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The Reign of George III - (Continued.) page 6


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On the 1st of September the British commander made a formal demand for the surrender of the fleet. The Danish general requested time to communicate this demand to the crown prince, but the vicinity of the French would not permit this, and the next day, the land batteries on one side and our bomb-vessels on the other, began to fling shells into the town. The wooden buildings were soon in a blaze, but the Danes replied with their accustomed bravery to our fire, an 1 the conflict became terrible. The bombardment of the English continued without cessation all day and all night till the morning of the ord. It was then stopped for an interval, to give an opportunity for a proposal of surrender; but, none Coming, the bombardment was renewed with a terrible fury. In all directions the city was in a blaze; the steeple of the chief church, which was of wood, was a column of fire, and in this condition was knocked to pieces by the tempest of shot and shells, and its fragments scattered, as the means of fresh ignition, far around. A great timber- yard taking fire added greatly to the conflagration. The fire-engines, which the Danes had plied bravely, were all knocked to pieces, and, to prevent the utter destruction of the city, on the evening of the 5th the Danish governor issued a flag of truce, and requested an armistice of twenty-four hours. Lord Cathcart replied that, under the circumstances, no delay could be permitted, and that, therefore, no armistice could take place, except accompanied by the surrender of the fleet. This was then complied with, and Sir Arthur Wellesley, Sir Home Popham, and lieutenant-colonel George Murray went on shore to settle the terms of the capitulation. This was completed by the morning of the 7th, signed, and ratified. The English were to be put at once into possession of the citadel and all the ships and maritime stores, and, within six weeks, or as much earlier as possible, they were to remove these, and evacuate the citadel and the isle of Zealand. All other property was to be respected, and everything done in order and harmony; all prisoners were to be mutually exchanged, and all English seized in consequence of the proclamation to be restored. The whole of these measures were completed within the time specified, and seventeen ships of the line, eleven frigates, fourteen corvettes, sloops, brigs, and schooners, and twenty- five gun-boats became the prize of the British, besides a vast amount of masts, spars, timber, sails, cordage, and other naval stores. There were two thousand and forty-one long guns, two hundred and two carronades, and two hundred and twenty-two mortars. Some of the ships, however, were old, not worth repairing, many others required great repairs, and, before they got clear of Cattegat, an eighty-gun ship ran aground of a sand-bank and was destroyed, and nearly all the gun-boats perished in a storm. The prize-money due to the troops alone was estimated at a million sterling. The loss to the English during the whole of the operations amounted only to fifty-six killed, a hundred and seventy- nine wounded, and twenty-five missing. The loss to the Danes was said to be much exaggerated by them, but probably amounted to about a thousand; and this number needed not to have been so great, for free leave was given by the English for any of the inhabitants to withdraw, but this was refused by the Danish governor. Three hundred houses were destroyed, and the greater part of the rest were more or less injured.

On the 21st of October the British fleet sailed from Copenhagen Roads; at Helsinfors the fleet was saluted by the king of Sweden, who invited the admirais to breakfast; and, by the end of the month, was anchored in Yarmouth Roads safely, with all its captives. Fresh offers of alliance with Denmark were made before leaving, accompanied with promises of restoration, but were indignantly refused by the crown prince; and no sooner were the English gone, than the Danes converted their trading-vessels into armed ones, and commenced a raid amongst the British merchants, now in the Baltic, for the protection of which some men-of- war ought to have been left. The crown prince, now thrown completely into the arms of the French, made a declaration of war against England, and the British government issued an order for reprisals on the ships, colonies, and property of the Danes. They also seized on the island of Heligoland, a mere desolate rock, but, lying at the mouth of the Elbe, and only twenty-five miles from the mouths of the Weser and the Eyder, it was of the greatest importance, during the war, as a safe rendezvous for our men-of-war, and as a depot for our merchandise, ready to slip into any of the neighbouring rivers, and thus, by smugglers, to be circulated ail over the continent, in spite of Buonaparte's embargo. It seemed, also, to remind the people of those regions, that, though Buonaparte ruled paramount on land, there was a power on the sea that yet set him and all his endeavours at defiance.

In the West Indies, a squadron, commanded by admiral Cochrane, and a small force, by general Bowyer, reduced the Danish islands of St. Thomas, St. John's, and Santa Croce, and a great many of their merchantmen were made prizes of.

