ePub 版

along the lines, and electrified them by his presence and a few words; after twenty minutes' brisk firing, the army prepared to advance. My battery was soon outstripped, and I gave orders to follow the movement. I commanded my men to wheel round and follow, but had great difficulty in effecting it, for the gunners still continued to fire between the gaps in our small battalions. At length the general movement had been carried out by the divisions, and I had reached the left of the position, where there were three guns, two eight-pounders and a howitzer, served by the gunners of the Consul's Guard; by means of threats I set them in motion, and the horses were attached to the prolong to wheel about, when suddenly I saw the 30th half-brigade before me in utter disorder. I immediately put my three guns in position and loaded them with canister; but I waited before I fired. I perceived, about fifty paces from the 30th, in the midst of a dense smoke and dust, a column in good order; at first I thought it French, but I soon saw it was the head of a heavy column of Austrian grenadiers. We had the time to fire at them four rounds of canister from our three guns, and immediately after, Kellerman, with 400 sabres-the relic of his brigade-flew past my battery, and made a vigorous charge on the left flank of the enemy's column, which laid down its arms. Had the charge been made three minutes later, our guns would have been taken or withdrawn. Had it not been for my firing, the enemy would probably have been prepared for the cavalry charge.

So Marmont won the battle of Marengo. I thas generally been supposed that Desaix was the hero of the day; but we were mistaken. We must even resign those beautiful words which Desaix is popularly supposed to have uttered on receiving his death-blow, for he was shot through the heart, and fell without saying a word. We are afraid that the same disillusion may be true about many generals who have died with heroic sentiments on their lips.

The marshal has a very happy talent of sketching a man's character in one short, pregnant sentence. What can be better, for instance, than this anecdote of Savary, who had been in a measure adopted by Desaix, and owed him everything? On the day of the battle he had asked Marmont where he could find Kellerman, and the next day he said, "It took place while I was talking to you. When I returned and found him dead, you can imagine what my feelings must have been; and I said to myself immediately,Whatever will become of me?""

Marmont was sent home after the battle to deliver over the captured flags, but soon returned to the army of Italy, which was now placed under the command of General Brune, whom Marmont describes as utterly incapable. He had been originally a printer, formed the Cordeliers Club, and so became intimate with Danton. Through this he was appointed general of a revolutionary army. On returning to Paris he was engaged in the business of the 13th Vendémiaire, and formed an acquaintance with Bonaparte, who took a great fancy to him, for no other reason, probably, than the effect always produced on him by tall persons. After serving some time in Holland, he was selected to take Masséna's place at the head of the army of Italy. An unsatisfactory campaign terminated with an armistice, and the destruction of several strong places in Italy and the fortifications of Alexandria as the key of the country.

Davoust commanded the cavalry of the army of Italy, and Marmont thus had opportunity of forming an opinion of his character, which is, as usual, unfavourable.

Davoust constituted himself the spy of the emperor, and made daily reports to him. He took advantage of private conversations to denounce his friends, and many a ruined man was ignorant for a long time of the cause of his disgrace. Davoust had some degree of probity; but the emperor, by his gifts, so surpassed the limits of his possible wants, that he would have been most culpable had he enriched himself by illicit means. His income reached the enormous sum of 1,500,000 francs. Fond of discipline, and providing carefully for the wants of his troops, he was just, but harsh to his officers, and was not loved by them. He did not want for courage; and while possessing but slight abilities and education, he displayed immense perseverance, great zeal, and feared neither suffering nor fatigue. Of a ferocious character, on the slightest pretext and without any ceremony, he hung up the inhabitants of conquered countries. I saw, in the environs of Vienna and Presbourg, the roads and trees furnished with his victims.

We will throw in one more anecdote for the due appreciation of Davoust's character:

In his expressions he would give the most exaggerated notions of his devotion to the emperor. Thus, in a conversation I had with him at Vienna, in 1809, we were talking on this subject, when Davoust declared his devotion was superior to that of all others. 66 Certainly," he said, "it is believed with reason that Maret is devoted to the emperor, but not to the same extent as myself. If the emperor were to say to both of us, 'It is important to my policy that Paris should be destroyed without a single person escaping,' Maret would keep the secret, I am sure, but he would not refrain from compromising it by aiding his family to escape; while I, through fear of letting the secret ooze out, would leave my wife and children there.' Such was Davoust.

During the Italian campaign Marmont had paid special attention to the state of the artillery, and drew up a report on his return to Paris, with which the First Consul was so satisfied that he appointed him inspector-general of the artillery,-an unexampled thing for a man only eight-and-twenty years of age. In his new post he worked very hard, and soon brought the artillery to a satisfactory condition. While engaged in these affairs, the King of England thought proper to pick a quarrel à l'allemande, which Bonaparte could not stomach. War was declared, and the great army of England was put on the coast, whence it could enjoy, on a fine day, the white cliffs of perfidious Albion. At this period, Fulton offered the First Consul his scheme of steam navigation, but was treated as a charlatan, in spite of Marmont's remonstrances. Many discussions have been raised whether Bonaparte seriously intended to invade England; but Marmont answers decidedly in the affirmative. This expedition was the most ardent desire of his life, and his dearest hope. But he had no intention of carrying it out in a hazardous manner; he wished to be master of the sea, and under the protection of a good squadron; and he proved that, in spite of the numerical inferiority of his navy, he could execute it. The pretence of employing the flotilla to fight, was only a means to distract the enemy's attention, and cause him to lose sight of the real project, but, really, his flotilla was only intended for the transport of the army; it was the bridge destined to serve for the passage; the embarkation and debarkation could be effected in a few hours, and the only thing demanding time would be leaving the port, which would require two tides. Unfortunately, Villeneuve spoiled all the carefully arranged combinations, and England was saved from becoming a French prefecture.

Still, Marmont was not satisfied with his exalted position in the artillery, and never rested until he obtained from Bonaparte the command of an army. In 1804 he succeeded in being appointed commander-inchief of the camp of Utrecht, and a new career was opened up before him. He found the army, hitherto under the command of Victor, in a fearful condition, and laboured indefatigably till he had restored it to its proper state. He was therefore much annoyed when, at the foundation of the Empire, all the commanders of divisional armies were made marshals except himself. He was, however, consoled by the emperor deigning to explain to him the reason in the following flattering words: "If Bessières had not been named on this occasion, he would never have had a chance; but you are not in that position, and you will be all the greater when your elevation is the reward of your actions." The principal result of Marmont's encampment in Holland will be found in a turf pyramid he erected, and which still is known by the name of Marmont Berg. At the coronation he was appointed colonel-general of the Chasseurs, and at the same time found himself in the critical position of adviser-general to Joseph Bonaparte, who did not at all like the position which the emperor designed for him as king of Italy. Marmont honestly advised him to refuse, in order that he might not resign his rights to the crown of France. He was the only one of the family in whom the nation could place any confidence, if the emperor died without issue. Joseph followed the advice, chiefly, we must confess, as he said himself in enumerating his catalogue of complaints against his brother, “because he wanted him to take that shabby title of king, so odious to the French." The emperor, less scrupulous and timid, assumed the title himself.

On Marmont's return to Holland, he took with him the most severe orders against any commerce between Holland and England. He was even authorised to seize all English goods then in Holland, sell them, and divide the proceeds among the army; in other words, to pocket three-fourths for himself-an affair of more than twelve million francs. But Marmont resisted such an act of injustice, and contented himself with giving ample notice, and seizing any ships which came into port in defiance of him. The proceeds of the sale of these was divided among the soldiers, and made rich men of them for several campaigns.

The news of the Austrian occupation of Bavaria broke up the great flotilla, to the intense delight of the troops, who were worn out with the delay. An immense army of 170,000 men, all panting for glory, marched on the Rhine, and the temper they displayed was a guarantee that the Austrians would soon be punished for their daring attempt to beard the Scourge of Europe. The violation of the Prussian territory estranged a faithful ally, and Marmont gives a curious account of the way his opinions were changed:

The reasons which induced the King of Prussia to alter his decision reached my knowledge at a later date, and as I had them direct from Prince Metternich, they deserve insertion in this place.

The king had formally announced his intention to remain neutral, but the Emperor Alexander, counting on the weakness of the king and the allies he had at court, did not doubt but that he could succeed in bringing him over, so he marched his columns without hesitation into Polish Prussia, in order to reach the Austrian territory. Prince Dolgourouki, aide-de-camp to the emperor, was

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

sent to Berlin to inform the king that the Russian troops would enter the Prussian territory on a certain day. Count Alopeus, Russian envoy at Berlin, immediately took Dolgourouki to an audience with the king, to make the communication. He was accompanied by Count Metternich, the Austrian minister. The king replied angrily, and declared that this contempt of his rights would force him to throw himself into the arms of the French; and he told Dolgourouki that the only remedy was to start immediately, and stay the Russian columns before they entered Prussia, which was nearly impossible, seeing the shortness of the time. This stormy conference was nearly concluded, and the affair appeared irremediable, when a tap was heard at the door. A minister entered, and brought the official report of the march of the French troops, and their entry into the principality of Anspach. The king grew calm immediately, and said to Prince Dolgourouki, "From this moment my resolutions are changed, and I become the ally of the Emperors of Russia and Austria." And he remained faithful to this decision, which honour commanded him to follow, but which was at first so ruinous for him.

Such was the result of that contempt for the law of nations, which Napoleon was too often guilty of when he fancied himself the stronger. By respecting the Prussian territory, which would have been a very easy matter, Napoleon would have had an ally instead of a furious enemy. But little did the emperor seek any future requital, when the present brought him such glorious results as the evacuation of Ulm. It must have been an intoxicating sight to notice 28,000 Austrian troops passing through the new Furce Caudinæ. And such a reward for a month's labour! After this result, Marmont was sent into Styria to drive out the remaining Austrians, in which he was perfectly successful, and established his head-quarters at Gratz. The French army entered Vienna on the 21st of November, and the campaign assumed quite a new direction, by the bridge of Thabor falling into their hands. The way in which it was secured is so curious that it merits quotation:

After Vienna had been occupied, the French troops proceeded to the banks of the Danube, which is of great width at that spot. The Austrians had made all preparations to defend the passage and destroy the bridge built upon piles, which maintained the communication between the capital and Bohemia and Moravia. Formidable batteries placed on the left bank, and the bridge covered with combustibles, rendered the defence easy. A spark could destroy it when the French troops arrived at the entrance. At their head were Murat, Lannes, and Oudinot.

The Germans are naturally saving and economical, and a bridge of that description costs a good deal of money. Murat and Lannes, both Gascons, hit on the idea of profiting by this feeling. They set their troops in movement without displaying the least hesitation. They were ordered to stop they did so, but replied that an armistice had been agreed to, which gave us the right of passing the river. The marshals, leaving the troops, went alone over to the left bank to speak with Prince Auersperg, who commanded, giving the columns orders to advance imperceptibly. The conversation grew animated: the stupid prince was deluded by all sorts of stories, and during this time the troops were gaining ground, and openly throwing into the Danube the powder and combustibles which strewed the bridge. The lowest soldiers began to suspect treachery and deception, and they soon began to grow excited.

[ocr errors]

An old sergeant of artillery came up to the prince and said to him, angrily and impatiently, General, they are deluding and deceiving you, and I shall give fire." The moment was critical: all was apparently lost, when Lannes, with that presence of mind which never deserted him, and that instinctive knowledge of the human heart the peculiar heritage of the southerners, summoned to his Jan.-VOL. CIX. NO. CCCCXXXIII.


aid the Austrian pedantry, and exclaimed, "What, general, you allow yourself to be treated in that way! What has become, then, of the Austrian discipline, so much lauded through Europe?" The bait took: the weak prince, piqued in his honour, was very angry with the sergeant, and put him under arrest. The troops came up, took guns, generals, and soldiers, and the Danube was crossed. Never has a similar occurrence taken place in circumstances so important and so difficult.

Not having been present at the battle of Austerlitz, Marmont gives no description of it. It is curious, however, that at this battle the Russians employed for the last time a very strange custom, which they had constantly followed till this time. Before charging, the whole line was ordered to take off knapsacks, and they remained there during the combat. The French army found, after the battle of Austerlitz, ten thousand knapsacks arranged in line. Marmont marched on Vienna, but, to his great disappointment, heard at Neustadt of the armistice concluded at Austerlitz on the 6th of December. Had it not been for this, a great battle would have taken place beneath the walls of Vienna, in which he might have played an important part, as he formed the vanguard, and his troops were quite fresh. He was consequently obliged to return to Styria without any additional glory-a sad blow for a rising young general in those days of rapid promotion.

After passing the winter in Styria, Marmont proceeded to occupy Corinthia, Carniola, and Trieste, to be evacuated as soon as they gave up to the French the provinces of Istria and Dalmatia, with the embouchure of the Cattaro. But, instead of keeping to these conditions, the Austrians gave up the Cattaro to the Russian admiral, Siniavin. This breach of faith was punished by the retention of Brunnau. While quartered in Friuli, Marmont made a visit to Milan to pay his respects to Eugène Beauharnais, then Viceroy of Italy, and recently married to a Bavarian princess. The following is the character Marmont draws of him:

Eugène gave himself up with ardour to the execution of his duties. A good young man, not very highly gifted, but possessing common sense, his military capacity was mediocre, but he did not want for bravery. His contact with the emperor had developed his faculties: he had acquired that knowledge which is almost always obtained by holding important offices at an early age, but he was always far from possessing the talent necessary for the proper discharge of the duties entrusted to him.

He has been praised excessively: his devotion and fidelity in the crisis of 1814, more especially, have been very highly spoken of. His pretended talents were confined to carrying on a very unsatisfactory campaign, and the fidelity so much lauded had the result of his doing precisely the opposite of what had been prescribed to him, and precisely what was wanted to overthrow the building. He had formed a too flattering idea of his position: he believed in the possibility of an independent sovereign existence, but a few days were sufficient to undeceive him. He had built upon clouds.

The close of the second volume of these interesting Memoirs is devoted to the campaign in Dalmatia, whence the Russians were easily expelled, and Marmont took up his head-quarters at Zara.

« 上一頁繼續 »