Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

56

HIS VISIT TO CARNOT'S, THE DIRECTOR. gentlemen were? "the general and his aids of the armed force of Paris ;” answered Carnot. The marked contrast between Bonaparte and such generals as Santerre and others who were as great ruffians and savages as Tecumseh, the British Brigadier, in the late war between that country and the United States, was peculiarly striking. s What is his name?" said the author : “ Bonaparte,"_" Has he great military talents ?" 6 So it is said."

What has he done remarkable ?" "He is the officer who commanded the troops of the convention on the day of Vendemaire," replied the Director. The countenance of the gentleman suddenly changed as if by an electric shock; he was one of the electors of Vendemaire: retiring to a distant part of the room he observed the young hero with thoughtfulness and silence.

As Bonaparte entered the room, a young lady was playing on a piano forte, which was suspended on his appearance ; and perceiving the attention of all present wholly directed to himself, he with great affability observed, “I have put a stop to your amusements; some person was singing, I beg I may not interrupt the company.” The director apologized, but the general insisting, the music was resumed, and after two or three national airs bad been played, Bonaparte took his leave. On his departure he became the subject of conversation; and from this short interview the sagacious mind of Carnot, perceived and predicted that the young general possessed an aspiring military genius, and an energy of character which would not permit him to remain long upon the threshold of military fame and glory

The discernment of Barras was not less discriminating than that of Carnot; he discovered that Bonaparte was endowed with an extraordinary energy and activity of mind, united with great personal bravery and an ardent thirst for military fame. He promoted him to the command of the army of the interior, a situation important from the responsibility attached

[blocks in formation]

ing it.

to it, from its high rank, the emoluments, and what was of greater consequence, the influence accompany

About this period, Bonaparte married Madame Josephine Beauharnois, widow of viscount de Beauharnois, who had been a member of the national As. sembly and was president of that body in 1791 ; he subsequently served in the army under general Biron as adjutant general, afterwards succeeded Custine in the command of the army of the Rhine ; but being suspected by the Convention, was suspended in his command, arrested and consigned to the guillotine in July 1794. Madame Beauharnois was likewise proscribed and thrown into prison, and would have shared the fate of her husband had it not been for the fall of Robespierre. Barras, who became her protector, and is said to have maintained an improper intimacy with her, brought about the alliance; in which it was observed he provided his mistress with a husband and his friend with a wife. The fortune of Madame Beauharnois was 500,000 livres. At the same time on the recommendation of Barras, and from his own high opinion of Bonaparte's military talents, Carnot offered him the command of the army of Italy. Barras connected these two proposals, offering him Madame Beauharnois and 500,000 livres and the army of Italy, telling him at the same time, that the lady and the army were equally necessary to a youthful and aspiring general. This appeal both to his ambition and his gallantry, was promptly met, but which part of the proposition was most highly appreciated by Bonaparte, his subsequent conduct affords the best evidence. If the ardour of his pursuit of military fame, left no room for the tender affections, it was apparent that the Lady and her fortune would be no obstacles to his military

career.

The first operations of Bonaparte in Italy were marked by an energy, activity and vigour which form

of the successful career which followed,

ed a presage

58

SUCCESSFUL OPERATIONS IN ITALY.

and of those great achievements that astonished the world, and placed him in the very first rank of military. heroes.

He arrived at the head-quarters of the army early in the spring, and only waited for the disappearance of the ice to commence operations. The army had endured great hardships and privations, were destitute of shoes, clothing, and almost every thing which their comfort required. To silence their complaints, and reconcile them to their situation, as well as to endear himself to the soldiers, Bonaparte lived familiarly with them, participated in their hardships and privations, conciliated their esteem, and redressed their grievances. He attempted to revive their spirits, arouse their courage, and raise their despondent hopes; “ my brave fellows," said he, “although you suffer great privations, you have no reason to be dissatisfied; every thing yields to power; it we are victorious, the provisions and the supplies of the enemy become ours; but if we are vanquished we have already too much to lose."

The allies were greatly superior in numbers as well as in supplies, and they occupied all the heights and passes of the Alps. Hostilities were commenced on the 9th of April, by Beaulieu, the Austrian general, who with 10,000 men made a spirited attack upon

the French post at Voltri ; the troops stationed here retreated in good order to Savona. On the following morning the Austrians renewed the attack, with 15,000

men, and having drove in all the out posts of the * French, appeared before the redoubt of Montenotte, the last of their entrenchments. This redoubt was defended by 1,500 men, commanded by Rampon, who made his soldiers, during the heat of the attack, take an oath to defend it, or perish in the entrenchments. The repeated charges of the Austrians were unavail. ing; their advancement was checked, and they were kept the whole night at the distance of pistol-shot.During the night, the right of the French army, under the command of general Laharpe, took a position be:

SUCCESSFUL OPERATIONS IN ITALY.

59

hind the redoubt: and Bonaparte, followed by Buthin and Massena, brought up the troops of the centre and left, in the rear and flank of the Imperialists. Atdaybreak the following morning the action was commenced with great vigour, and with various success; the contest continued for some time, when Massena appearing, commenced a furious attack upon the rear and flank of the enemy, filled them with terror and confusion, and decided the fate of the day. The fruit of this, the first victory obtained by Bonaparte in Italy, was 3,500. prisoners, of whom sixty were officers, several standards, and 1,500 killed.,

Bonaparte, following up the advantage he had acquired, removed his head-quarters to Carcara the fol. lowing day, and pushed on Laharpe to Sozello, and from thence by rapid and concealed marches to Cairo; while Massena was ordered to gain the heights of Dego, and generals Menaud and Joubert to occupy, one the heights Biestro, and the other the position of St. Marguerite, by which movements the French army was placed on the other side of the Alps.

Early on the next morning, the 13th of April, Augereau attacked and forced the defiles of Mellisimo, while Menaud and Joubert drove the enemy from all the neighbouring heights. The Austrian general Provera, with 1500 men, entrenched himself in the ruins of an old castle, on the summit of the mountain of Cossaria, a very strong position. Bonaparte, vexed at being checked in his march by a handful of men, gave orders for him to be summoned to surrender. Provera not readily complying, and requesting to speak with the commander in chief, Augereau formed his men in four columns and advanced against him. Joubert, who lead one of the columns, being wounded after entering the enemy's entrenchment, and generals Banel and Quenin, who lead two others, being killed, the attempt did not succeed. At dawn of day on the 14th, the hostile armies faced each other. Whilst Augereau confined general Provera to his position, several regi

60

SUCCESSFUL OPERATIONS IN ITALY.

ments of the enemy attempted to penetrate the centre of the French army, but were vigorously repulsed by general Menaud. Massena, in the meantime, was extending his line, strengthened by entrenchments and batteries; before one o'clock, P. M. it reached beyond the enemy's left, which occupied the village of Dego. A vigorous attack was made upon the enemy by the division of general Laharpe, formed in three columns; one headed by general Causse crossed the Bormida with the water up to their middle, exposed to the enemy's fire, and attacked the right of their left wing; the second column passed the same stream, and fell upon

the enemy, whilst the third turned a ravine to cut off their retreat. Being surrounded on all sides, the Austrians were exposed to entire destruction; so rapid and furious was the attack of the French columns, spreading death and terror around them, that they had not even time to capitulate. At the same time

general Provera and his men, who had taken refuge in the mountain's top, from an enemy, the vigour and activity of whose operations were equally a matter of surprise and terror, surrendered as prisoners of war. This victory was not more rapid in its achievement than decisive and complete in its results. From seven to nine thousand prisoners were taken, and from 2000 to 2500 of the enemy killed.

Before dawn of light, the succeeding day, Beaulieu with 7000 men, with great spirit and bravery attacked and carried the village of Dego. A bold and vigorous attempt was made to recover it by Massena, but he was repulsed in three successive attacks; and general Causse, who led on the 99th demi-brigade, as he was on the point of charging the enemy with the bayonet, fell mortally wounded. Bonaparte coming near him whilst in this situation, collecting what strength remained, he asked if Dego was retaken. “ The forts are ours,

," said the commander in chief.-" Then" replied Causse,“ vive la Republique ! I die contented." The victorious French soon possessed themselves of

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »