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1812. BATTLE OF THE MOSKWA. 255
8th of F/bptember was the day long sought by Napol *on. He was or>* horseback before daybreak, and saw the sun rise in splendor, like that of Austerlitz. Two tresh arrivals from Paris were announced: the one a chamberlain, with a portrait of the young king of Rome; the other, Fabvier, with tidings of the loss of the battle of Salamanca by Marmont. Shaking off the ideas excited by both, Napoleon issued a short address:—" Soldiers! here is the battle you have so much desired. Victory must depend on you. We need one, in order to have abundance, good quarters, and a speedy return to France. Conduct yourselves as at Austerlitz and Friedland. Let people say of each of you with pride—' He was at that great battle in the plains of Moscow!'"
The left of the French, under the viceroy, was at Borodino, beyond the stream; the Russian right opposed to it was well fortified. Prince Eugene was ordered to follow this example. The other bodies of the Russians, their centre and left, under Barclay and Bagration, were also fortified, each on its summit; Barclay by a large redoubt, Bagration by several batteries. The French, as usual, had the disadvantage of attacking. The plan of Bonaparte was to carry first the batteries of Bagration, and then take the great central redoubt in flank. Accordingly the action, though commenced on all points, chiefly lay in the attack of Davoust upon the batteries. It was gallantly supported, and as gallantly resisted. The general of the attacking division, Campans, was wounded; Rapp, who succeeded him, was wounded also; and Davoust hfmself hurt by the fall of his horse, which was killed under him. The attack on the right, in consequence, faltered; but victory came from the left, where Napoleon least expected it.
The viceroy of Italy, Eugene Beauharnois, instead of holding back, according to his orders, pushed forward into Borodino, got possession of it, and improving his advantage, dashed across the river, to the attack of the great redoubt.. The column of Davoust had, in the mean time, rallied; its second effort drove Bagration from his batteries; his soldiers still returned to recover them, but in vain. Their efforts, however, restored confidence to the Russian army. Borodino was again menaced by Cossacks, Eugene's attempt upon the central redoubt repulsed, and Bagration himself rallied to cover Barclay's flank. The French were not used to meet with this stubborn resistance, these alternations of fortune. Again, however, they returned to the charge, and what Fain calls a third battle was fought towards evening on the contested points. Finally, the Russians were beaten from the great redoubt, and abandoned the field. It is said, that by ordering forward his guard, which he held in reserve, Bonaparte might have changed the Russian retreat into a rout, intercepted; and cut up their army. But Bagration had shown the stubbornness of the Russians on such occasions; and Napoleon would not risk his guard, nor advance his reserve when the consequence was doubtful.
The battle was won, but dearly. Eight generals fell on the part of the French; the heroic Bragation killed, was a loss as severe to the Russians. The honor of the day fell to Ney, Davoust's fall having kept him back. Murat and Poniatowski, at the head of their cavalry, had charged up the hills, and ridden into the redoubt. General Caulaincourt, penetrating into it with his cuirassiers, perished. Ney was created prince of the Moskwa, this river, which runs to Moscow, being a short space in the rear of the action; its name sounded better to fame than the Kalocza, on whose banks it was really fought. The night of victory was one of sadness to Napoleon. "Seven or eight hundred prisoners, and a score of broken cannon, were all his trophies won." The discouragement of his army was excessive. His generals accused him of languor, of not having followed up his advantage. Naught less than the brilliant results of Austerlitz and Marengo could satisfy them. But on this occasion the enemy,—the French themselves,— above all, the scene, was changed. Napoleon did not put forth his last strength, for he knew it could not be decisive, and that Kutusoff, even routed, would not dispense with the necessity of farther combats and more active struggles. With such prospects as the Russian mode of warfare held out to him, he refused to give Ney and Murat, those expenders t>f military blood, the last rouleau of that precious coin which he possessed. We believe, in opposition to Segur, that it was his moral despondency, but too well founded, that influenced his spirits, not that disease or corpulency benumbed his faculties.
Moscow, however, was won. Kutusoff reluctantly abandoned the hope of defending it. The governor, Rostopchin, took his measures, if not for excluding the French, at least for rendering the possession useless to them. But Moscow remained, apparently, in all its original splendor, when the French entered it on the 14th of September. Napoleon took up his residence at the Kremlin, the ancient palace of the czars. He was not long left in peaceable possession of it. From the first day of occupation, fire had appeared in different quarters. It was either neglected or renewed; but on the 17th the flames, fanned by a strong wind, spread rapidly, and showed themselves masters of the whole city. The Kremlin was surrounded by the fire, its windows burst with heat, and it required all the efft rts of the guard to preserve the quarters 1812. MOSCOW OCCUi. ED AND BURNED 257
of Napoleon. At length, when a way was cleared for him through the burning city, he left it, and established himself at the country-house of Petrowskoie, not far from the gates of Moscow. There is now scarcely a doubt raised by historians that the burning of Moscow was a premeditated act. Smolensko had suffered a similar fate; and if, as Fain asserts, Russian incendiaries had been seized in the towns west of Moscow, it was wonderful that more order and care had not been taken to prevent the catastrophe. Had it been Rostopchin's intention, too, as he has boasted, to destroy the city, it is not probable that he would have waited for the arrival of the French, who by greater vigilance might have prevented it. After all, the accidents to which a wooden city must be liable in war, with the population of its prisons, and its lower classes let loose in it, with foreign soldiery, may very possibly have produced a catastrophe, claimed as design, when events had shown its advantage.
The first object of the expedition over, and Moscow, or its Tuins, in the power.of the French, what was to be the next aim 1 No envoy of peace appeared; it was necessary still to conquer it. Napoleon's instant conception was to march upon St. Petersburgh, menace or cut off Wittgenstein, and be reinforced by the army of Macdonald. It was a giant resolve, and required giant efforts. It was the wisest too, except that of immediate and direct retreat, which had many disadvantages. But, without the cbncurrence of his chiefs, such an enterprise was impossible. They had been churlish and discontented throughout the expedition. They were tired of it, and determined on retreat. They merely counselled retiring by a new and circuitous road to the south. Napoleon could not persist in his plan; his officers rebelled: their plan was equally repugnant to him. And betwixt both opinions, resolve rested in suspense, and neither was prosecuted: this was the most fatal step of all. The French remained at Moscow, waiting, like victims, for the winter to immolate them. A little more courage would have followed the emperor's idea; and if ever Alexander was to be brought to terms, it was by marching towards him. On the contrary, however, Napoleon sent Lauriston with proposals of peace, and vainly awaited in the Kremlin, which had been preserved from the fire, an anwer never to return.
At length, after a month's lingering and incertitude, Moscow was evacuated by tue main body of the French on the 19th of October a rear-guard remaining with orders to blow up the Kremlin. The imperial wagons were laden with trophies, those of the army with spoil, and all the carriages and caleches of Moscow travelled with their captors. It seemed merely a return from a party of pleasure. A month was yet to elapse ere the middle of November, the general period for the frost's setting in. To arrive at Smolensko, and take up winter-quarters before that time, seemed feasible and certain. The army of Kutusoff in the mean time, after evac uating Moscow, had turned, still within sight of the burning city, towards the south. Murat had followed it, but in the in certitude of the moment had established an armistice. It was now broken by the Russians, who showed that the day of Borodino or of the Moskwa had not damped their courage. Murat was defeated. Napoleon, on leaving Moscow, adopted the original plan proposed by his chief officers, to march first to the important town of Kalouga, and thence by a fresh unwasted road to Smolensko. The circuit would allow the last corps time to evacuate Moscow. The French numbered 100,000 men, almost all on foot; artillery and cavalry were without horses; and there was every prospect of being obliged to abandon some, if not the greater part, of the former.
In a mood of deep despite, Napoleon left Moscow for Kalouga; the chief motive with him now for choosing this southern road was that it had not the appearance of retreat, so anxious was he to conceal his failure even from his own eyes. To master Kalouga was no distant nor arrogant aim. Yet he manoeuvred, and thought it necessary to conceal his line of march from Kutusoff, in order to reach it. The Russian general was warned, however, and reached Malojaroslawitz in time to oppose the French march. A sanguinary engagement took place betwixt the advanced guard under prince Eugene and the Russians; the village, taken and retaken, at length was kept by the French; but Kutusoff's army, drawn up behind it, presented an order of battle. Napoleon rode to reconnoitre. Scarcely had he quitted the lines, when a cloud of Cossacks galloped past and round. The emperor's attendants would have had him return, but he refused to fly, and drew his sword in his personal defence. The Cossacks were beaten offj and he proceeded to reconnoitre. Should he attack the Russians 1 For what purpose 1 He had advanced towards Kalouga, to avoid or defer the appearance of a retreat that was inevitable. Better it was to be understood at once, than risk the army still more for the sake of mere vanity. The order to retreat was given. And, singular and provoking to say, Kutusoff, afraid of being attacked, had given similar orders on his side.
The French army in three corps now turned their faces to France, and to Smolensko as the nearest rallying place. They looked there for the support of Victor's fresh corps; but Vic1812. RETREAT OF THE FRENCH. 259
tor was busied elsewhere. Wittgenstein, reinforced by the overswelling levies of Russia, had beaten St. Cyr on the Dwina, and taken Witepsk. This was cutting the retreat off from Wilna, and TchitchagofF, commanding the army returned from the Turkish war, had received orders to advance from the south, and, by seizing Minsk, cut off the only other pracicable road westward. Such were the tidings that saluted Napoleon on his entry into Smolensko. The viceroy Eugene and Ney each led a corps in the rear of Napoleon, and were dreadfully harassed by the Russians, who, now driving their enemies before them, felt the spirit of success animating their previous stubbornness. Not only pursuing, but often anticipating the march of the foe, they hung upon his rear and flank, delayed his flight, by forcing him to turn and fight, whilst clouds of Cossacks swept away the stragglers, or deferring to slay, from a savage spirit of amusement, drove the famished wretches before their spear points as a pastime. Winter, too, set in,—that dreaded foe,—this year peculiarly severe and premature. The snow already fell in October; but on the 6th of November it descended, driven like a tourmente of the Alps, with a force, fury, and denseness unknown except in these northern climates. Amidst such weather the progress of the French, more especially of Ney, was a dire comjjat against the foe, and the elements as pitiless. The army foundered ere it reached even Smolensko, abandoning piecemeal its artillery, its deeply-venged plunder, the cross of Ivan, and the other trophies of the Kremlin. Even at that town, where it arrived in the middle of November, famine still awaited it. The magazines had been devoured. Winter became more fierce, the enemy more menacing both in front and rear; whilst the French numbers, at least its fighting numbers, did not exceed one third of the army that had evacuated Moscow.
This scanty force was now divided into bands, for the sake of procuring some sustenance, and preserving some order. It was actually surrounded by armies. Tchichagoff stopped its passage by the Minsk road, Wittgenstein by Witepsk; whils Kutusoff was behind, and in flank. The marvel is that single French soldier escaped. Ney was completely intercepted in his march, and summoned to surrender in a position where even the " bravest of the brave " might despair. With 5000 men against 80,000, Ney returned volley for volley, charged, was repulsed, but defended his division by his audacity, marched under cover of the night, and, in defiance of the whole army of Kutusoff, rejoined Napoleon. No feat of the twenty years of war surpasses this.
The point of danger now changed from the rear to the III.—17