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Life Of Napoleon Bonaparte With A Sketch Of Josephine

Book:        Life Of Napoleon

Author:      Tarbell, Ida

 

 

Life Of Napoleon Bonaparte With A Sketch Of Josephine

Book:        Life Of Napoleon

Author:      Tarbell, Ida

 

Chapter XII.

 

Campaign Of 1805 - Campaign Of 1806-1807 - Peace Of Tilsit

 

     Austria looked with jealousy on this increase of power, and

particularly on the change in the institutions of her neighbors.  In

assuming control of the Italian and Germanic States, Napoleon gave the

people his code and his methods; personal liberty, equality before the

law, religious toleration, took the place of the unjust and narrow feudal

institutions.  These new ideas were quite as hateful of Austria as the

disturbance in the balance of pewer, and more dangerous to her system.

Russia and Prussia felt the same suspicion of Napoleon as Austria did.

All three powers were constantly incited to action against France by

England, who offered unlimited gold if they would but combine with her.

In the summer of 1805 Austria joined England and Russia in a coalition

against France.  Prussia was not yet willing to commit herself.

 

     The great army which for so many months had been gathering around

Boulogne, preparing for the descent on England, waited anxiously for the

arrival of the French fleet to cover its passage.  But the fleet did not

come; and, though hoping until the last that his plan would still be

carried out, Napoleon quietly and swiftly made ready to transfer the army

of England into the Grand Army, and to turn its march against his

continental enemies.

 

     Never was his great war rule, "Time is everything," more thoroughly

carried out.  "Austria will employ fine phrases in order to gain time," he

wrote Talleyrand, "and to prevent me accomplishing anything this year; . .

. and in April I shall find one hundred thousand Russians in Poland, fed

by England, twenty thousand English at Malta, and fifteen thousand

Russians at Corfu.  I should then be in a critical position.  My mind is

made up." His orders flew from Boulogne to Paris, to the German States, to

Italy, to his generals, to his naval commanders.  By the 28th of August

the whole army had moved.  A month later it had crossed the Rhine, and

Napoleon was at its head.

 

     The force which he commanded was in every way an extraordinary one.

Marmont's enthusiastic description was in no way an exaggeration:

 

     "This army, the most beautiful that was ever seen, was less

redoubtable from the number of its soldiers than from their nature.

Almost all of them had carried on war and had won victories.  There still

existed among them something of the enthusiasm and exaltation of the

Revolutionary campaigns; but this enthusiasm was systematized.  From the

supreme chief down - the chiefs of the army corps, the division

commanders, the common officers and soldiers - everybody was hardened to

war.  The eighteen months in splendid camps had produced a training an

ensemble, which has never existed since to the same degree, and a

boundless confidence.  This army was probably the best and the most

redoubtable that modern times have seen."

 

     The force responded to the imperious genius of its commander with a

beautiful precision which amazes and dazzles one who follows its march.

So perfectly had all been arranged, so exactly did every corps and officer

respond, that nine days after the passage of the Rhine, the army was in

Bavaria, several marches in the rear of the enemy.  The weather was

terrible, but nothing checked them.  The emperor himself set the example.

Day and night he was on horseback in the midst of his troops; once for a

week he did not take off his boots.  When they lagged, or the enemy

harassed them, he would gather each regiment into a circle, explain to it

the position of the enemy, the imminence of a great battle, and his

confidence in his troops.  These harangues sometimes took place in driving

snowstorms, the soldiers standing up to their knees in icy slush.  By

October 13th, such was the extraordinary march they had made, the emperor

was able to issue this address to the army:

 

     "Soldiers, a month ago we were encamped on the shores of the ocean,

opposite England, when an impious league forced us to fly to the Rhine.

Not a fortnight ago that river was passed; and the Alps, the Neckar, the

Danube, and the Lech, the celebrated barriers of Germany, have not for a

minute delayed our march. . . . The enemy, deceived by our manoeuvres and

the rapidity of our movements, is entirely turned. . . . But for the army

before you, we should be in London to-day, have avenged six centuries of

insult, and have liberated the sea.

