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The Life of Napoleon Bonaparte - Vol. III. (of IV.)
by William Milligan Sloane
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The mob on the river-bank was momentarily sobered, and for a time there was order in crossing the remaining bridge; but as dusk fell both wind and battle raged more fiercely, and groups began to surge out on right and left to pass those in front. Many dashed headlong into the angry river; others, finding no opening, seated themselves in dumb despair to wait the event. At nine the remnant of Victor's ranks began to cross, and the Russians commenced cannonading the bridge. Soon the beams were covered with corpses, laid like the transverse logs on a corduroy road; but the frightful transit went on until all the soldiers had passed. The heavy bridge was temporarily repaired, but at last neither was safe; little knots gathered from the rabble at intervals and rushed recklessly over the toppling structures, until at eight next morning the French, not daring to wait longer, set fire to both, leaving seven thousand of their followers in Studjenka. They burned also the wooden track they had constructed through the swamps. The Russian accounts of what was seen in the morning light portray scenes unparalleled in history: a thousand or more charred corpses were frozen fast on the surface of the river, many of the ghastly heads being those of women and children; the huts of the town were packed with the dead. Twenty-four thousand bodies were burned in one holocaust, and it is solemnly stated that in the spring thaws twelve thousand more were brought to light. Ten years afterward there were still islets in the shallows of the stream covered with forget-me-nots which decked the moldering bones of those who had perished during that awful night of November twenty-eighth, 1812.

Next day the Emperor wrote to Maret confessing the truth. "The army is numerous, but shockingly disorganized," he declared. "A fortnight would be necessary to bring it once more under the standards; and how can we find a fortnight? Cold and privation have disorganized it. We may reach Vilna—can we maintain ourselves there? If we only could, even for the first eight days! But suppose we were attacked within that time, it is doubtful if we should be able to remain. Food! food! food!—without that there are no atrocities which this unruly throng would not commit against the town. In this situation I may regard my presence in Paris as essential for France, for the Empire—yes, even for the army." He also composed on the same day a bulletin, since famous, which was dated December third. It speciously declared that until November sixth the Emperor had been everywhere successful; thereafter the elements had done their fell work. The only complete truth it contained was the closing sentence: "The health of his Majesty was never better." As the sorry remnants of the grand army moved toward Vilna, they grew scantier and scantier. Many were delirious from hunger and cold, many were in the agonies of typhus fever. On December third there were still nine thousand in the ranks; on the fifth the marshals were assembled to hear Napoleon explain his determination to leave at once for Paris, and immediately afterward he took his departure.

It was not a very "grand army" which was left behind under Murat's command, with orders to form behind the Niemen. On the eighth the thermometer marked twenty-five degrees below zero, and a few unarmed wretches, perhaps five hundred in all, trailed after their leader into Vilna. Their ears and throats, their legs and feet, were swathed in rags; their bodies were wrapped in the threadbare garments of their dead comrades, or in such cast-off woman's apparel as they had been able to secure by the way. They were followed by Ney with four hundred, Wrede with two thousand, and finally by two or three thousand stragglers. After a few half-hearted and ineffectual efforts to organize this mob into the semblance of an army, Murat abandoned the attempt and posted away to his kingdom of Naples—a course severely censured by the Emperor. This was the closing scene of Napoleon's great drama of invasion. His men and horses had succumbed to summer heats as rapidly and extensively as to winter frosts; he had brought ruin to his enterprise by miscalculating the proportions of inanimate nature and human strategy, and by fatal indecision at critical moments when the statesman's delay was the soldier's ruin. Russia, like Spain, had the strength of low organisms; her vigor was not centralized in one member, the destruction of which would be the destruction of the whole; Moscow was not the Russian empire, as Berlin was the Prussian kingdom.

Yet justice requires the consideration of certain undoubted facts. Making all due allowance, it is true that the elements were Napoleon's worst foe when once his retreat was fairly under way, and it was not the least of Napoleon's magnificent achievements that after the crossing of the Beresina there was still the framework of an army which within a few months was again that marvelous instrument with which the campaigns of 1813 and 1814 were fought. This miracle was due to the shortsightedness and timidity of the Russian generals. Tchitchagoff is inexcusable both for the indifference he displayed regarding the various points at which the Beresina might be crossed, and for the ignorance which made him the easy dupe of feints and misleading reports. As to Wittgenstein, the caution which he exercised because operating alone was near in its character to cowardice; his snail-like movements prevented any efficient cooeperation in the general plan, and he failed in grasping a situation of affairs which left open but a single line of retreat for Napoleon. Neither of these two had any adequate conception of the losses suffered by the French, and they permitted the last opportunity for annihilating the invaders to escape. As to Kutusoff, who was fully informed concerning the utter disintegration of the "grand army," his conduct in holding back the main Russian force at the crucial moment is utterly indefensible; he saved thousands of his troops, perhaps, but he has passed into history as the man who is indirectly responsible for the rivers of blood which were still to drench the continent of Europe. Both he and Wittgenstein unloaded all the blame on Admiral Tchitchagoff, and contemporary opinion sustained them. "Had it not been for the admiral," said the commander-in-chief, replying to a toast proposed to the conqueror of Napoleon, "the plain gentleman of Pskoff (namely, himself) could have said: Europe breathes free again." This opinion is one which history must reject as utterly false.

When the soldiers heard that their Emperor had departed there was an almost universal outburst of frenzied wrath. "He flies," they shrieked, "as in Egypt! He abandons us after he has sacrificed us!" As has been remarked, this despair was natural, but the accusation was unjust. Napoleon's abandonment of the grand army at Smorgoni was not a desertion like the secret flight from Egypt; for now he was chief and not subordinate, his own judgment was the court of final appeal. Moreover, it was necessary for the very existence of the army that its general should once more be emperor, the head of the state. Traveling incognito, he passed through Vilna, Warsaw, and Dresden. Maret was left in charge of matters in Lithuania, de Pradt was carefully instructed how to treat the Poles, and on December fourteenth, at Dresden, despatches were written to both Francis and Frederick William in order to assure their continued adhesion. The King of Saxony was firmly bound in the fetters of a personal fascination never entirely dispelled. Twice on the long, swift journey efforts were made by disenchanted German officers to assassinate Napoleon, but he escaped by the secrecy of his flight. Such conspiracies were the presage of what was soon to happen in Germany. They were trivial, however, when compared with the state of public opinion in Paris as displayed by the Malet conspiracy. In spite of all that he had done to establish a settled society, France was not yet cured of its revolutionary habits; it was only too clear that the constitution, codes, and admirable administrative system were operative, not from political habit, but by personal impulsion. This was the real sore; the conspiracy itself was a grotesque affair, the work of a brain-sick enthusiast, lightly formed and easily crushed.

Malet was a fiery nobleman who, having run the gamut between royalist and radical, had turned conspirator, having, in 1800, plotted to seize the First Consul on his way to Marengo, and again, in 1807, having been imprisoned in the penitentiary of La Force for attempting to overthrow the Empire. Feigning madness, he succeeded in being transferred to an asylum, where he successfully reknit his conspiracies, and finally escaped. On October twenty-third, 1812, he presented himself to the commander of the Paris guard, announcing Napoleon's death on the seventh; by the use of a forged decree of the senate purporting to establish a provisional republican government, and by the display of an amazing effrontery, he secured the adhesion of both men and officers. Marching at their heads, he liberated his accomplices, Lahorie and Guidal, from La Force, seized both Savary and Pasquier, minister and prefect of police respectively, and wounded Hulin, commandant of the city, in a similar attempt. But Doucet, Hulin's assistant, seized and overpowered the daring conspirator, Savary and Pasquier were at once released, and almost before the facts were known throughout the city the accomplices of the plot were all arrested. Malet and twelve of his associates were tried and executed.

The Paris wits declared that the police had made a great "tour de force," and as far as the city was concerned the affair appeared to have ended in a laugh. But Napoleon was dismayed, for he saw deeper. "It is a massacre," he exclaimed, on hearing of the number shot.

If the Russian campaign had been successful, it would have put the capstone on imperial splendor. But already its failure was known among the French masses, and ghastly rumors were rife; the Emperor himself was far distant; the Empress was not beloved; the little heir was scarcely a personage; the imperial administration was much criticized; the "system" was raising prices, depressing industry, and increasing the privations of every household. Pius VII was now living in comfort at Fontainebleau, but he was a prisoner, and earnest Catholics were troubled; perhaps Heaven was visiting France with retribution. Worst of all, ever since the nations at both extremities of Europe had risen in arms against Napoleon's tyranny, French youth had perished under the imperial eagles in appalling numbers, and throughout the districts of France which were at heart royalist there was a rising tide of bitter vindictiveness.

What had occurred in Spain did not allay the general uneasiness. Marmont, having outmanoeuvered Wellington until July twenty-second, had on that fatal day extended his left too far at Salamanca, and had suffered overwhelming defeat; southern Spain was lost to France. Suchet, having taken and held Tarragona, concentrated to the eastward, so that by his holding Aragon and Catalonia for Napoleon, Joseph could set up a government temporarily at Valencia. Wellington, hampered by the distracted condition of English politics, had felt bound, in spite of victory, to withdraw to the Portugal frontier.



CHAPTER XXXI

THE PRODIGAL'S RETURN[46]

[Footnote 46: References: Foucart: Bautzen, une bataille de deux jours, 20-21 mai, 1813. Fievee: Correspondance et relations avec Bonaparte, Memoires of Savary. Rousset: La grande armee de 1813.]

War Between Great Britain and the United States — Napoleon Renews his Strength — His Administrative Measures — Social Forces and Political Results — Ideas of Peace — The Military Situation — The Czar's Resolutions — The Convention of Tauroggen — Defection of Prussia — Supreme Exertions of France in Napoleon's Cause — Napoleon as a Wonder-worker.

[Sidenote: 1813]

By stringently enforcing the Orders in Council Canning had seriously injured Great Britain. It was in some sense the outcome of general exasperation that early in May, 1812, Perceval, the Tory premier, was assassinated in the lobby of the House of Commons by Bellingham, a bankrupt of disordered mind. In the consequent reconstruction of the cabinet, Castlereagh had succeeded the Marquis of Wellesley. On May thirteenth the disastrous orders were repealed, but the United States had already declared war. By land the Americans failed dismally at the outset; but at sea they were five times victorious in as many different engagements, two English frigates striking their flags to what was then considered as fairly equal force. This was a moral victory of immense importance. It was disproportionate of course to the actual English loss, which was easily reparable, but it was an appalling novelty to the British, who unwillingly realized that the sons had shown a seamanship of the highest quality and were not unworthy of their sires. The anxiety of Wellington and the maritime successes of the Americans were not unwelcome lights in the otherwise dark picture of European affairs upon which Napoleon was forced to look after his return from Moscow.

The prodigal Emperor was undismayed; as he had recuperated his physical powers under incredible hardships, so he sharpened those of his mind amid the greatest difficulties. His first care was to make sure of France. To a deputation of the servile senate he roundly denounced all faint-hearted civil officials as menacing the authority of law. "Timid and cowardly soldiers," he said, "may cost a nation its independence; faint-hearted officials, however, destroy the authority of the laws. The finest death would be that of the soldier on the field of honor, were not that of the official who dies to defend his monarch, the throne, and the laws still more glorious." To the council of state he scorned all such as had continued to attribute to the people a sovereignty which it was incapable of exercising; who derived authority, not from the principles of justice nor from the nature of things nor from civil rights, but from the caprice of persons who understood neither legislation nor administration. The meaning of such language was clear, and the words of the master sufficed to bring the entire machine into perfect order. The great officers of state were not slow in their response—from the police, from the university, from the courts came protestation after protestation of loyalty; the vocabulary of the French language was ransacked for terms to express the most fulsome adulation. Napoleon's firm front was in itself an inspiration, and such unanimity of devotion in high quarters confirmed the people in their changed tendency. Soon not merely the French nation but the whole Empire was once again under the magician's spell. Deputations began to arrive, not only from all parts of France itself, but from the great cities of central and western Europe, from Rome, Florence, Turin, and Milan, from Hamburg, Mainz, and Amsterdam, and the expressions of devotion uttered by the deputies were limited only by the possibilities of expression. Scoffing wits recalled the famous scene from Moliere, in which the infatuated Orgon displays indifference to his faithful wife and shows interest only in Tartufe.

But in spite of this trenchant joke, Napoleonic government stood firm in France, and soon, this all-important point having been gained, there was not a little infectious enthusiasm, which grew in proportion as the Emperor deployed with every day and hour his marvelous faculties of administration. Reduced as the appropriations were, the public works in Paris went on; the naval station of Brest was completed; the veterans received their Emperor's minutest care; the destitute families of soldiers who had perished for France were relieved; the imperial pair were everywhere conspicuous when a good work was to be done. Finally, when a plan of regency for Maria Louisa was divulged, the praiseworthy, genuine sentiment which underlay these public activities was found to have reinforced their dramatic effect sufficiently to make the scheme acceptable. This plan, while giving to the Empress all the splendors of imperial sovereignty throughout both the Empire and the vassal states, was carefully constructed with wholesome checks. What she could not do was, however, less evident and less important than what she could do. In the hands of an able, devoted wife the regency might have been a tower of strength to an absent husband battling for the existence of his Empire; worked by a vain, unstable, and perhaps already disloyal nature, it had, with all its strength and display, but little value as a safeguard against the complots of the Talleyrand set, who desired the crash of the Empire that, amid the ruins, they might further pillage on their own account.

That the schemers were not sooner successful than they were is due to a combination of small things—each perhaps trivial in itself, but the whole most efficacious in perpetuating Napoleon's hold on the French. During his presence in Paris all the old inquisitiveness and boundless concern for detail seemed to return without diminution of force. Before his last departure he had won the popular heart by the model family life of the Tuileries, which, though never ostentatiously displayed, was yet seen and widely discussed. In the thick of Russian horrors he had found time to correspond with his infant's governess concerning the difficulties and dangers of teething; it was felt that while the emperor and general was warring on the steppes of Muscovy, the husband and father was present in spirit on the banks of the Seine. On his return it was generally remarked that his reception into the bosom of his family was tender and affectionate, and that parental pride in a thriving child was paramount to the ruler's ambition for an established dynasty. The imperial pair were seen in company alike on the thronged thoroughfares and on the outer boulevards of Paris. They were always greeted with enthusiasm, sometimes there was a display of passionate loyalty. When the Emperor visited his invalid veterans, he tasted their food and would have the Empress taste it too; she graciously assented and there was universal delight. In short, the domestic bliss of the Tuileries radiated happiness into the plain homes of the nation, and made the common people not merely tolerant but fond of such a paternal despotism.

Napoleon returned from Russia sincerely protesting that what he most desired was peace. Yes, peace; but of what kind? The answer was inclusive of the whole European question. It was easy to believe that Spain was nearly exhausted, that if the process of devastation could be continued three years longer, her shattered society would finally accept the gentle Joseph as its regenerator. It was not unnatural for the Emperor to regard his Confederation of the Rhine as safe and loyal; yet, just as in the Moscow campaign his superlative strategy far outran the remainder of his system, so he had failed, embodiment of the new social order as he believed himself to be, in fully estimating the creative force of the revolution in middle and southern Germany. Some inkling of the national movement he must have had, for Schwarzenberg's lukewarmness had awakened suspicions of Austria, and Prussia's new strength could not be entirely concealed. Soon after reaching Paris he learned with dismay that his Prussian auxiliaries had made terms with the Czar. This was done in defiance of their king; but it indicated the national temper, which, seeing the hand of God in the disasters of the monster who after humiliating Prussia had dared to invade Russia, made it impossible for Prussian troops to serve again in the ranks of a French army. The bolts of divine wrath had fallen on the French and the French dependants, the Prussian and the Austrian contingents had escaped unscathed; both German armies must surely have been spared for a special purpose.

In his interview at Warsaw with de Pradt, Napoleon had predicted that he would speedily have another army of three hundred thousand men afoot. In this rough calculation he had included both Prussians and Austrians. With a spirit of bravado, he there referred to the narrow escapes of his life: defeated at Marengo until six, next morning he had been master of Italy; at Essling, the rise of the Danube by sixteen feet in one night had alone prevented the annihilation of Austria; having defeated the Russians in every battle, he had expected peace; was it possible, he asked, for him to have foreseen the Russian character, or have foretold their heroic sacrifice of Moscow, for which doubtless he himself would catch the blame? So now, if his allies stood firm, he would have another great army, and still conquer. Not all this was bluster, for his figures were in the main correct. Moreover, Russia's strength was steadily diminishing, a fact of which he was dimly aware. Of Kutusoff's two hundred thousand men only forty thousand remained when he entered Vilna after the Napoleonic forces had left it; Wittgenstein's army had suffered proportionately, and the troops from the Danube still more. Kutusoff wanted peace quite as much as did Napoleon, and the ineffective Russian pursuit was intrusted to Yermoloff, an untried officer; to Wittgenstein; and to the incapable Tchitchagoff. The bickerings and insubordination of the French marshals had now become notorious, but they were fully offset by the discord and inefficiency of the Russian generals.

Alexander, however, was not for peace. Out of the rude experiences he had been undergoing there had been formed two fixed ideas: that Napoleon could not, even if he would, surrender his preponderance in Europe, and that he himself might hope to appear as the liberator of European nationality. For a moment it appeared possible for the Czar to establish himself as king of Poland by the aid of the Jesuits and of Czartoryski's friends. But the Jesuit leader knew that Napoleon's strength was far from exhausted, and fled to Spain. Czartoryski entertained the idea that in case of Napoleon's overthrow he might unite Poland under his own leadership and demand a truly liberal constitution, such as could not be worked by a Russian autocrat with three hundred thousand Russian soldiers at his back. Should the virtual independence of Poland be wrung from Alexander, and not be secured by the French alliance, then the only available constitutional ruler would, he thought, be a member of his own princely family and not one of the rival Poniatowskis. The autocrat did not clearly understand the drift of his boyhood friend, but he saw enough to render the notion of reconstructing Poland in any form distasteful, and finally abandoned it. He then took the sensible resolution to recruit his strength, not by emptying his own lean purse, but by securing the cooeperation with his forces of the strong armies built up by Prussia and Austria. It was therefore with a fairly definite purpose that, on December eighteenth, he left St. Petersburg for Vilna. He had in mind first to secure the fruits of victory by energetic pursuit, then to sound the temper of Prussia and Austria.

Murat had left the remnant of the grand army over the Niemen on December fourteenth; on the nineteenth he entered Koenigsberg. The day before Macdonald had learned by a despatch from Berthier of the final disasters to the Russian expedition, and on the twenty-eighth his van reached Tilsit. The Prussian auxiliaries were in the rear under York, who had been for nearly two months in regular communication with the Czar, and knew the details of Napoleon's rout, as Macdonald did not. Wittgenstein had been despatched to cut off Macdonald's retreat. But with the dilatoriness which characterized all the Russian movements he came too late, a single detachment under Diebitsch falling in with the Prussians on their own territory. The Prussian general was in a quandary; he was quite strong enough to have beaten Diebitsch, but his soldiers were friendly to Russia and embittered against Napoleon. His own sympathies being identical with those of his men, and considering that he might in extremity plead his isolation, he therefore, on December thirtieth, concluded the convention of Tauroggen, in which he agreed to neutralize the district of Prussia which he occupied, and to await orders from Berlin. Six days later an envoy arrived from Frederick William, nominally to degrade York, in reality to conclude a treaty of alliance with Russia.

By the assistance of Stein, who had been called from Vienna to counsel the Czar, such a document was finally composed and signed at Kalish on February twenty-eighth, 1813. Prussia and Germany were thus born again under the auspices of Russia. It was by the Czar's authorization that Stein began the reorganization of the provinces held by the Prussian troops. These circumstances left Murat's positions at Dantzic and on the Vistula untenable. Throughout the campaign he had been vastly more concerned for his personal prestige than for Napoleon's cause, and he was only too ready to leave a sinking ship. On January fifteenth, as has already been told, after surrendering his command to Eugene at Posen, he left for Naples. He was in haste, for on the twelfth the Russians had entered the grand duchy of Warsaw on their way to its capital. Schwarzenberg, with his own and the remnants of two other corps,—those of Reynier and Poniatowski,—could easily have checked the foe; but the convention of Tauroggen had quickened the Austrian memory of Russia's friendly lukewarmness in 1809, Francis was in no humor to bolster the falling cause of his terrible son-in-law, and after some show of negotiation a temporary neutrality was arranged. When a few Cossacks appeared before Warsaw, on February sixth, the Austrian general evacuated the city as if yielding to superior force, and withdrew across the Vistula toward the frontier.

These blows seemed to fall lightly on the armor of Napoleon's intrepidity. So far from feeling any dismay, the Emperor did not contemplate curtailing his ambition. Perhaps he was not entirely deceived; quite possibly, by the slightest exhibition of diminished activity he might have weakened his influence in the great land which formed the heart of his dominions. As one piece of bad news after another reached Paris, each in turn seemed only a goad to new exertion for Emperor and people. France was by that time not merely enthusiastic; she was fascinated and adoring. The ordinary conscription of 1813 yielded a hundred and forty thousand recruits; four regiments were formed for artillery service from the idle sailors, three thousand men were taken from the gendarmerie, some even from the national guard. On January thirteenth the senate decreed a further draft of a hundred thousand from the lists of 1813, and ordered that the conscription for 1814 should be forestalled in order that the hundred and fifty thousand boys thus collected might be hardened by a year's camp life, and rendered available for immediate use when their time arrived. There is truth in the charge that Napoleon robbed the cradle and the grave. In order to officer this mighty host, which included about a third of the able-bodied men of France between seventeen and forty-five, such commanders as could be spared were called home from Spain, and the rabble of non-commissioned and commissioned officers which began to straggle in from Russia was drawn back into the service. These survivors were treated like conquerors, being praised and promoted until the nation became bewildered, and thought of the Russian campaign as a series of victories. Foreign visitors wrote that the Emperor had but to stamp his foot and armed men sprang up on every side like AEetes' corps of Colchian warriors on the field of Mars.

The comparison halted—Napoleon was AEetes and Jason combined; he yoked the bulls that snorted fire and trod the fields with brazen hoofs, he held the plow, he harrowed the field, he sowed the teeth and reaped the harvest. We have abundant proof that literally every department of administration felt the impulse of his will, while to the organization of the army, to the arrangement of uniforms, to the designing of gun-carriages, to questions concerning straps, buckles, and commissary stores, to the temper of the common soldier, to the opinion of the nation, to each and all these matters he gave such attention as left nothing for others to do. By this exhibition of giant strength there was created a true national impulse. With this behind them, the senate in April called out another body of a hundred and eighty thousand men, partly from the national guard and partly from those not ordinarily taken as recruits. By this time the farmsteads of France and western Germany had yielded up all their available horses, a number sufficient to make a brave show of both cavalry and artillery. Allowing for sickness, desertion, and malingering,—and of all three there was much,—France and her wizard Emperor had ready on May first a fairly effective force of nearly half a million armed men. This was exclusive of the Spanish contingent, and there were a hundred thousand more if the levies of Bavaria, Saxony, and the Rhenish confederation be reckoned. At the time men said a miracle had been wrought: it was the miracle of an iron will, a majestic capacity, and a restless persistence such as have been combined in few if any other men besides Napoleon Bonaparte. All that he could do was done,—equipment, drill, organization,—but even he could not supply the one thing lacking to make soldiers of his boys—two years of age and experience.



CHAPTER XXXII

THE REVOLT OF THE NATIONS[47]

[Footnote 47: References: Haussonville: L'Eglise romaine et le premier empire. de Pradt: Les quatre concordats. de Fallois: L'Empereur Napoleon Ier et le Pape Pie VII. Seche: Les origines du concordat. Theiner: Histoire des deux concordats de la republique francaise et de la republique cisalpine conclus en 1801 et 1813, entre Napoleon Bonaparte et le Saint-Siege.]

Napoleon as a Financier — Failure to Secure Aid from the Aristocracy — The Fontainebleau Concordat — Napoleon Defiant — His Project for the Coming Campaign — State of the Minor German Powers — Metternich's Policy — Its Effect in Prussia — Prussia and her King — The New Nation — The Treaty of Kalish — The Sixth Coalition.

This magic was wrought, moreover, without any assistance from the precious army lists which Napoleon delighted to call his library, for those volumes had either been lost, destroyed, or left behind in distant headquarters: it was not merely by recalling his old powers, but by a supreme effort of memory so comprehensive that not even superlatives can describe it, that the great captain brought order into his military estate. No wonder that under such a strain the other tasks which demanded consideration were not so perfectly performed. The financial situation, the social uncertainty, the religious problem, none of these could be overlooked, and each in turn was clamorous for attention. In the methods employed to meet these emergencies the revolutionary training of the Emperor comes to light. To cover the enormous expense of his new army, contributions were "invited" from the rich corporations and financiers, and it was announced that any private person who was disposed to maintain a horse and rider for the imperial service would earn the Emperor's special gratitude. To any increase of the direct taxes the despot would not listen. "Credit," he said, "is but a dispensation from paying cash." In spite of Mollien's protest, however, a new issue of paper money was ordered, but for this there was collateral security. It was found in certain plots of land or domains belonging respectively to each of many thousand communes, by the rentals of which they severally diminished their direct local taxes. Worth three hundred and seventy million francs, these properties yielded only nine millions, although their prospective returns would be far larger. With government five per cents. selling at seventy-five, an investment of a hundred and thirty-five millions would yield the interest actually received. This step was taken, the lands were seized, and the government cleared two hundred and thirty-five millions; a hundred and forty millions of the five per cents. were set aside to cover the income charges, and used simultaneously as collateral for notes to pay current expenses until the lands could be sold. These last were kept at a fair price by taking seventy-one millions of treasure from the Tuileries vaults for their purchase. Throughout the previous year the moribund legislature had been left inert, the budget being decreed without its consent, and the Emperor told Metternich at Dresden that he contemplated its abolition. In a crisis like this latest one, however, its aid was not to be despised; it was now galvanized, and made to stamp these puerile measures with the "popular" approval.

There has always been "a mystery in the soul of state." When men ceased to invest government with a supernatural character, they did not for all that dispel the mystery. Modern statesmen by the score have chosen to believe the occult doctrine that the state's promise to pay is payment, and Napoleon was one of these. He was equally childish in regard to the knotty social question which confronted him, apparently believing that his personal volition, as the expression of political power, was or ought to be equivalent to popular spontaneity. The mixture of the old and new aristocracies had, in spite of all efforts, been mechanical rather than chemical, except so far as that the former was rather the preponderating influence giving color to the compound. In order to make the blending real, the Emperor proposed a "spontaneous" rising of those high-born youth who had somehow escaped the conscription. They were to be formed into four regiments, and designated "guards of honor." The measure was found to be so utterly unpopular that it was for the moment abandoned; the young men had no stomach even for fancy campaigning, and their relatives no mind to deliver them up as hostages. The guard, moreover, displayed a violent jealousy.

There remained the ecclesiastical question—that, namely, of canonical institution. Pius VII had lost much of his obstinacy since his removal to Fontainebleau, for the Austrian alliance was now the sheet-anchor of France; the French ecclesiastics had threatened to depose the Pope; but the Roman Catholics of Bavaria, Italy, and Austria were loyal, and they were important factors in Napoleon's problem. After an exchange of New Year's compliments, negotiations between the temporal and the spiritual powers were reopened. At first the Emperor was exacting, and the Pope unyielding. Finally, on January eighteenth, Napoleon appeared in person at Fontainebleau, accompanied by Maria Louisa, and unannounced they entered the prisoner's apartment. The Pope started up in pleased surprise. "My father," cried his visitor. "My son," came the response. The Emperor caught the old man to his arms and kissed him. Next morning began a series of personal conferences lasting five days. What happened or what was said was never divulged by either participant, but on January twenty-third the terms of a new concordat were settled. Pius VII was to reside at Avignon with his cardinals in the enjoyment of an ample revenue, and institute in due form the bishops selected by the council. There was to be amnesty for all prelates in disgrace, the sees of the Roman bishops were to be reestablished, and the Pope was to have the nominations for ten bishoprics either in France or in Italy at his choice; his sequestered Roman domains were likewise to be restored. The document was not to be published without the consent of the cardinals, and Napoleon was actively to promote the innumerable interests of the Church. The Emperor and the Pope had scarcely separated before the former began to profess chagrin that he had gained so little, and the latter became a victim to real remorse. The cardinals were no sooner informed of the new treaty than they displayed bitter resentment, and Napoleon, foreseeing trouble, violated his promise, publishing the text of the Fontainebleau Concordat on February fourteenth as an imperial decree. On March twenty-fourth the Pope retracted even his qualified assent. The Emperor had gained a temporary advantage, and had asserted a sound position in antagonism to the temporal sovereignty of the Pope; but he had won no permanent support either from France or from the Roman see, with which he had dealt either too severely or too leniently.

In the previous July a treaty between the Czar and the Spanish nation, as represented by the Cortes, had been negotiated through the intermediation of Great Britain. The recent conduct of York was sufficient indication of how the Prussian people felt. Napoleon therefore knew that he was face to face with a virtual coalition comprising Great Britain, Russia, Sweden, Turkey, Spain, and Prussia. Since his return from Russia he had displayed in private life the utmost good sense. But in public life he seemed incapable of accepting the situation in which he must have known himself to be, holding the loftiest and most pretentious language both to the French nation and to the world. In his address on the opening of the legislature he dwelt on Wellington's reverses in the peninsula, and offered peace to Great Britain on the old terms of "uti possidetis" in Spain. In a less public way he had it thoroughly understood throughout Europe that he would take no steps toward peace with Russia; that he would not yield an inch with reference to the grand duchy of Warsaw, or regarding the annexed lands of Italy, Holland, and the Hanseatic League. It was as if the whole world must see that ordinary human concessions could not be expected from one who had been conquered only by act of Providence, and was, now as ever, invincible so far as men were concerned. He did, however, allow the hint to escape him that Prussia, which was still bound by her treaty, might hope for some territorial increase, and that Austria might expect Illyria. Such ideas, expressed in grandiloquent phrase, could not be regarded as indicating a pacific feeling. Every social class in France had a grievance; yet amid the din of arms, and in the dazzling splendors of military preparation, even the retraction of the Concordat attracted little attention, and a few riots in Dutch cities, which were the only open manifestation of discontent throughout the whole Empire, aroused no interest at all. The report of Napoleon's conciliatory attitude had gone abroad, there was money in the treasury, a vast armament was prepared, the peace so ardently desired was evidently to be such as is made by the lion with his prey. On April fifteenth the still haughty Emperor of the West started for the seat of war.

Around the skeleton abandoned by Murat at Posen Eugene built up out of the stragglers an army of fourteen thousand men, which he hoped would enable him to make a stand; but with York deserting at one end of the line, and Schwarzenberg seeking shelter in Cracow at the other, he was compelled to withdraw to Berlin. Finding his reception too chilly for endurance, and being again menaced by the Russian advance, he fell back thence beyond the Elbe, and early in March had established his headquarters at Leipsic. By that time new forces had arrived from France and the various garrison towns, so that on the curving line from Bremen by Magdeburg, Bernburg, Wittenberg, Meissen, and Dresden, there stood a force of about seventy-five thousand men in six divisions, under Vandamme, Lauriston, Victor, Grenier, Davout, and Reynier. Napoleon charged Eugene to take a position before Magdeburg, whence he could protect Holland and keep Dresden. The Emperor's general plan was to assemble an Army of the Elbe on the line of Magdeburg, Havelberg, Wittenberg, and an Army of the Main on the line of Wuerzburg, Erfurt, Leipsic; then, despatching the former through Havelberg toward Stettin, to hurry the latter on its heels, relieve Dantzic, and seize the lower Vistula.

This would have been a plan worthy of Napoleon's genius but for one fact. "In war," he had written four years earlier, "the moral element and public opinion are half the battle." If he had understood these factors in 1813, and if a sound judgment had developed his ideas, the projected campaign would have become famous for the boldness of its conception and for its careful estimate of natural advantages. But human nature as the conquering Napoleon had known it—at least Prussian human nature—had changed, and of this change the defeated Napoleon took no account. He was no longer fighting absolute monarchs with hireling armies, but uprisen nations which were themselves armies instinct with capacity and energy. On March twenty-first Eugene began to carry out his stepfather's directions. But for the new feeling in Prussia they might have been fully executed. The vassal princes of the Rhine Confederacy had received the imperial behests concerning new levies. The Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, aware of the German national movement and furthest removed from French influence, refused to obey. King Jerome of Westphalia pleaded poverty, and procrastinated until he dared do so no longer. Bavaria dreamed for an instant of asserting her neutrality, but the menace of French armaments wrung an unwilling compliance from her. Wuertemberg and Frankfurt were too near France to hesitate at all. Saxony was in a position far different from that of any other state in the confederation, the predicament of Frederick Augustus, her king, being peculiar and exceptional. After his interview with Napoleon on the latter's flight through Dresden he felt how precarious was the future. Warsaw, the gem of his crown, was gone, and the Prussian people were in revolt against the Emperor of the French; he turned perforce toward Austria. But Austria also was uneasy; the people were again hostile to Napoleon, and Francis, in an agony of uncertainty, could only temporize. With Saxony in this attitude, Metternich gave full course to his ingenuity.

