We are very well aware that in the opinion of certain writers and critics, who profess to tell us all about the wars of Napoleon
everybody is to be believed, except the man who of all others knew the most about the occurrences — that is, Napoleon
The vilest labeller, the most abandoned of mankind, who never speak truth on any other occasions, always speak truth when they assail Napoleon
. Nobody that says a word in his favor, can be anything else than a liar.
It is with some diffidence, therefore, that we quote what Napoleon
himself said with regard to two melodramatic scenes that cut a conspicuous ague in Sir Robert's book.
Sir Robert says he was at Miloradowitch's quarters, on the 4th October, when he received a message from General Benningsen
, requesting him to return to headquarters.
He found an assembly of general officers a waiting his return.
"They afforded him proof that Kutusoff
, in answer to a proposition made by Lauriston on behalf of Napoleon
, had agreed to meet him this same night at a station several miles from his most advanced videttes, on the road to Moscow
, there to confer on the terms of a convention, 'of the immediate retreat of the whole invading army from the territories of Russia
, which convention was also to serve as the basis of a peace to which it was to be the preliminary. ' They added that 'Napoleon
himself might be expected at the interview, as Lauriston had stated that he would be accompanied by a friend.' They therefore required from the English General
'that he would act as commissioner of the Emperor
under his delegated authority,' and 'as an English commissioner charged with the protection of the British
and allied interests.' adding' the resolve of the chiels, which would be sustained by the army, not to allow Kutusoff
to return and resume the command If once he quitted it for this midnight interview in the enemy's camp.' They declared that they wished to avoid extreme measures, but that their minds were made up to dispossess the Marshal of his authority if he should incredibly persevere.
He then goes on to say that Kutusoff
admitted, in a private interview, that he knew the propositions were of a pacific character, that could not persuade him not to receive on, but at last persuaded him to receive them at headquarters, in the midst of his Generals
Now, hear what Napoleon
says with regard to the object of this mission.--Some writer upon the Russian
campaign had made the same statement with regard to this supposed proposition of an armistice, in a work which the exiled Emperor
reviewed at St. Helena, dictating to Gen. Montholon
. The words of the writer in question are, "General Lauriston
was sent to Prince Kutusoff, to propose an armistice.
received Lauriston in the midst of his General." Napoleon
's comment is curt, and to the point. --"This, " says he "is all false.
It was not the object of Lauriston's mission to demand either peace or an armistice." Now, we are simple enough to believe Napoleon
in preference to Sir Robert Wilson
, not withstanding the elaborate dramatic machinery which he has introduced into his narrative.
The famous scene of Murat
with Miloradowitch is also pronounced to be false.
See 5th volume of Napoleon
's own Memoirs, dictated at St. Helena to Gourgaud and Montholon
, page 232.
Let us now turn to the closing paragraph of Blackwood,
in its notice of Wilson
"It is now ascertained beyond all doubt that the frightful losses sustained by the French
were not owing to the cold.
The following facts, upon which all writers of all parties are agreed, decisively prove this.
crossed the Niemen with 420,000 men: left Witopsk with 180,000: abandoned Moscow
with 100,000, and could only muster at Dorogobouge, before the deadly cold set in. 50,000 combatants in the ranks.
Allowing for 120,000 detached during the advance to the flanks, this makes the loss of combatants from the ranks amount to 250,000 in the army under Napoleon
in person, before the win or set in. The cold aggravated frightfully the sufferings of the 50,000 who remained, but had nothing to do with the destruction of the main body, (the 250,000.) To what, then, was it owing?
To three causes.
1. The immensity of the distances to be traversed.
From the Niemen to Moscow
is above six hundred miles. No human efforts were capable of conveying provisions for 420,000 men over such a distance.
An English army almost perished because it could not procure land-transport sufficient for six miles of bad road, during inclement weather, from Balaklava
to its camp before Sebastopol
had six hundred miles of road to bring his supplies along.
No power could accomplish this.
2. The barren nature of the country through which they had to pass.
The rich low-lands of Italy
will afford sustenance to any number of men marching through them in an ordinary manner.
All that is there required is a store with the army of six or seven days provisions, for the case of its concentrating to fight.
But the vast Lithuanian
and Russian plains, thinly inhabited, covered with pine forests, where towns are rare and cultivation sparse, could provide sustenance for no considerable body.
The first corps exhausted their resources — the succeeding ones starved.
3. The immense supectority of the enemy in light horse.
cavalry, almost impotent on the field of battle, are unrivaled, for the light duties of a campaign.
Their numbers, and the patriotic devotion of the peasantry, enabled them to destroy all the villages before the French
reached them — to cut off all small parties sent out to forage — to capture all convoys, unless guarded by immense escorts.
The innumerable cavalry, artillery, and baggage animals of the French
army, speedily devoured all fodder near the road; if they went to a distance in search of it, they were captured; if they did not, they died of want.-- This frightfully aggravated the difficulty, already overwhelming, of transport, and soon destroyed the efficiency of the allied horse.
These three causes, combined with the heroic devotion of the Russian
which led them to shrink from no sacrifice, however great, in the defence of their country, shivered to pieces the whole power of banded Europe
, even when concentrated by the iron will and directed by the unrivaled genius of Napoleon
We do not pretend to be versed in the art of campaigning, but we have read history to some extent.
Besides, here, we are armed with the authority of Napoleon
himself, who certainly was as good a soldier as any of Blackwood's
We do not, therefore, fear to encounter this paragraph.
In the first place, then, it has not been ascertained, beyond all doubt, that the frightful losses sustained by the French
owing to the cold.
On the contrary, it is perfectly plain, to our apprehension, that Napoleon
told the truth when he said so, and that no array of figures, or fabrication of events, can ever gainsay the truth.
In the campaign of Russia
, the magazines, of the first line were not on the Niemen. --Therefore, Napoleon
was not compelled to transport his provision six hundred miles.--The town of Smolensko, three hundred
miles from Moscow
, was taken on the 17th of August, 1812.
It was immediately armed, provisioned, and made the pivot upon which turned the march upon Moscow
In the rear of Smolensko, the second line had enormous magazines at Minsk and Wilna
, only eight marches off. A third line occupied Grodno, Kovno and Bialystock: a fourth, Thodno, Plock, Warsaw
; a fifth, Dantzic, Bamberg
and Posen: a sixth, Stettin
, Custrin and Glogaw.
His rear, then, from Smolensko to Stettin
, was closed up by six lines of troops and magazines.
Four hundred thousand men crossed the Niemen, (Col. Napier
saw the roll.) Of these, 240,090 remained in reserve, in the country that lies between the Borysthenes and the Niemen.
The problem now to be solved, was a march upon Moscow
, from Smolensko.
The distance is only three hundred miles. Up to Smolensko the country was all on Napoleon
's side, and he procured horses, men and provisions, without any difficulty.
Was this a very rash enterprise, even supposing the intermediate space to have been a desert?
If it was, we shall take occasion hereafter to show the world has misjudged all those whom it has considered its greatest Generals
— such as Alexander
, Julius Caesar
, Gustavus Adolphus
, Marshal Turenne
, &c.; for every one of these Generals
gained their laurels by expeditions far more unpromising.
From Smolensko Napoleon
marched upon Moscow
, at the head of 160,000 men. The Russians
continually retired before him until they reached Borodino
At four intermediate points between Smolensko and Borodino
he left strong detachments, amounting, in the aggregate, to 40,000 men. At all these points magazines and hospitals were established and they guarded his rear so effectually that during the whole time of his march, and of the twenty days stay in Moscow
, not a sick soldier, not a convoy, not an estafette, or even a straggler, was carried off, in the long distance that lies between Moscow
.--With 120,000 men he fought the battle of Borodino
, about seventy miles from Moscow
No man in the world but Rostopchin dreamed of burning Moscow
— not even the Emperor Alexander, or Kutusoff
, or Sir Robert Wilson
. The 630,000 men that the Magazine
talks about never existed.
The 250,000 men it talks about as being destroyed before Napoleon
left Smolensko for Moscow
, were safe behind, in the rear, forming the reserve army between the Niemen and the Borysthenes.
They did not enter the field until after the retreat from Moscow
, and a part of them not even then; for Schwartzenberg carried his corps to Warsaw
, on his way home, deserting Reynier, with whom he was associated, uncovering his flank, and exposing him to destruction.
had entered Moscow
as a con- queror.
He had the choice, either to march upon St. Petersburg
or to return to Poland
.-- He chose the latter alternative.
He left Moscow
with 100,000 men. He easily made his way through all the impediments offered by the enemy, and was within three marches of Smolensko, when the snow set in, a month earlier than it had done for one hundred years. Thirty thousand horses died in one night.
It became impossible to transport provisions or artillery, and all the cavalry were dismounted.
It thus became, also, impossible to refit, or take up a position nearer than Wilna
In the meantime Schwartzenberg abandoned Wilna
, and instead of coming forward to relieve the army at Moscow
, retreated on Warsaw
, and ended by obtaining an armistice for himself.
Such are some of the incidents.
The cold was an agent sufficiently powerful to overthrow all Napoleon
Why rack the imagination to invent others?