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


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On his return lord Cochrane received the honour of the red riband of the Bath; but he could not conceal his dissatisfaction at lord Gambier's conduct, and declared that he would oppose any vote of thanks to him in parliament. On this, Gambier demanded a court-martial, which was held, and acquitted him of all blame. Cochrane complained that the court was strongly biassed in favour of Gambier, and against himself, and the public was very much of his opinion.

The difficulty which Buonaparte had created for himself by the usurpation of the thrones of Spain and Portugal, had the direct result which his wisest counsellors foresaw. Austria immediately began to watch the progress of the Peninsula struggle, and the resistance of the Spanish people; and the stepping of Great Britain into that field induced her to believe that the opportunity was come for throwing off the French yoke, and avenging her past injuries and humiliations. She had made arrangements by which she could call out an immense population, and convert them into soldiers. But, in determining to declare open war against Buonaparte, Austria displayed a woeful want of sagacity. To compete with a general like Buonaparte, and a power like France, it needed, not only that her armies should be numerous, but thoroughly disciplined. Nothing could have been lost by a little delay, but much might be gained. If Buonaparte succeeded in putting down the insurrection in Spain, he would then fall on Austria with all his victorious forces; if he did not succeed, but his difficulties increased, then every day which Austria waited was a day of strength to her. Russia, which was nominally at peace with Buonaparte, but which at heart was already determined on breaking the connection, saw, with just alarm, this precipitate movement of Austria. If she rose at once, Alexander was bound by article to co-operate in putting her down; if she deferred her enterprise for awhile, there was every probability that they could issue forth together against the common disturber. If Austria made a rash blow, and was prostrated, Russia would then be left alone; and Alexander knew well, notwithstanding Napoleon's professions, that he would lose little time in demanding some concession from him.

But Austria had not the prudence to guide herself by these considerations. Her ablest statesman, Metternich, and the ablest statesman of France, Talleyrand, had many private conferences with the Russian ambassador, Romanzow, at the house of the prince of Tour and Yaxis, to endeavour to concert some scheme by which this war could be prevented, but in vain. Austria believed that the time for regaining her position both in Germany, Italy, and the Tyrol, was come; and Talleyrand knew that Buonaparte would make no concession to avoid the threatened collision, because it would argue at once a decline of his power. All that he could do, he did, which was on his hasty return to Paris from Spain: he opened communications with Austria, intended to defer the declaration of war for a few months, whilst he made his preparations. He had little fear of crushing Austria summarily. He believed that Soult, having driven Sir John Moore out of Spain, would prevent the English sending another army there; and he was confident that his generals there could speedily reduce the Spaniards to submission. On the other hand, Austria, he knew, could have no assistance from Russia, Prussia, or the other northern powers. All he wanted, therefore, was a little time to collect his armies. Austria had made gigantic exertions, and had now on foot a greater host than she had ever brought into the field before. It was said to comprehend half a million of men, two hundred thousand of whom were under the command of the emperor's brother, the archduke Charles, and posted in Austria to defend the main body of the empire. Another large army was under the command of the archduke John, in Carinthia and Carniola, ready to descend on the north of Italy; and a third was posted in Galicia, under the archduke Ferdinand, to defend Poland. John was to co-operate with Charles through the defiles of the Tyrol, which, having been given over, by the pressure of Buonaparte at the treaty of Presburg, to Bavaria, was ready to rise, and renew its ancient and devoted union with Austria.

Buonaparte had not a sufficient French force in Germany under Davoust and Oudinot, but he called on the confederacy of the Rhine to furnish their stipulated quotas to fight for the subjugation of their common fatherland. Bavaria, Würtemberg, Saxony, and the smaller states were summoned to this unholy work. His numbers, after all, were, far inferior to those of the enemy, and, besides the renegade Germans, consisted of a medley of other tributary nations - Italians, Poles, Dutch, Belgians, and others. It is amazing how, in all his later wars, he used the nations he had conquered to put down the rest. Even in his fatal campaign in Russia - yet to come - a vast part of his army consisted of the troops of these subjugated nations.

On the 9th of April the archduke Charles crossed the Inn, and thus invaded Bavaria, the ally of France. He issued a manifesto, declaring that the cause of Austria was that of the general independence of Germany, and called on those states which had been compelled to bear the yoke of France to throw it off, and stand boldly for the common liberty. The general discontent of the people of Germany encouraged him to hope that his call would be responded to; but Germany was not yet ripe for an effective reaction. Simultaneously, the archduke John had descended from the Alps into Italy, and driven the troops of the viceroy, Eugene Beauharnais, before him. He had advanced as far as the Tagliamento, and laid siege to the fortresses of Orobo and Palma Nuova. The archduke Ferdinand had also marched into Poland, defeated Poniatowski, Buonaparte's general, and taken possession of Warsaw. All so far looked cheering; for the great actor was not yet on the scene. But he quitted Paris on the 11th of April, two days only after the archduke Charles entered Bavaria, and in a few days was with his army at Donauwörth. He expressed the utmost contempt for the Austrian troops, saying, in a letter to Massena, that six thousand French ought to beat twelve thousand or fifteen thousand of " those canaille." He greatly disapproved of the manner in which Berthier had disposed of the forces, for he had extended them in a long line from Augsburg to Ratisbon, with a very weak centre. He ordered Davoust and Massena, who commanded the opposite wings, to draw nearer together. That being done, on the 20th of April, be made a sudden attack on the Austrians at Abensberg, and defeated them. The next day he renewed the attack at Landshut, and took from them thirty pieces of cannon, nine thousand prisoners, and a great quantity of ammunition and baggage. The following day he advanced against the main position of the archduke Charles, at Eckmühl, where, by the most skilful manœuvres, he turned all the enemy's positions, and defeated one division after another with all the art and regularity of a game of chess. Charles was thoroughly defeated, and had twenty thousand men taken prisoners, with a loss of fifteen stands of colours, and the greater part of his artillery. The next day the Austrians made a stand, to defend the town of Ratisbon. They fought bravely; but, a breach being made in the wall, marshal Lannes seized a scaling-ladder, and, whilst hundreds of French were falling under the fire of the Austrians, he planted it against the breach, saying, " I will show you that your general is still a grenadier! " The wall was scaled, and a desperate battle ensued in the streets of the town. At one moment, a number of tumbrils, loaded with powder, were in danger of exploding, and destroying the combatants on both sides; but the Austrians warned the French of the danger, and they mutually united in removing them. That over, they recommenced the struggle, and the Austrians were driven out of the town, leaving again much cannon, ammunition, and many prisoners in the hands of the French. Whilst Watching the mêlée, Buonaparte was Struck on the toe by a spent musket-ball; but he had the wound dressed, and again remounted his horse, and watched the progress of the battle.

In five days, which he had boasted would be enough to finish the campaign, he had snatched the most damaging victories from the Austrians. The archduke Charles retreated in haste towards Bohemia, to secure himself in the defiles of its inclosing mountains; and Buonaparte employed the 23rd and 24th of April in reviewing his troops and distributing rewards. He created Davoust the duke of Eckmühl, for his brilliant conduct in carrying out his manoeuvres on that field, and dispensed honours with a liberal hand. General Hiller, who, with the archduke Louis, had been defeated at Landshut, had united himself to a considerable body of reserve, and placed himself on the way, as determined to defend the capital. He retreated upon Ebersberg, where one only bridge over the Traun gave access to the place, the banks of the river being steep and rocky. He had thirty thousand men to defend this bridge, and trusted to detain the French there till the archduke Charles could come up again with reinforcements, when they might jointly engage them. But Massena made a desperate onset on the bridge, and, after a very bloody encounter, carried it. Hiller then retreated to the Danube, which he crossed by the bridge of Mautern, and, destroying it after him, continued his march to join the archduke Charles. This left the road open to Vienna, and Buonaparte steadily advanced upon it. The archduke Charles, becoming aware of this circumstance, returned upon his track, hoping to reach Vienna before him, in which case he might have made a long defence. But Buonaparte was too nimble for him: he appeared before the walls of the city, and summoned it to surrender. The archduke Maximilian kept the place with a garrison of fifteen thousand men, and he held out for three or four days. Buonaparte then commenced Hinging bombs into the most thickly populated parts of the city, and warned the inhabitants of the horrors they must suffer from a siege. All the royal family had quitted the city except Maximilian and the young archduchess, Maria Louisa, who was ill. This was notified to Buonaparte, and he ordered the palace to be exempted from the attack. This was the young lady destined very soon to supersede the empress Josephine in the imperial honours of France. The city capitulated on the 12th of May, the French took possession of it, and Napoleon resumed his residence at the palace of Schönbrunn, on the outskirts.

