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tal, Napoleon left this city for his forlorn campaign, on the 25th of January.
Schwartzenberg, having marched through Upper Burgundy, had come upon the Seine; the course of which he pursued towards Paris. Blucher from Mayence, passing the Vosges, had reached the Marne. Betwixt these two rivers lay the chief force of the attack, amounting to 150,000 men. Napo leon could not muster half the number; and few, very few, could be called soldiers, at least as yet. Advancing from Chalons, the emperor throwing himself betwixt Schwartzenberg and Blucher, directed, as usual, his first blow against the latter. The Prussian commander occupied Brienne, the scene of Napoleon's school-days: he was even at dinner in the castle when the French drove in his outposts. Ney commanded them. They took the chateau; but Blucher, having had time to escape, rallied his men, and directed them again upon the town, which was disputed warmly: the French were obliged to throw shells into it to dislodge the Prussians, who, it seems, could not overcome the obstinate defenders of the chateau. Lefebvre Desnouettes, leading the cavalry of the guard, fell severely wounded in the melee; whilst Napoleon himself exchanged blows with the foe, and was obliged to parry the lances of the Cossacks. Blucher was driven back at length, but not routed, rallying to a position behind Brienne, called La Rothiere, where, in the space of a day, he was certain of being supported by the army of Schwartzenberg.
This junction, which Napoleon had fought the battle of Brienne to prevent, now took place; and Blucher and Schwartzenberg attacked the French in turn, on the 1st of February, with vast superiority of force. Alexander and Frederic William were both present to encourage their army. Attacked along their whole line, the French stood their ground, although it required all the efforts of the generals to keep the young soldiers firm before such innumerable masses. Still towards evening the Russians in the centre wavered, when a charge of Blucher's secured the advantage. The French wings, especially that under Gerard, resisted heroically, covering the retreat, which was effected in the night. A great quantity of cannon and prisoners were abandoned. Such was the ominous commencement of the campaign.
Blucher now was all eager to push on to Paris. Being joined by two fresh divisions, he separated from Schwartzen berg and the Austrians, tardy in their advance both from char* acter and from policy. The emperor Francis still wished not to annihilate Napoleon's power; and under his influence the congress of Chatillon opened, to make another attempt at ne 1814. J3LUCHER DEFEATED. 27
gotiation, whilst Blucher persisted in advancing along the Marne. Napoleon, with his eye on the Prussians, sent Caulaincourt to the congress assembled now at Chatillon. In these openings towards accommodation, some new gleams of hope ever occurred to distract the emperor from a sense of his forlorn condition. Blucher's rash advance now inspired him with the plan of surprising and defeating the Prussians. The idea took possession of him; and so full was he of it that he refused to sanction the carte blanche to treat, which a few days previously he had given to Caulaincourt. The allies now, indeed, rose in their demands, and refused to leave even Belgium to France, insisting that she should retire within her ancient limits. It was a dire disgrace, a hard necessity, that could have wrung the proud heart of Napoleon to yield this. But still he haply would have consented to it, but for the hope that Blucher's rash advance offered. The Prussian general was thus unwittingly, and by his imprudence as much as his sagacity, the ruin of his sworn foe. Bent on defeating Blucher, Napoleon, on the 9th of February, refused to approve of the conditions sent to him from Chatillon by Caulaincourt; and thus nailing up the postern of safety, till then left open for him, he resolved to sally to the point, to conquer or to fall.
He now abandoned even the important town of Troyes, in order to his project; and transferring his army by cross roads and forced marches from the Seine to the Marne, he surprised the flank of Blucher, as that general was marching in all boldness upon Paris, confident that the day .of La Rothiere had been the last serious effort of the French. In this he was severely disappointed. Napoleon fell upon his centre at Champaubert, composed of Russians; defeated, routed it, and took a great number of prisoners and cannon. The van, under Sacken, was thus cut off from its rear, under Blucher. Napoleon, losing not a moment, came up with the former at Montmirail, and gained a victory over it equally decisive. It was thus, that Blucher, by his rashness, lost two thirds of his army: he redeemed the blunder, however, by the obstinacy with which, at the head of the remaining third, he retreated before Napoleon, until the advance of the Austrians on the side of the Seine recalled the emperor. The success of Montmirail,—the dispatch of captured Prussians, Russians, and their cannon to Paris, now elated Napoleon. Even after the first advantage of Champaubert, he had written tc his plenipotentiaries at Chatillon to take a prouder attitude Now, as he approached the Austrians, an officer of their army advanced to propose an armistice, and press the acceptance ot the conditions of Chatillon. Napolecn, victorious, returnee for answer, that he was willing to accede to those of Francfort; but Belgium he would not cede. "Recollect," said he, "that I am nearer to Munich than my foes to Paris."
Now took place the combat of Montereau. Schwartzenberg's advanced guard of Austrian and Wirtemburg troops occupied it, and defended a position in advance of the bridge. On the 17th they were driven from this; but Victor, duke de Bellune, rendered inactive by age, or by the loss of his sonin-law, a general officer slain in the morning, failed to support the attack of the bridge. It was carried indeed on the following day, and the Austrians defeated, but no longer with that decisive victory on the part of the French that Napoleon had anticipated. He was grievously offended with Victor for his remissness, and deprived him of his command, which he gave to Gerard. Victor confessed his fault, and was generous enough not to desert or retort upon his master in the decline of his fortune. "I will take a musket," said the marshal, distressed even to tears. Napoleon himself was touched by the appeal: he embraced his lieutenant, and gave him another command.
