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The Reign of George III - (Continued.) page 7


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Before they could come to an engagement, the Prussian minister, Haugwitz, who had a great leaning to the French alliance, had been dispatched to watch Napoleon's movements, and to act accordingly. He was to hover at a distance, mark all, and, if circumstances were adverse to Buonaparte, to coalesce with the allies; if the contrary, with the French. A more despicable envoy never served a more despicable and shuffling court. Haugwitz now presented himself at Brunn, with Orders to endeavour to effect a mediation betwixt the hostile powers, but, should Napoleon refuse, to declare war against him. Prussia now thought that the odds were against Napoleon; that he had advanced too far into an enemy's country; that the Austrians and Russians had a formidable army; and that the danger of an attack from the armies in Hungary made his position imminent. Buonaparte, who knew well all the proceedings of Prussia, and meant, if fortune favoured him, to take a proportionate vengeance, said to Haugwitz, " The French and Austrian outposts are engaged; it is the prelude to the battle which I am about to fight. Say nothing of your errand to me at present; I wish to remain in ignorance of it. Return to Vienna, and wait the events of war." Haugwitz, Buonaparte remarked, was no novice; he returned to Vienna without requiring another hint.

Buonaparte continued to advance in the direction of Olmütz. As he drew near the enemy, he one morning, at daybreak, sent for Savary. He had passed the night over his maps; his candies were burnt down to the sockets; he held a letter in his hand. He was silent for come minutes, and then said, abruptly, " Be off to Olmütz; deliver this letter to the emperor of Russia, and tell him that, having heard of his arrival at his army, I have sent you to salute him in my name. If lie questions you, you will know how to answer." This was, in fact, under guise of a suspicious courtesy, to send Savary as a spy into the enemy's camp - a task for which the executioner of the duke d'Enghien was eminently fitted by nature and practice. The emperor Alexander received the letter, which made great professions of a desire for peace, but offered terms to Austria which he knew could not be accepted. Alexander replied to that effect - but the object of Buonaparte was accomplished. Savary had made good use of his eyes and cars, and reported that the young officers about the young czar, who himself was but six-and-twenty, were full of a rash confidence that they should annihilate the French, and counselled the czar accordingly. Buonaparte dispatched Savary yet again. The ostensible errand this time was to bear a personal message, offering, on the part of Buonaparte, to meet the czar, when, lie asserted, everything might be easily arranged. Alexander declined, but sent to Napoleon the prince Dologrouki with the following proposal: - That a treaty of peace should be entered into, restoring the independence of Holland, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy; indemnity to the prince of Orange; and the fulfilment of all the conditions of the treaty of Luneville. These, as might be expected, Buonaparte rejected with astonishment and disdain.

The position of Buonaparte, however, was every day becoming serious. He had a strong army before him, of which the Russian portion had amazed the French soldiers by their steady bravery. Around him were warlike populations, who were beginning to rise en masse, especially in Hungary; and, could the Austro-Russian army only avoid action for a short time, they would have vast accessions of strength; but, unfortunately, they could not wait. They were destitute of supplies; they were in the midst of a poor country, which they had exhausted; and their condition was rendered desperate by the gross improvidence of the Austrians, in leaving that abundance to their enemies which would have given them the most precious of commodities - time. They determined to advance on the French, and decide their fortunes by a battle. This was, probably, the salvation of Buonaparte. The Austro-Russians had abandoned their strong position at Olmütz, and descended into the open plains. Buonaparte, on his part, acting on the hint of Savary, that the Russians were over-confident, affected to retreat; but this was only to encourage their rashness, and to enable him to fall back on a highly favour- able position which he had observed near Austerlitz. Having regained that, he halted, and prepared to give battle.