Buonaparte's army now occupied the city and the right bank of the Danube. The archduke arrived, and posted himself on the left bank. The river was swollen with the spring rains and the melting of the snow in the mountains. All the bridges had been broken down by which Buonaparte might cross to attack the Austrians before they were joined by their other armies. Buonaparte endeavoured to throw one over at Nussedorf, about a league above Vienna, but the Austrians drove away his men. He therefore made a fresh attempt at Ebersdorf, opposite to which the Danube was divided into five Channels, flowing amongst islands, the largest of which was one called Lobau. Here he succeeded - the archduke Charles seeming unaware of what he was doing, or taking no care to prevent it. On the 29th of May the French began to cross, and deployed on a plain betwixt the villages of Asperne and Esslingen. Thirty thousand infantry had crossed before the next morning, and six thousand horse, and they were attacked by the Austrians, near the village of Asperne, about four in the afternoon. The battle was desperately contested on both sides. The villages of Asperne and Esslingen were taken and retaken several times. The struggle went on with great fury, amid farm-yards, gardens, and inclosures, and wagons, carte, harrows, and ploughs were collected and used as barricades. Night closed upon the scene, leaving the combatants on both sides in possession of some part or other of these villages. On the following morning, the 22nd, the fight was renewed, and, after a terrible carnage, the French were driven back on the river. At this moment news came that the bridge connecting the right bank with the islands was broken down, and the communication of the French army was in danger of being altogether cut off. Buonaparte, to prevent this, retreated into the island of Lobau with the whole of the combating force, and broke down the bridge which connected the islands with the left bank behind them. The Austrians followed keenly upon them in their retreat, and inflicted a dreadful slaughter upon them. Marshal Lannes had both his legs shattered by a cannon-ball, and was carried into the island in the midst of the mêlée; general St. Hilaire also was killed. Lannes, in his agony, clung to life convulsively. He refused to die; he screamed that he would not die; he declared that the doctors who could not sure the duke of Montebello and a marshal of France should be hanged. He called on Buonaparte to save him, to say that he should not die - as though he could conquer Death as he conquered men. Napoleon was deeply moved; but death did his work on marshal Lannes as on the meanest soldiers, who had died by thousands and tens of thousands that day. The loss in killed and wounded on both sides amounted to upwards of forty thousand. The French cuirassiers were so cut up by the Austrian cavalry, that three thousand. cuirasses were picked up on the field. For two days Napoleon remained on the island, with his defeated troops, without provisions, and expecting hourly to be cut to pieces. General Hiller earnestly pressed the archduke Charles to allow him to pass the Danube, by open force, opposite to the isle of Enzersdorf, where it might be done under cover of cannon, pledging himself to compel the surrender of Buonaparte and his army. But the archduke appeared under a spell from the moment that the fighting was over. Having his enemy thus cooped up, it was in his power to cut off all his supplies. By crossing the river higher or lower, he could have kept possession of both banks, and at once have cut off Buonaparte's magazines at Ebersdorf, under Davoust, and from which he was separated by the inundation. By any other general, the other armies under his brother would have been ordered up by express; every soldier and every cannon that Austria could muster within any tolerable distance would have been summoned to surround and secure the enemy, taken at such disadvantage. In no other country but Austria could Napoleon have ever left that island but as a prisoner with a surrendered army. Everlasting fame and the salvation of Europe depended on it; and yet for six weeks the archduke allowed Buonaparte to remain unmolested, imagining that he could escape from the island only by the way he went in. Imagine an Austrian army thus enveloped by a French one, and that it could ever escape, or do anything but surrender at discretion.

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

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