Life Of Napoleon Bonaparte With A Sketch Of Josephine
Book: Life Of Napoleon
Author: Tarbell, Ida
Campaign Of 1813 - Campaign Of 1814 - Abdication
The campaign opened May 2, 1813, southwest of Leipsic, with the
battle of Lutzen. It was Napoleon's victory, though he could not follow
it up, as he had no cavalry. The moral effect of Lutzen was excellent in
the French army. Among the allies there was a return to the old dread of
the "monster." By May 8th the French occupied Dresden; from there they
crossed the Elbe, and on the 21st fought the battle of Bautzen, another
incomplete victory for Napoleon. The next day, in an engagement with the
Russian rear guard, Marshal Duroc, one of Napoleon's warmest and oldest
friends, was killed. It was the second marshal lost since the campaign
began, Bessieres having been killed at Lutzen.
The French obtained Breslau on June 1st, and three days later an
armistice was signed, lasting until August 10th. It was hoped that peace
might be concluded during this armistice. At that moment Austria held the
key to the situation. The allies saw that they were defeated if they
could not persuade her to join them. Napoleon, his old confidence
restored by a series of victories, hoped to keep his Austrian father-in-
law quiet until he had crushed the Prussians and driven the Russians
across the Nieman. Austria saw her power, and determined to use it to
regain territory lost in 1805 and 1809, and Metternich came to Dresden to
see Napoleon. Austria would keep peace with France, he said if Napoleon
would restore Illyria and the Polish provinces, would send the Pope back
to Rome, give up the protectorate of the Confederation of the Rhine,
restore Naples and Spain. Napoleon's amazement and indignation were
"How much has England given you for playing this role against me,
Metternich?" he asked.
A semblance of a congress was held at Prague soon after, but it was
only a mockery. Such was the exasperation and suffering of Central
Europe, that peace could only be reached by large sacrifices on Napoleon's
part. These he refused to make. There is no doubt but that France and
his allies begged him to compromise; that his wisest counsellors advised
him him to do so. But he repulsed with irritation all such suggestions.
"You bore me continually about the necessity of peace," he wrote Savary.
"I know the situation of my empire better than you do; no one is more
interested in concluding peace than myself, but I shall not make a
dishonorable peace, or one that would see us at war again in six months. .
. . These things do not concern you."
By the middle of August the campaign began. The French had in the
field some three hundred and sixty thousand men. This force was
surrounded by a circle of armies, Swedish, Russian, Prussian, and
Austrian, in all some eight hundred thousand men. The leaders of this
hostile force included, besides the natural enemies of France, Bernadotte,
crown prince of Sweden, who had fought with Napoleon in Italy, and General
Moreau, the hero of Hohenlinden. Moreau was on Alexander's staff. He had
reached the army the night that the armistice expired, having sailed from
the United States on the 21st of June, at the invitation of the Russian
emperor, to aid in the campaign against France. He had been greeted by
the allies with every mark of distinction. Another deserter on the
allies' staff was the eminent military critic Jomini. In the ranks were
stragglers from all the French corps, and the Saxons were threatening to
leave the French in a body, and go over to the allies.
The second campaign of 1813 opened brilliantly for Napoleon, for at
Dresden he took twenty thousand prisoners, and captured sixty cannon. The
victory turned the anxiety of Paris to hopefulness, and their faith in
Napoleon's star was further revived by the report that Moreau had fallen,
both legs carried off by a French bullet. Moreau himself felt that fate
was friendly to the emperor. "That rascal Bonaparte is always lucky," he
wrote his wife, just after the amputation of his legs.
But there was something stronger than luck at work; the allies were
animated by a spirit of nationality, indomitable in its force, and they
were following a plan which was sure to crush Napoleon in the long run.
It was one laid out by Moreau; a general battle was not to be risked, but
the corps of the French were to be engaged one by one, until the parts of
the army were disabled. In turn Vandamme, Oudinot, MacDonald, Ney, were
defeated, and in October the remnants of the French fell back to Leipsic.
Here the horde that surrounded them was suddenly enlarged. The Bavarians
had gone over to the allies.
A three days' battle at Leipsic exhausted the French, and they were
obliged to make a disastrous retreat to the Rhine, which they crossed
November 1st. Ten days later the emperor was in Paris.
The situation of France at the end of 1813 was deplorable. The
allies lay on the right bank of the Rhine. The battle of Vittoria had
given the Spanish boundary to Wellington, and the English and Spanish
armies were on the frontier. The allies which remained with the French
were not to be trusted. "All Europe was marching with us a year ago,"
Napoleon said; "to-day all Europe is marching against us." There was
despair among his generals, alarm in Paris. Besides, there seemed no
human means of gathering up a new army. Where were the men to come from?
France was bled to death. She could give no more. Her veins were empty.
"This is the truth, the exact truth, and such is the secret and the
explanation of all that has since occurred," says Pasquier. "With these
successive levies of conscriptions, past, present, and to come; with the
Guards of Honor; with the brevet of sub-lieutenant forced on the young men
appertaining to the best families, after they had escaped the conscript,
or had supplied substitutes in conformity with the provisions of the law,
there did not remain a single family which was not in anxiety or in
Yet hedged in as he was by enemies, threatened by anarchy, supported
by a fainting people, Napoleon dallied over the peace the allies offered.
The terms were not dishonorable. France was to retire, as the other
nations, within her natural boundaries, which they designated as the
Rhine, the Alps, and the Pyrenees. But the emperor could not believe that
Europe, whom he had defeated so often, had power to confine him within
such limits. He could not believe that such a peace would be stable, and
he began preparations for resistance. Fresh levies of troops were made.
The Spanish frontier he attempted to secure by making peace with
Ferdinand, recognizing him as King of Spain. He tried to settle his
trouble with the Pope.
While he struggled to simplify the situation, to arouse national
spirit, and to gather reenforcements, hostile forces multiplied and closed
in upon him. The allies crossed the Rhine. The corps legislatif took
advantage of his necessity to demand the restoration of certain rights
which he had taken from them. In his anger at their audacity, the emperor
alienated public sympathy by dissolving the body. "I stood in need of
something to console me," he told them, "and you have sought to dishonor
me. I was expecting that you would unite in mind and deed to drive out
the foreigner; you have bid him come. Indeed, had I lost two battles, it
would not have done France any greater evil." To crown his evil day,
Murat, Caroline's husband, now King of Naples, abandoned him. This
betrayal was the more bitter because his sister herself was the cause of
it. Fearful of losing her little glory as Queen of Naples, Caroline
watched the course of events until she was certain that her brother was
lost, and then urged Murat to conclude a peace with England and Austria.
This accumulation of reverses, coming upon him as he tried to prepare
for battle, drove Napoleon to approach the allies with proposals of peace.
It was too late. The idea had taken root that France, with Napoleon at
her head, would never remain in her natural limits; that the only hope for
Europe was to crush him completely. This hatred of Napoleon had become
almost fanatical, and made any terms of peace with him impossible.
By the end of January, 1814, the emperor was ready to renew the
struggle. The day before he left Paris, he led the empress and the King
of Rome to the court of the Tuileries, and presented them to the National
Guard. He was leaving them what he held dearest in the world, he told
them. The enemy were closing around; they might reach Paris; they might
even destroy the city. While he fought without to shield France from this
calamity, he prayed them to protect the priceless trust left within. The
nobility and sincerity of the feeling that stirred the emperor were
unquestionable; tears flowed down the cheeks of the men to whom he spoke,
and for a moment every heart was animated by the old emotion, and they
took with eagerness the oath he asked.
The next day he left Paris. The army he commanded did not number
more than sixty thousand men. He led it against a force which, counting
only those who had crossed the Rhine, numbered nearly six hundred
In the campaign of two months which followed, Napoleon several times
defeated the allies. In spite of the terrible disadvantages under which
he fought, he nearly drove them from the country. In every way the
campaign was worthy of his genius. But the odds against him were too
tremendous. The saddest phase of his situation was that he was not
seconded. The people, the generals, the legislative bodies, everybody not
under his personal influence seemed paralyzed. Augereau, who was at
Lyons, did absolutely nothing, and the following letter to him shows with
what energy and indignation Napoleon tried to arouse his stupefied
"Nogent, 21st February, 1814.
" . . . What! six hours after having received the first troops
coming from Spain you were not in the field! Six hours' repose was
sufficient. I won the action of Nangis with a brigade of dragoons coming
from Spain, which, since it left Bayonne, had not unbridled its horses.
The six battalions of the division of Nismes want clothes, equipment, and
drilling, say you. What poor reasons you give me there, Augereau! I have
destroyed eighty thousand enemies with conscripts having nothing but
knapsacks! The National Guards, say you, are pitiable. I have four
thousand here, in round hats, without knapsacks, in wooden shoes, but with
good muskets, and I get a great deal out of them. There is no money, you
continue; and where do you hope to draw money from? You want wagons; take
them wherever you can. You have no magazines; this is too ridiculous. I
order you, twelve hours after the reception of this letter, to take the
field. If you are still Augereau of Castiglione, keep the command; but if
your sixty years weigh upon you, hand over the command to your senior
general. The country is in danger, and can be saved by boldness and good
will alone. . . .
The terror and apathy of Paris exasperated him beyond measure. To
his great disgust, the court and some of the counsellors had taken to
public prayers for his safety. "I see that instead of sustaining the
empress," he wrote Cambaceres, "you discourage her. Why do you lose your
head like that? What are these misereres and these prayers forty hours
long at the chapel? Have people in Paris gone mad?"
The most serious concern of Napoleon in this campaign was that the
empress and the King of Rome should not be captured. He realized that the
allies might reach Paris at any time, and repeatedly he instructed Joseph,
who had been appointed lieutenant-general in his absence, what to do if
the city was threatened.
"Never allow the empress or the King of Rome to fall into the hands
of the enemy . . . . As far as I am concerned, I would rather see my son
slain than brought up at Vienna as an Austrian prince; and I have a
sufficiently good opinion of the empress to feel persuaded that she thinks
in the same way, as far as it is possible for a woman and a mother to do
so. I never saw Andromaque represented without pitying Astyanax surviving
his family, and without regarding it as a piece of good fortune that he
did not survive his father."
Throughout the two months there were negotiations for peace. They
varied according to the success or failure of the emperor or the allies.
Napoleon had reached a point where he would gladly have accepted the terms
offered at the close of 1813. But those were withdrawn. France must come
down to her limits in 1789. "What!" cried Napoleon, "leave France smaller
than I found her? Never."
The frightful combination of forces closed about him steadily, with
the deadly precision of the chamber of torture, whose adjustable walls
imperceptibly, but surely, draw together, day by day, until the victim is
crushed. On the 30th of March Paris capitulated. The day before, the
Regent Marie Louise with the King of Rome and her suite had left the city
for Blois. The allied sovereigns entered Paris on the 1st of April. As
they passed through the streets, they saw multiplying, as they advanced,
the white cockades which the grandes dames of the Faubourg St. Germain had
been making in anticipation of the entrance of the foreigner, and the only
cries which greeted them as they passed up the boulevards were, "Long live
the Bourbons! Long live the sovereigns! Long live the Emperor
The allies were in Paris, but Napoleon was not crushed. Encamped at
Fontainebleau, his army about him, the soldiers everywhere faithful to
him, he had still a large chance of victory, and the allies looked with
uneasiness to see what move he would make. It was due largely to the wit
of Talleyrand that the standing ground which remained to the emperor was
undermined. That wily diplomat, whose place it was to have gone with the
empress to Blois, had succeeded in getting himself shut into Paris, and,
on the entry of the allies, had joined Alexander, whom he had persuaded to
announce that the allied powers would not treat with Napoleon nor with any
member of his family. This was eliminating the most difficult factor from
the problem. By his fine tact Talleyrand brought over the legislative
bodies to this view.
From the populace Alexander and Talleyrand feared nothing; it was too
exhausted to ask anything but peace. Their most serious difficulty was
the army. All over the country the cry of the common soldiers was, "Let
us go to the emperor." "The army," declared Alexander, "is always the
army; as long as it is not with you, gentlemen, you can boast of nothing.
The army represents the French nation; if it is not won over, what can you
accomplish that will endure?"
Every influence of persuasion, of bribery, of intimidation, was used
with the soldiers and generals. They were told in phrases which could not
but flatter them: "You are the most noble of the children of the country,
and you cannot belong to the man who has laid it waste.... You are no
longer the soldiers of Napoleon; the Senate and all France release you
from your oaths."
The older officers on Napoleon's staff at Fontainebleau were
unsettled by adroit communications sent from Paris. They were made to
believe that they were fighting against the will of the nation and of
their comrades. When this disaffection had become serious, one of
Napoleon's oldest and most trusted associates, Marmont, suddenly deserted.
He led the vanguard of the army. This treachery took away the last hope
of the imperial cause, and on April 11, 1814, Napoleon signed the act of
abdication at Fontainebleau. The act read:
"The allied powers having proclaimed that the Emperor Napoleon
Bonaparte is the only obstacle to the reestablishment of peace in Europe,
the Emperor Napoleon, faithful to his oath, declares that he renounces,
for himself and his heirs, the thrones of France and Italy, and that there
is no personal sacrifice, even that of his life, which he is not ready to
make in the interest of France."
For only a moment did the gigantic will waver under the shock of
defeat, of treachery, and of abandonment. Uncertain of the fate of his
wife and child, himself and his family denounced by the allies, his army
scattered, he braved everything until Marmont deserted him, and he saw one
after another of his trusted officers join his enemies; then for a moment
he gave up the fight and tried to end his life. The poison he took had
lost its full force, and he recovered from its effects. Even death would
have none of him, he groaned.
But this discouragement was brief. No sooner was it decided that his
future home should be the island of Elba, and that its affairs should be
under his control, than he began to prepare for the journey to his little
kingdom with the same energy and zest which had characterized him as
emperor. On the 20th of April he left the palace of Fontainebleau.