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to throw their united force across the French Völkermarkt, on his way down the Drave toadvance to Vienna, and when at last he ward Hungary. Two days before, eight hunbrought up on the slopes of the Bisamberg dred French soldiers had crossed into the he seemed for an instant aimless. Thus can island of Lobau to drive out the Austrian the hope of peace paralyze a great general's scouts; on the 19th Napoleon arrived, and the activity. But when, having offered to open necessary fortifications were constructed; on negotiations with his adversary, he received the 20th the passage began, and Masséna, no answer, when he learned that the Austrian with Lannes's light cavalry, was sent out to ministry also was determined to fight the reconnoiter. struggle out, he was himself again. His plan
NAPOLEON DEFEATED AT ASPERN. was the greatest perhaps ever devised by him:
at, indeed, that four years later Napo- CHARLES, having apparently determined to leon made it his own at Dresden. It was to let his enemy cross unmolested, and to fight free Vienna by threatening the French com- the decisive battle on his own ground, had munications.
advanced meantime to still another line of The idea was old enough; the novelty lay hamlets-Strebersdorf, Gerasdorf, Deutschin the details. Kollowrath was to detach 25,- Wagram. On the morning of the 21st Napo000 men from his own force, and to seize Linz leon's army was partly across the main stream, with its bridge; the Archduke John was to some of his troops being on the Lobau, some join the Army of the Tyrol, which had re- entirely over on the left bank, but a large treated to the head waters of the Enns, and portion being still on the right bank. His cavthen march with 50,000 men to the same alry was again sent to clear the Marchfeld of point. But Masséna was already master of the Austrian light horse, who were coursing the Enns valley, and Bernadotte was sent to from one vantage-point to another; and he assist Vandamme at Linz. The Emperor had himself, in order to survey the country, adalready divined the plan, and had thwarted vanced to the first slight rise beyond the low it by the rapidity with which his orders were meadows which border the river. Near where transmitted and distant divisions summoned. he stood was the comfortable hamlet of AsThe communications were threatened, but not pern, composed like the others round about of broken, and Napoleon gave his whole atten- one-story stone houses and high stone barns, tion to the problem of crossing a great river some of which are of great size, with walls in the face of an enemy. He had done it be- many feet thick. The farmsteads and churchfore, but never under circumstances so pecu- yard are inclosed with ordinary masonry walls. liar as these which confronted him in the size At a short distance to the eastward lay of the Danube and the strength of his foe. Essling, with a few hundred inhabitants like
The mighty stream follows for the most Aspern; and farther still, but easily visipart a single channel until it debouches into ble, the somewhat larger village of Enzersthe plains which face Vienna on the north. dorf. The plain, though not rolling, is yet not There it divides into several arms, inclosing perfectly flat, and small water-courses travnumerous islands. These branches are nearly erse it at frequent intervals, their direction all substantial streams; many of them are marked by the trees growing on their banks. navigable. It was determined to select two The most important of these, the Russbach, such points, one above and the other below was some miles north of where he stood. the town, to build bridges at both, and to Turning to Masséna, after scanning the select whichever one should prove more ground, he said: «I shall refuse on the left, feasible when the task was done. The enter- and advancing on the right, turn in the Ausprise above the town failed entirely through trian front to the left.) That is, he would the vigilance of the Austrians. Masséna had leave his own left on the river, turn the better success at the other end, and succeeded Austrian left, and rolling up their line, inin gathering sufficient material without great close them with their own rear to the Danube. difficulty; his bridges between the two shores His success meant their annihilation, for they by the island of Lobau were ready on May 20. had no means of crossing in retreat. In this interval Charles advanced, and oc- To men of less daring this would have cupied a line farther forward in the great seemed a mad plan. A careful general would, plain, stretching from hamlet to hamlet- from without hesitation, have seized and strongly Korneuburg, Enzersfeld, Gross-Ebersdorf, to garrisoned Aspern, Essling, and Enzersdorf in Strebersdorf. Eugène and Macdonald had order that his own line of retreat might be reached Villach, whence they could march secure, and sufficient room be assured in which direct to Vienna; the Archduke John was at to deploy. Pelet, in his memoirs, declares that
ENGRAVED BY W... GLOBOR
UTHORIZED BY THE ARTIST MARSILAL LANNES
the Emperor's orders were « to cross the river there until midnight. Weakened and inferior
former village the scenes of the previous The fighting at Aspern was awful. The day were repeated, first one and then the French pushed in, were driven out, then other contestant holding it for a time. In the turned and seized it again. Once more, and center, where the Austrians almost broke still once more, the same alternating successes through the line, Napoleon quickly brought were repeated, the thickest of the fight being together his recently arrived artillery and at the churchyard in the western end of the Bessières's cavalry; after terrific struggles village. At Essling the fore-post about which they succeeded in holding the Austrians in the battle raged was a great barn, with check. On the right Essling, captured and mighty walls and vaulted cellars. Meanwhile recaptured several times by each side, was the Emperor was calling in his troops as fast first taken and long held by the enemy's left, as possible from behind, but at three in the and then retaken only at about three in the afternoon his main bridge over the chief arm afternoon, by a portion of the French reserve, of the Danube gave way before masses of rub- Napoleon's a young guard.» Thereupon, from bish brought down from the hill country by a the sheer exhaustion of both sides, the conflict freshet. The Austrians were from first to last ceased, nothing being heard but desultory superior in numbers on the battle-field; their discharges of artillery. The French were in enfilading batteries were able to sweep the possession of both Aspern and Essling. At French lines for several hours, and the car- seven the Emperor called a council of war; nage was dreadful. At last Bessières suc- the generals advised recrossing the Danube ceeded in dislodging them from Essling, and and a retreat into Vienna. « You must mean it was held by the French until dusk, when to Strasburg,» said their chief; «for if Charles the Austrians drew off to bivouac. But at should follow, he might drive me thither, and Aspern the numbers engaged were greater, if he should march to cut me off at Linz, I must Legrand being sent in toward nightfall. The march thither, too, to meet him. In either case, Archduke intended to take and hold the vil- I must abandon the capital, my only source lage if possible, and the fighting continued of supplies. There was no reply, and it was
BUILDING THE BRIDGE AT THE ISLAND OF LOBAU. (Napoleon and General Bertrand in the foreground, village of Ebersriorf in the distance.)
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determined to withdraw into the Lobau, and on the 24th; « for the enemy's strong position hold it until a stronger bridge could be con- made pursuit impossible. This he well knew, structed and Davout bring over his entire for the night before the Austrians had tried force. After two days of terrific defensive with signal failure to dislodge the French fighting, --so terrific that the Austrians were army from the Lobau. several times on the point of retreat, - Napo- The respective feelings of the two forces leon was obliged to abandon the field. are mirrored in two facts. On the 230 Na
poleon again visited Lannes, who was now NAPOLEON VICTORIOUS AT WAGRAM.
fully conscious and aware that he was doomed.
He was as fearless as ever, and with the stern Tule night of May 22 was the beginning of candor of an old republican poured out to such bitterness for the French emperor as he the Emperor all that he felt. The army, he had not yet tasted. His enemy's forces num- said, was weary of bloodshed, the nation of bered about 70,000, his own perhaps 45,000; its sense of exhaustion; for both were alike but this was entirely his own fault, due aware that they suffered and bled no longer largely to overweening confidence in himself for a principle, but for the boundless ambition and a weak contempt for foes who, after of one man. The veteran marshal refused all a long and bitter novitiate, now fought like sympathy or consolation, and turned his face veteran Frenchmen, and were led by one who to the wall. Both Marbot and Pelet declare had learned the lessons of Napoleon's own that this story of Cadet de Gassicourt is an strategy. Five times Essling had been lost invention; if so, it is a clever one, for we know and won; how often Aspern had been captured from other sources that as far as the army was and retaken could only be estimated. Both concerned the statement attributed to Lannes hamlets were now abandoned by the French. was correct. As there was little chance for The last Austrian charge against the center booty in such rapid marching and constant had been made and repelled with fiery valor, fighting, the youth and the poor were disbut in it Lannes was mortally wounded. The heartened. The great fortunes won by the grand total, therefore, of the two days was a officers were of little use while peace loss of gallant troops by the thousand, and nied for their enjoyment; the millions of Masof this marshal, Napoleon's greatest division séna did not save him from the exposures general, the friend of his youth, and the only and hardships of the battle-field, and he consurviving one that was both fearless and fessed that he loved luxury and immoral honest. Worse even than this, the « uncon- self-indulgence. Such voices had created an querable,» though not conquered, had been undercurrent of discontent. checked, and that, too, not in a corner, as in The feeling of Charles and his soldiers was Spain or at Eylau, but in the sight of all Eu- not greatly different. There was nothing posrope, on a field chosen by himself.
sible as the result of their victory but to take As the war-sick Emperor passed the litter up a more comfortable position on the same on which lay the maimed body of his old Marchfeld which had witnessed their losses. comrade, he threw himself on the living but Before them were the corpses of nearly 50,maimed and half-conscious form in an agony 000 slain, about equally divided between their of tenderness; and that night, as he sat at brethren and their foes. The Archduke urged table before an untasted meal, the bitter that now was the time for diplomacy. The tears rolled over cheeks which did not often battle of Aspern had softened Napoleon, he know the sensation. But the bulletin which said, and Austria might secure an advantahe dictated ran, «The enemy withdrew to geous peace. But Francis had not changed his their position, and we remained masters of nature: he would await the final decision. His the field. This was exactly as true of the brother Ferdinand would soon arrive from French at Aspern as it had been of the Rus- Poland, and John was already in Hungary. sians at Eylau-a technical victory, a moral To Frederick William III. he had offered Wardefeat. The Austrians celebrated a victory, saw if Prussia would only come to his assisthe honors of which they accorded to the last tance. But the King was as stubborn as cavalry charge under Prince John Liechten- Francis. Fearing lest Austria should secure stein; and in the peaceful churchyard at As- German leadership, and expecting in the end pern lies the effigy of a majestic lion stricken to gain more from Russia, he refused, in spite to the heart, as an Austrian reminder of those of the earnest advice of all his ministers, to astwo days' victorious fighting, which literally sist his rival. It was only when he was assured drenched the spot with blood. «We could not that Alexander intended to remain neutral use the victory,» wrote Charles's chief of staff that he consented to a secret armament, but