During the whole Russian campaign, the Emperor was nearly always badly lodged. It was necessary, however, to accommodate himself to circumstances; though this was a somewhat difficult task to those who were accustomed to lodge in palaces. The Emperor accepted the situation bravely, and all his followers consequently did the same. In consequence of the system of incendiarism adopted as the policy of Russia, the wealthy part of the population withdrew into the country, abandoning to the enemy their houses already ruined. In truth, on the whole road leading to Moscow, with the exception of a few unimportant towns, the dwellings were very wretched; and after long and fatiguing marches, we were very happy if we found even a hut at the place the Emperor indicated as headquarters. The owners of these miserable hovels on quitting them left there sometimes two or three seats and wooden beds, in which were an abundant supply of vermin that no invasion could drive out. The least filthy place was chosen, which was usually the most airy; and we knew when the cold came, icy breezes would not fail us. When the location had been chosen, and we decided to halt there, a carpet was spread on the ground, the Emperor's iron bedstead set up, and a dressing-case containing everything necessary in a bedroom placed open on a small table. This case also contained a breakfast service for several persons, which luxury was displayed when the Emperor entertained his marshals. It was necessary, at all events, to bring ourselves down to the habits of the humblest citizens of the province. If the house had two rooms, one served as sleeping and dining room, the other for his Majesty's cabinet. The box of books, geographical maps, the portfolio, and a table covered with green cloth, were the entire furniture. This was also the council chamber; and from these beggarly huts were sent forth those prompt and trenchant decisions which changed the order of battle and often the fortunes of the day, and those strong and energetic proclamations which so quickly reanimated the discouraged army. When our residence was composed of three rooms,—an extremely rare occurrence, then the third room, or closet, was occupied by the Prince de Neuchatel, who always slept as near by as possible. We often found in these wretched dwellings old decayed furniture of singular shapes, and little images in wood or plaster of male or female saints which the proprietors had left. Frequently, however, we found poor people in these dwellings, who, having nothing to save from conquest, had remained. These good people seemed much ashamed to entertain so badly the Emperor of the French, gave us what they had, and were not, on that account, less badly esteemed by us. More of the poor than rich received the Emperor into their houses; and the Kremlin was the last of the foreign palaces in which the Emperor slept during the Russian campaign.
When there were no houses to be found, we erected the Emperor's tent, and, in order to divide it into three apartments curtains were hung; in one of these apartments the Emperor slept, the next was the Emperor's cabinet, and the third was occupied by his aides-de-camp and officers of the service; this latter room being ordinarily used as the Emperor's dining-room, his meals being prepared outside. I alone slept in his room. Roustan, who accompanied his Majesty on horseback, slept in the entrance room of the tent, in order that the sleep which was so necessary to him should not be disturbed. The secretaries slept either in the cabinet or the entrance room. The higher officers and those of the service ate where and when they could, and, like the simple soldiers, made no scruple of eating without tables.
Prince Berthier's tent was near that of the Emperor, and the prince always breakfasted and dined with him. They were like two inseparable friends. This attachment was very touching, and points of difference rarely arose between them. Nevertheless, there was, I think, a little coolness between him and the Emperor at the time his Majesty left the army of Moscow. The old marshal wished to accompany him; but the Emperor refused, and thereupon ensued an animated but fruitless discussion.
The meals were served on the campaign by M. Colin, controller of the kitchen service, and Roustan, or a bedroom servant.
During this campaign more than any other the Emperor rose often in the night, put on his dressing-gown, and worked in his cabinet: frequently he had insomnia, which he could not overcome; and when the bed at last became unbearable, he sprang from it suddenly, took a book and read, walking back and forth, and when his head was somewhat relieved lay down again. It was very rarely he slept the whole of two nights in succession; but often he remained thus in the cabinet till the hour for his toilet, when he returned to his room and I dressed him. The Emperor took great care of his hands; but on this campaign he many times neglected this species of coquetry, and during the excessive heat did not wear gloves, as they inconvenienced him so greatly. He endured the cold heroically, though it was easy to see he suffered much from it physically.
At Witepsk the Emperor, finding the space in front of the house in which he had his quarters too small to hold a review of the troops, had several small buildings torn down in order to enlarge it. There was a small dilapidated chapel which it was also necessary to destroy in order to accomplish this, and it had been already partly torn down, when the inhabitants assembled in large numbers, and loudly expressed their disapprobation of this measure. But the Emperor having given his consent to their removing the sacred objects contained in the chapel, they were pacified; and, armed with this authority, several among them entered the sacred place, and emerged bearing with great solemnity wooden images of immense height, which they deposited in the other churches.
We were witnesses while in this town of a singular spectacle, and one well calculated to shock our sense of decency. For many days during the intense heat we saw the inhabitants, both men and women, rushing to the banks of the river, removing their clothing with the greatest indifference to spectators, and bathing together, most of them nearly naked. The soldiers of the guard took pleasure in mingling with these bathers of both sexes; but as the soldiers were not so decorous as the inhabitants, and as the imprudencies committed by our men soon went too far, these worthy people relinquished the pleasures of their bath, very much displeased because sport was made of an exercise they had enjoyed with so much gravity and seriousness.
One evening I was present at a grand review of the foot grenadiers of the guard, in which all the regiments seemed to take much delight, since it was in honor of the installation of General Friant
[Louis Friant, born in Picardy, 1758; brigadier-general, 1794; served on the Rhine and in Italy; accompanied Napoleon to Egypt, and became general of division; wounded at Austerlitz (1805), and was at Jena and Wagram; commanded the grenadiers of the guard in Russian campaign, and was severely wounded at Waterloo; died 1829]
as commander of the corps. The Emperor gave him the accolade, which was the only occasion on which I saw this done during the campaign; and as the general was much beloved by the army, it was amidst the acclamations of all that he received this honor from the Emperor.
Promotions were usually welcomed by the soldiers with great enthusiasm, for the Emperor required that they should take place with much pomp and ceremony.
Many persons thought that to be near the Emperor was a proof of being well provided for on the campaign. This is a great mistake, as even the kings and princes who accompanied his Majesty on his campaigns could easily prove; and if these great personages lacked absolute necessaries, it may well be believed that the persons comprising the different services fared badly. The Emperor himself often dispensed with ordinary comforts which would have been very agreeable to him after the fatigues of the day.
At the hour for the bivouac it was a general "lodge who can;" but the poorest soldier never had in his deprivation the chagrin of seeing his superiors enjoying abundance and scandalous luxury. The first generals of the army often dined on ammunition-bread with as much pleasure as the simple soldier, and on the retreat the misery could not have been more general. This idea of deprivations shared by all did much to restore hope and energy to the most discouraged; and, I may add, never has more reciprocal sympathy between chiefs and soldiers been seen, in support of which statement innumerable instances could be given.
When evening came the fires were kindled, and those foragers who had been most successful invited their companions to share their good cheer. In the worst times there was poor, yet still not the worst, fare to offer, consisting of slices of broiled horse-flesh.
Many soldiers deprived themselves of some valuable booty to offer it to their chief, and selfishness was not so general that this noble French courtesy did not reappear from time to time to recall the happy days of France. Straw was the bed of all; and those of the marshals who in Paris slept on most luxurious beds of down did not find this couch too hard in Russia.
M. de Beausset has given me a very amusing account of one night, when sleeping pell-mell on a little straw, in very narrow quarters, the aides- de-camp attending upon the Emperor stepped mercilessly on the limbs of their sleeping companions, who, fortunately, did not all suffer from gout like M. Beausset, and were not injured by such sudden and oft-repeated onslaughts. He cried, "What brutes!" and drawing his legs under him, cowered down in his corner until this passing and repassing had ceased for a while.
Picture to yourself large rooms, filthy, unfurnished, and open to the wind, which entered through every window, nearly all the glass of which was broken, with crumbling walls and fetid air, which we warmed as well as possible with our breath, a vast litter of straw prepared as if for horses, and on this litter men shivering with cold, throwing themselves about, pressing against each other, murmuring, swearing, some unable to close their eyes, others more fortunate snoring loudly, and in the midst of this mass of legs and feet, a general awakening in the night when an order from the Emperor arrived, and you may form an idea of the inn and the guests.
As for myself, during the entire campaign I did not a single time undress to retire to bed, for I never found one anywhere. It was necessary to supply this deficiency by some means; and as it is well known that necessity is ever ready with inventions, we supplied deficiency in our furnishings in the following manner: we had great bags of coarse cloth made, into which we entered, and thus protected, threw ourselves on a little straw, when we were fortunate enough to obtain it; and for several months I took my rest during the night in this manner, and even this I frequently could not enjoy for as many as five or six nights at a time, so exacting were the requirements of my position.
If it is remembered that all these sufferings continued in their petty details each day, and that when night came we had not even a bed on which to stretch our weary limbs, some idea may be formed of the privations we endured on this campaign. The Emperor never uttered a word of complaint when beset by such discomforts, and his example inspired us with courage; and at last we became so accustomed to this fatiguing and wandering existence, that, in spite of the cold and privations of every sort to which we were subjected, we often jested about the dainty arrangements of our apartments. The Emperor on the campaign was affected only by the sufferings of others, though his health was sometimes so much impaired as to cause anxiety, especially when he denied himself all rest not absolutely required; and yet I heard him constantly inquiring if there were lodgings for all, and he would not be satisfied until fully informed of every particular.
Although the Emperor nearly always had a bed, the poor quarters in which it was set up were often so filthy, that in spite of all the care taken to clean it, I more than once found on his clothing a kind of vermin very disagreeable, and very common in Russia. We suffered more than the Emperor from this inconvenience, being deprived as we were of proper linen and other changes of clothing, since the greater part of our effects had been burned with the wagons containing them. This extreme measure had been taken, as I have said, for good reasons, all the horses having died from cold or famine.
We were little better lodged in the palace of the Czars than on the bivouac. For several days we had only mattresses; but as a large number of wounded officers had none, the Emperor ordered ours to be given them. We made the sacrifice willingly, and the thought that we were assisting others more unfortunate than ourselves would have made the hardest bed endurable. Besides, in this war we had more than one opportunity to learn how to put aside all feelings of egotism and narrow personality; and had we been guilty of such forgetfulness, the Emperor was ever ready to recall us to this plain and simple duty.
The only too famous twenty-ninth bulletin of the grand army was not published in Paris, where the consternation it spread through all classes is well known, until the 16th of December; and the Emperor, following close upon the heels of this solemn manifesto of our disasters, arrived in his capital forty-eight hours after, as if endeavoring to annul by his presence the evil effects which this communication might produce. On the 28th, at half past eleven in the evening, his Majesty alighted at the palace of the Tuileries. This was the first time since his accession to the consulate that Paris had witnessed his return from a campaign without announcing a new peace conquered by the glory of our arms. Under these circumstances, the numerous persons who from attachment to the Empress Josephine had always seen or imagined they saw in her a kind of protecting talisman of the success of the Emperor, did not fail to remark that the campaign of Russia was the first which had been undertaken since the Emperor's marriage to Marie Louise. Without any superstition, it could not be denied that, although the Emperor was always great even when fortune was contrary to him, there was a very marked difference between the reign of the two Empresses. The one witnessed only victories followed by peace. And the other, only wars, not devoid of glory, but devoid of results, until the grand and fatal conclusion in the abdication at Fontainebleau.
But it is anticipating too much to describe here events which few men dared to predict directly after the disasters of Moscow. All the world knows that the cold and a freezing temperature contributed more to our reverses than the enemy, whom we had pursued even into the heart of his burning capital. France still offered immense resources; and the Emperor was now there in person to direct their employment and increase their value. Besides, no defection was as yet apparent; and, with the exception of Spain, Sweden, and Russia, the Emperor considered all the European powers as allies. It is true the moment was approaching when General Yorck would give the signal,—for as well as I can recall, the first news came to the Emperor on the 10th of the following January,—and it was easy to see that his Majesty was profoundly affected by it, as he saw that Prussia would have many imitators in the other corps of the allied armies.
At Smorghoni, where the Emperor had left me setting out, as I have before related, with the Duke of Vicenza in the coach which had been destined for me, scarcely anything was thought of but how to extricate ourselves from the frightful situation in which we found ourselves placed. I well remember that after a few regrets that the Emperor was not in the midst of his lieutenants, the idea of being assured that he had escaped from all danger became the dominant sentiment, so much confidence did all place in his genius. Moreover, in departing, he had given the command to the King of Naples, whose valor the whole army admired, although it is said that a few marshals were secretly jealous of his royal crown. I have learned since, that the Emperor reached Warsaw on the 10th, having avoided passing through Wilna by making a circuit through the suburbs; and at last, after passing through Silesia, he had arrived at Dresden, where the good and faithful King of Saxony, although very ill, had himself borne to the Emperor. From this place his Majesty had followed the road by Nassau and Mayence.
I followed also the same route, but not with the same rapidity, although I lost no time. Everywhere, and above all in Poland at the places where I stopped, I was astonished to find the feeling of security I saw manifested. From all directions I heard the report that the Emperor was to return at the head of an army of three hundred thousand men. The Emperor had been known to do such surprising things, that nothing seemed impossible; and I learned that he himself had spread these reports on his passage, in order to restore the courage of the population. In several places I could procure no horses; and consequently, in spite of all my zeal, I did not reach Paris until six or eight days after the Emperor.
I had hardly alighted from my carriage, when the Emperor, who had been informed of my arrival, had me summoned. I observed to the messenger that I was not in a condition which would allow me to present myself before his Majesty. "That makes no difference," replied he; "the Emperor wishes you to come immediately, just as you are." I obeyed instantly; and went, or rather ran, to the Emperor's cabinet, where I found him with the Empress, Queen Hortense, and another person whose name I do not perfectly recall. The Emperor deigned to give me a most cordial welcome; and as the Empress seemed to pay no attention to me, said to her in a manner whose kindness I shall never forget, "Louise, do you not recognize Constant?"
"I perceived him." [Elsewhere Constant has stated her reply was, "I had not perceived him."] This was the only reply of her Majesty the Empress; but such was not the case with Queen Hortense, who welcomed me as kindly as her adorable mother had always done.
The Emperor was very gay, and seemed to have forgotten all his fatigue. I was about to retire respectfully; but his Majesty said to me, "No, Constant, remain a minute longer, and tell me what you saw on your road." Even if I had any intention to conceal from the Emperor a part of the truth, taken thus unawares I should have lacked the time to prepare an agreeable falsehood; so I said to him that everywhere, even in Silesia, my eyes had been struck by the same frightful spectacle, for everywhere I had seen the dead and the dying, and poor unfortunates struggling hopelessly against cold and hunger. "That is true, that is true," he said; "go and rest, my poor boy, you must be in need of it. To-morrow you will resume your service."
The next day, in fact, I resumed my duties near the Emperor, and I found him exactly the same as he had been before entering on the campaign; the same placidity was evident on his countenance. It would have been said that the past was no longer anything to him; and living ever in the future, he already saw victory perched again on our banner, and his enemies humiliated and vanquished. It is true that the numerous addresses he received, and discourses which were pronounced in his presence by the presidents of the senate and the council of state, were no less flattering than formerly; but it was very evident in his replies that if he pretended to forget this disastrous experience in Russia, he was more deeply concerned about the affair of General Malet than anything else.
[In the reply of the Emperor to the council of state occurred the following remarkable passage, which it may not be amiss to repeat at this period as very singular:
"It is to idealism and that gloomy species of metaphysics which, seeking subtilely for first causes, wishes to place on such foundations the legislation of a people, instead of adapting the laws to their knowledge of the human heart, and to the lessons of history, that it is necessary to attribute all the misfortunes our beautiful France has experienced. These errors have necessarily led to the rule of the men of blood. In fact, who has proclaimed the principle of insurrection as a duty? Who has paid adulation to the nation while claiming for it a sovereignty which it was incapable of exercising? Who has destroyed the sanctity and respect for the laws, in making them depend, not on the sacred principles of justice, or the nature of things and on civil justice, but simply on the will of an assembly of men strangers to the knowledge of civil, criminal, administrative, political, and military law? When one is called on to regenerate a state, there are directly opposite principles by which one must necessarily be guided."—NOTE BY THE EDITOR of FRENCH EDITION.
Claude Francois de Malet, born at Dole, 1754. In 1806 was a general officer, and was dismissed the service. Plotting against the Emperor, he was imprisoned from 1808 to 1812. On October 24 he issued a proclamation that the Emperor had died in Russia, and that he (Malet) had been appointed Governor of Paris by the senate. He made Savary prisoner, and shot General Hullin. He was made prisoner in turn by General Laborde, and summarily shot.-TRANS. (See "The Memoirs" by Bourrienne for the detail of this plot. D.W.)]
As for myself I cannot deny the painful feelings I experienced the first time I went out in Paris, and passed through the public promenades during my hours of leisure; for I was struck with the large number of persons in mourning whom I met,—the wives and sisters of our brave soldiers mowed down on the fields of Russia; but I kept these disagreeable impressions to myself.
A few days after my return to Paris their Majesties were present at the opera where 'Jerusalem Delivered' was presented. I occupied a box which Count de Remusat had the kindness to lend me for that evening (he was first chamberlain of the Emperor, and superintendent of theaters), and witnessed the reception given the Emperor and Empress. Never have I seen more enthusiasm displayed, and I must avow that the transition seemed to me most sudden from the recent passage of the Beresina to those truly magical scenes. It was on Sunday, and I left the theater a little before the close in order to reach the palace before the Emperor's return. I was there in time to undress him, and I well remember that his Majesty spoke to me that evening of the quarrel between Talma and Geoffroy which had occurred a few days before his arrival. The Emperor, although he had a high opinion of Talma, thought him completely in the wrong, and repeated several times, "A man of his age! A man of his age! that is inexcusable. Zounds !" added he, smiling, "do not people speak evil of me also? Have I not also critics who do not spare me? He should not be more sensitive than I" This affair, however, had no disagreeable result for Talma; for the Emperor was much attached to him, and overwhelmed him with pensions and presents.
Talma in this respect was among the very privileged few; for giving presents was not in his Majesty's role, especially to those in his private service. It was then near the 1st of January; but we built no air castles at this period, for the Emperor never made gifts. We knew that we could not expect any emoluments; though I, especially, could exercise no economy, for the Emperor required that my toilet should always be extremely elegant. It was something really extraordinary to see the master of half of Europe not disdaining to occupy himself with the toilet of his valet de chambre; even going so far that when he saw me in a new coat which pleased him he never failed to compliment me on it, adding, "You are very handsome, Monsieur Constant."
Even on the occasion of the marriage of the Emperor and Marie Louise, and that of the birth of the King of Rome, those composing the private service of his Majesty received no present, and the Emperor thought the expenses of these ceremonies too great. On one occasion, however, but not in consequence of any unusual circumstance, the Emperor said to me one morning as I finished dressing him, "Constant, go to M. Meneval; I have given him orders to allow you eighteen hundred livres of income." Now, it happened that the funds had gone up in the interval between the order and its execution; and instead of receiving eighteen hundred livres of rent, I received only seventeen, which I sold a short time after, and with the product of this sale bought a modest piece of property in the forest of Fontainebleau.
Sometimes the Emperor made presents to the princes and princesses of his family, of which I was nearly always the bearer; and I can assert that with two or three rare exceptions this duty was perfectly gratuitous, a circumstance which I recall here simply as a recollection. Queen Hortense and Prince Eugene were never included, according to my recollection, in the distribution of Imperial gifts, and the Princess Pauline was most often favored.
In spite of the numerous occupations of the Emperor, who after his return from the army spent much time during the day, and most of the nights, working in his cabinet, he showed himself more frequently in public than heretofore, going out almost without escort. On the 2d of January, 1813, for instance, I remember he went, accompanied only by Marshal Duroc, to visit the basilica of Notre Dame, the works of the archbishopric, those of the central depot of wines, and then, crossing the bridge of Austerlitz, the granaries, the fountain of the elephant, and finally the palace of the Bourse, which his Majesty often said was the handsomest building then existing in Europe. Next to his passion for war, that for monuments was strongest in the Emperor's heart. The cold was quite severe while his Majesty was taking these solitary excursions; but in fact the cold weather in Paris seemed a very mild temperature to all who had just returned from Russia.
I remarked at this time, that is to say at the end of 1812 and the beginning of 1813, that the Emperor had never hunted so frequently. Two or three times a week I assisted him to don his hunting-costume, which he, like all persons of his suite, wore in accordance with the recently revived usage of the ancient monarchy.
The Empress often accompanied him in a coach, although the cold was intense; but when he gave an order there was nothing to be said. Knowing how distasteful the pleasures of the chase ordinarily were to his Majesty, I was surprised at this recent fondness he manifested, but soon learned that he was acting purely from political motives. One day Marshal Duroc was in his room, while he was putting on his green coat with gold lace; and I heard the Emperor say to the marshal, "It is very necessary that I should be in motion, and have the journals speak of it; for the imbeciles who write for the English journals repeat every day that I am sick, that I cannot move, and am no longer good for anything. Have patience! I will soon show them that I have as much strength of body as of mind." Besides all this, I think that the exercise of hunting in moderation was very good for the Emperor's health; for I never saw him in better condition than during the very time the English journals took pleasure in describing him as ill, and perhaps by these false statements were contributing to still further improve his health.
On the 19th of January the Emperor sent to inform the Empress that he was to hunt in the wood of Grosbois, and would breakfast with the Princess de Neuchatel, and requested that her Majesty would accompany him. The Emperor ordered me also to be at Grosbois in order to assist him in changing his linen after the hunt. This hunting-party took place according to announcement; but to the unbounded amazement of the entire suite of the Emperor, just as we were on the point of re-entering our carriages, instead of taking the road to Paris, his Majesty gave orders to proceed to Fontainebleau. The Empress and the ladies who accompanied her had nothing except their hunting costumes, and the Emperor was much diverted by the tribulations their vanity underwent in being unexpectedly engaged in a campaign without toilet equipments. Before leaving Paris the Emperor had given orders that there should be sent in all haste to Fontainebleau all that the "Empress could need; but her ladies found themselves totally unprovided for, and it was very amusing to see them immediately on their arrival expedite express after express for objects of prime necessity which they ordered should be sent posthaste. Nevertheless, it was soon evident that the hunting-party and breakfast at Grosbois had been simply a pretext, and that the Emperor's object had been to put an end to the differences which had for some time existed between his Holiness and his Majesty. Everything having been settled and prearranged, the Emperor and the Pope signed on the 25th an agreement under the name of Concordat, of which this is the purport:
"His Majesty, the Emperor and King, and his Holiness, wishing to settle the differences which had arisen between them, and provide for difficulties which have unexpectedly arisen in regard to various affairs of the church, have agreed on the following articles as forming a basis for a definite arrangement:
ART. 1. His Holiness will exercise the pontificate in France, and in the Kingdom of Italy, in the same manner and under the same regulations as his predecessors.
2. The ambassadors, ministers, and charges d'affaires to the Holy Father, and the ambassadors, ministers, and charges d'affaires from him to foreign powers, will enjoy the immunities and privileges of members of the diplomatic corps.
3. The domains possessed by the Holy Father, and which have not been alienated, shall be exempt from all kinds of impost; they shall be administered by his agents or representatives. Those which have been alienated shall be replaced to the value of two million francs of revenue.
4. During the six months which usually follow the notification of appointments made by the Emperor to the archbishoprics and bishoprics of the Empire and the Kingdom of Italy the Pope shall perform the canonical institution in conformity with the Concordat, and by virtue of the present agreement; previous information concerning which shall be given by the archbishop. If six months shall expire without the Pope having performed this institution, the archbishop, and in his absence, where his duties are concerned, the senior bishop of the province, shall proceed to the institution of the aforementioned bishop, to the end that a see shall never be vacant more than one year.
5. The Pope shall appoint in France and in the Kingdom of Italy to ten bishoprics, which shall later be designated by mutual agreement.
6. The six suburban bishoprics shall be re-established, and shall be appointed to by the Pope. The property now held shall be restored, and similar measures taken in regard to that already sold. On the death of the bishops of Anagni and Rieti, their dioceses shall be united with that of the six bishops aforesaid, in conformity with the agreement between his Majesty and the Holy Father.
7. In respect to the bishops of the Roman States, unavoidably absent from their dioceses, the Holy Father shall exercise his right of bestowing bishoprics 'in partibus'. He shall give them a pension equal to the revenue they formerly enjoyed, and their places in the sees thus vacated shall be supplied, both in the Empire and the Kingdom of Italy.
8. His Majesty and His Holiness will agree on some opportune occasion as to the reduction to be made in the bishoprics of Tuscany, and the province of Genoa, as well as those to be established in Holland, and the Hanseatic departments.
9. The propaganda, the penitential court, and the court of archives shall be established in the place of residence of the Holy Father.
10. His Majesty pardons freely the cardinals, bishops, priests, and laity who have incurred his disgrace in consequence of certain events.
11. The Holy Father agrees to the above resolutions in consideration of the existing condition of the church, and his confidence that his Majesty will grant his powerful assistance to the needs of the church, which are so numerous in the times in which we live.
"Fontainebleau, 25 January, 1813."
It has been attempted by every possible means to throw odium on the conduct of the Emperor in this affair. He has been accused of having insulted the Pope, and even of having threatened him, all of which is most signally false. Everything was arranged in the most agreeable manner. M. Devoisin, bishop of Nantes, an ecclesiastic who was highly esteemed by the Emperor, and was his favorite mediator, in the frequent points of difference which arose between the Pope and his Majesty, had come to the Tuileries on the 19th of January, and after being closeted with the Emperor for two hours, had left for Fontainebleau. And it was immediately after this interview that the Emperor entered his carriage with the Empress in hunting costume, followed by the whole suite, similarly attired.
The Pope, forewarned by the Bishop of Nantes, awaited his Majesty; and as the most important points had been discussed and arranged in advance, and only a few clauses accessory to the main body of the Concordat remained to be decided, it was impossible that the interview should have been otherwise than amicable, a truth which is still more evident when we reflect on the kind feelings of the Holy Father towards the Emperor, their friendship for each other, and the admiration inspired in the Pope by the great genius of Napoleon. I affirm then, and I think with good reason, that the affair was conducted in a most honorable manner, and that the Concordat was signed freely and without compulsion by his Holiness, in presence of the cardinals assembled at Fontainebleau. It is an atrocious calumny which some one has dared to make that, on the reiterated refusal of the Pope, the Emperor placed in his hand a pen dipped in ink, and seizing him by the arm and hair, forced him to sign, saying that he ordered it, and that his disobedience would be punished by perpetual imprisonment. The one who invented this absurd fabrication must have known little of the Emperor's character. A person who was present at this interview, the circumstances of which have been so falsified, related them to me, and is my authority on the subject. Immediately on his arrival at Fontainebleau, the Emperor paid a visit to the Holy Father, who returned it next day, remaining two hours at least; and during this time his Majesty's manner was calm and firm, it is true, but full of respect and kind feeling for the person of the venerable Pope. A few stipulations of the proposed treaty alarmed the conscience of the Holy Father, which the Emperor perceived; and without waiting for any arguments declared that he would renounce them, and every scruple remaining in the mind of the Holy Father being thus satisfied, a secretary was called, who drew up the articles, which the Pope approved one by one, with most paternal benignity.
On the 25th of January, after the Concordat was definitely settled, the Holy Father repaired to the apartments of her Majesty the Empress; and both of the contracting parties appeared equally well satisfied, which is a sufficient proof that neither treachery nor violence had been used. The Concordat was signed by the august parties in the midst of a magnificent assemblage of cardinals, bishops, soldiers, etc. Cardinal Doria performed the duties of grand master of ceremonies, and it was he who received the signatures.
A countless number of congratulations were given and received, pardons asked and obtained, and relics, decorations, chaplets, and tobacco-boxes distributed by both parties. Cardinal Doria received from his Majesty the gold eagle of the Legion of Honor. The great eagle was also given to Cardinal Fabricio Ruffo; Cardinal Maury, the Bishop of Nantes, and the Archbishop of Tours received the grand cross of the order of the Reunion; the Bishops of Evreux and Treves, the cross of officers of the Legion of Honor; and finally the Cardinal of Bayonne and the Bishop of Evreux were made senators by his Majesty. Doctor Porta, the Pope's physician, was presented with a pension of twelve thousand francs, and the ecclesiastical secretary who entered the cabinet to copy the articles of the Concordat received a present of a magnificent ring set with brilliants.
His Holiness had hardly signed the Concordat before he repented of it. The following was related to Marshal Kellerman by the Emperor at Mayence the last of April:
"The day after the signing of the famous Concordat of Fontainebleau, the Pope dined in public with me; but in the night he was ill, or pretended to be. He was a lamblike, honest, and truly good man, whom I highly esteemed and loved, and who had some regard for me I am sure. Would you believe it, he wrote me a week after signing the Concordat that he much regretted having done so, that his conscience reproached him for it, and urged me earnestly to consider it as of no effect. This was owing to the fact that immediately after leaving me he had fallen into the hands of his usual advisers, who made a scarecrow out of what had just occurred. If we had been together I could easily have reassured him. I replied that what he demanded was contrary to the interests of France; and moreover, being infallible, he could not have made a mistake, and his conscience was too quick to take the alarm for him to have done wrong.
"In fact, compare the condition of Rome formerly with what it is to-day. Paralyzed by the necessary consequences of the Revolution, could she have risen again and maintained her position? A vicious government as to political matters has taken the place of the former Roman legislation, which, without being perfect, nevertheless contributed to form great men of every kind. Modern Rome has applied to its political government principles better suited to a religious order, and has carried them out in a manner fatal to the happiness of the people.
"Thus charity is the most perfect of Christian virtues; it is necessary to give charity to all who ask it. This form of reasoning has rendered Rome the receptacle of the dregs of all nations. One sees collected there (so I am told, for I have never visited it) all the idlers of the earth, who come thither to take refuge, assured of finding an abundant support with much to spare. And thus the papal territory, which nature has destined to produce immense wealth from its situation under a favorable sky, from the multiplicity of streams with which it is watered, and above all from the fertility of the soil, languishes for want of cultivation. Berthier has often told me that large tracts of country may be traversed without perceiving the impress of the hand of man. The women even, who are regarded as the most beautiful of Italy, are indolent, and their minds evince no activity even in the ordinary duties of life. The inhabitants have all the languor of Asiatic manners.
"Modern Rome limits itself to preserving a certain pre-eminence by virtue of the marvelous works of art which it contains; but we have greatly weakened this claim. Our museum is enriched by all the masterpieces which were a source of so much pride, and soon the magnificent edifice of the Bourse which is to be erected at Paris will eclipse all those of Europe, either ancient or modern.
"France before all.
"Viewed from a political standpoint, how would the papal government in these days appear compared with the great kingdoms of Europe? Formerly mediocre men succeeded to the pontifical throne at an age in which one breathes well only after resting. At this period of life routine and habit are everything; and nothing is considered but the elevated position, and how to make it redound to the advantage of his family. A pope now arrives at sovereign power with a mind sharpened by being accustomed to intrigue, and with a fear of making powerful enemies who may hereafter revenge themselves on his family, since his successor is always unknown. In fine, he cares for nothing but to live and die in peace. In the seat of Sixtus V.
[Sixtus V., originally Felix Peretti, born at Montalto, 1525, and in 1585 succeeded Gregory XIII. as pope. He was distinguished by his energy and munificence. He constructed the Vatican Library, the great aqueduct, and other public works, and placed the obelisk before St. Peter's. Died 1589.]
how many popes have there been who have occupied themselves only with frivolous subjects, as little advantageous to the best interests of religion as fruitful in inspiring scorn for such a government! But that would lead us too far."
From the time of his return from Moscow, his Majesty occupied himself with unequaled activity in seeking means to arrest the invasion of the Russians, who, having united with the Prussians since General Yorck's defection, constituted a most formidable mass. New levies had been ordered. For two months he had received and utilized the innumerable offers of horses and cavalry made by all the towns of the Empire, by official bodies, and by rich individuals holding positions near the court, etc. The Imperial Guard was reorganized under the brave Duke de Frioul, who was alas! a few months later to be torn from his numerous friends.
In the midst of these grave occupations his Majesty did not for a moment lose sight of his cherished plan of making Paris the most beautiful city of the world; and not a week passed without interviews with architects and engineers, who presented estimates, made reports, etc.
"It is a shame," said the Emperor one day, while inspecting the barracks of the guard, a species of black and smoke-begrimed shed, "it is a shame," said he to M. Fontaine, "to make buildings as frightful as those of Moscow. I should never have allowed such a building to be erected. Are you not my chief architect?"
M. Fontaine excused himself by pointing out to his Majesty that he was not responsible for the buildings of Paris, as although he had the honor of being chief architect of the Emperor, it was for the Tuileries and the Louvre alone.
"That is true," replied his Majesty; "but could there not be built here," pointing to the quay, "in place of this wooden dockyard, which produces such a bad effect, a residence for the Italian minister?"
M. Fontaine replied that the plan was very feasible, but that it would require three or four millions.
The Emperor then seemed to abandon this idea, and turning his attention to the garden of the Tuileries, perhaps in consequence of the conspiracy of General Malet,gave orders to arrange all the entrances to the palace so that the same key might serve for all the locks; "and this key," his Majesty added, "should be put in charge of the grand marshal after the doors were closed for the night."
A few days after this conversation with M. Fontaine, the Emperor sent to him and M. Costaz the following note, a copy of which fell into my hands. His Majesty had that morning visited the buildings of Chaillot.
"There is yet ample time to discuss the construction of the palace
for the King of Rome.
I do not wish to be led into foolish expenditures; I should like a
palace not so large as Saint-Cloud, but larger than the Luxemburg.
I wish to be able to occupy it after the sixteenth million has been expended; then it will be a practicable affair. But if a more expensive building is attempted, it will result like the Louvre, which has never been finished.
The parks are first to be considered, their boundaries determined and inclosed.
I wish this new palace to be somewhat handsomer than the Elysee; and although that cost less than eight millions, it is one of the most beautiful palaces of Paris.
That of the King of Rome will rank next to the Louvre, which is itself a magnificent palace. It will be, so to speak, only a country seat for one residing in Paris, for of course the winters would be passed at the Louvre or the Tuileries.
I can with difficulty believe that Saint-Cloud cost sixteen millions. Before inspecting the plan, I wish it to be carefully examined and discussed by the committee on buildings, so that I may have the assurance that the sum of sixteen millions will not be exceeded. I do not wish an ideal residence, but one constructed for my own enjoyment, and not for the pleasure of the architect alone. Finishing the Louvre will suffice for his glory; and when the plan is once adopted, I will see that it is executed.
The Elysee does not suit me, and the Tuileries is barely inhabitable. Nothing will please me unless it is perfectly simple, and constructed according to my tastes and manner of living, for then the palace will be useful to me. I wish it constructed in such a manner that it may be a complete 'Sans Souci'; [Frederick the Great's palace in the country near Berlin.] and I especially desire that it may be an agreeable palace rather than a handsome garden,—two conditions which are incompatible. Let there be something between a court and a garden, like the Tuileries, that from my apartments I may promenade in the garden and the park, as at Saint-Cloud, though Saint-Cloud has the inconvenience of having no park for the household.
It is necessary also to study the location, so that my apartments may face north and south, in order that I may change my residence according to the season.
I wish the apartments I occupy to be as handsomely furnished as my
small apartments at Fontainebleau.
I wish my apartments to be very near those of the Empress, and on
the same floor.
Finally, I wish a palace that would be comfortable for a convalescent, or for a man as age approaches. I wish a small theater, a small chapel, etc.; and above all great care should be taken that there be no stagnant water around the palace."
The Emperor carried his passion for building to excess, and seemed more active, more eager in the execution of his plans, and more tenacious of his ideas, than any architect I have ever known. Nevertheless, the idea of putting the palace of the King of Rome on the heights of Chaillot was not entirely his own, and M. Fontaine might well claim to have originated it.
It was mentioned the first time while discussing the palace of Lyons, which in order to present a handsome appearance M. Fontaine remarked should be situated on an elevation overlooking the city, as, for example, the heights of Chaillot overlooked Paris. The Emperor did not appear to notice M. Fontaine's remark, and had two or three days previously given orders that the chateau of Meudon should be put in a condition to receive his son, when one morning he summoned the architect, and ordered him to present a plan for embellishing the Bois de Boulogne, by adding a country house on the summit of Chaillot. "What do you think of it?" added he, smiling; "does the site appear well chosen?"
One morning in the month of March, the Emperor brought his son to a review on the Champ-de-Mars; he was received with indescribable enthusiasm, the sincerity of which was undoubted; and it could easily be seen that these acclamations came from the heart.
The Emperor was deeply moved by this reception, and returned to the Tuileries in a most charming frame of mind, caressed the King of Rome, covered him with kisses, and dilated to M. Fontaine and myself on the precocious intelligence displayed by this beloved child. "He was not at all frightened; he seemed to know that all those brave men were my friends." On that day he held a long conversation with M. Fontaine, while amusing himself with his son, whom he held in his arms; and when the conversation turned on Rome and its monuments, M. Fontaine spoke of the Pantheon with the most profound admiration. The Emperor asked if he had ever lived at Rome; and M. Fontaine having replied that he remained there three years on his first visit, his Majesty remarked, "It is a city I have not seen; I shall certainly go there some day. It is the city whose people formerly were the sovereigns of the world." And his eyes were fixed on the King of Rome with paternal pride.
When M. Fontaine had left, the Emperor made me a sign to approach, and began by pulling my ears, according to custom when in good humor. After a few personal questions, he asked me what was my salary. "Sire, six thousand francs."—"And Monsieur Colin, how much has he?"—"Twelve thousand francs."—"Twelve thousand francs! that is not right; you should not have less than M. Colin. I will attend to that." And his Majesty was kind enough to make immediate inquiries, but was told that the accounts for the year were made out; whereupon the Emperor informed me that till the end of the year, M. le Baron Fain
[Born in Paris, 1778; attended Napoleon in his campaigns as
Secretary of the Records; wrote memoirs of the last three years of
Napoleon's reign; died 1837.]
would give me each month out of his privy purse five hundred francs, as he wished that my salary should equal that of M. Colin.
After the Emperor left the army and committed, as we have seen, the command to the King of Naples, his Sicilian Majesty also abandoned the command intrusted to him, and set out for his states, leaving Prince Eugene at the head of the forces. The Emperor was deeply interested in the news he received from Posen, where the general headquarters were in the latter part of February and beginning of March, and where the prince vice-king had under his orders only the remains of different corps, some of which were represented by a very small number of men.
Moreover, each time that the Russians appeared in force, there was nothing to be done but to fall back; and each day during the month of March the news became more and more depressing. The Emperor consequently decided at the end of March to set out at an early day for the army.
For some time previous the Emperor, much impressed by Malet's conspiracy during his last absence, had expressed the opinion that it was dangerous to leave his government without a head; and the journals had been filled with information relative to the ceremonies required when the regency of the kingdom had been left in the hands of queens in times past. As the public well knew the means frequently adopted by his Majesty to foster in advance opinions favorable to any course of conduct he intended to pursue, no one was surprised to see him before leaving confide the regency to the Empress Marie Louise, circumstances not having yet furnished him the opportunity of having her crowned, as he had long desired. The Empress took the solemn oath at the palace of the Elysee, in presence of the princes, great dignitaries, and ministers. The Duke of Cadore was made secretary of the regency, as counselor to her Majesty the Empress, together with the arch-chancellor; and the command of the guard was confided to General Caffarelli.
The Emperor left Saint-Cloud on the 15th of April, at four o'clock in the morning, and at midnight of the 16th entered Mayence. On his arrival his Majesty learned that Erfurt and the whole of Westphalia were in a state of the deepest alarm. This news added incredible speed to his march, and in eight hours he was at Erfurt. His Majesty remained but a short while in that town, as the information that he there received set his mind at rest as to the result of the campaign. On leaving Erfurt the Emperor wished to pass through Weimar in order to salute the grand duchess, and made his visit on the same day and at the same hour that the Emperor Alexander went from Dresden to Toeplitz in order to visit another Duchess of Weimar (the hereditary princess, her sister).
The grand duchess received the Emperor with a grace which enchanted him, and their conversation lasted nearly half an hour. On leaving, his Majesty said to the Prince de Neuchatel, "That is an astonishing woman; she has the intellect of a great man." The Duke accompanied the Emperor as far as the borough of Eckhartsberg, where his Majesty detained him to dine.
NOTE BY CONSTANT.—His Majesty's household, reorganized in part for this campaign of 1813, was composed of the following persons:
Grand marshal of the palace, the Duke of Frioul.
Grand equerry, the Duke of Vicenza.
Aides-de-camp: Generals Mouton, Count de Lobau; Lebrun, Duke de
Plaisance; Generals Drouot, Flahaut, Dejean, Corbineau, Bernard,
Durosnel, and Aogendorp.
First ordinance officer, Colonel Gourgaud.
Ordinance officers: Baron de Mortemart, Baron Athalin, M. Beranger, M. de
Lauriston; Messieurs Barons Desaix, Laplace, and de Caraman; Messieurs de
Saint Marsan, de Lamezan, Pretet, and Pailhou; there was also M.
d'Aremberg, but at this time he was a prisoner in the town of Dantzic.
First chamberlain and master of the wardrobe, the Count of Turenne.
Prefect of the palace, Baron de Beausset.
Quartermaster of the palace, Baron de Canouville.
Equerries, Barons Van Lenneps, Montaran, and de Mesgrigny.
Private secretaries, Baron Mounier and Baron Fain.
Clerks, Messieurs Jouanne and Provost.
Secretary interpreters, Messieurs Lelorgue, Dideville, and Vouzowitch.
Director of the topographical bureau, Baron Bacler d'Albe.
Geographical engineers, Messieurs Lameau and Duvivier.
Pages, Messieurs Montarieu, Devienne, Sainte Perne, and Ferreri.
The Emperor had his headquarters on the square of Eckhartsberg. He had only two rooms, and his suite slept on the landing and the steps of the staircase. This little town, transformed in a few hours into headquarters, presented a most extraordinary spectacle. On a square surrounded by camps, bivouacs, and military parks, in the midst of more than a thousand vehicles, which crossed each other from every direction, mingled together, became entangled in every way, could be seen slowly defiling regiments, convoys, artillery trains, baggage wagons, etc. Following them came herds of cattle, preceded or divided by the little carts of the canteen women and sutlers,—such light, frail vehicles that the least jolt endangered them; with these were marauders returning with their booty, peasants pulling vehicles by their own strength, cursing and swearing amid the laughter of our soldiers; and couriers, ordinance officers, and aides-de-camp, galloping through all this wonderfully variegated and diversified multitude of men and beasts.
And when to this is added the neighing of horses, bellowing of cattle, rumbling of wheels over the stones, cries of the soldiers, sounds from trumpets, drums, fifes, and the complaints of the inhabitants, with hundreds of persons all together asking questions at the same time, speaking German to the Italians, and French to the Germans, how could it be possible that his Majesty should be as tranquil and as much at his ease in the midst of this fearful uproar as in his cabinet at Saint-Cloud or the Tuileries? This was nevertheless the case; and the Emperor, seated before a miserable table covered with a kind of cloth, a map spread before him, compass and pen in hand, entirely given up to meditation, showed not the least impatience; and it would have been said that no exterior noise reached his ears. But let a cry of pain be heard in any direction, the Emperor instantly raised his head, and gave orders to go and ascertain what had happened.
The power of thus isolating one's self completely from all the surrounding world is very difficult to acquire, and no one possessed it to the same degree as his Majesty.
On the 1st of May the Emperor was at Lutzen, though the battle did not occur till next day. On that day, at six o'clock in the evening, the brave Marshal Bessieres, Duke of Istria, was killed by a cannon-ball, just at the moment when, mounted on a height, wrapped in a long cloak which he had put on in order not to be remarked, he had just given orders for the burial of a sergeant of his escort, whom a ball had just slain a few steps in front of him.
From the first campaigns in Italy the Duke of Istria had hardly left the Emperor at all; had followed him in all his campaigns; had taken part in all his battles, and was always distinguished for his well-proved bravery, and a frankness and candor very rare among the high personages by whom his Majesty was surrounded. He had passed through almost all grades up to the command of the Imperial Guard; and his great experience, excellent character, good heart, and unalterable attachment to the Emperor, had rendered him very dear to his Majesty.
The Emperor was much moved on learning of the death of the marshal, and remained some time silent with bent head, and eyes fastened on the ground. At last he said, "He has died like Turenne; his fate is to be envied." He then passed his hand over his eyes and withdrew.
The body of the marshal was embalmed and carried to Paris, and the
Emperor wrote the following letter to the Duchess of Istria:
Your husband has died on the field of honor. The loss sustained by you and your children is doubtless great, but mine is greater still. The Duke of Istria has died a most glorious death, and without suffering. He leaves a stainless reputation, the richest heritage he could have left his children. My protection is assured, and they will also inherit the affection I bore their father. Find in all these considerations some source of consolation in your distress, and never doubt my sentiments towards you.
This letter having no other object, I pray that God, my cousin, may have you in his holy keeping.
The King of Saxony reared a monument to the Duke of Istria on the exact spot where he fell. The victory so long disputed in this battle of Lutzen was on that account only the more glorious for the Emperor, and was gained principally by the young conscripts, who fought like lions. Marshal Ney expected this of them; for before the battle he said to his Majesty, "Sire, give me a good many of those young men, I will lead them wherever I wish. The old bearded fellows know as much as we, they reflect, they are too cold blooded; but these intrepid children know no difficulties, they look straight before them, and neither to the right nor left."
In fact, in the midst of the battle, the Prussians, commanded by the king in person, attacked the corps of Marshal Ney with such fury that it fell back, but the conscripts did not take flight. They withstood the fire, rallied by platoons, and flanked the enemy, crying with all their might, "Vive l'Empereur." The Emperor appeared; and recovering from the terrible shock they had sustained, and electrified by the presence of their hero, they attacked in their turn with incredible violence. His Majesty was astonished. "In the twenty years," said he, "I have commanded French armies I have never witnessed such remarkable bravery and devotion."
It was indeed a touching sight to see those youthful soldiers, although grievously wounded, some without an arm, some without a leg, with but a few moments of life remaining, making a last effort, as the Emperor approached, to rise from the ground, and shout with their latest breath, "Vive l'Empereur." Tears fill my eyes as I think of those youths, so brilliant, so strong, and so courageous.
The enemy displayed the same bravery and enthusiasm. The light infantry of the Prussian guard were almost all young men who saw fire for the first time; they exposed themselves to every hazard, and fell by hundreds before they would recoil a step.
In no other battle, I think, was the Emperor so visibly protected by his destiny. Balls whistled around his ears, carrying away as they passed pieces of the trappings of his horse, shells and grenades rolled at his feet, but nothing touched him. The soldiers observed this, and their enthusiasm rose to the highest pitch.
At the beginning of the battle, the Emperor saw a battalion advancing whose chief had been suspended from his office two or three days before for some slight breach of discipline. The disgraced officer marched in the second rank with his soldiers, by whom he was adored. The Emperor saw him, and halting the battalion, took the officer by the hand, and placed him again at the head of his troop. The effect produced by this scene was indescribable.
On the 8th of May, at seven o'clock in the evening, the Emperor entered Dresden, and took possession of the palace, which the Emperor of Russia and King of Prussia had quitted that very evening. A short distance from the barriers the Emperor was saluted by a deputation from the municipality of that town.
"You deserve," said he to these deputies, "that I should treat you as a conquered country. I know all that you have done while the allies occupied your town; I have a statement of the number of volunteers whom you have clothed, equipped, and armed against me, with a generosity which has astonished even the enemy. I know the insults you have heaped on France, and how many shameless libels you have to suppress or to burn today. I am fully aware with what transports of joy you received the Emperor of Russia and the King of Prussia within your walls. Your houses are still decorated with the garlands, and we still see lying on the earth the flowers which the young girls scattered in their path. Nevertheless, I am willing to pardon everything. Thank your king for this; it is he who saves you, and I pardon you only from love of him. Send a deputation to entreat him to return to you. My aide-de-camp, General Durosnel, will be your governor. Your good king himself could not make a better selection."
As soon as he entered the city the Emperor was informed that a part of the Russian rear-guard sought to hold its ground in the new town, separated from the old by the river Elbe, and had fallen into the power of our army.
His Majesty immediately ordered that everything should be done in order to drive out this remnant of the enemy; and during an entire day there was a continued cannonading and shooting in the town from one bank to the other. Bullets and shell fell like hail on the spot occupied by the Emperor. A shell struck the walls of a powder-magazine not far from him, and scattered the pieces around his head, but fortunately the powder did not ignite. A few moments after another shell fell between his Majesty and several Italians; they bent to avoid the explosion. The Emperor saw this movement, and laughingly said to them, "Ah, coglioni! non fa male." ["Ah, scamps! don't behave badly."]
On the 11th of May, in the morning, the Russians were put to flight and pursued, the French army entering the city from all sides. The Emperor remained on the bridge the whole day, watching his troops as they filed in. The next day at ten o'clock the Imperial Guard under arms were placed in line of battle on the road from Pirna to Gross Garten. The Emperor reviewed it, and ordered General Flahaut to advance.
The King of Saxony arrived about noon. On meeting again, the two sovereigns alighted from their horses and embraced each other, and then entered Dresden amid general acclamations.
General Flahaut, who had gone to meet the King of Saxony with a part of the imperial Guard, received from this good king the most flattering testimonials of appreciation and gratitude. It is impossible to show more cordiality and friendliness than the King of Saxony displayed. The Emperor said of him and his family that they were a patriarchal family, and that all who comprised it joined to striking virtues an expansive kindness of manner which made them adored by their subjects. His Majesty paid this royal personage the most affectionate attentions, and as long as the war lasted sent couriers each day to keep the king informed of the least circumstance: He came himself as often as possible, and, in fact, constantly treated him with that cordiality he so well knew how to display and to render irresistible when he chose.
A few days after his arrival at Dresden his Majesty held a long conversation with the King of Saxony, in which the Emperor Alexander was the principal subject of conversation.
The characteristics and faults of this prince were fully analyzed; and the conclusion drawn from this conversation was that the Emperor Alexander had been sincere in the interview at Erfurt, and that it must have been very complicated intrigues which had thus led to the rupture of all their treaties of friendship. "Sovereigns are most unfortunate," said his Majesty; "always deceived, always surrounded by flatterers or treacherous counselors, whose greatest desire is to prevent the truth from reaching the ears of their masters, who have so much interest in knowing it."
The two sovereigns next spoke of the Emperor of Austria. His Majesty appeared profoundly grieved that his union with the Archduchess Marie Louise, whom he did all in his power to render the happiest of women, should have failed in producing the result he had anticipated, of obtaining for him the confidence and friendship of her father. "It is perhaps because I was not born a sovereign," said the Emperor; "and nevertheless, I should think that this would be an additional inducement to the friendship of my father-in-law. I shall never be convinced that such ties are not strong enough to obtain the alliance of the Emperor of Austria; for, in fact, I am his son-in-law, my son is his grandson, he loves his daughter, and she is happy; how, then, can he be my enemy?"
On learning of the victory of Lutzen, and the entrance of the Emperor into Dresden, the Emperor of Austria hastened to send M. de Bubna to his son- in-law. He arrived on the evening of the 16th; and the interview, which his Majesty immediately granted, lasted until two hours after midnight. This led us to hope that peace was about to be concluded, and we consequently formed a thousand conjectures, each more encouraging than the other; but when two or three days had passed away, and we still witnessed only preparations for war, we saw that our hopes were cruelly deceived. Then it was I heard the unfortunate Marshal Duroc exclaim, "This is lasting too long! We will none of us outlive it!" He had a presentiment of his own death.
During the whole of this campaign the Emperor had not a moment of repose. The days passed away in combats or marches, always on horseback; the nights in labors in the cabinet. I never comprehended how his body could endure such fatigue, and yet he enjoyed almost continuously the most perfect health. The evening before the battle of Bautzen he retired very late, after visiting all the military posts, and, having given all necessary orders, slept profoundly. Early next morning, the 20th of May, movements began, and we awaited at headquarters with eager impatience the results of this day. But the battle was not over even then; and after a succession of encounters, always ending in our favor, although hotly contested, the Emperor, at nine o'clock in the evening, returned to headquarters, took a light repast, and remained with Prince Berthier until midnight. The remainder of the night was passed in work, and at five o'clock in the morning he was on his feet and ready to return to the combat. Three or four hours after his arrival on the battlefield the Emperor was overcome by an irresistible desire for sleep, and, foreseeing the issue of the day, slept on the side of a ravine, in the midst of the batteries of the Duke of Ragusa, until he was awaked with the information that the battle was gained.
This fact, which was related to me in the evening, did not astonish me in the least; for I have already remarked that when he was compelled to yield to the necessity of sleep, that imperious want of nature, the Emperor took the repose which was so necessary to him when and where he could, like a true soldier.
Although the result was decided, the battle was continued until five o'clock in the evening. At six o'clock the Emperor had his tent erected near a solitary inn, which had served as headquarters for the Emperor Alexander during the two preceding days. I received orders to attend him there, and did so with all speed; but his Majesty, nevertheless, passed the whole night receiving and congratulating the chief generals, and working with his secretaries.
All the wounded who were able to march were already on the road to Dresden, where all necessary help awaited them. But on the field of battle were stretched more than ten thousand men, Frenchmen, Russians, Prussians, etc.,—hardly able to breathe, mutilated, and in a most pitiable condition. The unremitting labors of the kind and indefatigable Baron Larrey and the multitude of surgeons encouraged by his heroic example did not suffice even to dress their wounds. And what means could be found to remove the wounded in this desolate country, where all the villages had been sacked and burned, and where it was no longer possible to find either horses or conveyances? Must they then let all these men perish after most horrible sufferings, for lack of means to convey them to Dresden?
It was then that this population of Saxon villagers, who it might have been thought must be embittered by the horrors of war,—in seeing their dwellings burned, their fields ravaged,—furnished to the army an example of the sublime sentiments which pity can inspire in the heart of man. They perceived the cruel anxiety which M. Larrey and his companions suffered concerning the fate of so many unfortunate wounded, and immediately men, women, children, and even old men, hastily brought wheelbarrows. The wounded were lifted, and placed on these frail conveyances. Two or three persons accompanied each wheelbarrow all the way to Dresden, halting if by a cry or gesture even, the wounded indicated a desire to rest, stopping to replace the bandages which the motion had displaced, or near a spring to give them water to allay the fever which devoured them. I have never seen a more touching sight.
Baron Larrey had an animated discussion with the Emperor. Among the wounded, there were found a large number of young soldiers with two fingers of their right hand torn off; and his Majesty thought that these poor young fellows had done it purposely to keep from serving. Having said this to M. Larrey, the latter vehemently exclaimed that it was an impossibility, and that such baseness was not in keeping with the character of these brave young conscripts. As the Emperor still maintained his position, Larrey at length became so angry that he went so far as to tax the Emperor with injustice. Things were in this condition when it was positively proved that these uniform wounds came from the haste with which these young soldiers loaded and discharged their guns, not being accustomed to handling them. Whereupon his Majesty saw that M. de Larrey was right, and praised him for his firmness in maintaining what he, knew to be the truth. "You are a thoroughly good man, M. de Larrey," said the Emperor. "I wish I could be surrounded only with men like you; but such men are very rare."
We had now reached the eve of the day on which the Emperor, still deeply affected by the loss he had sustained in the death of the Duke of Istria, was to receive a blow which he felt perhaps most keenly of all those which struck deep into his heart as he saw his old companions in arms fall around him. The day following that on which the Emperor had, with Baron Larrey, the discussion which I related at the end of the preceding chapter was made memorable by the irreparable loss of Marshal Duroc. The Emperor's heart was crushed; and indeed not one of us failed to shed sincere tears—so just and good was he, although grave and severe in his manner towards persons whom the nature of their duties brought into contact with him. It was a loss not only to the Emperor, who possessed in him a true friend, but, I dare to assert, also to the whole of France. He loved the Emperor with a passionate devotion, and never failed to bestow on him his faithful admonitions, although they were not always heeded. The death of Marshal Duroc was an event so grievous and so totally unexpected, that we remained for some time uncertain whether to believe it, even when the only too evident reality no longer permitted us to remain under any delusion.
These are the circumstances under which this fatal event occurred which spread consternation throughout the army: The Emperor was pursuing the rear guard of the Russians, who continually eluded him, and had just escaped for the tenth time since the morning, after having killed and taken prisoners large numbers of our brave soldiers, when two or three shells dug up the ground at the Emperor's feet, and caused him to exclaim, "What! after such butchery no result! no prisoners! those men there will not leave me a nail." Hardly had he finished speaking when a shell passed, and threw a chasseur of the cavalry escort almost under the legs of his Majesty's horse. "Ah, Duroc," added he, turning towards the grand marshal, "fortune protects us to-day."—"Sire," said an aide- decamp, rushing, up at a gallop, "General Bruyeres has just been killed." "My poor comrade of Italy! Is it possible? Ah! it is necessary to push on, nevertheless." And noticing on the left an elevation from which he could better observe what was passing, the Emperor started in that direction amidst a cloud of dust. The Duke of Vicenza, the Duke of Treviso, Marshal Duroc, and general of engineers Kirgener followed his Majesty closely; but the wind raised such a cloud of dust and smoke that they could hardly see each other. Suddenly a tree near which the Emperor passed was struck by a shell and cut in half. His Majesty, on reaching the plateau, turned to ask for his field-glass, and saw no one near him except the Duke of Vicenza. Duke Charles de Plaisance came up, his face showing a mortal pallor, leaned towards the grand equerry, and said a few words in his ear. "What is it?" vehemently inquired the Emperor; "what has happened?"—"Sire," said the Duke of Plaisance, weeping, "the grand marshal is dead!"—"Duroc? But you must be mistaken. He was here a moment ago by my side." Several aides-de-camp arrived, and a page with his Majesty's field-glass. The fatal news was confirmed, in part at least. The Grand Duke of Frioul was not yet dead; but the shell had wounded him in the stomach, and all surgical aid would be useless. The shell after breaking the tree had glanced, first striking General Kirgener, who was instantly killed, and then the Duke of Frioul. Monsieurs Yvan and Larrey were with the wounded marshal, who had been carried into a house at Markersdorf. There was no hope of saving him.
The consternation of the army and his Majesty's grief on this deplorable event were indescribable. He mechanically gave a few orders and returned to camp, and when he had reached the encampment of the guard, seated himself on a bench in front of his tent, with lowered head and clasped hands, and remained thus for nearly an hour without uttering a word. Since it was nevertheless essential that orders should be given for the next day, General Drouot approached,
[Count Antoine Drouot, chief of artillery of the guard, born at Nancy, 1774; fought as captain at Hohenlinden,1800; distinguished himself at Wagram (1809) and Borodino (1812); made general of division at Bautzen, 1813; went to Elba as commander of the guard, and was by the Emperor's side at Waterloo; died in 1847. He was a Protestant, and was often seen during heavy firing reading his Testament calmly.]
and in a voice interrupted by sobs asked what should be done. "To- morrow, everything," replied the Emperor, and said not a word more. "Poor man!" exclaimed the old watchdogs of the guard; "he has lost one of his children." Night closed in. The enemy was in full retreat; and the army having taken its position, the Emperor left the camp, and, accompanied by the Prince de Neuchatel, M. Yvan, and the Duke of Vicenza, repaired to the house where the grand marshal had been conveyed. The scene was terrible. The Emperor, distracted with grief, repeatedly embraced this faithful friend, endeavoring to cheer him; but the duke, who was perfectly conscious of his condition, replied only by entreaties to have opium given him. At these words the Emperor left the room; he could no longer control his emotions.
The Duke de Frioul died next morning; and the Emperor ordered that his body should be conveyed to Paris, and paced under the dome of the Invalides.
[On either side of the entrance to the sarcophagus of porphyry
which holds the mortal remains of the great Emperor, rest Duroc and
Bertrand, who in life watched over him as marshals of his Palace.-
He bought the house in which the grand marshal died, and charged the pastor of the village to have a stone placed in the spot where his bed had stood, and these words engraved thereon:
The preservation of this monument was imposed as an obligation on the occupant of the house, who received it as a gift with this condition annexed. The pastor, the magistrate of the village, and the one who accepted this gift, were summoned to his Majesty's presence; and he made known to them his wishes, which they solemnly engaged to fulfill. His Majesty then drew from his privy purse the necessary funds, and handed them to these gentlemen.
It is well that the reader should know how this agreement so solemnly made was executed. This order of the Russian staff will inform him.
"A copy of a receipt dated the 16th (28th) of March states that the Emperor Napoleon handed to Hermann, pastor of the church at Markersdorf, the sum of two hundred gold napoleons for the purpose of erecting a monument to the memory of Marshal Duroc, who died on the field of battle. His Excellency Prince Repnin, Governor-General of Saxony, having ordered that a deputy from my office be sent to Markersdorf in order to bring the said sum and deposit it with me until it is finally disposed of, my secretary, Meyerheim, is charged with this mission, and consequently will go at once to Dlarkersdorf, and, as an evidence of his authority, will present to Minister Hermann the accompanying order, and take possession of the above mentioned sum of two hundred gold napoleons. The secretary Meyerheim will account to me alone for the execution of this order. At Dresden this 20th of March (1st of April), 1814.
"(Signed) BARON DE ROSEN."
This order needs no comment. After the battles of Bautzen and Wurschen, the Emperor entered Silesia. He saw on every occasion combined armies of the allies put to flight before his own in every encounter; and this sight, while flattering his vanity exceedingly, also greatly strengthened him in the belief that he would soon find himself master of a rich and fertile country, where the abundant means of subsistence would be of much advantage in all his undertakings. Many times a day he exclaimed, "How far are we from such a town? When do we arrive at Breslau? "His impatience did not prevent him meanwhile from" occupying his mind with every object which struck his attention, as if he were free from all care. He examined the houses, one by one, as he passed through each village, remarked the direction of rivers and mountain ranges, and collected the most minute information which the inhabitants could or would give him. On the 27th of May, his Majesty, when not more than three days march from Breslau, met in front of a little town called Michelsdorf several regiments of Russian cavalry who held the road. They were quite near the Emperor and his staff before his Majesty had even perceived them. The Prince de Neuchatel, seeing the enemy so near, hastened to the Emperor, and said, "Sire, they are still advancing."— "Well, we will advance also," replied his Majesty, smiling. "Look behind you-" And he showed the prince the French infantry approaching in close columns. A few discharges soon drove the Russians from this position; but half a league or a league farther we found them again, and this maneuver was again and again repeated. The Emperor, perceiving this, maneuvered accordingly, and in person directed with the greatest precision the troops as they advanced. He went from one height to another, and thoroughly inspected the towns and villages on the route in order to reconnoiter their position, and ascertain what resources he could obtain from the country; and, as a result of his attentive care and indefatigable oversight, the scene changed ten times a day. If a column emerged from a deep ravine, a wood, or a village, it could take immediate possession of a height, since a battery was found already in position to defend it. The Emperor indicated every movement with admirable tact, and in such a manner that it was impossible to be taken at a disadvantage. He commanded only the troops as a whole, transmitting either personally, or through his staff officers, his orders to the commander of the corps and divisions, who in their turn transmitted or had them transmitted to the chiefs of battalions. All orders given by his Majesty were short, precise, and so clear that it was never necessary to ask explanations.
On the 29th of May, not knowing how far on the road to Breslau it was prudent to advance, his Majesty established himself on a little farm called Rosnig, which had been pillaged, and presented a most miserable aspect. As there could be found in the house only a small apartment with a closet suitable for the Emperor's use, the Prince de Neuchatel and his suite established themselves as well as they could in the surrounding cottages, barns, and even in the gardens, since there was not sufficient shelter for all. The next day a fire broke out in a stable near the lodging of the Emperor. There were fourteen or fifteen wagons in this barn, which were all burned. One of these wagons contained the traveling treasury chest; in another were the clothes and linen belonging to the Emperor, as well as jewelry, rings, tobacco boxes, and other valuable objects. We saved very few things from this fire; and if the reserve corps had not arrived promptly, his Majesty would have been obliged to change his customary toilet rules for want of stockings and shirts. The Saxon Major d'Odeleben, who has written some interesting articles on this campaign, states that everything belonging to his Majesty was burned; and that it was necessary to have him some pantaloons made in the greatest haste at Breslau. This is a mistake. I do not think that the baggage- wagon was burned; but even if it had been, the Emperor would not on that account have needed clothing, since there were always four or five complete suits either in advance or in the rear of the headquarters. In Russia, when the order was given to burn all carriages which lacked horses, this order was rigorously executed in regard to the persons of the household, and they were consequently left with almost nothing; but everything was reserved which might be considered indispensable to his Majesty.
At length on the 1st of June, at six o'clock in the morning, the advance guard entered Breslau, having at its head General Lauriston, and General Hogendorp, whom his Majesty had invested in advance with the functions of governor of this town, which was the capital of Silesia. Thus was fulfilled in part the promise the Emperor had made in passing through Warsaw on his return from Russia: "I go to seek three hundred thousand men. Success will render the Russians bold. I will deliver two battles between the Elbe and the Oder, and in six months I will be again on the Niemen."
These two battles fought and gained by conscripts, and without cavalry, had re-established the reputation of the French army. The King of Saxony had been brought back in triumph to his capital. The headquarters of the Emperor were at Breslau; one of the corps of the grand army was at the gates of Berlin, and the enemy driven from Hamburg. Russia was about to be forced to withdraw into its own boundaries, when the Emperor of Austria, acting as mediator in the affairs of the two allied sovereigns, advised them to propose an armistice. They followed this advice; and as the Emperor had the weakness to consent to their demands, the armistice was granted and signed on the fourth of June, and his Majesty at once set out on his return to Dresden. An hour after his departure he said, "If the allies do not in good faith desire peace, this armistice may become very fatal to us."
On the evening of the 8th of June, his Majesty reached Gorlitz. On that night fire broke out in the faubourg where the guard had established its quarters; and at one o'clock one of the officials of the town came to the headquarters of the Emperor to give the alarm, saying that all was lost. The troops extinguished the fire, and an account was rendered the Emperor of what had occurred. I dressed him in all haste, as he wished to set out at break of day. "To how much does the loss amount?" demanded the Emperor. "Sire, to seven or eight thousand francs at least for the cases of greatest need."—"Let ten thousand be given, and let it be distributed immediately." The inhabitants were immediately informed of the generosity of the Emperor; and as he left the village an hour or two after, he was saluted with unanimous acclamations.
On the morning of the 10th we returned from Dresden. The Emperor's arrival put an end to most singular rumors which had been circulated there since the remains of Grand Marshal Duroc had passed through the city. It was asserted that the coffin contained the body of the Emperor; that he had been killed in the last battle, and his body mysteriously concealed in a room of the chateau, through the windows of which lights could be seen burning all night. When he arrived, some persons perfectly infatuated with this idea went so far as to repeat what had already been reported, with the added circumstance that it was not the Emperor who was seen in his carriage, but a figure made of wax. Nevertheless, when next day he appeared before the eyes of all on horseback in a meadow in front of the gates of the city, they were compelled to admit that he still lived.
The Emperor alighted at the Marcolini palace, a charming summer residence situated in the faubourg of Friedrichstadt. An immense garden, the beautiful meadows of Osterwise on the banks of the Elbe, in addition to an extremely fine landscape, rendered this sojourn much more attractive than that of the winter palace; and consequently the Emperor was most grateful to the King of Saxony for having prepared it for him. There he led the same life as at Schoenbrunn; reviews every morning, much work during the day, and few distractions in the evening; in fact, more simplicity than display. The middle of the day was spent in cabinet labors; and during that time such perfect tranquillity reigned in the palace, that except for the presence of two sentinels on horseback and videttes, which showed that it was the dwelling of a sovereign, it would have been difficult to imagine that this beautiful residence was inhabited even by the simplest private citizen.
The Emperor had chosen for his apartments the right wing of the palace; the left was occupied by the Prince de Neuchatel. In the center of the building were a large saloon and two smaller ones which served as reception rooms.
Two days after his return, his Majesty sent orders to Paris that the actors of the "Comedy" Theater from Paris should spend the time of the armistice at Dresden. The Duke of Vicenza, charged in the interim with the duties of grand marshal of the palace, was ordered to make all necessary preparations to receive them. He committed this duty to the care of Messieurs de Beausset and de Turenne, to whom the Emperor gave the superintendence of the theater; and a hall to be used for this purpose was erected in the orangery of the Marcolini palace. This hall communicated with the apartments, and could seat about two hundred persons. It was erected as if by magic, and was opened, while awaiting the arrival of the French troupe, with two or three representations given by the Italian comedians of the King of Saxony.
The actors from Paris were: For tragedy, Messieurs Saint-Prix and Talma and Mademoiselle Georges.
For comedy: Messieurs Fleury, Saint-Fal, Baptiste the younger, Armand,
Thenard, Michot, Devigny, Michelot and Barbier; Mesdames Mars, Bourgoin,
Thenard, Emilie Contat, and Mezeray.
The management of the theater was given to M. Despres.
All these actors arrived on the 19th of June, and found every arrangement made for their comfort,—tastefully furnished lodgings, carriages, servants, everything which could enable them to agreeably endure the ennui of a residence in a foreign land, and prove to them at the same time how highly his Majesty appreciated their talents; an appreciation which most of them richly merited, both on account of their excellent social qualities, and the nobility and refinement of their manners.
The debut of the French troupe at the theater of the Orangery took place on the 22d of June, in the 'Gageure Imprevue', and another piece, then much in vogue at Paris, and which has often since been witnessed with much pleasure, 'La Suite d'un Bal Masque'.
As the theater of the Orangery would have been too small for the representation of tragedy, that was reserved for the grand theater of the city; and persons were admitted on those occasions only by cards from the Count of Turenne, no admission fee being charged.
At the grand theater on the days of the French play, and also in the theater at the Marcolini palace, the footmen of his Majesty attended upon the boxes, and served refreshments while the piece was being played.
This is how the days were spent after the arrival of the actors of the
Everything was quiet until eight o'clock in the morning, unless a courier arrived, or some aide-de-camp was unexpectedly summoned. At eight o'clock I dressed the Emperor; at nine he held his levee, which all could attend who held as high a rank as colonel. The civil and military authorities of the country were also admitted; the Dukes of Weimar and d'Anhalt, the brothers and nephews of the King of Saxony, sometimes attended. Next came breakfast; then the parade in the meadows of Osterwise, about one hundred paces distant from the palace, to which the Emperor always went on horseback, and dismounted on arriving; the troops filed before him, and cheered him three times with their customary enthusiasm. The evolutions were commanded sometimes by the Emperor, sometimes by the Count of Lobau. As soon as the cavalry began to defile, his majesty re-entered the palace and began to work. Then began that perfect stillness of which I have spoken; and dinner was not served until late,—seven or eight o'clock. The Emperor often dined alone with the Prince de Neuchatel, unless there were guests from the royal family of Saxony. After dinner they attended the theater, when there was a play; and afterwards the Emperor returned to his cabinet to work again, either alone or with his secretaries.
Each day it was the same thing, unless, which was very rarely the case, fatigued beyond measure by the labors of the day, the Emperor took a fancy to send for Madame Georges after the tragedy. Then she passed two or three hours in his apartment, but never more.
Sometimes the Emperor invited Talma or Mademoiselle Mars to breakfast. One day, in a conversation with this admirable actress, the Emperor spoke to her concerning her debut. "Sire," said she, in that graceful manner which every one remembers, "I began very young. I slipped in without being perceived."—"Without being perceived!" replied his Majesty quickly; "you are mistaken. Be assured moreover, Mademoiselle, that I have always, in common with all France, highly appreciated your wonderful talents."
The Emperor's stay at Dresden brought wealth and abundance. More than six million francs of foreign money were spent in this city between the 8th of May and 16th of November, if one can believe the statements published on Saxon authority of the number of lodgings distributed. This sojourn was a harvest of gold, which keepers of boarding-houses, hotels, and merchants carefully reaped. Those in charge of military lodgings furnished by the inhabitants also made large profits. At Dresden could be seen Parisian tailors and bootmakers, teaching the natives to work in the French style. Even bootblacks were found on the bridges over the Elbe, crying, as they had cried on the bridges of the Seine, "Shine your boots!"
Around the city numerous camps had been established for the wounded, convalescents, etc. One of these, called the Westphalian camp, presented a most beautiful scene. It was a succession of beautiful small gardens; there a fortress made of turf, its bastions crowned with hortensias; here a plot had been converted into a terrace, its walks ornamented with flowers, like the most carefully tended parterre; on a third was seen a statue of Pallas. The whole barrack was decked with moss, and decorated with boughs and garlands which were renewed each day.
As the armistice would end on the 15th of August, the fete of his Majesty was advanced five days. The army, the town, and the court had made extensive preparations in order that the ceremony might be worthy of him in whose honor it was given. All the richest and most distinguished inhabitants of Dresden vied with each other in balls, concerts, festivities, and rejoicings of all sorts. The morning before the day of the review, the King of Saxony came to the residence of the Emperor with all his family, and the two sovereigns manifested the warmest friendship for each other. They breakfasted together, after which his Majesty, accompanied by the King of Saxony, his brothers and nephews, repaired to the meadow behind the palace, where fifteen thousand men of the guard awaited him in as fine condition as on the most brilliant parades on the Champ-de-Mars.
