The Political History of England - Vol XI - From Addington's Administration to the close of William - IV.'s Reign (1801-1837)
by George Brodrick
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Yet Napoleon's instructions to Joseph show that he had fully grasped the critical nature of the situation. He enjoined Joseph to mass all his forces round Valladolid, and imperatively directed that at all hazards the communications with France should be maintained. The Spanish guerillas had long rendered communications so insecure that couriers with despatches had to be escorted by bodies of 250 cavalry or 500 infantry; they were now so effectually intercepted that Napoleon's own despatch reached Joseph more than two months late, by way of Barcelona and Valencia. Meanwhile, Joseph was openly accusing Soult, in a letter to his brother, of criminal ambition—a charge to which he laid himself open before in Portugal—and did not hesitate to add, "the Duke of Dalmatia or myself must quit Spain". In England, on the contrary, parties were at last united in the desire to bring the war to a triumphant end, and parliament grudged neither men nor money to aid Wellington's plan of campaign. It was, then, under happier auspices than in former years that he broke up from his cantonments then stationed on the Coa, a little to the north-west of Ciudad Rodrigo, and set forward with 70,000 British and Portuguese troops, besides 20,000 Spaniards, to drive the French out of Spain. So confident was he of success that, as Napier relates, he waved his hand in crossing the frontier on May 22, and exclaimed, "Farewell, Portugal".[50]

[Pageheading: VITORIA.]

He advanced by the valley of the Douro; then, turning to the north-east, he compelled the French to evacuate Burgos, and passed the Ebro on June 13. Graham in command of his left wing there joined him, after forcing his way by immense efforts across the mountains of the Portuguese frontier. Hill, commanding the right wing of his composite but united army, was already with him. A depot for his commissariat and a military hospital were established at Santander, where a British fleet was lying, and whence he could draw his supplies direct from home. The French army, under Joseph and Marshal Jourdan, fell back before him by a forced night march on the 19th and took up its position in front of Vitoria, in the province of Biscay. Here, on the plain of the river Zadorra, was fought on the 21st the greatest battle of the Peninsular war. Wellington had encountered serious physical difficulties in his passage from the valley of the Ebro to that of the Zadorra; but for once his plans had been executed with admirable precision, and all his troops arrived at the appointed time on the field of battle. The French, conscious of their impending expulsion from Spain, were encumbered by enormous baggage-trains containing the fruits of five years' merciless spoliation "not of a province but of a kingdom," including treasures of art from Madrid and all the provincial capitals, with no less than 5,500,000 dollars in hard cash, besides two years' arrears of pay which Napoleon had sent to fill the military chest of Joseph's army. A vast number of vehicles, loaded with the whole imperial and royal treasure, overspread the plain and choked the great road behind the French position, by which alone such a mass of waggons could find its way into France.

The French army consisted of about 60,000 men, with 150 pieces of cannon, but strong detachments, under Foy and Clausel respectively, had been sent away to guard the roads to Bilbao and Pamplona. The British army numbered nearly 80,000, inclusive of Portuguese and Spanish, with 90 guns. The French were posted on strong ground, and held the bridges across the river. Graham, with the left column of the British, made a circuit in the direction of Bilbao, working round to cut off the French rear on the Bayonne road. Hill, with the right column, forced the pass of Puebla, in the latter direction, carried the ridge above it after much hard fighting, and made good his position on the left flank of the French. Wellington himself, in the centre, under the guidance of a Spanish peasant, pushed a brigade across one of the bridges in his front, weakly guarded, and thus mastered the others; his force then expanded itself on the plain and bore down all opposition. Graham had met with a more obstinate resistance from the French right, under Reille, but at last got possession of the great Bayonne road. Thenceforward a retreat of the French army, partly encircled, became inevitable, but it was conducted at first in good order and with frequent halts at defensible points. The only outlet left open was the mountain road to Pamplona, and this was not only impracticable for heavy traffic but obstructed by an overturned waggon. The orderly retreat was soon converted into a rout; the flying throng made its way across country and over mountains towards Pamplona, leaving all the artillery, military stores, and accumulated spoils as trophies of the British victory.

The value of these was prodigious, but the great mass of booty, except munitions of war, fell into the hands of private soldiers and camp-followers. Wellington reported to Bathurst that nearly a million sterling in money had been appropriated by the rank and file of the army, and, still worse, that so dazzling a triumph had "totally annihilated all order and discipline".[51] The loss in the battle had been about 5,000, but Wellington stated that on July 8 "we had 12,500 men less under arms than we had on the day before the battle". He supposed the missing 7,500, nearly half of whom were British, to be mostly concealed in the mountain villages.[52] A large number of stragglers afterwards rejoined their colours, but too late to aid in an effectual pursuit of the enemy. The immediate consequence of this great victory was the evacuation by the French of all Spain south of the Ebro. Even Suchet abandoned Valencia and distributed his forces between Tarragona and Tortosa. To his great credit, Wellington addressed to the cortes an earnest protest against wreaking vengeance on the French party in Spain, many of whom might have been driven into acceptance of a foreign yoke "by terror, by distress, or by despair". At the same time, he vigorously followed up his success by chasing and nearly surrounding Clausel's division, while Hill invested Pamplona, and Graham drove Foy across the Bidassoa, in his advance upon the fortress of St. Sebastian.


The fortifications of St. Sebastian were in a very imperfect condition, but the governor, Emmanuel Rey, was nevertheless able to defend the place with success. Wellington, after laying siege to it, sanctioned a premature attempt to scale the breaches which cost Graham's force a loss of more than 500 men. This check was succeeded by another, still more serious, in the historic pass of Roncesvalles. Napoleon, hearing at Dresden of the battle of Vitoria, and instantly fathoming its momentous import, despatched Soult, as "lieutenant of the emperor," to assume command of all the French armies at Bayonne and on the Spanish frontier, still amounting nominally to 114,000 men, besides 66,000 under Suchet in Catalonia. Soult reached Bayonne on July 13, fortified it strongly, and reorganised his troops with amazing energy, inspiriting them with a warlike address in the well-known style of Napoleon's proclamations. On the 25th he set his forces in motion, with the intention of crushing the British right by a sudden irruption, and relieving Pamplona. He all but achieved his object, for, by well-concerted and well-concealed movements, he actually carried the passes of Roncesvalles and Maya, in spite of a gallant resistance and the French troops were on the point of pouring down the Pyrenees on the Spanish side, when Wellington arrived at full speed from his position before St. Sebastian.

He was opportunely reinforced, and gave battle on the rugged heights in front of Pamplona to a force numerically superior, but for the most part charging uphill. Never, even at Bussaco, did the French show greater ardour and elan in attack, and it was only after a series of bloody hand-to-hand combats on the summits and sides of the mountains that they were compelled to recoil and rolled backward down the ridge. Baffled in his attempt to relieve Pamplona, Soult turned westwards towards St. Sebastian, but was anticipated by Wellington, and faced by three divisions of Hill on his right. A second engagement followed, in which the Portuguese earned the chief honours, and 3,000 prisoners were taken. At last Soult gave orders for a retreat, and in the course of it was all but entrapped in a narrow valley where he could not have escaped the necessity of surrender. It is said that he was warned just in time by the sudden intrusion of three British marauders in uniform; at all events, he instantly changed his line of march, and ultimately led his broken army back to France, but in the utmost confusion, and not without fresh disasters. One of these befell Reille's division in the gorge of Yanzi, and another the French rear-guard under Clausel, which defended itself valiantly, but was driven headlong down the northern side of the Pyrenees from which this series of battles derives its name.

The siege of St. Sebastian was immediately renewed with a far more powerful battering train, but its defences had also been strengthened by the indefatigable governor. The final assault took place on August 31, and rivalled the storming of Badajoz in the murderous ferocity of the melee at the breaches, as well as in the horrors practised on the inhabitants by the victorious assailants, which Wellington and Graham vainly endeavoured to check. So desperate was the defence, and so insuperable appeared the obstacles to an entrance by the breaches, that Graham adopted the heroic expedient of causing his artillery to fire a few feet only over the heads of the forlorn hope, until a clear opening had been made, and deadly piles of combustibles had been exploded behind the main breach, blowing into the air 300 of the garrison. A hideous conflagration destroyed the greater part of the town. A few days later the castle, to which the governor had retired, yielded to an irresistible cannonade, and he surrendered at discretion with about 1,200 men. Several hundred wounded, including a large number of British prisoners, were found there in the hospitals.

On the 30th, the day before St. Sebastian was stormed, Soult attempted a diversion for its relief by crossing the Bidassoa, and on the following day he engaged a large body of Spaniards at St. Marcial. On this occasion Wellington held the British troops in reserve, and the Spaniards without their aid defeated the French with great slaughter. So ended a well-planned and well-executed effort to reconquer the Spanish frontier. Pamplona was still untaken, and Suchet was still in Catalonia, but no further offensive movement was undertaken by the French against Spain. Both Soult and Wellington had shown remarkable powers of generalship, and there was a moment when Soult might have snatched the prize of victory by raising the siege of Pamplona. But his ultimate success was hopeless, and his failure was complete. Before the fall of St. Sebastian and the battle of St. Marcial, Wellington estimated the French losses at 15,000 men, who could ill be spared in the interval between Napoleon's last gleam of victory at Dresden and on his signal defeat at Leipzig.


But the Peninsular war, in the historical sense, was not yet over. During the summer of 1813 a mixed force of British, Germans, Spaniards, and Sicilians had been carrying on an intermittent war against the French under Suchet in the eastern provinces. Their commander, Sir John Murray, who had allowed the beaten enemy to escape at Castalla, proved equally irresolute in an attempt to capture Tarragona, countermanded the assault, and re-embarked his troops on the approach of Suchet. Soon afterwards he was superseded by Lord William Bentinck, and Suchet after the battle of Vitoria was compelled to retire behind the Ebro. Bentinck renewed the investment of Tarragona, but permitted Suchet without a battle to relieve it, demolish its fortifications, and withdraw its garrison at the end of August. An ill-judged advance of the British general into Catalonia brought about another misfortune, and, upon the whole, the series of operations conducted against Suchet were by no means glorious to British arms or generalship, however important their effect in preventing a large body of French veterans from reinforcing Soult's army at a critical time in the Western Pyrenees. Wellington himself inclined to complete the deliverance of Spain by clearing the province of Catalonia of the invaders, but the British government, having in view the prospect of crushing Napoleon in Germany, urged him to undertake an immediate invasion of France. Accordingly he moved forward on October 7, leaving Pamplona closely blockaded, threw his army across the Bidassoa on the 8th by a stroke of masterly tactics, forced the strong French lines on the north side of it, and established himself on the enemy's soil. Before entering France he issued the most stringent proclamations against plundering, which he enforced by the sternest measures, and announced that he would not suffer the peaceful inhabitants of France to be punished for the ambition of their ruler. On the 31st the French garrison of Pamplona, despairing of relief, surrendered as prisoners of war.

The prolonged defence of Pamplona gave Soult time to strengthen his position on the Nivelle. The lines which he constructed rivalled those of Torres Vedras, and the several actions by which they were at last forced and turned were among the most desperate of the whole war. The first was fought in the early part of November, and resulted in the occupation by Wellington's army of the great mountain-barrier south of Bayonne, with six miles of entrenchments along the Nivelle, and of the port of St. Jean de Luz. A month later Wellington became anxious to establish his winter-cantonments between the Nive and the Adour, partly for strategical reasons, and partly in order to command a larger and more fertile area for his supplies. On December 9, therefore, Hill with the right wing forded the Nive and drove back the French left upon their camp in front of Bayonne. Then followed three most obstinate combats on the 10th, 11th and 13th, in which Soult took the offensive, with Bayonne as the centre of his operations, and with the advantage of always moving upon interior lines resting upon a strong fortress. In the first of these attacks, he surprised and nearly succeeded in overwhelming the British left, under Hope, now Sir John, before Wellington could bring other divisions to its support. In the second, he fell suddenly on the same troops, exhausted by fatigue, and still more or less isolated, but they were rallied by Hope and Wellington in person, and remained masters of the field. In the third he concentrated his whole strength upon the British right under Hill, aided by a thick mist, and by a flood upon the Nive, which swept away a bridge of boats, and separated Hill from the rest of the army. Nevertheless, that able general, emulating the noble example of Hope in the earlier encounters, succeeded in repelling assault after assault, until Wellington himself appeared with reinforcements of imposing strength, and converted a stubborn defence into a victory.

The loss of the allies since crossing the Nive had exceeded 5,000; that of the French was 6,000, besides 2,400 Germans who deserted to the British during the night of the 9th in obedience to orders from home. Ever since he assumed the command Soult had shown military ability of a rare order. Bayonne, the base of all his operations, was indefensible before he fortified it. A great proportion of his troops were raw conscripts, or demoralised by defeat, before he inspired them with his own courage and vigour. He was practically dependent for subsistence in his own country on the very system of pillage which had roused a patriotic frenzy of resentment in Spain and other lands ravaged by French armies. He now stood at bay in the south of France, as Wellington had so long stood at bay in Portugal, and continued there during the early part of 1814 a defensive campaign not unworthy of comparison with the prodigious exploits of Napoleon himself against the invaders of his eastern provinces.


A respite of two months succeeded the battles on the Nive. During this interval Wellington's difficulty in paying his troops was great, owing to the enormous drain of specie from England into Central Europe. He was further embarrassed by the appearance of the Duke of Angouleme, elder son of Charles, Count of Artois, afterwards Charles X., at his headquarters. The British government was by no means committed to a restoration of the Bourbons, and Wellington deprecated the duke's appearance as at least premature. He therefore insisted upon his remaining incognito and as a non-combatant at St. Jean de Luz. Soult was in great straits, not only because he was compelled to "make war support war" by exorbitant requisitions upon the French peasantry, but also because the exigencies of Napoleon were such that large drafts of the best troops were drawn from the army of the south. When hostilities were resumed in the middle of February, 1814, the Anglo-Portuguese and Spanish force combined outnumbered the French by nearly five to three, but Soult retained the decisive advantage of having a strong point d'appui in Bayonne at the confluence of the Nive and Adour. Careful preparations were made by Wellington for throwing a large force across the Lower Adour below Bayonne, in concert with a British fleet. Contrary winds and a violent surf delayed the arrival of the British gunboats, but on February 23 Hope sent over a body of his men on a raft of pontoons in the face of the enemy's flotilla, with the aid of a brigade armed with Congreve rockets, which had been first used at Leipzig, and produced the utmost consternation in the French ranks. The gunboats soon followed, but with the loss of one wrecked and others stranded in crossing the bar. By the joint exertions of soldiers and sailors a bridge was then constructed, by which Hope's entire army with artillery passed over the river, and, two days afterwards, began the investment of Bayonne.

Meanwhile, the centre and right wing, under the command of Wellington, had forced a passage across the Upper Adour and threatened Bayonne on the other side. Leaving a garrison of 6,000 men in Bayonne, Soult took his stand at Orthez, with an army of about 40,000 men, on the summit of a formidable ridge. Wellington attacked this ridge on the 27th, with a force of nearly equal strength in three columns so disposed as to converge from points several miles distant from each other. The veterans of the French army, admirably handled, fought with tenacity, and all but succeeded in foiling the attack before Wellington could bring up his reserves. The conscripts, however, were not equally steady, and when Hill, advancing from the extreme right, pressed upon the French left, Soult's orderly retreat became a precipitate flight. The French loss greatly exceeded the British, and was soon afterwards swelled by wholesale desertions; the road to Bordeaux was thrown open, and the royalist reaction against Napoleon, stimulated by the depredation of the French troops, ripened into a general revolt.

Meanwhile, Napoleon had lost Germany by the battle of Leipzig; early in 1814 the allied armies of Austria, Prussia, and Russia had entered France, and a congress was being held at Chatillon-sur-Seine, to formulate, if possible, terms of peace. The city of Bordeaux was the first to declare itself openly in favour of the Bourbons. Wellington sent a large detachment to preserve order, with strict instructions to Beresford, who commanded it, to remain neutral, in the event of Louis XVIII. being proclaimed, pending the negotiations with Napoleon at Chatillon. But the excitement of the people could not be restrained, and the arrival of the Duke of Angouleme evoked a burst of royalist enthusiasm which anticipated by a few weeks only the abdication of Napoleon at Fontainebleau. The defection of Bordeaux forced Soult to fall back rapidly on a very formidable position in front of Toulouse. The British army followed in pursuit, encumbered with a great artillery and pontoon train. After a lively action at Tarbes, it arrived in front of Toulouse on March 27, to find the Garonne in flood, and the French army strongly entrenched around the town, with a prospect of being joined by 20,000 or 30,000 veterans, under Suchet, from Catalonia.


The dispositions of Wellington, ending in the battle of Toulouse, on April 10, have not escaped criticism. Hill, with two divisions and a Spanish contingent, threw a bridge across the Garonne below Toulouse, but discovered that he could make no progress in that direction, owing to the impassable state of the roads. Beresford crossed the river with 18,000 men at another point, but a sudden flood broke up the pontoon bridge in his rear, and he remained isolated for no less than four days, exposed to an attack from Soult's whole army. Having missed this rare opportunity, Soult calmly awaited the attack, with a force numerically inferior, but with every advantage of position. On the 10th Wellington's troops advanced in two columns, separated from each other by a perilous interval of two miles. One of these, including Freyre's Spaniards and Picton's division, was fairly driven back after furious attempts to storm the ramparts of the fortified ridge held by the French. Beresford, however, who in this battle combined generalship with brilliant courage, restored the fortunes of the day by a dashing advance against the redoubts on the French right. Having carried these he swept along the ridge, which became untenable, and Soult withdrew his army within his second line of defences. Two days later, seeing that Hill menaced Toulouse on the other side, and fearing that if defeated again he would lose his only line of retreat along the Carcassonne road, he evacuated Toulouse by that route, leaving his magazines and hospitals in the hands of the British army. By so doing he left to Wellington the honour and prize of victory, but few victories have been so dearly bought, and the loss in killed and wounded was actually greater on the side of the victors than on that of the vanquished.

Toulouse received Wellington on the 12th with open arms, and as news reached him on the same day announcing the proclamation of Louis XVIII. at Paris, he no longer hesitated to assume the white cockade. Soult loyally declined to accept the intelligence until it was officially confirmed, when a military convention was made on the 18th, whereby a boundary line was established between the two armies. Suchet had already withdrawn from Spain, and at last recalled the garrisons from those Spanish fortresses in which Napoleon had so obstinately locked up picked troops which he sorely needed in his dire extremity. But on the 14th, a week after Napoleon's abdication, the famous "sortie from Bayonne" took place, in which each side lost 800 or 900 men, and Hope, wounded in two places, was made prisoner. For this waste of life the governor of Bayonne must be held responsible, since he was informed of the events at Paris by Hope, and instead of awaiting official confirmation, like Soult, chose to risk the issue of a night combat, which must needs be deadly and could not be decisive.

Thus ended the Peninsular war. This war on the British side has seldom been surpassed in the steady adherence to a settled purpose, through years of discouragement and failure, maintained by the general whose name it has made immortal. Neither his strategy nor his tactical skill was always faultless; and afterwards in comparing himself with Soult, he is reported to have said, that he often got into scrapes, but was extricated by the valour of his army, whereas Soult, when he got into a scrape, had no such men to get him out of it. However this might be, Wellington's foresight in appreciating the place to be filled by the Peninsular war in the overthrow of Napoleon's domination, and his truly heroic constancy in striving to realise his own idea will ever constitute his best claim to greatness. No other man in England or in Europe discerned as he did, that with Portugal independent and guarded by the power of Great Britain on its western coast and its eastern frontier, the permanent conquest of Spain by the French would become impossible. No one else saw beforehand, what Napoleon discovered too late, that a war in Portugal and Spain would drain the life-blood of his invincible hosts, and at length help towards the invasion of France itself. No other general would have shown equal statesmanship in managing Spanish juntas and controlling even Spanish guerillas, or equal forbearance in sparing the French people the evils which a victorious army might have inflicted upon them.


[42] Napier, Peninsular War (3rd edition), i., 123.

[43] For Moore's campaign see Napier, Peninsular War, i., pp. xxi.-xxv., lvii.-lxxvi., 330-44, 431-542, and Oman, Peninsular War, i., 486-602; and compare Moore's Diary, edited by Maurice, ii., 272-398. Sir F. Maurice has not completely answered Professor Oman's criticisms.

[44] Wellington, Dispatches, iv., 261-63 (March 7, 1809).

[45] For the exact figures see Oman, Peninsular War, ii., 645-48.

[46] Wellington, Dispatches, iv., 536 (July 29, 1809).

[47] For Massena's lines of march see T. J. Andrews in English Historical Review, xvi. (1901), 474-92.

[48] The battle is picturesquely described by Napier, Peninsular War, iii., 536-66. See also ibid., pp. xxxv.-li.

[49] Wellington, Supplementary Dispatches, vii., 318-19.

[50] Napier, Peninsular War (first edition), v., 513.

[51] Wellington, Dispatches, x., 473 (June 29, 1813).

[52] Ibid., x., 519 (July 9, 1813).



The war between France and Russia, publicly threatened in August, 1811,[53] was long deferred. On Russia's part the adherence to a defensive policy delayed action until France was ready. But there was another reason why the preparations for war were only slowly pushed forward. Even at the court of St. Petersburg there was a French party which retarded such preparations as committing Russia too definitely to an open rupture. On the part of France, also, delay was necessary. Though deliberately provoked by himself, the war was not altogether welcome to Napoleon. It suited him best to have a strong but friendly neighbour in Russia, and victory promised him but the half-hearted friendship of a power to which he could no longer dare to leave much strength. Besides it was necessary to make far more extensive preparations than had been required for any of his previous campaigns. Russia was too poor and too thinly peopled for it to be possible for war to support itself, and immense supplies with correspondingly large transport arrangements were needed for a large army which would have to fight at so vast a distance from its base. It would have been impossible to be ready in time for a summer campaign in 1811; the country was not favourable to transport on a large scale during winter, and the war was therefore postponed till the summer of 1812. The end of May or beginning of June was the date originally selected for the beginning of operations, as it was expected that the difficulty of providing fodder would be greatly reduced when the grass had grown. But the preparations were not sufficiently advanced by that date, and hostilities were only opened on June 24.

The interval was spent by both powers in securing allies and pacifying enemies. Early in the year 1812 Prussia had made a last attempt to avert a French alliance by inviting Russia to join in a peaceful compromise. After the failure of this negotiation her position was helpless, and resembled that of Poland before its national extinction. Russia could not become her active ally without exposing her own army to destruction at a second Friedland, and Prussia could not fight France alone. Frederick William, therefore, accepted the terms dictated by Napoleon. By a treaty concluded on February 24 he agreed to supply the emperor with 20,000 men to serve as a part of the French army, and was to raise no levies and give no orders without his consent. The king was also to afford a free passage and provide food and forage for the French troops, payment for which was to be arranged afterwards. In return for this a reduction was made in the war indemnity due to France. This was probably as much as Napoleon could have obtained without authorising a dangerous increase in the Prussian army.


Austria was more fortunate, because an Austrian war would have been a serious diversion, not a step towards the invasion of Russia. She was in consequence able to impose her own terms on France. These terms, so far as the nature and extent of the Austrian assistance to France were concerned, had been sketched by Metternich to the British agent, Nugent, as far back as November, 1811, and they were accepted by France in a treaty of March 16, 1812.[54] Austria was to provide an army of 30,000 men to guard Napoleon's flank in Volhynia. In return France guaranteed the integrity of Turkey, and secretly promised a restoration of the Illyrian provinces to Austria in exchange for Galicia, which was to form a part of a reconstituted Poland. Elsewhere Napoleon's negotiations were unsuccessful. In January he fulfilled his threat of occupying Swedish Pomerania, but it had no effect on Swedish policy, and when in March he offered Finland and a part of Norway as the price of an alliance, his terms were rejected and Sweden allied herself with Russia. On April 17 Napoleon made overtures for peace with Great Britain, offering to evacuate Spain and to recognise the house of Braganza in Portugal and the Bourbons in Sicily, if the British would recognise the "actual dynasty" in Spain and Murat in Naples. The offer was certainly illusory. "Actual dynasty" was an ambiguous phrase, but would naturally mean the Bonapartes. Castlereagh declined to recognise Joseph, but declared his readiness to discuss the proposed basis if "actual dynasty" meant a recognition of Ferdinand VII. in Spain. Napoleon was enabled to say that his offers of peace had been rejected, and made no answer to Castlereagh.

Russia in her turn had to conciliate the Porte, Sweden, Persia, and Great Britain. The Turkish negotiations were prolonged, and it was only in May that the treaty of Bucharest was signed, by which Russia gave up all her conquests except Bessarabia. Sweden had offered Russia her alliance in February. She was prepared to surrender Finland to Russia on condition that Russia should assist her in the conquest of Norway. A joint army was to effect this conquest and then make a descent on North Germany, threatening the rear of the French army of invasion. The adhesion of Great Britain was to be invited. On April 5 an alliance between Russia and Sweden was signed on the terms suggested. This was followed on August 28 by the treaty of Abo, which was signed in the presence of the British representative, Lord Cathcart. By this treaty Russia was to assist Sweden with 30,000 men and a loan, Sweden undertook to support Russia's claim, when it should be made, for an extension of her frontier to the Vistula. Shortly afterwards it was agreed to postpone the attack on Norway till the following year, and thus at length the Russian army in Finland was set free. The treaties with the Porte and Sweden were too late to liberate troops to oppose Napoleon's advance, but the troops thus liberated greatly endangered his retreat. With Persia no peace could be made. Great Britain was still nominally at war both with Russia and with Sweden. Negotiations with Russia in April came to nothing because the British government refused to take over a loan of L4,000,000, but on July 18 a treaty of alliance between the three powers was signed, in which Great Britain promised pecuniary aid to Russia. A further sign of friendship was given when the tsar handed over the Cronstadt fleet for safekeeping to the British. The formal treaty was, however, only the public recognition of a friendship and mutual confidence which had begun with the breach between Russia and France. This good understanding was shared by the nominal allies of France, Prussia and Austria. Russia was fully informed of the military and political plans of Austria, and knew that her forces would not fight except under compulsion.

At last, on June 24, Napoleon's grand army began the passage of the Niemen, which formed the boundary between the duchy of Warsaw and the Russian empire. The main body, at least 300,000 strong, was commanded by Napoleon himself. A northern division, including the Prussian contingent, was commanded by Macdonald, and, after advancing to Riga, which it pretended to besiege, remained idle throughout the campaign. The Austrians, under Schwarzenberg, formed a southern division, but they merely manoeuvred, and made no serious attempts to impede the movements of the southern Russian army on its return journey from the war on the Danube. Napoleon himself drove the main Russian armies before him in the direction of Moscow. At last Kutuzov, who had taken over the command of the Russians in the course of the retreat, made a stand at Borodino, where on September 7 one of the bloodiest battles on record was fought. The figures are variously given, but the French army probably lost over 30,000 in killed and wounded out of a force of 125,000; and the Russians lost not less than 40,000 out of an army of slightly smaller dimensions. This awful carnage ended, after all, in little more than a trial of strength. The French gained the ground, but the Russians made good their retreat, and six days later Kutuzov retired through the streets of Moscow, taking the better part of the population and all the military stores with him. The French vanguard entered on the 14th, and Napoleon himself next day. A fire, kindled either by accident or by Russian incendiaries, raged from the 14th to the 20th and destroyed three-fourths of the city.


The capture of Moscow was far from being the triumph that the French emperor had anticipated. Deceived by his recollections of Tilsit, he had fully counted upon receiving pacific overtures from Alexander or at least upon his eager acceptance of conciliatory assurances from himself. But as the weeks passed and the vision of negotiation with the Russians proved illusory, retreat became inevitable. On the night of October 18 the French army, now about 115,000 strong, evacuated Moscow. Kutuzov, who was stronger in cavalry, though perhaps still weaker in infantry, hung upon its rear, and, while avoiding a pitched battle, was able to prevent Napoleon from retreating by any other route than the now devastated line of his advance. It has often been questioned whether Kutuzov did not deliberately refrain from destroying the French army. He certainly informed Sir Robert Wilson on one occasion that he did not wish to drive Napoleon to extremities, lest his supremacy should go to the power that ruled the sea. The remark may have been nothing more than an outburst of ill-temper, but, whatever the motive, there can be no doubt as to the policy adopted. The retreating French army suffered terrible hardships from the cold, for which it was ill prepared. Twice it seemed on the point of falling into the hands of the Russians; at Krasnoe 26,000 prisoners are said to have been captured by Kutuzov's army, while at Borisov the southern army under Chichagov and the army returning from Finland under Wittgenstein joined hands, and disputed the French passage of the Berezina on November 26-29. According to Chambray's calculation, the French army numbered 31,000 combatants before the passage, of whom but 9,000 remained on December 1. All the non-combatants had been left in the hands of the enemy.

This was the last direct attack made by the Russians on the relics of the grand army. But the worst ravages of the Russian winter had yet to come. On December 3 the cold became intense. As the survivors of the expedition dragged themselves homewards through the Polish provinces, they were met by large bodies of reinforcements pouring in from the west; these recruits, comparatively fresh, were at first appalled by the gaunt and famine-stricken aspect of the returning veterans, but soon perished themselves in nearly equal numbers. It is estimated that altogether only 60,000 men recrossed the frontier out of a total of 630,000, and in the estimate of 60,000 is included Macdonald's division, which was exposed to comparatively little hardship. That division with the Prussian contingent began to fall back on December 19. On the 30th, however, the Prussians were reduced to neutrality by the convention of Tauroggen, signed by the Prussian commander, Yorck, with the Russians, without the sanction of his government. Had Russia been in a condition to press onwards at once and carry the war into French territory, it is possible that Europe might have been spared the misery and bloodshed of the next few years. But, for the moment, her strength and resources were exhausted, nor was it until months had elapsed that other nations, or even France herself, became aware of the magnitude of the catastrophe which had overtaken Napoleon's host. That he was able to rally himself after it, to carry the French people with him, to enforce a new conscription, and to assume the aggressive in the campaign of 1813, must ever remain a supreme proof of his capacity for empire.


In the year 1812 war broke out between Great Britain and the United States. For a time the continental warfare had led to a great increase in American commerce, which was free from the attacks of privateers and from the restrictions which the opposing parties placed on one another. Presently, however, both parties attempted to force the United States into a virtual alliance with themselves. Orders in council on the one side and imperial decrees on the other had, as we have seen, declared a blockade of the ports of the continent of Europe and of Great Britain, and the United States saw their commerce threatened with disabilities approximating to those suffered by the belligerent powers. President Jefferson, who was supported by the republican party, adhered to a policy of strict neutrality, and prepared to suffer any commercial loss rather than be drawn into an European war. The only action which he took was the defence of the river mouths with a view to resisting any offensive movement. The federalist party on the other hand were in favour of energetic action against France, so as to secure English favour and the great commercial privileges which the mistress of the seas could bestow. For a time no hostilities resulted, but constant irritation was caused by the British claim to a right of search and to the impressment of sailors of British nationality found on American ships, while American ships accused of infringing the blockade were seized by either of the European combatants. To some extent the differences between Great Britain and the United States depended on rival views of the law of allegiance. The British maintained the doctrine nemo potest exuere patriam, and regarded all British-born persons, unless absolved from their allegiance by the act of the mother-country, as British subjects. The law of the United States, on the other hand, permitted an alien to become a citizen after fourteen years' residence, and previously to 1798 had required a residence of five years only. In this way it often happened that sailors who had received the American citizenship were impressed for service on British ships, and sometimes sailors of actual American birth were impressed. But it was impossible to justify the practice to which the Americans resorted of receiving deserters of British nationality from British ships of war, who were induced by offers of higher pay to transfer themselves to the American service.

Jefferson at first preferred to coerce the European powers by retaliatory legislation. As early as April, 1806, a law had been passed forbidding the importation of certain British wares, but was suspended six weeks after it came into operation. In June, 1807, irritation was intensified by the incident of the Leopard and the Chesapeake. Five men, four of whom were British born and one an American by birth, were known to have deserted from the British sloop Halifax, lying in Hampton roads, and to have taken service on an American frigate, the Chesapeake. After application for their surrender had been made in vain to the magistrates of the town of Norfolk, where the Chesapeake's rendezvous was, and to the officer commanding the rendezvous, Vice-admiral Berkeley sent his flagship, the Leopard, carrying fifty guns, with an order to the British captains on the North American station to search the Chesapeake for deserters from six ships named, including the Halifax, in case she should be encountered on the high seas. The Leopard arrived in Chesapeake bay in time to follow the Chesapeake beyond American waters, and then made a demand to search for deserters. On the captain of the Chesapeake refusing compliance, the Leopard opened fire. The Chesapeake was not in a condition to make any effectual reply, and, after receiving three broadsides, struck her flag. Only one of the deserters from the Halifax, an Englishman, was found on the Chesapeake; but three deserters from the British warship Melampus, which had not been named in Berkeley's order, all Americans by birth, were removed from the Chesapeake, which was now permitted to return to port.[55] Although the British government offered reparation for this action, recalled Berkeley, and disavowed the right to search ships of war for deserters, the incident could not fail to make a bad impression on American opinion.

But still Jefferson adhered to a policy of pacific coercion. In December, 1807, the act of April, 1806, was again put into force, and an embargo act, passed by the American congress, now cut off all foreign countries from trade with the United States. But the policy of embargo was disastrous to its promoters. It ruined the commerce and emptied the treasury of the United States. On March 1, 1809, a non-intercourse act, applying only to France, Great Britain, and their dependencies, was substituted for the embargo act.[56] The new act enabled the president to remove the embargo against whichever country should cancel its orders or decrees against American trade. Three days later Jefferson was succeeded by Madison as President of the United States. The change made no difference to the policy of the United States government. But the opposition was now much stronger and more violent than formerly; so much so that Sir James Craig, the Canadian governor, actually despatched a spy, John Henry, to sound the willingness of New England, where the federalist party was the stronger, to secede from the union and join Great Britain against the United States. This venture becomes the less surprising when we observe that in the previous year, 1808, John Quincy Adams, the future president, had predicted such a secession. Nothing, however, came of the attempt. Madison attempted to obtain concessions from the British government, but while the Perceval ministry lasted he met with no success. In May, 1810, the non-intercourse act expired, but a proviso was enacted that, if before March 3, 1811, either Great Britain or France should cancel her decrees against American trade the act should, three months after such revocation, revive against the power that maintained its decrees. Madison was cajoled into believing that Napoleon had recalled his decrees on November 1, 1810, and the non-intercourse act was accordingly revived against Great Britain and her dependencies in February, 1811.


Almost the first act of the Liverpool administration was to cancel the restrictions on American trade. But it was too late. Five days earlier the United States had declared war against Great Britain on June 18, 1812. The explanation of this step must be sought in the party politics of the United States. While the federalists courted British alliance, the younger members of the republican party had conceived a hope of conquering Canada as a result of a victorious war against Great Britain. This was the reply of the national party in the United States to the action of the Canadian governor. Madison knew the impracticability of such a step, but, finding that he could only carry the presidential election of 1812 with the support of this section of his party, he declared war. Great Britain, with her best troops in the Peninsula, was in no condition to use her full strength in America, but the United States were entirely unprepared for war. Their treasury was still empty, and their army and navy were small, while Canada generally was contented and loyal to the British crown. Upper Canada was full of loyalists, who had been expelled from the revolted colonies, and who with their descendants hated the men that had driven them from their homes; lower Canada was half-French and had nothing in common with the United States, while the Roman catholic clergy threw the whole weight of their influence on the British side. General Hull, who commanded the forces employed against Canada, succeeded in crossing the river Detroit in July and threatened the British post of Malden. But an alliance with the Indians enabled the British first to possess themselves of Mackinac, at the junction of lakes Huron and Michigan, and afterwards to imperil Hull's communications through the Michigan territory.

Hull accordingly fell back on Detroit. The British, with 750 men under Major-General Brock, together with 600 Indians, now prepared to attack Hull at that place. Hull, who believed his retreat to be cut off by the Indians, did not await the British attack, but surrendered on August 16 with 2,500 men and thirty-three guns. The effect of the capitulation was to place the British in effectual possession, not merely of Detroit, but of the territory of Michigan, and thus to render any attack on Canada from that quarter extremely difficult. The advantages gained by the British through this success were unfortunately neutralised by the policy pursued by Sir George Prevost, who had succeeded Craig as governor of Canada. Prevost was of opinion that, when the news of the withdrawal of the orders in council reached Washington, the United States government would be ready to abandon hostilities; and he accordingly concluded a provisional armistice with General Dearborn, the commander-in-chief of the enemy's forces in the northern states. But President Madison, having engaged in war, was anxious to try the effect of another attack on Canada before negotiating for peace, and therefore declined to ratify the armistice. The interval enabled the United States to bring up reinforcements, but their new army failed in an attack on a British post on the Maumee river.

Meanwhile a second attempt was made to invade Upper Canada, this time from the side of Niagara. On October 13, Brigadier-General Wadsworth, acting under the orders of General Van Rensselaer, led an attack on the British position of Queenstown on the Canadian bank of the Niagara river. Brock commanded the defence, but was killed early in the fight. The position was momentarily seized by the enemy, but was presently recaptured by the British, who had in the meantime been reinforced by Major-General Sheaffe, the son of a loyalist, with a force from Fort George, and before the day closed Wadsworth found himself compelled to surrender with 900 men. The remainder of the enemy's forces, consisting of militia, rather than exceed their military obligations by crossing the frontier, chose to leave these men to their fate. In spite of the ignominious surrenders with which the first two expeditions against Canada had terminated, a third attempt was made by Brigadier-General Smyth to force the Canadian frontier; but on November 28 he was repulsed with loss by the British under Bishopp between Chippewa and Fort Erie, above the Niagara Falls, and at the end of the year the Canadian frontier still remained unpierced.


The glory of the British military successes was unfortunately obscured in large measure by American successes on the sea. The maritime war resolved itself into a series of fights between individual frigates. This was the necessary result of the nature of the British force kept in American waters. Ever since the renewal of hostilities with France in 1803 a species of blockade had been maintained along the coast of the United States by British vessels on the watch for deserters or contraband of war. It was also found necessary to employ ships of war to guard against pirates in the West Indies and to protect British commerce in that quarter against French privateers. For all these purposes speed was of more importance than strength, and the British force in the west contained a disproportionate number of smaller vessels as compared with line of battle ships. The actual numbers of British warships in North American waters at the beginning of 1812 were three ships of the line, twenty-one cruisers and frigates, and fifty-three small craft. The United States navy was still weaker, and amounted merely to seven efficient frigates and nine small craft.[57] There was no question of a contest between fleets, and though the numbers of the British warships enabled them to destroy American trade, they were ship for ship inferior to the American frigates, which were thus enabled to win an empty glory in single-ship encounters. The American frigates were, in fact, superior in every respect to the British ships which nominally belonged to the same class. They were larger and more strongly built, a frigate being as strong as a British seventy-four. Their crews were more numerous, and were recruited entirely from seamen, about one-third of whom would appear to have been of British nationality, while, as has been seen, many of them had been decoyed from British war-vessels by offers of higher pay. The British ships on the other hand were manned largely by landsmen, often impressed from the jails. A false economy had induced the British admiralty to impose narrow limits on the use of ammunition for gunnery practice. The Americans on the other hand were very liberal in this respect, with the result that in the early years of the war they were greatly superior to their enemies in point of marksmanship.

A good example of the disproportion between the British and American frigates is furnished by the fight between the British frigate Guerriere and the American frigate Constitution, on August 19, one of the first naval actions in the war. The Guerriere was armed with twenty-four broadside guns, discharging projectiles with a total weight of 517 pounds; the Constitution with twenty-eight broadside guns, discharging a weight of 768 pounds. The crew of the Guerriere, counting men only, numbered 244, that of the Constitution with a similar limitation 460. Finally the Guerriere's tonnage amounted to 1,092, as against the Constitution's 1,533. The Guerriere's guns proved very ineffectual from the start, while the marksmanship, not only of the American gunners but of the riflemen in the Constitution's tops, was the wonder of the British. It is stated that none of her shot fell short. After a fight lasting nearly two hours the Guerriere surrendered. The ship was a complete wreck, and she had lost fifteen men killed and six mortally wounded as against seven killed and three mortally wounded on board her opponent.

The effect of the engagement both on British and on American public opinion was altogether out of proportion to its intrinsic importance. The inequality in strength of the opposing frigates was not understood, and any defeat of the mistress of the seas seemed an event of considerable significance. The Americans soon met with other similar successes. On October 18 their sloop Wasp, of eighteen guns, reduced the British sloop Frolic, a weaker vessel, though of similar armament, to a helpless hulk after a ten minutes' cannonade. The moral effect of this victory was not impaired by the fact that the conqueror and her prize were compelled to surrender a few hours later to the British seventy-four Poictiers. On the 25th the United States, of forty-four guns, captured the Macedonian, of thirty-eight, after three hours' fighting, and on December 29 the British thirty-eight-gun frigate Java, with a very inexperienced crew, was captured by the Constitution after a running fight of three hours and a half.[58]

[Pageheading: THE GERMAN CAMPAIGN OF 1813.]

With the retreat of the French army from Russia the main scene of operations on the continent was shifted from Russia to Germany. Great Britain took little part in the actual warfare in Germany, and if she had a larger share in the political negotiations which ultimately determined the distribution of forces, still Austria and not Great Britain was the power whose diplomacy had most effect on the course of events. The upheaval of Europe against Napoleon, however, would have been much less effective if it had not been supported by English subsidies, and Austria, in the crippled state of her finances, would probably have had to remain inactive if she had not been able to rely on English gold and perhaps still more on English credit.

The campaign of 1813 falls naturally into three parts. During the first, from the beginning of January to the latter part of April the victorious Russians swept over North Germany, and, carrying the Prussian monarchy with them, strengthened a reaction which had already begun against the rule of Napoleon. The second part began with the arrival of Napoleon on the scene of action towards the end of April and lasted to the conclusion of an armistice on June 4. In this period of seven or eight weeks the allies were forced to retire at all points and the war was carried into Prussian territory. The armistice, which terminated on August 10, preceded the opening of the third part of the campaign in which Russia and Prussia were joined by Austria and Sweden, and, after gradually drawing closer round the main French position in Saxony, finally inflicted a crushing defeat upon Napoleon at Leipzig in the middle of October. The campaign was virtually over when Napoleon secured his retreat by the victory of Hanau on October 30; but it is impossible to sever it from the events outside Germany which were directly occasioned by the downfall of Napoleon's German domination. These are the revolt of Holland in November, that of Switzerland in December, and the Austrian attack on Northern Italy in October and November.

In the opening months of the campaign the movements were merely a sequel to those of the previous year. The French retreat was continued from the Niemen to the Vistula, the Elbe, and finally the Saale. The Russians entered Prussia proper a few days after Yorck's capitulation, and the French retired before them. Stein, the Prussian statesman who had received a commission from Russia to administer the Prussian districts occupied by her, ordered the provincial governor to convoke an assembly. Although some indignation was felt at such a step being taken by Russian orders, the assembly met and voted the formation of the Landwehr. In this way Prussia actually began to arm against France, while the Prussian government still professed to maintain the French alliance. A few days later King Frederick William left Berlin, which was still occupied by the French, for Breslau. Before the end of February he had concluded the treaty of Kalisch with Russia, by which the two powers were to conduct the war against France conjointly, and Russia was not to lay down her arms till Prussia should be restored to a strength equal to that which she had possessed in 1806. On March 2 Cathcart arrived at Kalisch as British ambassador to the Russian court. He actively promoted Russia's alliance with Prussia, from which Great Britain stood apart for the present. He was able to obtain from Prussia a renunciation of her claims on Hanover, but Frederick William was still opposed to any increase of Hanoverian territory. On the 17th Prussia declared war on France. By that time the Russians had entered both Berlin and Breslau, and had freed Hamburg from French dominion, thus reopening Germany to British commerce. The declaration of war by Prussia was accompanied by a convention with Russia providing for the deliverance of Germany and the dissolution of the confederation of the Rhine. This convention embodied Stein's policy. It relied on popular support and it aimed at an unified government, at least in the territories occupied at that date by adherents of France.

[Pageheading: THE GERMAN CAMPAIGN OF 1813.]

But the popular upheaval in Germany was confined to the kingdom of Prussia, and the attempt to spread it elsewhere only provoked distrust in Austria and the South German states; it was not until the conservative elements in Germany were won over by Metternich's policy that the anti-Napoleonic movement became truly national. For the present Austria played the part of mediator. Lord Walpole, who had been sent on a secret errand to Vienna in December, 1812, tried in vain to win Austria to the side of the allies by promising the restoration of the Tyrol, Illyria, and Venetia.[59] Her government would probably have preferred a reconciliation with France, which would have arrested the growth of Russia and left Germany divided, to a unified Germany such as Stein desired; but Metternich, who directed her policy, cherished little hope of the success of his endeavours, though he knew when to employ agents more optimistic than himself. The Austrian treasury was empty, and it therefore suited Austria to remain neutral as long as possible, while in the event of a doubtful struggle this very neutrality would raise the price of her ultimate alliance. It was in this way that she came at last to exercise a decisive voice in the resettlement of Germany, not to say of Europe. True to this policy, the Austrian court concluded a truce of indefinite duration with Russia at the beginning of the year, and withdrew its forces within its own borders. This was followed by an offer of mediation made to France, which was, however, declined. A renewed offer was declined early in April by both France and Great Britain. The British still distrusted Austria, while France desired to buy her active co-operation and made an offer of Silesia in return for an army of 100,000, should Prussia or Russia open hostilities. Austria did not, however, abandon her project, but notified Prussia and Russia that she would proceed with the task of armed mediation, and steadily busied herself with military preparations.

The vigour of the Prussians in recruiting had surprised Napoleon, but his own vigour was the marvel of Europe. In spite of the losses of the Russian campaign, he was able to take the field at the end of April with an army which at the lowest estimate was 200,000 strong. But his soldiers were for the most part mere boys, and he was sadly deficient in cavalry. The veterans of Austerlitz, of Jena, of Friedland, and of Wagram had been recklessly sacrificed on the plains of Russia. He was victorious at Luetzen on May 2, was joined by the King of Saxony, entered Dresden, and thence pushed across the Elbe. On the 21st the victory of Bautzen enabled him to advance to the Oder and occupy Breslau. A renewed offer of Austrian mediation drew from him a declaration in favour of an armistice and a diplomatic congress. On June 4 an armistice was actually concluded at Poischwitz to last until August 1, and a neutral zone was provided to separate the combatants. On June 7 the demands of Austria were presented to Napoleon. They involved the renunciation by France of all territorial possessions, and even of a protectorate in Germany, and the restoration to Prussia and Austria of most of their lost provinces. Napoleon refused these terms, but accepted the mediation of Austria, and arranged for a congress which met at Prague in the middle of July. The armistice was prolonged till August 10. Both France and Austria were merely striving to gain time while they prepared for war, and there can be no doubt that the allies profited most by the delay. During the interval the news arrived of Wellington's great victory at Vitoria on June 21, and Napoleon, recalled to Mainz, occupied himself in arranging plans for the defence of the Pyrenees.

During the armistice Prussia and Russia not only greatly reinforced their troops, but received valuable assistance from Great Britain, Sweden, and above all Austria. Already, on March 3, Great Britain had by the treaty of Stockholm given her sanction to the seizure of the whole of Norway by Sweden, after a vain attempt to induce Denmark to consent to a peaceable cession of the diocese of Trondhjem. At the same time Great Britain promised Guadeloupe as a personal gift to Bernadotte, and a subsidy of L1,000,000 for the Swedish troops fighting against Napoleon. A new treaty between Russia and Sweden on April 22 guaranteed the cession of Norway. On June 14 and 15 Cathcart, having at last obtained Prussia's consent to an increase in the territories of Hanover, signed treaties at Reichenbach with Prussia and Russia, by which Great Britain undertook to pay a subsidy of two-thirds of a million pounds to the former and a million and a third to the latter power. It was also agreed to issue federative paper notes to an extent not exceeding L5,000,000 to pay the expenses of the armies of the two powers during the year 1813, and Great Britain undertook the responsibility for one-half of these notes. Soon afterwards Austria received a promise of a loan of L500,000 as soon as she should join the allies. Half of this last sum was actually paid within a few days of the resumption of hostilities.


When the armistice expired, French forces were threatening Austria from three sides—from Bavaria, Illyria, and Saxony; and Napoleon's intention seems to have been to amuse the Austrian court with negotiations until he could defeat the Prussian and Russian armies, after which he counted upon overwhelming the Austrians with his entire force. The task of defeating the Prussians was entrusted to his army in Saxony with which Davout was expected to co-operate from Hamburg, retaken by the French on May 30. Austria, however, declared war on France the moment the armistice had elapsed, August 12, and the main army of the allies, principally composed of Austrians with large Prussian and Russian contingents, assembled in Bohemia. Napoleon was opposed in Silesia by an army of Prussians and Russians, while Bernadotte, in command of a mixed army, consisting mainly of Swedes, Prussians and Russians, but including 3,000 British troops and 25,000 Hanoverians under Walmoden, operated against him from the north. These three armies were eventually able to join hands, while Davout's army, the French armies in Italy and Illyria, and 170,000 French troops in various German fortresses were unable to render effective aid in the struggle. On August 26-27 Napoleon himself won the last of his great victories at Dresden over the main army of the allies, while his lieutenants were defeated by the northern army at Grossbeeren on August 23, and again at Dennewitz on September 6, and by the Silesian army at the Katzbach on August 26. The capitulation of Vandamme at Kulm, with some 10,000 men, neutralised Napoleon's victory at Dresden, and his enemies were increased by Austrian diplomacy. The treaty of Teplitz, concluded on September 9, and accepted by Great Britain on October 3, committed the allies to the complete independence of the several German states. On the 10th Bavaria renounced the French alliance, and on October 8, by the treaty of Ried, she engaged to join the allies with 36,000 men, in return for a promise that she should suffer no diminution of territory. On the 7th the northern and Silesian armies had united west of the Elbe; Napoleon, who had quitted Dresden on the 6th and vainly attempted to engage the separate northern army, arrived at Leipzig on the 14th. But it was now too late.

On the 16th the allied armies, which had concentrated on Leipzig, compelled him to stand at bay, and to risk all upon the fortunes of a single battle. This battle, lasting three days, was not only one of the greatest but one of the most decisive recorded in modern history, for it finally crippled the warlike power of Napoleon, and inevitably determined the issue of the campaigns yet to be fought in 1814 and 1815. It would appear that Napoleon had under his command about 250,000 men, and that he lost at least 50,000 in killed and wounded on the field. The allied forces were much larger numerically, and their losses fully equalled those of the French. But their victory was crushing. One of its immediate results was that Napoleon was forced to abandon Saxony, and with it the French cause in Germany. The French garrisons were reduced one by one. Of the fortresses east of the Rhine, Hamburg, Kehl, Magdeburg, and Wesel alone held out until the conclusion of peace in 1814. The general rising of Central Europe against French domination which followed the battle of Leipzig extended itself to Holland. The French were expelled in the middle of November, and on December 2 the Prince of Orange was proclaimed sovereign prince of the Netherlands. On the 29th the Swiss diet voted the restoration of the old constitution. The confederation of the Rhine was practically dissolved, but in Italy Napoleon's viceroy, Eugene Beauharnais, after falling back before the Austrian army, was able to hold the line of the Adige. On November 9 it was decided to offer peace to Napoleon on condition of the surrender of all French conquests beyond the Rhine, the Alps, and the Pyrenees. These terms represented the policy of Metternich. The Earl of Aberdeen consented to them on behalf of Great Britain and Nesselrode on behalf of Russia, but they were not accepted by Napoleon before the date by which an answer was required, and the war proceeded. On December 31 the Prussians under Bluecher crossed the Rhine near Coblenz and opened a new campaign.


Meanwhile the war on the American continent was carried on with varying success, though the balance of fortune was rather on the side of the United States. The operations were in the main of a desultory character, no permanent conquests being made. The first engagement in the year 1813 was at Frenchtown on the Raisin River in Michigan, where Colonel Proctor, commanding 500 regulars and militia, and 600 Indians, defeated an American force of 1,000 under Brigadier-General Winchester, and took 500 prisoners, while many of the remaining Americans fell into the hands of the Indians. The immediate effect of this victory was that General Harrison, who was leading an American force of 2,000 men against Detroit, determined to retrace his steps. Three months later Proctor made a descent upon an American position on the Maumee River in the north of the State of Ohio. After besieging the enemy for a few days he was compelled to retire, but, before he left, an engagement took place on May 5, in which the British forces, with a total loss of less than 100, inflicted severe losses on their opponents and made about 500 prisoners. A subsequent attempt to capture Fort Sandusky, near the head of Lake Erie, was repulsed on August 2; ninety out of 350 British troops were returned as killed, wounded or missing.

The British had hitherto commanded the lakes, but Commodore Perry now occupied himself in building a fleet at Presqu'isle in Pennsylvania on the coast of Lake Erie. Commander Barclay, in command of such ships as the British possessed, was badly supported and encountered the same difficulties in obtaining seamen as had been experienced for the sea-going ships. The ships in the service of the United States were in consequence again the more powerful and the better manned. On September 10 the two squadrons engaged. The British had six vessels with a broadside of 459 lb., while the enemy had nine vessels with a broadside of 928 lb. With such odds the result could not be doubtful, and the whole British squadron was compelled to surrender. This success enabled the enemy to strike with effect at the south-western end of Lower Canada. The British immediately evacuated the whole territory of Michigan with the exception of Mackinac; and Proctor, now raised to the rank of major-general, commenced a retreat in the direction of Lake Ontario. On October 5 he was attacked at Moraviantown on the Thames by Harrison, and the greater part of his forces were captured in an engagement which reflected small credit on British generalship. The remainder of his forces reached Burlington Heights, at the west end of Lake Ontario, but the whole country to the west of the Grand River had to be abandoned to the enemy.

On Lake Ontario the fortune of war was more equally divided. The Americans had been gradually collecting a naval squadron at Sackett's Harbour and had gained command of the lake as early as November, 1812. The command was, however, precarious, since it might be disturbed by the arrival or construction of new warships. One such was building at York, now known as Toronto, the capital of Upper Canada, when, on April 27, 1813, the American squadron under Commodore Chauncey attacked the town and succeeded in landing a detachment of troops under General Dearborn. The British general, Sheaffe, withdrew his regular forces from the town without awaiting an assault, but not before he had destroyed the ship of which the enemy were in quest. The Americans captured some naval stores, but did not attempt to hold the town; they set an evil precedent, however, by burning the parliament house and other public buildings before evacuating the place. On May 27 Chauncey co-operated again with Dearborn in an attack on Fort George, the capture of which threw the whole line of the Niagara into American hands. On the same day Prevost, whose naval strength had been reinforced, availing himself of Chauncey's absence, made an attack on Sackett's Harbour. The attack, which was renewed on the 29th, was miserably conducted, and ended in failure, though the Americans were compelled to burn the naval stores captured at York. The reinforcements had, however, transferred to the British the command of the lake, which was not challenged again till the end of July. Meanwhile their land forces were not idle. On June 6 the Americans were surprised by Colonel Vincent at Burlington Heights and over 100 prisoners, including two brigadier-generals, were taken. This defeat, combined with the approach of the British naval squadron under Sir James Yeo, induced Dearborn to abandon his other posts on the Canadian side of the Niagara and to concentrate at Fort George, but on the 24th another surprise ended in the surrender of a detachment of more than 500 Americans to a force of fifty British troops and 240 Indians. By the end of July Chauncey's squadron was once more strong enough to put to sea. It raided York on the 31st, but did not venture to join battle with Yeo; though a skirmish on August 10 enabled Yeo to capture two schooners.

Meanwhile on the frontier of Lower Canada the British were everywhere successful. On June 3 two American sloops attacked the British garrison of Isle-aux-noix at the north end of Lake Champlain. Both ships were compelled to surrender. On August 1 a British force raided Plattsburg and destroyed the barracks and military stores. A combined movement on Montreal was now made by the forces of the United States; it was mainly owing to the loyalty of the French Canadians that they were repulsed. General Hampton advancing from the south with a force 7,000 strong was defeated at the river Chateauguay on October 26, by 900 men belonging to the Canadian militia, commanded by Colonel McDonnell and Colonel de Salaberry. The defeated general withdrew his troops into winter quarters at Plattsburg. Not long after, on December 7, the American general Wilkinson who had sailed down the St. Lawrence to Prescott and was marching towards Cornwall, was defeated with heavy loss by Colonel Morrison at Chrystler's Farm, and made no further attempt on Canada. In the same month General McClure, who commanded at Fort George, retired to the eastern bank of the Niagara before Colonel Murray's advance. His retreat was disgraced by the burning of the town of Newark, where women and children were turned homeless into the cold of a Canadian winter. At the same time the American forces were withdrawn from south-western Canada but still retained Amherstburg at the head of Lake Erie, the sole conquest of the campaign.

[Pageheading: NAVAL WARFARE.]

The naval warfare of 1813 was less rich in individual encounters than that of 1812. The British captains were better acquainted with the strength of the American ships and did not rashly engage vessels stronger than their own. There was also a marked improvement in British gunnery, and an increase in the strength of the British naval force in American waters. At first the blockade of the American coast had not been strictly maintained further south than New York, but as reinforcements arrived it was made more complete, and after June of this year it was only occasionally that any warship or privateer contrived to elude the blockading vessels. Meanwhile the British constantly raided and harassed the American coast, and had no difficulty in availing themselves of the Chesapeake and Delaware estuaries as naval bases. A new feature of this year's warfare was the appearance of American cruisers, especially privateers, in British waters, and even in the St. George's Channel. To such ships the French ports were a very serviceable naval base. The Americans would appear to have captured more of British commerce than the British captured of theirs, but this was no compensation for the almost complete cessation of their foreign trade. Of single ship actions the destruction of the British Peacock by the American Hornet, commanded by Captain Lawrence, on February 24, the capture of the American Argus by the British Pelican not far from the Welsh coast on August 14, and the famous duel between the Chesapeake and the Shannon on June 1 were the most important.

The British frigate Shannon (38) was commanded by Captain Broke, who was famous not merely for the attention he paid to gun practice, but for the care he had bestowed on the laying of his ship's ordnance. Ever since the beginning of April the frigates Shannon and Tenedos (38) had been lying off Boston, where they hoped to intercept any American frigate that dared to leave the harbour. Two succeeded in eluding them. The Chesapeake frigate (36) commanded by Lawrence, lay in the harbour; and Broke, having detached the Tenedos in order to tempt her out, sent a challenge to Lawrence on the morning of June 1, but before it could be delivered the Chesapeake had sailed. She steered for the Shannon, who waited for her. The fight began at 5.50 P.M. about six leagues out from Boston; it was brief and bloody. After ten minutes' firing the Chesapeake fell on board the Shannon, and was immediately boarded. In four minutes more every man on board had surrendered. In this short fight the Shannon had lost out of a crew of 352 twenty-four killed and fifty-nine wounded, two of the latter mortally, while the Chesapeake, according to American official figures, had lost out of 386 forty-seven killed and ninety-nine wounded (fourteen of the latter mortally). No fewer than thirty-two British deserters were found on board the Chesapeake. The victory made the best possible impression. The two ships had been of approximately equal strength, the American having a slight superiority of force, and the Chesapeake had been captured in the way in which most turns on individual courage, by boarding. Both captains had distinguished themselves in the fight, and both were severely wounded, Lawrence, as the event proved, fatally.

[Pageheading: CAMPAIGN IN FRANCE.]

The abandonment of Germany by the French at the close of 1813 left the outlying provinces and allies of France exposed to invasion. The Austrian general, Nugent, aided by British naval and military forces, captured Trieste on October 31. Dalmatia had been invaded by the Montenegrins as early as September, 1813, and was afterwards attacked by Austrians and British marines, but the town of Cattaro held out till it was taken by the British in January, 1814. On the 14th of the same month Denmark was compelled by the treaty of Kiel to cede Norway to Sweden in exchange for Swedish Pomerania and Ruegen, Sweden undertaking to assist Denmark in procuring a fuller equivalent for Norway at the conclusion of a general peace. A treaty signed between Denmark and Great Britain at the same time and place provided for the restitution to Denmark of all British conquests, with the exception of Heligoland, while Denmark undertook to do all in her power for the abolition of the slave trade. The people of Norway and their governor, Prince Christian of Denmark, refused to submit to the transference of their allegiance, and on February 19 the independence of Norway was proclaimed. At first the Swedish government attempted to obtain the submission of Norway by negotiation only, but so important a diversion of her interest and energies was sufficient to prevent Sweden from joining in the new campaign against France. In Italy on January 11 Napoleon's brother-in-law, Murat, whom he had made King of Naples in 1808, formed an alliance with Austria. The treaty was never confirmed by Great Britain, but the British government subsequently consented to support Murat, if he should loyally exert himself in Italy against Napoleon's forces. Although Murat did actually engage in hostilities against the French, the British were far from satisfied with his operations and considered that his remissness left them a free hand. Accordingly on March 9 a British fleet entered the port of Leghorn and landed 8,000 men, of whom Lord William Bentinck took command. From Leghorn he marched upon Genoa which surrendered to him on April 18.

