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The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 11


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Every one knows how well these instructions were carried out; how the final hope of Napoleon was destroyed by the conflagration of Moscow, and the terrors of that fearful retreat, in which clouds of Cossacks, mingling with those of; the snow and hail, completed the most horrible tragedy which the. history of wars from the world's foundation contains; with what consummate ability Bernadotte led; his Swedes, through all the great and eventful campaign of 1813, from Leipsic to Paris, and how he received his reward the possession of Norway, and a family compact between himself and the czar of Russia; while Denmark, with a fatal blindness to the signs of the times, adhered to the falling power, and became, like Saxony, dismembered and debilitated.

To any one viewing the situation of Buonaparte at this r moment, it can appear nothing but an act of madness to invade Russia. The English, in Spain, were now defeating; his best generals, and it would at an earlier period have, caused Buonaparte to hasten to that country and endeavour to settle the war in person. It is remarkable that he was not desirous to cope with Wellington himself, all his ablest generals having failed. But to leave such an enemy in his rear when he proceeded to the north, impresses us with the idea that his enormous success had now turned his head, and: that the term of his career, as appointed by Providence, had been reached. Besides Spain, too, there were Prussia and Austria, with whom it was only politic to enter into some terms of security; for assuredly, if his arms suffered a reverse in Russia, all these would rise and join his enemies.

The king of Prussia was anxious to unite with Russia, and to furnish forty thousand men for the common defence. But all his strongest garrisons were in the hands of France, and Alexander did not advise him to subject his territories to the certain misery of being overrun by the French till the contest in Russia was decided; for Alexander meant to fall back during the early part of the campaign, and could, therefore, lend no aid to Prussia. It was agreed, therefore, that Prussia should afford the demanded twenty thousand men and sixty pieces of artillery to the army of Napoleon, and act according to circumstances. Prussia was also to furnish the French army with all that it required during its march across it, the charge to be deducted from the debt of Prussia to France.

Austria also furnished thirty thousand men, under prince Schwartzenberg, but with secret orders to do no more than just keep up appearances, as Alexander had done during the campaign of Wagram. It was of the utmost consequence that Turkey should have been conciliated by Napoleon. Russia had long been ravaging and seizing the outlying provinces of that empire, and nothing could have been more plain than the policy of engaging Turkey against Russia at this crisis, to divide its attention by menacing its eastern boundaries. But Buonaparte, ever since the treaty of Tilsit, had been neglecting the Turks, to allow his ally, Alexander, to make his aggressions on them, and now he altered his plan too late. When he made overtures, so late as March of this year, not only to put them in possession of Moldavia and Wallachia, but to recover the Crimea for the Turks, on condition that they should invade Russia from the east with a hundred thousand men, his offer was rejected, the porte having already been persuaded by the English to make peace with Russia at Bucharest. Thus France, entering on this great enterprise, left, east and west behind it, Turkey and Sweden in open hostility, and carried with her Austria and Prussia as very dubious allies. At the same time the news arrived of the fall of Ciudad Rodrigo, in Spain, and, with this, the certainty that England would do all in her power to arouse and support the enemies of Napoleon in every quarter.

Under the influence of this persuasion, Buonaparte suddenly made overtures of peace to England, though, on the conditions which he proposed, they were certain to be rejected. The duke of Bassano wrote to lord Castlereagh, offering to secure the independence of Spain under the present reigning dynasty; that Portugal should continue under the rule of the house of Braganza, and Naples under Murat. Lord Castlereagh replied, that if by the present reigning dynasty of Spain was meant king Joseph, there could be no treaty, and there the matter ended; for even Fouché says that Napoleon's ministers were ashamed of so clumsy a proposal of ignorance and bad faith. Failing with England, Buonaparte turned to Russia herself, intimating a desire for peace, but not finding it in his heart to offer any terms likely to be accepted. In fact, he was now so demented by the ambition which meant soon to destroy him, that he fancied that a mere mention of peace was enough to win over any of his enemies in face of his vast armies. Including the forces of his German and Italian subsidiaries, he had on foot one million one hundred and eighty-seven thousand men. Of these, he led four hundred and seventy thousand men into Russia. Italy, Naples, Austria, Prussia, Wurtemberg, Baden, Saxony, Westphalia, and other confederates of the Rhine furnished each from twenty thousand to sixty thousand men. To swell up his French portion, he had called out two conscriptions, each of a hundred thousand men, in one year, and had organised a new system of conscription, under the name of " national guards," which professedly were only to serve in France as a militia, but which were soon drafted off into foreign service. This consisted of three levies, or bans - "the ban," "the second ban," and "the arrière ban." They included all who were capable of bearing arms of all classes. The ban was composed of youths from twenty to twenty-six years of age; the second ban of men from twenty-six to forty, and the arrière ban of those from forty to sixty. By such means was the native population of France being rapidly drawn off into destruction by this restless modern Moloch.

On receiving the emperor Alexander's decisive reply that no terms could be entered into with Napoleon till he had evacuated both Pomerania and Prussia, Buonaparte - who professed to be greatly insulted by the demand - immediately set out from Paris for the northern army, on the 9th of May, and left his passports for the Russian ambassador, which were delivered two days afterwards. Buonaparte, accompanied by Maria Louisa, proceeded immediately to Dresden, to which place he had invited, or rather summoned, all his allied and vassal monarchs to meet him. There, accordingly, were assembled the emperor and empress of Austria - the empress being the sister of the expelled duke of Modena, and mother-in-law of the empress of the French - the solitary king of Prussia (whose queen had perished under the calumnies and insults of Napoleon), and a crowd of lesser German monarchs. Whilst Napoleon was playing the host to these crowned heads, and treating them to banquets, plays, and operas, he was closeted with his cabinet, still planning fresh humiliations for them when he had utterly extinguished Russia. He declared to them that he should take Galicia from Austria, and Silesia from Prussia. He summoned the abbé de Pradt, now archbishop of Malines, and bade him go and promise the Poles the restoration of their kingdom, so as to induce them all to follow him in a mass to Russia. " I will," he said, " put all Poland on horseback! I am on my way to Moscow. Two battles there will do the business! I will burn Thoula! The emperor Alexander will come on his knees; and then Russia is disarmed. All is ready, and only waits my presence. Moscow is the heart of their empire. Besides, I make war at the expense of the blood of the Poles! I will leave fifty thousand of my Frenchmen in Poland. I will convert Dantzic into another Gibraltar."

In this wild but confident manner did this now pride- blinded man talk. And all the time he had no intention whatever of re-establishing the Poles; he meant only to use them. Once more, however, he sent general Lauriston and the count Narbonne to the emperor Alexander at Wilna. The pretext was to invite him to Dresden, " where," he said, " all might be arranged;" the real object was to spy out the forces and preparations of the czar. Alexander refused to see Lauriston, and gave to Narbonne a very curt and warlike answer. The French emissaries found the Russians neither depressed nor elated, but quietly cheerful and determined.

Buonaparte put his enormous masses in motion. His object was to push rapidly forward, and beat the Russians by one of those sudden and decisive blows by which he had won all his victories. He expected that he should not be able to supply his vast army with provisions in Russia, and therefore he had had thousands of wagons and carts pre- pared to draw his stores. He meant to seize one of the capitals of the country - St. Petersburg or Moscow; and that, he quite imagined, would finish the campaign, the Russians being then glad to capitulate; and he resolved to concede no terms but such as should shut out the Muscovites from Europe, and replace them with Poles. " Let us march! " he said to his soldiers. " Let us cross the Niemen; let us carry war into Russia. The war will be glorious; and the peace will terminate that haughty influence which she has exercised for more than fifty years on Europe." But his old general, Bernadotte, had foreseen and defeated his plans. Alexander had commanded his generalissimo, Barclay de Tolly, to show only so much opposition as should draw the French on into the heart of Russia, and then - when they were exhausted by famine along a line of desolation, and by their march - to harass them on all sides. Should the French succeed in pressing so far, a Russian Torres Vedras was prepared for them on the river Düna, at Drissa, so as to protect St. Petersburg.

Of Napoleon's monster army, marshal Macdonald commanded the left wing - the Austrians, on the right, under Schwartzenberg - and the main body, consisting of a succession of vast columns, commanded by the most famous French generals, including Bessieres, Lefebvre, Mortier, Davoust, Oudinot, Ney, Grouchy, king Jerome of Westphalia, Junot, Poniatowski, Regnier, Eugene, viceroy of Italy, &c.; and Murat commanding all the cavalry. Buonaparte led this centre of two hundred and fifty thousand men with his imperial guard. To oppose this huge army, composed of numbers and of officers such as the world had not seen before, Alexander had about two hundred and sixty thousand men. He lay at Wilna, with Barclay de Tolly and one hundred and twenty thousand men. In différent positions, more northwards, lay count Essen, prince Bragation, the Hettman Platoff, with twelve thousand Cossacks; and, watching the Austrian right in Volhynia, lay general Tormazoff, with twenty thousand men. Advancing on them in three vast masses, the French army approached the Niemen - the king of Westphalia directing his march on Grodno, the viceroy of Italy on Pilony, and Buonaparte himself on Nagaraiski, three leagues beyond Kovno. On the 23rd of Juno the head of Napoleon's column came upon the Niemen, and saw the other bank covered with vast and gloomy forests. As the emperor rode up to reconnoitre this scene, his horse stumbled and threw him; and a voice, from the crowd behind him, was heard saying, " A bad omen! A Roman would return! " When the head of the column the next morning crossed the river, a single Cossack issued from the solemn woods, and demanded their reason for violating the Russian soil. The soldiers replied, " To beat you, and take Wilna! " The Cossack disappeared, and left all solitary as before. Three days were required to get the army across, and before they could pitch their tents they were assailed by a violent thunderstorm, accompanied by torrents of rain.

The Russians were found to be falling back as they advanced, and Buonaparte - impatient to overtake and rout them - pushed forward his troops rapidly. On reaching the river Wilna it was found to be swollen by the rain, and the bridges over it were demolished; but Buonaparte ordered a body of Polish lancers to cross it by swimming. They dashed into the torrent, and were swept away by it almost to a man, and drowned before the eyes of the whole army.

On the 28th of June, however, Napoleon managed to reach Wilna, which Barclay de Tolly had evacuated at his approach, and there he remained till the 16th of July, for he had outmarched his supplies, few of his wagons having even reached the Niemen, owing to the State of the country through which they had to be dragged, and the Russians had taken care to carry off or destroy all provisions for man and horse as they retreated. His vast host began, therefore, at once to feel all the horrors of famine, and of those other horrors that were soon to destroy them by hundreds of thousands. Meantime, the mission of the abbé de Pradt to Poland had failed. The abbé, believing in the reality of the promises of Buonaparte, had faithfully executed his mission. The Poles met in diet at Warsaw, and expressed their gratitude to the emperor for his grand design of restoring their nation. The country was all enthusiasm, and a host of soldiers would soon have appeared to join his standard, when Napoleon returned them an evasive answer, saying that he could not do all that he wished, as lie was under engagement to Austria not to deprive her of Galicia. As to the provinces held by Russia, he assured them that - provided they showed themselves brave in his cause - " Providence would crown their good cause with success." This positive information regarding Austria - this vague Statement regarding Russia, at once showed the hollow hypocrisy of the man, and from that moment all faith was lost in him in Poland. To have restored Poland was in the power of Buonaparte, and would have been the act of a great man; but Buonaparte was not a great man, morally: he could not form a noble design - he could form only a selfish one. But he immediately felt the consequences of his base deceit. The Poles remained quiet; nor did the people of Lithuania respond to his calls on them to rise in insurrection against Russia. They saw that he had intended to deceive the Poles, and they felt that, should he made peace with Russia, he would at once sacrifice them. They were about to form a guard of honour for him, but they instantly abandoned the design; and thus his miserable policy destroyed all the effect which he contemplated from the action of the nations on the Russian frontiers.

During the eighteen days that Buonaparte halted at Wilna, he was actively employed in endeavouring to cut asunder the Russian host. Whilst Barclay de Tolly, under the czar, commanded the main force, which had now fallen back from Wilna to Drissa, prince Bragation was lying far to the south-east in Poland, at Volkovisk, with seven thousand cossacks under Platoff at Grodno, and another body of men under Dorokhoff as far as Lida. Buonaparte ordered Murat, with his cavalry, to drive the rear of the main Russian army in the direction of Drissa. Murat was followed by a division of infantry, under Oudinot and Ney, whilst the king of Westphalia was ordered to advance eastward to cut off Bragation's division from all chance of junction with De Tolly, and Davoust to attack him in the rear. He himself proposed to push forward betwixt these bodies towards Vitebsk, and thus threaten both St. Petersburg and Moscow. By this arrangement he made himself sure of destroying Bragation's division, or compelling it to surrender. But, contrary to his wont, Buonaparte was found not to advance with his usual rapidity; and the fact was that there were sufficient reasons for the delay. His supplies had failed already. The country, already impoverished by a bad harvest in the preceding year, was swept by the Russians of all possible provisions; and the vast horde of French, Germans, and Italians now advanced treading down the unripe corn of the present. From the State of the roads, flooded by torrents of rain, the provision-wagons could not get along. Twenty thousand sick men had to be left behind wherever they could, for they had no good hospitals; and, in crossing Lithuania, one hundred thousand men feil from fatigue, from exhaustion, from surprises by the Cossacks, and from diseases which they brought with them; for the troops were so affected by the consequences of their sensual vices that, as a protestant clergyman, in the year 1815, asserted in a thanksgiving sermon at Geneva, they were a gangrened race, who were fit only to perish. This " gangrened race " - French, Germans, Poles alike - went on ravaging, plundering, violating the women, and killing such as resisted, as they went.

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Pictures for The Reign of George III. - (Continued.) page 11

Prince of Wales
Prince of Wales >>>>
Travelling in Catalonia
Travelling in Catalonia >>>>
City of Murcia
City of Murcia >>>>
The Battle of Albuera
The Battle of Albuera >>>>
Lucca
Lucca >>>>
Venta
Venta >>>>
Cathedral of Tarragona
Cathedral of Tarragona >>>>
Marshal Ney
Marshal Ney >>>>
Storming of the Fortress Ciudad Rodrigo
Storming of the Fortress Ciudad Rodrigo >>>>
Palermo
Palermo >>>>
Arsenal
Arsenal >>>>
Emperor Alexander I
Emperor Alexander I >>>>
View of the city of Moscow.
View of the city of Moscow. >>>>
Destruction of Moscow
Destruction of Moscow >>>>
Travelling in Russia.
Travelling in Russia. >>>>
Grille of the Kremlin
Grille of the Kremlin >>>>
Grand Square of the Kremlin
Grand Square of the Kremlin >>>>
Return of the French army
Return of the French army >>>>

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