The military transactions of the continent this year were of the most remarkable kind. Buonaparte, after his repulse at Pultusk, had retired to Warsaw, which he entered on the first day of the year, 1807. He calculated on remaining there till the return of spring. " Our halt," says Savary, " was delightful. With the exception of theatres, the city presented ail the gaieties of Paris. Twice a-week the emperor gave a concert, after which a court was held, which led again to numerous meetings in private parties. On these occasions, the personal beauty and graceful manners of the Polish ladies were conspicuous. The time passed agreeably." But Benningsen, the Russian general, was determined to interrupt this pleasant sojourn. He had an army of eighty thousand or ninety thousand men, with a very bad commissariat, and equally badly defended from the severity of the winter. The king of Prussia was cooped up in Köningsberg, with an army of a very few thousand men, and big situation was every day rendered more critical by the approach of the divisions of Ney and Bernadotte, whom the treacherous surrender of the Prussian fortresses by their Commanders had set at liberty. Graudentz, the key of the Vistula, indeed, continued to hold out; and when the French told Courbiere, the governor, that it was useless holding out, as there was no longer any king of Prussia, he bravely replied: - " Well, be it so; at all events, I am king of Graudentz." But Graudentz was now sorely distressed for provisions, and the few other fortresses, such as Colberg, bravely defended by Gneisenau, and Pillau by Herrman, were in the like case. The brave Blücher had retired to the isle of Rügen, and Schill, who had formed a sort of guerilla troop of horse, with which he did such exploits that they are yet sung by the students with enthusiasm, had been shut up by Loucadou, the imbecile governor of the fortress of Graudentz, before Courbiere succeeded him.

But Benningsen hastened to relieve the king of Prussia at Köningsberg; his Cossacks spread themselves over the country with great adroitness, surprising the French convoys of provisions. More Cossacks were streaming down to their support out of the wintry wilds of Russia, and the French were forced from their pleasant quarters in Warsaw, to preserve the means of their existence. On the 25th of January a bloody encounter took place at Mohringhen, where the French, though they claimed a victory, really sustained a decided defeat. This success enabled L'Estocq, the Prussian general, to relieve Graudentz. Buonaparte, alarmed at these advances, determined to turn out and force the Russians eastward, towards the Vistula, as he had forced the Prussians at Jena with their rear turned to the Rhine. To take the Russians thus in the rear, he ordered Bernadotte to engage the attention of Benningsen on the right whilst he made this manœuvre on the left. But Benningsen, fortunately, learned their stratagem, by the seizure of the young French officer who was carrying Buonaparte's dispatches to Bernadotte. Benningsen was therefore enabled to defeat Buonaparte's object. It was his interest to have avoided an engagement with the French, and to have. worn them out by intercepting their supplies and harassing their outposts; but his own destitution did not permit this. Amid the horrors of a winter in those latitudes, in the month of February, his troops had no resource but to hunt about and dig out the hoards of provisions buried by the Polish peasants. This labour, added to their military duty, left them scarcely time to lie down; and then they had no bed but the snow, no shelter but the snow-fraught sky, no covering but their rags. It was necessary to fight the French, or to perish of frost and famine. Benningsen, therefore, concentrated his troops on Preuss-Eylau, where he determined to risk a battle. But he was not allowed to occupy this position without several brisk encounters, in which the Russians lost upwards of three thousand men. The battle of Eylau took place on the 8th of February. The position of the two armies was this: - The Russians occupied a space of uneven ground, about two miles in length and a mile in depth, with the village of Serpallon on their left; on their front the town of Preus3-Eylau, situated in a hollow, and occupied by the French, who also extended their lines along a range of hills, parallel to the Russian army, and, in a great measure, commanding it. The space betwixt the hostile armies was open and flat, and intersected with frozen lakes. They could see each other's position during the previous night by the pale glimmering of the watch-lights on the snow.

The French had the superiority in numbers. Sir Robert Wilson rates them at ninety thousand men opposed to sixty thousand; but others calculate the French at eighty-five thousand, and the Russians at seventy-eight thousand. The Russians were superior in cannon, having four hundred and sixty, the French only three hundred and eighty; but the French had sixteen thousand cavalry, the Russians by no means so many, and the country was favourable to the evolutions of horse.