Austria made a last effort to bring the French emperor to listen to the terms of his allies. Here, as ever, the late gleam of success had intervened to dazzle Napoleon's eyes, and to render him blind to the force and the danger that menaced him. He well knew that without the consent of Austria the allies could not expel him from the throne in order to re-establish the Bourbons. The princes of that house were still on the alert; two of them on French soil. Had Austria declared boldly to Napoleon, " Succumb, or I support the Bourbons," he might have yielded. But prince Lichtenstein, now the envoy from the emperor Francis, refrained from using such rude and salutary language. On the contrary, respecting the feelings of Bonaparte, he professed, on the part of his master, that Austria had no intention of admitting a change of dynasty in France. Relying on the frail reed of this promise, the emperor argued, "What then can I lose by holding out ] Even if fully victorious, they cannot reduce France to less dimensions than they now propose; and my father-in-law will not uphold the Bourbons against me." 'Twas thus that the courtly forbearance—for it could not be insidiousness—of Lichtenstein lulled Napoleon to his destruction. Relying on Austria, he now braved even the opinions of his council, who besought him to accept the conditions of peace. He objected to their severity. "The peace," ob« served some one, "will be good enough, if it is time enough.
814 BATTLES OF CRAONNE AND LAON. 273
—" It must come too soon, if it bring disgrace," was the em peror's reply.
On the 23d of February the French, following up the ad vantage of Montereau, re-entered Troyes. Some royalists had displayed their opinions in this town: one unfortunate gentleman was executed on this account. At Troyes came another flag of truce from the Austrians, wishing to establish an armistice. Napoleon would not hear of any that did not extend upon the whole line. The emperor, in holding out so obstinately, seemed to forget how inexhaustible were the forces of his numerous enemies. He soon had a proof. Blucher, the beaten Blucher, appeared in the field again with a, fresh army of 100,000 men, made up of reinforcements and reserves. He pressed Schwartzenberg to join him in giving battle: the Austrians persisted in retreating. Blucher then, with unexampled hardihood, resolved to renew the very attempt which had proved so destructive to him, viz. to advance again towards the capital. He now chose another road, and other allies. Leaving Schwartzenberg and his Austrians to operate by themselves to the south of Paris, Blucher crossed the Marne, and drew near to the Prussian and Russian army of Bulow and Winzingerode. With these he hoped to force his way towards the French capital, northward of the Marne.
Against this new manoeuvre Napoleon was called to provide. Blucher had already overpowered Marmont on the road to Meaux. Leaving what troops he could spare under Macdonald and Oudinot, to make head against Schwartzenberg, the emperor now marched across the Marne, hoping once more to surprise Blucher. The Prussian, more wary this time, retreated opportunely to Soissons, which the Russians had already taken. Napoleon crossed the Aisne after them, and came up with the Russians, who occupied the heights of Craonne. The battle was fought on the morrow the 6th of March. The Russians held their ground against the most furious and valiant attacks the entire of the day and then retreated in good order to Laon, where the Prussians united with them. The result, however it may claim to be called victory, was, in Napoleon's critical situation, a defeat. He had lost thousands henceforth irreparable, and had merely repulsed the foe. Blucher, by adopting this mode of warfare, which had so well succeeded with the English in Portugal and Spain, viz. taking up positions on eminences, ?tnd there awaiting the attack, now paralyzed all the efforts of his impetuous foe. Another battle, similar to Craonne, took place not far from it, at Laon, three days after. Blucher observed the same steady defensive plan. From high ground ne defied an enemy obliged to mount to the assault. The affair was destined to be more serious than a drawn battle or a check. Marmont, commanding the French left, advanced too far, was surprised by Blucher in the night or morning after the battle, and his whole wing routed and destroyed.
Here vanished Napoleon's, last h©pes of superiority and retrieval. He instantly dispatched word to Caulaincourt to treat on any terms with the allies; but the message arrived too late. Austria, by a treaty concluded on the 1st of March had agreed to join the allies in inexorable war with Napoleon, should he not consent to their conditions; and the negotiations were closed. Nevertheless Schwartzenberg proposed to retreat. Was it fear or policy 1 Whichever it might have been, the declarations of the rest of the allies, especially of lord Castlereagh, who spoke of even stopping the promised subsidies, compelled Schwartzenberg to resume the offensive; and the French were on all sides driven back upon their capital.
Disasters now thickened upon the doomed Napoleon,— doomed indeed by his own obstinacy as much as by fate. The successes of Wellington enabled Bourdeaux to display its royalism, and attachment to the Bourbons. No sea-port could possibly be well affected to the imperial rule, which had annihilated commerce. The cry of royalism was answered in the capital; not, indeed, in the streets or amongst the burgesses, as in Bourdeaux: it was there raised by some intriguing statesmen of the revolution, joined to the ancient noblesse. Talleyrand conducted it. That sagacious politician had grasped at the first chance of overthrowing him whom he rightly considered as a despot, and of establishing a constitutional government under the Bourbons. These princes had long been in correspondence with this party, and had approved its alliance with those of its followers more blindly devoted to royalism. Intimations conveyed from this knot of conspirators,—if those who aim but at a worthy end can be called such,—emboldened the sovereigns not only to advance upon Paris, but to espouse the cause of the Bourbons. The sovereigns, who had no wish to excite a national war, were glad to grasp at any expedient that offered security and speedy peace; and the appearance of a strong and influential party, publicly calling for the return of their ancient sovereigns, presented at once the means of arriving at these advantages, The leanings of Austria in favor of the wife and family of Napoleon were thus overcome, and the vague incli * Mens of Alexander fixed in favor of the long-exiled racp of French monarchs.