Abbildungen der Seite




EW generals have ever been more loved by renne, who was Marshal of France in the time of Louis XIV. Troops are always proud of a leader who wins victories; but Turenne was far more loved for his generous kindness than for his suc

If he gained a battle, he always wrote in his despatches, “ We succeeded,” so as to give the credit to the rest of the army; but if he were defeated, he wrote, “I lost,” so as to take all the blame upon himself. He always shared as much as possible in every hardship suffered by his men, and they trusted him entirely. In the year 1672, Turenne and his army were sent to make war upon the Elector Frederick William of Brandenburg, in Northern Germany. It was in the depth of winter, and the marches through the heavy roads were very trying and wearisome; but the soldiers endured all cheerfully for his sake. Once when they were wading through a deep morass, some of the younger soldiers complained; but the elder ones answered, “Depend upon it, Turenne is more concerned than we are. At this moment he is thinking how to deliver us. He watches for us while we sleep. He is our father. It is plain that you are but young.”

Another night, when he was going the round of the camp, he overheard some of the younger men murmuring at the discomforts of the march ; when an old soldier, newly recovered from a severe wound, said: “You do not know our father. He would not have made us go through such fatigue unless he had some great end in view, which we cannot yet make out.” Turenne always declared that nothing had ever given him more pleasure than this conversation.

There was a severe sickness among the troops, and he went about among the sufferers, comforting them, and seeing that their wants were supplied. When he passed by, the soldiers came out of their tents to look at him, and say, “ Our father is in good health : we have nothing to fear.”

The army had to enter the principality of Halberstadt, the way to which lay over ridges of high hills with narrow defiles between them. Considerable time was required for the whole of the troops to march through a single narrow outlet ; and one very cold day, when such a passage was taking place, the marshal, quite spent with fatigue, sat down under a bush to wait till all had marched by, and fell asleep. When he awoke, it was snowing fast; but he found himself under a sort of tent made of soldiers' cloaks, hung up upon the branches of trees planted in the ground, and round it were standing, in the cold and snow, all unsheltered, a party of soldiers. Turenne called out to them, to ask what they were doing there. “We are taking care of our father," they said ; “ that is our chief concern.” The general, to keep up discipline, seems to have scolded them a little for straggling from their regiment; but he was much affected and gratified by this sight of their hearty love for him.

Still greater and more devoted love was shown by some German soldiers in the terrible winter of 1812.

It was when the Emperor Napoleon I. had made his vain attempt to conquer Russia, and had been prevented from spending the winter at Moscow by the great fire that consumed all the city. He was obliged to retreat through the snow, with the Russian army pursuing him, and his miserable troops suffering horrors beyond all imagination. Among them were many Italians, Poles, and Germans, whom he had obliged to become his allies ; and the “ Golden Deed” of ten of these German soldiers, the last remnant of those led from Hesse Darmstadt by their gallant young Prince Emilius, is best told in Lord Houghton's verses :

“From Hessen Darmstadt every step to Moskwa's blaz

ing banks, Was Prince Emilius found in fight before the foremost

ranks ; And when upon the icy waste that host was backward

cast, On Beresina's bloody bridge his banner waved the last.

“His valor shed victorious grace on all that dread re

treat, That path across the wildering snow, athwart the blind

ing sleet; And every follower of his sword could all endure and

dare, Becoming warriors, strong in hope, or stronger in


“Now, day and dark, along the storm the demon Cos

sacks sweep — The hungriest must not look for food, the weariest

must not sleep. No rest but death for horse or man, whichever first

shall tire; They see the flames destroy, but ne’er may feel the “ Thus never closed the bitter night, nor rose the savage

saving fire.

morn, But from that gallant company some noble part was

shorn; And, sick at heart, the Prince resolved to keep his pur

posed way With steadfast forward looks, nor count the losses of

the day.

“At length beside a black, burnt hut, an island of the

Each head in frigid torpor bent toward the saddle bow;
They paused, and of that sturdy troop- that thousand

banded men-
At one unmeditated glance he numbered only ten!

“Of all that high triumphant life that left his German

home Of all those hearts that beat beloved, or looked for

love to come — This piteous remnant, hardly saved, his spirit over

came, While memory raised each friendly face, recalled an

ancient name.

[ocr errors]

“These were his words, serene and firm, ‘Dear brothers,

it is best That here, with perfect trust in Heaven, we give our

bodies rest; If we have borne, like faithful men, our part of toil

and pain, Where'er we wake, for Christ's good sake, we shall

not sleep in vain.'

“Some uttered, others looked assent, — they had no heart

to speak; Dumb hands were pressed, the pallid lip approached

the callous cheek. They laid them side by side ; and death to him at last

did seem To come attired in mazy robe of variegated dream.

“Once more he floated on the breast of old familiar

Rhine, His mother's and one other smile above him seemed to

shine ; A blessed dew of healing fell on every aching limb, Till the stream broadened, and the air thickened, and

all was dim.

“Nature has bent to other laws if that tremendous night Passed o’er his frame, exposed and worn, and left no

deadly blight; Then wonder not that when, refreshed and warm, he

woke at last, There lay a boundless gulf of thought between him and

the past.

“Soon raising his astonished head, he found himself

alone, Sheltered beneath a genial heap of vestments not his

own ;

The light increased, the solemn truth revealing more

and more, The soldiers' corses, self-despoiled, closed up the nar

row door.

“That very hour, fulfilling good, miraculous succor came, And Prince Emilius lived to give this worthy deed to

fame. O brave fidelity in death! O strength of loving will ! These are the holy balsam drops that woeful wars


« ZurückWeiter »