BY JOHN S.C. ABBOTT.
Napoleon, finding his proffers of peace rejected by England with contumely and scorn, and declined by Austria, now prepared, with his wonted energy, to repel the assaults of the allies. As he sat in his cabinet at the Tuileries, the thunders of their unrelenting onset came rolling in upon his ear from all the frontiers of France. The hostile fleets of England swept the channel, utterly annihilating the commerce of the Republic, landing regiments of armed emigrants upon her coast, furnishing money and munitions of war to rouse the partisans of the Bourbons to civil conflict, and throwing balls and shells into every unprotected town. On the northern frontier, Marshal Kray, came thundering down, through the black Forest, to the banks of the Rhine, with a mighty host of 150,000 men, like locust legions, to pour into all the northern provinces of France. Artillery of the heaviest calibre and a magnificent array of cavalry accompanied this apparently invincible army. In Italy, Melas, another Austrian marshal, with 140,000 men, aided by the whole force of the British navy, was rushing upon the eastern and southern borders of the Republic. The French troops, disheartened by defeat, had fled before their foes over the Alps, or were eating their horses and their boots in the cities where they were besieged. From almost every promontory on the coast of the Republic, washed by the Channel, or the Mediterranean, the eye could discern English frigates, black and threatening, holding all France in a state of blockade.
One always finds a certain pleasure in doing that which he can do well. Napoleon was fully conscious of his military genius. He had, in behalf of bleeding humanity, implored peace in vain. He now, with alacrity and with joy, roused himself to inflict blows that should be felt upon his multitudinous enemies. With such tremendous energy did he do this, that he received from his antagonists the most complimentary sobriquet of the one hundred thousand men . Wherever Napoleon made his appearance in the field, his presence alone was considered equivalent to that force.
The following proclamation rang like a trumpet charge over the hills and valleys of France. "Frenchmen! You have been anxious for peace. Your government has desired it with still greater ardor. Its first efforts, its most constant wishes, have been for its attainment. The English ministry has exposed the secret of its iniquitous policy. It wishes to dismember France, to destroy its commerce, and either to erase it from the map of Europe, or to degrade it to a secondary power. England is willing to embroil all the nations of the Continent in hostility with each other, that she may enrich herself with their spoils, and gain possession of the trade of the world. For the attainment of this object she scatters her gold, becomes prodigal of her promises, and multiplies her intrigues."
At this call all the martial spirit of France rushed to arms. Napoleon, supremely devoted to the welfare of the State, seemed to forget even his own glory in the intensity of his desire to make France victorious over her foes. With the most magnanimous superiority to all feelings of jealousy, he raised an army of 150,000 men, the very elite of the troops of France, the veterans of a hundred battles, and placed them in the hands of Moreau, the only man in France who could be called his rival. Napoleon also presented to Moreau the plan of a campaign in accordance with his own energy, boldness, and genius. Its accomplishment would have added surpassing brilliance to the reputation of Moreau. But the cautious general was afraid to adopt it, and presented another, perhaps as safe, but one which would produce no dazzling impression upon the imaginations of men. "Your plan," said one, a friend of Moreau, to the First Consul, "is grander, more decisive, even more sure. But it is not adapted to the slow and cautious genius of the man who is to execute it. You have your method of making war, which is superior to all others. Moreau has his own, inferior certainly, but still excellent. Leave him to himself. If you impose your ideas upon him, you will wound his self-love, and disconcert him."
Napoleon, profoundly versed in the knowledge of the human heart, promptly replied. "You are right, Moreau is not capable of grasping the plan which I have conceived. Let him follow his own course. The plan which he does not understand and dare not execute, I myself will carry out, on another part of the theatre of war. What he fears to attempt on the Rhine, I will accomplish on the Alps. The day may come when he will regret the glory which he yields to me." These were proud and prophetic words. Moreau, was moderately victorious upon the Rhine, driving back the invaders. The sun of Napoleon soon rose, over the field of Marengo, in a blaze of effulgence, which paled Moreau's twinkling star into utter obscurity. But we know not where, upon the page of history, to find an act of more lofty generosity than this surrender of the noblest army of the Republic to one, who considered himself, and who was deemed by others, a rival—and thus to throw open to him the theatre of war where apparently the richest laurels were to be won. And he know where to look for a deed more proudly expressive of self-confidence. "I will give Moreau," said he by this act, "one hundred and fifty thousand of the most brave and disciplined soldiers of France, the victors of a hundred battles. I myself will take sixty thousand men, new recruits and the fragments of regiments which remain, and with them I will march to encounter an equally powerful enemy on a more difficult field of warfare."
Marshal Melas had spread his vast host of one hundred and forty thousand Austrians through all the strongholds of Italy, and was pressing, with tremendous energy and self-confidence upon the frontiers of France. Napoleon, instead of marching with his inexperienced troops, two-thirds of whom had never seen a shot fired in earnest, to meet the heads of the triumphant columns of Melas, resolved to climb the rugged and apparently inaccessible fastnesses of the Alps, and, descending from the clouds over path-less precipices, to fall with the sweep of the avalanche, upon their rear. It was necessary to assemble this army at some favorable point;—to gather in vast magazines its munitions of war. It was necessary that this should be done in secret, lest the Austrians, climbing to the summits of the Alps, and defending the gorges through which the troops of Napoleon would be compelled to wind their difficult and tortuous way, might render the passage utterly impossible. English and Austrian spies were prompt to communicate to the hostile powers every movement of the First Consul. Napoleon fixed upon Dijon and its vicinity as the rendezvous of his troops. He, however, adroitly and completely deceived his foes by ostentatiously announcing the very plan he intended to carry into operation.
Of course, the allies thought that this was a foolish attempt to draw their attention from the real point of attack. The more they ridiculed the imaginary army at Dijon, the more loudly did Napoleon reiterate his commands for battalions and magazines to be collected there. The spies who visited Dijon, reported that but a few regiments were assembled in that place, and that the announcement was clearly a very weak pretense to deceive. The print shops of London and Vienna were filled with caricatures of the army of the First Consul of Dijon. The English especially made themselves very merry with Napolcon's grand army to scale the Alps. It was believed that the energies the Republic were utterly exhausted in raising the force which was given to Moreau. One of the caricatures represented the army as consisting of a boy, dressed in his father's clothes, shouldering a musket, which he could with difficulty lift, and eating a piece of gingerbread, and an old man with one arm and a wooden leg. The artillery consisted of a rusty blunderbuss. This derision was just what Napoleon desired. Though dwelling in the shadow of that mysterious melancholy, which ever enveloped his spirit, he must have enjoyed in the deep recesses of his soul, the majestic movements of his plans.
On the eastern frontiers of France there surge up, from luxuriant meadows and vine-clad fields and hill sides, the majestic ranges of the Alps, piercing the clouds and soaring with glittering pinnacles, into the region of perpetual ice and snow. Vast spurs of the mountains extend on each side, opening gloomy gorges and frightful detiles, through which foaming torrents rush impetuously, walled in by almost precipitous cliffs, whose summits, crowned with melancholy firs, are inaccessible to the foot of man. The principal pass over this enormous ridge was that of the Great St. Bernard. The traveler, accompanied by a guide, and mounted on a mule, slowly and painfully ascended a steep and rugged path, now crossing a narrow bridge, spanning a fathomless abyss, again creeping along the edge of a precipice, where the eagle soared and screamed over the fir tops in the abyss below, and where a perpendicular wall rose to giddy heights in the clouds above. The path at times was so narrow, that it seemed that the mountain goat could with difficulty find a foothold for its slender hoof. A false step, or a slip upon the icy rocks would precipitate the traveler, a mangled corpse, a thousand feet upon the fragments of granite in the gulf beneath. As higher and higher he climbed these wild and rugged and cloud-enveloped paths, borne by the unerring instinct of the faithful mule, his steps were often arrested by the roar of the avalanche and he gazed appalled upon its resistless rush, as rocks, and trees, and earth, and snow, and ice, swept by him with awful and resistless desolation, far down into the dimly discerned torrents which rushed beneath his feet. At God's bidding the avalanche fell. No precaution could save the traveler who was in its path. He was instantly borne to destruction, and buried where no voice but the archangel's trump could ever reach his ear. Terrific storms of wind and snow often swept through those bleak altitudes, blinding and smothering the traveler. Hundreds of bodies, like pillars of ice, embalmed in snow, are now sepulchred in those drifts, there to sleep till the fires of the last conflagration shall have consumed their winding sheet. Having toiled two days through such scenes of desolation and peril, the adventurous traveler stands upon the summit of the pass, eight thousand feet above the level of the sea, two thousand feet higher than the crest of Mount Washington, our own mountain monarch. This summit, over which the path winds, consists of a small level plain, surrounded by mountains of snow of still higher elevation.