After the review, the French and Saxon troops dispersed through the various churches to hear the Te Deum; and at the close of the religious ceremony, all these brave soldiers seated themselves at banqueting tables already prepared, and their joyous shouts with music and dancing were prolonged far into the night.
The entire duration of the armistice was employed in negotiations tending to a treaty of peace, which the Emperor ardently desired, especially since he had seen the honor of his army restored on the fields of Lutzen and Bautzen; but unfortunately he desired it only on conditions to which the enemy would not consent, and soon the second series of our disasters recommenced, and rendered peace more and more impossible. Besides, from the beginning of negotiations relative to the armistice, whose limit we had now nearly reached, the emperor Alexander, notwithstanding the three battles won by Napoleon, would listen to no direct proposals from France, except on the sole condition that Austria should act as mediator. This distrust, as might be expected, did not tend to produce a final. reconciliation, and, being the conquering party, the Emperor was naturally irritated by it; nevertheless, under these grave circumstances he conquered the just resentment caused by the conduct of the Emperor of Russia towards himself. The result of the time lost at Dresden, like the prolongation of our sojourn at Moscow, was a great advantage to the enemy.
All hopes of a peaceful adjustment of affairs now having vanished, on the 15th of August the Emperor ordered his carriage; we left Dresden, and the war recommenced. The French army was still magnificent and imposing, with a force of two hundred thousand infantry, but only forty thousand cavalry, as it had been entirely impossible to repair completely the immense loss of horses that had been sustained. The most serious danger at that time arose from the fact that England was the soul of the coalition of Russia, Prussia, and Sweden against France. Her subsidies having obtained her the supreme control, nothing could be decided without consulting her; and I have since learned that even during the pretended negotiations the British government had declared to the Emperor of Russia that under the circumstances the conditions of the treaty of Luneville would be far too favorable to France. All these complications might be expressed in these words: "We desire war!" War was then waged, or rather the scourge continued to desolate Germany, and soon threatened and invaded France. I should, moreover, call attention to the fact that what contributed to render our position extremely critical in case of reverses was that Prussia waged on us not simply a war of regular armies, but that it had now assumed the character of a national war, by the calling out of the Zandwehr and Zandsturm which made the situation far more dangerous than against the tactics of the best disciplined army. To so many other complications was added the fear, soon only too well justified, of seeing Austria from an inoffensive and unbiased mediator become a declared enemy.
Before going farther, I deem it best to refer again to two or three occurrences I have inadvertently omitted which took place during our stay at Dresden previous to what might be called the second campaign of 1813. The first of these was the appearance at Dresden of the Duke of Otranto, whom his Majesty had summoned.
He had been very rarely seen at the Tuileries since the Duke of Rovigo had replaced him as minister of general police; and I noticed that his presence at headquarters was a great surprise to every one, as he was thought to be in complete disgrace. Those who seek to explain the causes of the smallest events think that his Majesty's idea was to oppose the subtle expedients of the police under M. Fouche to the then all-powerful police of the Baron de Stein, the armed head of all the secret parties which were forming in every direction, and which were regarded, not without reason, as the rulers of popular opinion in Prussia and Germany, and, above all, in the numerous schools, where the students were only awaiting the moment for taking up arms. These conjectures as to M. Fouche's presence at Dresden were without foundation. The Emperor in recalling him had a real motive, which he, however, disguised under a specious pretext. Having been deeply impressed by the conspiracy of Malet, his Majesty thought that it would not be prudent to leave at Paris during his absence a person so discontented and at the same time so influential as the Duke of Otranto; and I heard him many times express himself on this subject in a manner which left no room for doubt. But in order to disguise this real motive, the Emperor appointed M. Fouche governor of the Illyrian provinces in place of Count Bertrand, who was given the command of an army-corps, and was soon after appointed to succeed the adorable General Duroc in the functions of grand marshal of the palace. Whatever the justice of this distrust of Fouche, it is very certain that few persons were so well convinced of the superiority of his talents as a police officer as his Majesty himself. Several times when anything extraordinary occurred at Paris, and especially when he learned of the conspiracy of Malet, the Emperor, recalling in the evening what had impressed him most deeply during the day, ended by saying, "This would not have happened if Fouche had been minister of police!" Perhaps this was undue partiality; for the Emperor assuredly never had a more faithful and devoted servant than the Duke of Rovigo, although many jests were made in Paris over his custom of punishing by a few hours imprisonment.
Prince Eugene having returned to Italy at the beginning of the campaign in order to organize a new army in that country, we did not see him at Dresden; the King of Naples, who had arrived on the night of the 13th or 14th August presented himself there almost alone; and his contribution to the grand army consisted of only the small number of Neapolitan troops he had left there on his departure for Naples.
I was in the Emperor's apartment when the King of Naples entered, and saw him for the first time. I did not know to what cause to attribute it, but I noticed that the Emperor did not give his brother-in-law as cordial a welcome as in the past. Prince Murat said that he could no longer remain idle at Naples, knowing that the French army to which he still belonged was in the field, and he asked only to be allowed to fight in its ranks. The Emperor took him with him to the parade, and gave him the command of the Imperial Guard; and a more intrepid commander would have been difficult to find. Later he was given the general command of the cavalry.
During the whole time of the armistice, spun out rather than filled with the slow and useless conferences of the Congress of Prague, it would be impossible to describe the various labors in which the Emperor occupied himself from morning till evening, and often far into the night. He could frequently be seen bending over his maps, making, so to speak, a rehearsal of the battles he meditated. Nevertheless, greatly exasperated by the slowness of the negotiations as to the issue of which he could no longer delude himself, he ordered, shortly before the end of July, that everything should be prepared and in readiness for a journey he intended making as far as Mayence. He made an appointment to meet the Empress there; and as she was to arrive on the 25th, the Emperor consequently arranged his departure so as to arrive only a short time after. I recall this journey only as a fact, since it was signalized by nothing remarkable, except the information the Emperor received at this time of the death of the Duke of Abrantes, who had just succumbed at Dijon to a violent attack of his former malady. Although the Emperor was already aware that he was in a deplorable state of mental alienation, and must consequently have expected this loss, he felt it none the less sensibly, and sincerely mourned his former aide-decamp.
The Emperor remained only a few days with the Empress, whom he met again with extreme pleasure. But as important political considerations recalled him, he returned to Dresden, visiting several places on his route, and the 4th of August we returned to the capital of Saxony. Travelers who had seen this beautiful country only in a time of peace would have recognized it with difficulty. Immense fortifications had metamorphosed it into a warlike town; numerous batteries had been placed in the suburbs overlooking the opposite bank of the Elbe. Everything assumed a warlike attitude, and the Emperor's time became so completely and entirely absorbed that he remained nearly three days without leaving his cabinet.
Nevertheless, in the midst of the preparations for war all arrangements were made to celebrate on the 10th of August the Emperor's fete, which had been advanced five days, because, as I have previously observed, the armistice expired precisely on the anniversary of Saint-Napoleon; and, as may be readily inferred from his natural passion for war, the resumption of hostilities was not an addition to his fete which he would be likely to disdain.
There was at Dresden, as had been customary at Paris, a special representation at the theater on the evening before the Emperor's fete. The actors of the French theater played two comedies on the 9th at five o'clock in the evening; which representation was the last, as the actors of the French Comedy received orders immediately afterwards to return to Paris. The next day the King of Saxony, accompanied by all the princes of the royal family, repaired at nine o'clock in the morning to the Marcolini palace, in order to pay his respects to the Emperor; after which a grand morning reception was held as was the custom at the Tuileries, and a review, at which the Emperor inspected a part of his guard, several regiments, and the Saxon troops, who were invited to dine by the French troops. On that day the city of Dresden without much exaggeration might have been compared to a great dining-hall. In fact, while his Majesty was dining in state at the palace of the King of Saxony, where the whole family of this prince was assembled, the entire diplomatic corps was seated at the table of the Duke of Bassano; Baron Bignon, envoy from France to Warsaw, feasted all the distinguished Poles present in Dresden; Count Darn gave a grand dinner to the French authorities; General Friant to the French and Saxon generals; and Baron de Serra, minister from France to Dresden, to the chiefs of the Saxon colleges. This day of dinings was concluded by a supper for nearly two hundred guests, which General Henri Durosnel, Governor of Dresden, gave that evening at the close of a magnificent ball at the residence of M. de Serra.
On our return from Mayence to Dresden I learned that the residence of General Durosnel was the rendezvous of all the highest circles of society, both Saxon and French. During the absence of his Majesty, the general, taking advantage of this leisure, gave numerous fetes, among others one to the actors and actresses of French Comedy. I recall in this connection an amusing anecdote which was related to me at the time. Baptiste junior, with no lack either of decorum or refinement, contributed greatly to the amusement of the evening, being presented under the name of my Lord Bristol, English diplomat, en route to the Council of Prague. His disguise was so perfect, his accent so natural, and his phlegm so imperturbable, that many persons of the Saxon court were completely deceived, which did not in the least astonish me; and I thereby saw that Baptiste junior's talent for mystification had lost nothing since the time when I had been so highly diverted at the breakfasts of Colonel Beauharnais. How many events had occurred since that time.
The Emperor, seeing that nothing could longer delay the resumption of hostilities, had consequently divided the two hundred thousand men of his infantry into fourteen army corps, the command of which was given to Marshals Victor, Ney, Marmont, Augereau, Macdonald, Oudinot, Davoust, and Gouvion Saint-Cyr, Prince Poniatowski, and Generals Reynier, Rapp, Lauriston, Vandamme, and Bertrand. The forty thousand cavalry formed six grand divisions under the command of Generals Nansouty, Latour- Maubourg, Sebastiani, Arrighi, Milhaud, and Kellermann; and, as I have already said, the King of Naples had the command of the Imperial Guard. Moreover, in this campaign appeared for the first time on our fields of battle the guard of honor, a select troop recruited from the richest and most distinguished families, and which had been increased to more than ten thousand men, divided into two divisions under the simple title of regiments; one of which was commanded by General Count of Pully, and the other, if I am not mistaken, by General Segur. These youths, but lately idlers given up to repose and pleasure, became in a short time most excellent cavalry, which signalized itself on various occasions, notably at the battle of Dresden, of which I shall soon have occasion to speak.
The strength of the French army has been previously stated. The combined army of the allies amounted to four hundred and twenty thousand infantry, and its cavalry to hardly less than one hundred thousand, without counting a reserve army corps of eighty thousand Russians, in readiness to leave Poland under the command of General Beningsen. Thus the enemy's army outnumbered ours in the proportion of two to one.
At the time we entered into this campaign, Austria had just declared war openly against us. This blow, although not unexpected, struck the Emperor deeply, and he expressed himself freely in regard to it before all persons who had the honor to approach him. M. de Metternich, I have heard it stated, had almost certainly forewarned him of this in the last interviews this minister had at Dresden with his Majesty; but the Emperor had been entirely unable to bring himself to the belief that the Emperor of Austria would make common cause with the coalition of the north against his own daughter and grandson. Finally all doubts were solved by the arrival of Count Louis de Narbonne, who was returning from Prague to Dresden, as bearer of a declaration of war from Austria. Every one foresaw that France must soon count among its enemies all the countries no longer occupied by its troops, and results justified this prediction only too well. Nevertheless, everything was not lost, for we had not yet been compelled to take the defensive.
War recommenced before negotiations were finally broken, for the Duke of Vicenza was still in communication with M. de Metternich. The Emperor, as he mounted his horse, said to the numerous generals surrounding him that he now marched to conquer a peace. But what hope could remain after the declaration of war by Austria, and above all, when it was known that the allied sovereigns had incessantly increased their pretensions in proportion as the Emperor granted the concessions demanded? The Emperor left Dresden at five o'clock in the afternoon, advancing on the road to Koenigstein, and passed the next day at Bautzen, where he revisited the battlefield, the scene of his last victory. There the king of Naples, who did not wish royal honors to be rendered himself, came to rejoin the Emperor at the head of the Imperial Guard, who presented as imposing an appearance as in its pristine days.
We arrived at Gorlitz on the 18th, where the Emperor found the Duke of Vicenza, who was returning from Bohemia. He confirmed the truth of the report his Majesty had already received at Dresden, that the Emperor of Austria had already decided to make common cause with the Emperor of Russia and the Kings of Prussia and Sweden against the husband of his daughter, the princess whom he had given to the Emperor as a pledge of peace. It was also through the Duke of Vicenza that the Emperor learned that General Blucher had just entered Silesia at the head of an army of one hundred thousand men, and, in violation of most sacred promises, had seized on Breslau the evening before the day fixed for the rupture of the armistice. This same day General Jomini, Swiss by birth, but until recently in the service of France, chief of staff to Marshal Ney, and loaded with favors by the Emperor, had deserted his post, and reported at the headquarters of the Emperor Alexander, who had welcomed him with demonstrations of most intense satisfaction.
[Baron Henri Jomini, author of the celebrated treatise on the art of war, was born in the Canton de Vaud, 1779; aide-de-camp to Ney, 1804; distinguished himself in several battles, and on his desertion was made lieutenant-general and aide to Emperor Alexander; died 1869.]
The Duke of Vicenza gave the particulars of this desertion, which seemed to affect his Majesty more than all the other news. He told him, among other things, that when General Jomini had entered the presence of Alexander, he found this monarch surrounded by his chiefs, among whom Moreau was pointed out to him. This was the first information the Emperor had received of General Moreau's presence at the enemy's headquarters. The Duke of Vicenza added, that when the Emperor Alexander presented General Jomini to Moreau the latter saluted him coolly, and Jomini replied only by a slight inclination of his head, and retired without uttering a word, and the remainder of the evening remained in gloomy silence in a corner of the saloon opposite to that occupied by General Moreau. This constraint had not escaped the Emperor Alexander's observation; and the next morning, as he was making his toilet, he addressed Marshal Ney's ex-chief of staff: "General Jomini," said he, "what is the cause of your conduct yesterday? It seems to me that it would have been agreeable to you to meet General Moreau."—"Anywhere else, Sire."—"What!"—"If I had been born a Frenchman, like the general, I should not be to-day in the camp of your Majesty." When the Duke of Vicenza had finished his report to the Emperor, his Majesty remarked with a bitter smile, "I am sure that wretch Jomini thinks he has performed a fine action! Ah, Caulaincourt, these desertions will destroy me!" Perhaps Moreau, in welcoming General Jomini so coldly, was actuated by the thought that were he still serving in the French army he would not have betrayed it with arms in his hand; and after all it is not an unusual thing to see two traitors each blush for the other, deluding themselves at the same time in regard to their own treachery, not comprehending that the sentiments they feel are the same as those they inspire.
However that may be, the news which M. de Caulaincourt brought caused the Emperor to make some changes in his plans for the campaign. His Majesty entirely abandoned the idea of repairing in person to Berlin, as he had expressed his intention of doing, and, realizing the necessity of ascertaining first of all the contemplated operations of the grand army of Austria, commanded by the Prince of Schwarzenberg, penetrated into Bohemia; but learning through the couriers of the army and his spies that eighty thousand Russians still remained on the opposite side with a considerable body of the Austrian army, he retraced his steps after a few engagements in which his presence decided the victory, and on the 24th we found ourselves again at Bautzen. His Majesty from this place sent the King of Naples to Dresden, in order to restore the courage of the King of Saxony and the inhabitants when they should find the enemy at the gates of their city. The Emperor sent them the assurance that the enemy's forces would not enter, since he had returned to defend its approaches, and urged them at the same time not to allow themselves to be dismayed by any sudden or unexpected attack made by isolated detachments. Murat arrived at a most opportune moment, for we learned later that consternation had become general in the city; but such was the prestige attached to the Emperor's assurances that all took courage again on learning of his presence.
After the King of Naples had gone to fulfill this mission, Colonel Gourgaud was called during the morning into the Emperor's tent, where I then was. "I will be tomorrow on the road to Pirna," said his Majesty; "but I shall halt at Stolpen. As for you, hasten to Dresden; go with the utmost speed; reach it this night. Interview on your arrival the King of Naples, Durosnel, the Duke of Bassano, and Marshal Gouvion Saint-Cyr; reassure them all. See also the Saxon minister Gersdorf. Say to him that you could not see the king because you set out in such haste; but that I can to-morrow bring forty thousand men into Dresden, and that I am preparing to enter with all the army. Next day you will see the commandant of the engineering corps; you will visit the redoubts and the fortifications of the town; and when you have inspected everything, you will return quickly and meet me at Stolpen. Report to me exactly the real state of affairs, as well as the opinion of Marshal Saint-Cyr and the Duke of Bassano. Set out." The colonel left immediately at a gallop, though he had eaten nothing as yet that day.
The next evening at eleven o'clock, Colonel Gourgaud returned to the Emperor, after performing all the requirements of his mission. Meanwhile the allied army had descended into the plain of Dresden, and had already made some attacks upon the advance posts. It resulted from information given by the colonel that when the King of Naples arrived, the city, which had been in a state of complete demoralization, now felt that its only hope was in the Emperor's arrival.
In truth, hordes of Cossacks were already in sight of the faubourgs, which they threatened to attack; and their appearance had compelled the inhabitants of these faubourgs to take refuge in the interior of the city. "As I left," said Colonel Gourgaud, "I saw a village in flames half a league from the great gardens, and Marshal Gouvion Saint-Cyr was preparing to evacuate that position."—"But after all," said the Emperor eagerly, "what is the opinion of the Duke of Bassano?"—"Sire, the Duke of Bassano does not think that we can hold out twenty-four hours."—"And you?"—"I, Sire? I think that Dresden will be taken to-morrow if your Majesty is not there."—"I can then rely upon what you tell me?"— "Sire, I will answer for it with my head."
Then his Majesty summoned General Haxo, and said to him, his finger on the map, "Vandamme is advancing by way of Pirna beyond the Elbe. The eagerness of the enemy in penetrating as far as Dresden has been extreme. Vandamme will find himself in his rear. I intend to sustain his movement with my whole army; but I am uneasy as to the fate of Dresden, and am not willing to sacrifice that city. I can reach it in a few hours, and I shall do so, although it grieves me much to abandon a plan which if well executed might furnish the means of routing all the allies at one blow. Happily Vandamme is still in sufficient strength to supplement the general movement by attacks at special points which will annoy the enemy. Order him, then, to go from Pirna to Ghiesubel, to gain the defiles of Peterswalde, and when intrenched in this impregnable position, to await the result of operations under the walls of Dresden. I reserve for him the duty of receiving the swords of the vanquished. But in order to do this it is necessary that he should keep his wits about him, and pay no attention to the tumult made by the terrified inhabitants. Explain to General Vandamme exactly what I expect of him. Never will he have a finer opportunity to gain the marshal's baton."
General Haxo set out instantly; and the Emperor made Colonel Gourgaud reenter his apartment, and ordered him to take a fresh horse, and return to Dresden more quickly than he had come, in order to announce his arrival. "The old guard will precede me," said his Majesty. "I hope that they will have no more fear when they see that."
On the morning of the 26th the Emperor was seated on his horse on the bridge of Dresden, and began, amid cries of joy from both the young and old guard, to make dispositions for the terrible battle which lasted three days.
It was ten o'clock in the morning when the inhabitants of Dresden, now reduced to despair, and speaking freely of capitulation, witnessed his Majesty's arrival. The scene changed suddenly; and to the most complete discouragement succeeded most entire confidence, especially when the haughty cuirassiers of Latour-Maubourg defiled over the bridge, holding their heads high, and their eyes fixed on the neighboring hillsides covered by the enemy's lines. The Emperor immediately alighted at the palace of the king, who was preparing to seek an asylumn in the new town, but whose intentions were changed by the arrival of this great man. The interview was extremely touching.
I cannot undertake to describe all the occurrences of those memorable days, in which the Emperor covered himself with glory, and was more exposed to danger than he had ever been at any time. Pages, equerries, and aides-decamp fell dead around him, balls pierced the stomach of his horse, but nothing could touch him. The soldiers saw this and redoubled their ardor, and also their confidence and admiration. I shall simply state that the Emperor did not re-enter the chateau until midnight, and then spent the hours until daylight dictating orders, while promenading up and down the room with great strides, until at break of day he remounted his horse. The weather was horrible, and the rain lasted the whole day. In the evening, the enemy being completely routed, the Emperor returned to the palace in a frightful condition. From the time he mounted his horse, at six o'clock in the morning, the rain had not ceased a single instant, and he was so wet that it could be said without any figure of speech that the water ran down into his boots from the collar of his coat, for they were entirely filled with it. His hat of very fine beaver was so ruined that it fell down over his shoulders, his buff belt was perfectly soaked with water; in fact a man just drawn out of the river would not be wetter than the Emperor. The King of Saxony, who awaited him, met him in this condition, and embraced him as a cherished son who had just escaped a great danger; and this excellent prince's eyes were full of tears as he pressed the saviour of his capital to his heart. After a few reassuring and tender words from the Emperor, his Majesty entered his apartments, leaving everywhere traces of the water which dripped from every part of his clothing, and I had much difficulty in undressing him. Knowing that the Emperor greatly enjoyed a bath after a fatiguing day, I had it prepared; but as he felt unusually fatigued, and in addition to this began to shiver considerably, his Majesty preferred retiring to his bed, which I hurriedly warmed. Hardly had the Emperor retired, however, than he had Baron Fain, one of his secretaries, summoned to read his accumulated correspondence, which was very voluminous. After this he took his bath, but had remained in it only a few moments when he was seized with a sudden sickness accompanied by vomiting, which obliged him to retire to bed.
His Majesty said to me, "My dear Constant, a little rest is absolutely indispensable to me; see that I am not awaked except for matters of the gravest importance; say this to Fain." I obeyed the Emperor's orders, after which I took my position in the room in front of his Majesty's chamber, watching with the attention of a sentinel on duty lest he should be awakened, or any one should even approach his apartment.
The next morning the Emperor rang very early, and I entered his room immediately, anxious to know how he had passed the night. I found him almost entirely restored, and in fine spirits. He told me, however, that he had had a short attack of fever. I must here remark that it was the only time the Emperor had fever, and during the whole time I was with him I never saw him ill enough to keep his bed for twenty-four hours. He rose at his usual hour, and when he descended was intensely gratified by the fine appearance made by the battalion on duty. Those brave grenadiers, who the evening before had served as his escort, and reentered Dresden with him in a most pitiable condition, this morning he saw ranged in the court of the palace in splendid condition, and bearing arms as brilliant as if it were a day of parade on the Place du Carrousel. These brave fellows had spent the night polishing their arms, and drying themselves around great fires which they had kindled for the purpose, having thus preferred the satisfaction of presenting themselves in faultless condition before their Emperor's eyes to the sleep and rest which they must so greatly have needed.
One word of approbation repaid them for their fatigue, and it may be truly said never was a military chief so much beloved by his soldiers as his Majesty.
The last courier who had returned from Paris to Dresden, and whose dispatches were read, as I have said, to the Emperor, bore several letters for me written by my family and two or three of my friends; and all who have accompanied his Majesty on his campaigns, in whatever rank or employment, well know how we valued news received from home. These letters informed me, I remember, of a famous lawsuit going on in the court of assizes between the banker Michel and Reynier, which scandalous affair caused much comment in the capital, and almost divided with the news from the army the interest and attention of the public; and also of the journey the Empress was about to make to Cherbourg, to be present at the opening of the dikes, and filling the harbor with water from the ocean. This journey, as may well be imagined, had been suggested by the Emperor, who sought every opportunity of putting the Empress forward, and making her perform the duties of a sovereign, as regent of the Empire. She summoned and presided over the council of ministers, and more than once I heard the Emperor congratulate himself after the declaration of war with Austria that his Louise, as he called her, acted solely for the interests of France, and had nothing Austrian but her birth. He also allowed her the satisfaction of herself publishing and in her own name all the official news of the army. The bulletins were no longer issued; but the news was transmitted to her all ready for publication, which was doubtless an attention on the part of his Majesty in order to render the Empress Regent more popular, by making her the medium of communication between the government and the public. Moreover, it is a fact, that we who were on the spot, although we knew at once whether the battle was gained or lost, often did not know the entire operations of the different corps maneuvering on an immense line of battle, except through the journals of Paris; and our eagerness to read them may well be imagined.
Age in which one breathes well only after resting
All orders given by his Majesty were short, precise
Living ever in the future
Necessity is ever ready with inventions
Power of thus isolating one's self completely from all the world