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 17


Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 <17> 18 19

Buonaparte's amazement at the want of military talent in the Prussians was unbounded. He compared the duke of Brunswick to another Mack, and exclaimed: - " The Prussians are more stupid than the Austrians! " On some of the prisoners informing him that he had been expected by way of Erfurt when he was already near Naumburg, he said: - " How egregiously they deceive themselves, those pigtails! " Had they united their forces properly, and fallen on him simultaneously from Weimar, Jena, and Halle, or had they retired into Franconia, and fallen upon his rear, his position must have been perilous; but, says Menzel, such a thing never entered the heads of the Prussian generals, who waited to be beaten by him one after another. Naumburg was seized, and its magazines committed to the flames, and this, at the same moment that it ruined their resources, apprised them that the French were in their rear; and, still worse, were betwixt them and Magdeburg, which should have been their rallying point.

To endeavour to make some reparation of their error, and to recover Naumburg, the duke of Brunswick marched in that direction, but too late. Davoust was in possession of the place, and had given the magazine to the flames, and he then marched out against Brunswick, who was Coming with sixty thousand men, though he had only about half that number. Brunswick, by activity, might have seized the strong defile of Koesen; but he Was so slow, that Davoust forced it open, and occupied it. On the evening of the 13th of October the duke was posted on the heights of Auerstadt, and might have retained that strong position, but he did not know that Davoust was so near; for the scout department seemed as much neglected as other precautions. Accordingly, the next morning, descending from the heights to pursue his march, his advanced line suddenly came upon that of Davoust in the midst of a thick fog, near the village of Hassen-Haussen. The French and Prussian cavalry came into instant collision. The Prussian was much the more numerous, and behaved with great gallantry. They not only repulsed the French cavalry, but made several vigorous charges on the infantry, but without being able to break its squares. Then the French horse rallied again, and repulsed the Prussian cavalry in turn, and drove them from the woods and the village of Spilberg. The battle continued from eight in the morning till eleven, when the duke of Brunswick was Struck in the face by a grape-shot, and blinded of both eyes. His enemies said this was Fortune's revenge, as lie never would see when lie had his eyes open. The loss of the duke was followed by that of general Schmettau and other office« of distinction. This, and the severe slaughter suffered by the Prussians, now made them give way. The king of Prussia, obliged to assume the command himself, at this moment received the discouraging news that general Hohenlohe was engaged at Jena, with the main army, against Buonaparte himself. He resolved to make one great effort to retrieve the fortune of the day: lie ordered a general and determined charge to be made along the whole French line. It failed; the Prussians were beaten off, and there was a general route. The flying Prussians took the way towards Weimar, where were the head-quarters of their army.

But, as the king had learned, that division of the army was also in action, and against the French emperor. Napoleon arrived in Jena on the 13th of October. He had sent the Orders to Davoust to attack Brunswick at Auerstadt, and he, at the same time, prepared to attack the Prussians, under Hohenlohe. They possessed the most commanding situation on the heights of Jena, whilst his forces were in the deep Valleys of the Saal. General Tauenzien occupied the defile by which was the only ascent to the upper plain, and which a few hundred students of Jena might have effectually defended by simply rolling stones down it on the heads of the enemy. With one of those pieces of unaccountable folly which astonish us continually in the Austrian and Prussian campaigns, Tauenzien retired from the head of the defile, as prince Louis had done from the Saal bridge, and Buonaparte ordered his troops immediately to ascend and take post on the high ground of the Landgrafenberg. Going himself at night to observe the fulfilment of1 his Orders, lie found the whole of marshal Lannes' artillery sticking in the ravine. He immediately seized a lantern, ordered others to do the same, and set the pioneers to clear away rocks and stones, and he soon had the cannon all on the upper ground. He then advanced to observe the bivouacs of the Prussians, and returning in the dark, and on foot, towards his own lines, was mistaken by a sentinel for an enemy, and fired at. The firing immediately was followed by others in the advanced post, and lie had a very narrow escape for his life. He only saved it by flinging himself at once on his face, and continuing so till the mistake was made known.

Though Napoleon was now on the Landgrafenberg, there was still the Dornberg commanding his whole position, and the Windknollen, a yet higher ground, whence an active general could have annihilated the French troops, had he duly planted them with batteries. But prince Hohenlohe had done nothing of the kind, and was comfortably sleeping at Capellendorf, as though no enemy, let alone such an enemy, were at band. He was only aroused the next morning by the roar of the French artillery. He was still under the hands of his barber when Tauenzien was driven from the Dornberg. Hohenlohe led his troops up the hill-side, to endeavour to cover this position, but the French, now on the summit, showed the pre-eminent advantage of the post by mowing down his men as fast as they ascended the steep. General Rüchel advanced to support Hohenlohe, but was also compelled to fall back. Meantime, Buonaparte had encouraged his army on the plain by telling them that the Prussians had allowed themselves to be cut off from all their provisions and ammunition, just as Mack had done at Ulm. The Prussians, however, fought bravely, but without effect. Their strongest position was now on their left, where they were covered by a village and some woods. Augereau, supported by Lannes, threw all his force on that quarter, and drove the Prussians from it. Then the route became general, and, to render it complete, Napoleon flung one mass of troops after another upon them, and Murat, at the head of the cavalry, galloped after them, and committed havoc amongst them. The whole chaotic route rolled towards Weimar, where they came in contact with the equally disorganised army fleeing from the defeat of Auerstadt. The scene of horror and confusion was indescribable. They were anxious to retreat direct into Prussia, and to make for the fortified city of Magdeburg, but the French cut off that chance, and they could only hope to reach that city by a very circuitous route. Numbers of regiments disbanded, and fled for their homes, especially those who had lost their officers; others strove to reach the strong town of Erfurt, into which Möllendorf escaped with fourteen thousand men. Nearly all the artillery fell into the hands of Buonaparte, with other spoil, which excited the merriment of the French; amongst these were a vast number of officers' equipage, provided with mistresses, articles belonging to the toilette, and epicurean delicacies. These effeminate officers were the first, says their own historian, Menzel, to hide behind hedges and walls. Möllendorf surrendered the strongly-fortified city of Erfurt at the first summons of Murat. The hereditary prince of Orange was taken prisoner there. Other bands were stopped as they attempted to cross the Hartz Mountains. Prince Eugene of Würtemberg, with sixteen thousand men who had never been brought into the action, foolishly advanced towards Halle against a much superior force, under Bernadotte, who utterly defeated him. Kalkreuth and twenty thousand men joined the prince of Hohenlohe, and then indignantly resigned his command, having been left without any share in the battle. Hohenlohe, on reaching Magdeburg, was refused entrance by the commandant Von Kleist, and even forage and ammunition, and was compelled to make a fatiguing march through the sandy Mark towards Berlin. Kleist, on the first summons of Ney, surrendered Magdeburg, either through cowardice or treachery. His officers, says the German historian, were as ready as himself to surrender, that they might return home to their pleasures. They only thought of themselves, and took no care for their soldiers. Hohenlohe continued his flight for the Oder. He eventually reached the heights of Prenzlow, but there and at Passewalk he surrendered with twenty thousand men. Such was this Prussian campaign, in which the boasted army of Frederick II. was completely dispersed in a mere struggle of three weeks. When Henry von Bulow, who had predicted all this, heard of it in his fortress, he exclaimed: - "That is the consequence of throwing generals into prison, and putting idiots at the head of the army!" This unfortunate man, as if to take vengeance on him for his prophecies, was delivered to the Russians, on the plea that he had condemned their conduct at Austerlitz, and was so barbarously treated by them that he died of his injuries at Riga.

The only individuals who really showed courage and talent were lieutenant Von Ilellwig, who attacked the French guard which was escorting the fourteen thousand Prussian prisoners from Erfurt, and set them at liberty; a Prussian ensign, only fifteen years of age, who, pursued by the French cavalry, rather than surrender his colours, sprang with them into the Saal, and was crushed to death by a mill-wheel; and general Blücher, who, disgusted at the continued retreating of Hohenlohe, in spite of his remonstrances, separated from him, intending to join him again at Prenzlow, and fight his way, through many adventures, to Radkan, in the hope of finding ships to carry him across the Baltic; but, finding none, he was compelled to surrender, with ten thousand men.

