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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 18


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At the very moment that these strange negotiations on the part of England were going on, Buonaparte, who had been appointed to the command of the army of Italy, was achieving there victory after victory. Genoa had shut her ports against our ships, Naples had concluded peace with France, Spain had been induced to proclaim war against us, and Hoche had sailed for Ireland with twenty-five thousand troops. There remained nothing to make our position more ridiculous and humiliating than the message that lord Malmesbury received, on the 19th of December, to quit Paris within forty-eight hours; with the additional assurance, that whenever Great Britain was prepared to accept the terms of France, an ordinary Courier would answer the purpose as well as a lord. This was, probably, the result which Pitt had foreseen, which at once might be used to stop the mouths of the opposition, and to inflame the spirit of the nation, and make war more inevitable.

During the present year strong forces were sent to the West Indies, and the island of Grenada was recovered by general Nichols; St. Lucia, by general Abercrombie, whilst general Whyte conquered the Dutch Settlements of Demerara, Berbice, and Essequibo; but some of these possessions were dearly purchased by the numbers of our troops who perished from the unhealthiness of their climate. The Dutch made an effort to recover the Cape of Good Hope. They were to have been assisted by the French in this enterprise, but their allies not keeping their engagement, they sailed alone, and reached Saldonha Bay on the 3rd of August, when rear-admiral sir George Elphinstone surprised and captured the whole of their vessels, consisting of two sixty-four-gun ships, one fifty-four, five frigates and sloops, and a store-ship. A squadron then proceeded from the cape to Madagascar, and destroyed a French settlement there, seizing five merchant vessels.

Commodore Nelson was employed on the coast of Italy to assist the Austrians against the French, but he could do them little good, both because they were not capable of helping themselves or of being helped, and because the Orders from the English ministers were so contradictory that he exclaimed, " Do ministers know their own minds? " He still lay off Genoa, till the battle of Montenotte rendered it of no further use. Several months after wards he discovered six vessels, betwixt Toulon and Genoa, laden with cannon and stores for the French before Mantua, and drove them under a battery and seized them. On board these vessels he discovered maps and books of former campaigns in Italy, for the guidance of Buonaparte. Nelson next blockaded Leghorn, which the French had seized, and then took possession of Elba and Caprera. He was next called to enable our troops to evacuate Corsica, where sir Gilbert Eliot had managed completely to alienate the minds of the Corsicans. He had expelled the venerable Paoli; he had allowed his own officers at Ajaccio, Buonaparte's native place, to remove the bust of the illustrious patriot from the town-hall, on occasion of a ball given by them to himself, and fling it into a lumber-room and break it; and had altogether so incensed the natives by his proud, foolish, and unconciliatory conduct, that they determined to call in the French. Their countryman, Buonaparte, was now victorious in Italy, and a strong force was shipped from Leghorn, to drive us from the island. Had not Nelson kept the insulted nation in check, and enabled the viceroy to get on board his squadron, he would soon have been a French prisoner. On the 14th of October the stores, to the value of two hundred thousand pounds, were all on board, and Nelson sailed away. He was the man who had won the island, and he was the man to save the troops and property when it was lost. The very next day the French landed at Cape Corso, and took possession of the island. He was then ordered, with only two frigates, the Blanche and the Minerve, to bring away the troops from Porto Ferrajo, in Elba, and on the way captured two Spanish prizes, the Sabina and the Ceres; but he was attacked by a much superior force, and compelled to abandon them. The only wonder was, that he was not blockaded, in Porto Ferrajo, by the Spanish fleet under admiral Juan de Langara, for our Mediterranean fleet was so divided and scattered in different directions, by the Orders from home, that any one division of it was in daily jeopardy of being overpowered. De Langara had sailed with nineteen ships of the line, and ten frigates, up the Mediterranean, to cover the French troops at their landing in Corsica, and then sailed, tacked, and joined the French fleet in Toulon. Notwithstanding that this formidable squadron was in the Mediterranean, Nelson managed to convey the troops safely from Elba to Gibraltar.

During the summer, the French rear-admiral stretched away across the Atlantic with six sail of the line, and, finding our Newfoundland coasts almost wholly unprotected, destroyed and plundered our fishermen's huts and fishing stages, as well as their vessels, and then, returning, picked up a considerable number of our merchantmen at sea, and was lucky enough to make his retreat, by favour of a fog, through our watching squadrons, into Brest. He was ready, after this adroit exploit, to join the great Brest fleet, which sailed for Ireland on the 17th of December. This consisted of no fewer than forty-three sail, seventeen of them of the line, four frigates, six corvettes and brigs, with six transports. On board the transports were twenty-five thousand men, who had been well tried in the war of La Vendée, and abundance of arms and ammunition, as well as extra arms to put into the hands of the disaffected Irish, for to Ireland the armament was bound. General Hoche, who had terminated the Vendéan war, was appointed to terminated all the woes of Ireland, and convert that sacred island into another French paradise. Besides Hoche, generals Grouchy, Hombert, and Bruix were attached to the expedition.

Sir Edward Pellew, who was watching the motions of this fleet, in the Indefatigable frigate, made haste to inform admiral Colpoys, who should have been lying eight leagues west of Ushant with a large Channel fleet, but could not find him. Such was the carelessness of an admiral at this critical moment, when every vigilance should have been used. The fleet sailed out, and anchored in Camaret Bay, but still no English fleet was visible to intercept them; and, had Providence had no more care of England than its admiral, it might have been severely punished. But no sooner did the armament put out to sea again, the next day, than it was assayed by a tempest, and the ships were driven different ways. One of them was forced immediately on the Grand Stenet rock, and wrecked - out of one thousand four hundred souls on board only sixty were rescued. Seven ships of the line, and ten of the vessels commanded by rear-admiral Bouvet, managed to reach Bantry Bay on the 24th of December, but there the storms continued to batter them, and no other part of the fleet appearing, they sailed back, and reached Brest on the 1st of January, 1797. When they were gone, another portion of the fleet arrived in Bantry Bay, but only to be tossed and driven about without rest, to lose several of the ships, and to put back again. As for Hoche, he never saw Ireland; the greater part of the fleet being driven about and swamped in the Channel. Of the forty-three sail, thirty-one only returned, and thousands of the soldiers were drowned in the foundering transports. Sir Edward Pellew, in the Indefatigable, of forty-four guns, and Captain Reynolds, in the Amazon, of thirty-six guns, fell in with the Droits de l'Homme, of seventy-four guns, and, after a severe fight, close in Audierne Bay, south of Ushant, left her a wreck a-ground, where, of the one thousand eight hundred men aboard, scarcely more than three hundred were saved, notwithstanding the greatest exertions of the English seamen to rescue them.

The directory began its campaigns of 1796 with much spirit and ability. The plans which had been repeatedly pointed out by Dumouriez, Pichegru, Moreau, and more recently by Buonaparte, of attacking the Austrians in Germany and Italy simultaneously, and then, on the con- quest of Italy, combining their armies, and marching them direct on the Austrian capital, were now adopted. Pichegru, who had lost the favour of the directory, was superseded by Moreau, and that general and Jourdan were sent to the Rhine. Jourdan, full of confidence from his victories over Clairfayt the previous year, took the command of sixty- three thousand foot and eleven thousand horse, at Coblentz, and immediately invested the famous fortress of Ehrenbreitstein, on the opposite bank of the river. Moreau was sent to head the army at Strasburg, consisting of seventy-two thousand foot and nearly seven thousand horse. Jourdan found himself soon menaced by the archduke Charles, the emperor's brother, the ablest and most alert general that the Austrians possessed at this period. He advanced rapidly on Jourdan's position with seventy thousand foot and twenty thousand horse, defeated a division of Jourdan's army under general Lefevre, and compelled Jourdan himself to raise the siege. But the archduke, out of too much anxiety for Wurmser, who was opposed to Moreau with much inferior forces, ascended the Rhine to support him, and Jourdan immediately availed himself of his absence to advance and seize Frankfort on the Maine, Würtzburg, and other towns. Moreau advanced to drive back Wurmser and the archduke, till a union with Jourdan would enable them to fall conjointly on the Austrians. But the archduke perceived that, in consequence of the orders of the directory, Moreau was spreading his army too wide, and he retreated so as to enable Wurmser to join him, and then to make a sudden attack on the French lines, weakened by too much extension, so as to prevent the Austrians turning his flanks. This retrograde movement was mistaken, both by friends and enemies, for a sign of weakness; and, whilst Moreau advanced with increased confidence, many of the raw contingents of the archduke's army deserted, and several of the petty states of Germany sued to the directory for peace. But the moment for the action of the archduke had now arrived. Whilst Moreau was extending his lines into Bavaria, and had seized Ulm and Donauwerth, and was preparing to occupy the defiles of the Tyrol, the archduke Charles made a rapid detour, and, on the 24th of August, fell on Jourdan at Amberg, and completely defeated him. He then followed him to Würtzburg, and, on the 3rd of September, routed him again. With a velocity extraordinary in an Austrian, the archduke pushed on after Jourdan's flying battalions, and, on the 16th of September, gave him a third defeat at Aschaffenburg, and drove his army over the Rhine.

Moreau - left in a critical position, so far from the frontiers of France, and hopeless of any aid from Jourdan, who had lost twenty thousand men, and nearly all his artillery and baggage - made haste to retrace his steps. He commenced his retreat, on the 25th of September, through the Black Forest, and chastised general Latour, who pressed on his rear with about twenty-four thousand men, on the 2nd of October, at Biberach; but he only reached the Rhine to encounter the archduke, who gave him two terrible defeats - the one on the 19th of October, at Emmendingen, and the other, on the following day, at Schliengen. Thus both of the French armies were beaten back to the left bank of the Rhine, and Germany was saved.

But, meantime, in Italy, the French had been completely successful. Buonaparte had married Marie-Joseph Rose Detacher de la Pagérie Beauharnais, the widow of general, and formerly viscount Beauharnais, who was one of the victims of Robespierre, having been beheaded only four days before that monster's own execution. Madame Beauharnais, better known as Josephine, was a Creole, of much beauty, and more goodness. She was herself imprisoned under the reign of terror, and only liberated on the triumph of the Thermidoriens. She was a friend of madame Tallien, at whose house Buonaparte met her, and married her on the 9th of March, 1796, three days before his setting out for the Italian army, to the command of which he was promoted by the interest of Tallien - or, rather, of madame Tallien - though both Barras and Carnot, after his splendid success, claimed the honour of the appointment. As we have seen, Buonaparte had been assiduously studying the map of Italy during his interval of neglect in Paris, and enthusiastically pointing out the conquests to be made in Italy. He was now called to realise his views. He reached the French head-quarters at Nice on the 26th of March, and immediately set himself to organise and energise the forces, which he found in great disorder; he found the commissariat, also, in a deplorable condition. The troops amounted to fifty thousand; the Austrians, under the veteran general Beaulieu, to considerably more.

The united army of the Sardinians and Austrians, general Beaulieu on the left, d'Argenteau in the centre, and Colli, with the Piedmontese division, on the right, hastened to descend from the Appenines, to which they had retreated at the end of the last campaign against Buonaparte. Beaulieu met his advanced guard at Voltri, near Genoa, on the 11th of April, and drove it back. But d'Argenteau had been stopped in the mountains by the resistance of a body of French, who occupied the old redoubt of Montelegino. Buonaparte, apprised of this, hastened additional forces to that point, and defeated d'Argenteau before Beaulieu or Colli could succour him. Having now divided the army of the allies, Buonaparte defeated a strong body of Austrians under general Wukassowich; and, having left Colli and the Piedmontese isolated from their allies, debouched by the valley of Bormida into the plains of Piedmont. Beaulieu retreated to the Po, to stop the way to Milan; and Buonaparte, relieved of his presence, turned against Colli, who was compelled to retreat to Carignan, near Turin. Trembling for his capital, and with his means exhausted, Victor Amadeus made overtures for peace, which were accepted; the terms being the surrender of all the Piedmontese fortresses and all the passes of the Alps into the hands of the French, and the perpetual alienation of Nice and Savoy. This humiliation broke the heart of the poor old king, who died on the 16th of October. Buonaparte, however, did not wait for the conclusion of this peace; the truce being signed, he hastened on after Beaulieu, whom he defeated and drove across the Po. Beaulieu next posted himself at Lodi, on the Adda; but Buonaparte, after a fierce contest, drove him from the bridge over the Adda on the 10th of May, and, with little further opposition, pursued him to Milan. Beaulieu still retreated, and threw himself into the fastnesses of the Tyrol. On the 15th Buonaparte made a triumphal entry into Milan. He sent troops to blockade Mantua, and now set himself to levy those rapacious contributions of which the French commissioners had set the example in Belgium, but whose lawless oppression the young Corsican, and the equally unprincipled commissioner, Saliceti, now cast far into the shade. The directors "at Paris stimulated that plunder of the natives, which was now so fully inaugurated, by constant demands of money. These new governors had no idea that France should support her marauding armies, but that they should support France; and not only money was demanded, but the generals had orders to secure and transfer to Paris all the masterpieces of art. Buonaparte tells us himself that, during this his first Italian campaign, he not only fed and clothed his whole army, but transmitted fifty million francs to the directory. In Lombardy he first levied twenty million francs on the nobility and clergy5 besides seizing their horses and carriages. In fact, be made his commissioners seize anything they wanted - horses, wagons, provisions, and stores. He was severe in punishing plunder by his soldiers, that there might be all the more for the commissioners. These facts are candidly stated in the memoirs of his campaigns, recently published, from official documents, by his nephew, the present emperor. Of course, he made prize of whatever property belonged to the Austrians or their government. At Milan and at Piacenza they rifled the Monti de Pietà, the government loan depositories of the poor. Even the smaller provinces, which had never made war, were compelled to pay heavy contributions, on the plea of purchasing peace. The duke of Parma was charged a million and a half of francs, compelled to furnish clothing for the army, and to surrender twenty of his most valuable pictures. The duke of Modena was mulcted in six millions of francs in cash, two millions more in horses, cattle, and provisions for the army, and fifteen of his finest paintings. Not satisfied with this, they formally appropriated his whole territory a few months later. Examples were made of Binasco and Pavia for resisting the outrages on their property and their women; they were given up to massacre and pillage. Lucien Buonaparte himself is a voluntary witness of these bandit-like deeds of his brother. He says: - " The village of Binasco was delivered up to the flames, to expiate the assassination of some of our straggling soldiers. I traversed the burning ruins. Pavia presented me with a spectacle still more deplorable. That great city had been delivered up to pillage; the traces of blood had not been effaced; the bodies of the peasants who had refused to surrender were not carried away; funerals were going on all sides; and the conquerors were publicly selling their spoils to hideous speculators."

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