« VorigeDoorgaan »
"Then we will die together!" exclaimed Carlo, in despair.
"By no means, until we can do nothing better," said the general, with a sudden return to his former style. "You shall see what a soldier who served under Daun can do, even against these wonder working heroes of the new school. There are plainly troops enough in the village for three things; to be beaten, to be starved, and to be taken prisoners. I shall try a fourth, and see whether we cannot teach them to beat the Frenchmen."
He sallied forth, followed by Sebastiani. A few words announced that "Major-General von Sharlheim was come to take the command of the division." The name was well known, and the soldiers quickly gathered from the cottages and fields. In half an hour they amounted to a considerable force; the entrance to the village was soon covered with a trench; the trench was covered by a palisade of trees; and the two field-pieces were masked, to sweep the flank. Their preparations were scarcely made, before the French drums were heard advancing. They had clearly given up the idea of a surprise, and were determined on carrying the place by main strength. The major-general was now once more in his element, and even Carlo was surprised at the combined activity and sagacity which he displayed. He ordered universal silence, and that not a shot should be fired until he gave the word. The enemy made the attack in their usual rushing manner. They were suffered to advance to the trench, and even to jump down into it in considerable numbers, before the signal was given. But, when the command to fire produced its effect, nothing could be more deadly. Every bullet told among the crowded ranks of the enemy's column; and the fire of the fieldpieces, loaded to the muzzle with grape, split it asunder as if it had been divid. ed by a thunder-bolt. In a few minutes five hundred men lay killed or wounded on the ground. The attack was now abandoned with still more haste than it had been made, and in this manner night passed. But the troops, animated by their victory, and directed by the general, had spent the time till morning, to the fullest advantage.
"My lads," said he, "this business has turned out well, and may yet turn out better. I see that, by some means
or other, we have got into the midst of the French army. Rely on it, they have not employed so much fire on us for nothing; and I shall undertake to say that our keeping this position will be felt in more quarters than one. They will attack us again. Therefore now fall to; fortify every spot where a man can stand; and remember, that Germany is looking on you this day!"
His words were amply verified; for, about noon, the adjoining woods were observed to be filled with the enemy's light troops, and an entrance was attempted by powerful columns at both extremities of the village. But the stubbornness of the defence was even superior to the obstinacy of the attack. The houses happened to be chiefly strong-built dwellings; and the thatch, usually adopted in that part of Germany, had been so often stripped by the successive belligerents, that it had been lately replaced with tiles. On such trifles may depend great things in war; and on this depended the defence of this accidental position, and with it the fate of the campaign. For on that day Moreau had been marching to strike a blow at the detached corps of Zeckendorf, as he had struck it at the corps of Latour, and the result of his success must have been either the retreat or the overthrow of the Archduke. The check in the vil lage first warned the Austrian advancing corps of the approach of its wily and powerful antagonist; and next ens abled Zeckendorf to move his whole force unmolested-join the Archduke in the valley of the Rhine--and thus turn the Frenchman's victorious march into a retreat once more.
The tidings of this junction reached Moreau's headquarters, and there was now no hope, even of escape, but in manoeuvring on the Black Forest. The Archduke boldly poured his battalions towards Waldkirch, and found the French, strongly posted on the heights, debouching on the western border. An immediate assault was ordered, and one of the most desperate and memorable battles of the war began.
Von Sharlheim's predictions were now about to receive their accomplishment. He had no sooner observed the suddenness and completeness of the enemy's retreat, than he ordered the abandonment of the village. "They
are gone to try their fortune somewhere else," said he, "and we must follow them." Marching all night, and gathering all the scattered troops on his way, the brave old man reached the summit of the hills above Waldkirch by daybreak. Carlo rode at his side, and the view from the heights was one of the loveliest mixture of natural beauties, with the stern preparations of war. The French, still scarcely less than seventy thousand men, (for their losses had been filled up by frequent reinforcements,) were formed in order of battle, with their centre at Emmendingen, and their rear resting on the pine groves of Newburg. For some hours all was tranquil. The different positions of the guns, and salient points of the rising grounds, were undergoing that slight formation of field works which marked an expected attack: but all else was calm; and the rich sounds of the French military bands, as they rose up the mountain, more resembled those of a holiday than of an army anticipating battle.
But, about noon, the Austrian columns were seen advancing; and the engagement commenced by an attempt to turn the left flank of the French, and get possession of a height commanding Waldkirch, and forming the key of the enemy's position. The whole front of the French line was instantly covered with the fire of their powerful and well-served artillery. From the point where Carlo stood, the entire scene was visible far below, and nothing could be a more stimulating or splendid spectacle to the eye of one formed to be a soldier.
Republicanism, which had changed every thing else, had changed the art of war. The multitudes which it forced to the field had made life valueless in the computations of the French generals; and where the guillotine was the certain reward of defeat, the only thing to be considered was victory. Thus every manœuvre was made in immense masses, and the losses were tremendous. The German tactics, of course, underwent a similar change, and battles now consisted of a succession of furious attempts to throw a sudden weight of men and fire, at all risks, on the opposing battalions. The Astrians fought with the gallantry of men fighting under the eyes of their most distinguished general, and pursuing an enemy which sought only
to escape. But the hours passed, and the French still continued firm.
At length, Von Sharlheim, who had long continued gazing on the field with an anxious eye, pointed out to Carlo a strong column of the enemy which, detaching itself from the main body, was descending a defile in the followed by a long train of
"Look there," said he ; "Moreau evidently knows what he is about. That column will be in rear of the Archduke's left within an hour, and the fate of Germany will be decided."
"What is to be done?" asked his impatient hearer; "I see that their movement must be prevented. Can we not throw ourselves on them, as they debouche from the defile, and at least give time to prepare? Give the word
"Spoken like a general, but a young one,' was the reply. "If we were to advance now, we certainly might make an impression, but we should as certainly put the French on their guard. No; we must wait until the column is within sight of the Archduke, and then try what can be done. We must not lose our blow."
"Ha! we shall be too late!" ex
claimed Carlo. "Look there; they are already sending their tirailleurs into the thicket." A cloud of dust suddenly rolled along the wide valley at their feet. "See, too, what a force of cavalry are galloping round the foot of the mountain: if they fall on the Austrian left, exposed to the sudden shock of the infantry, all is lost."
"Right, Carlo!" said the general; "I see that you were born for your profession." He ranged the field again with his telescope, and wrote a few lines. "Mount your horse, and take this note to the general commanding the division on the left; it may save the army. Farewell."
The veteran clasped his hand. "Yet stay a moment, my brave young friend," said he, in a voice of unusual emotion; "if we should meet again, all will be well; if we should not, let me thank you, for the last time, for the services which you have done me and mine. Your bravely venturing to look for me among the dead and dying in the fortress, was, as I then thought, the mere prolonging of an existence that I longed to lay down. But it has given me an opportunity, worth a thou
sand lives, to redeem my name, and show, that if Von Sharlheim failed once, it was not for want of the spirit of a soldier or the feelings of a man. And now, begone! If I fall this day, write that epitaph upon the spot wherever I may be laid and give Carolina the last blessing that I have to offer in the world." He once more clasped Sebastiani's hand.
General," was the solemn answer, "I have pledged myself to her for life or death, and that pledge I shall redeem. I too have an anxious part to play. In returning to the sight of the Austrian army, I return under disgrace. But I shall wipe that away, or die. In you I have a noble example, and I shall follow it, let what will come.-Remember me to Carolina. If I fall, her name will be found written on my heart. Again, farewell."
He put spurs to his horse, and after a difficult gallop through the defiles and thickets of that remarkably broken country, reached the division which formed the Austrian wing. It was hotly engaged in front with the enemy's light troops, and evidently had its full attention engrossed by the attack. Carlo observed a small group of officers standing on an eminence a few hundred yards to the flank, rode up to them, and announced his message. An officer, who had been ranging the field with his telescope, suddenly turned at the voice. the Archduke himself. Carlo felt the blood rush to his temples. The prince looked on him in silence, with an enquiring air, for a moment, and then read the note.
"Ha!" he exclaimed, "this is important indeed, Here," handing it to an aid-de-camp, "take this instantly to General Zeckendorf, and tell him to send up every battalion that he can spare to this spot. Gentlemen," said he, "the enemy will be upon us in a few minutes. All this is most unfortunate. Zeckendorf cannot arrive in time; and I fear our only resource will lie in making a retreat with as little loss as we can." The group dispersed to their posts at full speed.
He then turned to Sebastiani, who stood prepared for the whole weight of imperial and military wrath: he spoke rapidly.
"Have I not seen your face some
NO. CCXCVI. VOL. XLVII,
where, sir, before?-But no matter. Who has sent this information? Ha! I see- -Von Sharlheim. I thought that he was killed."
"No, sir, he still lives, and lives for his country's service,' was the
Apropos, can you tell me who commanded in the village of Nordlingen?" asked the Archduke. "That was a very clever affair. It did us a great deal of good."
"Major-General von Sharlheim." "What! he is not on my staff. How came he there? What division did he command?"
"No division. He fought with such troops as he could find. He provisioned them, barricaded the post, and left the ground covered with two thousand of the enemy's killed and wounded.”
"Capital! He shall be a lieutenant-general for that day's work. And where is he now? We want such creators of armies ?"
"On the ridge of yonder mountains, just two leagues from this spot."
"Why is he not here? Yet, of what use could he be now? If I had known this two hours ago, we should have made a glorious day of it.-But look there. Do you know what troops are these debouching from the forest? Ha, I see-they are the enemy, and in force. Well, we must fight them to the last. Ride, sir, to the general of brigade at the head of yonder defile, and tell him of the enemy's advance, and that, in case of his finding them on his flank, he must echellon his brigade and retire fighting."
The aspect of the field in this quarter now began to be discouraging in the extreme. The Austrians saw themselves unexpectedly exposed to an attack for which they were altogether unprepared. Fresh troops were pouring from the hills, and large bodies of cavalry were seen in the forest roads, only waiting till an impression was produced by the battaÎions in advance, to cut up the fugitives. The spectacle at this moment had all the grandeur and all the terrors of war on its largest scale. The combatants, on both sides, could not amount to less than a hundred and thirty thousand men. The whole range of the hills was like a ridge of volcanoes, and the slopes and plains below them were the scene of inces
sant charges of infantry and cavalry. To add to the other features of magnificence and awe, a thunder-storm came on at the approach of evening, and the gusts of wind, and the pealing of the thunder, filled the mountains with a roar louder than even the battle.
Carlo, thus left alone, flew back to his friend, whom he found still gazing on the field. "All is lost," said the old general; "the Austrians are always nervous about flank attacks, and Moreau may now begin a campaign which will end only in Vienna."
The struggle again roared louder below, the clouds of smoke rose thicker still, and the two armies seemed to be making a final effort, the one for existence, the other for victory. Carlo at length threw the telescope from his hand, and sprang from the ground, where he had been lying.
"The French," he exclaimed, "have made a blunder! We may turn it into ruin. Look there-they have suffered their advance to separate itself from the main body. They have placed a quarter of a league already between their right wing and their centre. Give the order to move, and we may still be in time."
'Right, right," said Von Sharlheim; "I see it now. Ride forward-take a thousand men, and fall on their guns; if you can overtake them before they get out of the defile, they are ours. Onward, and leave the rest to me."
The conception was one of those traits of talent which mark the true leader. The French, in their haste to realize the victory, and wholly unconscious that they had an enemy be. hind, had hurried on. The charge and hurrah of the troops led by Carlo, threw them into instant and irremediable confusion. Guns, baggage, and ammunition fell into the hands of the pursuers. Still this was but the defeat of a column, and the battle raged over a line of leagues. To produce its effect on such a scale, it must be known. Carlo, with the quick invention of his country, struck upon a new expedient: he piled a large quantity of the captured baggage on the summit of the defile, wheeled an am. munition waggon close to the pile, and set the whole on fire. The blaze sprang up, and was soon discernible in the twilight, shaking its broad volumes over the whole horizon; it at length caught
the waggon, and fifty barrels of gunpowder threw a column of fierce light up to the heavens.
The fortunes of the day were changed at the instant. To the French it seemed, that their entire artillery had been seized by some unaccountable army rising out of the ground. To the Austrians it was plain, that some extraordinary event had been wrought in their favour; and the retreating battalions rushed forward with loud shouts, to take advantage of the change. Moreau still fought steadily and well; but he was now pushed in all quarters, and his only resource was to pass the Rhine. He left ten thousand men on the field that night; and sending Dessaix to cross the river at Old Bresach, at nightfall carried over the remnant of the finest army of France to Huninguen.
By sunrise there was not a French soldier on the right bank of the Rhine. A distinguished group were standing on a rising ground looking at the last French boat landing its fugitive burden. In front of his staff was seen the Archduke, with General von Sharlheim at one side, and Carlo at the other. The old man wore his uniform; and Carlo was employed in displaying to the gaze of a beautiful young female a brilliant order which the Archduke had just taken from his bosom, and thrown over the neck of his restored aid-de-camp.
"Gentlemen," said the hero of Germany, "I am not a man of many words; but this day is not likely to be forgotten. GERMANY IS FREE. have fought for our firesides, and have now only to enjoy them. In your presence I thank my old and gallant friend, now Lieutenant-General von Sharlheim, for services of the highest value; and, as for Carlo, I question whether he would think any thing on earth worth accepting, but the thanks of the Lady Cobentzel. And now, Germans and comrades, homeward. You have fought bravely, steadily, and successfully; and while I see such men round me, I shall never despair of the freedom of our Fatherland."
He then turned his charger's front to the group, and spoke in a confidential tone.
"I must now return to Vienna without delay. We must meet there. Carlo, I have ascertained by the papers found on the traitor, who now lies in
a dungeon to receive the punishment of his twofold treachery, the wrong which I did you. Your French corporal, who contrived by the use of French gold at Vienna to be placed on my staff, and had nearly ruined the campaign, awaits only the sentence of a court-martial. We must make such experiments hazardous to the lively genius of our neighbours on the opposite side. I appointed you my aid-decamp. You have since earned something more.
As the Hulans have lost
their colonel, you will take the command on their way to the Danube, and I shall settle the appointment with the Aulic Council."
Sebastiani thanked him with a glowing tongue. Carolina looked all gratitude. The great soldier gazed on her loveliness for a period, as if in the sight he had forgotten all things beside. "Colonel Sebastiani," at length said he, "you must bring this lady with you. Vienna is famous for beauty, and we must not lose its fairest representative. Courts can add nothing to your happiness, but you can add largely to their brilliancy and their virtue. Now farewell."
He put spurs to his horse, and galloped forward. In another minute he drew up his reins, and beckoned to Von Sharlheim.
"General," said he, "Erlach is yet to be taken. The French have left a garrison there, which we must root out before they try the temper of our swords again. I am acquainted with the circumstances of its surprise. It was, in fact, untenable; and you did your duty like a true German."
" I ask your Imperial Highness but one favour on earth," exclaimed the gallant veteran. "It is to be suffered to return, and at least attempt to retake the fortress. I feel a weight on my mind, and a stain on my honour, until I am once more within its ramparts."
"It is the very thing which I was anxious to hear you propose," was the answer. "You have already wiped away every stain. Our last battle was your reply to the empire. The charge on the French right was masterly. It had the vigour of youth and the science of age."
"That charge was not mine," said the general.
"Whose, then?" asked the Archduke, with an emotion of surprise.
"The aid-de-camp of your Imperial Highness, and colonel of the Hulans."
"What? Carlo again! Call him to
But no: I see that he is sunning himself in the dazzling eyes of the Lady Cobentzel. The young soldier is enchanted, and has neither eyes nor ears for earth. It must be owned that the spell is incomparable. I must now begone. Yet-stay a moment."
He wrote a few lines, leaning on his saddlebow. "Here," said he, "is an order to Papendick and Brevern to put themselves and their divisions under your command. You will march them to Erlach, and when you have expelled the French, bring their colours with you to Vienna, to be ready for the marriage of your niece and the young hero. At last-farewell."
The Prince waved his hand to the lovers, and, followed by his escort, was soon lost sight of in the forest. Many an aspiration from the hearts of his two gallant soldiers, and a tear of thankfulness from the fair fiancée, were his reward.
Within a few hours the general was at the head of the troops in march for the fortress. Carlo and Carolina followed him. But the enterprise was destined to be a bloodless one. The garrison, destitute of all hope of assistance, surrendered at the first summons, and the governor exultingly received their colours and the swords of their officers on the bastion where he had fought and fallen on the night of the surprise. Nothing now was wanting to the happiness of all but the journey to Vienna, the meeting with the widowed mother of Sebastiani, who had so long lamented him as dead, and the reconciliation with the aristocratic family of Carolina. All was speedily accomplished. Even an Imperial aid-de-camp and colonel of