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Though black with Winter's shadow lies
Skies smile with unaccustomed spheres,
Thus hourly do I feel a chain,
* The vase was of pure alabaster, whose best figures only appeared when a lamp was kindled inside.—Eastern Travels.
While these things were in progress at Genoa, the efforts of the First Consul to bring relief, and at the same time to annihilate the Austrian power in Italy, were incessant. With admirable foresight he had provided at every point what was necessary to ensure the successful issue of the bold and singular enterprise he had conceived. It will be recollected that the forces of the Imperialists were now spread over the plains of Piedmont, having the line of the Swiss Alps in their rear, and being cut off from communication with the army on the Danube by the operations of Moreau, already explained. The Alps, extending eastward from Mont Cénis, are traversed by several passes, the easiest and most beaten of which, is that which crosses the latter mountain, and which débouches on the city of Turin, the capital of Piedmont. Next to this is the defile of the Little St. Bernard, and after it the pass of the Great St. Bernard, which descends upon Aosta. These are succeeded by the asses of St. Gothard and the Simplon. The plan of operations arranged by Naoleon, was to conduct the main body of is army into ltaly by the Great St. Bernard, the detachment drawn from the army of the Rhine being left for the passes of St. Gothard and the Simplon, while a smaller body, forming the extreme right, should cross by Mont Cénis, and the Little St. Bernard. The chief difficulty of the enterprise, was, of course, to be encountered on the Great St. Bernard, under Napoleon himself. On the sixth of May, in the morning, before daybreak, Napoleon left Paris, taking Wi. him his aidde-camp, Duroc, and his Secretary, Monsieur de Bourienne. On the 13th he arrived at Lausanne, where he met General Marescot, of the Engineers, who had been employed to reconnoitre the passes of the Alps, and who gave his opinion in favor of that of the Great St. Bernard, but pronounced the undertaking to be one which offered most formidable difficulties. “Difficult it may be,” replied Bonaparte, “but is it possible * “I believe,” replied the General, “that with the
most extraordinary efforts it may be possible.” “Then,” said the First Consul, “Let us go on.” Immense stores of provisions had been sent by the Lake of Geneva to Villeneuve and thence to the foot of the pass. Considerable chests of specie were also sent forward as the best means of securing the coöperation of the population of the mountains; by these means, all the cars of the country, all the mules, and all the peasants were collected round the foot of the pass, allured by the promise of high payment. Bread, biscuit, forage, wine and brandy, with an immense stock of live cattle, were collected at the little village of St. Pierre, being the highest point of the mountain to which wheel carriages would run. A company of mechanics was established to dismount the pieces of artillery, to divide the gun carriages into numbered fragments of sufficient size and weight to be transported on the backs of mules. The guns themselves, too ponderous for this mode of transport, were embedded in large beams of timber and dragged by men, each gun requiring a hundred men. A sum of money had been sent to the monastery, near the summit of the mountain, to provide rations and wine, to be delivered to the men on their arrival at that point. An hospital was established at St. Pierre for the relief of those who might suffer by accident or sickness in the ascent. The corresponding point on the Italian side, where in the descent wheel carriages could first be used, is the village of St. Remy. Here similar preparations were made. A troop of mechanics were provided ready to remount the guns, reconstruct the carriages and wagons, and restore the materiel of the army to its usual condition. Matters being thus prepared, the First Consul j himself in a convent of Bernardine monks at Martigny, intending to remain on the Swiss side of the Alps to correspond as long as possible with the government at Paris and to exedite the movement across the mountain in person. Berthier was sent to the
Italian side to receive and organize the army and its materiel as it should arrive. Lannes, in the night between the 14th and 15th May, commenced the ascent with six regiments; they started immediately after midnight, in order to complete their march before that hour at which the heat of the sun melting the snow, causes destructive avalanches to fall on the traveller who passes these frightful gorges. It was calculated that eight hours would be necessary to reach the summit and two to descend to St. Remy. They might expect, therefore, to accomplish this before noon ; the soldiers, though laden each with sufficient biscuit for several days besides a quantity of cartridge and the usual amount of arms and clothing, faced the difficulties of the road with alacrity; they scaled these craggy paths chanting their national airs among the precipices, and pondering on the victories which awaited them in the fertile and sunny plains of Italy. They were sustained by a noble foresight of the deathless glory with which their future achievements would surround them. The most difficult and dangerous task was reserved for the cavalry, each soldier was obliged to walk before his horse, leading it by the bridle. In the ascent this was easy, but in the descent the path being too narrow to allow the soldier to walk beside the horse; and, being so rugged as to produce frequent stumbling, the soldier, with his horse, was often liable to be precipitated headlong into the abyss below. Some horses and a few riders perished in this way. Towards morning they arrived at the Monastery, where each soldier received a ration of bread, cheese, and wine, after which they continued their route, and arrived without serious accident, at St. Rémy. In this manner, a division of the army each day crossed the mountain. The artillery and baggage were, for a time, dragged or carried by the aid of mules; but these means of transport were soon exhausted, the mules began to fail, and their drivers were worn out with fatigue; a price as high as a thousand francs was offered to the neighboring peasants, for dragging a gun from St. Pierre to St. Rémy. One hundred men were required for one cannon, one day to bring it up, and another to let it down. Several hundred peasants presented themselves, and under the direction of the engineers transported a few pieces; but, not even
the allurement of money could induce them to maintain this work—they quickly disappeared; and although officers were sent out, lavishing money to induce their return, it was in vain. It became necessary to ask the soldiers of the several divisions, to drag their own artillery. The money which the peasants would no longer earn, was offered them as a stimulus, but they refused it to a man,—exclaiming, that it was a point of honor for all troops to save their cannon. Parties of a hundred men accordingly dragged them in turn ; the bands struck up lively tunes to cheer their labors, and in the most difficult passes they were animated still more effectively by the trumpeters sounding the charge. Strange and unwonted spectacle, to behold amidst the snows and clouds of the Alpine summits glittering bands of armed men, breaking into the solitudes of the St. Bernard—and the distant chamois on the mountains above startled by apparitions so strange, bounding away to the regions of desolation, and pausing in its course on each successive summit of the inaccessible cliffs, to gaze on the columns which wound round their feet; at length this unparalleled enterprise was successfully accomplished, and the army was collected and organized at the foot of the Alps, overhanging the plain of Piedmont. Bonaparte now determined on joining it in person. On the 20th of May, before daylight, accompanied by Duroc and Bourienne, he started on his journey. The arts, says Monsieur Thiers, have represented him bounding across the snowy Alps, on a fiery charger; but here is the truth unvarnished,—he ascended Mount St. Bernard mounted on a mule, obtained at the Convent, at Martigny, dressed in the grey surtout coat which he always wore, and conducted by a guide of the country. The high enterprise which lay before him did not detach his thoughts from the objects with which he was immediately surrounded. He discoursed with the officers whom he met here and there on the road. But his especial pleasure seemed to be to draw from the young peasant. who conducted his mule, the story of his life, and the narrative of his troubles, embarrassments, and hopes. This youn peasant, ignorant of the distinguish person to whom he spoke, related with ingenuous simplicity, the events of his life; and, above all, enlarged upon the grief he suffered at the want of a little money, which prevented him from wedding one of the maidens of the valley to whom he had been long attached. When Bonaparte had arrived at the monastery on the summit of the mountain, at the moment of dismissing his guide, he gave him a note, addressed to the administrator of the army, who had remained at the foot of the defile, which afterwards proved to be an order for what enabled him to unite himself to the object of his love, and to live in competence for the remainder of his life. This mountaineer died recently in his own country, proprietor of the field which had been given him by the conqueror of Europe. Having rested for a few minutes with the Monks, and made them a suitable acknowledgment for their benevolent care of his soldiers, he made the descent rapidly, according to the custom, by leting himself slide down the snow, and arrived the same evening at Etroubles. After having successfully accomplished the passage of the Alps, and at a moment when the rich plains of Italy seemed to stretch before them, the army encountered an unexpected obstacle, which seemed, for a moment to render all their previous toils abortive, and even menaced to defeat the objects of the expedition. At Bard, the road passing through the village, and the only one apparently by which the army could issue from the defile, was commanded by a fort, erected on an eminence above the town. This fort was deemed impregnable, or nearly so, and the garrison manifested a fixed determination to resist. The guns, pointed directly on the road, rendered it impossible for the troops to pass without utter destruction. This brought the army to a stand until Bonaparte arrived. An attack was made on the fort without success. Finally, the Albaredo mountains, which formed one side of the defile, was examined, and a difficult and dangerous path was discovered, presenting obstacles as formidable as those of the great St. Bernard itself, by which, however, it was possible that the army might cross without passing through the town or under the guns of the fort. But it was not practicable to transport by this route the artillery and baggage. What then was to be done Berthier, in the utmost alarm at this unforeseen obstacle, instantly counter-ordered all the columns as they successively came up ; and suspended the march of the troops along
the entire line, in order to prevent them from involving themselves farther should it be necessary after all to retreat. An instant panic spread to theorear, while courier after courier was despatched to the First Consul to inform him of this untoward state of things. Such was the condition of the enterrise when Bonaparte arrived at Bard. t was immediately decided that the army should cross the Albaredo as they had crossed the St. Bernard. The infantry defiled, man by man, and the cavalry walked, leading their horses. The Austrian commandant of the fort, seeing the columns thus march past, without the power of obstructing them, sent a message to De Mélas, informing him that he had seen a whole army pass without the power of preventing them, but pledged his head that they should arrive without a single piece of cannon. The invention of the French engineers, however, did not fail them in this emergency. It was first attempted to pass the cannon under the obscurity of night. This was defeated, however, by the commandant of the fort, aroused by the noise of the carriages, throwing a shower of artificial light, so that the objects passing along the road were as plainly visible as in broad day-light. He was thus enabled to sweep the road with a continual shower of destructive missiles, Out of thirteen gunners, who had run the risk of taking the first piece forward, seven were killed or wounded. This bold attempt was consequently abandoned. . It was now arranged, that after nightfall the road should be strewn with straw and litter. Tow was fastened round the wheels of the cannon, and packed between all the looser parts, to prevent the resonance of those huge metallic masses on their carriages. The horses were taken out, and the artillery men, with their own hands, dragged these muffled guns and carriages under the very walls of the batteries, along the street of Bard. This device succeeded perfectly. The horses, which were sent round by the mountain, found the pieces ready beyond the town and fort, and being re-yoked, the army proceeded on its march. . . . Thus, within the short period of thirteen days, was the loftiest mountain range on the European continent traversed successfully by the French army, with its artillery, baggage, and complete materiel. While the main body, consisting of 40,000 men, crossed the Great St.
Bernard under Bonaparte, other lesser divisions were effecting the passage at other points, and ready to pour down on the plains of Lombardy and Piedmont. A division of 5000 had crossed the lesser St. Bernard; another of 4000, under general Thurreau, issued from the defiles of Mont Cénis upon Turin; a third detachment passed the Simplon, and descended on Milan; and finally, 15,000 men, detached from the army of the Rhine, under general Moncey, were coming down from the St. Gothard. These divisions being re-united, would form a combined army 60,000 strong. Master of all the passes of the Alps, Bonaparte had a choice of retreats, in case of defeat, while his adversary was hemmed in between the attacking army and a hostile frontier, leaving, moreover, the army of the Maritime Alps in his rear. Defeat, in his situation, was therefore irretrievable ruin. The plan of operations traced by Bonaparte, now required that he should gain possession of the country which would be in his rear when he should attack Mélas, and also that he should gain time to concentrate his forces which were scattered along the line of the Alps, which, as has been said, they crossed at different points, and in separate divisions. For this purpose, he decided on advancing into Lombardy, taking possession of Milan, and dispersing the scattered forces of Mélas, which occupied the principal places in that part of the country. Bonaparte, therefore, moved upon the Ticino, on the banks of which he arrived on the 31st of May, where the Austrians were defeated, and finally the French entered Milan on the 2d of June, where they were welcomed by the acclamations of the people. Since the recovery of Upper Italy by the Austrians, all who were known to favor liberal forms of government had become objects of persecution, and the French, and especially the so much talked of army of reserve, formed a fruitful subject of ridicule. It was even circulated among the people, that general Bonaarte, so well known in Italy, had died in Egypt; that, like another Pharaoh, he had been drowned in the Red Sea, and that the person whose name was then figuring in Paris was one of his brothers. The astonishment of the Italians can therefore be imagined, when it was suddenly announced that an army had crossed the Alps with Bonaparte at its head, that
the Austrians were flying before it, and that it was in full march on Milan. On the 2d June, the whole population of that city poured forth to meet it, saluting the illustrious chief, whom they had so often seen within their walls, and hailing him as their saviour. On entering Milan, Bonaparte liberated all prisoners confined for their political opinions, and established a provisional administration, composed of the most respectable men of the city, stipulating, however, that those Italians who had taken the opposite side, during the sway of the Austrians, should not be molested. The main body of the Austrians, under De Mélas, was meanwhile dispersed through the country between the upper Po, its tributaries, and the range of the Appenines and Maritime Alps, with the army under Suchet in their rear. Bonaparte now, without further delay, proceeded to dispose his forces so as to intercept, at every point, the escape of the Imperialists towards Lombardy. His movements might have been more rapid, had it been possible for him to have attacked the enemy before the surrender of Genoa, so as to have averted that event. This, however, having proved to be impracticable, he now determined to adopt that course which might appear best calculated to ensure the final success of the campaign. The points upon which the Austrian general had decided on concentrating the main body of his forces, were Alexandria and Piacenza, and accordingly the several divisions marched, those from Turin and its neighborhood on the former place, and those from Genoa on the latter. Bonaparte, on the other hand, marching his army from Milan towards the same points. Lannes had instructions to pass the Po at Belgiojoso, a little above the point where the Ticino discharges itself into that river; Murat advanced to Piacenza, and Duhesme to Cremona. These divisions presented themselves at these several points on the 6th of June. Being unable to leave Milan until the 9th, Bonaparte, foreseeing every thing and providing for all contingencies, wrote to Berthier, Lannes and Murat, the following instructions: — “Concentrate yourselves,” said he, “at Stradella. On the 8th or 9th, at the latest, you will have upon your hands fifteen or eighteen thousand Austrians, coming from Genoa. Meet them and cut them to pieces. It will be so many enemies the less on our