 

     "Remember to-morrow that you are fighting against the allies of

England. . . .

 

     "Napoleon."

 

     Four days after this address came the capitulation of Ulm - a "new

Caudine Forks," as Marmont called it.  It was, as Napoleon said, a victory

won by legs, instead of by arms.  The great fatigue and the forced marches

which the army had undergone had gained them sixty thousand prisoners, one

hundred and twenty guns, ninety colors, more than thirty generals, at a

cost of but fifteen hundred men, two-thirds of them but slightly wounded.

 

     But there was no rest for the army.  Before the middle of November it

had so surrounded Vienna that the emperor and his court had fled to Brunn,

seventy or eighty miles north of Vienna, to meet the Russians, who, under

Alexander I., were coming from Berlin.  Thither Napoleon followed them,

but the Austrians retreated eastward, joining the Russians at Olmutz.  The

combined force of the allies was now some ninety thousand men.  They had a

strong reserve, and it looked as if the Prussian army was about to join

them.  Napoleon at Brunn had only some seventy or eighty thousand men, and

was in the heart of the enemy's country.  Alexander, flattered by his

aides, and confident that he was able to defeat the French, resolved to

leave his strong position at Olmutz and seek battle with Napoleon.

 

     The position the French occupied can be understood if one draws a

rough diagram of a right-angled triangle, Brunn being at the right angle

formed by two roads, one running south to Vienna, by which Napoleon had

come, and the other running eastward to Olmutz.  The hypotenuse of this

angle, running from northeast to southwest, is formed by Napoleon's army.

 

     When the allies decided to leave Olmutz their plan was to march

southwestward, in face of Napoleon's line, get between him and Vienna, and

thus cut off what they supposed was his base of supplies (in this they

were mistaken, for Napoleon had, unknown to them, changed his base from

Vienna to Bohemia), separate him from his Italian army, and drive him,

routed, into Bohemia.

 

     On the 27th of November the allies advanced, and their first

encounter with a small French vanguard was successful.  It gave them

confidence, and they continued their march on the 28th, 29th, and 30th,

gradually extending a long line facing westward and parallel with

Napoleon's line.  The French emperor, while this movement was going on,

was rapidly calling up his reserves and strengthening his position.  By

the first day of December Napoleon saw clearly what the allies intended to

do, and had formed his plan.  The events of that day confirmed his ideas.

By nine o'clock in the evening he was so certain of the plan of the coming

battle that he rode the length of his line, explaining to his troops the

tactics of the allies, and what he himself proposed to do.

 

     Napoleon's appearance before the troops, his confident assurance of

victory, called out a brilliant demonstration from the army.  The

divisions of infantry raised bundles of blazing straw on the ends of long

poles, giving him an illumination as imposing as it was novel.  It was a

happy thought, for the day was the anniversary of his coronation.

 

     The emperor remained in bivouac all night.  At four o'clock of the

morning of the 2d of December he was in the saddle.  When the gray fog

lifted he saw the enemy's divisions arranged exactly as he had divined.

Three corps faced his right - the southwest part of the hypotenuse.  These

corps had left a splendid position facing his centre, the heights of

Pratzen.

 

     This advance of the enemy had left their centre weak and unprotected,

and had separated the body of the army from its right, facing Napoleon's

left.  The enemy was in exactly the position Napoleon wished for the

attack he had planned.

 

     It was eight o'clock in the morning when the emperor galloped up his

line, proclaiming to the army that the enemy had exposed himself, and

crying out: "Close the campaign with a clap of thunder." The generals rode

to their positions, and at once the battle opened.  Soult, who commanded

the French centre, attacked the allies' centre so unexpectedly that it was

driven into retreat.  The Emperor Alexander and his headquarters were in

this part of the army, and though the young czar did his best to rouse his

forces, it was a hopeless task.  The Russian centre was defeated and the

wings divided.  At the same time the allies' left, where the bulk of their

army was massed in a marshy country of which they knew little, was engaged

and held in check by Davoust, and their right was overcome by Lannes,

Murat, and Bernadotte.  As soon as the centre and right of the allies had

been driven into retreat, Napoleon concentrated his forces on their left,

the strongest part of his enemy.  In a very short time the allies were

driven back into the canals and lakes of the country, and many men and

nearly all the artillery lost.  Before night the routed enemy had fallen

back to Austerlitz.

 

     Of all Napoleon's battles, Austerlitz was the one of which he was the

proudest.  It was here that he showed best the "divine side of war."

 

     The familiar note in which Napoleon announced to his brother Joseph

the result of the battle, is a curious contrast to the oratorical

bulletins which for some days flowed to Paris.  His letter is dated

Austerlitz, December 3, 1805:

 

     "After manoeuvring for a few days I fought a decisive battle

yesterday.  I defeated the combined armies commanded by the Emperors of

Russia and Germany.  Their force consisted of eighty thousand Russians and

thirty thousand Austrians.  I have made forty thousand prisoners, taken

forty flags, one hundred guns, and all the standards of the Russian

Imperial Guard. . . . Although I have bivouacked in the open air for a

week, my health is good.  This evening I am in bed in the beautiful castle

of Monsieur de Kaunitz, and have changed my shirt for the first time in

eight days."

 

     The battle of Austerlitz obliged Austria to make peace (the treaty

was signed at Presburg on December 26, 1805), compelled Russia to retire

disabled from the field, transformed the haughty Prussian ultimatim which

had just been presented into humble submission, and changed the rejoicings

of England over the magnificent naval victory of Trafalgar (October 21st)

into despair.  It even killed Pitt.  Napoleon it enabled to make enormous

strides in establishing a kingdom of the West.  Naples was given to

Joseph, the Bavarian Republic was made a kingdom for Louis, and the states

between the Lahn, the Rhine, and the Upper Danube were formed into a

league, called the Confederation of the Rhine, and Napoleon was made

Protector.

 

     At the beginning of 1806 Napoleon was again in Paris.  He had been

absent but three months.  Eight months of this year were spent in

fruitless negotiations with England and in an irritating correspondence

with Prussia.  The latter country had many grievances against Napoleon,

the sum of them all being that "French politics had been the scourge of

humanity for the last fifteen years," and that an "insatiable ambition was

still the ruling passion of France." By the end of September war was

declared, and Napoleon, whose preparations had been conducted secretly, it

being given out that he was going to Compiegne to hunt, suddenly joined

his army.

 

     The first week of October the Grand Army advanced from southern

Germany towards the valley of the Saale.  This movement brought them on

the flanks of the Prussians, who were scattered along the upper Saale.

The unexpected appearance of the French army, which was larger and much

better organized than the Prussians, caused the latter to retreat towards

the Elbe.  The retreating army was in two divisions; the first crossing

the Saale to Jena, the second falling back towards the Unstrut.  As soon

as Napoleon understood these movements he despatched part of his force

under Davoust and Bernadotte to cut off the retreat of the second Prussian

division, while he himself hurried on to Jena to force battle on the

first.  The Prussians were encamped at the foot of a height known as the

Landgrafenberg.  To command this height was to command the Prussian

forces.  By a series of determined and repeated efforts Napoleon reached

the position desired, and by the morning of the 14th of October had his

foes in his power.  Advancing from the Landgrafenberg in three divisions,

he turned the Prussian flanks at the same moment that he attacked their

centre.  The Prussians never fought better, perhaps, than at Jena.  The

movements of their cavalry awakened even Napoleon's admiration, but they

were surrounded and outnumbered, and the army was speedily broken into

pieces and driven into a retreat.

 

     While Napoleon was fighting at Jena, to the right at Auerstadt,

Davoust was engaging Brunswick and his seventy thousand men with a force

of twenty-seven thousand.  In spite of the great difference in numbers the

Prussians were unable to make any impression on the French; and Brunswick

falling, they began to retreat towards Jena, expecting to join the other

division of the army, of whose route they were ignorant.  The result was

frightful.  The two flying armies suddenly encountered each other, and,

pursued by the French on either side, were driven in confusion towards the

Elbe.

 

     On October 25th the French were at Berlin.  Their entry was one of

the great spectacles of the campaign.  One particularly interesting

incident was the visit paid to Napoleon by the Protestant and Calvinist

French clergy.  There were at that time twelve thousand French refugees in

Berlin, victims of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.  They were

received with kindness by Napoleon, who told them they had good right to

protection, and that their privileges and worship should be respected.

 

     Jena brought Napoleon something like one hundred and sixty million

francs in money, an enormous number of prisoners, guns, and standards, the

glory of the entry of Berlin, and a great number of interesting articles

for the Napoleon Museum of Paris, among them the column from the field of

Rosbach, the sword, the ribbon of the black eagle, and the general's sash

of Frederick the Great, and the flags carried by his guards during the

Seven Years' War.  But it did not secure him peace.  The King of Prussia

threw himself into the arms of Russia, and Napoleon advanced boldly into

Poland to meet his enemy.

 

     The Poles welcomed the French with joy.  They hoped to find in

Napoleon the liberator of their country, and they poured forth money and

soldiers to reenforce him.  "Our entry into Varsovia," wrote Napoleon,

"was a triumph, and the sentiments that the Poles of all classes show

since our arrival cannot be expressed.  Love of country and the national

sentiment are not only entirely conserved in the heart of the people, but

it has been intensified by misfortune.  Their first passion, their first

desire, is again to become a nation.  The rich come from their chateaux,

praying for the reestablishment of the nation, and offering their

children, their fortunes, and their influence." Everything was done during

the months the French remained in Poland, to flatter and aid the army.

 

     The campaign against the Russians was carried on in Old Prussia, to

the southeast of the Gulf of Dantzic.  Its first great engagement was the

battle of Eylau on February 8, 1807.  This was the closest drawn battle

Napoleon had ever fought.  His loss was enormous, and he was saved only by

a hair's-breadth from giving the enemy the field of battle.  After Eylau

the main army went into winter quarters to repair its losses, while

Marshal Lefebvre besieged Dantzic, a siege which military critics declare

to be, after Sebastopol, the most celebrated of modern times.  Dantzic

capitulated in May.  On June 14th the battle of Friedland was fought.

This battle on the anniversary of Marengo, was won largely by Napoleon's

taking advantage of a blunder of his opponent.  The French and the Russian

armies were on the opposite banks of the Alle.  Benningsen, the Russian

commander, was marching towards Konigsberg by the eastern bank.  Napoleon

was pursuing by the western bank.  The French forces, however, were

scattered; and Benningsen, thinking that he could engage and easily rout a

portion of the army by crossing the river at Friedland, suddenly led his

army across to the western bank.  Napoleon utilized this unwise movement

with splendid skill.  Calling up his re-enforcements he attacked the enemy

solidly.  As soon as the Russian centre was broken, defeat was inevitable,

for the retreating army was driven into the river, and thousands lost.

Many were pursued through the streets of Friedland by the French, and

slaughtered there.  The battle was hardly over when Napoleon wrote to

Josephine:

 

     "Friedland, 15th June, 1807.

 

     "My Dear: I write you only a few words, for I am very tired.  I have

been bivouacking for several days.  My children have worthily celebrated

the anniversary of Marengo.  The battle of Friedland will be just as

celebrated and as glorious for my people.  The whole Russian army routed,

eighty guns captured, thirty thousand men taken prisoners or killed, with

twenty-five generals; the Russian guard annihilated; it is the worthy

sister of Marengo, Austerlitz, and Jena.  The bulletin will tell you the

rest.  My loss is not large.  I successfully out-manoeuvred the enemy.

 

     "Napoleon."

 

     Friedland ended the war.  Directly after the battle Napoleon went to

Tilsit, which for the time was made neutral ground, and here he met the

Emperor of Russia and the King of Prussia, and the map of Europe was made

over.

 

     The relations between the royal parties seem to have been for the

most part amiable.  Napoleon became very fond of Alexander I. at Tilsit.

"Were he a woman I think I should make love to him," he wrote Josephine

once.  Alexander, young and enthusiastic, had a deep admiration for

Napoleon's genius, and the two became good comrades.  The King of Prussia,

overcome by his losses, was a sorrowful figure in their company.  It was

their habit at Tilsit to go out every day on horseback, but the king was

awkward, always crowding against Napoleon, beside whom he rode, and making

his two companions wait for him to climb from the saddle when he returned.

Their dinners together were dull, and the emperors, very much in the style

of two careless, fun-loving youths, bored by a solemn elderly relative,

were accustomed after dinner to make excuses to go home early but later to

meet at the apartments of one or the other, and to talk together until

after midnight.

 

     Just before the negotiation were completed, Queen Louise arrived, and

tried to use her influence with Napoleon to obtain at least Magdeburg.

Napoleon accused the queen to Las Cases of trying to win him at first by a

scene of high tragedy.  But when they came to meet at dinner, her policy

was quite another.  "The Queen of Prussia dined with me to-day," wrote

Napoleon to the empress on July 7th.  "I had to defend myself against

being obliged to make some further concessions to her husband; . . . " and

the next day, "The Queen of Prussia is really charming; she is full of

coquetterie towards me.  But do not be jealous; I am an oilcloth, off

which all that runs.  It would cost me too dear to play the galant."

 

     The intercessions of the queen really hurried on the treaty.  When

she learned that it had been signed, and her wishes not granted, she was

indignant, wept bitterly, and refused to go to the second dinner to which

Napoleon had invited her.  Alexander was obliged to go himself to decide

her.  After the dinner, when she withdrew, Napoleon accompanied her.  On

the staircase she stopped.

 

     "Can it be," she said, "that after I have had the happiness of seeing

so near me the man of the age and of history, I am not to have the liberty

and satisfaction of assuring him that he has attached me for life? . . ."

 

     "Madame, I am to be pitied," said the emperor gravely.  "It is my

evil star."

 

     By the treaty of Tilsit the map of the continent was transformed.

Prussia lost half her territory.  Dantzic was made a free town.  Magdeburg

went to France.  Hesse-Cassel and the Prussian possessions west of the

Elbe went to form the kingdom of Westphalia.  The King of Saxony received

the grand duchy of Warsaw.  Finland and the Danubian principalities were

to go to Alexander in exchange for certain Ionian islands and the Gulf of

Cattaro in Dalmatia.

 

     Of far more importance than this change of boundaries was the private

understanding which the emperors came to at Tilsit.  They agreed that the

Ottoman Empire was to remain as it was unless they saw fit to change its

boundaries.  Russia might occupy the principalities as far as the Danube.

Peace was to be made, if possible, with England, and the two powers were

to work together to bring it about.  If they failed, Russia was to force

Sweden to close her ports to Great Britain, and Napoleon was to do the

same in Denmark, Portugal, and the States of the Pope.  Nothing was to be

done about Poland by Napoleon.

 

     According to popular belief, the secret treaty of Tilsit included

plans much more startling: the two emperors pledged themselves to drive

the Bourbons from Spain and the Braganzas from Portugal, and to replace

them by Bonapartes; give Russia Turkey in Europe and as much of Asia as

she wanted; end the temporal power of the Pope; place France in Egypt;

shut the English from the Mediterranean; and to undertake several other

equally ambitious enterprises.

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