The scene here presented is inexpressibly gloomy and appailing. Nature in these wild regions assumes her most severe and sombre aspect. As one emerges from the precipitous and craggy ascent, upon this Valley of Desolation, as it is emphatically called, the Convent of St. Bernard presents itself to the view. This cheerless abode, the highest spot of inhabited ground in Europe, has been tenanted, for more than a thousand years, by a succession of joyless and self-denying monks, who, in that frigid retreat of granite and ice, endeavor to serve their Maker, by rescuing bewildered travelers from the destruction with which they are ever threatened to be overwhelmed by the storms, which battle against them. In the middle of this ice-bound valley, lies a lake, clear, dark, and cold, whose depths, even in mid-summer, reflect the eternal glaciers which soar sublimely around. The descent to the plains of Italy is even more precipitous and dangerous than the ascent from the green pastures of France. No vegetation adorns these dismal and storm-swept cliffs of granite and of ice. Even the pinion of the eagle fails in its rarified air, and the chamois ventures not to climb its steep and slippery crags. No human beings are ever to be seen on these bleak summits, except the few shivering travelers, who tarry for an hour to receive the hospitality of the convent, and the hooded monks, wrapped in thick and coarse garments, which their staves and their dogs, groping through the storms of sleet and snow. Even the wood which burns with frugal faintness on the hearths, is borne, in painful burdens, up the mountain sides, upon the shoulders of the monks.
Such was the barrier which Napoleon intended to surmount, that he might fall upon the rear of the Austrians, who were battering down the walls of Genoa, where Massena was besieged, and who were thundering, flushed with victory, at the very gates of Nice. Over this wild mountain pass, where the mule could with difficulty tread, and where no wheel had ever rolled, or by any possibility could roll, Napoleon contemplated transporting an army of sixty thousand men, with ponderous artillery and tons of cannon balls, and baggage, and all the bulky munitions of war. England and Austria laughed the idea to scorn. The achievement of such an enterprise was apparently impossible. Napoleon, however was as skillful in the arrangement of the minutest details, as in the conception of the grandest combinations. Though he resolved to take the mass of his army, forty thousand strong, across the pass of the Great St. Bernard, yet to distract the attention of the Austrians, he arranged also to send small divisions across the passes of Saint Gothard, Little St. Bernard, and Mount Cenis. He would thus accumulate suddenly, and to the utter amazement of the enemy, a body of sixty-five thousand men upon the plain of Italy. This force, descending, like an apparition from the clouds, in the rear of the Austrian army, headed by Napoleon, and cutting off all communication with Austria, might indeed strike a panic into the hearts of the assailants of France.
The troops were collected in various places in the vicinity of Dijon, ready at a moment's warning to assemble at the point of rendezvous, and with a rush to enter the defile. Immense magazines of wheat, biscuit, and oats had been noiselessly collected in different places. Large sums of specie had been forwarded, to hire the services of every peasant, with his mule, who inhabited the valleys among the mountains. Mechanic shops, as by magic, suddenly rose along the path, well supplied with skillful artisans, to repair all damages, to dismount the artillery, to divide the gun-carriages and the baggage-wagons into fragments, that they might be transported, on the backs of men and mules, over the steep and rugged way. For the ammunition a vast number of small boxes were prepared, which could easily be packed upon the mules. A second company of mechanics, with camp forges, had been provided to cross the mountain with the first division, and rear their shops upon the plain on the other side, to mend the broken harness, to reconstruct the carriages, and remount the pieces. On each side of the mountain a hospital was established and supplied with every comfort for the sick and the wounded. The foresight of Napoleon extended even to sending, at the very last moment, to the convent upon the summit, an immense quantity of bread, cheese, and wine. Each soldier, to his surprise, was to find, as he arrived at the summit, exhausted with Herculean toil, a generous slice of bread and cheese with a refreshing cup of wine, presented to him by the monks. All these minute details Napoleon arranged, while at the same time he was doing the work of a dozen energetic men, in reorganizing the whole structure of society in France. If toil pays for greatness, Napoleon purchased the renown which he attained. And yet his body and his mind were so constituted that this sleepless activity was to him a pleasure.
The appointed hour at last arrived. On the 7th of May, 1800, Napoleon entered his carriage at the Tuileries, saying, "Good-by, my dear Josephine! I must go to Italy. I shall not forget you, and I will not be absent long." At a word, the whole majestic array was in motion. Like a meteor he swept over France. He arrived at the foot of the mountains. The troops and all the paraphernalia of war were on the spot at the designated hour. Napoleon immediately appointed a very careful inspection. Every foot soldier and every horseman passed before his scrutinizing eye. If a shoe was ragged, or a jacket torn, or a musket injured, the defect was immediately repaired. His glowing words inspired the troops with the ardor which was burning in his own bosom. The genius of the First Consul was infused into the mighty host. Each man exerted himself to the utmost. The eye of their chief was every where, and his cheering voice roused the army to almost super-human exertions. Two skillful engineers had been sent to explore the path, and to do what could be done in the removal of obstructions. They returned with an appalling recitasl of the apparently insurmountable difficulties of the way. "Is it possible ," inquired Napoleon, "to cross the pass?" "Perhaps," was the hesitating reply, "it is within the limits of possibility ." "Forward, then," was the energetic response. Each man was required to carry, besides his arms, food for several days and a large quantity of cartridges. As the sinuosities of the precipitous path could only be trod in single file, the heavy wheels were taken from the carriages, and each, slung upon a pole, was borne by two men. The task for the foot soldiers was far less than for the horsemen. The latter clambered up on foot, dragging their horses after them. The descent was very dangerous. The dragoon, in the steep and narrow path, was compelled to walk before his horse. At the least stumble he was exposed to being plunged headlong into the abysses yawning before him. In this way many horses and several riders perished. To transport the heavy cannon and howitzers pine logs were split in the centre, the parts hollowed out, and the guns sunks into grooves. A long string of mules, in single file, were attached to the ponderous machines of war, to drag them up the slippery ascent. The mules soon began to fail, and then the men, with hearty good-will, brought their own shoulders into the harness—a hundred men to a single gun. Napoleon offered the peasants two hundred dollars for the transporation of a twelve-pounder over the pass. The love of gain was not strong enough to lure them to such tremendous exertions. But Napoleon's fascination over the hearts of his soldiers was a more powerful impulse. With shouts of encouragement they toiled at the cables, successive bands of a hundred men relieving each other every half hour. High on those craggy steeps, gleaming through the midst, the glittering bands of armed men, like phantoms appeared. The eagle wheeled and screamed beneath their feet. The mountain goat, affrighted by the unwonted spectacle, bounded away, and paused in bold relief upon the cliff to gaze upon the martial array which so suddenly had peopled the solitude.
When they approached any spot of very especial difficulty the trumpets sounded the charge, which re-echoed, with sublime reverberations, from pinnacle to pinnacle of rock and ice. Animated by these bugle notes the soldiers strained every nerve as if rushing upon the foe. Napoleon offered to these bands the same reward which he had promised to the peasants. But to a man, they refused the gold. They had imbibed the spirit of their chief, his enthusiasm, and his proud superiority to all mercenary motives. "We are not toiling for money," said they, "but for your approval, and to share your glory."
Napoleon with his wonderful tact had introduced a slight change into the artillery service, which was productive of immense moral results. The gun carriages had heretofore been driven by mere wagoners, who, being considered not as soldiers, but as servants, and sharing not in the glory of victory, were uninfluenced by any sentiment of honor. At the first approach of danger, they were ready to cut their traces and gallop from the field, leaving their cannon in the hands of the enemy. Napoleon said, "The cannoneer who brings his piece into action, performs as valuable a service as the cannoneer who works it. He runs the same danger, and requires the same moral stimulus, which is the sense of honor." He therefore converted the artillery drivers into soldiers, and clothed them in the uniform of their respective regiments. They constituted twelve thousand horsemen who were animated with as much pride in carrying their pieces into action, and in bringing them off with rapidity and safety, as the gunners felt in loading, directing, and discharging them. It was now the great glory of these men to take care of their guns. They loved, tenderly, the merciless monsters. They lavished caresses and terms of endearment upon the glittering, polished, death-dealing brass. The heart of man is a strange enigma. Even when most degraded it needs something to love. These blood-stained soldiers, brutalized by vice, amidst all the honors of battle, lovingly fondled the murderous machines of war, responding to the appeal "call me pet names, dearest." The unrelenting gun was the stern cannoneer's lady love. He kissed it with unwashed, mustached lip. In rude and rough devotion he was ready to die rather than abandon the only object of his idolatrous homage. Consistently he baptized the life-devouring monster with blood. Affectionately he named it Mary, Emma, Lizzie. In crossing he Alps, dark night came on as some cannoneers were floundering through drifts of snow, toiling at their gun. They would not leave the gun alone in the cold storm to seek for themselves a dry bivouac; but, like brothers guarding a sister, they threw themselves, for the night, upon the bleak and frozen snow, by its side. It was the genius of Napoleon which thus penetrated these mysterious depths of the human soul, and called to his aid those mighty energies. "It is nothing but imagination," said one once to Napoleon. "Nothing but imagination!" he rejoined. "Imagination rules the world."
When they arrived at the summit each soldier found, to his surprise and joy, the abundant comforts which Napoleon's kind care had provided. One would have anticipated there a scene of terrible confusion. To feed an army of forty thousand hungry men is not a light undertaking. Yet every thing was so carefully arranged, and the influence of Napoleon so boundless, that not a soldier left the ranks. Each man received his slice of bread and cheese, and quaffed his cup of wine, and passed on. It was a point of honor for no one to stop. Whatever obstructions were in the way were to be at all hazards surmounted, that the long file, extending nearly twenty miles, might not be thrown into confusion. The descent was more perilous than the ascent. But fortune seemed to smile. The sky was clear, the weather delightful, and in four days the whole army was reassembled on the plains of Italy.
Napoleon had sent Bertlier forward to receive the division, and to superintend all necessary repairs, while he himself remained to press forward the mighty host. He was the last man to cross the mountains. Seated upon a mule, with a young peasant for his guide, slowly and thoughtfully he ascended those silent solitudes. He was dressed in the gray great coat which he always wore. Art pictured him bounding up the cliff, proudly mounted on a prancing charger. But truth presents him in an attitude more simple and more sublime. Even the young peasant who acted as his guide was entirely unconscious of the distinguished rank of the plain traveler whose steps he was conducting. Much of the way Napoleon was silent, abstracted in thoughts. And yet he found time for human sympathy. He drew from his young and artless guide the secrets of his heart. The young peasant was sincere and virtuous. He loved a fair maid among the mountains. She loved him. It was his heart's great desire to have her for his own. He was poor and had neither house nor land to support a family. Napoleon struggling with all his energies against combined England and Austria, and with all the cares of an army, on the march to meet one hundred and twenty thousand foes, crowding his mind, with pensive sympathy won the confidence of his companion and elicited this artless recital of love and desire. As Napoleon dismissed his guide, with an ample reward, he drew from his pocket a pencil and upon a loose piece of paper wrote a few lines, which he requested the young man to give, on his return, to the Administrator of the Army, upon the other side. When the guide returned, and presented the note, he found, to his unbounded surprise and delight, that he had conducted Napoleon over the mountains; and that Napoleon had given him a field and a house. He was thus enabled to be married, and to realize all the dreams of his modest ambition. Generous impulses must have been instinctive in a heart, which in an hour so fraught with mighty events, could turn from the toils of empire and of war, to find refreshment in sympathizing with a peasant's love. This young man but recently died, having passed his quiet life in the enjoyment of the field and the cottage which had been given him by the ruler of the world.
The army now pressed forward, with great alacrity, along the banks of the Aosta. They were threading a beautiful valley, rich in verdure and blooming beneath the sun of early spring. Cottages, vineyards, and orchards, in full bloom, embellished their path, while upon each side of them rose, in majestic swell, the fir-clad sides of the mountains. The Austrians pressing against the frontiers of France, had no conception of the storm which had so suddenly gathered, and which was, with resistless sweep, approaching their rear. The French soldiers, elated with the Herculean achievement they had accomplished, and full of confidence in their leader, pressed gayly on. But the valley before them began to grow more and more narrow. The mountains, on either side, rose more precipitous and craggy. The Aosta, crowded into a narrow channel, rushed foaming over the rocks, leaving barely room for a road along the side of the mountain. Suddenly the march of the whole army was arrested by a fort, built upon an inaccessible rock, which rose pyramidally from the bed of the stream. Bristling cannon, skillfully arranged on well-constructed bastions, swept the pass, and rendered further advance apparently impossible. Rapidly the tidings of this unexpected obstruction spread from the van to the rear. Napoleon immediately hastened to the front ranks. Climbing the mountain opposite the fort, by a goat path, he threw himself down upon the ground, when a few bushes concealed his person from the shot of the enemy, and with his telescope long and carefully examined the fort and the surrounding crags. He perceived one elevated spot, far above the fort, where a cannon might by possibility be drawn. From that position its shot could be plunged upon the unprotected bastions below. Upon the face of the opposite cliff, far beyond the reach of cannon-balls, he discerned a narrow shelf in the rock by which he thought it possible that a man could pass. The march was immediately commenced, in single file, along this giddy ridge. .......... And even the horses, insured to the terrors of the Great St. Bernard, were led by their riders upon the narrow path, which a horse's hoof had never trod before, and probably will never tread again. The Austrians, in the fort, had the mortification of seeing thirty-five thousand soldiers, with numerous horses, defile along this airy line, as if adhering to the side of the rock. But neither bullet nor ball could harm them.
Napoleon ascended this mountain ridge, and upon its summit, quite exhausted with days and nights of sleeplessness and toil, laid himself down, in the shadow of the rock, and fell asleep. The long line filed carefully and silently by, each soldier hushing his comrade, that the repose of their beloved chieftain might not be disturbed. It was an interesting spectacle, to witness the tender affection, beaming from the countenances of these bronzed and war-worn veterans, as every foot trod softly, and each eye, in passing, was riveted upon the slender form, and upon the pale and wasted cheek of the sleeping Napoleon.
The artillery could by no possibility be thus transported; and an army without artillery is a soldier without weapons. The Austrian commander wrote to Melas, that he had seen an army of thirty-five thousand men and four thousand horse creeping by the fort, along the face of Mount Albaredo. He assured the commander-in-chief, however, that not one single piece of artillery had passed or could pass beneath the guns of his fortress. When he was writing this letter, already had one half of the cannon and ammunition of the army been conveyed by the fort, and were safely and rapidly proceeding on their way down the valley. In the darkness of the night trusty men, with great caution and silence, strewed hay and straw upon the road. The wheels of the lumbering carriages were carefully bound with cloths and wisps of straw, and, with axles well oiled, were drawn by the hands of these picked men, beneath the very walls of the fortress, and within half pistol-shot of its guns. In two nights the artillery and the baggage-trains were thus passed along, and in a few days the fort itself was compelled to surrender.
Melas, the Austrian commander, now awoke in consternation to a sense of his peril. Napoleon—the dreaded Napoleon—had, as by a miracle, crossed the Alps. He had cut off all his supplies, and was shutting the Austrians up from any possibility of retreat. Bewildered by the magnitude of his peril, he no longer thought of forcing his march upon Paris. The invasion of France was abandoned. His whole energies were directed to opening for himself a passage back to Austria. The most cruel perplexities agitated him. From the very pinnacle of victory, he was in danger of descending to the deepest abyss of defeat. It was also with Napoleon an hour of intense solicitude. He had but sixty thousand men, two-thirds of whom were new soldiers, who had never seen a shot fired in earnest, with whom he was to arrest the march of a desperate army of one hundred and twenty thousand veterans, abundantly provided with all the most efficient machinery of war. There were many paths by which Melas might escape, at leagues' distance from each other. It was necessary for Napoleon to divide his little band that he might guard them all. He was liable at any moment to have a division of his army attacked by an overwhelming force, and cut to pieces before it could receive any reinforcements. He ate not, he slept not, he rested not. Day and night, and night and day, he was on horseback, pale, pensive, apparently in feeble health, and interesting every beholder with his grave and melancholy beauty. His scouts were out in every direction. He studied all the possible movements and combinations of his foes. Rapidly he overran Lombardy, and entered Milan in triumph. Melas anxiously concentrated his forces, to break through the net with which he was entangled. He did every thing in his power to deceive Napoleon, by various feints, that the point of his contemplated attack might not be known. Napoleon, in the following clarion tones, appealed to the enthusiasm of his troops:
"Soldiers! when we began our march, one department of France was in the hands of the enemy. Consternation pervaded the south of the Republic. You advanced. Already the French territory is delivered. Joy and hope in our country have succeeded to consternation and fear. The enemy, terror-struck, seeks only to regain his frontiers. You have taken his hospitals, his magazines, his reserve parks. The first act of the campaign is finished. Millions of men address you in strains of praise. But shall we allow our audacious enemies to violate with impunity the territory of the Republic? Will you permit the army to escape which has carried terror into your families? You will not. March, then, to meet him. Tear from his brows the laurels he has won. Teach the world that a malediction attends those who violate the territory of the Great People. The result of our efforts will be unclouded glory, and a durable peace!"
The very day Napoleon left Paris, Desaix arrived in France from Egypt. Frank, sincere, upright, and punctiliously honorable, he was one of the few whom Napoleon truly loved. Desaix regarded Napoleon as infinitely his superior, and looked up to him with a species of adoration; he loved him with a fervor of feeling which amounted almost to a passion. Napoleon, touched, by the affection of a heart so noble, requited it with the most confiding friendship. Desaix, upon his arrival in Paris, found letters for him there from the First Consul. As he read the confidential lines, he was struck with the melancholy air with which they were pervaded. "Alas!" said he, "Napoleon has gained every thing, and yet he is unhappy. I must hasten to meet him." Without delay he crossed the Alps, and arrived at the head-quarters of Napoleon but a few days before the battle of Marengo. They passed the whole night together, talking over the events of Egypt and the prospects of France. Napoleon felt greatly strengthened by the arrival of his noble friend, and immediately assigned to him the command of a division of the army. "Desaix," said he, "is my sheet anchor."
"You have had a long interview with Desaix," said Bourrienne to Napoleon the next morning. "Yes!" he replied; "but I had my reasons. As soon as I return to Paris I shall make him Minister of War. He shall always be my lieutenant. I would make him a prince if I could. He is of the heroic mould of antiquity!"
