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the investiture of Buonaparte with the whole power of the state, had, at first (as we have seen), attempted to confine him to the military department; or so arrange it that his orders, as to civil affairs, should, at least, not be absolute. Failing in this, they then proposed that the Chief Consul should be incapable of heading an army in the field, without abdicating previously his magistracy: and,
to their surprise, Napoleon at once acceded to a proposition which, it had been expected, would rouse his indignation. It now turned out how much the saving clause in question was worth. The Chief Consul could not, indeed, be general-in-chief of an army; but he could appoint whom he pleased to that post; and there was no law against his being present, in his own person, as a spectator of the campaign. It signified little that a Berthier should write himself commander, when a Napoleon was known to be in the camp.
It was now time that the great project should be realised. The situation of the “army of Italy” was most critical. After a variety of petty engagements, its general saw his left wing (under Suchet) wholly cut off from his main body; and, while Suchet was forced to retire behind the Var, where his troops had the utmost difficulty in presenting any serious opposition to the Austrians, Mas. sena had been compelled to throw himself with the remainder into Genoa. In that city he was speedily blockaded by the Austrian general Ott; while the imperial commander-in-chief, Melas, ad. vanced, with 30,000, upon Nice-of which place he took possession on the 11th of May. The Austrians, having shut up Massena, and well knowing the feebleness of Suchet's division, were in a delirium of joy. The gates of France appeared, at length, to be open before them; and it was not such an army of reserve as had excited the merriment of their spies at Dijon that could hope to withstand them in their long-meditated march on Provencewhere Pichegru, as they supposed, was prepared to assume the command of a numerous body of Royalist insurgents, so soon as he should receive intelligence of their entrance into France. But they were soon to hear news of another complexion from whence they least expected it from behind them.
The Chief Consul remained in Paris until he received Berthier's decisive despatch from Geneva-it was in these words: “I wish to see you here. There are orders to be given by which three armies may act in concert, and
you alone can give them in the lines. Measures decided on in Paris are too late.'
He instantly quitted the capital; and, on the 7th of May, appeared at Dijon, where he reviewed, in great form, some 7000 or 8000 raw and half-clad troops, and committed them to the care of Brune. The spies of Austria reaped new satisfaction from this consular review: meanwhile, Napoleon had halted but two hours at Dijon ; and, travelling all night, arrived, the next day, at Geneva. Here he was met by Marescot, who had been employed in exploring the wild passes of the Great St. Bernard, and received from him an appalling picture of the difficulties of marching an army by that
route into Italy. “Is it possible to pass ?” said Napoleon, cutting the engineer's narrative short. The thing is barely possible, answered Marescot. Very well,” said the Chief Consul, avant”—let us proceed.
While the Austrians were thinking only of the frontier where Suchet commanded an enfeebled and dispirited division--destined, as they doubted not, to be re-inforced by the army, such as it was, of Dijon,--the Chief Consul had resolved to penetrate into Italy, as Hannibal had done of old, through all the dangers and difficul. ties of the great Alps themselves. The march on the Var and Genoa might have been executed with comparative ease, and might, in all likelihood, have led to victory; but mere victory would not suffice. It was urgently necessary that the name of Buonaparte should be surrounded with some blaze of almost supernatural renown; and his plan for purchasing this splendour was to rush down from the Alps, at whatever hazard, upon the rear of Melas, cut off all his communications with Austria, and then force him to a conflict, in which, Massena and Suchet being on the other side of him, reverse must needs be ruin.
For the treble purpose of more easily collecting a sufficient stock of provisions for the march, of making its accomplishment more rapid, and of perplexing the enemy on its termination, Napoleon determined that his army should pass in four divisions, by as many separate routes. The left wing, under Moncey, consisting of 15,000 detached
from the army of Moreau, was ordered to debouche by the way of St. Gothard. The corps of Thureau, 5000 strong, took the direction of Mount Cenis : that of Chabran, of similar strength, moved by the Little St. Bernard. Of the main body, consisting of 35,000, the Chief Consul himself took care; and he reserved for them the gigantic task of surmounting, with the artillery, the huge barriers of the Great St. Bernard. Thus along the Alpine Chain-from the sources of the Rhine and the Rhone to Isere and Durance-about 60,000 men, in all, lay prepared for the adventure. It must be added, if we would form a fair conception of the enterprise, that Napoleon well knew not one-third of these men had ever seen a shot fired in earnest.
The difficulties encountered by Moncey, Thureau, and Chabran, will be sufficiently understood from the narrative of Buonaparte's own march. From the 15th to the 18th of May all his columns were put in motion : Lannes, with the advanced guard, cleared the way before them; the general, Berthier, and the Chief Consul himself, superintending the rear-guard, which, as having with it the artillery, was the object of highest importance. At St. Pierre all semblance of a road disappeared. Thenceforth an army, horse and foot, laden with all the munitions of a campaign, a park of forty field-pieces included, were to be urged up and along airy ridges of rock and eternal snow, where the goatherd, the hunter of the chamois, and the outlaw-smuggler are alone accustomed to venture ; amidst precipices where to slip a foot is death ; beneath glaciers from which the percussion of a musket-shot is often suffi. cient to hurl an avalanche ; across bottomless chasms caked over with frost or snow-drift; and breathing
“ The difficult air of the iced mountain-top,
Flits o'er the herbless granite. The transport of the artillery and ammunition was the most difficult point: and to this, accordingly, the Chief Consul gave his personal superintendence. The guns were dismounted, grooved into the trunks of trees hollowed out so as to suit each calibre, and then dragged on by sheer strength of muscle-not less than an hundred soldiers being sometimes harnessed to a single cannon. The carriages and wheels being taken to pieces, were slung on poles, and borne on men's shoulders. The powder and shot, packed into boxes of fir-wood, formed the lading of all the mules that could be collected over a wide range of the Alpine country. These preparations had been made during the week that elapsed between Buonaparte's arrival at Geneva and the commencement of Lannes' march. He himself travelled, some times on a mule, but mostly on foot,
cheering on the soldiers who had the burden of the great guns. The fatigue undergone is not to be described. The men in front durst not halt to breathe, because the least stoppage there might have thrown the column behind into confusion, on the brink of deadly precipices; and those in the rear had to flounder knee-deep, through snow and ice trampled into sludge by the feet and hoofs of the preceding divisions. Happily the march of Napoleon was not harassed, like that of Hannibal, by the assaults of living enemies. The mountaineers, on the contrary, flocked in to reap the liberal rewards which he offered to all who were willing to lighten the drudgery of his troops.
On the 16th of May, Napoleon slept at the convent of St. Maurice; and, in the course of the four following days, the whole army passed the Great St. Bernard. It was on the 20th that Buonaparte himself halted an hour at the convent of the Hospitallers, which stands on the summit of this mighty mountain. The good fathers of the monastery had furnished every soldier as he passed with a luncheon of bread and cheese and a glass of wine ; and, for this seasonable kindness, they received the warm acknowledgments of the chief.f It was here that he took his leave of a peasant youth, who had walked by him as his guide, all the way from the convent of St. Maurice. Napoleon conversed freely with the young man, and was much interested with his simplicity. At parting, Buonaparte asked the guide some particulars about his personal situation; and, having heard his reply, gave him money and a billet to the head of the monastery of St. Maurice. The peasant delivered it accordingly, and was surprised to find that, in consequence of a scrap of writing, which he could not read, his worldly comforts were to be permanently increased. The object of this generosity remembered, nevertheless, but little of his conversation with the Consul. He described Napoleon as being a very dark man” (this was the effect of the Syrian sun), and having an eye that, notwithstanding his affability, he could not encounter without a sense of fear. The only saying of the hero which he treasured in his memory was, “I have spoiled a hat among your mountains : well, I shall find a new one on the other side.”—Thus spoke Napoleon, wringing the rain from his covering as he approached the hospice of St. Bernard.
* Byron's “ Manfred.” † The worthy Hospitallers of St. Bernard have stationed themselves on that wild eminence, for the purpose of alleviating the misery of travellers lost or bewildered amidst the neighbouring defiles. They entertain a pack of dogs, of extraordinary sagacity, who roam over the hills night and day, and frequently drag to light and safety pilgrims who have been buried in the snow.
The guide described, however, very strikingly, the effects of Buonaparte's appearance and voice, when any obstacle checked the advance of his soldiery along that fearful wilderness which is called emphatically, “ The valley of Desolation." A single look or word was commonly sufficient to set all in motion again. But if the way presented some new and apparently insuperable difficulty, the Consul bade the drums beat and the trumpets sound, as if for the charge; and this never failed. Of such gallant temper were the spirits which Napoleon had at command, and with such admirable skill did he wield them!
On the 16th the vanguard, under Lannes, reached the beautiful vale of Aosta, and the other divisions descended rapidly on their footsteps. This part of the progress was not less difficult than the ascent before. The horses, mules, and guns, were to be led down one slippery steep after another-and we may judge with what anxious care, since Napoleon himself was once contented to slide nearly a hundred yards together, seated.
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds.
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Molest her ancient solitary reign.