Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

wounded, and obliged to consult his own safety by a precipitate flight. Count Platoff's dispatch to the field-marshal on this occasion must not pass unnoticed. The informal conclusion of · Hoursa! your Serene Highness !' could alone have proceeded from a soldier in the highest exultation of success. Prince Kutusoff, as we must. now call him, with the addition of the title of Smolenski, which he had so justly acquired, then advanced, driving the French before him, and passed the Dnieper at Orcha on the 26th, which the French army had just quitted: and when we consider the different rate at which an arıny is obliged to move who brings up all its artillery, and heavy baggage, from that which abandons every thing in its flight, we are only surprised at the celerity of his movements.

Buonaparte relied upon passing the Beresina at Borisof, but in this, as in many other of his expectations, he was fatally disappointed. Dombrowski, who had been left to guard the tête-du-pont, had been defeated by the advanced guard of the army of Tchitzagoff under Count Lambert, and all passage was stopt. The enemy then moved along the right bank of the Beresina, and at the distance of ten miles from Borisof, began to pass over 'on the 28th: but Wittgenstein, who had been informed of the state of affairs by the activity of Count Chernicheff, and who had the day before again defeated Victor, and compelled the division of Partoneaux, 7000 strong, to lay down their arms, now came up, and the French were attacked vigorously on both sides of the river. Alarmed for his own safety, and that of his best troops, Buonaparte now ordered the bridges to be burnt to favour his retreat, and abandoned his rear guard to their fate. A dreadful scene of carnage then took place, the Russians directing.the whole fire of their artillery with fatal certainty to the points where the fugitives were crowding to the banks of the river, whilst they in vain sought to secure a passage by the bridges which were already given up to the flames.

Though Buonaparte had fought most obstinately to save his baggage and plunder, a 'prodigious quantity was taken by the Russians on this occasion ; and so great was the number of carriages of different descriptions, laden chiefly with the spoils of Mosco, that a very large body of men were for two days employed in clearing a passage through them for the army.

After the sanguinary passage of the Beresina, Buonaparte, finding Tchitzagoff too strongly posted on the road to Minsk, was compelled to retire upon Wilna. This movement had been foreseen by Wittgenstein, and having detached Count Kutusoff round by a more distant route, he himself proceeded on the enemy's right Hank to intercept their retreat. Botla plaus were crowned with com

plete

plete success; the whole body of Bavarians under General Wrede, who formed the remains of the 6th corps, and who were on their way to join the grand army, were taken in detail by Count Kutusoff, and Buonaparte, finding that he was cut off from Vileika, gave up the project of advancing to Wilna in that direction, and struck into another road by Molodetschno. Here, however, he was exposed to the attacks of Tchitzagoff, who was hovering on his left flank; and the retreat of the French became a perfect rout. The measure of their sufferings was now complete; unable to defend themselves by day, they marched only at night by the light of lantherns, and their places of balting presented a horrid spectacle to their pursuers, from the number of dead and dying that were abandoned to their fate. The towns which they successively passed through could afford them no shelter from their active enemy. Molodetschno was evacuated at midnight-at Smorgonie the whole of their rear guard was carried off by the Russians; and whilst preparing night quarters at Oschmiani, they were so vigorously attacked by a Russian partizan, that the great Napoleon, after witnessing the destruction of most of his sacred squadron,' changed bis dress, mounted his horse, and Aed with all speed to Wilna, leaving Murat in command of the army.

Before we proceed to the concluding scenes of this eventful campaign, we must turn for a moment to that expiring speech of Buonaparte, the egth bulletin, dated from Molodetschno the 5th December. We do not indeed expect to derive from it any new Jight on the operations of the armies; but as it has been celebrated not in France only by his parasites, but here, in England, for the manly openness and fidelity of the statements which it contains, we must not allow it to pass without examination. The state of the weather, and the Emperor's health are two points upon which the French bulletins never fail to dwell; but we now for the first time hear of 'rout upon rout, confusion worse confounded;' of the loss of 30,000 horses in a few days, of cavalry being on foot, of artillery without conveyance, and of the abandonment of cannon, ammunition, and provisions. We are not surprized that the soldiers of an army, without the means of defence or subsistence, or transport, should have lost their gaiety,' and dreamt of misfortunes and catastrophes ;' and nature must have been more than commonly bountiful, had she steeled them against their sufferings, and enabled them to retain their ordinary manners :' but we should suppose from the account which is here given, that all this was brought about by that invisible enemy a Russian winter, or by that' contemptible cavalry,' the Cossacks. We hear little or nothing of the Russian army; we should not discover from this' fair and candid #tatement,' that the day after · Buonaparte slept at Krasnoi,' (where

we

we imagine his slumbers must have been somewhat broken,) a great part of his army under Davoust was completely routed, and that on the following day the Duke of Elchingen alone escaped, having seen the whole of his corps lay down their arms. We should not have guessed that the cruel mistake of going to the right instead of the left,' which is ingeniously represented to have produced the submission of Partoneaux's division, was in reality caused by the masterly manæuvres of Wittgenstein; nor should we make out from this invaluable and faithful document,' that Buonaparte, after summoning all his dukes to his aid, really lost 20,000 men at the passage of the Beresina : and had not Admiral Tchitzagoff told his own story, we, like the lads of Paris,' might have imagined that the road to Minsk was as open to the French army as that which led through a fine country to Wilna.'

