Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

with him. In this manner I arrived at Marchiennesur-Pont at four o'clock in the morning, alone, without any officers of my staff, ignorant of what had become of the Emperor, who, before the end of the battle, had entirely disappeared, and who, I was allowed to believe, might be either killed or taken prisoner.”

Napoleon, however, had reserved himself for another destiny. According to the testimony of La Coste, his guide, he set off from the field of battle at half past eight o'clock, at full speed for Genappe, accompanied by his staff, following the line of the high road, at some distance in the fields. He reached Genappe at half past nine, and he found its only street so choaked up with the wreck of his army, that it took him an hour to pass through it. From Genappe he

pursued his way to Quatre Bras with accelerated speed; but after passing this place, he became more tranquil, and on reaching Gosselies he alighted from his horse, and proceeded to Charleroi (nearly a league) on foot. After quitting Charleroi, he went into a meadow called Marcenelle, where he partook of some wine with his officers, the only refreshment which he had tasted for fourteen hours. Here he dismissed his guide La Coste, to whom Bertrand gave a single Napoleon, and hastened with his attendants towards the French frontiers.


Meanwhile the advanced-guard of the Prussians and Brunswickers, under the command of General Gneiseneau, pursued the unfortunate victims of Napoleon's ambition with unrelenting fury, maddened by the recollection of the cruelties which their lancers and light troops had perpetrated throughout the day, on the wounded and pri

At Genappe the French attempted to make a last stand, having entrenched themselves behind cannon and overturned carriages ; and the approach of the Prussians was for a moment arrested by a brisk fire of musketry: but some cannon shots and a dreadful hurrah from the Allies, put an end to their feeble resistance, and what the wretched fugitives intended as a defence, now became an inextricable svare. All who had not escaped before the entrance of the Prussians, were cut down without mercy. In the small inn, forty grenadiers fell under the lance and sabre without resistance. General Duhesme stood at the door surrounded by the Brunswickers, whose vengeance on the slayers of their heroic Prince was still unsated. He asked quarter from the stern soldier, whose arm was uplifted for his destruction. “ The Duke of Brunswick died the day before yesterday," was the only reply of the hussar, who instantly cut him down. Here the remainder of the French artillery, amounting to more than oue hundred pieces, with the baggage and whole materiel of the army, fell into the hands of the Prussians, together with Napoleon's famous travelling carriage and its valuable contents, with his travelling library, consisting of nearly eight hundred volumes, among which were found French translations of Homer and Ossian, the Bible, and the Pucelle of Voltaire ! Of the splendid field train of three hundred pieces which accompanied the French army, only one howitzer is said to have escaped the wreck of Waterloo, with the exception of the few pieces attached to Grouchy's corps.*

* The folly of not securing a safe retreat was never more mani. fest than upon this occasion. The whole of the discomfited army was forced to defile with all its incumbrances through the street of Genappe from which the road to Charleroi passes over a narrow bridge. Every one anxious to escape by this single outlet impeded the

progress of another, while every moment new crowds of fugitives, cavalry, infantry, guns, and carriages of every description, rushed into the place, increased the tumult, and rendered the bridge impassable. In the midst of this confusion Napoleon and his staff passed unperceived through the throng. It has been very generally asserted that he was in his carriage at the time when it was attacked by the Prussians, and that he escaped at one door wbile the Prussian commandant entered at the other : but this would contradict La Coste's statement, nor is it at all supported by the narrative of the circumstances attending the capture of the carriage by Major Von Keller, which appears to have been published under bis authority, and states the particulars of this remarkable event in the following words. "At eleven o'clock at night the troops arrived at the barricaded town of Genappe, at the entrance of which Major Von Keller met the travelling carriage of Buonaparte with six horses. The postilion and two leaders were killed by the bayonets of the fusileers. The Major then cut down the coachman and took possession of the carriage, which contained a gold and silver necessaire, including above

The feeble remnant of the French army now eagerly pressed forward to the Sambre, as their only protection from the avenging sword of their pursuers. They arrived at Charleroi about day

seventy pieces; a large silver chronometer ; a steel-bedstead with merino mattrasses ; a pair of pistols ; a green velvet cap; a pair of spurs ; linen; and many other things for the convenience of travelling. There were also a diamond tiara, hat, sword, uniform, and an imperial mantle. The booty was equally considerable and remarkable : several boxes of mounted and unmounted diamonds, a large silver service, with the arms of Napoleon, and gold pieces with his name and portrait, filled the haversacks of the 15th Prussian fusileers.”

This carriage was afterwards brought to England and exhibited for a considerable time in the British metropolis. It was built at Brussels according to Napoleon's order, for the campaign in Russia, and it constituted almost the whole of the equipage either of himself or his army which escaped in that disastrous retreat. It afterwards carried him to Dresden, and again brought him back in disgrace to Paris. He took it with him to Elba, and on his return made in it his triumphant journey to the French capital, and it accompanied him in this expedition, which terminated for ever his ambitious career. It resembled a fashionable English travelling carriage, but rather more heavily built. Its colour was dark blue, bordered with gold, and emblazoned with the arms of France. A lamp was placed at each corner, and another in the centre of the back to enlighten the interior of the carriage, which was arranged in a way of which no description could convey an adequate idea. It contained a complete bed-room, dressing-room, eating-room, kitchen, and office, together with a complete breakfast service for tea, coffee, and chocolate, including a spirit lamp ; a sandwich service consisting of plates, knives, forks, spoons, salts, pepper, and mustard boxes, decanters and glasses; a dressing-case containing every possible article for the toilette ; a complete wardrobe, a bedstead, bed, mattrasies ; and all so arranged, as to be found in an instant without incommoding the traveller. VOL XI,

4 R


66 the

break, and rushed to the bridge where a guard of grenadiers was posted with fixed bayonets, to ar: rest their flight, and if possible restore them to some kind of order: but the terrific cry, Prussians ! the Prussians !” which they continually heard from the rear, caused them to press through every obstacle which impeded their escape: the guard was overwhelmed, and now the bridge of Charleroi exhibited a spectacle which could only be surpassed by the horrible scenes at the passage of the Beresina. The road to the bridge was choaked up by a mingled multitude of horsemen, infantry, and carriages, amongst whom might be observed groups of wounded men who seemed to cling to each other, as if a sense of mutual suffering, afforded some tie of mutual protection against the unfeeling rudeness of their more fortunate comrades. Pale, enfeebled, and covered by the bloody rags with which they bad hastily bound up their wounds, some crept slowly along on foot, while others were mounted on the horses they had taken from the baggage-waggons which had been abandoned almost at every step of the road. The destruction that rapidly pressed upon them seemed to bave blunted every kind feeling in the bosoms of this miserable multitude: the stronger thrust aside, or trampled upon the weaker, and frequently drew their sabresor bayonetson those who offered any resistance; while numbers were crushed under the wheels of the carriages, so that the accu

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »