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The Napoleonic War (1803-1815). page 2

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On August 1st, 1808, a British army, under Sir Arthur Wellesley, landed at Mondego Bay, on the west coast of Portugal. In a few weeks that general's victories at Roliga and Vimeira compelled the French forces to evacuate the country under the Convention of Cintra. Another expedition, under Sir John Moore, then landed in Portugal, and advanced to Salamanca, in the north-west of Spain. A retreat was forced by the arrival of Napoleon in person with overwhelming numbers, and this brief campaign ended, in January, 1809, with Moore's victory, at Corufia, over Soult, his mortal wound, and the safe embarkation of the troops. In April, Sir Arthur Wellesley landed at Lisbon, after a brief supersession in his command by two incapables. In May his brilliant and daring passage of the Douro drove Soult headlong out of Oporto into Spain. A two-days' battle at Talavera, in July, completely re-established the credit of British infantry in a victory gained by 19,000 young soldiers, little aided by Spaniards, over 30,000 excellent French troops. Wellesley became Viscount Wellington. In September, 1810, Wellington, retiring before greatly superior French forces under Massena and Ney, faced round and repulsed them on the ridge at Busaco, near Coimbra. He then withdrew and wintered in safety, never once attacked, within the admirable and impregnable lines of Torres Vedras, of his own design. Massena retreated into Spain, after incurring great losses of men from privation and disease.

In 1811 Wellington, following Massena, fought with him in May the drawn battle of Fuentes d'Onoro, in the west of Spain, and his great adversary was then recalled by Napoleon, who had ordered him to "drive the English into the sea," and was replaced by Marmont. In the same month Marshal Beresford, an Irish general in the Portuguese service, with a British and Spanish army, defeated Soult in the desperate battle of Albuera, near Badaioz.

Wellington was obliged, by superior forces, to retreat to Portugal, after two repulses in attempts to storm Badajoz. In January, 1812, the British commander fell suddenly on Ciudad Rodrigo, a strong fortress in the west of Spain, and took it by storm, and in April he assaulted and captured Badajoz, another frontier stronghold, thus securing the Portuguese border and having a base of operations against the French in Spain. On July 22nd the great British commander fought and won the decisive battle of Salamanca against Marmont, and in August entered Madrid in triumph. This grand success was a turning-point, not only in the Peninsular War, but in the general European contest against Napoleon. The sound of the cannon of Salamanca, when the news was known, reverberated through Europe from the Tagus to the Niemen. The nations awoke to thoughts, of near emancipation from a master's sway. Prussia, long planning vengeance for the past, felt that the day of her deliverance had dawned, and took fresh heart and hope. Russia resolved to make no terms of any kind with her advancing foe. Napoleon, now fully on the march to Moscow, heard of the defeat with bitter wrath against the hapless Marmont, and took it as an evil omen for events to come. The victor, already an earl for Badajoz, became a marquis, and, by a brief outburst of gratitude from the execrable Spanish government towards the man who delivered their country from the French, he was made general-in-chief of the Spanish armies, a Knight of the Golden Fleece (a dignity most rarely bestowed on foreigners), and duke of Ciudad Rodrigo. After a failure to capture Burgos, Wellington was again compelled, for the last time in his glorious career, to retreat before superior forces, beyond Ciudad Rodrigo, into Portugal.

In 1813, with the salute of "Good-bye, Portugal!" as he crossed the frontier, the British general entered Spain at the head of 100,000 men, and, marching by Valladolid, drove the French before him in a campaign conducted with consummate-skill. The enemy were brought to bay, under King Joseph and Marshal Jourdan, on June 21st, at Vittoria, where Wellington won a complete victory, capturing all the French guns and baggage, with the army-chest, and driving the enemy off in rout towards the Pyrenees. On August list San Sebastian was stormed by Sir Thomas Graham, afterwards Lord Lynedoch. Then, in the famous "Battles of the Pyrenees" Wellington forced Soult back into France, and, winning on French soil the battles of the Nivelle, Nive, St. Pierre, Orthez, and Toulouse, entered Bordeaux as a conqueror in April, 1814.

We must now follow Napoleon's fortunes during the years of the struggle against his forces in the Peninsula. In 1809 the Fifth Coalition against France was formed by Great Britain and Austria, with Portugal and Spain. Austrian forces, under the Archduke Charles, entered Bavaria, and the French emperor, hurrying to the scene of action, defeated him in several encounters, including _the battle of Eckrmihl, in April; drove him across the Danube into Bohemia, and captured Vienna for the second time. In May the archduke, with a fresh army, defeated Napoleon, on the left bank of the Danube, nearly opposite Vienna, in the hard-fought battles of Aspern and Essling, and forced him to the island of Lobau. Early in July the emperor, strongly reinforced by Eugene Beauharnais, who had driven the Archduke John of Austria out of Italy, crossed the Danube again between Lobau and the left bank, and won the great battle of Wagram over the Archduke Charles, driving his army into Moravia. In October, the Peace of Vienna, or Schonbrunn, between Austria and France, ceded much territory near the Adriatic to Napoleon; gave up lands to Bavaria; yielded West Gallicia to the duchy of Warsaw (a kind of new Poland, under the king of Saxony), a proceeding which gave deep offence to the tsar; and made Austria break off all connection with Great Britain, and adopt the "Continental System." Austria was thus deprived of 32,000 square miles of territory, containing 3,500,000 of people, and was further mulcted in a large war-indemnity. This success of Napoleon's was followed by his divorce of Josephine, and his marriage in April, 1810, to the emperor of Austria's daughter, Maria Louisa. A son was born in 1811, who received the title of "King of Rome," but he never reigned, and, under his Austrian title of duke of Reichstadt, he died in 1832. In connection with this Franco-Austrian war we must notice the brave struggle, against Bavarian and French forces, carried on in the Tyrol by the loyal peasants under the command of Speckbacher, Straub, and Andreas Hofer. The enemy, beaten in many actions among the mountains, were driven from the country. After Wagram, Marshal Lefebvre captured Innsbruck, the capital, but the Tyrolese again freed the territory, and Hofer was for some time at the head of the government. The Peace of Schonbrunn yielded the Tyrol again to Bavaria, and the Austrian government induced the Tyrolese to lay down their arms. Hofer resumed the contest, but could get little support, and was finally betrayed to the French, who tried him by court-martial, and, with base cruelty, shot him, as a "traitor," at Mantua, in February, 1810.

Napoleon was at the height of his power in 1810 and 1811. In 1809 Tuscany and the Papal States had been annexed. Holland, Westphalia, and the old Hanseatic towns Bremen, Liibeck, and Hamburg, were added to the empire, in order to give the emperor command of the seaboard, and enable him to render more strict the enforcement of the "Continental System," under which he now prohibited British trade even by neutral vessels. The French empire now extended from Denmark to Naples, and eastwards to the Trave, by Lubeck, comprising 130 "departments," and having a total population exceeding 40,000,000. The capitals of this great dominion were Amsterdam, Paris, and Rome. The fatal war with Russia arose from Alexander's irritation at the Franco-Austrian alliance, and at Napoleon's dealings with Polish territory, and, especially, through the French emperor's dictatorial tone with reference to his favourite commercial policy, which was becoming ruinous to Russia. We need not dwell on the events which ended in the ruin of the greatest military armament of modern days - the crossing of the Niemen, the storming of Smolensk, the fearful battle of Borodino, the occupation of Moscow, the burning of that ancient capital, the horrors of the retreat, the passage of the Berezina, the recrossing of the Niemen on December 20th, 1812, with a few thousands out of more than 400,000 combatants. The immediate results of this gigantic failure were the formation of the Sixth Coalition against Napoleon, ultimately including Russia, Prussia, Austria, Great Britain, Sweden, and some minor German states, and the outbreak, in 1813, of the great "War of Liberation" in central Europe.

The revival of Prussia after the misfortunes of 1806 needs a special notice in this narrative, for never did a sovereign and a nation more nobly turn to use the lessons of adversity. The king, Frederick William III., was stirred, after his recovery from the first shock of his great fall, to an admirable energy, perseverance, and self-denial, and the complete reorganisation of affairs was taken in hand. In this work he received invaluable aid from his minister Baron von Stein and from David von Scharnhorst, the military reformer. Hereditary serfdom was abolished; the sale and purchase of land were freed from feudal restrictions; the privileges of caste came to an end; a class of peasant-proprietors arose on the crownlands. Monopolies and other obstacles to freedom of trade were swept away. A complete financial reform was made. Seeking to lay a basis of political freedom and responsibility in the middle class, Stein inaugurated a new municipal system which freed citizens from military officialism, and, in a word, he founded the subsequent greatness of his country. After his retirement in November, 1808, a measure enforced by the jealousy of Napoleon, the work was carried on by the minister Hardenberg. The military changes were due to the highly scientific and practical General Scharnhorst, the son of a Hanoverian peasant. His system of short-service enabled him to evade Napoleon's restriction of numbers in the ranks of the standing-army by passing through discipline continual fresh drafts of men. Thus, in a few years' time, a large part of the male population was trained for war, and a new army of citizen-soldiers was created in the Landwehr (land-defence), or first reserve, and the Landsturm, or men to be called out only in the case of invasion. At the same time, under the direction of Wilhelm von Humboldt, the excellent modern system of Prussian education was established, and the University of Berlin was founded. All classes joined in the resolve to free the country from the French yoke. The poet Arndt stirred patriotic hearts by fiery song. The philosopher Fichte, in his enthusiastic "Addresses to the Germans," full of impassioned eloquence, summoned his countrymen to the high duty of founding an empire of reason in which intellect alone should guide human affairs, and pointed out the true means of national regeneration in a system of public instruction. Men of all ranks, especially students and professors, joined in forming the "Tugendbund," or "League of Virtue," devoted ostensibly to educational reform, but secretly cherishing the plan of freedom from foreign domination over the Fatherland. Such was the Prussia to which her king appealed in February, 1813, calling upon her youthful men to arm in her defence. An alliance was made with the tsar, who some years before had met the Prussian monarch at midnight by the tomb of the great Frederick, where they swore to be true to each other in any future contest for the deliverance of Germany and Europe. The Prussian people at once rushed to arms, and Alexander brought his hosts into the field.

The new struggle against Napoleon lasted for over twelve months. He had, with wonderful energy, raised fresh forces, and had at first the best of the contest. In May the allies were defeated by him at Liitzen and Bautzen, in Saxony, where he met a combined force of Russians and Prussians. After an armistice, during which Napoleon's pride made him refuse reasonable concessions to Austria, that power joined his foes, and the war reopened in August with the French marshal Macdonald's utter defeat by Blucher, the brave Prussian general, at the Katzbach river, in Silesia, and the French emperor's great victory over the Austrians at Dresden. Then, after much marching and counter-marching and some disasters to French commanders, the campaign in Germany ended in October with the great two-days' battle at Leipzig, fought by over half a million of men, above three-fifths of whom were those of the allies. Entire defeat in this mighty struggle forced Napoleon beyond the Rhine, and he was then engaged in defending the roads to Paris against overwhelming Austrian, Prussian, and Russian forces. Again and again, during this period, Napoleon, in the very insanity of arrogant trust in his "star," or in the belief that concession would be fatal to his interests in France, rejected terms which would have left him ruler of a greater France than that of the Bourbon kings. He never displayed more brilliant strategy or swifter movement than in February and March, 1814, winning battle after battle against isolated bodies, but he could not afford the losses sustained, and Paris was forced to surrender on March 3131. On April nth he abdicated, and retired, with the title of emperor, to Elba, while the Bourbon line was restored in the person of the Comte de Provence, next younger brother of Louis XVI. He reigned as Louis XVIII., Louis XVII. being represented by the hapless young "dauphin," who had died, aged ten years, in 1795, a prisoner at the Temple in Paris, after cruel treatment at the hands of the revolutionary gaolers.

The immediate results of the first downfall of the French empire were the return of Pius VII. to Rome; of the king of Sardinia, Victor Emmanuel, to Turin; and of Ferdinand VII. to Spain. The sudden return of Napoleon from Elba in March, 1815, while the Congress of Vienna was sitting, was due to the information which he had received concerning the unpopularity of the restored Bourbons. The position of public men and the titles to estates were unsettled. The army was full of discontent on seeing high commands awarded to returned nobles - the emigres - who had been fighting in the ranks of the allies against their country. Large numbers of Napoleon's soldiers had been restored to France by the release of prisoners of war, and in the persons of the troops who had been garrisons of German fortresses in the north. All the elements of new trouble thus existed, and the landing of the dethroned monarch at Frejus, south-west of Cannes, on March 1st, 1815, was followed by his triumphant arrival in the capital on March 20th. We need not dwell on the events which closed the historical period known as "The Hundred Days." The Waterloo campaign may be read in Creasy's fascinating pages. The shortest and most decisive campaign on record began on June 15th with Napoleon's occupation of Charleroi, in the south of Belgium. On the 16th his left wing, under Ney, was repulsed by Wellington at Quatre Bras. On the same day Napoleon defeated Blucher at Ligny. On June 17th the allied commanders retired, by different routes, to the preconcerted scene of action at Waterloo, which Blucher, however, was unable to reach in force until the afternoon of the great day. On June 18th the best-fought battle of modern days ended, with the Prussian arrival on the French right rear, in the total defeat of Napoleon's splendid army. On July 7th Paris was occupied by Wellington and Blucher, and Louis XVIII. returned from his brief exile. The defeated man, unable to make his way to America owing to the vigilance of the British cruisers, gave himself up to Captain Maitland, of the Bellerophon, on July 15th. After a brief detention on board ship off our southern coast, he was conveyed as an exile to St. Helena, where he lived in captivity from October 15th, 1815, until his death on May 5th, 3821, after the most remarkable career, considered in all points, in the whole history of the world. In 1840 his remains were removed from the Atlantic island to their present place of repose under the dome of the Hotel des Invalides in Paris. The most famous victims of the great man's final fall were "the bravest of the brave," Marshal Ney, shot in Paris on December 7th, 1815, as a traitor to Louis XVIII., and Murat, king of Naples, who, defeated by the Austrians on May 3rd, at Tolentino, in central Italy, made a reckless attempt to recover his throne by landing in Calabria, and was captured, tried and condemned by court-martial, and shot on October 13th, 1815.

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