Wilna, however, (for we must now dismiss this · historical piece of the first rank,') the wreck of this once formidable force reached on the 9th, closely pursued by the Russians, who established their head-quarters here on the 12th ; and on the 14th the last body of French who made any serious resistance was routed by Platoff at Kowno. Froin this tiine we hear no more of the existence of a French army. Macdonald, by some neglect, or mischance, does not appear to have been apprized of the disastrous condition of the Grand Army, until the 16th of December, when he took immediate steps for abandoning Königsberg and the line of the Niemen: the defection, however, of the Prussians under D'Yorck, and the total insubordination of the rest of the troops under his command, having rendered it impossible to make any serious opposition to the different Russian armies advancing against him; he seems prudently to have followed the example of his brother generals, and to have left his corps to their fate. The greater part of his followers, it is said, have found shelter in Dantzic; and though from the order issued to the French stragglers to repair to their depôts on the Vistula, we might have been led to imagine it was intended to oppose on that river the progress of the victorious army, we now find that the views of Buonaparte are limited to the defence of the Oder, and that the Russians are already in possession of some of the chief places on the banks of the Vistula.

Though much has been said in the French papers of the strength of Dantzic, and its powers of resistance, we are not inclined to estimate the garrison there collected at more than 12,000 men,-a number totally unequal to defend the extensive fortifications of that town, or to hold out for any length of time against the force which the Russians will be able to bring against it.

Nothing can be more pitiable than the accounts which have lately reached us of the state of those individuals who have escaped

from

from the universal rout of the French army. The generals have been discovered in all quarters seeking shelter in disguise in any but that would afford them protection, and the few soldiers who have reached their cantonments are perishing by the effects of the rigour of the season, and disease brought on by the privations and hardships which they have been compelled to endure. So complete has been the annihilation of the finest organized and best appointed army brought into the field in modern times !

We have already stated its amount at the opening of the campaign, and we shall have now little difficulty in computing the loss which the population of France and her allies has suffered by the mad ambition of the tyraut. We do not believe that out of the whole force 15,000 effective men can be collected for duty. Buonaparte went up to Mosco with five corps, and the reserve of guards, comprizing a force of 165,000 men, and of these 85,000 only, according to Lord Cathcart's accounts, left that capital. No doubt, by the disasters which happened to the first, third and fourth corps, in the neighbourhood of Smolensko, the grand army musť have been diminished to one half before it reached the Beresina. It was here, however, reinforced by Victor, and subsequently by two corps under Oudinot and Dombrowski; but when we consider the severe engagements which took place on the Dwina, and that the corps of Macdonald and Augereau, though the least engaged, yet materially suffered from the detachments which they sent out, and the desertion of their troops, we cannot estiinate the total amount of the French loss at less than 300,000 men, and of these more than two-thirds were the flower of France and the kingdom of Italy. The official statement published at Petersburgh, December 23d, gives the following return of the French losses, from the 18th June to the 30th November.

Prisoners, 95,000 privates; 20 generals; 1,385 staff officers. Killed, 150,783 privates; 40 generals; 1,806 officers.

Taken, 726 pieces of cannon and 49 stand of colours; and to these we mast add the loss which the French suffered on the concluding days of the campaign subsequent to the soth November, which cannot be estimated at less than 50,000 men; making a total not inferior to our computation; and, indeed, a later account from St. Petersburgh even goes beyond what we have supposed, and makes the captures up to the 26th of December to amount to nearly 170,000 men, and 1,131 pieces of cannon, though Kutusoff in his declaration speaks only of 130,000 prisoners, (numbers having perished in the interval,) and 900 pieces of

cannon.

We

We have no means of gaining any accurate account of the loss which the Russians have sustained in their glorious resistance. In the early part of the campaign, to judge by the day of Borodino, they probably suffered as much as the French, but latterlo they were not exposed to the same hardships and dangers as the retreating army. Sir Robert Wilson, perhaps, will be able to throw some light upon this, as well as many other subjects, and we look with anxiety for his account of the campaign.We return to the fugitive emperor. His name must now stand foremost on the list of those ambitious leaders who in different ages have tarnished their reputations, and wasted the lives of their followers, in fruitless expeditions. Had he turned over the page of history, which he is so fond of quoting, he might have learnt wisdom from the failure of others. The flight of Xerxes in his single bark, which the poet has produced as the most celebrated instance of the instability of human greatness, is not more striking thau Buonaparte escaping unattended from the wreck of his forces. But the most exact parallel to the greatest event which has happened in modern times, is to be found in the history of the Persian expedition of the Emperor Julian. We see there a prince in the pride of his strength, and elated by former victories, bent upon the invasion of a distant and powerful empire. We tind him, on advancing with the same confidence of success into the enemy's country, opposed by the same determined mode of warfare which Buonaparte has met with in Russia : in spite of opposition, however, he pushes for the capital, lays it in ashes, and is then obliged to retire under all the calamitous circumstances which have marked the retreat of the French army from Mosco. But the conduct of the leaders on these occasions is widely different. Julian died

with harness on his back,' valiantly contending with the enemy; while Buonaparte, though he strikingly resembles him in his revolt from the truth, and in his ill-directed ambition, exhibits no symptom of that heroism and greatness of mind, which dignified the last scene, and threw a temporary veil over the errors of the arch-apostate; but with ihat selfishness which forms one of the blackest features of his character, sacrifices the lives of his most faithful followers, to his personal safety, and while they believe thåt he is still at their head, the witness of their generous efforts, is already far from the field, a fugitive, a vagabond, and a traitor.

We should do injury to the memory of Charles XII. were we to attempt to draw any comparison between him and Buonaparte. The Swede, though a madman in his projects, was a soldier in the field, a lion whom the Czar must have been proud to hunt; and we are told that on the disastrous day of Pultawa, when all hopes of victory were at an end, he was with difficulty prevailed upon by bis generals to

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »