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'On the 10th, the French, being now concentrated, (except the corps of Victor, which was manoeuvring on the left,) and composed of the corps of Marshals Ney, Lasnes, D'Avoust, Mortier, Oudinot's division, the Imperial Guard, the Cavalry under Murat, advanced upon Heilsberg, and drove in the advanced posts of the troops stationed to observe their approach.'
This movement was followed by a most desperate and bloody action, in which the Russians maintained their position; their loss however was very severe; and General Benningsen, conceiving in the course of the ensuing day, that the enemy were marching upon Koenigsberg, detached General Kaminskoy with 9000 men, to support General Lestoque, in his defence of that place, and moved himself in the night of the 11th of June, across the Aller, in order to march upon Wehlau, and maintain the line of the Pregel. On the 13th, in the evening, the army reached Friedland, from whence a body of French hussars had in the morning been driven by the Russian cavalry. On the following day was fought the battle of Friedland, which decided the campaign, and terminated the war. The circumstances which led to this fatal action are explained in the following passage.
'From the information of the prisoners, General Benningsen believed that Oudinot's corps, so shattered at Heilsberg, was alone stationed at Posthenen, about three miles in front of Friedland, on the road to Kœnigsberg. Having occupied the town, and thrown forward some cavalry to cover it from insult during the night, he determined, at four o'clock in the morning, to fall upon Oudinot with a division and complete his extinction; accordingly he ordered a division to cross the Aller, and advance to the attack. The enemy at first shewed but a very small force, which encouraged perseverance in the enterprize; but by degrees resistance so increased, that another division was ordered to cross the Aller, and in addition to the town bridge, the construction of three pontoon bridges was directed. A heavy cannonade soon commenced, the enemy's tirailleurs advanced, columns presented themselves, cavalry formed on the Russian right flank, and General Benningsen, instead of a rencontre with a crippled division, found himself seriously engaged, not only with Oudinot, but with the two supporting corps of Lasnes and Mortier, sustained by a division of dragoons under General Grouchy, and by the curiassiers of General Nansouty, while his own feeble force was lodged in a position which was untenable: from which, progress could not be made against an equal force, nor retreat be effected without great hazard, and when no military object could be attained for the interests and reputation of the Russian army, whose courage had been sufficiently established, without tilting for fame as adventurers who have nothing to lose and every thing to win.'
Without entering into a description of the battle itself, it is easy to anticipate the consequences which were likely to ensue from en
gaging under circumstances such as we have just stated: The Russian army was totally defeated--but as an army it was not disgraced, and we have peculiar pleasure in quoting in this place the language of Lord Hutchinson, who appears, from a passage of his dispatches, to have done ample justice to their extraordinary valour; a valour,
'Which he wants terms sufficiently strong to describe, and which would have rendered their success undoubted, if courage could alone ensure victory: but whatever may be the event, the officers and men of the Russian army have done their duty in the noblest manner, and are justly entitled to the praise and admiration of every person who was
witness of their conduct.'
We have before remarked on the conduct of General Lestoque and the Prussians; but during no period of the two campaigns did that general display more talents than in the management of his retreat upon Koenigsberg, when the advance of the French army in the beginning of June separated him from the main body of the Russians, and in his subsequent movements to join General Benningsen on the right bank of the Memel. In this situation of affairs, the Emperor Alexander was in an unhappy moment induced to enter into negotiations for peace;
Thus,' says Sir Robert Wilson, terminated the campaign and the war: a war in which Russia, with the feeble numerical aid of Prussia, and the partial aid of Sweden, had been opposed not only to France, but to Switzerland, Italy, Saxony, the Confederation of the Rhine, part of Poland, and even Spain (for the advance of the Spanish troops into the north of Germany, enabled Mortier's corps to join the grand army) a combination of force of which the Russians might have said, as the Great Frederick when enumerating his enemies, I do not know that there will be any shame for me in being defeated, but I am sure there could be no great glory for them in defeating me.'
Even against such a powerful combination, the resistance of Russia was of so decided and energetic a character, that during the progress of the war Buonaparté had been induced, upon more occasions than one, to solicit peace, and in order to recruit his shattered forces for the opening of the campaign of 1807, compelled (as we have before had occasion to observe) to draw reinforcements from every quarter of his dominions. We believe, indeed, that he admitted himself, to the Emperor of Russa, at Tilsitz, that the passage of the Vistula, and carrying of the war to the frontiers of Russia, in the inhospitable climate of a Polish winter, was, ' une bêtise:' and that his loss, since he first crossed that river, was not less than 119,000 men.
With all our admiration, however, of the courage of those who caused so destructive a loss to the French army in the short period
VOL. V. NO. IX.
of six months, we cannot conceal from ourselves the conviction that great errors were committed by the Russian General. Sir Robert Wilson has with equal propriety and delicacy abstained from pointing them out; but in fact the mere perusal of his narrative is sufficient to make them intelligible. It is obvious, in the first place, that time was unnecessarily lost, and the Russian army exposed to the most imminent hazard, when after the affair of Mohrungen, at the end of January, General Benningsen, upon the concentration of the French, determined not to retire at once from that place, but making a flank movement by his left to Yankowo, to await the issue of a general action. The position which was there taken up, appears to have been an extremely unfavourable one, and he was compelled with a greatly inferior force to retreat in the presence of the enemy, whose superiority enabled him, not only to press the main body of the Russian army with vigour, but to manoeuvre upon their right, and nearly to cut off their communication with General Lestoque.
The ground chosen for battle at Eylau appears also to have been exposed to great disadvantages, as we find that the French position domineered it so completely, as to expose the minutest object to their fire' and it is afterwards stated, that the French cannon replied with vigour and effect, as every man of the Russian army was exposed from head to heel.' With regard to General Benningsen's determination to retreat after the battle, we do not presume to give an opinion, as the propriety of the course to be adopted under such circumstances, must depend upon a variety of considerations, into which we cannot feel ourselves competent to enter. We are, moreover, extremely unwilling to follow the example of many persons in this country, who, deriving all their knowledge of military matters from the ignorant comments of ignorant scribblers, condemn every officer as incapable, whose mode of conducting the difficult and complicated operations of war, does not exactly accord with their own extravagant and presumptuous notions. But although we would hesitate, on points of a doubtful nature, yet we cannot but be sensible, that there are errors sufficiently obvious, even to those who have no practical knowledge of military affairs. Among these we reckon the determination of the Russian General to open the campaign in June 1807, with a force so extremely inferior to that of his antagonist; whereas it is manifest, that, situated as he was, with the knowledge that an effort was about to be made by England; and that possibly such an effort might have been powerfully seconded from other quarters, delay ought to have regulated every movement, and that above all things a general engagement was to be avoided. Unfortunately these considerations did not operate upon his mind; and he not only assumed the offensive when he should have retired, but suffered him
self to be drawn into a general action, in a position where success was hardly possible, and where defeat was destruction: one circumstance indeed occurred at Friedland, which would scarcely be credible if it were not communicated by so unimpeachable a witness as Sir Robert Wilson: we mean the total ignorance in which the Russian Generals seem to have been of the fords by which the defeated army crossed the Aller, the accidental discovery of which saved them from annihilation.
It affords a convincing proof of the lamentable deficiency of their staff, and, combined with the other events of that fatal day, renders it quite painful to peruse the description of it: Never,' we may say, with our author, was resolution more heroic, or patience more exemplary than that displayed by the Russians-Never was a sacrifice of such courage more to be deplored.' We do indeed deeply deplore the sacrifice, and the train of calamitous consequences which resulted from it, to England and to the world. But has England nothing wherewith to reproach herself? Has she no 'compunctious visitings of nature,' for the cold and timid, policy which locked up her treasure and her strength, at a moment when a liberal application of them might perhaps have turned the scale, and saved the falling fortunes of the continent?
Without entering into a more detailed view of these questions, and above all, without referring invidiously to those who conducted the administration of this country, we have little hesitation in saying, that the timely interference of England might, and perhaps would, have produced the most decisive and fortunate results. We should have thought it wise for England to stretch out her arm to an ally, whose fidelity and resolution were so nobly displayed throughout the war, till disappointment and distrust alienated her affections, and threw her in a moment of defeat and despondency into the arms of France. Indeed a general system of opposition to that ambitious and restless power is not more accordant with our safety than our interest. The active resistance, which has been partially attempted by one administration, and abandoned by another, must become the fixed principle, both of the government and of the people. Thus only can our independence be secured-thus only can the exalted rank, which nature intended us to hold amongst the nations of the earth, be gained and permanently established.
Sir Robert Wilson claims indulgence from the public, on account of the motives which led him to present his work to their notice, and he trusts that he may disarm the hostility of contemporary writers by the modesty of his literary pretensions.' The public, we are confident, will grant the indulgence, and, if we may judge from our own feelings, will peruse it with interest and gratification: and it is because we decidedly approve the manly tone and spirit in which
which it is written, and the general substance of its contents, that we venture to suggest to the author, that its value would not have been diminished, if the construction had been somewhat more grammatical, and the style less rhetorical and ornamented. There are indeed some passages, so involved in their arrangement, that it requires more pains than ordinary readers can be expected to bestow to discover their real import. Those, to whom it may be agreeable to find fault, may animadvert upon them more at large, we shall content ourselves with merely noticing the fact; and if, after the discussion of the great questions which are involved in the subject of this work, we were to descend to more trifling considerations, we would add, that it is so unnecessarily expensive as to check that circulation, to which, on many accounts, it is entitled.
ART. IV. De Motu per Britanniam Civico. Annis MDCCXLV et MDCCXLVI. Auctore T. D. Whitakero, LL.D. S. S.A. Londini. Nichols. 1809. pp. 145.
THE singularity of the attempt to record a recent occurrence of our own history in the Latin language, might alone be sufficient to draw our attention to this production; if the execution were in any degree answerable to the boldness and difficulty of the design. In the fate of the author's predecessors, in similar undertakings, there seems little to encourage a repetition of such labours. Even the full and accurate histories of Buchanan, Camden, and Thuanus, are, we fear, already suffering that neglect which, amidst the multiplication of books, and the improvement of modern literature, must, sooner or later, await all but the most finished and original productions in a dead language.
Indeed at the time when those histories appeared, many causes conspired to give the Latin a decided preference. In the first place, hardly any modern language was yet so cultivated and improved, as to furnish a fit vehicle for that perfect form of history, which presented itself to the mind of a scholar trained in the Grecian and Roman schools. The prospect too, of attracting the notice of other countries, was then a powerful motive with a writer for adopting the common medium of literary men throughout Europe. Nor should it be forgotten, that, among the general readers of his own country in that age, a great majority were, by habit and education, fully competent to peruse works of this kind, and prepared to expect them. There is something, moreover, independent of the intrinsic excellence of the Latin tongue, in the mere circumstance of its being fixed and immutable, which inclines us to