Napoleon was fully aware that a decisive battle would soon take place. Melas was rapidly, from all points, concentrating his army. The following laconic and characteristic order was issued by the First Consul to Lannes and Murat: "Gather your forces at the river Stradella. On the 8th or 9th at the latest, you will have on your hands fifteen or eighteen thousand Austrians. Meet them, and cut them to pieces. It will be so many enemies less upon our hands on the day of the decisive battle we are to expect with the entire army of Melas." The prediction was true. An Austrian force advanced, eighteen thousand strong. Lannes met them upon the field of Montebello. They were strongly posted, with batteries ranged upon the hill sides, which swept the whole plain. It was of the utmost moment that this body should be prevented from combining with the other vast forces of the Austrians. Lannes had but eight thousand men. Could he sustain the unequal conflict for a few hours, Victor, who was some miles in the rear, could come up with a reserve of four thousand men. The French soldiers, fully conscious of the odds against which they were to contend, and of the carnage into the midst of which they were plunging, with shouts of enthusiasm rushed upon their foes. Instantaneously a storm of grape-shot from all the batteries swept through his ranks. Said Lannes, " I could hear the bones crash in my division, like glass in a hail-storm ." For nine long hours, from eleven in the morning till eight at night, the horrid carnage continued. Again and again the mangled, bleeding, wasted columns were rallied to the charge. At last, when three thousand Frenchmen were strewn dead upon the ground, the Austrians broke and fled, leaving also three thousand mutilated corpses and six thousand prisoners behind them. Napoleon, hastening to the aid of his lieutenant, arrived upon the field just in time to see the battle won. He rode up to Lannes. The intrepid soldier stood in the midst of mounds of the dead—his sword dripping with blood in his exhausted hand—his face blackened with powder and smoke—and his uniform soiled and tattered by the long and terrific strife. Napoleon silently, but proudly smiled upon the heroic general, and forgot not his reward. From this battle Lannes received the title of Duke of Montebello, a title by which his family is distinguished to the present day.
This was the opening of the campaign. It inspired the French with enthusiasm. It nerved the Austrians to despair. Melas now determined to make a desperate effort to break through the toils. Napoleon, with intense solicitude, was watching every movement of his foe, knowing not upon what point the onset would fall. Before day-break in the morning of the 14th of June, Melas, having accumulated forty thousand men, including seven thousand cavalry and two hundred pieces of cannon, made an impetuous assault upon the French, but twenty thousand in number drawn up upon the plain of Marengo. Desaix, with a reserve of six thousand men, was at such a distance, nearly thirty miles from Marengo, that he could not possibly be recalled before the close of the day. The danger was frightful that the French would be entirely cut to pieces, before any succor could arrive. But the quick ear of Desaix caught the sound of the heavy cannonade as it came booming over the plain, like distant thunder. He sprung from his couch and listened. The heavy and uninterrupted roar, proclaimed a pitched battle, and he was alarmed for his beloved chief. Immediately he roused his troops, and they started upon the rush to succor their comrades. Napoleon dispatched courier after courier to hurry the division along, while his troops stood firm through terrific hours, as their ranks were plowed by the murderous discharges of their foes. At last the destruction was too awful for mortal men to endure. Many divisions of the army broke and fled, crying " All is lost—save himself who can ." A scene of frightful disorder ensued. The whole plain was covered with fugitive, swept like an inundation before the multitudinous Austrians. Napoleon still held a few squares together, who slowly and sullenly retreated, while two hundred pieces of artillery, closely pressing them, poured incessant death into their ranks. Every foot of ground was left encumbered with the dead. It was now three o'clock in the afternoon. Melas, exhausted with toil, and assured that he had gained a complete victory, left Gen. Zach to finish the work. He retired to his head quarters, and immediately dispatched couriers all over Europe to announce the great victory of Marengo. Said an Austrian veteran, who had before encountered Napoleon at Arcola and Rivoli, "Melas is too sanguine. Depend upon it our day's work is not yet done. Napoleon will yet be upon us with his reserve."
Just then the anxious eye of the First Consulespied the solid columns of Desaix entering the plain. Desaix, plunging his spurs into his horse, outstripped all the rest, and galloped into the presence of Napoleon. As he cast a glance over the wild confusion and devastation of the field, the exclaimed hurriedly, "I see that the battle is lost. I suppose I can do no more for you than to secure your retreat." "By no means," Napoleon replied with apparently as much composure as if he had been sitting by his own fireside, "the battle, I trust, is gained. Charge with your column. The disordered troops will rally in your rear." Like a rock, Desaix, with his solid phalanx of ten thousand men, met the on-rolling billow of Austrian victory. At the same time Napoleon dispatched an order to Kellerman, with his cavalry, to charge the triumphant column of the Austrians in flank. It was the work of a moment, and the whole aspect of the field was changed. Napoleon rode along the lines of those on the retreat, exclaiming, "My friends, we have retreated far enough. It is now our turn to advance. Recollect that I am in the habit of sleeping on the field of battle." The fugitives, reanimated by the arrival of the reserve, immediately rallied in their rear. The double charge in front and flank was instantly made. The Austrians were checked and staggered. A perfect tornado of bullets from Desaix's division swept their ranks. They poured an answering volley into the bosoms of the French. A bullet pierced the breast of Desaix, and he fell and almost immediately expired. His last words were, "Tell the First Consul that my only regret in dying is, to have perished before having done enough to live in the recollection of posterity." The soldiers, who devotedly loved him, saw his fall, and rushed more madly on to avenge his death. The swollen tide of uproar, confusion, and dismay now turned, and rolled in surging billows in the opposite direction. Hardly one moment elapsed before the Austrians, flushed with victory, found themselves overwhelmed by defeat. In the midst of this terrific scene, an aid rode up to Napoleon and said, "Desaix is dead." But a moment before they were conversing side by side. Napoleon pressed his forehead convulsively with his hand, and exclaimed, mournfully, "Why is it not permitted me to weep! Victory at such a price is dear."
The French now made the welkin ring with shouts of victory. Indescribable dismay filled the Austrian ranks as wildly they rushed before their unrelenting pursuers. Their rout was utter and hopeless. When the sun went down over this field of blood, after twelve hours of the most frightful carnage, a scene was presented horrid enough to appall the heart of a demon. More than twenty thousand human bodies were strewn upon the ground, the dying and the dead, weltering in gore, and in every conceivable form of disfiguration. Horses, with limbs torn their bodies, were struggling in convulsive agonies. Fragments of guns and swords, and of military wagons of every kind were strewed around in wild ruin. Frequent piercing cries, which agony extorted from the lacerated victims of war, rose above the general moanings of anguish, which, like wailings of the storm, fell heavily upon the ear. The shades of night were now descending upon this awful scene of misery. The multitude of the wounded was so great, that notwithstanding the utmost exertions of the surgeons, hour after hour of the long night lingered away, while thousands of the wounded and the dying bit the dust in their agony.
If war has its chivalry and its pageantry, it has also revolting hideousness and demoniac woe. The young, the noble, the sanguine were writhing there in agony. Bullets respect not beauty. They tear out the eye, and shatter the jaw, and rend the cheek, and transform the human face divine into an aspect upon which one can not gaze but with horror. From the field of Marengo many a young man returned to his home so multilated as no longer to be recognized by friends, and passed a weary life in repulsive deformity. Mercy abandons the arena of battle. The frantic war-horse with iron hoof tramples upon the mangled face, the throbbing and inflamed wounds the splintered bones, and heeds not the shriek of torture. Crushed into the bloody mire by the ponderous wheels of heavy artillery, the victim of barbaric war thinks of mother, and father, and sister, and home, and shrieks, and moans, and dies; his body is stripped by the vagabonds who follow the camp; his naked mangled corpse is covered with a few shovels-full of earth, and left as food for vultures and for dogs and he is forgotten forever—and it is called glory . He who loves war, for the sake of its excitements, its pageantry, and its fancied glory, is the most eminent of all the dupes of folly and of sin. He who loathes war, with inexpressible loathing, who will do everything in his power to avert the dire and horrible calamity, but who will, nevertheless, in the last extremity, with a determined spirit, encounter all its perils, from love of country and of home, who is willing to sacrifice himself and all that is dear to him in life, to promote the well being of his fellow-man, will ever receive the homage of the world, and we also fully believe that he will receive the approval of God. Washington abhorred war in all its forms, yet he braved all its perils.
For the carnage of the field of Marengo, Napoleon can not be held responsible. Upon England and Austria must rest all the guilt of that awful tragedy. Napoleon had done every thing he could do to stop the effusion of blood. He had sacrificed the instincts of pride, in pleading with a haughty foe for peace. His plea was unavailing. Three hundred thousand men were marching upon France to force upon her a detested King. It was not the duty of France to submit to such dictation. Drawing the sword in self-defense, Napoleon fought and conquered. "Te Deum Laudamus."
It is not possible but that Napoleon must have been elated by so resplendent a victory. He knew that Marengo would be classed as the most brilliant of his achievements. The blow had fallen with such terrible severity that the haughty allies were thoroughly humbled. Melas was now at his mercy. Napoleon could dictate peace upon his own terms. Yet he rode over the field of his victory with a saddened spirit, and gazed mournfully upon the ruin and the wretchedness around him. As he was slowly and thoughtfully passing along, through the heaps of the dead with which the ground was encumbered, he met a number of carts, heavily laden with the wounded, torn by balls, and bullets, and fragments of shells, into most hideous spectacles of deformity. As the heavy wheels lumbered over the rough ground, grating the splintered bones, and bruising and opening afresh the inflamed wounds, shrieks of torture were extorted from the victims. Napoleon stopped his horse and uncovered his head, as the melancholy procession of misfortune and woe passed along. Turning to a companion, he said, "We can not but regret not being wounded like these unhappy men, that we might share their sufferings." A more touching expression of sympathy never has been recorded. He who says that this was hypocrisy is a stranger to the generous impulses of a noble heart. This instinctive outburst of emotion never could have been instigated by policy.
Napoleon had fearlessly exposed himself to every peril during this conflict. His clothes were repeatedly pierced by bullets. Balls struck between the legs of his horse, covering him with earth. A cannon-ball took away a piece of the boot from his left leg and a portion of the skin, leaving a scar which was never obliterated.
Before Napoleon Marched for Italy, he had made every effort in his power for the attainment of peace. Now, with magnanimity above all praise, without waiting for the first advance from his conquered foes, he wrote again imploring peace. Upon the field of Marengo, having scattered all his enemies like chaff before him, with the smoke of the conflict still darkening the air, and the groans of the dying swelling upon his ears, laying aside all the formalities of state, with heartfelt feeling and earnestness he wrote to the Emperor of Austria. This extraordinary epistle was thus commenced:
"Sire! It is on the field of battle, amid the sufferings of a multitude of wounded, and surrounded by fifteen thousand corpses, that I beseech your majesty to listen to the voice of humanity, and not to suffer two brave nations to cut each others' throats for interests not their own. It is my part to press this upon your majesty, being upon the very theatre of war. Your majesty's heart can not feel it so keenly as does mine."
The letter was long and most eloquent. "For what are you fighting?" said Napoleon. "For religion? Then make war on the Russians and the English who are the enemies of your faith. Do you wish to guard against revolutionary principles? It is this very war which has extended them over half the Continent, by extending the conquests of France. The continuance of the war can not fail to diffuse them still further. Is it for the balance of Europe? The English threaten that balance far more than does France, for they have become the masters and the tyrants of commerce, and are beyond the reach of resistance. Is it to secure the interests of the house of Austria! Let us then execute the treaty of Campo Formio, which secures to your majesty large indemnities in compensation for the provinces lost in the Netherlands, and secures them to you where you most wish to obtain them, that is, in Italy. Your majesty may send negotiators whither you will, and we will add to the treaty of Campo Formio stipulations calculated to assure you of the continued existence of the secondary states, of all which the French Republic is accused of having shaken. Upon these conditions pace is made, if you will. Let us make the armistice general for all the armies, and enter into negotiations instantly."
A courier was immediately dispatched to Vienna, to convey this letter to the Emperor. In the evening, Bourrienne hastened to congratulate Napoleon upon his extraordinary victory. "What a glorious day!" said Bourrienne. "Yes!" replied Napoleon, mournfully; "very glorious—could I this evening but have embraced Desaix upon the field of battle."
On the same day, and at nearly the same hour in which the fatal bullet pierced the breast of Desaix, an assassin in Egypt plunged a dagger into the bosom of Kleber. The spirits of these illustrious men, these blood-stained warriors, thus unexpectedly met in the spirit-land. There they wander now. How impenetrable the vail which shuts their destiny from our view. The soul longs for clearer vision of that far-distant world, people by the innumerable host of the mighty dead. There Napoleon now dwells. Does he retain his intellectual supremacy? Do his generals gather around him with love and homage! Has his pensive spirit sunk down into gloom and despair, or has it soared into cloudless regions of purity and peace! The mystery of death' Death alone can solve it. Christianity, with its lofty revealings, sheds but dim twilight upon the world off departed spirits. At St. Helena Napoleon said, "Of all the general I ever had under my command Desaix and Kleber possessed the greatest talent. In particular Desaix, as Kleber loved glory only as the means of acquiring wealth and pleasure. Desaix loved glory for itself, and despised every other consideration. To him riches and pleasure were of no value, nor did he ever give them a moment's thought. He was a little black-looking man, about an inch shorter than myself, always badly dressed, sometimes even ragged, and despising alike comfort and convenience. Enveloped in a cloak, Desaix would throw himself under a gun and sleep as contentedly as if reposing in a palace. Luxury had for him no charms. Frank and honest in all his proceedings, he was denominated by the Arabs Sultan the Just. Nature intended him to figure as a consummate general. Kleber and Desaix were irreparable losses to France."
It is impossible to describe the dismay, which pervaded the camp of the Austrians after this terrible defeat. They were entirely cut from all retreat, and were at the mercy of Napoleon. A council of war was held by the Austrian officers during the night, and it was unanimously resolved that capitulation was unavoidable. Early the next morning a flag of truce was sent to the head-quarters of Napoleon. The Austrians offered to abandon Italy, if the generosity of the victor would grant them the boon of not being made prisoners of war. Napoleon met the envoy with great courtesy, and, according to his custom, stated promptly and irrevocably the conditions upon which he was willing to treat. The terms were generous. "The Austrian armies," said he, "may unmolested return to their homes; but all of Italy must be abandoned." Melas, who was eighty years of age, hoped to modify the terms, and again sent the negotiator to suggest some alterations. "Monsieur!" said Napoleon, "my conditions are irrevocable. I did not begin to make war yesterday. Your position is as perfectly comprehended by me as by yourselves. You are encumbered with dead, sick, and wounded, destitute of provisions, deprived of the elite of your army, surrounded on every side, I might exact every thing. But I respect the white hairs of your general, and the valor of your soldiers. I ask nothing but what is rigorously justified by the present position of affairs. Take what steps you may, you will have no other terms." The conditions were immediately signed, and a suspension of arms was agreed upon, until an answer could be received from Vienna.
Napoleon left Paris for this campaign on the 7th of May. The battle of Marengo was fought on the 14th of June. Thus in five weeks Napoleon has scaled the barrier of the Alps: with sixty thousand soldiers, most of them undisciplined recruits, he had utterly discomfited an army of one hundred and twenty thousand men, and regained the whole of Italy. The bosom of every Frenchman throbbed with gratitude and pride. One wild shout of enthusiasm ascended from united France. Napoleon had laid the foundation of his throne deep in the heart of the French nation, and there that foundation still remains unshaken.
Napoleon now entered Milan in triumph. He remained there ten days, busy apparently every hour, by day and by night, in re-organizing the political condition of Italy. The serious and religious tendencies of his mind are developed by the following note, which four days after the battle of Marengo, he wrote to the Consuls in Paris: "To-day, whatever our atheists may say to it, I go in great state to the To Deum which is to be chanted in the Cathedral of Milan. * * The Te Deum , is an anthem of praise, sung in churches on occasion of thanksgiving. It is so called from the first words "Te Deum laudamus," Thee God we praise
An unworthy spirit of detraction has vainly sought to wrest from Napoleon the honor of this victory, and to attribute it all to the flank charge made by Kellerman. Such attempts deserve no detail reply. Napoleon had secretly and suddenly called into being an army, and by its apparently miraculous creation had astounded Europe. He had effectually deceived the vigilance of his enemies, so as to leave them entirely in the dark respecting his point of attack. He had conveyed that army with all its stores, over the pathless crags of the Great St. Bernard. Like an avalanche he had descended from the mountains upon the plains of startled Italy. He had surrounded the Austrian hosts, though they were doubled his numbers, with a net through which they could not break. In a decisive battle he had scattered their ranks before him, like chaff by the whirlwind. He was nobly seconded by those generals whom his genius had chosen and created. It is indeed true, that without his generals and his soldiers he could not have gained the victory. Massena contributed to the result by his matchless defense of Genoa; Moreau, by holding in abeyance the army of the Rhine; Lannes, by his iron firmness on the plain of Montebello; Desaix, by the promptness with which he rushed to the rescue, as soon as his car caught the far-off thunders of the cannon of Marengo; and Kellerman, by his admirable flank charge of cavalry. But it was the genius of Napoleon which planned the mighty combination, which roused and directed the enthusiasm of the generals, which inspired the soldiers with fearlessness and nerved them for the strife, and which, through these efficient agencies, secured the astounding results.
Napoleon established his triumphant army, now increased to eighty thousand men, in the rich valley of the Po. He assigned to the heroic Massena the command of this triumphant host, and ordering all the forts and citadels which blocked the approaches from France to be blown up, set out, on the 24th of June, for his return to Paris. In re-crossing the Alps, by the pass of Mt. Cenis, he met the carriage of Madame Kellerman, who was going to Italy to join her husband. Napoleon ordered his carriage to be stopped, and alighting, greeted the lady with great courtesy, and congratulated her upon the gallant conduct of her husband at Marengo. As he was riding along one day, Bourrienne spoke of the world-wide renown which the First Consul had attained.
"Yes," Napoleon thoughtfully replied. "A few more events like this campaign, and my name may perhaps go down to posterity."
"I think," Bourrienne rejoined, "that you have already done enough to secure a long and lasting fame."
"Done enough!" Napoleon replied. "You are very good! It is true that in less than two years I have conquered Cairo, Paris, Milan. But were I to die to-morrow, half a page of general history would be all that would be devoted to my exploits."
Napoleon's return to Paris, through the provinces of France, was a scene of constant triumph. The joy of the people amounted almost to frenzy. Bonfires, illuminations, the pealing of bells, and the thunders of artillery accompanied him all the way. Long lines of young maidens, selected for their grace and beauty, formed avenues of loveliness and smiles through which he was to pass, and carpeted his path with flowers. He arrived in Paris at midnight the 2d of July, having been absent but eight weeks.
The enthusiasm of the Parisians was unbounded and inexhaustible. Day after day, and night after night, the festivities continued. The Palace of the Tuileries was ever thronged with a crowd, eager to catch a glimpse of the preserver of France. All the public bodies waited upon him with congratulations. Bells rung, cannon thundered, bonfires and illuminations blazed, rockets and fire-works, in meteoric splendor filled the air, bands of music poured forth their exuberant strains, and united Paris, thronging the garden of the Tuileries and flooding back into the Elysian Fields, rent the heavens with deafening shouts of exultation. As Napoleon stood at the window of his palace, witnessing this spectacle of a nation's gratitude, he said, "The sound of these acclamations is as sweet to me, as the voice of Josephine. How happy I am to be beloved by such a people." Preparations were immediately made for a brilliant and imposing solemnity in commemoration of the victory. "Let no triumphal arch be raised to me," said Napoleon. "I wish for no triumphal arch but the public satisfaction."
It is not strange that enthusiasm and gratitude should have glowed in the ardent bosoms of the French. In four months Napoleon had raised France from an abyss of ruin to the highest pinnacle of prosperity and renown. For anarchy he had substituted law, for bankruptcy a well-replenished treasury, for ignominious defeat resplendent victory, for universal discontent as universal satisfaction. The invaders were driven from France, the hostile alliance broken, and the blessings of peace were now promised to the war-harassed nation.
During this campaign there was presented a very interesting illustration of Napoleon's wonderful power of anticipating the progress of coming events. Bourrienne, one day, just before the commencement of the campaign, entered the cabinet at the Tuileries, and found an immense map of Italy, unrolled upon the carpet, and Napoleon stretched upon it. With pins, whose heads were tipped with red and black sealing-wax, to represent the French and Austrian forces, Napoleon was studying all the possible combinations and evolutions of the two hostile armies. Bourrienne, in silence, but with deep interest, watched the progress of this pin campaign. Napoleon, having arranged the pins with red heads, where he intended to conduct the French troops, and with the black pins designating the point which he supposed the Austrians would occupy, looked up to his secretary, and said:
"Do you think that I shall beat Melas?"
"Why, how can I tell!" Bourrienne answered.
"Why, you simpleton," said Napoleon, playfully; "just look here. Melas is at Alexandria, where he has his head-quarters. He will remain there until Genoa surrenders. He has in Alexandria his magazines, his hospitals, his artillery, his reserves. Passing the Alps here," sticking a pin into the Great St. Bernard, "I fall upon Melas in his rear; I cut off his communications with Austria. I meet him here in the valley of the Bormida." So saying, he stuck a red pin into the plain of Marengo.
Bourrienne regarded this maneuvering of pins as mere pastime. His countenance expressed his perfect incredulity. Napoleon, perceiving this, addressed to him some of his usual apostrophes, in which he was accustomed playfully to indulge in moments of relaxation, such as, You ninny, You goose; and rolled up the map. Ten weeks passed away, and Bourrienne found himself upon the banks of the Bormida, writing, at Napoleon's dictation, an account of the battle of Marengo. Astonished to find Napoleon's anticipations thus minutely fulfilled, he frankly avowed his admiration of the military sagacity thus displayed. Napoleon himself smiled at the justice of his foresight.
Two days before the news of the battle of Marengo arrived in Vienna, England effected a new treaty with Austria, for the more vigorous prosecution of the war. By this convention it was provided that England should loan Austria ten millions of dollars, to bear no interest during the continuance of the conflict. And the Austrian cabinet bound itself not to make peace with France, without the consent of the Court of St. James. The Emperor of Austria was now sadly embarrassed. His sense of honor would not allow him to violate his pledge to the King of England, and to make peace. On the other hand, he trembled at the thought of seeing the armies of the invincible Napoleon again marching upon his capital. He, therefore, resolved to temporize, and, in order to gain time, sent an embassador to Paris. The plenipotentiary presented to Napoleon a letter, in which the Emperor stated, "You will give credit to every thing which Count Julien shall say on my part. I will ratify whatever he shall do." Napoleon, prompt in action, and uniformed of the new treaty between Ferdinand and George III., immediately caused the preliminaries of peace to be drawn up, which were signed by the French and Austrian ministers. The cabinet in Vienna, angry with their embassador for not protracting the discussion, refused to ratify the treaty, recalled Count Julien, sent him into exile, informed the First Consul of the treat which bound Austria not to make peace without the concurrence of Great Britain, assured France of the readiness of the English Cabinet to enter into negotiations, and urged the immediate opening of a Congress at Luneville, to which plenipotentiaries should be sent from each of the three great contending powers. Napoleon was highly indignant in view of this duplicity and perfidy. Yet, controlling his anger, he consented to treat with England, and with that view proposed a naval armistice , with the mistress of the seas. To this proposition England peremptorily refused to accede, as it would enable France to throw supplies into Egypt and Malta, which island England was besieging. The naval armistice would have been undeniably for the interests of France. But the continental armistice was as undeniably adverse to her interests, enabling Austria to recover from her defeats, and to strengthen her armies. Napoleon, fully convinced that England, in he[r inaccessible position, did not wish for peace, and that her only object, in endeavoring to obtain admittance to the Congress, was that she might throw obstacles in the way of reconciliation with Austria, offered to renounce all armistice with England, and to treat with her separately. This England also refused.
It was now September. Two months had passed in these vexations and sterile negotiations. Napoleon had taken every step in his power to secure peace. He sincerely desired it. He had already won all the laurels he could wish to win on the field of battle. The reconstruction of society in France, and the consolidation of his power, demanded all his energies. The consolidation of his power! That was just what the government of England dreaded. The consolidation of democratic power in France was dangerous to king and to noble. William Pits, the soul of the aristocratic government of England, determined still to prosecute the war. France could not harm England. But England, with her invincible fleet, could sweep the commerce of France from the seas. Fox and his coadjutors with great eloquence and energy opposed the war. Their efforts were, however, unavailing. The people of England, notwithstanding all the efforts of the government to defame the character of the First Consul, still cherished the conviction that, after all, Napoleon was their friend. Napoleon, in subsequent years, while reviewing these scenes of his early conflicts, with characteristic eloquence and magnanimity, gave utterance to the following sentiments which, it is as certain as destiny, that the verdict of the world will yet confirm.
"Pitt was the master of European policy. He held in his hands the moral fate of nations. But he made an ill use of his power. He kindled the fire of discord throughout the universe; and his name, like that of Erostratus, will be inscribed in history, amidst flames, lamentations, and tears. Twenty-five years of universal conflagration; the numerous coalitions that added fuel to the flame; the revolution and devastation of Europe; the bloodshed of nations; the frightful debt of England, by which all these horrors were maintained; the pestilential system of loans, by which the people of Europe are oppressed; the general discontent that now prevails—all must be attributed to Pitt. Posterity will brand him as a scourge. The man so lauded in his own time, will hereafter be regarded as the genius of evil. Not that I consider him to have been willfully atrocious, or doubt his having entertained the conviction that he was acting right. But St. Bartholomew had also its conscientious advocates. The Pope and cardinals celebrated it by a Te Deum ; and we have no reason to doubt their having done so in perfect sincerity. Such is the weakness of human reason and judgment! But that for which posterity will, above all, execrate the memory of Pitt, is the hateful school, which he has left behind him; its insolent Machiavelism, its profound immorality, its cold egotism, and its utter disregard of justice and human happiness. Whether it be the effect of admiration and gratitude, or the result of mere instinct and sympathy, Pitt is, and will continue to be, the idol of the European aristocracy. There was, indeed, a touch of the Sylla in his character. His system has kept the popular cause in check, and brought about the triumph of the patricians. As for Fox, one must not look for his model among the ancients. He is himself a model, and his principles will sooner or later rule the world. The death of Fox was one of the fatalities of my career. Had his life been prolonged, affairs would taken a totally different turn. The cause of the people would have triumphed, and we should have established a new order of things in Europe."
Austria really desired peace. The march of Napoleon's armies upon Vienna was an evil more to be dreaded than even the consolidation of Napoleon's power in France. But Austria was, by loans and treaties, so entangled with England, that she could make not peace without the consent of the Court of St. James. Napoleon found that he was but triffled with. Interminable difficulties were thrown in the way of negotiation. Austria was taking advantage of the cessation of hostilities, merely to recruit her defeated armies, that, soon as the approaching winter had passed away, she might fall, with renovated energies, upon France. The month of November had now arrived, and the mountains, whitened with snow, were swept by the bleak winds of winter. The period of the armistice had expired. Austria applied for its prolongation. Napoleon was no longer thus to be duped. He consented, however, to a continued suspension of hostilities, on condition that the treaty of peace were signed within forty-eight hours. Austria, believing that no sane man would march an army into Germany in the dead of winter, and that she should have abundant time to prepare for a spring campaign, refused. The armies of France were immediately on the move. The Emperor of Austria had improved every moment of this transient interval of peace, in recruiting his forces. In person he had visited the army to inspire his troops with enthusiasm. The command of the imperial forces was intrusted to his second brother, the Archduke John. Napoleon moved with his accustomed vigor. The political necessities of Paris and of France rendered it impossible for him to leave the metropolis. He ordered one powerful army, under General Brune, to attack the Austrians in Italy, on the banks of Mincio, and to press firmly toward Vienna. In the performance of this operation, General Macdonald, in the dead of winter, effected his heroic passage over the Alps by the pass of the Splugen. Victory followed their standards.
Moreau, with his magnificent army, commenced a winter campaign on the Rhine. Between the rivers Iser and Inn there is an enormous forest, many leagues in extent, of sombre firs and pines. It is a dreary and almost uninhabited wilderness, of wild ravines, and tangled under-brush. Two great roads have been cut through the forest, and sundry woodmen's paths penetrate it at different points. In the centre there is a little hamlet, of a few miserable huts, called Hohenlinden. In this forest, on the night of the 3d of December, 1800, Moreau, with sixty thousand men, encountered the Archduke John with seventy thousand Austrian troops. The clocks upon the towers of Munich had but just tolled the hour of midnight when both armies were in motion, each hoping to surprise the other. A dismal wintry storm was howling over the tree tops, and the smothering snow, falling rapidly, obliterated all traces of a path, and rendered it almost impossible to drag through the drifts the ponderous artillery. Both parties, in the dark and tempestuous night, became entangled in the forest, and the heads of their columns in various places met. An awful scene of confusion, conflict, and carnage then ensued. Imagination can not compass the terrible sublimity of that spectacle. The dark midnight, the howlings of the wintry storm, the driving sheets of snow, the incessant roar of artillery and of musketry from one hundred and thirty thousand combatants, the lightning flashes of the guns, the crash of the falling trees as the heavy cannon-balls swept through the forest, the floundering of innumerable horsemen bewildered in the pathless snow, the shout of onset, the shriek of death, and the burst of martial music from a thousand bands—all combined to present a scene of horror and of demoniac energy, which probably even this lost world never presented before. The darkness of the black forest was so intense, and the snow fell in flakes so thick and fast and blinding, that the combatants could with difficulty see each other. They often judged of the foe only by his position, and fired at the flashes gleaming through the gloom. At times, hostile divisions became intermingled in inextricable confusion, and hand to hand, bayonet crossing bayonet, and sword clashing against sword, they fought with the ferocity of demons; for though the officers of an army may be influenced by the most elevated sentiments of dignity and of honor, the mass of the common soldiers have ever been the most miserable, worthless, and degraded of mankind. As the advancing and retreating host wavered to and fro, the wounded, by thousands, were left on hill-sides and in dark ravines, with the drifting snow, crimsoned with blood, their only blanket; there in solitude and agony to moan and freeze and die. What death-scenes the eye of God must have witnessed that night, in the solitudes of that dark, tempest-tossed, and blood-stained forest! At last the morning dawned through the unbroken clouds, and the battle raged with renovated fury. Nearly twenty thousand mutilated bodies of the dead and wounded were left upon the field, with gory locks frozen to their icy pillows, and covered with mounds of snow. At last the French were victorious at every point. The Austrians, having lost twenty-five thousand men in killed, wounded, and prisoners, one hundred pieces of artillery, and an immense number of wagons, fled in dismay. This terrific conflict has been immortalized by the noble epic of Campbell, which is now familiar wherever the English language is known.
"On Linden, when the sun was low, All bloodless lay the untrodden snow, And dark as winter was the flow Or Iser, rolling rapidly. "But Linden saw another sight, When the drums beat at dead of night, Commanding fires of death to light The darkness of her scenery." &c.
The retreating Austrians rushed down the valley of the Danube. Moreau followed thundering at their heels, plunging balls and shells into their retreating ranks. The victorious French were within thirty miles of Vienna, and the capital was in a state of indescribable dismay. The Emperor again sent imploring an armistice. The application was promptly acceded to, for Napoleon was contending only for peace. Yet with unexempled magnanimity, notwithstanding these astonishing victories, Napoleon made no essential alterations in his terms. Austria was at his feet. His conquering armies were almost in sight of the steeples of Vienna. There was no power which the Emperor could present to obstruct their resistless march. He might have exacted any terms of humiliation. But still he adhered to the first terms which he had proposed. Moreau was urged by some of his officers to press on to Vienna. "We had better halt," he replied, "and be content with peace. It is for that alone that we are fighting." The Emperor of Austria was thus compelled to treat without the concurrence of England. The insurmountable obstacle in the way of peace was thus removed. At Luneville, Joseph Bonaparte appeared as the embassador of Napoleon, and Count Cobentzel as the plenipotentiary of Austria. The terms of the treaty were soon settled, and France was again at peace with all the world, England alone excepted. By this treaty the Rhine was acknowledged as the boundary of France. The Adige limited the possessions of Austria in Italy; and Napoleon made it an essential article that every Italian imprisoned in the dungeons of Austria for political offences, should immediately be liberated. There was to be no interference by either with the new republics which had sprung up in Italy. They were to be permitted to choose whatever form of government they preferred. In reference to this treaty, Sir Walter Scott makes the candid admission that "the treaty of Luneville was not much more advantageous to France than that of Campo Formio. The moderation of the First Consul indicated at once his desire for peace upon the Continent, and considerable respect for the bravery and strength of Austria." And Alison, in cautious but significant phrase, remarks, "These conditions did not differ materially from those offered by Napoleon before the renewal of the war; a remarkable circumstance , when it is remembered how vast and addition the victories of Marengo, Hohenlinden, and the Mincio, had since made to the preponderance of the French armies."
It was, indeed, "a remarkable circumstance," that Napoleon should have manifested such unparalleled moderation, under circumstances of such aggravated indignity. In Napoleon's first Italian campaign he was contending solely for peace. At last he attained it, in the treaty of Campo Formio, on terms equally honorable to Austria and to France. On his return from Egypt, he found the armies of Austria, three hundred thousand strong, in alliance with England, invading the territories of the Republic. He implored peace, in the name of bleeding humanity, upon the fair basis of the treaty of Campo Formio. His foes regarded his supplication as the imploring cry of weakness, and treated it with scorn. With new vigor they poured their tempests of balls and shells upon France. Napoleon sealed the Alps, and dispersed his foes at Marengo, like autumn leaves before the Alps, and dispersed his foes at Marengo, like autumn leaves before the gale. Amid the smoke and the blood and the groans of the field of his victory, he again wrote imploring peace; and he wrote in terms dictated by the honest and gushing sympathies of a humane man, and not in the cold and stately forms of the diplomatist. Crushed as his foes were, he rose not in his demands, but nobly said, "I am still willing to make peace upon the fair basis of the treaty of Campo Formio." His treacherous foes, to gain time to recruit their armies, that they might fall upon him with renovated vigor, agreed to an armistice. They then threw all possible embarrassments in the way of negotiation, and prolonged the armistice till the winds of winter were sweeping fiercely over the snow-covered hills of Austria. They thought that it was then too late for Napoleon to make any movements until spring, and that they had a long winter before them, in which to prepare for another campaign. They refused peace. Through storms and freezing gales and drifting snows the armies of Napoleon marched painfully to Hohenlinden. The hosts of Austria were again routed, and were swept away, as the drifted snow flies before the gale. Ten thousand Frenchmen lie cold in death, the terrible price of the victory. The Emperor of Austria, in his palaces, heard the thunderings of Napoleon's approaching artillery. He implored peace. "It is all that I desire," said Napoleon; "I am not fighting for ambition or for conquest. I am still ready to make peace upon the fair basis of the treaty of Campo Formio."
While all the Continent was now at peace with France, England alone, with indomitable resolution, continued the war, without allies, and without any apparent or avowed object. France, comparatively powerless upon the seas, could strike no blows which would be felt by the distant islanders. "On every point," says Sir Walter Scott, "the English squadrons annihilated the commerce of France, crippled her revenues, and blockaded her forts." The treaty of Luneville was signed the 9th of February, 1801. Napoleon lamenting, the continued hostility of England, in announcing this peace to the people of France, remarked, "Why is not this treaty the treaty of a general peace? This was the wish of France. This has been the constant object of the efforts of her government. But its desires are fruitless. All Europe knows that the British minister has endeavored to frustrate the negotiations at Luneville. In vain was it declared to him that France was ready to enter into a separate negotiation. This declaration only produced a refusal under the pretext that England could not abandon her ally. Since then, when that ally consented to treat without England, that government sought other means to delay a peace so necessary to the world. It raises pretensions contrary to the dignity and rights of all nations. The whole commerce of Asia, and of immense colonies, does not satisfy its ambition. All the seas must submit to the exclusive sovereignty of England." As William Pitt received the tidings of this discomfiture of his allies, in despairing despondency, he exclaimed, "Fold up the map of Europe. In need not again be opened for twenty years."
While these great affairs were in progress, Napoleon, in Paris, was consecrating his energies with almost miraculous power, in developing all the resources of the majestic empire under his control. He possessed the power of abstraction to a degree which has probably never been equaled. He could concentrate all his attention for any length of time upon one subject, and then, laying that aside entirely, without expending any energies in unavailing anxiety, could turn to another, with all the freshness and the vigor of an unpreoccupied mind. Incessant mental labor was the luxury of his life. "Occupation," said he, "is my element. I am born and made for it. I have found the limits beyond which I could not use my legs. I have seen the extent to which I could use my eyes. But I have never known any bounds to my capacity for application."
The universality of Napoleon's genius was now most conspicuous. The revenues of the nation were replenished, and all the taxes arranged to the satisfaction of the people. The Bank of France was reorganized, and new energy infused into its operations. Several millions of dollars were expended in constructing and perfecting five magnificent roads radiating from Paris to the frontiers of the empire. Robbers, the vagabonds of disbanded armies, infested the roads, rendering traveling dangerous in the extreme. "Be patient," said Napoleon. "Give me a month or two. I must first conquer peace abroad. I will then do speedy and complete justice upon these highwaymen." A very important canal, connecting Belgium with France, had been commenced some years before. The engineers could not agree respecting the best direction of the cutting through the highlands which separated the valley of the Oise from that of the Somme. He visited the spot in person: decided the question promptly, and decided it wisely, and the canal was pressed to its completion. He immediately caused three new bridges to be thrown across the Seine at Paris. He commenced the magnificent road of the Simplon, crossing the rugged Alps with a broad and smooth highway, which for ages will remain a durable monument of the genius and energy of Napoleon. In gratitude for the favors he had received from the monks of the Great St. Bernard, he founded two similar establishments for the aid of travelers, one on Mount Cenis, the other on the Simplon, and both auxiliary to the convent on the Great St. Bernard. Concurrently with these majestic undertakings, he commenced the compilation of the civil code of France. The ablest lawyers of Europe were summoned to this enterprise, and the whole work was discussed section by section in the Council of State, over which Napoleon presided. The lawyers were amazed to find that the First Consul was as perfectly familiar with all the details of legal and political science, as he was with military strategy.
Bourrienne mentions, that one day, a letter was received from an emigrant, General Durosel, who had taken refuge in the island of Jersey. The following is an extract from the letter:
"You can not have forgotten, general, that when your late father was obliged to take your brothers from the college of Autun, he was unprovided with money, and asked of me one hundred and twenty-five dollars, which I lent him with pleasure. After his return, he had not an opportunity of paying me, and when I left Ajaccio, your mother offered to dispose of some plate, in order to pay the debt. To this I objected, and told her that I would wait until she could pay me at her convenience. Previous to the Revolution, I believe that it was not in her power to fulfill her wish of discharging the debt. I am sorry to be obliged to trouble you about such a trifle. But such is my unfortunate situation, that even this trifle is of some importance to me. At the age of eighty-six, general, after having served my country for sixty years, I am compelled to take refuge here, and to subsist on a scanty allowance, granted by the English government to French emigrants. I say emigrants , for I am obliged to be one against my will."
Upon hearing this letter read, Napoleon immediately and warmly said, "Bourrienne, this is sacred. Do not lose a moment. Send the old man ten times the sum. Write to General Durosel, that he shall immediately be erased from the list of emigrants. What mischief those brigands of the Convention have done. I can never repair it all." Napoleon uttered these words with a degree of emotion which he had rarely before evinced. In the evening he inquired, with much interest of Bourrienne, if he had executed his orders.
Many attempts were made at this time to assassinate the First Consul. Though France, with the most unparalleled unanimity surrounded him with admiration, gratitude, and homage, there were violent men in the two extremes of society, among the Jacobins and the inexorable Royalists, who regarded him as in their way. Napoleon's escape from the explosion of the infernal machine, got up by the Royalists, was almost miraculous.
On the evening of the 24th of December, Napoleon was going to the Opera, to hear Haydn's Oratorio of the Creation, which was to be performed for the first time. Intensely occupied by business, he was reluctant to go; but to gratify Josephine, yielded to her urgent request. It was necessary for his carriage to pass through a narrow street. A cart, apparently by accident overturned, obstructed the passage. A barrel suspended beneath the cart, contained as deadly a machine as could be constructed with gun-powder and all the missiles of death. The coachman succeeded in forcing his way by the cart. He had barely passed when an explosion took place, which was all over Paris, and which seemed to shake the city to its foundations. Eight persons were instantly killed, and more than sixty were wounded, of whom about twenty subsequently died. The houses for a long distance, on each side of the street, were fearfully shattered, and many of them were nearly blown to pieces. The carriage rocked as upon the billows of the sea, and the windows were shattered to fragments. Napoleon had been in too many scenes of terror to be alarmed by any noise or destruction which gunpowder could produce. "Ha!" said he, with perfect composure; "we are blown up." One of his companions in the carriage, greatly terrified, thrust his head through the demolished window, and called loudly to the driver to stop. "No, no!" said Napoleon; "drive on." When the First Consul entered the Opera House, he appeared perfectly calm and unmoved. The greatest consternation, however, prevailed in all parts of the house, for the explosion had been heard, and the most fearful apprehensions were felt for the safety of the idolized Napoleon. As soon as he appeared, thunders of applause, which shook the very walls of the theatre, gave affecting testimony of the attachment of the people to his person. In a few moments, Josephine, who had come in her private carriage, entered the box. Napoleon turned to her with perfect tranquillity, and said, "The rascals tried to blow me up. Where is the book of the Oratorio?"
Napoleon soon left the Opera and returned to the Tuileries. He found a vast crowd assembled there, attracted by affection for his person, and anxiety for his safety. The atrocity of this attempt excited universal horror, and only increased the already almost boundless popularity of the First Consul. Deputations and addresses were immediately poured in upon him from Paris and from all the departments of France, congratulating him upon his escape. It was at first thought that this conspiracy was the work of the Jacobins. There were in Paris more than a hundred of the leaders of the execrable party, who had obtained a sanguinary notoriety during the reign of terror. They were active members of a Jacolin Club, a violent and vulgar gathering continually plotting the overthrow of the government, and the assassination of the First Consul. They were thoroughly detested by the people, and the community was glad to avail itself of any plausible pretext for banishing them from France. Without sufficient evidence that they were actually guilty of this particular outrage, in the strong excitement and indignation of the moment a decree was passed by the legislative bodies, sending one hundred and sixty of these bloodstained culprits into exile. The wish was earnestly expressed that Napoleon would promptly punish them by his own dictatorial power. Napoleon had, in fact, acquired such unbounded popularity, and the nation was so thoroughly impressed with a sense of his justice, and his wisdom, the whatever he said was done. He, however, insisted that the business should be conducted by the constituted tribunals and under the regular forms of law. "The responsibility of this measure," said Napoleon, "must rest with the legislative body. The consuls are irresponsible. But the ministers are not. Any one of them who should sign an arbitrary decree, might hereafter be called to account. Not a single individual must be compromised. The consuls themselves know not what may happen. As for me, while I live, I am not afraid that any one will be killed, and then I can not answer for the safety of my two colleagues. It would be your turn to govern," said, he, smiling, and turning to Cambaceres;" and you are not as yet very firm in the stirrups . It will be better to have a law for the present, as well as for the future." It was finally, after much deliberation, decided that the Council of State should draw up a declaration of the reasons, for the act. The First Consul was to sign the decree, and the Senate was to declare whether it was or was not constitutional. Thus cautiously Napoleon proceed under circumstances so exciting. The law, however, was unjust and tyrannical. Guilty as these men were of other crimes, by which they had forfeited all sympathy, it subsequently appeared that they were not guilty of this crime. Napoleon was evidently embraced by this uncertainty of their guilty, and was not willing that they should be denounced as contrivers of the infernal machine. "We believe ," said he, "that they are guilty. But we do not know it. They must be transported for the crimes which they have committed, the massacres and the conspiracies already proved against them." The decree was passed. But Napoleon, strong in popularity, became so convinced of the powerlessness and insignificance of these Jacobins, that the decree was never enforced against them. They remained in France. But they were conscious that the eye of the police was upon them. "It is not my own person," said Napoleon, "that I seek to avenge. My fortune which has preserved me so often on the field of battle, will continue to preserve me. I think not of myself. I think of social order which it is my mission to re-establish, and of the national honor, which it is my duty to purge from an abominable stain." To the innumerable addresses of congratulation and attachment which this occurrence elicited Napoleon replied. "I have been touched by the proofs of affection which the people of Paris have shown me on this occasion. I deserve them. For the only aim of my thoughts, and of my actions, is to augment the prosperity and the glory of France. While those banditti confined themselves to direct attacks upon me, I could leave to the laws the task of punishing them. But since they have endangered the population of the capital by a crime, unexampled in history, the punishment must be equally speedy and terrible."