It was on the 1st of December that Napoleon made his arrangements for the combat on the following day, which would be the anniversary of his coronation. To decide his own movements, he watched closely those of the enemy. Kutusof was the real commander of the allied army, though the two emperors were present; for Alexander had never yet been under fire, and Francis was no general Kutusof had been very successful against the Turks, but he was not a man to cope with a Napoleon. He was brave, but wedded to the old tactics of war, and had not the activity and sagacity to penetrate the plans of his opponent. Buonaparte observed that he was stretching his line too much, with the evident intention of turning the right wing of the French; the left he could not outflank, because it rested on a lake. Buonaparte saw that he was not only extending his front too far for this purpose, but that he had separated his left wing too much from his cent-re. He noted, too, that, although the movements were extremely well executed, there were evidently a great number of raw recruits in the army, and he instantly said, "Before this time to-morrow that army is my own! " his plans were instantly formed, and he spent the day in riding from post to post to see that they were ail fully carried out. Wherever he appeared he was welcomed -with acclamations. When it was dark, the soldiers placed bunches of hay on the summits of poles, and lit them, to make an extempore illumination in honour of the eve of his coronation. They assured him that the next day they would present him with a bouquet worthy of the occasion - the whole of the artillery and standards of the enemy. His arrangements complete, Napoleon issued this proclamation: - " Soldiers! The Russian forces are before you, to avenge the Austrian army at Ulm. They are the same battalions you conquered at Hollabrun, and whilst you have constantly pursued. The positions we occupy are formidable, and, whilst they march to turn my right, they shall present me their flank. Soldiers! I shall direct myself ail your battalions; I shall keep at a distance from the firing, if, with your accustomed bravery, you carry confusion and disorder into the enemy's ranks; but, should victory be for a moment doubtful, you shall behold your emperor expose himself to the first blow. This victory will finish our campaign, when we shall return to winter quarters, and be joined by the new armies forming in France; then the peace which I shall sanction shall be worthy of my people, of you, and of myself."

The plan of battle was as follows: - Soult was placed in command of the right wing, and Davoust, with a division of infantry and another of dragoons, was stationed behind the convent of Raygern, to fall on the Russians at the moment that they had turned the flank of Soult. Bernadotte commanded the centre, and there, also, Murat was posted with his cavalry. Ten battalions of the imperial guard, with ten of Oudinot's division, were placed in the rear of this line, under Napoleon's own eye, with forty field- pieces, ready to act on any quarter whence they should be needed. Lannes led the left wing, which rested upon a fortified position, called Santon, which was defended by twenty pieces of cannon. All being in order, Buonaparte threw himself down in his cloak, by a bivouac fire, for a short sleep. Before daylight he was on horseback, accompanied by his marshals, to whom he had over-night explained, most minutely, his plans; and, as they rode along the lines, he ever and anon said to his troops: - " Soldiers! we must finish this campaign with a thunderbolt, which shall con- found the pride of our enemies!" And the soldiers, in reply, put their hats on their bayonets, and waved them, with cries of " Vive l'Empereur!"

The morning was at first thick and hazy, and the sun rose red as blood, but, anon, the sky became clear, the sun brilliant; and Buonaparte was accustomed ail his life afterwards to recur, as a striking circumstance, to the sun of Austerlitz. The action commenced on the left of the Austro-Russian army, as was expected; but when the Russians, in executing what Kutusof thought his great manœuvre, were about to outflank the French right, they were suddenly assaulted by the division of Davoust, of whose presence behind the convent of Raygern they had no suspicion. At the moment that they were thus taken by surprise, Soult, with the right French wing, dashed forward into the interval, betwixt the Russian left and centre, and cut off that wing entirely from the main army. The emperor of Russia saw this alarming transaction, and ordered forward the Russian guard to fall on and force back Soult. For a moment, this succeeded. The French infantry were thrown into confusion, and one regiment completely routed. But Buonaparte's quick eye was upon the failing place, and Bessières was sent forward with the imperial guard to repulse the Russians in the very disorder of their success. There was then a desperate conflict: the Russian guards fought valiantly, but they were, in the end, compelled to give way before the steady discipline of the veteran French guards. Rapp describes the effect of this strikingly: - " The emperors of Russia and Austria 'witnessed the defeat. Stationed on a height, at a little distance from the field of battle, they beheld the guard, which had been expected to decide the victory, cut to pieces by a handful of brave men. Their guns and baggage had fallen into our possession, and prince Repnin was our prisoner: unfortunately, however, we had a great number of men killed and wounded. I had myself received a sabre wound on the head, in which condition I galloped off to give an account of the affair to the emperor. My broken sabre, my wound, the blood with which I was covered, the decided advantage we had gained with so small a force over the enemy's chosen troops, inspired Napoleon with the idea of the picture that was painted by Girard."