Meanwhile the main forces of the allies were concentrated for a campaign against Napoleon in Champagne. Of the three armies which had combined at Leipzig the Austro-Russian army under Schwarzenberg made its way through Switzerland, Alsace, and Franche-Comte, while Bluecher's army of Prussians and Russians passed through the region which afterwards became the Rhine province and Lorraine. The two armies united in the neighbourhood of Brienne in Champagne. Bernadotte's army did not as a whole take part in the campaign; but a portion of it, consisting of Russians under Wittgenstein and Prussians under Buelow, was engaged in the conquest of Belgium and was able to invade France itself later in the year. Schwarzenberg's army was accompanied by the Emperors of Russia and Austria, the King of Prussia, and the leading European diplomatists, including Castlereagh. From the outset there was a marked difference between the Austrian and Russian policies. Metternich was content with reducing France to the natural frontiers already offered to her, and aimed merely at compelling Napoleon to recognise the fait accompli in Germany, and to evacuate Italy and Spain. He was therefore in favour of slow advances and of giving Napoleon every opportunity for coming to terms. The tsar, on the other hand, wished to reduce France to her ancient limits, and was anxious to enter Paris as a conqueror. He also excited Austrian jealousy by his scheme of annexing what had been Prussian Poland, and compensating Prussia with Saxony. Castlereagh and the Prussian minister, Hardenberg, supported the tsar's policy towards France, but without sharing his ardour.

On the first arrival of the allies in Champagne the tsar had only induced Metternich to advance by threatening to prosecute the war alone. After they had gained what appeared to be a decisive victory over Napoleon at La Rothiere on February 1, negotiations were commenced at Chatillon. Napoleon insisted on continuing the war during the negotiations and interposed every possible delay. The allies first demanded that France should recede within the limits of 1791 and offered a partial restoration of French colonies, but refused to specify the colonies which they were willing to relinquish until France should accept the first condition. To this the French demurred, and on the 9th the tsar impetuously withdrew his minister. From the 10th to the 14th Napoleon inflicted a series of crushing blows upon Bluecher's army. Negotiations were now resumed; they lasted till the middle of March, but as Napoleon would not surrender his claim to Belgium and the Rhine provinces they were fruitless, notwithstanding the pacific efforts of Caulaincourt, the French negotiator. On the 21st Napoleon tried in vain to detach Austria from the allies by a private letter to the Emperor Francis, and on March 1 a permanent basis was given to the alliance by the treaty of Chaumont (definitely signed on the 9th), by which the four allied powers bound themselves to conclude no separate peace, and not to lay down their arms till the object of the war should have been obtained by the restriction of France to her ancient frontiers. Each power was to maintain 150,000 men regularly in the field, and Great Britain was to pay the three other powers a subsidy of L5,000,000 for the current year and a like sum for every subsequent year of warfare. The signatory powers were to maintain their present concert and armaments for twenty years if necessary.


After this treaty on March 4 Bluecher united with Wittgenstein and Buelow near Soissons. On the 20th Napoleon was repulsed by Schwarzenberg's army at Arcis-sur-Aube, after which he attempted to cut off its communications by a movement to its rear. In consequence of this movement the allied armies advanced on Paris, while the Austrian emperor fled to Dijon taking Castlereagh and Metternich with him.[60] This left the war to be concluded under the influence of the most vigorous of the allied sovereigns, the Tsar of Russia. Paris capitulated on the 30th and on the next day was occupied by the allies. The tsar now issued "on behalf of all the allied powers" a proclamation in which he declared that they would not treat with Napoleon or his family, but were willing to respect the integrity of France, and to guarantee the constitution that the French people should adopt. This prepared the way for a reaction against Napoleon in France. A provisional government was formed on April 1; on the 3rd the French senate proclaimed the deposition of Napoleon, and on the 6th it published a constitution, and recalled the Bourbons in the person of Louis XVIII., the younger brother of Louis XVI. On the same day Napoleon signed an unconditional abdication at Fontainebleau. On the 11th a treaty was signed between Napoleon and the sovereigns of Austria, Prussia, and Russia, by which he renounced all claim to the crowns of France and Italy, and was assigned the Isle of Elba as an independent principality and a place of residence, together with a liberal revenue charged on the French treasury, which, however, was never paid. The duchy of Parma was secured to the Empress Maria Louisa and was to descend to her son. The treaty was afterwards confirmed by Great Britain, with the exception of the clauses providing revenues for the fallen emperor and his family. The promise of Elba had been made by the tsar in the absence of Castlereagh and Metternich. It was vigorously opposed by Castlereagh's half-brother, Sir Charles Stewart, but the tsar considered his honour bound to it, and Napoleon sailed from Frejus for Elba on the 28th.

In America the war was conducted with more vigour in 1814 than in previous years, but with equally small effect on either side. In March the American general, Wilkinson, advancing from Lake Champlain, was repulsed by a small British garrison at La Colle Mill. In July an American army under Brown invaded Upper Canada across the river Niagara. It was attacked by General Riall, near Chippewa, on the 5th, but it repelled the attack and occupied that place. Brown was, however, checked by British regulars and Canadian militia under Sir Gordon Drummond at Lundy's Lane, near Niagara Falls, on the 25th. Both sides claim the victory, but on the reinforcement of the British troops Brown abandoned the invasion. After the close of the Peninsular war some of the best regiments of the Peninsular army, numbering about 14,000 men, were sent to America. But they were not commanded by any of the generals who had made their names illustrious in that war, and did not effect so much as had been expected. On August 19 and 20 General Ross landed with 5,000 men at the mouth of the Patuxent in Chesapeake Bay. On the 24th he defeated a large body of militia under General Winder at Bladensburg, and occupied Washington, where he burned all the public buildings. However deplorable such an act may seem, it is well to note that it was a fair and even merciful reprisal after the action of the Americans at York and Newark. Ross did not attempt to retain the city, but evacuated it on the next day and re-embarked on the 30th. On September 12 he landed near Baltimore, but was immediately killed in an attack on the town. The attack had to be abandoned because it proved impossible to obtain adequate support from the fleet, and the troops returned to the ships on the 15th.

On September 1 Prevost invaded New York State by Lake Champlain. He advanced against Plattsburg, which he bombarded on the 11th, but his flotilla was defeated by an American flotilla during the bombardment, and he felt himself compelled to retreat into Canada. At the end of the year Sir Edward Pakenham took command of a force operating against New Orleans, but on January 8, 1815, he was defeated and killed by the American forces under the future president, Andrew Jackson. No expedition was ever worse planned than this; the veterans of the Peninsula were mowed down by a withering fire, and, losing confidence in their leaders, forfeited their reputation for invincible courage in attack. The fighting, however, was desperate while it lasted, and was compared by one engaged in it with the storm of Badajoz, and the deadly charges at Waterloo. It was but a small compensation for these failures that the British were able to annex a strip of territory belonging to the State of Maine. On the sea no general engagement took place, nor was there any naval duel so famous as that between the Shannon and the Chesapeake in the previous year. The Americans lost two of their best frigates, but, with crews largely composed of British sailors, captured several British ships of war.

[Pageheading: THE TREATY OF GHENT.]

As early as January, 1814, advances had been made towards negotiations for peace, but they were not actually begun till August 6. In the course of a few days a serious difficulty arose, as the British commissioners demanded the delimitation of an Indian territory which should be exempt from territorial acquisitions on the part of either power, and also claimed the military occupation of the lakes for their own government. The Americans thereupon suspended the negotiations, and Castlereagh expressed grave discontent with the conduct of the British negotiators in pressing these points. Late in the year negotiations were resumed, when the British abandoned these claims. The far more comprehensive questions about the rights of neutrals, which had occasioned the war, had ceased to be of practical importance now that peace was restored in Europe. They were therefore, by tacit consent, suffered to drop, and a treaty signed at Ghent on December 24, 1814, ended a war of which the Canadians alone had reason to be proud.

The most dramatic incident in the domestic annals of England in this year was the visit of the allied sovereigns to this country, after their triumphal entry into Paris, and the signature of a convention, to be described hereafter, for the resettlement of Europe. Louis XVIII. left his retreat at Hartwell on April 20, and reached his capital on May 3 to find it occupied by foreign armies, and to discover that his French escort, composed of Napoleon's old guard, was of doubtful loyalty. On July 8 the Tsar of Russia and the King of Prussia, having accepted an invitation from the prince regent, which the Emperor of Austria declined, landed at Dover, and were afterwards received with the utmost enthusiasm in London. Their appearance betokened the supposed termination of the greatest, and almost the longest, war recorded in European history, but it was also accepted as a tribute of gratitude for the unique services rendered by Great Britain, the only European power which had never bowed the knee to the French Republic or the French Empire. They attended Ascot races, were feasted at the Guildhall, witnessed a naval review at Portsmouth, and were decorated with honorary degrees at Oxford, where Bluecher was the hero of the day with the younger members of the university. There were men of calmer minds and maturer age, who must have remembered the time, but seven years before, when Alexander swore eternal friendship with Napoleon, on the basis of enmity to Great Britain, and Frederick William of Prussia shrunk from no depths of dishonour, first to aggrandise his kingdom and then to save the remnants of it from destruction. Others foresaw that a restoration of the Bourbons portended reaction, in its worst sense, throughout all the continent of Europe. But such memories and forebodings were hushed in the sincere and general rejoicing over the return of peace, marred by no suspicion of the new trials and privations which peace itself was destined to bring with it for the working classes of Great Britain.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse