Puslapio vaizdai

leon's own definition of a truly great man be accurate, namely, one who can command the situations he creates, he was himself no longer such. The enemy not only had bridges over the Elbe at the mouth of the Elster, but at Acken and Rosslau. The left bank was as untenable for the French as the right, and it was of stern necessity that the various detachments of the army were called in to hold a line far westward, to the north of Leipsic. Oudinot, restored to partial favor, was left to keep the rear at Dresden with part of the young guard. On October 1 it was learned that Schwarzenberg was manoeuvering on the left to surround the invaders if possible by the south, and that Blücher, with like aim, was moving to the north. It was evident that the allies had formed a great resolution, and Napoleon confessed to Marmont that his "game of chess was becoming confused.»>

The fact was, the emperor's diplomacy had far outstripped the general's strategy. It was blazoned abroad that, on September 27, 160,000 new conscripts from the class of 1815, with 120,000 from the arrears of the seven previous classes, would be assembled at the military depots in France. Boys like these had won Lützen, Bautzen, and Dresden, and a large minority would be able-bodied men, late in maturing, perhaps, but strong. With this preliminary blare of trumpets, a letter was sent to General Bubna for the Emperor Francis, asking a hearing. It was too late; already, on September 9, the three powers had concluded an offensive and defensive alliance for the purpose of liberating the Rhenish princes, and of restoring both Prussia and Austria to their limits of 1805. This was the treaty which beguiled Bavaria from the French alliance, and made the German contingents in the French armies, the Saxons among the rest, wild for emancipation from a hated service. It explained the notification previously received from the King of Bavaria, who, on October 8, formally joined the coalition, with an army of 36,000, in return for the recognition of his complete autonomy. These were the circumstances which sent back Napoleon's flag of truce with his message undelivered. On October 3, Blücher, having accomplished a superb strategic march, drove Bertrand to Bitterfeld, and stood before Kemberg, west of the Elbe, with 64,000 men; Bernadotte, with 80,000, was crossing at Acken and Rosslau, and Schwarzenberg, with 170,000, was already south of Leipsic; Bennigsen, with 50,000 reserves, had reached Teplitz. The enemy would clearly concentrate at Leipsic and cut off Napoleon's base

unless he retreated. On October 5 his resolution so to do was taken under compulsion, and Murat was sent, with three infantry corps and one of cavalry, to hold Schwarzenberg until the necessary manoeuvers could be completed.


BUT how should the retreat be conducted? In Napoleon's painstaking notes (his habit of reducing his thoughts to writing for the sake of clearness remaining strong upon him to the last) he outlined two alternatives: to garrison Dresden with two corps, send three to reconnoiter about Chemnitz, and then march, with five and the guard, to attack Schwarzenberg, or else to strengthen Murat, place him between Schwarzenberg and Leipsic, and then advance to drive Bernadotte and Blücher behind the Elbe. But in winter the frozen Elbe with its flat shores would be no rampart. Both plans were abandoned, and on the 7th orders were issued for a retreat behind the Saale, the precipitous banks of which were a natural fortification. Dresden must, he concluded, be evacuated. This would deprive the allies of their easy refuge behind the Saxon and Bohemian mountains, but it might leave them complete masters of Saxony unless he should halt behind the Mulde for one blow at the armies of the north and of Silesia, or join Murat for a decisive battle with the Austrian general, or else concentrate at Leipsic, and meet the onset of the united allies, now much stronger than he. The night of the 7th was spent in indecision as to any one or all of these ideas, but in active preparation for the retreat; any contingency might be met or a resolve taken when the necessity arose. During that night the Emperor took two warm baths. The habit of drinking strong coffee to prevent drowsiness had induced attacks of nervousness, and these were not diminished by his load of care. To allay these and other ailments, he had had recourse for some time to frequent tepid baths. Much has been written about a mysterious malady which had been steadily increasing, but the burden of testimony from the Emperor's closest associates at this time indicates that in the main he had enjoyed excellent health throughout the second Saxon campaign. There were certainly intervals of self-indulgence and of lassitude, of excessive emotion and depressing self-examination, which seemed to require the offset of a physical stimulus; but on the whole, natural causes, complex but not inexplicable, sufficiently account for the subsequent disasters.

For instance, considerations of personal friendship having in earlier days often led him to unwise decisions, a like cause may be said to have brought on his coming disaster. It was the affection of the Saxon king for his beautiful capital which at the very last instant, on October 8, induced Napoleon to cast all his well-weighed scheme to the winds, and -fatal decision-leave Saint-Cyr and Lobau, with three corps, in Dresden. A decisive battle was imminent; every division would not be under the colors. But with or without his full force, the master-strategist was outwitted: the expected meeting did not take place as he finally reckoned. On the 10th his headquarters were at Düben, and his divisions well forward on the Elbe, ready for Bernadotte and Blücher; but there was no foe. Both these generals had been disconcerted by the unexpected swiftness of the French movements; the former actually contemplated recrossing the river to avoid a pitched battle with those whom he hoped before long to secure as his subjects. But the enthusiastic old Prussian shamed his ally into action, persuading him at least to march south from Acken, effect a junction with the army of Silesia, and cross the Saale to threaten Napoleon from the rear. Both might possibly unite with Schwarzenberg; but even if unsuccessful in that, they would at least reproduce the situation in Silesia, and reduce the French to the old << hither and thither » system. Napoleon spent a weary day of waiting in Düben, yawning and scribbling, but keeping his geographer and secretary in readiness. When rumors of Bernadotte's movements began to arrive, he dismissed the idea suggested by them as preposterous; when finally, on the 12th, he heard that Blücher was advancing to Halle, and no doubt remained, he gave instant orders for a march on Leipsic. Critics have suggested that again delay had been his ruin, but this is not true. An advance over the Elbe toward Berlin in search of the enemy would merely have enabled Blücher and Bernadotte to join forces sooner, and have rendered their union with Schwarzenberg easier. No stricture is just but one: that Napoleon, knowing how impossible it was to obtain such exact information as he seemed determined to have, should have divined the enemy's plan, and have acted sooner. Some allowance may be made if he lingered before rushing into the «tube of a funnel,» as Marmont expressed it. On the morning of the 13th, while the final arrangements for marching to Leipsic were making, came the news of Bavaria's defection. It spread throughout the army like wild-fire, but its ef

fect was less than might be imagined, and it served for the priming of a bulletin, issued on the 15th, announcing the approaching battle.

On the 14th, Murat, who had been steadily withdrawing before the allied army of the south, was overtaken at Wachau by Schwarzenberg's advance. He fought all day with magnificent courage, and successfully, hurling the hostile cavalry skirmishers back on the main column. Within sound of his guns, Napoleon was reconnoitering his chosen battle-field in and about Leipsic. That night the brothers-in-law met. Napoleon seemed calm; by a touch of his old energy he had concentrated more swiftly than his foe, having 170,000 men in array. Reynier, with 14,000 men, was near; if Saint-Cyr and Lobau, with their 30,000, had been present instead of sitting idly in Dresden, the French would actually have outnumbered any army the coalition could have assembled for battle. The allies could hope at best to produce 200,000 men; Bernadotte was still near Merseburg; Blücher, though coming in from Halle, was not within striking distance. In spite of his vacillation and final failure to evacuate Dresden, Napoleon had an excellent fighting chance. The city of Leipsic, engirdled by numerous villages, lies in a low plain watered by the Parthe, Pleisse, and Elster, the last of which to the westward has several arms, with swampy banks. Across these runs the highway to Frankfort, elevated on a dike, and spanning the deep, central stream of the Elster by a single bridge. Eastward by Connewitz the land is higher, there being considerable swells, and even hills, to the south and southeast. This rolling country was that chosen by Napoleon for the main battle against Schwarzenberg; Marmont was stationed north of the city, near Möckern, to observe Blücher; Bernadotte, the cautious, was still at Oppin with his Swedes. On the evening of the 15th, his dispositions being complete, Napoleon made the tour of all his posts. At dusk three white rockets were seen to rise in the southern sky; they were promptly answered by four red ones in the north. These were probably signals between Schwarzenberg and Blücher. Napoleon's watch-fire was kindled behind the old guard, between Reudnitz and Crottendorf.

The battle began early next morning. Napoleon waited until nine, and then advanced at the head of his guards to Liebertwolkwitz, near Wachau, on the right bank of the Pleisse, where the decisive struggle was sure to occur, since the mass of the enemy, under Barclay, with Wittgenstein as second in command, had attacked in four columns at that

point. Between the Pleisse and the Elster, near Connewitz, stood Poniatowski, opposed to Schwarzenberg and Meerveldt; westward of the Elster, near Lindenau, stood Bertrand, covering the single line of retreat, the Frankfort highway, and his antagonist was Gyulay. Thus there were four divisions in the mighty conflict, which began by an onset of the allies along the entire front. The main engagement was stubborn and bloody, the allies attacking with little skill, but great bravery. Until near midday Napoleon more than held his own. Victor at Wachau, and Lauriston at Liebertwolkwitz, had each successfully resisted six desperate assaults; between them were massed the artillery, 150 guns, and behind, the powerful cavalry, ready, with an awful shock and swift pursuit, to break through the enemy's center at Güldengossa and surround his right. Schwarzenberg, having attempted to outflank the French, was floundering to no avail in the swampy meadows between the Pleisse and the Elster, and was no longer a factor in the contest. When, at midday, all was in readiness and the order was given, the artillery fire was so rapid that the succeeding shots were heard, not separately, but in a long, sullen note. By two, Victor and Oudinot on the right, with Mortier and Macdonald on the left, were well forward of Güldengossa, but the place itself still heldout. Atthree the cavalry, under Murat, Latour-Maubourg, and Kellermann, were sped direct upon it. With awful effort they broke through, and the bells of Leipsic began to ring in triumph-prematurely. The Czar had peremptorily summoned from Schwarzenberg's command the Austro-Russian reserve, and at four these, with the Cossack guard, charged the French cavalry, hurling them back to Markkleeberg. Nightfall found Victor again at Wachau, and Macdonald holding Liebertwolkwitz. Simultaneously with the great charge of the allies Meerveldt had dashed out from Connewitz toward Dölitz, but his force was nearly annihilated, and he himself was captured. At Möckern, Marmont, after gallant work with inferior numbers, had been beaten on his left, and then compelled for safety to draw in his right. While he still held Gohlis and Eutritzsch, the mass of his army had been thrown back into Leipsic. At nightfall three blank shots announced the cessation of hostilities all around.

In the face of superior numbers, the French had not lost a single important position, and whatever military science had been displayed was all theirs; Blücher made the solitary advance move of the allies, the seizure of Möckern by York's corps. Yet Napoleon knew that

he was lost unless he could retreat. Clearly he had expected a triumph, for in the city nothing was ready, and over the Elster was but one crossing, the solitary bridge on the Frankfort road. The 17th was Sunday; both sides were exhausted, and the Emperor of the French felt that at all hazards he must gain time. During the night long consultations had been held, and the French divisions to the south had been slightly compacted. In the morning the captured Austrian general was paroled, and sent into his own lines to ask an armistice, together with the intervention of Francis on the terms of Prague: renunciation of Poland and Illyria by Napoleon, the absolute independence of Holland, of the Hanse towns, of Spain, and of a united Italy. When we remember that England was paymaster to the coalition, and was fighting for her influence in Holland, and that Austria's ambition was for predominance in a disunited Italy, we must see that Napoleon wanted time rather than hoped for a successful plea to his father-in-law. The day passed without further incident except a momentary attack by Marmont, and the arrival of Bernadotte, who had been spurred to movement by a hint from Gneisenau concerning the terms on which Great Britain was to pay her subsidies. It was asserted at the time that Napoleon gave orders early in the day for building numerous bridges over the western streams. If so, they were not executed, only a single flimsy structure being built, and that on the road leading from the town, not on the lines westward from his positions in the suburbs. His subordinates should have acted in so serious a matter even without orders; but like the drivers of trains which run at lightning speed, they had lost their nerve. Marmont asserts that even Napoleon was nerveless. Perhaps he hoped against hope for the success of his mission; perhaps he was stunned by calamity. No answer from Francis was received; the allies agreed so to act, and not to cease fighting till the last French soldier was over the Rhine. It was midnight when Napoleon finally drew in his posts and gave preliminary orders to dispose his troops in readiness either to fight or to retreat.

When day dawned on October 18 the French army occupied its new position, the right wing, under Murat, between Connewitz and Dölitz, the center at Probstheida in a salient angle, the left, under Ney, with front toward the north between Paunsdorf and Gohlis. Within this arc, and close about the city, stood all the well-tried corps, infantry, artillery, and cavalry, under their various leaders of renown, Poniatowski, Augereau, Victor, Drouot,

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Kellermann, Oudinot, Latour-Maubourg, Macdonald, Marmont, Reynier, and Souham; Napoleon was on a hillock at Thonberg, with the old guard in reserve. His chief concern was the line of retreat, which was still open when, at seven, the fighting began. Schwarzenberg, with the left, could get no farther than Connewitz; Bennigsen, with the right, started to feel Bernadotte and complete the investment. Neither was entirely successful, but Marmont withdrew from before Blücher, and Ney from VOL. LII.-68.


before Bernadotte and Bennigsen, in order to avoid being surrounded; so that the two French armies were united before nightfall on the western outskirts of the town, where Bertrand had routed Gyulay, and had kept open the all-important line of retreat, over which, since noon, trains of wagons had been passing. But magnificent as was the work of all these doughty champions on both sides, it was far surpassed in the center, where the entire day, under Napoleon's eye, advance and


resistance had been desperate. Men fell like grass before the scythe, and surging lines of their comrades moved on from behind. At Victor's stand, near Probstheida, the fighting was fiercer than the fiercest. The allied troops charged with fixed bayonets, rank after rank, column following on column; cannon roared while grape and shrapnel sped to meet the assailants; men said the air was full of human limbs; ten times Russians and Prussians came on, only to be driven ten times back. It was the same at Stötteritz, until at last there was scarcely a semblance of order; in handto-hand conflict men shouted, struggled, wrestled, thrust, advanced, and withdrew, and in neither combatants nor onlookers was there any sense of reality. By dusk the heated cannon were almost useless, the muskets entirely so, and, as darkness came down, the survivors fell asleep where they stood, riders in their saddles, horses in their tracks. Napoleon learned that 35,000 Saxons on the left had gone over to the enemy, and some one of his staff handing him a wooden chair, he dropped into it and sank into a stupor almost as he touched it. For half an hour he sat in oblivion, while in the thickening darkness the marshals and generals gathered about the watch-fires, and stood with sullen mien to abide his awakening. The moon came slowly up, Napoleon awoke, orders were given to complete the dispositions for retreat already taken, and, there being nothing left to do, the Emperor, with inscrutable emotions, passed inside the walls of Leipsic to take shelter in an inn on the creaking sign-board of which were depicted the arms of Prussia.

Throughout the night French troops streamed over the stone bridge across the Elster; in the early morning the enemy began to advance, and ever-increasing numbers hurried away to gain the single avenue of retreat. All morning Napoleon wandered aimlessly about the inner town, giving unimportant commands to stem the ever-growing confusion and disorder. Haggard, and with his clothing in disarray, he was not recognized by his own men, being sometimes rudely jostled. After an affecting farewell to the King of Saxony, in which his unhappy ally was instructed to make the best terms he could for himself, the Emperor finally fell into the throng and moved with it toward Lindenau. Halting near the Elster, a French general began to seek information from the roughly clad onlooker, who, without a suite, stood apparently indifferent, softly whistling «< Malbrook s'en. va t'en guerre.» Of course

the officer started as he recognized the Emperor, but the conquered sovereign took no notice. Bystanders thought his heart was turned to stone. Still the rush of retreat went on, successfully also, in spite of some confusion, until at two some one blundered. By the incredible mistake of a French underofficer, as is now believed, the permanent Elster bridge was blown up, and the temporary one had long since fallen. Almost simultaneously with this irreparable disaster the allies had stormed the city, and the French rear-guard came thundering on, hoping to find safety in flight. Plunging into the deep stream, many, like Poniatowski, were drowned; some, like the wounded Macdonald, swam safely over. The scene was heartrending, as horses, riders, and footmen rolled senseless in the dark flood, while others scrambled over their writhing forms in mad despair. Reynier and Lauriston, with 20,000 men, were captured, the King of Saxony was sent a prisoner to Berlin, and Stein ruled his domains by commission from the allies. By ten in the evening Bertrand was in possession of Weissenfels, and Oudinot wheeled at Lindenau, and held the unready pursuers in check.

Next morning, the 20th, Napoleon was alert and active. He had still about 120,000 men under his standards; as many more, and those his finest veterans, were besieged and held in the fortresses of the Elbe, Oder, and Vistula by local militia. These places would no longer be tenable; in fact, they began to surrender almost immediately, and the survivors of Leipsic were in a desperate plight from hunger and fatigue. Yet the commander gave no sign of sensibility. «'T was thus he left Russia,» said the surly men in the ranks. Hunger-typhus appeared, and spread with awful rapidity; the country swarmed with partizans, the columns of the allies were behind and on each flank, 56,000 fresh Bavarians were approaching from Ansbach, under Wrede; at Erfurt all the remaining Saxons and Bavarians under the eagles marched away. The retreat from Germany was indeed perilous, but it was marked by splendid courage and unsurpassed skill. At Kösen and at Eisenach the allies were outwitted, and at Hanau, on the 29th, the Bavarians were annihilated in a pitched fight by an exhibition of personal pluck and calmness on Napoleon's part, paralleled only by his similar conduct at Krasnoi in the previous year. Only 70,000 men of the imperial army crossed the Rhine to Mainz. Soon the houses of that city were packed, and the streets were strewn with victims of the terrible hunger-typhus. They

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