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

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The Russians began their retreat, but some of them not till daylight, and then marched close past Eylau, in the very face of the French, who were, probably, as much astonished as pleased at the spectacle. Benningsen could scarcely have known the ex ten of the French losses when he decided to retire. But Buonaparte, notwithstanding that he claimed the victory, was glad now to offer a suspension of hostilities to the king of Prussia, in order to a separate peace, hinting that he might be induced to waive nearly ail the advantages derived from the fields of Jena and Auerstadt, and restore the bulk of his dominions. Frederick William, however great the temptation, refused to treat independently of his ally, the czar. On this, Buonaparte, so far from pursuing the Russians, as he would have done had he been in a capacity for it, remained eight days inactive at Eylau, and then retreated on the Vistula, followed and harassed ail the way by swarms of Cossacks. On this Benningsen advanced, and occupied the country as fast as the French evacuated it. There were various skirmishes, in which the French were surprised by the Cossacks, and prisoners made, but Buonaparte did not venture to turn back and engage in another general battle. The emperor Alexander could soon have raised another host of men, but he was destitute of money and arms. Ho therefore applied to England for a loan, which Ail the Talents thought fit to decline. This, at such a crisis, was impolitic. England ought never to have mixed in this continental męlée, on the sure principle that nations, if worthy of independence, can assert it, but having entered into such an alliance with the czar, at this moment, when aid might have turned the scale, it was equally ungenerous and impolitic to refuse it. It is certain that it filled Alexander with disgust and resentment, and led to his negotiations soon after with Buonaparte at Tilsit. Soon after this the conservative or Portland ministry came in, supplies of muskets and five hundred thousand pounds were sent, but these were, in fact, thrown away, for they did not arrive till the czar had made up his mind to treat with Napoleon.

On his return to the Vistula, Buonaparte displayed an unusual caution. He seemed to feel that his advance into Poland had been premature, whilst Prussia was in possession of Dantzic, whence, as soon as the thaw set in, he was open to dangerous operations in his rear, from the arrival of an English army. He therefore determined to have possession of that post before undertaking further designs. The place was invested by general Lefevre, and defended by Kalkreuth, but capitulated at the end of May. Buonaparte all this time was marching up fresh troops to fill up the ravages made in his army. But, spite of his boastful bulletins, Europe began to be aware that he was dealing with a general who was causing him deep anxieties as well as losses.

The Russians made a determined attack on Ney's division, stationed near Gutstadt, and defeated him, and pursued him to Deppen, where Napoleon appeared for his rescue, and, in his turn, pressed hard on the rear of Benningsen, who retired at his approach. The Cossacks of Platoff, even then, skirmished in the very face of the French van, endangered the person of Napoleon, and, when assailed by a superior force of cavalry, dispersed, and re-formed on fresh points. The Russians fell back on Heilsberg, and there concentrated their forces. On the 10th of June the French came up, and a desperately-fought battle took place, which was kept up till midnight, and then ceased without any decided advantage to either party, but with immense loss on both sides. The Russians then crossed the Aller, and placed that as a barrier betwixt them and the French, in order that they might avoid the arrival of a reinforcement of thirty thousand men, who were on the march.

Thus occupying the right bank of the Aller, and the French the left, or western side, the Russians advanced to Friedland, not many miles from Eylau. At Friedland was a long wooden bridge crossing the Aller, and there, on the 13th of June, Buonaparte, by a stratagem, succeeded in drawing part of the Russians over the bridge by showing only Oudinot's division, which had been so severely handled at the battle of Heilsberg. The temptation was too great. Benningsen forgot his usual caution, and allowed a division of his army to cross and attack Oudinot. Oudinot retired fighting, and thus induced more of the Russians to follow, till, finding his troops hotly pressed, Benningsen marched his whole force over, and then Napoleon showed his whole force. Benningsen saw that he was entrapped, and must fight, under great disadvantages, with an enfeebled army, and in an open space, where they were surrounded by a dense host of French, who could cover themselves amid woods and hills, and pour in a tempest of cannon-balls on the exposed Russians. It was the anniversary of the battle of Marengo, and Buonaparte believed the day one of his fortunate ones. Benningsen was obliged to reduce his number, by sending six thousand men to defend and keep open the bridge of Allerburg, some miles lower down the Aller, and which kept open his chance of union with L'Estocq and his Prussians. Notwithstanding all these disadvantages, Benningsen fought desperately. The battle continued from ten o'clock in the morning till four o'clock in the afternoon, when Buonaparte brought up his full force in person for one of those terrible and overwhelming shocks by which he generally terminated a doubtful contest. There was such a simultaneous roar of musketry and cavalry as seemed enough to sweep away the Russians like chaff. The batteries poured down upon them a rain of no less than three thousand ball and five hundred grape-shot charges; yet the Russians did not flinch till they had at least twelve thousand killed and wounded. It was then determined to retreat across the river, and, two fords having been found, the czar's imperial guard charged the troops of Ney with the bayonet, and kept them at bay till the army was all over. The transit was almost marvellous in its success. All their cannon, except seventeen, were saved, and all their baggage.

As at Eylau, so at Friedland, Napoleon made no attempt to follow the Russians. The dreadful carnage of these battles, so different to that with the Austrians and Prussians, seems to have daunted him to a considerable degree. It was difficult to call them victories, for they resulted in nothing but in a slaughter of his men, which he saw began greatly to disgust his troops. At Eylau, twelve thousand of the French had quitted the ranks as soon as it grew dusk, on pretence of looking after the wounded. Here they did not appear at all elated by the retreat of the enemy.

But the battle, nevertheless, produced important consequences. The king of Prussia did not think himself safe at Köningsberg, and he evacuated it; and the unhappy queen prepared, with her children, to fly to Riga. The Russians retreated to Tilsit, and there Alexander made up his mind to negotiate with Napoleon. He was far from being in a condition to despair: Gustavus, the king of Sweden, was at the head of a considerable army at Stralsund; an English expedition was daily expected in the Baltic; the spirit of resistance was reawakening in Prussia; Schill, the gallant partisan leader, was again on horseback, with a numerous body of men, gathered in various quarters; and Hesse, Hanover, Brunswick, and other German provinces were prompt for revolt on the least occasion of encouragement. Buonaparte felt the danger of crossing the Niemen, and advancing into the vast deserts of Russia, with these dangerous elements in his rear. Besides, the presence of Buonaparte was necessary in France. He had been absent from it nearly a year; he had drawn heavily on its resources, and a too long-continued strain without his presence might produce fatal consequences. To leave his army in the north was to leave it to certain defeat, and with the danger of having all Germany again in arms.

These circumstances, well weighed by a man of genius and determination, would have induced him to make a resolute stand, and to draw his enemy into those wilds where he afterwards ruined himself, or to wear him out by delay. Alexander, however, had not the necessary qualities for such a policy of procrastination; we shall see it was afterwards Bernadotte who planned for him the final Russian campaign, and enabled him to carry it into effect. He was now de- pressed by the sufferings of his army; he was indignant against England; he made overtures to Napoleon, and they were gladly responded to, for Buonaparte had great need of them. Talleyrand, who had arrived at Köningsberg, said to Savary, who had received Orders to prepare bridges to cross the Niemen: - " Do not hurry yourself. Where is the utility of going beyond the Niemen? What are we to find beyond that river? The emperor must renounce his views respecting Poland: that country is good for nothing; we can only organise disorder there; we have now a favourable opportunity of making an end of this business, and we must not let it escape."