The grand-duke Constantine, the emperor's brother, who had fought in the centre, only escaped by hard riding; the right wing of the Russians followed the fate of the centre, and then the French, wheeling round upon the left wing of the allies, to which Lannes was opposed, this was almost annihilated, by being forced into a hollow, where they were mowed down by the cannon, and were prevented from escaping by a half-frozen lake in their rear. The emperors of Russia and Austria only escaped by the Austrian and Russian cavalry repeatedly beating back the pursuers; and this only was accomplishable by the fact of the retreat being along a causeway flanked on each side by a lake, which con- tined the efforts of the French to the rear. The allies left twenty thousand men on the field killed, wounded, and prisoners; the French lost about five thousand five hundred men, though they, in their usual way, reduced the number to two thousand five hundred. They found themselves in possession of forty of the enemies' standards and the greater part of the artillery, so that the soldiers had amply redeemed their promise.

In the elation of such a victory, Buonaparte issued, at ten o'clock the same night, the following proclamation: - " Soldiers of the grand army! Even at this hour, before this great day shall pass away and be lost in the ocean of eternity, your emperor must address you, and express how much lie is satisfied with all who have had the good fortune to combat in this memorable battle. Soldiers! You are the first warriors in the world! The recollection of this exploit and of your deeds will be eternal! Thousands of ages hereafter, so long as the events of the universe continue to be related, will record that a Russian army of seventy-six thousand men, hired by the gold of England, was annihilated by you on the plains of Olmütz. The miserable remains of that army, on which the commercial spirit of a despicable nation had placed its expiring hope, are in flight, hascening to make known to the savage inhabitants of the north what the French are capable of performing. They will tell them that, after having destroyed the Austrian army at Ulm, you told Vienna - ' That army is no more! ' To Petersburg you shall also say - ' The emperor Alexander has no longer an army!'"

Not satisfied with this exulting proclamation, the next day he issued another, in which lie indulged in the most unscrupulous exaggerations. He then magnified the Russians to one hundred thousand, and declared that, in less than hour months, they had destroyed three hundred thousand men! He boasted that the war was at an end; the coalition of the monarchs of the North with England was broken up. He dispatched Orders to France for the celebration of a general Te Deum; and he accompanied this by the most magniloquent bulletins of his victory. But, had the Russians and Austrians possessed the spirit which the circumstances of the time demanded of them, they were far from being in a hopeless condition. Buonaparte was at an immense distance from his country. Besides the army still remaining with the two emperors - at least sixty thousand in number - there were the strong forces of the archdukes Charles and John in Hungary, and of prince Ferdinand in Bohemia. By bold and skilful manoeuvres, they might have cut off Iiis communications with France and Italy, and have harassed him, without committing themselves to a decided battle, till he must have found himself in a most perilous position. But, as Francis of Austria had run away from his capital, so his heart died within him, and lie gave up the struggle in despair. He sent prince John of Lichtenstein to propose a suspension of arms. Lichtenstein was always favourable to France, and was prepared to make easy terms, though the Austrians thought as highly of him as a diplomatist as they had done of Mack as a general. Buonaparte insisted that they should first break with the Russians, and Lichtenstein said that Francis was quite Willing, and to treat with Napoleon for a separate peace, but that he must claim for the emperor Alexander the privilege of retreating into his own country without molestation. Buonaparte granted this as a favour, and added words so complimentary to Alexander, that they betrayed a wish to complete an agreement also with him. This being arranged, the next day Francis went himself to Buonaparte's camp, where he accosted him as, " Sir, my brother! " Francis is made, by the French, to have thrown the blame of the war on the English. " They are a set of merchants," he said, " who would set the continent on fire, in order to secure to themselves the commerce of the world! " If this was true, it was a very just reproof of England for subsidising, time after time, such helpless creatures as he and his countrymen had proved themselves. Savary says: - " The emperors seemed to be both in excellent humour; they laughed, which seemed to us a good omen; and, accordingly, in an hour or two, they parted with a mutual embrace."

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Pictures for The Reign of George III - (Continued.) page 7

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