Napoleon marched triumphantly forwards towards Berlin. In Leipzic he confiscated English merchandise, to the value of about three millions sterling. He entered Berlin on the 25th of October. As be had traversed the field of Rosbach, where Frederick II. had annihilated a French army, he ordered his soldiers to destroy the small column that commemorated that event. He took up his residence in the palace of the king of Prussia at Berlin, and it is difficult to determine whether his conduct or that of the Berliners was the more contemptible on this occasion. Instead of receiving him in mute sorrow, as the Austrians had received him at Vienna, they cried, " Vive l'Empereur /" and called on one another to shout heartily, lest lie shout take vengeance on them for their apathy. The Citizens, says Menzel, were in a hurry to betray the public money and stores, which were concealed, to the French. Hulin, the new French commandant, desired the chief magistrate, politely, to order the civic guard to give up their arms; but this official immediately commanded them to give them up on pain of death. To a man who discovered a great store of wood to Hulin, he replied: - " Leave the wood; your king will Avant plenty of gallows to hang traitorous rogues, like you." Buonaparte said he did not know whether to rejoice or feel ashamed when he saw the dastardly conduct of the Prussians; and yet his own conduct was little better. The wounded and blind duke of Brunswick had himself to entreat of the conqueror that his hereditary state of Brunswick might be left him, but Buonaparte refused in hard and insulting terms. He upbraided him with his celebrated proclamation on entering France in 1792; with his miserable campaign in France; and with his recent demand that the French should recross the Rhine. He declared that he was the instigator of the whole war, and that he should deprive him for ever of Brunswick. He accordingly ordered his troops to march on that territory and town, and the dying duke was compelled to be carried away on a litter by men hired for the purpose, for all his officers and domestics had deserted him. He found no rest till he reached the Danish territory, where, at Ottensen, near Altona, lie expired. Buonaparte had a particular pleasure in persecuting this unhappy man, because he was brother-in-law to George III. and father-in-law to the heir to the British crown; but he, moreover, wanted his dukedom to add to the kingdom of Westphalia, which he was planning for his brother Jerome. The duke's son requested of Buonaparte leave to lay his body in the tomb of his ancestors, but the ruthless tyrant refused this petition with the same savage bluntness, and the young duke vowed eternal vengeance, and, if he did not quite live to discharge his oath, his black Brunswickers did it at Waterloo.

At both Berlin and Potsdam Napoleon continued to display the same petty spirit of insult and rapacity. He seized the sword, hat, and belt of Frederick II. at his tomb at Potsdam and from Sans-Souci, and sent them to Paris, declaring that he would not part with that sword for twenty millions of livres; lie seized and sent to Paris, also, the finest paintings and other works of art that he could find in Prussia; he issued bulletins and proclamations charged with the most insulting language to the king, and still more to the queen of Prussia, whom he regarded as the head of the war party; he used equally offensive terms towards the Prussian nobility, threatening to make them beg their bread. His conduct and language inspired the French generally with insolence towards the Prussians, and their language and behaviour filled them with a spirit of bitterness that did not die out till it had avenged itself in the invasion of France. There was, however, one occasion in which Napoleon seemed to recollect the magnanimity which should distinguish a conqueror. The prince Hatzfeld, the late Prussian governor of Berlin, was arrested and tried by a military commission, for having written some letters to prince Hohenlohe, whilst still at the head of the army, informing him of the motions of the French. This he thought lit to treat as treason against him, although Hatzfeld was merely serving his own prince, whom France had conquered. The military tribunal sentenced him to death. His wife threw herself at the feet of Napoleon, and demanded justice for the wrong of his arrest, not knowing what was the charge against him. Napoleon handed her the intercepted letter of her husband. She read it, and remained as if paralysed, expecting no forgiveness from such an enemy. "Well, madame," asked Buonaparte, "is this an unjust charge? " The princess could only answer by her tears. He took the letter from her hand, saying, " Madame were it not for this letter, there would be no proof against your husband; " and he threw it into the fire. The act was just, but Ave cannot call it generous; for to have shot the prince on such a charge would have been only adding one more murder to the many he had already committed.

<<< Previous page <<< >>> Next page >>>
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 <17> 18 19

Pictures for The Reign of George III - (Continued.) page 17

Pope Pius VII
Pope Pius VII >>>>
Lord Sidmouth
Lord Sidmouth >>>>
Coronation of Napoleon the First
Coronation of Napoleon the First >>>>
Conscript
Conscript >>>>
Napoleon entering Milan
Napoleon entering Milan >>>>
City of Trieste
City of Trieste >>>>
The Battle of Austerlitz
The Battle of Austerlitz >>>>
French soldier
French soldier >>>>
Birth-place of Lord Nelson
Birth-place of Lord Nelson >>>>
Plan of the Battle of Trafalgar
Plan of the Battle of Trafalgar >>>>
Lord Nelson mortally wounded
Lord Nelson mortally wounded >>>>
View of Peschiera.
View of Peschiera. >>>>
All the Talents
All the Talents >>>>
A Brazilian forest
A Brazilian forest >>>>
Statue of Napoleon
Statue of Napoleon >>>>
Jerome Buonaparte
Jerome Buonaparte >>>>
Sir John Duckworth
Sir John Duckworth >>>>
Trial of Palm
Trial of Palm >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About