were wounded. The Austrian general, Vincent, and count Pozzo di Borgo, who had volunteered their services, were wounded, and Sir Alexander Gordon died shortly after of his wounds. So many of Wellington's staff were disabled, that he had at one time no officer to dispatch with a pressing order. A young Piedmontese, of the family of di Salis, offered himself. " Were you ever in a battle before? " asked the duke. " No, sir," he replied. " Then," said the duke, " you are a lucky man, for you will never see such another." When the duke, who had witnessed so many bloody battles, saw the carnage of Waterloo, and heard, one after another, the losses of so many companions in arms, he was quite overcome. In his dispatches he says, " I cannot express the regret and sorrow with which I look round me, and contemplate the losses that we have sustained." And again, "The losses I have sustained have quite broken me down, and I have no feeling for the advantages we have gained."

An anecdote is related in the village of Waterloo which forcibly demonstrates the profound confidence of all those, of whatever station, about the duke of Wellington in his military ascendancy. As hundreds and thousands of dastards - for there are said to have been no fewer than ten thousand of such -;were flying from the tremendous contest to the wood of Soigne, they repeatedly said to the duke's cook as he stood at his door, " Fly! the French are coming!" To which the cook replied, coolly, " No; I shall not fly. I have cooked for his grace whilst he has fought fifty battles, and he always comes home to dinner."

It is scarcely worth while to attempt to expose the assertions of Napoleon and the mortified vanity of the French, which have declared that Wellington made a bad choice of his battle-field, and that he would have been beaten had not the Prussians come up. These statements have been amply refuted by military authorities. The selection of the field may safely be supposed to be a good one when it is known that Marlborough had chosen the very same, and was only prevented fighting on it by the Dutch commissioners. But no one can examine the field without seeing its strength. Had Wellington been driven from his position, the long villages of Mont St. Jean and Waterloo behind him, succeeded by the beech wood of Soigne, would have enabled him to hold the French in check for days - much more for the time sufficient for the whole Prussian force to come up. When it is seen what resistance such a mere farm as La Haye Sainte, or the château of Hougomont, enabled the English to make, what would the houses, gardens, and orchards of Mont St. Jean and Waterloo have done, stretching for two miles, backed by the wood of Soigne' - not a forest choked by underwood, but of clear ground, from which ascend the tall, smooth boles of the beech trees? As to the danger of being defeated had not the Prussians come up, there was none. No advantage through the whole day had been gained by the French, except making an entry into the court-yard of Hougomont. and in capturing La Haye Sainte, from both of which they had long been driven again. The cuirassiers had been completely cut up before the arrival of the Prussians; not a square of infantry had been broken; and when Buonaparte made his last effort - that of hurling his guards on the English columns - they were, according to the positive evidence of marshal Ney, who led them on, totally annihilated. It is true that the Prussians had been for some time engaged on the right of the French, and had stood their ground; but they had been terribly cut up at Planchenoit, and they do not appear to have made much advance till the total rout of the French by the last charge of the English. Wellington had advanced his whole line, and was leading on the pursuit in person when he and Blucher met on the high ground behind La Belle Alliance - that is, beyond the very ground on which Buonaparte had stood the whole day. The Prussians fought bravely, but they did not affect the question of victory or defeat as it regarded the English; they came in, however, to undertake the chase, for which the English were too tired after standing on the field twelve hours, and fighting desperately for eight; and they executed that chase most completely.

On the 19th of June Paris was excited by the announcements of Buonaparte's bulletin that terrible defeats had been inflicted on the Prussians at Ligny, and the English at Quatre-Bras. A hundred cannon and thousands of prisoners were declared to be taken. The imperialists were in ecstasies; the royalists, spite of the notorious falsehood of Buonaparte on such occasions, were dejected. On the 21st whispers were busily circulating that not only had a most dreadful pitched battle been fought, but that the fine French army which had so lately left France was utterly annihilated or dispersed. It was soon added that, instead of being at the head of victorious forces, as he had represented, Buonaparte had again fled from his army, and was in the palace of the Elysée-Bourbon. And this last news was true. Napoleon had never stopped in his own flight till he reached Philippeville. There he proposed to proceed to Grouchy, and put himself at the head of his division; but he heard that that too was defeated; and he hurried on to Paris, fearful of the steps that the two legislative chambers might take. They had proposed abdication to him before he marched with his army; what might they not do now? They had, in fact, already assembled; and La Fayette had recommended them, to prevent their dismissal by Buonaparte, to declare their sitting permanent, and they had done it. Caulaincourt, Fouché, Carnot, Davoust, and Lucien Buonaparte appeared, and announced that the emperor had authorised them to treat for peace with the allies. Lacoste reminded the chamber that this was useless, as the allies had already bound themselves not to treat with Buonaparte. Lucien Buonaparte pleaded vehemently for his brother, and called on the members to maintain the fidelity that they had sworn. " We have maintained it," replied Lafayette; " from the sands of Egypt to the snows of Russia the bones of Frenchmen, scattered through every region, attest our fidelity." The chamber demanded the abdication of Napoleon.

Buonaparte, seeing that nothing was to be expected from the chambers - for even the peers adopted the resolutions of the representatives - assumed the air of the despotic emperor, and demanded of Carnot that he should issue orders for a levy of three hundred thousand men, and should find supplies. Carnot replied that both propositions were impossible. He then summoned, on the night of the 21st, a general council, consisting of the late ministers, the presidents, and vice - presidents of the two chambers, where Regnault and Maret recommended a show of resistance whilst offering terms of peace; but Lafayette said that would only make matters worse. The allies were victorious, and there was but one course for the emperor; and Lanjuinais and Constant supported that view.

On the 22nd the chamber of representatives met early, and again demanded an act of abdication. Napoleon complied, but, as on his former abdication, only in favour of his son. The chamber thanked him, but took no notice of the clause in favour of Napoleon II. The same day the government, having received the news of the escape of Grouchy with the remains of his division, at once magnified the event into the most exaggerated importance, stating his force at sixty thousand - being in reality about twenty thousand. They added that Soult had collected twenty thousand of the old guard at Mezières, and that ten thousand new levies had joined him from the interior, with two hundred cannon. Ney - who had reached Paris only to hear himself calumniated by Buonaparte as having thrown away the guard like a madman, though he had led them to destruction by the emperor's own command, and was the last of all to retreat - rose, and said, " The report is false! Dare they tell eye-witnesses of the fatal day of the 18th that we have yet embodied sixty thousand soldiers? Grouchy has not more than twenty thousand. Not a man of the guard will ever rally more. I myself commanded them; I myself witnessed their total extermination ere I left the field of battle. They are annihilated. The enemy are at Nivelles with eighty thousand men; in six days they may be at Paris, if they please. There is no safety for France but in instant propositions for peace! " These words struck consternation into the listeners.

But Lucien Buonaparte and Labédoyère, in violent language, pressed on the house of peers the recognition of Napoleon II- They persisted in passing it quietly over; but they required Napoleon to issue a proclamation to the army, declaring his abdication, without which the soldiers would not believe it, and, to conciliate them, he complied. Still, fearing lest he should put himself at the head of Grouchy's division, or some other, though small, troublesome force, they insisted that he should retire to Malmaison - so long the favourite abode of the repudiated Josephine. With this, too, he complied, but immediately discovered that he was surrounded by guards, and was, in fact, a prisoner. General Becker was appointed to have surveillance over Napoleon; and it was supposed that, as Becker had personal cause of resentment against him, this surveillance would be rigorous. But Becker was a man of honour; he respected the misfortunes of a man who, whatever had been his crimes, had made himself almost master of the world, and he treated him with the utmost courtesy. Orders were issued by the provisional government for two frigates to convey Napoleon to the United States, and Becker was to allow of his retirement to Rochefort, in order to his embarkation - to accompany him there, but not to permit his movement in any other direction. But Buonaparte lingered at Malmaison for a week. There were thirty thousand troops in and around Paris, including the division of Grouchy, and as the provisional government were averse to the recognition of Louis XVIII. - if we except Fouché, who had been in secret correspondence with the allies for some time, and was too shrewd not to know that they must carry all before them - Napoleon clung to the hope that he might be permitted to place himself at their head, and defend the capital. But this the commissioners had no intention of allowing. They dreaded, by such a concession, to put themselves and Paris once more in the emperor's hands; and when he made the proposal, Fouché asked whether he were laughing at them. The commissioners called on the soldiers to defend Paris, but they replied, why should they fight when they had no longer an emperor? Thus encouraged, Buonaparte again offered to defend the capital as the lieutenant of Napoleon II. - but this request was also refused.

Meantime, the British and Prussian armies advanced, and on the 1st of July Wellington was within a few miles of Paris, with his right on the heights of Richebourg, and his left on the forest of Bondy; and Blucher, at the same time, crossing the Seine on the 2nd, posted his army, with its right at Plessis-Piquet, his left at St. Cloud, and his reserve at Versailles. In this position, commissioners were sent by the provisional government to Wellington, desiring a suspension of hostilities, informing him that Buonaparte had abdicated, and retired from Paris. The duke replied that, so long as the army remained in Paris, there could be no suspension of hostilities, and that he had no authority to treat on any question of government. The commissioners demanded whether the allies would stop if Napoleon II. was proclaimed? Wellington said, " No." Whether they would stop provided they chose another prince of a royal house? - probably meaning the duke of Orleans. As the duke said he had no orders to accept any such proposals, they were useless, and he handed to them the proclamation of Louis XVIII., offering to grant constitutional liberties, and to pardon all offenders, excepting a few who had committed the most recent and aggravated treasons. These were supposed to mean Ney, Labédoyère, and some others. Wellington offered, however, to remain where he was on condition that the regular troops should be sent beyond the Loire, and the town be held by the national guards till the king's arrival. The commissioners did not comply with this demand; and the necessity of such compliance was sufficiently shown by this army disputing the advance of the Prussians on the 2nd of July. They had resisted Blucher both at St. Cloud, Meudon, and in the village of Issy. Blucher succeeded, but with considerable loss; and the next day the French made another attack to recover Issy, but without effect.

Wellington was therefore on the point of entering Paris when, on the same day, the 3rd, he received a flag of truce from the provisional government, asking for a military convention between the armies at St. Cloud. This was accepted, and one English and one Prussian officer met three French officers, and the convention was concluded by the agreement that the French army should retire behind the river Loire, and that the allies should be put in peaceable possession of Paris, with all the defences on the Montmartre side of the city, as well as every other. This convention was signed the next day by Wellington, Blücher, and Davoust, and, according to its stipulation, the French troops evacuated Paris, and marched towards the Loire. Ney and Labédoyère made their exit from the city, knowing that they would be arrested by Louis XVIII., if possible.

<<< 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 28

Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Concluded.) page 5

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About