Accordingly, Benningsen communicated Alexander's willingness for peace, on the 2Ist of June, and the armistice was ratified on the 23rd. Buonaparte deter- mined then, as on most occasions, to settle the treaty, not by diplomatists, but personally, with the czar - a particular which his nephew and copyist, Louis Napoleon, imitated at Villafranca. A raft was prepared and anchored in the middle of the Niemen, and, on the morning of the 25th of June, 1807, the two emperors met on that raft, and embraced, amid the shouts of the two armies arranged on each bank. Buonaparte was attended by Murat, Berthier, Bessičres, Duroc, and Caulaincourt; Alexander by his brother, the archduke Constantine, the count de Lieven, and generals Benningsen and Ouwarrow. The two emperors retired to a seat placed for them on the raft, and remained in conversation two hours, during which time their attendants remained at a distance. When the emperors came forth, they introduced their followers to each other, and there was an immediate show of great mutual cordiality. The town of Tilsit was declared neutral ground, and became a scene of festivities, in which the Russian, French, and even Prussian officers, who had been so long drenching the northern snows with each other's blood, vied in courtesies towards each other. Amongst them the two emperors appeared as sworn brothers, relaxing into gaiety and airs of gallantry, like two young fashionables. On the 28th the king of Prussia arrived, and was treated with a marked difference. He was bluntly informed, that whatever part of his territories were restored would be solely at the solicitation of the emperor of Russia. The queen did not arrive at Tilsit for some days after the king. She had seen Alexander at Köningsberg, and was so overcome by emotion, that, amid her tears, she could only say, " Dear cousin! " It may be supposed what must have been her triai in having thus to meet the haughty and unmanly conqueror, who hacl not only deprived her and her husband of their kingdom, but had endeavoured, in coarse and insulting terms, to deprive her of her character. Yet she did her best to conceal her feelings, and to ingratiate herself with the man who held so much of the world's destinies in his hands. She said to him: - " Forgive us this fatal war; the memory of the great Frederick deceived us. We thought ourselves his equals, because we are his descendants - alas! we have not proved such." Buonaparte appeared to be favourably impressed by the beauty and sorrow of the queen; but, in his letters to Josephine, he boasted that he was proof against all her arts, and though he seemed, while present with her, to grant her requests, he was sure to send her afterwards a written refusal. On one occasion lie offered her a very magnificent rose. The queen appeared at first disinclined to receive it, for the present of a full-blown red rose, in the flower-language of Germany, is tantamount to a declaration of love; but, recollecting herself, she took it, with a smile, saying: - " At least with Magdeburg! " " Your majesty will be pleased to remember," said Buonaparte, with more of his native hauteur than of French politeness, " that it is I who offer, and that your majesty bas only the task of accepting." The loss of the kingdom, its dismemberment by the conqueror - a mere fragment only being awarded to the king - and the insults that she had received from Buonaparte through all these misfortunes, were too much for her. Her health gave way irretrievably, and she died on the 19th of July, 1810, having often said, that, as Mary Tudor of England said of Calais, if her heart was examined after death, the word Magdeburg would be found inscribed on it.

By the terms of the treaty of Tilsit, Prussian Poland was taken away, but not to incorporate it with a restored Poland, was Buonaparte had delusively allowed the Poles to hope. No; a restored Poland was incompatible with a treaty of peace with Russia, or the continuance of it with Austria. It was banded over to the duke of Saxony, now elevated to the title of king of Saxony and duke of the grand duchy of Warsaw - the name which Prussian Poland assumed. The Polish patriots, who had put faith in the hollow words of Buonaparte, now loudly lamented the discovery of how he had duped them, or cursed him bitterly in secret. Alexander, with all his assumed sympathy for his fallen cousins of Prussia, came in for a slice of the spoil, having the province of Bialystok made over to him, and ceding the lordship of Jever to Holland as an ostensible equivalent. Dantzic, with a certain surrounding district, was recognised as a free city, under the protection of Prussia and Saxony; but Buonaparte took care to stipulate for the retention of a garrison there till the conclusion of a general peace, so as to stop out any British armament or influence. To oblige the emperor of Russia, he allowed the dukes of Saxe-Coburg, Oldenburg, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, who were the czar's relations, to retain possession of their territories; but he returned to Prussia only about one-half of the provinces which he had seized, reducing her very much to the limits in which Frederick, called the Great, had found her before his usurpations. In the articles of the treaty, which were made public, Alexander paid a nominal courtesy to his ally, Great Britain, by offering to mediate betwixt her and France, if the offer were accepted within a mouth; but amongst the secret articles of the treaty was one binding the czar to shut his ports against all British vessels, if this offer were rejected. This was a sacrifice demanded of Alexander, as Great Britain was Russia's best customer, taking nearly all her raw or exported produce. But this sacrifice had ample compensation in other secret articles. In return for this, and for Alexander's connivance at, or assistance in, Buonaparte's intention of seizing on Spain and Portugal, for the taking of Malta and Gibraltar, and the expulsion of the English from the Mediterranean, Alexander was allowed to invade and annex Finland, the territory of Sweden, and, giving up his designs on Moldavia and Wallachia, for which he was now Waging an unprovoked war, he was to be allowed to conquer the rest of Turkey, if he could, and establish himself in the long-coveted Constantinople. Thus these two robbers shared kingdoms at their pleasure. Turkey and Finland were regarded by them as properly Russian provinces, and Spain, Portugal, Malta, Gibraltar, and, eventually, England, as natural provinces of France. In this cool appropriation of their neighbours lands, the selfish, though professedly pious, Alexander had the advantage, for he could readily annex Finland, and could do the same by Turkey, with far more ease than Buonaparte could conquer Malta and Gibraltar, defended by the invincible fleets of England. As for the conquest of England, that was hopeless, so long as these fleets existed, and that of Spain was extremely doubtful. Buonaparte had cause, both in the results of his treaty, and in Alexander's subsequent conduct, to confess that he had outwitted him, and to cause him to nickname him the Greek - that is, in his meaning, a trickster.

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

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