The battle began at daybreak. Two columns of the French advanced - that of Ney, preceded by one hundred and fifty pieces of artillery, and that of Augereau. The Russians, though half famished and half naked, fought heroically, and beat back these battalions, cutting up the division of Augereau fearfully with their cannon. Augereau himself and two other generals were desperately wounded; fourteen thousand men and officers were killed, wounded, or captured. Of the sixteen thousand of that division only one thousand four hundred regained the town of Eylau; Augereau's division might be said to be annihilated. An attack on the Russian left was equally unsuccessful. The Russian infantry stood like stone walls, and repulsed the enemy: their cavalry came to their support, and chased the assailants back, and took a number of standards and imperial eagles. About mid-day a severe snow-storm set in, and drove in the face of the Russians, mingled with the smoke of the burning village of Serpallon, that rolled along the line. The French seized this opportunity to advance six columns, with artillery and cavalry, close to the Russian lines before they could perceive them; but Benningsen brought up his reserve at this critical moment in person, and, uniting with the first line, they bore back the French at the point of the bayonet, and of the long Cossack spears, which, protruding through the smoke and snow-drift, took the French by surprise. The division of Soult and the cavalry of Murat, which were thus engaged, were thrown into disorder. A regiment of cuirassiers, which had made a dash in the onset, and cut through Benningsen's line, were immediately surrounded by the Cossacks, under the Hetman Platoff, were unhorsed by the long spears, and slain. Only eighteen escaped alive; and the Cossacks, immediately putting on the shilling cuirasses of the fallen, appeared in the front of the amazed French in these spoils.

Victory now appeared to declare for the Russians; but, at this moment, Davoust succeeded in gaining the rear, for which lie had been for some hours manœuvring, and threw the Russian left wing into disorder, so that they were compelled to retire and form themselves anew. The French then pressing vigorously on them, the battle was again changed by the appearance of L'Estocq and his Prussians, who had been long expected, and who, now rushing down on the French in three columns, never fired a musket till within a few paces of the enemy, when, acting under their honest and brave commander - very different to the Prussians at Jena - they drove back the French of Davoust and Bernadotte, and again restored victory to the Russians.

But this was but for a moment: the battle of Eylau was a battle of the most extraordinary succession of changes. Ney, at this instant, drove in a Prussian detachment, and carried the village of Schloditten, thus cutting off the communication with Köningsberg, the quarters of the king. Hearing the shouts of the French, Benningsen sent a body of troops to storm the village, and, at ten o'clock at night, Ney was driven out of Schloditten, his troops dyeing the snow as they retreated with their blood. Thus closed the battle. It was such a check as Buonaparte had never yet experienced. He had been beaten at every point; Augereau's division was nearly destroyed; that of Davoust, nearly twenty thousand in number, had been repulsed by a much inferior body of Prussians. Fifty thousand men are said to have been killed and wounded, of which thirty thousand were French. Twelve eagles had been captured, and remained trophies in the hands of the Russians.

Had Benningsen had a good commissariat, the doom of the French was certain. The army, famishing and in rags, was still eager to push their advantages the next day, and the French, if compelled to retreat, as there was every prospect, must have fallen into utter demoralisation, as they always do in flight, and the war would have been soon at an end. At midnight the Russian and Prussian generals held a council on this point, on horseback, on the field. The general sentiment was in favour of renewing the contest on the morrow. Tolstoy undertook to lead the attack on the French lines; L'Estocq urged the same measure. They pledged their lives, that if Benningsen would advance, Buonaparte would retreat, and dwelt on the vast moral effect of this on Austria, on ail Germany, on ail Europe. But Benningsen, sensible of his utter destitution of provision for his army, and that his ammunition was nearly exhausted, hesitated to proceed to a second action with an army reduced twenty thousand in number, and thus to risk being, cut off from Köningsberg, endangering the person of the king of Prussia; and thus the extreme caution, or rather, perhaps, the necessities of the Russian general, were the rescue of Buonaparte. He resolved to retreat upon Köningsberg. No doubt he was influenced by the knowledge that he himself had no other army, nor any other resources to fall back upon, within any short space of time, whilst Buonaparte had, besides the army now with him, another of thirty thousand or forty thousand on the Vistula; in Silesia, twenty-one thousand; on the frontiers of Hanover, eight thousand; near Dantzic, twenty-four thousand; and, in Pomerania, twenty-six thousand, ail elate with victory, and capable of being rapidly marched down in support of each other.

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Pictures for The Reign of George III - (Continued.) page 6

Hall of the council
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Chateau of Fontainebleau
Chateau of Fontainebleau >>>>
Napoleon extricating artillery
Napoleon extricating artillery >>>>
Turkish vessels
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Attack on Seraglio
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General Murat
General Murat >>>>
Napoleon and Alexander
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General Junot
General Junot >>>>
Ancona
Ancona >>>>
Borghese
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Royal shield of Spain
Royal shield of Spain >>>>
Ferdinand of Spain resigning his crows
Ferdinand of Spain resigning his crows >>>>
Dangan Castle
Dangan Castle >>>>
Sir Arthur Wellesley
Sir Arthur Wellesley >>>>
Marshal Soult
Marshal Soult >>>>
The defiles of Corunna
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Burial of Sir John Moore
Burial of Sir John Moore >>>>

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