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remains of a vanquished population with mingled fear and admiration." P. 98.
This defeat appears to have panic-struck the Russians, they retreated faster than the cavalry, under the King of Naples, could pursue them, and such was their dismay that in their retreat they overlooked or neglected the important position of Porietsch near the post-road to Petersburgh, in which, had they made a stand, they would have considerably retarded the march of the French, cut off the principal road to Moscow, and obliged the Frencli to relinquish the possession of the town, which this position completely commanded. These advantages, which the centre of the army had obtained, soon spread througlı the whole line of their operations. General St. Cyr gained some fresh and important victories on the Prince of Wittgenstein: Ney and Murat, for two days, forced Tolly from his positions, and at last made him fly towards Moscow, leaving the ground covered with dead. This happened near Falontina, on a very strong position, which the Russians regarded as impregnable, from the defeats which the Poles had uniformly sustained in this place in their ancient wars. Thence the Rus. sians liaving connected the idea of superstition with this plain, had given it the title of sacred fields. This victory was of the utmost consequence to the French. It enabled them more effectually to annoy the Russians in their retreat, and to obtain possession of all their baggage and waggons with the wounded from Smolensko, the evacuation of which had been protected by the rear-guard; so that Napoleon distributed rewards on the field of battle to the regiments which had distinguished themselves.
Here M. Labaume makes some very sensible reflections on the situation of the French, and on the plan which Napoleon ought to have pursued :
.6s It had hitherto been believed, that Napoleon, desirous only. to re-establish the kingdom of Poland, would terminate his conquests by the capture of the two towns of Witepsk and Smolensko, which by their position completely defended the narrow passage. comprised between the Dnieper and the Dwina. Every one considered these towns as our destined winter-quarters, and if instead of madly pushing forward he had closed this campaign with the capture of Riga, the fortifying of Witepsk and Smolensko, and, more particularly, the organization of Poland, the whole of which he had now conquered, Napoleon would doubtless in the following spring have compelled the Russians either to subscribe to his conditions, or to run the risk of the almost certain destruction both of Moscow and of Petersburgh, since the French army was then at an equal distance from each of these cities. But instead of adopting so wise a plan, this warrior, recollecting the fortunate
issue of his late campaigns, in which he had always dictated peace in the very palace of the sovereigns whom he had conquered, was dazzled by the eclat of his former treaties. The remembrance of his former glory so infatuated him, that he disdained the counsels of prudence, and at a distance of six hundred leagues from France, with worn-out horses, and destitute of provisions, magazines, or hospitals, ventured upon the desert road of Moscow. As a last proof of his imprudence, he left in his rear a Russian army cantoned in Moldavia, and which was ready to march against us on the ratification of the treaty of peace which had already been concluded with the Porte." P. 107.
These reflections are just, and the plan which he recommends was undoubtedly the safest, although we do not think that the mere marching to Moscow could have produced any real detriment to the affairs of Napoleon, especially as he had left Prince Schwartzenberg, at the head of thirty thousand Austrians, to oppose this army of Wolhynia. For this reason, however, hazardous as the march to Moscow may appear at the first sight, it could not by itself produce the consequences which afterwards befel the French. Other circumstances were necessary to bring about this desired effect; and to them we shall call the attention of our readers at the proper
time. About this time General Kutusoff, the renowned conqueror of the Oltoman power, arrived from the banks of the Danube to take the command of the Russian army.
" This general, who was regarded by the Moscovites as the hope of their country, arrived at Czarévo-Saïmiche (29th August). The officers and soldiers hailed as their chief this venerable warrior, already celebrated in the annals of Russia; and the inhabitants of Ghiat informed us that the sight of him had inspired the whole army with hope and joy. In fact, he had scarcely arrived, when he announced that the Russian army would retreat no further. That he might better defend Moscow, within four days' march of which we were now arrived, he chose a strong position between Ghiat and Majaïsk, where he could advantageously await one of those decisive battles which often de. termine the fate of empires. Each party was sanguine in its expectation of victory. The Muscovites contended for their country, their homes and their children. Our soldiers, accustomed to conquer, and filled with those grand and heroic ideas which continued success naturally inspires, eagerly demanded the fight; and such is the superiority which courage gives over mere numbers, that on the eve of the battle we busily calculated the fruits of our approaching victory." P. 129.
From this time the Russians began to act with greater spirit, and practise every ruse de guerre, by which they might discover the manoeuvres of the French, without, however, desisting from
the custom of laying waste the country and setting fire to
The Russians, though obliged to fall back with great loss,
" The Russians had a redoubt towards the right extremity of our army, whose destructive fire carried consternation through the ranks. They had constructed it to fortify their left wing, whicle was the weakest part of their intrenched camp. "Napoleon understood this, and saw the necessity of taking that redoubt. The "konour of the affair was confided to Compan's division (fourth division, first corps), and these gallant men advanced to the attack with an intrepidity, which ensured the success of the enterprises In the meantime, Prince Poniatowski manœuvred on our right with his cavalry, to turn the enemy's position; and when he was at a proper distance, Compan’s division attacked the redoubt, and sue ceeded in carrying it after an hour's fighting. The Russians completely routed, abandoned the neighbouring woods, and retreating in disorder towards the principal eminence, rejoined the centre of
*** The division of Compans, in proving itself worthy of the bril.
cost us the lives of 1,200 of our men, more than half of whom yte mained dead in the intrenchments which they had so gloriously cartied. As Napoleon was on the following morning reviewing the 61st *cgiment, which had suffered most, he asked the colonel what he had done with one of his battalions. SIRE,' replied be,
o it is in the redoubt.'
“ The possession of the redoubt did not in the least determine the success of the battle. Before the general engagement began, Napoleon wished to turn the left wing of the Russians. They had foreseen this manoeuvre, and had placed the whole of the corps of Tutsckkoff (the third) and the militia of Moscow in ambuscade behind the thick underwood which covered the extremity of their left; while the 2d, 4th, and 6th corps formed two lines of infantry in the rear, protected by the works which connected this grand redoubt with the wood. Our brave light troops recommenced the attack with redoubled vigour; and although the day was nearly closed, the fire on both sides continued with equal fury. At the same time, several villages on fire to the right spread around a frightful glare. The cries of the combatants, and the flames which were vomited from a thousand brazen mouths, and which carried every where desolation and death, completed the horros of the scene. Our corps, ranged in order of battle, received with intrepidity, the fire of the enemy, and coolly closed the ranks, as soon as a cannon-ball had laid any of our comrades low.
1“ In the meantime, the night becoming more obscure abated the fire without abating our ardour; and our soldiers, uncertain of their aim, reserved their strength and their ammunition for the
Scarcely had we ceased firing, when the Russians, whose camp resembled a vast amphitheatre, lighted innumerable fires, The whole of their camp was one uninterrupted blaze of light: ivhich, while it presented a grand and sublime appearance, formed a striking contrast with our bivouac, where the soldiers, unable to procure wood, reposed in utter darkness, and heard no found but the groans of the wounded.” P. 128. • These affairs have led to the celebrated battle, to which the French have given the name of Moskwa, and the Russians of Borodino. They considered their position so strong that Prince Kutusott' thus wrote to the Emperor Alexander.“ The position which I have chosen in the village of Borodino, is one of the best that can be found in a flat country. It is to be wished that the French would attack us in this position.” The French attacked them, but the Russians were defeated. Towards the evening of the day, previous to the battle, Napoleon sent a proclamation to the chiefs of the corps, with orders not to read it. till next day, should they come to an action. He was still afraid that the Russians would decline the battle, and would again act as they had done at Witepsk and Valontina.
" 'Here, however, our rapid marches, and the distance of our reserves, had equalized * the forces of the opposite parties, and the Russians were forced to come to action, if they would save Moscow, from which we were distant only 26 leagues. In addition to this, the fatigue of our soldiers, and the exhaustion of our horses, seemed to promise to the Russians an easy victory. On the other hand, we were well assured that we must either conquer or perish, and this idea inspired us with such courage, that in spite of the numbers of the Russian army, and their impregnable ina trenchments, we regarded our entrance into Moscow as certain and near at hand.
“ Although, worn out with fatigue, we felt the want of sleep, there were many among us so enamoured of glory, and so flushed with the hope of the morrow's success, that they were absolutely incapable of repose. As they passed the wakeful hours, and the silence and darkness of midnight stole upon them, while the fires of the sleeping soldiers, now almost extinct, threw their last rays of light over the heaps of arms piled around, they gave themselves up to profound meditation. They reflected on the wonderful events of our strange expedition ; they mused on the result of a battle which was to decide the fate of two powerful empires; they compared the stillness of the night with the tumult of the morrow they fancied that Death was now hovering over their crowded ranks, but total darkness prevented them from distinguishing who would be the unhappy victims. They then thought of their parents, their country; and the uncertainty whether they should ever see these beloved objects again, plunged them into the deepest melancholy. But suddenly, before day-break, the beat of the drum was heard, the officers cried to arms, the men eagerly rushed to their different stations, and all, in order for battle, awaited the signal for action. The colonels, placing themselves in the centre of their regiments, ordered the trumpet to sound, and every captain, surrounded by his coinpany, read aloud the following proclamation :
66 · SOLDIERS,
“ “ This is the battle so much desired by you'! The victory depends on yourselves. It is now necessary to us. It will give us abundance of good winter-quarters, and a prompt return to our country! Behave as at Austerlitz, at Friedland, at Witepsk, at Smolensko, and let the latest posterity. recount with pride your conduct on this day, and let them "say of you - He was at the great battle under the walls of Moscow:
Every one was penetrated with the truths contained in these energetic words, and replied to them by reiterated acclamations. Some were animated by the love of glory, others flattered by the hope of reward, but all were convinced, that imperious necessity
* “Each army consisted of 120, or 130,000 men.'
compelled VOL. IV. Sept. 1815.