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
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
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. . . .
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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.
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
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
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
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.