For a year past that minister had been playing a double game. Seeking through his envoy at Stockholm to embroil Bernadotte with the Czar, he told Hardenberg almost simultaneously that it was all up with Russia, that England was worn out, and that Austria was about to assume the role of mediator. It was to his purpose that, on the other hand, he promised to treat Russia as Russia had treated Austria in 1809. When, in his despair, Napoleon wrote to Francis from Dresden demanding an increase of the Austrian contingent to check Kutusoff's advance through Poland, Metternich suffered his master to give no answer, but sent a special peace embassy to London, and despatched Bubna, a favorite with Napoleon, to seek the same end at Paris. The Emperor of the French laid down his old ultimatum, but offered a subsidy to Austria if she would double the number of her auxiliaries. Thereupon Metternich prepared to desert Napoleon, refused to furnish the auxiliaries, ordered Schwarzenberg "to save his troops for the next campaign," and secretly advised Prussia to join her cause with that of Russia. Careful not to formulate any definite terms for the peace he so clamorously invoked, he refused to intervene with Russia for the restoration of Prussian Poland, thus avoiding an open rupture with France, assuring that the seat of war would be in Saxony, and gaining time to secure Austria's dignity as a mediator by the preparation of armaments strong enough to enforce her suggestions.

This attitude compelled Prussia to make a decision. Frederick William could no longer wage a sham warfare nor cover hostile intentions by a pretense of disinterestedness. A decision must be taken, and the conduct of General York had indicated what the painful conclusion must be. The convention of Tauroggen had been duly disavowed; but an envoy was at Russian headquarters, and Alexander had entered Prussian territory in his advance against Eugene; Napoleon was demanding an increased auxiliary force. The temporizer could temporize no longer. He firmly believed that nothing short of a coalition between Austria, Russia, and Prussia could annihilate France, and Austria had virtually refused to enter such a combination. Russia, moreover, was under no engagement in regard to Prussian Poland. What was to be done? The King's first instinct led him to seek refuge with Napoleon, and he despatched an envoy, offering his continued alliance for either an increase of territory, or for ninety million francs in payment of the commissary supplies furnished during 1812. With every day, however, the Prussian people grew more Russian in feeling, and on January twenty-second, 1813, before the return of the ambassador, the court was forced by popular opinion to withdraw from Berlin to Breslau, out of the sphere of French influence. Napoleon's answer soon arrived; there was no word of payment, and no binding engagement as to territory—merely a repetition of vague promises. Frederick William was disappointed, and reluctantly consented to the mobilization of his now regenerated and splendid army. He cherished the hope of keeping Alexander behind the Vistula, and forcing Napoleon to an armistice before he could cross the Elbe.

But Hardenberg, Stein, and Scharnhorst were all convinced that there could be no peace in Europe without restoring the ancient balance of power and annihilating Napoleon's preponderance, especially since, from every class in the nation, came addresses and petitions expressing detestation of French rule. Moreover, the long, difficult process of German unification was, in a sense, complete. "I have but one fatherland, and that is Germany," wrote Stein, in December, 1812; "the dynasties are indifferent to me in this moment of mighty development." A born and consistent liberal, he abhorred alike the tyranny of Napoleon, of Francis, of Alexander, and of his own king. But the Czar loved him, since a united Germany would be indifferent to those Polish provinces about which Prussia cared so much. Certain, therefore, of the Russian monarch, the great statesman determined to join Frederick William at Breslau, and urge on the work of mobilizing troops. Already, by Alexander's authority, he had induced the estates of eastern Prussia to sanction York's action, and to provide for arming the militia and reserves. Their ready compliance was the more significant because the German patriot had to some extent been out of touch with the general movement, having consistently and from principle refused to work through the popular League of Virtue, or any secret association whatsoever, and having become in his long exile a virtual stranger among the Prussians.

It is scarcely possible within moderate limits to give the faintest conception of Prussia at the opening of 1813. The popular hatred of Napoleon was defiant; the death of Queen Louisa had made the King sullen. There was a splendid army of a hundred and fifty thousand men, and the statesmen had managed so well that there were arms for every able-bodied male between seventeen and twenty-four. Of these scarcely any shirked; most volunteered, numbers paid, many did both. The women sold their hair and their gold ornaments, wearing iron trinkets as a stimulus to patriotism. In some cases the stout German maidens served the guns of their artillery, and one of them, disguised in a uniform, fought in the ranks until seriously wounded. The peasantry saw their homesteads destroyed with equanimity when told that it would weaken France. Koerner sang and fought; Arndt sounded the trumpet of German unity; Luetzow gathered his famous "black troop," and the universities were so fervid that Professor Steffens of Breslau issued the first call for war against Napoleon; a summons which swept the students of that university, as well as those of Berlin, Koenigsberg, Halle, Jena, and Goettingen, into the ranks. Wherever the Russians appeared they were hailed as deliverers, not merely in the Prussian army, but among the citizens.

This was the impelling power which Frederick William could not resist. Step by step he went forward, postponing his plans for getting back his Polish provinces and accepting instead contingent promises. By the treaty of Kalish, already mentioned in another connection, Old Prussia was definitely guaranteed to him, and he was to have a strip connecting it with Silesia, but the territorial aggrandizement of the kingdom was to await the conquest of North Germany, all of which except Hanover might under certain circumstances be incorporated under his crown. Both parties agreed to use their best endeavors to win Austria for the coalition, Russia promising likewise to seek a subsidy from Great Britain for her impoverished ally. Another stipulation was fulfilled when on March seventeenth Frederick William called out all the successive services of the national army and, summoning his people to emancipate their country from a foreign yoke, declared war. Two days later a ringing proclamation was issued which summoned to arms not merely Prussians but even the Germans of the Rhine Confederation. Hesitating princes were threatened with loss of their domains, and—what was a very pointed hint—Stein was made head of an administrative committee to erect new governments in all occupied lands. Kutusoff's last public act was to issue a manifesto declaring that those German princes who were untrue to the German cause were ripe for destruction by the power of public opinion and the might of righteous arms.

Such a situation was terrible for the King of Saxony. Russia already had his grand duchy, Prussia coveted his kingdom; in fact, the Czar was currently and correctly reported to have said that Saxony was better suited than Poland to round out Frederick William's dominions. Dresden welcomed the Russian and Prussian sovereigns because the citizens were smarting under the trials of military occupation. But when the King turned to Austria, and marching with his cavalry to Ratisbon virtually put his army at Metternich's disposal, the Saxons in general supported him. On April twentieth was signed a secret agreement between Saxony and Austria whereby the former in return for thirty thousand troops secured the integrity of her dominions. This was a triumph for the Austrian minister, but not the only one, because European diplomacy in general soon joined hands with the national uprisings. Napoleon, determining too late on the dismemberment of Prussia, made a last attempt to win back his old comrade in arms, and in February offered Bernadotte not merely Pomerania, but the lands between the Elbe and the Weser. But the crafty Gascon had studied the Prussian movement, and, putting aside the rather indefinite promises of Napoleon, preferred to join the coalition for the safer, easier prize of Norway. Great Britain abandoned her scheme for a Hanover expanded to stretch from the Scheldt to the Elbe, and, subsidizing both Sweden and Prussia, cemented the new coalition. This was a return to Pitt's policy of restoring the old balance of power in the old Europe. Bernadotte, promising thirty thousand men, transported twelve thousand across to Germany, and joined Buelow to cover Berlin. This force soon became the Russian right. Kutusoff died in April, and Barclay was ultimately restored to the chief command, having Bluecher and a second Prussian army as part of the Russian center. Metternich saw that the coalition did not intend to conclude such a peace as would leave Napoleon the preponderance in Europe; to secure any peace at all he would be compelled, as Talleyrand said, to become king of France. Accordingly a new turn was quickly given to Austrian diplomacy, and the French emperor's definite offer of Silesia for a hundred thousand men was rejected. With the thirty thousand which Saxony had put at his disposal, and with such an army as Austria herself could raise, the minister felt sure that at some critical moment she would be able, as a well-armed mediator, to command a peace in terms restoring to his country the prestige of immemorial empire.



CHAPTER XXXIII

THE FIRST CAMPAIGN IN SAXONY[48]

[Footnote 48: References: Fain: Manuscrit de l'an 1813. Mueffling: Aus meinem Leben. Bade: Napoleon im Jahre 1813. Schimpf: 1813; Napoleon in Sachsen. Foucart: Bautzen une bataille de deux jours. Metternich's Memoirs, Memoirs of Hardenberg.]

Napoleon Over-hasty — Weakness of his Army — The Low Condition of the Allies — Napoleon's Plan Thwarted — The First Meeting a Surprise — The Battle of Luetzen — An Ordinary Victory — The Mediation of Austria — Napoleon's Effort to Approach Russia — The Battle of Bautzen — Death of Duroc — Napoleon's Greatest Blunder.

The grim determination of Napoleon to rule or ruin can be read in his conduct at this time. This might almost be called foolhardy, inasmuch as when he arrived at Mainz, on April seventeenth, he knew little or nothing of the enemy's position, force, or plans. Desirous of anticipating his foe in opening the campaign, he spent a week of fruitless endeavor at that place, and then started for Erfurt to obtain a nearer view. The general aspect of his soldiers was not reassuring, for the young recruits were still raw and the immaturity of his preparations was evident in a lack of trained horses and riders. He had stolen three weeks from the enemy, but he had robbed himself of all that his indefatigable energy might have accomplished in that time. His recklessness in diplomacy, his refusal of all concessions, and his exaggerated cleverness in anticipating his opponents were to prove his undoing from the military point of view. The other elements of his failure were the political factor already mentioned.

At the first appearance of Tettenborn's Cossacks, Hamburg rose and drove out the French, remaining in possession of the allies until the end of May; but the trusty French garrisons in Dantzic, Stettin, Kuestrin, Glogau, Modlin, and Zamosc, having been reinforced by Eugene, held their respective strongholds, and were left to do so. The absence of these much-needed veterans was the first element of weakness in Napoleon's army. A second was the insufficiency of real cavalry, brave as had been the parade of horses in France. It was the great captain's firm conviction, repeatedly and emphatically expressed, that without active cavalry, armed with long-range guns, offensive warfare was not possible. This defect he had hoped to remedy in the last three weeks before opening the campaign. The third element in a fatal triad was the temper of his generals, which was restless and insubordinate almost from the outset. They were his mightiest men: Berthier as chief of staff; Mortier commanding the guard; Davout, Ney, Bertrand, Lauriston, Marmont, Reynier, Macdonald, and Oudinot, each in readiness with a corps; Victor coming up with another; Augereau preparing to lead the Bavarians, Rapp at Dantzic, Poniatowski in Galicia—twelve corps in all.

The French soldiers formed a great army: two hundred and thirty-five thousand men on paper, actually two hundred thousand, of whom a hundred and thirty-five thousand were mobile and in readiness when the Emperor took command. Eugene had forty-seven thousand more. Consequently when Napoleon, troubled by the exaggerated reports of his enemy being stronger and more forward in preparation than he had believed possible, set out for Saxony three weeks earlier than the day originally fixed by him for the beginning of hostilities, he was already a victim of his own nervous apprehensions. In colder phlegm he would have foreseen the truth. Russia had become apathetic as soon as the seat of war was transferred beyond her borders; strenuous as were the efforts of Prussia, Scharnhorst's means were slender, and he could not work miracles. All told, the allies had at the moment only seventy thousand men ready for the field. Wittgenstein was for the moment commander-in-chief. The monarchs, utterly uncongenial, were struggling to act in harmony, but double weakness is not strength. They had only a single advantage—excellent horses in abundance for both cavalry and artillery. "The worse the troops, the greater the need of artillery"; "great battles are won with artillery"; these were two of Napoleon's aphorisms. The great strategist had lost his reconnoitering arm in Russia and Poland, the artillery specialist must have scorned the antiquated guns which now replaced the splendid field-pieces that rested on the bottom of ponds and rivers whither he had flung them on his disastrous retreat. With his high officers sullen, his ranks untried, his cavalry feeble, his artillery hastily collected from arsenal stores, his staff incomplete, and his prestige waning, the Emperor might well abdicate temporarily and exclaim, as he did, "I shall conduct this war as General Bonaparte." This resolution was sacredly kept.

The premature opening of the campaign was certain to make Austria pivotal in European politics once again. Her preparations were not well advanced, but her strength was growing daily, while that of her rivals was sure to diminish until in the end the coalition would be powerless without her. This Napoleon saw, and he arranged his strategy to checkmate what he now felt to be a hostile neutrality. Believing that the enemy would meet him half way, his first plan showed all the marks of greatness which characterized the similar one he had so successfully executed at Jena. Its central idea was a mass formation with Eugene to break through the enemy's line, then by a wheel toward the south to annihilate their left, and finally to present himself victorious before Austria. If successful he might dictate his own terms. But the enemy did not advance; it was perhaps well for the Emperor of the French that they did not. An eye-witness declared that on what was supposed to be the very eve of battle there was little real discipline outside the sphere of the commander's personal observation, that the officers had no confidence in their men and the men but little in their officers, that the superiors were absorbed in securing some measure of physical comfort, that the inferiors were listless and disobedient. The forward movement was successful, and the union with Eugene was effected on April twenty-eighth. Two whole days elapsed, however, before the enemy was found, and it was May first when the French van drove in the Russian outposts from Luetzen, ever famous as the scene of Wallenstein's overthrow by Gustavus Adolphus a hundred and eighty-one years earlier. The Russian center was concentrated between the Elster and the Pleisse; Napoleon's line was more extended, overlapping his enemy's, both right and left. In a preliminary skirmish at the pass of Rippach, Bessieres, rashly exposing himself at the head of the cavalry of the guard, was killed. His loss in such a crisis was like the ruin of a great cohort on the eve of a close battle. Marmont, forgiven for his failure in Spain, was near; but close to Napoleon as he was, even he could not replace the gallant, trusted cavalry leader who for nearly seventeen years had scarcely quitted his Emperor's side.

Owing probably to the inadequate scouting force of Napoleon, the battle of Luetzen was in the nature of a surprise. Wittgenstein had detached five thousand men as if to cover Leipsic, toward which the French line was advancing; then, concentrating the mass of his center and left, he crossed the Elster early on May second in order to attack Ney's corps on the Emperor's right. About nine Lauriston's corps, with which Napoleon was, came upon the enemy, and was fiercely engaged—so hotly, indeed, that it seemed as if it must be the Russian right wing which barred the way. A messenger was immediately despatched to bring in Ney, who arrived about eleven. The marshal and his emperor at once advanced to reconnoiter, and were just remarking that there was only a small force between them and the city, which through their field-glasses they could dimly discern in the background, its roofs crowded with curious onlookers, when behind, on the right, was heard the sound of heavy cannonading. General Bonaparte was himself at once. No movement is considered more difficult than that by which an army marching in columns wheels when attacked on its flank, so as in turn to outflank the assailants. In a flash, and apparently without a thought, the Emperor issued minute orders for this intricate manoeuver, and his generals accomplished it with a masterly dexterity. Napoleon then galloped forward toward Luetzen to carry the guard behind the center as a reserve, and Ney dashed into the thickest of the fight to take command of his boy conscripts, who were beginning to yield.

The conflict raged all day, with varying results, along the line from Great and Little Goerschen to Starsiedel, the latter hamlet being the scene of terrific fighting. At five the Prussians withdrew from Kaja, and began to yield along the whole line as far as the Goerschens, which they had so far held. Napoleon had from the outset been reckless, cheering his boys by presence and example until they fought like veterans. As the Prussians gave signs of weakness, he brought in his artillery, poor as it was, with the old grand style, and ordered the young guard into the gap he felt sure of making. A Russian reserve arrived, however, at the crucial instant, and stayed his onset until seven. At that hour Macdonald bore down his opponents at Eisdorf, and attacked the Russo-Prussian line on the flank; the second column was then hurled against its center, and the battle was ended. The Russian reserve was strong enough to prevent the retreat from becoming a rout, but since Lauriston had occupied Leipsic as early as two in the afternoon there was but one course open for the allies: to withdraw behind the Elbe. Napoleon gathered his army into three columns and followed; but slowly and circumspectly, because without cavalry he could not harass them. When, on May eighth, the French reached Dresden, they found that their enemy had blown up the bridges, and were entrenched in the Neustadt on the right, or north, shore. Thus the victory of Luetzen was, after all, indecisive.

