« VorigeDoorgaan »
ment, and when the day was already to fight the battle over again, gave verging into twilight, one of the most orders for the troops to bivouac on desperate conflicts thatever took place the ground where they stood. with European cavalry, occurred by This cavalry fight had no equal, the collision of the Austrian and except the final collision of the EngFrench cuirassiers. The French in. lish and French heavy cavalry at fantry having, after a long action, Waterloo. But then the conflict, in forced the Austrian columns to take point of defence, was more unequal up a new position, and preparing to still, for the British were wholly follow them into the plains bordering without armour ; but they had strong the Danube, the Archduke placed swords and bold hearts, and they twelve squadrons of the Imperial broke down their antagonists, cuirass. cuirassiers, with a large body of hus. ed as they were. The cuirass has sars, on the road in front of Eglass- since been adopted in our service by heim, in which were posted some bat. the Life Guards, and the adoption has talions of grenadiers, supported by been rational and serviceable ; for several heavy batteries. As the French why should the lives of brave men be infantry approached this mass of ca- exposed the more carelessly for their valry, they halted for the advance of bravery? But the expedient ought to their own horse. A succession of be adopted in every regiment of charges followed; but at length the cavalry, and even in every battalion Austrian cuirassiers advanced, broke of infantry. Of course, the weighty through the French hussars, and cuirass of the Life Guards would be poured down upon their cuirassiers. unsuited for the lighter services ; but The conflict now became actually so a slight, yet highly effective cuirass, awful, that the infantry ceased their or simple plate of thin iron, might be fire; the artillery paused; and “in adapted to the entire cavalry and inthe melée was heard only, as from the fantry services. Many a dangerous battles of the knights of old, the clang wound might be averted, and many a of the swords ringing on the helmets valuable life might be saved by this and cuirasses of the dauntless antago- easy expedient, which, without adding nists. The sun set while the contest more than a few ounces to the weight was still undecided ; the moon rose of the soldier's equipment, and not on the strife, and amidst her rays, at all embarrassing his movements, fire was struck on all sides by the would add, in a most important desteel upon the armour, as if a thousand
gree, to his security. If we should anvils were ringing at once under embark in another war, humanity and the blows of the forgers."
common sense, and even policy, would But the equipment of the Austrians equally urge some contrivance of this was inferior. Some foolish experi. kind. mentalist in Vienna had been allowed The battle of Eckmuhl, though still to try with how little defence the sole exhibiting the unparalleled fortune dier might fight; and had, accord- and talents of Napoleon, yet exhibited ingly, armed the troops with half the on the part of his opponents, signs cuirass in front, the back being expo, which might well have startled him sed. This theory, which might have with fears of change. In this despeanswered sufficiently well for the rate conflict, the Austrians had not charge, had forgotten the existence of only fought with gallantry, but with the melée ; and when the squadrons skill. When driven from their posibecame mingled, the French, whose tion by the masses of the French, they bodies were defended all round, had had retreated without confusion; and a palpable advantage over their oppo- even in discomfiture had presented so nents. The result was, that, after a firm a countenance as to stop pursuit. long and various struggle, the Aus- Night fell, and Napoleon himself, trians were repulsed, leaving two- full of eagerness to finish the war at a thirds of their number on the field. blow, and flushed with success, dared But this gallant struggle gave time not press the retreating lion too closefor the retreat of the army. During ly. This new sense of their power its continuance, the artillery and in- saved the Austrian army. They had fantry were withdrawn to the rear. lost in killed, wounded, and prisoners, The reserve had time to advance, and twelve thousand men, a horrible eviNapoleon, seeing that he might have dence of one day's work of war. Their position, lying against a great to this sudden consciousness, to this river, without one bridge for its pas new-born pride, to this general ad. sage, was dangerous, and the Arch- vance into the sunlight, however imduke resolved on passing the Danube perfect, and however remote, the during the night. A bridge of boats change from national torpidity and was thrown over the stream, and by individual indifference to that new life, this and the bridge of Ratisbon the which evidently has marked the sucwhole force moved. With such cessive leading sovereignties for power silence, expedition, and dexterity, was and renown? And is it not the abthis great operation effected, that, sence of institutions calculated to sus. when the French stood to their arms tain this popular sense of character, in the morning, expecting a great which accounts for their disinheritance battle, they saw nothing before them of that distinction ? No man who but a vast empty plain, with, in knows human nature can believe that the extreme distance, the rearguard even the promises of the Mahometan of cavalry escorting the last guns paradise, formed as they were to inwithin the walls of Ratisbon. The flame the passions of the Arab and the French cavalry now pushed forward Turk, ever had the power to stimulate without delay, Napoleon was at their them into that gallant perseverance of head, and, in his haste to strike a final conquest, which carried them, like so blow by the capture of the town, many torrents of fire, at once to east exposed himself so much to the fire and west, north and south. A first from the ramparts, that he was struck impulse might have sent them forth by a musket-shot. The wound was full of dreams of wealth and possesonly in the foot, and inconsiderable ; sion; but the conquests of three cenbut the sight of the Emperor com- turies must have had a more powerful pelled to dismount from his horse stimulant than the dreams of devotees. spread alarm through the army, fol. All the brilliancy of all the houris, lowed by exultation equally vivid and all the fountains of wine that flowwhen they saw him suddenly mounted through the palaces of paradise, again, and exultingly felt that they would have been forgotten in the first were still under the protecting genius campaign of the burning desert of the of Napoleon.
Houran, or the sterile mountains of Under this impulse they were irre- Syria. The true stimulant which sistible by any troops that the Conti- turned a nation of shepherds succesnent could oppose to them. A new sively into a nation of conquerors, of race of soldiership, a new order of sages, and of sovereigns,was the newmen, and a new spirit of gallantry, born sense of superiority over the determination, and defiance, was yet loose and fugitive Greek, the conto tear down the laurels which had sciousness of a new faculty, and that grown so thickly round the pyramid faculty fame. of the great conqueror's fame. But We find the same principle acting that time was not to be yet; and in the same direction every where. there was nothing to supply the place The armies of Spain, once the terror of the future deliverers in even the and the admiration of Europe, were practised discipline and devoted intre- formed less by the long discipline of pidity of the German. We hope that the Moorish wars, than by that sense Mr Alison, before the completion of of triumph over a daring antagonist, his history, will indulge us with some which elevated the estimate of himself striking speculations in the philosophy in the bosom of every peasant from of this distinction. It is remarkable the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean, that the conquering periods of the The early terror of the Moslem to all modern military nations, have always European nations, augmented the rebeen preceded by some powerful nown of their conquerors; and from public impulse ; that some impression the moment in which the crescent was has been made upon the pene
lowered on the battlements of Gra. trating enough to descend to its low- nada, the Spanish peasant felt himself est ranks; and that it is this newly- the first peasant of Europe. The deawakened, deeply-infused sense of feat of the famous chivalry of Austria character, which has turned the popu. by the Swiss at Morgarten, turned every lation into warriors, and the warriors mountaineer of the Cantons into a into conquerors. Are we not to trace soldier, and made them the champions
of Europe till they degenerated into an exemplification as soldiership must the mercenaries. Down to Marig- furnish of the civil virtues, it is to this nano was their day of invincibility. sense of personal character that we But from that period they were only should largely attribute the habitual an army of policemen, and they fought superiority of the soldier in that counlike policemen. It was neither re- try, which, above all others that ever publican discipline nor revolutionary existed, makes character essential, enthusiasm that made the whole po gives opportunities to the individual pulation of France pour into the field, of becoming known, and practically, and fight the battles that swept Eu- by its numberless means of publicity, rope in the early part of the war. may be said to keep every class, and Sich motives were insufficient for an almost every individual of every class, eflect so ardent, vast, and inflexible. before the eye of the nation. It was the new feeling in the French At this crisis of the war of 1809, peasant that he could be a man—the the true pivot of Napoleon's supre. discovery that the serf who lived from macy, Mr Alison gives an admirably generation to generation, unknowing written and perfectly true sketch of and unknown beyond the edge of his the labours of that extraordinary bevillage, might be talked of and thought ing. “ The road to Vienna lay open of throughout his province-that the to the conqueror. It was a matter of hewer of wood and drawer of water, mere convenience when he should step to whom the external world was as forward and seize capital of the little an object of contemplation as the monarchy." The rapidity of his operadepths of science, might suddenly tions had not been less astonishing stand on a ground to which he, till than their completeness ; within twelve then, had never thought of lifting his days from his leaving Paris, he had eye; it was a new access of sensibility broken up the Austrian plan of the
; to the opinion of men—a sudden influx campaign; had fought the main army of the hope of distinction—a keener for four days—in other words, four consciousness of the love of applause, great battles; had forced one Austrian which is born with every man, but army which threatened his flank into which decays in the obscure life of the the Tyrol, had driven another, under peasant, and dies in the total depres- his old and gallant antagonist the sion of the slave.
Archduke Charles, into the defiles of It is thus that the organs of public Bohemia. The loss of the Austrians city-journals, pamphlets, harangues, had been dreadful, 30,000 men killed stir and strike public character. Even or taken, a hundred guns, six hundred the furious falsehoods of the French ammunition waggons, baggage incaljournals less operated on the Revolu- culable. The French, too, had suftion by exciting the popular revenge, fered fearfully; they had lost 20,000 than exhibiting a rapid way to all men men in front of the enemy-what they to take the rank of public characters. had lost in their rapid marches, or Who can doubt the influence of this were hourly to lose in the hospitalspublicity among a wild population, those lazarhouses of the field-no dowhen a journal might raise such a cument has attempted to detail. If compound of mendicant and miscreant ever the words 6 veni, vidi, vici," as Marat into the universal talk of were applicable to a modern con. France? What must be the stimulant queror, they might now have been of the power of conferring the loftiest used by Napoleon. names of ancient heroism on the ob- But with what solemn awe at the scure villainy of Paris ; and lifting depravity of human nature, and what on the shoulders of the multitude sacred astonishment at the infatuation men, who, until that hour of convul. of the human understanding, must not sion, never dreamed of looking above the moralist, nay, the man of common the ditch in which they were born, reason and common humanity, con. and in which they expected to die? template this scene of madness, reckBut it is this sense of character which lessness, and ruin ! Fifty thousand a great legislator would study as the human beings - perhaps twice the most powerful security for national number-utterly cut off from all their eminence, and which a great people uses in the world, within four days ! should preserve as the most productive And for what ?-to enable one man to source of public energy. And, rude call himself a victor. The lives thrown away, in the prime of life, activity, His letters to his lieutenants during the and intelligence, would have culti- next five days, would of themselves make vated a province; the wealth wasted a volume.
His calculation of time was in the field, the very baggage and
so exact, and the habits of precise obe. would have covered many a district
diepce on the part of his generals so comof the empire with fertility and opu- plete, that his divisions invariably arrived Lence. Yet all was destroyed in a
on the ground assigned them at the very
moment on which he relied, and when moment, without producing the most
their operation was required; and genetrifling advantage to any human be. ing. War must exist while there is the rally again marched and combated on the evil spirit that covets the possessions day following without any intermediate
repose. By this means, though his forces or envies the happiness of man. There
were not, upon the whole, more numerous, must be defence where there is attack.
at least at that period, than those of the But what an accumulation of crime
Austrians, they were almost always greatly must lie on the head of the man or
superior at the point of attack. Nor did the nation which makes a war of the Emperor shun the fatigue which he aggression! With what an eye must thus imposed upon his soldiers ; on the the great Father of all look upon the contrary, not one of them underwent any furious passion for blood or gold, thing like the mental and bodily labour to or the still higher motive for per- which he subjected himself. From the sonal vanity, which mutilates human morning of the 19th, when the battle of happiness in so sweeping a scale- Abensberg began, till the night of the 23d, which makes man known to man only when that of Ratisbon terminated, he was as living by devastation-which per- on horseback, or dictating letters, at least verts the arts and intelligence given eighteen hours a-day; he had outstripped for the general dominion of man over
his own saddle-horses by the rapidity of nature into the means of unspeakable his journey, and knocked
up those of the wretchedness—which presents power
King of Bavaria by the fatigue they had to nations in the light of terror, ven
undergone; and when all around him were
ready to drop down with exhaustion, he geance, and agony-and turns preeminent genius, indefatigable ardour, began to read and dictate despatches; and
sat up half the night receiving reports from magnanimous self-constraint, heroic
the generals and marshals, and completing scorn of difficulty, the noble desire to
the directions, from the preceding day. be honoured in life and remembered
He has himself told us, that his manæuvres in death by all mankind-all the high
at this period, in Bavaria, were the most est gifts of Providence to the human
brilliant of his life ; and, without going the mind, into the deadliest instruments of length of so extraordinary an eulogium, it human ruin! The crime and the
may safely be affirmed that they never were punishment were never displayed with excelled by the operations either of himself more memorable warning than in or any other general.” the example of the mighty Emperor of France. Erfurth and St Helena
The description of the night which
followed the first day of the battle of were the extremes of his career; hu. man elevation and human overthrow Aspern, is remarkably graphic and were never more widely separated, the attack with Napoleon at their
natural. The French, who had made nor more summarily conjoined. If
head, with the full confidence of vicever vengeance was judicial, it was in the sudden fall, the hopeless cap- their prize, had been repelled with
tory, and with Vienna before them as tivity, and the obscure end, of Napoleon in St Helena-an exile two thou. great slaughter, and both armies now sand miles from the scene of his prepared to sleep upon the field. But triumphs-a prisoner in the hands of the feelings of the two mighty hosts his enemies-a byword to all nations !
were now widely different from those But at the period of the Austrian
of the morning. On the side of the campaign this extraordinary man was
French, the confidence of victory had only ascending to his ultimate height. been succeeded by the chill of disap
pointment. “ Unwearied by a rapid journey night " The wonted shouts of the men were no. and day for six successive days from Paris, longer heard ; a dark feeling of anxiety he no sooner arrived at Donauwerth, than oppressed every breast; the brilliant meteor he began the incessant questioning and of the empire seemed about to be extin. correspondence, which with him were the guished in blood. They could not conceal invariable preludes to great achievements, from themselves that they had been worsted
in the preceding day's fight. Aspern was lic, the empire, and the world, would lost; Essling was surrounded; the line in have been changed. A dusky dynasty the centre had been forced back; the enemy of African merchants would have slept among the dead bodies of the French; ruled Italy, until some of their own while the multitude of slain, even in the mercenaries would have subverted farthest reserves of their own lines, showed their narrow and selfish sovereignty, how completely the enemy's batteries had
and some fierce Ethiopian, with his reached every part of their position. The
horde of fellow savages, would have Austrians, on the other hand, were justly been lord over the temperate zone. elated by their unwonted and glorious suce
There must be difficulties, as the For the first time, Napoleon had
writer himself remarks, in attempting sustained a decided defeat in the field ; his best troops had been bafled in a pitched tals by fortifications. Their enormous
to circumscribe any of the great capi. battle ; his position was critical beyond expression ; and the well-known hazard of
extent, the consequent expense of the bridges diffused the hope that, on the
formation and repairs, the almost nem morrow, a decisive victory would rescue cessary weakness of some part, and the country from the oppressor, and at one
the infinite mischief to be produced to blow work out the deliverance of Germany. the citizens and the state by exposing It is certainly highly to the honour of Aus- the metropolis to a siege, are serious trian courage, that so great a battle should obstacles. But, to the project of have been fought after the capture of the erecting a great citadel near enough capital. But the fall of Vienna had already to be regarded as the protector of the placed a power in the hands of the con- metropolis, yet not involving it in queror, which could be resisted by nothing the chances of assault or bombardment, short of a miracle."
no objection can be easily foreseen. Mr Alison here makes some very The power of withdrawing the most striking remarks on the necessity of important materials of the national fortifying the great European capitals, strength, the essential property of the or at least of giving them citadels state, all that constitute the actual capable of containing twenty or thirty instruments of the general governthousand soldiers, and serving as a ment, from the chance of seizure by deposit for the national archives and the first rush of invasion, must be of stores, till the national strength can the very highest importance. In fact, be fairly roused for their rescue. He it must generally decide the question justly observes, that, had Austria pos- whether the nation is to be conquered sessed such a fortress, either in or or saved ; because, from the magniadjoining to Vienna, the invasions of tude of the present European king. 1805 and 1809 must have ruined the doms, the actual population is always invaders ; that, had Berlin been as adequate to destroy any hostile force strong as Dantzic, the French would that in the existing circumstances can have been detained round it until the be thrown into any kingdom of Eu. arrival of the Russians, and thus six rope, with, perhaps, the exception of years of misery and plunder would Denmark. Even Sweden has four have been saved to Prussia; that, had millions of people. And what invadthe Kremlin been capable of holding ing force could resist the fourth part out six weeks, the terrible sacrifice of of this population, a million of men, Moscow would not have been re- armed, disciplined, and determined to quired. The examples on the other fight for their own fields, and in their side are equally strong. Torres own fields ?
The true point is the Vedras, the gigantic work, less even time to prepare and summon the of the labours of the British army, whole population ; and this time is to than of the genius of Wellington, be given only by providing the means saved Portugal. In earlier days, of retarding the advances of the inthe fortifications of Vienna saved vader, and of securing the govern. not only Austria, but perhaps Chris- ment from being seized, and forced to tendom, from the Turks. In still compromise the national cause. by more remote times, the fortunes of closing the national resistance. In the West lay within the walls of England, our constitutional jealousy Rome. - If," as Burke
says, “ the might justly prohibit the erection of conqueror of Cannæ had not been
a great fortress in sight of London, frowned away by the armed majesty” and the nature of our true force, the of the Republic on his advance to Fleet, renders this hazardous precauthese walls, the history of the Repub- tion unnecessary. But how the great