And yet the utmost skill and bravery had been shown by the combatants on both sides. The field was strewn with the corpses, not of such rude and stalwart peasants as had hitherto filled the ranks of opposing armies, but of gentle youth from French lyceums and Prussian universities. There were forty thousand in all, an equal number from each army, who remained dead or wounded on the hard-contested field. They had fallen to little purpose. The victor captured neither prisoners nor guns in important numbers, and to him it was slight compensation for the loss of Bessieres that Scharnhorst was killed. The allies, though beaten, were undismayed; long experience had sharpened their wits and toughened their purpose; there was already much strategical ability at their headquarters, and there was about to be more, since Moreau, summoned from America, was soon to take service with his splendid powers against his country. Great as the battle was, it must therefore be reckoned as an ordinary victory; it served to prolong existing conditions, but it did not decide an issue. It was, however, something that it gave the French a self-confidence bordering on enthusiasm, and it was more that after Napoleon had commenced to rebuild the Dresden bridges, Frederick Augustus, the King of Saxony, declared himself favorable to the French. Abandoning Austria, he summoned his forces from Torgau, and the allies retreated eastward behind the Spree. The lower Elbe was also recovered. The King of Denmark had despatched an auxiliary force to Hamburg. Their commander, believing Napoleon's fortunes submerged already, at first assisted the Russians: but after Luetzen he turned his arms to Vandamme's assistance. The city was retaken, three thousand of Bernadotte's force marched out, and on May thirtieth Davout, with fifteen thousand of his own men and three thousand Danes, marched in.

Napoleon's chief purpose, however, was unfulfilled, for Austria was neither panic-stricken nor dismayed. On the contrary, she still stood forth as a mediator, and now with armaments to enforce her demands. Immediately after Luetzen, Stadion, sometime Austrian minister of war, was sent to the camp of the allies. He stated that the minimum terms of peace would be the dismemberment of Warsaw, the restoration of Prussia, the surrender by France of Holland, Oldenburg, and the Hanseatic lands, the abandonment of the protectorate over the Confederation of the Rhine by Napoleon, and the surrender to Austria of Illyria and Dalmatia, with a rectification of her western frontier. Almost simultaneously Bubna appeared at Napoleon's headquarters with suggestions for a general armistice, during which peace negotiations should be carried on as rapidly as possible by a congress of the powers. Dwelling on the necessity of territorial concessions by France for the sake of a general pacification of the Continent, the envoy declared that if this were accomplished, Great Britain, finding herself isolated, must yield, and grant to Napoleon a substantial indemnification from her vast colonial system. The propositions of Austria were received by the allies with open eagerness, by the Emperor of the French with apparent hesitancy. Next to the establishment of his continental empire, the humiliation of Great Britain was Napoleon's highest ambition. Compromise with her meant defeat. With a mixture of proud determination and anxiety, he therefore replied to Francis that he desired a pacification as ardently as any one; that he was ready for such a congress as was suggested; that he would even go further, and admit to it delegates from the insurgent Spaniards; that he would still further consent to a truce during its sessions: but that he would rather die at the head of his high-spirited Frenchmen than make himself ridiculous before England. Never was the writer's statecraft unfolded to greater daring. Long consultations were held with the King of Saxony, a man of gentleness and refinement, who was completely won by Napoleon's almost filial attentions, and Bubna was often kept at the council-table until after midnight. Eugene, however, was instantly despatched to raise a new army in Italy, with orders not to conceal his movements from Austria.

But Napoleon's chief efforts were put forth in the direction of Russia. The adroit Caulaincourt was chosen as a fitting envoy, and instructed not merely to reknit his personal relations with the Czar, but also to surrender every point which had been contested in the previous negotiations. He was to offer, first, the surrender of the Continental System as far as Russia was concerned; and, second, such a reconstruction of the map of eastern Europe as would put an end to the grand duchy of Warsaw forever. This mushroom state, with the domain of Dantzic, was to be divided between the Duke of Oldenburg, Alexander's near kinsman, and the King of Prussia; Prussia itself was to be a border state under Russian influence, with a capital at either Koenigsberg, Dantzic, or Warsaw. Brandenburg, with Berlin, would fall to Jerome, and Saxony would doubtless get the territory around Krossen. No surrender could have been more complete. "Your chief concern," ran the final instruction, written on May seventeenth, "will be to secure a conversation with the Emperor Alexander. My intention is to build a golden bridge to save him from the intrigues of Metternich." Alas for such vain hopes! A new diplomatic star had risen at the Russian court in the person of the young Count Nesselrode, and the personal interview so earnestly desired by Caulaincourt was steadily refused; Napoleon's proposals, the envoy was informed, must be made through the Austrian cabinet, or not at all.

During the parleyings of Austria, Napoleon won a second great victory, which was utterly ineffectual because he had no cavalry force wherewith to pursue. For some days after the occupation of Dresden, for the same reason, he had been ignorant of his enemy's whereabouts. Learning at last that the allies had not been separated, as he had hoped, but were standing at Bautzen in a strong defensive position behind the Spree, he left Dresden at noon on the eighteenth of May, determined to strike a decisive blow. His enemy, having been reinforced by Barclay with sixteen thousand Russians and by Kleist with eleven thousand Prussians, was about ninety thousand strong. On the nineteenth both Barclay and York advanced from Bautzen; the former was defeated by Bertrand in a sharp struggle, the latter by Lauriston in a protracted fight; and at nightfall the French were before the place. In front was the unimportant stream, and beyond it were the allies in a double line, their front on the bank, their rear on the heights behind. About midday of the twentieth the French attacked. Macdonald stormed the bridge, Marmont and Bertrand crossed by pontoons; at three their footing was won, and the assault of the place began. For three hours the fighting was terrific, but at six a portion of the defenders withdrew behind the town to the second line; at eight the rest did likewise. Next morning at five, Napoleon, after a sleepless night, issued his orders; at eight the conflict opened all along the line. Then first, the Mameluke body-servant having spread a couch of skins, the Emperor sought repose; he slept to the lullaby of cannon and musketry for several hours, calmly assured of his combinations working perfectly. By one Ney had rolled up the Russian right under Barclay, and Napoleon, waking, sent Marmont and Bertrand around the right of the enemy's center. By four the allied armies were in full retreat. Then would have been the moment for artillery to crash and cavalry to pursue; but neither was efficient, and while the French army did what men could do, at best they could only follow at equal speed with the foe, and could not throw his ranks into disorder. "What! no results from such carnage?" said Napoleon. "Not a gun? Not a prisoner?"

There was worse to come. From time to time the flying columns wheeled and poured a heavy artillery fire into their pursuers. Near Reichenbach, Bruyeres was killed by a ball; then Kirchener by another, which, ricochetting from a tree, mortally wounded Duroc, the commander's faithful aid, his second self. Such a blow was stupefying indeed, for it was the loss of his closest confidant, of one who through every vicissitude had been a near, true friend, almost the only companion of a man reduced to solitude by his great elevation. Napoleon was stricken to the heart, and, halting, gave way until nightfall to his despair. "Poor man!" said the troopers one to another, "he has lost his children." "Everything to-morrow," was the sorrowing ruler's one reply to all suggestions. From time to time he betook himself to the bedside of the dying man; at last Duroc himself could no longer endure his Emperor's prostration, and besought him to rejoin the soldiers. The friends parted in a long embrace. Thereupon the pursuit was continued, but without ardor and without success.

The nature of Napoleon's victory at Bautzen was his undoing. Had it been a second Friedland, Caulaincourt no doubt would have met Alexander; but, as it was, the allies had saved their army, and Austria's accession to the coalition would still insure their success. Nesselrode was convinced that Metternich would assent, and, dark as was the hour, persisted in refusing to communicate with France except by way of Austria. Wittgenstein lost his command, Barclay was fully reinstated as commander-in-chief, and, to gain time for Austria to try her vaunted mediation, a short armistice was proposed to Napoleon. Had the latter known the weakness, the discord, the exhaustion of his foe, wretched as was the state of his own army and depressed as were his spirits, he might have refused, and even the monumental error of 1812 might now have been made good. As it was, the year 1813 is the date of his one irreparable blunder, the initiation of his final disaster. Other mistakes he had made, but they were all petty compared with the great one to which he was now tempted. But his faithful officers were falling like standing grain under a hail-storm; his boy soldiers, though fighting like veterans, inspired little confidence, for there was the same uneasiness among the humble privates as among the great officers; he had neither cavalry nor artillery, and his available force was reduced to a hundred and twenty thousand, men and boys; Barclay might, as for a moment he contemplated doing, draw off into the Russian steppes; the traitors in Paris were already stirring; in short, the Emperor felt that he must at least consider. This was the monumental blunder of his life because it put him at Austria's mercy without her being forced to reveal her policy.



CHAPTER XXXIV

THE NATIONS IN GRAND ARRAY[49]

[Footnote 49: References: Von Odeleben, Napoleons Feldzug in Sachsen im Jahre 1813. Yorck, Napoleon als Feldherr. Weil, Campagne de 1813.]

Condition of Affairs after Bautzen — The Armistice of Poischwitz — Austria's New Terms — Napoleon's Reliance on his Dynastic Influence — Intervention of British Agents — Napoleon's Interview with Metternich — The Emperor's Wrath — Metternich's Determination — Wellington's Victories — Napoleon at Mainz — The Coalition Completed — Diplomatic Fencing — Renewal of Hostilities — The Responsibility.

Napoleon determined, however, to deliberate on the strongest possible vantage-ground, and for this reason continued his pursuit as far as Breslau, which was occupied by the end of the month. Simultaneously Berlin was threatened by Oudinot, Victor had relieved Glogau, and Vandamme was marching to Davout's assistance, so that Hamburg was safely in hand. The allied forces stood behind Schweidnitz, and by the same marvelous strategy as of old the various corps of the French army were disposed, under Ney, Lauriston, Reynier, Macdonald, and Bertrand, so as virtually to engirdle the enemy. Napoleon was at Neumarkt with the guard; a single bold dash southward toward the Eulen Mountains with his concentering force, and he would have crushed his opponents. But another victory like Luetzen and Bautzen would reduce his army still further, and then in his weakness he would be confronted by the hundred thousand Austrians which, according to the best advices, his father-in-law had assembled in Bohemia. In that juncture Francis might risk a battle, and if successful he could dictate not merely an armistice, but the terms of peace—a contingency more terrible than any other. Time, moreover, seemed quite as valuable to the Emperor of the French as to his foe: while they were calling in reserves and strengthening their ranks, his hundred and eighty thousand conscripts of 1814 could be marched to the Elbe, and Eugene could complete his work in Italy. Ignorant of the panic at his enemy's headquarters, the uneasy conqueror decided therefore that his best course was, by exhibiting a desire for peace and assenting to an armistice, to avoid the general reprobation of Europe. Accordingly, he took another disastrous step, and accepted the proposal of the allies for a conference.

How earnestly Napoleon desired peace appears from his spontaneous concessions. He would agree to the evacuation of Breslau for the sake of harmony, and would consent to such a truce as the majesty of a ruler and the rights of a successful general might alike exact; but he would not be treated like a besieged commander. Hamburg should remain as it was at the conclusion of negotiations, and the duration of the armistice must be longer than the term proposed—six weeks at the least. On these two points he took his stand. The fatal armistice of Poischwitz was signed at that village on June fourth by three commissioners, Shuvaloff for Russia, Kleist for Prussia, and Caulaincourt for France. It was a compromise providing for a neutral zone, stretching from the mouth of the Elbe southeastward to Bohemia, which was to separate the combatants until July twentieth. Hostilities might not be renewed until August first. Breslau was to be evacuated; Hamburg was to remain as the truce found it. These terms were reached only after much bluster, the allies, weak and disorganized as they were, demanding at first the evacuation of both Breslau and Hamburg, with a cessation of arms for a month. This stand they took in reliance partly on England, partly on Austria. The compromise, as mutually accepted, was reached in spite of British influence when Francis, apparently nervous and anxious, arrived at Gitschin, near the Bohemian frontier, and opened a conference with Nesselrode.

At Vienna men had said, when the news of Bautzen came, that the conqueror was perhaps an angel, perhaps a devil—certainly not a man. The cabinet had seen with alarm his attempt to negotiate directly with the Czar. Success in winning Russia would put Austria again at Napoleon's mercy; Alexander must be kept in warlike humor at all hazards. Nesselrode demanded nothing less than Austria's adherence to the coalition; Francis was still unready to fight; and Metternich, displaying all his adroitness, finally wrung from Nesselrode a basis for mediation comprising six articles: the extinction of Warsaw, the enlargement of Prussia by her Polish provinces and Dantzic, the restoration of Illyria to Austria, the independence of the Hanseatic towns, the dissolution of the Rhenish Confederacy, and the restoration of Prussia's western boundaries to the lines of 1806. This was a "minimum" considerably smaller than that proposed before Bautzen; but the allies could well accept it if Austria would promise never to take sides with France, as Metternich is said to have verbally assured the Czar in a secret meeting would be the case. On June twenty-seventh it was formally arranged that a congress to pacify the Continent on this basis should be held preliminary to a general peace including England; and the treaty binding Russia, Prussia, and Austria to alliance in case of Napoleon's refusal was signed that day in secret at Reichenbach. Should Napoleon reject Austria's articles of mediation, she was, on July twentieth, to join the coalition, and fight not only until he was driven behind the Rhine, but until the fortresses on the Oder and the Vistula were evacuated, Italy liberated, Spain restored to the Bourbons, and Austria reenlarged to her boundaries of 1805.

"If the allies do not in good faith desire peace," said Napoleon on June fifth, as he left his headquarters for Dresden, "this armistice may prove fatal to us." Late in life he believed that if he had in his great crisis marched right on, Austria would not have declared against him. Shrewd as he was, he was a tyro in dynastic politics. Austria has been made, aggrandized, and saved by marriages; but no conception of the duty imposed on families by that relation as understood in private life has ever controlled her politics. Francis was never unwilling to use his daughter for public ends, and seems to have delighted in the construction of family feeling formed in his son-in-law's mind by homely sentiment. It is preposterous to suppose that Napoleon really entertained such a view of his marriage as that of the Parisian bourgeois; but viewing himself as an established dynastic ruler, he could well imagine that when Austria had her choice between two purely dynastic alliances, she would, for the sake of Maria Louisa, have chosen that with France. This rather simple conception he seems to have entertained for a time, because when Maret and Metternich met, the former urged the matrimonial bond as a consideration. "The marriage," rejoined the latter, with a cough—"yes, the marriage; it was a match founded on political considerations, but—" and the conclusion of the sentence was a significant wag of the head.

Napoleon's first instinct of treachery was that of the general, and it was sound. His suspicions were fully aroused as soon as he reached Dresden; for Bubna began at once to stickle for antiquated formalities in negotiation, and stung Napoleon to exasperation by his evident determination to procrastinate. Accordingly the Emperor summoned Metternich to a personal meeting. The minister could not well explain. Since Castlereagh's return to power in January, 1812, Great Britain had kept at Berlin, St. Petersburg, and Vienna able diplomats ready, with purse in hand, to pay almost any sum for a strong coalition. It had been the appearance of Sir Charles Stewart from Berlin, and of Lord Cathcart from St. Petersburg, at the allied headquarters which accounted for the arrogant firmness of Shuvaloff and Kleist, and determined the character of the armistice. On June fourteenth and fifteenth those envoys further concluded treaties with Prussia and Russia respectively which explain the performances of Bubna at Dresden, and of the congress which later met at Prague. Prussia promised, in return for a subsidy of two thirds of a million pounds sterling, to cede a certain portion of lower Saxony, with the bishopric of Hildesheim, to the electorate of Hanover, and agreed to keep on foot eighty thousand men; Russia was to maintain a hundred and sixty thousand men, in return for one and a third million pounds, and for the care of English vessels in her harbors she was to receive a further sum of half a million. Great Britain and Russia were in conjunction to emit an issue of paper money to the amount of five millions sterling, and this loan was to be guaranteed by England, Prussia, and Russia conjointly. In conclusion it was solemnly stipulated that neither Russia nor Great Britain should negotiate separately with France.

In view of the successive stages of Napoleon's isolation,—namely, the armistice, these two subsidy treaties, and the secret treaty of June twenty-seventh signed at Reichenbach,—it seems futile to discuss the question whether or not Napoleon really wished peace in his famous interview with Metternich on June twenty-seventh—an interview which lasted from a quarter before twelve at midday until nearly nine at night, and has improperly been considered as the turning-point in Napoleon's career. Up to that moment Metternich's intervention had amounted to nothing short of selfish double-dealing. Of this Napoleon had written evidence. No wonder the shifty minister described his interview as "a most curious mixture of most heterogeneous subjects, of intermitting friendliness with the most passionate outbreaks," and strove in his account to deepen the shadows of his picture by discreet silence as to certain points—a trick he may have learned from Whitworth. The unfriendly narrator declares that Napoleon, when told that his soldiers were only boys, flung his hat into a corner, and hissed, "You do not know what passes in a soldier's mind; I grew up in the field, and a man like me troubles himself little about a million men." The Austrian statesman further reported the French emperor to have characterized his second marriage as a piece of stupidity, and to have charged his princely interlocutor with venality!

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